Travelling in a group vs Travelling solo – the eternal/internal debate!
A few USA working holiday visa’s (Summer Camp USA and Work USA) will allow you to stay on in the country for a month or so kind of like a tourist. The question then becomes – what do you do with that month!
Perhaps you’re the type to wing it, unable to pin yourself down to anything certain, and will book a spontaneous flight to San Francisco from Minnesota, when you actually need to be in NYC in 2 days…
Or maybe you have all your travel plans immaculately detailed in a PDF that highlights a day to day itinerary including Lonely Planet’s top local Café suggestions.
It’s a given that you will (hopefully) make new friends at on your US Working Holiday, which means you can take that into account with your travel plans! However, you will definitely be driven to see the “best” of what the USA had to offer. From the enormous valleys of the Grand Canyon, to the neck-craning heights of New York’s Skyscrapers, to the Reflecting pool where Forrest Gump spotted Jenny running to him in Washington D.C… There is a lot to tick off the proverbial bucket list. By leaving your 30 days completely open, it is unlikely that you will see all you want to see. So let us breakdown some of the top things to take into consideration when you’re deciding whether to wing it, or to book a spot on that epic tour before even leaving home.
The convenience of booking a tour is immeasurable. You have a day to day itinerary set out for you, and instead of spending hours finding activities, or trying to navigate the internal transport network of a country you can just jump on a bus/van, close your eyes, and wake up in the next destination refreshed and ready to embrace whatever is next. Tour operators will only book you in with tried and trusted hostels and hotels- so you don’t have to worry about showing up at your accommodation and not being stoked with it!
Going solo generally means you have to expect the unexpected, with no tour operator to work around hiccups for you. Most tours go ahead without a hitch, while travelling solo can result a lot of time spent in train stations all hours of the night waiting for a 6 hour delayed train
Not everyone has the luxury of time on their hands, especially if you’re restricted to a 30 day grace period on a J1 visa. On a tour you are guaranteed to see A LOT in a shorter period of time, typically more than what you would travelling solo in the same time frame.
Going solo generally means that you have a lot more flexibility with your time.
Love a city that you initially had no expectations of? Awesome! Rent that bicycle, chat to the locals, party till the early hours of the morning, sleep in, and do it all over again. Maybe you’ve decided you really don’t like this middle-of-nowhere town you went to for new year’s where the most exciting thing is the local cookie shop; that’s okay, jump on the next bus out of there! Going it alone gives you the chance to take it slower and really absorb what a place has to offer, without the fear that you’re going to miss something great.
When you look at a tour and see the initial price a lot of us tend to go “whoa, that’s beyond my budget.” However breaking it down, you realise how much bang you’re actually getting for your buck. Speaking from experience, $87 a day can get you a 4 star hotel, entry and guided tour in a UNESCO world heritage site, effortless border crossing, and all transport included. Now that’s a pretty good deal! Plus, anyone who has been on a tour can tell you that their tour leader is really what makes an already great tour amazing. The knowledge and peace of mind that your tour guide provides will astound you, and make your travel experience that much more memorable. Some of you may have the stereotypical image of a guide speaking on a microphone, a long stick with a flag on top to guide the way. That may have been true in the past, but these days tour companies have trips aimed at all ages and types of people. Your 18-30 type tours will have your guides partying with you all hours of the night, daring you to do that cliff jump, and hoisting you on top of their shoulders to get that epic Gopro photo. Whether you’re a history buff, club enthusiast, or adrenaline junkie there really is something for everyone.
So maybe your priority is saving every penny to do that skydive in the Florida Keys. With a group you will likely want to have meals out with everyone, and typically restaurants don’t serve $1 2 minute Maggi Noodles. “Oh I’ll just get the bread rolls, thanks,” Said no one ever. You will definitely be buying that steak. Going solo means you don’t have that obligation to go to more pricey restaurants, and can stick to your budget oats for breakfast. There may be activities that you wouldn’t typically choose to do unless you were on a tour, so having more selections of what you want and don’t want to do will save you a few penny’s. Keep in mind that keeping your plans open can also lead to dipping into the emergency fund or heavens forbid the credit card to book travel for your last minute plans. Having everything booked before you go allows you to keep a steady eye on your budget, while last minute flights cross country may leave you out of pocket.
Ultimately the choice you make for your travels comes down to the type of person that you are. You will meet some incredible people on a tour and try things you never would imagine. Going solo will be the ultimate challenge for yourself and really push the boundaries of comfort.
If you wish to discuss your travel plans for your working holiday be sure to reach out to our amazing STA travel agent Katrina Savage, who would love to give you some recommendations on what you can do!