Compare & Share - How Tours are Priced

When it comes to planning a group tour, Tours of Distinction is well aware that cost is one of the most important aspects in deciding what destinations to offer our travelers.  Our goal is to offer the right destination, to the right group, at the right time of year; with many value-added amenities such as room upgrades, booking a high-end motor-coach for comfort, and including all gratuities, transfers, and excursions. 

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It is important to understand that not all group tours are created equally.  It can be confusing to the consumer to have one company offer a seven day trip at $2500 and the same trip (on the surface) offered by another company for $3500.  There are five basic building blocks that go into planning a group tour that is always taken into consideration when building a tour.  How a tour company navigates all the travel variables as well as expectations of their clients in putting together a group tour influences the price. 

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If you like to shop around to try to find the best price of a group tour keep the following five factors in mind so that you are comparing apples to apples…and, always read the fine print.

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Seasonality- Pricing can vary on whether you are booking a trip in the high season when rates are usually more expensive or in the low or shoulder season when rates are generally discounted.  Groups can often save money by traveling during the shoulder season just before or after the main peak season.  Seasons are important to keep in mind in terms of destinations; for example, Caribbean tours and cruises are usually less expensive during the wet, hot, or hurricane season.

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Lodging - The cost of accommodations is tricky and can sometimes be one of the largest expenses in a trip.  What type of hotel is the tour operator offering?  For example, a “centrally” located three-star hotel in New York City is not the same as staying in the heart of Manhattan by Lincoln Center.   In general, expect to pay more for full-service hotels or upscale boutique properties and those located close to major attractions. Make sure you know the name and brand of the hotel that is included in the tour and find out if breakfast is included.  Expect to pay less for limited use or lower end chain hotels.  If you are looking at a tour that does not specify the name and location of the accommodation offered, find another tour.  Another aspect of lodging pricing is that some properties charge more for weekend stays than for mid-week stays.

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Transportation - Depending on the mode of transportation, motor-coach, airline or cruise ship, pricing is often set by the marketplace outside of the Tour Operators control.  Flights and cruises are subject to many outside regulations by the companies that operate the ships or the airlines. In general, airlines know how much they can make on average for a ticket on a particular day and group booking has to be negotiated with the airline.  The type of motor-coach chartered includes how much fuel the motor-coach will use as well as the gratuities and hotel accommodations for the driver.  TOD works with DATTCO because of its excellent reputation and the high standard of service this company provides that helps keep motor-coach tours running smoothly.  When comparing prices it is important to note what flights are included, what cruise ship has been booked and if transfers, port charges, and other incidentals are included in the price of the tour.

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Amenities and Inclusions- It is important to note exactly what is included in a tour and what the quality of these inclusions are.  How many meals are included, two or three per day?  Are beverages included in the tour cost?  What about alcoholic beverages - are they included with meals?  What types of restaurants are offered on the tour?  Are tickets to attractions or show tickets included in the tour? Are all offshore excursions included?  Are tips included for the local guide as well as for the various drivers and the professional tour director? Is baggage handling and transfers included in the total cost of the tour?  These are all very important factors to consider when comparing how a tour is organized and what it does and does not offer.  TOD tours offer information on meals, transportation, hotels, excursions, and tipping.  While most of TOD’s tours are essentially all-inclusive, many tour operators do not include these things in packaged group pricing.

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Customized Tours - Some tour companies serve up the same itineraries over and over again using a variety of different hotels.  Other tour companies offer to customize group tours to meet the specific needs of groups.  In general, a pre-fab tour is less expensive.  If you are a discerning group that wants additional and customized amenities, attractions or hotel types and dining options included then, in general, you can expect to pay more money.  A customized tour might be an overall better value for the group because the tour is tailored to meet the needs and expectations of your group.  When thinking of a customized tour consider who you are traveling with, what types of activities your group is interested in, how much time you have to travel, and how unique and immersive you want the trip to be.

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Choosing your next tour can be challenging and fun. Where should you go? Which tour is right for you? How long do you want to travel?  To help you choose the right tour for the right price and to make the most of your next vacation keep the five building blocks seasonality, lodging, transportation, inclusions and amenities, and customization in mind.