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In my backpacker days, I was the queen of winging it. Months before I would set off on an adventure I’d pick up a copy of the Lonely Planet with every intention of planning each stage of my trip and then end up cracking it open on the plane ride there. I thought this made me a hardcore traveller. What it actually meant was that the first few days of my trip were spent finding my bearings, realizing I didn’t plan enough time to see everything and discovering that things like trains and hotels probably should have been booked in advance.

That said, when the opportunity to go on a tour of China with G Adventures came up, I was hesitant. I had never travelled with a group before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But, I was pleasantly surprised.

Here are 7 reasons why group tours are totally worth it:

1. Stuff’s paid for

When you travel on your own you always need cash for things like food, buses, entry fees and hotels. It’s difficult to shake the feeling that you’re constantly pulling out your wallet. When you book a tour, you pay in advance, which means you’ll only have to pull out your wallet for any extras that might entice you along the way.

2. The research is done

Tour companies have made a business out of planning really awesome trips. Let them do their job and just worry about bringing your camera and enjoying yourself.

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3. No worries

Need to catch an overnight train but it’s a public holiday? Don’t worry about it. Your tour company has already pre-booked and arranged everything for you so there’s absolutely nothing to stress out about. Phew!

4. Exclusive access

Tour groups get to skip the line… A lot!

5. Instant friends

I took this one for granted when I travelled before. Meals and bus rides are easily the loneliest times for a solo traveller. Also, there’s only so many selfies you can take in front of important monuments without starting to feel foolish.

Travelling in a group is like having a big group of friends with you. You can eat meals with them, ask them to take your picture and hang out with them on long train rides after you get bored of staring out the window. Even if you don’t like everyone, you’ll connect with at least one or two other people and that alone will make the experience worth while. You’ll also meet people from other countries, which means more excuses to travel!

Emily Collins

6. Access to a local

The best travel tip someone ever told me was to get in with a local. If you’re travelling with a good company (like G), you’ll automatically have this. A local speaks the language, understands the customs, can explain the culture and will direct you to the less touristy things to see, if you ask. Travelling with a local is priceless, trust me.

7. Freedom with security

For people who aren’t used to travelling in a group, this will be the thing that you like most. To me, group tours meant a heard of people following a man with a megaphone and a flag. Research your company to make sure that they specialize in small group tours that have a lot of flexibility. Not all tour companies are alike.

In China my tour didn’t include meals, which meant there was freedom to go out for a banquet with the group or get McDonalds and eatalone in my hotel room. The same went for open days where I could explore on my own, go on a small tour with the guide or just sit in a spa and get endless foot massages. It was my choice but I wasn’t left with nothing to do.

How do you feel about group tours? Share your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.

Simone Oliveroso_avitar is a Toronto-based freelance writer who specializes in travelfashion and money. Born with a natural wanderlust, she boarded her first plane before she could even walk and has beencriss-crossing the globe ever since. Being exposed to world class cities and multiple cultures has made her a pro at spotting key trends and keeping her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in fashion and business. Her byline has appeared in Toronto Life, Post City, the Toronto Star and a number of online publications. Follow her on Twitter @simoneywhereru

Image credits: Simone Olivero and Emily Collins