The question we get asked a lot is if it’s better to book excursions and activities before leaving on a trip or once you arrive. We’ve done both ways and honestly, I don’t have the best answer, as both ways have their pros and cons.
To start, I think it’s fair to share some of the slightly less positive experiences we’ve had so you can consider the possibilities of what might happen. Some of the things we have experienced we’ve certainly never imagined happening.
- We booked a short three-hour activity that included drive time. Unbeknownst to us, we were absorbed into a longer tour that visited several of the places we had been at two days prior and it lasted over ten hours total. Because we were unprepared and did not want to repeat the same activities again, and did not want to pay the $200 cost of a cab back to the hotel, we were left to sit around for a few hours far from town where there were other things we could have done to pass the time. Needless to say, we were less than happy.
- We have had several instances of booking activities online through a third-party company, only to have that company not confirm our reservation with the actual tour providers. If these tour providers had not pulled some major strings upon our arrival, we would have missed out on our tours we were eagerly awaiting.
- We have been misinformed by tour company operators.
- We have missed sights and activities due to various closures because we did not look at the calendar and availability in advance.
So, since we’ve had our fair share of experiences, here’s our Pros and Cons list of booking in advance vs. at your destination.
Pros of Booking in Advance:
- Opportunity to see what is available from a variety of providers
- Often times you can get advanced booking discounts
- Payment can be taken care of in advance
- No risk in having your favorite activities booked up or unavailable
- Ease of planning once you get to the destination
- Knowing specific requirements can make packing easier – for example needing to bring water shoes, pants, etc.
Cons of Booking in Advance:
- Websites and marketing can be misleading in terms of the actual excursion
- Because of bookings with third party providers, reservations do not always get confirmed with the actual company
- Many small, local providers are not listed in major search engines, lessening their exposure an opportunity for business
- Not getting to talk directly to a person about the activity or excursion
- Missing out on recommended activities from local people
- Losing a money saving opportunities based on currency exchange rates
- Not getting to shop around with the variety of providers available once you arrive ranging from hotel tour desks, store-front companies, and even beachside huts
While everyone wants to be guaranteed the opportunity to participate in top activities, get great concert seats, or being first in line to major attractions, we can’t recommend one method over another. If it’s something with limited seating or is likely to sell out, book it! Otherwise, the only thing we do recommend is doing your research in advance to get an idea of what is available and what things you would like to do. Also, be sure to check that things you want to do aren’t closed on certain days. Not every activity is offered every day. We also recommend if you do book with a third-party company, call the actual provider directly to confirm your reservation.
As far as scheduling activities during your trip, we suggest doing things every other day to allow some freedom and flexibly in your itinerary. We also do not recommend booking things the day of your arrival, or even the day after, as we all know with traveling you do not always arrive at your destination on time.
We have had good and bad experiences when we have booked in advance as well as when we have waited until we arrive. Regardless of when you choose to book, make sure to determine the things you want to do, the days it is available, and the price you are willing to pay to do it.
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