Excursions: How to Pick Just One

So you’ve decided that your next vacation will include a solid week of relaxing on the beach, sipping cocktails, and soaking up the rays.

You’ve spent the last few vacations exploring and going on one adventure after another, so this trip will be different – one excursion, and that’s it. The rest of the time will be beach time.

You research your destination and find there are handfuls of excursions that sound amazing, but you’re determined to stick to your plan.

A Guide to Picking the Perfect Excursion

So how do you decide which one it will be? How do you narrow down the choices? Here are a few things to consider when narrowing down your choices. It’s a system that usually works for me.

Budget

Figure out how much you want to spend on excursions. If the figure is low, you can eliminate pricey excursions like swimming with the dolphins. And consider if you want that budget to include such things as spa treatments and shopping trips on or off the resort. That might greatly reduce what’s left for off-resort excursions.

Duration of the Excursions

This is always a big one for me. I have gone on all-day excursions before and I really don’t prefer them, partly because most of my time on these day-long tours was spent driving to and from the destination. Some people, however, don’t mind leaving the resort for the entire day for a change of pace. So decide how long you want the excursion to run for. Look at the driving distance to your destination and decide if you want to spend that long on the road. If not, scratch those excursions off your list.

Also consider how early the excursions begin in the morning. Remember that you’re on vacation and probably staying up later than what you’re used to at home. You might not be looking for an excursion that begins at 8am sharp, so when researching the excursions available to you, look at the departure times from the resort and consider if that time is right for you, because if you’re a no-show, it’s very unlikely you’ll get a refund.

Level of Adventure

Consider how adventurous you are: do you consider yourself a dare devil, always willing to try what most people would consider downright frightening, or are you laid back and content with slow and steady? Maybe you’re somewhere in between? There will always be excursions with varying degrees of adventure, so when you’re doing your research on excursions, consider how adventurous you are and scratch out the ones that aren’t a fit for you.

What Will You Miss on the Resort?

Before you sign up for an excursion, check out what’s happening on the resort that day to ensure you’re not missing anything you’d otherwise not want to miss, such as a special show or event, a prize giveaway, a theme party, etc. The resort will usually have a listing of events happening that week, so take a look at it and choose your excursions on the days when you won’t miss anything fun.

Consider a Custom-Made Excursion

If you’re having a hard time deciding between a number of excursions because none of them offers exactly what you’re looking for, or if you have something totally different in mind than those that are listed, write down exactly what you’re looking for. Then contact tour companies to discuss what you’re looking for – chances are you’ll find a company that will tailor an excursion just for you.

Last year, I was traveling with a group and we really wanted to put together a bar crawl to tour of all the oceanside bars and pubs in Ocho Rios. The problem was that no tour operator in the area seemed to offer this pre-planned excursion, so I emailed a few of them and told them what I was looking for. In the end, I heard back from one tour operator, Reggae Tours, who said they would gladly put together this excursion for me. It went off without a hitch and we all had the time of our lives! So don’t shy away from creating the perfect excursion.

Research and Recommendations

It’s important that you do the research before you go. Find a list of tour operators in your destination and check out their website for available excursions and prices.

When you narrow down the excursions you’re interested in, find out from others which of those excursions are most favored, and which tour company of the ones you researched is most favored (I usually post a forum topic on TripAdvisor to find all the information I need). It may narrow down your list of choices.

Sidebar: Some resorts have a contract with one specific tour operator and will only recommend tours from that operator, but to ensure you’re getting the best prices and service, I would suggest you shop around.

How to Book Excursions

The options for booking excursions are usually plentiful. If you booked through a travel agent, s/he can add your chosen excursion to your package price and set up the date and time for you. The same goes for online booking sites. Or, like I said above, you can book directly through a tour company.  You can do this well in advance of your trip or you can wait until you’re on the resort.

I always wait until I’m on the resort because I usually find either the resort or tour company, or both, will offer sales and promotions, which are often only valid if booked on the resort. If you pre-book, you might not qualify for that sale.

Prepare for the Excursion

First and foremost, if the staff at the resort doesn’t already know, inform them which excursion you’ll be going on and which tour operator will be taking you. If there’s an emergency of some sort, they’ll know where you are.

Now, if you’re a seasoned tropical tourist, then chances are you’ve gone on many excursions and know exactly what items to take with you. But if you’re new to this, let me suggest a few key items that you shouldn’t leave your resort without:

  • The Voucher
  • Footwear
  • Camera
  • Money
  • Phone
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunhat
  • Beach bag

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Your Friend,
Jody, The Tropical Tourist

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