Our definitive guide can help you decide between self-guided or guided cycling tours.
Bikes, Boats & Boots Adventure and Fitness Travel offers you opportunities to experience the entirety of each travel destination, with bike tours in the most beautiful places in the world, river rafting or sea kayaking for the thrill of your life, and hiking through some of the most scenic and spectacular forests on Earth.
We offer fully supported, guided cycling tours in Colorado, Washington/British Columbia, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Slovenia and Fitness Travel Locations.
Your safety is our first priority. We’ve partnered with the most experienced guides and professional outfitters to ensure your experience is safe, worry-free, comfortable and fun. Just relax and leave the rest to us. We’ll guide you through the best adventure vacation you’ll ever experience. Contact us today to start planning your next travel adventure!
The question to travel with a guided cycling tour or to travel independently is not a simple decision. There are many factors to consider. Let’s break it down so that you can decide which is best for you.
Time spent planning each day of your cycling adventure
Guided Tour: The majority of time spent planning a guided cycling tour is in deciding which tour to take and which tour operator to work with. After that, you just need to sit back and wait for the departure date. All expenses including, transportation to and from the airport, rental bikes/helmets, accommodations, most meals, tour guides, entry fees for parks, museums, and other attractions are included in the tour price. All the daily details are handled for you.
Self-Guided: How much time and energy do you want to spend on all the details? There is a lot to consider, some people find the research adds to the fun of planning a trip, while others appreciate the expertise of a knowledgeable tour guide to work through all the details. Plan to spend a minimum of 2+ hours researching for each day of your trip.
How will the accommodations differ between the two types of trips?
Guided tours: Expect better accommodations on a guided tour. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they will always be 5-star; depending on the location, your accommodations will likely have better access to everything you want to see and will be in close proximity to the highlights of the area. Depending on the tour your accommodations should be comfortable to very nice, unique to the area and of course clean and friendly. In most cases, you’ll have better rates because the tour operator has access to group rates, and has reserved everything months to a year in advance.
Self-Guided: The hunt of finding accommodations can be exhausting and the possibilities are endless. If you can plan your trip nine months to a year in advance you’ll find good rates, the best available room options, and other incentives. There are several Hotel/B&B/Motel search engine websites to choose from today. If you’re looking for something different, you will find all kinds of interesting opportunities, from glamping (a nice tent set up with bedding) to an overnight stay on someone’s private boat.
While these websites make it convenient to see a lot of properties in one place it is still important to look carefully at the details. paying close attention to the amenities. Is there a deposit? Are any meals included? Do they offer early check-in, late checkout?
In Europe, breakfast is almost always included in a hotel stay. Some hotel search engine sites are charging an extra fee for breakfast.
Example – Search Engine Website –
- Great rate on a hotel room
- No deposit required
- Cancel up to 24 hours before arrival
- Easily choose the neighborhood of your hotel
- Breakfast was extra and not included in room rate
- Small room – pay attention to the square footage
The various Bed and Breakfast type properties will normally require a deposit, which may also be non-refundable and include a cleaning fee, so be sure to read the fine print!
What To See
Guided Tour: More than likely, you have chosen your tour based on the destination and the daily itinerary. A guided tour will have planned the daily activities in such a way that optimizes every single moment. Tour guides are also included. There is nothing better than an energetic and knowledgeable tour guide to provide an insight into the history, culture and amusing anecdotes unique to the area. Oftentimes, local tour guides will have access to areas inaccessible to regular tourists.
Self-Guided: The internet provides more information than you can possibly about every destination in the world today. There are not many places in the world that “require a travel agent or a tour guide”. If you are adventurous and flexible, you can get to most places on your own. Thus, many places around the world have become more “touristy.”
English is spoken in the most popular tourist areas with English language information available. If you get off the beaten path and venture into the countryside and small towns outside the average tourist areas, you will find less English speaking people and information, but normally you will be welcomed and it’s amazing how we all manage to communicate.
If you find that you want a tour guide for a couple of excursions there are many local guide services available and are very reasonably priced.
What about planning for all the transportation involved?
Guided Tour: Airline travel, transportation to and from the airport, and general transportation may all be included in your guided tour. Many guided tours offer air travel but may also be carved out as many people use all kinds of different methods for airline purchases. It’s quite comforting when getting off a plane and seeing a smiling face holding a sign with your name on it ready to whisk you off to your adventure.
A guided cycling tour allows you to see a city or a country with more ease then navigating the course on your own. Many places now have designated bike trails. The USA is adding more bike trails to their cities every year. In many cities, what used to be an old single-line railroad track is now being converted into beautiful bike trails. (These are often referred to as ‘Rails To Trails’. Experiencing an area on a bike is so different than passing through in a vehicle.
Many of the new trails take you through the main area of town, into forests, along rivers and into areas you wouldn’t normally find on your own. Touring an area on a bike gives you a sense of the history and culture, bringing you closer to the world you are looking at.
Your guide is going to know the route as well as the history and points of interest. The dining opportunities are chosen to give you a more authentic experience, that the average tourist may not find. Your guide can help you with menu choices pointing out what might be more traditional or local fare.
Many places now have their own wineries so you’ll enjoy great local wines that are reasonably priced. Alcoholic beverages are sometimes included with dinner but will be limited for obvious reasons.
A fully supported guided cycling tour may also include a support vehicle that is always nearby. This can be a nice addition to your tour. There may be days that someone doesn’t want to partake in the whole day or just a section of the trail. The support vehicle will be alongside the group stopping at all the same places. On a Bikes Boats and Boots Guided cycling tour, a support vehicle also referred to as a motor coach; is essentially an 18 passenger van, that carries luggage, snacks, and water and is available on all of our trips but one. A veteran cyclist might refer to this as a SAG vehicle but it is essentially a ‘support vehicle’.
Self-Guided: Getting there and getting around can be an adventure for sure. Most of the self-guided cycling tours are going to provide very detailed maps for you to follow. They are excellent guide books that include additional information such as places of interest, and restaurants along the way. Even with the best directions, it’s inevitable that you will take a wrong turn here and there. For many people getting lost is part of the fun, and can add a lot to the overall experience. Getting lost can also be incredibly frustrating and put a crimp in your schedule. It’s also not uncommon for people in the group to get angry and frustrated when you’ve gotten off your designated route. Once you are at your destination you will need to call a cab, walk to see the surrounding sites or take your bike to get there.
What are the differences in cost between guided and self-guided tours?
Guided Tour: It may be that a guided tour will cost more than a do-it-yourself plan. When you total up everything that is included in a guided tour you may discover the costs are not that different. With a guided tour almost everything is included, tailor-made with personalized service, and your guide can answer most questions you may have. It should feel luxurious even if it’s not a luxury tour. All entry fees, guides, all or some meals with many extras will always be part of a guided tour. In some cases, a guide may obtain discounts in gift shops or other retail locations.
Self-Guided: It is important to consider all the additional costs involved in planning your own tour. Cabs, trains, rental cars and other modes of transportation the cost of gas especially in Europe where fuel is 3 times the cost of that in the USA must be considered.
The choice of 5-star accommodations or renting a room in a private home are all up to you, and the daily itinerary is as flexible as you desire. You’ll spend a lot of time planning every single detail but it will be exactly what you desire.
When considering guided cycling tours or self-guided, the possibilities are endless. No matter which choice you make we feel “There’s nothing better than experiencing a new country or your own backyard, on a bike”!
A couple of our experiences – good and bad!
Once making a decision at the last minute to cycle a remote island, the only accommodations to be found for less than hundreds of dollars was a glamping opportunity. It was a really fun experience. We decided to put everything in panniers and headed out for a two-day cycling adventure. (Panniers are bags attached to a bike, often with a removable frame, useful for carrying small light items such as a raincoat or other items that one might find in a backpack, often carrying necessities for a long distance adventure.) At the end of the day, we checked in and found our campsite that included a large/roomy tent with a platform that housed a queen size bed with linens. Our campsite was in forested surroundings and included a cooler, lawn chairs, campfire site, and barbeque grill. Community showers and bathrooms were nearby. It was a great experience! I would definitely recommend it, especially when traveling with panniers.
In Split, Croatia we chose a hotel that had beautiful pictures of the rooms and was located in the middle of the Diocletian Palace. The rooms were very expensive but they were new and beautiful and it was location, location, location. It was not easy to get to with luggage, several large old cobblestone steps, weird little corridors and an odd entry into the hotel. Once we arrived in our rooms, we were shocked at how small they were. Lesson learned – be sure to check the square footage of the room you are reserving, pictures can be very misleading.
One of our favorite experiences was dining in Croatia!
It was a long day of cycling up a big hill that never seemed to end. The views of the Adriatic were incredible and well worth the grind, but it was difficult. Finally, we reached the area where we will stop for lunch. It’s still another quarter of a mile of a rutted dirt road and we have no idea what’s in store for us. We finally arrive in a beautifully treed park like setting with little smokehouses that are hundreds of years old and look like something out of a miniature world. A large cement platform housing large wok type vessels were cooking potatoes, onions, carrots, sausage, and lamb. Off to the side there was a lamb cooking on a spit with the chef keeping a watchful eye on the progress. There were picnic tables with white linen napkins, pitchers of beer and freshly baked bread waiting our arrival. Lunch was served family style and was delicious and one of the most authentic dining experiences of the tour.
We have a lot of fun on our guided cycling tours and it would be our pleasure to show you some of the best places in the world to explore on a bike.
What are your questions about guided vs self-guided cycling tours? We would love to hear your experiences or thoughts on the differences. Join the conversation!