I have mixed feelings about group travel. There is a different experience between travelling alone and traveling in a group. There is also a distinction to be made between tour groups (where you don’t know the others) and organizing your own group. Another option is traveling with a significant other. All these considerations, and we haven’t even mentioned the destination!
One main object with a tour groups is that it is pre-arranged; you see things on a set schedule. But this need not be bad. The schedules are largely set up so that the greatest number of things can be covered in the time you have available; you can take advantage of the experience afforded by the organizers. I never realized this till I went to tour Egypt. I had a list of things I knew I wanted to see, and found that the prearranged tours included almost all of them. And with the groups organization it was considerably cheaper, too. As for the few extra sights I wanted to see, I added them at the end.
One factor I find myself overlooking is the language. If the country is completely foreign, then getting advice or ascertaining good or bad deals is tricky. Admittedly this is a lot easier since we get the internet and mobile access; I can check accommodation guides in less than a minute and I can never get lost with Google maps. Nonetheless not knowing a language is a drawback. Finding busses, sorting out visa issues, just having a conversation with someone is difficult.
When we were in a group this was never a problem; just being able to speak the same language with a group of people made all the difference. We were still immersed in a foreign culture, only there wasn’t the sense of alienation that sometimes comes from being alone. If anything I saw more of the surroundings; other members of the group had recommendations, and everybody had at least one anecdote to tell.
By contrast, I remember staying in California. I was not moving around in this situation but staying at the one location for several weeks while I frequented Disneyland and the other sites. There are no language barriers here; if anything the U.S. citizens actually seem to like talking to foreigners. Vacations like this don’t need a groups, though travelling with a partner seems a good option.
I remember brief tour groups I took many years ago. The tours were only a little over a week in length, but I remember my travelling companions in the same way I remember people in my classes at school. There was a sense of solidarity with these people, and even though I realize I would see them very differently under other circumstances (for we are all different on holiday) this sense of connection was a positive aspect of travel.
Groups can work well; package tours are better in some circumstances; travelling alone or with a partner sometimes has its perks. We should probably look at the destination, and consider each trip unique. Yet, we should never forget we are social animals.
Alone or with a group, consider an airport shuttle bus. If you use an airport shuttle Sydney traffic is easier to contend with. Start your business or vacation the moment you leave home with a convenient ride to the airport.