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Tours That Don’t Put You To Sleep

I’ll admit it — I’ve fallen asleep on a tour bus before, in the middle of a guide’s presentation. And I’m willing to bet that you probably have, too.

It’s not just something that has happened once or twice. Whenever I’m on a tour that includes long stretches of driving and guide commentaries, chances are good that I’m going to conk out. And I’ve seen many of my fellow travelers do the same.

I don’t say this as an indictment of tour guides or their commentary. Often the things they have to talk about are very interesting, although the occasional boring presentation makes it easy to slip into slumber. And I don’t think it has anything to do with age: I’ve been falling asleep during tours since my early 20s, when I had more energy than I ever will again.

Maybe it has to do with the hum of the engine and the wheels on the bus going round and round. But I think the tendency to fall asleep on the road is linked to a bigger problem: Many tour itineraries are simply too busy, and travelers, who are ostensibly on vacation, often end up exhausted.

This idea was reinforced by an article I saw in a magazine that recently came across my desk. The June issue of Convene, the publication of the Professional Convention Managers Association, featured an article titled “Wake Up!” that delved into the too-busy schedules of modern conferences and their ill effects on participants.

“Attendees start early, go late, and barely pause in between,” wrote author Molly Brennan. “Add a few long days of sitting, no exercise, alcohol, heavy meals, late nights and an unfamiliar bed, throw in some jet lag or a time-zone change, and you have the perfect recipe for poor sleep.”

Brennan makes a great point, and the organizers of a number of tourism conventions that I’ve attended could learn a thing or two from the article. And people in the tour planning business could benefit from reading it as well. Replace the word “attendees” with “travelers” in the previous paragraph, and you have a spot-on description of what often happens on tours.

There are many reasons that tour itineraries might be too busy. Some trips cover so much ground with so much time on the motorcoach that travel days are stretched very long and passengers have little time for rest. Other travel planners put together trips that include nonstop activities in a bid to keep people occupied and make them feel like they’re getting a lot for their money.

As group travel continues to adapt and change with new generations, though, these approaches will prove counterproductive. Today’s travelers aren’t interested in marathon days. They want time to explore destinations on their own, soak in local cultures, discover hidden gems and luxuriate with their friends and loved ones. Travelers no longer measure the value of a tour by the quantity of the experiences it includes. Instead, they measure the value by the quality of those experiences.

Next time you plan a trip, try dialing the hours back, loosening up the itinerary and giving your travelers more opportunities to have fun on their own. You might just find that by doing a bit less work, you can help them enjoy themselves more.

You might even be able to stay awake during the guide’s presentation.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.