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  • Writer's pictureJoAnna Haugen

Offering the Perfect Balance of Flexibility and Freedom, Self-Guided Holidays Take Off

by JoAnna Haugen

Not all travellers need a 24/7 itinerary spelled out in fine detail and a tour guide to lead them through their trip. Nor do all travellers want to take on the nitty-gritty planning all holidays require. Located somewhere between these two extremes is the self-guided travel experience.

Self-guided experiences are those in which travel companies build loose day-to-day itineraries, book accommodations and other support services like luggage transfer, and provide travellers with route maps and notes so that they can travel on their own and at their own pace. Self-guided holidays span a wide variety of activities, including walking, cycling and driving.

As people return to pre-pandemic levels of travel, a growing segment is seeking out these kinds of experiences. “There are a number of reasons why people choose independent holidays,” said Liz Lunnon, head of product at Discover the World. “One of the biggest draws is the ability to choose your own itinerary and have the opportunity to stop and explore along the way.”

The freedom and self-control built into flexible itineraries (including no set departure dates) are particularly appealing, as is the ability for people to choose their travel companions. “Over the last couple years, and certainly coming out of the pandemic, people have felt safer traveling in their bubbles with people they know,” said Fiona Marshall, UK product team lead at Macs Adventure, a self-guided holiday specialist with about 650 itineraries.

Because self-guided holidays have more flexibility than trips with set departure dates, they’re also easier to tailor to travellers’ needs and desires. “Most holidays (at Inntravel) are from six to 10 nights but can be extended by adding nights in certain locations, or there are shorter four-night options,” said Simon Wrench, the company’s marketing manager. “Many can be combined too, either within a region or in different countries, so it is easy to make a highly tailored trip and the most of your time away.”

Inntravel added several new self-guided experiences to its inventory this year, and it isn’t the only company to see more travellers seeking out self-guided holidays. Marshall said she’s seen growth in this kind of travel over the past eight to nine years. Macs Adventure was seeing an average growth rate of 35% in the three years prior to COVID-19. Despite the supply chain difficulties plaguing the entire tourism industry, the company is forecasting a 33% increase in growth for 2023. “It’s been a very challenging year, but the potential for growth in terms of self-guided, I think, is really strong for everyone,” Marshall said.

Image Credits: Macs Adventure

About the Author

JoAnna Haugen is an award winning writer, speaker, and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for almost 15 years.

She is also founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling.

A returned U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer, and intrepid traveler, JoAnna is always on the hunt for her next great adventure.

Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


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