Should You Pay for a Tour Extension or Plan it on Your Own?

Three things to consider before you book that extension.

A happy preteen girl with grandparents on hiking trip on summer holiday, looking at camera.
(Photo: Envato/halfpoint)

On some guided tours, your arrival city or final destination may capture your heart, but the tour doesn’t spend much time there. Or, the city where the tour starts or ends is tantalizingly close to a place you’ve always wanted to visit. In these cases, it’s worth considering making the most of that proximity either with an official tour extension or by planning to spend a few days there outside of the scheduled tour.

Whether you’re considering a pre-trip extension or a post-tour extension, here are the pros and cons of paying for a tour extension.

On the Fence? Why a Tour Extension Might Be a Good Idea

Venice's Grand Canal at night
Adding a few days in a bucket-list destination like Venice can be worth the time and cost (Photo: Envato/frimufilms)

If the price is what’s holding you back, it’s worth doing a little back-of-napkin math to figure out what it would cost to return to the place you’re considering going. And then doing a little depressing math to honestly assess whether or not you’re likely to return to that place. Sometimes realizing that if you don’t do something now you’re not likely to ever do it will be the deciding factor in extending a trip. 

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Looking back on my own solo travels and family vacations, I can think of multiple examples of when I should have stayed in a place a few more days or made a side trip that at the time I deemed too expensive. And I can’t think of any examples of times when I regretted adding a day or two in a special place I’d always wanted to go. 

This isn’t a call for financial irresponsibility—it’s actually the opposite. If you’ve spent all that money and effort getting somewhere, why not make the most of it? Of course there are times it’s not going to make sense, but often a pre-tour extension or staying a few extra days after a tour ends is a small added expense with a big impact.

Deciding Whether to Book a Tour Extension or DIY

two men on a tour looking through binoculars
On a tour extension, you’ll continue to receive a guided experience (Photo: Envato/YuriArcursPeopleimages)

Booking a tour extension through your tour company means you’ll continue to be taken care of the way you were on the tour. You’ll likely have luggage transfers, your meals will mostly be arranged, and activities lined up in advance. You may even end up traveling with people you’ve met along the way (or, if you’re doing a pre-trip extension, you’ll get a head start meeting your fellow tour guests). These arranged tour extensions generally cost more than you’d pay on your own, but since everything is bundled, often they come out pretty close.

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If you’re an independent traveler at heart, it might feel good to add a little extra time on your own to the trip. Though it requires more planning on your part, you can stay exactly where you want to stay, eat whenever and whatever you like, and go at your own pace. And if making an extension affordable is at the top of your list, you can figure out how to make those few extra days work for your budget. 

Choosing Whether to Extend Before or After the Tour

view of tables at a cafe in paris
Whether you extend before or after a tour, giving yourself a few extra days gives you the chance to go with the pace of the city you’re visiting (Photo: Envato/Edmondetaiga)

Unless you’re doing a loop tour, which starts and ends in the same place, this question may be answered by simple geography. If you want to spend some extra time in or near the city where the tour starts, you’d tack on a few days before the tour so you have extra time to explore. (An added benefit is that you’ll have a bit of time before the tour to manage your jet lag symptoms.)

If the tour’s final city is a place you want to linger, you’d do a post-tour extension. One caveat here, though: If you’re one of those people who is chomping at the bit to get home by the end of your vacation, take that into consideration and think about trip extensions before your tour, when you’re still fresh and ready for adventure. 

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Josh Roberts is the co-founder and Editorial Director of TourScoop and FamilyVacationist. He is also a novelist and the former Senior Executive Editor at Tripadvisor, SmarterTravel, Airfarewatchdog, and FamilyVacationCritic.