When I travel, I mostly do a stack of research and map out a rough plan covering what I want to see and do each day. However, time is sometimes a luxury we cannot all afford – especially if a trip is booked last minute or you’re going away on a weekender. I recently went on a weekender to the Australian outback and during this trip I wanted to see Uluru, The Olga’s and Kings Canyon. With this in mind I knew it would be a lot easier to book a tour. I immediately started researching tour groups online and was overwhelmed by the choices. With so many travel agencies and tour groups competing for my money, selecting the right tour for my needs had become somewhat complicated. If you’re anything like me you would have poured through various travel websites and asked friends and work colleagues for their recommendations. Even after I had done all of this research, I still found it quite difficult to cut through clutter.

So after this experience, I thought I would share my tips for choosing the best tour.

1. Know what you’re looking for: Before you start researching and comparing tours, know what you’re looking for. Ask yourself these three questions before you get started; 1. Do you know where you want to travel and what you want to see? 2. Do you know what your budget is? 3. Do you know how long you want to go away for? If you can’t answer these questions quickly, then you’re not entirely ready to start researching and comparing tours. My recommendation would be to spend some time figuring out exactly what you want. Once you do this, looking for the right tour will be a lot easier.

2. Compare similar tours: When researching tours, don’t compare a luxury weeklong tour with a camping weekender. You’re only setting yourself up for fail, so decide on the type of tour you want firstly. If you are booking a tour through a travel agent, don’t commit right away. Travel agents can be pushy, so ask them to give you a few days to decide and during this time get online and do some research on their suggestions. You’ll often find out that people who didn’t enjoy a tour was mostly because they didn’t choose it themselves, instead a travel agent sold it to them.

3. Check the fine print: Always, and I repeat, always check the fine print. Some tour websites don’t actually manage or run the tours themselves which can lead to insurance issues if you’re tour isn’t fully protected, as well as no one taking responsibility if something goes wrong.

4. Don’t always choose the cheapest tour: Cheap doesn’t always mean great value. It might mean you are sleeping in a tent in a caravan park, as opposed to a hotel room. Do the prices include food, safe accommodation, transport, a knowledgable tour guide, entry fees and overnight bathroom facilities? Tours with buzz words like ‘budget’ don’t necessarily mean better value; these terms can be used to lure you in. Some budget tours might involve basic accommodation but fail to include sights and activities.

5. Don’t ignore your safety: Your safety is paramount, and just because you are booking a tour doesn’t mean you should be cavalier with your safety and the protection of your belongings because you are travelling with a group. Always keep an eye on your personal belongings and be accountable. To ensure your safety, always book travel insurance – even if you are going on a holiday in your own country. I have been guilty of not paying for travel insurance when I holiday in Australia – anything can happen so it’s best to be prepared and protected both financially and for your health.

6. Ask questions: If you have any questions, fire them away to the tour group you are researching. Knowledge is power when you travel; it will also ensure you have a great time and don’t get ripped off.