I am discovering more and more that I much prefer to do day trips on my own as opposed to taking a tour that will inevitably leave me feeling that I didn't have enough time to see what I really wanted to see. Obviously there are times when it's a relief to just be in the care of a knowledgeable guide and taken here and there without worrying about logistics, but then you also have to deal with a whole bus load of other people and their various needs and issues. In planning my day trips outside Vienna I opted to take the train to Salzburg, and will perhaps get a HoHo ticket, but then I can linger as long (or short) as I want to at places. I almost paid $97 for a guided tour from Vienna to Melk via bus with a boat ride back, then realized that Oebb has a great Combiticket offer for approx. $65 USD, including entry to Melk and boat from Melk to Krems, and I prefer the train to a bus anyway.
Sorry, christa, is there a question?
I don't think questions are required anymore under the new format.
But to expand on Christa's point, I have taken over 20 "local" tours, tours where you show up at the venue - castle, palace, whatever - and pay a nominal price for a guided tour. I have no objection to these tours.
What I do object to are the "profit added" tours, where they include a lot of things you could do on your own for very little (such as going out to Dachau from the Munich Hbf) and charge you an exorbitant extra fee for the service, or things like the SOM tours in Salzburg, where they show you virtually nothing in Salzburg actually connected to the movie that you couldn't have seen on your own, and charge you plenty. As P.T. Barnum reportedly said, "there is one born every second".
No question, just sharing something to get people thinking, "Hmmn, would this guided day trip be easier/more suited to my needs than figuring out the logistics on my own?"
For me it depends on the type of day trip although I would never do one with a "whole bus load". I have on occasion hired a private guide for a day - especially for art museums - my knowledge of art & art history is pretty limited and I have found having someone there who is knowledgeable makes for a much better experience for me. Following some umbrella around a city and stopping here or there to listen to a spiel then moving on is not for me but a one on one (or two with DH) is very enjoyable.
There is a huge difference between going on a bus tour with 50 strangers, going on a hop-on hop-off bus tour listening to a recording while you whiz past historic spots, going on a walking/bike/segway tour with a small group, or going on a private tour with a guide who has tailored the tour to match your interests. I would kindly decline the 1st two tour options, but gladly go with the 2nd two.
This really is a "it depends" question. I agree with Ms Jo that there is a difference in the types of guided tours. I don't think one sweeping answer to tours/no tours fits, it depends on on transportation, number of participants, time, quality of the guide, etc. Local guides at Notre Dame and Chartres provided an in depth experience and made the history and architecture much more meaningful. For me, a much better experience than just reading about it.
The RS tours and local guides are great and have really spoiled me. I took one of the big bus/ drive by tours in the US (Pacific NW to San Francisco) and was so disappointed. I wish there was a RS-type company for the US and Canada.