What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?
I like flexibility when traveling. The only time I’d take a guided tour is if I were going to some place where I felt unsafe, despite the fact that I’d chosen to go there.
I’m a wanderer and I like to get to know places on my own, by walking the streets and letting my feet guide me to what looks interesting or curious. You get a feel for a place that you don’t get from a bus window, or being hustled along with a group of people. I like to have a good map at hand and plot my course, kind of familiarizing myself with first with the immediate neighborhood where I’m staying, then going further afield with a destination in mind. Obviously it is wisest to take the underground or a bus from time to time, but when you go on foot, you get a better feeling of the scale of a city. On a map, two things can look far distant from one another, yet really not be. You can see how to areas blend into one another, or how suddenly you come up on a small area that is all one ethnicity and find street signs all in Arabic, or Yiddish, for example.
A general schedule is a given. On a trip you always have a begin and end date, and so you have to fit whatever you want to do into the time you’re there. You have to make choices, but hurrying through your itinerary lessens getting a real appreciation of the place you’re visiting. So I’ve found it best to admit at the outset that there are spots I will not visit, and then concentrate on those I do and give them my full attention.