self plan or not

Your next Camino: should you book with a tour operator or plan on your own?

02 Oct 2022


It’s finally decided: your much coveted walking trip is happening.  

Great for you! Now what? Here is the first question that may come to your mind: should you plan everything on your own or book your trip with a travel agent?  

There is no easy answer to this query, and you should not take it lightly, as this decision will affect your travel experience from the onset. It's a personal choice for some travelers: they may enjoy the excitement of the trip planning and the spontaneity of building their vacation as they go, while others prefer being advised and supported in the planning process, choosing the certainty of everything being set over the beauty of the unexpected. 

If you are still looking for an answer to this big question, here are some factors to consider:  

trip planning

Before the trip: 

Setting a budget, designing the perfect itinerary, booking your accommodation, being well-equipped for the road, securing the best travel insurance, and packing smart are just a few of the tasks a tour operator can do for you – or to take care of if you go solo.   

Planning and designing your itinerary  

Several people find that planning and researching the perfect trip is almost more exciting than the holiday itself: Walking trips are no exception: there are limitless guidebooks, online resources, forums, and websites, providing a cornucopia of information for self-planners.   

A planned trip may ruin some of the fun for you if you fall into this category.   

Trusting a tour operator, on the other hand, is the right choice if you don't have time to browse, fear choice paralysis, or simply do not want to do the research.   

With a local expert, you will have someone that can answer all your questions, speak the language of your destination, and has walked the same path as you. Based on your requirements and training level, they can provide all the information you need to search for yourself and suggest (or design!) the most appropriate itinerary.   

Budget and Accomodation

At the same time, booking with a tour operator means you have an upfront price for the inclusions you agree on - this means less surprises and easier money management.   

The type of accommodation you'd like to stay in is another factor to consider, particularly if you're seeking a traditional, communal pilgrimage experience: tour operators usually do not work with hostels and religious accommodations, but rather with bed and breakfasts and hotels that offer private, ensuite rooms.   

Independent travel allows you to stop in hostels along the way or pamper yourself with a night at the hotel as you like; pre-planned trips allow less spontaneity as you have all your hotels pre-arranged and a set daily itinerary.   

n the other hand, if you need your peace and quiet at the end of the day, care for your privacy or are a light sleeper, booking with a tour operator means having a private room and bathroom guaranteed at the end of each stage – your personal nest to recover and recharge.  


Most Tour Operators include a base insurance in their package –  this will refund you of medical expenses, and of the commercial value of your luggage (up to a certain amount that the operator will specify).

An optional cancellation insurance will also be offered - this will allow you to be refunded of the cancellation fee you would otherwise have to pay, in case the annulment happens because of health reasons (own or close relatives - Covid19 infections included), material damage caused by natural disasters, impossibility to take part to the trip because of new job hiring or summoning to appear in court. 

on the road

During the Trip

The support while on the road is one of the main factors leading travellers to choose a tour operator over indipendent planning.  Let’s see what an agent can do for you while you are travelling – and if it is something that you could easily do without!  

Navigating on the road:

A tour operator package includes everything you may need to orient yourself on the road: in SloWay’s case we offer a description of the itinerary, maps or a guidebook (depending on the trip you choose) and a personalized APP to with a navigation system that you can use off-line. On some very well-marked itinerary (such as the Camino de Santiago) this may feel unnecessary, but other Caminos (especially specific sections ) may be less easy to navigate.  

Agents usually offer a 24/7 support number to call  

On the road: support and emergencies

Obviously we always hope for the most positive experience, but accidents and unexpected events do happen.

When a problem occurs - whether it's adverse weather conditions, an injury, a sudden pain that forces you to change your daily plans - Tour Operators offer a 24-hour telephone number you can call for assistance in any situation: they can assist, book an additional transfer for you or your bags, help you find a doctor or hospital, and mediate in case no one speaks English or your language. In this case, having someone to call and provide extra support can really make a difference and help save the day (and the trip).  

On very popular Caminos such as the Camino de Santiago, one constantly feels surrounded and supported and the locals are very well used at tourists and any sort of problem solving; on other caminos you might walk for entire days with no other traveller on sight, and the locals might be less used to speaking English or dealing with walkers and their specific needs 

Especially in this instance, the idea of having someone to call to mediate, facilitate and simply support you as you go can mean a lot to more anxious travellers.   

 a personal choice

Conclusion: a personal choice

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer, but there is one that is more suitable for you.   

Our suggestion is to be really honest with yourself regarding your planning skills, knowledge and expertise (or willingness to acquire it!) and problem-solving attitude for anything that may come up on the road.   
Consider your desired destination carefully and balance your needs and desires to understand what would make you feel happy and excited - and especially safe and serene.   

You may decide to postpone your trip to next year and save money to book with a tour operator and gain more peace of mind and support on the spot, or you may choose to cater to your adventurous side and opt for self-planning - perhaps on a more popular trip that allows you greater flexibility and spontaneity.   

There is only one right way to plan your trip – your own! 


Wanderlust Nominee Best Specialist Tour Operator 2023
Nominee Best Specialist Tour Operator 2023
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S-Cape Countryside Travels srl
Borgo Allegri 16R
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