Taking a Trip Can Be a Wonderful Experience: You just have to know how to do it. You can, for example, use an independent travel agent, go through American Express, or find an online site offering loads of different trips. You name it, you can do it. I have tried numerous ways.
When an online tour company offers many trips, you can request brochures for those you are interested in. These can be sent to you or downloaded from their site. I prefer the actual brochures. You will also notice that the same tour is offered by other companies, so you can choose the company based on how much help or additional services they offer. More importantly, some of these companies will let you personalize a trip at an additional cost. We travel with another couple, and we found that this works best for us.
When you are in a group, you tend to go at the pace of the group and we also found that some trips have too much down time. You are paying good money for your tour and from my point of view, I want the most out of it. By compiling your "own" schedule, you can see and do more each day.
A few years ago we took a trip to Thailand and Cambodia and used independent tour guides in each country. All this was arranged for us ahead of time by the tour booking company, incorporating our suggestions as to what we wanted to do and see. In Cambodia, we asked to be taken to a local market, not commonly on a list of places to see, and that was one of the best experiences of the trip. When you have a group, it would have been difficult to arrange this.
This is not to say that a group tour is not good. In some cases, you are going to a country where you have to be in a group, for many reasons, or the trip is not set up for totally independent travel. Let me add that I didn't mind a group tour when we took our first trip to the Peru and The Galapagos, because we met wonderful people and that was where we met our future traveling companions.
Start planning your next trip and let me know how it goes!
Some Tour Companies I have used: AbercrombieKent.com, IExplore.com, and AmericanExpress.com. I looked into WildernessTravel.com, Tauck.com, nationalgeographicexpeditions.com and there are many others. Price tends to be a factor in which one you choose.