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Organised tour or do-it-yourself?

Camino(s) past & future
CF (May 2019)
Looking at doing the Camino Frances for the first time in May 2019. I've taken a look at a number of threads but was looking for a comparison between doing it all yourself and an organised walk. I would be traveling solo with the aim of time alone and meeting others on the way. It seems that for the most part you can arrange accommodation on a day-to-day basis at the simple albergues on the route by either calling ahead or turning up on the day?
I found this company (one of several I'm sure) https://followthecamino.com/
that offer to arrange an itinerary for you, with accommodation bookings and so on, as well as luggage transfer if required. But I'm not sure if that kind of company is necessary and if I'd be missing out on the experience by not staying in the albergues?
Anyone any experience of the company above (https://followthecamino.com/)? Am I just best to book everything myself and if so what places really need some pre-booking (apart from Santiago)?
 

Robo

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
Welcome :)

This is quite a common question for Newbie Pilgrims. The general consensus would seem to be that there is really no need to utilise the services of a tour company.

This old post might help you understand why ;)

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/guided-vs-self-guided-caminos.51661/#post-567197

The other common tip, is don't book too far ahead as your plans may change depending on who you meet, your comfortable walking distance, injury etc etc. Many people don't book at all. I tend to book only 1 or 2 days ahead.

Part of the experience of walking the Camino, is that you learn to 'let go'............. :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Past? Not enough.
Future? Sure!
Welcome to the Forum,

An organized Camino is like vino tinto without alcohol: you can drink it, but it does not taste the same as the original one...
Buen Camino, organized or not, Jacques-D.

PS: for me, part of the pleasure is to plan and organize everything monthes in advance and throw away everything the 2nd day...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Nearly every year since 2006, often walking more than one route. 2018 was Camino #14
I always suggest people do it themselves, if they're not afraid to go alone.
If you feel you need support, there are several folks organizing groups.
I do, but not in 2019.
Syl Nilsen does out of South Africa - you can search on Amawalkers.
She has a LOT of experience and good reviews.
 

Waka

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Some but not all, and other routes too.
Buy the guide book, follow your heart and your body and you’ll be fine. You won’t be alone on the Camino in May unless you want to be.
As has been said, the exciting part is the planning, mind you once you start all that planning goes out the window. You certainly won’t be the only pilgrim whose apprehensive about accommodation, either book a day in advance or stay at the municiple and parochial albergues andtake your chance.
I’m not against organised tours, it’s just that I don’t think it’s nesccesary.
Just go with flow, you have a magical journey ahead of you.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
I would be traveling solo with the aim of time alone and meeting others on the way. I
With your goals going without a prearranged "tour" would be best. It's harder to meet others when you are locked into your accomodations. And it's hard to know before you've started how far you can or want to walk each day. Also, there's so much that can come up during a Camino that may cause you to want to change your plans. If you want, you can book your own accomodations ahead of time by consulting Gronze.com - it's in Spanish, but if you use the Chrome browser it will auto-translate the site. Just make sure that you make bookings that you can cancel.
 

Lurch

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
looking at 2018-2019
Well, you wil certainly meet the others in your organized group, if you travel that way. But there is a lot to be said in, when you pass or are being passed by other pilgrims, in just wishing everyone a “Buen Camino”. Chances are you will meet up with them again over beer or paella in some bar.
 

Jennifer1959

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF- SJPP- SdC Oct/Nov (2013)
Kumano Kodo Japan (2016)
Portuguese March (2019)
For me, i can not understand paying a tour company, waste of money. Hardcopy or online guidebook plenty, accomodation- book ahead or not (i never have), pack transfer services available most places if you need them. You can do it all yourself quite easily. All the very best. Buen Camino 👣
 

AZ Hiker

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2018)
Looking at doing the Camino Frances for the first time in May 2019. I've taken a look at a number of threads but was looking for a comparison between doing it all yourself and an organised walk. I would be traveling solo with the aim of time alone and meeting others on the way. It seems that for the most part you can arrange accommodation on a day-to-day basis at the simple albergues on the route by either calling ahead or turning up on the day?
I found this company (one of several I'm sure) https://followthecamino.com/
that offer to arrange an itinerary for you, with accommodation bookings and so on, as well as luggage transfer if required. But I'm not sure if that kind of company is necessary and if I'd be missing out on the experience by not staying in the albergues?
Anyone any experience of the company above (https://followthecamino.com/)? Am I just best to book everything myself and if so what places really need some pre-booking (apart from Santiago)?
It walked the Frances this past Oct. I’m old so I had most of my gear forwarded each day. I planned ahead a day or two, reserving a bed in an albergue, usually private ones. I knew pretty much how far I would be comfortable walking. I used the Village to Village guide to research trail conditions and albergue choices. I pre reserved beds the first 5 days: Madrid, Pamplona, St Jean , Valcarlos and Roncesvalles. After that I reserved a day or two ahead. It worked for me. It gave me peace of mind. I’m going back this Spring. 😊
 

Jeff Crawley

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Contemplating yet another "final" Camino
but 2019?
On my first Camino in 2001 I was given a single sheet of paper by the people in SJPP and told to follow the yellow arrows - I hadn't even done many training walks because we'd had foot and mouth disease in the UK and walking country footpaths was forbidden. Guess what? I made it and am still in contact with people I met along the Way.
Knowing what I know now I'd still do it the same way and there's a LOT more information out there to help you (including here).
Save your money (use it to splurge now and again - the Parador in Leon is a delight) and follow the yellow arrows
Have a great time!
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) Frances
(2018) Portuguese
(2019) VdP Seville to Salamanca
(2020) VdP Salamanca to Santiago
I like a compromise approach. I enjoy not having to worry about where I am going to stay each night but do not want to be shepherded from place to place. So, I use a company to set up a place to stay each night. It is only slightly limiting and much more liberating since I can walk as fast or slow as I want to on any given day. I found that on about 1000 miles of Caminos (so far), I have had no problem meeting people and enjoying their company, thoughts, and stories. Yes I have paid a little more to avoid the angst of figuring out each day, the pressure to get somewhere so that I could get in line at an alburgue, and perhaps lost some of the friendships that are forged in the pain but I'm about 70 and had enough of that in my life already.

But when push comes to shove (and economics usually drives this), it really doesn't matter how you walk as long as you do walk. You never will walk alone (unless you choose to) for any period of time.
 

André Walker

Never lost my way: always standing on it
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2011 on my own, 2014 with my wife), Del Norte to Finisterre (2016). 2018: Via de la Plata.
There is only one right answer: which suits you best.

Different people prefer tot walk the camino in different ways: there is no 'right'or 'wrong'.
But do read about the different ways and then decide which one suits you.

So, for what it's worth:
So far I've walk 4 Camino's and never planned ahead, just taking each day as it comes.
Never had any problems finding a place to sleep or meeting other people.
My last camino (Via de la Plata, 2018) I didn't even bring a guide book.
No problems whatsoever.

However you decide to walk your Camino: enjoy it!!!
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (1989 and 2016), Portugues - from Porto (2018)
Looking at doing the Camino Frances for the first time in May 2019. I've taken a look at a number of threads but was looking for a comparison between doing it all yourself and an organised walk. I would be traveling solo with the aim of time alone and meeting others on the way. It seems that for the most part you can arrange accommodation on a day-to-day basis at the simple albergues on the route by either calling ahead or turning up on the day?
I found this company (one of several I'm sure) https://followthecamino.com/
that offer to arrange an itinerary for you, with accommodation bookings and so on, as well as luggage transfer if required. But I'm not sure if that kind of company is necessary and if I'd be missing out on the experience by not staying in the albergues?
Anyone any experience of the company above (https://followthecamino.com/)? Am I just best to book everything myself and if so what places really need some pre-booking (apart from Santiago)?
1. "I'm not sure if that kind of company is necessary and if I'd be missing out on the experience by not staying in the albergues?"

I think you've heard from a number of people here that most do not feel that kind of company is necessary. Of the hundreds of thousands of people who complete the camino each year, the percentage of people who use companies like this is minute. So clearly, for many it can be done without. Only you can say if that is true for you. Are you the type of person who needs to know where they will be sleeping each night? How terrible would it be for you if you got to a place where you had intended to stop and the albergue was full so instead you had to stay in a casa rural or walk another few kilometres to the next village? What do you see your daily schedule like? My son and I naturally did our walking early in the day and tried to finish early to avoid walking in the heat of the day (July/Aug). Are you going to want to take a leisurely lunch break and continue walking into the evening? If the latter, having a place reserved in May may be advantageous.

Personally, I think staying in albergues is an important part of the experience, as it is the community and not just the walking that really makes the Camino and staying in an albergue really puts you in that community. That said, there are some people for whom sleeping in a dorm and sharing bathrooms just isn't going to happen. Better to walk the Camino and sleep in hotels than not to walk the Camino. And some find that sharing community with pilgrims outside of accommodations (walking along the way, at bar refreshment stops, in the squares and restaurants in the evening) is enough. Some find community with other pilgrims staying in hotels in hotels. But I think they are missing out on something. ;-)

2. "Anyone any experience of the company above (https://followthecamino.com/)?"

Not me.

3. "Am I just best to book everything myself and if so what places really need some pre-booking (apart from Santiago)?"

When we walked in July and August, I pre-booked our first two nights (Roncesvalles and Zubiri). I expect I didn't really need to book in Zubiri. After that, I didn't book anything else until after Sarria. We never had any trouble until Triacastela (just before Sarria). At Triacastela, the first three places we tried were full with reservations. The fourth had room for us. So it wasn't like we had to walk on or take more expensive accommodations. But after that experience, I started booking a day or two ahead (except O Pedrouzo where they didn't take reservations but gave precedence to people who had been longer on the Camino). But by our last 100 km, I was comfortable in booking ahead because I knew how far we were comfortable in walking and what we were looking for in an albergue.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
Save your money (use it to splurge now and again - the Parador in Leon is a delight)
Unfortunately, the Parador in León is closed for renovations. 🙁

I like a compromise approach. I enjoy not having to worry about where I am going to stay each night but do not want to be shepherded from place to place. So, I use a company to set up a place to stay each night.
It's easy enough to book accommodations yourself without paying a service. And in my opinion better to do so as you go, and have a better idea of how far you want to walk and with whom.
 

Rover

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Francis, Fall 2016
Looking at doing the Camino Frances for the first time in May 2019. I've taken a look at a number of threads but was looking for a comparison between doing it all yourself and an organised walk. I would be traveling solo with the aim of time alone and meeting others on the way. It seems that for the most part you can arrange accommodation on a day-to-day basis at the simple albergues on the route by either calling ahead or turning up on the day?
I found this company (one of several I'm sure) https://followthecamino.com/
that offer to arrange an itinerary for you, with accommodation bookings and so on, as well as luggage transfer if required. But I'm not sure if that kind of company is necessary and if I'd be missing out on the experience by not staying in the albergues?
Anyone any experience of the company above (https://followthecamino.com/)? Am I just best to book everything myself and if so what places really need some pre-booking (apart from Santiago)?

Nevster. Don't overthink the trek, it is as straight forward as the blog entries you have been reading. Solo versus groups et al is a personal thing. I soloed two years ago and what began as a challenge turned into a transformative experience I never expected. That only came as a result of walking by myself and meeting others along the way. Accommodations? The CF is litered with lodging options. If you make advance reservations you trade a degree of spontaneity and flexibility for "certainty" but keep in mind, isn't that part of the adventure you are seeking. My advice, step out onto that limb and have a wonderful trek. Rover
 
Camino(s) past & future
Lourdes/Burgos/SdeC (train) 1977; CF 12,15,17; Finisterre 17; Lourdes/Aragones 18; Meseta again 2019
I'm not much of a risk taker. I hired Follow the Camino to assist my solo Camino Finisterre in June 2017. I was very pleased with their service.... Yes, I could have done without it -- I chose not to....

I've also walked in the past with Amawalkers https://www.amawalkerscamino.com/ and Anniewalkers https://anniecarvalho.weebly.com/ small group walks and can recommend both of them enthusiastically.... I have usually avoided walking entirely alone because I know that if I walk entirely alone I will sink waaay too much into my introverted self.... I don't subscribe to the albergue cult -- have never had any trouble socializing when I felt like socializing -- and now in my mid-60s, "as the days dwindle down to a precious few", I can indulge in private rooms in cheap hotels.

I'm going back next September to walk the Meseta once more -- bravely solo this time! -- from Logrono to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, and then from Burgos to Leon (or perhaps Astorga?).... Will I book most accomodations ahead? Yes. Some accomodations I've already booked by myself, using Booking.com -- because I know of specific places where I want to stay... Other venues I expect to book using the Camino Travel Center in Santiago: www.caminotravelcenter.com ...

I suggest that you just do what you're comfortable with.... and never you mind what other people think!
 
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Jackieduda

Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF September (2018)
Looking at doing the Camino Frances for the first time in May 2019. I've taken a look at a number of threads but was looking for a comparison between doing it all yourself and an organised walk. I would be traveling solo with the aim of time alone and meeting others on the way. It seems that for the most part you can arrange accommodation on a day-to-day basis at the simple albergues on the route by either calling ahead or turning up on the day?
I found this company (one of several I'm sure) https://followthecamino.com/
that offer to arrange an itinerary for you, with accommodation bookings and so on, as well as luggage transfer if required. But I'm not sure if that kind of company is necessary and if I'd be missing out on the experience by not staying in the albergues?
Anyone any experience of the company above (https://followthecamino.com/)? Am I just best to book everything myself and if so what places really need some pre-booking (apart from Santiago)?
Like you, i also researched this option and decided to go it on my own. I never regretted this decision. Others whom i met doing the “tour” method sometimes felt constrained, unable to be spontaneous (take extra time in one city or another that appealed to them, or join others whom they met along the way) due to their preplanned reservations. What i observed to be successful for those on the “tour” route is that it is best suited to those going short distances( say, the last 100 km). If taking the full route you will find yourself guided by your preset schedule rather than by what moves you at the moment. And you will find ypurself moved by many things along the way. Let the trip move you. Dont preplan everything, i say.
(You may get some insights on the blog i wrote at jacscamino.wordpress.com)
 

onwayhome

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances Ponferrada-Santiago,(c1986)
Frances SJPP-Santiago (2011)
Portuguese Porto- Finisterre (2016)
St Michaels Way (2016)
Looking at doing the Camino Frances for the first time in May 2019. I've taken a look at a number of threads but was looking for a comparison between doing it all yourself and an organised walk. I would be traveling solo with the aim of time alone and meeting others on the way. It seems that for the most part you can arrange accommodation on a day-to-day basis at the simple albergues on the route by either calling ahead or turning up on the day?
I found this company (one of several I'm sure) https://followthecamino.com/
that offer to arrange an itinerary for you, with accommodation bookings and so on, as well as luggage transfer if required. But I'm not sure if that kind of company is necessary and if I'd be missing out on the experience by not staying in the albergues?
Anyone any experience of the company above (https://followthecamino.com/)? Am I just best to book everything myself and if so what places really need some pre-booking (apart from Santiago)?
I think you've pretty much laid out the territory in your question and the answer is in your personal choice. Personally I like to reserve at the start so I have somewhere to land and then take it flexibly day by day. Apps like booking. com etc can be very helpful and the Camino Frances is exceptionally well served with food and accommodation which needs little or no pre reservation.
If, however, the uncertainty is too uncomfortable then give yourself a break and take the kind of tour that suits you best.
 
i did the CF in 2012 solo but used baggage transfer daily (had bad case of plantar fasciitis) and used Booking.com to reserve hotel rooms (pensions & casa ruals mostly--only 1 albergue which i hated). i booked the 1st week ahead then booked a day or 2 ahead for rest of camino except last 100k--it gets very busy so booked a week ahead. i did NOT miss out on a camino family as many have suggested by not staying in albergues. my "family" just texted each other for dinner each night or morning walk times--no problem. i met a few who used companies and most really liked that type of travel. i did miss not having a family at the end as i took some extra time to see the sights rather than keep on pace of Brierley's book. If i do it again i will take more free days to see more of Spain along the CF route.

You might want to do a little of both--use a tour company to start then go alone for the rest---i met other women who did this and were very pleased with this format.
 

BobM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances; Via Podensis; Via Francigena; Via Portugues; Via Francigena del Sud; Jakobsweg.
I have tried both methods - totally independent and pre-planned. I prefer the control, flexibility and independence of doing my own thing with a good guidebook, but pre-planning offers advantages.

I walked a week on the Via Portugues using a specialist company that booked hotels and arranged baggage transfers. Baggage transfers allow you to take more 'stuff', which may or may not be a good idea. You are freed from the stress of arranging bookings each day and maybe grappling with an unfamiliar language to do so.

But I felt like a fake walking a pilgrimage in such comfort, especially when meeting others on the route who were doing it the hard way. That's just a personal quirk of character - not a value judgement of anyone else. There is no right or wrong way involved in any of this.

However, if you are no longer young, or if injuries or disabilities are limiting - and you want to to extend your walking experiences, pre-booking and planning allow you to do so. BTW, as an aside, there are specialist groups that arrange pilgrimage walks for people with special needs who may not be able to arrange everything by themselves.

I also walked a week solo on Jakobsweg in Austria with everything arranged by a specialist company. I still felt like a fake, but the experience was more enjoyable this time, perhaps because I met only cyclists and normal hikers - and the scenery was to die for. The navigating instructions were from hotel to hotel and my bag was waiting for me when I arrived. Very luxurious indeed!

If you have a spiritual purpose in undertaking a long pilgrimage, or want to celebrate or reflect on something personal in your life, there is much to be said for immersing yourself among like-minded others on the way. A pre-booked and pre-planned experience can isolate you from many of the experiences that are to be gained by doing it the hard way. The challenge of overcoming difficulties, dealing with uncertainty and tiredness provides many of the most satisfying and lasting memories of my walks in Europe.

Whatever method you choose, may you be blessed with companionship and insight - and my your life be enriched by your experiences.

Bob M
 

Vince Lee

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2017), Planning Portugues (2019)
We walked the CF with accommodation pre-booked right through from the start, along with daily luggage transfers. We were a group of 11 walkers, the majority aged 60+, together with one other spouse who was not fit enough to walk but wanted to accompany her husband and drove a hire car to the next location each day. We were primarily a group of retired ex-colleagues and partners now living spread around the world. We did it for practical reasons - we wanted to stay together, did not want the hassle of trying to book along the way, frankly none of us were enthusiastic about dorm type accommodation and 4 of the group did not have the time to walk the whole route and therefore joined us on pre-determined dates. We used a company named The Way Experiences and we met quite a lot of people doing it the same way as us with the help of a number of other companies.

Do I think it detracted from the experience - hell no! It did not stop us meeting and talking and socialising with a number of other pilgrims along the way. I read comments such as part of the Camino experience is learning to let go, or the communal living experience of staying in the albergues etc etc. Absolutely fine if that's your preference, or if you believe that is the "real"Camino experience.

As far as I am concerned it is down to each individual and what you make of the Camino experience. All I can say is that our experience of walking the CF was uplifting, with lots of laughter, and some pain (!), meeting people from all around the world with interesting backgrounds and experiences.
 

pjacobi

Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015, St. Jean Pied de Port to Burgos
2016, Burgos to Ponferrada
2017, Ponferrada to Atlantic Ocean
Do you have experience traveling independently in a major US city? Have you ever traveled independently to Europe? Have you ever traveled to a country where English is not the native language? If yes to all these questions, then you should have no problem planning your own Camino.

If your independent travel experience is limited, I'd suggest using to tour company for the Camino. Alternatively, improve your European travel skills with a visit to London, Paris, or Madrid. This will allow your to develop your travel skills that you will need to plan your own Camino.

-Paul
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF (May 2019)
Thanks to all for the really helpful replies - have booked flights and first few nights! Arrive to St JPdP on 4 May to start on the 5 May! Excited.
Thanks for the invaluable support from this forum.
 

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