Virtual travel can be daunting for first-time users. Virtual tour services are proliferating online, and there are also plenty of museums, landmarks and cultural heritage sites offering some version of digital access. Here are a few things you may not know about the virtual travel industry that will help you make good decisions about your travel experiences and ensure that those experiences are as engaging and comfortable as possible.
Know Your Product
Is your tour live or recorded? Is it image-based or video-based? Is it guided by someone? Is that person experienced and accredited? The variety of virtual tours is seemingly endless, and that doesn’t even include other virtual travel products, such as POV recordings of roller coaster rides or window swap interactions. If you’d like to tour a certain location, you should first determine how you want to experience it. Many online museum tours involve stepping through a series of 360-degree images manually, and knowing your way around is important in avoiding aimlessly wandering. And as for video tours, there exists a spectrum of interactivity, from pre-recorded endeavors that allow you to choose the next step (i.e. the next video to watch) to fully interactive live tours in which you have control over their entire experience. And some video-based tours, of course, offer no interactivity at all. Consider the phrase “know before you go” as a general rule. Otherwise, you may end up purchasing a product that is different from what you intended.
Bring People Along for Group Experiences
One of the key advantages of virtual travel is that a large group of people located in different areas of the world can have the same experience: all you need is an internet connection. Many virtual tour services offer pricing plans that benefit larger group experiences (some sites offer tours for up to 10 people at once), and having larger group availability makes a virtual tour perfect for family events and office team-building experiences. If there is a way to invite more people to a tour without increasing the price, take it! After having to transition to working or studying from home, which may have included long periods of isolation, people are eager to discover virtual experiences that bring people together, so you probably know people who would be interested in joining your virtual travel adventure.
Engage with Your Guide
The knowledge that a tour guide possesses is vast, but many guides field fewer questions and have less interaction with their visitors in a virtual setting than they would in person. When people are not present in the same location, it may be harder to connect or for a visitor to find the right place to interject an idea. However, you can solve this problem by actively engaging with your tour guide whenever you feel that the time is right — don’t be shy about it! Why is this important? In the end, it is for your benefit to have the best possible connection with your guide. It is more comfortable to tour a location with a friend than a stranger, and guides understand the importance of building a connection with visitors who likely would not have met them previously. However, this goes both ways; don’t be afraid to ask questions or give comments to your guide. It will help put everyone at ease and make you feel more comfortable during your tour.
Take Photos Where Appropriate
Virtual travel experiences can provide views as naturally beautiful as in-person ones, but people capture these images less frequently when they are online. Firstly, do not be afraid to take a screenshot during your tour, however, you should let your guide know beforehand, especially if he or she will be in the shot. In many cases, a recording of your tour will be available to you for a certain period of time afterwards (and if the tour was recorded to begin with, you would can watch it back whenever you like), but in those spontaneous moments where you feel like preserving what you’re seeing, you should absolutely go for it. Don’t give yourself the feeling later that you missed out on an opportunity for a photo.
Come Back a Second Time
Some services, such as Guided, make each tour interactive, allowing you to choose between two distinct paths to explore, each with their own unique areas, artifacts, or appearances awaiting you (knowing about this ahead of time is another key to the first tip in this post!). With this in mind, you can tour the same destination twice, to experience both routes. This gives you the opportunity to see a site from many different perspectives. Returning to a location a second time also gives an experienced guide the opportunity to adapt his or her presentation to the knowledge that you gained during your first tour. This allows you to learn more details and have more knowledgeable conversations with your guide than you were able to the first time. With these tips in hand, you have the power to determine the best virtual travel experience for yourself and your friends and family. You can make plans with confidence and enjoy the time you spend actively engaging with your guide and your companions. Virtual tour companies keep these tips in mind as well in order to bring you the best possible virtual experiences.