If you like to set your own schedule while you're on vacation, appreciate a local's recommendations for the best restaurants in the area and enjoy great value when it comes to the cost of your trip, then an independent vacation may be the perfect mode of travel for you!

Recognizing that some travelers enjoy a lot more free time on vacation, some escorted tour operators also operate independent vacations. While all of your hotel accommodations and transportation on an independent package are arranged for you (like an escorted tour), there are differences.

On an independent vacation, you will not be part of a group and you will have more freedom to spend your days exactly how you like, but with plenty of guidance along the way when you request it. A "local host" or "local guide" in each of the cities you visit is available to answer any questions you may have while you're on vacation. Depending on the tour operator and your destination, your local host may visit your hotel, meet you at the airport or be available by phone. He or she can make sightseeing, shopping and dining suggestions -- wonderful way to get the "inside scoop" on all the most important things to see and do while you're in a foreign city.

Only some meals are included on independent itineraries, allowing you to choose restaurants that best suit your tastes and budget. Plus, you travel solely with those in your immediate party, giving you plenty of flexibility and privacy.

Often, you can choose your class of hotel on an independent vacation. If you're interested in a place to simply hang your hat after a busy day of exploring, you'll choose basic, affordable accommodations. If luxury and first-class appointments and amenities are more important to you, you can select the premium option. That's the beauty of independent travel -- so much of your vacation can be tailored to your needs.