Well I finally did it! I booked my trip to Greece!
It came down to two choices. One choice was through GAP Adventures, and the other was through Virgin Vacations. It was VERY difficult to choose between the two.
On the one hand, GAP's tour goes directly to Sparta (which no other tour offers to go to) and features a smaller group with the same guide throughout the tour (I even got to find out how many people are going and what kind of group they are). Then there's Virgin Vacations, which goes to more places in the same amount of time, includes meals, transportation fees and promises me my own room (I'm a pretty private person so this was something to consider).
Both have their negative points though. The GAP Adventure doesn't pay for meals and takes a lot of publice transportation, and advises you to bring your own first aid kit just in case. I have to admit that last part doesn't ring well with me. The tour also goes to a couple of places that I'm not all that interested in along. I'm trying to see locations that end up in my book The Owl & The Eagle, so any place that doesn't seem relevent might be fun but might make me impatient too.
Virgin has its own issues-- mainly that the group can have up to 40 people in it at once (and since it's high tourist season, I'm assuming it will). That can take away from a more "personal" experience, and it might be hard to hear the guide at times.
In the end though, I went with Virgin. They include almost everything in the price right off the bat, and to be honest I want a tour where someone will pick me up from the airport, where meals are included and where I can see more places. I admit it's sad to lose out on a more personal experience where I might make some wonderful friends and the tour guide will be more attentive, but I just wasn't sure about the more "rustic" sounding aspect of it.
I DID book two extra days in Athens for myself. I'm hoping that will give me time to hop a bus to Sparta for a day, and an extra day to do anything or see anything else that I didn't get to before.
My trip is from July 5th until July 15th. I hope it goes well! ^_^;