Normally we don't use tours; we like to travel on our own and be flexible and free to change our minds. But for a country like Egypt, we decided that a tour was the way to go. We used GoAHead Tours, opting to buy the land only tours since we would not be coming from the States but from Nice FRance, where we live in the winter months. This caused a bit of a problem since we arrived and the tour was NOT at the hotel they had advised us of and we had no local phone number. I accessed my email but they had sent no update and even their site did not give the necessary information; this was obviously distressing. But the hotel where we had gone helped us by calling the other hotel we would be staying at in Cairo, later in the tour, and there they were! What a relief.
This was our first organized tour and we were surprised to find out that it is not as relaxing as we expected. Most mornings we were up before 6 AM and on the bus by 7 AM, ready to see the sights. We would return home to our hotel around 7:30 PM or so, have dinner, and fall into bed, exhausted. Then the next day was the same, up again before 6 AM! You really felt like you got your money's worth!
Our guide, Hesham, was worth the trip. He is a true Egyptologist who has worked with the top archeological teams in Egypt, so he was very knowledgeable. He also put in a lot of time with us - one "free" evening he spent almost 2 hours with us, answering any questions we had about Egypt, ancient and modern. He was friendly and helpful with restaurant suggestions and really priceless.
Another thing a guide will arrange is visits to shops that he probably gets a "kick back" from. On the other hand, he takes you to reputable dealers - real papyrus, authentic woven rugs, real alabaster. At each shop there is a demonstration of the crafts. But there's not much shopping on your own.