One of the best ways to venture back into travel in the endemic Covid-world is to consider a small group tour. They are easy on logistics, have incredible local guides and adhere to current safety protocols while giving you incredible, authentic experiences in your chosen destination.
You might have some preconceived ideas of what you think a small group tour looks like. Maybe you’ve even convinced yourself they are not for you, but we encourage you to read on to find out why small group tours are a great fit for every age range and activity level, how they work for solo travellers and couples and why we love them!
What is a small group tour?
A small group tour is a group of people from around the world who book into the same itinerary on the same date. These groups range from a handful of people to 12 passengers on average and usually 16 passengers maximum. A few companies do groups of up to 24 passengers, although they aren’t quite as common and to us, that’s not really a ‘small group’.
Trips range from about seven to 21 days although there are a few itineraries or back-to-back tours that can go on for a couple of months if you have the time to explore!
On my first trip to Botswana, there was a lady in her 60s who had already been travelling for 30 days and she had another 30 to go, all within the African continent. More often though, small group tours range from eight to 15 days.
The itinerary for a small group tour is set, so you don’t need to worry about planning your own route or sorting out local transportation. They’ve already put together the most efficient ways to get you between the highlights and hidden gems. You get to do all the dreaming, anticipating and experiencing without the logistical complications.
You also get the benefit of a local guide’s knowledge, connections and experience. Not to mention a reputable company’s buying power to get you early access, behind the scenes moments or special experiences that you wouldn’t likely discover or would be hard to get to on your own.
It is perfect for those who are short on travel or research time or like to be worry-free in destination. This doesn’t mean you are hand-held though! There’s a great mix of included activities and free time. And, a variety of styles of accommodations from basic trips with hostels to premium trips with boutique and luxury accommodations.
You’ll travel in a combination of private passenger vans, local transportation such as public buses, ferries or trains and some unique modes of transportation such as tuk-tuks, bush planes, cable cars … you might be surprised what modes of transportation you don’t even know exist!
Who is a small group tour for?
Small group tours are for everyone!
Solo travellers love them because you can go solo, but not be alone! No need to wait for a friend to join you, you’ll meet new friends in destination and have the safety of a group and local leader to explore with.
If you’re willing to room with someone new, of the same sex, many companies have a shared-room program where you won’t pay any extra to travel solo. If you’d like your own space though, you often have the option of paying for a single room.
I’ve travelled solo in small group tours to: Belize, Vietnam & Cambodia, Jordan, Nepal, Chile & Argentina, Peru, South Africa, Portugal, Myanmar, Turkey and Botswana. I’ve had roommates from the USA, Austria, Australia, Wales, Germany and Canada.
Couples love small group tours, too. You may love each other deeply and want to see the same country but also not want to spend 24/7 only with each other’s company for two weeks. That is AOK. You’ll have your own room and pre-planned activities, but also the opportunity to mingle with others during the trip.
Having the logistics covered, minimal decisions to make and other travellers to converse with helps take the pressure off! And when interests differ, sometimes there are options to do different activities but still come together for dinner, finish off the night with a nightcap and debrief!
First-time travellers, young or old love small group tours to get a feel for travel without the stress and worry of making mistakes, being swindled or safety concerns. You can stay close to your guide and explore with other travellers to learn the ropes from the experienced.
Travellers in their teens to 30s can join trips specific to their age range with high energy and low budget. For people 55+ you have a wide range of options from leisurely to active, basic accommodations to luxury.
There’s also something to be enjoyed about trips that span age ranges and give you unique perspectives of a new destination and culture from various ages.
Being one of the youngest travellers (at 40) on my small group trip to Jordan, I found the perspective of the older travellers on the trip interesting as their life experiences led to different questions and conversations than I would have ever thought to ask.
Most of the group tours I’ve experienced have been a mix of age ranges with people joining in from their late twenties to their 70s. One of the most adventurous ladies I ever met was an Italian woman who was on my small group tour in Belize. At the last minute, she decided to join in an optional horseback and waterfall tour with me and one other traveller. She climbed waterfalls, went swimming in the frigid, fresh mountain waters and even squeezed behind a small but powerful waterfall that I couldn’t bring myself to do!
What are the benefits of a small group tour?
While we’ve already pointed out some of the most important benefits to you for joining a small group tour such as camaraderie, safety travelling in a group and having most of the logistics arranged for you. Some of the biggest benefits are for the people and places you visit! Having the time of your life on a great adventure can have a positive impact on the destinations you visit, and who wouldn’t want that?
Most of the small group tour companies we work with are deeply rooted in community and committed to sustainable tourism. This is important because without their commitment to bringing travellers to rural communities many local businesses would not exist, or survive. Tourism is a meaningful and valuable career in many places that have few other ways to earn a living. Tourism jobs (from hotels to restaurants to artisans) provide dignified work to women, help educate children and in turn, help communities rise out of poverty. When people can work in their community instead of having to travel to the cities to sell at markets or on the streets, they can earn a living to support their families and keep their kids in school.
Fewer passengers means access to smaller, more intimate accommodations. You’ll stay in unique lodges, agriturismos, homestays and small hotels which aren’t able to accommodate large groups. These accommodations employ local people, often have local, hand-made furniture, art and construction.
Staying at these locally owned and operated accommodations leads to more money staying in the community instead of lining the pockets of international investors at chain hotels.
Lower carbon footprint
Travelling in small groups with local transportation, eating local foods at local restaurants all lead to a lower carbon footprint in your travels. Global warming effects us all so a lower or neutral carbon footprint on vacation is a step in the right direction for helping yourself, your kids and your grandkids have a future planet to love. When you book any trip with us, we also fund the planting of 25 trees and 0.5 tonnes of carbon offsets on your behalf.
Ask us about taking a carbon-neutral trip or travelling with a highly respected B Corp company held to the highest standards of climate action. We’ve got you covered. Not sure what those terms mean? Ask us about it in the comments below or send us an email! Don’t be shy.
For highly active travellers of any age, there are challenging itineraries to keep you moving! From Mount Everest base camp in Nepal to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. From hiking or cycling the Camino de Santiago to trekking the Inca Trail or the Mont Blanc circuit. From mountain biking in Colombia to multi-sport itineraries including hiking, cycling, swimming, SUPing, kayaking, rappelling, canyoning and white water rafting in Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands, Vietnam and throughout Europe. What an amazing way to enjoy nature and stay active on vacation.
For those who enjoy a slower pace and aren’t particularly active, no worries! There are small group tours for country highlights, train journeys, exceptional wildlife viewings, culture and history-focused tours that require nothing more than a few kilometres of city-walking spread throughout each day.
Human & Environmental Issues
Small-group tour companies are at the forefront of protecting our planet and wildlife. From banning elephant riding and animal encounters to taking a strong stance on child welfare, when you travel with the right small group tour you can be assured that your money is going to the communities, supporting positive tourism practices and aiding them, not affecting them negatively.
Many of these things you may never see or realize are happening, but by them not being included in your tour, you are actually having the biggest impact on positive change.
Authentic, local experiences
Small group tours provide you with truly authentic experiences. You may visit local homes, small restaurants, community projects and have the opportunity to enjoy a homestay with a local family. You’ll explore local markets, have home-cooked meals and have hands-on opportunities to cook with locals or learn their ancient craft techniques.
I’ve stayed with families in homestays in Luquina Chico and Caccacollo, Peru multiple times and in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. There’s something very special about being invited into someone’s home, experiencing local life and sharing a meal together despite cultural and language differences. They are experiences you’ll never forget.
My favourite part of small group tours is having a local guide. This is the special, unmatchable experience that sets apart a small group tour from exploring on your own. Local guides are highly trained and educated in the history, culture and wildlife of their countries. They know the ins and outs of local conjecture, the customs, tips, tricks, dangerous areas to avoid, the best sunset spots, rooftop bars and the best food in the city.
They are your new friend in destination, and you’ll soon find they are like a friend who invites you over for tea and a chat. You’ll learn history from a local rather than a North American perspective. They’ll negotiate at borders, navigate police check stops, take care of language barriers, suggest local foods to try and make sure you are having fun. They’ll go above and beyond to show you the best sights of their home country, providing you education, entertainment, and authentic experiences without compromising on your safety.
Over the years, I’ve gone on many incredible small group tours and have met fascinating people from around the world who I keep in touch with regularly. I’ve gone to places I never would have known existed if I hadn’t gone with a local and I’ve gotten through some situations that I never would have wanted to be in alone!
If you are interested in exploring the vast world of small-group tour options, we’d love to hear from you. While the tour logistics are taken care of, it can still be quite a process to find the right tour for you. From the variety of age ranges to activity levels, we can help make sure you are choosing the right trip and having a positive impact just by travelling. We’ll also help out with pre and post arrangements, flights, insurance and staying longer in destination to explore on your own.
If you are ready to start planning your next adventure and would like to see if a small group trip might be a fit for you, set up your no-obligation consultation with us today.
Did I mention that we often have exclusive access to discounts not available to the public?
Email us to request access to our exclusive offers club and we’ll make sure you get insider knowledge of any current or upcoming promotions that you can only access by booking through us!