Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, traveling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week vacation, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travelers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your vacation time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travelers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your vacation.
Solo travelers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travelers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travelers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travelers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travelers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Trekking vacation in Burma
Activity: Few vacations have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a trekking trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints, although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants, use markets to purchase traditional gifts and crafts and get a real impression of Burma.
Water: Water is a really important issue with cycling trips and, especially as Burma can reach temperatures between 30 and 40 degrees in the Spring months, it is vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. We provide treated water on walking trips for clients in containers and find that this not only reduces our waste but helps us keep the water cool. Guides are also aware of where to top these bottles up e.g. Bagan, Yar Kin Thar hotel.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Local Craft and Culture: We are conscious of the economic welfare of local communities and take as much opportunity as possible to buy local crafts and produce (on at least 5 days of the tour). For example, on the fifth day of the tour, leaders usually give the clients the chance to sample local, traditionally produced millet wine and to see the process by which it is made. There are also plenty of other opportuinities to celebrate and support the rich variety of cottage industry on hand in Burma. In downtown Mandalay, we will see where gold leaf is produced for people to place on Buddha statues. We then continue onto Mahamuni Pagoda, where we will see local people applying the gold leaf onto the Mahamuni Buddha statue.
Accomodation & Meals: On this trip we ensure all hotels used are non-regime and that a variety of homestay accommodations also benefit from our business- there will be the chance to stay in village homes, monastery quarters or in village meeting rooms. The advantage of frequenting small, locally owned establishments or homes is that we can ensure that tourist money goes directly to host communities and not the military junta. Travelers also benefit from local expertise and an altogether more genuine impression of the country. We only use local trek guides from the hills, porters, drivers and cooks and drivers and they are keen to prepare and recommend local cuisine, made from products direct from market sellers. Lunch, for example, usually consists of soup, a rice or noodle based dish, vegetables, fried fish and fresh fruit.
A Fair Deal: We work closely with our local operator and ensure that all of our guides are local and that in exchange for their expertise that they are paid and treated fairly. Our leaders and guides have been trained in responsible travel and actively encourage our suppliers, drivers, and other members of our team to respect the environment, protect the culture and support the local economy. By using local leaders, we also hope they educate their own communities to help them maximise from our visit.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 12 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.