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: Venezuela trekking vacation, the lost world & Angel Falls
Activity: As a walking vacation, this trip has very limited detrimental impact upon the environment, residents and communities in the regions we visit. Although erosion on popular paths can be an issue, guides can advise pre-planned routes to avoid this. Trekking also allows for flexibility and allows for easy access to the local population, shops and restaurants, which facilitates cultural exploration. By operating consciously with a ‘leave no trace’ policy, we are able to raise local awareness for a kind of tourism which refuses to sacrifice the environment and real connections with people.
Water: Water is a really important issue on trekking trips and whilst we must stay hydrated, it is also vital that we have a system for providing clean water without causing lots of waste with plastic bottles. Lack of recycling options can be a massive problem, so we suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill the same bottle. You will be provided with boiled drinking water on trek, but it is also advisable to bring purification tablets/liquid such as Biox Aqua to treat water.
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.
Accommodation and Meals: We will spend 5 nights in guesthouses, 2 nights in hotels, 5 nights camping in the wild and 1 night in hammocks. All accommodation used is staffed locally, whilst camping for a large portion of the trip reduces our carbon footprint for the whole trip. The permanent lodgings we use also have a number of strict environmental policies involving recycling, using solar panels and being mindful of wasting water. Venezuelan cuisine is an exciting and flavourful combination of European, African and Native American influences. Where meals are provided, locally sourced ingredients will be used for the greater benefit of local suppliers. We eat meals in ‘posadas’ to support smaller businesses and try some authentic, traditional food.
Local Craft and Culture: We spend the trip traversing Roraima’s dense jungle and mountains, but there are still opportunities to experience culture and to purchase local crafts. In Canaima, there is the opportunity to explore the small village and this includes a market with handicraft stalls. Crafts on offer here and in locations like San Francisco and Salto Sapo may include colourful handmade textiles, carved wooden ornaments, traditionally woven baskets and jewellery. On the way from Puerto Ordaz to Santa Elena, there are also stops to observe local cooking.
Charity: Our local operators support the Fundación ANAR (Fundación de Ayuda a Niños y Adolescentes en Riesgo) with regular financial contributions. This Peru based organisation unites 179 helplines for children in 143 countries. This service aims to promote and protect children and adolescents by giving advice, information on their rights and developmental support. If clients would like to make a charitable donation on the trip, bringing along school materials, clothing, games and medical supplies is really encouraged. These items can be handed over by guides to local schools or small villages in need.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 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.