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: Sicily food vacation in Italy
Accommodation & meals: During this trip we stay in accommodation that is locally run (sometimes family run) and staffed with people from the surrounding areas, which has a positive effect on employment levels and economy in the region. Most lodgings are located in proximity to the town centers and the UNESCO historic site we visit, which reduces further the need for carbon producing transfer vehicles on the trip. Lunches and dinners are mostly taken in local restaurants or cafes, so that clients can enjoy various local authentic delicacies and at the same time support numerous local businesses.
Community & Culture: On this trip there are plenty of opportunities for clients to support local enterprise. On day two we visit Palermo, this city is ranked amongst the best in the world for street food. The local guides encourage clients to try different local specialities and therefore support business in the community. On day 3 a cookery lesson is led by a local chef in Trapani allowing clients to practise and taste traditional recipes. In the afternoon we move onto Marsala to enjoy some of the best wines from this region continuing to support communities in Sicily. Day 6 is another opportunity for clients to experience local traditions. In Modica we visit a traditional chocolatier and in Noto we sample granita and brioche.
Environment: Sicily is renowned for its delicious food. The local guides encourage clients to try as many different dishes as possible, supporting businesses which prepare food from locally sourced ingredients; very little is imported from abroad therefore having a positive impact on the environment. Group size: This small group tour has a maximum of 18 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people.
Activity: We try to operate on a ‘leave no trace’ basis, which involves being vigilant with proper disposal of waste and being sure to leave any flora, fauna and historical sites undamaged. By using local drivers for transfers, local restaurants and small shops, we make daily contributions to the economy and the community. Using local guides also has the mutual benefit of creating employment opportunities in the region, whilst clients have the advantage of in-depth expertise of the country.
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.
Community: We have the option to spend time at the Magurumeno Orphanage School, which is run by a local man for children in the area. This is a great opportunity to lend a hand and we encourage clients to bring with old clothes, educational supplies and sporting equipment. Gardening tools and seeds are also greatly appreciated here as the vegetable garden is often trampled by elephants. In the future, we hope to pay for a protective fence for this garden.
A Fair Deal: Employed staff members are predominantly indigenous to the area thus contributing towards the unemployment problem in the surrounding villages. Employees receive training to become guides on the river through a comprehensive training course which includes practical assessment and written exams set by local authorities. The leaders will give a briefing on Responsible Tourism issues to help you understand how you can help reduce your impact and maximise the benefits to the local community from your visit.
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.