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: Raid Pyrennean Coast to Coast ride in France
Activity: Cycling trips in general have a minimal impact on the environment; clients are briefed on managing food waste on cycling days- litter can be collected by guide in support vehicle and disposed of appropriately, in respect of local recycling policies. As this is a cycling trip, clients will interact with locals on scheduled stops, but also on the roads while cycling. Local drivers are generally very respectful and tolerant towards cyclists, and it is pointed out to clients that this goes both ways – while clients are on vacation, it is important to respect the fact that local drivers may be working or just going about their everyday lives, and to impact this as little as possible. For example letting cars pass on the sometimes narrow roads, giving way to pedestrians and even, at times, livestock ; rather than being simple observers and consumers, we are all responsible for promoting a climate of tolerance and mutual respect.
Water: Water is a really important issue with cycling 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. Water is provided for clients on all cycling trips, and is carried in the support vehicle. Water receptacles are recycled or reused where applicable. As tap water in the region is drinkable, clients will be encouraged to use tap water and to reuse plastic bottles, rather than buying bottled 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: Hotels used on this trip are family-owned with local staff, providing valuable employment in the tourism industry on which the region depends. Fresh produce is sourced locally as much as possible. Clients are encouraged to stop at local cafés on cycling breaks, notably on or near the mountain passes on the itinerary - local cafés are often seasonal and dependant on tourism for their livelihood, while providing valuable employment in areas where tourism is the principal, or only, employment option, particularly for younger people. Picnic lunches are sourced at local stores, and evening meals are taken in the family-run restaurants or at the hotels, also family-run. Keep an eye out for regional specialties like hearty cassoulets and fresh fish, Mediterranean dishes towards the end of the trip.
Community: The trip takes the group through small villages and towns in the Pyrenees, with many small local businesses and artisans that are dependent on tourism for their livelihood; clients are encouraged to sample local wares when possible. The bikes used on the trip are hired from a locally-owned and run business in Luchon ; for all our trips we privilege local operators over large retail chain stores for the rental of bikes. These small businesses have been founded by people with a love of cycling, who have often cycled the very roads we will take on the trip: this ensures a more personalised service for both the operator and the end client, while benefitting the local economy.
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.