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: Biking vacation in Laos
Conservation: Clients are encouraged to visit the Luang Prabang Bear Rescue Centre, which was established by the Free The Bears Fund in 2003 with the aim of rescuing the animals and educating the public about animal welfare issues. Most of the bears at the centre are Asiatic Black Bears (Moon Bears) that were illegally captured from the wild as young cubs – it is likely that they were destined for use in the traditional medicine trade. Here our tour numbers benefit this project by supplying funds through donations and other purchases which go towards the upkeep of this facility.
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.
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. During the trip we use separate leaders so that clients have a Thai leader in Thailand and a Laotian guide in Laos. This ensures that leadership skills and pay are not retained exclusively by one country and provides clients with first- hand knowledge of the culture, customs and history of the places they visit. 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. They have also completed Child Safe training which enables them to take positive action should they encounter children at risk as well as educating clients re child protection within tourism.
Accommodation & Meals: We use predominantly locally run accommodation, which contributes directly to the local community as local staff are employed and locally produced or sourced goods are bought for the accommodation benefiting the wider community. Where meals are not provided, clients are encouraged to buy locally grown produce and try the abundance of fresh food being made. For example, your tour leader will point out the best markets in Bangkok and Luang Prabang and will be able to advise you on which dishes to pick and what they contain.
Local Craft & Culture: At Luang Prabang Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center, clients have the opportunity to purchase fair trade souvenirs and handicrafts and to learn about their authentic methods of production. Through their livelihoods development program, ethnic minority artisans produce and sell handmade textiles, clothing, toys and accessories using handspun and natually dyed cottons, silks, hemp, bamboo and banana fibre. Currently, the program supports supplementary livelihoods for over 500 manufacturers and their families, primarily women, in 12 provinces of Laos.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 18 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.