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
As well as taking care of all the day-to-day practicalities, your group leader is the one who will turn your trip into an adventure. Leaders are extraordinary characters – the kind of person who has spent 14 Christmas days on the slopes of Mount Everest, runs marathons wearing tiger suits to raise funds for their conservation and thinks nothing of leading an overland trip in Sudan or Afghanistan. Fearless and inspiring, group leaders are as important as the destination itself.
Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure. As well as doing crazy things like climbing Kilimanjaro 100 times, they also donate their time to local projects supported by travelers – such as rebuilding Sri Lankan villages following the 2004 tsunami.
Responsible tourism: Lapland husky safari and activity vacation, Finland
This vacation is primarily based around the fabulous dog sled safaris which take place from Saija. This small scale husky operation gives guests a real understanding of the lives of these working dogs and a great connection with the pristine environment in this area. Both the dogs and the natural world are treated with the utmost respect throughout.
The dog sled centre operates in line with all of the veterinary and welfare conditions of Finland and you will get a sense of the amazing bond between the dogs and their mushers.
As an activity, dog sledding has very little impact on the environment and the trails used are well managed and routed. The conditions of winter mean that there is effectively no scarring of the ground from this activity come spring time and the trails are checked regularly to ensure their suitability.
The guides here operate a strict leave no trace policy throughout all of their operations and this is passed on to all guests.
Any campfires are typically held in designated fire pits and wood is responsibly sourced from the forests.
Meals will tend to include some delicious locally sourced produced such as reindeer and salmon. Ingredients such as these are sustainably herded or caught in Lapland as they have been for centuries and such traditions are passed from generation to generation.
As with many places in Lapland there is no daily change of linen etc unless it is requested by guests as they wish to preserve their water wastage levels.
Saija has been designed around an historic steading which has had the accommodation buildings sensitively added in traditional Finnish style and using sustainable timber.
Tourism in Finnish Lapland has become the main income source of employment and income replacing traditional industries such as forestry. Development from a period of extractive industry to an industrial society has come about quickly. In 1950 the largest part of Lapland’s inhabitants lived in rural areas and more than half the workforce worked in forestry and agriculture. Today 65 % of the workforce are in the service industry, 22 % in processing and 10 % in primary production.
This huge growth in tourism and service provision has been developed in conjunction with a long-term sustainable tourism plan with one of the primary objectives being to maintain nature in its natural state while guaranteeing the traditional way of life. Much of this has been achieved along with membership of EU development programmes, aimed at diversifying sources of livelihood, effective usage of resources and to increase export.
Approximately a quarter of Lapland’s 100 000 strong workforce was unemployed in 1997. Promoting entrepreneurship, ongoing re-education of the workforce and development of the educational system to suit the needs of enterprises is continuing. The target is to diversify the sources of livelihood, increase the value of refinement production and develop new enterprises particularly in the area of tourism. National measures as well as EU-programme measures support this objective.
We embrace this philosophy during this vacation in Saija, employing local activity providers and using only locally owned hotels. In this manner we help to maintain jobs in an area where unemployment was, until recently, very high. Additionally, the use of local suppliers ensures that the tourism spend filters through to local economies via the tourism multiplier effect.
Saija itself operates with a huge sense of respect for the culture and traditions of the region. This area has a great cultural heritage and guests are sure to enjoy this during their stay. They staff are always willing to share their knowledge and wealth of information to ensure guests gain a real insight into this region’s traditions and heritage, we feel that this is an integral element of any visit to Lapland. You will find that the interiors also showcase some local traditional, handicrafts and artworks.