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: Tuscany tours, walking and wine tasting in Italy
Activity: Few vacations have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a walking trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. We do believe in leaving no more than footprints, although this tour does encourage clients to have a positive effect by engaging with locals, using cafes and restaurants, and investing in traditional gifts and local produce. By visiting a number of places of interest and offering additional optional excursions, we support those who run these trips and the upkeep of historically important sites.
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 seven nights at Villa Casalta- a charming renovated farmhouse in the heart of Chianti. The villa is family-run and staff members are local to the region, meaning we have a more positive impact on local economy: local employment opportunities are created and income generated is reinvested in the area. Surrounded by incredible vineyards and woodland, the farmhouse has access to some very fresh, local ingredients, including renowned Chianti wines, olives and olive oil. Many meals are provided and will include a number of regional specialties including locally cured meats on crostini, Tuscan bean soup, fish stew, homemade pasta and Florentine steak. The owners are environmentally conscious and try to minimise negative effects on their natural surroundings by paying attention to recycling and energy conservation.
Local Craft and Culture: We arrange for three wine tastings over the course of the trip, where we learn about local wines and how they are made. This includes a session in the farmhouse, one in Villa Il Palagetto, where excellent Vernaccia wines are produced, and a short course at the Tuscan Wine School. These are great opportunities to support local suppliers and to encourage the traditional methods of local wine production. We also engage with local culture by visiting many places of interest- for example, Siena, with its many galleries and impressive gothic cathedral, and small mediaeval villages such as Greve in Chianti and nearby Montefioralle, where prized Chianti wines are grown.
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.
1 Reviews of Tuscany tours, walking and wine tasting in Italy
4 out of 5 stars
Reviewed on 01 May 2016 by Susan Sargeant
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Viewing the city of Florence from the Viewpoint of Piazza Michaelangelo
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Come prepared for any kind of weather. We had wind, rain, thick cloud and hot sunshine.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Very much so. We stayed in a very lovely converted farmhouse, ate in local restaurants, shopped in small towns and villages, and tasted the local Chianti Classico in several wineries.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
A wonderful mixture of fabulous walks through forests and vineyards, local history, culture in Siena and Florence, a fabulous cookery course in a nearby restaurant, and several most enjoyable and informative wine tastings.