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: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania vacation
Accommodation and Meals: You will spend 11 nights in locally run hotels, all in good locations and some with sustainability certification (Konventa Seta in Riga). The hotels use locally produced ingredients wherever possible for breakfast and picnic meals- this is usually a combination of fresh bread, cheeses, meats, fruit and vegetables. Where meals are provided, the food will often be typical of the region; however we do encourage clients to use authentic, small restaurants and cafes as well. Your guide will be able to recommend or take you to some traditional restaurants, selling sauerkraut, borsch, veal and fish dishes. If there is time, we recommend the impressive market in Riga.
Activity: Much of this trip is spent sightseeing towns and cities or exploring National Parks where we operate with a strict ‘leave no trace’ policy. When we do use motor transport we ensure that it is always proportionate to our small group size and never excessive. By visiting Laheema N. P. and Gauja N.P. on this trip, we contribute a portion of our entrance fees to conservation efforts in these areas. We have also volunteered in the Curonian Spit National Park doing conservation activities in order to protect the environment we see encounter on this trip.
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.
Local Craft and Culture: We are enthusiastic about exploring the culture of each of the three countries on our route. There are several cultural stops on the trip, like Toompea Palace and castle, Turaida castle, Plokstine Cold War Museum, the Monastery of Pazaislis, the Hill of Crosses and Trakai castle. All of these sites and surrounding communities benefit from profits generated by entrance fees and souvenirs sold. There are a wide range of local handicrafts available for purchase during the trip including amber jewellery, hand knitted accessories and wooden toys. Clients can also locally produced specialties such as smoked fish on the Curonian Spit, honey and rye bread in Latvia or kama (milky drink made from grains) in Estonia.
A Fair Deal: All of our guides are local to the Baltics and in exchange for their insider’s knowledge and passion for the area, we ensure they are paid and treated fairly. You will also find that those working in the hotels and museums are locals as it is a natural requirement for those in the tourist industry to speak all three Baltic languages. Our support of locally staffed businesses helps to provide alternative employment opportunities in areas which are sometimes quite rural. The economy and local community therefore benefits.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 20 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.
Reviews of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania vacation
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the vacations.
I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 29 Jul 2016 by Fiona BELL
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Historic cities, interesting and often tragic histories and natural beauty in the landscapes. Lots of insights into the more recent past of the Cold War also.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Be prepared for a fascinating time, and take good walking shoes as you may cover a lot of ground!
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Local people benefited from our tourism via hotels, restaurants , markets and local guides. We were all environmentally aware.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
Really fantastic! I learned so much about these Baltic countries and their people and environment.