Good boots, waterproofs, 3-season sleeping bags and plenty of layers are a must for keeping carry weight down and body temperatures up.
Small group. Avg 12. Min age 16.
Moderate. Mountain treks and some steep ascents.
3 nights en-suite city centre hotel, 10 nights in good-quality campsites, in 2-person tents, with showers, shared facilities and dining tent.
Accommodation, transport, full porterage and tour leader.
All brks, 11 lunches, 10 dinners.
Single rooms/tents at a supp.
Small group vacation
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: Walking vacation in Iceland
Activity: As a walking vacation, this trip has very limited detrimental impact upon the environment, residents and communities in the regions we visit. Use of the bikes allows us to cover fairly large distances, while offering very little adverse impact, like pollution and threat to wildlife. We are careful to operate with a strict ‘leave no trace’ policy, which involves being vigilant with proper disposal of litter and being mindful of wildlife. This is particularly pertinent in Skaftafell and Thingvellir National Park, as each area has its own environmental regulations that we much adhere to. Traveling by foot also allows for easy access to the local population, shops and restaurants, which facilitates cultural exploration. Through this activity, we are able to raise local awareness for a kind of tourism which refuses to sacrifice the environment and real connections with people.
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. We suggest that instead of repeatedly buying bottled water, guests should re-fill a singular bottle. Tap water from Iceland is very clean and drinkable and clients are made aware that they can fill their bottles up anywhere.
Accommodation and Meals: We spend three nights in a hotel in Reykjavik and the remaining 10 nights are spent in fixed camping. We use locally staffed hotels wherever possible, meaning that the community benefits from a rise in employment and income generated. Accommodation is normally heated through geothermal energy, and waste is recycled appropriately throughout the trip, which reduces our impact on the environment. By camping for the majority of the trip, we have a far smaller carbon footprint for the trip. Using fixed sites is even better as these are more regulated than wild caming. Where meals are provided, locally sourced ingredients are usually used to make a mixture of continental and authentic style dishes, such as freshly caught fish or smoked lamb with potatoes. Guides purchase snacks and picnic provisions from local shops along the way, which supports small businesses in the area. Clients are reminded to avoid whale meat if they encounter it.
Community: Our Icelandic operators hire local guides for each trip and use a bus company from a small town in South Iceland for the driving in all of their trips. This is mutually beneficial in that the community benefits from employment opportunities, whilst clients gain an insight into the country from staff with valuable local expertise. Our operators are also eager to contribute to local organisations devoted to conservation and community efforts. They run various programs for local children with disabilities or disadvantages in conjunction with the Salvation Army, so that these children can take part in activities like caving, glacier walking and going on a rope course.