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: Nepal, India and Maldives, Summit to Sea
By joining this trek you can be assured that you will not be contributing to deforestation or the associated soil erosion and loss of biodiversity but rather you'll be making a significant contribution by supporting our efforts to set the standards for a sustainable trekking service.
We stay in tents, not lodges and teahouses. Why does that make a difference? We want to support the fragile ecosystem of the Himalayas. Many lodges and teahouses burn wood to heat their water for cooking and hot showers. This in turn contributes to deforestation, associated erosion and loss of biodiversity. That is why twenty five years ago, we pioneered the use of only kerosene above and below the tree-line – to ensure that we are loyal to our policies of making a minimal impact on the environment. Also, we want to stay off the beaten track. We believe that you will get a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural beauty of your surroundings if you are away from the hordes which follow the ‘tea-house trails.’
Our Responsible Travel Guidebook Our philosophy since 1975 has been to leave only footprints and take only photographs. To reiterate this, every customer who travels with us receives a copy of our award-winning Responsible Travel guidebook. This detailed book outlines our environmentally sustainable principles, and outlines how each customer can minimize their impact while traveling.
Global Warming and Carbon Balancing The root cause of Global Warming is society's dependence on emission creating fossil fuel. Planting trees is not going to reverse this trend or cancel our carbon emissions very quickly or effectively. We believe the way to reduce these dependencies is to create clean energy production. Therefore, we support renewable energy projects like wind and solar power, and we are aligned with Climate Friendly, the gold standard setter in effective, meaningful action addressing climate change. So, while we believe that tree planting can play a small role in greenhouse gas abatement, we have gone the extra mile in promoting a longer term solution. Is this cheap? No. Is it responsible? Absolutely.
Our pioneering Porter Policy Porters are an integral part of your trip, and we have a close association with the IPPG, IMEC and Porters Progress to improve the conditions for porters. As well as paying our guides out of season, and an above-average take-home wage, our porter welfare supplement includes insurance, all meals on trek, appropriate clothing and accommodation for ALL our porters on all our treks. Their safety and comfort is as important to us as our customers.
We have committed US $3000 to sponsor the Porter Rescue Post at Machermo which has been set up by the IPPG. This facility is for the benefit of sick or injured porters in the Everest region and building has already started.
No local payments policy Local cash payments are becoming increasingly popular with many operators in the adventure travel industry. This policy seems to benefit the tour operators more than the local economies or the travelers, as it avoids local taxes and transfers the costs and risks of cash handling onto the travelers. In accordance with our Responsible Travel practices, we have chosen a policy of not asking for such payments.
Reviews of Nepal, India and Maldives, Summit to Sea
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 15 Mar 2010 by Roger Pollard
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Meeting the children along the way.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
Take a pillow and a towel and if going at the same time, not as many clothes for the cold weather as I did, as it was not that cold. Take ear plugs if you want to sleep.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
Not enough information to assess.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?