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: Laos cycling vacation, mountain tour
It is important to us that when we travel to different parts of our amazing planet that our exchange is always a mutual one and that we make a positive contribution to people and places that we visit along the way.
These days ‘responsible travel' and ‘sustainability' are hot topics. Responsible travel is not about donating large sums of money to charity (at least not without thoroughly researching the long-term intentions or effects of the charity). We believe responsible travel is about taking time to think about how our actions can benefit or how they impact the people, communities, economies, environments and eco-systems we visit, and then use this to make a difference (or sometimes more appropriately - how we can NOT make a difference). We are constantly considering our actions and how we and the people who travel with us can improve our impact on the places we visit. Here are just some of the ways that we ‘make a difference’:
Community Social integration with the local people is a central part of our trips. Simply traveling by bike is a great start – a great way for our bikers and local people to meet and start a conversation.
We have a relationship with a Primary School. Our main goal of the visit is the fantastic social and cultural exchange experienced by both the school pupils and our bikers. This is a brand new trip but we plan to work along side the school and figure out ways that we can help.
We always buy locally grown food and shop in small local markets; we support local businesses by staying in locally owned campsites and using local operators for included excursions.
Environment We educate our bikers about the effects of buying products that come from endangered species, or products that are destructive to wildlife or the environment (ivory and endangered hardwoods for example).
Waste/rubbish management – when we travel we should treat our surrounding as we would treat our home (or better!). We do our best to avoid ‘single use packaging’ only using reusable or recyclable packaging. We recycle what can be, and manage any rubbish in the best possible way e.g. in Laos – all of our organic waste is feed to local domestic pigs and goats, and we always leave our campsites as we find them (or better!).
We avoid campfires to help prevent deforestation.
We have an environmentally conscious office – to avoid paper waste we aim to use as much computer technology as possible in our office. And when we do print we use paper from recycled sources!
Social integration with the local people is a central part of our trips. Simply traveling by bike is a great start – a great way for our bikers and local people to meet and start a conversation.
We buy locally grown and produced food as much as possible; we support local businesses by staying in locally owned guesthouses, eating in local restaurants and taking our bikers to local operations and parks.