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: Sicily cycling vacation in Italy
Activity: As a cycling vacation, this trip has very limited detrimental impact upon the environment, residents and communities in the regions we visit within Sicily. Use of the bikes allows us to cover fairly large distances, while offering very little adverse impact, like pollution and threat to wildlife. Cycling also allows for easy access to the local population, shops and restaurants, which facilitates cultural exploration. We are able to raise local awareness for a kind of tourism which refuses to sacrifice the environment and real connections with people for financial gain.
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. Water is provided for clients on all cycling trips, and is carried in the support vehicle. Water receptacles are recycled or reused where applicable. As tap water in the region is drinkable, clients will be encouraged to use tap water and to reuse plastic bottles, rather than buying bottled water.
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 use comfortable, locally owned hotels and one ‘agriturismo’- a charming renovated farmhouse. All accommodation is locally staffed and predominantly family run, which has a positive effect on employment levels and economy in the region. Most lodgings are located in proximity to the UNESCO historic sites we visit, which reduces further the need for carbon producing transfer vehicles on the trip. Sicilians are very proud of their local produce and so where meals are provided, fresh, locally sourced ingredients are used as much as possible- which benefits suppliers in the area. Free mealtimes are a valuable chance to explore the wide variety of cafes and restaurants on our route, serving tasty and authentic dishes. Guides can also direct clients to the daily market in Syracuse, which sells seasonal fruit and vegetables, fresh fish and regional cheeses, sausages and preserves.
Local Craft and Culture: Cuisine is a huge part of Sicilian culture and so we include frequent stops at locally owned businesses to introduce traditionally crafted produce and customary specialties. For example, the Modica region has a very long history of small, family run chocolate factories. So before leaving, we have the opportunity to taste its famous chocolate with chilli, which is still prepared using the original Aztec recipe, brought over by the Spaniards in the 1500s. In Mazamemi, guests can support small businesses by sampling local specialties of cherry tomatoes and tuna fish; whilst in Noto, the delicious almond granita with brioche is typical. Of course, there are also ample opportunities to explore beautiful Baroque churches, honey coloured historical towns and the superb Parco Archaeologico at Syracuse.
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.