Small group walking Why go

Why go


small group walking vacation

People make all sorts of different misjudged assumptions about small group walking vacations. Some independent walkers might think they are for wimps who can’t read maps, young travelers may fear they will be the only person under fifty, older travelers might worry they can’t keep up with the younger travelers, and some walkers who like to perambulate in peace worry they might be under pressure to chat their way from valley to valley. Here are just a few pointers to put your mind at rest, whatever your worry, highlighting the marvels rather than the myths of walking with likeminded people, in the hands of inspiring leaders.
Marvel

Big experiences
If you are going for one of the biggies like the Great Wall of China, the Atlas Mountains or the Inca Trail, you can organize it yourself but it will take months. Traveling with a small group makes the big experience just so much easier, saving you so much time and money, with the stress of all that decision making taken out of your hands.

Myth

No space, man
Most walkers enjoy their own company, and are comfortable in it too. So, no one will judge you for taking time to yourself, whether it’s while on a walk, or reading a book during a rest time. Many tours are not all-inclusive – meaning you are free to eat alone or with the rest of the group, as you prefer.
Marvel

Years of expertise
On a small group walking vacation, you are following in the footsteps of many experts and benefitting from the knowledge gained by a company over years spent in a destination. Imagine going into a bar in the Rockies and asking who would be the best person to show you around. Well, that’s the sort of person who’ll be meeting you at the airport and sharing their knowledge and love of a place throughout.

Myth

Leaders know it all
Your guide will not know everything, and shouldn’t be expected to hold doctorates in all chosen subjects. It will help if you read your trip notes in advance, so that you don’t waste everyone’s time by asking your guide to repeat things, and don’t get cranky with a guide who is more mountain expert than Mastermind
Marvel

Value
On a small group walking vacation you get all the advantages of a tailor-made vacation, with itinerary planning, local expertise and friendly service, but at a lower price. And financially, if you think about the amount of time you spend planning an independent walking trip, and what your time is worth, you save a fortune by walking with those in the know.

Myth

Cash free zone
Small group walking vacations are not always all inclusive. Some might be, especially in very remote areas, but sometimes you do need to put your hand in your pocket to buy a couple of dinners, give tips or just buy your guide a pint. Sweets and treats along the roads are always a good way of supporting the local economy too, of course, such as coconut water or fresh fruit.
Marvel

No more organisational stress
If you are lucky enough to have months to mosey around your dream destination, then wonderful. Even then, you will spend a lot of time finding out how to do all the best things, and even more time in bus stations waiting to get there to do them. If you only have a couple of weeks max, want a few more comforts and shortcuts to the highlights, a small group walking vacation is for you.

Myth

You need months to walk Nepal
Don’t keep putting off walking in a favourite country because you think you need months to do so. That is one of the advantages of a small group walking tour, as they have shrunk all the highlights into a couple of weeks, arranged smooth transits, know the best times to travel for you to make the get the most out of your trip. So, don’t wait, just start walking.
Marvel

No more lugging luggage
Most small group tours take the ease out of luggage worries, as many of them have the added advantage of having your bags transported from one accommodation to another, usually in a minibus or jeep. In some regions, such as Nepal and Peru, there are porters to help too, although this carries with it certain issues, which you can read about in our responsible tourism section.

Myth

You need lots of gear
It depends on the destination of course but, in general, waterproofs and layers are all you need. And a hat. If you are going up Kilimanjaro, then you need to spend more money on gear, for sure, or find some well-equipped friends to borrow from. Most people pack too much when they are going on a walking vacation anyway, and the trick is to pack it all, and then half it.
Marvel

Families and food
Feeding the kids is always a concern for parents, even on vacation - where to eat, what they will eat, how often they will eat and so on. A small group walking vacation has all of this planned, with packed lunches and snacks all good to go. Your guide will also be able to answer ‘are we nearly there yet’ and ‘what’s for dinner?’, so the pressure is off on all counts.

Myth

Dietary needs are tricky
Don’t think that because you are traveling with a group your dietary requirements won’t be met. In fact, it is often easier when traveling with a local guide to negotiate gluten free or vegetarian requests as they have done it before, they know the restaurants and cafes that can respond favourably, and they can also translate when necessary.
Marvel

Walking is the great equaliser
Walking is a great equaliser of people and lots of different people love to walk, politicians to plumbers, gay and straight, people of all colour and creed, young and old. So, although your vacation company will try and match people up according to age, you will meet a wide variety of people, all with a shared love of slow travel. You won’t get that around the pool on a Club Med.

Myth

The accommodation will be basic
Small group walking vacations can be as eco four star or eco frugal as you like - or can afford. In more off the beaten track destinations you won’t be in luxury hotels, of course, but camping often errs on the side of glamping.
However, walking vacations always have basic ‘do what a bear does in the woods’ moments, so if luxury is your priority, maybe think again.
Marvel

Families and friends
Small group walking vacations are family friendly on all fronts - for grandparents taking grandchildren, single parents who are ready for some other adult company but happy that the children have company their own age, and traditional families who want a happy mix of time together and space from each other too. When there is a guide up front, it diffuses the potential for domestics too.

Myth

I will end up walking with screaming children
Small group tour operators understand about creating a good match of people when it comes to walking vacations. That some people might not want to go walking with children, or that twenty somethings might not want to feel as if they are on a Saga vacation.
Organisers are experts in creating the good mix, so talk to them about your needs before you book.
Marvel

Going solo
Small group walking vacations provide likeminded travel companions as well as peace of mind for those traveling alone. Single supplements are usually available and affordable (averaging around £28-£40 per night) so you’ll still get privacy if you want it. Otherwise, you’ll be sharing a room with someone of the same sex.

Myth

I will get a date
Don’t confuse traveling solo with going on a singles vacation. There are lots of singles vacations out there for people who want to get a date or a mate. You might find a soul mate on a small group walking vacation, for sure, but the emphasis is more on the other type of ‘sole’, or discovering landscapes that are good for the soul.
Marvel

Less confident travelers
Whether you’re a first-time traveler or simply new to the region or culture, small group travel gives the chance to stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.

Myth

Will we be following an umbrella?
No. In fact, if anyone walking past a small group on a trail, they wouldn’t necessarily even realise you had a ‘leader’. Small walking vacations aren’t about ‘follow my leader’ anyway, but about giving you a gentle guiding hand, yet letting you feel that sense of independence too.
Photo credits: [Top box: Madeleine Holland] [Big experience | no space, man: Selmer van Alten] [Years of expertise | leaders know it all: craigfinlay] [Value | cash free zone: Fresco Tours] [No more organisational stress | you need months to walk Nepal: McKay Savage] [No more luggage | you need lots of gear: Brian & Jaclyn Drum] [Families & food | dietry needs are tricky: Andrew Malone] [Walking is the great equaliser | the accommodation will be basic: edwin.11] [Families and friends | I will end up walking with screaming children: vastateparkstaff] [Going solo | I will get a date: Grand Canyon National Park] [Less confident travelers | will we be following an umbrella: Fresco Tours]
Written by Catherine Mack
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