Small group walking travel advice


Packing tips

Jonny Bealby, founder of our leading supplier Wild Frontiers, shares his small group walking advice: Bring waterproofs. Not just in your main luggage, but in your daypack on each day that you are walking. In terms of boots, there are so many to choose from. I donít even have a proper pair of hiking boots, but use a pair of Caterpillars, which I have used for years and walked all over the place in them. And then they donít look bad when you are walking around Tblisi or wherever afterwards. But when I do a serious hike like K2, then I had to spend £150 on a serious pair of Meindls
Emma Garrick from our supplier Exodus has good pointers when it comes to small group walking advice: Layers are the way to go as opposed to big jackets, certainly for lower altitude treks; I would bring a couple of lighter fleeces and long sleeved tops and layer up that way.
Melanie McAnaw walking vacation expert from our supplier, Headwater:
"I always carry a small amount of talcum powder. It might sound strange but itís good for reducing friction and redness if you find yourself with any blisters, chaffing or heat rash. It can also help your feet stay dry and keep your thighs from chafing over long distances if you use a little before (and after) your walk. A small roll of adhesive bandage/plaster (and something to cut it with) can also be a lifesaver if you do feel yourself developing a blister. It can sometimes make the difference between a nice walk and a painful slog!"

Gear advice

Richard Goodey, from our supplier Lost Earth Adventures shares his travel advice: ďThe first day of your trek is not the first day to break in your boots. Fit them with hiking socks when you buy them and wear them wherever possible before you go Ė your feet will thank you later!Ē
Emma Garrick from our supplier Exodus offers more small group walking advice: "Some people like to use walking poles and I think theyíre especially useful on long days of descent as it takes the weight off your knees, though itís generally people in their 40s and upwards who use them. Itís always the case that you donít need everything you think you will; as a rule of thumb youíll probably need half of what you originally pack."

Health & safety



  • If you or your children have any particular health needs, always tell your walking guide.
  • Make sure you all stay hydrated. It is hard to get kids to drink water sometimes, but they wonít realise how much they need it when walking. Even if the sun isnít shining. Consider easy to carry hydration backpacks, so that they have water on them at all times.
  • On a hike in remote, wilderness areas, donít drink from the rivers. Even if they are glacial and gorgeous, they can be a source of bacteria. You can boil the water, but do so for five minutes in elevated areas. You can also filter, using purification tablets such Biox Aqua drops. Note iodine tablets are now illegal in the EU.
  • Make sure you are up to date with routine vaccination and if you are traveling far afield, visit your GP at least six weeks before travel to obtain any other vaccinations. The NHS website Fit for Travel gives detailed health information worldwide.
  • Be wary of touching animals while hiking, especially wild cats and dogs, as rabies is still prevalent in many countries.
  • Consult your doctor or travel clinic before remote walking vacations - they may be able to prescribe antibiotics and antidiarrhoeal medication to take with you, as well as recommending other items such as antihistamines, rehydration salts and medication for altitude sickness which you can take with you.
  • Treat altitude with respect. It does not matter how fit you are, or how many times youíve been at high altitudes before Ė the symptoms are unpredictable, and the only real cure is descending. Always let your leader know if you are experiencing headaches or a significant shortening of breath.
  • Dehydration makes altitude sickness worse Ė you need to drink much more at high altitudes. Kids under three should not travel to high altitudes at all.
  • Even if it is cooling off, or indeed cold, in the mountains, the sun can still be very strong, so always wear sunscreen.
  • Inform yourself in advance about any dangers from wildlife. Or insects such as ticks which carry Lyme disease. Make sure you carry tweezers so that you can remove them and be sure to inspect your bodies carefully at the end of the day. Always apply a deterrent (a natural one is best for children such as lemon eucalyptus) and then suncream. Read this guide for top tick tips.
  • Never eat berries or plants that you spot on your hikes unless you have been thoroughly trained to identify them. Similarly, avoid contact with certain plants like Poison Ivy.


Walking vacations are a good opportunity to learn how to be scouts again. And great to share this with children too. Be prepared with maps, compass, rain gear, pocketknife, matches and a whistle. You can buy mini emergency kits on Ebay for a tenner.

Write down the local emergency numbers before you set out, including mountain rescue, if relevant. And always tell someone where you are going. Make sure your mobile phone is charged too.

Wildlife awareness does not just apply to walking safaris in Africa. In many countries you need to be aware of animals such as bears, snakes and others. So, swot up on this before you hit the hills. Do not let your children wander too far ahead of you, so that you can keep a close eye.

Be wary of lightning storms and, if they do occur, get below the treeline and stay away from summits or isolated trees. Stay as low as you can.

One of the most common causes for mountain rescue is hypothermia usually brought about by exhaustion and injury. So make sure you have enough food and water, the right layers and a shelter. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland is a font of knowledge on all things.

If you are on a self-guided walking vacation, always check get a detailed weather forecast before you set out and if you are in the mountains, , turn back if the weather turns bad. Or take shelter if in doubt. The World Meteorological Organisation is excellent.

Hiking in extreme heat can be dangerous and deaths do, tragically occur. Always walk early in the morning and late in the afternoon, cover up and drink lots. Consider adding rehydration powders to your water for extra salts and sugars that help your body cope with the heat. Many walking companies donít offer trips in the height of summer anyway, for health and safety reasons.

Vacation reviews from our travelers

Recommendations from those who have been on a walking vacation

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful small group walking travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation - and the space inside your suitcase.
Be prepared to tip. No one really likes to talk about money on their vacations. However, the guys supporting this trip work so hard. Our guide knows who they are. There are guidelines in the notesÖ Set aside the amount recommended and if you are happy be ready to give it at the end. Don't forget your vaccinations. I left mine to the last minute and it was difficult to get an appointment in time at the Health Centre. - Alex Way on a small group walking vacation in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Bring telescopic walking sticks. The others in the group looked sceptical but they really helped going up and down hill on every walk. Bring easy dry trousers but where you can unzip the bottom legs. This was ideal for when the bugs got too much. A thermos came in useful as I like a hot drink mid-morning and afternoon - Andrew Reid Wildman on a small group walking tour in the French Alps

People may want to take knee supports - one of the walks had a lot of steps! - Janet Fung on a small group walking vacation along the Amalfi coast, Italy.

Organise a group tip kitty at the beginning - it would save the problem of everyone trying to find 20 Dhm for the guide, driver etc. Have a tip kitty for the porters / cook / leaders - and don't feel obliged to pay what is recommended, but what you feel is appropriate. - Simon Brown on Mount Toubkal trekking vacation

If you want to learn Spanish, go on some great hikes and be truly immersed in Spanish all week (both in school and in the local community) - then book it without hesitation! - Hazel Tyror on a hiking and learning Spanish walking vacation in the Picos de Europa
Photo credits: [Packing tips - Jonny Bealby: Chris Greevebiester] [Gear advice - Richard Goodey & Emma Garrick: Flying Kiwi Tours] [Review 1 - Keith Charters: funkz] [Review 2 - Brian Henning: Huw Thomas]
Written by Catherine Mack
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