Small group holidays sit in the sweet spot between independent travel and traditional coach tours. On the one hand you don’t have the hassle of independent travel, with all of your logistics taken care of. At the same time, you avoid the rigid itineraries and the feeling of being herded around that you often find when travelling in a larger group.
Many travellers, young and old, are sceptical about the idea of a touring holiday, but often that’s because they aren’t aware of the sheer variety of experiences and tour styles on offer. Here are five reasons why you should try a small group tour...
Yes that’s right, the clue is in the name. But how small is a small group? The truth is that it varies, but typically you’ll be travelling in a group of between 10 and 20 people. A smaller group is inevitably quicker to bond, and you’re more likely to forge deeper friendships through your shared travel experiences. A small group tour is a great way to meet like-minded people, whether you’re a gap year backpacker setting off on your first big adventure, or newly retired and ready to blow the kids’ inheritance! Touring is also a popular option for solo travellers, since it’s easy to socialise and you have the security of travelling with others.
A smaller group means you can visit local communities, markets and attractions that would be swamped by bigger groups, and enjoy exclusive events and experiences with a limited capacity. Travelling in a small group makes it easier to meet local people and have authentic interactions, and means it’s less likely that you’ll scare away the wildlife or have a negative impact on the environment when visiting fragile natural habitats. What’s more, you’ll be accompanied by tour leaders and guides who can break down language barriers and give you insights into the local culture that you’d miss out on if you were travelling independently.
Coach travel may be convenient, but it can result in some pretty dull journeys as you speed along monotonous motorways and main roads, with many routes off limits thanks to low bridges, gravel tracks and narrow country roads. Small group specialists like Back-Roads Touring allow you take the scenic route, following the road less travelled into regions that many travellers never get to see. A smaller vehicle makes it easier to visit more remote and inaccessible parts of the world, and you’re not limited to bus travel either, with tours by jeep, barge or even by yacht.
Travelling in a group means that costs are shared, and tour operators can often negotiate group discounts and special rates on hotels and flights. This means that a small group tour will usually work out quite a lot cheaper than an equivalent private tour, while still offering fantastic value for money. Touring veterans Cox & Kings operate small group tours that include your flights, accommodation, most of your meals, the services of a tour leader, local guides, sightseeing and entrance fees, and even a Cox & Kings representative at Heathrow and Gatwick for all group departures where at least six people are travelling on the same flight. There are also no single supplements to pay for solo travellers on Cox & Kings’ small group tours.
So far we’ve concentrated on all things small, but we have to finish by talking about the incredible amount of choice and variety on offer from our touring partners. With your logistics already sorted and a safety net to fall back on should anything go awry, you have a whole world of amazing travel experiences to choose from. No niche is too small when it comes to small group touring; adventure travel experts Undiscovered Destinations offer destinations as varied as Belarus, Eritrea and Haiti, in groups of up to 16 people. There is also a world of choice when it comes to your preferred style of tour, ranging from basic, budget-conscious trips from the likes of Intrepid, all the way up to operators like Abercrombie & Kent, whose ‘Wings Over The World’ tours take you around the world by chartered private plane!
Whether you want to spend a fortnight trekking in the Andes, a month travelling overland through Asia or a weekend touring wineries in the south of France, we believe that small truly is beautiful.