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, travelling 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 holiday, 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 travellers’ 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 holiday 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?
Travellers 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 holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
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 travellers 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 travellers!”
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 travellers 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: Japan walking holiday, Mt Fuji and the Japanese Alps
Activity: Being a trekking holiday, this trip is very easy going on the environment. Clients will see that a large number of people in Japan observe Zen philosophy and Shinto culture anyway, so it is normal to avoid waste and to appreciate nature. Our local guides try to impart this on our guests and we are careful to leave only footprints behind us. However, we do encourage people to leave a positive mark by inciting cultural exchange, engaging with locals and using smaller businesses in the area for a more authentic experience and local benefit. In paying National Park and museum fees, we also contribute to the maintenance of some amazing natural spaces and historical sites.
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 & Meals: We will be spending most nights in hotels, three nights in mountain huts and one night in a traditional style ‘ryokan’ (local inn). These are often family run and locally staffed, which means we are benefiting the smaller, and sometimes more remote businesses in the community. Many also have environmental policies like optional sheet and towel washing in order to save water and energy. Locally sourced ingredients will be used where meals are provided; but clients are also encouraged to eat at local shops and restaurants when they go out for food. There are some incredible eating opportunities like the Matsumoto castle town market, the early morning fish market at Tsukiji and the 24 hour noodle bar at the very top of Mt. Fiji.
Local Craft & Culture: Having a largely cultural focus, this tour has many opportunities to learn about the crafts of Japan. Visiting Tsumago post town in Nagano and Asakura’s lively temple of Senso-ji, for example, may benefit the locals as well as the preservation of their cultural assets because the group have chance to buy products and souvenirs made in these areas as well as learning about Japanese life. With about 2000 temples, shrines and gardens, Kyoto is a treasure house of Japan's cultural heritage and so this is often a highlight of the trip. Here we can take a guided tour of the Imperial Palace, the Golden Temple of Kinkakuji or just sit back in the entertainment district to do some Geisha spotting.
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.