No, they’re not impersonal, inauthentic, or just for retirees
on January 5, 2018
Just because you’re part of a group doesn’t mean that you won’t have an authentic experience.
If you’ve ever considered traveling on a small-group tour but cringe at the idea of being herded around with strangers, think again. Group tours have come a long way from the clichéd film, If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium. They can offer special, memorable experiences, insight into the local culture, discoveries off the beaten path, and stays in unique accommodations that would be hard to duplicate on your own or with a large group.
Here, we debunk five common myths about small-group travel. Happy trails!
Myth 1: They’re not authentic and just go to predictable touristy places.
Just because you’re part of a group doesn’t mean that you won’t have an authentic experience. In fact, being part of a guide-led group often provides behind-the-scenes insider access you couldn’t possibly have on your own, all under the careful supervision of a knowledgeable trip leader. Instead of skimming the surface, you often have a deeper interaction with the locals — farmers, artisans, or shopkeepers — and experience their way of life, up close and personal.
For example, you can enjoy such unique cultural experiences as learning some of the tenets of the Shugendō faith from a yamabushi priest in Japan, offered on Country Walkers’ “Japan: Kyoto, Nara & the Kumano Kodo” tour. Or going on a truffle-hunting foray with a local expert and his dog, offered by VBT’s “Cycling Piedmont: Into Italy’s Slow Food Farmland” itinerary. Those opportunities would be hard to pull off on your own.
Myth 2: They’re not personal.
There’s a common misperception that group travel doesn’t give you enough time to pursue your own interests away from the group. However, you can benefit from the flexibility that only a small group allows. Want to linger in that cute café for the afternoon? Or peel off for an early morning photo shoot on your own? That’s easier to arrange with fewer people.
Plus, when you’re with a small group, you have a much more personal relationship with your trip leader or guide, who can easily accommodate individual needs as you go. Have a special diet? No problem. Need help translating or bargaining? Sure thing. Want more information on an attraction? Happy to help.
Myth 3: They’re more expensive than going solo.
Sure, you could try to duplicate the same itinerary on your own and maybe save money. But keep in mind that the cost covers all the planning, preparation, booking, expertise, and trip leader/guide services — not to mention peace of mind — which you would otherwise have to handle on your own. Most people consider the tour cost to be well worth it. Plus, with one upfront price, you typically won’t be hit with unexpected expenses.
In addition, a group tour offers the benefits of a privately guided one but at a much lower price. Because you’re sharing the costs with a few other people, you can enjoy personalized service and all the benefits of an organized tour at a far more affordable price.
Myth 4: They’re only for older folks.
Counter to what some believe, small-group tours attract a wide variety of travelers — from millennials to retirees. You’re just as likely to find young honeymooners as older couples or a group of middle-aged girlfriends. In fact, the demographics of small-group travel are getting younger and younger, especially on physically active trips, like those offered by Country Walkers and VBT. And even older participants on challenging itineraries tend to be in good shape and accustomed to an active lifestyle.
Myth 5: You may not like the other people.
Actually, one of the best things about traveling with a small group vs. on your own is the ability to share it with like-minded people who often become lifelong friends. Whether you’re exploring Vietnam with VBT or spotting the Big Five in Africa with Country Walkers, there’s a special camaraderie that develops with people who have chosen the same itinerary. And there’s nothing like experiencing a physical activity together — from biking the Tuscan hills to hiking in Yellowstone — to really bond with someone.
Plus, you gain unique perspectives from guests with varied backgrounds — perhaps insight into a work of art from a museum curator or special knowledge from a history professor. You might even pick up a tip or two, such as photography from a semi-pro or advice on the best travel gear. And who wouldn’t appreciate that!
How to Explore on Foot
For more than 38 years, Country Walkers has provided active, immersive, and unforgettable travel experiences on five continents. They offer two distinct ways to explore: scheduled, small-group Guided Walking Adventures and independent Self-Guided Walking Adventures. On tour, guests enjoy superb local cuisine, first-class guides, fine accommodations, and authentic cultural and natural encounters. Visit countrywalkers.com or call 800-234-6900 for more information.
How to Explore by Bike
VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations offer more than 55 deluxe, small-group bicycling, walking, and barge & sail vacations in 27 different countries and 10 U.S. states. They are the value leader in active biking vacations and have been rated among the “World’s Best Tour Operators” by the readers of Travel + Leisure for seven years. Each trip includes all accommodations, many meals, two expert local trip leaders, unique sightseeing and cultural activities, and full van support. Unlike other companies, VBT also includes round-trip international airfare from more than 30 U.S. cities and select Canadian cities for all overseas vacations. Visit vbt.com or call 800-245-3868 for more information.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.