So, you think you know group travel. You’ve seen the tour groups on your travels, easily identifiable by their name tags, headsets, and affinity for gathering in well-known tourist traps.
Newsflash: the world of group travel is changing. Niche group travel opportunities are emerging to provide savvy travelers with an unforgettable experience. These groups are smaller and more intimate. They skip over the typical tourist destinations, instead offering access to lesser known but equally spectacular attractions, accommodations, restaurants and experiences.
Enthusiastic travelers are realizing the benefits of small group travel, from the opportunity to meet like-minded people to the low-stress aspect of the holiday—leave the paperwork and details to your host, and no need to sweat over the foreign transportation systems!
To be sure, small group travel is not the same as visiting a destination on your own. Nor is it the same as joining a mass group tour. To gain insight on how to make the most of a small group travel experience, I spoke with Hélène Buisson, founder of small group traveling company O France. Hélène, along with her husband (and wine aficionado) Jim, hosts groups of 10 to 14 travelers through Southern France and has plenty to share with first-time small group travelers.
Choose Your Trip Carefully
Do your research to find a tour that fits with you. Consider the focus of the tour: does it align with your own interests? Do the location and itinerary excite you? Be realistic about your expectations.
A good tour operator will be happy to share the details of the trip. Inquire about the average number of guests and the demographic—after all, you will be spending a lot of time with these people! Scope out the company’s website, blog or Facebook page to see photos of previous tours and to hear reviews from other guests.
Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace
Don’t wait until the last minute to spring a dietary restriction on your host. Most restrictions can be accommodated with advanced notice, but speak up in the early trip booking stages. The same applies to mobility restrictions and health issues.
Take Some Down Time
When reviewing your tour’s itinerary, keep your eye open for breaks or opportunities to do a little solo wandering. Everyone needs some “me” time every now and then, and occasional breaks will reboot your energy needs.
Make New Friends
The other individuals in your group were drawn to the same particular tour that you chose: there’s a reason for that. Small group travel allows the opportunity to meet complete strangers who share the same passions as you. Think of it as summer camp. Take the time to make memories with the other travelers. You might find yourself with some lifelong friends (think of the possibilities of trip reunions!).
Marvel in the VIP Experience
A perk of small group traveling is the access it grants you to unique places and experiences, often unavailable to solo travelers. It’s okay to feel a little smug that you’re staying in a private French Chateau, or dining in an exclusive restaurant’s private dining room.
With an entire world to explore and countless small groups to choose from, your perfect fit is out there waiting for you. From gastronomically-focused tours to fitness-oriented adventures, the world is your oyster. So get out there and explore!