I’m a big fan of small group adventure holidays, the more adventure the better, usually.
I’ve trekked with the Hill-Tribes in Thailand, sailed up the Nile on a felucca and hiked the Inca trail with one particular holiday company.
They’ve worked well for me as a solo traveler and as a couple, I’m yet to try a family holiday this way, but I’m game. I’ve had good experiences with them, mostly, I’ve certainly never regretted taking one, but there are pros and cons to everything.
Pros and Cons Of Small Group Adventure Holidays
Lets do the pros first
They are easy
Pop along to the website and order the glossy brochure, they are delivered direct to your door. They are travel porn! So many fabulous pictures, I use them as educational resources for the kids, they’re that good.
Pick your tour from the endless choices in the catalogue, pay your money and just turn up. You will be ferried around your chosen country, or countries, in relative comfort and luxury, you will not have to organize anything for yourself, just do as you are told. Easy, no stress.
My Thailand trekking experience with a group tour was far better than a Hill-Tribe trek I arranged for myself in Chiang Mai years later. So much better it’s just not funny, staying in actual villages, not tourist traps. The adventure travel companies put a lot of research into organizing the best possible tour for you.
What if you are sick?
You have a lovely, super friendly tour guide with decent local knowledge, maybe even an actual local who speaka da lingo, who will arrange doctors and hospitals for you. Perfect!
Ready made friends
You will be traveling with a small group of people with similar interests. If you are trekking you will be with other fit- ish types, if you are visiting ruins you will be with other archaeology buffs, there will usually be a good mix of ages and genders for you to make friends with. Some companies specialize in groups of women, singles, seniors, single parents, all sorts, you will find a group to suit your needs. If you are travelling solo you will probably be paired up with a room or tent mate. Lifelong friendships form this way, I’ve stayed in touch with one roomy for the last 12 years. If you are single, there may be other singles in the group, romance may be in the air!
I have a confession to make, I met my fabulous husband on a small group adventure holiday.
They Are Great If You Are Short Of Time
I think this is THE biggest factor. As a wage slave you always want to squeeze as much travel as you can out of your annual leave. These trips cram so much in, there is no way you could organize a similar trip yourself in the same amount of time. Everything is pre- booked, timetables are juggled for maximum content. Plus they come in just about any length. If you’ve only got a few days holiday left you can probably fit in one more short trip, as I did on the Nile, I only took 5 days off work and scored myself a husband in the process.
Now lets do the cons.
What if you are sick?
You go to India with your group and on the day you are scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal you are struck down with galloping Delhi Belly. It’s game over for you, there is no resting up until you are well enough, you’ve missed your chance. And if you are scheduled to spend the next day on a bus, hard luck, Imodium time.
Ready Made Friends
There are no guarantees, your new roomy and best friend could be a snorer, a sleep-walker or have the worlds most offensive feet. They could be offensive full stop. You could ask your tour guide to swap, but it’s not going to look good for the rest of the trip.
Group fatigue gets you sometimes, when you’re all social-ed out and don’t want to have to speak to, or even look at, another western face. Forced joviality really hacks me off and I’m not nice to be around once the hormones kick in. You could be in a group with me, watch out!
They are Great If You Have Plenty Of Money
I’m not saying they’re expensive, they’re not, really, they’re extremely good value for money and I’m sure these companies negotiate excellent rates. But if you have the time, slow travel is cheaper, organize it yourself, you will find cheaper accommodation maybe cheaper transport if you can sacrifice comfort. Seeing a country, or a group of countries, over a longer period will cost you less per day and reduce your carbon footprint. Trekking holidays do not necessarily require guides and porters, you may be paying for services you just don’t need. It’s more fulfilling to organize it yourself and better for all that character building stuff.
Overall I think they’re great, they are part of my travel arsenal. As I mentioned already, I’d love to try the family tours. I’ve spent months in India and love it to bits, but I’m nervous about doing it with the kids, one of these small group family holidays could take a big weight off my mind, I’m happy to give it a go.
(Update: We took the kids to India this year, solo, it was fabulous, but taxing, as India always is. See our India Travel page)
You know yourself best. Would you feel better having other people around you, not having to worry about finding your own accommodation and transport, having a guide to help out with any difficulties? All the guides I’ve ever had have been fabulous, charming, competent and knowledgeable. In my experience these tours run like clockwork, it’s all very slick.
So what do you think? Are small group adventure holidays for you?