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What Are Small Group Adventure Holidays Like?

Last Updated 06/08/2019.

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, toured Tibet, sailed up the Nile on a felucca and hiked the Inca trail with one particular group 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.

dventure Holiday

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.


small group adventure holidays egypt

Feluccas on the Nile. Small group adventure holiday in Egypt. How I met my husband.


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?


Victoria@ The British Berliner

Monday 22nd of December 2014

I like small adventure travel from time-to-time too. I've tended to mix and match. I've been with Intrepid, Imaginative Traveller, and Contiki (a very long time ago!). I start my own individual travel, meet them along the way, make some friends, get some ideas, then take off again. Sometimes with another person, sometimes not. I did that for Vietnam. I flew to Hanoi via Moscow and then made my own way to Ho Chi Minh or Siagon, to meet up with the group. After we finished our trip which was great by the way, I then made my own way to Bangkok before flying back to Berlin. It wasn't that expensive when you think of the time saved and the experiences had. As a family, it's different as the cost is, in my case, x3! However, there's nothing wrong in making your own mini-trip perhaps with a local company, and for a few days so that you can adjust to your time and needs.


Monday 22nd of December 2014

Yes we had fun on them too. I have a friend ( we met on a Thailand trekking trip with Explore) who did a full 12 month RTW of mixing group tours with independent travel I hate it when people get all snobby about how we choose to see the world, it's a personal choice and nobody has to prove anything.


Thursday 2nd of October 2014

I love small group adventure tours - I have travelled with Intrepid, Imaginative Traveller, Gap Adventures and Toucan! Which must make it seem like I have barely travelled without group tours, but they were only small parts of bigger adventures. I actually have liked mixing them into bigger trips in the past to give us a bit of a break - both from all the organisation of travel and between me and my travelling companion! They make everything smooth and easy. I will always prefer travel without a tour company, but I do like what they offer from time to time.

I would love to try a family one when the kids are old enough to be allowed except they seem a crazy high price for a family of 4 - for $400+ a day in Asia, I'd rather travel in luxury without one!!

Cristina Alt

Friday 8th of February 2013

Hi there! Just wondering if you can please recommend some small family travel groups? I have no idea where to start having never done anything like this, but my husband and I have decided that we'd love to see the world with our daughter (3 in April) .. is she too young for something like this?

Thank you!


Friday 8th of February 2013

I'm very happy to help Christina! The company we have always used is Explore Worldwide. For their more adventurous family group holidays the minimum age is 6, although that does vary from tour to tour. They have a limited selection of Families with Toddlers tours, the minimum age is 2. These tours are very much catered to the children, lots of free time and opportunities to enjoy beaches and swimming pools. If you pop along to the Explore Worldwide website they will send you their family travel brochure for free. Most of these trips can be booked as land only, so you could arrange your own flights and just use the 7 day tour as part of your larger trip. We will be in India for 3 months, so I'm very tempted to use one of the Explore family holidays as a small part of it to take the pressure of organisation off my shoulders for a while, India can be hard going. Exodus are another big name in small group adventure holidays, I haven't used them myself but I've heard great things about them, they also do family trips.


Wednesday 9th of January 2013

Great summary! I've done a few of the small group tours as well and I loved them. Like you said takes the hassle out of it all organising it all and for a solo girl traveller I just felt more at ease. It's funny because I meet some people who are so dead set against the whole group tour thing. They don't classify it as "real" travelling (whatever that is) but I met some lovely people and we could pretty much do what we wanted once there, so gave me the freedom to visit what I wanted as opposed to doing what everyone wanted. Off to look at more travel porn now!


Wednesday 9th of January 2013

Hi Kruti! Thanks for commenting. Bah! to travel snobs, it's horses for courses. 'innit?

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