Small Group Adventure Holidays. What’s Group Adventure Travel Like?

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Small group adventure holidays usually involve travel to an adventure holiday destination, domestic or international, and touring or taking part in an activity with a group of strangers, plus a guide or group leader. These holidays can be of any duration from a few days to many months. For some individuals they are a great idea, for others, they’re not the best way to see the world. This post covers pros and cons of group adventure holidays.

Group tour Thailand vacation
Years ago, as a solo female traveller, I took a tour of Thailand. We saw just about every major attraction in Thailand, and spent several days trekking in under 2 weeks of vacation time. The ruins of the ancient city of Sukhothai, above, were included. We had one full day in Sukhothai and toured by bicycle. Years later I went back to Sukhothai as an independent traveller, we spent 3 days here, saw much more, and got a good feel for the old town. You can undoubtedly see and experience more when you travel independently, but group tours allow you to see the world, fast, with everything taken care of for you.

I’m a traveller, I love to explore the world. Most of my travel, to 50+ countries has been independent, but I’ve also taken quite a few small group adventure holidays with two big adventure holiday companies, Explore Worldwide, and G Adventures.

We’ll list a few group adventure travel companies for you to try at the end of this post.

I would also class cruising as group travel, particularly if you take organised shore excursions.

There are more companies, providing this style of group adventure travel, holidays, or vacations, but these are the two my husband, son, and I have used so far.

We’ve also arranged adventure travel tours from agents, in destinations. For instance, we took a group multi-day tour to Tibet from Kathmandu Nepal, arranged through a local agent.

Group tour Borneo
A small group adventure in Borneo. This group tour was only a few days, trekking in the jungles of Sarawak Malaysia and staying in their longhouse and in the jungle at the fishing camp above. This tour would be too short to be a stand-alone holiday or vacation, but we built it into our holiday in Sarawak. Either side of this tour we explored independently, visiting Nature reserves, orangutans and the cultural village while really enjoying staying in Kuching. To have this part of the trip organised with transport and guides was great. More information about staying with the Iban tribe and booking this trip, below.

On top of this, we’ve taken dozens of group day trips and activities, ranging from touring the Cu Chi tunnels to London Harry Potter tours. I wouldn’t class one day tours as an “adventure holiday” so we’ll leave those out, but many of the pros and cons are identical

I’ve trekked with the Hill-Tribes in Thailand as a solo female traveller with a group tour, I’ve toured Tibet with my family in a group scenario, sailed up the Nile on a felucca, visiting Egypt’s ancient wonders, solo, on a group holiday, and hiked the Inca trail as a couple with one particular group holiday company.

tibet tour
Tibet tour, a very nice bus and a party of about a dozen travellers, 3 kids. This was an 8 day group tour that we booked in Kathmandu. It is hard, maybe impossible, to visit Tibet without taking an organised tour. The visas and permits, all hotels, food, and activities, were arranged by our tour provider.

We’ve also taken a small group adventure trip to Bhutan and Borneo, as mum and older teenage son. Many group holiday companies will accept older teens if they’re travelling with an adult.

Family group tour adventure holidays do exist, we haven’t tried them, because we didn’t think they were a good idea.

I’ll explain the reasons, pros and cons, advantages and drawbacks, in this post.

Group adventure holidays or vacations have worked well for me as a solo traveller and as a couple, also as a mum, there are advantages, certain times that group travel is necessary, but there are also drawbacks.

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, the advantages, of small group adventure travel first. There are, most certainly, drawbacks along with plenty of advantages.

Group Adventure Travel is Easy

group tour peru
A group tour in Peru, hiking the Inca Trail. A very old photo. This was a quick bucket list trip just months before we set off on an independent gap year as a couple. We took this group tour as a couple, there were other couples and singles. Having everything organised for us on this trip, including flights, transport, porters, cooks and supplies, made it super easy. The Inca Trail is a tent hike, porters would race on ahead with our luggage and the camping gear to have camp set up and lunch or dinner ready for when we arrived. Mixed abilities made the walking pace slow, with a lot of rest stops. Which was handy, as Chef, my now husband, did something to his knee and limped most of the trail. On the Himalayan hikes you stay in tea houses, no tents usually, so we always just head to the mountains there without porters or guides, it’s easy enough to carry what you need, even with kids. One big disadvantage of group travel on the Inca Trail, was that the two people who went down with quite bad altitude effects, missed out on a lot and couldn’t take extra time to acclimatise.

Booking a group adventure holiday or vacation is really straightforward, you book, and depart. Your itinerary, tours, and accommodation needs aren’t down to you to arrange.

You will need to organise insurance, vaccinations, luggage and visas, of course, but you should be guided in this.

Pop along to the adventure travel company’s website and order the glossy brochure, they can be delivered directly to your door. Or you can book direct from the company’s website.

The brochures have so many fabulous destination pictures that 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 likely 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.

This form of travel is easy and should be low 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 that the two aren’t even compatible.

On the group tour we stayed in actual Hill Tribe villages, not tourist traps. The adventure travel companies put a lot of research into organizing the best possible tour for you.

Sickness on a group tour?

If you become sick during the course of an organised group tour or holiday, you should have a lovely, super friendly tour guide with decent local knowledge, maybe even an actual local who speaks the local language, to arrange doctors and hospitals for you.

I cover the big issue with falling sick on a small group adventure holiday in the cons, or disadvantages section, below.

Group Adventure Travel Brings New Friends

You will be travelling with a small group of people with similar interests.

If you are trekking on your group adventure holiday, you will be with other fairly fit people, if you are visiting ruins you will be with other archaeology fans, and so on.

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, young people, and so on. 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 of the same gender and most suitable age. 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.

Group Adventure Holidays Are Great If You Are Short Of Time

I think this is the biggest factor in group adventure travel being better than independent travel, they save you time.

As a person with a regular job and limited annual leave or vacation time, you always want to squeeze as much travel as you can out of your precious time off work.

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 and timetables are juggled for maximum content.

Plus group adventure tours 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.

For the Egypt trip, I only took 5 days off work (plus weekends) to see all the major sites in Egypt, and found 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.

The cons of group adventure travel are the flipside of the coin, if you like. The disadvantages of group adventure travel are as follows.

Sickness on a Group Adventure Holiday is Problematic

If you are sick on a particular day of a group adventure holiday. So sick that you need to stay in your hotel, you will miss that day’s activity and it cannot usually be rescheduled for you.

If yougo to India with your group and on the day you are scheduled to visit the Taj Mahal you are struck down with 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. It’s going to be a difficult journey.

This is where flexibility and independent travel are so much better. For instance, when we went to Everest Base Camp we spent three weeks competing the trek. Some of the group treks complete the hike in under two weeks.

This fast pace doesn’t allow an individual an extra day to acclimatise or a rest day for sickness, if you’re ill, or struggling, you won’t complete the trek. This is a gamble, and on every group tour I’ve ever taken, people have been sick.

Group Travel Can Put You in the Company of People You Don’t Like

To take part in group holidays you need to be tolerant of other people. There will, almost always, be somebody in your group that you just can’t get along with.

You need to be tolerant or able to distance yourself.

As an introvert, I find people difficult, often. You know yourself. Can you do OK being around a group of strangers for several days?

There are no guarantees, your new room mate and potential best friend could be a snorer, a sleep-walker or have the world’s 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 out of social chit chat and don’t want to have to speak to, or even look at, another western face.

Forced joviality really bugs me sometimes and I’m not nice to be around if my hormones are being troublesome. You could be in a group with me, watch out!

Group Holidays are Great if You Have Plenty of Money

I’m not saying group adventure holidays are 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 in terms of the duration of your travel adventure.

If you organise travel or a holiday 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.

Your Time is Not Your Own on a Group Adventure Trip

You won’t be able to have a lie in, or an early night unless you skip an activity or meal. You won’t be able to move on to the next activity when half the group decides to spend time shopping for souvenirs.

Your scheduled free afternoon to explore may be when it’s raining.

Something I find hard in group situations is forced breaks and rest stops. These are a waste of time to me, I’d rather keep moving, but they’re built into the day.

You also may have little or no choice in where you eat. Buffets are common on group tours, mass catering.

If you have an independent spirit and like to do your own thing, group holidays may not be for you. If you’re laid back and easygoing, you should be fine.

I thought I was ultra easygoing, until I discovered I’m not, through group travel situations. It’s a good way to learn more about yourself.

When is Group Travel Necessary?

For certain countries, adventures, and destinations, group travel is all but a necessity. Tibet and Bhutan would be two countries that are difficult, if not impossible to travel independently.

Russia was another country where we had to have a planned itinerary to be granted a visa.

There are usually ways round this and you can usually book a private tour rather than a group tour, but this will raise your costs considerably.

Are Small Group Adventure Holidays a Good Thing?

Overall I think small group holidays and tours are great, they are part of your travel arsenal, a tool to use when needed.

Personally, I use them if I’m short of time, want to get a lot seen fast, and if I’m travelling solo or with just one of my kids. Group organisation takes the pressure off the customer.

My husband is usually our travel organiser and these days we don’t always travel together, we own a farm.

Is Group Travel a Good Idea For Families?

This depends on the family. A group holiday for a family could be a great idea if the whole family is very social, tolerant, and easygoing.

Personally, I don’t think our family would be suited to it. We’re just not social enough. I’ve also looked at many itineraries for family adventure holidays and the itineraries have been disappointing with recreation time replacing the travel destinations we wanted to see. They weren’t for us.

I have considered them for challenging destinations with small kids if my husband was unable to travel with us. For instance, I’ve spent months in India and love the country, 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.

(Update: We took the kids to India eventually, independently, it was fabulous, but taxing, as India always is. See our India Travel page)

For travel with teens, group travel has been a big winner for us, I took my son to Bhutan and Borneo on a group adventure experience. As an older teen, 15 and 16, he had a fantastic time and enjoyed having other people to talk to.

I think family travel is best enhanced by travelling as a family unit, it brings more family time.

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. Your guides enhance your trip. 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?

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

7 thoughts on “Small Group Adventure Holidays. What’s Group Adventure Travel Like?”

  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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!!

  3. 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!

    • 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.

  4. 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!


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