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Small-Group Tours: What are they? Why book one?

So you’re thinking about booking a vacation, maybe you even have a destination in mind. But perhaps you don’t know where to start with research, are short on time, or have done some planning and know you’ll get a lot more out of your trip with some sort of assistance. Either way, you’ve decided to simplify your vacation by booking some sort of organized trip. But with so many options for organized travel – from small-group tours, to self-guided tours, to privately guided tours – how do you decide what is right for you? 

Small-group, fixed departure tours are fully guided experiences that follow a balanced itinerary. This kind of tour is well-suited to:

  • Experiences where a guide is required, such as safaris, trekking, and climbing
  • Cultural, wine, or gastronomy tours in which the expertise of a local guide can greatly enrich your holiday

So why do travelers love small-group tours? Here are our top five reasons travelers opt for this type of organized travel: 

  1. They leverage local insight and knowledge
  2. You’ll get to share experiences with like-minded travelers
  3. Small-group tours offer unique and unusual experiences
  4. Group travel can add an extra element of security
  5. Small-group guided tours are relatively affordable

Keep reading to find out more about what makes small-group travel so much fun. 

Why book a small-group guided tour? 

1. Small-group tours leverage local insight and knowledge

All tours listed on our platform are led or supported by local guides. They provide an educational and informative aspect to the locations on your itinerary. Leading the group throughout the day, our guides will share the stories behind places you visit and things you see, and answer any questions from your group.

You can trust that all the important stuff will get ticked off the bucket list. Additionally, your guide will be delighted to show you some hidden gems that maybe only they know about! Most small-group tours also leave time for individual exploration. Expect to have some freedom throughout your trip to try activities outside of the planned itinerary. This could mean grabbing drinks at the end of the day, shopping for souvenirs, or simply relaxing at your accommodation. If you need ideas for how to fill any pockets of free time, your local guide is there to help!

2. You’ll meet new, like-minded people!

Small-group tours are ideal for meeting like-minded travelers from around the world – without sitting on a huge bus with 40+ tourists. Tours listed on our platform are generally capped at just 12 travelers, and with our unique destinations and itineraries, we’re confident you will enjoy the company of others looking for the same special experience as you. You’ll get to share your adventure with friendly faces, whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple, or as a small group. New friendships will blossom, creating lasting relationships that know no borders.

Traveling in a group is also fun! Those traveling alone will have the company of others at points where it’s easy to feel lonely, like at mealtimes. Group travel also allows you to view your destination through the eyes of others. Your companions may be fascinated with, or notice, something that you don’t. They may ask questions you hadn’t thought of, or form different opinions based on their own culture, background, and experiences. Group travel creates a space for discussion and opens your mind to new and interesting ideas and perspectives. 

3. Small-group tours offer unique and unusual experiences

Going with the flow can be amazing sometimes. Other times, you just want your travel plans taken care of!

Small-group tours provide a fixed itinerary, allowing you to live in the moment rather than constantly thinking about where to go next. They can also enable you to visit more unusual destinations that you may not feel as comfortable traveling independently.

You may also leverage small-group trips to enjoy unique experiences with like-minded travelers. For example, on an 8-day or 15-day tour, you can live-aboard a small yacht and scuba dive alongside marine biologists in the Galapagos. This is an incredible small-group tour that is capped at 15 divers and sells out every departure date. You’ll explore Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands whilst directly supporting the Galapagos Whale Shark Project, which was featured on BBC’s Planet Earth.

4. Group travel can add an element of security

Safety is one of the most common concerns of all travelers. This is true whether you’re planning solo adventures, or traveling with a partner or friends. Joining a small-group tour can be a great safety net. It does not mean everything will always be perfect, but it is helpful to have someone to turn to in the rare case that something does go wrong.

Your guide will have a lifetime of local insight and knowledge and will be well-equipped to deal with any problems that may arise. They will also be fluent in the local language: this can reduce miscommunication fears and help you feel immersed in the experiences. 

There’s also safety in numbers. You may feel safer sharing experiences, such as exploring a night market, in a group with your guide and/or newfound travel buddies. 

One of our favorite small-group trips is our 15-day women-only Kilimanjaro climb. It combines an 11-day hike with a 4-day safari. Outdoor activities, such as hiking, climbing, and mountaineering are often male-dominated sports, but this epic climb to the summit of Africa’s highest mountain lets you experience Tanzania in a unique and special way. Check it out if you’re interested in sharing the (literal) highs and lows with other female adventurers. 

5. Small-group guided tours are relatively affordable 

Travel doesn’t always have to be expensive! The cost of small-group guided tours usually falls somewhere between independent travel and privately guided tours. 

It can be helpful to think about the tradeoffs: It may be more budget-friendly to plan and book every component of your trip on your own, but that can take up a lot of your precious time! Meanwhile, you can save a ton of time and have a great experience on small-group trips without breaking the bank. This is because there are often preferential group rates for things like accommodation and transportation that a local operator might be able to procure.

Those looking for the benefits of a private tour (the simplicity of having everything taken care of for you, the knowledge of a local guide, the time saved planning) may want to consider small-group travel. It’s a convenient way to reap the benefits of a local guide and a thoughtfully prepared itinerary at a more affordable price point. You’ll get all the benefits of a private tour with your activities, transport, and accommodation organized in advance, and do so without shelling out for heightened private tour prices.

How Much Do Small Group Tours Cost?

Small-group tours are generally priced mid-range. The actual price depends on variables including destination, activities, trip length, and group size. That said, if you value the expertise of a local guide, you can have an incredibly enriching experience at a lower price point than a privately guided tour. Keep in mind that the price of the tour will also include nearly everything except your arrival to, and departure from, the destination: accommodation, transportation, some or most food, and activities.

How do these prices compare to private tours and self-guided tours?

  • Self-guided tours are experiences where an expert handles the itinerary, transport, and accommodation bookings. Once travelers arrive, they enjoy their trip independently without a guide physically present. These are usually the most affordable organized travel option. They are well-suited to nature-focused activities and are highly flexible – perfect for those who like to adventure at their own pace! 
  • Private tours are the most expensive option as your exclusive group will be accompanied by a guide for the duration of your trip. Private tours can be customized for your group – both in terms of departure date and activities – and you have more undivided attention from your guide.
  • Small-group tours fall somewhere in-between self-guided and private tours in both cost and travel type. This type of travel tends to be more expensive than a self-guided tour because you have a guide with you the duration of your trip. But, they are at a more affordable price point than private tours because the group size is slightly larger and the itinerary is less customized.

Our favorite small-group tours: 

Are you an active traveler looking for an underwater adventure? You can experience the magnificent diversity of Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands alongside scientists from a local marine research organization!

Or perhaps you’d like to get off the beaten path and cover more ground? Ask us about our 15-day Mount Kilimanjaro climb, where you’ll enjoy panoramic views from the highest mountain in Africa and relax afterward on a classic Serengeti safari.

Maybe you simply need to unwind at an eco-friendly retreat center with like-minded souls. Then, you should look into our sustainable retreats. All the retreats include yoga and wine, and some also offer surf classes, stone-sculpting workshops, or photography sessions.

Whether you’re looking to be immersed in nature, conquer a challenge, or unwind and recharge we can help you find your perfect itinerary.

Is a small-group fixed departure tour right for you?

Small-group tours are ideal for those looking to enjoy the benefits of fully guided experiences at a more affordable price point. This type of travel allows you to share a destination with like-minded travelers, make new friends, and enjoy your vacation with minimal stress. If you’re short on time, a small-group tour can be the answer to maximizing your trip. Combining a pre-planned itinerary with organized transport will help you use every moment efficiently. Couples or several friends or family members may also enjoy joining a group tip, particularly if no one wants to be responsible for planning the trip, sorting the money, and booking everything. 

It’s important to note that small-group tours have less flexibility and spontaneity than other types of guided travel. The departure date will be fixed and the itinerary will have structure, although you will have pockets of free time for individual exploration.

Whatever your travel style, whether you’re a solo traveler wanting to see a particular destination and make new friends, a couple looking to enjoy a relaxing yoga experience, or a group of friends ready for a cultural adventure, you’ll find a group tour to suit you.

Browse our small-group guided tours here!


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Alice Peace

I’m Alice, UK travel blogger and advocate for sustainable travel. I want to show you just how easy it is to make responsible choices and do our bit for the planet whilst we’re on the go. I head to off-the-beaten-track locations and get there as sustainably as possible. I love responsible wildlife and community tourism, supporting local businesses and eating delicious vegetarian food. See more at Discoveny.