Or is all small group travel expensive? What budget levels are available? And what makes the difference?
All good questions- you may not have an unlimited budget- so what do I have available?
This post will explore some options……remember, normally you cannot enjoy 5 star travel on a 2 star budget- you may come close in a large group (or not!) but what is that comfort if you are unable to explore the local food at small local restaurants, or tour a small family farm- or head out walking on a local trail? Small groups allow you to do all that and more.
First- consider that some places are simply more expensive than others……Europe will be a shock to your system after North America……and although Eastern Europe is cheaper, it will likely be more expensive than you think…….Some of South America is also quite expensive, as is some of Asia. So this is one subject to do some research on……it should not prevent you from travelling there- but rather help you prioritize how you will spend your money……
Secondly, different small group tour companies may attract various age groups…..that is not to say that there won’t be people of all ages, but there may be more in some age groups. That is not something to stop you from travelling with them- just something to consider! If it completely stops you in your tracks, then there is a good chance that this method of travel is not for you anyway- flexibility, the love of new adventures and experiences, and patience are all virtues when travelling in a new country in a small group. Large groups by contrast, simply must, due to their size, organize themselves differently…..i.e. everyone on the bus at a certain time, etc.
Here is a sampling of small group tour companies, with an example of a trip to Turkey for each…….be sure to contact me if you need information on a trip using any of these wonderful tour companies. As well, there are a number of specialty companies not listed- so feel free to ask for more information about locations and availability of tour companies for that country or continent.
Geckos Adventures will appeal to the truly adventurous traveller. “When it comes to travel, we’ll throw you straight in the deep end. You’ll do stuff that other travellers might chicken out of – eat weird food (guinea pig, anyone?), ride public transport and stay at locally run places (Star rating? What star rating?).
You’ll still go to the ‘must-see’ sites, but you’ll find it mixed up with unique experiences that aren’t found in any guidebook. You’ll also have plenty of time to do your own thing.
Average group size is 9 people and the maximum is 16 (22 on some of our Africa trips). Most travellers are aged between 18-35 but it you’ve got an open mind, a sense of adventure and are willing to step outside the comfort zone then you’ll fit right in.
Accommodations for most of trips stay in small, family-run places. In remote area the standards can be pretty basic (Bedouin tent, anyone?) but the experiences are epic. And where it gets really wild (Africa, we’re looking at you) you’ll spend most nights camping. All the gear and food is provided so no worries if you’ve never camped before.
Transportation can be buses, bikes, boats, trains, canoes, rafts and the occasional camel. In Africa travel is in custom-built safari vehicles, designed to give you the best view.
Your own room can be arranged at an extra cost.
Standard Geckos trips include entrance fees, comfy accommodation, some meals, all forms of transport (sometimes private vehicles), plus the expertise of your local guide. While there’s plenty of time to do your own thing, group activities are included too – because some things are simply more fun when you’ve got company.” All optional activities are listed with approximate prices for better planning…..
Whirling Turkey is an 11 day trip through Turkey priced from just $787 plus flights and taxes. This trip has a 5-star rating from participants- the itinerary is as follows:
Days 1-2 Istanbul
3 Gallipoli – Eceabat
5 Ephesus – Selcuk
10-11 Cappadocia – Istanbul
Included are the services of a Local leader.
Meals Included: all breakfasts.
Accommodation: 9 nights Hotel, 1 night Overnight coach.
Transport: Ferry, Local bus.
No entrance fees are included in this price- although the approximate price is listed in the group notes, making it easy to estimate your costs. Group size: 6 – 18.
Intrepid Travel offers excellent value for money- at varying price points. The first and cheapest trip style offered by Intrepid is Basix. For travellers on a budget, Basix trips keep inclusions to a minimum. They’re about value and lots of free time to choose the activities and extras that you want to do.
The next trip style is Original. The classic Intrepid style. These trips come with some included activities and stay at more hotels than Basix trips. The perfect choice for those who want a taste of everything.
The last trip style is Comfort. Designed for those who want more inclusions, Comfort trips offer a higher standard of accommodation, larger, roomier vehicles and more included activities.
Choosing the right trip for you
So let’s look at a similar Original trip to Turkey as the one we outlined above offered by Geckos. This trip example is 15 days in length- Best of Turkey– and is priced from $1298 plus flights and taxes. The rating is 4.83/5.00 by customers. If you want a room to yourself, there will be a surcharge.
Days 1-2 Istanbul
Day 3 Bursa
Days 4-5 Selcuk
Day 6 Pamukkale
Days 7-8 Kayakoy
Days 9-10 Kas / Turquoise coast overnight boat cruise
Day 11 Konya
Days 12-14 Goreme
Day 15 Istanbul
Local leader and a large number of activities.
Meals Included: 11 breakfasts, 1 lunch, 1 dinner
Accommodation: Guesthouse (2 nts), Hotel (10 nts), Overnight boat (1 nt), Overnight bus (1 nt)
Transport: Bus, Dolmus, Ferry, Gulet, Overnight bus, Private Bus, Taxi. Group size maximum is 12.
One tour company I have used a great deal and really enjoyed is Exodus (contact me for details about Exodus). Exodus has been operating pioneering adventure and activity holidays since 1974, with over 500 inspirational small group and self-guided adventures across more than 90 countries. Whatever your interest, whether it’s cycling, walking, hiking, culture, wildlife, winter, polar expeditions or family holidays, Exodus has the trip for you. They take more clients on their hiking/walking and cycling holidays than any other operator in the world. The Exodus hiking/walking product line offers 100 trips across 40 countries; while the cycling product line offers 60 trips across 32 countries.
First and foremost, they are a company of travellers, and the personal experience and expertise that comes from this is key to giving their clients the best holiday. Wherever you wish to travel, Exodus’ experts will offer expert advice, guidance and inspiration. They design and operate their holidays in a way that gives the highest degree of long-term economic benefit to the host communities, while also maintaining and/or improving the environment.
Exodus is perfect if you’re a more active traveller looking for a fulfilling adventure with a group of like-minded individuals. Groups excited about cycling, hiking, photography and wildlife tend to love the Exodus experience.
Standard accommodations are usually in 3* hotels, but if you prefer a little more luxury then why not try one of the new Premium Departures. The hotels on these trips have been specially selected for their comfort and unique qualities. They are often set in stunning locations, offer fabulous cuisine, and local charm in abundance. I can speak from personal experience that this added level of comfort was a wonderful treat. If you want a room to yourself, there will be a surcharge.
Group sizes are a maximum of 16 travellers, and included in the price of the trip are breakfasts and often some other meals depending on the specific trips, local transport (public or private depending on the trip), some transfers from the airport, and local guides.
Highlights of Turkey is a 15 day trip offered by Exodus. Priced from just $2100 (plus flight and taxes), this trip is rated at 4.5/5 stars.
Day 1 Start Istanbul.
Day 2 Tour of Istanbul, including Hippodrome of Constantinople, Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace.
Day 3 Towards Ankara, stopping en route at Abant Lake; overnight in Beypazari.
Day 4 Visit Ankara and Museum of Anatolian Civilisations; continue via memorial at Anitkabir to Cappadocia.
Day 5 Optional morning balloon ride; exploration by foot and road, including castle at Uchisar and pottery at Avanos.
Day 6 To Egirdir, free time to explore or take a scenic walk around the lake.
Day 7 Explore stunning Graeco – Roman site of Aspendos; overnight Antalya.
Day 8 Visit Termessos en route to Fethiye on the Mediterranean coast.
Day 9 Free day to enjoy port town of Fethiye, optional hike to ‘ghost village’ of Kayakoy or ferry to Rhodes, or relaxation.
Day 10 See the limestone cascades and thermal springs at Pamukkale and scattered ruins of ancient Roman city of Hierapolis.
Day 11 To Selcuk and visit the magnificent Roman city of Ephesus
Day 12 To little-visited ruins of Assos, stopping en route at Bergama, site of the ancient city of Pergamon.
Day 13 Free day in Assos to relax or explore the historical sites such as the temple of Athena or the ancient theatre.
Day 14 To Istanbul, with visits to Troy and Gallipoli landing beaches, including ANZAC cove.
Day 15 End Istanbul
Included is a local guide with additional guides available in various sites.
Meals Included: 14 breakfasts,
Accommodations: a good selection of hotels all with something different to offer, many of which have a pool and some with free WIFI,
Transport: comfortable air-conditioned bus, arrival and departure transfers. Group size maximum is 16.
Peregrine Adventures offers a comfort style of travel. Almost 20 years ago, Peregrine became the first travel company of its kind to exclusively employ local leaders. It’s more like travelling with a local friend. Our English-speaking local leaders can unlock doors closed to coach tourists and independent travellers alike.
Peregrine groups sizes are capped at 16 people, so you’ll visit places the big groups can’t, stay in more interesting accommodation (try getting a coach-load of people into a Bedouin camp) and take all sorts of transport (traditional junk in Halong Bay, anyone?).
Peregrine’s small group travel experiences are ideal if you’re an experienced traveller who wants a deeper connection with the places you visit along with a higher comfort level, including a mix of 3 and 4-star accommodation, English-speaking local leaders and private transport.
Treasures of Turkey is a 15 day trip offering an overview of this fascinating country. Priced from $1710 plus flights and taxes, this comfort trip is a best seller.
Day 1 – Arrive Istanbul
Day 2 – Istanbul
Day 3 – Ankara – Cappadocia – Goreme
Day 4 – Cappadocia – Goreme
Day 5 – Cappadocia – Goreme
Day 6 – Ihlara – Konya
Day 7 – Aspendos – Antalya
Day 8 – Antalya – Phaselis – Kas
Day 9 – Kekova Boat Cruise – Kas
Day 10 – Fethiye
Day 11 – Pamukkale
Day 12 – Ephesus – Selçuk
Day 13 – Selçuk – Troy – Çanakkale
Day 14 – Gallipoli – Istanbul
Day 15 – End Istanbul
Included: the services of Peregrine’s expert English-speaking local tour leader, various sightseeing activities with entrance fees. Also included is the arrival transfer (from Istanbul’s Ataturk airport IST).
Meals Included: 14 breakfasts, 1 lunch
Accommodations: 14 nights Comfortable hotel
Transport: Boat, Private aircon bus. Group size maximum is 15.