It might seem a little daunting – signing up for a small group tour when you’ve always traveled on your own. Will I like being in a group, or following an itinerary? What if I dislike my Tour Leader? What will the other members of the group be like? Will I want to break away from the group? All of these are valid (and often-asked!) questions for first-time small-group travelers.
For those of you considering or preparing for your first small group tour, we've put together a list of some things to expect.
You will know the answers to “What is that building over there, in the far distance?” or “Why do the local people do _______”.
You can swear by a Frommers or Lonely Planet Guide, but they can't provide all of the answers while you're out exploring. You might miss a huge cultural moment if you don’t have the insight and knowledge of an expert Tour Leader. Not only do they provide you with valuable awareness of your surroundings, but they also come with invaluable recommendations for the cities and places you will be visiting (and they are usually really fun!). Need a post-office or particular store? They will know the answer before your phone can accept Wi-Fi or roaming data charges.
Your itinerary may be a bit more rigid than you’re probably used to – but you will manage to see everything (in the most efficient way possible).
Everyone loves flexibility and the ability to explore on their own, but there is a benefit to having an itinerary. The nice thing about small group itineraries is that they’ve been specifically designed by the travel experts with YOU in mind. They’ve often spent weeks or longer designing the ideal routes, and making sure there’s a perfect balance between seeing the highlights and allowing for downtime to soak in the local culture (and you know, maybe relax a bit). You can rest assured that you are seeing the very best and you’re not missing out on anything. The itinerary is perfectly planned so that you don’t show up at a museum on a Monday when they’re closed, or try to visit the Antiques market when it’s on Fridays, not Saturdays. We’ve all had this happen when we’ve traveled solo.
You won’t have the stress of figuring out where to eat.
If you haven’t planned out your own vacation down to the last second, often one of the most challenging aspects of a trip is finding where to enjoy a meal. You don’t want to eat in the main squares, or touristy places, but you also don’t know the place well enough to find the off the beaten path restaurants. Or, you might be in a country where food safety is hard to determine and you are nervous about which restaurants to try, for fear of your sensitive stomach. When you travel with a small group, you don’t have to worry about where you will eat – your Tour Leader has selected the very best options for you.
You will meet very interesting people.
Along the way, you might make longtime friends, or you might just have fun with some people you meet in your group. Either way, you can be assured that you will have curious conversations, and you will create some unique memories! Some ElderTreks travelers have even met their life long traveling partners on their trips. Even if you just have some friendly folks in your group, you are guaranteed to learn something from everyone, and having some stimulating dialogues along the way! You can also always pick the brain of your fellow travel companions to find out which countries or tours you should take next.
You will have an incredible time!
(That’s a given).
What did you experience on your first small-group tour? Is there anything we missed? Comment below.