Curious about those group travel tours? Here’s where to start
When it comes to traveling, some people are more into going solo — doing what they want, when they want — while others prefer going with a group travel company. With the latter, not only is the planning is done for you, but you also have automatic travel buddies. Plus, you can find a trip that’s catered toward your specific interests, such as adventure activities and/or eco-friendly tourism. But with so many group travel companies on the market, how do you choose?
“Working with reputable tour operators means your trip will be seamless — all you’ll need to worry about is what you’re going to wear,” Mary “Libby” Emanuel, owner of Premier Group Travel in Mount Dora, Florida, said in an email. “That being said, they vary widely in age restrictions, travel styles, inclusions, activity levels, price points and sustainable travel offerings.” She said it’s best to figure out what you want in a trip and go from there. For instance, you can ask yourself questions like: What do you want to see and do? Do you want the group to be on the smaller or larger size? What’s your budget like?
If you still can’t decide, you can speak to a tour specialist for advice on what group travel company would be the best fit for you. Instagram could also be a great resource; in addition to looking up the companies’ pages, you can look up travelers’ hashtags of the companies so you see what kinds of experiences stood out for people who went on the trips.
To help you decide, here are some of the most popular group travel companies. Of course, prices for each one vary, depending on factors such as location and which type of trip you decide to take.
1. Flash Pack
Ages: 30-49 (though 29-to-51-year-olds can attend, too)
Flash Pack focuses on small group adventures. According to its website, the company was created in 2012 by two 30-somethings who were “fed up with the uninspiring world of group travel.” So, they decided to curate unique trips for like-minded people, usually three to 15 per trip. Although most participants are single professionals from all corners of the globe, being single is not a requirement. As for the trips themselves, there are more than 50 to choose from, such as to tropical or snowy destinations — from glamping on a secret beach in the Philippines to trekking through the Canadian wilderness at twilight. Accommodation-wise, participants usually stay at boutique hotels — as their website states: “Flashpackers travel in style and believe in roughing it in luxury.” Trips are various lengths, from a weekend away to a couple weeks; if there’s something you want to do that’s not on the itinerary, you can add extra activities onto it and personalize your experience.
With Contiki, which has been around since 1962, you can go on more than 350 trips across six continents. Whether you book alone or with a partner or friends, Contiki then has you figure out your travel style — if you want to do everything, see iconic essentials or explore at a slower pace like a local. There are also many types of trips to take, from camping to sailing to snowboarding; you can even attend a festival with fellow Contiki participants. If you want a small group travel experience, however, this may not be it. The company’s website states that in Europe and most of North America, as well as New Zealand, group sizes can range from 35-52 people; in busy periods, they’ll likely be at maximum capacity. However, group sizes are smaller, 12-30 people, for other regions, like Asia and Australia, and for some North America and New Zealand trips. And, if you’re a student, you’re in luck; Contiki offers you a discounted rate.
3. Intrepid Travel
Intrepid launched in 1988 and now offers more than 1,000 trips across 100 countries, from North and South America to Africa and Antarctica. Tours average about 10 people and provide you with a balance of group time and alone time, mixing tourist attractions with secret ones. Participants’ ages range from 18 to 70, though they have specific 18-to-29-year-old trip options, too. According to their website, they also have three main travel categories: Basix, which usually attracts a younger crowd; Comfort, which tends to be an older crowd; and Original, which is a range of ages between the other two.
4. G Adventures
If you’re looking for adventure travel, G Adventures, founded in 1990, may fit the bill. To participate, you need to be at least 18, but then sky’s the limit — as far as age (there is no age limit) and the types of tours you can take, from National Geographic Journeys to Wellness Tours. The company also has an 18-to-Thirtysomethings tour, wherein the maximum age is 39, as well as a Family Adventures option. While trips average 10 people, there may be up to 15; certain trips have different maximum group sizes than others. “This intimate size ensures that your group will not crowd your experience,” states G Adventures’ website.
Ages: 18-39 (although the company says to contact them if you’re not in this age range)
Topdeck has over 40 years of experience planning trips for people all over the world — you can choose to check out one country or multiple ones. There are three primary categories to choose from — Hotel, Hostel Plus and Camping — and you can expect anywhere from 35-48 people on a trip, with the minimum usually not less than 20. If you want to check out one country versus several, there is also an Explorer group option which averages 16-20 people, with a maximum of 30. From skiing in New Zealand to taking a “surfari” from Sydney to Brisbane, Australia, there are options for every kind of traveler.
6. Explorer Chick
If you’re looking for a girls-only trip, Explorer Chick, an adventure travel company that’s been around since 2014, is a great option. Their website states that “If you are a Debbie Downer that loves to complain, do not book an adventure with us. … Mean Girls are also invited to stay home.” Instead, the company focuses on curating trips for women who live an active, healthy lifestyle and don’t mind getting some dirt on their hands. Trips have a minimum of six women and are maxed at 10-12. They vary from hiking and glamping in the Smoky Mountains to seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland; you can choose from various travel categories, such as a Weekend Escape or Bucket List Adventure. As for lodging, Explorer Chick wants you to stay in the place that best allows you to experience your location, from eco-hotels and chalets to tents and yurts.
7. For The Love Of Travel (FTLO Travel)
Ages: 24-39 (with an average age of 28)
For The Love Of Travel (FTLO Travel) was created in 2016 by Millennials for Millennials and focuses on small-group experiences, ranging from six to 14 people per trip. Eighty percent of the company’s travelers are solo ones, so if you book the trip alone — without a friend joining you — you definitely won’t be the only one. According to FTLO Travel’s website, the company focuses on sustainable, slow travel — i.e., using public transportation and not rushing through a destination. They state that they’re “group travel for people who don’t do group travel”; instead, they aim for the trips to feel as though you’re traveling with friends versus a structured group tour. Each trip is curated to meet participants’ needs and they fall somewhere between budget and luxury categories. Experiences range in variety, from For The Love Of Scandinavia to For The Love of Meditation and Mojitos in Cartagena, Colombia.
8. Under30Experiences (U30X)
Despite its name, Under30Experiences (U30X) is not just for those under 30 years old. Whether you want to go on their Costa Rica Rainforest trip or their Inca Trail Hike, you have many travel options to choose from with U30X. The company officially began in 2013; however, its two founders, Matt Wilson & Jared O’Toole, first found “under 30” success with the blog they started in 2008, Under30CEO.com. U30X’s website states that they aim to be travelers, not tourists, as well as have it be affordable and stress-free. As for who goes on the trips, 70 percent of participants are solo travelers; once you join a trip, you can also join a private Facebook group for fellow trip participants so you can get to know each other in advance.
9. U River Cruises
If you’re looking for a more unusual kind of group travel experience, U River Cruises, which set sail in April 2018, could be it. Although you may associate such cruises with people your parents’ or grandparents’ ages, the company’s online brochure states that it’s “A fresh approach to river cruising for the young & young at heart” — and there is no formal age limit. Depending on what countries you want to explore off the boat, you can choose from four different eight-day river cruises, such as following the Rhine and stopping off in places such as Amsterdam and Cologne or following the Danube and exploring cities like Vienna and Budapest. U’s website states that it’s as though you’re on a floating boutique hotel, and there are several on-board options to participate in, from rooftop yoga or a mixology class to karaoke or a silent disco. Size-wise, each ship has a maximum capacity of 120 passengers, which sounds less overwhelming than a huge yacht cruise; plus, a river one could be a good introduction to cruising if you haven’t done one before.