Remember when everyone used a travel agent? The pre-internet surfing days where you would visit your local travel agent’s office and not have to research or book a thing? Ah, yes, the good old days. Then there were the group tours. The cheaper way to travel. But held the bad reputation of having super tight schedules and wasting time at all the tourist traps.
Thanks to small group adventure travels, none of that applies anymore. These days, the adventure traveler looking to hike Aconcagua, scuba dive on a liveaboard in the Galapagos, or overland through East Africa now seek out small group adventure tours. Because today, it’s no longer enough to just go somewhere exotic. The seasoned traveler is seeking to enhance their travel experience while still getting off-the-beaten-path.
SMALL GROUP TOURS
Enter the rise of small group adventure tours that curate unforgettable travel experiences with local experts. We’re not talking about giant tour bus type group travel. A more intimate one with usually no more than ten to twelve people led by experts in a field of interest to you.
I decided to try one for the first time to see what all the buzz was about.
I have always been interested in photography and finally decided it was time to properly learn how to use a camera — in manual mode. My goal was to ultimately create the same awe-inspiring photos I’ve seen and admired on so many Instagram accounts. One of my favorite adventure photographers is @tiffpenguin. Her photos are spectacular and leave me longing to experience the type of adventures she so perfectly captured.
If you don’t already know who I am talking about, let me introduce you to Tiffany Nguyen. Tiffany is a Los Angeles based dentist by day, and ridiculously talented self-taught adventure photographer by night. This multi-talented photographer is a master at capturing and sharing the best of her adventures. Tiffany’s wanderlust-inspiring Instagram account will have you packing your hiking boots, tripod in tow and upping your photo game from iPhone to DSLR.
As luck would have it, Tiffany also started leading small group adventure photography workshops. I was fortunate enough to join her on her first all women’s photography workshop last fall in central Oregon. It was a photography workshop to learn how to use your camera, editing in Lightroom and hiking/exploring beautiful Central Oregon.
Adventure travel has become my favorite type of travel so it was the perfect workshop for me. It was an added bonus that the workshop was female only. Don’t get me wrong, we love the men in our lives, but sometimes we just want to bond and learn in a safe space among other women. So when we ask what seems like a dumb question, we don’t feel so… well… dumb.
We spent five days with two incredible female Sony ambassador photographers (@tiffpenguin and @lisabao). It was eight like-minded women eager to learn. The perfect intimate small group environment conducive to learning and we had a blast doing it.
The group ranged from absolute beginner (
Yes, you guessed it, that cover photo was actually taken by moi! I know! CRAZY!
Today, Tiffany is a highly sought after adventure travel photographer who has worked with many notable brands and tourism boards in creating priceless picture-perfect moments. If you are looking to up your photo game and explore one of Tiffany’s all-time favorite photo locations, she’s currently offering her next small group adventure tour to the Canadian Rockies this summer.
I am no expert and I won’t be pumping out photos like Tiffany anytime soon. BUT her workshop gave me all the tools I needed to learn how to capture that photo for myself. And that is what capturing the moment is all about. Yes, we all want to share that beautiful photo on Instagram but the real reward is that YOU took that amazing photo. YOU had that amazing experience. YOU learned and rocked a new skill and it’s something worth sharing and being proud of.
So as you can see, the outdated bias that group tours are only for your parents is just that, outdated.
The landscape of group travels has taken on a whole new look and appeals to all ages. It’s also a two for one deal. You can learn a new skill or push yourself in an extreme sport AND explore a new exotic location. You’ll be led by an expert that tailor makes an experience for you to highlight the skill you are learning. You’ll also have access to things you could not or would not know to book for yourself. L
It’s no surprise the increase in small group adventure travel happens to correlate directly with the increase in action/extreme sports. We’re looking at you Free Solo.
So whether it’s learning underwater photography, women’s only rock climbing or biking through the Dolomites, we’re here to share all the reasons small group adventure tours should be your next travel experience.
The main benefit of any type of group travel (even the horrible megabus kind) has always been the reduced cost. Since you are sharing costs related to transportation, lodging and guides, it keeps the overall cost lower than if you did it on your own.
Most small group tours will pair you up with someone of the same sex so you don’t have to suffer the ridiculous single supplement fee.
Another bonus is that most tours are set in cost and paid upfront. There
With solo female travel on the rise it’s no surprise there is a growing demand for female-only small group tours. The main barrier of entry for most women is the concern for safety while traveling alone. If you can’t get over this fear, that’s okay. There is safety in numbers and small group travels could be the answer to your travel prayers.
There are safety concerns for solo travelers traveling to some more remote and/or dangerous locations as well. It’s also great for extreme adventure activities that really shouldn’t be done alone for obvious safety reasons.
Having an authentic cultural immersive experience is at the core of the desire to travel. We all want to better understand each other. As a small group, you can more easily access hidden or lesser-known areas. You can stay at smaller boutique hotels, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and experience intimate local life that you otherwise would not have access to on your own or with larger groups.
Most small group tours these days cater to adventure travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path experience that would prove to be challenging to do on your own.
One of the main draws of small group travel is that you don’t have to be alone. Small group travel brings together an intimate group of like-minded individuals. It inherently leads to a quicker social environment than in a larger group. You’ll meet and become close with people of different backgrounds, age groups, and life experiences that all add to your travel experience.
This is also great for the solo traveler that is perfectly fine traveling on their own but love meeting new people while they travel.
One of my favorite benefits of small group travel is the reduced environmental impact. It’s no secret that traveling has a terrible environmental carbon footprint so anything we can do to reduce our impact is a big bonus. Small group travels reduces the strain our wanderlust hearts may have on the local resources and economy.
The advantages of traveling in a small group are endless: You’ll get to experience a more authentic immersion of the local culture, enjoy off the beaten path adventures that most tourists will never encounter. All while reducing our impact and meeting strangers that often turn into lifelong friends. I have never been a fan of group tours but I honestly can’t say enough positive things about my experiences with small group adventure travels.
What have you been dying to experience? Let us know in the comments below!
Photo by Young Lee @nakslee