Small group tours done right – g adventures

If you know me, you know my aversion to group tours. The sight of a group, herded by their guide with a little colored flag from the bus to the sight for 3.5 minutes of picture taking, all of the tourist ideally in matching t-shirts, usually sends me fleeing from the location! Small group adventure tours with the travel company g adventures are a very different animal and there are very good reasons to travel with them!

Who are they? g adventures was founded more than 20 years ago and is headquartered out of Toronto, Canada. Today, it offers tours around the world, has more than 1,350 employees who help 100,000 people a year to experience the world! I met them the first time at a travel fair in Toronto in the early 2000’ and was encouraged by their spirit. They captured the idea of providing an authentic experience of the destination, instead of the sanitized, disneyfied version most tour groups offer! While many of their tours target the backpacker set (for example the truck tours across Africa), they also have more comfortable trips for people who have a similar traveler mindset, but are too old for  want to be more comfortable than a truck and tent promise to be! They offer travel styles from “yolo” (very basic, targeting people from 18-39) and  “classic” (similar experience, more comfort) to “comfort” (more extras). They also offer specialized tours for families, marine adventures or private groups.

Why should I care? I think there are three good reasons to consider g adventure: ease of travel, cost, companionship

Some places are more difficult to travel to than others. As you can read about my g adventure trip (Cape Town to Victoria Falls adventure), I found Namibia a very difficult place to travel to independently. But many folks we saw in their SUVs with tents on the roof all over Namibia obviously thought otherwise. Everybody has their own treshold for what we consider too difficult to tackle on our own. I think Thailand is one of the easiest countries to travel around on your own, but somebody fresh out of school, who has never left their home town, might be overwhelmed by the thought of traveling to Asia alone. Whenever you hear about a place that sounds amazing, but you think is just too difficult or dangerous to visit, you should consider g adventures. Every place on Earth has locals who live in those “scary, dangerous” places – and live happy lives. g adventures hires those happy locals as their guides and lets them share their home country with you!

The other aspect is cost. Many regions or countries either don’t have public transport systems that enable you to get from one sight to the other at a reasonable price – or existing transport is tough to access as a foreigner. In either case, sharing the cost of long-distance travel can make the difference between a dream and a dream realized. You can also save money on accommodation, tours and meals organized or negotiated by g adventures, reducing your overall bill.

And then there is good company. When I traveled by myself, I often had people ask me, if it is not lonely to travel by yourself. The funny thing is, I have met more people when traveling by myself than when traveling as a couple or group. You’d be amazed how many local will invite you in, will assist you or just strike up a conversation when you are by yourself somewhere. Even though I enjoy traveling by myself, there is a lot of fun in traveling in a group of like-minded individuals, bonding over a barbeque in the desert, surrounded by hungry jackals! And g-adventures group size of up to 18 people is just right. It’s small enough to allow for bonding as a group and big enough to meet some people you really like! I did a safari in Kenya with a group of 8 people – and they were all lovely. Unfortunately for me, 5 of them were a Swedish family and two a Swedish couple. Between the family usually staying to themselves and the Swedish couple occasionally engaging with them, I was the odd one out and might as well have traveled on my own. And you could not pay me to join a tourist group of 50+ people, so my only experience is from watching them decent on a sight I happen to visit… So, you decide, if you want some extra company or not. If you do, a small group tour is the way to go! And the guides, g adventure calls them Chief Experience Officers, make a big difference. Our guide, Janet, and driver, Elvin, were amazing and a big reason why our trip turned out to be a trip of a lifetime! We met some of their other guides at Victoria Falls, and g adventures seems to have a good hand in selecting their guides!

What else do I need to know? The g adventures web site is pretty simple: You can search by style of travel as described above and by region, or just type a country, city or region into the search box and look for tours on offer. You can’t search by experience, so you will have to use my blog to help with that 😉

If you are looking for some inspiration, you can check out their blog “The Looptail” with great stories and beautiful photography for a little virtual vacation.

If you kinda know where you want to go, but need some help, you can call their customer support lines. I found their staff to be friendly and knowledgeable. It’s clear that they are passionate about travel and enjoy their job. Or you can check out their forum “The Watering Hole” to ask questions or read what other travelers have to say about specific destinations, countries or tours.

Lastly, I found their tour descriptions to be very open, honest and transparent. Please make sure to read through the documentation – their tours are not “all inclusive”. They include what most people want (transport, accommodation, some meals and activities) and allow for some flexibility, so everybody can customize the trip to their liking. You will have time to yourself, can have some meals on your own and add extra activities to the trip – or just relax and do nothing! You can plan the trip before you book based on your budget, so there are no surprises down the road.

Their policies are very transparent, with guaranteed departures, clear refund policies and lifetime deposits. That was handy, because it took me two attempts and one cancelled trip to make my adventure with them happen. It is not a “fool proof” package tour though, so you have to take care of your own immunization, visa, etc. They will help with preparations, but it’s not a “passive” vacation where you just show up!

So, if you are reading about a dream destination, but don’t feel like you can tackle it on your own, I recommend you check out g adventures. They have tours all around the world for different budgets, so you should be able to find what you are looking for and can leave the tough stuff to the experts. If you haven’t caught the travel bug before, you probably will then!

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