Riding camels in Morocco, taking a bike tour in Vietnam, river rafting in Costa Rica, taking a pasta making class in Italy, and doing a game drive in South Africa… all of this is possible on small-group family tours offered by tour operators such as G Adventures, Intrepid, Adventures by Disney, and Abercrombie and Kent. These tours, specifically developed for families with children around age 5 and up, generally don’t exceed 16 people, which means that you aren’t climbing into and out of those huge tour buses everyone thinks of when they hear the word “tour”. Instead, you have an opportunity to get to know your tour guide, travel companions, and destination more intimately. With family tours, guides are experienced with considering a wide range of ages and the unique needs of traveling with a family. They have intentionally planned activities that will engage the whole family. Some of the most popular destinations even have family tours that focus on families with single parents or teenagers. Why else should you consider a family tour for your next family vacation?
Reason #1: You are intimidated by the destination.
Let’s face it, some places are more intimidating to travel to than others. This threshold is different for different families – it might be Costa Rica for one family, Vietnam for another, and Iceland for another. Differences in language, culture, and standard of living are factors families consider in deciding where and how to travel. For our family, India was intimidating. Despite being avid travelers on several continents, the idea of traveling to India with our five-year-old on our own was daunting. We were concerned about chaotic travel days, food safety, and being constantly harassed by people trying to sell their services or wares. Enter the Intrepid Northern India Family Holiday. By taking this tour, we knew our guide had experience with the restaurants and hotels we were using. He also had planned all the point-to-point travel; we just had to follow him. This meant that local touts, vendors and other service providers generally left us alone. By the end of our trip, we felt comfortable that we could take on India independently next time.
Reason #2: You want built-in travel companions.
Do you have an only child who craves interaction with other children when you are traveling? Or maybe your kids have a major case of sibling rivalry? In a small-group family tour, you will likely have 2-4 other families with you on the journey. That means multiple other kids with whom your child can make friends. Having other kids on the tour turns what may be a long-winded palace tour for your seven-year-old into an adventure with her new friends, or an afternoon relaxing at the hotel into playtime at the pool. Better yet, this means that the adults actually get more time to relax themselves. And, kids aren’t the only ones who have an opportunity to make friends; adults may find lifelong friends as well. Your next family vacation may be a trip to visit those new friends in England, Singapore, or Australia!
Reason #3: You have limited time to plan.
Maybe you know where you want to go, but aren’t sure exactly which cities or tourist sites you want to visit. Maybe you are having a hard time figuring out how you’d get from point A to point B. Maybe the idea of poring through hundreds of hotel reviews makes your head spin. On a small-group family tour, they do all the planning for you. From the hotels to the transport within and between cities to admission tickets, it is all pre-arranged. The time commitment for planning on your part is simply booking the trip!
Reason #4: You have limited time to travel.
Sometimes, you just don’t have as much time as you’d like to do slow travel in a location. My husband and I signed up for our first small-group tour because knew we were on limited time for our first trip to South America. Since it’s such a long distance to go, we wanted to get in a number of highlights spread over a large distance (Machu Picchu, Buenos Aires, Iguazzu Falls and Rio de Janeiro to name a few) in just a few weeks. Small-group tours are programmed to maximize time and sightseeing. The guides are skilled at ensuring that the time spent in any location is used as efficiently as possible.