Last Updated on 17/08/2021 by Edy Ragnoli
Learn what makes a group tour good and how to choose the right group travel company. Here are the best group tours and guided travel operators in the world. Book your next trip with them to get a memorable experience.
Travelling is one of the most desirable leisure activities for humans. It can be memorable and amazing only when it offers true experience, adventure, and a good price-quality ratio. With thousands of options available on the market, it's easy to buy the wrong travel package that won't give you anything but just a waste of money and time. But there's a way to make the right travel decision.
Whether you travel alone or with friends, you can make your journey unbelievably wonderful by choosing the right group tour and travel guide company. Here are 14 ways to choose the best group tour operator and the top 10 resources and websites for finding the right group tour for you now.
Consult Online Tour Marketplaces
Online tour marketplaces are a good way to compare dozens of tour and guide companies and hundreds of tours and adventures. Unlike online travel agencies such as Expedia and Skyscanner, these online tour marketplaces focus on niche companies and tours for a more targeted offer.
The top two tour marketplaces are:
- TourRadar: you can search the tours by geographical destination.
- Travelstride: it focuses on the social side. You can filter by solo-traveller tours, women-only trips, family-friendly vacations, and more.
I've already selected the best tour companies for you. So, keep reading to pick and choose the right one for you.
Choose a Group Tour for People Like You
There's a tour company for every person, and there's an “adventure” for every demographic. So, the first thing I suggest is to find a group with people of your same target (in terms of age and habits).
Travelling in a bus full of noisy teens or walking in a crowded metropolis could be a terrible choice for you. Are you looking for dynamic and exciting nightlife or extreme sports? A group tour for families or over-60s could be pretty boring.
Furthermore, consider the social aspect. What kind of people are you easy to socialize with? I usually find it easier and more natural to make friends with people like me and keep this friendship for years even after the tour.
Pick a Group Tour With the Right Size for You
The size of the group can shape your holiday drastically. What kind of group do you prefer? Both small and large groups have their pros and cons. The choice depends on your taste and objective. So, it's important you know the advantages and downsides of small and large group tours.
Large groups are more common with the mass-market tour operators. They are made of 40 to 60 people and cheaper than smaller groups. They offer more diversity within the group (with more opportunities to meet people like you). But, at the same time, they are less flexible, create instant crowd, and take more time in hotel check-in and eating. They also tend to take you to more touristy places and restaurants, and lots of destinations quicker.
Small groups, instead, usually includes 12 to 20 participants. They move more quickly and are more focused on experience rather than attractions. For instance, it's far easier to find a seat in a small typical “teppanyaki” restaurant in central Tokyo with 15 people instead of 40.
Moreover, you could find it easier to interact with people, including the tour leaders and guides. Last but not least, small groups tend to be more environmentally friendly.
Make Sure the Itinerary is Logical and Balanced
Are you looking for joy and relaxation or continuous travelling and stress? A logical and balanced group tour gives you enough time to enjoy your vacation and adventure. It also includes different kinds of activities and destinations such as:
- Historic sights
- Contemporary places
- Museums, and
In a logical and balanced group tour, you won't spend most of your time travelling from a place to another just for the sake of visiting as many places as possible. You're there for an unforgettable experience to tell and not for a nightmare you'd desperately want to remove from your memory.
About that, small group tours usually offer a more balanced schedule. You won't either be sitting all day (with almost nothing planned) or feel the need to get a holiday from your holiday (because you're doing too much).
Make Sure You Have Free Time
It's okay to get “busy” in a bunch of activities. But think about the kind of vacation you really want and what type of traveller you are. Do you prefer a full-day scheduled tour or something that gives you some time just for yourself? You can use this free time to rest or visit whatever you want at your pace, alone or with some members of your group.
This will give you more independence (if that's what you're looking for). Just be aware of one thing. These extra activities could cost you less or more than a planned schedule. Furthermore, sometimes tour companies include only half-day tours to upsell you optional—and overpriced—evening and afternoon tours. So, do your math before booking.
Note: discard this advice when your tour necessarily requires fully-guided and planned activities such as safaris, explorations in the Borneo rainforest, hiking and trekking holidays in the wild.
Look for a Group Tour That Offers Experience
The best way to make your journey amazing and memorable is getting experiences rather than just visiting attractions. Everybody can book a nice hotel or a tasty meal at the most luxurious restaurant. Every tourist can visit a museum or ride a horse. But these are just attractions without distinctive elements.
Conversely, choose group tours that will make you feel special and a protagonist with things like:
- Accommodation in unconventional treehouse hotels.
- A seat in a restaurant where you have a personal chef that will teach you some cooking secrets.
- A day with locals on a traditional “bangka” (boat) off the coast of Palawan to catch and then cook super fresh “diwit” (lancetfish) and crabs following local recipes.
- A weekend in a natural reserve where you can feed the animals and interact with them.
These are just a few examples of experiences your vacation could offer. These are the kind of things I suggest you look for when you hire a group tour company.
Check the Accommodation Options
Travel companies and group tours are all different and can offer a variety of lodging. So, what's the best accommodation for a group tour? There's no definitive answer, but just the best option for you (and for your taste, habits, needs, and pocket). So choose accordingly. Maybe, an apartment, house or villa, instead of the usual hotel, is a better choice for your group: you can cook together and share social moments making the trip even more involving.
If the tour description is unclear, always ask for more details because the wrong accommodation can ruin your vacation.
Are you a solo traveller? Ask whether the group tour company will pair you with another traveller like you in the same room (unless you prefer loneliness).
Figure Out Where You Will Eat
What's the best meal plan for a group tour? Again, it all depends on your taste. Check what the tour will offer and understand what you prefer. Discover if the travel company allows you to choose among different eating options (expensive sit-down dinner, humble casual street food, host-made meal at a dinner party, low-quality tourist restaurant, etc.).
Do you like more freedom? Choose a group tour that doesn't include meals. You'll choose the eating option by yourself and eventually make your trip more adventurous and enjoyable.
Discover The Activity Level
Before booking a group tour, check what and how many activities you'll do so that they meet your preferences.
Will there be a lot of walking on the streets or natural paths? Choose another tour if you prefer, instead, to ride a motorcycle or go on boat rides.
Does the schedule include lots of games on the beach? Opt for another group tour deal if you are more for a relaxed day with visits to museums and culinary events to taste the local cocktails and delicacies.
Check What's Included and Any Extra Fees
The group tour price can look affordable at first glance. But don't make the mistake of deciding too quickly. Always remember to verify what the price includes and what else will require additional expenses. This could reshape your whole trip (or at least your bank account). So, check if the price includes:
- Museums and parks admission tickets/entrance fees
- Local guides
- Single room for solo travellers
- Spa treatment
- Travel insurance
- And more
Ensure You Pay for What You Get
Getting an amazing deal for your next group tour is great. What's better than an extraordinary adventure at a good price? But always make sure you'll get the best value for your money. For example, ask yourself:
- Is the expensive fee for a five-star resort or a low-quality motel?
- Will the transportation be as comfortable and safe as you should deserve with the good money you're paying?
- Does the high price tag include extra activities and attractions?
Ask for Experienced Local Guides/Leaders
Guides can make or ruin your journey. Look for group tours and travel companies that provide local guides and leaders with travel experience. Ensure they will accompany you everywhere, ready to be your walking encyclopedia into the museum, park, city centre, and so on.
Make sure the tour company hires and trains its local guides. A good travel guide/leader knows the local heritage, peculiar spots, life-saving techniques, the local language, and anything else that can make your trip superior. Here's a clue: the best and most reputable tour companies usually attract and hire the top and most experienced local guides.
Choose an Accredited and Reputable Tour Company
The tour company is your intermediary and the conjunction between fun and safety. So, make sure it's a registered company accredited by the local government and a trade organization. Also, ensure it follows all the safety requirements.
But this is not enough. Check the tour company reputation, too, by reading the online customer reviews carefully. Some bad reviews could be about something you don't actually care about. Some reviews can be even fake. It's your responsibility to discern the truth. Trustpilot, TourRadar, and Travelstride are good travel resources to discover the pros and cons of a tour and guide company.
Opt for a “Green” Group Tour
Be responsible and love our planet. Choose group tour companies that love it too. Opt for ecotourism and group tours with a low impact on the environment. In practice, this means:
- Using local guides
- Taking local transportation
- Booking at locally-owned guest houses
- Reducing waste and the carbon footprint
- Donating part of the fee to charitable organizations
You can even check whether the tour company is “eco-friendly” certified and a member of organizations such as The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC).
The Best Group Tour Companies and Resources
Now that you've learned what makes a group tour good, it's time you pick and choose the right tour deal and travel company. Here are the 10 best group tour companies and resources in the world. Remember, there's no definitive answer about what's right and wrong. There's just the best for your taste and personality. So let's get it started. Your next journey is just around the corner.
G Adventures is one of the leaders in small group adventure travel. The company has been operating for 30 years with locally-based tour guides.
The G Adventures company cares about local communities. It plans its tours to benefit the local people and places you visit. The schedules give you the time to do your things and make your adventure even more personal.
I recommend G Adventures for its very professional team and friendly guides. They take good care of the customers and keep you safe and amused.
Intrepid Travel is another leader in small group tours for local and global sustainable adventures to preserve the local communities, wildlife, and planet.
The tour company can meet the taste of different types of travellers. It offers picturesque trips and entertaining, scenic, and accommodating activities (walking and trekking, cycling, wildlife tours, family tours, active adventures, food tours, adventure cruising, and polar tours).
The group leaders are knowledgeable, passionate, attentive, mindful of safety, and great storytellers.
Charlie The Traveler acts as your personal trip planner. The owner (Charlie) personally visited 596 destinations in almost 80 countries. He's also a tour guide, travel agent, and book author with over 30 travel guides published.
The tour company can offer a totally personalised trip with a custom itinerary and recommended activities and tours optimised to keep the costs as low as possible while maximising fun.
Here are some of the activities you can do with Charlie:
- Cooking class at an Italian home in Sicily
- Nightlife tour in Rio de Janeiro
- Italy tour on a Vespa
- Hot-air balloon riding in Turkey
- A salsa dance class in the Dominican Republic
- Zip-lining across the jungles of Costa Rica
Jessie is an experienced and conscious solo female travel blogger and travel planner. Jessie on a Journey offers you travel consultation, custom travel itineraries based on your bucket list, and adventures based on her real personal experience (no travel packages upselling).
TourScanner aggregates the largest collection of tours and travel activities in the world. It's free to use and allows you to compare thousands of travel deals to find the best price among 300,000 tours in over 1,300 destinations. Here are some examples of what you can find on TourScanner:
- Skip-the-line tickets for attractions
- Free tours
- City tours
- Guided visits
- Outdoor and sports activities
- Food tours
- Cooking classes
- Day trips
For example, you can use TourScanner to find the best price for your airport transfers or bus tours. It's a useful resource to get ideas and plan your next travel and group tour.
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GetYourGuide is an online travel agency (OTA) for booking activities, attractions, and tours worldwide. It has over 33,000 listings in more than 2,500 destinations.
On GetYourGuide, you can find tours, activities, transportation, shows and events tickets providers. I suggest you read carefully and critically all the info and reviews of both the providers and tours so that you can choose the right one for you.
Civitatis is similar to TourScanner and GetYourGuide tours companies and offers over 2,550 destinations to visit and 58,200 activities to do. Through Civitatis, you can book your trip, excursion and guided tour around the world in many languages, including free walking tours in the main European and American cities (Rome, Paris, Florence, Porto, Copenhagen, New York, etc.).
On Civitatis.com, you can also buy skip-the-line tickets, sports tickets, helicopter tours, bus tours, Central Park carriage rides, shopping excursions, dinner and sunset cruises, private tours, travel insurance, and much more.
The tours are great. The guides are kind and funny and provide thorough information mixed with their experience for a very enlightening experience. The support and staff are excellent. You'll enjoy your tour for sure.
Walks is a guide company specialised in city tours across the globe. Its average group size is 12-15 people to give a more intimate experience.
The Walks tour company uses hand-picked local guides and suppliers that work hard to be your mentor and storyteller. Another reason to choose Walks is its special access to iconic landmarks with out-of-hours entry and skip-the-line tickets.
Fat Tire Tours is the best tour company for bike, segway, walking or skip-the-line tours.
Would you like a bike tour with a beer tasting in a small group on the river Thames? Wish you see the Berlin wall on a bike? Are you dreaming of visiting Munich on the segway? Do you want to add family-friendly activities and food experiences to your bike tour?
Just select the destination and how you wish to visit it. You'll find plenty of choices for your next city trip, including custom private tours for families, corporate functions, students, parties, small and large groups.
The Eatwith name is self-explanatory. The tour company is specialised in planning and providing impressive and immersive culinary experiences. With the Eatwith adventures, you have passionate hosts and chefs ready to cook for you and give you an unforgettable dining experience. For a group made up of two or more people, you can even book a private and personal dinner, lunch or cooking class.
Do you love Japanese cuisine? Would you like to try the New Orleans soul food? Wish you taste a real traditional Spanish dish? Well, with Eatwith, it's as if you have friends in every corner of the world who can invite you to their home for dinner. This is not just a trip. This is truly a real experience you'll remember for life.
Sharing makes any activity unforgettable and heartwarming. Even when you are a solo traveller, group tours can add that spark you need to enjoy your vacation to the full. Group tours and guided travel companies are the best way to make any travel a truly complete experience.
What kind of experience are you looking for? Which group tour do you prefer? Whatever your answer, these tips and resources can help you find the right tour for your next group or family adventure.