Group Travel Companies
As great as it is to travel on your own schedule, sometimes it's better to have a pre-set list of destinations and activities. That way, you can spend less time planning and spend more time exploring, relaxing, and vactioning! Not to mention the fact that group tours are a great way to meet new people with similar interests to your own.
However, not all group tours are created equal. The itineraries and styles of different tour groups are often designed to meet a certain set of travellers' needs. If you are more inclined to wander around a city on your own, a guided walking tour is not going to float your boat. Or if you are particularly interested in the local culture of a place, and the tour group only frequents the most popular tourist hotspots, you'll may be disappointed. Whether you're an adventurer, a VIP looking for an exclusive experience, a foodie, or something else, you can find a tour group that's right for you.
Classic Journeys
Key Features
  • Small groups - only 10 people to a tour
  • Guides that are local to the area that you are travelling in, so you get the most genuine experience possible
  • Spontaneous, once-in-a-lifetime experiences - you are not tied to an agenda
  • Extremely cheap prices for single traveller
Classic Journeys manages to maintain the spontaneity and flexibility of travelling on your own with the worry-free nature of group travel. The small groups lead by local guides encourages meaningful connections with the local culture and your fellow travellers. There's no fear of feeling like you're part of a herd of tourists; Classic Journeys groups are often only 10 or less people, and never more than 18.
This company is especially good for single travellers that aren't interested in designated "singles vacations" (which often come with a speed-dating component). Group travel for solo travellers is typically more expensive because the cost of a single hotel room is more than a double - but Classic Journeys keeps the markup to a minimum.

The guides that live in each location help to create the tour, so you know that they are invested in teaching you about the local culture and ensure that you have the best experience possible. They also are encouraged to ditch the agenda and take advantage of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as a local opening their doors to a private residence or showing you a one-day festival, so that you can get an off-the-beaten path experience. Basically, if you want to feel like you are travelling on your own, but without the logistical headache, Classic Journeys is good choice.
Contiki Tours
Key Features
  • Youth groups, ages 18-35 only
  • Highly trained, knowledgeable guides and drivers
  • Flexible itineraries and a menu of options for lots of different kinds of traveller
  • Designed with budgeting in mind, so you can get the best experiences for the best price
Bus tours have an unfortunate reputation of catering to a white-haired, slow-moving population who take pictures from the window of a moving vehicle. Contiki Tours is on the opposite end of the spectrum, and is marketed specifically to youth ages 18-35. The high-energy, highly trained guides and drivers encourage a fun, inclusive, and friendly atmosphere that is especially attractive to first time travellers. If you are a recent grad looking to see a bit of the world and make new connections, this is the tour company for you.

Contiki Tours are designed to be flexible. The idea is that you travel to a destination on your route, and then you can spend the day (or night, or couple of days) doing whatever you like, with who you like. While there are guided tours and planned experiences available, you can choose whether or not to partake in these. If you want, you can even leave the tour group and stay in a destination for a longer period of time - just make sure to let your operator know first.
There is also a wide menu of experiences available for all different kinds of travellers. If you want to save a few bucks and are okay with roughing it, you might want to sign up for a camping expedition. If you want the ultimate taste of luxury, maybe try one their yachting tours. If you're a fast-paced, hit-and-run kind of traveller with a checklist and an agenda, or if you're more laidback and prefer to explore at a slower pace, there are tours for you too.

As well, Contiki recognizes that people in their targeted age group are often students on a budget, so their fares are pretty reasonable compared to a lot of other tour operators. And your guide will further help you save money while travelling by letting you know what there is to see that is cheap (or even free!) in each destination on your itinerary.
Exodus Travels
Key Features
  • Itineraries designed for the active adventurer
  • 500 different tours available in 90 countries, including some of the most unusual and exotic locations in the world
  • Guides are local experts and come from a wide variety of backgrounds
  • Customer service to guide you with researching and booking your trip
  • Flexible start and end dates
As the name suggests, Exodus is a tour company that is focused on adventure. By their nature, all Exodus trips are designed to be active and unusual, so be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone. Exodus offers trips to traditional tourist destinations such as Europe, America and South East Asia, but they also offer trips to Antarctica, the Middle East and Africa for the more extreme travellers. They have a variety of tour types - walking, cycling, guided groups, self-guided groups, and even private tours for those who want an exclusive experience.

The right guide can make or break your vacation, especially when it comes to extreme locations and activities. Exodus guides are hand-picked from the top adventuring experts: professional archaeologists, wildlife guides, mountaineers, diving and ski instructors, to name a few. So you know that you will always be in capable hands when it comes to safety and experience.
A main advantage to booking with Exodus is their highly rated customer service. They assign a representative to you before you book, to answer all of your questions and guide you through the process. They also encourage recent travellers to leave trip reviews that are published, unedited, on their website - they are that confident that your response will be positive. For Exodus, transparency and communication with their travellers is paramount, before, during and after your trip.

Exodus also allows for flexible dates, and have last minute offers for sale on their website as well as multiple departure dates to choose from. This makes them particularly attractive to flexible solo travellers who can take advantage of a flexible schedule.
Gray & Co.
Key Features
  • 2:1 traveller to staff ratio
  • Fully customizable itineraries where suggestions are offered for the destination, but you are completely in control of your own schedule
  • Luxurious accommodations, equipment, and experiences
  • Staff are very experienced working with your own team of handlers, drivers, etc.
Looking for something special? Gray & Co does nothing but completely customised itineraries, ensuring that you will get the trip that you really want, without compromising to a group schedule (but without the hassle of having to plan everything yourself). These tours are luxury level only; if you have the cash to spare, the extra level of customer service, highly rated accommodations, and exclusive activities are well worth it. For places to stay, expect private villas and five star hotels. For transportation, expect your own car and driver and private jets to remote locations.

The whole idea behind Gray & Co is that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want; the wheels are set in motion for you. The staff to traveller ratio is set at 2:1. For the active travellers, Gray & Co uses only the best equipment including carbon fibre bikes for cycling tours. The only limitations to your trip are what you set as your own agenda; guides and staff follow your itinerary, not the other way around.

A typical day on a these custom tours involves a 3-4 hours of activities in the morning, such as a walking or cycling tour or a cooking demonstration. The afternoons are for relaxing in the spa, shopping, or exploring on your own. Of course, everything can customised to your preference; they even go as far as to provide vehicles to chaffeur you and your gear from place to place.

It's recommended, however, to stay in one hotel for at least two nights, so that you can really get a feel for the destination before packing up and going to the next place. Unlike most group tours, there's no rush to shuffle from city to city; you can take your time and enjoy everything that a destination has to offer.
Butterfield & Robinson
Key Features
  • 2:1 traveller to staff ratio
  • Fully customizable itineraries where suggestions are offered for the destination, but you are completely in control of your own schedule
  • Luxurious accommodations, equipment, and experiences
  • Staff are very experienced working with your own team of handlers, drivers, etc.
Butterfield & Robinson is a Canadian tour operator that curates to the luxury adventurer. They offer more than just private 5 star hotels, however; with B&R, you can stay in castles, sleep in jungle treetops, and more. B&R treats the globe as their playground, and have itineraries for every active explorer - diving, mountaineering, sailing, even safari. They specialise in the ultimate memorable experience, such as entrance to historic locations that don't have public access, taking over a viewpoint especially for your group, and VIP dining experiences.

Guides know the best places to eat and shop in every location, and pre-check every road and route so that everything is prepared for beforehand - nothing is left up to chance. With B&R, logistics are the last of your worries, so that you don't have to think about schedule delays when you should be thinking about what wine to try with your gourmet dinner instead.
Butterfield & Robinson are particularly known for their self-guided and group cycling and hiking tours. Friendly and knowledgeable guides know the most "special" routes for every skill level. They specializes in "slowing down" to get the full experience, whether it's taking a detour over a quiet country road or stopping for photos over a scenic vista.

They also offer "off-the-rack" private tours for an exclusive experience, or, if nothing on the menu suits your fancy, trips can be fully customised to your specification.
Gourmet on Tour
Key Features
  • Marketed towards global foodies of all level of experience (and even those who just want to taste!)
  • Guides and chefs from around the world to provide the ultimate dining experience
  • Special itineraries for cooks that involve training from professional chefs on local techniques
  • Authentic experiences that capture the "spirit" of a place through food
As the name suggests, this tour group is made for global-minded foodies who want to experience the world "in a different way." Curated itineraries are designed for travellers to sample the country's most refined cuisines as well as the traditional food of the locals. Guides are experiences chefs from around the world, and are ready to accommodate all needs, whether you are an active food blogger or an inexperienced home cook.

Accommodations are always customised to capture the "spirit" of the location - no generic hotel rooms that look all the same for you! Hotels ar very often family owned, and you get an invitation to the families' wine cellars or share their favourite spot. With Gourmet on Tour, you are treated as an invited guest in someone's kitchen - the heart of the home - and not merely a tourist.

One of the best features of Gourmet on Tour is the ability to participate in hands-on culinary experiences, such as truffle hunting, cooking lessons with a master chef, or wine tasting at local vineyards. Whether you're a professional chef that is interested in expanding your artillery of techniques or just someone who really likes to eat new and delicious food, everyone will find something that they enjoy with their highly flexible small group experiences.
Responsible Travel
Key Features
  • Tours that involve grassroot initiatives and support only local businesses
  • Locals are treated with fairness and respect, and pass on authenticity and respect to travellers
  • "Go where the locals go" to get a well-rounded, full understanding of the places you visit
  • Responsible Travel is also involved with several environmental and humanitarian campaigns worldwide - your money is well-spent!
Responsible Travel is a tour company that sells holidays that maximize traveler experience while also benefiting local cultures, people and the environment. They emphasize tours that are focused on grassroot initiatives and support local businesses. Instead of hotel chains and restaurants, you will interact with locals who make a fair living from providing you with the best experience possible. It's a win-win!

The focus for Responsible Travel is on the authentic, rather than on the exotic. Tours enable you to have a meaningful, two way conversation with the local people, who get treated with respect and fairness. This respect gets passed on to the high quality genuine experiences that travellers get in return. They believe that In order to travel well, you must "Go where the locals go" - and Responsible Travel gives you an insider pass to these authentic experiences.
Responsible Travel also contributes to environmental conservation campaigns, advocates against animal cruelty for the sake of tourism (such as caging tigers and riding elephants), and even enables responsible voluntourism, where qualified and experienced volunteers can assist in humanitarian aid worldwide. The icing on the cake - when you book your holiday, you have the option to have a portion of your fee support a child in a developing country and send them on a day trip adventure of their own! Why not feel good and do good on your vacation?
Conclusion
While there are literally hundreds of tour companies to choose from, they are not at all alike; there are as many different travel experiences to be had as there are travellers. Whether you are on a shoestring budget or expecting the peak of luxury, travelling in a group or solo, or have a particular interest or skill that you want to hone while on vacation, there's a tour available for you!

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