Benefits of a small group tour for the mature and senior traveller

An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983

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The benefits of a small group tour for the senior traveller

This article examines and discusses for senior travel segment the benefits of a small group tour for the mature traveller when considering where and how they would like to travel to on their next tour. In a post pandemic environment mature and senior travellers will be wanting to evaluate with care who they can travel with as both solo travelers and a couple, an organisation that  will have the experience and know how to provide an authentic experience with an itinerary that will often seek to shield them from wholesale mass tourism.

For Odyssey Traveller, a small group of travellers is typically from 4 to 16 people plus a dedicated tour leader. Odyssey Traveller has been offering group tours since 1983 to all parts of the world. As our travelers quest for managed adventure has evolved, our itineraries have sought to reflect the desired travel experience of the mature traveller. Now in a post-pandemic travelling environment we seek to define again as a leader in the small tour segment for the mature and senior traveler what considerations they should be giving to decide if a small group tour really is that, a small tour with a suitably qualified tour company . We have also provided a checklist to assist you in validating your choice of program for your next trip.

If you’re unimpressed by the concept of filing on to coaches en masse or following a guide with an umbrella – that’s definitely not what you’ll find on a small group adventure tour! In fact, we think there are plenty of hidden benefits of a small group tour for the mature traveller in a post pandemic environment. You may wish to choose a small group travel company who has been providing this travel style and type of organised tour to the older traveller for some years to benefit from the experience gained and passed onto you.

For many years, the favoured way to see Europe was either on a coach tour with 40 or 50 others, or as an independent traveller exploring the continent by train or car. Whilst these two methods of travel still appeal to a group of travellers there are those now who want in a post pandemic travel environment something that reflects small group travel. For the senior travel segment that’s where a small group tour of up to 16 people with all its advantages becomes the tour experience of choice.

With less fellow travellers on a small group tour, getting up close and personal to the famous sites is a big advantage. One of the main advantages of small group travel in Europe and the rest of the world is the fact that it is just that, a small nimble group. You and your fellow travellers will usually be a group of no more than a dozen or so. Unlike other escorted tours, which often take up to 50 passengers per tour, your small group tour will offer you a much more personalised experience and more of a chance to get to know your tour leader and fellow passengers. You have flexibility to start early to avoid crowds at famous sites, or to reach the heart of a place because you can use the public transport network or are in smaller coach that can access the areas close to where you wish to visit even in the most medieval of villages unlike a larger group on a big coach.

Odyssey Traveller‘s small group tours operate with 4 to 16 people they are more expensive to purchase than a large group tour catering for 25 to 50 people, as the larger group benefits from the economies of scale. However, for many retirees’ small group senior travel in a post -pandemic environment creates the travel bubble with a level of care and consideration that cannot be replicated in large group tour. That small group travel option has a personal value that is exceedingly difficult to put a financial value on when considering risk around your health. An Odyssey Traveler small group escorted tour also seeks to give you a holiday with a genuine authentic experience following the mantra of “small is beautiful”. The company’s administration seeks to leverage computer based systems to maintain a central administration cost that is low as possible to ensure that the tour you consider joining is typically Odyssey’s best price for that group size and is a unique touring program in that country. Since Odyssey started in 1983 this approach has been an important part of who we are and our travel style in providing small group tours all around the world.

What is small group travel?

For an Odyssey Traveller, it is a small Group tour for mature and senior travellers, whether you are a couple or a solo traveller, it has an itinerary with an emphasis on exploring and learning about the place you are visiting. There is an effort to take you off the beaten path so you can experience a country from the inside. On a senior tour with Odyssey, group sizes are limited (normally to about 16 people) and, this type of exploration is more about being a traveler than being a tourist.  Having an authentic experience in a place, beyond being herded past a must-see icon.

Having served the mature and senior traveller for almost 40 years, we also know that the guided tour selected typically means that you see the world with like-minded companions. Your travel companions on an organised tour are likely to share similar interests making the journey more enjoyable when in the company of like-minded travellers, who are taking time to explore the same part of the world as you, in the same way. Shared interests and experiences tends to bond people together very quickly, whether you’re travelling on through to South America or  Iran for the first time, or on your 3rd visit to Italy. Odyssey Traveller does not offer a river cruise or Ocean cruise as part of our small group senior travel product range, these are not a small group tour.

For the older traveller the small group tour company selected or recommended by your travel agent should be able to demonstrate knowledge and operational skills required to deliver consistently an organised tour with elements of independent travel included the holiday chosen. We recognise that the mature traveller values and appreciates the opportunity to have free time away from a group environment to pursue independent travel within the itinerary of a guided tour.

There should also be an array of different escorted tour types to choose from a typical discovery tourlong stay city experiences, walking and hiking programsDinosaurs and ArchaeologyArchitecture and designGarden tours, and journeys by rail as well as in depth history tours offered by the tour operator you are considering.

 

dead sea mud
Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

Solo Travellers

Many Solo travelers are often an older traveller who has decide to go travelling alone, solo travel is a pleasurable independent choice for that person. At Odyssey about a third of the people on any small group tour are a solo traveller, often opting to include a small group tour or two, in order to meet people, or to get off the beaten path in a destination that’s safer to travel with a group and tour manager to explore places such as South America, Iran, Myanmar or India or a cross border itinerary such as the Silk road. The single traveller often with the passage of time will also become a stalwart of small group travel and recognise why and how the single supplement for a solo traveller exists for the organised tour selected.

Which type of tour should I choose for my holiday?

In the following paragraphs Odyssey Traveller explains the differences and the benefits of a small group tour for the mature traveller, to help you decide which tour to go with and if it is really a small group tour.

Small group tours typically consist of 4 to 16 people, all sharing amazing, often life-changing experiences.

You’re bound to come away from your tour with the shared collection across the group of an authentic experience, great memories and some new friends! The people you meet may become travel companions for many journeys to come. At Odyssey we have solo travelers who then becomes part of a long-standing group who choose to come together each year and travel together on a small group adventure.

Another standout for an organised tour is the people you are with for some 3 weeks. Not just your like-minded travel companions but also your tour leader, who typically from your generation as well. Odyssey’s selected tour leader for each group tour tends to be retired academics or schoolteachers and are of a similar age group as the people booking with us. You are travelling with people who have a desire to see the same destination you do; in the style you like. It’s easy to make friends. The people you as a couple or as a solo traveller meet on organised group tour, often turn into lasting friendships through common interests.

Which type of tour should I choose for my holiday?

Taking a tour is like independent travel, but without the organisational hassle and it’s especially beneficial if you’re short on time but want to explore and learn more than just superficially passing through a country or region. In addition to the iconic sights, your tour guide will be able to take you off the beaten path to enjoy a real taste of local life. To discover tucked away places untouched by mass tourism, often listen to quirky stories of history in the places being visited, find a small square to watch the world pass by from or somewhere where the coffee or tapas is exceptional. Odyssey is committed through its local tour guide in facilitating the local authentic experience as you travel with us. It is part of our travel style.

Throughout the course of your tour, you’ll often come face to face with fascinating cultures, customs and wildlife, as well as staying in local accommodation in the regions, which is an integral part of any adventure.  Depending on where you stay, small hotels/pensions, or could mean camping, maybe even a yurt for a night or two! You’ll also be travelling at times on public transport particularly in cities with a good public transport system whether it be the metro of Paris, or Milan or Moscow, or the European high speed rail network, which is another opportunity to see local people and gain real insight into the country you’re visiting. 

Most small group tours use mini buses or people mover-style vehicles which means they are able to manoeuvre their way down narrow European streets unlike larger coaches. Where large coach companies have to park away from the town and village centres, smaller vehicles can take you right to the door. Smaller vehicles also mean that you’re likely to visit a number of off-the-beaten path villages that regular tourist coaches can’t visit. These are often the places that travellers remember the most as they get to experience the real workings of a European village not just the tourist sites.

You can choose the tour that takes in all your ‘must-see’ sights, whether you’re a history, nature or adrenalin activity enthusiast! Joining a guided small group tour will allow you to see far more of a country in a short space of time than you could do if you were travelling independently. Senior and mature travellers recognise and enjoy the idea that in 10, 12 or 21 days, they enjoy many experiences in a relatively short amount of time on a escorted tour. An Odyssey small group tour seeks to provide group travel that is a well organised tour, that is flexible and provides a balance of scheduled touring and free time for independent travel in each place without exhausting you. It would have taken me double the time – at least – to see what we saw in that time is a common response from Odyssey Travellers. No queuing for bus tickets or haggling over the cost of accommodation – the logistics will be organised for you by the tour operator, which means you’ll spend more time experiencing the locale. 

An enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide is often what makes the difference between a good tour and a great tour. An invaluable source of information on local culture, history and sights, your experienced, local tour guide will also deal with all the time consuming jobs like buying train tickets, and organising national park permits. Tour leaders from other countries have first-hand knowledge of how visitors experience the country. Sometimes the people that know a city or area best are the expats and regular visitors. They arrive with fresh eyes and absorb the new information better than the locals. 

Not only can group tours be outstanding value for money – many people find that having a tour booked makes it easier to budget for the trip . Once you’ve paid for your trip and the kitty, all you need is some spending money for things like a glass of wine perhaps  and personal items. With small group travel everything is pre-arranged including the tipping. Like most tours, one of the best things about a small group tour is having everything pre-arranged for you. With all your transport, accommodation , sightseeing and some meals organised for you, a small group tour is a hassle-free way to see the world. And being pre-arranged means that the majority of your holiday costs are pre-paid so you’re not dipping into your pocket all the time. All you have to worry about is being ready to your colleagues each morning for the day’s outings.

Travelling in a small group, using public transport or even under your own steam, is more environmentally friendly. Even when you do travel in a private vehicle, small group travel leaves a much lighter carbon footprint than if you each hired a car. All the tour operators Odyssey  works with take responsible tourism very seriously. 

If you are part of a travel group , you and your possessions are much less of a target for criminals. Similarly, if you get ill or injured, you have the immediate help of your tour leader.

To assist in a time of crisis is usually a multi-level operation. By being in a small group you will have support from the tour manger as well as we would anticipate your travelling companions  who we hope have become friends, the ground operator’s main office and the assistance of local tour guides, and the Odyssey staff in the head office to draw on for support whether it a lost passport or a medical emergency. The Odyssey office and the ground operator when these events occur would be in regular communication, working overnight where needed and keeping you informed and updated as well as your family at home if that is needed. Odyssey Traveller is a small lean organisation, the information is shared and passed on quickly and efficiently and in urgent cases make their way to the top immediately, so a positive proactive response can be organised as quickly as possible. There’s no red tape or multiple departments to deal with.

If the group is in an area without internet reception, the ground operator and Odyssey will ensure you get the information you need and pass on updated to your family back home. You won’t be isolated. We  have  not had many crises to manage, less than 5 in a decade, often it is a lost passport, and we have access to a copy of that document.

In a small group, you will find that  the service is much more personalised. This is how we work, be it a medical emergency, a small accident or when things need to happen quickly and are require drastic action like stopping a tour after it has started, which has only ever happened once in 2020!

Because many small group tours focus on a single country or a specific region, you may find that your small group tour stays at fewer hotels for up to 3 or more nights at a time as we explore a region, which means less packing and re-packing. Even if you do choose a tour that stays in numerous places, you’ll generally find that your morning starts are at a pretty respectable hour and that the distances you need to travel each day are kept to a minimum.

Another bonus of being part of a small group tour in any part of the world, is that it offers flexibility should something unforeseen occur, like a strike or bad weather.

It’s much easier for a tour leader with a group of a dozen travelers to re-arrange plans than it is for one with 50 travellers in tow. That walking tour scheduled for today, can be changed to another day if the weather is inclement, or a museum visit can be offered in its place. Off-the-beaten path villages or unique pieces of history that aren’t on the regular tourist trail are a popular reason for joining small group tours in Europe. A small group tour manager or tour guide will often readily change the route to accomodate your curiosity on that particular day.

A small group tour with Odyssey Traveller is not a prescriptive journey from point A to point B.

An Odyssey Traveller program also has free time which is always a half or full day (not a couple of hours sandwiched between visits) in key places built in to your itinerary, giving you the opportunity to explore on your own or relax at your hotel, or people watch from a great place in the city or town you have paused in. But if you are at a loss of what to do you can always join the tour manager who will always offer the group a short optional tour in that period of free time. We believe that no-one should knowingly be left alone whilst on a small group tour. This approach to looking after you also applies on those times when their is no evening meal provided. The tour manager will always let people know the time and location off where to meet  so you always have a dinner companion to dine with.

The other advantage of organised travel is having a contingency plan. Making it easier to relax when you explore on a small group tour.

Of course, things may not always go to plan because that’s travel but, when it does, it’s not your problem. Someone else will sort it out. There is a team of people at Odyssey who solve these problems all day, every day. They and the operator have the resources to know where to get a tyre repaired in remote Mongolia, or how to solve the issue of travel cancellations, local events impacting the tour plan or cruise ships turning up at a remote island in Scotland on the day you are scheduled to visit, or securing tickets for desired unplanned event as a something unplanned extra. Travellers  don’t miss out with us our guides, because they already know where the best places to go are – and the accommodation is booked for its value, location and overall quality.

Small group educational tour in France

Environmental awareness, sustainability, eco-responsibility: these words weigh heavy with the weight of the world’s environmental challenges. We all want to do our part for the environment including Odyssey. As a traveller and tourists, we understand the importance of minimising the environmental impact of travel and seek to be positive in all that we do, even our office is committed to being paperless.

You may wish to check your tour operators website for information on their commitment to sustainability and the environment. Do they have a view on the issue of overcrowding in popular destinations for example? Can they demonstrate that they work with local companies rather than multinationals or crossborder organisations where the financial operating costs often do not remain in the country visited. Do they work with local government departments when accessing important ecological areas?

This might not be first on your list of considerations, but once you’ve enjoyed a visit to a country, you might wonder about your trip ‘s environmental impact. Responsible businesses such as Odyssey Traveller take issues of the environment seriously. They understand that without proper management and care, there won’t be anything worth visiting for future generations.

Does your chosen tour operator give back to the community or society in operates within in a clear and accountable way? At Odyssey Traveller since 2002 the company has awarded on a regualr basis annual scholarship(s) of $10,000 to an eligible Unverstity student from either Australia or New Zealand.

One of the  benefits of a small group tour for the mature traveller with Odyssey is our loyalty program that is offered in perpetuity to our mature traveller. The loyalty program is our way of giving back to our customers with a series of percentage discounts that increase with the number of tours completed.

Online reviews are great for getting a feel for any business. Read the positive reviews but don’t forget to check the negative reviews (if any) and see what made reviewers unhappy. Sometimes companies receive unfair reviews for situations beyond their control or for things unrelated to the management. So it’s worth reading the text and not just the rating or ‘number of stars’. Facebook & Google reviews are probably the most reliable places to look these days. Sites such Trip Advisor and other product review sites don’t allow multi-day tour operators to list on their site so Facebook and Google are probably the best places for real independent reviews, but there are other options around. Found a bad review? Try to understand the situation and see if the tour company responded. How did they react? With courtesy, apathy, or anger? You can tell a lot about a person or business by how they respond to criticism.

A good trustworthy tour company won’t hide their reviews, but make sure you can see independent reviews from real customers on their trips. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, contact us or the tour operator you ar considering. Take a look on the Odyssey Traveller (or other tour company’s) website or social media pages to see what kind of people are on the tour. This is a good way to tell if you’ll fit in or not. A good tour company ’s will generally make it really transparent and easy to see what kind of people are on their tour.

We don’t recommend taking chances on a brand-new travel tour operator unless you don’t mind the potential for logistic problems and you’re not risk-averse. In any case, this might be better suited to young, solo traveller s. For everyone else, not having to worry if your accommodation is booked or not or whether the bus arrives on time, is a load off the mind.

Choose an established company that has the systems in place to deal with unexpected events, changes in plan, and has established itineraries that people love. Read the company’s website and look for the About page or the Contact page. How long has the business been in operation? If they’re not bragging about it, then it’s probably not long. A tour group business that has been around for 10, 20, or 30 or 40 years like Odyssey  is doing everything right. But you need to consider also are the owners local? Do they get involved with the day-to-day operations? Are they passionate travellers? Do they like to meet people? Find out what kind of culture the business owners promote and see if it matches your values. Do you want to travel with the multinational Anonymous Corp. Inc, or a local business run by enthusiastic and friendly people?

Do the tours look fun and intersting? We’re sure you will not want to spend your vacation time on a hum-drum, by the numbers tour. The element of fun can be the difference between a good tour and the best tour . If you don’t get the feeling right away that a tour and your fellow travellers will be a positive experience, check the reviews again and look for the positives before you make your decision. At Odyssey Traveller, we welcome a call or email to put you in direct contact with a tour manager to chat through any questions about a small group tour or our travel style to check there is a match.

If you’ve travelled anywhere in developing countries recently you might have noticed that your drivers, tour operators, or guides brought you to their preferred restaurant or shop during your trip . There’s a good chance they were rewarded by the business owners for bringing paying customers. This happens in developed countries too.

Odyssey Traveller does not typically provide shopping stops or have preferred restaurants where any form of financial remuneration is received. Odyssey likes its tour manager and tour guide to be independent when leading an organised tour.

In fact, affiliate commissions and deals between tour companies and hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions is a big thing. It’s almost impossible to find out if arrangements between the tour company and the businesses they visit exist. However, the more ethical the company, the less chance of this happening.

Ask to eat in another restaurant or shop in another store/area if you’re not happy with it. If the prices for where you are being taken  seems high, feel free to go somewhere else if it not a group meal pre-paid. If the tour guide isn’t taking commissions he won’t have a problem with this.

Like most tours, one of the best things about a small group tour is having everything pre-arranged for you. With all your transport, accommodation, sightseeing, entries, tipping  and some meals organised for you, a small group tour is a hassle-free way to travel. And being pre-arranged means that the majority of your holiday costs are pre-paid so you’re not dipping into your pocket all the time. All you have to worry about is being ready to join your group each morning for the day’s outings. 

Travellers who have a particular interest in history, the performing arts, art history, Dinosaurs and Archaeology, gardens cross continent train journeys, or walking/hiking, for example, are well catered for, with numerous small group tour companies offering itineraries that are based around these interests. At Odyssey Traveller which seek to offer programs that appeal and excite the mind with where we go or the theme of a tour from the Industrial Revolution, Victorian Britain, Learning about Caravaggio or Monet, studying English garden design or visiting the Islands of Scotland. Odyssey Traveller has more than 200 small group tours to choose from with multiple departures offered for you to choose from each. Our dates of departure are typically posted some two years in advance to assist you with planning your time and travel adventures. 

A small group of fellow travellers (usually around 12 to 16). More opportunities to interact with tour leader and fellow passengers. The tour leader usually has an intimate knowledge of the places you are visiting. A smaller vehicle means ease of access. All accommodation , transport, sightseeing and some meals pre-arranged. Majority of expenses pre-paid.

There really is a small group tour to suit everyone but many clients fit the following profiles:

  • Are travellers who prefer to have everything organised on their behalf but don’t want to join a large coach tour with 40+ other guests.
  • Wants to experience a particular country or region in-depth rather than visit numerous countries in a whirlwind tour , and may have previously visited Europe.
  • Has a particular interest in food and wine, gardens, hiking, etc. and wants to include their hobby with their holiday.
  • Are mature travellers and/or retirees.

Small group tours operate in most European countries as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland. France and Italy are by far the most popular small group tour destinations. for Australian travellers, particularly for those with an interest in food and wine. The Central European countries, Croatia and Slovenia,  Greece, Turkey  & Georgia are other favourites. Whilst Scandinavia and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia & Latvia  are also popular.

Final thoughts & advice in reaping the benefits of a small group tour for the mature and senior traveller.

There are a lot of companies offering an escorted tour in the senior travel market too many different places in the world.  You should be comfortable and confident with the tour operator you choose. After your conversations by phone, email or web chat ask yourself if you feel comfortable with this tour company. Are they friendly and relaxed in their discussions with you about a small group tour? Do you feel like you are being pitched to in a desperate/pushy way? If the conversation sounds desperate, aggressive, or full of up-sells, then you should look for an alternative tour company. This is your trip and you don’t need pushy operators creating a stressful environment.

You should chat with the customer service or sales team to find out what kinds of people run and lead the tour you are considering taking. An important question to ask is what kind of people take a tour with this company, at Odyssey Traveller, we willingly share this information and more with you. We want to be transparent with no surprises or embarrassment when the tour commences. We also expect our travellers to treat us in the same way, so if you have mobility or other issues relating to health, including special diets, we would like to know in order to make your’s and your travelling companions tour as enjoyable as possible.

If you travel as a couple or are a single traveler, then you probably won’t want to be on a tour with one large ‘class reunion’ group. The point is the tour company and your travel agent should be able to guide you and help you decide when and where to go and with whom you should book with. You will spend several weeks with the guides so you should feel comfortable with the company you choose to holiday with.

Choosing a group tour doesn’t have to be difficult. Start by deciding on the type of tour you prefer. It’s better to stick with a plan so that you can compare between tour group companies. A 5-day tour from one group tour company won’t be anything like a 30-day tour from another. Even if the price is the same.

You should pick a preferred period of travel, detail the things you want to see, set a budget, and settle on preferred modes of transport. This makes it easier to find the right group for you. Go with your instincts and don’t sign up for something just because a travel agent sold you on the idea.

The best group tour for the over 50s, for example, will in most cases be a company that specialises in tour programs designed for the senior travel market. A tour operator or travel agent offering an escorted tour for the older traveller such as Odyssey Traveller understands their ideal clients better than generalists. The more experienced tour operator will learn what their clients prefer and tailor the tour selected to suit them. At Odyssey Traveller we are passionate about creating a small group tour as part of a portfolio of some 500 departures a year, that our collection of loyal senior travellers seeks to book and experience with us year after year. In the end, the better Odyssey Traveller can serve our existing and new clients, the happier everyone is with their experience of exploring the world.

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