Thinking about getting away this winter? You can save big on some beautiful places by booking with a group.
Group trips can be a deal, since operators get discounts for booking in bulk. The key is finding the right one for you. The best tours pair a great itinerary with compatible travelers. Try these strategies to get both:
- Don’t assume smaller is better. Tiny groups aren’t for everyone, says Peter Grubb of ROW Adventures. Big tours can be daunting, but small ones mean lots of time with a few people.
- Read the crowd. Honeymooners may not want to tour with retirees and vice versa. A good operator will tell you about the type of folks who typically take the trip, including ages and travel styles.
- Know yourself. Most tours mean following a schedule and accommodating others, says Greg Geronemus of outfitter smarTours. Control freak? Pick a self-guided trip or one with free time.
Ready to take the plunge? Here are three great destinations to check out.
Toronto-based G Adventures specializes in thrill-centric trips with a twist: The firm offers similar itineraries in a range of styles and prices. So travelers looking for a pulse-pounding Costa Rican vacation can opt for the “Classic” 16-day trip ($1,599) and save 20% over a similar 14-day “Comfort” outing, which includes more private transfers and high-end lodging. The cheaper trip may use more modest hotels, but it doesn’t skimp on activities. Participants hike the Arenal Volcano, tour Monteverde’s cloud forest, take a boat ride to Tortuguero National Park, and hang out in surf- and kayak-friendly Manuel Antonio.
Does sticking to a daily schedule sound like the opposite of a vacation to you? Try a self-guided tour, like Country Walkers’ six-day trip through -Sonoma and Napa Valley. On this trip, you can go at your own pace, using an itinerary and maps provided by the tour operator, says travel agent Carol Steffens of Travel Leaders–Discovery. You’ll explore wine country on foot, stopping for tastings and cellar tours along the way, eventually rejoining the rest of your group at the same hotel that evening. (Your luggage will be transferred.) Don’t mind cool spring weather? Book a March departure for $1,798 and save 20% over high-season rates.
Taking a trip with a nonprofit rather than a standard tour operator has two advantages: Your money goes to a group you support, and you’ll cut the cost of your vacation. Willing to rough it? A seven-day trip through Texas’s Big Bend National Park with the Sierra Club Outings starts at $945, while a similar seven-day itinerary from a for-profit operator costs $2,795 or more. Travelers on the Sierra Club’s tour will visit hot springs, hike through natural wonders like the limestone canyon Devil’s Den, and camp out under the Texas sky.