Travelling internationally as part of a group tour can be a wonderful experience. For starters, you don’t need to think about where you’re going to stay, where you’re going to eat most of the time, or how you’re going to get from one place to the next without any stress. You just need to turn up and let your Tour Leader manage the rest. But the big bonus of group travel is the friends you make on tour – when like-minded people gather, it’s inevitable that connections will be made. For some, these friendships last a lifetime.
Group tours cater for everyone from students to octogenarians but there’s a lot of chatter and debate about what constitutes a ‘small group’ when it comes to international travel. Tour operators have different definitions, depending on the type of tour they’re offering. For travellers, there are some who consider a small group to be 10 or less, while others accept anything under 30 people as being ‘small’.
So, what is the optimal group size when you’re heading overseas and why?
I’ve travelled independently, as one of a couple, with friends, and with groups of various sizes, and I’ve led numerous international and domestic tours of groups of 8-80 people.
When it comes to international travel, my experience and the research of others, including Railway Adventures, puts the magic number at 16-21 with 25 being the maximum for a truly great experience.
Why you can be confident travelling in a group of 20
From a more competitive price, to access to more experiences, to being guaranteed of making a friend, here’s just some of the reasons why travelling with a group of 20 is a good idea.
1. The tour price is more competitive
The larger the group, the better deals your tour operator can get. Most hotels, restaurants and transport providers offer more attractive prices for groups larger than 15 people. This means the tour company can then pass on those discounts in the tour price.
2. You’re guaranteed to make friends
Everyone has a great travel story that involves meeting people with whom they’ve stayed in contact and even travelled with again. The smaller the group, the easier it is to remember everyone’s names, a very important component of getting along with someone new and forming a friendship!
International research across numerous tour operators and travel companies, including Railway Adventures, suggests that with 21 people in a group, everyone makes 2-5 new friends. It goes on to demonstrate that the smaller the group size, the less likely you are to meet someone of a similar ilk, and the larger the group size the more likely you are to get a bit overwhelmed and keep to yourself.
3. There’s safety in numbers
Personal safety is very important to all of us when we travel, particularly for women, who have always felt insecure when moving about alone in a foreign place. Sometimes, this means we don’t get to do something we really wanted to do because we’re just too afraid to go out alone. In a group size of 16-25, there’s always going to be someone who’s interested in the same things you are, so you’ll never struggle for a buddy to accompany you in any free time you have on the tour.
4. There’s more room on the coach
This is something people don’t often think about. Most tour companies have to use coaches at some time in the itinerary. The smaller the group, the smaller the coaches provided. In a group of 20, you’ll be assigned a larger coach, often a 36 or 42-seater, which means more room to relax and enjoy the journey without having your knees up around your ears. Trust me, you don’t want to be sardined into a minibus or a minivan for a 4-hour journey over the alps!
5. Better experiences
A huge advantage of group travel is that you get special access to certain places. This often means you beat the crowds and can truly immerse yourself in the magnificence around you ahead of the hordes queuing outside. Early openings and a private guide in museums like The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, the Vatican Museums, and The Pergamon in Berlin are just some examples. However, these benefits often don’t kick in until your group size meets a minimum number.
6. More opportunities to try something new
As well as special access to museums and so on, a group of 16-25 can also get up close and personal with cultural activities and experiences. If the group is too small, it’s not financially viable for the community to host the activity and if it’s too big, it is logistically too difficult.
7. You’re only alone if you want to be
The beauty of group travel is that you can go off on your own and do things if you want to but then you have your tour family to celebrate with when you want to. In a group of 20 people, there will always be people to go out with if you’re in the mood.
8. Different personalities coexist in greater harmony
The smaller the group, the trickier it is if you find yourself in the company of a person you really don’t get along with. For me, that’s the dominant chatterer – the one who knows everything about everything and can’t wait to tell you! In a group of 20, it’s easier to politely avoid that person, while spending time with those you find more appealing.
9. Group meals are way more fun
Many tour companies, like Railway Adventures, provide great value for money by including most of your meals, usually always in local restaurants so you can not only enjoy the cuisine of the country you’re in, but feel that you’re genuinely supporting their economy at the same time. This can get a bit boring if you’re in a group that’s too small – after all, there’s only so much to learn about a person! In a larger group, you can sit next to a different person each time if you want to.
Less isn’t always more when it comes to travelling in a group
For all the reasons I’ve mentioned above, going too small may not result in the travel experience you’re thinking you’ll get. At Railway Adventures, we aim to deliver a fun and memorable holiday filled with interesting people, places, and experiences. The overwhelmingly positive feedback we consistently receive encourages us to keep our international tour group size at more than 15 but less than 25.
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By Bernadette Eichner
Scott McGregor’s Railway Adventures tour is more than just a holiday, it is a unique way to experience the world. By train you are completely immersed in culture and adventure, exploring the most scenic corners of the world in the comfort of a luxury train. Whether you are an experienced traveller or just beginning to explore this wonderful world, Railway Adventures has something for everyone. Transform your holiday into the most unforgettable adventure of a lifetime with Railway Adventures.
Call 1300 800 977 to request a brochure on our tours in 2023 and 2024.