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 large number of travellers there are those who want something in between and that’s where a small group tour of Europe – with all its advantages – comes in.
With a focus on promoting European holidays to Australian travellers, the holiday directory on Holidays to Europe includes numerous small group tour companies that offer this type of holiday and through speaking with the tour operators, I have come to appreciate the passion they all have for providing a unique tour experience for their guests.
One of the main advantages of small group travel in Europe is the fact that it is just that – small. 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.
Your small group tour leader has intimate knowledge
Your tour leader is often the owner of the company and more often than not has either lived in the country or region you are visiting, or has spent a considerable amount of time there.
This means they have an intimate knowledge of the places you’ll visit and in some instances this might mean visiting a winery or a restaurant owned by a family friend.
Many guests also value the security of having a tour leader who is familiar with the area and can speak the local language.
Small group tours of Europe can get off the beaten path
Another advantage of a small group tour in Europe is accessibility. 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.
With small group travel everything is pre-arranged
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 Europe.
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 board your bus each morning for the day’s outings.
Because many small group tours focus on a single country or a specific region, you may find that your tour stays at just one or two hotels 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.
Small group tours offer flexibility
Another bonus of being part of a small group tour in Europe 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 guests to re-arrange plans than it is for one with 50 guests in tow. That walking tour you were scheduled to do today can be changed to another day or a museum visit can be offered in its place.
There’s usually free time built in to your daily itinerary, too, giving you the opportunity to explore on your own or relax at your hotel.
Small group tours for special interests
Travellers who have a particular interest in food and wine, gardens or hiking, for example, are well catered for, too, with numerous small group tour companies offering itineraries that are based around these interests.
There are also small group tours specifically for women, and White Christmas tours are always popular with travellers from the southern hemisphere.
What can I expect on a small group tour of Europe?
- 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
Who does a small group tour tour of Europe suit best?
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 (there are exceptions, of course. For example, some White Christmas small group tours are very family friendly.)
Which European countries can you visit on a small group tour?
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, Scandinavia, Greece, the UK and Ireland are other favourites.
Have I convinced you of the advantages of joining a small group tour in Europe?
Top image: Photo Dollar Photo Club / kasto