Tips and Inspiration for your European holiday

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.


Small group tours in EuropeWith less fellow travellers on a small group tour, getting up close and personal to the famous sites is a big advantage. Photo Dollar Photo Club / kasto


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.


Bibury EnglandA small group tour can take you to the heart of places that larger tours can't, like Bibury in England's Cotswold district. Photo Dollar Photo Club / Snowshill


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.


Group of travellers in Greece© Dollar Photo Club / Olaf Wandruschka

 
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.


Rural village in FranceOff-the-beaten-path villages that aren't on the regular tourist trail are a popular reason for joining small group tours in Europe. Photo Dollar Photo Club / Jenifoto

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.

 

Couple on vacation 


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.)

Browse small group tours in Europe


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? You can browse a large range of small group tours to Europe in the Holidays to Europe travel directory.  You might also like to read how to choose the right European coach tour for you.

 

Tell me, what do you see as the main advantages of joining a small group tour in Europe?

 

 

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Comments   

# Carolyn 2016-02-11 15:33
Quoting Harry Cadle:
I can fully endorse the article. My clients on Tour de Europe would gag at the prospect of a coach tour as well as the possibility of sitting next to a large lady from Texas with elastic waist floral pants. They appreciate the flexibility of travelling at their own speed and not on somebody else s timetable. A car or minibus allows you to go into areas that a coach couldn't reach, but you have the company of your fellow travellers at night

I think that's what is so appealing about small group tours, Harry. There's flexibility in the itinerary and the chance to see more out of the way places but you still have the security and companionship of others. The best of both worlds.
Reply
# Harry Cadle 2016-02-11 14:40
I can fully endorse the article. My clients on Tour de Europe would gag at the prospect of a coach tour as well as the possibility of sitting next to a large lady from Texas with elastic waist floral pants. They appreciate the flexibility of travelling at their own speed and not on somebody else s timetable. A car or minibus allows you to go into areas that a coach couldn't reach, but you have the company of your fellow travellers at night
Reply
# Carolyn 2016-02-08 10:00
Quoting Lucy:
Hi Carolyn
Thanks for the article on small group tours.
We are planning on a trip to UK next year and I have just started doing my research. I would love to know the pictures in the article, what small group tour it was?
Also what would you recommend? And must see places in UK
Thank you
Lucy

Hi Lucy,
Thanks for your comments. It's great to hear you are planning a trip to the UK next year and have decided on a small group tour. The photos in the article above aren't from a particular tour but many of the small group tour companies that visit the UK include the Cotswolds (the second photo) in their itineraries. If you have a look in the holiday directory on this site (http://www.holidaystoeurope.com.au/home/holidayideas/tours/small-group-tours) you'll see a range of companies that offer tours to the UK.
For my own 'must see' places in the UK, have a look at this article: http://www.holidaystoeurope.com.au/home/resources/european-travel-blog-news-travel-tips/797-european-itineraries-england-and-wales-by-car-in-16-days. This was my own personal itinerary from a couple of years ago and will give you an idea of many of the highlights and places I'd recommend you visit.
Wishing you safe and happy travels.
Carolyn
Reply
# Lucy 2016-02-05 20:10
Hi Carolyn
Thanks for the article on small group tours.
We are planning on a trip to UK next year and I have just started doing my research. I would love to know the pictures in the article, what small group tour it was?
Also what would you recommend? And must see places in UK
Thank you
Lucy
Reply
# Carolyn 2016-02-03 15:39
Quoting Sheryl:
Hi Carolyn,
Just this last week I have been looking at small tours groups in Italy and then your email newsletter comes along. We usually travel independently, I book,organize everything. But I haven't been to Italy for 40 years and having my husband drive us around France 18 months ago I didn't want to put him through that again. So thought there must be small tours. I have found one I like the sound of & the tours they offer. They Amber Road tours, have you heard of them & if so how do they rate? Our age bracket is 56-59. thank you Sheryl

Hi Sheryl,
I'm very glad you found the article useful. Small group tours are definitely a hassle-free way to travel - I'm sure your husband will thank you for choosing one!! I haven't heard of Amber Road Tours but I did a quick Google search and see they are a US company which is probably why I haven't heard of them. The majority of the small group tour companies listed in the Holidays to Europe travel directory or Australian or New Zealand-owned. Whoever you choose to travel with, I hope you have a fabulous time.
Reply
# Sheryl 2016-02-02 23:45
Hi Carolyn,
Just this last week I have been looking at small tours groups in Italy and then your email newsletter comes along. We usually travel independently, I book,organize everything. But I haven't been to Italy for 40 years and having my husband drive us around France 18 months ago I didn't want to put him through that again. So thought there must be small tours. I have found one I like the sound of & the tours they offer. They Amber Road tours, have you heard of them & if so how do they rate? Our age bracket is 56-59. thank you Sheryl
Reply