Custom Touring

Probably you like our style of touring – going off the beaten path, with small group sizes and therefore flexible itineraries – and maybe you belong to some type of group or club or association that wishes to put together a travel experience for its members.

Why not have The Travel Insider create a one-off unique group tour for you and your fellow group members.  You can specify exactly the itinerary you wish, the style of touring, the dates of travel, and – within obvious limits – the price of the tour as well.

We’ve been helping groups of all sizes, from very small to very large, with their travels since the early 1990s.  Have us help you too!

Here’s some information to get you thinking.  We’re of course available to help with every part of your tour designing and planning.

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What is the Minimum Size Group?

That’s easy.  The minimum size group we’ll work with is one person.  In other words, there’s no minimum (but very small groups can be more expensive).

What is the Maximum Group Size

Just like there’s no minimum size, there’s also no maximum size, at least in theory.

In practice though, there comes a point where groups become “too big”.  It becomes harder to get hotel rooms, to arrange good meals in nice restaurants, and so on.

One rule of thumb to consider is that if/when your group gets too large for one coach, then you have to start thinking if you really want to add a second (and third, etc) coach or if maybe one coach load is enough for this time and you offer a second tour for a second coach load.

But going to two coaches is not always a deal breaker.  Having two or more coaches is sometimes more impactful than other times.  It depends on the itinerary, how much time you’re traveling by coach, and how much time you can be doing group things together outside of the coaching.  Conventions and trade shows – things like that – obviously aren’t as restricted by coach loads as is a classic type of touring itinerary.

A regular coach typically holds anywhere from 45 to 70 people if every seat is filled.  If you’re doing more than brief transfers, we generally recommend keeping the coaches less than completely full.  With our own tours, we try not to exceed two thirds, and hopefully never go over three quarters.

Three quarters full means that in each row – two seats on either side of the aisle – there is an average of one of the four seats free.  Two thirds means even more empty seats.

That is nice, because it means single people don’t need to sit with strangers if they don’t want to, a group of three can have four seats for the three of them, and two larger sized people don’t have to squeeze into one double seat.

So, 2/3 of a 45 seater coach is 30 people.  3/4 of a 70 seater coach is 52 people.  Somewhere between 30 – 50 people usually makes for a comfortable full coach load.

What is the Best Size Group

That’s an easy question to ask and a harder question to answer.

It depends on the type of group and the type of itinerary.

If everyone knows each other already, then there are less social downsides to a larger group.  But if the group members are meeting for the first time, a larger size group can seem less friendly than a smaller group.

On the other hand, the group dynamic for a single one day tour is very different to a ten day tour.  People are more willing to make the effort to mix and mingle on a multi-day tour.

There can sometimes also be a minimum size below which you don’t want your group to drop.  This means that with a sufficiently large group, people can be sure to be able to find other people they do like, and to avoid any group members they don’t like!

Again, this depends on the people in the group, how well they know each other already, and what types of common interests all group members will share to give them some things to help build friendships.

If it is an “affinity group” with common interests, the size can grow larger than if it is a random collection of people with nothing much in common except an interest in the group tour.

How Does the Cost Vary with Group Size

The simple answer is that larger groups generally have better costings than smaller groups.  From a cost effectiveness perspective, if you’re wanting to have a full size coach and driver, and also guide, and possibly tour manager too accompany your group, the more people in your group, the more people in your group you can spread these fixed costs over, the lower the cost per person will become.

But it isn’t quite as simple as that.  If the group gets larger, it might need a larger coach.  It might need two guides rather than one at destinations.  Hotels that might offer free luggage portage for a small group might turn around and charge for a larger group.

We should also point out that these added-value services aren’t just costs without any matching features and benefits.  Having your own coach and driver at your beck and call is the ultimate in luxurious convenience.  Even a small number of people will find traveling by full size coach amazingly better than by private car or (ugh!) van or mini-bus.  You have huge picture windows, reclining seats, overhead space, an aisle to move around in, probably an on-board toilet, and perhaps an onboard fridge or water heater too.

Because you’re up high, you’ve much better views out the coach windows, and the air suspension and muted exhaust make for a smooth, comfortable and quiet ride.

We even know some up-market couples who do all their travel in a full size 45+ seater coach just because it is so much nicer than in any other type of ground transportation.

Similarly, having your own guide makes for a more interesting and informative experience, and having your own tour manager means that you are freed from the hassle of most of the tour paperwork and administration.  Your tour manager waits in line for you, your tour manager does the checking in and out for you, while you are free to do as you please.

When it comes to sharing the fixed costs of a coach, driver, guide, etc, some people suggest a practical minimum is ten people.  But it really depends on what you want and how you want it.

Group Discounts

We’d like to tell you that your group will get discounted rates and save money, but that’s probably not the case these days.

Back in the “good old days” – whenever and whatever they were – there were indeed group discounts on airfares and hotel rooms.  But these days, sometimes a group will find itself paying more than the apparent lowest price for individuals.

This is because the group might have 10 or 20 people in it, and the supplier has allocated only 5 spaces at their maximum discounted rate, another 10 at the second lowest rate, and another 10 at the third lowest rate.

So the best case scenario is that a group of 20 might get the five cheapest tickets, 10 at the next rate, and 5 more at the next rate.  This is no more than normal, but for a person looking at the rate for one person rather than wanting to buy enough for 20 people, it seems like the group is paying more rather than simply buying out all the cheapest tickets and so on.

Single Supplements Explained

One point of regular misunderstanding is how and why single supplements exist.  These mainly relate to hotel accommodation (or cabins on ships).

Imagine a hotel that sells its rooms for $100 per room per night, and charges the same rate whether one or two people in the room.  That’s the usual scenario in much of the world these days, and if you’re traveling as a couple, you feel good that there is no extra cost to have two people rather than one in the room.

But, now switch from thinking about this as “the same cost per room” and now think about it per person.  If you’re traveling with another person, then you both pay $50 per person, and that way the hotel gets the full $100 for the room.

But if you’re traveling by yourself, you still pay the same $100 for the room, but you’ve got no-one to share the cost with, so the way this is shown in a tour price is typically “tour price $50 per person, share twin; single surcharge $50”.

Sometimes a hotel might charge $100 for two people and only $90 or $80 for one (especially if breakfast is included), in which case it would be $50 per person plus $40 or $30 single surcharge.

And because the tour price includes things like tour costs and a share of the coach hire which are shared equally no matter what the rooming arrangements, the single surcharge is usually just a small part of the total tour cost.  Maybe “$2500 per person, single surcharge $450” or whatever.

Free Places in a Group

Often group arrangers will say “You get one free place in the tour for every (some number of) paying group members.  Sometimes this is “one free for every ten”, sometimes it is for every 15 or 20.  Sometimes, if you get 15, you get one place free, if you get 30, you get two, and so on without limit.  Other times, you get a maximum of only one or two free places, no matter how large your group becomes.

It is true that some suppliers of touring, food, accommodation, etc, will offer some free places more or less on that basis, and it sort of makes sense to then pass it directly on to the group and its organizers.  On the other hand, you know the saying – TANSTAAFL.  There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch.  That’s true of most things in life, and definitely true of “free places in a group”.

The person costing out the group has to decide whether anything free that is received from suppliers be used to reduce the cost of everyone, equally, or if all group members pay the “normal price” and the free items be given to the group organizer to use as they think most appropriate.

We can work on either basis.  We also have to say that these days suppliers are much less generous with what they give for free.

Where We Specialize

It is a big world out there, and while we’ve been fortunate to travel to some of it – taking groups even to places as out-of-the-ordinary as North Korea and the Faroe Islands – there’s a lot more we’ve not been to.

Our major competencies are in UK/Europe, the former Soviet Union and Central Asia, and the South Pacific.  Even if you’ve been to those places before, we can almost surely come up with a new perspective and itinerary to show you such places in a fresh way.

We may also be able to help elsewhere – by all means ask.

 

Meals

A classic old-fashioned group tour used to include all the meals.  We never understood why, because typically the meals were very “institutional” with limited menus and not very good food, and fixed meal times.

These days, better groups allow their group members as much freedom as possible when it comes to choosing what they eat, where and when.

Generally we recommend you include breakfasts but no other meals except for :

(a)  A group welcome dinner for everyone to socialize and get more familiar with each other, and to help create some group spirit

(b)  Specialty meals that are unusual, distinctive, or included as part of a tour – for example, a lunchtime harbor cruise, perhaps

(c)  Meals if there’s only one place to eat in terms of where you’ll be at (eg) lunch time

(d)  A group farewell dinner at the end of the tour to provide a nice positive conclusion to the group experience

Everything Else….

We could write a book on how to create and promote group travel.  Indeed, we have (not yet published).

We can be your complete resource for all parts of planning, arranging, and managing your group.

Let us know how we can help.  That’s what we’re here for.

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