You've come to rely on The Travel Insider for sensible advice and down to earth commentary on travel and travel technology related issues - we've been acting as a voice of reason and common sense in this role since 2001.
These same characteristics are now applied to our Groupless Touring - Where Less is More.
Chances are you wouldn't be comfortable on a traditional coaching tour. Neither would we. So we've created a touring strategy that allows you as much individual flexibility as possible, while still giving you the convenience and companionship of having pre-arranged travels organized for you and other like minded souls.
We call this Groupless Touring - Where Less is More. Read on to understand more about this strategy.
We offer interesting and quality experiences that include a combination of self guided and fully escorted traveling and touring.
Our itineraries typically combine a mix of well known 'must see' sights with some less well known 'insider secret' activities.
When it is financially prudent, we will give you as much comfort and flexibility as possible, and when having you do a bit more of the work yourself can save you big money, we'll arrange things that way too.
We believe that the best vacation is neither the cheapest nor the most expensive, but rather it is the one in which you are most relaxed and enjoying yourself. We focus on creating this relaxed enjoying experience for you in a generally four star quality environment.
We have helped tens of thousands of travelers with their vacation experiences. No-one has ever come back and complained that we arranged an itinerary that was 'too good'. With this experience, we know that a good vacation includes some personal indulgences and small luxuries - while still being prudently sensible with costs.
Of course, itineraries allow you the flexibility to extend or vary your stay at the beginning and end of the core part of the experience, and so we try and design our tours to start and end in interesting places.
You are usually able to join any tour at any point, and to leave it at any other point. We'll customize the tour for you however you wish.
You can even choose between traveling by coach with other group members, or driving yourself in a rental car, meeting up with other participants as you wish, each evening at the hotel, and perhaps during the day at activity stops.
All activities are optional and everything can be changed to suit yourself, albeit probably with some added cost.
Small Numbers, Small Places (but big buses!)
You don't want to be surrounded by too many other people when you're on vacation. You're trying to get out of the rat race, not rejoin it with a vengeance.
And so we keep the numbers of people on our tours small. This means less time spent waiting in lines, and more individual treatment. If you're being given a personally guided tour somewhere, it means you're not at the back of a huge group and unable to hear the guide and see what they are talking about.
A smaller number of people traveling together means we can go to smaller places that can not handle, and which do not welcome, large groups.
It means that you get to know your fellow travelers, and you can jointly discuss and agree to 'on the spot' variations to your shared itinerary. If it can be done, it will be done. We often will make tweaks to our daily itinerary, and also will add extra photo stops on request whenever our day's schedule allows it. We see our role as enablers to help enhance your enjoyment, not as constrainers to limit your experience.
Small group sizes mean we can use friendly and characterful small hotels, rather than busy big mega-hotels overflowing with large group tours.
But one thing we keep big. Our deluxe coaches. Mini-buses are horribly cramped, noisy, and uncomfortable. Our coaches get you up high above the rest of the traffic where you have a much better view as you tour through the countryside. They usually have a rest-room on board, and may have hot or cold drink facilities, too. We usually limit group sizes to no more than two thirds of the seating capacity, so if you want to spread out a bit, chances are you can.
Your Fellow Travelers
Particularly with smaller sized groups, the people you are traveling with can have a big influence on how positive your total experience is.
Travel Insider group members tend to be well educated and well traveled. They are often retired, but still active and eager to see more of the world.
They are interesting and intelligent, and make for great traveling companions.
We've all seen them - the couples that rush to the coach so as to get the very best seats. That's not fair. We have a rotating schedule for the front seats to ensure everyone gets a turn up front.
With our oversized coaches that we don't fill, you're never going to be uncomfortably wedged into the very middle of the very back row on the coach.
'Less is More'
By now, you're probably starting to understand what we mean by 'less is more'. Less rigid structure, less people traveling together, with less restrictions and rules. Which means more convenience and more flexibility. It means, most of all, a more positive experience for you.
Sounds like a great idea, doesn't it! Try it with Travel Insider Groupless Touring.
The 'Groupless Group' thing
A balanced mix of group activities and free time, and a small size group, generally of broadly compatible friendly people, means you're not in an impersonal regimented touring experience but rather you're traveling with new friends on a flexible schedule.
We try and mix and match arranged/coordinated activities with free time and flexibility, and we've even been known to completely change itineraries 'on the fly' when requested to do so by group members.
Here's what traveler Mike said after his first tour with us :
We guess he meant it. He and his wife have returned several times on other tours, and bringing other friends with them too!
We hope you'll feel the same way (and also keep coming back, too!)
Travel Insider Groupless Touring is experiential. You don't just see the world through the tinted window of a tour bus. You'll go places and do things that give you more participation in your travels. For example, we don't just drive through the rainforest. We walk through it.
If you are reasonably fit and able to comfortably walk a mile or so, and up 75 or so steps, then you will fully enjoy our touring.
You're still welcome to come with us if this would be an inconvenient level of activity, but we would ask you to adjust your expectations, rather than expect us to adjust our tour.
We have had mobility-impaired people travel with us, and they tend to not always get off the coach at short stops, and stay closer to the coach at longer stops, and sometimes might do other things at their own pace. We'll help you in such cases as best we can, and you should discuss this with us prior to joining.
We don't limit ourselves to generic international brand hotels - we prefer interesting hotels with character and charm. Hotels are generally of a 'good value good quality' standard, of a sort often rated as 'first class' or 'four star'. They are seldom 'deluxe', but better than what is sometimes called 'tourist class' or 'standard'.
Hotels are conveniently and sensibly located, with preference being given to hotels that are within walking distance of the main attractions or downtown area in each location. They are generally the same hotels that we stay at, ourselves, when traveling alone.
Because we don't just visit the 'tourist trap' areas and big cities, sometimes there are no four star hotels where we choose to stay overnight. In these cases, we use the best available hotels - we think it is better to have an average quality hotel in a special or convenient area than a good quality hotel in a boring tourist trap location.
Because we prefer not to use generic chain hotels, there is often a major variation in room size and view and even quality within a hotel. We fill the best available rooms in the category we book first, of course, but inevitably, any time we have two or more rooms at one hotel in use by our travelers, one of the rooms will be better than the other. Our type of travelers will see their glass as half full, not half empty, on such occasions!
Sometimes hotels have several different types of accommodation and different prices - standard rooms, deluxe rooms, suites, or perhaps rooms with view and rooms with no view. We typically offer you the opportunity to request upgraded rooms, with modest additional costs of course applying in such cases.
Unless advised otherwise, all hotel rooms include a private bathroom.
Some of the smaller hotels have neither elevators nor bell boys, and you might find yourself needing to carry your own bags up several flights of stairs. Please keep that in mind when packing!
We usually include two dinners in most itineraries - a welcome 'get to know you' dinner at the start of the tour, and a wrap-up farewell dinner at the end of each tour.
Other than these two dinners, if we can include breakfasts at a fair price, we will do so, but if we feel the breakfast prices are ridiculous (and not prices you'd pay if making the choice yourself) then we'll leave them out.
Occasionally there may be situations where a meal is a major experience in itself (eg on a harbor cruise) and so these may be included in the itinerary. And sometimes we might be staying somewhere special, away from other nearby dining choices, and if this hotel has good dinner rates that make sense to pre-purchase on your behalf, we'll again do so.
If you have special dietary requirements, this will be advised to all caterers, but we can not guarantee they will consistently be able to meet your special needs to your complete satisfaction.
Single travelers are welcome on our itineraries. Our groups are always open and friendly, and we usually have a significant number of single travelers enjoying our tours (including a surprising number of married people who are leaving their spouse at home!).
If you wish to have a room to yourself, then we'll quote you a fair single supplement.
If you prefer, we'll try to introduce you to any other single travelers. If two of you choose, you can share a room with a compatible travel partner and avoid the nasty single supplement.
As a compromise, we also sometimes have singles who will share for some of the tour but not all the tour, giving themselves an occasional night somewhere where they treat themselves to a separate room each. Whatever you want, we'll try to help you with.
We'll share mini-bios between you. You can decide yourself what criteria make a suitable room mate and share or not, whatever is most comfortable for you.
When we're traveling on our own hired coach, we request no smoking on board the coach, but have regular stops while touring to allow smokers a chance to get off the coach and have a cigarette.
We will request smoking or non-smoking rooms for you at the hotels, but in some areas and with most hotels, these choices are not offered - either all rooms are smoking or all rooms are non-smoking.
If we're in a restaurant, together as a group, we typically request non-smoking seating.
In much of the rest of the world smoking is more common and subject to fewer restrictions than in the US.
Pricing and Value
Without a doubt, you could make similar arrangements by yourself, and travel alone, for no more money and often for somewhat less. If getting the very cheapest cost for your travel is important to you, then our type of touring will not appeal.
You'll also find cheaper traditional group tours, because we never fill coaches more than two thirds full, and choose better hotels. Traditional tours cram people into every possible seat, and thereby spread the cost of the coach, driver, tour leader, and guide over more paying passengers.
But you won't find better value tours offering a similar combination of flexibility and convenience. Of that we're very certain, and very proud.
Come travel with us, and see for yourself!