Small Group Tours for 30 & 40 Year Olds – Debunking the Myths
For many people, Small Group Tours in their 30s and 40s is not something they would typically consider. They can often be perceived as being too “touristy”. Here founder of Other Way Round, Steve Dillon, highlights the most common myths associated with group travel and discusses his mission to blast away those stereotypes.
Small Group Tours for 30 & 40 Year Olds
Back in 2017 I quit my corporate career to launch a small group tour company for 30 and 40 year olds –Other Way Round.
Going into the venture I was fully aware that the phrase ‘group tour’ tends to have a bit of a stigma attached to it.
Especially for people of my generation.
But having been on some awesome group trips myself, I knew that when done correctly they can be amazing experiences.
Besides, the plan was to create something very different – more modern, adventurous and personal – the exact opposite of those outdated tour groups people tend to imagine when that dirty word ‘tour’ pops up.
I quickly realised though, that my biggest challenge would not be in creating such a tour company, but in convincing my peers that it was possible to do a group tour which was not touristy.
In this post I talk a little about my journey and highlight 9 of the most common myths I hear about small group tours.
(Read also: Why I Started a Group Travel Company for 30 Somethings)
So I excitedly set of to create this small group tour company which would specialise in group tours for people in their 30s and 40s.
The very first thing I did was to run the idea past my own group of friends.
It’s fair to say I got a mixed response.
- “It looks brilliant” (this more or less matched who I thought would like it)
- “My parents would love this” (hmmm…not really what I was looking for but thanks)
- “It looks cool. If I was the ‘type of person who goes on group tours’ I’d definitely do this” (ok, so why don’t you)?
- “It’s awesome! Although I mean, not for me, I always prefer to plan trips myself “(fair enough, but can I ask why)?
- “The itinerary looks amazing, well done. But one question… who would actually go on this? I mean, who’s your target customer?” (errrr, I was thinking you).
- To my personal favourite “this trip is for the sort of person who’d buy a turnkey London flat, has money but no inclination to design or make choices” (ouch, that one hurt)!
Here’s what I learned from this exercise.
While those who were already open to the concept of an organised small group tour absolutely loved the idea…
there’s a large portion of my generation (I was mid-30s at that point) who just flat out wouldn’t even consider such a trip.
It doesn’t really matter where it is.
What the activities are.
Who’s in the group.
Simply the very idea of an organised small group tour for 30 and 40 somethings just doesn’t appeal to many people due to the common stereotypes associated with them.
My vision was to create a tour group which would brake down these stereotypes.
(Read also: Swapping Solo Travel for Group Tour)
Who in their 30s & 40s Goes on Group Tours?
So who are these folk that actually go on group tours then?
Well, me for a start!
Even in my daily life I’ve always enjoyed being part of groups or teams.
I’ve played in football teams all my life; I’m currently a member of a triathlon club; I’ll choose gym classes over working out alone any day; I prefer to run and bike with friends; and well, you get the drift.
The overriding theme throughout all of these is that, without exception, the activity itself tends to become secondary to the actual social aspect of just hanging out with mates and having a laugh.
And bear in mind that on most occasions these were people I never knew before joining the group.
For me, group holidays are really just an extension of those same type of activity based social groups.
Now, in an ideal world, my perfect holiday would be to get 10 or so of my best friends together and set off on an epic adventure to some far away exotic location. And in fact, in my 20s I had the great fortune to go on quite a few of those very trips.
But moving in to your 30s and 40s this becomes more and more difficult.
People get married, they settle down, they buy houses, they have kids, they’re busy in their career…life simply takes over. Trying to organise a group trip with friends becomes near impossible.
And that’s where I’ve found that small group tours can be a great alternative.
There are many reasons why people end up choosing tour groups over solo travel.
Sometimes it’s simply because they can’t find anyone else to go with (which is way more common than you think).
Other times, people simply prefer the social dynamic and safety of a group.
While for a lot of people, they really just like the idea of turning up and not having to worry about the hassle of organising everything.
Rest assured, there are plenty of people out there, like me, and like YOU, who do choose to go on these trips.
(see for example who come on our trips at Other Way Round)
9 Common Myths about Small Group Tours
So what is it specifically about small group tours for 30 and 40 year olds – like those we offer at Other Way Round – that make some people reluctant to even consider them?
Well, we’ve definitely come across some common themes.
Below we share with you those concerns that we hear most.
1. IT’LL BE FULL OF PEOPLE YOUR PARENTS AGE
There are in fact lots of advantages to travelling with groups spanning wider age ranges and most group tour companies tend to offer trips along those lines.
But I do get that, if you’re an adventure loving 30-something, then you probably want to spend your precious holiday time travelling with people your same age.
I personally share that view (sorry Mum and Dad)!
Therefore with our trips at OWR, we choose to limit groups to people of similar age.
We specifically bring together travellers in their 30s and 40s.
2. OR WORSE STILL…ROWDY TEENAGERS!
The only thing that seems to horrify people even more than turning up to a group of pensioners is, at the very opposite end of the scale, arriving to their destination to be greeted by a bunch of rowdy, binge-drinking ‘kids’.
“Spring break woooooooo” – all day drinking sessions, wet t-shirt competitions, unnecessary amounts of posing!
Yes we’ve all been there and done it – at least I know I have – but there definitely comes a time in one’s life when this type of trip no longer appeals.
Holidays become more about discovering new places, diving into new experiences, learning about different cultures and tasting great food.
And so again, with our age demographic focused trips at OWR, it allows us to politely cut out these more ‘enthusiastic’ young travellers and instead form groups of people who have moved beyond this stage of life.
3. THE OTHER TRAVELLERS MIGHT BE A BIT STRANGE
What if you turn up and everyone in the group turns out to be a bit ‘weird’? You’re stuck with them for two full weeks! Absolute nightmare!
Now, that’s not a completely irrational or uncommon thought, after all, you are diving a little bit into the unknown.
But step back and think about it for a minute. The other people on the group trip have more than likely been attracted to it for the very same reasons you have.
They’re interested in the location.
They’re excited by the look of the itinerary.
They align with the values of the tour company.
They like the idea of sharing their holiday experience with other people in their 30s and 40s.
Already you have that much in common!
For example, on OWR trips we know that our guests are adventurous, they like to be active, they enjoy learning about the local culture, they appreciate cool hotels, quality food, and they believe in travelling responsibly.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone will have the same hobbies, backgrounds, political views or careers – that would be boring.
But at least having a like-minded approach to travel is a great starting point and, within the overall group, there’s more than likely going to be at least a few people that you bond with.
Will there be people who annoy you? More than likely – yes.
Will everyone become a lifelong friend? Probably not. But chances are a few will.
In my personal experience, the overwhelming outcome on small group tours is that the group dynamic ends up being the highlight of the trip.
You typically meet some super interesting people, many of whom your paths would otherwise never cross, and you get to create amazing memories together.
4. YOU’LL BE PART OF THAT CRINGEWORTHY ‘TOURIST’ GROUP
You know what I’m talking about.
The bucket load of tourists following the tour leader with that umbrella held aloft (is it really necessary)?
The microphone. The tour buses. The matching t-shirts.
Those type of tour groups definitely still exist and there’s obviously a market for them.
But, if you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing that’s NOT your particular travel style.
And that’s ok.
Because there’s lots of other more intimate, low key, less formal and more adventurous tour groups out there.
It’s one of the reason why at Other Way Round we always limit our group sizes. It enables us to keep it all very informal, relaxed and allows us to fly under the radar.
Our entire ethos is to keep our trips as close as possible to that very same experience you would get when travelling together with your own group of 30 and 40 something friends.
5. YOU WON’T EXPERIENCE THE COUNTRY AUTHENTICALLY
Tour groups are the absolute poster child for mass tourism right?
Well, maybe they come in a close second behind those pesky cruise ships!
Standing in queues for hours on end, surrounded by people from your own country, feverishly ticking off those ‘must-do’ activities on your bucket list.
Where everyone and everything starts to blend into the same, and all sense of original culture and identity seems to vanish (thank you globalisation).
Hey, but as long as you get your selfie!
I actually find that although this type of criticism is most often reserved for tour companies, it could easily be applied to tourism on the whole.
These days most people essentially read the same guidebooks, and blogs, and (rather ironically) often find themselves arriving at the same ‘off-the-beaten track’ locations as the other ‘intrepid’ tourists
Even within the ‘more adventurous’ backpacking community there is now basically a very well defined circuit catering to tens of thousands of backpackers each year.
And this is where I believe the smaller, more boutique, group tour operators can actually add HUGE value.
At OWR we know the places we visit inside out.
And because we (very deliberately) don’t take in huge volumes of people, it enables us to take our guests straight to the very heart of where the real-life action happens.
Our guests get to experience first-hand what the country is really all about.
Does that mean we skip all of the tourist sites?
No, of course not, that would be silly.
There are some seriously amazing places in our destinations that you just have to see.
But the key is that we don’t try to cram everything in and we definitely don’t make the tourist sites the main focus of our trips.
6. YOU COULD PLAN THE SAME TRIP YOURSELF (AND PROBABLY CHEAPER)
It goes without saying that, in the internet age, you can pretty much do everything online and travel planning, even to more exotic locations like Colombia, Mexico and Peru, is no exception.
- You can review and select hotels
- Choose the best flight options
- Book the airport transfers
- Read up on how to get around
- Research the best tourist sites
- Sign up to some cool activities
- Review the best bars and restaurants
- Make reservations
- and even arrange experiences directly with locals
If you’re the designated travel planner in your group then you’ll know that there’s even a strange sense of satisfaction to having planned everything yourself (or is that just me)?
But if you consider for a moment a (good) small group tour company as an alternative.
- They remove the need for all those hours of research, planning and booking (and when you take everything into account it does add up – some reports suggest 40+ hours).
- They take care of everything on the ground so that you can actually relax and enjoy your holiday (and if you are that designated planner you’ll know that it’s kind of stressful making sure that everything you planned actually lines up on the ground).
- They have the local knowledge and contacts to take you to the lesser known places and can line up way more intimate and authentic experiences which you can’t find online.
On top of all that they bring together a group of ready-made 30 and 40 something travel buddies with whom to enjoy your vacation with.
Will you pay more? More than likely yes.
But probably not as much as you think.
Bulk discounts typically allow small group tour operators to lower their costs and subsequently their prices.
Normally when you add everything that’s included in the tour itinerary it’s often not much more than what you would expect to pay if organising yourself.
And way less hassle.
7. THERE’S NO FLEXIBILITY
Everything is planned out in advance. You following an overly prescribed routine. They leave absolutely no room at all for spontaneity.
Yes, to some people itineraries can seem like hell.
And indeed sometimes they can be.
A lot of people tend to create real in-depth hour by hour itineraries with the sole intention of squeezing in as much as possible in the shortest space of time! And if that’s your thing, then go for it.
But what if you just want to grab a coffee, sit on a bench and watch the locals go about their day-to-day life?
Or you stumble upon a new art exhibition you never even knew existed?
Sorry, no time for those – they’re not on the itinerary!
At OWR we do actually believe that itineraries are a great way to provide some basic structure and ensure you cover at least the highlights of the places we visit.
But, for us, they only ever serve as a loose guide.
We always prefer to travel slow, take time to experience the culture, and leave the flexibility to veer off on the various unplanned adventures which inevitably present themselves.
Want to skip a particular activity? Go for it, they’re all optional.
Feel like giving the group bonding a miss today? Be our guest. All our itineraries come with ‘free-time’ to allow for just that.
Fancy a lazy day by the pool? Perfect. We stay in nice boutique hotels which are perfect for a chill day.
Hot new restaurant opening? Big football match? Cool exhibition? Local festival?
Let’s make it happen.
8. THEY’LL TAKE YOU TO THE ‘NAFF’ RESTAURANTS (WHERE THEY GET DISCOUNTS FROM THEIR FRIENDS)
“On this trip you’re going to eat at all the best restaurants”
And then, somehow, you find yourself at some outdated restaurant, full of tourists, eating ‘menu del dia’.
Hands up if that sounds familiar!
Funny how the ‘best’ restaurants often turn out to be the places where the tour guide is friends with the owner and gets to eat for free.
For us food is a massive part of the travel experience.
We therefore very specifically plan all of our group trips with foodies in mind as we really do want our guests to sample the full array of delights which each of our destinations have to offer.
That includes exotic fruits that you’ll probably struggle to pronounce, tasty empanadas from local street vendors, hearty cuisine at traditional local hangouts and high-end gastronomical experiences at world renowned restaurants.
9. YOU’LL HAVE THE STIGMA OF TELLING FRIENDS YOU WENT ON AN ‘ORGANISED TOUR’
“You’re going on an organised group tour? Oh, that sounds… cool”.
But yet their face says something else.
You know who I’m talking about.
Like I said at the very beginning, there is definitely a bit of a stigma attached to the phrase ‘group tour’ and some of your friends may just not get it.
I know that some of mine certainly don’t.
My advice – get over it.
You’re going to have an amazing time and nobody really cares half as much as you think they do.
Besides, just wait until they see your Instagram snaps!
Is a Small Group Tour Right For You?
If tour groups really just aren’t your thing then that’s totally cool – the world would be a an extremely boring place if we were all the same.
However, if you are considering going on a small group tour, and are maybe having some of the same doubts covered in this post, I would urge you NOT to let them be the reason you don’t take the plunge.
There are a ridiculous number of modern and innovative tour options out there, catering to every single style, demographic and taste, and offering up experiences far removed from those of the stereotypical tour group.
Go find one that appeals to your particular interests, and dive straight in.
(Read also: What You Need to Know About Group Travel In Your 30s & 40s)
Group Tours for People in Their 30s & 40s
If you’re in your 30s or 40s and are considering to join a group tour them it’s worth checking out our trips at Other Way Round.
Here’s some of our favs.
11 Days in Mexico. Breathe in the pulsating Mexico city, roam the charming streets of traditional Oaxaca, and hit the beach in sun-drenched Tulum. See Itinerary
15 Days in Colombia. Dance salsa. Meet coffee farmers. Sail tropical islands. Hike lush jungles. Taste the finest Caribbean rum. See Itinerary
12 Days in Peru. Cook ceviche in Lima, sail the Amazon, hike to Machu Picchu and become awestruck by the Sacred Valley. See Itinerary