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Looking for recommendations on travel companies

Hi all! I am new to this site, but I am posting on here because I am looking for recommendations on travel companies/group tours.
I have been planning my first solo travel trip (usually I go with my cousin) but I wanted to explore the option of travel companies and decide if I would like to go alone or if a group would be more ideal.
So I want to know if anyone has ever been on any group tours or gone with any travel companies? and which you would recommend to a solo traveler? (I am looking to go to Europe this year)
I am a 20-year-old female who has backpacked before (Europe and SE Asia)

Posted by
100 posts

https://www.ricksteves.com/tours

:)

But seriously, look in to the tours Rick Steves' offers! I'm sure many here would sing its praises, and something I particularly like about RS' tours, as a frequent solo traveler myself, is how they actual acknowledge we exist! Full disclosure - I've not yet taken an RS tour, despite being a long-time fan and having watched each of his shows more times than I can count. I've used plenty of others, though, and even mostly relied on entirely freewheeling it and being my own tour guide, so to speak, with an RS book in hand and lots of internet research done beforehand. I do enjoy group tours on occasion, though, and a recurring theme I see among folks who've done RS tours in the past is the friendliness of other group members, a shared spirit and approach to travel, consistently high-quality guides, and more. I'm already shopping for my next group tour on here, and looking forward to the group experience being as much a part of the trip as the destination.

Posted by
100 posts

Good point, Frank.

Granted, I'd done some young adult tours in the past and... it was too much for me. Perhaps I'm an old(er) soul but I was more interested in history and culture, the groups were more about late nights and socializing. Felt more like a stag party than anything else. I'm more the type to want to see how the whiskey is made and learn about the history of the distillery than drink any of it :)

But certainly, brookelyn, are there any particular interests you have? There could very well be a tour company/group geared towards that. Social activism? Adventure travel? Things along those lines?

Posted by
29832 posts

I'd suggest at least having a look at Rick Steves tours as you'll learn far more about the history and culture on a tour than by travelling on your own (I've done both). I've taken eight RS tours and while the age demographic tends to be more "mature" on RS (and other) tours, everyone has a great time regardless of age. You may find it helpful to have a look at some of the tour videos - https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/tour-experience .

Given your age, you could also have a look at these - https://www.contiki.com/ca/en/search?terms=europe .

Posted by
5859 posts

If you Google "European College Tours", you will get plenty of tour companies that are slanted toward travelers of your age.

Posted by
289 posts

Can you tell us some details about where you want to go & what you want to do? But in general, if taking a tour, check out the cost of the solo supplement & Google for solo traveler companies.

Posted by
1582 posts

GAdventures,Exodus and Intrepid are global tour companies at a variety of price points. They have trips for the young whereactivitiesare additional cost this may mean sightseeing is dependent on if they get the minimum required to make it happen. The next is a basic comfort level with more included and the age range will vary...but be younger in general. The more co fort, the more cost, and the older the group ages.
They also offer varied itineraries with different levels,of activity, i.e. bike tours or hiking.
These are well reputed, well established small group tours.

Posted by
5079 posts

You have or have not been to Europe before? It's not clear since you said you've backpacked there already. The problem with tour groups is they are really expensive for someone your age (they're expensive in general compared to do-it-yourself travel, plus many tour groups are priced based on double occupancy or have single supplements which really drive up the cost). I think given your backpacking history, you'd be fine traveling on your own. You can meet other people staying in hostels, etc. Europe is a really easy travel destination.

Posted by
1414 posts

I also suggest you look at GAdventures tours - they have a specific travel style for 18 to 30 somethings (see here https://www.gadventures.com/travel-styles/18-to-30somethings/) Similar to Rick Steves, you can avoid a single supplement by sharing a room with another solo traveler. I know people who have taken these style tours and they loved the affordable options. I have traveled with the company and would use them again.

Posted by
2508 posts

We lived in Germany for four years in the late 80s and early 90s and have traveled even more since I retired in 2010.

We have done some great tours with Vantage World Travel. The two most memorable were a trip to the Ukraine, Russia (including river cruise), and the Baltic Countries; then China, that also included a short river cruise. In my opinion, to visit those countries a tour is the very best way to go.

However, we have done our own land tours in Europe and generally find that is the least expensive way to go. However, we usually combine a self-planned independent land tour with a cruise, more recently a one way transatlantic cruise back to the USA.

We did an excellent land tour of the North Island of New Zealand and it was nice, but we probably could have arranged our own trip, had we had planning time. We didn't have much time, since our cruise to NZ was cancelled three days before it was to begin.

If going to Britain, consider Trafalgar. That was the company that did our NZ land tour.

Solo travel is more inexpensive to do on your own, since many tours charge double, since you won't have a companion to share the cost of a hotel room, however, some tour companies try to match solo travelers or have some discounted prices. I recommend checking out Gate 1, which is a budget tour company, but has a good reputation. We know travelers that have done Gate 1 tours and spoke well of the tour as well as the bargain prices.

Vantage World Travel out of Boston has much to offer, check it out.

There are some countries where I would never advise traveling alone, especially if you are a female. That would include most of the Middle East.

Posted by
897 posts

You might want to take a Rick Steves “My Way Tour”. The tour takes care of all the transportation once you have reached the starting point of the tour and all your hotels. It seems to cater to a younger crowd and from what I have heard and read, it is easy to make friends and go together sightseeing while in the city you are visiting. Only breakfast is included, but most people end up going out to dinner with the people on the tour. You also have a tour director on the bus that can answer questions regarding the places you are visiting. Here is a link to the “My Way Tours”.

https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/my-way-european-vacations

Posted by
11034 posts

No problem traveling solo in Europe. You'll do fine.

My first time over was as a solo traveler, a college backpacker, for 12 weeks, which was the longest trip duration offered by the charter flight company. I was almost the same age as you, 21.... first time away from Calif, first out of the USA, away from home, etc.

It was the big adventure, a great learning experience for future trips to Europe.

Doing group tours or going with a travel company never appealed to me, they certainly were not options. Now after 24 trips I have no problems going solo.

Posted by
2301 posts

I started solo travel to Europe in my early 20s and haven't stopped so what do I recommend for the solo traveler?

To continue traveling on your own and having a WONDERFUL time with the many resources at your disposal.

There are plenty of tours you can take given by the actual museum, palace, castle, ruin, city walk, church, cathedral, synagogue, mosque, park, etc you visit.

Posted by
2658 posts

I’ve only traveled to Europe with Rick Steves tours and then several times on my own itinerary. For the RS tours, we had more younger people and school teachers during trips in the Summer months. The groups have always been great to solo travelers.

If your idea of a great trip is to maximize your experiences and learn about history and culture, then you will enjoy a RS tour. If you would rather move at your own pace, just being there is fun and price is critical, look at doing a solo itinerary trip. In that case, Italy and Spain tend to cost less.

Posted by
1 posts

I am a 60ish year old male and went solo with GAdventures. I had a great time with them in Alaska (small tour with 90% of my fellow travelers under 35 years of age), they did a great job and they are a perfect company for a young woman traveling solo. But I am not sure they are the best choice for Europe or if you wanted to tour urban areas in North America. Western U.S., rural Canada, Central America, South America, New Zealand, Australia, Asia, Africa...yes with GAdventures. Europe?...I don't think they would even be in my top 5 choices.

Posted by
223 posts

I’ve done solo tours with Cosmos, Globus, and Trafalgar. I’ve been pleased with each company.

Posted by
1 posts

Check out Adventures Abroad based in Richmond BC. We've done several of their tours: small groups, great itineraries with many extras included, excellent leaders. adventures-abroad.com

Posted by
1539 posts

Take a look at Gate 1 travel, I used to use Rick Steves all the time , but now go to places
that RS doesn't offer yet.
Gate 1 has a couple different levels in their offers and pricing,
but I enjoy the "Gate 1" level.
https://www.gate1travel.com/

Posted by
1577 posts

Another vote for Gate 1, although no one on the tour we took was under 40.

Edited: But the tour we took was in late May/early June when many schools are still in session.

Posted by
187 posts

All good advice. Still, RS offers a great introduction to global solo travel at a good price. I think you’d have a wonderful time, even the other 20-27 folks on your bus are all over 65. They won’t mind that you’re a kid at all.

Posted by
1 posts

Well, my daughter and I toured the Scotland Highlands and The Isle of Skye for a week with MacBackpackers https://www.macbackpackers.com/ and it was phenomenal. It caters to the under-35 crowd, uses the smaller Mercedes tour buses and only goes to one or two locations a day (plus a short stop in a town each day for grocery/lunch shopping), so you can "dive deep" into the locale. At every stop we could choose to hang with the very knowledgeable (Highland-born) driver or head out on our own for a few hours. Some folks did more sightseeing, others did serious hikes into the beautiful countryside. I am actually more outdoorsy than my daughter and found it easy to slide into whatever group was heading to someplace interesting at our stops, with or without my daughter. There was a wide range of ages, from college kids to young 30-somethings, most all travelling solo, two or three couples plus two other mother-daughter pairs like my daughter and I. It is exceptionally inexpensive, with you staying at their very, very nice hostels that they run around the country.

Posted by
11025 posts

Some ( not all ) of the tours that cater to the under 35 are more like booze / party tours - and note cheap intial price is inflated by much nickel and dining . My nephew did a tour with Contiki when he was 18 . He did have fun - but didn’t like the pace ( fast ) and the extra costs .

Some of the other tours mentioned here are for old people . ( ok not specifically for them but that’s who takes them )

My personal take is do it yourself and skip tours , however if you would like a tour then out of most mentioned here I would look at the Rick Steve’s My Way tours - they arrange the bus and hotels but they don’t lead you around all day - you visit in your own . From looking at the Tour scrap books it does appear to skew to a younger group of travelers .

Posted by
752 posts

I just read thru Ryan’s My Way Alpine tour scrapbook. Well written, and he provides the perspective of a younger traveler. As mentioned above, worth taking a look to get a feel for what it would be like.

Posted by
13 posts

There is a lot of good advice here already. A couple of things to consider on the on your own vs tours discussion are experiences and logistics. A well organized tour, like RS, will tend to save you considerable time in the logistics of getting from place to place. We love European train travel, but it can cost one considerable time because the schedule isn't really when you want to go. It is tough to beat a tour's bus taking you from point A to point B at the optimal times. Several years ago some people were going to duplicate a RS tour we had done but on their own. They discovered that they could not given the time they had available.

Having taken a couple dozen European trips involving both travel on our own and tours, all RS for Europe, we have experienced fun events on the tours that are not available to individual travelers. Good examples have been lunches at wineries and farms that are only available to groups.

On the age of RS tour members, we have had experience with travel in the summer months (by necessity) and outside of the summer season. Our experience was that summer tours tended to have younger travelers, heavily populated with teachers. Outside of summer, since retirement, the ages have tended to be older in the 50 - 70 range for the most part although also with travelers well outside that range.