Booking our first Tauck trip
Any opinions on the benefits of the small group tours?
maryr - we've been on 4 Tauck trips. Two small groups (Ireland and K&T Africa) and two classic (Israel and Jordan and Australia). All were fantastic. It depends a lot on where you are going. On K&T is was great only having 29 people and space in safari vehicles was limited to 6 travelers per vehicle and we had 5 vehicles, whereas in Australia it didn't matter that much.
Small groups - PROS are: a lot more space in the buses and vehicles to spread out, hotels are often better because they can accommodate smaller groups (In Ireland small groups stayed at Ashford Castle whereas classic did not) so need to check out hotels on the trip, ability to get to know people more, easier to get on and off buses to eat and visit restrooms, when having walking tours like in Ireland it was easier to get around. CONS: Cost definitely, if there is a large group traveling together it will limit your interaction with other members since group travelers tend to stay together for meals etc. Tauck can help you on this. We were thinking of booking a tour and they told us there was a large group of 12 in that trip. We booked another date. Also in a small group if there are numbers of folks you may not find sociable you are limited in who to be sociable with.
Large groups PROS and CONS: - Cost is much less, larger group of folks to get to know, takes longer to get on and off vehicles, eat, use restrooms. This takes away from touring time.
Based on our experience our next 2 trips are small groups to Romantic Germany and Australia (Kangaroo Island, Tasmania only 20 people). Good luck.
Thanks so much for the info
Remember there is a difference between (optional) "small group" tours vs tours that are small group by design and don't have a larger group option. Best of Ireland, Ultimate Alps, England/Scotland/Wales, Classic Italy, Romantic Germany, Jordan & Egypt, etc. have regular size group tours (averaging 44 guests) and small group tours (averaging 24 guests). Other tours, like & Yellowstone in Winter (24), Peru & Galapagos (30), K&T (30), Botswana/SA/Zambia (20) only have one size tour (size as noted) which may be an average or a maximum because of lodging, vehicle, etc. limitations.
That being said, I agree with Virginia_Travelers. We usually book small group departures. Our B,SA,Z tour was supposed to have a sub-group of 10 friends but they must have cancelled. In fact there were only 15.of us!! That can happen to small and large group departures but you can never count on it.
Update: As you can see from this thread and others in the forum archives (do a search), everyone has their own opinion on this topic. i will add, one of our early tours was a regular size group tour and we experienced just about every CON possible for large group tours- restroom stops took forever, took forever for people to board and exit the bus (TD had to adjust touring time because of this), people late getting back to the bus at almost every stop (one person didn't have a watch, one person got lost in the Vermont Country Store!), it took forever for everyone to get served during some meals, it even took too much time to receive room keys- luckily we didn't need to register, the bus was full so the seating chart was important- but that caused problems too, too many talkers made it hard to hear our TD and local guides at times, that situation resulted in too many people asking, "What did she say." followed by the TD having to repeat things 2, 3, 4 times! I'm sure all full size groups are not like this, but it was bad enough on that trip to cause us to take small group tours, when available, since then- just spending our kid's inheritance.
We do not see any advantages to Small Group tours. Happened on most recent tour, if you have just one slow walking person, that slows down the whole tour. If you have people who take forever in a bathroom, same thing. I think that apart from the smaller numbers on our Africa tours, the only true small group one we picked was Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. Did not notice any difference. One of our Africa tours was only 15 people, if I remember correctly, only one other married couple, the others were two groups. Several of our tours have been regular size but the tours were not full, so like a free small groups!
I’ve only just started to read on the Tauck website that on small groups they specifically mention more time in a place for site seeing. Before then, I understood there were just fewer people with the same itinerary. They are now pushing Small group model much more, I believe it is what the so called Tauck customer wants. Well I’m a Tauck customer, taken about thirty tours with them, the so called Tauck customer can often be a complaining pain in the neck, seen that, got the t shirt.
I will agree with those who prefer the small groups. We usually travel during peak times, so before we started doing small groups, we were never fortunate enough to have only a few people signed up for the tour. Usually the tours we go on are fully booked months in advance, especially the river cruises. I always say it is easier and faster to herd 24 cats than 44.
Nancy, you have probably read before that our one and only tour we took that was not a Tauck one, had 13 people, it was a.nightmare, one person could barely walk, kept being late to the bus at the start of the day, another woman smelt so bad it made us feel nauseated. There were three men, the rest women, one other couple but they kept themselves to themselves and spoke Polish all the time. I could go on. A Tauck Africa tour, I can’t remember which, had one other couple and two groups, that was tough. I guess that’s why small groups experience has been colored. We go with another company next year and so far there are only ten signed up, yikes, we must be crazy.
We are leaving Sept. 13 for the England Scotland Wales small group tour. This will be our first Tauck land tour although we have done several land tours with other companies. We have done six Tauck river cruises which we enjoyed immensely. When I booked, I was apprehensive about a small group and issues of what that could mean. I tried to weigh the pros and cons as pointed out in the above comments. The pros won. I know it will be a marvelous trip as always with Tauck. When I get back I will try to let you know how we liked small group travel.
There has been a number of discussions of the negative effects on a small group if you have a couple of "bad apples" or a few people who stay apart and don't meld with the group- that can happen to any size group. But you also have to look at the opposite situation. It is easier to get to know people and build lasting friendships with a small group. We still communicate with people from previous tours and a number of us have actually gotten together for subsequent Tauck tours. This coming year, four of us who first met during a K&T pre-tour excursion to Arusha National Park (arranged through the forum) in 2015 will be going on our 5th and 6th trips together in 2020! We are also in preliminary discussions with another couple we met in during Ultimate Alps in 2014 about touring together in 2021.
Thank you everyone for your comments
We ended up booking the 8 day Italy tour with the small group
It will be our first Tauck tour
Sounds like from everything I have heard it will be good