Spirit of the Desert - Is 44 people too many?

Have wanted to do the southwest National Parks for years, and finally realized I'm never going to put this together for hubby and me as a 2some. Someone mentioned Tauck (which we did for Australia/New Zealand 5 years ago) and here we are - about to book for spring of 2022. But they don't have any small group options left - it's just classic with 45 people. So my question - these areas are beautiful and sureal and seem to be such an amazing experience - can you truly enjoy with so many other people? Or is it worth waiting for small group availability? Also - how much bus time?
Thanks in advance.


  • One person's opinion: 45 people won't overwhelm the landscape. There will likely be many people at the popular southwest sites...but there is a lot of space. The impact of 45 people on tour will be felt more on the bus (since that's near the capacity of most large tour buses) and at the group meals of which there will be a few. BTW, the Red Cliffs Lodge in Moab has great history. Be sure to check out their museum of western films in the basement of the main lodge. Many, many movies have been filmed on the property. City Slickers in more recent years, but think John Wayne, et al in the past.

    Given our pent-up desire to travel, we would go for it if we hadn't been to Utah in April to a couple of our favorite parks: Zion and Bryce Canyon.

  • Agree with Portolan. The year after we retired we did a 36 day cross country drive from Virginia. We did 7,100 miles , 22 states, 12 National Parks. One of the highlights of the trip was staying at Red Cliffs Lodge for 3 nights so we could visit Arches and Canyonlands. We looked out our room and saw the mighty Colorado river although it was a bit smaller. The lodge is about 15-20 minutes from town along a winding road with amazing cliffs on both sides of the road. It was interesting that we could NOT use our GPS in the Canyon and had to rely on old fashioned AAA trip tick books for guidance. Staying at Red Cliffs is so much better then staying downtown Moab.

    Portolon is right on that the group size shouldn't matter given the vast places you will visit. Agree that getting on and off the buses and meals could delay activities some but other then that I'd go back there in a minute!

  • edited July 11


    If you are accustomed to small group travel, you may be disappointed in a large group setting. My preference has always been small groups, especially after taking my first Tauck small group tour. To be realistic, "herding" twenty four people is a lot easier than forty five. Besides, there are always the extra "surprises" that Tauck is known for above and beyond their usual "treats" given on larger group tours. For example, an impromptu stop at a bakery, market, ice cream shop, et al, with the tab being picked up by the tour director, including lunches and dinners that were supposed to be on us.

    Specific to your trip, I do not think it matters what size group you are a part of since you will be in nature. I do see, however, that you will have an opportunity to partake in several excursions in which you will need to be ready before dawn. In that case, my personal preference would be to be on a small group tour. Again, this is my preference.

    No matter what your decision, have a wonderful trip!

  • I have only signed up for regular-sized group

    • once, the group was only 8! But even when there were 40-45 in the group, we have made unscheduled stops and had unexpected surprises along the way. I prefer the mix of larger numbers instead of smaller.
  • edited July 10

    Except for our Ireland small grp tour, I've never been on a single Tauck river cruise or land tour that was maxed out. People have last minute emergencies that happen. If the timing works for you, go for it. I'd be more concerned with doing it when the weather isn't too hot. But then I live in NM at 7,000 feet in the mountains and it's currently 93 degrees out.

    As for surprise treats from the TDs - we've received them on every single cruise or land tour. Only the Ireland tour was small group. Ice cream, cookies/candies, paprika, carved Welch spoons, etc. Possibly a small group is given a few more, but then you are paying more for the tour. Save your money and pick out your own souvenirs. For $800 pp more I can find some awesome turquoise jewelry for that.

  • It seems that on this topic, the small group option is not the most popular. I too have no problem traveling with the larger groups and yes, have found they are often not full, have just as many ‘surprises’, and have never ever experience people being late back to the bus and things like there. I would argue that anyone who thinks bathroom stops on small group tours take less time ..the bus drivers generally have to have a mandatory stop for a certain amount of time, so it doesn’t matter how many are in the group.
    My only problem a few times has been with buffet lunch meals, where people stand forever in front of the food while deciding what they want to eat …totally oblivious that they have a line of impatient hungry people behind them, it drives me bonkers.. get your food and move on and don’t idly chat to people in the line instead of getting your food….drives me bonkers…the good thing about Covid, is that it has hopefully eliminated psome buffet meals.
    I’ve been to the parks independently as well as with Tauck and actually have preferred the Tauck experience, they book the better hotels and locations, sort out all the logistics and whoever would normally drive doesn’t miss out on the scenery while they concentrated on the road. We are also very strict about not drinking and driving, so with Tauck, it means we can both have a drink at dinner and not worry a out having ot drive afterwards.

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