If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to self-select and maintain our own pod or bubble as much as we can. That’s especially true with adventure travel. Instead of traveling with strangers, why not travel with people that you know?
For those who can afford it, the world of private adventure trips is a no-brainer. Most private departures are coming from the boutique tour operators who already offer a scheduled roster of group trips. It could be biking in Tuscany, walking in Provence or spending a week snorkeling and whale watching in the Sea of Cortez. Or perhaps a summer trip rafting in the West or exploring the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland?
Private adventure trips have been around for decades, but the pandemic has made them a hot commodity. Many adventure travel companies now offer a large number of private departures, with dedicated trip planners to help you plan. Working with an established tour company offers one-stop-shopping. They have the trip designers, guides, and a guest services team. If it’s a bike trip, they have the support vehicles. They also have relationships with restaurants and hotels, and handle all the logistics.
The major difference with a private trip and a scheduled one is that assembling the group is up to you. When you bring your extended family or a group of like-minded friends, that’s it. Guides aside, it’s just you and your tribe.
Scheduled trips, like doing an alpine trek or heading to Patagonia, are pretty much plug-and-play for group travel. So a private departure can easily mimic the existing trip, right down to the same hotels, restaurants and exact itinerary. Then it’s a matter of finding the dates that make it work for you. It’s become a sizeable business for major adventure companies such as Backroads, Butterfield & Robinson, Classic Journeys and DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co. They all devote considerable time and energy to organizing private departures.
That said, private trips offer maximum choice and flexibility. Bring on the custom aspects. You go with your personal agenda, not someone else’s fixed itinerary. With a private departure, you often have more say and more control over the details. Want to stay in a five star hotel the final night? Or every night of a trip? There’s a lot more room to get creative.
If it’s a family group spanning generations, accommodating travelers of different ages, abilities and taste is what many of these companies do best. Every active group tour is always a balancing act of different abilities, levels of fitness and energy. On a bike trip, for example, you and your group will typically have a choice of several expertly designed routes each day, with detailed directions and a route rating system.
You decide what you and your group get to see and do. You’re also working directly with the trip planner. So if you’re customizing the trip for a special birthday, anniversary or other life event, it’s much easier. A private cycling trip to Italy? Check out Ciclismo Classico. Or a private exploration of Bhutan? Head to Wilderness Travel.
Some tour companies can create an entirely bespoke trip, with activities, hotels, menus and routes customized for you. That’s the kind of travel that companies like Gray & Co and Trufflepig specialize in.
As travel begins to emerge from two years of pandemic concerns, going private may still be the best way to go.