Small group tours have some distinct advantages over larger tours: they can generally move more quickly from one place to the next, eat in more intimate dining spaces, stay in smaller hotels or inns, and travel in smaller vehicles, among other perks.
Depending on the tour operator, a "small group" may number anywhere from a few people up to 24, though more traditionally it means a maximum of 12-16 travelers. Biking and hiking tours, trekking expeditions, and other adventurous and exotic tours tend to be small groups, but any type of tour can fall into this ever-more-popular category.
The ‘Ninja’ Factor
You may not think of yourself as a ninja per se, but small groups have similar characteristics! In a small group, you can slip in and out of places without raising a fuss or causing a commotion. This includes that hole-in-the-wall gem of a restaurant you might find in a quaint Italian village or joining the morning tai-chi class at a park in Shanghai. Either way, traveling in a small group can feel more like traveling with a small band of friends (or ninjas) versus a tour group.
More Authentic Experiences
In most cases, small groups tend to offer more in depth, authentic experiences than traveling on a coach or bus tour. This is mostly a result of the flexibility you have in a small group. For example, you’re walking around a rural area in Brazil and come across a pick up soccer match (or futbol to the Brazilians). You and your travel companions stand and watch and are then invited to play! These types of memories are often what turns a good trip into a great one, and are usually only possible when traveling in a small group.
Connecting With Fellow Travelers
You may or may not travel in a group to make friends. However, you are almost sure to come away from your trip with at least one or two new ‘pen pals.’ Traveling in this style affords real connections among the group - whether this be chatting around a campfire while on safari in Tanzania or catching up at happy hour on the deck of your small-ship cruise. You might not relate to everyone but will find that most small-group travelers are like-minded and are there for the same reasons.