For travelers who want to go the extra mile during their next trip abroad, gaining access to local insights and experiences that aren’t typically available to independent tourists, adventure travel tours have your name written all over ‘em.
Adventure travel tours are a unique way to immerse yourself in a new country while learning all about your surroundings from an experienced guide and interacting with the culture in an array of exclusive scenarios. From sitting in on community gatherings in remote villages to doing volunteer work in big cities to exploring the great wilderness in between, an adventure travel tour can give you a holistic experience abroad that is not possible by any other means.
There is certainly something to be said for the freedom of traveling independently, but what you sacrifice in the flexibility of your itinerary as an independent traveler, you gain in the steadily perfect itinerary of experienced adventure travel tour companies. Adventure tours are great for younger travelers who will benefit from the guidance, older travelers who will benefit from the ease, and everyone in between who is interested in learning a little bit more about the country to which they have come as guests.
So, how do you know that you’re choosing the best adventure travel tour companies? How can you guarantee that you’ll get the very best out of your experience, and the most bang for your buck? Here are some key pointers that will start you off in the right direction:
What to look for in adventure travel tours
Organized adventure travel tours are perfect for people who don’t have the time to plan every detail of their trip— or maybe don’t spend their free time daydreaming about navigating bus schedules and museum fees… Those pesky details like lodging, transportation, meals, and general sightseeing, are all included. Spend less time stressing about logistics and more time present on your adventure. These tours are also a great way to connect with like-minded travelers from all over the country and world who have similar interests and adventurous spirits.
These are the hallmarks of a great adventure travel tour, and things you should take into consideration as you start searching for your next adventure…
Specific Activity & Experience Level
Hiking. Biking. Kayaking. Climbing. Surfing. Snorkeling. Spelunking. The list of possible adventure activities to indulge in abroad seems never ending. No matter your desire for adrenaline, there’s a trip out there for you.
Whatever specific activity or endless combination of activities, you want to make sure that it’s suited to your skill and fitness level. If you’re a beginner rock climber, or you’re not as in shape as you used to be, an advanced-level climbing trip with long days of trekking between spots might not be for you. But, if you’re out here riding around Tour de France style, you might want to look for a more challenging biking tour. You know your limits best, don’t push yourself too hard, and look for an adventure tour that matches your fitness and skill level.
You’ll look at this once, and never have to worry again! That’s the beauty of organized adventure travel tours. As a traveler, you want to maximize your outdoor adventure time, so it’s good to know exactly how much time you’ll spend on buses, trains, and planes, in order to reach any and all of your destinations.
Are there long days of driving involved? Will you be trekking from place to place? How many travel/transport days are there compared to actual activities/adventure time? Will you be staying in guest houses? Hostels? Hotels? All of these things vary between different adventure travel tour companies and itineraries, so you’ll want to go with the one that suits your needs and comfort level.
One drawback to organized trips like these is a lack of independence. If you’re looking for a lot of free time/down time to explore on your own, you’ll need to look for tours that have optional activities, or free time built into the itinerary. A good look at logistics will help determine how much free time you’ll get on your trip.
Group to Guide Ratio
This can really make or break an experience. You’re looking forward to traveling with a group of like-minded adventurers, sure, but a huge charter bus with 50 people to one haggard, overwhelmed guide is no one’s idea of a good time. Especially if you’re going to be doing a lot of outdoor activities. Climbing with too many people gets boring and stressful, and you’re more likely to have a wider range of experience level. Less is more, when it comes to the size of your adventure travel tour groups. That way you get to know everyone you’re traveling with AND your guide.
Trust us, you really want to get to know your expert guide. They know your host country and adventure activity better than anyone! They have all the insider info on local culture, customs, and the best spots for everything— climbing, kayaking, hiking, etc. etc.
Cost (Because You HAVE to)
Obviously, this is a huge factor. And, with the cost of the program, you also want to look at whats included. Most adventure travel tours will include lodging, meals, transportation, and equipment rentals in the program fee, but always double check! There might be days where lunch is on your own, or you might be required to bring some of your own gear depending on the activity. You’d hate to forget trekking poles and be SOL on your hike through the Swiss Alps.
What to look for in adventure travel tour companies
Choosing the right adventure travel tour is the fun part — now come the tough decisions. How do you know that you’re going with the right adventure travel tour company? That they’ll take good care of you, provide the best experience possible, and not cut corners? That their travel philosophy matches your own?
First, you want to make sure that the adventure travel tour company you choose is an established, credible provider. Look at how long the company has been around, how long they’ve been operating in the region you want to travel to, read up on their background. Also check out reviews from past participants.
You also want to make sure that the adventure travel tour company you choose has a positive local presence wherever their programs embark. Do they hire local employees and guides to lead the tours? And how much of the money feeds back into local communities, versus a larger parent corporation? These are questions you should ask yourself to ensure you’ll be travelling with a fair, locally valued program.
Also look into the kinds of guides that lead the adventure travel tours themselves. Are they teachers? Experienced travelers? Locals who know how to get about town? Your adventure travel tour guide can be a defining element of the experience, so you want to make sure you match with them stylistically.
Dig through as many reviews as you can. Reach out to alumni. Reach out to the company itself and talk to a representative. Simply put, do your research. This is a big decision, and you’ll want to make sure that you’re as informed as possible in making it. Narrow your list down to a final few options, and cover all your bases in picking the right one.
Make a thorough checklist of all of these points to consider, so you’ll know what to look for as you're doing your research and so you won’t get blindsided by any nasty surprises abroad. In truth, most adventure travel tour companies know what they’re doing, and most guides that work for adventure travel tour companies know what they’re doing. But, it’s important that you enter into the experience with at least a basic idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
Recommended adventure travel tours to get your blood pumpin’
So where to begin the search for the perfect program? Our Adventure Travel Directory can direct you to all sorts of great adventure travel tour companies with programs located all over the world, and is a great place to launch into your research. Here are a few top adventure travel tour companies to check out for a basic idea of what to expect:
Frontier is a NGO that provides volunteer opportunities all over the world in conservation, community development, and adventure projects. You’ll be able to give back to local communities with unlimited adventures and excursions in-country.
I really appreciate the effort everyone at camp put in to make me feel welcome and part of the community. I also really feel I have enriched my previous knowledge about local species and the environment as a whole through trails and presentations.” - Laura, Costa Rica
Gapforce provides a wide range of adventure travel opportunities for students interested in taking a gap year, ranging from volunteer placements and cultural immersion programs to vocational training. With expert expedition staff, you’re sure to have a safe, and AMAZING adventure abroad.
I have never been the company of such amazing people doing things that I love. The staff on the phase were brilliant with a huge font of knowledge about the oceans and environment surrounding us.” - Fred, Bahamas
Fronteering specializes in adventure travel programs to off-the-beaten-trail destinations such as the Canadian Arctic Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. Students and travelers with a true taste for adventure should look into these programs.
My best memories are not the ones riding camels or driving the 4x4 but with the amazing Jordanians with the biggest smiles.” - Alexandra, Jordan
Oyster Worldwide boasts a large network of volunteer openings around the world for gap-year students, ranging from teaching in Nepal to farming in Australia. There’s an Oyster Worldwide program for you, don’t even worry.
This programme was really tough but so rewarding. The training is really fun and you get to meet loads of people - most of my group was from the UK, Germany and Denmark. When I got to my job I learnt so much about cattle and improved my horse riding skills no end.” - Georgia, Australia
GoCambio is a unique cultural exchange program that will set you up with a host family in your country of choice, to whom you can teach English in return for accommodation. This is a great program option for more independent adventurers looking to explore individually.
I got to see a part of Spain that was completely different and I had an off the beaten track travel experience, I felt like I was fully back in the Spanish culture, something I craved since I left there.” - Lorraine, Spain
Choosing the right adventure travel tour company for you — five measly steps!
- CHOOSE YOUR LOCATION. The broadest place to begin is by narrowing down your options based on location. Many adventure travel tours will take you throughout multiple countries in a region, while many others will stay focused within one specific country. Once you know what part of the world you want to embark on an adventure travel tour too, whether you want to embrace a more regional or local approach is the next thing to decide one.
- FIGURE OUT YOUR AVAILABILITY. Then — how long do you intend to stay abroad? Adventure travel tours can be as short as just one week or as long as six months to a year, depending on your preference. Many adventure travel tour companies will also offer trips of varying lengths to choose from, some with the opportunity to extend or shorten your stay from the same itinerary.
- BEGIN YOUR PROGRAM RESEARCH. Now comes the fun part. You’ve decided where you want to go and how long you want to be there. Now you get to start checking out different programs. The major draw of an adventure travel tour is the level to, and ways in which, they immerse you within your host country. Are you interested in history and culture or in extreme sports? Volunteering, teaching, working? Learning a new language or learning about ecosystem conservation? What about all of the above?
- KEEP ON RESEARCHIN'. These are all choices you’ll have to make when deciding on an adventure travel tour company. Some programs are more focused on one theme (i.e. the environment) while others offer a little bit of something for everybody. Research a wide array of different itineraries, keep an open mind, and eventually you’ll come across the one that feels meant to be.
- RESEARCH SLUMP? USE TRAVEL TOOLS. PICK ONE AND GO! But, to get technical, you’ll want to start by saving and comparing your favorite adventure travel tours side-by-side with MyGoAbroad. Once you’ve narrowed down your options— from where you want to go (New Zealand? Patagonia?), to what you want to do (yoga retreat? Trekking the alps?), reviews are going to be your best insight into the nitty gritty details of each adventure. You’ll get all the deets on every adventure tour company’s credibility, local buy-in, the quality of their guides and overall experience, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Adventure is out there...
There are tons more adventure travel tour programs out there to choose from; the important thing is that you land on one that feels right for you. Everyone travels differently. Dig deep, and don’t settle for anything less than your perfect adventure— whatever that looks like.
You need to start here, and go wherever your internal compass takes you.