Generally, I'm not a huge fan of organised group tours. But there are a few noteworthy exceptions — and Gap Adventures is one of them.
The first group tour I ever took without my family was not long after I turned 17.
I'd only just started travelling on my own at the time and didn't really have much of a clue as to how to go about organising transport, booking hostels or even finding things out for myself.
So, a small group sailing adventure around the Greek Islands was perfect.
These days, I mostly backpack solo around the world, but I still join adventure tours here and there.
Sometimes it's because the tour actually works out to be cheaper than what it would cost me otherwise.
Sometimes it's because the government doesn't even allow independent travel (like North Korea or Bhutan).
And sometimes it's simply because it makes for a nice change or gives me a much-needed break from DIY backpacking!
Of all the overseas adventure travel companies out there, Gap Adventures (now officially G Adventures) is the one I never hesitate to recommend.
Let me tell you why . . .
Gap Adventures has a unique way of providing a lot more fun for a lot less dosh!
That's because travel with them is very down-to-earth. It's always safe and comfortable, of course — but not lavish.
You don't sleep in luxury hotels, indulge in expensive gourmet meals or get chauffeured around in private limos. Instead, you might stay with a local family, eat at a streetside café and travel by public bus to your next destination.
But isn't that what it's all about anyway?
With hundreds of fabulous trips that won't burn a hole in your wallet, Gap Adventures has some of the most affordable deals you'll come across anywhere.
The mere thought of being squeezed onto a massive tour bus with 50 or more other travellers is enough to send me running for the hills.
Thankfully, G Adventures keeps groups small. The number of people on any one of their trips is rarely more than 16, and (except for on ships and Africa overland truck expeditions) the overall average is actually only 10.
What this means to you:
Basically, a much more rewarding experience all round.
Gap Adventures doesn't take you on whirlwind sight-seeing tours — they believe in providing you with genuine opportunities to interact with the people and immerse yourself in their culture.
Many of their adventure trips include homestays (in Cuba, for example) or excursions by local transport to unique, little-known places. Even the optional activities are chosen to reflect the character of the destination, so you get a real sense of being a part of it.
You never feel like you're just another tourist on a conveyor belt.
I love the independence of solo travel.
So, when I do take the odd tour now and again I appreciate one that doesn't herd us around like cattle. I want a tour that gives me plenty of personal time to wander off and explore on my own.
Gap Adventures really understands that.
They make sure you don't miss out on the highlights of the trip but they also let you pick and choose from some pretty cool optional activities along the way.
Gap Adventures offers you lots of ways to save money:
Oh, and you automatically get 5% off on your next G Adventures trip just for filling in a short online tour evaluation when you come back from your first one!
Every time I go to check out what's new at G Adventures, I add another must-do trip (most recently Tibet) to my ever-growing travel list.
Gap Adventures now has more than 740 awesome tours, safaris, treks, expeditions, cruises, volunteer trips and eco adventures to choose from in over 100 countries across all 7 continents.
Whatever your interests, travel style and budget, they've got it covered.
One of the unfortunate disadvantages of solo travel is that tour companies often slap you with hefty single supplements. And those can be pretty painful on the pocketbook.
You don't get that with Gap Adventures.
Most of their tours are based on twin-shared lodging. But if you're on your own they can pair you up with another traveller (of the same sex) so that you don't have to fork out extra for single accommodation.
Of course, you might actually prefer to pay a little bit more to have your own room. Maybe on a longer tour — like the legendary Peru adventure that takes you along the Inca Trail and into the Amazon.
Either way, you always get a fair price.
No one wants to spend months getting geared up for an adventure of a lifetime only to have the whole thing cancelled at the last minute because not enough people signed up for it!
That's why Gap Adventures has guaranteed departure dates.
Wherever you see their purple 'Guaranteed Departures' tags you know you can rest assured that all (or at least selected) tour departures will go ahead as scheduled — guaranteed.
Unexpected stuff happens and plans change. That's just life. But that can also be a real problem if you've booked a holiday.
Thankfully, if you ever need to cancel or postpone a G Adventures tour, you won't be out of pocket.
Unlike with most other travel companies, you don't forfeit your booking deposit. It's kept on file for you to put towards your next trip.
And there's absolutely no time limit.
Gap Adventures will hold the deposit for as long as you want. You can use it for any future trip you choose (it doesn't have to be the original one you'd booked) or even transfer the money to someone else!
If you're feeling especially generous, you can also donate your deposit to G Adventures' non-profit Planeterra Foundation. And in appreciation, they'll match your contribution.
From the moment you first contact them, G Adventures strives to provide you with an experience like no other.
Their knowledgeable and well-travelled CEOs (Chief Experience Officers) take all the hassle out of planning and organising to ensure that you enjoy your trip stress-free.
Once there, the expert local guides take you on an authentic journey into the culture of their people, bringing places to life with colourful tales of fascinating history.
These guys are passionate about adventure and it shows.
Yes, you can actually contact a Gap Adventures CEO any time of the day or night.
Now that's what I call service!
G Adventures is big on protecting the environment and giving back to the communities they visit.
As far as is possible, they use locally-owned services and stay in small-scale accommodation to make sure that your money stays with the local people. And they work hard to minimise their impact on nature and wildlife.
Through their many charitable projects with the Planeterra Foundation, Gap Adventures also help to bring about positive change around the world.
This is a company that really makes a difference and one that you can feel good about supporting!
Gap Adventures has received some pretty significant awards and recognition over the years.
You don't get the big thumbs up from Lonely Planet for nothing!