Active travel is one of the few industries in the digital age that still revels in mailing out thick, glossy, color catalogs. Every time I receive one (surprisingly often) it’s hard not to immediately start flipping through the pages and fantasizing about tempting trip after tempting trip. Cycling Croatia’s Coast by Boat, Trekking the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, Multi-Sport Adventure in Bhutan, and endless trips in proven favorites such as Italy, France, Ireland and Spain. There are trips for every taste, but increasingly, many of the more unique offerings don’t have prices or departure dates, but instead simply state “Private Only.”
When the guided active travel industry began, pretty much all of the bike, hike and multi-sport trips offered were group departures, meaning they would list a few dates for reach trip, have a maximum group size, usually in the range of 12-24 people, and they would sell spots to singles and couples. You would join a bunch of strangers, usually for better, sometimes for worse. But increasingly this segment of the travel industry has shifted to private trips, and many of the top players have told me that 50% or more of their bookings are now private. This can mean either the same itineraries that are offered as group departures but at a date of your choice and with no strangers, or a completely different custom itinerary, often in places where there are no “scheduled departures,” industry jargon for a group trip on a certain date out of the catalog.
There are many advantages to private travel. You are not limited to the handful of dates offered, and can make the trip fit your work, school or life schedule.