How To Decide If Custom Tours Are Right for You


Think back to the best trip of your life. What made it truly memorable? Sure, the destination itself may have had a lot to do with it. But I’m sure that your fellow travelers also played a very important part in making that trip one to remember.

Sometimes all you want from a vacation is a chance to spend time with your family, friends, or significant other. At other times, traveling in a group means forging long-lasting friendships, or perhaps even finding your soulmate.

Snorkeling in Panama

This explains why International Expeditions offers both small group expeditions and custom tours, to offer something for travelers of all stripes. All of IE’s trips are led by expert guides and include immersive nature experiences and authentic encounters with local cultures. The difference is that their custom tours are fully tailored to the needs of your group of friends or family, whereas on other expeditions you’ll be joining a group that’s following a set schedule.

Customized expeditions definitely allow for much more flexibility. There are suggested itineraries on the International Expeditions website. But they can all be fully customized, taking into account how much time you have, your budget, and your interests. But choosing the right custom tour to suit your needs can be difficult.

Here are some tips that can help you navigate the world of custom tours, thinking about what questions to ask and how to make the right decisions for you and your loved ones. Follow them and your journey is virtually guaranteed to be one to remember!

Swimming on Lake Malawi

Who are you traveling with?

Customized tour packages are ideal for families traveling with children. International Expeditions does offer a full range of family-friendly expeditions. But opting for a private tour gives you a chance to tailor the program to your kids’ needs and preferences, and not disrupt their routine too much.

Does your child need to be in bed at a specific time? Does he or she really hate museums, but love running around in nature? A custom tour allows you to pick and choose the activities and pace you prefer, slowing down whenever needed.

According to Charlie Weaver, IE’s Custom Travel Planner, “Custom tours are an excellent option for multi-generational families that may want to travel alone, but have varied interests and styles within their own family.”

If you’re planning to travel with children and grandparents in tow, a customized tour may be the ideal option for you. For instance, the Custom Costa Rica family tour includes fun things to do in nature for all ages, plus four full days on the beach, where you can opt to relax or enjoy a variety of cultural, adventure, food-related activities, and more.

Photographer in Africa

What activities and attractions do you want to explore?

Customized tour packages are also ideal for those with a particular interest, who want their trip to have a specific focus and none of the time constraints that come from tightly packed itineraries.

One obvious example of this is wildlife photography. Getting the best shots is largely a waiting game, which is hard to achieve on your run-of-the-mill trip. But a custom photography expedition, such as one of our photo-focused tours to Costa Rica or Panama or African wildlife safaris, will ensure you’ll have as much time as you need to get those once-in-a-lifetime shots. Additionally, IE pairs travelers with naturalist guides who are also accomplished photographers so that you benefit from their knowledge of wildlife habits to help capture incredible images.

Birding in Chile ©Claudio Vidal

Another great example is birdwatching. According to Robert Lynd’s famous quote, “In order to see birds, it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” A private tour with a birdwatching focus allows real enthusiasts to spend more time looking for that elusive species in the silence of a hide, without being hurried by the rest of the group.

Generally speaking, custom tours are your best option when you want to personalize your program. Whether you’re after adventure experiences such as surfing or kayaking or you just want to relax and enjoy the local food, you can do so on a customized trip.

Canoeing in Pedersen Lagoon near Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge

How much time do you have?

All of IE’s custom tours can be directly tailored to the time and budget you have available, making them truly 100% flexible.

Are you looking to travel on specific dates to see local festivals or other events? Our custom tours can be arranged throughout the year, and Travel Planners will be able to help you choose the best time to visit your chosen destination.

In terms of budget, you might imagine that customized trips would be considerably more expensive than group expeditions. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Moreover, IE’s travel planners are ready to help if your budget doesn’t quite stretch as far as you’d wish. So if you have your mind set on a specific destination, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Coral Caye Private Island

Are you looking for a unique, immersive experience?

One of the main benefits that custom tours offer is that they open up a range of opportunities that group tours simply don’t have access to. Charlie Weaver suggests that some of the best experiences that can be included in a custom tour include “photo blinds in a rainforest in Costa Rica, small private wildlife reserves in the Andes in North Peru, spending the night in an Embera village en El Darien Jungle of Panama, living in a remote cabin in Tierra del Fuego for a week to get away from it all, or having your own private island in Belize.”

Of course, these are just a few examples. The list of activities you can experience on a private tour is truly endless, and you’ll be able to customize your tour as much as you wish.

In summary, custom tours can be literally anything you want them to be. The smaller group size and maximum flexibility means you’ll be able to enjoy deeper experiences – closer contacts with nature, closer encounters with local cultures, and more intimate animal encounters. In short, it’s just what you need to create a once-in-a-lifetime vacation.

Margherita is a freelance writer from Milan, Italy. She is passionate about wildlife, ecotourism, and outdoor adventure activities. She runs the popular nature and adventure travel blog The Crowded Planet with her husband Nick Burns, an Australian travel and wildlife photographer.