Bubble tours are having a moment. The concept—traveling with like-minded people who share your interests—is nothing new. But in today’s more health-conscious world, the idea is taking on new meaning.
Julio Soto, AAA travel product manager, answers a few frequently asked questions about this emerging trend.
What are bubble tours?
They are essentially small-group tours, but the group you’re traveling with consists of only the people you’ve chosen—such as friends and family members. This type of trip has always been an option, but now the exclusivity of that small group is even more important. People want to travel with others they can be confident are healthy, either because they share the same philosophies about health or because they’ve already been together. That’s really important because people want to travel, and going in a group like this provides confidence.
Discover how favorite ways to travel—from cruises and guided tours to train rides and road trips—are evolving in today’s more health-focused world.
How do bubble tours work?
There are a couple of ways to create bubble tours. Most of the land tour companies that AAA partners with will allow a private group to essentially take over an existing itinerary and have it all to themselves. So, let’s say one of AAA’s travel partners has a professionally led, seven-day trip to national parks in the West, and 15 family members want to take this trip exclusively, with just their group. If it’s available, they can do that. They’ll have the transportation, the accommodations and even the tour manager all to themselves. Or, if you’d rather design your own itinerary, your AAA Travel Advisor can completely customize something for you. If you want to, you can even rent a private home or villa with your small group instead of booking a hotel.
How many people can I bring?
Typically, the more people you bring, the lower the price per person. But keep in mind that the idea behind the bubble concept is to keep it smaller and contained. If you have too many people, it becomes harder to be sure that everyone is healthy. Most AAA travel partners base their bubble tours on between 16 and 25 people. That said, I have seen companies create bubble tours with a minimum of six people. So, it’s best to talk to your AAA Travel Advisor about the options.
Will we still have a tour guide?
If you’re staying in one place—such as at a private home or villa—a guide is probably not necessary. But on a professionally led trip, yes, you’ll have a tour manager who’ll be with your group 24 hours a day, making sure that everything goes according to plan. That person ensures that all the hotel accommodations are acceptable, all the meals are on time and all the experiences you have are stellar. You really can’t beat that. And now, that tour manager has the added responsibility of making certain that everyone in the bubble is healthy and feeling well. If something happens, that tour manager will spring into action to make sure that appropriate care is taken—whatever the scenario.
Are there other advantages of traveling in a small group?
The word “small” in this context is really speaking now to a much more contained environment. It also speaks to having more of a hands-on experience. It’s more customized and more personal. Smaller groups also have better access to tourism sites than larger groups do. For example, it’s easier to get a group of 8 to 15 into Vatican City to see the Sistine Chapel than it is a group of 50. Small-group travel was a trend prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now the situation has really pushed the idea to the forefront.