Many of our clients swore they would NEVER take a tour…and then they found Hand Crafted Travel.
Hand Crafted Travel specializes in connecting travelers with the people and places they are visiting. We do this by focusing on independent travel, and on small group guided tours — many of the guided tours we feature have 8 people or less, and none have more than 24.
For questions about any of the tours featured on this page, or for information about small group tours to other destinations, please contact us directly.
Hand Crafted Travel's owner, Bryan Smith, has been guiding his own small group tours in Europe for more than 20 years, so we know a little bit about what makes small groups so special.
Small group tours preserve the best aspects of independent travel — freedom, flexibility and contact with the local culture — while eliminating the hassles and hard work of traveling on your own.
Over the years we've run across a number of other tour companies that share our travel philosophy, and have carefully selected a few to feature on our site. They cover destinations that aren’t in our wheelhouse, and allow us to offer more departures each year than we can on our own.
Although the tours shown on this page are not led by Bryan, they still offer many of the advantages of our small group size.
Unlike big bus tours, there’s no rush to get people out the door and on the bus at the crack of dawn. Small group tours usually begin their day the way most independent travelers do: with a leisurely breakfast before heading out around 9:00 am (most museums and other sights don’t open before then anyway). With at least two or three days in most locations, you’ll have time to savor the unique character of each place before moving on.
First off — yes, your room will always have a private bathroom.
Secondly, we’ll take a half-timbered inn over a Holiday Inn™ any day. Small groups are able to use the kind of charming hotels that those big bus tourers can only dream about.
Whether it’s a woodsy chalet high in the Alps, an old olive mill that has been converted into an elegant B&B in the hills of Tuscany, or a boutique hotel in the heart of a big city, accommodations capture the spirit and character of each place.
Food is a very important part of any tour experience. It is a basic expression of the people and culture you’re visiting.
Breakfast in Europe is not, and should not be a hard roll and coffee (the “Continental” breakfast offered by many big tour companies). Most boutique hotels offer a buffet, with local varieties of breads, cheeses, eggs, fruit, cereal, yogurt, coffee and tea.
For included dinners, small groups are able to use local-style restaurants with a casual atmosphere, where the focus is on good service and excellent food. Unlike large groups, small groups of 10 or less don't need to pre-arrange a set meal for the entire group, so you'll usually have free choice from the restaurant’s normal menu.
The tour companies we feature concentrate on culture, art and history, but refuse to be stuffy and monotone when it comes to museums. With a passion for the people and stories behind the history, they bring the past to life, put it in context with world events at the time, and relate it to our modern world.
Small group tours tend to attract a fascinating, eclectic mix of couples and singles – people who are open-minded, flexible, and interested in learning. Many are well-traveled, though there are a fair number of first-timers as well.
Travel should not be a mad dash from one sight to another. After years of leading tours and talking to travelers, it’s clear to us that what people remember most about their trips are the people they meet, and the experiences they have along the way. Small group tours emphasize real places, real people and real history, by-passing tourist pseudo-sights that are famous just because they’re close to a freeway and able to handle large tour buses. You’ll still see the important sights, but you'll also go places that big tours, with their mammoth buses and steam roller schedules, simply can’t go.
This tour gives you a taste of the real Portugal, still basking in the glow of ancient customs. Covering everything from cosmopolitan Lisbon to Porto’s medieval cobblestone streets, this tour includes a visit to the remote, natural gem of the Douro Valley, to Roman ruins, and to world-famous pilgrimage sites.
Cruise the Douro River in a traditional-styled, but electric powered, rabelo boat. Be moved by the folk music of traditional Fado singers. Visit the magnificent UNESCO-listed Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, and the Shrine of our Lady of Fatima in Batalha.
Visit the poignant beaches of D-Day, discover the rugged Brittany Coast, dine at an elegant estate in chateaux country, and spend three memorable nights in Paris on one of our most comprehensive Northern France and Normandy tours.
Discover cities that have shaped the world’s culture. Cook up an Italian feast in a Tuscan villa. Hunt for truffles in Piedmont. Relax in the tranquillity of Lake Orta, one of Italy’s hidden gems. Enjoy regional flavors and renowned wines, celebrated around the globe. Take in picture-perfect landscapes that will capture your imagination and stay in your heart. Exploring Italy is truly an experience to be savored.