A lot of people dream of exotic vacations in off-the beaten-path destinations. But more often than not, people who work in 8 to 5 jobs rarely have the time to do the research and legwork needed to realize these dream escapes.
The easiest solution is to sign up for package tours–pre-arranged trips with travel companies that promise to take the guesswork out of traveling. Food, accommodations, tickets, and even guides are all taken care of, so all you need to do is fork up some money and show up.
The trouble with some travel companies though is they tend to treat such trips like museum tours. They see travel as a volume business, try to get as many clients as possible, and cram as many activities as possible in the shortest amount of time. Somewhere along the way in this scheme, the experience, fun and joy of travel gets degraded.
But not all packaged tours are created equal. Here are five travel companies set up by travel bloggers turned entrepreneurs. The young travel experts behind these groups have a real passion for adventure and value meaningful, quality experiences on the road beyond the usual photo ops. Plus, they help keep trips easy on the pocket.
CULTURE SHOCK PH
Those who want a finer appreciation of Filipino culture & heritage through guided trips around the Philippines should check out Culture Shock. This group of young and creative professionals gives a fresh meaning to the concept of “culture shock” by letting participants rediscover the Philippines’ diverse culture and rich heritage. Culture Shock focuses mostly on food tours, heritage tours (urban treasure hunts and provincial explorations) and fiesta tours.
“Culture Shock aims to go “behind the scenes” in the tours we offer. For example, in our culinary tour, instead of simply eating at famous restaurants, we visit houses of old families and feast on traditional fare prepared by the family. Or if it’s a fiesta tour, instead of merely looking and taking photos, we have local partners who walk us through the event. This allows our guests to understand deeper the meaning of the practice to the locals.” — Osep
Culture Shock’s Pampanga Heritage Tour
- Sample destinations/tours: Pampanga Food & Heritage Tour, Taal Heritage Town Tour, Angono Art Tour, Quezon Heritage Tour, Ilocandia Heritage Tour
- Target clients: We’d be most appreciated by people who travel to to learn about Philippine culture, heritage and history. They go beyond photo ops or Facebook profile photos. They seek meaningful and enriching travels.
- Price range: Php1,500-2,700 for day trips
- Website: www.cultureshockph.com
- Facebook page: Culture Shock PH
eXplore8 [ex-plo-rate] means to explore, to go beyond the usual, to discover what’s beneath the surface. This travel company set up by photoholic journalist Izah of Trip@dora aims to let travelers explore the beauty of the Philippines while upholding responsible and sustainable tourism. They offer two types of tours: joining tours (where they operate/arrange the tours and are present as a tour leader) and private tours (arranged tours for specific small groups like family, friends, couples).
“We offer tours beyond the usual, just like our tour in Kalinga—yes, we did the Chico River but we still went all the way up to Tinglayan and visited the villages. We met with the tattooed women. We mix adventure with culture in our tours. After the tour, I don’t want the guests to just say, “I’ve been there…but I have become a part of that place…”. Our clients really appreciate the personal touch we bring to our tours.” — Izah
eXplore8 in Kalinga
- Sample destinations/ tours: Kalinga, Sagada, Calaguas, Laguna tours like Cavinti, Pandin Lake, Socsargen, Batanes. Local partners for Coron, Puerto Princesa.
- Target Clients: This is dependent on the destination, but we always get mixed clients whose ages range from 23-55
- Price range: Flexible (depends on the destination & activities). For example, we offer an All-in Sagada adventure complete with all meals at 7500 PHP but if guests can’t afford the all-in package, they just pay P3500 for lodging and transportation. For Calaguas, if our guests don’t want to surf, they just pay P3600 complete with meals, and tents.. and when we say meals, these are not camp meals (de lata etc). We spoil them with a feast. If surfing is included, they add P400 to the P3600
- Website: www.explore8.com
- Facebook page: Explore8
JOURNEYING JAMES TOURS / JJ TOURS
Who hasn’t heard of Journeying James? This guy has backpacked for 100 days straight around the Philippines the cheapest way possible and has visited all of the provinces in the country. James has turned his passion for travel into a business with customized budget backpacking tours that you won’t find anywhere else. He also organizes charity/voluntourism trips for worthy causes. (Read more about why he ventured into tour organizing.)
“I tour my clients myself. I also offer tours which are really off-the-beaten-path like Jomalig [a remote island 7-8 hours away from Real, Quezon] and Tawi-Tawi [an island province in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanano]. Of course my signature is always there – spend less, travel more.” – James
Journeying James tour in Baler
- Sample destinations/tours: Calaguas, Baler, Palawan and Jomalig Island
- Target clients: Young professionals
- Price range: Php 2,800-3,500
- Website: www.jjtoursph.com
- Facebook page: JJToursPh
Adrenaline-junkie, self-employed optimist and retired pessimist Missy of Sole Pendulum organizes Sole Adventours to satisfy her craving for travel and adventure. Aside from organizing trips to popular beach destinations, Sole Adventours also organizes climbs for mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts.
“We provide tour packages and shoe-string budget trips for people of various levels of society. We firmly believe that everyone must have the equal opportunity to see and experience what the Philippines can offer.” — Missy
Sole Adventours in Mt. Pinatubo
- Sample destinations/tours: Calaguas, Hundred Islands and/or Bolinao, Baler, La Union, Caramoan, Ilocos, Palawan, Boracay
- Target clients: Anyone with a passion for travel
- Price range: From Php800 – Php6,000
- Website: www.soleadventours.wordpress.com
- Facebook page: Sole Pendulum
7107 MAGNIFICENT ISLANDS
With his first-hand experience and love for travel, Harry of LegendHarry can easily identify, plan, organize, and manage tours according to the preferences and schedule of clients. His tour group 7107 Magnificent Islands offers a range of trips from exciting adventures to customized company outings and team-building tours.
“We turn your dream trip into a reality. We offer customized tours and adventures, and some off-the-beaten track adventures.” – Harry
7107 Magnificent Islands Surigao del Sur + Samal + Davao Group Tour
- Sample destinations/tours: Batanes, Surigao del Sur, Babuyan Islands, Carbin Reef, Danjugan Island
- Target clients: Anyone, everyone
- Price range: P1000 to P25000
- Website: http://7107islandstours.com/7107/
- Facebook Page:7107 Magnificent Islands