Millennials are a force to be reckoned with, that’s for sure. Not only do they love to travel, they’re also equally passionate about sharing their experiences with others. Their influence is far-reaching and significant, which is why tour operators like Free & Easy Traveler have zeroed in on this particular market. We sit down with Rob Campbell, COO, to discuss what’s new for the company in 2016 and how it differs from other leading operators that focus on youth and young travellers.
Free & Easy was founded in 2000 by my cousin Curtis Smith, and began as a way for him to share the amazing experiences he was having with a group of like-minded people. The concept became contagious and everyone was eager to get involved, including childhood friends, family (like myself and Curt’s brother Chad) and those who have come on the trips. The business is now comprised entirely of people who are both travel friends and work colleagues, making it a young, passionate and dynamic workplace. While our headquarters are in Calgary, we have staff working all over the world throughout the year. Skype is our savior. While we started with just one trip to Greece, we now run hundreds of trips in 16 countries around the world, and continue to search out amazing experiences off the beaten track.
The average age of travellers joining us is roughly 24, but we get travellers from the age of 18 all the way up to 35. The most important thing about being a Free & Easy traveller is having an open mind and being up for adventure! Also, our groups range from eight people on our ‘Share The Love’ volunteer trip to Northern Thailand, all the way up to 22 people (plus two FNEZ trip leaders) on a full trip. On average though, we’re looking at groups of about 15 people, all of whom (time after time) manage to become best of friends by the end of their adventure!
We believe that travel takes time. Rushing from city to city and hopping on and off buses with just enough time to snap a few photos isn’t our style. We want our travelers to really soak in the landscapes and cultures of the places we visit. This also means that our itineraries and trip style are super flexible. It’s your trip, so you should be able to do it your way. This means that you can participate in as many of the activities as you want to, and though we can help you set up any additional activities that you’re interested in, you can even go off on your own or with a friend for a couple days if you want to explore an area we don’t stop at during the trip.
We also try to have a positive impact on the countries we visit. Our Global Initiatives have been our way of giving back to the world and countries that so many of us take for granted. From planting a tree for every traveller, to beach cleanups on every trip and the collection of beer tabs to be made into prosthesis, there are so many ways that travellers can get involved in protecting where they play.
Our top-selling destination for many years now has been Thailand. It’s won both ‘Most Amazing Tour in The World’ and ‘Most Amazing Tour in Asia’ from TourRadar for several years running and truly encapsulates the vibe that we are known for: laidback, life-changing travel. From the insanity of Bangkok and Khao San Road, to deserted off-the-beaten-path tropical islands and magical floating bungalows, this trip continues to blow us away with the beauty of Thailand and the Thai people.
We’re so excited for 2016! Our first-ever South Africa trip will be happening in January. It’s one of the coolest (and cheapest) countries we’ve ever come across and we think that the road-trip style of adventure will really vibe with our travellers. We will also be offering more 10-day trip options in 2016. While our trips have typically been 20 days or longer, we understand that for many people, getting that amount of time off work can be difficult. So by splitting some of our 20-day trips into two parts (that can be combined as well), we’re hoping to give travellers that option for a quick getaway when the travel bug bites. Of course, these trips will maintain the relaxed pace of travel that is so integral to Free & Easy.
Lastly, we’ll be ringing in the New Year in style with our largest ever Nica New Years trip! 220 awesome travellers will be heading down to Nicaragua for our very own version of a Final Fiesta, involving surfing, Sunday Funday and lots of great parties and activities. Why not start 2016 with a bang right?
For more information on Free & Easy Traveler, go to freeandeasytraveler.com.