It's one thing to book a flight and a hotel when you're taking a trip. But if you're visiting a place you've never been before, or you want to get the most out of a destination, you may want to work with a tour operator.
Once you're on the ground, through a well-planned itinerary a tour operator can bring you to the places and introduce you to experiences that you simply could not arrange on your own.
And if you're worried that you'll end up riding the bus with dozens of old people or families with screaming children, think again. These are the top tour operators for couples.
Abercrombie & Kent is the original luxury travel company, with private and escorted tours to some 100 countries. When I went to Africa, Abercrombie & Kent arranged everything from my airport pickups to photo safaris in Land Rovers to lodge accommodations to an overnight in a tent in the Kalahari desert and a flightseeing helicopter tour of Victoria Falls. Not only did I feel safe and well-oriented, I felt as if I was getting the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Artisans of Leisure specializes in creating high-end, personalized, romantic travel experiences. Trips often include sightseeing with expert private guides, drivers, carefully selected rooms in top luxury hotels, restaurant and spa reservations, admissions, and special amenities for customers.
Tour company that focuses primarily on bike riding adventures. Note: Many of the journeys are "family friendly," so couples may prefer Backroads' "classic" offerings, which focus more on gastronomy and wining than gallivanting and whining.
Luxury walking and biking trips, hiking and cycling tours, and guided active vacations are the bread-and-butter of Butterfield & Robinson. This family-owned Canadian firm specializes in leading clients to unheralded treasures on one-of-a-kind journeys in more than two dozen countries and six continents. Each route is designed to immerse travelers in the local culture and reveal a region’s true spirit.
Affordable tours that go beyond the surface by arranging people-to-people encounters with local residents. Guided trips range from eight to 15 days and visit destinations that include China, South America, Tuscany, wildlife parks in East Africa, and hot springs in the Japanese Alps.
Experts in Africa, and specialists in planning customized honeymoon itineraries, Extraordinary Journeys is operated by an extraordinary mother-daughter team (Mom speaks Swahili and has more than 30 years' experience in the travel business; daughter Elizabeth was born in Kenya, and both are licensed pilots). A consultation fee is charged for their services, then refunded when the trip is booked.
Aimed at adventurers, Mountain Travel Sobek has been leading travelers on custom journeys worldwide for more than 40 years. Exciting itineraries to unforgettable places include Machu Picchu, the Galapagos, Himalayas, even Alaska.
Official travel provider for the World Wildlife Fund and named a Top Ten Travel Company by National Geographic Traveler
, Natural Habitat Adventures leads land tours and sea-based tours throughout the world including the Galapagos Islands, Africa, New Zealand, Central America, Scotland, Alaska, the Amazon, and Antarctica.
The industry trade group for tour operators, USTOA members are made up of companies whose tours and packages encompass the globe but who conduct business in the United States. Not all are right for couples: Some are family-oriented, others are price driven. So you do need to pick and choose. But if you'd rather stay in a traditional Mongolian Ger, a European castle, on a farm in Ireland, an eco-lodge in South America, or a Spanish country inn than a high- rise hotel, members of the USTOA can help you select for something more exotic on your next getaway.