The 9 Best European Travel Companies of 2019

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Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Audley Travel – Buy Tickets

"Not only does Audley offer responsible travel, but the company has also created multiple initiatives to support charities."

Best Nature: Naturetrek – Buy Tickets

"The company is not only focused on wildlife, as botanical and astronomy tours are offered across the world."

Best Cruise Expedition: Lindblad Expeditions – Buy Tickets

"Tours are tailor-made to suit the destination and passengers alike and delicious food and masterclasses are included."

Best Family: Thomson Family Adventures – Buy Tickets

"All groups are accompanied by an expert, in-country guide who will ensure the family gets the most out of the destination."

Best Young Adults: STA – Buy Tickets

"STA’s ability to offer internships, study abroad and volunteer opportunities contrasts with almost every other tour company."

Best Budget: Expat Explore – Buy Tickets

"Expat Explore strives to include as many extras and experiences as possible with no shock add-ons."

Best Seniors: Steppes Travel – Buy Tickets

"There is no doubting the excellence that Steppes put into each and every tour."

Best Singles: G Adventures – Buy Tickets

"G Adventures creates bonds through shared experience and adventure."

Best Couples: Avalon Waterways – Buy Tickets

"Their luxurious fleet, combined with in-depth walking tours, make for romantic get-aways to remember."

Our Top Picks

01 of 09

Best Overall: Audley Travel

Audley

Audley

A constant annual winner of multiple travel awards, Audley Travel was created in 1996 by Craig Burkinshaw to match individual interests to specific journeys. 

The first step in the Audley process is to speak to a specialist in the area you wish to travel, and in turn they will design your trip until you are content. Throughout your dream vacation, a representative from Audley will be available 24/7 to assist if necessary. Not only does Audley offer responsible travel, but the company has also created multiple initiatives to support charities in the areas their clients visit.

While Audley’s services are undoubtedly expensive, there is no doubting the attention to detail designed to each itinerary to ensure clients’ safety and enjoyment. Their 12-day "Highlights of Ancient Greece" is a European favorite, visiting the steps of the ancient Acropolis and walking around the site of Olympia, where the original Olympic Games took place.

Want to learn more about European tours? Check out our guide on how to get the best out of your journey through the continent.

02 of 09

Best Nature: Naturetrek

Naturetrek

 Naturetrek

Based in the U.K., Naturetrek has been the model of wildlife tour excellence since 1986. Founded as a bird watching and botanical trekking company, Naturetrek grew into one of the world’s leading natural history tour operators, operating in 90 destinations across the world. 

Always guided by a leading naturalist in a particular field or location, Naturetrek offers three main types of natural history tours; small group, tailor-made and private group tours. 

Their 46 European destinations include "Whale and Dolphins of the Azores" and "Bears, Birds and Caves of Slovenia," to name a few. The company is not only focused on wildlife, however, as botanical and astronomy tours are offered across the world. 

In the current global warming crisis, Naturetrek donates a percentage of each holiday fee to the World Land Trust to help offset carbon emissions.

03 of 09

Best Cruise Expedition: Lindblad Expeditions

Linblad Expeditions

 Linblad Expeditions

Founded in 1958, Lars-Eric Lindblad was a pioneer of exotic travel to areas of the world that tourists had not dared visit before. In 2004, Lindblad Expeditions partnered with illustrious National Geographic to operate a fleet of 10 ships that would push the boundaries of travel and create a passion for those lucky enough to join their expeditions.

While the company operates on all seven continents, its Europe and Mediterranean theatre is an immensely popular choice for tourists around the world. Their Mediterranean experience aboard the 58–guest Sea Cloud is a stylish way to explore the Cyclades. The popular nine-day tour leaves from Athens and sails the Aegean making stops at Tinos, Selos, Santorini and Piraeus to name a few. 

Tours are tailor-made to suit the destination and passengers alike, and delicious food, lectures and even masterclasses are included on each excursion. 

04 of 09

Best Family: Thomson Family Adventures

Thomson Family Adventures

 Thomson Family Adventures

Thomson Family Adventures prides themselves on their ability to cater to the entire family, whether that includes grandparents or babies. Their portfolio of destinations ranges from Europe to the far-flung reaches of Patagonia. Their range of group sizes allows parties to create custom and private tours but also the ability to join others on a small group tour. 

All groups are accompanied by an expert, in-country guide who will ensure the family gets the most out of the destination. Moreover, their up-to-date offers allow select packages for solo parent travel and teen/millennial specialty adventures. 

Iceland is one of their most popular family tours, the nine-day adventure is classified as a moderate activity level and includes glacial exploration by snowmobile, waterfall hikes and even a cook-out at a local farm. 

Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09

Best Young Adults: STA

STA

 STA 

Formed in Australia back in 1979, STA travel was created with the purpose of bringing affordable flights and adventures to the student/young adult population. At present, two million travelers are catered for by STA as they begin their adventures across the globe.

Their "Student Card" and "Book Now, Pay Later" plans are just a couple of examples of lengths that STA will go to to ensure their client satisfaction and ability to travel. In addition, STA’s ability to offer internships, study abroad and volunteer opportunities are unique and contrast with almost every other tour company in the world. With hundreds of shops across the globe and a base in London, STA’s award-winning customer service is recognized as being informative and supportive. 

Their easy-to-navigate website allows prospective travelers to choose cheap multi-city flights, rail and bus passes, and even the best monthly destinations. The Eurail Global Pass has been a perennial favorite for young people wishing to explore a collection of European countries in a shorter and cheaper timeframe. 

06 of 09

Best Budget: Expat Explore

Expat Explore

 Expat Explore

This London based tour company has been operating since 2004 and was created by two men whose passion for European travel turned into a 15,000-passenger per year business. With over 50 tours in 35 countries, Expat Explores packages span the world giving participants the best understanding of the areas’ culture, gastronomy, and landmarks.

Their seven-day ‘"Taste of France" tour is much-loved among clients, visiting destinations such as the Normandy D-Day beaches, Paris, Loire Valley, and Lyon. With prices starting as low as $865, the weeklong tour includes accommodations, meals, and transport. Unlike other tour companies, Expat Explore strives to include as many extras and experiences as possible with no shock add-ons. All taxes and fees are included. 

07 of 09

Best Seniors: Steppes Travel

Steppes

Steppes Travel 

Steppes have molded their company to not only offer luxurious holidays but in turn offer a great range of tours, including wildlife, cultural and cruise options. This U.K.-based company has been in operation since 1989 offering the highest standard of travel; there is no surprise that 70 percent of the business is repeat and referral. 

Senior travelers make up a large percentage of clientele and Steppes’ ease of booking, expert guides and ability to offer privileged access to behind the scenes areas such as the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg is unique.  

While the prices may be steep compared to other companies, there is no doubting the excellence that Steppes put into each and every tour. Their Spitsbergen cruise is an 11-day tour that brings tourists within 600 miles of the North Pole and mere meters from polar bears, whales and walrus, all while being based aboard a top of the range, Dutch navy icebreaker.

08 of 09

Best Singles: G Adventures

G Adventures

 G Adventures

G Adventures is known across the tour company fraternity as an exciting multi-day, all-inclusive company whose eclectic mix of clientele come from far and wide. Popular for those on their gap year, G-Adventures tours are also frequented by single parents, older adventurers and couples.  

In over 20 years of operation, half of their travellers are solo adventurers who have stated that the ability to meet and interact with other like-minded travellers often cements friendships for life. Trips such as the 15-day ‘London to Budapest: Waterways, Wine and Bohemian Vibes’ is such an example. Travel creates bonds through shared experience and adventure. 

A bonus of G-Adventures single policy is their no single supplement. They believe single travellers should enjoy the same advantages of others in the group, and will gladly pair you up with a roommate of the same sex to ensure you get the same price.

Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09

Best Couples: Avalon Waterways

Avalon

 Avalon Waterways

Founded in Switzerland in 2004, Avalon Waterways is a river cruise company that has a luxurious fleet and offers in-depth walking tours of famed European cities and regions, and even gastronomical masterclasses. You can forget the cramped buses and trains of Europe and unwind as you cruise down the Danube, Rhine, Rhone or Seine.

The Danube river cruise allows travelers to set foot in eight countries and explore Europe’s second-longest river. Wander through the streets of Belgrade and Bucharest or marvel at the Iron Gates, the dramatic gorge which the Romans once used as a military vantage point.

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