The 10 Best Tour Companies of 2019

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The Rundown

  • Best Overall: Classic Journeys "Their eclectic, handcrafted trips are extremely popular across the travel market and have earned a multitude of travel awards."
  • Best Budget: Intrepid Travel "With cycling, trekking and unique community interactions, Intrepid has a wide range of options for those who want full immersion."
  • Best for Couples: Kensington Tours "The company is renowned not only for visiting well-known locations, but also for exploring far-away treasures."
  • Best for Families: Thomson Family Adventures "The company's destination portfolio ranges from the well-known metropolises of Europe to the far-flung jungles of Colombia."
  • Best for Seniors: Eldertreks "While trips vary in intensity, travelers consistently remark on the high-quality organization and structure of each trip."
  • Best for Young Adults: G Adventures "With affordable, multi-day adventures across the world, the company is committed to sustainability and donates to non-profits."
  • Best for Singles: Exodus Travels "With plenty of time to get to know fellow travelers, there is truly no better way to create relationships through travel."
  • Best for Europe: Audley Travel "With expert knowledge and guides in the 86 destinations in which they operate there is excellent assistance 24/7."
  • Best Nature Tour: Naturetrek "UK-based Naturetrek was founded predominantly as a bird watching and botanical trekking company, and this heritage remains."
  • Best Cruise: Linblad Expeditions "Every participant will have an opportunity to make memories with up-close encounters with wildlife and sublime natural surroundings."

Our Top Picks

01 of 10

Best Overall: Classic Journeys

Classic Journeys

 Classic Journeys

Based in La Jolla, California, Classic Journeys offers 100 itineraries throughout 50 countries on six different continents. Their eclectic, handcrafted trips are extremely popular across the travel market and have earned a multitude of travel awards throughout the past decade. Classic Journeys caters not only to high-end clients who desire tailor-made, luxurious trips but also to young adults and single travelers who want to travel to remote areas. 

Whether the tour takes adventurers to Africa or Europe, Classic Journeys provides novel ways to travel. Their culture and walking tours are popular in countries such as Greece and Italy where ancient sites can be fused with delicious market food.

Classic Journeys also pioneered land-based tours of the Galapagos Islands where one stays in boutique properties around the archipelago providing up-close access to the islands and their residents.

Guests can also spend an adrenaline-filled week zip-lining through the Costa Rican jungle tops, getting unparalleled views of the world’s most biodiverse country, or they can take the whole family to get a taste of Moroccan culture in Fés and Marrakech with camel rides and market tours. The opportunities are practically endless.

Classic Journeys has also created a savvy incentive scheme for returning clients called the Ambassador Club, which offers a five percent comeback reward, best room priority, and special offers across the world, like $250 travel credit when referring a friend, or $750 off when travelers combine two trips.

02 of 10

Best Budget: Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel

Founded in 1988, Intrepid Travel proudly operates more than 1,000 itineraries across all seven continents. The company specializes in affordable small-group tours, as well as active adventure tours. With cycling, trekking and unique community interactions, Intrepid has a wide range of options for those who want to immerse themselves in one of the 120 countries in which the company operates. 

Usually with an average of 10 people per tour, Intrepid Travel tours are run by local and knowledgeable guides who are passionate and willing to take travelers off the beaten track, utilizing inexpensive yet comfortable lodging and transportation coordinated with family-run businesses.

Their eight-day “North Spain Discovery” is a shining example of their standards, as visitors can experience a comprehensive trip through the best of Spanish gastronomy, including the tapas of Barcelona, the wine of Logroño, and the pintxos of the Basque Country, which is home to some of the world’s best restaurants. 

The company insists on sustainable travel and tour leaders who make participants comfortable by professing local history and uncovering hidden gems in each destination, like a felucca cruise on the Nile, or a bicycle trip through the French Alps.  

03 of 10

Best for Couples: Kensington Tours

Kensington Tours

Kensington Tours

Kensington Tours was created in 1999 to develop customized itineraries for private travelers who want to experience in-depth tours led by professional resident guides. Trip templates can be chosen on their website, edited, and customized with the assistance of a staff member to create the best possible tour for each individual or group. 

With small groups being the norm, Kensington Tours provides its own guide, vehicle, and driver. This is an ideal opportunity for honeymooners to create their own romantic tour. With 100 destinations on every continent including Antarctica, the company is renowned both for its trips to familiar locations and for its journeys to far-away treasures. Guests can be whisked to the dense rainforests of the Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona in Colombia, or Damaraland in Namibia, where sightseers can witness big cats and endangered species roaming side by side.

Their romantic “Fiji Signature,” a six-day tour through the tropical island paradise, is the epitome of luxury and relaxation. With multiple five-star hotels to choose from and options to picnic on a pristine private island, Kensington Tours really do venture to the farthest-flung areas of the globe in comfort. 

04 of 10

Best for Families: Thomson Family Adventures

Thomson Family Adventures

Thomson Family Adventures

Thomson Family Adventures are renowned for their ability to create travel itineraries for families of all ages and sizes. Their dedication to ensuring each tour is accompanied by either an expert or an in-country guide will ensure that every member of the family is satisfied. 

Thomson also offers tour packages for single parents and teen crowds. Examples of teen specialty tours include heavy-adrenaline activities like multisport adventures through the Colorado Rockies or Thailand. Their destination portfolio ranges from the well-known metropolises of Europe to the far-flung jungles of Colombia. 

The company will even help clients pick an adventure if they’re not sure what’s best for their family. Travelers can simply tell Thomson Family Adventures what they want out of a trip, and the company will have an answer in no time. They also put on tours that double as family reunions, so families can be sure that everyone will be happy, from the youngest member of the clan to the oldest.

Sightseers can book a custom tour in Italy, where they can visit classic stops like Positano and Pompeii, or they can opt for the “Japan Family Adventure,” in which they can tour Tokyo like a local or relax in a traditional onsen. Whatever they choose, voyagers can be sure that Thomson Family Adventures will bring them and their families together.

Continue to 5 of 10 below.
05 of 10

Best for Seniors: Eldertreks

Eldertreks

Eldertreks

Eldertreks is a Canadian organization with over 30 years of experience in the travel industry. Focused on the over-50 demographic, Eldertreks operates boat and land-based tours to over 100 countries. Their small group tours are limited to 16 people per land-based tours and 200 for expedition ships. This personal experience has many benefits, especially for their polar adventures, in which clients can enjoy wildlife viewings without any crowds or loud groups. Their 12-day, High Arctic Explorer tour is popular among clients with the opportunity to encounter belugas, polar bears and narwhals, as well as the colossal icebergs off the coast of Greenland.

Each one of their tours is ranked by activity level, ranging from one (easy) to five (challenging). For example, luxurious, cruise tours may be a one, while hiking to mountain lodges in the high-altitude Peruvian Andes will most definitely be a challenging and rewarding five. While trips vary in intensity, travelers consistently remark on the high-quality organization and structure of each trip.

All trips include all meals, accommodations, and transportation, so guests can sit back and relax since they won’t have to worry about other expenses. 

06 of 10

Best for Young Adults: G Adventures

G Adventures

G Adventures

G Adventures is famed for being a tour operator with affordable, multi-day adventures across the world. Their tours are popular among young adults who have recently graduated from high school or college and are looking for an eye-opening experience visiting new places and meeting like-minded people. 

However, G Adventures tours are not only for the young and single, as there are plenty of couples and older participants who assemble from all over the world, enticed by the extraordinary itineraries guided by multilingual experts.

Some of the most exciting tours include the eight-day “Santorini to Mykonos” sailing trip which is replete with fresh seafood and ocean relaxation, or “Cambodia & Vietnam: Bonfires & Banh Mi,” a guided adventure of the bustling cities of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and the historic landscapes of Angkor Wat.

A bonus of G Adventures is that their website is easy to navigate and participants can choose from one of their hundreds of tour options. Whether travelers wish to embark upon their wellness, rail, local living or 18-to-30-somethings tours there will be something for them.

With the slogan “Lead With Service,” there is no doubting the company’s commitment to those they serve, as well as their partnership with various non-profit charities who strive to protect the planet via non-plastic initiatives and community outreach. 

07 of 10

Best for Singles: Exodus Travels

Exodus Travels

Exodus Travels

For decades Exodus has been achieving excellence, winning multiple awards for their small guided trips. Potential clients can choose from over 600 itineraries in more than 100 countries, from the Arctic poles to the African deserts. Although Exodus caters to couples and groups alike, their reputation for exciting singles packages is second to none. What better way to meet new people than walking the French Riviera? With plenty of time to get to know fellow travelers and cozying up in charming guesthouses along the way, there is truly no better way to create relationships through travel. 

The organization also treats its employees well: There’s a scholarship school in Tanzania for guides, and the company insists on paying its workers a fair rate that exceeds the compensation of most other companies.  

Likewise, Exodus Travels insists on responsible and sustainable travel by supporting initiatives like using local accommodations and employing local businesses. The organization also spearheads several initiatives dedicated to helping social issues in the countries they visit, such as sponsoring a home for older women in Nepal and expanding schools and classrooms in Kenya. In fact, 98 percent of their clientele reported that the company is run in a sustainable way, as they do more than just ensure the protection and preservation of the areas to which they travel, but actively support growth and progress.

08 of 10

Best for Europe: Audley Travel

Audley Travel

Audley Travel

While British company Audley Travel doesn’t claim to be the cheapest travel operator in the business, that doesn’t mean that their adventures aren’t worth it. Boasting excellent tailor-made service, Audley’s vacations are entirely designed around the client’s requirements, budget, and style. With expert knowledge and guides in the 86 destinations in which they operate, including Italy, the Galapagos, and even Antarctica, Audley reassures each client that while they are away on their tour there will be assistance 24/7. 

The “Lisbon, Évora and the Algarve” tour is one of the European favorites, delving deep into the culture of Portugal, whether it be experiencing classical Portuguese music known as Fado, or learning to make Pastel de Nata, a delicious creamy pastry famous across the Iberian Peninsula. 

Each element of their tours is meticulously designed for safety, luxury and enjoyment. Since guides are specialists in their region, they can take travelers off the beaten path to infuse the trip with a sense of adventure, while keeping adventurers totally secure. On a tour to Mauritius, for instance, guests can spend one moment luxuriating on the beach, and another just inches away from an active volcano.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Best Nature Tour: Naturetrek

Naturetrek

Naturetrek

While there are plenty of excellent wildlife tour operators, U.K.-based Naturetrek was founded predominantly as a bird watching and botanical trekking company. Offering a multitude of different tours, including cruise, hiking, and train experiences, Naturetrek operates in 90 destinations across the world. 

Always guided by a leading naturalist in a particular field or location, Naturetrek has three main types of natural history tours: small group, tailor-made, and private group tours. Staffed by nature enthusiasts who have traveled to each and every destination visited, their passion for client satisfaction is obvious with every tour, as guests rave about Naturetrek’s guides’ infectious humor and positivity, and their wealth of knowledge about the local climate and wildlife. 

Their “India – Tiger Marathon” is a 13-day safari that combines four of India’s most famous tiger reserves. Led by expert local guides, participants have the chance to encounter rare species both by river cruise and land excursions. A 100 percent tiger sighting record is a boasting point for Naturetrek, so travelers won’t have to worry about not encountering these wild big cats.

Committed to sustainability, Naturetrek donates a percentage of each holiday fee to the World Land Trust to help offset carbon emissions. Their tours also emphasize reducing pollution through initiatives like supporting wildlife reserves and avoiding carbon-producing transit, so that wildlife adventures can continue for many generations to come. 

10 of 10

Best Cruise: Linblad Expeditions

Linblad Expeditions

Linblad Expeditions

With over five decades of expert cruising tours to remote locations around the world, Lindblad Expeditions recently partnered with National Geographic to provide arguably the most exhilarating overseas adventure experiences on the market.

With 14 ships in their fleet, from massive sailing yachts to expedition ships custom-built for arctic adventures, their tours visit areas where each participant will have an opportunity to make memories on their dream trip. Since sightseers get an up-close encounter with wildlife and sublime natural surroundings, the cruise is sure to leave a long-lasting impression.

Each of their ships caters to a different need – their Egyptian Oberoi Philae is designed for luxury and relaxation while cruising the Nile, while the Mediterranean’s Sea Cloud that's a glorious tall ship built as an homage to the golden age of sailing. There's even the National Geographic Explorer, which is capable of venturing to the Arctic, Antarctica, and Patagonia.

Groups range from 28 to 148 guests, depending on the ship travelers choose. There are scientific and recreational additions to each trip, whether that be hydrophones to listen to the whales of Baja California or cameras for those who wish to capture some of nature's most special events such as polar bear sightings or witnessing sea turtles off the coast of the Galapagos.

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