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Top Tour Operators and Travel Agencies in USA 2024/2025

Top Tour Operators and Travel Agencies in USA. Below you will find 29 of the best tour operators and travel agencies in USA offering in total 381 tours and holidays through-out USA. Combined they have received 222 customer reviews and an average rating of 5 out of 5 stars. The top tour activities offered in USA are: Adventure and sport, Sightseeing, attractions, culture and history & Wildlife, landscapes and nature.

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29 Tour Operators in USA with 222 Reviews

Expat Explore

Expat Explore

  • Address 10 Merryweather Place, London, England
  • Response Rate 90%
  • Response Time 2 hours

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  • Best-in-Class Top 5% of companies
  • Excellent Service Top 10% of companies
  • Superior Service Top 15% of companies

Infinite Adventures

Infinite Adventures

  • Address 809 W Riordan 100-325, Flagstaff, USA
  • Response Rate 100%

Bamba

  • Address 2461 FM 778, Mineola, USA
  • Response Rate 95%

Omega Tours

Omega Tours

  • Address 142 Westmount Avenue, Toronto, Canada
  • Response Rate 94%
  • Response Time 3 hours

Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel

  • Address 380 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, Australia

Topdeck

  • Address 109 Power Road, Chiswick, London, England
  • Response Rate 81%

Trafalgar

  • Address Picquet House, St Peter Port, Guernsey, London, England

The Coyote Trip

The Coyote Trip

  • Address 182 Mayall Road, London, England

Contiki

  • Address 38-51 Bedford Way, London, England
  • Response Rate 88%

World Expeditions

World Expeditions

  • Address 1B Osiers Road, Wandsworth, London, England
  • Response Time 1 hour

Luxury Gold

Luxury Gold

  • Address 33 Kern Road, Toronto, Canada
  • Response Rate 60%

Doctor Gumbo Tours

Doctor Gumbo Tours

  • Address 823 Decatur St, New Orleans, USA
  • Response Rate 50%

Indus Travels

Indus Travels

  • Address 233, 11951 Hammersmith Way, Richmond, Canada
  • Response Rate 98%

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The 10 Best Group Travel Tour Companies for 2024

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Caroline Morse Teel

Caroline Morse Teel is the Executive Editor for SmarterTravel Media. Caroline has a passion for adventure travel and has hiked to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro and the bottom of the Grand Canyon in pursuit of a good story. Follow her around the world on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline .

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For those truly epic, once-in-a-lifetime destinations, you want to leave your itinerary to the experts. Whether your dream is to see the Big Five on an African Safari, trek tall mountains, explore European cities, or something even wilder, a group tour is the easiest way to do it.

However, picking the wrong group tour company is the quickest way to ruin your trip. Make sure you choose a tour company that aligns with your goals and travel styles. Do you want an intimate group tour or do you prefer to make lots of new friends in a big group? Does the price line up with what you like (luxury vs. budget)? Is the itinerary going to all the places you want to see? 

We’ve done the research and found the very best group travel tour companies for 2024 for every type of traveler.

Best Overall Group Travel: Exodus Adventure Travels

Images of nature around the mountains and lakes of Slovenia as seen on the Exodus Travels' Lakes and Mountains of Slovenia walking tour

With trips on every continent, Exodus Adventure Travels covers anywhere on this planet that you could possibly want to go, from popular destinations like the Amalfi Coast to well off-the-beaten-path adventures like Tajikistan. This award-winning group travel company boasts thousands of repeat customers who sign up for trips year after year (97% of past participants would recommend Exodus Adventure Travels to a friend). 

These small group tours operate with only around 8-16 people and always feature experienced local leaders who can give you a unique insight into your destination. Exodus Adventure Travels caters to any type of travel style, including trips broken down by type of activity (think walking, cycling, multi-adventure, winter, or cultural) as well as type of traveler (family, age group, etc.). There are curated collections (coastal, “away from it all”, European wilderness, and trips of a lifetime) to inspire you, as well as self-guided options for when you want all the benefits of a group tour planner without the actual group. Looking for that special safari? Exodus Aventure Travels just partners with the African Wildlife Foundation to create carefully curated luxury adventures that go above and beyond the standard safari. 

Exodus Adventure Travels tours work for almost any budget, with options that range from affordable to premium. 

Top Trip: Explore under-the-radar Europe by foot on Exodus Adventure Travels’ Lakes & Mountains of Slovenia walking tour .

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Best Adventure Group Travel: World Expeditions

Groups of hikers walking and camping around the mountains of Kilimanjaro with World Expeditions

World Expeditions has been taking adventurous travelers to remote locations all over the world ever since its first group trek through Nepal in 1975. Today, World Expeditions offers active itineraries on every continent. Intrepid travelers can opt for trips themed around mountaineering, rafting, cycling, hiking, and more. 

World Expeditions aims to leave communities and places where they operate tours better than they found them. Trips are created using the company’s Thoughtful Travel Charter as a guideline, which emphasizes respect for the environment, sustainability, having a positive impact on local communities, protecting wildlife, and more. 

World Expeditions’ trips are capped at just 16 people to provide a good experience for participants, and there are no single supplements for solo travelers willing to share a room with someone of the same gender. 

Top Trip: Summit Africa’s tallest mountain on a fully-supported trek up Kilimanjaro on World Expeditions’ eight day trip up the beautiful Lemosho Route . 

Best Budget Group Travel: G Adventures 

People visiting famous sites around China with the G Adventures' China Express group travel tour

For travelers on a budget, G Adventures offers cheap group tours that make dream destinations accessible to nearly anyone. (Think: sailing the Galapagos for just $1,014 , criss-crossing India’s Golden Triangle for $799 , or spending 8 days in Bali for less than $749.)

G Adventures is one of the best tour companies for solo travelers as well, as most trips don’t have a single-supplement. You can choose to share a room with another G Adventures solo traveler, or pay extra to have your own space.

G Adventures keeps costs down by opting for cheaper hotels and local meals, and making certain activities optional (for an additional cost). Pick your travel style—options range from “basic” to more luxe tours run in partnership with National Geographic. Family tours, local living tours (featuring homestays), and wellness-focused tours are also available. 

Top Trip: G Adventures’ China Express trip is a great way to see the highlights of China if you’re short on both time and budget. 

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Best Educational Group Tours: EF Go Ahead Tours

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When you really want to learn about a destination, consider a group trip with EF Go Ahead Tours . EF is the world’s largest private education company, and the Go Ahead Tours arm capitalizes on the company’s relationships with local educators, historians, and tour guides to create group trips that take you deep into a destination. 

These small group tours generally cap at 38 travelers, and feature unique educational experiences. For a bucket list trip, EF Go Ahead Tour’s special event tours are particularly enticing, as they offer behind-the-scenes access to tough-to-plan trips like Oktoberfest in Munich or Cherry Blossom season in Japan. 

Intimidated by solo travel? EF Go Ahead Tours is a great option for solo travelers, since it offers designated trips for solo travelers , where everyone is traveling alone, making it less intimidating.  

Top Trip: Bring the tastes of Italy home with you on EF Go Ahead Tours’ Food & Wine: Piedmont & Tuscany tour (operated in partnership with America’s Test Kitchen), where you’ll learn how to make local dishes. 

Best Responsible Group Travel: Intrepid Travel

Shots from around Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and accommodations provided by Intrepid Travel's Premium Uganda & Rwanda trip

Looking for a responsible group travel operator that focuses on bettering the communities and destinations they visit? Intrepid Travel is the world’s largest travel B Corporation, a certification for companies doing good. 

Intrepid Travel’s tours focus on sustainability, diversity, inclusion, and sustaining communities. The company has its own charity, The Intrepid Foundation , which has donated over 10 million dollars to over 160 community organizations. 

Intrepid Travel’s small group tours attract a wide range of travelers, but they are especially great for younger travelers, as they have a large number of trips designed for people aged 18-35 . (Other trips, including family-focused trips, are geared toward any age.)

Top Trip: Experience foodie trip of a lifetime Intrepid Travel’s South Korea Real Food Adventure , which includes time in three cities and an overnight temple stay.

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Best Private Group Travel: Kensington Tours

Aerial shots of various islands and coastlines around the Croatia and Dalmation Islands and shot of sailboat belonging to Kensington Tours

Whether your group consists of just two people or involves taking the entire extended family, Kensington Tours will take all the hassle of planning out of the equation. This private group operator creates personalized trips and itineraries tailored to your preferences, while their experts handle all the logistics and bookings. 

Plans are entirely flexible, and can even be changed while on the trip on a whim. Need some inspiration? Browse Kensington Tours’ travel ideas , to get some ideas for your next adventure. 

Top Trip: Sail around the stunning shores of Croatia and the Dalmation Islands on a private luxury catamaran on Kensington Tours’ fully customizable tour . 

Best Polar Group Travel: Chimu Adventures

Shots of the interior and exterior of the Ocean Adventurer ship and shots of nature around Antarctica as seen on the Chimu Adventures' Antarctica Fly Cruise

Whether you’re headed north to the Artic or south to Antarctica, Chimu Adventures has the perfect polar group trip for you. Chimu Adventures has some of the most variety for polar trips, with options to fly, cruise, or a combination of both to get to your destination. For an ultra-unique Antarctica trip, Chimu Adventures offers cruises departing from Australia or New Zealand (most Antarctica trips depart from Argentina).

Chimu Adventures is one of the cheapest group trips to Antarctica, with rates starting under $6,000.

Top Trip: If you’re pressed for time (or simply don’t have the stomach for the Drake Passage), Chimu Adventures’ Antarctica Fly Cruise will get you to the ends of the earth quickly and smoothly.

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Best Group Tours for Solo Travelers: For the Love of Travel

Collage of images from the For the Love of Travel Lapland Tour

Group tours can be a great way to meet new people, but they can sometimes skew on the older age range. If you’re between 25-39 and a solo traveler looking to meet new people, you’ll love For the Love of Travel . All participants on the trips are between 25-39, and according to the company, 80 percent are solo travelers—so you’ll make friends fast. Hoping to meet someone who will be more than just a friend on your next trip? Trips include a balanced number of “gal and guy spots” to ensure an even balance of genders within groups (and of course, non-binary genders are always welcome). 

For the Love of Travel offers weeklong (or longer) international trips as well as shorter weekender trips to closer destinations like Mexico or Costa Rica—perfect for people without a lot of vacation time.

Top Trip: Sleep in a glass igloo under the Northern Lights, go sledding with huskies, and warm up in traditional saunas on For the Love of Travel’s Lapland tour , already booking dates for 2024.

Best Biking Tours Group Travel: DuVine Cycling

Collage of shots from DuVine's Holland Bike Tour

Biking through the rolling hills of Italy or across the mountain roads of Chile sounds like a dream, but the logistics seem daunting (especially if you don’t want to haul all your own stuff from point-to-point). Enter: DuVine Cycling , a luxury small group tour company that specializes in bike trips. 

With trips across Europe, Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the United States, DuVine Cycling is a cyclist’s dream. Choose from all-biking trips or mix things up with a cycle and sail bike tour or a multi-sport adventure —no matter what, everything is included, from luxury boutique accommodations to top-quality name brand bikes. 

Top Trip: DuVine’s Holland Bike Tour promises “tulips, windmills, beer, and cheese”—what more could you need?

Best Luxury Group Travel: Abercrombie & Kent

Collage of images from the different cities involved in the Abercrombie & Kent Wildlife Safari: Around the World by Private Jet trip

Abercrombie & Kent has been delighting discerning travelers since 1962. Today, they take travelers on unforgettable adventures across over 100 different countries and all seven continents. Although Abercrombie & Kent’s trips are pricey, they encompass once-in-a-lifetime experiences like private jet tours around the world or luxury chartered cruises .

There are trips designed for solo travelers and families , and the small group journeys max out at around 14-18 guests.

Top Trip: Swim with whale sharks in the Philippines, feed proboscis monkeys in Malaysia, and photograph wild tigers in India on Abercrombie & Kent’s Wildlife & Nature: Around the World by Private Jet trip , already booking dates into 2024.

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The Top 15 Tour Operators in 2021

Scott Bay is a magazine editor specializing in travel, architecture, and gear. He was previously an assistant editor at Travel + Leisure . His work has also appeared in Wired , Architectural Digest , Wallpaper , Robb Report , Saveur , Daily Beast , and more.

Note: If you’re looking for our most recent recommendations, check out the 2023 list of our favorite tour operators .

This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.

Linking up with the right tour operator can take an amazing trip and turn it into a trip of a lifetime . This might seem like magic, but their in-the-know expertise and long-standing relationships open the doors for the seemingly impossible — a private Jeep safari with a professional tracking team in the depths of Torres del Paine or one-on-one cooking classes from a chef that runs a Michelin-starred restaurant in the south of France. And if any group has traversed the world enough to discern the best tour operators out there, it's the readers of Travel + Leisure .

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

The companies that made the list have the skills and connections to create itineraries that reflect their clients' personal interests. No. 3 VBT Bicycling Vacations curates two-wheeled trips all over the globe . One reader said, "Their staff make all the difference." No. 2 Mountain Lodges of Peru puts together highly personalized trekking adventures to Machu Picchu. As another reader exclaimed, "This is the way to visit Machu Picchu!"

But at the top of the list is Quasar Expeditions. Though primarily known for its cruises (the company won the small-ship ocean cruises category this year), it also operates a roster of dynamic safari-style excursions in South America. Read on to find out what sets it apart and which other companies join it on this year's list of the best tour operators in the world.

1. Quasar Expeditions

Quasar Expeditions is for adventurers. The highly specialized itineraries are designed to make guests feel like they're James Cook or Charles Darwin. "Quasar Expeditions' guides are the ultimate, passionate gatekeepers to the Galápagos Islands," one reader said. "Their enthusiasm and love of the islands and the wildlife encourages you to share in their passion and desire to conserve the natural beauty and habitat of the area while still allowing low-impact tourism." Another raved, "Excellent isn't a high enough rating to describe our experience with Quasar Expeditions. Extraordinary in every way!" And while Quasar is best known for its Galápagos trips, it gets high marks for its Patagonia itineraries, which takes guests into the best parts of Chile's Torres del Paine and Argentina's Los Glaciares — two of South America's most spectacular national parks.

Score: 99.58 More information: quasarex.com

2. Mountain Lodges of Peru

Score: 98.93 More information: mountainlodgesofperu.com

3. VBT Bicycling Vacations

Score: 98.70 More information: vbt.com

4. Classic Journeys

Score: 98.60 More information: classicjourneys.com

5. TCS World Travel

Score: 97.55 More information: tcsworldtravel.com

6. Black Tomato

Score: 97.25 More information: blacktomato.com/us

7. Inside Japan Tours

Score: 96.84 More information: insidejapantours.com

Score: 96.72 More information: tauck.com

9. Wilderness Travel

Score: 95.71 More information: wildernesstravel.com

10. Trek Travel

Score: 95.71 More information: trektravel.com

11. Geographic Expeditions

Score: 95.70 More information: geoex.com

12. Thomson Family Adventures

Score: 94.89 More information: familyadventures.com

13. Greaves

Score: 94.74 More information: greavesindia.com

14. DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co.

Score: 94.64 More information: duvine.com

15. Odysseys Unlimited

Score: 94.39 More information: odysseys-unlimited.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021 .

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Best Online Travel Agencies

Booking.com is our top choice for making your trip arrangements

Ligaya Malones is an editor, blogger, and freelance writer specializing in food and travel. Ligaya's work has appeared in publications including Lonely Planet and BRIDES.

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We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .

Planning a trip can be easier through an online travel agency than if you handle each aspect of the planning separately. You can book hotels, air travel, rental cars, and more through a single site, and booking everything together sometimes results in discounts. By inputting a destination, a range of dates, and other preferences, you will see a list of options for each aspect of travel.

The best online travel agencies offer options from the largest number of airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, and more. Look for sites that offer discounts for combining reservations for different aspects of your trip. For example, the best sites will have lower rates if you book both plane tickets and a hotel through their services. The best sites also provide reviews from customers who actually have booked through the service. These are our top picks.

  • Best Overall: Booking.com
  • Best Budget: Skyscanner
  • Best Price Predictor: Hopper
  • Most Innovative: Kiwi.com
  • Best for Eco-Conscious: Kind Traveler
  • Best for Social Impact: I Like Local
  • Best for Design-Forward Homestays: Plum Guide
  • Our Top Picks
  • Booking.com

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Final Verdict

Frequently asked questions, methodology, best overall : booking.com.

 Booking.com

This industry leader offers one of the most comprehensive trip planning platforms on the Internet.

Lots of options to choose from

Interface is easy to use

Numerous filters to customize your search

Tricky to tell whether changes/cancellations can be made with Booking.com or the vendor directly

Booking.com was founded in 1996 and has grown into an industry leader that stands out for being one of the most comprehensive trip planning platforms out there. From one website, you can compare and book accommodations, flights (including one-way and multi-city flights), sightseeing activities, and even airport taxis. The website lists more than 28 million accommodation options, from hotels, hostels, and B&Bs to vacation homes and luxury resorts—you can browse more choices per destination on Booking.com than other online travel agencies. The website also performs well on cost and typically returns lower-than-average prices for flights and hotels. 

Booking.com's interface is also easy to use. On the home page, search for a hotel by entering your chosen destination and dates. Then, use the extensive list of filters—such as price range and distance from the city center—to narrow the results down and find the best fit. You can also search for a specific hotel, or seek inspiration by clicking through options grouped by destination or property type or by topic such as the country’s best Michelin-starred hotel restaurants or the top cities for vegan travelers. The flights, car rental, and other tabs are just as intuitive. 

Best Budget : Skyscanner

 Skyscanner

You can compare prices across airlines, hotels, and car rentals.

Simple interface

Option to toggle searches between specific dates or by monthly calendars

Search Everywhere button is great for spontaneous planners

Extra clicks are required to make a final purchase

Must read fine print for changes/cancellations—may need to deal directly with the vendor

Ads on the sidebar can be distracting

Find deals on airfare, hotels, and car rentals with an aggregator site like Skyscanner , which uses a metasearch engine to compare prices from all online travel agencies and the airline, hotel, or car rental company in question. Run searches with fixed dates, opt to compare airfare prices month to month, or click “Cheapest Month.” Searches also include options for nearby airports or non-stop flights only. With hotel searches, you can choose to select only from properties with free cancellation, a cleanliness rating of 4.5/5 or higher, or 3- or 4-starred hotels only. Car rental searches include an option to select “return car to different location.”

Once you’ve found the best rate, click on the link to be redirected to the third-party site to make your booking. Feeling spontaneous? The Search Everywhere button on the homepage offers a list of the cheapest flight deals for destinations both locally and across the world—just plug in your departure airport first.

Best Price Predictor : Hopper

The company claims a 95 percent accuracy rate at predicting when flights and hotel rates will be cheapest.

Color-coded system makes it easy to determine cheapest days to buy

App is easy to use

Option to track flights and receive alerts when the best time to buy arises

Some have mentioned the app functions better as a research tool than a booking tool

Unclear whether Hopper will price match if you find a cheaper flight elsewhere

Hopper is a travel app available on iOS and Android that aims to help travelers save on airfare by usng historical data and their own algorithm to predict when flights will be cheapest. Just type in where and when you’d like to fly and Hopper will present you with a color-coded pricing calendar indicating how much tickets are likely to cost. (Green is the least expensive, then yellow, orange, and red for most expensive.) Hopper will also recommend you either buy now or wait, or you can choose to watch a trip and receive notifications on the best time to buy. In addition, the app has expanded to offer hotel and car rental price predictions, too.

Some newer features since the app’s inception in 2009 include an option to freeze a price for a limited time—for an extra fee—as well as exclusive app-only discounts. Hopper is free to download, and you can choose to book directly through the app, though some users mentioned they use Hopper as more of a research tool before booking directly with the airline or hotel. The company claims a 95 percent accuracy rate at predicting flight rates up to a year ahead.

Most Innovative : Kiwi.com

This metasearch engine scours the web to piece together the ideal itinerary using planes, trains, buses, and more.

Creative itineraries get you where you need to go, especially if you’ve got a multi-stop trip

Kiwi Guarantee offers rebooking or cancellation protections

Nomad option appeals to travelers with a lot of flexibility

Creative itineraries mean you may not fly out of the same airport you flew into

Kiwi Guarantee has an additional fee

Charges all-in-one fee for booking flights, trains, buses (though you can always purchase a la carte)

Travelers planning multi-city destinations and seeking a bargain, as well as those looking to take planes, trains, and automobiles to get there, might consider Kiwi . Kiwi is a metasearch engine that scours and pieces together itineraries from various airlines (even if they don’t have a codeshare agreement), considers multiple airports (even if your arrival airport is different from departure), and offers booking options, whether you’re looking at very specific dates or more general ones (up to 60 nights).

Some will find the ability to make multiple bookings for a particular trip more convenient than going at it manually several different times, though note that you must opt into the Kiwi Guarantee program to access rebooking and refund protections should your reservation change or be canceled. Kiwi’s Nomad option allows you to plug in a bunch of destinations you’d like to visit and the length of your intended stay, and the website will churn out the most affordable itineraries for review.

Best for Eco-Conscious : Kind Traveler

A give-and-get business model means booking accommodations with exclusive perks, a donation to environmental organizations, and more.

All participating hotels include a local give-back component

Exclusive savings and perks

Participating hotels are located in some of the most beautiful places in the world

Inventory is much smaller compared to other booking platforms

Some of the amenities mentioned are based on availability only

In 2022, Kind Traveler (an online trave agency focused on hotel bookings) announced an increase in environmentally and socially conscious hotels, charity donations, voluntourism opportunities, and additional perks like waived resort fees or a welcome amenity.

Unlock exclusive hotel rates and perks from participating Kind Traveler hotels with a minimum $10/night minimum donation to a local charity. For example, stay at the Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives and receive up to $33 off the nightly rate and perks such as a food and beverage credit and an Earth Lab or Alchemy Bar workshop when you make a donation to Manta Trust. The organization funds coastal research to protect the island nation’s large yet fragile population of reef mantas.

Select from more than 140 participating hotels from the Hawaiian Islands to Bozeman, Montana, and the Maldives. Charities include wildlife, human rights, arts, education, and environmental preservation organizations.

Best for Social Impact : I Like Local

Choose from a host of travel experiences with the peace of mind that 100 percent of the cost goes directly to local partners.

Social impact mission woven into organization’s business model

Immersive experiences led by local guides

Range of experiences offered

May not be best fit for those seeking upscale, luxury experiences and stays

Can’t sort experiences by a list of countries (though an interactive map is available)

No experiences outside of Africa and Asia

For an online travel agency with a booking platform designed to route dollars spent directly to the communities travelers intend to visit, consider I Like Local . Visit the website to browse a host of travel experiences in countries including Indonesia, Kenya, and Cambodia. Experiences include homestays and farmstays as well as wellness and culturally oriented experiences—from cooking and cycling tours to weaving classes.

To search for an experience, select from drop-down items like travel dates and experience categories, or view a global map and click on a country to view experiences that way.

The platform got its start in 2014 and has grown to 4,000 local hosts across nearly 20 countries. As a social impact organization, 100 percent of each booking fee goes to local hosts. To date, 16,000 travelers have booked with I Like Local.

Best for Design-Forward Homestays : Plum Guide

Browse and book seriously vetted, design-forward vacation homes.

Highly curated inventory of vacation rentals across the world

Design-forward

Thorough vetting process

Does not publish guest reviews

Other platforms have homes available across more destinations

When it comes to booking a vacation home, serviced apartment, or condo, travelers are spoiled for choice. Plum Guide is an online travel agency that specializes in accommodations—though not just any home makes its directory. The company claims that each potential home listed on its site must jump through 150 hoops to be included, from internet speed and mattress and pillow quality to the showers’ water pressure and the home’s proximity to dining, shopping, and attractions.

Search by a featured collection on the website such as “ pet-friendly homes ” or “one-of-a-kind homes in Palm Springs.” Scroll to the bottom of its homepage to view its top destinations, as well as a list of all destinations where Plum Guide homes are available, including Barbados, Mexico, Portugal, Switzerland, the U.S., and Turkey. Note: From the top right-hand corner of the site, use the dropdown menu to select currency of choice.

As long as you know what you value most out of your travel experience—such as affordability, social impact, or luxe accommodations—there’s an online travel agency to help plan your next trip. Be sure to read the fine print, as some agencies are third-party websites and not direct vendors. If you're not sure where to start, Booking.com is your best bet for a smooth user experience and hard-to-beat offers on flights, hotels, and other travel arrangements.

What Is the Biggest Travel Agency?

Our choice for best overall, Booking.com, is known as an industry leader with listings for all major hotels, airlines, car rental companies, and more. It boasts more choices for accommodations per destination than any other site, and we found its interface to be user-friendly.

Are Online Travel Agencies Worth It?

This depends on your needs and priorities. The best online travel agencies certainly can save time by booking everything all at once. However, if you're someone who is good at haggling and enjoys the details of planning a trip, you might be able to find better deals by reaching out to hotels or other destinations and speaking to someone personally.

Is It Cheaper to Book Online Than With a Travel Agent?

Not always. A travel agent you know and trust should have the experience and connections to find deals that can match or surpass what you'll find online. Additionally, if something goes wrong, travel agents provide you with an actual person you can use as an advocate to correct the problem . But if you don't have access to a good travel agent, online sites still provide plenty of ways to streamline planning and save money .

We considered dozens of online travel agencies and narrowed down the options based on user experience, volume and quality of inventory, unique offerings and specials, and customer reviews. We also assessed travel companies’ environmentally and socially conscious policies.

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travel tour agent

Understanding the Difference Between Tour Operators and Travel Agents

Rebecca Somes

By Rebecca Somes

Tour Operators and Travel Agents

Tour operators and travel agents might seem similar at first glance, but they have distinct roles when it comes to planning a vacation. While they both offer some similar services, it’s helpful to know which one best fits certain needs.

What is a Tour Operator?

A tour operator handles the nitty-gritty of a holiday experience, from booking and packaging to organising accommodation, transport, meals, guides, and optional tours. They’re like the behind-the-scenes magicians who ensure everything runs smoothly once a customer steps off the plane at a destination

On the other hand, travel agents act as matchmakers, connecting customers with the perfect vacation package from various tour operators. They’re like personal travel advisors, helping navigate through different destinations, budgets, and travel preferences to find the ideal fit for a dream getaway. Once customers have made a choice, they liaise with the tour operator to ensure all requests are met, handling the paperwork and payments along the way.

In the past, travel agents were the go-to choice for booking tour packages. However, with the rise of the internet and travel technology over the last couple of decades, many people now opt to book directly with tour operators. The internet has made it easier than ever to access and book tour packages independently, reducing the need for an agent to identify available operators. Nowadays, most tour operators engage directly with clients and sell their packages, cutting out the middleman.

However, some people still prefer to rely on their trusted local or family travel agent, with whom they have built a long-standing relationship over the years.

Types of Travel Agency

Tour Operators and Travel Agents

In the travel industry, there’s a growing number of independent travel agents who operate without ties to a specific agency. This presents a fantastic opportunity for people looking for remote work in the travel sector.

These independent agents come in various forms. Some create bespoke itineraries tailored to each client’s preferences, while others partner with specific travel companies. Additionally, some act as resellers, offering pre-packaged tours through Host Agencies.

Regardless of their specific model, most travel agents excel at helping to plan a trip. They use their expertise to provide recommendations based on their customer’s interests, budgets, and travel requirements. The advantage of working with a travel agent lies in their insider knowledge and knack for navigating the complexities of holiday planning and booking. When it comes to travel agencies, there’s a varied range of options available to suit every preference. Here are some of the different types of travel agencies:

Online Travel Agencies (OTAs): These are websites that allow users to search and book travel-related services online. OTAs offer a wide range of options, from flights and cruises to tours and activities, all in one convenient platform.

Brick-and-Mortar Travel Agencies: These are traditional travel agencies with physical offices where customers can visit and speak with travel agents face-to-face. They provide personalized service and assistance in planning and booking travel arrangements.

Corporate Travel Agencies: Specializing in business travel, corporate travel agencies cater to the needs of companies and organizations. They manage corporate travel policies, negotiate discounts with suppliers, and help with itinerary planning and expense management.

Specialist Travel Agencies: These agencies focus on specific types of travel, such as adventure travel, luxury travel, or niche markets like eco-tourism or culinary tours. They offer expertise and tailored recommendations for travellers with particular interests or preferences.

Overall, the travel agency landscape is diverse and caters to a wide range of travellers, each with unique needs and preferences.

The Roles of Tour Operators and Travel Agents

In conclusion, while tour operators and travel agents share some similarities, they play distinct roles in the holiday planning process. Tour operators handle the logistics of a vacation, from booking and packaging to on-the-ground arrangements, ensuring a hassle free experience for travellers. On the other hand, travel agents act as intermediaries, connecting customers with the perfect holiday package from various tour operators, and offering personalized advice and assistance throughout the planning process. Despite the rise of online booking platforms and websites , many travellers still rely on trusted travel agents for their expertise and insider knowledge. Additionally, the travel agency landscape continues to evolve, with independent agents offering bespoke services and various types of agencies catering to different travel needs and preferences. Ultimately, whether booking through a tour operator or a travel agent, travellers have access to a diverse range of options to suit their individual preferences and requirements thanks to the advancements in travel technology and products .

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I booked a weeklong trip to a mystery destination. I had a lot of fun, but I'd do a few things differently next time.

  • I booked a solo  trip to a mystery destination with a company that planned everything for me.
  • I traveled to Lisbon and enjoyed group tours and activities — as well as some alone time.
  • It was fun to step outside my comfort zone, but I would have liked more time to explore by myself.

Insider Today

When traveling, I prefer leaving things to chance, as many of my most memorable moments typically happen on less-crowded streets or when I'm chatting up strangers at a restaurant.

That's why when my friend suggested I check out Journee — a travel company that specializes in mystery tours and plans everything, including your destination — I couldn't resist trying it out for a solo trip .

Companies like Journee have become more popular in recent years as more travelers lean into the idea of having a trip planned for them. In fact, a survey of 27,000 travelers by Booking.com found that over half of the respondents would welcome the idea of a trip to an unknown destination.

I was excited to see what all the hype was about and book a surprise trip of my own. Here's what it was like to travel to an unknown destination with Journee.

The company asked me questions about my travel preferences and sent clues leading up to the reveal

When booking my trip, the company provided me with an in-depth travel questionnaire that asked about my interests, curiosities, risk tolerance, well-being, and overall travel philosophy. It also dug into the "why" of my trip, the safety criteria, and logistics and budget.

The company then sent me a trip proposal, which provided a few clues about the city I'd be traveling to. There was no pressure to book and the proposal itself was completely free.

Once I committed, they built up the suspense by gamifying the pre-trip content, slipping fun facts and clues into my WhatsApp DMs.

I challenged myself (and my friends) to rely on our brains (no Googling) to figure out where I might be going, which led to many meaningful conversations about travel.

The company also provided a high-level packing list , which included items like a bank card, phone, charger, passport, and comfortable walking shoes.

The destination reveal turned out to be pretty underwhelming

On the day of departure, I added some euros to my carry-on before taking an Uber to Newark Airport. In the car, I found myself daydreaming about my destination, secretly hoping it was somewhere I'd never been.

My plan to film a reveal video at the airport was quickly foiled when my driver informed me that Newark has two international terminals.

Related stories

Because the tour company didn't note the terminal information on the envelope, I had no choice but to open the card in the car, which was underwhelming.

However, I was excited by the location listed on my card — Lisbon.

Along with the destination, the envelope included a detailed itinerary with daily pre-booked excursions, including an e-bike tour and a sunset cruise, with one free day to myself.

The company did a great job arranging my accommodations and activities

I arrived in Lisbon mid-morning after my basic-economy flight . I was relieved to find the company booked me a studio apartment with a sweeping balcony overlooking the street.

I liked being in a residential area, and the proximity to a metro hub and grocery stores made it feel like I had moved abroad.

My first group excursion turned out to be a one-on-one personalized e-bike tour of the city when folks bailed because of the rain.

My city guide took me on a two-hour tour along the Tagus River waterfront, and I ended up taking that same route several times throughout the week.

I also enjoyed the other trips Journee booked for me, including a drive along the countryside to a small village southeast of the city. Here, my group dodged the rain to visit a Stonehenge-like megalithic complex dating back 7,000 years .

One of the last curated events of the trip was visiting the Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Feeling utter tranquility in the cloisters was worth the 90 minutes I spent waiting in line.

As the week went on, I started veering from the pre-planned schedule

Although I enjoyed the group excursions, I worried that I wouldn't have enough time to explore the city on my own. That's why I decided to skip my third-day excursion to wander off the beaten path.

I weaved through the Alcântara district, stopping at the LXFactory, an old industrial textile complex turned food and art hall.

I also biked to explore the Mouraria and Alfama districts, filling up on bacalhau, Lisbon's salted codfish tapas. I even spent a few hours at the Fado Museum , an interactive and immersive cultural arts center where I learned about the history of Portugal's soulful music.

I loved being able to explore another side of the city, which hadn't been in my original itinerary.

I enjoyed the trip, but would make a few changes next time

Overall, it was exciting to step outside my comfort zone and hand over the travel planning to someone else. I loved the surprise of not knowing the destination and visiting historical sites off the beaten path.

Next time, I would book with a friend and have a more direct conversation with the tour company about having more time for independent exploration.

Watch: Marriott International's Tina Edmundson tells Insider that the travel mindset has changed since the pandemic

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Photo of Stacey C.

世纪游轮公司,行前说全程两个導游,一个司机。下飞机馬上收13天€180 欧元现金。嚇人哪!行程没开始就先收钱!做的好不好都不知道。我参加gate one 一路到尾都不敢收小费。都是客人自願给的!果然不出所料。收了钱像是上了贼船。一路就不断的出问题。全部人85%完全的不满意!混哪,[发怒]

Photo of Peter Y.

6/13/2014我刚刚从欧洲参加世纪游轮公司的欧洲13日团回来,30年来没有参加过华人的行程,看看他们的巴士团就参加了一路上面42个人全部都非常的不满意,有一点被坑的感觉,行前说的跟后面看得都不一样,他们是怎么省钱?就怎么干。中间巴士连还坏掉?换了三次车。路上还修车!担误大家的时间。车好旧。连没有冷气三天车里面90度都不肯换80被客人闹得不得了,这个旅游公司非常的糟糕,在这边可以发表警告,所有的华人参加旅游团要非常的小心。勿必小心!别花钱买罪受。回来很多人走的太辛苦。很多人生病。

Photo of Ilsa V.

This is the worst travel agency ever, I should check the previous reviews before joining their tour. They are not professional in the travel industry and rude to customers. 1. They don't have own bus or tour guide as advertised, they have NONE. They just "Sell" you to the local tour guide and partner with them to SCAM you. 2. The local tour guide is lack of professionalism either. He had full of dirty words in his mouth and didn't respect tourists from US! He didn't bring tour guide license with him for the entire trip (suspect if he has one). He didn't do his tour guide job at all. Do NOT expect him will escort you around a site, give information about the history, purpose and architecture of a site. Do NOT expect he will accompany you on day tours to a number of places of interest and answer questions and suggest other places to visit. He let you explore the sites all by yourself, didn't care if you are new to the area. There were lots of tour members got lost in the city, he threatened none of them could mention the incident instead of making an apology. His main job was to SCAM you!! Be prepared to pay triple priced or even higher attraction tickets and group meals he arranged. The information he gave you was to show off how rich he was, how much money he earned from stupid tourists from China mainland before pandemic. He requested you to call him "Boss" not tour guide and kept washing your mind to spend money and join his group meals and add on activities. The tour leader from travel agency will HELP to persuade you to join. For the $230 tips per person, this tour guide is totally ridiculous and unacceptable!! 3. More and more tourists were getting Covid-19 during the trip. Both the travel leader from the agency and the local guide didn't take any actions to protect rest tour members. Instead, they were hiding the truth and requested infected tourists not to tell others. In the end, almost entire group got Covid-19 from this trip. 4. Before we paid for the trip, the staff in the office told the tour time for the museum will be 3 hours. In fact, we only had 1 hour inside the museum for paying 40 euros ticket per person. They shortened the museum time so that the tour guide was able to add on pricy group meal and activities again which were originally not on the itinerary. 5. Don't believe the optional activities are "optional". You were FORCED to join their pricy activities, otherwise you are violating their rules. 6. They partnered with low end cruise company and "customized" the services for you. The experience was far below the standard, better you book directly with the cruise company. Stay away from this company unless you want to be scammed, get Covid-19 and ruin your vacation. This company is not a trustworthy business in the travel industry.

Photo of S K.

Complete and total lack of professionalism! Maggie from their marketing department is the worst at communicating. She hardly ever responds to messages, literally had to send multiple emails just to get a response. Forget booking with them if your Chinese isn't perfect. They will judge you and look down on you.

Photo of Tian Jiang W.

I don't recommend this travel agency- Grand Century Cruises, they were lacking experience to make trip to Europe. 1, They took advantage for the Europe traveling because they knew the most of travelers has been trapped in the US and Canada for a long time due to the pandemic. 2, The agency booked the cheapest airfare to France, the 10 hours fly hours with low grade meal or no meal, such as "Westjet" and "Franchbee". (Only 2 stars on the customers review). 3, The agency charged $3300 and covered the air ticket + hotel + tour bus only per person, the rest museums tickets all need to pay extra. 4, The local tour guiders were lacking professional knowledge to deal with US tourists. The group has 3 tour buses with 120 tourists. The local guiders were lacking enthusiasm. 5, The entire trips with 3 buses were looking for the Chinese restaurant everyday for the group meals and disregard the pandemic stage cautious. Sure the group meals restaurant always attaches with agent commission. 6, The hotels 15 nights except one night stayed in the Crown Plaza, the rest nights stayed in 2 stars hotel. The tourist deserved better services. $3300 plus tip $180 per person. The tourist needs to pay all the ticket individually with agency marks up. you paid 28 Euro, the tour guider gave you only one hour in the museum, but he can spend hours bus time to find a Chinese restaurant. 7, During the trips, some tourists get infected the Covid-19, the tour leader from agency and local guider have no measures or procedure for the sanitization to protect the rest travelers, not at all. Overall, I do not recommend to travel with this agency, or the travelers need to be aware buying your own air ticket at least. The company name is cruises, they are lacking knowledge to handle the land tour. That was all I can share with you.

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Bookings with Aer Lingus have flatlined since pilot vote, say travel agents

Industrial action causing ‘huge stress’ among holidaymakers and within tourism industry.

travel tour agent

Travel agents reported a slowdown even before the work to rule was confirmed with customers not willing to take a chance on delays or cancellations. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Industrial action at Aer Lingus has caused “absolutely huge” stress among Irish holidaymakers, and bookings with the airline have flatlined since pilots backed their union’s call to escalate their pay dispute, travel agents have said.

Pilots, who are pursuing 20 per cent-plus pay rises, will work strictly to rule indefinitely from next Wednesday, June 26th, the Irish Airline Pilots Association (Ialpa) said on Tuesday following days of speculation over what form any industrial action would take.

Irish Travel Agents Association chief executive Clare Dunne said holidaymakers were already avoiding bookings with Aer Lingus on foot of the dispute.

“We’ve just been on a call with the Department of Transport and the stress levels among consumers is absolutely huge,” she said. “People don’t know if they’re going to get on their holidays, and they have been planning them since last year.

Aer Lingus to cancel up to 20% of flights from Wednesday

Aer Lingus to cancel up to 20% of flights from Wednesday

Aer Lingus and pilots’ union clash over sick leave ahead of industrial action next week

Aer Lingus and pilots’ union clash over sick leave ahead of industrial action next week

‘Get back in a room and sort this out’: Taoiseach calls on Aer Lingus pilots to return to talks

‘Get back in a room and sort this out’: Taoiseach calls on Aer Lingus pilots to return to talks

Here’s why Michael O’Leary is not thrilled about the prospect of industrial action by Aer Lingus pilots

Here’s why Michael O’Leary is not thrilled about the prospect of industrial action by Aer Lingus pilots

“Looking forward to the holiday is so much an important part of the holiday, and that has been taken away from people.

“They are inflicting damage on Aer Lingus already because people aren’t booking. What we’re hearing around the country is that people are booking with other carriers. Anybody planning to go in the next few weeks is very reluctant to commit to Aer Lingus.

[  Aer Lingus pilots could serve industrial action notice today  ]

[  What are your rights if an Aer Lingus pilots’ strike affects your holiday plans?  ]

“Surely somebody somewhere can get sense to prevail. For the consumer, the potential disruption is huge.”

Speaking before Ialpa announced details of its work to rule, Ms Dunne said the industrial action — and the threat of strike action — was also affecting business travel. “They’ve picked the peak time,” she said. “Any contingencies by Aer Lingus to accommodate passengers on their partner carriers is limited because of the time of year.

“It’s not just holidaymakers. Business people are travelling every day, and that is massively important to the Irish economy. The reputational damage to Ireland Inc is huge as well. There’s a lot at stake here.”

Also speaking earlier on Tuesday, Mary McKenna, chief executive of Tour America and Cruise Holidays, said “a lot of clients” had been making inquiries about what would happen if a strike went ahead.

“We have advised them that they can change their travel plans or wait to see what happens,” she said.

“If the strike goes ahead, we will assist them with rebooking on to another flight for their holiday, and will also assist them on claiming any expenses incurred from the airline once they return from holiday.

“I truly hope this does not go ahead as it will have a huge impact on all customers travelling in and out of Ireland, and clients will find it impossible to reach the airline.”

travel tour agent

‘Ireland is a microcosm of a global housing problem’

Maura Fahy, managing director of Fahy Travel in Galway, said she would not be comfortable making bookings for customers with Aer Lingus.

“Nothing has been cancelled yet but there is certainly a lot of concern out there,” she said. “There is particular concern among people who have holidays booked to go now or in the next three or four weeks. Particularly those going to the United States are worried about whether they will be able to come back. There are a lot of questions around it.

“The other thing is there has been a slowdown in bookings for Aer Lingus because not only do the customers not want to take a chance on it, neither do we. Not to say that they may as well be on strike already, but, from a sales point of view, it has got to be really difficult for them.”

[  Car parking at Dublin Airport ‘sold out’ for a number of days over peak summer period  ]

Ms Fahy said she would normally do “quite a high percentage” of her business with Aer Lingus, but that there is “no interest” at the moment.

“We wouldn’t even offer it to anyone who is travelling in the next month,” she said. “We can’t because we just can’t take that chance with our customers. Our sales on Aer Lingus are nil at the moment.”

Irish Tourism Industry Confederation chief executive Eoghan O’Mara Walsh said a strike would be “very damaging”.

“Tourism is the country’s largest indigenous industry and biggest regional employer and, as an island nation, air access is obviously critical,” he said. “Aer Lingus are the main player on the key transatlantic route and also have a very important short-haul network to key source markets in Britain and Europe.”

Mr O’Mara Walsh said: “We would encourage resolution of the dispute and Fórsa should re-engage with the Workplace Relations Commission — that is the independent statutory body to resolve these issues.”

He added that 2024 was “already looking like a soft season” and that even the threat of strike “could spook overseas markets who might be slow to commit to Ireland as a holiday choice”.

“Our reputation as a friendly welcoming destination has been hard won but could be quickly lost,” he added.

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Colin Gleeson

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Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter

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