A great tour operator can turn a good vacation into an extraordinary one. Our readers’ favorites this year are experts in their fields, whether they’re arranging the perfect family safari in Zambia, a cycling tour in France, or cultural immersion in Japan. These companies were valued for their tailored itineraries and access to normally off-limits experiences, but their greatest value might be their ability to save travelers time — they’ll iron out the logistics that could take non-pros countless hours. To some, that’s a priceless benefit.
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. Readers rated tour operators on their staff and guides, itineraries and destinations, activities, accommodations, food, and overall value.
Japan has long been a popular destination with readers, and last year, our editors selected it as Destination of the Year. InsideJapan Tours (No. 8) taps into parts of the country that are not as well known, and it provides super organized, step-by-step itineraries for both first-time visitors and those who return every year. “They provided a booklet for us to self-guide for ten days after a tour of Honshu Island. We haven’t stopped raving about the service of their office, and have spread the word to many,” wrote one reader. Another remarked that “InsideJapan made sure every step of my journey was amazing.”
“Wild Frontiers designed a trip that matched exactly what we were looking for,” wrote one reader, describing this year’s No. 3 tour operator. Specializing in adventure travel, Wild Frontiers creates custom-made trips to far-flung destinations from Uzbekistan and Tibet to Greenland and Antarctica. And they are just as skilled planning a multigenerational family trip as they are an intimate honeymoon.
Below, find the full list and the reveal of this year’s No. 1.
10. Thomson Family Adventures
Courtesy of Thomson Family Adventures
More information: familyadventures.com
9. TCS World Travel
Courtesy of TCS World Travel
More information: tcsworldtravel.com
8. InsideJapan Tours
Jim Weatherill/Courtesy of InsideJapan Tours
More information: insidejapantours.com
7. MT Sobek
Christopher Bettencourt/Courtesy of MT Sobek
More information: mtsobek.com
6. Jacada Travel
Lucy Laucht/Courtesy of Jacada Travel
More information: jacadatravel.com
5. Terra Incognita Ecotours
Courtesy of Terra Incognita Ecotours
More information: ecotours.com
4. Scott Dunn
Courtesy of Scott Dunn
More information: scottdunn.com
3. Wild Frontiers Adventure Travel
Courtesy of Wild Frontiers
More information: wildfrontierstravel.com
2. Gray & Co. – Private Active Journeys
Courtesy of Gray & Co.
More information: grayandco.ca
1. Classic Journeys
Courtesy of Classic Journeys
More information: classicjourneys.com
“Excellent variety of trips and top-notch tour guides” is how one reader characterized this year’s winning tour operator. Among some of its globe-spanning expeditions is a cultural tour through Cuba that hits Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and Havana – while meeting artists, horticulturalists, farmers, a Santeria priest, and cooks along the way. And there is a sporty journey through Puget Sound’s San Juan Islands for Kayaking (while getting up close to passing Orcas), hikes through rain forests, and soaks in natural hot springs. One reader summed it up by declaring Classic Journeys “could not have been better.”
See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2019.