The Top 10 Tour Operators
Traveling with a comprehensive tour operator can bring any trip to the next level. These expert-led companies can curate itineraries based around your interests, unlock experiences that aren’t available to the general public, and perhaps most important, save you mental energy.
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.
Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards
The tour operators on our list offer experiences and itineraries of every type imaginable, but one increasingly popular category is active and adventure travel. Three of the Top 10 focus on cycling — a sign that our readers like staying fit and seeing the world on the open road. VBT Bicycling & Walking Vacations can organize a bike trip along the vineyard-studded Chilean coast; Trek Travel, an offshoot of the bicycle brand, can take you mountain biking on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula; and DuVine Cycling & Adventure Co. even arranges chef- and sommelier-led gastronomic cycling tours in France, Italy, and Portugal. The other winners are getting in on the game, too, with plenty of adventurous options: trekking, horseback riding, kayaking, fishing, climbing, and more.
Several have a special focus on Asia. DuVine recently announced its first tour here, a cycling trip through Japan, with departures beginning in September. ATJ (formerly Asia Transpacific Journeys) curates diverse experiences across the continent, plus South Pacific island destinations like Micronesia. And Journeys Within, a Wild Frontiers Company, works in Southeast Asia exclusively (the only operator on this year’s list with a specific regional focus). One respondent who has traveled with the company to four different countries (Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Myanmar) said, “We have lifelong friendships with people around the world who work with Journeys Within.”
For hassle-free travel planning with an expert touch, these are the companies you need to know. Here are the World’s Best tour operators of 2018.
9. VBT Bicycling & Walking Vacations
8. Journeys Within, a Wild Frontiers Company
7. TCS World Travel
6. Trek Travel
5. DuVine Cycling & Adventure Co.
4. Adventure Unbound
3. Classic Journeys
2. ATJ (formerly Asia Transpacific Journeys)
1. Artisans of Leisure
The No. 1 World’s Best Tour Operator this year tops our list with an impressive score of 98.99. Clients love that all Artisans of Leisure tours can be fully personalized; besides identifying unique luxury properties in each of its destination, the company curates activities and experiences that deepen travelers’ understanding of the culture and land around them. One respondent, for whom the company has organized trips to England, France, and Italy, said, “There isn’t a single detail that this company misses: top-of-the-line restaurants, fabulous hotels, educational experiences for families, and guides that one easily comes to consider as friends.” Itinerary options span the globe, tailored to interests from architecture and botany to religion. Whether you’re studying contemporary Japanese art in Kanazawa or touring villa gardens in Sicily, “you’ll never want to book a trip again without their magical touch.”
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.