Traveling the world is on many people’s bucket list. However, if you are anything like me, venturing out on your own to parts unknown — especially outside of the United States — can be a bit overwhelming if not a little scary.
Thankfully, if you are okay traveling with other people, guided tours can be a great way to see the world, and learn more in the process.
Guided tours give you the expertise of a local or long-term employee who knows the area well to act as your guide, allowing you to delve deeper into an experience than ever before.
Other travelers who make up your group will most likely be like-minded as they also signed up for the same adventure, meaning you can make new friends while enjoying an amazing vacation.
1. Around The World Specialists
Aptly named, Around the World Tours by Around the World Specialists has guided tours of a few varieties. The private jet trip allows you to circle the globe and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime adventure complete with National Geographic experts.
All the traveling will be from the immense comfort of a private jet.
The private jet guided tour will venture to legendary destinations like Tibet and Machu Picchu, along with a stop at the Taj Mahal and Marrakech. Natural wonders like the island paradise of Samoa, the Serengeti Plain, and the Great Barrier Reef will also be part of the itinerary.
This trip lasts 24 days, and the group size goes up to a maximum of 75 people. The first stop is right in America at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. The adventure will start with a welcome reception and dinner.
Day two begins the journey out of the United States as the group will make its way to Lima and then Cusco, where you will explore the Plaza de Armas, an impressive cathedral that is considered a perfect combination of Inca and Spanish Renaissance styles. There is stop after stop along this National Geographic-themed world tour.
If you are into history, or art or just like seeing amazing architecture and world wonders, this tour will be a treat for you. Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru, Easter Island in Chile, Apia in Samoa, the Daintree Rainforest in Australia, Angkor Cambodia, Kathmandu, Nepal, Lhasa, and Tibet in Nepal and Agra in India, Tanzania, Wadi Rum in Jordan, and Marrakech in Morocco are all stops along this world-renowned private jet tour, all with expert guides along the way.
The private jet option is impressive enough, but there are also options to travel by train around the world, to safari around the world, to drive around the world, and even to experience all seven wonders of the world. These and more options are all available at Around the World Tours.
Named “World’s Best” by Travel + Leisure for 26 consecutive years, Tauck specializes in a wide variety of guided tour options that will take you all over the world.
You can choose from 19 tours and cruises in Latin America, 20 tours in Africa, 117 tours and cruises in Europe, 20 tours and cruises in Asia, one cruise in Antarctica, seven tours in Australia & New Zealand, 18 tours and cruises in Canada, and even 49 tours and cruises with the United States itself.
Tauck has been offering some of the best land-based tour groups throughout seven continents since 1925.
I particularly like that this company caters to families, but they also are perfect for solo travelers or even couples. The group size on these tours is between 35 and 44 guests, though that number can change based on the season and the type of tour.
Tauck enjoys a reputation for great attention to detail and ease of planning as notable parts of its guided tour experience. This has likely helped it earn the many awards it has kept throughout the years.
If river cruises are of particular interest, it’s worth noting that Tauck has also been named the “World’s Best River Cruise Line” as well.
Tauk is a family-owned company that commits to delivering the experience you expect or exceeding them. They are always looking for new ways to enhance the travel experience and make these tours even more memorable, and they have exclusive access to some spots in the world that are simply unavailable to the general public.
According to Tauk, it isn’t just about the places you visit but how you experience them that makes the difference.
You would be hard-pressed to find a guided tour company that has been orchestrating group trips longer than Colette, which has been working in the field since 1918. The group touring company features tours to all seven continents with 179 tour options. The most popular tour destinations with Colette are Italy, Iceland, and Ireland.
While other group tour companies typically have over 50 people, Colette, as a company, specializes in small groups. Consequently, their small group exploration tours range from as few as 14 people up to 24 people.
The only aspect that might dissuade you from opting for a Colette tour is the fact that they typically cater to older clientele or those aged 55 and older. I, for one, welcome the extra help and the potential for honorary grandparent induction, though, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I see it.
The guided tours by Collete take the traditional tour and reimage it a bit. The tours are designed for the curious traveler who wants to dive into the culture and explore all a destination has to offer.
You will get to eat in locals’ homes, take cooking classes, travel by train, and even take tuk-tuks and explore cities via food tours. All these activities are designed for you not just to visit a destination but to connect with the local culture.
4. Intrepid Travel
Known as the company that specializes in small group travel with good views, good friends, and for good times, Intrepid Travel has more than 1,000 trip options to more than 100 countries.
They are the perfect option for the eco-conscious traveler as they have had an active stance on sustainable travel and climate action for some time.
You can enjoy several options through Intrepid Travel, most of which are more geared towards the active traveler. There are walking and cycling tours that will inspire even the most active person while they also have many family options that aren’t quite as strenuous.
Intrepid has been in business since 1989, so they have a long history of creating fun, adventurous guided tours. They aim for even smaller tour groups than any others already mentioned on our list, as they try to keep groups under 10 people, hence its reputation for being a great small group tour company.
Tour options include many possibilities, from walking, trekking, and cycling tours to family tours and polar tours. The family tours are especially interesting to me for obvious reasons, and I love that they favor real-world experiences over produced ones or those behind a screen.
Family tours include kid-friendly accommodations and activities, like kicking a football with Maasai tribespeople, searching for wildlife in Yellowstone National Park with a wolf tracker, or overnighting on a train in Egypt.
Intrepid believes that a sense of adventure should never disappear no matter your life stage, so they cater to families with all ages.
5. Thomson Family Adventures
Known as the family travel experts, Thomson Family Adventures is geared towards families and promises to excite, educate, and enthrall all participants.
Since its beginning in 1998, Family Adventures has been offering hand-crafted trips that promise memorable, active, and fun experiences.
Group sizes are kept on the smaller size, topping out at 25 people. Some of the most popular guided tour options include the Perfect Family Safari in Tanzania, the Galapagos Mult-Sport Adventure, and the Azores Family Adventure. Tour duration varies but most often ranges from 9 to 12 days.
The Perfect Family Safari is perhaps my favorite that Thomson Family Adventures offers. It achieves a perfect balance, providing an entire trip of fun for all age groups. It includes wildlife viewing in the Ngorongoro Crater for the Big Five: elephants, rhinos, lions, African buffaloes, and leopards.
The trip also includes a guided hike with a local wildlife scout that helps you and your family identify rare species and find elusive animal tracks.
You and the other members of your group will experience the generosity of the Tanzanian people firsthand and be able to visit local villages and schools, allowing you to interact with the local Maasai culture.
6. Classic Journeys
Classic Journeys founder Edward Piegza explains the difference in his world tours: “join us on our cultural walking adventures, as we explore the world on foot, at eye level.”
Classic Journeys believes that travel is a way to fuel the soul, to connect with other cultures, and to build relationships. Through their well-connected local guides, they are able to offer some of the most memorable experiences to their guests.
This award winning company, founded in 1995, has been the recipient of prestigious awards like the “World’s Best Tour Operator” by Travel + Leisure, along with being named a National Geographic 50 Tours of a Lifetime.
It is considered by many as one of the most culturally rich and authentic walking tours in the world.
The curated daily walks allow guests to immerse themselves in culture and history. Local guides direct small groups, averaging just around 10 guests per each departure. Itinerary activities, hikes, and walks are included at no extra charge.
7. G Adventures
Founded in 1990, G Adventures was initially launched as a way to span the divide between mainstream travel and solo adventures.
Groups usually are made up of between 10 and 15 people, which allows you to get to know those you are traveling with well. It is considered a more affordable option than many other tour companies, especially as it is related to global travel, such as going from Croatia to Tanzania.
G Adventures allows you to input your travel style and signify if you would like an active experience, a family one, one that promotes wellness, one that focuses on local living, or a more classic experience.
This company believes that everyone deserves to experience the trip of their dreams, even if budget constraints make this seem out of reach.
Joining a small group adventure with G Adventures – the G stands for good – gives you the welcome safety and comfort of group travel while still offering you the freedom of individual or solo traveling.
Locally based guides provide knowledge on locations and are not called tour guides at G but instead given the title of Chief Experience Officers or CEOs.
8. Adventures by Disney
When it comes to family travel, there is likely no other name trusted more than Disney. That is why Adventures by Disney, which features trips to all seven continents, is yet another worthy addition to our list.
Tour sizes are a bit larger with Adventures by Disney ranging from between 30 and 40 guests.
Tour types include adult exclusives, river cruises, expedition cruises, land adventures, and escapes. Escapes are so named because they are slightly shorter than typical guided tours. They include destinations like Paris and Buenos Aires.
Disney is now offering trips to 40 different countries and features 45 different itineraries, all with Disney’s signature commitment to excellence.
Kids, even those under ten years of age, are welcome on these guided adventures. Adventures by Disney has been adding more guided family tours to its options since its original founding in 2005. This makes it a popular choice for families with kids, so expect to make some new friends!
9. Artisans of Leisure
With a name like Artisans of Leisure, you know you are in for a luxurious experience with highly customizable itineraries. These award-winning luxurious tours specialize in providing a heightened type of international travel.
There are destinations around the world spanning from Asia and Europe to the South Pacific and Latin America. There are even luxury tours to tour the Middle East and Africa.
To begin booking your trip through Artisans of Leisure you choose your destination and then your special interest tour option.
This means a focus on spa and wellness, action and adventure, family tours, honeymoon tours, etc. There are even tours specifically designed with art and architectural interest as well as garden tours, and more.
The luxurious family tours offered are designed to allow you to create memories with your children. All age groups can come along, spanning from kids to grandparents. Each tour is tweaked to meet your family’s own interests and needs, ensuring that all age groups, even as young as toddlers have a fun experience.
Family tours include appropriate tour pacing, childcare (if you want), family-friendly hotels and resorts, and expert private guides who bring historic sites and famous attractions to life.
There are private sightseeing and conveniences like skipping lines that are provided as part of this family tour package.
10. Tour Radar
Offering trips in more than 160 countries all over the globe, Tour Radar provides countless experiences from safari trips to cultural and culinary experiences.
You begin by working with a booking agent to join a group. Then you have the option of booking a private adventure or opting for a self-guided tour.
These tours are seamlessly organized and include everything from meals to activities and experiences. Tour Radar gives you options when it comes to types of adventures.
You can join a group adventure and enjoy a guide and more ease of travel, create your own group for private adventures, or customize an existing itinerary offered by the company to create a unique adventure.
Tours are available all year long and include many, many destinations and itineraries. There are options for all age groups ranging from family trips to those that are more geared toward seniors, to couples and young adults options.
Keep in mind that although there are no age limits, it’s important to check the activities on the itinerary before booking if you have small children or older adults in your party.
11. Austin Adventures
As another company that specializes in family adventures, Austin Adventures prides itself on finding and curating unique family vacation itineraries. If the idea of snorkeling to see an underwater volcano, or watching a baby sea turtle hatch sounds appealing, this could be a good fit for your family.
City exploration, cycling, hiking, and more are all part of Austin Adventures, which likes to keep groups small. Experience tours in New Zealand, Africa, Europe, or the Americas.
As a mom, I appreciate the fact that Austin Adventures does all the planning for me. You simply choose the destination and show up. Yes, this means that you don’t have to worry about food, as snacks, beverages, meals, transportation, equipment, activities, and guides are all provided with these all-inclusive group tours.
Details matter and Austin Adventures is a member of the Family Travel Association Certification Program, which means that all their trips are audited by a trusted third-party expert in family travel to ensure an unforgettable experience.
With an average group size of around 12, there is a 6 to 1 guide-to-guest ratio – and they’re an industry leader in this.
Austin Adventures has a single purpose amongst their global team: to guide their guests in building meaningful connections with the world around them and with each other through their uniquely shared experience.
Popular trip options include the Machu Picchu and Amazon Adventure, Patagonia Hiking Adventure, Ultimate North Island Adventure, Kathmandu Valley and Bhutan Aventure, and the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek just to name a few.