Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly described the tour operator Culturious as a Travcoa brand. Culturious is a brand of Tauck Inc.

Tour Operators: With Their Assistance, You Can Get There From Here

Seeking a glacier in Alaska? A hands-on cooking adventure in Vietnam? Tour companies can help plan a trip to satisfy your cravings.
Seeking a glacier in Alaska? A hands-on cooking adventure in Vietnam? Tour companies can help plan a trip to satisfy your cravings. (By Beth J. Harpaz -- Associated Press)
Sunday, February 1, 2009

You lust for a supreme, away-from-it-all experience, exploring cool Croatia, for example, or enjoying a culinary tour of Italy, relaxing on a beach in the South Pacific or backpacking in Alaska. But you don't have the time, energy, expertise or inclination to coordinate all the pieces. Who ya gonna call?

Tour operators.

Whatever your desired destination, Austria to Zambia, or particular passion, adventure travel to voluntourism, you can be sure there is a tour operator that covers it. Experience, relationships within the travel industry, and insider knowledge of individual areas and specialties help a tour operator craft packages and customize tours to please all kinds of travelers. Best of all, because of those very alliances, tour operators often are able to offer great deals, less expensive, in fact, than you might be able to arrange on your own.

Before choosing a tour operator, you need to pin down your travel preferences. Do you like to travel independently or as part of a group? Do you want a full escort, guiding you every step of a set itinerary, or would you rather design your own tour? Do you want to focus on one location or take in several? Participate in hands-on activities or survey the general highlights of a region?

To help you answer these questions, consult the U.S. Tour Operators Association Web site,, and click on "Choose the Tour That's Right for You," which explains tour operator jargon and distinguishes the different touring options available. The USTOA is an accredited organization for member tour operators, as is the National Tour Association (; both organizations allow public access to membership information on their Web sites and are excellent sources for tour operator recommendations.

You might also find useful this listing of established tour operators, organized by country, with contact info and details about the types of trips and expertise they offer.

-- Elise Hartman Ford



· Eurobound, 888-672-7476, Offers city packages and custom tours for individuals and groups. Services include gay and lesbian trip planning. "Highlights of Austria" is one itinerary offered to individuals.

· Smolka Tours, 800-722-0057, European, multilingual staff tailor tours to accommodate budget and desires of individual travelers and groups. Specializes in music and art tours, including a "Sound of Music" package.

· Tradesco, 800-448-4321, This Central and Eastern European operator specializes in planning independent, escorted and hosted tours for individuals and groups. Most popular among its Austria tours are the "Vienna Music" and the "Salzburg Music" packages.


·, 406-531-9109, Brewery tours are a big draw in Belgium. This company recommends its nine-day "Farmhouse Ales of Belgium and France" for "somewhat adventurous, beer-loving travelers" who enjoy brewery visits, castle touring and pub crawls.

· Cross-Culture Journeys, 800-491-1148, Known for its educational tours, this operator also offers small-ship river cruises. Its nine-day "Cruise Holland and Belgium in the Springtime" tour has four departure dates in April. For individuals and small groups.

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