Travel is one of the most exciting parts of life — it can mean experiencing new cultures, forging new friendships, or just relaxing on a beach. That said, the unfortunate reality is that there’s a great deal of planning and endless decision-making involved in setting up the perfect trip. Even then, it can be tricky to meet new people on shorter journeys.
Enter group trip providers: organizations that not only handle the tedium of planning travel but also set you up with like-minded individuals or couples to share in the adventure with. TravelAwaits readers tend to be a discerning bunch, so we asked them which group trip providers are worth the expense. Explore the results below to see which group best suits you.
1. National Geographic Expeditions (Winner)
National Geographic is a name that is inextricably tied to seeing the world. There are plenty of benefits to traveling with Nat Geo, but let’s start with their experts. The experts who guide trips are made up of the organization’s trusted writers, conservationists, photographers, and other explorers who know their subjects and regions like the backs of their hands.
In addition to world-class guides, National Geographic Expeditions offer a huge variety of trip types – from train, private jet, and riverboat journeys to its signature land and family trips. Travelers can explore just about any locale or culture that interests them in a responsible, but still exciting fashion.
2. Rick Steves’ Europe
Rick Steves is an entertainer and educator who highlights how knowing about a destination’s culture and history is an essential part of travel. Steves has shared this philosophy with the world over several decades through his writing, television shows, broadcasts, and speaking engagements.
Fans of his travel style can take one of many trips guided by his expertise and travel philosophy. From Portugal to Bulgaria and just about every European country in between, every corner of Europe can be explored with a Rick Steves group tour.
3. REI Co-Op Adventure Travel
REI began in the 1930s as a way for a group of local outdoorsmen to pool their resources to purchase high-quality mountaineering gear in bulk to save money. With over 23 million members and 181 stores worldwide, it’s safe to say the idea spread. The cooperative now offers the same member discount for experiences in addition to gear.
REI trips all include upfront information about difficulty level, group size, and activities included. Most also include whatever specialized gear is necessary, which helps keep costs lower for the traveler. For the outdoor gear junkie, the trips feature extensive packing lists as well. These adventures are a great social way to experience the wonders of the American outdoors.
4. Road Scholar
To once again generalize about TravelAwaits readers, it’s safe to say that they tend to love learning. For the education-focused traveler, Road Scholar trips are an incredible way to see the world. This non-profit organization builds every trip around education, with cultural experiences, talks and demonstrations by locals and experts, and more. Being on site keeps the learning engaging and memorable. With a large range of collections, Road Scholar offers trips for countless interests and destinations.
5. Overseas Adventure Travel
Overseas Adventure Travel is a group trip provider that puts a major emphasis on off-the-beaten-path journeys. The company was founded on the pursuit of personal growth through travel – especially travel to less-visited destinations. OAT trips are oriented toward smaller groups, which makes experiencing a destination a more intimate experience.
Trips include small-ship voyages around the Aegean Islands and Istanbul, a Morocco Sahara Odyssey, or a tour of Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. And of course, the list doesn’t end there! In addition to popular destinations in Europe, Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the Americas, travelers can even explore Antarctica with Overseas Adventure Travel.
6. Girls’ Guide To The World
Solo travel as a woman comes with its share of baggage, but one solution to any concern is to join a group trip offered by Girls’ Guide to the World. Though the organization began with small trips to Paris, they now offer groups going to over 25 countries. With a dual focus on authentic and responsible travel, these trips can help curious travelers meet like-minded women and make long-term friendships.
The themed trips bear descriptive names like “Living Like a Queen – Marie Antoinette’s World in Paris and Versaille” and “Goddess of the Nile.” Every trip includes an exciting itinerary full of inspiration and highlights of the trip.
With 98 years in the travel industry, the family-run company Tauck knows a thing or two about seeing the world. With a stated core goal of doing the right thing, Tauck offers exclusive access to experiences around the globe. The trips also promise to bring travelers into the communities they are visiting so they can learn about local life and culture.
Tauck provides guidance on trips to all seven continents, but a very small sample includes “The Essence of Japan,” “Northern India and Nepal,” “Canadian Maritimes,” and “New Zealand: A North & South Island Adventure.”
8. Trafalgar Travel
Trafalgar Travel offers 303 trips in 72 countries over six continents. The company promises unparalleled access and insight into hidden gems, both of which are worth their weight in gold to enthusiastic travelers. In addition to special moments and experiences, Trafalgar is known for high-quality service at every step of the journey, making getting out into the world a breeze.
Finally, Trafalgar has set responsible travel as a guiding principle, focusing especially on clear goals around climate action, sustainable food production, responsible consumption, overtourism, and more.
9. Grand Circle Travel
Grand Circle Travel is a family of companies with the specific goal of providing life-changing experiences centered around human connections. While Grand Circle offers a variety of land trips, the cruise line arm of the business is noteworthy.
Grand Circle’s European river cruises take small groups of travelers through France, Holland, Hungary, and other countries on such famous rivers as the Rhône, Seine, Danube, and Rhine. For the seasonal experience of a lifetime, consider taking one of Grand Circle’s Christmas market cruises.
10. Globus Journeys
Globus Journeys is a company that’s all about striking a balance between fulfilling travel dreams while also exploring the undiscovered local side of different locations. On a Globus trip, you can expect to see iconic sights like the Colosseum or Machu Picchu, but also spend an afternoon baking in a small farm’s kitchen.
Globus Journeys makes picking a tour easy through their handy “travel styles” system. By breaking down travelers’ preferences, they ensure that everyone finds the right trip. Styles available range from “Small-Group Discoveries” and “Cosmos Tours” to “Undiscovered Tours” and “Faith-Based Vacations.”
11. Abercrombie & Kent USA, LLC
Rounding out the list is Abercrombie & Kent, a company that emphasizes luxury small-group travel. Abercrombie & Kent attributes its success to having some of the best expert guides in the world, combined with an extensive network of partners who lead authentic experiences.
The catalog of small-group journeys includes itineraries dotted with the best luxury hotels and transportation. The “Marco Polo Journey” category is comprised of limited-edition trips that change from year to year. While the small-group journeys earned Abercrombie & Kent its place on this list, the company also offers other types of travel like tailor-made trips and private jet journeys.
Read more from our 2023 Best Of Travel Awards.