Are you a “leaf peeper?” Who isn’t when faced with the vibrant shades of autumn. And, while New England is first to come to mind for the vivid colors of native maple, oak, dogwood and other trees, USTOA members offer travelers a chance to “branch” out to new leaf peeping locations around the world. From Japan to the Canadian Maritimes, below are just a few itineraries to help you celebrate the changing of the seasons.

Japan

The wonders of Japan are set against the colorful backdrop of fall during Ritz Tours’ “Jewels of Japan” itinerary. The eight-night journey includes trips to the Imperial Palace, Mt. Fuji, the Todadaji Temple and much more. Guests also will wet their appetites with a visit to the Kuromon Ichiba Market, a Kaseiki dinner, as well as a Kobe beef dinner. The bullet train ride to Kyoto also provides travelers with the ultimate leaf peeping experience as they pass through Japan’s red, orange, and yellow countryside. Available on select dates in October and November 2018 from $2,900 per person land only. www.ritztours.com

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Credit: Ritz Tours

Japan’s cities, mountains, and gardens are in full fall splendor during Alexander+Roberts’ “From Japan’s Inland Seas to Alps” itinerary. The 11-day trip takes an intimate group on a journey to see what the Japanese call “Momiji” or autumn foliage throughout the country. Travelers also will meet locals anxious to share their lives and traditions. Available for departures on October 4 and 28, 2018 from $7,399 per person, double occupancy. Guests can save $300 when paying in-full at time of booking. www.alexanderroberts.com

Canada

EF Go Ahead Tours’ “Fall Foliage Tour: The Canadian Maritimes” trip visits Canada’s eastern provinces’ rural scenery and rugged coastal landscapes with visits to Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Highlands National Park and the Cabot Trail, New Brunswick’s the Bay of Fundy, Prince Edward Island’s Anne of Green Gables Museum and more. Maritime leaf peepers also will learn how maple sugar is processed during a visit to a local sugar shack. Available in October 2018, and September through October 2019 from $2,399 per person. www.goaheadtours.com

Glide through the waters of Canada and New England for a spectacular views of autumn leaves on Holland America Line’s “Colors of Canada and New England” itinerary. During the 10-day trip guests can relax and sip a kir royale on their suite’s private verandah, watch for whales from the deck, hike among 200-year-old stands of jewel-hued birches and maples, and more. Available on September 23, 2018 from $1,629 per person not including port fees and taxes. www.hollandamerica.com

Europe

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Credit: AmaWaterways

Wine and autumn leaves mix for an unforgettable river cruise experience during AmaWaterways’ wine cruises in Europe. With multiple departure dates in November 2018, guests can save $750 per person on a number of itineraries on the Danube and Rhine rivers. Travelers will enjoy the fruits of vintners’ labor from renowned wine regions like Austria’s Wachau Valley and France’s celebrated Bordeaux region. Call 1-800-626-0126 or visit www.amawaterways.com for more information on applicable departures.

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Credit: AmaWaterways

Midwest

The Great Lakes also get all dressed up for fall during Premier World Discovery’s “Fall Colors & Lighthouses of the Great Lakes” itinerary. The nine-day mid-west tour features a Wisconsin Dells Boat Cruise to see the leaves from the water, and a trip to Door County on the western side of Lake Michigan with more than 250 miles of painted shoreline. Guests also will get to tour Chicago, the Old Mackinac Lighthouse, Lambeau Field, and more. Available departures include September 20 and 27, 2018 from $2,295 per person based on double occupancy. www.premierworlddiscovery.com

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Credit: Premier World Discovery

New England

Globus’ nine-day, “Classic Fall Foliage” itinerary takes leaf peepers on a tour of New England with stops like the top of Cadillac Mountain in Bar Harbor, ME, Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, and a sightseeing tour of Boston, MA with a local tour guide. Guests also will visit Maine’s Acadia National Park, one of America’s most-visited national parks, for a carriage ride through the foliage before enjoying a local treat at the historic Jordan Pond Restaurant located inside the park. Available in September and October 2018 from $2,529 (includes a special promo of $300 off per couple). www.globusjourneys.com

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Credit: YMT Vacations

From the battlefields of Gettysburg to a sightseeing cruise through the Franconia Notch State Park, YMT Vacations’ “Autumn Leaves Tour” itinerary takes travelers on a journey to discover America’s history. A drive through Adirondack Park in the White and the Green Mountains, and stops at Lake Placid and the magnificent Flume Gorge in New Hampshire round out this 14-day trip. Available departures throughout September 2018 from $1,499 after a $250 instant rebate per person. www.ymtvacations.com

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Credit: Intrepid Travel

Intrepid Travel’s “Fall Colors of New England USA” is specially designed to showcase the famous leaves with an active immersive trip through the region’s mountains and forests. Travelers’ shoes will walk through the ‘Green Mountain State’ of Vermont, New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest and Boston’s historic Freedom Trail. Available departure dates include September 10 and 24, 2018, and October 8, 2018 from $3,095 per person. www.intrepidtravel.com

insight-foliage-2 Credit: Insight Vacations

Insight Vacations’ “New England’s Fall Foliage” tour takes guests through a four-state leaf-peeping adventure. During the seven-night itinerary, see brilliant colors at North Conway, NH, Quechee Gorge, VT, and more. Guests also will visit the iconic Maine shoreline, and walk to red-brick Freedom Trail in Boston. Available from $2, 795 per person double occupancy with an early payment discount from 5-10% on departures from September 14 to October 16, 2018. www.insightvacations.com

The Northeast’s colors are on full display during Collette’s eight-day “Colors of New England Tour.” With more than 30 available for departures throughout fall 2018, foliage-focused travelers can watch apples being transformed to cider, tour a farm and see how maple sugaring works, cruise Lake Winnipesaukee, and more set against a gorgeous autumn backdrop. This trip through New England is available from $2,699 per person. www.gocollette.com

Spend nine days immersed in brilliant colors during Gate 1’s “Classic New England Fall Foliage” itinerary. Travelers will spend time in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine exploring historical and nature sites. Tour guests get the chance to see a working cranberry farm, see Vermont’s deepest gorge for breathtaking fall views, and more. Available for departures from September through October 2018 from $1,749 per person. www.gate1travel.com

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Credit: Tauck

Join Tauck’s “Grand New England” itinerary to enjoy the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the rocky coast of Maine all dressed in fall splendor. Travelers also will get the chance to join a hands-on lobstering experience in Maine, enjoy a private lunch at Edith Wharton’s Berkshire Mountains home, The Mount and take a private schooner cruise in Bar Harbor, Maine among other stops. This 12-day tour is available for select departures throughout the fall from $5,290 per person double occupancy, plus airfare. www.tauck.com

Mayflower Cruises & Tours’ “Autumn in New England and Cape Cod” takes travelers on an eight-day trip through some of the most scenic call locals in the Northeast. During the trip, guests will enjoy a traditional lobster bake in Cape Cod, visit Quechee Gorge State Park, Vermont’s “Little Grand Canyon,” enjoy a guided tour of the seaport town of Newport, Rhode Island, and more. Available on select departure dates in September and October 2018 from $2,799 per person with $249 round trip airfare from anywhere in the contiguous U.S. www.mayflowercruisesandtours.com

A city tour of Boston, scenic drive along the Mohawk Trail, a stop at Acadia National Park and more await guests on Trafalgar’s “Autumn Colors” itinerary. Travelers will enjoy the picture-perfect maple and cedar forests of New England, the rocky Atlantic headlands of Maine, and the streets of Boston lined with fall foliage. Available from September 20 to October 20, 2018 from $2,550 per person. www.trafalgar.com 

 

Editor’s Note: Information was correct at time of writing. All tours/packages subject to availability. Prices may vary from time of writing, based on currency fluctuations.

 


By Tanveer Badal

I’ve visited Rome twice before, so I’ve already experienced much of the city’s treasure trove of sights—though seeing mind-blowing ancient structures like the Colosseum never gets old. But for my third visit, I was determined to experience Rome like a local. My goal was to literally live out the classic phrase “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” for over a week. So I based myself in the cuore (heart) of Rome’s centro storico at Hotel Rinascimento, where I could fully immerse myself in the culture and lifestyle of this timeless city.

To kick things off, I joined Perillo’s Learning Journeys’ immersive “Live Like a Roman” tour. Italy has a rich tradition of food and Rome is filled with some of the country’s best gastronomic delights, so eating and drinking is of a major part of the hands-on experience. On the itinerary was a Twilight Trastevere Food Tour, a cocktail crawl of Rome with local expert and influencer Maria Pasquale (a.k.a. Heart Rome), lunch at the Palazzo with the Italian countess Violante, and even a pizza- and gelato-making class. And, of course, in between activities I had plenty of opportunities to try every kind of Italian delicacy—from delectable supplì (fried risotto balls stuffed with mozzarella) to the city’s famed gelato—all on my own.

The following is a photo journey of some of my favorite dining and drinking experiences in Rome:

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Da Enzo Trattoria, a busy Trastevere neighborhood restaurant frequented by both locals and in-the-know tourists, served up one of my favorite dishes of the trip: Pasta Amatriciana. Hungry Romans arrive in droves for lunch, as you can see here. I went on a weekday without a reservation and was fortunate snag a table after waiting only about 15 minutes.

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An Italy fact I’d never known: Different types and shapes of pastas come from different regions of the country. Da Enzo Trattoria’s Pasta Amatriciana is a classic dish named for the Italian town of Amatrice with a spicy sauce based on guanciale (cured pork cheek). The cured meat has a taste similar to bacon–and is absolutely delicious.

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At the counter stands Stefania Innocenti, the fourth-generation owner and baker behind Biscottificio Innocenti in Trastevere. At one point, as our group surrounded her while sampling a platter of delicious cookies, she almost seemed to tear up while talking to us. Our guide, Rishad Noorani from Eating Europe Tours, translated: “Seeing all you people enjoying my food just makes me so happy. I don’t do it for the money. I do it for this!”

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Sipping an Aperol spritz while people-watching at a sidewalk cafe became my daily indulgence in Rome.

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I learned to make Roman-style pizza via InRome Cooking classes–and I can’t wait to test out my new skills at home.

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On the Trastevere Twilight Food Tour, we stopped at the Antica Caciara salumeria (delicatessen) to sample buttery porchetta washed down with beer. This old-school deli has been operated by the Polica family since 1900 and is a Trastevere institution. 

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During one magical afternoon, lunch was served up with one of the best views of Rome. This airy terrace tops Palazzo Taverna, the family house of chef and entertainer, Violante Guerrieri Gonzaga.

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One of the most exciting nights out on the town was with Rome local expert Maria Pasquale, also known as Heart Rome. Here, Maria sips an experimental cocktail served in a tea cup at the boutique hotel DOM.

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If you’re looking for nightlife away from the well-trodden tourist path, head across the river to Trastevere and follow the crowds–Trastevere locals party late into the night.

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The Jerry Thomas Project, an intimate speakeasy that’s been named one of the 50 best bars in the world, capped off our tour. Reservations are a must and it’s worth it, I promise!

Interested in learning more about Tanveer’s journey? Read more about it on AFAR.com, the USTOA Blogand check out Perillo’s Learning Journey Live Like A Roman itinerary.

Tanveer is a travel, hotel, and lifestyle photographer who has explored more than 50 countries. Some trips have led him to photograph luxury hotels on the Amalfi Coast or the Riviera Maya, while others have taken him on long treks in the Bhutanese Himalayas or in search of lemurs in Madagascar. Follow his ongoing travels on Instagram or check out his travel portfolio.


By AFAR Ambassador Tanveer Badal

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As a travel photographer, I’ve had the privilege of visiting over 50 countries. And as I’ve become a more experienced traveler, I’ve found myself no longer interested in just crossing places off a bucket list or filling my passport with as many stamps as possible. Instead, I’m more interested in getting to know my favorite places more intimately. For example, I’ve been to India multiple times and would go back in a heartbeat. A few months ago, I re-visited Morocco on another Afar + USTOA assignment, and recently, I had a chance to return to Italy for the third time.

On previous trips, I’d only spent a couple of days in Rome before moving on to other parts of the country such as the Amalfi Coast or Venice. I’d breezed through the must-see sights such as Vatican City and the Colosseum. So this time, I wanted to do Rome differently and really try to dig a little deeper into this beautiful city. I joined Perillo’s Learning Journeys, and the company created a custom itinerary for me to actually “live like a Roman.”

Through Learning Journeys, I signed up for week-long Italian language lessons at Scuola Leonardo da Vinci. Later, I discovered this was the same school that Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, had attended and wrote about in her well-known memoir. After experiencing the school myself, I understood why. Each morning, I would stand shoulder to shoulder with other Romans and order my cappuccino and cornetto from a cafe and then walk into class in an actual Italian palazzo (i.e., a palace). How cool is that? My class of a dozen included a range of foreigners, from a 19-year-old Thai student to a 70-year old retired Australian man. And within this spectacular setting, our teacher, Marta, seemed straight out of a classic Italian movie–she was intelligent, beautiful and charming.

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Scuola Leonardo da Vinci

And actually I did visit the Vatican Museum and the Colosseum again. But this time, Perillo’s Learning Journeys set me up with guides that could have been art history professors at Ivy League colleges. I felt like I experienced these sights for the very first time, and in my mind I could envision ancient Romans living in the city as the stories and paintings were explained. I learned, for example, where Michelangelo had painted a self-portrait in the Sistine Chapel (as St. Bartholomew, a saint who’s identified as being skinned alive) and that Julius Caesar once walked across the same Ponte Cestio bridge that I nonchalantly crossed into the Trastevere neighborhood. I have a whole new appreciation for “tour guides” after this trip. The word “guide” barely does their job justice. They’re more like historical storytellers.

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Another reason I wanted to live like a Roman was simply to take better photographs. People love to say “you can’t take a bad photograph in Rome.” But what they really mean is you can’t take a bad postcard photo. That’s not something I was interested in — taking the same beautiful photo that everyone else has taken a million times over. In fact, taking a good, original photo in any famous city is incredibly difficult. Instead, I wanted to capture a slice-of-life scene of Rome, moments that would invoke a sense of mood or texture and take me right back to the city. You can’t do that if you’re just in Rome for 24 hours following the well-beaten tourist trail.

Each day after my Italian class was over, I’d go on long walks with my camera in hand, and try to capture Romans going about their daily lives — reading a newspaper in a sunny square, walking their dog, drinking espresso… Through these walks, I discovered that my favorite part of Rome is the Trastevere neighborhood, a place I’d only casually visited during my previous trips.

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Ultimately, I found myself not even needing to look at my Google Maps app to find my way around. Instead, I would look for “that Osteria” where I needed to take a left, which would then take me to Piazza Navona; or I realized that if I followed Via di Torre Argentina, a street lined with Italian leather goods shops, it would ultimately lead me to the Pantheon.

What I’m mostly excited about after my Roman experience with Perillo’s Learning Journeys is that the next time I come back to Rome (and I certainly hope I do) I’ll have all these lessons and experiences under my belt, and will feel at least a little bit more like a local. I’ll know how to get from the airport to the city center and then how to find that amazing restaurant near the Trevi Fountain where I had the best cacio e pepe of my life. I’ll know how to make my way between Trastevere and Rome’s historical center without consulting a map constantly. That, to me, makes travel so much more rewarding that crossing another place off the bucket list.

 

Interested in learning more about Tanveer’s journey? Read more about it on AFAR.com, the USTOA Blogand check out Perillo’s Learning Journey Live Like A Roman itinerary.

Tanveer is a travel, hotel, and lifestyle photographer who has explored more than 50 countries. Some trips have led him to photograph luxury hotels on the Amalfi Coast or the Riviera Maya, while others have taken him on long treks in the Bhutanese Himalayas or in search of lemurs in Madagascar. Follow his ongoing travels on Instagram or check out his travel portfolio


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Are you looking to make a difference in the communities you visit? You’re not alone. Socially-responsible travel is becoming increasingly significant to today’s globally connected travelers.

On a recent trip to Jordan with Tourism Cares, Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA joined a group of travel industry representatives to explore the new Meaningful Travel Map of Jordan. It maps out a trail of 12 stops with hands-on local experiences that help contribute to the communities, such as learning the craft of traditional weaving at the Bani Hamida Women’s Weaving Project, which boosts women’s rights and livelihoods in the area.

Through stops like this, Terry and some USTOA members witnessed firsthand how tourism can lead social change and it inspired USTOA to ask the question – what are some ways our members are positively impacting the communities they visit around the world? We asked a few tour operator member executives this question as well as why impactful travel is vital to the destinations you visit. Here’s what they had to say:

 

Robert Drumm, President, Alexander+Roberts 

Our guests are culturally inquisitive and passionate about gaining a deep understanding and appreciation of the places they visit. As their tour company, I believe it’s important for us to support the people, culture and natural wonders of these far-flung lands. By giving back to these communities, we are ensuring their sustainability and the opportunity for future travelers to enjoy the same experiences as our guests.

One way we give back is through our partnerships with properties like the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve in South Africa. By selecting this luxury eco-lodge for our guests, we are supporting the Grootbos Foundation, a non-profit organization that empowers the local community through education, training and enterprise development. On this same South African adventure, we also make a per-guest donation to the Tintswalo Rhino Extreme Campaign, a project working to end poaching in the Manyeleti Game Reserve where our travelers go on safari.

 

Paula Twidale, Executive Vice President of Collette

Travel is our gateway to the world allowing us to experience a vast array of cultures. Exploring destinations is enriching, but also helps fuel the local economy, adding to its sustainability.

It is essential to open our minds to discovery and diversity in local communities off the beaten path. Touring, interacting and learning allows us to see the world through a different lens while contributing to local infrastructure. Tourism Cares to Jordan provided me this opportunity.

Social responsibility is a core value at Collette and we empower our employees to care for the world we live in by giving back. Every employee is allowed four volunteer hours per month to make a difference locally or internationally. Whether it is volunteering at a shelter, feeding the hungry, building a school in Cambodia or providing access to water in South Africa; every effort yields results and a renewed faith in the future. I feel blessed to be able to travel and make a difference in the lives of others.

 

Ulla Hefel Böhler, Global CEO of Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold

Guests on many Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold itineraries can personally visit projects we support through our TreadRight foundation. These initiatives promote economic empowerment, sustainability and conservation in local communities around the world, from Australia to Canada. As a company we are committed to sustainable and impactful tourism, in order to ensure that the environment and communities we visit remain vibrant for generations to come.

On behalf of all USTOA members, Terry Dale and the USTOA team are proud to continue its support of Tourism Cares and its efforts to unite the travel industry and help destinations in need. In 2018, Tourism Cares visited South Florida in the wake of last year’s devastating hurricanes and also will return to New Orleans for ongoing recovery efforts and celebrate the city’s 300th anniversary.

 

Visit https://ustoa.com/blog/transformational-travel/ for more USTOA member examples of travel that transforms.


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Food is truly the language that crosses all borders. Culinary experiences are an integral part of any trip, and for some it’s THE reason they globe trot. While the classic foodie countries like France and Italy are must-visit destinations, culinary-centric trips are available throughout the world.

USTOA members offer itineraries worldwide with hands-on culinary experiences and, of course, plenty to taste. Below is a “morsel” of what members have to offer travelers. But be warned…you might not want to take this virtual culinary world tour on an empty stomach!

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Travelers can start their foodie trek with a trip down the Rhine River through France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland with AmaWaterways for wine-focused tours and tastings at each port, or an adult-exclusive food and wine food cruise with Adventures by Disney.

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Want to linger in France a little longer? Join Europe Express* and save 10% on a trip with experiences like a dessert or chocolate class, or visit a family-owned farm in la Camargue for a farm-to-table banquet lunch a Tauck river cruise.  Guests on Viking River Cruises can hunt for truffles for a homemade lunch during a stop on its river cruise from Bordeaux to Saint-Emillion.

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Next travelers can head south to Italy, truly an epicurean’s treasure. Bike through Piedmont and discover the birthplace of Italy’s slow food movement with VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations. Or, learn to make pizza in Rome with Perillo’s Learning Journeys.

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Heading towards North Africa and the Middle East, a lesser known culinary adventure awaits on Alexander+Roberts’ trip to Morocco with experiences like a tour of the famous Essaouira Fish Market and a lunch of freshly caught fish and oysters from a lagoon in Oualidia. Intrepid Travel also offers guests an off-the-beaten-path look at food in Israel and Palestine as they break bread with the Druze folk in Buq’ata and taste wine in the Negev desert.

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India is up next on this foodie trip around the world to learn how to make Indian bread, or ‘chappati’, at a local family’s house with Pacific Delight Tours, or savor a vegetarian “satvik” meal in the sacred city of Varanasi with Cox & Kings. Next head to Thailand for adventures like dinner in a local night market famous for fried insects with Asia Answers, then a private sushi making lesson at a local home in Japan with Avanti Destinations*.

Peruvian Ceviche with King PrawnCredit: Goway Travel

For the dessert course of our culinary world tour, let’s head to the Americas beginning with an exotic pisco cocktail class in Peru with Goway Travel.  Further north in San Francisco is Flavors & Murals of the Mission Tour with GOGO Worldwide Vacations, which combines a tasting tour of the trendiest parts of the city with its legendary murals and street art.

No matter your palette, USTOA members know that food unites us all. Want to start planning your next culinary adventure? Find your dream vacation here or visit https://ustoa.com/travel-agent-directory for a list of USTOA certified travel agents who can help.

 

*Please contact your local travel agent to book with this tour operator.


westminster-abbeyPhoto Credit: Europe Express

There are few things that draw international excitement like the British royal family…especially in the U.S. Our fascination with the monarchy is reflected in American news, television shows, and even our travel. This year marks two royal occasions sure to consume our minds, the birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s third baby in April, and the highly anticipated wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (a US citizen!) in May.

USTOA’s tour operator members offer trip itineraries that let you follow in the footsteps of the royal family with behind the scenes tours, visits to landmarks like Windsor Castle and Kensington Palace, and accommodations fit for a king…or in this case the Queen.

Don’t just watch The Crown, start crossing off your royal-family bucket list with a trip to the UK and the must-see recommendations below:

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The royal newlyweds will call Kensington Palace home like Prince William and Kate, and their mother, Princess Diana, before them. See how the royals live with a stop at the Palace with Collette, Europe Express, and Classic Vacations, or visit the English countryside where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are rumored to be house-hunting. Explore the Cotswolds on foot with Country Walkers or visit Badminton House, the private country estate of the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort with Abercrombie & Kent.

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An official residence of the Queen, Windsor Castle is a top destination for royal watchers. You can tour this British landmark and site of the upcoming royal wedding with operators like Adventures by Disney, Viking River Cruises, and more. During your visit, check to see if the Royal Standard is flying signaling that the Queen is at home.

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Other must-visit stops on your royal-themed trip include the Changing of the Guard outside London’s Buckingham Palace with Audley Travel, a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official Scottish residence, with Insight Vacations, a local-guided tour of Westminster Abbey, site of royal weddings for generations, with Globus, and the chance to see the priceless Crown Jewels at the Tower of London with CIE Tours.

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It’s a year of royal celebration! Plan yours now with one of these trips, or use USTOA’s Find Your Dream Vacation tool to discover additional itinerary options.


Are you the kind of traveler who seeks vacations to the “less-explored” destinations each year?  Let the members of the United States Tour Operators Association help answer that question.

Each year, USTOA members forecast hot trends the top up-and-coming destinations that provide the opportunity to have deeply engaging experiences before they appear on everyone’s travel bucket lists.

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Credit: Avanti Destinations

Moving up one spot from last year, Iceland was named the number one emerging destination for the year. Rounding out the five leading destinations were Colombia, Vietnam, Greenland,and Laos. From visiting the hidden caves of Kong Lor in Laos to meeting locals in an Inuit fishing village in Greenland, USTOA members offer “live like a local” experiences across these up and coming destinations. For more inspiration, check out the following sample itineraries.

Iceland – Visit 2018’s most popular emerging destination with Alexander + Roberts’ “Adventures Across Iceland” seven-day itinerary. Guests will spend time with farmers, fishermen, and micro-brewers along the rugged northern coast to learn about their daily lives and traditions. The trip also features a search for the Northern Lights, a chance to sample fresh “Earth-baked”bread from the ground, among other excursions. Available on select dates through January 2019. Visit www.alexanderroberts.com for pricing.

Colombia – Goway immerses guests in one of South America’s most colorful destinations during its eight-day “Essential Colombia” tour. The journey south features a visit to the town of Zipaquira famous for its underground salt cathedral, along with a full-day journey through the stone paths of the sacred village of Pueblito. Guests also will discover the diverse city of Cartagena with plenty of free time to explore the city and discover its captivating views. Daily departures available from $2,845 per person. www.goway.com

Vietnam – A mix of culture, heritage, and stunning landscapes awaits guests on Wendy Wu Tours’ “Classical Vietnam Premier Tour” trip. On this 18-day itinerary travelers will drift on the emerald waters of Halong Bay, discover the secret tunnel network of Cu Chi, and explore the water bound world of the Mekong Delta. Guests also will travel to the Thien Mu Pagoda temple before a workshop to learn about ‘Truc Chi’, paper made from bamboo pulp. Available March 2 and October 26, 2018 from $6,420 per person. www.wendywutours.com

Greenland – Lindblad Expeditions brings guests on an adventure to the far reaches of the Artic on its “Exploring Greenland and Canada” itinerary. Adventurers will explore Greenland’s fjords and the Ilulissat Glacier, a UNESCO site and a part of the Greenland ice cap. Highlights also include cruising the famous Northwest Passage and observing whales, polar bears, and other arctic wildlife. The 16-day trip is available in August of 2018 and 2019 from $13,990. www.expeditions.com

Laos – Discover the lesser-known country of Laos with Audley Travel’s “The Hidden Heart of Laos” itinerary. Guests on the 16-day trip will discover the mysterious giant stone jars of Phonsavan, the hidden caves of Kong Lor, and the scenic waterfalls at Kuang Si. The trip also includes the chance to interact with the locals of the 4,000 Islands area in southern Laos. Available throughout 2018 from $4,355 per person. www.audleytravel.com

 

Find more trips to these emerging destinations and more using USTOA’s “Find Your Dream Vacation” section at https://ustoa.com/dream-vacation/.


By Rhiannon TaylorAFAR Ambassador 

 

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If you’ve been following along, I’ve just started on my tour of Myanmar with Abercrombie & Kent. Sanda, our guide, is the heartbeat of our trip. Effortlessly accommodating our dietary requirements and comfort, engaging us with her incredible knowledge of Myanmar, it’s sights and it’s history.

Picking up where I left off, our group has just hopped on board Sanctuary Ananda to cruise up the Irrawaddy River.

 

Day Four, Five and Six:

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Cruising along the river is very peaceful. Our rooms are generous in size and come with balconies to relax on during the afternoons. The food is excellent with the chef offering both Burmese and Western options and even offers cooking demonstrations. There’s a full day cruising and you can spend it on the top deck in the plunge pool, sunbaking, in the library or in the spa.

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At night, the boat comes in to port and we visit the U-Bein Bridge – said to be the oldest and longest wooden bridge in the world. We all take a boat ride around the bridge at sunset, which is quite spectacular and Sanda surprises us with Champagne.

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On our last morning we disembark and head in to Mandalay, visiting a gold workshop, where men beat gold by hand in to gold leaf. This gold is then sold to the temples and pagodas for decoration and restoration of the Buddha.

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Another highlight in Mandalay is a visit to the Kuthadow Pagoda, otherwise known as the Worlds Biggest Book. Comprised of over 700 marble slabs of Buddhist teachings, they are housed inside white temples and it’s one of Myanmar’s most beautiful sites.

 

Day Seven and Eight:

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Our group makes its way to Inle Lake, a 44 square mile freshwater lake in the Shan State. Over 70,000 people live on the lake boarders, in villages comprising of stilted houses. It’s a unique way of life, with boat as the only means of transportation.

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We stayed at the Aureum Palace, which is a stunning resort made up of overwater villas that have views to the other side of lake. It serves as a great base for day trips to nearby villages where we witness the local thriving businesses of fishing, cigar making and the rare art of lotus weaving. Lotus fabric is used by high end designers such a Lora Piano and is a painstakingly slow process of hand rolling fibre out of the lotus flower stalk. The result is a beautiful, linen-like fabric that keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

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Last day:

Flying out from Inle Lake, we come back to Yangon and enjoy our final evening with a walk around. It is the most sacred of Pagoda’s in Myanmar for the Buddhist people and it is one of the largest, gilded in gold and sitting over 99 metres tall. Sanda surprises us again, this time with reserving 1000 candles around the base of the Pagoda for us to light. It’s an incredibly spiritual time and quite magical to see our candles flickering once they are all lit. It signifies the end of our journey and our tight-knit group is sad to see it end.

On the final morning we say our goodbyes. Sanda has gone above and beyond to ensure we have had an immersive experience in Myanmar, whilst also catering to our comfort. I wouldn’t have explored the country any other way.

 

Interested in learning more about Rhiannon’s journey?  Read more about it on AFAR.com, the USTOA blog,  and check out Abercrombie & Kent’s Myanmar and The Irrawaddy

Australian photographer Rhiannon has a curated aesthetic for capturing design, food, and lifestyle. Her work has taken her around the world, with assignments in Sri Lanka, the U.S., New Zealand, and South America. Her popular blog, dedicated to experiential luxury resorts and lodges, is regularly updated with Rhiannon’s point of view on fascinating destinations.


 

Happy New Year! And welcome to 2018…it’s shaping up to be a great year in the world of travel.

So what’s ahead? Each year, USTOA conducts an annual travel trend and forecast survey of the association’s active tour operator members, monitoring business trends, top travel destinations, and more.  For the hottest destinations to visit, check out the results of the latest survey to start planning your dream vacation in 2018.

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Where are travelers going?

Rising to the top of this year’s emerging or “off-the-beaten-path” destinations for 2018 is Iceland, moving up from last year’s runner up position. Colombia followed in second, with Vietnam named as third.

When asked for the top five “hot” international destinations in 2018, members named Australia, Spain, followed by Iceland and Italy in a tie for third place, France and Japan. Domestically, USTOA members predict California, Florida and Hawaii (tied for second), New York, Alaska and Nevada (tied for fourth) and Washington DC will be most popular for clients this year.

Members were also asked to name the destinations/sites most “at risk” from disappearing (from over-tourism, climate change or other factors) that travelers should see now. The top three chosen were Antarctica, Cuba and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

 

Who’s traveling? 

Family travel proved important to member business with more than a quarter (28%) of tour operator members reporting that families represented anywhere from 10-25% of their annual passengers. Family travel also ranked third among the most popular types of travel in 2017.

Additionally, roughly half (46%) of those surveyed reported a growth in solo travelers in 2017 over 2016 with 39% of polled members saying solo passengers grew by 10-25%.

These encouraging results across the board could not be possible without the support of you, our valued travel agent partners. On behalf of all the members of USTOA, thank you for your continued help.  We are thrilled to continue our partnership in 2018.

What are you waiting for?

Based on the results, 2018 is the year to keep your New Year’s travel resolutions. Looking for more inspiration? Visit our Why We Travel page for videos discovering not just where fellow travelers have chosen to go…but why they travel. Visit USTOA’s Dream Vacation Itinerary Finder to find your dream vacation today.

 

Need help planning your next trip? Visit www.ustoa.com/travel-agent-directory to find a USTOA certified travel agent near you.

Cheers to 2018!


By Rhiannon TaylorAFAR Ambassador 

 

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Myanmar (Burma) is a destination that has often been forgotten to the rest of the world. It’s slowly been putting itself on the map for travelers who want to get off-grid and is one of the few countries left that offer truly authentic and mostly tourist-free experience.

Not to be ventured in to lightly, it is a country that requires expert local knowledge and planning. Forget public transport, or asking a local for directions; Myanmar is a country that doesn’t see a lot of tourism and the best way to visit is by booking with a tour company that has complete understanding and connections with the local people.

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I chose Abercrombie & Kent’s “Myanmar and The Irrawaddy” tour for my visit as it encompassed a mix of luxury accommodation, a river cruise, local experiences and sightseeing.  This ten day itinerary started in Yangon, with an Abercrombie & Kent representative meeting me at the airport arrivals gate and whisking me to the comforts of the Sule Shangri-La Hotel to rest before meeting my group and commencing my tour the following day.

Our journey together went a little like this.

 

Day One:

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Following breakfast in the Sule Shangri-La’s Horizon Club (an exclusive area for premium rooms), our group meets for the first time and we are introduced to Sanda, who is one of Myanmar’s most sought after guides. Born and raised in Yangon, she obtained a bachelor degree in Chemistry before following her passion in to the travel industry. She instantly makes our small group of five feel like family and soon we were on our way to the Reclining Buddha at Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, a 213-foot-long statue with an expressive enamel face and huge feet.

Lunch is at a local restaurant where we are treated to a traditional tea-house menu, consisting of deep fried snacks, roti and curry. Here we discover that Burmese food is much more subtle in flavor than its neighbor Thailand.

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In the afternoon we meet with a local astrologer who delves into the future decisions in our lives. Astrology plays an important part of life to the Burmese and influences their decisions on all day to day matters such as marriage, religion, prayer and even diet.

As the sun goes down, our group makes its way to Le Planteur; one of Myanmar’s finest restaurants serving up Indochine-style cuisine, overlooking the water. It’s a magical evening and sets the tone for the trip.

 

Day Two and Three:

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A short flight and we’re in Bagan, a city with over 2000 Buddhist Pagodas and Temples. Buddhism is a way of life for the Burmese and Bagan is an incredibly spiritual city.

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Here, our group visits a small village and we are able to interact with the local people. It’s our first time being able to converse with the people of Myanmar (through our guide Sanda), and they’re friendly and welcoming to our curiosity.

We checked-in to the Aureum Palace Resort, a five star luxury hotel that boasts an infinity pool overlooking a vista of pagodas. It’s the only hotel in the temple region and is simply stunning.

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Weather permitting, guests are can take a hot air balloon ride over Bagan. Unfortunately during my trip we didn’t get the right wind to permit a ride so we visited the viewing tower at our hotel at sunset. It’s a spectacular view, over a seemingly endless landscape of pagodas.

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Another highlight of this region is a visit to a lacquer workshop (the same one Barack Obaa visited on his trip to Myanmar), which makes by hand everything from teacups to chests of drawers and is a great place to stock up on unique souvenirs.

On the last evening we board Sanctuary Ananda, a small luxury boat, which takes us on to the next part of our journey: The Irrawaddy River.

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Check back soon for the second part of this blog post on my Abercrombie & Kent tour in Myanmar.

 

Interested in learning more about Rhiannon’s journey?  Read more about it on AFAR.com and check out Abercrombie & Kent’s Myanmar and The Irrawaddy

Australian photographer Rhiannon has a curated aesthetic for capturing design, food, and lifestyle. Her work has taken her around the world, with assignments in Sri Lanka, the U.S., New Zealand, and South America. Her popular blog, dedicated to experiential luxury resorts and lodges, is regularly updated with Rhiannon’s point of view on fascinating destinations.