By Ben Schuyler, AFAR Ambassador

There’s no doubt about it—something really is so romantic about being in Paris. It’s the “city of love” after all, but I’m not talking so much about affectionate romance. I’m talking about the city’s ability to take you to a different reality, to transport you to a different time. As a travel photographer, I find myself experiencing the “losing of oneself” to a place fairly often, but my experience in Paris and the surrounding villages along the Seine River were in a league all their own.

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My wife and I chose Paris as our honeymoon destination, as so many other newly married couples do. We had originally entertained the thought of venturing to a tropical beach for a week doing nothing but drinking Pina Coladas to excess and eating endless amounts of fish tacos, but ultimately chose to seize the opportunity of travelling the Seine with U by Uniworld—a boutique cruise line geared towards the “young at heart” – after reading more about their trips. Our time to travel was limited and we wanted to cover as much ground as possible since neither of us had ever been to this area of France. I’ll be honest that taking a cruise wouldn’t usually be of interest to me, but the ability to see so many places without being surround by huge amounts of fellow travelers hooked us.

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We embarked on our journey with a small list of recommendations from friends who had been before. Aside from those select places our schedule was at the mercy of our “U-Hosts”, incredible culture guides from the cruise that led our excursions or connected us to an incredible cast of experts on different significant topic. From a list of over a dozen “U-Time” options, we chose a handful of activities that related to our interests in food, art, and the outdoors.

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On the top of my personal list of places I’d long wanted to visit were the cliffs of Etretat—beautiful limestone cliffs towering over the shore of the English Channel. These stone monoliths have been topics of lore from Viking ages to the modern times. Standing on the edge of the shore felt like staring off at the end of the world. Monet had painted these cliffs on numerous occasions, attempting to freeze these scenes in time. My wife and I walked along the sun-bleached stones, picking up a few to bring home as earthen souvenirs.

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While traveling to the coast, we weaved through the Normandy region—an area known for its biological diversity and rich farming conditions. Manoir D’Apreval—an organic apple orchard specializing in producing organic cider, Pommeau, and apple brandy. Each sip was a refreshing taste of the history of this land.

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Rouen shone as one of the gems on the Seine. Each corner revealed layer after layer of history and beauty. Gros-Horloge, one of the oldest astronomical clocks in France, sits in the middle of the old city and has been running since the middle ages. The Rouen Cathedral features a nightly light show at 10pm telling the story of the new creation and Viking invasion of France. Julia Childs once called her dining experience at famous French cuisine restaurant La Couronne “the most exciting meal of my life,” which we affirmed with our meal of gazpacho and veal.

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The romance of the Seine is undeniable and endless and best experienced with open hands. Find the few things you HAVE to see, and with the rest just let their ancient stories draw you in.

 

Interested in learning more about Ben’s journey? Read more about it on AFAR.com and check out U by Uniworld’s The Seine Experience.

A Pacific Northwest native, Ben has spent his life drinking coffee, hiking the Cascade Mountains, and breathing the salty air of the Puget Sound. Ben’s inspiration includes dirt roads, flora, and fauna, and his photographs capture a sense of adventure in warm colors that produce an ambient nostalgia. He recently traveled America to document mobile living: When the Road Is Home.


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Thinking about taking a solo vacation? You’re not “alone.” Roughly half of United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) tour operator members have reported growth in solo travelers last year and many have created new opportunities for those going it alone to visit their dream destinations. With waived or discounted single supplement fees, new itineraries tailored to single travelers, and new ways to connect guests before and during the trip, off the beaten path experiences no longer only come in pairs.

 

The following are just a few of ways USTOA members are encouraging solo travelers to see the world.

Intrepid Travel - morocco_al haouz asni_red-top-peron-valley-rsCredit: Intrepid Travel

Specifically designed for solo travelers, Intrepid Travel’s “Best Morocco – For Solo Travelers” itinerary brings together an intimate group of 12 guests and a local Moroccan guide. The group will trek the High Atlas Mountains and stay in a traditional Berber village where they will learn about the indigenous population. Other trip highlights include fortune telling in Marrakech’s lively medina, chatting with medicine men in Jemaa el-Fna square, and more. Available on select departure dates through November 2018 from $1,175 per person. www.intrepidtravel.com

Alexander+Roberts has waived the single supplement fees on all nine departures of its “Colombia Emerging” trip. On this private journey with no more than 16 guests, travelers are lead through the vibrant country to spend time with flower farmers outside Medellin and join Bogotá residents in some of their traditional pastime. The trip also features a guided walk to discover Medellin’s vibrant street art, and a full day to explore UNESCO World Heritage Site Cartagena. Available on select departure dates through April 2019 from $3,699 per person for single or double occupancy. www.alexanderroberts.com

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Make friends with your fellow passengers as you travel through 10 European countries during Contiki’s 13-day “European Discovery” itinerary. Solo guests can share a bottle of champagne under the Eiffel Tower or bike through Munich with other guests helping to form lifelong bonds. Guests also will discover the canals of Amsterdam and Venice; visit Vatican City and explore the ancient streets of Rome; and enjoy two days in the city of lights, among other exciting activities and destinations. Available for select departures through fall 2018 and throughout 2019 from $2,376 per person with savings. www.contiki.com

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Black sand beaches, snorkeling with Galápagos penguins, and an experienced expedition team create an unforgettable and educational experience for solo travelers on Lindblad Expeditions’ itineraries to the Galápagos. Lindblad Expeditions is waiving solo traveler premiums on solo cabins select 2018 National Geographic Islander and National Geographic Endeavour II voyages. New ships also feature an increased number of solo cabins. Solo travelers will pay double occupancy rates for solo occupancy in designated cabins/categories. Valid for new bookings only and subject to availability with weekly departures year-round from $10,130 solo occupancy. www.expeditions.com

Tabletop Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, and more must-experience adventures bring solo travelers to the southern tip of Africa for Abercrombie & Kent’s “South Africa & Victoria Falls” itinerary. The nine-day trip also features a visit to the thundering Victoria Falls and an on-safari Chef’s Table experience where travelers will cook traditional fare side-by-side with a chef. Solo guests save 50% on single supplement fees on select departures including July 19, 2018, August 9 and 13, 2018, and September 8, 2018 from $7,795 per person. www.abercrombiekent.com

Travel to Greek IslandCredit: Trafalgar

Trafalgar has waived the single supplement fee on the August 20 and October 8, 2018 departures of its “Best of Greece” itinerary. Guests will traverse the mountains of Arcadia to ancient Olympia, dine with a local Greek family, enjoy a night of traditional food and dancing with local residents, and more during this eight-day trip. Solo travelers also will visit iconic sites like the Temple of Apollo, the Acropolis and Parthenon with a local specialist. Trip is available from $2,050 per person. www.trafalgar.com

Tauck is offering single travelers special savings in 2018 with waived single supplement fees on select river cruises and reduced fees on other departures worldwide. Waived single supplement fees on all Category 1 European riverboat cabins makes it easier than ever for solo travelers to enjoy an upscale European cruise. Tauck has trimmed the single supplement by up to $400 on 68 departures of 23 different land itineraries. In North America, Tauck has taken up to $300 off the single supplement on 61 departures of 21 tours, and within its “Exotics” portfolio, has reduced the supplement by up to $600 on 26 departures of nine trips in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. For more information visit www.tauck.com

Kenya - Lake Nakuru Flamingos - Credit Kenya Tourist BoardCredit: SITA

SITA World Tours’ “Masai Footsteps” itinerary brings groups and solo travelers on a game drive through the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The exciting seven-day trip includes a visit to Lake Nakuru to see its flamingo-lined shores and a drive to see Mount Kilimanjaro from Amboseli National Park. Guests also may encounter elephants, lions, buffalo, cheetahs, giraffes, etc. Available on Tuesday and Thursday departures April 9 through June 18, 2019 from $2,650 per person double or single occupancy. www.sitatours.com

Kenya - Lions in Tall Grass - Credit Erico HillerCredit: SITA

Ceremonial Warrior Dancers - Credit Erico HillerCredit: SITA

Travel to the southern part of Africa for an unforgettable safari during Country Walkers’ “Botswana and Zambia Safari: Victoria Falls to the Okavango Delta” itinerary. During the 11-day tour, guests will witness the river rituals of hippos along the Zambezi River and walk through forest along the roaring Victoria Falls. Guests will end each day at intimate, award-winning lodges and bush camps. Discover Africa on foot from $7,398 per person, double occupancy (including airfare). Departure dates available October 30-November 9, 2019 and November 7-November 17, 2019. www.countrywalkers.com

CIE Tours International encourages solo travelers on “The Irish Pub Tour” itinerary to explore the cozy pubs and meet the local people throughout Ireland. The trip includes boozy stops at the Guinness Storehouse, Teeling Distillery, and South Pole Inn for a real Irish coffee. Guests on this eight-day tour also will enjoy dinner and music at Kate Kearney’s Cottage, story-telling at Dublin’s oldest pub, and stays in the towns of Kilkenny, Killarney and Westport. Available on select departures throughout 2018 from $1,520 per person (land only). www.cietours.com

Whether you’re going it alone, or traveling with friends and family, click here to search member itineraries to destinations around the world.


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The Bordeaux region in France brings to mind visions of winding country sides…and of course robust red wines. While known for its vineyards, the region in southwest France also offers picturesque towns, beautiful coastlines, and impressive architectural gems. Need more inspiration? Here are eight reasons to visit the famous French region:

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  1. Pack and Unpack Only Once:  Unlike a land tour, a river cruise will take you from town to town throughout the Bordeaux and Medoc regions on a river boat, with a new port and a new adventure each day.  You’ll relax while the river sweeps you to your next destination.
  2. La Cité du Vin:  Opened in May 2016 in Bordeaux, this modern building – reminiscent of a lighthouse on the banks of the Garonne – is a unique invitation to travel to the heart of wine country and the traditions that it holds. As you enter the Cité du Vin you will enjoy a self-guided tour punctuated by 20 themed spaces explaining the culture of wine in an immersive, sensorial setting. The grand finale of your visit will bring you to the upper level for a gorgeous 360° view of Bordeaux and a complimentary glass of wine.
  3. Experience Joie de Vivre on the Sun Deck:  The confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers into the Gironde Estuary create beautiful landscapes of picturesque villages, sweeping vineyards, and striking coastlines.  Enjoy the sights while sipping Champagne from the sundeck.
  4. Grands Crus of the Medoc:  A trip to Bordeaux is not complete without a visit to some of the famous wineries that call this region home.  Sample wines from the finest terroir on earth and learn how these world-famous wines are made – from grapes to glass.
  5. Breathtaking Views at the Arcachon Bay:  From atop the great Dune of Pilat, in the Arcachon Bay area, there’s a sweeping view across the bay to the north, the Atlantic to the west, and the Medoc to the southeast.  If oysters are your thing, you’ll enjoy a tasting at a local restaurant before returning to the ship.
  6. Visit UNESCO World Heritage Site Saint Emilion’s Underground:  The name Saint Emilion goes hand and hand with Merlot grapes and world-class wines, but this medieval village has so more to offer.  Step inside the biggest monolithic church in Europe – right from the town square, a single piece of limestone was carved into a massive church.  You can explore the cavernous space, the hallways below ground, or take a trip to the bell tower.
  7. Hiking in the Hillsides of Cadillac:  From the riverside town of Cadillac, France, take a tour on foot to the surrounding hillsides as buildings give way to fields and vast vineyards.  After walking, you’ll stop at a family farm to try some local favorites and, of course, a glass of wine.
  8. Enjoy a French Meal: A typical CroisiEurope meal is a typical French meal:  Refined cuisine, convivial atmosphere, and exciting desserts.  Even lunches on board are special – a break from the days’ activity and exploration for multi-course dining.  Reminisce about the morning’s excursions over some local cheese, enjoy some ratatouille, and compare the bouquet of unlimited French wines paired with each meal.

France-Gironde-Garonne-Bordeaux-cite-du-vin06-84866©Cite du vin

Established in 1976, CroisiEurope has been a leader in offering the best value in all-inclusive river cruising for the last 41 years. Based in Strasbourg, France, CroisiEurope is headquartered at the epicenter of Europe with offices in Brussels, Paris, Lyon, Nice, Lausanne, Madrid, London, Phnom Penh and New York.  This family-owned company operates 50 ships and a diverse selection of canal, river and ocean cruise sailings that navigate the most famous waterways in Europe, Asia, Russia, South America and now South Africa. Choose from a variety of itineraries from 4 to 26 days and explore picturesque riverside cities & towns in France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Italy & Spain. Or visit the international destinations along the Mediterranean coast, Vietnam, Cambodia or South Africa.

www.CroisiEuropeRiverCruises.com


 

Japan was named one of the top five “hot” destinations for 2018 in the USTOA’s annual survey of travel forecasts and trends, and for good reason: It’s captivating contrast of timeless traditions and modern life, along with its diverse natural landscapes, accommodates every type of travel interest. Whether it’s hiking along trails to hidden temples or indulging in authentic local dishes, Japan’s wide range of experiences will have even the most jaded travelers intrigued.

The tour operator members of USTOA offer a wide range of packaged travel options to Japan – from adventure and family to spiritual and culinary programs – that provide insights and access unavailable to the average travelers. Here is just a sample:

 

For the Adventurer:

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Japan is home to the world-class winter sports paradise of Hakuba. With Contiki’s new “Japan Winter Wonder Plus Six-Day Ski” itinerary travelers can visit Japan’s iconic sites and cities then hit the slopes in the Hakuba Valley. During this unescorted six-day add-on, guests can ski, snowboard, or even mountain glide before relaxing in a steamy onsen. Available on select departure dates through April 2019 from $3,815 per person. www.contiki.com

CountryWalkers.Japan.LunchWithViewCredit: Country Walkers

Hike through the whispering cypress forests of the Kii Peninsula, wander through Kumano Kodo – a UNESCO World Heritage site, and meet a yamabushi priest to learn the tenets of martial-arts training on Country Walkers’ eight-day “Japan: Kyoto, Nara and Kumano Kodo” tour. Guests will journey from two to six miles daily through the traditional neighborhoods of Kyoto. Available on select departure dates through September 2019 starting at $6,998 per person/double occupancy. www.countrywalkers.com

Intrepid Travel’s new 14-day “Cycle Japan” adventure takes a new spin on traditional walking tours. Cycle between six to fifty miles each day from Osaka to Tokyo, and discover Noto Peninsula’s coastlines, rice paddles, and endless farmland. Visit iconic sites, such as the Nagarebashi Bridge, a 356 metre wooden bridge and one of the longest wooden bridges in Japan. Available on select departure dates from July 2018 to November 2019 starting at $4,857 per person.  www.intrepidtravel.com

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Discover the ancient sport of sumo wrestling, bike through the farms and rice fields of Japan’s countryside, and traverse the rapids of Hozugawa River on a two-hour river boat ride on Adventures by Disney’s new “Journey to The Land of the Rising Sun” 11-day itinerary. Families will have the option to enhance their adventure and add a post-trip vacation package that provides a stay, special experiences, and access at Tokyo Disney Resort. Available on select departure dates through October 2019 from $10,699 per adult and $10,159 per child. www.adventuresbydisney.com

 

For the Culturally Curious:

Abercrombie & Kent’s “Classic Japan” trip is available on select departure dates through October 2018, and lets guests be among the few to stay at Gôra Kadan, one of Japan’s most exclusive traditional inns, enjoy an exclusive kaiseki banquet with entertainment by a geisha, as well as learn about the country’s past and present at the Samurai Museum in Tokyo. Pricing from $10,495 per person. www.abercrombiekent.com

Golden Pavilion - Kyoto, Japan_CVOCredit: Collette 

From stenciling and gold leaf classes, to a traditional kaiseki dinner with a geisha show in Kyoto, Collette’s new “Cultural Treasures of Japan” trip immerses travelers in Japanese culture and everyday life. The 14-day journey also includes a trip along the Hakone Ropeway for goliath views of Mt. Fuji, a visit to Miyajima, “Shrine Island” and the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, and many more culturally significant stops.  Available on select departure dates through April 2019 from $4,499 per person. www.gocollette.com

Goway Travel’s “Explore Japan,” an intimate small-group guided tour, covers four distinct regions over twelve days. Explore extensively on foot and discover stunning sites like the Ryoanji Zen garden, Himeji Castle, and Miyajima Island. Available throughout 2018 and 2019 from $5,395 per person. www.goway.com

credit go-today -shutterstock_403209976-Kiyomizu-dera-TempleCredit: go-today 

Explore serene beauty in the ancient city of Kyoto and delve into the bustling capital city of Tokyo on go-today’s “Tokyo & Kyoto” itinerary. Discover modern architecture, historic monuments, antique markets, and Buddhism folk art during this six-day trip. Available on select departure dates through September 2018 and December 2018 starting at $1,649 per person/ double occupancy. www.go-today.com

Affordable World’s eight-day “Japan Discovery” tour begins in the city of Tokyo to visit legendary sites, such as Asakusa, the Senso-Ji Temple, Mount Fuji, Nijo Castle, Tsukiji Market, and Todaji Temple. Available on select departure dates through April 2019 from $1,599 per person/ double occupancy. www.affordableworld.com

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Insider Journeys’ “Secrets of Japan” trip is available on select departures through December 2019, and lets guest stay at a traditional inn near Mt Fuji at Hakone, and then journey the Old Town of Takayama, and discover Geisha culture in Kanazawa and Kyoto. Pricing from $7,245 per person. www.insider-journeys.com

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Travel in luxurious comfort on Luxury Gold’s new Majestic Japan” 11-day itinerary. Enjoy a private cruise along the Matsushima Bay, spend an evening of leisure with an in-house massage, and witness a private musical performance of traditional Japanese guitar and drumming. Destinations covered include Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Hachinohe, Oirase Gorge, Sendai, and Katsurashima Island. Departures are available from July to November 2018, starting at $8,050 per person. www.luxurygoldvacations.com

 

For the Nature Lover:

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Springtime beauty blends with ancient history and cutting-edge culture on EF Go Ahead Tours’ “Cherry Blossoms in Japan: Tokyo to Kyoto” itinerary. Wander through the shrine’s Inner Garden, home to irises that bloom in springtime, and take-in surreal views of Mount Fuji and the cherry blossoms that gather throughout Tokyo. This 10-day journey is available on March 22, 2019 starting at $3,829 per person. www.goaheadtours.com

Alexander + Roberts’ “From Japan’s Inland Sea to the Alps” itinerary explores the country’s many natural wonders. Explorers will journey across the island-dotted Seto Inland Sea to Miyajima Island, learn about the ancient tenets of Japanese landscape at Kenrokuen, and travel to the rural mountain hamlet of Shirakawago – one of Japan’s most scenic and historic alpine regions. Departure dates are available on select dates through April 2020 from from $7,599 per person/ double occupancy. www.alexanderroberts.com

credit go-today- shutterstock_1017749740-cherry-blossom-riverCredit: go-today

Join SITA World Tours’ “Cherry Blossom Tour” to experience the breathtaking landscapes of Japan. The nine-day trip includes a visit to the Golden Pavilion, the colorful Kasuga Shrine, and include live demonstrations on the basics of how to wear a kimono. Travelers will also embark on a private Cherry Blossom viewing tour to Kiyomizu Temple and Maruyama Park, regarded as famous locations for viewing Cherry Blossoms in full bloom. Departures are available on March 25 to April 15, 2019 from $4,675 per person/ double occupancy. www.sitatours.com

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Ritz Tours’ is offering travelers $75 off its “Jewels of Japan” itinerary in time to enjoy autumn in the East. The eight-night trip crosses the countryside on a bullet train past Mt. Fuji, which is surrounded by red, orange and yellow fall foliage. Travelers also will walk through Kyoto, home to eight UNESCO World Heritage-listed temples. Departures are available on September 6, October 18, November 8 and 29, 2018 from $2,825 per person. Use code USTOARAJ to save $75. www.ritztours.com

 

For the Epicurean:

TasteOfJapan_SushiPreparation PHOTO CREDIT Avanti Destinations- rsCredit: Tauck

On Tauck’s “Essence of Japan” itinerary travelers will taste and sip their way through Japan. The 13-day trip includes a visit to a sake distillery, a private tea ceremony, and hands-on sushi and miso demonstrations. The trip also will give guests the chance to visit the Tsukiji market in Tokyo, regarded as the oldest and largest fish market in the world. Departures are available from August to November 2018 from $10,290 per person. www.tauck.com

Pack your chopsticks! Avanti Destinations’ new “Taste of Japan” nine-day food tour will tantalize taste buds. The trip includes a visit to the underground foodie treasure trove that is depachika (food hall), a hands-on sushi making class at a local home, and private afternoon tea with a geisha. Eat fresh-off-the-boat, and add on a visit to the infamous Tsukiji Fish Market. The add-on is available for $349 per person. The tour is available year-round and starts at $4,749 per person/double occupancy (land-only). www.avantidestinations.com

photo credit - TostphotoShutterstock- shutterstock_261048551Credit: Zegrahm Expeditions

Travel with an appetite on Zegrahm Expeditions’ “Imperial Japan” 12-day adventure. Visit the bustling Miyagawa Morning Market, delight in an egg boiled in the volcanic hot springs, and a walk through 200 stalls bursting with fresh produce and seafood in the nearly 300-year-old Omicho Market. This trip also includes a flexible travel dining plan that allows guests to dine with no limits on the price of a meal or dining locations. Available on select departures in April, May, and October 2019 starting at $13,490 per person/ double occupancy. www.zegrahm.com

photo credit- JNTO-CulinaryCredit: Pleasant Holidays/ Journese

Join Journese’s “A Taste of Japan” itinerary to experience distinctive delicacies and exceptional dining experiences throughout Tokyo and Kyoto. Excursions The nine-day itinerary includes a private dining Japanese course-style dinner at Teppan Mizuki restaurant, a traditional Buddhist vegetarian lunch on the Tenryuji Temple’s grounds, and a sampling of traditional flavors from the ancient Edo period, such as charcoal broiled eel. Departures are available on various dates throughout 2018 and 2019. Visit www.journese.com for pricing information.

 

For the Spiritual:

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On Trafalgar’s “Spiritual Japan” tour, guests can retrace the steps of the ancients with some of Japan’s most sacred places. The trip features visits to the Nachi Taisha Shrine, the Seiganotoji Temple and the tallest waterfall in Japan, Nachi waterfall. Guests can also visit the birthplace of Shingon Buddism and delight in vegetarian dishes served by local monks at their monastery lodgings. This nine-day spiritual journey is available from $4,550 per person in October 2018. www.trafalgar.com

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

 

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.

 


 

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

Discover some of the country’s best foliage on foot during Country Walkers’ six-day “Vermont Fall Foliage” itinerary. This new guided walking tour is an ideal way for leaf peepers to experience New England towns like Norwich, Woodstock, and Stowe set against some of the world’s best foliage. Guests also will visit the Quechee Gorge, a stretch of the Long Trail, and Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, to see an amazing view encompassing three states and Canada. Available for departures on September 23, September 30, October 7, and October 14 from $3,048 per person, double occupancy (tour only). www.countrywalkers.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.


indian-spices-165907088Credit: Cox & Kings

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.

TasteOfJapan_SushiPreparation PHOTO CREDIT Avanti Destinations- rsCredit: Avanti Destinations

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.