If you want all the benefits of traveling with a tour group—someone else to do all the planning, connections to local knowledge, and a “fixer” if plans go awry—but don’t want to have to travel with strangers, a private tour company is the way to go.
A private tour company will consider your preferences, budget, and group size in order to custom-design the perfect trip for you.
Think private tours are only for ultra-wealthy travelers? You might be surprised by how affordable it can be. “People are often under the misconception that it costs a lot more to book your trip through a private tour company—it doesn’t,” says Laura Burdett-Munns, Managing Director, Journeysmiths. “We receive a commission from the various hotels and suppliers, which allow us to offer personalized advice, great levels of service, and consumer protection for around the same price as you would get booking each element yourself,” explains Burdett-Munns.
These are the five best private tour companies for custom trips.
For over 30 years, family-owned and operated private tour company Journeysmiths has been arranging bespoke travel itineraries to destinations across the globe. If you want your trip to make a difference, Journeysmiths is the company for you. Working with partners who share Journeysmiths’ values of supporting conservation and community, travelers have the opportunity to participate in volunteer projects—or they can simply receive information about how their trip is making a difference in the destination (by patronizing local businesses or through the funding of charity projects).
Clients work with Journeysmiths’ team of travel designers (who have an average of 15 years of specialized experience in their destination) to create the perfect itinerary. Don’t know where to start? Journeysmiths’ website features a fun “inspire me” option, where you can see potential experiences and accommodations for categories such as “adventure,” “beaches,” or “family time.”
Sample Trip Experience: Camping on the ice in Antarctica.
Ker & Downey Africa
Specializing in safaris in popular destinations across the continent, Ker & Downey Africa can help you plan all types of animal adventures, from bird-watching to gorilla tracking. The company has a network of local travel experts, known as LuxVenture Designers, who will work with you to create your dream trip.
Ker & Downey Africa partners with locally-owned lodges across Africa, hand-picking properties that are eco-friendly and community-focused (but still luxurious).
Sample Trip Experience: Swimming with whale sharks in Mozambique.
Abercrombie & Kent
“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” This is the response of Geoffrey Kent, founder and co-chairman of Abercrombie & Kent, when people ask him where to go next. With tours available on every continent, off-the-beaten-path trips that will impress even the most seasoned travelers can be arranged
Overwhelmed by creating your own custom itinerary? Abercrombie & Kent has a variety of ready-to-book private trips available to choose from in destinations including Croatia, Morocco, and Egypt. Don’t see anything you like? An Abercrombie & Kent consultant can create a tailor-made trip for your group to anywhere in the world.
Sample Trip Experience: Learn how to make authentic Italian pizza from a professional pizzaiolo in Rome.
On a trip to Eastern Europe, Tom Marchant, one of the founders of Black Tomato, was offered the chance to try a black tomato, extolled by a local as a “rare and wonderful” tasting experience—and thus, the company’s name was born.
Every trip is designed around creating these special “rare and wonderful” moments for travelers. Black Tomato’s tailor-made trips can be crafted to accommodate practically any activity anywhere in the world—”short of robbing the Louvre, we can—and will—organize anything,” boasts Black Tomato.
Sample Trip Experience: Ski unnamed peaks in Lofoten, Norway.
If your dream private trip takes place on the water, turn to Kensington Yacht, the sailing-specific sister company of Kensington Tours. Kensington will match you with the perfect private yacht or catamaran for your group size, and then stock it with water toys, a full-service crew, and a gourmet chef.
The company will also arrange a bespoke itinerary, including excursions and onboard surprises. At every port you wish to stop at, local guides will be ready to show you all the best secret spots.
Sample Trip Experience: Dive at the archeological site of the sunken city of Baiae off the coast of Italy.
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