Some “once-in-a-lifetime” trips beg to be taken twice. Imagine setting course through the icy waters of Greenland aboard the National Geographic Explorer, accompanied by a small group of naturalists, undersea specialists, geologists and photographers. By day, you experience massive glaciers, calving icebergs, graceful humpback whales and colorful villages. At night, you howl at stormy seas and feel gloriously small. This unforgettable trip, part of AFAR’s partnership with the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA), is one of 10 adventures we’d eagerly book again.
The secret behind this success is that USTOA represents many of the country’s best tour operators, which offer unparalleled access, insider knowledge, and peace of mind to travelers. Every September, USTOA celebrates the power of coming together—whether traveling independently or on a group expedition—with Travel Together Month. This year, the organization will spotlight off-the-beaten-path itineraries to take in 2020—perfect for travelers looking for unique experiences from names they trust.
So whether you’re booking one of the below trips or choosing an adventure off your own bucket list, rely on USTOA’s member tour companies. Here are some of our favorite trips with them.
1. Adventuring in Greenland
On the last night of AFAR Ambassador Colu Henry’s four-day journey with Lindblad Expeditions
aboard the National Geographic Explorer to the Arctic, high winds and stormy seas rocked the ship for hours. As guests went to their rooms for refuge, Colu headed up to the bridge (taking advantage of the 24-hour open-door viewing policy) to watch the storm in action. “I hollered at the waves and the wind and begged them for more,” she wrote of her transformation into a risk-taking adventure traveler. Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post2. Getting Spiritual in Nepal and Bhutan
AFAR Ambassador Ryan Neal Cordwell describes traveling on Luxury Gold’s Magnificent Nepal & Bhutan
tour as “one of the most personally enriching journeys of my life.” From Nepal to the Eastern Himalayas, accompanied by a traveling concierge, Ryan hiked to the cliffside monastery Paro Taktsang (aka “Tiger’s Nest”), savored home-grown chili dishes at local restaurants, and encountered timeless temples, towns, and fortresses that left him in a perpetual state of awe. Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post3. Going Solo in Kenya
Despite some initial hesitations about traveling by herself, AFAR Ambassador Megan Murphy fully embraced her solo safari adventure with Monograms on their Kenya Private Safari
itinerary. Feeling safe and secure along the way was of utmost importance to Megan, and Monograms delivered, with planning, expertise, communication, and local guides who took great care to have her back. Pushing her boundaries paid off: Watching the sunrise over a cup of Kenyan coffee, getting close to playful lion cubs, and witnessing the region’s famous wildebeest migration “moved me to tears and fulfilled any need for connection,” Megan said. Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post
4. Enjoying the Off-Season in Alberta
Exploring the Canadian Rockies during the off-season helped unlock the region’s many wonders for AFAR Ambassador John Newton, who traveled with Collette
to Canada. Ever the independent traveler, John was skeptical about traveling with a group. But between the insider access and information he got from Collette’s guides and the friends he made in the group, he came to better understand the value that the tour company added to the trip. Plus, without the summer crowds, Jasper National Park was an ideal snowshoe stomping ground and backdrop for spotting foxes, wolves, and mountain goats. John also got to experience Banff’s SnowDays, complete with illuminated ice sculptures and an ice-skating rink on frozen Lake Louise.Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post
5. Exploring Myanmar
Because Myanmar’s tourism infrastructure is still ramping up, it’s extremely helpful to have the support of expert local knowledge and planning. AFAR Ambassador Rhiannon Taylor traveled with Abercrombie & Kent on their Myanmar and The Irrawaddy
tour, which included luxury accommodations in magical places like Bagan—a city with more than 2,000 Buddhist pagodas and temples—and a peaceful, three-day cruise up the Irrawaddy River, complete with Burmese cooking demonstrations and a top-deck plunge pool. Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post: Part 1See the USTOA’s blog post: Part 2
6. Getting Remote in Morocco
Traveling with Alexander+Roberts on their Morocco…From Sea to Sahara
tour, AFAR Ambassador Tanveer Badal journeyed from Marrakech, first by luxury coach and then on camelback, to experience a night under the stars amidst the vast sands of the Sahara. “What was truly remarkable was that I didn’t see or hear a single sound the entire way back,” he wrote. “It made me think I could’ve been walking here 1,000 years ago, having the exact same experience.”Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post7. Being Awed by Saxony
Having risen from the ashes of World War II, Dresden and Leipzig offered up many surprises for AFAR Ambassador Adriana Yampey, who traveled with Saxony Tourism
and Avanti Destinations
. Dresden’s beautifully restored architecture, vibrant art scene, and Saxon cuisine (don’t leave without a freshly baked pretzel at Schiller Garten) provided unexpected treats, rivaled only by the larger region’s natural beauty. The highlight? Bastei Bridge in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, which offers a picturesque panorama that includes miniature villages on the Elbe River. Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post
8. Experiencing Australia’s Outback
According to AFAR Ambassador Flash Parker, who traveled to Australia’s Outback with Tourism Northern Territory
and Goway Travel
, the Ilkari restaurant at Sails in the Desert at Ayers Rock Resort is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat after a sunset tour of Uluru or a day experiencing the spectacle of a dusty camel race. (Not to mention that staying in a five-star hotel is a great way to avoid sleeping amongst the scorpions and snakes.) Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post9. Cruising the Seine River
Cruising the Seine River in the early hot summer requires beverage options. Luckily for AFAR Ambassador Ben Schuyler, U by Uniworld’s
Seine Experience cruise provided stops with interesting cafés and bars along the route. Thirst quenchers ranged from a cappuccino at Citizen Coffee in the ancient town of Rouen to a glass of dry rosé at La Petite Venise, tucked away from the crowds at the Château de Versailles. Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post
10. Sampling the American South
Indulging in food and music goes hand in hand with any trip to the South. Traveling through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana with Trafalgar on their Tastes and Sounds of the South
tour, AFAR Ambassador Nina Dietzel tapped her toes to countless bands at the massive CMA Music Festival in Nashville and enjoyed a private concert by Chelsea Crowell, one of the granddaughters of country legend Johnny Cash. Learning to prepare gumbo and jambalaya in New Orleans was the perfect side dish for this “rock’n soul” adventure. Read the story on AFAR.comSee the USTOA’s blog post
Make your dream vacation happen now! Search USTOA.com for the perfect trip…wherever in the world you’d like to go.