Finding tours on

By Victor Block
This item appears on page 11 of the March 2021 issue.

As inveterate travelers, my wife, Fyllis, and I always seek ways to explore hidden gems and lesser-known attractions of destinations around the world and to cross paths with people with whom we otherwise wouldn’t come into contact.

For us, the best way to do so is by traveling with a tour company. In addition to the basic benefits — including letting someone else plan every detail of a trip, sharing the expertise of experienced guides, meeting like-minded travelers and getting good value for our hard-earned dollars — we’ve learned that tours offer introductions to places, people and experiences we would have missed on our own.

We’ve found it easy to find the right company and trip by logging onto Travelstride’s website ( It serves as a one-stop marketplace, listing and describing thousands of trips, including group-tour packages and river cruises covering every continent and price range. We also like the ratings by folks who have taken trips and shared their opinions.

When Fyllis and I planned our 2019 visit to Panama, we hoped to check out more than the canal. The Caravan Tours (Chicago, IL; 800/227-2826, itinerary we found on Travelstride’s website included time spent relaxing on magnificent beaches, sightings of wildlife that inhabit the country’s jungles, and meeting members of local indigenous groups.

Even more meaningful introductions to fascinating ethnic people took place during our 2017 trip to Vietnam with Myths and Mountains (Incline Village, NV; 800/670-5454, The description correctly promised visits to isolated villages inhabited by some of the 53 minorities that make up about 15 percent of the population.

In addition to visiting teeming Hanoi and tiny primitive villages where few outsiders venture, our itinerary included several days spent on a boat exploring otherworldly Ha Long Bay.

We were first attracted to the Untours (Media, PA; 888/868-6871, section of because it offered the opportunity to “Live like the locals.” Untours provides a variety of pre-trip planning and on-site support plus local transportation and accommodations, ranging from a farmhouse to a winery to a rustic (but comfortable) cottage.

An on-site Untours representative is available to offer information and any requested assistance. We found the insight of local residents into “below-the-radar” things to do and see to be invaluable during our visits with Untours to Switzerland in 1999 and to Italy (Venice, Tuscany and Umbria) in 2017.

Fyllis and I have long been intrigued by the variety of tour offerings from Overseas Adventure Travel (Boston, MA; 800/955-1925, on Its Sicily itinerary included off-the beaten-track places we probably never would have found on our own when we went in 2018.

The contrasts between very upscale Switzerland, the barren beauty of Namibia’s desert terrain and the diverse attractions of the Balkan countries couldn’t be more stark. Our most recent OAT journey was a Danube River cruise in June 2019 that included stops at some of Europe’s most stunning capital cities as well as in tiny but inviting hamlets whose treasures many travelers miss.

Recently, we have also found to be a wealth of current information about the challenges presented by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. A list of countries that are opening (or closing) to visitors is updated weekly; reports about airline and airport policies and procedures are available, and details about a variety of COVID-related travel resources provide a wealth of other helpful and timely information.

Washington, DC