Many people travel to experience other cultures and meet new personalities. Why not magnify that experience by traveling with people from different countries?

Here are just three tour operators which fit the bill: Each combines consumer protection with a vacation out of the ordinary in the company of new friends from other English-speaking countries.

Australian company Intrepid Travel has been in existence for over 30 years, and Australians remain the bulk of its business. “But North America is our largest growing market worldwide,” says Michael Edwards, managing director of Europe and the Americas for Intrepid, which specializes in small-group touring in 120 countries.

Intrepid offers over 1,000 itineraries, each themed (Walking, Wildlife, Family, Cruising and so on).

“Morocco and Turkey are affordable and great for the client looking for ‘exotic lite.’ And Vietnam is also hugely popular from the U.S.,”

Intrepid’s departures, which are all guaranteed, average 12 participants with a maximum of 16.

As Edwards puts it, “People love the freedom of not being bundled onto one big coach, and having the chance to get under the skin of a destination. And they love traveling with like-minded people from four or five different countries.” Clients from the U.S. average 40 in age, and almost half are solo travellers, many taking advantage of either the solo-match program up for accommodation or no-single-supplement tours strictly for singletons. Intrepidtravel.com

If you would be happiest traveling in a small group with mainly British fellow travellers, Exodus is an excellent suggestion. Marketing and PR manager for North America Robin Brooks says that the 45-year old company now offers tours to over 100 countries, and like Intrepid they are themed (e.g. Walking or Cycling).

Italy, Croatia, Jordan, Peru and Vietnam are all popular Exodus destinations, and she is pleased to report that Egypt is coming back into favor.

Maldives
Croatia
Singapore

Exodus’ American clientele averages 55 years (but actually spans from the 20s to the 70s) with many coming from California, New York, Colorado or Oregon. Solo travelers, especially women, love the sociability and security of the trips. exodustravels.com

At the other end of the scale, product and size-wise, is Sunwing Vacations. Founded in 2002 on the British package holiday model of back-to-back charters (each week a flight full of passengers goes down to the destination bringing home last week’s passengers), Sunwing added its own airline in 2005 and now flies to as many as 35 destinations in the sunny south from over 30 airports across Canada. Many of its departure points are within an easy drive of the U.S. (Vancouver; Windsor, Hamilton and Toronto in Ontario; as well as Montreal).

Sunwing concentrates on the “Big 3” of Canadian sun-lovers’ destinations: Mexico (multiple destinations with the emphasis on the Cancun area), the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Other sun destinations include Antigua, Aruba, the Bahamas, Bonaire, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Martin, St Lucia plus Trinidad and Tobago as well as Panama and Costa Rica in Central America. The Toronto gateway offers the widest selection of destinations.

Canadians are known for appreciating value and no-surprises vacations – and all-inclusive resorts certainly answer those needs. The hassle-free concept including flights, transfers, resort accommodation, all meals and drinks and at least some sports and entertainment in one price has been a solid seller in Canada for over 40 years. “Last winter, sunwing.ca offered a whopping total of some 600 all-inclusive resorts ranging from three to five stars, though there was a handful of two-star properties,” says Jacqueline Grossman, vice-president of corporate marketing and communications.

Because of the volume of buying power and economies of the business model (the company also has an extensive hotel portfolio), Sunwing is able to offer prices which are hard to beat. And when you bear in mind that the Canadian dollar hovers around the US75¢ mark, the prices are even lower. Recent bargains on their site included a fall week-long package to a 4-star resort in Punta Cana for Cad$855, all taxes included. That translates to US$652 – airfare included. And if you happen to be hockey fan, they’ll have no trouble making new friends in a resort full of Canadians! sunwing.ca

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