This September, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) marks its annual Travel Together Month with more than 100 exclusive savings on bucket list destinations and experiences around the globe.

Travel Together Month showcases a curated selection of offers from the country’s leading travel companies with dates available through 2019. Offers can be found through September 30, 2017, at, featuring travel to all seven continents with countless “live like a local” and bucket list opportunities.

photo credit Hurtigruten

photo credit Hurtigruten

Exclusives include the following offers:

  • Abercrombie & Kent: Save up to $10,000 per couple on a 2017-2018 Luxury Expedition Cruise to Antarctica. Book Category 1-3 and save up to $5,000 per person on Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands for travel through January 2018.
  • Ritz Tours: Save $500 per couple on the “China Scenic” 12-day tour to experience the natural landscapes in Guilin, archeological sites of Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum in Xi’an, UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Beijing, and the cosmopolitan Shanghai for travel in 2018.
  • Hurtigruten: Save up to $1,000 per couple on cruises to Antarctica, South America, Canada, the US, the Caribbean and Central America for travel from April 4, 2018 to April 3, 2019.
  • Islands in the Sun: Enjoy two bonus nights and all meals on Islands In The Sun’s 8-Day Fiji Romance in Matangi Private Island trip with prices from $2,829 per person for travel until March 31, 2018.
  • go-today: Save $100 per person on Cape Town Escape with Great White Share Encounter. From $1,499 per person after discount using promo SHARK at checkout. Travel available through June 5, 2018.
photo credit Asia Answers

photo credit Asia Answers

Travel agent incentives can be found at Highlights include the following:

  • Lion World Travel: Travel agents earn $100 per person booked on the luxurious “Discover East Africa” tour for travel on April and May 2018 departures.
  • GOGO Vacations: Travel agents have the chance to win a $1,000 gift card on any new GOGO Vacations’ itinerary booked during the month of September. Winners will be announced on October 13, 2017 in the GOGO Vacations’ Travel Agent Insider email.
  • Asia Answers: Travel professionals can earn bonus commission of $50 per person booked on a China vacation lasting seven days or longer for travel through August 31, 2018.
  • Celtic Tours: Enjoy an Italian vacation with the travel agent exclusive of the five-night “Tuscan Villa” independent package with car rental or transfers, net rates from $449 per person for travel by December 15, 2017.
  • Zegrahm Expeditions: Receive a $100 gift card for each new guest booked on “Across the Antarctic Circle: Voyage to the 7th Continent” for the January 22, 2018 and February 4, 2018 departures.
  • CroisiEurope Cruises: Sell three double cabins (or six passengers) on the 11-day safari cruise itinerary and be entered to win an 11-day safari cruise for two people for travel in 2018 based on availability. Prize drawing December 20, 2017.
  • Alexander+Roberts: Earn $50 per person “Booking Bonuses” on all Private Tours, Small Ship Cruises and Small Group Journeys (never more than 16 guests) when clients pay-in-full for travel through April 2019.
photo credit Alexander+Roberts

photo credit Alexander+Roberts

Note: offers can be booked September 1-30, 2017. All travel deals, restrictions and booking instructions can be found at

For further inspirations or to search for dream travel itineraries and destinations, visit




The thought of planning holiday travel is known to strike fear into the hearts of even the most energetic travelers. The tour operator members of USTOA instead believe that the holidays can be an ideal time to bring families and friends closer together and create lasting memories for years to come.

The key is to find a destination that suits everyone, and, more importantly, to plan the trip without hassles and haggling.  So, gift yourself a stress-free holiday vacation with one of the following suggestions from our members:

Zegrahm Expeditions knows that some travelers want to escape the harsh winter weather, but also travel somewhere new. During its Hidden Gems of the Caribbean cruise, travelers will explore the lesser-visited islands of the eastern Caribbean with stops through the Grenadines, Iles des Saintes, Martinique, St. Lucia, Grenada and Grenada. Guests will snorkel and dive among colorful coral reefs, spot endemic birds and hike through various islands throughout the 12-day itinerary. Travelers also can learn from local experts onboard about the history of the islands visited and their struggle for independence from Europe. This idyllic escape is available November 25-December 6, 2018 from $12,980 per person.


Guests on CroisiEurope’s The Season of Advent: Italian Art and Traditions itinerary can spend their holiday season cruising the Amalfi coast soaking in the striking landscapes and villages while learning the history of Christmas markets and nativity scenes. What’s not to love? The trip includes a visit to the Museo di Capodimonte, the museum that houses famous works such as The Flagellation of Christ by Caravaggio and Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. Naples, Sicily and the island of Capri are a few of the cities that await guests during this coastal cruise. Departures available November 20 and 27, December 4, 11 and 22, 2017 from $1,749 per person.


For a true escape, travelers can explore the island paradise of Fiji in luxury this Thanksgiving holiday with Down Under Answers’ Raiwasa Fijian Luxury itinerary. Travelers will swim and dive to the Rainbow Reef and enjoy a free cooking class before retiring to a private two-bedroom villa with 180-degree views of Somosomo Strait. Unwind during the holiday trip with a daily 60-minute massage treatment per adult and stunning stargazing opportunities at night. This luxury getaway is available August 1 – November 30, 2017 from $11,899/person based on double occupancy.


For further inspirations or to search for dream travel itineraries and destinations, visit

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.



Whether it’s sharing lunch with a local family in a private home in Beijing, marveling at one of China’s 52 famous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, or riding the Mag Lev bullet train into the modern metropolis of Shanghai, there are so many ways to experience the vast and varied country of China.


Credit: go-today

Discover just a few reasons why China – 5,000 years “new” – could become your next dream vacation with a selection of itineraries from as many as 70 USTOA tour operator members. Find your own dream vacation to China here.

Marvel at the extraordinary sites showcasing China’s traditions and natural wonders during Adventures by Disney’s 12-day “China Destination” tour. Families can experience the excitement of Disney magic at China’s Disney theme parks, or be awed by some of the panoramic views of China’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the iconic Great Wall, Terracotta Army Museum, Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, and the incredible Imperial Palace. Departures are available from September 3, 2017 to October 21, 2018 starting at $7,699 per adult/ $7,289 per child.

Explore the serene beauty of China’s Yunnan Province and delve into the fascinating history of Shangri-La on Cox & Kings’ “Yunnan: A Journey to Shangri-La” private excursion. Explorers will discover the Old Town of Dali, cruise on the striking Erhai Lake, follow along the path of the Yangtze River, marvel at the views from Black Dragon Pool, ascend the Tibetan Plateau, and more. This eight-day journey is available throughout 2017 to March 2018 from $4450 per person based on two travelers.

Guests on Globus’ “Treasures of China” tour will begin their journey through the city of Beijing to discover stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites like the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, and the Temple of Heaven. During the 11-day tour, guests also will delight in a colorful assemblage of classical performances in Xi’an, visit Guilin’s local tea farms for a hands-on demonstration of the tea-making process, and explore the sprawling city of Shanghai. Available on select departures in August, September, and October 2017 starting at $2,389 per person.


Credit: go-today

Experience the historical and cultural highlights of both modern day China and its grandeur-filled past on go-today’s six-day “Treasures of China Escorted Tour.” Travelers will visit legendary sites, such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City, the Terracotta Army Museum and be enthralled by China’s unsurpassed art and culture. Available throughout 2017 to January 2018 from $2,099 per person.


Credit: Intrepid Travel

Journey from Beijing to Shanghai during Intrepid Travel’s 12-day “North China Getaway” tour. Guests will travel to Huangshan, also known as Yellow Mountain, and stay in a local guesthouse for two days to explore the mountain. Travelers also will venture into the idyllic Huizhou countryside and explore rural villages on foot or bike. The trip also includes visits to China’s historical landmarks like the Great Wall where guests will stay at a family-run guesthouse. Available throughout 2017 and 2018 from $1,296 per person.

yangtze river gorge

Credit: Mayflower Tours

Travelers can save $300 per couple on Mayflower Tours’ “Best of China and Yangtze River Cruise” itinerary to marvel at some of China’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and cruise along the Yangtze River. During the 12-day Chinese journey, guests can learn a Chinese folk dance and participate in a Chinese culinary lesson. The trip features visits to UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Great Wall, Temple of Heaven and Xian, and the Forbidden City. Savings available on the September 15, 2018 and October 13, 2018 departures from $2,469 per person.

Float down the famous Three Gorges of the Yangtze River, climb the Great Wall and gaze at the giant Buddha of Leshan on Student Universe’s three-week tour, “Beijing to Hong Kong: Essential China.” Guests will experience cultural and natural highlights including the Terracotta Warriors, a visit to a tea plantation, and enjoy a bike ride through the stunning Yangshuo countryside. Additional bucket-list activities await travelers on this itinerary from $3,399 available through December 2018.

RS5949_Dim Sum

Credit: Trafalgar

Travelers can visit China’s must-see cities like eclectic Beijing, buzzing Shanghai and historic Xi’an and must-do experiences, like cruising down the iconic Huangpu River during Trafalgar’s 17-day “Classic China with Yangtze Cruise and Chengdu” tour. Guests will enjoy insider moments like dashing through the ancient Hutongs by rickshaw and savoring a home-cooked meal at a local family’s home in Beijing. Additionally, guests can join others on a visit to a primary school in Xi’an to get to know students and teachers, and see how their visit supports local education. Available on select departures in September, October 2017 and March-June 2018 starting at $5,475 per person.

Temple of Heaven 09

Credit: Wendy Wu Tours

Join Wendy Wu Tours on a 26-day in-depth adventure during “The Silk Road Explorer” air-inclusive itinerary. Guests will immerse themselves in Chinese history and visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Mogao Caves, the Summer Palace, the Temple of Heaven and of course the famous Great Wall. Travelers also will have the chance to participate in a traditional dance class at the Temple of Heaven and marvel at Buddhist art spanning a period of 1,000 years at the Mogao Caves. Available from $6,390 per person on select departures between September 4, 2017 and October 8, 2017.

Guests will hike through rice fields and across China’s countryside during Audley Travel’s “Hiking in China” itinerary. Hikers also will take part in a guided trek through the impressive Tiger Leaping Gorge before heading to Zhongdian (Shangri La). Travelers will witness the sunrise over Huanshan, visit the high Tibetan Plateau in Zhongdian (Shangri La), and visit the magnificent Great Wall. This 18-day active journey is available from $7,630 per person in September, October and November 2017.


Credit: Avanti

Avanti’s new “The Great Panda Adventure” takes guests on a 12-day adventure through China with a private tour of Panda Center and UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Great Wall. Guests can add on the Panda Private Volunteer Experience at the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda. During this added experience, participants will spend five hours feeding, cleaning cages and learning about the 20-40 giant and red pandas living there. The panda add-on is available for $375 per person and open to those 12-65 years of age. The 12-day itinerary is available year-round and starts at $2,589 per person/double occupancy (land-only).

UW Century Legend exteriror

Credit: Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Join Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection’s “China, Tibet, and the Yangtze” itinerary to experience the timeless allure of China. Guests will visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and Goddess Stream and see Shanghai’s modern landscape of towering skyscrapers. Travelers on this 14-day trip also will explore Beijing via rickshaw and enjoy lunch with a local family and a traditional tea ceremony. Available September and October 2017 from $7,299 and throughout 2018 from $7,099.

Collette - Yangtze River

Credit: Collette

Guests on Collette’s “Wonders of China and the Yangtze River” program will discover China’s food, natural beauty and historic landmarks in addition to a ride on the Mag Lev bullet train reaching speeds of more than 260 miles per hour. Other trip highlights include a traditional tea ceremony, lunch with a local family in their Hutong home, and a lesson from a Chinese calligraphy master. The 16 to 19-day tour is available on select departure dates throughout 2017 and 2018 from $2,649 per person.


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 Ben Schuyler, AFAR Ambassador

I’ve often found that when you mention visiting Cuba to someone, it’s undoubtedly the case that you will be asked about a combination of the following things – communism, cigars, rum, music, and classic cars.  It’s not without good reason that these are common topics, but the diversity of this unique Caribbean island avails so much for adventurous souls looking for new paths to explore.

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My time traveling to Cuba with smarTours began at the heart of the country’s biggest city – Havana. Greeted by a local guide and expert on the history of the surrounding architecture in Old Havana, we walked cobblestone streets and learned about the Spanish influence on the colonial-era buildings. I was fascinated by the information being shared, yet I couldn’t help but be distracted as I watched locals navigating their morning. A young couple walked by drinking café cubanos, carrying a newspaper and briefcase. A group of construction workers hauled materials in a wheelbarrow for a restoration project. An old man swept in the park. Each little vignette revealed a more intimate reflection about what daily life as a Cuban could look like. Capturing these moments in my photographs became a theme of how I enjoyed my travel experience.

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The next step in the journey with my travel companions brought us from Havana to the city of Sancti Spíritus, one of the oldest settlements in Cuba and the capitol of the Sancti Spíritus province. We arrived at our hotel to find it perfectly positioned on the edge of Parque Serafín Sánchez, the central park of the city and a meeting place for visitors and locals alike. Late into the evening children gleefully chased one another around a fountain positioned in the middle of the park. Nearby speakers pulsed familiar songs as karaoke patrons did their best to sing along and entertain the on looking crowd. The recent addition of Wi-Fi to the location has made it a popular spot for people to connect for a moment to search the Internet or communicate with loved ones. The pleasant warm breeze paired with a delicious Cuba Libre made for a relaxing time of reflection and people watching.

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Rich in cultural history, Cuba is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Of those, we had the pleasure of visiting Old Havana, Cienfuegos, Camaguëy, and Trinidad. A town that thrived in the boom of the sugar cane industry, Trinidad sits adjacent to the Valley de los Ingenios and is now known for producing tobacco. Breathtakingly preserved, I found myself transcendently returning to a time when the sugar trade drove life in the colonial town. The Afro-Cuban influence can be felt and experienced through art, music, and dance in Trinidad at Palenque de los Congos Reales. The performance center exhibits centuries old traditional folklore performed to the steady beat of conga drums. Volunteers keep these stories alive while working other jobs in different fields.

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It’s without question that one of my favorite moments during my time in Cuba was visiting the home and studio of Bernardo Valeriano Casanova Fuentes – ceramic artist based in Camagüey. He spoke only a few words, instead allowing his son to share his story, as he attentively formed piece after piece at his workbench and potter’s wheel. In a matter of ten minutes, Bernardo produced a diverse collection of artifacts from single slab of clay. His property was modest, well lived in, and beautiful. It wasn’t flashy or showy, but encapsulated the sustainable life he has found doing what his loves everyday.

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Cuba has something to offer to all kinds of visitors – classic car enthusiasts, cigar aficionados, history buffs. More than anything, I found for myself that the daily life of the Cuban people was the most intriguing and beautiful facet to my visit.


Interested in learning more about Ben’s journey?  Read more about it on, the USTOA blog and check out check out smarTour’s The Best of Cuba tour.

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.

By Ben Schuyler, AFAR Ambassador

I was eighteen when I began working at a locally owned café in the suburbs of Seattle. The modest eatery was the byproduct of two passionate foodies – Angela and Miriam. The latter, a Cuban immigrant, ran the day-to-day operations of the shop. Memories of my midday shifts are peppered with “Cuban” sandwiches and masterfully crafted cortaditos, pre-sweetened espresso shots topped with a small pour of steamed milk. I vividly recall listening to Buena Vista Social Club on repeat and asking Miriam what the musicians were singing about. Her reply – “Home.”

AFAR - Cuba/ Ben Schuyler

It was moments like these that gave rise to my fascination with Cuban culture. (And, the reason I said “yes” to the invitation to visit Cuba with smarTours).

When arriving in Havana, it is immediately apparent that you are in one of the most unique places in all of Latin America. Pristinely kept vintage automobiles navigate the streets, often taxiing visitors and locals alike from destination to destination. Brilliantly colored colonial buildings line the city plazas, seemingly untouched from their construction. Large billboards proclaiming “Viva la Revolución!” are painted with portraits of revolutionary Che Guevera and other political imagery and can be seen driving on the highway.

AFAR - Cuba/ Ben Schuyler

There are few places or things, if any, which feel “modern” in the entire country. It’s this resourcefulness that has come to characterize so much of the world’s perspective of what Cuba is like.

Visiting Cuba in the off-season (summer) made for an especially pleasant trip to someone who likes to avoid crowds at all costs while traveling. Instead of having to maneuver through throngs of tourists at Almacenes de San José, the famous open-air craft market at the port of Havana, it’s the vendors selling their goods that will enliven your shopping experience. Here you can find every kind of leather good, carved wooden cigar holder, or piece of art you could desire. A portrait of American author Ernest Hemingway stamped on handmade paper caught my attention and was mine for the price of 3 CUCS, the Cuban convertible peso.

AFAR - Cuba/ Ben Schuyler

Hemingway’s stories served as additional inspiration for me to visit the largest island in the Caribbean. A man smitten by the sea, Cuba’s unspoiled waters housed game fish that would become the key character in his most famous novella – The Old Man and the Sea. Finca Vigiía – Ernest Hemingway’s home in the San Francisco de Paula ward of Havana – can be visited on nice days when the humidity doesn’t force the meticulously maintained home to be closed. The Finca is a snapshot into the author’s life. Original furniture and books remain largely unmoved; busts of animals from Hemingway’s expeditions adorn the naturally lit dining room. A nearby unnamed bar serves the most delicious cocktail in country: Coctel Vigía – a perfect blend of freshly pressed Guarapo (sugar cane, pineapple, and lemon juice) and Havana Club 7 Anos Rum garnished with sliced lime and a pineapple wedge.

AFAR - Cuba/ Ben Schuyler

AFAR - Cuba/ Ben Schuyler

Life came full circle when I had the pleasure of seeing members of the Buena Vista Social Club perform at Sociedad Cultural Rosalia de Castro. For nearly two hours, a whole cast of performers sang songs about romance, working the sugar cane fields, and the many towns and villages across Cuba. With a cortadito in hand, I finally began to understand why “home” was so special.

AFAR - Cuba/ Ben Schuyler

Interested in learning more about Ben’s journey?  Read more about it on and check out smarTour’s The Best of Cuba tour.

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.