Have you ever found yourself browsing lists of pre-organized tours just to find out they’re close to but not quite what you had in mind? Or maybe you want to go on a trip with your family, but your aunt is so picky about everything that you end up having to book different tours to accommodate everyone’s different tastes?

Whether you have travel partners with special needs or you want your experience to cover more than one country, custom tours are the answer to put together that once-in-a-lifetime trip. These types of tours are specifically designed around your unique preferences -- or even a theme (meditation, Elvis, or architecture?) if you have one in mind.

Set your own terms for everything from accommodation and activities to transport style and dietary restrictions with a custom tour.

India

There's no doubt that India is on many traveler's bucket lists, but a trip to this radically diverse country can be daunting to plan, even for experienced travelers. With 29 states to cover, how do you know which ones offer what you’re looking for? The advantage of custom tours to India is that you can include the main touristic regions, but also choose from multiple destinations and activities within them to personalize your experience.

Italy

In this boot-shaped European country, it’s easy to get distracted by the beautiful scenery and cultural heritage. Italy is the dream destination for romance, wine enthusiasts, and even fans of "The Da Vinci Code.” A custom tour designed around your favorite suspense novel character paired with classic artists may just be what you need to check a once-in-a-lifetime experience off your bucket list.

Japan

Japan is an eternally-popular tourism destination, but with a custom tour, it becomes even easier to travel to the land of the rising sun without the intense culture shock! Japan's diverse landscape, local cuisine, and unique culture are among the top reasons why people want to visit the country. While there are many tours available, they all seem to cover the same activities and topics. Custom tours, however, put travelers in contact with a more immersive experience.

Portugal

Tucked between Spain and the North Atlantic, Portugal is a small country full of surprises. It has a little bit of everything -- from sandy beaches to lush mountains, vibrant cities to remote islands. The challenge of figuring out where to begin first is easily taken care of with a custom tour where you can mix and match all these different possibilities without falling into the same old itineraries everyone else is using.

Russia

As the center stage for the FIFA World Cup 2018, Russia was the travel destination of the year for many soccer fans. The sheer size of the country, which covers two continents, makes even seasoned travelers wonder where to begin when planning their trip. If the thought alone is making your head spin, then looking for a custom tour to Russia may be in order.

Cultural Tours

Custom tours designed around local culture are popular because they allow for a more immersive travel experience. You can build itineraries around specific areas, like famous personalities, artists, particular local traditions that are of interest to you, so you come away with a much fuller grasp of the country's particular cultural identity.

Wildlife Tours

Wildlife observation may be one of the first activities that comes to mind when you think about custom tours. Considering the delicate balance of wildlife and how we must minimize our impact on its sustainability, it’s usually best if travelers let the experts deal with the arrangements regarding wildlife so we can focus on enjoying the moment -- without spoiling the natural environment.

Theme Tours

With so many hit TV series being filmed in countries like Croatia, Ireland, or Spain, theme tours have become very popular. But not all custom theme-based tours have to be about something everyone else has already thought of, like Lord of the Rings tours to New Zealand. More creative travelers can design a custom itinerary around a theme that’s personal to them and their travel companions.

With so many options to choose from, we can help you narrow them down with these planning tips. A custom tour doesn’t have to break the bank, but it also doesn’t mean you have to give up an experience just because it’s not part of the package.

What to Look for in a Custom Tour

Typically, a custom tour operator will either present you with pre-defined itineraries that you can mix at your liking or give you a list of suggested activities and local companies that you can choose from.

The purpose of a custom tour is for your traveling experience to be completely tailored to your needs and tastes. Pick an operator that is open about their range of options, tells you what’s included or not in them, says if your group will be included in a larger one for a particular tour, and, most importantly, informs you about the cost variations of any adjustments you might make.

Benefits of Custom Tours

Custom tours are the answer for people who want that independent travel experience with the perks of organized tours, but without feeling like they're going on the same packaged trip as everyone else. Travelers can mix different itineraries to make their own, or create a brand new one from scratch. It’s ideal for groups where members have different tastes but want to enjoy time together when traveling.

Typical Tour Cost

Custom tour costs vary based on your chosen destination and the changes a traveler can make to existing itineraries. A one-week trip to India by a well-known tour operator, for example, starts at an average of $530 per person. On the other hand, a tour to a European country like Spain with the same duration and by the same company can start at an average of $1,800 per person.

Other Tips for Custom Tours

Custom tours can take a while to put together, especially if you’re traveling in a large group. Expect to start planning at least six months in advance to make sure everyone’s wishes and suggestions are accounted for. Make a list of who’s going, ages at the time of travel, and any special needs or requests for the provider's convenience.

Building a custom tour for a smaller group takes less energy and effort, but if you want less to do with the planning part, pick an operator that offers travel consultancy services and a list of suggested itineraries to choose from.

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