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Escorted tours are structured group tours, with a group leader. The price usually includes everything: airfare, hotels, meals, tours, admission costs, and local transportation.

There are many escorted-tour companies to choose from, each offering transportation to and within Switzerland, prearranged hotel space, and such extras as bilingual tour guides and lectures.

U.S. Tour Operators

There are many different tour operators eager for a share of your business, but one of the most unusual is Abercrombie & Kent International, Inc., 1520 Kensington Rd., Oak Brook, IL 60521 (tel. 800/554-7016; www.abercrombiekent.com), a Chicago-based company established more than 30 years ago. It specializes in deluxe 10-day train tours of Switzerland, which, despite all the extras they offer, still cost less than any personally arranged tour.

Other well-recommended tour operators include outfits endorsed and approved by two of North America's largest airlines. These are Delta Vacations (tel. 800/654-6559; www.deltavacations.com) and American Airlines Vacations (tel. 800/321-2121; www.aavacations.com). Both outfits factor inexpensive airfare into land or hotel packages that can save substantial amounts of money over what you'd have paid if you'd booked the arrangements yourself.

Consider contacting one of the world's largest travel organizers, American Express Vacations (tel. 800/297-2977; www.americanexpress.com). Favored treatment and special discounts are usually offered to holders of gold or platinum American Express cards (if you have one of these, call tel. 800/443-7672), but a wide array of interesting and unusual tours are offered to the general public as well.

Other organizations that offer both escorted and package tours are Trafalgar Tours (tel. 800/854-0103; www.trafalgartours.com); Globus & Cosmos (tel. 800/276-1241; www.globusandcosmos.com); Grand Circle Travel (tel. 800/959-0405; www.gct.com); Switzerland Tours (www.switzerlandtours.net); and Connection Tours (tel. 877/449-4652 in the U.S. or 416/449-4652; www.connectiontours.com).

For river cruises (also barge tours), the most reliable agency, for both Switzerland and Germany is Viking River Cruises, tel 800/304-9616; www.vikingrivercruises.com.

British Tour Operators

HF Holidays, Imperial House, Edgware Road, Colindale, London NW9 5AL (tel. 020/8905-9556; www.hfholidays.co.uk for a brochure), offers a range of 1- to 2-week packages to Switzerland and an array of some 150 special-interest offerings throughout Europe.

Outfitters

Be it rafting, canoeing, sea kayaking, sailing, biking, hiking, paragliding, or horse-and-wagon trips, Eurotrek, Dörflistrasse 30, CH-8057 Zurich (tel. 044/316-10-00; www.eurotrek.ch), has a tour for you. All ages, tastes, and levels of fitness participate in these tours, from absolute beginners to experienced athletes. The outfit uses skilled travel guides, instructors, skippers, and coach drivers. Rafting adventures, for example, are arranged in the Bernese Oberland or on the Lütschine, the wild river at the foot of the Eiger and Jungfrau. Sailing trips are arranged on both Lake Thun and Lake Maggiore, and horse-and-wagon treks explore both the Emmental and the Jura in covered wagons. You can bungee jump in the alpine regions around Davos, or book a 3-day bike tour through the Ticino.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.