Top Tour Companies Create Unforgettable Family Trips
Take an epic vacation and leave the planning to the experts
After so much time spent apart, families and multigenerational groups are looking forward to gathering and sharing adventures of a lifetime. Vacations can reconnect families that have long been separated and make them whole again.
Expedia’s 2022 Trends Survey Report revealed that nearly 70% of Americans are planning to go big on their trips this year. Travelers want their next vacation to be the “greatest of all trips,” and according to travel advisors, many family groups are going all out on their travel plans. Parents and grandparents have bucket lists filled with dream destinations. After the last two years, they want to make up for lost time and share extraordinary trips with loved ones.
Planning the ultimate family adventure can be daunting, particularly when expectations are sky-high. The best family vacations include a wealth of memorable activities for all ages and interests. In addition, there are numerous details and logistics to consider, including where to stay, the best places to eat, timing and schedules for attractions, and transportation from place to place. In today’s world of constantly changing travel mandates and restrictions, it’s important to be up-to-date on health and safety protocols as well.
For these reasons and more, now is a great time to take a family-friendly guided trip and leave the travel planning to the professionals. Family-friendly tour companies make family vacations easy and hassle-free. They handle all of the planning and logistical details so families can relax and enjoy every minute of their vacation.
Leading tour companies have extensive destination knowledge, allowing them to design unforgettable trips that are mindful of the needs of every family member. They also provide outstanding guides who can deliver world-class travel experiences so that everyone has an incredible time. In addition, tour operators constantly monitor the fluctuating shifts in travel requirements and are there to assist families during the trip. Family groups can choose to join a tour with other families, take over a scheduled departure for an exclusive adventure or customize their own private guided vacation.
Best Tour Operators for Families
We’ve scoured the market to identify the companies leading the way in small group family vacations. Here are seven preeminent tour operators that are renowned for their family travel expertise. Their carefully curated family vacation experiences will generate memories to be cherished for years to come.
Adventures by Disney: Disney is well-known for immersive storytelling and exceptional family entertainment that’s fun for everyone. The travel experts at Adventures by Disney use these skills to develop enriching family trips that appeal to every family member. While most of the vacation experience is designed for the entire family to enjoy together, there are also special events just for kids and sophisticated activities for adults.
Families and multigenerational groups can choose from over 45 different itineraries offering excursions to more than 30 countries on all seven continents, including expedition sailings and European river cruises. Trips are hosted by Disney-trained Adventure Guides who not only connect families to each destination’s traditions and stories but also deliver exceptional service throughout the journey.
Due to high demand, Adventures by Disney doubled its portfolio of Private Adventures last year. These intimate travel experiences for up to 12 people provide flexibility in booking dates and enable families to vacation with younger children since there’s no minimum age requirement for most Private Adventures.
Austin Adventures: As a leader in family travel, Austin Adventures has spent more than 35 years creating memorable family vacations and offers over 80 programs worldwide.
“Year after year, we see the family niche continue to grow and outpace all other segments combined,” says Dan Austin, Founder of Austin Adventures.
Austin Adventures’ 2021 domestic travel bookings to national parks reached record numbers, and 2022 is shaping up to be an even bigger year. The tour operator’s most popular 2022 family itineraries include Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks, Montana, Alaska and the Canadian Rockies. Austin Adventures is seeing the biggest growth in Exclusive Adventures, which allow families to book a scheduled trip departure solely for their group. Top guides lead every tour.
G Adventures: G Adventures offers a broad array of vacation options for families and multigenerational groups, including a collection of 80 “Book Your Bubble” itineraries, a family line of tours and 10 exciting National Geographic Family Journeys with G Adventures trips.
“National Geographic Family Journeys with G Adventures tours feature unique, interactive activities inspired by National Geographic’s expertise in photography, storytelling, wildlife, culture, history and geography to encourage kids and adults to connect with the world around them,” says Steve Lima, U.S. Marketing Director for G Adventures.
According to Lima, Costa Rica is one of the company’s most popular destinations, and private small group departures are in demand. G Adventures’ Book Your Bubble collection allows family groups to safely travel together on their own exclusive departures to destinations including Peru, Costa Rica and Portugal. G Adventures’ private groups department can help tailor the right tour to each family’s needs.
Intrepid Travel: Families seeking to travel the world can choose from over 1,000 Intrepid Travel itineraries on all seven continents.
Dyan Mckie, Family Product Manager at Intrepid Travel, says, “Intrepid Travel provides localized experiences where families will meet local people, learn about the culture and language, and immerse themselves in activities that are designed with families in mind. Our main aim is to unite families on these trips.”
Top-selling destinations for North American families in 2022 include Japan, Peru, Morocco, Jordan and the Galapagos Islands with growth in multigenerational vacationers, family group travel and private trips.
“For private group inquiries, we are seeing a large volume of family group requests, specifically grandparents wanting to travel with their families,” says Mckie. Intrepid Travel designs their trips to include activities that families can enjoy together but also incorporates free time for bonding and exploration. Sustainability and positive local impact are key Intrepid Travel tour components as well.
Tauck Bridges: Family-owned and operated for over 95 years, Tauck launched its Tauck Bridges family brand in 2003 to provide carefully crafted itineraries worldwide for all ages and generations to enjoy together. Tauck Bridges offers 20 all-inclusive itineraries designed for multigenerational travelers throughout North and South America, Europe and Africa.
The company is seeing strong demand for family and multigenerational travel this year. Bookings for 2022 Tauck Bridges trips are up double-digits over pre-pandemic 2019. Private Departure trips—specifically tour departures that can be reserved for larger groups—are in demand among family reunion groups of 10 or more. Popular 2022 destinations include Italy, Alaska and Tauck Bridges’ European river cruises for families.
Thomson Family Adventures: Founded in 1998, Thomson Family Adventures focuses exclusively on family travel. The company’s 15 guided destination itineraries are designed specifically for small family groups and can be customized for private tours as well. Thomson Family Adventures is seeing a high demand for its 2022 trips and a trend towards bucket-list travel.
“Many multigenerational families live far from one another, so traveling brings them the opportunity to finally connect,” says General Manager Nicole Wineland-Thomson. “We have heard countless stories of grandparents just wanting to see their families, so they craft private multigenerational trips with us to finally be together.”
Thomson Family Adventures’ tours cover every detail including meals, guided experiences, hotels, unique cultural exchanges and activities to fit the ages of all travelers, plus alternatives for those seeking less adventurous options. Popular closer-to-home destinations include Costa Rica and Baja Mexico, while Tanzania and the Galapagos Islands are sought-after bucket list trips.
Trafalgar: Trafalgar offers nearly 300 guided trips with departures perfect for families and multigenerational groups. Melissa DaSilva, U.S. President of Trafalgar, states, “Multigenerational trips continue to be very popular with Trafalgar, especially as families reunite and make up for lost time.” Expertly designed itineraries include activities for all age groups and feature experiences that teach new skills, dive deep into new cultures and connect travelers with locals.
“Multigenerational families first look at the destination they want to go to, but also trend towards trips that have plenty of ‘add-on’ experiences and flexible itineraries,” DaSilva notes.
Due to the strong demand for smaller group trip departures, Trafalgar is introducing intimate Sprinter Van itineraries in the western United States. These fully-planned, guided trips can take families to iconic destinations such as Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe and Yellowstone. Private departures are available, too. Trafalgar’s enriching trips to America’s western national parks, the Canadian Rockies and Italy are particularly popular with families this year.
By Nancy Schretter, Contributing Editor
Header Photo: Wildlife spotting in Wyoming’s National Elk Refuge with Austin Adventures. Photo Courtesy of Austin Adventures