We’ve all witnessed groups of tourists following the raised voices and flags of tour guides as they make their way toward a row of awaiting buses. If a scene like this makes you vow never to be one of “those people,” you may want to avoid rushing to judgment. There are some very good reasons why “tour” isn’t always a four-letter word.
Find the Right Fit
Not all tours are created equal. Operators specialize in everything from three-hour sightseeing bus rides to 28-day private jet trips around the world, so there’s a lot to choose from. So no matter what your preference, there’s probably a travel package that fits your style.
The biggest benefit of working with a tour operator is that they handle all the planning and logistics. (Well, almost all of it. In many cases, getting yourself to and from the point of embarcation is still your responsibility.) Organized travel packages are growing in popularity among families because of the convenience factor.
“Joining a group tour means not spending valuable vacation time confirming reservations, worrying about transfers or solving problems along the way,” says Lynn O’Rourke Hayes. “Plus, families can rely on a trusted tour operator to uncover the best experiences so all they have to do is relax and enjoy their vacation.”
Nothing in life is free. If you’re going to have others do the heavy lifting, it’ll cost you. But cost isn’t the only challenge when it comes to selecting a tour operator. Since most people aren’t very familiar with the names of even the most highly rated companies, it might be difficult to know where to begin. “This is not unlike finding a good doctor or a good contractor,” says Susan Farewell of FarewellTravels.com. And how do you do that? “Look around,” she says. “Ask friends, neighbors, or Facebook contacts. Then call or email the travel consultant and interview them.”
Take Your Pick
There are several outstanding operators that specialize in families. The biggest difference between packages is usually price, which, in turn, is often a reflection of the level of accommodations they offer. Otherwise, dates, length of trip, and featured destinations and activities are the other determining factors.
Here are my favorites among the most reputable:
Thomson Family Adventures
Collette Family Vacations
Abercrombie & Kent
Adventures by Disney
Lindblad Expeditions (in partnership with National Geographic Expeditions)
Find Peace of Mind
For those who have the time and wherewithal, booking everything yourself will almost always save you money. But the premium you pay for a professional also includes the security of knowing everything will be taken care of if something goes wrong. “When traveling with kids, the unexpected is bound to happen,” says Sharon Bell of Tauck Bridges. “Whether it’s an overbooked hotel, losing travel documents, or something that might significantly affect your experience like an unsettling political situations, a reputable tour director can make the difference in turning around a potential disappointment.”