Group tours have been around for ever...like minded travelers visiting European capitals together or a guide leading their followers along the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.
In recent years the travel industry has recognized that specialized family group tours might just be a good idea for busy working parents in need of spending some quality time with their kids. Many of the world's leading tour companies now offer specialized guided group tours that cater to families. Companies like Tauck Tours, Collette Tours, Trafalgar, Abercrombie & Kent...even Adventures by Disney now offer guided tours for parents and kids to enjoy together.
So what is a family group tour? Well, it's a collection of families all vacationing together. These tours are headed by a tour guide that "escorts" the group during their trip. For this reason, these tours can be called guided family tours or escorted family tours. Some guided family tours focus on seeing the "must see" sights in a particular destination. Other family tours will focus on nature, culture or history. Some of family tours include multi-sport activities like hiking, surfing and zip lines so they may also be called family adventure tours.
Technically are two different types of guided family group tours..
1. Planned tours- A planned tour is when a travel company creates a really fun and exciting itinerary that they belive will be popular with families. These planned group tours are set to depart on specific days. Most departure dates occur during summer vacation but more and more family tour companies are now offering spring and winter break tours too. Any interested family can join up and be part of a planned tour.
2. Custom tours- This is when an existing group of family members or friends decided to all travel together. Every tour company has their own rules as to the minimum number of adults and kids it takes to create a custom group. As long as the custom group has enough people, they can book an existing planned itinerary for their group, request a specific departure date or even work with their travel agent and tour company to put together a completely custom itinerary that caters to the specific interests of the people in their group.
Every tour company and each individual tour has different features included in the price. This is why it's a great idea to work with an experienced travel agent who can helpyou sift thru all the fine print. Most family group tours are land only vacation packages - this means the cost of your airfare is extra. Family group tours usually include your family friendly accommodations, all local transportation, sightseeing, specific activities and usually most meals. The most important inclusion is your tour guide. Tour guides are highly trained leaders who insure that everything goes smoothly for families every step of the way. Adventures by Disney actually includes 2 tour guides on every tour. They speak the language, know the local customs, can help keep your family safe in a strange place, have back ground knowledge and insights to insure your family vacation far more enjoyable.
So, where can families go on a guided tour? If you've been dreaming of a specific destination, chances are there is a guided tour that can take you and your kids there. Guided family tours are available on 6 continents and cater to every interest imaginable like safaris, dude ranches, European cities, National parks, jungle hikes and visits to the world's wonders.
Guided family tour itineraries are organized for lots of family togetherness but are well balanced with separate activities and events for adults and kids. For example, the group may bike to a French vineyard. Parents can look forward to a wine tasting with a sommelier while children harvest and stomp grapes. Kids may enjoy a treasure hunt in a musem after hours while parents enjoy a privately catered dinner.
The BEST part of a guided family group tour is the fact that EVERYTHING is pre-planned and fully paid in advance. Parents do not need to stress and work at all the research and anazlysis putting together the many logistical moving pieces found with this type itinerary. All parents have to do is show up with their kids and relax knowing the tour guide will take care of everything for them. Mom & Dad can now be active participants in their own vacation instead of doing all the worrying. This makes a family group vacation very appealing for busy working parents who truly need a break.
Guided family group tours are also ideal for single parents. Tour guides can help lend a helping hand with kid wrangling. It's comforting to know that you have someone looking out for you every step of the way. Guided family tours are also ideal for single child families. It will give your child the opportunity to make new friends and interact with their peers. Parents won't need to entertain their kids 24/7/ Grandparents wanting to share the world with their grandkids but may not have the energy to keep up with active children can also count on help from the tour guides. Any parent who dreams of exploring the world with their kids but is a bit overwhelmed or trepidacious about traveling can now relax knowing they are in good hands with their tour guide.
Parents may get a little sticker shock with guided family tours. Rates for U.S. tours start at $1500 -$2000 for adults and $800-$1000 for kids. Price tags go up with more exotic destinations and locales. Truth be told, guided group tours usually end up costing about 30% less than if you try replicating the package on your own. This is because the major tour companies can leverage their buying power and contacts to get better deals. Fact is, many of the specialized activities offered in guided family tours like no waiting at the Vatican or exploring the Grand Canyon with an expert naturalist are priceless.