Family Vacation Tips

How To Plan a Family Heritage Trip

[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 4, 2019 6:00:00 AM / by Sally Black

Sally Black

villa Ariana

A great way to teach children their place in this word is to show them exactly where they come from. If you're looking for inspiration for your next family vacation, consider a family heritage trip.  Imagine your family walking in the footsteps of your ancestors. 

I recently spent a day searching my family's Italian roots during a Mediterranean Cruise.  I knew my grandparents came from the small town of Castellammare di Stabia near Naples. My goal was to find and visit the church where my grandparents were married. So working off of old photographs I remember as a child, I did find my way to the church.

As I did more research about the town itself, I discovered an amazing family "coincidence".  Castellammare was where several Roman Emperors had "summer homes" that were also destroyed, just like Pompeii when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. One of the most significant of these villas is called Villa Arianna - which happens to be my daughter's name! Pure cosmic coincidence, I had no idea when I chose my daughter's name. The villa is open to the public and unlike Pompeii, many of its rooms, frescos and tile murals are still amazingly intact. I also found it ironic that Villa Arianna sits on the hillside overlooking my grandparent's church.

How do you go about planning a family heritage trip for your own family?

1. Plan Ahead

You'll need to give yourself extra time beyond simple vacation planning. you'll need to know your family's history first. Of course, much depends on how much you actually know about your family's heritage. If you are starting from scratch, give yourself 1 year to 6 months to research your family's history and then plan your vacation 1 year to 9 months in advance.

2.  Create Your Family Tree

Start researching your family history speaking with elderly relatives, taking a DNA test and doing research on Family Search or  This is a great project to do as a family with older children and teens.

If you don't have the time to do this necessary research but have some idea of where your family comes from, Vacationkids works with local companies that can help search local records for you in preparation for your visit.

3. How Much Time Do You Need?

As you research your family history chances are you'll find relatives and influences from all over the globe.  You may not be able to visit every ancestral destination in one trip.  This is the type of trip that you should consider quality over quantity.  To get a truly immersive experience, you'll want to spend quality time in a particular town or area.

4. How Deep Do You Want To Dig?

Researching family histories can have you diving down rabbit holes on google.  While it can be fascinating, it can also be very time consuming.

5. Have Realistic Expectations

Not everyone is related to historic celebrities.  As you start down your road of family discovery, expect the unexpected.  After returning from Italy, I decided to research the "Irish" side of my family.  I quickly discovered the family lived for generations in Salem, Massachusetts and not upstate New York.  I discovered our family was really Scottish and immigrated here by way of Ireland.  I also met relatives who were imprisoned and some family tragedies. 

I'm looking forward to a road trip back up to Salem this Summer.  Always been a big fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne and have visited The House of the Seven Gables many times. I found a deed for a home of one of my ancestors in Salem signed by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Wikipedia says Hawthorne worked as a surveyor in Salem.

6. Keeping It Affordable

If a family heritage trips is a priority for your family, planning it far in advance will help you to save and budget accordingly.  When my children were little I was a single mom struggling to keep the bills paid and a trip like this was out of the question.  I taught them their family heritage with day trips to Ellis Island to tell the story of how our family immigrated here.  We visited "little Italy" in New Haven so they could see where their great grandparents lived, the foods they ate and where they worked.   So if a big family heritage trip isn't in the budget, there are other ways to teach your kids their place in the world.

7. Help Your Family Travel Together

So often, clients approach us to have them help plan a family heritage trip. Next thing we know sisters, brothers, cousins and grandparents all want to come along.  A family heritage trip is the PERFECT type of trip for an extended family vacation.  

Also...If you're talking affordability, there are often deals and perks to traveling in a group together. Often by simply inviting other family members to join you will make this type of a trip more affordable with group perks and discounts.  In addition, just imagine the memories your family will enjoy together and pass down to future generations.


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Topics: family vacations, Affordable Family Vacations, Family Vacation Destinations, family vacation ideas

Sally Black

Written by Sally Black

Sally is the Founder of Travel Agency and author of the book "Fearless Family Vacations". She is also the Director of Travel Agent Initiatives and Training at The Family Travel Association.

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