7 Dream Vacations You Can Actually Afford in 2022

These bucket-list guided tours may be the perfect pandemic panacea for your family.
Northern Lights over Norway (Photo: Shutterstock)
Northern Lights over Norway (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Grand Canyon. The Colosseum. Machu Picchu. After nearly two years tethered to home, these bucket-list family travel adventures may be the perfect pandemic panacea for your family. But with varying test requirements, mask mandates, and safety protocols still in effect all around the world, planning a trip to one of these dream destinations may feel a bit daunting. That’s why there’s never been a better time to consider letting someone else do the planning with a guided tour.

Affordable Family Travel Adventures and Guided Tours

Guided tours remove many of the hassles that come with traveling. And while a trip to the destination of your dreams is never going to be a cheap family vacation, group travel tours can save you time, money, and a lot of stress. Here are seven budget-friendly guided tours for your family’s 2022 adventures. 

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1. Iceland with National Geographic Family Journeys – G Adventures

Iceland waterfall (Photo: G Adventures)
Iceland waterfall (Photo: G Adventures)

Renowned small group travel tour company G Adventures has teamed up with National Geographic to create escorted family travel itineraries that take full advantage of NatGeo’s expertise in wildlife, storytelling, and photography. 

The company’s eight-day Iceland Family Journey delves into the subarctic island nation’s unique geological features in an experiential way, including hiking on the edge of a volcanic crater and riding Icelandic horses near a waterfall. Trip leaders are trained to engage young guests ages seven to 17, and the participant limit is capped at 20.

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These guided family travel adventures start at $4,699 per adult (there’s a $200 discount for kids ages seven to 12) and they include transportation within Iceland, accommodations, daily breakfast, three lunches, and one dinner. 

Fully vaccinated visitors from most countries may enter Iceland with a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure. 

2. Machu Picchu to the Amazon – Intrepid Travel

Family at Machu Picchu (Photo: Shutterstock)
Family at Machu Picchu (Photo: Shutterstock)

Explore Peru’s rich cultural and biodiversity from cosmopolitan Lima and ancient Cusco to the Amazon and Machu Picchu on a guided Peru Family Holiday from Intrepid Travel.

Personal connections with locals is an integral part of the experience. You’ll visit a Peruvian home and learn about indigenous culture, stop by a medicine garden where a shaman will introduce you to ancient healing plants, and browse a market bursting with hand-woven textiles. Other highlights include watching monkeys and black alligators in the jungle and alpacas and llamas in the Sacred Valley. And when you arrive at Machu Picchu, it may actually take your breath away.

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This nine-day guided tour is recommended for families with children ages five and older. All accommodations, transportation within Peru, daily breakfast, three lunches, and two dinners are included. Prices start at $2,760 per adult (there’s a 10 percent discount for kids under 18). The maximum group size is 16, accompanied by one guide. 

Fully vaccinated travelers whose last dose was more than 14 days prior currently do not need to present a negative COVID test result to enter Peru. This is subject to change. You must complete an electronic health affidavit within 72 hours of entering. 

3. The American West – Trafalgar

Grand Canyon (Photo: Trafalgar)
Grand Canyon (Photo: Trafalgar)

Journey through the American West with Trafalgar on its Pioneer Adventures of the Old West family adventure. This guided trip travels through Red Rock country, Navajo country, Monument Valley, and Lake Powell. 

In Williams, board a train and be entertained by costumed storytellers spinning tales of the Old West all the way to the rim of the majestic Grand Canyon. You’ll also visit Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks before saying farewell to new friends at an authentic hoedown.

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Prices for this eight-day guided tour start at $2,450 per person (there’s a 10 percent discount for travelers between the ages of five and 17) and include all on-trip transportation, accommodations, and most meals. The maximum group size is 40 participants with one travel director and a wellbeing director to help with health and safety on trips with more than 21 participants. 

4. The San Juan Islands – REI Adventures

Mountain view on Orcas Island, Washington (Photo: @mbocast via Twenty20)
Mountain view on Orcas Island, Washington (Photo: @mbocast via Twenty20)

A pristine jewel of the Pacific Northwest, the San Juan Islands are a perfect spot for families looking to balance education with fresh air. The San Juan Islands Family Adventure from REI Adventures offers both, from an overnight kayak trip to rustic Jones Island State Park to a visit to a marine biology research lab. Your two guides are outdoor experts who help bring natural wonders to life as you explore tide pools and look out for orca whales in a protected wildlife refuge.

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This five-day guided tour is for families with kids ages eight to 17 who know how to swim. The trip includes meals, accommodations, activities, and top-quality recreational gear. Prices start at $2,699 for REI members and $2,925 for non-members, with kids receiving a $400 discount. 

5. Tour of Italy – Adventures by Disney

Family travel adventures in Rome (Photo: Adventures by Disney)
Family travel adventures in Rome (Photo: Adventures by Disney)

There are no costumed characters on family travel adventures with Adventures by Disney. The selling point of these guided travel tours is knowing you’ll be in the skilled hands a company that completely understands and anticipates all the needs of vacationing families. 

Few countries in the world welcome children the way Italy does. Adventures by Disney’s Italy itinerary highlights the country’s top destinations, from Rome to Tuscany to Venice, with perks like an after-hours tour of the Vatican and a pasta-making lesson in Tuscany. 

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Kids ages four and older may participate in this eight-day guided trip. This trip is more of a splurge than the others on this list (rates start at $6,199 per adult and $6,079 for kids under 12), but you’ll stay at upscale hotels and the price includes travel within Italy, daily breakfast, four lunches, four dinners, and all admissions/activities. You’ll also have the services of two Adventure Guides who’ll keep the kids constantly entertained so you can enjoy your vacation, too.

Currently, visitors to Italy ages two and older must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than one day before arrival. 

6. Costa Rica – Road Scholar

Arenal volcano in Costa Rica ringed in clouds with a horse grazing in the foreground
Arenal volcano in Costa Rica (Photo: @ISphotos via Twenty20)

The educational non-profit tour group company Road Scholar takes you deep into the rainforest in Costa Rica for up-close encounters with wildlife such as sloths, scarlet macaws, and howler monkeys on its From Monkeys to Macaws: Colorful Costa Rica with Your Family trip. 

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The guided tour group’s two leaders know how to appeal to varying ages, interests, and attention spans. They take care of logistics while local instructors add expertise on a range of topics on this 10-day, nine-night itinerary for families with children ages nine to 17. The maximum group size is 24 participants, and prices start at $2,499 for adults and $1,999 for children under 18. Transportation within Costa Rica, twenty-six meals, all lodging, and activities are included. 

Travelers who are fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arriving, and anyone aged 18 and younger (even if unvaccinated), can enter Costa Rica under current guidelines and must complete a digital Health Pass. However, Road Scholar requires all participants, including children, be vaccinated and boosted.

7. Self-Guided Family Travel Adventures in Norway – Up Norway

Norway Sami Experience (Photo: Up Norway)
Norway Sami Experience (Photo: Up Norway)

Up Norway’s Norway for Families is a self-guided family travel adventure that balances the freedom of independent travel with the assurance of round-the-clock, on-the-ground assistance. 

The thousand-year-old Norwegian capital city of Oslo is a jumping-off point to discover Norway’s snow-covered landscape. A scenic train ride, a fjord cruise, snowmobiling, reindeer sledding, and an overnight in an igloo hotel are some of the unforgettable Nordic experiences. 

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Fans of the Disney movie Frozen will enjoy spending the day with the indigenous Sami people, who served as inspiration to the film’s Tundra People. Learn to throw a lasso and be serenaded by a Sami musician as you enjoy a traditional fireside feast. 

The cost for one week is $3,419 per person based on a family of two adults and two children. Luxury accommodations, daily breakfast, four dinners, all local transfers, and experiences are included. The itinerary is customizable, with no minimum age to participate. 

Travelers must test on arrival in Norway. If there is no testing center at the point of entry, a COVID-19 test must be taken within 24 hours of arrival.

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Allison Tibaldi
Allison Tibaldi is a travel and food writer based in New York City. She has lived in Rome, Tuscany, Melbourne, Australia, Toronto and Los Angeles. She writes for numerous publications including CNN, Business Insider, Travel Channel, HGTV, am New York, Emirates Open Skies Magazine, USA TODAY 10 Best, USA Today Go Escape, Shermans Travel, Family Traveller, Travel Squire and Travel Weekly. She is also a contributing editor at Family Travel Forum. She focuses on family, culinary and eco-friendly travel. A former early childhood educator, she studied child development in graduate school and believes that travel is the best education.

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