The Grand Canyon. The Colosseum. Machu Picchu. After a few COVID years tethered to your home, these iconic bucket-list attractions and family travel adventures may be the perfect pandemic panacea for your family. But if planning a family vacation like that feels a bit daunting, there may be a better alternative to consider—letting someone else do all the planning on 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 2023 adventures.
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1. Iceland with National Geographic Family Journeys
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.
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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.
These guided family travel adventures start at $4,899 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.
2. Machu Picchu to the Amazon
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 $2,990 per adult (there’s a 10 percent discount for kids under 17). The maximum group size is 16, accompanied by one guide.
3. The American West
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 $2,620 per person and include all on-trip transportation, accommodations, and most meals. The maximum group size is 40 participants. Trafalgar offers a 10 percent discount for travelers between the ages of five and 17 on some trips.
4. The San Juan Islands
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 $2,999 for REI members and $3,225 for non-members, with kids receiving a $400 discount.
5. Tour of Italy
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 $6,499 per adult and $6,169 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.
6. Costa Rica
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 $2,699 for adults and $2,199 for children under 18. Transportation within Costa Rica, 26 meals, all lodging, and activities are included.
7. A Frozen Fairytale in Northern Norway
Up Norway’s A Frozen Fairy Tale borrows a page from the movies and takes families in the footsteps of Anna and Elsa from Frozen on a seven-day family travel adventure through Northern Norway. This trip begins in Alta—whose mountains, forests, and fjords inspired Frozen’s frosty scenery—and includes fairy tale villages, ice carving at an igloo hotel, and a visit with the indigenous Sami people, who served as inspiration to the film’s Tundra People.
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Don’t let the Frozen-theming fool you, though. This is an authentic look at life in Northern Norway. Epic winter activities like skiing and dog-sledding are, of course, part of the experience, and to cap it off you’ll join an expert Northern Lights hunter on a snowshoe excursion under the Aurora Borealis where you’ll learn the science and folklore of the dancing lights.
The cost for one week is $3,325 per person. Accommodations, full board, all local transfers, and experiences are included. The itinerary is fully customizable and there’s no minimum age to participate.