7 affordable family bucket-list trips where someone else does all the planning

The Grand Canyon. The Colosseum. Machu Picchu. After nearly two years tethered to home, these bucket-list travel adventures may be the perfect pandemic panacea for your family. But varying test requirements, mask mandates and safety protocols all around the world may make planning a trip 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.

Guided tours remove many of the hassles that come with traveling. Although a trip to the destination of your dreams is never going to be a cheap family vacation, group travel tours can save 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

Small-group travel tour company G Adventures teamed up with National Geographic to create escorted family 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 horses. Trip leaders are trained to engage guests ages 7 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 7 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 result from a PCR coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of departure.

2. Machu Picchu to the Amazon – Intrepid Travel

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

Personal connection 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. 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 5 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% 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 do not need to present a negative coronavirus 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

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, Arizona, you’ll 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 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%discount for travelers ages 5 to 17) and include all on-trip transportation, accommodations and most meals. The maximum group size is 40 participants with one travel director and a well-being director to help with health and safety on trips with 21 or more participants.

Trafalgar’s company policy requires that all guests be fully vaccinated. Children under 16 need a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of the start of their trip.

4. The San Juan Islands – REI Adventures

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-dayguided tour is for families with kids ages 8 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 nonmembers, and kids receive 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 of a company that understands and anticipates all the needs of vacationing families.

Few countries 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 such as an after-hours tour of the Vatican and a pasta-making lesson in Tuscany.

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Kids ages4 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 have the services of two Adventure Guides who’ll keep the kids entertained, so you can enjoy your vacation, too.

Visitors to Italy ages 2 and older must show proof of a negative coronavirus test no older than 72 hours if it’s a PCR test and one day if it’s a rapid antigen test.

6. Costa Rica – Road Scholar

The educational, nonprofit 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 instructors add expertise on a range of topics on this 10-day, nine-night itinerary for families with children ages 9 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, 26 meals, all lodging and activities are included.

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

7. Self-guided family travel adventures in Norway – Up Norway

Up Norway’s Norway for Families is a self-guided 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, dogsledding 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 for 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 $3,586 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, and there’s no minimum age to participate.

Travelers must test on arrival in Norway, regardless of vaccination status. If there is no testing center at the point of entry, a coronavirus test must be taken within 24 hours of arrival.

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