7 Companies You Can Trust for Great Family Vacation Packages
Updated January 9, 2023
Planning a successful family vacation is work—but not if you let a packager do the work for you. Buying a vacation through a tour operator frees you from the tedious details of deciding where to stay, what to eat, when to visit each attraction, and how to get to each place. Travel packagers take care of all the logistics, and truly expert ones know their destinations deeply, so their inside knowledge may even be able to provide you with special perks. We like these seven tour operators’ family trips—they cover a variety of destinations, styles, group sizes, and prices, and they have proven themselves with families over the years.
Austin Adventures keeps groups small: It aims for a 6:1 guest-to-guide ratio and vets those guides for charisma, making sure the leader has a personality kids will want to follow. Family groups explore Europe, the Galapagos Islands, Latin America, Africa, and North American national parks (a company specialty). Austin excels in outdoorsy outings such as horseback riding, glacier trekking, kayaking, and bicycling (always on trails, never on highways). The company strives to add excitement with what it calls unexpected “wow moments” —like the reward of ice cream and brownies served after a hike to the top of Angels Landing in Bryce National Park. Many trips follow a 6-day/5-night schedule plan, although international tours are longer. On departures for families with teens, expect more pedaling, paddling, and hiking to panoramic views, such as in the San Juan Islands, Yellowstone National Park, and the Kenai Fjords region.
Kids’ ages: 7–12; 13+ for family teen trips
Group size: 12–18
Tauck, founded in 1925, launched Bridges in 2004 to cater to the family market through deeper cultural experiences. In Rome, visit the Sistine Chapel after hours without herds of tourists (pictured); in Cusco, Peru, make chocolate; and in London, zoom along the Thames in a speedboat. On Tauck’s increasingly popular European river boat family departures (the company owns its own vessels), visit multiple destinations but unpack only once. In port, you and your kids bike through the countryside, learn to make marzipan, and visit a Camargue ranch to meet cowboys and their legendary white horses. On board, kids fly kites, cook with the chef, and learn local phrases. For cruises, Tauck adds three guides and a family host to the ship’s standard staff. For land trips, one driver/escort leads.
Kids’ ages: 8–17
Group size: 40 (up to 130 on river cruises)
Originally known as R Family Vacations and rebranded as KelliGregg Travel in 2022, this inclusive company gears trips toward LGBTQ+ travelers and their kids, friends, relatives, and allies. In addition to expanding its offerings for grown-ups, KelliGregg continues to organize its summer highlight under the R Family banner: a big cruise featuring show tunes, LGBTQ+ comedy acts, family dance parties, theater camp, outdoor adventures, and a lot more.
Kids’ ages: any age
Group size: varies per trip type
There’s something special about having a friend in a foreign destination. Thomson Family Adventures creates that connection with Friends Across Borders, a digital pen pal initiative available for families who book many of its trips. Your kids correspond ahead of time with local children whom they then meet during the journey. In places with scarce internet and computer access, ground partners personally print and deliver messages. The goal is to immerse kids in the culture, whether it's through activities such as swimming with whale sharks in Baja, sailing in Ireland, or hiking in the Andes (pictured). Some trips cater to families with teens or multigenerational participants. On departures with more than eight people, a Rafiki (Swahili for friend) travels along to keep the kids engaged. Trips always have one driver and one guide.
Kids’ ages: 8–16 typically (some trips accept younger kids)
Group size: 8–12
Among the more than 50 itineraries in over 40 countries visited by Adventures by Disney, you can count on getting hands-on local experiences, guides with a gift for storytelling, and time built into the schedule for parents and kids to be both together and apart. You and your children might craft bento boxes at a Japanese cooking school, try archery at a Scottish estate, and learn hurling in Ireland. At other times, adults might sample wines at a vineyard in Tuscany while kids are taken to pick herbs for infusing olive oil. During adults-only dinner nights, kids grab a meal and watch a Disney movie.
Daily activities are focused on local culture, not Disney characters—although you may expect a few surprise appearances from those along the way. Tours of Southern California grant private access to the Walt Disney Studios & Archives and Jim Henson Studios, which are normally closed to the public. In Europe, Disney partners with AmaWaterways for river cruises. Overall, many ABD trips are 8 days/7 nights, but the company also operates shorter Escapes that can be booked on their own or added to an itinerary.
Kids’ ages: 6+ (though kids as young as 4 may be allowed depending on the trip)
Group size: 38–40
The Sierra Club, one of the oldest U.S. conservation organizations, calls its trips “adventures for a cause.” By leading organized rafting, hiking, canoeing, and volunteering vacations for families, the Sierra Club connects kids to the outdoors, hoping to turn them into future protectors of the environment. Family excursions explore the United States: Wind down rivers in Utah, Oregon, and Idaho (pictured); or base your brood at an Adirondacks’ lodge for hiking, canoeing, swimming, and mountain biking. On service trips you might do things like clearing trails in the Tahoe National Forest or working with animals on a Pennsylvania farm. On Sierra Club Outings, the naturalist leaders are volunteers.
Kids’ ages: 6+, depending on the trip
Group size: 12–15 (up to 24 for raft trips)
National Geographic Family Journeys (in partnership with G Adventures) were launched in 2020 as a subset of Nat Geo's 300 or so vacations for a general audience. These family-specific itineraries are developed alongside experts such as scientists and researchers, who emphasize sustainability and supporting local culture. On these trips, you and your kids might taste-test noodles cooked by teens learning culinary arts in Hoi An, Vietnam (pictured); plant seedlings at a tree nursery in Costa Rica; or fashion your own Carnival mask in Venice. Pre-departure, parents receive field guides with advice on sparking children’s interest in the area, and kids get tips on photographic storytelling. Two “Chief Experience Officers” (aka enthusiastic guides) lead families through the 8- to 13-day itineraries in Vietnam, Cambodia, Iceland, France, Costa Rica, Peru, Alaska, and other adventurous places.
Kids’ ages: 7–17
Group size: 20