In Europe, the boom in family travel has, of course, been accompanied by an expansion of tours specially tailored to this market: escorted tours that offer structure and convenience. Family tour specialists report that their escorted journeys, which are basically all-inclusive and come with scheduled departures, often serve as an inspiration and template for the more customized options requested by walkers & bikers, multigenerational and family reunion groups. We checked in on the Europe tours scene with a trio of family travel planners to view some of their 2019 offerings. (Tour prices are pp dbl).
Thomson Family Adventures
Celebrating its 20th anniversary of designing and delivering family travel touring, Thomson Family Adventures now spans the globe, including eight countries in Europe. According to general manager Beth O’Donnell, Italy is the company’s top Europe destination, served by two tours—10-day Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice, and Southern Italy: Amalfi, Vulcano & Sicily, which she notes “is our most popular tour, booked for our scheduled, small group departures, as well as adapted and tailored for individual family reunions. Close to half our bookings are based on our family programs, customized for special departures.”
The company’s 9-day Southwest Ireland: Kerry, Cork & Kinsale tour sold out last year for obvious reasons—guests savor dramatic coastlines and charming seaside towns; learn to sail in Kinsale; stay in a 16th century castle; go whale and dolphin watching; explore national parks when biking the Gap of Dunloe; go horseback riding in the Slieve Mish Mountains; and biking into the Black Valley; browse art galleries in Kinsale; and dine deliciously in Dingle. Focused on experiencing Ireland through its history, customs and, most importantly, its people, this tour has proved to be an excellent pick for multigenerational family travelers.
When families go European touring with Trafalgar Tours, they have a choice of single destination tours—Ireland, Spain, Greece, Italy—and several multi-country offerings.
“This is a very healthy market for us,” reports company president Melissa da Silva, “and we continue to add to our family program to ensure we have great experiences to meet the demand. Next year we are launching Leprechauns & Shamrocks, which will feature the northern ‘loop’ in Ireland, including Dublin, Belfast, Londonderry and Galway.” This year, according to da Silva, the 10-day Gladiators Gondolas and Gold was the top European experience for Trafalgar, followed by close to a tie between European Wonderland and Castles and Kilts.
The Gladiators, Gondolas and Gold: Rome, Florence, Venice tour invites families to hold on to their helmet when experiencing life as a Roman gladiator and learning the basics of sword-fighting; tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain and devouring the pizza they’ve just learned to make; and creating their own Carnival mask, after browsing Venice’s historic Rialto food market. Local experts are in charge of city sightseeing, including a detour to Bologna or an optional visit to medieval San Gimignano.
Recent AAA research on family travel found that guided or escorted tour segment grew 7 percent in 2017 over the previous year to claim 22 percent of the market. Music to the ears of Austin Adventures, whose particular niche of active vacations for families is growing by leaps and bounds, according to company founder Dan Austin. “Europe’s deep history and multitude of cultures is a big draw for family travelers, while the continent is also a hotspot for multi-sport adventures,” Austin notes.
All Austin Adventures itineraries come with expert directors; distinguished, often historic, hotel accommodations; all meals and snacks along the route; bikes and other equipment essentials; vehicle support and land transportation.
The 6-day Normandy Family Tour takes families from Barfleur to Bayeux, soaking up a world with sweeping coastlines, dramatic cliffs, and pastoral farmlands while reliving
a pivotal chapter in American history. Shared experiences include pedaling along the gently rolling coast, exploring seaside fishing ports, and discovering the stories behind the historic D-Day Normandy beaches. Of course, there’s time to climb the iconic lighthouse in Barfleur, walk in the footsteps of Allied World War II victors in Carentan and on Utah Beach, bike the clifftop roads of Pointe du Hoc overlooking Omaha Beach and cemetery, feast on fresh seafood, savory crepes and camembert cheese, and unwind in the comfort of the majestic 16th century Chateau de Sully. Activity rating: moderately easy.