Tauck Bridges

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A pioneer in group travel and 3-time winner of Virtuoso’s Best Escorted Tour Operator award, Tauck Tours has long been known for programs that set a single price covering all necessities and create experiences beyond those that individual travelers can arrange on their own. That formula also applies to the company’s Tauck Bridges brand of guided family trips, introduced in 2003 and offering more than a dozen different vacations in the U.S. and abroad.

Bridges trips represent one of the fastest-growing segments of Tauck’s business in recent years, according to CEO Dan Mahar, who explains the basic thinking behind development of the company’s family travel product. “We build each Bridges trip around shared enrichment, during which family members reconnect by building bonds—or bridges—as they experience the pleasures of travel together,” says Mahar. “Parents and grandparents not only want to spend quality time together as a family, but they are also keen to stimulate their children’s curiosity and sense of wonder about the world. And we make every effort to make sure that our Bridges trips provide true enriching engagement with each destination.”

On the Tauck Bridges roster of family tours, especially popular are Italia Bella: Rome to Venice; Castles & Kings: London to Paris; and Cowboy Country, visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Other international Bridges itineraries explore Costa Rica, the Galapagos Islands and Tanzania , and in the U.S., the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, and the historic mid-Atlantic corridor linking Williamsburg, Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg, PA.

This year, Tauck expanded its Tauck Bridges family-specific trips to include two July departures of its new Blue Danube: Family Riverboat Adventure. In 2011, the company will offer three departures, sailing aboard Tauck’s MS Swiss Sapphire riverboat from Budapest to visit Bratislava, Vienna, Durnstein, Linz, Passau and Regensburg, with a full-day excursion to Salzburg along the way. The 4-country cruise program provides an iconic example of those extra components that distinguish the Tauck travel style of destination-enrichment fun for all the family: an Imperial evening featuring dinner and entertainment at a traditional palace in Vienna; a bike ride along the Danube River and a private tour of the trick fountains and other magical surprises in the mechanical wonderland of Hellbrunn Castle near Salzburg; a scavenger hunt and whitewater rafting in Bratislava, a marzipan-sculpting class in Passau and a strudel-making lesson on the riverboat.

Still on this year’s calendar are holiday family departures for Costa Rica, the Galapagos and Tanzania; these tours—in fact all Bridges tours—are recommended for kids 8 years and older. Costa Rica and Galapagos programs are offered again in February/March/April, as well as summer months; Tanzania has additional safari departures June/July/August.

Departures are Dec. 19 and 23 for the 7-night Costa Rica: Jungles and Rainforest tour and family fun includes a day at a hacienda at the foot of a volcano, horseback riding and river tubing; a sky tram or zipline adventure; jungle river rafting; a home visit with a river family; guided tour of a pineapple plantation and coffee farm; canal cruise and nature hike in Tortuguero; and Spanish lessons with a local “Tico.” Land price (including all meals, gratuities and local air) is $2,590 pp dbl, children 11 and under have a $200 discount.

Galapagos: Wildlife Wonderland is offered in a special 10-night holiday cruise, starting on Dec. 25 with two nights in Quito, with a day’s train ride to explore local country life, and including a 7-night cruise in the Galapagos Islands aboard the M/V Santa Cruz. The land/cruise cost starts at $5,2155 pp dbl, with a $350 discount for each child 11 years and under.

There is limited space available on the 10-night Tanzania: A Grand Family Safari, departing from Arusha on Dec. 19. Stays are in wilderness lodges and tented safari camps and game drives in private, open-top vehicles in search of the big five animals in Tarangire, Lake Manyara and Serengetti are led by expert guides. Special experiences in this superb corner of the safari world include a hot air balloon ride inside Serengeti National Park, joining in a Maasai tribal dance, a visit to a traditional boma and a 500-acre coffee farm. The land cost is $6,040 pp dbl, with a $500 discount for kids 11 and under.