Have you considered what kind of Heritage Journey is best for your family? Is it a Group Trip or a Customized Heritage Journey? Do you know the difference?

I had a lovely phone call with a potential client last week that reminded me I don’t talk often enough about what the differences are in what we at Motherland Travel do compared to other companies that focus on birth country travel.

Understanding the different types of heritage trips.

There are several companies that offer heritage travel for families with adopted children. When choosing the type of heritage journey that best fits your family, keep in mind the needs of every family member – the parents, the adopted child, as well as any siblings that will travel. What is each person’s need with regard to comfort? What are your personal triggers? Those of your children or spouse? What makes each of you happy? What are your fears and concerns? Heritage trips are typically either group trips or customized for individual families and knowing the answers to those questions and many more will determine which type of trip is best for your family.

But let’s start here:

What is a group trip?

A group typically consists of ten or more participants but can be much larger. Group heritage trips tend to focus on well-known cultural sites, cultural immersion activities and optional extensions to visit an adopted child’s orphanage, to meet foster families or to find birth families.

Group trips have set departure dates and a structured itinerary that may not allow for much individual customization.

Large groups (30+ participants) usually have a well-trained guide(s) on the tour and often a social worker or staff member as additional support.

Smaller groups are often run with well-trained local guides. Group tours are not as flexible as customized trips but are typically less expensive.

What is a customized heritage trip?

Customized heritage trips are planned for each family or can be planned around a group of two or more families that intend to travel together on the same itinerary. These customized journeys are carefully designed to consider individual family members’ preferences, needs, and schedule.

Well-trained local guides typically escort a family on a customized heritage trip. These guides are chosen based on the family’s specific needs. A customized heritage trip can be more expensive but will offer a range of options from which a family can choose – depending on their budget, comfort level required, timing and needs.

A customized trip will be focused on exactly what each family chooses – be it cultural immersion, adventure activities, heritage sites, service learning, special holidays, orphanage or foster family visits, birth family reunions or a combination of all of the above! Bottom line, a Heritage Journey customized for a specific family takes into consideration all of the goals, issues, needs of that family in order to achieve specific outcomes and create experiences that are meaningful to that family.

When traveling with my daughter to China, we participated in a very large group trip organized by our adoption agency that included many famous cultural sites from The Forbidden City to the Great Wall of China. We were able to hold live baby panda bears (my daughter’s favorite part by the way) and visit the mysterious offices of the CCAA (the governmental body that processes all Chinese adoptions). With a large group trip, we enjoyed the benefits of economy of scale but at times I recall an exhausting and structured itinerary that seemed overly rigid and very impersonal. Although I am by nature outgoing and energized by meeting new people, it became apparent that my more introverted daughter was increasingly withdrawn being around people day and night with such a structured itinerary. The large group trip did not always serve to connect us more deeply; rather it caused friction at different times throughout our two-week journey. Although the trip had many benefits, in hindsight, a large group trip would have better suited my son, who like me, enjoys interacting with many different types of people. Being a travel planner, I broke my golden rule; understand the needs of the family before designing their trip!

By contrast, when traveling solely with my family to my son’s birth country, we designed the trip to take consideration the likes, dislikes, and needs of each person in our family. We all had a say in what we wanted to do and knowing what each person needed, we were able to create more positive memories for each of us that in turn connected us more deeply as a family unit.

There is a natural intensity to foreign travel that can be harnessed to manage experiences and outcomes when traveling with a very small group (like a family). It is easier to manage expectations and have a more fluid and dynamic itinerary. For instance, while traveling in Guatemala with my family, we were able to steer clear of cultural sites that did not interest everyone in my family but we added very personal activities like having a shaman ritual, attending a chocolate making workshop, climbing a volcano, kayaking on Lake Atitlan, etc. It is the ability to make these small changes, taking into consideration each traveler that contributes to a positive overall experience.

We know this decision can be a tough one so if you’d like to schedule a 30-minute call just to talk, I’m always excited to explore your options with you. You can schedule a call with me at www.calendly.com/bambi or shoot me an email and we can find a time that works.

Also, if you are planning a Heritage Journey in the next year or two, we are about to release our latest product, A Guide to Your Heritage Journey. This product includes a year’s worth of preparation materials ensuring your family is mentally, emotionally, and financially ready for your Heritage Journey. At Motherland Travel, we know this is the most important trip you will ever take with your family and we know it’s not one to jump into lightly. We have taken all of the coaching, preparation, and feedback we’ve received from past clients and packaged it into a wealth of information for you to use to prepare for your own Heritage Journey whether that journey is booked through us, another company, or set up yourself. The new guide will be launched on our website in the next couple of weeks so please stay tuned!

Lastly, if you want to read more about preparing for a Heritage Journey for your adoptive family, check out our blogs at https://motherlandtravel.com/blog/

My best to each of you,

Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >> http://motherlandtravel.com/

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