Sipping Mai Tai’s on the beach is no one’s idea of a bad vacation, but if you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, consider a guided tour. Tour leaders take care of all the planning essentials, prevent pesky communication snafus, and make sure you get to experience some of the most remote, hidden and fascinating destinations in the world. Here are five picks to get you started.
O.A.R.S. Canyonlands Rafting, Utah
Take on class III and IV rapids down the Colorado river through miles of striking canyons on one of multiple overnight trip options. Trip leaders take care of every last detail, guiding you through ancient, twisting rock structures and setting up a cozy camp with hot meals on shore as you make your way through stretches of Utah wilderness. When not paddling through roaring waves, hike to wild west ruins and listen to stories about the land’s Native American and outlaw past. As thrilling as it is educational, these tours take camping to a whole new level.
Cooking Vacations, Italy
Like spaghetti and meatballs, Italy and food go hand in hand, so why not take your crew on a culinary adventure across this scrumptious (and beautiful) destination. The six-day Roman Holiday, hosted by the acclaimed Cooking Vacations tour company, properly introduces your group to the Eternal City’s three main food groups: pizza, pasta and gelato. In between cooking classes where you’ll learn the well-guarded secrets to traditional Italian dishes (plus plenty of kid-friendly options), enjoy guided tours through the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, and Rome’s famous Testaccio Market. Cap the trip off with a gelato tasting spread that could make Willy Wonka jealous.
Amazon Basin & Galapagos Islands Family Adventure, Galapagos
When it comes to outdoor expeditions, you can’t go wrong with an REI tour. Expect an itinerary packed with water sports and stunning hikes over volcanoes and through steamy jungles on this island adventure. Relax in natural hot springs, kick back in upscale jungle-themed lodges, make friends with sea lions and visit a secluded Amazon tribe to hear ancient stories from a shaman while, for the brave 21+ crowd, drinking traditional Chicha de Yuca—a saliva-fermented alcoholic beverage.
Alaska Adventure Unlimited, Alaska
See and do it all on this eight-day family adventure through the wilds of Alaska’s most pristine outdoor treasures. Start your trip with a scenic helicopter ride over Mt. McKinley before landing on Ruth Glacier to check out miles of ancient ice, some 3,700 feet thick and over 1,000 years old. Next, go whale watching in Resurrection Bay or take the family for an off-road ATV ride. Eat at world renowned restaurants in Alaskan cultural hotspots, ride in a glass-domed train from city to city and load up for an afternoon of dogsledding with bonus puppy meet-and-greet. The best part? The trip is customizable, so creating an itinerary that pleases even the pickiest travelers in your group is a breeze.
Quivertree Family Expedition, Vietnam
After a brutal civil war, Vietnam is in the midst of a booming comeback. Find out first hand why tourists are flocking to the nation’s white sand beaches, bustling markets and breathtaking ruins. Experienced and knowledgeable guides walk you through an itinerary filled with exotic cultural exploration and relaxation. Take a cooking class in Hoi An, the region’s culinary capital, trek through the marvelously preserved Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and visit floating markets on a cruise along the Mekong Delta. Wrap up your stay with a visit to Luang Prabang, the ancient capital city in Laos filled with colorful mosaics, soaring golden architecture and an eye-popping mountain backdrop that will have your imagination running wild.