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As Tauck approaches its centennial — the family-owned company began back in 1925, offering backroads tours of New England — all signs point to a very happy birthday. In response to ever-increasing demand, the tour operator has steadily been expanding its family product line. According to corporate communications manager Tom Armstrong, the company’s Tauck Bridges family-focused tours have been the brand’s fastest-growing segment since its launch in 2003.
“I think that the strong growth in Tauck Bridges originally had its roots in a post-9/11 shifting of priorities,” Armstrong said. “In 2002, we noticed many more family groups traveling with us, and while we happily welcome families on our traditional itineraries, we knew we could craft a better experience for them if we designed trips from the ground up.”
Armstrong says that doing so meant making simpler strategic decisions — booking hotels with swimming pools, for example — but it also meant making more meaningful plans, too. Scheduling activities that appeal guests of all ages became a serious priority. Armstrong points to Tauck Bridges tours that include a scavenger hunt in the Louvre, hands-on pizza making in Italy or marzipan-making demonstrations in Germany. The brand also prides itself on how thoughtfully timed its excursions are, which helps meet different generations’ needs.
Whatever the Tauck Bridges team is doing, it’s clearly working. Demand for its river cruises has led the company to double its number of European river itineraries for 2017. Among new offerings is a trip along France’s Seine River that includes a bike tour of the gardens of Versailles and Marie Antoinette’s farm. Other highlights are the aforementioned Louvre scavenger hunt and a visit to the beaches of Normandy, including an up-close look at the equipment used during the historic D-Day landings — and kids even get to touch the gear. Additionally, special departures of Tauck Bridges’ London and Paris trip will bring travelers into the Louvre after-hours. Guests on select tours in Rome will be privy to after-hours visits of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.
“Underlying it all is our philosophy of ‘shared enrichment,’” Armstrong said. “Our approach is a pretty radical departure from a lot family travel options, which almost seem to keep the different generations apart intentionally, with separate activities or kids’ areas. Our strong belief is that travel is a fantastic opportunity to bring generations together — for them to bond by sharing experiences and discoveries.”
Another trip on which families might get closer is Tauck Bridges’ brand-new Costa Rica itinerary, part of the operator’s Earth Journeys collection. In partnership with nature documentary filmmakers at BBC Earth, this trip includes viewings of brief, Tauck-exclusive documentaries that showcase local flora and fauna. The goal is to give guests added context and understanding about the places they’re experiencing, Armstrong says. They can also use high-tech tools — the same ones used by the BBC Earth filmmaking team — to experience their surroundings. That might include using top-notch cameras to capture images of nocturnal animals or employing infrared night-vision equipment and long-distance microphones to hear far-off animals on a rainforest walk. Ziplining, a pineapple farm tour, river-rafting in the jungle and a home stay with a local family are other gems on the itinerary.
“These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, but our Tauck Bridges trips make it so easy,” Armstrong said. “Building consensus with a large group can be incredibly difficult, but travel with Tauck Bridges and everyone needs to agree on just two things: which itinerary to take, and which departure date to travel on.”