Heritage travel: How to plan a family ancestry trip

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With DNA testing from companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com helping consumers learn more about their genealogy, more people will be taking trips to explore their newly discovered heritage or meet relatives as coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions start to ease up.

But international travel can be pricey, and with gas prices increasing and rental cars scarce, even a local heritage trip can be expensive. Here’s how to organize heritage travel and prepare for a trip financially.

Types of genealogy trips

To figure out how much your trip could cost, think about what the purpose of it will be. Here are some reasons why you might be traveling:

Doing genealogical research

As an extension of what you learned about your ancestry from a DNA test, you could visit a library, a county courthouse or national archives to find out more. Note any admission fees that could be required.

Visiting distant relatives

If you plan to visit more than one distant relative, how many stops will you have to make, and in which cities and countries? You’ll want to research how much it would typically cost to stay in a hotel or Airbnb in each destination.

Touring ancestors’ homes

Perhaps you found out you have a semi-famous ancestor, or a handful of relatives who contributed significantly to the town they lived in. If you want to visit your ancestors’ cities, homes or burial sites, plot your trip accordingly, including the cost of entry fees for historical sites.

Taking a heritage tour

If you’d rather take a heritage tour curated by professionals, find out how much the package costs. You’ll also want to know what’s included in the price, such as transportation, accommodations and meals, so you can budget for what you’ll pay out of pocket while on vacation.

Tips to prepare for a genealogy trip

Here are some ways you can go about preparing for your heritage vacation:

Do your homework

Once you’ve homed in on where you’d like to go, do some research. Look for noteworthy sites to visit and community events or festivals that the destination is known for.

Further, determine if there are cultural expectations or requirements you’ll need to adhere to. For instance, you could be expected to follow a culture’s code of dress or basic etiquette rules or speak the local language.

Make a detailed itinerary

The more detailed your itinerary, the less of a chance you’ll get blindsided by unexpected costs during your travels. Plot out exactly where you plan to go, what time of day and where you’ll be staying. If you’d like some flexibility in your schedule, leave room in your budget for unplanned stops or meals.

Work with a professional travel agency if needed

If you still have questions after doing your own research, it might be worthwhile to hire a professional travel agent that specializes in the places you want to visit.

They’ll have the most up-to-date information, and they could have insider knowledge that’s generally only available to locals or be the go-to experts in heritage tours. If the travel agency is part of a larger network of agencies, you might be able to get discounts on certain parts of your trip.

Consider what to pack

Besides clothing and the necessary toiletries, you might want to take research materials along. That could mean a laptop, or physical maps for navigating your destination.
An additional carry-on bag could be useful for bringing back meaningful souvenirs you collect during your ancestry vacation.

How to pay for your heritage travel

Here are a few ways you can pay for your genealogy vacation:

Save in advance

Figure out your target date for your trip and how much you’ll need to save. If possible, set an amount to automatically save regularly.

Remember that you might need some money saved a few months ahead of time to put a deposit on your accommodations and book a flight.

Get a travel loan

A travel loan is a type of personal loan, which can be used for nearly any purpose. Vacation loans are unsecured, which means you don’t have to provide collateral to back them up.

If your credit isn’t stellar, there are travel loans available for those with bad credit. Compare loan amounts, rates and terms from banks, credit unions and online lenders.

Redeem reward points on your travel credit card

If you’re planning a while out from your trip, compare travel rewards credit cards to find the one with the best redemption options. Once you rack up enough reward points, you can redeem them to book a flight, rental car or hotel.

Open a personal line of credit

Another option to pay for your travel is opening a personal line of credit, which works much like a credit card. If you want to go this route, look into rates, terms and the maximum amount you can borrow.

The bottom line

No matter where you desire to travel for your heritage trip, doing your research and preparing for it financially can help you turn it into a reality.

If the cost of your trip is more than what you have in savings, there are financing options that can help you pay for travel. Just keep in mind that if you’re not able to pay your balance off quickly, it could cost you quite a bit in interest.

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Written by
Jackie Lam
Contributing writer
Jackie Lam is a contributing writer for Bankrate. Jackie writes about auto loans.
Edited by
Associate loans editor