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Heritage travel: How to plan a family ancestry trip

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

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.

How much a genealogy trip costs

The expenses associated with genealogy travel can vary widely depending on how extensive a trip you take and the activities involved. Hiring a genealogist to help get your efforts off the ground, including conducting research, can cost between $30 to $200 per hour, depending on the level of assistance.

Dedicated genealogy cruises, which have grown popular and often include onboard representatives from Ancestry.com and explorations of other countries, can cost several thousand dollars.

To figure out how much your trip could cost, think about what the purpose of your travels will be and what you would like the experience to include.

Types of genealogy trips

A genealogy trip can be taken entirely on your own or with a dedicated genealogy tour group organized by a tourism company or cruise line.

Often these trips involve retracing your roots and journeying to the far-flung places where your ancestors lived. Some genealogy travelers may even spend time visiting with the descendants of relatives or exploring the cemetery where relatives are buried. It’s also not unusual for genealogy travelers to retrace their ancestor’s emigration journey from one country to another.

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 prepare 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 and community events or festivals for which the destination is known.

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 dress code or basic etiquette rules or speak the local language.

Make a detailed itinerary

The more detailed your itinerary, the less chance unexpected costs’ll blindside you during your travels. Plot 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 research, hiring a professional travel agent specializing in ancestry travel or in the places you want to visit might be worthwhile.

A travel professional specializing in heritage tours will have the most up-to-date information, and they may even have insider knowledge that’s generally only available to locals. 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 to 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.

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, so you don’t have to provide collateral to back them up.

If your credit isn’t stellar, there are travel loans for people 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 far enough in advance of 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 flights, a rental car or a hotel stay.

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 hope to travel for your heritage trip, researching and preparing for the experience financially can help you turn it into a reality.

If your trip costs more than what you have in savings, there are financing options that can help pay for travel. Just keep in mind that if you’re unable to pay your balance off quickly, it could cost you a lot 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
Loans Editor, Former Insurance Editor