Heritage Travel Comes of Age

A Guest Post by Thomas MacEntee


There comes a time in our lives when the need to learn more about our ancestors “kicks in.” The timing is different for everyone, but one component of the discovery process that more and more people are embracing is the concept of heritage travel. Making a trip, or a series of trips, back to the land of our ancestors can bring meaning to family history and actually change the way we look at not only ourselves but also travel.


Trip Savvy – This Is Not Your Grandfather’s Travel

Our ancestors may have crossed the ocean on a ship or across America in a covered wagon, but our own travel has become much easier in the 21st century. Not only can we get from point A to point B faster and in comfort, but consider all the “tools” at our disposal to enjoy the trip and preserve the memories.

We live in an age when we not only can take photos and videos with our smartphones, but actually use them to plan a heritage trip. Take a look at Pinterest and you’ll see some amazing resources including apps to find the best airplane seat or how to keep a travel journal.

I’m sure you’re tired of hearing, “There’s never been a better time . ..” but it is true when it comes to travel. So pack your suitcase (or valise as my grandparents would say) and plan your next trip to a place where your ancestors lived.

Tips and Tricks for Planning Heritage Travel

Here are some ideas to consider when planning your next trip with a focus on family history:

    • Travel Solo or With Someone? Whether you decide to go it alone or with one or more fellow travelers is up to you. Take some time to understand what type of traveler you are (Bare bones? Adventurous? Pampered?) and whether you’ll be a good fit with others.
    • Plan Early. Now is the time to start looking at Spring 2014 travel and beyond. This doesn’t mean you can’t make a trip now. In fact, you should always have a bag packed and ready to go for those last minute specials that pop up!
    • Set Goals. Many travelers make a list of the “must see” or “must experience” places on a trip. The same can be true for a heritage trip: seeing your great-grandparents farm, visiting the stores where they shopped etc. Make a list and prioritize the stops.
    • Call Ahead. Travel books and even websites can only help you so much. Imagine the disappointment if you tried to visit a historical site only to find it closed? Make sure you use the phone and email to ensure that you’ll be able to experience those “must see” places.
    • Be Flexible. Stuff happens. Have a back-up plan and also plan for emergencies. Make sure family members know where you will be and how to reach you.
  • Collect and Preserve. You’ll have great experiences on your heritage trip, but how will you share them with others? You may need to plan ahead to make sure you can preserve the best moments of the trip. Download any apps you need and make sure you have all the tools required for capturing photos and more.


Travel With Purpose and Meaning

How do you describe to a friend or even a stranger, what it was like to visit the places where your ancestors lived, worked and laid the foundation for your being here? You won’t know until you make that journey yourself.
I can’t predict everything that may happen on your own heritage journey, but I have a pretty good idea: the trip will pass all too quickly and you’ll want to preserve every moment so you can savor it again and again.

© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

About Thomas MacEntee

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Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogy research and as a way to connect with others in the family history community. He is the author of Family History Trippin’: A Guide to Planning a Genealogy Research Trip available at Amazon.

When he’s not busy writing blog posts, organizing the 3,000+ members of GeneaBloggers.com, teaching online genealogy webinars and more, Thomas is busy in his role as “genealogy ninja.” Stealth is not easy, but he manages to get the inside track on emerging technologies and vendors as they relate to the genealogy industry. After being laid off from a 25-year career in the tech industry in 2008, Thomas has been able to “repurpose” his skill set for the genealogy community and loves to see other genealogists succeed, whether it is with their own research or building their own careers in the field.

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