When Private Travel Is Right

​​For a unique set of reasons and experiences, group heritage travel is most often best for adoptees and those supporting them, but for a subset of adoptees and their loved ones sometimes private or semi-private travel is the right choice. 

What exactly is private and semi-private travel?

If you and your loved ones would like a travel plan created just for your group, that is private travel. This could be anywhere from just the adoptee to an adoptee, parents, siblings, aunt, uncles, and friends (we’ve helped plan for groups of one to fifteen, but we’ve found 5 – 8 people is the sweet spot for these groups). 

If there are two or more adoptees and their loved ones that would like to travel together on a program created exclusively for the those involved, that is semi-private travel. This might be two adoptees that were in the same orphanage in China and have known each other all their lives. Or adoptees that are cousins by adoption and both families desire to travel together. Or a group of adult adoptees from a specific area or region that want an experience just for them. 

When private or semi-private might be the right choice for you:

You set the pace: For a variety of reasons – medical, emotional, and/or logistical – the adoptee or loved ones might need a different pace than what a group setting affords. Sometimes dynamics when private travel might be the best option are:

  • A family member is a wheelchair user, has other health issues, or is a small child (who usually needs more play time than most group trips allow), and you want to make sure that person/those people are able to participate in all the activities and want a slower pace (our group trips do our best to accommodate those with mobility differences but we’re not always able to do so due to challenges presented by a lack of accessibility regulations in many countries outside the U.S).
  • Those traveling in your group have a unique set of experiences, such as a death after an adoption of a sibling of the adoptee traveling that requires more individual and family processing and experience than a group heritage journey provides.
  • You need to travel sooner than our next group trip or the country of origin is not a country where Ties runs regular group trips.
  • You’ve done a Ties Heritage trip to the country of origin in the past and want to do something different this time (although we have many, many families who do our Ties trips over and over again because they love them so much!).
  • There’s a big group of you, say three generations with grandparents, aunts, uncles and young kids.

These are just a few of many reasons why private or semi-private travel might be a good option. As highlighted by Amy Oakley, a parent who traveled privately to Vietnam in 2018, “the flexibility to plan our travel at the best time for our schedule was great and it allowed for a little bit more flexibility where we could plan some activities and days that worked best for our particular interests as a family”. If you are unsure whether a private or semi-private trip is suitable for the adoptee and their loved ones, we encourage you to reach out to our staff. Our experts can provide personalized guidance to help you weigh the possibilities and consider the dynamics and experiences of those traveling with you.

Increased flexibility: This goes hand-in-hand with “you set the pace.” Maybe you like to wander around a little village and explore on your own for days on end. Or you just HAVE to walk into every kimchi shop you see and you don’t want to worry about losing the group when you do that wandering. Or you want to spend several days with your biological family and you can’t do that on our group trips for some reason (Note: Generally speaking we don’t recommend this for a first reconnection visit with birth family, but sometimes it’s a great option for subsequent reconnection visits). All of these are valid reasons why you might need increased flexibility when you travel. All that being said, increased flexibility comes with less support (see less support in-country in “Considerations when choosing private or semi-private travel” below).

More time as a support group: Maybe you want to largely connect or reconnect with loved ones who are traveling with you (Psst…for how to build your support group, check out our blog post “Questions Adoptees Should Ask When Choosing Travel Companions for a Heritage Journey”) and you don’t want to be distracted by other adoptees and their loved ones. Sometimes that’s the best choice, and that’s okay. Reflecting on his family’s 2018 private trip to Vietnam, Jackson Oakley, an adoptee, shared his experience: “We had an outstanding guide who translated for us wherever we went and assisted with transport, from Ho Chi Minh City to Rach Gia. Having that dedicated time with just my family was really special. I experienced a range of emotions with my adoptive family and the extended (biological) family we were able to find. We all have wonderful memories and will always cherish our time together, including our moments with my family in Vietnam and our personal guide.” Rest assured, we are here to support you every step of the way and ensure that your private or semi-private heritage journey is an exceptional and meaningful experience.

Considerations when choosing private or semi-private travel

Less support in-country: Our team staffs group trips with experts in adoption, often adoptees themselves, who understand the unique challenges adoptees and their loved ones face. While our in-country guides can assist with practical matters like finding antidiarrheal medication or locating health clinics, they are not equipped to help with the complex emotions surrounding adoption, identity, birth family, and other topics specific to the adoption experience that often arise during a heritage journey. Amy Oakley, who traveled to Guatemala with her adopted daughters and experienced both private and group trips, reflected on the profound value of community and connection during their group travel. Amy shared, “the community, connection and comfort of being with other families who were also experiencing life as we were was such a wonderful gift to us last summer.”

So what IS included in private and semi-private travel? 

Our process prior to travel is similar to when you travel with a group (although you have a bigger role in planning the itinerary). Just like our group trips, our staff will help you think about the reactions you are most likely to have and feel before, during, and after travel. We’ll help you decide if the time is right to travel, the pros and cons of search and reunion, and many, many more issues as they come up.

Our private and semi-private travel options typically include*:

  • Pre-travel materials, full of helpful information on how to prepare both logistically and emotionally for the journey ahead
  • International airfare assistance (although many book online through airlines and frequent flyer programs, and that’s fine too)
  • In-country airline tickets, rail, boat tickets, and transportation throughout your stay
  • Welcome and transfer to hotel upon arrival and departure
  • Hotel reservations
  • In-country, English speaking guide(s)/translator(s)
  • Sightseeing and meals
  • Permissions and appointments to travel to the adoptees region of birth, orphanage, place of founding, and other important places to the adoptee.
  • Help locating caregivers, directors, and other people of importance.
  • Birth family search and reunion, handled with the extreme care necessary to honor the sensitivities of the situation (Note: the process and ability to search for birth family varies greatly by country).

Cost (could be +/-): The cost of private and semi-private heritage journeys can vary greatly depending on the needs of those traveling, the length of travel, itinerary built, and the quality of in-country transportation, and lodging. Sometimes it costs more. Other times, less than our group trips. With group travel, for example, the cost of transportation and the in-country guide is spread out over the entire group. With private and semi-private travel, the cost of private transportation and guides are divided by a much smaller group of people, which can make it more costly. Activities can also be more costly because group discounts aren’t provided. On the other hand, you can choose to stay for shorter periods of time (say five days instead of the seven to fourteen days our group heritage journeys usually are), or in less expensive hotels. The costs really depend on the trip you want to do.

Have you decided a private or semi-private heritage journey is right for you? Here are the next steps.

To get started, reach out to us and include the following (or what you know so far):

  • When you are hoping to travel
  • Number of adults and children (under 18) traveling and their relationship to each other
  • The duration of the trip
  • Activities/locations on your wishlist 
  • Estimated budget for the trip
  • Preferred accommodations (hotels, short-term rental, hostels)
  • Level of amenities at accommodations (premium, comfort, budget)
  • Occupancy in accommodations (single, double, triple occupancy, for example)
  • Medical or special needs you’d need us to accommodate
  • Any additional information or requests you would like us to know

After receiving your email, we’ll respond, likely with a few questions to better understand your preferences. We’ll also provide you with a registration form that requires a nominal fee to initiate the planning process. 

Once your registration form is in, we will outline a day-by-day schedule, including the things we understand you would like included. At the same time, we may need to ask you for some additional information. Working in partnership with you, we will pass the schedule back and forth, talk on the phone as needed, with the goal of arriving at a schedule to your liking. 

Once we’ve agreed on a loose itinerary, we will send the schedule to our overseas colleagues for pricing, and in turn, send you a summary of your schedule and pricing, along with payment details.

Still unsure if private, semi-private, or group travel is right for you? Reach out to our experts, we’re happy to walk you through the options.

*Items are dependent on the trip you plan with our team

2 Comments on “When Private Travel Is Right”

  1. I am planning a private trip with my son who was adopted from Guatemala. We would like to travel during a non-hot or non-rainy season in 2026. He will be 18 or 19 by then. He was born in Santa Catarina Pinula. I do not know whether his biological mother would want contact, but I have her name. If possible, we would like to connect with his foster mother who we had talked to on the phone, but lost touch with.
    My son is type 1 diabetic and needs medicine/shots with each meal.
    We would like comfort to premium level hotel accomodations with a pool.
    The duration would be 4 to 5 days in country and I have younger children at home to get back to.
    Unsure of budget at the moment.

    1. Hello Nicole,
      Good to hear from you.
      We have experience working with travelers who have all sorts of special requirements. I sent your information along to Rebecca, who is our Guatemala specialist, who will reach out to you about options in Guatemala.

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