Pay to Play

Are Guided Trips Worth the Expense?
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The truth about our Montana vacation hit me during our first meal, a picnic lunch outside of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman. I gazed at the spread—fresh green salad, pasta salad, lemonade, apple pie—and felt stunned.

That's because I realized that for the next week I wouldn't need to plan a meal, serve one, or clean up after one. In fact, I wouldn't even need to figure out which restaurant was best. Everything would be taken care of.

And I mean everything.

This was the first day of our guided family trip to Montana. We chose Adventures Plus, one of many "active vacation" tour providers.

We had never been on a guided trip before. Before kids, we designed our own. After all, back then we had plenty of time to pore over guidebooks and cook up exciting agendas, whether we were heading for the Alps or camping in Yosemite.

Since having children, our vacations have mostly been slower-paced and closer to home. When we got the opportunity to head west, we decided it was Bozeman or bust!

How would we like a guided trip, we wondered? Are they worth the money?

Cost: Was the Trip Worth It?
Guided trips aren't cheap. For a family of four, the total cost is $5,932.50. That breaks down to a cost of $1,695 for each adult, plus $1,271.25 for each child, with all sharing the same room each night. This may sound steep, but once our trip began, we practically didn't need our wallets. About the only things the fee doesn't include are airfare, alcohol, specialty coffees, and souvenirs. We were provided with guides, lodging, gourmet meals, bikes and helmets, horseback riding, rafting, water bottles, a gift bag for Will, and more, such as snacks awaiting us in our first motel room. Near the end of our trip, we were asked whether we felt the price was fair. I knew my answer but wondered how Jim would respond. For the record, we are fairly conservative in our spending. "Yes," Jim replied, adding, "This blows away all of our other vacations." In fact, we have our eyes set on an Alaska Family Adventure. Maybe next summer.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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