Planning A Family History Vacation

There is a lot of pleasure in planning any trip.  I thought I would take a look at what’s out there for those who love researching family history. Quite the surprise to find lots of activities to consider. I need to have an idea where I want to go before I can arrange the rest. It’s winter here, and I’m wanting a summer vacation this year 2023. Too many conferences to think of listing and not so sure I want one. However, here’s one I find interesting:


Terri OConnell is offering a New England Cruise this fall for Family Historians from her website. Don’t know her,  but this trip catches my attention. Sailing from Boston to Quebec City for seven nights on the Holland America Lines. On board will be a genealogy conference. Lot of ports to visit during the days including: Bar Harbor, Halifax, Sydney; Charlottetown; and Quebec City.

Cabins start at $1,659 ($237 a night), and genealogist is David Allen Lambert. Conference a bit extra cost. I’ll give this one serious thought. I’d probably want to visit Grosse Island where hundreds of ships arrived during the Irish Famine, but could do that afterwards. There are Gillespie children buried on that island. I think of those grieving  parents, so full of hope when they left Ireland, but forced to leave their babies they just buried, almost immediately,  once their ship passed health inspection.

It would be Boston that I might enjoy the most, having never been there. The movie,  Far and Away, starring Nichole Kidman and Tom Cruise, focused on the struggles of the Irish in the 1800s  arriving at Boston, and the longing for their own land.

What about a simple three-day trip in the area where one lives?  My Dad left home when he was about 15, and got work on a boat going up and down the Rideau Canal. It links Ottawa with Kingston here in Ontario, Canada.  I’ve been thinking why not do that trip, as I remember my Dad. He married in Erie, Pennsylvania. I could drive there and see if I can find the house where they lived. I found them on USA Census.

I have also discovered that I can take a train from Toronto, here in Ontario,  for a day trip to New York City, stopping briefly at the US border. Lots of Canadians enjoy shopping in Buffalo.  Spend a day or two exploring New  York  where the train ends. Hotels pricey. Then board Amtrax train service from New York City and enjoy a day travelling  north through the countryside of New York State (13 hours) to Montreal, Quebec. It has just reopened after the Pandemic.

Lots to see in this historic city, especially the famous cemetery and view. A Via Train will take you swiftly through the Ontario countryside back to Toronto,  with a free snack on board. $500 for train costs, and $500  for everything else is a simple holiday for a $1,000 I am considering. That’s current prices in March 2023 and may climb closer to summer travel and additional accommodation and food costs. The train trips can be done in reverse direction of course.  Meals available on board,  and culinary delights await,  exploring  in the city that never sleeps. Another train  could take one to Washington, DC from NYC, so one can widen the adventure in many directions.  Just need to update my passport, get someone to care for my garden while away, and have fun fine-tuning the details.

Oh yes, my son and wife are off to Thailand for 12 days the first week of April. They fly over the Atlantic and Africa to land in Yemen, about 200 miles south of Dubai in the Middle East. The final flight take them across India to land in Bangkok for the adventure of a lifetime.

I remember mine, London to India overland in 1968, That is 55 years ago before war erupted and destroyed much of what I saw. We travelled by land in a truck before there were many roads, even none sometimes.  I remember fording rivers, surviving mountain trails at night, running ahead of the vehicle at dawn for the pure pleasure of it, laughing with others. Later,  I hid in a broom closet to escape the violence of a mob. Adventure?  Oh yeh.  Let’s challenge ourselves this year to have the best time of our lives.

I haven’t visited my Dad’s grave in many years, so maybe a day trip to the west end of the City of Toronto could happen. There is a famous restaurant near that cemetery I would love to visit for a specialty meal. Lots of historical places to visit in Toronto. Years ago I lived in the city on two occasions. I used to bike all the way from the Lakeshore beaches to Allan Gardens, and one would hardly know I was in a Metropolitan city because of the gorgeous trees, shrubs and flowers.

I am a gardener, and blending that with genealogy makes an even better vacation. A dream vacation for me would be returning to England to visit its great gardensm  and doing a little family history sleuthing on the side.

Planning Stage:

Since prices  leap in summer, book your flights as soon as possible.  Otherwise, set a notification on flights you like, so  price drops will be emailed to to your inbox. Wait too long and they may not drop at all. Just know the baseline price, and go from there. Prices change every week. You can save a bit if you stay over a weekend, and consider flying on certain days, like Tuesday.

Never fly on the same day you expect to leave on a cruise, for example because of delays and cancellations. I like to arrive even two days earlier so I can do a city tour, etc. You can hire a company to take care of all details for an itinerary, as my son and his wife did for their honeymoon in Europe. A wonderful trip, but he soon learned to use Uber taxis in Italy. They still think Santorini Island, Greece was the highlight.

Different focus for different folk, as it has limited appeal to me. I’d be off looking for tombstones somewhere, or visiting museums and historical sites. I’d be exploring little shops and trying another culinary experience. I always go on a  guided tour of the area where I am visiting,  and enjoy chatting with local folk.  I love train travel the best of all. All these experiences broadens one’s horizon and experiences.

Choose accommodation soon  and get it booked, after scanning over the Internet what is available in the area where you are going.  All types of rooms fill up fast for the summer months. Read the reviews, as they help  me a lot. Check the deposit rates if renting a vehicle, as it may have doubled. Here in Ontario, companies are now insisting on a minimum three- day rental or more. It costs a lot more if you want to drop off a vehicle somewhere else than from where you rented it. There may be an upper age limit to rent a vehicle in some places, like Britain, but you may be able to get around that. Carry an International Driver’s License with photo. I get mine at CAA,

As senior, I have to think of the weight of everything I have to carry, and how far I have to walk. Safety is also a concern for a female, especially if travelling alone. I never take stairs, so is there a working elevator?  What about air conditioning?  You do not always get what you are used to  at home.  I got a glowing report on the internet about a place on the ocean in Mexico,  but when we got there with our young children, my husband tried to turn on the cool air and discovered the electrical chord wasn’t even attached to the air conditioner. Fortunately, there was a lovely breeze as we opened the shutters on the windows, and the pool was lovely.

I remember the frustration in Mexico trying to find a hotel with a bath tub for my children. When I asked locals for recommendations,  they sent me all over the place, not wanting to let me know they didn’t have a clue. I came home convinced I would make a fortune opening a laundry business in Mexico. There weren’t any laundromats. Hotels charged a fortune, and hand washing clothes wouldn’t dry before we had to leave.  I expect others have figured  this,  too, and improvements have been made in these two key areas for a traveller, but I won’t be going there again.

Not everyone in a family may appreciate a vacation with genealogy as a focus. So try to blend it with something else for the main interest of the person who is going with you. Have occasional breaks from each other from time to time. What about a fashion show that the wifey might really love,  while you go the Archives to chase some records? It is better to find things to do together,  of course,  but once in awhile doing something you both love can create a happier day.  Of course, vacations should fit those involved, and each family will have their own pattern of how they like to do things.

When thinking of a gift for Christmas, I bought my son a drone with camera. He’s planning on taking it with him this July when he goes to Europe.  The boys are practicing using it, too.

Cameras can be simple,  as the one on a cell phone. Adding a tripod and movie camera might open up an opportunity to make a movie for a U-tube channel when you get home.  Pleasure, and adding to your pocket book can go hand in hand on a vacation for u-tubers, although most of us experience the opposite. Be sure and record memories of your vacation because memories become more and more important as life goes by.