Travel

The 10 Commandments of Heritage Travel

Things to know before you go.


1. UNDERSTAND YOUR HISTORY.

It’s one thing to get a DNA test; it’s another to really dig into your family tree. Before you even start mapping out your trip, talk with older relatives, consult immigration records, and research your homeland.

2. HAVE A GOOD GROUND GAME.

Connecting with your roots often involves exploring unfamiliar terrain off the beaten path from the usual tourist attractions—so make sure you hook up with a local guide.

3. LEARN THE ETIQUETTE.

Just because your great-grandparents lived there doesn’t make you a local. Understanding the cultural norms of your country of origin ahead of time will make for a much smoother trip.

4. PLAY TO YOUR CROWD.

Intergenerational trips are fun—if you know how to plan them right. If you’re traveling with an older parent or young children, be sensitive to how long the days are and how much everyone can realistically enjoy before exhaustion kicks in.

5. FIND THE LOCAL SPECIALTY.

From cheese to ceramics, every region has a unique item that’ll make you feel closer to the culture. But don’t just go by the guidebook: Chat up the locals to get their recommendations for the best of the best.

6. DON’T FORCE IT.

Looking forward to dropping in on a few of your long-lost relatives? Not everyone will be as excited to meet you as you are to meet them—and that’s okay. Respect family members’ wishes to keep their history to themselves.

7. GIVE BACK.

Asking your travel guide to arrange a volunteering activity with a local organization is a good way to leave a little bit of yourself behind in the place that made you who you are.

8. BE MORE THAN A CAMERAPERSON.

As hard as it may be not to post every last bite of food and stunning landscape on social media, try to stay in the moment. Your Insta captions can wait till you’re back in Boston.

9. DO ONE THING ALONE.

This trip is about you, after all, so make time to fully immerse yourself in the land of your ancestors—whether that means grabbing a corner table at a café or attending a service at a historical church.

10. MAKE TIME FOR LEISURE.

It’s easy to jam-pack every day with cultural excursions and family reunions, but remember: This is still a vacation. Catching some rays by the pool isn’t just acceptable; it’s encouraged.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Heritage Travel Journey