Interested in a DNA vacation? Better read this first

Interested in a DNA vacation? Read this first

When Richard Hill set out to find his biological parents, he didn’t expect he would wind up on a DNA vacation. But when his DNA test results came in, he hit the road.

“Within weeks, my wife and I drove from Grand Rapids to Houston,” remembers Hill, who wrote about his experience in a book, “Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA.”

Among the highlights: visiting the ranch near Coldspring, Tex., settled by his great-grandfather in 1859, which is still owned and operated by one of his cousins. Hill also saw the foundation of his great-grandfather’s cabin and his headstone in the nearby cemetery.

“This provided a real sense of place for my previously unknown roots,” he says.

Is a DNA vacation in your future?

DNA-inspired vacations are growing. Tour operators, cruise lines, hotels and, of course, the DNA testing services are catering to travelers who want to find their roots. But the journey can be expensive and frustrating, as I learned.

EF Go Ahead Tours recently began offering packages designed to take travelers on a journey into their personal histories. The trips combine’s DNA test results, help from a team of in-house genealogists and a traditional tour. The tours focus on Western Europe, including Ireland, Germany and Italy.

Several cruise lines are hosting genealogy-themed sailings. Cunard’s November “A Journey of Genealogy” cruise on the Queen Mary 2 will host seminars to help passengers discover their family trees, and there’s a post-voyage Ellis Island and New York Ancestral Trail excursion. Royal Caribbean has an “Unlock the Past” Alaskan cruise on the Explorer of the Seas (Sept. 7) that includes heritage seminars and an optional full-day land conference in Seattle featuring leading DNA and British Isles experts.

The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin has its own “genealogy butler” who can help you unravel the threads of your Irish family history. A one-hour consultation, which costs 140 euros (about $163), will assess the information on your family’s Irish emigrants and draw up a practical research plan for tracing your Irish ancestors in Dublin.

Many tour operators and travel agencies also specialize in heritage-based travel, including companies such as European Focus, Heritage Tours — which offers Morocco, Turkey, Africa, Israel and Jordan in addition to its several European destinations — and Your Travel Services.

How to trace your ancestry through your DNA

If you’re interested in finding out more about your ancestral homeland, a DNA hook can make your next vacation more meaningful. But if you take one of the commercially available DNA tests from or, they can be maddening.

I know about this firsthand. On a recent visit to Salt Lake City, I stumbled upon the Family History Library, where one of the helpful missionaries showed me how to build a family tree online. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers a free online tool at, which lets you trace your ancestry.

I decided to dig further. I took several DNA tests, all of which revealed I had British, Greek and Ukrainian heritage. That intrigued me even more. What if I could visit those places and introduce my children to their long-lost relatives? What would they have in common? And what would they say to each other?

Climbing the family tree is easier said than done. While the British side of my family is traceable back to the 900s, I ran into major obstacles in Greece, thanks to the Greek revolution of the early 19th century, and in Ukraine, courtesy of World War II. I spent so much time researching my lineage in Salt Lake City that my family thought I was considering a career switch to genealogy. In the end, though, I could narrow my search only to Kovel, Ukraine, and Sparta, Greece. If I tried to visit either town at this point, I would just end up wandering the streets aimlessly.

Do your research

The key to a successful “finding your roots” vacation is doing your research and setting your expectations.

The Family History Library has some free resources online, and you can visit the library in person. The volunteer researchers offer guidance on where to look for your lost relatives but generally won’t conduct research for you. offers professional help with prices starting at about $2,000. You can also find an independent genealogist through the Association of Professional Genealogists, which can refer you to a professional who can assist with research. Rates vary.

Sometimes, the results can be dramatic. Eunan Smyth, an Irish tour guide for CIE Tours International, remembers one customer who found his grandfather’s house on her tour.

“It was still being occupied by a family with the same surname,” she says. “And when he knocked on the door and told them that, they brought him in and showed him photographs of his grandfather and great-grandfather. That man came back to us with a tear in his eye, because he went home.”

Hitting DNA dead ends

But that’s the exception. Hill, the author, points out that it took decades to find his birth family. And as he scaled his tree, he also hit a dead end when he traced his father’s lineage to a man born in 1742 in Virginia.

“DNA testing has led me to many distant cousins descended from the same man,” he says. “But the courthouse in the county where he was born was one of many burned by the Union Army in the Civil War. All the records are lost, and none of my distant cousins have been able to identify his parents.”

I know what that’s like. Welcome to the Brick Wall Club. But fixating on a lost relative may make you miss the big picture.

Maybe it’s not about finding a distant cousin or a family farm. Instead, maybe it’s about visiting a place you’ve never been and seeing something you recognize in the people you meet.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend