In this moment of national reflection, as more and more American consumers come to realize the value of experience over things, the decisions of what to get that special someone for Christmas or Hanukkah, or a birthday, or anniversary, can seem not only daunting, but surreal. With everything from houses to wardrobes to attention spans getting smaller, (“keep what gives you joy” donate the rest) who wants another kitchen gadget or, sad to say, a physical paper book? (I am only allowed a new book if I give away an old one.)
Enter Tauck, a premium experience tour company, located right here in Wilton Connecticut. Shop local, think global. It’s all worked out.
Tauck helped popularize the tourism industry when founder, Arthur C.Tauck realized he could take “tourists” (a term that did not yet exist) along on his sales calls throughout the Northeastern United States and educate them, as he had educated himself, about what they were seeing. As their website tells us,”For one all-inclusive price he [Tauck] would provide all the necessities. Guests would stay in the best hotels and see the top sights. When the customers were on their own, he would make his sales calls to local clients.”
According to Jennifer Tombaugh, Tauck’s president for the past six years, the culture of the Tauck family and what’s important to them (imbuing trust, doing the right thing, innovating) directly contributes to both the work environment at their wooded campus in Wilton, CT. “Every workspace has light and scenery,” to the wellness of their employees to their tours. “Travel is the world’s classroom. There is no better gift to give your kids,” states Tombaugh. She should know, having just returned from Tanzania where she watched her children’s eyes grow wide as a Maasai man showed them his humble 15 metre hut (Nomadic by nature, the Maasai build their homes to be temporary, from materials in the surrounding environment) and asked what their own house was like.
Tauck prides itself on access. They aim to provide unique and authentic experiences for their guests. If you’re up for it, they want you, their guests, to experience a deep dive into another culture to get you out of your own head and into another’s. “It’s digging deeper into locations, finding local people, to connect... that moves molecules.” Tombaugh says, “What the world needs now is a better understanding of each other. I really believe the world could be a more peaceful place through travel and understanding.”
The other thing Tauck prides itself on is attention to detail. In the tradition of their founder, they are an all-inclusive tour company. You won’t find yourself putting your hand in your pocket during your journey unless you want to buy something personal and special to take home. “Prices can be deceiving,” says Tombaugh. --Tauck is geared toward an affluent traveler who wants a premium experience (most accommodations are four-five star, but chosen more for the experience Tauck wishes to give you than for price) -- “but when weighed upon all the hidden costs of some other tours, you may find yourself coming out ahead.”
“How much of a journey should be planned?” I ask Ms. Tombaugh, to which she replies, “It’s a delicate choreography that we are constantly refining. We’re seeing more and more that people want choice and we try to give that to them.” Like any good story, there is something to be said for the curated experience. You will be given two or three choices, not five or seven. That would be too stressful and the story would not land.
Tauck is centered on story. The story of place and people. That’s why, in 2009, Tauck reached out to filmmaker Ken Burns to form a partnership and design tours that mirrored his documentary film, “The National Parks, America’s Best Idea.” Tauck has been working with the National Parks since they were founded, so it was a natural fit. Together with Burns and writer, Dayton Duncan, they designed several tours intended to connect Americans with the land they love. The Mythic West Tour immerses you in the legends and lore of the American West, Ken Burns style, as you travel through America’s first National Park, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons, accompanied by filmed vignettes by Burns and Duncan as well as lectures by local Native peoples and artists. You can also be a voluntourist with Tauck and give back to some of the places you have visited, such as Grand Teton National Park, through their “impact” program. If you’re worried about taking your kids along, Tauck’s “Bridges Family Tours” takes the stress out of that equation.
I once saved a certain amount of money each payday for a trip I planned to take to Scotland. Each payday I would buy however many travelers cheques I could afford and stash them away, all the while reading about Scotland and planning my trip. Once in awhile, I would spring for a compass or a backpack, or some clever traveler item. Travelers’ cheques have gone by the wayside, but I can replace this technique using Tauck’s online trip planner and travelers blog and by opening up a travel savings account at my local credit union.
I’ll put away however much I can this holiday and every payday and, by next year, I’ll have been somewhere and experienced someplace new. Merry Christmas family, this is what you’re getting: a future experience and a brochure, and a used book.