In the age of COVID -19 a lot of us have been heading to the great outdoors for some fresh air, new perspectives and of course – social distancing. And for most, that means exploring local or nearby state parks that we were unaware of or quite honestly probably didn’t have the time to frequent.
If you are one of these people – and you have exhausted all of the state and city parks in your vicinity – now is a great time to keep up with your new found love of the outdoors and all its beauty and start exploring national parks.
As luck would have it, I have the perfect company for you to do just that – Austin Adventures. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with the president of Austin Adventures – Kasey Austin. And it’s not just a coincidence that Kasey’s last name is also the name of the company over which she resides – it’s a family owned and operated business.
To get an idea of what Austin Adventures can offer you and your friends and family just pull up a kayak – oops – I mean chair, have a seat and read on.
Company Background: Austin Adventures is a tour operator based in Billings, Montana that offer tours all over the world, but their specialty is the United States and their forte are national parks in the US. The business was created when Kasey and her brother were children, and she has actually been involved since she was six years old. Her father is the founder and CEO, her mom is their head salesperson and her younger brother – though not involved so much in the day to day operations – provides a lot of the photography for their website and brochures – as he has his own photography business. Side note – I have had the pleasure of meeting all of the family except for Mom so hopefully I will get a chance to do so soon!
Austin Adventures focuses is on what are considered luxury adventures and although they are typically soft adventures – i.e. – hiking, kayaking, etc., as opposed to sitting behind the windows of a tour bus and taking it all in – they can also create custom adventures where the sky truly is the limit – think bungee jumping and sky diving just to name a few! In fact, they are always looking for cool ways to see, explore and experience the destination in other words – that WOW factor.
Destinations: Domestically the majority of these adventure occur mostly in the western part of the United States, in national parks. However, Austin Adventures went international about twenty years ago and do have partnerships all over the world that they continue to expand upon. Currently they are operating on all seven continents. And although Europe is definitely a specialty internationally, they also do a lot in South America and Latin America, have a really cool offering in southeast Asia and are growing Africa getting bigger.
Sightseeing and Activities: Austin Adventures has split up their offerings into three buckets of travel as explained below.
- Scheduled Departures: As you may have already guessed – these are set dates. They pretty much run weekly in US with some in Europe and a handful in South America and Latin America. These are the departures you can buy into and typically run with 12 guests although some do go up to 18 guests – such as the Yellowstone and Alaska itineraries. Anyone can book into these scheduled departures – so it may be your family with another family or three or four other families. As for guides on each trip there is a limit of six guests to one guide – which is pretty good in the industry. With the six guests to one guide ratio it offers a lot of flexibility and ensures you will always have someone to wait on you hand on foot and make sure you’re having a good time!
- Exclusive Departures: An exclusive departure is when a group of people take over one of the entire scheduled departures to make it private. So, it will be just your family and/or friends making it your own private getaway. This is very popular – especially so now due to COVID-19 – as it allows you to travel with and stay within your bubble or tribe.
- Customized Departures: You can create your own customized departure via myself and Kasey or you can take an exclusive departure and customize that – so basically you are starting with a scheduled departure that becomes exclusive and then you add or subtract whatever you would like to it. Clear as mud? No? Let’s say you want to take the Banff and Jasper Tour, but you aren’t into horseback riding or rafting but you would love to rock climb. In this example you can swap out those activities you are not interested in with those you are. Another scenario is if you don’t want to do any activities – we can customize it so that you are just sightseeing – walking around and taking in the sites via foot. Truthfully you can customize your adventure anyway you would like to, and Kasey noted that they have done numerous neat customizations over the years. One such occasion was when they had a trust walk which is where you all hold on to the shoulders of the person in front of you and close your eyes as you journey to an unknown spot. Once you arrive, they will have you all open your eyes at once and you will be witnessing an epic lookout that you have never seen before. And that my friends is what they – and I call the WOW factor!
Accommodations: Within the US Austin Adventures typically searches out and uses boutique accommodations which are a high three star or four-star property. When possible and a viable option they will stay inside of a national park. Now as you might guess – it’s pretty tough to get a booking at a property that is that close to the action – in fact the Old Faithful Inn – right in Yellowstone – has to be booked one to two years out if you are an independent traveler and even other tour operators have difficulty getting in. Austin Adventures however have maintained many great partnerships over the years which allows them to offer these fabulous opportunities to stay in the middle of the action.
If it makes sense NOT to stay right inside the park Austin Adventures is always on the look out for cool new options outside of it – such as a cabin from Airbnb. Kasey also mentioned that often guests will choose to extend there stay trip out west and head to a Dude Ranch after their Austin Adventure.
Gastronomy: As in my life – food is a huge part of their tours! They tend to go above and beyond on the food and that is because they give their guides a big food budget and let them go to town. In fact – as per Kasey – it has kind of become a competition among the guides to see who can come up with the coolest lunch ideas! It doesn’t stop at the food either – there’s presentation as well! Lunch is always laid out in a nice fashion with lots of options and they are able to accommodate different dietary request as well. Oh, and lunch is always a hearty meal because on this experience – you need it as fuel! As for dinner that is usually done in the dining room of the accommodation of where you are staying if you are within the park. If you are staying outside of the park, they will always choose a great restaurant where you can order anything you want off the menu. Oh, and the in-between? Don’t worry – snacks are a big thing with them as well!
Type of Traveler: Well adventurers for sure! And outdoorsy types – which there are a lot more of thanks to the pandemic creating new nature lovers! And, as you may have surmised – they widely appeal to family travel. In fact, a lot of these tours were created with little kids in mind thanks to the fact Kasey and her brother grew up in the business. They offer activities that everyone in the family can enjoy – sometimes apart – but always meeting up at end of day to eat and hit the sack.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As each adventure resides in a different location please check with the state or country’s official website in the destination you are interested in visiting for up-to-date entry requirements.
For the CDC’s most up to date information on COVID-19 click here.
Between Kasey and I we will work together with you and your traveling companions to make your adventure as personalized as you would like! And they’ll also be sure to include the WOW factor – as they are always keeping an eye out for really special experiences people remember.
These adventures are truly centered in wellness and are focused on great food and experiences. As Kasey says they explore by day with a nice place to lay your head at night!
For more details on Austin Adventures and its price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!