Heritage Tour Resources

Midwest adoption heritage tour resources
One way that families created through international adoption celebrate is through heritage tours; trips to the birthcountries of their adoptive children. Families can create their own tours or they can opt for prefabricated tours through agencies that specialize in heritage tours. Two agencies that conduct such tours are:
       -The Ties Program: Adoptive Family Homeland Tours atwww.adoptivefamilytravel.com
       -Dillon International Birthland Tours at www.dillonadopt.com/birthland-tours/
       -Motherland Travel-Custom Heritage Journeys at motherlandtravel.com/
There are other agencies that conduct heritage tours as well.

The upside to conducting a heritage tour through a travel agency is that they take care of all of the details and a group of adoptive families with a common background travel together, fostering the formation of lasting friendships and allowing family members to process with others in a similar situation. The downside to such tours is that it is more difficult (although not impossible) to customize the trip for details specific to each family's situation or desires.

Several families in our group have conducted heritage tours through their own planning, with help from a number of valuable resources. The list below provides some hints and resources for starting to plan your own heritage tour. While the details are specific to India, the ideas can be applied to any country.
  • Purchase travel books from either Rough Guides or Lonely Planet that highlight the region(s) of the country you want to visit. 
  • Ask for help from others who have traveled. For travel to India, you can read the travel blogs of families who have recently traveled:
  • Jon and Sara Fishwild's Return to India at indiafishwild.blogspot.com (December 2014: Kerala, Delhi, Agra)
  • Mary Tredway's Our Indian Adventure at indiatraveljournal.blogspot.com (December 2013: Jodhpur, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mahabaliburim in Tamil Nadu)
  • Paul Mross and Michele Lien's India Trip at lienmross.blogspot.com (December 2013: Jodhpur, Delhi, Kolkata, and Mahabaliburim in Tamil Nadu)
  • Terrence Guolee and Toby Welch's The Return to India at sites.google.com/site/guoleefamilywebsite/return-to-india (December 2008: Delhi, Agra, Gujarat, Kerala)
  • A resource that all four of these families used was Chris Futia. She lived in India for a year as an exchange student when she was a teenager. Since then, she has traveled to India 21 times, both alone and with others. She has led six group tours to India, five of them heritage tours. She was very helpful in providing feedback and suggestions and would be happy to provide the same for other families planning a trip to India. She can be contacted at cfutia@aol.com. Chris has also been gracious enough to provide her Practical Advice from an Experienced Traveler.
  • A final resource that all families used was the Top Communications travel agency based in Mumbai. Mr Bhavin Toprani was exceedingly helpful in procuring bookings, drivers, guides, etc. and keeping daily tabs on the travel itinerary and modifying as desired by the family or as dictated by conditions and they make arrangements for travel in all parts of India. He can be reached at indiatravelite@gmail.com.
  • Get your government documents in order. India travelers will need US passports and Indian tourist visas for all family members. Tourist visas are usually processed within a few weeks of submission, but allow for time to complete the paperwork and collect documents.
  • India travelers will also need to be aware of changing rules regarding renunciation of citizenship. If your child was adopted from India, even if you have formalized US citizenship through the passport process or through a certificate of citizenship, the child still needs to renounce Indian citizenship as dual-citizenship is not legal. Renunciation is not automatic as a result of newly acquired US citizenship and has occurred only if the last Indian passport has a cancellation stamp. As of December 2014, renunciation was required for someone who formerly held an Indian passport but has obtained citizenship elsewhere. Although this process can be done concurrently with the visa application process, it is frustrating to collect and complete the required documentation; the directions provided on the official website are vague at best. This process can take 4 weeks or longer to process once submitted. 
  • Traveler's checks are no longer an option. Many places won't accept them and many banks don't offer them. Make sure you have PIN numbers for your debit and credit cards as well as some cash. ATMs do not always accept a debit card and often don't allow the cash amount initially requested.
  • Credit can be spotty in India depending upon where you travel. Many local shops in Kerala, for example, would not accept credit cards or would claim their "lines are down." It is best to ask businesses up front if they accept credit and take your business elsewhere if they say no (unless you are willing to pay in cash).
  • Many hotels cannot accomodate larger families in one room. Our family of four, 2 adults and 2 teen children, usually had to book 2 rooms to have acceptable sleeping arrangements.