Where does the peripatetic president of an outfitter best known for cultural immersion tours go on vacation?Tauck World Discovery's Robin Tauck—whose family has been at the helm of the company for 80 years—reveals her dream vacations and a few favorite travel tips.
Where do you go to get away from it all?
I rarely repeat vacation destinations—one of my dreams is to visit every World Heritage Site. I recently took my daughter Colleen to India for three weeks as a high school graduation present. Since we're launching a new trip there next year, it was a great time for us to go and explore. And my husband and I are both turning 50 soon, so we decided to charter a 325-foot ship with friends and family and sail from Venice to Dubrovnik along the Croatian coast. I love sailing more remote coastlines—it's adventurous, but much less grueling than mountain climbing.
What do you always take with you?
A world phone is a must. We operate all over and I need to be available wherever I am. A pair of black pants and a couple of white tops work anywhere. And I always leave room in my bag to add a book of photography, an antique map, or a nautical chart. They're my favorite souvenirs.
Any advice for women travelers?
There's no reason to feel insecure about traveling alone—there are so many options—even if you're going solo. My advice to any woman who's hesitant about doing it would be to join a group. With an all-inclusive guided travel experience, you don't need to coordinate anything or control all the little details, so you're free to be yourself and relax.
What sets a Tauck tour apart from other programs?
We have an extremely high rate of repeat guests, including those who've traveled with Tauck for two or three generations. Some still recall my grandfather hosting them in Nova Scotia, or traveling with my father in western Canada. Tauck is everything that the stereotypical tour is not. No name tags, no tacky group tote bags, no "follow me" umbrellas. It takes more than two years to develop most new trips because we plan and choreograph everything ourselves—it takes more time and money, but our guests get the knowledge, personal attention, and care that they expect.
What's your favorite new tour for 2006?
We're expanding both in our exotic-locale excursions and Tauck At Sea cruises with trips to Japan, Egypt, and the Chilean fjords. Each trip will give an inside view into these fascinating and complex cultures, and provide authentic and engaging local experiences. I'm really excited about our new trip to India that launches in 2006. Our guests will try traditional rice-boating in Kerala and stay at the ultradeluxe Oberoi Palaces in Rajasthan.
Did Tauck Bridges emerge from your own family travels?
Tauck Bridges was the brainchild of another family member, and it evolved out of the special, memorable experiences that we've seen our family and other families enjoy, where children and adults really connect through traveling and learning together. Tauck Bridges lets that happen without the stress usually associated with family travel.
When did Tauck World Discovery develop its volunteer and philanthropic programs?
I'm often a volunteer myself, but I get greater joy from seeing others participate. Five years ago to celebrate our 75th anniversary, we decided to give back to America's National Parks. Last year, 1,600 volunteers joined our Yellowstone National Park programs, and gave their time to 30 preservation projects.
How did you come to be involved in the family business?
My first memories of the company are visiting the Fifth Avenue office in Manhattan as a child—I loved watching the parades from my dad's office. At 16, I began in the mailroom and was a "junior" in the reservations room during school breaks. I left the family business for over five years, which was a great experience and is now a prerequisite for future generations who want to work for the company
How do you keep your business all in the family?
We have regular family meetings on our succession plan, and we always travel together. Our kids know all about the company but are never pushed to join. Operating a family business can be a challenge—only 2 percent make it to the fourth generation—but we're in a good position to beat the odds.
What are your top ten favorite hotels featured on Tauck trips?
1. Schlosshotel Buhlerhohe, Buhl, Germany; 49/722-6550;
2.The InterContinental, Hong Kong; 888/303-1758;
3.Le Royal Meridien Bristol, Warsaw; 800/543-4300;
4.Ashford Castle, Cong, Ireland; 800/269-6044;
5.Silky Oaks Lodge, Mossman, Australia; 800/225-9849;
6.Kirawira Tented Safari Lodge, Tanzania; 255-028/262-1518;
7.Grand Hotel Quisisana, Isle of Capri; 39-081/837-0788;
8.Banff Springs Hotel, Banff, Alberta, Canada; 800/257-7544;
9.Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India; 800/562-3764;
10.The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Honolulu, Haw.; 866/500-8313;
And a sentimental favorite, although it's not technically a hotel:
11. Le Levant, 800/788-7885;
It's the 90-guest French yacht that Tauck charters worldwide and where I had my wedding reception.