Our most frequently asked questions are answered below.
How do the 8, 10 or 12-day options work?
The core program is offered as an 8- or 10-day experience. The 8-day experience ends as we arrive to Tel Aviv on Thursday evening (no overnight in Tel Aviv is included). The 10-day core experience includes touring in the Tel Aviv region on the final Friday and Saturday, including two overnights at a beach-side hotel in Tel Aviv*. An optional two-day Eilat & Petra Extension is offered at the end of both the 8- or 10-day program. *Although not formally offered, a 9-day core program is possible including a full day of touring in Tel Aviv on Friday. Contact us for additional details.
Who staffs the tour?
The program is led by an experienced, licensed Israeli guide who is with the group on a 24/7 basis. Your guide will be fluent in English and deeply knowledgeable about the history, culture, environment and landscapes of Israel. Our guides are charismatic educators with an expertise in informal education -- many of them also guide our BBYO teen groups. If your group has over 25 travelers, your tour will also be accompanied by an Israeli counselor who focuses on the experience of younger participants and provides additional support to the group in general. Finally, our travel takes place on a large, comfortable, air conditioned bus with a dedicated driver NOTE: The Eilat Extension is generally not escorted.
How active is the touring?
Because we want you to get the most out of your time in Israel, our touring days are full, and there is quite a bit of travel by foot. While none of the walks are strenuous, you will find at the end of the day that you have taken a large number of steps! Additionally, the weather in Israel is warm, particularly in the summer, and the sun is more intense than you may be used to at home. Where necessary, we will adjust the itinerary for your comfort, and you'll find that most days have opportunities to cool down with swimming or getting wet in general.
How can I incorporate a Bar or Bat Mitzvah as part of the experience?
Traveling to Israel as a family is an especially meaningful way to mark a child's coming of age. There will be a brief ceremony led by our staff in the Galilee to mark the occasion for those who wish to participate (scheduled during free time). No preparation is required before the tour, and there is no extra cost. If you are interested in organizing a more involved ceremony, there are opportunities to do so before, during or after the tour. Contact us for planning advice and if you wish to be referred to a local rabbi who can design and lead a ceremony that fits your own family's vision. Finally, keep in mind that becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is simply about reaching this milestone age. No ceremony is required by Jewish law, and for many families the mere act of traveling through the Land of Israel together is the most appropriate way to celebrate this happy occasion. Mazal tov!
What's the age composition of the group?
Groups are comprised of couples traveling without children, solo adults and families traveling with children. Because of the active nature of the program, children traveling with their parents are typically age 8 or older. Group sizes typically range from 15-40, and average group size is 25-30 travelers.
How is this a Jewish experience?
Israel Family Journey is a pluralistic Jewish travel experience open to all. Group meals are kosher, and there is no bus-based touring on Shabbat. The program is unaffiliated with any specific religious organization or approach. Travelers on Israel Family Journey arrive with varying degrees of Jewish affiliation, and non-Jewish family members and friends are welcomed. Our goal is to provide a complete first-time experience in Israel through the lens of Jewish history and identity.
How much of a group experience is this?
Our goal for the program is to create a sense of community among individual travelers – with participants gaining lasting new friendships and a richer experience as a result. There are also ample opportunities for personal exploration during the tour. In particular, Saturdays are designed to be less structured, and no programming is mandatory on any day. Participants are encouraged to arrive in Jerusalem earlier or stay in Tel Aviv longer to explore even more on their own. Group hotel reservations can be extended accordingly.
How all-inclusive is the experience?
In short, you're responsible for arranging your own flights to and from Israel, and we take care of most everything else! The program covers two meals a day, all touring, a fantastic staff team, accommodations including luggage porterage, deluxe motorcoach transportation, and round trip airport transfers on the arrival day and on the last night of the program (see below for details). You'll be responsible for one meal a day, any specialty beverages at group meals and staff gratuities.
How are special dietary needs accommodated?
Be sure to note any special dietary needs as part of your registration. We will coordinate with our hotel and restaurant meal providers to arrange special accommodations as necessary. We make a good faith effort to accommodate food allergy considerations, however, we can not make absolute guarantees on behalf of our meal providing partners.
What's the suggested staff gratuities?
It is customary in Israel to tip the Israeli guide and driver at the end of the program. As a rule of thumb, $100 per adult traveler is appropriate – or in the shekel equivalent. We recommend splitting that amount – 1/3 for the driver (~$35) and 2/3 for the guide (~$65). Although not customary, foyou may also provide a gratuity to the Israeli counselor who joins groups of at least 25 travelers. Gratuities for hotel staff and wait staff at group meals are already included in the cost of the program.
How do I get ready for the trip?
Detailed pre-trip material and program luggage tags are distributed approximately three months prior to arrival. You'll also be invited to a trip Facebook group to connect with fellow travelers before the program and stay in touch afterwards.
How should I arrange my travel to and from Israel?
Here are some basic guidelines for planning your travel to/from Israel. Do not hesitate to contact us
if you have any questions or for advice on booking flights. TRAVEL TO ISRAEL
Participants are responsible for arranging their own air travel to/from Israel All travelers arriving to Ben Gurion Airport by 4:15pm on the first day of the program are entitled to a VIP greeting and complimentary transfer to our Jerusalem hotel Those travelers arriving to Ben Gurion Airport by 12:00pm on the first day of the program can take part in a guided tour of the City of David archeological complex Those travelers arriving before the first day or after 4:15pm on the first day can receive the same greeting and airport transfer service for an additional fee depending on the size of the party (note: the cost off a standard taxi to Jerusalem is $80-$100)
Travelers arriving to Ben Gurion Airport after 4:15pm on the first day of the program will likely miss the welcome dinner and programming this evening and will be responsible for their own transportation to the restaurant Those travelers arriving to Israel early (which we recommend for acclimating in advance) can be accommodated by prior arrangement at the Mount Zion Hotel in Jerusalem based on our group rates. TRAVEL FROM ISRAEL
At the end of the core program (Thursday or Saturday night), participants will be escorted back to Ben Gurion Airport in time for overnight flights departing between 10:30pm and 1:00am the next day. No hotel is included this evening unless arranged separately. Participants booked on return flights outside of this window can be accommodated with an airport transfer by special arrangement, and additional fees will apply (note: taxis from Tel Aviv to Ben Gurion Airport are inexpensive, ubiquitous, and reliable).
Those travelers extending their stay in Tel Aviv can be accommodated at the Crowne Plaza Beach Hotel based on our group rates.
What about arranging flights after the Eilat Extension?
For those taking part in the Eilat Extension, we will arrange your connecting domestic flight from Eilat back to Tel Aviv according to your international departure time from Ben Gurion Airport. In some cases the flight from Eilat will be to Ben Gurion Airport and in other cases it will be to Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv. If the latter is the case, your transfer from Sde Dov to Ben Gurion Airport is included. We encourage you to book an international flight that departs between 10:30pm and 1:00am the next day. If you are booked on a flight that departs Ben Gurion Airport after 1:00am you will likely need to spend the night at an airport hotel (additional cost applies) or make separate arrangements. Those travelers extending their stay in Eilat can be accommodated at the Herods Palace Hotel.
What are the passport and visa rules for Israel?
Check to make sure that you know where your passport is and that it is not expired or about to expire. Your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date you arrive in Israel. If your passport expires within this period, please start the renewal process today. Many airlines will deny you boarding if your passport is not valid according to this policy. If you are traveling to Israel on a USA, Canadian, or European Union member country passport, a visa is not needed to enter Israel. If you are traveling on a passport from another country, you may need a visa to enter Israel. Our office is able to provide you with an official ticket confirmation if needed. NOTE: If you're including Petra, a Jordanian visa and all border crossing fees are included as part of the day tour package.
How do we approach safe travel in Israel?
Safe travel in Israel has been our guiding consideration for decades. We appreciate the responsibility that travelers entrust in us, and we care about your well-being in like family. Key security-related protocols that we follow include:
- Traveling on private transportation only
- Traveling with a licensed Israeli guide at all times who has been trained in security response
- Avoiding travel to areas of heightened concern
- Use of hotels with a guard and a secure area
- 24/7 support from our headquarters office in Israel
- Close coordination with the Israeli security services via the "Situation Room"
- Willingness to modify our programming, staffing structure, and/or overall protocols as needed based on actual conditions where we travel in Israel.
Finally, in the rare event of an acute security event in Israel we have issued full refunds at our own discretion in the past, and we will continue to do so in the future should we deem the situation appropriate. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us to learn more about our approach to providing travel experiences which are safe, meaningful and joyous.