The scoop: What to know about Smithsonian Journeys

Calling all adventurous life-long learners with a passion for travel.

Smithsonian Journeys and Ponant zodiacs driving through icebergs
(Photo: Smithsonian Journeys/©Studio PONANT Nathalie Michel)

Here at TourScoop, we want to help you make confident decisions about tour vacations. Here’s our comprehensive review of Smithsonian Journeys.

A leader in cultural travel, Smithsonian Journeys offers expert-led trips on all seven continents. Inspired by the mission of the Smithsonian Institution (“an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge”) Smithsonian Journeys uses travel to create cultural awareness and help participants better understand the world. 

Itineraries focus on immersive experiences “through the Smithsonian lens” plus a high level of service. For more than 50 years, the company’s trips have reflected the reputation, collections, and research of the Smithsonian Institution, and tour participants tend to be intellectually curious, adventurous life-long learners with a passion for deeper learning and exploration. And traveling with Smithsonian Journeys helps support the Smithsonian’s mission to preserve natural and cultural heritage and advance research around the world.

TourScoop takeaways 

People hiking on an active Smithsonian Journeys tour
(Photo: Smithsonian Journeys/Dave Parry)
  • Destinations: More than 300 departures on all seven continents
  • Tour Size Average: Group size varies depending on trip type. Almost all land trips are small groups of 12 to 24 travelers. Cruises range from a river boat with 44 guests to ocean-going vessels accommodating 184 to 264 guests. In some cases (including on river cruises), the Smithsonian Journeys group may share the ship with other leading cultural and educational institutions. 
  • Tour Type: Land-based tours, small-ship ocean cruises, river cruises, train tours, and private jet journeys 

How to book

Travelers can book tours through the Smithsonian Journeys website or by calling 855-330-1542.

Credibility check

Smithsonian Journeys is a Smithsonian Institution educational outreach program. It works with tour operators that have earned top accreditations and awards. Ponant, the company’s partner in small-ship cruising, recently received Green Globe certification for sustainability, an international standard for sustainability in travel and tourism.

Tour destinations

Smithsonian Journeys offers more than 300 departures on all seven continents each year, leading trips to destinations including Antarctica, Australia, the Middle East.

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Tour types

Hiking on a glacier with Smithsonian Journeys
(Photo: Smithsonian Journeys/Martina Birnbaum)

Smithsonian Journeys offers several different tour types. Land Journeys take care of almost every detail for passengers, allowing them to immerse themselves in the destinations visited. Ocean Cruising trips feature small ships with all-suite cabins, upscale amenities and cuisine, and engaging staff. River Cruising tours travel historic waterways on river boats that are small enough to dock in compact ports but still have plenty of amenities.

Cultural Stays include a single hotel stay for exploring a destination in-depth, while Special Interest tours dive into topics like art and history. New Active Journeys include activities like hiking and biking and feature a maximum of 18 travelers, and Family Journeys offer kid-friendly itineraries. Travelers can also tour by train or private jet or create their own Tailor-Made Journeys.

Tour guides

Every trip includes at least one Tour Director to handle all the details for stress-free travel. Tour Directors share their on-the-ground insights of the destination, infusing each trip with a personal touch and providing recommendations for restaurants and activities during free time. Local guides take into account the intellectual interests of Smithsonian Journeys travelers, and most trips visit both must-see sights and more off-the-beaten-path spots accessed through the local guides.

Trips also include Smithsonian Journeys Experts. These scholars from around the world with expertise in history, culture, politics, the natural world, and the fine arts add their specialized knowledge to the tours and share their perspectives and insights with travelers throughout the trip. Travelers tend to appreciate how the experts help elevate the trip beyond a standard travel tour.

What’s included

Smithsonian Journeys tour prices include:

  • All on-tour transportation (unless otherwise noted)
  • Accommodations
  • Meals as noted in itinerary
  • An experienced Travel Director, a Smithsonian Journeys Expert (unless otherwise noted), and local guides throughout the trip
  • Excursions, activities, sightseeing, and visits led by local specialists and/or highly qualified guides (as noted in the itinerary)
  • Pre-tour educational information, including a reading list
  • All gratuities except for the crew on ship or train journeys (unless otherwise noted); recommended guidelines are provided for tipping crew on ship or train journeys
  • Port taxes for cruises (unless otherwise noted) 
  • Group airport transfers at starting and ending points on international tours
  • Personal listening devices and Wi-Fi on many tours
  • Complimentary beer and wine served with lunch and dinner on ship journeys
  • A basic medical expense and evacuation plan through Trip Mate at no additional charge
  • Airfare included on some tours (as noted in the tour price information)

What’s not included

Smithsonian Journeys tour prices do not include:

  • Airfare and related fees (unless otherwise noted as included in the itinerary)
  • Passport and all visa fees, any other travel documentation, and immunizations and medications as required
  • Transfers to and from home airport
  • Activities, excursions, or extensions listed as optional or any special pre- or post-tour arrangements
  • Trip cancellation and interruption or travel delay coverage
  • Personal expenses such as laundry, telephone, alcoholic beverages, and meals other than specified in the itinerary
  • Gratuities for crew on ship or train journeys

Typical travelers

Smithsonian Journeys travelers tend to be 55+. But the company’s different tour types attract a variety of travelers. Active itineraries see travelers from 45 to 70 years of age, while special interest tours tend to skew a bit older, with participants generally ranging from 55 to 80 years of age. Family Journeys are popular for multigenerational trips and are well suited for kids ages eight and up. 


Travelers receive pre-tour materials ahead of their trip, including a reading list to help prepare for the topics covered during the tour. For any questions about a reservation, travelers can call or email a destination specialist at 855-330-1542 or Tour Directors provide info and handle questions on the ground.

Loyalty program

Smithsonian Journeys offers discounts for repeat travelers and, as part of the Smithsonian Institution, offers exclusive travel discounts for members of Friends of the Smithsonian.

Sustainability efforts

To help sustain the character and biodiversity of the destinations visited and the well-being of those who live there, Smithsonian Journeys selects partners who support regional economies and meet the company’s standards for responsible travel. The Smithsonian is making efforts to mitigate its carbon footprint and study the causes and impacts of climate change around the world to help inform solutions for the future.

Health and safety practices

Smithsonian Journeys works closely with its travel partners to develop health and safety measures, in consultation with related organizations including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its Health & Safety Protocols page outlines the most up-to-date guidelines and requirements. The purchase of travel insurance is recommended for all guests, and Smithsonian Journeys offers an option for tourgoers.

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Beth Luberecki writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, USA TODAY,, and The Indianapolis Star. The Florida-based writer shares her travels on her website and on Instagram at @bethluberecki and @findingfloridafun.