Last year, I had the opportunity to travel with Kasey Austin, who was just awarded Outside Magazine Best Guide for 2014. We may not know all of the nominees, but spending a week in Montana and Wyoming with the exuberant, passionate, and knowledgeable young woman, as she introduced the region to a delegation of Namibian tourism reps, we think Outside Magazine got it right!
Kasey Austin is the Vice President of Operations and a trip leader extraordinaire for the award-winning Austin Adventures, based in Billings, Mont. She was singled out by the editors as the world’s top Family Guide for 2014.
“I’m thrilled and humbled by this honor,” said Kasey, “but honestly, guiding is what I love most in this world and any opportunity to share what I know and cherish with others is my ultimate reward!”
The word “guide” itself is one that I often cringe at, as so many guides I’ve come across in my travels have been well-intentioned, but lack the kind of personal touch that makes or breaks a tour. Regardless of what constitutes the criteria to be Outside Magazine Best Guide, in my book the best guides are the ones who listen to their clients, ask questions, and tailor the experience to the clients’ desires. Kasey did that time and time again during our week exploring Bozeman, traveling through the epic landscapes of Big Sky country, exploring the geothermal activity in Yellowstone National Park, riding horses through the rugged Montana wilderness, and finding hidden gems and welcome surprises along the way.
Austin specializes in family travel, which is typically a negative buzz word for me, as it typically involves soft adventure that doesn’t excite me at all. However, I’m just a big kid at heart and when it comes to family adventure, Austin gets it. It’s not about the slow or the boring or the educational aspects per se; it’s about paving the way for a memorable experience that leaves a lasting impact.
“Many of my favorite experiences have to do with kids who are my favorite guests!” Austin said. “Most of my most memorable experiences involve watching kids spot their first wolf, bear, or bison. They get so excited and it’s contagious for the entire group.”
Austin is no stranger to being recognized for her exceptional guiding credentials. For the past two years (2012 and 2013) Kasey has been honored as one of the Top Travel Professionals Under 35 by Travalliance Media (publishers of Vacation Agent and [email protected] magazines). More than a decade of guiding Austin Adventures family vacations has taught her the one essential secret to a successful family trip — “If you can keep the kids happy then the parents will quickly follow!”
Kasey began in the business at an early age. She was six when her father Dan Austin first got into the adventure travel business. She graduated in 2011 as a Presidential Leadership Scholar at the University of Montana in Missoula with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education. She is an accomplished writer and photographer and competes in biking, skiing, running and mountain events while not guiding families on trips throughout the West. She is a member of the Billings Bike Committee engaged in making Billings a top bicycle-friendly community.
For this year’s awards, OUTSIDE tapped its global network of correspondents who traveled across America, to Belize, Switzerland, Italy, and beyond identifying the best new adventures, most stunning lakes, gorgeous new lodges and hotels, family vacations, secret getaways, high-tech airports, and foodie hotspots. The result was more than 50 spectacular trips, plus the best travel apps, tour guides, gear, tips for traveling green, and advice for traveling solo
The entire list of honorees are in their April issue, and you can check out a few of our favorites here.
For Austin Adventures’ 2014 catalog, e-mail [email protected] or visit them online at www.austinadventures.com.
In September 2013 Austin Adventures joined the Xanterra Parks & Resorts® portfolio of experiential leisure offerings. Known for its “Legendary Hospitality with a Softer Footprint,” Xanterra Parks & Resorts® entities include lodges, restaurants, tours and activities in national and state parks and resorts as well as a cruise line, railway and tour operator. Xanterra Parks & Resorts has operations in the Grand Canyon, including Grand Canyon Railway in Williams, Ariz., and The Grand Hotel in Tusayan, AZ.; Yellowstone; Zion; Crater Lake; Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks; Mount Rushmore National Memorial; Furnace Creek Resort in Death Valley National Park and five Ohio State Park Lodges as well as the Geneva Marina at Ohio’s Geneva State Park. Xanterra Parks & Resorts also operates Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, Va., Windstar Cruises, VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations and Austin Adventures.
Words by Lindsay Taub