In 2024, you might book one (or more) drone group vacations. What are drone group vacations, exactly? In this context, it’s basically the ultimate travel experience for drone pilots. You show up (in a breathtaking location, of course) with your drone, and someone plans the rest — all the way down from where you’ll stay and how you get around. And yes, that even includes where you can safely and legally fly your drone.
Your drone group vacations planner is Johan Vandenhecke, a Belgium-based, award-winning aerial photographer. For the past few years, he’s made a career out of hosted guided tours with drone pilots in mind. That means you’re traveling the world with like-minded people (who are willing to stop on the side of the road and fly for the perfect aerial shot, and who are willing to wake up early to get that golden hour light).
Vandenhecke has just revealed his lineup of 2024 drone group vacations, and it’s got me ready to book airfare now. In fact, some of these drone photography trips are so popular, they’ve already sold out. Here’s the drone group vacation lineup for the next year:
- March 2024 in South Africa: 5 days, 4 nights in a luxury safari camp (sold out)
- April 2024 in Malta: 4 days, 3 nights in a luxury villa
- May 2024 in Azores, Portugal: 7 days, 6 nights in a luxury villa
- August 2024 in Iceland: 6 days, 5 nights in a 4×4 campervan
- September 2024 in Mauritius: 7 days, 6 nights in a luxury villa
- November 2024 in Socotra: 7 days, 6 nights in nomad tents
Some of the trips are basically replicas of trips Vandenhecke has hosted in year’s past. His trip to the island of Mauritius has been a perennial favorite, combining drone flying with outdoor adventures like sunset sailing, waterfall trail hiking and swimming with dolphins.
Other highlights include a trip to the Azores, which is an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the Macaronesia region of the North Atlantic Ocean. Like the Mauritius trip, that one’s a repeat of past years — perhaps unsurprising given how popular it’s been. In 2021, the group saw a pod of nine sperm whales, and in 2022 they saw a blue whale passing by and a big male sperm whale, who curiously meandered around the group’s boat for about 45 minutes.
Not all the trips are repeats though. For example, new this year is a drone safari trip in South Africa.
Oh, and if you really want to plan ahead, Vandenhecke has one drone trip on the books so far for 2025. That’s a 6 day, 5 night journey in June 2025 to Madeira, an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean that’s considered an autonomous region of Portugal. And that one might just be the ultimate spot for drone pilots, given that in 2020 it was named ‘Europe’s Leading Island Destination 2020’ at the World Travel Awards for its outdoor adventures.
Just know that these trips aren’t exactly great if you’re an ultra frugal traveler. For example, the Azores trip starts at 2,500 euros, and that doesn’t include airfare. But it’s certainly worth it for many. After all, that covers a 7-day, all-inclusive stay, including activities and luxury lodging. You’ll also get highly-personalized attention given that groups are intentionally small (for example, that Azores trip is capped at six attendees).
What to know about group trip leader Johan Vandenhecke
Johan Vandenhecke is likely best known online for his digital drone class called Drone Adventurer Masterclass+ (which not coincidentally is The Drone Girl’s upcoming pick for the best drone photo courses of 2024). He’s also written a few free drone eBooks.
Besides leading drone group vacations, Vandenhecke works as a freelance photographer. Given that entrepreneurial background, expect to use the trip to gain valuable business skills too. (Similarly, his Drone Adventurer Masterclass+ online course covers not just photography, but business advice like how to work with brands and how to negotiate payments).
What other drone group vacations are out there?
Vandenhecke’s drone photo trips are the paradigm for drone vacations, but they’re certainly not the only ones.
Some have had mixed success. At one point, the New York Times offered a drone vacation to Norway through an offshoot of its newspaper business called Times Journeys, though the program ended in 2021.
It’s also possible to book drone flying adventures are part of a larger trip through offerings like Airbnb Experiences, which is affiliated with the vacation rental company and allows travelers to book customized experiences (like drone classes) with locals.
And then there are group vacations that aren’t necessarily centered around drones, but that welcome them. For example, Quark Expeditions, which is widely considered a leader in group tours of the North and South poles, wholeheartedly embraces drones.
In fact, I went on a Quark Expedition myself in 2018 to the Arctic Circle where, naturally, I brought my drone.
If you’re interested specifically in the drone group vacations through Johan Drone Adventures, check out Johan’s website here. Or if you’re interested in an excuse to have a drone affiliated vacation but the Johan Drone Adventures aren’t quite your thing, there are plenty of other 2024 drone events on the docket, including conferences all around the world.