Archive for February, 2011

February 27, 2011

Exclusive Costa Rica – Just for You and your Teens

Taking the leap into the river!

Thomson Family Adventures has been sending families to Costa Rica for a loong time. Our Costa Rican colleagues are truly a part of our family; they envelop you on arrival and care for you ’til you’re gone. They share abundant knowledge of everything from wildlife to forest to everyday life in their country. I’m pretty sure our past guests agree, these guides sneak into your heart and stay there forever.

I’d always heard about Costa Rica, but it wasn’t until I went myself that I really understood how fantastic this country and its people are. Volcanoes, rain forest, cloud forest, ocean, beaches, wild rivers. Monkeys, sloths, iguanas and lizards, butterflies the size of your fist. Leaf cutter ants! We could have spent hours watching those hardy soldiers carry their bits of leaves across the forest floor. And of course the warm and generous people who introduce you to this fascinating world.

After years of walking a path now so familiar to tourists we wanted to offer something more adventurous, more unique for our more mature travelers. Welcome to this new opportunity!

We’ve redirected our Teen Adventure to encompass some of the most pristine corners of the country. Away from the crowds but in the midst of the adventure action, we fly, then drive, then boat to Corcovado National Park. This remote peninsula offers untouched forest teeming with wildlife, and a beautiful reef for snorkeling.

In the center of the country we’ll ride the currents of the Class III / IV Pacuare River and thrill our hearts on a zip line you won’t soon forget.

On the Atlantic Coast we’ll pamper ourselves a bit with a stay in a luscious hotel on a beach unknown to tourist mobs. Here we’ll discover a region ideal for snorkeling the coral reef, and hiking in rain forest.

No built up tourist scene, just natural beauty waiting to be discovered by curious minds and active bodies! Come join like minded families with children from age 12 to the 20′s for our unique and exclusive adventure created just for you.



February 20, 2011

Uplifting Egypt; New Hope Ahead

The Great Pyramid of Giza. And the Sphinx too.

Through the last several weeks of uncertain change in Egypt we have all been watching carefully and with great interest. Not just because Egypt is one of our most popular destinations for families, but also because we are close to many Egyptians who take care of these families when they visit. Office personnel, transfer guides, drivers, Egyptologist guides. Camel drivers. Mt Sinai guides. All of these people work tirelessly and graciously to take care of our visiting families, and now they too just sit and wait and see what comes next. It makes the politics of change very personal to Thomson Family Adventures.

Thankfully we have been in contact with all of our colleagues in Egypt, and are grateful to know everyone we work with is safe and unharmed. But the worry of loss of their livelihood, the sadness that tourists are afraid to visit their country, rings in the sound of their voices.

We are heartened and excited by good news coming from the Egyptian Tourism Authority, and hope our friends in Egypt are too. Statements like:

“Tourism interest is already rebounding, leading to guarded optimism and predictions of more bookings during the peak season of April and May from many tour operators and Nile cruise companies. Some US tour operators have started booking flights for as soon as February 24th”

In addition, Cairo’s international airport received 189 flights from a variety of countries in just one day last week; a sure sign that things are returning to normal. All of the tourist sights have reopened, and many countries have already lifted their advisories against traveling to Egypt.

We want to let you know Egypt is a wonderful adventure for families and we know the Egyptians see hope in this revolution. They hope it will bring new opportunities and strength, not just to their country but to their tourism too. And so we watch and listen, and look forward to the day we’ll return to embrace our friends once again.



February 12, 2011

Top 10 Things About Traveling with Teens

Is your teen too cool for you?

Just because your child has become a teenager – or is acting like one – doesn’t mean you have to be intimidated by their demands or sacrifice your meaningful family vacation. Just remember these wise rules, and all will be well.

1) Choosing a destination that offers activities to challenge and excite – like a zip line, white water rafting, or kayaking – will keep your big kids active, engaged and satisfied. If they’ve done an activity before, try in a new environment for new excitement. Look for a variety of activities that give everyone a chance to try many things; don’t give them the chance to feel bored with the same old thing.

2) This is your family vacation, but diversions are very useful. Traveling in a small group of like minded and similar aged families gives you the chance to meet new people and make new friends. For many families, having company to share the fun with helps prevent the family bond from fraying under the stress of too much togetherness.

3) But don’t forget many teens suffer under the pressure to be Cool all the time in their peer group. For some kids, traveling as the oldest in a group will be the ticket to success. This gives them the opportunity to let down their guard, and remember how much fun it can be to just be a kid again.

4) If you let someone else be in control, the pressure is off! Your guide can call the shots, motivate the troops, get your teen to respond in ways you never could. Other kids in the group will inspire them to join in. Settle back and relax, this is your family adventure to enjoy too!

5) Don’t you want to get out of your all inclusive resort routine? Sure that was fun once, but in a resort you could be anywhere. Our kids are growing up, and rapidly forming their opinions and habits…What do you want to teach them? Your family vacation can be a fun and easy way to show them important things about the world. Step off the beaten path and discover the qualities special and unique to the destination – and local people – you are visiting. This makes everything more interesting – and more meaningful.

6) If you create a safe environment where where your kids can try new things – remember, these are the experimenting years – they will. But please, not at home in front of their friends! Karaoke? Salsa dancing? Noodle making? Weaving? Photography? Trekking? In the right context, and a more anonymous one, these unusual activities can be enthralling. And maybe your teen will discover a new talent!

7) If you let your kids be the askers, their natural inquisitiveness and leadership will blossom as they discover new cultures and lifestyles. When you travel with a local, expert guide you don’t have to know the answers – indeed, you will be learning too.

8) (I don’t know why a smiley face is in place instead of an eight, but I’m leaving it here!) Often it seems we work too hard to make everyone be the same – but we’re not, and that’s OK! Some are stronger, bigger, wiser. When you plan for things the younger kids can’t do, like bigger water on the rafting trip, or climbing Kilimanjaro, it shows your kids that growing up has its privileges, and they have earned the right to try new things.

9) Even teens get hungry all the time. Be sure there is a constant flow of food and water to keep them fueled. Full children are rarely cranky children, even with teenagers.

10) Sound overwhelming? Call the experts with your questions and concerns. A personable, knowledgeable advisor – not a phone bank – can make reaching your family travel goals a snap.



February 8, 2011

Noodles, Pandas, and the Love of my Daughter

Learning the Fan Dance with family in Huxian

As soon as my daughter Mira could speak, or maybe even before, she began her obsession with all things Chinese. So when, at age 15, she and I had the chance to visit China we never gave it a second thought. Little did I know then what an impact this family adventure would have on the rest of our lives.

China is so spectacularly different from anything we see, smell, eat, or do in our lives in the USA and Canada. First of all it is ancient. Their history goes back so many dynasties your head will spin with the history. Then, not only do they speak a different language (duh) but the culture is so entirely different. It’s in the air; you will see and feel it as you walk through the cities and villages, and speak with your guide. Not only does the food taste different than Chinese food at home, even the KFC tastes different.

Oh, but it is wonderful, so enchanting to visit this place with a Wall so Great you could see from outer space, and peaceful pandas munching on bamboo, and fishermen training the cormorants to catch their fish. Terra Cotta Warriors lined up endlessly, to protect their sleeping emperor. Temples and palaces, and tai chi in every beautiful park….

There is so much to learn about when you visit China. This makes the visit thrilling, but also a bit, well, stressful. Yes, having everything seem different, and nothing seem familiar is exciting and draining. And this is why, at the end of the day when Mira and I would return to our top rated hotel – not to be confused with an American 5 Star but a small semblance of Western life – we bonded in a new way. WE were all that was familiar to each other. Laughing, sharing our amazement, talking about what we had done that day; what would be an ordinary mother-daughter conversation about our day at home in Boston took on a completely different, unique, unforgettable glow in China.

Did you know that in China, a bowl of noodles is actually just ONE LONG NOODLE?

Now I am preparing for Mira to turn 21. We’ve had our many difficulties over the years as mothers and daughters do, and I think a lot about the things I wish I could have done better as she was growing up. (do all parents do this?). But one thing I am so grateful for is our adventure to China. In any moment of family tension or discomfort, she and I can still pull up the stories, the shock and amazement and fabulous wonder of our adventure. Yes, even the embarrassing moments, like learning the fan dance or trying to learn Tai Chi. We can instantly laugh about the things we did together, the entirely unique experience of our two weeks in China. Would I be wrong if I said we love each other more for it?

Are you thinking about sharing something life altering with your child or even your whole family? Maybe it is China, or maybe something a bit closer to home. Thomson Family Adventures has the expertise and creativity to set the stage for your adventure to one of many exciting places we know well. You’ll discover all of the meaning and have all of the fun, while we ensure you don’t have to worry about a single detail. Except showing up at the airport on time! Call us now at 800-262-6255 to change the rest of your life



February 3, 2011

Meet Katie from Tennessee

New friends in Tanzania

Katie is an extraordinary child (like all of our kids!) who was so enamored of her family’s safari last March that in her French class she accidentally answered in Swahili. When I heard this I knew I wanted to know more. Wait until you hear about her favorite hobby in this interview:

How old are you / what grade in school? 12 years old, and in the 7th grade

What is your favorite travel moment? Passing out playground equipment to orphans & school children in Tanzania.

What have you learned from traveling? That not everybody lives the way we do in America. You have to be flexible about things like food, showers, schedules, transportation and other amenities we take for granted. When you travel, some experiences are good & some are not, but from them all, you learn something new about the people with whom we share our world.

What is your favorite hobby and why? In my room, I have constructed a town made from lunchbags. The people are made from popsickle sticks and milk lids and have names that are common to a particular country. My neighborhoods are culturally diverse and the shops and other buildings reflect what you might find in a particular geographic region. I get inspired to add new neighborhoods from books, movies, or meeting new people, This is a fun hobby because it doesn’t require batteries, allows you to be creative, and you have total control of the whole town. I don’t have any leftover space on my floor anymore, so I just have to build up; that’s how I came to add “Mount Olympus” to the town. I also like building houses on Google Sketch-Up.

What do you want to be/do when you grow up?? A missionary

Anything else you want us to know about you? In my lifetime, I want to travel to all 7 continents. I have 4 to go.

For some great scenes of Katie and her visits to the orphanage and Ayalabe School: