Archive for June, 2011

June 29, 2011

Lessons from an Awesome Packer

What's in Your Suitcase?

My family has had the great pleasure of traveling with the two Friedlanders many times. Such fun traveling companions, and every time I have been secretly, obsessively jealous of their tiny canvas bags.

No matter what the length of the trip, they each carry something small enough to be a carry on. As I am packing for a three week trip and not interested in hauling around a huge suitcase full of so much stuff I can never find anything on the road, I thought I would go to them for some tips. Yes, I actually asked for help and guidance from a client! This is what they said:

‎1. Take only left-foot sneakers. They are smaller.

2. If you are going some place cold, such as the Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania, pack nothing warm.

‎3. If you are hiking, such as in Morocco in the High Atlas Mountains, bring no raincoat; instead, take an odd-looking green plastic wrapping that makes you look something like a Christo art project. Rely on family and friends for cover.

When I registered something akin to sarcasm to their response, Sam said “Moo. clearly we have mastered the art of packing. did you not just read the list?”

Really?

What is your best packing secret?



June 27, 2011

Listen to Me!

Always good to check in at a travel clinic before you travel

I’ve worked in travel for over 16 years, and I’ve been to Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. So you might think I have this travel thing down, right? Heh.

I leave for Cambodia and Thailand in 10 days. I’m asking people for packing tips. Worrying about exchanging money. Wondering how long my shorts need to be. Thinking about vaccines. So I called my trusty travel clinic. I like using the travel clinic. Usually covered by my health insurance, they have everything you need right on the spot and the specialists know everything. Of course it’s a bit of a downer too – it is, after all, their job to protect you from every conceivable deadly disease and most of them you just don’t really want to even know about. I often wonder what they would recommend for travel to my neighborhood. But I digress….

Long story short… No available appointments until after I return. Beth (who is headed to China) uses a different clinic that doesn’t have anything until August. If you’re interested in learning from my mistakes (I encourage this) you will not put off making that appointment until it is too late. Please call WAY in advance, and make an appointment for about a month before you travel.

As for me, I’ll take plenty of bug spray along with me and muddle through.



June 24, 2011

A Rite of Passage with Aunt Nancy

Sometimes I just want to write about the wonderful people we get to know via phone and email – and sometimes in person – in our work. Nancy Wilkinson is certainly one of them, a gem we have known for more than 10 years as she has taken her 5 nieces and nephews, one at a time, on a 14th birthday adventure.

I LOVE these photos! And we look forward to finding the right thing for nephew Michael in 2012.

Nancy and James in Egypt, 2000

Nancy and James in Egypt, 2000

Nancy and Evan in Guatemala, 2003

A family safari

Nancy and Brett in Tanzania, 2005

Nancy and Ben in Venice, 2006

Nancy and Hannah in Istanbul, 2009



June 23, 2011

Graduations: Love them and Weep.

A gift from kindergarten

When my #2 child Mira was in kindergarten, she painted this little clay pot which held just one spindly piece of cactus. It has been my treasure for, oh, the last 16 years (this pot is only about an inch across, and the cactus is bursting out of it). And so now, as my #3, and last, child Leo graduates from high school and I contemplate a long over due repotting – I find an analogy!

Yes, our kids are like plants you love, water and nourish. And yes, they will grow even if you don’t buy them the next size up. But eventually you see they get pretty stifled if not given their freedom to blossom at their own pace.

This is what I thought about after witnessing Leo’s high school graduation. We just dont have a choice.

In our family, travel has been our gift to each other. Opportunities to see a bigger world, to learn new languages and new cultures. Through these opportunities I’ve seen Milo, Mira, and Leo gain coinfidence, be open and curious about people different from themselves, and be welcoming to all ages from all walks of life. As a client said recently, a family adventure is not just a vacation, it’s an experience. We have been so lucky to have those experiences.

And now, perhaps as my pay back for instilling the love of foreign lands, I’ll send this boy off to Madrid for his freshman year of college. I have no doubt is he far more ready than the average 18 year old to drop into a country where he doesn’t speak a word of the language. Thank you ThomsonFamily Adventures, and all of the guides, mentors, and travel companions who have given him, and all of my kids, a great education over the last 8 years.

After I drop him at the airport in August I think I’ll go home and re-pot that cactus.



June 22, 2011

Haiku and Kilimanjaro

A view of Mt Kilimanjaro

A View of Mt. Kilimanjaro

Last week we invited our friends to submit a haiku in return for a $200 credit toward climbing the great mountain this summer. With 5 syllables, Kilimanjaro simply *invites* haiku, (you know, 5/7/5) and we had gotten a bit silly around the office thinking about it ourselves (more on that later).

We started with my colleague Bryan’s version: Going back to school? // Need one more adventure first? // Kilimanjaro!

Frankly I was downright astounded at the fabulous response we received – even from those with apparently no interest in the summit! Allow me to share…

These 3 are from Jessica in CA, who traveled on Thomson adventure to China with her family a few years ago when she was but a child.

Stark, soaring majesty
above vast, wild savannah
Kilimanjaro
***
Imposing mount
rising above the wildlife
alone, together
***
The trail winds higher
breathlessly ascending
to vistas of Eden

Then, from April Dunn:

Kilimanjaro
Now my Haiku is complete
That is a long word!

And an awesome submission from Michael Katz:

Geez, it’s so damn high
But still, I’d like to see it
Time to pack my bags

Feel inspired? Send us your own Haiku, and thanks for playing!



June 20, 2011

What a Ten Year Old Remembers Forever

Grandmother and grandson on a Tanzanian safari

Robert and his grandmother Gayle in Tanzania

Dear Moo, I wanted to write and tell you what I liked most about my trip to Africa with my grandmother and Thomson Family Adventures. The guides were really nice and they knew a lot. We saw so many animals. I really liked seeing the chases – they were really exciting. I really wanted to see the Big Five and was so excited that we did! My favorite animal to see was the leopard, but the baby monkeys were really cute. It is really hard to tell you about my favorite things because there were so many awesome things to see. I thought it was interesting to meet my pen pal and tour his village. I had so much fun and learned so much. It was a great trip. I hope I get a chance to go again.

Robert



June 14, 2011

Does Your Family Capture the Fun?

Nothing like capturing a shot that forever reminds you of your family adventure .. so here are our latest top three photo contest winners (in no particular order):

spectacled caiman in Costa Rica

Spectacled Caiman in Costa Rica

A lurking spectacled caiman may come as a surprise, but there are lots of them to be found in the canals of Tortuguero in Costa Rica. Thanks to the Spencer Calcott family for capturing this one on film.

a swim in the Galapagos almost always includes sea lions

Who is imitating who?

Next up, the Barnard family caught this excellent shot of the fun found in the blue waters of the Galapagos Islands. Sea lions are everywhere! You are welcome to imitate them, but no hugging please

leaping into the pool

Leaping into the infinity pool with a view

And then there is the fun in Baja (I was there!!) where, at the end of an active day the kids can keep going while the parents enjoy the breathtaking view. Thanks to the Murray Bruce family for their great photos, and for being fun traveling companions too.



June 9, 2011

Lost and Found in Egypt

oh the mystery of a pyramid

So the obvious comment is, how can you lose a pyramid? But time and landscape changes have done it. And now, with new age infra-red technology, from space no less, these lost pyramids have been found.

From the sky, 17 pyramids have been discovered along with 1000 tombs and 3000 settlements. Egyptian authorities were skeptical at first, but early excavations have proven the existence of two of the pyramids – leading them to now believe this is an accurate technology.

Who spearheaded this project? US Egyptologist Dr Sarah Parcak from the University of Alabama who, along with a team of colleagues, dedicated herself to a year of space archaeology. The whole story is told in a BBC documentary, slated to be aired in the USA the end of June 2011.

Don’t you wonder, what inspired Dr. Parcak as she was growing up, to pursue this career?? Something in her childhood brought her here. While we as parents might remember the first walk on the moon, now our children can witness the new discoveries space exploration along with the latest technology delivers. What a gift we give our children, exposing them to new ideas and far away worlds.

Please be sure to share this fascinating discovery with your kids!



June 5, 2011

Why you DON’T want to join a Tour Group

Terra Cotta WarriorsEvery day we field calls from families who say: ” We’ve never traveled on a group tour before, that’s not who we are”. To which we say: You’ve come to the right place! All of our loyal clients are families who are not inspired by large, generic tour groups. So, why us?

Thomson Family Adventures is not a traditional tour company. Do we arrange for group travel? Yes, but with some important differences…

Our groups are small and personal. We leave room for our adventures to be flexible and creative from the moment you sign up, to the moment you travel, to the time you return home.

Even a terra cotta warrior is unique from all the rest; your family is too. We know who you are. In our USA office, as we help you find your trip and then prepare you for travel, you communicate with someone who knows who you are and knows what you are looking for. We don’t have phone banks or voice mail. Just friendly, welcoming staff whose goal is to to help you have the trip of a lifetime.

When you arrive in-country you’ll meet up with our local Thomson colleagues, professionals we’ve worked with for years developing our itineraries and programs designed to ensure all ages have a fabulous time. Their enthusiasm and generosity of spirit shines through as they guide you through their country. There is no question, the right guide makes the right trip.

Safety? It’s our number one priority. We know nothing is more important than the welfare of your family. So your adventure is planned with every security in mind. You’ll have tons of fun with all precautions in place, and we include trip cancellation insurance in all of our packages.

We don’t have fixed schedules, huge busses, or red flags. You’ll travel in a small group of a few like minded families who will likely end up as lifelong friends looking to travel together again. We’ve seen this over and over again.

OR – if you prefer – we are always happy to arrange for a private and personal adventure for just your family. No matter if there are 2 or 20 or 30 family members, we can make the same awesome arrangements for just you so you have nothing to worry about. Please, just show up and have a wonderful time!

You don’t need to travel with 40 strangers, or merge your precious family reunion with a larger, unknown group of tourists. You deserve something thought out and unique! This is what Thomson Family Adventures does.

What does a group offer you can’t find on your own? Well, our guides for one, and the benefit of our expertise. You get a real vacation. No logistics, no struggling to find your way, or wondering what to do next. Like minded companions. No meal planning! Just blissful enjoyment. With your family. Together!

Remember, a small company can have even more experience in family travel than the larger, better advertised tour companies. And we offer it in a more personal format. Just because we don’t have a big marketing budget doesn’t mean we don’t know what we’re doing!

Give us a call and see what a real trip of a lifetime looks like. Dial 800-262-6255; we’re ready to take the pressure off of your family plans.