October 27, 2016

Halloween Traditions from Around the World

Many of the places that we go on family vacations celebrate Halloween in different ways or have an interesting lore surrounding the holiday. With that time of year upon us, we thought it would be fun to share with you a few facts about Halloween in the places you may go for your next family vacation!



Did you know that Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of Halloween?   And that it is one of the world’s oldest holidays?  It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain over 2,000 years ago.  The Celtic year was divided into two halves, the brighthalf (Beltane) and the darkhalf (Samhain).  Samhain, which translates to “summers end,” marked the transition into the long and dark of winter.  Much like modern New Year’s Day there was a theme of “out with the old and in with the new.”  Celts believed that on the night before the New Year the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and the souls of the departed would return to their former homes.  People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.   Then all of the fires would be extinguished, making it the darkest night of the year.  To mark the start of the New Year, the fires would be ceremoniously re-lit.

These fundamental concepts of Halloween can be found in similar celebrations around the world today!


With the immigration of the Irish to Canada in the 1800s came the celebration of Halloween.  Modern celebrations include carving Jack O’Lanterns, decorating homes with pumpkins and trick-or-treating.   This is the same for the United States.  There is no record of Halloween before the mid-19th century when large numbers of Irish moved to the country.


In Mexico and Latin American countries Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – honors deceased loved ones.  This is actually a several day celebration beginning on the evening of October 31 and continuing through November 2.

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, October 31st is called “Dia de la Mascarada” (Day of the Masquarade).  The holiday originated as an adaptation of Carnival.  Parades are held throughout the country with many people wearing costumes known as masquerades.  Each masquerade has a head and a body made from layers of glue and newspaper sheets, similar to papier-mâché.



China has a Halloween festival called Teng Chieh each year when food and water are placed in front of photographs of their departed relatives.  There are also bonfires and lanterns lit to guide the spirits back to Earth.

United States

In the United States, Halloween is one of the most popular holidays.  Every year 65% of Americans celebrate by decorating their homes and offices.  Most people also dress up in a costume.  And one more fun fact:  Halloween is when more candy is sold than any other holiday all year in the United States!

So no matter where your next family vacation takes you, it’s safe to say that there is a little bit of interesting Halloween history or lore surrounding it!

October 13, 2016

5 Reasons to Visit South Africa on a Family Vacation

South Africa is one of the most expansive, educational, far reaching, and culturally exciting places in the world! There are a lot of reasons to go and visit this amazing place. It was difficult, but we were able to break down 5 of the best reasons for a family vacation to South Africa.

Natural Beauty

beautiful views as seen on a family vacation to south africa

From Table Mountain, to the dramatic coastlines and rocky inlets, the scenery in South Africa is absolutely stunning. There’s no shortage of these views either. There’s an options to take a cable car, which rotates 360 degrees, to the top of Table Mountain. This is one way to see a lot of breathtaking views in one short ride!

Diverse Cultural Experiences

a group experiencing diverse cultures as part of a family vacation to South Africa

South Africa, also known as the Rainbow Nation, celebrates its diverse people. You can go almost anywhere in South Africa and experience the many different cultures meeting people that all have very unique backgrounds. If you’re lucky you may even pick up one of the 11 official languages of the country!



In-between cultural exchanges and wildlife viewing, there is always an adventure waiting in South Africa. Your family can take jeep rides through the bush passing by beautiful and brightly colored flowers that you won’t believe grow on right next to the rugged terrain you just crossed. From exhilarating mountain hikes and jeep rides to shark cage diving and whale watching, there is something for everyone!



South Africa is the only place in the world that is home to both the Big Five and the Marine Big 5: whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins! Be careful though, once you start watching the wildlife, it’s hard to stop! Going on safari and sea safari provide families with chances to see incredible wildlife up close during their family vacation! Seeing these animals in their natural habitat is special and something your kids will never forget.

Freedom Struggle


It’s important to know and understand the struggle the people of South Africa went through to get where they are today. Learn about the nation’s struggle for freedom while hearing stories about Mandela, Pieterson, and many other heroes, from people who lived through it all. It’s guaranteed that these stories will inspire you!

Learn more about this amazing country by joining us on Voices of South Africa!

October 7, 2016

5 Things to Do on a Family Vacation in Iceland

For families looking for a vacation filled with adventure, wildlife and history, few areas in the world can match the density of offerings jammed into a tiny island like Iceland. A former Danish colony famously settled in the 9th Century by seafaring Norseman known as Vikings, this subarctic European gem is roughly the size of Cuba.

Despite its diminutive size, though, Iceland contains many countries’ worth of geological highlights, from geothermal hot spots to active volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers and fjords. Bottom line? It’s the ideal vacation destination for outdoor-loving families.

iceland family vacation

Of course, there’s also plenty to do in unassuming yet sophisticated Reykjavik, including shopping along Laugavegur, walking along the waterfront toward Harpa concert hall, visiting iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, or touring the city’s numerous galleries and museums. Outside of town, kids will also love soaking in the Blue Lagoon or taking a Golden Circle tour to see several of the area’s geological wonders.

But if you’re willing to step outside the big city, there’s so much more to experience on a family vacation. Here are five not-to-miss, kid-friendly activities around Iceland.

Ride an Icelandic horse

I can’t imagine traveling all the way to this country for a family vacation and not riding one of these slight but hardy steeds that date back to the age of the Vikings. Unmistakable with its smallish size and long, flowing manes—what I call the Fabio of horses—Icelanders take great pride in its homegrown breed, known for being surefooted and capable of crossing difficult terrain.

The Icelandic horse is also noteworthy for possessing two extra gaits (in addition to walk, trot and canter): tölt, a four-beat, lateral ambling gait—faster than a walk; a smooth ride good for extended times in the saddle, as in trail rides—and skeið, or “flying pace,” a fast pace in which some horses can reach up to 30 mph.

family on a vacation to iceland

The country takes such pride in keeping these inimitable horses healthy and disease-free, in fact, that Icelandic law dictates any exported horse is never allowed to return to its native land. And one more thing: Do not, I repeat, do not ever insult an Icelander by referring to these horses as “ponies.”

Visit a Bakarí (Bakery)

While the country may be known for its meat, from seafood to beef and especially lamb—since there are more Icelandic sheep than people—we had no idea we’d encounter such dreamy pastries. In even the tiniest of villages, it’s easy to find a bakery—sometimes, even inside grocery stores—filled with homemade breads, pastries, cakes and coffee, both savory and sweet.

Oftentimes, the bakeries also include local staples like muesli and skyr (skeer) yogurt, as well as they country’s most revered dessert, skyr (skeer) cake, Iceland’s answer to cheesecake. Oh, and if you get to Mývatn in North Iceland, try the bread locals bake underground via geothermal heat.

Tour in a Super Jeep

 The vast array of terrain throughout Iceland makes traveling in a super jeep—modified jeeps that allow literal off-the-beaten-track tours—a popular option. And while you can find them practically anywhere in the country, you can even rent a super jeep on your own, we chose a tour in Southeast Iceland to experience some of the area’s many dazzling glacial lagoons in Vatnajökull National Park. Named after the world’s largest ice cap (after both poles), the Park covers 14 percent of the country and offers gorgeous views of the country’s iconic, icy-blue glaciers marbled with volcanic ash.

Spot whales in Húsavík

Taking a boat tour in search of these hulking marine mammals is nothing new or unique, and there are several whale-watching spots throughout Iceland, including Reykjavik. But for some of the best viewing in the country, head to North Iceland’s Húsavík, known as the country’s whale-watching capital.

A tiny fishing village along the shores of Skjálfandi bay, the combination of nutrients from two estuaries draws up to 11 species for summertime feeding, including minke, humpback and even blue whales. Then after an exhilarating ride in a RIB (rigid, inflatable boat), chow down at one of the many harbor-side restaurants and cafes. And be sure to visit the town’s world-class whale museum, adorned in local children’s artwork and whale skeletons, including one from a blue whale that was beached in 2010.

See the Northern Lights

In most of the world, we focus on winter-weather forecasts. But in Iceland, winter means focusing on the Aurora forecast. As a sparsely populated country with few trees (What do you do when you get lost in an Icelandic forest? Stand up!), and relatively little light pollution, Iceland is the perfect place to spot the sky’s pageantry of color.

Known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, and caused when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the earth’s atmosphere near the earth’s poles (Aurora Australis in the south), the best time to spot them in is in wintertime, roughly September through April in Iceland. But locals know to start looking in late August, when our family was lucky enough to witness its stunning display of green radiance lighting up the night sky. There are plenty Northern Lights excursions that are perfect for your family vacation throughout Iceland’s dark, cold winters.


This post was contributed by Heather Mundt of Momfari. You can see more of her writing and family-travel advice at

September 1, 2016

Be a Smart Traveling Family

a family taking a vacationWe are big believers in booking family vacations as early as possible. There are way too many advantages to booking early that we would be crazy not to love it. Since we’re big fans of early booking, we’ve just made it easier and even better than it was!

Introducing— the brand new Smart Traveler Advantages program. Here’s what you can get from Thomson Family Adventures just by planning your family vacation ahead of time:

  1. Free flight insurance for each member of your booking. This insurance covers up to 100% of the cost of your flights
  2. Free cancellation insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason up to 120 days prior to your departure and receive a full 100% refund of your otherwise non-refundable trip deposit
  3. Get a free GoPro Hero Session camera to capture all of the action and memories during your adventure

These features mean a couple of things. First and foremost, it adds a level of security and comfort to your booking. If something comes up, a sports camp, competition, recital, and you need to cancel your trip, you can at no cost to you. You’ll be fully refunded for your flights and any money that you put towards this adventure. That includes your deposit, which is usually non-refundable.

Kicker rock, as seen on one of our family vacations to the galapagos

Photo of Kicker Rock in the Galapagos taken with a GoPro

Finally, you also get a brand new GoPro Hero Session. This is one of GoPro’s newest models. It’s lighter and more durable than any other camera that they’ve created. It’s also waterproof, meaning there’s no need to get a waterproof casing for it. This is the perfect accessory to have with you to capture every moment of your family vacation. You can take it swimming, kayaking, mountain biking, and zip-lining. You’ll get some of the best and most memorable action shots from any vacation you’ve ever taken.

How can you get all of these advantages? All you need to do is book a trip with us 9 months ahead of the departure date. If you want to plan a family reunion vacation for June, just book in September and all of these advantages will come with it.

There are other benefits of booking early too.  Airline tickets are always cheaper the further out that you book. As a departure date gets closer, demand rises, and as demand rises so do prices. There’s an innate flexibility that comes with planning ahead. You can secure the exact days you want and the exact trip you want without running into availability issues with hotels or with space on our trips. Also, anticipation is great! There are proven health benefits to looking forward to taking a trip. The earlier you book your family vacation the more you can look forward to it! And now with our Smart Traveler Advantages, there’s no reason not to plan ahead!

Some restrictions do apply so please call for a full list of details




August 24, 2016

Why Grandparents Make the Best Travel Companions

There is something to be said about grandparents. After all without them, family reunions and family dinners wouldn’t be possible; they were the beginning of it all! One thing at Thomson Family Adventures that we’ve all come to learn and love is exactly how great travelling with grandparents can be. Mulitgenerational vacations have become somewhat of a favorite around here for this reason. Grandparents can be the secret ingredient to having the best family vacation of all time.

a grandparent posing with an elephant while on a multigenerational vacationFirst, grandparents are wise. Much more wise than most. They know all kinds of things and this can translate well into travel. How did grandma know to take a right turn up ahead? It’s a mystery to us too, but we don’t ask questions because grandparents have super powers. They always have the best advice and this can come in handy when you forget what kind of clothes you need for safari in Tanzania or for a trek to Machu Picchu.

Grandparents also let loose more as the years go on. They are always good for a joke, no matter how corny it may be, or a laugh. When you’ve been on this earth long enough you stop sweating the small stuff and can focus on what’s really important. This is hands down the best quality to have in a travel companion. The people who don’t get flustered during an airport transfer or when the peanut butter doesn’t taste exactly the same in Costa Rica are the people that make traveling fun and relaxing.

Another reason grandparents are great to take vacation with are for their grand-kids. There’s nothing more special than watching your parents spend time with your kids. They know how vast the world is and how much it needs to be appreciated. Seeing them pass those sentiments on and sharing incredible experiences with your kids will be a memory worth more than any gift. Taking a multigenerational vacation also gets another set of adults on the trip you can trust to keep an eye on your kids if you want an afternoon or night of peace and quiet.

a girl with her grandmother on a family reunion vacation

Getting the entire family together for a vacation can sound like a lot of work. It can sound like details will be looked over and something will go wrong. But this isn’t the case! We love to plan these types of adventures because we know how gratifying and satisfying it is for the families that take them. There are never more laughs during vacation than a family reunion vacation. We can plan all of the details and make this a stress free and exciting time for everyone.

August 3, 2016

Eco-Friendly Family Vacation Tips

There are a lot of components to think about when planning to take a family vacation. One thing that should be at the top of the list is eco-friendly travel. Being mindful of the environment, local towns, people, and leaving as small of an impact as possible is part of our mission as a family travel company. There are some simple eco-friendly family vacation tips that you can keep in mind while you plan your next trip.

Planting Trees on an eco-friendly family vacation

One of our travelers helping to plant trees during a trip.


While airplanes are an incredible invention that makes travel way more accessible for everybody, carbon emissions from planes are not great for the environment. How can you lessen the impact? Buy direct flights, the largest percentage of emissions are during take-off and landing. Direct flights are also less of a pain for you! You can also choose to fly on fuel-efficient planes. Some of the planes that are best for this are the Boeing 777, Boeing 787 and the Airbus 345. Finally, you can purchase carbon offsets. This is when you pay a small amount of money to offset the environmental damage that your flight caused. This money often goes to clean energy projects or climate smart farms.


First, pack light. The heavier a plane is the more fuel it needs to use. You may think that the extra 5 pounds in your bag won’t make a difference, but if everyone could shave 5 pounds from their luggage that would be a total of over 2,600 pounds on a typical flight. A little bit can go a long way! Leave the one-off bottles of mini-shampoo, soap, hand sanitizer, and toiletries at home. Those will quickly be used and discarded only to end up in landfill to sit there till the end of time. Instead, buy FAA approved re-usable travel containers that you can fill up before you leave. Also, leave the products that contain micro-beads on the shelf at the store. The micro-beads are tiny enough to make their way through filters and drains and end up causing major problems in the ocean. These are toxic and shouldn’t be part of the diet for anything that lives in the sea. One more thing, use a refillable water bottle. No need to be buying and throwing away plastic bottles your entire trip!

Be a Local

It’s best to shop local, buy local, and travel local while on your family vacation. Buying locally produced foods and souvenirs is the best way to support the community that you are a guest in. We know it can be tempting to take a rock from one of your hikes or a sea shell from the beach, but it’s best to leave things where you found them. Take a photo instead! It’ll last longer and it won’t damage anything!

cleaning up the beach on an eco-friendly family vacation

Travelers with Thomson Family Adventures participating in a beach clean up!

Travel with Companies Dedicated to Eco-tourism

It can be very easy to just travel with the company that is offering the best deal. Traveling with a company committed to eco-travel can greatly reduce your impact. We happen to know one that fits the bill!

June 17, 2016

5 Airport Security Tips


Make getting here that much easier. Photo taken in Turkey.

One of the most stressful and annoying parts of traveling is going through security. Is it necessary? Yes. Are we happy that it’s part of the drill? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it. There is nothing worse than hitting traffic and running through the airport with your multi-generational family to make your flight only to find yourself stuck in what seems to be a never ending line that won’t move. Well, the good news is that there are a few things that you and your family can do to make sure that your family vacation starts off right with a no hassle and speedy trip from the car to the airplane. Here are 5 airport security tips to get you started.

Have Things you need on Hand

We all know too well how easy it is to misplace something— like a passport or a boarding pass. Don’t be the person searching through a hand bag, back pack, or every jacket pocket to get the documents you need to proceed. Make sure that your kids have theirs ready too, if you’re holding them, place each person’s boarding pass within the pages of their passport so that everything matches up for the TSA agent.

Dress for the Part

You know exactly what you need to do to get through security. You’ll have to pass all metals and electronics through the x-ray machine and take off your shoes. Make sure everyone is wearing shoes that are easy enough to slip on and slip off (also wear socks, no one wants to walk barefoot in an airport!). Here’s a pro tip, place jewelry, belts, watches, and the like in a jacket pocket so it all goes through the x-ray machine together and you won’t have to scramble after you get your bin back.

Pay Attention

Sometimes the shortest line isn’t always the fastest line. Look ahead to find any travelers you think may take a long time. If you see a family, try for another line (unless they’ve read this article and breeze through security like you will) because unfortunately, families do tend to take a bit longer to make their way through.

Look into Security Programs

There are airlines that offer First Class passengers the opportunity to go through a fast line in security. This could be worth it if you’re traveling around the holiday season when airport traffic is busiest.  There is also the TSA Pre Check program which is available in over 160 airports with 16 airlines participating. Another program that is great for international travel is the Global Entry Program. Participants that join this program get to skip an extra step going through customs.  Finally, CLEAR is a program that will let you skip security all together in participating airports in the US.

Be Patient and Polite

We can’t stress this enough. Being polite, not complaining, and having a smile on your face will work wonders for your family. Remember, TSA can screen upwards of a million people a day, many of which won’t be polite, and they’ll be a bit stressed. Try not to add to it!

June 3, 2016

Why Kids Should Plan Family Vacations

Planning a family vacation can be a lot of work, a lot of hassle, and let’s face it— a lot of stress. Family vacations are a tremendous amount of fun and deciding where to go and what to do with that vacation should be fun too. One of the things that we’ve found is a great exercise and can get kids excited about vacation and take a little bit of stress off of you is to let your kids have an active role in planning the next family vacation.


The best way to teach kids about responsibility is to give them a specific task to be responsible for. Giving kids the reigns over the family vacation is one way to do this. First, it won’t be the same kind of responsibility that their friends have and it also is not an everyday responsibility. These two factors alone make it an exciting and different kind of challenge for them. Playing only an advisory role and lending a helping hand when needed will free up time for you to focus on other things, like who is driving the kids to practice later?



Planning a vacation for the whole family is a good practice in communication. Your kids will have to talk with parents, grandparents, siblings, maybe even cousins, aunts, and uncles. If there are differences in opinion, it’ll be their job to come up with a compromise. You can even let them speak with one of our family travel advisers to communicate to us what your family needs. Who has dietary restrictions? How many people are interested in kayaking versus hiking? Communication is key when planning a multi-generational vacation or family reunion vacation because everyone will have different interests. Learning how to effectively communicate and make the best decisions for the group is a trait and skill that will always be helpful!

Financial Planning

It is never too early for kids to start learning about financial responsibility and understanding a budget. Funny enough, planning a family vacation requires those skills! Let the kids know exactly what the budget is. They’ll have to start deciding if they want to spend a little extra money on plane tickets at the sacrifice of an extra activity while on vacation. Budget could also affect what time of year you choose to travel. When real money is involved and certain concessions need to be made because of it, kids will start to understand how real their role is and gain a new sense of importance and confidence.


Real Interest

The one way to ensure that your kids, whether teens, pre-teens, or kids in their 20s, giving them control over the outcome of the family vacation will be the best way to ensure they’re interested in the place you go! If they weren’t interested they wouldn’t have chosen the place to begin with. After choosing a place, your kids will be much more likely to research that place and learn about it on their own.

This is a great exercise for family teen travel and travel with younger kids. Have your kids look into our different group tour options or take it a step further and let them plan a custom or private trip. Have one of your kids give us a call and let the planning begin!

May 25, 2016

When is it Time for a Custom or Private Family Vacation?

Planning group family tours is how we got started in the family travel business. We love pairing similar families together to have the adventure of a lifetime. We’ve paired together families with young kids, families for teen travel, and multigenerational family travel. While we always love to set this type of adventure up, for ourselves and the families that travel with us, we know that sometimes a different style of trip is needed. That’s why we’ve set up custom travel and private travel options. So when should your family take a custom or private vacation?

You Have Something to Celebrate

Custom and private vacations can work best when there is something special to celebrate. This could be anything from family reunions to Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th year anniversary. It’s no issue for us to get the whole family to a villa. We’ll handle the transportation, restaurant reservations, and all of the details to make sure everybody is on time and well fed! Spend your days on new and exciting adventures and spend your nights celebrating your wonderful family.

You Have a Large Family

Some families are bigger, much bigger, than others. You shouldn’t be stressed trying to find things that can accommodate all of you. We already know where to look. Invite all of the Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and even some friends! If you’re traveling with a large group, then a private vacation may be just what you need.

The Howe family on the beach in Costa Rica

The Howe family on the beach in Costa Rica

You Want to Travel at a Time We Don’t Have a Scheduled Trip

Again, no problem! We can run one of our trips on a different date for you. We know that not everyone has the same school vacation weeks, so we’re flexible. It helps everyone out.

You Want to Travel Somewhere We Don’t Have a Scheduled Trip For

Just because a country isn’t listed with a scheduled trip does not mean we can’t get you there. Our staff is comprised of world travelers that have seen almost every corner of the globe— chances are we know a thing or two about where you want to go! All you need to do is call and let us know.

Rimer family in Belize

Rimer family in Belize


If You Want to Do Anything Extra

There are a lot of times that families just want to extend their vacations a little bit longer or maybe take a detour from what we have scheduled. We understand wanting to explore and see as much as possible when in a new place. We don’t want to suppress that feeling, but encourage it! If it will make your family vacation better to steer off course— we want you to do just that.

If You Just Feel Like It

One of the best reasons to take a custom or private family vacation is because you want to. It is your vacation after all!

March 15, 2016

The Best Way to Travel with Teens

One of the most difficult things to do as a parent is getting your teen excited about something that doesn’t show up on a digital screen. Teens want to be treated like adults. They want to have a say in the family’s vacation plans, they want experiences that give them some freedom, activities that challenge them, and they want to do things that they can go home and tell their friends about. This sounds like a tall order, but we’ve got it down. While there is no exact science that guarantees your teen will have fun (all teens are different) we have come across a few best practices that have proved to work time and time again.

Age Appropriate Fellow Travelers

There is nothing worse as a teenager than going away on vacation and not being able to meet anyone your age and make new friends. We make this as easy as we can. We have special trips and departures for families traveling with teens. By placing families with teens together, your teens will automatically be introduced to other kids their age that they can bond with. This is one of the best ways to jump-start their vacation and experiences.

a family with Teens Rock Climbing in Ecuador

Teens Rock Climbing in Ecuador

Have a Guide that knows How to Relate to Teens

We choose our guides carefully. We want to make sure that your guide will not only be an expert in the field and handle all of the logistics; we make sure that he or she will also mesh well with the group. Our guides do a great job of engaging with and relating to teens. They can spark conversations with them that go deeper than what kind of bird is that, or what event took place at this site. They delve into cultural differences and challenge teen travelers to look at their own cultures in relation to the new place that they are in. They will learn more about themselves and the world than they will in any classroom. The best part is they won’t even realize they’re learning!

Keep Things Active and Mellow

It’s important to keep teens busy while also giving them time to chill and relax on their own. By having fellow travelers that they can spend down time with, they can be given their own space and a sense of independence. During activities, teens can feel free to march ahead and proceed at their own pace with their new friends. This isn’t only great for the kids but for parents too. You don’t need to rush and you don’t need to make sure your child is having fun— after all it is your vacation too!

One of our traveling families with teens visiting an orphanage in Thailand.

One of our traveling teens visiting an orphanage in Thailand.

Offer Challenging Experiences

Our most successful teen trips are challenging in two ways, culturally and physically. We don’t make the mistake of planning too many museums or city tours. We’ve found that parents can have fun doing “teen things” but teens don’t always enjoy doing things that parents alone typically enjoy. In Peru, we have a family trek that involves longer periods of hiking to more remote locations in the countryside. In Thailand, we highlight cross cultural experiences with hill tribe villagers or Buddhist monks where teens can have meaningful conversations about philosophy and culture.

Family Trek in Peru!

Family Trek in Peru!

Why are family vacations with teens so important? They create a new and shared experience between them and their parents or grandparents. These are experiences that they will forever remember, make a few new friends along the way, and definitely take some great photos to share on Instagram and Snapchat when they get home!