Advice

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 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.



May 26, 2011

Top Five: Things about Travel in December

Escape the Snow!

How can you make the most of a December school vacation? Now is the time to think about it!

1) Enjoy the True Pleasure of Getting Away. At a time when you think you might just crack from the stress of every day life; give up trying to organize everyone’s entertainment. Become one of the guests, and really enjoy the pleasure of being taken care of. Yes, you too!

2) Is Your Weather Dicey in December? How nice to escape to someplace not just interesting, but warm and inviting too. How nice to be snorkeling when those at home are shoveling or hiking a mountain when your neighbors are commuting to work. Don’t forget your bathing suit!

3) Perfect Family Reunion Time. Every family has time off and wants to be with family, but we’re spread across the country – and who has a home big enough for everyone to congregate? Let someone else plan your reunion! You can all travel to the same destination to be together and have no hassles or worries once you get there.

4) Step Away from the Rush and propaganda of the holidays. Tired of the crush and craziness? Decide to do it differently. Invest in your memories and shared experiences rather than more obsessive accumulation of things you don’t need. Show your children the value of learning new things and meeting new people. Have some fun too!

5) Plan Ahead. December is a month of celebrations: Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve or just an escape from the dreary beginning of winter. Everyone with kids in school has a break in December. There is possibly no better time to want to travel! Be first in line to make your plans, and you’ll have first choice of options for a perfect family adventure.

Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos, Thailand, Tanzania… so many wonderful, dreamy options await you in December. Call us now at 800-262-6255




May 24, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Travel in Summer

Go for it!

Well, Well, Well. Why should you travel in the summer months? I mean June , July, and even August if you don’t begin school again that month. And maybe I mean the month of May, if your kids are out that early. The point is, this is an extended break from a school calendar and you have more flexibility, more time on your family’s schedule, to get away.

Some families want to shoot out of town the moment school is done; some families plan for camp first, then vacation. Regardless, these reasonable reasons apply:

1) You have time. Why not take 2 or 3 weeks and explore the world? You can travel further, and take more time to recover once you’re home before the kids have to ‘perform’ again. You, the parents? Well, you can make do, right?

2) In some regions this is ‘low season‘. In Central America – Costa Rica and Panama for instance – it is still a great time to visit, but it will be less crowded and flights will be more reasonable. Come see whales migrating, or Green Sea Turtles nesting on the ‘off season’.

3) You can reach faraway lands. Maybe it is too hard to think about an 18 hour flight over your precious February or March break, but in the summer, not so bad. Destinations like Tanzania, China, Thailand, Turkey, Morocco become a more relaxed and reasonable goal.

4) Christmas, Hanukah, Easter, Passover…. you probably have a focused family plan for the holidays. But what do you do in the summer? When there isn’t a specific focus to your vacation, an adventure plan can be just the right thing.

5) Big celebrations. OK, I myself am suffering from thinking about my last child heading off to college. Do I want to plan something for all of us together? You bet. This feels like a last chance – I have several family adventures planned for this summer! Why don’t you?

6) But maybe it’s an important anniversary or another milestone… summertime can be a less expensive and more convenient time to gather the family together for a kind of celebratory reunion. This is the best time to ask us to plan for something person and precious just for you.

7) Are you looking to escape the heat of your hometown? Destinations near the Equator like Ecuador and Peru in South America, or Tanzania in Africa, offer wonderful family adventures in a moderate climate – warm days and cool nights. Hike, swim, commune with unique wildlife…it’s just waiting for you.

8) I admit, I’ve run out of ideas. All I can say is, summer is an awesome time to pull the family together and go for it. What a time of discovery and growth, from end of one school year stretching to the beginning of the next. Be it your garden, or your family together — Just like me, I know you have time for both.

9) Oh, one more thing I’ll add here – you’re not too late to pull something together for summer 2011. We’ve gotten used to the ‘last minute’ calls so come along and add your request. There might just be the family adventure of a lifetime waiting for you this summer.

10) And you have just until May 31 2011 to secure some serious early booking savings (up to $500 per person!) for 2012. Call us now and we’ll tell you how 800-262-6255



April 14, 2011

Why not save for 2012?

Have you noticed the last minute planning isn’t working so well anymore? Flights have gotten too expensive, and hotel space fills up too. Why not plan ahead and save big?

Book your 2012 travel before May 31st, 2011 for significant savings as well as months of delicious anticipation and peace of mind. Did you know if you buy a flight right now from Chicago to Costa Rica for February 2012, the cost is about $500. If you wait until November, the same flight will cost you $1500 or more! Booking early could potentially save you a $1,000 per person on your air. Really!

It’s pretty simple: Plan ahead so you can take advantage of our discounts as well as better airfare.

Want some examples? OK: If you book a 2012 trip by May 31, 2011: for our Costa Rica Multi-Sport Adventure, we’ll give you $200 off per person; Ecuador and the Galapagos adventures, we’ll give you $300 off per person; Tanzania Family Safari, we’ll give you $500 off per person! Our flagship destination, this is an award winning adventure. In 2011 we’re celebrating 30 years in Tanzania! Don’t miss this personal and unique opportunity to discover Tanzania.

We have early booking discounts available on all departures to all destinations in 2012. Please note, these discounts are so spectacular that they cannot be used in combination with other discounts except for large group refunds (when they may apply).

This year we’ve already had many disappointed families hoping for a last minute vacation that couldn’t materialize. Plan now and get it right!

Again, our the rules:

Travel must be booked with deposit paid by May 31, 2011.

Discount is off the 2012 prices.

Discount cannot be used in conjunction with a travel survey, past guest reward or first family booked discount.

Discount is only valid on new bookings.

Travelers will be called and matched to a date when the 2012 dates and prices are announced – in the summer of 2011

Travelers must confirm their dates by August 31st, 2011.

If there is not a suitable 2012 date, your deposit is fully refundable.

Call us now! 800-262-6255



March 7, 2011

Top 10 reasons – Why Thomson Family Adventures?

A Family Reunion to Remember

Who are we you might ask? Well, let us tell you what makes us so great. And fun too.

1) We were the first company to champion the spirit of family adventure travel. Not just inviting the kids along on an adult trip, but really figuring out how it works best so all ages can try new things, and love every minute together. It’s our specialty, it’s all we live and breathe.

2) No voice mail, phone banks, or complicated calling options. Just real live people ready to help you.

3) We offer a limited number of destinations - about a dozen. We know them intimately and regularly visit them ourselves. When you call Thomson Family Adventures you can always speak with a knowledgeable person who will help you choose the right adventure for your family.

4) We’ve chosen these destinations because of what they have to offer in the way of interesting landscapes, history, wildlife, and culture – and because they are places you probably won’t be able to navigate off the beaten path, or really get to know without one of our guides leading the way. But we can show you an amazing time!

5) We work with local colleagues in each of our destinations. Part of our mission is to support those communities by employing people who live there, and supporting their schools and businesses. We visit them, they visit us. We’re like family! We work especially closely with our guides, ensuring you the best English speaking, family friendly leaders.

6) When you travel with us it’s not a tour, it’s a family adventure experience. Anyone can plan an itinerary outline – but what do you get between the lines?

7) We offer travel in small groups (15 – 20 people) of like minded people, all families, during all school vacation weeks as well as through the summer months. We have no minimums, and will not cancel a departure for ‘under enrollment’. When you make reservations with us, your family plans are secure.

8) (once again, the #8 is a smiley face, and I don’t know why…) We are also the experts at planning your personal, private adventure for any size group . Anything from a huge family reunion, to an intimate family getaway. We can create the right trip for you, for any age from infancy on up.

9) We’re easy on your time. We take care of you from the moment you land in-country, until you leave again for home. Every detail, every logistic, every question, every activity, every bottle of water – all taken care of. You just show up and have a great time.

10) This isn’t just an adventure – you’ll learn things too (shhh, you might not want to advertise this). Your kids will write ahead to pen pals and meet those children when you travel. You’ll discover how other people live in this world. You’ll come away enriched for having blended with another culture, if only for a week. It might even just change your life.

11) (Sorry, I ran over!) We always include trip cancellation insurance at no additional cost.



March 6, 2011

FYI: Our Mission Statement

Ever wonder about the purpose of Thomson Family Adventures, and what drives us?

Product Mission

To be an industry leader in the creation, selling and operation of the finest family adventures that allow families to experience vacations to areas of the world in a fashion not yet done in the travel industry through the addition of new, exciting and unique family features.

Social Mission

To operate the division in a way that actively recognizes the central role that we as a tour operator play in the creation and maintenance of good job opportunities with fair wages here in the United States as well as all the countries to which we send families.



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.



January 30, 2011

Wonder about a Family Safari?