Advice

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.

Responsibility

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?

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Communication

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.

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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!



February 4, 2016

What You Need to Know about Zika Virus for Safe Travel

This article is accurate as of the time of its writing on February 29, 2016

On Monday February 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced an international health emergency over Zika virus. There is daily growing concern over the rapidly spreading virus as four million people are expected to be infected by the end of the year. The CDC has advised pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant against traveling to virus stricken countries, as the CDC and Pan American Health Organization have been investigating the possible association between Zika and microcephaly.

At this time, Thomson Family Adventures is continuing to run its scheduled trips. While we are operating our trips going forward, we want our travelers to exercise caution while traveling to any destination.

Here is what you need to know about Zika virus per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of 02/29/2016:

Where have virus cases been confirmed?

Prior to 2015, the virus has been found in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands.

In May 2015, the Pan American Health organization (PAHO) issued an alert of confirmed virus cases in Brazil.

The virus has spread beyond Brazil into several Latin American countries. Countries with active transmission of Zika virus that Thomson Family Adventures travel to are Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama.

No local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in the U.S. states but there have been travel-associated cases.

How is the virus spread?

The virus is spread to humans by mosquito bites. There have been cases reported of Zika spreading through blood transfusion and sexual contact. Zika can be found in the bloodstream and passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people. The virus can remain in the bloodstream for a few days but it can remain for a longer period of time.

What are the common symptoms of the virus?

About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will become ill. Symptoms of Zika virus are joint pain, rash, fever or conjunctivitis. Muscle pain and headache may also occur. While the incubation period of the virus is not known, it is believed to be a few days to a week.

The illness is mild and symptoms can last from a few days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some patients may not realize they are ill due to mild symptoms.

Is there treatment for the virus?

There are no known vaccines or medications used to prevent and/or treat Zika virus. In order to treat the symptoms, get plenty of rest and take pain reliever such as acetaminophen for joint and muscle aches, drink fluids. Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

Who is likely at risk to contract Zika?

Anybody can contract Zika.

There is more concern for women of child-bearing age who seek to become pregnant and pregnant women in any trimester. The CDC has advised pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant against traveling to virus stricken countries, as the CDC and Pan American Health Organization have been investigating the possible association between Zika and microcephaly.

For others who may contract Zika, symptoms of the virus are joint pain, rash, fever or conjunctivitis. Muscle pain and headache may also occur. While the incubation period of the virus is not known, it is believed to be a few days to a week. The illness is mild and symptoms can last from a few days to a week. Some patients may not realize they are ill due to mild symptoms.

How can you prevent infection of Zika virus?

If you are traveling abroad to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitos are found, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants.

Stay in air conditioning or places that have screen windows and doors.

Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items and sleep under a mosquito bed net when traveling or outside.

Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellants ONLY, as these have been evaluated for effectiveness.

Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

How can you help prevent the spread of Zika?

If you have Zika, prevent mosquito bites during the first week of your illness. Symptoms can last from a few days to a week. Zika can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.

Are you immune for life once infected?

Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.

Some of this information is directly copied from the CDC website. For complete information about Zika virus, please visit:

 

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html

http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11585&Itemid=41688&lang=en



November 24, 2015

Family Holiday Travel Trips

airplane

One of the best times to travel with the family is around the holidays. Everyone has some time free from work, school, sports, dance, and music lessons. Basically what we’re saying is that the kids can make some time for you!  It makes sense to use this time free of activities for a family vacation. The only issue is that everyone else knows this too, making the holidays one of the toughest times to travel to top destinations around the world. Here are a few holiday travel tips that can make family travel go as smooth as possible.

1: Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport. With more cars on the road and more travelers at the airport, anything can happen. There is no worse way to start your vacation than by sitting in traffic and wondering if you’ll make it to your gate on time. Start the trip off on the right foot, leave earlier than normal for the airport.

2: Research the best airport to leave from. Sometimes it makes sense to fly out of a smaller airport, even if it’s a bit more out of the way. Major airport hubs are guaranteed to be busy and are susceptible to more hold-ups. No one wants that!

3: Pack light. This can make life easier in so many ways. Packing lighter allows you to avoid checking a bag and makes it easier to switch hotels as you go from city to city. The only thing to consider when only having a carry on is overhead space. Getting to your gate early and opting for early boarding can eliminate that concern for you.

4: Take advantage of the latest technology. A few travel apps can make not only holiday travel, but all travel much easier. Two good ones are Flight Status and Gate Guru. Flight Status is a great app to give you time updates on delays, baggage numbers, and much more. Gate Guru is an app that provides estimations on how long it’ll take to get through security.

5: Fly direct if you can. Direct flights lower the chances that you’ll run into a delay due to weather. If you must have a layover, do your best to layover in a warmer and drier climate to avoid any chance of snow and ice.

6: Most importantly, stay calm. Everyone will be high strung in route to their holidays. The staff at the airport and hotel may be missing out on time with their families and dealing with irritable customers all day. It’s the holidays— stay calm and try to help spread a little joy!

Whether you want to visit Peru, adventure in Baja, or enjoy all of the wonders of Thailand, these holiday travel tips will make your family vacation a bit more enjoyable!

 

 

 



July 21, 2015

6 Things You Have to See in Brazil to Understand

Brazil is a wonderful country that has been a regular stop on the travel circuit for some time now. The great weather, beautiful beaches, scenic views, adoring people, and exciting culture are just a few of the reasons why this is the case. There is a lot of information out there about Brazil given its size, fifth largest in the world in area and population, and being the host country for major global events, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. But no matter what you read (yes, including this article!), there are a few things that you can only truly understand by going to Brazil and seeing them for yourself!

Spot a Jaguar

A jaguar sitting on a log in the Pantanal.

A jaguar sitting on a log in the Pantanal.

The jaguar is a truly majestic creature that prowls the jungles of South America. There was a time when jaguars were abundant in the wild but that is no longer the case. The jaguar is elusive, stealthy, powerful, and one of the best places to spot the big cat is in the jungles of Brazil. Seeing the jaguar in its natural habitat is a rare experience that not many people have.

Experience the Pantanal

A large area of Brazil is jungle and one of the most fascinating parts of that jungle is the Pantanal region. If you mixed the Amazon rain forest with the Serengeti of Africa and sprinkled a bit of Florida’s everglades on top, you’d have the Pantanal. This is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet and is home to wildlife such as capuchin and howler monkeys, jaguars, giant river otters, caimans, extremely colorful and diverse birds, and thousands of fish species. It’s hard to imagine until you see it with your own eyes.

Stand with Christ the Redeemer

Christo Blanco

One of the new Seven Wonders of the World is the Christ the Redeemer statue. This impressive sculpture overlooks the brilliant city of Rio de Janeiro. It sits atop Corcovado Hill and can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. There is a certain feeling that only comes with standing next to the statue and overlooking Rio.

 

Enjoy a Churrascaria

A favorite for all travelers, this Brazilian style BBQ gives a new definition to all you can eat. In this style of BBQ, the meat is brought fresh off of the grill to your table and sliced directly on to your plate. It’s hard to find anything as fresh as that! Not a fan of meat? That’s all right too. These meals are usually full of fruit and vegetable dishes that have made Brazilian cuisine famous.

See The Beautiful Game

Brazil has won the FIFA World Cup a record of five times. No other country has done that and it may be because Brazil plays the game more beautifully than anyone else. The style of play is unique to Brazil and was even the source of a Nike campaign almost a decade ago. The passion that Brazilians have for football is unmatched and seeing a game in Brazil is enough to get anyone, even the most passive fan, excited about the beautiful game!

Learn About the Golden Lion Tamarin

golden lion tamarin

There are only about 1,500 Golden Lion Tamarin monkeys remaining in the wild in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. These tamarins are dapper and under severe threat. Take a trip to the Golden Lion Tamarin Project outside of Rio and learn about the conservation efforts in place to save these animals from extinction. Actually seeing the Golden Lion Tamarins in their natural habitat will be an unforgettable education that you can only get there!

All of these are great options for families that want to have a memorable, educational, and truly Brazilian family vacation. We’ve just updated our itinerary to make this the best possible trip for your family, call today and book your Brazilian family vacation!



July 10, 2015

Four of Our Favorite Family Vacation Destinations on Four Different Continents

One of the toughest parts of planning a family vacation is deciding where to go. With so many places to travel for your next vacation we understand that choosing a destination can be a little overwhelming. Is the place kid friendly? Will my kids have fun? Will they also learn? Will I be able to have fun and relax? The answer to all of those questions should be a resounding YES. We have a few destinations that are a firm yes to all of those questions across the globe. Here are four (each on a separate continent for variety) that are a good place to start looking to plan a family vacation!

Africa: South Africa

A view of Cape Town from the water

A view of Cape Town from the water

One of the premier destinations in Africa for all things fun, educational, and family friendly is South Africa. After holding its first democratic election in 1994, the country has come a long way. Just off of the coast of Cape Town an important spot to visit is Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held as a political prisoner for 18 years. Apart from the political history of the country, there are also incredible sites. From the view of the magnificent Table Mountain to the wild fynbos of the Cape Floral Kingdom, you will always be left in awe. This isn’t even to mention what you’ll see on a South African safari (here’s a clue: think Big 5 and then way more). Also for mom and dad, South Africa has an amazing selection of locally produced wines to make for optimal evening relaxation!

 

 

Asia: Thailand

Having some fun with an elephant!

Having some fun with an elephant!

Exotic? Check. Exciting? Check. Exhilarating? Check. Other adjectives that start with ‘ex’? Check! Thailand is a great family vacation destination that offers families a great cultural experience. The streets of Bangkok are a constant hustle with tuk-tuks, food stalls, and people darting in and out of shops and work. While it is a site to see, getting around can be a bit easier and more fun on a boat! The khlongs (canals) in Bangkok are a great way to see the sites without getting caught in the traffic of the city. Thailand also has a wonderful northern region full of hiking opportunities and chances to care for elephants all day. That’s right— all day! No conversation about Thailand would be complete without mentioning the cool emerald and teal waters of the islands like Phuket and Koh Yao Noi where relaxation is not only encouraged, but guaranteed!

Europe: Ireland

A classic destination that all types of travelers want to visit and it isn’t hard to see why. Ireland is known for its friendly people with talkative personalities but the real pull to Ireland, is its rolling green hills in the countryside and its fun historical cities. Dublin is one of a kind as it can immediately transport you to medieval times as you walk through the heart of the city stopping in the famous places such as Temple Bar, O’Connell Street, and Trinity College. Crossing the country west to Connemara is one of the most beautiful rides that your family can take as you wind through the scenic hills and quaint farms out to the Atlantic. With a friendly reputation and plenty of activities for kids, Ireland family vacations are great!

South America: Brazil

A jaguar resting in the Pantanal.

A jaguar resting in the Pantanal.

This is a country that can speak for itself. Rio is impressive and fun for travelers of any age with unlimited venues for entertainment and gorgeous beaches that stretch for miles. This is s a passionate city full of life and excitement! Although, many may argue that this isn’t even the most exciting area of Brazil. Heading out to the amazon and trekking through the lush and diverse Pantanal region is nothing short of unforgettable. With thousands of plant species and hundreds of animals you’re sure to see something in the Pantanal that you can’t see anywhere else. This includes the quiet and mysterious jaguar! Kids will love a nighttime jeep ride to try and spot the magnificent creature!

At Thomson Family Adventures we always have you on our minds. This is just a sample of a few places that families love to visit. Call us today to hear about them or feel free to explore our site and see the other destinations that we can help you see on your next family vacation!



July 7, 2015

What I’ve Seen: South Africa

We are getting ready to launch a new family trip to South Africa and thought it would be a good idea to let you in on the experience! A member of our team, Claudia, went to Cape Town and out on safari to learn all she could about South Africa. We asked her a few questions about her trip to give you an idea of what your next family vacation might look like!

Here's Claudia and her friend Ivy at the Cape of Good Hope

Here’s Claudia and her friend Ivy at the Cape of Good Hope

Can you give us an overview of your trip to South Africa?

I spent two wonderfully busy weeks there in late April, early May. We stayed 5 nights in glorious Cape Town, one night at Grootbos in the scenic Western Cape, three nights in bustling Johannesburg (a.k.a. Joburg) and four nights in the bush. We drove six-and-a-half hours from Joburg to Timbavati Game Reserve, which provided great perspective from the Highveld to the Lowveld.

South Africa has a troubled history that’s not too far in the past; could you still signs of this as a traveler and did it affect your trip in any way?

I was amazed how far the country has progressed since apartheid. For example, in 1950, the South African government banned marriages between whites and people of other races. The Population Registration Act of 1950 provided the basic framework for apartheid by classifying all South Africans by race, including Bantu (black Africans), Colored (mixed race) and white. A fourth category, Asian (meaning Indian and Pakistani) was later added. In some cases, the legislation split families; parents could be classified as white, while their children were classified as colored. In December 2006, South Africa became the fifth country in the world, the first in Africa, to allow legal marriages between same-sex couples. Pretty impressive! (The ban on interracial marriages was lifted in 1985.)

What was the best part of this trip for you?

Wild dogs spotted on Safari

Wild dogs spotted on Safari

It’s difficult to pick my favorite part of the trip, as there was something special in each location. Cape Town is unbelievably beautiful and the bush (safari) is tough to beat with opportunities of being a stone’s throw away from rhinos and wild dogs. For me, Joburg was an unexpected highlight. I had the opportunity to visit a few inspirational museums that exhibit and display the hardships of apartheid in a way that leaves you craving to learn more about this tumultuous period. In addition to perusing the museums, I was able to explore two townships – Soweto and Kliptown – two very different communities all striving for the same thing – a better life. The people of Johannesburg are prosperous people and the spirit of entrepreneurship is everywhere.

What part did you like the least?

Flying. I’m not a big fan.

South Africa isn’t typically thought of as a safari destination but you went on one there. How was it?

Stopping for a sip of water!

Stopping for a sip of water!

Actually, South Africa is a popular destination for safari-goers. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to experience a handful of safaris in Tanzania, which is completely different than the safari experience in South Africa. In Tanzania, it’s like stepping into Noah’s Ark. You’ll see hundreds and hundreds of wildebeest, zebra and antelope and the vastness of the country is grand; whereas, in South Africa, the experience is intimate. You’ll see a few rhino, wild dog and lion in an up-close and personal way. The experience is quite exhilarating! I truly feel like people seeking a 10-plus day trip filled with extraordinary wildlife viewing should consider our family safari to Tanzania. If you and your family are seeking a little bit of everything – including marine life – family South Africa is the trip for you.

Would you take your kids or niece and nephew on this trip?

You betcha! I have a poster pinned on my cork board at work that reads, “Seek Adventures That Open Your Mind”.  South Africa will open your mind! South Africans are strong, curious and aware people. The older generation had to be this way in order to survive, and it’s places like South Africa that the next generation must experience to understand how history has shaped the world we live in today. Apartheid cannot be forgotten.

What about your parents or grandparents?

You betcha! South Africa is very diverse. Come learn about the Land Big 5, the Marine Big 5, South Africa’s turbulent history, its vibrant cultures, and tasty wines all while being awed by its surrounding natural beauty!

Did you feel culture shock at any point, why? If not, why do you think you didn’t?

I did not and that’s probably due to my trips to Tanzania and other underdeveloped countries in the world. There are considerable differences between the US and South Africa, but I never felt inconvenienced. I could connect to WiFi at the hotels, I could easily access money at ATMS and I had no problems conversing with people in English as is commonly spoken throughout Africa, along with 11 other official languages.

Did you feel safe in South Africa? Whether it was your time out on safari or walking around Cape Town?

The Gardens at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town

The Gardens at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town

Truthfully, I never felt unsafe or in harm’s way. I may have had my adrenaline rise as a pride of lions walked by our safari vehicle, but I never felt unsafe.

How were the flights getting to and from South Africa?

My international flights were smooth. I flew roundtrip on Delta Airlines. On the outbound flight I flew from Boston to Cape Town via Amsterdam, a flight I’m very familiar with. On the return, I flew from Joburg to Boston via Atlanta, the largest airport hub in the world. The flight from Joburg to Atlanta was slightly under 17 hours long.

Is there something about South Africa that you could really only know from being there? Something you won’t find in a guide book?

The entire experience. To learn, read a book. To experience, go travel.

The view from famous Table Mountain

The view from famous Table Mountain

There you have it— South Africa in a nutshell! If you have any lingering questions just give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer them for you and set your family up with an incredible vacation experience!



June 30, 2015

Three Great Cultural Exchanges to Have in Cuba

Although Cuba is just 90 miles off of the coast of Florida, not many people have ever been or even know much about this Caribbean island. Much of that has to do with the political tensions of the U.S. and Cuban Governments over the last few decades. With those tensions shrinking and relations becoming better, it is only a matter of time before the tourism floodgates in Cuba burst open. After that happens, Cuba, for better or worse, will never be the same. If you can get to Cuba before this happens, here are a few cultural exchanges you should take part in on your family vacation.

Go See a Baseball Game

Baseball is known as America’s pastime. But it also has that reputation in Cuba. Baseball was introduced to Cuba in the 1860s by Cuban students returning from studying in America and American sailors who ported in Cuba. Baseball replaced the Spanish bullfights as a source of entertainment. Still under Spanish rule, the government took this as a sign of disrespect and outlawed baseball in Cuba. This transformed baseball from a game to a symbol of freedom and independence. Baseball is important in Cuba and watching one of these games and organizing time to have your kids join a little league practice or to have catch with local Cuban youth can be an amazing experience. This will be an exchange that your kids will not only have fun doing, but will also educate them in immeasurable ways!

Cuba baseball

Visit a Potter’s Studio

Cuban pottery is a popular form of art in Cuba and the works of pottery produced are incredible. The details of the designs are fun and intricate. No two pieces of this ceramic art are the same as they’re all made by hand; making them unique to the artist and to the process. Watching the potter’s while they work will give you and your kids a new appreciation for what it means to “work with your hands.” Take time to speak to the potter and learn from his process, the best case scenario is arranging to visit a potter and share a meal together. There is no cultural exchange like those over a delicious meal!

Play Dominoes

Almost as important as baseball in Cuba, is the game of dominoes. As you explore the streets, alleyways, and parks of Havana you’ll be sure to see one thing over and over again— a table of people playing dominoes in the street. Dominoes is the game of choice for people to play after work for a bit of competition and fun! The game is a bit different in Cuba than here in the U.S. In Cuba, dominoes is played in teams of two, similar to bridge. The other main difference is the dominoes in Cuba go from 0-9 (double 9) opposed to other places that usually play 0-6 (double 6). Meet a local who can show you the ropes of dominoes and teach you a few tips and tricks to improve your game!

Domino Lesson 10

These three cultural exchanges are just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to ideas for your family to have the best Cuban vacation possible. You can also visit community art projects, learn to dance to the Mambo, and join locals for a traditional village roast. With Thomson Family Adventures we can make sure that you have a people to people exchange that you can’t get anywhere else!



June 26, 2015

Four Ancient Sites Around the World That You Need to See

The world is full of amazing things from animals and architecture to jungles and restaurants. While these are all great things to work into any travel itinerary, sometimes the best sites are ancient. There are a few places that contain incredible feats of human ingenuity from thousands of years ago. When traveling to places such as Egypt, Turkey, China, or Croatia it’s important to take in as much history as you can through your travels. At Thomson Family Adventures we truly appreciate the past and embrace the beauty in those things ancient. Here are a few historical sites that everyone should see in their lifetime.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

giza

Another very popular site among world travelers is the Great Pyramid of Giza. This is the oldest and the largest of the pyramids in Giza. It is also the oldest of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World and the only one that still remains. This single pyramid was built between 10 and 20 years and was finished around 2560 BC. For over 3,800 years this was also the tallest man made structure in the world! Although there is plenty of tangible evidence about who the builders of this temple were, like inscriptions from the workers on the inside of the stones, many people still believe that an alien source is responsible for its construction. What do you think— human strength and ingenuity or aliens!?

The Great Wall of China

Great Wall

This is one of the most visited destinations in the world and not by accident. The Great Wall of China was built in sections that date as far back 220 BC. Once the wall was fully completed, it stretched 13,171 miles across China and is still the largest man made structure in the world. This is an impressive feat considering the technological advances that the world has seen. Although it is no longer used as a main defense system, it is still awe-inspiring and should not be missed!

The Old City Walls of Dubrovnik

dubrovnik

Croatia is a beautiful country and the city of Dubrovnik has been around since the beginning. As long as Dubrovnik has been around so have the old city walls. During Byzantine rule in the 7th Century, these walls were built to defend the city and they were quite effective. In fact, it is considered one of the greatest fortification systems of the Middle Ages since the walls were never breached during that time. The walls were continuously expanded and fortified up until the 17th Century.  In 1979 the Old City of Dubrovnik, which contains most sections of the Old Walls, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Underground City of Kaymakli

turkey

In the middle of Turkey in Cappadocia is a large network of underground tunnels and rooms that together comprise the city of Kaymakli. This intricate system contains hundreds of tunnels and goes eight stories deep into the ground. The tunnels run to caverns that were turned into meeting places and chapels; some rooms could hold as many as 300 people! Thousands of people used this city as a hide out during times of war. Today Kaymakli’s tunnels are not just a tourist attraction; a town built in the area still uses parts of the underground city as storage space, stables, and cellars. Can you imagine living underground for months at a time!

Call us today to find out how you can see these sites and so much more on your next family vacation!