August 5, 2015

7 Reasons To Bring Your Older Kids to Thailand

Finding the right place to take your older kids on a family vacation can be challenging. You want them to have fun and learn without feeling like kids(although they will always be kids to you!). One destination perfect for this kind of adventure is Thailand. Here are seven reasons why Thailand is great for older kids!
Islands and Beaches
The beaches in Thailand are the epitome of tropical beauty. There is no island that encompasses this like Phuket. Famous for its white sand beaches that disappear into emerald teal waters and sandstone islands that tower out of the bay. There are stretches of untouched and private beach on small islands like Koh Yao Noi or Koh Yao Yai that are perfect for quiet and relaxing family time. Not to mention fun activities like snorkeling and diving!
The Temples and Palaces
Thailand is a country with beautiful temples and architecture. Some temples are intricately and delicately decorated in strong bright colors with golden spires and sparkling mosaics. Others are more modest and may be set atop a mountain. Visiting the Royal Grand Palace and Wat Pho in Bangkok are sites not to be missed.

Both Bangkok and Chiang Mai have unique markets where you can find almost anything! Visit the floating market in Bangkok where 10,000 boats cover the canals to create an incredible market where you can pick out fruits and vegetables for snacks throughout the day! The night markets in Chiang Mai are a true adventure in the art of haggling!
Arts and Culture
Learning about the culture of Buddhism is a really sophisticated discussion to have with kids. It’s great to discuss hot the art and architecture is so beautiful and inspiring or how the peaceful friendly people are eager to talk about their lives and philosophies.
Natural Wonders
Spending time in the natural wonders of a place can be the best part of traveling. You can search for waterfalls, wild plants, and the rare green-tailed sunbird while hiking in Doi Inthanon near Chiang Mai. Being the national animal of the country, elephants are a major part of Thai culture. You spend an entire day with an elephant and learn to care for it which is a lesson in responsibility and respect. It’s also an unforgettable experience to share with family!

Time to Experiment
Have unique experiences like a Thai massage, fish spa, eating roasted grasshopper, and riding in a tuk tuk. With an extra day in Bangkok you can try the incredibly clean and organized city rail system or have a custom suit made for the coming job interviews. Take a class in the martial art of muay thai or attend a professional fight. The chances to try something new Thailand are endless; you just need to be there!
One of the things that Thailand is most known for is its delicious cuisine. The spicy and flavorful dishes will wake up your taste buds like no other food ever has. A few favorites are papaya salad, pad thai, tom yum soup, and phat kaphrao. Take a Thai cooking class to learn how to create these incredible flavors. This is a lesson your older kids will learn to love even more after moving away from your home cooking!
While Thailand is great country for all ages to visit, older kids are able to dive deeper into the culture of the country for a more sophisticated and thoughtful experience. Take your older kids on a family vacation they’ll never forget!

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!

June 5, 2015

6 Great Family Hikes

There are many great reasons to go hiking. Hikes are great for both physical and mental health, it’s simple to do, it’s low-maintenance, and hiking is also a great activity for kids. Hiking is a good way to get your kids off of the computer and out into nature! The best family bonding happens while everyone is unplugged and hikes are a fun and effective way to do just that. Here are six of our favorite places to hike that are perfect for all types of families.

Irazu National Park

A couple of kids gazing into the Irazu Crater

A couple of kids gazing into the Irazu Crater

A favorite from Costa Rica, the Irazu Volcano is the tallest volcano in the country. There are few trails here and they aren’t very long or arduous- typically a vehicle takes people up most of the way. These trails are very good for young kids and grandparents who may have difficulty with long hikes. The trails all offer great views of the volcano’s crater which holds an acid lake that has changed size and color over time.

Isabela Island

The hiking on Isabela Island in the Galapagos is beautiful and leaves little to the imagination. Many of the animals you’ll see traipsing around the different paths can only be found in the Galapagos making this an extremely unique experience. Whenever on Isabela Island, we always recommend taking a short boat ride out to the smaller island of Las Tintoreras for a hike. Here, your family can hike shark canal and get amazing up close views of resting white tip sharks. You also can’t go wrong with hiking along the beach!

Macchu Picchu

A family poses for a photo in Machu Picchu

A family poses for a photo in Machu Picchu

One of the more famous destinations on our list, Machu Picchu, is popular and famous for a reason. The history and mystery of Machu Picchu leaves all of its hikers in awe. We love this hike for families because the educational aspect is almost unmatched anywhere else in the world. This massive city hidden in the mountains was abandoned for an unknown reason. The mystery of the ruins will make your kids curious and engaged through the whole hike!


This national park in Costa Rica was called “the most biologically intense place on earth” by the National Geographic Society. This gives hikers ample opportunity to see beautiful and rare animals in their natural habitat. The jaguar, tapir, scarlet macaw, and red-eyed tree frog are all locals in these jungles and seeing them in the wild is an education your kids can’t get anywhere else. With a countless number of trails you can find one suited best for your family’s experience level.

Doi Inthanon National Park

Just taking a break by the waterfall!

Just taking a break by the waterfall!

Bringing you out to the Far East, Doi Inthanon is an amazing hike in Northern Thailand. Parts of this hike can be difficult but, as all of our recommended family hikes, there are options available here to adapt the hike to your family’s needs! Doi Inthanon is a great place to hike not only because it is the tallest mountain in Thailand but the paths are accompanied by beautiful forests and waterfalls for you to get the perfect family picture in front of!

Sacred Valley

The Sacred Valley is another great place in Peru for a family hiking vacation. We’ve included it on this list because it’s important to note that Machu Picchu isn’t the only good area to hike in Peru! The Sacred Valley is full of lesser traveled routes and beautiful landscapes that are begging to be explored. Your family can have quiet stretches of trail all to yourselves and have great conversations along the way!

Hiking can be the best way to spice up any family vacation and create great memories. With Thomson Family Adventures we make sure that you get just that- great memories at every turn!

May 26, 2015

The Best Regions to Vacation in Thailand

Thailand very well may be one of the most interesting and diverse countries in the world, making it a great destination for families. It is home to a long history, rich culture, dense rain forests, and beautiful beaches. Thailand’s unique culture comes from bordering four other countries, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Malaysia, and its large expatriate population. Thailand is a true international crossroads and each region is special in its own way. Here are three different regions in Thailand that we love and are perfect for family vacations!

The Urban Epicenter


Bangkok is home to over 8 million people, which accounts for over 12% of the nation’s population. Nearly 720,000 people living in Bangkok are expatriates, making Bangkok a truly global city. Bangkok was also once referred to as “Venice of the East” because of its intricate canal system and because its buildings used to sit on stilts. Most of the canals have been filled in and the buildings now sit on solid ground, but the incredible architecture of the city remains. One of the best viewpoints of Bangkok is from the Chao Phraya River. The breeze you catch while on a long-tail boat is cooling and welcoming as you sit in the sun! You can even take a boat right to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, two of Thailand’s most marvelous structures. It is highly possible and probable that Bangkok is one of the most vibrant, busy, and exciting cities in the world. Your kids will be in absolute awe taking part in the daily hustle!

The Rose of the North

While Bangkok is indisputably the most famous, popular, and important city in Thailand, Chiang Mai cannot be overlooked. Historically, Chiang Mai was the capital of the Kingdom of Lanna from 1296-1768. Although the Lanna Kingdom no longer exists, its traditions and culture still do and there is no place they flourish like in Chiang Mai. The speed of life in the North is much slower and more relaxed than Bangkok. Chiang Mai is a great place for the arts (it’s in the middle of a bid to be named a Creative City by UNESCO) and it’s great for nature lovers- most of the Chiang Mai province is forests and parks. The highest point in Thailand, Doi Inthanon, is just outside of Chiang Mai and offers a gorgeous climb for hikers! Our favorite part of Chiang Mai though is the elephant conservation and rehabilitation farms. Not only do they do great work, but they teach you to train, bathe, feed, and ride elephants over the course of a day. These smart creatures are friendly, take great pictures, and won’t ever forget you!

The Islands of the South

If you take the laid back nature of Chiang Mai and multiply it by ten, you’ll get a sense of the pace of island life in Thailand. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are on Thai islands. The most famous and possibly most scenic is Phuket. This is the largest island in Thailand and perfect for the family trying to relax on the beach and play in the water. The sand is soft, white, and not too hot. The beach disappears into emerald Phuket1and teal waters that seem too beautiful to be real. Dotted throughout Phang Nga Bay are limestone islands that stand tall out of the water and make for a surreal view. This backdrop makes for the holiday card of the century! There are also plenty of places for snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, boat rides, and searching for hidden caves and lagoons- the kids won’t ever get bored!

These three areas of Thailand are all very different and unique in their own way. Going to one is memorable- going to all three is unforgettable! Thailand has all of the ingredients to make for the family vacation of a lifetime.

May 23, 2012

Top Five Spots for Teens and Older

The ‘kids’ bonding in Tanzania

Want to know what’s hot for you and your teenagers and graduates? Here are some great ideas for you to consider while trying to keep everyone happy.

1) Panama. Now, we don’t CALL this a teen trip, but really older kids are perfect for this adventure. With excitement like zip lines and white water rafting it has adrenaline pumping action. And with the engineering marvel of the canal, and the cultural attraction of the Embera tribe there is plenty of sophistication for your kids, and you too! Our guides will engage your family, and you’ll go home with memories you never dreamt of.

2) Costa Rica. This stands by as our most popular family adventure, and the benefit of having older, more tolerant kids is your ability to head to the remote region of Corcovado National Park. It’s far away, out there, and oh so worth it to get to. Surfing, hiking, snorkeling

3) Tanzania. A safari is a sedentary adventure by nature but our Active Safari takes every opportunity for you to stretch your legs and challenge your pre-conceptions. Bike at Gibbs Farm, enjoy walks and village visits at our exclusive private nature refuge, and hike partway up Mount Meru to overnight in a hut before hiking back down the next day. Interspersed with world class wildlife viewing, this adventure will stay with you forever. (And if this isn’t enough you could always think about a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro…….)

4) Peru. You don’t need to fight the crowds on the famed Inca Trail hike into Machu Picchu in order to appreciate all of the wonders Peru has to offer. In fact, we beseech you to NOT join that rat race. Come try some undiscovered trails, and enjoy world class hiking and gorgeous landscapes on trails where you may not see any other people, short of local farmers and their llamas. A Peru Trek can be the way to reassess your life while your older children begin to define their own lives. Prefer the comforts of a hotel? It’s easy to avoid the camping and still enjoy daily explorations. Let the energetic, able bodied kids do the hiking, and you can simply sit and contemplate the beautiful landscape. Want top of the line? Try our Smithsonian Peru Adventure, including Lake Titicaca.

5) Galapagos! Whether you opt for a stint on a luxury catamaran or a unique opportunity to sleep in the islands themselves, the snorkeling, biking, and kayaking in the Galapagos is fabulous. Never just a beach vacation, this is a sophisticated exploration to challenge your mind. Did you know there is wildlife here you just won’t find anywhere else in the world? Come visit these volcanic islands for the chance to think differently.

6) You know me, it’s hard to stop myself. Last summer I went with my kids (18, 22, 25) to Thailand and we had the best time ever. Culture, cities, villages, hiking, zip lines, rafting, elephants, Buddhism, food, massage, wow. A fabulously exotic place that is so warm and welcoming, you might never want to leave.

February 26, 2012

Top Five Destinations for your Graduate. And You.

Who’s bold enough to try grasshopper?

Many popular destinations are just plain fun for a young child, but can be revisited – or seen for the first time – with very different eyes once your child is out of high school. Here are our picks for the most sophisticated and exciting places to visit, or visit again, with your graduate.

5) Alaska. It’s pristine, and so different from the rest of the continental USA. And it’s changing so fast, there may well be species, habitats and glaciers that will be disappearing in the future. Take your graduate to explore up close, with plenty of physical activities to challenge you both while you all learn about how climate change is affecting this part of the country.

4) Galapagos. On select dates we offer families with older kids the opportunity to explore the islands from a 16 passenger catamaran. Or, if you prefer, you can join our MultiSport Adventure with real beach camping and up close experiences with those frigate birds, seal ions, and blue footed boobies. In both options you’ll also have the chance to learn something about rock climbing, early Incan ruins, and the delightful culture of mainland Ecuador.

3) Peru. Whether you like to camp in remote mountains with no one but your camp crew nearby, or you prefer, thank you very much, to sleep in a comfortable hotel…Peru offers mystery and culture you can dive into, and breathtaking scenery to explore. Both versions, the Trek and the Land of the Ancient Inca offer great hiking and plenty of time to contemplate the wonders of Machu Picchu.

2) Turkey. Whether you choose a photographic journey, our Secrets of Turkey, or the special Smithsonian Adventure, Turkey is full of inviting people, scenery, and culture. Oh, and the food! Turkey is an adventure of history and art, Roman ruins, miraculous landscape, and the smooth Mediterranean. So much more than just a vacation!

1) Thailand With a fascinating culture, gorgeous temples, and a philosophy that invites conversation…. plus verdant forest to hike, retired elephants to care for, and rivers to raft…. here is an adventure to change your life forever.

0) It’s hard to stop when I’m on a roll.. how about Morocco? Wander the souks, watch a snake charmer, trek in the High Atlas Mountains, and ride a camel on the beach… Practice your Arabic as well as your French, and tantalize your taste buds in this exotic land of couscous and fragrant tagines.

The truth is, any one of our destinations can be sophisticated and enriching for your older kids, and for you too! Our expert guides are ready to talk up to your level, and challenge you to take home in your heart a piece of their country. Come join the like minded and similar aged families traveling with us in 2012 and beyond.

February 12, 2012

Family Travel: Not Just for Kids

Traveling with the Graduates

With my third and last child up and off to college I find myself rethinking the definition of “Family Travel”. Of course we’re still a family even if we don’t have dinner together every night, if we don’t all live under the same roof, and even if my kids are more grown up than I ‘m ready for them to be. And we still love to travel together – none of us are too grown up to discover new places, thank goodness.

But when we call it Family Travel – it might seem too young for what you are really after. How about: Graduate Adventures.

Your children graduate from high school, or from college. Maybe even from graduate school. And you are graduating from a full house of responsibilities to spare time for thinking about what comes next. Just like dinnertime used to be the time to catch up on the day, now your Graduate Adventure can be the place to reconnect with your busy kids. A time to continue to grow together.

When your kids graduate from high school, college or graduate school you don’t stop wanting to travel together – you just want more sophisticated opportunities. Welcome to our Graduate Adventures. Full of history, mystery, and discovery. Great activities to challenge yourself AND your ‘kids’ (won’t we call them that forever??)

It makes sense that we began with 6 year olds 15 years ago, and now have families with 20-someting year old kids traveling with us. So give us a call and see what opportunities there might be for your graduated family. Turkey, Thailand, Tanzania, Peru, Costa Rica – we have older groups going almost everywhere!

August 16, 2011

Biking through Bangkok

Rubbing the Buddha’s belly for good luck

What did we learn in Bangkok?

1) It is fabulous to stay in a hotel along the river. That way you can hop a water taxi to go places, rather than sit in dense road traffic for hours.

2)The floating market isn’t visible every day, but that doesn’t stop the river from being a fascinating slice of local life. The homes along the canals, the bustle of commuters on ferries, express the mix of ancient tradition with modern times. The long tail boats are cool to see – but you can get pretty wet on a fast ride in one!

3) Did you say temples? What a glorious display of magnificent temples, from Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) to Wat Pho, home to the reclining Buddha. These sacred places along with the passion and knowledge shared by our incredible guide, allowed Buddhism to add a peaceful and relaxing atmosphere to the entire adventure.

4) Biking through the city and markets gave a view of the inner workings of city life. In a city of skyscrapers, there are still families who cook in the streets and live simple lives in simple homes lining narrow allies. And you know what? Everyone pauses to watch the Thai soap operas every evening!

5) Now if you want to try the subway – easy to figure out – let me tell you it is spotless. No food or drink allowed, and not a sign of litter or dirt. In fact, on the platform everyone lines up, single file, to board the car as it pulls into the station. I just don’t think I will ever see that in Boston. And I loved that their priority seating is reserved for … monks!

6) Dinner in a local restaurant.. I would not have dared try this without our guide to – well – guide us, but what a fabulous dinner! We had pad thai, excellent coconut soup, and even roasted crickets and silkworms. Leo said the silkworm gushed too much for his taste, but the crickets were crunchy and tasted a bit like fried chicken…

7) That Flight of the Gibbon zip line outside of the city? Awesome, and longer and more exciting than the same-named one in Chiang Mai. Just like a team building exercise, this brought our group together – and, ok, maybe I was silly about being nervous about the heights and all.

8) If you plan right you can visit a local tailor and have an awesome suit custom made for you, to be ready for pick up in 10 days when you return to the city before flying home. For a fraction of what it would cost in the USA.

9) But would we have found any of this without the careful ministrations of our beloved guide? Not at all. We always say, the guide makes the experience and this was no exception in Bangkok!

August 4, 2011

Do you know where your kids are Planking?

I’ve been back from Thailand for almost two weeks now, and am finally beginning to feel like my old self. This jet lag laid a heavy cloak of exhaustion over me! Yet don’t think for a minute it wasn’t all worth it. Thailand is an absolute gem.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be writing more about this adventure, but for starters I want to relish in how great it was to travel with a terrific group of teenagers who all did their part in reminding me of the joys and challenges of parenting. You know how they love you but get embarassed by you most of the time?

Traveling with your own kids lets you see them in a different world; you often learn new things about them in a new environment where they can let their guard down a bit. But if you really want to know about what’s happening, travel with other families too. The interactions and conversations you can accidently overhear will teach you gobs about what is trending today.

Take PLANKING. Now, I like to think I am up to date on current trends but this one had escaped me. Is it going to the gym and building muscle as you hold yourself stiff as a board? No, not at all. Planking means lying yourself face down, arms at your side in any bizarre place you choose. Like at a temple, or on an elephant.

This is not a rock, it is an elephant

No kidding, there is even a whole Wiki page about it. Also, did you know about family traditions, like taking the same posed photo everywhere they go? Really, like in front of the bathroom signs. Imagine having a lifetime of photos of the kids in front of bathroom signs in every language. This is so cool! (and I’m sorry I do not have a sample to show you right now).

So get hip, stay young, and go on an adventure with a bunch of fun loving kids – and their parents – who can teach you everything you need to know about current fads.

And don’t forget to ask your kids where they’ve been planking lately.

July 7, 2011

How to Build an Adventure

Fly 6 hours to London – amazing how close it is, right?

Spend all day in London. Maybe you meet up with a friend like I did, maybe you head into Windsor Castle or maybe you hang at Heathrow. I do recommend paying 17.95 GBP for three hours in the Executive Lounge. Very civilized, and free wireless too.

Then fly 3 hours to Helsinki, Finland. Suddenly you are surrounded by blonde haired, blue eyed travel companions.

Connect smoothly to your flight to Bangkok; just another 7 or 8 hours.

Stumble into Suvarnabhami airport, one of the most bustling and perhaps chaotic airports I can remember. Go through customs and immigration, collect your bag (it made it!), find yourself surrounded by people wanting to get you a cab, a massage, a tour. But all you want is to figure out how to get back to check in for the next flight!

Up to the third floor to the check in desk. But they won’t take the ticket you bought online because you don’t have the same credit card with you. Go to a different counter to refund the original ticket, and buy a new one at the same price. Back to check in, through immigration again, through security again, to the gate for the 45 minute flight to Siem Reap.

I’ve learned the Airport Thais are indeed as gracious and soft spoken as I’d read. The Airport Cambodians are gruff and abrupt and have scowls on their faces. Tomorrow I am sure I will learn more as i venture out into the streets with my guide.

Right now? I hear the call of my choice of TWO channels of karaoke on the hotel television!