Grandparents

June 5, 2014

Spotlight on a Stellar TFA Family

Larry zip lining in Costa Rica

Larry zip lining in Costa Rica

Since Thomson Family Adventures first came into existence over 15 years ago, it’s been clear that our adventures attract a special breed of family travelers. Thomson travelers are the type of families open to new and exciting experiences; they love to learn from the great, big world around them, and they’re committed to the people, wildlife, and natural landscapes of the countries they visit.

I’d like to highlight a man whose family epitomizes that special something TFA clients have, and the reason we love what we do: Larry Taylor. Larry and his wife, Mina, brought their teenage grandson on one of our adventures to Costa Rica in March of 2013 – a trip that provided us with one of our all-time favorite photos of Larry zip lining through the jungle. We just received another batch of fun photos from the Taylor family’s recent trip to Belize, along with some heartwarming anecdotes of cross-cultural interactions with local Maya children.

Larry and his family are the type of people that have that inspiring spirit of adventure we love to see. I had initially intended to make a quick Facebook post about one encounter they had in Belize, but decided instead to go a little deeper and give the consistently cooperative, enthusiastic Larry Taylor a call to find out a little more about him and his family and how travel and adventure play into their lives.

The Taylors live in San Diego, which has proven to be the perfect location for a family as physically active and ecologically conscious as they are. Larry walks two miles every morning, and loves to meet friends at a café by the beach at the end of his walk. His wife runs six miles every other day, spends two hours at the gym on her “off” days, and has been known to run marathons– not exactly a couch potato! The mellow, 17-year-old grandson they brought to Costa Rica and Belize is a true Southern California boy who loves to surf, snorkel, swim, and lifeguard.

Larry was born in California and lived all over the U.S., growing up in an Air Force family. He met Mina after she moved out west from her hometown of Brooklyn, New York, and it didn’t take her long to evolve into a lover of the outdoors amid gorgeous West Coast weather and scenery. They’re an ideal pair of world travelers; Larry’s a naturally curious history buff, into the people-to-people politics of things, geography, culture, nature, and geology (which is actually what his undergraduate degree was in). He worked in government for 18 years, taking measures to eliminate air pollution. In his personal life, Larry is still admirably active in fighting the ill effects of climate change and trying to protect the environment – he’s currently working to install solar panels in his home, and he recently ripped out his front yard and replaced the grass with rocks as a way of saving water.

Mina worked as a clinical psychiatric social worker in a hospital, helping patients who were going through crises, so she’s very much a people-person. Ever since she retired from that career four years ago, they’ve made it a point to travel as often as possible, and they never miss an opportunity to get out there and meet the locals, snorkel the reefs, test out the zip lines, and seek out those truly special travel moments that happen organically and unexpectedly. Larry loves both the structure and flexibility of our Thomson Family Adventures, as well as the unique chance to bond with his grandchildren while someone else handles the logistics and arranges a solid collection of activities for them to engage in together, instead of just dropping the grandkids off to do their own thing.

He shared several phenomenal examples of that togetherness making for some special memories, and of the beauty of unplanned events during his past family adventures. In one such anecdote, Larry told me:

“In Belize, the local guide took us out to a reef (all three of us love to snorkel; our grandson is a surfer and a lifeguard, so he’s a great swimmer, and we still love to get out there and join him!) He took us out to a spot where he said he’d show us some turtles, but what we didn’t know was that when we got there, the ocean floor would be covered with literally thousands of conch shells under the 40 feet of crystal clear water. The guide dove down and grabbed two conch shells and started banging them together. He told us that works as a dinner call for the loggerhead turtles, because the fishermen pound them against the decks and sides of the boats to get the meat out, so the turtles know when they hear the banging that bits of meat will fall out into the water for them to eat. The dinner call worked, and some beautiful loggerhead turtles showed up, and soon after eight to twelve harmless nurse sharks came over. That type of knowledge is what’s so great about the local guides we’ve had on Thomson trips — they can take us places and show us things non-locals wouldn’t know about.”

It’s those surprises – the unforgettable occurrences that can’t be written ahead of time into any itinerary – that keep the passion for travel alive in the Taylor family, and in all the wonderful families we’re lucky to have had on our family adventures.

The family ready for action in Belize

 

The Taylor family in Costa Rica

The Taylor family in Costa Rica

Maya children in Belize

Maya children in Belize

Teen grandson canyoning in Costa Rica

Teen grandson canyoning in Costa Rica

 



July 23, 2013

On a Scale of 1 to 5, our Guides are Often a TEN

A Great time at the Great Wall.

Our friend Linda from Ohio just returned from a big family trip to China, her first with us. We try to call everyone when they get home, but we didn’t have a chance – her email came in almost immediately:

“You were right.  It was a great trip for a family.  We LOVED it. Tom and I have taken many trips but this one for us will always be the very special one. It exceeded any expectations that I had.

To see the eyes of our children as we traveled each day was incredible. They were filled with such excitement. I know that I was very nervous about taking the children to China and realize I could not have been more wrong. It was a trip of a lifetime for our family. All ages loved it and we loved learning about the Chinese culture and most of all we loved our new Chinese friends. Chuck and Ping were exceptional. They did everything possible to make our trip special for our family. They became part of our family almost immediately. They took very good care of us all. Chuck was the “magician” of the trip, making good things happen constantly and Ping was “Pied Piper and “Mary Poppins” all rolled into one. The children ( and adults) adored her. She had an endless bag of goodies and always kept the children amused.

The trip was a perfect blend for all ages (8-73) . China will always be a very special place for our family. We have so many wonderful memories and over 2000 pictures to share. It was a well documented trip! Many thanks to all of you for making this trip possible for our family!”



October 15, 2012

17 to Infinity: It’s a New World of Travel

Wachirathon Waterfall, Thailand

Family celebrations don’t stop just because the kids get older. Think of all the reasons: High school graduation. College graduation. Admission to college. College graduation. Admission to graduate school! Graduating from grad school. A job offer! Before they go to work for 80 hours a week. Celebrating a job well done…..

Or it’s Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary… the 25th. The 50th. The 60th.

Or big birthdays! Their 21st, or 25th. Our 50th. 60th. 70th. 80th.

All of these occasions are times we want to gather together with family, to share and appreciate the memories we’ve built over the years. And to make new memories to carry forward. Maybe you want to be with just your family, or maybe you want to join other families at the same stage of their life. Either way, it is a pleasure to have someone else do the dirty work, while you relish the anticipation of the adventure ahead.

As our kids get older we have more flexibility to travel at the fringe of peak season, and to enjoy more sophisticated encounters. Why not take advantage of this new stage of life and learning, and explore the world together?

Family adventures are not just for kids anymore.



September 17, 2012

What our Guests are Saying….

Seeking in the Galapagos

We offer all of our potential guests a list of references, people who have traveled with us and are willing to share their experiences. Today we heard from a favorite guest who had recently responded to such a request about our Galapagos MultiSport Adventure. She decided to share it with us as a thank you for her wonderful Thomson Family Adventures. Here is her review in its entirety (and no, she does not work for us!):

“Hi there…

It sounds as if you are in for a treat and an adventure! I cannot say enough good things about the Thomson Family experience. The Ecuador/Galapagos trip was the second I made with Thomson. The first was on Safari with two of my grand girls, the second, the multi adventure Galapagos, with my grandson. This past trip was wonderful as the first.

The Thomson guides are terrific. they are dedicated to making this an extraordinary experience for you and your family. They pay attention to your needs. They are interested and interesting. They keep the kids busy and informed.

The accommodations are first rate as is the food. The trip in general and the daily adventures were well planned and tight but with time to fully enjoy each experience. We loved the multi sport as we did something different all the time.

I was not looking to go from island to island, living on a boat and so found our trip fabulous. We loved our accommodations in beautiful inns and hotels, and the opportunity to camp on the beach for one night! Swimming in warm waters with baby seals coming up to your face piece was awesome. There are always guides with you on land , on sea, and in the water…

Jake, my grandson, was waterlogged much of the trip but whether it was exploring places on foot, horse or kayak, or hanging with the other kids (a blessing so he didn’t have ‘just me’ all day plus the delight I had in enjoying a Vodka in the bar some late afternoons upon arrival) he was fully occupied.

Is it worth the money..Yep. As a grandmother who does extensive traveling with her 9 grandchildren and knows what it takes to plan a trip that is an adventure in and out of doors, I travel with Thomson to non-European locations (as they don’t as of yet travel there) as they do all the planning and heavy lifting. For my Thomson trips, we simply show up.

I doubt whether, when it comes to places like Africa, Galapagos and the like, if I would have the wherewithal to know of the special places they book for us..find to feed us at,..or even how to get to camp on a Galapagos island. I also love the day we spend at a school, sharing our language and enjoying the similarities and differences of our schools and lives. The children become so involved with each other many of them end the day walking us to our bus and still talk through the window as we pull away.

I hope I have answered all your questions. Feel free to contact me again with anything else. If I do not hear from you I will assume you are on your way to a trip your family will always remember..

Midge Gordon
E Greenwich, RI”



June 23, 2011

Graduations: Love them and Weep.

A gift from kindergarten

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

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

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

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

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

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



June 20, 2011

What a Ten Year Old Remembers Forever

Grandmother and grandson on a Tanzanian safari

Robert and his grandmother Gayle in Tanzania

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

Robert



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



January 15, 2011

Calling Out to the Grandest of Adventurers

Everyone loves the zip line!

You know what? The only person we’ve ever had to ask to get down from the zip line for misbehavior was 80 years old. He was having so much fun he was just acting too goofy!

Do your children have children? Then probably by now you’re a wiser and more relaxed parent. You are still active and adventurous, and you have lots more patience for the young ones than when your own children were young. Right?

Have you thought about a multi-generational trip? It’s becoming quite a family tradition for many, and for good reason too. Taking your children’s children on an adventure is not just a gift to them, but to you as well. Even when you see something familiar, sharing it with a child or teen seeing it for the first time is a unique opportunity. The new perspective, the view through the eyes of a child is such a WOW moment!

Over the years we’ve made experiences like these possible to almost all of our destinations, by providing the right mix of age-appropriate activities for ages 6 to infinity. Or from age zero on a private, custom adventure! Finding someone with the experience to handle all of the logistics, all of the issues, all of the planning – there is nothing left but for you to relax and have fun. And enjoy that zip line!

For instance, check out our Egypt Valley of the Nile, Galapagos Islands and Inca Ruins, Tanzania Family Safari and our Peru: Land of the Ancient Incas These are just a few of our opportunities to learn about new landscapes, fascinating wildlife, ancient history, and different cultures. If you’re after that zip line, try Costa Rica, Panama, or Belize

Whether it’s for just you and one child, or for three or four generations of your family, we have the expertise and understanding to create your adventure of a lifetime. Give us a call and we can talk about what adventure might be best for you.



January 4, 2011

A Man, a Plan, a Canal – a New Family Adventure!

Land Crab in Isla Iguana - there are tons of them!

In August Beth went to Panama to check out some new ideas for 2011. We’ve been showing families the beauties of Panama for years, but we are always looking for the fresh perspective, and the places waiting to be discovered. So we decided to check out some new directions. Like El Valle de Anton, inside the crater of the world’s second largest extinct volcano. (Whoa!) And for beaches and snorkeling along with fascinating wildlife we explored the Azueros Peninsula with its artisans and Spanish influenced villages.

After witnessing troops of howler monkeys swinging through the trees, humpback whales breaching, and tropical land crabs swarming the beach, Beth feels pretty confident that we’re on the right track for a unique and wonderful new family adventure. Add to that: meeting a Diablo mask maker, pen pals with the local Embera kids, a walking tour of Casco Viejo, the old part of Panama City – and of course the Panama Canal. The perfect recipe for an awesome adventure for all generations.

Call us now to book! We have space for your vacation week in February, March and April 800-262-6255



December 18, 2010

6 International Vacation Tips for Family – or Anyone

You probably won't be holding a panda in December, but we like this photo!

Maybe you’re scambling to leave town next week, maybe you’re just mulling over a plan for next year… Either way here are some preparation tips to keep your travel planning smooth, easy and stress free.

1) Documentation: Have everything in hand including passports, itineraries, important phone numbers and flight information all in one folder or designated spot 2 weeks before your date of departure. Be sure to check your passport expiration when you first plan your trip, in case you need to renew (they have to be valid for 6 months after your return date!)

2) Get the cards ready: The ATM and credit cards that is. These days, with credit card firms and banks taking extra precaution against identity theft, if you don’t inform the institutions you’re going to be traveling out of the country in advance of your trip, you might run into hurdles when trying to use the cards or withdraw cash abroad. Call credit card companies and banks 1-2 weeks before your trip to let them know you’ll be traveling overseas.

3) Dress comfy and pack light: Though in the early years of air travel everyone donned their finest, these days there’s no need to dress up for an international flight. You’ll likely be on-the-go for several hours so wearing comfortable clothing will make the whole experience more enjoyable. And you won’t be worrying about wrinkled attire that way, either. Pack light and maybe you can even avoid checking a bag… more on that in another post.

4) Notify close friends or family of your trip: You may not want to shout it out on Facebook in some (most!) cases, but you will want to make sure a neighbor and family member or friend are aware you’ll be away from home for an extended amount of time. They’ll help keep an eye on your house, and watch for any untoward activity until your return.

5) Have a sense of local customs at your destination: At TFA, we’ll provide you with the essentials and prepare you for what to expect when you land, so there’s little to no research you have to do. But there’s a wealth of information on the internet and in book stores. It’s valuable to know about the local culture, traditions and everyday mannerisms to make you more comfortable – and more respectful of your host country – on your vacation.

6) Technology: Depending on where your travels take you, you’;ll likely need to bring electrical adaptors if US standards are not the norm. If you need to stay connected check with your mobile phone provider about service overseas – service is widely available but plans, costs, and coverage vary greatly.

Bon voyage! Wherever you go remember it’s all about the journey, and the unexpected is half the fun of any family adventure.