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July 30, 2013

A Heartwarming Tale of Rescue on Safari!

The magic of an African safari is something no family can fully prepare for. Everyone’s experience is different, loaded with spontaneous cultural and wildlife encounters that couldn’t possibly have been written into an itinerary – that’s what makes a safari in Tanzania remarkable.

A prime example is the unplanned wildlife rescue mission undertaken by the Hartz family on their recent Tanzania Active Safari for Families with Teens. Jennifer, Eric, and their four teens were riding along in their safari vehicle, wildlife viewing in the Eastern Serengeti Ecosystem, in the private nature refuge that Thomson guests have exclusive privileges to visit. Suddenly, they spotted a Kori Bustard (a large, mostly ground-dwelling bird) hobbling along with something sticking out of its back.

They followed the bird in their rover, hoping to help in any way they could. Upon closer inspection, the Hartz family and their driver realized that the poor thing had been struck between the shoulder blades by a Maasai arrow. Hunting on this property is strictly prohibited, but somebody had attempted to make an illegal dinner out of this Kori Bustard. The family, along with their guide and driver, removed the arrow as carefully as possible, applied Neosporin to the wound, and patched it up to the best of their ability. Afterwards, they sat back and watched as the bird went on its way, concerned but gratified in the knowledge that they probably just saved its life.

That uplifting tale of chance and compassion is exactly the type of thing that makes a safari such a special family adventure. In addition to saving an unfortunate Kori Bustard, the Hartz family had plenty of other wonderful experiences… a bike ride into a village quarry near Gibb’s Farm where bricks are hand-made by local workers, and a rewarding encounter with friendly and enthusiastic Maasai children, to name a couple. But this unexpected act of kindness and teamwork is something that will surely stick out as a particularly fond travel memory!



July 23, 2013

Grace’s Family Adventure Tradition!

Grace’s finished quilt top, using the “French Roast” pattern!

Grace, our newest salesperson, just returned from a trip to Texas revolving around a great family tradition. She went down to her birthplace of Georgetown, Texas, to stay at her grandmother’s house and get back to her down-home roots.

From there, Grace, her grandmother, her sister, and 3 of her cousins (15, 16, and 18 years old) headed to the Compass Centre in Mount Calm, Texas for a quilting retreat. It’s a wonderful opportunity for grandmothers and great aunts to bond with their granddaughters and grandnieces, design some beautiful quilts, and enjoy an abundance of delicious comfort food – Texas style!

The first time Grace experienced the quilting retreat was in 2010, and she’s only missed one year since; it’s definitely become a family tradition that Grace, her grandmother, her sister and her cousins all cherish.



June 19, 2013

Our New 2014 Pricing Explained

For 2014, our pricing structure will be changing to a system of tiered pricing. For example, a trip may have one per-person price for groups with 10 or more travelers, another price for groups with 6 to 9 travelers, and then a third price for groups with 2 to 5 travelers.

There are some definite advantages to this new tiered pricing structure. We know that families have busy schedules, and you can’t change when your available vacation times are, so we guarantee that your trip will run, even if it’s just your small group. Unlike other companies, we don’t set large minimum traveler amounts, so small groups will essentially be getting private, or semi-private trips.

When more families join and the group gets larger, we’re spreading the costs of our guides, drivers, mentors and vehicles, over a larger group of people and passing the savings on to you – so the per-person costs will be lower.

Go ahead and take advantage of this great new pricing system by getting a large group of family and friends together for a spectacular adventure – family reunion in Costa Rica, anyone?



May 9, 2013

Act Now and Save Big! Book Early for 2014!

2014 may seem far away, but doesn’t each new year always creep up and take you by surprise? Stay ahead this year and plan your travel early – there’s a BIG reward! On May 15th, our 2014 trip prices will be released, and they will be increasing by as much as 5-10%. But not to worry – if you book a 2014 family adventure before the 15th, we’ll honor our current 2013 prices. Between the huge savings and the peace of mind that comes with getting the planning out of the way early, why wait?

We already have families booked; just give us a call now so we can help you find the perfect adventure for your family in 2014 at a heavily discounted rate!



March 20, 2013

3 Ways My Family Has Bonded by Traveling Together

Family trekking

It is incredible what a simple change of location can do.  In each new place you travel with your family, you get the opportunity to see the same people, but with a totally fresh perspective.  While traveling can be intimidating at times, it can also offer once in a life time experiences you will never forget and forge strong bonds between the people you go with.

1.) Getting lost and finding a new destination:

In the days before GPS units and smart phones, road trips meant leafing through road maps and atlases — and if you made a wrong turn, a lot of potential confusion.  When my family went on a long trip up to Maine, we became extremely lost in a seemingly totally unpopulated area late in the evening.  As the night wore on, we finally realized where we were — several hours in the wrong direction from where we had started.

This tends to be the kind of mistake that can put a damper on a road-trip; fortunately, we had a flexible schedule and chose to make the most of it.  We decided it would be better to change our plans on the fly and keep on driving through the night to Acadia National Park, which is the first place the sunrise is visible from in the country during parts of the year.  Because of a wrong turn somewhere we never quite figured out, I got to stand on the top of Cadillac Mountain with my family at dawn.  After a dreary night of driving, and more than a little bickering about whether or not to get a hotel, everything worked out.  Bundled up in kids robes to protect us against the morning nip, my family was the first in the United States to see the sunrise; and that is truly a family experience we will never forget.

2.) Exploring our family history:

Visiting your grandparents’ house is one thing.  Visiting your great-great-great-grandparents’ house is a whole different ball game.  After spending part of a summer with my parents and siblings, tracing our history and heritage, I had visited 3 different states and as many countries.  There are few things that will bond a family like seeing where your ancestors lived centuries ago and making the same journeys they made while migrating.  Although on our trip we traveled by car and plane, rather than by foot and boat like my ancestors, retracing these steps and snapshots of our own lineage was a powerful experience.  The climax of my trip was when my whole family made it to the little stone house my ancestors abandoned when they left for America during the Spanish Civil War.  Looking back so far through our family’s generations, we had the unique opportunity to view our shared history that had tied us together through countless years.

3.) Togetherness:

With each sibling in my family of six living several states away from the next, opportunities to all come together have become few and far between.  When the whole family does get together, the logistics of getting everyone to our parents’ home — and where we will sleep once we are there— seem to get more and more confusing each time.  As a result, my family has turned to travel for family reunions. From spending a week of June in Jackson Hole to camping in the Vermont mountains, every time my family goes on a vacation, we try to go somewhere totally new, where none of us have ever been before.  Through these experiences we have all seen each other at our best and worst.  To this date, I don’t think we have had a family vacation that doesn’t leave each of us with a powerful memory about everyone else on the trip.

Traveling with your family takes you to new parts of the world, and as a result, offers new opportunities and adventures.  If you want to find ways to bond with your family, the excitement, learning and discovery that come from traveling with your family can be the perfect solution.


About our guest blogger, Ryan:

Ryan has just started blogging and enjoys writing about family travel, the wilderness, punk music, and mountain biking.  When not helping families find new ways to travel and places to see, he can be found camping or riding his bike.



February 19, 2013

The Beauty of Flexible Departure Dates

Young adult siblings on an elephant in Thailand.

We have plenty of prearranged departure dates to choose from, but there’s always the possibility that none of the dates you see listed fit with your busy schedule. Luckily for you, that’s not a problem; we can always organize a custom date just for your family.

We’re in this business because we want to deliver the ideal family adventure for each and every one of our valued clients, and we’ll never let rigid scheduling issues get in the way of that mission. You can even work with us to create your own private, custom itinerary or villa-style vacation if you’re not totally satisfied with what we already offer.

We find that the fact that we can always arrange custom dates is especially vital to emphasize when dealing with families with older teen and 20-something kids. Since this particular age group encompasses a wide range of life stages – high school, college, and the working world – what works for one young adult may not work for another. Older teens and 20-somethings have different school breaks and different opportunities for time off from work; this isn’t news to us, and we’re fully prepared to work with you to organize something that fits with everyone’s schedules.

Just give us a call and we can work through all your departure date concerns together.



February 14, 2013

You’re Never Too Old to Learn from Travel

An action shot from the game

When I consider the significance of travel in my own life, the clichéd-but-apt adage “Don’t let school get in the way of your education” comes to mind.

Three years ago, I was a junior in college; I was in the middle of a wonderful classroom education that, unbeknownst to me, couldn’t hold a candle to the 5-month practical learning experience I was about to dive into. I left in early January of 2010 for a semester abroad in a small city outside Madrid. Now, I’ll be honest here – I spent very little of those next 5 months attending classes or doing homework… but I also gained a concentrated dose of real-world knowledge and insight worth about 5 years of highlighting textbooks and attending lectures.

In addition to the 5-month period of culture shock and adaptation that was my semester abroad in general (that’s a long story for another day), I had opportunities for some incredible shorter travel experiences afforded by my proximity to surrounding countries. The most memorable of these was a week spent in Morocco with a small group of friends.

One vivid memory in particular that will stay with me for as long as I live took place on a humble little beach frequented by Moroccan locals. As a few of my American friends and I were walking along the beach, a young Moroccan man – probably about 26 – approached us. Seeing that we were white and out-of-place, he assumed we were probably from Spain and asked us somewhat shyly in soft, shaky Spanish: “¿Queréis jugar con nosotros?” (“Do you guys want to play with us?”) He motioned to a group of about fifteen Moroccans of various ages kicking a soccer ball back and forth and setting up makeshift goals with sticks and rocks. My friends and I looked at each other a bit uneasily, ignorantly considering all the worst case scenarios in our heads (locals running off with our valuables, etc.) as most sheltered First World kids can’t help but do when presented with the unfamiliar. Then we shot a mutual glance and shrug, as if to say “How often do we have the chance to play a game of pickup soccer on the beach with a bunch of Moroccans?” and I told the man we’d love to accept his gracious offer.

The friendly game that followed was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life; we laughed, high-fived, and congratulated each other’s athletic accomplishments through smiles and body language. I was ashamed to have ever – even if only for a brief moment – doubted these hospitable people’s genuine intentions. After a few hours of soccer, we shook hands and the Moroccans placed their fists over their hearts as a gesture of peace as we parted ways. Forcing myself to let go of ignorant preconceptions and embrace the new and different taught me that you get as much out of a travel experience as you put into it, and that you’re never too old to learn from the world around you. Do any of you have stories to share from your own experiences that highlight travel’s profound teaching power?



December 7, 2011

Is it the Right Time to Visit Egypt? If You are the Right Family, YES!

kids at the pyramid

How big is the Great Pyramid?

We had a family visit Egypt over Thanksgiving. Just a mom and a daughter, determined to realize their dream of witnessing history as it stands, as pyramids and temples and desert. They were just plain old excited to be going. When they got back, this is what mom Liz had to say:

“We had a FABULOUS trip to Egypt!

In a nutshell — NOW IS A TERRIFIC TIME TO GO TO EGYPT! It seems counter-intuitive with demonstrations so frequently in the news but it’s true! The demonstrations tend to take place only in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. My 10 year old daughter and I were actually in Egypt during the most recent demonstrations and we NEVER ONCE felt the least bit concerned or nervous. First of all, the first few days of our trip we were staying at the Mena House Oberoi in Giza outside of Cairo. One day we drove through Cairo to see the Citadel, the Alabaster mosque of Mohammed Ali and the Khan el-Khalili bazaar — none of which is near Tahrir Square. On another day we went to the Egyptian Museum to see the mummies of the pharaohs and treasures of Tutankhamun. The museum is right off of Tahrir Square but our excellent driver was clever and took us to/from the museum on a small side street. My daughter didn’t even know there were people in the square and we had the museum practically to ourselves! In the room full of the actual Tutankhamun treasures there were only 2 other tourists! We had a similar experience at the pyramids of Giza. When we climbed up inside the Great Pyramid to the actual tomb we were the only ones there! We saw two other tourists as we were climbing back down. I have pictures of Abu Simbel, the pyramids and other famous sites without a single tourist in them.

All of the Egyptian people were incredibly friendly and gracious and English was spoken by practically everyone we met. Some of the highlights for us were dinner with my daughter’s pen pal in their home, climbing up inside the Great Pyramid, sailing in a felucca at sunset on the Nile, seeing the treasures of Tutankhamun in a quiet and relaxed environment, and the visit to the carpet school where we got to do a few stitches ourselves and my daughter played soccer with 4 or 5 Egyptian girls.

Our guide, Amira, was TOTALLY AWESOME. Her English was outstanding and her knowledge of all things Egyptian was incredible. Moreover she was thoughtful. For example, realizing that we were totally exhausted one day she suggested we get some Egyptian koshari (a type of macaroni casserole) for dinner in containers to take back to our room. Another example — I said I was interested in buying some spices and she called ahead to a local store that she knew of to make sure it was open and then we swung by for 15 minutes where I bought my spices and took several pictures. She even negotiated the prices of our souvenirs for us!

Roughly 50% of Egypt’s economy is driven by tourism. One way to help Egypt get back on it’s feet is to go there!”

What more can we say?



June 14, 2011

Does Your Family Capture the Fun?

Nothing like capturing a shot that forever reminds you of your family adventure .. so here are our latest top three photo contest winners (in no particular order):

spectacled caiman in Costa Rica

Spectacled Caiman in Costa Rica

A lurking spectacled caiman may come as a surprise, but there are lots of them to be found in the canals of Tortuguero in Costa Rica. Thanks to the Spencer Calcott family for capturing this one on film.

a swim in the Galapagos almost always includes sea lions

Who is imitating who?

Next up, the Barnard family caught this excellent shot of the fun found in the blue waters of the Galapagos Islands. Sea lions are everywhere! You are welcome to imitate them, but no hugging please

leaping into the pool

Leaping into the infinity pool with a view

And then there is the fun in Baja (I was there!!) where, at the end of an active day the kids can keep going while the parents enjoy the breathtaking view. Thanks to the Murray Bruce family for their great photos, and for being fun traveling companions too.



November 17, 2010

How NOT to handle your passport renewals

Do you know when your passport expires?

I am a travel professional, have been for years. So one might think I would be on top of things like passport renewals. Think again.

I took my kids on their first passport-required adventure about 4.5 years ago. I am exact in that calculation because my son Leo needs his passport to travel in April 2011. This means it needs to be valid up until October 2011. Which it is not.

Minor children get a passport valid for 5 years. Adults, 10 years.

When passport control tells you a minor’s passport is valid for 5 years they are not quite telling the truth. Because it has to be valid for 6 months beyond the return date of the trip, it is really only good for 4.5 years. Or adults for 9.5 years.

What is the use of 6 months of passport when you can’t go anywhere?

Then we find out that a minor’s renewal is not a renewal. It’s a whole new application. This means digging up that original birth certificate again. AGAIN!

I admit I am categorically challenged. I cannot file things in a way to easily find them again years later. I have a big file drawer of folders. Is Birth Certificate under B? Or maybe under P for Passport application? Maybe it is I for Important papers…. or K for Kids? L for Leo? C for Certificates? L for Legal?

Tomorrow at school Leo needs to show he has submitted his passport application in order to qualify for the senior class trip to Eastern Europe in April. We did find the birth certificate (under B) so he has all the pieces of an un-submitted application. Hopefully that will be enough.

Don’t let this humiliation happen to you! Check your passports now.