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

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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

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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

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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!



June 23, 2015

What I’ve Seen: China

A couple of weeks ago we sent Grace, a member of our team here at Thomson Family Adventures, out to China to do some exploring and get a firsthand experience of traveling through China. We asked her a couple of questions about her trip so that you can get a better sense of what spending a family vacation in China with Thomson Family Adventures will be like!

Biking around Yangshuo

Biking around Yangshuo

Can you give us a brief overview of your trip in China?

I spent five nights in Beijing and three nights in Yangshuo, which means I was lucky enough to see two completely different parts of China! On the one hand, Beijing is a major bustling city with amazing historic sites dating back thousands of years. This includes the must-see spots like the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven (an icon of Beijing), and the disappearing hutongs that define the old city, accessible by foot and pedicabs. Alternatively, in Yangshuo, the beautiful karst formations are the main attraction, to which Chinese and international tourists alike flock to for vacation. Here, you’ll more than likely spend your days on a bike, bamboo raft, or on your own two feet exploring the area.

In Beijing, I was also invited to participate in seminars, lectures and experiences involving Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is super interesting stuff. I took a tai chi lesson at the Temple of Heaven, explored the ancient concepts of yin and yang (in both your body and the universe) and life balance. I also visited local TCM hospitals and even experienced a traditional reflexology treatment.

The inner moat of the Forbidden City

The inner moat of the Forbidden City

China is pretty far away, how was the flight?

Not bad at all! My direct flight from Boston to Beijing lasted just under 14 hours, but somehow I managed to sleep for about nine of them on my way there! Crossing the International Date Line means that you lose a day on your way, though…  I left at 5PM on Sunday night Boston time and arrived in Beijing on Monday night, 7PM local time! This still boggles my mind – the closest I’ll ever get to time travel, I imagine. The great news about this particular jetlag is that I was alert and awake without an alarm early every morning, which is not always the case in everyday life. Coming home was also not a problem, surprisingly. If you can, take advantage of the time you have on a flight – it’s quiet, it’s simple and it’s uninterrupted. All you can do is be in the moment.

What was your favorite part of the trip? 

My two guides were amazing! My guide in Beijing grew up in the hutongs of Beijing, studied English at college and found himself in the tourism industry when China was just starting to open to visitors. Now, he’s a master-guide and interpreter, still calling Beijing “home.” My guide in Yangshuo was a young guy about my age who is also a Buddhist vegetarian, which was great news for me! We ordered all of his favorite vegetarian Chinese dishes.

What was your least favorite part of the trip?

No dessert! For some reason, dessert isn’t a typical course in Chinese meals… and with my sweet tooth, I certainly missed it. Good thing I packed an emergency dark chocolate, roasted almond and sea salt chocolate bar in my luggage.

And, of course, traffic in Beijing is just one of those inevitable parts of a trip that you have to embrace – it’s uncontrollable. Every time we sat back down on the bus, we knew the drive was going to be “twenty to thirty minutes, Beijing time.” Or, “We’ll get there when we get there!” Take the time on the bus to cool off, people watch out the windows or take a cat-nap.

For the ladies, squat toilets are certainly something to be aware of ahead of time… if you’re not expecting them, they will be a surprise.

How was the food? What kind of things did you eat?

Being a vegetarian, my stomach was on high alert going to China! Though I was worried, I found that I had absolutely no basis for these fears… the food in China is delicious and also varies from region to region. Just as we have local specialties, like clam chowder and lobster here in Boston, so does China. In the north, they eat more starches like noodles and dumplings whereas the Sichuan province is renowned for their spicy cuisine! Of course, if you’re in Beijing, you’ll likely try the Peking Duck as well. For vegetarian dishes, I enjoyed a huge variety of sauteed veggies in different sauces, including vegetables that I’d never tried before – Chinese eggplant, lotus root, garlic shoots, celery root, bamboo shoots – and timeless favorites – tomatoes, green beans, squashes, radishes, leeks, beets, broccoli and all sorts of greens. Also, you must try the fresh mango juice in Yangshuo- and the dragon fruit! The Guangxi province, where Guilin and Yangshuo are located, is known for its rice noodle bowls. My guide brought me to a local restaurant where we had ours with tofu, toasted soy nuts, chili oil and pickled veggies. If you can, give it a try!

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

Did you notice any families traveling in China? If no, why do you think that was the case?

Definitely. On my last evening in Yangshuo, we had dinner next to an American family – three generations with three kids ranging from three to about eight years old. I also had a great chat with an American father who had been touring with his wife and teenage and early-twenties daughters, but had to leave a few days before them to go back to work. He LOVED the pandas in Chengdu.

Also, we saw Chinese school groups of all ages at the major sites as well – the Forbidden City and Great Wall in particular.

Did you feel safe being in and walking around China?

I certainly felt safe walking around Beijing and Yangshuo if we’re talking about “violent crimes,” though you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times, of course. More than anything, the traffic is overwhelming, whether it’s vehicles, scooters, bikes or crowds. Pedestrians do not have the right of way.

Can you name one thing that you can only know from being in China? Something that you won’t find in any guidebook or on any website?

I love meeting local people when I’m traveling and asking all sorts of questions. These back and forth, genuine, spontaneous conversations are completely individual, unique and absolutely cannot be “out of a book.” For example, chatting with Duan, my guide, about his life growing up in China on our way to the airport for my flight to Yangshuo remains one of my favorite conversations from my trip. It’s a chance to connect with people, to find common ground and leave a piece of yourself behind as well.

Just hanging out on The Great Wall

Just hanging out on The Great Wall

If you’d like to learn more about China give us a call! Or check out the different family vacation options we have for China here!



June 22, 2015

Top 10 Reasons to Plan Ahead

When it comes time to book your family vacation there are a lot of factors that come into play and one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself is: when should I book? Lucky for you our travel experts here at Thomson Family Adventures have sat down, brainstormed, and came up with the perfect answer- as soon as possible! Here are the top ten advantages that come with booking your vacation as early as you can!

1: Discounts

No matter your destination, booking early with us almost always comes with a discount. These discounts can be up to $1,000 off per person- that can add up quickly to a lot of savings for your family!

2: Price of Flights

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The economy is getting better and because of that more people are traveling. The number of travelers between June and August of 2015, compared to the summer of 2014, is set to jump to over 100,000 people per day. As demand increases, so will prices. If this summer is any indication of next, prices will be even higher. The best way to avoid this is to book now for 2016- simply put, if you do you’ll have cheaper flights. We’ve seen last minute flights to Costa Rica cost up to three times more than early booked flights.

3: Anticipation

The New York Times reported back in 2010 that having an experience to look forward to increased happiness levels in people. More recently, The Atlantic found the same. The longer that you have to look forward to a vacation and the more anticipation you build the happier you’ll be. There is no time like now to start getting excited for 2016!

4: Guaranteed Departures

As with every Thomson Family Adventure, we guarantee departure no matter what happens. Once you book with us, your trip is happening. No minimum sign up required and no cancelations. That should help you rest easy! Speaking of getting more people on a trip though…

5: You’ll Attract Fellow Travelers

It becomes much easier to find travel companions after the first booking. When your family is the first to join a trip, families with kids similar in age to yours, will seek to join the same trip. Everyone loves to travel with new people that they can get along with!

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6: Planning

Once you know where you want to go and your departure is guaranteed, you can spend the rest of time researching your destination and planning what you want to see and do. This also puts less strain on getting visas and any necessary vaccinations because you’ll have plenty of time to do it all. It’s also easier to schedule activities around a vacation. We know how quickly the summer can get busy with sports, camps, and other activities. Have one less thing to worry about by booking now!

7: Stronger Pen Pal Connections

The sooner you book, the sooner we can set your kids up with pen pals. The more letters they can exchange and the longer their correspondence goes on, the stronger a connection they’ll make. Meeting pen pals is one of the most enriching experiences that we offer and giving your child more time to speak with their pen pal makes it all that much more rewarding!

8: Flexibility on Trips and Dates

Booking a year in advance gives you and us tons of flexibility in choosing what vacation is right for your family and when. You can have the perfect trip on the perfect days with early booking. If you wait, trips may fill up and dates may become unavailable.

9: Payment Plan

Setting up a payment plan takes the stress out of having one bulk payment. You can plan accordingly and figure out what works best for you!

10: Peace of Mind

Knowing that your family vacation is booked and that we’ll handle all of the logistics will give you a peace of mind like no other. While we work behind the scenes to make sure everything goes off without a hitch- you’ll spend this year dreaming of your 2016 destination!

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We have our early booking discount running until July 31st, 2015. Don’t miss out on earning thousands in savings for your 2016 family vacation!



June 19, 2015

Photo Contest Winners Donate Prize Money to Peruvian Community

Chan Family in Peru

In every destination and on every Thomson Family Adventure, we care deeply about the relationships we’ve formed with you, our travelers, as well as the people we interact with around the globe. After all, you’re part of our family — and we want to offer you the many wonders of the world. We also want to “give back” to each culture and country we work with and visit. It makes us very proud when our traveling families share the same philosophy. The Chan family of Wayne, PA, is one of them.

Edward Chan, his wife Shobana Sood, their 12-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son visited Peru last December with us. When they returned, they entered — and won — our photo contest, and with it a $500 prize. Rather than use the money to treat the family to something special, the Chans very generously decided to donate their winnings to a Peruvian community that touched their lives.

On April 4, 2015, the remote Cachicata community in Peru received the Chans’ $500 donation. The small neighborhood is located near the quarry where the Incas extracted and carved the boulders used for the construction of some of their fortresses, such as Ollantaytambo. Although off the beaten path, Cachicata is an easy hike out of Ollantaytambo, and en route during our Peru Family Trek, that winds its way up the mountain and past some half-finished stones. However, in its heyday, Cachicata was abuzz with activity when hundreds (or maybe thousands) of Incan men worked relentlessly to construct their amazing works.

Community leaders in Cachicata haven’t determined the final use of the money, but they have the authority to decide what to do with it. Ideas being considered are maintenance of the trails that give access to the quarry and camping areas or opening trails to homes that are close to the main path to the quarry. That would give visitors better access and the opportunity to see the homes and learn a little more about Peruvian life.

Thomson Family Adventures has donated to Cachicata in the past; contributing money for things such as school books and supplies, pick axes, shovels, and irrigation canal maintenance.

At Thomas Family Adventures, we believe that travel wields incredible power and offers countless opportunities, a myriad of perspectives and lifelong memories. It’s also one of the greatest gifts you can give your family and yourself. Engaging, entertaining and educating families with kids of all ages through travel is something we feel is essential to enhancing our travelers’ experience in a destination.

Every time we — and our traveling families — make a connection with local residents, we not only learn about them, but we learn a little more about ourselves. For our children in particular, it means exposing them to different ideas and ways of life, making them much more aware and respectful of our multi-cultural world.

We thank you, Chan family, for being part of our family and touching the lives of others.



June 16, 2015

Machu Picchu: What You Need to Know

There is a reason that Machu Picchu is on the bucket list for almost all travelers- it’s quite marvelous. The stone architecture of this deserted city is fascinating and after you remember that this entire complex was built before the invention of any machinery, it becomes that much more impressive. Although a well-known site, here are a few things you should know before embarking on your trip to Peru and the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu

Background

Machu Picchu is a 15th century Inca site found just outside of Cuzco on the edge of the Sacred Valley. The complex was abandoned around the 15th century and remained hidden until 1911 when an American historian, Hiram Bingham, came upon the ruins and spread the word about what he had just found. There is no definitive answer as to why the city was abandoned or what it was used for in the 15th and 16th centuries. All we know is that the mystery is part of the fun when exploring the ancient grounds!

Be Ready for an Early Start

Waking up early to start your exploration of Machu Picchu is essential to making the most of your time there. Machu Picchu is popular and gets very crowded throughout the day. The earlier you can get there the more you’ll be able to see before the congestion gets too bad. Don’t get set on the idea that you and your family will have the ruins to yourselves, but getting there early does give you more options and less of a crowd!

Sites Not to Miss

There is a lot to see in Machu Picchu and it’s good to go in with a plan because it can be easy to get overwhelmed. A couple of the main sites you won’t want to miss are Huayna Picchu and the Gate of the Sun. These are two of the more popular landmarks that are sure to be full of people. If you want to see incredible sites that see a significantly lower amount of traffic…

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How to Get Away from the Crowds

You can hike Machu Picchu Mountain or go to the Temple of the Moon. Machu Picchu Mountain is at the end of the complex opposite Huayna Picchu and sees fewer visitors. This is because the trail is a tougher climb and at 1,640 feet, the peak is twice as high. For those inclined and able, this is an opportunity that should not be missed! The Temple of the Moon on the other hand is tucked away in a set of caves hidden away from the main site. Taking the time to find it will give you a unique Machu Picchu experience that not many people have.

Now you have the basic information to get excited about your next family vacation to Peru where you and your family will make the memories of a lifetime hiking around Machu Picchu!



June 12, 2015

Four Unlikely Places for Great Wildlife Viewing

Taking time to explore the wildlife in countries can be an amazing experience. We share this world with beautiful creatures that live in the forests, jungles, mountains, and oceans. Seeing animals in their natural environments is breathtaking. Once you have seen some of these places, the importance of conservation efforts and responsible travel can’t be ignored. Viewing wildlife on a family vacation isn’t just good in the Galapagos and Tanzania. Here are four places that aren’t traditional destinations for wildlife and they are all part of North America!

Baja

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Baja is the western most part of Mexico, just to the south of California. If ocean and marine life is of the slightest interest to your family, then Baja must be on your bucket list of places to visit. Baja is the best of the best when it comes to life below the sea. The Sea of Cortez is home to the largest variety of whales in the world and every year gray whale mothers and their calves migrate to Magdalena Bay where they come close enough to visitors that you can touch them! This isn’t even to mention the thousands of fish that swim in the waters- and sea lions!

Panama

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When you neighbor Costa Rica it’s hard to compete in the wildlife department but, Panama does very well. It is home to over 200 mammals, 200 reptiles, 150 amphibians, and 900 birds (the most of any Central American country). Darien National Park in Panama is one of the best places to go bird watching in the world. A few of the birds that people travel to see are the harpy eagle, quetzals, macaws, parrots and toucans. Panama also has a great monkey population in spider monkeys, white-faced capuchins, squirrel monkeys, and the Geoffroy’s tamarin which can’t be found anywhere else in Central America.

 

Cuba

When thinking of Cuba, it is hard to think of it as a place great for a wildlife adventure. But the truth is that Cuba has the most animal species in all of the Caribbean. One of the more fascinating animals in Cuba is the bee hummingbird. Many believe that this is the smallest bird in the world, just over 2 inches long and weighs less than an ounce! The locals say it is a symbol of love and call it a “zunzun.” Cuba is also home to crocodiles, flamingos, butterfly bats, reef sharks, and the emerald humming bird and much more!

Canada

Big Horned Sheep

While hiking in the Canadian Rockies you are bound to see some incredible and massive animals. Numbering in the thousands, there are plenty of opportunities to see elk. These creatures are majestic and you may want to get as close as you can to them, but remember they are wild and you need to stay at least a couple of hundred feet away. Your family will also have the chance to see mountain goats and bighorn sheep in action climbing the sides of mountains! There is also a scarce population of wolves and cougars that are rarely seen. Canada is truly a wild adventure and these animals only help add to the ambiance!

Taking your family vacation to any of these destinations is bound to be filled with excitement and great wildlife. Get out there and see the beauty that nature has to offer!



June 9, 2015

The 7 Best Things About Baja

There are many different parts of Mexico that make for good vacation spots. The truth is that not all of these places and resorts are family friendly. Despite that fact, one of our favorite family vacation spots in the world is Mexico’s Baja. Baja has a safe, warm, and welcoming environment that makes it hard to leave! Here are a few of the best parts about Baja that make it perfect for a family vacation.

1: Best Whale Watching in the World

Just popping up to say hello!

Just popping up to say hello!

One of the best places in the world for whale watching is Baja. You can find one third of the whale species in the world in Baja’s waters; including blue, gray, humpback, and minke whales. Whales are fascinating creatures and a true delight to see. The best time to go to Baja for whale watching is during the winter when gray whales frequent the lagoons for mating season. The whales are friendly and, often, you’re able to pet them as they come out of the water to say hello!

2: Incredible Weather

Baja has what very well may be the best weather in the world. It sits right on the Tropic of Cancer giving it perfect weather for a minimum of 8 months out of the year. The sun is always kind enough to kiss towns like La Paz and Todos Santos to make for great family vacation experiences. When the sun is out there is always something to do- like going to the…

3: Beautiful Beaches

Taking a stroll down the beach on horseback!

Taking a stroll down the beach on horseback!

The small town of Todos Santos alone has 70 miles of beach. With so many beaches your family can find a great location to relax or explore. You can find several coves or stretches of soft white sand that go as far as the eye can see. While relaxation is always a top priority, many stretches of beach in Baja are great for trying out horseback riding, surfing and other water activities that your kids will love. In the National Marine Park, Isla Espiritu Santo, the snorkeling and hiking are unmatched!

4: The Sea of Cortez

Jacques Cousteau called this UNESCO World Heritage Site “the aquarium of the world” and it is no wonder why. Between the marine life that is endemic to the body of water and its use as a popular migration route for many species, there are well over thousands and thousands of different marine species in the Sea of Cortez at any given time. Imagine the look on your child’s face when they see a giant manta ray jump out of the water!

5: A Culture Based on Being Friendly

Unlike the rest of Mexico, the Jesuits were the first people to settle on the Baja peninsula. The Jesuits hand selected the people they sent to Baja based on their trustworthiness, honesty, strong family values, and their ranching and farming skills. Through the course of history, the Jesuits left the land and mainland Mexico left Baja to operate independently for over 100 years. During this time a strong culture of hospitality and honor was forged and that culture is still strong in Baja today.

6: A Great Arts and Music Scene

Several creative types from all different fields have made their way to Todos Santos over the past few decades. This includes many artists, chefs, musicians, surfers, and writers; because of this Todos Santos has become home to wonderful art galleries, incredible restaurants and many festivals. A few of the celebrated festivals are the Todos Santos Music Festival (founded by Peter Buck of R.E.M), the Todos Santos Arts Festival, and the GastroVino Festival de Todos Santos which celebrates all local wines and foods.

7: Delicious Food

Delicious ceviche!

Delicious ceviche!

The food in Baja is traditional Mexican and almost all dishes are based on a few simple ingredients: beans, corn, squash, and onions. From there you can let your imagination and creativity go wild. The seafood is some of the freshest in the world and of a wide variety. While the food is similar to what you’ll find in Mexican restaurants in the U.S., it doesn’t rely as heavily on cheese or sour cream making it full of more local flavors and it’s also much healthier!

Baja has a great personality that makes it fun and friendly for family vacations and Thomson Family Adventures can help you get there!



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!

Corcovado

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!



June 2, 2015

5 Reasons Why Costa Rica Should Be Your Next Vacation

Costa Rica, one of the most magical places in the world, has an infinite amount of good qualities and almost no bad ones. Last year, Costa Rica was the most recommended country to travel to- based on a survey of 23,000 travel professionals in 26 different countries. That was no surprise to us and we won’t be surprised if it holds the number one spot for another year.  The jungles are wild and beautiful and the people are warm and genuine. Costa Rica is safe and exciting for travelers of all types and ages. If you aren’t sold yet, below is a quick snapshot of why Costa Rica is such an amazing locale for family vacations!

Eco-Friendly

Costa Rica is one of the most eco-friendly countries in the world. In fact, it has been powering itself on renewable energy for most of 2015 and plans to be completely carbon neutral by 2021. Costa Rica is dedicated to being eco-friendly and has become a leader in eco-tourism. Many of its lodges, facilities, and companies in the tourism industry are all green and committed to leaving a small, if any, footprint behind. You can feel good knowing that you not only had a memorable vacation with your family in a beautiful country, but that you also left a positive impact on the environment.

Beaches

Gamel CR Beach

The beaches in Costa Rica are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Many beaches are incredible spots for peaceful, relaxing, and sun filled afternoons. Costa Rica has over 1,000 miles of coastline and some stretches are more popular than others, offering kayaking and snorkeling, while some are more secluded and intimate.

Wildlife

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This is one of the most bio-diverse countries on the planet making wildlife viewing in Costa Rica amazing. There are over 500,000 different wildlife species in Costa Rica and this makes up 4% of the total amount of species worldwide. This is quiet incredible considering that Costa Rica is no larger than West Virginia! Some of the notable wildlife in Costa Rica is the sloth, scarlet macaw, iguanas, red-eyed tree frog, mantled howler monkey, and many more.  But most of these species are endemic to Costa Rica which means you’ll just have to visit to see them!

Surf

It would be impossible to talk about Costa Rica and not talk about the surf. For decades now, surfers have traveled from all over the world to ride the Costa Rican waves. Spots like Playa Tamarindo are great for beginners and people looking to take lessons and try surfing for the first time. If you have a bit more experience though, you can search out “secret” locations that can only be reached by boat. If you or your kids have had any interest in surfing- then Costa Rica will be a perfect vacation spot for you!

Hiking

CR waterfallBeing outdoors in Costa Rica is a must. The natural beauty of the country is its heart and soul. About 30% of Costa Rica’s land is protected by national parks, wildlife refuges, and preserves. What this means for you, tons of clearly marked and safe trails for hiking. Hiking in Costa Rica is never boring and the scenery never gets old.  On a single hike, you could find yourself in three different ecosystems!  A couple of our favorite places to hike are Corcovado National Park and Arenal Volcano Park.

 

The great features of Costa Rica don’t stop here. Some of the most wonderfully curated flavors come from Costa Rican dishes and their salsa and merengue music can keep you dancing and having fun all night! There is a little something for everyone in Costa Rica and it is a great destination for a family vacation!



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

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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.