September 15, 2015

5 Great Family Activities to Do in Southwest Ireland

Ireland has long been a great destination for a fun and relaxing family vacation. It has everything you would want: wilderness, wildlife, delicious food, and great fun. There is much to see in Ireland but one of the best places where you can find adventure, culture, and a bit of good craic is in the Southwest!

Learn to Sail

kinsale harbor

Sailing is an art and a skill that is practiced all over the world. But did you know that one of the most famous historic harbors in all of Europe is in Southwest Ireland? It is! The Kinsale Harbor is a place that sailors have visited for centuries because of its safe and noble waters. In the harbor, your family can hop aboard a small boat and learn the basics of sailing— a skill and hobby that may follow you home!

Visit Cultural Towns for Food and Art

Ireland has been making a bit of a splash in the culinary and art world. Kinsale has recently become the gourmet capital of Ireland and a hot spot for art tourism. Over the past few decades artists have been coming to Kinsale to hone their craft of drawing, sketching, or painting and this has translated into creating a wonderfully little town with its own unique culture. Kinsale isn’t the only town that has been praised for its food and art. Dingle has recently been called the best foodie town in Ireland and also has a host of small shops and art galleries for you to explore.

Go on a Sea Safari

jumping dolphin

One of the best places in Europe to view marine life out in the wild is in the small sea side town of Baltimore. With over 20 recorded species of whales and dolphins, there is always a good chance that you’ll be able to see one of these magical creatures swimming alongside your boat to say hello! Seeing dolphins or whales in their natural habitat is one of the most exciting things your child can ever experience.

Explore the Countryside

No trip to Ireland would be complete without venturing into the rolling hills of the countryside. There are two main outdoor areas that are great for families to explore in Ireland: the Gap of Dunloe and Killarney National Park.  The Gap of Dunloe is a famous 7-mile long narrow pass through the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range that has become a popular path for bikes and horse drawn carriages. Killarney National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Special Area of Conservation. Your family can hike through the untouched forests and lakes while trying to spot the only remaining herd of Red Deer in the country.

a family cycling while on vacation in Ireland

Stay in a Castle

Quite self-explanatory, but you can have a room in your very own castle! Feel like royalty on the grounds of Ballyseede Castle. This is one of the best ways to learn what it might be like to live like the King and Queen!

There is no time better than now to see all that Southwest Ireland has to offer!


September 8, 2015

Our 10 Favorite Llamas in Peru

One of the best parts of any family vacation is getting to know the locals and making connections that you could only make through traveling. This holds true no matter where in the world you travel to. One place that we can’t get enough of, and neither can our traveling families, is Peru. Between our Friends Across Borders program, meeting Quechuan weavers, and sharing lunch with a local family in Cuzco, there are plenty of people to people opportunities in Peru. What about the other locals? What about a people to llama experience? These are also just as great. Here are 10 of our favorite llamas we’ve seen during family vacations in Peru.

1. This little llama family getting a snuggle in on Machu Picchu

llama on machu picchu, as seen on a family vacation to peru

2. This solo llama who goes out and grazes on her own

llama grazing for food, as seen on a family vacation to peru

3. This llama who stayed out too late last night

sleeping llama, as seen on a family vacation to peru

4. This philosopher llama sitting in deep thought

llama on a cliff, as seen on a family vacation to peru

5. This llama that loves to take selfies

girl taking a selfie with a llama while on a family vacation to peru

6. This ‘two-toned’  llama

brown and white llama

7. This suspicious llama

a skeptical llama

8. This llama that took over the screen, and probably everything else he does

photobombing llama

9. This tiny baby llama in a tiny purple hat

baby llama wearing a hat, as seen on a family vacation to peru

10. This llama who needs a haircut

llama with long hair

You can make all kinds of friends in Peru, whether it be locals, fellow travelers, or llamas. No matter who you meet, this is one of the best places for your next family vacation! Or you can see all of these reasons not to go to Peru… 

September 1, 2015

Be an Explorer in the Sea of Cortez

One of the most magical, bio-diverse, and unimaginably beautiful family vacation destinations in the world is the Sea of Cortez. While there is much to love about Baja, Mexico, the Sea of Cortez is definitely something that stands out. It sets a scene that anyone who lays eyes on it won’t ever forget. What is so captivating about the Sea of Cortez isn’t the beauty on the surface, but the wonder below it. It’s a body of water that has been explored in the past and will continue to be explored in the future. A few expeditions have become more well known than others and hearing about two of these famous journeys will make anyone excited to book a family vacation out to Baja and dive head first into the Sea of Cortez.

John Steinbeck

dolphins bajaIn 1940, author John Steinbeck went on a six-week expedition in the Sea of Cortez to collect marine specimens. What was an author doing on a marine biology expedition? Good question! Essentially, Steinbeck was looking for a new start after he gained fame for Tortilla Flat and The Grapes of Wrath. He was interested in marine biology and his friend, marine biologist Ed Ricketts, was looking for a new adventure. Steinbeck’s exploration of the Sea of Cortez served as an important journey. You can read all about this expedition in Steinbeck’s book The Log from the Sea of Cortez. Steinbeck was not just a fan of the Sea of Cortez, but of the Baja peninsula as whole.

Jacques Cousteau


One of the most famous modern day explorers, the Frenchman Jacques Cousteau led more than one expedition to the Sea of Cortez.  He did much of his exploring in the 1960’s and felt strongly enough about what he saw that he called the Sea of Cortez the “Aquarium of the World.” It’s no secret any more that the waters in the sea are full of rich and biodiverse marine life. Many locals refer to Cortez as the “whale highway” because of the migration path of whales during the winter months (visitors during this time can normally see dozens of whales at a time!). Whales aren’t all that can be found here. People should keep an eye peeled for dolphins, sea lions, manta rays, and over 900 species of fish that come in all colors and sizes!

You don’t need to be a famous author or explorer to enjoy the natural treasures of the Sea of Cortez. All you need to do is go!

August 26, 2015

4 Reasons Panama Is Great for Kids

Some places in the world are great for you to travel to and some are great to for you travel to with your kids. Panama is definitely the latter! Panama is rich with history, culture, innovation, wildlife, and adventure. There are plenty of opportunities for fun and education while on a family vacation in Panama. What we find kids love about Panama, you will too!


Bird in Panama

There is nothing kids love more than seeing wildlife up close and personal! Panama is home to over 900 species of birds, making it somewhat of a must-visit destination for bird lovers. Being able to watch as colorful toucans or quetzals leave their perch in a tree to take off and glide and streak through the sky is nothing short of amazing. White-faced capuchin monkeys stare as you make your way through jungles and down rivers because they are just as curious as your kids are! Seeing animals in their natural habitats create an excitement that no screen or device can.


Nothing says family vacation like a little adrenaline pumping fun! Panama is a great place to let out your inner daredevil (in a safe and organized fashion) and make some memories. The Chiriqui Highlands are a playground for nature lovers and adventurers alike. Kids won’t ever forget seeing streams and waterfalls beneath them as they fly through a treetop canopy on a zip-line! Another fun adventure in the highlands is white-water rafting. Your kids will love taking on Class II and III rapids with plenty of breaks for swimming!

Meeting an Embera Tribe

Embera Canoe

No trip abroad is complete without a chance to meet the locals and Panama has some of the best. Imagine a scene where you take your kids into a dugout canoe and slowly begin to paddle up the Charges River in the middle of a jungle. Along the way you pass thatched houses that blend perfectly into the fabric of the environment. This is what a journey to an Embera village looks like. This journey back in time to when things were simpler and technology didn’t rule the day will be an education your kids won’t soon forget and can’t get anywhere else!

Visit a Panamanian Farm

Visiting a Panamanian farm is a great way to show your kids how a modern day rural Panamanian family lives. Boquete is an exceptionally beautiful region and nothing proves this more than the local farms. Try your hand at milking cows and feeding pigs and chickens while taking in sweeping views of mountains and fields. Learning to make jams from rare tropical fruits and traditional tamales is a life skill that will stay in your family forever!

Take the family vacation you deserve and call us to visit Panama today!

August 18, 2015

20 Reasons Not to Go to Peru

Peru is obviously a terrible place to take a family vacation and we don’t know what good things to say about it, if there are any.

1. There’s nothing beautiful or magical about Machu Picchu

beautiful Machu Picchu - a perfect family vacation destination

2. Really, there isn’t anything worth seeing

Machu Picchu

3. Everything is old, who likes finding ancient Incan ruins anyway?

Incan Ruins

4. Llamas aren’t cool or fun animals at all

Llamas in Peru

5. And why would you ever want to meet one?

up close with llamas on a family vacation to peru

6. The weaving isn’t colorful or artistic

Peruvian art

7. There isn’t anything good to buy in the markets

shopping at the markets while on a Peru family vacation

8. The fruit doesn’t look appetizing either

delicious looking fruit at a market in Peru

9. San Blas seems like a drag and unoriginal

San Blas

10. All of the cities seem pretty bland

Peru City

11. The churches aren’t beautiful by any means

a church in Peru

12. Or unique

Peru churches

13. Nothing exciting, fun, or different ever happens

a performance in Peru

14. No one ever has fun river rafting

a family river rafting while vacationing in Peru

15. Or taking mountain valley train rides

riding the train while on a family vacation in Peru

16. All of the birds are boring

Colorful birds in Peru

17. And who would want to see this?

Peruvian reed boats

18. Or hike here?

hiking in Peru

19. Or sleep next to this terrible view?

a family camping in Peru

20. There is also no way your family has fun

family having fun while on vacation in Peru

Check out these Peru itineraries to see what you won’t be missing out on!

August 11, 2015

Where Will You Be This Winter?

A great way to spend the winter and the holidays is off on an adventure. If you’re a Northeast Coaster like we are at Thomson Family Adventures, there is nothing we understand more than wanting to escape the snow (especially after last winter!). If you’re from the warmer regions of the country, there is no way to make the holiday season more memorable or special than spending it in an exciting new place with the ones you love. Lucky for you, we have four great destinations for a winter and holiday time family vacation!


galapagos sea lions

The holiday season is full of wonder and amazement, but nothing will compare to the wonder or inspire the amazement that the Galapagos Islands will for your family. This is one of the few places in the world that has sustained its pristine natural biodiversity and charm with minimal change from human intervention. The conservation efforts on the islands are top of the line and allow you to see beautiful beaches, swim with playful sea lions, find old giant tortoises, and explore picturesque islands. This will be the best gift you can get your kids for the holidays!

South Africa

One of our new family vacation destinations, South Africa has an unrivaled country spirit. With a deep history producing revolutionary figures like Nelson Mandela, South Africa is a cultural and historical adventure like no other. It is a country dedicated to social empowerment and development that will inspire you and your children. There are also great intimate family safari opportunities in South Africa. You can see the Big 5 up close and enjoy magical evenings as the sun slowly sets, casting dark hues of oranges, reds, and yellows, over the South African bush.


There is something in Baja for everyone. It has plenty of active sport options, good for all ages, from surfing and kayaking to hiking and horseback riding. Or you can saunter around the cultural beach towns of La Paz or Todos Santos taking in the local art and food scenes. Escaping the cold for a beach town sounds just about perfect to us, even more so after remembering the average temperature in December is a cool 80 degrees!

Costa Rica

CR waterfall break

A destination that is perfect for multigenerational family vacations is Costa Rica. The National Parks of Corcovado and Manuel Antonio offer exciting opportunities to explore this amazing tropical land. you can sit by waterfalls in the jungle and enjoy fresh, juicy, and delicious fruit or relax on warm secluded beaches! It’s easy to fall in love with Costa Rica and sharing the experience with your family will make it even more unforgettable.

The holiday season is a great time to travel since everyone will be under one roof. Use this this time for a family vacation and have a holiday adventure your family will talk about forever!

August 5, 2015

7 Reasons To Bring Your Older Kids to Thailand

IMG_8431 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 28, 2015

What Makes a South Africa Family Vacation so Magical?

South Africa is country that begs to be explored. It’s a magical place from its cities to its bushveld. South Africa has something for everyone, history lovers, wildlife explorers, sports fans, and everything in-between. With a troubled past and bright future, thanks to a strong and warm people, South Africa becomes more than just a destination for vacation or a trip. It becomes an experience that can be trans-formative for travelers. To begin to understand what makes South Africa a magical place, you need to understand its history, current strides toward progress, and a bit about what makes it unique.


It wasn’t until 1994 that apartheid, state enforced racial segregation, was officially disbanded and South Africa held its first fair and democratically held presidential election. In the first election under the new constitution, Nelson Mandela won the presidency. Nelson Mandela’s victory did not come easy. It took decades of social activism by a majority of the country and Mandela himself spent 18 years in a political prison on Robben Island. Visiting Robben Island is one way to see South Africa’s history up close. Although apartheid isn’t too far in the past, it’s the dedication and outlook toward a better future that is inspiring and kids and adults alike will have an unmatched learning experience while in South Africa.

Social and Cultural Development

Music is a great way to spur social and cultural development

Music is a great way to spur social and cultural development

When Thomson Family Adventures sends families to South Africa we make sure that it is not only educational but fun! As mentioned earlier, the past of South Africa is troubled. The effects of apartheid have not yet all been eradicated. The good news is that there are several programs that are dedicated to bettering the communities and people of South Africa. By visiting youth development programs in Cape Town’s Langa Township you can meet the people and kids working towards a better South African future through dance, music, and the arts. When staying at the Grootbos Reserve it’s rewarding to see how your travels can positively impact a community, not mention its location in the beautiful fynbos. There is no feeling like making new friends and giving back to the world while in the midst of an adventure!

Unique Wildlife

Cape buffalo spotted on safari!

Cape buffalo spotted on safari!

It isn’t just the people in South Africa that are magical and inspiring, it’s also the wildlife. You may know that South Africa is one place that you can spot the Big 5 animals in Africa. Going out on a safari to see lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, rhinos, and leopards can be life changing. Not only can you find the Big 5 in South Africa, but also the Marine Big 5: bottle-nose dolphins, African penguins, fur seals, whales, and the great white shark. This is the only country in the world where you can find the Big 10! You’ll also get to see zebras, wild dogs, giraffes, and gazelles. These are the types of animals that most people only see on TV or in a zoo. Seeing them out in the open and in their natural habitat is a completely different feeling and will inspire awe and wonder in you and your child.

Feel the magic of South Africa on your next family vacation!

July 21, 2015

6 Things You Have to See in Brazil to Understand

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

Spot a Jaguar

A jaguar sitting on a log in the Pantanal.

A jaguar sitting on a log in the Pantanal.

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

Experience the Pantanal

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

Stand with Christ the Redeemer

Christo Blanco

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


Enjoy a Churrascaria

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

See The Beautiful Game

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

Learn About the Golden Lion Tamarin

golden lion tamarin

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

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

July 14, 2015

Explore Italy’s Volcanoes

When you think of Italy what comes to mind? Is it pasta, wine, Shakespeare, the Vatican, pizza, gelato? While these do all shout Italy— you may not think to say volcanoes. Interestingly enough, you should! Southern Italy and especially the islands are a hot bed (no pun intended) for volcanic activity. Italy is home to over a dozen volcanoes, most of which are dormant. Currently there are three active volcanoes in Italy: Mount Etna, Stromboli, and Mount Vesuvius. Since they are the only active volcanoes in the country they are by far the most interesting! These volcanoes are fun, filled with activities, and offer unique education experiences making them great places to visit on a family vacation!

Mount Etna

After a hike on Mount Etna! Photo: M. Tomasello

After a hike on Mount Etna!                Photo: M. Tomasello

On the Eastern Coast of Sicily, between the cities of Catania and Messina, sits Mount Etna. At just under 11,000 feet tall, this is not only the tallest active volcano in Italy but on the entire European continent. To add to Etna’s ambiance, it is also the one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Staying in Catania and hiking the slopes of Mount Etna is a great way to learn how volcanoes play an integral role in their environments. The volcanic ash from Etna has made the soil incredibly fertile, boosting the agricultural output of the area, specifically, enhancing the production of vineyards and orchards. With all of its recent activity and because of the nearby population, Mount Etna has been named one of 16 Decade Volcanoes by the United Nations and it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013.

Mount Stromboli

A Stromboli Eruption Photo: C. Migeon

A Stromboli Eruption Photo: C. Migeon

For the last 2,000 years, Stromboli, one of the eight Aeolian Islands, has been in a continuous eruption. This isn’t as scary as it sounds. Stromboli regularly erupts in intervals that can last as long as minutes or hours. These are small bursts of lava fragments, ash, and stone blocks that spray a few hundred meters into the air. These eruptions are almost always explosive but there are times when a lava flow occurs. You can hike on Stromboli to see the “Stairway of Fire,” the path that lava takes to the sea, an incredible opportunity that no one should miss. Another great feature of Stromboli is its picturesque coves that are perfect to go swimming in!

Mount Vesuvius

Vesuvius from the coast Photo: E. Cali

Vesuvius from the coast  Photo: E. Cali


Probably the most famous of Italy’s volcanoes is Mount Vesuvius. Vesuvius reached international and everlasting fame after its eruption in 79 AD that buried and destroyed several Italian cities, including Pompeii. The eruption in 79 AD spewed molten rock and lava upwards of 20 miles into the air which caused much of the destruction. The ruins of Pompeii are well preserved and a popular destination for travelers to mainland Italy. The last major eruption of Vesuvius was in 1944, making it the only volcano in mainland Europe to have erupted in the last 100 years. Vesuvius is to be respected and admired. There are great trails on its slopes and it’s a great fixture to have in the backdrop of a picture!

Italy’s volcanoes are only part of the country’s beauty and personality. Taking a vacation to the islands and volcanoes of Italy is educational, fun, and exciting. Take a look at our Italy family vacation itinerary or give us a call today to plan the next amazing vacation that your family will have!