December 22, 2016

Holiday Traditions Around the World

Delicious food, cheery music, and colorful light displays. These are signs of the holiday season. We all have exciting traditions that we share and create with our families. But it is equally exciting, in season of sharing and giving, to teach our children the importance of traditions around the world. The best part about these holiday traditions is that they happen every year and you can visit these countries on a family vacation and see these traditions play out first hand!

blue footed booby wearing santa hats

Ecuador – La Navidad

Traditional Christmas in Ecuador is a religious occasion where families gather for midnight mass on Christmas Eve. As mass begins, eucalyptus branches burn in front of the church and families proceed into the church. Families carry figurines of Christ and sing carols. Inside the church, the figurines are placed at the Nativity. Ecuadorians attend morning mass on Christmas Day and bring more figures to place at the Nativity. In homes, you see nativity scenes and dinner tables with large Christmas Eve meals including variations of rice – like rice with stew, spicy rice, rice with corn, and arroz Navideño (Christmas rice). Christmas trees are not traditional in this Andean region. Instead fake trees are adorned with lights and ornaments.

Ireland – Christmas

Christmas in Ireland is a lot like that in the U.S. Christmas trees are displayed in the center of town with nativity scenes displaying the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Three Kings at local churches. Before Christmas trees gained popularity, holly and ivy were used to decorate homes. It was said that the more berries on the holly the more luck would come in the new year. Families attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve where blessed holy candles are lit. Celebrations on Christmas Day consist of a large Christmas dinner with turkey, ham, chicken, stuffing, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and mince pie. The day after Christmas Day is St. Stephen’s Day, with Saint Stephen being the first Christian martyr. This day is spent resting, attending mass, and celebrating with another large meal.

Israel – Hanukkah

Hanukkah or Chanukah (“dedication” in Hebrew) is the Jewish eight-day celebration that commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem that occurred in the 2nd century B.C. During this time, Jews rose against their Greek-Syrian oppressors, who forbade Jewish religious practice, in an effort to refuse to worship the Roman Gods. On each night after sundown of Chanukah, a candle is added to a nine-branched menorah. The ninth candle is used to light the other candles and blessings are recited and the menorah is placed in a window as a reminder to others of the holiday. Traditional foods are made such as potato pancakes and jam-filled donuts or “sufganiyot”. Families engage in gift-exchanging and playing with dreidels.

China – New Year

The New Year in China traditionally honors household, heavenly deities and ancestors. The new year is based on the ancient Chinese calendar and each new year is marked by the characteristics of one of the 12 zodiacal animals, including the dragon, rooster, dog, horse, pig, snake, rat, sheep, monkey, ox, tiger, and rabbit. It is considered the most important festival of the year and homes are cleaned to rid them of “huiqi” or inauspicious breaths that accumulated during the old previous year and be clear for inspection by the gods from heaven. Firecrackers are set off to frighten evil spirits and food and paper are offered to the gods. This was all meant to bring good luck and long life to families. On New Year’s Eve families fast and during the first five days of the new year long noodles are eaten to celebrate long life. On the 15th day and the last day of the new year, dumplings shaped like the full moon are made to show unity as a family.

While these celebrations are all different, the meanings behind each are the same: unity. Unity brings us together as families and a people. This is the time of the year when ours hearts feel a little less heavy and a lot fuller.

December 9, 2016

Why Familes With Millennials Love Costa Rica

The travel bug is incurable. So if you’re childhood was filled with adventure, like mine, you’re not going to stop when you’ve grown up. Sure, the dynamic of your adventures change, but millennial family travel is an opportunity to share experiences that will help both generations see each other in a new light.

a family about to go zip lining

Just because you’re grown and out of the house doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a family vacation. One of our favorite destinations for families with millennials is Costa Rica. Why? Here are 4 “hip” reasons from a millennial herself:

Endless Opportunity for Outdoor Activities

Whether you are a super adventurous family that loves the thrill of zip-lining through the jungle or a more laid back family who loves leisure hikes searching for wildlife – Costa Rica is the perfect place for all sorts of activity. There’s an opportunity at every turn for your family to explore the wild outdoors or roll up your sleeves and jump into action, from kayaking through the mangroves to relaxing on the beach, learning to make chocolate and sharing cultural experiences— there’s something for everyone!

New Experiences and New Friends

Test your limits in Costa Rica and step out of your comfort zone! Get caught in a rain storm and expect the unexpected! Repel down waterfalls, zip-line high above the tree tops, whitewater raft through class IV rapids, or test your taste buds. You can make new friends from group travel, being paired with people the same age, or through meeting locals.  And there’s no better way to meet the locals than spending a night out with a local craft brewer and going to all the hot spots in San Jose to have a drink and route for the local futbol team.

The Vibrant Atmosphere

Costa Rica is one of the most colorful places in the world. From the lush green forests and magnificent birds to the vibrant farmer’s markets and lively nightlife – there’s not much more you can ask for.

The Mouthwatering Food

Who doesn’t love Latin food? YUM! Stop at a local mercado and pick up some plantains! Peel and fry them up in your favorite oil and enjoy these sweet treats. Or if you like a more savory dish try cooking up some tostones – flattened plantains covered in salt!

Doing Adult Things

One thing us millennials hate is being treated like children and our natural instinct is to cringe or roll our eyes when we hear the phrase “family vacation.” But Costa Rica is far from childish. From bar crawls to hanging out at beach clubs with exclusive access to swim-up bars and private beaches, your family vacation will feel more like a party than a punishment!

November 23, 2016

4 Things to Bring when Hiking with Kids (Which I Forgot)

Something that all of us at Thomson Family Adventures enjoys is hiking. We hike on family vacations and in our spare time. Whether we are exploring the mountains of Chiang Mai or looking for waterfalls in Costa Rica, we love to be out and hiking through the wilderness. I like to hike whenever I have the chance. On my last hike I recognized a few things that could’ve made the hike a little bit better for the kids I took with me. These cheap and easy tips I thought of after my last hike might make your next family hiking experience extra special for your kids! And always remember, when hiking on a family vacation with TFA, we always make sure to have these little details covered to make it the best experience possible.

hiking trail for families

Recently, I hiked in the New Hampshire White Mountains with two 11 year old girls, my daughter and my niece.  We did a backpacking trip over Mt. Wolf to Eliza Brook where we spent the night, and the next day we did North and South Kinsman and then hiked out.  The girls had to carry some of their own gear, but they are young so I wanted to make sure to keep weight down.  While total weight is important I missed an opportunity, with just a few ounces I could have really improved their experience.  For $8.25 and less than a half pound I could have been a hero.

Hot Chocolate (1.5 oz., $.25)

Let’s face it, mornings in the New Hampshire White Mountains are cold.  I prefer hiking in the early spring and early fall (before and after bug season), two seasons characterized by chilly mornings.  Getting kids out of bed is never easy, but in these conditions it is even worse.  A cup of hot chocolate waiting for them outside the tent would have done wonders to improve the mornings.

Light (.07 oz., $5)

Much of the White Mountain National Forest does not allow camp fires.  As a result when then sun goes down there isn’t much for kids to do.  Having a small light which can be hung within the tent would have given them a place to go and hang out after dinner.  This would have given them their own space to laugh and gossip in and they would have loved it.

Candy (4 oz., $2)

Oatmeal, ramen noodles, granola bars, and trail mix are the obvious foods which kids have come to expect when hiking, camping, and backpacking.  But how epic would it have been if I had whipped out Swedish fish or gummy worms when we were struggling with elevation gains on a gray and overcast day.  I could have lifted their spirits with unexpected treat.

Hand Warmer (1 oz., $1)

Pitch one of these into the bottom of a cold sleeping bag a little while before going to bed, and your bedding changes from a thankless cold nylon bag, to a toasty warm haven.  After a long hike on sore feet, this would have made them giggle with joy.

PS: They had a great time anyhow and both want to go again.  Next time though, I am taking my own advice!

kids on a family hike

November 10, 2016

Small Regrets I’ll Never Really Be Sorry For

Our family travel expert Moo has been all over the world with her kids and she has some thoughts on things she thought she would regret, but in the long run, are some of her favorite memories.

Moo's daughter looking out into Morocco during their family vacation.

Moo’s daughter looking out into Morocco during their trek.

Thinking about a family vacation can seem so stressful in 2016. It’s about making decisions on how to spend your precious vacation time; it’s having to disconnect from social media; it’s work to find resources to arrange for the pet sitting, the mail, the shoveling; it’s about the money. But what are we working so hard for anyway? In my experience, traveling with my kids the last 20 years, my regrets are so comfortable to live with they make me smile. After all, isn’t it the crazy stories that give you a shared lifetime of pleasure with your precious children? It could not be resources better spent, to get away from everything and just be together. Here are my some of my favorite regrets I’ll never be sorry for:

I took Mira and Leo on a small boat adventure through Glacier Bay in Alaska. They were so disinterested pre-trip that I had to make them go, whining all the way. It took about 1 hour in Juneau for them to be totally enchanted, and they spent the whole week thanking me for bringing them along. I am so sorry I didn’t insist their older brother Milo come too!

Standing on the Great Wall of China, looking out over miles of mind-boggling history, Mira’s cell phone rang. (Mind you this was 2005. I didn’t even know she had it with her– and why was it in her pocket?? Why was it WORKING?) It was her friend Nora, who said “Mira, I thought you were in China” and Mira said, very casually, “I am. I’m on the Great Wall.” They chatted for a minute and I encouraged them to hang up – My fear was the phone bill. But in the end it was only 87 cents! I wish I’d let them talk longer.

Visiting the pandas, back when you could pay a ridiculous amount of money to hold one, Mira was outfitted in swaths of plastic robes, an effort to control contamination (Panda? Mira?). She sat on a bench, and a little man came from the side huffing and puffing with a panda. He hefted that panda up and slammed it into Mira’s lap; she looked totally startled and we both began to laugh so hard I almost forgot to take photos. About 30 seconds later the little man hauled the panda off and dragged it back to the pen. It was the most expensive 30 seconds of my life, and my only regret is it is not on video.

In Morocco we trekked through the High Atlas Mountains, a hike sometimes challenging – the precipitous drop-offs terrified me. As my kids and most of the other guests traipsed merrily along, the guide kept a careful but casual eye on my progress. At one point I even sat down and cried – but it turned into a moment of looking up and out rather than down, and the remote beauty of that spot captured my heart. I did finally make it to our stream-side camp where we soaked our feet in the icy water, ate delicious food, and star gazed until we slept. My regret? We didn’t trek for more days.

What may feel like regret when deciding to spend money or doing something your kids don’t want to do at the moment is fleeting. The memories from your family vacation will be worth it all— trust me!






November 3, 2016

The Recipe for a Family Vacation with Millennials

The Millennial. It’s a word and term that we’ve all heard a lot lately. It’s tossed around in the news and on different websites as this elusive and sometimes impossible to please demographic of young people who are in the middle of embarking into life as an adult. Technically, a Millennial can be defined as anyone between the ages of 20 and 35, we’re sure you know a Millennial or two (or maybe even have one of your own) and we’re here to tell you that this demographic isn’t that elusive or hard to please. We have crafted a brand new line of adventures for families with kids in this age range and we’re excited to show families how they can travel and have fun with adult kids. We concocted the perfect formula for these kinds of family vacations to share with you!

a Millennial kayaking on a family vacation

Do Adult Things

One thing that Millennials hate is being treated like children, although we know they will always be your children, and sometimes the words “family vacation” can make them feel as if it’ll be a vacation similar to one they took when they were 8 or 9. One way we to debunk those fears or thoughts are to work plenty of things into the trip that are age appropriate. We’ll take your family on a bar crawl with a local craft beer brewer who can teach you all of the ins and outs of how to brew beer and what the best foods are to accompany it. We also make stops at rooftop bars for a sunset cocktail. Experiences like this are what Millennial kids want and are things that you can enjoy with them.


Everyone likes to have options. Especially kids who are in college or have just finished. They won’t want to be forced to do things on vacation. Schedule things for later in the morning in case anyone wants to sleep in a little bit and give options when it comes to activities. Providing a freedom to rest in the morning, take a yoga class, or relax by the pool makes it easier for people to have independence and have fun on their own terms.

More Challenging and Unique Opportunities

It’s all about doing something memorable that your kids will want to talk about long after they’ve returned home. Think about glamping on a secluded island, so secluded that there are no houses, restaurants, roads, of signs of human life. But with a comfortable bed and a kitchen that makes great meals, it isn’t something that’s only fun and unique but comfortable and delicious. Even typical activities like rafting can be dialed up a bit to make it more attractive to older kids. We’ll raft down rapids that dip and dive and will keep their adrenaline pumping at a nice pace for the entire ride! Or we can slow it down by chartering a catamaran for a day and enjoy the beautiful paradise around us.

Make Them Feel Like Kids Again

No one wants to be treated like a kid, but everyone wants to be one! Free of responsibilities and little to no cares in the world. That’s exactly what these trips will do; offer a respite from college, work, and life for a while. No matter if you go to Baja, Thailand, or Costa Rica— everyone will have fun and feel like a kid again!

October 27, 2016

Halloween Traditions from Around the World

Many of the places that we go on family vacations celebrate Halloween in different ways or have an interesting lore surrounding the holiday. With that time of year upon us, we thought it would be fun to share with you a few facts about Halloween in the places you may go for your next family vacation!



Did you know that Ireland is believed to be the birthplace of Halloween?   And that it is one of the world’s oldest holidays?  It originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain over 2,000 years ago.  The Celtic year was divided into two halves, the brighthalf (Beltane) and the darkhalf (Samhain).  Samhain, which translates to “summers end,” marked the transition into the long and dark of winter.  Much like modern New Year’s Day there was a theme of “out with the old and in with the new.”  Celts believed that on the night before the New Year the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and the souls of the departed would return to their former homes.  People would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts.   Then all of the fires would be extinguished, making it the darkest night of the year.  To mark the start of the New Year, the fires would be ceremoniously re-lit.

These fundamental concepts of Halloween can be found in similar celebrations around the world today!


With the immigration of the Irish to Canada in the 1800s came the celebration of Halloween.  Modern celebrations include carving Jack O’Lanterns, decorating homes with pumpkins and trick-or-treating.   This is the same for the United States.  There is no record of Halloween before the mid-19th century when large numbers of Irish moved to the country.


In Mexico and Latin American countries Dia de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – honors deceased loved ones.  This is actually a several day celebration beginning on the evening of October 31 and continuing through November 2.

Costa Rica

In Costa Rica, October 31st is called “Dia de la Mascarada” (Day of the Masquarade).  The holiday originated as an adaptation of Carnival.  Parades are held throughout the country with many people wearing costumes known as masquerades.  Each masquerade has a head and a body made from layers of glue and newspaper sheets, similar to papier-mâché.



China has a Halloween festival called Teng Chieh each year when food and water are placed in front of photographs of their departed relatives.  There are also bonfires and lanterns lit to guide the spirits back to Earth.

United States

In the United States, Halloween is one of the most popular holidays.  Every year 65% of Americans celebrate by decorating their homes and offices.  Most people also dress up in a costume.  And one more fun fact:  Halloween is when more candy is sold than any other holiday all year in the United States!

So no matter where your next family vacation takes you, it’s safe to say that there is a little bit of interesting Halloween history or lore surrounding it!

October 20, 2016

12 Reasons I Love Tanzania


From July 1994 to July 1998 our General Manager, Jim, lived in Arusha, Tanzania while working for Thomson.  He loved his time in the country and still thinks about it, quite fondly, today. He put together a list of his 12 favorite reasons why he loved living in Tanzania.  The best part about his list is that you don’t need to live there to experience them— just visit! If you take a Tanzania family vacation we’re sure that you’ll run into a few of Jim’s favorite things.

The Weather

Living at 4,500 feet where the daily highs were in the low 90s and the evening lows were in 60s just can’t be beat.  I got to wear shorts and Birkenstocks every day, something that was easy to get used to.  When I would come back home to Boston for vacations each April, with cloudy skies and cooler temperatures, didn’t always feel great!

The African Sky

I spent many nights sitting outside stargazing.  The sky was so rich and full of stars, the galaxy looking like you could reach out and touch it, I would have to go outside early enough to make heads or tails of the constellations.  Keep an eye out for the Southern Cross during night safaris on your family vacation, it was my favorite.


The Arusha Rhinos was the local rugby team and they were willing to let this old man (42 at the time) play on their rugby team for a year.  I wasn’t much good but learned to love the sport.

Fresh Roses

I am a sucker for beautiful roses.   There are so many rose plantations in Tanzania that I was always able to pick up a bucket (4 or 5 dozen) of roses for a few dollars.  Luckily my wife, Kim, loves them as well so our house was always adorned with the latest harvest of reds or champagnes.  To this day when someone does something great in our office I need to get out and buy them a dozen roses.  It’s just too bad they aren’t still a few dollars!

Africa Stays with You

I didn’t have a clue what this meant before I left the States but after spending four years in Tanzania, I understand and know it is true.  I have an attachment to Tanzanians, to the country, the wildlife and to the landscape that I will never lose.

Genuine Respect

There’s a greeting and exchange in Swahili that takes place between young people and any elder that they meet. The young person would say Shikamo and the elder would reply Marahaba.

There is no direct translation, but in essence, the younger person is showing respect to someone who is older and wiser than they are, and the elder responds with a thank you. Here in the states if you are older and struggling with something like technology you may get an eye roll at best and a “man are you dumb” at worst.  In Tanzania, that just won’t happen.

Family and Community

I worked with a very successful and smart tour guide who was constantly short of cash.  I finally got up the guts to ask him why.   He explained to me that every time he came back from work with his pay there was a line of people from his village outside his door. They needed cash for school fees, medicines, food and other necessities.  Saying no was not an option for him.  He always put others first and wanted to help.  Put me to shame.

Incredible Memories

My first son was born in Tanzania in March 1997 and got to go on safari with me three or four times before we moved back to the U.S.  He was given the name Msafiri mdogo mdogo by my co-workers which translates to the junior junior (little little) journeyer.  He’s now 19 and in college. While this won’t happen to you on your family safari, there are plenty of memories that your family will make on a vacation in Tanzania.

Lifelong Friendships

In addition to the wonderful Tanzanians my family met, we crossed paths with people from all over the world.  We now have friends from Australia, England, Canada, South Africa and much more.  We will always share that wonderful time in Tanzania.

Amazing Scenery is Never Far

Where else in the world can you drive two hours and be at Tarangire National Park or Gibbs Farm.  Getting to spend weekends at a safari lodge in Tarangire, where alternating between swims in the pool and watching for game drink at the Tarangire River was the daily regimen, was incredible.  One weekend we watched a group of young lions practice their hunting skills with zebras at the river for drink.  They weren’t successful.

Fresh Fruit

It was right in my own backyard.  Our little 3 room ranch on 2 acres of land came with bananas, oranges, avocados (boy did our shepherds love these), passion fruit, papaya and custard apple.    There is nothing better for one’s weight and cholesterol level than snacking on these rather than chips and cookies. You’ll be able to see and taste all of the fresh fruit you can while on safari.


Going on safari in June 1998 with my family and my brother was amazing.  Finding ourselves in the middle of the migration in the Southern Serengeti was a once in a life time experience.  Words cannot describe wildebeest and zebras as far as we could see in every direction.  Having a 15 month old barking at a sleeping lion who turned and growled at him will be a story told for years to come and of course exaggerated. I’m pretty sure in the last telling of it he walked right up and gave the lion a kiss on the nose!

October 13, 2016

5 Reasons to Visit South Africa on a Family Vacation

South Africa is one of the most expansive, educational, far reaching, and culturally exciting places in the world! There are a lot of reasons to go and visit this amazing place. It was difficult, but we were able to break down 5 of the best reasons for a family vacation to South Africa.

Natural Beauty

beautiful views as seen on a family vacation to south africa

From Table Mountain, to the dramatic coastlines and rocky inlets, the scenery in South Africa is absolutely stunning. There’s no shortage of these views either. There’s an options to take a cable car, which rotates 360 degrees, to the top of Table Mountain. This is one way to see a lot of breathtaking views in one short ride!

Diverse Cultural Experiences

a group experiencing diverse cultures as part of a family vacation to South Africa

South Africa, also known as the Rainbow Nation, celebrates its diverse people. You can go almost anywhere in South Africa and experience the many different cultures meeting people that all have very unique backgrounds. If you’re lucky you may even pick up one of the 11 official languages of the country!



In-between cultural exchanges and wildlife viewing, there is always an adventure waiting in South Africa. Your family can take jeep rides through the bush passing by beautiful and brightly colored flowers that you won’t believe grow on right next to the rugged terrain you just crossed. From exhilarating mountain hikes and jeep rides to shark cage diving and whale watching, there is something for everyone!



South Africa is the only place in the world that is home to both the Big Five and the Marine Big 5: whales, sharks, dolphins, seals and penguins! Be careful though, once you start watching the wildlife, it’s hard to stop! Going on safari and sea safari provide families with chances to see incredible wildlife up close during their family vacation! Seeing these animals in their natural habitat is special and something your kids will never forget.

Freedom Struggle


It’s important to know and understand the struggle the people of South Africa went through to get where they are today. Learn about the nation’s struggle for freedom while hearing stories about Mandela, Pieterson, and many other heroes, from people who lived through it all. It’s guaranteed that these stories will inspire you!

Learn more about this amazing country by joining us on Voices of South Africa!

October 7, 2016

5 Things to Do on a Family Vacation in Iceland

For families looking for a vacation filled with adventure, wildlife and history, few areas in the world can match the density of offerings jammed into a tiny island like Iceland. A former Danish colony famously settled in the 9th Century by seafaring Norseman known as Vikings, this subarctic European gem is roughly the size of Cuba.

Despite its diminutive size, though, Iceland contains many countries’ worth of geological highlights, from geothermal hot spots to active volcanoes, waterfalls, glaciers and fjords. Bottom line? It’s the ideal vacation destination for outdoor-loving families.

iceland family vacation

Of course, there’s also plenty to do in unassuming yet sophisticated Reykjavik, including shopping along Laugavegur, walking along the waterfront toward Harpa concert hall, visiting iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, or touring the city’s numerous galleries and museums. Outside of town, kids will also love soaking in the Blue Lagoon or taking a Golden Circle tour to see several of the area’s geological wonders.

But if you’re willing to step outside the big city, there’s so much more to experience on a family vacation. Here are five not-to-miss, kid-friendly activities around Iceland.

Ride an Icelandic horse

I can’t imagine traveling all the way to this country for a family vacation and not riding one of these slight but hardy steeds that date back to the age of the Vikings. Unmistakable with its smallish size and long, flowing manes—what I call the Fabio of horses—Icelanders take great pride in its homegrown breed, known for being surefooted and capable of crossing difficult terrain.

The Icelandic horse is also noteworthy for possessing two extra gaits (in addition to walk, trot and canter): tölt, a four-beat, lateral ambling gait—faster than a walk; a smooth ride good for extended times in the saddle, as in trail rides—and skeið, or “flying pace,” a fast pace in which some horses can reach up to 30 mph.

family on a vacation to iceland

The country takes such pride in keeping these inimitable horses healthy and disease-free, in fact, that Icelandic law dictates any exported horse is never allowed to return to its native land. And one more thing: Do not, I repeat, do not ever insult an Icelander by referring to these horses as “ponies.”

Visit a Bakarí (Bakery)

While the country may be known for its meat, from seafood to beef and especially lamb—since there are more Icelandic sheep than people—we had no idea we’d encounter such dreamy pastries. In even the tiniest of villages, it’s easy to find a bakery—sometimes, even inside grocery stores—filled with homemade breads, pastries, cakes and coffee, both savory and sweet.

Oftentimes, the bakeries also include local staples like muesli and skyr (skeer) yogurt, as well as they country’s most revered dessert, skyr (skeer) cake, Iceland’s answer to cheesecake. Oh, and if you get to Mývatn in North Iceland, try the bread locals bake underground via geothermal heat.

Tour in a Super Jeep

 The vast array of terrain throughout Iceland makes traveling in a super jeep—modified jeeps that allow literal off-the-beaten-track tours—a popular option. And while you can find them practically anywhere in the country, you can even rent a super jeep on your own, we chose a tour in Southeast Iceland to experience some of the area’s many dazzling glacial lagoons in Vatnajökull National Park. Named after the world’s largest ice cap (after both poles), the Park covers 14 percent of the country and offers gorgeous views of the country’s iconic, icy-blue glaciers marbled with volcanic ash.

Spot whales in Húsavík

Taking a boat tour in search of these hulking marine mammals is nothing new or unique, and there are several whale-watching spots throughout Iceland, including Reykjavik. But for some of the best viewing in the country, head to North Iceland’s Húsavík, known as the country’s whale-watching capital.

A tiny fishing village along the shores of Skjálfandi bay, the combination of nutrients from two estuaries draws up to 11 species for summertime feeding, including minke, humpback and even blue whales. Then after an exhilarating ride in a RIB (rigid, inflatable boat), chow down at one of the many harbor-side restaurants and cafes. And be sure to visit the town’s world-class whale museum, adorned in local children’s artwork and whale skeletons, including one from a blue whale that was beached in 2010.

See the Northern Lights

In most of the world, we focus on winter-weather forecasts. But in Iceland, winter means focusing on the Aurora forecast. As a sparsely populated country with few trees (What do you do when you get lost in an Icelandic forest? Stand up!), and relatively little light pollution, Iceland is the perfect place to spot the sky’s pageantry of color.

Known as the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, and caused when electrically charged particles from the sun enter the earth’s atmosphere near the earth’s poles (Aurora Australis in the south), the best time to spot them in is in wintertime, roughly September through April in Iceland. But locals know to start looking in late August, when our family was lucky enough to witness its stunning display of green radiance lighting up the night sky. There are plenty Northern Lights excursions that are perfect for your family vacation throughout Iceland’s dark, cold winters.


This post was contributed by Heather Mundt of Momfari. You can see more of her writing and family-travel advice at

September 1, 2016

Be a Smart Traveling Family

a family taking a vacationWe are big believers in booking family vacations as early as possible. There are way too many advantages to booking early that we would be crazy not to love it. Since we’re big fans of early booking, we’ve just made it easier and even better than it was!

Introducing— the brand new Smart Traveler Advantages program. Here’s what you can get from Thomson Family Adventures just by planning your family vacation ahead of time:

  1. Free flight insurance for each member of your booking. This insurance covers up to 100% of the cost of your flights
  2. Free cancellation insurance that allows you to cancel for any reason up to 120 days prior to your departure and receive a full 100% refund of your otherwise non-refundable trip deposit
  3. Get a free GoPro Hero Session camera to capture all of the action and memories during your adventure

These features mean a couple of things. First and foremost, it adds a level of security and comfort to your booking. If something comes up, a sports camp, competition, recital, and you need to cancel your trip, you can at no cost to you. You’ll be fully refunded for your flights and any money that you put towards this adventure. That includes your deposit, which is usually non-refundable.

Kicker rock, as seen on one of our family vacations to the galapagos

Photo of Kicker Rock in the Galapagos taken with a GoPro

Finally, you also get a brand new GoPro Hero Session. This is one of GoPro’s newest models. It’s lighter and more durable than any other camera that they’ve created. It’s also waterproof, meaning there’s no need to get a waterproof casing for it. This is the perfect accessory to have with you to capture every moment of your family vacation. You can take it swimming, kayaking, mountain biking, and zip-lining. You’ll get some of the best and most memorable action shots from any vacation you’ve ever taken.

How can you get all of these advantages? All you need to do is book a trip with us 9 months ahead of the departure date. If you want to plan a family reunion vacation for June, just book in September and all of these advantages will come with it.

There are other benefits of booking early too.  Airline tickets are always cheaper the further out that you book. As a departure date gets closer, demand rises, and as demand rises so do prices. There’s an innate flexibility that comes with planning ahead. You can secure the exact days you want and the exact trip you want without running into availability issues with hotels or with space on our trips. Also, anticipation is great! There are proven health benefits to looking forward to taking a trip. The earlier you book your family vacation the more you can look forward to it! And now with our Smart Traveler Advantages, there’s no reason not to plan ahead!

Some restrictions do apply so please call for a full list of details