September 10, 2012

Update on Costa Rica’s Earthquake

After the earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 degrees on the Richter scale occurred on September 5th at 8:42 am, near Playa Samara and Sardinal, on the northern Pacific coast of Costa Rica, according to data from the National Emergency Commission (CNE), the Costa Rican tourism industry led by the Costa Rican Tourism Board (ICT), reports:

Both Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport and San Jose International Airport are reporting normal operations as well as normal flight arrivals and departures. All the country’s national parks are open and operating normally. The chambers of tourism of the country and the regional offices of the ICT are reporting normal tourism operations. Tourism has been completely unaffected.

A flyover with geologists and personnel from the CNE yesterday verified that the quake did not have major impact on road infrastructure, except for minor damage to homes and some roads.

The CNE explained that the red alert in place is to facilitate the coordination of all agencies and following protocol. It is important to note that due to the country’s strict seismic code, it was possible to minimize the impact of this earthquake.

The country continues to conduct surveillance and monitoring efforts in different parts of the country. Similarly, the ICT continues to coordinate with the regional chambers of tourism, the National Chamber of Tourism, the Costa Rican Association of Tour Operators and the Costa Rican Chamber of Hotels, as well as the National Emergency Commission, and all reports confirm that the tourism industry is operating normally throughout the country.

So come on to Costa Rica! (that wasn’t part of the official report..)



August 24, 2012

What Travelers Say to Those who Listen….

Lions sharing stories

Word of mouth is the original Social Media, and we love it; it remains our finest source of new travelers. We’ve been talked about on planes, on cruises, at camp. I’ve heard about referrals shared at high school reunions and around the water cooler at work, at a knitting class and a book club meeting.

Today I received a little story from a family in the midst of booking their family safari with Thomson. This is what Laura from Chicago told me:

” A friend of mine just came back from a safari in Tanzania. She took the one organized by (a well known competitor). I told her that I was taking one too, with the kids, but I didn’t mention Thomson. She said that at the airport she had met a woman who just raved about her experience with Thomson, talking about how nice the accommodations were, and how wonderful the guides were. This friend recommended Thomson to me, saying that she thought it would be better than the one she went on! It sounds like you’re doing a great job there, and we can’t wait to go!”

Thanks Laura, we look forward to sending your family off on an unforgettable trip of a lifetime. Don’t forget to talk us up at the airport!



August 20, 2012

10 Things Kids Bring Home from a Family Trip

Jessie, Ed, and Lillie in their front yard.

Thanks to Jessie Voigts, our special Guest Blogger for this excellent perspective on family travel:

You spend a lot of time planning family trips – and coordinating said trips! Between teens off with their ipods to dealing with toddlers and diapers, how do you KNOW that these family trips are worth it? But wait – your kids bring home a lot more from family trips than you think. Take a look…

1) Memories. Of course! But it might not be the memories you suspect – of whitewater rafting, or seeing the Eiffel Tower, or hanging with their cousins. It might be the cute squirrels at the local park, the best meal ever, discovering a new food they love, or learning something new.

2) Photos. Be sure to give your kids a camera to take photos. You will be surprised at both the angles (closer to the ground? Or super high, if you’ve got a teen taller than you are!), and the subject matter. Our daughter takes a little stuffed ugly with her, and photographs it wherever we go. Little Ugly has been in a lot of strange places.

3) Humanity. Whether your kids are upset about the stray or mistreated dogs in Nepal, Barbados, or Bahrain; or visibly learn about animal and human rights wherever you are (we’ve all fielded the homeless question), travel is a great chance to teach about humanity. By learning that others are less fortunate than we are, and trying to act on such knowledge, they are on their way to becoming good global citizens.

4) Funny stories. Nothing brings a family together more than camaraderie, which is, in turn, fostered by going through experiences together. From the funny assistant at the airport, to ordering a meal in a foreign language (mostly via sign language), to finding out that people in a certain country just LOVE babies and will hold them for hours and parade them around like a rock star, travel is packed with experiences that will provide great stories…for life.

5) A desire for peace. Our daughter, when seeing cultural differences up close, has gained a strong desire for peace and people to get along. She thinks that intercultural differences are fascinating, and has pledged to learn more about different people and cultures around the world, firsthand.

6) New Experiences, new friends. Whether it’s ziplining, scuba diving, hiking, camping, snorkeling with turtles, or viewing great art, new experiences bring people together and can foster a lifelong fascination or hobby. As well, you can make new friends from group travel, or through meeting locals. These can become friends for life.

7) Learning more about your family. You can learn a lot about people from being in close proximity to each other for an extended period of time. You can also learn about how people react in any situation – often surprising us, how well they can deal with a crisis. By learning more about your family, everyone becomes closer due to these shared experiences. Your teen might ask you to read and talk together about a book about a place you’ve visited, or your 5 year old might surprise you by painting, from memory, a piece of art they saw in an art museum on your travels. You might surprise your kids and husband by jumping first off the cliff into the deep water below, or your father might show unexpected depths while riding a chicken bus.

8) New cultures. Our daughter’s best friend, when asked this question, noted that in Hawaii, she was amazed to learn of the Hawaiian culture. She loved the luaus, the colorful fabrics, and how they utilized the hibiscus flowers in welcoming people. Our daughter loved watching kids tv shows in Ireland – she learned some Gaelic, as well as how kids learn and play in a different country.

9) Love of new foods. It might be roasted tarantula (doubt it), Thai food, boiled peanuts in the south, new jams and pickles, or recipes. Wherever you go, I’m sure you’re eating locally – and shopping at the grocery store whenever possible! You’ll find new foods you love (and probably new foods you dislike). Bring them home, and incorporate these new foods into your meals and snacks!

10) A desire to travel more. Long after the sand has disappeared from your swimsuits and suitcases, and the special candy you brought back is digested, you’ll find something not so surprising. Your whole family will have a desire to travel more – to learn and play and experience the world together. And that’s what family travel is all about – having new experiences, and discovering new cultures and people – together.

Jessie Voigts is a mom who loves sharing the world with her daughter. She has a PhD in International Education, and is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, especially with kids (it’s never too young to start!). She has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. Jessie is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world. She founded the Family Travel Bloggers Association, and the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program. She’s published two books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. You can usually find her family by water – anywhere in the world.



August 3, 2012

How Good Can it Be?

Action on the Mediterranean

I try to speak with each family when they return from their Thomson Family Adventure, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I’ve always known it’s never too late to hear the stories and see the photos, but today I got a great reminder of that. Here’s the email I received from Lisa in Virginia who traveled with her family last summer to Turkey:

Dear Moo,

I know its been almost a year since we came back from Turkey and I’m just now getting around to sending you our pics and thoughts. Time really gets away from you. I guess the best way to sum up the trip was when it was time to plan this year’s vacation, both my kids and my husband all said, “Can we go back to Turkey?”

It was an absolutely amazing trip and I can’t thank you enough for recommending it. Every single person we told that we were going, or had gone, to Turkey had the exact same reaction……Turkey??? with a look on their face somewhere between confusion, disbelief, and “are you serious?” Which was coincidentally my same reaction when you suggested it. If I had had to name a top 20 list of places to visit, I can pretty much guarantee that Turkey would not have made the list.

Now, looking back, I can say that I have never been on a more enjoyable or diverse trip. I’m sending just a few of our favorite pictures for you to post or pass on to anyone else who may have the same uncertainties that we had.

My daughter, 10 years old, downloaded an iPad app to learn some Turkish before we went, and she was right in the Grand Bazaar bartering away for what she wanted. It was such a thrill to see a foreign culture through the eyes of our kids. Even our son, who is bored by everything it seems, had a phenomenal time. I was surprised, but they both said the 5 days on the gulet was their favorite part.

Thanks again for the wonderful, unforgettable vacation.

Lisa



July 31, 2012

Look Who is Multi Sporting in the Galapagos…

Karen, Elaine, Rachel, and Ben - Let's Go!

Meet Karen and her fabulous kids Rachel, Ben, and Elaine. They’re excitedly getting ready to explore the Galapagos Islands in December. They’ll fly into Quito and spend a few nights on the mailand. They’ll horseback ride, hike, and visit the Equator, small villages and famed Otovalo Market. Then off to the Galapagos Islands for a unique land -based discovery: kayaking, snorkeling, communing with fascinating sea life and watching soaring birds like they”ve never seen before. With two nights in a hotel and two nights camping under the Southern sky, plus a private catamaran to cruise the best spots for snorkeling this is a fantastic, up-close way to play in these islands. They’re looking forward to being a small flexible group, avoiding the crowds, finding unique adventure in out of the way places.

Now, who wouldn’t want to join them?

You can!!! December 25 – January 2. Call us now!

800-262-6255



July 26, 2012

A Safari Cabbage Soup Recipe

Cooking Adventures on Safari

Catch the video here! (And bear with our technical difficulties)

Some of our families just returned from a awe-inspiring, heart-stopping, life-altering safari this week (they’d be glad to chat with you if you want more information!) I always love the stories and the photos, but what came back with this group really got me excited. Read on to see what they were up to at Gibb’s Farm (told by 13 year old Maxwell in an email to his friends and family):

Hi Everyone,

As you all know, I was in Tanzania on a Safari. One of the lodges we stayed at was called Gibb’s Farm. Gibbs Farm is in the mountains of Tanzania. It is a fantastic place to stay with a farm, coffee plantation, livestock and much more. On my trip Sofia and I met some really nice kids around our age. Their names are Rada, Allison, and Isabella. We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw the vegetable garden. We were running around the huge vegetable part of the farm wondering what to do. Then we came up with an idea to make cabbage soup. All of us got supplies from the nice Scottish chef and we went around the farm picking veagetables such as carrots, turnips, corn, cucumber and etc.. They let us cook the soup at the staff kitchen. We renamed the farm in our own minds and called it IRASM’S FARM & CO. Me and the rest of the kids could pretty much conclude that this was probably the best part of the trip. Here is the recipe. We hope you enjoy!

IRASM’S CABBAGE SOUP: ( pronounced IRSAM’s) THIS SERVES ABOUT THIRTEEN PEOPLE

- One large green cabbage sliced into thin shreds

-Six big red potatoes chopped in small bits

-Seven large carrots cut in thin circles

-Two white onions diced

-A handful of chives , cut it with a scissor

-A few strands of anise leaves only, do not add the bulb

-Six cobs of corn, slice off the kernels and don’t keep the cob

-Two or three cucumbers sliced in thin circles

- Three turnips chopped thinly

-Three small pieces of garlic

-salt and pepper to taste [pepper it generously]

-1/8 a cup of olive oil

-One large pot

-Fill pot half with water and the other half with chicken broth

—Put all the vegetables washed, chopped, sliced, and diced in a bowl together. Fill a large pot half with chicken broth and the other half with water. Put all the vegetables in the pot and cook on a high flame until all the vegetable are cooked thoroughly. Every five minutes poke a fork through the vegetables to see how they’re cooking. If it cooks too fast, lower the flame down to a medium heat level. This whole cooking process of the soup will take about 40 to 45 min. We hope you enjoy your soup. Make it on a chilly day when it will warm you up and taste at its best! Thank You!

Sincerely,

Maxwell, Sofia, Rada, Alison, & Isabella :)



May 23, 2012

Top Five Spots for Teens and Older

The 'kids' bonding in Tanzania

Want to know what’s hot for you and your teenagers and graduates? Here are some great ideas for you to consider while trying to keep everyone happy.

1) Panama. Now, we don’t CALL this a teen trip, but really older kids are perfect for this adventure. With excitement like zip lines and white water rafting it has adrenaline pumping action. And with the engineering marvel of the canal, and the cultural attraction of the Embera tribe there is plenty of sophistication for your kids, and you too! Our guides will engage your family, and you’ll go home with memories you never dreamt of.

2) Costa Rica. This stands by as our most popular family adventure, and the benefit of having older, more tolerant kids is your ability to head to the remote region of Corcovado National Park. It’s far away, out there, and oh so worth it to get to. Surfing, hiking, snorkeling

3) Tanzania. A safari is a sedentary adventure by nature but our Active Safari takes every opportunity for you to stretch your legs and challenge your pre-conceptions. Bike at Gibbs Farm, enjoy walks and village visits at our exclusive private nature refuge, and hike partway up Mount Meru to overnight in a hut before hiking back down the next day. Interspersed with world class wildlife viewing, this adventure will stay with you forever. (And if this isn’t enough you could always think about a trek up Mount Kilimanjaro…….)

4) Peru. You don’t need to fight the crowds on the famed Inca Trail hike into Machu Picchu in order to appreciate all of the wonders Peru has to offer. In fact, we beseech you to NOT join that rat race. Come try some undiscovered trails, and enjoy world class hiking and gorgeous landscapes on trails where you may not see any other people, short of local farmers and their llamas. A Peru Trek can be the way to reassess your life while your older children begin to define their own lives. Prefer the comforts of a hotel? It’s easy to avoid the camping and still enjoy daily explorations. Let the energetic, able bodied kids do the hiking, and you can simply sit and contemplate the beautiful landscape. Want top of the line? Try our Smithsonian Peru Adventure, including Lake Titicaca.

5) Galapagos! Whether you opt for a stint on a luxury catamaran or a unique opportunity to sleep in the islands themselves, the snorkeling, biking, and kayaking in the Galapagos is fabulous. Never just a beach vacation, this is a sophisticated exploration to challenge your mind. Did you know there is wildlife here you just won’t find anywhere else in the world? Come visit these volcanic islands for the chance to think differently.

6) You know me, it’s hard to stop myself. Last summer I went with my kids (18, 22, 25) to Thailand and we had the best time ever. Culture, cities, villages, hiking, zip lines, rafting, elephants, Buddhism, food, massage, wow. A fabulously exotic place that is so warm and welcoming, you might never want to leave.



May 15, 2012

The Amazing Kenedy

Kenedy's Butterfly

This year the Children’s Cancer Fund created a special Inspiration Book to help support pediatric cancer research. We are so proud to share with you the artwork of our friend Kenedy. Now a seventh grader, Kenedy says her drawing is about her safari hunt for butterflies on her Thomson Family Adventure to Panama. It was her favorite trip ever, and she loves butterflies!

To purchase copies of this book, please call Children’s Cancer Fund at 972-664-1450 or visit their website ChildrensCancerFund.net.

Click here to see Kenedy, aka Liquid Sunshine on video when she was presented the Spirit of Tom Landry Character Award from the Lymphoma/Leukemia Society of Texas.

Kenedy, you are an amazing girl and we are so happy to see you strong and happy.



April 7, 2012

Art in Adventure

You can do better, right?

Does the fresh smell of spring and the renewed warmth of the sun ever make you think of poetry?

Did you know Billy Collins (two time Poet Laureate) is Smithsonian’s poetry consultant? In a recent posting in the Arts and Culture section of their online magazine, Billy Collins wrote a wonderful poem (below) describing a traveler’s anguish with a camera.

But on our Smithsonian Family Adventure in Photography you’ll have help! With a professional photographer and all kinds of support traveling with you, every one of you can be sure to take home photos like you’ve never done before, along with a lifetime of memories from your family safari.

Meanwhile, for more Billy Collins to lighten and brighten your day, you’ll find it all here.

The Unfortunate Traveler by Billy Collins

Because I was off to France, I packed
my camera along with my shaving kit,
some colorful boxer shorts, and a sweater with a zipper,

but every time I tried to take a picture
of a bridge, a famous plaza,
or the bronze equestrian statue of a general,

there was a woman standing in front of me
taking a picture of the very same thing,
or the odd pedestrian blocked my view,

someone or something always getting between me
and the flying buttress, the river boat,
a bright café awning, an unexpected pillar.

So into the little door of the lens
came not the kiosk or the altarpiece.
No fresco or baptistry slipped by the quick shutter.

Instead, my memories of that glorious summer
of my youth are awakened now,
like an ember fanned into brightness,

by a shoulder, the back of a raincoat,
a wide hat or towering hairdo—
lost time miraculously recovered

by the buttons on a gendarme’s coat
and my favorite,
the palm of that vigilant guard at the Louvre.



March 22, 2012

A Few Reasons to Discover a Family Art Adventure

Narda Boughton, Fabulous Artist

1) Your kids are open books, blank slates soaking up new ideas. Why not expose them to a new way of seeing the world around them? They might already love to draw and paint, or they might never have thought of it before; isn’t this an important thing to learn? And have fun in Costa Rica at the same time.

2) We’ve had adults go on an art adventure thinking they will never participate in the art, and they end up being the star creative forces. You never know what new thing you might discover about yourself when you step into something new. Try it.

3) Meet Narda Boughton, our favorite visual artist, who will take you along on these journeys of wonder and discovery. Here’s what we recently learned from her:

Where are you from? Originally from Bayside, WI.

How long have you worked in travel / and how long with TFA? I started working with Thomson Family Adventures in 2009.

What is your favorite part of the job? I love teaching art (and making art)- combining that with exploring fascinating places and meeting interesting people- well, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Thomson takes the “work” out of travel. Every detail is thought of and prearranged. All of your needs are taken care of- which allows you to enjoy everything to the fullest.

What is your favorite food, and favorite color? This changes all the time~ but today I’d have to say eggplant and yellow :)

Do you have children / pets? No kids, but always a lot of students. For pets I have 2 Australian parakeets and 2 cats with a Burmese Mountain Dog puppy on its way. Given the right set-up, I’d have a whole menagerie if I could. Love animals!!

Anything else you want us to know? One of the most satisfying things about my experience of teaching Art Tours with Thomson has been teaching people who didn’t plan on painting or drawing at all. Many times, parents will join us because their kids love art. More often than not, they’ll end up painting, too, only to find out how much they enjoy it. They walk away saying…”Wow!! I can do this!!”