Posts Tagged ‘family travel’

November 27, 2010

Small Business Saturday for Families

Big fish, small business

Today represents a wonderful American dream, achieved by supporting your local small business. It’s part of the movement of getting back to a simpler life. We all want a life that is simple and rewarding, don’t we?

Small businesses support families and provide jobs, without getting caught up in huge overhead, marketing spins, corporate boards or executive decisions. Well, we’re a small business too!

Family owned and operated, Thomson Family Adventures runs with a small staff who know you when you call – no voicemail or call centers at our place. We have minimal overhead and carry no debt which makes us financially stable. The dollars you spend with Thomson go towards providing you with expert, knowledgeable advice, personal attention, and a product we stand behind.

We care about you, and also about our local partners in the countries we travel to. We make sure they earn a decent wage, and rely on their destination knowledge to help us put together the family adventure of a lifetime for you.

Sorry, we’re not open today (you know, a weekend with the family…) but we’ll be back at our desks on Monday. Give us a call at 800-262- 6255, and try your next family adventure the small business way.



November 17, 2010

How NOT to handle your passport renewals

Do you know when your passport expires?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



November 7, 2010

Top 5 Reasons to take a Family Vacation

Family on safari!

In today’s busy world, it seems family vacations are some of the few times the entire family comes joins to spend time together and really connect over the course of consecutive days. And it’s not just that we’re busy – sometimes we’re just so spread out it requires travel and effort to see each other. So why not try a family adventure to a new place?

Whatever your situation, whatever the number of generations your family encompasses, the real benefits of a family getaway are endless. Here are some of the top reasons a vacation is worthwhile for your family:

1) It has been proven that experiences make us feel better than physical things. So if you’re contemplating new furniture for the living room or a family safari in Tanzania, take the trip. Your memories and satisfaction will last longer than anything you can buy.

2) Have you noticed there’s rarely an evening or day that goes by without someone in the family rushing off to a dinner, practice, game, or other commitment? Take a real break and unplug from the rest of the world, in a destination where your family can get to know each other well again.

3) Exploring a new culture and experience together will draw you closer to your family members than repeating a tradition you are familiar with.

4) There’s something for everyone on a vacation. This is time for you all together, but also time for everyone to relax from your own usual day-to-day whirlwind.

5) Break free of the schedule for a change. An itinerary ensures you accomplish some new things, but also can promise flexibility and options. After all, a vacation is supposed to relax and reconnect you all!

If the planning and logistics make you cringe, let us help you plan for a family vacation of a lifetime. What are you waiting for? Are you looking forward to an upcoming vacation and if so, where are you headed?



October 31, 2010

Are We There Yet? Choosing the Perfect Family Vacation

Family Adventure!

So you’ve decided to take the family on an adventure vacation. Maybe that means toting the kids along; perhaps it includes bringing Aunt Sally, your folks, or even a few friends. Maybe it’s grandparents treating their grandchildren to a special view of the world. Whoever your ‘family’ includes, it’s important that everyone’s needs are considered.

In most cases, you’ll want to ensure that the adults on your trip have some time to themselves to enjoy quiet conversation, fine dining, or other specific interests. But you also need to consider which activities will suit the younger folks on board. Though the children don’t need to be in charge, do sit down with them and listen to what they want too. Ideally, activities are planned so you can all discover some new things together on your family adventure – with a combination of family time and a little alone time for both kids and adults.

Here is some of our most common advice to families looking to book their best family adventure vacation:
** Let an expert help you determine which activities and destinations are best for your family. Many of our clients call us with a destination in mind, but after speaking with our expert advisors, learn another spot is even better suited for their families age and needs. We can help you figure out what will excite your teen, or where your 8 year old might blossom.
** Consider a destination that has a good mix of activities you know you’ll enjoy, along with those you look forward to trying for the first time. Our destinations have been chosen for all they offer to families of all ages, for a wonderful variety of fun.
** Try something new; discovering it for the first time with your children will always give the adults a new perspective. Even if you return to a favorite destination, branch out and meet the locals, try zip lining through the rainforest, or visit historical sites you haven’t seen before.
** Check airfare before booking your trip. We are happy to work with you whether you’re planning a trip in two months or eighteen months, but we often run into a lack of last minute seats on planes particularly around the holidays. Typically the earlier you can book flights the better the prices, too.
** When choosing a family adventure travel company, make sure you’re traveling with guides who are very experienced not only in the local culture, but also in leading tours with families. You’ll want a guide who is an expert, one who understands the needs and desires of foreign travelers, and someone who can relate to you, your child, AND your teen.
** Remember, utilizing a guide will help you discover the hidden secrets of your destination. And having someone else handle the logistics and planning each day makes your family adventure relaxing for everyone – you just show up and have fun!

Ready to book your trip, or just want more information about family adventure vacations? Give us call or visit our site today to check out our 2011 adventure catalogue



October 24, 2010

Want a Unique Family Galapagos Exploration?

Swooping birds

Sharks and Iguanas

Usually a trip to the Galapagos involves a stay on a boat with daily excursions to shore to hike, swim, snorkel and discover the amazing wildlife that lives there. We have that option, of course … but if you are REALLY adventurous and like to be on the cutting edge – if you understand relinquishing some luxuries gains you unique opportunities, then we have something special for you.

Families returning this spring and summer say this was the best trip ever. I was lucky enough to go myself and thought it was incredible. Do you like remote, quiet, off the beaten path, no crowds, something very few have seen and done before?

ME TOO!

As you know this is a more challenging adventure to arrange, and still ensure your family is cared for in a special way while you are exploring the hidden spots. How do we do it? You can expect our very best guides who not only know Ecuador and the Galapagos in and out, but can handle all of your needs along the way. Then we charter excellent crewed boats to cruise you out to the best snorkel sites, and places where you can do special things like swim with sea lions (they love to play and blow bubbles in your face!). Our camp crew – there are two nights in a tent on a remote sandy beach – does all the work for you, and also cooks up delicious meals to satisfy your palate. You just show up and enjoy the scenery. Wake up to Frigate birds and Blue Footed Boobies swooping overhead, sea lion pups rolling in the surf, finches flitting through tall grasses… peace and quiet, and breathtaking sunsets are yours for the taking.

Kayaking up close to the wildlife, biking down sandy paths (watch out for the wild tortoises!), exploring lava tubes, watching sturdy iguanas piled on the rocks…… how about snorkeling with whales and sharks, penguins and rays? All of this is possible, depending on who is out and about on any given day.

Then, when you go home to a more ordinary life, what do you think your dinner conversation might be like?



February 2, 2010

How to Travel with Kids

Family Fun

Family Fun

Family travel is an amazing gift for everyone in your clan. Head out into the world ready to see it through your children’s eyes, and you will learn even more than they do.
If you are a grand parent, parent, or family friend traveling internationally with a minor child there are many things to be aware of in your planning; sometimes even the obvious gets overlooked. Here are some things to consider..
Before you go: First be sure you have your legal documents in place – with ever increasing security, every rule is being enforced.

-Everyone needs a passport - For children under age 16 not only must you show up in person to apply for their passport but both parents must be present. Believe me, this can take some advance planning, especially if the parents are divorced.

-Your passports must be valid for 6 months beyond your return date – if not then you must renew them before you travel.

-If you are a single parent or taking along your child’s friend you must have a notarized letter from the absent parent/s authorizing you to take them out of the country. The letter should also stipulate that you may seek medical care for the minor in the event of an accident or illness. Chances are you’ll never need to show this — but if asked for it and you don’t have it this will end your vacation!

Next, do your research on where to go, keeping your child’s age and interests in mind. For instance, Peru is a great destination for hikers and culture lovers, but with no easy access to beach or wildlife it may not be that interesting for a 6 year old. There are plenty of destinations that children and adults will both love, so don’t press your agenda onto your kids – there’s always next year.

-Consider how long to go for. Most small children, and even some older ones kind of freak out of they’re gone from familiar territory for a long time. A week to 9 days (Sat – Sun) is a nice place to start. Save the 2 – 3 week vacation for when your children are feeling more confident and adventurous. It’s always better to go home wanting more, than to feel you’ve stayed too long – for all ages!

-Do you know what diseases are prevalent where you’re going? Visit a travel clinic about a month before you go. Located in most major hospitals these clinics are staffed by MDs who specialize in travel medicine. They’ll be sure you’re up to date on your routine vaccines (probably your kids already are for school, but what about you??) as well as advise you on what other things you should consider for your destination. They have all kinds of vaccines on hand that your regular doctor doesn’t, and your health insurance likely will pick up the tab.

-Did you know if you’re visiting rainforest it will likely rain?? Do your research and go prepared. Pay attention to any advance information sent by your travel agent or tour company, and read up on your destination. Computer savvy kids will love to help with this part of the planning.

-When you pack, be sure to have a few first aid items, a lot of hand sanitizer, baby wipes (incredibly useful), your choice of pain reliever and of course Pepto Bismol. Don’t forget the antibiotics the travel doc prescribed. Pack some familiar things from home. Maybe it’s a jar of peanut butter, snack bars, or favorite crackers – I promise there will be a moment when they will save the day.

-Pack only what you can all carry. It’s no fun to haul a million heavy bags, and when the bags are too full the kids can’t find anything anyway. Stock up on lightweight, quick dry clothes, and look for the one pair of shoes that works for everything. There are some great water compatible shoes you can add socks to and voila – a walking shoe! Be minimalist – but lots of socks are a must.

-Let each child, young or old, carry a day pack in which they have their own re-useable water bottle and a zip-lock bag containing a small pack of tissues and one of wet wipes, a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a few bandaids. A cotton bandana has a million uses, and can easily be washed in the evening and dry by morning.

-Let your bank and credit card company know you’re traveling — it’s not fun to be in Paris and have your card rejected at the ATM

Once you’re on the road…
-Pace yourself. Whether you’re traveling independently or on a group tour be sure you have time to enjoy the hotel pool in the afternoon, or to relax before dinner. With older kids you want plenty of action – but they need hanging out time too, and everyone enjoys the time to be flexible and spontaneous. Don’t over schedule your vacation

-On the other hand, do schedule one good activity a day. Having it on your itinerary helps avoid the negotiations about ‘what to do today’ and makes better use of your time. You don’t want to go home feeling like you did not accomplish or see anything!

-Utilize local guides and drivers. Not only do they know where they’re going, they make the most of your experience and a good guide can impart information to your kids that they might never absorb from their own parents.

-If you have a lot of driving to do, break up long drives with breaks along the way. Make a 4 hour drive take the whole day, and have some fun along the way.

-You can never have too much bottled water or too many snacks with you. Thirst and hunger are the number one cause of Travel Crankiness. Be sure you are fully stocked before you head out in the morning. Wash hands frequently!

-Number two problem is exhaustion and information overload. This takes us back to planning your itinerary; be sure your toddler gets to nap in a comfortable place, your teenager gets to chill by the pool, and your guide doesn’t drone on for hours about the ancient dynasties of China.

-At the end of each day have a recap session with your kids. Whether it’s journal writing, sketching, or conversation over dinner, come together to talk about what you saw and felt that day. Can’t think of a conversation starter? Try asking what was the favorite thing, and the least favorite thing of the day, and write them down. Sharing these new things you’ve all found together will help build your lifetime memories, and you will come back to these memories for years to come. I know my family does.

In short: Be flexible, be prepared, and wash your hands. Keep your kids happy and you’ll be happy too. Bon Voyage!