Posts Tagged ‘family vacation’

November 10, 2015

Why Panama is Perfect for a Family Vacation

Of all of the places that we like to send our families to, Panama is at the top of the list! Panama is a top destination for kids, parents, and grandparents. While the most famous attraction in Panama is the canal, it isn’t the only thing to see. What many people don’t realize is everything else that Panama has to offer from an amazing tropical jungle to indigenous tribes and exhilarating adventures!

panama family vacation under a waterfall

Panama is Hassel-free

Being so close to the U.S., the flights to Panama aren’t too expensive or too long! Panama has also adopted the American dollar as an accepted form of currency. This means you don’t have to worry about losing out on the exchange rate, changing your cash, and makes budgeting much easier. Panama is also very flexible, making it the perfect destination for last minute travel!

Landscapes, Wildlife, and Adventure

Panama is a great place to discover incredible views of cloud forests, rainforest canopies, and rolling hills. You can see all of these during an exhilarating zip-line or rafting adventure. The jungles of Panama are filled with soaring frigate birds, lounging lizards, and capuchin monkeys. You can also find bright and colorful combinations of orchids as you explore the jungle by foot and boat. Panama also has beautiful white sand beaches on the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that offer extraordinary locales for snorkeling and surfing.

rafting on a family vacation in panama

Cultural Connections

No trip to Panama is truly complete without taking a trip to visit the indigenous Embera tribe. This is one of six indigenous groups in the country that maintain their culture and tradition, much as they did centuries ago. Travel up the Chagres River in a dugout canoe deep into the rainforest to meet members of an Embera Village tribe. You’ll learn about the history of the tribe, traditional songs and dance, food, crafts, and even have the chance to get a traditional tattoo— it’s made from vegetable dye, completely safe, and only lasts for about a week! This is also the place where your kids will get to meet and play with Embera children, a fun experience you’ll never forget!

Jungle Boat Ride Through the Canal

One of the best ways to get fully immersed in a Panama family vacation is to take a boat ride through the canal and into the jungle. It’s one thing to watch the canal as boats pass through, it’s another to be on a boat as it passes through the canal. It may sound trivial, but this is an eye-opening experience. You’ll be alongside massive cargo and passenger ships that are guaranteed to make you marvel at their size. This is only part of the adventure; continue on into the jungle for an incredible wildlife viewing experience.

October 20, 2015

Top 4 Islands in Italy for a Family Vacation

Italy is a top destination in the world for people to travel to when going on a family vacation. For centuries Italy has played a major role in shaping the world from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance. With this history, many people dream of visiting famous Italian cities like Rome and Florence. Although beautiful, there is much more to Italy than the mainland. Italy has incredibly gorgeous islands just off of its shores and they make for great stops on a family vacation.


capri family vacation

One of the most picturesque islands in the region, glamorous Capri is a great place to visit. Not only will your camera get a full workload, but your family will also see some pretty amazing sites. On a walking tour you can visit old ruins, beautiful villas, and famous sites like the Natural Arch. Walk down to secluded beach caves and find a magical grotto. You can even take the opportunity to see the Blue Grotto!


The largest of all the Italian Islands is Sicily. Sicily has its own distinct and proud culture from mainland Italy and it’s just as charming and wonderful! There are plenty of towns dotted around the coast to visit to make for a memorable trip. Catania is a quaint little town that visitors routinely fall in love with. The tallest active volcano in Italy (and all of Europe), Mount Etna, sits just on the border of Catania and more active families will love hiking up to the top!


There is a set of islands off of Italy’s Western coast in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Of those, Lipari is the largest. Although it is the largest, the population of the island is just about 11,000 people. There are ruins across the island from the different periods of history when ownership of the island traded hands. This is a great island to relax on and visit the Archaeological Museum to learn about maritime history and volcanology, among other things.


stromboli (Ph. M. Tomasello2)

Not to be confused with the cylindrical pastry filled with cheeses, Italian meats, and vegetables, the Island Stromboli is filled with fun activities and adventure. The most exciting feature of Stromboli is the main volcano on the island, Mount Stromboli. The volcano has been in continuous eruption for 2,000 years which means your family will have a good chance to see a splash of lava spurt out of the top. Another exciting feature of the volcano is to hike out to Sciara del Fuoco to see two active streams of lava flows.

There isn’t a bad trip to be had when taking a family vacation in Italy, but you can make it a great one by getting out to these islands!

October 13, 2015

Four Incredible Things to See While on a China Family Vacation

China is an ever evolving country trying, and often succeeding, to stay ahead of the curve in design and innovation. Some of the places where this is most prominent are Beijing and Shanghai. These global cities are nothing short of imaginative and ambitious. But China is also a place filled with natural wonder and a deep and long history. It’s the natural and the historic that will capture your heart on your China family vacation!

Gumdrop Mountains

Gumdrop Mountains as seen from our China Family Vacations

This has routinely been called one of the most beautiful and picturesque places in the whole world. This is a bold claim, but the second you see the landscape of Yangshuo and the karst formations that make up the Gumdrop Mountains you’ll understand why. There are plenty of ways to see the mountains to get an exceptional view. We like to take float trips down the Yulong River and go for bike rides through the winding hills to see the mountains from every angle.

Terracotta Warriors

Well over 6,000 hand crafted clay warriors protect the tomb and afterlife of Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty. The army was crafted in the late 3rd century BCE and discovered in the modern age by farmers in 1974. Archaeologists have determined that the tallest sculptures of the warriors were probably generals and that the smaller the figures got, the less important a role they played in the army. You can also see clay sculptures of horses, chariots, acrobats, and musicians. This display is fascinating and will definitely inspire your kids to ask questions about the Qin Dynasty!

Great Wall of China

Not much need to be said about this site. The Great Wall of China is one of the most recognizable and famous places in the world. Its popularity is no reason to pass it over if on a family vacation in China. The wall stretches thousands of miles and is the largest man made structure in the world. Standing on top of the wall can really put the size of things into perspective; you’ll realize how small people actually are!

Giant Pandas

see giant pandas on a china family vacation

Maybe the cutest and most cuddly things to see in China are the giant pandas. The giant panda is the rarest member of the bear family and is highly endangered. There are only an estimated 1,800 pandas left in the world and they are all in China. While visiting Chengdu, stopping in at the giant panda breeding center is a must. This is a safe and responsible way to see the beautiful animals up close and for great photo ops!

China is an incredible country with an endless amount of chances for adventure and excitement. This is without a doubt at great place to take your family on your next vacation!

October 9, 2015

What to See and Do on a Thailand Family Vacation

Thailand is a country that has gained a lot of popularity and press because it’s a beautiful country with amazing people and an incredible culture. With so much information on the internet about Thailand, how can you what to do when you get there? Don’t worry, we have you covered! There are a few things to keep an eye out for when traveling through Thailand on your family vacation.

Go to Islands

One thing that Thailand is known for is its islands. Thailand has some of the most beautiful islands in the world and they have a lot of them— Phang Nga Bay alone is home to 67! A few islands that we like, all in Phang Nga Bay, are Phuket, Koh Yao Noi, and Koh Yao Yai. One reason we like islands in Phang Nga Bay is because of their sheer beauty. The emerald and turquoise waters are mesmerizing, the soft white sand shores are pristine, and the tall limestone rock islands spotted throughout the bay are magical. It’s a site you won’t ever forget.

Explore Buddhism

alms with monks as seen on a Thailand family vacation

While you may know that many Thai people practice Buddhism, you may not know that 90% of the country is Buddhist. Buddhism plays a major role in the country and that can be seen in its architecture and its people. When traveling to Thailand it is important to get a feel and taste for Buddhism. One good way to do this is to visit temples all over the country from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Another great way to get a feel for Buddhist culture is to offer alms to Buddhist monks. This experience is a great opportunity for you and your kids to have a unique cultural connection.

Meet Elephants

The elephant is the national animal of Thailand and there are great and responsible ways to interact with them while on vacation. Going to an elephant conservation farm is a great way to get up close to and meet one of these majestic creatures. You can have the chance to bathe elephants, play in the water with them, feed them, and learn all about Thai efforts to keep the animals safe from poaching. It’s also a great way to make a lifelong friend!

Do a Jungle Trek


Thailand has several jungle and mountain ranges that are perfect for the active family who loves to be outdoors and hiking! In the north, outside of Chiang Mai, is Doi Inthanon National Park. This park is home to Thailand’s highest peak and the jungle trek to the top is nothing short of stunning. The jungles in Phuket are just as exciting, especially after a visit to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project!

Thailand is a country that is great to visit if you have older kids, but just as great for curious young ones too! This country has a little bit of everything to make for a fun, diverse, and exciting family vacation!

October 6, 2015

Five Great Reasons to go on a Family River Cruise

While river cruising isn’t the typical family vacation we’re used to here at Thomson Family Adventures, we have grown to love them. We made sure we picked the right operator to team up with and we’re happy that we chose Uniworld, the best family cruise operator out there! Since European river cruising is new to our family, here are five reasons why we find it so great.

uniworld family river cruise ship


All Inclusive

First, European river cruises with Uniworld are all inclusive. Everything is included from airport transfers and onboard entertainment to all onboard meals and unlimited drinks. There are also several choices for personalized excursions in every city that you stop in and options to take a bicycle to explore on your own. The entire experience is luxurious and relaxing.

See Several Cities/Countries on One Trip

uniworld's river cruise lounde

A feature we love about European river cruises is the multiple locations that you see during a short amount of time. The rivers you cruise down (like the Danube and the Rhine) pass along some of the most famous and well known cities in the world. You can see Budapest and Prague or Paris and Normandy all in one hassle free and relaxing trip. Many of these cruises offer the chance to see more than one country in a short span of days. That is truly some efficient travel!

No Need to Pack and Unpack as you Travel

Being able to see multiple countries and cities on one trip is great. What’s great about doing it on a river cruise? There is no packing and un-packing as you travel. You’ll have a space and a room throughout the entire trip. The ease of being able to lay out all of your clothes and belongings in one personal space takes a lot of pressure off of travel days.

Small Ship Size

One of our favorite features of Uniworld, and why we’ve decided to team up with them, is their small ship sizes. Small ships have several benefits to them.  First, and most importantly, small ships can go places that bigger ships can’t. This gives you the chance to see things and places that traditional ocean cruising can’t. Small ships also create a communal environment that larger ships can’t. With only 100-200 people on the ship it’s likely you’ll see the same families at meals and in the recreation areas. This is a great way for you and your kids to make new friends!

Different Point of View

family cruise ship

Maybe the most underrated part of a European river cruise is the point of view that you get. Many people have seen Vienna and Bucharest, but not from the water. Seeing Europe from the water is incredible. Skylines and cityscapes take on a bit of a different shape and personality from sea level. The photo opportunities are something you won’t want to miss!

Give us a call today and let us help you plan your family vacation on European river cruise!

September 29, 2015

8 Wildlife Species to Only See on the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are home to an amazing amount of endemic species from fish and insects to mammals and birds. The Galapagos wildlife may have become most famous after Darwin went to the islands in 1835 and came up with natural selection and evolution before releasing his famed study, On The Origin of Species, detailing what he found. Ever since that study was published the unique wildlife on the islands became one of the biggest draws for visitors and for good reason. There are many species that if you want to see them, you have to go to the Galapagos. Check out a few of our favorites!

Waved Albatross


This is the largest bird that can be found of the Galapagos Islands. The waved albatross is the only albatross that only lives in the tropics. While this bird does fly far and wide, it only breeds in the Galapagos Islands, making your chance of seeing one of them here much more likely than anywhere else in the world!

Magnificent Frigate Bird

frigate bird

One of the easiest birds to spot and pick out on the islands, the male magnificent frigate bird sports a large red throat pouch. The pouch inflates larger and larger as the birds try and make themselves more attractive mates for the female birds. The magnificent frigate on the Galapagos is thought to be distinct, genetically, from other frigates because it hasn’t bred with another frigate breed for hundreds of thousands of years.

Sally Lightfoot

sally lightfoot

Possibly the most popular animal for photos is the Sally Lightfoot crab. Its beautiful colors shimmer in the beaming sun as it scurries across rocks in and near the ocean. What differentiates this Sally Lightfoot from others is its interaction with the marine iguanas on the islands. They have a symbiotic relationship and clean ticks off of the iguana, a good source of food for them.

Lava Lizard

lava lizard

These tiny lizards can be found all over the Galapagos Islands. There are seven distinct species of this lizard that have been recognized so far. They are a great example of evolution and adapting to environments to survive— perfect specimens for Darwin’s studies!

Giant Tortoise

giant tortoise

The most famous and iconic animal from the Galapagos is the giant tortoise; after all, the islands were named after them! These are the largest tortoises in the world and can live for more than 170 years. Even given the long life span, there are only about 15,000 giant tortoises left in the world. Good news is that because of conservation efforts the population is on the rebound.

Marine Iguana


This is the only iguana in the world that has the ability to go into the sea for food. This unique quality likely came from the need to survive. With little to no nutritious vegetation for the iguana on land, over hundreds of years the marine iguana started going into the sea to eat seaweed. It is now unlike any other iguana you may find!

A few other animals that are great to look for while on your family vacation in the Galapagos Islands are the blue footed booby, the fur seal, the Galapagos penguin, and many, many finches. This is one of the best locations for a multigenerational family vacation where you can relax and have an unforgettable adventure!

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!