Posts Tagged ‘family vacation’

May 18, 2016

The Galapagos Alphabet

Every family has some kind of tradition that works its way into every adventure that they go on. One family that just traveled to the Galapagos for a family vacation has shared with us one of their traditions! This alphabet is not only a list that is fun to put together, it helps create a list of memories that you will always be able to look back on. We’ll be incorporating this into our next family vacations! What kind of fun traditions does your family have for when on vacation?

 

A – AWESOME ADVENTURE! Albatross Hotel, a’a’ lava, ani (invasive black bird), airplanes that were big and very small

 

B – Blue-footed booby (yes, Eric, their feet are really blue), big bees, brown pelicans, Bartoleme Island, brackish pools on Isabela, Baltra (an island with only an airport), biking twice (Eric thrice), brachycereus (lava) cactus

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C – Caipirinha drink (lime, sugar cane and rum), cows, carpenter bees, Cheryl looking for her glasses when they were on her head, Charles Darwin traveled here, candlebra cactus, coffee (the good stuff is exported), cilantro (not for Susan and Cheryl), Cuenca! (Wilson’s hometown)

 

D – “Daco pull your shade!” diving boobies, “don’t drink the water!”, dolphins jumping, Daphne Major (site of Beak of the Finch book), delicious fish dishes

 

E- Ecuador, equator nearby, El Nino weather (we had no rain), egrets, endemic (only found in one place), El Garrapatero Bay (we biked there, swam, and rambled among the rocks), EARTHQUAKE (7.8) which we felt during dinner in Quito

 

F – Fabio our fabulous Santa Cruz guide, frigate birds, finches (13 kinds), ferry to Santa Cruz, fantastically colored flamingos, flying fish, Favian and Maria’s house for dinner, flan frequently for dessert, friendly people

 

G – GALAPAGOS, geckos, Guayaquil (largest city in Ecuador), Gabe rolling off the boat seat and staying asleep, green sea turtles slowly swimming, ghost crabs

 

H – Hermit crab, HOT and HOTTER (the two seasons), high humidity, hibiscus flowers, hiking on marked trails, Himalayan blackberry (invasive on Santa Cruz – very sad!)

 

I – Isabela- our favorite island, Iguana Crossing Hotel, internet access sometimes, iguanas of all sizes, iguana crossing sign where the iguanas really crossed – can they read?

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J – Jon eating four large servings of paella, Junior teaching everyone how to surf (lie down, paddle, paddle, paddle, stand up. Easy)

 

K – Kayaking on Academy Bay (Wilson and Susan, Gabe and Fabio, Tony and Jon, Eric and Cheryl), king angelfish

 

L – Lighted lava tunnel, lava gull, land iguana (only seen at the Darwin Research Center), lava lizards doing pushups, lichens, the lobster, Lava Java coffee

 

M – MULTI SPORT ADVENTURE, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, mangroves, magma, moss (hanging from the trees), monarch butterfly, matrimonial rooms in the hotel,

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N – Nazca Booby (the black and white one), night sky with tons of stars, noddy (brown), no shadow at noon (since the sun is right overhead)

 

O – Omelets, opuntia (prickly-pear) cactus, orange Fanta, overweight luggage

 

P – Perfect Paella, panga with a sleeping sea lion, Puerto Ayora, potato soup (sopa de pata – good for hangovers), puffer fish who didn’t puff, pens of baby tortoises, penguinos at the equator, pahoehoe lava, Pablo (Eric’s snorkel helper)

 

Q – Quito, questions for our guides, constantly!

 

R – Reef sharks (white and black tipped which nap during the day and hunt at night – we hope), red-billed tropicbird

 

S – Stingrays, storm petrols, snorkeling three times! Speedboat, sunburn, Sacajewa one dollar coins, Santa Cruz Island, Susan and Gabe’s ocean walk, stargazing with Wilson, Southern Cross constellation, swimming with sea lions, no seasickness, swallow tailed gull that flies at night, swimming in the hotel pools

 

T – Tortugas (tortoises)! Texas t-shirt, Tintoreras Island, tiny 10 seater plane with earmuffs, Tortoise Breeding Center

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U – Underwater camera, used TP goes in wastebasket, use USA money everywhere

 

V – Very, very humid! vast ocean views

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W – WILSON– our wonderful guide, wahoo (delicious fish), Wall of Tears (built by convicts), Whale Bay walk and snorkel, wading in the ocean

 

X – eXtra biking by Eric

 

Y – Yellow warbler, yellow-tailed surgeon fish, yellow-crowned night heron.

 

Z – Zandoli (word for lizard in Creole)

 

So there are at least 26 memories that come with going to the Galapagos on a family vacation!



March 15, 2016

The Best Way to Travel with Teens

One of the most difficult things to do as a parent is getting your teen excited about something that doesn’t show up on a digital screen. Teens want to be treated like adults. They want to have a say in the family’s vacation plans, they want experiences that give them some freedom, activities that challenge them, and they want to do things that they can go home and tell their friends about. This sounds like a tall order, but we’ve got it down. While there is no exact science that guarantees your teen will have fun (all teens are different) we have come across a few best practices that have proved to work time and time again.

Age Appropriate Fellow Travelers

There is nothing worse as a teenager than going away on vacation and not being able to meet anyone your age and make new friends. We make this as easy as we can. We have special trips and departures for families traveling with teens. By placing families with teens together, your teens will automatically be introduced to other kids their age that they can bond with. This is one of the best ways to jump-start their vacation and experiences.

a family with Teens Rock Climbing in Ecuador

Teens Rock Climbing in Ecuador

Have a Guide that knows How to Relate to Teens

We choose our guides carefully. We want to make sure that your guide will not only be an expert in the field and handle all of the logistics; we make sure that he or she will also mesh well with the group. Our guides do a great job of engaging with and relating to teens. They can spark conversations with them that go deeper than what kind of bird is that, or what event took place at this site. They delve into cultural differences and challenge teen travelers to look at their own cultures in relation to the new place that they are in. They will learn more about themselves and the world than they will in any classroom. The best part is they won’t even realize they’re learning!

Keep Things Active and Mellow

It’s important to keep teens busy while also giving them time to chill and relax on their own. By having fellow travelers that they can spend down time with, they can be given their own space and a sense of independence. During activities, teens can feel free to march ahead and proceed at their own pace with their new friends. This isn’t only great for the kids but for parents too. You don’t need to rush and you don’t need to make sure your child is having fun— after all it is your vacation too!

One of our traveling families with teens visiting an orphanage in Thailand.

One of our traveling teens visiting an orphanage in Thailand.

Offer Challenging Experiences

Our most successful teen trips are challenging in two ways, culturally and physically. We don’t make the mistake of planning too many museums or city tours. We’ve found that parents can have fun doing “teen things” but teens don’t always enjoy doing things that parents alone typically enjoy. In Peru, we have a family trek that involves longer periods of hiking to more remote locations in the countryside. In Thailand, we highlight cross cultural experiences with hill tribe villagers or Buddhist monks where teens can have meaningful conversations about philosophy and culture.

Family Trek in Peru!

Family Trek in Peru!

Why are family vacations with teens so important? They create a new and shared experience between them and their parents or grandparents. These are experiences that they will forever remember, make a few new friends along the way, and definitely take some great photos to share on Instagram and Snapchat when they get home!



March 8, 2016

Four Reasons for a Family Vacation in the Southwest

For the first time, we here at Thomson Family Adventures have begun offering a scheduled tour at home, inside of the continental U.S. The Southwest U.S is home to incredible geological formations, vast desert landscapes, winding canyon hikes, and some of the best National Parks in the country. There is a lot to see and learn in the Southwest. Here are four of our favorite reasons to take a family vacation to the Southwest.

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Close to Home

There is nothing like having an adventure that feels like a world away but is actually just in your backyard! Planning and logistics are easy when staying in-country. No one needs to worry about having an up-to-date passport, conversion rates, exchanging currency, or getting any immunizations. Also, if you need to stay connected to grandma or a family member who isn’t traveling, you won’t need to get an international phone plan. On the flip side, the kids will also have access to all of their devices; make sure to take them before going on any hikes!

Plenty of Adventure

There is a lot to do in the Southwest. The red sand deserts are rich with outdoor activities that are sure to pull anyone away from their screen. Any kind of activity from hiking and mountain biking to swimming and rafting can be found here. The unaltered landscape is great for exploring and the best part is that there are plenty of options to accommodate different skill levels.

A Live History Lesson

The first sign of human life in parts of the Southwest date back to 6000 B.C. To say the least, the history here is ancient! At famous sites like Newspaper Rock, your family can get a glimpse into the way stories were told and how life was recorded over 1,500 years ago. These subtle educational activities during a family vacation are the best ways to learn new things together. It’s amazing how much more interesting kids find history when they see it up close and not in a classroom!

Great National Parks

hiking SW USThe main highlight of the Southwest US is its National Parks. Two parks in particular that we happen to love are Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Bryce Canyon National Park is home to the “hoodoos.” Hoodoos are orange, pink, and purple sandstone spires that protrude out from the ground creating a landscape that belongs in a book or a movie. It is astounding and will get your kids curious and excited! Zion is a 299-square mile park that houses a wide array of plants and animals. It’s also the place where the Great basin, the Mojave Desert, and the Colorado Plateau meet. There are endless opportunities for exploration and adventure!

We’re excited about this new group adventure and its first departure this summer. Spots are limited, be one of the first families to explore the National Parks, red rocks, and painted caves of the Southwest with Thomson Family Adventures!

 



February 15, 2016

Why Go to Antarctica for a Family Vacation?

Antarctica, it’s a place that many people only dream of exploring. Antarctica is very much unchanged since the early days of exploration and it is home to much more wildlife than people! To really understand how beautiful, breathtaking, and dream-like Antarctica is, you need to see it. But the best we can do until you decide to take family vacation there is to share this awesome video from our friends at Quark.

Enjoy!

 



February 2, 2016

Affordable Family Vacations: Big Change for Thailand, Ireland, and Canada

It isn’t often that things become cheaper but the quality stays the same, or in this case gets even better. We’ve updated our itineraries for Thailand and Ireland to show more of the places that you want to see with more fun and adventures along the way. As the US Dollar has gotten stronger in the global economy, specifically against the Euro, the Thai Baht, and the Canadian Dollar, and we wanted to pass any savings we could on to our traveling families. After adjusting for the strength of the US Dollar, some of these trips are as much as $800 lower per person. Thailand, Ireland, and Canada are three very different destinations, all special in their own way, that all make for a great affordable family vacation!

Thailand

affordable family vacation to Thailand

This is a country that is great for all travelers, but older kids tend to appreciate the cultural differences more than our younger travelers. Visiting temples, participating in traditional alms-giving with monks, and meeting hill tribe villagers are just a few of the ways that cultural exchanges take the driver’s seat on this recently-more-affordable family vacation option. Everyone also enjoys fun activities like jungle hikes, zip-lining, relaxing on the beach, and exploring the cities of Chiang Mai and Bangkok. This is an awesome adventure in Southeast Asia.

Ireland

affordable Ireland family vacation

The Emerald Isle is a great spot to take an family vacation. This is particularly great for younger travelers that are starting to get their exploration experience in.  You’ll see Ireland in ways that you never thought you would— ride a bike through the Slieve Mish Mountains on the Dingle Peninsula and learn how to sail in Kinsale Harbor. Kids will also enjoy hearing tales of pirates, taking a friendly ghost tour around Kinsale, and exploring the star shaped Charles Fort. Plus, part of this adventure is staying in your very own castle. If that isn’t enough of a reason to go to Ireland than we don’t know what is!

Canada

affordable canada family vacation

Our neighbor to the North is home to an incredible stretch of the Rocky Mountains. This adventure is great for families that like to be more active than usual on their vacations. Spend time exploring scenic Banff and Yoho National Parks. Hike to Moraine Lake and Valley of the Ten Peaks to see this awe inspiring region by foot. The adventurers in the family will also enjoy rafting down the Kicking Horse River. There’s no reason not to vacation up North for an affordable family vacation that’s close to home!

These are all just a snapshot of the fun and excitement that can come on your next family vacation.



January 26, 2016

Costa Rica: The Perfect Destination for the Whole Family

It can be difficult to find a place for your family vacation that everyone can get on board with. Your older kids may not want to do what your younger kids want to do. Or you might be looking for a bit more action and adventure for yourself and one of your kids, but not the other. Maybe you’re a grandparent or traveling with a grandparent and you’re worried about finding an active trip that you can also have fun with. Look no further, Costa Rica is the place you need to go. Costa Rica is an incredible country that has a little bit of something for everyone.

Kids

The wildlife in Costa Rica is enough to get anyone excited about a vacation. Younger kids get especially excited by the wildlife. Costa Rica is home to over half a million different wildlife species. As you leisurely kayak through mangroves or hike through jungles, your youngsters are sure to see monkeys hanging out on tree limbs, colorful toucans and bright red scarlet macaws flying through the air, and iguanas lying in the sun. These encounters will get them excited and they’ll never forget it!

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Teens and Older Kids

We know it can be hard to convince a teenager what cool and fun is, but we’ve never had a problem getting approval for the adventures in Costa Rica. Some of the more exhilarating activities you can do in Costa Rica range from zip-lining high in the sky to white-water rafting on the rivers below. These activities are an adrenaline rush, but also very safe. It isn’t only teens that will have fun with this either, parents and grandparents also think it’s a blast!

Parents

Parents, we know you can hang on the zip-lines and paddle around in the kayaks. But sometimes isn’t it nice to just relax? One thing that our parents love is the eco-thermal hot springs. The Eco Termales hot springs are the only true natural hot springs in Arenal. The fun and relaxed atmosphere is wildly beautiful among green gardens and steamy cascades. It’s your family vacation; you should get some time to relax!

Grandparents

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The one constant thing that we here from grandparent travelers is how thrilling it was for them to show their grandkids the world. Costa Rica is a place where grandparents can be with the family and see colorful and animated wildlife, fly through the treetops, and make memories that will last forever. Nothing compares to exploring a place with the entire family where everyone can have fun.



January 11, 2016

See the Whale Migration in Baja

There are a few things in the world that we can look forward to once a year. These are mostly events like holidays, birthdays, and vacations from school and work and aren’t always acts of nature. But maybe it should be! One of our favorite times of the year comes around every February in Baja— when one of the largest whale migrations takes place. Getting close to the curious, friendly, enormous gray whale is a very special experience that people don’t just forget and can make a family vacation spectacular. What is as amazing as seeing these animals is learning about why thousands of them make this journey each year.

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The Gray Whale

Let’s start with who. The gray whale is an amazing animal. Fully grown they can be over 50 feet long, although the average length is around 44-48 feet, and they weigh nearly 40 tons (80,000 pounds!).To put that into perspective, one gray whale generally weighs as much as five grown elephants.  Gray whales are, you guessed it, gray in color and are often covered in parasites giving them the look of crusty ocean rock. This helps them hide from predators and they’ve done a pretty good job considering the gray whale has existed for over 30 million years!

The Migration Route

Gray whales spend most months of the year in the North Pacific Ocean as far west as Korea and as east as Alaska. October is when the migration from Alaska down to Mexico begins.  Whales will travel in small groups called pods to make the journey. They will travel day and night, sticking close to shore lines for protection, at an average speed of five miles an hour. Most whales travel close to 6,000 miles one-way over 3 months to get to Baja! This is one of the longest migration trips of any animal in the world.

Why do they make this Trip?

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There’s mainly one reason the gray whales head to Baja, it’s mating season. Nearly 20,000 gray whales make the trip for mating and calving season. The waters around Baja are a protected and safe space for these marine mammals— which makes it the perfect place to give birth. The curious baby whales often will swim right up to boats to say hello, giving lucky travelers a chance to pet them! There are so many whales in Baja in February that it’s hard not to spot one.

This happens once each year and the best time to go is in February. With this information your family can go into Baja sounding like season pros on the gray whale migration!



December 29, 2015

Five Great Reasons to Visit Tanzania in March

One of our favorite countries in the world here at Thomson, and a top destination in the world, is Tanzania. To start, Tanzania is the premier safari destination in East Africa.  After being in Tanzania for just a short time it’s easy to understand why the country is so great. The people are incredibly kind and friendly, the landscape is vast and gorgeous, and the opportunity for wildlife viewing is breathtaking. This is something that families can experience any time of year when traveling to Tanzania. But just as anything in life, there are upsides and downsides when choosing what time of year to take a family vacation. One of the best times to visit Tanzania is during March. While the list of reasons is virtually endless, we’ve narrowed it down to five of the top reasons to visit Tanzania in March.

Tanzania Culture

Zebra and Wildebeest Migration in the Southern Serengeti

Wildlife is always abundant in Tanzania; it’s one of its biggest draws. But in March the herds of zebras and wildebeest follow the light rains to graze on the tiny shoots of grass that sprout up just after the rain falls. This makes the herds predictable and always in a high concentration which draws out the nomadic predators like lions, hyenas, and cheetahs. It makes it near impossible to miss out on an amazing wildlife experience.

Calving Season

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March is the tail end of calving season for wildebeest. Seeing the thousands of young gnus (baby wildebeest) is very special. Watching them get their legs underneath them and trotting around new to the world is a sight that not many people who go to Tanzania, get to see. This is truly unforgettable.

Everything is Cheaper

During March flights to Tanzania can be anywhere from $500 to over $1000 cheaper. The same goes for hotels, camps, and parks. This all helps bring the price of your trip down by about $3000 per person. Also, hotels, flights, camps, and parks are always more enjoyable with less of a crowd!

Europeans Tend Not to Travel to Tanzania in March

One of the worst parts of traveling to an astounding country with some of the best photo opportunities that you could find is battling other travelers for the perfect shot or trying to set the perfect frame with no one in the background. This is what makes traveling during low season or at off-peak times so desirable. The only reason March is less crowded is because Europeans tend not to travel to Tanzania, for no specific reason, in March. Your family can go to a popular destination like Tanzania and feel at ease knowing there won’t be a ton of tourists.

Timing is Great

Many schools have one or two weeks off in March. This makes the timing for a safari great. When the kids are off from school and most other activities also on a hiatus, what better thing is there to do than go on safari? Whether you have a shorter break or a longer break we have a safari that will fit into your schedule!



December 8, 2015

The Beauty and Struggle of a Family Vacation to Cuba

For the last year people have started to flock to Cuba to see the island nation before tourism fully takes off. But don’t be fooled, tourism has already taken off. We’ve been offering family vacations to Cuba for the past year and we’ve seen first-hand the incredible and beautiful experience that it can be. But we’ve also seen the hurdles that come with visiting a country behind in infrastructure and overwhelmed with visitors. The growth of travel to Cuba has come about almost too quickly and while the country has been doing a great job in providing people with ways to visit, it won’t be your typical family vacation and you should be in the right mindset and prepared for this once in a lifetime experience. Traveling with your family to, and through, Cuba will never be as it is today.

 

group in havana

The Beauty

Cuba is inherently unique, yet also somewhat familiar.  The language is different, the culture is completely different, and the government is nothing like ours, yet a favorite past time in Cuba is baseball. They love to dance, enjoy a meal with family, and have an appreciation for art. It’s the difference in the similarities that can make a family vacation to Cuba so rewarding for you, and especially your kids. When your kids meet Cuban kids on a baseball field or at a dance school, it becomes clear to them that they can make friends no matter where they are and that’s a feeling and education that you can’t put a price on. There are several great cultural exchanges to have in Cuba and these exchanges will be the highlight of your vacation. Mix in a bit of culture with incredible ocean views, nature hikes, zip-lining, chances for wildlife viewing, and a ride in a classic Cadillac and you have yourself the perfect family vacation!

 

handshake after baseball

The Growing Pains

The average Cuban doesn’t have much in the terms of luxury and material goods. The average income is around $20 a month. That said, it’s important to understand that Cuba is still very much developing. As its infrastructure comes along, so does the ease of traveling. The hotels are busy and space is very limited. The hotels won’t be up to the “American Standard” and rooms will be basic, air conditioning may not be available, and Wi-Fi is nearly non-existent. But that’s ok. You go to Cuba for the people to people connection and to experience a country that is rapidly changing in real time. You’ll see everything that you want to see and have an amazing time doing so, but it may not happen in the order that the itinerary says. Isn’t this part of the adventure? Expect the unexpected. Going to Cuba is still a rare occurrence, so when you do visit go with an open mind and you will be truly amazed and touched at what you see and experience!

There’s no time like now to take your family to this top destination for a family vacation!



December 1, 2015

Best Festivals to Travel to in Thailand

As we come into our busiest holiday season here in the U.S from Thanksgiving to Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and the New Year, we have family, friends, and celebration on our minds. Travel can get a little more hectic around these times, but a good way to get into the celebratory mood is to travel during other countries festivals and holidays.  One country at the top of our list to travel to for unique, wild, and enlightening festivals is Thailand. Some of these festivals focus on ancient culture and tradition, while others are just pure fun! From water gun fights and rockets to vegetarianism and floating lanterns, these celebrations in Thailand should not be missed!

Loy Krathong (Yi-Peng) 

When: November

Possibly one of the most beautiful festivals in the world is Loy Krathong. Tens of thousands of people descend on Thailand to release their worries and bad thoughts. People light candles and place them on tiny banana leaf floats and release them down nearby rivers. While this takes place all over the country, the best place to be is Chiang Mai. Here the main attraction is the lanterns that float into the sky. Watching a dark sky illuminate from thousands of lanterns being released at once is spectacular and mesmerizing.

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Vegetarian Festival

When: October

This is a highly religious festival that takes place on Phuket, where participants observe a 10-day vegetarian diet. This isn’t the most interesting part of the festival though. Things get interesting, and a bit graphic, when participants walk on hot coals or cut their faces to pass objects, such as umbrellas, through the newly made holes. It is believed that these actions will bring good luck to those who participate. Thailand is a top destination for older kids and this festival would be an enriching experience for them. It should be attended with an open mind and background knowledge on the customs of participants and the expectations of spectators.

Songkran

When: April

Have you ever wanted to participate in a nationwide water gun fight? That’s what you’re getting with Songkran. Older kids, adults, grandparents, and younger kids will all love and have fun at this festival. What began as a splash of water to give good will and fortune to others for the New Year has evolved into a full-fledged water fight. Some towns celebrate only for a day while others celebrate for an entire week. Make sure you pack your super-soaker!

Monkey Buffet

When: Last Sunday in November

Lopburi is famous for its monkey population and to show the monkey’s their appreciation for being good neighbors and helping bring people to the area to visit. Once a year, the town sets out a buffet of fruits, lollipops, soda, and vegetables for the little animals to eat. This creates some incredible photo opportunities!

Bun Bangfai Rocket Festival

When: April

One of the stranger events in Thailand is the Rocket Festival in Yasothon. Celebrated in the Northeast region of the country, this festival is fully equipped with all the party essentials: music, concerts, parades, regional cuisine from pork salad to fried insects, and of course, rockets. The rockets are fired off during a special show and are then judged based on height reached, straightness of flight, and how attractive the smoke trail is. The winning team earns $1,000 USD as a prize. If your rocket fails to launch, you must spend the rest of the contest in a mud bath— the Thai people really know how to throw a proper festival!

Experiencing other cultures together is one of the best parts of taking a Thailand family vacation. Visiting any of these celebrations in Thailand will be a family vacation you’ll always remember!