Posts Tagged ‘travel’

October 27, 2016

Halloween Traditions from Around the World

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

Ireland

kerry-coast

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

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

Canada

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

Mexico

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

Costa Rica

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

China

4

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

United States

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

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



August 3, 2016

Eco-Friendly Family Vacation Tips

There are a lot of components to think about when planning to take a family vacation. One thing that should be at the top of the list is eco-friendly travel. Being mindful of the environment, local towns, people, and leaving as small of an impact as possible is part of our mission as a family travel company. There are some simple eco-friendly family vacation tips that you can keep in mind while you plan your next trip.

Planting Trees on an eco-friendly family vacation

One of our travelers helping to plant trees during a trip.

Flights

While airplanes are an incredible invention that makes travel way more accessible for everybody, carbon emissions from planes are not great for the environment. How can you lessen the impact? Buy direct flights, the largest percentage of emissions are during take-off and landing. Direct flights are also less of a pain for you! You can also choose to fly on fuel-efficient planes. Some of the planes that are best for this are the Boeing 777, Boeing 787 and the Airbus 345. Finally, you can purchase carbon offsets. This is when you pay a small amount of money to offset the environmental damage that your flight caused. This money often goes to clean energy projects or climate smart farms.

Packing

First, pack light. The heavier a plane is the more fuel it needs to use. You may think that the extra 5 pounds in your bag won’t make a difference, but if everyone could shave 5 pounds from their luggage that would be a total of over 2,600 pounds on a typical flight. A little bit can go a long way! Leave the one-off bottles of mini-shampoo, soap, hand sanitizer, and toiletries at home. Those will quickly be used and discarded only to end up in landfill to sit there till the end of time. Instead, buy FAA approved re-usable travel containers that you can fill up before you leave. Also, leave the products that contain micro-beads on the shelf at the store. The micro-beads are tiny enough to make their way through filters and drains and end up causing major problems in the ocean. These are toxic and shouldn’t be part of the diet for anything that lives in the sea. One more thing, use a refillable water bottle. No need to be buying and throwing away plastic bottles your entire trip!

Be a Local

It’s best to shop local, buy local, and travel local while on your family vacation. Buying locally produced foods and souvenirs is the best way to support the community that you are a guest in. We know it can be tempting to take a rock from one of your hikes or a sea shell from the beach, but it’s best to leave things where you found them. Take a photo instead! It’ll last longer and it won’t damage anything!

cleaning up the beach on an eco-friendly family vacation

Travelers with Thomson Family Adventures participating in a beach clean up!

Travel with Companies Dedicated to Eco-tourism

It can be very easy to just travel with the company that is offering the best deal. Traveling with a company committed to eco-travel can greatly reduce your impact. We happen to know one that fits the bill!



June 17, 2016

5 Airport Security Tips

DSC_0342

Make getting here that much easier. Photo taken in Turkey.

One of the most stressful and annoying parts of traveling is going through security. Is it necessary? Yes. Are we happy that it’s part of the drill? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we have to enjoy it. There is nothing worse than hitting traffic and running through the airport with your multi-generational family to make your flight only to find yourself stuck in what seems to be a never ending line that won’t move. Well, the good news is that there are a few things that you and your family can do to make sure that your family vacation starts off right with a no hassle and speedy trip from the car to the airplane. Here are 5 airport security tips to get you started.

Have Things you need on Hand

We all know too well how easy it is to misplace something— like a passport or a boarding pass. Don’t be the person searching through a hand bag, back pack, or every jacket pocket to get the documents you need to proceed. Make sure that your kids have theirs ready too, if you’re holding them, place each person’s boarding pass within the pages of their passport so that everything matches up for the TSA agent.

Dress for the Part

You know exactly what you need to do to get through security. You’ll have to pass all metals and electronics through the x-ray machine and take off your shoes. Make sure everyone is wearing shoes that are easy enough to slip on and slip off (also wear socks, no one wants to walk barefoot in an airport!). Here’s a pro tip, place jewelry, belts, watches, and the like in a jacket pocket so it all goes through the x-ray machine together and you won’t have to scramble after you get your bin back.

Pay Attention

Sometimes the shortest line isn’t always the fastest line. Look ahead to find any travelers you think may take a long time. If you see a family, try for another line (unless they’ve read this article and breeze through security like you will) because unfortunately, families do tend to take a bit longer to make their way through.

Look into Security Programs

There are airlines that offer First Class passengers the opportunity to go through a fast line in security. This could be worth it if you’re traveling around the holiday season when airport traffic is busiest.  There is also the TSA Pre Check program which is available in over 160 airports with 16 airlines participating. Another program that is great for international travel is the Global Entry Program. Participants that join this program get to skip an extra step going through customs.  Finally, CLEAR is a program that will let you skip security all together in participating airports in the US.

Be Patient and Polite

We can’t stress this enough. Being polite, not complaining, and having a smile on your face will work wonders for your family. Remember, TSA can screen upwards of a million people a day, many of which won’t be polite, and they’ll be a bit stressed. Try not to add to it!



February 4, 2016

What You Need to Know about Zika Virus for Safe Travel

This article is accurate as of the time of its writing on February 29, 2016

On Monday February 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced an international health emergency over Zika virus. There is daily growing concern over the rapidly spreading virus as four million people are expected to be infected by the end of the year. The CDC has advised pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant against traveling to virus stricken countries, as the CDC and Pan American Health Organization have been investigating the possible association between Zika and microcephaly.

At this time, Thomson Family Adventures is continuing to run its scheduled trips. While we are operating our trips going forward, we want our travelers to exercise caution while traveling to any destination.

Here is what you need to know about Zika virus per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of 02/29/2016:

Where have virus cases been confirmed?

Prior to 2015, the virus has been found in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands.

In May 2015, the Pan American Health organization (PAHO) issued an alert of confirmed virus cases in Brazil.

The virus has spread beyond Brazil into several Latin American countries. Countries with active transmission of Zika virus that Thomson Family Adventures travel to are Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico and Panama.

No local mosquito-borne Zika virus disease cases have been reported in the U.S. states but there have been travel-associated cases.

How is the virus spread?

The virus is spread to humans by mosquito bites. There have been cases reported of Zika spreading through blood transfusion and sexual contact. Zika can be found in the bloodstream and passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people. The virus can remain in the bloodstream for a few days but it can remain for a longer period of time.

What are the common symptoms of the virus?

About 1 in 5 people infected with Zika will become ill. Symptoms of Zika virus are joint pain, rash, fever or conjunctivitis. Muscle pain and headache may also occur. While the incubation period of the virus is not known, it is believed to be a few days to a week.

The illness is mild and symptoms can last from a few days to a week after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some patients may not realize they are ill due to mild symptoms.

Is there treatment for the virus?

There are no known vaccines or medications used to prevent and/or treat Zika virus. In order to treat the symptoms, get plenty of rest and take pain reliever such as acetaminophen for joint and muscle aches, drink fluids. Do not take aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen and naproxen. If you are taking medicine for another medical condition, talk to your healthcare provider before taking additional medication.

Who is likely at risk to contract Zika?

Anybody can contract Zika.

There is more concern for women of child-bearing age who seek to become pregnant and pregnant women in any trimester. The CDC has advised pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant against traveling to virus stricken countries, as the CDC and Pan American Health Organization have been investigating the possible association between Zika and microcephaly.

For others who may contract Zika, symptoms of the virus are joint pain, rash, fever or conjunctivitis. Muscle pain and headache may also occur. While the incubation period of the virus is not known, it is believed to be a few days to a week. The illness is mild and symptoms can last from a few days to a week. Some patients may not realize they are ill due to mild symptoms.

How can you prevent infection of Zika virus?

If you are traveling abroad to countries where Zika virus or other viruses spread by mosquitos are found, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants.

Stay in air conditioning or places that have screen windows and doors.

Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items and sleep under a mosquito bed net when traveling or outside.

Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered insect repellants ONLY, as these have been evaluated for effectiveness.

Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

How can you help prevent the spread of Zika?

If you have Zika, prevent mosquito bites during the first week of your illness. Symptoms can last from a few days to a week. Zika can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to a mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.

Are you immune for life once infected?

Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.

Some of this information is directly copied from the CDC website. For complete information about Zika virus, please visit:

 

http://www.cdc.gov/zika/index.html

http://www.paho.org/hq/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11585&Itemid=41688&lang=en



July 28, 2015

What Makes a South Africa Family Vacation so Magical?

South Africa is country that begs to be explored. It’s a magical place from its cities to its bushveld. South Africa has something for everyone, history lovers, wildlife explorers, sports fans, and everything in-between. With a troubled past and bright future, thanks to a strong and warm people, South Africa becomes more than just a destination for vacation or a trip. It becomes an experience that can be trans-formative for travelers. To begin to understand what makes South Africa a magical place, you need to understand its history, current strides toward progress, and a bit about what makes it unique.

History

It wasn’t until 1994 that apartheid, state enforced racial segregation, was officially disbanded and South Africa held its first fair and democratically held presidential election. In the first election under the new constitution, Nelson Mandela won the presidency. Nelson Mandela’s victory did not come easy. It took decades of social activism by a majority of the country and Mandela himself spent 18 years in a political prison on Robben Island. Visiting Robben Island is one way to see South Africa’s history up close. Although apartheid isn’t too far in the past, it’s the dedication and outlook toward a better future that is inspiring and kids and adults alike will have an unmatched learning experience while in South Africa.

Social and Cultural Development

Music is a great way to spur social and cultural development

Music is a great way to spur social and cultural development

When Thomson Family Adventures sends families to South Africa we make sure that it is not only educational but fun! As mentioned earlier, the past of South Africa is troubled. The effects of apartheid have not yet all been eradicated. The good news is that there are several programs that are dedicated to bettering the communities and people of South Africa. By visiting youth development programs in Cape Town’s Langa Township you can meet the people and kids working towards a better South African future through dance, music, and the arts. When staying at the Grootbos Reserve it’s rewarding to see how your travels can positively impact a community, not mention its location in the beautiful fynbos. There is no feeling like making new friends and giving back to the world while in the midst of an adventure!

Unique Wildlife

Cape buffalo spotted on safari!

Cape buffalo spotted on safari!

It isn’t just the people in South Africa that are magical and inspiring, it’s also the wildlife. You may know that South Africa is one place that you can spot the Big 5 animals in Africa. Going out on a safari to see lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, rhinos, and leopards can be life changing. Not only can you find the Big 5 in South Africa, but also the Marine Big 5: bottle-nose dolphins, African penguins, fur seals, whales, and the great white shark. This is the only country in the world where you can find the Big 10! You’ll also get to see zebras, wild dogs, giraffes, and gazelles. These are the types of animals that most people only see on TV or in a zoo. Seeing them out in the open and in their natural habitat is a completely different feeling and will inspire awe and wonder in you and your child.

Feel the magic of South Africa on your next family vacation!



July 7, 2015

What I’ve Seen: South Africa

We are getting ready to launch a new family trip to South Africa and thought it would be a good idea to let you in on the experience! A member of our team, Claudia, went to Cape Town and out on safari to learn all she could about South Africa. We asked her a few questions about her trip to give you an idea of what your next family vacation might look like!

Here's Claudia and her friend Ivy at the Cape of Good Hope

Here’s Claudia and her friend Ivy at the Cape of Good Hope

Can you give us an overview of your trip to South Africa?

I spent two wonderfully busy weeks there in late April, early May. We stayed 5 nights in glorious Cape Town, one night at Grootbos in the scenic Western Cape, three nights in bustling Johannesburg (a.k.a. Joburg) and four nights in the bush. We drove six-and-a-half hours from Joburg to Timbavati Game Reserve, which provided great perspective from the Highveld to the Lowveld.

South Africa has a troubled history that’s not too far in the past; could you still signs of this as a traveler and did it affect your trip in any way?

I was amazed how far the country has progressed since apartheid. For example, in 1950, the South African government banned marriages between whites and people of other races. The Population Registration Act of 1950 provided the basic framework for apartheid by classifying all South Africans by race, including Bantu (black Africans), Colored (mixed race) and white. A fourth category, Asian (meaning Indian and Pakistani) was later added. In some cases, the legislation split families; parents could be classified as white, while their children were classified as colored. In December 2006, South Africa became the fifth country in the world, the first in Africa, to allow legal marriages between same-sex couples. Pretty impressive! (The ban on interracial marriages was lifted in 1985.)

What was the best part of this trip for you?

Wild dogs spotted on Safari

Wild dogs spotted on Safari

It’s difficult to pick my favorite part of the trip, as there was something special in each location. Cape Town is unbelievably beautiful and the bush (safari) is tough to beat with opportunities of being a stone’s throw away from rhinos and wild dogs. For me, Joburg was an unexpected highlight. I had the opportunity to visit a few inspirational museums that exhibit and display the hardships of apartheid in a way that leaves you craving to learn more about this tumultuous period. In addition to perusing the museums, I was able to explore two townships – Soweto and Kliptown – two very different communities all striving for the same thing – a better life. The people of Johannesburg are prosperous people and the spirit of entrepreneurship is everywhere.

What part did you like the least?

Flying. I’m not a big fan.

South Africa isn’t typically thought of as a safari destination but you went on one there. How was it?

Stopping for a sip of water!

Stopping for a sip of water!

Actually, South Africa is a popular destination for safari-goers. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to experience a handful of safaris in Tanzania, which is completely different than the safari experience in South Africa. In Tanzania, it’s like stepping into Noah’s Ark. You’ll see hundreds and hundreds of wildebeest, zebra and antelope and the vastness of the country is grand; whereas, in South Africa, the experience is intimate. You’ll see a few rhino, wild dog and lion in an up-close and personal way. The experience is quite exhilarating! I truly feel like people seeking a 10-plus day trip filled with extraordinary wildlife viewing should consider our family safari to Tanzania. If you and your family are seeking a little bit of everything – including marine life – family South Africa is the trip for you.

Would you take your kids or niece and nephew on this trip?

You betcha! I have a poster pinned on my cork board at work that reads, “Seek Adventures That Open Your Mind”.  South Africa will open your mind! South Africans are strong, curious and aware people. The older generation had to be this way in order to survive, and it’s places like South Africa that the next generation must experience to understand how history has shaped the world we live in today. Apartheid cannot be forgotten.

What about your parents or grandparents?

You betcha! South Africa is very diverse. Come learn about the Land Big 5, the Marine Big 5, South Africa’s turbulent history, its vibrant cultures, and tasty wines all while being awed by its surrounding natural beauty!

Did you feel culture shock at any point, why? If not, why do you think you didn’t?

I did not and that’s probably due to my trips to Tanzania and other underdeveloped countries in the world. There are considerable differences between the US and South Africa, but I never felt inconvenienced. I could connect to WiFi at the hotels, I could easily access money at ATMS and I had no problems conversing with people in English as is commonly spoken throughout Africa, along with 11 other official languages.

Did you feel safe in South Africa? Whether it was your time out on safari or walking around Cape Town?

The Gardens at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town

The Gardens at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town

Truthfully, I never felt unsafe or in harm’s way. I may have had my adrenaline rise as a pride of lions walked by our safari vehicle, but I never felt unsafe.

How were the flights getting to and from South Africa?

My international flights were smooth. I flew roundtrip on Delta Airlines. On the outbound flight I flew from Boston to Cape Town via Amsterdam, a flight I’m very familiar with. On the return, I flew from Joburg to Boston via Atlanta, the largest airport hub in the world. The flight from Joburg to Atlanta was slightly under 17 hours long.

Is there something about South Africa that you could really only know from being there? Something you won’t find in a guide book?

The entire experience. To learn, read a book. To experience, go travel.

The view from famous Table Mountain

The view from famous Table Mountain

There you have it— South Africa in a nutshell! If you have any lingering questions just give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer them for you and set your family up with an incredible vacation experience!



December 7, 2010

Extraordinary Children and the Makings of Hope

At the age of 11 Jim’s niece Jessica spent two years in Indonesia while her father did relief work. Now at 16 Jessica has created a beautiful photo essay about her impressions, titled The Makings of Hope. Her time in Banda Aceh affected her profoundly and the depth of feeling and expression in this essay are remarkable. It’s an emotional watch, and well worth the seven minutes.

Are you impressed by children who make a difference? We’d like to share a story like this each month. If you have a child in your life who is making a difference (or know of one), email me at moo@familyadventures.com. For each month’s selection Thomson Family Adventures will donate $100 to the charity of your choice.



November 29, 2010

Full Hearts: A Family Adventure

Abundance and Thanksgiving

A few days post Thanksgiving – for those of you who celebrate – the stuffing is polished off, the kitchen is clean, the dishwasher is emptied, the turkey soup is simmering on the stove. Every year there are Thanksgiving Family Adventures that become the stories and memories that star in your future celebrations. Tell us about yours.

Everything was perfect, or nothing at all worked like you planned. But didn’t you love it anyway? Maybe a new recipe was awful, maybe the dog grabbed the turkey leg. The cat licked the gravy. Maybe the jalapeno cranberry relish was so delicious it will show up every year. It rained, or snowed, or the sun burned bright in a clear blue sky. Was it so hot you didn’t want to turn on the oven? Maybe elderly Aunt Betty fell asleep over the pie. Maybe you had a wonderful surprise when someone you didn’t expect showed up to embrace you. You stayed home, or you traveled; you never left the house or you sat in traffic. You stayed up so late to brave Black Friday shopping, or you went afternoon bowling to make room for dessert.

However things went, planned or not, did you gather with friends and family? Keep your eye on gratitude and thankfulness? Not just for the third Thursday in November, but how about the weekend. How about our whole lives? Tell us what you did.

Whether you’re in Costa Rica or Chicago, St Louis or the Galapagos Islands, Sonoma or Cairo, don’t forget to cherish your every day family adventures.

Tell us what you’re doing!



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?