new places, new cultures
Equally exciting trips are offered by Thomson Family Adventures, which specializes in all-inclusive trips—even covering trip cancellation
insurance—that, according to Moo Bishop, a family travel specialist for the firm, “offer families the opportunity to gain a global perspective.”
She says that often “parents remark on how their children have learned so much about how others live and about how to help others. Our adventures are a far cry from your typical beach resort, offering the chance to explore new places, learn about new cultures and have fun
at the same time.”
Thomson Family Adventures’ two most popular Asian destinations are China and Thailand.
In its Great Wall and Giant Pandas package (from $6,990 per adult, inclusive of local flights with discounts for children and teens) families will not only visit China’s most iconic landmarks and sites but also spend time in the countryside, hiking, floating on bamboo rafts and biking. In addition there are classes on Chinese painting, calligraphy and cooking.
Thomson Family Adventures’ new Smithsonian Family China ($7,790 per adult; discounts for children and teens) includes the same highlights but offers special “behind the scenes” opportunities like partaking in programs to restore the Great Wall and several days at the Linden Centre—an ancient estate in Dali that reflects all the glory of Imperial China—where they receive explanations of the majestic landmark. During the tour, families visit markets and ancient villages, learn the intricacies of tea ceremonies and bicycle through glorious scenery.
“The mix of activities and pace of these adventures are ideal for a family,” says Bishop. “We suggest that children be at least 10 years old because China is far away, hot and crowded—and ours are busy and
Venturing beyond China, Thomson Family Adventures highlights Thailand’s magnificent temples and art, distinctive food, lively markets and beautiful countryside.
Its Thailand package includes bicycle trips in Bangkok (from $4,690 per adult, with discounts for children under 18; available in December and through the summer) and even a chance to try one of the world’s longest ziplines.
In addition, the tour offers hikes along Chiang Mai’s national park, strolls through villages, hands-on experiences with local farmers, white-water rafting excursions and close-up encounters with elephants, including bathing them in a river.
More sedentary adventures include shopping in outdoor markets and lessons in Thai cooking. Families may also opt for an extended vacation that includes the beaches of Phuket and visits to historic temples, an opportunity especially appealing to older teens who might enjoy the philosophical discussions with local monks in quaint coffee houses.
on a road less traveled
Intrepid Travel, a 23-year-old Australian company with branches throughout the world, takes more than 100,000 travelers annually to more than 100 countries worldwide on trips specifically designed to visit off-the-beaten-track locations. The unconventional tours underline a close relationship with natives, often using local transport, personalized visits to markets and private homes.
According to Katie Olsson, head of North America industry sales, “Intrepid’s family trips are specially designed with families in mind. As a result, the itineraries are slowed to a comfortable pace and the activities are kid-friendly while still keeping adults in mind. The tours are great for parents who love to travel and want to expose their children to the many wonders the world has to offer.”
Olsson adds that she has seen an increase in American families making a journey to Asia “seeking a unique experience that offers more than your typical family vacation.”
One such “unique experience” to Borneo (from $1,705 pp plus air) explores the wonders of Sabah, the tropical Malaysian state in the heart of Borneo, including a visit to the Sepilok Sanctuary, an orangutan retreat where young travelers are exposed to the intricacies of rehabilitating the animals. The tour also includes swimming in tropical natural pools teeming with colorful fish, snorkeling explorations of the magical underwater world of Pulau Tiga National Park and wildlife viewing treks into Borneo’s steamy jungle.
Intrepid’s Vietnam Family Adventure (from $1,530 pp, plus air) is a good way to introduce young travelers to the wonders of Indochina. This 13-day adventure includes cyclo tours through the French
colonial streets of Hanoi and a cruise to the awe-inspiring Halong Bay. Knowledgeable guides will explain the details of the ancient imperial capital of Hue before continuing on board a dragon boat along the Perfume River. The tour visits local kids in Hoi An and the Dam Sen Water Park.
Free Rail Travel for Kids in Australia
For families with kids looking to explore Australia, the Great Southern Rail’s (greatsouthernrail.com.au)
iconic rail journeys, The Ghan and Indian Pacific, might be just the ticket. The Ghan takes guests from Darwin to Adelaide or vice versa, traveling through Alice Springs, and the heart of Australia, while the Indian Pacific connects Australia’s east and west coasts from Perth to Sydney, meandering through the Blue Mountains, Adelaide and awe-inspiring Nullarbor Plain. And it’s an experience both on—what kid doesn’t love rail travel?—and off the train, with “Whistle Stops” en-route that give families the chance to experience Australia’s regions through activities such as canoeing down Katherine Gorge, camel riding in Alice Springs, or visiting the art galleries of Broken Hill. All of that and kids ride free? Indeed. Through Jan. 13, 2013, each adult traveling in Red Sleeper service may be
accompanied by a child free of charge, a savings of
up to $1,000 per child.
Red Sleeper cabins can accommodate two passengers and feature a compact twin-share berth fitted with two facing lounge chairs by day that convert to upper and lower berths by night.
Fares start at $557 per adult for a Red Service sleeper cabin fare; kids up to age 15 may travel free. Bookings must be made by Sept. 30, 2012 and travel must be
completed by Jan. 31, 2013.