Israel, the ancient crucible of the world’s major religions, the crossroads of virtually every important culture going back thousands of years, and an undisputed depository of history, has all the elements of the once-in-lifetime family vacation.
Of course, the most essential element for family travel—whether it be Israel or anywhere else—is the idea of spending quality time together, be it the family unit itself or multi-generational travel. And on its website, the Israel Ministry of Tourism points out that, “The best news about traveling to Israel with your kids is that because most Israelis go on vacation with the whole family, Israel is very child-friendly. The easier nature trails, for example, are even officially designated ‘family trails.’ And if you are planning to visit Israel during summer or winter school vacations and especially during the interim days of Passover and Sukkot, you’ll find dozens of Israel Nature and Parks Authority sites as well as museums to be treasure-troves of fun and learning—from costumed guides to hands-on workshops in pottery, mosaic-making, bread-baking and other crafts,” something family travelers can do on their own during free time.
Additionally, many Israeli hotels, especially those in resort towns like Tiberias and Eilat, usually have a kids’ club, hosting arts and crafts and other activities.
Underscoring all this, Noaz Bar-Nir, director general of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, points out that agents should not confuse which type of trip to book for families and that there is a difference between family travel and what he calls the vacation market, which is primarily group travel.
“When you’re talking about family travel to Israel, you’re talking about the general market; the vacation market is generally group travel. In the general market, it’s different itineraries and different goals.”
In terms of the record number of visitors from the United States across all the markets—the general market, the leisure or vacation market, the Christian market and the ethnic Jewish market—Bar-Nir says, “I think that the good numbers from the United States show that we’ve succeeded in showing that Israel is really a very safe destination,” an essential factor for family travel, in particular. At the same time he adds, “Even more than that, it’s very lucrative to those who sell Israel. The travel agent can make good money out of selling Israel and the consumer can get added value they can’t get in other destinations,” still another important element for family travel.
Trafalgar has a 10-day Best of Israel (winter 2012/2013) package that’s good for families with a price point of $1,950 pp with daily Israeli breakfast and two 3-course meals included, as well as complimentary airport transfers arriving and departing.
The tour includes four nights in Jerusalem, two nights in the Lower Galilee and two nights in Tel Aviv. Family activities include visits to the Dead Sea, plenty of free time in Jerusalem to visit attractions like the Tower of David Museum, the Archaeological Gardens and the Davidson Center, visiting the holy sites throughout Israel, Haifa and a full day free to explore Tel Aviv, in addition to the city and museum tours.
“Trafalgar’s First Class trips are a wonderful way for multi-generational groups to spend quality time together with great activities and sightseeing highlights for every age group,” says Paul Wiseman, president of Trafalgar USA. “As the insider of guided vacations, families love that we have taken care of all the travel details and we offer exceptional value.”
At Cox & Kings, meanwhile, spokesperson Natalie Guevara says that family travel to Israel should have a little bit of everything that can appeal across the board to the whole family.
“We think Cox & Kings’ 9-day Israel: The Ancient Land is a great fit as it offers a nice mix of history and adventure/active sightseeing,” she points out. Definitely on the luxury side, this is probably a good choice for a multi-generational tour. At $7,655 pp, it includes four- and five-star hotel accommodations including four nights in the King David Jerusalem Hotel and Dan Hotels in Tel Aviv and Haifa with breakfast daily. The package includes all transfers and sightseeing by private vehicle with an accompanying Cox & Kings driver/guide throughout the journey, entrance fees into historical sites and museums, and baggage assistance at all airports and hotels.
Adele Feldman, president of Herricks Travel Center, an American Express Travel Services representative, agrees that a car and driver are a good option for family travelers to Israel. “If it’s a family, sometimes we like to put them in a private car. They can follow the pattern of a tour, but they don’t have to be on the bus with everybody else.”
Back at Cox & Kings, Nicole Beattie, destination manager for Arabia & North Africa, says the best highlights for families on its Israel: The Ancient Land tour includes the visit to Acre with its medieval atmosphere that’s appealing to children, and where they’ll visit the headquarters of the Knights of St. John with its barrel-vaulted rooms and refectory. And then, of course, there’s the cable car ride to explore the ancient hilltop fortress of Masada and floating on the Dead Sea, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the whole family.