Tour Talk

Rascals Unbound

written by | Posted on September 1st, 2009

It will come as no surprise that a travel company called Rascals in Paradise is totally focused on family travel. Equally unsurprising is that one of its most popular “paradises” is a place called England, where for 10 days, rascals and their parents Follow in the Footsteps of Harry Potter: standing on Platform 9 ¾, spending some time in Hogwart’s dining hall, taking a stroll around Godric’s Hollow, checking out some quiddich territory, even spending a few nights in a castle. The experience offers a chance to see the infamous sights of London, and is guaranteed to tickle every Potter fan’s fancy as the movies and books come alive before one’s eyes.

“We’ve been offering quality vacations to families traveling with children since 1987,” says Tami Hodges, lead travel consultant at San Francisco-based Rascals in Paradise. “On our website we post suggested vacations in some old favorites such as Akumal and Fiji, as well as children’s programs we have initiated from Alaska to Australia, from Italy to Southern Africa. All our family programs are customized with private drivers, guides and hand-picked properties that we work with to deliver well-managed, onsite facilities and activities that are kid-friendly.”

According to Hodges, and surprising perhaps in today’s market, the company is booking, percentage-wise, more 2-week, special experience-oriented trips and fewer short vacations. “Yet our offerings have changed over the years, reflecting the demands of the marketplace. Nowadays, the demand is highest for educational travel, whether it’s learning a sport or skill; learning about other cultures—their local traditions and games, and what goes on in their schools and villages; and even learning more about one’s own kids by spending unhurried time together. We work very hard to find the very best places where everyone will profit from exploring and discovering, as a family and as individuals.”

Fiji is one of the company’s featured destinations, available for 7- to 14-day vacations on escorted departures or on itineraries built around a family’s special interests. Overall, Fiji features top-of-the-line childcare, village visits and cultural exchanges, tropical rainforest walks, traditional lovo dinners, picnics on deserted islands, tide pooling, snorkeling and diving. Among the six properties that Rascals markets, is the five-star Jean-Michel Cousteau Fiji Islands Resort on the island of Vanua Levu. The resort occupies 17 acres of a coconut plantation, and in addition to total comforts and a full array of watersports, parents and kids love the Bula Club, the place to explore and learn about the natural and cultural worlds of Fiji—Jean-Michel Cousteau-style.

Another Fijian vacation choice is Outrigger on the Lagoon, occupying a 40-acre garden setting on the Coral Coast on Viti Levu Island. Modern air-conditioned hotel rooms and bures (bungalows) come together in the style of a traditional Fijian village, and special activities are available for Little Riggers (kids 3-7) and Beach Riggers (8-12). Also offered on the Coral Coast is a stay at the family-owned and -operated Crusoe’s Retreat. Accommodations are in 28 free-standing bures, and an integral part of staying here is the opportunity to experience the day-to-day living of the local people at the neighboring Namaquamaqua Village, home to the retreat’s hotel staff.

Rascals has designed a special Divers with Kids program, featuring family-friendly dive resorts in exotic locales of the Caribbean, Mexico and South Pacific.

“The various hotels we use—from Belize and Bonaire to the Solomon Islands—have children’s programs that are supervised and active for when parents are out diving,” Hodges points out. “In some cases, older kids also travel to dive sites to snorkel and teenagers can learn to dive. We also represent the Agressor Fleet’s dive boats, which offer 7-day Kid’s Sea camps that feature five hours of supervised activity for children each day while parents explore the marine life of the exciting Agressor sites.”

A particularly welcoming dive program is offered aboard the 10-double stateroom Cuan Law, one of the largest trimarans in the world and based in the British Virgin Islands. According to Hodges, this vessel offers an outstanding way for the entire family to dive together or learn to dive; for non-divers, there are two hobie cats, three ocean kayaks, waterskis, kneeboards and skurfers, as well as beach and shore excursions.