Kidding Around in Asia

Family Adventure in China
Thomson Family Adventures offers enriching trips in China, with a float trip down the Yulong River.

The vastness of Asia—mesmerizing countries, ancient and enthralling cultures—has every indispensable ingredient to concoct an unforgettable family vacation. Leafing through an atlas for extraordinary destinations can evoke images of singular adventures in far off countries—and with the help of a tour operator a family trip to Asia can seem like they’ve stepped into the pages of a glossy nature magazine.

Since Asia travel is currently so trendy, with some tourist destinations so well trodden, there’s a drift to experience the continent in different ways. A number of families want something more than to merely see and photograph the sites. They want to experience Asia unplugged and get a deeper sense of the destination.

An increasing number of tour operators currently offer packages that veer far from the ordinary by including seldom-seen sides of Asia and focusing on ecology, sustainability and self-fulfilling experiences ideal for family travel.


Greenloons is a relatively small company that prides itself in being a trendsetter in offering exceptional travel experiences. With its menu of far afield options, as well as its wide selection of voluntourism packages, the tour operator is a force to be reckoned with in family travel and exploration.

The quaint name is a hybrid of loon, a bird that needs to explore to survive, and the formidable green credentials to which the company adheres.

According to Irene Lane, founder and president, Greenloons “works with third-party,
eco-certified tour operators and sustainable tourism accommodation providers to offer a high level of assurance to eco-conscious travelers that small group vacations will not only offer
distinction and quality in pristine natural surroundings, but that the tours have also been
independently verified as emphasizing conservation, education, respect for local cultural
traditions and support for local communities.”

Greenloons offers trips to wide-ranging destinations where young travelers can enrich their world view. Lane says that, in addition to offering family vacation packages, Greenloons helps clients choose destinations for “families who believe that teenagers can expand their view of the world by engaging in voluntourism.”

Greenloons’ voluntourism tours in places like South and Central America, the Amazon region and other far-flung spots are alluring, but it’s in Asia where some travel cognoscenti say that the company excels.

According to Lane, “The experiences [offered by Greenloons tours] can be shared by families within the context of a cultural and sightseeing vacation.”

She explains that the tours are designed for learning how to share and care. “For example,” she adds, “[we offer] a number of international regions where volunteer work becomes part of the family vacation.”

Among Greenloons’ most popular family-oriented packages is Project China – Pandas,
a 14-day excursion (starting at $2,149 pp, with departures from May through October,
recommended for ages 12 plus) where families are able to volunteer at the largest panda
reserve in the world. While there, they are assigned tasks like gathering bamboo and
supplementary foods for the iconic animals and occasionally assisting professionals to
gather behavioral data.

Travelers will also visit Beijing’s ancient gems—the terracotta warriors at Xi’an, the Great
Wall and a stop in Shanghai. There’s also an organized visit to a special commune (an organic farm-based community) established to advocate and empower intellectually challenged individuals to become part of their community and to support themselves through work and continual learning.

Offered year-round, Project Cambodia and Laos is a 15-day ($1,799 pp, with monthly departures, recommended ages 12 plus) that takes families through an exploration of Indochina’s most significant historical sites like the vast temple-palace complex of Angkor before spending three days at New Hope, Cambodia, a grass roots, hands-on, non-governmental organization whose mission is to restore hope, dignity and promise to the local community.

Here, volunteers will help build a new school or library, teach in classrooms and visit local families. The balance of the time is spent enjoying optional bike rides, swimming, cave exploring, and countryside visits.

The packages are custom-made for small group vacations and are ideal for those families who want to experience Asia differently.