Family Travel: A La Abercrombie & Kent

Twenty years ago, today’s grandparents, parents and children were reading together the last book Dr. Seuss wrote before his death: “Oh! The Places You’ll Go.” And boy did that generation take that title and run with it, because two decades later, “oh the places” those generations are going on family vacations, thanks to creative tour operators and travel agents offering once seemingly out-of-this-world experiences.

Abercrombie & Kent came in on the ground floor of the family vacations market, launching a dedicated program in 1996 that today embraces destination choices that circle the globe. They are designated either as Tailor Made Family Holidays, customized for independent journeys, or as Escorted Journeys, designed from the ground up with the family in mind, including child-friendly, entertaining and educational activities.

“As a matter of fact, when we find that certain Tailor Made options are particularly successful, we adapt them for our Escorted Journeys category,” says company spokesperson Jean Fawcett. “Such was the case this year when we expanded escorted offerings to include new cultural journeys to Turkey and Israel.” And for 2012, both the 11-day Turkey: A Cultural Adventure (priced from $6,690 pp dbl, with a child under 12 sharing with two adults from $3,150), and the 10-day Israel: Ancient Icons for All Ages(priced from $4,715 pp dbl, with a child under 12 sharing with two adults from $3,900) are on the roster of escorted family programs.

And, adds Fawcett, “Nowadays, we have a niche within the family travel niche we call ‘milestone celebrations,’ and A&K figures for last year showed that 12 percent of all our family bookings celebrated an event such as a birthday, anniversary or graduation. This year, 19 percent of all reservations include a passenger age 21 or younger.”

In polling past passengers for their most desired destinations, tops on the 2011 list is Antarctica. And indeed, “The white continent turned out to be white hot!” Fawcett reports. All three sailings aboard the luxury expedition vessel, MV Le Boreal, sold out, and she recommends that “agents take note: Antarctica is a journey you have to book a year ahead.” For the 2012-2013, the holiday departure of Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands cruise is Dec. 17-Jan. 5, and when at sea, while adults are honing in on photography, marine biology, history and geology, Young Explorer’s Club guests will be involved with projects such as squid dissection, a plankton lab, and a digital photo class.

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Placing number four on the desired destinations list is the Galapagos Islands, which is, according to Fawcett, the most popular family destination. The 11-day Galapagos Family Adventure, including a 7-night cruise on the 48-passenger MV Eclipse, is one of the A&K programs staffed with a child coordinator who supervises a daily program of child-friendly activities on board and on shore. (Dates and pricing not available at press time; however, family departures are normally June-August and Christmas.)

Abercrombie & Kent’s second family brand, Tailor Made Family Holidays, in reality, is made up of suggested itineraries that are totally flexible and easily modified to include clients’ special interests and activities. For 2011, the tour company has in the marketplace a dozen of these independent journeys that take traveling families to such faraway places as Kenya and Tanzania on an East Africa Wildlife Adventure for 14 days, or The Desert Playground of Dubai for eight days, or New Zealand on a 12-day Kiwi Adventure.

This year, A&K introduced four new Tailor Made journeys for family travel. A 10-day, action-packed trip to Mystical India visits Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur, and includes an elephant safari, a cooking lesson, and a treasure hunt by boat at the Bada Mahal Wildlife Conservatory. An 8-day Yucatan Adventure is perfect for a nature-loving family whose journey starts in Merida with a hacienda stay and ends in a deluxe hotel by the Caribbean shore. Activities include visits to Mayan ruins and villages, exploring nature reserves, and swimming in an underwater cave. In Peru, the A&K family journey goes From Machu Picchu to the Amazon for 11 days of exploring by horseback, on foot or via ATV, dining in a local home, and cruising in the Pacaya Samiria Reserve. And in Switzerland and Northern Italy, a family Alpine Summits & Shores itinerary starts in Lucerne and ends on Lake Como, discovering snowfields and mountain peaks by cog rail and aerial gondola, taking lake cruises, and devouring irresistible ice cream and chocolates along the way.