disney at halloween

Endless Travel Blog

Family Journeys—Just for the Thrill of It

--by Susan Hammond

After just spending a day and a half at Disney World (prior to a conference that I attended) and drinking the Disney ‘Kool-Aid,’ I had time to reflect during my flight home what a gift travel is to all generations; especially our children. To begin with, today’s kids are far more well-travelled than previous generations. As a child growing up in the midwest as a grain farmer’s daughter, our family vacation was spending one week each summer at the Lake of the Ozarks, enjoying lots of mosquitoes, sunburns (since the acronym SPF was not yet invented) and, of course, wonderful family time. I remember when I was five years old, I was thrown in the lake with two small waterskis and was not allowed to get back in the boat until I got up on those pieces of wood. This was before adolescent skis had a rope tying the two skis together, so this definitely took time and patience. Of course, my parents to this day don’t recall my first initiation to water skiing, but I am grateful they did that, since water skiing, tubing, and playing ‘dunkie ball’ in the lake were our memorable family adventures each year.

aquariumWith my children taking their first flights in diapers, I am reminded that kids may not have the everyday freedom these days as I did growing up, but there was no way that I would have learned to scuba dive in Mexico, work with wildlife in Africa, or zip-line in Costa Rica while I was still in elementary school. Parents today see the value in this kind of life experience for good reason. I feel that life experiences gained during travel gives kids a large universal worldview and ultimately makes them better, more well-rounded adults.

Whether you are an adrenaline junkie, a semi-adventurous family, or just want to spend time playing in the sun and sand, we work with our travel partners to design programs to match your specific family’s persona—bold, timid, and everything in between. It is amazing how open kids are to new places and unique experiences. Children, particularly between the ages of 6 and 12, are really curious. Parents and grandparents should know that this is the height of when kids are into everything and are little sponges who take in everything about the world around them. This is a great time to expose them to new things.

So if your kid’s interests include getting lost in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, climbing the mast on a tall sailing ship, or attending a class onboard a ship on how to shoot and edit short movies with a program from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, our job is to match your family with the type of vacation that tempts the entire family to spend time together and bring their imaginations to life. We also know of programs suited to younger travelers, leaving parents to enjoy their own activities, or to do nothing—possibly the ultimate adult dream come to life.

So what 2016 family vacations are really ‘tickling our fancies’ these days at Endless Travel? Earlier this year, Discovery Communications and Princess Cruises collaborated with Discovery at Sea, an interactive family vacation experience. Princess now offers Stargazing at Sea through the partnership, in which a specialist discusses the folklore around the cosmos and teaches your children how to find the bearings and identify the major constellations. Adventures by Disney enhanced their 2016 England and France itinerary to include ‘high tea,’ a bicycle ride through the streets of Versailles, archery lessons, a knight-and-dragons-themed scavenger hunt and a speedboat ride on the River Thames. Un-Cruise Adventures has unveiled its Family Discoveries Program, in which children eight years and older are welcome on all vessels for every destination and departure date. Activities such as tide pool treasure hunts, costumed reenactments of the Oregon Trail and paddle-board racing are sure to be a big hit.

Activities such as tidepool treasure hunts, costumed reenactments of the Oregon Trail and paddle-board racing are sure to be a big hit.

maccu picchuAttention grandparents! What is the best way to reconnect with those teens again and get their noses out of their cell phones? How about non-stop action in Peru, scanning the canopy for wildlife from the comfort of your Amazon lodge or trekking the Inca Trail? Whether you catch the scenic train to Machu Picchu or embark on one of the world’s best-known hikes, you will be rewarded with a stunning combination of ruins, mountainscapes and cloud forests. Also, what better way to immerse your teenager into the local culture than by learning the art of weaving at a women’s co-op in a traditional village, or enjoying traditional life and scenic views on Lake Titicaca (the name of this lake itself will get the attention of a 14-year-old).

Here’s what we think is under the radar as it refers to family travel. Well, Disneyland’s Adventureland offers the Sunrise Safari Breakfast Adventure for those kids that want to be a skipper on Disney’s Jungle Cruise. This breakfast will give a behind-the-scenes glimpse of this world famous attraction, and guests will also be trained to be Jungle Cruise skippers. As the guests complete their crash course in jungle skipper training before the park opens to the public, they will receive a special tribal mask inspired by the attraction’s original concept art to commemorate their adventure.

Also, it’s hard to find a child who doesn’t love dolphins, and there are plenty of programs that allow kids of all ages to get up close to the animals. On Marco Island, Florida, however, budding scientists can actually help researchers catalog dolphins as part of 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project, a study of bottlenose dolphins in southwest Florida. What an opportunity for a child to be privy to this special experience by ‘meeting’ dolphins by name as the creatures splash in the waves alongside the boat! Participants walk away with a better understanding and appreciation for one of the sea’s cutest creatures. Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort is nearby for the family to enjoy, including a kid’s camp and a bakery tour for kids—complete with the opportunity to design their own chef’s hat.

Finally, a new trend in family adventure that I think is worth mentioning is multi-generational families’ river cruising in Europe. Adventures by Disney and AmaWaterways is partnering to offer family-focused sailings onboard a brand new purpose-built river cruise ship. New entertainment options have been added to these sailings, tailored to families. Groups might sing their hearts out at karaoke nights, enjoy screenings of their favorite Disney films, or participate in themed events. Tauck, Uniworld, and Avalon Waterways are also offering family river cruises in 2016. A trip to Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, visiting a traditional windmill village in The Netherlands, and a Rubik’s Cube magic show in Budapest are just some of the highlights that any child would enjoy.

In summary, all the travel consultants at Endless Travel are prepared to offer suggestions that appeal to everyone in the family, regardless of age. We believe that in the world we live in today, we should be grateful that we have the opportunity to give the gift of travel.

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