The summer is heating up for adventure vacations to exotic and faraway destinations. If you are looking for a holiday that combines family fun with biking, hiking, boating and a safari, then you need look no further than our South African adventure vacation from Cape Town to Kruger.
In eleven days you’ll traverse the city and countryside seeing all the historical sites, wildlife and culture that uniquely belong to this exciting continent. Adventure tours to South Africa feature tram rides to magnificent views of Cape Town, and view firsthand the Robbin Island prison cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 year prison sentence.
Cycling tours to South Africa’s wine country lead you through picturesque landscapes while stopping for frequent wine tastings during the journey. Adventure continues with kayaking to where African penguins play and whale’s float resting in the clear waters. Horseback riding, bush walks and open vehicle tours through Sabi Sabi will take you hunting for animals that are typically seen in Western zoos. Giraffe, zebra, lions, hippos, rhinos and more make their home here, and travelers will enjoy seeing them in their natural habitat.
And the journey isn’t complete without savoring the fresh seafood and wines that come from this part of the world while relaxing in comfortable lodging. Make Africa part of your vacation plans this summer. Simply give us a call to learn more or request a catalog of all our exciting destinations.
The summer is heating up for adventure vacations to exotic and faraway destinations. If you are looking for a holiday that combines family fun with biking, hiking, boating and a safari, then you need look no further than our South African adventure vacation from Cape Town to Kruger.
Adventure vacations for couples can be fun and fulfilling in Chile and Argentina. There may be other countries in the world that earn accolades for their winemaking, but there is a hidden gem to be discovered in the wineries of Mendoza, Argentina.
This wine region is a favorite destination for tourists and wine connoisseurs. Usually, many wine regions offer only a wine tasting experience while they keep their techniques a secret. Not so in Mendoza. In fact, they often share their recipes and techniques. Tourists enjoy getting a first-hand experience in winemaking. After filling up on sumptuous Argentine cuisine and wine, travelers participating in our cycling tours can look forward to enjoying a great view of the Andes making adventure vacations such as this one hard to forget.
Adventure trips to this region of the world are even more breathtaking as you go horseback riding along Colchagua Valley in Chile. Chile’s wine-tasting experience offers delightful experiences to tantalize the taste buds. Take your time exploring Plaza de Armas in Santiago, Chile and discover why this place was voted #1 on the list of places to go by the New York Times. Gastronomic adventures begin at the Mercado Central where guests can sample deliciously fresh Chilean fare. Be enveloped in the dynamic ambiance of a lively market that is housed in a structure with very ornate and pleasing aesthetics.
Book your trip with Austin-Lehman to experience these exciting adventure destinations in South America today.
The People of Africa (Diverse and Fascinating) “We are not Africans because we are born in Africa, we are Africans because Africa is born in us.”
Chester Higgins Jr.
There is no continent more blessed with the incredible beauty and sweeping diversity than that of Africa. From this diversity Africans “parented” the rest of humanity. However, all this diversity has a tangible and intangible commonality which merges into one family! Who hasn’t looked at a collection of photos or videos and “marveled’ at the stoic Maasai Tribe…tall, handsome and often dressed in red – a semi nomadic people located in Kenya and Tanzania. They are among the best known and recognizable African ethnic groups and are often found working the many game camps and lodges in the region.
Or who hasn’t heard of the Zulu? The reason you have heard of them just might be that they are the largest ethnic group in southern Africa and beyond. They are well known for their beautiful, brightly colored beads and baskets as well as other small carvings. The Zulu are practically divided in half with about 50% living in cities and engaging in domestic work and another 50% working on farms.
My personal favorite might be the Himba. (Picture the tribe that uses the “red” die to color their hair and skin.) This ancient tribe of semi nomadic herders and farmers is made up of extraordinary people who have resisted change and preserved their unique cultural heritage. It’s hard to travel through Namibia without visiting a village of the Himba.
Okay, so that is just three of the over 500 tribes that make up the indigenous people of Southern and East Africa…but when many, if not most of us think about Africa, how can we not think about Nelson Mandela and his struggle and ultimate leadership in ending Apartheid? A trip to Cape Town or a visit to District 6 or Robin Island will take you back and leave you thirsting for more insight about this period in African history.
As I said early on, the people of Africa are diverse: Sheep herders, gold miners, peasants and millionaires. It would be hard to stereotype Africa’s population and be even close.
Safari or Not To Safari (Types of Programs Throughout Africa)
Now back to the task at hand – preparing you to determine the best African Adventure for you and yours. As I see it there are really just a few different types of African vacations. Obviously #1 is the classic African Safari. Option #2 might be more of an “Active” African adventure, and option #3 might be a combination of the two. There is of course a #4, sitting on a beach somewhere drinking tropical drinks with an umbrella but really, why travel all the way to Africa for what you can do in Florida or Hawaii? To this end I will spend a few minutes talking about #1, #2 and #3 (#4 I will leave to your imagination).
The Classic African Safari! First we need to remember, Africa wrote the book on luxury camping and over the top customer service. While it may be possible to locate a large multi-unit hotel style complex, I am just not sure where or why you would want to stay in one when much better options are available. The “average” accommodation, if there is such a thing in Africa, is a small super deluxe permanent camp style setting. Yes, there are permanent lodges and/or mobile camps, but for the most part you will find a permanent tent style camp. Why tent style? Often times the “landlord” can only lease the land, so the idea is there cannot be a permanent structure. That said, these permanent “camps” are about as far from camping as you can get: running hot and cold water, incredibly plush bedding and service beyond your wildest expectations. Guest to staff ratios in excess of four staff to one guest is not uncommon.
These camps are often on nature conservatories or game reserves in the heart of the best game viewing possible. I have had the pleasure of having White Rhinos visit the dinner table and Hippos brush my tent in the middle of the night. This is clearly how you can get up close and personal to the game. In my book African safaris has to be the perfect adventure vacations for couples.
One thing to keep in mind – not all camps have all game. Therefore, one must start considering what it is they really want to see. Similar for each region, you may be able to see the Big Five for example, but it may take a few days at this camp and a few days at that one and so forth. Each camp (and area) has its own “specialty”.
The overall experience can vary as well. A “private” experience in Africa is quite common…this is when you and say, your family of four, has their own vehicle and guide for the duration of your stay. The guide driver will escort you from camp to camp or region to region, always in your own vehicle. Another option is to “fly” into the bigger camps…here you meet a group of likeminded travelers and each day load up into a “safari” vehicle (sometimes seating as many as a dozen plus) and go out for your game drives together. After a few days you may move to another camp and meet another group.
Each camp or lodge for that matter has a different “setting”. Each region has different vegetation and geography. Start asking yourself questions: are you a desert person or do you prefer thick forestation, dunes or river valleys, red rocks or granite peaks, six tent compounds or more expansive forty room lodges with a hot tub?
#2 Active Adventure. Here is the challenge, by the sheer nature of the beast (pun intended): it is difficult at best, but not impossible, to have a very active safari. Why? Simply put, there are things out there that would be delighted to eat you and wandering around is just not a good idea. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a day here or there of biking, rafting or horseback riding (in fact, there are some great safari options that include a little of both). It’s easy to fit in an active day here or there. But for a truly active adventure one has to think along the lines of civilization, at least by African standards.
South Africa vacations are a smorgasbord of possible activities. Biking the Garden Route, kayaking Point of Good Hope, shark diving with Great Whites, hiking Table Mountain, etc. It may be easiest to base in one of the many hotel style properties. There are lots of opportunities to explore the culture (think townships and Robin Island) or fine dining and wine tasting (South Africa is not to be overlooked for its own wine country).
As with any civilized destination, the options for hotel types and quality are endless. Everything is available from five star luxury resorts to the more affordable three start comfort hotels. Don’t overlook Africa’s beaches – some of the best in the world! (Just remember their “season” is opposite of that in the US).
#3 Combination. This option seems to fit the best for most adventurous souls. Simply put, five to seven days of safari can be a lot. As pointed out, most safaris entail a lot of “seat time”. So how about starting with an “active” on-the-go vacation and then graduating to a safari style? This may be easier than you think. You see, the toughest part of an African vacation is just getting there. Depending on where you start, this could be a 15-20 or even 24 hour flight! But once you get to Africa it’s not all that tough to take in-country flights from one country or destination to another. Let’s say your “hub” is Johannesburg (as it often is)…you can fly to Johannesburg and then on to Cape Town and spend the week exploring, biking, hiking, kayaking, you name it. Then, either take a commuter small plane to one of the game reserves like Sabi Sabi near Krueger National Park or fly back to Johannesburg and transfer via one of the in-country carriers like South African Airways to Windhoek to visit a wide range of camps in Namibia. Or via Johannesburg, fly back up to Nairobi and treat yourself to a Kenya or Tanzania safari.
The options are limitless...
Don't forget I am always here to help you plan the perfect African Safari
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I really have to commend your company on a trip well done. As a matter of fact, my grandson didn’t want to go home at the end, and his time spent white water rafting really brought a smile to his face. With horseback riding, rafting and time at the pool while at Chico Hot Springs, it was really hard to pull him away. I was just glad to see him full of excitement and joy of living again. Our guides really made the trip fun for everyone, and I couldn’t be more pleased at how the entire trip turned out. Thank you so much for bringing such joy to me and my family.
Name: Bill Sherman
Montana vacations are just marvelous for those looking to experience natural beauty at its finest. The pleasant scent of pine trees, crisp, clean air, majestic mountains just waiting to be hiked and wildlife galore, Montana offers beauty and excitement for everyone in the family.
Family adventure vacations to Montana truly offer something for everyone. Whether you want to explore by horseback through nature trails or if you’re more comfortable staying on the ground and enjoying a calm day filled with fishing, Montana never sees a shortage of fun activities. Rafters will enjoy a journey down the Yellowstone River. Register the kids as Junior Rangers and explore the beautiful Yellowstone Park. During the winter, hit the slopes and spend the day skiing or snowmobiling or just relax and take in the winter wonderland view with a nice, hot mug of hot chocolate by a crackling fireplace.
When you return home, share pictures with your family of the erupting geyser that you had been waiting to see in person, the splendid wildlife that you were so excited to get a glance of and the beautiful scenery of Montana that will now be a memory for you to keep forever.
Call today to schedule unforgettable memories with Austin-Lehman Adventures – (800) 575-1540.
Take your family on an adventure trip with Austin-Lehman and explore the wonders of Yellowstone National Park with your kids. Family adventure vacations are customized tours to satisfy the diverse interests of everyone in a family. With 38 years of experience, it has become a specialty of Austin-Lehman to make sure that each trip is fulfilling and worthwhile. Montana vacations featuring activities like hiking, cycling, horseback riding, camping and rafting are a complete family destination. Discover Yellowstone National Park, Big Sky and Paradise Valley all on a single adventure trip with Austin-Lehman.
Talking about the beauty of landscapes in Yellowstone just can’t be enough. You have to be there to experience the soul of this place. Serene lakes, cascading waterfalls and rafting in the Yellowstone River is a heart pumping experience. Hike along the vibrant flower beds in the backcountry of Yellowstone and admire the mystic beauty. Visit the Old Faithful and numerous other geysers in the region.
Ski the biggest resort of America in Big Sky, and indulge in cross country skiing and snowboarding. Pedal on your own pace along the picture perfect landscapes in the Gallatin Valley. Rest in between and munch on fruit kebabs, and as you reach the Beehive Basin, soak your feet in the alpine lake while relaxing under the clear blue sky.
Visit our online travel destination catalog to learn more about Montana, Yellowstone and other adventurous vacations planned just for you.
The best time of the year is when you get to spend quality time with your family. Family adventure vacations with Austin-Lehman are a great way to share the bond and indulge in wild, heart pumping fun. Where else can you explore the wonders of Yellowstone Park and enjoy the view of mud pots, geysers and hot springs spread across a vast region of the park?
There’s nothing like climbing through the back of a waterfall. Once behind the sheet of falling water, it’s as simple as holding your breath and jumping into the lake below. You’ll be swept to safety by the natural whirlpools created by mineral rich water.
No visit to Yellowstone is complete without a stop by Old Faithful to watch the eruptions right in front of you shooting steaming water to a height of approximately 160 feet. Evenings are filled with the experience and fun of camping while spending a night under the clear, big sky counting stars.
Kids love the Anaconda Railroad and Mining museum, and learn the interesting historical facts about the railroad systems along with viewing the marvelous model railroad. Be sure to also stop by the gift shop where kids will have a hard time choosing between taking home one of the amazing engines or car models.
The enchanting beauty of forests and landscape is something to see on horseback while galloping through the Glacier National Park. And when near the Smith River, a visit to White Sulphur Springs Village is a pleasant stop before spending the day fishing and rafting. Before leaving the village, make sure to tour the historical White Sulphur Springs castle.
To truly experience Montana vacations, book your trip with Austin Lehman today. Visit our online travel catalog or give us a call to learn more.
Your adventurous spirit will be ignited at Whistler. Located in British Columbia in Canada, Whistler is a favorite spot for family adventure vacations. There are many fun activities the entire family can enjoy. You may start by exploring the Alice Lake Provincial Park, which is surrounded by mountains and forests. There are different hiking trails you can follow with varying degree of difficulty. The Four Lakes Trail, for example, leads you to a cedar forest while passing through four lake areas. Be prepared to spot birds like chickadees and robins and meet animals like chipmunks and squirrels.
Bike your way along the Valley trail to reach Meadow Park. Stop and relax awhile, and let the kids enjoy the playground and water park. Head back towards the village and enjoy the scenic route with the spectacular view of the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains.
Many adventure vacation packages to Whistler involve a trek to the summit of the Whistler Mountain to get a panoramic view of the glaciers and the meadows below. You can canoe or kayak along the River of Golden Dreams and discover interesting things in nature. Take your adventurous spirit to a new level by trying exhilarating activities like bungee jumping, whitewater rafting and gyroscope rides. Kids will enjoy the bungee trampoline, balloon slides and horseback riding.
Adventure vacations in Whistler pump up your adrenaline. Your vacation will never have a dull moment when you travel with Austin Lehman.
Austin Lehman’s adventure vacation packages are unparalleled when it comes to active travel. Take a safari adventure vacation for couples in South Africa and experience the rush of adrenaline as your paths cross with wild animals in their natural habitat.
The safari can be conducted on horseback or in an open vehicle to make viewing zebras, giraffes, hippos, lions and even penguins in Africa that much easier. As you arrive in Cape Town, you’ll notice the world class luxury and awe inspiring natural scenery.
To get a bird’s eye view, take a tram up majestic Table Mountain for a spectacular view of the city, the coastline and the Cape Peninsula. The ferry to Robben Island takes travelers on a visit to view the prison cell of Nelson Mandela. And not to be missed is world famous Cape Winelands where you can stimulate your taste buds by savoring some of the finest wines. Biking through the vast vineyards will also lead to a pleasant time picking fresh strawberries.
Cycling tours through Cape Point Nature Reserve is a fabulous experience as you explore the clean white beaches and wide coastlines. Enjoy the amazing natural beauty and wildlife of Cape Point. Kayak alongside penguins, dolphins and gigantic 50 ton southern right whales. There are many endangered species in this park, and you might get a glimpse of these animals if it’s your lucky day. Get a close look at Africa’s unique shrub vegetation called Fynbos as you ride through the coastal forests of Western Cape.
Booking this exotic safari vacation is just a click away by visiting our online travel catalog.
Montana provides the perfect spot for family adventure vacations. With its mountains, wildlife and world-famous national parks, there is an abundance of activities to experience and endless natural beauty to see.
Montana vacations are magnificent if you’re looking for something for everyone in the family. Fishing, horseback riding and camping provide fun, bonding experiences for everyone. Tackle a rapid if you’re daring enough to go rafting down the Yellowstone River. Have an unforgettable picnic outside with a green and brown mountain view and be reminded that everything tastes better when you eat outside, as you inhale the delightful aroma of pine trees and fresh air. If you decide to travel during the winter, skiing and snowmobiling are exciting ways to enjoy the fresh powder that looks like a blanket covering the beautiful hills, then relax in your luxurious hotel room with a mug of hot chocolate.
Register the kids as Junior Rangers before exploring Yellowstone Park. Watch Old Faithful erupt under a sea of shimmering stars. Take a dip in a natural hot spring and talk with your family about the fantastic wildlife, including elk, eagles and bison, you saw during the day and share pictures of the spectacular views that can only been seen in Montana.
Schedule your adventure with us by visiting our online catalog or giving us a call at (800) 575-1540.
Montana is home to two National Parks, a number of state parks, ski areas, mountains and prairies. It is the 4th largest state in the United States with its area of more than 147,000 square miles. This large area is ideal for family adventure vacations. One of the many ways to enjoy a vacation with family is camping.
Montana is an ideal place to introduce camping to your kids. Imagine roasting marshmallows over the fire, singing songs and exchanging stories with other campers. Depending on which Montana state park you choose, you can enjoy amenities like drinking water, toilets, garbage bins and picnic tables to name a few. Adventure vacations like camping provide plenty of recreational activities for everyone including fishing, swimming, kayaking, hiking and even horseback riding. During the winter months, families can try skiing and snowmobiling.
Camping teaches kids to be respectful to wildlife and nature. It is an opportunity to teach “leave no trace” ethics. With Montana’s beautiful landscape, it is easy to understand why there is a need to preserve its stunning landscape by being responsible campers.
For first-time campers, you definitely want to checkout our adventure vacation packages for a stress free Montana experience. Your only concern will be enjoying the vacation with family. No matter which vacation experience you may choose, camping in Montana is truly a memorable experience.
Take your family on an adventure trip filled with various activities to suit everyone’s interests. Montana vacations give you ample number of choices from biking, hiking, campfires, rafting to camping and much more. You can spend some quality time with your family having fun and relaxing in the lap of nature. Experience the thrill of skiing on the snowcapped Big Sky Mountains where the gigantic Lone Mountain towers over the Gallatin National Forest.
Skiing is just one activity to do in Big Sky. There is definitely plenty more to satisfy everyone’s taste for adventure. The breath taking scenery of Big Sky mountain and meadow villages is pure ecstasy. You really have to be there to believe it. You can hike or ride on horseback to enjoy the mesmerizing view at your own pace. Try your hand at golf, tennis, fishing and mountain biking while exploring the west.
Montana offers a diversity that you’ll never expect from just one place. There is Yellowstone National Park with its mud pots, waterfalls, geysers, wonderful scenery and camping facilities to spend a night under the stars and gently fall asleep in fresh air and a clear night sky. Face your fears and jump off a waterfall to land in the glittering blue green waters and explore the fun side of your family members that you might not have expected before. We provide the perfect family adventure vacations designed to entertain the whole family so stop by to visit us online to learn more.
Yellowstone National Park vacations are the best way to experience thrill and adventure. Austin-Lehman’s adventurers organize customized group vacations and give you a personal and wholesome experience.
On a well-planned Montana vacation, you can visit Old Faithful, the oldest geyser in the world, and lots of other geysers. There are many hot springs, mud pots and canyons still unexplored and known only to the locals and our guides. America’s first national park has diverse wildlife including wolves, elks, bison and grizzly bears and you can actually view these wild beasts in their natural abode.
Adventure trips organized by Austin-Lehman give you the taste of raw passion. Being away from home and surrounded by nature is a truly mesmerizing feeling. It’s the one place where it is possible to explore on foot, by horseback, white water river rafting or even all three. Yellowstone has the maximum number of active geysers in the world and you might even be lucky enough to see one erupting right in front of you throwing steaming hot water straight into the sky. The climate is usually moderate but can also be a little unpredictable.
No trip to Yellowstone is complete without spending a night under the star filled sky. There is rich Native American heritage comprising of a splash of bright colors, music and dancing all waiting for you to watch and even participate. Plan your Yellowstone vacation with Austin Lehman today by visiting our online catalog to find the itinerary right for your traveling needs.
Planning a family adventure vacation is indeed a very exciting project for any family. The key aspect of an ideal adventure trip is a package that includes loads of fun activities, absolute safety for the family and a cozy retreat to settle down after a long and eventful day. There is all this and much more to look forward to on a Yellowstone National Park vacation. It is the world’s first national park, and there is a lot to see and explore. As a favorite destination for millions of people from all over the world, visitors find the park a great way to connect with nature.
Wildlife, hot springs, geysers, steam vents, mud pots and breath taking views of Yellowstone are just a few of the many adventures just waiting to be discovered. While traveling along the Grand Loop road, you won’t have to wait for hours to get a glimpse of a bison, grizzly or wolf. Austin Lehman adventures take you off the main road to explore the forest by hiking the secluded backcountry trails and watching these animals in their natural abode. Easily walk off from the park area thronged with visitors and explore by foot, river rafting in white waters and horseback.
Apart from the number of hot springs and geysers that are scattered in Yellowstone, there are a few places untouched and serene known mostly by the locals or the guides of Austin Lehman. There are the beautiful Absaroka Mountains, extraordinary Grand Canyons and the unforgettable experience of seeing firsthand the most popular geyser in the world, Old Faithful.
Plan your Yellowstone vacation adventure today by visiting us online to review our 2012 catalog.
Nothing can make you feel more alive than the rush of adrenaline when you jump off a waterfall or trek through steep canyons to reach the Havasupai base camp. Adventure vacations for couples are designed especially for those looking for a getaway from the routine life or those looking to make that special connection like honeymooners. Wouldn’t it be great fun to face your fears with your partner and spend the night at the foot of a canyon? This beautiful and spiritual experience so close to nature adds a touch of romance to your adventure filled trip.
The long and arduous hiking will be well rewarded once you reach below the falls. Swimming and playing in the cool waters of these gorgeous pools are truly worth the effort. The clear blue water of Havasupai Falls is commonly pictured in calendars and postcards. Carbon and magnesium minerals are found naturally in these waters, and you can explore an old Galena mine and maybe even get lucky to find a fossil for your loved one. The amazing fact about Havasupai is that it is one of the world’s most remote villages, and general supplies like food and groceries are still delivered by horseback. The village is scenic with wide sandy beaches and lots of cottonwood trees for relaxation.
Make plans now to explore this Arizona treasure by booking your adventure online today.
The Yellowstone Park has activities for everyone in the family. Kids enjoy looking at nature’s amazing fountains, the geysers or stopping by the hot springs before a pleasant horseback ride. They can also join the Junior Ranger program where they learn more about the interesting things in the park and earn their ranger’s patch when they finish all the activities in the brochure.
Older teens and adults experience the full features of Yellowstone with hiking, rafting or camping. There is also plenty of time to learn fly-fishing and kayaking through the park’s clear water channels. Others enjoy safari-like adventures in some of our Yellowstone National Park vacation packages. These allow you to spend the day at Hayden Valley watching bison, elk, deer and wolves. If you are lucky, you might even spot a grizzly bear…from afar of course!
Many visitors to Yellowstone enjoy the majestic landscape and spectacular scenery. The family’s adventurous spirit will be ignited as the park presents different opportunities for adventure and education as children learn more about different geological features and wildlife.
Plan your family’s Yellowstone trip this year by visiting our online catalog to learn more about all the great activities available in our vacation travel itineraries.
Carol getting to know the locals!
Over the past 13 seasons I have had the pleasure of working with many guests, helping them choose the adventure that is just right for them. That said, my favorite trips to plan are customs vacations and or exclusive adventures. I love going from A-Z, start to finish with the group, family, or just friends getting together for that special adventure vacation of a lifetime. Nothing gives me a better sense of accomplishment than knowing its another trip well done!
So many times I have heard conversations like this: “At dinner with the Smith’s last week my husband John mentioned we were looking to take our family to Alaska and then the Smith’s chimed in they too were looking for an Alaskan Adventure. We started talking and mentioned we had such an amazing Family Adventure to Yellowstone with Austin-Lehman Adventures, we offered to make the call. The Smith’s then went on to mention their friends the Jone’s were talking about an Alaska Adventure as well. So I volunteered to call you”.
And there is starts…. You find yourself “chairing” the planning and scheduling of an adventure vacation for 3 families, with lots of different ideas, dreams and expectations. No need to be worried, every great experience starts with that first step…. And that first step doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
In the next few minutes I am going to try and share some simple steps I have learned and used these last dozen plus years. I will try and take away a bit of the anxiety and put in a dose of reality and a pinch of fun! These 12 steps can be used for an extended multigenerational family vacationor corporate retreat, for a singles getaway for that special group of girlfriends or just you and yours wanting something really special.
Without boasting I will take a minute and share just a few of my favorites these last few years….
How about the Grandfather that called wanting help in taking his two grandchildren on a National Parks Vacation. The catch being they wanted to do 5 National Parks in 6 days by private jet… we made it happen!
Or there was the very special 60th birthday party on the island of Kaui for a dozen friends celebrating this special occasion. The special day and moment came at sunset, standing in the surf, cocktail in hand as the Hawaiian Trio played and a helicopter dropped rose peddles from the sky… (OK that’s one of my favorites and doesn’t happen every day).
One more was a custom Yellowstone National Park adventure for the mother, her sons, their spouses and their children. 3 generations, 20 willing adventurers of all ages and desires. Everything from horseback riding, rafting, hiking, to wine tasting (for the adults while the kids were treated to a poolside pizza party)
The point is, anything and everything for anyone is possible! It just starts with that first step (call) and we will do our part to make it as easy as possible.
Key is information and education… you first need to determine a rough idea of who the group is and what they may want. So before you get too far into it, try kicking things off with a “get together” of the key decision makers. Be prepared to ask at least the following questions and take copious notes…
1. Narrow down your destination, its ok to have a couple but not more than three. Keeping it simple really helps when trying to decide. Be sure to agree on domestic or foreign.
2. When is the best time for everyone (caution here, this can be a big challenge), try and get all to block out at least a few dates.
3. Budget- Better get what the budget is or can be on the table early in the process.
4. Wish List- Next up key activities and the wish list of everything you want to do. (Horseback riding, rafting, biking, etc..)
5. Get an idea (this ties back to budget) on type of accommodations and or camping… try and get a consensus. Example: 4 start Lodges.
6. Length- Also tied to budget is the overall length, be sure to allow a day or two on either end for traveling.
** OK, now armed with the above you are ready to “make a few calls” or emails for that matter (with Custom and Exclusive adventures I prefer). Pick one or two tour operators (preferably from personal experience and or direct referrals, with googling up on the internet a distant 3rd choice). Then pick up the phone and give them a call! (refer to: http://www.austinlehman.com/choosing-a-tour-operator-pages-477.php , for some additional tips and tricks for picking a Tour Operator)
7. Be up front and let them know you are just the spokesperson for a group and describe the demographics of your party!
8. Work with your adventure consultant to come up with 2-3 detailed rough and simple itineraries. Do not put endless hours into the details until you have a few sample itineraries to supply your group. No need to flesh out what you are doing on day 3 until you have determined if you are going to Alaska or Belize on your adventure. Get a budget on the 2-3 itineraries and take back to your party.
9. Almost Ready- Armed with a rough itinerary, budget, destination and dates, you will soon find out how easy it’s going to be… often this is the case, but occasionally its back to the drawing board. But if you did 1-6 above, you should be dang close and should be able to get everyone to agree on at least the next phase.
10. Top Pick- Once you have that “top pick” ask for the nuances from the group. What they really like, what might be missing, special events (birthdates, anniversaries, etc.) and take this information back to your adventure consultant. Share all the details…
11. Remember- With all this in place you should be able to get a final itinerary (remembering it’s a Custom/Exclusive Vacation and can be adjusted at any point, including while on the fly, ask me and I will tell you a few fun ones). With the final itinerary you should be able to lock in dates and pricing.
12. The last step should be even simpler, now hand it off to your adventure consultant you have been working with and their team to work with all the individuals to get the final details, deposits, paperwork, insurance, etc., all in place. This doesn’t have to be your choir, it’s what they (we) get paid to do. All we need is the list of participants and contact information.
Now step back.. there will be a lot of back and forth, a lot of Q&A before the actual trip, but relax, you did your part (and a great job you did I might add).
When the day finally arrives and you find yourself heading out to enjoy the adventure of a lifetime with the fellow travelers you help get on their way, you will smile ear to ear with the extra satisfaction that comes with being a key contributor in creating the perfect Custom Vacation!
In closing I will share one of my most memorable compliments, it came from a grandmother that I worked with to arrange a 80th birthday trip for her husband, adult children and grand children to Costa Rica. She called me from the hotel in Gunancaste to tell me how perfect and fantastic everything was. A couple of years later I had the pleasure of working with her again to plan a trip with the family for her 75th birthday. We are already talking about what we are going to do for his 90TH!
your friendly travel expert,
Fact is a week doesn’t go by where someone doesn’t ask me… ”how to I plan the perfect family adventure vacation?” Seems after 20 plus years in the adventure travel business I just take it for granted that everyone just “knows”.
Over the years we have published a lot of good help and planning resources for finding the perfect adventure vacation, well this time I am going to really try and focus on how to plan a family vacation and what it takes to make it all flow so seamlessly.
As I have mentioned in the past, the first thing I always suggest is to involve everyone. This is even more important with family vacations, give the kids a voice and even some responsibilities. Make a game out of it… with challenges and rewards. Maybe consider starting with a pizza party kick off (remember to surf the web and perhaps order some catalogs to have as idea generators)
Early on in the process start with keeping good notes and/or files. Consider a “questionnaire” a document that can be a baseline of Q&A as you march forward. Again, don’t forget the kids in this process…. Ask questions like:
- What was your favorite family vacation in the past and why?
- If you could pick anywhere in the world (besides Disneyland) where might it be and why?
- What are you most looking forward to on vacation? Biking, hiking, rafting, horseback riding, etc..
- What is really important to you to have at hotels?
- If you could try something you have never done before what might it be?
From there start thinking about when you can best schedule your vacation around schools, sports, camp, etc… Try and pick as many dates as possible and don’t overlook early summer! That can often be a great time with fewer crowds and better weather.
Better add in some soul searching in the budget… we all know that traveling with a family of 4 can get expensive. In addition to the trip you also have airfares and more… (more on that in a minute). One way to look at it is on a “per night basis” this can lead you to either a 2-3 star or 4 and 5 star. You can often use 350-450 a night for a good higher-end program. Obviously a 5 Star Luxury Safari in Africa could cost you upwards of a thousand dollars a day…
Don’t overlook another budget option, do you want one or two rooms? Often tour operators are more inclined to offer a bit bigger child discounts if your children are sharing a room. Just remember at some point in life, little Johnny no longer wants to share a bed with his little sister and vice versa…
Once you have a budget and dates, you can start thinking duration. Be sure to allow a few days on either end for delays and/or just getting adjusted back to real life…
Now go back and start looking at all the “wish lists”, look for common themes. If you see that everyone is looking forward to horseback riding, well you better start looking at destinations and trips that include that element. Another big one is often water activities: rafting, snorkeling, etc… We don’t want to send you to the desert if everyone is looking forward to swimming every day.
Same concept applies to the destinations… Are you looking for a National Park like Yellowstone or Yosemite? Or are you looking into a more far off destination like a safari in Africa or a biking tour in Europe? Try your best to narrow it down to 3 options or less….
This is where establishing the rapport with a good tour operator or two now comes into play… Call them up and tell them what you are thinking, here is an example: “We are thinking of a few vacation options… Yellowstone National Park, maybe a camping trip in Montana or an adventure in the Canadian Rockies. We are thinking 5 or 6 nights and we really want at least a day of horseback riding and perhaps some white water rafting. We are looking for the first two weeks of June, we would like 2 rooms and our budget is about XXX a day each.”
Right there is enough to give any good tour operator enough insight to put a few options out in front of you (to take back to the pizza bargaining table with the entire crew)
Now that you have a really good idea of where, start looking at the host city. This is the city that the trip starts, if you’re on the east coast then just know that getting to the west coast can add a day and a bit of a higher price tag for flights. Do not overlook driving, some of my best memories and that of our guests have been on the 1-2 or 3 day road trip to the destination. Just be sure to ask your tour operator if there is a place you can park your car at the beginning of the trip at no charge.
OK with all this behind you, you should be close to picking your dream vacation. Now don’t make that the end of the experience and just wait for departure day. Suggest to all that they challenge themselves to learn a bit about the destination, this just makes it all come together that much more when you arrive (and it keeps your guides on their toes).
One last suggestion (for today anyways) make sure everyone has a camera, the little point and shoot digitals have gotten so cheap its not out of the question to have one for all. There are also the disposables and/or waterproof disposables. Maybe even one of those crazy “flip” video cameras. When you get home, everyone can relive the perfect family adventure vacation as they work together to put together the perfect vacation photo album!
Key is… just get out and enjoy this great big wonderful world we live in!
During the drive we had a very interesting conversation regarding HIV and AIDs in Africa. Growing up, what I largely remember about Africa is the AIDs problem and how terrified I was of it. I had to know whether or not it was something that also concerned Carmin, as she grew up in South Africa. She said it absolutely had been something that scared her! From our conversation I discovered that all of Africa suffers from the HIV and AIDs problem and that it was particularly prevalent along the trucking routes through the continent. Many African cultures regarded wearing a condom as emasculating for men and the idea of discussing HIV as taboo, which made the infection spread much more quickly. Tefo told us that there is a newspaper writer and a radio host that both are open about their HIV infection and encourage discourse regarding the issue. Also, it is required that you be blood tested before you get a job and every two years thereafter.
After driving for around four hours, we arrived at Ant’s Nest. Carmin has found us the most amazing place to stay. I am blown away by the rustic magnificence and tranquility of the lodge.
Our hosts, lodge managers Peter and Helen, are very welcoming and engaging. As soon as we arrived we discovered that Carmin had reserved the entire place for us as it is rented on an exclusive basis. I felt like I was in a reality TV show for a moment because we were sent to look at all the different rooms, everyone had to pick one. Dan and Dennis’s rooms were chosen quickly, and Carmin told me to pick whichever room I wanted. I wound up with an amazing suite!
All of the rooms here have thatched roofs that smell wonderful like sweet hay. The attention to detail in decorating is incredible. Dennis asked about the room dÃcor and we were told that Tessa (one of the owners) decorated them in a Kenya theme as she is from there. I kept pacing from living room to bedroom to bathroom completely speechless.
Upon our arrival we’d decided to go on an excursion in the jeep to view animals. After tea and chocolate cake, we headed out and it was not long at all before we had our first sighting a cluster of zebras. They’re so beautiful! We all thought they were posing for Dennis. I think they may be my favorite safari animal so far. We also spotted impala (much smaller than I imagined), warthog, blue wildebeest and kudu on the drive.
Everyone kept having to shoosh me! It was so exciting to see these animals in their natural habitat. We are also lucky to have arrived after the first heavy rains of the season so the grass is young and bright green. Impalas have the ability to become pregnant but not give birth right away holding their babies inside themselves until conditions are just right. Due to the abundance of grass after the long dry season, the impala just started giving birth, so there are tons of little ones running around! As we drove along, despite the fact that Dan taught me what to look for in animal spotting, I was busy staring far into the distance at the beautiful green, tree-covered hills and blue sky with sparse puffy white clouds when I heard Carmin telling us there was something on our left.
Three incredibly tall giraffe heads extended over the trees and bushes where they had been eating. I felt so oblivious for not even noticing them at first. They were so remarkable! There were two females (cows) and one male (a bull). We hopped out of the jeep at Peter’s suggestion and tried to get a little closer. It wasn’t long before they ran away at full speed but even that was a lovely sight.
The sun was getting low in the sky, and as we rounded a bend and came into a clearing, I noticed lawn chairs set up for all of us, including a table with drinks and snacks. We were able to watch the sunset and relax with a gin and tonic. Carmin said Gin and tonics are the quintessential old-time African drink because the gin contains quinine which drives mosquitoes away.
Dinner this evening was served outside at the lodge. The star filled sky, unpolluted by city lights, was our backdrop. Midway through dinner our hosts heard snorting from beyond the courtyard. Four white rhinos had wandered over and were pulling up the grass to eat. It was so unreal! We were so close to them we could clearly see their heavily textured skin and big, jutting horns! Dinner was absolutely delicious as well stuffed peppers as an appetizer, beef fillet with chunky fried potatoes and sweet beans as the main course, and a chocolate torte with ice cream and raspberry sauce. Everything was complemented by a cabernet sauvignon/shiraz blend from the Stellenbosch wine region we’d visited the day before. I am so looking forward to another day at the Ant’s Nest. Tomorrow morning we’re heading out on horseback to see more animals!