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Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Part 5: Adventure Vacations for Families

In Adventure, Family Fun, Travel on July 13, 2012 at 10:05 am

Closing out the week with the last of the Top 10 adventure vacations for families are, the Galapagos Islands and Costa Rica! But be sure to read to the end, because Laura couldn’t stop at just 10. She included even more ideas to inspire you to get out and travel!

9.  Get Up Close in the Galapagos

Location: Fly into Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Then fly 600 miles over the Pacific to the Galapagos Islands.

Accommodations: Small ship (16-100 passenger) on sailing trips (recommended).

Small inn or boutique hotels on land based trip.

Activities: Hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, wild life, bird watching, exploring by panga, beach fun

Go eye to eye with wild animals.  Snorkel with sea lions, swim with penguins or wade with stingrays.  Meet a giant tortoise or tiptoe around hundreds of marine iguanas.  (Honestly, if you get too close, they will spit.)  Climb to the top of a volcano or hike along black lava fields.  Watch a comical blue footed booby do it’s mating dance or peek in on a mama bird tending her babies. The Galapagos is a cluster of islands, each with its own unique terrain.  The national park, beautifully preserved by the people of Ecuador, is like a journey back in time.  This means no mass tourism, crowds or large cruise ships allowed.  All visitors take boats with trained naturalist travel guides leading the way. They provide a wealth of information on history, geography, and animals of the islands.  You will find yourself inches away from a collection of creatures unlike anywhere else in the world…Wildlife is unbelievably approachable in these islands made famous by Charles Darwin with his theory of evolution.

10 night cruise starts at $3849 per person, all inclusive.

There is a huge variety of choices for this region with trips customizable to your interests.

10.  Go Beyond a Vacation in Costa Rica

Location: Starting in San Jose, Costa Rica

Accommodations: Small inns, cabins, huts and boutique hotels

Activities: Hiking, whitewater rafting, zip lining, swimming, beach time, farm visits, hangin’ with the locals

Pura Vida!  This charming Central American country is a haven for active adventurers, and ecological-minded families. Costa Rica has amazingly diverse terrain, weather, activities and culture.  This is a place to challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone.  There’s so much to see and do here, you will be hard pressed to take it all in.  Zip-line over the cloud forest canopy, ride the rapids of thePacuare River through the rainforest, or hike around an active volcano.  Look for howler monkeys and sloths as you teeter across a suspension bridge, or slip into the jungle on a night hike in search of the ever-elusive poison dart frog.  Pick fresh exotic fruits at an organic farm and press your own sugar cane.  Sway in a hammock at an off-the-grid eco-lodge and make your own chocolate for dessert.  Swim in the surf of the Caribbean at dawn.  Soak in the local hot springs or play soccer with friendly villagers.  Big action and exotic wildlife may be what brings you here, but the warm, genuine nature of the Tico people is what you will remember most.

Cost: A typical 10 day trip starts at $1850 per person.

Note: All prices above are starting prices (subject to change) and do not include taxes, tip or airfare.

Honorable Mention: OK, it was painful to limit this list to just 10 places.  The world is a wonderfully big place and we’re just scratching the surface…  Here are a few other faves:

11.  White Water Rafting out West: Pulse pounding fun right here in the good ol’U.S.A.  Trips for any skill level from beginners to adrenaline junkies.

 12.  Paddle Impossibly Blue Waters of Belize: Stay in rustic cabanas or canvas cabins with no electricity on remote barrier reef islands. Snorkel, kayak, paddle board, fish, play volleyball, hang in your hammock or dance with the locals. On the mainland, float into the darkness of an underground river cave, hike the jungles and climb ancient Mayan ruins.

13.  Sailing Croatia: With just a handful of guests, a cook, a captain and a guide, set sail on a sweet little yacht. Explore remote islands, secret beaches and coves, and take in this Mediterranean gem. Hike, bike, swim, snorkel or kayak.

14.  Biking Europe: You name the country and there’s a great guided biking trip available.  Mix local culture and cuisine with great scenery, history, exercise and family bonding.  Plenty of down time to swim or just relax.

15.  Hiking the Dolomites: Northern Italy’s Alps areEurope’s best kept secret.  Escape the crowds and get away. Everywhere you turn, the scenery is postcard perfect. This mountain range of steep limestone cliffs, peaks, spires and gorges, borders Austria,Switzerland andItaly. The region is a melting pot of art, architecture, people and food. Meet the locals at cozy inns, on a cable car or at mountain cafes with edge-of-the-world views.

Give Back; you’ll be glad you did.

Pack with a purpose: Tote a little extra and bring clothes, toys, school or medical items for the locals. Use available space in your luggage to provide much-needed supplies. You can make a big impact on the lives of children and families in the community you visit.

Volunteer: Ask how you can give your time and energy on your trip. Reach out and spend a few hours or a few days doing a service project. There’s no better way to learn about a culture and earn respect than to work side by side with locals. Make friends and make a difference. Pick a project you’re passionate about and leave your destination a better place.

Financial Aid: We all know cash counts.  Make a monetary donation, sponsor a child or champion a fundraiser for a reputable charity.  Ask your agent for ideas on how to help.

 “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

We would love to hear comments on your favorite adventure destinations too!

My husband Ted and I own Go Custom Travel in North Bend, WA outside of Seattle.  We specialize in active vacations and off-the-beaten-path adventures… Basically, we dream up cool getaways for families and groups.  Every now and then, we get to jump out and experience some of the things we conjure up.  For more information, visit: www.facebook.com/GoCustomTravel

Part 4: Adventure Vacations for Families

In Adventure, Family Fun, Travel on July 12, 2012 at 8:59 am

More adventure vacation ideas for your family!

7.  Go Wild in Africa

Location: Tanzania

Accommodations: Unique lodges and boutique hotels (mid-price range)

Activities: Game drive expeditions with amazing wildlife viewing, walking or hiking tours, swimming, beach time.  Optional luxury tent camping, hot air ballooning, mountain climbing, and bike riding.

Tanzaniais unforgettable and exciting with its fascinating balance between wildlife, landscapes and people. The options here are endless… Venture out on a spectacular game drive to track zebras, elephants, leopards and rhinos. See the storied “Big Five” game animals in action. The vast plains of the Serengeti are home to more than two million wild animals. You’ll be treated to a private safari customized in a spacious Land Cruiser just for your family led by a professional naturalist guide. This is a perfect multi-generational trip for grandparents and kids alike. See the sun spill across the savannah as you sip our morning coffee from the lodge set high on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater… the world’s largest extinct volcano. Stroll barefoot along the pristine white sands of the spice island of Zanzibar.  Add a spectacular balloon safari, ride bikes between villages or climb the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro. Most importantly, experience the culture, warmth and beauty of the African people. Yes, this is the trip of a lifetime.

Cost: 7 night/8 day expedition starts at $2210 per person for a party of six.

Prices vary by destination, activity, lodging choice and number of travelers.

Option: Additional excursions, lodging upgrades, including luxury tent camping, available

Note: Group tours or custom adventures also available inKenya and South Africa.

8.  Find your bliss in Fiji

Location: Navini Island in the Mamanucas

Accommodations: Roomy beachfront bure (traditional Fijian hut) with hand carved furniture and full amenities.

Activities: Snorkeling, kayaking, sailing, fishing, explore neighboring islands, volleyball, visit a village, local games and traditional ceremonies.

Bula and welcome to Fiji!  This is the ultimate way to experience the dreamy scenery, spectacular waters and happy culture, of the South Pacific.  Escape the tourists and inflated prices of the big resorts. No crowds and no invasion of day trippers here.  This tiny island is for guests only, just one hour from the airport.  With only 10 bures (traditional Fijian huts) and a friendly staff of 36 (outnumbering visitors) you’ll feel like you are on your own private island.  Because there are so few guests and so many staff, you experience true Fijian culture and warm hospitality. Play vidi vidi board game with the locals, and feast on a traditional Fijian lovo dinner taken steaming from the underground oven.  Sing and dance during the kava ceremony. Here time is your own to do as little or as much as you like.  With a crystal-clear coral reef sanctuary to play in and complimentary water sports, you will be in a marine nirvana. After an action packed day, sprawl out under a thatched umbrella to read a book or have an outdoor Fijian massage with a fresh tropical flower in your hair.  Aaaahhh… pure heaven!

Cost: 7 nights starting at $4069 for a family of four.

Includes meals, most activities and round trip boat transportation from the Nadi airport.

Note: Boat transportation from airport is additional for less than a 7 night stay.

Option: Highlands whitewater rafting on the main island of Viti Levu.  Explore lush rainforest, narrow canyons and hidden waterfalls.

Part 3: Adventure Vacations for Families

In Adventure, Family Fun, Travel on July 11, 2012 at 8:12 am

Welcome back! Here are two more fun-filled adventure vacations to check out.

5. Embark on a Tall Ship Sailing Adventure

Routes: Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltic and Costa Rica

Accommodations: Tall sailing ship with 170- 227 guests

Activities: Swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, island exploration

Not every cruise requires coat ‘n tie dining with strangers, hokey lounge singers, or all you can eat over-indulgent midnight buffets. Why cruise with thousands of others?  As an alternative to the mega ships, there is a wonderful array of small ship cruises out there. Visit ports untouched by the large cruise lines.  No need to jockey for a pool chair on a small ship.  Forget rigid schedules and relax or read a book while a local band plays some soft tropical tunes. The setting is casual and easygoing. One line, Star Clippers, is a particular favorite. They have the world’s largest and tallest sailing vessels, offering an authentic, grand sailboat experience. Climb the mast to look out from the crow’s nest. Help hoist the sails and drift away at sunset to your next island under full sail. Teens will have a fantastic time, but don’t expect kiddie programs. Rather than being sent away to kid’s club, you may find yourself on a scavenger hunt. Swim, play games and explore the islands together as a family.  Looking for more adventure?  Try the marina platform, which lowers from the stern for water sports.

Cost: 7 nights starting at $2075 per person

Includes free airfare to the Caribbean andCosta Rica (current promotion)

Note: Last minute deals occasionally available.

Option: Land excursions with a myriad of adventures

6. Take an Expedition in Alaska

Embarkation: Juneau, Ketchikan or Sitka, AK

Route: Along the Tongass National Forest

Accommodations: Small ship with 60- 76 guests

Activities: Kayaking, hiking, standup paddle boarding, snorkeling, glacier viewing, and exploring by skiff.  Hot tub on deck with mind-blowing, majestic views.

Skip the crowds, take your time and see Alaska in the way it was meant to be explored… on an expedition boat. Inner Sea Discoveries is the polar opposite of a mega cruise. With less than 80 guests, you can venture into fjords where big ships cannot.  Linger in the midst of a pod of spouting, whales. The boat has flexibility to change coarse if wildlife is spotted. Get up close to thundering tidewater glaciers and gaze at the vast wilderness. You’ll meander into rare, out-of-the-way places. The route follows the edges of the nation’s largest national forest, through pristine waters full of humpbacks and orcas, porpoise, sea lions, and seals. Bald eagles perch along the shoreline. On land, you might see bears, mountain goats, deer, mink, river otters, and maybe even, moose.

Cost: 7 night/8 day cruise starts at $1795 per person

Option: Land extension to Denali via dome train and flight seeing adventures

Read more about fun adventure getaways on Go Custom Travel’s facebook page and click “like.” https://www.facebook.com/#!/GoCustomTravel. You can also visit Laura’s webpage: http://www.gocustomtravel.com/Go/Welcome.html

Part 2: Adventure Vacations for Families

In Adventure, Family Fun, Travel on July 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm

The adventure goes on! Here are two more amazing vacations:

3. Hideaway from Civilization in a Yurt

Location: Baja, Mexico-Midriff Island region along the Sea of Cortez

Accommodations: Deluxe beachside yurts

Activities: Kayaking, desert hiking, whale watching, fishing, bird watching, volleyball, paddle boarding, snorkeling, sailing, boating, wake boarding and tubing

This is the definition of an off-the-grid journey. Travel to a remote wilderness lodge in Baja, Mexico with just eight comfy beachside yurts and a maximum of 24 guests.  But wait, this is not camping folks.  Each yurt has a fluffy queen bed with a down comforter and 500 thread-count sheets, a bathroom including a solar shower, composting toilet, covered deck and skylight roof. Family yurts even have a loft. Marine life is abundant. You are likely to see whales, dolphins, stingrays, and blue-footed boobies.  Snorkel with whale sharks (the world’s largest fish!) when in season.  Kayak through mangroves, go on guided desert hikes, dig up clams for an afternoon appetizer or fish for dinner.  Unwind in a hammock with unbelievable stars. Your odyssey begins with a private, small plane flight from San Diego down to Baja, followed by a thrilling boat trip on the Sea of Cortez to the lodge on a completely private bay. Fantastico!

Cost: 5 nights/6 days: Adults starting at $1695

Current promotion: Kids ½ price with a full price adult.

All meals, drinks, activities & R/T transportion from San Diego included.

Pre-stay San Diego hotel extra.

Option: Stay and play in San Diego for a few days.

4. Canoe through Ancient Canyons

Location: Moab, UT

Accommodations: Tent camping on river sandbars

Activities: Canoeing, hiking, swimming/river floating, splash fights, games

Paddle 60 miles of the Green River, part of the longest stretch of quiet wilderness water in the lower 48 states. Glide in awe through the labyrinth of canyons carved millions of years ago. The twisting, looping river winds its way between sheer, colorful sandstone walls, hundreds of feet high. Hike up to gorgeous vistas and keep an eye out for ancient Fremont Indian petroglyphs. Instigate splash fights from your canoe or just back-float in the warm water.  When you arrive at camp, play cards or monkeyball as tasty meals are prepared for you. Build castles on sand bars bigger than your back yard.  After dinner, hangout by the campfire and count the constellations.

Cost: 4 nights/5 days: Adults $600, kids $540

Option: Take a few extra days to explore spectacular Canyonlands or Arches National Park.

Read more about fun adventure getaways on Go Custom Travel’s facebook page and click “like.” https://www.facebook.com/#!/GoCustomTravel. You can also visit Laura’s webpage: http://www.gocustomtravel.com/Go/Welcome.html

Adventure Vacations for Families

In Adventure, Family Fun, Travel on July 9, 2012 at 8:57 am

It’s summer time! Hurray! Choosing a vacation can be a daunting task, especially if you have four or more people in your family disagreeing on destinations. If you are uncertain of where to go on your family trip, my guest, Laura Mandelkorn, (owner of Go Custom Travel) can give you some great ideas. Laura specializes in adventure travel, and she’s come up with a list of 10 fun vacations that even the surliest teenager will love.

I will be posting two at a time all week, so keep coming back every day to read about more exciting destinations. Thank you, Laura!

Go Play Outside!

Top 10 Family Adventures

By Laura Mandelkorn of Go Custom Travel

Like Mom always says, “Get outside and play!”

OK, it’s time to get wet, get dirty, explore, and do a hands-on excursion.

Everyone could use some vacay, and let’s face it—we are all a little too wired these days. Why not get off the grid and try an active, unplugged vacation?  My challenge to you: Leave town without gadgets and screens for a week. Seriously. No Facebook.  No smart phone… I know, “Gasp!”  You’d be amazed at how you forget the small stuff once you escape life’s little distractions, and how refreshing it is to be genuinely together on a journey with your favorite peeps.

Below is a list of family getaway ideas if you are ready to shake up the ol’ routine. Discover exciting places and experience something new. How about spicing it up a bit, and stepping out of your comfort zone to unleash your adventurous side?

Every kid wants big action.  No, this does not need to be death-defying.  Nothing beats the feeling of fresh air, a solid workout and the exhilaration of a challenge.  Adventure travel is definitely a bonding experience. Tackle the unknown and unexpected, work together, and take in all Mother Nature has to offer.  Relive the fun at dinner, savoring local cuisine and discussing the day’s epic adventures.  Or just flop out around the campfire, soak in the stars and be proud of what you have accomplished.  This is the stuff memories are made of…

1.Giddy-up at a Dude Ranch

Location: Northern Wyoming

Accommodations: Authentic western cabins, some over 100 years old

Activities: Riding, swimming, water slide, hiking, fishing, softball, dancing

It’s the quintessential place to relax and discover the freedom of the Old West. Ride off trail across open meadows, past red rock canyons, through crystal-clear creeks or on winding mountain trails. Enjoy private lessons, gorgeous vistas and infinite stretches of sky. Explore a spooky cave on an all day ride. Besides riding, there’s plenty of good ol’ fashioned fun: Fly fish, hike, play softball, bingo, swim, dance or plunk in a rocker on the porch and do nothing but listen to the crickets. When the dinner bell calls, dig into hearty home-cooked meals and retreat to your own rustic cabin. Tucked away in the Big Horn Mountains, our favorite ranch is grand: 7,000 acres manned by genuine cowboys tending to over 200 horses.

Cost: Adults $190-$245 per person per day, kids $140- $185

(depending on cabin category & date)

3 night minimum stay, 1 week suggested

1 week stay for a family of four in peak season typically about $5880

Option: Take a few extra days to explore nearby Yellowstone National Park.

2. Spot Orca Whales from a Kayak

Location: San Juan Islands, WA

Accommodations: Tent camping on a boat-in-only island

Be mighty and paddle in prime orca whale and bald eagle habitat.  Look for porpoises, seals, otters and herons.  Drift by an abandoned lighthouse and absorb the views of the Olympic Mountains in the sunny San Juan Islands of thePacific Northwest.  Camp on a pretty, little island only accessible by boat, and dine on fresh, organic fare. Guides specialize in Dutch oven campfire cuisine…YUM!

Cost: 2 nights/3 days: $579 per person.

Pre-excursion hotel is extra, or go camping, or even “Glamping” available (glamour camping).

Click “Like” on the Go Custom Travel facebook page to get more info on fun getaways. https://www.facebook.com/#!/GoCustomTravel

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