Far-Flung, Family-Friendly Destinations

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Far-flung, family-friendly destinations
Far-flung, family-friendly destinations

There is a rise in multigenerational travel due in large part to the fact that women are now the primary decision makers when it comes to purchasing. Apparently, wallet-wielding women place a high value on family bonding, which inevitably occurs through unique travel experiences. This is never truer than when traveling to far-flung destinations such as Africa or the Middle East.

In fact, these destinations are so rich with possibility, many tour operators have seen an increase in family bookings over the last few years, despite some political turmoil and unrest.

Scott Wiseman, president, Cox & Kings, The Americas, says, “Africa and the Middle East continue to show double-digit growth each year as family destinations. The reason is that they offer multiple generations the ability to share special experiences. Hot air balloon rides, hands-on philanthropy, private vehicles, private guides and a wide range of accommodations that can offer a family exclusive use of a property all work well to inspire family bonding. Of course, for parents, they appreciate that these journeys keep children engaged and not consumed by technology disruptions.”

Meanwhile, Phil Otterson, president, Abercrombie & Kent USA, speaks to the popularity of multigenerational travel in general. “We are seeing strong growth this year in multigenerational travel. When both parents work, a family vacation is often the most uninterrupted time they spend together. And since so many families now live in different parts of the country, a trip offers the opportunity to get everyone together. Of A&K’s family bookings, 67 percent traveled in a group of four or more and 10 percent traveled with eight or more, typically including grandparents or other extended family.”

a family affair in jordan & israel

“I will be traveling to Jordan next week with my two kids and taking them to some new sites in Jordan,” says Malia Asfour, director of the Jordan Tourism Board in North America. “I am especially excited to give them the opportunity to stay in the famous Feynan Ecolodge and to learn more about the traditions of the Bedouin people.”

Asfour points out that Jordan is an ideal destination for traveling with children. “It continues to amaze me how exciting and fresh my travels to Jordan continue to be with the many trips that I have taken with my children over the years that we have visited. The broad spectrum of things to do and places to visit, the marvels of Petra, Wadi Rum, Jerash, Amman and the Dead Sea; ancient sites; beautiful beaches with a wide array of watersports; the children’s museum and family attractions in the major cities—the Asfour family never tires of Jordan.”

Along those lines, travel agents looking for family tour packages to Jordan need look no further than SITA World Tours, which has been offering its most popular itinerary Jewels of Jordan for over a decade. This 6-day tour, starting at $1,850, kicks off in the capital, Amman, then takes families to the magnificent Nabataean city of Petra, the spectacular Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash, and finally, Lawrence of Arabia’s famous Wadi Rum. This trip is a mesmerizing East meets West experience for children as well as parents and grandparents.

“Jordan has always been a destination that is ripe and rich with culture, heritage and amazing sights,” says Laudie Hanou, v.p. of SITA World Tours. “And there is nothing better than to be able to experience it with family and friends.”

Similarly, Israel will always provide unforgettable memories for the entire family. Since most Israelis take vacations with their children, the destination is very child-friendly. Neomie Menahem, v.p., operations & reservations, Eastern Mediterranean, for Isram, says that one of the reasons family tours to Israel are so popular is that they often revolve around a birthday or special occasion such as a bar or bat mitzvah. “It may even be a sweet 16 birthday or the final family vacation before the kids go off to college,” says Menahem. “We often hear from the clients that it is a life- changing experience.”

One of Isram’s most popular tours, says Menahem, is the Ultimate Family & Bar/Bat Mitzvah group tour, with rates starting at $8,990. Although there’s a bar mitzvah ceremony, Menahem says the tour is ideally suited for families as Isram includes activities for youngsters, too. The tour includes an archaeological dig, a treasure hunt, a Bedouin tent dinner, kayaking or rafting on the River Jordan, and a visit to an Army base. “It is truly a bonding experience for the whole family,” Menahem adds.

bonding in morocco

Another tour operator keen on family bonding in Africa and the Middle East is Butterfield & Robinson. Known for its finely crafted itineraries that combine outdoor adventure with cultural immersion, this upscale tour operator has recently launched a Morocco Family Biking itinerary that starts at $4,495 and takes families on a cycling excursion through the very best of this magical land: exotic Marrakech, Berber villages, breathtaking oases, camel and donkey rides, kid-friendly kite surfing, ropes courses, delectable cuisine, the High Atlas Mountains and a remarkable sojourn in the stunning city of Essaouira.

Designed for children 12 and older, this 6-day itinerary involves easygoing to moderate exercise and introduces families to this exotic landscape through the seat of their pants—literally!

Cox & Kings, meanwhile, recommends its 10-day Moroccan Odyssey itinerary for families. The tour, with rates of $6,995 pp, takes families from Casablanca to Fez to Marrakech, and then finally onto Essaouira, a coastal fishing town that has been visited by everyone from the Phoenicians to the French and Orson Welles, who chose Essaouira’s imposing battlements as the setting for his movie, “Othello,” in 1949.

an authentic experience

Moving south toward the tip of the continent, South Africa, in particular, lends itself well to multigenerational travel. Sthu Zungu, president of South African Tourism, North America, says, “What makes South Africa appealing to grandparents and even young children is that our destination offers a vast spectrum of authentic experiences, from thrilling adventure and breathtaking wildlife to rich history and culture that bridges the generational gap.”

Along those lines, Terry von Guilleaume, Africa Specialist with South African Airways Vacations, says the company has seen a steady rise in multigenerational families looking for “that one off luxury trip.” In addition to a safari and Cape Town, he recommends adding the Garden Route to the itinerary for a few extra days, particularly for repeat visitors. One of SAA Vacations most popular family vacations, he says, is Sense of Southern Africa, which starts at $4,799 and provides the ideal glimpse into the best of Southern Africa and includes a stay in Cape Town, a safari, and a visit to the magnificent spectacle of Victoria Falls.

Another company that has mastered the art of family travel in Southern Africa is Norman Carr Safaris. Says Christina Carr, director of Norman Carr Safaris, “We have seen more families visiting Zambia that include children, parents and grandparents—ages 8 to 80. Why? Everyone loves nature and beauty and Zambia has both in spades—and families love game drives!”

Norman Carr’s Luangwa Lion Cubs’ safari based from Chinzombo or Kapani Lodge and bush camps in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, is designed with families in mind. This 7-night safari with dedicated specialist private guide and vehicle includes game drives that are tailored for children, and meals are served at times convenient to the family. Participants can also become a game ranger for a day. An expert guide and scout teaches them how to track game on foot and identify footprints and droppings, and they visit the local school and meet the children. They also learn how to eat the traditional Zambian way—sitting on the floor and eating with your hands—and learn how to make a traditional clay pot in the village and mold their own clay animals to take home. Call for rates.

Norman Carr Safaris offers a 7-night Luangwa Lion Cubs safari that's ideal for families.
Norman Carr Safaris offers a 7-night Luangwa Lion Cubs safari that’s ideal for families.

kids are the star

Abercrombie & Kent, of course, knows how to do Africa well and offers immersive experiences for the entire family.

Otterson recalls that a family of eight, encompassing three generations, recently traveled on an A&K luxury small group journey that featured Sanctuary Swala Camp in Tanzania specifically because the tour included two school visits. The matriarch of the family (the maternal grandmother) fondly recalled a visit to a school when she and her late husband first traveled with A&K on safari in the mid-1970s. Having been a teacher herself, she knew what it would mean for her family to contribute much-needed items to a school in rural Tanzania. Her grandchildren sold “marshmallow shooters” at parties and passed the hat at a concert they gave to buy musical instruments and school supplies. At Gijedabung School in Tanzania, they played their guitars with Maasai children who welcomed the family with songs played on traditional musical instruments.

Family clients looking for this sort of immersive experience can opt for A&K’s 8-day Tanzania Family Safari, priced from $6,475 and including the services of a children’s activity coordinator, who travels with the group and organizes activities for all age levels, a family treasure hunt through a famous market in the Ngorongoro Highlands, a visit with an elder at a Maasai village to learn about the traditional ways of these nomadic people, and a children-oriented game drive in the Serengeti.

Kenya, too, is seeing a rise in family bookings. Alyson Mark, U.S. PR manager for the Kenya Tourist Board, says, “Kenya has experienced significant growth in the family market over the past couple of years, and we don’t see this slowing down anytime soon. The destination is the ideal place to take the kids on safari, providing educational, fun, and unforgettable experiences for the whole family.”

One of the most exciting additions to Kenya’s family travel menu is Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp’s Maasai Warrior Class for little ones. Kids learn the ways of a warrior with the African bush as their classroom. Children visiting Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp in the Maasai Mara are invited to join in a Maasai Warrior session. Under the tutelage of Kinyaika, one of the oldest trackers in the business, and the Maasai team, children will learn the rare skills Maasai Warriors have mastered.

These skills, depending on age and ability, include fire making; spear throwing; bow and arrow practice; Maasai jumping, dancing and singing; and stone throwing. Children will also participate in a blessing ceremony. A certificate is given at the end of the experience, and, for those skilled enough to hit the targets, a wooden bow and (nonlethal) arrow is provided as a prize. Parents even have the opportunity to cheer on their happy kids from the sidelines.

Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp is located on an untouched exclusive concession bordering the Serengeti, Maasai Mara and Loliondo reserves, guaranteeing privacy and an abundance of wildlife. Families can choose from four family tented suites, which each consist of two en-suite bedrooms with a shared sitting/dining room, and a private house, which can accommodate up to 10 guests in five large en-suite bedrooms.

The Maasai Warrior School is a complimentary activity included within full board accommodation. Full board accommodation rates start at $530 pp sharing. Also included are bush meals and sundowners; bush walks; day and night game drives; transfers to cultural visits; transfers to Cottars Airstrip and limited laundry.

getting there

South African Airways offers an extensive route network throughout the region, with nonstop and one-stop flights from New York and Washington, D.C. to many of the aforementioned destinations, connecting, in most cases, via Johannesburg.

Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive):
It’s All in the Family in Israel (September 2012)

contact information
Abercrombie & Kent:
(888) 611-4711; abercrombiekent.com
Butterfield & Robinson: (866) 551-9090; butterfield.com or butterfield.com/login (travel agent login)
Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp: cottars.com
Cox & Kings: (800) 999-1758; coxandkingsusa.com or coxandkingsusa.com/content/travel-advisor-portal-login
Isram: (800) 223-7460; isram.com or isram.com/iw_travel/sigin.asp
Jordan Tourism Board: (877) SEE-JORDAN; visitjordan.com
Kenya Tourist Board: (310) 545-3047; magicalkenya.com
Norman Carr Safaris: normancarrsafaris.com
SITA World Tours: (800) 421-5643; sitatours.com or sitatours.com/AgentServices/index.php
South African Airways: flysaa.com
South African Airways Vacations: (855) FLY-SAAV; flysaavacations.com or flysaavacations.com/agents
South African Tourism: (800) 593-1318; southafrica.net or southafrica.net/trade/en/landing/trade-home