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Will children enjoy an escorted tour of Europe?

Hohenschwangau Castle Bavaria resize

Will children enjoy an escorted tour of Europe? As a general rule probably not, but there is an exception to every rule and Globus Family Travel has found the magic key to the successful family tour. Many tour companies let anyone join their family vacations, but Globus requires at least one child age 5-17 to be part of every family travel reservation. So your kids are guaranteed to have other kids along and that makes the tour more fun for everyone! Parents will connect with other parents and grandparents can do what they do best:  fawn over the grandchildren!

The love of travel is one of the greatest gifts you can give your children and it’s highly educational too. Kids actually visit the places they learn about in school, so history, art, architecture, even science comes to life with the help of a talented guide and life size props like the Colosseum of Rome, Big Ben in London or a castle in Bavaria!

Globus Tour Directors on the family tours are individuals who truly “get kids”.  They love to pass on their knowledge as well as colorful stories in a funny and engaging way that will capture even the youngest child’s attention.  The emphasis is on connecting:  children with other children, with parents and cultures, scenery and wildlife.

All of the activities and excursions on a Globus Family Tour are geared toward the children.  In London the double decker bus is used for sightseeing and a riverboat will take you to the London Eye.  You will travel from London to Paris underwater via the Chunnel at 150 miles an hour! Show your family Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower then head for the setting of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame where they can try counting the number of gargoyles! In Italy the kids can try straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa, enjoy Venice by gondola, decorate their own Venetian Carnival Mask and watch an amazing glassblower demonstration.

If Europe isn’t in the plans right now, how about a Grand Canyon adventure?  Kids and adults alike will enjoy the many species of wildlife, including bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, and lots of lizards!  Wouldn’t your children love a 4X4 Jeep tour of the Red Rock Country in Arizona…what fun!  Everyone will be in awe taking in the sights from the Grand Canyon Rim. Or you might jump back in history to the “Old West”!  Saddle up and ride a horse into Bryce Canyon retracing the trails taken by the notorious Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid and no visit to cowboy country would be complete without a Rodeo!  The kids are going to love the Bryce Canyon Country Rodeo, with mutton bustin’ and bull ridin’.

These are just a few of the Globus Family Tour options so if your family is looking for a great multi-generational experience they will remember forever please call or email me to discuss an escorted tour designed for families!

A great time for a Disney vacation!

If you’ve been waiting to treat the family to a Disneyland trip now is the time because “Kids Fly Free” is back and that really helps stretch your budget.  As an example, a family of four can stay 4 nights at Disneyland Hotel with park passes, airport transfers & roundtrip air from Seattle for less than $2800 and you get extra goodies like a $150 gift card!

You can reduce that cost hundreds more by staying outside the park and there are many hotels within walking distance of Disneyland.  If you’re not a walker, or choose to stay farther away, you can easily hop a ride on the Anaheim Resort Transport system.  ART will transfer you from your hotel to Disneyland and back for a very nominal fee and there are many scheduled departures throughout the day.

Weather in Southern California is generally good and April through June has temperatures in the mid to high 70’s with very little rain so that’s about perfect.

If you haven’t been to California Adventure yet, it’s located across the main walkway from Magic Kingdom and a “hopper pass” allows you to enjoy both parks as often as you’d like.  California Adventure has an awesome roller coaster called “California Screamin’”, and screamin’ is what you will be doing when this coaster speeds from zero to 55 mph is less than 5 seconds!

Another popular ride is white water rafting at “Grizzly River Run” (prepare to get wet) and the little ones will enjoy the 3D animation from “A Bugs Life”.

My personal favorite at California Adventure is “Soarin’ Over California”.  This ride simulates a glider flight over California and once you’re buckled in to your “airplane” seat you are off!  It’s amazing how authentic everything looks and feels…  if you’re like me, you’ll pick up your feet so they don’t get wet from the river water and duck your head to avoid a golf ball hit from Pebble Beach!

Outside the parks, Downtown Disney is a colorful, fun little town with shops and restaurants for everyone.  You’ll find every kind of Disney souvenir imaginable: luggage, clothing, movies, jewelry, etc.  Beyond the shops selling Disney merchandise, you’ll find Build-a-Bear Workshop, Department 56, Sephora and more.  And when you get hungry, two of the most popular restaurants would be Rainforest Café and House of Blues.

Disneyland and California Adventure are truly destinations for all ages and on every visit I discover something new! I hope you’ll call me when it’s time to plan your next family vacation.

Washington D.C.

A visit to Washington D. C. makes a fun and educational family vacation but to get the most from your visit you’ll need to plan ahead… in fact way ahead! Most of the major sights are open to the public and completely free. However they are extremely popular and crowded during any school break, so visitors without reservations often miss out.

If you’d like to include a White House tour, see Congress in action or visit the Bureau of Engraving, you’ll need to write one of your Senators 6-9 months before your planned arrival. In Washington State both Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell have email forms online so it’s pretty easy and it doesn’t hurt to contact both. Our family did and we got confirmations for the tours we requested plus the Library of Congress and Kennedy Center which offers free concerts every evening. Score!

You’ll also need reservations for the National Holocaust Museum, Washington Monument and an IMAX show or two. You’ll pay a few bucks in service fees but save literally hours standing in line (At 6:00 am) plus you can organize your sightseeing to avoid unnecessary backtracking and worn out feet.

Speaking of feet, D.C. has an excellent subway system but visitors will still spend a lot of time walking and standing. You’ll want comfortable walking shoes and an itinerary that incorporates rest breaks every few hours. A centrally located hotel such as the moderately priced Holiday Inn Capitol or more upscale Loews Enfant will also reduce wear and tear and make dining at night much easier.

The weather is most pleasant in the spring or fall while the summer months can be hot and winter quite cold. Our visit was timed for mid April and the Cherry Blossom Festival but nature was a bit contrary. 80 degree temperatures brought out the flowers but an unusually late snow storm knocked most of the blooms to the ground just days before the festival. Oh well!

If possible, I would plan 5-7 days in the city itself. Our family ranked the Museum of Space and Flight, Mt Vernon, the Holocaust Museum, the Monuments, Supreme Court and the Library of Congress as must do’s. The highlight of our vacation was observing a Senate debate and vote in Congress. (Both are much more interesting then they sound.) But that was a stroke of exceptional travel karma and not everyone will have that privilege! Interestingly enough, we were under whelmed by our specially arranged White House tour…

In a generous ½ day you can tour the major monuments by foot or by hop on hop off trolley. Start at the Washington Monument (You’ll need a reservation to go up to the top) and work your way around the loop to the WWII, Jefferson, FDR, Korean War, Lincoln, and Vietnam Memorials.

The Museum of Space and Flight can easily take a full day to explore.   I suggest you arrive early and take a free docent tour. These guys really know their stuff and you’ll still have lots of free time on your own. There is a good size food court and several excellent IMAX films when you need a break from Apollo rockets and the Wright Brother’s planes.

While the Museum of American History is closed for renovation (Until summer 2008) some of its most popular exhibits have been moved to the Air and Space Museum. This is where you’ll find Dorothy’s red slippers from the Wizard of OZ, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat and a gown worn by Jackie Kennedy.

Assuming you’ve planned ahead you need a full day for Capitol Hill. This will include a tour of Congress (ask if the Senate or House is in session and go if they are), the Library of Congress (D.C.’s most beautiful building) the Supreme Court (don’t miss the video interview of our current justices) and anything else you can fit in.

Although it wasn’t a highlight for us, you can’t leave Washington without seeing the White House. The structure and grounds are impressive but we were disappointed that even our “specially arranged congressional tour” was essentially self guided. With all the history and stories that should be shared they have really missed their mark here!

Mt. Vernon on the other hand is fabulous and needs another ½ day or longer. George Washington’s plantation home is interesting but the live interaction with “Martha” was outstanding as was the tour of the slave quarters. The museum on site deserves a few hours all by itself and there are several films we were unable to see. Don’t skimp on time!

The Museum of Natural History has dinosaurs, the Hope diamond, a walk through the ice age and formation of the seas, meteors, a recreated mining cave and more. Although it is a wonderful museum, several exhibits including the hall of dinosaurs are dwarfed by NYC’s museum of the same name.

If time permits you can tour the National Archives, Arlington Cemetery, Kennedy Center (don’t miss the free concerts), the Spy Museum, the Navy Yard, DAR Museum and another ½ dozen Smithsonian Museums including art museums, African History, Native American History and more.

All in all D.C. makes an excellent, fun and educational vacation for adults and children alike. An outstanding family vacation!

Trafalgar tour of U.S. Historic Sights

Last fall, my friend Carol and I decided that a Trafalgar escorted tour was the way to explore the historic sights of the east coast.  We were right!  It was a fantastic experience.   We learned so much about the early days of our country.

We flew into Washington, DC on Saturday.   The tour was to begin on Sunday, so we had a few hours to tour Washington on our own.  We booked a twilight tour, which was actually 4 hours long and took us to many sights:  Washington Monument, Capitol Building, Iwo Jima Monument, the new World War II monument, and many, many more.  It was really beautiful to see them lighted.  On Sunday we visited many of the same monuments, and many more, but saw them literally in a different light, since on Sunday we visited during the day.   

We also spent part of the day at the Smithsonian American History Museum.  This is my favorite Smithsonian Museum since it includes modern American culture, as well as early American history exhibits.  Among the exhibits are Dorothy’s Ruby Shoes from the Wizard of Oz, Archie Bunker’s chair from All in the Family, the First Ladies inaugural gowns (my favorite). 

On Monday we continued our tour by traveling to Mount Vernon, the home of our first president.  It is a beautiful home, overlooking the Potomac River.  From there we traveled to Yorktown, where British General Cornwallis surrendered to Washington, to end the Revolutionary War.   Over the Yorktown battlefield there are markers that indicate where different Army divisions fought in the Revolutionary War AND the Civil War. 

In my next blog, I will tell you about our “deer” experience in the Blue Ridge Mountains!


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