Tag Archives: multigenerational

Waterfall Agua Azul, Chiapas. Located in Mexico

Best Multigenerational Trips: Reviews from our Travelers

We see it all the time: Grandparents want to take three generations on a memorable trip—but they don’t know where to go. So we’ve compiled below reviews of our favorite multigenerational trips. Our Trusted Travel Experts know how to negotiate the particular challenges of a group that spans decades: varied interests and activity levels, reduced mobility for some, the logistics of a large group, and more. Here’s what it means to get a WOW trip. If you’re not sure where you want to go, Ask Wendy—we’d be happy to give you a personalized recommendation for your next multigenerational getaway.

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Caribbean: a private yacht charter delights everyone, from ages 4 to 70+

aerial photo of Tobacco Caye with sailboat and blue green ocean

A chartered catamaran approaches Tobacco Caye, off the coast of Belize. Photo: Absolute Belize

“We are just back from a phenomenal multi-generational family trip to Belize. Patricia had to coordinate a trip that worked for people from ages 4 to 70+. A catamaran charter had not been on my radar, and I had my concerns—having two young children on a boat for five days, in such a small space, seemed like it could go sideways quickly—but Patricia was absolutely right in her recommendation, and it truly was a superb experience.

Eric and Hannah, our captain and first mate, cared for our whole family with such kindness and positivity, and by the end of the trip we felt like we had two new friends. The food Hannah prepared was incredible—I wish I could get her recipes!—and Eric was a superb snorkeling guide. He was very patient with my seven-year-old when he was hesitant to get in the ocean, and then when he knew my seven-year-old was interested in eels, Eric found an eel and coaxed it out of the coral. He also caught fresh lobster for our meal and let my four-year-old help drive the boat. Hannah even offered to watch our younger son onboard so that both my husband and I could go snorkeling at the same time with our older son—we came back to see them playing games together at the table on deck…. Truly above and beyond!

The catamaran itinerary was excellent. They took us to spots where they knew stingrays would appear, so my kids could pet them. On Rendezvous Caye, Eric knew the caretaker, and the caretaker was happy to cut up a fish for us so we could all try feeding the stingrays. At Goff’s Caye, Eric introduced us to Gilroy, who taught my kids how to hunt for hermit crabs—they loved having hermit crab races on the beach. Hannah consistently packed snacks for our excursions, had amazing appetizers and drinks waiting for us upon our return, and was so accommodating of our kids’ limited palates.

It was truly an outstanding trip, flawlessly executed and one of the best values for the money that I can think of in terms of our travels.” —Kim Segal

Read more reviews of Belize trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Australia: boating on Sydney Harbor, bridge climb, koalas & kangaroos…

View of Sydney from the Harbour BridgeClimb Australia

Family members daring enough to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge enjoy this view. Photo: Destination NSW

Stuart and Jacki prepared an amazing itinerary for our trip to Australia in December. Jacki and the driver met us at the Sydney airport on a Sunday morning at 7am—how amazing to be met by the person who made our arrangements! She suggested the Langham Sydney, and we would be using it as a home base, as we went to Uluru (Longitude 131—an amazing hotel that even prepared a bed outside if you wanted to sleep under the stars), back to Sydney, followed by a trip to the Blue Mountains (Spicers Sangoma Retreat), and then a final 5-night stay in Sydney. Our guide in the Blue Mountains was Tim, and he knew every back road and all the locations for a beautiful view. Our WOW Moment was a sunset boat ride with drinks, and the weather was perfect for it.

The children and grandchildren arrived for the last 4 nights, and she planned a great itinerary for all of us, ages 2 to 70: a Christmas carol concert at the Opera House, drivers for everything (the driver even took a video of us from above taking the Bondi Beach walk—all 9 of us), a harbor boat trip with lunch and swimming, the Sydney Bridge Climb, a private tour of the Rocks, an Aussie Backyard Tour at the zoo, and a lovely day in Hobart, visiting Russell Falls and Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

Our granddaughter needed a doctor, and Jacki provided a list of doctors (outside of regular hours and during the Christmas holiday!) and Tyler (the Langham’s concierge that day) made repeated calls to get us an appointment. Both Jacki and Stuart followed up with her status. The parents were very impressed with Children’s Hospital in Sydney where she was treated, and we went on with our trip. We will be using Stuart and Jacki again for our next trip to Australia—they just made it so easy!” —Denise Staal

Read more reviews of Australia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Galapagos, Andes, Amazon: island wildlife, countryside hacienda, remote eco-lodge…

Travelers and a giant tortoise in the Galapagos.

Lauren Schor and family catch up with a giant tortoise in the Galapagos.

Allie did an amazing job planning our 13-day multi-generational family trip to Ecuador for Christmas. We started planning almost a year in advance. Most accommodations are smaller, with about 20 rooms total, and I would definitely suggest planning this trip well in advance, as availability dictated the outline of our trip from the beginning of the planning process. And we LOVED all of the places we stayed!

Allie suggested destinations she thought were right for us, based on our travel style and age range. In the Galapagos Islands we opted for a land-based trip rather than a cruise, and although we didn’t get to see as many islands as we would have if we’d stayed on a boat, we were very happy with our choice. We spent four days in the Galapagos (two on land exploring Santa Cruz Island—so much to see and do) and two at sea exploring multiple islands in the archipelago. Allie even arranged for a private family photo shoot on the most beautiful beach!

Next stop was in the Andes mountains back on the mainland at an amazing hacienda where we really got a feel for the culture of the country. After a couple of days here, it was time for the grand finale, the Amazon rainforest. We all thought the Galapagos would be the main highlight of a trip to Ecuador, but the Amazon was just mind-blowing. Allie sent us to the most amazing eco-lodge in a very remote location where we spent three nights. Definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Ecuador was very unique in that we were able to spend time in the Galapagos, the Andes Mountains and the Amazon all in one trip! Just be aware, we had a lot of very early mornings and very little downtime (naps during transit were common). Some of the excursions can be physically challenging if you don’t have great balance or stamina, especially combined with the strong equator sun. And there is a lot of moving around and time spent traveling from one place to another. However, it was all 100% worth it! Allie planned the trip of a lifetime for our family of eight!” —Lauren Schor

Read more reviews of Galapagos and Amazon trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Kenya: a safari camp all to themselves & beach time on the Indian Ocean

Robin Carlson

Robin Carlson and family at Instinct of the Mara, a camp that they had all to themselves.

Julian planned a memorable trip to Kenya for our extended family of 11 people, including grandkids ranging in age from 11 to 17. We planned to arrive in Nairobi a day before we needed to leave for our first camp, to give ourselves a little time to recover from the flights. Although we thought we had plenty of time to make our connection in Amsterdam, a long delay caused us to miss our flight to Nairobi. Because we were expected in Nairobi for a morning visit to the Giraffe Center, I contacted Julian and Lisa to let them know of our arrival changes. They were able to change the Giraffe Center visit to our last day in Kenya instead of the first.

Julian suggested we start at Sweetwaters Serena Camp, so we could see rhinos. It was a perfect start. There was a water hole opposite the tents, so animals were coming and going all day and night. Meals were buffet-style, which provided plenty of options for everyone, including kids and vegetarians.

Then we flew to Instinct of the Mara for four days. We had booked two 2-bedroom suites, as well as a room for my husband and me. We were lucky to arrive in time for the beginning of the Great Migration, which was awe inspiring. Except for one day when we saw a few other vehicles, we were alone among the animals. One evening we had a sundowner with lamb roasted on a spit by the Maasai while we watched the sun set.

Our final stop was Cardamom House on the Indian Ocean. It’s a beautiful, very private spot. We enjoyed relaxing and swimming. I had requested a birthday cake for my granddaughter, and the staff went all out. The chairs were decorated with balloons. They brought cake and ice cream and sang to her. She said: best birthday ever.”—Robin Carlson

Read more reviews of African Safari trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Iceland: ice caves, geysers & waterfalls with 2 teens

Foggy day on an ice cave tour in Iceland

Barbara Fierman, her husband, and their grandsons geared up to explore an ice cave under a glacier.

“The timing, both time of year and number of days, was perfect for a trip with our two 14-year-old grandsons. We knew that the boys would love adventure and Chris provided ample opportunity for that. We explored caves, a geyser, and many waterfalls, hiked in national parks and in an ice cave, and kayaked at sunset through a glacial lagoon.

Most visitors to Iceland have opportunities to soak in thermal baths, such as the famous Blue Lagoon. But I doubt if many get to hike to a heated river, where the guide blocks the water flow, thereby creating a pool for private soaking, and cooks your meal over the heated rocks. Chris provided top-notch guides and special, unusual experiences.” —Barbara Fierman

Read more reviews of Iceland trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Azores: easy access to volcano hikes, whale watching, lava tubes…

Family hike up the mountain to Lagao do Fogo on São Miguel Island in the Azores.

Tony Ford-Hutchinson and family on a hike to Lagoa do Fogo on São Miguel Island in the Azores.

“For those of us who live on the East Coast of the USA, the Azores are the closest point to somewhere with a European and Portuguese feel. One of our guides (an American ex-pat) described them as a cross between Iceland (they are so volcanic), Ireland (they are so green) and Hawaii (a holiday destination in the middle of an ocean). Our trip with our daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters (aged 9 and 11) started with a direct 5.5 h flight from Newark airport. Flights arrive in San Miguel Island, the most populated, and we spent the first three nights in the luxurious Octant Furnas Hotel in Furnas. The hotel is surrounded by hot springs bringing boiling water to the surface. Highlights there were the food, including preparing and cooking a traditional stew which is buried in the hot ground for several hours, the hotel’s super warm, mineral swimming pool and a hike up a mountain side to Lagoa de Fogo (a lake in a former volcanic cone) followed by a swim on the beach.

We then took a short flight to the volcanic Island of Pico, famous for its mountain (a former volcano of course) and its outstanding white wine. During 5 nights in Pico, we took two day trips on ferries to the neighboring islands of Faial and Sao Jorge. Highlights were a trip through the lava tubes on Pico, visits to wineries and a hike around the Caldera on Faial. After flying back to San Miguel for our last 3 nights we were driven to our hotel on the Ponta Delgada harbor front (Octant Ponta Delgada). Highlights included a private whale-watching trip with great sightings of three female sperm whales (one with a calf), an evening wine and food tasting tour, a morning food tour, a Jeep tour of the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, and finally a tour of the tea plantations with an opportunity to make our own ice cream.

A 5-hour flight home took us back to Newark with the realization that we still had 5 more islands to explore! Thank you to Goncalo and his co-workers for a great trip that left a multi-generational family very happy.” —Tony Ford-Hutchinson

Read more reviews of Portugal trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Switzerland: hiking, rafting and wine tasting with an infant in tow

Laura Roberts

The Roberts family hiking in Wengen. Photo: Traveler Laura Roberts

“We traveled to Switzerland for 16 days with the help of Ana in Nina’s office. I asked a lot of her because we were traveling with our four grown children, our daughter-in-law, and our 10-month-old granddaughter. She did a great job of finding interesting activities that all eight of us could enjoy! We hiked, had a raclette lunch in a candlelight cave, rafted, mountain biked, wine tasted, and much more! We had three major destinations: Zurich, Wengen and Ascona. Wengen was our favorite—beautiful views of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau, accessible only by train and no cars in town.

However, the true highlight was in the mountain near Ascona. There was a local alpine festival for the opening of a cattle-grazing area high in the mountains. Ana arranged for us to go by helicopter and see the local traditions—cheese making, eating polenta and alpine horns. We were the only foreigners there, and the people were very welcoming! We loved this trip!!” —Laura Roberts

Read more reviews of Switzerland trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Dubai & Abu Dhabi: city tours, desert adventures, theme parks…

Diane Thormodsgard

Diane Thormodsgard with her husband and grandsons on a private sunset cruise in Dubai.

“My husband and I took our grandsons (ages 14 and 13) to UAE at the end of July for 10 days. We told our grandchildren many years ago they could pick any place in the world for a trip. Dubai was the choice! Although we were skeptical about going there during the summer when it is very hot, Nicholas designed an itinerary that suited all of us perfectly. He listened to our desire to give the boys an unforgettable experience and delivered.

We started in Dubai with a stay at Atlantis the Palm, including exclusive Imperial Club access, after being met with VIP service at the airport. The boys enjoyed Aquaventure and the pool. We also had a Dubai historical tour, visited Museum of the Future, went to the ‘top of the Burj Khalifa,’ had a helicopter ride, and went on a private sunset palm cruise with a crew of four that provided excellent service.

After leaving Dubai, we ventured to Al Maha, a luxury desert resort. What a great experience in the desert with private pools at each suite (boys had their own Bedouin suite), a desert jeep ride, camel rides, beautiful sunset, early morning falconry presentation for the grandparents, and excellent food. Our only regret is we wished we would have spent more than one night there so we could have enjoyed other activities like archery, more time in the pool and watching the many gazelles and rare Arabian Oryx on the property. As the boys said, ‘this is really cool!’

The next stop was Abu Dhabi, where we stayed at the WB Hotel by Hilton, which is conveniently located near many of the theme parks. After touring Abu Dhabi, which included a tour of the Grand Mosque, we finished our trip with visits to Warner Bros. World, Ferrari World and the recently opened (May) Sea World. All of the parks are covered so the hot weather was not an issue. The new Sea World is absolutely incredible. Ferrari World was the highlight, however, with an individual Ferrari car ride on nearby roads with a professional driver for each grandson.

I would highly recommend Nicholas and staff if you are planning a trip to UAE. It was very obvious he has strong relationships with local service providers and is very knowledgeable about the area. We were definitely able to experience a ‘trip of our lifetime’ for our grandsons and us!”—Diane Thormodsgard

This trip was arranged by a WOW List candidate. Here’s what that means.

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French Polynesia: a private catamaran charter and overwater bungalows on Bora Bora

yellow fish underwater in tahaa Island Tahiti

Snorkeling among these fish is a delight at any age. Photo: Tahiti Tourisme

“Our family enlisted Kleon to plan our trip to French Polynesia, where we spent a week on a catamaran sailing between the islands and a stop in Bora Bora for several days.

Because there were six of us, and three generations, Kleon suggested a number of activities that would suit us all. We snorkeled with manta rays and sharks, kayaked and paddleboarded. There were also visits to a pearl farm, vanilla farm, and rum factory, all of which we truly enjoyed.

The catamaran was a perfect choice for us. There was a very professional and cordial captain, and Virginie a perfect hostess and incredible cook. Because of them, we enjoyed spending time on the cat just relaxing, reading, snoozing, etc., as much as we enjoyed our excursions.

On Bora Bora, Kleon suggested the Pearl Resort, which suited us fine. We all had overwater bungalows with patios and direct lagoon access. It was also interesting to be able to feed the myriad of fish from an opening at the bottom of the bed! Kleon’s efforts and organization made this trip very easy, seamless, and special for us!” —Vanessa Hulme

Read more reviews of French Polynesia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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New Zealand: Family of 6 celebrates dad’s 80th birthday

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

A quiet day on Milford Sound, in Fiordland National Park. Photo: Rob-Suisted/New Zealand Tourism

“My grandfather was in the Dutch Navy and spent time in New Zealand many years ago. He always spoke about how beautiful it was and how it was his favorite place he had ever visited. So when we asked my dad where he would like to go for his 80th birthday — he said New Zealand!

We just got back from the most incredible trip planned by Jean-Michel and his team. We were traveling with 6 people from 13 to 80 years old, and Jean-Michel did a great job finding activities that we would all love.

We had only 9 days so we stayed on the west coast of the South Island and there was plenty to explore. We started in Te Anu at the Fiordland Lodge and loved the beautiful lodge and surroundings. We hiked, went fishing, and explored Milford Sound by boat. The scenery was beyond breathtaking everywhere we went! Our next stop was Queenstown and we stayed at the historic Eichardt’s Private Hotel. We had a lovely wine tasting day in Central Otago with the best guide and driver (Beau Rapley) and our daughter even went bungee jumping from the Kawarau Bridge. She loved it!! The city of Queenstown & surroundings were great – plenty of walking trails, gardens, gorgeous lake and mountain views. Not to mention great food and wine!

The last place we visited was Wild Earth Lodge in Makarora. It was the most serene and beautiful little inn run from the home of Pete and Janine. They took great care of our whole family & cooked the most delicious meals! We spent our days there hiking to the Blue Pools and having some relaxing down time. We also had our most exciting day – a helicopter tour over Mt Aspiring National Park, a hike through Siberia Valley, and a thrilling jet boat ride back down the Wilkin River. The whole trip was outstanding and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without Jean-Michel.”—Alana Jacobson

Read more reviews of New Zealand trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Malta: private villas and outdoor adventures

William Fisher

William Fisher’s grandchildren making pastizzi in Malta.

“Our family group of nine just returned from a week-long spring break trip to the Maltese Islands, organized by Damon and Denise. The trip included grandparents, children, and grandchildren ages 16 to 10. The trip was exceptionally well organized due to the time Damon spent prior to the trip determining what our interests were and how to maximize time spent making memories with our grandchildren.

The itinerary was heavy on outdoor activities to keep the grandkids engaged. Our activities included quad-biking on Gozo; a multi-course picnic lunch with wine on a secluded bay, followed by bocce ball with local players; touring the ruins of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples; and an amazing afternoon with the local falconer, who brought an owl, Harris hawk, and Maltese falcon to share with the entire group. We took a private tour of Underground Valletta and a private Dghajsa boat ride across the Valletta harbor for more exploration. We visited a baker and his wife where we made a local pastry called pastizzi, spent time with a local artisan who made musical instruments, visited a honey farm, and ended the day with a visit to a sheep farm where we sampled some delicious cheeses.

We stayed in a beautiful villa in Gozo that included a heated indoor swimming pool! You can imagine how excited the grandkids were when they walked in the front door and saw an indoor pool. Our lodging in Valletta was equally impressive, but in a different way. It was a castle-like structure built in the late 1500s that had been updated to include all the amenities of the current day. Our driver throughout our adventure was Super Mario. He was absolutely delightful! Always on time, always helpful, and always attentive to everyone’s needs, which were often a challenge. The entire experience was exceptional.” —William Fisher

Read more reviews of Malta trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Belize: Family of 10 celebrates a 50th anniversary

palm tree and beach overlooking turquoise Caribbean Sea South Water Caye Belize

Clear water and sugary sand are trademarks of Belize. Photo: Shutterstock

“To plan for our 50th anniversary family celebration adventure in Belize, Wendy introduced us to Patricia, a native Belizean with a passion for introducing her country to the world. A year of planning with Patricia and Juliannie culminated in a 10-day trip, five days in the jungle and five days on an island. With us were four grandchildren, ages 9-12, so a lot of thought went into making sure we had lots of kid-oriented things to do. We truly wanted to hear lots of ‘WOWs’ from them and we weren’t disappointed.

Imagine four kids flying into Belize City airport and being escorted across the tarmac and realizing they were about to jump into two helicopters and fly to their jungle resort, or their excitement of being whisked from the jungle, via private plane, over to Placencia, then jumping on a boat and arriving on an island? Their reactions when they walked into their luxurious accommodations, complete with plunge pools, were priceless.

Chaa Creek Resort in the jungle didn’t disappoint, upping the ‘WOWs’ to new levels each day. Our butler, Candi, and her trainee Ryan spoiled us with private dinners for 10, breakfast deliveries early in the morning, fresh fruit drinks when we returned from a day of touring, even babysitting so the adults could dine together. At 4:00 a.m. one morning Candi was helping decorate an outdoor pavilion so our granddaughter could have a fun 9th birthday celebration that night. The surprises never stopped, the staff was so generous and kind, the accommodations top-notch, and the food delicious. Our granddaughter with celiac even got special gluten-free desserts every day!

We had a dedicated driver and guide, Darryl, throughout our 5 days of touring the jungle, and when rising water closed the ATM cave tour, Darryl seamlessly changed plans. Darryl introduced us to the Mayan world, helped us explore their temples, took us to a local coffee plantation and to a women’s local co-op where the grandchildren were able to hand-grind coffee beans, fresh corn for our tortillas, and try their hands at ancient pottery making. A trip deep into the jungle delivered us to zip-lining at the end of our cultural immersion day!

Ray Caye Resort beach days were spent in total relaxation mode so snorkeling, jumping off the two-story diving platform, kayaking, canoeing, sailing the Hobie cat, and even scuba diving kept us engaged. But enjoying gourmet meals, sipping drinks around the pool in the near-perfect weather, and playing family volleyball and puzzle games brought us together after far too many years of separation. The island was magical, the staff always ready to help us, anticipating our every need, and on our last night there, they surprised us with a 50th anniversary family meal on the beach. The resort covered the whole island and at one point there were only 16 vacationers on it. Talk about a private and perfect post-pandemic place to be!  Leaving ‘paradise’ the last morning was difficult, to say the least!

Patricia ensured that the whole trip worked seamlessly and not once did we have a glitch! She also chose the very best people to support us throughout the trip. We couldn’t have asked for a better family celebration of our 50th!” —Judith Rodwell

Read more reviews of Belize trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Morocco: Family of 8 over Christmas/New Year’s

Camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Wendy took her own family on a camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

Radia and her team put together a trip of a lifetime for our multi-generational family of eight. Our 10-day trip to Morocco over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays was one of the best we have ever taken together. It was the perfect combination of cultural experiences, food experiences, sightseeing, shopping and adventure! We spent three nights in Fes, one night in the Sahara, and six nights in Marrakech. Highlights included a hike in the Atlas Mountains, followed by a cooking class at a local Berber family’s home in the mountain village. We also loved the sidecar tour around Marrakech—such a fun and different way to see the city beyond the medina, where most tourists spend all their time.

But everyone’s favorite day of the trip was the time we spent in the Sahara. We felt like we were in the pages of National Geographic as we drove ATVs over the gorgeous sand dunes—so fun and thrilling, with the most unbelievable scenery. And we drove the ATVs right to where our camels were waiting to take us on an unforgettable sunset ride and then on to our luxury tented camp for the evening, where our belongings were waiting for us. It was truly a dream come true.

We also had another surreal experience in the Sahara when we had tea with a nomadic Berber family who lives in tents without electricity or running water. We were able to talk to them and ask them questions about their life (through our guide, who translated for us)—it was a very educational and eye-opening experience, especially for our teenagers. Morocco is a feast for the senses. Even just walking around the medina and souks, the sights, sounds, tastes and smells you will experience will leave a lasting impression on you.” —Lauren Schor

Read more reviews of Morocco trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Portugal & Spain: 3 generations over Christmas/New Year’s

Sao Pedro do Corval, Portugal

Michelle Bodine and family in Sao Pedro do Corval, Portugal. 

“Our family just returned from the most magical and well-planned trip to Portugal and Spain for Christmas and New Year’s! We were thrilled to have traveled at this time of year, and especially in Europe where the Christmas lights, trees and markets made it even better. We took our four children and their spouses and four grandchildren, so fourteen all together. Wendy lined us up with the perfect people to help us plan and then succeed on a 14-day excursion with 14 people, big and small, in Portugal and Spain.

Gonçalo and Patricia were phenomenal with their hotel accommodations, food and restaurant recommendations, tour guides that fit our needs of grandchildren ages 6, 3, 1 1/2 and 3 months, and activities that enriched our trip. The itinerary was just what we wanted!  It truly was perfect in every way. There was even flexibility, so if we needed to cancel a restaurant because we were going on a food tour and would not be hungry, we could. The amount of scheduled activities and free time to explore more was perfect.

Gonçalo and Patricia are experts in what they do, and I would trust them again to plan the most satisfying travel experience for my family! They both took the precautions necessary to help us feel safe with Covid and continued to help us along our journey with lost luggage and further restaurant recommendations. We could not have done this trip without our trip planners, Gonçalo and Patricia. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for planning a Christmas to remember forever and ever!” —Michelle Bodine

Read more reviews of Portugal and Spain trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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London: Chelsea Stadium, royal history, museum scavenger hunt for a family of 10

Big Ben Clock in London, United Kingdom.

The right private guide can make London come alive for kids. Photo: Shutterstock

“We recently returned from a trip to London with our family of 10 people that we had planned with Jonathan. We traveled over the Christmas holidays with our children and 4 grandchildren, aged 10-13. Jonathan and Katie’s attention to detail was superb! We stayed at the One Aldywich Hotel in Covent Garden. The hotel was amazing in every way! Our kids each had a 2-bedroom suite to accommodate their families of 4. We arrived the day after Christmas, and the kids had gifts waiting for them in each room with their names on them. The adults all had Christmas stockings filled with treats. All of the rooms were beautiful, and it was a perfect choice for people traveling with families.

Our guide, Alex, was with us for 4 days. He and Olivia, our driver, exceeded all of our expectations. Alex was great with the kids and his scavenger hunt in The British Museum was a real blast! A highlight of the trip was traveling to Hampton Court to learn all about Henry VIII and his six wives. Later that same evening, we went to the theater to see Six, which is about all of the wives. The kids also loved their visit to the Chelsea Stadium. Everything went like clockwork, from our arrival in London to the time we left for home.” —Ellen Weiner

Read more reviews of London trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Norway: Fishing, hiking, RIB boating in the Lofoten Islands…

Reine, Lofoten, Norway. The village of Reine under a sunny, blue sky, with the typical rorbu houses. View from the top

You’re never far from the water in the Lofoten Islands; this is the village of Reine. Photo: Shutterstock

“Part of our Norway trip included three generations: my husband and me, our daughter, and four of our grandchildren. Jan encouraged us to stay at Reine, in the Lofoten Islands. We stayed in Robuer cabins, which were exactly the right fit for the families. Jan set up a full day with a RIB boat, including a shore lunch and a hike to a cave. The next day, he set up a fishing experience and a private chef to come to our room and cook the fish for all of us.

Following the multi-generational portion of our trip, my husband and I cruised from Copenhagen up the west coast of Norway and back to Copenhagen. Jan arranged for private guides to meet us at four different stops on the cruise. These guides were more than happy to tailor the day to our needs. While the ship offered excursions, having the private guides and drivers worked best for us, enhancing the trip with their knowledge and making each destination personal.” —Peggy Schuemann

Read more reviews of Norway trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Austria and Germany: Christmas markets and more, to suit ages 9 to 79

Christmas market and decorations in Vienna park next to City Hall (Rathaus), Austria,Vienna.

Kick off the holidays at Vienna Park’s Christmas Market, in Austria. Photo: Shutterstock

“Took a multi-generational family trip to Germany and Austria during the Christmas holiday. Cannot say enough good things about planning a trip with Gwen. She is by far the best we have ever experienced!  Our guides — and we had a ton of them — all were fantastic. They were able to provide for and entertain everyone from our 9-year-old son to my 79-year-old mother. This was a special feat in the cold Christmastime chaos!

Gwen had all the right advice — we felt safe and cared for throughout our train and car transfers and adventures. Our initial idea was to see the Christmas markets, but what we got was so much more — the markets were almost an afterthought. She knew where to go — Munich, Salzburg, Vienna — and what to do there. When she heard that we had a 15-year-old car fanatic with us, she made arrangements for a side trip to Stuttgart as well. Just take her advice on where to go, and you won’t be disappointed!” —Theresa Sandoval

Read more reviews of Germany and Austria trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Mexico: private villa in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta beaches, sunsets and scenic ocean views near Bay of Banderas coastline Mexico

Vanessa Hulme and family had a view of Banderas Bay from their private villa. Photo: Shutterstock

“We decided on a family vacation in Mexico for three generations, plus a pre-vacation vacation for my husband and me. The first stop for my husband and me was San Miguel de Allende. While we had initially hesitated to stay at the Rosewood because it was not in the center of town, Zach convinced us this hotel would be excellent, and he was correct. Thanks to him we were upgraded to their Tower Suite, which not only came with an enormous amount of space on two levels, but its own private elevator, three outdoor patios, and two butlers! Everything about this hotel was magical, and we cannot wait to return. The tours Zach arranged in San Miguel were excellent and included a market tour and cooking class with a chef, and an in-depth tour of San Miguel and Guanajuato.

The remainder of our trip was spent in Puerto Vallarta with the entire family. We had very specific requirements for a private villa: directly on the water, large enough so we would all have our own space, fully staffed, close to activities, and located an easy distance from the center of Puerto Vallarta.

Our villa, Casa Demae II, is in a gated complex, and was exquisite and outstanding in every way: spacious bedrooms (all ensuite, and most with balconies) with views of the pool and Banderas Bay, incredible common areas, infinity pool with a swim-up bar, jacuzzi, outdoor dining areas (from where we saw whales most days), streaming services—you name it, it was there! The staff were excellent and always helpful; what a treat to always have, without asking, coffee ready in the morning and (for the adults), margaritas ready in the evening! Our chef was fantastic—we actually cancelled two dinner reservations because the food at the villa was so wonderful. Another very nice touch was simply putting the dirty clothes in the closet basket, and having clean ones reappear that afternoon. This was like having our own private hotel…but better.

As in San Miguel, the activities planned were second to none. Everyone is still talking about the whale watching tour and the day on the private catamaran around Banderas Bay with complete crew and a chef. Also, because we had the benefit of entry to the Beach Club, the staff arranged for us to jet ski, paddleboard, and snorkel only a short distance away. There is no way we could have put together this trip on our own. From the moment my husband and I landed in Guanajuato until the entire family boarded our flight home, absolutely everything was handled efficiently and worked smoothly.” —Vanessa Hulme

Read more reviews of Mexico trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Costa Rica for four active teenagers and mobility-challenged grandparents

Monteverde Costa Rica

Don’t let physical disabilities keep you from having fun in Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

“We were traveling to Costa Rica with ten people, including four active teenagers who are up for any adventure and my father who didn’t want his physical disability to stop the adventure or fun for his grandchildren. Priscilla found us the perfect home on an amazing beach where we could watch the sunset daily and take day trips scuba diving, surfing, and fishing. After five days, we moved to the Monteverde Cloud Forest for the sky walk, zip-lining, and endless hikes. What really made this trip special was the planning that Priscilla did in finding us the perfect naturalist guide, Eddie, as well as the perfect physical therapist, Alonso, to travel with us for the 10 days we were away. Alonso provided my father with the best care possible and had the knowledge and ability to work with him in the pool and help him do things he has not been able to do, like taking short walks on the beach. Having Alonso with us allowed my mom to get the vacation she so needed and took all the daily stress away. As for Eddie, the naturalist guide, from the moment we met him at the airport, he got the kids engaged and interested in learning about Costa Rica. When we were out hiking, he not only helped us find the monkeys, quetzals and sloth, but educated the kids on the Cloud Forest and the environment. It was an amazing trip!” —Kristen Ebner

Read more reviews of Costa Rica trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Atlantic Canada: A trip “about which my three grandchildren never stop talking”

boats in the town Joe Batt's Arm, Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

Joe Batt’s Arm on Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

“For our three-generation family trip to Atlantic Canada—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland—Jill arranged excursions which we never could have arranged by ourselves and about which my three grandchildren never stop talking. These included a boat trip where we dug for clams, pulled up lobster traps, gathered fresh mussels and oysters, and had a wonderful lobster boil on a secluded beach. Another boat excursion was to islands dark with puffins, murres, razor bills, cormorants and other birds, and a boat tour of coastal resettled communities during which we saw whales. We also had a songfest in a private home with guitar and accordion. And we (and some say this was the best) hiked along the shore with Lori, a chef, who pointed out plants which were edible and then used them to make a sumptuous lunch. The vistas of inland lakes, pine forests, and ocean fronts were magnificent. This was a visit of a lifetime.” —Richard Goldin

Read more reviews of Atlantic Canada trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.

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Brook Wilkinson and her family enjoying hot springs with beautiful mountains in the background.

Traveling with Grandkids: Tips for a Successful Three-Generation Trip

A friend of mine took each of her grandchildren on a trip of their choice when they turned 13. One kid opted for an African safari; another wanted a posh spa week in Hawaii. While I love to travel with my grandson, Zeke, I have no desire to whisk him away, leaving his parents at home. For me, there is no better time to be had than exploring a wonderful new place with all three generations on hand. Seeing my daughter, Brook (WendyPerrin.com’s Executive Editor), and her husband, Ryan, parent Zeke is a privilege (not so fun, I suppose, if you aren’t in tune with your child’s parenting style).

The key to a great family trip is finding the sweet spot where everybody’s aspirations overlap. For us that means physical activity, glorious scenery and geology, and coming away with a new understanding of a foreign place.

And so on our latest trip together, we chose Iceland. All four of us crave outdoor experiences, which were on offer in abundance. We soaked in hot springs, summited a volcano, transited a glacier cave, and even eyeballed one of the youngest islands on Earth, born in a fiery eruption just 60 years ago. I am older than that island.

Susan and her family inside an ice cave in the Myrdalsjökull glacier, Iceland.
Zeke crosses a bridge inside an ice cave in the Myrdalsjökull glacier, Iceland.
Zeke crosses a bridge inside the cave. Photo: Ryan Damm
A little teamwork gets Brook across a stream near Hverager∂i, Iceland. Photo: Ryan Damm
Susan and Brook hike the path from Hellnar to Arnarstapi on the Snæfellsness Peninsula. Photo: Ryan Damm
Three generations hiking near Budir, on Iceland’s Snæfellsness Peninsula. Photo: Ryan Damm
To go off-road in Iceland, you need a specialized “super-jeep,” like this. Photo: Ryan Damm

 

On any trip, each family member must find their role. In Iceland, Brook, our resident travel expert, was our driver and trip leader. Ryan and Zeke roamed beaches, mountains and glaciers with cameras slung around their necks, trading lenses and composition tips; call them our staff photographers. Me, I pay the bills.

Zeke lines up a shot from atop the Eldfell volcano on Heimaey island, Iceland. Photo: Ryan Damm
Zeke photographing Kirkjufell, on the Snæfellsness Peninsula. Photo: Ryan Damm

 

Grandchildren are a joy to watch as their personalities and capabilities grow. Nowhere is this more evident than on a trip. Travel provides a backdrop that makes us ponder, even reconsider, our own customs and behavior. There is nothing more thrilling than seeing a grandchild connect with a new place, delving into life there and asking smart questions. (On a zodiac ride through a lagoon full of icebergs that had just calved off a glacier, it was Zeke who picked up on the particularly glassy sheen of some bits; those spots, our private guide explained, had recently been underwater and surfaced when the chunk’s center of gravity shifted.)

Susan and her family on a private zodiac in the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon, Iceland.

We spent 10 days in Iceland. We like to travel independently, so a self-drive trip was right up our alley. Perhaps our family is a little too type-A. In the early days of the trip, we were putting in 12-hour days, often hiking more than six miles. There was so much to see, and we are a no-stone-unturned group. I have to say, nobody complained. We made a return trip to the magnificent Seljalandsfoss and Gljufrabui waterfalls first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds that had thronged these cataracts in late afternoon the previous day. On the island of Heimaey, we weren’t satisfied with just viewing the world’s largest colony of puffins at the recommended hour of six a.m. when the birds take flight to spend the day fishing. That afternoon, we took a RIB boat around the Westman Islands to watch the plucky little birds dive for their lunch, then capped our puffin experience with a visit to the Beluga Whale Sanctuary, which provides a haven where injured puffins can live out their lives. I would love to revisit Heimaey in August, when the baby puffins, called pufflets, fledge. Thousands each year, diverted by artificial lighting, end up in town rather than at sea. The residents, and any tourists lucky enough to visit Heimaey at that time, race around with boxes, scooping up lost pufflets and releasing them at the ocean’s edge.

A path takes you behind the Seljalandsfoss waterfall on Iceland's southern coast. Photo: Ryan Damm
A puffin on Heimaey island, Iceland. Photo: Zeke Damm

 

A good three-generation trip involves compromise too. A horse lover from childhood, I couldn’t wait to ride an Icelandic horse, a breed so protected that no one is allowed to bring any horse in (or even return a horse that had previously left the country). Not everyone in our party shared my enthusiasm, but we all signed up for a trail ride at the Skálakot Manor Hotel (our favorite lodging of the entire trip). The Icelandic breed is compact and muscular, and five-gaited rather than the typical three. Farrah Fawcett would envy their flowing mane and tail. I was in heaven trying one of the extra gaits, a fast-walk/slow-trot called tolt.

Susan and family ride Icelandic horses through purple lupin. Photo: Ryan Damm
Skálakot Manor Hotel, a friendly farmhouse-turned-hotel in Iceland. Photo: Ryan Damm

 

In return, I agreed to an ear-splitting, bone-crunching ATV ride to a black-sand beach where we viewed the wreckage of a DC-3 that crash-landed in 1973. An ATV will never be my ride of choice, but the beach scene and the remote river gorge we traveled to afterward was worth every bump.

Some of Iceland’s most beautiful spots are best accessed via ATV. Photo: Ryan Damm

Any trip, however many generations you have on board, needs a good laugh. Another Icelandic black beach delivered. The Djúpalónssandur Beach of shiny ebony pebbles lies on an outcropping of land we referred to as the Snuffleupagus Peninsula (Icelandic is beautiful to listen to but impossible to pronounce; can you say Snæfellsness?). I don’t know whose idea it was to bury Brook in pebbles, but once that had been accomplished and photographed, of course Zeke had to be buried too.

Brook got buried in black pebbles on Djúpalónssandur Beach. Photo: Ryan Damm
Zeke got buried next. Photo: Ryan Damm

 

Witnessing a grandkid’s first is always worth the price of admission; sharing that first with your grandchild’s parents multiplies the thrill. Iceland’s classic tourist route, The Golden Circle, served up a tall one for Zeke. Generally, the sights were paler imitations of the mountains, canyons, and waterfalls we had seen on our far-flung driving itinerary. But this day became remarkable when Zeke spotted his first geyser. (Iceland is a country of hot springs, with enough geothermal energy to power the entire island with kilowatts to spare; the very word geyser is derived from Icelandic.) Luckily our geyser was a busy one, spouting every few minutes, because Zeke wasn’t satisfied that he’d gotten the right shot until it had erupted more than half a dozen times. Watching him check a photo, then reposition himself for the next one, was more memorable to me than the steamy water spurting into the air.

Zeke lines up his fourth shot of the Strokkur geyser in Iceland. Photo: Ryan Damm

Iceland was such a success that another cluster of volcanic islands is our number-one candidate for next year’s three-generation trip. The Azores seem on the brink of popularity, which fits our family motto: “Get there before the crowds.” That’s an important factor in our formula for success. For another family, exploring a vibrant city or seeing the artifacts of an ancient civilization might be the best choice. Here, as in all other family matters, communication is key—making sure everybody is enthusiastic before you book the trip.

Find more ideas and advice for multi-generational trips here. Want to make lifelong memories with your family in Iceland or elsewhere? Click the black button below to get our advice.

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Susan Crandell is a former Executive Editor of Travel + Leisure magazine. These days, when she’s not traveling with her grandson, you can usually find her building houses with her local chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

 

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The old town of Tbilisi, Georgia, with the fairy tale Clock Tower of puppet theater Rezo Gabriadze

Extraordinary School-Break Trip Ideas for Your Family

One of the key lessons I’ve learned from my travels (and from yours) is that the right trip designer can transform a family vacation, taking what could have been a week of stress and disagreement and turning it into a miracle. Below is a sampling of family trip reviews from your fellow WendyPerrin.com readers who are WOW List travelers. In each case, the trip designer delivered transcendent family memories, thanks to relationships with the right local fixers. Read more traveler reviews to get more unusual family trip ideas and, for additional inspiration, don’t miss these unexpected spring-break destinations, this collection of family vacations that adults will love too, my tips for how to make sophisticated destinations fun for the whole family, and this video I shot on one of my own family trips about the strategies I use to keep everyone happy.  Happy school-break travel brainstorming!

Spring Break

Hot springs in Costa Rica

Hot springs in Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

Costa Rica: “We swam in thermal hot springs, zip-lined through the rainforest, walked the hanging bridges of the rainforest canopy…”

“Traveling as a family of six is not easy! We have four children between the ages of 8 and 15, each more adventurous than the next. We needed a spring break that would keep them entertained but also allow us the leisure time we really needed. Priscilla put together a perfectly balanced vacation for us in Costa Rica. Everyone was happy! She suggested we spend our week in two areas—Arenal (volcano and rainforest) and Manuel Antonio (beach). In Arenal, we swam in thermal hot springs, zip-lined through the rainforest, walked the hanging bridges of the rainforest canopy, and went white-water rafting. In Manuel Antonio, we spent quality time at the beach, surfing, boogie boarding, and relaxing. Priscilla and her team arranged all of our travel details (flights, hotels, activities, transfers to and from), and they really went out of their way to make sure our vacation was memorable. All we had to do was sit back and enjoy!” —Kara Lawler

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PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - mathematical hall of the Strahov convent library

The mathematical hall of the Strahov Convent Library, Prague, Czech Republic. Photo: Shutterstock

Vienna and Prague: “I told Gwen that our 17-year-old son is passionate about playing piano, particularly the music of Classical- and Romantic-era composers…”

“I told Gwen that our 17-year-old son is passionate about playing piano, particularly the music of Classical- and Romantic-era composers. She asked questions to understand how we like to travel, especially when it came to what would interest our son, and then planned and executed an absolutely amazing trip to Vienna and Prague for us. Our itinerary included visits to Mozart’s and Beethoven’s apartments in Vienna; the cemetery where Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, and Schönberg are buried; and an exhibit that included one of Mozart’s original manuscripts. In Prague she arranged visits to a collection that included the original score to Beethoven’s third symphony, as well as access to the Strahov Library, which travelers typically only get to view from a distance but where we got to wander among the stacks! We also got to spray paint our ‘tags’ on the famous Lennon Wall! Gwen paired us with fabulous guides who, by the time we left, felt more like friends than mere guides. Our Vienna guide was from a musical family, so she had unique insights into Viennese musical history.” —Adam Amsterdam

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Lisbon, Portugal skyline with Sao Jorge Castle

Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Shutterstock

Portugal: “We were traveling to Portugal with my one-year-old grandson…”

“We were traveling to Portugal with my one-year-old grandson, and this meant a lot of consideration had to be given to where we stayed, how we traveled, and what we did. Goncalo—who is the 13th of Wendy’s travel specialists I’ve used—scored on all aspects. First, he found us a two-bedroom apartment in Lisbon with a full kitchen, a washer/dryer, and a kids’ playroom. What a perfect choice this was. Second, when we did a full-day trip to Sintra, he suggested that instead of Pena Palace (which I’d been to on a previous trip), we go to Quinta da Regaleira and Convento dos Capuchos, which were much easier to navigate with a small child. On our first day in Lisbon, he personally conducted our walking food tour, educating us about Portuguese foods (and drink) and taking us to great places I’d missed entirely on my earlier trip to Portugal. When we departed Lisbon for the Douro Valley, our car was delivered to the hotel and turned out to be a major upgrade from what we’d rented (and lots more comfortable). Our Douro Valley hotel was wonderfully located, our rooms were very spacious, the private boat for our morning cruise on the Douro River was spectacular, and the wine tour he chose for us was the best I’ve ever done, including the best port wines I’ve ever tasted.” —Jan Heininger

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aerial view of Famous palace Versailles with beautiful gardens and fountains in France

Versailles palace gardens, France. Photo: Shutterstock

France: “Our kids were able to see important places in a way that made them fun…”

“We spent four days in each of Normandy, Brittany, and Paris. We are a family of five (three kids, aged 9, 15, and 17), so we needed a variety of activities to engage the youngest to the oldest. Jennifer planned several day trips that were specifically designed for our kids, where they were able to see important places in a way that made them fun, from a treasure hunt in the Louvre to a bike ride around Paris to a crossing of the Bay of Mont St. Michel. Our favorite guide was Isabelle, in Paris, who took us to Versailles and to our WOW Moment—a private boat ride down a canal in Paris, complete with a skipper, picnic, and wine. It was amazing!! Isabelle was an absolute delight: warm, funny, engaging, and extremely organized. She was able to maneuver us to avoid several long lines at Versailles on an incredibly hot, crowded day. I studied in Paris in college, and I know more than the average traveler about France and its history, but I learned so much from Isabelle.” —Christa Sullivan

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Newfoundland scenery

Newfoundland scenery. Photo: Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism

Atlantic Canada: “Jill arranged excursions which we never could have arranged by ourselves and about which my three grandchildren never stop talking…”

“For our three-generation family trip to Atlantic Canada—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland—Jill arranged excursions which we never could have arranged by ourselves and about which my three grandchildren never stop talking. These included a boat trip where we dug for clams, pulled up lobster traps, gathered fresh mussels and oysters, and had a wonderful lobster boil on a secluded beach. Another boat excursion was to islands dark with puffins, murres, razor bills, cormorants and other birds, and a boat tour of coastal resettled communities during which we saw whales. We also had a songfest in a private home with guitar and accordion. And we (and some say this was the best) hiked along the shore with Lori, a chef, who pointed out plants which were edible and then used them to make a sumptuous lunch. The vistas of inland lakes, pine forests, and ocean fronts were magnificent. This was a visit of a lifetime.” —Richard Goldin

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Summer

Green rice fields on Bali island Indonesia

Green rice fields on Bali island. Photo: Shutterstock

Bali: “We were welcomed into homes in villages that we would never have had access to.”

Diane planned a 30-day itinerary throughout Indonesia for our family—five-year-old twins and my wife and me. Although we travel often, we never could have planned such a seamless vacation. We were welcomed into homes in villages that we would never have had access to. Diane’s three decades of traveling in Indonesia and discovering gorgeous idyllic islands and new hotels was evident, as was her obvious expertise in routing our journey. She has relationships with villa owners/managers in areas of Indonesia that would have been nearly impossible to find on our own. These accommodations are not in guidebooks. We could not have been happier with our trip that Diane planned for us.” —Garrett Bandy

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aerial view of Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia

Sonora Resort in the Discovery Islands, British Columbia. Photo: Tim Baker

Western Canada:  “A photographer gave us a personal tour of several waterfalls, giving us photography tips along the way and taking family photos…”

“My husband and I and our two teenage daughters wanted to go to British Columbia, but to avoid any really crowded areas. Marc suggested we spend a few days in Whistler, then a few days on Sonora Island, and end in Vancouver. He set us up for fun activities in Whistler—RZR cars, white-water rafting, zip lining—and we were treated to a WOW Moment: A photographer gave us a personal tour of several waterfalls, giving us photography tips along the way and taking family photos; although I am the photography buff in the family, he was able to engage the whole family and everyone really enjoyed the experience (thank you, Wendy!). We then took a seaplane to Sonora Resort, which the entire family agreed was heavenly. So remote, with beautiful scenery and gourmet food. On our eco-adventure tour we were lucky enough to be in the middle of a pod of about 100 dolphins. The food at Sonora Resort was so delicious that on the first night at dinner our daughter said, ‘Thank you for bringing me here.’ Finally, in Vancouver, Marc suggested the Fairmont Pacific Rim for us, which also was in a fabulous location. Since we are foodies, he planned a food tour at Granville Island, where there are so many booths that it was helpful to have an expert direct us; the tour allowed us to sample more items in small quantities than we could have done on our own. Although I was very involved with the details of our trip, I didn’t have to figure out where to go or how to get there or worry about logistics during my vacation. That made it a true vacation for me.” —Nancy Wolf

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the hilltop village of Gordes, Provence, France

Gordes, Provence. Photo: Pixabay

France: “He absolutely knows where you should go and the time you should do it…”

“This was a very difficult trip to plan. We gave Philip only a couple of weeks to plan it, we had nine people coming and going at different stages, we were traveling with a 6-year-old, it was the busiest season in France, we had changes to the itinerary and/or restaurants on a daily basis … and Philip and his team truly outperformed all my expectations. He saved our trip. He got us to the best places, he absolutely knows where you should go and the time you should do it. From the balloon flight to the wine tasting, he and his team made this trip unforgettable.” —Steven Morton

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sumo wrestlers training in Tokyo Japan

Earthen dohyo training ring for wrestlers at a sumo stable in the Ryogoku district of Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Ben Simmons

Japan: “One of our favorite experiences was attending a sumo wrestler practice…”

Scott arranged the most memorable private moments for our family in Japan. One of our favorite experiences was attending a sumo wrestler practice, sitting within arm’s reach of the athletes. The photos are amazing! We also loved creating a new family memory with our kids (18, 21, 25) during a taiko drumming lesson. Since our family loves music, it was a great way to experience local culture and laugh together! Other private experiences that we would never have been able to appreciate without Scott’s expertise included a five-hour cooking class and dinner in the home of a local Japanese chef. We loved learning about Buddhism and meditating with a monk. All of these were possible thanks to our unbelievable guide, Kiko-san, who also interpreted for us. She was kind, patient, knowledgeable, and respectful of our family dynamic.” —Dale Sindell

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The old town of Tbilisi, Georgia, with the fairy tale Clock Tower of puppet theater Rezo Gabriadze

The old town of Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Shutterstock

Georgia (the country): “Never did I dream that my kids would be singing karaoke with Georgian children after lunch in their Soviet-era apartment.”

“Through every step of planning my family’s trip to the Republic of Georgia, Zulya made sure that she was meeting our travel needs and goals. Georgia is not flooded with obvious tourist attractions, so we received a well-rounded itinerary that allowed us to experience its natural wonders and connect with the culture. Never did I dream that my kids would be singing karaoke with Georgian children after lunch in their Soviet-era apartment. Some other favorite activities included cooking with local families in their homes, hiking in the Caucasus mountains, and visiting Gergeti church via horse. I think the main reason it was so pleasant to work with Zulya is that she truly cares that you have a wonderful experience on your trip. She is an ambassador of the countries she represents, and we look forward to working with her to travel to other Silk Road destinations.” —Melissa Pollack

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Thanksgiving

 

British Museum, London

British Museum, London. Photo: Pawel LiberaLondon and Partners – Visit London

London: “…a spy adventure at the British Museum, and a half-day of movie making throughout London…”

“
We went to England over Thanksgiving and used Philip to plan our trip. His team arranged spectacular tours for us, including early entry into the Tower of London (we got to see the Tower and the crown jewels before they were open to the public), a spy adventure at the British Museum, and a half-day of movie making throughout London. (The latter involved the children being filmed with wands and capes at various locations around London where Harry Potter was filmed. They will put this together into a movie.) The highlight for me was the tour of the Churchill War Rooms with the director emeritus of the War Rooms, who took us behind the scenes and allowed us to sit in the actual chair that Winston Churchill sat in. Our guide and our driver and the ‘spies’ and ‘movie directors’ were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable and did an excellent job getting the children involved and engaged.” —Frank Richards

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Christmas and New Year’s

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Florence, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Italy: “In Florence we visited a noble family estate and cooked a five-course meal…”

“Italy can be overwhelming because there is so much to do, see, and eat, but Maria planned a spectacular trip to Florence, Bologna, and Rome for me, my teenagers, and my fiancé over the Christmas/New Year’s holiday.  In Florence we visited a noble family estate and cooked a five-course meal (and learned how to make tortelloni) with the family chef, had a tour of the wine cellar, and joined one of the family members for lunch. We learned of the family’s wing of art at the Uffizi, which we visited the next day. Meeting people who have a direct hand in the life and culture of Italy was special. In Rome, our food lovers’ adventure on Vespas with Toni was a complete standout. My 6′ 4″ son was mortified to ride on the Vespa—and got over that fear in one minute. We were a team of five Vespas! Don’t mess with us! As for Bologna, I am a dental surgeon and am really glad Maria recommended visiting the Teatro Medica at the University of Bologna with my kids. I am sure there is no way I could’ve arranged such a trip.” —Wendy Halpern

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Argentina: “It wasn’t something you can plan on your own—which is what made it so special.”

“Our family of five had an amazing trip to Argentina organized by Maita. We hiked on a glacier, got soaked on a boat that we rode into one of the Iguassu waterfalls, went bird watching in Iguassu with an ornithologist and nature photographer, and had a wonderful private boat experience on a quiet arm of one of the lakes in Bariloche. Maita’s team suggested great hotels and was able to obtain rates at some that were lower than those available online. They also booked a fantastic New Year’s Eve Party in Buenos Aires that we will long remember. And we had a fantastic surprise WOW Moment. I prefer not to specify what we did for our WOW Moment, since I wouldn’t want to spoil a possible future WOW Moment for someone else, but suffice it to say it was our favorite meal in Argentina. It wasn’t something you can plan on your own—which is what made it so special.” —Rita Solomon

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View of Journalist's Park with Monserrate and the Candelaria district of Bogota, Colombia

Bogota, Colombia. Photo: Shutterstock

Colombia: “Juliana, an artist in Bogotá, shared her perspective on museums and the graffiti district…”

“My family of two adults and three teens, ages 12 to 18, traveled to Colombia over New Year’s, spending seven days in Bogotá, Quindío (the coffee region), and Cartagena. Marc and Boris made great choices about which regions we should visit and for how long, what activities we should do, and where we should stay. They even got us into a wonderful boutique hacienda in the coffee region at a very busy time of year. All our tours and activities were fabulous. Juliana, an artist in Bogotá, shared her perspective on museums and the graffiti district. Camilo, a biologist and ornithologist, took us on a hike in the countryside and helped my husband with his birdwatching. Tavo is a musician who gave us a great perspective on Cartagena. A big highlight was our last day, when we took a private boat trip out to the Rosario Islands and spent time at a beach club. The kids got so much out of every day of the trip and continue to rave about it to everyone—a real accomplishment with teens. Thank you for suggesting Colombia as a destination in the first place and for setting us up with Marc and Boris. We all plan to return to Colombia and are evangelizing it as a destination for other Americans.” —Jarvis Weld

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Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City.

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City. Photo: Billie Cohen

Active Mexico: “We were always learning, exploring, and connecting with knowledgeable and fascinating local people.”

“There was no shortage of challenges to planning a last-minute Christmas trip to Mexico for me, my husband, and our 18-year-old daughter and 16-year-old twin boys. The beaches were expensive and jam-packed. So Zach’s team suggested an itinerary to Mexico City and two truly magical colonial cities—Puebla and San Miguel de Allende—and the result was fantastic! They handled all the logistical details, so we didn’t have to worry about a thing. We are a very active family and always want to be doing and learning. They understood this and designed a wonderful itinerary that opened our eyes to this complex, beautiful, sophisticated, culturally rich country. From our private cooking class with a renowned chef in Puebla to our historical and cultural bike tour down Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma and through the Bosque de Chapultepec to our private tour through the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City—they opened the Museum just for us!—we were always learning, exploring, and connecting with knowledgeable and fascinating local people. The result was a trip that left us with great respect and affection for our southern neighbor and helped us see the history of our continent from a completely different perspective. This is truly the best of travel. We will be WOW Listers for life!” —Kristen MacLeod

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pool at Quinta Real Oaxaca

Quinta Real Oaxaca.

Relaxing Mexico:  “Three nights in Oaxaca for its colonial and prehistoric attractions, then three nights at the beach in Huatulco…”

“Just before giving up my Mexico trip planning as impossible, I turned to Zachary to see if he could help with the logistics. Our family of four wanted to spend three nights in Oaxaca at Christmas for its colonial and prehistoric attractions, then three nights at the beach in Huatulco. Minimum-stay requirements of five or seven nights during the holidays presented obstacles. Plus, traveling from Oaxaca to Huatulco by mountain road would be long and treacherous. We could fly, but we would have to go through Mexico City, wasting a day. Zach drew on his relationships, avoided minimum stays, and secured well-located rooms for us in outstanding hotels: Quinta Real Oaxaca, an exquisite former convent, and Camino Real Huatulco, a beautifully designed seaside resort. To make it all work, he identified non-stop flights that were not readily accessible to us online. Best of all, he provided Gabriel, an outstanding guide in Oaxaca who is the alpha educator of choice for universities and Smithsonian visitors. We benefited from the depth of Gabriel’s knowledge of history, nature, art and architecture. Zach’s resources and persistence made it possible for our family to enjoy a wonderful holiday trip.” —Barbara Schoenfeld

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Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

Costa Rica: a 50th wedding anniversary and a group of ten with active teenagers and a mobility-impaired grandparent

“I can’t say enough about the trip Priscilla helped me plan for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. We were traveling with ten people over Christmas, including four active teenagers who are up for any adventure and my father who didn’t want his physical disability to stop the adventure or fun for his grandchildren. Priscilla found us the perfect home on an amazing beach where we could watch the sunset daily and take day trips scuba diving, surfing, and fishing. After five days, we moved to the Monteverde Cloud Forest for the sky walk, zip-lining, and endless hikes. What really made this trip special was the planning that Priscilla did in finding us the perfect naturalist guide, Eddie, as well as the perfect physical therapist, Alonso, to travel with us for the 10 days we were away. Alonso provided my father with the best care possible and had the knowledge and ability to work with him in the pool and help him do things he has not been able to do, like taking short walks on the beach. Having Alonso with us allowed my mom to get the vacation she so needed and took all the daily stress away. As for Eddie, the naturalist guide, from the moment we met him at the airport, he got the kids engaged and interested in learning about Costa Rica. When we were out hiking, he not only helped us find the monkeys, quetzals and sloth, but educated the kids on the Cloud Forest and the environment. It was an amazing trip!” —Kristen Ebner

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Gentoo penguins in Antarctica

Gentoo penguins in Antarctica. Photo: Jennifer Santoyo

Antarctica: “Ashton was perfect in assessing what everyone wanted…”

Ashton planned the trip of a lifetime to Antarctica for us! It was my last continent, and I cried when I arrived and cried when it was over. I had thought I wanted to fly over the Drake Passage because I was terrified of getting seasick, but I’m really happy I listened to Ashton. He said that flying over the Drake can mean delays on either side because of weather, and unless you have flexibility in your schedule, it’s not advisable. He highly recommended a ship that has the best stabilizers to handle the Drake, has excellent naturalist guides, and would work for my 17-year-old. Also, my husband wasn’t as excited about Antarctica as I was and preferred more luxurious accommodations than the fly trips offer. So we kind of had to agree on the trade-off to make the trip happen: my bucket list vs. Marty’s desire to be more comfortable on a nicer boat. Ashton was perfect in assessing what everyone wanted. Marty now agrees it was the best trip we ever had, and we all want to come back on the longer trip, which would include South Georgia Island, where the king penguins are. I will also use Ashton again for the North Pole, hopefully soon.” —Tina Sarafa

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Blue-footed booby, Galapagos Islands.

Choosing a Galapagos Cruise: The Most Important Things to Know

There was one small box left under the Christmas tree, addressed to my husband, my son, and me. Inside was a tiny globe from the dollar store—a symbol, my mother explained, of the trip that she and my father would take us on together. The destination: TBD.

It’s part of my job here at WendyPerrin.com to read every trip review that we receive, so I knew immediately that the Galapagos Islands were a multigenerational crowd-pleaser: The low-effort/high-payoff wildlife sightings were sure to appeal to both my 7-year-old son and my 82-year-father, who bracket our small family, as would the unpack-once ease of a cruise.

The tougher decision was which of the 77 licensed vessels to book for our voyage. Hotels are becoming more and more common on the Galapagos’ four inhabited islands, but we knew that we wanted to visit a wider range of islands than we could see on day trips from land. After all, it’s how species change from island to island that steered Darwin to his theory of evolution, and that has attracted awe-struck visitors ever since—those finches and their multitude of beaks, if you remember a little of biology class. And I’m so glad we went by sea: The moments when we, our shipmates, and a colony of bold sea lions shared an empty beach, with not a single other ship on the horizon, were my favorites of the trip by far, and the time we spent in a handful of towns I found the least enjoyable.

To aid us in narrowing down the options, I reached out to Ashton Palmer, an expedition cruise specialist on our WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts who has spent time in the Galapagos, both with and without his own family of four kids. As Ashton helped us sort through the possibilities, here are the main factors that I learned you need to weigh when picking the right Galapagos experience for your group. Many of these factors, it’s important to note, are drastically different from the considerations you want to weigh when picking an ocean cruise:

  1. Length of cruise
Bartolome Islet and Santiago Island: This is the iconic postcard view of the Galapagos Islands

Bartolome Islet and Santiago Island: This is the iconic postcard view of the Galapagos. Photo: Ryan Damm

Most Galapagos cruises are, for all intents and purposes, almost two days shorter than advertised; that’s because you arrive from mainland Ecuador on the first day and have only the afternoon to explore, and most itineraries don’t include any activities before returning to the airport on the final morning. Anything shorter than a five-day cruise—which includes three full days of excursions—doesn’t give you enough time to properly explore the archipelago. On the other hand, you needn’t look for anything longer than a week: Our cruise lasted six full days, and we saw every major species but one (the flightless cormorant, which is found on only two islands).

2. Itinerary/combination of islands

The National Geographic Endeavour II at anchor off Espanola Island in the Galapagos Islands

The National Geographic Endeavour II at anchor off Espanola Island. This 96-passenger ship is the biggest allowed in the Galapagos, but tiny by cruise-ship standards—and perfect for our multigenerational group, which ranged in age from 7 to 82. Photo: Ryan Damm

In many parts of the world, the size of your cruise ship determines which ports you can visit; forget navigating Alaska’s Inside Passage or the hidden gems of the Caribbean on a 5,000-passenger megaship. But in the Galapagos, every vessel can access all the locations where Ecuador’s national park service allows visitors, by anchoring off the island and carrying travelers to land via pangas (small inflatable boats).

Genovesa Island in the Galapagos Islands - tourists get Up close and personal with sea lions.

Genovesa Island: Up close and personal with sea lions. Photo: Ryan Damm

boy takes photograph of frigatebirds on Genovesa Island in the Gapalagos Islands

Genovesa Island: Zeke takes aim at some frigatebirds. Photo: Ryan Damm

Furthermore, the park service dictates the itinerary of each vessel, and it does so with the marquee attractions in mind. So don’t worry that you’re going to end up on a week-long cruise and miss the giant tortoises or blue-footed boobies. Generally speaking, the longer the cruise, the greater the assortment of wildlife and landscapes you’ll see. Some islands are dusty and have only scrubby vegetation; others are covered by abrasive lava rock and bits of pioneer cactus; still others are cloaked in rain-soaked foliage. But beyond length (or the requirements of a serious birder), there’s not much to make one itinerary superior to another.

3. Size and features of the ship

tourists wade through mangroves on Genovesa Island in the Galapagos Islands

Genovesa Island: Wading through mangroves. Photo: Ryan Damm

Tourist vessels in the Galapagos range from small yachts that carry just a dozen passengers to expedition ships holding 100. That capacity dictates the number of guides on board, as visitors must be accompanied by a naturalist on every excursion, divided in groups of up to 16. So a 16-passenger catamaran will likely have just one guide and one option of activity per outing (typically hiking, snorkeling, or kayaking). The 96-passenger ship that we settled on, Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Endeavour II, had seven naturalists on board, and every day offered a range of activities to suit different abilities: beach strolls, longer walks, shallow or deep-water snorkeling, and even a glass-bottom boat, which I was surprised to find nearly as rewarding as snorkeling (and with the added benefit of a guide naming each species as it wriggled below you). This proved essential for a family such as ours with varying levels of stamina. Keep in mind, though, that none of the hikes allowed by the park service are more than two to three miles in length; my young son wilted at times in the thick and steamy air, but his little legs never once gave out.

birdwatching on Genovesa Island on a Galapagos island cruise

Genovesa Island: Framing a swallow-tailed gull. Some Galapagos walking trails, such as this one, are quite flat, while others require that you boulder-hop among volcanic rocks. Photo: Ryan Damm

The larger ships also tend to have more creature comforts; our rooms had gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows, for instance, and the kitchen staff catered to finicky eaters with ease (when the captain dined with us one evening and saw my son receive a special order of pesto pasta, he even requested a bowl for himself). Consider what you’ll actually use, though: A hot tub may sound appealing, but you’ll seldom want to jump in given the year-round humidity; and with two or even three active excursions every day, only die-hards will use a gym. Room to roam onboard can be a boon for families with young kids who might feel cooped up on a small yacht; a larger ships also brings more potential buddies for your children. By day two, my son had blown us off to eat at a kids’ table with a group of new friends.

On a smaller ship, the days unfold a bit more efficiently: You won’t have to wait in line for pangas to start each excursion, and the mandatory park and safety talks are shorter (it’s easier to succinctly convey a message—and answer questions—with a group of a dozen rather than 100). There’s also a bit more flexibility to each day’s schedule, with the opportunity to linger a few minutes longer at a fabulous snorkeling spot or on a deserted beach.

4. Quality of the naturalists

Galapagos Cruise boy spotting seabirds off coast

Espanola Island: My son enjoys a moment of silence spotting seabirds with our fabulous naturalist, Celso Mantalvo Fuentes. Photo: Ryan Damm

Some cruise operators prioritize the expertise and experience of their guides more than others; this was a factor that attracted us—and just about every other passenger I chatted with on the ship—to Lindblad. The naturalists leading our expeditions had published studies and photographs in scientific journals; started nonprofits to introduce island kids to the Galapagos’ natural wonders (which even locals can only visit with a guide); and consulted on ecotourism projects throughout Ecuador. A knowledgeable Galapagos trip-planning specialist will have cruised on most or all of the vessels they recommend and will know which attract the best-qualified naturalists (almost all of whom are from Ecuador).

5. Commitment to sustainability

hot peppers, hibiscus flowers, and herbs sourced from Galapagos farms by Lindblad cruises

Lindblad Expeditions sources much of the produce served on the ship—including these hot peppers, hibiscus flowers, and herbs—from Galapagos farms. It’s an economic win for locals, and also good practice environmentally: Invasive pests sometimes catch a ride on food shipped in from the mainland. Photo: Brook Wilkinson

Tourist vessels in the Galapagos are strictly regulated by the park service, but some cruise operators go above and beyond to be good stewards of this unique environment. Lindblad, for example, has partnered with farmers on the islands to grow much of the produce used on the ships. This not only creates employment opportunities for locals but also avoids introducing invasive pests to the islands (insects can hitch a ride with food shipped over from the mainland). Lindblad will also only serve beer and soft drinks that come in reusable glass bottles (their Ecuadorian craft beer selection is particularly impressive); they stock their gift shops with jewelry, chocolates, and hand-painted t-shirts that are handmade in the Galapagos; and traveler donations to a fund that the company has set up support island conservation and local education. Ask your cruise company what it’s doing to ensure that the Galapagos are preserved for the next generation.

6. Time of year

There’s no off-season in the Galapagos: Since the islands are sprinkled around the equator, you don’t get seasonal variations in weather. The ocean currents are a different story, though, and the normally tepid water gets downright chilly—and choppy—in September and October. If it’s animal behavior you’re after, fear not: Something is nesting, mating, and birthing just about every month of the year. While our April departure was dictated by my son’s school schedule, it meant that we saw the waved albatross returning to land on Española Island and great flocks of frigatebirds flouting their bright red neck pouches on Genovesa. Had we visited in December, we would have seen sea lion pups and bottlenose dolphins frolicking in the water. If you’d rather not deal with the chatter of kids on your cruise, avoid spring-break weeks and the summer months. (Of course, if you want playmates for your own children, those weeks are ideal.)

7. Your preference for privacy—or camaraderie

National Geographic Endeavour Galapagos Cruise ship cabin

Cabin Tip: The two Suite B cabins are the only ones on the National Geographic Endeavour II with these large windows. Photo: Ryan Damm

A smaller vessel feels more intimate, and you’ll likely be trading email addresses with your fellow passengers by the end of the trip. If you’d rather keep to yourself, you might actually prefer a larger ship—or, for the ultimate in privacy, a chartered vessel for your exclusive use. Chartering is best done with groups of ten to 20 family members or friends.

When I called Ashton for advice, he asked about our family dynamics and trip goals, and then presented three options: The Origin, a 20-passenger vessel that carries two guides for some of the smallest excursion groups available; La Pinta, a mid-sized, 40-passenger ship; and the National Geographic Endeavour II. We chose the Endeavour II for its extra onboard amenities and wider range of outings. And it was such a terrific fit for us that, within three weeks of leaving the Galapagos, we booked an Alaska cruise on a similarly sized Lindblad ship (this from a family that had never taken a cruise vacation before). Had my parents not been along, I might have preferred the more intimate feel of a smaller vessel, with less time spent waiting in line to board pangas or attending mandatory lectures. But for a multigenerational group such as ours, a larger ship was just the ticket.

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boy watches a Galapagos hawk on Espanola Island in the Galapagos Islands

Espanola Island: Zeke stares down a Galapagos hawk, the islands’ apex predator.

Full Disclosure: Lindblad Expeditions provided this reporter with a reduced rate for her cruise cabin.  In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of editorial coverage on Lindblad Expeditions’ part, nor was anything promised on ours.