While we love zoos, theme parks, and bucket and spade beaches, these clichéd holiday routes are a little too predictable. The secret to perfecting your vacation is combining new activities with long-established family traditions. By all means, maintain luxury in your trips but add a little unexpected twist. And because this is easier said than done, here is our selection of alternative upscale family trips to help you navigate your way through worn-out getaway itineraries.
Trek through Costa Rica
If you’ve seen any of the Jurassic Park films, you most likely remember that the dinosaur park takes place on Isla Nublar, a few miles off the coast of Costa Rica. And while the island is fictional and the film wasn’t actually shot in Costa Rica, the sceneries portrayed in the movie are what you can expect to see in this wild and rugged paradise. Minus the dinosaurs, of course. On second thought, Costa Rica may even be more beautiful.
About 28 percent of Costa Rica is protected land, with national parks, wildlife refuges, and bio reserves containing tracks of tropical rainforests, secluded beaches, and jungle-covered mountains. The country is home to over 500,000 species of flora and fauna, making it one of the most diverse in the world.
Check out the Arenal Volcano National Park for moderate hiking trails that range from 1 km to 2.5 km. For something more challenging, head to Ricón de la Vieja National Park for its mud pots and the famed Cangreja Falls. Or venture into Corcovado National Park for its mangrove swamps and squirrel monkeys. If you want easy and relaxing hikes, go to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, the Lankester Botanical Garden, or the La Selva Biological Station. Many luxury adventure packages include canyoning, zip-lining, wild swimming, and bird-watching. Be sure not to miss out on any of these.
Sail the Amazon
The Amazon rainforest covers 6.9 million square kilometers across nine countries, roughly 40 percent of the South American continent. It has an estimated 390 billion individual trees and houses millions of species of plants, birds, and insects. Coursing through the rainforest is the mythical Amazon River.
The best way to experience the Amazon is on a boat. If you assume the cruise will be generally staid with occasional bursts of excitement when, let’s say, a jaguar suddenly shows up on the riverbank, you’re wrong. Not only is the rainforest outrageously scenic, albeit in a very unique and untamed way. It is also teeming with some of the most bizarre creatures on the planet. Imagine lizards walking on water, fish swimming on tree branches, bats fishing for fish. Then, there are fungi-looking birds, see-through frogs, 200-lbs rodents, and pink dolphins that transform into humans (or so legends say).
The best thing about this holiday is you don’t have to give up luxury to enjoy the wild beauty of the Amazon. Plenty of cruise itineraries offer trips with a duration of three nights to 30 or more, such as Rainforest Cruises. There are also packages designed for families, with child-friendly activities such as jungle treks, riverside village hikes, and bird-watching. The most popular and, arguably, safest routes are in Peru, Brazil, and Ecuador. Be sure to consider these countries when you book your cruise.
Try Watersports in New Zealand
Sun, sea, sports – three things that would perk the interest of any self-respecting adrenaline junkie, whether they are a child or a fussy teenager. New Zealand has gorgeous beaches, l3,820 lakes, and countless rivers, making it a watersports haven.
The bustling resort town of Queenstown offers almost every kind of aquatic adventure, from heart-raising white water rafting on Skipper’s Canyon to soothing kayaking around the picturesque Lake Wakatipu. If you love to sail, go to Auckland, affectionately nicknamed the City of Sails, and navigate around its picturesque harbors on a yacht, boat, or catamaran. For marine life encounters, check out the Tutukaka Coast, one of the best places in the country to snorkel and scuba dive.
Surfers will love the great swells at Manu Bay and Whale Bay in Raglan. Pass through underwater waterfalls into glowworm-lit limestone caves in Waitomo. Combine canoeing and fishing with hiking and cultural immersion at Whanganui National Park. Be sure to check out Abel Tasman National Park, Wanaka, and Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest river. The bustling resort town of Queenstown offers almost every kind of aquatic adventure, from heart-raising white water rafting on Skipper’s Canyon to soothing kayaking around the picturesque Lake Wakatipu. If you love to sail, go to Auckland, affectionately nicknamed the City of Sails, and navigate around its picturesque harbors on a yacht, boat, or catamaran.
For marine life encounters, check out the Tutukaka Coast, one of the best places in the country to snorkel and scuba dive. Surfers will love the great swells at Manu Bay and Whale Bay in Raglan. Pass through underwater waterfalls into glowworm-lit limestone caves in Waitomo. Combine canoeing and fishing with hiking and cultural immersion at Whanganui National Park. Be sure to check Abel Tasman National Park, Watanaka, and Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest river.
Safari in Tanzania
Fancy chasing for the Big Five on the expansive plains of an African savanna? How about a boat safari along the Rufiji River to see hippos submerged in the water? If you’re a family of wildlife lovers, you will be awed by the wonders of Tanzania.
Thirty-eight percent of Tanzania is comprised of protected wildlife areas and reserves. It has two main safari routes, the Northern Circuit and the Southern Circuit. In the north circuit, you will find the Serengeti, where the Great Migration occurs. Ngorongoro Crater has the world’s largest intact caldera, Lake Manyara is best for bird-watching, and Arusha is a good base for exploring Mount Meru. Selous Game Reserve, in the south circuit, is much quieter but offers excellent wildlife sightings.
Many luxury Tanzania safari tour packages also include a visit to Massai villages, where you can immerse with the locals and learn their culture. If you have extra time, trek Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, or head to Zanzibar for a relaxing stopover at the beach.
Road trip America’s Wild West
Road trips are probably the last thing that comes to mind when you think of luxurious family vacations. And it is for this reason we consider them a fantastic twist and an unusual luxury family holiday. But really, road trips can be fabulous experiences, especially if you are traveling along a route as fascinating, legendary, and wild as the US wild west.
There are plenty of attractions to see on your trip but be sure to stop by Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, and The Grand Tetons. Go down the classic route of the Pacific Coast Highway, enjoy the best of the Southwest and venture into the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, or follow Route 66, which runs from Chicago to LA.
Have some desert downtime in Utah, marvel at the splendors of the Antelope Canyon and Monument Valley, then make a beeline to Las Vegas, where there are casinos for grownups and Hersey’s Chocolate World for children.