Wildland Adventures (http://www.wildland.com/), a family-owned adventure travel company with 30 years of first-hand experience traveling with kids and grandchildren offers insights for active families planning an escape this year with children, teens or young adults.
“From the beginning we designed our Wildland Family Adventures to be fun encounters in nature and authentic cross-cultural experiences among indigenous communities that change the way we see the world and benefit the places and people we visit,” explains Kurt Kutay, company founder and president. He developed their family program together with partner and vice-president, Anne Kutay. The premise of their family trips are summarized in their list of 7 tips for your best family adventure vacation.
For families with children (ages 5-10): When venturing beyond amusement parks and beach resorts, Wildland recommends trips closer to home, perhaps in Alaska or Latin America where it’s easy to get away in summer or to escape during winter school holidays. Flight times are shorter and there is little time change in destinations such as Costa Rica, Belize, Panama, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Here in abundance are family-friendly accommodations, fun outdoor activities, close encounters with wildlife and beaches for relaxed together under the sun.
Kids love meeting their host country counterparts; parents want their children to see how other families live. Wildland helps foster direct cultural connections by giving a soccer ball to every young traveler at the start of their trip. The mission is to give it away to a local child during the tour. Instead of eating exclusively at restaurants or hotels, the company arranges lunches in rural homes, bringing families together to learn from each other.
Key considerations when traveling with young kids are shorter drives, longer stays with fewer accommodations changes, staying in places with more things to do in the vicinity, and assigning guides who are themselves are parents or teachers and whose specialty is leading small family groups of young children and adults.
Leading a new family adventure every year as their son was growing up, the Kutays were constantly expanding and enhancing Wildland’s family travel program based on their own first-hand experience.
“As our son was growing up, we realized we needed to expand the scope of our family travel programs by creating more active and in-depth adventures for families with older kids,” explains Anne Kutay. “We kept reaching out into the world; going on safari in Africa, riding camels in the Sahara Desert of Morocco, or exploring the jungles, villages and islands of Southeast Asia.” With its own family heritage in Turkey, Wildland travelers of all ages are received as family on adventures in Istanbul, Cappadocia and along the Mediterranean coast of this ancient land.
“It’s important for families to choose a travel company that is flexible in every sense: meals, timing and activities must dovetail with the abilities and interests of young people, whether it’s snorkeling or spelunking, seeing reptiles or monkeys,” advises Grettel Calderon, Wildland’s Central America Program Director living in Costa Rica..
Specialist family guides balance age-appropriate information delivered to young travelers with lots of fun activities so the kids are amazed and engaged as they discover the world around them. “Our pre-trip packets mailed to families when they sign up include booklets, maps, reading lists and laminated wildlife cards that build anticipation and will help young travelers identify the wildlife they see here,” added Calderon.
For Tweens (ages 11-14): Wildland’s trips for this age group are more active and venture deep into the Amazon and Andes of South America, or on safari in Africa offer more opportunities to learn about other cultures by joining in daily life, participating in native rituals, and mixing it up with local families.
“We help families with young adults plan adventures that may be impossible to find or risky to do on their own, such as nocturnal wildlife safaris in the Amazon, participating in a special “pago a la tierra” ceremony honoring “Pachamama” Mother Earth with an Andean shaman, and home-stays or meals with local families,” adds Wildland’s South America expert Gretchen Traut. In India, short walking tours in Delhi are led by former street children just a little older than Wildland’s young visitors who experience a real-world, first-hand lesson in poverty, the value of education and gratitude. Family safaris in East Africa include opportunities to live in a Maasai village in Kenya, and in Tanzania to hunt with bushman using bow and arrow. Young students are also invited to participate in hands-on field work with local students in the Galapagos Islands as part of the company’s Ecology Project International on their Galapagos Family Research Adventure.
For Young Adults ages 15-20: Wildland pushes the experience envelope for young adults with whitewater rafting, sand-boarding on a volcano in Nicaragua, rappelling down a waterfall in Costa Rica, challenging hiking in Patagonia and walking on safari in Africa, activities that break parents and kids out of normal roles and routines. Together on a Wildland Family Adventure young adults and parents may be on par ability-wise and share the joy of accomplishment; or roles may be reversed where the son or daughter has greater ability, strength and confidence, bringing family members closer together through a new shared experience and appreciation for each other. Young adults also seek more independence and optional activities that may be more challenging than parents are ready to undertake. Wildland guides will often engage them one-on-one as peers, thus appealing to their emerging sense of self.
As a pioneering company in ecotourism Wildland supports conservation and community development projects throughout the world under the auspices of its non-profit Travelers Conservation Trust. Wildland’s destination specialists often facilitate special arrangements for families with teens to give back through projects such as building and supplying schools for Maasai in Africa, supporting a community center where young Quechua students can study after school, and, as did a Seattle family, launching a fund-raising campaign at home before their trip in order to deliver a sorely needed van for an orphanage in Tanzania.
The company has shared what parents and kids are saying about their Wildland Adventures in their family travel reviews. To speak with a travel planner or for more information, space availability and reservations contact Wildland Adventures at 1-800-345-4453 email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.wildland.com/.