With your children getting older, is it time to start thinking of a more adventurous family holiday? Or after a long career is a sabbatical on the cards? Or maybe you would like to take advantage of the longer school summer holidays to do an extended family trip?
These were all considerations for one of my long standing clients who asked me to organise a four week trip last summer for him, his wife and three teenage sons. But what were the main ingredients? The family wanted guaranteed warm weather, a chance to relax on a beach or two, a mix of activities to keep mum, dad and kids entertained, amazing hotels and limited rain, which isn’t easy to find if you’re looking for an adventure in an exotic location in our summer months.
I came up with a number of ideas and the family settled on a trip to South East Asia and Indonesia. It started in Vietnam, where they took in the melting pot of Saigon visiting the vibrant city in a rickshaw by day and on Vespas by night. They also sped along the Mekong River to the famous Cu Chi Tunnels before heading up to the charming 15th Century town of Hoi An, where they holed up at the rather splendid beachfront Nam Hai Hotel. From Vietnam it was off to Cambodia and the wonders that are the Temples of Angkor. Next there was a short stop in Singapore, a place the family found was ideal to explore by bike. Finally it was Bali where they indulged in some rather wonderful hotels, had their final cultural fix and got active before collapsing on the beach for a well-earned rest.
The family had a truly amazing time but I wanted to find out from dad, Paul, why it all worked so well. I also wanted to get some tips for other families who are thinking of embarking on a bit of an adventure. Here’s what Paul had to say:
Me: Of the ideas I gave you, what made you pick the Asia / Indonesia itinerary?
P: The trip was the part of my sabbatical and with the chance to spend a long period of time away, it needed to be different and a “once in a lifetime” experience. Your itinerary ticked all our boxes. Bali had the sunny, dry weather, beaches and outdoor activities, whilst Vietnam and Cambodia gave us the cultural element. Plus, the trip included areas we had never travelled to and we loved the idea of seeing a new part of the world, experiencing different cultures and of course staying in fab hotels.
Me: What were your biggest concerns about the trip?
P: Number 1 was health. When travelling with kids, this adds a whole new dimension. We needed somewhere with low malarial risk and also a standard of travel that would limit the boys getting sick. It obviously all turned out well.
Also we were slightly concerned about the boys enjoying it all. Previous holidays you’d arranged for us were adrenaline fuelled whilst this one, although it had a decent amount of activities included, also had its fair share of temple visits, city sightseeing and cultural outings which we thought the boys would find boring. However, we needn’t have worried as they loved it all; you got the mix and pace just right. The boys didn’t even grumble when we got them up at the crack of dawn to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat, which was definitely well worth the early rise. You made things that the boys could have found boring, like Temple visits, fun by arranging little touches such as sightseeing by bike – which meant we were active and cultured – and having breakfast delivered by tuk-tuk so we could enjoy it amongst the Temples.
Me: What were the boys highlights, the things they would have told their friends about?
P: Tom loved Vietnam, particularly the evening food tour by Vespa, the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Nam Hai. Josh’s favourite was Bali as this is where we did most of our outdoor activities such as white water rafting, cycling Mt Batur and surfing. Dan’s highlight was travelling on the Emirates A380! Plus all of the above.
Me: Would you have considered organising a trip of this type (with lots of elements and to different contries) on your own?
P: Absolutely not. The key to success for me in a family holiday is to plan everything. If we don’t plan, it falls on my shoulders each day of the holiday to sort out what we are doing. You came up with ideas, not only of where to stay, but also what to see and do which was invaluable. That way we could map out what was happening each day which was really important. We could then make sure there was enough to keep everyone busy as well as having time to do nothing. Without you, we would never have done this trip.
Me: What tips can you offer other parents thinking of doing this type of trip?
P: Plan. Think about what the whole family like doing and go from there. But don’t try and do too much, so that you can actually experience the places you go to and also give yourselves plenty of time to relax….preferably in the Nam Hai Beachfront Villa! Also the guides in each country were very important. They gave an excellent perspective on the culture, history etc.. Initially we were a little concerned about having a guide with us the whole time, as we are used to just getting on with stuff ourselves. But I really don’t think we would have appreciated the experience half as much without the guides.
Me: Can you sum up what made it a special trip?
P: Of course travelling Business Class certainly helps ease the long flight and quality hotels always make a difference if you can afford it. But it was the overall variety of the trip – chaotic cities to chilled out beaches to ancient temples, monk blessings, whizzing around the manic streets of Saigon on the back of a Vespa and learning about local life. The food throughout was also fantastic. We just loved it all.
The key to the success of any holiday is in the planning and organising but, this is even more important when your trip involves lots of different elements, geographical locations and various age groups. These are the bits that take all the time. But, by letting me arrange your trip, you get all my experience and knowledge, can tap into my excellent partners on the ground and don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of time doing it yourself, safe in the knowledge that your unique journey will be seamless and just right. If you are interested in a family adventure like Paul’s or want me to craft a unique travel experience for you, please do email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or give me a call (07734 540914).
*I would like to thank Paul for his time and input on this article and for the use of the family’s photographs*