Lauren Liebert // © 2017 Lauren Liebert
Feature image (above): One of the biggest highlights of a family trip to Africa is seeing rhinos up close. // © 2017 iStock
Africa is gaining the attention of more families, and Lauren Liebert is poised to help. The travel advisor — who joined Ticket to Travel as an agent in 2004 and became vice president of operations and industry relations for the host agency in January 2016 — was initially inspired to enter the industry by her mother-in-law, a 25-year-plus travel industry veteran.
Liebert’s specialties include group and family travel, especially multigenerational travel, and she has been named a top seller of African safaris with Abercrombie & Kent in the San Francisco Bay Area. We asked Liebert to tell us more about the growing popularity of family travel to Africa and what clients are looking for.
What do you think is attracting more families to Africa?
Parents work hard all year, and going to a beach location or on a cruise year after year — although easy and relaxing — isn't as fulfilling as it used to be. They are now seeking things they have not done before. They want to experience a safari with their kids and not wait until later in life to check off places from their bucket list.
Most people associate Africa with adventure travel. What advice would you give families who are interested in traveling to Africa but might be hesitant because they aren't as adventurous?
It is my mission to make sure my clients are experiencing Africa in the ways they wish, which can come in many different forms. For many families who want the experience but still prefer certain amenities, I tend to make sure their accommodations are in hotels or lodges vs. campsites. This provides them with the comforts they need but also with the experience they expect. I like to further customize the vacation with a supplier who creates day trips specifically for families. Oftentimes, pairing them with other families with similar age groups works well.
What kind of accommodations fit families best?
In my experience, it's the lodges on game reserves that work out best. Parents can feel comfortable that their family is getting the best of both worlds — comfort and the relative safety of a hotel while still being very close to animals. I love when I can book families into a great lodge in Big Five country to see elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards and cape buffalo; I know they'll come back satisfied.
What are some things that families look for when planning a trip to Africa?
They want to be able to safely experience seeing animals in their natural habitats. Also, seeing them in such abundance is very exciting. Many of us grow up visiting our local zoos, where we only see one or two elephants, not full herds. So being able to see and experience any of the Big Five is truly thrilling.
What is a favorite family excursion/activity, and why? What cultural experiences are available?
I find that the focus for families making this long trek is, for the most part, animal related. I have found the No. 1 highlight for families that have come back from a trip to Africa is seeing the rhinos up close. This is not a common animal for us in the U.S. to experience in a large group. The clients just love these large, muddy creatures. I try to make sure their guides also provide them with the background of the region they are visiting, along with education about the people who live in the area and their involvement in the preservation of the reserves.
What's one thing you hope families will get out of their visit to Africa?
That they return with stories from each day on their trip, and that each day was new, exciting and different from the others. I love my job, but I love it even more knowing that I made their trip truly a trip they will remember for a lifetime and share with others.