Experts Share Under-the-Radar Family Travel Picks

Experts Share Under-the-Radar Family Travel Picks

Agents and suppliers reveal their favorite places to go with their families By: Kenneth Shapiro
<p>AmaWaterways has new stateroom designs for multigenerational groups. // © 2017 AmaWaterways</p><p>Feature image (above): Try a game of Sky...

AmaWaterways has new stateroom designs for multigenerational groups. // © 2017 AmaWaterways

Feature image (above): Try a game of Sky Billiards onboard Carnival Vista. // © 2017 Getty Images


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There’s no question that today’s travelers seek out unique experiences. To some, the success of a vacation will be based on the quality of the off-the-beaten-path activities included in the itinerary. All of this emphasis on experiential travel puts pressure on agents and suppliers to constantly come up with something new.

To provide advisors with inspiration, we asked a few travel industry experts to share their favorite under-the-radar picks that agents can use to wow clients. Hopefully you’ll find something to add when planning your next great family trip.

Let Them Eat Cake ... And Chocolate
“On Abercrombie & Kent’s Tailor Made family journeys throughout Europe, we incorporate family-focused activities such as a Paris Food Walk. This guided tour can focus on French desserts — starting at the chocolate museum and finishing with a macaron tasting. Another Tailor Made family option is ziplining from a ski jump in the Holmenkollen area of Oslo, Norway. Guests can zip along the same route that professional ski jumpers use.”

— Alison Duray, Tailor Made product specialist, Abercrombie & Kent

Swimming With Jellies
“Ise Shima Toba in Mie Prefecture, Japan, is a coastal area close to Nagoya that is well-known for its fresh seafood, Mikimoto Pearls and centuries-old tradition of female free divers known as ama. One of the lesser-known activities for families in the Ise Shima region is sea kayaking in Ago Bay. In the summer months, the water gets warm, and there are several coves scattered around an uninhabited island that are rife with cool-looking, spotted, non-stinging jellyfish.”

— Christopher Douglas, public relations and tourism department, Ise Shima Toba Tourism

The Most Important Meal of the Day, Mate
“The best hidden gem for families visiting South Australia’s Barossa Valley would be The Louise hotel’s Breakfast With the Kangaroos experience. Available to guests of the property, Breakfast With the Kangaroos is a gentle, guided stroll through the native Barossa bushland — past families of wild kangaroos and amongst ancient gum trees filled with birds, culminating with a picnic breakfast.”

— Kylie Mansfield, general manager, The Louise and Appellation

Triple Time
“AmaWaterways is the only river cruise line that offers triple occupancy and adjoining staterooms for families. Another option is our new convertible chair/bed, which creates a great triple rooming setup for multigenerational groups.”

— Kristin Karst, executive vice president, AmaWaterways

Learning From the Masters
“At Legoland Florida Resort, guests of Legoland Hotel have the exclusive opportunity to take free workshops led by our on-site Master Model Builders — the ones who design, build and maintain all the giant Lego models seen throughout the resort. The workshops are free, and they are an exclusive amenity for guests staying at the hotel. When the property was built, the model shop was opened in a space inside the hotel, with an adjoining classroom off the lobby. No other accommodations at other Legoland resorts currently offer the Master Model Builder workshops.”

— David Brady, senior public relations manager, Legoland Florida Resort

Hosts With the Most
“At Uniworld, our Family Hosts attend all of the special Generations excursions, so if the parents prefer to do a different tour, then the kids can go on their own with the Family Host instead.”

— Ellen Bettridge, CEO and president, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Family Fun Insured
“Albergo Losone, in the Italian-speaking Ticino region of Switzerland, has been called the best family hotel in the country. Part of the reason for this is because of an innovative Nice Weather Insurance Policy. Should there be more than half a centimeter of rain between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., guests will get that night’s stay free of charge.”

— Diego Glaus, hotel director, Albergo Losone

Haute Huts
“Families can rent an Alpine hut and explore Parc Ela, one of Switzerland’s biggest nature parks, using Switzerland Tourism’s Alpine Hut Finder, which makes finding cabins in the mountains easier for overseas guests. Whether they want to stay in a luxurious hut with a hot tub or a more modest rustic home, there’s a place for everyone.”

— Judith Burri, Parc Ela

Super Sumos
“Abercrombie & Kent’s 2018 Family Japan program features a sumo demonstration outside of Nara. Not only will families have the opportunity to witness former professional wrestlers engage in matches, but they can also don a sumo outfit and participate in a match themselves. It’s also a great outlet for kids to be active and engaged in a cultural connection.”

— Jennifer Campbell, senior Tailor Made product specialist, Abercrombie & Kent

Taking Aim on Fun
“The Lanai Archery and Shooting Range welcomes families of all ages. While some parents may think these activities are geared to older kids, younger ones can enjoy the action, too. Range personnel often put the younger kids in charge of throwing the traps and yelling ‘pull’ so that everyone is involved. Kids as young as 5 can participate in archery and love aiming at our dinosaurs and other 3-D animals.”

— Amanda Sunnio, ambassador, Four Seasons Resort Lanai

Roaming Romans
“Visitors can take a walk through the town of Merida, Spain, to marvel at some of the best-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. If they happen to be there at the beginning of June, they will see the city dressed up in Roman attire for the Emerita Ludica festival.”

— Karissa Winters, Extremadura Tourism

Hidden Houdini
“Did you know that the Main Street Magic Shop at Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif., houses a large collection of Houdini memorabilia?”

— Erin Glover, editorial content director, Disneyland Resort

Rocking Out
“At Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, guests can choose from a selection of vinyls — from rock classics to the latest albums — or pick from a menu of 20 different Fender guitars to play in their room. Visitors will also receive access to a curated playlist that will help set the tone for their stay.”

— Elyssa Martinez, resort sales and marketing, Universal Orlando Resort 

Feeling Sheepish
“With the Basque Shepherd for a Day program, from Spanish tour operator Hagoos, families can visit a sheep farm, interact with the animals and take part in cheese production. Those visiting at the end of winter or beginning of spring might see newborn lambs.”

— Silvia Tellechea, marketing and communications manager, Hagoos

Now We’re Cooking
“At The Royal Hawaiian on Oahu, we offer a unique opportunity for kids to spend time with James ‘Shaymus’ Alwin, the award-winning chef of the hotel’s Azure restaurant. They spend a few hours together — talking story, cooking, eating and generally having a blast. Chef Shaymus shares his passion with future chefs, and he gets to act like a kid again in the kitchen.”

— Cheryl Williams, general manager, The Royal Hawaiian, a Luxury Collection Resort

Take a Hike on Kauai
“The hike to the Stone Dam at Anaina Hou Community Park, on the beautiful north shore of Kauai, is a wonderful option for families. The Wai Koa Loop Trail, part of Anaina Hou, is a 4½-mile hiking trail. The top of this trail takes you to the must-see historic Stone Dam. It was built in the 1880s to support the Kilauea Sugarcane Plantation and is a great place for a picnic or to enjoy a swim. Also, with a signed waiver on file, guests are welcome to ride the trail with their own mountain bikes or those rented from other partners in the community.” 

— Sue Kanoho, executive director, Kauai Visitors Bureau  

Bowled Over
“Galaxy Bowl at Cabana Bay Beach Resort at Universal Orlando Resort is a 10-lane themed bowling alley. Guests can play a round of black-light bowling at night.”

— Mollie Collins, PR content intern, Universal Orlando Resort 

Turtle Time in Trinidad
“A not-so-well-known fact about Trinidad is that it’s the home of nesting season for leatherback turtles. Every year from March through July, hundreds of turtles weighing from 400 to 700 pounds return to the beaches on the north and northeast coasts of the island where they were hatched. The best time to catch the nesting turtles is when the moon is full — a setting that makes this an especially moving experience.”

— Charlaine Montano, director of sales, Hyatt Regency Trinidad

Pure Nature in Costa Rica
“Drake Bay is a small bay on the north side of the Osa Peninsula on the coast of southwestern Costa Rica. It’s perfect for families looking for a rustic, off-the-beaten-path location. Visitors here can enjoy beaches, mountains and all kinds of adventure activities, including snorkeling, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, hiking and more. The area is also great for viewing fascinating wildlife, such as ocelots, toucans, scarlet macaws, tapirs and red-eyed tree frogs, just to name a few species.” 

— Freddy Lizano, promotions department/international press, Costa Rica Tourism Board

Quite a Kick
“My pick for under-the-radar gem is Sky Billiards on Carnival Vista. We don’t really promote the activity, but it’s great fun and it’s really unique. Guests use mini soccer balls that are designed like pool balls to play a game of billiards with their feet. It takes place in The Clubhouse, and guests — from toddlers to adults — sort of stumble into it and then keep coming back to try it again.”

— Caroline Lombardi, director of youth experience, Carnival Cruise Line

Back to Nature in Taiwan
“The World Tourism Organization named 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, so there’s no better time to travel to Taiwan and explore our National Forest Recreation Areas. Since nearly 60 percent of the island is covered by forests with varied landscapes and rich natural resources, Taiwan has worked to preserve these precious treasures.”

— Albert Kao, marketing assistant, Taiwan Tourism Bureau

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