Eyes closed, a wistful smile plays across your lips as you daydream about taking that holiday of a lifetime, once the kids have flown the nest. Daydream no longer - authentic and adventure holidays aren't just for the grown ups! Here at Tell Tale Travel we pride ourselves in crafting perfect itineraries for families with children. Itineraries with many, many more experiences than a mainstream family holiday, but none of the demands or basic accommodation of adventure travel.
If you have ever wondered how it works in practice, wonder no more - soft adventures, here we come! Our family itineraries in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Brazil offer a range of activities, experiences and adventure suitable for adults and children of all ages (even those hard-to-please teenagers). We've taken care to balance adventure and effort so that everyone can join in, creating holidays that the whole family will be talking about for years to come.
But don't take our word for it - get the real story straight from the elephant's mouth (as it were) as we hear four families' tales from their Tell Tale travels.
"We did so much and yet it was as relaxing as a typical beach-based holiday."
The Burton family took their three children aged 8 to 14 on Action On Shore in Thailand, exploring Bangkok and the beaches and deserted islands of the Andaman Sea. As the name would suggest, this holiday is pretty action-packed, including activities such as snorkelling, kayaking, nature walks and even a spot of whitewater rafting.
With so much to do, we asked Alison Burton if the family found enough time to kick back on the holiday. "We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of scope for relaxation," she replied, "We did so much and yet it was as relaxing as a typical beach-based holiday."
In between all that relaxing, what about a favourite activity? "The cycling and longtail boat trips stood out in Bangkok," said Alison, "The kayaking, as well as the one night camping on Bamboo Island were especially fantastic."
One worry that many parents have when holidaying with children is the food - will it be too different to what they're used to? Will they simply refuse to eat it? Alison's worries on this front were unfounded. She told us: "The food was amazing. There was always more than enough to eat and consideration was taken not to provide overly spicy food, which meant that they children also had the full Thai food experience throughout the holiday."
Jenny Walmsley and her family experienced the same helpful attitude on Elephants and Waterfalls. She told us: "Unable to find anything she liked at the elephant park's buffet, my middle daughter was very helpfully offered an omelette. They also got her some bread and jam from the kitchen." If there are any foods your children don't like or have any allergies, no matter how minor, please tell us in advance and we will make relevant arrangements. We've dealt with everything from nut allergies to dislike of carrots!
While most parents would be fairly confident that their children would enjoy an action-led holiday, could there be a danger that the youngsters might not have enough to interest them on a more nature-oriented trip? Certainly not so according to Lucy Thomson and her husband who also took their three young boys on Elephants and Waterfalls where wildlife and nature feature heavily.
"We had a fantastic time!" Lucy told us. "The whole thing worked out really well with a good mix of contrasting activities and FUN! The boys are full of stories about the clay house and paddy field fishing." And the boys had just one word to say about the elephants they encountered at the sanctuary: "WOW!".
Lucy's sons, aged between 5 and 10, also took a real liking to one of our hosts, Yui as well as being able to meet his children and play with them and visit schools. We're not surprised, because all our hosts, guides and drivers are known to us personally, and it took us a lot of time to find the right people.
Bill Bowler, a vet from Nottingham, his wife Jeanette and their children found that our hosts and guides and even our drivers often went that extra mile to make the whole family feel welcome. "We found Parr and Tommy to be very good," she told us. "At a moment's notice on the drive to Chiang Rai, Parr found some brilliant toilets and then took us to a coffee shop on stilts over the river which sold fantastic cakes and coffee." And it seems his talents stretched to the musical too: "He also sang us the elephant song! He was brilliant and just put that extra bit in."
"The whole thing worked out really well with a good mix of contrasting activities and FUN! The boys are full of stories."
That wasn't the only cake on the trip. Bill and Jeanette's daughter Poppy celebrated her birthday while on holiday - she was surprised with a birthday cake we had arranged with one of our families they had stayed with earlier in the week.
Finally, remember that a 'family holiday' doesn't just have to mean parents travelling with young children, teenagers or university-aged children. The extended Evans family holidayed with Tell Tale Travel last year, enjoying a family reunion to celebrate several birthdays and anniversaries.
Being spread right across the globe - South Africa, the UK and New Zealand - they don't get to meet up often, and so they travelled to Thailand for a holiday. The youngest in their party was just 2 years old and the eldest over 70, but fun was had by all. (Our usual recommended age is 5 or 6, but we made a special itinerary for this family).
Head of the family, Tony Evans, said of the trip: "I must congratulate you on arranging a superb holiday for us. I couldn't have asked for more variety and involvement in the Thai culture and tradition." One of his daughters, Bo, echoed Tony's sentiments to us and added: "I just can't believe the things we got up to and the experiences we had. Dad was in his element having his family around." Tony and his family are eagerly anticipating their next big get-together. Sri Lanka? Brazil? Or perhaps we'll be in Madagascar by then, who knows!
To choose the right family adventure holiday for your family, take a look at our family itineraries in Thailand, Sri Lanka and Brazil.
Written by Rebecca Susiaho