As difficult as it may be to wrap your head around this – the 2018 holiday season is nearly upon us. Hey, I’m just the messenger.

Remember back in the heat of July, you toyed with the idea of a delightful winter escape for you and your family? But then that same family, work and all manner of chores got in the way of further thought.

And now it’s mid-October. Egads! Just how much trouble are you in?

This is where spontaneity + open mindedness + flexibility equals = a fabulous getaway.

We have a few tips that might help you out. The first question is obviously “where?” If you do not have something specific in mind, consider trying our easy and fun Your Travel DNA website – Click on Find Your Travel DNA and select the responses that fit your personality and interests. Are you an Adrenaline Seeker or maybe a Foodie? You will get a list of destinations that encompass those interests. The bonus is that you may discover an idea for a totally new destination you had never considered before.

We made sure that the kids could participate, too, with DNA for Kids, where they select answers to a few questions and their country selections are revealed. These can be printed out or can be emailed to the person doing the trip planning.

The value of Your Travel DNA is that it can spur conversations among the entire family and may yield some interesting and unexpected results.

If you begin looking a month or two in advance, it will serve you to be flexible in the actual where and when. Have a few alternative ideas in case your first choice isn’t available. Okay, now you have a destination or maybe two in mind. The next step is to make sure the locale you’ve selected is in the right season for what you want to do. Journeys can be ruined if the weather is awful, the best sights are closed, and nothing is going on. Traveling at the wrong time even to the right place can ruin the best of intentions.

Make sure that you can get there and back. I know that sounds obvious, but you might be surprised by how many people attend to all the details but leave the flights for later. Most likely you will not be able to swim, bicycle or hike to your vacation spot, so make sure that you can get flights booked, or cabins reserved in the case of a cruise.

Once you have worked your magic and formed a plan – a location and an itinerary, don’t overthink or second guess your decisions. Again, flexibility can pay off big here. If you secure space on flights or ships you want, this is not the time to be hesitant. If you find it, grab it because it is more than likely to be gone by tomorrow.

So, are you ready? Visit This Link to see the destinations that currently have some space availability.



P.S. In case you are wondering, the climber is Karina, our Peru Country Manager and a very good sport.




As a newly appointed FTA board member, I was excited to hear the great feedback when Big Five Brand Manager Deborah Kilcollins returned from Family Travel Association Summit 2018 in Bermuda.

She met Erin Kirkland, who is all about family travel. Erin is an Alaska author, journalist and mother of two based in Anchorage. She has authored two books related to the subject and can be found at But what peaked Deborah’s interest were her bookshelves.

When Erin arrived in Alaska, she soon realized that the only way to get around was by plane as roads are few and far between. Even a visit to the doctor or going to school could mean ride to the airport for a flight out. She also noted that Alaskan children are lacking some of the resources that other communities around the country had access to. Her website notes that “The Annie E. Casey Foundation reported in 2014 that 73% of Alaska 4th grade students are not proficient in reading; 64% of young children in Alaska are not attending preschool programs.” Even though some children may have electronic devises, they seldom read.

Kirkland was clearing out her own library of books that her children had outgrown. She wanted to see them go somewhere and not simply tossed out. She had a flash of an idea.

Why not put books in airports for kids and families? Read on the Fly is the result. This program is a reading and book distribution project that she launched in 2016 at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. She had a bookshelf built and installed and populated it with those books she removed from her own shelves. Since that time, Read on the Fly has gathered volunteers to help manage the project and has distributed some 10,000 books since the project began. Currently, Read On the Fly has 14 shelves in seven Alaska airports. Erin’s goal is to have a shelf, at least, in every Alaska airport – all 250.

“The project took on a life of its own,” Kirkland smiled. And the word spread. “Friends of friends and others came onboard and wanted to help.”

Erin Kirkland is just one of the nearly 200 participants who are involved in various aspects of the travel industry and include tour operators, suppliers, associations, travel agents, destination representatives and media who focus on family travel. They came together at the Fairmont Southhampton in Bermuda this week to attend the summit, which had panel discussions and workshops that dealt with topics ranging from “helping make travel affordable for families who don’t think they can afford it” to “emerging destinations for families” to “making travel accessible for families with special needs.”

This is the fourth summit put on by FTA, founded by Rainer Jenss, president. The sessions were well presented and motivating. But beyond that, I noticed a strong positive energy that seemed to pervade the conference. People were energized and eager to meet and share with each other.  Keynote speaker Gordon Hartman, founder of Morgan’s Wonderland in San Antionion, TX, shared his story about creating a park that welcomes everyone including those with special needs. Indeed, every special needs guest is admitted free. He and his wife Maggie developed this nonprofit 501(c)(3) after they realized how few parks and venues were user friendly for their daughter, Morgan, who has physical and cognitive challenges. These parents took on the task of making a very special place where everyone is welcome to play, make friends and laugh.

The caliber and passion of all those who attended this year’s FTA summit made this a rewarding and rich experience.

For more about FTA, you can contact Rainer Jenss,, or Ashish Sanghrajka,

Africa at the turn of the 20th century was a bit like our Wild West and offered quite the adventure for the Danish Baroness Karen Christenze von Blixen-Finecke (aka Isak Dinesen). She arrived in Kenya in 1913 to start a coffee plantation with her soon-to-be husband, Baron Bror Blixen-Finecke.

She later wrote about her life in Kenya in her famous book Out of Africa, which was published in 1934. The world she depicts is one of freedom from the confines of her homeland, where there was a wildness in the landscape and the animals but also, to a degree, in the people who came to this land, especially the European aristocrats. Yes, it was quite a different world when Chauvinism was often the norm.

Blixen settled near the Ngong Hills north of Nairobi,. And set about making a life. Immigrants came to raise cattle or grow coffee plants, with dreams of plantations, prosperity and plenty. But it was not an easy life for most, including Blixen. Help was often hard to find and conditions were harsh.

But there was another side, a more romantic picture of lavish garden parties, formal teas and spectacularly elegant dances. Big game hunting expeditions set out regularly from Nairobi to hunt the “Big Five” game (lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros) along with many other species including kudu, antelope, and hartebeest. The affluent visitor of that era would contract a safari outfitter to organize a custom-planned safari complete with White Hunter, menservants, gunbearers, porters, provisions, guns, tents and, later, cars and trucks. There were no limits on how many elephants, lions or other animals could be taken.

Some of these safaris were stuff of legends with massive tents sprawling across an acre, and supplied with generators, electric lights and vehicles that included zinc-lined trucks for the cold storage of food and beverages. At mealtime, there was no scrimping with a different vintage wine for each course. Extravagant menus were supplemented with imported delicacies from the likes of London’s Fortnum and Mason. When two such safaris met, the chefs would often compete to stage the most lavish banquet in the bush.

A century has passed since Blixen arrived in Kenya. And yesterday’s safaris have adapted to suit today’s travelers, chief among them – time. Few people can devote months exploring the African bush; and they would be ill-at-ease with such concepts as White Hunter and menservant.

While there are still some who hunt, they are decidedly the minority. Conservancies have replaced many former hunting preserves. Most of us just want to spend some time in the company of elephants, catch the eye of a Silverback Mountain Gorilla, or participate in an authentic encounter with Maasai village elders. We long for experiences that are both exciting and have the power to change our perspective. But they must also be sustainable – like the doctor’s creed … and with harm to none. That includes lands, animals, communities and cultures.

Yes, this is a different century and while we all still have work to do, we can present you with a safari that will be legendary. Consider the President’s Pick A Grand Safari in Africa that takes in Botswana, South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.

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