Trekking in Thailand
The Travellers: Jens and Cordula Von Greunigen with their daughters Hanna (4) and Luise (14 months).
The Destination: Koh Samui, Thailand
The Plan: The Von Gruenigens wanted a relaxing seaside holiday with a dash of excitement, so they chose Thailand because of its pristine beaches and delicious food. While in Koh Samui, they stayed at the Thai House Beach Resort, approximately 30 minutes from Koh Samui airport. At the resort, they swam in the children’s pool and lounged in the Jacuzzi, but the Von Greunigens made sure they spent plenty of time away from their hotel. With a taste for adventure, they packed in elephant trekking, road trips around the island in their rental jeep, and plenty of beachside fun.
The Best Part: The family all loved eating fabulous Thai food right on the beach. Mom and dad also enjoyed some of the yummy cocktails on offer. The Von Gruenigens were pleasantly surprised by Thailand’s beautiful June weather. After an enjoyable fortnight of sun, sea and sand, the worst part was when they had to leave!
Travel Tips: The family strongly recommend the resort they stayed at: Thai House Beach Resort, specifically Villa A which is right on the beachfront.
Into the Wild
The Travellers: Peter and Melinda McCombe and their children Annabelle (13) and Harry (11).
The Destination: Mongolia
The Plan: The McCombes decided to travel to Ulaanbaatar after a work colleague invited them. The family rented an SUV, complete with driver and translator. They then set out on a 3,500km journey from the Gobi Desert to Mongolia’s alpine region in the northwest. Keen for a challenge, their expedition included camping on the Mongolian steppes and in a yurt with some of the locals. The intrepid explorers joined in village celebrations, helped prepare food with the locals, and rode camels.
The Best Part: Staying with a herdsman’s family was a highlight for the McCombes. They also enjoyed helping prepare the sheep that were killed in honor of their visit. A further pleasure was the perfect countryside, herds of wild horses and yaks, and groups of children riding bareback across the Steppe. However, such isolation came at a price – the family wasn’t so keen on the pungent smell of fatty lamb in the yurts, or of the rubbish lying around many Mongolian villages.Travel TipsMongolians are fans of meat dishes and eat very few vegetables. Moreover, since food is quite scarce, they eat the whole animal, including the brain, liver and soup made from the blood. The McCombes does not recommend this trip for vegetarians.
From Bruges to Brisbane
The Travellers: Dan and Sonia Cahill and their daughters Zali (6) and Asha (2)
The Destination: London, Brighton, Paris, Bruges, Amsterdam and Brisbane.
The Plan: After completing their first year in Beijing, the Cahills decided to celebrate with a trip to Europe. Their first port of call was London, where they rode a red double-decker bus, took a boat cruise down the Thames, and visited all the major tourist attractions including Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and the National History Museum. They stayed at the Comfort Inn London Victoria in central London.Next up was the historic seaside town of Brighton, an hour by train from London. The Cahills visited the amusement parks, rented bikes and ate a lot of fish and chips. They stayed at the Hotel Seattle, located over the Brighton Marina.After saying goodbye to the UK, they moved on to Paris where they visited the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and picnicked on the Seine with locals. They also got the chance to meet Sonia’s 86-year-old great-uncle. They stayed in an apartment just round the corner from the Louvre, and of course, ate a lot of baguettes and cheese.The Cahills then hopped across the Belgian border to Bruges, where they climbed medieval bell towers, rode in a horse-drawn carriage and enjoyed traditional Belgian waffles. They stayed at the Hotel Oud Huis de Peellaert in the historic city center.Their final stop was Amsterdam. There, the family visited the Van Gogh museum, rented bikes, took a canal cruise and saw Holland’s famous flower markets. They stayed in an apartment in Overtoom.Exhausted from their European trip, the Cahills headed back to Beijing to repack, and then they headed on to their hometown, Brisbane.
The Best Part: Their favorite part of the trip was spending an afternoon with their great-uncle, Douglas MacDiarmid, who had left his hometown in rural New Zealand more than 50 years ago to pursue a career as an artist in Europe. He was inspirational, and spent a lot of time drawing with Zali and Asha. The most unexpected part was the unusually warm weather in the UK. If they could do it again, they would bring Asha’s stroller – mom and dad were certainly tired of carrying her all the time.
Travel Tips: On flights they recommend ordering diabetic meals because it’s much better than the standard food served on long-haul flights. The Cahills suggest letting your kids explore cities their own way; don’t overplan and remember that the journey is part of the adventure.
The Travellers: Jo Ross and her sons Nick (16) and Sam (15). Dad went on a solo holiday to fulfill his dreams of climbing Kilimanjaro.
The Destination: Queenstown, New Zealand
The Plan: The Ross clan decided to head to wintry New Zealand to visit family and friends. They flew Air New Zealand direct from Beijing to Auckland, then on to Queenstown. Once there, they hit the slopes and took in the spectacular landscapes. The family also did some mountain biking and visited the capital city, Wellington. Jo in particular enjoyed returning to her hometown with its vibrant restaurant and café culture. The family stayed at the picturesque Azur Lodge.
The Best Part: The Ross family enjoyed seeing their family and friends again, as well as the chance to go skiing. Air New Zealand made their long-haul flight particularly enjoyable. Travel TipsNew Zealand is a great outdoor holiday destination with amazing scenery. Jo, Nick and Sam recommend that families try their hand at some extreme sports, including bungee jumping, paragliding, and jet boating. Trying to do both of New Zealand’s islands in one trip can be difficult, so families should concentrate on one area and do it well.