Posts Tagged ‘family travel’

Five Reasons to Take the Family to Egypt for the Holidays

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

So maybe it’s a little early to be thinking about holiday plans, but maybe not. If you’re thinking about traveling as 2010 draws to a close, you might want to book now to get the best vacation possible. We’re taking families to Egypt  from December 27 – January 3 for a unique vacation that celebrates family, history, and tradition in a whole new way. Here are five reasons to treat the family to Egypt this year:

Kids do some holiday shopping in Cairo's Khan-El-Khalili Bazaar. Photo: J.D. Kling.

Kids do some holiday shopping in Cairo’s Khan-El-Khalili Bazaar. Photo: J.D. Kling

1) Mummy’s curse – real or fake? Let your kids check out King Tut’s treasures and decide for themselves.

2) Take an unforgettable camel ride with your kids around the Great Pyramids of Giza, and help them gain an intrinsic understanding of the meaning of “big” and “old.”

3) Team up for a scavenger hunt around Cairo’s colorful Khan-El-Khalili bazaar, and find out how creative, intelligent, and fast your kids really are.

4) Take a family bike ride along the banks of the Nile and enjoy the long lost gift of simple companionship.

5) Enjoy lessons in ancient and modern engineering on a visit to the temples of Rameses II and his wife, Nefertari, which were moved to make way for the flooding caused by the creation of the Aswan Dam.

Travel is one of the best ways to open children’s eyes to the pleasures of history, archeology, and exploration. Our Egyptian Family Odyssey makes travel easier with airfare included. First time travelers get $250 off if you book now.

Where would you like to take your kids? Please share.

Pazzo for Travel

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Guest Blogger William J. Higgins, FAIA is an architect with 37 years of worldwide experience, has practiced in 10 different countries, and has traveled through more than 20 countries across Europe, Asia and North America.  He is contributor to two recent books: International Practice for Architects and Founder’s Folly. He has a Masters of Architecture degree from Harvard University, a Bachelor’s Degree from Louisiana State University, and has taught at Stanford University. He is a founding Principal of Architecture International, Ltd. and was a Principal of The Architects Collaborative, Inc. Here, he shares a tale of travel planning with family.

Travel’s always more fun with friends and family. (Cafe, Florence).

It was Christmas, and we were gathered at a family dinner. My wife and I were regaling our parents with tales of our personal travels to Europe.  I paused, looked at my wife across the table, and then blurted out, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of us went to Europe together?” One would have thought that I was Santa Claus flying down the chimney loaded with gifts, for the resounding “Yes! What a wonderful idea!” that instantly sprang forth from my mother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law. Their happiness filled the dining room. Even my wife, Norma, beamed with approval.

I consider myself to be an educated, informed and, yes, mature individual. I generally have my wits about me and usually make wise choices when it comes to life decisions such as what color socks to wear, what channel to watch, or what to eat for dinner. So why did a sensible person like me, married to an intelligent and insightful woman, think it would be a great idea to travel to Europe with our parents? The Italians have a word for it: pazzo, or crazy. The French would say fou. Yes, crazy.

Both of us are of European descent. Norma is Italian and Hungarian, and I am a blend of Italian, French, Irish, and English. So the thought of journeying to Europe with our parents to explore the roots of our heritage seemed like an exciting way to bond with our family and enjoy some time together. We are fortunate in that we get along with our in-laws, and that our three “old ones” enjoy each other’s company. We all share common interests, one of which we now discovered, is travel.

As we continued with Christmas dinner, pouring more holiday wine, the questions came in rapid succession and with excited voices: When to go? Where to go? How do we get passports? What about medicines? Travel insurance? The question of when to go would not be as much a challenge as where to go. Now that I had opened the proverbial can of  traveling worms, the suggested places to visit stretched across the entire European continent from the Danube  to the English Channel. My English Literature professor mother-in-law, Alice, was inclined to try Shakespeare’s England, or perhaps Shelley’s Rome or even Lord Byron’s Venice. My high school principal mother, Gwen, thought it would be grand to see the Louvre in Paris, or the Uffizi of Florence, but “England would be nice, too.” My recently retired yet adventurous father-in-law, Rus, yearned to see the majesty of the Matterhorn or Michelangelo’s Florence or the WWII cemeteries of France. More wine please.

The Danube River, as it passes through Budapest.

I asked myself, how do we see 2,000 years of history and 2,000 miles of landscape in a fourteen day timeframe? Oh yes, the senior members of our family decided our trip had to be at least two weeks.  What the heck, they had plenty of time on their hands, why waste an opportunity to delve into old world culture especially if I am offering to be the tour guide?

Norma retrieved the World Atlas from the study and we moved all the dishes to one end of the table, poured more wine, and swarmed over the maps of Europe, measuring distances between destinations with a nearby, uneaten string bean. After much bean positioning and stretching, we decided that the farthest we should travel in one direction was 1,000 miles or three string beans. Thus was born the rule of the haricot vert.

Our inaugural grand tour would encompass a scenic loop by car through Switzerland, Italy, and France, a mere 2,000 miles, or six string beans. This way we would please everyone and be so exhausted at the end that the thought of doing this a second time would completely vanish from our collective noodle heads. All heads turned to me, and in unison, said “So, when do we go?”

I paused because I thought it would be cool to travel to new places, visit world renowned museums, cathedrals, and historic sites and see them through the eyes of our parents. Can you imagine exploring the inner streets of old cities discussing the window patterns and architectural detail of a French neighborhood with your mother? Or sampling the local cuisine at an outdoor cafe in Rome with your mother-in-law? Or taking a gondola ride to the base of the Matterhorn with your father-in-law? Well, neither did I, until I realized that the excitement that was already expressed in their eyes and the gaiety in their voices meant that this could be a very energizing experience for our parents, at a time in their lives when they were contemplating what their next chapter was going to be. We were ready to help them write it in a foreign language.

Where do you want to go next? Please share.

Ready to take off yet? Click here to see how you can travel to Europe with Smithsonian Journeys.

Note to readers: Want to share your own travel story? Just e-mail it to smithsonian.journeys@gmail.com.

Family Life in Ancient Egypt

Monday, August 16th, 2010
Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

One of the most popular destination for Smithsonian travelers is Egypt. There’s something everyone finds intriguing about this ancient land—whether it’s history, culture, archaeology or artifacts that pique your interest most. So, given the love for this country, we’re celebrating Egypt Week at Smithsonian Journeys this week! Check back each day for more on Egypt. 

We’ll begin with the children of Ancient Egypt. All of us have experienced childhood, but children in ancient Egypt lived much differently than we do now. The ancient Egyptians defined roles sharply for small children, prepubescent kids, and adults with full responsibilities to society. The average life span of an Ancient Egyptian was about 40 years, so childhood ended at puberty and young Egyptians quickly learned their roles in society. By age 14, ancient Egyptians were considered adults and would have been involved in jobs, marriage, and children of their own.

For the typical Egyptian child, pets were a wonderful form of entertainment, including dogs, kittens, ducks, and pigeons. While wealthier children had access to dolls and a variety of other toys, most children learned from what was around them. Children who were not of the upper classes mirrored their parents roles in performing household chores (for girls), or working in the fields (for boys). These children did not attend school as we do today, but they did begin learning their family’s trade, as early as age four.

For royal children, education was taken seriously and included reading, writing and mathematics. Other wealthy boys might have trained to become scribes while attending temple schools or trained to become army officers. Girls, however, did not attend school, but many did learn to read and write.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Learn more about being a kid in ancient and modern Egypt on our Egyptian Family Odyssey!

An Egyptian Family Odyssey

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

There is something exotic and adventurous about Egypt. Every child knows that in a desert somewhere in the North African desert, there are gigantic pyramids, “cursed” tombs, and an abundance of mummies. Exploring Egypt as a child provides an experience that lasts a lifetime, possibly resulting in your child becoming an archaeologist, historian, or diplomat.

You might not expect your mummy-obsessed child to want to  be a SCUBA diver,  particularly in the desert land of Egypt. But in locations like Alexandria and along the Nile River, archaeologists and environmentalists need to go underwater to do their research.

For environmentalists, there is the concern about rising sea levels, which would affect Egypt’s coastal cities and communities along the Nile river. For archaeologists, Egypt’s many shipwrecks and submerged buildings are of great interest, as they provide a record of Egyptian nautical history, as well as many stone and metal artifacts.  These kinds of materials do not deteriorate easily, and while underwater, objects can be preserved from wind, weather and war.

So even if your child wants to be a certified SCUBA diver, you may find yourself visiting her in Egypt someday.

Have you been to Egypt? What was your favorite highlight?

Take the whole family to Egypt! Our Egyptian Family Odyssey has dates available in 2010 and 2011.

A Grand Canyon Weekend Adventure

Monday, July 12th, 2010
A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

It’s practically the American rite of passage. At some point in our lives, we are compelled to visit the Grand Canyon—and for good reason. There is no place on the planet as stunningly beautiful or shockingly vast. With more than five million visitors each year, the Grand Canyon has achieved American icon status. This is a stark difference to the 44,173 visitors in 1919, when the Grand Canyon was first declared a National Park.

While most people visit the Canyon for hiking, photography, and family vacations, it was originally home to many Native American tribes including the Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo (also known as the Diné). The oldest artifacts found date back more than 12,000 years, and are well preserved due to the hot and dry climate. It would be easy to think that with all of our technology we would know everything about the Grand Canyon, but the reality is that modern archeologists and other scientists have only surveyed 3% of the Canyon and surrounding parkland, leaving this part of the United States still full of mysteries.

What is your favorite family memory of the Grand Canyon?