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U.S. School Break Vacation Planner – Southeast Asia & Beyond

Here at Journeys Within, family travel has been at the core of what we do since the very beginning. Click here to read more about our founder Andrea Ross’ travels with her kids and tours we recommend for families.

Since pulling your children out of school for an extended overseas tour isn’t always doable, we put together this list of recommended tours for each of the major U.S. school holiday periods, to give parents a sense of how much they can do and see while their kids are on a school vacation.

Christmas/New Year’s Winter Break

Families looking to travel over the two-week Christmas/New Year’s break have the luxury of enough time to really dive into the culture and sights of a country or even two, which is why we recommend the two tours below. During this time of year, the weather in Thailand and Cambodia is as good as it gets – typical daytime highs around 80 degrees, without the humidity of summertime and little chance of rain.

Best time to book: By Sept. 1 or earlier if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

First Time Asia for Families Tour

This tour is designed for first time Asia goers, but more specifically for a family traveling to Asia for the first time. Through experience we’ve determined how people imagine Asia and the kind of trip they enjoy on their first visit. As a group of family travelers, we’ve also determined a great daily pace for families traveling with children, and tours that are family friendly. By minimizing flights, maximizing day tours, and planning in time for naps or time to let the kids run around and get their wiggles out, you’ll see this tour may be just the right fit for your family’s first Asia adventure.

Classic Family Cambodia Tour

You can head out and explore all the different countries and culture Southeast Asia has to offer, or you can spend your time getting to really know all Cambodia has to offer. Cambodia is so much more than just temples. As we often say, “you’ll love the temples, but you’ll fall in love with Cambodia.”

Spring Break

Traveling over Spring Break consistently offers some of the best weather available in Vietnam, with not-too-rainy and not-too-hot conditions found throughout the country. Families willing to brave the heat and humidity in Thailand this time of year will be rewarded by one of the most family-friendly festivals in the world – Songkran (essentially a nation-wide water fight). In addition, lodging rates are often discounted during the Spring Break holiday period.

Best time to book: By mid-January is ideal, by mid-February if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Vietnam Spring Special for Families

This 10-day tour starts in the North with an immersion into Vietnamese culture and history, then takes participants out on the waters of UNESCO World Heritage Site Halong Bay for an overnight cruise amongst the remarkable limestone formations. Next, the tour gets active in historic Hoi An where you will walk amongst the ancient town and ride bicycles on Cam Kim Island. Finally, spend your last days in Saigon exploring the cultural diversity of this amazing nation.

Thailand Songkran Festival Tour for Families

The Thai New Year festival of Songkran is a great family-friendly way to get your feet wet (literally) with the traditions of Southeast Asia. This 10-day tour is designed to fit into an extended spring break vacation and will take families to some of Thailand’s most iconic destinations. Start in Bangkok where you’ll experience the nationwide water fight that is the Songkran festival. Next, head north to Chiang Mai where you’ll explore temples and take part in the Patara Elephant Farm’s Elephant Owner For A Day program. Finish up with a relaxing stay on the beaches of Phuket.

Summer Break

Who doesn’t love a summer beach vacation? While most of Southeast Asia is in the midst of the hot and humid rainy season during summer, these Thai islands are an exception. Plus, rates are discounted during the slower summer season.

Best time to book: By end of April if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Last Minute Beach Crawl Tour

Thailand has some of the finest beaches in the world and this beach crawl will take you through some of our favorites. You will begin your tour on Koh Samui, before traveling on to Koh Phangan and Koh Tao.

Thanksgiving Break

These days, many schools take the entire Thanksgiving week off, meaning you can plan a more ambitious overseas trip during this time period. If you’re going to travel over Thanksgiving, we figured you might as well celebrate food or take in a must-see festival that’s happening over the same time period (in 2018).

Best time to book: By end of September if possible (early-booking discounts available 90+ days in advance)

Culinary Immersion Tour

Asia is possibly best known for it’s food. From the spice of Thai food to the exotic textures of Laos cuisine and the sour mixes found in Cambodia, this tour will take you through these amazing countries exciting your tastebuds along the way. In each city we have tried to include a cooking class focusing on local cuisine, a meal with a local family to get the flavour of authentic cooking and of course one night out at the must-visit restaurant. Of course food doesn’t tell the whole story so in between these amazing meals we have included the highlights of each country: from the Grand Palace in Bangkok, riding elephants in Chiang Mai, visiting waterfalls in Laos and seeing the amazing Angkor Wat in Cambodia your eyes and ears are going to have as much fun as your tastebuds!

Loi Krathong for Families Tour

Let our top guides show you the bustling city of Bangkok before heading North. Take a tour of Chiang Mai and enjoy one of Thailand’s most picturesque celebrations, the Loi Krathong Festival (Nov. 22 – 25 in 2018 – which is the Thanksgiving holiday period in the U.S.) which marks the end of the main rice harvest and is designed to thank the gods for the yearly supply of water.

Fly to the Cambodian city of Siem Reap to take in the sights at Angkor Wat and be further inspired by the wonders of the entire Angkor Archeological Park. While in Siem Reap, see the beauty of the Cambodian countryside by horseback and kayak through floating mangrove forest in Southeast Asia’s largest lake, the Tonle Sap. Finish your trip by spending a few days relaxing on one of Thailand’s most beautiful beaches, coconut in hand.

More Family Travel Tips

Once you have chosen your dates, here are a few more resources for families looking to ensure their overseas trip goes smoothly with children of any age.

Special summer travel discounts for teachers

We believe travel can teach us so much about the world and we want to celebrate those who help teach others, which is why Journeys Within will offer all school teachers and college professors a 10% discount off a customized independent tour in Southeast Asia this summer (travel must take place between June 1 – Aug. 31, 2018). Please feel free to pass along this offer to any teachers who’ve made an impact in your life!  Call 877-454-3672 to start planning your summer adventure.

Sample Tour Itineraries

First Time Asia Tour

This tour is designed for first time Asia goers. Through experience we’ve determined how people imagine Asia and the kind of trip they enjoy on their first visit. Fly into Bangkok and spend some time getting to know this amazing city before heading for the hills. Chiang Mai is the epitome of Thailand, a bustling city surrounded by beautiful countryside and interesting hill tribes. (We also have a First Time Asia for Families option.)


Give As You Go: Laos & Cambodia Tour

At Journeys Within, we’ve specialized in custom Southeast Asia tours for philanthropically minded travelers from the very beginning – what we call “active philanthropy.” So for us, the 15-day “Give As You Go: Laos & Cambodia” tour is our holy grail – each hotel, restaurant and experience included in this itinerary was chosen with the idea of giving back and supporting local community development efforts.  At Journeys Within, we believe that this type of travel not only helps those countries we visit, but also creates incredible experiences for our travelers.


Cambodia Highlights – Green Season Special

Cambodia has a lot more to show for itself than just temples, and witnessing everything the country has to offer during the “green season” (May – October) is an adventurous and affordable way to get a glimpse of life in this fascinating country with few other travelers around. From the bustling capital with its tree-lined boulevards, to visiting the amazing 4 Rivers Ecolodge and eating pepper crab on a deserted beach… With this itinerary, we can guarantee you’ll love the temples, but we can’t guarantee they’ll be the highlight of your trip.

Enjoy the new Phnom Penh nightlife, be amazed by the temples of Angkor Wat, soak up the beauty of the amazing national parks and relax with the locals on white sand beaches. This tour will take you beyond the tourist traps so you can get a true sense of this incredible country.


Backstage Pass to Vietnam Tour

Our 16-day “Backstage Pass to Vietnam” tour begins in Saigon, exploring the cultural and culinary heritage of the city. You will will continue their exploration of southern Vietnam with a trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels, where guerilla fighters constructed an amazing underground base and village during the French Resistance and Vietnam War, followed by dinner in the home of a veteran of the Vietnamese-American war.  In the historic port city of Hoi An, you’ll ride bicycles around Cam Kim Island where families still produce traditional crafts such as ornate furniture, coracle basket boats and sleeping mats by hand. In Hue, witness the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hue’s Imperial City and Citadel, and enjoy dinner in the home of former Nguyen Dynasty princess Ngoc Son – now occupied and preserved by a multi-generational family of Vietnamese historians and feng shui experts. Pass through the infamous DMZ on the way to Phong Nha where a three-day underground caving adventure in the mountainous region awaits. In Hanoi, You will have the opportunity for an intimate look at the city via bicycle tour along the banks of the Red River, stopping along the way to learn about local village life, traditional handicrafts, and agriculture in the area.  Finish your tour with an overnight trip to Halong Bay – another UNESCO World Heritage site aboard a private junk boat sailing amidst the limestone islands jutting out of the bay is the perfect way to end this insider’s look at the highlights of Vietnam.


Top picks for 2018: Where our travel experts want to go this year

We asked our office mates for their dream 2018 trips now that Journeys Within & Wild Frontiers offers so many more destinations throughout the world. This is what they said…
 
April’s dream trips:
Heather’s dream trips:
Andrea’s dream trips:
Dudley’s dream trips:
  • Adventure with Philippa: I’ve been to Eritrea and found it fascinating with tremendous people, so I imagine Ethiopia (pictured above) is much the same. See the Ethiopia – Northern Explorer tour.
  • Multigenerational: We’d like to take the kids and the grandkids on a private tour to Costa Rica. See the Classic Costa Rica – Family tour.
  • Traveling with Andrea: Mongolia. On the ski lift I used to quiz her on the capitals of the world and she never got Ulan Bator! I would take Andrea to Mongolia so we could come full circle. See the Mongolia – Land of the Great Khan tour.

A message from Jonny Bealby of Wild Frontiers

Jonny Bealby video

Dear Journeys Within travelers,

I do hope you are well and looking forward to the festive season.

The purpose of this letter is firstly to welcome you to the world of Wild Frontiers and to say how happy, and proud I am that we have teamed up with Andrea and her passionate team at Journeys Within.

As a fellow member of the Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialists list, I first met Andrea at a summit in Los Angeles some six years ago. Chatting to her over the course of the event it became very clear to me that we both shared the same travel ethos – that of striving to give our guests the best possible travel experience, while also being sympathetic to the communities and environments we were lucky enough to be traveling through.

And I thought then if we could ever join forces it would make a wonderful match. So I am delighted that six years on this dream has become a reality.

As far as Wild Frontiers is concerned, I founded and launched the business in 2002, principally out of my knowledge of travel in South Asia: India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bhutan. As a travel writer and journalist before becoming a tour operator – during which time I wrote three books and made one Discovery Channel film – I knew many far flung countries and soon the business expanded. With a team of dedicated travel consultants here in London, plus an office in Delhi, we now offer expert travel advice to around 70 destinations, from Argentina to Algeria and India to Iran. We have our own charitable foundation and in 2012 we were awarded the Guardian/Observer Best Ethical Travel Company Award.

So it is my fervent wish that we at Wild Frontiers can emulate worldwide what Andrea, April and their team in Cambodia have given you in Southeast Asia. We will do all we can to make sure that the same level of service and knowledge is offered wherever you choose to go.

I wish you a very happy festive season and happy travels in 2018.

Welcome to Wild Frontiers!

Best wishes,

Jonny Bealby

If you haven’t read Andrea Ross’ letter about the merger with Wild Frontiers, you can do so here.

Journeys Within Merging with Wild Frontiers

Andrea video on merger

What a wonderful adventure life is!

Fifteen years ago when I first visited Southeast Asia, I could never have imagined the amazing journey I would go on; and now, another exciting chapter is being written and the adventure continues…

First, a little background: In March of 2017, I had hit a wall. I was physically and emotionally exhausted and I felt that my time as CEO and owner of Journeys Within should come to a close. So I did what any exhausted parent would do and headed to Disneyworld.

After being rejuvenated by the happiest place on earth, I came back to work and realized that I actually love what I do. I love working with clients, I love my team, and I love travel in general. The problem was, I don’t love spreadsheets or profit and loss statements and I felt that I needed and wanted a change.

Going out on a limb I called Jonny Bealby of Wild Frontiers Travel. I’ve known Jonny for years through the Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialists list and I’ve always admired his company, his tours and his dedication to the people and countries he visits. I explained to him that I wanted to offer our travelers more options and expand our trip offerings, but that I was also tired of running the show. A few phone calls and some in-person meetings later and Journeys Within is now a proud member of the Wild Frontiers family.

Wild Frontiers Travel is an adventure travel company based in the U.K. and Jonny had been looking to expand to the U.S. for the last couple of years. Happily for all of us, my phone call gave him the opportunity to do just that – using Journeys Within as his Wild Frontiers base in the U.S.

For me it means that my team can continue to do what we do – provide amazing tours to Southeast Asia – but our office is growing and we will now also host a sales team for the amazing Wild Frontiers trips around the world.

This last month I was lucky enough to visit India and actually kick the tires of a Wild Frontiers tour. India was astounding, the places we visited and the people I met added an amazing new chapter to my travel-life book and I honestly can’t wait to go back…with the kids this time! I also have a huge appreciation for the team Jonny has set up there and it reaffirmed to me that being part of the Wild Frontiers family is something to be proud of.

I’m thrilled to be working with Jonny and I’m excited to help Wild Frontiers expand to the U.S. Above all else, I’m glad that our team is here and we are now able to offer even more to you, our travelers.

Feel free to give me a call anytime so we can plan YOUR next adventure!<

Best,

Andrea Ross


If you haven’t read Jonny Bealby’s letter of introduction, you can do so here.