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Andrea in the Land of Disney

By Andrea Ross

I’m scared of Disney World. There, I said it.

When my dad announced THIS was where he wanted to celebrate his 70th birthday this year I was nervous… I asked if he wouldn’t rather head to Costa Rica or Alaska or possibly anywhere else. Nope. Disney World!

Because of my nerves and because I know the value of a good travel expert, I immediately contacted Susan Kelly of Travel Magic. Susan is on the Wendy Perrin WOW List and I’ve been lucky enough to know her for years. Her company, Travel Magic, knows all things Disney. It was wonderful to chat with her, hear the options, feel like I was in good hands and start to really get excited about going to the happiest place on earth!


Disney World is complicated. There are multiple lands, hundreds of hotel rooms and don’t get me started on dining and fast passes… The truth is, it was overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start.Lightbulb! This is how my guests feel when thinking about Southeast Asia. I mean how many times has a guest told me, “There are just so many options; I don’t know how to best use my time. I want to keep everyone in the group happy.”This was exactly how I felt, looking at the myriad of options within Disney World.
I think over the last 15 years my comfort level with Southeast Asia has become fairly high, to say the least… I get it, I know the local customs, I speak the languages well enough to understand them, I have seen the weather in each given month, and I win at Southeast Asia Jeopardy!

However, this isn’t how my guests feel. For them, Southeast Asia is my Disney World… big, confusing, complicated and in a whole other language.

When the information packet arrived I dove right in. It’s what I tell my guests to do – read what I send you and it will all become clear. It helped – I know I have a schedule to follow, and I appreciate that Susan and her team have literally answered every question I sent and have booked the best experiences and really made sure that what we have planned is going to keep everyone happy – but, I’m still nervous.

So when I reviewed an itinerary I was sending out recently, I added additional explanation on one of the days. When a guest called with some last minute questions, I answered and gave as much insight as I could because I get it. These trips are scary and while I know I’m in good hands, just like my guests are, travel to a new place – whether it’s the happiest place on earth or where I’m happiest on earth – is still scary! So, I’ll leave you with a quote from Walt Disney himself…

“All of our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Thank you from Michelle Trader and Family

The Trader Family in Siem Reap

Our ultimate goal for each and every tour is for our guests to enjoy the trip of a lifetime in Southeast Asia, and we love seeing photos and hearing their feedback when they return home. Here is a wonderful note and photos from Michelle Trader’s family:

Dear Andrea and Journeys Within Team,

We are home! Andrea, working with someone like you, who had actually lived in the region, was invaluable. You spent quite a bit of time working with us to create an itinerary that fit our family’s interests. We were looking at a very ambitious schedule given the short amount of time we had and all we wanted to see, but you and your team helped make it feel seamless. We want to thank all of you for helping to make our trip one of the most amazing adventures we have ever enjoyed. You were all there, every step of the way, keeping in touch and making sure all was well and things were running smoothly. We felt well taken care of. You were even on top of the pillow emergency in Hoi An! J The JW crew surpassed our expectations in every way, through to the end of our trip.

The Trader Family Receiving a blessing from a monk

We can’t say enough about our kind, wonderful, knowledgeable guides. We kept thinking the next one could not possibly be as wonderful as the last, and each time we were proven wrong! They were always flexible and willing to go out of their way every time we expressed a special interest or desire to see or experience something. We will never forget them. Each of them added something extra that only they could have contributed, sharing their own personal stories and experiences with us. Tai played the flute for us while we were on a boat ride on the Mekong and gave Ben a Kung Fu lesson. How does it get better than that? Their impressive knowledge of each area made our experience so much deeper than it ever could have been without them and made our time in each location all the more memorable.

The Trader Family making friends at Patara Elephant Farm

We really can’t say enough good things about our experience with you and your team. You helped us create an outstanding family trip and lifelong memories!!

Thanks so much for everything,

Michelle, Wayne, and Ben Trader

An Amazing Family Experience at Song Saa

The Redinger family, repeat travelers with Journeys Within, recently returned from Song Saa Island in Cambodia, and had rave reviews.

Christine said some of their favorite experiences were a family trip to the Song Saa Foundation, meeting villagers, seeing the local school, snorkeling, and their 7-year-old loved the treasure hunt.

Continue reading An Amazing Family Experience at Song Saa

Year 8: 2011

In our 8th year, Journeys Within B & B became Journeys Within Boutique Hotel. Even with the hotel construction keeping things busy, the team still managed to make a lot of memories traveling around the region, making 2011 a very photogenic year!

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2011

Milestones:

Journeys Within receives Global Vision Award from Travel + Leisure Magazine

Launched Journeys Within Family Adventure Tours

Journeys Within B & B becomes Journeys Within Boutique Hotel, opening 5 new guest rooms, a spa and a restaurant

Press:

Los Angeles Times: Beyond Angkor, Cambodia, a Khmer kingdom emerges from the jungle

Conde Nast Traveler: Andrea Ross – Top Travel Specialist

Budget Travel Real Deals: BT Flashback: Cambodia

The Constant Traveler: Travel Pioneers in Southeast Asia

Travel Weekly: An exceptional tour, traced to its roots

The Perrin Post: Family Travel Contest: Tips for International Travel with Kids

Shanghai Talk Magazine: Stepping Out & Giving Back

Key Hires:

Binh Houng:

What year did join Team Journeys Within?:

2011

What were your thoughts of the company that first year?:

For me, I have worked officially with Journeys Within since 2011 but I met Andrea in April 2010. We did great trip to Quang Ngai Long Wall, at that time it seemed that we are the first foreign group find the way to go there. And that was on my birthday, 3rd April and Andrea had a very kind decision: I can go home earlier and she will go to airport by herself. I can enjoy my birthday with my family. That was the first time I worked with her. She made me think about a real boss. So I met her and worked with Journeys Within’s clients until January of 2011. Of course, I agreed without being worry when she asked me to work as full time guide for Journeys Within.

Kanika Peou:

What year did join Team Journeys Within?:

2011

What were your thoughts of the company that first year?:

In first year, I thought that Journeys Within is quite busy because at that time Tour Company at Journeys Within Hotel were stayed together and it is under construction.

 

Special Memories from 2011:

2011 callie in kep
Callie relaxes in a hammock in Kep
2011 cambodia
A typical commute in Cambodia
2011 couper and the girls in kep
Couper, Srey Nut and Chen on a boat to Rabbit Island in Kep, Cambodia
2011 jwbh construction
The ever so stylish construction crew hard at work on the new bungalows at Journeys Within Boutique Hotel.
2011 kids playing at phic noy
Kids at play at Phik Noy in Luang Prabang, Laos.
2011 laos
Nicole captures the beauty of this sleepy village in Laos
2011 phnom penh
Andrea, Srey Nut, Chen, Couper and Callie hang out with a bear on a tour of the Phnom Tamao Zoo in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
2011 sunset in kep
A picture perfect sunset in Kep, Cambodia
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Brandon rides through the floods in Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Flooding at Journeys Within Boutique Hotel.
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The Journeys Within Boutique Hotel staff are all smiles while they work!
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After living in Cambodia for years, Andrea still loves to explore hidden temples
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Couper gets a visit from a friend from the US! Griffin and Couper discussing very important fishing skills before heading out for a swim.
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A lone house among the flooded rice patties in Siem Reap, Cambodia
2011 april with a calf
April with a calf in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
2011 bangkok team
The Bangkok team and April enjoy dinner together
Callie and I on our way to Jeab's house
Andrea and Callie on their way to Jeab’s house in Bangkok
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Andrea Ross and her best friend Andrea Marshall tour Thailand together
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Andrea and Callie at the beach
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I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get much cuter than this picture of Callie in her pink tutu swim suit in the crystal clear waters
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Callie tries out the famous street food in Bangkok
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The Andreas on tour with Callie and friends
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Callie always finds the camera – say cheese!
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Couper, Chen, Srey Nut and Callie on tour in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Being kids at Rabbit Island
Best friends at Rabbit Island – Kep, Cambodia.
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The Journeys Within Boutique Hotel staff and their families
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Sunday Art Class at Journeys Within Our Community
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Family of four on a single moto in Siem Reap, Cambodia
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A family on tour visits the village where they donated a water well through JWOC.
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Srey Nut, Callie and Chen on a tuk tuk on their way to a play date in Siem Reap
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Couper on an island in Halong Bay
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Callie and Couper visit with their Nana in Halong Bay
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Binh at the Long Wall of Quang Ngai
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Andrea and Binh sit down with a villager at the Long Wall
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Brandon, Callie, Couper, Jo and Toby on a family vacation in Vietnam
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Andrea remembers her river guiding skills and steers the boat in the Mekong
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Rosie, Khoa and Michelle’s daughter, on the Mekong in Vietnam
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Couper serenades Rosie and Callie while on a boat in the Mekong.
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Callie and Andrea in Dalat, Vietnam
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Callie and Couper giving alms at a temple in Vietnam
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Andrea, Callie and Jo take a picture with their favortie tailors in Hoi An, Vietnam.
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Callie poses in her Ao Dai in Hoi An, Vietnam.
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Callie, Rosie and Couper in the bus on tour in Vietnam
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Brandon with his parents on flight to their next Vietnam destination
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Andrea, Brandon, Callie and Couper visit a homestay in Cambodia with Narla
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Brandon, Narla and the kids enjoy a picnic at a temple in Cambodia
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Brandon, Callie, Couper and Andrea at a temple in Cambodia.
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Brandon gives Couper a lift

Traveling with kids in Luang Prabang

By: Nicole Long – Laos country director 

Traveling to Laos and experiencing new and enlightening cultures and customs can be a great adventure for the whole family.  Now that most countries in SE Asia have modern conveniences, families can feel safe and comfortable to travel with their youngest.

Most of the destinations are chosen for the adult traveler, but when you have the whole family in tow it’s important to remember that the younger ones might want to do something different. One of our amazing travel consultants (who have families of their own) can direct you to choices during your booking process that would make for a fun and safe adventure for everyone.

Once you finally reach your travel destination, where do you go when you have down time after the day’s tour?  Or what restaurants have menus specifically catered to children?  Where can you take the kids so they can interact with other Lao kids?

Below are places in Luang Prabang that we have found to cater to the whole family. If you are traveling with younger ones then you will receive a Kids Cheat Sheet with these suggested destinations upon your arrival. Don’t forget your local guide and Journeys Within Country Director are available for expanding on this list and providing more information and suggestions to meet your family’s specific needs and requests!

RESTAURANTS

La Residence Phou Vao  (Phou Vao Rd) – One of the best restaurants in town with stunning mountain top views shall make the whole family happy. This 5-star hotel not only offers exquisite menu options for the adults, but also has something for the young ones. Children’s Menu items consist of pasta, pizza, burgers, fries and mashed potatoes. The kids should also love the fairytale lights that illuminate the entire hotel and gardens.

Rama Hotel (Visounnarath Rd) – This little lunch spot is great for families for a few reasons. They offer a kids menu (hot dogs, meatballs, chicken and fries combo, mashed potatoes and steamed veggies), cheap dishes for the parents (pastas, sandwiches, Indian, etc.) and has a little padded play room with legos and story books!

JoMa Bakery Café (Chao Fa Ngum) – They may not have a kids menu per say but, this western café has boundless kid-friendly food options. They offer waffles w/ whipped cream, French toast, bagels, pizza, pastries, shakes, brownie sundaes, cookies and much more.   They are also one of the only spots in town with A/C!

Roots and Leaves (Kingitsarath Rd, outskirts of main part of town) – The whole family can enjoy the atmosphere here with outdoor seating that surrounds a lotus pond and shows a traditional Lao dance and music show for free.  This would only be for the families that seek a little adventure in cuisine. The menu consists of traditional Lao and Thai foods. Shows run Mon.-Sat 7-9pm.

ACTIVITIES

Traditional Arts and Ethnology Center (Setthathirath Rd, near Dara Market) – This museum is focused on exploring and educating on some of the multiple ethnic tribes living in Laos today. While the adults go on a guided tour the children are given handouts related to their age group. Fun activities range from a riddle identification worksheet to an item hunting worksheet to coloring pages. They also have a wonderful souvenir shop that has fun dolls and bags for kids.

Big Brother Mouse (Phayameungchan Rd)  – BBM is the first children’s book publishers to make books in Lao with English translations.  Not only do they create this rarity found in Lao, but they also have an outreach program that goes to schools in the countryside to give out books and create libraries. Help support their cause and stop in to buy some books to take home. They have many western classics along with traditional Lao tales. A story book in Lao and English would make for a great show and tell!  If the young traveler is old enough then you might want to stop by their open conversation time, Mon. – Sat. 9am-11am. Allow them to communicate with other Lao students wishing to improve their English speaking abilities.

Children’s Cultural Center (Sisavangvong Rd, near Hmong Market) – Young Lao students come here after school (4pm) to engage in supervised activities like games, song, dance, etc. Bring your young ones by to have a look or join in the fun. There is also an US funded library that they might be interested in checking out.

Swimming – If your hotel does not have a swimming pool, we can recommend you taking a trip to Villa Santi Resort or Paradise Resort to soak in the sun. Give the office a call and we can help to arrange this for you.

Old Stadium (Deun That Luang) – Throughout the year a traveling fair comes through Luang Prabang. They have a big bouncy room and slider, carnival games and bumper cars. If interested, ask your guide or contact the office and we will see if it’s in town.

Peninsula Beach– In the winter season (Oct-April), when the water levels are down in the rivers, there is a bamboo bridge at the tip of the peninsula from the main part of town to across the Nam Khan River. Once you cross you will find a beach area where the Nam Khan and Mekong meet. It is a great spot for kids to run around, dip their feet in the water and watch the sunset.