We recently started working with Thomson Family Adventures. Their purpose of “Worldwide Adventures Designed By Families For Families” fits right in with what we are offering with our travel agency and this website. We got a chance to talk with Moo Bishop about Thomson Family Adventures and the unique travel opportunities they offer.
FamilyTraveGurus: How did Thomson Family Adventures get started?
Back in the 1980’s, owner Judi Wineland began Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) to satisfy her own love of travel. At the same time Rick Thomson began Thomson Safaris in Tanzania. Not only were family guests returning from a Thomson Safari asking where they could travel next with Thomson, but Rick and Judi’s own children were growing up in the travel world too. At that time, bringing your kids along on a trip was an industry nuisance, with established tour operators offering very limited dates for families with children. And that was all it was – allowing the kids to come along, with no special accommodations or considerations. Recognizing a real need, Judi and Thomson Safaris/Tanzania GM Jim Kackley began putting their heads together. In 1998 Jim and his family returned to the USA after 4 years in Tanzania, to open the doors to the first company with a sole specialty in multiple generations traveling together – Thomson Family Adventures.
FamilyTraveGurus: What makes your family oriented tours unique compared to other tour operators?
We’re small and we’re personal. We have the flexibility and the patience to pay attention to your client’s specific needs. We have tremendous knowledge we want to share with you! The most important thing is that we do nothing but family travel, and have more experience with it than any other tour operator. We have spent 10 years with only this focus, working with local operators and developing partnerships and programs to offer the best family experiences available in the market. Do others copy us? Sure, but we are generally considered the industry leader. Our groups are small at 12 – 20 people, and we never cancel a departure once someone is booked. We continue to develop new ideas to enhance everyone’s experience and offer a range of adventures with a specific theme such as teenagers, art, or photography. We offer children the chance to write ahead to a pen pal, and meet that child when they travel. We always use local guides, and include unique cultural experiences so the family returns home with a warm sense of the country they have visited. We will create a private trip for any size group, and custom family reunions are very popular too.
FamilyTraveGurus: Tell us about your kids and how travel has helped you draw closer to them.
My children are now 16, 18 and 22. We have been lucky enough to travel on many Thomson adventures over the last 5 years, and each one has given us memories we rehash almost every time we come together. These shared, cherished experiences always give us a reason to feel good, to laugh and to talk about the world together. We spend a lot of time looking at our photos!
One example of the power of travel comes from my experiences in China. I went with my daughter, then 15, and we had a wild and unforgettable two weeks exploring the country. It was so different from anything either of us had done before, so we were both really seeing it with the same eyes, an experience that makes you equal for once. Parents and children do not often have that opportunity in a day to day life. I don’t mind saying she and I have struggled plenty since then with the old mother-daughter thing. But that adventure in China – we only have to think about it and we are able to let go of the angst, and come back to the loving. There is nothing like sharing an experience on a level playing field to give you – and your child – the gift of understanding, compassion, and patience.
I see you have been on a number of the Thomson family adventures yourself – which one was your favorite and why?
This must be a trick question – We have honestly loved every adventure we’ve been on. Alaska, China, Turkey, Morocco, Portugal, Tanzania, Costa Rica – each one has something different to offer, something special as a destination, and every one gave us a fantastic new friends among our traveling companions.
But if you ask where we would all go back to in a second if we had the chance? Tanzania is on our list, for its wildlife and Thomson’s guides (we miss both!). Plus two of my kids want to climb Kilimanjaro (not for me, thank you!). And then there is Turkey. It is the most amazing place with so many things to offer from the culture, art, food, history, landscape, and blue water – all the way to its wonderful people. My kids would all agree -we would do this adventure exactly the same way again!
FamilyTraveGurus: Thanks Moo, your tours sound wonderful!