Take Your Kids/Grandkids to Europe!

Travel can be the greatest gift you can ever give your children or grandchildren. It educates them about the world. Take them to Greece and show them what they are learning about in school. Seeing Posiedon’s temple or the Acropolis and the site of the first Olympics is much more exciting than reading about it in History class. However, learning about it and then actually seeing it can be really exciting.

Photo1  Photo2

Was someone in your family in WWII? Why not plan a trip to Normandy and see the beaches where the invasion took place?

Photo3

Educate your kids about our past and why it matters. There is nobody better to share this experience with than you.

Learn more than just history. You can then go beyond basic tours. Take your kid’s interests and really create a truly special trip. Do you have a budding chef in your family? Take a kids cooking class in Paris or go spend a day with a famous chef! If you have a soccer fanatic, go see a professional soccer match and meet one of the players. How about a Harry Potter lover? Get a personal tour of where the movies were filmed and other castles in England.

Photo4  Photo5

Make it authentic by staying in a luxurious Italian villa, French chateau or English castle. There are wonderful old castles that have been turned into exquisite hotels. Or rent out a whole 17th century castle yourself. They have character and often come with a local concierge who can tell great stories and fill you in with local knowledge.

Chateau Durantey - Dordogne  7eeb0773-2617-4f27-a20d-f5f1a9bf36f7

Start planning your best family trip ever!
Call  847-386-7800  Today!
We will take care of the rest!

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

Mike and Liz

We specialize in family travel  to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.

Advertisement

Sea Island Escape

Recently, our family was in Sea Island, GA. It is a wonderful family resort with golf, tennis, fishing, shooting, yachting, a great beach and many other activities. This resort was designed in 1928 by Addison Mizner, the architect who built many of the homes in Palm Beach. Many presidents and famous people have frequented the resorts over the years.

It is a little over an hour to Savannah, America’s first planned city with 24 town squares modeled off of the design in London. Savannah is a fun city to visit with Paula Deen’s restaurant, old Southern homes and great shops.

Don’t forget to do some shark fishing and go to Peach World!

Fall and Spring are the nicest times to visit, but it never gets too cold. This last week the temperatures hovered around 100, so you have to go out early in the morning and late in the day. The mid-day is great for napping, reading and playing board games.

The golf courses are pretty and fun. Seaside is along the water and features a lot of sand and high grass. It requires accuracy and good putting and plays like a Scottish links course. Tom Fazio renovated the course in 1999 and many USGA events are played there. The retreat course was renovated by Davis Love III and is an enjoyable course with pretty pines trees everywhere. We did not play the Plantation course, but it is a third option for the avid golfer.

The resort features six wonderful restaurants from casual food to five star fancy steak houses. We went to the Oak Room to watch the Hawk’s, Colt & Allison for steaks on Peter’s 20th birthday, Southern Tide by the beach and the Davis Love Grill on our way out. We have to go back for the Italian and French restaurants. Some of the restaurants (and Bingo Night) do require jackets and long pants.

The accommodations are wonderful. We stayed in one of the cottages so we had a kitchen, living room, screened porch, little pool, and 4 large bedrooms. It was perfect for our family. The resort does have hotel rooms and a variety of other accommodations as well.

If you are looking for a wonderful spot with old time elegance perfect for all generations, consider Sea Island. We would love to book it for you! Give us a call, and LIKE US on Facebook!

Happy Travels!

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

We specialize in family travel  to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.

A Spectacularly Awesome Adventure

GrandCanyonNorthRim by tsaiproject

If your idea of a vacation includes escaping the quiet confines of your office cubicle for the action of the great outdoors, your options might include camping, hiking, fishing, or even white-water rafting. One possible destination choice: The Grand Canyon.

GrandCanyonMuleTour by MoyanBrennThis destination offers everything an outdoor-enthusiast could want and there is something for everyone in the family. In addition to meeting your camping-backpacking-fishing needs, there is also bicycling, mule rides and trips, and nature walks. Take part in some of the guided family and children’s educational programs offered by the Rangers of the National Park Service.

WhiteWaterRafting by NPSIf you want the best up-close-and-personal views of the canyon, there are over 100 miles of premier hiking trails. For a more leisurely view, take a helicopter or airplane tour, or ride the Grand Canyon Railway. For those who are more adventurous, there are white water rafting trips that will definitely get your heart pumping.

NavajoEagleDance by NPSWhen your day of active adventures winds down, take part in some spectacular star gazing, and don’t forget to enjoy the authentic Navajo tribal dances and hear traditional flute music offered outside of Hopi House.

If this is the kind of vacation adventure that appeals to you, plan ahead. According to the National Park Service website (http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm), the popularity of this destination means guided tours and rafting trips can book up months in advance. Even so, there is still plenty to do and see if you still want to visit this summer.

No matter which activity you choose or when you decide to go, a trip to the Grand Canyon National Park will be one that you and your family will never forget! When you are ready to start planning, give us a call and we can get to work coordinating the perfect itinerary for your family and taking care of all the details you might not think about. We are excited about the prospect of working with you!

Bon Voyage!

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

Mike and Liz

We specialize in family travel to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.

Budgeting for a Family Trip to Europe

8580178894_eefe5a276e_mYou may all be saying, thanks, Liz for all these great trip ideas, but it’s way too expensive for me to take my family of 5 to Europe. So, while I will admit that travel is one of the most expensive hobbies, there are ways to economize.

 

I am not saying that you are ever going to be able to travel to Europe for the same price as driving to Wisconsin or Michigan, but there are ways to do it more cheaply than you might have imagined.

9936455274_6a8c170d6b_mFirst, if you go during Spring Break or anytime off season the prices are much less. You might get a plane ticket for $800 rather than $1800. The rooms are much less as well. An added benefit is that the crowds will be significantly less. This will make the whole trip much more enjoyable.

For those of you who have miles with an airline or on a credit card that can be used for miles, planning well in advance can get you some free tickets. This is one of the biggest expenses in traveling especially to Europe.

Go when the dollar is strong. This summer for example will be cheaper than it has been in a while. The dollar to Euro is about 1 to 1 whereas just 2 years ago it was 1 to 1.4.

P10100328becde78ef900943ebA Villa or Chateaux can be cheaper than staying in hotels. Here, you can stock the kitchen, eat some meals at home and many even include a chef. This means that you do not have to pay for 3 meals a day for the whole family for the week. This can save $100 per person per day. If some old chateaux is not what you envisioned, find a hotel that includes breakfast.

p1000915_15108859636_oInclude the countryside in your itinerary. The cities are the most expensive and the countryside is a wonderful way to see the local people as well as save some money. Just like in America, the further you go away from the cities the cheaper it will be. There are lots of cute towns filled with character and fun things to do. I would also say that the kids will enjoy the countryside more than the cities, but a mix would be ideal.

EuroTrainBe sure to take trains. Renting a car or hiring a driver can be super expensive. The European train system runs very efficiently and if you are on a budget this will save you lots of money. It will also save you from getting lost or getting a ticket because you were driving in a zone that required a certain license (from personal experience).

Ways to try to save money:
– Taking a flight with 8 hour layovers and 3 stops
– Flying in and out of an airport that is cheaper, but requires taking 2 days to get back
– Staying in a 1 Star hotel
– Staying in a hotel that is far from the sites and having to take lots of cabs to get where you want to go
– Eating at McDonald’s for the whole trip

Call me and I can put together an estimate for you.

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

Mike and Liz

We specialize in family travel to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.

Sports and Culture Combined

There are times when you would like to travel to see the world, but want to get a little exercise or work on improving your athletic abilities too. There are some amazing vacations that combine sports and culture.

BikingBiking
There are wonderful bike trips offered throughout the world. Mike and I did one years ago with Butterfield & Robinson through the Loire Valley in France. I have never eaten so much or been in better shape. We stayed in castles owned by local Frenchmen and saw the beautiful French countryside. There are many companies in a variety of price points that offer bike trips all over the world. These can be rigorous or easy rides.

GolfGolf
Golf vacations are offered almost anywhere in the world. Some of the best golf is in Ireland and Scotland. Here you can learn about the culture, meet the people, tour castles and gardens as well as play some of the best golf courses in the world.

SkiingSkiing
Many of the greatest ski areas are at home in the United States, however, for a trip that combines culture and skiing try the Alps, Canadian Rockies or Dolomites. Here you can ski, but also get a little Culture. Taste the fondue, Weiner Schnitzel and chocolate croissants. Shop in the markets and wander around the adorable villages.

WatersportsWater Sports
Sailing, snorkeling, wind surfing and other water sports can be great fun and good exercise. They can be done all over the world from Australia to the Caribbean. Here you can learn about local species of fish, sail around a variety of island meeting local people and trying the native cuisine.

yogaYoga
This ever popular form of exercise originated in India and is practiced all over the world. There are yoga retreats, trips on yachts and cruises, and classes offered almost anywhere you like to travel. Whether it is Bali or a trip on the Star Clipper you are sure to get a great workout as well as learn about a new culture.

For more information or to book your next active journey, just call us.

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

Mike and Liz

We specialize in family travel to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.

Awesome Idea for a Multi-Generational Trip

An alarm clock displaying the word "late". This could mean late for work, late for school, late for an appointment or meeting, etc.School is out, meaning most kids have about 2 ½ to 3 months to ditch the alarm clock, sleep in late, and generally avoid any kind of schedule. But, is this really a good thing? After all, school schedules will return and the alarm clock will reign supreme once again, which means those same kids will ultimately have to go through the “pain” of getting back into the swing of things. So, would it not benefit them to engage them in some kind of summer activity that would perpetuate some form of regular agenda and spare them that “pain?” And, as the experienced generation, does it not stand to reason that grandparents would have what it takes to make this happen? If so, then it sounds like an opportunity for a grand multi-generational adventure!

While there are many different destinations and types of trips that might appeal to a multi-generational group, one particular type of trip lends itself to a setting that encourages more interaction among the family members – a river cruise.

9517485921_7cd6beb19e_mUnlike the more traditional cruise vacation, a river cruise offers a very different travel experience. Ocean cruises tend to focus more on “getting there” by sea. On the days when there is no port-of-call, there is the prospect of spending at least one lazy day on deck, basking in the sun along with the other 2,500 to 3,000 passengers. In contrast, river boat itineraries generally include a port visit each day of the cruise, and normally only accommodate around 120 to 160 passengers, which means they avoid the crowds of their bigger counterparts. The opportunity for passengers to disembark and regain their “land-legs” more often, along with “no waves” on the river, helps those who might normally suffer from sea-sickness issues. River cruises also offer more occasions to interact with the ship’s crew, as well as the other passengers onboard. This creates a more intimate travel experience where a multi-generational family group can make new friends, forming lasting friendships with other passengers, while strengthening family bonds as everyone enjoys the leisurely pace that a river cruise offers.

River cruises offer just as many different themes, itineraries, and destinations as ocean-9719311887_b286639db3_mgoing cruises. Viking River Cruises sail the major rivers of Europe, Russia, Asia, and Egypt, offering its passengers a unique perspective of the history and beauty these destinations have to offer. AMA Waterways also sails in Vietnam and Cambodia, Africa, and Burma. Tauck River Cruises also sail in Europe, traveling the Danube, Rhine, Rhone, and Seine Rivers, and will be adding the Swiss Alps and Amsterdam in 2016.

queen-of-the-mississippi-paddlewheel-river-boat-wideIf exploring what our own country has to offer has more appeal, then sailing with American Cruise Lines would fill the bill, featuring the coastline and national parks of Maine; traveling the length of the Mississippi River; following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark by cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers; traveling the protected waterways of the East Coast, Chesapeake Bay, or Florida; or enjoying all the New England coast has to offer.

adventures-by-disney-river-cruising-with-disney-unparalleled-qualityIf the idea of a river cruise sounds intriguing, but some members of the group voice concerns about whether there will be enough activity for the younger members of the family, one river cruise option just might provide the solution. Disney also offers a river cruise along the Danube River, with daily stops in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia. Just as with everything else they offer, this river cruise is designed specifically for families, with plenty of activities and more than enough opportunities to become immersed in the culture of each destination.

14229206204_f0ef78431c_mRegardless which type of river cruise you choose, this will be a cruise experience one that your family will never forget. From the ultimate luxury that is a trademark of river cruising, to the one-of-a-kind destinations, to the amazing views that literally change on a daily basis, a river cruise could just be the perfect adventure for everyone in your multi-generational family group. Best of all, the kids will probably not even need their alarm clocks, eagerly waking to whatever the day brings as their floating hotel transports them overnight to their next amazing stop.

If you need help in choosing the perfect river cruise for your group, give us a call. We can help and, before you know it, you will be on your way!

Bon Voyage!

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

Mike and Liz

We specialize in family travel to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.

Plan Ahead For A Great Adventure

Elizabeth and Nicholas have just graduated. So I guess summer is really here, even though what we are experiencing is not what I call summer weather. I hope you are all ready for summer, my favorite time of year.  We survived another Chicago winter, and whatever kind of winter you weathered, I wish your summers to be filled with great travels, sports and fun.

Now that summer is here, it’s time to start thinking about planning future winter and spring breaks, if you haven’t already. Accommodations during these holidays book up early and plane tickets get expensive. One great family vacation idea comes to mind:

Be like Indiana Jones and adventure through the jungles, explore ruins and spot wildlife. I would recommend staying in a villa, getting a nature guide and maybe a chef.

The kids can relax at home, play games, swim in the pool and watch TV, when they aren’t out adventuring.


Some of the activities on this trip include white water rafting, zip-lining through the canopies, hiking, visiting the monkeys of the National Parks, snorkeling and sailing.



Visit Manchu Picchu in Peru, Volcanoes in Costa Rica or fascinating  ruins in Belize.

This type of trip does not need to cost a fortune. Airfare generally runs around $1000, per person, and accommodations, like this house, should be around $1000, per person, for the week. Obviously, it depends on availability and the quality of the accommodations.  If you feel like a little adventure, but want 5-star accommodations, that can be arranged as well.  Guides, meals, activities and drivers will be additional.

So be adventurous and see the world!  This will be a trip to remember.

If we can help, let us arrange your next adventure, and please, LIKE US ON FACEBOOK!

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

We specialize in family travel  to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.

Tour Groups – Your Trip Planning Best Friend!

It is the time of year for graduations, weddings, anniversaries and for some of you, birthdays. I have 2 graduations coming up. It brought me to thinking about a trip my parents gave me when I graduated from business school – a Butterfield & Robinson bike trip through the Loire Valley. Butterfield & Robinson, one of many tour operators who plan European trips, organized the itinerary, booked accommodations in a beautiful chateaux, and arranged for gourmet dinners and bike tours. We traveled with a nice group of people and had tons of fun. It is still one of my most memorable trips. For another memorable trip, this time to Peru, I used the tour operator G-Adventures, which was much more rustic, but made traveling in the Amazon and Manchu Picchu much easier. They organized the hotels, guides and transportation for us, but our family traveled alone. Again, it was a really memorable experience for us. There are times when an organized tour is definitely easier and make the experience more meaningful.

Regardless whether you are a seasoned world traveler or someone who is planning their very first European adventure, you want your trip to be fun and memorable. If you plan it all yourself, you can easily get caught up in all the details and still wonder if you have missed anything. Why start your trip that way when you can use a company that has already done all the ground work for you?

Tour operators can be your trip planning best friend! They have so many trip packages and options to choose from, no matter where it is you plan to travel. Some of the best tour operators include Adventures by Disney, Tauck, Abercrombie & Kent and Globus, each one offering their own special twist on prepared travel tours.

Using one of these tour operators relieves you of all the stress involved with planning a trip because everything is already planned out for you. Preplanned tours generally include the transportation, accommodations, and all the side trips to make sure you see all the best sights. Some tours even include some, if not all, of your meals. What could be better? You choose where you want to go, select the tour operator that offers the best itinerary, and off you go!

Another great benefit of choosing this way to plan your next international trip is the idea that you and your group will likely not be the only ones taking this same trip. Instead, there are usually a few other families on the same tour. Traveling with a tour group means you get to meet other people who share similar interests to yours, giving you have the opportunity to make new friends and ramp up the fun!

When choosing a preplanned tour, you always have the opportunity to choose which activities and side trips you want to do. So, you never have to worry about this kind of trip losing its “personal” quality. Even though the basics are already planned out, you can still make it your own.

Lastly, even though you can lighten your planning load by choosing a tour operator’s preplanned group tour, there are a lot of tour operators out there, and they all offer a myriad of itinerary choices. If you want to explore the many options provided by tour operators for your next trip, give me a call. I can help you decide which operator will be the best fit for the trip you want to take.

Bon Voyage!

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

We specialize in family travel  to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.

Budgeting for a Family Trip to Europe

8580178894_eefe5a276e_mYou may all be saying, “Thanks, Liz for all these great trip ideas, but it’s way too expensive for me to take my family of 5 to Europe.” So while I will admit that travel is one of the most expensive hobbies, there are ways to economize. I am not saying that you are ever going to be able to travel to Europe for the same price as driving to Wisconsin or Michigan, but there are ways to do it more cheaply than you might have imagined.

First, if you go during Spring Break or anytime off season the prices are much less. You might get a plane ticket for $800 rather than $1800. The rooms are much less as well. An added benefit is that the crowds will be significantly less. This will make the whole trip much more enjoyable.

For those of you who have miles with an airline or on a credit card that can be used for miles, planning well in advance can get you some free tickets. This is one of the biggest expenses in traveling especially to Europe.

Go when the dollar is strong. This summer, for example, will be cheaper than it has been in a while. The dollar to Euro is about 1 to 1, whereas just 2 years ago it was 1 to 1.4.

Villas or Chateaux can be cheaper than staying in hotels. Here, you can stock the kitchen, eat some meals at home and many even include a chef. This means that you do not have to pay for 3 meals a day for the whole family for the week. This can save $100 per person per day. If some old chateaux is not what you envisioned, find a hotel that includes breakfast.

Include the countryside in your itinerary. The cities are the most expensive and the countryside is a wonderful way to see the local people as well as save some money. Just like in America, the further you go away from the cities the cheaper it will be. There are lots of cute towns filled with character and fun things to do. I would also say that the kids will enjoy the countryside more than the cities, but a mix would be ideal.

Be sure to take trains. Renting a car or hiring a driver can be super expensive. The European train system runs very efficiently and, if you are on a budget, this will save you lots of money. It will also save you from getting lost or getting a ticket because you were driving in a zone that required a certain license (from personal experience).

Ways not to try to save money:

  • Taking a flight with 8 hour layovers and 3 stops
  • Flying in and out of an airport that is cheaper, but requires taking 2 days to get back
  • Staying in a 1 Star hotel
  • Staying in a hotel that is far from the sites and having to take lots of cabs to get where you want to go
  • Eating at McDonald’s for the whole trip

Yes, I know all this information may simply add to your information overload, but that’s where Awesome Odysseys can help. Call me and I can put together an estimate for an awesome trip just for you.

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

We specialize in family travel  to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.

Multi-Generational Trips for Lifetime Memories

I had the luxury of going on a Multi-Generational trip every year with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. They lived in Cleveland and we lived in Chicago so it was our one chance a year to all be sure to get together. It is one of my favorite memories and we went everywhere from Vail, Colorado to Martha’s Vineyard, MA to Bermuda for 35 years. That is 35 multi-generational trips!

V__9B1APlanning a Multi-Generational Trip

Today, the multi-generational trips are one of the fastest growing segments in the travel industry. Grandparents love to show their grandkids fascinating destinations, spend time together and are often more able to financially afford a wonderful large family reunion type trip. It is a treat for them to spend time with the grandchildren and their own children. Some of these reunions are done for anniversaries, milestone birthdays or when the grandkids are old enough to remember or appreciate such a trip. When the gathering involves a large group, it can often mean there will be a lot of details to think about, decide upon, manage, and implement. Given there will be so many different perspectives and preferences to consider, this kind of trip can be a lot of work to plan, but do not despair. Not only is it very doable, the overall result can be a lifetime of memories for everyone to treasure.

downloadIf it is the grandparents who have taken on the task of planning a multi-generational trip, whether it includes just the family with grandparents or a true family reunion encompassing every generation available, there are so many details to consider.

The first major consideration is where to go, and there are many destinations to choose from. A trip to Europe is a wonderful way for everyone to see and learn about some of the most iconic locations in the world, from the Coliseum in Rome, to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, to the Tower of London, and so much more. If the idea is a truly unique and memorable experience, perhaps a Safari is in order, where the family could experience the unequaled beauty of the African plains coupled with the incredible power, majesty and diversity of its wild creatures. Another option would be to simply kick back and completely relax on a cruise, where the family could really see it all while their accommodations essentially travel with them.

Once the question of where to go is answered, it is important to plan far enough in advance to ensure all options are available at the best price possible, especially if the plans will include a large multi-generational group. In this case, planning should begin at least one year in advance. Another great tip is to create a “Family Trip Website” to keep everyone up to date on the details as they are finalized. This is also a great way for family members to begin a travel log, documenting their thoughts and excitement as the travel date approaches.

Of course, half the fun of the trip is all the wonderful things to be done, no matter where the trip might take the family. No matter the destination, there are sure to be side trips for everyone of every age, including hands-on experiences, like a cooking class to learn how to make pasta from scratch, or a behind-the-scenes tour of the Tower of London.

Once the details are ironed out and everyone has gathered to begin the trip, a great idea is to have a “bon-voyage” party where everyone can talk about what they plan to do, who is doing what side-trip, and any other last minute choices to be made. This is where the memories begin.

iStock_000017797787X-8x10Looking back over everything to be planned, decided, and done, planning a trip like this can be a bit daunting for anyone to take on, including grandparents with the best intentions, but take heart. There is a choice here too. Instead of taking on the planning personally, make use of the expertise and knowledge of a professional travel planner or tour operator. These professionals know all the tricks of the trade and can offer just the right options for everyone in the family. Using a professional travel planner takes all the stress away and allows everyone to simply enjoy the trip and each other.

That’s where we come in. When you decide to begin planning that multi-generational trip, give us a call. We can help you plan the perfect trip for you and your family.

Bon Voyage!

Liz and Mike Kohler
Co-Founders
AwesomeOdysseys.com

We specialize in family travel  to Europe and Central America creating memories to last a lifetime.