Planning a family vacation can be a daunting task. Everyone seems to have their own interests and at times these could not be more incompatible. Mom wants something sophisticated, while Son has recently developed a fascination with mountain biking. Dad is all about going out of his comfort zone… and how can we forget that time we all got stranded because of his taste for the exotic?
Family travel should bring families closer together. When we live through amazing experiences, we tend to bond with the people who are around at the time. When it’s our loved ones, the experience can be all the more enriching.
Sandro M. recently returned from a family trip in South Africa and Mozambique. Faced with the task of planning the vacation, he resorted to Blueflower Travels. I asked him about the trip:
“First of all,” he began, “you have to know what my vacation history is. I love to plan my own trips with a sort of DIY approach: surfing the web, checking sites and organising the vacation by myself.”
I wondered what made him use a travel agent.
“This is the first time I let someone else organise my vacation. I was going to visit a part of the world I hadn’t travelled to before. And I had only twelve available days. I didn’t want to miss anything.”
Sandro is an experienced traveller and he’s passionate about the subject.
“Ever since I was a university student I travelled a lot. In Asia, North America, Central America, North Africa… I spent a lot of time in India, Thailand, of course Europe. Every dollar I earned I spent in travel.”
I look at the corner where I keep my hiking backpack. It has gathered a fair amount of dust but it reminds me of a time when I espoused Sandro’s philosophy.
“So now Marina and I have two kids. Milo (11) and Giulia (12). The main goal was to visit a special place like South Africa, and to spend quality time with my family. Having an expert organising my trip took one duty off my shoulders. I didn’t have to choose each time where to go, where to sleep, calculate costs, make reservations…”
I ask him if the hassle is not in some way part of the adventure.
“Maybe it’s also a nice part of the journey. But in this case I didn’t want to miss anything. Time is a resource.”
“You make a very good point,” I say.
We know Sandro is an avid traveller, but what about his children?
“My feeling and my approach to travel have been transmitted to them,” he says. “Since they were very very young, we travelled in Europe, Cuba, and the US.”
“So, why South Africa? Did your children have a previous interest in wildlife?” I ask.
“They didn’t have a specific interest, but as with all children, seeing a lion or a rhino is something really incredible. It was a gift to see all the things that we saw.”
Sandro’s voice becomes more enthusiastic all of a sudden:
“But not only animals, to be honest! When we were in Cape Town, Milo and I ― of course being good Italians are football fans ―, we went for a night at the Cape Town Stadium for a local match.”
Not your usual activity when out on safari.
“It was as amazing as spotting wildlife in the Savannah! It’s really about being together, to have extraordinary experiences in a different country.”
It seems only fair for father and son to bond at a football match while on vacation. But closed itineraries that herd you from one activity to the next can hardly achieve the seamless experience of meaningful travel.
I want to know more about the effect this trip had on Milo and Giulia. Sandro tells me of another special moment with his family.
“We were snorkelling in Mozambique when 3 or 4 sharks appeared.”
I nearly fall off the chair.
“Of course not white sharks!” Sandro reassures me. “Nice sharks. But just the fact of seeing a shark while diving with Mom and Dad is an experience they will never forget.”
I ask him to tell me more about the specifics of the vacation.
“The vacation was divided in three, the first one was dedicated to animals in Kruger park. The second one in Cape Town, both the city and the countryside. The third one was in Mozambique, which is the perfect place for Marina to lie on the beach, read books, drink cocktails, or go for a horse ride on the beach.”
He chuckles heartily.
“We spent four nights there… I had never been to a place like that. And I’ve been to a lot of places with nice beaches.”
“You could say it took you by surprise.”
“Yes! Because the places I’ve been to before are very nice but sometimes they are crowded, or it is difficult to find a nice beach to stay in. In Mozambique we had the perfect setting. We had our own private villa, there were very few people and very few tourists.”
He elaborates why Mozambique was so special for him and his family.
“There is also this WOW effect because Andrea [Oschetti] organised the transfer to the island by helicopter. OK, it’s a five minute flight and you could probably also do it by boat. But the four of us were astonished at the airport.”
“Could you have planned it on your own?” I ask.“Not a chance! Even if I had spent six months on the web, I couldn’t have organised such a trip. Even if you search the web thoroughly, you have too many choices and you have no idea of the actual stuff you’re going to find there.” Sandro gives me a good piece of advice: “Look, if you want to spend a weekend in Paris, you can do it by yourself. But if you don’t have a lot of time and want to travel to a place you have never been to, an agency is an asset.” “What was your overall impression on the trip?” “It was not only amazing, but I can tell you it was the nicest vacation I’ve had in my life.” We begin to talk about future adventures and exchange tokens of hospitality. It is in the nature of travellers to be daydreamers, and as our conversation winds up, there is mention of remote lands and places we’d like to go. Giulia, Milo, Marina and Sandro got what every family trip should be. They experienced new things that were powerful and strong, and they could focus on each other. They grew as a family, and even the sharks were nice.