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Family Vacations: 5 Best Tour Operators

Family Vacations: 5 Best Tour Operators
12 Min Read

These tour operators specialises in chalking out fun itineraries

Little Passports
Prachi Kagzi was always an avid traveller. So when she welcomed a baby boy five years ago, she did not let it affect her wanderlust. In his first 15 months, Ayush Kagzi had travelled across the country and to China with his mother. In the age of social media, word spread pretty quickly about her travels with the toddler and she started getting inquiries from fellow mums about how she managed it all.

Soon, Prachi realised that many parents were curious about taking offbeat trips with their kids but were unwilling to give it a go without company. So she replicated her trip to China with a bunch of three mothers and their kids in September 2015. Soon, the queries started snowballing–coming even from NRI moms and schools wanting educational trips for kids. Prachi now regularly conducts fixed-departure tours in India and abroad for kids aged three to 15, each accompanied by an adult. While most of the kids are accompanied by their mothers, lately dads, aunts and even grandmothers have been trickling in.

“Travel is the best learning a child can get,” says Prachi on the site of her company, Little Passports. She realised the potential of travel as an educational tool when Ayush showed exceptional retention of knowledge early on. “He came across a monkey in an animal book and asked me if it was a langur or a spider monkey,” she says. “It was because he had seen both these species on his travels.” All the tours Little Passports conducts are focused on fun-based education for the young guests. A Mauritius trip last year included a demo by a sand sculptor, a workshop on building sand castles on the beach, snorkelling for kids over three years of age, etc. “Wildlife trips are also very popular with families,” says Prachi. Amid the wilderness, they get to enjoy activities like stargazing, safaris, nature walks, etc. Snow-clad destinations offer tours that feature skiing, igloo-making, and even treasure hunts with avalanche detectors.

Photographers have a field day shooting Asiatic wild elephants in Corbett National Park

While the activities are educational for the kids, the accompanying parent gets to play too. Wildlife safaris, for one, are fun for everyone. “For 50%-60% of the accompanying moms, it’s their first wildlife safari as well,” says Prachi.

The founder prefers to vet the safety of the activities herself. For instance, on a trip to the northeast, local boats take tourists dolphin watching on the Brahmaputra. Prachi wanted lifejackets for every child, but when those couldn’t be arranged by the local operator, she opted out of the activity for her group.

The trips can cost anywhere between ₹30,000 (2-night domestic trip) and ₹2 lakh (7-night Europe trip) fora parent-child duo on sharing basis, depending on the destination. Check out littlepassports.in for their upcoming tours.

Little Nirvana Explorers
Nirvana Excursions boasts of having offered customised travel experiences to the discerning traveller since 2013. The founders are Nidhi and Viren Batra, who have travelled extensively themselves. With a team, they curate tours from their vast knowledge of offbeat destinations around the world. After welcoming a kid into their lives, the travel couple started an offshoot, Little Nirvana Explorers, for parents wanting to travel with their children.

What started off in April last year as a camping getaway on weekends, evolved to offer travel itineraries around the world for families. “It’s a myth that you can’t travel with kids,” says Nidhi Batra, co-founder and director of Little Nirvana Explorers. The mompreneur says this from her own experience. Her two-year-old, Yug, has already made 11 trips and her two-month-old, Shiv, is now two trips down.

Nidhi and her team devise custom travel itineraries for their customers, and take care of everything from visas to activities at the destination. “The first thing that we do is have a detailed conversation with the parents about the age of the kids and the experiences they would like to give them. Then, we design an itinerary and make every element of the trip kid-friendly and fun,” says Nidhi.

Mother and daughter walk down a stone footpath at Cape Point, South Africa

Obvious destinations for kids like Singapore, Mauritius and Dubai are opted for often. But Nidhi says she prefers to offer her clients unusual destinations like Scandinavia, Spain and Greece. Sights like the midnight sun and Northern Lights are extraordinary experiences for children, even those as young as two years old. Also, Europe is mighty rich in culture and history, and the architecture and museums there can be an educational experience for young adults. She also holds high regard for a South Africa tour with spectacular wildlife sights and a vibrant urban lifestyle.

To get a custom travel itinerary designed for your kids, reach out to Little Nirvana Explorers at nirvanaexcursions.com/little-nirvana-explorers. For instance, a 4N/5D London-Paris package featuring a Disneyland tour costs ₹74,000 per person.

Holiday Moods Adventure
Apart from organising adventure tours in India, international holidays, and expedition cruises, Holiday Moods Adventure operates two campsites that are ideal for families looking to make their kids give up smartphones and enjoy the outdoors while acquiring some handy skills.

Their first campsite, Camp Wild at Dhauj on the border of Gurgaon and Faridabad, features seven eco-lodges and 12 safari tents spread over 12 acres of land. This land amid the Aravalli hills, has been bought by Tejbir Singh, co-founder of Holiday Moods Adventure. Some Britishers discovered the rock climbing potential of the area as early as 1930s, Tejbir says.

The campsite, set up in 2004, offers activities like rock climbing, rappelling, flying fox, river crossing, cliff jumping, zorbing, biking, raft building, a low-rope obstacle course, etc. The site offers itself as a low-budget weekend getaway from Delhi/NCR. See campwilddhauj.in.

Their other campsite, Snow Monk Camp–located in the Khauli River Valley, Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh, is set amid towering pine trees and offers opportunities for beautiful treks in the surrounding area and up to a glacier. Set up in 2013, this permanent campsite offers an opportunity to unwind in natural surroundings and undertake treks to Indrahar pass, Triund, Kareri Lake, Baleni Pass, Druni Taal and Minkhiani Pass among others. The treks can be anywhere from two to seven days depending on the age and fitness level of the participants. There is also a 15ft-high rope course for young adults set up here.

Apart from families, Tejbir says, they get groups of children from schools whom they involve in community service and creative activities besides the nature treks and obstacle courses. “We have invested in a project where local women of nearby villages make handicrafts out of pine needles found in the forest. These pine needles can become catalysts in forest fires if not removed,” says Tejbir. Children visiting the camp are given hands-on training in collecting these pine needles and using them.

Snow Monk Camp, Khauli river valley, Kangra

The only permanent structures here are bathrooms, a kitchen and a dining area. Tents are pitched for tourists coming in every season. The campsite is open throughout the year except the months of July, August and February. Accommodation at the Snow Monk Camp costs ₹2, 399 per night on twin sharing basis. See snowmonkcamp.in.

A 7D/6N Greece tour with Holiday Moods Adventure costs ₹45,840 per person. You can see all the products and packages of the company at holidaymoods.net.

Snow Leopard Adventures
Ajeet Bajaj ventured into the adventure tourism space in 1990. It was a time when adventure sport was synonymous with daredevilry, he says, and many people thought he was crazy to indulge in them. His company, Snow Leopard Adventures, sought to bust that myth with certified guides and state-of-the-art equipment. The company has come a long way since, winning the National Tourism Award for Best Adventure Tour Operator in 2015.

Ajeet’s adventure bug was inherited by both of his daughters, who started exploring the outdoors very early. Now 23 and 19 years old, his daughters are PADI-certified rescue divers. Ajeet says some of their best holidays have involved skiing in Kashmir, scuba diving, horse-riding and kayaking in Mongolia, and mountain climbing. He has summitted Mt Elbrus in Russia and skied across the Greenland ice cap with his daughters by his side. For this family, adventure holidaying is away of life.

The ascent to Khongmaru La, Ladakh, with Snow Leopard Adventures

Not surprisingly, Ajeet’s travel company offers international tours centered around their core competence–Adventure. An expedition cruise to Antarctica that involves wildlife photography, mountaineering and kayaking; game drives and gorilla tracking in Rwanda and Uganda; trekking to the Everest base camp in Nepal, etc make the menu. Back home, they organise everything from river rafting on the Ganga and a trek in the Himalayas to kayaking in Kerala and a jeep safari to Ladakh. Most of these are trips that the company also customises for families with kids in tow. You can even book a guide for your next family adventure from them.

The company also has six campsites amid pristine natural surroundings where kids can stay and indulge in adventure activities according to their age. These lend themselves to school trips, including international ones. Most of the school trips are based out of their Uttarakhand campsites, apart from some trips organised in Dharamshala, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. “Risk mitigation is one of the most important things when kids are participants,” says Ajeet. A team of instructors maintains strict quality control on food and beverages and are trained in First Aid and CPR here. The school trips include a mix of adventure activities, service, education and fun. The company also ensures that these children come back from their travels as ambassadors for the conservation of environment. For that, they have a resident naturalist.

A 2D/1N stay at their Leopard Height camp across the Ganga from Shivpuri Village, near Rishikesh, costs ₹6,500 per person on sharing basis. See snowleopardadventures.com.

In addition to their regular offerings, Snow Leopard Adventures has tied up with yatra.com for Adventure Nation, which lets you explore activities segregated into interest-tribes like scuba diving, trekking, paragliding, mountain biking, etc. Ajeet doubles up as a guru on adventure nation for these activities. Also on offer is a range of family adventures. See adventurenation.com.

The Villa Escape
In 2009, Yogi Shah and his wife, Suchna, set out to chase the Northern Lights, which ultimately inspired them to start The Villa Escape. The goal was to introduce seasoned travellers to the art of ‘Slow Travel’. In other words, to make an individual experience a destination rather than just ticking something off a list.

Enjoy the Northern Lights and winter camping on Kungsleden (The Kings Trail) hiking trail in Abisko National Park, Finland

The Villa Escape specialises in destinations that feature the Northern Lights–be it Norway, Iceland or the Finnish Lapland. You could either get a tailor-made experience for your family, or join their group expeditions to see the Aurora Borealis. Having started the Backpacker Co. in 2008, which focused on taking travellers on informal, informative and fun trips around the world, Shah and his wife founded The Villa Escape in 2012 to customise trips for adventurous wanderers, including young adults. The firm makes sure each trip’s focus is on experiencing a country’s history, people and its culture. Shah claims to have conducted 70-plus trips so far.

The Villa Escape also offers fixed-departure tours for kids’ groups where a team member leads the party. “When we plan holidays for kids, it involves planning a great experience for them and always keeping their mind occupied, with sports, water activities, park visits, etc. The idea is to relate to their imagination and not overload them with facts and historical data,” says Shah. For instance, South Portugal is a destination with great opportunities for water sports like kayaking, while Croatia offers itself to a Game of Thrones-themed tour.

Shah believes children learn more when they experience places themselves, but he adds that a family must travel together at least once a year to unwind, shun their routine, and spend quality time together. Yogi and Suchna often take their two kids along on their travels. The Villa Escape is not shy of experimenting and their itineraries include offbeat activities like a husky safari and snowmobile rides through the snow-clad expanse in Tromso, Norway, and living in one of the beautifully sculpted ice hotels of Sweden.

See thevillaescape.com for details on their tours or to customise an itinerary. Their hot list for 2018 includes San Sebastian, Malta and Japan. The cost for a 4N/5D January trip to Finland focused on the Northern Lights is ₹1,10,000 per person (plus taxes), on double occupancy basis. The cost for an accompanying child is ₹85,000 (plus taxes).

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