13 Unusual Travel Programs for Families

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Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, California – Indoor Campout

On a recent episode of This Week in Travel, Jen Leo mentioned the Indoor Campout Package at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe targeting families with kids from 4-10. When they got to their hotel room their daughter was delighted by a tent pitched in the middle of their hotel room.

Package includes a 3’x5’ tent complete with Ritz-Carlton linens and featherbed, activity book with crayons, camp light, Ritz-Carlton teddy bear and a s’mores kit that can be enjoyed by the whole family at the Fire Pit. Package is based upon availability; advance reservations are strongly recommended. Cost $100.

Filled with delight by the creativity of this package we went looking for other unique or interesting family packages or programs. We we looking for programs that thought catering to families meant offering more than waffles and babysitting. I remember when we were just glad that the hotel had a pool.

Four Seasons Resorts Manele Bay, Lanai  – Young Entrepreneurs

The Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay is a beautiful resort with a world class golf course, white sand beach, teen hang out room and a unique twist with their children’s program. Kids 5-12 can help run the resort as part of the Hotelier Apprentice Summer Camp this July.

Four Seasons Resorts Lanai has introduced the Hotelier Apprentice Summer Camp, a complimentary program created exclusively for tiny travelers. Designed for kids who have been hit by the travel bug at an early age, the Hotelier Apprentice Summer Camp program offers children the rare opportunity to go behind the scenes in the hospitality industry. From A to Z, your globe-trotting tot can take a crash course with an educational holiday on the pristine island of Lanai. The curriculum includes Culinary Arts, Botany, Engineering, Health & Wellness, and Marine Biology.

Norman Carr Safaris, Zambia – Family Safari

Norman Carr Safaris offers a family oriented Luangwa Lion Cubs Family Safari. This seven-night Zambian safari takes place at Kapani Lodge, and at the company’s remote bush camps in the South Luangwa National Park.

  • An expert guide and scout will help children learn to track game on foot and to identify footprints and droppings
  • Learning some of the local language and sharing stories about the differences (and similarities) in our lives
  • Visiting the local school, meeting the children, and perhaps enjoying a game of soccer or joining in with lessons
  • Learning how to eat the traditional Zambian way – sitting on a mat on the floor and eating with your hands!
  • Making a traditional clay pot or clay animals in the village
  • Identifying the noises of the night, enjoying stargazing and hearing traditional stories told around the camp fire.
  • And possibly the most fun, learning how to play the African drum.

Because what mother does not dream of taking her kids on an expensive vacation to eat with their hands and study poo.


Cheli & Peacock Safaris, Kenya – Junior Masai

If a family safari is not adventurous enough for you, C&P Portfolio offers a program where kids can, for a week, be a junior warrior of the Masa at the  Masai Mara park in Kenya.

Each individual is trained and taught in the same way as a junior warrior of the Masai. Under the tutelage of their ‘Moran,’ or Warrior class, guests gain survival skills, become naturals with a bow and arrow, track animals, craft tools and build a nomadic home. Under close instruction, the apprentice sees how the Masai and their warriors view the world and live amongst its wild creatures. Experience first-hand the bush skills, folklore and ancient wisdom of these unique people and their way of life.

Jumbo Bay Resort, Antigua – Turtle Conservation

Jumbo Bay Resortin Antigua knows that kids can get bored even of white sandy beaches and palm trees. The private island resort is also the home to visiting Hawksbill sea turtles who nest there from June until October.

 Last year the resort launched its very own Turtle Adoption Program at its kids club – Rosebuds Camp Jumby. The resort’s adoption program will educate guests by providing them with monthly updates on returning nesters (adoptees). Kids can also learn about the conservation of these majestic animals by signing up for “turtle watch” from June through November.

Of course this program is also pretty smart for the resort as I can picture kids wanting to return after getting updates on the turtles.

Abaco Beach Resort, Bahamas – Buddies and Pen Pals

Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbour in the Bahamas offers an interesting program to connect kids 5-12 will a local kid and send them home not only with memories of adventures but also a pen pal.

From island hopping to snorkeling and experiencing the island’s natural beauty, Abaco Beach Resort has something for everyone. One unique experience for families is the resort’s “Bahama Buddies” program. This innovative children’s program is designed for children between the ages of 5 and 15-years-old and promotes a healthy, exchange-of-knowledge by building a relationship between Bahamian children and children of registered guests. Kids will be fully immersed in the island lifestyle through participation in such activities as:

  • How to catch, clean, and cook fish
  • Creating authentic island crafts
  • Island nature explorations
  • Demonstrations on how to debark and enjoy a coconut
  • Bahama Buddies t-shirt, souvenir, and photo CD
  • Bahama Buddies Email Exchange, allowing children to continue their friendships


Four Seasons Resort Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica – Volunteering

Camp Papagayo features Costa Rican cooking, eco-adventures, wildlife and conservation, Spanish, water sports and volunteering within local Guanacaste community.

It’s more than Summer camp for the 1% when you take your kids to this Four Seasons in Costa Rica. Campers ages 5-12 are offered the typical water sports and nearly mandatory zip lines, but it is the volunteer program called Growing Together that makes this program worthy of note. You can volunteer at a local school, conservation project or even adopt a local family for a week.

Royal Chendu, Zambia – Children’s Passport

I love stamps in my passport or in my National Park Passport. I have been known to get my kids a character passport at Disneyland to keep track of who they saw. So the program at the Royal Chendu in Zambia would have appealed to me as a kid.

All guests participating in the Chundu Children’s Club start by receiving a handheld “adventure passport” when they arrive at the lodge. Inside the passport are 12 stamps to collect for a series of exciting and cultural activities. Specific activities include learning to cook Nashima (a staple Zambian dish) by grinding corn and maize, collecting and learning about insects such as butterflies and spiders, all the way to a cosmic safari experience (just to name a few). Depending on the length of stay and availability, the young adventurer is paired with a River Guide who guides them through the different experiences. The activities are age-appropriate and not “dumbed down” in any sense-they are the child appropriate equivalent of everything the parents will be doing. The activities are free.

Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, California – Family Wellness

I appreciate a family program that represents the culture of the region and where else but Southern California (at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel) would you get a family fitness program that includes “Run from the paparazzi”.

“Santa Monica is the birthplace of physical fitness,” said Paul Leclerc,  managing director of Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. “This program allows families to experience one of Santa Monica?s iconic attractions while  staying active, healthy, and most importantly, while having fun.” Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel’s Fit for Fun wellness program includes:

  • Yoga on Muscle Beach
  • “Rings & Swings” Playtime on Muscle Beach
  • Culinary tours of the famed Santa Monica Farmers’ Market with Chef Keith Roberts
  • Adventure bike rides along Muscle Beach’s star-studded bike path
  • Guided hikes through the Santa Monica Mountains
  • “Run from the paparazzi” jogging tours
  • Surfing and stand up paddle lessons
  • Indoor fitness classes, including Hula Hoop Fitness, Spinning, Pilates and Zumba


Tides Inn, Irvington, Virginia – Sailing School

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.

Let’s face it. Some of us are drawn to the sea. For budding young sailors the kids program at the Tides Inn in Irvington, Virginia might be the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the sea.

Located on a private peninsula off the Chesapeake Bay, he Tides Inn features a marina that kids are welcome to take advantage of. Offering sailing lessons around the creek and bay, the Premier Sailing School is the only resort school to offer US Sailing Certificate courses. Sailing activities for children include 5 day sailing camps, race training camps, and afternoon sailing birthday parties. Children can also take shorter courses of 2,3 or 4 day courses.

Westin Kierland Resort, Arizona – Digital Kids Club

Kids in the Kitchen, Pajama Parties and Arts and Crafts are offered by the kids programs at The Westin Kierland in Scottsdale, Arizona but it is the Digital Kids Club that caught our attention. First, I am definitely changing my title to Chief Fun Officer. Second, how would you like to bring back a video game or stop motion video as the souvenir from your next vacation?

The FUN Team’s Chief FUN Officer has developed the Digital Kids Club program specifically for one of the most difficult age groups to capture, “tweens” – ages 8 through 14. The Digital Kids Club at The Westin Kierland Resort features individual sessions throughout the year, as well as unique 5-day digitally-based camps during the summer: Stop Motion Movie Making, Computer Video Game Design, Produce Your Own Morning Show, and Media Madness! Budding movie directors capture footage and experiment with special effects, video game enthusiasts learn about design and creation, inspired news anchors experience the world of reporting, and creative juices flow from learning animation and comic book design!

 Sea Island, Georgia – Survival Skills

Whether you think there is a coming apocalypse or just want to solidify your kids skills should they ever get on the TV show Survivor, you might think about bringing your kids to Sea Island in Georgia where they can learn more than just paper maché.

The resort is a top nature and outdoors destination, with new programs designed to teach children, as well as encourage exploration and interest in nature and ecology. The Coastal Discoveries Program, offered three times a week from 9 am – 1pm to kids aged 9 – 14, offers daily adventures ranging from archery, kayaking and seining to beach eco-labs, fish dissections (really!) and gyotaku fish printing. The Survival Skills After Dark program takes place on Friday night, from 6 – 10 pm, where kids test their survival skills such as building fires, tying knots, pitching tents and reading a compass— topped off with s’mores by the fire.

And I’ll bet you didn’t even think of s’mores as a survival skill.

Langham Huntington, Pasadena California – Young Pastry Chefs

If your Tivo at home is filled up with shows from the Food Network and your budding young chefs would rather talk about bouillabaisse than baseball, then the kids programs at Langham Huntington in Pasadena, California might be right for you.

We are also offering Gourmet Private Cooking Instruction with Royce Chef David Féau – Children and teens will learn how to make a three-course gourmet meal, including dessert. Class includes individual cooking instruction, recipes to take home and lunch for kids and their families to enjoy in The Royce.

Summer Sweets & Treats with Chef John Quinn, CEPC – The hotel is also pleased to offer a special series of pastry classes just for kids! $60 per child includes two hours of cooking instruction, recipe preparation, baking techniques and pastry presentation. Children receive a customized Langham apron and recipes to take home.


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by Chris Christensen

Chris Christensen is the creator of the Amateur Traveler blog and podcast, and a co-host for This Week in Travel podcast.

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