It is a new year and time to start dreaming about planning an amazing family vacation to celebrate getting through the last two years. Since so many of us are in that dreaming stage right now, this week we talk to Tara Cannon, from Pint Size Pilot, to get her recommendations on some epic family vacation destinations and unique hotels for families to spark your wanderlust.
About Tara Cannon
Tara Cannon runs the family travel adventure blog PintSizePilot.com. Her goal is to encourage families to travel a little further afield to enjoy truly unique and exceptional adventures, whether in their home country or abroad.
Epic Family Vacation Destinations
- Panama – a great lower-cost alternative to Costa Rica for a jungle lodge vacation. Note that some jungle lodges have a minimum age requirement of about 5 or 6. Panama offers a good mix of jungle and beach within easy reach and distance of each other. Panama City also offers great hotels, restaurants, and culture. Also don’t miss the Panama Canal observation center. The Guna Yala or Sand Bas Islands is another great spot to visit.
- Iceland – Iceland is very safe and fairly easy to get to from the U.S.. There is so much to offer in terms of excursions from whale watching, glacier hikes, geothermal pools, waterfalls, horseback riding, and more. It is easy to do a number of day trips from Reykjavik.
- France – A classic family trip that is easy to get to and you can be immediately immersed in another culture without being too far out of your comfort zone. It is nice to spend a few days in Paris but then spend time in Provence, the Dordogne, or South of France.
- Peru – Go beyond Machu Picchu. Lima is an incredible city for culture and food. From Lima, fly to Cusco and then spend time in the Sacred Valley before Machu Picchu. From Cusco, fly to Lake Titicaca. It helps for kids to be a bit older to appreciate the culture and spend more time on guided tours.
- See Tara’s Peru family vacation tips
- Barbados/Caribbean – see episode 113 with Tara about the Barbados.Tara also likes Anguilla, Saba, and islands off of Guadeloupe.
- Galapagos – the Galapagos is another fantastic trip for families, but it is very expensive and takes a lot of years of saving. If you go, also spend some time in mainland Ecuador. It can cost an extra couple of thousand dollars for a family to fly to the Galapagos from the mainland.
Tips for Planning Epic Trips
- Look for inspiration from articles in online newsletters and print magazines, following travel bloggers that have similar travel styles, and Instagram.
- Sometimes you can find a hotel that you really want to visit and then build a trip around that hotel.
- Coffee table books can also provide inspiration.
- Create a loose family bucket list of places everyone would like to go.
- Timing will often drive where to go based on weather, pricing, time to get there, seasonality, etc.
- If you don’t enjoy the research and planning process, it helps to work with an experienced travel advisor that really knows the destination.
- If you want to do it yourself, read posts from bloggers who have been themselves and don’t be afraid to reach out to those bloggers and ask for some advice.
- Facebook Groups (such as our Travel with Teens group) can help a lot as other travelers will provide advice.
- Travel forums such as TripAdvisor are also helpful to ask questions and get advice.
Epic Hotels for Families
- Lapa Rios in Costa Rica – National Geographic Unique Hotels of the World, has individual casitas on the Oso Peninsula. This is a remote hotel that offers an all-inclusive package that includes guided excursions during the day. It borders a protected national park with incredible wildlife.
- Hacienda Zuleta – this ranch estate in the highlands of Ecuador is a family-run ranch estate that has been converted to a hotel. Each room is different and you are treated like family. The ranch is on an organic farm and working dairy farm. You can fed the calves, watch the cheese being made, go horseback riding, visit a condor protection center, and gather with other guests in the evenings.
- Adare Manor – provides the Irish manor house/castle experience without the high price of someplace like the Ashford Castle.
- Fogo Island Inn – an architectural masterpiece of a hotel in Newfoundland, Canada, on an island called Fogo Island. The hotel was created to support the economy of the island and it uses locally-made products and has created jobs in that area.
- Awasi Atacama – lodge in the Atacama Desert in Chile. You stay in a beautiful adobe casita and schedule tours with a guide in the desert each day. You can discuss and choose your excursions the night before. The hotel also has a great chef and wine program.
Full Episode Transcript
[00:00:00.190] – Kim Tate
Stay tuned today for some epic inspiration for your next family vacation.
[00:00:16.650] – Announcer
Welcome to Vacation Mavens, a family travel podcast with ideas for your next vacation and tips to get you out the door. Here are your hosts, Kim from Stuffed Suitcase and Tamara from We3Travel.
[00:00:31.300] – Kim Tate
Tamara, we’re back in the New Year, and I know that for both of us, 2021 was kind of a good travel year, which was surprising. We were able to get out a little bit and explore. And I know we had some amazing trips. You, of course, had Greece. And I know you had some amazing hotels and stuff that we shared about on our 2021 Favorite Things podcast. And then I had a trip in Portugal with you, and then, of course, some great road trip and experiences with my girls. But I think that as we head into 2022, everything is kind of up in the air right now. But are you looking forward to or planning any epic trips of your own this coming year?
[00:01:10.330] – Tamara Gruber
I am. I’m so excited. We only have one trip, actually, in the books, but there are so many things that I’m just dreaming about right now trying to figure out. Yeah, but we’re really hoping that spring break happens this year for us, which happens a little early for us. It’s in March, but it’s a two week spring break, and we’re hoping that by that time, with applications behind us and all of that, it’s going to be able to really take those two weeks and enjoy it. And we are planning to go to Paris, Venice, and Florence. It’s going to be really a spring break, but it’s really kind of a graduation trip for Hannah, so I’m really, really hoping that we can make it happen. I think everybody knows that we canceled Paris in 2020, and so that’s a redo, and then we’re adding some stuff to it. I’m at the point now where I am getting to that detailed stage of planning, where I need to get my Eiffel Tower tickets in the next couple of days. Okay.
[00:02:09.120] – Kim Tate
[00:02:10.250] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, exactly. Like the nitty gritty. I’m like, okay, now I really need this to happen. Yeah.
[00:02:17.890] – Kim Tate
Once you’re so invested in it, it starts to really take on a big thing. I think it’s awesome. It’s going to be a fun trip. I’m so jealous of your guys’ two week spring break. And I think for everyone who’s at the same stage as us, we know that March is a big month for College acceptance letters for a lot of schools, so that’s going to be kind of a fun thing for her. Hopefully they’ll all come before you guys head out, or else it’s going to be a little stressful waiting to get back home to see what’s in the mailbox. Right.
[00:02:45.260] – Tamara Gruber
Well, the good thing is it all comes with email now.
[00:02:47.920] – Kim Tate
[00:02:48.770] – Tamara Gruber
So you don’t really have to wait until you get home. I think they’re mostly going to come while we are there they are right when we get back. But I’m trying to hope that I can distract her with doing all the fun things because it’s definitely for anyone that’s gone through the College process. I’m sure you all can relate that it’s just a long slog from when you hit submit to like when you find out. Sometimes it depends on where you’re applying. But for many of them, finding out at the end of March, it’s a long wait.
[00:03:14.060] – Kim Tate
Yeah. And then you have to make a lot of plans between March and June. Happens fast. Kind of.
[00:03:19.820] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. You have a month to make a decision between possibly a lot of choices. So that is our focus. We’re kind of like until we know what’s happening with her and what her schedule will be. Not making a lot of other plans, although actually I did just book a long weekend for 4 July in Nantucket, which is an island off of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. And it’s a place that I’ve always, always wanted to go. It’s really cute and it’s charming, but it’s expensive. And it is hard to get into because in the summer they require like at least two, but maybe like a three or four night stay a lot of places. And we’ve just never been able to do that because you want to do a weekend. But because 4 July is on a Monday, this year, there’ll be like a three day natural three day weekend. So we’re going to do that as just a little Glenn and I trip away. We found a Bed and breakfast that isn’t as crazy as some of the hotels are. It kills me how expensive the hotels are. I know we’ve talked about that a lot in this last year, but it just really bothers me that a room at a nice hotel but not like Earth shattering is like $1,000.
[00:04:25.490] – Tamara Gruber
And I’m like, that’s just that’s insane.
[00:04:28.480] – Kim Tate
That is insane. And then they probably aren’t even giving you housekeeping services.
[00:04:37.350] – Kim Tate
Hopefully it’ll all be fun and that’ll be nice. And I hope 2022 that a lot of people can get out and explore and really find some fun adventures.
[00:04:46.660] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. And you know what? Hopefully if we want to get out of the US, too, because I really feel like the hotel prices here are higher than some other places.
[00:04:55.190] – Kim Tate
I was actually researching an article and I was looking at Portugal hotel prices, and I was like, wow, it’s crazy. Like I was looking at that Tivoli that we stayed at, and I thought it’s just unheard of that hotel. It was really nice. And looking at the prices points there is just crazy.
[00:05:10.720] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. So anyway, we’re going to talk to somebody today that has a lot of experience going to some really cool, really unique properties and destinations, and she’s going to share it with us. And I think we’re all kind of dreaming about future trips. And so hopefully she will provide you, you some inspiration for whatever that next trip is going to be. Sounds great.
[00:05:30.860] – Kim Tate
Let’s get talking to Tara.
[00:05:40.450] – Tamara Gruber
So this week we’re here with Tara Cannon. She runs the family travel adventure blog Pint Size Pilot. Her goal is to encourage families to travel a little further afield and to enjoy truly unique and exceptional adventures, whether in their home country or abroad. So, Tara, welcome and happy New Year.
[00:05:56.320] – Tara Cannon
Thank you so much. Happy New Year to both of you.
[00:05:59.710] – Tamara Gruber
And it is a new year. We’re all dreaming about travel. Eventually we’re going to get out of this pandemic mode and we’re going to start thinking about planning some big trips. I feel like a lot of people have been holding back and saving up for that. I’m going to do something really epic and really amazing when this is all over kind of thing. And when I think about what those trips would be, how do I think of you? Because I always think that you have found some really unique destinations. You do some really fun, adventurous things with your family, and you’d be a great person to talk to about like, okay, let’s start dreaming about the future. Let’s start planning something big and where do you want to go? So I’m glad that you could be here with us today.
[00:06:40.450] – Tara Cannon
Thank you so much. Yes, we are always dreaming about a grand adventure.
[00:06:45.430] – Tamara Gruber
So you’ve done some great things. I’ve kind of hinted at that. But can you share some of maybe your top five family vacation destinations?
[00:06:52.990] – Tara Cannon
I will, yes. So thank you for that introduction. So I’m going to start with one of our first big adventure trips that we did. We took our first big jungle excursion to Panama and a lot of people and we did this when our kids were, I believe, six and nine years old. And I know I just simply could not wait to be able to do that type of adventure with the kids. And often when you’re looking at jungle lodges, they typically will have a minimum age of five or six years old and sometimes as high as eight. So it was definitely something we had to wait for. Now, Panama is interesting in that it provides a similar experience to Costa Rica, which I think a lot of people think of when they think of going on a jungle adventure. But what we liked about Panama was we found it to be and we have also been to Costa Rica, which we love. But we found Panama to be a little bit less expensive than Costa Rica, maybe simply because it’s a little less on the radar for that type of trip. But also you could go to a jungle Lodge in Panama, where you could also get to an island and have a great beach vacation.
[00:08:04.810] – Tara Cannon
While on that trip, we also went to the Guna Yala, the Indigenous territory of the Guna Yala, which is also called the Sandblast Islands. And we took a boat and sailed around the Islands there. And then we also had a great couple of days in Panama City, which is a fantastic city. It’s got great hotels, great restaurants. Culturally, it’s quite interesting. And then from there, you can do little jungle day trips, or you can go to the Panama Canal Observation Center, which is also really cool. So it was quite a few years ago that we went to Panama, but I’m always thinking of going back, and I think that makes a great family vacation for people.
[00:08:44.540] – Kim Tate
That’s cool. Yeah, definitely. I mean, Costa Rica is up there, so it’s neat to know that that’s kind of another alternative and maybe even a little more affordable. So what’s your next one?
[00:08:54.540] – Tara Cannon
My next one. Now, this one is very familiar to both of you. And I know that lots of people have been, but having been twice myself, I would absolutely do it a third time is Iceland. Now, I like Iceland because first of all, from the United States especially, it’s a very easy flight. And for most people, it’s not a very long flight. It’s also a very safe nation. As far as unlike a jungle trip, you’re not worried about creatures and that sort of thing. You don’t have to worry about water issues with the water or anything like that. But Iceland, just to me, has so much to offer in terms of interesting excursions that you can do. I mean, you can visit the geothermal pools that they have. You can walk between the continental plates. You can see these spectacular waterfalls, and you can go out and ride on those gorgeous Icelandic horses. You can go whale watching and do all kinds of excursions. And a lot of it you can also do from the capital city of Reykjavik, which is a really sweet little city with great hotels and great stores. So I really love that one.
[00:10:02.040] – Tara Cannon
But either of you I know Tamara, you for sure been Kim, you’ve been as well, is that right?
[00:10:07.240] – Kim Tate
I have not been to Iceland. I was going to go with you guys when you guys did that big trip, but then it just wasn’t going to work out.
[00:10:13.150] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, I know.
[00:10:13.800] – Kim Tate
I’ve always wanted to go, especially since it’s really blown up in popularity and it seems like the infrastructure I know when Tamara first went, it was kind of really hard to book and plan and everything that’s gotten much easier because the infrastructure has increased to be able to handle the boom and tourism.
[00:10:30.250] – Tamara Gruber
That like one person that’s been to Iceland and didn’t want to go back. Almost everyone is going to return to I think they’re more a city lover.
[00:10:41.110] – Tara Cannon
[00:10:41.750] – Kim Tate
On board trip. Yes.
[00:10:42.810] – Tara Cannon
And to me, Reykjavik is the perfect little city for me. I don’t love big cities. And so to me, it had just enough going on to keep me very interested and keep me wanting to go back. The other thing I think that’s neat about Iceland is because their tourism has developed so much. There’s constantly sort of new place to go visit, new hot pillow pools, new hotels, new adventures that you can go on. So even it was just a couple of years ago that we went, but I’m very interested in going again to see what’s new there. And I think sometimes when you think of these adventure trips, you think, oh, your kids have to be a certain age. Well, having spent a couple of days there with Cathy and her family from Globetotting, her youngest at the time was only three. And he is a trooper, for sure. But he seemed to manage just fine. So, yeah, I think it’s great for all these ages. Now, the next one now it’s not as exciting maybe as some of the other destinations, but I just think it’s a must do. And we revisited this trip last summer as well.
[00:11:45.700] – Tara Cannon
Is France. It’s a classic. I know, but I love it because it’s easy to get to. I love it because you can immediately be immersed in another culture with a different language, different food, different customs without it being too much out of your comfort zone for most people, for families, I love the idea of spending a couple of days or even up to a week in Paris and you can get a hotel. But we’ve always stayed in an Airbnb when we’ve been there. So we have a nice home base to come back to. And then you could take the train or take a plane and go spend some time in Provence. You could go to the South Coast and have a beach vacation. You could go to the Dordogne River region, which we did one trip. So I just think it has a lot to offer. And it’s also very easy to get to for most people.
[00:12:37.990] – Tamara Gruber
It’s one of those ones that it just makes so many people happy to write, I think well, you know, because we were going to meet in Paris in March of 2020. Right. We were going to be there at the same time.
[00:12:49.950] – Tara Cannon
That’s right. Oh, my goodness. Yes.
[00:12:52.970] – Tamara Gruber
So we’ve tentatively and hopefully it’s going to happen. We booked for March of 2022. And we were just talking yesterday about some of the restrictions that are in place, whether or not we think it’s going to happen. And Hannah said, I don’t care if I’m standing on the Eiffel Tower wearing a mask. At least I’m standing on the Eiffel Tower. That’s right.
[00:13:14.210] – Tara Cannon
And so we very quickly managed to put a trip to France together last August when another trip of ours got canceled. And I laid the groundwork a little bit because I could see that our other trip was likely going to get canceled. So I had looked into France already and really, from the minute we were in the cab on the freeway going into Paris, we’re just on the freeway. And I just felt so happy to be in a different place. The graffiti wasn’t French, okay? It was just different. And it was exciting. So, of course, we had to wear masks, and there were a few other things we had to do, but it was just wonderful to be there. Even if we’re going to wear a mask at home, we might as well be in France wearing a mask, right?
[00:13:56.650] – Tara Cannon
All right. So my fourth one came back to the more adventurous trips I have Peru. Now, of course, when we think about Peru, I think most people are going to think about the ancient income ruins of Machu Picchu. But for us, Peru was so much more than that. And I’d even say Machu Picchu was great, but I wouldn’t even say that was necessarily our highlight. And I’m sure people are going to be horrified that I’m saying that. But there was just so much Lima, where most people would fly into is an incredible city just for what we found for culture and for foodies. It has absolutely wonderful restaurants. So that was a big surprise to us. And then from Lima, we flew into Kusko, where we spent a bit of time and spent some time in the Sacred Valley as well, which is just absolutely so interesting and stunning. Then onto Machu Picchu back to Kusku, and then we went to flew into Lake City Kaka, which is one of the highest navigable Lake in the world, I believe. And so that was also a very interesting experience. So, of course, with a trip like this, you want your kids to be a certain age, because one of the things for me was I always wanted to make sure my kids could appreciate and remember it, so they had to be a certain age.
[00:15:13.830] – Tara Cannon
But also, you do spend more time, I’d say, on guided tours and that sort of thing. So obviously with little ones, that can be a little bit challenging. But I would say the biggest surprise for us about Peru was actually Lima itself as a city.
[00:15:29.540] – Tamara Gruber
That is definitely one of my bucket list destinations. And actually last week I was having a day where I just couldn’t focus on work. And so I did what I’d like to do, which is then just research future potential trips.
[00:15:41.090] – Tara Cannon
[00:15:41.790] – Tamara Gruber
But I found this Lodge in, like, the Sacred Valley, and it just sounded so cool because it seemed to have all these excursions and activities and very culturally just a lot of cultural experiences that were built in that were included in the things. So I was like, oh, this is on my bucket list now. It’s probably already on yours.
[00:16:04.410] – Tara Cannon
Do you remember what the Lodge was called?
[00:16:07.100] – Tamara Gruber
I think it was from Explorer, but it had a more detailed name to it.
[00:16:12.800] – Tara Cannon
Okay. Actually, my favorite memory from Peru was staying in the Sacred Valley, which has almost no light pollution, and going out on a night excursion with my kids and looking at the constellations. And we had a guy that was telling us about the different constellations and that sort of thing. And then I think we came back and sat around a fire. And to me, it’s those special memories with my kids that do not involve technology that are where our memories are made. I think so, yeah, absolutely. An amazing trip. And then my last one, which once again, from where we are in Vancouver, Canada, a little harder to get to, but from a lot of American cities, it’s much easier. We just simply love and I’ve talked about Barbados on your show before. We love the Caribbean. There are so many beautiful Islands to explore. And what I think is really neat about the Caribbean is that you can often do a trip and see multiple Islands and experience different cultures. So we did a trip once where we visited Anguilla, which is a British overseas territory, Saba. I’m not sure if it’s Saba or Saba, which is Dutch, and La Saint, which are some Islands off of Guadalupe, which, of course, are French.
[00:17:32.320] – Tara Cannon
So for us, I always found it really neat to be able to combine a beach trip with also some cultural elements as well. Yes. And of course, I spoke about Barbados recently and Barbados. I don’t know if you guys had caught this on the news, but they recently became an independent nation, which is very exciting for them. So Barbados is always my number one pick for families in the Caribbean because it’s big enough to offer a lot of exciting activities and yet doesn’t really have a few giant hotels in the capital city of Bridgetown. But otherwise, it’s a lot of really cute little ins. And you can also go the Airbnb route and that sort of thing, too. So that’s another favorite. So I think that’s five nice, exciting trips that I think people can do.
[00:18:21.030] – Kim Tate
Those are all fabulous. I think that’s a good variety.
[00:18:23.840] – Tara Cannon
So it’s neat to well, you notice. Okay. So I did not put the Galapagos down here. And the only reason is and I want to say I think the Galapagos, which we have been lucky enough to visit, is an absolutely amazing vacation to take or experience to have. It is just so prohibitively expensive that I didn’t put it on the list for that reason. Otherwise, I think anyone who can possibly do it should do it. It’s just a lot of years of saving for most people.
[00:18:54.850] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. And then you have the seasickness issue, too, with the sea sickness.
[00:19:01.750] – Tara Cannon
We really loved Ecuador. We could spend some time in mainland Ecuador as well. So once you get to Ecuador, you have to pay for your flights to Ecuador, but then you also have to fly like a Lapago. So when you’re talking a family, you’re adding a couple more $1,000 just to actually get there. And so it is a fantastic trip, but yes, sea sickness, and it is a very expensive trip as well.
[00:19:27.130] – Kim Tate
Well, now that you’ve given us some of your list of your top ones, it’s definitely obvious that while some are popular or maybe ones that other people would think about, you definitely also look for those trips that aren’t your typical family vacations. So how do you go about researching and planning those kind of trips? Like where do you get inspiration so that you can figure out where to stay and create your itinerary of things to do that are good for everyone who’s traveling, right?
[00:19:54.450] – Tara Cannon
Yeah. So we had a perfect example the other day. So I have to say that as much as I love researching trips, so does my husband. He was a big traveler before I met him as well as through our family relationship. So he came to me the other day and said and he’s in the finance industry, but it was in a business magazine. He had pulled out an article on a hotel in Guatemala and it just sounded like he backpacked through Guatemala years ago. But it just seemed like such a neat hotel and just a really cool experience overall that I know that Guatemala is now on my radar and I will explore. Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s quite on the bucket list yet, but I would say most of our trips start from either articles in an online newsletter. I will say I am influenced by where my friends are going, including the two of you and many other people I follow in the industry, occasionally Instagram. But for the most part, it starts with us from a hotel, like just a really neat hotel experience. And then we decide whether or not that country is something that could provide a broader trip for us as well or more interesting trip.
[00:21:04.030] – Tara Cannon
And the kids, they are really interested in geography and they read a lot themselves as well. I think Lucas used to read himself to sleep with the world Atlas, so they’re quite knowledgeable. And occasionally they will just say, no, we’re not going there, we’re not interested. One of the things for my daughter Ella, who’s 14 now, is she doesn’t love vaccinations. And so every time I bring up the idea of going on a Tanzanian Safari or something like that, which also is kind of up there with the Galapagos we haven’t been. And one of the main reasons is it’s a very pricey trip, but also for her, she gets really hung up on what we would have to do and how safe is it?
[00:21:48.110] – Kim Tate
She sounds like a child after my own heart because that’s really something for me that is like I have this trip to Uganda in the possible future and just knowing the vaccinations that are required, I’m kind of like, oh, is it really worth it and kind of freaks me out.
[00:22:06.310] – Tara Cannon
[00:22:07.260] – Kim Tate
I get it.
[00:22:08.350] – Tara Cannon
Is that for Gorilla Trekking?
[00:22:10.680] – Kim Tate
[00:22:11.350] – Tara Cannon
Yes. That just sounds amazing to me as well. So I would say that’s on my radar as well. But yeah, usually. And if you looked around our house, it’s full of coffee table books with titles like Remote and the Atlas Obscura stuff and that sort of thing. So we’re just constantly looking for something unique, summer special.
[00:22:32.220] – Kim Tate
It’s neat that you mentioned hotel. And then Tamara just mentioned she found a hotel when she was tentatively vacation planning dreaming. And when we were in Portugal working with Epic Travel, they said one of the big things for them is they like properties more than anything. And so they find a great property and then they build an itinerary kind of around that property. And I just think that’s really interesting. I don’t know if people because I would say I often go, okay, what are the top things to see and Where’s a hotel that’s near that stuff, right? Definitely. I think it’s an interesting I think it’s a give and take because some people just think hotels are just somewhere to lay your head. And other people think that it’s kind of a backbone of your Homebase and where you’re going to feel settled and you want it to be clean and nice and kind of have this great feel when you’re going to a destination.
[00:23:20.690] – Tara Cannon
As another example, I know we did, and sometimes it is about the destination, everything’s a few years ago now because we haven’t been anywhere in two years. But a few years ago we went into Northern Norway and drove through the Lofoten Archipelago, and while I was researching that, I came across a hotel that actually wasn’t on the archipelago but was on the mainland. And we completely rejigged our whole trip so that we could go there. And that’s just my own particular obsession with a really neat place to stay. So I’m not sure if most people would do that, but for us it meant changing a lot of things, but I just knew I needed to get there.
[00:24:00.650] – Tamara Gruber
So much depends on the destination. Right. Like if you’re visiting a city, it’s not always so much about the hotel. I mean, it’s great and have a lovely place to stay. But some of those places that are a little bit more like out there and you want the experience to be I think people think of like a Caribbean, like all inclusive resorts. Not necessarily that, but it’s an experience where it is more than just a place to lay your head. But it is like the activities on site or just something about that.
[00:24:28.170] – Tara Cannon
It’s true. And you’re absolutely right, because I did a trip with Ella to New York a few years ago and once again a few years ago just before Covid started and the hotel wasn’t it was more about finding a nice affordable hotel because we knew we weren’t going to be in the room very much. But I don’t know if either one of you have this obsession, but I have an obsession with really beautiful bathrooms in hotel rooms. And it’s the first thing I do is maybe because I live in an older house and our bathrooms are very small, but I love nothing more than a hotel room with a beautiful soaker tub and nice shampoos and that sort of thing.
[00:25:02.960] – Tamara Gruber
Anyone else, I get very excited about ropes and slippers.
[00:25:08.390] – Kim Tate
I’m a bathroom person, too. I love that. And also I’m big on the bedding and I don’t want carpet in my rooms anymore. No carpet. And then I want my bedding really cleaned. Clean, white. I don’t want any. Yeah, I like cleanliness.
[00:25:23.390] – Tara Cannon
[00:25:26.430] – Kim Tate
Hard surfaces are my friend, because I know they can be cleaned.
[00:25:28.290] – Tara Cannon
Well, that’s funny.
[00:25:30.910] – Tamara Gruber
Well, it’s funny. You talk about a hotel sometimes driving it, and you wouldn’t think that the kids would get as excited about that kind of aspect. But it sounds like your kids have some really strong opinions. So how do you go about deciding as a family where you’re going to go next? Do you have a bucket list or is it just something comes up and talk about it and then it gets either voted down or voted up?
[00:25:52.090] – Tara Cannon
You know what? It’s a loose bucket list. But yes, I think it has more to do with time because sometimes there are places on our list. But it’s just one of the places. For instance, has been on our list for many years, has been French Polynesia, but another destination that first of all, it’s not inexpensive to get to for us. And French Polynesia people think about the ultimate over the water bungalows that are so pricey. But there’s lots of different ways to do French Polynesia where it doesn’t have to. It doesn’t have to cost like that. But definitely you’re still looking at a pricey trip because of the airline tickets alone. But with the trip like that, sometimes it comes down to time of year because when I was researching it, the best time of year to visit French Polynesia seems to be between June and September, weather wise. And that’s tough for us because it’s also the best time of year to be here in Vancouver and visiting with family. My family has a cabin in the Gulf Islands and so visiting with family. And so sometimes it has to do with timing. And then also Japan has been on our list for a while, but of course, with COVID think Japan has really opened up at all.
[00:27:09.590] – Kim Tate
Two tentative plans gotten canceled, right?
[00:27:12.600] – Tara Cannon
Exactly. There’s time of year, there is cost, and then there is, of course, the family discussion. So I can’t think of anywhere we’ve gone that somebody really didn’t want to go to. So I guess, yes, conversations do happen along the way.
[00:27:29.450] – Tamara Gruber
Do they have any that are like really top of their list, especially as they’re getting older. I’m sure you’re more focused on maybe trying to make some of those happen.
[00:27:37.720] – Tara Cannon
Well, you know, Japan is the big one.
[00:27:39.860] – Tamara Gruber
Definitely for all three of us then, huh? Yeah, exactly.
[00:27:43.900] – Tara Cannon
And you know what? I am very excited about Japan, but I think my husband and the kids are more excited. I think it’s just they’ve been raised on sushi. My husband used to take them to sushi restaurants when they were just babies. They have been raised on Japanese music or not music, movies that they’ve really enjoyed. Just they seem to be really attracted to everything about the culture. And then we’re also a skiing family. So that is something that if we could get to Japan and also experience what it would be like to ski in Japan, that’s very appealing to all of us, I think.
[00:28:23.270] – Kim Tate
So do you have any tips for families who they want to plan? They’ve saved up some money over the last couple of years not doing anything big. Maybe they want to plan a really special trip, but they don’t know how or where to start. You’ve probably touched on this a little bit with how you get your inspiration, but what tips do you have for family that they want to plan something?
[00:28:42.470] – Tamara Gruber
Where should they start?
[00:28:44.040] – Tara Cannon
Well, first of all, I think it depends whether or not you enjoy planning a trip or do not enjoy planning a trip, because I have friends who love it and I have friends who just want it to happen for them and would rather spend their time doing anything else but planning a trip. So although I have what’s been many years since I have used a travel agent or travel advisor, especially these days. If you don’t love planning a trip, I love the idea of using for instance, if you’re interested in Peru, a short Google search will help you find either an expert in your city on Central and South America or maybe they’re not in your city because everything can be done online these days. But I think going to someone who’s planned dozens of these trips as opposed to trying to plan it all yourself, especially if it’s a big adventure trip with a lot of moving parts, like a trip to Peru or the Galapagos or a Grand European adventure where you’re visiting a bunch of different countries and having in the last couple of years having to have booked and canceled so many trips myself, there were many times when I thought, oh my gosh, how nice would it have been to have someone on my side to help do this for me who also potentially has a little bit more pull with properties, maybe getting refunds and that sort of thing now.
[00:30:07.830] – Tara Cannon
Otherwise, if you like to do it yourself, I recommend starting with reading articles, reading posts from bloggers, reaching out to bloggers from that early trip to Panama I probably have two or three people a year that reach out to me directly to get my opinion on an itinerary they’re trying to plan, or maybe they’re having problems with a certain piece of their trip, and I love helping them. Also, Facebook pages, Facebook groups. Tamara, I know yours is travel with teens, right? Yes. So Facebook groups can be very helpful. I find that people in those groups are generally very engaged and want to help you with your trip. And then travel forums. When I’m trying to plan little details of my trip, I often go to TripAdvisor travel forums to ask the community questions on I don’t know, like, I’m thinking of last time we were in Mexico, I was looking for a good Pizzole restaurant, or we want to do a day trip, or we want to go on a boat trip. Who do you recommend? And of course, with Facebook groups and with travel forums, you occasionally do get people jumping who actually have never been to that place and want to chime in anyway.
[00:31:24.800] – Tara Cannon
So you sometimes have to weed out some stuff. But within that, there’s such valuable information as well, from other contributors.
[00:31:33.420] – Tamara Gruber
It’s really good advice. And as someone that had spent a couple of years as a travel adviser, I really second that recommendation because I think people really think about a travel advisor is like the travel agent that you go to in a storefront and they would book you at a hotel or they’d book you a cruise or a package and that’s kind of it. And then it was like, well, why do I need you to do that? I can just do that online with the travel advisor these days, you can say, like, I want to do two weeks in Italy. We want to hit these places, or they can even recommend what the itinerary would be. And they will give you options for hotels, and they’ll then recommend all kinds of tours and experiences that you would probably spend hours and hours, like not even knowing that it was available or possible. And all these options will be available to you, and then they’ll take care of it and book it and put in a wonderful little itinerary for you. Yes. Those usually involve a fee, but I really think it’s worth it. And the time that saved them, just the expertise and knowledge that they have, too.
[00:32:32.520] – Tara Cannon
Right. I’ve gone 180 degrees on this because going back to precovid, I just really didn’t always see the need for it. But thinking back now, when I think about trips like Panama and Peru, where you’re visiting many different places, the challenging part sometimes comes in making those connections. How do I get from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu or from Cusco to Lake Titicaca? And I think that there’s huge value in that because it’s in those connections where I think things can often go really sideways.
[00:33:05.990] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah. Well, we’ve been touching on some different hotels. And I know you’ve probably been holding back on some things destinations that we talked about because you have had some really interesting hotels. One of them comes to mind. So I’m going to wait and see if you mention that one. But do you have any favorite just really amusing hotels that you’ve done with your kids?
[00:33:27.270] – Tara Cannon
I do, and I’m going to start with my favorite. And it’s not the one you’re thinking of, but it is on the list. I think I know the one you’re thinking of. So Laparrios, which is in Costa Rica, in the OSA Peninsula, which is down south, and it borders Corcavado National Park and So La Carrie is one of the National Geographic designated unique hotels of the world. It’s very special in that it’s quite remote. It has a bunch of little casitas, and I think most of them have a view. You sort of look over the jungle and then onto the ocean. And at certain times of year you can see sort of whales on the ocean. I didn’t see any myself, but it wasn’t looking that hard. And it might have been the wrong time of year. And what you can do from there is I’m not an all inclusive package kind of person, but typically at this Lodge because it’s quite remote, it’s an all inclusive package. And you can go out on different guided excursions during the day, which might be a height to a waterfall or into the park. And Corgavado National Park has been a protected National Park for more than 25 years.
[00:34:38.780] – Tara Cannon
So the wildlife in that area is like nothing I have seen. And we’ve done a fair bit of jungle trekking in Central America, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Now for our timing of this trip, we were actually there in June, which is wet season. So part of the abundance of wildlife would have been because it was very green and there were tons of berries and everything on the trees. So the wildlife would sort of really be doing a lot of feeding close by. But prior to that, I had seen two cans in the wild, but it was literally way in the distance through binoculars. And at this very special Lodge resort, I would literally go out onto a balcony and there was an outdoor shower and there was a tree right above the outdoor shower. And there were just two cans that would sit in the tree. And then every morning you would get at about 06:00 A.m., there’d be a delivery to your door of either coffee or hot chocolate. And my daughter and I would sit out on the deck in her pajamas and just watch the jungle come alive.
[00:35:40.330] – Tara Cannon
So you’d hear the howler monkeys in the distance and you’d see pairs of Scarlet macaws flying over. It’s just the most remarkable, remarkable experience.
[00:35:50.570] – Kim Tate
That does sound quite amazing. I mean, truly immersive for sure.
[00:35:55.330] – Tara Cannon
Truly immersive. Exactly. And of course, it has all the creature comforts. It had a really nice pool, and from the pool, you can see monkeys jumping in the trees and everything like that. So I don’t like to get too uncomfortable in my trips, but yeah, this was very special.
[00:36:09.750] – Tamara Gruber
What about another one?
[00:36:12.790] – Tara Cannon
So now we’re going to Ecuador. So there is a hotel in Ecuador in the Highlands called Hacienda Zuletta. And I’d say it’s more of a family run Ranch estate that has been converted to a hotel. And what’s really cool. Well, first of all, when you arrive at this Ranch, you’re immediately felt like family. So each one of the rooms is different. Each one of the bedrooms is different because it was a family home at one time. And so you’re escorted to the room that they think will suit you best for your stay. And the Ranch is actually on an organic farm and a working dairy farm. And so these are sort of of course, most of my trips do involve animals of some kind. So, of course, you can explore the dairy. I know the kids were able to much younger at the time, but they were able to go and feed bottle feed the baby calves. And then the milk. There’s also a cheese factory on the property, so that milk is turned into cheese. And then when you’re eating at the farm, of course, cheese is included in every meal and the vegetables are from the garden.
[00:37:17.240] – Tara Cannon
And then as far as activities, because it’s a Ranch. So they have horses. You can go horseback riding into this beautiful Valley where they have a Condor protection program. So you can go and see what they’re doing with the project and see some of their rehabilitating, some of the birds there. So you have a chance to see the giant Condor. And then it’s just such a beautiful family environment where in the evenings, all the guests will gather by the fireplace and have a glass of wine and talk about their day. And it’s just a very special adventure.
[00:37:53.330] – Tamara Gruber
I thought you were going to mention another one in Ecuador that everyone seems to go to, but this one I’ve not heard of before. So I love that it’s like more off the beach.
[00:38:01.550] – Tara Cannon
And you’re probably talking about Mashpi Lodge. I had a very hard time choosing these. MashPi Lodge is also a jungle Lodge that is very special, entirely a different experience. Just a couple of hours out of Quito, as was Hacienda Zaleta, but in a different direction. Also a wonderful experience.
[00:38:20.510] – Tamara Gruber
So where do we go from there?
[00:38:21.660] – Tara Cannon
Okay, so now we are going to go to Ireland. Now, a couple of years ago, my wife again, we were coming back from a trip to Europe, and I think I realized it was cheaper for us to get home. This is how we often do things, cheaper for us to get through home through Ireland somehow. And so we thought we’d tack on six more days and do a whirlwind little tour. And I hadn’t been there for many years. I think I had been there in my 20s on a Katiki tour. So it had been quite a while for me. So we wanted to have it was an add on trip for us. And so we were trying to do most of it quite inexpensively. So we’re staying at little bed and breakfast Inns and Airbnbs. But I wanted to have that classic Ireland Castle stay. And I think if you Google Ireland Castle stay, you’re going to come across Ashford Castle. That is the one that comes up. Yes, that’s the one.
[00:39:18.000] – Tamara Gruber
[00:39:18.620] – Tara Cannon
Yeah, that’s the one. We all know that’s the one that comes up on the top Castle lists in the world all the time. And I have no doubt it is absolutely spectacular. However, for a family of four and at the age that my two kids were, Ashford Castle was going to require that we have two rooms, which just made it Ashford Tesla is enormously pricey. But to get two rooms was just too much, absolutely too much for us. So I found this other one called Adare Manor. It’s in Limerick. And they were kind enough to let us get sort of a larger Deluxe room and have us all in the same room. So that made it more affordable for us. Not affordable, but more affordable. It’s still a splurge and it absolutely blew my mind. It was the most viewed. It was only for 24 hours or I guess less. When you look at check in and check out, it was the most beautiful estate. Everything from the service to the linens to the flowers in every room to the tea service. Everything was absolutely perfect and far exceeded my expectations. And of course, any time you decide to splurge on something, that bar is set so high, I think.
[00:40:32.120] – Tara Cannon
But it was just absolutely amazing. And I kind of think I’m a person who notices if there’s a smudge on the wall or that sort of thing, things that they just think, oh, if it were me, I’d clean up. I could not find anything with the dare manner that wasn’t perfect. And there was this moment when we were walking between buildings and we’re walking under this large concrete archway and there was someone on the ladder outside dusting the inside of this archway, dusting the concrete. And I thought to myself, that’s why when you have that, I have never dusted outside of my house, maybe knocked a few things down with a broom. But that to me was very indicative of their attention to details. Just amazing. I highly recommended. And actually, Kim, I know you are an American Express platinum fan, correct?
[00:41:29.790] – Kim Tate
Correct, yes, correct.
[00:41:31.080] – Tara Cannon
And so I know we booked it a room on that and there was something special we got yeah.
[00:41:36.150] – Kim Tate
It was a fine hotel.
[00:41:37.220] – Tara Cannon
One of the it is a fine hotel. And there was something very special we got without it. Do you remember? Okay, number four, the Fogo Island Inn. You were waiting for this one, were you, Tamara?
[00:41:46.570] – Tamara Gruber
I was, yeah. It’s really something that people have not heard of. And it just looks so interesting and unique.
[00:41:53.030] – Tara Cannon
Yes. And so the Fogo Island Inn, so this is one that I did look at for many years. Probably once a week, I would look it up on it was probably even pre-Instagram. I was just looking it up on their website is what I would say, an architectural masterpiece of a hotel in Newfoundland, Canada, on an island called Fogo Island. And Fogo Island is actually the easternmost tip of Canada, I do believe. And what is special, not only is this hotel beautiful, but it’s also the concept of the hotel that is really interesting. Fogo island, the community was economically devastated by the collapse of the cod stock stocks and the fishing industry going back, I think, more than 25 years ago now. And what they were experiencing was that the population, the young people were leaving the island and they were losing their sense of community because they’re just for no jobs. And so the idea behind this project was to create a new industry for the island being tourism and to create jobs. And so what’s really special about it is that wherever possible, things have been done locally. So in your room, most of the furniture will have been made by local artisans.
[00:43:07.640] – Tara Cannon
There’s actually a workshop right on the property. The quilt on your bed will have been made by Quilters just down the road. And that’s just really cute because all the quilts, their patchwork quilts have the name of the person who made it embroidered into it in the year they made it, which is really special. And then same with the food experience. Wherever possible, things are harvested locally. And yeah, it’s just a really special experience. And then what was my last one? I had a really hard time. It’s my last one, but I chose Awasi Atacama, which is a Lodge in the Atacama Desert in Chile, which is the driest desert on Earth. And the experience, it is more of a tour based hotel, I’d say, whereby you go you stay in a beautiful little Adobe casino, but your day is quite scheduled in the sense in a very good way. But you would go out with a guide each day to explore the desert. So with this Lodge, which is just very beautiful in itself, you meet with your guide on the first day and you discuss what is right for you and your family, which is really great for us because we like going out on tours.
[00:44:21.950] – Tara Cannon
But I find with the kids, they still like to have a bit of downtime. So the guy that was assigned to us really understood this well. And we could go out and do a morning excursion and then come back for a swim and then maybe go up star gazing in the evening and that sort of thing. And then combined in this they had a wonderful, wonderful chef, a great wine program where you got to taste a bunch and learn about Chilean wines. And then obviously in this very special place, the Atacama Desert. So that was my number five.
[00:44:51.230] – Tamara Gruber
That sounds so dreamy. Yeah. It actually sounds a lot like the one that I was looking at in Peru and that you discussed with them, like what you’re wanting to do the next day and pick things. It reminds me a little bit of like a dude Ranch experience here in the US, but even a whole lot cooler because you’re in another country doing well because it’s different.
[00:45:11.590] – Tara Cannon
Exactly. That’s right. It’s just a little different experience. And the food is a little different. And yeah, it’s very special.
[00:45:18.870] – Kim Tate
That’s absolutely amazing. I mean, I think it’s great that you do you do searches just like Google searches to find some of those unique hotels, or is it more just seen stuff or is it in coffee books or a little bit of all that.
[00:45:30.450] – Tara Cannon
A little bit of all that. But I think Tamara mentioned this before, but nothing makes me happier than, say, a Friday night with nothing to do where I can sit by the fireplace with a glass of wine and just look at hotels or look at destinations and dream and plan. So I feel like it is what I love doing more than anything else.
[00:45:55.550] – Kim Tate
[00:45:56.590] – Tamara Gruber
And I feel like what’s important here is so many times, you’ll see, especially on Instagram, such a focus on luxury hotels. And many of these that you mentioned are luxury hotels. But it’s more about the experiences than it purely being the brand or just that it is a luxury hotel. It’s that real wealth of experience that it seems to bring in terms of connecting you to where you are. And I think that’s what I love about the way that you travel. And that’s why I love following you.
[00:46:27.120] – Tara Cannon
Oh, that’s so nice. Thank you. And we have been able to stay at some really special places, but some of my very special memories are, for instance, staying in a fishing hut in Norway or I don’t know if you’ve heard of this place. It’s a little bit off grid, but in Southern Oregon there’s this place called out and about tree houses. And that was an early trip we did where we drove down. And it’s sort of a funny little place. But my kids, at the age of their ages, they were average is probably five and eight or six and nine. They just thought it was absolutely the best to stay up in a tree house, 50ft off the ground. And that was compared to a lot of things quite. It was probably $120 a night, which is a lot for a tree house, but for such a memorable experience, not so much.
[00:47:15.830] – Tamara Gruber
Yeah, that is so cool.
[00:47:17.900] – Kim Tate
Well, speaking of following you and getting to see all your awesome things, I know that the world right now is very everything’s up in the air and everything is very tentative. But what are you tentatively planning for your next trips?
[00:47:30.420] – Tara Cannon
Well, mostly it’s just the Redo’s. Quite honestly, the trips you’ve been trying to take for two years and they kind of laugh back. Laughed a little bit about thinking that in February 2020, I remember sitting with my mom and convincing her that we needed to do a big family trip to Italy for my dad’s 75th birthday. And that was scheduled for 2021. But literally it was February 2020 and I got her. I convinced her. And of course things were already heating up in Italy, but we weren’t paying attention. And so when I think back at that timing and I also remember saying to her, you know what? We never use the insurance. It was honestly a conversation that we had at no, forget that. Anyway, so Italy, we had to rebook that one. So we’re now looking at doing this family multigenerational trip to the Tuscany region in the summer. So hopefully knock on wood, that can happen. French Polynesia, which was a big, big trip and always a dream trip for me to try to get the kids there before they graduated. And my son is in grade twelve this year, so we are trying to do that one.
[00:48:44.880] – Tara Cannon
And it was when we had to cancel last summer for June of this year. So we’re really hoping that we can make that one happen. So those are two really big ones that we’re excited. Of course I’m thinking about Guatemala. I’d love to get to Japan. I’m really itching to get back to Panama. And it’s very funny that you said Uganda, because that’s just kind of on my radar. Not as a family trip, but as I need to get out of here. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Yeah, that just looks really cool. So I have a lot of dreams and often they don’t come together for many reasons. And the big ones usually because for financial reasons because it’s just expensive. But yes, I’m dreaming.
[00:49:26.490] – Tamara Gruber
[00:49:27.170] – Kim Tate
It’s funny that you say I’ve got a lot of dreams because it made me suddenly the Rapunzel tangled. Anyway, so I won’t say I think it’s awesome that you have so many great trips. Land, I feel like it’s so sad. Tamara and I’ve had this discussion because we have seniors as well and our Japan trip. Now I’m just seeing that I don’t see how it’s going to work, especially with having two kids for us because their school schedules and breaks don’t overlap. Based on what I’ve seen, if Lizzie gets into the school she wants to get into like spring breaks won’t overlap. So then we’re looking at summers, and that affects things just money wise. And do we really want to travel in the summer when Seattle is so nice in the summer?
[00:50:10.620] – Tara Cannon
Exactly. We’re all knowing what stage. Yeah, we are.
[00:50:15.000] – Kim Tate
Well, why don’t you share with our listeners our favorite question that we ask everyone is just, do you have any favorite travel brands or gear that are your go to things? Do you have anything to share with our listeners?
[00:50:27.690] – Tara Cannon
Okay. So this one was a hard one for me because I’m not particularly brand loyal. But what I really want to encourage people to do is to just buy the best stuff they can that hopefully will last them for years. And I will say that I have been at fault many times for trying to save money by buying the inexpensive rain jacket for our trip. I think I’ve done it about three times where I think, oh, I just need a lightweight rain jacket and I don’t want to spend a lot of money. And then I get in a downpour, a tropical downpour, and I realized that I might as well just be wearing a cotton jacket because it doesn’t do anything for me. And so when I’m looking at stuff for my trips, I like to encourage people to buy the better brand. So the Patagonia is the north face. Columbia does some great stuff. I know all the guides in Ecuador, all War, Colombia gear, but just buy the best that you can afford. And if it’s too pricey, I know most cities have second hand stores that sell gear or borrow it. I’ve borrowed a friend’s green jacket, which was actually what convinced me to finally buy a good one to do one of our trips instead of buying one.
[00:51:41.100] – Tara Cannon
So I just want people to buy the best they can and hope that you can don’t buy something disposable buy something that can last you, hopefully a lifetime.
[00:51:48.830] – Kim Tate
That’s fabulous tip. And I think it’s really important in our day of sustainable tourism to be mindful of that stuff.
[00:51:55.070] – Tara Cannon
[00:51:57.150] – Tamara Gruber
So we’ve talked about following you. Can you just remind our listeners where they can find you online?
[00:52:02.030] – Tara Cannon
Yes. Okay. So my website is Pintsizepilot.com, and probably you can reach out to me through the contact page there. I’m always happy to hear from people and to answer questions. And most of what I talked about today, there’s content on my site as well on Instagram at Pintsized Pilots, so you can connect to me that way as well. And yeah, say Hi. I’d love to hear from you.
[00:52:25.360] – Tamara Gruber
Great. Well, safe travels, we can’t wait to see where you’re going next.
[00:52:29.720] – Tara Cannon
Yes, thank you. Thank you. And safe travels to you both as well.
[00:52:36.790] – Tamara Gruber
So we are back and I just wanted to say thank you to anyone that’s left a review recently. Sometimes we’re really bad about checking of those, but we are so appreciative when we notice it. So I want to thank Amy and Bama. I’m assuming that’s Alabama she just wrote a review, gave us a five star review for my favorite travel podcast and said I’m so happy I stumbled across this podcast when they only had a few episodes out. I feel like I know them. I have listened so long. I definitely relisted to episodes about my next travel destination over and over again. They have now covered so many great places. Great job ladies. Amy, you made my day so thank you so much.
[00:53:11.060] – Kim Tate
That is so nice to hear. I love it and that’s one thing I love about podcasting is that I feel like we have a relationship with our listeners and they know a little bit about us so I’m glad that we have that so thanks everyone for listening and we hope that you guys will join us again in two weeks. We’re going to have another great vacation mavens episode.
[00:53:28.250] – Tamara Gruber
Talk to you soon.