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Looking for fresh family adventure vacation ideas? Squamish advisor has tips

From thrilling activities to cultural immersion: Unlocking the best family far-flung vacations.

Have the January blues got you dreaming of a memory-making, far-away family adventure? 

Squamish travel advisor— and intrepid mom traveller—Jordana Manchester has plenty of vacation locations that are just right for adventurous Sea to Sky families. 

We aren't talking about the typical Disneyland, Mexico or Maui kid-friendly vacations (which are fine) but destinations where locals—known for loving high-octane outdoor fun—and their children can let their adrenaline freak flags fly. 

Manchester said she has served clients with kids of all ages. 

"Because we're in Squamish and so many people are so adventurous, and they want to live their lives regardless of the fact they have kids or not, I have families that take their infants on the road all the way up to 17 or 18 before they head off to college," she said, adding that the core of her client base are families with children in the seven to 10-year-old age range. 

"The teenagers, they like some adventure things, but they also want to bring their friends. So, they tend to just sort of rent a place somewhere and hang out. And they do hub and spoke kind of vacations where they rent a car and they go off and do things."

What does adventure mean to you?

It is important to define what a family means by adventure, Manchester said, as it can mean different things depending on the individual.

For some families, adventure means ziplining across a tree canopy in a jungle, for another family it may mean an archaeological tour with their kids in Egypt, she said. 

"So, I start off there by asking them, 'What is your definition of adventure? What is it that gets your heart going?’" 

Wherever you want to go, Manchester said the key is planning and booking early. 

Ideally, people are planning for next Christmas holidays now, she said. 

“You can put a deposit down for most things. If it takes you a long time to pay it off, whatever, but plan in advance. Don't wait last minute, especially when you're travelling with kids.”

Say 'Kia Ora' to New Zealand 

If the family's idea of adventure is physical—such as hiking—Manchester suggests New Zealand, the North Island especially.

(New Zealand actor Martin Henderson, who plays Jack Sheridan on the Squamish-shot Netflix show Virgin River would likely concur.)

"There's a ton to do, " Manchester said, adding there's everything from so-called "soft-adventure" such as easy hikes and kayaking to whitewater rafting and bungee jumping. 

There's also lots of cultural experiences to be had, she added. 

"And I have people who bring their little tiny, teeny tiny humans all the way up to their teenagers on those particular trips," she said. 

Manchester notes that the dollar value in New Zealand is similar to Canada's, though this is not a cheap vacation. 

"There's not really any such thing as that anymore," she said. 

Say 'Io' to Fiji

The South Pacific country of Fiji is a popular spot for Squamish travelling families, Manchester said. 

"I think I booked a good 10 or 12 families to Fiji just in December," she said, adding some folks were on their way to Australia and Fiji was a nice stop on the way. 

"You can do lots of adventure—a lot of water-based adventure—activities in Fiji [such as] snorkelling, and diving and all of that. And it's not busy, " she said. 

"It's a much calmer kind of pace of life there in Fiji and people like that. Not to mention the beaches are stunning."

Up-and-coming destinations

While it is not necessarily easy or inexpensive to get to, Manchester recommends the South Asian island country of Sri Lanka as a family destination.

"I have whipped a bunch of people into a tizzy about this destination," she said. 

"The doors are flung open in terms of hospitality."

There is a lot of child-friendly programming at resorts there, with programs geared to nature and cooking fun for kids, she said. 

"They absolutely adore children."

While not inexpensive to access, once you get there, it is cheaper than other locations, too.

Other up-and-coming areas for families to visit are Colombia in South America and Belize in Central America.

In her experience, with these places, the parents may have been there before without kids and are going back to regions they enjoyed, this time with the whole family, Manchester said. 

"It's less like hardcore adventure in Colombia. It's more just immersing themselves in the culture and exploring colonial cities," she said, adding this vacation may be more geared for teens. 

Belize is good for older kids too, especially for those who like watersports. 

"The ones with the tweens and teens are doing lots of ... ocean kayaking and snorkelling," she said. 

Other areas for families interested in scenic nature adventures are in Africa, again,  especially for those with older kids. Recommended destinations include South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania.

"Ghana is up and coming," she said, and Rwanda is great for older kids interested in the wildlife gorilla treks.

Climate changing travel times

Manchester said climate change is shifting the time of the year when it is best to go to certain places to the point she is sure to look up the conditions in the location each time she is working with a client.

She gave the example of Mexico being a traditionally great place for families to go in March, but not anymore due to sargassum, or seaweed, clogging up beaches.

"With all this red seaweed coming in ... the beaches are terrible in March."

With more and more awareness of the damage overdoing tourism can do to local environments, Manchester is highly conscious of steering clients to areas where tourism is sustainably managed and where tourists are welcome.

"I want my clients to be good ambassadors," she said. 

"I want them to be a reflection of how I feel about sustainable travel."

She said there's a lot of advocacy and social awareness needed in her job these days.


Manchester said most of her clients with kids stay in independently owned short-term rental apartments or villas, followed by lodges and then hotels. 

Diet and medical worries

The nature of families means there is often sure to be one picky eater and one tummy bug on board every trip. 

Manchester says to pack your own dry snacks with you so there is at least some comfort food for the picky eater. 

Eating out, too, allows for choices that may interest little eaters. 

"I book a lot of luxury travel and the luxury lodges and hotels … are really good at catering to kids," she said, but added that trying new things, including what they eat, is not a bad experience for kids.

"It's one of those things of travelling. I would say do not let it prevent you from travelling. But do as much prep time in advance as you can do. That's really all you can do because the only way they're going to learn about different foods is trying them."

In terms of illness on vacation—something Manchester dealt with herself with her child on a recent trip to Mexico—she said planning ahead is key.

"You go to your doctor, you get those antibiotics, you put your kids on probiotics before you go. You get those little tummies ready to go," she said, adding that she lets clients know the lay of the land in terms of where the hospital or medical help is wherever they are going. "You carry your emergency medical kit with you. ... You just arm yourself so when you hit that emergency, you don't feel like you're floundering." 

To learn more, follow Manchester on Facebook, at Jordana Manchester - Adventure Travel Specialist or go to her website: