Adventures in Travel Expo:
Over-the-top family fun premieres in San Francisco

By Kathy Chin Leong


SAN FRANCISCO – At last month’s Adventures in Travel Expo , vendors around the globe touted trips designed for the Tarzan in all of us. From ice picking your way up a frozen waterfall to playing golf on an ice-laden tundra, the adventures available today are only as limited as the amount in your Swiss bank account.
Here’s a heads up for all couch potato travellers and family trip planners. As BAFT scanned the show floor all afternoon at Moscone Convention Center, these were the highlights:

* Reality Trips : Survivor TV show survivors Burton Roberts and Jenna Lewis have teamed up to launch this new adventure travel company with a real challenging edge- all trips include visits with former reality TV show stars. Participants can get a chance to hike, bike, kayak, and generally hang out with former stars, Heidi Bressler, Bradford Cohen of Apprentice fame or others. According to Roberts, the overseas trips to places such as Africa, Costa Rica, and China will be priced in the same ballpark as other competitor’s packages. And on these vacations, guarantees Lewis, "no one gets voted off." See www.realitytrips.com .

* TravelVideoStore.com: It’s one thing to go to the library to check out books about the
places you go. It’s another to see them on the screen in living color. TravelVideoStore.com is billed as a one-stop-shop for all the travel DVDs ever distributed. Based in Tampa, Florida, the young company offers a money-back guarantee on videos that have already been opened and viewed. Don’t like it? Send it back! The on-line store features hundreds of titles for cities, countries, states, and unique landmarks throughout the world. According to the owner, when kids watch a DVD before going to the destination, they get more out of the vacation. New titles include a bike series where viewers see landscapes via the camera is mounted on a bike. The DVD is designed to be watched by viewers riding on stationary bicycles. Check out more DVD titles on www.travelvideostore.com .

* National Outdoor Leadership School : It’s not everyday you see a kaleidescopic bus with a rock-wall on the side, powered by recycled vegetable oil. But the NOLS bus, led by guides and teachers of the National Outdoor Leadership School, has been tooling back and forth around the country since August 2004, drumming up interest at university campuses and travel trade shows. NOLS’ purpose is to teach technical outdoor skills, group training, and environmental education, so that participants will be able to become adventure guides and eventually lead groups on their own. Not for the wimpy, NOLS courses offer college credit and provide two-week basic camping training up to one-year trips to Patagonia. Students have ranged from ages 14 to 78. See www.nols.com for more info.

* Worldwide Jet : Got $60,000 lying around? For those with anywhere from $25K to $60K in spare change, listen up. According to director of sales, Bonnie Phillips, you can charter your own private jet to the east coast or anywhere in the world with 12 of your best friends along with you. Worldwide Jets hold anywhere from 10 to 13 people.

Just think of the convenience. A limo comes to your doorstep to pick you up. A chauffeur takes your luggage. You go directly to a private airport strip without any need for ticketing or baggage check-in. The limo drops you off in front of your plane. During the flight, you can eat anything you want while dining on china and sipping from crystal wine glasses. (Oh, and you pay for food service a la carte.) When you get tired, you can recline your leather seat into a full bed. Need special linens or allergy-free pillows? No problem! Tell the company ahead of time, and the staff will take care of that for you. The jets are dog-friendly, too. There’s no need to put Champ into a crate. He can roam the aisles at his leisure. A trip to the Bahamas or the Caribbean is possible when you have $120,000 at your disposal. You are charged for each leg of the trip- $60K there and $60K back. Take a peek at the website at www.worldwidejet.com .

* Outward Bound : I used to think that Outward Bound only sponsored "brat camps" for troubled kids, but I was wrong. The adventure company offers seven to ten-day courses in outdoor adventures for groups of all types. Family trips are doable, say organizers. Priceced at approximately $120 per person per day, the company offers a variety of excursions from canoeing in swamp lands in Minnesota to ice climbing in west Maine.
With Outward Bound, you can learn to climb a frozen waterfall in the winter while learning how to use an ice axe.

All are welcome, say Outward Bound planners. No prior experience is necessary to tackle any of the courses including rock climbing, camping, and others. "Our focus is on safety, learning how to take care of your basic needs in the wild, and mastering technical skills," said one of the sales reps. With eight to ten people per group and two instructors, participants pitch their own tents and cook their own grub. At night, the group discusses the day’s activities and how they feel about what has transpired. "The things you learn about yourself are useful for an entire lifetime," said the rep at the show. See www.outwardbound.com for a list of activities and schedules for 2006.

* Iceland Tourist Bureau : Bored with the same old, same old vacation? Iceland may be your next destination of choice. Here at the show, Iceland representatives touted its special two-night winter land package for only $500 which includes meals, activities, and lodging. Iceland may the only place where you can golf and drive go-carts on the ice. Flights to Iceland from Boston run approximately $400. So get yourself to Boston from San Francisco, and you can spend Christmas in Iceland. In the city of Dimmuborgir, meet the traditional 13 Santa Clauses at Santa World who come out to give treats to children. Five hours in flying time from New York, tourists can enjoy natural activities such as whale watching and puffin viewing. Look up www.icelanddrivingadventure.com .

* One-to-One Volunteer Travel : If you have a heart to help others, One-to-One Volunteer Travel, with offices in Denver, offers volunteer trips for people of all ages. Whether its working in an orphanage or working to save sea turtles, this organization promotes humanitarian and environmental causes. How much to help? A trip to Costa Rica to volunteer costs approximately $999. See www.one-to-one.com for more details on trips for next year.

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