As travel restarts with the increase in vaccinations and summer approaching, family travel planners are clearly looking for new ideas. That’s the observation of the professional organizers at bespoke travel company Black Tomato who have seen a 70% increase in multigenerational travel requests since the beginning of the year with a special interest in enriching, learning experience trips. Their response is a new program “Take me on a Story” launching today, a collection of five immersive, international travel itineraries using famous novels popular with young people as a basis.
“This year, more than ever before, the focus is about returning to travel and approaching it with intention,” explains Tom Marchant, Black Tomato owner and co-founder. “And while these are stories celebrated and told countless times to children and young adults for many years, we posed the question to our team a few years back: haven’t you always wanted to delve deeper into these rich, fantastical worlds regardless of age? “Take me on a Story” is about tapping beloved literature to provide incredible backdrops and sharing experiences that will not soon be forgotten.”
Retracing Alice in Wonderland’s steps in Oxfordshire. Accompanied by Oxford historians specializing in the works of Lewis Carroll, guests on this five night journey in the English countryside experience adventures inspired by his classic Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Among them: a treasure hunt involving several of the book’s characters as they search for Alice’s lost key, face a challenge from the Queen and decipher riddles from Tweedledum and Tweedledee along with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with instruction in the finer points of croquet using a flamingo and hedgehog. Mixing tourism with storytelling, there’s also a teatime cruise on the Thames from Oxford to Godstow retracing the boat trip on which Carroll told Alice Liddell and her sisters the story he was creating and a bespoke couture costume experience in a Cotswold village. Guests stay at the renowned Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saison with its Michelin two star restaurant from master chef Raymond Blanc.
The Call of the Wild in Alaska. This nine night journey through the wilderness of the state’s mountainous interior that inspired Jack London’s famed novel set during the Klondike Gold Rush includes some extremely high octane adventures. A rafting experience on Spencer Glacier past spectacular icebergs and mountains partially replicates London’s 500 mile boat journey on the Yukon River. Another water adventure, either by kayak, paddleboard or canoe, is a wildlife safari taking in sightings of moose, bears, wolves and beavers. There’s also a private helicopter to a 1000 year old glacier and a day of dog mushing, learning how to command the pack on a trail. And to test one’s survival skills, a customizable course ranging from foraging for food to rappelling into crevasses or climbing walls of ice. Accommodations include Sheldon Chalet, a private lodge on a glacier within Denali National Park also reachable by helicopter and rustic Winterlake Lodge reachable by floatplane.
Arabian Nights in Morocco. Completely different scenery takes the stage in this six night journey into the Sahara Desert with hints of sorcery and magic. A soothsayer in the winding streets of a souk will hand guests a map of the adventure and challenges to come; helped by a genie, they’ll search for golden keys and the Magic Lamp in caves and in the narrow streets of Ait-Ben-Haddou, the UNESCO designated and frequent movie set mudbrick city in the Atlas Mountains. They will also cross the desert on camels and a 4X4 vehicle to camp under the stars and receive a royal outfit and an invitation to a palace dinner. Accommodations include Kasbah Azul and Azalai Desert Lodge, both located in desert oases, Riad Caravane in Ait Ben Haddou and La Sultana, an atmospheric hotel in the Marrakech medina. An optional extra is a takeover of Dar Ahlam, a kasbah near the Berber village of Skoura designed with its own sense of mystery and fantasy.
Journey to the Center of the Earth in Iceland. Jules Verne’s science fiction fantasy about what the interior of the earth would be like comes alive in this six night Icelandic exploration. Guests follow a map laden with secret codes and decipher messages detailing the course of the journey which starts by descending 400 feet into a dormant volcano, the Vatnshellir Lava Cave beneath a glacier in the Snæfellsjökull Peninsula. Other adventures include a Zodiac boat ride across Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon and a climb on Vatnajökull glacier in search of a clue. Rewards include al fresco lunches by lava sand beaches and thundering waterfalls and in ancient caves. Accommodations include the contemporary lodge Hotel Husafell surrounded by nature in the west Iceland countryside and the authentic but modernized huts of Torfhus Retreat.
Treasure Island in the British Virgin Islands. In the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 classic, buccaneers and buried treasure are the main components in this seven night trip. First, young guests enroll in Pirate School to learn what a typical day in the life of a pirate would be: sword fighting, hoisting sails, learning to insert a message in a bottle, making (non-alcoholic) rum. Navigation tools are also necessary so learning to read the night skies to guide by the stars along with a cookout and bonfire finish off the day. They are then transported by boat to a remote beach armed with a custom map for an elaborate treasure hunt followed by a sail to Dog Islands on a catamaran. Other days are filled searching for treasure underwater, trading shells for bounty on the shore. And to commemorate the journey, artwork is commissioned with the child pirate as the main character.