Top 5 destinations for making (what’s left of) the Summer meaningful


We may be in the second half of summer, but there is still time to get out and make a difference with your family. Here are my top 5 recommendations for where to go make your Summer meaningful and bond closer with your kids, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

1. Zambia

Zambia co-hosts the awesome Victoria Falls with Zimbabwe, and this is a sight that is sure to impress. In addition to walking tours, you can also fly above the Falls by microlight or helicopter for breathtaking perspectives.

Adrenalin lovers can whitewater raft on the Zambezi, or bungee jump near the Falls. And of course you can’t go to Africa without safari, and Zambia does not disappoint, with superb reserves such as South Luangwa and Kafue, though Chobe in Botswana is actually closer from Victoria Falls, with easy border crossings. August/September is prime game viewing time in all these game parks.

But to make your trip to Zambia meaningful, you need to engage with the local people and build a house for a family in need. Tragically, HIV/AIDS has ravaged Zambia, leaving many children orphans, often having to be raised by extended family such as grandparents. You can provide the family with a decent place to live – especially important with the coming rainy season, because if the children are dry, they are healthier, attend school more regularly, and thus have better life outcomes.

2. Kenya

August is one of the best months to be in Kenya, specifically in the Masai Mara where you get to observe one of the natural world’s greatest spectacles: the Wildebeest migration. You can make your trip meaningful by helping install an ecological stove for a family living near the Masai Mara, which reduces respiratory problems, or help build a classroom for a school on the edge of the Masai Mara.

Availability is tight, as you would expect during the migration, but Kenya is worth exploring anytime of the year.

3. Costa Rica

Insider’s tip: whilst technically it is the rainy season, Costa Rica often enjoys a dry spell in August, so you can sneak in now, avoid the crowds and enjoy sunny weather in spectacular greenery.

Costa Rica has earned its reputation as the eco-luxury capital of the world, and there are some truly incredible properties that genuinely take sustainability seriously; Kasiiya, El Silencio, Pacuare Lodge, Lapa Rios to name just a few.

Some of the highlights of Costa Rica for you and your family to enjoy are zip lining, whitewater rafting, snorkelling, cloud forests, volcanoes, coffee farms and chocolate making. You can also up the ante with submarine exploration accompanied by a marine biologist, fly over the volcanoes, and even spend a day on an exclusive preserved tract of land in the company of a leading conservationist.

And if you are willing to roll up your sleeves, your family can make their time in Costa Rica meaningful by:

• helping at a wildlife rescue center: preparing meals for rescued or injured monkeys, parrots, sloths and more, feeding them, creating enrichments to stimulate the animals, and assisting the vet on his daily rounds, learning so much about animal behaviour and conservation as you go;

• helping at a medical clinic that cares for Nicaraguan refugees: assisting the doctors by taking notes in session, entering patient data into the computer, and helping put the patients at ease as you help this free clinic provide their much-needed care;

• caring for turtles by monitoring beaches, protecting eggs from predators and removing plastic from the sea.

There are direct flights from London to Costa Rica with BA.

4. Italy

Italy has something for everyone, and when you travel in luxury, you can make a wonderful country even more extraordinary, by experiencing things such as a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel or get access to a wing of the Uffizi Gallery not normally open to the public, drive a Ferrari on a racetrack, or learn how to make your favourite dishes under the tutelage of a Michelin starred chef.

But wait, there’s more: you can add another dimension to your trip and bond closer with your children by preparing and serving meals at a restaurant caring for the homeless and refugees. This will give you all a fresh perspective on life, and your children are sure to appreciate how fortunate they are, all in a setting that is uplifting, dignified and positive.

5. Namibia

Back to Africa, Namibia is unique as it is largely desert, sparsely populated, and blessed with incredible lodges and camps, such as Wolwedans, Serra Cafema, Little Kulala and Sossusvlei Desert Lodge.

Embark on a private air safari to cover this vast country and enjoy the highlights, such as towering sand dunes, the rugged Skeleton Coast, interaction with the nomadic Himba people, and game viewing, including desert adapted species.

On the subject of desert adapted wildlife, you can leave a legacy by spending a few days reducing farmer-elephant conflict by digging fresh water sources for desert elephants away from human settlements – another amazing way to make your summer meaningful and create treasured memories.

Christopher Hill is Founder and CEO at Hands Up Holidays. Hands Up Holidays is an award-winning travel company specialising in tailor-made luxury family trips that combine sightseeing with hands-on service projects.

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Comments (14)

  1. Alan says:

    Recently it’s been an ambition of mine to get to Costa Rica but my wife has been a little luke-warm about the prospect. She’s not an enthusiastic traveller.

    Though she is absolutely animal crazy. I think a few days at an animal rescue centre could be the deal-maker. She adores all animals.

    Win-win she gets to play out her dream of being a zoo keeper and I get to see the beaches and spectacular landscape of Costa Rica.

    • You are right Alan – this truly is win-win. Not only for you and your wife – also for the animals that your wife cares for.
      She will love it!
      All trips are tailor-made, so we can easily combine beaches, landscapes and wildlife conservation.

  2. Nick Dougill says:

    I like the idea of engaging with the local people to work on a project that puts something back into the community. Just as valuable as the work you do will be the stories that you come back with. Sadly, we often get a very limited view of other nations. Often the story is quite condescending in the way it tells a story of overseas people dependent on First World Aid. Do one of these projects and you’ll learn that with just a little help the local people are adaptable, intelligent and – once they’ve been given a helping hand at the start – more than capable of looking after themselves.

  3. Gaynor says:

    It’s a great idea to give children an experience that isn’t about them. I’ve been lucky to have two holidays this summer but both of them have been spoilt by hearing whining kids. Too many children seem to begin every sentence with, “I want …”. Involving them in some of these great projects might just do them some good.

    • You are so right Gaynor – now you know where to turn to have an amazing holiday where your kids won’t be whining…they will be transformed instead, and you will be molding them into positive global citizens.

  4. The main theme for traveling is to be connected with nature and people having different culture and tradition. As connecting to different communities we being as a traveler always feels to get those experiences.

  5. John says:

    Getting your children to prepare meals for the poor and homeless is a brilliant idea. We’ve always made an effort to teach our children about food but to make the meals attractive we’ve never bothered too much about cost. There will come a time, whether it is at university or during early years of work when they will have to watch the pennies. Cooking frugally for large numbers would be a really beneficial experience for them.

  6. Good point John! There are lots of benefits to giving back and making a difference whilst on a luxury holiday, and yours is one of them!

  7. Naomi Richards says:

    I could cry thinking it’s almost the end of summer. The UK seems to have had really rubbish weather, with a couple of odd days of scorching heat where it’s enough to make you ill. There’s no consistent ‘nice’ weather that’s reasonable, at least not when it hasn’t been chucking it with rain. Going elsewhere to enjoy the summer is definitely appealing! It must be difficult timing a Costa Rica when it’s good weather but not raining during these months, but a good tip on August often being more dry. There’s just so much to do there, and I think that’s a far more meaningful kind of holiday, one where you feel you can make a difference and probably learn a few things about yourself along the way.
    We often don’t think about the levels of homelessness in tourist destinations like Spain or Italy. I have a friend in Italy who told me about their homeless initiatives and it’s great they have restaurants to cater to those in need.

    • Christopher Hill says:

      Hi Naomi,
      Yes, some consistency in the weather would be nice!
      And yes, you are right – volunteering on your holiday really does make it so much more meaningful and significant!

  8. I completely agree with you when you say August is good for Kenya. Kenya is one of the best places to visit especially when you do the Hot Air Balloon Safari as the wildebeest cross the Mara River. I did this activity in 2009 and believe me it was Fascinating. I would love though to visit Namibia, Italy, Costa Rica, and Zambia to experience the rest of the 5 places.

    • Christopher Hill says:

      Hi Okwakunda,
      Yes, seeing the migration by hot air balloon is one of life’s great experiences – lucky you!
      I hope we can be of service to you for a trip to Namibia, Italy, Costa Rica or Zambia!

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