If you shop online as often as I do, you know how helpful it can be to read product reviews submitted by past purchasers. While it’s clear what the manufacturer wants me to think about the product, I also like to read authentic feedback from people just like me. In other words, customer reviews carry some grand weight.

Did you know that you can get the same experience with Classic Journeys‘ adventure vacation packages? After every tour, we ask participants if they are comfortable having prospective guests contact them about the tour. That means that if you’re settled on a particular family journey, cultural walking adventure or culinary tour, but you’re curious about how we visit the region, we can put you in touch with like-minded travelers who will be glad to offer you their honest, first-hand accounts about any aspect of the tour—like their memories of our guides, hotels, meals, or activities.

And here’s a terrific example of how well that works: early in the new year, a family of four from New York came to us with interest in our Costa Rica Family Journey. After Amanda, our guest services manager for this region, shared an overview of our adventure vacations for families and answers to their preliminary questions, Eric and Peilin were curious if there was any way to capture a more personal glimpse of Classic Journeys’ Costa Rica vacations for families. That’s when we were glad to introduce them to the Blumenfelds, who traveled with us to Costa Rica as well as Amalfi and the Canadian Rockies in the past several years.

Papagayo Peninsula

We were fortunate enough to remain privy to their exchange, and what follows is a snippet of how Tina Blumenfeld graciously provided this family with insights about their experience on Classic Journeys’ Costa Rica adventure vacation, as only a past guest could:

Hi Peilin,

My husband and I, and our 15 and 12 year olds, were joined by two other families and a couple in our group (15 total–youngest about 8).  I had never travelled like that and it was an amazing trip—easily one of our best ever!  The itinerary was so action packed with memorable events: waterfalls, hummingbird farm, zip line, suspended bridges, butterfly house, volcano hike, organic farm, white water rafting, crocs and tigers, monkeys and lizards, soccer game with locals, beach day, great pools with slides, on and on.  I can’t believe we did it all in a week.

White water rafting in Costa Rica

Your little guys would be blown away if they love animal encounters.  The guides were always breaking us into 2 groups: those who wanted more thrills, and those who wanted mellower choices (so I wouldn’t be too worried about holding the group back).  That means one of you could hang back with your 3 year old for some of the longer treks—like the volcano walk—though you can still go along at the start, and play at the base.  Or does he still go in a back pack for hikes?

Our hotel at the volcano was amazing—luxury cottages, gorgeous tropical grounds, and excellent breakfast bar and seafood.  We ordered burgers for my kids and some pasta… Food on the road was simple, fish, beans, etc. We got pizza delivered one night.  The second hotel overlooking the coast was more Americanized. Food–breakfast buffet, nachos at the pool, formal outdoor restaurant.  That hotel was beautiful but didn’t have 5 star rooms, though views and fun pool with slides made up for it.  It’s a third-world country with the kindest, best educated locals.

Hotel Nayara in Costa Rica

Our drives were easy thanks to the luxury mini coach being equipped with a microphone and the kids iPads had karaoke background music.  The kids warmed up to each other singing pop songs and we adults got up for a few oldies (I only sang backup) and some Sinatra, too.  Kids made hilarious commercials for products we had along the way and filmed on iPads, and parents answered with “The Most Interesting Man in the World” commercial re-make…. A senior kid-less couple on board blew us all away on the last day with an original rap song they performed.  Lots of laughs.

We had research time for places we were heading, some naps, books, games, and lots of stories from our guides.  I remember one guide named Kenneth who was off the charts wonderful with the kids.  He was thoughtful about bathroom and snack stops, too.

I’m happy to chat more and send some photos if it helps.  (I remember I really wanted to see more of that when I was packing)  Wish we were doing it all again.  I’d be better prepared for periods of rain (hooded jacket & shoes for some mud) and I’d insist on one carry on per person.

Bon Voyage!

Tina Blumenfeld

Editor’s note: Peilin and Eric are now scheduled to travel with their kids on our March 2014 Costa Rica family vacation. If you’re interested in joining Classic Journeys on any of our Costa Rica adventure vacations for families, or you’ve traveled with us and would like to act as an ambassador for the region you visited, drop us a line at blog@classicjourneys.com.

If you’d like to read another Classic Journeys review from past guests offering insights on their family vacation, check out “Guest-to-Guest advice on taking a family to Morocco.”