One Family, 20 Trips: Priceless Memories from Two Decades of Vacation Planning with Ciao Bambino

With guide Nouri in Morocco
With guide Nouri in Morocco

We recently interviewed one of my first clients, Amanda Morgan, who has traveled the world – literally! – with Ciao Bambino for two decades. Reading this interview brings tears to my eyes, as Amanda shares just how impactful their travel experiences were on her family. From immersion in the unfamiliar leading to openness and flexibility, to the adventures in travel that bond family members together in life-altering ways, the Morgan family has experienced so much goodness with us over the years. I especially appreciate this interview as it includes commentary from Kyra Morgan, Amanda’s daughter, and she joins Amanda in communicating her incredible gratitude and appreciation for people and places across the world.

When I conceived the idea for Ciao Bambino 20 years ago, my dream was to create a company that would enable families to feel and experience exactly what the Morgan family shares here. Mission accomplished! Thank you, Amanda and Kyra, for taking the time to share your memories with us, and for trusting Ciao Bambino to inspire and plan these amazing journeys for your family!  

20 Years of Family Vacation Planning Memories
Clockwise from top left: Alberobello, Italy; Iceland; Kyoto, Japan; Hawaii’s Big Island

Highlights from 18 Years of CB Family Vacation Planning

A Promising Start

When Kyra was 6 and Devon was 3, Amanda mentioned to a friend that she was interested in taking the kids to Italy, and her friend tipped her off to Ciao Bambino’s family vacation planning service. A passionate world traveler before becoming a mother, Amanda didn’t want parenthood to put her wanderlust on pause. “My only concern, ever, about having kids was that I would have to stop traveling,” she says. “So when I met Amie and Ciao Bambino, I was like, “‘Oh good, I don’t have to give that up.'”

She came away from that first Italy getaway impressed with the process from start to finish: hand-selected accommodations, a custom kid-friendly itinerary, vetted guides and other CB signatures. “The experience was fantastic,” Amanda says. “Amie was so good and knowledgeable and efficient, and everything was so thorough. And also, I liked her.” What sealed the deal, she adds, was the prompt followup when her then-husband had an accident abroad with their rental car. “I let Amie know, and she dealt with everything, which was way above and beyond and incredible,” Amanda says.

Since then, the family has taken more than 20 CB-planned trips, working with several Family Travel Advisors over the years as the company has expanded, most recently with Kristi Marcelle. In the process, they’ve visited all seven continents. “The kids have literally grown up with Ciao Bambino,” Amanda says.

20 Years of Family Vacation Planning Memories
With a Masai guide in Kenya, nicknamed Sam

Growing Through the Years

As the family partnered with Ciao Bambino for more and more vacations and ventured farther afield, Amanda loved watching the kids’ cultural awareness and curiosity gradually blossom. Their next vacation after Italy was to the South of France, where Kyra refused to let a language barrier get in the way of finding playmates. “I remember her coming out of the pool and saying ‘Mom, I made a friend, and we’ve been playing and she’s so great’ — and then I realized that the friend didn’t speak a word of English,” Amanda says. “It was just her being able to connect in that way with different cultures, different languages and so on.”

Devon had a similar experience during a trip to Kenya, she says. “He absolutely loved the Masai warriors, and they took him under their wing and they taught him how to shoot a bow and arrow. He went to their homes and came back kind of stunned, because he had never seen anyone live in a hut that had a cement floor. Being exposed to all the different cultures and so on … It’s pretty incredible.” 

20 Years of Family Vacation Planning Memories
Clockwise from top left: Greece; Wyoming; Thailand

Broadening Worldviews

Not only have the kids immersed themselves in unfamiliar cultures as they have explored the globe, they’ve also come to appreciate the rich and impactful opportunities they’ve enjoyed: interacting with local children in Africa; making ramen in Japan; playing basketball at a school in Vietnam; caring for elephants in Thailand. In Cambodia, the Morgans visited a local school, where Amanda and Kyra taught an English lesson while Devon taught a group of boys to play basketball. Afterward, he donated the ball he’d brought from home to the students.

“Since we’ve been doing it since I was so young, I don’t think I realized how crazy it was to do all the traveling that we do,” Kyra says. “As I got older, I started understanding that we were not just going to visit [tourist] places … I started to actually understand how different people live differently, and that was very cool.” 

20 Years of Family Vacation Planning Memories
With local guide Nouri in Morocco

Magical Moments

With so many passport stamps in the books, which CB vacations have emerged as family favorites? “For sure Morocco,” says Kyra. Adds Amanda, “And by the way, that was a place I hadn’t thought of and CB suggested. We’ve been there twice now. We’ve always had fantastic guides and drivers and really created relationships with them. For Morocco, we loved the beauty, but we also really loved our guide and had so many laughs with him that we wanted to go back to see him as well.”

Kyra names Iceland as another highlight. “It was just views I had never seen anywhere else,” she says. “It was the first trip we’d done that was like a wholly outdoors trip.” Devon’s picks include Tahiti, Bora Bora, Croatia (a favorite of the entire family) and Greece. “Devon’s a basketball player, and we were staying in Santorini at this beautiful hotel,” Amanda recalls. “He saw some kids who were playing basketball, and for some reason he couldn’t just get in the front gate. He climbed over a fence every day from our hotel to go play basketball with these Greek kids that didn’t really speak English. Those were the memorable moments.”

20 Years of Family Vacation Planning Memories
Clockwise from top left: a stop in Los Angeles en route to Tahiti; Morocco; Norway

Bespoke Attention to Detail

One of the things both Amanda and Kyra have loved most about working with CB is that Kristi and the other Advisors have so attentively integrated the family’s wish lists and preferences into their itineraries. “It’s always very considerate — more than just, ‘Here is what people usually do in this place,'” Kyra says. “It’s always catered to exactly the type of stuff we want to do … The recommendations are usually the best parts of the trip itself, even on the fly if there’s anything last-minute given by the tour guides.”

Kyra also marvels at the seamlessness that comes from expert planning. “So few things have gone wrong, and even when things go wrong they’re so quickly fixed,” she continues. “Everything has been so completely down to a T in terms of the organization — it makes [the trip] so much easier.” That holds true even when things take a turn for the worse, such as an adventure excursion in Hawaii when Amanda fell and broke her ankle. “We were in the middle of the jungle, and I had to be basically carried out and taken to an ambulance,” Amanda says. “Ciao Bambino was so incredible in calling the hotel and making sure I had a wheelchair, and helping us to deal with everything that we had to deal with. They helped us change the flights because I was trying to get back earlier for surgery. When I got home, they sent me flowers. Those are the things you don’t want to have happen on vacation, but when you have Ciao Bambino behind you, you know things are going to be taken care of.”

20 Years of Family Vacation Planning Memories
Clockwise from top left: making ramen in Japan; Kenya; the Galapagos; Dubrovnik, Croatia

Changing Ages and Stages

From the baby and toddler years through young adulthood, Amanda says, she’s been wowed time and again by Ciao Bambino’s ability to shape itineraries and experiences around evolving ages and interests, never missing a beat.

“We’ve seen it through the moments of cribs and high chairs all the way through the [present],” she says. “When we went to Croatia last year, the day we arrived, Kyra and Devon looked out on the deck of our hotel and saw that there were clubs on the beach, and they went off to hang out at the clubs. They feel pretty confident in foreign countries. Kyra’s just about to go do a semester in Spain, and she feels more comfortable because she’s been to Europe and has been more independent as she’s gotten older … Feeling like things are going to be taken care of no matter what the kids’ age is a huge thing.”

20 Years of Family Vacation Planning Memories
Clockwise from left: mask painting in Venice; Marrakech, Morocco; Cambodia

Relevant Links:

Get ideas and resources for long-term travel planning

How, when and why to use a travel agent to book a family vacation

18 summer vacations to take before your kids grow up

10 family vacations that will change kids forever

Family vacation planning simplified: A school year’s worth of travel in 6 easy steps

Editor’s Note: Photos courtesy of Amanda Morgan.

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