For an unforgettable vacation, try something new

Unforgettable vacation, try something new. Christopher Elliott, author

If you want your next family vacation to be unforgettable, try something new.

Get out of your comfort zone. Shoot arrows at a balloon. Plummet down an Olympic ski jump with only a parachute to stop you. Feed a dangerous animal.

It will leave a permanent — and, I’m pretty sure positive — impression. And I know because I’ve tried it and my kids tell me that I should do it more often. I would, but I can only take so much excitement.

But first, let’s talk about “why.” When something exciting happens, it creates a vivid flashbulb memory that can last a lifetime. These memories have the potential to do much more than illuminate the memory of your last trip; they can define it. Choose the right one, and you create an unforgettable vacation.

Shooting balloons with Sandy

The closest my 11-year-old daughter, Erysse, has ever come to a bow and arrow is watching a Hunger Games movie. So when I told her we were visiting an indoor archery range called Flight Archery Studio on our recent visit to Hailey, Idaho, she just shrugged.

But the moment she clutched a wooden bow, she was hooked. I think I know why. It’s that sensation of releasing the bowstring and an arrow launching toward your target at 150 m.p.h. — and then hitting your target. Extra points for the bullseye.

An unforgettable vacation, tray something new. Christopher Elliott, author
Erysse Elliott with the results of her target practice. If they make another Hunger Games sequel, she wants to be in it.

After a few rounds of practice, Sandy, the owner, offered my daughter a challenge: Can you hit a small balloon in the middle of the target and make it pop? That clinched it. For the next hour, she sent a barrage of arrows at a cardboard wall, trying to “kill” the balloon. No luck.

“Dad,” she begged the next day, “I want to go back. I can hit the balloon!”

And so we did. And this time, my daughter was mentally prepared. (How do you even mentally prepare for something like this? Had she watched The Lord of the Rings on her phone that night? Who knows?)

She aimed at the target, released the bowstring, and …


And then again: pop, pop, pop! She must have destroyed half a dozen balloons, one after another.

“She’s a natural,” said Sandy.

Archery is a fun father-daughter bonding experience, and an unforgettable vacation activity. But if you want to feel as if you are cheating death, you have to take a plunge.

For an unforgettable vacation, try something new.
Aren Elliott takes a plunge off the “Monster” zipline at Calgary’s Olympic Park. Yes, they really call it the “Monster” zipline. And yes, that’s a parachute behind him.
Calgary’s “Monster” zipline

About halfway through a recent road trip across Canada, we decided that we needed a break from the museums and walking tours. The kids were restless.

This intermission involved a lot of adrenaline. Remember the 1988 Winter Olympics? Imagine a zipline strung down the old 90 meter jump at the Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

Imagine also that you’ll reach speeds of up to 75 m.p.h. — so fast that you need a parachute to stop you.

Do you know what you feel like at the top of the ski jump tower, which also happens to be Calgary’s highest vantage point? If you answered “fear,” then that describes three members of our family. Except for my thrill-seeking daughter.

“I want to go first!” she said.

And so they strapped her in, and she pushed herself into the void.

I was second. The ride was insane — a rush of speed followed by a sudden stop. My advice? Deploy your parachute early.

The rest of my family followed and, thankfully, they all survived. But I’m even more impressed by the memories that survived. Whenever we talk about Calgary, or even Canada, the kids bring up that ski jump zipline. It scared the heck out of them. Yet another flashbulb memory that defined their trip.

Iden Elliott feeds a hungry ostrich at OstrichLand USA -- very carefully.
Iden Elliott feeds a hungry ostrich at OstrichLand USA — very carefully.
Feed the ostrich, but mind your fingers

A different kind of thrill awaited us on a recent visit to Buellton, Calif., about an hour north of Santa Barbara. That’s where I found an unlikely attraction called OstrichLand USA. Its main purpose, it seems, is to bring you as close as possible to these aggressive birds without losing a finger.

You don’t want to mess with an ostrich, even if it’s to try something new. When you see one up close, you’ll understand. It stands seven feet tall, can run up to 45 miles an hour and is ranked as one of the most dangerous birds in the world.

“We provide a way for you to be up close and personal with these big birds and safe at the same time,” OstrichLand promises. Here’s how they do it: When you buy your admission ticket in the gift shop, they hand you tray of ostrich food. The ostriches remain behind a wooden fence. You extend the tray toward the bird — carefully — and then it swoops down and feasts on the pellets.

Do you have to guess who tried to feed the ostrich first? That’s right, my daughter. But her two older brothers quickly joined. As far as I can tell, they still have all of their digits. The trays worked. Thank you, OstrichLand.

On your next trip, do yourself a favor. Don’t do the same old same old. Try something new. You’ll never forget it.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend