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Window Seat or Aisle Seat: New Family Holiday Traditions South of the Equator

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Before the start of the new year, you can start some unexpected traditions. Kerri Zane uses her Window Seat or Aisle Seat column to take on eco-travel and adventures below the equator. Keep reading for family travel ideas on four continents.

The winter holidays are steeped in family tradition. But if you are a single mom like me, who no longer has conventional celebrations, or a family who have had enough eggnog, artificial trees, and piles of freezing snow to last a lifetime, there are plenty of unforgettable travel destinations south of the equator.

As marriage and family therapist Marc Lynn advises,

“Any time a family can create a positive and enjoyable shared experience it gives parents a way of connecting with their children at any stage of life. Also making [travel] a tradition can create of sense of order and stability within the family. In other words we may be separate and disconnected during the year, but we always travel together during the holiday.”

And so we did! My daughters and I chose a Cruceros Australis expedition in the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina. Instead of another Christmas party with the cousins, we connected with a colony of Emperor Penguins. And rather than waking to see frost on our windowsill, we peered out the porthole as the ship passes along the massive glaciers in the Southern Hemisphere.

The End of The World – South America

After a long LAN flight from Los Angeles to Santiago, , the girls and I rested overnight at the W hotel. We then took one more flight, a three-hour trip to the famed city at the end of the world, Punta Arenas. Originally established as a penal colony, it was also a vibrant hub for gold miners and sheep farmers. Today most of the town’s 19th century exteriors have been preserved, while building interiors are fully modernized. Punta Arenas is one of the two boarding docks for the 210 passenger, Stella Australis (the other is Ushuaia, Argentina). The four-day cruise takes you through through the Strait of Magellan, Beagle Channel and around Tierra del Fuego archipelago, along Glacier Alley, through Drake Passage, with a visit to the iconic Cape Horn.

One of the excursions had us stopping in Ainsworth Bay, were we traversed a lacing of seagrass and roots tightly woven together over a swamp bed– we were literally walking on water! We spotted King Cormorants, Kelp Geese, Magellanic Oyster Catchers, and Steamer Ducks, who all take up local residence in the area. Our absolute favorite stop was being able to get up close and personal with a colony of Magellanic penguins, who were building their family nests on Tucker’s Islet. Hiking on the Pia Glacier and seeing it’s bluish hue was breathtaking. But listening to the sounds of the ice buckling and calving into the ocean waters below had us in awe.

The final stop of this amazing voyage was historic Cape Horn. There we met the Cadiz family, who maintain the last, most southerly lighthouse on the planet. Their story is amazing as they keep watch over ships navigating the most difficult ocean waters in the world.

The best part of this Christmas getaway is any child under 15 travels for free (one child per adult). When you book your trip, inform the  crew that you are coming with kids and they will set you up with movies, games and activities for the long periods of traversing between on-shore excursions.

The tip of the continent is a long way from North America, so you may want to add on a side trip like a visit to EcoCamp Patagonia Wildlife Safari, which combines hiking with nature trails.  Many of the guests from the Stella Australis cruise visited this area, but the girls and I chose to finish our trip with a stop in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The late-night tango shows, outdoor cafes, beautiful art museums,  plus a stay at the Alvear Palace were the perfect sophisticated city counterpoint to our earlier, earth-conscious cruise.

That was just our trip! Keep reading for four different south of the equator adventures.