Cancun – After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we went for a wander to look at the markets and the Plaza del Toro where the bullring was. Although it was getting on for 10 am the market stalls were only just starting to open, so we had a quick browse but didn’t find anything appealing at this stage. The walk down to the bullring crossed a few very busy roads with traffic all seemingly fairly orderly although quite busy. The bullring looked vaguely familiar as we approached it as Jeff and I had actually gone to see a bullfight back in 2000 when we were last here. We didn’t remember it being a closed roof ring back then, but these days it seems they use it for a lot of events and performances – perhaps the bullfights are not held too often now. We climbed to the second level to see if we could get a glimpse inside and were very lucky to find one of the doors open as workmen were carrying out some repairs. They didn’t seem to mind that we stepped inside to get a quick photo.
From here it was back to the hotel making a circuit around the block, stopping for a quesadilla along the way ready for our 12 pm shuttle pick up. The shuttle was 20 minutes late when we asked reception to call them for us. There was a problem apparently because we booked less than 24 hours in advance (their people did not mention this at the airport when they took our money). The call centre guy said that we could take a taxi and then get a full refund for the shuttle at the airport, or he could send a shuttle but it would be another 20 minutes. We didn’t want to be any later getting to the airport so we opted to take a taxi and try and get a refund.
Once at the airport, we wanted to get checked in for our flight to Havana as we had to organise our Visas and there were crowds of people at all counters so we wanted to join the line as quickly as we could. As it turned out, there was no need to go to the Cubana Air office for the Visa, there was a man in the check-in queue who was writing the Visas as we waited in line. We wondered how this was all going to work before leaving Australia, but it was so laid back and casual, we needn’t have had any concerns. Once the Visas were completed, we just paid him the US$25 or 250 Pesos and proceeded in the check-in queue. We had realised that morning, that we didn’t have a print out of the Cubana Air tickets so we hoped we could check in without our itinerary – and we could, all that was needed was our passports making this whole process so straightforward.
Then we decided to try and get our refund for the shuttle, and after a bit of asking around as to where the company were located at this terminal, this proved pretty straightforward as well. So, with refund complete we went through to departures, expecting quite a delayed process but were pleasantly surprised as it was just a passport and boarding pass check and we were on our way.
The Cuban flight all went smoothly and coming in to land there were views across the island of very green farmland woven like a patchwork with different crops and vegetation. The airport was a lot more modern looking than we would have expected both outside and in the terminal, and so much busier than we had anticipated. There were a number of flights that had just landed around the same time as ours from London. Paris, Moscow and Canada as well as ours from Cancun. This made for an extremely busy immigration area and a very long wait for us all to get through. We spent over two hours in the immigration line, with the officers processing people one at a time, no family groups or couples together. The officer we had spent a long time looking at our passport stamps, then asked if we had been to Africa (we had last year) and wanted to know if we had been to any of the Ebola-affected countries (we had not) and did we only have one passport (so we weren’t lying about the African countries visited).
Once we were through immigration the baggage collection and exiting was relatively painless, although we had a bit of a wait for our three suitcases to make it onto the carousel – surprising they weren’t already there as we had been off the plane for more than two hours! It was then on to getting money changed and a taxi to our reserved Casa in Havana. The arrivals area was teaming with people, with both ends having entry doors which had large crowds eagerly awaiting the passenger arrivals.
There were no clear signs as to where a money change place was located, so Jeff went scouring the terminal, eventually locating an office outside. Whilst he change our English Pounds and Euros into Cuban CUC’s, the kids and I waited with the bags and asked at the information and tour desk about getting a taxi and the approximate cost. The lady at the tour desk said she could call and book a taxi for us whilst the lady at the information desk said we could get one out the front of the terminal. Both advised the cost should be 25 CUC, which was handy to know as when we walked out the front, the taxi driver quoted 30 CUC and we could barter down to 25 CUC as that is what they quoted inside. He accepted that and then we gave him the 5 CUC extra as a tip at the end of the journey.
We thought that we would be getting in an old style taxi but were surprised to see a lot of modern looking official yellow and black taxis as we left the terminal. There were a few old style vehicles there and quite a few old Russian Lada cars operating as taxis, but definitely, the more modern taxis dominated which we hadn’t expected. Our taxi was one of the official yellow and black vehicles. No metre was used as we had agreed on the price before departing.
Our Casa in the centre of Old Havana was found easily by the taxi driver and there was no haggling over the cost of the journey. Our driver pointed out a few sites as we passed in the dark and with our limited Spanish we managed to pick up a few things he was saying. The roads from the airport to the Old town were all in very good condition, with most being two or three-lane freeway-style and the traffic was very light for the whole journey and drivers were very orderly.
There was a sign in the doorway for the Casa we had booked and when the lady answered there was a little confusion as she didn’t seem to have our reservation, but once she looked at the emails we had with us, she realised we were at their other location, next door! Once she had buzzed the intercom, we were met at the door by Emilio – the lady who we had been emailing. After a very steep climb up a long and narrow marble staircase we entered a very chic open sitting area oozing old world charm with antique furniture, mirrors and very modernist artwork adorning the walls. The high ceilings with ornate plasterwork really added to the sense of grandeur. We were shown to our rooms, one right next to the sitting room with a double bed and the other two rooms away with two single beds. Both had an ensuite, albeit very basic, but they were very clean and comfortable with hints of the sitting room old world charm, such as elaborate chandeliers as the main room light. We were given a quick tour of the casa and shown the kitchen for breakfast the next morning. We had ordered a dinner for our first night as this was an option and we figured we would be arriving a little late – this seemed to have got lost in translation and it was too late for them to prepare something for us. This actually worked in our favour, as we were only two blocks from the main thoroughfare where there were a number of restaurants and the Cuban culture tends to eat out quite late so these were all open at 8:30.
After a quick re-pack of our bags putting all our valuables into the safes provided in our room, we headed out with just enough money for dinner to start our exploration of Havana streets. The side streets all seemed to be under repair as we made our way to the restaurant area. There were enormous holes dug up everywhere with pipes exposed and a strong gas smell in places and you could hear the distinctive beat of the Cuban music pounding out from rooftops, open windows and bars.
On the main street, every restaurant had employees out trying to entice in customers as they passed by. We went to one of the first that offered a set menu, which included lobster, rice and vegetables, dessert, coffee and a cocktail to start – all of this for 10CUC (approx. AU$10). This was such a good deal, so we decided to eat there and two of us had lobster, while the kids had chicken and pizza. Whilst the food was not sensational, you could not fault the great value and the lobster was pretty darn tasty! With full bellies, we returned to the Casa ready to rest up before our day of exploring Havana.
That night, Jeff was sorting out the Cuban money he had changed at the airport and he realised looking at the receipt for the English Pounds that the lady at the airport had shortchanged him by 20 Pounds. She had only written 280, not the 300 he had given her on the receipt. He had thought that it was a little short with the total she had said it would convert to, but thought it may have just been a bad exchange rate at the airport and as she was counting it out really fast, he was focused on the total written on the receipt and checking she counted those notes correctly, rather than checking the finer detail. So, we were short around 30 CUC – we will see if she is working at the change booth when we fly out in a few days and see if we can confront her and get our money back. I don’t like our chances, but it is worth a try and at least we may make her think twice about doing this to someone else in the future (I imagine it is probably a very regular occurrence as everyone is trying to make an extra buck here!).
Next post: Havanna Sightseeing Days – For any details on travel to Central America contact us now – firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cook Islands is a collection of 15 islands in the heart of Polynesia mid way between Tahiti and Tonga. Cook Islands travel is centred mostly around Rarotonga, the main population centre with the international airport. Rarotonga has high
volcanic mountain peaks covered in tropical rain forest and lots of small beach resorts. Aitutaki is a small island 45-minutes flight to the north with attractive beaches and a beautiful lagoon and is the only other frequently visited island by tourists. Of the other islands, Atiu is good for eco tourism and has a few guesthouses. The Cook Islands is a self-governing dependency of New Zealand with its own parliament but uses the New Zealand currency.
Rarotonga is the largest Cook Island being 67 sq. km in size – its population of 11,500 live around the coastal road. Here there are plenty of small beach resorts ideal for families and couples, and lots of self catering bungalows and vacation homes for more independent travellers. The tourist infrastructure is well developed with some excellent day tours, good independent restaurants and a reliable transport network. Rarotonga’s main attractions are its lovely beaches, tropical mountain trails and laid back Polynesian lifestyle. Snorkelling is good along the south coast and there are several scuba diving companies with reefs being ideal for beginners and holiday divers.
Aitutaki is the only other tourist centre, a 45 minute flight from Rarotonga. It is a lot less commercial and ideal for honeymoons – stay here a couple of days and you’ll feel totally submerged in island style life. The villages are charming and although it lacks tropical mountains, the beaches are lovely. The main attraction, however, is one of the finest lagoons in the entire Pacific with good snorkelling and day cruises to the tiny uninhabited atolls where the beaches are exquisite.
Traditional dance performances is one of the icons of Polynesian life. Erotic hip swaying movements and upbeat drumming has come to resemble the archetypal Polynesian person – aesthetic and extremely seductive. Cook Island dancing is performed regularly at the resorts and there are several colourful competitions each year that are well worth experiencing.
Total islands: 15
Total land mass: 236 km²
Main Island: Rarotonga
Int’l Airport: Rarotonga
Language: English, Maoris
Tourists: 80,000 per year
1) Muri Beach, Rarotonga
2) Aitutaki Lagoon Cruise
3) Traditional Dances
4) Beach Bungalows
5) Fine Handicrafts
6) Cross Island Hike, Raro
7) Saturday Market, Avarua
8) Black Pearls
9) Sunday Church Service
10) Limestone Caves, Atiu
For all your travel requirements to the Cook Islands – Call us: 02 8850 4908 or E: email@example.com
First time for us flying on the Qantas A380 for our first leg Sydney direct to Dallas, Texas where we had a few hours layover heading to Cancun, Mexico. The 15 hour flight
went fairly quickly for all of us as we caught up on much needed sleep after the last few hectic weeks with holiday preparations, work and social commitments leading up to the festive season. Having time to catch up on some movies from the past year was also enjoyable as we never seem to make it to the cinema to see any of the latest releases.
At Dallas airport we were able to get into the American Airlines lounge where we passed away the hour or so we had after eventually getting to the correct terminal via the sky train (Dallas is one huge airport!). The American Airlines Dallas to Cancun flight was just under two hours long and all went smoothly with the arrival into Cancun airport going without a hitch as well as no problem changing money as well as organising transport to our hotel.
We ended up booking a private shuttle which was a little more than a taxi but the same cost as a shared shuttle for the four of us and they gave us a 50% discount for the return journey the next day. We paid in full for this return journey and were taken direct to a van for the 20 minute drive to the hotel in downtown Cancun. As we were only staying for the one night, arriving after 8pm and departing at lunchtime the following day, we didn’t feel it was worth paying considerably more to stay at a beach resort as we would have no time to enjoy the water activities anyway.
Our hotel reservation was all ready for us, the hotel Xbalamque Spa & Resort looked appealing from the entrance with lots of traditional Mayan painting to make it look like one of the pyramid interiors. Our room was as many of the reviews had commented, fairly old, a bit dated and very simple. It was all clean and the two double beds were more than adequate for the one, short night stay. After a bit of toing and froing, we managed to get the air conditioner remote so we could control the temperature (it seemed to be missing from our room) and an extra two towels, we were all sorted.
The hotel reception recommended a good restaurant just two blocks away and the kids were very keen for some traditional Mexican food. The restaurant did not disappoint, we had a huge selection of Mexican fare covering our table with everyone enjoying them all. There was a lot of atmosphere with the Marriachi band coming around playing tunes, a guy dropping enormous sombreros on our heads for a photo opportunity (returning later for us to purchase the developed photos in a frame or stuck on a bottle of tequila) and just the whole cantina décor really made you feel like you were in Mexico.
With bellies full, it was time to head home for bed so we could get up and explore a little of the city centre before we departed the following day.
Avoid these top 4 Budget Travel Errors when you are planning your next trip away and turn them into money saving tips!
- Not checking all airport options
Failing to check smaller, nearby airports for your destination could mean you pay significantly more for flights. A second airport could be a further 30 minutes away from your destination, but may save you hundreds of dollars if time isn’t critical for your trip. Many cities are served by more than one airport so make sure you know all your flight options before booking your next flight!
- Mismanaging Frequent Flier Points
One of the most common mistakes people make is using points for relatively short trips which often regularly have special priced fares making it much cheaper to purchase these conventionally and save your points for longer, more costly flights. Also, not keeping track of points that may expire, people often loose large blocks of accrued points by not knowing when they expire. Know the length of time your Frequent Flyer program allows you to keep points to maximise the benefit of your hard earned points
- Looking Only at Hotels
There are so many more economical accommodation options available these days. Major hotel chains often charge a premium because they can. Hostels have come a long way and many now offer private family room options. Consider apartments or home swaps for longer stays (also saves on meal costs as you can prepare some of your own!). Other options are: B&B style options where families rent out rooms in their houses, cabins in camp grounds around popular tourist towns, universities/colleges often rent dormitories when out of school term times, convents or older historical buildings have sleeping options as well. There are many quirky accommodation options available at reasonable costs so do some research before you book for your next trip and see how much money you can save.
- Overpacking and Overpaying for bulky baggage
These days with many airlines charging for luggage, it is very costly if you over pack for your trip from the outset and you pay even more on the return once you have all your souvenirs. Heavy luggage may restrict you taking cheaper ground transport if bags can’t fit or are too bulky to manage on shuttles, busses or trains and will make it exhausting work to carry bulky bags up many flights of stairs which many budget accommodations seem to have. If you take these few points into consideration when planning your next holiday you should see some good savings. These you can put into the next holiday fund or treat yourself with some extra shopping whilst away! Happy Travels Julie
Japan is everything you can imagine, and more – rich in culture, full of history, natural beauty, epic shopping, unforgettable cuisine, gracious hospitality. But, to experience its true grandeur, there are a few tips and customs to familiarise yourself with before you go:
Bowing: The polite greeting in Japan is the bow. While you won’t be expected to know all the ins and outs of the bow (it can take decades to learn rules regarding the appropriate depth) there are a few things to remember. Bow from the waist and keep your arms straight by your side. Imitate the bows you receive – don’t over bow or ignore the greeting. Smile and nod if nothing else, you don’t want to be perceived as rude.
Hygiene: While there are plenty of western-style restrooms in the larger department stores and restaurants, you might still encounter a Japanese-style toilet (of the squat variety). It’s helpful to carry toilet tissues with you because not every restroom will have these! If you forget to take some with you, hope you get lucky and run into a promo person handing out packs of tissues with ads on them (a current marketing trend). Also bear in mind that you should blow your nose in a restroom rather than in public, and into a tissue rather than a handkerchief.
Money: It’s considered rude to count your change after you’ve received it – the Japanese culture is one that prides itself on its honesty. Plus you probably won’t be able to translate the currency quickly enough to avoid looking impolite…
Politeness: The Japanese are absolutely always polite. One of the noticeable features of the Japanese languages is that there are many different words which are used to communicate the same meaning. Some words are considered to be far more polite than others. Even if you don’t intend to speak much Japanese, this is an important concept to understand during your stay in Japan. At all times try your best to be VERY polite.
Shoes: When, where, why, and how shoes are worn in Japan can be confusing. Generally, shoes are not worn in Japanese homes, temples, ryokan, and various other public places (including some restaurants). Follow the lead of locals and don’t panic! Your shoes won’t be stolen while you’re off touring a temple.
Japanese manners and customs are vastly different from those of Western people. A strict code of behaviour and politeness is recognised and followed by almost everyone. However, Japanese people do not expect visitors to be familiar with all their customs but do expect them to behave formally and politely. A straightforward refusal traditionally does not form part of Japanese etiquette, and a vague ‘yes’ does not always mean ‘yes’. (The visitor may be comforted to know that confusion caused by non-committal replies occurs between the Japanese themselves.) When entering a Japanese home or restaurant, shoes must be removed. Bowing is the customary greeting but handshaking is becoming more common for business meetings with Westerners. The honorific suffix san should be used when addressing all men and women; for instance Mr Yamada would be addressed as Yamada-san. Table manners are very important, although the Japanese host will be very tolerant towards a visitor. However, it is best if visitors familiarise themselves with basic table etiquette and use chopsticks. Exchange of gifts is also a common business practice and may take the form of souvenir items such as company pens, ties or high-quality spirits.
Perfect in shoulder season – less crowds!
Like a delectable chocolate treat, shoulder season is so sweet. Sandwiched between the painfully high prices and overwhelming crowds of the high season, and the often miserable weather of low season. Shoulder season is the perfect time to travel. Typically, hotel rooms are cheap, crowds are thin, and the weather is mild. You’ll notice a warmer welcome, too, when you travel off-peak. Locals, who may grow weary of crowds in peak season, have time to relax in shoulder season. For instance, an afternoon in early May is an ideal time to linger at an outdoor café in Rome and people-watch, before the summer tourists descend.
No significant shoulder seasons fall within January, February, July, and August, but prices drop immediately after the holidays in January.
But shoulder season for Paris doesn’t fall on the same dates as shoulder season for Tokyo. So here’s a shoulder season calendar for some of our favourite destinations for easy reference:
Mid: North Africa. The Christmas travel crowds are gone and the weather is warm.
The big waves have subsided, along with the winter beachgoers; resorts are also bringing down rates. Through May
Early: Rio de Janeiro
Carnival has come and gone, which means hotel rooms are easier to find and less expensive (by as much as 60 percent).
It’s warming up and wildflowers are beginning to bloom; a perfect time for exploring the countryside. Through April
India: Hotel rooms and airfares are lower if you can locate these between celebrated holidays.
Early: North American Rockies and European Alps
Late-season skiing is still excellent in high-altitude destinations like Whistler, British Columbia; Vail, Steamboat, and the Arapahoe Basin, all in Colorado; and Tignes, France.
Early: Australian Outback
With average temperatures now cooling to between 80 and 86 degrees, you can visit Ayers Rock without risking heatstroke. Through May
Mid: European Cities
Western Europe. Rome, Barcelona, Paris, and London will still be cool and you’ll have your chance of rain, for sure, but the crowds are thin and prices go way down. Outdoor café culture is picking up, but the summer crowds won’t arrive until early June. Get here before they do.
Mid: The Caribbean and Mexico’s Riviera Maya
Room prices fall as much as 30 percent after Easter, and hurricane season is still weeks away. Through early June
Peak hotel rates have come down after last month’s cherry blossom celebrations, and the humidity has yet to kick in.
Mid: Mediterranean Cruising
The weather’s warming, but prices remain as much as 20 percent lower than in the summer high season.
Mid: Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Airfares from the States are at their lowest, and in Australia’s north, days are full of sunshine. Through August
April and May are sweltering, but the rains cool things off in June. The tourist crowds won’t arrive until next month. Through June
Baja California Temperatures have yet to soar, but resorts are offering bargains in anticipation of the hot months to come.
Early: Northern Caribbean. (But avoid hurricane areas.)
Room rates and airfares drop after Labor Day. Through September
Days continue to be sunny and dry, and dude ranches are offering discounted fall rates. Through September
Early: South Africa
It’s early spring in South Africa, and prices are low on game drives. You’ll also find foliage is less dense making it easier to spot the “Big Five”.
Prices at safari lodges are lower and the foliage less dense, making it easy to spot the Big Five. Through early October
Early: Mediterranean Resorts
Southern Europe. The weather has turned chilly up north, but around the Mediterranean, you’ll usually still find warm temperatures… and good travel deals.
Rates have started to drop, but you’ll still find ample sun on islands such as Crete, Ibiza, and Sicily.
Days are cooler, and camel-racing season has begun. Hotels, meanwhile, are enticing travelers with bargains. Early September through October
Mid: Vancouver Island, Canada
Room prices have dropped by nearly half, and it’s still warm enough to enjoy wine-tasting at the island’s many vineyards. Through November
Early: Tahiti, Fiji, and the South Pacific
The water is crystal clear before cyclone season, making it a great time for diving and snorkelling. Christmas is high season in these warm destinations. Try to get your beach time in before the rush.
Mid: The Caribbean and Mexico’s Riviera Maya
Before the holiday rush, beaches are empty and it’s easy to find hotel deals. Through mid-December
Early: North American Rockies and European Alps
The snow has returned, but the winter season is just beginning. Late November through mid-December
Early: Costa Rica
After months of rain, the clouds are thinning. Through mid-December
Let us know your shoulder season travel tips?
Issues surrounding taking prescription medicines overseas can cause a great deal of stress for travellers, especially elderly travellers, who often have pre-exiting health conditions and increased health concerns. This should not be a barrier to travel if you follow a few simple rules:
1.Talk to your doctor or a travel medicine specialist and discuss both the prescription and over the counter medicines that you will need to take with you; take only those for personal use.
2.Contact the embassy of the country you are visiting to ensure the medicine is legal there.
3.Carry a letter from your prescriber with your prescription medicines. The letter should include the name of the medicine, how much you are taking or sending, and state that the medicine is for your personal use.
4.All medicines should be kept in their original container displaying your name and dosage requirements, and carried in hand luggage to prevent their loss.
Because a prescription from your doctor here cannot be filled overseas, and familiar over the counter medicines may not be available in foreign countries, it is also important to carry an adequate supply for the entire trip plus some extra in case of travel disruption or delay.
However, carrying or sending PBS medicines that are not for your own personal use or for the use of someone travelling from Australia with you is illegal and can attract a penalty of up to $5000 and/or 2 years imprisonment. Customs authorities have the power to detain any medication which they suspect is being illegally exported. For more information you may phone Medicare Australia’s Travelling with PBS Medicine enquiry line 1800 500 147 or visit the website www.medicareaustralia.gov.au
Some medications, particularly those classified as S8 medications or medications of addiction (such as medications containing Codeine 30mg or strong painkillers prescribed from a Pain Unit) even when obtained on a legal prescription in Australia, should not be transported across international boundaries unless they are accompanied by a customs clearance from the country concerned. You must apply to the appropriate Consulate or Embassy for this.
Seek specialist travel health information to make sure you are properly advised, understand the rules and follow the simple steps listed above and travelling with prescription medications should be hassle free and enjoyable.
It is always better to err on the side of caution with medication and best to ask as many questions as necessary to ensure you have all the correct information to make your trip hassle free and keep you healthy whilst away.
When I was single and carefree going on road trips, I would say “I’ll just grab something to eat on the road”. But those days are well and truly over, as all parents now know! This is a must when travelling with kids… it can save us from a potential crisis, as hungry kids are meltdown kids! Here are some food and drink travel tips:
1) Keep food and drinks up front with you or at least in reaching distance. There is nothing worse on a car trip than screaming hungry kids when you cannot pull over to grab something from the boot!
2) I tend to pack special boxes of little nibblys for each child. They love having their own boxes of goodies and it keeps them quiet for quite some time! A win-win situation for everyone! I love kids’ lunch boxes with different sections in them, which I can then “top up” with other food items I keep in my zip lock bags. These lunch boxes also come in handy when we are at our holiday destination for taking on day trips etc.
3) If however, you are not a fan of taking containers – snacks in small zip lock bags are useful.
4) Remember not to take food that can stink out the car!! This can potentially cause motion sickness in kids (and us!).
5) Store food in a cooler bag with an ice pack to keep things nice and chilled. This is essential to keep food from going bad – especially in summer!
6) Use Stubby Coolers to keep milk for babies cold or hot (which ever the case may be) for a short time. This is perfect when you expect to feed your baby in the next hour or so and your bottle carrier is full with other full bottles for your car trip.
7) Bring plenty of fluids! I tend to bring lots of water bottles instead of soft drinks etc, as they can get sticky and can add to the sugar intake of the kids!
8) I am a bit more relaxed with my usual “not too much junk food” attitude. My thinking is one day of eating this kind of food is not going to harm them. I just watch their sugar intake … so they do not get too hyper!
9) Great snacks to take with you that are not too messy are:
pieces of fruit
pieces of cheese (stored in a cool bag)
carrot and celery sticks
little treats – chocolate, sweets, chips, lollypops (great as it takes them ages to suck on them which will ensure you peace and quiet for at least 5 mins!) Treats can also be used as prizes for your car games.
For more Road Trip Tips contact us Now: firstname.lastname@example.org
Galapagos Marine Iguana
If you loved to travel and did a lot of this as a single person or young couple it’s easy to assume that having a family will end this, or at least change your travel plans for quite a while. When you backpack around the world as a young singleton, staying in hostels and taking short-term backpacker jobs, you may not be aware of many families with young children on the road. Does that mean they’re all staying home, or going to all-inclusive family-friendly resorts where opportunities for ‘real’ travel is limited? Not necessarily. There are plenty of families traveling the world with young children, and many of them actually find that having the kids in tow actually enriches their travel experience. Here are some of the reasons why traveling with your kids can actually exceed some of your pre-parenthood travels.
You get better value for moneyAnyone who has indulged in long-term budget travel will probably have already discovered that hitting the road for a year and acquiring experiences is actually often cheaper than staying home and acquiring stuff. Having kids invariably leads to an even higher level of consumerism. On the road with kids you cut down on the expenses of new clothes and toys (not to mention expensive childcare and extra-curricular activities) and replace them with priceless new, shared experiences which are often free or very cheap.
Many people are put off travel with a family, thinking that a family of four will spend four times as much as an individual traveller. That’s not usually the case. Babies and young children can fly almost free on most airlines if your child is young enough to share your seat (usually under two years old). If your kids are over two you will have to pay for flights(75% for international fares) but once on the road family travel can be pretty good value. In fact sometimes four (or more) can travel almost as cheaply as a couple.
Apartments, cabins or campsites often costs the same regardless of how many people there are in it, and certainly wilderness camping (often free or by donation in government maintained wilderness areas) is the same. If you’re renting a car you’ll pay the same and use the same fuel if you have a couple of kids in the back, and kids stay free at many hotels and even eat free with a paying adults at some restaurants. You’ll need to do some research to find the good deals, but travel costs don’t necessarily increase in direct proportion to the number of travellers.
You take it slower
Younger kids just can’t tolerate long days of car travel and if you can survive two toddlers whining in the backseat for 10+ hours then you deserve a medal! I love road trips, especially in a foreign country, but I know that in the past I’ve probably missed out on things along the way. It’s harder to miss these when you travel with kids as they need to stop, stretch their legs, go to the toilet and let off steam at regular intervals so you can schedule stops at sites along the way to coincide with these breaks.
You’re less likely to push on to the next town when the kids are tired and hungry and will therefore see places you’d never have stopped at under other circumstances. You may cover less ground in any given time travelling with kids, but you’ll see more of what there is to see, just because you’ll be forced to take it a little slower and stop more frequently. The results are often a more interesting and in-depth travel experience.
They’re an icebreaker
In many cultures, kids are welcomed, adored and made a fuss off constantly (to almost annoying levels in some cases!). Locals immediately engage with the younger children in many countries which breaks the ice and often provides additional levels of service or bonus treats of special foods in restaurants, small gifts or even meeting more of the family.
Young children can break through cultural and language barriers with enviable ease. If there are other kids within playing distance, a game will soon ensue, and if language differences make it difficult to communicate about the rules, then… Well, who needs rules? Playing the game is often a goal in itself.
Kids can break the ice with strangers by exclaiming over a pet, asking impertinent questions (which only sound cute coming from someone so small), or asking to join in a game. None of these are as easy to carry off as an adult travelling alone.
You get to see the world through their eyes
Kids see things differently. They have a whole different perspective and it’s not just because they’re smaller, although that can help sometimes too! Kids see the wonder in a new place, new activities, new animals and new food (OK sometimes they don’t like all the food that’s on offer)
Kids tend to comment on sounds, smells, tastes and textures that are strange to them. The things you might take for granted and not even note in your travel journal, which is a shame because that kind of detail makes for great memories of your travels at a later date, not to mention wonderfully descriptive writing if you plan to try your hand at travel writing.
Travelling with kids means you get involved in activities you might have missed out on. Would you have taken that miniature train ride, visited that wildlife centre or talked to that street performer if your kids hadn’t insisted on it. Perhaps not, and often your travel experience is richer for having done these things.
You have the pleasure of seeing your kids grow and learn
Travel is an education. A completely different, more challenging and more pleasurable education than your kids will ever get in a classroom.
You’ll get to see your kids; learning a foreign language, navigating their way through transport hubs, hiking through wilderness areas without impacting the natural environment, reading maps and understanding and appreciating the differences between home.
You’ll see them gaining a knowledge and understanding of other cultures, and witness the sense of connection they feel as world geography and history starts to make sense to them, based on their own experiences and observations.
You become closer as a family
In a world where many families don’t even have time to eat a meal together on a regular basis, imagine being together 24/7 for a few weeks, months or even years travelling, eating, sleeping, learning and exploring together!
Imagine having the opportunity of building these great shared experience and memories to draw on as your kids grow up and away – truly priceless!
Travelling together gives family members one of the few things money can’t buy – the time and opportunity to spend quality time together away from everyday life pressures and grow closer as a family. Isn’t this what we are all striving for?