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Taking a Restorative Break – Relax Into a Cultural Experience

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Editor’s Note:  This lovely post was written by Kerry of Trusting Traveler.  Please check out her bio and site at the end of the post!  Thanks Kerry!

Regardless of how much you love your job – your health, happiness, and continued job performance depends on you taking meaningful breaks from it now and then.  Nobody benefits when you are too exhausted, discombobulated, and stressed out to be at the top of your game.  So, no matter how indispensable you are, you have to give in to taking vacations.

Vacations are necessary to restore our overcharged minds; and I believe a longer vacation serves that purpose much better than a shorter one.   In today’s work world, you can’t just walk out of your office and disconnect yourself from your job; you need more time; time to let all the people you are connected with know that you are on vacation; time to wean yourself off the connection engine; and time to ease and relax into a much slower pace.

If you have an employer who offers a work schedule that permits two or more weeks off at one time, you are very fortunate and should take advantage of the opportunity to take a longer, more restorative vacation.  With that said, all vacations are not created equal in terms of their restorative qualities.

If you are a father or mother, it’s not likely that you can just stay home and relax for a few weeks.  You will end up working in or around the house, arranging play dates for your kids, chauffeuring them around, or else listen to them complain about being bored!  Your time would be much better spent going away someplace so you can spend quality time with your family.  I’m not talking about an expensive weeklong trip to Disneyworld; that would hardly be right to restore your to your former balance.  No, you would need a vacation from that type of vacation!  I’m not knocking Disney in any way, in fact I love it – it’s magical; it just isn’t restorative.

What would be good for you is a more relaxing and gratifying vacation; one that has the power to remove you completely from your daily, perhaps obsessive routine; one that is sure to be memorable and please your whole family.

The most pleasurable and rewarding times I have ever spent with my family have been on our international home exchanges, all five of them.  The length of our trips, the caliber of our accommodations, and the incredible cultural advantages of these vacations have been so much more than I ever expected to be able to experience and afford.  But, afford them we have; we’ve afforded a total of fifteen weeks over the last five years, and have reaped tremendous rewards as a result of it.  I consider these vacations my single greatest accomplishment, because I believe the benefits to my family, my children especially, have been so significant.

I have been sharing my enthusiasm for international home exchange with everyone I know, for years, hoping to inspire them to give international home exchange a try; to experience its wonders like my family has.  Now, I am in the process of sharing my enthusiasm with people I don’t know.  It’s too good to keep to myself and my close circle; so I’ve started to spread the word.

The Economic and Cultural Benefits of International Home Exchange

International home exchange has been around for over six decades and has proven itself to be highly reliable.  Today, there is a whole new travel market emerging as a result of its reliability and consistency; it’s called Peer to Peer or P2P.  Yes, that’s what it all boils down to; peers trusting their peers; and it works beautifully.  Right at the center of this P2P craze is international home exchange, the heart and soul of it.

Included in the P2P markets are services to both save travelers money and satisfy their craving for richer cultural experiences. One such on-line service allows you to make a reservation to go to the home of a local, and to dine on an authentic meal they have prepared for you.

Major travel industry research suggests this trend and this market is going to continue to grow.  It seems more and more people are looking for affordable, culturally rich travel and they are opting to learn to trust their peers in order have that.

Just this week, Travel and Leisure (.com) posted two articles “On the Joy of Snail Paced Travel” and “The Anti-Tourist Travel Rules” that overwhelmingly favor the style of travel that international home exchanges are built on because they deliver in spades!  Links to both articles can be found on my website, The Trusting Traveler. The mission of The Trusting Traveler website is to provide families everything they need to live a life rich in culture and travel.  That is the philosophy I want to share, along with the practical information and advice families need to achieve that.

Honestly, I don’t even remember where I found out about home exchange; but am I glad I did!  I’m also glad that I had no qualms about it; like so many people who hear of it seem to have.  I can’t believe how remarkable it is.  The phrase “nothing in life is free” simply does not apply to home exchange.  Not only is the home free, but it usually comes with other amenities such as pools, cars, and your own personal travel consultant (your home exchange partner).  With a home exchange, as opposed to hotel, you experience the area like a local, not like a tourist, and this makes for a much more enjoyable, culturally enriching experience.

If what I just described is what you are looking for; and it is absolutely the way I have grown to enjoy my travel, then you must give home exchange a try.  When I visit a wonderful place, it is not enough for me to see it; I want to immerse myself in it and become a part of it, for a little while.  Extended (two weeks or more) home exchange vacations allow us to relax into a place and really savor it.

One final note:  If you crave anything in life, such as I craved to travel Europe, find a way to satisfy your craving. You will be amazed how good you will feel about yourself when you accomplish something you never dreamed possible!

Kerry Ascione, The Trusting Traveler

Providing Families Everything they Need to Embrace a Lifestyle Rich with Culture & Travel

www.trustingtraveler.com

December 19, 2013 |

Taking the Kids to London – A Mom’s Guide

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Frequently Asked Questions A Moms Guide for Trip to London

With a lot to discover, London welcomes kids of all ages. However, traveling and moving around with kids is not so easy. This is the reason that one requires to plan the trip sensibly so that neither the kids become restless nor the parents hamper their enjoyment.

Here are a few of your answers to all the queries that a mother comes across when traveling to London with little ones.

Which area in London is suitable to stay with kids?

Central London is the best area to stay with kids. This will enable you to reach most of the famous attractions conveniently core most of them are located in the heart of London. Saving your travel time and spending it on rather fun-filled activities is necessary when you have kids along.

In addition, carting the little darlings back and forth and taking break during sightseeing often becomes possible only if you are staying in an easy location. However, cost of accommodation in this area is a little higher than the countryside.

What kind of accommodations is available in Central London? Do they have kitchenette facility?

Almost all types of family hotels, ranging from cheap to luxury are available in London. Many of these hotels offer microwave, refrigerator and electric tea kettles, if not the kitchenette. Easy preparations like pasta and porridge can be prepared for your kids. Kitchenettes are available in apartment hotels which may cost you higher if you are in London for less than a week.

Accommodation

Should I book hotel in London in advance? Is it safe to book online?

It is completely safe to book online and always better to book your room in advance to avoid non-availability at the last minute. Several websites offer discounts on  online bookings and have secure payment mode to make online transactions.

Some of the best websites offering hotel bookings are lastminute.com, laterooms.com and travelsupermarket.com. However, there are some less renowned but efficient websites offering attractive room rates on family hotels. Try browsing through londonnights.com or londonhotels4u.com. These are selected websites with their focus dedicatedly on best hotels in London available at the most competitive prices.

What is the best means of transportation to move around London?

Bus network is much easier than the London tube if you are travelling with kids. Because bus network is on street level and so, one does not need to hike up and down a flight of stairs. The buses also contain a space for strollers inside the back door that makes it convenient for the parents to load.  However, learning the routes may be a bit daunting. Spend some time with someone who can explain you all. London buses application allows you to access the route though iPhone if you have one.  In addition, beautiful cabs may catch your eye, but regularly hiring will drain your pockets.

Where can I dine with kids reasonably and comfortably?

Although London is popular as an expensive city, it offers some of the most reasonable options for dining too. There are plenty of food choices ranging from falafel shops, pizza shops, burger joints and noodle houses that will delight your kids. Some of the favourites of mom who have earlier travelers to London are Wagamama and Tidbits in Covent Garden Market. River Cafe is equally popular among visitors.

Bus Tours

Can we relish some realistic sightseeing with our little ones?

Prioritising is the key when you have kids along in a big city like London. Consider how much time is required to see sights and how long it takes to travel from one place to another.  Some of the favourites that can be visited with kids are:

  • Tower of London: Let you kids explore the historicity of the capital at this 1000 year old structure with lively yeoman storytellers.
  • Covent Garden: This is an ideal place to visit with kids since they can sit, relax and eat here. The street entertainers always delight the little guests visiting London. London Transport museum also lies here.
  • Big Bus Double Decker Tour: This typical London experience offers an overview of the city.
  • Tower Bridge: If your kids love the rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down”, do not let them miss this one. Let them know how actually it falls down.
  • London Eye: You kids will not spare if they are aware of this huge Ferris Wheel located in London. Take a flight in one of its capsules and let the little ones have en experience of lifetime.
  • Hamley’s: If you would love to buy some awesome toys and games for your kids, this is one stop destination for you. They produce toys themselves and shopping for kids is real fun here.

Have a nice holiday with kids during their vacation!!!

Author’s Bio: Sonam writes to share her past travel experiences. An active contributor to a leading travel website, she regularly posts informative and interesting write-ups on the web.

 

 

 

 

August 10, 2013 |

Sustainability and Function: How the Travel Industry Has Changed

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A big thank you to today’s guest post author: Sam Marquit!

The travel industry has always received some negativity for its invasive practices on the environment and local communities. Working as a commercial contractor, I’ve noticed the lengths that many businesses will go to be completely sustainable. However, most businesses only want to be LEED certified. While this is a great step forward, it shouldn’t be the end of eco-friendly and sustainable policies for your travel business. There are a lot of initiatives around the world to help businesses and a few hotels that are also doing something more for the environment.

Go Green is an initiative that helps businesses, homes, schools and organizations with training to spread the culture of conservation. As society grows, we need more initiatives like this to help people learn about ways to be eco-friendly that aren’t expensive and to also provide businesses with the technology to recycle, waste less and build sustainable facilities. In addition, Go Green helps children to learn more about eco-friendly practices as well. The organization works on a national level by establishing standards and promoting environmentally responsibility.
In North Carolina, the Ritz-Carlton has done something very different in order to be eco-friendly. On top of the hotel, there is a rooftop garden with two beehives, which are home to 60,000 bees. These bees help the local community by pollinating the flora and fauna. In addition, the Ritz-Carlton has low-flow toilets and water saving showerheads. It’s amazing to see a hotel as big as the Ritz-Carlton doing something different and recognizing the drop in the bee population.

Las Vegas is home to over 100,000 rooms. Millions of people travel to Vegas every year to live in luxury, party at big casinos and explore all sorts of entertainment. However, there’s also something else about this great city that no other has. The Las Vegas Palazzo Hotel and Resort offers guests an eco-friendly experience. That must be why it was named the “Most Eco-friendly Hotel in America”. By building a solar energy heating system, using water reuse programs and waste recycling, the hotel has become a beacon of eco-friendly policies for hotels in this big city.

It’s amazing to see so many organizations coming together in response to our Earth’s future being in trouble. It is important for the eco friendly trend to continue. This trend is especially evident as new green Las Vegas hotels are continuing to be built. More cities need to catch on however. I’m proud to be apart of that movement as a contractor and work hard to incorporate sustainable building into my own work.

More about Sam Marquit:
I am an entrepreneurial independent contractor and home renovation/remodeling expert in New York. I’ve made it a point to share with my readers a day in the life of sustainable building. Forecasting the possible application and implementation of new green building materials and technologies is just one small part of my effort to reduce everyone’s carbon footprint.

 

June 18, 2013 |

Day Trips with Toddlers

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Editors Note:  A big thank you to Toddlers on Tour for this wonderful guest post.

Whether you’re on holidays or heading out for the day at home, a day trip with a toddler is a scary thing to embark upon.  First of all what do I need to pack and then how do I keep an active toddler entertained for the day?  We have a few tips to help alleviate your anxiety.

What to Pack

Before you head out for the day you need to ensure you have enough items packed to ward off most issues you will encounter during the day out.

1.       Change of clothes

  • If your toddler is not toilet trained ensure you take a sufficient amount of: nappies, wipes, nappy sacks, and a change mat.
  • If they are toilet trained well… accidents happen.  Take a spare set of clothes and underwear.

2.       Drink

  • Take a bottle of water for everyone.
  • If your little one still has a midday milk then ensure to take one with you or at least an empty bottle/sippy cup to put freshly bought milk.

3.       Snacks

  • Children and especially toddlers are constantly hungry and their eating patterns change daily.
  • Be prepared, take healthy snacks including: dried fruit, rice crackers, muesli bars, sandwich, fresh fruit, squeezie yoghurts, and don’t forget a treat.

4.       Snuggle friend and a few toys

  • Take their favourite snuggle friend for when things all get a bit too much and they need calming down, or for when they are tired and need to nod off to sleep.
  • Only take a couple of toys or activities to keep them occupied.  Take into account where you are going: the beach – take a bucket and spade, the playground – maybe some monster trucks for the sand, somewhere they will have to stay seated – colouring.

5.       Clothing for weather changes

  • If it’s likely to get cool take a jumper for everyone,
  • A hot sunny day have a hat and sunscreen ready,
  • Likely to rain take raincoats and an umbrella.

What to Do

Take a pram.

Whether your child happily sits in the pram or not, take the pram.  I find it so useful to carry all those items you have packed.  When you buy goodies along the way, you now have somewhere to store them.  If your child wants to walk let them (it will help burn off energy) when they are tired they can hop back into the pram.

Work within your child’s routine.

Stop for snack and meal breaks when they are hungry.  If it’s nap time recline the pram, or schedule in a drive to the next destination.

Plan a stop at a playground.

Try and coincide this with the meal and snack breaks.  Advise your child that there is a time limit and give them a count down before it’s time to go.  This will helpfully reduce tantrums when it’s time to leave.  You may want to let them know when the next playground stop will be, however that could introduce more issues of nagging, make a judgement call depending on your child.

Transport.

Consider how you are getting about for the day.  If you are hiring a car don’t forget to include car seat hire or bring your own.  If you normally drive, consider public transport – kids love the adventure of using a different mode of travel.

Be flexible.

Flexibility really is the key to having a good day out with your toddler.  As anyone who has a young child will tell no two days are the same.  Your toddler has moods just as we do; sometimes they are extremely hungry eating non-stop all day, another day they are tired and just loll about for the day, next they are bouncing off the walls.  So just go with the flow and work with what you are given for the day.

Try to relax and enjoy your day out as a family.

 

“Toddlers on Tour” have tips and advice for travel with kids to share with you.  We have guides starting from how to plan and research your holiday with kids through to tips on travelling by airsea, road or rail.  We also offer helpful hints on packing, choosing the right family accommodation and eating out with children.

January 24, 2013 |

Winter Vacation Ideas

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New England is beautiful – I’ve lived here almost all of my life and I never get tired of watching the seasons turn.  Just when the summer heat seems unbearable, fall comes with brisk breezes and foliage fireworks.  As the trees pass from gorgeous into grey, the snow and frost hide the dead leaves and brown grass under a white carpet and decorate the tree branches with icicles.  When crocuses push their way up through the rime of ice and snow, we all get a reminder of how small and fragile things can survive and bring beauty even in the harshest of places.

It’s pretty easy to fall in love with New England…  except in February.  It’s the shortest month, why does it feel so long?  It’s cold, it’s dark, and it keeps on snowing.  So any year that I have a dollar to work with, I plan a February vacation.  Here are my top 3 February vacation ideas and I’d love to hear yours!

  1. The Bahamas – About 4 hours by air from Boston, anywhere in the Bahamas feels like a whole different planet.  Blue skies, warm water, soft breezes, and the sun.  It’s the closest, warmest respite as winter rages on back home.
  2. San Diego – If you want a little less beach and a few more attractions, nothing compares to Southern California.  It’s warm and you can choose from a wide range of activities from Disneyland to the San Diego Zoo, or hit the beach if you’d rather.
  3. Quebec – Yes I know, I’m suggesting you go somewhere even colder?!  The fact is that the folks in Quebec are experts at having fun in the snow.  If you can make it there for Carnival (which usually ends just before school vacation), you can have more fun in the cold than you’ve ever had!  Ice sculptures, sledding hills, hot chocolate, music, crepes, and more make it well worth bundling up and strolling around outside, and then you get to come warm up by the fire or better yet in a hot tub!

This year we’ll be headed to Nassau on a Royal Caribbean Cruise.  It’s 3 years after we went on a similar cruise with Disney, so I can’t wait to compare the two.

Where are you going to escape the cold this winter?

 

January 13, 2013 |

3 Generation Vacation Planning – Part 1 – Choosing a Location

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This spring we’re going on a trip with three generations of our family.  There are a lot of logistics involved with planning a trip with an entire family from deciding on where to go to agreeing on what we’re going to do each day.  We thought it would be fun to share our planning process here and we’d love to hear your ideas, tips, advice or experiences with multi-generational travel.

Our first challenge was deciding where to go.  In our case this was an easy choice as we all speak French and lived in France for a year as a family back in 1979.  We have always wanted to return and re-experience the French countryside together, and for a variety of reasons, it seemed like this spring was the right time.  When you are considering a trip with your whole family, here are some things to think about in terms of picking a location:

  • Language – Does anyone in your family group feel comfortable enough with another language to consider traveling somewhere where your families first language is not commonly spoken?  It’s a big decision to travel outside your comfort zone, and let’s face it, there will likely be some stress when you are traveling with a multi-generational family group.  While it might sound like fun to throw a foreign culture and language into the mix, make sure everyone in the group feels 100% comfortable with that decision.  For us, because everyone speaks enough French to get by even if we got separated from the group, it wasn’t a problem but it’s certainly something to decide first to help you narrow down your options.
  • Climate – Does your family share a love of winter sports?  Are you all beach bums?  Or do you have some from each camp?  It’s a good idea to do some brainstorming and decide early on what sorts of things you all enjoy.
  • Money – Budgeting for travel is a challenge even if it’s just a small family unit.  When you pull together multiple family members with different income levels, budgets become a big consideration.  While one family member may want a luxury hotel, others may want to camp.  One option is to pick a general location but have various groups choose their own accommodations while your traveling.  You can share the adventure without all sharing the same hotel.

When you decide to take a vacation with multiple generations, flexibility is key.  In every step of the process, from choosing where to go, what to do and where to stay, make sure that there are always choices.

Have you planned a trip with multiple generations of your family?  How did it go?  What would you do differently next time?

 

January 3, 2013 |

Visiting Boston – 10 Great Things to do with Kids in Beantown

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Boston is a great place to tour with kids.  It’s a fairly compact city so you’ll spend more time seeing the sights, and less time getting around.  Steeped in history, nearly everywhere you go around Boston will bring you face to face with the life and times of the American Revolution.  In addition to the sights of the past, there are enough museums, gardens, parks and zoos to keep a busy family on their toes for the whole vacation.  Here are our top 10 family activities in Boston:

  1. The Museum of Science, Boston – A hands on science museum, the MOS is right in the center of the action at the head of the Charles River basin.  The Museum of Science boasts the largest IMAX dome in New England as well as the Hayden Planetarium and a host of permanent and traveling exhibits.  Plan to spend at least half a day (you can bring your own lunch or check out the Wolfgang Puck dining options in the cafe) and note that the Duck Tours also depart from the Museum of Science.
  2. Boston Duck Tours – Used by both the Boston Red Sox and Boston Bruins for their championship parades, these amphibious vehicles will take you on a tour of Boston in style.  Starting at the Museum of Science, New England Aquarium or the Prudential Center, the Boston Duck Tours travel throughout the city where you’ll learn about the history of Boston both on land and at sea.  Don’t forget to get your quacker and quack along with your tour guide!
  3. The Museum of Fine Arts – The MFA hosts a tremendous collection of ancient and modern art.  They have some fun activities for kids, and a substantial Egyptian collection.  The Museum of Fine Arts is accessible from the Green Line, as is the MOS so you can hop from one to the other and hit them both in one day if you’re feeling ambitious!
  4. The New England Aquarium – With a 4 story ocean tank, the NEAQ is one of the most popular family travel destinations in Boston.  They have recently added an incredibly cool shark and ray touch tank, and continue to have a wonderful penguin exhibit.  A word of caution, the NEAQ is INCREDIBLY crowded during vacation weeks and can be a frustrating experience during peak times.  It’s well worth getting there first thing in the morning if you want to avoid extra long lines.
  5. The Freedom Trail – Interested in the history of Boston and the American Revolution?  Step right up to the Freedom Trail!  2.5 miles in length, this walk through the past will take you by 16 different historic sites in downtown Boston.  There are plenty of spots to stop for a bite along the way, and guided tours are available if you want a more in depth tour.  Don’t miss the USS Constitution Museum while you’re on the trail!
  6. The Boston Children’s Museum – Have younger family members in your travel party?  If so the Boston Children’s Museum is a must.  Water activities, dress up rooms, climbing areas and lots of free play zones will give your little travelers all the running fun they can have.
  7. Fenway Park – The oldest ballpark in America, Fenway Park is baseball the old fashioned way.  If you can afford the monster seats, they are the best in the house, but even a budget seat in the bleachers is an experience for baseball lovers.  Buy me some peanuts and CrackerJack, you won’t care if you ever come back!
  8. Boston Common and the Swan Boats – No trip to Boston in the spring is complete without a ride on the Swan Boats.  Don’t forget to read Make Way for Ducklings first so you can fully enjoy the tour of the tiny islands as you cruise around the pond.
  9. Quincy Market and Fanueil Hall MarketPlace – Part market, part food court, this is a great place to sample the many flavors of Boston.  In the nice weather there are plenty of street entertainers from musicians to clowns to magicians showing their stuff, and if you’re looking for souveniers you’ll find something for everyone.
  10. Rose Kennedy Greenway – The recently transformed Rose Kennedy Greenway is an oasis of parkland running through what was once a wasteland of elevated highway.  The Big Dig put it all underground and now you can wander through grass and gardens from the North End to South Station.  Ride the carousel or hop on a trolley tour.  Enjoy the fountains and walk over to the waterfront.  It’s a great place for a picnic lunch!

Boston is one of the easiest cities to tour with kids.  It’s compact size and historic past as well as a wealth of museums, theatres and parks make it a fun family vacation for the kids and the adults!

The best time to visit Boston is in the fall when the weather is cooler, the kids are in school, and the museums are less crowded.  Be prepared for any kind of weather no matter when you come – this is New England after all…

December 14, 2012 |
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