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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 |

Five Essentials When Traveling With Kids

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So many parents have big plans when it comes to traveling the country or the world with their children. They want their kids to experience exciting, interesting, fun, and even educational places. But the thought of bringing kids along on these vacations can be daunting, and many parents give up on the idea before they even try.

Here are five tips to keep in mind to ensure you and your children will have a great time, wherever you decide to go.

1. Bring Snacks/Drinks (but not too many)

This tip is universal. Whether you’re taking a half day road trip, flying to Paris, visiting New York City, or heading out to Adelaide in Australia, traveling to your destination is often the most difficult part of the trip. The travel time becomes much easier if you have snacks to keep the kids quiet when they get bored or hungry. Dole them out sparingly, though, because in this circumstance, the purpose of the snack is to distract your kids, not fill them up. And that goes double for the drinks – you want just enough to keep them hydrated, but you certainly don’t want to add any extra “I have to go to the bathroom” breaks. Water usually serves the purpose well; they’ll drink when they’re thirsty, but probably won’t drink to excess since it’s only water.

2. Have Travel Documents Handy

This is particularly true if your travels involve flying or crossing any international borders. The idea is to get through the check-in and security lines as quickly as possible. The last thing you want is to be held up when you finally get to the front of the line, shuffling through your carryon bag, trying to find boarding passes, identification, or passports. Keep in mind that all children need passports for international travel. Passports often take four to six weeks to process, so plan accordingly.

3. Reserve Appropriate Accommodations

While many people enjoy spur of the moment traveling – figuring out where they will stay when they arrive – this is not a good strategy when traveling with kids. Plan where you are going, and make your accommodation reservations in advance. Imagine finally arriving at your destination, exhausted from the trip, only to be told there are no vacancies. The kids are grumpy, you’re tired and probably hungry, and you have to get back on the road to find somewhere else to sleep. This would not be good. Reservations in advance are critical. Another consideration when making your reservations is the type of place you stay. As tempting as it is to save a few dollars by staying at a lower-end motel, it may be worth it to stay in a nicer place that has a little extra room. Once you finally get the kids tucked in, it’s nice to have an area to unwind and have a glass of wine or enjoy a television show without risking waking the kids. Many nice places such as the InterContinental Adelaide offer larger rooms, suites, or connecting rooms to ensure you enjoy your vacation as much as your kids.

4. Pack a Special Travel Bag

This holds true for kids of all ages, but is particularly applicable to young children. Kids have tons of fun planning what to bring for entertainment when they go on a trip. Allow them to pick their favorite items and let them pack the bag so they know where to find everything. If they are old enough, have them carry their special travel bag through the airports or train stations; this makes them feel grown up. Then when they are not looking, sneak a “surprise” item in the bag so they will have one new toy or activity along with all of their favorites. This trick usually buys several extra hours of peace.

5. Have a Plan

Last but not least, to successfully travel with kids is to have a plan. Plan the time of day, the length of travel on any given day, and the ultimate place of rest, according to the ages and needs of your children. Plan sleeping arrangements, travel documents, and entertainment. Involve your kids in the actual planning of the trip; if they have input on the vacation, they are more likely to look forward to the destination, and less likely to act up on the way. And most importantly, plan to learn that nothing ever goes exactly as planned!

 

 

Doreen Brown is a mother of two and enjoys sharing holiday tips with other parents and making the most out of family time.

May 17, 2013 |

Getting Your Toddler to Sleep on Vacation

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Editor’s Note:  A big thank you to Chris of www.getyourkidtosleep.com for this great guest post!

Getting Your Toddler to Sleep on Vacation

Traveling with a kids isn’t easy. In fact, I know a lot of people that just refuse to travel when they have young kids because to them it’s more trouble than it’s worth. After all, a vacation is supposed to be a time to relax and recharge, right?

But me—I’m stubborn. I need that time. We all need that time. And we also want to expose our kids to the world around us, rather than shutting ourselves into our home where dealing with a 3 year old is much easier.

However, one of the biggest problems we’ve run into is one I’d imagine many parents are intimately familiar with. Sleep. It’s been hard enough to get our little one to get in the habit of sleeping in her own bed at home. But what happens when you’re on the road and everything is different? Maybe you’re crammed in a small hotel room or you’re staying with relatives?

How can you get the toddler to bed so that you and your spouse can enjoy a little alone time rather than one of you having to fall asleep with him?

Things to Consider When Staying in a Hotel

If you’ve had any sleep success with your kid whatsoever, you know it comes as the direct result of setting fairly rigid routines and procedures. You get them to bed around a certain time every night. You go through the same actions, in the same order. Probably something like:

  1. Bath
  2. Book
  3. Song
  4. Sleep

And you’ve probably also learned that any small interruption to the routine will send your cranky toddler into a downward spiral of screaming and crying that could last the entire night.

So the question is, can you stick to that routine on the road? Well, it depends on a few things. First of all, what sort of accommodations do you have? If you’re staying in a little one room motel, odds are you’re not going to want to shut yourselves in at 7:30 pm. But once the little one gets to bed, you are stuck. You might not even be able to turn on the TV for fear of waking him up.

That means you may be more likely to keep your toddler up later before retiring, which could really throw things off. So what you might consider doing is spending a little more on a bigger room that feels a bit more like home—somewhere you won’t mind hanging around. Then once you get your toddler to sleep, you can hang out with your spouse and watch some TV or enjoy the nice Jacuzzi tub with a bottle of wine!

Staying with Family

Now if you’re staying with relative, then it’s easier to have the type of freedom you enjoy at home. If you can get your child to bed on time, you have the run of the house. If you’re lucky, you even have babysitters who will allow you to enjoy some extra alone time.

However, there’s a problem I’ve experienced staying with relatives. Unfortunately, they often tend to interrupt the bedtime routine. Sometimes it’s by putting their own two cents in about how you’re putting your kid to bed. Other times they make you feel guilty that you don’t let the little one stay up because they want to spend time together. Meanwhile, your child is likely not going to want to go to bed even more than usual because he knows he’s going to miss out on all the fun.

Don’t give in. Stick to your guns. All it takes is one night of giving in to set the tone for a vacation of sleep problems.

Stick to your Routine as Much as Possible and Enjoy Your Vacation More

Yes, sticking to your standard sleep routine certainly limits you when on vacation. But you already knew you’d be limited toting your toddler along with you, right? But if you can manage to stick as closely to your routines as possible, you will find that you’re entire family will be well-rested and happier your entire trip.

Have you had any issues getting your toddler to sleep on vacation? How’d you handle it?

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Byline:

Chris is a teacher, copywriter, and dad. After sleep training his three year old with significant help from his patient wife, he decided he’d create a go-to resource for parents dealing with toddlers who simply won’t go to bed. Check out his site for more tips and resources: www.getyourkidtosleep.com.

 

 

February 7, 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 |

Save Money and Time with CityPASS

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We first noticed CityPASS in Boston because we are members of the Boston Museum of Science and saw the flyers for it there.  I looked into it when we were planning a trip to Toronto and knew it was a great idea for traveling families!  A CityPASS gets you admission to what I would consider the top 5 (and in some case more) must-see family activities in every city where they offer the program at a substantial discount.  It also allows you to skip ticket lines which can be a huge time saver during busy vacation weeks.  Right now CityPASS is only available in the following cities:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Hollywood
  • Houston
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Southern California
  • Toronto

You have 9 days to visit the attractions included in your CityPASS – we found that to be plenty of time to fit in all the sites and get the full value out of our purchase.  You can buy tickets right on the CityPASS website or, if you are already on the road, at any CityPASS attraction!

Who doesn’t love saving money and time?  Have you used CityPASS?  What did you think?

CityPASS

 

 

 

December 12, 2012 |

Kids on a Plane – Tips for Successful Airplane Travel with Kids

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Airplanes are without a doubt the fastest route from point A to point B short of a rocket.  With that said, traveling by plane with kids can be an exercise in frustration if you don’t prepare well.  Air travel presents a variety of challenges to traveling families, so we’ve gathered our best tips to help ease the stress of traveling by plane.

  • Challenge #1 – Limited Space: Airplanes are not known for their spacious design.  Carrying diaper bags, car seats, strollers, backpacks and all the other gear you need can make you feel like you need to buy an extra seat for a pack mule.  While many airlines will check items such as strollers at the gate, it can still be a challenge to get everything you need on board.  Solution:  It’s worth the investment to get some packable, lightweight, made for airplane gear. If you must bring a big stroller, check it and get a cheap umbrella stroller to get you through the gate and onto the plane.  Be sure you have carry-on luggage that is designed to fit under the seat or in the overhead so you don’t get rejected at the hoop when you try to bring your carefully packed bag with all your very important gear onto the plane.  Also check out some light fold-able rolling carts to give your back a break.
  • Challenge #2 – Security Restrictions:  It seems like every time we fly there’s a new security rule to learn.  Shoes off, shoes on.  No liquids.  No nail scissors (because I might take over a plane by threatening to cut the pilots nails too short).  Toiletries out in plastic bags.  I had my bag quarantined and searched because the switch on the electric toothbrush got bumped so now I take the batteries out before we fly.  What’s next?  Solution:  Know before you go.  Double and triple check the TSA’s list of prohibited items and make sure you know what’s allowed and what’s not.  If you are carrying something that is explicitly allowed (like pies and cakes, oddly enough) be sure to print out the TSA page that says the item is allowed in case you are challenged at security.  Make sure you empty out and repack items like diaper bags or backpacks to be sure there are no Swiss Army knives or other contraband hidden at the bottom.
  • Challenge #3 – Food Options: It was a huge relief when my son could bring his own backpack and snacks, and could eat airplane food with the rest of us.  Until then trying to keep food cold/warm, have the right options, dish out mashed carrots on a turbulent flight, and have enough water/juice/formula/milk to make it through the flight was always a crap shoot.  Solution:  A soft sided lunch cooler and a bunch of sandwich bags will help you keep your cold items fresh.  Pack the sandwich bags with ice when you leave for the airport.  Just before you go through security, dump the ice and then on the other side use a soda machine’s ice maker to fill the bags up again.  Voila – cold packs for your trip!
  • Challenge #4 – Sensitive Ears: Who hasn’t been on a flight where some poor child starts shrieking like a steam whistle as the plane climbs up off the runway?  It’s heartbreaking if it’s 10 rows away, eye-watering at 2 rows and mortifying if it’s the kid in your lap.  Solution:  If your child is old enough, gum or mints can help keep little ears from building up pressure.  Younger kids can have lollipops or try to drink a bottle.  Sometimes though there’s nothing you can do but endure it and hope it passes.
  • Challenge #5I’m Bored: Any flight longer than an hour is bound to make even the most patient of kids a little itchy.  Stretch it to 3 hours or more and you will need plenty of tricks up your sleeve to keep your little ones occupied.  Solution:  No matter what our screen time rules are on the ground, in the air they are all suspended.  I allow unlimited movies, electronic games, and any other screen that blinks in a somewhat interesting way.  This goes for e-readers too (and they are a great way to save some weight for challenge #1).  I pack my son’s backpack with surprises the night before we leave for any long trip (plane, train or car).  A small Lego set, a box of markers and a drawing pad, a Rubix Cube and a book on how to solve it.  A book of Mad Libs.  A comic book or two.  By the time he has worked his way through all the delights of the bag, we are usually well on our way.

Traveling on airplanes can be daunting with young kids but it’s generally a necessary evil and worth the effort.  Hopefully these tips and tricks will help make your next flight a little easier.  Have other great ideas to make traveling by plane with kids more fun?  Share them with us!

December 7, 2012 |

15 Family Travel Planning Tools

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Family travel planning can be a lot of upfront work to make the trip a success.  Here are our top picks of tools that help you plan your trips and then enjoy them!

5 Sites for Travel Inspiration

Away.com – We love the “surprise me” feature!
Family Vacation Critic – The Family Vacation Critic site has some really good guides to different parts of the world.  Their focus is on families so you know the trips you’ll find here will be great family fun.
The Travel Channel – The Family Interests page on the Travel Channel site shows you what trips they recommend as well as what trips other families like right now.  It’s a great place to find seasonal ideas and check out what other people are dreaming about.
Frommer’s Dream Trip Recommender – This fun tool lets you set criteria for what you are looking for in a vacation and then makes recommendations for where to go!
Pinterest– If you’re just cruising for vacation eye candy, you can spend hours looking at beautiful pictures from around the world.

Great Sites for Planning

BudgetPlaces – There are tons of travel deal websites out there, but we found this one to be easy to use and budget focused.
Hipmunk – Being able to see how your flights line up both by price and by time is awesome!
Travelocity – Still our favorite site for researching flights and finding great deals.  We also love the last minute deals when we want to do something spontaneous.
Priceline – Who doesn’t love the idea of William Shatner negotiating a vacation deal?  And it’s not just the commercials that are fun – Priceline really does help you find some terrific deals.
TripIt– Just email all your confirmations and TripIt will make you an itinerary you can print, email, or keep on your mobile device.  How cool!

Tools for the Trip

The Weather Channel App– This is a great little app that lets you add multiple locations and keep track of the weather forecast wherever you go.
XE Currency – A great currency converter to help you know how far your dollars, euro, yen or rupees will go wherever you roam!
AroundMe– Want to find a pizza shop, parking garage or movie theater near you?  AroundMe helps you find what you need even if you’re somewhere you’ve never been!
Urban Spoon– Finding great restaurant choices on the road has never been easier!  We love the spinner that lets you set criteria and then spin the wheel to find what you want.  The review links are a great help too!
Trip Advisor– Trip Advisor has great reviews of restaurants, hotels, activities and more.

Have ideas we missed?  Let us know!  Here are some that people have sent since we wrote this post:

Frixo – A road travel reporting website in the UK that provides up-to-date road traffic information.  Great for driving holidays!

Vocre – An iPhone app that translates voice and text

Wifi Finder – A free tool to help you find wi-fi networks when you are on the road

Ultimate Checklist – Available as both an iPhone or Android App, Ultimate Checklist has lists for all occasions to help keep you organized and make sure you remember everything for your big trip!

November 29, 2012 |

Traveling by Train with Kids

Comments Off on Traveling by Train with Kids

While airplane travel is by far the fastest way to get from place to place, it can be a real challenge for traveling families.  Between airport security, potential weather delays and ever shrinking legroom, it can be the least comfortable option, especially if you are traveling with little ones.  If you have the time for it, taking the train can be a great alternative.  Here’s why:

  • More space – Most trains offer more seating space and more flexibility in seating (seats that face one another with a table in between, dining cars, observation cars, etc.).  If you’re traveling with kids, the longer time on the train is much easier to bear when they can get up and move around, take an adventurous trip to the snack car or sit in a different seat and watch the scenery roll by.
  • Less hassle – Train travel requires almost no security screenings to board.  Why?  Well the short (if not particularly reassuring) answer is that if someone wants to mess with a train, they don’t do it from on-board.  As a result train travel means buying a ticket, showing up a reasonable amount of time before your train leaves and getting on board. (more…)
November 2, 2012 |
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