Finding the Right Balance on Family Vacations

You spend all year planning the perfect family vacation, and all you can think of is how much you are looking forward to a well-earned break. It’s going to be great, right? Going to a glamorous part of the world, spending all that time together in perfect relaxation – nothing can go wrong!

The trouble is, by the end of day one of your vacation, there’s every chance you are ready to call it quits. Holidays at home or abroad can be an exhausting nightmare for parents with small kids, and the stress you go through can often result in you needing another break by the time you get home!

There’s a delicate balance to strike between entertaining all the children of different ages and still finding some time to relax. Here are a few tips to help you achieve precisely that – let’s take a close look!

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It’s all in the planning

First of all, you need to plan well in advance. We’re not just talking itineraries here, either – it’s also important to give your kids plenty of warning about the unknown territory they are going to experience. Ultimately, children thrive on routine and familiar places, and a holiday away can often cause them a fright. If you can go through the sort of things you will be doing – including showing them photos or videos – they will be better prepared for what awaits.

Schedule is critical

It can be tempting to loosen the reins a little when you go on vacation. You won’t mind the kids staying up a little later than usual, and the chances are you will be more tolerant of everything from eating candy to general horseplay. But you should also be careful – it’s still a good idea to stick to some kind of strict schedule. As we discussed before, your little ones thrive on a regular routine, and breaking too many walls down in one hit is going to end in tears – for you, as well as them!

The right mix of activities

Wherever you are in the world, there will always be plenty of fun things for kids to do. But don’t forget, your 2-year old will enjoy things that your 12-year old will not. It’s one of the trickiest things to manage, but you have to make sure that everyone gets what they need out of the vacation. The older children will (hopefully) be able to understand you need to meet the toddler’s needs, but the reverse isn’t quite as accurate. So, when it comes to an older child’s day out, it might be worth splitting up into teams, to ensure they get what they want while the younger ones don’t cause a tantrum.

Bring extended family

When you have young children, almost every vacation you take will be stressful in some way. And you and your partner will struggle to find any time to relax at all. So, our final tip is this – bring some of your extended family. Whether it’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, or cousins, your kids will be delighted to spend time with other people. And you have an instant babysitting service for the occasional night out, too.

Do you have any tips for achieving zen on family vacations with young kids? Let us know about them in the comments!

 

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Get Off The Plane: Other Ways To Explore America

America is a huge country – Texas alone is the size of most of Europe – and there is too much to see in a single trip. Unfortunately, most people restrict their exploration of this vast country because, although traveling by plane covers a lot of distance, it can get expensive flying from one state to another. Fortunately, there are ways to travel that are easier on your budget, and let you see more of the country. Get off the planes and try these different methods of travel.

By Train

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Few people know that you can travel around the whole country by rail with a train pass from Amtrak.com. Amtrak offers USA Rail Passes for 15-day, 30-day or 45-day trips. If you’re savvy about using public transport in each stop on your tour, they’re an affordable way to see the country. The most scenic route is the California Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco, which is one of world’s greatest train journeys. In around 48 hours you will cross the farmlands of Nebraska, scale the Rockies beyond Denver while you eat egg & bacon for breakfast in the diner, snake through rocky river valleys in Colorado and pass through the Sierra Nevada mountains to reach Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay area.

By Boat

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You might not believe it, but there are some fantastic things to see along the coastline of the country. You can plan your perfect trip around the coast by buying a boat with help from boatfinancing.co, or you could get some friends together and split the cost of hiring a chartered boat for the duration of your travels. If you’re charting the course, you have full control over where you go, and how long you stay there. Alternatively, there are some amazing cruises that let you see more of the country; cruises to Alaska, Hawaii, or the Caribbean are popular, but you can also dock in New York or New Orleans. Not to mention the cruise itself has a lot on entertainment and activities on board, so you never feel bored while you’re traveling.

By Road

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The American road trip has been a popular genre in literature, and it features many coming of age stories, Unfortunately, some of the best routes have been forgotten in favor of the interstate or flying. It’s time to bring back this mode of travel and explore parts of the country you might never have seen before. When you’re planning your road trip, you can schedule as many pit stops as you want, change your route whenever you’re bored, and stay in a single place for as long as you like. The beauty of a road trip is that you can dance to the beat of your own drum. Just make sure you stay safe on the road.

If you don’t feel like driving, you can also take the bus. Book the Great American Crossing tour, and you’ll experience New York, Detroit, Mount Rushmore, and many more cities over the course of 21 days.

Advice For A First Time Tourist of Japan

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If you’re planning on visiting Japan, it’s likely that you already know that it’s one of the best parts of Asia, with its elegant architecture and amazing technological feats. However, without proper knowledge of the country, you are at risk of getting stuck in a situation you don’t know how to get out of, or completely over spending when it’s simply not necessary. To avoid this, here’s some of the best advice I can give for traveling to Japan for the first time.

  1. Eat At Fast Food Restaurants

Most people associate the phrase “fast food” with a grease filled burger or some variation of fried chicken, but in Japanese fast food restaurants that simply isn’t the case. Here you can order miso soup, dumplings, bowls of rice, and many other typical Japanese foods, often at a price cheaper than the processed junk from back home.

  1. Bring Cash

A lot of places in Japan don’t accept bank cards, and many ATMs don’t accept foreign cards even in Tokyo, so money really will be your friend on your trip. Because of this, you will have to make sure you either have enough cash or know of an ATM that will accept your card.

  1. Carry Hand Sanitizer

Strangely, most public bathrooms in Japan don’t have any dispensable hand soap, so if you want more than a simple rinse of warm water, you should probably carry sanitizing hand gel.

  1. Learn Japanese

You don’t necessarily need to learn Japanese fluently, as many people in Japan do speak English quite well. However, it’s always best to have a few key Japanese phrases memorized, in case you get stuck in a situation where there isn’t anyone that can speak English. It’s also polite, and many Japanese people would probably appreciate being asked if they can speak English in their language.

  1. Print Out Hotel Address In Japanese

Much like above, if you get stuck in a situation where you can’t find anyone that speaks English, it’s always best to have your hotel address written down in Japanese, to give to a cab driver to help you get back. This tip is useful in any foreign country you visit.

  1. Rent A “Pocket Wi-Fi”

A “Pocket Wi-Fi” is a wireless internet router that allows several different gadgets to connect to it and use its unlimited internet. They are available to rent at most airports in Japan, at a fraction of the cost of data roaming charges.

  1. Find Your Nearest Konbini

A Konbini is a Japanese convenience store that often sells anything you could possibly require, from hot meals, to gadget chargers, to socks. They also often have ATMs that do accept foreign bank cards, so it really is a refuge, if you get into a pickle.

  1. Get A Japanese Rail Pass

If you plan on visiting several different cities during your trip, a JR Pass could save you a lot of money, especially if you plan on going to another one of the four main islands.

Japan is a beautiful and elegant country, but it can get confusing if you don’t know the language and customs. Hopefully, this advice will help you navigate the country with a bit more ease, and allow you to have a completely stress free, and memorable getaway.

The Czech Republic For Those Into History

Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

Steeples of St. Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from Charles Bridge in Prague

Slap bang in the middle of Central Europe, if there we had to describe the Czech Republic in just one word it would have to be ‘cocktail’. No no no. This has nothing to do with its fame and notoriety among stag parties or thirsty backpackers but rather its history. You see, the Czech Republic is a cocktail made up of its Bohemian past, Moravian splendor and Slavic charm. It is a city that celebrates the historic diversity that blends all things Gothic and Baroque and that is what makes it an absolute must see nation for anyone that has even the slightest interest in what came before us.

St Vitus Cathedral

There is only one place to start your cultural exploration and that is the St Vitus Cathedral, so get book your cheap flights to Prague, pack your camera with plenty of films and then head to this magnificent structure that has been built over a 600-year span. Hidden within its thick walls you will find a mosaic of The Last Judgement and the tombs of people you have heard legends about, like Charles IV and St Wenceslas, among many more.

Veletrzni Palac

If you are caught in the tough decision over which Prague museum you absolutely must explore, you’d do well to find a better contender than this National Gallery. The collection is just a mind-boggling array of art that stretches back as far as the 1800s, including pieces from little-known artists like Van Gogh and Picasso and Klimt. What’s more, there are four floors for you to wander about with your mouth as wide as it has ever been.

Charles Bridge

If you were to stop a local on the streets (hopefully one that speaks English) and asked them what their most savored simple pleasure is in life, they will tell you it is the eight o’clock stroll across the Charles Bridge. It is just the most stunning place in the city; fresh snow at your feet, a sea of pastel-coloured buildings stretching as far as the eye can see and architecture of every kind. The reason they say eight o’clock, however, is because the circus comes to town at nine and by circus we mean tourists.

Prague Castle

When you are a kid and you imagine what a fairy-tale castle to be like, chances are it was something akin to this. It is magnificent. The ranks of tall spires and enchanted towers and palaces that could melt your heart a thousand times over. But it isn’t just something nice to look at from the outside, for within the walls lay galleries and museums and buildings of old. This place is celebrated by the locals as being one of the greatest treasures in all of Central Europe and for good reason too.

Old Town Hall

If it is old that you are after then you need to carve out time to see the Old Town Hall, which was founded in 1338. It is a patchwork of medieval buildings that have been sewn together over a series of centuries, each adding their own eclectic charm. In terms of the centerpiece, that title definitely goes to the Gothic tower that looks over it all with a salute, not least because of its Astronomical Clock.

Everything You Need to Know before Visiting Tanzania

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Tanzania is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and magical locations across the world, not just in Africa. Not only does it boast the highest peak in the whole of the continent, but it is also home to the incredible wildebeest migration, and the relaxing and luxurious island of Zanzibar is a short trip away. It is a destination that has it all, and if you are planning on visiting Tanzania in the future, read on to discover what you need to know before your trip.

  • Bring comfortable walking shoes – When packing your holiday suitcase, it is very tempting to pack it full with your glitzy sandals and flip-flops, but make sure you put in a comfortable pair of trainers or walking shoes as well. After, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is no easy feat, and if you are visiting this part of Africa, taking one of the routes on this dormant volcano is a must. For more information on planning your climb, head to AlienAdv.com. They have plenty of details on the different routes available, and can help you to determine the best approach for you. Planning in advance is a must.
  • Travel can be cheap – You can head all of the way to central Zambia on the TAZARA train, and it is really affordable. However, do make sure you book in advance, as it is often full for weeks at a time.
  • The people are great – There may be many amazing sites and things to do in Africa, as you will discover here – PlanetWare.com, but one of the best things about the area is that the people are amazing. The country has more than 100 ethnic groups, and it is advisable to get involved with the culture. Join in with their fun conversations, try their delicious food, and learn their cultural practices.
  • Make sure you have a Visa – In Tanzania, most foreign nationals will require a visa, no matter whether you are visiting to conduct business or you are going on a vacation. There are some foreign nationals that are permitted to travel visa-free for up to three months, but these are mainly Asian and African nationals. Make sure you find out what visa you need and get it sorted way in advance of your trip.
  • Roads get bumpy – One thing you need to be prepared for is a bumpy read when in Tanzania. There will be wandering animals, places that aren’t paved, weird grooves, and potholes, and so, as you can imagine, this does not make for the best driving conditions.
  • Your health is vital – You do need to take some health precautions before you visit Tanzania. This is because it is a tropical environment, which means it favors the growth of various fauna, flora, and bacteria, and most visitors are not used to this. So, while you are there, make sure you only drink bottled water while you are in Tanzania, and visit your doctor to get tablets before you visit to protect your from malaria. Your accommodation will have mosquito nets fixed to your beds, and mosquito repellents are sprayed in each room too, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

 

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