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November 2013

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Turkey is a fascinating country and travel destination no matter what you’re into. If you’re coming to Turkey with your family, there’re plenty of things to do here to keep everyone smiling. Head on over to the My Adventure Store website for some inspiration. Or just keep reading! Here are 5 things your family can do together in Turkey.

1. Take a balloon ride in Cappadocia.

Lying in the center of modern day Turkey, Cappadocia is an historical city with many unique geological features. Take your family on a hot air balloon ride here, and marvel at the spectacular scenery below as you rise higher and higher up into the dawn sky. If anyone in your family is a budding photographer then the photo opportunities from this height are unending. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience, and your kids will most likely talk about it for days.

Balloons in Cappadocia

2. Visit the Istanbul Aquarium.

One of the best aquariums in the world, the Istanbul Aquarium houses over 15,000 different creatures from all over the world. It’s air-conditioned, clean, and an excellent way for your family to get away from the crowds in the city. Spend the day looking at all kinds of fish and creatures of the sea. If you can, try and time your visit to watch feeding time for the sharks. When you get tired of walking, catch a movie at one of two 5D cinemas inside. With the added wind and fog effects produced in these movie houses, you’ll feel like you’re actually in the movie!

3. Go beach bumming in Cesme.

Nestled on the Aegean coast, 85 km west of Izmir, Cesme (pronounced chesh-meh) is a charismatic seaside town that offers long stretches of sandy beach and blue-turquoise water. The pace of life out here is quite slow, and it’s the perfect place for a beach holiday with the family. Apart from swimming and sunbathing, it’s also possible to kite and windsurf here. For a little history, walk along the old streets and check out the Cesme castle. Stop for some ice-cream along the way.

4. Have fun at Aqua Land and Dolphin Land.

If your kids are in the mood for some fun, then head over to the Mediterranean coastal city of Antalya. This city – popular with tourists – hosts two theme parks: Aqua Land and Dolphin Land. A huge amusement park with water slides, splash pools and different water activities, Aqua Land is a fun day out for the whole family – especially if it’s baking hot outside! Remember to bring your bathers. At Dolphin Land, your children can swim with dolphins, and learn all about these fascinating creatures. You can also watch a number of entertaining water shows involving acrobatic sea lions and dolphins when you need a short break.

5. Visit the world’s largest miniature park.

Miniaturk is an open-air miniature park in Istanbul and a guaranteed fun day out for the whole family. Considered the largest miniature park in the world, the park is spread out over 60,000 square meters, and houses over 105 buildings, all 1/25th their original size (in other words: kids-sized). If you get tired of looking at small buildings, there’s also a playground and life-sized chessboard, plus a nice café for mum and dad.

Miniaturk in Istanbul, Turkey - The Maquette park Miniatürk

Traveling with a family can be challenging at times. Keeping everybody happy is difficult, and finding things to do that everyone will enjoy can require a little bit of research. So take note of the 5 suggestions above and save yourself some time. And most importantly, have fun!

120/365: History

One of the most important pre-trip planning jobs is making sure you can access your money overseas. Without money that trip of a lifetime isn’t going to be much fun! On a short holiday you can carry the money that you’ll need with you but it’s not sensible to carry enough cash with you to cover a multi-month trip. You are going to need to access your money on the road.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to avoid finding yourself stranded with no cash in a foreign country.

Make sure your bank knows you are headed overseas.

Banks and credit card companies have security measures in place to alert them of potential fraudulent transactions. An unexpected overseas transaction will often result in your bank freezing your account. That’s definitely not ideal when you are overseas and suddenly have to work out how to get in contact with your bank, which might be shut because it’s the middle of the night back home.

This can easily be avoided by sharing your travel plans with your bank. Let them know what regions you expect to be in and for roughly how long. Even if you don’t know your exact itinerary you can give them a rough idea.

Work out what needs to be done in advance

Exchanging your money into another currency and arranging for international money transfers can take time. Technology means that larger, reliable companies like Travelex have these process down to a fine art but you don’t want to be caught out on the day you fly out with no access to cash.

Travelex JFK

Do you know what bills you have coming in while you are away? It’s a good idea to work this out and arrange for automatic payments while you are gone.  If you do plan to transfer money from your home account to an overseas account, check with your bank that your account allows you to do this. Often this is a service you have to apply for.

If you plan on opening an overseas bank account, make sure you have copies of all the documents you might need. Or leave them with someone you trust back home that can fax them to you if needed.

Confirm that your cards can be used overseas.

Most cards can be used worldwide but not all. Some savings cards won’t work so you may need to look at converting any savings cards to debit cards. Most visa and mastercards will work no matter where you are in the world but some need to have this facility activated. Others allow purchases but not cash advances. Check with your bank or credit card company that your cards will work prior to leaving. That’s one suprise you can do with out when you first get off the plane on your trip of a lifetime! And be sure to do it well in advance in case you need to arrange for a new card.

Find a card with low overseas withdrawal fees

Overseas withdrawal fees can quickly add up. Your bank will most likely charge a fee for accessing your money overseas, as will the local bank that you are using. Even if your bank allows you to withdraw $2000 each day you might find that local ATMs limit you to much less than this.  These fees can quickly add up to over $50/month.

You can take steps to reduce international withdrawal fees. Talk to your bank to find out if they offer any cards with lower fees on international withdrawals and start researching cards offered by other institutions. It is possible to find cards that charge no fees on international transactions. Travelex offers a multi-currency card that has no international transaction fees. Also check if your bank is partners with any international banks. Often international partners won’t charge a fee for using their ATMs.

Forward your mail to someone

It takes a very organised person to think through every possible bill or scenario that might occur while you are away. Forward your mail to a trusted relative or friend. That way if an unexpected bill comes in or you have bank notices that need urgent attending to they aren’t going to be sitting unopened for months.

Take backup cards

Cards can get lost, broken, stolen or even eaten by ATMs. Sometimes for no apparent reason the one ATM in the town you are staying in will stop recognizing your card, even though it had no problems the day before. Or maybe you’ve been spending over your budget lately and you discover at the worst possible time your card is maxed out.

Travelling with more than one card just makes sense. Your backup card should be from a different company and it should be a different type of card. If you already have a visa card apply for a mastercard. In Asia many places now prefer you to have a card with a ‘chip’ for EFTPOS transactions so try to make sure at least one of your cards has a ‘chip’.

Have some funds in reserve

It’s a good idea to have some emergency money hidden away somewhere. We’ve found this useful a number of times. Like during a 24 hour blackout where all the ATMs in town were out of action. Or when we’ve arrived in a town to discover the only ATM is out of order. And of course it’s particularly useful if your wallet is stolen. Make sure it’s in an easily exchangeable currency like US dollars.

Blue screen of bankruptcy.jpg

Taking your family on a European ski holiday doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. There are plenty of family friendly resorts outside of the Alps with fantastic snow and facilites that cost a fraction of the more famous resorts in Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland.

Facilities might not be on par with resorts in the Alps or North American but considering lift passes, accommodation, food, lessons and gear rental cost a fraction of the price you won’t mind. Speaking of gear, be sure to sort out your clothing before you go. Outfitting a family with all their ski clothing and winter layers in a city you don’t know your way around is a lot of hard work. The one thing you’ll definitely want to have right is ski gloves. You can layer less than ideal ski jackets and pants, provided they are waterproof, but it’s harder to fix ill-fitting, cold gloves.

Borovets and Bansko, Bulgaria

Bulgaria has grown into one of the top budget skiing destinations in Europe, particularly since budget airlines like WizzAir have started flying there directly from the UK.

Two of the most popular resorts are Bansko and Borovets. Borovets is on the northern slopes of the Rila Mountain and at the base of Mount Musala, about two hours from the capital of Sofia. Bansko, also two hours from Sofia, is a newer resort and is quickly making a name for itself as a fantastic budget resort with better infrastructure than most resorts in the Balkans.

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Six-day lift passes at Borovets are 290 BGN (145€). A ski package, which includes equipment hire, ski lessons, lift pass and 4 hours of ski lessons a day for six days, is 500 BGN (250€) for adults and 300 BGN (150€) for children under 12. Ski passes in Bansko are more expensive at 180€ for a 6 day lift pass but then the facilities and lift infrastructure are better. Rental hire, lessons and other costs are on par, it’s just your lift passes that are more expensive.

There are a variety of accommodations to choose from in both Bansko and Bovorets, such as hotels, self-contained apartments or guest houses. At the Hotel Rila, the average price is 94€ (£74) per night and includes breakfast. Many places offer even lower nightly rates. Self-contained 1-2 bedroom apartments through websites like AirBNB, Enrout and VBRO start at 35€ per night, while you should expect to pay 70€ a night for a 3-4 bedroom apartment.

Dining options are plentiful, with restaurants offering everything from local cuisine to pub fare to Mexican specialties. Don’t worry about the kids – there are some great kid friendly Bulgarian dishes and most offer child friendly options such as pasta, pizza and burgers.

There are plenty of stores selling clothing on the mountain but you’ll get better value for money buying it before you arrive. Make sure you have good quality, waterproof ski gloves and warm layers as it can get really cold at these resorts.

Soldeu, Andorra

Nestled in the Pyrenees mountain range between Spain and France, Andorra is another European ski destination that has grown in popularity over the years. Despite its lower cost in comparison to Western European ski areas, Andorra still offers visitors ideal ski conditions, new hotels and lifts.

Lift passes are 240€  for six days for adults, 216€ for junior pass for ages 12-17, and 162€ for children. Equipment rentals range from 65€ (£51) to 192€ (£151).

Lodging can be found for as low as 50€ (£40) a night. Several restaurants are in the area, offering visitors a variety of meal options.

"Marcha atras"

Bohinj, Slovenia

Slovenia is located in the Julian Alps, where skiers can take in stunning views, relax in one of several cafes and ski some of the best slopes in the area. There are slopes of different degrees of difficulty. Compared to larger resort towns in Austria and France, Bohinj sets a more relaxing environment to enjoy a family ski holiday. You can dine on traditional local fare or a variety of other culinary favorites in the area.

Ski packages, including accommodations and flights can be found for as little as £650 per person.

Semenic, Romania

Semenic is in the Banatului Mountains and is known for its clear skies and great snow. There are three different ski slopes, each one for a different level of experience. Rooms can be found for as little as 40€ (£32). Ski passes are 40 Lei (£7) per day. Many of the hotels also have their own restaurants on-house with various dining options.

Zakopane

Zakopane, Poland

South of Krakow, Zakopane is the most popular resort in Poland. The region gets fantastic snow, although perhaps one of it’s best features is the gorgeous towns and a huge range of alternative snow related activities.

Thanks to a recent upgrade of the infrastructure the facilities are great, although not quite on par with resorts in Austria and Switzerland. Zakopane is actually a collection of privately owned small resorts. Each have their own lift passes and while individually they are small, if you spend a day visiting each of the different resorts there’s plenty of terrain to keep you entertained. Lift passes range from £10-25 per person per day, depending on the resort and £30 will easily buy dinner for the whole family, including more than a few drinks.