Archive

February 2019

Browsing

Planning a Budget-Friendly Road Trip for a Large Family

Contributed by: Ben Lovell

 ‘No man needs a vacation more than the man who has just had one.’ – Elbert Hubbard

 

Budget-Friendly Family Road Trip

Budget-Friendly Family Road Trip

 

 

Travel is expensive even for the solo tourist.  If you’re marshalling a group of six, eight or ten, the price tags climb faster than you’d think.  Regardless of the membership tally, the typical large family still has only one or two breadwinners.  This means that finding economies of scale is critical to maximizing enjoyment while minimizing cost.  In other words, the trip for your family of eight can’t cost four times as much as the same trip with your partner.  Sure, fitting more people in a single vehicle or hotel room will help to some extent, but other costs like food, transport tickets and admission fees don’t necessarily scale down with larger numbers. Let’s take a few minutes to sift through some tips for keeping a road trip for a large family more budget-friendly.

Tip #1: Think Through the Financing

Even if you see yourself as head banshee to a band of free-spirits, the world costs money.  Before you can spend any time on the subsequent steps, sit down with any other adult (or adult-adjacent) members of your brood and crunch the numbers.

Write an Itemized Budget

Obvious?  Maybe, but you’d be surprised how many families neglect this.  Don’t just set a limit for spending.  While this is a good starting point, it doesn’t do much to help you plan. Itemize your budget as much as possible, with categories like lodging, gas, food and anything that requires admission.  If you can pre-book any aspects of your travel, you can put hard numbers in for these expenses and ballpark the rest.  Most families will see that their budget isn’t going to get them as far as they thought, especially with a lot of travelers.  Making alterations to your plans in advance is less painful than cutting your trip short due to lack of funds.

Cash vs. Credit Cards

I always recommend carrying a stash of cash, split between multiple mature members of the clan.  I’ve known companions whose financial institutions canceled their cards while they were traveling (for irregular spending), putting them in a serious financial bind. On this note, you can reach out to your bank and credit card providers, alerting them to your travel plans.

In general, debit and credit cards are safer and more versatile for traveling.  While almost all credit cards protect against loss and theft, some of the best travel credit cards also entice members with travel perks like lodging benefits and airline miles.  You can either rack these up during your trip or spend the ones you’ve previously accrued.  If someone in the family travels for work, you may have these benefits available to use on your trip.

#2 Pre-Book Your Lodging

In the pre-internet era of my childhood, my parents had a rather reckless strategy for booking hotels: drive as long as they could and then scour the strip for Vacancy signs.  While I admire their pluck, this made for some pretty long days and less-than-ideal rates.  In the modern tech-drenched age, we have myriad resources for planning lodging.  Let’s check into a couple.

Travel Booking Sites

Sites like Hotels.com, Kayak and Trivago compare tons of different types of lodging and even compile results from multiple other sites to help you find the cheapest rates.  These sites also have a plethora of filters to help you sort by factors such as price, amenities, location and rating.  Once you actually locate the lodging, I advise checking with the hotel directly to see if they have the lowest rate.  Unless they’ve already allocated all their rooms to these third-party sites, you may avoid some fees with this strategy.

Free Cancellation & Flexible Dates

Flexibility is a major factor when traveling, especially with a large group.  Booking the cheapest rate is pointless if you can’t make the stay, have to re-book and don’t get a refund on your original room.  Carefully check each hotel’s cancellation policy, which is often specific to the room, the price or the third-party site you’re on.  For example, the same hotel may have free cancellation if you pay a bit more for the initial booking.  If you’re booking far in advance or expecting diversions, it may be worth it to pay this additional charge.

Hotels Along Your Route

Google maps and other sites can help you locate hotels and other types of lodging along your specific route and at the most advantageous intervals.  This may be a big benefit if a portion of your travel involves consecutive days of high-mileage travel.

Camping

Hey, if you’re up for it and you have the gear, go for it.  You can’t beat the price.

Tip #3 Vet Your Vehicle

When it comes to a rolodex of road trip questions, the vehicle you drive is central to the answer.  From safety to comfort to cash-friendly tactics, your family chariot is the key factor that divides well-thought-out success from reckless failure.  As usual, planning is the key.

Choose the Right Vehicle

For some families, there will only be one (or an obvious) choice of vehicle to take on the road trip.  For others, there are viable options. As you’re deciding, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Current Mileage on the Car
  • Known Mechanical Issues
  • Gas Mileage
  • Room for Passengers & Gear (Consider Roof-Top Cargo Carriers)
  • Safety Factors (e.g. Airbags)
  • Comfort Factors (e.g. AC)
  • Entertainment Factors (e.g. Bluetooth)

Don’t automatically rule out the possibility of renting a car for your trip.  Although finances may make this a non-starter, there are definite advantages including dependability, insurance and support from the rental agency.  This is also a good option if you’re flying at any point along your adventure.

Get Your Ride Ready for the Trip

For many reasons, a road-trip is a seriously awful place to have car trouble.  Already, most people don’t do as much preventative maintenance on their vehicles as they should.  If you’re coming up on the time for an oil change, tire rotation, fuel system cleaning or other routine bits of maintenance, take care of them before you leave.

It’s also worth having your car checked out by a mechanic.  If you don’t have one you trust, chains like Valvoline make this part of their regular service charge. Even if you don’t choose to pay for recommended parts and services, you will gain additional information about your vehicle.

Finally, stock up on supplies like wiper fluid, jumper cables, flares, extra oil and wiper blades.  Hopefully you won’t need these during your trip, but you will eventually.

Tip #4 Stock the Pantry

Let’s start this section with some theoretical math:

6 family members x 14-day trip x 3 meals x $8 meal = $2,016

Whoa. Something necessary (eating) and seemingly reasonable ($8/meal) has turned quickly into a budget resembling your family’s annual health insurance premiums.  Obviously, this expense can’t be avoided, but it can be substantially curtailed.

The broad answer is to pack as much  as you can into the car and avoid restaurants.  Let’s look at some specific strategies:

  • Easy-to-Access, Easy-to-Eat Snacks. Providing access to family-friendly snacks throughout the trip has several advantages, including reducing stress.
  • Meals Included in Other Costs. The best example of this is included continental breakfasts at hotels.  Eat up (and stock up).
  • Buy in Bulk and Split it up. Avoid ready-to-eat foods, individual packaging and foods that will go bad quickly once you prepare them.
  • Extended Stay Hotels. Extended Stay Hotels often have mini-kitchens in them, including fridges and full stoves.  This can be a great way to prepare your own food without having to eat it in your car.

Tip #5 Skip the Gift Shop

Another bit of exploratory arithmetic:

6 family members x 14-day trip x $5 souvenir each day = $420

Now, consider this: Figuring $3/gallon at the pumps and averaging 20 miles per gallon, you can drive 2,800 miles on $420, the distance from Los Angeles to New York City.

I know that everyone likes to bring things home from travels, but there is something to be said for allocating this money elsewhere, to have more and better experiences.  Also consider that many pieces of your trip (e.g. digital photos, ticket stubs, postcards) are either free, very inexpensive or included in another cost.

The Bottom Line

Preparation = Thrift.  If you’re enjoying this article, you probably love to be spontaneous, free-spirited, even nomadic.  I salute that.  However, from a pocketbook perspective, planning is the mother of all frugality.  Do your homework.  Ask around.  Chart your course and brainstorm contingencies. Once you’re out there on the road, there will be plenty of opportunities for impromptu itineraries and ad-lib adventures.  Thanks for reading.  See you out there.

A firm believer that freedom of information improves business, travel and life, freelance writer Ben Lovell is committed to sharing best practices.  Read more of his articles at the Gothic Optimist.

 

Travelling with family is one of the best ways to strengthen your bond as a family and have loads of fun with the people you hold closest to your heart. However, if you don’t plan well, what could have been a wonderful time can quickly turn into a nightmare.

 

Travelling with family

Travelling with family

 

 

The following are 8 family holiday travel hacks that will ensure you get the best out of your trip with family:

  • Make sure everyone’s travel documents are ready long before the trip 

There’s nothing worse than realising that one of your kids does not have an important travel document two days to the departure date. Everyone should have all their travel documents like passports and travel insurance documents ready. As an extra measure, you can scan them and email yourself a soft copy in case you ever need to use them.

  • Involve the kids in the plan 

Since you will be bringing the kids along, why not involve them when deciding where you are going and other key details? Involving the kids gets them excited and reduces the chances of them being grumpy during the trip.

  • Get your travel vaccinations 

Before you head off, make sure everyone has had all the required vaccinations, especially if you are travelling to exotic climates. If you are going to a place where malaria is a threat, have all the necessary anti-malaria products like mosquito repellents, nets, and long clothes.

  • Pack wisely 

You need to be very careful when packing for a family vacation. You don’t want to pack too much stuff that it causes you problems as you move around, and you don’t want to pack too little that you lack some essentials on the trip. Make a list of all the things you know you will need and pack them up in an orderly manner. You can use vacuum bags to save on space.

  • Send your luggage ahead

This is a relatively new travel hack that an increasing number of travellers are opting for. Lugging your bags through the airport and waiting for them at the carousel at the other side adds a lot of strain and time to your travels. When you factor in the increasing price of adding luggage to your flight and the excess fees for over-sized bags then you can see why so many people are choosing luggage delivery companies to send their luggage ahead so that it’s waiting for them at their hotel when they arrive.

  • Use ziplock bags 

Ziplock bags come in various sizes and are great for creating order and keeping items like travel documents dry. Since they are transparent, it’s easy to see the contents without opening the bag.

  • Prepare your travel entertainment 

Kids can get bored and restless especially when going on a long road trip or a long flight. When kids get bored, they become naughty and do annoying things that will make you wish you left them at home. To avoid this, carry along some toys, audio books, DVDs, games, or any other source of entertainment that you can.

  • Make a schedule 

It’s okay to be spontaneous, but it is much better if you have a rough plan of what you will be doing on each day of the trip and if possible, what it will cost. Do some research on your destination and find out what interesting activities are available during the time you’ll be visiting.

  • Document your travel experiences

Travelling with family is one of those special moments that live in our minds for many years as happy memories. Bring along cameras to take pictures and record videos of these special moments and make sure you have enough storage space. Don’t forget to share a few on social media to show off to friends and family back home.

Vietnam is known as one of the famous destinations in Asia which is attracting a lot of foreign tourists every year. Beaches and Luxury resorts in Vietnam are one of the main reasons why many people come here.

It is undeniable that there are many beautiful beaches across the S-shaped country. With 8 the great best beaches in Vietnam which I will mention here are on top the most charming ones in the nation

1. Star Beach, Phu Quoc

Best beaches in Vietnam

Bai Sao, otherwise known as Star Beach, would be up there with some of the best beaches in Vietnam, and most definitely one of the best Phu Quoc beaches.

A quieter and largely undeveloped beachfront located to the east of Phu Quoc, Star Beach still dazzles with its beautiful shores and pristine waters. Much quieter than the West of Phu Quoc, you’ll be able to get away from the hustle and bustle and enjoy the famous Vietnamese beach at your own pace. Spend your days snorkeling or diving in the pale blue waters and relax afterwards with an obligatory cocktail at one of the few more chilled beach restaurants dotted along the water’s edge.

Just don’t go during Vietnamese New Year like I did – the place was PACKED, and kinda dirty, but I’m assured that’s only because there were so many people there at that time of year.

2. Ganh Dau, Phu Quoc

Best beaches in Vietnam

A heavenly scene, Ganh Dau Beach is another Phu Quoc beach gem. With white as white sands and towering lofty palms fringing the shoreline, this idyllic Phu Quoc beach can be easily accessed via a newly paved path from the nearby traditional Vietnamese fishing village. Both sheltered and shaded with calm shallow waters, you’ll enjoy Peppercorn Beach Resort that boasts discreet and minimalistic yet elegant bungalows if you’re looking for something a little more laidback. The restaurant is first-class and is an excellent lunch stop if you’re just visiting for the day.

 

3. Doc Let Beach, Nha Trang

Best beaches in Vietnam

With 11 miles of pure white sandy shores, Doc Let Beach has long been ranked one of the best beaches in Vietnam.

Known for its shallow turquoise blue crystal waters, this impressive bay can be divided into distinct areas. To the north, you’ll find a cluster of guesthouses and beachfront hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants where all the tourist action can be found. To the south, you’ll find a quaint wooded outcrop that is a peaceful sanctuary, making it the ideal place to escape.

4. Ong Lang Beach, Phu Quoc

Best beaches in Vietnam

Made up of calm bays and stretches of golden sand peppered with black rock and swaying palms, Ong Lang Beach is in the north of Phu Quoc’s principal town, Duong Dong. Dotted with an array of mid to exclusive beach resorts, this is the perfect place to enjoy a few cocktails in the sun.

5. City Beach, Nha Trang

Best beaches in Vietnam

City Beach is one of Vietnam’s number one beaches, although when I went in February 2017 I was shocked at how much development there’d been since August 2012. So you probably need to get there ASAP to see anything like the sight above.

 

Over 14 miles of sand stretch along Nha Trang’s coastline. It’s home to impressive rolling waves and a host of cool cafes, restaurants and bars. The long beach promenade has something going on day and night with hoverboards, cyclists, skaters and people just hanging out and enjoying the sea air.

6. Mui Ne, Phan Thiet

Best beaches in Vietnam

Located on a beautiful stretch of sand with swaying palms and lofty dunes, Mui Ne in Phan Thiet is both charming and exciting. The beach’s great surf is perfect for a host of daring water sports, which includes kitesurfing, sailing and surfing. Not too far from Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne Beach is the perfect weekend getaway destination with loads of hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and boutiques.

 

7. Hon Chong, Nha Trang

Best beaches in Vietnam

Travel a little further north in Nha Trang from City Beach and you’ll find its more secluded sister – Hon Chong Beach.

 

Despite its isolation, Hon Chong Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations in Vietnam.

The mountainous rugged coastline makes for a stunning view, and the unrefined surrounding villages add to the charm. Hon Chong Beach is an ideal Vietnam beach destination if you’re looking for a place to explore the country’s natural beauty in a predominantly undeveloped area. There are still loads of watersports to try though!

8. Ho Coc Beach, Ho Coc

Best beaches in Vietnam

Golden sands, the rolling inland sand dunes, together with the clear blue waters make Ho Coc beach one of the best beaches in Vietnam to stop off at. Weekends are busy and full of life, but come the week, you’ll soon discover you’ll own the beach. Stretching 3 miles, this chilled out Vietnam beach has impressive dunes, boulders, clear blue waters and tranquility.

Often, people see having children and travelling the world as two separate paths, choosing one or the other. However, as many parents have proven, travelling with children can be a match made in heaven.

Not only are you scratching an itch by exploring new cultures and countries, travelling enriches your children’s lives and helps them learn more about the world — even if it’s just a short trip.

 

Heathrow Airport

Heathrow Airport

 

That said, the logistics of travelling with children can be tricky, especially when you consider long-haul flights and busy airports.

Heathrow Airport is the second busiest airport in the world and the busiest in the UK. Because of its many, varied routes, it’s a popular choice for those flying to far-flung destinations. If you have booked up for your next escape, read our tips for navigating London-Heathrow with the little ones in tow:

Getting to the airport

Before you step foot in Heathrow airport, you’ll need to get there first. As you’d expect, getting to one of the world’s busiest airports can get congested, meaning delays are likely. It may sound obvious but leave enough time for your journey, taking into account any toilet breaks your children may need.

Consider the time you’re travelling, too. If you need to be at the airport around rush hour, keep in mind that traffic may be heavier and public transport could be more crowded — which is not ideal when you’ve got a pushchair and suitcases in tow. When travelling a long distance to Heathrow, it’s a wise choice to travel to the airport the day before and stay at a nearby airport hotel.

A late flight home can also be problematic when you’re travelling with tired children. You’ll want to get home as quickly as possible, so consider taking advantage of Heathrow Airport parking available from companies like NCP. You can ensure your car is parked safely for the duration of the holiday and because it’s closely located to the airport, you could be back at your car within 5-10 minutes of leaving the airport via a bus transfer.

If you are planning on taking advantage of airport parking, we recommend booking in advance to save on on-the-day fees and guarantee your space.

Facilities For Families Inside Heathrow Airport

As an airport, Heathrow offers a number of facilities for families, with everything from family-friendly eateries to play areas for the little ones. Here is an overview of some of the ways you can keep little ones entertained in Heathrow airport:

Restaurants

If you’re hoping to grab a bite to eat when you’re in the airport, there are a number of restaurants serving family-friendly meals. You’ll find old favourites like Giraffe and Carluccio’s, as well as quick and easy food and drink outlets like Caffe Nero and Pret a Manger.

The airport also operates a Kids Eat Free offer in selected restaurants during the school holidays, when an adult dines too. Choose to dine at the Perfectionists’ Café or Gordon Ramsay Plane Food and you can take advantage of this offer all year round. A full list of qualifying restaurants and dates can be found on Heathrow Airport’s website.

Play Areas

Let your little ones stretch their legs in Heathrow Airport’s Stay and Play play areas found in Terminal 2, Terminal 3, Terminal 4, and Terminal 5. They’re open from 6am to 9pm every day and feature slides and soft play toys in dedicated areas for babies and juniors. When waiting to board, these play areas can be the perfect distraction for little ones who are growing tired of waiting.

Bookable children’s lounges

Luxury airport lounges aren’t just for adults. Many of the airport lounges at Heathrow Airport are child-friendly. A standout lounge is the No. 1 Lounge at Terminal 3. This plush lounge features luxurious décor and a fully tended bar so adults can relax in style, while the little ones can help themselves to sweet treats and cakes before watching a film in the in-lounge cinema.

Adult entry to the lounge costs £34, while entry for children between 2 and 11 years old costs £18. Children under two can enter the lounge for free.

The essentials

Heathrow Airport also has you covered when it comes to feeding your baby. Liquid restrictions on flights may seem daunting at first, but Heathrow Airport allows you to take enough baby food, sterilised water, prepared baby milk or up to 2 litres of expressed breast milk for your journey. For many parents, this gives them the peace of mind that they have all of the essentials they need for the journey ahead.

If you’re in a hurry to get to the airport, you can save some time with Heathrow’s Reserve & Collect baby milk service. Pre-book the baby milk, food and other items you’ll need for your flight and you can pick it up after you’ve passed through security.

Throughout the terminals, there are regular changing and baby feeding spaces for parents to use. If you’re breastfeeding your child, it’s good to know that you’ll have some privacy as you feed.

When you have the kids and luggage in tow, navigating a busy airport can be tricky. To help, Heathrow Porters can be booked online, by email or by phone up to 48 hours before arrival. The helpful porters will help transport your luggage to the check-in desk or from the baggage carousel, so you can focus on your children and get any necessary documentation ready for check-in.

If you’re travelling to Heathrow Airport from a country outside of the UK, it’s worth considering the airport’s Meet & Assist service. As part of this service, multi-lingual agents are on-hand to help guide you through the airport, helping you through check-in, security and baggage collection. This service must be booked up to 48 hours in advance and prices start at £125.

Of course, as well as the above, you can make your experience at Heathrow Airport — and the flight itself — much more enjoyable by packing plenty to keep your children busy. From books and teddy bears to card games and computer tablets, pack a selection of items to keep your child occupied during the journey ahead.

Moving homes with kids can be a real nightmare for many people. What seems simple can get complicated during the process of moving.

 

Moving Homes With Kids

Moving Homes With Kids

 

 

What many people do is get professional help from a moving company that specializes in helping families move such as the moving company in Edmonton, Helping Hands Family Movers.

But still, it’s definitely worth taking the time to get yourself prepared and organized ahead of time to minimize any problems and challenges that might come up along the way.

In this article we are listing the main things you need to keep in mind when moving to a new home with your kids.

Kids Either Love or Hate Moving

Your kids will either be super happy about moving to a new place especially if the new home is going to be larger, they will have a nicer room, maybe a swimming pool. You get the idea.

Or, they will hate the fact that they’re leaving their old home and along with this a lot of memories, friends, emotions attached to that place.

You need to understand this fact and notice early how it’s going to be. Either way, it’s your job as a parent to make this transition to a new place as smooth as possible.

One of the best methods to understand how your kids feel about moving is to simply ask them. Parents can easily get caught up in what needs to be done and forget about their children’s feelings.

What’s important to realize is that there is no easy way to explain why the family needs to move to a new place, especially if the kids are young and can’t understand why dad has a new job, why it’s time to move to a bigger house, or why it’s safer for everyone to be in a different city.

One last thing to keep in mind is that no matter how much your kids will hate to move to a different home, they will pretty much forget this in the first few days and get used to the different environment.

They will probably make new friends really fast. Much faster than you imagine, actually. So, don’t worry if you can’t convince your kids to look at all this process in a good way.

Emotional Connections

Being attached emotionally to things and places is normal for people. We get used to a way of living and when change has to happen, we don’t feel good.

Kids however experience it in a completely different way. They can get attached emotionally on a much higher level than adults.

This can be one of the reasons why they might be negative about moving to a different home.

Their room is their everything. Whether they’re teenagers or 5 year olds, they will not accept the fact easily that they will have to change to a different environment.

If they have a particular toy, you can get it with you, but if your children want to take all the stuff in their room with them (and that’s something you weren’t planning to do), try to look at ways you can get them to leave them behind.

Maybe give some of the stuff away and explain to your kids that giving to other people is good. It’s an important lesson that they can learn, and there’s no better time to do this than now.

Making Everything Fun

The best way to make your moving process interesting for your kids is to make it fun. Doing this will help keep your kids less bored and more engaged in the moving process.

One mistake most people make is they forget about their kids while moving boxes and what’s on the to-do list, and give the kids the image that moving is bad and a negative thing.

Try to make everything positive and fun.

Play some music, come up with games to play. Kids love games.

Help them build a castle with boxes. Take pictures together. Make it a positive experience to remember for years to come.

Then after a few years you can look at those pictures together and laugh.

Staying Safe

Let’s not forget that accidents can happen very easily when moving things around, so it’s important that your kids are safe and not touching things that can break easily or hurt them.

Either stay with kids and have some professionals take care of moving furniture or have a nanny stay with the kids and keep their eye on them.

If you follow all of these tips you shouldn’t be having any problems and move to your new home smoothly.

I would recommend you don’t get stressed and try to make everything fun, your kids will love it and everything will go faster.