I know I said I was going to share some posts on marriage this month and I plan on doing that soon but I thought I would start with an easy, fun post.
Road trips are one of my favorite ways to travel (coming in second only to European train travel) and even though we have kids I have found road trips to be one of the best times for Jared and I to have some great conversations – some of our big life decisions have been discussed and decided on road trips!
I hope to eventually share some road trip conversation starters that involve the whole family soon but I thought it would be fun to start with the couple specific ones.
We’ve been road tripping with our kids since our oldest was young and they do great with entertaining themselves in the vehicle (plus we always pack tons of different options along) so we actually get a lot of couple talking time in.
Unlike women guys generally like to be side-by-side when having deep conversations (women tend to prefer face-to-face conversations) so chatting while driving will often allow them to open up more than normal. I’ve made a point of including both some deep and some light questions in this list so you can mix it up a bit.
ROAD TRIP CONVERSATION STARTERS FOR COUPLES
1. What have you enjoyed learning about lately?
2. What is something that surprised you in the last few months?
3. If you could earn enough money doing what you love, what would you do?
4. How can I specifically help you during this next season?
5. What has been your favorite road trip?
6. What would be your ideal road trip?
7. What is your favorite memory of our dating years?
8. What talent do you really wish you had?
9. If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would you choose?
10. If you could choose just one super power, what would you choose?
11. If you won the lottery and all the bills and debts were paid, what would you do with the rest of the money?
12. Would you rather have a rewind or pause button on your life?
13. What compliment would you like to hear from me more often?
14. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
15. What profession have you always admired?
16. If you could live anywhere in the world for a year where would you choose?
17. What tradition do you think we should begin as a family?
18. What book has had the biggest impact on your life?
19. What is your favorite book of the Bible?
20. What activities would you like to do together more?
21. What is one thing you look forward to the most about growing old together?
22. What meal would you like to eat more often?
23. What are some positive character traits you would like to develop or grow in?
24. Are there areas in our life we are spending too much money that we could cut back on?
25. How would you spend your time if the electricity went out for 24 hours?
26. If we continue on the same path what do you think our life would look like in 10 years? Are there things we should change?
27. What is something you have done that you are proud of?
28. What do you think is our greatest strength as a couple?
29. What can we do to celebrate important dates in the future (birthdays, anniversaries, etc)?
30. Which one of your parents are you most like?
31. How can we serve our community?
32. What is your favorite way for me to show you I love you?
33. What do you think we need to work on the most in our relationship?
34. What has been the happiest day of your life?
35. What do you want to do when you retire?
36. What has been your favorite age?
37. What would be your idea of the perfect 25th anniversary trip?
38. If you could go back in time to before you were born, what period of history would you choose?
39. What is your favorite part about travel?
40. Where should we go on our next road trip?
Do you like road tripping? What questions would you add to this list?
We have incorporated our children into our travels from the very beginning. When Raeca was not quite a year we started planning our trip to Uganda and never even though of not bringing her, it was just a given. And because we adopted Ephraim from South Africa he was on a plane not long after becoming our son.
While they have a long way to go before being world travelers they (especially Raeca) have traveled a decent amount, more than a lot of adults I know.
Watching the monkey grab food out of the bird feeder in South Africa.
THE BENEFITS OF FAMILY TRAVEL
There is something really special about traveling with your kids. Last month was actually our first getaway without the kids and while we had a good time it was definitely different traveling without them and we hope to go to Phoenix again in the near-ish future with them.
Traveling with kids can open up special opportunities (like the short line in airport security) and often makes locals more friendly – both great bonuses!
There is also something extraordinary about being able to see a city through the eyes of a child, they will often see things I would have otherwise missed.
Holding hands on a crazy public bus ride in Mexico.
I’ve learned something about myself over the last few years: I love visiting new places but I don’t actually enjoy the act of traveling to those places. Maybe I’m getting old but I’d rather sleep in my own bed than across four seats in an airport or in a plane with my mouth open and my head bobbing around.
This realization that I don’t enjoy the actual travel so much has made me realize that in the future I want us to be more intentional with slow travel. Fortunately/unfortunately, slow travel involves staying in one place for longer which can end up eating more budget than doing things quickly.
While our kids are good travelers, slow travel just makes even more sense when kids are involved. Oh, and if you factor in our food sensitivities, that’s another point in the slow travel column.
I am not the most well traveled person, and my bucket list is longer than the list of places I’ve been but I’ve learned a few things over the years, especially on the budget side of things so I thought I would share some of the things that have been working for us.
Because, the more money you can save 1) the longer you can go or 2) the more places you can go to!
One of my big dreams has always been to travel Europe, and while I would like to go to every country, that’s not possible right now, especially if we want to travel slowly, so, last year Jared and I both picked a country we wanted to visit and started the savings. These following tips are ones we are applying to this trip, it’s a combination of all we’ve learned over the years.
Meeting one of the boys we sponsored in Uganda.
1. START A DESIGNATED TRAVEL SAVINGS
We don’t actually create a separate account but we use a zero based budget (we have used YNAB for years and years), so we’ve set a “Europe” savings and have been funneling money into there as much as possible for the last nine-ish months and will continue to do so until we go.
Our zero based budget helps keep us (imagine this:) on budget. It also helps our savings to grow quite quickly because we know what our priorities are.
2. SPEND LESS
If you want to have the money to travel one way is to spend less money! Find something that you buy each month and stop buying that for awhile and put that money into your savings instead. See if you can find a few different things like this that can add up to $50-$100+ a month and you will be well on your way. (This is where that budget and designated savings come in play.)
3. EARN EXTRA
I have friends who have taken on a second job to save for a trip, I’m thankful that I can use a fair amount of the money I make from blogging to help us with our travel savings. Earning extra money can help give your savings a significant boost.
(Curious about how to earn money from blogging? I just started a series on this topic and plan on continuing it over the next few weeks, so stay tuned! You can always sign up to the newsletter to be notified of the series as well.)
Another way to earn a little extra is through a site like Swagbucks, it is mostly an online rewards program but there are other ways to earn through there as well. You won’t get rich through Swagbucks but it will save you a little money (you can even earn money back from the trips that you book!).
Yet another way to make a bit of extra income is to sell stuff that you own that you aren’t using, there could be enough stuff in your house for a few nights extra at your destination.
Watching a man shuck oysters on the beach in Mexico.
4. BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR DATES OR LOCATION
If you want to save money on your flights, accommodation, etc, it’s best if you are flexible either with your dates or the location you are going to. I like to use Google Flights and am constantly looking for good deals (for us and others), I like to either choose dates and see what is cheap during that time or choose a location and see which dates are cheapest for travel.
5. CARRY-ONS ONLY
Airlines are charging for every little thing these days and your bags are just one of the things. If you travel with just carry-ons you will save yourself money and it honestly makes traveling way easier – no more waiting in line at the baggage carousel! We’ve been burned in the past by luggage the airline lost and never found, ever since then we’ve flown with carry-ons only.
Chatting with the boys in Uganda.
6. PACK SOME SNACKS
You may think we are part hobbits when you see how much we like our snacks (second breakfast and elevenses are a must). Airplane and airport food is notoriously greasy and/or expensive. We always try to pack some of our own snacks (nuts, crackers, granola bars, etc). They keep you from getting too hangry while waiting around in the airport.
I definitely did not pack enough snacks on our last trip and paid $20 for a tiny pack of pistachios in the airport, they know they can get you when you are weak (literally).
7. COOK YOUR OWN MEALS
This isn’t something we used to do but ever since food sensitivities became an issue, cooking our own meals almost became a necessity. We quickly realized how much better we felt cooking our meals and how much healthier we ate. While it doesn’t feel like a “vacation” when we are cooking it is still an experience. Plus, if you go to the local grocery store or market you can check out the different food options they have. As Canadians it can still be weird to go into an American grocery store, you think all the food would be the same but just walk down the chip aisle and you will see how different things are, never mind going into a store or market when on a different continent.
Our Stay Alfred in Phoenix (to the left was a full kitchen).
8. DON’T STAY IN A HOTEL
Not staying in a hotel goes hand-in-hand with cooking your own meals. Have you tried to cook a meal in a hotel before? Let’s just say, I wouldn’t recommend it. We’ve enjoyed Airbnb (if you use that link to book you’ll get a credit towards a stay!) and Stay Alfred and in the future I would love to try some house sitting.
9. LIVE LIKE A LOCAL
Instead of doing all the touristy things in a location, live like a local! Touristy things like zip lines and tours eat up a budget really quickly but wandering around old neighborhoods and browsing used bookstores can actually teach you a lot more about a city and save you money (unless you have a used book buying addiction like I do, in that case you will need to remember #5: carry-on’s only, so you don’t break your back).
Exploring a residential neighborhood in California.
All this writing about travel has made me excited about our upcoming Europe trip (date still TBD), I better get busy finishing up the savings so it can happen!
If you have a minute I would love for you to leave a comment below and let me know your favorite place you’ve ever traveled to and/or what is on the top of your to-travel bucket list.
Two years ago Jared and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. We had planned on going on a trip for our anniversary but Raeca was going through a fair bit of separation anxiety at that time so it never happened. So, with last week being our 12th anniversary we finally got a chance to get away.
This was actually our first time having time away with the two of us since Raeca was born (eight years ago), it was about time that it happened.
When trying to figure out where to go we knew our options were to either drive to somewhere in Saskatchewan where it would still be cold, not very interesting and who knew what the roads would be like, OR we could fly somewhere. The cheapest places to fly to from Saskatchewan are actually Vegas and Phoenix and since neither of us are interested in Vegas and Phoenix has been on my bucket list for years it was a very easy decision.
My only problem with our time in Phoenix is that it left me with a longer to-see list than I came with. I really enjoyed our time, the weather was a perfect 20 degrees (Celcius, 68-ish Farenhiet), had we been just wanting to sit around that may have been a little chilly but we walked 10+ kilometers most days so it was the perfect temperature.
Because we were only there for a few days we just stuck around Phoenix but we definitely want to go back and check out Sedona and the Grand Canyon with the kids.
I had seen tons of pictures of Arizona and all the cacti over the years but there is just something amazing about seeing them in person. Plus, I was incredibly surprised to find that Phoenix has so many palm trees, it looked a lot more like Los Angeles than I was expecting because of that.
Phoenix has been on my bucket list for the past 12-ish years, I have always felt it was a place I could move to and this trip definitely helped cement that feeling. Sure, the intense heat in the summer may be a bit much but I still think I would prefer that to the intense cold we experience in the winters.
This last year I have done a lot better with budgeting for trips. Prior to saving for them ahead of time we still used to go on trips but then afterwards we would come back and look at how much money we spent and it would stress Jared out, so, actually taking the time to save and budget ahead of time has been very helpful. I have also been saving for a Europe trip for the last year, if my savings continues on track we will hopefully go next fall.
I am planning a post for next month with tips for budgeting for travel, stay tuned for that!
Okay, so I just wanted to share a little recap of our trip and some recommendations on where to stay and what to do when you go!
WHERE TO STAY
One of my favorite things about Phoenix was actually our “hotel”. We stayed in a Stay Alfred which is actually run like a hotel but they are apartment suits. The place was beautiful, centrally located downtown and it was so great to have a full kitchen and living room, especially with our food sensitivities. For two of our suppers we picked up gluten free pizzas from Target and just baked them in the oven back at our place.
The Stay Alfred was also good for downtime. I feel like I can never rest when I’m at a hotel because whenever you are there and awake you need to awkwardly sit on the bed or one of their incredibly uncomfortable chairs. But here we had a full living room with a couch so we could sit there and watch some TV or just veg. There was also a small kitchen table which Jared used to play games at.
I enjoyed our Stay Alfred so much it’s kind of annoying because it has totally ruined hotels for me. I understand that this is going to sound completely sponsored but it’s not, I truly just enjoyed our time there. Now I just can’t travel anywhere again unless there is a Stay Alfred . . .
WHERE TO EAT
Because of Jared having celiac it comes to eating we generally try to stick with chains or restaurants with websites and/or reviews so we can make sure there are gluten free options and Jared won’t get sick.
Ncounter was super convenient to eat at because it was actually below the Stay Alfred, on street level right downtown Phoenix. We only ate there for breakfast one day but they had gluten free options and their bacon was cooked to perfection. Plus, the interior is so unique and quirky, I loved it!
OLD SPAGHETTI FACTORY
When there is an Old Spaghetti Factory around I like to try to eat there. I was really surprised though to find out they didn’t have my go-to spicy meat sauce, I’m not sure if it is just in Canadian Old Spaghetti Factory’s? They have a gluten free pasta option though our waitress didn’t seem as knowledgeable about gluten free eating as we’ve had in the past, but it all ended up working out and Jared didn’t get sick.
Red Robin is one of Jared’s favorite restaurants and we don’t have any close to us at home so when we are close to one we always try to go. Their burgers are gluten free and they have great gluten free buns. My only downer is that they have the most delicious milkshakes but my body will no longer accept such dairy so that’s always a little sad.
We actually only ate out at those three places, other than that we had our other meals at our “hotel” with pre-purchased fruit and other food from a grocery store. I had read really good things about a pizza place downtown but we ran out of time/were tired of walking and didn’t feel motivated to check it out, maybe next time!
HOW TO GET AROUND
We did a lot of walking (the benefit of staying downtown) and other than that we just used Uber. Actually, that’s not entirely true, we took a taxi from the airport to downtown when we first got in, but it would have been cheaper to use Uber.
This was our first Uber experience since they are currently not operating where we live, and even if they do get the green light I am not sure how well used it will be because we live in a place where everyone needs to own a vehicle. Though it would be very convenient for airport drop offs and pick ups . . .
We had wanted to use their Valley Metro Rail system but it the way it worked out we would have needed to use the rail and then also hop on a bus and we just didn’t feel up to figuring that all out, especially since we didn’t have internet on our phones when we weren’t in places with wifi.
Anyway, our Uber experiences we great, I soooo prefer Uber to taxis, we had some great chats with our drivers and they gave us some good background information of Phoenix and suggestions on what we should check out.
WHAT TO DO
Okay, here’s where I feel like this post will be lacking. We only got to Phoenix at lunch on Tuesday and we left Friday morning so we didn’t have a whole lot of time to do things. There is a lot more on our to do list for next time. Though, I thoroughly enjoyed what we did do!
DESERT BOTANICAL GARDENS
The Desert Botanical Gardens was an interesting walk and we learned a lot. This was the first thing we did which I think was a great idea, we were still just so in awe of being around a bunch of cacti (that feeling actually never wore off). I don’t think I would go back here with the kids because I could see it being a little long for them but I’m glad we did it.
Also, they hire the nicest people there, everyone was knowledgeable and super friendly.
Oh, and the Desert Botanical Gardens has free wifi in most places which was information I was trying to figure out prior to getting there because we weren’t sure how we were going to get an Uber back to our next place so that was very helpful.
HOLE IN THE ROCK
From the Desert Botanical Garden we walked to the Hole in the Rock. This was another time I was thankful the weather was what it was because I imagine it feels very hot up there in the summer but it was perfect when we were there. It only takes a couple of minutes to walk to the hole and you get an amazing view of Phoenix.
Also, right next to there they have a Community Fishing Water which looks like I imagine the Garden of Eden looking. We walked over and saw a man and his daughter feeding the birds and I was just in awe of all the palms surrounding the water. (I suppose there probably wouldn’t have been palms in the Garden of Eden since I don’t they are native to Israel but can we just image there could have been?)
Can a Canadian go to the US and not go to Target? I think not. The Tempe Marketplace is a big marketplace with over 100 shops and restaurants. We bought some Christmas gifts for the kids and Jared and I bought a few clothes. Funnily enough, the clothes I ended up buying for myself came from a store we also have locally . . .
We spent quite a bit of time just wandering around the downtown area. There are a lot of neat things to see. We saw a lot of cool artwork on buildings, noticed that the nicest, greenest grass grew on the lawns of law offices (someone is making good money), and just enjoyed different scenery than we are used to and nicer weather than we would have been experiencing at home.
There are a number more things that I still have on my Phoenix (and Arizona) to do list that we didn’t get to – hopefully next time!
Ever since we got back from Mexico three weeks ago the temperatures here at home have pretty much been steady at -30/-40, can someone please send me back to the sunshine?!
Last week I shared a few photos from our trip in my post about all-inclusive trips with kids but after getting a number of questions on our specific resort I thought I would share a full review.
We booked our trip though a travel agent, which is actually our first time doing so. I had heard good things about local travel agent, Ashley Doell, so we chose to go through her. It doesn’t cost any more to go through a travel agent, sometimes they can find better deals and suggest specific resorts and it can be very helpful if for some reason you need to change your departure date for whatever reason.
Ashley was able to recommend Grand Palladium Vallarta to us after I mentioned that Jared has celiac since they have a very good allergy program there (more on that in a bit), had we not booked through her we wouldn’t have even known about this specific resort.
Even though we booked through Ashley the trip was actually through Air Canada Vacations. While we’ve flown with Air Canada many times we’d never gone through Air Canada Vacations.
Our flights were good on the way there and just our flight from Calgary back to Saskatoon was delayed on the way home thanks to some snowfall warnings.
One of the flight attendants on the way there won some brownie points from Raeca when he used her help in the safety demonstration and rewarded her with a chocolate bar.
And one of the flight attendants on the way back won some brownie points with me when she gave me a stack of barf bags to help deal with Raeca’s stomach bug.
For the record, the stomach bug was definitely a virus and not related to the food at the resort, I got the bug first and Rae and I were sick at the end of the trip and then Jared got sick once we got home and Ephraim came next. Just in case you were wondering. 😉
The resort itself was really gorgeous and bigger than I was expecting. We did a lot of walking from our room to the pool and restaurants throughout the day (I think we were consistently hitting around 12,000 steps/day) but I personally found that to be a good thing, it helped balance out all the eating and sitting at the beach we did!
My only other all-inclusive experience was our honeymoon in Cancun eleven years ago. Our resort then was on the beach in an endless row of other resorts. The Grand Palladium is much more secluded, that has a lot to do with the fact that it’s in a jungle and because there are some cliffs by the beach; such a nice location!
The rooms were fairly standard (we didn’t upgrade), and each room had a little balcony/deck area. The above photo is the view from our deck space.
The rooms are stocked with shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion (not that you need lotion in that humidity!). Since it’s an eco friendly resort they try to change bedding and towels every few days unless you request otherwise. They even have water saving toilets.
In the middle of the resort is a little zoo with spider monkeys, white-tailed deer, turkeys, turtles, etc. And an ostrich who really likes to be the center of attention . . .
Little cacti growing on the roof. 🙂
We often found this guy up here in the morning, waiting for the sun to get to him.
There were three pools, a kids pool that I think was 1.5 feet at the deepest and then two pools that were 4-ish feet deep, one was smaller, mostly used by kids and then the other one was bigger and had the swim-up bar.
Ephraim loved the kids pool and was constantly belly flopping and going down the slides. Even though there were lots of other kids at the resort this pool was always nearly empty. Because Raeca’s goal for the trip was to learn to swim she spent most of her pool time in the deeper small pool. I didn’t get any photos of that one because there were always a number of other kids in there at the same time.
The beach was very nice, it looked gorgeous because of the cliffs and rocks but there was also some flat, typical beach areas. Plus they had a walled off pool area on the beach, which the kids loved because they were swimming in the ocean but the rock walls slowed down the waves so we didn’t have to worry about them getting swept out to sea. This was my favorite place to read on the beach. Plus there were also less people there and less kids so it was a quieter area.
Another highlight of the beach was being able to see whales breaching in the bay. We saw them two or three mornings and had we known what we were looking for sooner I am sure we would have seen them more days! They were too far for me to get a photo or anything but it was really neat to see from afar. There were some people from the resort that went on half day or full day excursions to get up closer but often they weren’t even allowed to take their cameras so we didn’t go on any of those day trips.
The view was just gorgeous!
Standing on the wall by the “enclosed” pool.
The kids playing in the enclosed beach area while I read. 🙂
If you walked along the coast you could go for quite awhile (we didn’t even go as far as we could), it was beautiful and we saw lots of crabs and other sea creatures.
The Grand Palladium has a number of different food options, and like I mentioned, the reason we ultimately chose this resort is because they have a food allergy program, which simply means that when you get there they ask if you have any allergies and if they do they give you a card with your allergy written in Spanish so you can show it to the workers at the restaurants and they’ll make sure to tell you what you can or can’t eat.
We actually didn’t end up even going to all the restaurants, we found options we liked and stuck to them, that’s how our family does things. 🙂
There was one restaurant that was open for each meal, I can’t remember what it was called off the top of my head, this was the only option for breakfast and we often frequented it for supper as well.
For lunch we always went to Las Terrazas, they had hotdogs, hamburgers and pizza so the kids were pretty much in their glory and Jared and I found things we could eat too. For lunch Jared usually had the roast chicken while I almost always got rice and veggies.
For supper we either went back to the buffet or to Ribs & More which was an a la carte restaurant. Jared and the kids really liked it there, with Jared usually getting a steak and the kids leaning towards hotdogs and hamburgers (we don’t make them at home very often so it was a highlight of the week). The food was good there but I’m not as big of a meat eater as the rest of my family and so I preferred the buffet for supper where there were more meatless options.
There were a number of other a la carte options including a seafood restaurant, Mexican and sushi I believe. I don’t like seafood (and most of the rest of them aren’t huge fans) and the Mexican restaurant didn’t look like it had many options for Jared so that’s why we didn’t try those ones.
All in all I would say the food was good. I was surprised at the lack of fruit options though. There were quite a few melon options each day but I only saw raspberries ones and strawberries twice and they were both gone immediately. Since so much of our fruit that we eat at home in the winter comes from Mexico I just expected to see more there.
We didn’t even check out the kids club until the second or third day we were there and we were kicking ourselves for not checking it out sooner, our kids LOVED it!
Rae wasn’t sure at first and said we needed to come check her in an hour, we did and she said come back in another hour and when we did she wanted to stay even longer. They did face painting, made crafts, played organized activities and had free play, it was a great combination.
Each evening the kids club had a show and if the kids wanted to be in it they needed to be at the kids club at 3:00 to practice. Our kids only had the chance to be in the show three nights (one was a night where you didn’t need to practice and the other two nights they practiced for). They both really enjoyed it and even though Rae was battling a flu bug the last night she was still determined to be in the show (thankfully the puke stayed at bay until after the show).
The ladies that worked in the kids club were excellent and Raeca actually cried when she said goodbye on the last day.
GETTING TO TOWN
Since we were (okay, mostly I was) getting a little stir crazy just staying at the resort we took a bus to Bucerías one day. We just needed to walk to the main road and take a $2 bus ride that took 20ish minutes, depending how fast the driver is going. 😉
We spent the morning walking through the market and then hopped on a bus back to the resort in time for lunch. 🙂
And that was our trip and resort in a nutshell!
If you have any questions about Grand Palladium Vallarta or all-inclusive vacations with kids let me know!
Early in the winter we knew that we wanted to escape a little of the Canadian prairie winter and made plans to take an all-inclusive trip to a warm location in January.January is usually our coldest month here with temperatures usually below -20 and with -40 being fairly common.Not surprisingly winter depression often starts to hit around then too. With the cold temperatures and sun rising after 9am and setting by 5pm and knowing there are still a couple months of winter left it’s a bleak time.A week in the sunshine is the perfect thing in the middle of a Saskatchewan winter. We’ve done South Africa, Uganda and California (twice) in the winter before. Plus Jared and I went to Mexico for our honeymoon eleven years ago but it had been a few years since our last big trip and the kids had never been to an all-inclusive resort before so we thought we would give it a try.We watched a man shucking oysters on the beach – one of my highlights from the trip!To be honest, I didn’t really want to do an all-inclusive trip. We had done one for our honeymoon and it was good but I’m not a sit around at the beach or at the pool kind of person. I like to explore and prefer to see the area like a local.That being said, we chose to go all-inclusive for the price.Here’s a tip: in order to get a higher star resort at a cheaper price we only booked our trip two and a half weeks before going. If you want to save on an all-inclusive trip and aren’t super set on a particular country or resort I’d recommend going this route.Reading and relaxing on the beach while the kids play.Another reason we chose all-inclusive was to relax. The idea of not having to cook for a week was divine. Thankfully we were able to find a resort that catered to all types of food allergies and as someone with celiac Jared was able to find food to eat.Another benefit of our particular resort, though a number of them have them, was a kids club. We thought the kids might get bored hanging out at the resort all day and a kids club was another thing they could do to fill up some time. We were pleasantly surprised to find out how much they loved it! They really loved each of the workers as well.The kids club at our resort had a show each evening that the kids could choose to practice for. Unfortunately we only figured this out late into our time there and the kids were only in the last two shows. Raeca was on the verge of throwing up in the last show (stomach bug) but she was determined to get through. The shows were hilarious to watch and the kids loved being in them.This was how he came out for the first song of the first show, Jared and I almost died from laughing so hard.She was a bit shy but really enjoyed it!The biggest highlight of the trip for me was definitely the morning we took a Mexican bus into Bucerías and spent some time walking around the market.The bus ride in cost us about $2 for all four of us and was the funnest thrill ride I’ve ever been on. Ha, our driver was a little crazy, the speed at which he took some of those curves would definitely not be allowed in Canada. The kids thought it was a blast and were holding hands during the entire ride. ❤I love walking around new-to-me places and could wander for hours. The market was definitely geared towards tourists but was fun to look around. Jared happened to be wearing a Roughriders hat that day and it was crazy how much Rider stuff they had, obviously it’s a hot spot for Saskatchewanians to go to. (And Jared even met the former president of the Riders in our wanderings!)I loved how this guy was hand painting the front of the building, you definitely don’t see that much around home! But, then I translated the Spanish . . . let’s just say it’s better if you don’t translate it.Our resort (The Grand Palladium Vallarta) was very beautiful, the variety of food options were great, even for people with food intolerances, the kids loved the kids club and Raeca fulfilled her goal: learning to swim.That being said, I still don’t think all-inclusive trips are for me. So, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on how to decide if an all-inclusive vacation is right for you and your family.
ALL-INCLUSIVE TRIPS WITH KIDS
ARE THEY RIGHT FOR YOUR FAMILY?
These are generalizations not the rule but I think it should be enough to give you an idea if an all-inclusive trip would be right for you and your family.I think an all-inclusive vacation is right for your family if this sounds like your ideal trip:* not having to book the individual aspects of a trip (plane, hotel, transportation, food, etc)
* staying in one place for a week* not having to cook your own food
* sitting at the beach and pool for a lot of the day
* partaking in resort activities (aquasize, dance lessons, etc)
* living like a touristI don’t think an all-inclusive vacation is right for your family if this sounds like it would be more up your alley:* booking all the individual aspects of your trip (plane, hotel, transportation, food, etc)
* have the means to come and go as you please* cooking your own food or searching for restaurants
* getting out and exploring each day
* living like a localThis trip sparked a desire in me to write an ebook about travelling with kids. We aren’t super world travelers but we’ve been including Raeca in on our travels ever since she was a baby, her first flight was actually on our way to Uganda (go big or go home), and I feel like I’ve learned a few things about travel with kids over the years that I’d like to share. To be alerted when the book is done sign up for the newsletter here.Want some tips for taking all-inclusive trips with kids? Get the free download here.So what do you think,
are all-inclusive trips up your alley
or is getting off the beaten path more your thing?
Once again, one of my goals for this year is to get out and explore Saskatchewan so a couple of weeks ago when my friend Robin asked if the kids and I wanted to head out to Petrofka Spring with her and her boys one morning I jumped at the chance!
I had actually never heard of Petrofka Spring until she mentioned it so I read a little about it online, apparently because of this spring many Doukhobors decided to settle in this area back in 1899.
Truthfully it’s a small little spring but I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the kids loved playing near it and following it.
Then we walked out the a monument set up in rememberance of the Petrofka ferry that used to be there (now there is a bridge). The kids loved playing amongst the tall grass which I loved, but was regretting a little when I flicked a tick off of Raeca’s ear later that day (and now I’m itchy just thinking about it again).
We had a great morning and it reminded me (once again) how much fun kids can have just playing in nature, it’s something I want to make a point of doing more often this summer.
Since we’ve been to South Africa I’ve had a lot of parents contacting me asking lots of questions about lodging, things to do, and just wanting general information about South Africa, which is awesome! I’ve wanted to share information with our adoption right from the get-go. I keep telling everyone that asks that I’ll make a guide to Durban for adoptive families so here it finally is!
Just a few disclaimers: I’m going to share a few of our favorite things and places, but to be honest, we didn’t do as much as some other families. I know some families do every touristy thing while they are out there (many of them twice over) but we knew that wouldn’t be for us. Our first priority was making sure we spent time alone as a family, bonding with Ephraim and figuring out life as a family of four.
I know a lot of people who have been out to Durban to adopt a child (or two!) over the last few years and if you are one of them and have some more/different information to add please do so in the comments, I’d love that to be a great resource for families as well.
STAY at Palmiet
Oh man, I could go on and on about how much we loved Palmiet River Lodge . . . first of all: MONKEYS! You convinced yet?? Haha 🙂
A few things we loved about Palmiet:
a) it’s beautiful
b) we had access to a full kitchen so we were able to make many of our meals
c) it was quite quiet and we were left alone to do our own thing (as introverts we really appreciated this, plus it was better for bonding with Ephraim)
d) it was only a 20 minute walk to the store to get groceries
e) monkeys! it was pretty cool to see them nearly every day
f) an outdoor shower
g) we didn’t have to do our laundry or dishes
Okay, so there are just a few things we loved 🙂 There really was so many, I may end up doing a full post on Palmiet yet, if I do I’ll add the link in here.
Our adoption agency has two places it recommends for lodging, we were able to stay at Palmiet for most of the time and we were able to stay at another one, Heaton, for a few days and while I don’t want to get into all the details here, we strongly preferred Palmiet (it was our personal preference and if you have questions about either place feel free to email me).
EAT at Chez Nous, Panarotti’s & Nando’s
We didn’t eat out a whole lot but we love the three restaurants mentioned above, and they all had a gluten free option for Jared – win!
Chez Nous is located at the Westville Junction, just a 20 minute walk from Palmiet. It’s a pretty fancy place with amazing food. Jared loved all of their steak (an amazing steak for only $12), I stuck to the margarita pizza, which was huge and only $5.50 and the kids loved pretty much every one of their kids meals. And the best part about Chez Nous: there is a kids playroom where they have a staff member watching the children, Raeca loved it.
Panarotti’s is a great Italian style restaurant with a GF pizza option.
At Nando’s we always had their chicken, slowly trying to work our way up on the heat scale (we didn’t make it very far).
DRIVE with Tezz at Bonana Tours & Transfers
The first few days we were in South Africa we rented a car (to travel to Newcastle) but the rest of the time we hired Tezz to drive us around and give us a few tours. Tezz is amazing, the things she pointed out while we were driving that we otherwise would have missed was something we weren’t expecting but really appreciated it. She was great at suggesting things we should do and see (or things we should just pass on) and when Jared’s eye got infected I asked her where he should go and she gave the number for her doctor, she really enriched our experience in South Africa. Oh and bonus: she lives right beside Palmiet 🙂
VISIT Tala Game Reserve
Hands down Tala was our favorite thing touristy thing we did. Tezz gave us a tour for the day and she knew exactly where to drive to find certain animals, we had such a great time, I blogged the visit here.
VISIT uShaka Marine World
uShaka was a great place to visit for the day, Raeca was mesmerized by the dolphin show. We went with the other Canadian families that were out and it was an excellent place to meet up.
VISIT South Beach
I actually don’t know if South Beach is actually it’s name, but there is North Beach so South Beach just makes sense. 🙂 Tezz explained to us that each of the beaches in Durban serve different purposes, North Beach has a lot more waves so it’s the main surfing beach and South Beach (which is right by uShaka) is much calmer and is the popular swimming beach. Everyday the lifeguards set up flags where the smallest waves are (moving them throughout the day as the waves change) and that’s the safe place to swim in.
It seems like shopping was one of our major past times while in South Africa. Here are a few places we’d recommend:
I Heart Market – usually occurring on the first Saturday of the month we loved the I Heart Market (which is held outside the Moses Mabhida Stadium). In December it was actually every Saturday so we got to go a few times 🙂 There were so many good vendors and we bought a few great things (unfortunately half of it was in the suitcase the airline lost).
The Pavillion – our favorite mall that we went to. The Pav has a store for everyone.
Westville Mall & Westville Junction – we loved that they were just a 20 minute walk from Palmiet to both Westville Mall and Westville Junction, we’d walk there a few times a week for groceries (actually, it was more like a hike there and a downhill roll back).
Okay! I think those were all our favorites while we were there! It’s hard to believe we’ve already been home for a month. If I end up thinking of something to add I’ll edit this post and add it in. If you’ve been to Durban to adopt I’d love to hear some of your favorites in the comments!
Edited on 3/17/15 to add some FAQ’s!
Did you need any immunizations?
No, we didn’t. I don’t believe there is any that are required for South Africa, though I’d check online before going to check out the most updated stats. That being said, the three of us were all up-to-date on our shots (and Raeca is ahead of her needles for her age) thanks to our previous travels, mainly our trip to Uganda a few years ago.
Did you bring an adapter?
Yes! We sure did, we used it for our computer and then bought a USB plug-in (from Clicks in Westville Mall) to plug our phones in. Also a thing to note: blow dryers and straighteners don’t work with the adapters so what I did was just purchase a small straightener (also from Clicks).
What about getting Rand?
We didn’t bring any along, about 95% of the places we went accepted credit cards (and made it easier since we weren’t always fishing for change) so for the most part we used that. Rand was easy to get from an ATM at any mall so we got some at the beginning of our stay and just hit up the ATM whenever we were running low.
Who did you book your tickets through?
We used Menno Travel, we went through them when we went to Uganda as well and they gave us a better price than the other travel agencies we contacted. One thing to note: they are American so take that into consideration when they give you prices because those will in US dollars.
Did you bring a stroller or carrier?
Yes 🙂 We brought both. We brought a carrier for Ephraim and an umbrella stroller (those cheap $20 ones) for Raeca. Obviously it depends on the age of your kid(s) but they worked really well for us. Ephraim was in the carrier pretty much every time we went out and the stroller was great for the mall and the airports for Raeca.
Is there anything you would say we need to bring along?
Honestly, for the most part everything can be purchased in South Africa and most of it is cheaper. There was nothing that was super important to remember that couldn’t be purchased in country (other than all those adoption papers, don’t forget those).
If you have any other questions let me know and if they get asked a few times I’ll be sure to add them here 🙂
One thing we knew we wanted to do while in South Africa was see some animals! When we were in Uganda a few years ago we saw nothing (well, except birds but those aren’t all that interesting) and so we didn’t want to leave Africa a second time without seeing some big animals.
While we were in South Africa we only had a rental car for the first few days of our trip and then after that we got driven around by Tezz at Bonana Tours & Transfers, we asked her where would be the best place to see some animals and she recommended Tala Game Reserve.
When she picked us up that morning she asked Raeca what animal she really wanted to see with Raeca responding with “a giraffe!” and so that was our goal of the day. Thankfully Jared spotted them while we were still on the road heading into the game reserve so Tezz knew exactly which road to take once we were there to go see them.
That day we were able to see every animal they have at Tala, we saw numerous zebras, kudu, impala, nyala, about two dozen giraffes, hippos, the cutest warthog babies and more!
If you are thinking about checking out Tala I would definitely recommend getting a tour by Tezz, she knew the roads, places where the animals usually hang out and was a wealth of knowledge about the different animals. Raeca loved looking through her animal book to find the different kinds of animals we were seeing. The game reserve would definitely not have been the same had we just driven through ourselves.
Now, please excuse me as I overload you with photos . . .
Today we start our journey back home!
I still have lots to share from our time here and I hope to do that in the coming weeks after Christmas. (It’s so hard to believe it’s almost Christmas! We’ve been focused on other stuff for so long we’ve pretty much missed the entire Christmas season.)
Anyway, in a few hours we’ll be off to the airport. We have the same route as our way here: Durban -> Johannesburg -> Frankfurt -> Calgary -> Saskatoon. We are praying for uneventful flights and kids that sleep 🙂
For anyone interested in meeting us at the airport, we are currently set to arrive in Saskatoon at 6:45pm Monday evening.
If we have access to the internet I’ll be sure to post a few photos on Instagram along the way.
A few more random photos of our time here in South Africa . . .
watching the monkeys as they climb down from the roof and jump into the trees
I know a lot of people expect South Africa to be more like dirt roads and chaos on the roads but in the city here it is very modern
decorating the Christmas tree
snacks at the market
windy day at the beach
technically this is not a great photo but I love it
so, Jared gets a lot of reading done here
(actually, he has, just not this day)
the place we are staying for the next couple of days
us with Robyn, our sweet social worker in South Africa
she was dropping Ephraim’s passport off this day,
which means we have all our paperwork, yay!