404 Travel Turtle Family Travel Blog

“Unknown” Destinations

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The challenge in these destinations

Yesterday I wrote about touristy attractions. Today I want to discuss the complete opposite: unknown attractions. I value showing our children the popular destinations. However, there’s something fun in discovering something relatively unknown.

The problem is – how do you find out about these places?

Well, the good news is most of these places are in a guidebook. Not all guidebooks, though. Comprehensive guidebooks, focused on a smaller region, will have more unknown sites and destinations. This is actually a good thing. No one wants to spend their vacation in a place that is just “meh“. If it’s not in a comprehensive guidebook focused on the region, that might be because it’s just “meh“. (And if it’s not in a comprehensive guidebook and you still want to go – that’s ok, too!)

The bad news is that off the beaten path places are not off everyone’s beaten path. I tend to think that statement refers to sites that aren’t on a top 10, 20, or even 50 list of things to do. These are places that your circle of friends might not be as familiar with, but they’re likely a local person’s treasure. The reason this is bad news: crowds are still possible. Don’t worry we’ll talk more about that in a moment.

There are four types of unknown/lesser known destination trips.

  • A popular destination, such as Paris, with visits to sites that are off the radar.
  • Off the radar cities that are off the typical tourist trail of cities.
  • Regions that aren’t visited by many people from your circle or nationality, but have tourists from within the region or are a popular destination for people from another country.
  • Places that have tiny populations and tourists rarely go or get a chance to visit. These are much more remote, challenging, and likely expensive to get to. 

Six steps to finding and enjoying an “unknown” destination

For the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on the first three I listed above. Remote, challenging, and expensive destinations aren’t something people go into lightly. I’m sure anyone going there with their family will get better resources than I can offer.

For the other three, though, I want to talk about how to find and enjoy them. Remember, the nature of the “unknown” place is they don’t get as many tourists as wherever you’re from. Hopefully, these tips will help.

  1. What kind of trip do you want? some sites within a popular city, something of the tourist trail in an often visited country, or something completely unfamiliar to you and your circle.
  2. Search online: Look up photos, websites, and social media and follow the clicking or hashtag trail until you find something appealing.
  3. Check out a guidebook: Find a comprehensive guidebook for the area of the world you want to visit. Skip the parts about places  you are already familiar with and see if you can find a place that interests you.
  4. Research: Now that you know where you want to go. Go back to the web and guidebook.
    • Know the history and geography.
    • Consider your transportation options. Remember, it’s “off-the-beaten-path” – roads and public transportation may not be as reliable as places you are accustomed to.
    • Learn some language. Don’t count on English speakers working the hotel desk, kiosks, or tours if they don’t get many English-speaking visitors.
    • Don’t forget the meals. Research the food. Don’t worry, meal selections will likely be more authentic. This may not appeal to the youngest or pickiest of travels. Knowing what to expect can help. Then you can order something you know they will like, or pack some peanut butter and buy some bread.
    • What will you do there? See what attractions, events, and festivals are there. Even if it is relatively unknown, it will likely have a list of must-sees and dos.
    • Who does travel to this place – does it have a high season? Try to find out who travels there. Is it a local favorite? Is it popular with German tourists? If there’s a chance it could be busy with their more typical tourist, consider visiting during shoulder season. Then you get the best parts of the destination, without the crowds.
    • Is traveling off-season an option?Be cautious of traveling off-season, though. In some places off-season is actually closed season and there may be NOTHING to do.
  5. Once you are there, talk to locals. What do they recommend?
  6. Wander. What kinds of things do you stumble upon when you travel without any direction? Some of my favorite trips have been because I hadn’t pre-planned anything and just took random turns as we wandered around.

Photo by Rome Cabs

 
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Every day of the A-Z Challenge I link to another participant writing about something travel-related for the challenge. I actually picked my links before I knew what I would be posting about on any given day. Today’s planned link is with Tui Snider’s Offbeat and Overlooked Travel. Lots of great information fitting in with going to places that aren’t necessarily on a typical top 20 list.Audio-Technica AT2020

Touristy Attractions

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Iconic sites and touristy attractions are the Three O’s: Overrated, Overseen, and Overwritten about

I have no problem visiting overrated, overseen, and overwritten about sites – or as I’ll refer to them, the “three Os”. Just because 95% of the people who go to Rome visit the Colosseum doesn’t mean that I have seen it for myself. And when I want to see something for myself, I want to see it for myself. 

Touristy attractions are a good thing for kids. Don’t let travel cynics stop you from giving kids something relatable. The iconic images that they’ll see in their textbooks and in movies are part of the fabric of travel that will connect their memories with what they’re learning. It will get them to continue to be interested in seeing the world. And that’s ok.

Ways to make a visit to the Three O’s a pleasant one for your family

That said, I do think there are some positive and negative ways to handle visiting the three Os. So, here are some things for your consideration.

  • Research it in advance
    • Learn the story
      • What’s the history leading up to the creation of this iconic site?
      • Why is it still so popular today?
      • What are some tidbits that may be interesting to your kids?
    • Consider the responsible tourism angle
      • One of the problems with overrated sites is that they’re crowded. In the short-term, this is bad because no one wants to spend a lot of time in line visiting a place that’s over crowded. In the long-term, it can have negative effects on the resources in the community. Find out when high season is – and do your best to avoid it.
      • Make a plan to visit the site in a responsible way when considering any hotels, tours, and even souvenirs you may purchase.
    • Figure out the logistics
      • How can you maximize your visit? Is it better to buy tickets online to avoid the long wait, or do you have to book a tour to get decent access?
      • What’s the best way to approach the site? The first time I visited the Eiffel Tower, we drove right up. It wasn’t quite the “moment” I was looking for. The next time, we took the metro at night and I turned a corner and all of a sudden – wow! I mean, I’d already seen the thing before, so you could imagine my surprise to actually be wowed by it.
      • Know your kids. If you’re visiting a field in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of old stones jutting out of the earth and touching those stones is illegal – are your kids old enough to understand this or will they be tempted to touch? Find an alternative place to see.
      • Think about the length of your visit. Know that you may have to cut it short if the kids get antsy.
      • Make sure everyone has eaten before you go.
      • When’s the best time of the day to visit to avoid the crowds?
      • Do they offer guides (people or audio) that are aimed towards kids?
      • What else is there to do in the area that would be interesting for the family?
  • Share the information with your family
    • Talk about the history of the site leading up to the trip. Look for those popular images in movies and books.
    • Talk about the history the day of your trip as you head to the place. Remind them of what life was like back when this was made and why it is still popular today.
    • Encourage them to look out for something that they’ll only see there.
    • Remind them of the things they should do to be responsible travelers, especially in these places that get so many visitors.
    • When you leave, give them some time to reflect on what they saw.
  • Don’t do too many of the Three Os in one day. The key to enjoying the uniqueness of some of these destinations is to balance it with something completely different.

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Thee Getaway Gal is talking travel in her A-to-Z Challenge. In fact, within this challenge she’s issued a fun Instagram Challenge to encourage everyone to travel locally. I love it (and I’ll be launching a separate site soon focused just on the local-to-me travel opportunities, so this is close to my heart. Please visit her site and join the challenge.english to malay translation googleoutdoor car cover nzusb hub

Scavenger hunt

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One of my favorite activities to do on a trip – a photo scavenger hunt. The rules are simple:

  • Create a list of must-take photos
  • Decide if you want to do the hunt in teams (parents v. children, male v. female, or whatever combination suits you) or as a family (and all work together in taking these shots)
  • Grab a camera – and go

Here’s a sample of some must-take photos our family has had in the past. I think it works best when you stick to the same 5-15 photos on every trip so that you can see how the same prompt compares from place to place.

  • In front of public transportation
  • Stand in front of a statue and pose like the statue
  • A sign that is very “that place”
  • Something that has made you laugh
  • A landscape shot
  • A meal or drink
  • A paparazzi shot
  • In front of a famous attraction
  • A reflection of yourself
  • A selfie
  • Something looking straight down
  • Something looking straight up
  • Wildlife

Photo Scavenger Hunt Guide

What photos are your must-dos when you travel?
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Please take a moment to check out fellow A-Z Challenge paricipant, Black Frog Publishing.jessie jane analTF-125 Blackgopro white edition reviewfiat 500 car cover reviews

Rest planning

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When I was a travel agent, I used to preview customer itineraries for the trips they were planning. I love planning itineraries. Seriously, send me a question about yours anytime.

Anyway, I like to plan, but my travel style is different. I prefer to have a simple goal of the day. It could be a site I want to see, a region I want to explore more in-depth, or just a day for strolling around aimlessly (which tends to be my preferred method of travel – and why I often leave a place wishing I saw more!)

Regardless of how someone plans an itinerary, one important part to consider – whether you have kids or not – is rest. Back at the travel agency I worked with many young adults visiting Europe for the first time. Because they had limited time and wanted to maximize their trip, their schedules were very go – go – go. City after city, train ride after train ride. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, it’s a good idea to take a break every few days. If you’re scheduling everything in advance, take a break from the big cities by heading to the beach or a small village. If you’re going with the flow, the easy tip is when it all starts to feel the same, change the course.

(Please note: the slow traveler approach lends itself to more rest than the “I want to see as much as possible” approach does. And, to be honest, you know yourself and what you can handle. If you want to travel to a new city every day for a week without a break, that’s ok, too! I wouldn’t suggest it, but I’m not going to get upset if you do. 🙂 That said…)

When you have kids, these rest days are crucial. We all know that we should plan for a kid’s day or two while on a trip. That’s a day where the sites are more geared to them, as oppose to say, Harrods food court. It’s also important to plan a rest day for trips that are kid-activity-centric. Say you’re going to the popular theme parks in Orlando. Instead of visiting four back-to-back, take a day to enjoy something more relaxing.

In addition to having a day for resting every few days, make a plan for rest during busy days. Even if the kids no longer nap, it’s a good way to decompress before facing the rest of the day. A good time to do this is after lunch. Go to a local park or cafe and just relax. Or just head back to the hotel. Grab a book, or give the kids some time to reflect in their journals.

To me, resting during a busy trip is the key to making it a successful trip.

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Lynne is doing her second A-to-Z Challenge on her blog Winnie’s Views. She writes about her travels with her dog, Millie, in her winnebago. Visit her site today!sun cover carApple WatchPrology TFT

Queues with little ones

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While most people with young kids will say that flying is the hardest part of traveling, I disagree. I think it’s queues. They’re everywhere. Perhaps a good way to prepare for a trip, especially to theme parks, is to stand in the longest line you can find for 30 minutes and see what happens.

Let me know, though, as I really hate lines and will never force myself into one without any benefit.

So, how do we deal with this?

The culture of the queue

First – queuing is a cultural thing. Here’s a sample of different types of queuing cultures.

  • First come, first served.
  • Loudest is first.
  • Survival of the fittest.
  • Whatever, we’ll all eventually get helped.
  • Pick a number.
  • Show me the money.
  • What’s a line?

Now that we have that out of the way, figure out what the line culture is where you’re going. Then remember that what may be considered rude where you’re from, might not be rude where you are going. So, get over any feelings of being polite or you’ll still be standing in line as I’m posting the Z for this challenge.

Very basic queue etiquette

Regardless of the above, there are still some line rules that you just don’t break.

 

  • Don’t push pass people in any line that is roped off.
  • If people are going in or out of a place (subways or elevators), let the people out before going in.
  • Don’t look at the reservations book to find the last name of someone else and pretend you are them.
  • Actually, never pretend to be someone you aren’t just to get preferential treatment.
  • In dangerous situations – women and children first

 

Dealing with long lines and waits

Kids aren’t good waiters, so prepare some spur of the moment games and distractions to keep everything fun. Here are some ideas:

  • Play two truths and one lie
  • Talk about what’s around you via the game I spy
  • Take turns with the game 20 questions
  • Recap the things you’ve done and discuss what you will soon do
  • Take selfies on your phone, post them to IG #queueselfies
  • Eat a small snack

If you have any fun line anecdotes, tips on how to queue in a country you’ve visited, or suggestions for keeping wait times somewhat fun, let me know in the comments!

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Adventuring at Home‘s blog is about life in Charlottesville, VA. Her take on the A-to-Z challenge are things she wants to do in her 20s. Check it out!

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Parks, Playgrounds, & Picnics

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Before I had kids I thought authentic travel experiences had to include places where locals drank or ate. Once I had my own kids, I worried that finding that local connection might not be so easy. Especially now that I prefer drinks and food via room service many nights – don’t judge, I never realized how enjoyable eating at a desk-turned dining table could be when the alternative is dealing with over-tired toddlers in a public place.

Then I discovered that parks and playgrounds are filled with locals. The conversation that used to be struck up over a drink, now starts while pushing a swing on a swing set. The parents I meet at the parks and playgrounds, they’re the ones that can give me the inside tips that I worried I would miss having kids. Only these tips are more suited for my new travel lifestyle because these tips are suited for my children.

So feel free to let your kids run loose at the playground, you never know who you’ll meet.

What about the food, though?

In my pre-kid days I enjoyed tasting new dishes at restaurants. These days, I’m rediscovering my love of picnics. Plus, it’s a complete cultural experience. Shopping in a local grocery store and figuring out what treats are perfect without heating or plates is just the half of it. Then there’s searching for the perfect spot to snack. A place with a view and a playground. Some of my favorite travel memories are those that happened while eating a picnic.

Know this – if you’re travel changes when you have kids to include more parks, playgrounds, and picnics, it’s really not a bad thing.

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If you have a moment, please visit fellow A-to-Z Challenge travel bloggers Kitty & Francisco of Bay Essence. Their alternating their posts between English and Spanish, so take a look!

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Over-the-counter drugs

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My overall tip for packing for a trip is less is more. Most things can be purchased abroad. No need to bring everything.

The exception, for many reasons, are over-the-counter drugs.

This mostly applies to international travel or any types of travel where it may be hard to find a drug store, target, or CVS. But, it is still a good idea to pack some basics so you don’t have to go out in the middle of the night looking for something for your kid.

Why bring over-the-counter medication on your trip?

Difficulty finding over-the-counter medication

In some countries, you can’t get OTCs over the counter. You have to speak to a pharmacist. In many European countries, pharmacies are open regular shop hours. That’s not a lot. They could be closed on Sundays, some Saturdays, after 6pm. You just don’t know.

Difficulty finding English speakers or English instructions

Plus, there’s the language barrier. While everyone in the world will likely say, “don’t worry people who work in pharmacies KNOW English,” you can’t depend on this. In my city I have three pharmacies within a 5-minute walk from my apartment. My chance of speaking to someone in those pharmacies who knows English? Slim. (Side note: it’s ok because my German can usually get me by, but this is not the case when I’m outside of Germany.)

Even if you do get an English speaker, the instructions will likely not be in English. And you do not want to be up at 2:00am trying to understand the pamphlet of information using Google Translate.

Difficulty finding the types of medicine you have back home

Different types of medication. You flat-out get less for your buck in some places. This can be anything from less-effective medication, to fewer actual pills. You can definitely get stronger medication if needed, but those usually require a prescription, which requires a visit to a doctor, which requires figuring out how to make a doctor’s appointment, which requires paying for the doctor’s appointment, which requires more and more time – when you could have brought drugs that were probably just as effective with you and saved the hassle.

What kind of meds should you pack?

This depends on you, your kids, and the trip you are going on. Bring a few things for regular colds and fevers, something for allergies, diarrhea, bee-stings, anti-bacteria cream, and a thermometer is a good place to start.

For a more complete list of recommended items, check out the CDC’s website. They also have information about packing prescription medication.

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Anabel is writing about some of her favorite places in the A-to-Z Challenge. Visit her blog today!

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Nail clippers and packing lists

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I love reading about packing for a trip. I even own two books about it.

Almost before every trip I search for the latest and greatest in packing technology and efforts. What are people doing now? What packing list best represents the trip I’m about to take?

Instead of highlighting too many tips, I want to focus on some of my favorite tips. These tips are for anyone, but especially useful for families.So, now I’m just going to share some of my favorite tips I’ve learned along the way.

  • Instead of organizing clothes by type (socks together, shirts together, etc…) Organize one outfit for each kid/family member. Put one outfit for each family member in a bag, until you have one bag for each day. Then you just have to take out the bag and all the kids have all of their clothes.
  • When going on a road trip with an overnight stay, pack a smaller bag with just the necessities for that night. Then you don’t have to lug out the whole suitcase.
  • Write out a packing list, check items off as you go, pack the list with you, and when you pack to go home use the list to make sure you didn’t forget anything. At the end of your trip, note what wasn’t needed so you know for next time.
  • I often throw things I might need into a laundry basket in the days leading up to the trip. Then, I can go through and remove things I don’t need – but I don’t worry about forgetting something I really wanted.
  • One of my favorite things to do is to only bring a backpack’s worth of “necessities” and buy everything once I’m there. Then ship all the new stuff back home. ***Disclaimer: this works better for city visits than theme park visits, and isn’t something I would do too often.
  • My three essentials: Nail clippers, band aids, and q-tips.

As you can guess, I’d love to read more tips. If you have any that you want to share, links to posts you like about the subject, or have any questions, let me know.

If you get a moment, please check out Uber Random for some travel-related, A-to-Z randomness.sexy en lingeriekeyword rankingWSP Italy SIDNEY W8801south beach realty

Money

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As an expat, I often forget how hard international travel can be. Since I’m lucky to be able to drive or train to several countries within a few hours, travel is easy. Since I already deal with a foreign language on a regular basis, knowing I will at least speak English at hotels and sites actually means I speak more English when I travel than at home. Since the Euro is the currency of so many countries I travel to, I don’t even have to worry about figuring out the cash situation.

So, when I arrived in London last week with only my German bank card and a few Euro bills, I realized something important. Money is important.

I don’t mean budgeting, which is vital, but actual money.

The best way for me to explain this is to list a series of what I should have done.

What I should have done on our trip to London

  • I should have remembered that my American debit card was expiring a few days before our trip started and ordered a new one as back-up.
  • I should have kept the pounds from previous trips in a secure place, a place that I remembered, so that I would have had some with me.
  • I should have looked up what the exchange rate was just so I would know if, at any point, I was getting a horrible or decent deal when exchanging money.
  • I should have contacted my German bank to see who they partner with, then figured out where those bank’s ATMs were located in relation to the airport, the closest tube station, or my hotel.
  • I should have looked up what the coins look like and what their value was to save myself a lot of time since the smaller coins did not necessarily mean they were of smaller value.
  • I should have researched tipping policy for things like sit-down meals, free-walking tours, paid tours, and other situations.
  • I should have visited the transportation site to have an idea of how much a tube ride would cost so I wouldn’t spend an extra 30 minutes trying to find the correct kiosk since I didn’t believe the tickets could be so expensive.e

And now I know. Just because I deal in foreign everyday, doesn’t mean I understand every type of foreign – even when it has a common language.

I would love to know what other money-related things you might recommend for your travels.

One of my favorite places in the US is San Diego, California. Donna is writing about the A-to-Z’s of this beautiful city as part of the challenge. Check out her site soon!

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Listen to your kids

***I’m out of town and have limited access to my computer, but I wanted to make sure I still had some posts in the A-Z challenge. I’m keeping these simple until I come back. I’m going to expand on these later, but I’d love your thoughts and opinions in the meantime. Thanks for stopping by, and if you’re also participating in the challenge let me know and I’ll be around to check our your blog in less than a week.***

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Yesterday I wrote that kids love to travel. But they don’t want to do everything we want to do while on vacation

So my advice for today is simple: listen to your kids.

Let them be part of the planning process. Look over notes from previous trips to see what they like. (Don’t have notes from previous trips? Download my favorites printable or one-page travel journal.)

Ask them what they want to see.

Allow a portion of the family trip to speak to their hearts. Get excited about those places. These are  your kids dreams.

Today I’d love it if you’d visit fellow A-to-Z challenge participant Rhonda of Laugh Quotes. She has travelled all over the world with her kids and has great stories.

 

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