Travel Turtle A family travel site Fri, 16 Oct 2015 00:00:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Airport Code Journaling Cards Tue, 01 Jul 2014 15:36:17 +0000

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Last year I wrote a post of 50 American experiences I want for my children as a celebration of American Independence Day.

Boston Journaling cards - 1 of 29 available for free download.New York  Journaling cards - 1 of 29 available for free download.Washington DC Journaling cards - 1 of 29 available for free download.

This year, I want to give a little gift. I created these fun airport code journaling cards with the hopes that you can find equally fun uses for them. My suggestions? Use them as an impromptu personalized travel journal by printing them out and taping them to the cover of your favorite notebook. Or print on colored card stock and put it in a divided page protector for a photo album. Or printout a few of them and play a game.

Quick tips:

  • The cards measure 3 x 4 inches. Do not set the printer to “fit to size”.
  • There are 29 cards based on the 29 busiest airports in the US (via this list from Wikipedia). They are in alphabetical order according to city, then by the actual airport code.
  • Don’t print all of them if you want don’t want to (they print out one per page), but select the pages that correspond to the cities you want.
  • Chances are I’m missing your favorite airport. If you’d like me to add it, let me know in the comments and I’ll let you know when it’s done.

To download the free pdf click: Airport code Journaling cards.


Oh, and here’s my daughter playing with some I printed up, cut out, and added some details to. Possibilities – endless.

Happy fourth everyone!

(Oh, by the way, follow my board dedicated to printables I make. Everytime I post one, I pin it there. And if you use any and blog about it, I’ll pin it there too!)

Follow Ann@travelturtle’s board Travel Turtle Printables on Pinterest.ensemble de sous vetement pas cher

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My family travel reality Fri, 20 Jun 2014 08:07:03 +0000

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I’ve been a mother for a little over 3.5 years. That means I’ve been a mother who travels with her kids a little over 3.3 years.

Becoming a mom was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was in my mid-30s and very used to my previous carefree life. After the shortest longest 9 months (more accurately 41 weeks and 1 day) of my life, there was a whole being whose soul existence strongly depended on me being responsible. Remembering to feed him, bathe him, protect him. On top of that I had post-pregnancy complications that made me move a little slower, with more pain than I remember having before.

It was a mental and physical challenge. And it seemed to never let up.

It took me a full year to feel good in my new normal. To get out of the haze.

When I had my daughter less than 2 years later, the cycle started again. Except now I was used to the sleepless days and nights. I just had to get used to protecting the kids from each other. My post-pregnancy complications this time made sleep more difficult and driving over cobblestone roads next to impossible. Again, it took me a full year to feel good in my new normal.

My truth of traveling with babies

Within both of those separate years of having new babies, we traveled. We traveled because we had to. We traveled because we wanted to. We traveled to see family across the pond. We traveled because we knew we weren’t going to live in Europe forever.

As with everything when a baby comes along, we had to change our style. We packed more, planned more, somehow slept even less, and concerned ourselves more with where we were when it was time for the kids to eat.

It was hard, but it wasn’t impossible.

Looking back I realized something about that time in our lives. New mommy-hood was easiest for me when we were traveling. It felt more right than anything else. I felt more alive because I wasn’t sitting at home waiting for life to happen. We didn’t eat at fancy restaurants, or sit at cafes and bars chatting it up with the locals, or do many things in our new travels that we resembled our old travels. But, we were traveling. We were doing what we love most, even through the pain and challenges.

And I think that’s what makes me different

At least different from the people who treat traveling with kids as a chore. For me, I can’t imagine going out and exploring this world without my kids. And I don’t know how people can just stay home. It would stifle me, it would bore me, and it would make me resentful.

These days

If I had any anxiety about how my travels would  be once I had kids, it’s gone now.

I have two toddlers who love to travel. They both love all forms of transportation, constantly wonder when our next trip to a hotel will be, and can typically sit pretty content in a car, a train, and a plane. And that’s even without an iPad or any electronic distractions.

They have their own travel preferences. My son loves fancy hotels and fast trains, my daughter loves walks and animals. They enjoy talking about going on vacation and looking at pictures afterwards.

It’s fun. It’s exhausting. It’s more than I thought it could be.

Photo by Kyle Taylor, Dream It. Do It.

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Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt Berlin Thu, 29 May 2014 11:05:09 +0000

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Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces. -Judith Viorst as seen at Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt Cafe in Berlin

My parents love Ritter Sport chocolate. I’m not sure how well-known it is in the US, it is sold at some Targets and other grocery stores. In my family, Ritter Sport is THE German chocolate. Scratch that – it is THE chocolate. The one thing my parents answer when I ask what they want from Germany.

Berlin even has a whole store dedicated to Ritter Sport chocolates and products. Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt (Ritter Sport Colorful Chocolate World).It’s popular enough to be one of the recommended sites for families from Visit Berlin and their Berlin Welcome Card. I never really understood why. There are a ton of family friendly activities in Berlin – does a chocolate store selling chocolates found on every corner deserve a place in a “top 10″ list?

For my parents – it did. Since they were visiting and our itinerary included an overnight in Berlin, I had to take them to Schokowelt. This was not my choice. I had so much I wanted to show them in Berlin. But, they flat-out told me, “skip it – take us to the Ritter Sport Store.”

Ok, mom and dad.

Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt

What to expect

For those unfamiliar with Ritter Sport, here’s the gist.

Delicious chocolate. Many flavors. Colorful packaging. Squares.

I love their branding.

The shop in Berlin includes a very small museum, a cafe, a cafeteria, and the store selling tons of chocolate and Ritter Sport items.


The ground floor cafeteria is the first thing you walk through. Immediately to your right: a counter that seems to be a place for Ice Cream sundae toppings. On further inspection you find out it’s a place where you can your own SCHOKOKREATION. (More on this in a moment).

The Schokolateria offers an assortment of drinks and chocolate snacks. The setting (chairs, signs…) fit the brand by relying on colorful and square design. It’s lots of fun.



 (Photo Credit: Ritter Sport)

Within the Schokolateria you get to become your own Willy Wonka and make a chocolate bar with your own fillings. There are over 21 choices, and you get to pick 3 fillings plus the type of chocolate you want. I picked gummy bears, rice cereal, and gold stars in dark chocolate.

It was amazing.

The staff mixes the chocolate, throws it in a mold and gives you a ticket to pick up your chocolate 30 minutes later.

(Obvious tip: place your order first thing so it’s ready when you leave.)

The downside to the SHOKOKREATION

This could easily be a memorable, exciting, and tasty experience. Unfortunately, I think I caught someone on a bad day.

I imagined a Marble Slab-type experience. Pick my chocolate flavor and add-ins from the display, then watch as they mix it in a bowl. That’s what the people in front of me did. That’s what the people were doing when I walked in.

When the staff member got to me, though, she pulled out the card to note what I wanted. There was still a family ordering in front of me. I thought we were going to wait for them to finish so I could see the options. Instead, the staff member huffed impatiently. I told her I couldn’t see the choices. She pointed to the sign behind her with the listed items and didn’t say a word. As I was trying to figure out what some of the things were, she tapped her pen against the table. There was no one behind me, but I felt rushed. I gave her my 3 add-ins expecting to at least watch her put the chocolate and add-ins in the bowl and mix (again, as I’ve seen others do). Instead she handed me a ticket and told me to come back in 35 minutes.

I recognize that this may seem ridiculous. However, I think I missed out on part of the fun of making your own candy bar. Plus, I paid for it. A regular candy bar in the store is €0.85. This “experience” was over €3 and I’m willing to bet that the show of picking flavors and watching them mix-it is supposed to be part of the attraction. If it’s not, then they’re really missing out on a great opportunity and should reconsider.


Directly behind the SCHOKOLATERIA is the SCHOKOSHOP. The walls are filled with small and large squares of colorful chocolate packaging and flavors. There are options to fill bags, buy already assorted bags, get a meters worth of chocolate and more. There are also branded polos, backpacks, and soccer balls. My absolute favorite was a cooler bag for regular sized Ritter Sport bars to fit in perfectly.

Again, the only fail in the SCHOKOSHOP was the staff. My dad had asked for help finding the caramel chocolate, and the employee said they don’t have it. I was confused when my dad told me this because I saw the caramel variety in the mini-chocolate section. My mom went in to look for herself, found a giant bar, and purchased it within 5 minutes.



Upstairs you’ll find a small walk through area where you learn more about Ritter Sports process in making the chocolate. The explanations are in English and German. The displays are interactive. My three-year old loved them. Afterwards, there’s a short film, old commercials, and a place to take your own photos.



And finally, the Schokocafe (also upstairs). In addition to the chocolaty goodness on display at the SCHOKOLATERIA downstairs, the cafe has breakfast, lunch, and chocolate items. Things like chocolate soup (with churros), crepes, and varieties of fondue. Perhaps this is just a little slice of heaven right in Berlin. (Whatever you do, don’t click on this .pdf to the menu – I warned you!)


Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt: Great products, not so great staff

Almost every employee we encountered seemed uninterested in their job, impatient with the customers, and bored. Especially at the Schokocafe upstairs. But, it’s hard to let them get you down when you can simply ignore them and enjoy the surroundings. Because it’s so conveniently located it’s worth at least a stop inside for a snack and a drink and to stock up on some tasty treats for friends back home. Just don’t expect the colorful and cheery atmosphere of the brand from the staff.

Thinking about going?

  • Ritter Sport Bunte Schokowelt is conveniently located a street away from Unter den Linden and a few blocks from Gendarmenmarkt and Checkpoint Charlie. It is among some of Berlin’s higher-end shopping, but also close to places like H&M. The Friedrichstr. S-bahn and U-bahn stop are only 2 streets away and the U-6 at Franzoeischestr. leaves you right around the corner from the shop. In other words, it’s easy to make it part of your Berlin itinerary.
  • For those with strollers, the shop is small and can easily get crowded and difficult to navigate with the strollers. The elevators are kind of hidden in the back to get upstairs.
  • If you have children between 7 and 18, you can sign them up for a Chocolate workshop. You have to do it online in advance. You will find more information here: Bunte Schokowelt Schoko Workshop.

Who should go?

This is definitely not just for kids, but is obviously kid-friendly. You’ll likely end up somewhere near this shop and if so, stop in! It’s worth a visit if you’re in the vicinity. For those with Berlin plans outside of this central area don’t go unless you really love Ritter Sport or need some branded trinkets to take home. It’s a small shop, museum, and cafe so it does not take up too much time.

For more information

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Neuschwanstein’s big surprise Fri, 23 May 2014 08:37:22 +0000

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If you’re familiar with the area around the Disney World Resort in Orlando (I-drive, 192…), you’re familiar with tacky tourism souvenir shops, chain restaurants, mega hotels, and heavy traffic.

You’re probably also very familiar with this – Disney’s iconic Cinderella Castle.

Walt Disney Castle photo

It’s not just centerpiece of the Magic Kingdom. It’s also the symbol for Disney movies and television credits.

Most people also know that the main inspiration behind Cinderella’s Castle is Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle.

So what’s so surprising about Neuschwanstein?

So many touristy activities in the town of Schwangau.

Neuschwantstein is often pictured secluded in the hills of Bavaria. It’s easy to imagine the tranquil setting. However, the bottom of that hill (Schwangau) is the German equivalent of tacky tourist area. Which is a slight exaggeration, but the area does seem to personify every Bavarian (and thus, German) stereotype.

Instead of Mickey ears they sell lederhosen.

Instead of all-you-can-eat buffets they have currywurst and spaetzle.

Instead of miniature fun parks there are multiple nature hikes in the mountains and lakes.

Instead of a Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum visit King Ludwig II’s museum or the lesser-known castle practically next door to Neuschwanstein.

Instead of grand resorts with pools and valet parking there are private vacation rentals in half-timbered homes.

Instead of traffic jams people rely on great public transportation options or horse-drawn carriage rides.

Basically bottom-of-the-hill Neuschwanstein is surprisingly touristy, but equally charming.

If only I had known.

Unfortunately, most accounts of Neuschwanstein are pretty clear that it’s pretty shallow. Beautiful on the outside, drab on the inside. I made a decision to just make a quick stop en route from Stuttgart to Garmisch instead of dedicating the day to explore the area. And unfortunately, the GPS system played a few tricks with our routing which made us later than expected. So we really did not have enough time to see everything the area had to offer.

Hikes around the Alpsee are a fun family-friendly activity.

Neuschwanstein: Things to do

Our less than 2 hour visit was filled with schnitzel sandwich snacking, postcard browsing, sign reading, and posing for photos in front of gorgeous landscapes. Here are some things I would have been happy to do if we had a few more hours.

  • Take a hike: Pick up a map at the tourist center or follow one of the signs. Everything is clearly marked with expected completion times and routes. Plus, how often can you hike up to a castle, or around a clear lake with Alp views?
  • Learn more about the crazy King: This area of Germany meant a lot to King Ludwig II. He spent his youth there and built one of his three castles there. Visit the museum dedicated to his life and story.
  • See a castle, no not that castle: I knew Hohenshcwangau was near Neuschwanstein, I didn’t realize they were neighbors. Ludwig lived in Hohenschwangau (when it was called Schwanstein (for language buffs Neuschwanstein means NEW Schwanstein and when naming Neuschwanstein, they changed the name of Schwanstein to Hohenschwangau – and believe me this can be more confusing, but I’ll leave you to finding the sign with more information (or you can email me if you want to learn more))) and although not as iconic from the outside it is worth a tour indoors.
  • Perhaps a paddle boat: Between the castles and next to the Ludwig Museum there’s a large lake. Other than the estimated 90 minute walk around the lake, with gorgeous views of mountains and castles along the way, paddle boat rides are available in good weather.
  • Marienbrucke: For excellent views of Neushwanstein, head to this bridge that dates back to the 1800s. It’s a little scary for my taste, but the more adventurous are rewarded with a better story and photo.
  • Eat more Bavarian food: There are several restaurants, many with postcard views of something memorable. Try popular Bavarian dishes in the quintessential royal setting.
  • Shop for tacky souvenirs: Ok, some of the souvenirs are not so tacky. The shops at the bottom of the hill sell both Bavarian and German branded items (most likely the cheap things actually made in China), to the quality brands Germany is known for (from Christmas ornaments to Steiff Teddy Bears to cuckoo clocks and biersteins).
  • Compare and contrast the details of Ludwig and Cinderella’s castles: What parts of Neuschwanstein did Mr. Disney use as inspiration?

So much fun stuff to do around Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau.

Thinking about going?

  • Schwangau is about two hours from Munich, Innsbruck, and Stuttgart making it a good base to explore many areas.
  • There are plenty of day trip operators, especially from Munich, available. Otherwise there a combination of trains and buses will get you there, but you should purchase your tickets in advance online if you are interested in touring the castle.
  • For those driving, there are many parking spaces available for a small fee (at the time of our visit in the Spring of 2014 it was 5 Euros). While we had no issue finding parking, if the lots are full consider parking in nearby Fussen and taking the busses to Schwangau.
  • You can easily make this area an all day – or longer – destination. There is more than enough stuff to do in the area, especially if for nature buffs.
  • From my perspective, there were several trail opportunities that appeared stroller-friendly, though we didn’t do anything too extensive.

Who should go

I recommend this area of Germany to families who like to hike. Between the two castles and the museum there are definitely enough activities to fill a day, but I don’t know if those things alone would be enough for young kids. The trails, however, would be a fun way to explore the area.  If you’re a King Ludwig II fan – you don’t need convincing. If you don’t know anything about him, I’m sure you’ll learn to appreciate him after a visit. Is this a must-see for Germany visitors? Well, my first visit to this castle was after living in the country a total of 7 years, so I guess that depends on you!

For more information

  • Check out my post about another Ludwig castle, Herrenchiemsee.
  • Neuschwanstein‘s official website
  • Hohenschwangau‘s official website
  • A great post from Little Siteseers and their day in the Schwangau area (hint: they did a lot more than we did).
  • Monkeys and Mountains has visited many castles in Germany and didn’t like this one. But, she does still give great tips for those who want to go.

Photo by Christian Lambert Photography smartshell macbook

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Le Jardin d’Acclimation Paris, France Wed, 14 May 2014 05:00:29 +0000

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This is my 100th post! It’s been slightly over a year since I restarted this blog. Last month I wrote a little over 1/4 of the whole blog’s post as part of the A-Z challenge. I enjoyed that challenge so much, that I decided to make up my own challenge for May. Twice a week, I write a post about an attraction we’ve visited and haven’t written about before here.

Why? To encourage people to travel or to help someone trying to learn a little more about a place on their to-do list. See, for me, my travel researching style includes reading posts about what people did at a place. From there, I’ll usually make a decision that it’s a good fit – or that it’s a bad fit. The problem is there’s nothing I can say about our time at Le Jardin d’Acclimation in Paris, France that would justify a decision either way.

The tale of why my recommendation of Le Jardin d’Acclimation is not too reliable

If you’re unfamiliar with this park – it’s part botanical garden, part amusement park, part zoo, part playground and completely everything that could possibly answer “what would a child like to spend their day doing”.

And that would be reason enough to go.

I first heard about it long before we even moved to France. A blogger I read at the time celebrated her daughter’s first birthday in Paris and wanted to do something very Parisian that day. After some research, she discovered there was no more-Parisian way to celebrate a first birthday than by going to the garden opened by Napoleon III in 1860. And when we moved to Germany and had a baby, I figured, well this sounds amazing.

And that would be reason enough to go.

We spent a week in the city of love, loving on our little soon-to-be-one-year old boy. Our days were filled with trips to parks, towers, museums, coeurs, rues, baguette shops, and – oh, yeah – we also spent a day at Disney. On the one year anniversary of my son’s birth, the day before we left, it decided to rain. The rain was not torrential and we went anyway. Unfortunately, non-torrential rain means one thing: the park is still open, but most of the rides are not. On a good note: most people in Paris seem to skip Le Jardin when it’s wet – there were no crowds. Plus, our one year old, didn’t really care.

And because of this, I can’t say that our experience is a good indicator either way of if you should go or not.

We had a great time. We looked at the animals, ate some croque monsieur, spent a few Euros to ride the petit train – a train that takes you from the park to the parking lot, and made notes on how very Parisian this place was. Coming from Orlando, where rides continue in most weather scenarios, this place was as far away from everything the Orlando parks are known for – and that would be reason enough to go.

Thinking about going?

  • Le Jardin d’Acclimation is in the 16th Arrondissement in the Bois de Boulogne. For those taking public transportation, which I recommend, it’s the Sablon metro station exit 2. Follow Rue d’Orleans until you get to the park. There are plenty of signs.
  • Entrance fees, and attractions are inexpensive. Purchase a book of 15, 25, or 50 tickets to save even more money. Kids under 3 do not pay to enter.
  • You do not need to have a car parked in the parking lot to ride the Petit Train, but I suppose this ride could be busier on warmer days.

Who should visit?

Le Jardin d’Acclimation is definitely a park for families. Because the rides are aimed towards younger children, this may not be the right choice for older kids. It is definitely a park that can take a whole day to visit, however you can also be comfortable spending only  a few hours there because of the low entrance fees.

Great links for further reading

  • We visited Le Jardin d’Acclimation on a rainy day, here are other things to do in Paris when it’s raining.
  • Since the garden dates back to 1860, there is a lot of history in the place. Check out the official website and hit “google translate” to learn more. Be on the lookout for: the famous other at the inauguration, the zoological society’s purpose for the acclimation garden, the “Pigeons of the Republic”, which country’s successful amusement park encouraged the garden to add attractions, and which other countries are represented within the gardens.
  • Here’s a pdf of the brochure in English.




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Open Air Museum Arnhem, NL Thu, 08 May 2014 05:00:54 +0000

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If there’s one aspect of travel I can’t seem to shut-up about it’s the importance of knowing some of the history of where you are traveling to. And I don’t mean you have to dust off your old books from Mrs. Miller’s class (this was actually my European History teacher’s name in 9th grade), though that would be nice.

There are multiple ways to get a crash course in history when you visit someplace new to you. One of my recent favorites are Open Air Museums. In the U.S. the places I think of that are similar to Open Air Museums in Europe (places like the Jamestown Settlement or Old Sturbridge Village) are referred to as Living History Museums. I’m not sure if there are more differences than just the name, but thinking of these in terms of being similar to what I’m familiar with helped me understand it more. That’s a mouthful.

In the Netherlands, head to Arnhem to catch a historical and cultural examination in their Openluchtmuseum.

Open Air Museum Arnhem

Child Friendliness

As with most things Dutch, I find this museum to be extremely child and family friendly. The idea is not to learn by seeing, but by doing. Throughout the exhibitions there are opportunities for families to get dirty, to try things themselves, and to be involved in the process. As if that’s not enough, there is also a cable tram running throughout the park, a small tram depot, a playground, a boat dock, mini cars to play in at the cafes, and plenty of pancakes and poffertjes to go around.

Open Air Museum arnhem

Go back in time

Scattered throughout the property are representations of life back when. Many of the buildings are either replicas from one of the Netherland’s cities, or the original building relocated for educational purposes. Through informative plaques and hand-on activities, it’s easy to let history soak in. One of my favorite attractions is a typical street with the same home repeated several times. As you walk into the home you see what life was like in that same place at different points in history. Pretty cool.

Open Air Museum Arnhem

Cultural significance

When talking about Dutch culture there are certain images that come to mind: windmills, boats, cheese, Indonesian food, tulips, royalty. It’s all there. Many of the exhibitions are perfect for learning the country’s history, there are significant tributes about the modern society as well.

Open Air Museum Arnhem

It’s fun

Seriously. It almost felt more like a really cool playground than a glance into important aspects of entire country. It wove the education seamlessly. It’s impossible to walk out without both a smile and a brain filled with interesting tidbits. The perfect way to start any Dutch adventure.

Thinking about going?

  • It’s only an hour away from Amsterdam via train (and a bit more via car) close to the German border. Then take public transport to get there from the train station. There is plenty of parking available for those driving, just remember to pay for your parking token when you enter the park.
  • It being an Open Air Museum lends itself to being a good option on a sunny day, but there are several indoor exhibits if the weather isn’t perfect. So, bring your raincoat if you see grey skies.
  • There are plenty of restaurants and cafes on site. Many are connected to a play area for kids. It’s also very stroller friendly.

Who should visit?

This is an ideal destination for anyone interested in Dutch culture and is looking for a day trip (or longer) outside of Amsterdam. While it is definitely toddler-friendly, the exhibits would be interesting to people of all ages.

Great links for further reading

  • The official website for the Openleuchtmuseum (with a drop down menu to change it to English).
  • My own post about something that happened during our visit.
  • Reviews from Tripadvisor (seems like it’s a nice Christmastime destination, too)
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Herrenchiemsee: Ludwig’s Versailles Tue, 06 May 2014 05:00:49 +0000

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I had a slight obsession with King Ludwig II of Germany when I was in high school. And even with this obsession, I had never visited any of his castles. So, when we headed down to Prien am Chiemsee for a month of intensive language learning (specifically German) and I discovered that the nearby castle was one of his, we went.


Bavaria’s Versailles

For me, the main point of interest with Herrenchiemsee is that it’s a replica of Versailles in France. The major differences being that’s it’s even more ornate than Versailles. For those that have only been to Versailles (I haven’t been there, so I don’t know) they’ll probably think that’s impossible. Well, the news for them is that it is actually an incomplete, more ornate Versailles. Ludwig II died before construction finished.
Another thing that surprised me about this is that it was not built to compete with the original. Instead it is a tribute to France’s King Louis XIV, the Sun King. And that is equally crazy and cool.

Getting to the Herrenchiemsee Palace

Ferry to Herrenchiemsee

The Palace is on an island in the middle of the lake. Herreninsel. There are several cities along the Chiemsee that offer transportation to both Herreninsel and Fraueninsel (Men’s Island and Women’s Island.)

We were there in the winter and the only comfortable way to get to the island was via a short 15 minute ferry ride. The boat was almost empty, which made it easy for us to roll our stroller on board.

From the ferry we walked directly to the palace to buy our tickets and waited the next available tour in English.

Off-season at the Herrenchiemsee Palace

Herrenchiemsee during low-season

Here’s the thing with off-season, specifically wintry destinations in Europe. Specifically castles. Specifically Herrenchiemsee (and Salzburg, which I will write about later this month.)

Off-season travel is great because there are practically no crowds so it feels like you have the place to yourself. One of the big negatives of touristy places are the crowds. Go off-season, though, and you get the benefit of visiting a touristy place without suffocating.

Off-season travel sucks because there are practically no season-dependent decorative items on display. Especially outside. Prien, Chiemsee, and the surroundings are beautiful in the winter – don’t get me wrong. The snow-capped mountains of the alps and the very stereotypical quaint German village makes visiting this area of the world in the winter a good thing. However, the big draw to Herrenchiemsee is the comparisons to Versailles. Part of the appeal of Versailles is its gardens. Obviously, the gardens at Herrenchiemsee are not in bloom in the winter. Also, the fountains? They are turned off and covered to protect them from the weather.

Once inside, we had more of the pros and cons of the off-season travel. Our English-speaking tour group was small – yay!. Some of the rooms were undergoing refurbishment and were missing some items – boo!

 Our impressions of Herrenchiemsee

Still, with all the negatives of being there without getting to see the gardens in bloom and the full-picture of the interior it was spectacular. I’ve never been to Versailles, nor have I had much interest in it. But seeing Herrenchiemsee actually made me want to see the original.

My three-month old must have loved it because he refused his stroller and preferred to look around. I’m betting he was hoping we were leaving our 600 sq. foot apartment and trading up for serious royal treatment.

My favorite part of the tour was the visit to the Great Hall of Mirrors. I’m familiar with the idea of the room because of the popularity of Versailles version. As I mentioned earlier, Herrenchiemsee is even MORE ornate so this room is even more spectacular than the original. Whereas Versailles has paintings, Herrenchiemsee has 3-d artwork. Also the windows are slightly larger meaning the room is bigger.

Though we only went to Herreninsel to see the palace, there are other activities for people to do on the island. There are paths within the woods, a monastery, and a King Ludwig II museum. For us, though, we wanted to escape the cold and head to the indoor pool on the other side of the lake.

Lake Chiemsee

Thinking about going?

  • At only 60 km from Munich it is easy to get to the island by taking a train from the city’s main train station directly to Prien. From Prien’s train station it’s a nice walk (perhaps 30 minutes),  or you can take advantage of a small shuttle-train that runs in the summer. Once you get to the dock, just hop on a ferry over to the island.
  • We didn’t take the shuttle-train, but everything else we did while there was stroller friendly. The palace doesn’t have elevators, so we had to carry the stroller up the stairs. They also have strollers and baby carriers for rent at the palace.
  • There are several ticket options available, and a few English-language tours throughout the day. The tour is the only way to see the interior of the palace, and you can only enter at the time-stamped on the ticket. The other sites can be seen at a more leisurely pace.
  • There is a small cafe serving select items within the palace. I didn’t feel it was overpriced. There are also several restaurants on the mainland near where the ferry docks, and on the walk between there and the train station.
  • Photos are not allowed within the palace.

Who should visit?

I think this is a good side trip for anyone staying in Southern Bavaria or looking for a stop on a journey between Salzburg, Austria and Munich. Especially if you have an interest in Ludwig’s castles (or castles in general). I would also recommend it to people who are visiting Germany and don’t want to trek to France to see Versailles, or people who have seen Versailles and want to figure out for themselves how this one compares.

This is the biggest attraction within the Prien vicinity and can take from 2-4 hours to the whole day depending on how casually you visit the island.


Great Links for further reading

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A to Zs of Family Travel and a recap Thu, 01 May 2014 05:00:40 +0000

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A to Z

In April 2014 I participated in the A-Z Challenge. Every day (except Sundays), I wrote a post on planning tips or memory keeping ideas.

I’ve compiled those here.

A-to-Z Reflection [2014]

Recap of my A-Z Challenge Experience for 2014

Before I get to that, I want to write a recap of the experience.

On the suggestion from DJ at Dream Euro Trip, I signed up for this challenge the weekend before it started. I was a little nervous about it. Writing 26 posts in 1 month when I probably only wrote 2-3 posts in the previous 3 months? Plus, April was a busy month for me. I had plans. I was going on a mom’s trip to London and then my husband was going to leave me with the two kids as he went to the US for work for two weeks. But, I signed up and went for it.

I made some quick decisions at the beginning. I was going to keep it on the family travel theme, but anywhere from the planning to the memory keeping aspect of it. I was not going to allow myself to get too caught up in everything. I wanted to write 26 posts, I didn’t want to write 26 blogging masterpieces.

I pulled out a spread sheet and came up with an A-Z list of family travel topics. Out of all my pre-planned ideas, I only stuck with two “R is for Rest” and “X Marks the Spot”.

The rest kind of just happened.

I realized early on that I wanted my posts to go live the same time every day. 7am. Done.

I wanted to connect with other travel bloggers. Done.

I wanted to post every day of the challenge. Done.

I wanted to get better at social media. Done, but not as much as I would have preferred.

I wanted to write without too much worry about photos and perfection. Uh- yeah, definitely no perfection here. Done.

My favorite parts of this challenge was starting a new day and seeing what some of the people wrote about. I liked the camaraderie with the participants. I appreciated all the comments, especially when my topic doesn’t apply to some of the reader’s lives. They still humored me, left thoughtful comments, and were very encouraging. Thank you.

I also liked just the actual writing of posts. Getting it done. Mosts of these things were things I wanted to write about anyway. The challenge gave me a reason to.

I will definitely participate again. While I still don’t want to write 26 masterpieces, I will add photos to my posts, pin some of those photos, and take part in more social media. I’m hoping that my next theme focuses on places instead of just travel tips. Oh, and I definitely want better titles. (If there’s one thing I learned, I’m not a title writer.)

Some things I’d like seen done differently? Perhaps a link-up for each day and letter. That way it would be easier to keep up with people who were participating, but maybe we had missed in scanning the sign up sheet.

Overall, I highly recommend this to anyone looking to have some fun while also being challenged.

And without further adieu…

The A-Zs of Family Travel

A is for Airplanes with Small Children

B is for Breakfast while Traveling

C is for Count: Children and Bags + Learn Numbers

D is for Disney and Disney-fication

E is for Emergencies while Traveling Abroad

F is for Favorites

G is for Gear Suggestions for Traveling Families

H is for Hotel Alternatives

I is for Instagram Travel Thursday

J is for Jokes while Traveling

K is for Kids Love to Travel

L is for Listen to your Kids

M is for Money

N is for Nail Clippers and Packing Lists

O is for Over the Counter Drugs

P is for Parks, Playgrounds, and Picnics

Q is for Queues with Little Ones

R is for Rest Planning

S is for Scavenger Hunt

T is for Touristy Attractions

U is for “Unknown” Destinations

V is for Volunteering Trips for Families

W is for Water – Water – Water

X is for X Marks the Spot

Y is for Yucky Food while Traveling

Z is for Zoos and Science Centers

survivor-atoz [2014]

Photo by susivinh

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Zoos and Science Centers Wed, 30 Apr 2014 05:00:24 +0000

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Z copy

And here we are – 26 letters later – Z.

I can’t believe I’m going to talk about Zoos. When I first decided to restart this Travel Turtle as a family travel blog, I read a lot of like-minded blogs. There was a one or two-week period when I kept reading about zoos. I turned to my husband (we were in a car) and I said, “I don’t know why people keep writing about zoos. I mean, they’re zoos. What’s there to know? You go in and look at animals. Besides, why would people go to zoos when they’re visiting a new city anyway?”

Then a funny thing happened. Over the course of this past year, I’ve been to several zoos.

Turns out there are legitimate reasons to visit a zoo, or a science center, or a lot of other types of family friendly attractions that could exist closer to home when you’re far from home. Before having kids, I hadn’t visited a zoo since at least high school. So it surprised me that they are actually interesting.

I was kind of against them because of the cruelty to animals thing, and I’ll get to that in a second.

Zoos and science centers are not the same the world over. When you are traveling, the nearest zoo will have a large section devoted to local animals. The nearest science center will give insight into the natural and scientific story of the region – and it’s really cool.

So, don’t be like me and dismiss a zoo or a science center while on vacation because  you have an annual pass to the one in your neighborhood. You can learn a lot from both. (And, of course, your kids will love them, they have playgrounds, hand-on activities, and kid-friendly eating establishments.)

Why read a blog post about zoos?

This is where the “who writes about zoos and science centers” comes in. I never visited zoos because of fear of animal mistreatment. I never stayed knowledgeable in zoo facilities because I just never went. Then I visited one that was near me and had great reviews. That’s when I discovered the value in a good zoo. Employees are not just people who needed any job. These are competitive jobs that require some level of interest and education. These people are people who care about animals. They’re animal advocates and they’re showing the visitors why animals matter.

Not all zoos are created equally, unfortunately. I know I have some readers that may have good information for me to look into to make sure I’m visiting a zoo that really puts the animals first. I’d love to hear your opinions about this. What should I look out for, if you don’t visit zoos why not, what (if anything) would you recommend in the place of zoos?

In some of my research I’ve discovered that in the United States, the USDA is the only government organization regulating the treatment of animals at zoos and aquariums. There are various accreditation agencies, each with their own standards, but membership into those agencies are also fee-based. Be aware of that distinction when you see that a zoo has a certain accreditation.

For the zoos I have been lucky to visit the past 12 months, I’ve had a good experience. For me, this is invaluable. My son loves animals. I want to take him to a place that will foster his interest, where animals are properly treated, and employees are enthusiastic and knowledgeable. This is why I read reviews.

Now I’m putting it here, for the last letter of the A-Z Challenge. It’s an introduction to what I’ll be doing in May. One thing that has been lacking in my website are reviews about places like zoos, science centers, and tourist spots. These places often have a website filled with the practical information such as prices, directions coming from the highway or public transportation, maps, and hours of operations. That’s only part of what parents want to know, though. They want to know if the price was worth it, if the animals’ environments are up to a high standard, if the kids like it, if the food was good, and other pointers and opinions they can’t find on the official website. And since this is a family travel blog, I want to provide that information.

So please come back in May and read about a few of the zoos we’ve visited, some of our favorite science centers, and other fun vacation spots (my line up includes scenic views in Austria, Paris, and Switzerland, government buildings, amusement parks, museums, mountains, beaches, castles, national parks, and UNESCO sites)

Thank you A-Z Challenge Participants

Thank you to everyone who joined me, read along, and commented during this challenge. It was truly a challenge (I had around 70 posts before starting, now I’m at 96!). Every day I highlighted a travel blogger participant. Here’s a complete list of those blogs. Some of them have kept up, some of them are still working on it, and some of them are finished at the moment, but at some point in this challenge they provided me with fun travel information and for that – thank you!

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One last thing. I’ve started a Triberr account for anyone who participated in the A-Z challenge and wants to continue to connect. I find it to be a really easy sharing tool, if you have any questions, feel free to ask. If you want to join the A-Z Travel Bloggers tribe, click here and let me know.


Photo by Tunisia_Photos jual case macbook air

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Yucky food while traveling Tue, 29 Apr 2014 05:00:40 +0000

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*** This may be a sensitive story for those with weaker stomachs***

Have you ever witnessed a pig being slaughtered? I’m not talking in movies, nor do I mean a slaughterhouse.

The first, and so far only, time I have “witnessed” a pig slaughter was when I was seven. We were two weeks into our 3 week family visit in the Philippines. It was a comfortably warm December and we were prepping for our Christmas feast. The pig on the farm, the one I had grown accustomed to seeing on my aunt’s property, was being prepared for the big roast.

As soon as the preparation of killing the pig started, I walked away. My aunt lived in was a bamboo hut, in the middle of a clearing, in the middle of a jungle. There was no way to escape the sound. That squeal. It was a sound I could never forget. It was the sound of death. I don’t know how long he squealed for, it felt like eternity, but I did know one thing. I knew I was never going to eat that pig.

So when his head showed up as the centerpiece on the Christmas Eve dinner table, surrounded by dishes that included other parts of him, I happily skipped my meal.

One week and two days later, it was my birthday. We were leaving the next day. My Filipino family threw a second feast. Instead of a pig, though, they killed a chicken.

I watched in mixed horror/fascination. With the head still hanging by a small piece of neck skin, that chicken ran all over the farm. I don’t even know if he made a sound. Whereas the pig made every other noise in the jungle disappear, this chicken made every other sight and sense disappear. An eternity later, he stopped.

I watched as my grandmother plucked its feathers and drained its blood.

And that night, the chicken was the star event on the dinner table. And that night, I happily ate it up.

Many, many years later I spoke with my dad about these two events. He told me he thought I would never eat the chicken. I told him I was starving.

So – what does this have to do with yucky food and travel? Well, seven-year old me was not an adventurous eater. I was definitely a burger and fries kind of girl. The only dishes I attempted to eat while in the Philippines were ones I was already slightly familiar with because my mom made them. I ate adobo, rice, pan de sol, and lumpia. The diversity in Filipino dishes goes well beyond those more famous dishes. It was not yucky, I just didn’t know it.

But, after 3 weeks of getting by with the minimum. I would eat anything.

These days, one of my favorite reasons to travel is to try the food. I’m still pretty picky. But, I remember my childhood experiences, I try to approach the subject differently with my kids. If I can eat that chicken – my kids can at least taste a food I’m also willing to eat.

How to get your kids past the” yucky” foods.

Whether traveling or not, there are foods kids don’t like and will automatically classify as “yucky food”. Most of the time, they haven’t even tried the food, they just don’t like that it looks different from what they are used to, or maybe it’s because they wanted tacos not fajitas, or maybe they’re just being negative.

Like all other things travel and/or kid related, preparation goes a long way. It starts at home. With some small adjustments willingness to at least try new foods while abroad should be ever-so-slightly easier – if the kids have had their naps, and had time to get the wiggles out, and aren’t mad at you for not buying them the souvenir paperweight they’ve always wanted.

Here are a few tips that will hopefully help  dealing with a pickier eater by slowly introducing new flavors and dishes to them.

  • Get them into the habit of trying new foods. If they’re always eating the same thing at home, it may be difficult for them to want to even open their mouth to a new food experience. But, by making it part of your normal routine, it’ll be something they expect. The best way for this to work is two-fold: always introduce and reintroduce new foods to them, but don’t pressure them into eating more if they don’t like it after they’ve tried it.
  • Make their favorite meals using some of the flavors of the new place they are visiting. Perhaps they really love chicken tenders, maybe add some curry to the ketchup if they’re visiting the UK or India. Or put some mediterranean spices in the coating if their trip will take them to Greece.
  • Go a little deeper with fusion meals. Combine the components of various culinary traditions to a meal that is more heavily influenced by another culture than just switching out the seasonings. A good example is a thai chicken pizza.
  • Try new recipes of the places they’re going. This kind of coincides with the first point – let them try new foods. But, this is specific to where they’re going so that they can get a sense of what the foreign dishes might look like. My favorite source for good recipes and international food is “Food by Country“. I’ve tried recipes on that site from Hungary, Brazil, and Germany and they’ve all been delicious. I’m not sure how authentic they all are, but it’s definitely a change from what’s in our normal rotation.
  • Let them help you cook. This is more of a general tip for picky eaters. Sometimes being part of the process helps the kid want to eat the meal.
  • Figure out the local foods, and what might most appeal to your kid. My son loves sausage and noodles. If I can find him a sausage or noodle dish while we’re on vacation, he’ll generally be happy.
  • As a last resort, go with old standbys. Pack a jar of peanut butter, and make some sandwiches. Get fruit and cheese at the grocery store. Go to chain restaurants that have made their way overseas where the kid is guaranteed to like something. Do so without shame or disappointment. As an adult I spent two weeks in China. Every meal was noodles, sautéed veggies, meats, rice, and a grand gesture. It was exhausting. On the 10th day, we ate at McDonald’s. It was so relaxing to have a different style meal – to eat without ceremony. It was a nice break that helped us all appreciate the last few days of Chinese meals we ate. Sometimes you just have to do what works with your family.

 Photo by Geoff Peters 604

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Guide and Travel has dedicated their A-Z Challenge to Romania. Lots of great information on what I believe to be a beautiful country. I haven’t been, but it sits near the top of my list.

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