Posts Tagged With: budget travel

The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow…

There will be days, says Dev, where nothing goes right. We’d better get used to that. It really is amazing what can happen in the space of 24 hours though, and we need to trust the fact that it will always be ok. Because it will. Our pediatrician told us the other day that there will never be a problem we can’t handle. I think that has to be a bit of a mantra when things are uncertain, as they undoubtedly will be, over the next several months.

Yesterday, it was looking like we would have to revisit our whole transportation-in-Europe plan. We were going to buy a minivan in England, and use it to travel in Europe, and then sell when we are finished. One of Dev’s siblings was going to insure it for us and then name us as drivers, and all would be well.

So then, we found the vehicle we wanted, and tried to set the wheels in motion, but the wheels kept getting stuck. Things don’t actually work the same way over there, apparently. You can’t just buy a vehicle and drive it off the lot; everything has to be registered and taxed through the mail. Really! The mail! In this age of technology and information, we have to wait for the mailman to deliver our tax and registration. Amazing.

And then there’s the insurance. No, the siblings can’t insure for us because then we’d have to stay in the UK. And apparently being a good driver in one country does not actually make you a good driver anywhere else. So, the 20 years no-claims Dev has may not be at all useful. Even though the world wide web can actually inform the insurance company that Dev has not, indeed, had any claims. And even though he’s British, with a British drivers license, and 5 years British no-claims…don’t even get me started.

Luckily for us, we have great family in England who have spent the last couple of days looking into it for us, and we have been in contact with a very helpful man named Andrew at Evans Halshaw in England, and I think we now actually have a new vehicle:) It will even be ready for someone to come and pick us up at the airport. It’s a Citroen Grand Picasso, a gas (petrol)-guzzling machine that despite it’s appetite, will get us around Europe on our own schedule. With room for kids, bags, and tents. It’s all good.

The moral of the story then, is, when there is a day of frustration or things don’t seem to be going well, the next day will be better. This particular incident is minor really, so when we miss the plane or the boat or the train, we’ll get the next one. And when that amazing place is all booked up and we are disappointed, there will be another, equally amazing place we didn’t see the first time we looked. And we’ll book that one instead.

And as Annie so famously says, the sun will come out tomorrow!

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Practice Mini-Trip.

We just spent a night in Halifax, all of a three and a half hour drive away from us. We have done this many many times before, but this time, my focus was very different. I viewed this as a little practice for the big thing – a very tiny glimpse into what could be…Now, I know you can’t compare a 3 or 4 hour road trip with driving to Mexico (for example), but you can learn from it. And we did. On the way home, we asked the kids what they had learned from the experience, and they said “Be Prepared”. That about sums it up, and it’s really good advice. But here are a few more things we learned as the parents and planners of the upcoming trips:

  1. Having the right clothing, footwear, and “accessories” can make or break your day. We stopped in Truro at Victoria Park, a great park for hiking complete with waterfalls and streams (to play in, as it turned out). So, when we arrived, we got the kids to change from flip flops to sneakers for our little hike in the woods (sensible.), but then when they insisted on getting wet, turns out flip flops may have been more appropriate. So, now we know we need some all terrain sandals that will go in water and still be ok for hiking. Check. Also, naturally, one child “needed” to swim in the waterfall, but wouldn’t take off her pants out of modesty, so then we had the issue of wringing wet pants for the walk back to the van (I had brought towels, but they were in the trunk). So, we need a backpack of fresh clothing and a towel next time. Check. It was hot. Unexpectedly hot. Only one of us had a hat, and only one of us put on sunscreen prior to leaving the house. I brought sunscreen, but it was in the suitcase, buried under other toiletries, teddy bears and clothes. So, always have sunscreen readily available no matter what the weather when you set out. Check. And hats. We had to go back to the van a little earlier than we wanted to due to hot heads and the fear of uncomfortable scalp sunburn.
  2. Having some kind of system of organization in the vehicle can make things a lot more pleasant for everyone. After only a couple of hours in the van,  the back looked like a bomb site. Books and notepads all over the floor. Bags everywhere, random shoes in the aisle, and snack-garbage strewn around the seats. Then nobody can find what they are looking for, or someone is constantly having to pass something to someone else, and there may even be fighting in the back. So, I have asked the kids to start thinking about how to organize the chaos, because if it’s like that after two hours, I dread to think what it will be like after twelve. I need to think about this too. There must be some good ideas on this out there, so I will look. Check.
  3. Everyone needs to be assigned an individual job when we stay in hotel rooms (or anywhere, really). Five people sharing a room is ok for a night, even if it is crowded and chaotic. But what about longer stays? In order for those to work, I think we need assigned jobs, and kind of an “order of operations”. What do we do immediately upon arrival? Unpack. Put stuff away. Basically, create space. What needs to be checked during the final sweep of the hotel room before leaving? Someone could do drawers, another person bathroom and shower, another can do plug outlets for chargers etc. And because Darragh’s pj top no longer lives with us, we now know someone also needs to check under the bedding! This could save us a lot of time, and a lot of repetition. It’s efficient, and I like efficiency. It will also teach responsibility and save us money on items we would have had to re-buy if we left them in the hotel room! Check.
  4. We need to determine what makes an educational experience into a home-schooling experience. We went to the Museum of Natural History, and of course, the girls loved it, and I’m sure they learned a lot. From how big a hummingbird’s egg is, and what fox poop looks like, to how igneous rock forms. So, as we sat there watching them count the mammals in one big display case, we looked at each other and said, “so, is this it, or do we have to do something?”. Yes, folks, that was our lesson plan. This was a great lesson for us, because clearly, that is not enough. What do we do prior to the visit to set it up? How does the focus need to differ for the three ages of our kids? Do we let them choose their own learning focus? What should they be doing while in the museum? After the visit? We need to do a little more thinking around these issues! Check.
  5. Hotel rooms for five people are ok, even without a cot. Turns out, Liah likes the floor. Awesome! And just while we are on the subject of hotels, the ones with the complimentary breakfast are definitely the way to go. Such a saving for us. And a pool. Because a pool makes everything ok.
  6. The 4G ipad rocks. Yes, this is the final thing we learned on our trip. When we said, “I’m not sure if we are going the right way – I think we may have missed the exit”, the ipad and its little flashing blue dot told us we were fine. When we were trying to decide where to eat supper, we spun the wheel-of-fortune-like spinner on the Urbanspoon app and it gave us plenty of suggestions to match our taste and budget. And it takes fabulous pictures. And it turns out, there is an app that can organize my life. I got it, but I can’t figure out how to use it. 
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Budget Travel – is there any such a thing with three kids?

When I think of backpacking around Europe when I was 22, or camping in the South of France, or even my summer working holiday in Jamaica back in the day, I am amazed at how little I survived on. My personal budget for the Europe trip was $600 for a month, and that had to include food, some transportation, and accommodation – rail travel was covered with the prior purchase of a Eurorail Pass. So, it has always seemed infinitely possible to me to do the same thing with my family. That is, until I started adding up the cost of a plane ticket x5, a rail pass x5, food x5…you see where I’m going with this! It adds up pretty quick. I am constantly searching online for budget travel blogs and family travel ideas, but its hard to curate all that information! The one I read last night made me realize that going to countries where your currency is worth a lot, and their cost of living is very low, is the way to go. The problem is, most of our travel will be in Europe, and there are not too many developing countries around there. It is more likely that we’ll end up spending the majority of our time in countries where the cost of living is actually higher than our own in Canada! So, if anyone has any fantastic tips, I’d love to hear them. I’m starting to feel a little dejected.

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