Travelling With Kids

Travel is one of the most precious gifts which a parent can give to a child. The chance to see new parts of the world and experience different and exciting cultures, cuisine and languages is something which will stay with a child for the rest of their life. In educational terms, a week or two immersed in a foreign culture will allow a child to learn about it in a way which months spent reading or watching documentaries simply couldn’t hope to match. Nobody is pretending that travelling with young children is easy, however, so here are a few tips designed to take a little stress out of the experience and perhaps give you a few ideas of where to take your kids next.

travelling-with-kids

travelling-with-kids

Home Comforts
Whilst kids love the excitement of a stay in a hotel, and parents relish the pampering they might get if it’s at the luxury end of the scale, there are times when the comforts of home make a journey much more practical. For a longer stay in a city, for example, renting an actual home which has a kitchen, a selection of bedrooms and signs of family life such as toys, books and board games, can be the ideal choice. For the duration of your stay you’ll actually feel like you’re just another local family, exploring and making the most of whatever city you’re in. various companies offer this option, with houses all over the world ranging from the small and cosy to the grand and palatial.

Get to Know each Other
The pace of modern life, and in particular the long and strenuous working hours which most people now have to cope with, can sometimes make it difficult for parents and kids to spend a lot of quality time together. A trip is the perfect time to combat this problem, particularly if you plan activities, days out and sightseeing tours which you know will appeal to them.

Get to Know each Other

parents and kids to spend a lot of quality time together

For a short while you can forget work, they can forget school and you can just be two friends having fun together.

Camping with a Difference
Lots of kids love the idea of spending some time under the canvas of a tent, even to the point where they’ll beg to be allowed to camp in their own back garden, whilst many parents prefer travel with a few luxury touches thrown in. the modern trend known as ‘glamping’ offers the best of both worlds: you’re staying in a tent, yes, but it’s a large scale, luxury tent. Rather than squeezing into a sleeping bag you’ll be spending the night in a king sized bed, whilst being kept warm by a wood burning stove, and although the wonders of nature will be only a few footsteps away, parents will be relieved to know that they still have access to an en-suite bathroom with a plumbed in toilet.

Tents are outfitted with king-sized beds, wood-burning stoves, and (yes!) en-suite bathrooms with proper plumbing. The company’s original camp is in Yellowstone and makes a great base for exploring the park. Later this year, they’ll also be opening locations just outside Glacier National Park and Arches and Canyonlands national parks in Moab, Utah.

Farther Afield in Familiar Territory
Mexico has become a regular destination for my family. It’s easy to reach and has great food, beautiful beaches, and wonderful history and culture. This year, however, I’m hoping to explore beyond the coast, starting with a trip to Tepoztlán, nestled in the mountains about 50 miles from Mexico City.

Purportedly the birthplace of Quetzalcoatl, one of the major deities of the ancient Mexican pantheon, this Pueblos Mágico boasts a stunning setting, spectacular ruins, and a groovy New-Age vibe that’s bound to feel eons away from the sun-and-sand good times of Cabo. Bonus points: we were able to easily combine this trip with time on the coast (because who wants to miss a chance at margaritas by the pool?).

N0-Kids Travel
That’s right–my wish list includes a trip without the kids, and I’m not ashamed to say it. In fact, I think traveling without your children, be it for an in-town staycation or a week-long sojourn, is as necessary as regular date nights–and can reenergize you as a parent.

This year, my husband and I are celebrating our tenth anniversary, and I’ve called in backup (Grandma) and pulled out my adults-only bucket list. Mykonos, Capri, British Columbia, and Peru are all places I’m dying to visit. The only resolution for that trip: disconnect, reconnect and, of course, sleep in past 7 a.m.

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First Impressions Count in the Hospitality Industry

There’s an old cliché which says that you never get a second chance to make a first impression and, like many clichés, it has become to widely use because it contains a high proportion of truth. The hospitality industry is all about making people feel welcome, valued and looked after, as well as providing them with an experience which they’ll remember fondly, and the simple truth is that if you get a few small details wrong at the start of this process, it’s extremely hard to set about turning things around.

The exterior of your business – whether it’s a hotel, restaurant, bar or cafe – is of vital importance. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent a huge amount of money refurbishing your reception area, for example, if the paint on your hotel sign is peeling, the plants on the front lawn are dying and the handle on the door comes off in the customers’ hand. This will implant in their minds the idea that your offer is second rate, and an idea like that, once implanted, is very difficult to shift. One of the reasons for this is that the idea itself will then go on to colour your customers attitudes towards everything else, making it that much harder to impress. Stand in front of your business and ask yourself honestly – if you were passing by, would you be tempted to step inside. If the answer is anything other than a resounding yes, then you’re losing the chance to show people just what you have got to offer.

hospitality-industry

hospitality-industry


Having enticed customers into your establishment, it’s vital that the welcome you offer is warm and genuine seeming. People arriving at a hotel after a long journey will be tired, aching, probably hot and sweaty and desperate to settle down in the comfort of their room. Desk staff who seem to realise all of this will create the ideal first impression, letting the guests know that they are in good hands and will be looked after. Often, people will comment that honest mistakes – a room not quite being ready, for example – can be easier to forgive than a bad attitude, and that if the member of staff seems to appreciate how they’re being inconvenienced and does their best to minimise this, then they’ll give the establishment a second chance.

Often, it’s the little touches which can make or break an experience in the hospitality industry. If you run a restaurant, for example, you may pride yourself on serving delicious food from a spotlessly clean kitchen, but if you’ve allowed the curtains in the window of the restaurant to become old, worn and dirty, then people eating their will assume that the same standards apply elsewhere, a though which will most definitely not be conducive to a hearty appetite. Similarly, if guests are kept waiting too long before being seated, particularly if staff are so busy elsewhere that they seem to be more or less ignored, then this can be the part of the dining out experience which they take away with them. First impressions count because they are fundamentally about how much you value your customers as discerning people in their own right who deserve nothing but the best, in all areas.

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Apartment or Hotel? You Decide

Choosing the accommodation when you travel to a new city or even an entirely new country can be one of the most vital choices of the entire trip. Get it wrong and you’ll never be able to relax and get a good night’s sleep where you’re staying, leaving you tired, stressed and unable to appreciate the rest of your holiday. Get it right, on the other hand, and you can simply forget about the place you’re staying in and concentrate on everything else which your destination has to offer. After all, perhaps the highest compliment you can pay a holiday accommodation is that it feels like a home away from home, with the relaxed feel and familiar comfort of your own home, but offering the excitement of a whole new place just outside the door.

For many people, the choice to make will boil down to whether you rent an apartment or a room in a hotel. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and the ultimate decision will probably be based upon your personal circumstances and the kind of experience you’re looking for. A hotel, for example, might seem to be the logical choice if you’re embarking on a romantic trip for two. All of your needs are catered for, and indulgences such as breakfast in bed, champagne for supper and an awaiting bunch of flowers can all be ordered simply by picking up the phone. If you’re travelling with children, however, a hotel might not seem like such a good choice.

Apartment or Hotel

Choosing the accommodation when you travel

Even the largest room can start to feel a little claustrophobic after you and a couple of children have spent a few days there, and kids’ natural response to this tends to be to run around and make as much noise as possible! This may not be a lot of fun for the other guests in the hotel and, even if they don’t mind a couple of noisy kids, the fact that you’re worrying about it will stop you relaxing and enjoying your own stay. All too often, taking kids to a hotel, particularly the more upmarket variety, can become an endless round of telling them to be quiet, worrying that they’re about to break some expensive item in the room and keeping an eye out for any attempts to access the mini bar. Taking children to an apartment rental, on the other hand, can feel much more like simply transplanting your own home to a new and exciting location. With multiple rooms, your kids will have somewhere to go off and play on their own, and the fact that you can cater for yourself means that you’ll be able to come and go as you please, cooking your own meals rather than being tied to a hotel timetable. Not only is this convenient, it is also more affordable, and purchasing and preparing fresh local ingredients is one of the best and most enjoyable ways of getting to discover a new cuisine.

In the end the decision will be based on how many people are in your party and what kind of holiday you’re looking for. If it’s raucous family fun you seek, then an apartment rental might well be best, whilst couples seeking a relaxing break will probably prefer the pampering of a hotel.

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Explore the Future at the New York Travel Festival

The New York Travel Festival opens on Saturday april 26th at Bohemian National Hall in New York City. It is described by the organisers as being aimed at ‘tech savvy, immersive travellers’ and it offers those attending a broad range of interactive discussions, aimed at reinventing the concept of the consumer travel show by dragging it firmly into the technologically advanced 21st century.

The Festival is aimed at people who see travel as more of a chance to experience the world, rather than simply viewing it as something of an escape from everyday life. The attendees run the gamut from travellers themselves seeking advice on how to make the most of their journeys, bloggers looking at the newest and best ways to pass on travel writing and people running companies providing cutting edge travel and tourism experiences.

Amongst the speakers at this year’s festival will be Mark Chestnut, a travel writer and photographer and Rainer Jess, who works as a Special Correspondent for National Geographic’s Intelligent Traveler magazine and as the Family Travel Correspondent for AFAR.com. Over and above the lectures, workshops and displays, attendees will be tempted by discounts which are only available to those at the festival and gifts which are given away for free, the most impressive of which come from the travel clothing company ClothingArts.com in the form of gift certificates worth up to $300.

The material being presented at the festival is roughly divided into two separate halves – that which is devoted to consumers and that which deals with industry specialists – and spread out over 5 separate venues, including the Grand Ballroom, the 3rd Floor, the Kitchen, the Cinema and the Skybox. The fulcrum of the festival is the Grand Ballroom. In here, festival goers will be able to sample food and drink, watch performances, talks and exhibits and learn more about some of the companies and products which will be helping to shape the travel experiences of millions of people in the years going forward.

The interactive nature of the event is demonstrated by the fact that the Kitchen will feature hands on cooking classes and workshops hosted by top chefs from both the city of New York and the wider world. Throughout the festival Master Classes and Workshops will offer insight, knowledge and experience from seasoned professionals keen to pass on their knowledge. Topics being explored include How to Start a Social Venture, making the Most of Every Trip and a Career Break Workshop. Another key element of the festival will be the screening of Videos known as Travel Babels. These clips, no longer than five minutes, feature travellers from all around the world talking about their experiences, explaining things such as why they decided to become a ‘traveller’, what experiences they’ve had whilst travelling that have changed the way they see the world and what impact they feel travelling has had on forming the person that they are today.
For those working in the travel industry, tickets for the festival start at $100.

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Amy Alipio – A Brief Profile

Amy Alipio holds the post of associate editor at National Geographic Traveler magazine. She was born in Washington DC, America, and that is where she is still based while working for the magazine. She takes a degree of pride in the fact that she is one of only two members of staff who are actually natives of the city, which is renowned for having a large transient population. She doubtless views herself as an explorer first and journalist second, but it is her ability to translate her experiences and the impressions she gains of the places she visits into punchy, vivid prose which has made her the success she is today.

amy-alipio

amy-alipio editor at National Geographic Traveler magazine

Although she has travelled all over the world, when she was asked, during an interview for the national geographic Weekend radio programme, what her favourite destination from the magazines ‘Best of the World’ list was, she came up with what some people found to be the rather surprising choice of London. Doubtless, given her credentials as such a seasoned traveller, many people expected her to opt for one of the more exotic destinations on the list, such as Mongolia, or Oman, but she opted for London on the basis of the number of her passions which the city caters to. As a lover of literature, theatre, art and afternoon tea, she simply couldn’t think of a city which offered her the chance to explore more of her favourite things.

In reference to the ‘Best of the World’ list, Amy is proud of the fact that this year, for the first time, readers of the magazine played a hand in compiling the list by making nominations online. The winning destination in the Readers Choice section of the list was the Derewan archipelago in Indonesia, somewhere which even Amy had to confess she had never actually heard of. The fact that this was the winner merely underlined, to her, just how well travelled the readers of the magazine are. Also demonstrating that even the most well ravelled person never loses the capacity to be surprised, Amy was taken aback on a recent visit to the Romanian capital of Bucharest, where she was reminded of no less a place than Paris by the wide, tree lined boulevards on display. Another plus point of the city was its’ open and friendly attitude towards children. There are large parks and a perfectly sized Natural History Museum for them to explore, and perhaps the highlight was a restaurant she discovered in the old town which keeps kids entertained with craft projects while they wait for the food to be served.

For someone who does as much travelling as Amy, coming up with new destinations can be tricky, but she’s keen to announce that her dream trip for this year would be a safari through sub-Saharan Africa, one of the few places she has yet to experience. And here’s one more fascinating fact about Amy – her favourite food in the world is the mangoes in the Philippines, not least because there are so many of them that picking your next involves little more than waiting for it to fall onto your head!

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Putting the Essence of a City Down on a Page

The point of Traveler magazine is to bring the experience of visiting places across the globe back to people who, to date, may not have been lucky enough to actually see those places. The magazine exists as both a guide and a temptation. The portraits painted of the places and people to be found in cities across the globe will be bound to tempt people into wanting to experience these cities first hand, whilst the information proffered will make organising and arranging such an experience much simpler than it would otherwise be.

Whilst words and pictures can never truly replicate the hustle and bustle of life in a foreign city, they can help to create a vivid impression, and the best travel writing will be that which successfully communicates the impact which the author felt upon experiencing a place for the first time. Telling the reader what a city looks like may seem like an obvious thing to do, but, even with the aid of the finest quality photography, actually conveying the appearance of places as varied as the Souqs of the United Arab Emirates, the stylish boulevards of Paris or the dazzling neon attractions of Las Vegas is something which requires skill, empathy and an eye for the telling detail.

You’ll find all of these qualities on the pages of traveller magazine, as well as an appreciation of the fact that the ‘personality’ of a city is about much more than simply the way it looks. The sounds and even the smells of a place are the things which will stay in your memory as much as any other aspect, as well, of course, as the people who live there – their attitudes, the way they dress and the kind of welcome they provide to strangers. All of these will be captured in the pages of the magazine, thanks to an unrivalled network of people who are residents of the cities in question, and who therefore know then inside out and can present a picture of the intimate, personal and unique aspects which might often be missed by the casual visitor.

On top of the task of pinning the nature of a place down on the page comes the equally important job of providing the basic information needed to make the most of a trip. A lot of this boils down to simple practicalities. How will you get to the city? Once there, how will you travel around? Is a hire car a necessity or will the public transport on offer be sufficient to get around? Which hotels offer the best value and which are within easy travelling distance of the must-see tourist attractions? And then there are the little secrets which only someone steeped in the location will be able to pass on. Details such as the restaurants which the locals favour for their authentic cuisine, the shops which offer the bargain prices and the bars which provide entertainment, local colour and a chance to make new friends until late into the night.

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What’s On – March/April

The period around the end of March and the beginning of April marks the start of spring in many countries around the world, and, perhaps because of this, it is a time of the year peppered with different events, happenings and attractions. Clearly, there is only room here to highlight a few of the vast number of festivals, parties and celebrations which will be taking place, so the focus is on the more unusual and perhaps lesser known events which may not receive wider publicity.

Japan
The towns surrounding the volcanic Mount Aso in southern Japan stage a Fire Festival every year. Events include setting fire to the plains surrounding the mountain, something which is called No-yaki and is done to keep the grass in the best possible position, and, most spectacularly, the Dai Himonjiyaki.

japan_fire_festival
This takes place on the second Saturday in march and involves a gigantic version of the Chinese symbol for fire, measuring some 350 metres, appearing on the side of the mountain.

Portugal
The city of Funchal, in Portugal, plays host to the annual Festival de Jardins do Funchal (Festival of the Gardens). This takes place in the Jardim Almirante Reis, in what was the historic centre of the city, and involves virtually every one of the locals, from businesses through artists to residents, creating small gardens of their own design for locals and visitors to enjoy exploring. Those taking part are gifted a specific lot which they then design, plant and maintain for 11 months until the festival takes place. At the end of the festival, prizes are given out for the best gardens on display.

United Kingdom
If you’re into fast cars in a big way then there really is no better place to spend the Easter Weekend of Friday 18th to Sunday 20th April than at the Santa Pod Raceway festival of Power in Wellingborough, United Kingdom.

Easter_weekend_Greenwich

Easter_weekend_Greenwich

Attractions include stunt shows, monster trucks and flying displays, whilst on the track some of the fastest and most powerful cars in the world will be battling it out or simply showing what they can do. Highlights include a Rocket car and two Dragsters which roar down the tarmac at more than 300 mph.

 

Ireland
The Galway food festival , taking place in Galway, Ireland, is a four day festival of good food running from 17th to the 21st of April. Now in its’ third year it will offer the opportunity to sample the very best of the local food, in terms of both produce and cooking. The timing of the festival is crucial, since spring is the time of year when many of the finest ingredients, such as locally caught trout and salmon and Connemara Spring lamb, are at their very best.

Australia
The Sydney Royal Easter Show is the largest event to be held in Australia every year. It offers a little bit of more or less everything for visitors to sample and takes place throughout March and April. Fantastic Australian food and drink are celebrated, as is the country’s agricultural heritage. Fun comes in the form of fairground rides, nightly entertainment in the main arena and activities including a rodeo series, unicyclist displays and circus workshops.

The Sydney Royal Easter Show is Australia’s largest annual event. It is an iconic showcase of Australian culture, heritage and agricultural excellence, combining world-class competitions and educational activities with the fun of carnival rides, entertainment and great food and wine experiences for a fun filled day with family or friends. Country and city combine in this tribute to Australia’s agricultural heritage. From the Australian themed night time main arena entertainment and international rodeo series through to high dive and unicyclist shows and circus workshops, the Sydney Royal Easter Show is great fun for the young and young at heart.

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Must See Events in the Next Few Weeks

Ueno Park, Tokyo, bursts into spectacular life every spring when over a thousand cherry trees become heavy with rich and fragrant bloom and the arrival of the blossom marks the start of Ueno Sakura Matsuri (March 20-April 8). This is a chance to visit the park and enjoy the sight and delicious smell of the trees in a celebration of the arrival of spring, either during the day or when the park is lit up by paper lanterns at night.

Austin, capital city of the state of Texas, plays host to the annual South by Southwest festival between the 7th and 16th of March. This is a celebration of creativity and the latest developments in technology which incorporates film screenings, live music performances and presentations from leading thinkers.

If you visit Northern Italian town of Ivrea between the 2nd and 4th of March you’ll find yourself caught up in one of the world’s largest food fights. Every year, in the run up to lent, thousands of visitors take part in the Battaglia delle Arance, a re-enactment of a historic battle in which the weapons of choice are none other than 100 tons of oranges.

The weekend of March 14th to the 17th contains St Patrick’s Day, the celebration of the patron saint of Ireland. Festivals take place all over the world, but nowhere is the celebration more raucous and lively then the city of Dublin, where the attractions on offer include live music, a parade, a fair and races down the River Liffey.

The Pasifika Festival, which takes place in Auckland, New Zealand on March 8th to 9th is a celebration of the culture and creativity of 11 different pacific island nations including, for the first time this year, Hawaii. ‘Villages’ which celebrate each island will offer traditional crafts, authentic food and national music and dance.

International Yoga Week takes place between the 1st and 7th of March, and the best place to sample the serenity and calm the discipline can offer simply has to be the ‘Yoga Capital of the World’, the village of Rishikesh, in India. The week will see teachers from all over the world offering lessons and demonstrations.

Every Autumn the city of Munich holds a world famous beer festival, but what you might not know is that it also hosts one from march 21st to April 6th, known as Starkbierzeit. This is a celebration of doppelbock or ‘strong beer’ which, as well as lots of drinking, includes stone lifting contests.

El Castillo is the standout structure in the Mexican archaeological site of Chichen Itza. One the day of the spring equinox (March 20th) the design of the building causes the sun to cast a shadow down the steps in such a way that it looks like a writhing snake.

The Bali Spirit Festival takes place between March 19th and 23rd in the city of Ubud, long seen as the cultural hub of Bali. It has been taking place for seven years now and offers healing, world music, yoga and dance.

If you want to witness one of the most unusual, indeed unique festivals in the world then visit the Belgian city of Binche between March 2nd and 4th. The Carneval de Binche has been described by UNESCO as a ‘masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity’. It climaxes when local men, dubbed Gilles, parade through the streets in costumes and wax masks.

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Top 5 Fun Family Activities to Enjoy in London

You can have a lot of fun if you take a family vacation to London as the city presents ample opportunities for fun family activities that are suitable for families with children. Since you would like to engage in activities that offer an educational experience and still not be boring for your children, the following activities will be ideal.

Visiting Madame Tussauds Wax Museum will provide the ultimate fun both for adults and kids as you discover the incredibly lifelike wax figures of eminent people through the ages from film stars to politicians. It is constantly being updated with the latest famous people.

Staying in Paddington Court Rooms or any budget hotels London in or around central London will make it easy for you to visit the London Eye which is another fun activity and is one of the key attractions of the city. Your children will be thrilled to travel up above the city’s skyline to get a panoramic view of the surroundings.

Visiting the London Dungeon will be a lesson in history for your kids where they will learn about the bloodiest periods of British history. The displays in which many actors take part are a real interactive adventure and a great way to teach kids about the most important historical events of London.

When you stay at any of the London budget hotels in or around central London, you can easily reach the London Zoo which is the oldest scientific zoo in the world. It has over 700 species of animals and it provides a great way to learn about the natural world while having fun and enjoyment.

A boat tour of the Thames will take you and your family through the heart of the city enabling you to see some important sights along the way such as the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the headquarters of MI6, Tower Bridge and the Thames Barrier.

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Top 5 Favourite London Markets

London is a great place for tourists and business travellers as it has a lot of tourist attractions, shopping districts and business offices. However, the city also has some great market shopping in almost every corner. These markets offer much more than mere shopping as they are often surrounded by independent boutiques and coffee shops. The following 5 favourite London markets provide much more than retail shopping.

A favourite London market is the Portobello Road market which is one of London’s oldest markets and where you can find some excellent antique items along with the latest fashionable clothing items and the well-known Hummingbird cupcake bakery. You may even be able to spot the home of Hugh Grant in the movie Notting Hill.

The Columbia Road Flower Market, lining a narrow Hoxton Street, offers a wide variety of flowers ranging from flower box blooms to orchids and all sorts of floral fancies can be found here. The market also has pastel-coloured independent boutiques selling a variety of items ranging from handmade lamps to retro sweets.

The Sunday UpMarket on Brick Lane is another favourite London market. It is located over several floors in the east end’s Old Truman Brewery and its stalls sell a large variety of items ranging from original art to homemade cakes. It also offers international cuisines at its various eateries which occupy one whole corner of the market.

The Stables Market Camden is another important London market where the gothic stalls sell leather, studs, platforms and kilts along with up-market gift and jewellery items. The market is converted into a live music venue by night.

The Borough Market, nestled under the railway lines near London Bridge station, is the place for foodies. The local traders of fish, fruit and vegetables, stand alongside stalls selling and cooking an array of delicious international cuisine.

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