5 Great Tips for Taking Kids Abroad

Guest post by Susie Thompson, Mum of 4, who loves to travel with her kids.

Travelling with children isn’t always the easiest of experiences. While holidays away are an excellent means of relaxing and relieving the stress of daily life, having the wee ones come along can sometimes pose a totally new challenge. Fear not, however – it isn’t all doom and gloom. Today, let’s take a look at five great tips when it comes to taking kids abroad.

1.     Book in advance

Booking ahead of time is a guaranteed way to make sure your trip is as easy possible, even with the kids in tow. You’ll always be smart to employ this tactic when it comes to a holiday, but it’s particularly wise with the kids around.

The last thing you’ll want is to arrive at your accommodation or for a day out and find your plans have been scuppered. The kids will become easily irritated and will make an already stressful situation even harder.

As well as that, you’ll also find booking ahead of time will save you a considerable amount on things like hotels and flights. You can use price comparison sites to see just how much money you’ll save by booking early.

2.     Pack Smart (for kids)

“Take what you need” is a mantra bandied about when it comes to adult travel, but things are a little different when young ones are involved. You definitely don’t want to overburden them with items, but at the same time you also need to keep them entertained.

Make sure you leave room in their hand luggage or travel packs for something which’ll keep them occupied on the journey, or at your hotel room when there’s nothing else to do. Happy children are quiet children – which is what you’ll need when trying to make things as simple as possible for everyone.

3.     Arrive ahead of schedule for flights

Reaching your destination often poses one of the greatest challenges when it comes to booking a holiday. Factoring in children to this process serves to provide you with the almightiest of headaches.

It might sound nightmarish on paper, but there are ways of dealing with flying with children. One of the best is to make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of time. This gives you the chance to make all the necessary adjustments and changes you need to. This includes stuff like:

·      Toilet breaks
·      Nappy changes
·      Queuing

4.     Bring Snacks

Healthy snacks are a clever way of keeping the little ones satisfied, while also boosting their energy levels. You can go to the extent of creating handmade bites prior to travel, or simply purchase pre-made things like carrot sticks or cucumber slices.

It’s also a good idea to make sure the items you’re bringing along aren’t going to go off if left around for too long. Only take foods which have a long shelf-life, or else you might be forced to throw them out relatively promptly.

5.     Use a child-locating app

The wonders of the modern age have meant it’s not easier than ever to make sure your kids are safe while you’re on your travels. GPS systems and child-tracking apps now make it possible to keep a constant vigilance of where your wee one is at all times.

If you take heed of these five great tips for taking kids abroad, you’ll find things considerably easier in the future.


Alternative Education (Dare I Say... Homeschool)

I know, it's crazy. After all, I was the mom who audibly groaned at the mention of homeschooling. The idea terrified me. Terms like unschooling and worldschooling were less scary, but I basically still equated them with homeschooling. So what caused me to make the switch? It's complicated. And also very simple. 

First, I recognize that I'm privileged to have choice in the matter. I work from home. I am able to homeschool and I'm grateful for that. I realize that many parents have no such option. Another important point to make is that I have loved every teacher my children have had during their time in the public school system. That said, I cringed every time I heard myself say, "You have to stop reading so you can do your homework." And I hated dragging them out of bed though they clearly needed more sleep. The time that school took from us made our children more dependent on me than ever. I wanted them to learn to make their own breakfasts, to put away their own laundry, but I'd end up doing these things all in the interest of time. We'd rush to get to school, rush to complete homework, rush to get to bed on time. 

We'd dabbled with the homeschool model during our travels. We never confined our trips to school breaks and at times have traveled for months at a time, so it was necessary to take a more active role in our daughters' education. When we returned from our most recent trip, we decided we would not enroll the girls back in school. 

So, what does homeschooling look like for us? Is it hours of tears doing worksheets at the dining room table? No, though I'll admit we've had a few math meltdowns. 

Here's one version of what homeschool looks like - the girls at City Hall finding out what sort of permits they need to start their own business. 

Their dad spearheads their entrepreneurial education. After City Hall they examined various business models and determined that they could sell coffee and hot chocolate for fifty cents a cup. OR they could give away coffee and hot chocolate and accept tips, the average of which is one dollar. 

An average week includes math, reading, science (Mystery Science or IXL), library time, PE at a local gymnastics studio, Zumba with their Aunt (an adult exercise class that they crash), Spanish (Duolingo for the girls, Pimsleur for me), chores, playdates, geography, history, typing skills, writing pen pals, theater camp, and Fridays with dad. We've learned about Rosa Parks and Marie Curie, practiced old-school long division, and grown apple trees from seeds. I had no idea that it would be a blast.

Building a catenary arch at the Discovery Center

And of course when we travel, it becomes more worldschooling than homeschooling. Here they are visiting with the Tatuyo tribe in the Amazon.

I'm three months into full-time homeschooling and I have no regrets. The only casualty thus far has been my writing time, but that's something I anticipated. It's a riddle I haven't yet figured out. But when I look at my daughters and realize how fast they're growing up, I'm able to see my priorities with a new perspective. I don't have all the answers (never will), but I do know that it's absolutely worth it.

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AK Turner on EOFire with John Lee Dumas

I had the pleasure of appearing on EOFire with John Lee Dumas. If you know anything about the world of podcasting, this one is definitely the cream of the crop, an award-winning show, named Best of iTunes, and now I can say I've been featured alongside some of his other guests you might have heard of... Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, Gary Vee, Tim Ferriss, Brian Tracy, et al.

I had a fantastic time chatting with JLD. In the podcast we talk about...

Shifting your MINDSET to open your world

Understanding the importance of focusing on the POSITIVE

Common pitfalls of the ASPIRING WRITER

Resources and habits to increase PRODUCTIVITY

But most of all, it was a total blast! I hope you'll check it out. CLICK HERE

10 Awesome Things About Visiting Todos Santos with Kids

Todos Santos, BCS, Mexico.
The sunrises here do not suck. 
#1 Taco Stands
Feeding a family of four for under ten bucks is pretty darn cool. Don't be afraid to try all the taco stands in town. Each will have its own specialty (pescado, pastor, camarón, carnitas, carne asada, pollo) and a variety of condiments with which to spiffy up your meal. My seven-year-old is partial to pico de gallo, her sister likes them plain Jane, my husband piles on the jalapeños, and I love the pickled onions. Everybody's happy. 

If you're not moved by watching baby sea turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean, you have no soul. Attending a sea turtle release facilitated by this organization is free, but do the right thing and offer a donation.

So cute, it hurts.
#3 Beaches
Cerritos: The busiest beach around. You can rent boogie boards, take surf lessons, get a massage on the beach (an hour for $30), shop the vendors, and hit up the bar for a margarita or Dirty Monkey (a blended concoction of vodka, Baileys, Kahlua, a banana and chocolate syrup). If you’re taking your own cooler, park for free to the side of the big lot.

La Pastora: We don’t let our kids swim here, because it's a fairly steep entrance into the water and less safe to swim. That might seem like a drawback, but the structure of the beach allows you to sit high on the sand, close to the crashing waves, and with nothing in sight but miles of empty beach and ocean. Likely you’ll just find a handful of locals and serious surfers. No amenities and excellent whale watching.
Afternoon at La Pastora.

Run Away!
Palm Beach: A truly unique experience. You might have to get a local to point you in the right direction, as there aren’t any signs. You’ll drive down an unmarked, washboard dirt road and then hike through a palm grove before coming out to the beach, which is one of the area’s hidden gems. Giant rock cliffs flank each side of the beach, creating an enclosed little slice of paradise. Palm Beach is also known for strong currents, so either stay shallow or when facing the water, hug the left side of the beach.

The commute to Palm Beach.
Palm Beach from end to end. It's tough to manage the crowds.
#4 Adaptability
Is it a hassle when the power goes out? Sure. Does it suck when there's no water? Well, yes. Can life be really miserable when both happen at the same time? Affirmative. However, getting out of your comfort zone is a good thing, for both you and your kids. Embrace the bumps along the way, demonstrate adaptability to your children, and remind yourself of all we take for granted.

#5 Zumba
Okay, I don't actually like Zumba. I don't practice Zumba. I'm not good at Zumba. But my mother-in-law is locally known as Zumba Juanita and teaches Zumba classes twice a week. My kids have embraced it and do the whole class. They stand front and center, know all the moves, and gain confidence with every class they take. It's awesome to watch. I'm exercising vicariously through them to offset the tacos and margaritas.

Doesn't everybody do Zumba with their Grandmother?
Yes, that's my mother-in-law on the poster. Total bad ass.
#6 Spanish
It's not just about practicing Spanish and language learning (we use Duolingo). It's also about appreciating how welcoming and patient people are. I've heard far too many stories of Americans yelling at non-English speakers for using their native language. Not once while speaking English has a Mexican yelled at me and said, "Usted está en México! Habla español!" Actively witnessing the opposite of bigotry is an excellent and timely teaching lesson in humanity. We make the effort to speak Spanish, even when we know we probably sound pretty ridiculous, but we also appreciate the willingness of locals to speak English or meet us halfway when they can. The effort and general kindness go a long way. 

This has been a life changer for my family. By exchanging both homes and vehicles, we negate the expenses that would otherwise prohibit travel. And when you have laundry facilities and a full kitchen for preparing meals and snacks for hungry kids, you can travel for longer than if you were stuck in a hotel room. Interestingly, the President of Home Exchange has a place in Todos Santos. We’ve yet to meet in person, but I’m sure our paths will cross one day.

Our current digs. 
#8 Street Food
Check out the hot dog stand near La Esquina. It's a family business, manned by a husband, wife, and son. Order "The Special" and you’ll be presented with a hot dog wrapped in bacon in a steamed bun topped with steak, cheese, ketchup, mayo, mustard, tomato, lettuce, and avocado. Yes, it’s a ridiculous unruly mess, but we fed 7 people for a grand total of 9 dollars. Winning.

If street food scares you (it shouldn't) or you want an actual table and chair at which to eat, make a reservation at La Casita. If you're a sushi fan, be sure to order the Aury sashimi as an appetizer. Trust me! This is a lovely restaurant with great atmosphere and incredible food, suitable for date night or the whole family (one daughter orders the California roll, the other opts for Caesar salad). Big eaters should not be put off by the word tapas. The menu is extensive and the portions hearty.

Zumba Jan with her granddaughters at La Casita. 
There are MANY excellent restaurants in TS, this just happens to be my latest favorite. 
Why, yes, El Tecolote does have both Vagabonding with Kids and Vagabonding with Kids: Australia in stock. But this is so much more than a bookstore. You can also shop their excellent selection of gifts and souvenirs, grab an espresso or smoothie, rent movies, and adopt a dog. Kate, the owner, is an incorrigible dog lover and fosters animals until she can get unsuspecting tourists to fall in love with them and take them home.

Of course, there’s much more to Todos Santos that makes this “Pueblo Magico” worth visiting. These are just a few things that make it memorable for my family of four. Click HERE for highlights of a previous TS trip.

Inspirational Creatives

I had the pleasure of chatting with Rob Lawrence of the Inspirational Creatives podcast on the benefits of travel and the importance of breaking free from conventional thinking. If you like what you hear, you can give Rob a review on iTunes here.



The Waterbearers: Humanity in Action

​The Waterbearers was founded a few years ago by two women, Spryte Loriano and Jane Brinton who both share a deep passion for seeing everyone on the planet have access to clean water. ​I sat down with Ophelia, one of their impassioned volunteers, to learn more about the organization.

What is the mission of The Waterbearers?
Our mission statement is:  Inspiring women who have access to clean water​ - to get it to those who do not.

For many of us, clean water is as easy as walking to our sink and turning the faucet. This is so not the case with millions of people around the world. According to 2013 figures by the United Nations, 85% of the world's population live in the driest half of the planet. That means that 783 million people do not have access to clean, drinkable water. And those numbers are from 2013 so it's undoubtedly even greater now.

How do you go about accomplishing your goals?
​Our goal is to bring clean water to as many people as possible. Currently we are in a campaign to get clean water to 1 million people by March 22, 2017 which is World Water Day​. We accomplish this by raising funds to purchase water filters. Each filter costs $50 and will provide clean water for 100 people for up to 10 years!   

The Sawyer filters are certified for ABSOLUTE microns making it impossible for harmful bacteria, protozoa, or cysts like E. coli, Giardia, Vibrio cholerae and Salmonella typhi (which causes Cholera and Typhoid) to pass through. No pumping, no chemicals, no waiting, no worries! Incredible fast-flow rate, simple to use, and each filter can be backwashed to extend its life.
Each filter provides clean water for up to 100 people. Just $50 provides the distribution of one Micron Absolute Filter, Bucket Adapter, Bucket Hole Cutter, Filter Cleaner, Adapter Hose and Filter Hanger.
What is your biggest success story?
​We are so fortunate to have many success stories​. On our website you can see that in the short time since Spryte and Jane founded the organization, we have been able to take filters to Indians in the Amazon in Ecuador, Mayans in Mexico, two elementary schools, one in Tulum, Mexico and another in Reshikesh, India.  The Waterbearers were on the ground very soon after the earthquake in Ecuador. And in 2017, we will be going to Liberia, Africa in February, and later in the year to the Galapagos and Nicaragua.

Mayan woman drinking clean, filtered water.
In Tulum we were able to provide enough filters so that 3,000 people now have clean water to drink for a decade. In Ecuador after the earthquake, we were able to provide filters for almost 1,500 people. 

The Waterbearers in Tulum.
Every person to whom we can bring clean water is a success story!

What have been the most significant obstacles? 
​Well, as any non-profit knows, fundraising is ongoing. We have Waterbearers around the world and we have people who are ready to travel to deliver filters, but we need funds to purchase those filters. One hundred percent of all donated funds are used towards filters. We are largely a volunteer organization so fundraising is something we are always involved in. 

What do you hope for the future of the organization?
We plan to get access to clean water to as many people as possible!​

How can others get involved?
Go to our website and there you will find a Donate button. It's that easy to help get clean water to those who do not have it! We have Waterbearers around the world and four of us happen to live here in Boise!​ Here is our fundraising page.

Girl Around the World

When it comes to exploring the world, we want our children to get as much out of the experience as we do. It's not about taking vacations and dragging the kids along with us, it's about living and working in another culture, and learning about that culture as a family.

To that end, and drawing on her inquisitiveness and ability to engage with people, my daughter Emilia just launched her own website and podcast, Girl Around the World. She's nine, after all, so it's high time she did something with her life.

Helping Emilia create her podcast has been more than just a fun little venture. She now has ownership of something that showcases her strengths. It breeds confidence, which has unfortunately eluded her on the elementary school playground. Whether or not she garners listeners, the exercise has been hugely beneficial. It illustrates the potential that exists when we stop looking at our children's education as something that has to follow the traditional model. It opens up a world of possibilities, whether we're traveling or not.

To date she's interviewed people from locations around the globe - Alaska, Kenya, Germany, Australia, and Mexico to name a few. And she's adept at recording on the go, carrying her microphone with her and conducting interviews at campsites, in museums, and on ferry boats.

Episodes are posted at Girl Around the World and on iTunes. With the podcast up and running, we're now focused on finding the right project for her little sister. Nothing's been decided as of yet, but it's never too early to start fostering an entrepreneurial spirit.

For more on how and why we travel as a family, check out 

10 Ways to Save Money While Traveling Long Term

We spent two nights at the Casarão Verde Hostel in Itacaré, Brazil. 

1. Peanut butter & jelly.

Some people would rather ham and cheese it, but I'll take pb&j any day. Add in an apple and you're all set. The point is, when you're on the road you shouldn't be buying $4 cups of coffee or eating at restaurants (at least not all the time). And goodness knows fast food joints aren't the answer. On a week-long road trip we kept a cooler in the back, sought out grocery stores when needed, and maintained a fairly decent diet without taking on a mountain of credit card debt.

2. Leverage your home.

Yes, I'm a huge fan of Home Exchange and I sing its praises whenever I get the chance. Because it's a life-changer. Because half of our trips would not have happened without it. We've also leveraged our home by renting it out while traveling, but after a handful of less-than-ideal renters, this is now an absolute last resort. Home Exchanges have always been wonderful experiences.

3. Leverage your car.

On a two-month exchange in Brazil, we also exchanged vehicles. This negated the need for a rental car and when we flew to other locations in Brazil, we took advantage of public transportation. Exchanging both a car and a home can take what would have been a $5,000 trip for a family of four and turn it into a $500 trip.

4. It's not a vacation.

Long-term travel isn't living it up. It's about living - in another country experiencing their culture. A walk around town, a chat with locals, and learning about their history are all free activities.

5. Keep Working.

Hopefully you love what you do, because you'll eliminate a substantial amount of stress if you keep up efforts to bring in a paycheck while away from your usual work routine. You can accomplish a fair amount by just brainstorming projects, solutions, and marketing campaigns (depending on your line of work) with a pen and paper. If you have technology, you can take it a step further and keep up to date with emails and conference calls. Just make sure you don't work so much that you lose sight of your surroundings and all they have to offer.

6. Say no to theme parks.

Okay, I admit we went to Australia Zoo in Beerwah, Queensland. But it was Steve Irwin Day and I couldn't resist the opportunity to pay tribute to the Crocodile Hunter and learn all about the zoo's conservation efforts.

On the whole, though, we avoid water parks, theme parks, and expensive tourist destinations. If you're really into those things, then you probably need to plan more of a vacation (limited length of time, set destination, budget for tourist activities) than a long-term, nomadic trip.

7. Street food.

I love street food and you can find it the world over. It's far less expensive than food from a restaurant and often more authentic. If you're intimidated by obtaining your food from a truck or cart, know that every time I've had food poisoning, it's been from a restaurant. Not once from street food.

Street drinks are always fun, too...

8. Souvenirs come last.

When you arrive somewhere, there's an urge to purchase souvenirs. Always save this until the end of the trip when you've seen more of what's available. You may find the same souvenir you initially fell in love with for a lot less money somewhere else, or you may decide that the seashells you picked up from the beach were all the souvenirs you needed.

9. Guidebooks lie, anyway.

They don't intentionally lie, but by the time you buy and read a guidebook, the off-the-beaten-path restaurant they recommend isn't off-the-beaten-path anymore. (Because it's since been featured in a guidebook). If you want recommendations, you can find more current information on the internet. Even better, ask a local. If you spend any money on books in preparation for travel, start with Rolf Pott's Vagabonding. This is the indispensable starting point for approaching the "Art of Long-Term World Travel." (Yes, if you're serious about travel, I am suggesting you buy this book before one of mine).

10. Give and take.

Not everyone gets to do everything they want to do on a given trip. That goes for the parents as well as the kids. Maintaining a happy and healthy family of four while keeping the bank account out of the red means we all have to sacrifice certain things when on the road. The good news is that while we have to give up a little in the way of indulgences, we reap far more in return in terms of invaluable cultural experiences.

Sitka, Alaska
Not sure where to go? Let the location choose you.