Why Southwest Airlines Rocks It For Traveling Families!

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Traveling with a family can be tricky. It can be expensive. Things come up. It’s tough to get everyone’s calendars synced. Needs change. Southwest Airlines to the rescue. The fact that Southwest in budget conscious and very flexible make me loyal to this brand. Southwest Airlines really rocks it for families!

Here is why my family loves flying with Southwest Airlines:

  • Change Your Flights Without Fees. Unlike any other domestic airline, you can book flights [paid or points] and then make a change to them up to 10 minutes prior to boarding for FREE. This is golden for my family!
    • I often book flights on Southwest with the idea that we MIGHT go. Sometimes I am just dreaming. Sometimes I need to figure out if this trip works with everyone’s schedules. I book the flights and then figure things out. I can take more than 24 hours that other airlines let me have to get things figured out or wait to see if the other pieces of the trip will come together.
    • For example, we have tickets booked to go from Denver To Salt Lake City this winter because we want to ski at Park City Ski Area. I’m still not sure how the snow will be in Utah, so I’ll sit on these tickets until we have a clearer idea of snow fall, without worrying about change fees. Flexibility is key for my family!
  • Free Checked Bags. You get 2 free checked bags which saves you a bunch over other airlines unless you have elite status or have their credit card.
    • This is self explanatory, but if I was flying on United or other major airline carriers, I would pay a fee per bag if I did not have elite status or their branded credit card. This could cost my family hundreds. I hate to pay extra fees! 
  • Early Bird Check In. You don’t get a seat when you book a flight on Southwest, but you can pay $15 to get their Early Bird Check-In. Since you don’t have assigned seats you can just have one parent go on board early [just pay $15 once] and save seats for the whole family. Everyone does it, so it’s not strange.
    • If cost isn’t an issue then just get everyone in your travel party Early Bird Check-in when you purchase tickets. If you want to save some $ then just divide up your reservation and make sure one parent is going on early to save seats for the entire family.
  • Excellent Value/Use of Points. If you plan ahead, and sometimes last minute, Southwest offers really low cost travel options – which is great for my family of 4!
    • Southwest is a great option any time you are traveling last minute as they are definitely worth checking and at times offer an excellent value.
    • Southwest points are usually a better deal than most other airlines. For example, I wanted to fly from LA to Denver this month [November] and there are plenty of $44 [2002 points] or $79 [4045 points] one way. On United would cost me much more if I purchase a revenue ticket or between 12,000 and 25,000 points one way.
  • Easily Transfer Ultimate Rewards Points to Southwest Points. If you have a credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points you can easily transfer then 1 to 1 and fill up your Southwest points account when you need them most. 

Southwest really works for our family. The things I love the most are their flexibility and low cost/low points. I regularly transfer Ultimate Rewards points into my Southwest account to book flights. I love that I can leave the points in my rewards card until I need them – just in case I need them for some other reason. Southwest just makes my life so simple and helps our family to travel more!

How about the rest of you traveling families – what is your favorite airlines and why? 

Want To Travel Cheap? Join the Sharing Economy and Airbnb Your Place!

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Want To Travel Cheap? Join the Sharing Economy and Airbnb Your Place!

My family loves traveling! For us it is infinitely better when that travel is free/cheap. It just feels good! Here is one way our family of four has managed to make travel really affordable – we Airbnb our house whenever we are gone. Yup, we “move out” of our house for as short as a 3 day stay. It can be scary to step into the sharing economy and invite other people into your house I get it, but with a little trust most people are really happy with the results.

Renting our house on Airbnb made us feel like we hit the jackpot!

A Recent Airbnb Cheap Travel Example

My kids want to learn to surf. We live in Colorado. Let’s go to San Diego! We booked tickets early so got a great deal on Southwest [we had points to burn from a credit card sign up] and booked our return using miles on United. So no direct cost for travel. We then rented a car – we used Amex points for 1/2 the car so it was super reasonable [cost us

Photo courtesy of Mariah Tauger Photography www.mariahtauger.com

Photo courtesy of Mariah Tauger Photography http://www.mariahtauger.com

$130 for the week]. We rented a house in Encinitas, a block to the beach, for $250/night which turned out to be one of our biggest expenses. This is where it gets good – we concurrently rented our house in Boulder for $250/night. This was basically a wash though we paid a bit to Airbnb for the transaction on both ends. The costs for our week surfing trip – above our normal expenses – was surf lessons and 1/2 the car. And a few t-shirts the kids picked up along the way. This works for me – I’m ready to book another trip pronto!

Here is how you can make Airbnb work for your family

We hosted our first Airbnb guest last summer. It was a leap of faith but we were traveling for six weeks [internationally] and it just seemed one of our biggest resources was going to be left on the table. We jumped in with both feet and listed!

Then we patiently waited. And waited. And waited. Then it happened, someone reached out about renting for a week. I looked up their profile and she had just joined Airbnb and had no reviews. Yikes! We exchanged emails multiple time and finally I felt comfortable accepting her housing request.

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Get your property listed

  1. List your property on Airbnb. It’s free and easy to list your property. You need to take some photos and think about exactly how you want to describe your property. Be accurate. Be detailed. Be honest. What is great about your location? Are there any drawbacks? Don’t advertise something you don’t have. Remember people will rate you and good ratings are the key to success in this endeavor.
  2. Set your price. This is a bit tricky. Do some research. Look around on Airbnb for houses near you. What are they listing their places for? Does the price fluctuate based on events nearby? What price would make it feel fair for you to move out and share your home with others? It’s not a science – trust your gut.
  3. Set your calendar. List the dates your home is available and the price for those dates. For example, during the Ironman in Boulder, CO, the prices can be set higher as there are no hotels available in the city.
  4. Do you need a rental license? In a lot of cities they are starting to make anyone renting their space out get a rental license – even for short-term rentals. If you are only renting once or twice your compliance is up to you. In Boulder, CO it costs $130 for a rental license for four [4] years – not too bad.
  5. Make a plan for getting your home organized/cleaned. We only rent out 3 of our 4 bedrooms so we can keep one for our stuff. We put a lock on the door to the extra bedroom. When we have renters, everyone gets a moving box, and then empty their rooms of valuables, things that are sentimental, and their closets. These boxes are packed up and put in the locked bedroom. We use one size box and make it super simple. We declutter and organize somewhat so it’s easy for anyone to enjoy the house. We hire a cleaning person to clean after we leave before anyone rents.
  6. Have a local contact. When we were out of the country we had a local friend act as the renters’ contact person. They were on call if anyone needed them and they walked through the house between renters to make sure it was all in order after the cleaners came in.
  7. Review your guests. Airbnb will ask you to review your guests. Your guests will also review you. This is a very important step in the sharing economy process – making things transparent. The guest won’t see your review until they have reviewed you, so feel free to be honest. I like to focus on the positive, but I won’t hesitate to mention something that could be improved. When you review each other, your reviews will then be public for everyone to read. Having positive reviews will increase your traffic and interest in your property.

Get the kids bought in! 

Our boys are okay with this plan as they have done it for a long time. They think it’s normal.  When we started renting out our house when we traveled we offered that we would give our boys something they wanted if we rented the house out for X days. It worked. They cleaned their rooms out well and spent the time rooting for us to get that extra week. We did get that extra week and we rewarded our kids!

Dream about your vacation!

If you don’t already have a vacation planned, head over to Airbnb or Trip Advisor and poke around. They have great suggestions and ideas of what to do in all these locations. I got a 10 page booklet about what to do in and around San Diego when we booked our trip to Encinitas. Also, hosts offer guidebooks which often tell you a lot about what to do in and around their property. It can be a helpful process as you clarify your travel plans.

Please share your experiences!

Have you had experiences sharing/renting your family home? Would you do it again? Are their other options beyond Airbnb and VRBO that are family friendly? Please share!

Questions about family travel, how to Airbnb your place, or anything else, give me a shout at Email Amanda

 

Family Travel: Paris over Christmas for under $500 on United

Want to go to Europe? United Airlines is offering fares for under $500 to Paris from Denver over the holidays. Paris for Christmas anyone? If you’ve been thinking about going to France this may be the time to make it happen.

Here is a search from December 19th to the 28th. You can find different dates around the same time that work. Go to the search on Momondo to find these deals. Click here for the Momondo site. Let it load fully to see the deal. Then you can change dates and times to get the flight you prefer.

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If you have an Epic ski pass [Vail Resorts] you can ski at some European ski areas for free this winter. This includes France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria. Get the scoop on skiing Europe on your Epic pass here.

Will your family be heading to Europe this winter?

My Family Scored 4 Round Trip Tickets for Under $150!

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What summer isn’t complete [when you live in landlocked Colorado] without spending time in the ocean? So my family of four decided to head to San Diego for a week of surfing. And we are doing it for around $50 [total of fees paid for all tickets] plus a $95 annual fee, so a total cost of $145. How? We signed up for a credit card through Southwest Airlines, spent $2,000 on the card and viola – we are heading to surf this summer! My favorite part is that we have lots of flexibility in our itinerary – just in case something changes – and there aren’t tons of extra fees like we would pay with other low cost airlines. Flexibility and No Extra Fees = Awesome!

I value these tickets at around $200/piece so I would say we got approximately $800 of value out of one single credit card sign up. Is this the best credit card perk I have ever received? No. But it is up there. Southwest points are really valuable!

I decided to get the Southwest card after I flew to Phoenix for a soccer tournament and realized what a great option they are. Their prices were good. The points they charge are usually reasonable compared to the general market. And the most important part to me and my family – Southwest tickets are ultra flexible. As long as you cancel or change your ticket within 10 Minutes of departure time there are no fees involved on Southwest. No fees – they just redeposit your points or refund your dollars. On United we would pay a $150 change fee each or over $100 to put our points back in our account if we were not taking that same route in the future. Flexibility rocks for Family Travel! 

One trick on Southwest – book your tickets as early as possible. I’ve found tickets for as low 5,500 points to travel Denver to Seattle or 7,000 points Denver to San Diego. Round trip for under 15,000 points – I’m in – but reserve them early! 

Do you like flying Southwest? Any tips or tricks for getting the most out of flying Southwest?

You Can Still “Google It” When Traveling Out Of The Country: Otherwise I’d be lost half the time!

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It’s hard to imagine life before Google Maps. Wondering how long it will take between one location and the other? Google it. Wondering how bad the traffic is? Google it. But what about when we are traveling and have limited data plans? Can you use Google then? Yes!

How To Use Google Maps With Limited Data

The great news is Google Maps can be used by turning on your data plan briefly. Googling your location and where you wish to go. Once Google has located you and your desired location then you can turn off data. Yup, just turn it off. Your phone has a GPS built in and even with data turned off you can still use the Google Map function to find your way around. It is like magic!

This past summer we were in Paris. I don’t know my way around Paris. I also don’t really like to be pulling out my map a lot and looking like a silly tourist. Though map reading is an important skill that I like to teach my kids, when I’m in a big city on foot I really like to know where I am. Even with a very limited data plan on my iPhone I used it to navigate by foot all around the city using the Google Map strategy outlined above. I felt so much more comfortable knowing I had Google Maps when I needed to cheat and take a look at where I was or where I was heading.

On the other hand getting “lost” together can be a big learning experience and a fun adventure for the whole family if you have the time and no one is melting down. So, maybe turn off Google Maps at times and get lost. Don’t worry about exactly where you are as long as you are all together. This is one of my favorite parts of family travel time!

How to you navigate around foreign cities these days? Are there other apps we should know about? 

#Travel #FamilyTravel #Paris #France #Kids #Families

Zika Virus and Travel: What’s A Family To Do?

It is no secret that the CDC has issued a travel warning for pregnant women considering traveling to infected areas of the world. In fact many airlines are offering refunds for travelers wanting to change plans based on the Zika Virus. It’s not clear how Zika is impacting travel and specifically families who are traveling. It is clear that the virus is spreading rapidly and to some of my favorite places to travel!

Zika Infected Areas

The most infected areas are shown here:

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Zika infected areas include [but are not limited to]:

  1. Cape Verde
  2. Caribbean
  3. Central America
  4. South America
  5. Mexico
  6. Samoa

Infection and Prevention

It seems only 1 in 5 adults infected with the Zika Virus show symptoms which are reported to be flu-like. The biggest issue is for pregnant women because there Zika could increase the risk of birth defects in unborn children. But what about babies? Young kids? Teens? The list goes on.

Since Zika is transmitted by mosquitos it is important to prevent being bitten. How do you do that? Outside Magazine online has some great suggestions:

  1. Use repellents that contain at least 20% deet
  2. Cover up with clothing
  3. Stay inside at high mosquito times of day [dawn/dusk]
  4. Use permethrin-treated clothing

Also, Consumer Reports just published a review of mosquito repellents that best protect against Zika. These are all ways to control your exposure to mosquitos and Zika virus. And the CDC has plenty of reading on the issue including an CDC FAQ page.

Will Zika impact your family travel plans? 

 

Packing For Traveling With Kids

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Traveling with kids? Let the kids have some input and travel like a pro!

As soon as our kids could pull a suitcase or carry a backpack we always included them in the travel experience by having them take responsibility for at least some of their own gear. Especially in an airport this can make your life easier but be prepared to offer a hand if your child gets tired of carrying the items you’ve given them. My priority is to ensure they learn to love traveling not dogmatically make them carry their own gear.

Packing a Suitcase – Always pack things they like to wear. It’s no fun to have a suitcase full of clothing or shoes and have your child say they won’t wear them, so avoid this issue and pack what they like. Better yet, give them a list of things they need to pack [you can alter this list based on your child’s age/ability] and help them identify the items they love to wear – and pack those. Always pack an extra set of clothing and a little more warmth than they kids think they will need.

You can find child size suitcases at a local department store, Target, Amazon.com or at high end travel stores such as Patagonia.com. 

Packing a Backpack – The backpack has the items your kids need to have with them for comfort [e.g., a bankie or other cuddly toy for comfort] and for entertainment. The pack should be their size and fit comfortably. This is true if you are packing for a car ride or an airplane ride. When our kids were young we had things we always did for them like wrapping a few new toys for them to unwrap in the airplane. These can be simple, but engaging. Now we never leave the house for a trip without a sketchbook, art supplies, and an iPad [preferably loaded with a movie and some games since you cannot count on wifi on planes and certainly not in the car]. We also like to pack things like a hackysack or soccer ball for when we land or on a layover. Entertainment is key!

You can find child size backpacks at online retailers such as LLBean.com. I like these because they last forever! You can get fancy and have their initials or name embroidered on if you have time. The younger kids love this! 

Please share any packing and travel tips! Enjoy your family travels!

 

The Capital Is Calling: Washington D.C. is a Great Family Vacation Option!

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Washington, D.C. is a great family vacation option! The history is rich and no matter the age of your children they will recognize some of the iconic monuments & locations in D.C. Not only is this an amazing learning environment for the kids, but the Smithsonian’s and all the monuments and memorials along the National Mall are free. Even though D.C. is not a beach vacation or an amusement park, it is vibrant and alive with tons of options for the whole family!

DC2We spent four amazing days in D.C. with our kids, ages 9 & 11. We could have spent longer, but four days worked out well. We got to see a lot, but not at a frenetic pace. My whole family agrees that we would head back without hesitation!

The Highlights of Our DC Trip:

Kids: The Flight Simulator at the Air & Space Museum in Virginia was their favorite!

Parents: Seeing the space shuttle at the Air and Space Museum in Virginia, and walking along the National Mall seeing the iconic memorials and monuments, especially the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

Whole Family: Capital City Bikes Tours – Monuments & Memorials Sunset Bike Tour. This DC2
was an amazing tour that took us through the streets of D.C. at sunset. We stopped at the major monuments and memorials and were treated to juicy details we never would have known without the guide who was super knowledgable! Older kids can have their own bikes and the younger ones can join on a tandem.

DC Government Tours: Our trip was a last minute decision so we did not get to participate in a lot of the organized tours of the government. If you plan ahead you can request a tour of the White House and/or the US Congress. Depending on the age of your kids – these can be a really memorable experiences! Try to put in a request at least 3 months ahead of time if possible.

Local Tours: Take a bike tour with Capital City Bike Tours. They can usually be booked last minute and offer you guided tours of the monuments and memorials of D.C. You can also take a self-guided tour of the National Mall. Find a brochure from the National Parks Service.

Smithsonian Museums: I have fond memories of spending time at Washington D.C., museums.  I specifically remembered the Air and Space Museum, so I was excited to take the kids back! We spent the most time at these museums: National Museum of Natural History, the Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of American Indian. They were all great options and entertained the kids for hours. Each has a cafeteria so you can take a break, or grab something from a street vendor right outside along the National Mall. The American Indian Museum has a really great cafeteria we heard people rave about and after trying it we concur. It offered delicious food based on the different Native American regions so it was unique and educational, but the kids still enjoyed the food.

The most memorable museum – the one we had to drag our kids out of – was the Air and Space Museum in Virginia – this one you have to drive for – but this location houses all the over sized space toys like the space shuttle, war planes, bi-planes, and tons more. Also, there are flight simulators on site and the kids LOVED these. It was almost impossible to get them out!

Other Museums: There is also the International Spy Museum that is amazing and really engages the kids. It isn’t a Smithsonian so it does cost to go in. We thought it was worth the cost!

Outdoors: Take a walk on the National Mall – which is a actually a National Park – so look for Junior Ranger program information for your kids. They offer activity booklets your kids can do along the way all the while becoming a Junior Ranger replete with a badge and stamp when they complete this booklet. We found ice cream and pretzels along the National Mall which offered a great break and a burst of energy for all of us on those hot summer days. Of course you can explore the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, and other outdoor locations too.

Getting There: United Airlines and Frontier Airlines offer direct flights to Washington, D.C. from Denver.

General Words of Advice:

1. Take your time! Go slowly and don’t schedule yourself too tightly. There is so much to do you will want to get it all in, but if you are traveling as a family, pick your top sites and hit those for sure. Everything else is icing on the cake.

2. If you go in the summer it can be really hot, so consider going early or late to avoid the middle of the day heat – even if you are planning to be at the museums!

3. Bring good walking shoes. Seems obvious, but you walk a lot and so good shoes helps!

Have tons of fun exploring the rich history and educational opportunities in Washington, D.C.!

How Memories Are Made: Family Travel Through Nicaragua and Costa Rica

“There is a great hotel in San Jose!”, was my son’s response to our friend’s request for suggestions of what to do in Costa Rica.

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For almost three weeks we traveled throughout Nicaragua and Costa Rica – all eight of us – two families traveling together. We intended to have an adventure so we spent our days on volcanoes, zipping through the jungle canopy of Costa Rica, surfing in San Juan del Sur, hiking through the heat and humidity of a remote volcanic island, and riding horses. It was all adventure, but not all of it as positive as others; during the course of the trip the kids’  backpacks had been stollen and the kids managed to puke all over at least two hotels. It was an amazing [multi] family adventure! It really was. Honest.

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San Jose Marriott

When I think back on our trip I remember watching the sun set on the Pacific Ocean while drinking smoothies along the coast in Nicaragua, my husband remembers “Tyler’s Place” where we stayed to surf and explore Nicaragua. BUT if you ask my kids they will tell you that there is a great Marriott in San Jose!

They did just that the other day. We have friends who scored last minute United Airlines mileage tickets to Costa Rica and knowing we had been there, asked for recommendations. I offered up mine in a detailed email. In the soccer carpool this friend asked my son this question and he offered what was most vivid in his mind – The Costa Rica Marriott Hotel in San Jose. This friend sent me an email to confirm this was his response. We both laughed. Then I started thinking about how it could possibly be that my son’s best memory of our extended family trip was of a hotel?

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The white sheets!

Until the other day I hadn’t thought about the moment when we got to San Jose, after a long drive and our stollen backpack fiasco, for a long time. It reminded me that you cannot always predict what memories will be indelibly etched in your children’s minds. What will make the biggest impact. You just never know! In this case I believe it was the contrast of the relatively rustic way we traveled for close to three weeks, the stollen backpacks, being sick, then the safety of this simply luxurious hotel.

When we walked into the hotel it felt cloistered. It felt safe. It felt welcoming. The sheets were so white. The beds so tall. The restaurant had the most amazing buffet any of us had ever seen. They prepared anything the kids requested. My kids noticed ALL these details. All of them. We had not left Costa Rica but the Marriott made us feel like we had been swept up into the best of all worlds – local culture and amenities galore. This experience is indelibly woven into the fabric of my children’s beings. They may forget the other amazing things we did on our trip, but they will not forget this simple luxury.

Family Travel in Guatemala: A Full Sensory Experience!

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A Guatemala Trip Report: Our family of four had a blast!

The jungle here in Guatemala belies the hidden Mayan culture we are about to encounter. As the kids swim in the pool at our small hotel on the site of Tikal National Park I know they cannot comprehend what is right around the corner. No way. They complain about having to hike in. Par for the course. Then we come out onto the main plaza area in Tikal where they see pyramids and monkeys and things they have no words for – we all stop to soak it in. We are standing on this sacred spot looking into the past. Reminds me of the first time I saw the Grand Canyon – it was almost incomprehensible how large it was. Then our guide tells my boys they can climb around on the site and they immediately start exploring. Guatemala is truly a land of amazement and a perfect family travel experience!

Guatemala has a special place in my heart. My husband and I traveled to Guatemala in 1990. We took time off from college and spent 3 months learning Spanish and traveling around this amazing country. The indigenous culture, Spanish, vibrant colors, mountains, and the warmth of the people in this Central American country had left me dreaming of the day I would return. Since then I have always wanted to go back. I finally got the chance and took my kids – ages 10 & 12 – for 2 1/2 weeks.

Guatemala is not luxury travel. Though you can travel luxuriously. We IMG_3656used TripAdvisor to locate hotels that were family-friendly and retained a feeling of the local culture. A few years earlier we traveled to Costa Rica and we wanted something a little rougher, but not without any amenities. We organized most of our travel ahead of time, but left room for flexibility.

Guatemala is not insular. You can really get a sense of the culture through food, experiences, and observation. We chose to travel close to the ground and spend time observing [and participating in] the local customs and events whenever possible. It seemed we were always stumbling onto something new like on New Year’s day when the people in Antigua lit off literally streets full of firecrackers. Smoke filling the streets. People cheering. Believe me, we would never do this in the US!

IMG_4156Guatemala is not tame – there are adventures of all kinds to be had. We found ourselves traveling to some of the hot spots in this country since we had under three weeks. Our family spent time in Antigua, Chichicastenango Market, Tikal, and the Pacific Ocean site of Paredon Surf House. I would add Lago Atitlan and Livingston as must see family spots in Guatemala but we didn’t make it because of our schedule and choosing to travel more slowly! So to add to surfing some of the things you can find to do in Guatemala as a family are sailing, horse back riding and zip lining.

Here are the places we spent time in during our trip:

Antigua – We spent at least a week here on and off. The town is a Worldantigua Heritage site which was the capital of Guatemala at one time. The buildings are spectacular and the fact you can get a great cup of coffee was helpful! The kids loved wandering the cobblestone streets, eating lunch overlooking the plaza or in an amazing internal courtyard, touring a coffee cooperative, and experiencing the most amazing New Years party throughout the streets of Antigua – ever! If you were dropped in Antigua on New Year Eve you would think this was a town of Pyromaniacs – this makes for happy boys.

Chichcastenango – This was our first stop. A little overwhelming for theIMG_3615 kids as their introduction to Guatemala so I would head there again, but later in our trip. The market in Chichicastenango is amazing. It is the real deal. It is not intended for Gringo Tourists – people are selling day to day goods as well as masks. The best part was the fact that we happened upon a religious ceremony that includes ornate processions, and men hanging upside down from ropes on a pole 3 stories high. Captivating for all of us!

Tikal – The most amazing Mayan ruins rising out of the jungle! We stayed at a hotel on the site of Tikal National Park. A splurge. But it was amazing to be right in the park. A walk through Tikal is nothing like it would be in USA. You can climb all around and on these Mayan ruins so it was a full body experience and with 10 & 12 year olds they really appreciated being let loose. I highly recommend Tikal for any family!

Paredon Surf House – This is a little known location on the coast of Guatemala. Our family full of culture and loved every minute, but we IMG_4156wanted to satiate our surfing desires so we did some research and found Paradon Surf House in the town of El Paredon about 2 hours from Guatemala City. It was an amazing, tranquil, out of the way location right on the water with a pool, food available onsite [so no stressing about buying ahead and making it], and surf lessons available all day long. Perfect! Beside surfing along the black sand beaches was that there were people from all over the world staying in this small surf house that held maybe 30 people max. The kids got up and surfed the first day and then didn’t want to stop!

Getting Up Close & Personal – The thing we appreciated most is how close to the culture and people we got in Guatemala as tourists. It was the coffee tour that is burned in my mind – just our family with a coffee farmer & interpreter. We ended the tour at this farmer’s house where the kids got to separate the dried coffee by using a bike powered machine he clearly created, roast the coffee over a fire, meet the kids of this family, and drink coffee. They still talk about the “best coffee ever!”

Safety – We always felt safe traveling in Guatemala. With kids we decided to avoid the local bus service known as “Chicken Buses” which was bitter sweet because we traveled in relatively more comfort than we had in our previous visit, but we had some of our best experiences on these buses sitting next to chickens. We were careful with food and simply explained to the kids about not drinking water from an unknown source and washing regularly. It was easy and no one got sick!

The kids thoroughly enjoyed our Guatemalan adventure. They have asked that on our next vacation we stay in one place longer. What they described would fall into the arena of “All Inclusive” but I don’t think this is what they mean since they have never experienced anything of the sort. Will a more tame trip be in our future? I doubt it.