14 July 2010

how-to vacation; abroad or at home

by my 13 year-old niece sophie, of birthday party planning fame
{psst.. miss sophie is now selling handmade headbands, check them out here.}

As Summer is here, I thought it would be nice to have a how-to topic on Foreign or close-to-home traveling. I want to be an anthropologist when I grow up, so traveling is a favorite of mine and with the help of my mom, I have never had a a bad travel experience. Here are some easy how-to’s. Last Spring I traveled to India, which is what I will use for examples. But, these tips can apply to any trip.
1. Expect the trip to pleasantly surprise
Before I went, people told me India smells bad and is overpopulated with poverty and pick-pockets. They didn’t mention the bright and kind people, the rich culture and history and the amazing food. If you go into it with an open mind, you won’t even notice the smells. Go in with excitement and anticipation of good things during your travels.

2. Don't be afraid to travel with little kids
Some People wouldn’t think of taking children on big trips. But me, I had been to Europe and Asia before I was two .Though taking children on larger trips is a scary thought, it teaches them appreciation for different cultures, and makes them wonder and imagine other places and things. It can make them appreciate everything that they have. I am so grateful my mom feels this way and takes me traveling.
For small trips and big trips that still involve children here are some tips: 
• Snack Bag. This saved my family from multiple grumpy moments. (I am the youngest, but even my 18 year-old sister needed it at times!) Having snacks on hand is very helpful.
Treat yourself and your kids to a few new things. I got a new book that was fun to read throughout the trip. Having a new book or toy can keep children occupied--especially helpful during long layovers.
3. Balance out relaxation days and sight seeing.
One day you’re walking all over, the next day you stay at the beach or pool. It helps maintain cheerfulness in the family. Never have a tight schedule with children. One of the funnest parts of India was seeing a place and going inside, or getting hungry and going to a random restaurant. Having a tight schedule can make people uptight . We voted a lot to see what we would do next, majority rules, but we would let the losers pick something else to do--some people chose what we did, others chose what we ate that night --a win-win situation.
4. Do your research before you get there
In many places there is way too much to see in one trip (a reason to return, perhaps). But the worst feeling is returning from some great place and having someone say, “Did you get the chance to see ..... or do ......?” And it’s even worse if your reply is, “I never knew about that.” Because then they drone on and on about how great this thing is, and how close it was to your hotel ,and how easy it could have been to see it. So do your research so you can see the must -must- sees, and pick and chose the lesser-must- sees. That way when you come back and some one says, “Did you get the chance to ...?” You can reply by saying,“We thought about it, but instead we did ........” And then you can say “right back at you” or some other catchy phrase that leaves the other person impressed and a little bit intimidated. That’s always a kind of nice feeling.:)
5. Take advantage of your hotel
Hotels  and resorts often have a bunch of fun classes and activities to do for free. While my family tanned (which I have no patience for because my skin is too sensitive), I would go explore. In this time I made bracelets, learned how to fold hand towels into elephants, learned how to properly greet someone in Thai depending on their social status or occupation. And once, my mom and I took a water yoga class. That was ... interesting ....:)

Over spring break we generally don't travel, but it sometimes feels like ALL my friends do. This is a fun boredom buster when you’re not traveling but wish you were. Pick a country .. any country . Lets do  India, just to stay with the theme that is occurring. Here are some fun steps to vacation at home.

  • Again, do your research. On the places you can’t go. Find out about the culture, the food, everything . Learn about all the sights to see. Watch documentaries from the library. For India I highly recommend The Story of India, from the BBC channel (it’s not as boring as it sounds). Share what you learned to others participating in the “vacation.”
  • Cancel the newspaper for the week. Turn off the computer. This way you can be apart from the local world
  • Splurge: If I were to “travel” to India, I would buy a colorful scarf and some bracelets to help me get  the Indian look.
  • With younger children, go to the zoo to see the tigers or elephants or other animals you would see in India. (Plus, the zoo is fun anyways.)
  • Go grocery shopping: For an Indian theme, i highly recommend Amy’s Indian Food  that can be found at your local grocery store.  Browse the ethnic food aisle for anything else that looks fun.
  • Do your research on places you can go: Museum exhibits, Islamic Centers, yoga classes, Indian restaurants, anything. It might surprise you  what your community has to offer related to your “travel destination.”
  • Make your home a hotel. Make the beds and place a chocolate on the comforter, place travel sized shampoo in the showers. (This part is more fun for the kids of the family because they have a hotel maid.)  Also, room service is a fun idea. When we do this, my mom lets me call her cell phone from my “hotel room” to order a meal or snack.
I hope these tips help make your summer a little more interesting!! Thanks for having me, Marta!! 

image by mate ugrin via flickr 

add to marta's collection :: i created the how-to series to encourage you to share and celebrate your individual skills and talents; to focus on what we can do rather than what we can't. i am excited to showcase creativity and unique ideas. if you have a specialty (and i know you do), please submit your how-to guest post by emailing me. marta{at}martawrites{dot}com. i will be delighted to feature your how-to. 

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden


Stephanie said...

I love the idea of going with a theme of where you wish you could travel but at home! Thanks for putting this out there...I never get to go anywhere fantastic. Now I will!! <3

Tiffany said...

Such a great post. Are you sure she's only 13???

Anne said...

Such great ideas!! Love this how-to series!!

Bali holiday villas said...

wow...i would like to try your idea..nice

Anonymous said...

she is a treasure

[eeny] said...

Sophie is amazing.
I love the idea of "traveling at home" - what a fun thing to do =)

Briel said...

Well written Sophie! I never would have guessed the writer was only 13! :)

anna jo said...

I love that your niece, sophie, is already seriously so cool at age thirteen. what a fun travel how-to!

Travelin'Oma said...

I'd like Sophie for my travel agent!

Anonymous said...

Sophie is simply sensational! She's delightful and her darling personality bubbles through this post! We love her! We can say from experience that vacations with her are always more fun - she makes them magical and full of surprises. She once turned a fishing trip at dusk into a high adventure by turning a log into a canoe - and imagining all sorts of accompanying details. WE LOVE HER!

Love - M & O

Dee said...

Sophie is on her way to big things....thanks Sophie

Joann said...

This is an excellent well written and very cool post. Sophie has a wonderful imagination and is a great writer - it must run in the family. Great job!!!!!

Janet said...

Now can you have Sophie's parents submit a post on how to raise such an amazing 13 year old? Seriously!

MarjnHomer said...

i love this idea and will think of all the places i can go.yes!

cara said...

I love the "at home" travel advice! GREAT how-to!

Unknown said...

Great list Sophie! You're very insightful and well-traveled. I'm going to take note of these tips for our 1st vacation with a 1- & 3-year-old.

Heather said...

Great ideas, I really love the one about a theme at home.. that is an awesome one that I plan on using in the near future!

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