28 Apr

It's a small world after all

The day before we left was an unreal, suspended in aspic, last forever kind of day.  Like a long overdue pregnancy, I desperately wanted what was going to happen to happen, but knew that the getting there would be arduous.  The hours before we were due to leave for the airport stretched in front of us, heavy with nervous expectation and the potential for something to go wrong.

But nothing went wrong.  We got on the plane.  We embarked on the adventure we’d been dreaming of for three years.  I should have been elated, as the weight of the previous weeks of effort rolled off my shoulders.  Instead doubts began to worm their insidious way into my exhausted brain.  Why exactly were we doing this?  Had we really made the right decision?  Was it all a huge mistake?

Those first few days in California were surreal.  Jet lag induced sleep…

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Souvenir special edition

28 Apr

This week I’ve been poring over twelve month’s worth of news about Kate and Wills in Hello Magazine.  And I’ve been inspired by their nifty wheeze of regurgitating a year’s worth of material in one go, and selling it as a special edition.  So today I am launching the It’s a small world after all special edition.  Since we got home, I’ve loved re-reading my blog. I’m so confident that you will too I’m offering a money back guarantee*.  Every week for the next however long it takes, I’m going to re-publish a couple of posts for your enjoyment.  Don’t say I don’t spoil you.


*terms and conditions apply

Awards, glory, something

31 Mar

I was going to try and write something eloquent and funny, but frankly I’m too lazy.  Instead I’ll say that if you’ve enjoyed reading about our exploits I’d be very grateful if you could spend two minutes showing your appreciation.

I’ve been shortlisted for a Brilliance in Blogging Award.  If you could see your way to voting for me in category seven, Go!, I’d be eversograteful.

Also, if you fancied nominating me for a MAD award (I was a finalist a couple of years back) I’d love you forever.  You have to nominate a blogger of the year *looks modest* then you can vote in as many categories as you like.  There’s a new travel category this year I’ve got my eye on…

The cheque’s in the post.

How much?

27 Mar

with a view like this, does it matter that the accommodation is a bit grotty?

I remember a conversation with a friend, many months ago, before we went on our trip, sitting on a park bench in the sunshine as our children climbed and swung and balanced on stuff.  If it’s not rude, she said, can I ask how you can afford all this, how much is it costing, must be at least a hundred thousand pounds.  I laughed.  She was imagining nine months of her type of holiday strung together, proper hotels next to the beach, taxis, meals in restaurants.  I won’t pretend a nine month holiday was cheap, but it wasn’t anything like as expensive as she was imagining.

We never stayed near the beach, except for when we camped.  We usually stayed four blocks back, in the highrise without a decent view, five to a slightly too small room with the youngest child on a lilo.  Or we stayed in the guesthouse at the far end of town, too quiet for most tourists, not close enough to the restaurants.  Or in the condo that was next to the beach, but the beach you couldn’t swim in because of the crocodiles.  Often our accommodation was slightly depressing, damp, cramped, with a whiff of the ageing surfer who chats up young blondes in the lift.  But we got to visit the same beaches as the people who’d spent a small fortune.  Got to see the same turtles.

We mostly didn’t eat in restaurants, except in Asia where they’re really cheap, instead we shopped in budget supermarkets and ate a lot of sandwiches.  I love food, and sometimes it was a bit sad that we weren’t eating as well as we could have, especially in Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.  But it was worth sacrificing a few decent meals for months of wonderful experiences. And we didn’t have the wardrobe for smart anyway.

We shared.  Shared meals, shared beds, shared train seats.  Nothing was wasted, or at least we tried.  We asked for deals, particularly for the children, and people often obliged.  We went in a helicopter, they went free. We rode elephants and camels, they rode half price. We didn’t do stuff that was too expensive, our bank managers thanked us.

Budget travel isn’t rocket science.  Spend your time on the internet comparing prices, book everything yourself rather than through a travel agent, ask for discounts, share your chips.  It’s often deeply unglamorous, but it’s always worth it.


I’m not here

2 Feb

Today I will mostly be hanging out at Tesco Magazine, who have very kindly published an article I wrote about our trip.  Do please go and have a look, leave a comment, tell your friends. You know, if you want to.

We just made it look easy

28 Jan

I saw a tweet this week saying something about what hard work it had been taking a trip abroad with a baby.  Er, yes.  Any kind of foreign travel is unpleasant.  It involves queueing, lugging awkward heavy things, eating nasty food at odd hours, walking long distances down interminable windowless corridors, queueing again, and then a long uncertain taxi ride to a hotel that you hope has received your booking. If you choose to take children with you, multiply all of that by a large number and add in a bout of travel sickness and a quantity of whining.  It’s never pleasant and it never gets easier.

Even after nine months, the big journeys were something to be endured not enjoyed.  We became more efficient, possibly, and we learnt to always take snacks, but it never got any better.  Airports at midnight are horrible, no matter how many times you do it.

But you do it, so you can get there.  And in our case, the there was often magnificent.

The best long-haul destinations for 2012

27 Jan

As someone who has dragged children to many exotic destinations on the far side of the globe, I’m all for long-haul travel.  So when Joe Bond asked if he could write a guest post for my blog, I said yes.  I’m not sure that I’d attempt to get to NZ for half term, the twenty six hour flight and punishing jet lag are a little off-putting, but if we had a month to spare it would be a different story.  We never did make to to those glaciers…

The best long-haul destinations for 2012

Where can you find the best long-distance holiday? Well, that’s a pretty tough question, given the size of the earth compared to the likely ground you’ll manage to cover in a two-week trip. But we do live on an amazing planet, and taking a long-haul flight to a far-away destination is wonderfully disorientating and magical, because you can be instantly transported out of the dull British winter weather to a completely different reality. It would be hard to surpass the images that a real ‘holiday of a lifetime’ will etch in your memory.

And if it seems feasible to fit it into a February half-term then why wait? Here are some ideas for some great experiences you can have this time of year:

Northern India is benefiting from improved infrastructure and is a perfect place to visit in February. If you’re looking for a different land, then India’s contrasts and colours will hit you as soon as you step off the plane. Try a tiger safari, negotiate the bustling streets of Delhi, and explore the blooming valleys of Sikkim.

Or you could choose South East Asia, which has lost none of its appeal.  The pound still remains relatively strong compared to some far flung currencies, with pretty favourable currency exchange rates in Thailand and Vietnam, so you can be sure of good value while you’re there – especially if you steer clear of large tourist areas. Head to the national parks in Northern Thailand and simply relax on its southern beaches.

Plus, as Burma opens up to tourism it’s promising to be a travel trend for 2012, if you prefer somewhere further off the beaten track. Its impressive temples, fishing villages and famous rivers allow your navigation of the country to be a unique experience in itself.

Air fares to the other side of the world tend to cool down a little after Christmas, but the weather holds out a little longer, so Australia and New Zealand are definitely worth checking out. Don’t miss the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers on the New Zealand’s South Island, or the opportunity to spot sperm whales off the coast from the small town of Kaikoura.

In Australia, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, with its glittering night parades and dancing, runs throughout the whole month. And of course, the beaches, the Great Barrier Reef and trips to Kangaroo Island offer unforgettable experiences and plenty of photo opportunities.

Many memorable moments are on offer in Latin America as 2012 gets started. Disregard the nonsense over Mayan predictions about the end of the world in December, speak to the locals and climb Machu Picchu in Peru. You’ll never forget being in an Incan urban wonder – and breathless in tropical mountain forest 2,430m above sea level.

Further south on the continent, you can spot stars from the Atacama Desert, learn the tango in Buenos Aires, see the best views in the world at Bariloche, or head further south to see penguins, and eventually the great white continent of Antarctica.

Always make sure that whatever far flung destination you choose, you’re fully covered by your travel insurance and shop around in advance for your travel money to get the best rates. If you’re taking holidays more often, you may like to think about multi trip annual travel insurance.