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What To Do at the Australia Zoo (Steve Erwin Zoo)

Statue of Steve Erwin and his family at the Australia Zoo.

Steve Erwin was known around the world for his caring nature and love for animals. His legacy lives on today through his family and the zoo they continue to run. I loved visiting the Australia Zoo, especially because I know the animals there were saved or rescued. If you are in the area, I highly recommend checking it out. I saw so many animals I had never seen before! There are also plenty of things to do! Here’s everything you need to know before heading to the Steve Erwin Zoo:

  • Where is it?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What animals can you see?
  • What else is there to do?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Where Is the Australia Zoo?

The Australia Zoo is located at 1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah QLD 4519, Australia. Since the zoo is in Beerwah, that is naturally a good place to stay if you want to be close. If you are wanting to stay on the water, Caloundra and Currimundi are nearby costal towns you may want to consider staying at. Use the map below to check out hotels near Australia Zool!

How Much Does It Cost?

A basic ticket costs $60 for an adult, $35 for a child age 3-24, or $47 for a student. There are also family bundles: $172 for two adults and two kids, or $189 for two adults and three kids. There are also added bonuses if you want to do the hospital sneak peek, an animal encounter, or any of the other experiences mentioned below. This zoo is so large you may need two days to see it all, so there are two-day passes available on their website as well. Check out all of the ticket prices and purchase your tickets here!

What Animals Can You See?

The Australia Zoo is home to over 100 different kids of animals! My favorites where the animals that come to mind when I think of Australia – kangaroos, koalas, dingoes, and of course, crocodiles! It was fun to see animals I had never heard of, such as the echidna, and animals I had heard of but had never seen, such as the Tasmanian devil. Although seeing these animals was amazing, the coolest experience was doing an animal encounter! Read more about my animal encounter experience in my other post: Steve Erwin Zoo – Animal Encounters! To see the updated list of all the animals in the zoo, visit their website here.

What Else Is There To Do?

Animal Encounters

Although this experience is not cheap at around $99 per person, it is an amazing experience! Getting to hug a koala or feed lemurs is sure to be a highlight of your trip! When people ask me what I did on my trip to Australia, I always mention meeting lemurs, koalas, and kangaroos at the Australia Zoo! I’m going to write a whole post about these experiences. Subscribe so you don’t miss it!

Wildlife Hospital Tour

If you are interested in learning more about animals and how the zoo takes care of them, this tour may be right for you! Go behind the scenes to see what work is being done at the zoo. This tour is affordable at $19 per adult and $9 per child, and the profits go directly to the wildlife hospital. You will want to book this experience early as there are only two tours a day (2:30pm and 3:30pm) and only eight people are allowed on each tour. Learn more about this tour here!

Segway Back of House Tour

Nobody in my family had never ridden Segway before, so we thought this was the perfect place to do it! They are actually pretty easy to get the hang of, and a lot of fun! Going on this tour gave me a greater understanding of how large this zoo really is, and I got to learn more about how the keepers take care of the animals. Riding the Segway path also gave us a great view of the rhinos and a closer look at the meerkat exhibit. I would definitely recommend this tour – especially if you have never ridden a Segway before! This 45 minute ride costs $60 per person. Book your Segway tour here!

Hire a Caddie Tour

My family did not personally go on this tour as we like to explore on our own, but if you prefer going on guided tours this may be for you! On this tour, a group of 2-4 is escorted through the zoo by a knowledgeable tour guide. These $499 tours last 5 hours, so there is room before and after the tour to explore on your own. The total time of the tour includes the time spent watching shows and going on animal encounters, so you may want to book those before or after the tour to make the most of your time. If you want to book a caddie tour, visit their site here.

Platinum Zoo Adventure

Platinum Zoo Adventure tours last the entire day: 8am – 5pm. The price is not listed online, so you will need to contact the zoo here to find out pricing and booking information. Typically when you need to contact someone to get the price, it’s going to be expensive. You do get a lot in this package, so I can see why it would cost more. A group of up to four people get a VIP tour of the wildlife hospital, 6 animal encounters, morning and afternoon tea, lunch, and more! It really is the VIP experience! You will need to book these tours far ahead of time, so contact the zoo now if this tour is right for you!

I have personally been on the Segway tour and went on an animal encounter. Have you done any of the other tours? Let me know in the comments!

Anna’s Pick of the Week

When I travel, I know I’m going to take a lot of pictures while also being very active. This means I want to be comfortable while still looking stylish! Old Navy has the best of both worlds which is why I love them for both travel and my daily duties as a teacher. Check out their site using this link!

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Tips for Driving on the Other Side of the Road

Getting a rental car is easy enough, and it makes getting around simple. That is, if the place you’re visiting drives on the same side of the road you are used to. I experienced this myself when my family went to Australia – the first day was filled with close calls and nervous laughter! I want you to feel confident (or at least comfortable) driving on the other side of the road, so I compiled tips we used – and should have used – on our trip. 

  • Turn signal placement. 
  • Staying in the middle of the road
  • Can you turn on a red light? 
  • Which is the “fast lane”?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Turn Signal Placement

Turn signals, blinkers, indicators – whatever word you use for these, you know they’re important. They can be especially important if you are driving on the other side of the road as it lets others know to watch out for you! In the US (where I live), blinkers are on the left side of the steering wheel. This seems to be common in most cars that have the driver on the left side of the road, but be sure to double-check before you start driving. 

In cars where the driver is on the right side of the car, the blinker is typically on the right side as well. This is not always the case, so double check your car. We were not expecting this difference when we got our rental car in Australia and didn’t think to look. When it came time to turn, we repeatedly turned on our windshield wipers instead of our blinkers! It took a little time to get used to. One thing you won’t have to worry about is pedal placement. Every car I have ever been in has the clutch (if applicable) on the left, then the brake, and the gas on the right. 

car riding on highway through autumn forest
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Staying in the Middle of the Road

This may seem simple, but it’s actually kind of difficult when you are used to seeing the road differently. In my case, I kept wanting to get myself on the left side of the lane, which put my passenger in the next lane over! I had to think back to driver’s ed to come up with this helpful tip to keep myself in one lane. When writing these descriptions, I am referring to the lines of the lane you are trying to stay in. 

If your diver is on the left side of the car: 

Keep the left line in the bottom left corner of your windshield. 

If your driver is on the right side of the car:

Keep the right line in the bottom right corner of your windshield. 

That’s it! This one trick made a HUGE difference in my driving, and in my comfort level on the road. If you want to test it out, pay attention to the corner of your windshield while you drive around. You will probably find the line of your lane hits that corner!

light city road traffic
Photo by Alexander Abero on Pexels.com

Can You Turn on a Red Light?

Here in the USA, many states allow you to turn right on a red light as long as there is nobody coming. This is a very convenient law in my opinion, but it is not common. Canada and the USA are two of the only countries in the world that allow you to turn on a red light, and even these countries have some exceptions. There are certain areas where this is not allowed, notably New York and Montréal. If you are used to turning on red, pay attention and try to remember to stop. If you are visiting the USA or Canada are not used to turning on red, be prepared to get honked at!

Which Lane is the “Fast Lane”?

In the USA, most traffic is supposed to stay on the right side of the road and the left side is the passing land (also referred to as the fast lane). As you might expect, countries who drive on the other side of the road have this same rule – but reversed. Most traffic should stay on the left side of the read and the right side is the passing lane. This is a pretty simple change when you think about it, but when you are driving habits tend to take over and you might get confused. When in doubt, stay away from oncoming traffic. This will keep you in the “slow lane”. 

I hope you learned something from this post and feel more confident about driving on the other side of the road! Now that you have the tips, you need to car! Check out my transportation guide to get you started!

Anna’s Pick of the Week

When going to a new place, I almost always get lost! Using the GPS on my phone is the easiest way to get back on the right track. I take this phone holder on my travels so I can see my directions while keeping my hands on the wheel. It’s so small, why wouldn’t I throw it in my bag?

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Christmas Gifts on Every Traveler’s List!

As a world traveler myself, I know a thing or two about what travelers REALLY want. Some of these Christmas gifts are so handy that I never go on vacation without them! Whether you are shopping for an adventurer, beach bum, or park hopper, you will find the perfect gift here!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

1. Wallet/Phone Holder/Passport Holder

What are three things you need when you travel? Phone, wallet, and passport (if you’re looking to travel abroad). When you’re going through the airport, you need these things hand at ALL TIMES. Why not have one place for all of them? This compact wristlet is perfect! It’s unisex design make it great for everyone, but as a family travel enthusiast it has a special feature I REALLY love. There are 4 passport pouches on the inside, and room for more on the outside! Keeping track of passports can be stressful, especially if you are traveling with kids. Gain some peace of mind by knowing EXACTLY where they are at all times!

2. Memory Foam Neck Pillow

Sleeping on planes, trains, and automobiles can be tricky, but if you’re traveling far it is necessary. Most neck pillows don’t provide me with enough support and I end up with a sore neck. This neck pillow, however, is a game changer! The extra support at the top of the pillow means you don’t have to kink your neck into a funny shape to find a comfortable position. I have also struggled with neck pillows adjusting and wrapping all the way around my neck by the time I wake up. The clasp on the front of this pillow not only makes it easier to pack around, but it secures the pillow so you can sleep comfortably and with little movement. Now that I have one, I won’t step on a plane without it!

3. Herschel Backpack

If you haven’t hear do Herschel before, they are known for making durable, comfortable backpacks. This one is no exception. Specifically designed for travel, this backpack is the perfect Christmas gift for any traveler! The luggage sleeve on the back makes it easy to slide onto your suitcase without worrying about it falling off. It’s also compact enough to fit under any airline seat yet has enough storage for all your on-flight entertainment. At your destination, this backpack is a great size to carry around on your adventures!

4. Luggage Strap

When you’re running through the airport, carrying all of your luggage without it falling everywhere can be challenging. If you don’t have a bag with a luggage sleeve, this bungee cord is a great alternative! Small and easy to pack, this luggage bungee is perfect for any bag! I can’t even tell you how many times I have tried hanging bags on the bar of my luggage and they flop around everywhere. This bungee was a game changer for me, and I’m sure it will be for anyone on your shopping list!

5. Packing Cubes

I have written about packing cubes previously, but I love them so much I had to add them to this list as well! I use these packing cubes every time I travel, and I really can’t imagine packing without them ever again! You can use them to organize clothes by category: shirts, pants, dresses, pajamas, swimsuits, etc. It makes staying organized SO much easier, especially if you change hotels during your trip.

6. Travel Journal

Travel journals are great for documenting details of a trip you really don’t want to forget. Even after an amazing day, I find myself stuck and unsure of what to write when I go to journal. Not only is this journal travel-sized and great quality, but it also provides prompts so you know exactly what to write about every day!

7. Hanging Toiletry Bag

Another great item everyone needs is a hanging toiletry bag. Most people have a bag for toiletries which works fine, but unpacking and packing the bag and creates a mess all over the counter and can get annoying. The hanging toiletry bag lets you keep the counter clean while allowing you to easily see all of your items. This is another gift I can never go without!

8. Portable Luggage Scale

You get to the airport and get ready to check your bags. The fist one goes on the scale and it happens. It’s over the weight limit. Every traveler has been here. Opening up suitcases, switching clothes, holding up the line. It’s embarrassing and SUPER annoying! I always try to weigh my bag ahead of time to avoid this situation, but many hotels don’t have scales. This portable luggage scale is the BEST solution to this common problem! It’s small and easy to pack, which makes it great for anyone planning to check bags. I can’t explain how many times this has saved me from check-in chaos!

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Pike Place Market – Seattle, WA

Being a Washingtonian, I have been to Seattle more times than I can count. I’ve played tour guide in this city for our five exchange students and several of their families. Now I get to play tour guide for you! Pike Place Market is a must-see for any visitor! In this post, you will find out:

  • What is Pike Place Market?
  • Where is it located?
  • Parking
  • Can’t-miss Pike Place attractions

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

What is Pike’s Place Market?

Pike Place Market is just that – a market. Picture your local farmers market, but with over 500 vendors! This market opened in 1907 and has expanded to a two-story building that takes up most of a city street (1). Here you can find everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts to live performers. It’s a great place to stroll for a couple of hours as there is so much to look at. I personally love the cozy, homey feeling of the market. Seattle is known for rain, but you won’t have to worry about it as the market it entirely covered. Each vendor has their own hours of operations, but generally shops are open daily 9 am to 5 pm. To find out hours of operation for individual vendors, click here.

Where Is It Located?

This market is HUGE, so you can really head to several streets to find it. However, I recommend starting at the corner of Pike and 1st Street to get a photo in front of the iconic neon sign! Then head down Pike Street until you hit Stewart Street. This is the end of the market I typically start in. From there, go through the market at your leisure! Don’t forget to hit the can’t miss attractions below!

Parking

The main Pike Place Market parking garage is located at 1531 Western Ave. This garage tends to fill up and there are many other parking lots in the area. I recommend finding parking East of Pike Place because there is a big hill towards to waterfront on the West right next to a main highway. The Metro Parking lot at 1430 1st Ave and the parking garage at 1401 2nd Ave are good alternatives to the main Pike Place garage.

Can’t-Miss Pike Place Attractions

When discussing the stands and other attractions I will be referring to different areas of the market as they are designated in the official map here.

Pike Place Fish Market

If you have heard of Pike Place Market, you have likely heard of the “flying fish”. Located in the main arcade under the Public Market Center sign is the Pike Place Fish Market. This shop has become one of the main icons in the market for putting on a show every time someone purchases a fish. If you buy a fish, the employees throw your fish across the stand a few times before it makes it gets wrapped up. Don’t want to buy a fish? Just wait around for a few minutes and you’re sure to see the show anyway!

Flower Stands

One of the most popular things to buy in Pike Place Market is a bouquet of flowers in one of the several flower shops in the north arcade. These big, beautiful bouquets are sure to brighten anyone’s day! If you can’t find the stands, just look around and you are sure to see a lot of people with bouquets. Ask anyone and they will surely point you in the right direction. It has become a tradition for my family (and many other families) to get flowers from the market every time we visit Seattle.

Gum Wall

This is admittedly one of the grosses things about Pike Place, but you won’t get the full experience if you skip it. The gum wall is just that – a brick wall covered in chewing gum. It does get cleaned every once in a while so there aren’t layers of gum. However, there is still enough gum for it become famous! The wall is located in Post Alley. You can get there by taking stairs down to the bottom floor of the market. On the Pike Place map you will see it all the way to the left. Make sure you bring a pack of gum!

The Original Starbucks

Did you know Starbucks started in Seattle? It is located within Pike Place, right across the street from the north arcade. The signs still have the original brown logo and the shop sells souvenirs with this same design. If you love Starbucks, you won’t want to miss it! However, you should be prepared to wait. This is (understandably) the most popular Starbucks in the city and there is always a line.

What else would you like to know about Pike Place Market? Let me know in the comments!

Anna’s Pick of the Week

When heading to the Pacific Northwest, you will definitely need a rain coat! Us locals wouldn’t be caught dead with an umbrella, and we jokingly call people “tourists” or “Californians” if they use one. A raincoat is all we ever need! I personally buy Columbia raincoats, but any will do!

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Why Families Need to Travel Together

This topic is what Vacation Smarter is built upon. I focus on affordable vacations because I know money is the reason many families don’t travel. I want to help people see that traveling really CAN be affordable! Why am I so passionate about families traveling? As a teacher, I know travel is beneficial for the education of kids. In this post, I am going to dive into the specific reasons why families need to travel together.

Educational Impact – Gaining Experiences

When you go to look something up online, how do you choose what to search for? Maybe you are looking up a recipe to cook, a product you want to buy, or you could be looking up information to prove someone else wrong. Regardless of what you are searching for, you are interested in it because you have a personal connection to the topic. This idea of building personal connections is the reason why I believe kids need to travel. As they gain more experiences and explore new places, new interests may be sparked within them. This can help students in and out of school.

In school, students who have personal connections to topics are more engaged in learning. As an example, a word problem in a math class I teach focused on people riding air trams. I could tell which students had ridden a tram and which ones had not because those with this personal connection were explaining to classmates what they were and ended up being more engaged in the math problem. The more experiences a student has, the more opportunities they have to build personal connections to content. In math we try to focus word problems on things most students are familiar with, but in history or language arts classes there are some topics that most students don’t have personal connections with. Especially with history, exploring the world will help students become more engaged in class.

Not only do travel experiences help students in the classroom, they also help with social life. As kids gain experiences, they gain talking points. They also have more opportunities to find common experiences with others. We tend to gain friendships with those we have something in common with. The more experiences, the more people kids can build connections with.

Experience Other Cultures

Often times we get so stuck in our own little worlds and we assume everyone has similar experiences. The amazing thing about traveling is the opportunity for eye-opening experiences that challenge the way you view the world. Getting to step into the life of someone else, even for a little while, can build more empathy and understanding in people.

Strengthen Family

Families need to travel for several reasons, but this could be the most important. One of the main things teachers try to do at the beginning of the school year is create a shared experience because it is proven that shared experiences bring people together. Traveling allows families to create many shared experiences which brings everyone closer. I know this is true because I grew up traveling and as a result I have one of the closest families I know of! Siblings are known for fighting, but my sister and I rarely battle. Although traveling is not a magic trick to bringing together broken families, it can create a bond between people like nothing else can.

How to Start Traveling

When people think of travel, they think of going to different countries across the world. While this is what some people do, it is expensive and going that far from home can be scary. Start by visiting places close to home. Explore the outdoors, explore a museum, or just drive for a while and see where you end up. The best part about traveling is making memories, which is something you can do anywhere! Go for a weekend road trip, and build up to somewhere farther away.

What are you waiting for? Get started!

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10 Things to Keep You Organized on Vacation

I have been on vacations where I jump from one hotel to the next, constantly packing and unpacking. Things get lost in the shuffle, or I can’t seem to find what I’m looking for because my bags are a mess. This can be stressful and may even be the reason some choose not to travel. Fear not! I have a list of 10 things I personally use to keep myself organized on vacation, and I’m sure they can help you too!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

1. Packing Cubes

I have used these packing cubes for about three trips now and I don’t know how I ever traveled without them! These cubes make it easy to pack before vacation and stay organized during! I typically use one for pants, one for shirts, one for pajamas and swimwear, and one for everything else. I only allow myself to pack as much as I can fit in the cubes, and nothing more. It has been a great way to limit myself and stop myself from over packing. During vacation, I just open up the cube I want, take my item out, zip it back up, and I’m done! No need to completely unpack, and therefore no need to re-pack!

2. Compact Laundry Bag

This laundry bag folds up into a built-in compartment half the size of your average cell phone. It’s easy to throw in your suitcase and provides an organized way to store your dirty clothes. If you plan on doing laundry during your trip, this is much easier to bring to the laundromat than a suitcase. Even when I don’t plan on doing laundry, this bag keeps me organized on vacation by keeping my clean and dirty clothes separate. Every traveler needs one of these.

3. Hanging Toiletries Bag

This bag is really a time saver. I organize the sections in a way that makes sense to me, then fold it up and throw it in my suitcase. When I get to my destination, I simply unfold it and hang it on a towel rack! Just like the packing cubes, I never really need to unpack with this toiletry bag. I use what I need, and put it back in the pocket I got it from. It really comes in handy when you are staying at a hotel with little or no counter space in the bathroom.

4. Jewelry Organizer

Ok, so this is not actually a jewelry organizer, but it gets the job done! This pill organizer is small and helps me keep my necklaces separate so they don’t get tangled. I also use it for small earnings. I put this and my larger jewelry into a compartment of the hanging toiletry bag so it’s all together.

5. Silicone Toiletry Jars

I use face wash and moisturizer that is too thick to be squeezed out of a normal travel-sized tube. These small jars are a much better alternative fore me. Although I still use typical travel tubes as well, these have made taking and using thicker products easier. Being made of silicone makes them easy to clean and I never worry about them breaking or spilling.

6. Backpack for Plane and Adventures

This backpack is comfy and not too big. This is the perfect size for an airplane carry-on and it has a built-in dry pack for adventures at your destination! The padding along the back makes it easy to wear all day if you need to. I use this bag regularly now, not just on travels. Any time I go hiking or kayaking I make sure to bring this backpack because it is sturdy and I know the dry bag works really well.

7. Small Travel Bag

Wherever you go, you need some sort of bag to carry necessities. Pickpockets can be a concern in many places, so I recommend wearing a cross-body bag as it is more difficult to take off. I have also worn these bags under my clothes so someone could not cut off the strap and take it. I used this kind of bag in both India and France, and it was perfect! The larger bag (though still small) can fit everything you need for a typical day. The main pocket also folds over and has a zipper on the end for added security. The smaller bag is really just a wallet when you open it. It has pockets for a phone, passport, cards, and money which is perfect if you ant to stay organized on vacation. If that is all you need, this bag is for you!

8. Thin Wallet

With a small purse comes a small wallet. I only bring the essentials: ID, debit card, a credit card, cash (both my currency and the currency of my destination), and a passport (if needed). I keep this wallet in a secure part of the travel purse, preferably in a pocket deeper in the purse or in a zipper pocket. Keeping everything together in this wallet helps me stay organized and sure that I have not lost anything important. At the airport I keep this in hand as it also spots for a phone and boarding tickets.

9. Backpack Organizer

During my last flight I was frustrated with how difficult it was to find anything in my backpack! I just found this backpack organizer which I got to help solve this problem the next time I travel. While I have not used it yet, I have high hopes! It also flattens and expands which makes it easy to store. Honestly, I am really excited about the water bottle holder on the inside. Maybe it’s just me being clumsy, but when I use the outside bottle holders on backpacks they always seem to tip over and fall out. I’m excited that this holder will keep bottles upright so I can put them in my backpack without worrying about spilling.

10. Hanging Clothes Organizer

This clothing organizer is great for a shorter trip or business trip. This clothes organizer fits perfectly into a carry-on suitcase and hangs in any closet. The downside of this organizer is the space it takes up. I personally couldn’t fit enough for more than a long weekend.

Anna’s Pick of the Week:

This may not help keep you organized on vacation and it looks goofy, but hear me out! Last year I went to Australia and it took over 24 hours to get there. My mom had bought this for me and I thought I would never use it but threw it in my carry on anyway because it’s small. This was honestly the BEST thing to help me sleep on the airplane! I put the tray table down, blew this up, and I was out! It’s shockingly comfortable and allowed me to rest my head without worrying I would end up on a stranger’s shoulder.

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How to Plan a Trip Anywhere

Beginning the process of planning a trip can seem daunting, especially if it’s your first time. As an experienced traveler, I have come up with a trip-planning routine that has worked for every destination I have been to. Here is the outline to plan a trip anywhere:

  1. Pick a location.
  2. Determine the length of your stay.
  3. Find out what you want to do there.
  4. Plan a route.
  5. Decide method of transportation.
  6. Plan hotels.
  7. Book any experiences you can ahead of time.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

1 – Pick a Location

This may seem so obvious that I should not have included this step on the guide at all but determining EXACTLY where you want to go is key to trip planning. You want to go to France? Great! But where in France? What town or city do you want to visit? Do you want to visit more than one town? Are you going to spend a say or two in a neighboring country? Write down every country, state, town, or city you want to visit. When I say pick A location, I really mean pick ALL the locations you want to go to.

2 – Determine the Length of Your Stay

When you are thinking about the length of your stay, you often think about how many days you want to be in the location. You should also consider the travel time going to and from your destination, especially if anyone you are traveling with has a limited number of vacation days available. At this point in the planning process, begin looking at flights. Sometimes flights may determine which days you can arrive or leave as there may not be ones on the exact day you are hoping for. Remember there is likely going to be a time change, so keep that in mind when looking at departure and arrival times. This difference may also alter the dates you had in mind. I would not recommend booking flights yet, but keep looking at them as times and dates change regularly.

3 – Find Out What You Want to do There

My family always says we “travel in a pack” because there are at least six of us traveling together. With that many people, it can be difficult to plan a trip and make sure everyone is doing what they want on vacation. With this big of a group, we have everyone pick the top one or two things they really want to do while we are gone. If you have a smaller group or are traveling alone, you can obviously pick more things to do. This part of planning takes some research. Go pick up a book on the destination, watch videos, and read blog posts to learn about all the things you can do there. Once you have an idea of what everyone wants to do, mark some “must do” items that you can’t miss while you are gone!

4 – Plan a Route

Now you have a list of what you want to do and where you want to go. I recommend organizing the things you want to do by location (country, city, etc.). What things are near each other that you could do in one day? Once you have the activities grouped by location, plan a route. Which city are you staying in first? Second? Third? How many nights are you going to stay in each city? The more activities you want to do in a location, the longer you want to stay there.

Also consider activities you want to do that are only open or available on certain days. Want to go on a snorkeling tour, but the tours are only on the weekends? Make sure you are at that location on the weekend. I even go as far as to plan which “big activities” I want to do each day. If you are doing something such as a snorkeling tour that can change plans due to weather, you may want to plan for an extra day there. This exact scenario happened to me on my most recent vacation. Our snorkeling tour was postponed a day due to bad weather, and we were so thankful we thought to book an extra day.

5 – Plan a Method of Transportation

If you are staying in one place your entire trip, I recommend thinking about how you will get to and from the airport. I would also consider how far away from your hotel you plan on going to determine if renting a car is necessary or if you can get by with public transportation. If you are staying in multiple cities, think about how you are getting to each place. Car? Train? Plane? Bus? Look up the prices and times for each of these options. Some options may be quicker than others, but likely more expensive as well. In some places (countries that drive on the opposite side of the road or places know for crazy traffic) you may want to consider hiring a driver. Your method of transportation may alter your planned route, so go back and make necessary adjustments.

6 – Plan Hotels

When considering where to stay, you have a lot of different options. Commonly people stay in hotels, but Air BNB and other rentals have become increasingly popular. These rentals are especially nice for larger parties and people who want a more authentic cultural experience. Want a unique place to stay? Check out my other post: Places to Stay on Vacation Besides a Hotel. You have so many options, so do your research! I always check online reviews – good and bad – before booking anything.

7 – Book Any Experiences You Can Ahead of Time

Now that you have your plan nailed down, you can start booking those “big activities” you don’t want to miss! Some tours and attractions sell out months in advance, so pay attention to availability and make sure you get a spot. Keeping a 3-ring folder with fasteners for the vacation is a must. I print out my airline tickets, hotel confirmations, car rental confirmations, train tickets, and tickets for any activity I book in advance and hole-punch them and put them in this folder. To be even more organized, put things in the order you will need them. This folder keeps everything I need in one place and makes me confident I won’t lose any important documents.

I hope this guide helps you plan your next vacation! Keep in mind this guide is not linear. This is the order I being planning things but I always have to go back and make adjustments as I find out flight schedules, tour times, etc. What would you add to this guide? Let me know in the comments!

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A Day in Haridwar, India

Haridwar is a sacred city in India, so many of the activities here revolve around Hinduism. While you can participate in various activities without being Hindu, it is important to show respect for the culture. This can be done in several ways, but one you need to consider before leaving is the way you dress.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Image via Zulily
Image via Zulily

Dressing for Haridwar, India

People in India dress modestly, so you should do the same during your visit. One option is to wear long pants and a shirt (short sleeve or long sleeve, both are fine). I personally wore t-shirt dresses and thick (not-see through) leggings every day. I would also recommend wearing good walking or hiking shoes. My family all bought Keen waterproof hiking shoes before our trip because we knew we were going to do a lot of walking and we did not want anything from the streets seeping into our shoes.

Make sure you wear socks and bring a Buff or something similar that can cover your head. When going into temples, you are almost always required to take off your shoes, and occasionally you are required to cover your head. In Haridwar, we did not go in a temple that required us to cover our heads, but we did have to take off our shoes to enter a temple.

Maa Chandi Devi Temple

While there are several temples in Haridwar, the Maa Chandi Devi Temple is the most well-known. This temple stands high on a hill overlooking Haridwar, so it’s hard to miss. To get to the temple, you ride a cable car (gondola). The temple has shops and restrooms right outside of it. When you go inside the temple, you must take your shoes off and follow the rest of the line through. Sometimes people steal shoes outside of temples, so I recommend half of your party watches everyone’s shoes while the other half goes through the temple, and swap when the first group gets back. The temple goes in a semi-circle, and you follow the person in front of you. This is the only temple I personally went in where someone painted a small dot on my forehead which I thought was cool.

People working at the temple also asked for donations as you walked through. At first, we gave a little money to everyone who asked, but then a local informed us we only had to give money to one person. As we walked through the rest of the temple we told people we had already given money and they were fine with that.

Ganges River

The Ganges River is sacred to in Hinduism because it is thought to be the goddess Ganga (1). Hindus bathe in this river to rid themselves of their sins (1). I visited the Ganges River on New Year’ Eve which is a particularly crowded night on the river. On the walk there, be sure to pick up a flower boat as part of the ceremony. People along the river can walk you through the ceremony in which you put your feet in the river and release your boat. This is another time people use to steal shoes and pickpocket, so have half of your group participate while the other half watches. We had people come up to us asking us to sign something while other people came around trying to pickpocket while we were distracted. This is a common technique around the world, so keep your belongings safe.

Where to Stay

During our visit we wanted to stay right on the Ganges River, so we stayed at the Hotel Ganga Sadan. This hotel is close to the walking bridge and has great views of the river. If you wanted a more private experience stepping into the river, this hotel, and many others near it, provide that opportunity. Many hotels along the Ganges have an enclosed deck where you can step into the river. People from all across India come to Haridwar to step in the river and it’s a spiritual experience for them, which is why hotels provide this more intimate option for guests.

Haridwar is a great city, and I learned more about Indian culture here than anywhere else on my stay. If you enjoy learning about cultures and the way people in other countries live, Haridwar is definitely a place for you. Before going anywhere in India, you will need to know these tips.

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References

(1) https://www.quora.com/Why-is-river-ganga-considered-to-be-holy

(2) http://www.gangasadan.com/

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Places to Stay on Vacation Besides a Hotel

Yes, hotels are everywhere and super easy to book. However, they are also the same just about everywhere. You can stay at a hotel chain anywhere in the world and the rooms and experiences would be just about the same. I would rather stay somewhere that felt unique and represented the culture. Every location is different, but I have a few suggestions on places to stay besides a typical hotel room.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Boat

Have you ever thought about renting a night on a boat? Neither had I until I stayed on a boat in Sydney Harbor! This is possibly one of the most unique places to stay while taveling. We did not have keys to drive the boat (which was fine with us as we never intended on driving it). We simply rented it out just like any other hotel room or Air BNB and it acted as our room for two nights. I get very seasick so I was a bit worried about getting sick while on the boat, but that was not a problem at all. Being on a dock where boats have to travel slow kept the waves to a minimum.

Camping

If you really want to dive into the natural beauty of the landscape you’re visiting, there is no better way than to camp. Whether you are tent camping or renting a camper, you are sure to experience what makes your destination unique.

Haridwar, India

Cabin

If you want the outdoor feel without the commitment of packing around camping gear, renting a cabin is a great option. I have rented a cabin in the jungle of India and in the Australian outback, both of which gave me a new perspective on the destination. The sturdiness of a cabin can also make some feel safer if you are staying in an area with a lot of wild animals.

Other location-specific options

Depending on where you go, boat houses, tree houses, igloos, or even underwater hotels are amazing places to stay for an experience you will never forget! Get creative, and do some research about the different options available to you. If you are so lucky to have friends around the world, staying with then can give you a true cultural experience. I previously stayed with a friend in Chile, and it is an experience I will never forget.

Which of these options would you like to try out? Let me know in the comments!

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The Best Road Trip Games

With everything going on in the world right now, traveling to far-off destinations is not as feasible as it typically is. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably itching to go somewhere. What option do you have? Go on a road trip! I have collected some of the best road trip games you can play with a group of people. They are split into three categories (by “equipment”, I mean a phone or paper and pencil):

Games without equipment

Games with equipment

On-going games

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you go through them to make a purchase I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Games Without Equipment

Alphabet Sign Game

I play this game every time I go on a road trip, and it can get pretty competitive! Everyone starts at the beginning of the alphabet at the letter A, and has to search outside of the car for a word that starts with the letter A. We also allow people to use letters on license plates, even if it’s not the first letter on the plate (you can choose to not allow license plates if you want). When someone sees a word, they shout it out and nobody else can use that same word for their letter. When you successfully call out a word, you move on to the next letter of the alphabet. The first person to go all the way through and find a word that starts with Z wins! This can be challenging with less common letters which is what makes to game so competitive. The last time I played the two of us were both stuck on the letter X. I called out a sign that said “Xing Road” before the other player, which led to my victory!

One Word Story

This game is great for people who enjoy being creative! The game goes around in a circle, so determine which order people will play. The first person says one word, then the next person says a word, and so on. The goal is to create a story by having everyone say one word at a time. The stories often go in an unexpected direction which requires everyone to think on their feet! This game can go as long as you’d like it to.

Alphabet Categories

This alphabet games combines aspects of the previous two games. Just like in “One Word Story”, the game is played by going around in a circle. Someone comes up with a category sign as “fruit”, “cities”, or “animals”. The first person has letter A, so they need to come up with something in the given category that starts with the letter A. The next person has letter B, the following person has letter C, and so on. If someone gets stuck, everyone in the car can brainstorm to come up with an answer. The more specific the category, the harder the game! This game doesn’t have a specific winner, it’s just for fun!

Would You Rather

This is a classic game people often use to get to know each other better. Someone comes up with a question that starts with “would you rather…” and gives two options. For example: “would you rather go skydiving or bungee jumping?”. Everyone in the car gives an answer, including the person who asked the question. Everyone takes turns asking questions. This is another game without a winner, and it can be as long or as short as you would like.

Games With Equipment

Guess the Song/Artist

This game requires a phone, or something to play music on. The assigned DJ does not play the game and serves as a judge for the rest of the group. The DJ plays a song and the rest of the players race to give the song’s title or artist the fastest. It should be predetermined whether the game focuses on song title or artist. The DJ determines who got the correct answer first, then changes the song and repeats the process. For every answer someone gets correct, they get a point. The person with the most points at the end of the game wins! This game can be played as long as you would like. I recommend setting a number of songs for each round and swapping DJs so everyone gets a chance to play.

Road Trip Bingo

My family got competitive with this game when I was young. Instead of having numbers on the cards, road trip bingo cards have animals, cars, road signs, and anything else you might see on your ride. Just like BINGO, you mark off the item as you see it. You can buy reusable cardboard cards with built-in markers, print out cards, or download the road trip bingo app. You could even make your own cards!

On-Going Games

License Plate Game

This one isn’t so much a “game”, but something fun to pass the time. The goal of this activity is to watch license plates as they go by and keep track of what state the plate is from. On either a piece of paper or your phone, keep track of the states you have seen. We play this to and from our destination and see how many of the 50 states we see on our trip. This is something you can do while other games are going on.

Train

This is a pretty simple game I used to play to and from volleyball tournaments with my teammates. If someone sees a train, they gently punch the ceiling of the car and shout “train”! Everyone else in the car does the same, and the last person to shout “train” has to say “choo-choo” while pulling their arm down as if they are pulling the lever on a trail whistle. You get a point every time you have to say “choo-choo” and the person with the least amount of points wins. This is another game that can be played over the course of the drive while other games are going on.

Slug Bug

This one is a classic, and if you haven’t played it I’m sure you know someone who has. Basically, if you see a Volkswagen bug you are supposed to gently punch the person next to you and shout “slug bug” before the other person does it. The person who gets the most “slug bugs” over the course of the drive wins! It’s a pretty simple game and can be played over the course of the entire trip, even while other games are going on. Other variations include shouting the color of the bug or “banana car” which replaces Volkswagen bugs with yellow cars but has the same idea.

I hope you are able to take a road trip soon and try out some of these games! On road trips, it really is more about the journey than the destination. Living in the USA, I love road tripping through Oregon, Washington, and California. Do you have a favorite road trip game? Let me know what it is in the comments!

Anna’s Pick of the Week

Car BINGO is easier with these BINGO boards. I used these on road trips when I was a kid and I had a lot of fun with them! Keep them in the car and use them over and over again!

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