*This is a contributed post.
Sometimes the annual summer vacation to a Canary island simply isn’t going to cut it. Balearics might get boring, Greek isles can be tedious, and the Costas have seen better days. While a relaxing fortnight away with your brood at an all inclusive resort with as much sun, sea and sangria as you could possibly want at your fingertips sounds like bliss, sometimes you want to experience something a little out of the ordinary. Rather than popping down to a travel agent or looking at the well known holiday websites online, why not consider a more DIY trip?
The concept of self organised travel may fill you with dread and see you reaching for a brown paper bag. However, once the panic attack has subsided, you will see the benefits of such a vacation. By making the necessary preparations yourself, such as hotel bookings, flights, insurance and documentation, you can have an entirely bespoke vacation for your brood. Forget signing up to generic excursions and go for the experiences that you want to make memories out of. You can also hot foot it to anywhere on the planet. While tour operators don’t tend to do treks to Madagascar or holidays to Antarctica, you can!
If you are tempted to take a foray into the world of self organised travel, you will need to consider every aspect of your trip, including your family’s safety. There won’t be any travel reps where you are going. Take a look at how you can travel safely with your brood when you set off on an adventure.
While you want to head off the beaten track, you still don’t want to stumble into a war torn nation while they are going through a bloody civil war. This is irresponsible and highly traumatic for everyone involved. Be sure to check out the foreign office website and keep returning to ensure that the destination you are looking to travel to doesn’t have any travel warnings against it. If it does, heed the government’s advice and make alternative plans. Never risk your family’s safety simply because you want to see a vista or visit a cultural monument.
In the twenty first century, you’d be forgiven for thinking that everything is available online. In most cases, it is. However this doesn’t mean that it is the best way of accessing information. Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are best explored using the traditional books. Old school, yes, but there is nothing better than thumbing through a travel guide, highlighting the activities you want to do, putting a post it on the pages you want to refer back to later and folding over the corners of potential hotels to stay at.
Guide books are fantastic mobile sources of information, and even the most out there destinations tend to have something written about them. When you have your guide book, ensure that you read it with preparation and planning in mind. Go to the ‘At a Glance’ type section and take note of any potential scams that you need to be aware of. Don’t freak out if and when you see potential scams that are highlighted. Every nation on the planet has their fair share of hustlers. It’s up to you to be aware of them and give them a wide berth. For example, the Great Wall of China has one of the biggest and most well known cons going where a mock official will hop on a bus and tell you to get off because you are at the Mutianyu drop off point for the cable car up to the wall. It’s a con. Hardly anyone falls for it because it is written about so much in guide books and yet people will still try it on.
If you are planning the ultimate in self organised travel and you are going to hire a car and take a road trip overseas across unfamiliar terrain, you must make sure that you retain some links with civilisation. While you aren’t planning on whipping out your smartphone to scroll through Facebook and Instagram while on your travels, it will still give you peace of mind to have a trusty, honest mobile provider on hand, should you get stuck. If your vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere, make sure you have your phone charged and data available should you need assistance.
Alongside your smartphone, a satnav or GPS device of some description is useful. This way, you can go off piste and head to undiscovered shores while knowing you have your coordinates in your back pocket should you need them.
Going to new places, immersing yourself in new cultures and trying new cuisine is one of the most fun aspects of venturing overseas. However, infant tummies tend to be a little more sensitive to new foodie delights than adult equivalents. Many families go vegetarian while abroad to mitigate the chances of eating dodgy seafood or poorly cooked meat. If you don’t want to go to this extreme, you must at least make sure that anything you eat is hot, cooked in sanitary conditions and safe. Food poisoning can be inconvenient for a couple of days at best or life threatening at worst so if in doubt, don’t risk it.
Think about the water you drink when overseas. While the water won’t necessarily be unhygienic, it will have a different mineral makeup which we can be intolerant too. Make sure you drink bottled water and don’t have drinks with ice unless you know it is from the bottle. Check the caps when you pick up water in a supermarket or shops, as it is not uncommon for these simply to be refilled with tap water and placed out for resale.
Venturing abroad with your family for your annual vacation is something your brood looks forward to every year. If you are keen to do something a little different next year, consider self organising your trip and heading a little off the beaten track.