The Expat Experiment - Travel - The only thing you buy that makes you richer
Hi! We're Rob, Tracey and Makai, a Canadian family who has been traveling nomadically since April 2014. The purpose of this blog is to inspire and support anyone who wants to travel, forever or weeks or months a year. We share our challenges and victories to show, against all odds you can live the life you dream.
London is one of the top travel destinations in Europe, not to mention the world. There is so much to see and do in the incredibly historic city! With its enormous size, selection of cool neighborhoods, scads of attractions and activities, and hundreds if not thousands of hotel choices, it can be really hard to decide where to stay when planning a trip!
We had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in London recently, and we jumped at the chance to check out attractions we’d missed the last time we visited back in 2015.
We are budget travellers but that doesn’t mean we always go with the cheapest hotel option. We’ve learned that prioritizing a terrific location, convenient amenities, and excellent customer service are well worth spending more money on when it comes to a hotel stay.
In fact, in our experience those kinds of things can actually make opting for a higher priced hotel cost less overall than choosing to stay in a cheap hotel.
We found a great place to stay in London based on our priorities, located close to everything we needed and wanted to enjoy during our short stay in London, The East London Hotel.
Here’s why we it’s the best budget hotel in London!
Located in vibrant East London, The East London Hotel is delightfully close to an array of awesome restaurants and bars of trendy Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. It sits adjacent to Bethnal Green Tube Station, so Central London is easily accessible from the hotel as well.
With only 48 hours to spend in London we didn’t want to waste a lot of time and money getting to the things we wanted to see. We were able to do everything we wanted and didn’t need to spend a dime on cabs or Uber’s to get to anything staying at The East London Hotel!
There were scads of great restaurants, something to fit every budget, within easy walking distance from the hotel. Two highlights were:
The Kitchens at Spitalfields Market; a seven days a week foodie destination. There is delightful mix of affordable street food and contemporary dishes to be had in The Kitchens at the heart of this eclectic Market! We ate at Yum Bun- a purveyor of delicious had made steamed buns stuffed with fresh flavors!
Mak, our 9 year old Son deemed their free range fried chicken steamed bun “exceptional”. The fresh pizza at Sud Italia was easy on the wallet and pretty darn delicious too!
And, Beigel Bake; A beloved local institution that’s been serving up seriously cheap and delicious beigel sammies 24/7 since 1974! The salted beef bagels are a must try!
The Atmosphere at the East London Hotel
The quality of service at a hotel is just as important to us as location, cost, and cleanliness. Be it great or terrible, the service creates the atmosphere for any hotel stay. Every staff member we encountered at the East London Hotel was professional, genuinely warm, and accommodating. The feeling we had staying with this hotel; that our experience was important to them set the tone for our short stay.
The service was complemented by the modern comfortable reception area. An unexpected friendly space with an all day cafe, comfortable seating, and overall “come in and relax” kind of feel.
The Rooms and Amenities
We understand that budget hotels most often skimp on space in their rooms to keep costs lower. This is where some affordable hotels do much better than others; and the East London Hotel is one that absolutely shines!
Our room was expertly appointed to maximize space and luxuriously outfitted with high end bedding, pillows, and finishings. We never felt cramped, in fact, the room felt quite spacious! The bathroom was particularly lovely- the Monsoon shower was incredible!
Other key features we enjoyed in our room were a Nespresso machine, custom mattresses made with silk and lambswool (so comfortable), and multiple USB charging ports.
We see a lot of value in hotels that offer affordable breakfast choices. The East London Hotel has a breakfast menu to suit every type of preference and dietary requirement. I’m allergic to wheat so finding something delicious and substantial to eat is usually impossible for me when it comes to breakfast options at most hotels. Not so at the East London Hotel! They offer a variety of options that are gluten free, vegetarian and vegan as well.
The all day cafe offers breakfast, lunch, and snacks all day. All menu items can be eaten in or packed up to take away. Super convenient, high quality locally sourced food that’s affordable was another highlight with this hotel stay!
Here’s Why We Think The East London Hotel is The Best Budget Hotel in London
It’s challenging and extremely important to us to find great value for money hotels; particularly for short stays. The East London Hotel checked all the boxes for a great hotel stay for us. Location, service, amenities, and cost all play a part in how we decide where to stay.
Cost per night for a family of 3 can be as low as $90 USD a night. Plus the convenient location, museums, shopping, and many quality low cost food options on site and in the surrounding area gets the East London Hotel top marks for value for money by our standards!
As fun and incredible as travel can be, it can also provide its share of discomfort.
Like sitting sandwiched in a tight seat on a long-haul flight for hours only to get up and find your pants bagged out to make your knees and butt look saggy. Or getting caught in a surprise rainstorm leaving your pants totally soaked and you’re miles from your hotel and a quick change. Or maybe you’re out hiking for the day and temperatures range from scorching in the afternoon to close to freezing at sunset.
I’ve experienced all of these uncomfortable situations and more and found the best way to mitigate them is investing in a pair of quality travel pants.
Now I understand finding a pair of travel pants that fit well, perform great in a variety of situations, are comfortable, and actually look good can sound like a close to impossible feat.
But, I’ve found some that check all of those boxes and more!
This awesome line of travel pants comes in different lengths, a variety of leg shapes, and they all have the signature Back Beauty fit. The “Back Up” waistband feature conforms to curves and gives perfect coverage where you want it most.
Features of Columbia’s Back Beauty Line
All styles in the Back Beauty line are made from 89% polyester/11% elastane Max Lite double weave.
There are some serious benefits to this blended fabric like it’s finish, it's not shiny like some travel pants can be, and it helps you keep cool in the heat and stay warm when it’s cool.
More benefits are
Columbia’s Omni-Shade UPF 50 sun protection
Omni-Shield advanced water repellency
Two inseams: Short 29.5”, or Regular 32”
Where I’ve Worn Columbia’s Back Beauty Pants
I take two styles of Back Beauty Pants wherever I travel. My traveling pants have been all over the world and stood up the challenges of all kinds of weather beautifully.
Hot weather destinations
3 months in Colombia, Puerto Vallarta in October, Hawaii in April, and Spain in July and August
Rainy Season destinations
6 months in Panama, and 6 months in Guanajuato Mexico
Winter weather destinations
In Alberta Canada, the U.K., and Romania
I’ve hiked in extreme heat, walked city streets in the pouring rain, and traveled long distances by bus and by plane. My Columbia Back Beauty travel pants were comfortable and stayed looking great in all situations.
Styles Available in Columbia Back Beauty Fit
The things I love the most about these pants are that the fabric isn’t hot. A lot of synthetic pants don’t breath well and Back Beauty fabric does. And, the fabric dries super fast and keeps its shape even after sitting for long periods.
All back beauty styles have the same great signature fit for the waist, rise, and hip.
And, there are three different leg shapes; straight leg (more generous fitting in the thighs), bootcut (tapered to the knee and slightly flared at the ankle) and skinny (slimmer fitting in the thighs and tapered all the way to the ankle).
The Bottom Line on the Best Women's Travel Pants for Every Type of Trip
I've been traveling almost perpetually since 2014 and there are some items that have remained in my suitcase since then. The best women's travel pants, Columbia's Back Beauty pants are one them. They are durable, easy to care for, and comfortable. They perform well in all temperatures and types of weather. And, their clean design and comfortable stretch fabric make them great for challenging hikes and still look good enough to go out for a nice dinner too.
The Expat Experiment is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
When we house sit we always look after dogs. We’ve owned dogs for most of our lives and have to say they’re our favorite kind of pet. One of the benefits for us with house sitting is getting to care for all different kinds of dogs. Having so much experience we thought we'd put together our top dog training tips for house sitters!
We’ve looked after big and small, and a whole bunch of different breeds. We’ve also dealt with a variety of dog behaviors; some good and some not so good (for us or the dog). The behaviors we as house sitters care about the most are those that could put the dog or ourselves at risk.
Some of the most common issues like the dog not listening when off leash, aggressive behavior, or not establishing boundaries the dog can understand can make a house sit a nightmare for us and the dog.
In this post, I’ll outline quick and easy things house sitters can do to deal with a variety of behaviors and ways to build trust and establish harmony with the dog and the homeowner fast. These tips can work for both long-term sits and for house sitting assignments as short as a week.
Guidelines for Dog Training While House Sitting
First I want to say it is not a housesitters job to train a pet (unless you're a professional dog trainer the homeowner hired you to train their dog). The tips outlined in this post are aimed at making your job as a house sitter more fun and effective when caring for a dog.
People choose to have a house sitter come and care for their dogs in their own home to make their absence less stressful for their pet. Also, the dog's safety is paramount while they’re away. These tips have helped us accomplish both of those things. We start by learning and setting a few guidelines before the homeowner leaves for their trip.
First We Learn The Challenges the Homeowners Deals With Their Dog
We make learning the things the homeowner is most concerned about when it comes to their dog part of the interview process.
This is for two reasons:
To learn whether we are capable of dealing with the concerning behaviors.
And, second, whether we even want to.
Here is what we ask to determine these things:
What are your dog's peccadillos (unique behaviors that are part of his or her personality)?
What concerns do you have for your pet? What are the things we should watch for concerning health and behavior issues?
What are your house rules (is the dog allowed on furniture, where do they sleep, where are they are allowed to go in the house)?
What are the rules for walks (is it off or on a leash, has the dog had any leash training, what training tools do you (or have you) used for walks?
Knowing these things helps us learn how the homeowner lives with their dog and how they deal with behavior issues if there are any.
It also opens the door to discuss any experience we've had with dogs that displayed the same or similar behavior.
Next, We Share What We Know About Dealing With Dogs and Behavior Issues
We know how much sharing any experience you may have with dogs and certain behavior issues can put a homeowners mind at ease. Here is how we share any knowledge we have to make homeowners comfortable with our abilities as dog sitters.
We ask what training tools they use to deal with any issues (a special collar or lead, treats, types of discipline).
We share our experience with any of the tools they are using with their dog.
We suggest any additional training tools we've used that we think might be helpful.
We assure the homeowner we'll be respectful of their training methods and use our expertise to keep their dog safe while they're away.
After we establish a bit about the dog's behavior we try to learn about the human behavior behind it.
Understanding Dog Behavior in Relation to Human Behavior
Dogs are pack animals and behave in different ways depending on where they think they fit in a pack. They understand that packs are made up of leaders and followers. The leader decides what is and isn't a threat to the pack and will always take the initiative to defend the pack from anything they perceive as dangerous. Some of the more aggressive behaviors in dogs usually develop because they think they're the leader of the family pack. There are things dog owners can and should do to take their place as the leader of the pack. Understanding dog pack hierarchy is the first step in resolving behavioral issues in dogs.
We know if we take certain steps to establish ourselves as leaders with the dogs we care for, behaviors that may be an issue for a homeowner may not be an issue for us. Below are a few of the things we always do.
We don't project nervous or emotional energy.
We enforce the homeowner's boundaries and establish some of our own when it comes to our belongings.
We feed dogs at set times, after taking for walks.
We are mindful, calm, and consistent with our behaviors.
Quick and Easy Dog Training Tips That Get Results Fast
Here are our top tips to correct common problem behaviors in dogs. The steps we take to lead and maintain harmony in the pack dynamic while homeowners are away.
We walk dogs according to the homeowners routine (but, our minimum is two times daily to coincide with feeding).
We use a training lead if the homeowner has one or keep leashes short to encourage the dog to focus on our signals as we walk.
On or off leash we use the sound "ch" to get the dogs attention just before an issue arises. This technique was made famous by Ceasar Millan but we first saw it in action with a homeowner that had 5 big rescue dogs. She used "ch" every time she needed her packs attention. It worked like a charm and we've used it ever since.
We follow homeowners instructions and heed warnings about where to walk and things to watch for the dog's safety.
When we want the dog or dogs to come to one of us we use small treats as rewards for listening. We do this intentionally and mindfully and never when a dog is all wound up. We remain calm and wait for the dog to be focused on us before giving the treat for listening.
When feeding, walking on or off leash, or whenever we want to avoid a bad situation we use the "ch" sound to refocus the dog on one of us.
We check a dogs body language to adjust our behavior accordingly to help them focus better.
We don't humanize dogs, we communicate with dogs in accordance with their natural instincts and pack mentality.
For Maintaining Consistency and Harmony Around the House
We abide by whatever house rules the homeowner has laid out (re kenneling, sitting on furniture, and feeding). But, we also set up boundaries that assert our leadership and maintain harmony.
We never feed a dog from the table, never.
Where we haven't dealt with every type of behavioral issue, this article outlines a lot a variety of common and not so common situations and effective tips to deal with them. We've used many of the techniques listed. More specifically, ones to deal aggression on walks and behaviors related to feeding.
The Bottom Line On Dog Training Tips for House Sitters
People who plan to travel enlist house sitters to make their absence less stressful for their dog. As house sitters, we feel our top priorities are to keep the dogs we care for safe and to maintain routines and boundaries homeowners have set for their pets.
We don't feel our job is to train the dogs we look after but we will happily use the training skills we have to make our time house sitting more harmonious for all involved.
Planning a trip to Colombia? This guest post by traveler/adventurer Bailey Busslinger of Destinationless Travel outlines unforgettable things to do across this environmentally diverse country. Here are 5 of the most exciting things to do in Colombia!
When you think about Colombia, what comes to mind? Is it relaxing on a white sandy beach with a coconut in hand? Is it partying until all hours of the night in Medellin? Whatever it is you imagined, I’m sure bungee jumping or camping weren't the first things you thought of!
Many people don’t know just how many exciting things there are to do in Colombia. One of the benefits of traveling there is the diversity of the country, and that at every turn there seems to be another adventure awaiting you.
I recently spent 6 weeks in Colombia and did many things that I will remember for a lifetime! Exciting experiences I never imagined would be on my itinerary when I first booked my trip. I have come up with this list of the 5 most exciting things to do in Colombia based on my adventures there!
1. Hiking the Valle de Cocora
I personally love hiking, so on a visit to the cute town of Salento, it was only natural that I was going to hike the famous Valle de Cocora.
The Valle de Cocora is a gorgeous valley set in the department of Quindío in Colombia. Green rolling hills are covered with Colombia’s iconic tree, the Wax Palm. These trees tower over you and set against the countryside background make you realize that there really is nowhere else in the world like Colombia.
There are a couple different hiking trails in the Valle de Cocora all offering amazing views! No matter which path you choose, it can easily be tackled in one day. The trail I chose took about three hours total and while it wasn't easy, it was totally worth the incredible scenery which surrounded me the entire time.
The Valle de Cocora is easily accessed by a short 30-minute ride in a shared jeep from the town center in Salento. The jeeps are called "collectivos" which mean they are a shared taxi. They charge 4,000 COP per person each way and depart as soon as they're full.
Once at the Valle de Salento hiking isn’t your only option for touring the area, riding horseback is another choice. One thing's for sure, whether you hike or ride, the Valle de Cocora is bound to be a memorable experience.
2. Bungee Jumping in San Gil
The most adrenaline-pumping thing I did in Colombia was bungee jumping. I do consider myself a bit of a “thrill-seeker” but I had never actually bungee jumped before!
San Gil is a small town nestled between the mountains in northeastern Colombia. It is known as the adventure capital of Colombia simply due to the sheer amount of adventure-type activities that are available there. Whitewater rafting, kayaking, and canyoning are other thrilling things to do in San Gil. But for me, bungee jumping was the most exciting!
The bungee jump in San Gil is set 70m in the air over the top of a river and costs the equivalent of about $25 USD. I know what you’re thinking, ‘for that price surely it can’t be safe!’ Not true, they had all brand new equipment and highly trained operators who made me feel at ease. Well, enough "at ease" to actually take the leap of faith, that’s not to say I wasn’t scared.
If you ever wanted to bungee jump, the $25 price tag (including photos) makes San Gil a great choice. Plus, the views from on top of the bungee tower are incredible.
3. Camping in Tayrona National Park
Tayrona National Park looks like something from a movie. As you walk through the park the scenery changes every couple of minutes, from dense jungle to beautiful beach to riverbeds. The best part about Tayrona National Park is that you can stay there overnight in one of the many campgrounds.
My favorite campground is called Cabo San Juan which is located about a 2-hour walk from the park entrance. The only ways to get to the campground is on foot or on horseback. At the campground, you can rent a tent, hammock, or basic cabin to spend the night.
What makes camping in Tayrona National Park so special is simply how beautiful it is. The beaches next to the Cabo San Juan campground are pristine with calm waters are perfect for relaxing. Then, when the sun goes down you can have a beer under the stars.
The entrance fee to Tayrona National Park is 48,000 COP for a foreigner. The cheapest option for camping is to rent a hammock which costs 28,000 COP per person per night.
You can catch the public bus from Santa Marta right to the entrance gates of Tayrona for 7,000 COP each way. It isn't the cheapest of trips but can be affordable by choosing the cheapest accommodation and transport options in the park.
A great budget saving tip for Tayrona National Park is to bring as much food and water as you can carry. To buy these items in the park will truly be a budget breaker as the prices in the park are inflated.
4. Scuba Diving on San Andres Island
So many people who visit Colombia skip visiting San Andres Island simply because it is only accessible by flight. But what they don't know is that the flight can be very cheap (70 USD return) and San Andres is a beautiful place worth the extra effort to get there.
The beaches are incredible and the island vibe is contagious, but the best part is definitely the scuba diving! I love to scuba dive and have been diving in many places all over the world, but none are as untouched with so few divers as San Andres Island.
The diving was affordable and there are many dozens of different dive sites all around the island, some are only accessible by boat and some are accessible right from the shore. No matter which dive site you go to, you will see lots of fish and bright vibrant coral.
If scuba diving isn’t your thing, snorkeling around San Andres Island is also spectacular as the water is crystal clear!
5. A city tour of Medellin
Medellin is a bright and vibrant city despite its dark past. While on a city tour it is interesting to learn about the history of the city, Pablo Escobar, and how Medellin is now filled with some of the kindest people I have ever met welcoming tourists with open arms.
Medellin is a huge city and there is so much to do and see there. From a graffiti tour of Communa 13 to a quick trip to the colorful town of Guatape, there is something for everyone. But the best way to get the most out of Medellin quickly is to take a city tour.
You can choose to go on a paid tour of the city which will include transport, or join one of the famous free walking tours. I signed up for the free walking tour and it was fantastic! The company called Real City Walking Tours do an amazing job of highlighting the best sights in Medellin's city center as well as offer a ton of knowledge.
Walking around Medellin I saw Botero's art statues, the light tower park, markets, and much more.
These 5 five things are only just a taste of all of the exciting things Colombia has to offer. Colombia is a country full of activities and rich in culture which is guaranteed to keep any traveler busy during a trip.
Bailey is an adventure enthusiast with a love for travel. Bailey has been backpacking around the world for nearly four years now and has no intention of stopping anytime soon. You will find her hiking, scuba diving, or writing with a beer in hand. You can follow Bailey on her travel Blog Destinationless Travel or on Facebook and Instagram.
With summer on its way, it’s time to start thinking about your family vacation. A road trip can be a great way to travel more affordably, visit new places, and have fun together as a family. However, there is an art to planning a successful road trip. Get it wrong, and you'll have to endure a painful journey of tension, tears, and tantrums. Or, get it right, and everyone will enjoy an unforgettable family experience. We've put together this essential packing list of things to take on a road trip to help you prepare for a harmonious family adventure.
The aim of a great road trip is to keep everyone safe, entertained and happy as you travel to your destination. Whatever vehicle you plan to travel in, space is always limited. You need to pack the essentials and little extras to make the journey as comfortable as possible. In this guide, we'll share what to bring on a road trip. The things we know you'll actually use and be glad you had on your trip.
Here are Our Top Picks for the Best family Road Trip Packing List
1. Paper Maps or Map App
Picture the scene - you’re all tired and hungry, you are getting near to your destination after a long day of driving when suddenly you lose cell service, your phone stops working and you end up lost. That is why a road atlas is number one on our list. No GPS required. Apps such as Maps.me or Google Maps are also a great idea. They both allow you to download detailed maps that work offline and act as GPS. No more getting lost!
2. Simple Games and Toys
Kids need to burn off energy, and being stuck in a car for long periods can drive them crazy. So pack a ball or a frisbee. They don’t take up much room in the car and are a great way for kids to let off steam when you make short stops along the journey. It will keep both you and them sane.
3. Battery Pack / Power Bank
A lifesaver for keeping all your gadgets alive. These days, we all rely on our phones and devices to keep us connected and informed. You can pick up a compact battery pack relatively cheaply, we think it is money well spent. The Anker PowerCore 13000 is great, it can charge two devices at the same time and features high speed charging to deliver a max speed charge to any device. Simply plug it in overnight at your hotel and it will be ready to charge your phone, tablet or your kids Nintendo Switch.
If you are camping use this rugged Outxe Power Bank Solar Charger. It is perfect to the great outdoors as it is waterproof and is powered by the sun it also features two USB ports to charge 2 devices and provides plenty of charges during the long days on the road. Just throw it up on your dash while you are driving to let it recharge.
4. Car Seat Organizers
A full car can soon get messy. Kids toys, water bottles, sweets etc can end up stuck under the seats, fallen down gaps and out of reach. With an car seat organizer on the back of the front seats, kids have all their bits and pieces at hand and the car stays tidy for longer.
5. Comfortable Child Car Seat
If your kids are comfortable, they’ll be able to last a lot longer in the car. Choose cars seats or boosters that are suitable for their age and size. The right seat ensures they are safe and have good head support.
6. UE ROLL 2 Wireless Portable Bluetooth Speaker for Your Favorite Playlist
Music is one of the easiest ways to pass time on a long car journey. The UE Roll 2 is durable, waterproof and perfect for rest stops and when you are on the move. It has a rugged strap so hang the Roll on your day pack or simply lay it on a table. The sound is great and the shape makes it easy to pack. Build a playlist that has everyone's favorites on using Amazon Music Unlimited or Spotify then connect your smartphone, tablet or any device that has Bluetooth capabilities. Having a singalong will keep the kids entertained. If you want young children to have a sleep in the car, make a calming playlist especially for that purpose.
7. Travel Games
Magnetic travel games are wonderful for stopping the kids from getting bored. They also mean you won’t lose all the pieces. There are plenty of compact kits to choose from, and most contain multiple games in one package.
8. UV Window Shade
Traveling with the sun shining directly in on one side can soon get very uncomfortable. Have a couple of window shades ready. They are inexpensive and will keep the car cooler and passengers happier.
9. Colouring and Activity Books
A simple way to occupy the kids is with a few activity books. Buy them each a pack of pencils or crayons so they won’t be squabbling over whose is whose.
10. First Aid Kit
Not the most exciting thing to pack for your road trip, but a first aid kit is definitely an essential. Ice packs, band aids, bite and sting cream, sunscreen and pain medicine are all crucial for families on the move.
11. Selection of Snacks
Potato chips and sweets might be the most obvious snacks. But a few healthier options like fruit, nuts and carrot sticks are also worth packing. Too much sugar combined with a long family road trip is not a recipe for a peaceful car party. Ration out the snacks to prevent kids overindulging and getting sick.
Better still get a good cooler and make sandwiches, keep fruit cool, bring condiments, bread, and bottles of water. Restock by going to a grocery store rather than buying overpriced, tasteless sandwiches and junk food at a gas station. Grocery stores very often will have a deli section with hot meals like roasted chicken, deli salads, and more for far less than eating in a restaurant or fast food place.
It might sound a bit crazy but, chewing gum has actually been proven to help reduce stress and improve concentration. It can even improve alertness and reaction time, and the minty flavor can freshen you up. All good things when it comes to a road trip, no? Don’t forget to take a garbage bag for disposing of it afterward.
13. Tablet or Smart Device
When you need some peace and quiet, it's time to bring out the tablets. Download some movies or kids programs in advance so they have plenty to choose from. You might even consider getting a wireless hotspot for your car for YouTube on the go. As a side bonus, it’ll be handy if you use your smartphone for Internet-messaging or navigation.
To maximize the advantage of the tablets, make sure each child has their own headphones. Multiple videos playing out loud will give you a headache. Headphones restore peace on your family road trip. Many child headphones have volume restriction that will protect your child's hearing.
15. Smart Phone Holder
A phone holder has become essential. Using a mobile phone while driving is against the law in almost all jurisdictions in North America. It is also super handy when you need to consult your map app or GPS and when accessing your playlist. There are a lot of different styles, dash mount, vent mount or even window mount. This model gives you all 3 options to give you the most flexibility.
16. A time tracking craft to prevent the dreaded “Are we there yet??”
One of the most annoying questions you’ll hear over and over again on a road trip with kids is “Are we there yet?” Taking something to measure time so your kids know where you’re at and how long is left to get to your next destination could prevent them from getting on your last nerve and help the kids learn a little about time and distance too!
This DIY time tracking craft has really saved our sanity. It’s easy to make and works well for kids who can’t tell time yet (let alone understand the concept of a multi-hour drive).
First, we string a ribbon across the back seat (using either the handles on the roof or wardrobe hooks). We make marks along the ribbon to signify places along the way. Then we’ll tape post-it notes to the roof with things to watch for, for each mark (what's to see, distance to get there, and about how long it will take to get to that point.) Then we print off a car (or draw one), cut it out and punch holes in it and string the ribbon through the car picture.
We’ll move the car across the ribbon when we reach the things we’re watching for. This way kids focus on how far you've come instead of how much time is left. Let kids take turns moving the car. Mak loves doing this, especially when he was really little. It gives him something to look forward to at each point. And, on the return trip, you can move the car in reverse, or put it back at the beginning and reorganize the post-it notes and start over.
What to bring on a road trip conclusion - Our Final thoughts on what to bring on a road trip
These are just a few of our top suggestions for a family road trip packing list. A little bit of preparation in advance can go a long way to making your road trip the best family vacation yet. With this in mind, tailor your own packing list to your family to keep everyone comfortable, safe and entertained.
Here's a recap with a few more of our top picks for things to bring on a road trip:)
Essential things to bring on a road trip for Safety, Comfort, and Convenience
First Aid Kit- DIY your own using this article as a reference. Learn how a tackle box is the best thing to keep first aid supplies organized and quick and easy to find in an emergency.
Paper Maps or Map App- Word to the wise, don't get caught off the grid without one of these.
Battery Pack / Power Bank- Tech comes in very handy when it comes to safety on the road. Make sure you have what you need to keep all your tech charged and ready.
Comfortable Child Car Seat- If the car seat you have right now is uncomfortable for your kid, it's in their, and your best interest to upgrade before your road trip.
Smart Phone Holder- Keep your eyes on the road and everyone safe.
What food to bring on a road trip
Food and drinks you should eat sparingly or avoid altogether on your road trip are ones that are greasy, and/or high in salt, sugar, or caffeine. These types of food and drinks are most often difficult to digest, leading to uncomfortable bloating and increased urge to pee. Then there's the irritability as energy levels skyrocket then crash. None of these things are good on a road trip. Instead, pack food and drinks that are easy to eat drink and won't do a number on your systems like the ones listed below.
Fruit- like apples, easy to peel oranges, bananas, and grapes.
Veggies- like carrot sticks (or baby carrots), pepper slices, and celery sticks.
Pita chips and hummus single serve packs
Cheese strings or slices
Simple granola and or nut bars
Water & 100% juice boxesor pouches- Refill water bottles at pitstops along the way.
Bring a cooler with ice or ice packs that will fit inside the vehicle as opposed to the trunk to keep food and drinks cool.
Fun free games to play on a road trip
We love magnetic travel games. They're compact and being magnetic makes it perfect for keeping track of all of the play pieces. Here are a few more of our favorites, classics that take some imagination and don't cost anything.
I Spy- "I spy with my little eye something that is....." This one keeps young kids entertained for long periods of time!
Going on a picnic- This 2 person + memory game is easy to learn and fun to play. Great for kids 5 years old and up it's based on the alphabet. Play begins with the first player saying “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing...” then, answering with something that begins with "a", like apricots. The next player repeats “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing...whatever the first player said, and then something that begins with "b", like baguettes. Play continues with "c", "d" and so on, all the way to "z". If someone forgets an item, they're out. Feel free to give hints to younger players to keep the game going. The last player to be able to recite all the items mentioned in the game wins.
Road trip bingo- This game is a mix of bingo and a scavenger hunt. Each child will need a flat surface to play on (like a clipboard) to have on their lap. Each player gets a printable bingo card and a zip-lock bag with 16 pennies. When a player sees an item listed on their bingo card, they cover the picture with a penny. Like in a regular..
As frequent travelers and homeschoolers, we always try to make learning the history and culture of the places we visit a priority. On our last extended trip we had the pleasure of visiting four incredible cities in Mexico; Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, and Mexico City. Each city had something amazing to learn about; the conservation efforts in Puerto Vallarta, the most important zoo in all of Latin America in Guadalajara, and the Mummies of Guanajuato each made lasting impressions on all of us.
But, one experience, on a day trip from Mexico City left us absolutely awestruck. We were intrigued by its mystery, and stunned by its huge size and incredible preservation.
This is a view of the Pyramid of the Moon from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun.
We can honestly say taking a day trip to visit the Teotihuacan Pyramids, about 50 minutes outside of Mexico City was the most incredible experience we had during our entire trip.
An unforgettable family memory, a trip to Teotihuacan with kids is an absolute must if you're visiting Mexico City.
A view from the top of one of the shorter pyramids closer to the Pyramid of the Moon.
Here’s how we did our own self-guided family tour!
The City of Teotihuacan, a Brief History
Teotihuacán (pronounced teo-ti-wa'kan) is a vast archaeological complex located 40 kilometers northeast of modern-day Mexico City. The ancient city's construction began as early as 100 BC and it grew and flourished.
At its height, around 500 AD, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the pre-Columbian Americas. It had a population estimated around 125,000 making it at least the sixth largest city in the ancient world at that time!
But, somewhere between 550AD and 750AD, the city began its decline. During its collapse, it endured a fire that caused great damage, famine, and various invasions. But even despite the calamities all was never truly lost.
There are many mysteries surrounding Teotihuacan. First, it is not known who first built it or the exact succession of inhabitants It had. But experts do know the name Teotihuacan was given by the Aztecs. It means “ The place where the Gods were created”.
It is best known today for its immense size, intricate grid layout, and incredible step pyramids. Some facts are known about each part of the city that still exists today. Artifacts that remain help experts begin to piece together the story of Teotihuacan.
Here’s what we saw the day we visited.
The City of Teotihuacan Today
The Avenue Of the Dead on the way to the Pyramid of the Moon.
Incredibly many structures are still standing at Teotihuacan. At its peak, it’s believed the core covered 20 square kilometers.
Today you can still see how expertly the city was laid out. It was organized using a well thought out grid plan. Today Teotihuacan is best known for the size of its monuments. Particularly, the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon and the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
Apart from the pyramids, Teotihuacan is anthropologically important for its complex multi-family compounds. Ancient day apartment blocks, where the city’s residents once lived. Also, a wide road called The Avenue of the Dead, and a small portion of ancient murals that have been exceptionally well preserved.
Here’s a little bit about the major monuments around the archaeological site.
The Pyramid of the Sun
The Pyramid of the Sun.
This is the best place to start as it has 248 steps to reach the top. It gets pretty hot as the day progresses so starting your visit in the morning is highly recommended. Entering the site through the third entrance (Puerta 3) will put you closest to the Pyramid of the Sun.
The Pyramid of the Sun is massive! It’s 75 meters high and 220 meters wide making it the third largest pyramid after The Great Pyramid of Cholula (also in Mexico), and The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
It’s imposing size is even more impressive knowing it consists of over three million tons of stone built by hand! No metal tools or animals were used in its construction.
In the 1970’s archaeologists found a tunnel inside the great pyramid that led to a set of chambers that stored more than 50 000 ritualistic artifacts. Experts figure the chambers were used for rituals and even as tombs for the city’s elite.
The Pyramid of the Sun had powerful religious significance for the ancient people of Teotihuacan. And some of that ritualistic importance continues to this day. Every year, on the Spring Equinox, visitors flock to the top of the Pyramid to celebrate the rights of Spring.
The Pyramid of the Moon
The Plaza of the Moon, and the Pyramid of the Moon.
The second largest pyramid on the site, The Pyramid of the Moon, sits perpendicular to The Pyramid of The Sun at the end of The Avenue of the Dead. It is the smaller of the two great pyramids but the steps to the top are much steeper. Definitely worth climbing though, as the view from the top is amazing! You can see all the way up The Avenue of the Dead past The Pyramid of the Sun.
The Pyramid of the Moon was the first large structure built in Teotihuacan. Research suggests it was built in stages. It began as a small platform and then grew to be a 46-meter high pyramid. There is evidence that human and animal sacrifices, as well as other offerings, took place there. Tombs inside revealed sacrificial artifacts including tools of obsidian and greenstone.
In front of the pyramid on the Plaza of the Moon are 12 small squat pyramids with larger platforms on top. The platforms served as viewing stages for ancient city’s residents to watch sacrifices and rituals performed at the top of the Pyramid of the Moon.
Today they offer great photo ops of the Great Pyramids.
The Murals and Hieroglyphic Writings of Teotihuacan
There are incredibly well-preserved murals that exist in Teotihuacan. The Palace of Quetzalpapalotl, adjacent to The Pyramid of the Moon, houses some of the most detailed. The art includes depictions of important Gods like Tlaloc, the storm God, a deity referred to as “The Great Goddess” and animals like coyotes, owls, jaguars, and the feathered serpent. There is also indicate hieroglyphic stone carvings throughout the Palace.
At the entry, you can pay for a guide to explain the murals and hieroglyphics throughout Palace of Quetzalpapalotl or tour it on your own as we did.
The Avenue of the Dead
A view up the Avenue of the Dead from the top of the Pyramid of the Moon.
There is a wide road 2.5 kilometers long that runs between the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. It’s called the Avenue of the Dead for what some believe the mounds on either side that look like tombs, though they weren’t.
The road, kind of like main street Teotihuacan, now varies in width (45 meters at some points and up to 90 at others). Experts believe it was much wider in its prime.
The Temple of the Feathered Serpent
The third largest pyramid in Teotihuacan, the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, is a bit farther out from the rest of the monuments on the archaeological site. It’s a six-level step pyramid adorned with serpent heads along the sides of the steps. The Temple of the Feathered Serpent is notable for its carvings and also for the discovery made in the 1980’s. More than one hundred sacrifice victims were found buried beneath it.
There is an onsite Museum as well. It is to the left, at the back corner of the Pyramid of the Sun. There are many artifacts on display and it is nice and cool inside. There is also a large-scale replica of what the are may have looked like long ago that was really cool to see.
How to Get to Teotihuacan
There are a few different ways to get to the Teotihuacan archaeological site. The cheapest way is via public transportation which is the way we chose to go. Here’s how we did it.
We took the metro (5 pesos) to Terminal Central del Norte (also known as Autobuses del Norte metro station). The station is right across the street from the metro stop.
Inside the bus terminal, go left all the way to the end. The name of the bus company is called Autobuses Teotihuacán.
Purchase return bus tickets to “Los Piramides”, the cost is 56 pesos (about $3 USD) each for Adults and 28 pesos for kids. Buses leave about every 20 minutes and seats and are assigned.
Busses leave and return all day. You can catch any one you like on the way back, so spend as much or as little time visiting the pyramids as you like.
People at the ticket office speak English so asking questions is no problem.
There are also various tour bus companies that operate tours from Mexico City to Teotihuacan.
A Few Practical Tips for Visiting Teotihuacan with Kids
The site at Teotihuacan is not stroller friendly. We recommend using a carrier for really little kids. Also, there is a lot of ground to cover and a fair amount of climbing which is uneven so comfortable, well-fitting shoes are recommended. We wore runners and Mak wore quick lace-up Keen sandals and we all avoided sore feet and twisted ankles.
Also, there is no shade and the sun beats down in the late morning and all afternoon. Make sure to have sunscreen and wide brim hats for everyone. A sunshade is recommended if using a child carrier.
Here are other things to have on hand and keep in mind:
Bring water and snacks for the bus ride. It takes about an hour to get to the site and an hour back as well depending on traffic. You can buy water and snacks at the site but having a few for on the way is a good idea especially with kids.
Also, the snack and water vendors are just outside the archaeological site. Make sure you have enough water and snacks in your packs when enjoying the pyramids. There are a few vending machines by the washrooms near the onsite museum as well.
The site is open 9am-5pm daily but try to visit as early as possible due to the no shade thing. It gets hot really fast and there’s is a lot of physical activity climbing the pyramids.
The entry fee is 70 pesos about ($5) for adults, kids under 12 years of age are free.
Plan to spend 4 to 5 hours exploring the site it’s really big and time can get away on you because the sites are mind-blowing!
We all thoroughly enjoyed visiting Teotihuacan. Learning about the site before visiting made the experience even more meaningful here are some of the sites we used to learn about the area before we visited.
Planning a trip to Mexico City? This guest post by seasoned traveler Robert Schrader of Leave Your Daily Hell outlines the very best things to see and do just outside Mexico's sprawling Capital. Here are the best day trips from Mexico City!
Few destinations in North America are more hyped than Mexico City. From its hip neighborhoods, to its out-of-this-world restaurant scene, to the fact that it's only a few hours' flight from most of the US and Canada, Mexico City seems to be on every traveler's radar these days.
There's plenty of goodness to be discovered within Mexico City's center, to be sure, but many of my favorite experiences sit a bit outside it. Whether you're seeking culture, history or a nice mix of the two, these are the best day trips to take from Mexico City.
Ancient Ruins at Teotihuacan
Although many people believe that the ancient ruins at Teotihuacan are Aztec in origin, they pre-date the infamous empire by more than a millennium. The specific origins of the pyramids and other structures here aren't clear at all, in fact, even if researchers have been able to pin down its construction date to around 100 BC.
Irrespective of the true story behind the Teotihuacan ruins, their proximity to Mexico City (just over an hour by bus from the city's northern terminal) makes them one of Mexico's most alluring day trips. Walk along the Avenue of the Dead between the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon, and finishing off your day of exploration with the surprisingly delicious food restaurants in the area serve up—I'm a big fan of the mole on offer at Restaurante Cinco Estrellas.
"Floating Gardens" of Xochimilco
Mexico City is home to a number of green spaces, but if you want to truly disconnect from the energy of tens of millions of people, you'll need to head further south. Specifically to the "floating gardens" or Xochimilco, which sit about 90 minutes from most points in the city center, and are accessible both by public transport and private car.
Once you arrive at Xochimilco, which is all that's leftover from the network of canals and lacks that made up the infrastructure of ancient settlements in the area of modern Mexico City, get onboard a traditional Trajinera boat to explore them, or simply to relax. Complement your day of relaxation with a delicious meal or margarita at one of the dozens of local eateries here.
Monarch Butterfly Reserves in Michoacan
Teotihuacan and Xochimilco are both awesome in their own right, but for me the best Mexico City day trip (maybe my favorite one in the world, for personal reasons I've written about on my own website) are the monarch butterfly reserves in Michoacan. These include the popular El Rosario and the quieter Cerro Pelón, which is where I chose to have my butterfly adventure.
Regardless of where you see the monarchs be prepared for a long journey (about three hours each way, by a combination of bus and taxi) and a tiring day or hiking and horseback riding. If this sounds like too much to do on a day trip, particularly when you combine it with the exhilaration you're certain to feel as you lay eyes upon the butterflies, consider staying the night at a local guesthouse.
The Bottom Line
Explore Mexico City to your heart's content, but do yourself a favor and embark on a day trip (or two) as well. Traipse through an ancient city, hike to a scenic monarch butterfly reserve or relax on a boat in the aptly-named "floating gardens" you find south of the city. Even if you find that Mexico City itself doesn't quite live up to the hype, these excursions take it into the stratosphere.