Hello and welcome! We're Charles and Micki Kosman, two adventurous Canadians. We love to travel and write about all things related to travel. This blog takes being a travel resource quite seriously as they have a section dedicated to travel tips, travel tech and travel photos. If you've got travel on the mind and want a little direction on how to achieve it, this blog is the place to..
Here are a few of our best tricks for how to get cheap one way flights, based on years of travel. Follow our tips, and you’ll be laughing all the way to your dream destination, with plenty of spending cash left in your pockets.
One of the biggest travel misconceptions we hear is that return flights are cheaper than booking one way flights. While that may have been true years ago, it’s definitely not the case now.
We love to book one way flights simply because it often saves us a lot of money! We’ve scored some amazing deals over the years by booking one way flights.
How to Get Cheap One Way Flights
Ready? Here are our best tips for how to find cheap one way flights.
Be as flexible with your dates as possible
Having flexible dates is probably the easiest way to save money on flights. Flexible dates regularly saves us 20 to 50 percent off our flights, and often more. The more flexible you are on timelines, the bigger savings you can get.
Even better, you can save a ton of money by avoiding peak times like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break.
Find the cheapest destination
Your destination airport is probably the biggest factor that can save you money, sometimes more than 50%. We use this trick all the time – it’s landed us some great deals.
On our last visit to Europe, we planned to stay three months, and we knew we were leaving from Cancun, Mexico.
Keeping our destination city open landed us a one way ticket from Cancun to Madrid, Spain for $160 USD with Pullmantur Air (now branded as Wamos Air). This was a lot cheaper than our second cheapest option of $391 from Cancun to Frankfurt.
on the beach in Cancun
Use the right flight search engine
Not all search engines are created equal – some, like FlightList, make finding one way flights especially easy.
Right now, we’re searching for cheap one way flights to Europe in the fall. Since we’re going to be there for a few weeks (at a minimum), and we’re going to visit a few countries, we have a lot of flexibility in our arrival and departure cities.
Europe has some of the most affordable discount airlines, so we have the flexibility to fly into almost any city in Europe, and catch a cheap budget flight to the countries that are on our main list: England, Scotland, France, and Italy.
We’re flying out of our home city in Kelowna, BC, Canada, making this a pretty challenging search. Kelowna’s a small city that’s not served by many budget airlines, and it has no direct flights to Europe, meaning we’ll need a minimum of one stop. Flights from here tend to be a bit pricey, and generally a pain to find.
I really like Flightlist for cheap one-way flights, because I can choose an entire country or region as a departure (or destination). In the screenshot below, we easily found the cheapest flight between Kelowna and Europe (Kelowna to London Heathrow) for $322 USD a person. Love it!
What I really love is that this search includes discount airlines like Wizzair and Swoop that I don’t see on other search engines.
Check for discount budget airlines
Flight search engines are getting better and better at including discount airlines in their searches. That said, there are some budget airlines, like Southwest Airlines, that don’t allow bookings with flight search engines.
Budget airlines can save you a bundle, but the problem is that it can be hard to figure out which budget airlines serve a specific airport.
Don’t know where to start? Wikipedia has a helpful list of low cost airlines here. You can almost always find a list of airlines that fly in or out of an airport directly on the airport’s website, which you can usually find with a Google search.
Consider flying in to, and out of, alternate airports
When you do a flight search, be sure not to limit your search to large airports like LAX, LFK or London Heathrow. You can often catch a much better deal by flying into alternate airports nearby.
Smaller airports often have lower landing fees, and they’re less busy, allowing airlines to offer lower fares and more flight times.
Just make sure you budget transportation to and from the alternate airport into your travel plans! This can often add a hefty unexpected expense.
Search for one person
Airlines often offer one or two seats on a flight at a lower price than the rest (I’m assuming so their flights show as cheaper on flight engine). Since most airlines offer the same rate for every passenger in a booking, that means that a family of four (like ours) will miss out on the deal.
For example, if there is one seat available for $500, and the rest are at $800, a family searching for four seats will get a rate of $800 per seat, missing out on that one seat deal for $500!
This often means that a family booking together will miss out on a lower fare.
To get around this, you can do separate bookings to score the cheapest deal. The downside is that there’s a bit more work to do the separate bookings, and you may end up seated separately.
Search in Incognito Mode
You’ve likely heard this before – some say flight booking websites track our airfare searches, and increase prices when they see us searching for the same flights over and over.
In response, you’re supposed to put your web browser into incognito mode (which hides your search history), preventing websites from tracking your searches, and getting you a lower price.
The best actual research we found on this was from a CBC video on how to score the best deal online. What’s interesting is that they found that prices sometimes did change if you were in incognito mode – and this is interesting – but sometimes they were lower, and other times prices were higher.
That said, it’s insanely easy to switch your browser to incognito mode, so you may as well give it a try.
Don’t forget about luggage fees
Sure, a flight may seem cheap, but if you’re going to be dinged with huge fees for carry-on and checked baggage, it may cost a lot more than you anticipated.
This doesn’t mean you need to layer on seven layers of clothing to avoid baggage fees. Just know what you want to take – carry on, a larger checked bag, or nothing more than a tiny personal item – and budget for that.
Watch for special deals
If you know what airline you’ll likely be flying, sign up for their newsletter to catch special deals.
Keep watching fares for 24 hours after you book!
Many airlines allow you to cancel your tickets within 24 hours after purchase, meaning you have 24 hours to find a better price.
Then, you can either get a refund and buy a new ticket, or try to call your airline and get a the difference refunded.
Do this with caution, however! The 24 hour free cancellation isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Some airlines only offer the 24 hour refund ONLY on refundable tickets, and many don’t offer this if you use an online booking site or in real life travel agent.
One of our favorite destinations is the Florida Keys, a string of tropical islands south of Miami. It may be a cliche, but it’s true that the Keys feel like a different world than the rest of Florida. Life is more relaxed on the Keys, with a backdrop of sun-kissed tidal bars and teal water beside deep green mangrove trees.
The Best Beaches in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are blessed with clear turquoise water, tropical sunshine, and plenty of sand. All of this means that the Keys have some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida.
Sadly, many of beaches in the Keys (including Sandspur) suffered extensive damage from the Hurricane Irma in 2017. For the most part, the Keys have bounced back from Irma, but check recent conditions before you visit to make sure you aren’t disappointed.
One of the biggest perks of visiting the Keys is enjoying the stunning drive down Florida Keys Overseas Highway (U.S. 1). We fly in, book a rental car in Miami, and take in fresh seafood, beautiful beaches, stunning views, and state and national parks, with a side trip to the Everglades on the way.
Which Key has the best beaches in Florida?
Generally, the farther south you go, the more beautiful beaches, with some stunning exceptions. The most Northern key, Key Largo, has mostly man made beaches. Sure, they’re pretty, but the more natural beaches further south in Key West are our favorites.
The beaches in Key West have been mostly restored after Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, which is great news, since Key West has some of the prettiest beaches in the Keys.
What is the best month to visit the Florida Keys?
March, April and May are the best months to visit the Florida Keys. The keys can get crowded in the winter, so you’ll find it a little quieter between March and May. Fewer visitors mean that the beaches are less crowded, hotel rates drop.
The Atlantic hurricane season formally begins June 1 and ends November 30, making spring and early summer a great time to visit the Keys.
Does Key Largo have good beaches?
Key Largo is the gateway to the Florida Keys. It’s a fantastic place for snorkeling, since the reef here is shallow (five to 15 feet deep). It’s also a great place to hit the beach, with plenty of pretty man-made beaches with long stretches of sand. Some are private, but many are fully open to the public.
Far Beach, Key Largo
Far Beach is probably the most popular Key Largo Beach. It’s located in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and it’s a public beach. The water here is shallow, making it great for families.
Because it’s at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, it’s also a great place to grab a boat tour for snorkeling at the reef. You can snorkel from shore, but you’ll see a lot more if you take a tour.
What are the beaches like in Key West?
Key West is the farthest south of the Keys, and it also has some of the best beaches in the keys. You’ll find several Key West beaches on our list, including Higgs beach and Smathers beach.
Fort Zachary Taylor is gorgeous, as is Dry Tortugas & Fort Jefferson (a cluster of islands 70 miles west of Key West), and could have easily made this list.
Here they are: our picks for the best beaches in the Florida Keys.
Sombrero Beach, Florida Keys
The scenery here at Sombrero beach isn’t the only thing that makes it so great: this is a great beach for wildlife lovers, too. Sombrero Beach is one of the most important nesting places of sea turtles in Florida. Sea turtles are also the reason why visitors are banned from certain areas, at certain times of year, until the baby turtles leave the beach.
Sombrero beach has showers, restrooms, pavilions, a great volleyball court, a playground for children, and it is easily accessible for people with disabilities as well.
Sandspur Beach, Florida Keys
Sandspur Beach has crystal blue waters, palm trees and white sand, making it almost the perfect, typical tropical beach.
Sandspur is about a 40-minute drive from Key West, with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the sand and the water, and a short walking trail that is just as spectacular.
Bahia Honda State Park - Florida Keys - USA - YouTube
Anne’s Beach, Florida Keys
Anne’s beach is the perfect beach for a family visit. The swimming area at Anne’s Beach is shallow with virtually no waves, making it the perfect spot for young kids to splash, and one of the best beaches in the Florida Keys for swimming.
The sand around the shallow waters is great for picnics, and the nearby boardwalks and the mangrove area are a great way to explore local nature.
Anne’s beach in the Florida Keys at low tide
Anne’s beach is on Lower Matecumbe Key south of Caloosa Cove Resort, and about halfway between Key Largo and Key West.
Anne’s Beach was once known as Islamorada Public Beach.
Long Beach is one of the most popular camping spots in the area and also a favorite with visitors who want to spend just a couple of hours enjoying the sea.
Despite its popularity, the beach never feels crowded and the shallow waters are perfect for families with young kids as well.
Smathers Beach, Florida Keys
One of the top beaches on Key West, Smathers Beach has plenty to see and to do. Visitors can explore the crystal waters by kayaking and paddle boarding, or they can do some windsurfing and kite surfing. The restaurants on the beach are perfect for quenching your thirst and sating your hunger after an active day in the water.
Higgs Beach, Florida Keys
Located very close to Smathers, Higgs beach has a spectacular pier where you can snorkel.
Behind the beach, there is a pretty garden where you can glimpse of local flora and fauna.
Still thinking about visiting these gorgeous beaches? What’s stopping you?
Visiting is almost as easy as going to rent a car in the airport, and heading south on Florida Keys Overseas Highway (U.S. 1) from Miami.
Map of Florida Keys beaches
Do you have a favorite beach in the Florida Keys? Let us know!
As a family of true Potterheads, we’re always on the search for the best Harry Potter souvenirs, and we’ve found our top picks at the stores in Universal Orlando.
We’re pretty picky souvenir buyers. We’ll only buy souvenirs that we truly love, that we think are worth the money (meaning that we think they’re good quality and we enjoy them).
Universal Orlando is a fantastic place to shop for Harry Potter merchandise, because the park carries items you just can’t find anywhere else, there’s a fantastic selection, and the quality there tends to be better than online stores.
In this post, we mention stores at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Orlando instead of Universal Hollywood, because, Universal Orlando is larger, and there’s more selection. Even so, we saw most (if not all) of these items at the smaller Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Hollywood, California, too.
Every time we visit Universal Orlando, we come home with something new and interesting. My personal favorites are usually snacks from Honeydukes, but the kids really love the wands from Universal.
Harry Potter souvenirs
Ready to get some great Harry Potter gear? What’s stopping you? Put on your driving gloves, book a rental car in Orlando, and make your way to what we think is the world’s best place to buy Harry Potter Souvenirs: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando.
Here are our picks for the best Harry Potter souvenirs at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Orlando.
Where to buy Harry Potter souvenirs at Universal Orlando
There are plenty of stores in where you can pick up Harry Potter World merchandise at Universal Orlando. Some are incredibly specialized (like Gringotts, where Muggles can exchange their Muggle currency for Gringotts Bank Notes) others carry a wide range of goodies (like Honeydukes or Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes).
Here’s a quick list of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter stores.
Gringotts Money Exchange
Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes
Sugarplum’s Sweet Shops
Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods
Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions
Borgin and Burkes
Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment
Wands by Gregorovitch (Diagon Alley)
Quality Quidditch Supplies
Dervish and Banges
It’s one thing to know where you can buy stuff, but what are the really good Harry Potter Souvenirs? Here are our top picks.
Whether you’re a fan of Dumbledore’s ornate Elder wand, Hermione’s delicately carved wand, or Harry’s simpler wand, there’s a wand for you here.
Buying an interactive wand at Universal Orlando is almost a must to get a full, immersive experience at Harry Potter World. The interactive wands help wizards and witches cast spells at special shop windows throughout both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade.
Interactive wands cost around $50 USD. For us, they were were worth every penny, as they made our kids feel they weren’t mere muggles, and helped them feel like a true wizard and witch in training!
What’s really great is that you only need to buy an interactive wand once, and you can use it the next time you visit. We’ve used the same wands at both Universal Orlando and Universal Hollywood.
You can buy a wand at Ollivanders, Wands by Gregorovitch, or at a wand cart. Wands by Gregorovitch is in Diagon Alley only, but you can visit an Ollivanders’ branch in both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Wand carts are scattered throughout the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
If you want the full experience of having the wand choose you, stop by Ollivanders wand show. There’s often a line, but the wand show only lasts five minutes, and Ollivander personally selects one person from the crowd to demonstrate a wand selection ceremony. The show’s free, but you’ll have to pay for your wand.
Want to save time buying a wand? It’s usually quieter at Ollivanders in Diagon Alley than Ollivanders in Hogsmeade.
When our kids got their wands, it was an especially busy time, so we stopped by one of the wand carts. The carts have a good selection, but don’t carry every wand. Since the wand chooses the wizard, Dumbledore’s wand chose our daughter, and Sirius Black’s wand chose our son, and they were both ecstatic with their wands.
Whether you’re Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, or Hufflepuff, any Potterhead worth their weight in Floo Powder would love to get their hands on a house robe.
Madam Malkin’s Robes for all Occasions in Diagon Alley has the best selection of robes.
There’s a nice weight to the robes, and they’re made of good quality fabric here, too. They feel like real robes, rather than a costume.
Madam Malkin’s isn’t just about robes: you can also pick up Hermione’s Yule ball gown, and full uniforms for Hogwarts students, with ties, scarves, and sweaters and more.
Robes definitely aren’t cheap here: plan on spending over $100 USD.
Harry Potter candy and confections!
One of my favorite things in the world is to walk into Honeydukes and browse through the isles of candy and sweet confections. It’s definitely my personal favorite Harry Potter candy store.
We always pick up a few goodies at Honeydukes. One of our top picks are Fizzing Whizbees, which are tasty milk chocolate treats with fruit flavored popping candy inside. I didn’t count exactly, but there must be 20 candies in each box, making it perfect for sharing.
The chocolate frogs are also great, and in a cute box, but they’re harder to share as there’s only one frog in a box.
Sugarplum’s Sweetshop is a great favorite of ours as well. Our kids loved the inventive Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavour Beans. Watch out, though, they come with vomit and booger flavors. You can also pick up goodies like Cauldron Cakes and Exploding BonBons.
Weasleys Wizard Wheeze jokes and novelty items
Our favorite shop in Diagon Alley was Weasleys Wizard Wheezes novelty joke shop run by the Weasley twins Fred and George.
You’ll find fantastic jokes and magical stuff like Pigmy Puffs, U-No-Poo pills and Puking Pastilles.
Unfortunately, you can’t bring home butterbeer from Universal Orlando. Actually, that’s probably a good thing. I love the cold butterbeer so much that I’d probably have it a few times a week at home, which is definitely not good for the waistline.
While you can’t bring butterbeer home, you can do the next best thing: buy a refillable Harry Potter mug to take home. You won’t get a discount on your butterbeer refill, but they will refill it for the same price as a regular butterbeer.
If you purchase a souvenir butterbeer mug, we were told it CAN’T be used for discounted soda refills at all the same locations as refillable cups.
It’ll cost you around $15.99 + tax for a souvenir butterbeer mug, which includes one butterbeer of your choice.
Everyone needs a butter beer foam moustache. Drink in a disposable cup.
Harry Potter Stationary
Owl’s post is the place for all Harry Potter stationary. You can buy stationary, quills and ink, and then send a postcard from the Hogsmeade Post Office that’s stamped with a Owl Post postmark.
Dervish and Banges is a great place to pick up magical items. There’s a lot in here, with fun magical items like Golden Snitches, and brooms like the Nimbus Two Thousand.
Wizarding World of Harry Potter t-shirts, caps and more
If you’re looking for standard souvenirs like t-shirts and postcards, a quick place to grab them is Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods in Hogsmeade. Filch’s Emporium is more like a regular gift shop with merchandise like clothing and more.
Dark arts merchandise
If you’re a wizard or witch with a dark side, you’ll find that there’s something for you at Universal Orlando. Just visit Borgin and Burkes in Knockturn Alley where you can dabble in dark arts merchandise.
Photos at Shutterbuttons
If you’re looking for some Harry Potter themed photo keepsakes, then stopping by Shutterbuttons is a must. In the shop, you’re guided through 12 scenes where your photo is taken in costumes. You can purchase a DVD photo album in a collectible Shutterbuttons’ tin.
Fun at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Quick tips for shopping at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Orlando
Use the gift concierge service
Both Universal Orlando Parks (Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley) have a pickup service, so you don’t have to tote your purchases around all day.
Just buy your souvenirs and pick them up at the end of the day. If you’re staying at an on-site hotel, you can even arrange to have your purchases sent directly to your room.
Shop when everyone else is at the rides
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter can be an incredibly busy place. If you want to browse the shops for keepsakes when it’s quieter, consider going first thing in the morning.
Most people head straight for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (my favorite) or the Escape from Gringotts rides first thing in the morning when the lines are shorter. If shopping is a priority for you, then consider heading to the shops first thing when the parks are quieter, and anyone who is there is heading to the rides.
Universal Orlando is a big, busy place, so your Harry Potter keepsakes shopping will go much more smoothly if you follow a couple of helpful tips.
Consider staying at an on-site hotel
Not only will you save money on parking, and time driving, but Universal Orlando hotels have great perks like shuttles and early access.
On our last trip, we chose to hire a car in Orlando, and parked in the Universal parking lot, but plan is to save some time and hassle and stay in a Universal hotel on our next visit.
Get a two day Park to Park Pass
if you want to access all of the shows, rides, restaurants, and attractions at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter you’ll need to visit both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is split between the two Universal Florida parks (Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios). Hogsmeade is in Universal Islands of Adventure, and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios. Both Hogsmeade and Diagon Ally have unique shops, rides and experiences, so you’ll want to go to both. You’ll also need a Park to Park pass to ride the Hogwarts Express!
You could visit both parks in one day, but you’d miss a lot, and you’d definitely be exhausted! On our last trip, we spent two days almost exclusively checking out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and we still didn’t see and do everything in both areas!
Looking for some fun weekend getaways from Los Angeles? We can help.
Don’t get us wrong, we love Los Angeles. There’s a lot going on in LA, from our family favorites at Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm to beaches like Manhattan Beach, to LA’s gritty downtown that’s packed full of things to do.
That said, LA can be a bit… much. There are a lot of people, the traffic is relentless, and sometimes you just need a break. So, like almost everyone in Los Angeles California, we’ve perfected the art of the weekend escape from the sprawl that is LA.
Here they are: our top picks for weekend getaways from Los Angeles, with ideas for couples, singles, and even family travel.
Weekend Getaways from Los Angeles
First up, if you don’t already have one, our preference is always to rent a car in Los Angeles for a weekend getaway. Sure, there are bus or Amtrak routes to most of these destinations, but they’re almost always less convenient, and you’ll still need to Uber or taxi to your hotel and the local hotspots.
Palm Springs is an easy weekend trip from LA. With typical traffic (if such a thing exists in LA at all), it should take you a little under two hours from downtown LA to Palm Springs. Along the way, there’s a cool collection of mammoth wind turbine farms, and the cheeky Cabazon Dinosaur statues, and a lot of desert.
It’s also only about an hour from Joshua Tree National Park (one of our other picks), so you can knock off two destinations in one weekend if you feel the need to explore.
Palm Springs itself still holds onto a lot of the old 1920 Hollywood glamour that first put it on the tourist map. There are plenty of beautiful resorts, great shopping and enough Instagram friendly spots to keep your camera busy for days. Make sure you book some time by your hotel pool with a cool cocktail in hand for the full Palm Springs experience.
Desert Hot Springs
Desert Hot Springs is a smaller town that’s sandwiched in between Palm Springs and Joshua Tree National Park. On our last day trip from LA, we decided to base ourselves in Desert Hot Springs, because it’s known for having some of the best hot springs resorts near LA.
I’m so glad we did! Our family of four spent a few days at the mid-range Miracle Hot Springs Resort, soaking in the eight natural hot mineral pools (all at different temperatures). Heaven!
After a long day of soaking our first night, we grabbed supper at Las Palmas Mexican restaurant, which is an easy 10 minute walk from the hotel. You’ll never find our family much happier than when we’re full of tacos at a hot springs resort.
Two of the eight pools at Miracle Hot Springs
Joshua Tree National Park
The scenery in Joshua Tree National Park may well be some of the most unique you ever experience. It’s about a two and a half hour drive from LA, making it an easy reach for a weekend getaway.
You’ll definitely want to do some hiking in Joshua Tree, and there are a lot of options. Be prepared for a hot, dry desert climate that can cool off significantly at night.
Joshua Tree is also one of the best areas near Los Angeles to take in the night stars, since there’s so little light pollution.
Joshua Tree is also a fantastic place to take in local wildlife, with over 250 species of birds, 57 mammal species, and amphibians and reptiles and insects galore.
I’m not sure why Vegas rarely makes lists of weekend trips from Los Angeles. Sure, it’s four hours away from downtown LA, but it’s so easy to rent a vehicle in Los Angeles, cruise down Interstate 15, and end up on the strip just a few hours later.
Just make sure you’re loaded up on sleep before any weekend trip to Vegas. Every time we visit Las Vegas, it seems to be busier, there’s much more to do, and we typically leave more tired than we came.
Whether you’re a family, flying solo, or on a couple’s or friends trip, your weekend trip to Vegas will probably include walking down the strip, stops at all you can eat buffets, and checking out amazing entertainment like one of the Cirque du Soleil shows.
Our last trip to Las Vegas was with the entire family, so we made sure to check out all the free family attractions, like the Bellagio Fountains, the volcano at The Mirage and the Circus Circus free shows. We did find that some things that we thought were free are now paid only, like the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay and Stratosphere Tower Observation Deck.
One of our fun family finds this time was the around the world sampling tray at the Coca-Cola Store on the strip. For around $8, the tray has 16 different flavors of Coca-Cola products from around the world! The flavors are pretty varied, and include Inca Kola from Peru and Beverly from Italy.
We also got the eight sample float tray. It was a lot for the four of us, but we persevered and drank most of it! Small tip, if you’re with a family or group, ask for a few extra empty cups so everyone can taste a little of each one.
Just 25 miles off the southern part of California, Catalina Island is a world apart. The island is accessible by boat and ferry as well as by helicopter. Most people make the trip by passenger ferry from mainland ports in San Pedro, Long Beach, Newport Beach or Dana Point. A round trip ticket on the Catalina Express from will cost about $37 USD.
Catalina Island is close to Los Angeles, but it has an entirely different vibe, and makes for a fantastic romantic weekend spent away from the bustle and hassle of the big city.
There’s a surprising amount to do on this little southern California island. If you love outdoor adventure, you’ll have a blast on the island’s zip lines. Animal lovers will will enjoy the opportunity to embark on a Falconry Experience, where you can have a hawk land on your gloved hand and if the indoors is more your thing, you can also try your luck in the island’s iconic casino.
Getting around is easy by renting a golf cart, grabbing a hotel shuttle, or using the Garibaldi public bus. There are plenty of places to stay as well, from intimate bed and breakfasts to tenting to 4-star country inns.
Just under two hour’s drive north from downtown LA, Ventura’s coastline shows the true beauty of the ocean. It’s mostly known for it’s stunning beaches, but the downtown is a hub for the arts, food, music and culture as well.
The beaches in the area aren’t crowded, even in peak periods, and you can even visit the uninhabited islands just off the coast by boat.
If you’re interested in Norse culture and ready for a two and a half-hour drive, Solvang California is for you.
Solvang is a small city to the north of Santa Barbara that’s known for it’s Danish-style architecture, and many wineries and museums. If you are looking for a cultural experience, you will love the Elverhoj Museum of Danish History, while the Hans Christian Andersen Museum will take you to a fairy land.
Temecula Valley is one of the areas closest to LA on this list at only an hour and a half’s drive from downtown LA in good traffic (though in LA, that’s usually rare). Temecula Valley offers plenty to do and to see, and it’s a lovely spot that’s hidden among lush, green hills.
The best way to explore the beauty of the area is by rising above it in a hot-air balloon – you can find many different types of flights leaving from Temecula. The valley has over three dozen wineries and restaurants that serve extraordinary food as well, so after marveling the scenery from above, you can spoil your taste buds with the local culinary specialties.
The one-hour drive from LA takes you to a city on a rugged, rocky coastline surrounded by rich vegetation.
Whether you’re looking for a quiet beach where you can sunbathe undisturbed, or you just want to take a walk downtown to do some shopping and enjoy a gelato, or you want to go hiking on some spectacular mountain trails, Laguna Beach is the place for you.
With plenty of things to see and do within a few hours of Los Angeles, there’s nothing holding you back from getting out of the city for a few days to enjoy what southern California and Nevada has to offer.
So, what’s your favorite pick for a weekend trip from LA?
Remember those carefree days when you would throw on a swimsuit, and your beach packing list essentials were just a towel and sunscreen?
Well, those are long over. You have a family now, so get ready to carry a lot more gear. Packing for a family beach vacation is a completely different experience. Kids need snacks at all times (as any experienced parent will tell you), plus you’ll need to plan for many more sticky messes and meltdowns. And those are just the fun parts.
Playing on Mamitas Beach
You won’t want to take everything on this list, or you’d need a forklift to carry your beach bag. Grab what’s on the essentials list, and pick and choose from everything else.
If you’ve got a kiddo in diapers, skip to the very end of this post for some extra gear you’ll likely need.
Ready? Here’s our ultimate family beach vacation packing list, with tips for all the beach gear your family should ever need.
Family Beach Vacation Packing List
There are a few essentials you’ll need for any family beach vacation. Here are our favorites, which we’ve used everywhere from Mexico, to Costa Rica, to British Columbia, to the USA.
Beach bag to carry all your beach gear
Sunscreen. If you’ve ever tried to smear sunscreen on an unwilling toddler, you know why we love spray-on sunscreen for little kids.
Rash-guard shirts with SPF protection
Hat. Admittedly, we’re not hat people, but more shade is always a good idea.
Exactly what you pack for food depends on how long you’re at the beach, where you’re at, and if you have a cooler.
When we’re in Mexico, we press the easy button and swing by the local Oxxo convenience store to grab drinks, chips and cookies for the beach. If you’re coming from a stocked vacation rental or your own home, you may want to grab a full picnic lunch.
Any food that melts quickly generally doesn’t do well for a beach picnic, like chocolate bars. To keep things simple and easy to clean up, we avoid using extra glasses or cutlery, so we stick mostly to finger foods and bottled drinks.
Here are a few of our essentials for a picnic lunch, which are similar to what we share in our road trip packing list.
Ice. Ice packs or blocks of ice last longer than ice cubes.
Drinks with lids. This prevents spills and keeps sand out.
Cut up fruit, in containers with lids.
Ready-made sandwiches, cut in quarters for little hands, in containers with lids.
Sweet treats like dried fruit, fruit roll-ups, cookies or gummy bears.
Savory treats like cheese strings, Goldfish Crackers, chips or pretzels.
One essential that we never go without are SPF protection shirts. The kids can swim in them, plus they have built-in SPF protection, which has saved the kids from a few sunburns, I’m sure. Plus, any area of their body covered by a SPF shirt doesn’t need sunscreen underneath, which has saved us untold hassle. Putting on a shirt much easier than smearing or spraying sunscreen all over the torso of an uncooperative kid.
Here are our beach clothing picks:
SPF protection shirt (sometimes called a rash-guard)
Cover-up. Micki loves having a cover-up to throw over her swimsuit when we pop into a restaurant or walk back to the car.
Change of clothes. This one’s optional, but our kids somehow manage to get their clothes full of sand and sopping wet most of the time, so we carry a clean and dry change of clothes for them.
Bonus family travel tip! Family travel is so much easier when we have a vacation rental instead of a hotel. A condo, town home or house has a kitchen to make meals and snacks, a place to do laundry, and everyone has their own bedroom. Vacation heaven!
Beach toys and games are half the fun of going to the beach. Exactly what you take depends on how long you’re there, and how active you want to be, but these are some of our tried and true favorites.
Bucket, shovels and other sand toys
Frisbee. Get one that floats, so it won’t sink in the water.
Inflatable water toys
Gear for beach games like volleyball or badminton.
GOPRO HERO 6 BLACK FOOTAGE AND FAMILY TRAVEL INSPIRATION - YouTube
I get that the beach should be a electronics free zone, but there are a few cases that can be made for gadgets on the beach. Here are our picks.
Kindle or other e-reader for catching up on some great books
Smartphone (for the adults)
Waterproof Bluetooth speaker (to stream music from your smartphone)
Packing list for families with children in diapers
If you have a little one still in diapers, your beach packing list is going to be a lot longer than those of us without. As a general rule, we would just grab our day-to-day diaper bag and tote it to the beach when our kids were this age, but it would usually include these items.
Diaper rash cream
Diaper changing pad. You can just pack an extra towel, but you’ll want something dedicated to diaper changing – no one wants poop smears on their beach towel. Not that that happened to us, or anything.
Sun umbrella or sunshade. Both of our kids ripped off a hat the instant it hit their heads, so you may want a dedicated sun shade to protect their delicate skin.
Baby sunglasses. Good luck keeping them on baby, but it never hurts to try.
Baby bottles and milk (if you formula feed) and/or baby snacks
Useful, but not essential beach gear
There are always items that are a lot of fun to take, or just serve a really specific purpose. Here’s our random list of things that we’ve used occasionally at the beach. They may be some of your essentials.
Thinking of taking an extended trip with the family and worried about how your kids or even your entire family will deal with maintaining their education or homeschooling on the road while you travel?
Are you putting off your dreams of exploring far off places for fear of schoolwork and activities your kids will miss out on while they’re gone?
Have you fell in love with the notion of worldschooling your children to make them better global citizens but don’t love the idea of having to become their teacher as well as parent and now travel guide?
Not convinced that homeschooling while you travel will work for you but convinced that homeschooling and long term travel have to be synonymous?
Well, I can’t say how your kids or your family will deal with worldschooling, however, I can tell you about our personal experience with educating our kids while we travel the world.
Is worldschooling for everyone?
Before we answer that, I believe it’s important to define worldschooling. In its simplest form, worldschooling is getting an education while you travel, with an emphasis on incorporating your journey into the curriculum.
Traditional Worldschooling Methods
While there are many ways for children to get an education while they travel, this post talks about the most common ones we, and many of our fellow travel families, have explored over the years.
Homeschooling: Where the parent takes on the role of teacher and educates the child themselves, usually with a rough outline and somewhat keeping pace with standard curriculums.
Distance education, online learning or e-learning: Where your child is enrolled in a school, but taught at a distance with a teacher, usually online.
Unschooling: Where children learn through life experiences that you or they initiate without following any standard curriculum.
Local schooling: Where children enroll in either local schools or specialized schools in the area that they’re currently visiting.
How to become a worldschooler
This post is actually in response to an email we received from a concerned mom who wanted to break away from it all and travel the world, but was nervous that her kids would miss out on going to a normal school. She wasn’t sure that worldschooling her kids was for her.
We understand her concerns and probably yours if you’re reading this. We thought long and hard about travel with kids even before we started our own family. Considering Micki and I got engaged in Thailand and then later married in New Zealand while on a year long round the world trip, you can understand our desire to keep traveling once there were more than just the two of us.
Tip! If you want to travel and homeschool your children, look into the laws about homeschooling in your country. Some, like our home country of Canada, have relatively liberal homeschooling laws, but others, like Germany, have restrictions on homeschooling.
That said, we’ve traveled with our kids since they were babies, and though we once again have a home base in Canada, that wasn’t always the case. You see, we jumped around Canada and the world for years at a time.
Getting Married in New Zealand
How We Homeschool on the Road
Once our kids were old enough, and we happened to be back in Canada for a stretch, we usually found ourselves enrolling the kids back into regular public school.
If we were gone for an extended trip, we would enroll our children into an e-learning distance education class where our kids would chat with a dedicated teacher from back home a few times a week and got assignments that way.
How we combine regular school and distance education online
In our province of British Columbia, Canada, this is called online distributed learning. It’s essentially distance education offered by our public school system. It’s a provincially accredited online K-12 program with the same curriculum as physical schools in our province.
Our kids were taught by a public school teacher employed by the online learning education department. This meant that they could go back into a regular, physical public school at any time, and be at pretty much the same place in the curriculum as other students from the grade. Many Canadian provinces offer something similar. There was no cost for this.
Typical weeks would see us emailing photos of their physical work to their teacher, and there was also some online work they had to do. As they get older and past the “learning how to write with a pencil phase”, more and more of their learning takes place online.
To stay connected, they would chat with their teacher via Skype, or by email when they needed additional help. Even though we were out on the road somewhere, our kids still roughly followed the same learning plan as they would in school back in Canada.
Unlike a lot of traveling families, we’ve never officially homeschooled our children or even unschooled them. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe in it, it’s just that neither of us ever wanted to be teachers, and for the duration of our travels we were lucky enough to have an online version of our public school curriculum. It also didn’t hurt that there was no charge, and that Canada ranks as one of the best public school systems in the world.
The nice part about e-learning, or distributed online learning as it’s called here in British Columbia, was that they still had a teacher that assigned and checked their work. We were strictly the helpers who made sure the kids completed their assigned tasks. Of course, we were also always on hand if they needed help and support.
A few bonuses to online distance education while you travel
To be honest, being able to be there for our kids is one of the biggest pluses to what we do. When you travel extensively together, you have way more hours together as a family than regular 9 to 5 working parents have.
If you enjoy your you time, don’t become a long term traveling family. You’ll likely get tired of always being together.
Luckily for us, we’ve always enjoyed spending time with each other, so our lifestyle generally works well for us.
Checking out the salmon run
The greatest part about following a more standard education while we travel is that we can still work, research our next move, and enjoy wherever we happen to be without also having to make sure our kids learn the basic necessities they will eventually need in life like reading, spelling and math. Having a teacher guide them also forced us to not completely ignore their schooling since, for the most part, assignments and timelines were out of our hands.
In truth, that alone kept us honest, otherwise I know a more traditional education would have faltered if it was dependent on us finding the time to create, assign, then mark their schoolwork while on the road.
World Schooling via e-learning
A cool aspect about the Canadian e-learning classes they took was that the teacher, used to dealing with students on the move around the world, would often assign projects based on where we were.
For example, our kids learned about democratic history while we were traveling in Greece, the home of democracy itself. Our son Cole was especially interested in how governing bodies are formed and who gets a say in a country’s development.
Kids playing on the fallen columns at the Agora in Kos, Greece
That trip they also learned about the Age of Exploration in Portugal while walking the same cliffs that Henry the Navigator walked on while ushering in the European expansion to Africa, China and the new world in the 15th century. The names of Dias, Gama, Columbus, Magellan, Drake and Vespucci became part of their world and gave our kids courage in exploring their own world.
Even while on holiday exploring the Mayan ruins in Mexico, our kids studied ancient civilizations and their effect on societies today. As a bonus, they also became experts on chocolate and can tell you exactly how cocoa beans were originally harvested and how they go from fruit to finished product.
In terms of culture, after watching the flamenco being performed in Spain, our kids and their teacher decided to learn about different dance and music styles around the world and, having a multi cultural dance off with your kids, is nothing short of fun.
More recently, last year, while we were exploring the Galapagos Islands, they learned about Darwin and his theories of evolution. That same trip, they learned about the Amazon rainforest and it’s effects on global weather before we had the opportunity to visit the Amazon for ourselves and see it firsthand on our Ecuador Amazon tour.
Kids looking at the mangroves in the Galapagos
Worldschooling regardless of education
No matter where in the world we’ve gone, we’ve tried our best to tie the kids learning with where we were currently staying. We like to think that it has spurred their imaginations and made them more aware of how we’re all connected.
Though some of that learning was spurred on via a teacher, it’s not to say that when we happened upon an interesting place, event or historical figure that we wouldn’t do our own research as a family.
The truth is that learning new things, seeing different cultures, embracing different ideas and exploring the world around us all come hand in hand with long term travel. Let’s face it, if we didn’t already have an innate curiosity to our world, we wouldn’t be traveling anyway.
Travel as a learning tool
In terms of education, just being in a foreign location is enough to spur curiosity and learning. For instance, our kids learned Spanish while traveling through South America and their curiosity about marine animals was peaked while snorkeling with sea turtles and sharks in Belize which, in turn, lead to plenty of reading about marine life and habitats.
Even our trip to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios was a result of our daughter (who was eight when we went) reading the entire seven-book Harry Potter series while we traveled. Now, it’s not conventional learning, however her reading speed and vocabulary improved a lot because she wanted to read the complete series as quickly as she could. (See our Wizarding World of Harry Potter tips here).
Fun at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Homeschooling on the road
I honestly can’t talk a lot about homeschooling on the road, however, we have friends who have gone that route and their kids seem to do well. Some have even pulled their kids in and out of different schools around the world while homeschooling as they moved from one place to another.
It’s interesting to read that many studies these days conclude kids actually do better with homeschooling (if done in a structured form) than traditional schooling. See this article from Gwen Dewar, PhD for a helpful look at homeschooling outcomes.
Homeschooled kids get much more one on one time and frankly, even though their school days are a often few hours rather than an entire day, they seem to retain what they learnt better than children in traditional classes. Homeschooling may also get them past their awkward adolescent stages easier since they don’t tend to get caught up in typical school drama such as bullying or peer pressure.
We decided a few years ago that a more standard education, coupled with our own self-driven desire to learn and seek out new worldwide experiences would work for us and so far it has. Our kids do well both in school and out when we’re on the road. There’s even a name for this type of homeschooling and traditional schooling mix: it’s called hybrid homeschooling, and it’s becoming increasingly popular.
Going to school in a foreign country
The beauty of travel is that you can put your kids into schools around the world or continue to teach them yourself. So many more parents are traveling today that there are way more options than even a few years ago.
For instance, we have some American friends living in Spain who put their kids right into the Spanish school system without knowing more than a few words in Spanish. The first few weeks were awkward for them, but they were soon fluent in Spanish and thriving in their new school environment. You can find out more of Heidi and Alan’s story on their blog, Wagoner’s Abroad.
It’s just more proof that you don’t need to follow any set rules while long term traveling. That’s the beauty of it all.
We’ve even taken our kids out of school for three months and without signing up for e-learning. Both their principals and teachers were aboard. We learned the basics of what they were going to teach in that time frame and just taught it ourselves as we went. It was probably the closest we’ve ever actually came to homeschooling, and when the kids got back it only took them about a week to fully catch up and keep going.
Education matters, exactly how, not so much
The truth is that your kids will likely be fine no matter what you choose as long as you cater to their educational needs and make it a point that they continue to learn as you travel.
Cole learning to use a traditional blow dart gun in the Amazon
The negatives of worldschooling
While there are many bonuses to worldschooling, of course there are a few negative ones as well.
For instance, if you take them out of school for long term travel then yes, they may miss their friends and a few birthday parties. They might even miss some memorable class moments however it’s highly likely their new travel memories will stick in their mind for the rest of their life rather than for the rest of the year.
The bonus of growing up today in the digital world is no matter how remote you travel, if you need to connect, your friends and family are likely just a quick call away.
If your kids are into a lot of extra curricular activities like sports or music, then yes, the new life paradigm will be an adjustment for everyone. The good news is that a lot of sports are universal and there’s always new sports to learn wherever you happen to be. Music is the same. Each country has their own music and learning about them has always been one of our children’s biggest travel draws.
The benefits of worldschooling
Yes, there might be a few things your kids might worry about when they leave the safety and comfort of their everyday lives, however, to us and our children at least, the benefits of long term travel outweigh all the negatives.
When kids travel, they will see and do things that stay with them for a lifetime. It’s also likely they will be more mindful of other cultures and ethnicities. They will witness for themselves both the hardships and the beauty that other people in the world experience. They will hopefully also realize that the biggest things holding them back from doing anything in life is themselves.
I only wish that more families and more kids could travel so that everyone had a bit of worldschooling. I truly think the world would be a better place if we could all walk in another cultures footsteps, if only for a while, and try to see the world from a global standpoint rather than only a regional one.
Are you dreaming of extended travel?
If you’re looking into educating your kids via worldschooling during an extended trip abroad, I wish you good luck with whatever decision you make and wherever you choose to make it.
If you go, know that there are tons of websites with useful information out there, as well as Facebook groups that will let you meet up with similar traveling families. We’ve made some great friends that way and there’s tons of valuable advice from other families on the move as well.
The greatest part about travel is that you can go or stay as long as you want. There are no rules. If you want to move to London, Bali or Rio for a year, you can make it happen. If you’re tired of travel, you can also settle down right where you are or stop someplace else. Your kids will adjust and most will thrive however, how you go about their education is up to you.
Long term travel with a family is about options, choice and change. If you think that’s a good thing to teach your kids then start packing your bags.
As long as you make education a priority, they will learn what they need to whether that’s at home in a regular school system, through e-learning or through homeschooling and, if your kids are learning anything while you travel, they’re worldschooling regardless.
Croatia combines the stunning history and architecture of Eastern Europe with the crystal clear water and sunny climate of the Mediterranean. Even better, it’s still a relatively affordable European destination, with great restaurants and bustling cities.
Exploring Croata’s Dalmatian islands dotting the Adriatic Sea is the perfect way to see this beautiful country.
Island Hopping in Croatia
Croatia’s unspoiled coastline and offshore islands offer plenty of highlights for luxury cruises sailing this idyllic European destination.
The Dalmation Islands of Vis, Hvar, Korcula, Lastovo, Mljet, Brac and Solta all offer a unique peek into Croatia’s natural beauty and culture.
Hvar Island is a popular summer resort, with 13th-century city walls and the Renaissance Hvar Cathedral. Dubovica Beach attracts crowds of sunbathers, while lavender fields make for a picturesque break. Nearby stops at the Pakleni Islands offer secluded beaches and coves.
Lokrum Island is an easy day trip from the busy city of Dubrovnik. It’s a small island, but well worth a trip for the botanical gardens, dead sea and historic fort.
Lokrum Island near Dubrovnik
Here are a few of the reasons you should go island hopping in Croatia.
Visit secluded beaches and enjoy the view
A cruise gives you the opportunity to visit parts of Croatia’s stunning coastline that aren’t easily accessible by land.
This means that you’ll have a chance to visit beaches and inlets that see fewer tourists. In fact, you may be lucky enough to come across a secluded beach that’s a local secret.
Taking a cruise also lets you enjoy time on the water, with plenty of time to enjoy stunning coastal views.
SCUBA right off the boat
There’s plenty of great SCUBA diving and snorkeling in Croatia’s crystal blue waters. One of the advantages of cruising is that you can SCUBA or snorkel right off your boat, letting you take advantage when weather conditions and visibility are perfect.
See historic cities
Some of Croatia’s most beautiful and historic cities are located along the coast, and what better way to visit than by boat.
Dubrovnik is especially beautiful from the sea, where you can see the massive 16th century stone walls than encircle the Old Town.
See more of Croatia
Croatia has a diverse and interesting landscape that extends along the eastern seaboard of the Adriatic Sea.. The best way to make the most of what it has to offer is by sea travel.
For this reason, cruises are available in every port and vary from the most affordable to luxury. You can enjoy a wonderful island hopping vacation in Croatia on any budget – from shoestring to the sky is the limit.
Enjoy the Mediterranean and the Balkan
Strategically situated midway between Western and Eastern Europe, Croatia embraces both cultures. You will find beautiful beaches, luxury resorts coexisting with idyllic villages, Roman ruins and breathtaking mountain scenery.
From the modern and vibrant city of Dubrovnik to the medieval towns in Dalmatia and Istria regions, there is something to do for everyone, from those passionate about clubbing to those who want to experience history in person.
Meet new people
Cruising is a great way to get to know your fellow passengers. Plus, it offers a way to meet locals as well. Croatians use sailing boats as public transport, so you’ll meet plenty of local Croatians out on the water.
So, when you’re on the sea, or at a port in Croatia, you’re almost guaranteed to meet amazing locals. Who knows? Maybe you’ll make some local friends who can show you to the best local shops, or intimate local restaurants to enjoy delicious and affordable meals.
Enjoy the benefits of sea air
The salty sea air is one of the best cures for a tired and stressed person.
Spending as much time on the sea as possible will rejuvenate you and fill you with energy, not only for a night of dancing in a club, but also for a bit of walking along the stunning coastline.
Their specialty is sailing tours, including adventure packed small ship island tours. has been organizing unique and unforgettable vacations for travelers. Imagine all that you could see and experience on a 7-day small ship cruise through Croatia’s stunning islands.
If you’re looking for a private experience, there are even exclusive private sailing tours with a professional skipper at the helm.
All you need to do is relax, enjoy the spectacular views, and let them organize the logistics.
No matter what you want to do in your holiday in Croatia, remember French poet Charles Baudelaire’s words: “Free man, you will always cherish the sea – the sea is your mirror”.
In this Scrubba review, we give the Scrubba a real world test washing our clothes, and tell you what we like, and what we don’t like.
Who is the Scrubba good for?
Anyone staying where there isn’t a washer handy.
If you’re traveling on an budget and don’t want to pay for laundry services.
If you’re staying in a remote area.
Campers or people staying in an RV.
Gym goers who want to clean smelly gym clothes between washes.
Anyone who wants to hand wash delicate items
For people that like to pack light.
For parents whose babies go through clothes way too fast.
Even if you’re not a traveler, I could see Scrubba being useful if you don’t have a washer or if you’re on a budget.
How does the Scrubba work?
The Scrubba is pretty easy to use. Just add water, laundry liquid and clothing. Roll shut, and release excess air. Then rub gently to wash, rinse and then hang clothes to dry.
There are a few tricks to make using the Scrubba a bit easier – check them out.
Tips for using the Scrubba
First, put your clothes inside the Scrubba washbag.
Fill with water to the level marked on the bag. Make sure the water is warm, and not too hot. You can use cold, but it won’t work quite as well, and you’ll need to wash for longer.
Add liquid clothes washing soap. Solid clothes washing powder takes longer to dissolve, so we don’t recommend it unless you don’t have liquid soap around. Of course, when we’re traveling, we rarely carry clothes washing liquid, so in a pinch we’ve used shampoo or dish washing soap to clean our clothes. Both work well, but liquid washing soap works best.
Roll the top down, and clip the buckle. Make sure the buckle is secure!
Release the air from the washing bag using the valve by twisting it open. Left to open, right to close.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you close the valve during washing!
Rub clothes in Scrubba for 30 seconds for a quick rinse, or 3 minutes for a full wash. Bulky items like jeans or sweaters can take up to 5 minutes. You can see what’s happening through the see through panel.
Empty dirty water, and rinse with clean water. You might need to rinse it twice if a lot of soap remains.
Once the clean water is poured out, roll the clothes inside the Scrubba to get rid of the excess water.
Once out of the Scrubba bag, hand wring the clothes one at a time to get rid of most of the water.
We like to roll our clothes in a dry towel after we’ve wrung them out to get even more water out. We found this can really aid in the overall drying time.
Now hang up the clothes to dry.
Don’t forget to turn the Scrubba inside out and allow it to dry as well.
How much can you wash in the Scrubba?
We found that washing 2 adult t-shirts, 2 pairs of underwear and 2 pairs of socks at the same time was about the max we could wash without overfilling the Scrubba. If you’re doing kids clothes you can fit a bit more in there.
If we overfilled, we found that clothes just didn’t wash or rinse well. It’s better to do a few loads of fewer clothes, than try to jam them all in one go.
Thicker and heavier items like bulky jeans and heavy sweaters may take a few washes to get fully clean.
What we like about the Scrubba
There’s a lot to like about the Scrubba.
The Scrubba is easy to use.
You can clean clothes anywhere you have access to water.
Your hands don’t get wet and messy.
It doubles as a dry bag, which is great for us, as we spend a lot of time on or near the water.
It uses far less water than washing in a sink or bathtub.
The Scrubba doesn’t need electricity to wash clothes, which is both green, and pretty convenient if you’re camping or somewhere remote.
We don’t need to wash our clothes in a hotel sink or bathtub, which is always a bit gross to me.
We don’t need to pay ridiculous hotel laundry fees or go searching for a local laundromat.
It’s quite durable, so I think it will last a long time.
It’s lightweight, at only 5 oz, and squeezes down to a compact pocket size, which makes it perfect for travel.
I love that we don’t need to cart around smelly, dirty socks until we can find a washing machine and we can store our dirty items in the bag until we have enough to do a load.
The little internal washboard bumps really do seem to help get clothes cleaner faster.
Here’s a closeup look at what the internal washboard looks like.
What we don’t like about the Scrubba
You still have to wring dry your clothes. I find this is always the hardest part for me of washing clothes when we travel, since we want them as dry as possible before we have to get up and pack in the morning.
Of course, this really isn’t the Scrubba’s fault, since this is a problem no matter how we wash our clothes. I’d absolutely love to see some sort of way to dry clothes faster while we travel, other than our tried and true method of squeezing water out with a dry towel. I’d definitely pay if Scrubba came up with a gadget, like a portable laundry wringer, to do this!
It’s a bit expensive. That said, the Scrubba is similar in price to a quality dry bag. Since dry bags need to be made of high quality materials and well made to avoid any leaks they can be expensive however the Scrubba is also engineered for washing clothes so the difference in price is minimal in our mind.
You can only wash small loads, with a maximum of a couple of adult sized t-shirts, socks and underwear per load.
We travel as a family of four, so we need to do multiple loads to just wash our t-shirts, socks and underwear. Even if you were a single person, it would take about four loads to wash 4 t-shirts, 2 pairs of pants, 4 pairs of underwear, and 4 pairs of socks. Big, bulky items like sweaters or light jackets take two washes.
Final thoughts on the Scrubba Wash Bag
Overall, we really love the Scrubba! It’s easy to pack and light, and definitely gets our clothes cleaner than washing in a sink or bathtub. Plus, it’s a lot easier to use!
I’m definitely adding Scrubba to our backpack whenever I think we’ll be without a washer or dryer on our trips. I can think of more than a few trips we’ve taken where the Scrubba would have come in handy, especially overseas, and, when the kids were younger and going through their clothes way faster than we did.
If you travel often and want to cut down on the amount of clothes you travel with (or cut down on checked luggage fees altogether), I think the Scrubba would more than pay for itself.
What cleaning liquid do you use in a Scrubba?
Ideally, you’d use a liquid laundry detergent in the Scrubba.
Since we didn’t have any on hand when we tested our Scrubba the first time, we used Dawn dish washing detergent, and our clothes washed perfectly well. You can also use shampoo or hand soap in a pinch.
We’ve heard great things about concentrated camping all purpose cleaners (we haven’t tried them yet). You can use them for washing clothes, dishes, and even hair in a pinch. Just make sure you grab a small enough bottle that you can take in your carry on luggage. Campsuds gets great reviews.
Dubai’s the kind of place where you can go hiking in the dessert before dawn and indoor snow skiing before lunch. Since it’s likely hot out, not much beats spending the afternoon at a water park and after a world class supper, you can visit one of the many gardens in the early evening with the kids.
The Best Things to do in Dubai with Kids
If you’re thinking of heading to Dubai with kids, definitely check these top things to do in Dubai as a family.
You can also opt to take a tour in Dubai to make things even easier. WithLocals has some cool experiences, including a street food tour of Dubai, a scenic tour on a private yacht, or even a private desert safari tour!
Dubai Miracle Garden
If you think a trip to a garden is boring, then you haven’t visited Dubai Miracle Garden. There are over 50 million blooming flowers here, all showcased in elaborate sculptures and designs.
Like the rest of Dubai, the Miracle Garden is over the top, colorful, and fun. Kids pretty much universally love it. You can find the Miracle Garden in the district of Dubailand. Tickets run around $11 USD for adults, and $8 USD for kids.
Have you ever wanted to ski in the desert? Well, Dubai has you covered.
Ski Dubai is a 22,500 square meter indoor ski resort. It runs year round, and it’s part of the Mall of the Emirates.
Tickets to the snow park, which includes the snow plough playground, ice caves, tubing run, bobsled, and climbing wall, run around $50 USD for adults and $45 USD for kids.
If you want to hit the slopes themselves, a 2 hour skiing pass is about $55 USD for adults and $50 for kids.
Want to hang with the Gentoo and King Penguins? That’ll set you back a cool $62 USD however know that kids under 14 aren’t allowed.
Check out what Will Smith has to say about Ski Dubai in the video below.
I Tried Skiing IN THE DESERT - YouTube
Adventure Zone in Dubai
Adventure Zone by Adventure HQ is a blast for kids. It’s an indoor adventure facility with a skate park, boulder wall, cable climb, zip line, and trampoline park.
It’s not cheap at $38 USD for a 90 minute session, but you can save with all day passes or group packages.
There are several locations around Dubai.
The Dubai Fountain is a spectacular choreographed music, light, and water fountain show. If you’ve ever seen the fountains at the Bellagio in Vegas, well, this is a lot bigger.
The Fountain is set on the 30-acre man made Burj Khalifa Lake in downtown Dubai.
Tickets are about $18 USD per person.
Burj Khalifa is a mind-bending 160 story tall skyscraper. It cost a whopping 1.5 billion USD to build.
There’s a spectacular water fountain show, a lot of shopping, and a must-see 360 degree view from the top.
The normal tourist tour only goes to the 124th and 125th floors, and it can be quite crowded. A more expensive option is to go all the way to the top.
Be prepared that lines to get in or out of the tower can be long at peak times.
Tickets for the 124th and 125th floors are $55 USD for adults, and $27 USD for kids. Kids under 4 are free. Prices are higher in peak hours.
Access to level 148 (plus the 124th and 125th floors) is an eye watering $100 USD for adults and kids alike. Prices are higher in peak hours.
IMG Worlds of Adventure
IMG Worlds of Adventure is an indoor amusement park. There are all the rides, eateries and shows you could ever want, with Marvel and Cartoon Network themes in abundance.
The facility is 28 football fields large and the attractions include rides with your kid’s favorite characters, such as the Powerpuff Girls and friends from Marvel’s unique universe.
This place is huge, so wear comfy shoes, and be prepared to walk.
Adult admission is about $78 USD, and kids (under 1.2m in height) are about $70 USD.
Creative Fun at OliOli
Designed for kids between the age of 2 and 11, OliOli’s divided into eight separate areas, each featuring a different theme. These include a hanging play area, an area where cannon balls are launched and a Creative Lab area where kids can do all sorts of fun things.
Tickets cost $32 USD for the first two hours, and $8 USD for every hour after.
The Dubai Aquaventure water park has something for everyone in the family. The bravest can try thrilling rides, such as the tube that takes riders through a shark lagoon, while the younger ones or those who prefer a milder sort of entertainment can splash around in the children’s play area.
The Aquaventure Waterpark is part of the Atlantis resorts, however you can luckily buy a day pass. However, if you stay at the all-inclusive Atlantis resorts your ticket should be included.
Day passes are about 78 USD if you’re over 1.2 metres tall, and $64 if you’re under 1.2 metres tall. Kids age 0 to 2 are free.
Atlantis Leap of Faith Water Slide - Gabe and Garrett Go To The Bahamas! - YouTube
A Desert Adventure
Dubai has everything that humans can make, but it also has a very special, natural feature that cannot be left unexplored: the desert.
The activities that you and your family can enjoy on the arid landscape include shorter or longer rides on camel back, henna-painting and sand-boarding. Longer trips can include a night spent under the star-studded desert sky, falcon shows, dune rides and much more.
Today, the Dubai Safari occupies 100 hectares of diverse landscape.
There are pedestrian walkways lined with lush vegetation, driving tracks and desert plains, and they all make for an unforgettable experience. The park is home to over 3,000 individual animals, belonging to 250 species .
A visit to the park offers great opportunities to spot giraffes, hippos and zebras and the kids can play with the smaller, friendlier creatures in the petting zoo.
Tickets are about $14 USD for adults, and $6 USD for kids.
Dubai is a world-renowned center for entertainment technology as well. So, if your kids are in for hi-tech adventures, a day at the VR Park in Dubai’s Mall is a must see and if you have the time, a must try.
VR Park Dubai is the world’s largest VR park.
It’s on level 2 of The Dubai Mall.
It costs $24 USD for one of seven of the VR experiences.
It’s hard to talk about Dubai without bringing up great memories of Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia for me. They’re both incredible cities, with so much to offer.
We still haven’t had the chance to visit Kuala Lumpur with kids, though it was our hub on our first year-long adventure together as a couple.
On our next visit to KL, we’re definitely going to visit with children.
We may even relax a little from our usual standard of independent travel and take a tour in Kuala Lumpur to get a better feel for the local culture and food. There are some fun options, including a family-specific kick-start tour (which sounds like a perfect option for us!), a tasting tour of KL, and even a layover tour if we’re short on time!
Have you visited Dubai with kids? Do you have anything to add to our list of kids activities in Dubai that you shouldn’t miss?
Looking for Universal Orlando tips to make the budget last longer, save you time and reduce the stress load? Planning a major holiday with the family to Florida and suddenly overwhelmed by it all? We can help!
We visit the Universal Orlando theme parks every chance we get and each time compile notes and tips on the best way to maximize our time there for the next outing.
Like a lot of families visiting Orlando, some of our favorite family memories occurred during our time at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. I’m honestly not sure who enjoyed it more – us or our kids! Universal has done a stunning job of making the entire experience special and memorable!
While we’re huge fans, it’s no doubt a visit to Universal Orlando is expensive, so you’ll want to make the absolute most of your visit to the three Universal Parks, and come home with wonderful memories for yourselves!
Top Universal Orlando Tips
It’s no secret that you could spend weeks at Universal and still not see every show, enjoy every ride, and snack at every restaurant. We’ve got tips that can help save you money, and just as importantly, help save you time and hassle.
Now that Universal’s added the spectacular Volcano Bay water park, there are now three full sized parks here: Universal Studios, Universal Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay.
Visit for at least three days, but four is better
Each of the three Universal Orlando parks is huge, and you’ll only get to sample a portion of the rides, food, and activities in a park in one day.
Three days will let you dedicate a day to each park, while four days will give you a chance to go back to your favorite rides and attractions, and catch anything you missed the first time around.
Fun at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll need two days to check out Hogsmeade (in Universal Islands of Adventure) and Diagon Alley (in Universal Florida). You can visit both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley in a single day, but it would be a rushed affair, and you would miss a lot of the details that make each experience unique.
Save money by buying tickets online in advance
The last thing you want to do on your trip to Universal is spend a lot of time waiting in line buying tickets. You can save a lot of time, and even a fair bit of money, by buying tickets online in advance.
You can get this deal in two variations: four days for the price of two with a 2 park ticket to Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure. You can also get four days for the price of two with a three-park ticket for Universal’s Volcano Bay, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Florida.
Get a two day Park to Park Pass if you want to access all of the shows, rides, restaurants, and attractions at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is split between the two Universal Florida parks (Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios). Hogsmeade is in Universal Islands of Adventure, and Diagon Alley is in Universal Studios. Both Hogsmeade and Diagon Ally have unique shops, rides and experiences, so you’ll want to go to both. You’ll also need a Park to Park pass to ride the Hogwarts Express!
You could do both parks in one day, but you’d miss a lot, and you’d definitely be exhausted! On our last trip, we spent two days almost exclusively checking out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and we still didn’t see and do everything in both areas!
Save time with the Official Universal Orlando® Resort App
The free Official Orlando Resort app is a must. We used it to help plan our itinerary for the parks, and to let the kids mark the attractions they didn’t want to miss. In the park, the app was indispensable! We used it to figure out where we were and to help decide where to go to next.
Even better, the app is instantly updated with wait and show times. It’s also great for finding rides, and sorting out which restaurants to visit. Since the restaurant menus are included in the app, it also makes it really easy to pick a spot everyone in the group will enjoy.
Another bonus for the app is that you can save your parking spot so you can remember where your car is located. (Which might not sound like a big deal but trust us it is. The parking lots are huge!)
Here’s an extra helpful, time saving app tip! You can set up alerts for when ride wait times drop, saving you a lot of time waiting in line.
FYI. If you don’t have a data plan, don’t worry, there’s free WiFi available throughout the Orlando Universal parks!
There’s so much to do at Universal Florida, and tickets are pricey enough, that you’ll definitely want to maximize your time. Go as early as your ticket allows, and stay right until closing, and you can maximize your time at the parks.
We’re not early birds, but we make an effort to go as early as possible, because we always find crowds to be much lighter in the morning before noon. Try to be at the park at least half an hour before opening, or get early access. Parking opens well before the gates to the actual park does so don’t be afraid to come a few minutes earlier.
Also factor in the fairly long walk (around 10 minutes) from parking to the entrance, plus the time you’ll need to pass through the entrance line. Depending on which lot you’re coming from, there are motorized walkways from many of the parking areas that will speed your arrival.
There are also a few ways to get early access to the parks, including staying at onsite parks, or getting Unlimited Express passes, which we talk about a little later in this post.
Stay late at Universal Florida
We find that crowds at Universal really dropped off around 6 pm, in the three hours before closing, and stayed quieter until the park shuts down. This, or early morning, is the perfect time to take in the busier rides and attractions at Harry Potters Wizarding World. Since most people have experienced and left this area of the park by 6 the lines are way shorter.
If you really want to enjoy that time, I suggest you grab an early supper (Three Broomsticks is our favorite Harry Potter restaurant) at around 4:30 pm and start checking out the rides around 6 pm.
Make sure you check closing times! Closing times for Universal Studios and Universal Islands of Adventure were different when we visited.
Many of the Universal Orlando hotels include Unlimited Express Passes and early park access to help you beat the morning rush. Since the hotels are on site, you’ll be able to use the free shuttle, saving money on parking and time driving to the parks.
All on site hotels offer Early Park admission (one hour before regular opening hours) and free transportation to the Parks and CityWalk. Other perks include complimentary delivery of merchandise from the Resort to your hotel, appearances by Universal Orlando characters, and priority restaurant seating (for Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, and Loews Royal Pacific Resort).
An Express pass lets you skip the normal lines and jump in the express line.
We love the Express Passes, as they save us plenty of time in lines during the busier afternoon lineups. They’re not cheap (around $50 a person) however, when you factor in all it’s cost you to get to that point, that $50 could be the difference between getting to go on all the rides you wanted to and not.
I’d say the Express Pass is almost essential during times when the Parks are crowded like Spring Break or Christmas. That said, if you’re going during a particularly quiet time, you may want to save some money and skip the Express Pass altogether.
Important! You can’t use Express Passes at Fievel’s Playland, Pteranodon Flyers, Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides or Ko’okiri Body Plunge, but we found they were a lifesaver for other rides in the Universal Parks.
To save time in lines, use the alerts in the Official Universal Orlando® Resort App to let you know when a wait time has dropped (get it on iTunes here | Google Play).
Go during a quieter month
If you have the flexibility, try to avoid traditionally busy times like weekends, Christmas, Spring Break and summer holidays. Mid week during the off season could be your best bet.
If you have kids, child swap is one of the best time savers around. You’ll need two adults for this, but it’s a fantastic perk.
With a child swap, the entire family stands in line together. At the last moment, one adult waits with the children at the front of the line, while the other adult rides. When the first adult is done, the adults swap, and the adult who waited with the child first now goes to the front of the line.
Just tell the greeter at the front that you want to use child swap. They do this all the time, so it’s a quick and efficient process. Our son also joined both of us when our daughter decided she didn’t want to go and got to ride twice with no lining up!
For example, we used child swap on Escape from Gringotts, when our eight year old decided at the last moment that she didn’t want to go. That ride actually had a designated area for parents with small children off to the side complete with activities and monitors playing Harry Potter movie snippets.
Since a lot of the Harry Potter themed rides have unique and entertaining happenings (like walking through Gringotts bank and having the goblins give you the evil eye), the designers at Universal have filled the lineup areas with plenty to see and do as you wait for your ride. If you don’t get in line, you might miss out on more than just the ride itself.
Take the single rider line
If you want to get onto the rides even quicker, and don’t mind riding without the rest of your group, use the single rider line.
This saves a lot of time waiting in line, especially on the busier rides like Escape from Gringotts and The Hidden Journey. Though it’s usually a different line than the normal one, you can still walk in with someone and hang out with them in line and then only do the ride on your own at the end. This is a great way to go if you already went on the ride together the first time and just want a quick second or third ride for yourself.
It can also turn an hour and half Hulk roller coaster ride into a 15 minute ride! Just make sure to ask the attendants if there is a single rider lane since not all rides have it.
Note: Due to it often being a different line, both the single rider lane and Express Pass lane might bypass some of the interactive areas the designers included for the regular line bound guests. If you want to see and experience everything pre-ride, you might want to stay in the regular lines the first go around.
Pay for Preferred Parking at Universal
We get prime parking whenever we visit. It’s a great perk to have a short walk to our car at the end of a tiring day and it gets us out of the parking lot before most others.
Preferred Parking also makes the walk to the gates entrance a lot faster and gets us into the park quicker. Preferred parking is currently an additional $10 a day more than regular at $30 (it’s $20 for regular parking).
The only time I’d consider skipping Prime Parking would be if the parks are especially quiet (which is almost never!) or if we stayed in a very nearby hotel and took a taxi or Uber over. Of course, if you stay at one of the on resort parks you not only get in earlier but you also get free transportation.
Buy a wand for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
We debated getting the wands for our visit, but I’m so glad that we decided to buy one for each kid.
Wands bring shop displays to life, and really bring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter to life! Our kids used their wands at both parks. You can also bring your..