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It’s been about eleven months since we started worldschooling. Since then, I’ve shared our experience of being a worldschooling family both on this blog and in other media outlets. And we even talked about the educational benefits of traveling with our kids on CNN!

While I wouldn’t call myself an expert on worldschooling, I can say that eleven months of this experience has afforded us some valuable lessons in experiential learning. And one thing I can say, the act of travel, itself, has been so beneficial to my children and my family.

Visiting the San Diego Museum of Natural History (May 2019)
The educational benefits of traveling

There is much literature online about the educational benefits of traveling for kids. We’ve seen it first hand since going on the road. But even when we weren’t traveling full time, we saw how much our kids learned through travel.

Kids learn geography when they travel. They learn how to navigate cities and understand the importance of maps. Kids also learn about different cultures and ways of life, even if it involves travel within the same country.

One of the more important educational benefits of traveling is that it gives kids a sense of place in the world. They understand the role they play, and gain empathy for others. Travel helps them see the inequities of the world, and also the potential of the world. It truly helps kids become global citizens.

At the African American museum in DC (September 2018)
Tips for adopting a worldschooling philosophy to your travels

Even if you’re not a full-time traveling family like us, your kids can still gain from the experiential learning experiences that travel has to offer. Friends ask me how hard it is to worldschool. And I reply that it’s actually pretty easy.

Worldschooling doesn’t have to be a complete replacement of traditional schooling (or homeschooling). Instead, it can supplement the educational activities you already do with your kids.

If you’re curious about how you can incorporate a worldschooling philosophy to your travels, here are some suggestions you can try on your next trip.

Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston (September 2018)
Read books about the places you visit

We love experiential learning. But we also love reading books. Before your next trip, take some time to read up on the places you plan to visit.

As we’ve been preparing for our upcoming travels to Italy, we’ve been reading up on Ancient Rome. Our local public library has a great selection of ebooks, which gives us access to books, without us having to lug actual books with us.

Reading books in DC (September 2018) Use YouTube to encourage visual learning

Parents like to bash on YouTube, much like they did with TV a generation ago.

“It will rot your brain. It’s all garbage,” is the common refrain.

But the smart parent knows that YouTube can be a valuable tool in your worldschooling toolkit.

When we go to a new place, we’ll watch videos of the places we’re visiting. Before we went swimming with dolphins in Mexico, for example, we watched several videos to learn about dolphins. And when we went on our Canopy Tour in Costa Rica, we learned about the different levels of the rainforest.

Videos are a great way to encourage visual learning. There are a lot of educational channels on YouTube that worldschooling families can use as resources.

Taking a canopy tour in Costa Rica (March 2019)
Create scavenger hunts

My kids love scavenger hunts. When we go to museums, we like it when they have scavenger hunts to get the kids engaged in the museum. But even if a place doesn’t offer a scavenger hunt, you can still reap the benefits of experiential learning by creating one yourself for your kids.

For our upcoming trip to Italy, we talked about the various ingredients that go into making pizza, all the way to its source. I drew some of the sources (farms, olive mills, dairies) onto a page and made it into a scavenger hunt for our kids. As we travel through Italy, we’ll check off the items on our list.

A scavenger hunt for our Italy trip (May 2019)
Ask your kids “why” questions

I’m a big believer of the Socratic method. Kids can learn a lot by simply asking questions.

When you travel with your kids, turn the tables and ask them questions. Ask why they think things are done a certain way. Ask your kids how they think things were made. And ask them what they might have done differently.

Posing questions to your kids helps them think critically about the experiences they are having. It’s a key component to experiential learning, and makes worldschooling successful.

Looking at penguins in Guadalajara (March 2019)
Seeking out experiential learning activities

We love traveling with our kids, and with think there are so many educational benefits to traveling. If you’re planning a trip with your kids, take some time to seek out experiential learning activities with your kids, not just ones that will be entertaining.

Any family can be a worldschooling family. There is so much that kids can learn from the world, and it doesn’t take much to help them learn!

Are you a worldschooling family? What are some of the educational benefits of traveling you’ve experienced with your kids? Share them in the comments below.

Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.

Do you enjoy The Wandering Daughter blog? Like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to get the latest news on family travel.

The post Incorporating Worldschooling Into Your Travels appeared first on The Wandering Daughter - Family Travel.

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For our last few weeks in Mexico, we decided to spend the time living in San Miguel de Allende. We had visited the city before, back in November. And we knew that there were plenty of things to do in San Miguel de Allende for families.

In all honesty, it was a toss up between Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, in terms of where we would spend our final weeks in Mexico. We loved the fact that not very many foreign tourists visit Guanajuato, and it truly felt like a city where we could live. But at the same time, we knew that a few traveling families we know live in San Miguel de Allende. We were looking forward meeting up with them again before we left Mexico.

We ultimately chose San Miguel de Allende. Part of the reason why we chose San Miguel de Allende was its intimate feel and romantic looking streets. But another reason was to experience the San Miguel de Allende art once again.

A mosaic mural at the Chapel of Jimmy Ray (May 2019)
Artful living in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is popular among art lovers. There are dozens of private galleries throughout the city selling San Miguel de Allende art. In addition, the Mercado Artesanal in the center of town sells a variety of traditional local art. The city is known for being an artist colony.

Our observations from living in San Miguel de Allende, and other parts of Mexico, for the past six months have shown us how artful and creative Mexican culture is. Art finds its way into many aspects of Mexican culture: the colorful piñatas during the holidays, the lively music and singing, and the multi-colored artwork of the indigenous groups.

While there are many art galleries and museums you can choose to visit in San Miguel de Allende, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite. Here are four unique places to experience San Miguel de Allende art.

Masks at the Mask Museum (May 2019)
Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramierez El Nigromante

The Centro Cultural Ignacio Ramirez El Nigromante is a great place to view public San Miguel de Allende art. The center was once a convent, and was later converted into an accredited art school.

These days, the Centro Cultural contains art galleries with rotating exhibits that are open to the public. The building is laid out around a central courtyard, and there are several beautiful murals that line the wall. One room at the Centro Cultural even contains an unfinished mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros. Despite never being completed, the geometric patterns and lines of the mural give it a unique and interesting feel.

The Centro Cultural is free to enter. There is a cafe in the building, so art lovers who are living in San Miguel de Allende often come to the Center Cultural to view art and have a snack or coffee.

Walking through the Centro Cultural (May 2019)
The Mask Museum

Located near the Mercado Artesanal, the Mask Museum is the private collection of Bill LeVasseur. It’s located in the bed and breakfast that Bill owns, and is open for viewing by appointment only. Admission is 100 pesos per person.

The museum contains over 500 masks. Bill, who has been living in San Miguel de Allende for almost two decades, enjoys collecting masks used by the various cultures throughout Mexico, and learning about the stories and traditions behind those masks.

His wife, Heidi, is also a collector, but of the folk art variety. Her gallery of San Miguel de Allende art features works by various indigenous and Mexican artist. The gallery is also located at the bed and breakfast.

A mask at the Mask Museum (May 2019)
The Chapel of Jimmy Ray

When it comes to unique places to see San Miguel de Allende art, the Chapel of Jimmy Ray takes the cake! The Chapel of Jimmy Ray is actually not a chapel, but an art gallery. It’s the private home of artist, Anado McLauchlin, located outside of San Miguel de Allende, in the village of La Cieneguita.

Anado has been living in San Miguel de Allende and its surroundings for 18 years. His property is sprawling, with beautifully decorated buildings serving as art galleries and unique sculptures and mosaic murals through the grounds. There’s even a bathroom with a composting toilet that is bedecked inside and out with mosaic art.

Anado is a welcoming host and guide, and clearly loves sharing his art with others. We even had a chance to peek inside his home and workshop! Call ahead to set up an appointment for a tour of the Chapel of Jimmy Ray, and expect to pay a donation of 100 pesos per person.

Bathroom at the Chapel of Jimmy Ray (May 2019)
Fabrica La Aurora

One of the places we wished we could have spent more time in is the Fabrica La Aurora. It’s a former textile factory that has since been converted to a cultural arts and design center. The center is a great place to see local art, and art from throughout Mexico.

La Aurora hosts art workshops and classes. There are also art galleries, furniture shops, and cafes throughout its grounds. We loved walking through the halls of the actual factory building and seeing parts of the old factory on display. And it’s just a fun place to hang out if you’re living in San Miguel de Allende.

Walking at Fabrica La Aurora (May 2019)
Experiencing San Miguel De Allende Art

Our time living in San Miguel de Allende made us appreciate art so much. We loved walking through the public galleries and seeing beautiful works of art. We even enjoyed seeing the art in stores and cafes!

The joy of travel is that it helps you enjoy unique aspects of life. In San Miguel de Allende, we learned to appreciate creativity and self-expression.

Have you experienced art while visiting or living in San Miguel de Allende? Share your experiences in the comments!

Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.

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The post Where To Experience Art While Living in San Miguel De Allende appeared first on The Wandering Daughter - Family Travel.

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Last week was the start of the month of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting for Muslims around the world. I always look forward to this month, and even though this year is a bit different, as I’m fasting while traveling and observing the month in a predominantly Catholic country, I am still enjoying this annual opportunity for introspection and reflection.

If you know me well, or have read previous posts from my blog, you’ll know that I’m a Muslim. While I don’t pray five times a day, and have not yet done my pilgrimage to Mecca, I do try my best to follow the other Islamic pillars of faith: belief in one God (Allah), fasting during Ramadan, and giving alms to the poor (zakat).  

Ever since I was little, I have always observed Ramadan. And despite traveling during Ramadan this year, I plan to try my best to fast during this month.

Flying on my first day of Ramadan (May 2019)
What is Ramadan

So what exactly is Ramadan?  Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. It was the month that the Quran (Islam’s holy book) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Throughout the month, Muslims read through the Quran as a way to renew their faith and belief each year.

Muslims follow a lunar calendar, so the dates of Ramadan always shift. It falls approximately eleven days earlier each year. The month itself starts from the first sighting of the new moon, and lasts until the next new moon, roughly 30-31 days. During this whole time period, Muslims abstain from eating from sunrise to sunset. They have a breakfast, called sahur, before the sun rises. And the fast is broken at sunset with a meal called iftar.

Although you may think this time of year is a time of hardship for Muslims, it’s also a time of celebration. If you happen to be traveling during Ramadan and you find yourself in a Muslim community, you’ll see the streets come alive during and after iftar. Families and friends will share iftar meals together. And as part of our obligation as Muslims, we must provide alms to the poor before the month is over.

Fasting creates a sense of solidarity with those who are less fortunate. Even when I’m fasting while traveling abroad, the act of it helps me empathize with what those in need experience on a regular basis.

Traveling right before Ramadan (May 2019)
Islam’s rules for fasting while traveling

Contrary to popular belief, Islam is not a completely strict religion. Even though it may have rules regarding diet (no pork) and worship (separation of men and women), the rules on fasting still center around your own personal health and well-being.

The rules of fasting instructs that only those whose health is strong enough to handle the fast can fast. That means, if you’re sick, if you’re a young child, if you’re menstruating, or even if you’re pregnant, you’re exempt from fasting. Essentially, if the act of fasting puts your health at risk, then don’t do it.

When it comes to fasting while traveling, that exemption also stands. If you’re a Muslim who is traveling during Ramadan, you can postpone your fast until a later time when you’re done traveling.

This stems from the early years of Islam, when Muslims would have to travel through deserts for days at a time, with no water or food in sight. Since the possibility of food wasn’t always a guarantee, fasting was literally a health risk.

These days, travel is a lot less difficult, but it can still be challenging to find meals when you’re on the road. That’s why the exemption still exists, to give travelers one less thing to worry about.

For me, since we slow travel, our days are actually quite routine. It’s not any more challenging for me to be fasting while traveling than if I were doing it at home. Except for days when I am flying, or if I’m doing a work-related food activity, like the culinary walking tour of San Miguel, I’m planning on fasting during the whole month of Ramadan.

Transiting through Dulles Airport (May 2019)
Five tips for traveling during Ramadan

Fasting while traveling abroad doesn’t have to be a difficult thing. The key is to stay prepared. If you’re Muslim, here are a few of my tips to help you get through traveling during Ramadan.

Tip 1: Allow yourself some flexibility

As in any travel situation, an important trait to have is flexibility. In travel, you never know what might happen. For example, Muslims usually break their fast with a date. But if you’re traveling to a place where dates aren’t readily available, choose something else to break your fast.

If you’re a traveler visiting a Muslim country during Ramadan, be flexible in your meal times. Restaurants will most likely be closed during the day, so plan your day accordingly.

Tip 2: Put your health first

As I mentioned before, if fasting puts your health at risk, then don’t it. Fasting while traveling can be a challenge because your body is already exhausted from the physical act of traveling. Adding a fast to that exhaustion can sometimes make things worse. Stay aware of your body, and make sure that you’re not jeopardizing your health by fasting while traveling abroad.

Tip 3: Choose breakfasts that are high in protein

Travelers don’t always have access to food when they’re on the road, and making yourself breakfast in the morning can be somewhat of a challenge. If you’re fasting while traveling, try to choose foods that are high in protein for sahur. This will help keep your appetite at bay throughout the day.

Tip 4: Don’t overexert yourself

Traveling can often involve a lot of physical activity: hiking in a forest, swimming in the ocean, climbing up ancient monuments. If you’re fasting while traveling, though, try not to over exert yourself. Even walking through a city and sight-seeing can take its toll if you haven’t eaten food or sipped water for the whole day.

Breaking my fast with tacos (May 2019)
Fasting while traveling abroad

For Muslim travelers, fasting while traveling abroad doesn’t have to be challenging. With some flexibility, you can still practice your faith and explore the world.

I’m looking forward to how the rest of the month pans out. By the time Ramadan ends, we’ll be in Italy. And with any luck, I’ll be enjoying an Italian feast as I celebrate Eid! Until then, Ramadan Mubarak!

Do you have experience with fasting while traveling? Share them in the comments below.

Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.

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San Miguel de Allende is fast becoming one of the foodie capitals of Mexico. Since becoming named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2008, and being featured on Condé Nast as best city two years in a row, throngs of tourists flock to the city to tour San Miguel de Allende and enjoy the amazing San Miguel de Allende restaurants. You can pretty much find any type of cuisine in the world in this town!

One of the ways we like to get to know a city is through its food. We’ve been enjoying eating Peruvian food, Italian food, and even Japanese food while here in San Miguel de Allende. And of course, since we are in Mexico, we are trying to get our fill of Mexican food while we are here.

Another way we like to get to know a city is by taking walking tours. We recently partnered with Taste of San Miguel, who leads San Miguel de Allende tours through food. It was a fun (and tasty!) way to get to know San Miguel de Allende!

Walking through San Miguel de Allende (November 2018)
Tour San Miguel de Allende with Taste of San Miguel

Taste of San Miguel was created to provide visitors a chance to tour San Miguel de Allende from an off-the-beaten-path perspective. They were one of the first companies to offer culinary tours of San Miguel de Allende restaurants.

There are five San Miguel de Allende tours that Taste of San Miguel offers: Downton San Miguel; An Evening in San Miguel; Tacos and Tequila; Chocolate and Cobblestone; and Landmarks and Lunch.

Each tour runs between two and a half to four hours long, and is priced between $45-$80 per person. All of them are walking tours, so be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes as you visit all the San Miguel de Allende restaurants on the tour. You can also arrange to privately tour San Miguel de Allende. Private culinary tours start at $45 per person.

The San Miguel de Allende tours are led by knowledgeable guides who infuse stories of the city’s history into the food experience. Our guide for the Downtown San Miguel Tour was Vail, an American who has lived in San Miguel de Allende for over 20 years!

Walking tour with Taste of San Miguel (May 2019)
Our favorite San Miguel de Allende restaurants

During our time in San Miguel de Allende (both this time and back in November), we’ve enjoyed visiting all the San Miguel de Allende restaurants. The city truly has a range of international and local cuisine. And the prices of San Miguel de Allende restaurants range from cheap to expensive.

Our family has a wide variety of tastes. We love street food AND we love upscale restaurants. Here are some of our favorite San Miguel de Allende restaurants we’ve visited, both on our own and on the Taste of San Miguel tour.

Stopping for a picture during our walking tour (May 2019)
La Parada

We stumbled upon this Peruvian restaurant back in November, but visited again during our food tour. In Peru, La Parada is one of the largest markets in Lima. But in Mexico, la parada means bus stop, so the whole restaurant has a bus theme.

Since the chef is Le Cordon Bleu-trained, the food is upscale. We had a Chilean sea bass ceviche, (raw fish marinated in lime juice) that was topped with corn and toasted coconuts. Delicious!

Ceviche at La Parada (May 2019)
Mercado Del Carmen

As the name might suggests, Mercado Del Carmen is actually a handful of San Miguel de Allende restaurants all in one. A market of restaurants, so to speak.

We like going here because there really is something for everyone. You can sample Mexican tacos, Peruvian cuisine, Japanese sushi, or just order fupscale hamburgers. The open area seating gives kids some room to run around if they need to, and you can occasionally hear live music.

Agua de Jamaica at Mercado Del Carmen (May 2019)
La Casa Del Diezmo

We didn’t have a chance to visit the Yucatan peninsula while we were here in Mexico. Fortunately, during our tour with Taste of San Miguel, we stopped at La Casa Del Diezmo to sample their tacos.

We love the location of La Casa Del Diezmo, set in the courtyard of a traditional Mexican colonial building. The space is filled with gardens, and gives off an intimate and romantic feel.

Chicken tacos at La Casa Del Diezmo (May 2019)
Cafe De La Parroquia

Another of the San Miguel de Allende restaurants that we had been meaning to visit was Cafe De La Parroquia, set in the same building as BajioGo, a transport company which we’ve used often while in San Miguel de Allende.

We stopped at La Parroquia during our Taste of San Miguel tour to sample their tamales, cornmeal stuffed with filling and steamed in corn husks. We tried their cheese tamales and their chicken with green salsa tamales. In Mexican cuisine, tamales date back to pre-Hispanic times. Our guide informed us that they have been around for 7,000 years!

Tamales at Cafe De La Parroquia (May 2019)
Sabroso Taqueria

Our family is in love with tacos. In six months of living in Mexico, we still haven’t gotten sick of them! While we normally will seek out street taco stands, we do enjoy eating upscale tacos as well.

We like Sabroso Taqueria because they have a variety of tacos to choose from, including vegetarian tacos. I love their nopal (cactus) tacos and their cauliflower tacos, but you can also choose from jamaica (hibiscus flower), plantains, and chickpeas. There are also beef and pork tacos, for non-vegetarians.

Vegetarian tacos at Sabroso Taqueria (May 2019)
La Cocina, Cafe Del Viajero

One of the other San Miguel de Allende restaurants that we stopped at during our tour was La Cocina. According to our guide, the restaurant was originally called The Traveler’s Cafe. However, due to a large street side window looking into the kitchen of the restaurants, locals often referred to the restaurant as La Cocina.

During our tour, we sampled chicken enmoladas, chicken enchiladas smothered in mole. I love the complexity of mole, a sauce which can contain as little as 15 ingredients to as many as 70 ingredients.

Chicken enomolada at La Cocina (May 2019)
Cafe Eluney

Down the street from our Airbnb, on Refugio Norte in the San Antonio neighborhood, is a small cafe called Cafe Eluney. Only open for  breakfast and lunch, they serve the best mushroom quesadillas and tortas that I’ve ever tasted!

The cafe has an upstairs room with games, couches, and pillows, and a rooftop terrace. Cafe Eluney also serves coffee and specialty juices.

Eating breakfast at Cafe Eluney (May 2019)
The fondas of Mercado Artesanias

Whenever we can, we like to eat where the locals eat. When we were in San Miguel de Allende in November, we stayed near the Mercado Artesanias. Besides finding a variety of artisanal goods at the market, you can also find fresh produce and small family-run food stalls, called fondas.

Our favorite dish to order at the fondas are gorditas, thick corn tortillas stuffed with beans and either meat or nopales. The prices are very cheap. We could feed our family of four for around $150 pesos!

Walking through Mercado Artesanias (November 2018)
Tasty and fun San Miguel de Allende tours

There is so much that families can enjoy about San Miguel de Allende, especially it’s culinary scene! I’ve been impressed by many of the San Miguel de Allende restaurants I’ve visited.

If you’re planning to stay in San Miguel de Allende for an extended period of time, then you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try out many of the restaurants in the city. But if you’re only here for a short time, I highly recommend taking the San Miguel de Allende tours with Taste of San Miguel. You’ll learn a lot about San Miguel de Allende’s history, AND leave with a full belly!

Have you had a chance to tour San Miguel de Allende through its food? Share your experiences in the comments!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. We received a free tour of San Miguel de Allende restaurants from Taste of San Miguel, in exchange for writing this post. However, the opinions expressed in this blog post are completely my own.

Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.

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I never expected to become a travel influencer. When I entered college almost two decades ago, I had grand visions of changing the world. Although I knew I wanted a career in travel, I didn’t know what that meant exactly.

For years, I thought that changing the world meant doing something big. I joined the Peace Corps, and volunteered in West Africa for two years. I went to grad school, and embarked on a career in international development. And I worked on more than 15 projects in at least eight countries around the world in my ten year career in global health.

Yet, I still felt like I wasn’t doing enough to make a difference in the world. I wasn’t using my voice in a way that impacted people.

Traveling in Zambia for work (September 2016)
Discovering the world of blogging

I started blogging in 2004, before the term “travel influencers” was even a part of the common vernacular. My blog, which I built on Tripod.com, was an online diary of my experiences in the Peace Corps. I had no intention of becoming a travel influencer.

But I knew I wanted to write. In 2007, I switched over to Blogger and created The Wandering Daughter. It was nothing like the site it is today. Just like my very first blog, it was a collection of my personal musings. It wasn’t until 2014, seven years after I had started the blog, that I decided to take it into the direction of family travel. And only in 2016 did I realize I could potentially lead an influencer lifestyle because of my blog.

A lot of people ask me if starting a blog is easy. The short answer is yes. Anyone can put together a website and start publishing their thoughts and photos online. But making a career out of blogging, is tough.

I recently came back from the fifth annual Women in Travel Summit in Portland, Maine, and met hundreds of women influencers who can tell you that blogging as a career is hard work! Especially in the world of travel, it’s a hustle to make it as a travel influencer.

Blogger selfie at WITS in Portland (May 2019)
Building a career as a travel influencer

As I mentioned, despite blogging for more than a decade, it’s only in the last few years that I started focusing on building a career as a travel influencer. Before I quit my career in global health, I was blogging on the side. In my spare time, I published blog posts about our family’s travels. I followed other travel influencers. And I engaged with other bloggers on social media, in the hopes of creating a community of families who love travel.

The myth behind the influencer lifestyle is that growing a following and getting brands to sponsor you is easy. “As long as you create great content,” the blogging coaches say, “people will find you.”

The truth is, it’s a slow build. There are over 4 million blog posts created each day. The odds of your blog post catching the attention of someone who is not your mom or your best friend are slim, unless you know a thing or two about how search engines work.

Like in any career, there is a learning curve. I spent years learning the ins and outs of being a travel influencer. I learned about search engine optimization (SEO), I learned how to properly pitch brands and magazines, and I learned techniques to grow my social media following. Today, I feel more confident about my knowledge and skills than I did even a year ago. But I know there’s still a lot more for me to learn.   

The tools of a travel influencer
Connecting with a community of women influencers

One of the things that helps me immensely is connecting with other travel influencers. And it’s not just sending a tweet at someone or commenting on their Facebook page. I mean really connecting. Face to face.

In my opinion, the best way to connect with others is at conferences. And for women influencers, one of the best travel conferences is the Women In Travel Summit.

The first WITS I attended was in 2016 in Irvine, California. I remember how terrified I was walking into the ballroom for the opening keynote. “I don’t belong here,” I thought to myself, “I have a nothing blog. How can I even call myself a travel influencer or a blogger?”

Yet, that first year, I connected with women who were in the same stage of blogging as me. And I connected with women influencers who had followers in the thousands. They all accepted me as an equal, and I loved how inclusive the conference was. I learned so much from that first conference that I signed up again the following year. Again, I met women influencers who I now consider friends, and who have taught me so much about the business of blogging.

By the time my third WITS came along, in Portland, I was practically a veteran. In fact, I even led a panel discussion on family travel with my fellow family travel influencers at the conference. And I offered mentoring sessions to new bloggers. The realization that I now have valuable knowledge that I can pass on to others brings this whole travel influencer journey full circle for me!  

Family travel writers on my panel (May 2019)
The reality of the travel influencer lifestyle

People often think the influencer lifestyle is easy, especially for traveler influencers. All you’re doing is traveling and taking pictures, right? In reality, being a travel influencer takes real work.

In many cases, especially for really successful travel influencers, it’s a full-time job that requires a team. While I’m not at the level of having a staff, I do spend about 15-30 hours a week on The Wandering Daughter, especially since becoming a digital nomad. At this point, it’s my job. And it’s what helps sustain our family’s travel experiences.

Partnering with ChocoMuseo in Costa Rica (March 2019)
It’s a business, not a hobby

The thing that sets real travel influencers apart from hobby bloggers is our commitment to our blogs as a business. One of the big turning points in my blogging career was when I started treating my blog as a business rather than a hobby. I acquired a business license. I registered my blog name as a trademark. And I began to look at my activities and expenses with an eye towards its potential return on investment.

At the end of the day, travel influencers are marketers. What we market is travel. So if I’m working with a brand, I always try and show how our partnership or collaboration can help bring more potential consumers to their brand.

The primary tool of business for a travel influencer
Travel is only part of the job

Another myth about travel influencers is that all we do is travel. “It must be nice,” people say, “to be on vacation all the time.” In reality, travel is only a fraction of what we do!

For every blog post I publish, there is at least twenty non-travel related tasks that go into it. This includes researching relevant keywords, editing photos, pitching brands or destinations, scheduling social media posts, and tracking traffic analytics on that particular post. As I said before, being a travel influencer is a 15-30 hour a week job for me, and travel is just a fraction of that job.  

Transiting through Dulles Airport (May 2019)
Hard-working professionals

Travel influencers get a bad rap! The stories of the hotel and resort owners publicly shaming influencers who request a free stay in exchange for a social media campaign make it seem like all travel influencers are lazy people looking for a free trip. But in reality, we are hard-working professionals.

For those of us who live the influencer lifestyle, we know that so much of what makes us successful relies on maintaining a level of professionalism. If we’re working with a brand or a destination, we show up on time, we are respectful, and we make sure that we maintain a good relationship with our brand or destination partners.  

Partnering with La Vida Bella Tours (April 2019)
Using our voice to make a difference

The most important part of being a travel influencer is understanding the power of our influence. We have a voice, and a platform to use our voice, and it’s up to us to use it responsibly.

To me, this means educating others to travel in a more sustainable and ethical way. It means using my words to shape the travel industry and how people view travel. And it means giving voice to others who may be marginalized or overlooked. The beauty of being a travel influencer is that if you are up for the challenge, you literally have the power to change the world!

Hanging out in Puerto Vallarta (April 2019)
Not all travel influencers are bad!

Let it to be known that not all travel influencers are bad! The majority of us are hard-working writers, photographers, and storytellers, trying to encourage others to explore more of the world. It’s a shame that the few who are only in it for the freebies are creating a negative view of travel influencers for others.

As I continue on my blogging career, I know that I will need to keep learning and evolving. Like my fellow women influencers that I connected with at WITS, I am constantly dreaming up plans for new projects for The Wandering Daughter. I even have plans for reviving old projects that have fallen to the wayside.

So stay tuned to see what I have in store for you! And let’s stop making “travel influencer” a bad word!

Are you a travel influencer? Share what it’s like for you in the comments.

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When you’re traveling with kids, you have to find ways to make travel fun for them. We often enjoy taking the kids to museums and cultural activities, or doing active exploration with them. But sometimes a day of entertainment can be nice to balance out all the learning. That’s why, during our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, we knew we needed to do the pirate ship cruise.

The Marigalante Pirate Ship is one of the most popular of the Puerto Vallarta attractions offered to tourists. Walk through the streets of Centro, or along the malecon, and you’ll see plenty of advertisements for the Puerto Vallarta pirate ship, and the tours and shows that go along with the pirate ship. You can take your pick from a day cruise, a night tour, or a Mexico-themed night tour.

Although the prices for these tours are a bit hefty ($113 with the special online discount for adults, and $57 with the discount for kids), it’s nice to give our family a splurge from time to time. We chose the day tour, as it seemed to have more kid-friendly activities. Fortunately, the pirate ship cruise did not disappoint. Our family had a great time all throughout the cruise.

Walking to the pirate ship cruise (April 2019)
The real history behind the Puerto Vallarta pirates

Although the pirate ship cruise in Puerto Vallarta exists purely for entertainment, there is some truth to the area’s fascination with pirates. Before the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500’s, the area was inhabited by the Aztatlan people.

When the Spanish came, they somehow convinced the Aztatlan people that they were strong and powerful, despite being outnumbered 100 to 20,000. One story I read described how a large image of the Virgin of Guadalupe was illuminated by rays of sunlight during the skirmish. The Aztatlan believed it to be a miracle, so they succumbed to the Spanish. The Spanish named the area Banderas Bay, after the flags they flew during the conquest.

After Spanish conquest, Banderas Bay became a stopping point for Spanish ships involved in trade between Mexico and the Philippines. The Manila Galleon, a Spanish trade ship, plied the route between Acapulco and Manila (with a stop in Banderas Bay) from the late 1500’s to the early 1800’s. The ships carried silver from the nearby area, as well as tobacco and chocolate, and brought back spices, jade, and other things from Asia.

As a result of Banderas Bay’s popularity among the trade routes, the area also became a popular spot for pirates. They often attacked incoming ships, plundering the goods, and hiding out in the nearby area. Pirates also smuggled goods in an out of the bay.

Fortunately, these days, the only pirates you’ll find in Banderas Bay are the ones performing on the Puerto Vallarta pirate ship. They’re much friendlier than actual ruthless and dangerous pirates.

The view of Banderas Bay from Yelapa (April 2019)
Riding the Puerto Vallarta pirate ship

The Puerto Vallarta pirate ship, itself, has a pretty interesting story. The Marigalante was built in 1980 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Spain coming to the Americas. It was modeled after Christopher Columbus’ Spanish galleon, the Santa Maria.

Before becoming a staple in Puerto Vallarta attractions, the Marigalante sailed around the world. It retraced the trade routes that Spain used to have with the Americas. Overall, it visited over 87 ports, including ones in Spain, Japan, and Ecuador.

These days, the ship ports in Puerto Vallarta, and no longer does long ocean routes. Instead, it takes Puerto Vallarta visitors on tours around the bay. The exterior of the ship is remarkable to see. The ship itself is made of wood, and you can really see the details that they did to make it look like a pirate ship. You feel like you’re stepping back in time.

The interior, on the other hand, has been arranged specifically for the pirate ship cruise. The bow (front) holds the main stage for the pirate show, while the audience sits on the deck or above the stern (back) of the ship. Also in the stern is the gift shop and restrooms. Down below, in the berth, is where the kitchen and dining area is. I’m sure this Puerto Vallarta pirate ship looks much different now than it did during its around the world sailing days!    

The Marigalante pirate ship (April 2019)
What to expect on your pirate ship cruise

As far as Puerto Vallarta attractions go, the pirate ship cruise is a must for families wanting something entertaining and fun. Think of it like Puerto Vallarta’s version of Universal Studios. It’s definitely not meant to be a culturally accurate experience. But we still enjoyed spending time out on the cruise.

On-ship entertainment

The on-ship entertainment on the Puerto Vallarta pirate ship makes the experience fun and enjoyable for the family. The show is completely bilingual, so even kids can follow along. The show has dancing, singing, and plenty of action and fighting. And the content is completely family-friendly.

Watching the pirate show during our cruise (April 2019)
Attentive service

During the tour, guests are assigned their own personal pirate. Ours was Pirate Angel. The personal pirate serves drinks and meals while on board, and also serves drinks during the stop on the beach. I like how the cruise does that, because we really felt like we were receiving attentive and personalized service!

Hanging out with Pirate Angel (April 2019)
Plenty of beach fun

The best part of the pirate ship cruise is of course the beach play! You won’t get this perk on the evening cruises, only on the day cruises. The Puerto Vallarta pirate ship takes visitors to Majahuitas beach, where activities like kayaking, beach volleyball, snorkeling, and banana boat riding are all set up for you. There’s even a bar on the beach, so while the kids are off doing their treasure hunt, led by one of the pirates, the grown-ups can enjoy a cold drink on the beach!

Riding the banana boat in Puerto Vallarta (April 2019)
Enjoying Puerto Vallarta attractions

Out of all the Puerto Vallarta attractions, the pirate ship cruise is definitely one of my favorites! Even though the cruise is about 6 hours long, we didn’t feel bored one single minute of the cruise. There is so much entertainment, the hours just flew by!

If you’re planning on visiting Puerto Vallarta, consider booking a cruise on the Puerto Vallarta pirate ship. And if you’re planning to spend a bit longer in the city, take some time to explore all of the other Puerto Vallarta attractions too!

Have you done a pirate ship cruise with your family? Share you experience with me in the comments below!

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The post Ahoy Matey! Taking A Pirate Ship Cruise in Puerto Vallarta appeared first on The Wandering Daughter - Family Travel.

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When we travel, we often focus on what we’ll get from an experience. We think about the lessons we’ll learn, the challenges we’ll face, and the things we’ll see. Rarely do we think about the impact we make as travelers. As my family and I have been traveling throughout the world, I’ve been thinking more about how my family’s actions impact the places we visit. I really want to make sure that my family and I are practicing sustainable and responsible tourism.

We’ve been visiting a lot of popular tourist destinations lately. I can’t help wonder how tourism has impacted those destinations over the years. While I’m sure these places have benefited economically from tourism, I’m curious if the cultures and demographics have changed as a result.

I still hold to the idea that travel is ultimately a force for good. But as the travel industry evolves, and as more and more people travel, I think it’s time that we start thinking about socially responsible tourism.

Touring with a local company in Puerto Vallarta (April 2019)
What is socially responsible tourism?

Socially responsible tourism involves being mindful about the impact our actions have when we travel. It’s making sure that what we’re doing isn’t hurting the people, the environment, or the destination that we’re visiting.

Sometimes we think that a certain activity is harmless. Staying at a beach resort. Posing for a picture with an animal. Eating at a popular ethnic restaurant. But when we dig down further, we realize that these activities are actually causing harm.

That beach resort may have been built on land that was formerly the habitat of an endangered species. The tiger that tourist pose with for photos was drugged by its handlers so that it could stay calm. The ethnic restaurant that’s all the rage is owned and operated by people who have no connection to that culture (or even worse, never even traveled there).

Socially responsible tourism means looking beyond the surface to see the consequences and impacts of the things we experience as travelers. We need to look at the long term effects of tourism in a destination, and choose things that will benefit (rather than harm) the destinations in the long run. As travelers, it’s time we start practicing sustainable and responsible tourism.

Taking a tour from a local guide in Costa Rica (March 2019)
Ways to practice sustainable and responsible tourism

I’ve written about how to practice sustainable and responsible tourism before. But I felt like there was so much that I didn’t get a chance to cover. As we continue on our travels, we come across new situations that force us to pause and think about how to travel responsibly.

Practicing sustainable and responsible tourism is no simple feat. It’s complicated and nuanced, and there will always be areas that fall in the gray. Something that you think might be helpful can have unintended negative consequences. It’s sometimes hard to know how to be a responsible traveler.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to socially responsible tourism, here are a few tips on how to travel responsibly with your family.

Taking a rest during a hike in Mexico (November 2018)
Hotels

We hardly ever stay in hotels, mainly because it can get quite expensive for our family. When we do stay in hotels, our aim is to choose locally owned ones. Sometimes it can be hard to determine whether the owner of a hotel is a local or a foreigner until after you get there. One way we maximize our chances of supporting a locally owned hotel is to avoid staying at international chains.

Another thing to consider is the environmental impact of staying at hotels. How often are they changing sheets or washing towels? A family we know puts the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door when they go out, so that housekeeping will skip their room. We don’t go so far as doing that, but we do small things like shutting off the AC when we leave, or making sure to hang our towels instead of leaving them on the floor.

A more complicated issue to consider is the physical space that your hotel is taking up. Is it a sprawling resort, occupying acres of grounds with one-room bungalows? Or is it a high rise in a city? Consider what occupied that land before the hotel existed. Is the hotel employing local staff? Do they seem to enjoy their jobs? A big part of sustainable and responsible tourism is being mindful of the travel choices you make, and understanding the implications of those choices.

Playing at a locally-owned hotel in Bali (September 2015)
Airbnb

Airbnb gets a bad rap among those who advocate for socially responsible tourism. Many are quick to point out how Airbnb is pushing out locals from the tourist-heavy destinations, as owners start to favor short-term rentals over long-term ones. But I personally think the issue of gentrification is more complicated than simply pointing the blame to Airbnb.  

From a family traveler perspective, the one thing that Airbnb has done is help make travel more accessible for more families. Our Airbnb in Puerto Vallarta cost us roughly $60 per night. If we had stayed in a hotel, it would have cost us $15 more per night, not to mention the added costs of eating out for every meal (rather than being able to cook our own meals from time to time). For a full-time traveling family like us, that extra $15 a night equates to over $5,000 over the course of a year!

I can’t deny that Airbnb hasn’t had an impact on the travel industry since its inception. But one way that we can practice sustainable and responsible tourism when it comes to Airbnb is to choose properties that are owned by locals. Take a look at the owner’s profiles and see where they’re based. And try to choose owners with single listings, rather than multiple listings.

Enjoying my locally-owned Airbnb in Mexico (January 2019)
Tipping

I got into a heated online debate with someone about the topic of tipping. This person was saying that over-tipping, especially in countries where wages are low, helps compensate for the low wages that person is getting. I argue, though, that over-tipping is harmful to people in the long run.

For one thing, in places where the locals make a low wage, tourists tipping high at a restaurant will eventually lead servers and restaurants to favor tourists over locals. Ultimately, the locals are driven out, or out-priced. When it comes to tipping, being mindful of the long-term impact of your tip is important for sustainable and responsible tourism.

On a much longer term scale, the existence of tips provides no incentive for employers to increase the wages of their employees. If employees are making good money from tips, then employers can justify keeping the wages low, since the tips will cover the remainder of pay. You see this in the US, where the minimum wage for tipped employees in at least 18 states is $2.13, even though the federal minimum wage is $7.25.   

An Indonesian meal in Sumatra (September 2015)
Teaching our kids how to be a responsible traveler

For families, my best suggestion is to do your research beforehand. Practicing sustainable and responsible tourism is so important for parents, because your kids are learning from what you do. Whether you know it or not, you’re teaching them how to be a responsible traveler just by modeling behavior.

I have to admit, my family and I don’t live this every day. We’ve stayed at international chain hotels. We’ve booked Airbnbs that were owned by foreigners. And we have given high tips to servers or tour guides. The thing with practicing sustainable and responsible tourism is that it takes a conscious effort every day. And sometimes, you have to weigh the benefits with the consequences.

In the end, the main key for how to be a responsible traveler is to be a mindful traveler. Don’t just consume travel purely for entertainment. Think about the big picture.

Do you practice sustainable and responsible travel? Share how you do this with your family in the comments!

Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.

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The post Ways We Practice Sustainable and Responsible Tourism (RTW Week 43) appeared first on The Wandering Daughter - Family Travel.

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As a family, we love to try new things. During our big trip, we’ve tried our hand at snorkeling, horseback riding, and even cooking traditional Mexican food. Recently, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, we decided to try beginner paddle board lessons, something that was completely new to us.

We partnered with Xiutla Riders to do paddle board lessons. It was such a blast, and I have to say, I’m officially hooked. Even my kids enjoyed their time riding on the paddle board with us. I foresee us doing a stand up paddle board rental the next time we’re in a destination with water activities.

Getting the paddle boards ready for our lesson (April 2019)
What is stand up paddle boarding?

Stand up paddle boarding is a relatively new water sport, with a bit of a muddled history. But its roots trace back many millennia. Historical records depict people in Egypt, Polynesia, even Peru, standing up and paddling on various forms of floating crafts. Even in Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing, surfers sometimes used paddles when they surfed on the waves.

But the actual sport of stand up paddle board, where riders stand on extra large surf boards and paddle across bodies of water, was invented in 2001. That was when surfer, Laird Hamilton, created a paddle that was designed for paddling while standing up on a surf board. Thus began the sport of paddle boarding.

Since then, paddle boarding has grown in popularity, due in part to how easy it is to learn. These days, the boards are much larger and heavier than surf boards, to provide a bit more stability in the water. Beginner paddle board lessons abound, in destinations all around the world with any proximity to water. And here in Mexico, we’ve seen paddle board lessons in every beach town we’ve visited.

Paddle boarding in Puerto Vallarta (April 2019)
Where to find paddle board lessons in Puerto Vallarta

My husband and I have always been interested in taking paddle board lessons. For me, surfing was always a sport I wanted to try, but the thought of crashing on big waves often scared me. So stand up paddle boarding seemed like a happy medium.

While in Puerto Vallarta, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the availability of water sports, and try out some paddle board lessons. There are a few places in Puerto Vallarta that provide lessons for beginner paddle board enthusiasts. However, we decided to go with a company called Xiutla Riders for our paddle board lessons. They offer beginner paddle board lessons for $36 per person.

Practicing on the beach during our lesson (April 2019)
Learning beginner paddle board with Xiutla Riders

Xiutla Riders is a locally-owned adventure tour company based in Puerto Vallarta. Their store is located just a block away from Playa Camarones, north of the Malecon, Puerto Vallarta’s main beach walkway. Owner, Fernando, runs the company with the help of his family.

When we came for our paddle board lesson, we were met by Fernando’s son, Juan Carlos, and his cousin, Diego. Juan Carlos gave us a quick lesson on how to stand up and sit down on the board, as well as a few pointers on how to stay balanced while out on the water. Then we were off, paddling in the water, with Diego leading the way on his board!

Our tour was about two hours long. We spent the time paddling back and forth along the beach, about twenty meters from the shore. Since our kids are too small to navigate their own boards, we had them ride on our boards. Being a novice to stand up paddle boarding, I was initially nervous about falling in the water. But after a few minutes of standing and paddling, I was feeling pretty confident on my board. I didn’t even fall off once, unlike my husband, who fell in the water several times!

Beginner paddle board practice (April 2019)
Beginner paddle board tips

Stand up paddle boarding is actually not too hard to pick up. And kids will love it because it gets you out in the water. If you’re interested in trying out paddle boarding with your kids, here are a few beginner paddle board tips to get you out on your board confidently!

#1: Focus on keeping your balance

The key to stand up paddle boarding is balance. You need to maintain your balance on the board, or else you’ll fall in the water. Pay attention to where you’re seated on the board, to make sure the weight is not too much on one side of the board. If you’re paddle boarding with a child, have them sit at the front of the board, and adjust your position so that the weight is evenly distributed. If you’re doing a paddle board lesson, your guide can help you find the perfect position on the board.

#2: Keep your feet and body facing forward

For beginner paddle board riders, it’s important to keep your feet and body facing forward. This goes back to the tip on maintaining balance. A slight shift in your feet, or a quick turn of your head can cause you to lose your balance and fall off your board!

#3: Slow and steady is okay

If you’re still learning to paddle board, it’s helpful to take it slow. Like the tortoise from the story of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady is okay. During your beginner paddle board session, take your time when you’re paddling. Rushing or paddling fast could throw you off balance and increase your risk of falling off. Enjoy the calm of gliding across the water.

#4: Have the kids wear life vests

One of the most important things when you’re doing beginner paddle board lessons is water safety. For the kids, this means having them wear life vest. Even if your kids are strong swimmers, life vests will help them stay afloat if they fall off the board.

#5: Fall away from the board

Speaking of falling, one of the beginner paddle board tips that Juan Carlos shared with us during our paddle board lesson was how to fall off the board. To avoid injury, it’s important to fall away from the board, and not on the board. The paddle boards are heavy, and in the water, they can get jostled around when you fall off. If you feel yourself falling, remember to move your body away from the board to keep yourself from getting hurt.

Wearing a life vest during paddle boarding (April 2019)
Lessons, stand up paddle board rental, and more with Xiutla Riders

We enjoyed our time with Xiutla Riders, so much so that we came back a few days later to do some stand up paddle boarding on our own. Xiutla Riders offers stand up paddle board rental for one hour at $12 per hour, per board. You can also rent a paddle board for the whole day at $45 per board.

Besides offering paddle board lessons and stand up paddle board rental, Xiutla Riders also offers surfing lessons. And for those interested in land activities, Xiutla Riders offers ATV tours. In addition, Xiutla Riders does hourly or all-day bike rentals, ranging from $4 to $28, depending on the length of the rental.

I’m so glad we took the time to learn how to paddle board. We’re now completely hooked. For me, it’s just another way to enjoy being out in the water and to stay active with the family!

Have you tried your hand at beginner paddle board lessons? Share your experience in the comments!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. We received a free beginner paddle board lesson from Xiutla Riders in exchange for this blog post. However, the opinions in this post are completely my own.

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In three weeks, we will finish the Mexico portion of our trip. We’ve been here for almost six months already, and I know it will be hard to say good-bye. I love Mexico so much! There is a lot about this country that I’m going to miss.

We originally planned to spend four months here. But after just one month, we knew it wasn’t enough. Since we enjoy Mexico so much, four months turned to six, and even now we realize that’s still not enough time to even scratch the surface. There is so much about Mexican culture that we have yet to learn.

Hanging out on Isla Espiritu Santo (February 2019)
Let go of your misperceptions about Mexico

Despite being a neighboring country, the number of Americans who visit Mexico is almost half that of the number of Mexicans visiting the US. About 10 million Americans visit Mexico each year, while 19 million Mexicans visit the United States on an annual basis. Americans have such a misperception about Mexico.

This country is often unfairly portrayed as poor, dangerous, corrupt. There is some truth to all of this. Compared to the United States, Mexico is not as well off. And drug cartel activity has made some places very dangerous. And sadly, corruption in politics does exist. But this is not the full picture of Mexico.

Our time visiting Mexico with kids has shown us that there is a lot to discover in this country. There is history, there is natural beauty, and there is culture. I love Mexico, and all that it has to offer. It’s a shame that Mexico gets such a bad rap in the US!

Fun at the park in Guadalajara (March 2019)
Visiting Mexico with kids

One of the things that we realized right away while we’ve been visiting Mexico with kids is how family-friendly the country is. From what we’ve observed, Mexican culture is very family oriented. The holidays traditions often involve family. And we often see families hanging out together in parks or public areas.

As a family visiting Mexico with kids, traveling around the country is relatively easy. While there are some minor hassles (cars drive pretty fast on the streets, so make sure to hold on to little kids’ hands when walking on busy roads), we haven’t had many issues with having kids in Mexico.

The country, itself is pretty safe for families. You just need to practice a few common sense precautions, so that you can fully enjoy Mexico. Don’t flash around jewelry or valuables. Be aware when walking around at night. And make sure to keep an eye on your kiddos, so that they stay safe.

Hanging out in Mexico City (January 2019)
Why I love Mexico, and why you will too!

There are so many reasons why I love Mexico! My husband and I are already dreaming up plans to come back here after our big trip. We think it’s a great country for families to visit. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why I love Mexico.

Play at the park in San Miguel de Allende (November 2018)
The food!

Before we came to Mexico, our exposure to Mexican food was mostly tacos and quesadillas. Since visiting Mexico with kids, we’ve had a chance to dive deeper into Mexican cuisine. We love the variety of dishes you can find (mole, tamales, tlayudas, huaraches) and each region has their own speciality. Food helps us enjoy Mexico, and learn more about the culture of the country.

Food from a Mexican cooking class (January 2019)
Music is everywhere!

The music of Mexico is another reason why I love Mexico. Music is everywhere! In Guanajuato, we took a tour of the alleys around Centro with the callejoneadas (singing troubadours!). And in Guadalajara, the home of mariachi music, we were serenaded by a mariachi band. We even have fun watching the Mexican music videos when we’re sitting at the restaurants. Whether it’s romantic Spanish guitars, traditionalmariachi music, or the more modern sounds of reggaeton, we are loving the music of Mexico.

Listening to callejoneados (December 2018)
So many animals!

I didn’t expect to see so many animals when I came to Mexico. But now, the animals are one of the reasons why we enjoy Mexico! So far, since coming to Mexico, we have seen butterflies, dolphins, whales, sea turtles, whale sharks, and sea lions. And in their natural environment, to boot! It’s so fun to be around so much wildlife.

Releasing baby sea turtles (January 2019)
Beautiful cities to explore

Another reason why I love Mexico is because of the beautiful cities. Whether it’s the natural ocean beauty of Puerto Escondido or Puerto Vallarta, the romantic colonial cities of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, or the modern metropolises of Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico has no shortage of beautiful cities to explore.

The beautiful city of Guanajuato (December 2018)
Indigenous traditions

During our first few nights visiting Mexico with kids, we came across a group of dancers performing an Aztec ceremony in Mexico City. Since then, we’ve watched many more such dances, tasted traditional Aztec cuisine, and I even participated in a traditional Temezcal (sweat lodge) ceremony. Mexico’s connection to its indigenous roots is strong, and it’s one of the reasons why I love Mexico.

Dancers in Mexico City (October 2018)
Getting around is so easy

In the six months we’ve been in Mexico, we’ve visited nine cities in six states. We’ve found it’s pretty easy to get around the country. Cheap local flights make traveling from city to city easy. But the bus system between cities makes travel just as easy. We prefer taking the bus as it allows us to enjoy Mexico through its beautiful scenery. Within the cities, the buses are fairly straightforward. And some cities, like Mexico City, have pretty extensive subway systems.

Riding the subway in Mexico City (January 2019)
Laid back attitude towards life

The final reason why I love Mexico is the general laid back attitude towards life that I feel in the cities. Things move at a slower pace here. And it’s not just because we are traveling. In many cities, the weather is too hot to do much of anything, so the mid-afternoon is usually time for siesta. We love being in a country that actively takes time to rest during the day!

An afternoon on the beach in Puerto Vallarta (April 2019)
Families will definitely enjoy Mexico

While we’re no expert on the country, we do think that families will enjoy Mexico. There is just so much for families to experience here!

I’m making it my personal mission to change people’s perceptions about Mexico. Rather than being a dangerous place, Mexico is actually a fun, beautiful, and amazing country to visit. We think families visiting Mexico with kids will love it here.

Do you agree with my reasons for why I love Mexico? Share with me your thoughts on Mexico in the comments.

Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.

Do you enjoy The Wandering Daughter blog? Like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest to get the latest news on family travel.

The post Why I Love Mexico … And Why You Will Too (RTW Week 42) appeared first on The Wandering Daughter - Family Travel.

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We have been loving our time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Even though it’s quite the tourist town, there are so many things to do here One of the things we’ve enjoyed doing is taking Puerto Vallarta tours around the city. We’ve done cooking classes, Puerto Vallarta boat tours, swimming with wild dolphins, and even did a bit of exploring on our own too.

Puerto Vallarta is full of colonial charm, but it also possesses a laid back beach attitude. It’s a good mix of historical and modern elements. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by our time here in Puerto Vallarta. When I first came to Puerto Vallarta, I was half expecting to encounter a party town. But instead, I found a city with plenty of culture and activities to experience for kids and adults.

A church in Puerto Vallarta’s Centro (April 2019)
Why visit Puerto Vallarta

The city of Puerto Vallarta sees over 3 million tourists each year. For a city that only has around 200,000 residents, that means a large chunk of its economy is dedicated solely to tourists activities. In fact, over 50% of the city’s population works in tourism, either in hotels, restaurants or companies offering Puerto Vallarta tours. Tourism is big business here in Puerto Vallarta.

For families searching for things to do on their Puerto Vallarta vacations, it’s easy to just go with the first result on their online search. Trip Advisor will give you hundreds of results for Puerto Vallarta tours and activities. And Google will give you just as many. But not all activities and tours are alike.

For example, some of the dolphin experiences available have you swimming with captive dolphins rather than wild dolphins. And some of the Puerto Vallarta boat tours are large group tours rather than private ones. If you really want to make the most out of your Puerto Vallarta vacations, it’s important to read through the descriptions of the tours. Take some time to do a little research on the companies that are offering tours and activities.

The view from above Yelapa beach (April 2019)
What to look for in your Puerto Vallarta tours

When we were looking for things to do in Puerto Vallarta, we knew we wanted to take some Puerto Vallarta boat tours. The area around Puerto Vallarta is gorgeous, and it’s worth it for families to do some day trips from Puerto Vallarta during their visit.

We ended up choosing a company called La Vida Bella Private Boat Tours, which offers private Puerto Vallarta tours to families and visitors to the city. They met many of our selection criteria for Puerto Vallarta tour companies. If you’re planning a visit to Puerto Vallarta, here’s how you can find the right Puerto Vallarta tours for your family.

Our private boat (April 2019)
Selection of offerings

One of the first things to consider when choosing a tour company is the selection of offerings that the company provides. You may not always find a one-size-fits-all company. And that’s okay.

Take a look at the Puerto Vallarta tours that the company offers, and see if it suits your preferences. We liked the selection offered by La Vida Bella Tours. You can take your pick from dolphin encounters, snorkeling, whale watching, and other day trips from Puerto Vallarta.

Our private boat (April 2019)
Family owned vs. corporation

Another consideration when picking the tour companies for your Puerto Vallarta vacations is the size of the company. There are plenty of large corporations that offer Puerto Vallarta tours. But there are also a lot of small family-owned companies as well.

We enjoyed La Vida Bella Tours because they are family-owned. Owner, Fernando, has been offering private Puerto Vallarta boat tours through his company for five years. He prefers keeping his tours small as it gives him a chance to get to know his clients better. We really appreciated that personal touch!

Posing with Fernando (April 2019)
Level of knowledge

One of the things that makes travel enjoyable is the opportunity to learn something new. When you’re doing Puerto Vallarta tours, you want to make sure your guide is knowledgeable.

We loved our tour with La Vida Bella Tours because Fernando, is just so knowledgeable about the area. As I mentioned already, Fernando has been leading day trips from Puerto Vallarta with La Vida Bella Tours for the last five years. Prior to that, he was working for a company offering Puerto Vallarta boat tours and activities for over twenty years. So he knows the area quite well.

The view of Yelapa beach (April 2019)
Family-friendliness

As someone who travels with kids, the family-friendliness of a tour or activity is very important. We want our Puerto Vallarta vacations to be just as enjoyable for the kids as they are for the grown-ups.

When you’re picking your tour or activity, think about whether your kids will find it enjoyable. Doing a tequila tasting (which is quite popular here in Puerto Vallarta), may be fun for the adults. But it might not be much fun for the young ones. Try and pick something that everyone in the family can enjoy.

The kids enjoying our private boat tour (April 2019)
Pricing and affordability

The final thing to consider is the price. Is the activity something that is affordable, yet still good quality? Due to the high volumes of tourists that come to Puerto Vallarta, many of the tours can be a bit on the pricey end. At the same time, you don’t want to go with the cheapest tour available, because they may be more prone to cut corners.

When choosing what company to go with, you have to find the magic price point that’s going to give you the best possible tour at an affordable rate. We liked the Puerto Vallarta boat tours and activities offered by La Vida Bella Tours, as they were right at that perfect level of affordability and quality. Their tours are $65-$75 per hour, with a tour time between 3-8 hours.

The view on our private boat tour (April 2019)
Why families will love taking private Puerto Vallarta boat tours with La Vida Bella Tours

We really enjoyed our time with La Vida Bella Tours. Their selection of day trips from Puerto Vallarta really offers visitors a chance to explore the area in different ways. We wish we could have had more time to do more tours with them!

One of the biggest  things we liked about La Vida Bella Tours was the flexibility of the private tours. With a group tour, you’re limited to the schedule of the group. But with a private tour, you can adjust your schedule a lot easier. During our tour (we did the Yelapa Tour), we had a chance to do some kayaking, beach play, and hiking. We didn’t feel rushed. But we also felt like there were more than enough things to do to keep ourselves and our kids entertained.

We also loved the personalized experience we had with Fernando. He offered each of us drinks and snacks to have while we were in the boat, and during our tour, made sure that we were enjoying ourselves, first and foremost. We really appreciated that attention to detail and quality of service.

Enjoying the beach at Yelapa (April 2019)
Getting the most out of your Puerto Vallarta vacations

For any family planning to take some Puerto Vallarta vacations in the near future, doing one of the Puerto Vallarta tours is a must.

You don’t necessarily have to go with the exact company we went with, but seriously recommend them. La Vida Bella Tours is a great company, and they offer some fun private Puerto Vallarta boat tours for your family.

Have you had a chance to experience Puerto Vallarta tours? Share them with me in the comments.

Disclosure: My family and I received a complimentary boat tour from La Vida Bella Private Boat Tours in exchange for a blog post. However, the views expressed in this post are completely my own.

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The post Why You’ll Love Taking Puerto Vallarta Tours With La Vida Bella Private Boat Tours appeared first on The Wandering Daughter - Family Travel.

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