travel with kids


Everyone knows that traveling can be complicated and expensive. Moving to and settling into a foreign country can often soak up a big portion of your budget. In an ideal world, I would sit and prepare each destination thoroughly–I would apply for visas, have passports at the ready, obtain foreign currency, research where to sleep, check bus schedules, purchase flights, brush up on sanitation standards, make a list of important contacts, pack all the essentials, talk to the kids about street smarts, plan activities for the kids, buy travel insurance, stock up on medicines, and more, and more… But with kids, things never happen the way you imagine they will. A week before setting off, one of them wakes up with a fever or a rash. Or you get a phone call that ruins everything. Or one of the kids has a birthday two days before the flight. Or the weather decides to mess with you. Suddenly, the fantasy of quiet and peaceful preparations evaporates.

The last few days before embarking on your family’s journey will challenge the nerves and patience of the whole brood… or maybe it’s just us! In any case, my advice would be to take under consideration that there will be complications and prepare (and react) accordingly.


1. Plan in advance!

Make up your mind about your destination a long time in advance. Do your homework and check everything you need with plenty of time left. Don’t wait for the last moment (and I say this from experience… I have never once decided my next destination with enough time left! I make decisions three days before my visa runs out, and I usually get lucky). A lot of times, you have to be careful when managing your time. If you have to apply for visa in advance, how long does it take for the document to process? Sometimes you have to show a flight ticket out of the country at immigration, or there are other details you need to know. What about your budget? The first few days in any new place are not easy, and they will always cost more money. Make sure you have done your research.


2. Return to your favorite places.

As your family begins to travel, there will be certain restaurants, hotels, cities, and entire countries you’ll connect with. Strengthening these bonds will further your family’s establishment as global citizens. Returning to a loved location, where I already know the cost of a taxi from the airport, where to sleep for the first few nights, and get coffee in the morning, is a relief and a joy. That’s why I prefer to include some places we are familiar with in our itinerary.


3. Prepare and take care of your bodies.

A few days before you relocate, make sure you eat nutritious meals! Take special care that you’re eating things that help the body make serotonin, which has a calming effect. Because relocating creates temporary unbalance, consider the chances of illness, allergies, and emotional sensitivity increasing. It’s vital that you watch yourself and your energy levels. From the parent’s perspective, settling into a new country doesn’t end when the luggage arrive at baggage claim–it ends when your lifestyles are comfortable. Never forget about jet-lag, even when the time difference is negligible. Until then, just try to establish regular sleeping hours and meals.


4. Take your time.

When I get to a new place, I don’t explore everything as soon as possible. I take my time. First, I dedicate two or three days to physical and mental recovery. I hang near my house, discover the neighborhood slowly, and let the kids get used to the surroundings. Traveling long-term is different to a short vacation, because you have the luxury to blend in slowly. Take in the atmosphere and settle in at your own pace.


5. Celebrate your accomplishments!

Relocating challenges your abilities as families and individuals. Recognize the strides each member of the family makes as travelers. When I look at my kids and see how the handle themselves in the busy streets of Manila, Kathmandu, or Saigon a day after we landed there, ready to explore and experience and taste without batting an eyebrow, I understand just how traveling is a wonderful gift I am sharing with them.

Try the k-12 program for remote and on -the -road schooling :-).


Experience traditional Nepalese activities with your family!

Nepal is a mystical country encircled by glacier-encrusted Himalayan Mountains to the north and lush tropical lowlands to the south. From tasty local fare to effervescent lunar festivals, the Nepalese have a multitude of cultural traditions that your family can experience. One unique aspect of Nepal is how minute it is compared to massive neighboring countries like China and India. Families exploring Nepal will be able to soak in a wealth of cultural and ecological diversity, but won’t have to devastate their travel budget on intra-national airfare and waste precious moments on everlasting bus rides. Moreover, Nepal’s physical position between China, a predominantly Buddhist nation; Tibet, a locale with an esoteric culture now spreading south; and India, a country with a majority of Hindus, creates a vibrant melting pot in the band of land called Nepal. Dive in and enjoy the vast array of traditional Nepalese experiences with your family!



Since the Chinese occupation of Tibet began in the 1950s, Nepal has become the home of many Tibetan refugees who practice Buddhism. Thus, although the majority of native Nepalis are Hindu, the country is also a hotspot for Buddhist practitioners. One of the backbones of Buddhism is meditation, so make room for some much-needed quiet time during your exploration in Nepal and cultivate some mindfulness. Mindfulness practices can benefit everyone in your family!

Where to go:

Kathmandu: Kopan Monastery, perched high up on a hill overlooking the bustling Kathmandu valley, specializes in making Buddhism accessible for Westerners. The center educates many aspiring Tibetan monks, but there are also plenty of Western monks and nuns who facilitate affordable Buddhist courses lasting anywhere from a few hours to several months. Check the schedule to see what introspective opportunities are unfolding while you’re in Kathmandu.

Pokhara: The Ganden Yiga Chozin Buddhist Centre offers three-day residential retreats beginning most Fridays as well as daily yoga and meditation classes. Once you have mastered the basics, find a serene spot on the banks of Phewa Lake and get enlightened already!


Dal Bhat

Nepal has one main dish and locals eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. “Dal bhat” translates to “lentils and rice,” but the meal often comes with much more than that. Expect fragrant basmati rice, a turmeric-infused lentil soup, spicy pickled mango, a choice of meat (mutton, chicken, or buffalo) for the omnivores, and curried potatoes. Order mild versions to make the meals more kid-friendly. Traditional eateries often serve all-you-can-eat dal bhat, so go hungry. Soon, you’ll recognize the kitschy “Dal Bhat Power 24-Hour” t-shirts around town and actually know what they mean! If your family needs a break from dal bhat, find Indian fare to switch it up.

Where to go:

Kathmandu: The capital is teeming with dal bhat restaurants—you’ll have no trouble finding this dish. Venture outside of Thamel (the touristy hideaway in Kathmandu) to find more authentic versions.

Pokhara: The best dal bhat spots in Pokhara require you to order dinner in the morning, as they spend all day preparing the food. Poke your head into unmarked storefronts around Phewa Lake and see if they offer meals. Not every restaurant is publicized—often the best eateries are the holes-in-the-wall you won’t find online, so go explore! Just make sure you know your order in Nepali.

Spark Online Training by Edurekabanner


Nepalis celebrate so many festivals that it is almost impossible to venture there without coinciding with an extravagant celebration of some sort. Check the lunar calendar for Holi in particular, the Festival of Colors, which marks the beginning of spring and is especially exciting for kids. Sometime in late February or early March, revelers stock up on plastic bags filled with vibrantly-colored powder and promptly empty them on each other. The scene promptly dissolves into people swarming in clouds of indigo, aquamarine, and tangerine clouds accompanied by the latest Bollywood tunes. Do your kids want a superb offensive strategy? Sprinkle some powder into water bottles and douse your targets, and then throw more powder. It’s like tarring and feathering, but with rainbows! Be sure to bring clothes for your family that you don’t mind having involuntarily tie-dyed.

Where to go:

Kathmandu: It is virtually impossible to avoid Holi anywhere in Nepal, but the celebrations in Kathmandu are especially lively. Be sure to stock up on powders, as locals often pursue tourists in particular. Water balloons make for especially lethal artillery—and what children don’t love them?

Pokhara: Find a place to perch somewhere on Lakeside to watch the revelry unfold before you. There are good spots where you can finagle a bird’s-eye view and dump powder on those unsuspecting below!


Life in the Himalayas

Nepal is home to Sagarmatha, meaning “Forehead in the Sky”—but your family might know this famous peak as Mount Everest. As the home of the world’s loftiest peaks, mountaineering and trekking have become embedded in Nepali life. The people who live in the Himalayas are called Sherpas, and most have some Tibetan ancestry. The relaxed pace of life in these mountainous regions starkly contrasts the congestion of cities like Kathmandu. Head to the hills for stunning vistas, belly-warming thukpa (noodle soup—great for kids!), and perhaps even a yeti sighting. Don’t forget a few strands of colorful prayer flags to offer to the mountain spirits for protection as you hike over alpine passes.

Where to go:

Lukla: If you want to skip the first few days of hiking from sub-tropical Shivalaya and beeline it to the Himalayas, catch a cheap flight to Lukla, which will plop your family down right in the midst of the Himalayan foothills. This flight also makes for quite an exciting journey, as the landing strip towers over an immense canyon! From there, you can trek all the way to Mount Everest Base Camp, visiting a collection of Sherpa villages along the way.

Pokhara: The Mountain Man Museum in Pokhara is underwhelming, but it does have some intriguing scientific displays about the receding glaciers in the mountains. Many of the exhibits are kid-friendly, and offer wonderful opportunities to learn about the cultural and geographical history of the region. Pokhara is also jump-off point for most treks in the Annapurna region, which has a plethora of hikes to choose from for all ability levels. Check in with a local tour operator to ask about permits and which route is most appropriate for your family.



Another result of the burgeoning Buddhist population in Nepal is the plethora of stupas popping up all over the country. Stupas are religious sites most often shaped like mounds with a tower on top, although they come in many shapes. The most common ones you’ll see around Nepal have a round base topped with a four-sided layer, each side housing a Buddha figure. On top of that structure, thirteen gilded rings form a tall cylinder, which represent the steps on the path to enlightenment. Finally, a small golden umbrella towers over the stupa. Each of these structures is stuffed with holy relics like ashes of venerated monks, scrolls inscribed with sacred mantras, or bits and pieces of the Buddha himself. Stupas are one of the best places to experience culture, as they are often teeming with pilgrims from dawn until dusk. Walk around stupas with your family to gain merit—it is believed that circumambulating these holy spots generates endless good fortune!

Where to go:

Kathmandu: The most awe-inspiring stupas are found in Kathmandu. A favorite is the Boudha stupa, an impending white structure resting on a circular base with countless red, yellow, green, blue, and white prayer flags flying from the gilded umbrella. Don’t miss Swayambunath stupa, also known as the monkey temple, which offers a panoramic view of Kathmandu valley. Your kids can meet hordes of friendly, yet unabashed monkeys on the way—just be careful on the narrow, steep steps to the top.


Goddess Kumari

One of the most peculiar aspects of Nepali culture is the Goddess Kumari, who resides in a temple made of crusty brick and carved wood in Durbar Square in Kathmandu. Hindu priests find each Kumari through a vigorous process that begins when the current goddess begins puberty. Many believe that the Kumari is a human incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga, so priests hunt for certain physical qualities (black eyes, lithe body), and social qualifications (from a certain caste) which designate the young girl as the next possible living goddess. To confirm that the girl is truly the living version of Durga, she is shut inside a room filled with the heads of sacrificed buffaloes during the Dashain festival. If she remains calm, it is believed that she is truly the Kumari, as it is only the goddess that would be able to retain such serenity in a gory scene. Having one’s daughter indicated as the next Kumari is a high honor, so with the parents’ blessing, the new Kumari is relocated to Durbar Square and undergoes rigorous religious training. She only leaves the temple once a year, when she is carried in a palanquin throughout Durbar Square.

Where to go:

Kathmandu: Visit the home of the living goddess in Durbar Square. If you happen to be in Nepal during Inda Jatra, a festival around September, you might catch a glimpse of the goddess as she travels around Kathmandu for three days during that time. Otherwise, head to her quarters in Kathmandu between 10 AM and noon to catch a glimpse of her from her chambers. Unfortunately, much of the Square is in a state of disrepair due to the earthquakes in 2015; however, there is still plenty of original architecture to enjoy. Hire a guide for your family outside of the square for a few rupees (don’t forget to haggle!) to get the most from your visit.



Nepal has a rich military tradition of gorkhas (also spelled gurkha). Outfitted in traditional khaki outfits and brandishing the khukuri, their trademark curved knife, gorkhas are a fearsome bunch. These groups originally fought against the British invasions in the 1800s, but now they are recruited by different armies around the world for their expertise in battle. Gorkhas are known for their fearlessness: their motto is “Better to die than be a coward.” There are around 3,500 gorkhas serving in armed forces today, and battalions now belong to the British and Indian armies. Take time to learn about these warriors if your family is interested in military and political history.

Where to go:

Kathmandu: Why not make your own khukuri in true gorkha style? Although originally utilized in battle, many Nepalis now use this famous curved knife for chopping wood and digging. For $29 USD, you and your children can join a khukuri workshop through Backstreet Academy in Kathmandu and fashion your own gorkha souvenir. Just be sure to put it in your checked luggage on the way home!

Pokhara: Visit the Gorkha Memorial Museum for a heaping dose of gorkha history and paraphernalia, from photographs exhibits to uniform displays. Admission is $2 USD for adults and $1 USD for children.


Too often, travelers return home with memories of crowded tourist spots devoid of authentic character, toting mass-produced souvenirs in their suitcases. These overrated destinations (Times Square, anyone?!) and corny knick-knacks (do you really need another overpriced T-shirt?) offer little glimpse into one’s cultural experience. It is vital to engage in the traditions of your destination to make the most of your journey. Read on to find ideas perfect for families to bring home meaningful totems that you can make yourself, all while immersing your loved ones in Japanese culture.


? Sampuru

As soon as you begin your journey in Japan, you will notice that elaborate plastic models of Japanese cuisine flank every restaurant window. Phantom limbs hold chopsticks dangling with soba noodles, mini sushi rolls sit lifelessly on plastic trays, and bowls of synthetic soup gleam from inside display cases. Why? Sampuru, which means “sample,” is the Japanese tradition of creating lifelike plastic models of gastronomic fare. Originally made from wax, sampuru were invented in the early 1900s to craft menus before photography was widely used. Although these phenomena may be curious to travelers, they can actually be of great help. Don’t know Japanese? You can simply point to the plastic version of whatever dish you desire and skip the confusion of attempting to order what you like in Japanese.

Where to go:

North of Nagoya: Gujo Hachiman is the undisputed capital of plastic chow in Japan. Here you can shop for models of your favorite Japanese meals and watch plastic professionals craft shrimp tempura and teriyaki bowls. If you’re feeling creative, you can even make your own sampuru at Shokohin Sample Kobo!

Tokyo: Visit Kappabashi, AKA “Kitchen Town,” to find sampuru ranging from unagi keychains to fried egg phone cases to tuna roe magnets. These (often handcrafted) souvenirs can fetch a hefty price, so shop smartly!   

For more food related experiences, look into our route for food loving families traveling to Japan.


? Origami

Origami, literally translated to “folding paper,” is one Japanese tradition familiar to Westerners. Artisans intricately fold colored paper, called washi, to create 3D objects like animals, tiny boxes, and flowers without scissors or glue. The Japanese have practiced the art has since 1680, but origami became especially popular in the West after the paper crane became the symbol of peace. In fact, many believe that if one crafts 1,000 paper cranes, his or her dream will come true—so get to folding!

Where to go:

Tokyo: Many of use have seen paper cranes dangling delicately, but have you learned how to create your own origami menagerie? Seek out a lesson for your kids to craft their favorite creatures. Try the origami class at Origami Kaikan for a mere $4 USD, or just visit the enormous gallery of art featured there. You can also see artists crafting washi here.


? Kintsugi

We’ve all knocked over heirloom vases and cracked favorite coffee mugs. Luckily, the Japanese developed a brilliant way to fix our beloved broken keepsakes over 500 years ago. Kinstugi is the art of fixing damaged items, especially ceramics, by pasting the pieces together with different kinds of colored glazes. The philosophy behind kintsugi is that by repairing items that are broken, we transform the incurred damage rather than mask it. As a result, the flaws become a part of the story and beauty of the object. Kintsugi often come out so exquisitely that Japanese sometimes intentionally break items just so they can practice the art.

Where to go:

Tokyo: Take a kinstugi lesson in Tokyo! Look for deals online for hour-long lessons that provide both materials and instruction. Try booking a lesson through KUGE Crafts, near Shin Koenji in Tokyo. You’ll learn a new skill and take home a unique souvenir—no more kitschy magnets (unless you’re talking sampuru)!


? Shibori

One of Japan’s lesser-known traditional crafts is called shibori, or indigo dyeing. Shibori comes from the Japanese verb shiboru, which means to twist or squeeze. Artisans utilize dark blue dye and unique folding techniques to create patterns on different kinds of textiles. Kanoko shibori is what many Westerners call tie-dye, while nu shibori involves embroidery to create different designs. The earliest evidence of the practice dates to about 700 AD. Both wealthy and poor Japanese have used shibori methods throughout the centuries, albeit on different textiles (silk for the wealthy and hemp for the poor). Before new kinds of dyes were introduced in the 1900s, Japanese craftspeople used indigo dyes almost exclusively.

Where to go:

Kyoto: If you are interested in learning traditional shibori techniques, there are classes offered all around Japan. Visit the Kyoto Shibori Museum, where you can marvel at countless textiles and take a class to dye your own fabric for $30 USD.

Arimatsu: Eight Japanese families that specialized in shibori founded Arimatsu in the early 1600s, and the town has been known for the craft ever since. There is even a shibori festival there in June!


? Make Your Own Ramen

You won’t be in Japan long until you notice the ubiquity of steamy noodle dishes. Originating in China, ramen has become one of the most popular eats in Japan during the recent decades. Cheap, delicious, and made to order, ramen is a stupendous choice for families traveling with children. Although sampuru might help you figure out what you are actually ordering from the menu, chances are you might end up with a mystery dish or two. From pork belly to fermented bamboo shoots to fried eggs, there are countless concoctions for every palate, even the fussiest eaters!

Where to go:

Outside of Kyoto: Visit the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum (the same company that makes the famous Cup o’ Noodles), where you can design your own flavor of ramen and take it home with you! For around $3 USD, you can invent your own ramen recipe by combining different noodles, spices, and toppings.


? Shabu Shabu

After you wrap up your signature ramen dish at the Momofuku Museum, beeline straight to the closest shabu shabu joint you can find. There, you and yours will cook different kinds of vegetables and meats in a pot of boiling water heated on your table. The sound of the boiling eats is the origin of the name shabu shabu. The most traditional shabu shabu meal includes beef, seaweed, and mushrooms garnished with soy sauce and pickled carrots. Like ramen, shabu shabu has Chinese origins but has become increasingly popular in Japan over the last century. Dining in the shabu shabu style offers an interactive culinary experience perfect for families desiring an immersive experience in Japanese culture.

Where to go:

Tokyo: there are endless options for shabu shabu in Tokyo (and all around the country!). Try Nabe-zo, an all-you-can-eat shabu shabu smorgasbord, complete with dumplings and ice cream, for about $25 USD. They even give discount for children! There is a catch: Nabe-zo is all you can eat… in 100 minutes! Another similar all-you-can-eat option is called Mo-mo Paradise. For those with a higher budget, try the upscale Imafuku restaurant.


? Chakai and Chaji

Tea is a focal point in many Asian countries, and Japan is no exception. Your Japanese excursion will be incomplete until you experience an authentic tea ceremony. Based on Zen Buddhist tenets, the custom of tea ceremonies began during the 16th century. Since then, many different kinds of rituals have evolved, although every ceremony involves drinking green matcha (powdered) tea and nibbling on sweets. Chakai are informal, which chaji are elaborate rituals that can take hours. The ceremonies will also differ depending on the season. Those officiating the ceremonies will teach you how to stir, smell, and ultimately drink the tea.

Where to go:

Tokyo: Tea ceremonies can last anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours, so be sure to pick the ritual based on your family’s preferences.  Try Kyoto-kan, which offers quick and cheap ($4 USD) ceremonies between Friday-Sunday from 12:30-16:30. Make sure you secure reservations for groups larger than five. For a more elaborate ceremony, try Nadeshiko, where they’ll deck you out in an authentic kimono for $38 USD.


? Onsen

One of the most popular traditional pastimes in Japan is relaxing in one of the 3,000 of the country’s onsen, or natural hot springs. Located on the border of two shifting tectonic plates, Japan contains a collection of over 110 active volcanoes (including the famous Mount Fuji), creating the plethora of geothermal activity which heat onsen. Visiting onsen is a traditional Japanese activity (akin to human ramen soup?), prescribing certain practices Westerners should follow: always bathe before entering the pools, keep the onsen quiet and relaxed (no belly flops!) and never take photographs. Tattoos were traditionally banned in most onsen, but with the onset of increased Western tourism, many onsen operators will allow visitors with ink—so do not fear if you have some residual adolescent tats.

Where to go:

Okuhida: Okuhida is well-known for its high concentration of geothermal activity, which allows travelers to visit many different kinds of onsen in a small area. Okuhida also offers access to the Japanese Alps, so many like to hike and then relax afterwards in onsen.

Tokyo: For a traditional onsen experience, try Myojin no Yu in eastern Tokyo. Need a midnight soak? Try Kodai no Yu, which is open 24 hours a day—you can even rent an entire room for your brood.

The Philippines offer the very best of exotic vacations. It has everything you imagine when you think about a luxurious beach vacation. The soft white sandy beaches, the clear turquoise water, the fresh coconuts, sweet juicy fruits, happy-get-lucky locals (that speak English!), and lots of green jungles. An immense feeling of freedom.

Cheaper than Thailand.

And most importantly- jumping (real life!) dolphins! Free! We saw them while on ferries several times. They just show up, whole pods of them, swimming and jumping right next to the boat.

A few shorts words on the Philippines:

The Philippines are divided to four main districts. North (Luzon), center (Visayas), the south (Mindanao), and the island Palawan which is west of Visayas, towards Malaysia.

The archipelago consists of over 7,000 islands, and the main venues of transportation between them is by using the excellent ferry network (depending on the distance between islands, sometimes it’s a small ferry, sometimes a big one, almost a bus, and sometimes it’s a huge ferry that takes you 24 hours or more on the ocean waves), or by flight. You can also take a bus, I mean- you take the bus, and it goes on a ferry, and continues on another island:-).

The locals are charming, welcoming and hospitable, and always happy to help. But there’s two things they don’t believe in in the Philippines that it’s important you know about: hot water in the shower, and blankets.
Meaning you’ll only have hot water in medium level hotels and above. And the same goes for blankets.

It’s simply too hot there for either anyway.

The capital: is Manila, and she’s not welcoming to families. There’s a lot of traffic and sometimes the city just doesn’t feel safe. There are areas that bunch together strip clubs and gambling establishments. But together with all that- it’s the place to go shopping, there are crazy big malls there, with all the biggest brands. Personally I only go there to freshen up my wardrobe. My favorite place is called ‘Glorietta’ and it’s actually 4 connected malls. There are also some pretty big attractions (which I haven’t visited) like chinatown.

Family vacations- recommended hotels in the philippines

Money: the local currency is called Peso. $1=50 Pesos. You can find ATM mechines, but it’s not always easy, especially if you leave the highly touristic areas. Anyway the feeling is that there aren’t enough of them. Sometimes the line is very long. What they do have there are lots of money changers, and international money transfer. There are everywhere.

Visa: most people get free visa upon arrival of somewhere between 21-30 days but it always pays to check in advance. The most important thing is to have an exist ticket to somewhere.

Best seasons: it’s always hot in the Philippines. They have a rainy season and a typhoon season. December to May is the best time to visit. For vacations- Christmas! But summer vacation can also work, provided you can stay for a longer time, allowing for flexibility.

Food: it’s a tropical country so there’s a wide selection of fruits, dozens of types of Mango and Avocado, Coconuts, Jackfruit, and a lot of other we don’t even know about in the west. Most of their food is rice based, they have different kinds of white and pink and red rice… and a ton of seafood (goes without saying) as well as chicken and pork. They love their barbecue, and grill every type of meat they can find. You’ll see people fanning the flames everywhere. You choose the slice and they grill it for you on the spot. Try the chicken legs, a local favorite.

I will now write a recommendation for a fun route you can go on with the kids, based around central Philippines. I built it around the center on purpose as it’s considered the area best protected from typhoons, and therefore better at summer (and summer vacation). It’s flexible from a days-per-location perspective, so you could twist it to fit however long you have available.

1. Cebu

The route starts in Cebu. The second largest island in the Philippines.

You can stay in Cebu city, of find quieter places. I like recommending this hotel, on Mactan Island that is connected to mainland(ish) Cebu by bridge (the international airport is also on this island). It’s not cheap but will provide an excellent opening to any vacation.

Take two-three days to get over the flight and just have a good family time, then fly from Cebu to the tiny volcanic island “Cameguin”.

2. Cameguin

During the flight the staff entertains the passengers with riddle games. There are even prizes:-).
This tiny island sits on a volcano, which turns some of the beaches black. Beyond that, despite the size of the island it has many fun activities. There are some nice waterfalls (where you can swim), a site with a few hot spring pools, each with a different temperature. There’s a Zipline near the beach that goes above a sweet water lake, kayaking and other sea activities, and a site with giant clams (careful, they swallow everything!). A few museums and even an ostrich farm.

We’ve visited this island twice. Zig-zagged all across it on a bike we rented and discovered some lovely isolated corners. Climbed one of the mountains, and at the top we found a beautiful waterfall and remnants of volcanic ash.

When we went to the Zipline booking office the kids really wanted to go. For me it was enough to just see the cable stretched over the water to give up the pleasure. But the Zipline rules say you have to go in twos, so found myself being launched (twice! It’s a two-leg journey…) together with my youngest daughter.

I recommend to sleep in the hot spring campus called “Ardent”, that way you could go for a swim any time you want (the pools are open 24 hours), even after the kids fell asleep… :-). They have simple rooms with an A/C and a family room. Costs $80 a night.

There’s a restaurant there that’s not fantastic but it’s not bad either and the staff is nice. There are also a few stands just outside the campus. Basically, sausages and corn are readily available.

After three-four days of rest, day trips and being spoiled, take the ferry to Bohol Island. The ferry leaves every day at morning and by noon makes port in the city Jagna at central Bohol.

The journey takes about three-four hours.

My kids like Jagna because you can find the Filipino delicacy Calamay everywhere. Calamay is a sort of a sweet spread/jelly made of coconuts that they sell in a coconut shell packaging.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

3. Bohol

A word about ferries in the Philippines: I recommend that you bring some food with you, because the food on the ferry is expensive and the options are usually very limited.

And another thing- there’s no problem getting tickets in the port. Just make sure to get there some time ahead. Usually, especially before the ferry leaves, there are long lines. You’ll need to pay for the tickets (=first line), harbor tax (=second line), and for your suitcases (=third line). Children under 10 get a discount. Ask for the A/C class (=most expensive), or outside (=cheapest, and there’s a breeze:-))

When you get to Jagna you’ll have two options:

You can take a taxi or a minivan (air conditioned) to the biggest city in Bohol called Tagbilaran. Most tourists on the island go to its most famous beach, which is near Tagbilaran. It’s called “Alona beach” and it really is a nice beach with many nice restaurants, an ATM, agencies offering day trips and island-hopping, stores for beachwear, etc…

Family vacations- recommended hotels in the philippines

If you don’t want to party with all the tourists, you can always look for a guesthouse or a hotel in the city proper (it has a few nice malls, my favorite is ICM that has some video games in the top floor and even a 3D cinema). Or you can look around the road that surrounds the island, and soak in the magnificent ocean view. Another nice area is the town “Anda”, and near it the resort “Peace 1”, that has a private beach frequented by some sea turtles.

A minivan from Jagna to Tagbilaran costs 100 pesos per person.

Bohol is a relatively small island but it has a lot of attractions, and it’s a fun place to spend a few days. You can go on tours and watch dolphins, snorkel in the oceanic nature reserves near the island. There are kayak trips, an Extreme Park, river boating, a beautiful natural phenomenon called “chocolates hills” (yeah yeah) and some incredibly sweet creatures called “Filipino monkey” that became the island’s symbol. Professional name: Tarsier.

You can get almost any tye of food there, from real local food to big fast-food chains like McDonald’s, KFC and domino’s pizza. And of course Dunkin Donuts, that took over the Philippines and apparently conquered them.

We lived in Bohol twice, for a few months each time. We rented a small house with a private beach in a small fishing village and just lived with the locals and the ocean. We would shop at the local market, go for walks in the village, play with the locals, and learn from them about sea life.

We loved going to some nearby islands called Pamilican and Balicasag. On the way to them we usually saw dolphins. Near the islands there are beautiful reserves and we would jump off our little boat and snorkel for hours. We even saw small sharks and sea turtles. The boat’s driver would throw some breadcrumbs to attract the fish to us, to the great joy of my youngest daughter, that didn’t want to go too far from the boat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

4. Siquijor

After Bohol, take another ferry to Siquijor. This is a small, peaceful island, with incredible quiet beaches. It’s also called the “Isle of Fire”, because of the millions of fireflies that fly near its beaches at night.

The island itself offer a number of activities, most of which are nature related (waterfalls, springs, ancient trees, night walks to see the fireflies).

And of course there’s diving and snorkeling.

We arrived there completely on accident. While visiting Dumaguete, we met at the hotela Filipino friend. After an interesting conversation with him, he told us that he has a resort in Siquijor (a quick boat ride away from Dumaguete) and invited us to stay there. So we found ourselves, a few weeks afterwards, in Siquijor :-).

Most of our time there we spent in the great swimming pool in the resort. It was so fun and relaxed we didn’t even need to leave.

4.5 Optional: Dumaguete

From Siquijor you can go slowly to Cebu Island. Before that take a short ferry to Dumaguete.if you have time you can explore it, it’s another nice island with plenty of activities.

Another article giving details about those four places, including costs, you can find here.

The Philippines have two types of public transport that I haven’t seen anywhere else. The Tricycle, which is a bit like the Thai Tok-Tok or the Indian Rickshaw, meaning, they took a motorbike and added a contraption with seats on it. The Filipinos like stuffing as many people as possible into those. It comes in different sizes, some only fit three people, and others fit six or more. The other vehicle is called a Jeepney and it’s actually a jeep that has been turned into a bus. They make it themselves, so every Jeepney looks a little different. They paint it in screaming colors, add some designs and sometimes even add a few quotes. It’s similar to an open bus, and there too they stuff as many people as they possibly can. Try to ride both those vehicles at least once. It’s an experience of a different type:-).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

5. Cebu

From the city Dumaguete leaves a (air conditioned) bus that goes on the ferry to Cebu with you inside it, and continues until Cebu City. You can also get off halfway there, in south Cebu there is a (debatable) attraction that offers diving/swimming/watching Whale Sharks. These are sharks that feed only on Plankton and, despite their huge size, they’re very gentle creatures. This activity is not cheap at $150 per person.

After you get back to Cebu City, you can finish the journey with some shopping in a few of the huge malls in the city. All the brands you know and then some:-).

More details to help you plan your trip and budget for it you can find here.

If you’re coming to the Philippines, the first thing you have to prepare yourself for is that everyone will call you either sir or madam.

The best time to visit the Philippines is from December to May. Which means Christmas vacation is perfect. but summer vacation can also work if you can stay for a relatively long time (at least three weeks or more).

⇒In the Philippines they make all sorts of treats from a purple sweetpotato called Ube. Even ice cream! Water cost 10-20 Pesos (0.25$-0.5$) for a liter and a half, and bus tickets cost 8 Pesos (0.15$)

To get out list of recommended hotels in different destinations in the Philippines, including prices, please click here

Independent traveling:

Families that want to plan their trip to the Philippines by themselves can talk with me over the phone and get a lot of helpful recommendations, tips, and important information for correct planning. Answers to all the little questions and details you can’t find anywhere else. Send me an email (familytravelsquare@gmail.com) and we’ll settle on a time.

In general it’s possible to say that a trip (for the whole family) in a low budget will cost about 80$ a day, a medium budget trip about 150$ a day, and a high budget trip can get to any amount you want:-). In the Philippines there are R-E-A-L-L-Y nice luxury resorts, right besides simple Bamboo huts.

⇒Alcohol: the locals in the Philippines drink homemade Coconut wine. It’s worth a try, just take under consideration that you have to get used to it slowly otherwise you’ll get a stomachache. Excellent local Beer costs 30 pesos (0.65$) for half a liter.


Vacation packages and organized tours:

Many websites and agencies offer packages both for solo travelers and families that want to come to the Philippines. The packages include planning a route, with a guide, accommodation, and transportation. Usually the tour length us between 8-19 days. The cost moves from 75$ to 150$ per person per day (not including flights). And they depend on the agency and the quality of accommodation and transportation.

Trips in specific destinations:

You can book those in your own country or from the variety of agencies spread throughout the Philippines. We’re talking about “island hopping” trips of all sorts, and all kinds of special attractions such as sea kayaking, rice terrace tour, the underground caves, Palawan, and more. The prices also vary and the cost is between 15$ per day per person (a short trip of boating and visiting a few stations) and up to 80$-100$ per day per person (a tour to more distant locations or a unique trek)

Organized tours:

Organized tours to the Philippines there are plenty. In each one of the websites offering tours they offer a slightly different route and a varying day count. The average cost is between 270$-300$ per day per person. The selection offered to families, on the other hand, when it comes to organized tours is fairly small.

To those with strong stomachs: they have a traditional delicacy called Balut, which is basically a Duck egg boiled with the embryo still inside. You can find it in almost every street stall in the city or the country. It’s usually painted purple or red to distinguish it from the other (regular) eggs.

Click here to get a month’s worth of food filled adventure in the Philippines.

Further tips and info:


Citizens of most nationalities get 30 days free visa upon arrival, and can later extend their visa for a month or two, for a period of up to two years.

For visa information for your county click here

For visa extension cost click here

Currency and exchange rate:

In the Philippines the used Pesos. One Dollar is worth 50 Pesos, one Euro is worth 60 Pesos, one British pound is worth 70 Pesos, and 10 Indian Rupees are worth 8 Pesos.

Recommended seasons:

The best season in from November to February, and from March until May, when it rains the least and it’s not too hot. In the rest of the year it rains more but it’ll be hot, and the moment the rain stops the sun creeps back. In Eastern Philippines it rains year-round, but when ut doesn’t rain it’s sunny.

Internal transportation:

In the Philippines there are several airline companies, we especially recommend Cebu Pacific, an international airliner that offers domestic flights at reasonable prices.

A lot of the transportation between islands is done by ferries and these are best companies: Oceanjet, Oceanfast, and 2Go

Booking ferry tickets- not recommended to do through the internet. It’s a long and tiring process that requires showing all sorts of passport photocopies when you collect the tickets. It’s better to go to the ticketing office and buy directly. That way you can also make sure you have good sits and that all the family members share the same sleeping compartment (don’t forget to make sure of that again and again).

The public transportation in the Philippines is also excellent and cheap. Always when you get to a new island you can take a bus to anywhere on it.

In the Philippines you can find buses, air-conditioned mini-vans, rickshaws (normally referred to as ‘tricycles’), motorcycle taxis, and Jeepneys- a jeep-engine powered bus that is very very cheap (and the experience is free) 🙂
In bus stations and in the ferries they sell Bananas-deep-fried-in-Sugar-on-a-stick

⇒roosters: in the Philippines Rooster fights are legal. In almost every house you can see Chickens and Roosters. They take very good care of their Roosters, and across the whole country you can find stores that sell only Rooster care equipment. You can even find a special Shampoo for shiny feathers.

Useful information:

The most important thing to know about the Philippines is that against the common opinion, you don’t have to fly from island to island. It’s much cheaper to sail and take buses, and even if it takes a bit longer, there’s nothing quite like feeling the ocean wind and see the Dolphins jumping among the waves while sailing in the Philippines. Not to mention you get to avoid the whole headache around airports.

What is also important to know is that the Filipinos love their Seafood and Pork, and those that keep kosher might find it difficult. Chabad houses can be found in Manila and Cebu, the two biggest cities in the Philippines.

Money- in the Philippines there are ATM machines, but they’re sparse. In the big cities you can find one pretty easily, but in the villages sometimes there are none. And when you do find an ATM (even in the big cities) there’s sometimes a very long line. Commission-wise it’s better to go to the foreign banks because they don’t charge a commission for a withdrawal and in most cases you can withdraw larger amounts (HSBC, metrobank)
Money changers, however, are everywhere.

Sim card and mobile network- in the Philippines there are several companies that provide mobile network we recommend Globe (faster network) or Smart.

⇒Because it’s so hot in the Philippines sometimes, you can buy cold mineral water in a bug, from a machine. You should try, especially with kids


and one last tip: come with a waterproof camera.

The short guide: Bangkok on $50 a day, Singapore on a lot less, and every other destination you dream of.

Croissant in Paris, ice-cream in Florence, sushi In Tokyo, padthai in Bangkok. Yes, India is nice, but sometimes we want to go overboard. Relax in those places whose tempting pictures just pop out whenever we open Facebook… even though we really don’t have enough money to go there.

But maybe we do?

I travel on a very low budget. $60 a day is a lot for me. And usually it doesn’t even get that high.
But sometimes I feel like I had enough of remote villages, local busses and pictures of Gali milking a buffalo with her little hands. No matter how much I love it.
So how do I manage to sneak the padthai in there, without going overboard?

Not a problem.

Here is the short guide on how to travel in places we simply can’t afford:

1. Those destinations aren’t in the plan. They come in when possible. When it fits. Not on purpose.

2. Flight: the best way to sneak them in “without meaning to” is to squeeze them between two cheap destinations. Either coming or going.
For example:

A. A flight from Vietnam to the Philippines costs the same whether it’s direct, or with a layover in Singapore. And three days in Singapore are a must. Here is an example:

A flight from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam, to Cebu, Philippines:


On the other hand, a flight from Saigon to Singapore:


And from Singapore to Cebu:


Meaning a direct flight costs $142 (and it’s not a good flight, meaning we’re likely to choose a better one that costs $231). Compared with a great flight, with a layover in Singapore, the whole way, Vietnam-Singapore-Cebu, costing a grand total of $123.

B. A flight from the Philippines to Hong-Kong or Japan, round trip, is sometimes so cheap that it hurts missing the opportunity. Keep your finger on the trigger, because for every destination there is one ‘best friend’ destination, and the flights there are very cheap.

C. Bangkok, for example, is a central destination, where a lot of flights stop anyway, you can split the flight to your comfort, book a flight to Bangkok, spend 3-4 days there and continue to your final destination, with a local ‘lowcost’ airliner. There’s even a chance the whole thing will cost less than a direct flight. .

D. Another example- from Israel to Vienna, three sweet days in Vienna, and from there a train to Italy. I’ve done it. It was wonderful. Even brought my dog.

Always check what might be on your way. What can happen if you looked, without raising the costs of the flight and in the most practical, efficient, and adventurous way. Be creative.

3. The amount of time in that destination we can’t afford needs to be very limited. 3-4 days max.

4. Accommodation: after neutralizing the cost of flights, we need to take care of accommodation costs. Example:

A. here is what I do. I never pay for accommodation in an expensive destination. Zero is the new sum total.

B. hospitality clubs- search now in google: write down the name of your specific destination followed by hospitality club. These are clubs that offer free hosting, even for families. Here is one such website.

C. Homestay- same principle, only for a symbolic payment. And it’s not just a place to sleep, you also get guidance and advice from a local (read below what fun we had in Bangkok). Here is one website, and here is another (there’s tons).

D. frequent traveler points- many of the clubs have not only flights but also discounts and packages on hotels. That is the time to use them.

5. Food: easiest and cheapest solution is to not eat for a few days.

But if you really have to, or if the kids insist…

I always eat at the most local places I can find. With the host’s help I can find the most authentic restaurants in the local prices. Don’t let the eye popping lists confuse you “10 best restaurants in Barcelona” don’t interest me, in fact, I don’t look for or waste my time on those lists.

You don’t have to visit the expensive restaurants just to fill a checklist of the destination. The opposite. Go eat with the locals, and see what ‘check’ you’ll feel you did…

and when you come back home and they’ll ask you if you ate at the famous ‘Sultana’, you’ll have a fascinating story about the small restaurant you found where they greeted you so nicely because they’re not used to tourists and they let you taste from this and from that and showed you how that red drink turns purple when you add lemon and when they saw you excited that made you they gave you a taste from that drink whose name, despite every good intention, you just can’t remember but they make it on the spot from some really pretty flower and in the end they didn’t even want to take any money for the meal because Gali is so sweet and reminds them of their daughter when she was her age but of course you paid… and they asked you come tomorrow also and they’ll make something really special, and bring the older kids too, so we can get to know them… 🙂 ~true story

In addition, because I often stay in fully furnished apartments, I prefer to cook at home something tasty and nutritious, and buying the ingredients at the local supermarket is for me an experience into itself.

6. Attractions and luxuries:

Alright, since we managed to eliminate the costs of flight, accommodation, and half of food expenses- you can treat yourself to some attractions, that good ice-cream, and maybe even some shopping.

Also- it’s always worth your time to google your destination together with “free” and “things to do for free” you’ll be surprised how many results you’ll get.

And to close, a recent example:

The plan was to get from Nepal to Vietnam. We split that in two: Nepal-Bangkok, stay three days in Bangkok, and then fly Bangkok-Vietnam.

Accommodation: I booked homestay rooms through Airbnb with the Thai man O. the price was $40 a night for two rooms, but as I said, I didn’t pay for them at all.

Food: we only ate in local restaurants that our host took us to. The food was amazing, the price was about 150-200 baht a meal ($5-6)

We did laundry in the neighborhood for 20 baht per load, $0.5.

Transportation: we took taxis or the sky train (42 baht for the most expensive ticket). The taxis in Bangkok aren’t expensive, especially for a family.

Experiences: we went with our charming host to tours in the city, including Chinatown, the floating market, the palace, and more. In the evening he took the teenager with him to the local pub, to watch the season finale of a popular that gameshow, meet his friends and see the real lives of the locals.

I and my older daughter went on a shopping journey…

Of course we went to have real Thai massage, every evening, in the small neighborhood parlor. I paid 450 baht for me and my two daughters for an hour ($13 altogether)

We got 3 amazing days that left us with new friends, exciting experiences, and lots of new knowledge, great stories, and a good taste.

I paid less than $50 a day, on average.

As you can see, it is possible to travel large on a small budget, even as a family. Please click and download my new ebook “How to travel with kids for 1400$ a month (or less)”.

And you can always try this airline which I usually find very cheap.

The destination where you begin your travels has a lot of consequences. It’ll dictate the way you’ll see the crazy decision you made (honestly, who takes their kids to Southeast Asia??) in the mirror of reality. Meaning, if you’ll go to an unsympathetic destination you’ll feel you made a mistake.

The right destination, on the other hand, will make you feel like you’re on top of the world.

In my opinion, choosing the first destination is the hardest choice. A choice with a lot of things to consider.

Always dreamt of India? Been to India when you were younger and now you want to take your kids there?


So you’ll go to India, at some point on your travels but the first point to look at is:

  • You don’t decide on a destination based on fantasies.
    The correct decision goes through some basic points:
  • When are you planning to arrive
  • How old are the kids
  • Who are you, what your limits as parents are and what kind of lifestyle you are used to
  • What scares you most about Southeast Asia?

The question many people struggle with and even ask me about is: what’s better, to start off sprinting and then everything will look simple afterwards, to start gently, slowly?

I’m always in favor of starting gently.

To anyone that thinks otherwise I (accepting and respecting) recommend you start with Varanasi, India. Delhi and Mumbai aren’t bad options either.

And if you want gentle:

Choose a destination where most people speak English. I would never start from a place where I can’t communicate the locals. That rules out China, Vietnam, Mongolia (Mongolia is a different story because in the capital city there is no problem) and more.

  • Choose a destination where the sanitation levels are high, especially concerning food. Give your digestive system time to get used to Southeast Asia slowly. Give the kids time to understand the hygiene rules there. That rules out India, Laos, and parts of China.
  • A destination where the season is pleasant and comfortable. No monsoon. No freezing temperatures. The tourist season. A bit before or after at the most. Beyond comfort, the weather effects many things like sanitation, diseases, mood… in addition, starting when there are so many other travelers around, when meetings are exciting, daily, and simple, gives you a lot of confidence.
  • A place where it’s easy to travel. Where there’s comfort and accessibility. The challenges save for later.

The things you’ll have to deal with in the beginning will not be neither few nor simple. And that’s the reason I think you need to choose a place where you can deal with them peacefully. This is a huge change in your way of life, in your everyday routine. Getting used to that change takes time, and requires patience, mental strength, and flexibility.

Every family member will undergo this change differently. And as parents, you will need to know how to deal with each one of the kids. And of course with the changes happening to you.

That’s why I warmly recommend you go to a place where you can relax, pass this time of changes without a million attractions and distractions, but first deal with them. Let the gears spin together smoothly again between all family members and for each one separately. And after that, the skies are the limit.

The three destinations I recommend:

  • If you have a high budget/very fearful- Thailand, around the beaches. Choose an area where you can meet more families. (Not recommended for everyone, just for those that feel they really need something gentle).
  • If you have a low budget/average family/averagely fearful parents- Nepal. This is my favored destination from every aspect. Nepal is gentler than India, its easy and light and pleasant, but also challenging in just the right amount. After all, landing in Kathmandu is not easy for those who haven’t been to Southeast Asia yet.
  • If you set out during the monsoon (July-August) only- the monsoon in Southeast Asia in problematic. It’s difficult to find a proper first destination. That’s why, only if that’s the situation, I recommend north India. Manali, Ladakh. This is the good season for those destinations. Still- India is India, even though the north is less wild than other areas.

Southeast Asia is made of a lot of countries, and in every country there are lots of options. You can open your mind and look outside the known and familiar beaten path. What about Taiwan? Korea? Myanmar? I haven’t been everywhere and I write here only from my personal experience. But I can tell you, I always enjoy finding a new and surprising destination, one that I haven’t thought of before.

My life for me isn’t just traveling. And it isn’t just an easy way to make my way in the world. As you probably already know by now, this lifestyle is very meaningful to me. And in fact almost every step I take, and almost every choice I make, happens only after a lot of consideration and no little desire to do the utmost for me, but mostly for my children.

I try my hardest to take the points that make our unique routine, and make the most of them. To think, to be creative and use everything that our lifestyle allows, all to give my children morals, confidence and experience.
This post is born of questions that a number of families asked me while planning their trips or already traveling. I found out in in the short, practical answers I give to everyone, hides a lot more than just “how to pack for your trip”
So here are four things that seem small, but in reality are huge.

1. Their own bags

When going on a long trip, your suitcase or big bag and everything in it become a very big part of your life. Therefore, it’s important to put some thought into how to best distribute the equipment between everyone.
Give your children their own bags, let them decide what they take (with your well-meaning guiding), and make sure all their things fit into their own bag. That includes shoes, personal toiletries, and a towel if possible. That bag will be their private, intimate place, where their things are, and they’re responsible for it.

Give them the feeling that you trust them to know how to take care of their things, to remember packing them whenever you’re going to a new place, and make sure they can carry their bag themselves. Respect their privacy about the things in the bag, and give them that good feeling involved in being responsible over its contents.

2. Financial freedom

Southeast Asia presents a wonderful opportunity to let the kids handle money on an everyday basic from a very young age. Involve the kids with everything money, on the everyday level. But everything. They should know how much the room costs at the guesthouse, look at the prices in menus, and be aware of the daily budget you’re keeping to. Calculate exchange rates.

And beyond that- make sure they always have money in their pocket. To experience regular shopping, every day, according to need, but also desire. Slowly slowly they’ll learn not to buy ice-cream with that money, but to save it for when they’re really thirsty and just want a bottle of water. Or to pay for the laundry you asked them to collect. Or the bus ride. I’ve been giving my older children (14 and 17 years old) free access to the family wallet and money and they manage their money very responsibly.

3. social awareness

During your time abroad you’ll have to deal with a lot of things you might not think about beforehand. For example, friends’ and family’s birthdays and other events you won’t be able to participate in. to mark the important dates and feel that you share your loves ones’ happiness, despite the distance, set aside a small amount of money (that you would’ve spent anyway on the event) and go out with the kids to give that money to those that really need it. Make the kids a part of everything, ask them their opinions, and give them the chance to be involved. Buy fruits for the street urchins, clothe for poor families in your area, or donate a few books or toys to a local orphanage. To this day there’s a Tibetan woman in Pokhara that hugs me every time I pass her by, because of the warm socks and shirts I bought for her children for the birthday of a close friend of mine, in his name. Actually, it was my daughter that asked her what she needed and went with her to the store to get what she needed.

4. Full and active cooperation

Let the kids have a say about every decision, considerations, inquiries. Send them on info-gathering missions- starting from the currency exchange rates in whichever country you’re going to, and all the way to finding a place to sleep. My children, according to their ages, manage the trip completely alongside me. They search for plane tickets, find out all the info we need about the places we want to go to (visas, currency, diseases, etc..) and very often they’re also responsible for booking hotel rooms for the first few nights in a new destination. I don’t chase after them to do it, I trust them fully and give them all due credit. How to get from place to place, how much does it cost, which company to go with, how long does it take, where should we stop and rest. And many other fine-print details that amount to quite a list that we share amongst us.

The K-12 education program, experience public school at home.


A few months ago I was walking in the streets of New-Delhi with my 13 years old daughter. We walked just the two of us, from the quiet neighborhood where we usually stay while in Delhi, to the ‘touristic’ neighborhood, that has a tikka store we like.

While walking, my daughter raised the interesting point that there are almost no women in the street. Surprisingly, with all the great masses crowding the Indian streets, you barely see any women. And definitely not young women. And if in the city you do see them sometimes, around bars mostly, than when you leave the big cities and go to the villages you hardly see any at all.

Just like that, in the middle of the street, we developed a fascinating debate on women in India, or in Nepal, or other places we’ve been to. On the reasons, the implications, and what does she think of those things.

‘My daughter is growing up’, I thought to myself. And however much that it is hard for me (who doesn’t want them to wait just a little bit more with growingup…) that’s how much it is also wonderful.

I have two teenagers. One is almost 17 years old. The other is almost 14. When we started traveling, almost 6 years ago, they were all still little kids. Everything was different. Now, things look completely another way.

I’ll try to write here a bit from my experience. I divided the subject by sections according to the teenager’s needs and how does traveling meet them.

Physical needs:

The first and most crucial need- hunger. Teens eat a lot. They’re very often hungry. That causes them to be irritable, impatient, and very negative to their surroundings. That’s why the first thing is making sure they get the amount of food they need, and that food will always be accessible. I can’t describe how important that is and what difference that makes. Don’t close that corner with snacks, but try as much as possible to make it healthy and nutritious food.

Sleep- almost like hunger, when a teens are tired or don’t get as much sleep as they need, the whole environment. And it’s not fun. Hence- do your best to make sure they sleep properly. In our house, a day after a Chelsea match (that happened very late at night) doesn’t look like a day in which the 16 years old slept properly. Especially if they lost.

Hygiene– very much dependent on every person’s personality, the way I feel, that’s a need that you need to think less on, but if you have a teen that is sensitive to the subject- it’s very important to make sure he’s as comfortable as possible, even in Southeast Asia, even in India, even in an old local bus. And maybe that’s actually an opportunity to work on the subject, to allow them to get used to slightly less comfortable conditions, develop flexibility and an immunity to it. Talk about it, get prepare and don’t ignore.

◊ Pimples- products for face cleaning are everywhere, including soaps, creams, and salves. Can also find naturals. I buy for them the organic product (in the organic shop in Pokhara, Nepal) and remind them to use it when I see a need for it (which doesn’t happen often)

◊ Female hygiene- can find almost anywhere, but it’s important to make sure you always have it accessible. If the teen got stuck, forgot, just took the wrong bag- have a spare roll. Always.

Emotional needs:

Privacy– the average teenager needs his privacy. In my opinion that’s one of the most critical points when traveling with teens, because their difficulty is very real, authentic, and very pressing. All day spent with the family (something that is simply illegal when you’re a teenager…), stuck in the same car with them, or the same hotel room, everyone has to go to the same places all the time, all the meals are eaten together, and if that’s not enough, they have to pretend that they’re actually enjoying it, because it’s a vacation after all.

They don’t enjoy it.

They don’t like it.

And we are never going to change that.
Not even if we try really hard and even if we’ll be the coolest parents and the sweetest young siblings. It has nothing to do with us.

What I do:

? When it comes to packing first of all- their own bag (I don’t have my own bag…), with all their stuff, without any adult supervision what-so-ever, to give them complete responsibility and privacy over their own things.

? When possible I get them their own rooms. I try to balance between periods where they have to share a room with their siblings and relaxed periods where they have their own room. Surprise them with their own room and you’ll see how easily you made one soul in this world happy.

? The subject needs to be ‘on the table’, talked about. So that when they feel the need for privacy they can feel comfortable enough to tell you, and to know that there is someone that understands and accepts it. Even in a one week vacation.

? And more than that- sometimes I go to them myself and tell them of a place I saw that might interest them, suggest a restaurant with food I know they’ll love (and suggest they go alone or in a constellation that works for them), or an activity they like (“you know, when I walked with Gali to the beach I saw on the way a group playing basketball… it’s really near here”).

? I give them freedom in everything regarding family meals. If they prefer to stay home alone for a bit, while we all go to eat I cooperate and simply bring them some take-away. Or if they prefer sitting at a separate table (yes yes… teenagers) I don’t make a big deal out of it. Free on the house. When they do decide to sit with us I always mention how nice it is for me.

? Pictures- I have one that hates having his pictures taken and one that takes selfies all day. I don’t argue. So much so that sometimes people ask me where is my son and if he even travels with us. As much as it pains me that he doesn’t let me document him, I respect his wishes. On some rare occasions I try to convince him that he should, just sometimes, document some of the moments he goes through, just for the memories. Sometimes I even succeed.

♦ Independence– the travel is an excellent opportunity to sharpen their independence skills, let them try new experiences on their own. Deal with new environmental conditions. This can be an experience that hugely increases their self-confidence, if and especially if your private teenager has some social difficulties or is going through a tough time.

? Let them walk around on their own, go buy something for everyone, look for and ask for information, pay for services, and go shopping all alone.

? let them taste and try the experiences that the place you’re at provides. From conversations in a new language, with people from different places all over the world, and to going on treks/rafting with friends, and everything in between. Encourage that, gibe them your support and don’t make faces if they ask to try some crocodile BBQ. They’re developing their own self, and that’s wonderful!

? I also warmly recommend that they have someone (that isn’t you) to talk to. Before the trip, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a long trip or a short one, open a channel of communication with someone to which they feel close enough, make sure they can talk anytime they want (considering, of course, the acceptable hours). It’s impossible to describe the effect of one small ventilating conversation, to the teen’s mental state and to the overall family mood and the success of the whole trip.

Social needs:

Depends on the teen, of course. But a large percentage on teenagers refuse to ever hear about going abroad with family, and it doesn’t matter if it’s for four days or four years. They refuse, under any circumstance, to be separated from their friend for even an hour. It’s a subject that drags with it arguments and stress and mess. It’s not easy with those teenagers.

? Talk with them about a trip that includes places/activities that interest them. Show them you know and accept that they need to be connected to their friends 24/7, and that’s why you want to ask them how you can go as family, in a way that everyone enjoys. Give them a personal example and use that difficulty to have a deal with them that is based on listening and understanding, and not on “you’re coming with us and that’s it”. Show them you treat them as mature, show your side openly and sensitively (“it’s very important to me that you come with us, we don’t have much time left with you… in a second you’ll be going your own way”, or anything that you might be feeling) and let them express themselves.

? Now, because my son is also this website’s translator (from Hebrew), I have to be very loyal to reality. So I have to add that this sometimes doesn’t work. Sometimes I have to force him (it’s interesting that it doesn’t happen with his younger sister, simply because of her different personality) but I only do it in cases where I know for sure (I know him very well) that moving to a new place will be a better experience for him, in the end.

? I’ll always try to fit the place we’re going to, to my children’s wishes and requests. Hence, we were this year for example in Nepal (my 13 years old wanted), we were in Vietnam (everyone were into that), in Singapore (my 10 years old’s choice), and in a very specific island in the Philippines (to my 16 years old’s request). The plan is to go to Ladakh in the summer (everyone wants that, each for their own reasons). On the other hand, if we only did what I wanted, we would now probably be on a mountain top in Kyrgyzstan…

♦ The friends at home: today that is not a problem. All you need is Wi-Fi. Allow them that freely. And I do mean freely. No making faces, or saying things like “you’re always on your phone”. Let them go through this process by themselves and understand that the friends at home can wait a moment, because the view from the window right now is something you’ll probably never see again. The more comment on it, the more you’ll find them glued to their screens. You brought them here, and now it’s their choice what they’re going to do with it. And it’s possible they’ll regret later. And that’s also fine, it’s another kind of learning…

♦ New friends from the road: a wonderful experience. Meeting people from all over the world, all ages, all sorts and colors. Let them, because every person they meet, and it doesn’t matter who or what s/he is, will enrich their world. Every. One. Let them have deep conversations with people they just now met in a restaurant, these people will listen to them with a very different viewpoint than anyone else (that knows them for a long time) will listen to them with. They’ll enjoy it so much, simply because they can show them their new ‘self’, the mature, smart, thinking, self. It’s an excellent and important experience in every way and I can’t even describe how vital and teaching it is. Doubtlessly one of the greatest gifts I give my children by living as we do.

? Do your homework and try to find destinations where it’s easier to make friends; or at least try to balance between those places and places where it’s harder. For instance, in India and Nepal it’s easy to make friends. In Vietnam it’s harder.

? let them by themselves. Never ever interrupt, don’t try to ‘matchmake’. They will choose themselves who to connect with and in what language. Let them explore. Out of their need they’ll also find a solution. If they thirst for friends- you can be sure that they’ll find them. And if they want some quiet, your ‘matchmaking’ will only burden them further.

? Together with what I wrote here, traveling can also develop their social skills range from the other side: simply to be alone. To be alone and enjoy it. Do things alone, think alone, go alone to a surfing class and come back with a few new friends. All the arc of “alone”, including feeling lonely. It’s a part of life, and the ability to feel it and deal with it in a healthy way can be very important. So don’t get worried and don’t run away from it. In my opinion, the ability to deal with it eventually gives a strong feeling of confidence and security and because of that- freedom. Not relying on anyone but themselves. Power.

Exposure to ‘sensitive’ subjects:

♦ Hookers in the street, hard drugs, light drugs, tattoos, piercing, drunks in the streets, lots of free alcohol and cigarettes, little children driving motorbikes and scooters, street kids, strip clubs on the same street as your guesthouse, bad offers (“psst, marijuana…”- drug dealers in India don’t really care how old you are. Even 13 years old is fine), a million free girls with and without swimsuits at the beach, families with small children where the parents sit and smoke pot right next to the babies, Kama-sutra cards in the stack next to the regular cards and more and more and more…- you won’t be able to avoid all those. And even if you don’t see every single one of these things, I promise you’ll see at least a part. I allow my kids to observe everything. I use those sights sometimes, to start a discussion on the subject, depends on the child’s age and on what they raise themselves. I can tell you that I put a lot of thought into how deal with those things. To ignore, try to hide, try to avoid the truth (“mommy what’s that?” – “ah… nothing. Want some ice-cream?”), or to give them truthful answers. I decided not to hide the truth. Meanwhile, my two private teenagers, maybe because they saw the results and the ugly sides of the above list, really aren’t too excited to try for themselves. I trust them 100%.

♦ Their parents and “sensitive” subjects- when you go traveling, you go with everything you are, even the things that during the everyday the kids aren’t exposed to. How we deal with tough situations, our passion, our delight, our weaknesses. Go for it. Give them a pick into what kind of people you really are, without the house matters, mom-and-dad’s-driving-services-pvt-ltd office. It’s a wonderful opportunity. Dance, swim, sing, jump in the water, be sexual, be human, be desperate, be happy, be curious, adventurous, cowards. Be everything you are. It’s likely that some of the things you do will be the most embarrassing things your teenagers will experience, but looking back, they’ll appreciate it. And if not than your dance in the middle of that street in Bangkok will be a funny family story that will be remembered forever.

♦ Condoms, pills and other safety measures- if your teens are sexually active, make sure they have them (especially Condoms), and if not- equip them in advance. And anyway, you can get those everywhere.

Technical needs:

♦ Phone, Wi-Fi, Tablet, Mirror, Music player, Earphones, and everything that is a ‘must’ in their lives. I try as much as possible to fill those needs 100%. I don’t argue, don’t try to show them that “you can do without”. To me these are small things, which they’ll discover, I’m sure, in some stage of their growth, by themselves, and what more, each one of those things is important to keep them happy.

Bottom line:

1. The iron rule: don’t leave them hungry or tires.

2. Create a balance between family activities and freedom, independence, and privacy (and surprise them with their own room).

3. Let them find the solution to their own social need themselves.

4. Show them sides of you they don’t know, give personal example, give and encourage them to try for themselves as they want in this experience.

And to close off- a short description on my 16 years old son of his life as a traveler (I didn’t touch anything…).
“What’s it like to travel? Well, it’s freedom. To me, it’s mostly social freedom. I’m not stuck in a closed environment with only a set number of people and told to pick my friends from among them. While traveling, I Meet a lot of people, all kinds of people, from kids my age or younger, to pensioners and everything in between. People that do everything, from every culture and place. I get to choose my social circle. And if I choose to avoid people for a week for some reason, well I can easily do that too without any judgment from anyone. But it’s not just the social aspects of travelling that I find so appealing, it’s the different sights, and smells, and flavors. There’s nothing I like more than going to a new country and trying out all of its street food. I can’t imagine ever living differently”.


Rishikesh is one of the best known places in India. It’s hard to miss when travelling in India with kids and families from all over the world go there.

She’s a pleasant and quiet city. For India, that is. I personally really liked the atmosphere at the city itself. It might be packed with people but it has something that makes it much more calm than other Indian cities.

It’s likely you won’t actually stay in the city itself but near the Ganga River in one of the touristic neighborhoods- Laxmanjhula or Ramjhula. They say that Laxmanjhula is the quieter. They’re wrong. It’s more touristic in nature, bigger and noisier and full of Israelis. Ramjhula is laidback, more ‘spiritual’ and has mostly European tourist.

If you go a bit further from the bunk you can find sweet, clean rooms with a kitchen and a garden. You can even find a guesthouse where you can rent a whole apartment with a kitchen and a living-room and everything.

∴ In Rishikesh we met the nicest Cows in India. They’re friendly and enjoy being petted and we really knew some of them personally.

People mostly come to Rishilesh for the courses on offer there- yoga and spirituality and Ashrams plenty. With kids it’s a bit different but plenty of courses let kids in for free.

If its your first time in India, look at the food and drinks safety rules page.

In my opinion, the biggest attraction Rishikesh holds is the Ganga. Soft white sandy beaches and cold water. You can swim every day and pass a month without even feeling it…

♦ And of course the Puja ceremonies that are done in all different ways both right on the Ganga and in temples. Within a week the kids turn to experts.

♦ And the Monkeys! Two kinds rule Rishikesh, and especially the bridges, with an iron fist. The yellow monkeys, wild, full of mischief and pretty aggressive. And the grey-black Monkeys that are very friendly and much less aggressive. So as long as you aren’t holding food in your hand you’ll be fine.

♦ I found the guesthouses in the tourist centers to be run-down and for the most part more dirty than guesthouses in other parts in India. That doesn’t mean you can’t find something good or newly opened. The prices, by the way, are very low. If they tell you there’s hot water 24/7 take it with a pinch of salt.

♦ The food in the local restaurants is spicy and thickly seasoned. The Chai is excellent. The restaurants that serve western food are good but the prices are above average. They have great shakes (even Oreo shake) and cold coffee. And Chocolates Pralines. Yum.

see also our special route for food-loving families traveling to India

♦ There’s also a selection of Ayuverdic restaurants and lodges.

♦ As well as a great selection of organic products and supermarkets, that even sell some home-made healthy and all-natural, vegan foods.

♦ Many go to the waterfalls around. I didn’t go but my son did and he says they’re really nice. it’s a nice hike just out side the urban area.

♦ There’s also a Waterpark nearby. They say it’s also very nice. and a Bungy jumping site.

we also have a full list of activities specifically for crazy, Adrenalin seeking families :-). 

♦ In general you can say that Rishikesh is a real touristic marvel. It has all the luxuries and comforts you need. But it takes time to get used to it. Don’t run away too quickly, give it the time it needs to charm you.

♦ From Rishikesh leave a few beautiful treks. Check with a travel agency.

♦ There’s also wonderful rafting trips in the season.

♦ If you rent a scooter you’ll be a lot more mobile and could jump for visits in nearby villages and rivers.

♦ You could also visit the city daily and go to one of the true pearls of the area- Papu Lassi. Cold, sweet, and delicious. Entirely addictive. In addition, in the city there are a few restaurants that pride themselves in a beautiful and very tasty collection of traditional Indian sweets.

♦ It’s also recommended to visit the colorful fruits and vegetables market.

♦ And to go to the cinema at least once. We’re talking about a real India Cinema, where the crowd is an active participant in the movie and kids with trays of Chai and snacks go between the rows selling throughout the entire movie. A highly enjoyable experience.

♦ As a city located near the Ganga, the sale of meat, Alcohol and Eggs is banned (in the inner burrows of the city you could find all these things if you’re really persistent). To fill up the protein needs eat lots of legumes. It’s recommended to use the Chole stands (cooked Chickpeas, served with spiced vegetables, Salt and Lemon) in the area. 10 Rupees per plate.

♦ In Ramjhula there is a small restaurant called ‘The Office’. It serves very good Chai but its crowning glory are the famous dessert Samosas filled with Cinnamon Apple or Banana and Chocolate. Don’t miss!

Warning: dear girls. Never walk in Rishikesh alone after dark. The streets look safe and innocent but a few very violent cases have happened. Don’t walk alone and definitely not with a revealing outfit.
Please: the Ganga is an extremely holy place to the Indians. Respect that. Don’t swim in a Bikini and keep to the respectful guidelines of the place.

Here is a nice family-friendly route in south India

Prices for example:
A decent room– 350-500 Rupees a night.
Papu Lassi– 20 Rupees.
Thali– 50-80 Rupees.
Scooter per day– 250 Rupees.
Rickshaw bus to the city– 5 Rupees per person (and don’t let them fool you!), kids go for free.
Chai– 10-20 Rupees.
Cold Coffee– 50 Rupees.

*** 7 years of continuous travel with my kids are gathered into my ebook. you are welcome to download and join me.