with kids


Japan can be overwhelming and overcrowded, especially at high-season. Travelers in Japan often find themselves confused and lost, and so they miss so much of what this incredible country has to offer. These tips will help you cope better as a family, and save a lot of time, effort, ragged nerves, and frustration:

 – Book everything in advance- Large parts of Japan are overcrowded a lot of the time, so many establishments are completely booked out. That extends to more than just the obvious hotels and flights, but also to museums (such as the Hayao Miyazgi/Ghibli museum in Tokyo), other theme/amusement parks, and trains.

For trains, even if you a railway pass (which is highly recommended to buy online before you even get to Japan), you should still book you place in advance. The general rule is that when you get to a new city, if you know how many days you’ll be there, go and book your place on the train to the next city that same day. If you don’t know how long you’ll stay, or where you’ll go to next, do it once you decide.

 – Carry a few plastic bags with you- In Tokyo there are no trash cans in the street, so travelers often find themselves with nowhere for their trash.

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 – Have raincoats with you always- You never know when it’ll start drizzling in Japan, you you don’t your sushi to get wet.

 – Don’t worry about food- If one of your kids is a picky eater- have no fear! in Japan you can always find a McDonald’s or a Starbucks nearby

 – One Samurai castle is enough.

 – Ta-Q-Bin – Is a service that ship your suitcases for you! You go into a convenience store (like 7/11), ask if they have this service (most do), fill a form and pay a small fee, and they’ll ship your suitcases for you to your next destination, straight to your hotel or Airbnb. They’ll even carry it up the stairs for you! This way you don’t have to drag those huge suitcases around the train station.

They will also hold your suitcases for up to a week before shipping them, so you can pack a small bag and stop in a few fun spots on the way to your destination without having to carry a huge bag with you everywhere.

Ta-Q-Bin also operates in many other Asian countries and even carries packages internationally.



This article was written with the help of Gily Avishay who spent a long time in Japan.


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.

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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.

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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:-).

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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.

Here is everything I thought would help you plan a Vietnam with kids. I tried giving you a more general image as well as going into detail, in points that I found important.


On South China Sea, neighbor to Cambodia and Laos. An hour flight from Bangkok, Thailand. A long, narrow country, with a lot of beaches. Half of Vietnam is a peninsula.

Best seasons:

In Vietnam it’s hot all year around. Seasons are largely fictional. There are times of year it’s a bit warmer or rainier (and it’s still hot when it rains). Supposedly you can arrive all year around, but I recommend going in October-April, not too hot and doesn’t rain too much. Even when it’s hot, it’s not suffocating heat because you can go into the pool or the ocean, and there are air-conditioners in almost room.

Estimated budget for a family per month:

In Vietnam accommodation is the most expensive thing. Food and transportation and all else is negligible.

Very low budget: low budget hotels without swimming pool, cheap restaurants and little or no adventuring, 1000-1300$ a month.

Low budget: cheap hotels with a pool, cheap restaurants and street food, and staying put for the most part, 1300-1550$ a month.

Medium budget: good hotels with pool and breakfast, right on the beach, good restaurants (even if in my opinion the best restaurants are cheap/street food), moving often from place to place, maybe even some water sports lessons (surfing, scuba diving, kite surfing), 1950-2100$

High budget (vacation): luxury hotels, expensive restaurants, tours, diving and surfing, private transportation, 2600$ and above.


Vietnamese visa you do In advance online. It costs 18$ a month or 30$ for three months, for single entry visa. Multiple entry visa costs 25$ for a month or 65$ for three months, and takes 2-3 work day to process and get a certificate, which you need to print, and then bring to clerk at the airport to put a stamp in your passport. In the airport you also have to pay a service fee of 25$ per person. It’s best to prepare dollars cash in advance.

Exchange rate and currency:

The Vietnamese currency is called Dong, and it has one of the smaller denominations in the world. One dollar is worth 22,500 dongs (VND). A good amount to get from the ATM is 4-6 million (2 million at a time). Yes, all you need to do to be a millionaire is fly to Vietnam.
The ATMs charge high commission. And in most you can only pull 2 million at a time.an ATM that doesn’t tale commission and lets you pull larger amounts is Citibank. Look for it.


Vietnam has great WiFi almost anywhere. And it’s always free and usually without password.
Sim cards are readily available in stores. You can also get a very comfortable data package.

Places I recommend:

Mui Ne, a charming little vacation town on the beach, 3 hours’ drive from Ho Chi Minh city- sitting on a world heritage site. Because of the desert clime, there’s hardly any humidity and annoying critters, which makes it a perfect place for a vacation.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Hanoi, Halong bay


Try This article as well- everything you need to know before you go.

Foods to try:

Pho: a Vietnamese noodle soup, with some vegetables and lots of meat or seafood, traditionally mixed in with some fresh leaves for seasoning, and hot chili sauce if you like spicy.

Banh Mi: Vietnamese Sandwich, cut in half baguette, with all kinds of meats and pastrami (usually pork), vegetables, mayo and chili if you want. One of the world’s best sandwiches.

Banh Xeo: a salty crape fried in butter and oil with all the extras you want (usually meat and seafood), with some bean sprouts on top, sauces and herbs.

Fruits: Vietnam has the best fruits in Asia. Better than Thailand or the Philippines or anywhere else. If you haven’t bought a few kilos of fruits for dinner, then you haven’t been in Vietnam. My favorite is Dragon Fruit but everything is delicious.

Here is a whole route for food loving familie :-).


Busses in Vietnam has an excellent network of comfortable busses (the best busses I’ve been in by 500%) that get everywhere cheaply and quickly.

A few words on long distance busses:

-The busses have inclined almost bed-like seats (sleeper).

-Inside the bus there are three rows of single “beds” and two stories per row.

-When entering the bus you’re asked to take your shoes off and put them in plastic bags.

-They’ll ask you to take as few bags as possible because there’s simply nowhere to put them.

-Most buses have wifi

-And air conditioning.

-I highly recommend booking the back row in advance. It’s the only row where you can all be together and you’ll have some extra room for your bags.

Trains- are also good and comfortable.

Flights- there are a few local companies that do domestic flights.
The four companies are: Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet, Jetstar, and Airmakong.

Taxis- also comfortable. Most use a meter. Beware of stings.

Scooter taxis- fun, and cheap.

Things you should know:


The biggest holiday of the year is called Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, around the end of January/beginning of February. The prices around Tet skyrocket. Almost to doubling. Including the food in the street food stalls. You could have soup at a stall for 15,000vnd one day, and the next day the same soup at the same stall will cost 25,000vnd. That’s accepted and shouldn’t be bargained over. Additionally, during the holiday most businesses will be closed.

Vietnam for those keeping kosher:

Keeping kosher is difficult in Vietnam, because they live on pork and seafood. Chicken and beef are common too, but they cook using the same ports and utensils. For vegetarians, a lot of times when you ask for a vegetarian soup the restaurant will just fish out the chunks of meat and serve you he same soup. Nevertheless, you can still find vegetarian restaurants here and there. Or an Indian restaurant (where they understand what ‘veg’ means).

There’s an abundance of fruits, vegetables, eggs, bread and markets to buy some basic ingredients.


For the last few years I’ve been coming to Nepal with my kids for at least a few months a year. So I gathered for you all the things I thought would help planning a trip there. I tried giving you a more general image as well as going into detail, in points that I found important.


Neighbor to India and China, half an hour flight from Delhi, an hour and a half from Bangkok.

Budget for a family per month:

Low budget- cheap hotels, cheap restaurants, and one short trek, 1000-1200$
Medium budget- decent hotels, average restaurants, a trek and rafting, 1200-1400$
High budget- good hotels, expensive restaurants, good private transportation, treks and rafting, 1400-2000$

Getting there:

I recommend Turkish or Qatar airways.
You can also take a bus from India, but be prepared as it’s a grueling 30-40 hours’ drive.


In Nepal you get visa upon landing, 45$ a month or 100$ for three months. You can extend afterwards (up to a combined 150 days a year) in Pokhara or in Kathmandu at the cost of 2$ a day in the immigration office.
Children under 10 don’t pay (and don’t let them charge you for them).
There’s a machine at the airport through which you fill a form and have your picture taken, print the form and wait in line for the Visa.

Recommended seasons:

There are two good seasons a year, from early February until April, that starts cool and clear and gets warmer and wetter, and from late September to late November, that starts warm and a bit rainy and gets cooler and clearer. There’s also the winter, which is very cold but doesn’t get any rain, that’s in December to early February. Late December and early January are the best for view (the clearest visibility).

Exchange rate:

The Nepali currency is called Nepali rupee (npr), and it’s worth less than an Indian rupee in a ratio of 1-1.6 (1 Indian rupee is worth 1.6 Nepali rupees). 1$ is worth about 100 npr.

Central hubs:

Kathmandu- the capital city (the tourist zone is a neighborhood called Thamel). A noisy, bustling city.
Pokhara- the second biggest city. A calm, quiet city on a lake shore. (The tourist zone is an area called lakeside, and it’s right on the lake).

Places we recommend:

Lakeside Pokhara- a quiet, relaxed neighborhood on Pokhara’s Fewa Lake.

Australian base camp- a stunning village in the mountains, two hours’ drive from Pokhara, with amazing views, good guesthouses and restaurants.

Astham village- on the Himalayan foothills, the Annapurna range, a small village with a sweet eco lodge.

Fishling-Charoundi area- halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara, an interesting point on the Trisuli River. You can stay in resorts and participate in extreme water sports (kayaking canyoning etc…) or just chill on the beach. Great local food, meeting with the local and an introduction to real Nepal.

Foods to try:

Dal-Baht- a meal consisting of rice, lentil soup, vegetable curry, steamed greens, and a type of “pickle”- what puts the spicy in it all- that can come in a number of ways (tomato sauce with chilly, spiced chopped radishes, etc…). Sometimes they add a plate of meat (chicken/fish/buffalo). The Nepalese eat it every day twice a day, breakfast and dinner.

Momo- steamed Tibetan dumpings filled with vegetables or meat.

Thukpa- a Nepali style noodle soup (there’s a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian version) and sometimes has momos inside.


-Nepal is home of the world’s highest mountain, Mount Everest (8848m’ or 29,029ft). The first woman to get to the summit was Japanese, in 1975

-In Nepal there are many gorgeous rivers, and the Everest and Annapurna mountain ranges, both a part of the Himalayas. The villages still preserve an ancient culture, the houses are made of stone and mud, and the cooking on an open fire, the food taken straight from the field, shower is in the river, etc…

-Food is mostly rice or corn based.

-The national dish is Dal-Baht- a rice dish they eat with their hands, twice a day, every day.

-The national drink is a milk Chai tea they call Chia, and Alcohol – they have a few different kinds of homemade drinks made from Semolina or Rice- Roxi, Chang, Tumba.

-The most special Tikka is the “Tihar” (brother-sister festival) Tikka- given by the eldest sister to her younger brothers. This is one of the most important and holy festivals in the Nepali culture and is celebrated every year around October. (Joins the “Dasai”, the year’s most important festival).

The important holidays- are celebrated towards the end of October. That should be taken under consideration as most Nepalese like to go back home to their families (that includes taxi drivers and trekking guides…), traffic is high, roads are full to bursting, and there’s a shortage of manpower as they’re all celebrating.

Holidays in March-April: the two biggest ones are “Shiva Ratri”- where they smoke marijuana for the god’s birthday, and eat sugarcanes. In the evening they light bonfires and roast the sugarcanes on the flames and after it gets very hot, they slam it against the ground, which creates a loud bang. They afterwards eat the flowing syrup straight from the cane…

The other one is known as “Holy”- the color festival. A whole day where people throw colorful powder on each other in the street. Go with your spare clothes and be prepared for street color fights (they mix the powders with water and sometimes eggs…). Keep a close eye on the kids as there usually are hundreds out in the street on that day.

-clothing: most people wear regular western clothing. Bracelets on the wrists signify marriage.

-The Nepalese are charming, gentle and love kids. They’ll go to them straight away, play with them and carry them around in their arms. If that’s hard for you, put limits on thing and tell your kids it’s ok to refuse if they don’t like it.

Additional information:

Money and ATM machines: ATMs today are easy to find in any city. Usually they even work. The recommended bank is “Nabil Bank”- look for the green ATMs, they allow you to pull 35,000 at one go, for a 500 rupee commission per pull. And you can do that up to 3 times in a row.

Water: you can easily find mineral water in any store both in cities and villages at the cost of 25 rupees a bottle. Hot water for a shower- some places have only solar heating, others also an electric. There won’t always be hot water in the shower so better make sure before going in 

Rain: the rains in Nepal get very heavy, and come very suddenly. When it rains the streets turn to rivers. Take umbrellas with you, and waterproof jackets (easy to get anywhere) and it’s best to just go with flip-flops

Temperature: in Nepal they don’t really have any heater/coolers in most hotels. There’s a ceiling fan (that only works when there’s power) but it doesn’t help with humidity. If you come at very hot or cold seasons prepare accordingly.


Inside the cities you can get around by taxi or simply walking. You should always agree on the taxi price before getting in that taxi. Between cities- the tourist bus is fast, reliable and comfortable. A usual price per seat is 600-700npr (you can share a seat with your young children and not pay for them). The drive is 6-8 hours with 2 stops in the middle, but take under consideration traffic jams and road blocks. Always take some snacks with you.

Another option is a flight. A ticket costs 100-120$. It’s a short flight recommended for those short on time.

Communication – sim card and internet:

The biggest telecommunication company in Nepal is Ncell. To buy a sim card you’ll need a photocopy of the visa page on your passport. Or you can buy a ‘black market’ sim card in some stores. You get call minutes by buying a recharge ‘balance’ card (you can find those at most convenient stores, 20, 50,100, 200 rupees’ worth and so on). You can also buy 3G data, which is usually fast.

Wifi there’s almost everywhere and it’s usually a decent speed.
**plastic bags: it’s getting harder and harder to find simple a plastic bag. In stores they give ecological paper bags, and if you don’t want to have to buy them every time, it’s best you bring a bag with you to carry everything around. I recommend you bring a few plastic bags with you from home because sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

Things to do with kids in Nepal:

Rafting: a must for every family. A trip of 2-3 days (or more if you want), on a river raft, high or low extreme levels (up to you). What’s wonderful about rafting is that it’s not just the river, but also the views, the encounter with nature, the little villages along the way, camping meals (that the stuff cooks with impressive competence!).

The rafting company I recommend for family trips is Adrenaline-Rush, their office in right on Pokhara’s main junction (Halown-chawk). They’re not the cheapest but their level of service is very high.

Trekking: of course, there are many routes, of varying difficulties. Go to an agency and check. There’s no need to learn it all in advance, it’s even preferable to get there and get all the info and explanation about the treks. They’ll also know which routes are open and safe, weather-wise. You can decide today to leave tomorrow. There are also trekking equipment stores everywhere. They also rent so everything is nice and organized.

Recommended trek with kids at a very low difficulty level- Dhampus trek, includes the Australian base camp. A short trek that doesn’t go into dangerous altitudes, with picturesque villages and excellent views of the Annapurna range.

For more adventurous families- “around Annapura” trek. I recommend consulting with a doctor before going about how to deal with high altitudes, correct behavior in high altitudes, signs are and warning signs.

**families with younger kids- it might be best to hire a porter to help you with the young ones. In some places, its better an experienced porter carry them (slick trails, steep stairs, river crossings, etc…).

Kathmandu: the monkey temple. Near the Thamel there’s also a very nice artificial rock climbing wall you should try.

Pokhara: the Mountain Museum (recommended before trekking), paragliding (right above the Himalayas!), rafting, mountain biking, the fishing village Pame, Bengas lake. The Tibetan refugee camp and their temple (highly recommended, there are also basic rooms, if you want to experience the temple on another level. There are children learning in the temple…).

Movie garden- open air cinema, great atmosphere. Sit on the couches, or on the floor, and get pillows and blankets if you want, big screen, popcorn, pizza and drinks (including beer). On Saturdays they play children’s movies, and kids get free admission. Movies start at 7:30, but get there half an hour ahead of time just to find a place to sit.

Volunteering: in the Organic Shop in Pokhara they recommend a number of farms ro volunteer in (free of charge), and there are also a few orphanages. More organizations can be found in Kathmandu (more info can be found in “Places” restaurant)

Chitwan- Nepal’s biggest and most famous national park with safari trips where you can see elephants (some safaris are done riding Elephants!), rhinos, tigers and more. Usually what people do is order a tour with one of the agencies that arranges them, including transportation, stay, and a number of activities, if you want to do it yourself you can take a bus, book a hotel and arrange activities through it or through a local agency. The packages offer good value. It’s not recommended to arrive at summer or winter because it gets both very hot and very cold there:-).

Nepal is also mentioned in my new ebook, “How to travel with kids for1400$ a month (or less), as a recommended destination for a low budget family trip. if you want to learn more, please click and download the ebook.

And also: what is the biggest advantage families have with booking tickets online?

The first step of planning a trip correctly is boking flight tickets. It’s best to buy them well in advance, because usually prices go up the closer to the departure date it gets.

This is especially true for families, because the more people you are the harder it gets to find tickets “last moment”, because you need more seats on the plane that might already be booked.

From my experience, the more you wait, the more you pay. To me it happens 100% of the time, I always tend to wait and wait (because surely in a moment the price will drop) and I always end up paying the price for my hesitation. I heard about opposite cases, but it always happens to other people. Never to me.

So as a family, booking tickets is a complicated process requiring a cunning plan.

But its actually when you search for flights online that families have a major advantage.

And on that I want to expand:

How to book tickets online, as a family, in the best way?

Looking for flight for the family is like making pancakes- the first one is always a throwaway.

To find the best and cheapest flight you have to do research. You can’t simply buy the first tickets you’re offered. Because you don’t know, are they really the cheapest tickets, or not. And maybe there are shorter or more comfortable filghts?

The longer the distance the more research becomes important, because the number of routes you can take grows. A flight from London to Paris is pretty straightforward. But from London to the Philippines? There’s a million ways to do that.

In general, flights, especially the cheaper ones, have a lot of stops all over the place before you reach your destination.

A word on search engines: the use ‘cookies’ and they will remember every search you’ve done. So, after a few searches, they’ll start increasing the prices. And so it happens that if you search for a flight today- you’ll get a certain price, and maybe you’ll get it tomorrow or the day after too. But after a few days prices start to rise.

True. You could go ‘incognito’, but I’m not convinced that works. And you can delete cookies after every search. But a few more things might get deleted that you don’t want deleted, and you’ll have to log in everywhere again, and its just a huge headache.

So to search in the best most effective way- use the only advantage you have as a family :-).

So what do you do?

I start searching on my phone. I do it first because it’s the most comfortable ad accessible, and can search from everywhere, whenever I have a moment. That way it’s easy for me to learn the different routes, the prices and costs, where are the shortest layovers, etc… I do that for a few days, learn the routes well.

Another reason I start with my phone is because obviously I won’t book through my phone, because it’s really uncomfortable (you need to fill passport numbers, look for seats on the plane, fill in payment details, etc. and it’s really not comfortable to do on your phone).

After learning the route, I send the kids to look on their phones, focusing on certain airlines and routes. We compare the prices they got to the prices I got, and so we get an idea on whether my phone is still showing accurate results or if I need to stop searching there (because I get more expensive results).

Using the kids’ phones we narrow our options down and focus only on the best flights for cost, route, and total time (including layovers).

And only after we’re totally decided on which flight to tale, then we open the laptop.

Until then- I never, under any circumstances, don’t touch my laptop, because the final booking will be done through that. I want it to be as clean as possible. Like only this moment I decided to fly to India.

When I open my laptop I already know exactly which flight I’m booking and exactly how much it costs and can do the booking straightaway. I’m confident with this decision, all the considerations have been made and I know I made the best booking.

And here, the short way to book family flight tickets:

First step: research

choose one phone, download flight searching apps, and start playing.

  • there are a lot of websites that do flight search. After checking many of them I decided to focus on just the two:
  • those are for me the simplest and most reliable and most importantly- consistently give the cheapest results. But it doesn’t really matter, you can use whichever engine you want.


If you’re flexible- check different dates. Most applications will immediately suggest the month’s cheapest dates.


Check the airlines you’re offered. If needed- check reviews on that company. Check if the flight has a number of companies doing it or just the one that’ll carry you the entire way. Notice the company that takes you to your destination (the last flight on the journey). Sometimes it’s a local company that partners the bigger ones. Go the websites of those companies and see what they have to offer. Sometimes you can save a lot of money booking through small, local airlines.

Information and ranking of every airline company in the world you’ll get in this link.


Is it a place I can transit through without visa?

Is there one point where many flights transit? (there are a lot of airports considered more central, from which many connection flight depart) for example- Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong.

Splitting the flight up:

What’s cheaper– if you split the flight up yourself, and check separate flights for example: from London the Hong Kong and from Hog Kong to the Philippines, or to buy the flight ready made in advance?

Check about flights to a central airport and from there about local airlines to take you to your final destination. For example a flight from London to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam)- first check about flights from London to Bangkok, and from there a flight with Vietjet (local Vietnamese company) to Ho Chi Minh City.

And vice versa- check first a short flight to somewhere in Europe, and from there a long flight with a major European company to your destination. Sometimes the flight from Europe are much shorter and cheaper.

When we wanted to get from Nepal to Vietnam, we checked direct flights. The cheapest flight we found (through Bangkok, keep in mind we can’t transit through Malaysia because of our Israeli passport) was 450$ per person. So we checked split flights. We found a flight to Bangkok for 185$ per person. And from Bangkok a low-cost flight that cost, with luggage (an additional 17$ per person for 25kg) 65$ per person. We saved 200$ per person. Meaning 800$. We gained 3 days in Bangkok, with this whole journey costing us less than what the direct ticket would have.

Check with the airlines themselves:

Are the prices for direct flights in their websites cheaper?

Return flight or one way?

Check both options.

And another tip: check what is the cheapest flight to your destination, one way, and where does it land. And then check what is the cheapest way back and where does it take off, for your return date. And you already have the beginning of a route :-).

Flight conditions:

What does the ticket include? How many bags can you take, weighing how much? Are there meals or an entertainment system?

A little ‘checklist’ of items you should check:

  • Flight route
  • total time of the flight
    Total waiting time, and in which airports
  • price
  • how good is the flight company and which plane are they using.
  • what’s included in the tickets
  • payment options

Step 2: the decision

Take your time. Play with the results and learn the routes and airlines for a few days. After finding a few options that seem good, open another phone (family advantage, didn’t I already say?).

Check only the flights you liked and compare results.

Choose the option that covers everything you need.

Step 3: booking

Open a laptop, or any other device you’d be comfortable to book through properly. Tak under consideration you may have to fill a lot of details in a short amount of time (some sites limit how long you can take to make a booking).

Prepare your passports and payment method In advance.

And of course, if you have a credit card that converts purchases to miles- this is the time to use it :-).

Make sure you have fast, reliable internet.

Open tabs with other helpful sites. Like this site, that gives a lot of info on all types of airplanes, flight companies and good seats on the plane. And on this site you’ll find all sorts of tips and tricks to order the beast seats on the plane.

Now you just need to make the booking :-).

Don’t forget to order flight insurance right after purchasing the tickets, so you’ll be insured if they get canceled for whatever reason.

Qatar airways offer high quality service for very competitive prices. try them.

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.

Sometimes It seems people think I have a secret basement where I hide all the amazing places I sometimes write about. And just don’t tell anyone …

Someone told me once that walking in the street with me anywhere in the world is a different feeling. It’s like walking with a professional traveler, whose radar is primed and working and just knows where, when, what (and what not) and how much.
It was one of most meaningful compliments I got in my life. And he said it like it was so obvious, like there wasn’t even a reason to mention it.
(Thank you natty!).
And I wish it were true. But the truth is it isn’t.
Truth is I have no idea where to go.
Just like you :-).
And maybe much more. I’m such a clueless dreamer, that even when I try, and check online, and ask people, I still always get to a new place completely clueless.

And not just that, I usually only decide where to go at the very last minute, so anyway I don’t have time to prepare.
I usually land in “The Unknown” every time again.

So how do I manage to find those amazing places?

The reason I wrote that introduction and told you so much about myself, is that the very fact that I’m like this that allows me to find and to know where to go.
Actually, it’s in the destinations I came most clueless to that I found he most amazing places and most exciting experiences.


1. Because I love this lifestyle so much, I’ll always keep reading just another snippet and another small article and another status on Facebook about interesting places. It’s not even something I decide, it just happens, without me even noticing. And so it happens that the knowledge does gather somehow. Something stays. And they sit there, small supposedly meaningless little details. Until the moment I really need them- and at that moment, they come forth and it looks like I actually know and understand…

2. For that reason, I’m always happy to catch travelers for a conversation, short as it may be, on where they come from and places they’ve been. Not long ago, for example, I met three travelers in Pokhara, Nepal. They spoke a strange language. Immediately I went to them and asked them where are they from (I do that a lot…). Apparently they’re from Burma. Wow, Burma, now that’s a place I’d love going to. So where should I go? How is it there? Know any cool un-touristic places? And what about costs? …here let me add you on Facebook. Roni, my 14 year old daughter, already wrote down a few names of places (they showed them to us on google images).

Now, maybe I really want to visit Burma, but it’s not really part of the plan right now. On the other hand, you never know. I got interesting information and I’m keeping it. In five minutes of conversation, Burma became that much clearer to me. Where to land, what’s from the east and what’s from the west, where’s the ocean, and what about that island they recommended I visit. And I made three new friends :-).

3. To most destinations I arrive with a clean slate. And that’s how I like it. And instead of searching online for hours, I just go with the flow of the place, with the opportunities, with the locals, with the knowledge already kept in some compartment with me or with other travelers that already walked those roads. I never ask people if I should go somewhere. Or what is there to do there. I’ll find that out on my own. I ask practical questions. Which area is the best to stay in, how to get there…
4. I trust myself. Because I’m clueless, and most of my time is spent learning the place, its ways, its pearls. That’s how I know that’s the fun part. The most interesting. And that it’s all going to be fine. I don’t give up.my faith that pearls can be found anywhere is what guides me, so even if sometimes it seems that we arrived a place that’s too expensive and boring (and it happened before), we’ll plow it, and enter the narrow alleys and sit with the street cobblers and local fisherman and hear stories from them about people and places and from there to eat with them… the adventure is just beginning :-).

5. I really do love it. And you can’t discover things like that without really loving it.

Bottom line:

Please don’t be mad at me when I email you to just forget about the internet and go explore yourself. The best places you won’t find online. Trust me on this.

Book a place online for the first 2-3 nights. Give yourself some time to explore. And just flow from there.

There’s nothing like thorough footwork to get to know the destination you arrived at. I know it’s not what you want to hear. In an age where the pinnacle of achievement is measured in how close to your destination you parked, footwork is almost a swearword. But in my opinion you can’t cut corners on that. You’re always welcome to get on passing scooter or explore the country roads on a motorbike. So long as you get to the small places, like water slowly pouring, seeping into every crease in the roadmap of wherever you find yourself.

Wait with the attractions. Save them for the end.

Accept the speedbumps as part of the experience, even if they seem hard to process at the moment. Flow with them.

To be stuck at 2am, in a taxi on a dark road, three hours away from Kathmandu with the ground still shaking four days after the earthquake, with a blown tire. and no spare. And my flight to Israel is departing at 6am… (Even managed a shower in Kathmandu eventually)… to find myself in 10pm, in the Indian Himalayas, wrapped in blankets in my bed inside a tent (a tent!) at 4,500m (15,000ft) above sea level with subzero temperatures… (in the morning we woke up to stunning views)… try fix some flatbread with olive oil, and fresh blueberries from the bushes by the river for breakfast on the fifth day of a journey that was only supposed to take three, with the food supply running out, on the Siberian border in the remote reindeer country… (Flatbread with olive oil and blueberries is a delicacy after petting reindeers)… to find myself in the dark, with my whole body hurting, after an exhausting 10 hour trek, in a filthy room with mud walls, on a straw mattress with the kids on the ground, in a remote village in Zanskar valley in Kashmir (as it turns out the Chai was amazing and the family that hosted us was so nice that Gali, my youngest daughter, didn’t even want to leave…)…

Trust yourself. You can’t discover these places you dream about without the faith that you’ll find them. Yourself. Come with confidence, with curiosity and with genuine love. Project that over to your kids, so that they too, in their time, will carry confidence and love with them everywhere they go.

People tend to think that going on a long trip with kids will build pressure like nothing else.

A few years ago we were interviewed as a family for a tv show talking about long term traveling. Or something like that. Most families that were interviewed called it a ‘pressure cooker’. I don’t know. To me it seems something else entirely.

Traveling brings with it many interesting challenges. Some personal. Some for the family as a whole. Disrupting that balance is a valuable tool because it allows the gears to rearrange themselves till everything runs smooth again.

That’s why I think it’s important to let the issues float up early. Not to delay or be afraid of them, the opposite. We’re talking about a positive process that in short order will bring a constellation that is adapted to your new lifestyle.

All this is very dependent on your style of traveling and even more so on the destination you chose to begin traveling in. A caravan in Europe is not the same as a guesthouse in India.

One of the main things when you go on a trip with breathing space; you don’t jump nervously from place to place, but stay comfortably and roll slowly forward towards the next encounter. Getting to know new cultures, flavors, and people. Even a caravan in Europe isn’t isolated. There are more families traveling that way. You meet them on the road. In the stores. In parks. Everywhere. People from all over the world. Meetings are simple and easy, within minutes.

Southeast Asia is a sort of haven from that perspective. There are days when you haven’t even left for breakfast yet before the kids make friends. Or you find someone fascinating that will hold you for a conversation of three hours right there on the staircase.

The feeling is vented, open, relaxed. The opposite of a ‘pressure cooker’.

Everywhere you go you encounter people or experiences or simply interesting things. There is a feeling you have all the time in the world. The day goes on and flows slowly. There’s no need to hurry for anything. You go on walks in the villages or on the lake coast. I sit for hours in small cafes…

Suddenly the topics for conversation become more. Instead of talking about the daily/weekly chores list you find yourself talking about your thoughts, about your soul, about love. Or just about some nonsense.

Instead of worrying about the endless list of chores, from planning to organization and bureaucracy you now have time… time to play cards. Time to laugh for hours. To read. Time for silence. Time to breath.

• Choose well and wisely your first destination.

• Don’t be afraid of what it takes to bring back balance.

• Don’t be afraid of encounters of any sort. They’re a huge part of any trip.

• Come prepared to get to know your family again differently and deeply.

• Come with lots of love.

• At the end of the day, a trip like that does everyone good.

‘Pressure cooker’??? Far from it.

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”.