Tag: Have Kids-Will Travel

Another type of unconventional accommodation option that we fell in love with is Hospitality Exchange. Where there are plenty of sites to go to for home exchange, hospitality exchange is rather new. Often these types of options have come to us from other travels we’ve done and people we meet. When you open yourself up and talk to locals and find people of like mind, they will invite you to be their guests. 

We had friends invite us to stay with them in their Villa in Sorrento, Italy. This is the view from the roof…. simply heaven. As this is being written I can almost feel the relaxed atmosphere mixed with the aroma of Italian cooking coming from all corners of this beautiful little courtyard. This simply took my breath away!

We have also invited and hosted kids from all over the world to stay with us for the summer to have a cultural exchange and often those have naturally evolved in replicating offers from their family to come stay with them. One summer traveling through France and Germany we were able to stay with 5 families all for free and our experience was out of this world.


Here we eating with our friends, the Kluths on an excursion to the Black Forest in Germany. They hosted us at their home with a few excursions along the way. Not only to the Black Forest but to the fresh crisp air of the Swiss Alps. 


Here is Brianne helping to fix dinner during our hospitality exchange.

You will never experience different cultures and traditions of countries in the world better than by living with people of that country. We have made lifelong friends around the world through hospitality exchange. The idea here is that you open your home up to singles, couples and families if you have the room for a few days or for however long you want. You become their host. You don’t have to feed them, be their constant guide or stray from your daily routine – if you don’t want to. All they are usually looking for is a comfortable place to sleep and call a base camp. Now, it has been our experience that if you do this right, they will become like family. You will share meals, stories, laugh and show them what your region of the world is all about. 

Remember this is all called “exchange” and if you just do your own thing you really aren’t exchanging much. Once in Germany we stayed with this incredible family, the Kluths, who opened their home up to us. When we arrived, they showed us to our room, the house was small and so to accommodate our family of 6 was quite the juggling act. We soon learned that the room they put us in was their master bedroom. They made the camper their room while we were there. We insisted that we take the camper but they argued that we were the guests and insisted we allow them to do this for us. Such was the graciousness of our host.


The Kluth family not only had little German Chocolates… Yummyness, on our pillows when we arrived but they cooked some of the most amazing meals, including this beautiful cake above.


Marissa is just hanging out with Milena’s Brother at their home in Germany.


We visited Switzerland with the Kluths and here we are contemplating our jump off the bridge for a little swim!

This type of exchange can often be easy to arrange and fit within your normal travel schedule. You don’t need to be as flexible, just make sure you are understanding to the needs of your host and always bring a gift of thanks, usually something unique from your country or region. I’m sure if you give this a try you will fall in love with it as much as we have. Keep your options open and you will be surprised at what comes your way. On the trip through France and Germany, one of our French families who invited us to stay with them gave us the most incredible surprise when we pulled up to their address. As we drove into their drive, right in front of us was their summer home.


To the right of us was a 14th century full blown French castle with a proper mote, we might add. When we had finished the most incredible dinner they prepared for us, they asked, “Do you want to sleep in the farmhouse with us or would you prefer to sleep in the castle?” They didn’t have to ask twice, how many times do you get the chance to sleep in a castle?

If you are going to look for sites for hospitality exchange here are a few to start with, www.couchsurfing.com is the one that most people think of but keep in mind they are more geared to the single or couple travelers. Others are www.staydu.com. www.warmshowers.com, www.hospitalityclub.org, www.globalfreeloaders.com and for those who are Latter-day Saints there is a sight that caters to you, www.mormonexplorer.com

The next day, as we began or adventures with Mr. Mada, we stopped at one of the many, “ Killing Fields” throughout the countryside. We knew that Cambodia, to be precise Paul Pot, killed one third of their nearly 8 million people. What’s also insanely unique is how this horrific history happened in our lifetime…. in the 70’s. We hope you share these photos (age appropriate) with your kids and family then talk about history and what can be done differently for our futures. How can we make a difference when such atrocity’s are happening?
Here is the memorial building which houses many of the sculls of those killed with weapons used during that period. They were trying to conserve on bullets so often went to other brutal methods.


Paul Pot convinced others along with himself that all those educated or who had wealth should be killed (he himself was a teacher) and that they should concentrate on producing more rice and that would make them become wealthy and a world leader. This twisted logic not only killed more then 3 million of their own people but made them a very poor country affecting generations far into the future. Check out the  Killing Fields website for more information on this part of history.


While listening to our auto tour, I stood horrified and while tears fell on the ground as I heard the explanation of what they used this tree for. My mind could not wrap itself around the thought that anyone could even think of such an idea, let alone follow through. Marissa noticed my silent tears and asked if I would be OK…. even writing this months later my eyes are tearing up. This impacted me for a lifetime.


While walking the path around the perimeter of the Killing Fields lies this old fence with a make-shift house on the other side. These kids begged for candy but were happy that I had gum to share with all of them. 

The things we learned, saw and felt will forever touch our souls. Most of them we won’t even write about here, as they were so horrific, but we encourage you to explore on your own. We feel that by understanding history, hopefully we will avoid making the same mistakes in the future. 


Our next stop which was also part of the “Killing Fields”,  it was the barracks which were at one time, a high school before the horrific events. Although these are a must see while in Cambodia we recommend some study beforehand to prepare you. 


What do you get when you crisscross a plethora of Natural Geysers, Haka Dancers, blueberries, and a live Kiwis? This probably describes many places in the area of Rotorua but we chose Te Puia Cultural Center because you could find all the above in one place.

Because it was their National Anzac Day (similar to the U.S. Veterans Day), we found that NOTHING would be open until 1 pm. This made us quite happy and allowed us to take a relaxing morning in getting out the door, until we realized that we weren’t going to be able to find anything to eat. We took our sweet time on the way, stopping at a blueberry farm which toted succulent and healthy blueberry dishes (this made me happy) but even after 1 pm she said she wouldn’t have time to fix us anything for quite a while…. we were confused as the sign said ‘OPEN’. We didn’t let that stop our hunt for a good place to eat and do a little shopping before we headed to the Cultural Center.

Rotorua is the cultural mecca of the indigenous Maori people. The town is set in the North Island of New Zealand. There are many geysers and thermal mud pools that are fueled by the area’s geothermal activity. The mud from the pools are known to be good for the skin (Hummmmm).

Dale was really excited to see a live Kiwi but sadly they were sleeping. Such a disappointment, even though he knew they were Nocturnal, he had hoped to find at least an eye open. It was not to be. We did however enjoy a crazy Haka performance, which Dale was asked to participate in…. his claim to fame perhaps? You decide after watching the video!

Dale and Marissa tried to see how the Maori houses (found in one of the villages) could work for them. Marissa was thrilled to know that the houses were toooo short for her, since she doesn’t see that very often! Apparently it will not be called her permanent home.


The Perfect Family Vacation
As many of you know, our family just competed our summer vacation using most of the ideas and techniques we talk about. We really want you to know we live what we talk about so that you can be assured it is possible. 
 Our trip took us first to Prague for four days/three nights. We stayed in a wonderful apartment, which fit all six of us perfectly and had a kitchen that we used to cut down on the food cost. ($89.00/night) Keep in mind the hostel down the street was $18/night which is fine if you are traveling by yourself but as you can see the apartment was much less for six of us. Keep this in mind when you are looking at Bed & Breakfasts, Hostels and other accommodations, what is the charge per person. 
We then rented a car and drove to Vienna, Austria to stay again for three nights. We found a new place for car rentals in Europe that had incredible prices – $120 for the rental and we spent nearly that for gas (a little over $8/gal), $105.  The company we went through was Argus Car Rentals and the price included the insurance which is important. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott, which was just a block away from the Shonbrunn Palace and the best part, it was FREE. We used our Marriott reward points as we talk about in chapter three of our book. 
From Vienna we drove back to Prague and stayed again for FREE at the Courtyard by Marriott at the Prague airport then a next day flight to Milan Italy. We thought about driving from Vienna down through Italy but the drop off fee for the car was over $1000 and our flights to Italy were only $34. We also rented a car in Italy from Argus for $407 for the two weeks. 
We stayed two nights in Venice, $90/night at the Hotel Piave. This was a quad room in Mestre just outside of Venice. We then stayed at our favorite place in Italy, Capezzana, at the farm house for three nights at $53 /night finally 2 nights in Florence at an apartment $55/night. 
We then stayed the remainder of our time in Sorrento along the Amalfi Coast at no cost with some amazing friends. Our last night was also FREE at the Marriott in Milan before we flew home. 
So, a breakdown of the cost. We spent more than the last time we were here mainly because of the exchange rate and gas prices. We also stayed in more “pay” places because we moved around so much.
Breakdown for 6 people

Item                                  Our cost                                  Regular price
Airfare (all flights)                   $656                                        $10,600
Accommodation                     $716                                        $2,040
Rental Car & Gas                   $1,032                                     $2,360
Food                                     $1,260                                     $2,340
Misc/Souvenirs                      $865                                        $865
Total                                     $4,529                                     $18,205   

We saved $13,676 on this trip using the ideas in ‘Have Kids – Will Travel’.
*Originally posted 7/2011
This beautiful town on the Amalfi coast can only be seen like this from sea


Just before our little cruise…. feeling good!
Day 16 found us relaxing poolside at the Villa where we are staying and doing a little shopping in the cooler evening air of Sorrento. This little city comes to life after sunset and there are a myriad of shops tucked away in the back streets just waiting to be explored. Gelato was of course the main event of the evening. There is nothing better than enjoying the cool and delicious flavors of this creamy delight as you walk slowly and without direction through the crowds of any Italian town. But this night with our dear friends, it was even more enjoyable.
Day 17 proved to be one of the most breathtaking of all our days in Italy. We have said over and over again how hard it is to decide which of the many activities to do. This coupled with our time quickly coming to an end in Sorrento caused us to look for ways to combine as many of the activities together as possible. We still wanted to go to Capri, Positano and Amalfi and capture the spender and awe of this beautiful coastline. We also knew we didn’t have enough time to do them all by car and Capri was only accessible by boat.
On the cruise….. Not feeling so good.

We searched online and found the perfect solution. For 39 Euros you can catch a sightseeing boat at the docks or port of Sorrento. It is called the Blue Mini Cruise and combined all of our dreams into one perfect package. One thing we failed to gather from our online research was exactly when the boat departed. From what we could surmise is that it was around or just after 8am and it returned around 5:30pm.  We inquired about the cruise and the gentleman gave us literature on a similar cruise going to the exact same places but was only 24 Euros per person. After checking out the boat, making sure we weren’t going to be on a world war two tugboat, we purchased the tickets and with a few extra dollars and time to spare before departure we explored the local venders selling their goods to the tourists. We picked up some water and other needed supplies and then headed for our boat.

Taking a dip in the cool clean waters by Capri…. we jumped off the side of the boat
The pristine clear blue waters by Capri
Our first stop was to the isle of Capri. We swear that no mater the depth, you can always see to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and it is the most beautiful blue. However is was a bit choppy and both  Marissa and I felt every wave and despite our preplanning for sea sickness we both felt the effects before we arrived at Capri. 
Capri is really two giant rocks jetting straight way out of the sea and is spectacular upon approach. The plan here wasn’t to dock and explore but to merely enjoy the cool waters near the white cave or Grotto. Of course Capri is most famous for its Blue Grotto and we had thought long and hard about visiting this marvel but opted to skip it this time after hearing from others that it is beautiful, but you are so rushed in and out it is hardly worth the cost. So from the coast the boatload jumped in the water for a much welcomed cool dip amongst the cliffs and caves of this island paradise. 
After our swim we had our choice to debark in Positano for two and a half hours and explore or continue on to the port of Amalfi. We had our sights set on Amalfi, but Marissa and I, Dale’s two sea weary companions needed dry land so we gathered our items to get ready to explore but failed to do so quick enough. Note for next time… Be ready to hop off as soon as the ship docks. The time allowed seems more like seconds than minutes. Either way, we weren’t ready and Dale got his wish as we sailed on to Amalfi.
Beautiful Amalfi Coast


We would have to say that approaching both Positano and Amalfi from the water as was done in years gone by when this was the only way to visit these ancient maritime Republics is, in our opinion, the only way to really capture their grandeur. We did our best to try and capture the magnificence in pictures but it truly has to be seen in person to get the full effect. 
Both ports are breathtaking and the buildings, something out of an enchanted fairy book story. As we walked the streets of Amalfi we imagined the painstaking task of building these towns on shear rock, which explodes out of the sea straight up to the sky.
More of the Amalfi Coast……..ummmm!
After a little more than an hour, admiring the shops and finding a few bargains and again seeing if the gelato is any better here, we headed back to the ship for our ride back to Sorrento. The sun was a bit lower and was perfectly set on the side of the mountains which popped the colors of the building like never before. A quick stop to pick up those who stayed in Positano provided yet another chance to capture the city at a different angel and better lighting.
IMG_4239IMG_4236Arriving home the day was long but well worth the money and time spent. By the way, lunch on the boat was not only extremely affordable but very good as well, with several choices of sandwiches, salads or pasta all around 4 Euro each. A quick swim in the pool at the Villa to cool down was the perfect ending to a perfect day.
The intricate beautiful Caserta Palace, Italy


We find it fascinating how connected the royal and ruling families of Europe were. At Schonbrunn we were reminded that Marie Antoinette’s mother was Empress Maria Theresia of Austria and today at the Caserta Palace we see how each ruler tried to outdo each other in their palaces.
We came with friends who trekked the expansive gardens with us
The Caserta Palace was created by the Bourbon king Charles III in the mid-18th century. His goal was to rival the Palace at Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid. As for the inside of the palace we believe he succeeded. This is a magnificent very stately palace and is very tastefully built with 1200 rooms (think of the parties you could host!).
Marissa and McKenna racing up the steps

We think the most impressive part of the palace is the entryway of 116 steps all carved from one giant block of stone.  The gardens however, though immense are not as beautiful as Versailles but are still magnificent with a huge waterfall about 2 miles from the main palace feeding into a fountain of Diana and Acteaon. It then flows into the dolphin fountain, down through the “fish pond”, which is where mock sea battles were performed for the royal court. The Bosco Vecchio is where it all ends up and was built as the “little castle” and a playhouse for the Bourbon princes.

We made it!  We walked the entire way…. it took us well over an hour. Here are Rick enjoying a moment with McKenna, Abby, and Marissa.
We drove to Caserta although you could take a 45-minute train ride from Naples central station. It is mostly visited by Italian tourists and isn’t on most Americans list, but it is a must see if you are in the Naples area. Make sure you visit however during the week, as the weekend gets very busy. They offer special pricing for students who are from the European Union countries only but when asked -they gave us the discount as well. Make sure you have your walking shoes on if you are going to walk the gardens, but for those of you who are unable to travel the distance by foot they have shuttle busses that only cost 1 Euro per person. We recommend walking up and riding back as you will gain a greater appreciation of how expansive these gardens are.



Underneath the Princes had a secret play area

*Originally posted 6/2011


Day+5When planning this trip we hadn’t planned on coming to Vienna but we were told by many that it deserved a visit, that it was their favorite city and was even more beautiful than Prague. After seeing pictures of Prague we couldn’t believe that could be possible so we had to see for ourselves.  Now having seen both, we can see why people love it so. The architecture and feel is much different however from Prague. Prague has an older more rustic kingdom type feel to it, where Vienna has a more majestic monarch or imperial feel. Instead of castles, you have palaces and Vienna also has a more metropolitan feel to it. Both are incredible and both should be on your list to visit. 
Over the years we have had about 14 or so exchange students. Our second one was Milena from Germany. We have kept in contact with them all over the years and found out that she had moved to Vienna to go to school. We had the privilege today in reuniting with her and spending the afternoon catching up on her life and having her be our tour guide for this beautiful city. It was interesting to note that she was Marissa’s age when she first came to visit our family 10 years ago. Her family was the first hospitality exchange we experienced in Europe.
IMG_3909Vienna has an incredible metro transportation system and we recommend getting the 24-hour pass, which cost 5 Euro and allows you full access. It is very clean and very easy to use. You pop up out of any station and your mouth drops at yet another Palace or Opera house or the magnificent Cathedral or church. One thing we found was that around every corner was someone to sell you tickets to a performance. Negotiation is the key here and walk away if you feel they are working the deal too hard. They will tell you that they only have a few seats left and if you wait you won’t get any by each other. We waited, got a better deal and tomorrow we will find out what kind of deal we really got. We ended up with tickets to ‘The Best of Mozart and Strauss’ in the Hofburg Palace for 20 Euro each. Marissa, Tim and Dale are also going to see the ‘Lipizzaner Stallion’ performance in the morning. Marissa loves horses and is so excited to see these magnificent horses in action. 
Most of the day was spent exploring, and just taking in the city. We are so glad we added it to our itinerary, it was well worth the small side trip. The FREE hotel at the Marriott was not a bad price either!:) 



*Originally posted 6/2011


We were so sad to say goodbye to Prague. What a beautiful city!


We rented a car and drove to Vienna today. (A three-hour drive) In years past we have always used maps to provide us with our driving instructions but this time we downloaded the Europe maps to our GPS. There is something to be said about using old-fashioned maps, but the GPS is incredible when you need to get to your hotel in the city. It also doesn’t take naps, which seems to be very important for the navigator who should be directing you from the passenger seat but really wants to close her/his eyes and catch up on a little sleep. The other nice thing about the GPS is that it provides you with attractions and historical places along your route and also gives you their distance off the main road. Although stumbling onto a treasured small village while on your way to another place is always a treat. 

We stopped off at a few different places along our route and still made it to Vienna in time for a nice Austrian dinner near the hotel. The next three nights we are staying at the Courtyard by Marriott for FREE using the tips found in our book, ‘Have Kids – Will Travel’. From here we will explore Wien (Vienna) with its Opera houses and Lipizzan horses. Remember this was the home to both Strauss and Mozart so we hope to catch some incredible music during the music festival, which is on Sunday. 


For now it is time to say our first “Gute Nacht” from Austria. 

*Originally posted 6/2011
Legend has it that a man was traveling through this region by horseback and came to the Vitava river. He needed to get to the other side of the river, keep in mind this is a huge river, and he jumped his horse across the river and in honor of his victory over the river he had a cathedral built at that spot. This is where Prague began and this is also where we walked to at the end of our day three, boy we wish we had a horse. We didn’t realize how long of a walk it was. But it was beautiful and the view of the city was incredible. We were also able to see an incredible fireworks show with the Prague Castle as the backdrop. 



Today we went to Prague Castle. A quick note and reminder, if you have children over 16 and they are students, have them bring their student ID’s. Most places will provide a 50% discount for students. We walked all over the castle side of the city and then climbed a mountain to get an incredible view of the city and the bridges crossing the river. 
IMG_3452Dale discovered that an iPod is an invaluable tool for travelers. The best app he found is called Text Free with Voice. It works similar to Magic Jack but is free. They assign you a free US telephone number and you can buy 100 minutes for $1.99 and when you are connected to a wifi you can use it like a phone and call your friends and family back home cheap! The other app we recommend is a good currency converter.  This really helps keep the budget in check when you can tell how much something really cost in our money. The other app we have used is our walking tours app we talked about in our last blog. Of course facebook and other apps that help you stay connected are quick and easy. 
Tomorrow we leave this beautiful city and drive to Vienna. We will stop along the way and see the beautiful country of Czech Republic. It is so sad to say goodbye to a city like Prague when there is so much more to see. It will just mean we will need to come back again and again!
*Originally posted 6/2011
Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge
We arose early only to fall back to sleep which was much needed. First on the agenda was Prague City Old Town. We arrived just as the astronomical clock was about to strike. To our surprise there were live trumpeters on the very top of the tower who also announced the time. We met a friend of one of our neighbors back in Utah who lives in Prague and he took us on a tour of the city. We were also lucky to find out he is an architect and was able to explain the different buildings and when they were built. 
Old town


In addition to Old Town we did a tour of the Jewish quarter. This was incredible especially the Jewish cemetery. They were only given a small piece of land and many were buried on top of each other or standing up to conserve space. We used a great app on the iPod, which we found very useful. There is a lite version and a full version, which cost a few dollars but is worth it. It gives you walking tours and the Jewish Heritage was one. It provides you with a map and information about each site you visit. We have also down loaded one for Vienna. There are 15 different self-guided walking tours for Prague and each one looks incredible. 




IMG_3443We also went to the grocery store and bought enough food to last us the rest of our time here and the drive to Vienna. The total cost of that was not much more than our lunch this afternoon for all six of us at a restaurant. As we about in our book, this is one of the best ways to cut down on the cost of food while traveling. Cook and eat like a local. It is so fun trying to figure out what different things are called and to pick up a few local foods and try them out. We picked up a very interesting fruit tonight. The verdict is still out on how well it was enjoyed, but it was different and it was something we have never tasted before. 


Tonight we were welcomed back on St Charles Bridge with a beautiful sunset. Took some incredible pictures, walked across to the other side and visited some shops. I think we wore everyone out, we haven’t heard any complaints on going to bed. 

Tomorrow is Prague Castle and exploring the other side of the river. What an incredible day! 

*Originally posted 6/2011