Tag: Inexpensive travel

Sorrento is beautiful beyond words but very interesting and tricky to drive to. We headed south from Florence and kept to the freeway so that we could make good time due to the distance we needed to travel. It about killed Dale not to stop at the incredible hill towns and different places we saw on our way. The fields of sunflowers and cities that looked like they were an extension of the rock base they sat on, tempted us at every turn. The ride was both beautiful and uneventful until we turned off the E45 into the town of Castellammare Di Stabia. From here the ride really got interesting. It appeared that they were having a garbage strike as garbage was piled up everywhere and on top of that they had no sidewalks so everyone was walking in the same streets as the cars and the ten million motorcycles and scooters who drive where ever they want. Once we made it through that city we wound our way around the side of the mountains along the coast. It winds through tunnels, towns and along cliffs that make you appear you are hanging off the edge of the world. The small towns were the toughest to work your way through as the roads were very narrow and the traffic was heavy, but we managed our way through. I have learned to just close my eyes and try not to scream…. too much! 

SORRENTO…molto bello!

Sorrento is gorgeous and is on the other side of the mountain from Amalfi. From here you have good access to Capri, the Blue Grotto, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Amalfi and so much more. Trying to decide which of the many option you have will probably be your hardest decision but don’t forget to just sit back, relax and take it all in. Pick up some lemons and make some lemonade while you forget about any cares of the world. While checking out the lemons you will find some Gigantic ones….. We have never seen anything like it.

Enjoying the evening with friends


Evening in Sorrento
Our Pompeii outing with Michael Evans

Our first outing was to Pompeii. The easiest way to get there is by train. 2.10 Euro drops you off only steps away from the entrance and beats fighting the traffic we described earlier. Pompeii is much larger than we expected so be prepared to do some walking. You can get a good walking tour map online or even get an app for your iPhone or iPod, we learned to love iPod apps while on this trip. You can also get private tours from guides at each place, they run about 10 Euro per person. 

New beauty infused into Pompeii


Keep in mind it is very open and gets very hot. If you have little kids they will get worn out quickly under the sun. We were very lucky and went on a day that was overcast and had a few welcomed sprinkles, these are rare this time of year so bring the sunscreen or an umbrella to provide your own shade. Despite the heat, it is well worth it and if you begin early you can get both Pompeii and Herculaneum in on the same day (just keep in mind it could be a long hot day).  WIth that said, we would really recommend going to Herculaneum before Pompeii…. everything was better preserved because of how they were buried (HINT… go look it up-very interesting).

*Originally posted 6/2011
After what seemed like eternity, we arrived last night in Prague. We continued to have our challenges as all of our luggage arrived except for one. However, Air France had already sent word to the Prague airport that they would be sending it o the next flight and we should have it by morning. 


Right before our flight from Salt Lake we were notified by the people renting us the apartment, that the Mozart apartment we booked had water issues and they would need to move us to a different apartment down the street. Although this new apartment didn’t have the reputation of having Mozart staying there, it is a beautiful apartment and is much closer to Old Town Prague than the Mozart. The building was built in the 15th Century and has room for seven. The kids all slept in the main room where they combined beds to make a giant bed, while Dale and I had the bedroom. It has a full bath and a large kitchen, which will come in handy and will save us on our food budget. If you are planning to stay in Prague we highly recommend www.pragueresidences.com. As we walked to the bridge last night we stopped at a Hostel just to compare prices. The cheapest, dorm style rooms with no privacy  $17/night/person compared to our $20/night/person/apartment.
Jet lagging sleep time. They pulled all the beds together into one ginormous bed!
Our cute apartment from the outside
A few blocks to the left is St. Charles Bridge where you can get the most incredible view of the Prague Castle. A few blocks to the right is Old Town Square where we will begin our exploration of the city tomorrow.  Tonight we took a short walk to the bridge and to get acquainted with the streets around the apartment. Prague is lively, streets full of people, small shops tucked away in every corner. We can’t wait to discover some hidden treasures. 
*Originally posted 6/2011


320.5We always dreamed of traversing the waterways of Venice on a Gondola with a real Italian who slowly navigated our way, serenading us as we sit back into each others arms, taking in the beauty of the architecture, sites and sounds of Italy. A few years back we fulfilled this dream. Sitting for a brief moment in time, with the breathless reality that we were free from the cares of the world until the silence was broken from directly behind us… 

“Are we there yet?”  Yes, our third son was getting a bit impatient with the lack of speed our wonderful ride was providing. The other four children seemed to be somewhat content with the pace, but we have one son, as I’m sure every family does, who’s tempo is a bit more of a speedboat. So much for that moment of ‘romance’.


Yes, we took our four children plus one extra on our perfect romantic vacation to Italy, and it wasn’t the first time nor would it be the last. See, my husband and I have a passion for travel and though a second honeymoon would be nice, the most important thing we can do for our children is to share our passion for exploration with our children. 


Italy+067Our family began traveling overseas when our youngest daughter was three. Actually she had her fourth birthday on that trip. You might well wonder how much of a trip like this would sink in or if she would even understand much of what we were trying to do. Our hope however, was that in some small way she would begin to see her world as something just a bit bigger than the sandbox she typically enjoyed during the summer months. Our other children were nine, eleven and thirteen respectively. 


Traveling with children isn’t always easy, but if done with a purpose it is extremely rewarding. Our little four year old exceeded our wildest dreams and even at fourteen she still remembers vividly her first trip to France and England. Just ask her about her birthday cake at the hotel in the shadow of the chateau where Leonardo Di Vinci lived and is now buried or when we finally got to England and she could finally, somewhat, understand everyone. There is so much she can still recall and so many incredible memories made, that we hope will last a lifetime.
Why then travel with your children? You may have a different answer than we do. For some it might be to just get away to just say, “been there, done that”. To others it might be for the adventure itself or to explore new cultures and ideas. To us, it has been a vital part of our children’s education. Now, after ten years, it has become a way of life, but most importantly it has been an education. The Greek, “exegesis” means to “draw out of”. When we travel, especially with our children we try to use this principle as our main purpose to our adventure. Often our trips have taken a year to plan and prepare for. They first start off by studying the area, the cultures both past and present. Understanding some of the language and the historical notes that have made a difference in how we do things today. Seeing what interests each child and when you find it, start digging deeper and then, together study it out. This is when the fun begins and the trip is set.


On one of our trips was, as mentioned above, Italy.  Others have included France, Germany, Switzerland, Honduras, Belize, China and Mexico, all multiple times, England, Canada, Spain, the Caribbean and nearly every state in the US. We have done all this with our children in tow and with the express purpose to educate and immerse them into the world around them. Our trip to Italy was probably by far our personal favorite because it was then that we really started to discover how best to travel with purpose and direction. Now before we go on, we want those who are thinking, “Well that’s nice but an average family could never afford to do vacations like this”, to get those notions out of their heads. We once thought this too until we discovered reality is what you make it. Most of these trips to Europe were with seven of us and were for a duration of three weeks and cost less than $3000.00, for everyone and everything including air. Most of our trips in the US were kept around $200.00 per person total including places like Hawaii. No, we didn’t sleep in the parks or even hostels. In fact we have slept in Marriott’s, Castles and in Italy we made a 600-year-old restored farmhouse, just outside of Florence in the Tuscan hills our base camp. The best part is that any family, any size on any income can travel the world this way, you just have to know the secrets and take the time and effort to plan… with your family! 
The benefits however are worth any cost, the fact that we have been able to do this at minimal expense is just icing on the cake. As our children have grown they have developed a greater understanding of the world, the problems facing their generation and have been able to, for the most part they kept “unplugged” from the distractions facing most kids their age. Travel brings a greater sense of self with a better understanding and compassion for others less fortunate. It provides a greater gratitude for even the small things they have and opens their world to opportunities and erases perceived barriers others wish to portray. 
We believe it is a direct correlation to the travels they have experienced that has been responsible for their being accepted at the ages of 15 and 16 to their University studies with full academic scholarships, for their love of the arts and their acceptance of cultures and differences in others. For these reasons and a host of others, travel in our opinion is essential in these difficult times for this next generation. 
So the next time you think about a wonderful getaway as a couple with children turn that thought into traveling with your children and immerse your family into this incredible, wonderful world. 
*Originally posted 5/2011
Recently we worked with a family trying to get to Dallas for a family reunion. Because of the short time period, they weren’t able to implement some our ideas for eliminating their airfare but we did find ways to reduce their costs considerably. 

The biggest problem they faced was that they had 12 people traveling and would need airfare plus at a minimum, 3 hotel rooms. The costs for this trip were getting out of hand and many of the options were also limited because 10 of them were flying out of Salt Lake City, Utah and 2 were out of Boise, Idaho. They thought they would all just fly out of Salt Lake, but Salt Lake City is a very busy airport with limited options which creates the perfect scenario for higher airfare. 

We started to look around at options other than Salt Lake. A 6 hour drive to the south provided cheaper airfare out of Las Vegas, but not enough to justify a 6 hour car ride, only then to hop on a plane for several more hours, so we continued to search. Mean while additional pressures, fuel prices and summer travel getting more busy, were rapidly sending what was a somewhat acceptable airfare to a completely out of control and out of reach airfare. 

Finally we saw airfare out of Boise which was not only reasonable but also had a unique twist to it as well. The flight from Boise to Dallas was not only $290.00 RT compared to $434.00 from Salt Lake, but it stopped off in Salt Lake City on the way to and returning from Dallas. 

So taking advantage of the lower fare, the family called the airline and asked…. What if we miss the flight from Boise to Salt Lake City, could we continue on if we got to Salt Lake City in time? (which is where they live) Initially the airline seemed to be ok with this, but finally said no because of it being the first leg of the trip. So being creative again, they found cheap one way tickets on Southwest Airlines to Boise, about $50 one way. Even with this they saved nearly $1,000.00 on the airfare. 

They only needed a oneway ticket to Boise as their return flight also changes planes in Salt Lake. If they carry on their bags from Dallas to Salt Lake they just need to depart and not take the last part of their flight. You may be able to ask if you check your bags that they only go to your “new” destination, but don’t assume, always ask well in advance. 

If your ok with the risks and you have done your homework ahead of time, this is another way to save hundreds of dollars on flights. In addition the family used our tip of arranging a home exchange and eliminated their hotel costs completely. Over all savings on this trip are right around $4,000.00. Not bad for some creative thinking. 

*Originally posted 5/2011
We didn’t rent a car while in NYC. Why would you? The cost for parking would probably exceed the cost of having the car and who wants to drive in the city anyway? We did however decide to take a side trip to New Hampshire and stay a night with some friends and visit with our publisher of, ‘day trips from salt lake city’, Available now at Barns & Noble, Amazon, etc….. 
We had taken a shuttle from the airport to our hotel when we landed, which wasn’t the fastest because the evening rush had just began. The cost after tip was about $40.00 for both of us and we figured it wasn’t too bad. We did hear however that once you take the subway and airport train, you’ll never use anything else. 


Our story begins with us believing this is true. Now don’t get us wrong, We love the ease of the Subway in New York, but when your not as familiar as you need to be and it is crowded and you have your luggage, I’m just not sure if the savings are worth the cost. Here is the cost… The station was right across the street from our hotel, big bonus. However we soon learned there are two blue trains that go towards the airport. One has a stop for the Airtrain and one forks off and heads in a different direction. We, of course, were on the fork train. 


We realized this and decided to get off at a mutual stop and catch the correct one to the Airtrain. The train stopped, We got up and headed out the door, I had a little delay from my luggage and when Dale got outside, and turned around he saw the doors shutting with me still on the train. I thought I could stop the doors and stuck my foot between them and as the train proceeded to take off Dale watched me lose my balance and fall back into the train (much to the entertainment of the train passengers). So Dale grabbed his cell phone… no service. He then proceeded to the person at the ticket booth, no help at all. He walked out of the subway to get cell reception with the hope that he would get off at the next stop and do the same. After only a few minutes we connected on the phone. I stayed at that next stop to wait and Dale got on the next train heading in my direction. 


4470_1161829890955_2406006_nWe met back up, got off at the Airtrain and made it to the car rental place no worse for the adventure- just a lot to laugh about! Total cost for both of us to take the train, $4.00 for the subway and $10.00 for the Airtrain, a $25.00 savings but we’re not sure it was worth the gray hairs. When we returned for our last night in the city we took a taxi and then a hired car to head home. The shuttle, taxi and hired car are all about the same cost and we haven’t decided which I thought was better. 

*Update: Did we keep it under our est. $600? Just under….. we had’ buy one get one free airfare’, free hotel credits (which included a buffet breakfast), discount Broadway tickets, and local small food eateries that are inexpensive with great diversity.  We showed up at the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ box office one hour before the performance and asked “What is the best deal you can do?” (Thanks to Richard Paul Evans…. we always use this phrase and have saved thousands)……the guy looked at us, held his finger to his lips and whispered, “The show is about to start so we will sell you 1/2 price tickets close to the front”. SWEET!

Wonderful Weekend for two!



*Originally posted 3/2011