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Posts from the ‘Family’ Category


Disneyland in one day

When you’re making an international move, a great way to get the kids excited about the adventure is to spend a day at Disneyland.  However, a much longer visit is needed to truly experience the many facets of the park and surrounding attractions.

Walt Disney's creativity was simply magicalWalt Disney’s creativity was simply magical

It’s impossible to see and do everything in one day, so for us it was easier to simply have each of the kids identify the 3-4 things that they most wanted to do, and then focus on those few things … although some flexibility is required when faced with an enormous line of people waiting for certain rides.  A Fast-Pass helps by getting you to the front of the line, but you can only hold one pass at a time for each ticket.

Our kids have quite different interests, but we elected to keep the family together most of the time – and made a particular meeting place for the few times that we divided up to pursue specific interests (the pizza place in tomorrowland).  While the teenage boys were not that interested in the spinning teacups, and our daughter wasn’t that excited about the ‘Star Tours’, they did find out that most things were fun for almost anyone.

Spinning teacups are fun, no matter your age

Downtown Disney doesn’t require a park pass, but certainly helps prolong the experience from the previous day.  It was a great way to fill our day before an evening international flight.  There are certainly lots of shopping and dining options for almost any taste or interest.  I would recommend the Rainforest Cafe if you have not been to one before, and most kids would think the Lego store was a pretty cool place (they’re in process of building a new place a few doors down the road)

Dad’s Recommendation:
Plan a few days at Disneyland if possible, but don’t underestimate the benefit of just a single day to break up a long journey.

Use the Fast-Pass system with care.  We would get Fast-Passes for the parents, then use those for the teenage boys in the family – so was one way to maximize the use of these passes.


Travel Tips when Moving

We are traveling across country as part of a move to New Zealand.  This type of travel is much different to the business trip where it’s all about the art of the carry-on, with micro-computers/media devices, ensuring no liquids, metal belts or lace-up shoes.  Our trip is more about maximizing the checked luggage (reference my previous review post about the luggage scale) … so we ended up with 11 checked bags for the five of us (plus 5 carry-on’s and 5 personal items – making 21 articles to keep track of).  The first rule when traveling with lots of people and bags, is that it’s important to keep a good count on everyone and everything – and avoid the ‘Home Alone’ possibilities.

The kids enjoying the Sky Club before departing home in Atlanta

I’ve often wondered what the absolutely most important item is for keeping in your hands for use during the flight.  I’ve tried many things over the years, and often find my iPod is the best since I can listen to some tunes during the long hours on a plane.  My son just bought a Nook colour and I really liked using that as an e-reader – even if it doesn’t provide the same texture, feel and smell of a good book.

Comfy sleep is possible on a plane

However, it’s hard to overlook a comfy eye-shade, blanket and neck cushion as my daughter demonstrates.  It reminded me that we need to consider the different needs of everyone in the family when we’re helping prepare for a long trip.  We made a point of stopping in Dallas Forth Worth (DFW) on our trip since she was born nearby.  There’s not much that compares with the contagious excitement of a young child about the simple pleasures of life – such as visiting the city of her birth.  Sometimes it’s worth making an extra layover instead of simply taking the direct flight.  Not only does an extra layover break up a long flight into smaller segments, but it allows you to experience the culture and atmosphere of a different place.   Each airport seems to incorporate the character of the city it serves, and DFW isn’t an exception – and truly feels like you have landed in Texas.

The boys with a Yukon full of luggage.

Getting a large group of people and bags to and from an airport isn’t a small challenge either.  Using a shuttle is usually the best option, whether a free service or on a cost per person basis.  We’ve used taxi’s and limo’s before, but there are limits about how many people and bags can be moved at one time.  When we landed in LA, we were able to get a GMC Yukon XL, and it was an ideal size for our family of five with all our stuff.  I shudder to think of how we would have managed with a smaller vehicle.  Of course, moving house and home is a much more challenging movement than a holiday, but it’s important to consider these things when planning out the trip.  In addition, with a family of five it’s important to choose a hotel room carefully.  In our case it made sense to get two rooms with a connecting door – the extra space goes a long way to avoiding the pressure cooking experience of sharing a room with a couple of teenage boys.

Dad’s Recommendation:
Plan your family trip so that there is adequate time to visit the Sky Club Lounge (or equivalent) at each of the airports you visit along the way.  Allow an extra 30-60 minutes so that you can relax in comfort, and don’t need to rush between gates.  It’s best to minimize anxiety and stress at every opportunity.

Also, make a point of visiting DFW – it’s also one of my favorite airports and is very well organized. The new SkyLink makes a fabulous way to see the airport from 50 ft above the ground, plus makes for a quick connection between terminals.



Time to Move

As some may know, the Traveling Dad is moving home base from Atlanta, Georgia in the USA, to Christchurch, New Zealand.  I am taking a senior role in the infrastructure reconstruction following the significant earthquakes in that region since late 2010.  It is expected that I will actually have more time with my family, more time for blogging, and more time for family travel – instead of the significant amount of international travel that I have been doing for work over the last few years.  Today I thought I would simply offer a few thoughts about making an international move.

Loading a shipping container for the 8-10 week journey

– If it’s just you and your backpack, it’s fairly easy to pack and go (speaking from experience). An international move could be the greatest education you ever get, as it teaches you about yourself and about others.

– As a young couple without kids, it’s also relatively easy to make an international move … just make sure you’re both in agreement about making the adventure together.  Troubles will come, and flexibility is essential … but in the future you will probably remember those times as your greatest adventures. At this time in your life, you can probably sell everything you own and start again in the foreign land of your choice (it’s a lot cheaper than moving a bunch of furniture around the world).

Packing our house for an international move - best left to the professionals

– When you’re a family with children, an international move is a significant event.  This is what our family is doing at present.  Once the move is decided, there are many details to work through – too many to comprehensively cover today.  If a sea voyage is required, don’t trust the moving company that gives you a quote based on land costs (yes, we did get one).  I would also recommend taking the time to downsize, and ensure that you keep only the things that are most important such as – memorabilia, items of sentimental value, things that are “irreplaceable”, items that are expensive to replace in the new country, and items which will make your new place feel like “home”.

Please take the time to sign up for updates.  I’ve been asked by many people to write more about our various travels and activities, so hope to have more time with my new job.  Having traveled extensively, I believe I have enough material to write for a very long time.

Dad’s Recommendation:
Don’t be afraid to venture overseas – the world is much bigger than your country of origin.


Panama City Beach, Florida – Sugar white sand & emerald water

Spring Break or early summer is when we like to pack up the family and take a trip to the beach … before it gets too hot, or too crowded. This April we went to Panama City Beach (PCB), a six hour car ride from Atlanta (or one hour flight).  We stayed in Laguna Beach – one of the numerous areas adjacent to PCB and which lays claim to some portion of the beachfront on the Gulf of Mexico.  We have driven to several beaches from our home – but this has been our favorite!


My kids on Spring Break at PCB

The 27 miles of pure sugary white sand beach was easily accessible from a number of well posted boardwalks.  While the modest emerald green waves could easily lull you to sleep, be watchful of your children who might try to bury you in sand (ours probably would given the chance).  The beach has plenty of space to swim, splash and relax, although the riptide can be quite strong at certain times of the year – so please observe the flags and any warning signs prior to entering the water.

Restaurants and shopping options are diverse, as are options for outdoor activity and attractions.  We found the Spring Break crowd kept the central shops and restaurants too crowded for our liking, but we were able to find quieter options nearby. Rather than fill our days with too much activity, this trip was about looking for some quiet relaxation … and ‘accidentally’ found some sub-tropical paradise on a gorgeous beach.

This was our Spring Break beach-on-a-budget trip because we were saving up for our big summer trip to New Zealand.  We saved money by staying across the street from the beach instead of directly on the beach; and we prepared many of our meals in the comfortable 2 bedroom cabin instead of dining out all the time.  We stayed at the family friendly Laguna Beach Christian Retreat, which had multiple swimming pools to provide a great diversion from spending endless days on the sand.  We left the PCB area with the distinct feeling that we need to go back and explore some of the many things we discovered – we got a taste, and want some more.

Dad’s Recommendation:
The sunsets can be truly captivating, so take time to walk down to the beach and enjoy the sensation … make sure you take your shoes off. Consider renting a place with a kitchen and with a view of the beach … it makes for lovely mealtimes together as a family.


More information can be found online at: ,, plus whatever your search engine comes up with.




Chi Air Digital Luggage Scale Review

Those who have travelled with me over the last three decades will generally know that I like my gadgets.  Certainly I’ve been through various phases with certain items, and have a veritable collection of useful things that I seldom take on trips any longer.  Having just recently returned from a one month family trip to Tahiti, New Zealand, and Australia, I am compelled to make my first review about the most recent gadget in my drawer … the Chi Air Digital Luggage Scale.

Digital Luggage Scale

I cannot imagine going on a family trip without taking this valuable gadget.  This hand-size unit enables you to measure the weight of your luggage from the comfort of your home, hotel, or hosts accommodation.  This means  it’s much more convenient to redistribute your rock samples (or souvenir books) from one bag to another, thus avoiding overweight bag fees at the airport check-in counter  (they know most people would rather pay the fee than struggle with their dirty laundry on the terminal floor). 

The scale provides measurement in either metric or English units, and has a stated capacity of 50kg/110lb, far more than any airline will allow.  The unit takes one CR2032 3V battery, and easily lasted through rigorous uses over a one month trip – and is still going strong.  I see these units listed online for about US$20, and is well worth it if you’re ever going to travel heavy.

Dad’s Recommendation:
I try to pack relatively light when travelling by myself, irrespective of whether it’s for a few days or for a few weeks.  After all, it’s usually not the end of the world to be missing an item – and most travel items can be replaced if essential.  However, when travelling with a family it’s a really good idea to be as prepared as possible, meaning it’s a good idea to have a little extra stuff on hand … just-in-case!  As such, the weight limits imposed by airlines are much more meaningful when I’m travelling with my family.  A small digital scale such as the Chi Air Digital Luggage Scale could easily save the purchase cost in avoided airline fees.  Of course, don’t forget to check the airline luggage weight limits prior to travel.