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North Bali – Bedugul and beyond

We have been to Bali so many times, but never really ventured too far out - Uluwatu to the South and Ubud to the North was as far as we had gotten. There is so much to see beyond these areas  so this last trip we took a huge day trip up to Bedugul - and it was SO worth it. Bedugul is around a two hour drive from Nusa Dua, with the scenery along the way comprising of strips of the greenest rice terraces and thick lush jungles. It was absolutely stunning and the views as you drive further up into the mountains was just breathtaking. We paid around $50 for the day with our driver in a minivan and he was fantastic, especially with the kids.vHere is a few of the things I recommend seeing around the area.

BALI TREETOP ADVENTURE PARK

Half of the reason we wanted to go up to Bedugul was for the Bali Treetop Adventure Park. I had read some reviews and decided I just HAD to go and see what all the fuss was about. The Park is located at the Botanic Gardens which itself is just stunning. I have never seen so much greenery!

The adventure park is a fantastic activity for kids aged 4 and up, right through to adults which will challenge you in every way (especially those scared of heights!) . It is a treetop activity course with ropes, ziplines, pulleys, swings and tarzan jumps - all with different difficulty levels.  I have written a full in depth review of the park which you can read here, but I really can't recommend this place enough, it is so much fun.

BOTANIC GARDENS

The largest botanic garden in Bali at around 157 hectacres and 1300 above sea level, these  gardens are defnitley worth a visit. It can get quite cool through the gardens so bring a jacket - there is also a accommodation available for those wanting to spend the night.

LAKE BRATAN AND ULUN DANU TEMPLE

Ulun Danu Temple , or Pura Bratan, is one of the most photographed spots in Bali and it's not hard to see why. The temple is situated on Lake Bratan and is surrounded by beautiful mountains, often hidden amongst the clouds. The temple was built in the 17th century in worship of the main Hindu trinity, Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva, as well as the lake goddess, Dewi Danu.
It was really busy the day we went, which  I thiink would be the case most days but it is defnitley worth a visit. There was little swan boats for hire on the lake, and a few restaurants (not a huge recommendation of mine) and a cute little old fashion playground. I believe there is also parasailing, canoeing, speedboats on offer, aswell as some great hiking trails.

WATERFALLS

We visited the GitGit Waterfall which was around 30mins from Lake Bratan and again a beautiful drive up the mountain with lots of monkeys hanging around. There are 3 main waterfalls, and all an easy assessible walk. We had a guide take us down (I'm sure we didn't actually need this and spent money when we didnt need to, but knowing it went to the local villagers made it a worthwhile spend).

The waterfall is a beautiful spot to cool off in the natural spring water after the walk down, and there are plenty of little stalls on the way up and down offering snacks, drinks and local souvenirs.

BANYUMALA WATERFALL

We haven't yet been to this one as I only read about it after our trip, but it is apparently the least visited waterfalls and trickiest to get to. Probably not one I recommend for young families as it involves a lot of slippery trekking and off the beaten track "roads" - but very beautiful nonetheless. Best to find a local guide to take you to this one as its not easy to find.

BALI BUTTERFLY & REPTILE PARK

For those that love Butterflies there's a great Butterfly Park on the way to Bedugul. We chose not to stop as we already had a lot crammed in for the day but a good option for the kids.

CANDI KUNING MARKET

A large market on the way to Lake Bratan selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh flowers to souvenirs.

JATILUWIH RICE TERRACE

Another place I wish I researched before we went as this looks so beautiful and less touristy than Tengalalang in Ubud. The Jatiluwih Terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage site and offer a breathtaking view of the greenest rice fields in Bali. Being close to Mt Batukaru the air is a little cooler than usual, and there are plenty of cafés to stop for a coffee and enjoy the view. A must visit for those in the area.

TANAH LOT

On the way back if there's time, a stop at the famous Tanah Lot temple to catch the sunset would be perfect. I haven't been there myself as yet as it just got too late on our day trip to Bedugul but definitely something we will add into our itinerary next time.

Next time we would love to venture to the East Coast of Bali and explore the beautiful temples and water palaces around Candi Dasa, and more. But I highly recommend a day trip to the Bedugul region with the family, it's a fantastic day to explore some different areas of Bali.

April xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why we love Tip Top Bread!

Getting kids to eat, healthy balanced meals can be a challenge for many parents - There is just too many tempting sugar filled snacks out there these days marketed for kids. It has a picture of an apple on it Mum so it must be healthy right? Sorry kids, that couldn't be further from the truth. But my older two now understand a little the importance of a healthy diet, and why it's so important to treat our body as the temple it is.

We find getting creative with their meals and snacks makes such a difference. Alysse is my little artsy crafty child and loved whipping up some healthy sandwiches for her and her brothers recently. It may seem like a whole lot of effort to go to to make a sandwich but if you get the kids involved and using their imagination it can not only be a nice healthy lunch but also a creative outlet that keeps them amused!

We love the new Tip Top The One Mixed Grains bread in our house - it has no added sugar, artificial colours, flavours or preservatives and one sandwich is 1/3 of your daily target of whole grains. Not only that, it tastes delicious and the kids said, unlike many other brands, that the grains aren't hard and crunchy which they hate. My kids generally take a sandwich to school everyday with ham and cheese or salad, and my littlest one absolutely loves avocado on toast for breakfast or lunch - He calls it Hulk Toast that gives him big muscles 🙂 I eat a lot of bread, probably more than I should but breakfast for me is always toast with avocado, feta and cherry tomatoes and lunch most days a toasted avocado, cheese and ham sandwich.

If you are looking for some great sandwich ideas check out Pinterest there is soooo many options and variations that your kids will love, and even better when they make it themself! A healthy, nutritious and fun lunch is always a winner in this house.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and I received payment for my review, but my opinion is 100% true.

Why you must visit the Bali Treetop Adventure Park!

Bali Treetop Adventure Park is located in the north of Bali, at the Botanical Gardens in Bedugul. It is around a two hour drive from Nusa Dua where we were staying but I promise its worth every minute of the long drive – the scenery on the way up is absolutely stunning and gives you a completely different view of Bali.

Once you arrive at the treetop park and have paid the entrance fees, which were around $100 Australian Dollars for us 4 (Our three year old was a bit young), you are fitted with your harness with your carabinas and taken on the introduction course.

The instructors explain everything you have to look for – one red sticker means one hook on there, two means both hooks on and red black red means both hooks plus the zipline one. One by one you all have a turn hooking yourself on, walking on the wire and ziplining, and once you nail that its off to the courses!

There are all different levels from yellow being basic right up to black, and the sign explains what ages each suits and the difficultly levels. The kids started out on the yellow and found it easy and did really well. Alysse has a fear of heights like me so was very anxious to start with, but by the end I was the one convincing her to try an easier level!

I tackled a orange course first up and didn’t really realise what I was in for. The start of it seemed ok but as I went through the course, the ziplines got higher and much longer and being alone 10ms up on a platform in the middle of the jungle with only my own skills to rely on was a bit daunting! But once I did it a few times I realised how fun and exhilarating it was, and I think I tackled my fear of heights a little since! Jay was getting sick of standing around waiting for us so I didn’t get to try the red or black (yep that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it 😊) but next time I will definitely give it a go!

Max, who is normally my adventurous one, got a bit freaked out on one zipline and needed rescusing after he burst into tears, but the instructors were fantastic and were up to help him so quickly and abseiled him down.

I won’t lie it can be a bit nerve wracking watching the kids up there on their own hoping to god they knew what they were doing and were hooked on ok, but Alysse would triple check every hook before she took off and I was confident that she was ok.(Max was the one keeping me on my toes with his typical “its all good” attitude!)  There are instructors on the ground most times who will yell out if something doesn’t look right, but for the most part you are on your own.

I’d recommend getting to the park early as it can get very busy, and it’s a little bit cheaper if you book online rather than walk in, and wear comfortable sport clothes, runners and a hat.

I honestly can’t rate this place high enough – its challenging, frightening and exhilarating all mixed together and a great family activity. And the surroundings are so beautiful, you will be blown away! We did a full day trip including the Treetop Park, The Twin Lakes, and Gitgit waterfalls and it was a long, but fantastic day.

For price and more information see their website Bali Treetop Adventure Park

Disclaimer - This post is in no way sponsored and all opinions are my own and 100% true.

 

 

Athletic top from Globewalker – review

The more we travel and especially with three kids in tow, I find myself looking for higher quality versatile clothing which will last longer. We seemed to be forever spending money on cheap clothing for us all, only to have to replace it in a couple of months time due to poor quality. And it ends up costing us MORE than if we had just bit the bullet and spent more upfront and got something of better quality. I was recently given the opportunity to test out a Bruebeck athletic top from the awesome John at Globewalker and will give my review below - but first a little about the company.

Globewalker is a retail distributor of Malachowski and Cumulus sleeping bags, Brubeck thermal and merino base layers, active wear, merino trekking socks and sports socks in Australia. All high quality products designed for hikers, mountaineers, avid skiers and those that lead an active lifestyle. The products have been tested under extreme conditions and are designed to withstand the rugged terrain and harsh conditi0ns they are faced with.

I have always been a very active (borderline ADD 😂) person and am always busy doing something. If not out running with our whippet, I am cycling with the little ones, at the gym, kicking the footy with my son, skating with my daughter or hiking and exploring the Perth area. So I am always after comfortable, stylish active wear!

The Brubeck athletic top is a seamless, loose fitting top designed to ventilate common moisture (aka smelly sweat) areas with a two layer breathing textile fabric. It is so ridiculously comfy and has the added bonus of reflective elements on the front and back - perfect for those who like to run or cycle at night. All Bruebeck athletic pieces also have antibacterial and anti allergic qualities and this top comes in two colours - Azure green and Dark Blue. It is my favourite top at the moment and I live in it! It has been put through the humidity test while hiking in Vietnam, and the dry sweltering heat of the Pinnacles desert in WA - and happy to say that it lived up to the hype!

Here is some of the other amazing products Globewalker stocks - the base layers will be perfect for our trip to Canada next year!

You can visit the full range of products at www.globewalker.com.au and if you use the code GROMMET10 you will get 10% off your order 🙂

 

Note: I was gifted this top by Globewalker to review but all opinions are my own and 100% true.

 

Bali with babies

Travelling with babies isn't always as impossible as many think - Actually out of all our trips to Bali with kids at different ages, I think the 4 month old was the easiest! There may be a little bit of extra luggage to take and planning, but here are mine and Kate from Rolling Along With Kids top tips !

MY TIPS

FOR THE FLIGHT

The flight can often be the part parents dread the most - no one likes to imagine hours of a screaming baby with irritated glares from passengers - but I have found babies to be the easiest to fly with. The movement of the plane often soothes them to sleep, and they aren't at that age where they want to get down and run amuck! For babies and even toddlers, make sure you have enough nappies, wipes and changes of clothes incase of those highly likely blowout incidents. Feeding during takeoff and landing helps their ears adjust to the pressure, or a dummy works just as well. Have some water pre warmed before the flight if bottle feeding and mix the powder in when its feed time, as I have found on a few occasions the airline wouldn't heat the bottle for me. Not sure if this is all airlines or just the ones I was on?  Pre book a bassinet seat if possible - this will free your hands up while they have a nice comfortable sleep.

Some toys to keep them amused during the flight is also a must, and their favourite comforter if they have one. Other than that just cross your fingers and pray its over quickly !

HIRE EQUIPMENT

Bali Baby Hire are fantastic - We hired a portacot, Bugaboo bassinet pram, microwave and sterilizer, and a baby rocker. I found the portacots are much more cosy than the wooden cots often supplied through the hotel, and keep away the mosquitos a little better (Take a mosquito net with you too). The baby rocker was great to take down to the pool for Jay to sit and play with some toys.  You can also hire toys, car seats ,(or organise transport with car seats installed) and much more. Everything was delivered and set up before we arrived which was fantastic and the service was great.

 

FOOD

Jay was fully bottle fed at 4 months so I won't lie - washing and sterilising the bottles was a pain in the butt - but it's a pain in the butt at home too 🙂  Make sure you pack your own formula as again, the range in Bali is different from over here.

He was only just starting out on solids when we went so we took the Rafferty Garden 4 month old pouches which were fantastic. There are some great baby food companies out there now too which Kate will go through in her tips!

FLOATIE RING

Babies love to float in the warm Bali water - We had a great floatie that laid him back on an angle and had a sunshade over the top. He would splash for ages which wore him out in no time!

MEDICAL

For mosquito prevention, we used the insect repellent stickers which we put on his rompers / clothes day and night. Also a natural repellent which is suitable for babies as many are too harsh for their skin.

We use a probiotic powder that doesn't require refrigeration on all the kids when we travel, so we put a spoon of that in one of his bottle during the day. Other than that we always take the usual baby Panadol, nurofen etc!

I really enjoyed taking Jay to Bali at this age.  We didn't take the other kids until they were at least 18 months so it was a different experience. But it was so relaxing - he would often nap on me by the pool in the shade while the other kids played in the pool, and not eating food properly yet lowers the risk of them getting ill. I definitely recommend travelling to Bali with a baby !

 

KATES TIPS

- Take a stroller or baby carrier. We always travel with our Mountain Buggy Nano stroller as it's so compact and can fit in the overhead luggage compartment on the plane. We haven't had any troubles taking it aboard, but I do recommend at the check in desk and while boarding to have it in its carry bag. This way it looks just like a bag and you are less likely to be stopped. We find it so handy especially in the airports and it handles the Bali paths with ease. I took a baby carrier when our son was 18mths but to be honest didn't use it much. It was too hot and other than using it for boarding the plane we didn't need it.

- Take your own portacot or hire one from Bali Baby Hire if your hotel doesn't provide them. We love our Baby Bjorn Travel Cot as it's so easy to use and Charlotte slept in it until she was 3 years of age and she's very tall. It won't be counted as your luggage allowance on the plane, but do check this with your airline, and is great for putting extra things like nappies or wipes in the middle of the carry case.

- Book a nanny. We have the most gorgeous girls that help us out with the kids. My advice would be to get them to help you out throughout the day while you are all together as a family and then gradually you will become more at ease with heading out for lunch without the kids. All of our nannies swim, have CPR/First Aid training and are genuinely lovely people. The prices usually start at $6aud per child/per hour but this can change so best to check with the nanny before hand. They are also very handy if you are staying at a resort which has a kids club but your kids are too young to go to the kids club on their own. The babies and toddlers can usually go with an adult so check with your resort beforehand.

- Take your own sunscreen, swim and night nappies. Sunscreen can be expensive in Bali and they don't always have a great range especially for more sensitive skin types like babies. There are nappies in the supermarkets in Bali, I usually go the Mama Poko brand, but I find them less absorbent than ours in Australia. For day use they are ok but I take Huggies for night use. Swim nappies are hard to find so take them from home too and if bub is sensitive to wipes, take your own otherwise they are easy to find in the supermarkets.

- We always pack Nurofen, Panadol, Milton tablets, Zyrtec and Ethical Nutrients Travel Bug. The travel bug is to help keep Bali belly away. It is kept refrigerated before you travel and then can be kept out of the fridge for up to 4 weeks. You take it once a day and the contents of the capsule can be dissolved in milk or water for younger kids. With regards to water don't let anyone drink from the tap. Sometimes a handtowel over the tap outlet can be a great reminder for kids if they forget. For baths I put 1/2 a tablet of Milton's in a full bath of water then leave for 15 minutes then it's right to go.

- For food wise with bubs I would recommend taking any pouches from home that your kids like as they can be a bit tricky to find in Bali and your bub may not like them. Also the same with formula, there are different types available but if your baby is used to a particular sort they may not drink the ones in Bali which would be extremely stressful for you all. Breastfeeding is widely accepted in Bali and you won't have an issue. We also use Mini Muncher baby food when we are in Bali. They have a range of freshly prepared meals that you can pop into your freezer or fridge and they are delivered directly too you. They are great!! Cows milk can be easily found in most shops and we have used Greenfields milk in the past and the kids loved it.

- If you are staying in a villa and they don't have a pool fence you can always hire one from Bali Pool Fence Hire. We have used them a couple of times and are really easy to deal with.

 

You can visit Kates page at Rolling Along With Kids here, and be sure to follow her on Instagram for all her Bali tips 🙂

Water Buffalo Tours – a MUST for Mekong Tours in Vietnam

Buffalo Tours – 2 day 1 night Mekong Delta Tour & Cu Chi Tunnels

One thing we look for when booking our tours is privately tours run by locals – there is nothing worse in my opinion than sitting on a shuttle bus with 30 other tourists all cramming on and off the bus, and only going to the typical tourist spots. We wanted an authentic, locally run tour where it was just our family and we weren't inconveniencing others when we have to stop for yet another toilet break and can do things at our own pace. After all three kids makes it a little bit of a challenge at times!

We found Water Buffalo Tours on tripadvisor and the reviews were all fantastic so we contacted them and were given a few different tour options. We decided to go with a 2 day 1 night tour of the Mekong Delta and a half day tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. Here is our review.

 

DAY 1

We were picked up at 7.30 am by our guide named Quang and told a little bit about our itinerary and what to expect. Quang spoke fluent English and was very knowledgeable with a great sense of humour, and we knew straight away we were going to have a great couple of days!

Our first stop was a local market, not frequently visited by tourists.  We wandered through and saw everything from baby chickens, frogs, fish and eels being sold , lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. My little one got a tad overwhelmed at everyone touching him as it wasn’t very often they saw tourists and my little animal activist didn’t enjoy all the animals being tied together and in cages but it was definitely an eye opener. We purchased some bananas and traditional Vietnamese hats, and the fruit was beautiful and fresh.

Local markets

Next we went to a local furniture making factory where we watched the process of inlaying mother of pearls in the stencilled woodwork on cabinetry. Very interesting to see how it’s done and the end pieces were just beautiful. These items are generally purchased as a sign of wealth, as one cabinet can cost up to $10,000!

We were lucky enough to be taken to our guides mothers house, where we all jumped on scooters to take a tour of his home village. This was something I have always wanted my kids to experience – a local village so they can see the way of life for the children in these villages. We went to our guides Uncles house where we fed baby goats, toured their traditional houses and learnt a bit about their way of life. I think the biggest eye opener for my kids was the difference in housing to Australians.

Scooters have always been a fear of mine after seeing how many tourists are injured in Bali, but myself and my little one felt so safe with our guide and he took it nice and slow so we could enjoy the countryside. Jay my 3 year old said it was so so good and wanted to go again! Along the tour through the village we saw water buffalos, chilli and coriander (my favourite!!) farms, and met local children washing their own clothes (another thing my kids found fascinating!).

 

Afterwards we headed back to Quang's mums houses for fresh sugar cane juice and fruit which was nice and refreshing after riding around in the heat.

Lunch was served at a little restaurant on the beach (not a  swimmable beach) where we enjoyed garlic rice, pork, seafood, soup , fruit and drinks.  All the food was lovely and fresh and he had pre warned the restaurant about Alysse’s severe peanut allergy before we arrived. I had told him earlier that I don’t eat seafood so he had stopped at a roadside stall and bought some beautiful roast pork to dish up with lunch aswell as fresh fruit for dessert. This is another reason why I highly recommend this tour and our guide, Quang went above and beyond to ensure we were all happy and full.

We stopped at a beautiful temple, a religion with a very small population and watched a prayer service. The temple was beautiful, so colourful and adorned with dragons and buddhas.

Next stop was the beautiful Mekong Delta - We boarded a boat big enough for us all and headed down the large section of the Mekong where we were told lots of information about life on the Delta. Afterwards we were transferred to a smaller boat so we could explore smaller channels of the river. It was absolutely beautiful and so quiet. Such a stunning area!

The rest of the trip was to our hotel in the Mekong, called the West. We were booked in two rooms for us and one for my parents, having the kids in interconnecting rooms was fantastic and the rooms were lovely. The hotel is on a busy street full of fruit and vegetable stalls, fresh seafood and  more so it was a great lively spot.

Day 2

Our day started early – pick up at 5.30am for a cruise down the floating markets. As much as it was a struggle to get up that early with the kids, it was well worth it. It made for a beautiful sunrise on the water and the markets were nice and quiet without boats full of tourists. We visited a small market first, and stopped for tea and coffee in a little hut overlooking the markets.  After we were taken down a different section of the Mekong River, a section which seemed to be off the regular tourist route as we were the only boat around. We winded down the jungle, watching the locals wash their clothes on the banks of the river and learnt a bit more about their way of life from our guide along the way. We arrived at the main and biggest floating market in the Mekong, which was where the bigger boats go to sell their products. One thing that interested me was the boats all had a long stick with whatever product they were selling on the end, so people knew what they were selling before they got to them. We saw some with just watermelon, some with garlic shallots and potatoes. One even had a floating 7/11 selling everything from cooking oil to soap. It was an amazing experience, most would come in and buy wholesale to take back to their own villages to sell. The kids found it so interesting and loved guessing what each boat was selling.

We headed back to the hotel for breakfast around 8.30am and had a little time to spare before being picked up again at 10am to checkout and continue on. The beauty of travelling with this company is they take you down a different highway from the usual tourist buses, off the beaten track with the most incredible scenery . We stopped at some amazingly green rice paddies and met the owner of the field who explained that they were harvesting sticky rice. Watching these farmers hand cutting the rice in the full heat left us in awe of how hard they work!

 

Lunch was served at another local spot, and included rice, seafood, soup and pork dishes. I had pre planned and purchased the kids some rolls and snacks in case they didn’t like the food on offer, so besides a bit of steamed rice they just had what I packed.

We arrived back at the hotel around 3pm, all exhausted but so grateful for an amazing two days exploring the Mekong Delta, which had been on our bucket list for a long time.

Cu Chi Tunnels

We added in a half day trip to the tunnels with the same company, so the following day we were picked up at 7.30am, by our guide named Jerry and our driver (Tom). On the way to the tunnels we were given a lot of information on Saigon, and the Cu Chi Tunnels which was very informative. Jerry is from the Mekong Delta but had been living in Saigon for a few years, so it was nice to hear first hand his experiences with both places.

The owner of Water Buffalo Tours, Khoi (who is Quangs older brother) met us at the tunnels and would be the one taking us on the tour. As soon as we met him we knew he would be a great guide and have a wealth of knowledge.

We first watched a brief old fashion clip on the history of the tunnels and the war. After we were shown the small hatches they would enter and pop up through to kill their enemy, and the home made booby traps they made to wound enemy soldiers. The kids found this a big hit, and they took everything in as they spoke about why they used these things.

Once we got to the main tunnels, I decided to stay out with my three year old as I knew he wouldn’t enjoy the dark cramped space. (Suits me as I’m very claustrophobic!) The older kids went in and were given options as they went to get out if they didn’t like it. Alysse made it through one tunnel but hated every minute so opted to stay out of the next. Shane and Max were the only ones that did all the tunnels, and both came out sweating and puffing from crawling in the hot clammy air!

We enjoyed some refreshments at the end and had time to sit and learn more about our guide. He was born in bomb shelters in the Mekong and his own family village was in the firing area, so he has lots of memories of the war. It’s hard to imagine whole families living in these tunnels, and whether their anxiety of small spaces ever got the better of them – I’m not sure how I could cope, but when the other option is death, I suppose you do what you have to!

 

This company operates by word of mouth and is no doubt very successful. Having an authentic, locally and family run tour is so important to us and we were beyond happy with our few days with Water Buffalo Tours. I cannot recommend them enough for anyone visiting Saigon and the Mekong Delta – especially with kids as they really went above and beyond for us all.

You can find their details here:

Water Buffalo Tours

khoi.n@waterbuffalotours.com

 

 

 

Residence Charles Floquet Paris

Last Christmas we went on our first big long haul adventure, 3 weeks in Europe, which included a stay in Paris ! Being our first time to, we were happy to go a little over our budget to get an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower. We had searched Airbnb but found nothing that suited us in the location we wanted.  My hubby stumbled across an amazing bargain at the Residence Charles Floquet, a two bedroom apartment  down from $1000 a night to $400...and in a location we couldn't turn down.

The apartment complex is in a beautiful little street with a walking distance of less than 100m to the Eiffel Tower.  On the bottom storey was the reception area, and the staff were lovely, attentive and spoke great English.  Access to our apartment was via a TINY old fashion gated style lift, which was a pain in the butt with 4 suitcases and 3 kids to lug to our apartment.  There was also a staircase which the older kids often used and found it quite amusing watching us go up at each level through the doors and racing us to the top!

Once you open the door to the apartment, you can't help be floored by the beauty and charm of the traditional Parisian decor. The first thing that you notice is of course the large windows opening up to the view of tower, which you can see in all its unobstructed beauty.

There is a living room and dining room which have views to the tower, 2 bedrooms (one queen bed and two singles), kitchen, two bathrooms and a laundry.  It is a perfect size for a large family and we had ample space for us 5, and was great to be able to do some washing!

The main selling point of this property for me was at night time...there is nothing more amazing than sitting in the living room drinking champagne and nibbling on French chocolate while watching the twinkling  lights of the eiffel tower every hour. It really is magical.

It's also walking distance to the famous Champs Elyees along the Seine, and at Christmas time when we were there the streets were filled with Christmas markets and decorations.

I cannot recommend this property enough for those coming to Paris and wanting to spend a little extra for that incredible view! It is worth every cent 🙂

Residence Charles Floquet - 8, Avenue Charles Floquet, Paris

Researching, planning and budgeting

 

Planning and researching our trips well in advance is our holiday style...we definitely aren’t the “wing it” kind of travellers. We like to have everything pre-booked and planned down to the last detail. With three young kids in tow it makes our life much easier when we are organised. Obviously things don’t always go to plan which we found out on our latest trip when we had to charter a small plane to get off an island in the Philippines! . When these problems arise we will deal with them and so far they are few and far between.

When we are doing a trip with a few different destinations there is a lot of planning like mapping out a rough itinerary, finding out the distance to each place and the easiest and most kid-friendly way to get there, costs and accommodation options.

One of our favourite websites for planning is Rome2Rio.This  site tells you how far away destinations are, travel times for every mode of transport and even rough costs for each, including taxis. It's fantastic !

The other site my hubby uses religiously is Google Earth. From Google Earth you can get a rough idea on how much is around hotels etc as far as restaurants go, how far hotels are from each other – you name it google earth will show you! We used this recently when planning a trip to Vietnam with my parents. They wanted different hotel options to us so we were able to check the distance between where they wanted to stay and where we would be staying to make sure we weren’t too far apart.

Once we have our itinerary sorted and have initial flights booked we will work it how long we want to stay in each place, then calculate the travel time to each place. Then we can book our accommodation and organise our transport. In Europe we used the train to each country, it was relaxing , cheap and a great way to see the countryside. The Philippines we used a mix of ferries and domestic flights – a 40min flight on Cebu Pacific as opposed to a seven hour ferry was much more appealing!

Once everything is all booked and confirmed we will print off all our documents, make notes of what has been paid in full and how much is owing if we have only paid deposits . I'll mark in my calendar when final payment is due ...a lesson I learnt the hard way after a hotel recently cancelled my booking without notifying me the day before I travelled, purely because I forgot to pay the balance and they never chased it up or reminded me.

Before we travel I love to look up tour options, attractions and research what I can... printing maps, addresses of things I want to visit, and pop them all in the file for that destination. It makes managing your days a bit easier when you arrive, especially if your wifi isn’t great . We downloaded some awesome offine maps for Paris, London, Venice and Rome which were very useful when you don't have  internet. Look up any apps for the place you are visiting as those can he helpful too and will often include maps.

 

BUDGETING

Before you even start planning you need to set a rough budget so you know your options. There's no point in planning a three week trip through America staying at flash resorts if you have a budget of $2000. Work out what you can afford to spend per day  for the whole trip including food, transport, tours and accommodation and go from there.  If you’re travelling with a large family AirBNB can be a great money saver and can be much more roomy! When it comes to saving for trips we aren't great at this - we tend to put it on the credit card and worry about it later  But when we have a trip coming up we will cut back on going out for dinners and lunches, and all those little unnecessary expenditures.

It's always good to take a little backup money because you never know when you might need to pay $1000 cash for a tiny propeller plane to get you off a stranded island! Opening a savings account dedicated to travelling is a great idea -  set up a automatic recurring payment from your main account each week well in advance.

 

FREQUENT FLYER/REWARD PROGRAMS
I recommend signing up for a great frequent flyer program, so you can accumulate points with your credit card. Do your research to find one that will give you the best benefits with the least fees. We use our credit card for everything possible, as well as work bills and we have enough points for five of us to travel to America at the moment! Here is a guide I found useful on different programs. Groceries, bills, absolutely anything you can use your card for and transfer back. You'll be so surprised how quickly it adds up.

 

CHEAP FLIGHTS

Sign up to every airlines VIP membership so you can get early access or notifications to sales on flights. The AirAsia Big Account normally gives you access to promotions 24 hours earlier than non-members and you can snap up some great fares. We recently got 5 of us to Vietnam in school holidays for $1500Aud which we thought was a bargain!

Apps like Hopper are great  and you can put in your preferred dates and destination and it will tell you when is cheapest to book or send you notifications when they are on sale. The only downside was getting notifications after we booked our Philippines with cheaper fares !

My friend Vanessa from Wanderlust Crew wrote a great post about how she flies for cheap or sometimes free which you can read here  and Evie from Mumpacktravel has written a post on skyscanner and great ways to find cheap flights here  which are both very useful articles.

 

MY TOP TIPS

  • Print maps for your destinations before you go and any other useful information including hotel addresses
  • Open a dedicated savings account which you can set up a automatic transfer from your main account
  • Take extra cash in case of emergencies, or ensure your credit card has enough spare
  • Sign up to airline VIP memberships to ensure your notified of flight sales

 

Everyone is different, some people like their travel plans flexible and are happy to book as they go, especially if time isn't an issue. Some prefer to have all their plans and itineraries booked well in advance leaving no surprises. Some prefer luxury resorts, and other more traditional experiences like homestays. Whatever your preference , planning and researching is half the fun of the trip! Enjoy your next adventure - and let me know if you have any tips to share in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whale Sharks in Oslob – Philippines

The whale sharks in Oslob can be a controversial subject for some - not everyone agrees with it , arguing that the feeding of them has interfered with their natural migration and feeding patterns...Others say they are well looked after, are not in captivity and free to come and go as they please. Here Ill discuss my experience !

We were tossing up whether to actually go as we didn't realise when we booked the Cebu accommodation that Oslob was a good 3 hour drive and required a 5am pickup....BUT going to swim with the whale sharks was the main reason we went to Cebu. Its been my dream since I was a little kid and the ones in Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, where I live are very hit and miss in regards to actually seeing them so we decided to suck up the early morning and long drive and go just do it.

We booked our tour through Island Trek Tours before we arrived and they were fantastic. All up for us 5 for the transport in a private minivan, light breakfast, lunch, entrance fees and the fees to snorkel with the whale sharks was around $400 AUD. The driver picked us up at 5am and we arrived in Oslob around 8am. We were taken to a local restaurant for breakfast which was sticky rice and fresh mango (kids weren't overly impressed by this haha!), then we headed to the whale shark area. We had to listen to a quick briefing on the rules and regulations - no suncream to be worn, strictly no touching them, what to do if they get too close etc then headed down to the beach. It took around 45mins for our turn - it was very chaotic.... there were tourists everywhere - either waiting on the beach,  in boats or in the water but their system seemed to work. At any one time there were around 30 boats in the water, all holding around 4-5 people. These are the traditional Banca boats, so very small and narrow. Hubby and I took it in turns to snorkel as we had our little one sitting in the boat. I expected with the amount of people in the water, and the fact that there was only around 5 sharks there that day (the 12m mummy wasn't there, these were the babies at 8m!) that there would be a ton of people around the same shark ..but a lot of people didn't actually swim. I think a lot of the chinese tourists weren't strong swimmers so we actually had 2 sharks almost to ourselves.

My first impression was how big they are - I think I had a bit of a panic attack when I saw a huge mouth coming at me (the whale sharks certainly don't seem aware of the rule that they must keep 4m away !) they are just the most breathtaking animals. So big and gracious, it was incredible. I had a view straight into its mouth, and at one point its tale whipped me. The kids held onto the wooden poles on the banca and just watched in amazement.

The local guides were fantastic....they certainly know how to position you to take your photos with the whale sharks. My guide grabbed my GOPRO, told me what to do and he managed to get some amazing shots. 15778252_1490296607651599_1066728151_o15817888_1490296577651602_1189153437_o

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We spent around 30mins in the water the whole time, which went really fast but was fantastic. I can't describe the feeling of seeing these amazing gentle giants up close, it was the best experience and probably one of the coolest things I've ever done. We certainly didn't feel at any point that these animals were being harmed, treated badly or the subject of any cruelty...if anything quite the opposite!

We were taken for lunch at the same local restaurant where we were served spicy soup, fish, pork belly, chicken, spring rolls and rice aswell as drinks. It was good quality tasty food , and we just ordered the kids some French fries aswell for the fussy one 🙂

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Our tour was meant to include a trip to Tumalog falls but there wasn't enough water to make it worthwhile so we decided to leave it. We set off at 11.30am and didn't arrive back to the hotel until 4.30pm. That was somewhat torture....5 hours stuck in traffic with a carsick vomiting child. Had we of known we could have done the trip from Bohol for much cheaper and 4 hours roundtrip on a boat, we defnitley would have done that !

All up I really can't fault our experience and would do it again....this time we would stay in Oslob or do the trip from Bohol - but if you have always wanted to swim with whale sharks, make sure you put this trip on your list... It was incredible 🙂

April xoxo

 

FIJI SHORE EXCURSIONS

We recently went on our third cruise on Royal Caribbean, this time on the Voyager of the Seas. We sailed from Sydney to New Caledonia, Fiji and back to Sydney. Our stops included Lautoka and Suva in Fiji and Noumea and Mare Island in New Caledonia. I have had so many ask about what we did on our shore excursions in Fiji so here it is !

LAUTOKA

We pre arranged a tour through Micks Fiji Tours & Transfers for our stop in Lautoka. We chose to visit the Garden of the sleeping giant, mudpool, and do some local shopping. The tour guides met us at the ship dock, and we had a aircon minivan to fit us all (we had a group of 4 adults and 5 kids). The guides were fantastic but my only disappointment was that they didn't speak fantastic English - we were met with stares and simple nods when we asked certain questions, which when you want to know as much about a place as possible, it was a bit disappointing.

 

GARDEN OF THE SLEEPING GIANT

The Garden of the sleeping giant was beautiful and definitely worth a visit. It was formally a private garden of the american Actor Raymond Burr but is now open to the public. It contains more than 2000 varieties of  Asian orchids and Cattleya hybridsm, aswell as amazing lilli ponds, and much more. We didn't trek too far as we had 5 kids to lug between us all, but the scenery and rain forest was absolutely beautiful and the kids had a great time. The entrance fees cost us around $30 AUD for us 5.

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SABETO MUDPOOL

Who could resist the thought of covering their body in dirty mud ! Sabeto mudpool is a short drive from the Garden of the sleeping giant, and the scenery on the way is just beautiful. When you arrive and pay the fees (around $40 AUD for the family), you go over to the Mudpool where you cover yourself in a thick mud and allow it to dry.The therapeutic mud pool claims to be the perfect remedy for self-cleansing or naturally beautifying yourself and I was told it can help everything from Ezcema,skin infections, rashes and much more. I actually had a rash that I get from sun cream etc at the time and I defnitley noticed an improvement!

Once the mud is dry you hop into the dirty muddy water and wash it off - this was a bit gross as you can feel the reeds below your feet but cant see them! I have a fear of not being able to see what I'm swimming in ! 🙂  Next you hop into the 37 degree hot spring -  The sulphur in the hot springs is believed by locals to have healing properties aswell, and it feels amazing - like a hot bath but with a much better view. My 2 year old refused to get out he loved it.

There are showers to clean any remaining mud after, ( I don't recommend wearing white bathers I'm still trying to bring these back to white !) and some refreshments like watermelon, water and also massages are on offer. A great way to finish off the "cleanse".

Defnitley recommend this as a tour we had a fantastic time

 

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We headed into Laukota city after this stop and had some lunch, there were a few restaurants there but a few we weren't overly keen on dining in. We found a great place that had pizza, chips, fijian beer and vodkas which all up cost around $40 for us 5. Our whole day tour cost our family of 5 $75 AUD which we paid in Australian Dollars when we finished the tour. Thank you to Micks Fiji Tours for a great day !

 

SUVA

We hadn't pre arranged a tour at Suva but knew there would be plenty of options at the dock once we arrived. I had decided I wanted to visit a waterfall so we found a tour that included this option. I cant remember the name of the tour we went through they were a small family run business and the lady who was our guide was just gorgeous - spoke amazing English and was so informative and funny ! Our first stop was the waterfall - I wish we went here last so we could have spent more time. It was AMAZING ! The walk down wasn't too far (although coming back up the steps carrying a toddler it felt like miles), and I felt much better after our guide told us there was no snakes, and the government sprays all the jungles for mozzies (yes I have a bug and snake phobia!). We stripped off and were straight off to test out the rope swing. The kids loved it, the water was deep so no worry of them hitting anything, and a beautiful temperature. There is something about natural spring water, it is just so pure and refreshing. The 2 year old wasn't keen on having a swim but was happy to dip his toes in. There is toilets there if required, and its defnitley a trip that is suitable for all fitness levels and ages providing they are ok with some stairs. I Defnitley can't recommend this spot enough, I could have spent all day there it was just beautiful.

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After here we had a little lunch and and a drink at a beautiful place called Raintree Lodge, it had the most gorgeous scenery and the kids could feed the fish in the lake.

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LOCAL VILLAGE

We next were taken to a local Fijian village which was a great experience!. When we arrived we were sat down ready to watch the traditional dancing by the men and the Kava ceremony. My hubby and my friend both had a drink of the Kava (after the guide telling me how it can be so strong people lay there unable to move properly I swiftly declined). The kids were invited to dance with the men and my son thought it was fantastic leading the pack with them copying his moves ! We were allowed to wander around the village, try some traditional Fijian lunch and browse the little stalls. The village had their own community hall, had around 300 community members, and the houses each had surnames representing each family. It was a great experience for the kids (who now want to live in a village with the extended family!) and something I would love to go back and experience more of. The entry fee was around $10 FD for adults and $5 for kids.

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We fell in love with Fiji - the people are just so happy and friendly. Never without a smile on their face ! Defnitley somewhere I will come back and explore more of !

April xo