It is so exciting to spend one or two weeks in a Club Med, in a heavenly place. You do not have to bang your head planning for a flight, nor for the transfer to the hotel. At the hotel, food and drinks are included, even the activities are all organized from the hotel. These are the perfect key in hand holidays. We must admit that we wish our trip was that simple sometime, but a journey around the world requires a lot more preparation and logistic than picking a spot and choosing the activities in the travel guide. We got a few questions from people who wanted to know how we manage all that stuff and we decided to write a “short” post on this and share a few learnings we had in the process.
Most of the time, we use buses or trains for our travel as they are the cheapest option, but sometime a plane is the more realistic way to travel. Since most of the time we are flexible on our travel dates, we can benefit from the best possible fare by traveling on alternative dates or less popular flights (the 8 instead of the 11 for example). We use Google Flight and SkyScanner to find the cheapest flight between two destinations and then, we choose the airline and book directly or through an agency. We both get on our computer and iPad, we look at different scenarios and look for the best deal possible. Flights in Asia are really affordable and it’s worth taking a one-hour flight, rather than taking the bus for 12-19 hours, even by adding the cost of luggage.
Now, that’s a puzzle! With two children, we try to privilege renting an AirBnb to a hotel. AirBnb, for those who do not know, is a website where an individual rents his or her apartment or a part of their apartment. In Europe, the accommodations we found on AirBnb were always cheaper than renting a hotel room. On the other hand, our children often had to sleep on a sofa bed vs a bed in the hotel rooms, but they never complained about it. We must admit we saw a wide range of standard regarding the cleanliness and comfort of the accommodations. We found real pearls like the two condos we rented in Athens (Greece), the one in Assisi (Italy) or the last one in Sam Roi Yot (Thailand). We also found some apartments that were ok for a few days but that we were glad to leave. In Asia, most of the time the apartments on AirBnB were much more expensive than the hotel rooms we find.
When it comes to renting a hotel room, we use a wide range of websites to find the best bang for our bucks. For example, we used Hotels.com, Agoda.com or Booking.com, even Expedia.com. They often display the same hotels and but it’s worth double checking the final price before proceeding as there is sometime hefty extra costs that makes a big difference between the websites. You really need to be diligent and try to avoid making mistakes to get the most value for your money. The Hotelcombined.com website is also very good as it compares the rates of some other websites and helps us to make a better decision. We often prefer a hotel that is close to the city center. While they are sometime a little more costly, you save on transport costs and the choice of restaurants nearby is always more interesting. We also try to rent a room in a hotel that offers free breakfast. We then save on a meal of the day (and it adds up). Again, we found some real gems like our accommodation in Hoi An (Vietnam) or the one on the island of Naxos (Greece).
Regarding this important aspect, we always prefer getting a nice clean AirBnb, where we can cook what we like for a fraction of the price of restaurants. But in Asia, we had to rely on street food to feed ourselves. There are towns like Chiang Mai (Thailand) where we ate very well on the street, but there are other places like Vang Vieng (Laos) where street food was limited to sandwiches and pancakes. When we were in India, we ate only in restaurants since we did not quite trusted the street food yet. But in Southeast Asia, nothing is stopping us! The trick is to find a stand where several customers eat, it gives a good indication that it is good and sanitary. We only eat food that is cook or re-cook in front of us. Often the kiosks prepare food in advance, so by re-cooking the food, we make sure it is safe for consumption. That being said, the sanitation standards vs Canada are drastically different and it took us some time to trust that we would not fall sick by eating some of that food. When we are staying for a longer time in a city, we make sure to try several kiosks and find our favorites. Hugo is a champion to taste the unknown fruits, he is now a big fan of the jackfruit, passion fruit and dragon fruit. Kolya eats everything on his plate, spicy or not. Karine is the most dismissive of the family, she always opt for vegetarian dishes when they are available. Simon is in heaven here, he eats spicy at will. We saw a ton of weird stuff: scorpions, brains, chicken testicles, etc., but nobody had the audacity to taste this. Our most daring tasting was camel milk in India.
If you have children, you certainly know that we need to do laundry more often than not. While in Airbnb accommodation, most of the time we can enjoy a washing machine, when we rent a hotel room, you have to get by otherwise. We can get our laundry done wash by the hotel that generally charge by weight. It often cost around a dollar a kilo, while it’s pretty cheap, it can go up quickly. The clothes often come back still a little stained, but they smell ok. Other more luxurious hotels offer washing by the piece of clothing, we did not take advantage of this service since it was way too expensive. There is also the laundromat option, but then you need a clothes rack to dry the laundry. At least we know that we put detergent in the washing machine. Finally, the method of our grandmothers; Washing by hand! But for that, you need a large sink with a cork or a bath. We would like to thank Karine’s mother who strongly recommended us to bring a few bars of Sunlight soap. That was very helpful. We share the task of laundry by hand, while Karine normally takes care of the laundry in AirBnbs. YouTube is very handy when the machine instructions are in an unknown language.
Most of the time, Karine teaches to the boys while Simon work on other things. We find a spot in the shade and works one subject per day. We usually work 1:00 to 2:00 per day in addition to reading and this, seven days a week. On days we are traveling or have special activities, we take a day off. It works fine in general and the boys do not complain too much when it comes time to work. But the workload is not equal between the two students. Kolya who is in grade 6 has more work and finds it totally unfair that Hugo who is in grade 4 has less. Mr. David, the grade six teacher provided us with a ton of exercises to do for Kolya and it’s awesome. On reading though, the boys have never read so much. Good thing we have e-books. Kolya finished the Harry Potter series and recently started the Percy Jackson series. As for Hugo, he is already done his third volume of Harry Potter and he loves it. The boys also discovered “les Débrouillards”, the “Ted Talk” as well as “C’est pas sorcier” on YouTube and loves watching videos while learning. We should have finished the school workbooks by the end of April if everything goes well.
Let’s say that before our departure, our mothers were very worried. We think that they are better about it now. We must admit that we took several precautions. We were vaccinated for all the risks that we could meet in Asia. We carried a ton of medicines, for anything that we might encounter. We take our pills against Malaria in high-risk areas and in the event that something bad happens, we have signed up on a travel insurance policy. We incurred a bit of risk on occasion, but we made it through, mostly it was through transportation in India and Asia (speed, no seat belts in cars). The worst we encountered was to be dropped on the side of the highway in Delhi at 4 in the morning, but there was more fear than harm. We feel completely safe in our journey. As for going out in the evening, we do not do that much. We have a boy (we won’t tell you which one, but those who know us well know which one) whose wake-up call is 6 o’clock sharp in the morning and it does not matter when he got in bed the night before . Anyway, after our long days under the hot sun, playing in the water and walking in the city, no one complains when it’s time to go to bed.
If you have made it through this long note we salute you! We hope we have answered all your questions about the logistics of the trip. If you have any further questions, we will be happy to answer them.