Travel Blog

How to Pack Lightly on a Family Trip

To get the most out of your travel experience, it’s always better to pack light. No matter the destination, and no matter for how long, packing light makes your life easier and trip more enjoyable in many different ways. Instead of worrying about finding your luggage at the carousel after a long flight, , you can just take it with you. Packing lightly grants you more freedom to go more places, try more things, and have overall less stress, which will put all of your travel companions in a better mood.

 

I understand that “packing light” is often easier said than done, though. Each trip presents its own challenges, like going somewhere cold. How do you pack compactly when you need to bring a parka? Or traveling with children, who tend to have more gear than the rest of us?  How do you stay entertained? (Packing hack: going digital and bringing a phone or an iPad is especially helpful for this purpose. Entertainment, doing research on the go, and downloading guide maps ahead of time? Easy.)

 

These are all valid questions, and of course, while each packing list should cater to the climate and activities of where you are traveling, here are some guidelines that apply to any trip, by any mode of transportation:

 

Only pack a carry-on.

Carry-ons are much more spacious than most people assume they are. This also cuts down on needing to check luggage, finding it, hauling it to the hotel, and worrying about its weight. Additionally, you get to bring a personal item. Use that to your advantage, if you need more space.

 

If the only reason you are packing an item starts with “what if” or only plan to use it once, leave it at home.

In the unlikely event that you do need that item and don’t have it with you, odds are, you can buy it at your destination. This also helps you stick to just the essentials.

 

Most places you are traveling to have what you need.

This is a similar sentiment to the point above. You can buy toiletries at a corner store, both saving space and eliminating the need to cart liquids around. If you are traveling anywhere other than the middle of a desert or distant village in the mountains, you will be able to find somewhere to wash your clothes, thus eliminating the need to pack as many clothes.

 

Wear your bulkiest clothes.

Save the room in your suitcase and wear those items instead. Whether this means wearing a sweatshirt, jeans, and boots, or a parka, sweater, and sneakers, keep them out of your luggage and on you instead. Dressing in layers will help keep you comfortable while you’re traveling and provide more space for things like souvenirs.

 

With these tips in mind, enjoy your next vacation. Focus on the memories you’re making and the time you’re spending with your family, instead of panicking because the airline lost your luggage or worrying about a potential snowstorm when you’re actually going to Hawaii.
For more travel tips, visit my travel blog on NirRonen.org.

5 Natural Phenomenon to Add to Your Travel Bucket List

The 7 Wonders of the World have some steep competition – there are dozens of natural wonders that remain as awe-inspiring today as the day they were first discovered. Different from the changing 7 Wonders of the World, the natural wonders explored here come exactly as they are, with origins that point far away from being manmade.

 

Thanks to developments in travel and mapping, travelers alive today have the ability to see more than many ever thought possible. These natural phenomena are located all over the globe, and vary from mountain ranges to underwater caves, and even include some dried up lakes that have turned into salt planes.

 

While there are too many to include all in one blog, it’s impossible to not at least look at a few of them. Here are 5 of the world’s most beautiful and unique natural wonders that you should add to your traveling bucket list.

 

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River | Palawan, Philippines

This natural underground river is a point of pride for locals in the Philippines. This area is highly protected as to not disturb the natural ambience and composition of the river. Located just over 350 miles southwest of Manila, the river and its surrounding area were declared a National Park in 1971. Travelers can have the great pleasure of rafting underneath cliffs and through complex caves with a guide to see the subterranean river in all of its natural glory. It’s often referred to as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

 

Grand Prismatic Springs | Yellowstone, Wyoming

It can be difficult when visit the Grand Prismatic Springs in Yellowstone to know what exactly it is that you’re witnessing. An odd shaped lake with bright greens, oranges, yellows and blues? The Prismatic Springs in Yellowstone is a hot spring at least 10 stories deep, bringing hot water up from a crack in the Earth to the surface. The wild colors actually come from bacteria that feed off of the heated water. While it may be beautiful to look at, it’s best to keep to the designated viewing areas so you don’t get burned.

 

Ayers Rock (Uluru) | Australia

An important piece of cultural history in Australia, Uluru – or Ayers Rock as it’s more commonly known – is one of the largest monoliths in the world. Standing remotely in a vast desert, this giant structure seemingly made of sandstone, draws tons of tourists every year to see it glow at sunrise and sunset. The location of the rock and the way it hits the sun makes the formation appear to be glowing red. This occurrence is significant to locals, as they believe it to be the site of ancient and sacred visits from the gods. The locals are also solely responsible for taking care of the land and grounds of the site. Because it is considered a sacred site, tourists may not climb the structure.

 

Lake Retba | Senegal, Africa

This bright pink lake looks like a scene from a Dr. Seuss book. Located in Northwest Africa in the Cap Vert peninsula of Senegal, this natural phenomenon gets vibrant, pink looking water from a strand of salt-loving bacteria that congregates here to soak up resources from the lake. The bacteria turns red to attract more sunlight, making the lake look like it is full of pink water. Because the content of the water is so salty, there aren’t a ton of natural creatures that can inhabit it, leaving the reddish pink bacteria to claim the water. Believe it or not, there are other pink lakes in the world, and the water is completely harmless to humans!

 

The Cave of Crystals | Naica, Mexico

Deep in the caves of Chihuahua, Mexico, you’ll find giant caverns full of giant crystals connected to the Naica Mine. This cave is home to some of the largest untouched crystals in the world, some towering heavily over those who visit. If a giant cave of crystals isn’t enough to peak your interest, earlier this year, scientists discovered brand new microbial life-forms that have never been introduced to the world before. These are organisms trapped in the crystal that have been feeding off of the minerals and elements for tens of thousands of years in order to survive. While the cave is beautiful, it is located on top of a large pool of magma and can’t be visited for too long. With the high temperature inside cave, the atmosphere becomes too hot for anyone to further explore the cave and the crystals.

Unconventional Lodging Options

Most hotel rooms, whether they’re a budget option or a luxurious five-star resort, are in essence very similar. When you slide your key card into the door, you’ll typically walk into a tidy, boxy room with one or two neatly made beds, bedside tables, a television set, a table and chairs, a desk, and a window- with a spectacular view if you’re lucky or maybe a rooftop air conditioning unit if you’re not so lucky. There’s that signature clean scent that greets your nostrils as you walk in and if you’ve been to enough hotels like I have, it becomes difficult to distinguish one from another.

The vast majority of hotels are variants of one another, but there are a few standout hotels around the world offering guests unique, unconventional lodging options. My family and I have been lucky enough to stay at one of these seven unconventional lodging options, and, upon researching others, I realized there are many more I will need to add to my bucket list! Driven by a sense of adventure, one of my greatest pleasures is experiencing new cultures and activities with my family. If you too are looking to expand your horizons and indulge your sense of adventure, consider one of these for your next vacation.

Caves Branch Adventure Company & Jungle Lodge: Belize

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to fall asleep under a canopy of rainforest trees or you’ve never quite let go of your childhood treehouse fantasies, then you should do yourself a favor and look into one of the treehouse rooms at Caves Branch in Belize. Rooms start at $381 USD per night during advent season, or if you’re willing to spend a little more, the canopy view treehouses start at $506 USD per night. Words really can’t do justice to how spectacular these views are- check out the website and you’ll see what I mean.

Winvian: Litchfield Hills, CT.

Each room of the Winvian Farm hotel in Connecticut features a different eclectic theme. With five-star dining and a spa set amid 113 acres of serene woods and lakes, Winvian Farm is at once a lavish retreat and whimsical experience. Some of the 18 cottages available include a restored 1968 helicopter, a rustic cabin called “Beaver Lodge,” and a cottage modeled after a golf course.

Attrap’Rêves, France

Sleeping in what is essentially a giant, translucent bubble may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this lodging option in France offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to sleep under the stars and take in the spectacular French countryside from the comforts of a furnished bubble. The plastic spheres are also eco-friendly, made from recycled materials.

The Santos Express, South Africa

You may be thinking that sounds like the name of a train, and it is! Unlike a moving sleeper train, though, the Santos Express is a stationary lodge with extraordinary views of the Santos Bay. It is an excellent option for budget travelers as well, with rooms starting around $100.

IceHotel, Sweden

Have you ever been curious about what it would be like to live in an igloo? Cold, for sure, and maybe not the most practical long-term living arrangement, but at the IceHotel in Sweden you can experience the best of igloo living where everything from the furniture to the walls and floors, is made of ice. If you’re thinking a stay in an ice palace doesn’t sound so accommodating, think again- the hotel provides guests with expedition-style sleeping bags to keep warm, and it features gourmet restaurants and an ice bar. Because the hotel relies on frigid temperatures to avoid melting, it runs every year through the months of December to April.

Kakslauttanen Hotel and Igloo Village, Finland

For a slightly tamer igloo option, the Igloo Village in Finland simulates the experience of staying in an igloo without the frigid temperatures and actual ice. The resort’s igloo rooms are made of thermal glass walls so you can stay warm and cozy while taking in the spectacular Northern Lights.

Free Spirit Spheres, Canada

The Free Spirit Spheres take your childhood dreams of living in a treehouse to the extreme. Embrace your inner child as you climb the spiral staircases and cross drawbridges to access your home-sweet-orb suspended 15 feet above the ground. The orbs even have names! You can choose from Eve, Eryn, or Melody.  Worried you’ll be roughing it with Mother Nature during your stay? In addition to the orbs being quite comfortable themselves, the hotel provides everything you’ll need for a comfortable stay, including a heated bathhouse, cooking house, fresh linens, and complimentary snacks.

If you’re looking for a truly unique hotel stay that can’t be replicated anywhere else, then you really can’t go wrong with any one of these unconventional lodging options!