I’m not going to lie, our family has a deep love of visiting South Africa. It’s a fantastic place – one of the most beautiful places in the world -with incredible wildlife and an outdoorsy lifestyle that gives a visitor no chance for boredom. And while I normally stop reading any travel article that uses the word “vibrant” to describe a place or culture, I honestly can’t think of any other word that fits South Africa as well.
If Vienna and London are imagined in the staid grays and whites of a proper European city and Budapest is a sepia tone of historic struggles, South Africa is bright purples and reds, with contrasting colors everywhere you look.
But when you are from America, South Africa doesn’t seem all that big. After you visit the big tourist names of Cape Town and Johannesburg and see all there is to see on day trips, what else is left?
I’m a HomeAway junkie, I’ll own it. Whenever we decide to make a trip, HomeAway is my first stop to find accommodation. We’re usually traveling with at least three children, and like any parents we like a little bit of privacy.
Two weeks in single hotel rooms with two double beds and a roll-away is a recipe for disaster. Also death threats. Possibly sanitarium time. Definitely a need for a vacation-from-the-vacation.
This is, I think, my favorite picture we’ve ever taken on any of our travels.
Fresno the Husband wasn’t too up on appearing on the internet (weirdo), but I had to include this picture. Honestly, this picture is what makes the best travel memories – Mr. Dirty popping up in what was supposed to be a picture of just Mom and Dad.
In any case, this picture, ridiculous though it may be, is pretty much what we expect from travel. If you’re in London you see Big Ben, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and if you have time you hit up Harrod’s. Or maybe you hit up Harrod’s first, I’m certainly not going to judge.
Every year we take a big trip around Christmas time. There are a few reasons for this – first, the kids’ school lets out for about a month around that time and we have a free travel schedule. Second, if you plan your travel right (and far ahead) and aren’t too worried about methods, you can get some seriously excellent travel deals. Third, and this is probably 75% of the reason for us right here, we live in a climate that isn’t very Christmasy and I feel a deep urge to go somewhere pine trees are an indigenous species.
We all have our priorities.
Our first major overseas Christmas trip involved thirty days, three countries, five major cities, two overnight train trips, several smaller train trips, a bout with norovirus, an anti-austerity demonstration in Spain, and business class travel both to and from Europe for under $5000 (not including food).
Johannesburg, South Africa is not a vacation destination that immediately pops up when people talk about traveling abroad. Paris? Yes. London? Yes. Hong Kong? Bangkok? Yes and Yes. And if one actually does think about trekking to South Africa, it is generally Cape Town that does the honors (and believe me, it totally deserves that).
Johannesburg really should not be overlooked, though. And if you’re going to Cape Town or Kruger National Park you’ll be flying through JoBurg’s OR Tambo airport anyway – why not give it a quick stop?
There are a few more things that I would have included. These aren’t really lessons but rather things that have happened naturally.
First, international travel has taught my children about exchange rates, both the math and the theory. Figuring how much that trinket will cost “in dollars” reinforces basic math skills and forces the kids to consider the relative value of things. The theory has been much more interesting – I’ve learned a lot during our conversations.
They’ve also had first-hand experience with the metric system. Figuring out how much longer we had to drive becomes a whole different problem when the road signs are in kilometers. (Even more so if your speedometer is in miles). Hearing that the weather will be 40 degrees means something completely different when the announcer is talking about degrees Celsius. And how much lunch meat do you need to order in kilograms?
Other, random financial topics that have come up include why other countries make their money out of different materials, daily schedules in equatorial countries, and why the cars are so small outside of the US. (Hint: they’re mostly financial reasons.)
I’m sure that you have some additional experiences. Please share in the comments. We’re all in this parenting and travelling thing together.
No, you don’t have to make your kids watch Zulu, although it’s a good movie that stands up to the test of time and gives a real feel of a part of South Africa’s history.
Travel is always a lot more interesting when you are ready with what you want to see and the history behind it, and if you’re planning a trip to Cape Town any time soon, you might want to look at a few of these things…
We traveled to London, England with two children under the age of ten and a preteen. It went off marvelously. There were several hitches, because travel and also because children. Also, because airline schedule.
London was the first overseas destination for our children – we wanted to start them off easily. They spoke the language, the food was familiar, and I’ll admit it – Harry Potter.