Beachside Fun: Getting to know Qingdao
Travelers: Raquel and Buzzy Harvey, and son Trey (2). Their new arrival, Annaliese, was born just after the trip.
The Destination: Qingdao, China.
The Plan: The Harveys’ wanted to have a family trip before Annaliese was born. Since Raquel was 35-weeks pregnant at the time and could not fly too far, they decided to go to Qingdao. It fulfilled their dual criteria of being close to Beijing and having a beach. They flew there and took the train back because by the end of the trip Raquel was 36-weeks pregnant and unable to fly. The family spent two nights at the Zhan Qiao Prince Hotel (a return trip for sentimental reasons), and another two nights at the Crowne Plaza (for the swimming pool). While in Qingdao they spent the majority of their time at the beach, enjoying the wonderful weather, clear skies and clean air. They also took some time out to visit the Polar Ocean World Aquarium. A hotel taxi dropped them off at a free shuttle bus, which then took them on to the aquarium. Be warned: The shuttle bus won’t leave until it’s full, so you may have to wait a while before setting off. Once they arrived, Trey fed fish to the seals for RMB 10. For an extra RMB 50 he had his photo taken with a dolphin.
Memory Book: There were a number of highlights, including building sand castles on the beach, walking along the boardwalk, going out for excellent Western food, and looking around the 2008 Olympic sailing venue. A surprise part of the trip was chatting with a Chinese pop star on the beach prior to his evening concert.
Lesson Learned: Arrive early. The Harveys remember the frantic rush to the train station, causing them to almost miss their ride home. They made the train by mere minutes, after running through the station – very pregnant woman and toddler in tow.
Travel Tips: There are two quite famous aquariums in Qingdao: the Qingdao Underwater World (also known as Qingdao Aquarium), and Polar Ocean World. The latter is newer and is dedicated to polar marine animals. Polar bears, penguins, dolphins, sea lions and seals make up the main attractions. Despite being more modern, the Harveys found it had much smaller queues.
Seoul Searching: Sweeping the South Korean capital in two days
Travelers: James and Salome Hu, and their children Jacob (5) and Kelly (2)
The Destination: Seoul, South Korea.
The Plan: The Hus flew Korean Airlines to Seoul. Following the advice of tripadvisor.com they stayed at Hotel Ibis in Myungdeong, Seoul’s glitzy shopping district. Despite the limited time frame, they made sure to fit in a trip to Gyeongbokgung (Grand Palace), Seoul’s version of the Forbidden City. Built in 1395, it has a surprisingly similar design to Beijing’s centerpiece. They also squeezed in some shopping at Myungdeong and Namdaemun (Great South Gate) Market, the largest traditional outdoor market in Seoul. It sells a wide array of interesting things including clothes, shoes, fabrics, tableware, flowers, vegetables, ginseng products, toys, and watches.
Memory Book: A particular joy for the Hus was eating cheap Korean street food such as kimbap (sushi-like wraps of seaweed with varied fillings), barbequed meats, and corn on the cob. They were surprised to see long queues snaking up to designer clothes shops like Louis Vuitton, as people waited patiently to get in. The novelty value of the hotel’s high-tech toilet with pre-warmed seats and spray bidet wasn’t lost on the kids, who promptly flooded the bathroom.
Lesson Learned: The Hus struggled to get their stroller around the city as many of the main roads lacked crossings. Manhandling it down stairs to use the underpass was also a hassle.
Travel Tips: If you only have a few days to enjoy Seoul, it’s a good idea to see the city’s key landmarks on a single day bus tour. Bus tours cover most of Seoul’s must-see locations.
Ishigaki Island Getaway: Family fun on a Japanese Island
Travelers: Olivier and Vincente Devaux, and their boys Jean (5) and Arnaud (3).
The Destination: Kabira, Japan.
The Plan: After a two-hour flight from Beijing to Kansai airport, it was a quick 45-minute flight to Ishigaki Island where Kabira is located. The family stayed at the award-winning Club Med resort, chosen mainly for its family-friendly atmosphere. While at the resort, the kids were entertained with lots of activities including swimming, snorkeling among tropical fish, as well as football. Activities started from 9am every day, after which the kids were picked up by Olivier or Vincente for lunch. The family took an island tour, rented bikes and spent quite a bit of time at the stunning Kabira Bay, considered one of the island’s most scenic views.
Memory Book: Big fans of Japanese food, the family enjoyed eating sushi, soba and udon noodles. As part of their return journey, they spent a day in Osaka and went to a very traditional restaurant where the waiters wore kimonos. The Devaux family was impressed by the efficiency and politeness of the Japanese people.
Lesson Learned: On the flip side, they were unpleasantly surprised by the exponentially higher cost of holidaying in Japan.
Travel Tips: Given that Japan is one of the most expensive places in the world to visit, the Devaux family strongly recommends budgeting before making the trip. They also recommend staying at one of the Kansai airport hotels that are good value for money, and are very conveniently located near Kobe and Osaka.
England to Indonesia and Back Again: Leaving on a jet plane (or five)
The Travelers: Daniel and Poppy Aylmer, and three-and-half-year-old son, Joshua
Destination: The family doesn’t get many opportunities to travel so they decided to divide their time between their respective families in England and Indonesia. They consider this to be particularly important for Joshua, a “third culture child,” because they want him to develop strong cultural roots.
The Plan: The Aylmers always fly British Airways. In England, they stayed with Daniel’s family in the picturesque Berkshire village of Lambourn. They also spent a few days in London catching some West End shows and admiring the city’s many old Renaissance and Gothic buildings, not to mention the diverse, thriving dining scene! From London, they traveled to Indonesia. They stayed at Poppy’s parents’ home, a 45-minute flight from Bali. The Indonesian leg of their trip consisted mainly of eating and midday siestas – with the occasional short island break to catch some sun and sand.
Memory Book: For the best of the best, they recommend the Belgravia hotel, the Fat Duck restaurant and all Gordon Ramsey restaurants. Their favorite outings were to Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and Mumbles Beach in Swansea in Wales.
Lesson Learned: The worst part of their holiday was the amount of plane travel required.
Travel Tips: Being in the hospitality industry, the Aylmers know a bit about travel. For them, the most important thing is planning. Organizing what you are going to do with your time guarantees that you will get the most out of your well-deserved break. Daniel looked at Tripadvisor.com prior to traveling to make sure there would be no surprises when his family arrived at their destinations.