The Best Wine Regions in Australia You Won’t Want to Miss

The Best Wine Regions in Australia You Won’t Want to Miss

It’s clear that Australia is a land of extremes. From damp tropics to dry deserts this big island nation likewise has a lot of rolling hills and temperate environments. Luckily for us, and the 25+ million Australians who call it home, Australia likewise has the ideal soil, temperature level and elevations to likewise produce a few of the finest white wines in the world.

Today, with over 2500 wineries and 65 specified wine regions, Australia is among the biggest wine exporters in the world and is popular for their numerous grape ranges consisting of Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, and Riesling.

The best wine regions in Australia with Adelaide vineyard at sunset

Australian Wine Origins

From the nations simple wine starts in the Hunter Valley area simply north of Sydney (NSW) in the 1820’s to the prospering Australian wine regions in South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia, there are a lot of remarkable wine trips and tasting alternatives no matter where you occur to be in Australia. You can even take a look at some yummy craft brews and regional consumes while experimenting with a few of the NSW wine regions best wineries with the Tastes of the Hunter Wine Tours.

Micki and Charles in Sydney Australia
Beautiful Sydney, Australia

While wine has actually been produced in numerous parts of the world for far longer than Australia, the land down under still has some wine associated records that put other nations to pity. From having a few of the longest continuous wine production centers in the world to being the only nation in the world to permit you to taste wine straight from the barrel brewed the year you were born there’s more to Australian wine than the majority of people recognize.

Best Wine Regions in Australia

While stating any Australian wine area is much better than another is naturally a matter of viewpoint, the easy numbers video game typically ensures wine regions more popular than their contemporaries.

By the fireplace at Front door of Wolf Blass Winery Australia with winemaking equipment nearby

With over 65 wine growing regions in Australia, discovering one to go to is typically more of a “what cities are you going to” concern instead of a how do I discover a vineyard concern.

Here we note off some the most well-known, the most popular, the most uncommon and naturally, a few of our individual preferred wine regions in Australia. If we haven’t discussed yours then it’s most likely even if we haven’t arrived yet.

Barossa Valley in South Australia

One of Australia’s earliest and most respected wine regions with over 150 wineries calling this location house, is the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Known for its stunning Shiraz production with its abundant body and chocolate and spice overtones, the dry and hot Barossa valley is just an hour north of Adelaide and functions rolling miles and hills and miles of vineyards and orchards.

Jacobs Creek Winery Barossa Wine Region in Australia

In regards to production, the Barossa Valley wine area alone produces over half the nations wine exports consisting of a few of Australia’s best-known wineries consisting of Jacob’s Creek, Penfolds Grange, Wolf Blass, Yalumba, Peter Lehmann, and Henschke’s Hill of Grace.

It’s likewise house to the famous Seppeltsfield vineyard, which is among the most historical wineries in South Australia’s Barossa Valley and likewise the only winery in the world to launch a 100-year-old vintage wine every year.

Front door of Wolf Blass Winery Barossa Wine Region Australia

This South Australia wine area likewise produces much of Australia’s mass-produced box white wines. While some individuals might belittle the choice of boxed wine in their house nation, what the majority of people don’t recognize is that in Australia there are numerous alternatives when it comes to boxed wine as a big portion of boxed wine alternatives never ever leave the nation.

On top of the boxed wine ranges discovered in Australia are numerous smaller sized bottle ranges from the bigger manufacturers with whatever from blends and ports to well aged vintages and the only method to sample them on your own is to be in the nation.

On an individual note, on our extremely first journey to Australia years back, Barossa Valley was our very first experience with Australian vineyards. We wound up costs days taking a trip up and down the valley tasting and experiencing whatever the location had to deal. While we fell in enjoy with more than a few of the vineyards, it was the regional choice of boxed wine and a little run of port design wine that we couldn’t get beyond the nation that made the Barossa Valley our most valued wine area in Australia.

Hunter Valley Wine Region in NSW

Only a couple of hours north of Sydney in New South Wales, the Hunter Valley wine area is the earliest wine area in Australia. While the early vines planted around Sydney start in 1788 had problem with the humidity and heat, the discovery of Hunter Valley opened a brand-new world of possibilities.

The initially significant planting in the Hunter Valley wine area came in 1825 when James Busby, who is often called the daddy of Australian wine, bought land and planted the very first industrial vineyard in the area. The location quickly ended up being associated with wine production and almost 200 years later on it’s still a successful location with over 120 vineyards calling Hunter Valley house.

Vineyard at Jacobs Creek Winery Barossa Wine Region Australia

While the Hunter Valley wine regions most renowned wine is Sémillon (very first planted well over a century back), there is still more reds collected in the area than white and even then the Semillon is 2nd to Chardonnay is production amounts. There is likewise Verdelho which is another typical white discovered in the location while ShirazCabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the most populated of the reds.

While Hunter Valley doesn’t have actually the world understood names discovered in the Barossa Valley wine area, it still surpasses it in tourist and visitors due to Hunter Valley being so close to Sydney. Some of the most popular vineyards in the Hunter Valley wine area consist of Tulloch and Lindemans in addition to the Audrey Wilkinson Winery, initially developed in 1866 with its scenic views of the Brokenback Mountain Ranges. There’s likewise the well granted Tyrrell’s Vineyard that has actually remained in the household because its very first batch of wine back in 1862 in addition to a lot of other remarkable vineyards that deserve going to.

Margaret River Wine Region in Western Australia

The Margaret River Wine Region, situated a couple of hundred kilometers north of Perth and just going back to the late 1960’s, doesn’t produce as much tonnage as its Australia wine area brother or sisters however it still handles to press out a fifth of the nation’s premium white wines.

With its Mediterranean rainfalls and cooler yearly temperature levels, this Western Australia wine area has more shop vineyards compared to bigger operations. With 140 signed up vineyards in the Margaret River wine area, you can go to a half lots a day for almost a month and still leave delighted.

The primary wine ranges in the area are split rather uniformly in between the red and whites with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon leading the pack.

Margaret River Chardonnay Vines

Some of the most popular wineries in the Margaret River wine area consists of Voyager Estate, Leeuwin Estate with its fondness for hosting huge occasions, in addition to Vasse Felix, established by Dr Tom Cullity in 1967 as the regions initially industrial vineyard and winery. There’s likewise Cape Mentelle, among Margaret River’s ‘founding 5’ wineries in addition to Cullen Wines which was Australia’s very first carbon neutral winery with both natural in addition to biodynamic accreditation.

Yarra Valley Wine Region in Victoria, Australia

Yarra Valley, situated less than an hour east of Melbourne, is a successful Victoria wine area understood for its a little cooler environment and its appeal due to its close distance to the state capital.

The Yarra Valley wine area and its 80+ wineries are popular for there Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and its champagne ranges with the earliest vineyards in the state beginning there back in the late 1830’s.

The area is likewise a terrific weekend trip for lots of people in the city with lots of lodgings and dining establishments peppering the valley.

Some of the most popular vineyards in the Yarra Valley wine area consist of Oakridge Wines, Helen and Joey Estate, Pimpernel Vineyards, De Bortoli, Innocent Bystander, Many Hands, TarraWarra Estate and Domaine Chandon which is popular for its champagnes.

Oak casks in the wine cellar at Vineyard at Jacobs Creek Winery Barossa Wine Region Australia

If you truly want to experience some local wine history though, ensure you take a look at Yerring Station. This winery has actually been running because 1838 and its cellar door is still lacked the initial structure.

Tamar Valley Wine Region in Tasmania

The Tamar Valley wine area has a long and vibrant past. Found on the little island of Tasmania, Tamar Valley can be discovered on the northern coast close to Launceston, Tasmania’s second biggest city.

Common wine ranges discovered in this Tasmania wine area consist of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling in addition to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinos Gris which have actually gotten appeal since late.

Nestled along the Tamar River, the Tamar Valley wine area has cooler weather condition than its huge island equivalents and its premium white wines are typically stated to be much better well balanced due to the cooler maritime weather condition. There are presently 32 vineyards in the area.

An enjoyable reality about Tamar Valley is that it’s stated that the location really produced the cuttings for a few of the extremely first vines planted in both South Australia and Victoria so the island area precedes them both with vineyards starting in the 1830’s.

Some of the most popular wineries in this Tasmania wine area consist of Goaty Hill, Holm Oak, Pipers Brook, Tamar Ridge, Josef Chromy and Iron Pot Bay. With Tasmania hosting a few of the earliest vineyards in all of Oceania, it’s not tough to see why it’s consisted of in this list.

Canberra District Wine Region in Australian Capital Territory

The Canberra District wine area might be smaller sized than the others on this list however this Australian Capital Territory wine area is mighty.

With 140 vineyards and more than 40 wineries within a half hour drive of Canberra, you get a lot for your mile when going to here. The area is likewise just a couple of hours south of Sydney so the location gets visitors from both cities.

With moderate, rather drier weather condition and greater elevations, this Australian Capital Territory wine area plants a varied variety of wine ranges consisting of Shiraz, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot and a couple of rarer ranges like Gruner Veltlin and Sangiovese.

With roots back to the 1800’s, genuine wine production at scale didn’t begin here till the 1970’s when numerous wineries chose to make the area house and with a long season due to all the ranges here you can witness harvesting on your own from February till May most years.

Picnic in the van down the road from Wolf Blass Winery Barossa Wine Region Australia

Some of the most popular wineries in the Canberra District wine area presently consist of Clonakilla, which is eliminating the competitors in grants the previous couple of years, Helm Wines, Lerida Estate, Murrumbateman and up and comer, Nick O’Leary who is rapidly going far for himself in the area.

Granite Belt Wine Region in Queensland

While Queensland is much better understood for its heat, humidity and nearness to the Great Barrier Reef than it is for its wine, the Granite Belt wine area is attempting to modification that.

With over 50 wineries laying their roots here, the Granite Belt group have actually been sealing themselves as the most popular Queensland wine area for years.

So how does a winery in a location understood for high temperatures and even greater humidity endure? They go higher where the weather condition is cooler and the air is drier. At a few of the greatest elevations in the nation, the Granite Belt wine area is the ideal location for whatever from vineyards to apple orchards and within a couple of hours drive south of Brisbane, they get their reasonable share of wine trips also.

Similar to the rest of Australia, the most popular wine varieties include Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay however recent years has seen an increase in Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Petit Verdot so that’s exciting.

While there are no large scale producers in the Granite Belt wine area compared to those in South Australia or New South Wales, there are lots of popular wineries in Granite Belt consisting of Barramundi Wines, Ballandean Estate, Golden Grove Estate, Boireann Winery, Symphony Hill Wines and Heritage Estate.

Our Review of the Paxis Swing Arm Easy Access Backpack

Our Review of the Paxis Swing Arm Easy Access Backpack

The Paxis Twin Lakes backpack is a unique style with a creative swing arm system that lets you access the inside of the backpack without setting it down and to state it’s special is no understatement.

In our nearly 20 years of travel together, It’s safe to state that we’ve utilized and examined a lot of knapsacks over that time. We’ve attempted almost every kind from the most inexpensive knapsacks to pricey knapsacks. We’ve utilized leading filling packs, luggage design knapsacks, over night knapsacks, metropolitan knapsacks, and even some of the finest travel knapsacks and the finest organization travel knapsacks out there.

Paxis backpack review of swing arm backpack for fishing, hiking, camping or photography

But no matter how pricey the backpack, or how well developed, they all have one defect: you require to take the backpack off your back, and set it down, to access what’s within.

This can be a substantial trouble.

If you’re stuck outdoors in the rain, setting your backpack to access the inside methods positioning it on the soaking damp and muddy ground. Half the time, knapsacks aren’t well balanced well, and the pack falls over on the ground, soaking the whole thing.

soaked to the skin in the rain waiting for a ferry on Isabela Island in the Galapagos
Our then 12 years of age hamming it up a little and stuck in the rain with his backpack in the Galapagos Islands

Even when the weather condition’s warm, it’s a trouble to access the contents of a backpack when you’re using it. If the backpack’s little enough, and you’re particularly versatile, you might have the ability to slide the pack around your hips so you’re using it on the front of your upper body, and access the inside that method. This is quite challenging to do, however particularly challenging if you’re an individual with more curves.

Accessing the contents of my pack is particularly irritating when I’m outdoors taking images. Having to stop, put my pack down, and dig around to find my photography gear has ruined quite a few fantastic shots. Wildlife tends to not pose patiently while I set my pack down to find the perfect lens.

So why hasn’t a backpack company come up with a way to access your pack’s content easily while you’re wearing it?

Well, one company has.

Paxis backpack review

The Paxis Twin Lakes backpack has a pod that swivels around from the back to the front of your body. The whole thing takes seconds, and it means that you can access the gear in the pod without having to take the entire pack off.

The Paxis swing arm backpack was designed and engineered in the USA by outdoor enthusiasts Paul and Cathy Vierthaler.

We reached out, and Paxis agreed to let us test out a Paxis Twin Lakes backpack for our readers.


  • Innovative swing arm design that lets you access the pack without putting it down
  • Attractive design with modern fabrics
  • Comfortable, padded straps
  • Useful as a day pack, fly fishing backpack, fishing backpack, or day photography pack


  • At around 6 pounds, it’s a bit heavier than other backpacks of the same size.
  • Time will tell if the swing arm mechanism holds up over multiple uses.
  • Great for day use, or short trips, but small for extended travel.

Technical details

  • Capacity: 30 liters
  • Exterior Dimensions: 21” high, 14” wide, 9” deep
  • Shuttle Pod Capacity: 5 lbs.
  • Shuttle Pod Interior Dimensions: 11”W x 4.5” H x 5” D
  • ARC Swing technology swings lower part of backpack to the front
  • Free standing design
  • Waterproof base
  • Interior tablet/laptop pocket
  • Lifetime limited warranty
Paxis swing arm backpack review in action
Charles wearing the Paxis backpack on a day hike

How does the swing arm work?

There are two parts to the Paxis backpack with swing arm: the upper part, which acts like a standard small day bag, and the lower pod, which swings around so you can access the pod contents without removing the pack. The top part of the pack does not swing around – only the bottom pod swings around to the front.

To operate: Keeping the straps on, and sternum strap closed, pull the release handle with one hand. The lower part of the pack (the pod), swings from your back to the front, letting you access the pod gear (snacks, camera, fishing gear, and so on), without taking the backpack off.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of the swing arm. Would it be hard to operate? Would it feel flimsy and cheap?

The swing arm worked exactly as Paxis said it would – with one quick pull of the release, the bottom pod swung smoothly from the back to the front. Perfect for grabbing snacks from the bottom on a day hike!

accessing the lower pod in a Paxis swing arm backpack
Getting snacks from the Paxis pod

The motion felt smooth and effortless, and it just required as gentle push to swing the pod to the back of the pack and a small tap to click it back into place.

lever to release swing pod on new Twin Lakes Paxis backpack

Paxis Twin Lakes Materials and Design

The Paxis Twin Lakes swing around backpack is made out of nylon fabrics, with hi-tech polyethylene foam.

The frame itself is made of aluminum for strength, and to make it lightweight.

The Twin Lakes pack comes in four colors: mineral (aqua), quarry (a greyish brown), madrona (orange) and long range grass camo (a green camo color).

calico cat helping review Paxis swing arm backpack
Review assistant.

The Paxis logo is big, and up front on the pack, but because it’s white, it’s not terribly obnoxious on the grey, orange, or teal blue version of the pack. The logo’s in a fluorescent orange on the camo version, though.

Zippers on the Paxis Twin Lakes easy access backpack feel sturdy and move smoothly.

The shoulder straps are well padded, with a sternum strap for stability. The waist / hip straps are padded as well, with a quick release buckle.

The back of the pack is comfort fit padded and vented, and cool when worn.

Paxis backpack interior pockets and exterior straps

There are plenty of interior pockets. The most important to us, of course is the tablet/laptop pocket on the interior of the top pack. There are two other interior zippered pockets, perfect for storing electronics gear, like chargers and cables.

Twin Lakes Paxis backpack front top pocket with laptop sleever

The main pouch of the upper pack is softly lined, with plenty of room for a day’s worth of clothes and toiletries.

On the top exterior of the top part of the pack, there’s a small key or sunglass pocket.

small pocket for wallet or passport at top of Twin Lakes Paxis backpack

The bottom Shuttle Pod part of the pack is a single compartment, lined with a soft fabric. It doesn’t come with any dividers (though you can buy them separately as accessories).

inside Paxis swing arm backpack pod

There’s also a small exterior accessory pocket on the outdoors of the bottom pod.

Twin Lakes Paxis backpack pocket at front of swing compartment

There are exterior straps on either side of the upper pocket for holding tripods, ski poles, hiking poles, fishing poles, or other equipment.

There are also exterior compression straps, with quick release buckles, on either side of the top part of the pack.

buckle at side of Paxis backpack

Fit and comfort on the Paxis backpack

We tested the Paxis Twin Lakes fit and comfort for myself (female, 5’4″), Charles (male, 5’11”) and our 12 year old daughter (female, 5’0″).

The pack fit snugly on my back, and was easy to adjust using the waist and shoulder straps, with a pull on each.

Charles needed to let out the waist and shoulder straps a bit for comfort, and the backpack rode up a little higher on his hips. That said, he said it was plenty comfortable for a day hike, and well padded.

Switching the pack from Charles’ frame to our 12 year old daughter’s frame took a little more adjusting of the waist and shoulder straps.

After a minute or two, she had the pack snugly on her back, and said she was quite comfortable, even with a loose fit in the shoulders. There was plenty of room to tighten the shoulder straps, but she preferred them a bit loose.

12 year old wearing the Paxis Twin Lakes pack
12 year old wearing the Paxis Twin Lakes pack

Returns and refunds

Paxis allows returns for a full refund, if gear is received in “new condition with all tags intact“. The purchaser is responsible for return shipping.


Paxis has actually two accessories you can buy: a foam packing system for the bottom pod to help protect valuable equipment like cameras and binoculars, and a rain cover.

Paxis pod dividers – Pod Armor Gear Protection

The two (somewhat confusedly named?) Pod Armor inserts let you divide the lower Shuttle Pod section of the backpack.

The two inserts can help to protect camera and photography gear or other electronics, or help you organize fishing gear.

The inserts are hade of high density aviation foam covered in soft velour fabric.

paxis pod armor for backpack pod

Paxis Rain Cover – RainShield Gear Protection

The Paxis Twin Lakes backpack does not come with a rain cover.

The RainShield rain cover accessory, with an elastic binding, slips over any 30-liter or smaller pack.

paxis rain cover

Use timeline

Initial use: Backpack is in excellent condition.

  • swing arm works smoothly and effortlessly
  • upper fabric repels water beads nicely
  • cool and comfortable back panel

Two weeks of use: Pack is in excellent condition.

  • swing arm working smoothly, no binding or wear visible
  • shoulder and waist straps are cushioned and comfortable for day hiking

We’ll continue updating this timeline as we usage the pack in time.

Cost: The Paxis Twin Lakes backpack runs around $199 USD.

What we thought of this kids travel subscription box

What we thought of this kids travel subscription box

Have you found out about Little Passports? In this post, we evaluate the Little Passports subscription box for kids, discuss what it is, and how to select the very best subscription for your kid.

We discovered Little Passports when looking for enjoyable, indoor activities for our kids, with a travel and expedition focus.

Little Passports Science Expeditions review of solar car solar energy kit subscription for kids

After over a year of not taking a trip due to the pandemic, we miss out on the sense of experience and expedition that we utilized to obtain from seeing brand-new locations and experiencing brand-new things. That’s why we’ve been trying to find methods to bring some of the enjoyable you get while discovering and checking out during travel to our home life.

Sure, watching the best travel vloggers on YouTube is a lot of fun, but its educational value is debatable, especially for our kids, and to be honest, planning out your next adventure can only go so far until you can actually start booking things and marking off dates.

What is Little Passports?

Little Passports is a monthly subscription box for kids, with kits that focus on travel and exploration, or science (or both).

The subscription delivers everything your kids need to make, create and play, with different kits for different ages and interests.

They have monthly boxes for kids aged three to twelve.

Little Passports has five subscription packages (more on these down below):

  • Early Explorers (ages 3-5)
  • Science Junior (ages 5-8)
  • Science Expeditions (ages 8+)
  • World Edition (ages 6-8)
  • USA Editions (ages 7-12)

Looking for a deal? We asked Little Passports for a coupon, and they gave us a $20 off code to share with you all.

Use this link to get $20 off an annual or 6-month subscription.

Opening Little Passports for review

Little Passports Review

We tried Little Passports to see if it could bring together education and exploration for our kids.

Little Passports Science Expeditions review Pinball Party kit

Science Expeditions Review

We tried the Science Expeditions kit, aimed at ages 8 and up.

The Science Expeditions subscription lets kids solve real-life scientific mysteries every month, helping characters Sam and Sofia learn about the mysteries of the world through science experiments and activities.

The first, introductory, Science Expeditions kit comes with:

  • Science Expeditions tote bag
  • science lab notebook
  • forensic science experiment kit
  • fingerprint analysis card and ink pad
  • a booklet with more fun games and activities

We tried a regular monthly Science Expeditions kit. Each monthly kit lets you solve new mysteries with cartoon characters Sofia and Sam, and comes with:

  • 16-page comic book with glossary and bonus activities
  • hands-on science experiments
  • achievement badges for each subsequent theme
  • access to bonus online videos and science content

Little Passports Science Expeditions review

The first Science Expeditions kit we tried was the Pinball Party.

Pinball Party kit

The first thing I noticed was that the 16-page comic book for the kit is glossy, colorful, and nicely illustrated. Inside there were fun facts about pinball’s history, and an illustrated story about Sam and Sofia, which taught about how pinball machines work, and which raised a lot of fun questions.

Little Passports review of travel subscription box for kids Science Expeditions Making pinball machine

The comic book is full of games and puzzles, a pinball word search, and a comprehensive glossary at the end.

There were physics terms and questions throughout the book, and they were presented in a way that was fun, and simple, but also challenging.

There is even a link to more fun facts and a video online.

Once my 12 year old was done reading through the comic book for Pinball Party, she moved on to the science experiment.

Little Passports Science Expeditions wooden parts for pinball machine

The experiment had her create her own pinball machine with a guide, pre-cut wooden pieces, and all the assorted bits she’d need to make the pinball machine.

I really loved that the experiment guide is thoroughly illustrated, and easy to follow, with plenty of color illustrations, and tips.

What’s especially fun is that she ended up with a working pinball machine at the end of the experiment. She had the fun activity of building the pinball machine, learned a lot about physics and building, and she also ended up with a fun toy to enjoy at the end.

The second kit we tried was a Solar Energy Science Expeditions kit.

Solar Energy Science Expeditions kit

The timing of the solar energy kit was perfect, since we are working on getting a solar system for our travel trailer.

The illustrated comic for the solar energy kit started with a fun story of how Sam and Sofia join their Aunt Charlie on an adventure to monitor the movement of snow leopards in the Himalayas.

That’s a win – science and travel adventure combined!

Little Passports Science Expeditions Solar energy with solar car

While visiting a local village in the Himalayas, Sofia and Sam are surprised to learn that the village has adopted solar technology for everyday uses like cooking and drying clothes. Along the way, they learn how solar energy works.

For this kit, the science experiments are a solar powered car, a spectroscope, and an ultraviolet impact experiment. Again, all of the parts needed to do all the experiments are included in the package.

Our daughter hasn’t quite finished all three experiments yet, but she keeps asking when we can get started. We had a busy week, so we haven’t had a chance to get going on the last experiment yet, but I think her enthusiasm to start says it all.

Little Passports Science Expeditions solar car kits travel subscription kit

All in all, I was really impressed with the subscription. The booklets, instructions, and supplies are high quality, and they were fantastic at keeping our daughter engaged and entertained.

Early Explorers kit

Early Explorers ages 3-5. Characters, Max and Mia, and their dog Toby, travel around the world checking out a different theme each month.

World Edition subscription with Little Passports

The World Edition subscription is for ages 6-8. In this kit, characters Sam and Sofia travel to a new country every month, teaching kids about the world.

USA Edition Little Passports box

The USA Edition subscription is for ages 7-12. In these kits, characters Sam and Sofia travel to two new states every month, with an activity-packed State Journal.

Little Passports Science Junior box

The Little Passports Science Junior subscription is for ages 5-8. In this subscription, characters Sam and Sofia explore mysteries through science experiments and activities.

Get hands-on educational activities for all ages delivered to you every month,

Summer Camp with Little Passports

This year, Little Passports has a limited time Summer Camp subscription.

The summer camp boxes come in three types:

  • World Edition, for ages 6 – 10.
  • Science Junior for ages 5 – 8.
  • Early Explorers for ages 3 – 5.

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Little Passports Cost

Little Passports subscriptions start at $16.95/month.

The Science Expeditions box costs $27.95 monthly, $25.95/month with a 6 month subscription, or $23.95/month with a 12 month subscription.

You can pay monthly, get a six month subscription, or a 12 month subscription.

Shipping is free within the continental USA.

See up-to-date Little Passports prices on their website here!

Little Passports coupon

Looking for a Little Passports discount?

We have an exclusive $20 discount for our readers.

Get $20 off an annual or 6-month subscription with this link, or just use code NOMAD at checkout.

Is Little Passports worth it?

What we like about Little Passports:

  • on time delivery
  • the kit was perfectly age appropriate, and had great quality supplies
  • subscriptions include everything you’ll need. There’s no need to shop for additional supplies.
  • the kits did a great job of engaging the imagination, and were a lot of enjoyable

What we didn’t like

We have a 15 year-old, and I would love to see a subscription geared toward older kids.

In our case, the kits were fun for our younger child, however we had to find a different activity for the 15 year old. It would simplify our lives to have something for our older one as well.

I would especially love to see an older version of the World Edition subscription, which is for ages 6 to 8. The USA edition is geared for ages 7 to 12, but, as Canadians, we were less interested in a USA-only kit than subscribers based in the USA may be.

Learn more about Little Passports.

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More about Little Passports

Here’s what the Little Passports website has to say about their service.

Little Passports creates products designed to inspire children to learn about the world through monthly subscriptions, academic toys and characters kids love. To date, we’ve delivered over 4 million plans designed in conjunction with professional educators, PHDs, and award-winning writers and designers. Headquartered in San Francisco, Little Passports is a National Parenting Publication Award winner and a Parent Tested Parent Approved product. The company was founded in 2009. Today our items are readily available in 16 nations and counting.


Our Honest Review of Flytographer Vacation Photography

Our Honest Review of Flytographer Vacation Photography

Do you have a hard time to get excellent images of yourself? So do we!

Like numerous of you, we take most of our household images when we’re far from house on vacation or while out and about taking images for the blog site.

Unfortunately, like the rest of the world, travel constraints kept us in your home for the majority of of this year and we didn’t take as numerous images together as we generally do.

However, even when we take a trip, it’s typically difficult to get a great household picture. Sure, we can get a complete stranger or good friend to snap a shot of the 4 of us, however the picture is generally out of focus, or one of us is cropped out of the shot.

Flytographer review vacation photographer

Flytographer review

So, I was delighted when Flytographer connected to us for a home town picture shoot. Flytographer lets you work with a regional professional photographer nearly throughout the world, however due to the fact that of existing travel constraints, we chose to choose a home town picture shoot.

I didn’t desire this year to pass without some great household images.

As a mama, I enjoy to have memories of our household to review every year. Kids can grow a lot in a year!

Our kids are at their early to mid teenagers. It’s a time where they’re changing from kids to young people, and the modifications in how they search in a single year can be substantial.

Flytographer family walking

What is Flytographer?

Flytographer is a vacation photography business.

The concept for Flytographer was born when a fellow Canadian, Nicole Smith, from Victoria, BC was on a work journey in Paris back in 2011. Smith desired great images for a memory of her journey, however she was unhappy with fuzzy photos from complete strangers, and uncomfortable selfies. After a lot of browsing and dead ends, she ultimately worked with a regional professional photographer on Craigslist.

The aggravation that originated from that search result in the concept for a vacation photography service, which ended up being Flytographer. Today, Flytographer is on 6 continents, and has more than 500 professional photographers on the payroll.

Our experience with Flytographer

From begining to end, our experience with Flytographer was excellent.

We reserved a 30 minute session with Danika, a professional photographer in our home town of Kelowna BC.

It was a simple option. Danika’s portfolio on Flytographer was precisely what I was trying to find – somebody who understood the very best areas for images, and had lots of favorable evaluations. Her design of photography was a best match with us, considering that her picture gallery is loaded with honest images of delighted individuals with stunning mountain and lake backgrounds.

Once we reserved our 30 minute session, Danika connected to us immediately to establish our place. She asked what we desired in our images, and created a couple of excellent ideas for our shoot place. I was satisfied that she created a couple of place concepts that I’d never ever thought about, considered that I’ve resided in Kelowna for nearly 6 years!

Flytographer review family photo

I wished to get images of each of the 4 of us separately throughout the shoot, plus a couples picture of Charles and me, and a couple of images of the kids together. I was actually stressed that the 30 minutes wouldn’t suffice time, however Danika worked her magic, and apparently easily fit all of those groupings into the 30 minutes with time to spare.

Micki Kosman photo from Flytographer

How much does Flytographer expense?

A 30 minute picture shoot runs $285 USD. The shoot is at one place, and you’ll get 15 images (though our professional photographer sent us more). The expense consists of all digital files, so you’re complimentary to print or utilize the images any method you desire. You can likewise get 60 minute, 90 minute, and 2 hour picture shoots.

Flytographer’s even offered us an unique promotion for our consumers!

Use our link to get $25 off your first Flytographer photo shoot.

See Flytographer’s prices here.

How does Flytographer work?

Here’s how it works. Got to, and look for professional photographers in your location.

Read the evaluations, take a look at their gallery, and pick a professional photographer.

Then, demand an afternoon or early morning reservation. You can even ask for a particular type of photoshoot, like a home town picture shoot, a vacation shoot, proposition, modern-day headshot, or perhaps industrial photography.

Flytographer photo girl in pink sweater

Your professional photographer then returns to you with an option of conference times, and recommends conference areas.

The day of our shoot, Danika existed precisely on time. She came all set with all of her devices, and plenty of excellent concepts for postures and backdrops.

We invested our 30 minute picture session strolling along a beautiful path surrounded by wildflowers, neglecting Okanagan Lake. We talked with Danika and she stopped us at numerous put on the course to take images.

The 30 minutes breezed by, and when we were done she’d taken images of myself and Charles separately, images of the kids separately, images of both kids together, and couples images of Charles and me.

Once the shoot is over, you’ll get your images, provided digitally, within 5 days.

Flytographer promotion discount rate code

Use our link to get $25 off your first Flytographer photo shoot.

Charles Kosman in Kelowna, BC 2021 The Barefoot Nomad

Does Flytographer use present cards?

Yes! You can get a Flytographer present card for a 30 minute, 60 minute, 90 minute, or 2 or 3 hour picture session. It’s an excellent present for wedding events (believe honeymoon journeys!), graduation, thank you presents, or a unique travel present.

Flytographer on Dragons Den

If Flytographer sounds familiar, it might be due to the fact that you viewed their pitch on TELEVISION’s Dragon’s Den. Flytographer’s creator, Nicole, pitched Dragon’s Den in Season 10. For our American good friends, Dragon’s Den is basically the Canadian variation of Shark Tank, where business owners pitch their business to effective investor to protect financing.

See the Flytographer pitch update on Dragon’s Den on CBC.

Flytographer young teens photo

Would you attempt Flytographer, or another vacation professional photographer? Let us understand what you believe in the remarks listed below.

The Best Road Trips in Florida

The Best Road Trips in Florida

If you’re dreaming about heading to Florida for a little getaway, you’re not alone. With a record breaking 120+ million travelers checking out Florida back in 2018, there’s little doubt Florida is among North America’s most popular locations.

Between the world class theme park, the miles and miles of stunning white sand beaches, the lushness of the Everglades, the unwinded vibes of the Keys, the night life of Miami and the apparent charm in the Florida Panhandle you can wager that if you can’t discover what you’re searching for in Florida, you’re just not striving enough.

While heading to one location in Florida can be an enjoyable journey, no genuine Florida getaway is total without taking a minimum of 1 trip. While you can drive from down south in Miami up through Orlando and over to Pensacola in under 10 hours, even while travelling through a few of Florida’s biggest cities, the very best trip in Florida take just a couple of hours at best from the significant cities.

That stated, while you can lease whatever from a scooter to a Lamborghini while in Florida, if you genuinely wish to avoid the crowds, you can likewise rent a camper in Orlando and take your time checking out a few of Florida’s concealed gems.

Best Road Trips Around Miami, Florida

While Miami has a heap to use from stunning beaches to fantastic night life (consisting of latin salsa dancing, Cuban motivated meals and more popular individuals appearing around town than any city outdoors California), often you require a couple of days to unwind.

There are 2 fast field trip that enter your mind when based in Miami. The Florida Keys and the Florida Everglades. Each can be done in a day however both are worthy of to be part of the very best trip in Florida.

Road Trip to the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys is among Florida’s most chill locations with a few of the longest bridges in the nation connecting lots of little sandy islands called secrets. Heading out to the Keys for the day (as they’re passionately understood) is a popular Florida field trip from Miami and even Fort Lauderdale.

Heading south, and less than an hour far from Miami, is the very first (and frequently last) stop, the biggest key/island in the island chain, Key Largo. In Key Largo you can go diving or take a snorkel trip at the very first undersea park in the United States, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which makes up part of the Florida Reef, the just living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. You can likewise lease kayaks and examine out the park at your own pace or pretend you’re Bogart and Hepburn and take the African Queen Canal Cruise.

If you choose to continue your 2 hour, 100 mile drive down the Florida Keys you will encounter many cute parks and small towns, more bridges than you’ll ever see again and then, finally, Key West. Key West is the southernmost city in the contiguous United States and is only 95 miles from Cuba. You’ll find plenty of relaxed vibes, great diving, Cuban inspired cuisine and homes from Hemingway to Truman as well as a rum distillery and plenty of places selling the ubiquitous key-lime pies (so named after the archipelago). There are also dozens of Bed and Breakfasts in Key West as well as several campgrounds if you decide to stay overnight.

Road Trip to the Florida Everglades

The Florida Everglades are home to everything from Alligators to panthers and are a great juxtaposition to about all things Miami. Featuring thrilling airboat tour rides in the swamps to awesome mile long boardwalks high over the varying terrain, the Everglades are unlike just about anywhere else you’ll find and make a great day long road trip.

Since Miami and Fort Lauderdale are just on the outskirts of the Everglades National Park, they’re a popular starting point for an Everglades excursion. Some people find that Key Largo can also make a great entryway to the Florida Everglades so if you’re straight off the heels of your Florida Keys road trip, Key Largo could be a great stopping point for the night.

Micki and the kids in the Everglades Florida
Micki and the kids in the Everglades

While you can drive over to any number of Everglades airboat tour operators that provide tours aboard fast moving airboats (they are a ton of fun), we suggest that either before or after your tour you head to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center before entering the Everglades National Park proper and continuing your journey south to the Flamingo Visitor Center. There you can take a ranger lead tour of the Everglades and you can also stop by the many boardwalks and hiking trails like we’ve done numerous times on your drive back up to Miami. The Anhinga Trail is often rated as the best of these and shouldn’t be missed.

Alligators Lounging in the Everglades
Alligators Lounging in the Everglades

Best Road Trips around Orlando, Florida

While theme parks and outlet malls dominate the landscape around Orlando and Kissimmee, after a few days of dealing with the crowds you’ll want to escape to someplace quieter and with fewer lines. Since Orlando is fairly central, you can literally go in any direction for a Florida road trip to see different scenery.

Our recommendations for day long road trips from Orlando includes a trip to Daytona Beach as well as Cape Canaveral and St. Augustine. So whether you’re feeling nostalgic, space crazy or just need a day at the beach this section has you covered.

Road Trip to Cape Canaveral

NASA and space rockets. For some people that’s all I need to say to have them asking where and when can they go there. For the rest of us, NASA’s Cape Canaveral center has been launching rockets into space for over 70 years now and includes some historic launches including the first rocket into space as well as the launch of the first US astronaut into space.

Less than an hour away due east from central Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center and adjacent to the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station are worth a visit if you’re interested in seeing some actual rockets that have actually been into outer space. It’s also a great place to bring any kids (young or 99+) to live their goal of becoming an astronaut. As well as the NASA visitor site, there is a lovely lighthouse in Cape Canaveral that you can hike to.

Road Trip to Daytona Beach

After hours spent in lineups and days spent dropping money like it’s on fire, you deserve some beach time. One of the most famous beaches within a hour of Orlando happens to be Daytona Beach. Yes, that Daytona Beach.

Just as famous for it’s Daytona 500 NASCAR raceway as it is for it’s yearly Spring Break college party status, Daytona Beach can get a little busy and even a little rowdy a few times each year. Outside of those days though, it’s actually a nice beach town and a good way to get some fresh air and sunshine.

Located just an hours drive northeast of Orlando via Highway 4, Daytona Beach is an easy recommendation for most people. It can also be a great destination if you happen to be a spring breaker or love NASCAR, just make sure you time your trip to coincide with either of those timeframes and if you’re not, do yourself a favor and avoid heading there then.

Road Trip to St. Augustine

While not as cool as a space center and not as fun as a day at the beach for some, the city of St. Augustine still has loads of appeal. St. Augustine is just north of Daytona Beach and is a hefty 2.5 hour drive northeast of Orlando. While it is actually closer to Jacksonville (40 miles vs 100 miles), chances are better you’re coming from Orlando anyway.

Known as America’s oldest city, St. Augustine’s original fort was built in 1672 by the Spanish to protect the city from water raids. Castillo de San Marcos is a huge fort and houses tons of old artifacts and often has historical re-enactments. The crowning glory of the old castle is the daily firing of the cannonballs where they use authentic canons to recreate what it was like back in the day. You can also walk along the solid castle walls and capture a glimpse of a bygone era.

St. Augustine proper is a lovely city complete with charming cobblestone roads, quaint restaurants and cafes as well as numerous historical landmarks around town.

Best Road Trips Around Tampa Florida

If you find yourself in Tampa Florida and are looking for a road trip you have some great options. Go northeast for an hour and you’ll find yourself in Orlando, home to some of the largest and best theme parks in the world including Disney World and Universal Studios (including our families favorite place, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter).

Northwest of Tampa you have Crystal River, home of manatees and mermaids while southwest will get you to idyllic St. Petersburg and due south where you’ll find the gorgeous sand beaches near Sarasota.

Road Trip to Crystal River

Dreaming of sea sponges, mermaids and manatees? This little road trip has all three, a little nature and some beautiful coastline as well.

Heading west of Tampa will bring you to Clearwater and its surrounding areas. Once you hit the coast you can enjoy the charms of Dunedin and Palm Harbor however if you continue north on highway 19 you’ll eventually hit Tarpon Springs. It’s famous for its Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks where you can walk among the boats and examine out the mountains of sea sponges that litter the docks.

After you check out the sponges, it’s time to get back in the vehicle and continue following US-19 highway north until you get to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, home of the world famous Weeki Wachee Springs Mermaid Show. This classic old school Florida mermaid show has been running for over 70 years! Sitting in the submerged 400 plus seating amphitheater is a true throwback to Florida’s roots and the underwater mermaid show is worth every penny. There’s also over 500 acres of state park to explore here coupled with options like snorkeling, canoeing or kayaking in the crystal clear waters or even hitting up the local waterpark, Buccaneer Bay.

After some time here, we can continue working our way north until we hit the quiet calmness of Crystal River. Situated around Kings Bay and spring fed by a cluster of 50+ springs, the clear water around Crystal River stays at a constant 72°F or 22°C temperature year round.

This inviting water attracts the West Indian Manatee (also known as the North American manatee or sea cow) which happens to be the largest surviving member of the manatee family. Home to some of the largest year round collections of wild manatees in the US, you’re sure to see some along one of the many paths around the city or at the Three Sisters Springs boardwalk in the winter months when you will see more manatees in the water (around 300 from November to March) however there are still approximately 60 that reside in the waters around Crystal River year round.

If you’re there in the warmer months you can elect to take a guided tour or lease a kayak or boat to go search them out yourself but please remember that manatees are a protected species so please keep your distance. The return trip back to Tampa should take around 1.5 hours (80 miles) so plan your day wisely to include at least 1 ice cream stop.

Road trip to St. Petersburg

If you’re craving a quieter city than the busyness of Tampa with a nod to the arts, St. Petersburg might be your ticket to happiness. Set along the coast around a half hour southwest of Tampa, the city boasts 10 museums (including the Salvador Dalí Museum) plus loads of beautiful parks and beaches. It also houses the Mahaffey Theater, home of the Florida Orchestra.

Road trip to Sarasota

Due south of both St. Petersburg and Tampa, Sarasota is home to some of the nicest sand beaches in the world. Siesta Beach in particular has topped best beach in the USA several times and is often included in the top 25 beaches of the world lists so it’s no surprise we included it here.

So, when just 60 miles or 60 minutes of travel time is what’s separating you from one of the nicest beaches in the world, where do you go? That’s right Sarasota. The sand at Siesta Beach is nearly 100% quartz-crystal sand and is so pure it never gets hot. Considering Florida can get quite warm in the summer, that and clear water are a excellent combo.

Best Road Trips Around Pensacola Florida

Whether you’re there for the beaches or the water, you’ll love the areas around Pensacola Florida. As the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle, Pensacola is actually only a few hours from New Orleans, is minutes from Alabama and is considered a nice place to visit by every one that goes there.

However, if we head east of Pensacola, we not only have some of the nicest water in Florida but likewise one of the largest populations of bottle-nose dolphins in the world.

Road Trip to Destin

While Miami Beach has the beautiful people, Sarasota the fine sand and Daytona Beach the wild parties, everyone who’s been there knows Destin has some of the nicest water in Florida. Known as the Emerald coast, this region of Florida has good reason to boast about it’s gorgeous waters.

Only an hour from Pensacola lies Destin Florida. Known for its clear emerald waters, Destin is unique for it’s sunken beach nicknamed Crab Island. People flock to this protected stretch of water that averages only a few feet deep and even set up floating shops, restaurants and playgrounds. The water is so calm here you can rent a pontoon boat for the day and drop anchor or, if you’re feeling really party like, rent a floating Tiki Bar complete with your own personal bartender and captain.

Road Trip to St. Andrew State Park

No trip to Destin would be complete without likewise taking a drive out to St. Andrew State Park on the steps of Panama City. Located another hour past Destin and 2 hours (110 miles) from Pensacola proper lies one of the most visited parks in all of Florida. What makes St. Andrew State Park unique is that it houses St. Andrew’s Bay which in turn houses the largest population of bottle-nose dolphins in the world.

While you are pretty much guaranteed to spot a dolphin here on your own, one of the best ways to see them up close is to take the ferry boat to the popular Shell Island. There are no amenities on Shell Island but it makes a terrific day to get away from it all and to see pods of dolphins first hand.

The Best Road Trips in Florida

Whether you’re visiting busy Orlando, hectic Tampa or decadent Miami, the truth is that Florida truly has something for everyone. If you’re stuck in a large center and looking to get away from the crowds, there’s always a nice trip you can take to clear your head and either get back to nature or somewhere different enough to make your trip memorable. Beautiful beaches, old forts, swamps, rockets and dolphins are only some of the things you can see and experience while you’re in Florida.

Let us know if we missed your favorite Floridian trip and we’ll try to consist of it on our next Florida post. Safe journeys.

How to Master Border Crossings Like a Pro

How to Master Border Crossings Like a Pro

Have an approaching journey and worried about either an unknown border crossing or some element of handling aggressive residents? Don’t concern, we’ve all existed and this post can assist prepare you for handling anybody from aggressive regional promotes to extremely aggressive cab driver.

As any skilled tourist can inform you, airports, train stations, land border crossings and ship ports can be house to a few of the most difficult minutes while taking a trip. The reality is, no matter where you go, getting here in a brand-new location can be disorienting.

Foreign languages, unknown custom-mades, worry of being scammed, and the unpredictability of how to get where you require to go can all play havoc as you leave one nation and get in another. While smaller sized crossings can appear the quietest or simplest, that’s not constantly the case when you’re in a foreign nation and the absence of facilities at a smaller sized terminal can really makes things even worse.

How to Master Border Crossings like a pro

Sometimes the large size of the airport, bus terminal or port can be frustrating and leave you lost. Couple that with time modifications, increased security, a mountain of luggage, jet lag, absence of motion for hours on end and distinctions in atmospheric pressure, heat and even humidity can frequently make you question if leaving house deserves all the stress.

We can truthfully state that while we like to travel, and having actually been to the far corners of the world and back once again, handling busy border crossings can weaken even the skilled tourist. While those minutes are frequently couple of and far for many journeys, they can still lead to panic for those not accustomed to a few of the worlds more zanier border crossings.

In this post I’m going to list a few of our more remarkable border crossings, how we handled them and the lessons we found out. Don’t concern, when you checked out whatever you’ll be crossing borders like a pro too!

Charles and Micki in Ko Samui
Us in in Ko Samui, Thailand 2003

Dealing with promotes. Pick me! Pick me!

One of the most disorderly minutes for any tourist, whether they’re skilled pros or very first time out-of-towners, is going to be handling promotes as they get in or leave a country.

Tout (noun).

A person soliciting custom or business, typically in an aggressive or bold manner.

The truth is, touts flock to ports and airports for exactly the same reasons you hate being there. You’re tired, and a little unsure about your next step, and the touts are ready to use that to their advantage.

Nowhere in our travels was this more evident than when we arrived via ferry from the relative calm of Melaka, Malaysia into the craziness of Dumai on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. The day we stepped off the ferry in Dumai, craziness literally engulfed us.

After one of the coldest ferry rides in the known universe (seriously, it was sweltering outside but we could see our breath inside the air conditioned ferry), we made our way from the water ferry to the small building welcoming us into the country. Before a single person even exited the water ferry, the local touts were already shouting to get our attention. Luckily, they were still far enough away that each voice was indistinct, but as we left the building after passing through customs, the real chaos erupted.

As we walked the long fenced off ramp down to the landing, what seemed like hundreds of voices were shouting at us to use their taxi, take their tour or come to their hotel. The volume was insane. At that moment, Micki and I severely questioned our decision to come to Indonesia.

The closer we got to the end of the ramp, it got even worse as hundreds of arms tried to grab us to get our attention. Imagine a hallway of arms and a hundred touts screaming for your attention (and not using their nice inside voices) and you might have an idea of our situation.

Luckily, we had read a little about this phenomenon and picked a random driver from the crowd and used them as a shield to further our escape. It seemed the moment we had chosen someone that the majority of the other touts backed away and looked for fresher meat.

We’re not sure we chose well or not, but our choice eventually lead to the most ridiculous, fingernails embedded in the dash, nine hour rally road ride of our lives but, as always, that’s another story.

Indonesia Mom and Baby orangutan in Sumatra
Mom and baby orangutan in Sumatra

Lessons learned about dealing with touts

We learned quite a few things that day, the least of which is that when arriving in another country, it’s important to always have a game plan and sometimes, the tout you choose isn’t as important as the speed of your decision.

When arriving in a new location, always know where you want to go and hold fast to your decision.

It also helps if you have a pre-booked room somewhere so the driver can’t supplant their choice of place (with a nice kickback for them) rather than yours.

While you’ll often be charged higher rates for taxi and bus rides from most ports (whether that be bus, train, air or ferry) compared to the average prices in town (don’t worry, it’s pretty much a universal thing in every country), try to have an idea of what it typically costs.

Charles and Micki Kosman The Barefoot Nomad About
Us in Thailand in 2004

There are lots of websites out there where you can get that information, but in the end don’t be surprised if you have to pay more than you expect. If it’s a lot more, feel free to negotiate a better price or ask one of their competitors. Just realize that the majority of touts have a common number they’re going to tell you the first time you ask and it’s not often they’ll undercut someone who might be seen as a competitor to you, but could very well be a friend, family member or even someone working for the same company.

Another option is to push past the loudest and most aggressive touts and either seek someone less pushy or someone not actively seeking your business. We’ve found some of the best deals this way. However, we’ve occasionally gotten so far past the throng of touts that we can’t find any one willing to drive us to our hotel and had to double back.

A final option, depending on the port’s location, is to just walk directly to your hotel or take a local bus a block or two away from the port. Of course, this totally depends on the how close the port is to everything, so make sure you’ve done your homework before going this route. Also be mindful about security if you’re in a more dangerous country since straying from the norm could make you a target.

The slow bus from hell and chaotic border crossings

Transportation from one country to another can sometimes be tricky. Some places, like the Schengen countries in Europe, have no real border crossings, so going from place to place can be as simple as jumping on a bus and getting off at your destination.

While renting your own car is almost always an option to bounce between smaller countries, you’ll need to deal with unfamiliar driving laws and customs, likely need to get a car insurance quote , and possibly even drive on the wrong side of the road. There’s also a chance that the vehicle itself won’t be allowed over the border, due to insurance, ownership, or registration issues. We almost always take public transit across border crossings for that very reason to reduce hassle.

Some border crossings require you to get off one bus and get onto another after passing through customs, though sometimes you get back on the same bus and keep traveling. These organized border crossing buses can be a boon or a bust depending on the situation.

Micki and Charles on Motorbike in Thailand
Cruising around Thailand on a motorcycle – probably an accident waiting to happen

No where was this more apparent to us than the time Micki and I crossed from Thailand into Cambodia. Rather than jumping on the backpacker bus out of Bangkok (widely known at the time as the slow bus from hell), we decided to go it ourselves.

After doing a bit of research, we settled on a plan. First, we would purchase tickets for a much nicer air conditioned bus that left hours later than the early morning backpacker bus. Once we got to the Cambodian border, we would pay our fee and cross over before hiring a private car to take us all the way to Siem Reap.

It all sounded easy on paper. However, the truth is the border crossing itself was insanely chaotic and left us doubting our choice to stray from the pack.

For instance, we knew there was a crossing fee, but there were people all over trying to collect it. Once the crossing fee nightmare was dealt with, finding a ride the rest of the way was a little crazy as well, since most of the people had passed through earlier and taken the best transportation.

Long story short, we finally found a car to take us to Siem Reap. A few minutes later, we passed the overloaded Backpacker bus that had left hours before ours. Not only was the bus traveling much slower than us, but they had their windows rolled down and the dust that was flying in through the open windows made everyone in it look dusty and miserable. The bus also seemed to bottom out on every pothole they passed, which couldn’t have been very fun.

As we cruised by in the comfort of our private air conditioned sedan, we realized that those few minutes of chaos at the border didn’t diminish the fact that we drove in comfort on both sides of the border for literally only a few dollars more and still arrived hours before the slow bus.

Lessons learned about chaotic border crossings

If you’re crossing a border in a foreign country and aren’t sure how it works, do some research. You can find nearly everything you need online. If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, don’t be afraid to leave the group and do your own thing. Not only can you often save money and time, you can often do it in greater comfort.

Also, especially at more chaotic border crossings, it’s always important to keep your head. Corruption is fairly rampant in many countries and the chance to pull a fast one over on a rich foreigner is often too easy for unscrupulous people to pass up regardless of how poor you might actually be. That’s why it’s important to mind your belongings, and definitely don’t be too ostentatious. Flashy rings and jewelry, as well as expensive clothes and luggage, only heightens the differences and can make you a target.

Grey Enegmatic Face at Cambodias Angkor Wat Temple Complex
Grey Enegmatic Face at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat Temple Complex

When it doubt as to whether someone is an official or not, best not to disrespect them. Feel free to question things, but don’t be belligerent or threatening. It won’t endear you to anyone and could land you into troubled water. If you did your research you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect regardless.

Some border crossings, like the Thailand-Cambodia one back then, are more of an outdoor free for all where buses, cars, people and officials all mill about. It was easy for people to think that an official looking person was actually an official and we had no less than five official looking people approach us for payment at different times. Turns out none of them were actual border officials, so we eventually found the person who was the real official, paid our amount and continued on our way.

railay beach in Krabi Thailand DP

Choose your routes carefully

The old saying that the journey is often greater than the destination isn’t wrong. Some of our strongest memories after years of travel are the moments in between destinations. While some see them as merely an inconvenience, we’ve realized that the journey can oftentimes outweigh the destination.

The busy souks in Marrakech
The busy souks in Marrakech

No where is this more apparent than when we went to Morocco with our kids. Instead of jumping on a cheap flight and being there in hours, we wanted to see some of the country from a different perspective. That’s why as we left Andalusia, Spain and crossed over the Strait of Gibraltar into Africa, we knew it was going to be a long day.

Kids on the bus in Spain
on the bus in Spain, making our way to Morocco

Forgoing a cheap flight, we decided to travel by every other mode of transportation possible to get into Morocco. By the time we had arrived at our Riad in Marrakesh, we had spent no less than 24 hours taking taxis, buses, a ferry and an overnight train to get there. Considering we had two young children in tow, it was a decent feat even for us.

Marrakech riad in Morocco

It was a great journey without any real problems. However, what probably saved us the most hassle was choosing a ferry that landed at the smaller port closer to town, rather than the main port on the outskirts. The caveat to that is we had to be pretty organized, considering that the ferry we chose only left twice a day.

Like a lot of port cities in poorer countries, Tangiers is also well known for its touts. Luckily, the port this particular ferry landed at had only a small fraction of touts the larger and busier port had. Since the smaller port was in town, we managed to get a local taxi that only charged us a few dollars to drop us off at a restaurant, where we killed a few hours before jumping on our overnight train.

The bonus is that the taxi driver liked us, so he waited while we ate. After that, he took us on a short tour of Tangiers before dropping us off at the train station. We gave him twice his asking rate simply because he was so helpful. Again, it never hurts to be nice and everyone benefitted.

Lessons learned from choosing your route wisely

By choosing our route carefully, we managed to make a long journey doable for a family of four with small children. We planned ahead, did a ton of research, had a few contingency plans in case something didn’t go as planned, and then actually enjoyed our journey.

That particular trip shows that timing matters at border crossings. We gave ourselves an extra hour here and there in case a bus ran late or we had trouble flagging down a taxi in time, a real problem we’ve had on numerous occasions where taxi service was a complete hit or miss.

taxi in Piccadilly London

Tip! One of the troubles with doing things independently is that an empty bus or taxi makes no money, so if you’re not someplace busy or popular, every taxi you spot is likely already full, meaning finding an empty one can often take longer than just waiting in line other places. Make sure you factor that in when doing your calculations. Also know that while Lyft and Uber are getting more popular the world over, they still aren’t everywhere yet and you need a WIFI or data connection to hail them.

The second thing we learned on this journey is that location matters. Had we chosen to take the larger, busier ferry from Spain, we would have been descended on by a horde of touts and forced to overpay for a taxi or bus back into the city. By going with the slightly smaller ferry that landed right in town, due to the much shorter customs lines and no need for a taxi, we actually ended up saving both time and money getting exactly where we needed to be with much less hassle.

So sometimes a smaller border crossing makes more sense than a larger border crossing. However, always do your research, because smaller border crossings often have reduced hours and if there is a problem it can often take longer to sort out due to lack of staff or language issues.

Airports and the need for due process

While the above examples deal more with border crossings in Southeast Asia and Morocco, many European border crossings come with their own issues. From ever changing paperwork, to hidden airport fees, to tighter time allowances and banned items not allowed on flights, sometimes it can be more work to cross from one European or North American country to another.

While you may , or may not, have to deal with as much corruption, sometimes bureaucracy can make a border crossing nearly unbearable.

On top of that, when 9/11 hit the USA, airports and even land border crossings changed how every country around the world now dealt with border crossings. Increased security increased lineups, which in turn increased wait times. Now that’s all good from a safety aspect, but it can make the whole process wish you stayed home.

Luckily, these are generally easier to navigate. Besides for a lost pocket knife or two, some nail clippers years ago, and more drinks than I’m comfortable admitting to (when you have kids you carry liquids, what can I say) we haven’t been overly affected by European or North American style border crossings.

Walking into the Seville airport
Ola, Seville. Walking into the Seville airport

Now that doesn’t say how many times we barely made a connecting flight due to overlong customs lineups or having to run a mile through an oversized airport with a carryon and a small child in my arms, but there are a few stories of insight in there.

Like the time we got off a plane into Columbia and all the Canadians on board were herded into a line far from all the rest of the passengers in customs and had to pay a $80 a person fee, since Columbia was annoyed that Canada was charging them a similar visa entry fee.

SCOTTeVEST Chloe hoodie in airport

The frustration and annoyance in that lineup was almost scary. Since the credit card machine was down, any people without the cash were stuck in customs until either the machine got repaired or they came up with the money. Luckily, we had cash on us.

That brings up an important tip, always travel with some USD currency (it’s the most widely accepted the world over) and some local currency. We’ll often grab some local currency at the first ATM we come across the airport however, be careful because sometimes these have extra fees. Another classic option is to convert some money before we go or hit an in airport currency house and change some money over. (Again be careful they don’t severely overcharge you.)

Many airports around the world have fees as you pass through customs that aren’t prepaid with your ticket. While most accept credit cards, it never hurts to have a few extra dollars to cover the costs.

In this particular instance they wanted us to pay for the kids as well, but we managed to talk them out of it. So again, be nice but feel free to question things.

Beware the layover in a foreign country

Another example of issues of border crossings is the dreaded layover.

As Canadians, we often fly through the US to get down south. Whether we’re headed to Mexico, the Caribbean, Central or South America, the odds are that we’ll have to switch planes somewhere in the US. While this isn’t a problem per say, this also means that we have to go through US customs regardless of where we eventually end up.

hanging out at the departures board

This means getting out of the plane, grabbing all our things and then going through US customs before doing it all again for the next country. This process often takes longer than we expect and is why we never book flights too close together when traveling through another country. To be honest, more often than not, we’ll usually take the opportunity to explore whatever city we land in for a day or two since we have to go through customs regardless.

Now the biggest issue with this is that next to increased time, while you are in that layover country you are under the same laws as if you are staying there regardless of never leaving the airport.

For instance, on one trip, our son’s passport developed a rip that we hadn’t noticed. Of course it had to be the main page, but the rip wasn’t big and didn’t really affect the ability to read the passport. It hadn’t even ripped completely off. However, as we passed through US customs on our way to Mexico the US customs agent said that they wouldn’t allow a defaced passport to get in the nation. Never mind that our son was six years old or that we were literally on our way to our next flight out of their country within the hour.

At that point we were already in the US and would have needed to get back on a plane home or somehow managed to get a new passport issued via the Canada Embassy without leaving the airport. Either way it meant time and lots of money to cancel all our plans.

JooJoobs Passport Holder

Luckily in this instance, their boss was within hearing distance and eventually came over to see what all the fuss was. After listening to the customs agent and then looking at us he grabbed a piece of tape, taped the ripped passport and sent us on our way.

The lesson in this story is that no matter your destination, any customs agent, regardless of how close you are to a border has the power to refuse you entry and can severely impede your travels. A second lesson is to always be prepared and in this specific case, make sure your passport and any needed visas are in order before you leave your current location.

Tips for mastering border crossings like a pro

No matter where you travel to, the minute you exit one country you’re crossing into another. Sometimes this can be as easy as tilting your seat back and ordering another drink and sometimes it can mean grabbing every piece of luggage you have and navigating an endless horde of promotes or, even worse, bureaucrats.

Regardless of how you got there, there are always a few things to remember.

The first is to do your homework. A few minutes of research is all it takes to let you know what to expect and what steps you’ll need to take to keep your travels going smoothly. Don’t always expect that someone there will make it easy for you. It might come as a shock to some people, however it’s very likely that many, many people have done whatever you’re attempting to do and at least one or two have thankfully written it down to help you out.

Secondly, relax. Take a breath. Check out what’s happening around you. Almost no situations have gotten better because someone got angry or careless.

If you’re surrounded by touts, choose one and move on or tell them all no thank you and decide for yourself what you want. You might decide that it’s easier to pay their inflated prices than argue for a better deal. Chances are the price isn’t so extravagant that it’s worth your energy. Especially after a long day on the road.

If you’re dealing with bureaucracy, God have mercy on your soul. Haha, just kidding. Chances are that everything will be sorted out and you’ll be on your way eventually. Just be patient and keep calm. If things really aren’t going your way, try to find their boss or someone else who is more sympathetic to your needs.

Be safe! While ports and border crossings are generally secure, they’re also an area of confusion for some. Always be vigilant and pay more attention to your bags, since areas of change usually also means it’s an area of opportunity. Now is the time for you to take that opportunity to get your bearings, don’t let someone take that very same opportunity to take your stuff.

Above all, enjoy the journey! As you exit one nation, you’re entering a new one. Those first few moments may create a lasting impression on you. Don’t judge a nation by its initial lack of infrastructure or its overdemanding one.

While ports of all kinds are great places to meet people from other countries, they’re not necessarily the best to meet the locals. Give it time, you’ll have plenty of it once you get out there experiencing whatever brought you there in the first place.

Lastly, have Fun! After all, isn’t that why we all travel in the first place.

Have any great border crossing stories you desire to share? Maybe you have actually a terrific bit of suggestions to provide. Leave us a comment down below.