On the bus to the airport

Getting Around Las Vegas With A Family

Getting Around Las Vegas With A Family

17/10/2018

Getting to and from Las Vegas airport​

Arriving in Las Vegas we hadn’t organised any transport to the Airbnb. We had read reviews saying we should take an Uber. There was free wifi at the airport but not in the carpark which is where the pick up zone for the Uber is. We ordered the Uber but couldn’t track its progress because we were a ten minute walk from the airport wifi zone.

The Uber arrived but the driver rejected us because he didn’t have a car seat. We canceled the Uber and Uber charged a cancellation fee (the price of the fare) even though it was the driver that cancelled us.

We took a taxi and the cost was only $5 more than the Uber quote so I would recommend just taking a taxi for the sake of ease. On a side note, I unfortunately dropped my license and bank cards in the vehicle 🙁 I’ll only be able to order new ones once we book long term accomodation which is a few weeks away. Not very comfortable about the idea of ordering a bank card to be sent to a third world country. Will soon see how reliable their mail system is in Cuba or Mexico.

The taxi driver took us to our accomodation but we were a few hours early so the place was not yet ready so we requested the driver drop us to the nearest mall. We shopped around for a few hours with all our luggage and once the place was ready we lugged it all the 1.5km to our Airbnb.

Getting to and from The Strip​

The Strip is the street tourists come to see. It has the famous hotels, the Palaggio dancing fountain, the mini Eiffel Tower etc. We were staying in a residential area ten minutes drive from The Strip.

We were very close to a bus stop, only ten minutes walk and ten minutes walk to the mono rail. We ended up using both options. The bus is super cheap being only a couple of dollars per person. Check out the bus routes here  The monorail is USD5 per person and is only worth buying a ticket if you plan on using it multiple times over a 24 hour period, in which case you can buy the USD12 day pass. Check out the monorail website here.

To get to the malls, we walked since they were only a twenty minute walk. But we did find the taxi fares were pretty reasonable, perhaps because we were not travelling very far. It also meant we had more flexibility to explore other malls because the taxi driver could take us to cheaper supermarkets or malls that had what we were looking for.

Summary

Using a taxi is not much more than ordering an Uber and allows you flexibility. 

Buses are super cheap and more worthwhile than using the monorail.

Our Glimpse of the Southwest Region of America

Zombie paint ball bus at the Staheli Family Farm

Vehicles in Arizona & Utah

Vehicles in Arizona & Utah

17/10/2018

Rented this massive car

Hired this massive American car from Las Vegas and drove it to Antelope Canyon as well as Zion National Park. The two little ones loved the DVD player where they could watch Paw Patrol. The boot was massive and could comfortably fit all our luggage. 

Driving was smooth and it had a lot of power. Only one incident where I was driving on the left side of the road! Fortunately my 14yo (sitting in the middle row) reminded me and it was a quiet country road.

Other vehicles of Utah & Arizona

We were fortunate enough to see this ambulance and fire truck pull up in the carpark where we were ordering Mexican food in the small town of Page which is the closest town to Antelope Canyon

This MedicWest ambulance is a reminder of the lack of free health care here. It’s a private ambulance so has the colours of it’s company. The long petrol tanker has a trailer and was leaving the carpark where we found the MedicWest ambulance.

We visited the Staheli Family Farm, famous for it’s Halloween zombie night runs. We saw tractors and rode a trailer being pulled by a tractor. We also saw it’s famous Zombie paint ball bus.

Our Glimpse of Vehicles Around The World

Yellow fire truck

Vehicles in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas

Las Vegas

16/10/2018

Our experience of Las Vegas was not the party life that tourists usually seek when visiting. Instead we stuck to sight seeing the strip, and shopping at some of the malls, which meant a lot of walking plus navigating the terrain outside of “The Strip”.

We didn’t do any casinos or bars at Las Vegas so I wouldn’t say we did the usual Las Vegas trip. Having four kids, Las Vegas wasn’t on our list of to-dos. We ended up here because it was the closest city from Auckland that would get us to Antelope Canyon. However we had decided to stay two nights here so that we could recover from the 35 hour journey. Which actually is more than that because we woke up five hours before our flight and couldn’t check in to our Airbnb until five hours after we landed.

We were all exhausted and what I didn’t realise was that we were about to start the pattern of having 2yo and 4yo waking up early (at 6 or 7) while 12yo and 14yo woke at 11am or 12pm. I suppose if I’d known then perhaps I could have nipped it in the bud straight away. But I think it’s really been because quiet time is when 2yo and 4yo go to sleep so we all get to chill or catch up on digital time.

Anyway, landing in Vegas for us meant experiencing a version of American culture that most would expect in a city like Las Vegas. There were fast food joints everywhere, big cars, big roads, malls, bars, and everyone charging for anything. People trying to make money off tips dressed up in flamingo outfits, or even as minions, walking up and down the Strip hoping to pick up tips from a tourist wanting a photo op.

Stepping a few blocks away from The Strip where we stayed was run down pavements, ordinary people that do ordinary jobs, and although we saw a couple of drug addicts we didn’t see any homeless.

For 12yo and 14yo it’s been a lot of walking, looking after a backpack or helping with a younger brother in the dry heat. We were always grateful to step into an air conditioned hotel, which is often the only way to get off one of the pedestrian bridges used to cross the road. They don’t make it easy to escape these hotels so you can end up on the casino floor instead of back on the street. But at least that meant there were plenty of clean toilets for us to use. And if we went up one floor in the hotel we had have a quiet space to recoup before the arduous walk to nowhere.

Everywhere on the Strip was crowded and that meant extra walking because we were negotiating people traffic.

Outside of the Strip it was spacious and quiet. Malls were cheap if you went to a store that specialised in sales. Ross Dress For Less had branded gear left overs from last season. Another store did the same but with shoes. But even, the department stores are relatively cheap. We picked up some great quality sneakers for the little ones at half the price it would’ve cost in New Zealand.

Because we were eating out we struggled to find fruit and veg so I ended up feeling bloated every time I ate. I could taste the high levels of sugar in everything. I bought bread for the kids and it was inedible because it was so heavy in sugar but not in a nice way.

The supermarket, although 24 hours and only one kilometre away from our Airbnb, was set in a neighbourhood that meant we were not to walk there at night. Our Airbnb was very clear that we must not. So we went to the petrol station across the road on the corner. The counter staff were friendly and helpful but we struggled to find food we could call sustenance. After two nights I was glad to leave Las Vegas in the hope that being in the country meant we would find healthier food options.

Interestingly, after learning we were from NZ he asked if we were mayohree (Maori). Although I watch a lot of American fluff we have had a few funny moments where one of us didn’t understand the accent which meant answering a question nonsensically.

There are many beautiful hotels to explore which we did a lot of. And although we didn’t see any, there are also free shows. We did, however, manage to catch the famous Bellagio dancing fountain. 

Not sure that I would revisit Las Vegas. Compared to a place like New Orleans it definitely lacked a depth of culture. Having said that we still enjoyed it for what it is and that included the famous hotel district, the very American food places and the many cheap bargain shopping opportunities.

Our Glimpse of the South West Region of America

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Choosing toys for a Sabbatical

Choosing toys for a Sabbatical

14/10/2018

When working out the 12 month sabbatical the topic of toys was one of the top priorities to pack for the kids. I couldn’t work out what to pack given my space restrictions and their current interests. Fortunately I had my Playcentre level one education to help me decide. Here’s a guide to help you decide what toys to pack for your children for any trip.  If you’re in a rush jump to the end to get a summary, otherwise read on for great inform on how to keep your little ones stimulated while on the go.

When I first began planning my toy list I assumed I’d be taking Paw Patrol toys and their favourite games and books. Plus both the 2yo and 4yo had had their birthdays which meant a whole heap of new presents (in spite of telling everyone not to purchase anything for them 🙂 But after ordering my one 80L backpack that was supposed to fit my belongings as well as those of my two youngest, I realised their favourites weren’t going to make it. 

Coincidentally, at TPoA Playcentre we were analysing our resources and considering what needs to be purchased. To do that we had to understand our values so that we knew how to prioritise the purchases and ensure we weren’t wasting money. The suggested values and the discussions with members really helped to change my mindset about how I packed. 
The first step for me was realising how small my bag was after squeezing in winter and summer clothes plus toiletries for us three. There was about two 2Litre ice cream containers left for superfluous items including toys.

In my head I thought that I needed to work out where we were going and what we would be doing there. We had outlined that in some places we would hop around quickly so most likely there would be more activities out of the house, whereas in other places we would stay long term and get some homeschooling done, so that meant more at home time. I had assumed that short term stays would be tourist locations therefore hardly a need for toys and long term stays would require a lot of home play time so a lot of toys. For the short term stays I didn’t want to pull anything out of my bag that wasn’t needed. This included toys. For the long term stays I planned to unpack everything. This thinking was all wrong. It didn’t matter how long we were staying, the kids pulled all their toys out. Living out of a backpack is not easy so I unpacked my whole bag at every stop. 

 

Play Schemas

The things I did analyse was what play schemas are my boys interested in and what skills would I like them to develop. Based on these two factors combined with space limits I worked out what I could pack. 

You may be asking, what are play schemas? Play schemas are categories for the ways a child likes to play. By knowing about these styles of play that they prefer, we can help their learning and development. It also helps us to understand why a child is determined to do something when we think they are “just being difficult”. At those times, if we recognise the play schemas then we can redirect their energy to something appropriate. For example, my son had the trajectory schema. This means he enjoys throwing and dropping things (including food) as well as climbing and jumping (even if it’s too high for him). By understanding this we can ensure we take him to playgrounds where he can climb and jump off where we can catch him. We can also ensure he’s throwing appropriate toys at appropriate times. It is also something that can change with the stage they are at. 

When I looked at my two youngest ones, at the time I was packing, I saw:
Rotation– things that go round and round like wheels or propellors, drawing circles, rolly-polly’s, orbiting, spinning things around, etc. 
Transportation – 
Enveloping– hugs, colouring in so that everything is covered completely, 
Positioning– putting things in lines, tidying up, organising 
Connecting & Disconnecting– puzzles, lego, construction, block towers, destroying, 

This helped me to identify what I might need to create environments that allowed for:

  • spinning things around like cars or helicopters or string to tie a weight on the end and spin it around
  • vehicles or buckets to move things around
  • colouring-in tools or a blankie for enveloping
  • any toys that can be organised such as figurines, vehicles, blocks
  • puzzles, lego, blocks
From this list I could definitely see some common resources emerging that looked like must-haves such as vehicles, felts / crayons, paper, and blocks. Given space considerations smaller vehicles would have to suffice. I was not going to pack buckets but these could easily be substituted for boxes and other junk from any purchases we made. Turns out 5L water bottles are great for transportation. The cars I could use for positioning and the blocks too. I was unsure about how many blocks to take that would be worthwhile versus take up too much space. Puzzles were tricky because I wasn’t sure which ones and how many.

Skills To Develop

The next area I looked at was what are the skills they are still developing or that I would like them to develop while we are away. This first required me assessing what was working well. I could see music in the form of dance and singing was coming to them naturally. Role playing was something that had been enhanced by Playcentre and they were thriving in this area. They loved reading books, counting and naming symbols. Using blocks for construction came naturally to them. They loved playing with balls so I knew they would naturally develop that skill. One of them loved climbing and jumping and he loved painting while the other one didn’t so much. They also enjoyed puzzles. Because their older siblings and dad loves drawing, they loved drawing too. 

This helped me to see that some of my gaps were collage and crafts, messy play, play dough, and junk play. I could see that developing fine motor skills and strategy was important. It also meant that I would need to create environments that allowed for:

  • music which could mean songs on my phone, instruments, and action songs
  • ball play which could mean packing a ball
  • books for reading
  • blocks for construction or puzzles or lego
  • art supplies such as paints, drawing equipment such as felts and paper
  • scissors, rope, glue, hot glue gun and sellotape for junk play, crafts and collage
  • baking ingredients for making play dough or messy play
Some common resources listed here I could pick up on my travels rather than pack such as the baking ingredients. I thought hand-ball balls would be great because they are small. Books, just like puzzles, are tricky: how many, which ones, what size and weight would they be. Art supplies came up again but to take paints might be cumbersome. Craft materials sounded exciting but a hot glue gun would take up more space than it was worth carrying for the amount of times we would use it. I didn’t see any instruments making it unless it was a drum or maraca, both of which could be made from junk play.

Existing Resources

 

At this point I looked at all the toys and materials we already owned and wondered what would facilitate play, what I could make along the way and what could I pick up later if required.

On a side note, I’m very attached to repairing things so I decided I’d bring my computer tool kit. I filed this under necessary tools for junk play because it had pliers and screw drivers (wish I’d packed screws and nails).

In the lead up to our final pack we had been gifted some toys for the young boy’s birthdays so I decide to use some of these. Plus I had been gifted a Jenga set that friends had written quotes or messages on and some had drawn pictures. I decided these were small enough to be able to put in a tote bag and pack for the trip plus there were enough of them to be able to create some cool buildings. As a bonus they could be used as a board game.

When I was packing up my daughters art section which was huge, I put aside wool, scissors (kid friendly and adult ones), felts, crayons, colouring pencils, pens, markers, sharpener and rubber. I packed a container of water paints but this accidentally ended up in the long term storage boxes 🙁

I had books my two loved but they were heavier board books which would take up weight and space allowance. We were gifted some Hairy Maclairy books which were super thin so I decided this set would work. They also had dogs and cats which my kids love and could role play the story line.

I decided no instruments were worth packing and I hoped that we would pick up souvenir type instruments small enough to pack that were made local to the place we were in.

Calculating Down Time

 

The only other point that is important to factor is how much down time you will have at your destination. If you are doing a short holiday most likely you will be out and about visiting sites and eating out so you may not have “home time” where your child will play indoors. In this case you just want some small key items to keep them occupied for in-between time or when you are eating out or on a plane.

On sabbatical you can assume you will find more down time since your kids get sick of constantly travelling and eventually want time to do “normal stuff”. It’s the long periods of down time that require greater stimulation – the type that helps them to learn and grow so that they don’t end up pushing, snatching, hurling, screaming, etc 😉

If your accomodation is by some outdoor feature that is useable, for example a beach or a playground with moderate climates, then outdoor play helps to keep your child stimulated, fulfilled and content. However, if it rains or if you have to keep your child indoors because you have older kids homeschooling, for example, then you definitely want to be prepared with well thought out activities.

Summary

Use these questions to help you prioritise what toys to pack:

  1. What are your luggage weight and space allowances? 
  2. What are your child’s play schema(s)?
  3. What skills do you want them to develop?
  4. What do I already own, what could I make on the way and what could I pick up on the way?
  5. How much down time you are likely to have in your hotel /airbnb /accomodation?

Based on the above choose the most common toys and materials that pop up as suitable for these questions. 

Ideas For Home-Based Activities

Check out some of our posts to get some ideas on what you can do with your child, remember to check our site menu under For the Kids => Playtime

Our Glimpse of Playtime Around The World

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Travel Insurance

What travel insurance do I need for a sabbatical?

When booking travel insurance for twelve months for a family of six from New Zealand, there was a lot of reading involved to understand what I needed. This won’t can’t down your policy reading time but hopefully this will help you to choose yours much quicker. Jump to the summary at the end if you’re in a hurry.

There are quite a few things I learnt when researching this. The first thing is to make sure you are researching the correct phrase. Researching “twelve month travel insurance” doesn’t necessarily get me the type of insurance I’m looking for. Be wary of booking “frequent traveller insurance” for 12 months or “annual travel insurance”. Both of these expect you to return to New Zealand within 30-90 days. They are designed for you to leave New Zealand frequently for longer periods, not for continuous long term travel while you are abroad. Instead search for “Long term travel insurance”. This will give you appropriate options which allows you to be out of the country for 12 months.

When purchasing travel insurance it’s best to buy it before you leave NZ. Some companies only let you book from your country of origin, very few will allow you to book once you’re already overseas. If you do book once you are overseas you could end up paying hundreds of dollars more for it than if you had paid before leaving New Zealand.

Things to be aware of when booking travel insurance is that some activities are not automatically covered and will require further insurance. These include but are not limited to high altitude treks, cruises, high seas sailing, snow activities. 

Your expensive digital equipment isn’t automatically covered and neither is expensive jewellery or accessories. There is a limit to how much they will cover in total, and per item plus some require that it has been purchased in the last twelve months to fall under this special insurance category.

If anyone in your family has a pre-existing medical condition, be sure to declare it so that you are still covered for it when you are overseas. And if any of your extended family have a pre-existing medical condition and you urgently need to fly back home for it, be sure to make sure you are covered for that.

Read your policies thoroughly before signing up and if you have any questions be sure to ask. These insurance companies are happy to answer your queries and usually respond promptly.

For New Zealanders there are a couple of long term travel insurance options:

World Nomads
1Cover
Cover More

 

All of these will price your insurance based on the region you are visiting and that price is based on how expensive medical care is in that country.

In South East Asia medical treatment is quite cheap so generally this region is cheaper. But in America your medical bill could be $25,000 for one night so generally this region is the most expensive. Therefore if you are travelling to quite a few regions then you will probably need to purchase insurance for the most expensive region because then you will be covered for the others. The price is also dependent on the length of time you will be away to a maximum of 18 months. Because I’m travelling for less than this I haven’t looked into options beyond that timeframe. We purchased Worldwide as the region because we were headed to America. This gives us options to travel anywhere and be covered.

 

Summary

Read your policy and ask about anything you don’t understand

Google “long term travel insurance”

Book from NZ before leaving so you don’t incur fees

Make sure your activities, expensive items and tech are insured

Purchase for the most expensive region you plan to visit