Posted by: mylittletravelbug | June 4, 2009

New Address for Storytime @ My Little Travel Bug!


This will be my last post at this address! My new website is finally on-line and I have moved my blog to be included on the site! 

You may have noticed that my blog posts fell off the map for the month of May.  I decided to spend my spare time (as if I have any), working on my website content and associated projects, so….here we go!

The website is a ‘one stop resource for traveling with children’.  It will be unique in that it will also have a travel health focus for parents planning trips abroad.  As a pharmacist, who enjoys international travel, this has always been an area of focus for me.  I’ve noticed that when friends are traveling, I often get phone calls or emails, with health related questions from them.  I’ve also made many trips to the pharmacy in other countries and recognize that if I didn’t know what to ask for, it would be difficult to get the care that you or your children need.  Over the next few months, I will be adding more ‘Country Health Profiles’ to the site.  The profile is intended to be used in 2 ways.  First, as a reference when deciding where to take your family by outlining what are the disease risks in the country and whether there may be prevention methods available.  Secondly, I plan to overview common childhood ailments that may happen while abroad and provide families with names of products that may be available to help.  It is not intended to replace medical attention while traveling, but to aid in communicating with a health professional and therefore provide some comfort to worried parents! I’d love to hear from some parents to let me know if you will use this service while traveling!  Is there any other travel health information you would like to see included?

I look forward to your visits at!

Posted by: mylittletravelbug | April 29, 2009


This James Taylor theme song, keeps playing over and over in my head this week.  All this talk of Mexico and the ‘swine flu’ is really only making me reminisce about the lazy pre-parent week we spent on the Mayan Riviera.  It was the end of January 2007 and we were exhausted.  We usually pack our vacations with adventure and sight-seeing but this time all we wanted to do was lay on our beach bed and relax.  We went to the El Dorado Seaside Suites and loved every minute of it.  Our suite had a jacuzzi tub right in the room and our patio stepped out to a soaker pool that was sort of like a moat around the resort.  We were the second row in from the beach but could still see it from our patio.  It was only a 1 minute walk to the beachfront, 3 restaurants, bar and entertainment area and the resort had a very small and cozy appeal to it.  img_0175We loved the beach beds.  They were queen size mattresses that swung beneath a thatched roof that you could lounge on while watching the sun set.  Every nook and cranny had one of these beds, even in the bar area.  We watched the evening entertainment while laying back with a glass of wine one evening.  The food on the resort was excellent and you could order all meals a la carte if you wished.  They weren’t the slushy, high sugar drinks that you get at most all-inclusive resorts but the real thing, made for you personally by the bar tenders.  We developed a love of mojitos on this trip and the champagne and orange juice was served all day!  We walked the beach and explored some of the other mammoth resorts, but were always happy we’d chosen our smaller more intimate atmosphere.  We’d also got a great deal on this last minute trip using so that didn’t hurt either.

It is unfortunate that the travel industry in Mexico is taking such a hit with the onset of the H1N1 flu virus.  Canadian and U.S. governments are now advising against any non-essential travel to Mexico and there are reports of cruises and flights being cancelled and many attractions and tourist destinations are closing.  Having said that, would I go to Mexico right now?  Probably not.  Now that I am a parent, I will be following advice and taking the travel advisories seriously.  Let’s hope that the international spread of the virus, will be slowed by this downturn in tourism and that those affected will have a speedy recovery.  In the meantime, everybody should be taking precautions to prevent the spread of infection by using good handwashing techniques, avoidance of coughing and being within 1 meter of those coughing in public and where known cases are occuring, those individuals will stay in isolation.  For those that are traveling through major international gateways, you will need to follow these guidelines carefully and some are even considering wearing N95 masks in these situations.  Individuals that are at high risk, such as young children, elderly and immunocomprimised individuals should avoid situations that could expose them to the virus.  More information can be found on the Canadian Government Website.

Posted by: mylittletravelbug | March 22, 2009

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? A Book by Thomas Kohnstamm

This title caught my eye when I was perusing the travel section at our local Chapters store.  It is the story of Thomas Kohnstamm, a fellow travel addict that struggles with trying to settle down to a stable job, while the lure of the open road keeps pulling him back out.  He decides that he can’t fight this addiction any longer and makes the transfor51f13u1dt4l_sl500_aa240_1mation to professional travel writer, in order to try and sustain his bohemian lifestyle.  Thomas lands a job as a Lonely Planet Guidebook writer in Brazil and takes the reader on the hilarious journey that results in the kind of Guidebook that you read each time you head off to a new destination.

The cover of the book describes it as ‘A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics & Professional Hedonism’.  If that doesn’t make you want to read on, what would?  If you have ever wondered what it would be like to work for a major travel guidebook company or thought that  it would be a dream come true to have a job that required you to travel and research exotic destinations, then you have to read this book.  As long as you are not offended by the frequent f-bombs, tales of promiscuity and drunken debauchery, it is a really interesting read.  You learn a bit about Brazil while reading about the process of writing a guidebook.  I’ve always been curious about what that would really be like.  Whenever I travel, I always wish that I would meet a guidebook writer so that I could ask some questions.  How much do you get paid?  If the restaurants, bars and hotels don’t know you are a writer, how do you get such detailed information?  Wouldn’t that tip them off?  Do you travel alone all that time?  Is this the best job in the world?  The author answers all of these questions and more.  I would be interested to read a similar tale from a female perspective.  I wonder if all travel writers have the same experience?

I’m not giving the ending away by telling you that he claims that the writers don’t really visit all of the sites listed in the book, nor do they really follow the policy that says they cannot accept anything for free.  Lonely Planet doesn’t actually claim that they don’t take anything for free, they claim the writers don’t accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.  So…. really they can accept freebies.  I don’t really see anything wrong with this, as long as they really are objective.  I think it would be better to identify yourself as a LP writer because more doors would open up for you and therefore, more doors are opened for its readers.  I would still continue to buy the books, because, even if all the details aren’t exactly right, it gives you a place to start.  I read guidebooks just to decide if the place is the destination I’m looking for and what things I want to try to see and do once I’m there.  I rarely use the restaurant sections because there are always so many to choose from, that there is no need to go searching out the one that millions of other readers have also been to.  Having said that, there will always be a place for a guidebook in my backpack despite the claims of questionable ethics, I’ve always found them to be invaluable.

Posted by: mylittletravelbug | March 8, 2009

Argentina: A Themed Staycation

A staycation (or stay-cation, or stacation) is a period of time in which an individual or family stays at home and relaxes at home.

As there are many families going through tough economic times right now, I thought it would be a good time to talk about Staycations.  Even if you can’t afford to go far during your vacation time this year, you can still take the opportunity to make it a fun time for your kids and add a little culture while you’re at it.  Recently, we hosted an Argentinian Wine Tasting Party and I thought why not extend this fun to the whole family and make a week out of it.  I love a theme, so I’ve come up with some ideas so that you can pretend you are visiting Argentina for the week.

Most important thing you need is food. Argentinians love their beef and barbecued meats so stock up.  This recipe for ‘Best Chimichurri Sauce’ was found in House and Home Magazine in August’08.  Chimichurri Sauce is an Argentinian condiment.  I served it with beef tenderloin, barbecued and then thinly sliced, placed on top of fresh bread slices and topped with this garlic and parsley condiment.  It was delicious and easy to make!

For best results, use a mini food processor to turn the aromatics into a paste.

3 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 shallots
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves ( or 1/2 dried)
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
several grindings of black pepper
pinch sugar
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves ( gently pressed into measuring cup)
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Combine first 10 ingredients in mini food processor and puree to a paste.  Scrape into bowl.
2. Finely chop parsley in food processor.  Add to garlic mixture.
3. Stir in olive oil.  Chill at least one hour (or overnight) before serving with barbecued meats.

Next the family needs to learn to Tango! You can watch instructional videos on youtube such as this one:

Get some roses (real or plastic) for the kids to use as they tango around the room.  You can also find tango music to play on itunes by listening to the Latino radio stations or find music to purchase by typing Argentina tango in the search box.

Greet your kids each morning with ‘Ola Buenos dias’ and say ‘Gracias’ at every opportunity.  Encourage your kids to learn some new Spanish words.  You can find free Spanish lessons on-line at:

Plan activities that you would normally do on vacation, but near your own home such as hiking, swimming or kayaking.  Before you go, you can watch some videos on Argentina so that you can imagine the scenery while you are there.

Youtube videos:

Ushuaia, Argentina- penguins-

Buenos aries-

Patagonia- Argentina-

Iquazu waterfalls-

Other ideas:

  • organize a soccer game with friends and family
  • For young children give them a snorkel and mask in the bathtub to find the penguins and seals

Do you have any other ideas?  Post a comment and share!

Posted by: mylittletravelbug | March 5, 2009

Webinar: The Variety of South Africa

Last week I attended an on-line seminar entitled the Variety of South Africa through GoWay Travel.  It is a destination that I’d love to travel to with my children in the future, so I thought it would be good to find out a bit about the country and options available.  It sounds like it would be a good place to take kids as long as they can handle the long plane ride from North America (17.5 hours from New York) .  I couldn’t imagine doing this with a young child but older children could probably handle it.  Currently South African Airways flies from NY and Washington via Senegal to Johanesburg.  Other alternatives are via London then Johannesburg or flying Emirates to Dubai ( 12.5 hours) and then another 8.5 to Cape Town. 

Once you’ve arrived, there are several game parks to choose from.  The Kruger National Park is the most popular, however you must take anti-malarial medication if you choose this one.   A safari in many of the large game parks, would be thrilling for children of any age but many only accept children over the age of six such as  Manyatta Rock Camp that offers elephant back safaris.   You will see, lions, leopards, rhinos, elephants, hippos, zebras,  as well as many bird species.  Some of the parks located near the Eastern Cape and Madikwe region are in a malaria free zone and therefore do not require that you take anti-malarial medication.  Some parks in the Eastern Cape will only accept children age 6 and over but  the lodges and safaris in the Madikwe area are very family friendly, such as Jaci’s Tree Lodge.  Some lodges have packages where the first child stays free. 

In Capetown, Table Mountain stands over the city and can be visited by a revolving cable car.  There are penguins to visit at Cape Point, beaches nearby and lots to see in the city itself.  The Garden route is an area with beautiful countryside and lots of physical activities to do.  There is whale watching, Oudsthorn has ostridges that you can ride and Cango Caves to visit.  St. Lucia Wetlands, further up the coast are a breeding ground for turtles, so if you plan your trip right you may be able to witness this event.

 Overall, this seminar was informative, although ofcourse they were discussing primarily the accomodations which they sell on their site.  The information about the country was good and it was a quick and easy way to get an overview and talk directly to people who’ve been there before.  I’ve booked through this company before as they often have really good deals on long haul flights.  Recently they advertised Buy 1 Get 1 Free tickets from NY to South Africa at $1099 for 2 tickets! ( plus many taxes and surcharges) Still a really good deal.

Posted by: mylittletravelbug | March 1, 2009

Do Snakes Eat People? A trip to Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo

It’s always exciting when a zoo comes to you!  Little Ray’s Reptile Zoo is located in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada but this weekend they were doing a show at Exhibition Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  So we gathered up the family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) and headed out in the freezing rain to see some snakes and alligators.  Our little ‘bug’ and her cousin, who are 12 and 11 months, weren’t quite sure what to make of all of the people.  There were kids and strollers and a lot of comotion, but every once and a while, the crowd would clear and there would be a turtle slowly making his way across the floor.  The $6 entry fee was more than worth the delight we had watching the surprised looks on their faces when they realized that this strange looking creature was moving towards them.  When the turtle lifted his head, you could hear little gasps escaping their mouths and then they’d turn to look us in amazement. 

 The snakes were out and about as well, but it was harder for them to grasp that there was a beginning and an end to these rope like structures around the  zoo keepers neck.  The older kids, however were completely amazed by the  African Rock Python.  The adults learned some interesting facts about snakes.  Do snakes eat people?  Well, pythons can swallow the largest prey of any snakes, but there have only been eight documented cases in history of people bein eaten.  Most of them were farmers or fisherman and they smelled of the prey of the snake.  Another important fact is that snakes are deaf, so if you come across one, there is no use begging for your life.  The snake can’t hear you anyway.  Lastly we discovered that snakes do have a bum and it is called a vent.  So the next time you are looking for a polite way to tell your kids to sit down, you can say, ‘Down on your vent’ and they’ll think this is hilarious. 

Bug had a fun time petting the alligator and watching the ferrets run around their cage.  For some reason she was also drawn to the hawk.  I think it was because it had a lot of expression in its face.  Nana, was brave enough to let the tarantula crawl on her hands, but I luckily missed out on this opportunity.  My only concern with the show, was that they did not have much signage to tell you the facts about the animals.  If we go again next year, I’ll have to brush up on my reptile knowledge before hand so I can answer the many questions I’m sure she’ll be asking by the time she’s two!  Overall, it was  a great way to spend a Sunday with our family!

Posted by: mylittletravelbug | February 23, 2009

Small town Mom hits Fashion Week

If somebody else were writing a story about the fact that I attended an event at Fashion Week in New York City, I suspect that is the headline they would use. I have never been anything even close to a fashionista. I could barely stand reading ‘Confessions of a Shopaholic’ because I thought the main character was absolutely ridiculous and it would infuriate me every time she bought another outrageously priced scarf despite the fact that she was broke. It’s not that I don’t appreciate fine clothing and accessories, it’s just that I am by nature much too cheap to indulge in any piece of clothing more than $100. ( disclaimer: I would however be willing to pay airfare to Asia, to then shop for inexpensive clothing)
Despite, my unwillingness to purchase high end clothing, I was still really excited to attend the Ports 1961 show at Fashion Week in NYC last week.  It was a totally unexpected bonus to our last minute trip to the city.  We stayed with my sister and her boyfriend, Dion Roy to celebrate his 30th birthday.   My sister managed to get tickets to the Ports show from Bob Bland, designer of Brooklyn Royalty clothing.  Thanks Bob!

The first thing we had to do was figure out what to wear to the show.  I hadn’t brought anything dressy with me, so I opted for a pair of black Mexx dress pants, a silky black and white top and a pair of $60 high heels that I bought the night before.  My sister loaned me a vintage purse that belonged to my grandmother and off we went.  When we arrived there was a crowd gathered outside the tents at Bryant Park.  We walked up the steps past the on-lookers and told security we were headed for the Ports show.  Inside there were cameras flashing left, right and center.  People were even coming up and taking pictures of my cheap shoes.  There were people dressed in everything from jeans to purple feather boas.  When it was time to go in, we again were ushered past crowds of people and found our seats.  We watched the photographers granted access snap photos of Olivia Palermo, from ‘The City’ seated a few rows away and facing us from the other side of the runway.  Anna Wintour, the alleged inspiration for the Devil Wears Prada, was also present, wearing large dark sunglasses.  Her expression didn’t change throughout the show and you could not see her eyes, so it was difficult to tell what she thought.

The show itself was short, as models walked the runway to a live band.  The clothes were of course beautiful.  Afterwards we went backstage and watched people talking with the designer, however we really didn’t have much to say so we just wandered around.  All and all, it was an experience, I wouldn’t miss!

Posted by: mylittletravelbug | February 14, 2009

Inexpensive Family Vacations

The website, recently published my story about our family vacation to Portugal.  I spend a lot of time planning vacations, and always try to get the most value for the least amount of money without compromising too much comfort or missing out on experiences.  This article shows how we went to Europe for $2500 Canadian (approximately $2000 U.S) and had a fabulous time.  Check it out!

Posted by: mylittletravelbug | February 10, 2009

Itinerary Series: Morocco

A journey to Morocco requires the following characteristics in a traveler:

1.  The ability to keep your wits about you as your mind is assaulted with a flurry of sensory experiences.  Fragrant odors wafting from every street vendor and spice market, constant commentary from the street tout that will follow you relentlessly throughout town and high pressure sales pitches to buy ‘beautiful carpets’.

2.  A willingness to change your itinerary at some point or multiple points during your trip as dictated by your bowels.

3.  An appreciation for the stillness that will come, after you’ve watched the sunset over a Saharan dune and are relaxing under the starry sky.

Morocco is a country rich in culture and culinary experiences, not to mention fascinating shopping adventures.  We traveled to Morocco in 2007 using the 2 week itinerary below but I will recommend a shorter duration when traveling with children.  The experience will be amazing but perhaps a bit intense for long periods of time.  If I return with my daughter, I would go to Marrakesh and stay in a hotel in the Ville Nouvelle or Hivernage area that has a swimming pool.  It is still close enough to the medina that you could walk or take a quick taxi ride in to see the snake charmers and performers at the  Djemaa-el-Fna.  At night the stalls sell all types of food, but some fun ones for kids to see would include the goats heads.  Marrakesh has lots of culture and educational experiences but it also has waterparks and camel rides to keep the kids happy.  After Marrakesh, I would fly to Ouarzazate and arrange a camel trek and overnight in a tented camp in the desert.

For those who are interested in a 2 week itinerary, here it is:

Day 1- International flights from North America, often arrive in Casablanca.  If you can get one to Fes directly, I would recommend it.
Rent a Car in Casablanca ( airport ).  Drive to Fes. Stay at Dar Roumana in the Qarmosa Suite.  Fes is an ancient labyrinth where you can enjoy getting lost as you walk past interesting stalls and shops.  There are some good restaurants and you can visit a tannery to see where they dye the leather. 

Day 2
Transfer to Batha Hotel in Fes.  (Dar Roumana was beautiful but booked the other 2 nights.  Batha Hotel was very basic but had a swimming pool and a better location for walking at night.) Spend your time getting lost in the medina, shopping along the way and sampling some food.

Day 3-6
Drive from Fes to Merzouga.  Pass through the middle Altas mountains, stop in Ifrane, a town that looks like it should be in Switzerlimg_0663_editedand.  Continue on to drive through beautiful palmeries until you reach the desert.  Stay at Kasbah Derkaoua for 2 nights and spend one night in bivouac under stars in desert after a camel trek to get there.

Day 6
Drive through Todra Gorge and do some hiking.  Stay overnight  outside Ouazarzate at Chez Talout.  The dining terrace overlooked a palmerie, riverbed and village which we enjoyed walking through the next day.  


Day 7

Drive from Ouazarzate to Marrakesh
1 night at Riad Nejma Lounge (this riad was a bit far away from the main tourist areas but nice place to stay).  Shop, dine and be entertained at Djemaa El-Fna, wander the medina, visit medersas and view mosques.


Day 8
Transfer to Jnane Mogador in Marrakesh 2 nights

Day 10
Atlas Mountains – hiking and camping ( this part of our trip had to be cancelled due to gastrointestinal upset)

Day 12-14

Drive to the Atlantic coast, visit the town of Essaouira.  Continue on to Oualidia and stay at Hotel-Restaurant L’initiale.  Relax on the beach and enjoy meals of fresh seafood served by locals on the beach or at nearby restaurants.

Day 14- Drive back to Casablanca for return flight home.

Posted by: mylittletravelbug | February 3, 2009

Border Crossing in Bolivia Requires a Little Faith

It had been a long and bumpy ride. We were squeezed into an old bus, which we affectionately referred  to as “ the chicken bus”. Not that there were chickens on the bus with us, but we felt that there could have been had we hit the right day. We pulled into a dusty little town on the Peru-Bolivia border. The rest of the locals on the bus filed off and dispersed into the various shacks that lined the street. As our packs were being thrown down from where they had been strapped to the roof of the bus, we looked around for a clue to tell us where to go next. We put our backpacks on and started to wander off as if we knew where we were going. A few buildings away we see a sign that says “Cambio de Change”. Okay, that’s a start. We had to change our money over to Bolivianos. As we headed towards it, a young boy, probably ten or eleven years old points in the opposite direction. We continue to walk casually toward the Cambio de change, when he follows us and continues to point in the opposite direction, saying something in Spanish.

Photo courtesy of Toastforbrekkie's on Flickr

Photo courtesy of Toastforbrekkie's on Flickr

We pause, and look in the direction he’s pointing. There is a sign on a building that looks like it might be a government sign so we shift our path as if we were always planning to head that way. When we arrive and peer into the building. We realize he is right. This is immigration. We shuffle along passing several immigration officers who look at our passports. I answer “ La Paz” and “ seven days “ with seven fingers in the air, hoping I am answering the right questions. Our passports are stamped and we are back out on the dirt road.

We start to walk towards the Cambio de change again, anxious to get some cash before too many locals notice that we have money to change. The young boy steps out again and motions diagonally across the street, this time walking us directly where we need to go. Customs. This time the forms we need to fill out are available in English so we get this done pretty quickly. We say “Ola” to the officer, hear a stamp, then “ gracias” and we are off again. The boy is right by our side now, taking us across the street to a different “ Cambio de change” than the first one we were headed for.

Now I’m starting to understand. This boy is trying to take us to one of those money changing spots where they rip you off with a ridiculous exchange rate and he gets a cut. “Just change a little bit, and we’ll get more in La Paz.” I whisper to Sean. Watch your pockets”. The boy takes us in and Sean changes only the money in his pockets but none in his money belt. Hmm, the exchange rate seems to be about what we expected, perhaps even a bit less. We’re done here. Money is all safe and sound where nobody can get at it and we’re back out on the street again. The boy is motioning for us to follow him again. We can’t keep following, because we’re supposed to be boarding a bus again for La Paz. We look around, and realize there are no buses. The bus we got off has turned around and is headed back for Puno, Peru. The boy is smiling now and waving for us to follow him. “ Bus?” Sean asks. “ La Paz?” I say. Nodding the boy starts walking, looking back to see if we are following. We are of course, because we don’t know what else to do. The sun is getting low in the sky now and we appear to be walking out of town. It seems like we are walking for a really long time on this main dirt road lined with dirt colored buildings. I am starting to get really nervous now. My mind is racing. He turns down a side road and we pause to look at each other. Should we keep going? We’ve got to find this bus. He’s taking us deeper into town.

“Where is the bus?” He points in the direction we are heading. “ The bus is in here?” “ Si, si” he replies. It looks like we are starting to walk amongst people’s homes and the streets are becoming narrower, almost like alleys. Visions of being mugged are starting to flash through my head. It’s all very clear now, he’s taking us to his older brothers who are going to smile and welcome us into their home right before they pull a knife, hold it to my throat and threaten Sean for everything he’s got. “ He’s got all the money” the boy will tell his brothers in Spanish as they route through our bags and start to make a small cut in my throat when they don’t find much. Sean and I will start to pray, I will cry, Sean will make some quick move in an attempt to get them off us and yell run! Terrified, I will start to run and look back to find he’s not with me. I’ll back and find them fighting. Screaming at the top of my lungs, I will pray that somebody will come and find us.

“ Lisa” Sean says “ do you know which bus we’re getting on?” I look up and we’re at the bus stop. He was taking us there after all. I look at the boy and I’m actually seeing him for the first time. He is dark haired with beautiful dark eyes that are smiling back at me. He is proud that he has brought us here. He adjusts his baseball cap that is too big for his head and speaks to the bus driver to arrange our seats. We board the bus and look out the window at this snotty nosed kid who helped us find our way. We decide we should give him some money and Sean digs through his pockets to find something to give him. I am so impressed that I want to take a picture of him. Back off the bus, Sean gives him some money and I snap a photo of the two of them. I am ashamed that I didn’t trust this young boy and glad that he couldn’t read my mind when my imagination had started to run away with itself.

Feeling good about ourselves and finally able to relax we settle into our seats. Just before the bus departs, the boy climbs onto the bus. “ No good” he tells Sean and hands him back one of the coins he gave him. “ No good” he pauses and waits for us to answer. “No good?” Sean asks, confused by this statement. He is still waiting for a response. Somebody behind us speaks English and explains that the money is not real. Apparently we had given him counterfeit money. We’re not sure how we got it or how he knew, but agreed to exchange the coin for another one. He smiles, nods and hops off the bus. He waits for the bus to leave and waves to us as we go, sending us off safely on our next adventure.

© Lisa Woodill and Storytime @ My Little Travel Bug, 2008. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Woodill and Storytime @ My Little Travel Bug with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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