Worldschooling in Thailand

Tips on worldschooling in Thailand

Are you considering worldschooling in Thailand? There are a number of reasons to consider Thailand as your home base while you explore South East Asia or take a sabbatical, or heck, flat out move here long-term. There are also downsides, and we’ll discuss those too.

What brought us to Thailand, long ago? Well, we vacationed in Phuket after Billy finished teaching in Korea, which is where we lived for a year. Our plan was to permanently move to Italy, but we ended up only staying there for 6 months or so; we all fell in love with Phuket on that one month vacation, and Billy had a job lead so we decided to take the plunge. Kaya was almost 3 when we moved to the island.

We’ve been based in Thailand for more or less 6 years (!!) now, and we’ve stayed for a number of reasons. For starters, it feels like home to us. Kaya has loads of friends here in Chiang Mai, where we’ve been living for almost two years. And let’s face it: Thailand is affordable. I can go shopping for organic veg here for less than half the price of what I would pay back in the US or US.

We have also absorbed much of Thai culture to the point where our own personal cultures have quite a bit of Thainess, a concept discussed in the book Very Thai. This is perhaps the number one reason we’ve stayed here, and it’s a wee bit hard to explain. But in essence, it is easy to live here. Life is slow-paced, and we like it that way!

I am however glad we no longer live in Phuket. As much as I adore that island ( and miss it), the social element was nonexistent for all of us. I was very unhappy living there towards the end, despite falling in love with Phuket Town. It just lacked the community element we were yearning for. This is why I hesitate on recommending Phuket or any island here in Thailand as a good base to worldschool UNLESS you have more than one child or you have a toddler or baby. I think the island’s extra slow pace of life makes for the perfect environment for really young kids, which is why we initially moved there.

One example of a family that unschools and has a home-base in Panwa  is a French-Singaporean family that lives between Bali and Phuket. They have 5 children, all of whom are teens save for their youngest daughter, who is Kaya’s age. They own a condo in Panwa with a nice pool & in a great location, and both work from home. They travel often throughout SE Asia for work.

Phuket and smaller towns & islands are ideal for short worldschooling stays of between 3 and 6 months or less. Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and perhaps other medium to large cities are better for longer stays as there are more activities for kids and adults, and more opportunities to make friends. Cities also have more playrooms in malls like Big C or Central.

If you are considering moving to Phuket or are already there, I’ve compiled a list of our fav kid-friendly activities and places in Phuket for you.

Chiang Mai is an ideal base for worldschooling and homeschooling families because of the amazing amount of activities your kids can be involved in, if they so choose. For example, Kaya goes to robotics classes at our local mall and takes taekwondo two times a week with her friends. When she’s not doing that, she’s playing with friends at family restaurants like Nic’s or Triplets here in Hang Dong.

Please note that Chiang Mai has loads of areas to live in outside the city center, for those of us who aren’t a fan of the touristy, traffic-jam prone parts. I highly recommend Hang Dong, which is the area we live in. It’s about a 20 minute drive into the city when there is no traffic, and there are excellent restaurants, temples, malls, and parks here that are family-friendly.

Related Post: Kid-friendly activities in Chiang Mai

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand, and extremely fast-paced. We typically go there a few times a year, and once we stayed for a month. I honestly found that month super stressful. But honestly, the amount of activities and things to do in BKK makes it a place to consider for your worldschooling home-base. It has all the amenities that any city would too.

Another reason Thailand is a great home-base for worldschooling families is because of how close it is to other countries in Asia, and the variety of cheap flights you can book to go to Japan, China, and other countries. When we vacationed in Phuket with Kaya years ago, we took a direct 5 hours flight on Air Asia from Seoul. Hong Kong is only about two hours from Chiang Mai, so if the kids want to go to Disneyland, you aren’t far from it! And dim sum. The trains and buses are also safe and generally clean, and you can choose various classes such as a sleeper cabin in the Chiang Mai to BKK train. My husband has taken the train maybe 10 times, and has also taken the night bus from Phuket to Bangkok on several occasions.

There are many types of long-term and semi long-term visas you can choose, including the visa on arrival, which gives you 30 days and can be renewed for another 30 days. Another option is to get the three month visa, which you can apply for at your nearest Thai embassy or consulate. You can get up to a years worth of 3 month visas, at the time of this writing. If you are moving to Thailand long-term, an education visa is a good option. I personally study at the Hand to Hand combat school in Chiang Mai and have previously studied at Chiang Mai University. I recommend both schools.

All in all, I think Thailand is a great place for worldschooling families, it just depends on what you’re looking for and in some cases, how determined you are with regards to finding kid-friendly meet up groups and activities. For example, if you’ve just moved to say Chiang Mai and have a teenager and are looking for things for him to do, start by getting a list of the schools in the area and contacting them about maybe having him doing sports or other extracurricular activities. Grace International school has a number of homeschoolers participating in such classes. This would be an excellent idea in Phuket too as I’m sure many of the international school wouldn’t be opposed to doing something similar, and I remember in a Facebook Group a while back, one sports coordinator invited unschoolers to join events at their school.

Are you worldschooling in Thailand or considering it as a home-base to explore South East Asia? Let us know in the comments below and if you’re in Chiang Mai, perhaps we can get together! 

 

Family travel tips and kid-friendly activities and hotels in Malaysia.

Family travel in Malaysia

Family travel tips and kid-friendly activities and hotels in Malaysia.

Malaysia is a beautiful country to take your kids for a vacation, whether a short or long stay. You get a 3 month visa on arrival that can easily be renewed by leaving the country and re-entering too, making it a great place for a long sabbatical. Malaysia has pretty good transportation, from trains to air-conditioned buses and of course Air Asia. From islands like Langkawi and Penang to the bustling capital Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has lots of activities and sites that are family-friendly, as well as hotels for every price range.

And many Malayasians speak three or more languages, from Malay to English and Chinese, Arabic, and more. It’s truly a melting pot of cultures, which makes it a great destination, no matter where you’re coming from.

Our family has been traveling to Malaysia 3 or more times per year for the past 5 years or so. We’ve driven from Phuket to Penang once too, which made for a great ( although long) roadtrip, but most of the time, we fly there. Asia is lucky to have a number of budget airlines that fly around South East Asia for a good price, such as Dragon Air, Air Asia, Nok Air, and Firefly, so even though we’re closer to China, Laos, and Myanmar now that we live in Chiang Mai, it’s still relatively easy for us to fly to KL or even Penang.

Did I mention that the major airports are also kid-friendly? Even the smallish airport in Penang now has a play area in the domestic section.

Kid-Friendly Attractions in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur ( frequently called KL) is Malaysia’s capital, and it attracts tourists from around the world. Whether you’re looking to get some shopping done or want to travel to visit the local temples and mosques, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

One of the reasons we love taking Kaya to Malaysia is because of the theme parks and activities for kids. And KL has some of the best in the country!

KidZania is one such place. Kids can dress up as firefighters, doctors, and other professionals, and partake in themed activities to give them a glimpse into what it’s like in that profession.

Kaya absolutely loved going to the theme park in Berjaya Times Square, located inside a huge mall. The park has loads of rides for kids of all ages, and when we went, they had a cool sort of haunted maze that Kaya loved so much she decided to go in it twice! You’ll find plenty of places to grab a bite to eat before and after you go on rides ( since the park is in the mall) and lots of places to go shopping, from small stalls selling clothes and electronics, to big-name brands.

You can find even more activities to do with your kids in Kuala Lumpur here.

Activities For Kids in Penang

We go to Penang more often than KL, because we have friends there. This island is a fantastic place for families to visit, and has both outdoor activities and historical attractions, on top of the malls and small museums that dot the island.

We typically stay in Georgetown, which is a UNESCO heritage site and in my opinion, the heart and soul of Penang. The buildings in Georgetown are similar to those in Phuket Town ( Sino Portuguese), and it’s filled with Chinese and Hindu temples.

Depending on your childrens’ age and how hot it is outside, you may consider taking them on a walking tour of Georgetown, while stopping to admire the numerous murals on buildings. The street art really adds to the charm of the island, but note that the drains are very large and pay close attention when walking with a stroller. Billy fell into one of the drains when we were walking back to our hotel, while he was holding Kaya. She was OK, but he was left with a big scar.

If you decide to stay in Georgetown and are wondering where to stay, we usually go to Banana Boutique hotel or Merchant hotel. The former is located right on Chulia Street, and both are in a fantastic location to find a bus or taxi to other parts of the island.

Penang is well-known for its beaches too, so if you and the kids are craving some time in the Andaman, you’re going to want to find a hotel or resort that’s on the beach. We’ve stayed at the Flamingo Hotel two or three times, which has a large pool and children’s play area. It also has a great breakfast buffet, featuring dining options from both Asia and Western cuisines, and the hotel is across from one of our favorite Indian restaurants.

The Penang Hill is a popular attraction for families and other travelers who are looking to see great views of the island. There’s also a small toy museum for families, as well as a 3D museum similar to the ones here in Thailand. For additional activities for kids in Penang, check out this post.

All in all, we’ve always had a great time traveling with Kaya in Malaysia, and even before she was born, I went to KL with my family as a kid, and Billy and I went to Kuantan on our honeymoon in Asia. We highly recommend going to Malaysia at least once with your children, if not more!

 

Our family's worldschooling journey started in 2009, when we moved to Korea. Learn more, plus gets tips to help you embark upon your worldschooling journey!

Our worldschooling story

Our family's worldschooling journey started in 2009, when we moved to Korea. Learn more, plus gets tips to help you embark upon your worldschooling journey!

Worldschooling is gaining more and more traction amongst homeschoolers and families looking to travel more and simplify their lives. We just recently met up with a family from Colorado who have been traveling with their two kids and are trying to worldschool, and we’ve connected with dozens of families in the process of worldschooling online.

I realized that since we’ve been worldschooling and living abroad since 2009 I should finally write a post summarizing our journey!

What is worldschooling?

I don’t like labels and find that most people fight over who does what better. But to loosely define worldschooling, it means basically learning from the world around us. Pretty simple definition.

However, many of us also use the term to mean using travel as a form of education.

For our family, it’s a combination of both definitions.

What Worldschooling Looks Like For Us

To clarify, we aren’t constantly traveling and we have had a long-term home base in several places, from Korea to Italy to Phuket and now Chiang Mai. We’ve been visiting Myanmar and Malaysia multiple times per year, and traveling within Thailand. You could say were chronic expats or very slow travelers! Either way, his is what has worked for us. We love the community here in Chiang Mai and Thailand is affordable. However we plan on moving to Canada soon ( somewhere in British Columbia) to be closer to family, and to only have one of us that needs a visa ( Billy and Kaya are both Canadian).

How Our Worldschooling Journey Began

In 2008, my husband and I made the decision to raise our daughter outside of the U.S. I yearned to live near where I grew up ( in Europe) but Billy was hesitant to move there. He had only been to the EU with me when we were on vacation and wasn’t sure what it would be like to live there long-term. He assumed it would be wonderful, but his heart wasn’t in it. However, he did love the time we spent in Asia when we were on our honeymoon, so after much talk, we decided to move with our toddler and 4 pets to South Korea, where Billy taught English in the GEPIK program outside of Seoul.

Worldschooling in South Korea

Pit stop on a road trip to Seoul

While we love Korea and two of my best friends are from Paju ( where we lived), I was completely sick of being stuck at home with a two year old, all on my own. I didn’t want to work at the time and was still nursing our daughter, I just wanted to see my husband more and also have some more free-time during the day. We decided to spend a month vacationing in Phuket and then headed to Tuscany, where we planned to stay permanently.

Billy took six months off from working to recover from his somewhat long hours teaching and to spend more time with us. It was then that we decided he wanted to work from home, and also that we had loved vacationing in Thailand so much that we wanted to go back to Phuket. So after six months of living in Italy, we moved to Phuket.

And we stayed there on and off for almost four years, visiting Malaysia and Myanmar every few weeks.

One of the many reasons we decided to go to Phuket was that Kaya was turning three, and in europe children tend to enter a crèche and we didn’t want her to go to school. But the pressure to not homeschool is very strong in Europe, even though it’s legal in Italy. Thailand is very welcoming of homeschoolers in general, so we wanted to give it a shot!

Because we still didn’t know basically anything about working from home or freelancing, Billy went back to teaching in a small private school in Phuket Town while I started this very blog and began frantically researching how he could find a reliable way to work from home so we could all ‘worldschool’ together.

Eventually, I ended up becoming a freelance writer and digital marketing consultant and Billy too started working online, so things did work out!

Worldschooling to us is a lifestyle and not some term that places us in a box with another set of rules. We don’t constantly travel, and if you too choose to worldschool, you don’t have to either! You can settle down for a few months or years in a town or city that feels right for your family. And you can use your home base to explore other parts of the country or area.

Kaya takes robotics classes here in Chiang Mai and also taekwondo at a local dojo, and has made many wonderful friends that are locals and expats. This is why we’ve stayed here for so long instead of move to Canada earlier.

worldschooling

Naomi and Sarah are the worldschooling duo behind realgilmoregirls.com

Tips For Future Worldschoolers

 If you’re considering traveling full or part time as a family, here are some things we recommend you consider:

 Do you need to be in a like-minded community?

We’ve spoken to a few families who have expressed a concern about travelling full-time: the lack of community. And we totally agree! And even if you do plan on slow traveling, you may still find your home-base area to not have enough people you can build friendships with, whether it be because of a language barrier or a cultural issue, or some other random reason.

The lack of a like-minded community is the exact reason we left Phuket, and the supportive local community here in Hang Dong ( outside of Chiang Mai) is the exact reason we stayed here.

Do your kids actually want to travel?

When we left for Korea, Kaya was obviously too young to have a say in where we relocated to, or if we even should relocate. Billy and I did the best we could to take into consideration how the move would impact her life, and Korea thankfully had loads of playgrounds and other toddler-friendly things.

But if you have older kids that are perhaps in school ( who you want to homeschool), do they want to travel full or part time?

worldschooler

How will you make a living?

This is always the challenge we get asked about, and also the one we personally faced. For many years, we were very broke. I assumed I could make money off a nebulous travel blog, and sometimes I did. But it took me years and years of education ( programs like Marie Forleo’s B School) and experience to understand how to grow a business online, not be a ‘pro blogger’. Thankfully, my husband and I both are blessed to now work from home, but it took us a long, hard road to get to where we are.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Billy was a teacher for several years. This can be a great start to slow traveling, but some countries don’t pay ESL teachers well ( I think Billy made about 1K USD when he taught in Phuket and 2K in Korea).

The more experience you have as a teacher and qualifications, the more you will be paid. Japan and Korea typically pay the best. You can get a visa to sponsor your family this way too, which is a great plus, and housing in Korea is frequently included.

Many of the traveling families we’ve met are living off of savings, or renting our their houses in order to pay for their travels.

If you have a travel blog or are thinking of creating one, consider using it to market your freelance services ( if you’re a freelancer) or any ebooks or products you create, instead of trying to ‘monetize your blog’. Check out our travel blogging page for additional tips.

What types of visa do you need?

Because I’m an EU citizen, my family ( who are Canadian American) didn’t need a visa to live with me in Italy. However ( and this is the part that baffles everyone), due to the spousal visa changes made years ago, despite me being British, it’s almost impossible for me as a self-employed individual and freelancer to sponsor my family to live with me in the UK. Nope, makes no sense at all and it’s very complicated, but thousands of Brit-non EU families have to leave the UK every year because of it, or get split up. It’s a horrible tragedy, and it was the reason we left Scotland after moving there for a short period of time. Perhaps after Brexit this will now change, but who knows.

If you aren’t an EU citizen and want to stay in the EU long-term, you will need a visa. The same goes for pretty much any country, including here in Thailand. I plan on writing a post in the near future about the various visas you can get to stay here long-term, including the education visa I’m currently on.

Will you have enough activities for your kids?

If you are traveling while using a traditional homeschooling curriculum that’s accredited, will you be able to find the supplies you need for your kid’s classes? In  most cases you will, unless you are very rural, but it’s important to take this into consideration just in case.

Are you a worldschooler? Share your journey with us below in the comments!

 

This is our 2nd Christmas in Chiang Mai, and our fifth in Thailand! Learn where to shop for the holidays and what restaurants are open, plus where to get baked goods for the holidays.

Christmas in Chiang Mai

This is our 2nd Christmas in Chiang Mai, and our fifth in Thailand! Learn where to shop for the holidays and what restaurants are open, plus where to get baked goods for the holidays.

We just celebrated our 5th Christmas in Thailand, and the second of which we spent here in Chiang Mai.

If you usually celebrate Christmas in a place that actually has winter ( as in snow), you’re probably wondering what it’s like to celebrate the holiday season here in Thailand. To be honest, I do miss the white Christmases that we had when we lived in Italy, the UK, and South Korea, but even though Thailand is a Buddhist country, many Thais ( and of course expats) celebrate Christmas, to some degree.

Every year, the department stores ( like Maya, Gad Suan Kaew, Central, etc) have a Christmas decorations and do a great job decorating. Christmas lights are also sold at most hardware stores, and at places like Big C and Makro ( top floor).

Restaurants in Chiang Mai are typically open on Christmas day, and many have a special set menu available or some type of holiday dish.

Nic’s family restaurant in Hang Dong does a fantastic job with creating holiday menus and events, especially on Halloween and Christmas. This year, they had Santa swing bye for the kids to chat with, and their set menus had both vegetarian and gluten-free options available.

If you happen to be in Chiang Mai during Christmas and don’t have the ability to bake holiday goodies, I suggest ordering a cake ( or two!) from Butter is Better and California Wraps. Both have gluten-free options too. Sadly, I haven’t found mince pies anywhere in town, but I’ll keep asking as I’m sure I’m not the only Brit looking for them!

The only thing that’s hard to find in Chiang Mai during the holidays is good, Christmasy wrapping paper. We bought our from Makro and it’s not the best, but we managed to use two sheets to wrap a large lego set Santa brought for Kaya.

When it comes to shopping, the malls have a plethora of different toys, clothing, and pretty much everything else. We usually shop at small stores and our local Wednesday market ( at Kad Farang) and ‘Santa’ got Kaya’s lego sets from a small shoe slash Lego store in the Mali Market, located in Hang Dong. The store is near the Pancake House and looks like it only sells shoes but it has an excellent assortment of legos inside.

The Wednesday market at Kad Farang has several toy stalls, including one that is across from Wine Connection ( in the parking lot). We purchased Shopkins-like toys and other stocking stuffers there, and have previously ordered a Scooby Doo lego set from the owner, who is extremely friendly and willing to look for special items.

Coffee shops also make sure to get festive during Christmas. While we always go to independant cafes, I do enjoy going to Starbucks for a holiday coffee in December. They sell some really nice mugs too! Cafe Kantary also got festive and has two hot cocoa specials with a mashmallow snowman, as well as Christmas cookies. And their decorations are by far the best I’ve seen at any place in Chiang Mai! The above Instagram photo with Kaya is taken outside their Kad Farang cafe.

Have you spent Christmas in Chiang Mai? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!

How to have a stress-free family road trip

How to have a stress-free family road trip

How to have a stress-free family road trip

Planning on taking a family road trip on your next vacation? Don’t want it to be chaotic?

I feel you. Being in a far for hours with kids can be a challenge. But no matter where you’re headed, you can make the trip easier and more enjoyable by planning ahead and taking breaks.

Make Sure To Pack kid-friendly Healthy Snacks

You never know what types of sugar-loaded, unhealthy snacks will be available at whatever gas station or 7/11 you pass on your trip. And it may take hours until you hit up a decent restaurant. In order to ensure the kids are eating well while you’re traveling, make sure to pack healthy snacks they love. Whether it’s carrot sticks and hummus or organic granola bars, have a bag filled with healthy options in the back seat ( right by the kiddos) so they can munch whenever you’re hungry. If you’re overseas and aren’t sure where you can get healthy snacks, iHerb is a great place to get organic chocolate, gluten-free cookies, almond butter, and pretzels. They ship pretty much anywhere too!

Pack Lots of Games

The inevitable ‘I’m bored’ is sure to creep in at some point, maybe even a few minutes into the trip…if you’re not prepared!

Have your kids pack their favorite toys & games that will help them stay entertained, and keep the bag within reach so they access them easily. Even if you’re a low-media family, you’ll probably want to give in on a long trip and let your child use your phone or ipad. Minecraft is our daughter’s favorite game, as well as the Toca Boca series. And if you’re homeschooling/unschooling or just looking to help your child learn to read, apps like Homer and Hooked on Phonics are fun and affordable investments that they’ll love!

Take Breaks Often

While you may have a time frame you need to stay within to get to your destination, it’s still important to take breaks, which will make the road trip more enjoyable for everyone. Plus, you need bathroom breaks and to eat, right?

If you’re going on a family road trip in an area you’re familiar with ( or can easily research/google) plan ahead of time where there will be gas stations, restaurants with healthy options, cafes, and sights to check out.

This can be a lot harder to do if you are say taking a road trip in Thailand and you’ve never been here before, but even if you haven’t you can ask the hotel you’re staying at if they have driven to wherever you’re going and if there are any sights/stops they recommend. There are actually loads of gas stations and rest stops on all the main high-ways here, if you are planning on driving in Thailand. And thankfully, our 7/11s have decent frozen Thai dishes, if you’re driving late at night and need a quick bite to eat.

Make sure to take loads of family travel photos when you do take breaks, even if they’re short.

Diffuse Essential Oils

Whenever we travel, we always take essential oils with us. They are seriously so versatile, especially oils like lavender and tea tree. You can purchase a cheap diffuser for your car, and choose a relaxing oil to help the kids ( and adults) stay calm.

Get Your Kids Excited About The Trip

We’ve always tried to use our travels as a teaching opportunity for our daughter, even when she was a toddler. By talking about why we’re taking a trip or going somewhere ( even if it wasn’t a vacation per se) this got her excited. Whether we were driving to get my ID card in South Korea or through Tuscany, we told her about the fun we’d have on the way.

Point out different attractions you see our your window, or come up with a game to spot a certain type of car, bird, etc

No matter where you’re taking your family road trip, you can make it an enjoyable, stress-free experience by being prepared ahead of time!

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4 ways to improve your family travel photos

4 Ways To Improve Your Family Travel Photos

 

4 ways to improve your family travel photos

Take great photos of your loved ones when you’re on a family trip is better than any souvenir, am I right?

But it can be challenging to take great family travel photos if you’ve got a wee one that’s eager to run off and explore his/her new surroundings. It can also be a challenge to get the perfectly lit photo, especially if you’re visiting a market or eating street food at a hawker court at night.

While I’m no well-known or super pro photographer, I wanted to share with you the three ways I’ve improved my own family travel photos, based off of the 7 years I’ve owned my DSLR

 

Shoot Outside As Often As Possible

Almost all of my best shots were taken outside in great lighting. Whether Kaya was playing on a beach in Rawai or in the snow in Tuscany, when I took her photo outside during the daytime, the lighting was good enough that I didn’t have to play around in Lightroom/Picmonkey most of the time, nor did I need a tripod or lighting kit.

I shoot outside as often as possible with my DSLR. When I am indoors and want to take a random shot or say my husband & daughter eating dinner at a restaurant, I’ll whip out my iPhone and use that instead. Why? I’ve found it much easier to carry around my phone than a tripod & DSLR ( obviously lol) and my iPhone 6 happens to take pretty good photos, even in low lighting. And if the photo is underexposed, it’s easy to edit it in apps like VSCOCam or Afterlight.

Resource

Video: How to get your kids to smile for photos

How to improve your family travel photos

An impromptu iPhone pic, edited with VSCOcam 6 preset

Be Ready 

I’ve found that the best family travel photos ( and lifestyle pics) are typically taken at random times. This means that just like when you’re at home, a special moment will arise when your kids are playing or doing something funny that you’ll want to capture. But you won’t have long to take the shot, if it’s going to look natural. Have your camera ( or phone) with you as often as possible on your trip and be ready to take snaps throughout the day.

Shoot In Manual or Aperture Priority

If you’re shooting with a DSLR, I suggest trying to shoot in aperture priority or manual. There are several reasons for this. You will have more ability to control how your photos turn out, especially the lighting.

This will make things even easier when you’re taking family travel photos at night or indoors!

Resource: These guides from Photography Concentrate have really helped me shoot in manual

Give Your Little Ones A Camera

Children have the amazing ability to see things we don’t see, because of how creative and imaginative they are, as well as their size. My daughter took my all-time favorite travel photo when we were staying in Penang, which I printed and have a copy of in my room.

If your kids are too young to use a DSLR, I suggest giving them a disposable camera or buying an instant camera, like a Polaroid. The film can be pricey, so let your child know that they need to conserve film, if you get a Polaroid. The cool thing though about instant cameras is that most photos look good, as they have that vintage type feel. Encourage your kids to be creative photographers and to look for what sticks out to them on your travels as being noteworthy. Kaya photographs restaurant decor and food, and also loves to take pictures of animals. What does your child enjoy shooting?

How to improve your family travel photos

When you’ve returned from your vacation and are thinking about what to do with your family travel photos, I suggest printing iPhone pics using a service like Parabo Print, Artifact Uprising, or Print Studio. I’ve printed pictures with all of those companies and like them all. Parabo is probably my favorite, and you can do some cool things with your family travel photos ( like print huge sizes or colourful risograph style). Print Studio has extra tiny size options, which our daughter loves.

Creating photobooks filled with your family travel photos is another option. We use Chatbooks and Nowvel to print photobooks. The former we have print our Instagram photos each month ( for only about 6 dollars) and the latter we give away to friends and family as Nowvel is an amazing quality photobook. For turning your DSLR photos into books, I suggest using Blurb or Artifact Uprising.

No matter where you’re going on your next trip, these easy to implement tips will help you improve your family travel photos, even if you’re just shooting with your iPhone. Remember that kids love being photographers too, and sometimes their pictures are even better than ours! They also love displaying their work, and with affordable printing apps and services, you can display them throughout your home when you get back from vacation.

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Why you should go on a family cruise

Why You Should Go on a Family Cruising Holiday

Why you should go on a family cruise

Don’t think for a second that cruise holidays are just for couples and older travellers. While a cruising holiday is perfect for both these groups, cruises are in fact one of the best ways for families to enjoy a holiday. If you’ve never been on a cruise, or are apprehensive about taking your children on one, don’t worry, we’ve compiled a few good reasons why a cruise should be your next family holiday.

It takes care of the travelling

Seeing multiple destinations is wonderful, but the logistics of corralling little ones across countries and on multiple flights can be overwhelming. That’s why taking a cruise is so good; it lets someone else sort out the transport! A cruise holiday by definition takes you to different locations, and you get to relax by the pool or unwind in the cabin while they do it. It’s like waking up in a new all-inclusive resort every day!
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They are jam packed with activities for kids

Most cruises boast a wide array of kids’ clubs, children’s activities and even in-cabin babysitting services. There is sure to be a world of entertainment to excite and (tire out!) your little ones. From fun activities for the whole family, to ones just for the kids that let you enjoy a cocktail at the bar, there are endless possibilities for fun.

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It lets you see different parts of the world with ease

While the Caribbean is the region many of us think about when we picture a quintessential cruise, there are in fact lots of options available. Take a cruise in the Mediterranean, sail the Black Sea, discover the Baltic, or even venture to the Arctic – it’s up to you!

You only have to unpack once

Taking a cruise lets you get comfortable. Your cabin will be your home for the duration, so you don’t need to worry about packing and repacking when you visit each stop on your itinery. Beyond a small day-bag you can leave everything you need in your cabin.

You’ll never get bored

Going on holiday is great, but after a week in the same location it is natural to get a little restless. This isn’t the case on a cruise, thanks to the fact that you’ll only spend a day or two at each stop-off. This keeps things interesting, and if you fall in love with a destination, you can always come back!

Images by Roderick Eime used under Creative Commons licence.

Thinking about moving to Chiang Mai? Read my thoughts on the pros and cons of living here.

Should you move to Chiang Mai?

Thinking about moving to Chiang Mai? Read my thoughts on the pros and cons of living here.

Thinking about moving to Thailand but aren’t sure which city, town, or island to choose?

After living in this beautiful country for over 5 years, I’ve discovered that Chiang Mai-as busy and touristy as parts of it may be- is perhaps the best place for our family. We tried living in Bangkok for a month, and though there were wonderful networking opportunities and people we connected with, it was too busy for us. I practically had a panic attack everyday. It wasn’t the type of lifestyle we were used to, especially after having lived in Phuket for years.

And speaking of Phuket: as lovely as it is, it also wasn’t the best place for us. Since we homeschool, we need activities and a community of like-minded holistic families, and Phuket just doesn’t have it. That’s not to say there aren’t some like-minded young families there, but we personally haven’t met any! And we lived there for five years! The homeschool community was dispersed throughout the island, and there weren’t many of us. On top of that, island life was so laid-back that it was borderline impossible to get people to come over to our house or to even go out for lunch. We just didn’t make any close friends, until we met our two chef friends Than and Jack.

But Chiang Mai is a bit of both Bangkok and Phuket, mixed with its own unique Lanna culture. It’s a city, but it’s relaxed. And like in Phuket, the touristy parts are easy to avoid, if you know your way around the city and choose to perhaps live in Hang Dong, or Mae Rim.

The Plus Points of Living In Chiang Mai

There are numerous benefits to living in Chiang Mai. For starters, there are lots of schooling options for children, as well as other family-friendly activities. And if you also homeschool ( or unschool) your kids like we do, you’ll appreciate the fact that there are hundreds of homeschooling families up here.

If you’re looking to learn Thai or continue your education, you will probably love Chiang Mai University, which has a Thai studies department. I studied there for about three months and loved it!

Payap University offers undergraduate and graduate programs in English, and our friends that teach there ( or study there) really love it. It too offer Thai language classes, and I believe you can also get your TEFL cert.

Because of the number of schools and universities in Chiang Mai, you can most probably easily find work as an ESL teacher. Billy taught English in Phuket, and found his job by applying to an add in the local paper. We recommend you do the same, and also possibly research schools and actually visit them with your CV. The more proactive you are, the better your chances will be to find work.

Chiang Mai has lots of health conscious farang and Thais too. Mostly the former, but a growing number of the latter are delving into juicing and healthy eating. To meet this demand, there are dozens of vegan, vegetarian, and organic restaurants, stores, and food stalls. This makes it relatively easy to get the vitamins and such that you may need. We live right next to a wonderful juice bar that serves up a mean smoothie!

And if you want a more hi-so grocery store option, you will probably love Rimping, which has a variety of beer and cheese and other imported items, when the craving arises. It also stocks lots of gluten free baking products, although they are extremely expensive. We instead order from iHerb, which is also where we get our vitamins and things we can’t find locally.

Living in Chiang Mai is relatively affordable too, especially if you are outside of the city center. My friend is renting a brand new condo for about 200 dollars a month, and my neighbor’s Bali-style two bedroom house is 8000 baht per month.

If you happen to be Christian, you’ll find that there are many denominations up here in Chiang Mai, especially in comparison to Phuket. I’ve even bumped into Mennonites here! There are of course thousands of Buddhist temples here too, and other religious centers.

Should you move to Chiang Mai?

The Downside To Living In Chiang Mai

The stereotype of the drunk, obnoxious 20 year old backpacker that dons elephant pants everyday and wears a Chang beer tanktop exists for a reason. Granted, I have nothing against this type of person ( although I can’t stand the elephant pants uniform for tourists), but if they drive drunk or outnumber locals, it gets on my nerves.

If you are going to be working here, you may find the pay to be less than what you would get in Bangkok. My husband earned about 30K baht per month as an ESL teacher ( with years of experience) in Phuket, and I’m guessing the wage for teachers may be around that here in Chiang Mai. You can make more in BKK, or better yet, in Korea or Japan.

Immigration gets super busy, and depending on which visa you’re on and which immigration office you go to, you could end up waiting in line at 5AM so that you get your visa the same day. However, you can also now go to immigration at Promenada Mall to renew your tourist visa and several other types of visa. I go there to renew my ed visa from Hand to Hand Combat.

P.S. If you go to Hand to Hand Combat, tell them Elizabeth referred you! I don’t get a commission, I just told them I’d blog about their school. 😉

If you want to rent a car here, expect to pay 15000 to 20000 baht per month, unless you get a really good deal through a friend ( or just get lucky) and find a rental for 12K.

Another thing to consider ( that my friends have told me about) is you can get ‘faranged’ if you don’t speak Thai and are at a larger, more touristy market. Aka, you can end up paying more. Funny enough, I haven’t had this happen to me here because we live in Hang Dong and go to local markets, and I speak decent Thai.

The traffic into the city ( and within the city center around Maya) can get bad. Really bad. This is usually during the typical hours, aka when people are coming home from work or picking up their kids from school.

Pollution during the burning months is extremely bad, although I didn’t personally have much of a reaction to it and think the air quality was slightly better here in Hang Dong. Or at least, it was this past year. The pollution comes from a combination of farmers burning their old crops mixed with pollution from other parts of Asia. If you have asthma or a serious health condition, you should notify your doctor about it and get their opinion. Or, spend those months in a different part of the country.

Another potential downside is that while there are hundreds of homeschoolers here in Chiang Mai, I think you need to be pretty outgoing and determined to connect with them.

What do I mean by this? See, some come and go while others may be missionary kids who get together with other church members. While Kaya has many friends here ( her Bday party was off the hook!), the majority are not homeschoolers/unschoolers. They are Thais and expats who go to school locally.

We’ve bumped into many homeschooling kids but rarely see them, even after exchanging contact info.

Kaya and I are both outgoing, and it’s because of this that she and I have managed to make good friends here. I’ve met other people who haven’t had such luck, and if you are relying on meeting up with unschooling/home ed families on a regular basis, I would suggest being persistent on seeking them out and staying in touch. There is one meet up group in Chiang Mai that I know of, and it is religious but my friend inquired about sending his non-christian son there and apparently they were very open to it.

I would also suggest getting in touch with Grace School, which I’ve heard offers classes to homeschool kids. This school is also run by missionaries.

If you are feeling like Chiang Mai is the place for you and your family, read my free guide to living here for extra tips!

Do you live in Chiang Mai or are considering moving here? Let me know in the comments below!
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