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Traveling

The Family Travels Through Thailand

In our last article, we left off right after our month-stay in Chaing Mai. Since then, we have spent a month in the south of Thailand, stopping in Koh Lanta, Ao Nang, Krabi, and Phuket before flying back to Bangkok to catch our flight to Japan.

 

Traveling to Koh Lanta

Our first stop in southern Thailand was Koh Lanta, a family-friendly, peaceful, island located less than 2 hours away from the nearest airport in Krabi. We flew from Chiang Mai to Krabi airport on Air Asia, a budget airline. Both the service and experience was excellent. Everything you could expect from an international airline, but for a tenth of the price.

To book the flights, we used a few travel-dollars we have received to apply to credit cards and flew for free. Once we landed, we charted a private transport to Koh Lanta. We had booked a car but they sent us a minivan with plenty of legroom so that was a plus!

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where to go in thailand with a familyOnce we got to the island, we stayed for a week at the Tamarind Twin Resort. The hotel was pretty good for what they charge. We paid only $30 per night, again, booked through credit card travel credits.

It was a very large room, modern, clean, and the walk to the beach only took a minute or two. The pool was great and the beach (Long Beach) was very clean. Our baby had a ton of fun in the sand and playing in the ocean.

The highlight of Koh Lanta was definitively the beach. The water was clear and the sand was smooth. The sunsets were breathtaking and seemed to last forever.

On our second week on the island, we stayed at the Riviera Boutique House. Overall, that was the best budget hotel we stayed at. The service was excellent, our host was very helpful. We rented a scooter one day and drove around the island to the old town, we chilled on the beach, enjoyed the pool.

Our last stay in Koh Lanta was at The Thai House Resort. We had reserved a bungalow without AC but once we got there, we quickly realized how hot it got. Not only was it hot but too stuffy. The bamboo bungalow was very basic, had a tiny window, and a general feeling of ugliness.

Only a few hours after checking in, we asked the owner for another option. She asked double the rate for a modern concrete bungalow with AC ($60). That is pretty much the going rate for beach-front bungalows in the region but it meant we had to spend way more for our stay (and could not pay that extra charge with credit card points). After a little negotiation, we were able to get upgraded to a beautiful bungalow for only $4 more per day.  That made all the difference!

 

How is it to live in a small hotel roomwhere to stay in thailand with a family

 

We enjoyed our three weeks in Koh Lanta but there were a few things that slightly annoyed us.

  • The food options were very limited. There were a ton of restaurants but all serving the same tourist menu. Whenever we see restaurants with a hundred-item menu, (pizza, pasta, Thai food, hamburgers, seafood, fish…) we avoid them. Finding some good, local, restaurants was a challenge and we had to walk around a bit before finding something.
  • Access was not the easiest. Even if this island has a ferry, the drive from the closest airport took us about an hour and a half and cost $100 for a private transfer. This might not sound like much but it is huge for Thailand.
  • The Infrcture was laking. Internet was slow and, water being sparse, the showers had very low pressure.

 

On the plus side, however,

  • At the three spots we stayed, the beach was amazing. The sand was nice, the waves were not too big, and the water was sparkling blue. We did not see any trash in the ocean, nor on the beach.
  • Boat activity was minimal. The island is fairly quiet and peaceful for that reason.
  • Hotels are reasonably priced and, for the most part, well maintained. Everywhere we stayed was around the $30 per night mark. We always booked walking distance from the beach since a minute walk really does not bother us but basic beachfront bungalows go for about $60-$100 per night.
  • The island is very colorful and offers tons of natural beauty to admire. We highly suggest renting a scooter and exploring a bit in-land. We only paid $8 per day for ours.

 

Our stay in Ao Nang

After three weeks in Koh Lanta, we booked a private transfer to Ao Nang. Once again, we booked a sedan car but got a nice, big, minivan. This time, we got luxury leather seats with plenty of legroom. As for hotels, we booked 8 nights at the Ibis with points from our RBC credit cards and got the whole $65-per-night stay for free. The hotel was super nice, clean, offered a nice pool area, and a great breakfast selection.

It can get weird to raise our kid without support or activities. Being so far from family can get hard but nice resort-style hotels like this one are great to get distracted a bit. We hung out by the pool, let her play, and enjoyed the sun.

By then, after months of traveling, we definitively started to miss family. Especially with a newborn, having that support would be nice. We are always by ourselves, only us three, and it even if we are never bored, we do feel a small void.

Another thing we really start to feel is the closeness. We have been living in small hotel rooms for months and it does have it’s downsides. When our baby is taking a nap, for example, it is really hard to stay silent without a living room or office space. Even typing on the computer can wake her up sometimes.

 

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From Ao Nang, we visited Phra Nang Cave Beach by longtail boat. It was a fun adventure. The boat ride only takes about 15 minutes and cost $8 round-trip. From there, we visited a small cave and admired rock climbers conquering the flank. It was an easy day-trip, even with a baby.

 

raley beach trip with a baby

 

where to stay in thailand with a family

Another fun activity accessible from the beach in Ao Nang is the Monkey Trail. This free trail crosses to the national park around the mountain. It was pretty well maintained and easily accessible; simply walk until the end of the beach and start climbing up the stairs.

Unfortunately, we did not see any monkeys. It was still nice to see the jungle and the quiet beach on the other side of the mountain.

 

where to go in thailand with a family

 

A quick stop in Krabi

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After months of slow travel through Thailand, we finally did a quick, 3-day, stop in the town of Krabi. This was a nice stop after the month of beach life. We took another private transfer to get there, another $100, but this time actually got the car we booked.

Traveling by land was a big plus with an infant. Even for the island, we were in a van and took a ferry. It was so much easier than taking boats all the time.

Originally, we had planned to visit 2 or 3 islands by boat but after consideration, we rebooked our hotels to stay car-accessible the whole way.

 

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We visited a nice weekend market, explored the town, and walked through the mangroves.

It was nice to come back to a city after spending so much time at the beach. The restaurant scene was much better and the liveliness of it all was refreshing. With now much better options to choose from, we finally ate amazing food again.what route to travel thailandhow to travel thailand cheap

 

Traveling in luxury in Phuket

The next stop on our Thailand trip was the island of Phuket. Again, we used a private car transfer to get to our next hotel and got to the Marriott Resort and Spa, Nai Yang Beach bright and early.

We paid for the room with rewards points so it did not cost us anything. In addition, we got upgraded to an ocean-front Villa since we are platinum members with Marriott. Throughout all of our travels, this has to be the most luxurious hotel we stayed at. Our villa had amazing decor, a private pool, and a crazy ocean-view.

The resort was beautiful. They offered watersports, amazing restaurants, and a very relaxing atmosphere to end our stay in Thailand.

 

family trip to thailand marriott in thailand on rewards

 

The service was simply breathtaking. One new thing we never experienced before was turndown service. Every evening. the maids would come to prepare the bed for use, change our towels, set our slippers on the side of the bed, and leave us a little thought on the pillow with fresh flowers.

It was completely over-the-top and no one actually needs this service but it was a nice touch.

 

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Last stop in Thailand: Bangkok

Finally, our last stop before flying out was Bangkok. We stayed 3 nights at the very nice Marriott Marquis, again, paid with points. Once more, they upgraded us. This time to a suite on the 32nd floor.

The view was amazing. the hotel was wonderfully done and the service was outstanding.

 

bangkok hotel marriott marquis

 

The highlight of this property was definitively its breakfast buffet. The ginormous selection was breathtaking and the quality exceptional. They have an Asian section, juice bar, Western section, salad bar, cereal bar, and a never-ending selection of food.

We also tried 3 of their ten restaurants and were very impressed. The service was outstanding and everything we had was delicious.

 

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Their business lounge was also very nice. It offered great views of the city from the 27th floor and the outdoor terrasse was also a nice touch.

The food was good, however, alcohol was only served from 5:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. On the plus side, they did offer a full-service bar so we ordered a few cocktails. Most lounges usually only offer self-serve.

 

bangkok hotel lounge for free

 

The suite was very nice and elegantly decorated. We had a huge bathroom with a rain shower, full bath, and marble finishes. We finally got the luxury of hanging out in the living room when Baby was sleeping since the bedroom door could be shut close.

 

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All-in-all, we had a great time in Thailand and after 69 days, we finally flew out to Japan.  Thailand was so welcoming. Especially with a baby, they were all so smiley and happy. They LOVE babies. Some restaurants, we had 5 or 6 waitresses hovering around her and entertaining her! They just go crazy for them.

In contrast, Tokyoites were pretty straight-faced. But that is another story for another post.

Cheers, Mr. Mrs, and Baby Xyz.

 

 

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Traveling

6 Day Trip in Austria with an Infant

How is the Four Points by Sheraton Dornbirn

Last week, we took a train from Switzerland to Austria. Of all places, we decided to stay in Dornbirn, a small city near the German and Swiss border. It is actually the tenth largest in Austria. Since we travel Europe with an infant, we did not want to ride a train for too long and kept things simple.

The train ride took about 4 hours, including a transfer in Zurich. Baby found the ride a bit annoying by the end but still had a blast once at the hotel.

The only reason why we discovered this city is that there was an SPG hotel sweet spot! Since we are using reward points for almost all of this trip, we looked at the Marriott and SPG hotel maps to find the best redemptions in Europe.

Those sweet spots can make the difference between spending a week at a hotel for free or spending the whole month traveling for the same price (in points).

 

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Four Points by Sheraton Dornbirn Rooms

 

We stayed 6 days at the Four Points by Sheraton Panoramahaus Dornbirn for a total redemption of 35,000 SPG points. This stay would have cost $180 per night, deeming the total value to be over 3¢ per point. All of that thanks to the SPG credit card!

 

$1080 Saved on hotels  ÷  35,000 points redeemed  =  $0.03086 per point

 

With our status with Marriott, we got upgraded to a room on the last floor, with a view of the mountains. We also got a little welcome gift, fresh macarons, which was nice. 🙂

Out of all the hotels we stayed at, this has to be the nicest gym/spa area we ever saw. Not only does it have beautiful views of the mountains, but it was humongous! The gym spans over 2 whole floors, offering every single piece of equipment imaginable, classes, and an outdoor patio to exercise in style. It is centrally located, near the bus line, a mall, and restaurants so we never had any troubles getting around.

 

Hotel in Dornbirn

 

Family vacation in Dornbirn

With a whole other floor dedicated to the indoor pool and spa area, the outdoor pool offers panoramic views and the perfect spot for Baby to nap.

The spa area, which includes a female only and mixed section, offers dry saunas, infrared saunas, steam rooms, relaxation areas, and showers. There is something for every taste.

All-in-all, we were very pleased with this hotel and really enjoyed their facilities.

It was nice to be able to relax there when spent all day walking around.

 

Four Points by Sheraton Dornbirn Review

 

Traveling in DornbirnWe started by exploring the city on foot, walking around the historic neighborhoods. To be honest, though, we did more poolside than exploring on our first day. It was just too easy to lay down and relax!

Restaurant-wise, Austria is pretty affordable. Especially compared to Switzerland.

We were able to eat out for less than $10 per person at every meal. The drinks were very affordable too and groceries were even more. Between the food we made ourselves and the restaurants, we never spent more than $20 per person, per day.

After two days in Dornbirn, we decided to rent a car to enjoy Austria and explore a bit. We searched for tours and, since most guides publish their whole itinerary online, copied their route.

Wherever you are traveling, looking at some tour guide’s itineraries online is a great way to find the scenic routes and explore some country without breaking the bank. Instead of paying $150+ per person for a tour, we simply rented a car for $50 and drove to the exact same spots.

 

roadtrip in Europe with an infant

 

We rented a small Ford Fiesta from Hertz for $50 and drove a few hours around the region. We drove up crazy mountains, the roads were insane! The driving felt surreal, it was like a Gran Turismo. From left to right, up and down, we drove slowly but surely.

Dornbirn Road Trip

If we zoom in the map, you will see exactly what we had the pleasure of driving through. These Alpine roads are super narrow, windy, and fun to drive on! It was an experience we just could not miss.

Unfortunately, we cannot drive for much longer than four hours before Baby gets cranky so we now keep our road trips fairly short and stop often along the way.

 

What to do in Dornbirn
Roadtrip from Dornbirn

 

After slightly less than two hours on the road, we stopped for lunch in Lech, a super nice ski town up in the Alps. We walked over a 400-year old bridge, ate our sandwiches, drank beers, and headed home.

On this trip, we stopped in Schwarzenberg, Lech, and Burserberg before driving back to the hotel. The views were fantastic and we highly recommend the drive.

 

Dornbirn travels

 

On the next day, we visited the city right beside Dornbirn; Bregenz. This quaint lake-front town was an easy day trip, only a few minutes by train from Dornbirn.

It was fun to see the history and the grandness of the buildings. There is something quite magical to multi-century-old constructions. Just to think that some building was build 400, 700, 800 years ago is revealing. The oldest building we found so far was a 1,200 years-old church which was renovated 800 years ago. Pretty impressive.

It makes us think about the whole construction industry today. It is nearly impossible to find a good-quality condo builder nowadays. Most construction will start falling apart right after the warranty runs out!

 

Things to do in Dornbirn Austria

 

travel with an infant in Austria

On top of that, our other days were filled with poolside fun, relaxing spa time, and walks around town.

Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Austria. Everyone we encountered spoke a little English and was more than happy to help. Public transport was clean, efficient, and cheap. Restaurants were delicious and cheap. Finally, the country-side was simply breath-taking!

Austria definitively makes it on the list of countries we would love to visit again.

Now, we are off to one of our favorite. A country that will always be on the list of revisits; Italy.

 

Arrivederci,

Mr. and Mrs. Xyz

 

 

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Traveling

Traveling in Switzerland with our Family

Continuing our trip around the world, we have now journeyed to Switzerland. Traveling with an infant can be hard but, thankfully, we planned things right and our trip is going pretty smoothly (for now).

The best is to stick to direct flights and to keep Baby entertained or asleep. We also noticed some moms traveling with their baby carrier on the plane. That seems to be a good idea to walk down the aisle when your little one is too fussy.

We flew in overnight, leaving Canada at 4 P.M. and arriving in Zurich at 6 A.M. after a 7h flight. Then, we hopped on a train to Frutigen to explore the countryside.

Here, everything is expensive! The 2h train was over $100 per person, and that was in a regular commuter train, nothing fancy.

I hope the locals get better prices when buying monthly passes, otherwise, this commuting thing makes no sense. We are all for public transports but at these prices, I am very surprised to see the trains full. Not many seem to drive but, even with the higher gas prices, the highway taxes, and Euro taxes, driving that same distance seems to cost no more than $50. In Canada, public transports are subsidized and they are still fairly unpopular compared to the beloved car!

 

Zurich family travel

 

In Frutigen, we rented a super nice studio on Airbnb. The kitchen really helps save on meals and the view is simply breathtaking! For only $100 per day, this was a steal!

 

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traveling with an infant

From our studio, we can see the whole town, the fields, and the mountains. It is truly exceptional to see the grandness of all this. The mountains are so high that there is snow near the top while we are down here wearing t-shirts and shorts.

The town is nice and peaceful, not much traffic. Not a lot of tourists either.

Although everything is expensive over here, we do our best to cut down on things we value least. For example, we enjoy eating out and tasting the local cuisines but we are traveling for another 4 months so there will be plenty of other occasions to eat out.

In addition, this is the only Airbnb we booked until mid-October. We will be staying in kitchenless Marriott hotels for the following weeks so we took the occasion to cook our own meals.

For this week, we bought groceries and will enjoy our little kitchen. Most restaurants are in the $25-$35 per person range but we were able to buy enough food for the week for about $70, the price of one single outing. So far, we cooked some delicious chicken, made sandwiches, ate swiss cheeses and sausages… Even without an oven, we were able to make pretty good pizzas on the stove-top.

 

Saving on food while traveling

 

It has been only 3 days we are in Switzerland and since we are traveling with an infant we are taking things slow. We took the first day to catch up the 6h time difference, slept a lot, did groceries, and stayed in. Everything takes more time when you are traveling with a baby! 🙂

On day two, we visited Oeschinen Lake. Once again, the prices shocked us. The 10-minute train ride cost $20 per person and the short gondola ride was over $25. The very next day we noticed that we could have taken the bus there for free but I guess that is just the way it is when you are traveling in an unknown country. You cannot know everything and optimize every cent when you cannot even speak the language.

At least, the views were amazing and the mountain-top lake was breathtaking.

 

traveling with a baby

traveling with toddlers

 

After a short gondola ride up, we had to hike about half an hour down to the lake-side. Most of the path was gravel but it was not really stroller-friendly.

About 20 minutes in, a little restaurant sat on the hill overlooking the lake. From there, we left the stroller and used our baby carrier to walk down the steep trail down to the lake. It was way easier this way but it got pretty hot having her so close to us.

 

travel with a baby

 

Once at the lake, we dipped our feet in, the water was surprisingly warm for a maintain lake. The trees, water, and huge mountains in the background were truly picturesque.

 

 

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flying with a babyair travel with a baby

 

The walk back seemed to take forever and the air was hot and steamy but everything ended on a perfect note. We took the train, walked back up the long long hill to our Airbnb, and enjoyed the view.

 

around the world with babyBaby Xyz enjoying the grand scenic view.

 

On day three, the sky had turned and the beautiful sunshine had vanished. Looking at the weather report, we knew we could not go too far. The rain was imminent. Since we are traveling with a baby, we did not take any chances and wanted to stay dry.

 

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baby travel tips

Just beside our Airbnb, we walked a country road going up in the mountain. Walking parallel to the mountainous cow pasture on one side, and a small river to the other. We got up to a series of dams, holding the riverbed, and ate our sandwiches sitting on the grass.

Once back home, after only two hours or so of walking, the rain started pouring only minutes after we entered our studio. We took it slow and watched a movie instead of adventuring out into the rain. Sometimes, a slow day is just what we need.

 

It has only been three days since we landed in Switzerland but so far, we are really enjoying our trip. Traveling with an infant was scary at first but I think we manage pretty good so far. 🙂 Stay in touch for our next update once we are in Austria, we will be posting roughly every week with some more pictures and more adventures.

Cheers,

Mr., Mrs., and Baby Xyz.