HOW TO SET UP A TRIP WITH FRIENDS
Trip highlights: SANTIAGO - CHILE
How to plan the activities of your trip.
(eight friends - one destiny)
After having decided the destination, the challenge is to plan the activities. This challenge can become greater and more complex, depending on the number of people involved. The interests and the budget can become rather different. If you have children, then the difficulty of reaching a common agreement makes it almost a dream. Adjusting that multitude of goals can be very difficult and sometimes even impossible if the synergy of the group is not perfect. So, know how to choose the right company for each destination. In our case, the choice for this trip, could not have been better. Therefore, the highlight of this trip to Santiago in Chile, goes into planning the tours of a trip.
(Santiago - Cosmopolitan and Historic)
We knew well ahead of time, the friends who were going to travel with us, so we started to search for the best destination. In this case, we had airline mileage and the idea was to use them. Chile offered us the best deal at the time. Santiago is a beautiful city, accessible, romantic and famous for its wine. In addition, we had never been there. A friend who was with us had already visited it, but accepted the challenge to join us and live a very different experience, as she had previously been there with her husband but not with the kids. That was our challenge: to spend the holidays with children in Santiago, which, by the way, is very interesting for couples in love!
(A moment for us!)
If you need more reasons to run there, you should know that the American newspaper The New York Times put the city in the top 41 places to meet in 2011. Check out the link: (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/travel/09where-to-go.html?_r=0) Cool, isn't it?
One of the first things we decided was that we would spend a few days in Viña del Mar and would visit Valparaiso, which is nearby. I must admit that it was a right decision. These days by the sea, in a town that reminded us many of our Brazilian beach towns, was very good and fun! As good Brazilians, we wanted drink beer on the beach, but this is not allowed in Chile. The alternative was to buy bottles of piña colada and Morrito sold in supermarkets to carry in our bags ... Yes, we are really Brazilians! With all bad habits and qualities natural to this very special people. Although the Pacific water is ice-cold and that 7 out of 10 beaches are not suitable for swimming, we accepted the challenge. And, as we were talking and looking at that wonderful landscape, the kids were having fun playing ball on the sand and trying to get their legs wet, which was the most they could do in such icy water.
(Go in, if you dare)
We were a group of 3 adults and 4 children, all of them boys and we had a great time! Before going, we researched everything about what we could do with the kids there ... and we did it all! Some tours had been decided beforehand, without much thought as they were already a personal decision. My friend wanted to go to a specific winery and I wanted to go to Laguna del Inca in Portillo. One good thing to do is always alter tours that would interest adults and ones interesting to children. So we could enjoy everything without anyone getting stressed. When we deal out the interests, everybody can enjoy and learn to wait for their turn to have fun. And sometimes it happened that we liked the other people selection of an activity more than ours. So this variation of interests as well as being very educational for children, allows us to have experiences outside of our interests and that can be really cool and incredible.
Well, with the destination and company decided, I recommend the following for choosing the local activities:
- Read all about the place you will stay at and if you are going with children, read about the experiences of others who travelled with them. Read travel magazines, Internet sites, TripAdvisor, our Weblog, etc. Really study the place! I confess that for me, the best choice and the right one until now, has been the reading of the travel blogs. They bring specific details that no agency will tell you, although most blogs out there are for couples and backpackers. That's why we created ours, to help people deciding activities, the same way many others helped us, besides allowing us to bring out experiences with children, that is hardly ever published, especially in tours not intended specifically to family with children.
- First, decide those tours that are keen to everybody and consider at least one choice from every traveler. Usually when we think of a destination, we have already in mind what we would like to visit there. It would be very frustrating not meet that dream.
(Tasting a Pinot Noir at a winery)
(Enjoying the scenery in Laguna del Inca in Portillo)
- Write down all your travel dates and start planning daily every activity, to see what you can do. Not that you have to follow that exactly as planned, but it will help you adjust your time.
- Search on the Internet the exchange rate and prices of tours. Check out the Blogs whether you should buy it on-line in advance or do it with local agencies. This can vary a lot. Try to adjust your spending to the budget you have.
(Having fun with the kids: Buin Zoo and Fantasilandia)
- Check out the suggestions of days you should spend on each city, but do not rely blindly on those guidelines. Use them as reference only. Be careful not to schedule too much for the same day. Make sure to reserve appropriate time to spend in each place and your disposition for each tour. Always increase the time, if it is your first choice. If it is in different cities, before risking a one day trip, check the mileage on Google Maps to see if it is possible and feasible. Sometimes it is cheaper and more interesting to spend a day in a hotel, only for sleeping.
- Study all possibilities to move around. On this trip, we went to Viña del Mar in a Van (we negotiated with the driver at the airport. Make sure you bargain the price. It will reduce a lot) to Valparaiso (by bus on our own), to Portillo and the winery in a Van (rented in a local agency. Check the prices around because there is a great deal of difference among the agencies) and all other sightseeings we took the bus and used their good subway system. It is very easy to get around in Chile, but beware! There are many pickpockets in town. They tried to rob my husband on the bus from Valpariso to Viña. They just forgot to check the kind of tourists we were. And, as Brazilians, we are always considering the possibility of such situations. That keep us on alert mode all the time. My husband grabbed his arm, the driver stopped and the robber was knocked to the ground. He dropped the wallet and ran away. Only after receiving some good punches, of course. It was a shock! But later on, we all laughed at the situation ... the poor man got more scared than us. We emphasize: do not try to rob a Brazilian! We know how to defend ourselves. It's a matter of survival in Brazil ... lol ... Anyhow, it was an important lesson for the children. We had a chance to talk about the situation we had experienced.
(Bus or Subway? It doesn't matter. Just go)
- If you have children in the group, always include activities for them. If their preferences are included during the negotiation of the activities, it will make it easier for them to learn how to give in and accept that everybody in the group has to be happy during the trip, not only them.
(Interactive Museum - Didactic fun)
- Review the route from one place to another and check if you can do it on foot. That way you walk around town and can appreciate the architecture and the people better. Sometimes we come across wonderful or unusual places that are not on our plans because they are not famous.
(Santiago - Unique architecture)
- Every trip abroad involves spending a lot of money, so we can't simply give up on something specific just because someone in the group will not do such activity. This idea of "we are together and we will do everything together", works fine only when we are in our city. If necessary, make separate trips, but this should be decided beforehand in order not to cause hurt feelings to the group. Of course, when the group is in the same vibe, that hardly ever occurs, but for example, suppose your kids are boys and your friends' are girls, there will come a moment when the activities will be different. You do not have to pay extra to take your boy to watch a Barbie show, or your daughter to play football unless they really like that. In case you do something apart during the day, set up a nice dinner to bring the group back together at night. It works very well!
(Giratorio "revolving" Restaurant - Time to watch a soccer match)
- Investigate what the local people like to do during their free time and try to join in this experience. It is fantastic to see the cultural differences of each place. And it is a great learning experience.
This trip was surprising for me. I was not expecting it to be very nice, especially because we were traveling with children. I was afraid for them. However, it was wonderful! We came away feeling that we should have stayed longer and it made us want to go back to other places in Chile. Every destination may surprise you positively or negatively, but the planning of the activities and good company will contribute a lot in both cases, of course!
(On the way to Portillo. We want more!)