Our African Safari- Seeing the Big 5

Omg, you guys! I can’t even believe I’m writing this post. As long as I can remember I’ve dreamed about visiting Africa and going on Safari. It’s always sounded like the ultimate in adventure. The downside for me has always been that I’m not much into camping, dirt, or bugs. I’m outdoorsy in that I like to take my glass of wine to the patio occasionally. If it’s not too buggy out that is. So the fact that I took the boys on a two day Safari in South Africa blows my mind in a whole pile of directions.

WARNING: Photo heavy because, you know, SAFARI!!!

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It started with a load of research and planning since I’m anxious, ummm, I mean thorough like that. We explored a few possibilities online and finally chose Aquila after some back and forth live chatting to answer all my questions. Such important things like… Would I be eaten by a lion? Where are we sleeping? Does it have to involve a tent? Is there wine?

Here’s how it all went down.



We chose to drive ourselves there to save some cash and I wanted to actually get used to driving on the left on the highways. It was a gorgeous drive from our place outside of Cape Town and took almost 2 hours through the beautiful mountains and vineyards of South Africa. We came across shephards and flocks and a bunch of baboons roaming the highway. With a heck ton of warning signs about said baboons. Apparently, they can be real little dicks.

We arrived around noon on Saturday and were welcomed with champagne and drinks before hitting up the tasty buffet for lunch.

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Once lunch was finished we were able to grab our keys to check in to our cottage which had one huge bed and the cot I asked for. Unfortunately, I forgot the language issue and remembered that cot actually means crib in South Africa. After the boys fought over who would be sleeping in the playpen/travel cot we agreed that the king size bed was big enough to share. The cottage was gorgeous and well stocked!

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

 

There is a lovely bathroom with a huge soaker tub and and an outdoor rock shower!

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

 

Our first safari left around 4PM and we stayed out until after the sun set. We were able to see all of the big 5 with the exception of the lions who had gone to sleep early and couldn’t be located. The guide was amazing in sharing his knowledge and engaging all of us to learn about the reserve and the habits of the animals who lived here.

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017



If you’re not aware, South Africa is in the worst drought in recorded history. This is all that’s left of the watering hole that really should be the size of a lake. It’s seriously frightening and has changed the way we use water both in Africa and even since we’ve come home.

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017
Zebras!

I have a fondness for these wildebeests because they are just so humorous looking. Also, one was pretending to be an ostrich and making ostrich like noises at the ostriches near him. I always like the weird ones.

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

 

Just prior to the end of our first safari, we stopped for champagne and some snacks. Mmm….tasty, tasty.  If you happen to be in South Africa, please send biltong! I’m in withdrawal.

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017
Everyone should have champagne on a safari

 

I have like a thousand pictures of the boys and the animals and just one of the three of us together because of the kindness of our fellow safari goers.

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

 

Despite being exhausted, we enjoyed a great dinner at the buffet once again and I slurped a few glasses of South African pinotage, which is pretty much the best red wine in the world. No exaggeration. It’s like creamy buttery wine or something.

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017
Source: Aquila Safari

We headed back to our cottage to find that someone had been by to turn on the heater and to leave hot water bottles at the bottom of our bed. How delightful to be able to go to bed with warm feet on a cold night!

The boys insisted that they would happily wake up for the early morning Safari which was meeting at 6:45 am. I wasn’t so sure about that but we actually pulled it off. Hot drinks and snacks were waiting for us while the guides loaded the jeeps with blankets and got things ready.

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

 

It was really cold before the sun came up so we cuddled together. It’s kind of rare to get the boys to sit still or for my face to actually take a good photo let alone a selfie but we did! And we mostly look like normal people.

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

 

We did manage to see the lions who had just come out to greet the sun. In my excitement, I forgot to get close ups. Also it was freezing and my hands were a little chilly. It was winter in South Africa and all.

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

 

Back to the lodge for breakfast and some free time before our noon check out. As it happened, I was taking yet another picture of the boys before I noticed the elephants behind them in our “backyard.” So freaking cool!

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017
Can you spot him?

 

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017
One of several pools

 

DETAILS

Aquila Safari–         Touws River, Western Cape, South Africa

COST-   R3295.  Which translates to around $329 CAD or $249 USD  (Seriously, our money went really far!)

INCLUDED-    Full access to all facilities, one night in a standard luxury cottage, lunch, dinner, breakfast, two safaris (with guide), free parking

NOT INCLUDED-    Beverages (welcome drinks and picnic beverages supplied), Souvenirs

African safari || Aquila || single mom travel ideas || traveling with kids || Africa with kids || summer travel ideas || 24cottonwoodlane.com #summertravel2017

 

PS. This is not a sponsored post however, we did receive a discounted accommodation allowing Aiden to travel and stay free. There were no expectations of a review or any further negotiations between me and Aquila. We’re just very happy with our experience and the discount was very kind. See our full disclosure policy HERE. As a single parent this was huge since you’re almost always paying full adult prices for you and your kiddos.

Is an African Safari on  your bucket list?




Summer Travel Deals

You may have heard that we like to travel. No surprises there since I’m writing this post from South Africa where we’ve spent the last 5 weeks before heading on to Amsterdam in a few days. So it’s no surprise either that my email inbox is full of travel deals and inspiration. I subscribe to pretty much anything that will help me catch a plane, train, or bus to somewhere else.

Viator has been my go to resource this summer as we plan our trips and decide which outings and adventures we want to take advantage of in the two continents we’ve been exploring. I used them extensively in Paris to book tours and have done so in Cape Town as well. And I’ve no doubt I’ll be hitting them up again when we get to Amsterdam later this week.

So when I found my inbox full of summer deals, I thought I’d better pass those deals on.  And just so we’re clear, this is NOT a sponsored post although I have included affiliate links. I just really liked dealing with Viator this past summer and wanted to share what we learned and what’s on sale. I do get a small commission if you purchase a tour or link which helps me feed at least one kid. The other won’t really eat anything. Except the occasional nutella crepe in France.

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TOURS AND TRIP DEALS

We love taking the Hop on Hop Off buses in just about any city we can find them. It’s a great way to see the city and you can literally hop on and hop off for one price for 2 or 3 days depending on where you are.

We used the Hop On in Paris and in Cape Town, even though we had a car here. It’s a great way to see the entire city and decide where you’d like to stop. And of course, I was excited to see that the same bus tour happens to roll through Amsterdam so we’ll be hopping on and off a lot more this weekend!

And Paris happens to be on sale for the rest of the summer!


City Sightseeing Paris Hop-On Hop-Off Tour – $37.71

from: Viator

Cape Town is so ridiculously beautiful that it’s hard to concentrate when you’re driving. Particularly when you’re driving on the left which proved to be a bit challenging in the beginning. I still make turns so slowly, muttering “easy left, far right” that other drivers get impatient and honk at me. Which is why we loved spending two days exploring by bus. Also, I got to sample lots of local wine. Yum.

cape town || traveling with kids || south africa tour ideas || summer travel ideas || family travel ideas || single parent travels Cape Town Tour

 

Viator also has the New York City Tours on sale for 30% off, so if you’re heading that way you can see the city and save your money for the important things. Like eating. Nom nom nom. Book by July 31 2017 to save 30% off their previously offered price on 24-hour Downtown, Uptown, Brooklyn or Bronx Loop! We took that bus tour the last two times we were in New York and it was super easy to find our way around.

Love Game of Thrones? I mean, who doesn’t really. Viator has their Game of Thrones tours on sale throughout Europe wherever the show is filmed. Sign me up!

 

game of thrones || game of thrones site tours || summer travel ideas ||

 

Still looking for ideas? Here’s the rest of the Viator sale that was delivered to my inbox this morning!

NEW TOP 5 DEALS

Save 30%! New York City 24-Hour Hop-on Hop-off Tour – Expires 07/31/2017

Save 27%! Comprehensive City Tour of Miami – Expires 10/09/2017

Save 20%! Historical Paris Sightseeing Tour Including Notre Dame Cathedral – Expires 09/09/2017

Save 19%! SeaWorld® San Antonio – Expires 08/04/2017

Save 15%! Hoot and Hoover Dam Tour – Expires 08/09/2017

VIATOR’S TOP TRENDING CITIES AND SALES

Save up to 40% off tours and activities in Las Vegas

Save up to 40% off tours and activities in London

Save up to 40% off tours and activities in Rome

Save up to 40% on tours & activities in Paris

Save up to 40% on tours & activities in New York

 

Started packing yet? Where are you heading this summer?

 

 

Traveling with Kids. Why You Should Go For It.

As someone who’s had the blessing of two sets of children in two distinct phases in my life, I wanted to share a few thoughts about why traveling with kids is a pretty great idea. In fact, if travel is in your soul then you’re going to want to find a way to make it happen, even if you think that having children means your travel plans have been shelved. Here’s why.

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I had my first set of children fairly young, during my early to mid twenties, when time and money were in short supply. I was building my career and raising a young family. Who had time to travel? Not this girl. And I sure as heck didn’t have the money. When the girls got a bit older, I made it a point to start taking a vacation each year because travel had always been on my bucket list. We started small by renting a cottage a few hours from home for a week each summer. When that worked well, I added a second week. And then we started camping because we couldn’t afford much more and I still wanted us to get away on the weekends.

When the girls were a bit older, I made the time and saved the cash to take road trips to Florida, South Carolina, and other southern destinations that took us out of the suburban Canadian world we lived in. We even flew to an all inclusive Jamaican resort one year where I had the opportunity to learn that I don’t like all inclusive resorts. Not as adventurous as I wanted to be but at least we got out there. And those trips were amazing even when the girls drove me nuts. Because they were teens by then and they drove everyone nuts.

Thinking about traveling with kids. Here's why you should.

Once they grew up and didn’t want to go anywhere with me anymore I continued to travel by myself. And then I suddenly became a parent again in my mid-forties to two tiny little boys born 12 months apart. I cried a lot because I was afraid life was going to go back to the same mind-numbing way I had been living when my first set of kids were younger. Until one day I decided that I wouldn’t let that happen.

So we traveled. Always by car for the first couple of years so I could feel somewhat in control (ha!) and always around my work schedule. By the time the boys were 3 and 4 they had been to Florida 4 times, hung out in downtown Nashville on a Friday night, been on a pirate ship in the Gulf of Mexico (twice), and spent every weekend one summer camping in a glamper on the shoreline of Lake Erie. Still pretty safe and predictable but I liked the fact that we were getting out there.

Since then we’ve been back and forth to South Carolina, to Cuba twice, and we’re currently planning to spend the summer in Europe and South Africa where the boys will turn 5 and 6,

There were meltdowns and tantrums and all sorts of chaos. And I know there will be lots more to come. One kid forgot to get off the elevator after the doors closed. The same kid cut his face and blackened an eye in Alabama. The youngest fell asleep standing up in an elevator after a particularly late dinner one evening. By late, I mean dinner ended at 9:30 pm. He’s a good sleeper and enjoys going to bed. Bless him.

traveling with kids, single parent travel, summer travel 2017,
This is Aiden eating alligator sausage. 3 years later and he only eats PB&J sandwiches.

But we mostly laughed, spent time together on purpose (as opposed to just existing in the house at the same time), and enjoyed ourselves tremendously. On our last trip to Florida, I had the luxury of three weeks which means there’s a whole lot less pressure to do everything in a week before rushing back home so I let the rule book fade away. One day we hit up a beach bar right on the Gulf coast where I ordered a daiquiri at lunch, we ate whatever we wanted without worrying about nutrition, and I let the boys dance to eighties rock music out on the dance floor. I use the term “dance” kind of loosely here. Best day ever. We made friends everywhere we went, not just because the boys were cute, but because people love kids. Even wait staff in the most obvious tourist places who were exhausted with people loved to hang out and chat because of those little boys.

Then there was the time in Panama City Beach two years ago, where Liam told all the young ladies his name was Ricky Bobby and became the most popular guy at spring break. Even Aiden, who had some serious shyness issues back then, waltzed off into the deep end with his date that day without looking back. Best half hour of free babysitting of my life. I actually closed my eyes for a few minutes that March afternoon and just relaxed.

Why you should travel with kids.

I learned something on those trips. Kids are the ultimate people connector. Even the hotel/condo staff or most aloof server, cracked wide open when the boys showed up. They wanted to chat about their own kids, or their relatives kids, and I got to know people in a very different way than when I traveled with adults. Kids, I realized, are your ticket into the local culture and for someone who’s kind of shy and introverted, they’re a ticket to conversation and immediate camaraderie. Which is pretty cool when you’re socially awkward and introverted like I am.

Before Liam was born, I went to Hawaii on a solo vacation. I think I spent that entire week in Oahu with my head buried in a book and not speaking to anyone because of that whole shy/introvert thing. And in doing so, I lost a huge opportunity to connect with local people.

summer travel 2017 || traveling with kids || hawaii || waikiki

Assuming they would have me since that tourist thing is huge in Hawaii and all. But kids are never going to allow you to bury your head in a book and ignore what’s going on around you. Everyone wants to chat to the boys, and by extension, to their mom. Sweet. Mostly. Because, shyness, and all.

Everyone has choices and there a lot of them to be made once you have kids. Should I take that job even though it’s farther from home? What car should we buy? Do we need a minivan now? Breast or bottle? (Although that’s thankfully off the table when you’re not the bio-mom!)  Soccer or baseball? Girl scouts or ballet? Buy a bigger house or travel more? I’d rather the questions in life be more along the lines of Bali or Thailand?

If you’re at all interested in travel and worried that it can’t be done with kids, stop freaking out and go do it! The older they get, the harder it gets. Do it before the kids lose interest because they will and that’s going to suck. Or before they need to be entertained all the time and don’t know how to just enjoy being somewhere different. Because kids do that.

Why you should travel with young children

Have you successfully traveled with young children? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment below or email me at Jenna@24cottonwoodlane.com and share your story.

Summer Travel Series 2017

It’s June and you know what that means? It’s time to talk summer vacation and all things related to traveling with kids. Because let’s face it. Your standard for what makes a great vacation on a girls trip is probably a little different than what you’re hoping for when you travel with kids.

summer travel 2017, travel ideas for families, single parent travel

I have loved to travel as long as I can remember which is one of the reasons I struggled at the thought of raising another set of children after my older girls were grown. As a single parent, no less. I was always looking forward to having grandchildren some day. You know, to play with them and do fun things. I didn’t actually have plans to raise them but here we are.

And if I’m going to see the world, I’d better get on it which means the boys are coming along. Cuz I ain’t getting any younger or any less high maintenance as I age. The amount of money I spend on high thread count sheets is pretty ridiculous, just as one teeny tiny example. Along with the number of hours it takes me to actually fall asleep these days, but I digress.

We’ve had great success most of the time in our travels since these fellows came along. We’ve made numerous road trips to Florida, starting when Liam was just 2 months of age. We actually managed to spend the last 6 weeks of my parental leave with Liam in beach house on the Gulf Coast of Florida, which was a lovely break from our crazy Canadian winters.

panama city beach, florida with kids, travel with kids, beach trips
Panama City Beach, Florida

I’ve done road trips alone with the boys and one solo trip to Cuba last spring. I took them back to Cuba again last fall with my oldest kiddo and we had the best time. All inclusives are great when you’re not looking to do much but eat, sleep, and beach. (And the all you can drink buffet really seems to buffer the sounds of kids fighting with each other over who’s coconut is whose. I kid you not.)

Varadero, Cuba

 

The only epic fail I’ve had was the time I totally overstimulated my guys and forgot about their disabilities in my effort to educate them and do all of the things I wanted to do in South Carolina last spring.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Alligator adventures #fasd
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

My bad. They literally kicked the front seat, and either shrieked from manic outbursts or were crying hysterically most of the way home. For the entire last day of the trip. That’s right. For 10 freaking hours. You can read about that fiasco here. If you’re parenting a child with FASD, you’ll know what I mean and probably don’t need any further explaining lol.

However, I haven’t given up on the travel plans and I’m finally adding a travel section on this site. Because travel is about experiencing life differently. It teaches you to live big and live in the moment.  It also teaches patience, compassion, and it pushes you out of your comfort zone. For me that’s huge since I like to be comfortable and I’m starting to get pretty complacent on my pretty grey sofa. Which is why I’m kicking of this June with a summer travel series.

So in 8 days, we’re leaving on our big summer adventure!! We’re traveling to Paris, Germany, Amsterdam and South Africa this summer. We’ll be sharing our stories here, and our photos on Facebook and on Instagram so come follow us and we can be travel buddies. Well, cyber travel buddies but that’s cool, too.

I’m also in the process of combining my travel website with this one, so there will be lots of other travel inspiration as the sites merge over the next few weeks.

HAPPY TRAVELS! PIN IT FOR LATER!

summer travel 2017, travel series, traveling with kids, single parent travels, fasd