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ft4rlWelcome to my live blog of the Family Travel for Real Life conference (#FT4RL).  If you’re new to the Family Travel for Real Life conference, it is a smaller conference that focuses on the more “real life” aspects of travel.  While it is primarily focused on family travel (it’s in the name, duh!), there are lots of things that are talked about in the conference that are applicable for those without kids as well.  If you want to see more information, you should check out my introductory post, which also contains links to recaps of all of the past FT4RL sessions

3rd speaker of the day is Shawn Coomer from Miles to Memories.  He is a previous speaker of FT4RL talking about Beyond New York, London and Hawaii: Distinctive Family Destinations (Go beyond the norm)



Shawn has spoken at #FT4RL a couple of times before and I’m excited to read about some of the trip ideas that he has.

Distinctive Family destinations – Go Beyond the norm

Apparently the “Big 5” family destinations are London, Paris, Rome, Hawaii and Disney and now that “everyone” has been there, let’s talk about some of the other destinations out there.

I definitely agree the sentiment that you should travel however YOU want to travel and not let other people define where you travel because you’re “supposed to” go there.

Here’s a YouTube video that Shawn made of some of his family travels

As a father of teenagers, I love the last part of that video 🙂

3 distinctive family destinations to go with kids

Shawn made a great point about how there’s tons of places out there in the world that you might think that you can’t go with kids that you TOTALLY can.

Central America / Guatemala / Mexico

First place to visit is Central America.  Shawn’s favorite part was to climb the thousands of feet up Volcan Pacaya with his 7 year old.

Shawn shared a lot of great stories from his 18 month trip around the world with his wife and son – one of the beauty of these trips is different types of transportation.  That is certainly one of the things I’ve noticed – kids love trains!  (and boats, and elephants, and all other types of non-car, non-plane transportation)

Eastern Europe


Dubrovnik, Croatia

Shawn and his family spent 3 months backpacking through 21 countries in Eastern Europe.  Favorite memory: watching the sunset over the Adriatic near the stunning walled in the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia.  Least favorite experience: Getting stuck on a brutal overnight train out of Romania

A lot of great stories here and just like Sam talked about in Being your Own Elite earlier in the day, Shawn shared stories of being in Dubrovnik Croatia and instead of booking the Hilton Dubrovnik for $300 / night, he used to book a local guesthouse across the street for $20 / night.

China / Mongolia

Shawn and his family were in China and Mongolia in 2008 for 3 months leading up to and including the Olympics.  Favorite experience: 9 days in the Mongolian countryside staying with a nomadic family.  Least favorite experience:  A Chinese cruise up the Yangtze

One thing I got from this story was talking about how children all over the world really take to each other.  Several times through his adventures they would be in a place with local children and they would almost immediately start the international of children (playing)

3 tips for successful family travel

My family playing cards on an Amtrak train in the lounge car

My family playing a card game on the lounge car on an Amtrak train

Here are Shawn’s 3 top tips for successful tamily travel

  1. Find ways to keep children engaged
  2. Embellish the mystery and adventure
  3. Vary your methods of transport and places that you do
  4. Make time for regular fun!

Using Miles and Points to get to these places

Most of Shawn’s talk was focused on the destinations themselves, but he did spend a bit of time talking through the miles and points options to get to the 3 places he talked about (Central America, Eastern Europe and China / Mongolia)

All of the major carriers fly to Central America.  15K on American, 17.5K in Delta and United for one way in couch, but you can also get flights on other carriers such as Southwest, Spirit, Copa or AeroMexico

To Eastern Europe, American, Delta and United are 30,000 miles each way on coach, and all 3 alliances have flights between the US and Europe but Star Alliance has by far the most European carriers.  Most countries count all of Europe as one region

For China and Mongolia – It’s 35,000 miles one way in coach on American, Delta and Uinted, but only Delta and United can connect to Mongolia.

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