Having done a number of trips to North America and ticked off the Aussie must-do's - Disneyland, Florida, California, New York, Chicago, DC, Miami, this trip we decided to do something completely out of the box.
I still can't recall where the idea came from - but the answer was to visit an authentic Cowboy Ranch in the heart of the Cowboy Capital of the World, Banderas Texas.
Neither of the kids, nor Brenton, had ever got on the back of a horse so this was to be the best introduction to horse riding they ever could get with real cowboys on-hand to show them the ropes.
If you are after a luxury getaway, this is not for you. The Ranch is authentic and rustic and comfort and luxury are not their high points. If you are after a holiday where you can disconnect from the digital world and get back to basics, then this is it.
Two horse rides a day, fishing lines to use at the pond, a kitchen bell that is rung to call guests to meals, a bonfire at night with marshmallows to roast and a visit from a local cowboy to strum out some tunes on his guitar - that is a day on the ranch at Dixie Dude Ranch.
The horse-riding was more horse sitting - we simply all falled into line and followed the one in front - but the hillside landscape was so picturesque that the lack of challenge was appreciated. More challenging rides were offered to experienced riders and despite Brenton thinking he might take that on (on day 2!) I convinced him otherwise..... Private lessons were also on offer at just $30, something that Jye relished as he was taught to weave the horse around the barrels in the coral.
What we loved the most about this adventure was the uniqueness of the experience. The Ranch was family run and it was like we were staying at someone's home. Whilst we had our private accommodation by way of an ensuite cabin, guests all ate together in a communal dining area and sat on the main homestead's front porch pre-and post-meals to chat and share stories from the day. The kids played after dinner on the outdoor swings while the parents sipped coffee and rocked on the porch.
This stay was an unplugged experience. Whilst limited wi-fi was available from the main homestead, it was certainly not encouraged and we took the opportunity to switch off and enjoy the experience.
For more details about Dixie Dude Ranch visit their website.
You can read my Trip Advisor Review for further details.
I often hear people say they put travel plans on hold once they have kids. I have always had the travel bug and was determined that bringing children into the world was not going to mean that I no longer got to explore it.
Travelling with kids is no walk in the park, but there are some simple steps you can take to make sure that both you and your kids enjoy the experience. Here are the three commandments that ITCHY FEET FAMILY always adhere to.
1. Keep Hand Luggage to a Minimum
We have all seen the cute kids backpacks and wheelie cases and think they would be cute for our toddlers. However the reality is that by mid trip you will end up carrying not only your own luggage, but most likely your toddler and that cute spiderman roller case as well.
2. Book Child Friendly Hotels
If you are chasing the sun check the resort has a kids club and a pool. If you as a parent want to relax, a few hours a day of included child care will allow you to schedule adult-only time to balance your holiday.
3. Pace Yourself
Whilst visiting 20 countries in 20 days can be great when you are single, it just does not work with kids. Pace your holiday, pick five destinations and allow for down time when the kids need it.
Penny Reidy, ITCHY FEET FAMILY
As the weather turns cold in Adelaide, my best advice for how to keep the kids entertained is simple. Leave the country - chase the sun!
For the last decade we have managed to schedule family holidays early July to evade the worst of winter, this year we head to Mexico.
Yes the kids take time off school, yes I get the letter every year from the Dept of Education about how detrimental it is for children to miss school. Do I think Miss Six or Master Nine are disadvantaged for missing those winter days in school - No.
What I do think is they are receiving an education in life, culture and the world that simply can’t be taught in a class room.
Take for example a trip to Penang. A heavily muslim populated country, Miss Five thought she was surrounded by Ninjas before I explained to her that the Burkha is a traditional dress for women.
Later that trip I heard her further educate her brother who was edging on the Ninja comment before she corrected him explaining “No, they are not Ninjas that is what the Muslim women wear in Penang.”
Or a trip to the batlefields of Long Tan where we were fortunate enough to hear first-hand from a veteran visiting the site who had personally fought on the day. Upon returning to school Master Eight proudly retold the experience to his young teacher who looked at me blankly - Battle of What??
There is something to be said for experiential learning, the world is a big place and I am encouraging my children to explore it, even if it does mean missing a few weeks of school in the winter.
Penny Reidy - ITCHY FEET FAMILY
Welcome to ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of four from Adelaide, Australia, who love to explore the world. We have a passion for travel and count our success by number of countries visited and adventures had. We are always itchy for our next adventure and always have something booked.
After years of travelling, people always ask our advice on where to go, what to see, how to book, tips for travel and more. An avid trip advisor reviewer, I finally decided to take the challenge to launch our own blog site ITCHY FEET FAMILY.
We have plenty of stories to tell about adventures we have taken and will bring many more as we continue to travel and explore the world.
In 2016 we have taken a 3 night family cruise out of Adelaide at Easter, a 3 night Comedy cruise out of Adelaide, a 3-week adventure to Mexico and North America and a long weekend in Kangaroo Island. Still to come will be a New Year's Eve cruise to start the New Year doing what we love - travel!
In 2017 we have so far planned a short cruise in March, our first family trip to Europe to attend a wedding in Germany and a trip to Australia's Top End. But we are always open to new opportunities!
We hope you enjoy our stories and that we inspire you to dust off the passport and get out and explore the world.
Penny, an avid Trip Advisor Reviewer, is the author of ITCHY FEET FAMILY. A family of 4 living in Adelaide, Australia, and taking every opportunity to travel and explore the world.