5 Reasons to Visit Romania with Family

 

In the month since returning from our summer vacation abroad, I’ve been approached by several friends requesting information about our Romanian vacation.

In fact, it seems that people are finally starting to take notice of a beautiful Baltic country that has been off the holiday destination radar for years.
I’m convinced that in the not too distant future, there will be a mad rush to the freshly discovered Romania, so here are my five recommendations as to why you should take your family, and soon!

Visiting Romania – 5 reasons to take your family foodThe food

Romanian cuisine is an excellent blend of borrowed techniques and flavors from its neighbors: Turkey, Germany, Austria, Hungary and Russian.
From the tempting street grub, the savory fish salad (Icre) and unique Zacusca (eggplant mixed with peppers), sour Ciorba soups, meat stews and kebabs to the scrumptious desserts like the Gioffre and Savarina, your family will have plenty to sample and discover.
Our kids still dream of the Papanasi (fried dumplings) topped with berry jam and crème Fraiche they enjoyed.

The myth

We all know Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula may have been pure fiction, but that didn’t stop us fantasizing about meeting the bloodsucking vampire in secret passages or at the top of the wooden staircases of Bran Castle.
In fact, most visitors to Romania enjoy tracing the footsteps of the fictional character through the medieval town of Sighisoara to the castle where he allegedly lived, to his secret tomb in Snagov.
In the process, they learn about the person who supposedly inspired the stories – the ruthless Romanian ruler, Vlad III the Impaler.

The scenery

Many travelers don’t realize just how large and geographically diverse Romania is.
As you drive outside the capital, in places like Maramures and Suceava, there are vast areas of unspoiled wilderness waiting to be experienced. With beaches, mountains, valleys, forests, hot springs and even a river delta, there is a beauty as far as the eye can see.
Even more fascinating is that the country has kept its authentic, centuries-old farming traditions and slow-paced village living.
Our fondest memory is listening to the cow bells crossing the meadows in Zarnesti on our way to the Libear-ty Brown Bear Sanctuary.

Visiting Romania – 5 reasons to take your family scenery
The people

The people are open, warm and very friendly especially with tourists; as they feel a sense of obligation to portray their country in the best light possible.
Surprisingly, many people we met, especially the younger generation, spoke English quite well, so communication was no problem. Furthermore, throughout our trip, our son with autism was treated kindly and made to feel welcome and comfortable by everyone we met even in the most remote locations.

 

The prices

Compared to other countries in Europe, and globally for that matter, Romania continues to be an excellent choice for budget-oriented travelers.
A family of four can stay in a large, three-star hotel room in the capital for less than 100 dollars a night and enjoy a three-course meal at a sit-down restaurant for under fifty dollars.
Prices for public transportation, including cabs, are small, and entrance fees to museums, churches or other attractions are much more reasonably than in any of its counterpart European destinations.
The bonus for souvenir lovers is that one can haggle with different street vendors and come away with a bagful of trinkets for less than ten bucks, just like our son did!

Budget Travel-Flying Air Berlin

We decided to give Air Berlin a try for two reasons: cheap pricing, and the fact they had the only direct flights from Tegel Airport to Berlin, Germany to the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. The direct  flight route was of particular importance to me, as this was the first time when I was traveling with both my sons—without my husband—over the busy travel time of winter break.

Air Berlin does offer the possibility of booking pre-assigned seats, a feature that I took advantage of to ensure that we all had aisle seats for extra legroom.
I wasn’t too concerned about luggage weight issues since we only travel with ultra-light hand luggage. Additionally, I had prepared my autistic son, beforehand for the possibility that he might have to use his iPad for entertainment, as it was apparent the planes wouldn’t have personal screens.
Lastly, before departing from theStates, I did notify the airline a second time that I was traveling with a special needs child and would require pre-boarding.

Budget Travel-Flying Air Berlin aircraft

Air Berlin’s Check-In

Check in at Tegel airport in Berlin was exceptionally fast and efficient.Unfortunately, the concept of pre-boarding in Tegel is different than in the States as we soon found out—all passengers board a bus that takes everyone to the plane’s staircase.

So, our true accommodation was reduced to be simply getting on the bus that took passengers to the aircraft first, rather than boarding the actual aircraft. We got to rush from the bus door to the plane entrance as soon as possible in the freezing wind like everyone else.

 

 Air Berlin’s Onboard Experience

The actual flight was uneventful, excluding the fact that I injured my knee while loading suitcases in the overhead bin. And of course, the fact that crew was less than fast in bringing me much-needed ice or even asking how I was feeling.

I wondered how and if they would be able to handle an autistic meltdown if they reacted so nonchalantly to a common injury liked mine. To their credit, however, I will mention that they finally arranged an airport transportation vehicle to take us from the plane to the border control and luggage carousel at Ben Gurion (after seeing my swollen knee).

Budget Travel-Flying Air Berlin food

The flight on Air Berlin is very much a ‘vintage’ experience, complete with the old-fashioned two rolling boarding stairs sets. The seats were moderately comfortable configured three and three with minimal walking space and very low ceilings. We did see some people bump their heads while getting in and out of their spots.

The free sandwiches they gave us were pretty much non-edible, leaving passengers with one of two options: either buy something at the airport and bring it onboard or buy their food (which is quite pricey).

Entertainment was non-existent; so, choices to engage kids should include bringing personal electronics, books or board games. I ended up having had a lovely conversation with a German engineer who was taking his mom to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem for Christmas, while both my sons slept through most of the four and a half hour early morning flight.

All in all, we wouldn’t recommend Air Berlin for autistic travel unless of course you had no other viable choice to make as the airline in its current format cannot accommodate travelers with autism well.

How to Spend your Next ‘Stay-cation’

Last month, someone posted a comment on my blog criticizing me for encouraging readers to ‘travel’ during the current difficult economic times.
I realized that she like many other people regarded ‘travel’ like an expensive affair that involved long haul flights, distant locations, and extended hotel stays.
Although that might be the definition of some, there other ways you can ‘travel’ closer to home quite inexpensively, and still have a good time.
In fact, the way I see it, there are many advantages to having ‘stay-cations’: like reduced planning, minimal packing (day bag) and a more affordable price tag. Moreover, they enable you to achieve the benefits of exposing your child to new experiences at a slower, more manageable pace.

Planning stage

You should research local newspapers, magazines, and the internet for places within a fifty-mile radius that you know will hold your child’s attention for at least an hour or two.
Next, check the place’s operating hours if there is the possibility of booking ahead and whether any accommodations for persons with special needs can be arranged.
Be sure to allocate extra arrival and departure time in your plan for unforeseen meltdowns or mishaps.
Prepare a day bag that includes a first aid kit, insect repellent, sun protection gear, snack, and the extra set of clothes.
Remember to take a regular camera and video camera to record your trip memories. Pictures and videos not only make for inexpensive memorable souvenirs but serve as an educational reminder for your kid’s adventures.
If your child is six or older, you might want to consider teaching them how to take pictures that can later be shared with classmates.
Pick up as many colorful brochures and maps as you can prior and during your visit to your chosen destination as they can be tools to start a collection or to create a scrapbook with your child.

Where to go and what to do

 

Art Appreciation

Take a few neighbor parents and kids to go to a local art museum.
Nowadays, Many places have hands on sections in which young patrons can experiment making their Art or even try on period costumes like the Getty Center in Los Angeles.
Then, have a BBQ/Art block party with the kids painting or sculpting and  later exhibiting their masterpieces for the entire neighborhood.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' romania violin

Animal Lovers

Consider buying a yearly pass to local aquarium/zoo as that will not only support a good cause but allow you multiple free visits and access to special events that are not always shared with the public.
Unknown to many, some yearly Zoo and Aquarium memberships offer reciprocity and can be used in other cities too, which is an extra bonus.
When they were younger, my kids loved watching the feeding time at the local zoo followed by our picnic in the nearby park.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' sydney zoo        

 History Buffs

Visit a local historic home or cemetery and learn about its unique story.
Most places have retired people that volunteer as docents who are thrilled to share their stories with any visitors.
Around Halloween time many places share stories of ghost sighting and other paranormal activities with the public that you can visit with your family.

 

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' brasov

Food appreciation

Walk around an ethnic neighborhood exploring the miscellaneous goods and foods, followed by a lunch stop at a local restaurant.
If you are not acquainted with the items on the menu, ask the server for personal recommendations or proceed to order several appetizers to share.
Some ‘mom and pop’ places might even agree to give you the grand tour of the kitchen if you ask to politely so you can learn how they prepare the food.
One of our all-time favorite Sunday pass times is to go and have Dim-Sum in the Chinatown area of Los Angeles, where the kids order items from the servers with their traditional rolling carts.

 

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' chinese food

Water Activities

Make good use of your nearby beaches, lakes or pools; you might need to join the YMCA or pay a small set fee to enter, but then you can spend as long as you wish and practice your swim moves.
Some beach areas will even permit camping for the night so you can get to witness a sunrise or sunset.
If your child is both a thrill seeker and water lover, you might want to consider getting a season’s pass to the local water park since multiple visits are bound to cost more.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' water park

             

Treasure Hunting

The new Geocaching while hiking in the mountains is so much better than our childhood version of searching grandma’s dusty attic.
Talk about multi-tasking; you get to hike the great outdoors, teach your kid basic navigation skills and find a treasure before returning home for dinner.
Those less physically active can still participate by going to alternate places with a friendlier terrain; just remember to bring your GPS instrument along to help you find the hidden treasures..

 

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' statue

Transportation Connoisseurs

Have a transportation adventure day; ride that metro line you’ve been curious about, or climb aboard that ferry boat you’ve been watching in the harbor.

Pretend to be a tourist for a day and hop on a bus that drives around the main attractions or travels to a nearby town.
Nowadays, with many kids raised in suburban areas, riding the city bus might seem exotic to some. I still remember the first time my kids took their first bus ride and were utterly surprised to find out that unlike private vehicles, there were no seat belts.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' apple farm cart

 

Local Celebrations

Visit a fair or festival and participate in every possible activity, no matter how childish and embarrassing it sounds.
Some County Fairs are so elaborate you might find out that need more than just one day to explore all the booths and activities.
If you and your family are food lovers; bear in mind that fairs are the place to find the newest and strangest ones-anyone care for a serving of deep fried coke?

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' minneapolis fair

 

 How do they do that?

Take a backstage tour in an area factory or media provider building such as a TV station, radio or local newspaper.
Many businesses encourage the locals to visit their facilities’ by providing free guided tours or holding ‘Open House’ events.
For travel theme tour visits a nearby famous hotel or airport and watch the planes taking off or landing.
To this day, my kids remember visiting the Jelly Belly in Fairfield, Northern California and sampling their colorful products.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' chinese crafts

 

Old fashioned theme parks

Find local old fashioned ‘Luna Parks’ and theme parks that offer milder nature rides than today’s stomach-churning variety, plenty of vintage charm and tend to be cheaper.
Some charge an entrance with a separate fee for each ride while others sell a discounted ticket for a set number of rides.
Many places still feature wooden carousels that are a marvel to examine and photograph, especially with giggling little kids riding.
Best of all, even, in the worst-case, scenario the crowds are bound to be smaller than in their newer fancier counterparts.

How to Spend your Next 'Stay-cation' state fair ride

Lastly, Be flexible and don’t despair if the day does not go as planned, it seldom does.

Taking Your Child With Autism On A Bus Trip

Bus travel is finally on the rise in the last few years after many years of dwindling reservations, and for good reason.The new buses are not the old stuffy, uncomfortable vehicles that dominated the seventies and eighties, but new luxurious ones with extra leg space, assigned seating and free Wi-Fi.

So assuming your child with autism does not get car sick, you should add bus travel to your list of experiences. Here are some pointers to help make the trip more memorable.

Taking your child with Autism on a Bus Trip Disney bus

Planning

 

  • Check multiple websites for the best prices before booking, and always inquire about additional discounts available to students, military, retirees and some credit union members.
  • Take advantage of two for one promotion as well as kids travel free offers if valid.
  • For multiple trips consider buying a pass.
  • Consider booking a short trip (under three hours )  for your first adventure to make sure bus travel is for you and your child with autism.
  • Seating- Book a window seat that is next to an outlet in the front of the bus since some people feel more claustrophobic in the back.
  • Stay away from back seats that do not recline and what might become smelly lavatories.

What you should remember to pack

 

  • Pack -additional carry-on bags for each member of your travel party  and label the bags accordingly
  • An extra set of clean clothes in case an unexpected food spill happens and a couple of extra pairs of underwear if sudden diarrhea strikes
  • Adult diapers/good nights on longer trips if potty training is an issue.
  • Food snacks that do not require refrigeration as well as, bottled drinks, especially water are important.
  • Wipes to clean hands, seats, toys, electronics and even spills off clothing in need be.
  • Entertainment -Electronics are by far the ‘it’ choice-laptops /netbooks since there is free Wi-Fi, DVD players, music players, mini video games,e -readers, and all the assorted pods.Remember to engrave your belongings to ensure other people do not mistake them for theirs and do.
    Don’t forget to bring a small light for the e-readers.
  • For younger kids, a bag of goodies from the local dollar store that are given out at regular intervals might prevent meltdowns and encourage better behavior.
  • Older kids might enjoy a digital camera so he or she can take ‘window shots’ of what is interesting to them during the bus ride.
    Later laminating or printing the pictures and binding them with a ring make beautiful souvenir book.Avoid toy sets with multiple pieces like Legos (that will have you on your hands and knees looking for pieces) and items that make noise makers and will disturb fellow passengers.Avoid toy sets with multiple pieces like Legos (that will have you on your hands and knees looking for pieces) and items that make noise makers and will disturb fellow passengers.
  • Use an I.D. tag, temporary tattoo or bracelet, especially if your kid is nonverbal.Don’t forget to pack all medicines and medical information that pertain to your child.

Ever taken your child with Autism on a bus trip if so, what would you like to add to the list?

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