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tourist boy jumping rope with local kids at a school in Chiawa Zambia

Ask a Teenager: 5 Unusual Trips Kids Will Love

Note from Wendy: This article was written by my son Doug when he was 16, based on his experiences in more than 50 countries. 

Now that most of the world’s countries have reopened and you can take your family pretty much anywhere again, I’ve thought back to some of my favorite foreign adventures. These are places where teenagers like me can go beyond the typical beach resorts, explore a different culture, talk to the local people, and learn what the world is really like.



  1. Zambia and Zimbabwe

In the undisturbed wilderness here, animals roam free and rule the land, and they are magnificent. It was my first time staying at a bush camp, so I was excited but scared. After landing in Zambia, first we drove from Mfuwe Airport to the Mfuwe Lodge, where we stayed the first few nights.

view from a car driving on a road in Zambia, a white tourist boy and an African driver

The moment we arrived, we were invited on a game drive that night. About three seconds in, not even moving, there it was: A beautiful leopard trying to get through the locked gate to the spa. Maybe to make his or her nightly spa treatment.

Then, three minutes into the drive, there was a baby hippo walking across the road.  On a night game drive, you see different animals than on a daytime drive—or, if they’re the same animals, you see them in different locations.

We traveled to different bush camps almost every day. There were animals everywhere. On the third drive, we went to a lagoon that had three teenage lions. We got within 15 feet of them.

It was exhilarating but scary to be 15 feet from an animal that is 8 feet long, wild, and could kill you in seconds. We weren’t too worried, though, because the lions had just gorged themselves and could hardly move.

We spent a few days in the village of Chiawa, where we saw how real people live in Zambia and learned about their culture and their life, which is very different from ours.

kids at a water pump in Chiawa Zambia

We got to visit a school there. The students were so welcoming to us and invited us to play with them. It was great getting to meet them.

kids playing ping pong at a school in Chiawa Zambia

A group of girls called The Power Kittens, a girls’ empowerment club, even greeted us with a welcome dance.

When you don’t speak the same language, you can make friends with people through sports. That’s why we brought frisbees with us as a gift for the school.  We played volleyball with the students too, and they showed us games they’d made up jumping rope.

The next day we went to a church service in Chiawa. Many of the kids who went to that school attended the service. It was more fun and upbeat than the church services I had been to in the past. They sang in beautiful harmony.

Then we went to Zimbabwe and to Victoria Falls, which is one of the world’s largest waterfalls.  You can really appreciate the beauty of the falls from a helicopter.

Another highlight of Victoria Falls was the Elephant Cafe, which rescues and rehabilitates elephants.  You actually get to hand-feed them. It was exciting to hand-feed peanuts to the world’s biggest land animal that could kill you at any second.

On the way to the elephants, we took a jet boat over rapids on the Zambezi river above the falls, The boat was bouncing over huge rapids, skimming the rocks, and water was flying every which way.  What surprised me was how fast a large boat could go over rapids, even when it was hitting rocks.

I got drenched in water. It was an unforgettable experience.


2. Israel and Jordan

Joe Yudin, who lives in Israel and guided us around the country, was so fun and amazing. The first thing he did was take us sandboarding in the Negev desert.

man holding a sandboard in Negev desert Israel

He gave us the best experiences possible, from all the religious sights to taking a powered paraglider over Masada and the Dead Sea.

Powered paragliding over Masada Israel

For more about the powered paraglider (and more photos and video), read my article 3 Cool Things To Do on a Family Trip in Israel.

We saw so much of the world’s greatest history all in one spot. We did everything from spelunking through the buried city to visiting war zones and a secret underground bullet factory.

We learned about Israeli foods like all the different types of hummus, which taste like completely different dishes depending on the toppings. Food expert Inbal Baum gave us a food tour of Tel Aviv.

We went to markets to buy the food for an Israeli cuisine cooking lesson we had. The Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem was massive, with all the smells circulating through your nose all at once.

Then Chef Tali Friedman taught us how to cook the ingredients in her kitchen.

cooking class in Jerusalem Israel

Later we went to an archeological dig site.

It was like the most unexpected treasure hunt.  We uncovered mostly broken pottery, but our neighbor was on an earlier trip there with her family and found jewelry, in the same spot we were digging in, that is now in a museum.

two teenage boy tourist sifting sand for artifacts at Tel Maresha Israel

At the Dead Sea, we covered ourselves in mud, and when I went into the water it came off and it felt like my skin was reborn. Getting to float in the Dead Sea was spectacular.

We also went to Eilat, which is the seaside city at the southern tip of Israel. We got to go scuba diving with dolphins.

teenage tourist boys in scuba gear in Eilat Israel

The dolphins would come up right next to us and put on a small show of their own. The cool thing was the dolphins were wild and free to swim in the Red Sea whenever they wanted.

Also on that trip we took a mini two-day trip to Jordan. We wanted to see the ancient city of Petra, which is carved into a sandstone canyon.

We stayed at a hotel across the street from the entrance to Petra so we could be the first ones inside in the morning. At 6 a.m. we had the place to ourselves.

When you walk into Petra, the first thing you see is The Treasury. It is famous for being in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

The city of Petra is huge. We hiked around there all day, learning about the architecture, the agriculture, and the irrigation system (they created their own aqueduct).

We got to see the painting on the ceiling of some of the houses and the remains of a huge amphitheatre.

Wadi Rum is nearby and is a vast desert that used to be the ocean floor.  There are random plateaus, 500 feet straight up, above the sand.  We drove around Wadi Rum in the back of a four-wheel-drive pick-up.

tourist family driving truck in desert of Wadi Rum jordan between two rock walls

Miles of beautiful scenery. It’s a landform you’ll never see anywhere else.

Wad Rum desert in Jordan with orange sand and large rock towers

We saw where they filmed The Martian and Lawrence of Arabia.

tourists on camels in wadi rum desert jordan with rock mountains behind

It was an all-around amazing trip.  Even if you’re not religious, Israel (and Jordan) is still a trip you really should take because it has played such an important role in world history, and you really can do everything there.

3. Morocco

When we went to Morocco, we went with our family friends on a road trip all around the country.  We started off in Marrakech and ended in Fez.  Much was desert, but there was also farmland and even a ski resort.

man looking over ancient village in Morocco

For the eight days we were there, we spent a total of 29 hours driving. On the long rides, in a nicely outfitted 12-passenger bus with Wi-Fi, we played Moroccan card games and built sites and markets we saw with Legos.

Earlier this year Wendy and her family traveled through the #2 country on our list: Morocco. Here they are at the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou.

Along the way we had many great experiences, like making drums out of goat skin and making Moroccan bread at a family’s beautiful home.

In between Marrakech and Fez, we glamped in the Sahara desert for a night and got to sleep like sultans in beautiful striped tents with real beds.

Morocco desert camp at night

We got up at dawn for a sunrise camel ride and to go sandboarding down the dunes.

Morocco desert sandboarding

We went on a sunset camel ride too.

camel trek through the Sahara Desert, Morocco.

We had races running up and down the dunes. Running in such deep sand was extremely hard.  The slower you go, the more you sink.  Running at different speeds will cause the properties of the sand to be different. Running on it fast will make the sand compact quicker, so it feels like sprinting on concrete, but if you go slowly, you just sink.

At the end of our trip we had a hammam.  A hammam cleanses your body and takes away a lot of dead skin. You have water splashed all over you. You sit in a really humid room, and then they shower you and scrub off all of the dirt and dead skin.

four boys wrapped in robes and towels in a hammam in Morocco

Having another family with us in Morocco added a lot to the experience.  When you travel to such an out-of-the-ordinary place, it’s good to be able to share it with friends your age and get their take on it.  That trip was my first trip with these friends and hopefully not my last.

4. United Arab Emirates

The buildings in Dubai were so futuristic.

Dubai Burj Khalifa view from hotel balcony

And there were million-dollar cars dotting the roads. I saw cars of famous YouTubers everywhere. I went to this car dealership called Deals on Wheels and it was amazing the type of cars that they had in stock. They had McLarens, Lamborghinis, Koenigseggs, Maybachs, and much more.

teenage boy taking photos of silver supercar in Dubai at Deals on Wheels auto store

We checked out the Dubai Mall, which is the biggest mall in the world, at more than 12 million square feet. It’s got more than 1,200 stores and one of the world’s largest aquariums. It was all air-conditioned, which was important because we were there in August when it was 115 degrees.

Dubai aquarium wall, with tourists looking through clear glass at a diver insider the aquarium

We also went to the Abu Dhabi desert for a couple of nights. We stayed at Qasr al Sarab, a desert resort where the cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens stayed when filming. It looks like a huge Crusader castle in the middle of nowhere.

white buildings of Qasr al Sarab resort in Abu Dhabi desert

When I stepped outside to go sandboarding, the desert was scorching.  We walked about a half mile up a dune and the heat was so extreme that the boards didn’t even work. When the sand is that hot, it gets sticky. It was sticking onto the board so much that the board couldn’t really move.

sandboarding in Abu Dhabi desert

When I got back into the hotel, I felt so faint from the heat that I had to throw up. Fortunately, each villa had its own private plunge pool to cool off in.

Qasr al Sarab hotel villa pool Abu Dhabi

Every time I go to a desert, I go sandboarding and I also ride a camel. My favorite sandboarding and camel riding were in the Sahara desert, but it’s important to try them everywhere because they’re always different.

Abu Dhabi teenage boy tourist getting up on camel

Between Dubai and the Abu Dhabi desert, we stopped at Ferrari World, which is a Ferrari-themed amusement park. As a car lover it was a dream for me. I got to sit in a real Ferrari and even drove a racing Ferrari simulator.

child in car at Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi

There was also the fastest roller coaster in the world, topping out at speeds of 150 mph in 4.9 seconds. They give you goggles (which you need) and put you on it. The coaster is definitely a 10 out of 10.

After the desert, back in Dubai, we stayed at the Burj Al Arab, which is one of the world’s nicest hotels. It’s built to look like a sail.

Burj al Arab in Dubai with ocean in front

It’s next to a water park belonging to a sister resort next door, and if you stay at one of those hotels you get free admission.

Dubai- Wild Wadi Waterpark

Mom’s friend and her two kids around our age came to visit.

Burj al Arab beach with kids

We played in the ocean and then went to Black Tap Dubai, which is a place that makes the most over-the-top milkshakes, which were phenomenal. That night we had dinner in a restaurant in the Burj al Arab that has an aquarium in it with lots of fish, sharks, and a few eels in the middle.

Burj al Arab's Al Mahara restaurant with aquarium in background in Dubai

There’s really no other place in the world like Dubai.  I would love to go back to the United Arab Emirates someday.


5. Sri Lanka

Even though it was such a long plane ride to get there, Sri Lanka was phenomenal.  The country has unique tropical animals I’d never seen before. At one hotel, we came back from dinner to find banana peels all over the floor of my parents’ room. Monkeys had jumped through the window, found the fruit basket, and peeled and eaten the bananas.  They had no interest in the other types of fruit and left them behind in the basket for my parents!

Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a culture that is totally different.  In our effort to learn about Buddhist culture, we went to a sacred rock temple that is one of the highest Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka.  It was a very steep hike up 670 feet to the top of the rock.

Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka

At different levels on the way up, we saw giant Buddha statues.

At the top of the rock, we received a blessing and a lesson about the colors of the Buddhist flag and what they mean.

Anantara Peace Haven Resort in Tangalle, Sri Lanka

But the best part of the trip was when we spent Christmas Day at The Rainbow Centre. The Rainbow Centre is a school for kids who are in extreme poverty and can’t afford an education. The students are picked up by bus every day, then washed, fed, and taught basic schoolwork.

The second we got there, we were greeted with happy smiling faces and a traditional dance that they put on for us. We hung out with the kids for a long time and played many games with them—like Rounders, Musical Hat (this is like Musical Chairs, except with a hat), and Draw the Tail on the Elephant. One of the blindfolded girls holding the marker accidentally marked my nose instead of the elephant!

You can read more about our day at The Rainbow Centre, and see more photos and videos, in my article What Your Kids Get Out of Giving Back.

When we got back to the hotel, there was a man playing Santa—who probably weighed 90 pounds—riding a wave rider on the lagoon outside. He came and visited all of us kids staying at the hotel and gave each one of us a special present based on things we were interested in. It was definitely my most memorable Christmas!

The next day we went to an elephant orphanage where they rehabilitate injured and orphaned elephants. One of the elephants had to have a prosthetic leg made out of wood and strapped to his knee. He was able to move around and had plenty to eat.  Watching the baby orphaned elephants was very funny because they were only a few weeks old and learning how to walk, and they didn’t understand how to use their trunks yet, so their trunks kept flailing around randomly. It was so funny to watch.

Then we went on a safari in a jeep and saw dozens of big elephants in the wild.  They were so strong that we watched one of them uproot an entire grown tree just to be able to eat a few mangos off the top of it. That was amazing to watch.


If you’re trying to figure out where to take your own kids for an unusual trip, I’m happy to make suggestions. Just click on the black button below and ask for a reply from Doug.


This article was updated in March 2023. It was originally published in 2020.

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

american teenage boys with family in Khiva Uzbekistan - making friends while traveling

How to Make Friends with Local People When Traveling

Update: These tips were written by Wendy’s son Doug (second from left in the photo) when he was 17, based on his experiences in 50 countries. The photos are from their family trip to Uzbekistan. 

Even when you don’t speak the same language, you can make a lot of friends when traveling. Here’s how I’ve learned to connect with local people in foreign countries. Hopefully some of these tips will help your own kids to connect with local people too.

The folks on our WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts excel at connecting travelers with local people. Need help choosing the right destination or local fixer? Click on the button below.


When someone wants to practice their English on you, let them.

We met the girls in the photo above in Khiva, and since then I’ve been friends with two of them on Instagram. They’re Uzbek but live in Russia, and we met them because they wanted to practice their English on us. If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language, and someone wants to have an actual conversation with you, let them—and keep your sentences simple.

When you visit a market or shop, ask questions.

uzek women with bowls of yellow figs

They always ask where you’re from. So, if you’re in a food market in Urgench and you ask about their yellow figs, that will lead to a conversation about the figs where you’re from and how they’re different.

Remember that they want to learn just as much about you as you want to learn about them.

When you go into a shop, don’t be afraid to try on their clothes.

american teenage boy tourists trying on scarves in bhukara Uzbekistan shop

You can make them laugh by trying them on and looking funny in them. When you buy something, it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can buy something for the equivalent of 50 cents, and you’ll still get the same reaction from them.

Teenage boy helping young Uzbeki boy with homework in clothing shop

In this shop in Bukhara, while they altered a shirt for me that cost only $5, I helped the shopkeeper’s kid with his English homework.

american teenage boy tourists trying on hats at a shop in Uzbekistan and posing smiling with local owner

We made people laugh by trying on their headdresses and made friends that way.

Offer to take a photo of a group of people.

Local Uzbek tourists pose in front of the Registan in Samarkand Uzbekistan

They’ll appreciate it, and it usually leads to a conversation (even when you don’t speak the language) about how to work the camera, how to fit everyone into the shot, whether everyone is looking at the camera and smiling, where they’re from, etc.

Show people photos you’ve taken with your own camera.

Uzbekistan Bukhara fruit snack vendor

If you take a photo of someone (with their permission), it’s nice to show them the photo you shot to make sure they approve. Often they’re interested in seeing other photos you’ve taken too, and you end up showing them what else you’ve seen in their country.

In Zambia, we showed them photos from around the U.S. and around the world, and they were in shock at how different places like New York City are. Showing people your photos from home is a way of inviting them into your life, and then they invite you into theirs.

American traveler family poses with a woman in Bukhara Uzbekistan

We loved this woman who sold fruit and nuts in the main square in Bukhara. And she approved this photo. Her daughter was about to get married. We gave her $20 as a wedding gift, so then her mom weighed us down with free snacks.

Bring a sports item they don’t have.

american teenagers and Uzbek children playing with flying rings in Uzbekistan

It’s easy to make friends with kids through sports. They play soccer in every country, so you can always join a soccer game (or start one by bringing a soccer ball), but it’s even better when you introduce them to a new game that you can play together. We brought flying rings to Uzbekistan for the younger kids. (They’re lighter than frisbees and easier to pack and easier for kids to throw.)

We brought footballs for the older kids. They didn’t know what a football was, so we taught them how to play. In Sri Lanka we brought Nerf footballs, which they’d never seen before. It’s something you can enjoy together, and when you’re done, you can leave the footballs there for them.

an Uzbek man and child play with a football given to them by an American teenage traveler

Bring treats for little kids.

Fruit by the Foot works well, since it comes in individually wrapped packages and won’t melt. The kids can have races to see who can slurp it up the quickest.

If they invite you to dance, join in.

american teenage boys learning to dance in Khiva Uzbekistan

Embrace the culture, and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself. What would be embarrassing in the U.S. often won’t be embarrassing in another culture. Also people will think: This seems like such a fun person; I want to get to know this person.

If they invite you to a party, go.

American teenage boys dancing with locals at a family birthday party in Khiva Uzbekistan

Parties are so different in different cultures, and chances are you’ll never be able to go to another party like that again. In Khiva, when we were invited to a 63-year-old woman’s “prophet age” birthday party, we knew it was our only chance to ever see such a party, so we went.

Learn a local craft from an artisan.

American teenage boy traveler gets woodworking lesson from local craftsman in Khiva Uzbekistan

You get to know the craftsman, and you get to keep the thing that you make.

American teenage boy traveler gets ddrum making lesson from local craftsman in Khiva Uzbekistan

In Morocco we made goat-skin and goat-hair drums. In Sri Lanka we painted traditional masks. Every time I see these things, they remind me of the craftsperson I met.

If you’re going to have a cooking lesson in someone’s home, teach them how to cook something from your home too.

American teenage boy traveler learns how to make baklava in kitchen of local Uzbek woman with other Uzbek women in a kitchen in Bukhara Uzbekistan

We visited Zulya’s family in her hometown of Bukhara and got to cook Uzbek dishes in their kitchen. Zulya is from Uzbekistan, and she planned our trip.

Uzbekistan - tourist boy cooking for local family in their home

We brought ingredients from home for making a dish they’re not familiar with. We brought brownie mix, and some flour tortillas and a couple of cans of baked beans for making burritos. They have completely different ovens and appliances than we do, so it wasn’t so easy.

american white teenage boy serves food to older Uzbek man in a kitchen in Bukhara Uzbekistan during a shared cooking experience

When you’re serving food, especially to elders, always show them respect.

Visit places of worship.

Uzbekistan Rabbi Abram Ishakov smiling

When you visit a church, a temple, or most other places of worship around the world, the people tend to be some of the most welcoming and outgoing people you will meet. In Uzbekistan, the best example of this was the rabbi who runs the oldest synagogue in Bukhara. He spoke about the great relationship between Bukhara’s Jewish and Muslim communities.

Even if you don’t know anything about a religion, places of worship will welcome you with open arms.

Play a public piano.

white american teenage boy playing piano on sidewalk in Samarkand Uzbekistan where public pianos are on the sidewalk

When you sit down and play a piano, people come by and start to talk to you. Chances are what you’re playing is a type of music they haven’t heard before, so they will be interested.

white american teenage boy playing piano for locals in Samarkand Uzbekistan

In the U.S. there are barely any public pianos, but we’ve found a lot of them in Europe—in Paris shopping centers, in the Brussels train station, in the Amsterdam airport—and there were quite a few in Uzbekistan.

It takes some getting out of your comfort zone to talk to strangers and dance at parties and play the piano in public, but in the end, you’ll get a much better experience of a country if you do these things than if you don’t.


This article was updated in March 2023. It was originally published in July 2021.

Be a smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. Read real travelers’ reviews, then use the black CONTACT buttons on Wendy’s WOW List to reach out to the right local fixer for your trip.

teenager at airport at night wearing mask and looking at 2 phones

Tips for Surviving This Summer’s Flight Delays

After my fifth flight this summer, I wanted to share some tips for other people flying in the U.S. now because U.S. airports and airplanes are like the wild west. Anything can happen, and you may need to fend for yourself. Expect long waits, lines, closed services, and staff shortages.

Every flight I’ve taken during Covid (including my first one back in June 2020) has been delayed at least an hour and a half, and multiple times we’ve been on a six-hour flight for nine or ten hours. They may not serve drinks or food on the plane, and many shops and restaurants in the airports are closed, which means you might be thirsty or hungry for long periods of time. I’ve seen long lines for lost luggage, so do not pack anything with significant value. On a flight from San Francisco to New York, we were diverted to Cleveland and stuck on the tarmac for two hours in the middle of the night because there was nobody in the airport who had the proper certification to operate the gate. They had to go wake someone up at their house. The next morning, we had to stand in line for a paper boarding pass to get back onto our flight, since none of the check-in machines worked and we had to see an agent (who spent 25 minutes trying to get a dog ticketed for another flight). Our TSAPre didn’t work with the paper ticket either. In addition, boarding was alphabetical because they didn’t have a scanner at the gate.

Based on the flight problems I’ve seen and experienced this summer, here is my advice for families headed to the airport:

1. Bring two different types of masks that sit on your face differently. Because you could be in your mask for a very long time. From entering the airport to exiting your destination airport, it may be many hours before you can get outside again.

2. Pack for any climate. You could land in a place where the climate is completely different from where you expected to land. The air temperature on the plane can vary greatly too. So, if you’re wearing shorts and a T-shirt, bring long pants and a hoodie. And always have a spare toothbrush and toothpaste in your carry-on.

3. You might not have access to food when you want it, so bring enough snacks to last you. We were stuck on a plane for more than nine hours (on a five-hour flight) with basic snacks served early in the flight. A lot of airport shops aren’t open yet or are closed when you’re there. Especially if you need special foods like gluten-free or vegan, bring it with you!

4. Expect your flight time to change at the last minute. It could likely change multiple times. Make sure you’re getting notifications from your airline to your phone. We were getting updates on the phone while the pilot said she was getting none.

5. For long delays in the gate area, quickly find a spot off the floor where you can lie flat. Quickly because you may find yourself in competition with 250 other passengers. We found a very wide padded windowsill where we could sleep. Or at least lie flat and keep our carry-ons with us.

6. Use the restroom right before you get on the plane. Because of delays on the tarmac, you may not be able to get up from your seat for a long time after takeoff. You may be stuck in your seat for a while after landing too, because they’re trying to find a gate for your plane. So use it again before the landing process starts and the seatbelt sign goes on.

7. If you land in a different location than expected, don’t rely on the airline for anything. Be prepared to find your own hotel room and transportation to it. We were on the last plane to divert from Newark, so the other planes had gotten all the hotel rooms near the airport. The airline made an announcement that we all had to figure it out for ourselves because every room near the airport was booked. (They gave us a paper that stated their reimbursement policy of approx. $200 per passenger.) My older brother Charlie managed to find us a room in Cleveland at 1:00 a.m. because he searched for one downtown, farther away. He got us an Uber to get there. At the hotel, he had to explain our situation to the night manager so that she would waive the two-night minimum stay.

8. Don’t assume you’re getting back on the same plane you took off on. When you leave a plane, take everything with you. And make sure your bags have your mobile phone number on them, in case they get lost.

9. Fly nonstop when you can. On each delayed flight, the only thing that made it better was that we didn’t have to catch a connecting flight. A lot of people missed their connecting flights. So take nonstop flights when you can. And if you’re flying to an event you can’t miss—like a wedding or boarding a cruise ship—you might want to fly a day early.

As for our night in Cleveland, we wish we’d had either much more time there (to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or a Cleveland Indians game) or much less.



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Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

the Rainbow Centre in Sri Lanka

What Your Kids Get Out of Giving Back: In Their Own Words

First, a note from Wendy: As you know, I take my kids everywhere so I can open their eyes to cultures very different from our own. Overseas we always try to visit a school where they can spend time with local kids, and we always try to find a way to give back. So when we were headed to Sri Lanka, I asked the Sri Lanka travel specialist on my WOW List, Miguel Cunat, what he might suggest for us. He arranged for us to visit the Rainbow Centre, a U.K.-registered charity that provides education, food, and medical support to kids suffering from extreme poverty in southwest Sri Lanka. Of course, visiting charitable organizations when you travel can be complicated: Is the charity legitimate? Is your donation going directly to those in need? Are you doing more harm than good? That’s why it’s so important to work with the right local specialist who deeply understands and is connected to the community. They can steer you to meaningful, productive experiences where you are goodwill ambassadors, not voyeurs. Back from our trip, I asked my 13-year-old, Doug, to write an essay about his favorite experience in Sri Lanka.  As it turns out, his favorite experience was our visit to the Rainbow Centre. Below is what Doug wrote—and the photo captions in the slide show are his too:

As soon as you arrive at the Rainbow Centre, you can tell it’s a happy place.
This is the schoolyard where we played rounders and other fun games.
The kids range in age from 4 to 16 years old.
The kids were reading “Little Red Riding Hood” in their language.
We brought a supply of Nerf rocket footballs. My brother Charlie convinced all the boys to throw them at me. They were naturals.
Some of the girls were naturals too.
We played a game I called “hat potato.” It’s like hot potato, only the potato is a hat that gets passed from head to head. If the hat is on your head when the music stops, you lose.
Charlie made it to one of the final rounds, even though he was in between two of the shortest kids.
We had races where you balance a lime on a spoon in your mouth. In the U.S., we use eggs, not limes.
We played “Pin The Eye On The Elephant," except that there's no pin. You're blindfolded and given a pen and try to draw an eye on a picture of an elephant.
It's not easy to draw the eye in the right spot.
One girl ended up drawing the eye on me!
Everyone thought that was hilarious.
Before they started musical chairs, I jumped in to grab a wayward football rocket so it wouldn’t interfere with the game.
We had fun playing musical chairs.
Lunch time for the younger kids. They sat still and were so well-behaved.
The kids are very good at waiting in line and praying.
And they all waited their turn. We were very impressed with their manners.
The kids are taught to eat with their fingers so they can feel the food and really be in touch with it.
The Rainbow Center was like one big family. It was sad when we had to say goodbye.
It was really nice meeting Alison and Aruni, the co-founders of the Rainbow Centre. Here they are with Mom.


My favorite day in Sri Lanka was when we visited The Rainbow Centre. The Rainbow Centre is a place where kids who live in extreme poverty go every day and they are clothed, bathed, fed, and educated. Every morning a bus picks them up and at night drops them back home.

When we first got there, the kids sang a song for us and welcomed us with flowers. They immediately made us feel so at home. It was Christmas Day, so we brought them gifts like Nerf rocket footballs and Luci Lights and educational games and giant chocolate bars. (Normally we don’t bring chocolate, but the teachers had asked us to bring it, to help celebrate the holiday). They immediately started playing with the toys and they were having so much fun. They learned how to use the rocket footballs and were very good at it. Some of them were even better than my older brother Charlie and me. I was surprised how active and athletic they were. The kids were very, very nice, and we became friends very quickly.

We played many games including rounders (which is sort of like baseball), pin the eye on the elephant, lime on a spoon, musical chairs, and what I called “hat potato,” which is like hot potato, only with a hat and you have to put it on your head before giving it to the next person. The last game was a game where one kid had a blindfold on and another kid had their hands tied behind their back, and the kid with the blindfold had to feed yogurt to the kid with his hands tied behind his back, and the first team to finish the cup of yogurt wins. And you have to get most of it in your mouth. Everything was so, so, FUN!

The Rainbow Centre was like one big family, and they made us feel like part of it. I was really sad when it was time to say goodbye, but I knew it had to eventually come. It was important because you realize how lucky you are. It was also real life. When people think of real life, they usually think of the people where they live, but I like to see how other people around the world live. You take away so much. Especially life lessons and an unforgettable memory you will cherish. I will always remember Christmas in Sri Lanka.

That is why our day at The Rainbow Centre was my favorite day.


Ferrari 458, a modded Range Rover

How and Where to Spot Supercars in London

Ferrari 458, a modded Range Rover
Spotted on Sloane Street: A Mercedes Gullwing in front of a Ferrari 458 and a modded Range Rover
The Dorchester hotel's parking lot
The Dorchester hotel's parking lot on a Monday morning in August
The Dorchester parking lot
The Dorchester parking lot
Lamborghini, a Mercedes, a Porsche, a Rolls-Royce
Right to left: a Lamborghini, a Mercedes, a Porsche, a Rolls-Royce....
Ferrari 458 wrapped in chrome blue
A Ferrari 458 wrapped in chrome blue, at the Dorchester
concierge at The Dorchester
Me and Stuart, the extremely nice and knowledgeable concierge at The Dorchester
The Dorchester
Me and more new friends at The Dorchester
carbon-fiber Pagani Huayra, Lamborghini Aventador
A carbon-fiber Pagani Huayra (right) and a Lamborghini Aventador (left) outside 45 Park Lane, next to The Dorchester
modded Mercedes G-Wagens
3 modded Mercedes G-Wagens outside 45 Park Lane
Lamborghinis and three Rolls-Royces
Two Lamborghinis and three Rolls-Royces at The Dorchester
A Rolls-Royce with a stainless steel hood and modded headlights, at The Dorchester
Lamborghini Aventador
A Lamborghini Aventador on Piccadilly Circus
Lamborghinis, Buckingham Palace
Two Lamborghinis in front of Buckingham Palace
crystal-encrusted Mercedes
A crystal-encrusted Mercedes in Sloane Square
McLaren P1 in Notting Hill
A McLaren P1 in Notting Hill. I was speechless.
Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Coupe
Here's a Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Coupe with the coolest wrap job I have ever seen in real life.
Ferrari F12
That same Ferrari F12 as viewed from the front
rare Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat
A rare Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat with a KSA license plate
Aston Martin, Piccadilly Street
A DB9 Aston Martin on Piccadilly Street
Maybach 62 Zeppelin just off Sloane Street.
A Maybach 62 Zeppelin just off Sloane Street
Brabus Mercedes
A crazy-nice Brabus Mercedes
Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Coupe
A Ferrari F12 Berlinetta Coupe with a modded hood
Lamborghini Gallardo
A Lamborghini Gallardo with a rare type of back window
McLaren 750LT
A McLaren 750LT at the McLaren dealership on Knightsbridge Road
A modded BMW M6
Pagani Zonda
A Pagani Zonda, extremely rare and fast
Porsche 918 Spyder
A Porsche 918 Spyder, the only electric supercar
Rolls-Royce Wraith
A rare Rolls-Royce Wraith
Ford GT in Notting Hill
A very loud Ford GT in Notting Hill
British-made TVR sportscar
British-made TVR sportscar, with super-interesting exhaust pipes
Lamborghini Aventador interior
Lamborghini Aventador interior
Pagani Huayra interior
Pagani Huayra interior


Photos by Doug Baker and Timothy Baker

Hi. I’m Doug and I’m 12 years old. My mom just took me to London, and one of my favorite activities was spotting supercars. The craziest car I saw was a rainbow-diamond-encrusted Mini Cooper inside Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, but there were other rare supercars driving around London all the time. I saw a Mercedes plated with gold and black Swarovski crystals on Sloane Street, and a gray W Motors Lykan HyperSport in Knightsbridge. It was one of four ever made! If you want to see cars like this too when you go to London, here’s my advice:

  • Go in summertime. That’s when all the wealthy Middle Easterners come to town for cooler weather and they ship their supercars from home.
  • Go to The Dorchester hotel’s parking lot. Stuart, a concierge at the Dorchester, told me that if I wanted to see the most and best cars, I should come in the morning before 11 a.m. That’s when the cars’ owners are sleeping, so their cars are parked. Don’t go after noon because that’s when they’re driving the cars. If you have questions about the cars, the concierge can answer them. (The concierges were super-nice even though we weren’t staying at the hotel.) The streets and other fancy hotels near The Dorchester can have nice cars too.
  • The best time to see the cars driving around is after 5 p.m. and late at night. The best places to see them are Knightsbridge, Mayfair, and Notting Hill, and especially on Sloane Street and Brompton Road. They are on the streets around fancy department stores like Harrods and Fortnum & Mason because many of the car owners shop there so you can see their cars.
  • Go to supercar dealerships like Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, and Lotus. The Lotus dealership in Piccadilly Circus actually has no Lotuses in it, but you’ll see Lotuses driving past it. The McLaren dealership is near the Mandarin Oriental Hotel at the Knightsbridge Tube stop. The employees were friendly and nice both times I went in.
  • When you photograph the cars, don’t forget to photograph their license plates. You’ll see license plates from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE. Some have both English and Arabic numbers.

Tips for photographing cars

  1. Always have your camera ready.
  2. Take the bus. Sit at the front row of the top of the double-decker bus.
  3. Listen for the cars. Sometimes we heard them coming before we saw them.
  4. Look inside to see what the interior looks like.
  5. Never spend too much time on one car. A cooler car might come by.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

the Flow Rider on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas

How to Keep Your Kids Happy on a Cruise

the Flow Rider on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas
Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
Allure of the Seas has a park in the middle. Photo: Timothy Baker
central park Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
Growing trees at sea is hard, but Royal Caribbean has managed to do it. Photo: Timothy Baker
Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
Central Park is a mid-ship oasis of calm, at any time of the day or night. Photo: Timothy Baker
kiddie pool Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
The ship has pools for kids... Photo: Timothy Baker
hot tub Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
And the ship has pools for adults. Photo: Timothy Baker
Boardwalk on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
There’s always something going on at the Boardwalk—including free donuts in the morning and free hot dogs in the afternoon. Photo: Timothy Baker
surfing the Flow Rider on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas
The surfing staff is highly experienced at teaching beginners how to enjoy the Flow Rider. Photo: Timothy Baker
Flow Rider on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas
Doug’s surfing lesson paid off. Photo: Timothy Baker
Flow Rider staff show on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas
Even if you yourself don’t want to try the Flow Rider, you can enjoy the spectacle. Here, the surfing instructors put on their own show. Photo: Timothy Baker
Royal Promenade on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
Among the eateries and bars on the Royal Promenade are Kate Spade, Michael Kors, and Guess boutiques. Photo: Timothy Baker
The Aqua Show features acrobats in a modern circus-like atmosphere. Photo: Timothy Baker
Aqua show on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
The Aqua Show stage, as viewed during a rehearsal. The diver (at top left) is jumping off a 60-foot-high platform. Photo: Timothy Baker
Ice show on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
The “How to Train Your Dragon” Ice Show Photo: Timothy Baker
friendly officers on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas cruise ship
Officers aboard Allure of the Seas pose with King Julien, the lemur from Madagascar. Photo: Timothy Baker


Hi. I’m Doug. I’m 12 years old, and I just took my 12th cruise. It was on the Royal Caribbean ship Allure of the Seas. If your kids are 9 to 14 years old, and you want to be sure they have a great trip and don’t complain, here are the things onboard that you should do with them because they will enjoy them the most.

The Aqua Show: It will make your jaws drop. Divers dive off tiny platforms higher than the Olympics’ highest platform. They dive into a small pool that is only 11 feet deep. It will stun you.

The Flow Rider: It is a surfing and boogie-boarding simulator. Even though the lines are super-long, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Izumi: It is a super-funny hibachi dinner. The chef started out saying, “Hi, I’m Ryan, and I will be your fake Japanese chef today.” He cooks in front of you and says things like, “These eggs came all the way from…yup, you guessed it… Kentucky.”

The Ice Show: The ice rink has many shows—like How to Train Your Dragon and Monopoly. It has many jokes for adults and kids. You will probably end up talking about it all through dinner.

Central Park: Central Park is a nice place to relax. It is always very calm there. It has great restaurants. Nobody knows that you can even go there for breakfast: The Park Café has bagels with different flavors of cream cheese and toppings, and you can get them to take out and walk around the ship with.

The pools: There are 7 pools and 12 hot tubs—and that doesn’t include the pools and hot tubs that only parents can go in. Some hot tubs have huge TVs so you can watch a sports game. Each pool has its own theme and is equipped with a soft-serve ice-cream machine. There are pools for all ages. There are no water slides, but there’s a water volleyball court.

The Boardwalk: The Boardwalk is a place to go with your family and have fun. There’s a carousel, an arcade, a ring toss, a bean bag toss, a Johnny Rockets, a hot dog stand with all different kinds of hot dogs, a candy shop, and an all-night buffet that Mom and Dad didn’t even know about. There’s a zip-line above the Boardwalk but, once you’ve done the Labadee Flight Line, it’s not very exciting.

The Royal Promenade: It’s a huge shopping mall in the middle of the ship with a floating bar that goes up and down three decks. There’s a parade there on the last night of the cruise. It has shops like Kate Spade (parents might want to know that).

The ship’s staff: The officers and crew are very nice. If you ask them to do something, they’ll do it. They’ll even play ring toss with you. They are very loyal and don’t get mad. Overall the staff is much nicer to kids than the staff on most other ships.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.