Family vacation

Old Jan 3rd, 2020, 08:53 AM
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Family vacation

Hi all,
I'm thinking about doing a family vacation to south africa next december - kids will be 13 & 16. I really don't know anything about south africa but i thought it would be such an amazing once in a lifetime experience for all of us.
I would really appreciate any ideas or advice you have to share - would love to do a safari, see cape town, johannesburg...anything.
I'm in the very beginning stages of planning and not even sure what my budget is.
Thanks in advance for your guidance!

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Old Jan 4th, 2020, 06:40 PM
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We went to South Africa this year to visit Kruger National Park for a self-drive safari, which was pretty awesome and affordable. You can also join a tour if you like. There is camping and lodging available inside the park and a lot of hotels just outside the park. If this is of any interest to you the rest of our photos and all of the trip information are posted here.
https://www.mymola.com/drive-yoursel...-south-africa/


Zebras at Kruger National Park
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 05:34 AM
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By all means do all the research you can, but if you could answer a couple of questions it would help us make some constructive suggestions.

1. Where are you coming from? This can make a significant difference in terms of managing jetlag, etc.

2. How many days - altogether - could you make available for this trip? South Africa is a big and incredibly diverse country, and while getting around is comparatively easy, things tend to be separated by considerable distances.

Happy planning!
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Old Jan 5th, 2020, 12:24 PM
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We are coming from the NYC area and we could go for about 12 days. Thank you!
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Old Apr 16th, 2020, 01:44 PM
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I posted this follow up on my own South Africa trip planning post. I got lots of help from people in the Fodor's community with my budget and with choosing the safari camps we stayed in. So, I'm posting my mini trip report here for you in case you find it helpful. Good luck planning your trip!!!!!

Our July 2019 trip was absolutely AMAZING!!! I was a little stressed about it because I planned it 100% by myself with some help from the Fodor's folks, but no travel agent or tour company, so everything was 100% my responsibility. I am very happy to say that it went flawlessly with the exception of 2 minor car issues at the beginning and at the end of the trip. 1) After an overnight flight from London to Johannesburg, we picked up the rental car and drove the 4 hours to our hotel in Hazyview just outside Kruger Park. It was around 5:15, starting to get dark and we were about 15-20 minutes away from Hazyview when a tire blew. We called Budget Roadside Assistance, but got no help. They just told us to put on the spare, turn the car into the closest Budget office (45 min away) the next day, and pick up a new car. The next thing we knew, a truck load of Afrikaners stopped to help us. It was a dad, his son, nephew and a friend. They changed the tire! They stopped because they could see we were tourists and it was getting dark. They didn't want us out on the side of the road after dark; they wanted us to truly enjoy our visit to their country. We tried to buy them some beer as a thank you, but they said no. We did take a big group picture with all of us though! We were very lucky! 2) After 25 hours of travel back to the US, we got to our car at the airport (Washington/Dulles). It was about 100 degrees outside and the battery was dead. We saw a sign for airport car assistance in the parking lot, called, and were on our way home in about 15 minutes. So all in all, things went very well. We did purchase trip insurance with medical/evac coverage through insuremytrip.com and got rental car insurance through our AMEX card (
paid for the rental car with an AMEX card and purchased the extra AMEX per rental period primary insurance coverage for $19.95), but we didn't need to make any claims, thank goodness!

Both the Fodor's community and the Disboards Community helped me plan this trip. The Disboards credit card rewards experts helped me figure out how to get my Marriott/Protea Hotel stays for free for my July 2019 London/South Africa trip, which really helped me stretch my budget! The original plan was to exchange our timeshare for a timeshare stay in Hazyview at Kruger Park Lodge or Burchell's Bush Lodge, or Sabi River Sun or Sanbonani, but the trade for the dates we needed never came through. I really wish I'd learned how to maximize credit card rewards a few years before I started planning my trip. It would have been awesome to get free flights. But alas, that was not the case. We had to pay OOP for airfare. Our flights were about $2000 over budget (my original trip budget for everything was just under $10,000 - pretty small). When I priced things out for Summer 2018, flights were around $1250 each, so I budgeted $5000. I couldn't find anything under $1600 for Summer 2019, so I kept waiting (shouldn't have waited!!!!) and ended up paying $1800 each. We also ended up adding two more guided game drives while we were there because my husband loved them so much. Out of the 8 game drives we had, 5 of them were private with only the 4 of us in the jeep with the guide!

Here is what we (me, my husband, son 22, daughter 20) did -
London: London House Hotel in Kensington Gardens/Bayswater area (family suite OOP)
Day 1 - We arrived at 10:00 AM, dropped our bags at the hotel and took a double decker bus tour with The Original Tour, dinner at a pub
Day 2 - Tower of London, Thames River cruise, Trafalgar Square, Rock & Roll walking tour of Piccadilly and Soho, pub for lunch (I had high tea scheduled but got outvoted), Evensong at Westminster Abbey, pub for dinner
Day 3 - Churchill's War Room, we also saw the Queen's Guard parading on their horses nearby, then afternoon flight to SA with a short connection in Dubai.

South Africa:
Day 4 - Protea Hotel Hazyview (2 rooms for 4 nights plus 5th night free using Marriott points - They had a bottle of wine chilling for us in each room upon arrival, and we got free hot breakfast each morning), didn't get there until around 6:00 PM, dinner at hotel (DS loved watching the Vervet monkeys on the beautiful grounds here.)
Day 5 - Kruger Park sunrise game drive with Kurt Safari guide Crisman. The hotel gave us breakfast boxes to take with us. We saw a leopard sleeping on the side of the road first thing!!! We also saw a hyena with her baby, a Southern Ground Hornbill, steenbok, dwarf mongoose, water buffalo herd, zebras, wildebeests, waterbuck, kudu, some bull elephants, giraffes, hippos. Dinner at hotel
Day 6 - had to exchange the rental car, breakfast at hotel (included each morning), lunch at Harrie's Pancake in Graskop, Panorama Route (didn't get to do the whole thing due to the rental car exchange and late start), dinner in town (I should have researched local restaurant locations a little more thoroughly because we didn't find the ones I'd read about and wanted to try until the end of our time in Hazyview.)
Day 7 - breakfast at hotel, Kruger Park afternoon game drive with Crisman from Kurt Safari (A whole herd of elephants coming up from the Sabi River came right up to our jeep!!!! We were so close and they were still wet and muddy! Also saw an African fish eagle, warthogs, a Southern yellow-billed hornbill), dinner at hotel
Day 8 - breakfast at hotel, DD and I went to the Elephant Sanctuary to learn about and brush down elephants while DH and DS golfed at Sabi River Sun, relaxed by the pool in the afternoon, cultural dinner and show at Shangaan River Club in Hippo Hollow. The singing and dancing was terrific, and the buffet dinner was delicious. We also got to taste some traditional tribal foods, but none of us were brave enough to eat the Mopane worms.
Day 9 - Tamboti Tented Camp (1 family tent), breakfast at hotel, then drove up through Kruger Park (drove ourselves slowly, game drive style and saw sooooo many animals and in such large numbers! elephants, giraffes, rhinos) to Tamboti which is inside Kruger Park, cooked steak and veggie kabobs with seasoned potatoes for dinner over a campfire at camp
Day 10 - sunrise game drive through SANParks with Israel (saw another leopard, and 2 female lions but lions were really far away), lunch at camp, sunset game drive again with Israel (saw a Bateleur, Baboons, Genet and a Honey Badger, also saw the Southern Cross in the gorgeous nighttime sky), cooked dinner of pork and veggie kabobs with rice over the campfire at camp. We also tried to make S'mores over the campfire. We bought large pink and white marshmallows, but they didn't have graham crackers or Hershey's chocolate at the SA grocery store we visited in Hazyview. So we used Cadbury chocolate and Marie biscuits - different but still yummy! Speaking of the marshmallows - I had to fight a baboon for them at our campsite! Tamboti has double meshed cages on the tent deck to keep food and the refrigerator safe from the animals. I pushed all our food to the back of the cage not realizing that the back was only single meshed. We came home from a walk to find a baboon between the tent wall and the back of the cage with his fingers inside the cage. He had a bag of Doritos in one hand and my marshmallows in the other. I opened the cage door, grabbed the Doritos and the bag of marshmallows, which tore open, and marshmallows went everywhere. The baboon wouldn't leave the marshmallows alone despite my waving and yelling and stomping to scare him off until my 6'5'' husband chased him away! It was quite the experience!!!
Day 11 - Shindzela Tented Camp (2 tents), after breakfast we drove out of Kruger into the Timbavati Reserve to Shindzela (a beautiful full service classic safari camp with 3 meals a day, and 2 game drives a day included. The beds had hot water bottles in them and mosquito netting draped over them each night when we got back after dinner - so pretty!). We got there in time for lunch and an afternoon game drive with sundowners. We saw a pride of 5 female lions with 3 sets of cubs that afternoon; we were so close to them; it was INCREDIBLE!
Day 12 - morning game drive, spent time relaxing by the pool, afternoon game drive (saw a hippo marking his territory, so funny! also saw a mother rhino with her baby), all 3 meals at camp (and they were yummy, dinner was served in the Boma around the campfire each night - very lovely!)
Day 13 - Protea OR Tambo (2 rooms for 1 night free with points, with a complimentary late 2:00 checkout the next day). We had one last morning game drive at Shindzela. (We saw a 500 large herd of water buffalo at a watering hole, and the pride of lions came back to drink as well. The male lion was with them this time!!! After drinking, they stalked the herd of buffalo, we followed them hoping to see a kill, but it didn't happen. It was AMAZING nonetheless, and we got some incredible pictures!) After one last breakfast at Shindzela, we left for OR Tambo.
Day 14 - breakfast at hotel, naps to prepare for the looooong travel day/s, early dinner at hotel, flight home that evening

We were really happy that we stayed in 3 different places in the Greater Kruger Area because each area had different animals and different size herds. We could not get over the volume of each species we saw. Driving through Kruger to Tamboti, my DS looked to the left and yelled because he couldn't believe how many giraffes were right there. There were 15-20 walking and running right next to the road. The next second my DD yells "look", so we turned to the right. There were 50 or 60 elephants all gathered at the watering hole drinking. The volume and variety were incredible! We saw all the big five multiple times, plus tons of other animals and lots of amazing birds. And even though it was winter, we saw lots of baby animals (rhino, hippos, baboons, hyenas, zebras, lion cubs, giraffes, water buffalo calves, elephants). It was a GREAT trip! And I can't believe we did all that we did, saw all that we saw, and stayed in the quality lodging that we booked all for a $12,000 budget (total for 4 adults).

Last edited by mcisik; Apr 16th, 2020 at 01:52 PM.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2020, 12:46 PM
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Sounds like it was a great trip! The airfare is the worst but in the end it's all worth it.

You saw some great sights, too! I've only seen a glimpse at night of a honey badger and you saw one first trip out. And the rhinos! And running giraffes. They look so graceful. And a huge herd of ellies! You all were lucky!

Does everyone want to go again? It is so hard to describe to someone who hasn't been there how awesome and amazing it all is. You can tell someone you saw a leopard RIGHT THERE but you just have to see it for yourself.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2020, 01:26 PM
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Originally Posted by sundowner View Post
Sounds like it was a great trip! The airfare is the worst but in the end it's all worth it.

You saw some great sights, too! I've only seen a glimpse at night of a honey badger and you saw one first trip out. And the rhinos! And running giraffes. Theylook so graceful. And a huge herd of ellies! You all were lucky!

Does everyone want to go again? It is so hard to describe to someone who hasn't been there how awesome and amazing it all is. You can tell someone you saw a leopard RIGHT THERE but you just have to see it for yourself.
Hi Sundowner,

I would LOVE to go back to Africa!!! I'd like to try Kenya or Tanzania next time around. Maybe I'll be able to afford it for just my husband and me when we are done with college expenses. A safari had been on my bucket list ever since I watched Out of Africa back in college in 1985. When my two kids got into middle school, I started seriously looking into it. I researched Kenya and Tanzania first and came away totally disheartened by the costs. There was no way I could ever spend $30,000 on one family vacation, no matter how spectacular it was. So it went on the back burner for a while. Then a few years ago my timeshare magazine from RCI came in the mail. It had a whole feature on the timeshare Kruger Park Lodge in Hazyview, SA, which borders Kruger Park. The lightbulb went off! I looked into Kruger Park, saw that it was a world class safari destination, that self drive was an affordable option, and that the SANParks lodging options were varied and economical. That article opened up so many possibilities for us! I researched (many folks on here helped me!), came up with an itinerary, built a budget, and started saving. It took a couple of years longer to save up the money than I originally projected because by then, I had two kids at universities. Last year my oldest graduated from college, so it was then or never for a family trip. I am SOOOOOO glad we did it!!! What an incredible experience for all of us!

You are so right about the running giraffes. It is hard to imagine them running beside you until you've actually seen it - so breathtakingly beautiful! We really did feel incredibly lucky to see so many animals and in such huge numbers. I have to tell you the honey badger story. It's pretty funny! We actually didn't see it on any of our game drives. We were back at Tamboti Tented Camp cooking our dinner on the braai when we heard the people from the tent to the left of us hooting and hollering, "Look out! He's coming your way! Watch out!" We had no idea what they were talking about until........this honey badger came running right through our camp! It ran up to the braai and then over to the trash can and tried to get in it. My son was totally in a panic yelling, "Skunk! Skunk!" I knew it wasn't a skunk, but we were a little freaked out anyway because some South African folks had warned us earlier in the evening to douse our cooking fire when we were done. They told us there was a fire warning due to the dry conditions and high winds that evening and that animals would knock over the braai because they could smell the food bits on it. So when the honey badger ran straight for our braai, all I could think of was this newspaper headline the next morning - "American Tourists Burn Down Kruger Park!" We chased it away before it could do any damage, and off it ran to the next tent. The pandemonium it caused was pretty comical! In the end, I was pretty bummed we didn't get a picture of our close encounter, but it all happened so fast!

Last edited by mcisik; Apr 23rd, 2020 at 01:34 PM.
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