Category Archives: Travel

Baby / Family Fun / Life Abroad / Summer / Travel

Our Trip to Barcelona + Traveling with Littles

July 19, 2017

We recently returned from a week in Barcelona and had the most amazing time. Barcelona is one of those dreamy cities that you feel like you could wander forever and never get tired of.

We visited a bunch of the “must-see” sites and ate our weight in tapas and pintxos, and I’m already plotting our return — I couldn’t get enough of Barcelona! KC and I both at one point were devising a plan for him to do a secondment with his firm in the city (the one hitch being that KC doesn’t speak Spanish… which is sort of a must. Ha.) But with the gothic architecture and countless skinny alleyways just begging to be explored, how could you not want to spend more time there? 

For those of you wondering how traveling with two little ones was — it was actually great. Prim and Lark were amazingly well- behaved on both flights (Prim even slept on the flight over — serious win) and they adapted to their new surroundings without a second thought. We played fast and loose with their schedules and they took it all in stride like a couple of pros. Traveling with kids is of course never as easy-going or stress-free as I really prefer my vacations to be, but I have to admit that the kids were really good on this trip. Even though they’re both so young (newly two and four months at the time of our trip), they both adapted well and I think really enjoyed seeing a new city. That’s Prim running around in the background of that picture above ^^. Some guys had just come though and done a sort of tumbling/street dance performance while we were having dinner and Prim felt inspired to go run around do some dance moves of her own after they had passed through. She was quite the hit with a lot of the locals. If you’re considering traveling with kids, my advice is do it. I am pretty structured and type-A (KC I’m sure is laughing out loud at this — “pretty structured??”) and I have to admit that the idea of yanking the kids out of their comfort zones and subjecting them to an unfamiliar city and upending their schedules totally stresses me out. BUT, since we are in Europe for a finite amount of time (or, at least that’s the plan for now… ha!) I have embraced the idea that we will be traveling with our kids a lot. We have four more trips planned before the end of the year and may be adding a fifth. I have also learned that taking these trips and pushing them outside of their routines seems to be a good thing overall. I like to think that it’s not only opening their eyes to new places, people and things, but also making them more adaptable to life in general.

If you’re wondering what we bring with us travel-wise, here is the general list. (Keep in mind that your child’s needs will vary based on their own age and home life and this is just what worked for us.)

European airlines tend to have stricter carry-on rules and more fees for checking bags than US airlines do, but that said, some things are non-negotiable when traveling with little ones. We luckily have been able to find flights that allow us to check a stroller and carseat for free, so in addition to that we check one large suitcase with all of the stuff for me and the kids and a travel crib (we love our BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light). We bring three carry-on bags: a small suitcase (verrry small. Europe!) with KC’s stuff in it, a backpack I use as a diaper bag with stuff for the kids, and a travel bassinet.

I brought four thin paperback books for the kids, a teether for Lark, and Prim was allowed to bring her small Jellycat lion and her baby doll. Aside from that, we brought our iPad loaded with a couple Disney movies and Prim’s headphones, and that’s it entertainment-wise.This is our travel bassinet. I found it super-cheap on an online family market here in Amsterdam and it’s been awesome for travel because it folds up into a bag the size of a standard diaper bag (similar here — on sale!). I brought it with me when I traveled with Lark to the US also and was able to have her sleep in it on one of the flights, as I had two extra seats next to mine. She will likely outgrow it before our next trip, but since Prim is now sleeping in a toddler bed, we will be able to transition Lark into the travel crib and put Prim into a regular bed with our travel bed rail.

About 2 months before we moved to Amsterdam, we shipped our regular stroller with all of our other things to the Netherlands. Since we needed an interim stroller and wanted something compact for travel, KC started researching umbrella and travel strollers. He happened to come across the Babyzen Yoyo, which was in basically zero US stores at the time and I had never even heard of. After some intense online-sleuthing, KC determined that this was the stroller to get for travel, as it folds up suuuper small (seriously, TSA is always like “WHOA that’s small!” whenever I have to zip it through security) but also has a pretty legit suspension system, making it ideal for handling all of Europe’s cobblestone streets.

At the time, I thought it was a little insane to spend so much on a second stroller; but now that we’ve taken multiple trips with this stroller and had a second baby, I am so glad that KC insisted on this purchase. Though it folds up smaller than an umbrella stroller, it has the options and amenities of a full-size stroller. We’ve added the carseat adapters (ideal for traveling with a baby less than 6 months old) and the ride-on board, which is perfect for P. Prim is able to sit or stand on it when she feels like it (or when we force her to — 2 year olds!) or we can pull the board up when it’s not in use (see the picture of KC with both kids and the stroller above to see the board pulled up).  And of course I can’t live without the Solly Baby Wrap. It’s so light and versatile, it’s perfect for travel. It can be balled up and shoved into a suitcase or diaper bag, it works as a lightweight blanket in the stroller, as a makeshift nursing cover, and it’s light enough to use in hot weather. Not to mention that the Spanish ladies were all totally obsessed with my wrap (and Lark in the wrap for that matter). I was stopped so many times on the street to have conversations in broken Spanish and English about my wrap (and its contents 😉 ) — clearly Solly needs to start some kind of global expansion program here.

We loved you, Barcelona. Someday I will be back to walk your streets and drink all the cava.

PS: If you have any travel-related questions, please leave me a comment and I’ll respond. 🙂

Motherhood / Travel

A Very Long Day

October 5, 2016

img_9921Hello!

We’re back in Amsterdam now after our few weeks in California. We left last Thursday and got in early on Friday morning after two flights with a layover in Newark, New Jersey.

Since I’m sure your curious how these flights went, the short version is I felt less nervous and more prepared, but they also weren’t as smooth as the two coming to California. This was mainly due to the fact that Prim didn’t sleep the night before our flights back to Amsterdam. Prim, my sweet little champion sleeper who has been sleeping through the night for the past 7 months straight, was up flipping out until 3am the night before our flights. I could not for the life of me figure out what the deal was and tried everything imaginable to get her to calm down and go to sleep. She, of course, fell asleep hard at 3am when I had to be up at 4:30am (and wake her up at 5am) for our 8am flight out of SFO. (Nothing makes you feel like a kick-ass mom like waking up your EXHAUSTED child after 2 hours of sleep!)

Our flight to Newark went surprisingly well. Prim slept a little and chilled out for most of the flight. When we got to Newark though, she was pretty amped, which I knew was a bad sign (hellooo overtired!) I was hoping that she would knock out early on our second flight, since I knew she was super tired and the flight was long. She was so overtired that as soon as we boarded the plane she was starting to lose it. I quickly gave her some Benadryl and did manage to get her to fall asleep, but she woke up after 20 minutes fully pissed and inconsolable. The seat belt sign was on forever so I literally just had to sit there with a writhing, screaming, overtired child, telling myself over and over, “You’re never going to see any of these people sitting near you again.” (And if you’ve ever been one of those people cursing the parents of a screaming child on a plane — trust me, they have it wayyy worse than you do. And karma is a total B, which means you will probably be the horrified parent of a screaming child on a plane one day!)

The seat belt sign finally went off and I took Prim into the bathroom to calm her down/muffle her screams. The first few of hours were like this — me doing everything in my power to keep her meltdowns as minimal as possible. The rest of the flight went ok, but I was exhausted and everyone sitting around me seemed terrible and mean.

The woman across the aisle from me was a total weirdo who boarded the plane with one of those surgical masks on. I was dying to ask her if it was because she was sick or because she was trying not to get sick, especially after she removed it shortly into the flight and spent the rest of the time coughing and sneezing. (File that under, Exhibit A: I’m pregnant and hate everyone.)

Also, my flight from Amsterdam to Chicago on my way out to California was so great, passenger-wise. People were SO friendly with Prim. For whatever reason, all the flights I’ve had that have originated in the US it’s been the complete opposite — people literally don’t even say “hi” back when Prim says hi to them.

WTF, America??

We finally arrived back in Amsterdam and de-boarded the plane only to find that our stroller was not there waiting. I saw that another family had gotten their stroller and so asked a worker about ours. After some radioing back and forth, she shrugged and informed me that she “guessed” it would come out with our luggage. (That European customer service, guys — it’s amazing.)

This meant that I had to journey across the entire airport, through customs (European customs, no less — read: slow, disorganized), all the way to baggage claim carrying an exhausted, wiggly toddler and our two carry-on bags, while almost 20 weeks pregnant.

THANKS UNITED. YOU’RE THE BEST.

Also, have you ever tried to grab two huge suitcases and a stroller off of the baggage carousel while simultaneously trying to corral a toddler after traveling for 18 hours on 1 1/2 hours of sleep? It’s awesome. I totally recommend it.

I will admit that there was a point where I was like, “I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN.” But, in true mom-fashion, it’s looking like there’s a very solid chance that I’ll be flying back to California with Prim solo in December again (which, I have told myself is going to be great and so easy!) We will be flying direct this time, and 11 hours direct sounds like a freaking godsend after these multi-flight trips (even if I will be in my third trimester at that point…)

Oh yeah, and why was Prim such a monster the night before our flights? Well, I figured out the other day that THREE of her molars just came in. Hooray!

Travel

We’re Here!

September 19, 2016

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Sorry for the delay in posting. We have been seeing friends and family and soaking up all the good California weather that’s been going on. (And obviously filling our bellies with so much Mexican food and sourdough bread. Hello!)

I thought I’d write a quick post about our flights out here, as I’m sure that anyone who has ever traveled with a child (especially a toddler) is wondering whether we’re currently banned from ever flying United Airlines again after our 20-hour ordeal. (We’re not.)

Here’s how it went down…

We left the house at 7:45am, as our flight was scheduled to leave just after 11am and I wanted to make sure we had ample time to get through security at Schiphol. If you have ever been to Schiphol (or pretty much any European airport) you’ll know that people traveling with children are not fast-tracked the way they often are in the states, and the whole, ahem, “efficiency” and “organization” thing is sort of generally lacking… Anyway, we breezed through checking our bags and getting through security, but then had to pass through passport control which was a veritable sh**show. It was basically a giant cluster of people unsure of where to line up with one worker casually pointing people to “EU” and “Non-EU” passport lines (I use the term “lines” loosely, because there was zero delineation of where these lines were or should be.)

We finally made it to the front of the “line” and passport control looked at our passports and then waved us through without a single word. I was fully expecting to have to provide documentation showing that KC knew we were leaving the country (as Dutch citizens have to provide all kinds of paperwork when one parent travels alone with a child — birth certificate, marriage certificate, consent form signed by both spouses, etc.), but nope — on we went.

We started the trek to our gate, which was apparently 40 miles away from where we came out of security. Luckily we had plenty of time, so we made a stop at Starbucks along the way to grab a bagel and a hot chocolate. Prim immediately had a huge meltdown while we were waiting in line, which I weathered by telling myself, “Well, at least we’re not on the plane!” Many bites of my bagel calmed her down and we made our way back to our gate.

I let Prim roam around the gate area and then spent a long time riding the moving sidewalk with her, attempting to tire her out before boarding. When boarding was about to begin we headed back to the gate area and Prim roamed around and made friends with many of the waiting passengers.
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I waited to board until almost the end so that P would have less time waiting in her seat and then promptly dosed her with some Benadryl in the hopes that she would fall asleep after takeoff (since it was her usual naptime). I nursed her during takeoff and managed to get her to sleep (victory!) which lasted a mere 40 minutes (uggghhhh…) The remainder of the flight was spent watching bits and pieces of Tangled while the seatbelt sign was on and following Prim up and down the aisles of economy class, where she made friends with every single flight attendant and pretty much every person in an aisle seat. (In case you’re trying to do the math, yes, we spent a solid 5 or 6 hours walking the plane.)

We de-boarded in Chicago at 8pm Amsterdam time — Prim’s usual bedtime. I assumed she would conk out in the stroller, but no — the girl was still going strong. We cleared customs, grabbed our luggage, re-checked our luggage, boarded the tram to our next terminal and then made our way through security (yet again). Our gate was, again, in a land far, far away from security, so we strolled our way through most of O’Hare and down and then up every hidden elevator since that damn place is nothing but escalators.

We found our gate and I found a spot to charge the laptop (because God forbid we run out of batteries and can’t watch Tangled!) Prim found a small metal ring that she decided to throw and chase around the floor. I was too tired to worry too much about it, so when a very concerned gentleman came up to tell me that she was “playing with a piece of metal,” all I could say was, “I know,” like the #1 mom that I am.

We boarded the plane and took off at 11pm Amsterdam time. Prim got another dose of Benadryl (because she was still awake! How??) and I nursed her, hoping that she would sleep most of the flight. She ended up sleeping off and on for the first hour and a half, but was attached to me the entire time (because as soon as we detach, we wake up! Yay.) I finally gave in and let her be awake with 2.5 hours to go. These hours were spent watching portions of Tangled (yet again) and playing fun games like, “take all the candy out of the Ziplock and then put all of it back.”img_9786We arrived in San Francisco so tired at about 3:30am Amsterdam time, with Prim still going strong and refusing to sleep.

The day was exhausting and definitely a little nuts, but we managed to avoid meltdowns on both flights, which I’m calling a win.

Travel

Calo des Moro

September 8, 2016

img_9757 One of the days in Mallorca we took a drive about an hour from our hotel to go to another beach that had been recommended to KC — Caló des Moro.

We arrived and had to hike down to the beach — first down a bunch of stairs and then what felt like the rocky face of a cliff (which, in flip flops with a bad knee — not so easy). img_9759Luckily our trek was really worth the effort, because the beach was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

img_9754I mean look at that! It’s like a postcard. And that’s just a shot taken on KC’s iPhone too — nothing fancy.

The beach was super crowded (obviously the locals know the good spots here), but we were able to find a little space for our stuff and headed off into the water.

(Please note that the Europeans are quite easy going with their beach attire, so there might be some bare body parts in the background of these shots — they were hard to avoid!)

DCIM100GOPRO Prim loved digging in the sand at the edge of the surf, and was content to spend most of her time filling and re-filling the bucket we had bought her.

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DCIM100GOPRO We did manage to get her into the water, which after a little adjustment period she warmed up to quite well.

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DCIM100GOPRO The water is so clear here, it’s amazing. You can see all the way to the bottom forever! (Which makes those of us who are a little uneasy with dark water — ahem, me — a little more comfortable.)

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DCIM100GOPRO This beach probably wasn’t the most family-friendly, as it was quite a trek to get down to. If you had more than one little one it might be a bit tough to navigate (I would definitely recommend bringing a baby carrier if you have one!) But if you’re feeling adventurous I would totally recommend it. I mean, it’s worth it for the views alone!

Travel

Beach Day

September 7, 2016

Just a few photos from our day at the beach near our hotel in Mallorca. KC took these on his phone and on the GoPro (hence the water spots in a few of the shots). I can’t get enough of Prim in her cute little swimsuit with her long legs and pudgy belly!img_9762 img_9763 img_9764 img_9761

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DCIM100GOPRO PS: Prim’s suit is from BabyGap (sold out) and my one-piece is from Old Navy (sold out).