8 Tips for Traveling Abroad with Your Baby.

8 Tips for Traveling Abroad with Your Baby Cover1.jpg

Traveling Abroad with Your Baby.

So much planning. So much research. SO MUCH PREP. I worked hard to get the three of us to Europe (Madrid and Rome, Parts 1, 2, & 3) in one piece, with the necessary gear, and no more! I did some things really well. I did some things terribly. Some things just worked themselves out easily and some things were completely unexpected. In other words, it was a typical trip with a baby. I learned along the way and I wanted to share a few things we did that proved to be super helpful!

He loved this crib! It was almost weird how much he liked being in it...

He loved this crib! It was almost weird how much he liked being in it...

1. Purchased and packed our own Travel Crib.

I purchased this BABYBJORN Travel Crib for Everett to sleep in while we were abroad. Traveling with our Pack'n'play seemed kind of like a nightmare (too heavy/bulky, especially with all the other luggage and stroller), and this travel crib had the best reviews for the price. I like that it only weighs 13 lbs, can fit in a large suitcase, and was something that he was comfortable in no matter where he was sleeping. Since we opted for staying in Airbnb's instead of hotels (more on that below), there wasn't a guarantee that a decent crib would be provided in each location. I bought this a few weeks prior to our trip and started napping him during the day time in this crib, in his bedroom. I really think this helped him feel more comfortable in it once we were in the unfamiliar locations. And it's proved to be an awesome purchase! Ridiculously easy to set up and use, and I just used one of my regular crib sheets instead of purchasing the one they recommend for the crib. I know that we will use this for years to come! In fact, at the time of writing this, my son is napping in this crib in a condo in Florida. Soundly sleeping, I shall add. :)

daddy

2. Chose to stay in an Airbnb flat instead of a hotel.

It was important to me that we stay in an Airbnb apartment, especially after traveling with Everett a good bit, and realizing that his naps are what makes the world go round on vacation! When the three of us are all sharing one hotel room, sleeping can be difficult. And since the baby goes down at night around 7pm, usually Stevie and I have to whisper the rest of the night and, you know, not watch TV. I wanted to have a bit more space and the ability to put the baby down for the evening, and then at least share a glass of wine and talk about our day together. We chose to stay in apartments during our trek throughout Madrid and Rome (and during our mega Eurotrip a few years ago!) and it proved to be the best choice for our family. Bonus if you stay in a place with a balcony! We have previously used Airbnb in Spain, Italy, Germany and France, and almost all our experiences have been extremely positive. The site has an accountability system built into it, so we have an incentive to be good tenants while the landlords have incentives to be fair, honest, and quick to respond to any request. I would recommend it to anyone!

vista

3. Went with a Travel Highchair situation.

I went back and forth on this one, especially after doing a good bit of research and learning that Madrid and Rome, in particular, aren't very child-friendly in restaurants. Meaning, they probably wouldn't ever have high chairs available. Since I knew we would be eating out for most meals (hello! You don't go to Italy to cook!), so I knew we would need something we could take with us from place to place. I purchased a few different travel solutions on Amazon, test drove them prior to the trip, and finally landed on BRICA Fold N' Go Travel Booster Seat. It worked out beautifully! It hooks on to almost any kind of chair, and it was a sturdy option where there wasn't a high chair available. It also folds up so it's super easy and light to travel with. We threw it in the bottom of our stroller and used it when we needed to, though we ended up using it mostly in the Airbnb. When we ate out and about, we purposely chose outdoor restaurants whenever possible, that way we could just scoot the stroller up to the table and he could join us for the meal that way.

Obviously, we park the stroller next to the vespas.

Obviously, we park the stroller next to the vespas.

4. Brought our Stroller and Baby Carrier.

We decided to bring both our UPPAbaby Vista Stroller and ERGObaby Carrier for the trip, and boy, I am glad we did. Being able to wear the baby in the carrier (on the plane and out and about) was so SO helpful, especially when he was fussy and just wanted to be close to us. But if we had worn him the entire trip, that would have been a challenge. He weighs 20 lbs! So taking our stroller out with us was a GODSEND - he napped in it everyday while we were on the go and we could load it down with our gear for the day. Snacks, sunscreen, light jacket, water bottles, the works! So yes, we were like a traveling bus, but let's be real - that's just life with a baby. We travel heavier these days, but we still travel!

5. Packed in Cubes.

I won't claim to be a packing expert. I've gotten pretty good at packing for myself and Stevie, because I use these eBags Packing Cubes. They make a world of difference by limiting the amount that you need to bring but also making it possible to bring a lot in a compact way. I can seriously pack for a week-long vacation in a book bag by using these. And I previously traveled all over Europe for a month using just these cubes. They are a lifesaver. BUT. I am still an over-packer when it comes to baby gear. I don't want to find myself without something that could buy my son twenty minutes of happiness, so I tend to include everything and the kitchen sink just to ensure his comfort (and therefore, our comfort). However, this leads to lots and lots of stuff. I mean, just look at what I've listed above! And add in clothes, extra clothes, baby food, toys, books, TEETHING GEAR, and goodness, that's not even the half of it. I think I need to invest in another set of packing cubes just for this little guy...

His and Hers last beverages of choice before we plane-hopped. // Everett's first passport stamp! // Ergo, all day everyday.

His and Hers last beverages of choice before we plane-hopped. // Everett's first passport stamp! // Ergo, all day everyday.

6. Added in a Timing Buffer.

It was really helpful to budget extra travel time for everything under the sun. We gave ourselves an unscheduled day in each location just to adjust to the new time zone and nap off the jetlag. It might seems strange to do that on your first day in a new country, but it actually helped the rest of the trip to be completely enjoyable. Naps! We took them too! And it was absolutely wonderful.

7. Knew the Airlines' Policies.

This is one that still makes my blood boil. We called our airline (who shall remain nameless because I don't like to badmouth) multiple times in advance of our flights, to ensure that we reserved the baby bassinet for such a long trip. We were reassured each time that yes, of course, you have the baby bassinet. When we arrived at the airport gate, we were told that they had given the bassinet seats away to another family. The gate agent verified that we had put in the first request, but none of that mattered, despite what the customer service assistant had assured us on the phone. Whoever gets to the gate first and asks to be placed in the seats compatible with a bassinet will get them. So we did a lot of pre-planning for nothing. I think it's a crappy policy, but now I know better. RACE THROUGH THE AIRPORT. BUMP ALL THE OTHER MOTHERS OUT OF LINE. GET TO THE GATE FIRST AND YOU GET YOURS. Or, you know, whatever the classier version of that scenario might be. Do that.

Trust me, it was a lot of work to get us to this "fun and fancy freeeeeeee"-moment. BUT. We really did have a lot of these kinds of moments!

Trust me, it was a lot of work to get us to this "fun and fancy freeeeeeee"-moment. BUT. We really did have a lot of these kinds of moments!

8. Adjusted Our Expectations.

After several domestic trips to family's homes and weekend getaway spots, we realized that this Eurotrip was going to look nothing like our last one. Gone were the days of getting up early and staying out late, drinking in every tour, museum, and site (along with the wine!) We purposely went at a very slow pace. But you know what? We still did everything we wanted to do. This trip was SO MUCH FUN. Exploring these cities with Everett along for the ride gave us more insight into the richness of life with a baby. Having the the "attitude is everything!"-approach really made the difference. We had such an awesome trip and I am already planning our next overseas extravaganza! I'm feeling a UK/Scotland/Ireland excursion. However, my husband shushes me whenever I mention it. Too soon? I guess it's too soon.

I think I covered everything! Hope these help! Leave me a message in the comments section if you have any questions or travel tips to add to this list!

Our Do-Over Trip to Madrid, Spain!

Our Do-Over Trip to Madrid.

We made it! The first time I visited Madrid, things went horribly wrong. But Since Stevie had previously lived in Spain and LOVED Madrid, we decided to attempt a do-over. I am so glad we did! Madrid is an incredible city, ripe with sangria and paella and flamenco and oranges, thriving with edgy modernism in spite of it's anciently old history. I am so glad that we decided to take our son and explore this festive city together as a family of three. This was our first trip abroad with a baby, and whoa, we learned a few things along the way. But more on that later. First! Madrid!

We chose to stay in an airbnb in the Recoletos neighborhood, which is mostly a residential (non-touristy) area of town. This spot is close to the city's enormous Retiro Park (much like New York's Central Park), and we knew that would be a nice feature for Everett. We spent a lot of time walking around the park, truly mesmerized by its well-groomed, fanciful beauty. It reminded me of the Queen of Hearts' lawn in Alice in Wonderland, where they are all playing croquet and the hedges are all perfectly manicured. So pristine was this park. Though I had a hard time not staring at all the couples, um, coupling in the grass. I am always rudely reminded of what a modest American I am when I blush at Europeans' very public (let's be real graphic) displays of affection. But I got past it, and we had a lot of fun, lazily picnic-ing and wandering about, and also, SWINGING. Everett loved it, although the other little kiddos on the playground could definitely tell he wasn't Spanish like them. All that blonde hair, you know.

The park! And THOSE HEDGES.

Lunch! We watched a family play soccer while we tore into some baby food pouches.

I don't know how I am going to teach my son not to play with his food. Because I play with his food.

The park itself is huuuuuge. There is a darling little lake with people boating around, and there is a spot called the Crystal Palace - hello! That was clearly a must-see. Because when you go to Europe, you see as many castles as possible. Even if they're like, fake ones. This one was kind of a fake one. But it was still really really pretty, bending the sunlight that was streaming through all the crystallized panes. Pretty pretty.

Speaking of palaces, we spent Stevie's birthday touring the Royal Palace of Madrid! Oh what a delight. He liked the armory, while I preferred the King's residential wing of the castle. Although I must say, the Spanish are sorely under-jeweled. Their crown jewels were pathetic. AND. They don't even use them ceremonially. When someone is "crowned", they don't wear the crown at all. It just sits next to them while they take the photo. WHAT?! I mean. C'mon guys. Wear those baubles. Work that updo.

It made me realize that the queen of England is seriously, seriously endowed. I will never forget the rooms and rooms of crown jewels that she is in possession of. For real. KATE MIDDLETON IS SO LUCKY. Inheritance and whatnot.

The Royal Palace. Not too shabby. I mean, I'd take it.

Palace views of the city. And the country. And the mountains. I suddenly feel like such a peasant.

Birthday boy picking our his birthday baked good. I was like, GET ALL OF THEM.

 There are some strange statues in this city.

We wandered around and grabbed a very Spanish birthday dinner in the Plaza de San Miguel. Cheese plate! Wine! Crazy amounts of jamon and baguettes and olives! Everett was such a little champ, staying out much too late with us, sitting in the plaza and laughing and watching the sun go down and the stars come out. It was such a sweet time, the three of us, just being family, exploring the world together. It was exciting and very normal, all at once. Exciting, because everyone around us spoke emphatically in their native tongue, and normal, because we were just eating dinner, like we do everyday. It was such a strange and oddly humbling experience.

Mercado de San Miguel! Where one buys hip wine and overpriced cherries.

Fancy cheese. Of the Spanish varietals.

Oh, and in case you were worried that we weren't experiencing enough Spanish culture, we toasted to Stevie's birthday with hot chocolate churros. So yeah, the trip pretty much felt complete all in one moment. THE TASTE IN MY MOUTH WAS SINFUL AND HEAVENLY ALL AT ONCE. And if you want to be a drillionaire, you should open a hot chocolate churros food truck in the States. I will be the first in line. THE VERY FIRST.

Something that I've had on my bucket list for years is to see the infamous Velazquez Las Meninas painting in The Prado Museum. And we finally got to it! It's such a magnificent painting,some say one of the most important in the world. The meaning of the painting is disputed; there are dozens and dozens of theories about what the different subjects are doing and why - but I personally wanted to see this painting after learning about how it impacted Pablo Picasso. A few years ago, when we were in Barcelona, I saw his series of "Las Meninas"-inspired paintings, which he was compelled to create after being so taken with Velazquez's masterpiece. He created 58 paintings, in his own spectacular style, reinterpreting the original and skewing the sense of light, color, composition, angle and subject. It was fascinating, I remember thinking, "I have to see this crazy Las Meninas picture!" And now, I can say that I have. Picasso was no fool. The original painting was outstanding, so complex and intelligent and full of mystery. It was exhilarating to finally see the real picture, the one that inspired all the others. I felt like I was on a treasure hunt around the world, and a piece of the map came together for me on that day, in the Prado. I wish I could have lingered. But Everett discovered how his voice echoes in the museum and he reeeeeeally liked that... so we had to jet out of there as fast as lightning. I mean, he was loud.

Having a baby along for this particular adventure made me feel connected to people in a way that I never had. Even though I couldn't understand their words, I knew what their smiles, their gestures, and their warm words implied as they leaned down and spoke so sweetly to my son. Wherever we went, Everett somehow wormed his way into the hearts of everyone we met. I thought he was the apple of my own eye, but oh my! He left those little old Spanish women in a wake.

It made me realize that no matter what the vast differences might be between people, not only the language, but the culture, religion, politics, heck, the OCEAN that lies between the United States and Spain, the practice of adoring babies is truly universal. Young men, old women, children, couples, people of all heritages and walks of life - they approached us with warm eyes and excitable hearts. They wanted to speak to the baby, touch his hands (which made me cringe), and engage with his little presence and personality. They wanted to connect, and my little baby boy was the bridge. The olive branch. The conductor of electricity between us and them. It made me feel very human. Very human and very much a citizen of this vibrant world.

I feel insanely grateful that I had opportunity to experience this rich city just like this - as a wife and a mother, and a student of the world, exploring the Earth with my treasured ones.

And We're Off!

Off on an adventure!

I'm packed. Stevie's packed. Everett's packed. I really hope I'm not forgetting anything.

Today we leave for a 9-day family trip, exploring Madrid and Rome! The last time we were in Madrid, this is what happened. So needless to say, I don't remember a lot of the trip. But what I do remember... isn't great. So we are excited for a do-over! And the last time we were in Rome we toured hardcore, going underneath the Vatican and meandering through ancient Roman ruins. That trip was pretty epic, because we experienced 30 days of travel with just two backpacks and Rick Steves guiding us to and fro.

This time around, with Everett and his mammoth stroller and all the baby paraphernalia ON EARTH, we hope to take a more relaxed approach. Not necessarily touring and hitting tons of museums. Just wandering around, eating in cafes and taking in the deliciousness of the dolce vita. It feels very strange to have such a loose approach to this trip, but we figure if we set the bar pretty low, the trip will feel like a success if we just make it there without a major breakdown. And eat some gelato.

I am leaving my computer at home (gulp). I can't remember the last time I didn't travel with my laptop (it's been years), so I am excited and a little freaked about that. But I really want to detach and just experience this vacation with my family the old-fashioned way. I know I will have my hands full with my son, but I also don't want him to feel like second fiddle while mommy is blogging incessantly. So it's a big decision for me but I feel really good about it. However, my phone will be working and I will be posting to instagram like a crazy person, because, well, I'm a crazy person. So you can follow along our trip there, if you're into drooling over travel pics like I am. Also, I have a few posts ready to go, so there will be some content that I am excited to share even while I am away, so you can hang around the blog next week and there will be some fun recipes and recent travel posts to browse through :)

We are suuuuuper excited to celebrate two of our friends getting hitched in Rome, and anticipating what it will be like to travel abroad with our little baby... who is just shy of 10 months! Stevie's birthday is this weekend, too, so there is more than enough to clink our celebratory wine (or sangria!) glasses to!

For those of you who have been to Rome and Madrid before, do you have any suggestions on places or things to do/see/eat? Leave me a comment and let me know! And also - prayers for the 9+ hour flight with a baby pleeeeeease!

Love love love.

Madrid and Salamanca: Hot, Happy Anniversary.

So Happy.

Our anniversary was so hot, we never left the hotel room.

Allow me to elaborate. My husband and I celebrated our 6-year wedding anniversary on June 23rd. It  was so hot because we were both running fevers, and we never left the hotel room because we both contracted a flu bug.

Awesome. No, really, this is awesome. This is why I paid thousands of dollars to visit this amazing country and experience my Spanish heritage in action. NOT.

Commemorate in Epic Proportions.

Seriously. So steamy hot. We were guzzling way-out-of-the-budget Spanish bottled water like it was a lifeline. Yet somehow it mazed it's way down our chins and emptied into a sweaty pool on the flimsy hotel mattress. Sick. We groaned. Occasionally we changed it up and we moaned. Our muscles throbbed with the flu. Every time I looked over at Stevie, his lifeless body draped across the sweaty bed covers, his glazed sick eyes met mine in harmonious misery. We know how to party.

Eurosick.

How did this happen? Well, I'd like to blame it on the hellish 9-hour night train we took from Barcelona to Madrid (where Stevie spent most of this joyful ride resurrecting his dinner), but I don't really know if that's a fair reason. We had been traveling for three weeks straight, spending most of our time in public places. We were bound to come in contact with grimy germs at some point. And to add insult to injury, we'd been touring continuously for about 15 hours per day on very little sleep, so I guess our immune systems weren't exactly been thrilled with us. We just weren't prepared for this madness to happen. Who gets the flu in June? And what kind of couple gets it at the exact same time?! ON THEIR ANNIVERSARY??? Disgusting. I'm disgusted with everything.

For those of you who have been following our Euro trip, you might have been thinking it's been all sunshine and rainbows. To be honest, I had been thinking that, too. It's been a dream. Well, the trip has come to a crashing halt and I cannot kick myself enough for not packing more meds. And hand sanitizer. WE NEED NYQUIL!!! Stupid Spanish farmacias. I can't understand any of the labels.

This is Spain. We're supposed to be out touring. Painting things red. Sampling tapas in the Plaza Mayor and inspecting Velazquez's famous works like the Las Meninas at the Prado. Instead, we took turns rubbing each other's backs and praying for the torture to end, begging for this to only be a 24-hour bug.

So like I said, it was hot. One hot day followed by one incredibly hot night. And then another bonus hot day. How lucky. In the famed words of Miss Peggy Lee, “he gives me fever.” Great. Marvelous. Thanks for the reminder of all the wonders men can give us, Peg.

I guess I'll have to explore Madrid another year. I'm sure my Aunt Shirley will be thrilled to hear how marvelously we spent our time in one of her favorites cities.

Here's to chugging OJ in a Madrid hotel room for two days straight. And seeing nothing but its airport and train station. Not gonna lie, I am happy to say Hasta Luego, Espana.

Barcelona.

 

Calling All Artists.

Oh Barcelona, you are so saucy and so much FUN. If you need a place of inspiration, a playground for your craft, or simply a place to relax and have a good ol' time, Barcelona is the place. As my intro to Spain, I could not have been more pleasantly surprised at the awesomeness of this city. Barcelona is eclectic, doesn't take itself too seriously, and celebrates its charming, over-the-top bohemian vibe. The skyline is like a cartoon, characterized by it's willowy modern architecture and tropical waterfront. We spent the day strolling down the Ramblas, munching on paella and seafood tapas and wandering in and out of artisan shops. I fell in love with Barcelona, which was the most pleasant of surprises.

// We juiced up. //

// Sagrada Familia Basilica //

Cathedral Hunger.

The crowning glory of this town is (in my opinion), the Sagrada Familia Basilica, which is an epic church on the edge of town that was designed by Antoni Gaudi  himself. This is the first cathedral-type church that I've been in that I felt like I could actually attend. Like for church. In fact, I wanted to sign up to become a member right there on the spot. And it's not just because I'm churchy. I'm really not that churchy. It's just that I've never been in a church that embraced and invested in such a radical display of artistry (and for those of you who don't know, I've attended some super cool, uber radical, artsy Jesus institutions, so that's saying quite a lot.) But this building was the most incredible work of top-to-bottom creativity, completely free of religious pretension and creepy omen-art. You could call it a modern design, but that just does not do it justice. When I think of modern design, I think of Ikea, and that just cheapens how I mean to describe this monumental structure. It was like a fantasy land out of Star Wars. Plus Jesus. AKA THE DREAM. Well, it's missing Yoshi, but that's about it. Sheesh I can't even talk anymore about it. Everyone must visit and see.

// Inside this crazy cathedral //

// La Rambla //

Pab.

We visited the Picasso Museum, which was a ridiculous amount of fun and super educating. I had no idea how classically trained and talented Pablo Picasso truly was. His early work was completely traditional, characterized by spot-on portraiture and impressionist-style landscapes. Absolutely lovely; I think his early work is sorely underrated. His art radically changed as he spent more time in Paris in his mid-late 20's, which is when we begin to see his use of stark colors and bold shapes that ultimately defined his body of work as we know it today. This museum is so great. I've never appreciated his work as much as I do now, after walking through and seeing the transition in his lifetime of creativity. I have to admit, I surprised myself by falling in love with his Dovetail series (also called Les Pigeones), which are some of the last pieces he ever painted. Divine. I might have snagged a few prints while I was there. Not exactly in the budget.

Give Me More!

One day in Barcelona is stupidly too little. We were disappointed to get on our night train to Madrid and leave the sparkle of this city behind. Our day was like an appetizer (or tapa, if you will!), but it just gave me a hunger to return to Spain in the future, armed with more time and less agenda. This is a city you purposely get lost in. It begs you to visit, stay a while and deliciously appreciate the come-as-you-are vibe.