≡ Menu

Foodborne Illness | Stroller Packing

It’s time for a reader question!  Maggie O writes

“I have a question about food in Latin America for a 12 month old. We are headed to Lima in late August, my son will be 14 months and right now eats 100% table food and almond milk. How do you handle feeding them since there is risk of sickness? Would I go back to Gerber? Or is anything safe?”

Great question!

Like many safety-related questions, the answer depends largely on your level of tolerance to these issues. We generally don’t worry an extreme amount about this kind of stuff. The kids follow the same rules as we do as adults – I don’t really take any extra precautions above and beyond what we do. We also just feed them the same food that we eat on principle both at home and on the road for the low-hassle factor.

So in countries where you are worried about waterborne and/or foodborne illness, here are some basic principles, applicable to everybody who is traveling:

– Drink only bottled water.
– Use bottled water to brush your teeth
– Don’t accept drinks with ice cubes in them. The drinks may have come from a bottle, but the ice may have been made with tap water.
– Any (well) cooked food or packaged food is fine to eat.
– For fresh fruit, stick to fruits that have peels like bananas, coconut, or citrus.

In general we are pretty strict about the water rules, but tend to be less strict about the food rules. Let your intuition be your guide – if something seems sketchy, don’t eat it. If it seems like it’s coming from a clean place, it’s probably fine. We definitely bought stone fruit from a fancy grocer in Lima and ate it without thinking twice. We are more careful with street vendors.

The one thing I’m not sure about is accessibility to almond milk. I know that many countries other than the US buy their cow’s milk in shelf-stabilized form – it comes in cartons that can be stored unrefrigerated until opened. But if he’s on almond milk because of a dairy sensitivity, you might be going with bottled water and juices if you can’t find any almond milk (or if it’s prohibitively expensive). Just make sure he’s getting enough extra calories from food to make up for the ones he won’t be getting from the almond milk.

Do you have thoughts on eating with your kids in a country with food- and waterborne illness concerns?  How do you handle it?

{ 2 comments }

Keys to Affordable Travel: Little Things Matter On The Road

This is the third post in our series that answering the question:

How do you afford to travel so much?

Our first post was about creating a mindset where travel is a priority.  Then we talked about some analysis and trades you can do while planning your travel to keep it affordable.  This post will take that mindset on the road.

Key #1 – Make Travel a Life Priority
Key #2 – The Little Things Matter (At Home)
Key #3 – The Little Things Matter (On the Road)
Key #4 – Be Infinitely Flexible
Key #5 – Play Games

Little Things Matter (On the Road)

Many people view travel as a treat. Don’t get me wrong, it is a treat to travel. But I think many people view it as an opportunity to treat themselves, that is, to splurge. On everything. With abandon.

If you view travel as a lifestyle rather than occasional treat, it becomes easier to forgo the splurges.  Living more or less as you would at home when you are on the road can cut your trip expenses and make travel more doable.  If you feel enabled to spend money like this is the last trip you’ll ever take, it might take extra time to recover.

Here are some ways that we think frugally on the road:

1. Eat local cuisine; Forgo fancy restaurants

I put a really high priority on eating local cuisine when we travel.  I’m not in foreign countries to eat burgers or steak, or haute cuisine that I could get at some fancy restaurant at home.  I want mee goreng, swedish meatballs, shwarma, and handmade empanadas made upstairs in grandma’s kitchen.  Luckily, in most cases, eating local means eating street food or, at most expensive, pub food.  So it turns out that eating local is often extremely easy on the budget.

With little kids in tow, fancy restaurants are sort of out of our league at the moment anyway, so we are doubly motivated to eat elsewhere – for the cost factor and the hassle factor.  But even before we had kids, it seemed like many times the fancier the restaurant, the more generic the cuisine.  We would usually set aside one meal of the trip to be our fancy “night out,” and (suprisingly?) these never turned out to be my favorite dining experience of the trip.

2. Self cater

Also related to food, self-catering is a great way to save money and get a local experience.  A trip through the grocery store in a foreign country is a wonderful cultural experience, and you can often pick up local specialties (hello, Swedish smoked salmon) for much cheaper in the grocery store than at restaurants.  You can also look for local markets for locally grown produce and freshly caught seafood.

We self-cater at least one meal per day.  If it’s one of those countries that doesn’t eat supper until 10pm, and our kids just won’t make it that late, we’ll self-cater dinner and then make our lunch a “big” meal out – usually some kind of street food or local pub food.  Usually lunch is a cheaper meal to eat out anyway.  If supper is eaten at a more American-like hour (6pm-7pm), we’ll self-cater lunch so that we don’t have to stop and find something to eat in the middle of sightseeing.  And if you make a grocery store run, you are always guaranteed to have snacks on hand, which with kids is so essential.

If our hotel doesn’t include breakfast, self-catering is a no-brainer with fruit, yogurt, juice, and cheese.

If your accommodation has kitchen facilities, so much the better – you can cook hot meals too.  Pre-kids, if this was our situation, we’d be happy to cook about half the time and go out half the time.  In the post-kid era, we are happy to cook the vast majority of our meals – again… low cost, low hassle, more vacation-y relaxation.

3. Be selective about attractions

This is a tricky one.  Because I really, really want you to see what you want to see, and not worry about the price.  Cultural attractions are one place where I don’t want to you skimp.

But if you only have time to see a few attractions and you have a wish list as long as you arm, paying attention to the admission cost can help you narrow your list down.  Especially ask yourself how much your kids will get out of it and weigh that against the cost of admission.  While I’m a huge proponent of continuing to travel even with kids that are “too young to appreciate it,” sometimes it might just be best to forgo a certain attraction until the kids are older.

Also – just be picky about which attractions you choose to spend money on.  Is it something you could experience just as easily at home?  Is it a facsimile of an real experience instead of a real experience?  Is it something a local would do or designed just for tourists?  If it’s not enriching you and/or your kids, thing twice about laying out the cash.

4. Turn simple things into attractions

As an alternative to attractions that charge admission fees, consider simple activities that can be deeply enriching but free of cost.  As I mentioned in #2, going to the grocery store or market is a favorite activity of mine.  Taking the kids to a playground or play area, watching them interact with local kids, and getting to bond with parents (sometimes in spite of a language barrier) has become a huge part of our travel lately, and no less impactful (maybe moreso!) than dragging the kids through castles and forts (though we do that too).  Usually we spend at least one day in a new city simply walking around, people watching, and looking for ice cream.  It’s amazing how you can get the vibe of a place just by being present – free of charge!

——————————–

These are a few specific ideas, but there are many more like this.  I hope you see the mindset here.  We don’t treat travel as an excuse to blow a bunch of money and call it a treat.  We try to be mindful, live our normal life, and get cool cultural experiences just by being among locals.

Click here for:
Key #1 – Make Travel a Life Priority
Key #2 – The Little Things Matter (At Home)
Key #4 – Be Infinitely Flexible
Key #5 – Play Games

{ 0 comments }

Cheap Toys for Travel: Stopper Beads

Another shout-out to my mother, the preschool teacher for this one.  It’s the simple act of stringing beads onto pipe cleaners that can provide hours of focused entertainment for toddlers and even preschoolers.

There are two basic parts you need for this one: pipe cleaners and beads.  Any variety of either item will do.  I prefer the big fuzzy pipe cleaners (beads less likely to slip off) and square beads (keeps the beads from rolling all over the place) if you can find them.

Cheap Toys for Travel: Stopper Beads | StrollerPacking.com

This activity gets its name from the first bead you string onto the pipe cleaner.  The caregiver should twist the end of the pipe cleaner around the first bead.  This bead becomes the “stopper bead” so that the rest of the beads that you string don’t fall off.  My kids latched onto this idea, and call the whole game “stopper beads.”

Cheap Toys for Travel: Stopper Beads | StrollerPacking.com

{ 0 comments }

How To Afford Travel Part 2: Little Things at Home | Stroller Packing

Welcome to the second post in our series that answers the forever asked question:

How do you afford to travel so much?

Our first post was about creating a mindset where travel is a priority.  If travel is a priority, you’ll be more willing to spend some money and, more importantly, some time into making it happen.  In this post, we’ll dive a little deeper into what you should be spending time and mental energy on before you travel in order to make your travel more affordable.

Key #1 – Make Travel a Life Priority
Key #2 – The Little Things Matter (At Home)
Key #3 – The Little Things Matter (On the Road)
Key #4 – Be Infinitely Flexible
Key #5 – Play Games

Key #2 – The Little Things Matter (At Home)

There are really two, mostly unrelated parts to this key, but I’m still going to cram them into the same blog post.  You’re welcome.

The Little Things Matter When Spending Money

The first part ties in very tightly with the first key about making travel a priority.  If you make having travel experiences a priority for your family, you should be willing to spend money on travel.  In order to be able to spend the money on travel, you should be willing to spend less on other things.

The specific actions to accomplish this are the same types of things that you might encounter when you are trying to achieve any financial goal from getting out of debt to buying a house.  Spend less.  Analyze before you buy.  Buy used.  Cut frivolous expenses.  Here are some specific examples of things we do to save money in general, so that we have the disposable income that we need to travel freely:

  • Drive used vehicles (ours are 14-18 years old at this point)
  • Buy kids’ clothes from resale shops (most of their clothes end up messy, so who wants to pay full price anyway?)
  • Minimize dining out, and use coupons when we do
  • Analyze purchases for value, weighing cost vs. quality
  • Seeking out alternative vendors (Amazon, ebay, craigslist, discount stores) instead of making impulse purchases in high end stores.
  • Earn miles and points by always making purchases with miles or points-earning credit cards (and of course paying them in full each month).  More on this in Key #5.

Those are a few examples, but you get the idea: if travel is a priority, other things you could spend money on are less of a priority.  If you’d rather spend more on those other things than travel, maybe those other things are higher priority.  Which is cool, too.

The Little Things Matter When Planning Travel

The second part of this key is where we get down to details about actual travel buying decisions.  The pieces of your travel that you put into place before you ever leave home are the pieces that are the most expensive – airfare, major hotel nights, major ground transportation – and so the big pieces are where you can see the most impact of getting good value.  Here’s my big tip for you:

Research, research, research.  And then research some more.

You might not believe the amount of thinking we do about every single aspect of our travel.  We think about it all the time.  Whatever you do, don’t take the default hotel option just because someone told you to.  Do your own due diligence.  Make sure that the money that you are spending is going to get you what you want.

The more careful thought you put into your travel during the planning stages, the more bang for your buck you are going to get when you are on the road.  It’s not incredibly spontaneous and sexy, but (a) you can plan in some spontaneity if you get the big wins and (b) being able to travel a bunch because you saved money is sexy, too.

Here are some things we obsess about during the planning phases of travel:

Air travel

  • Monitoring Flyertalk and various travel deal blogs for the airfare deal of the moment (and sometimes the hotel deal of the moment)
  • Can we use the routing rules to take a longer routing and earn more miles?
  • If there is a schedule change on our trip, what alternate flights can we request to earn more miles or make our trip better (or both)?
  • How should we strategize our reserved seats on the airplane in order to maximize our comfort without having to buy up to a more expensive class of service?
  • What aircraft are flying this route?  Which flights are more likely to result in upgrades/bumps/empty seats in coach/on-demand in-flight entertainment (IFE)/etc?

Hotels/Lodging

  • Does this hotel have breakfast included?  If not is there a restaurant and what would the cost be?  If not is there a grocery store nearby where we could self-cater?
  • Will we earn points at this hotel?  Are there any points bonuses going on that make this hotel a better deal because of the points we’ll earn back?
  • Can we use points or cash-and-points to book this hotel?  How do we value our points – is it really a good deal to use them vs. cash?
  • Would a vacation rental (AirBnB, VRBO, etc) be a better value for us in this situation?
  • Can we earn points or free nights by staying at a hotel local to our home and then using the points/nights on our trip (i.e. mattress running)?

Transportation

  • Is there public transit?  If so do they charge for children?  Is it a better deal to buy individual tickets or get a pass?
  • What is the cost of renting a car?  Putting a family of four in a car can often save money over train tickets.
  • If we’re going to drive, are there any insurance or special considerations about safety we should be aware of?

Sightseeing

  • What are our top priorities for sights to see?  How much is admission?
  • If a sight has an expensive admission, will the kids get anything out of it at this age?  If not, let’s save it for next time.
  • Are there any discount passes (a la the Paris Museum Pass) that allow unlimited or discount admissions if purchased as a package?

So those are a few of the details we go over with a fine tooth comb.  It sounds like a lot, and it is.  And there’s more than what I have listed here, but hopefully these kinds of questions will get you thinking about what kinds of questions to ask yourself.  My dad always says that the best part of a trip is the anticipation, and thinking this hard about the details of your trip will certainly help up your anticipation factor.

Click here for:
Key #1 – Make Travel a Life Priority
Key #3 – The Little Things Matter (On the Road)
Key #4 – Be Infinitely Flexible
Key #5 – Play Games

{ 1 comment }

Travel Disasters: Lost Luggage

We traveled to Lima for a long weekend last month, and due to a relatively simple delay and misconnection, our bags didn’t make it to us in Peru until the morning of the day that we were leaving to come back home.  I think many people are totally freaked out by the idea of losing their luggage.  I wasn’t, which surprised and fascinated me.  If you know me at all, you know that I’m not the most unflappable, zen personality in the world.  So I thought I’d pass on a few things that I do to mitigate the impact of lost luggage, and a few things that I did once it happened.

I will preface this by saying that until we had two kids we carried on our luggage virtually all of the time, even for long trips.  My friend Farnoosh did a great video about packing minimally for a carry on and still having all of your stylish stuff with you.  I’m not stylish, but I do have kids, so the “packing minimally and still having all of your [fill in the blank]” necessity still applies.  However, once we had two kids in carseats (and for a while, in diapers), carrying on just wasn’t a viable option, so we started to check our bags.  I will assume that you needed to check your bag in the first place.  Having said that:

Tips for Minimizing the Impact of Lost Luggage

1. Carry on essential items

I know you can’t carry on everything – I can’t either.  But make sure you have the essentials with you.  For me, personally, that’s about 3 spare pairs of underwear and a stick of deodorant.  For the kids that’s one complete change of clothes each, and enough diapers and wipes to last until you might be able to get to the store – for me this is about three days worth.  Medicines are in this category – my husband checked an item that wasn’t life-or-death essential, but makes his tummy a generally happier place.  He regretted the decision to check that.  Charging cables for your electronics are also a big one, but international adapters are not – you can usually borrow these from your hotel.

Imagine a situation in which you only had your carry on for a couple days.  What minimum items do you need to function and and not kill your potential seatmate with your scent?

2. Know your benefits

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa has a lost/delayed luggage insurance benefit, as long as you booked the travel on that card.  It’s pretty easy to file a claim and they cover up to $100 per day per cardholder up to $500 total.  Check with your credit cards to see what kind of benefits you have.  Knowing what you can be reimbursed for will help you make decisions about what you can or should spring for while you wait for your luggage to return to you.  We had a small shopping spree at a Peruvian general merchandise retailer in the mall next to our hotel.

3. File a claim with your airline immediately, before leaving the airport.

Despite the annoyance of having your luggage delayed, it’s not often that the delay is super huge.  You can minimize the time until you see your luggage again by filing the claim as soon as possible.  In our case, they put the bags on the following day’s Newark-Lima flights, and the bags were delivered to the hotel lobby about 24 hours after we arrived.  (They had misconnected the previous night as well, so we had actually gone about 48 hours without our luggage.  But the time from filing the claim to getting the bags was pretty short, all things considered.)

4. Ask for an amenity kit

Many airlines, airports, and hotels have incidental items or kits available for stranded travelers.  We’ve gotten the SAS kit twice – once in Bergen, once in Stockholm and we picked up United kits in Houston (the first night we missed our bags).  These kits contain toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, razor, and deodorant.  The SAS kits also include a packed of powdered laundry detergent and a plain white t-shirt to wear while you wash your stuff. (More on that in a minute…)

But make sure you ask for the kit everywhere – especially when you file your claim and also at your hotel.  Ask for one kit for everyone in your party, even the infants.  You never know when you’ll need the extra stuff

4. Do laundry

Wash your things in your hotel room sink with shampoo or body wash.  Dry things that need rapid drying with the hair dryer.  I wish I could tell you that I was already so super-savvy as to carry with me a packet of powdered laundry detergent in my carry on, but that is something I will be adding to my list of essentials above.  I guess I got spoiled by the SAS amenity kits!

Lost Luggage: Do Laundry | Stroller Packing

This is me doing the laundry in the hotel sink. Pardon the bathrobe.

5. Go shopping

I find shopping of any kind to be a cool cultural experience.  Deciphering the packaging of feminine care products written in Spanish was a whole new adventure.  And I couldn’t figure out what clothes Peruvian toddlers were supposed to wear.  Their baby section went up to 12 month sizes and their kid section started at 4T.  My Spanish is certainly not good enough to ask that question.  So I had fun with it.  And now my kids have a small selection of Peruvian clothes to grow into.

As an aside, I was frustrated that all the print t-shirts contained text in English about California and such American nonsense.  They even had a rack of football jerseys – England, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy.  Seriously?  I can’t buy a souvenir Peru football shirt while in Peru?  I was hoping that my Peruvian clothes would seem more Peruvian.  But alas, I’m typing this while wearing my “I <3 Summer” shirt that I bought that day.

6. Don’t panic

So you may not smell as fresh as a daisy for a day or two.  In many parts of the world, this won’t even be noticed.  And no one is going to realize that you are wearing the same outfit for three days in a row in your pictures either.  It may feel like this is a trip-ruining occurrence, but it really doesn’t have to be.  As with all things travel-related, the more you can roll with it, the more fun you can have, no matter what setbacks come your way.

Sheraton, Lima, Peru | Stroller Packing

This is the outfit I wore for three days in a row. You can’t even tell, can you?

{ 0 comments }

How To Afford Travel Part 1: Prioritize Travel | Stroller Packing

How do you afford to travel so much?

So many people ask us this question.

There’s not really a good, magic-bullet sort of answer.  If that’s what you are hoping for, I’m sorry to disappoint you.  Like any hobby worth having, it requires a lot of hard work and some sacrifice to do it.  We are seizing on a crazy opportunity to do something very unique, and we are choosing to take that opportunity to put the resources of time and money into it so that we and our children can both have some amazing experiences.

Since there are multiple answers to the “how do you afford it?” question, I’m going to break down my answers into a series of posts in the upcoming weeks.  Since Mrs. Spletzer told me in 9th grade English that I should “tell you what I’m gonna tell you,” here’s what’s coming at you – the 5 Keys to Affordable Travel:

Key #1 – Make Travel a Life Priority
Key #2 – The Little Things Matter (At Home)
Key #3 – The Little Things Matter (On the Road)
Key #4 – Be Infinitely Flexible
Key #5 – Play Games

Key #1 – Make Travel a Life Priority

That probably sounds trite and obvious to you.  But I want you to take that in for a minute and absorb it.  Everybody has priorities in their life.

We definitely put more resources and work into travel than we do into other things (possibly more than any other thing).  I will get into examples of the little things that add up in terms of money and time both at home and while on the road, so I won’t go into them here.  What I’m talking about right now is the mindset behind the next two principles.  This is what drives them and what provides the motivation to stick with them when they are hard.

We continue to travel because we love it and don’t want to stop.  And we’re willing to put the work in to make that happen, even if some other things fall by the wayside.

There’s no magic wand that gets waved that manifests a fully planned, booked, and optimized vacation right under your nose.  It’s a ton of hard work to tweak all of the little details that make our trips affordable and plentiful.  In order to be willing to put in that work, it has to be a priority.

I do think that there is a certain tradeoff between time investment and money investment.  Travel isn’t ever going to be free, but if you are willing to put in time and effort to learn about how to optimize it, along with the ongoing time to watch for ephemeral deals when they pop up, you are much more likely to need to invest less money.  There’s a ton to learn about this stuff.  So, a lot of our free time gets devoted to analysis, to picking over details, to reading travel hacking blogs and FlyerTalk.  It’s a priority.  It’s a hobby – we really do enjoy the process, the game of it (more on that in Part 5).  At times we wonder if we put too much time into it, but we have never regretted a trip, and I think that’s probably the best balance: at times wondering if it’s worth it, most of the time knowing that it is.

We have made a value judgement as a family that we prefer – that is, we prioritize – quantity over quality.  We would rather get to take more trips and see more places than take one be-all, end-all trip.  Because of this we try to do things on the road to gain the best value, not necessarily to have the ultimate experience.  We also try to never say things like “once-in-a-lifetime,” instead saying, “we’ll have to do that when we come back next time.”  This takes the pressure off trying to craft the perfect trip.  Believe me – trying to craft the perfect trip when you are traveling with kids is just way too stressful for me.  I’d rather have the opportunity to throw my hands in the air and say, “We’ll do better next time!” than to implode with guilt and disappointment over the pain of a bad travel experience.

It’s also important to think about what aspects of travel are most important to you.  Will you live like a pauper in-country if you get to fly in business class comfort on the way there (we have done this)?  Will you sleep in a hostel bunkroom if you get to eat haute cuisine every night?  Will you eat from the grocery store and street food and fly discount airlines if you get to stay at a luxury hotel?

One priority of our is to sample some local cuisine.  This means chili crab in Singapore, meatballs and smoked salmon in Sweden, hummus made with local olive oil in Israel, or cassoulet in Languedoc.  It doesn’t have to be fancy – we got our smoked salmon at the grocery store in Sweden, and street food is often a great local choice — Singapore chili crab being a fine example.

We also prioritize historical and cultural sites (especially UNESCO world heritage sites), funiculars, and places where we can hang out with locals, including taking local public transit and letting the kids explore a playground.  Maybe you prioritize art museums, musical experiences, or experiencing nightlife.  Find your “thing,” and it will help you focus and not feel like you need to spend time and money to see and do *everything* all at once.

Just one more note on the tradeoff between time and money – this is what I would like to provide by offering a travel consulting and arranging service here on Stroller Packing, and at our sister site, Pine Hill Travel.  Not everyone has the time or money resources (or the desire) to acquire the vast depth of knowledge that we have in our 8 years of frequent flying (3 years with kids).  Which is cool – there are very few people out there (maybe no one?) as crazy as us.  But I’d like to put my knowledge and experience and travel-geekery to work for you.  My hope is that by hiring me, I save you some money anyway (even after my consulting fee) and also save you a TON of hassle.  It’s a happy medium for you between investing time (less of that) and investing money (hopefully less of that too, in the long run).

So the first rule of affording travel is don’t talk about Fight Club make travel a priority.  Have the mindset that it’s worth the work, worth the money, and that you are willing to sacrifice some other stuff in your life to do it as often as you’d like to – whether that’s a little or a lot.

Click here for:
Key #2 – The Little Things Matter (At Home)
Key #3 – The Little Things Matter (On the Road)
Key #4 – Be Infinitely Flexible
Key #5 – Play Games

{ 3 comments }

Around here at Stroller Packing, we are big proponents of optimizing for the entire family.  When it comes to travel, this means not putting off travel until the kids are out of the house.  It means planning travel activities that both kids and parents can enjoy, instead of focusing on segregated “adult” travel and “kid” travel.  It means growing together as a family by sharing amazing adventures.  It means learning to put your oxygen mask on first, so you can help and support those around you.

When you are a mom of a brand new person, you probably aren’t thinking about traveling the world yet.  But the principle still applies.  Yes there is a new tiny human being who seems to demand all of everybody’s attention.  But it’s so important to remember that

“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

~Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

Of course the new baby is going to require so much care and attention.  But don’t forget, you as a mom – you’re new too.  You need some tender-loving care and gentleness, and you need it from yourself most of all.

Learning how to balance baby’s needs with your own is a skill that will set you up for success and less stress as you move through parenting.  Seeing your family as a unit with individual parts that all work together

I’m really really passionate about supporting and encouraging moms, especially new ones.  I know that having my own mentors and networks of support have been indispensable in my parenting journey so far, and I want to pay that forward.  That’s why I’m so incredibly proud to be a contributor to the New Mama Welcome Pack.  The Pack is a toolkit of support that comes in your email inbox every other day for the first 13 weeks of your baby’s life – aka the Fourth Trimester.  The tools you receive come in the form of videos, audios, love letters, poetry, art, worksheets, and much much more.

Many of the contributors to the Pack are coming together today to put on a blog hop so you can meet all of us and find your community, your tribe.  The Pack isn’t a static thing that ends after 13 weeks – we are a collection of incredible women who want to continue to support you in your parenting journey.  You can check out the pages of the other amazing participants in the links below.

I am here cheering you on through your whole parenting journey – we are in this together.  And when you are ready to take your growing family on awesome travel adventures, I will be here for you.

Being a first-time mama is an amazing experience. The New Mama Welcome Pack blog hop is a celebration of this life changing event! Follow the links to discover more unmissable advice, stories and essential tips. And if you’re a new mama who wants to rock motherhood without guilt, overwhelm or losing yourself, check out the New Mama Welcome Pack here.

New Mama Welcome Pack / Lotte Lane / Dreaming Aloud / Zhendria / Birthing in Conscious Choice / Natalie Garay / Eli Trier / Knecht Ruprecht / Lise Meijer / Naomi Goodlet / A Lifestyle By Design / Story of Mum / Like a Bird / Holistic Mama / Birth Geek / Joyful Parenting / Stroller Packing / My Healthy Beginning / Mums and More / Kate Beddow – Growing Spirits / Ellen Nightingale / Stacie Whitney / Maternity Leavers / Photography for Busy Parents / Close Enough To Kiss / Atelier Susana Tavares / Offbeat Family / Katie m. Berggren ~ Painting Motherhood / Winship Wellness Blog / Liberate From Weight / Jessica Cary / Art + Craft / Raising Playful Tots / Peaceful Mothering / Play Activities / Lauren Nenna / Nurture You / The Adventure Mama / Be Wise Be Healthy / b.a.d.momGoodmom / Doula in Your Pocket / Making Mom Strong / Adrienn Csoknyay / Joyful Parents / Alison Hummel / Simple Solutions for Photos / Lynne Newman / Euphoric Birth / Mumpreneur Mentor / A Walk in the Clouds / Parenting on the Fence / MiaMily

{ 10 comments }

Trip Report: The Swiss Alps

Trip Report: The Swiss Alps

Destination Airport: Milan, Italy
Points of Interest: Lugano, Andeer, and Bellinzona, Switzerland; Bellinzona Castles (UNESCO World Heritage Site)
Ages of the kids: Andrew was 2.5 years (32 months) and Clara was 19 months
Travelogue: http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog/dyer0930/28/tpod.html

Time Change/Redeye Fun

The trouble with Europe is that it’s too close.  The redeye flights from the east coast leave too early for the kids to be tired, and by the time they are ready to sleep, there are only 3 hours left in the flight.

Actually, Andrew didn’t even want to sleep that long.  We sort of made the mistake of assuming that he’d fall asleep while watching movies.  He didn’t.  He stayed awake to keep watching.  Since then, we have instituted a “one movie” rule on redeye flights.  And also since then, Andrew has learned that if he feels tired, he should ask to go to sleep.  But that’s not what happened on this trip…

What happened on this trip was that he stayed awake for the entire flight, dozed off for about 15 minutes on landing, had to be awoken to disembark, and then through the Mother of All Tantrums as we proceeded through immigration.  We’re talking the full monty – flailing limbs, throwing the body on the floor, screaming with a demon-child voice “Get away from me, mama!”  It was certainly not very fun.

The plus side was that messing his sleep up this bad meant that he was very malleable for the rest of the trip.  He adjusted pretty well to the time change after that.

Miss Clara?  She just slept when she was tired.

Where We Stayed

 Holiday Inn Lugano

We stayed at the Holiday Inn in Lugano, Switzerland, on a really crazy cheap room rate sale.  We were fortunate enough to have a bachelor friend along with us, who agreed to share his room with Andrew.  So we ended up with a little (large, by European standards) family suite.  Andrew agreed to sleep in the bed next to J, and Clara was in the pack-n-play in our room.  Lugano was a great home base from which to access the Southern Alps.

Pizza in Lugano

Pizza in Lugano

It rained a lot, and snowed, but that’s what you get when you go to the mountains in January.

Kid-Friendly Stuff We Did

We spent one day visiting a friend from my online moms group up in a quinessential Alpine village on the German/Romanisch side of the pass.  She has a two year old as well, so they had toys at their flat and we walked to the playground in the snow.

Monkeying around at the Andeer playground

Monkeying around at the Andeer playground

Driving up over the pass was quite the experience in our little Italian rental car.  There was 4 feet of snow on the roof in places.  We had to stop and put snow chains on the tires.  Though we live in the Rockies ourselves, we have 4 wheel drive vehicles, so putting on chains was a new experience.  I’m proud to say that the boys ended up stumped and I was the one who figured out how to do it!

Snow on a roof at the pass

Snow on a roof at the pass

I’m starting to get serious about my quest to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites.  So we spent the better part of a day exploring the castles at Bellinzona.  All but one of the museums were closed, and we had the one that was open to ourselves.  This suited us fine with two toddlers.  The kids had fun running around the castle grounds in the snow.  I carried Clara in the Ergo on my back for a good portion of it, and she actually napped there, all bundled up in her winter coat, while we explored the second castle.

Exploring Bellinzona

Exploring Bellinzona

Exploring Bellinzona

Exploring Bellinzona

We taught Andrew how to defend a castle with snowballs:

It’s living history, folks!

In Summary

Despite the rocky beginning, this was an immensely satisfying trip.  It was wonderful to have J and his extra set of hands along to help out and just have some nice adult company.  Getting to hang out with locals for a day was a real treat, and of course it was wonderful to finally meet K and her family in person.  And I love it when a site that I really want to see turns out to be a site that my kids love to explore – everyone wins!

Off season travel has it’s challenges, but the good deals and low crowds are totally worth it.

Bellinzona Family Travel

{ 0 comments }

Cheap Toys for Travel: Foam Stickers

I was lacking in toy ideas for 2 year old boy, but with a stroke of luck and I found these guys at Walmart for $5.  They are made of thin craft foam and have sticky on the back.  You can stick them to the tray table, the window, or to your child.  Let kiddo stick them wherever they like or you can tell stories with the animals.  They are pretty intense if they stick to each other, but after you move them a couple times, they get less sticky.  There’s enough in the bag for a whole bunch of trips, so $5 is a steal.

Cheap Toys for Travel: Foam Animals

{ 0 comments }

reader_question

Reader J asks:

My LO is 11 months old. Sometimes it takes me and my DH to change his diaper. One of us has to keep him entertained while the other finishes the job. So I’m a little freaked out as there’s absolutely no place in that yucky lavatory for two people.

Great question. I have a few ideas for you.

First, check out my post on changing diapers on airplanes to get a general feel for how it might go.

If it is just a wet diaper (not too smelly), you can do the change at your seat so that you have both sets of hands there. For poopy diapers, you’ll definitely want to go the lavatory with a changing table.

Check out all of the lavatories on your plane that have changing tables. Sometimes they are different sizes and shapes (and may even be handicap-accessible), so you may be able to get two people in there.

In the worst case, where one of you needs to to the diaper change alone, I would bring a toy with you. If having a toy in the germy lav freaks you out, you could keep one or two toys separate from the others in a plastic bag and designate them as “the toilet toys.” Often there are small paper cups in the lav that make great distraction toys. My kids love to play with the cups.

Finally, I would be really enthusiastic and entertaining. Sing silly songs, make expressive faces. Especially if you are normally a calmer person, this silliness should buy you a few extra second of time where he thinks “What is mom doing? She’s crazy!”

I hope that helps and it goes better than your expectations!  I know you can do it!

{ 0 comments }