A few months ago, Mike was given the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands for business. The travel bug must have hit us hard (or the lack of sleep kicked in), because we ended up making a spontaneous decision for me to tag along with both children. It was either we all go, or stay home, and no matter how challenging the trip would be, I was desperate to break up the mundane routine. After our last trip overseas with #1, we figured it would be years before we would have the chance to travel internationally, so this was a huge unexpected blessing.
Some of you have asked how we survived traveling with the littles and honestly, Mike and I still don't know how we managed to get through. But with many prayers and by God's grace, we somehow did without losing anyone or killing each other. We are by no means pros when it comes to traveling with the littles, but I will share some things that worked (and didn't work) for us as we traveled across the pond.
|2 duffles stuffed with carseats, 2 luggages of stuff, 3 carry-ons and 2 extra cargo we should've left at home...kidding ^^|
Pack light. Okay, I know this is nearly impossible when you're packing for children, but try to eliminate as much as you can in order to make your life easier (sounds like an oxymoron). We packed the main essentials such as pain and cold meds for the littles (conversions and ingredients can be stressful), clothing, security blankie, anti-bac wipes, passports, credit cards with chips, extra cash, camera and VITAMINS. After dealing with illnesses on our last babymoon, we loaded up on vitamins especially for our germ-snatching toddler. I know everyone has their own opinions on this, but we swear by this immunity booster when taken daily (and prior to). Lighten up on your own load to make room for the littles. I literally brought one pair of shoes, the ones I wore on the plane (oh the sacrifice).
Invest in a good, sturdy umbrella stroller with a recliner (for naps!), since most places overseas are not stroller/wheelchair friendly (especially in locations with old, historic buildings). On our last trip overseas with JJ, we bought a poorly constructed umbrella stroller with wheels that kept locking in on us early on. The cobblestones also probably didn't help. The hubs did some research this time and we really liked the UppaBaby G-Luxe. It's rather pricey for an umbrella stroller, but you can cash out on those cc points for Bed Bath Beyond gift cards AND use a coupon (order in-store ;) ). Being from sunny SoCal, we don't think much about the weather, but if you're traveling to a cold/rainy/windy location, invest in the rain shield. It was a lifesaver for our infant (and tot, too!) When boarding, keep your child in the stroller and gate check it when you enter the plane (without the child, of course).
If you are going to rent a car, try to bring your own carseats, as the safety laws are different in each country. You also don't know what kind of carseat you'll get (or what it's been through). If you have multiple children, this might be trickier. We took advice from parents on a travel forum, who suggested you place each carseat in a separate duffle bag, making it easier to carry and keeping it clean (and maybe stuffing in a diaper or two?). Genius.
Pack an extra bag for the plane ride with spare clothing, diapers, wipes, meds, baby food (if applicable) and a mini backpack full of toys/activities (preferably new and inexpensive) and snacks for your toddler. We experienced a diaper blow-out with the baby and toilet accident with the toddler all on the way there (of course -__-). Ideally, just keep a diaper on your potty-training toddler and maybe double-diaper the baby.
One more thing: if you have a mobile toddler, an ID bracelet/dog-tag (and a leash while you're at it) will help ease the mind, especially when they don't know how to write or memorize any info. We really love the one here from Amazon, it's stainless steel with a cute locomotive engraved on the front side. They will also include engraving for you, all for less than twenty bucks.
If you can afford it, business class would probably be the way to go (just make sure to pass out earplugs!). But if you're like us, being crammed in economy with screaming children could be enough to cause you to want to jump off the plane. For a small fee, you can pay for economy plus for just one passenger (the person who is booking the flight), and it gives you some extra leg room. Believe me when I say those extra few inches made a world of a difference when traveling for 12+ hours on a plane, especially if you're like my husband, who has Daddy Long Legs. Speaking of economy, if you plan on traveling often, sign up for an airline credit card that enables you to stock up on mileage (BONUS: some airline credit cards give you enough starting points to travel up to 2 roundtrips domestically, or nearly 1 roundtrip overseas). Just be sure to pay off all your credit cards. We are not advocates for cc debt!
If you have a small toddler, you can lay out blankets and pillows from the airline onto the floor and create a mini bed for them to sleep on. Have them bring their favorite blankie to snuggle up in, and try to follow their normal bedtime routine (brushing, story time). A bribe here and there wouldn't hurt either. In a perfect scenario, the toddler wouldn't be moving around in his sleep. Since we had the middle row, I had to use my foot to block his head most of the time, to prevent him from smacking into the food carts. The window row would have been most ideal, but they were unavailable to us at the time.
As for the baby, we put him in his brother's seat to sleep in, cushioned by more airline pillows. Some airlines provide you with a lovely, hanging bassinet. However, United Airlines has some of the saddest bassinets we've seen (if you can call a "duffle bag" a bassinet). We had to improvise, and in the end it worked out for the best. We also brought the Ergo carrier with us, to rock the baby to sleep while standing in place, or walking down the aisles.
We love AirBnB, but this time around, we decided to make things easier by booking hotels and B&Bs, since we were moving from place to place. Mike had found a quaint and economically priced little boutique hotel for our stay in Amsterdam. Once our cab dropped us off and we unloaded all the luggage and littles, climbed up all the steps into the tiny hotel lobby with all our luggage and littles, to our dismay, we found out (after they had kindly served us tea and coffee, and JJ nearly knocked over a teacup), that the reservation was for the following week (face palm). And they were completely booked for the week. Now imagine the look of my fatigued, jet-lag face after traveling 24 hours total with two little ones... and the agony and regret Mike must have felt. I figured it was best to keep my mouth shut. Next time, BOTH of us will be double/triple checking the dates. Thankfully, the hotel concierge was completely gracious, and offered to help us search for another hotel with availability. We ended up finding one (less darling, but pricier) that was closer to the main sites, which worked out just fine.
In regards to time change and all that jazz....we've read online that you should start adjusting your children a couple weeks in advanced, changing their hour for bedtime each day. I'm sure it worked out beautifully for those parents, but to us, all that scheduling sounded horrid. We are firm believers of shocking their poor little systems by allowing them to sleep whenever they want on the plane (which is usually very minimal for bedtime hours), and keeping them awake (by stuffing their faces with food) as long as possible during the day. Allow them to nap when needed, as it also gives you some time off to enjoy your new environment in peace. In the evening, they are usually so exhausted from air travel, that they pass out in their beds. But just when you think you're in the clear, be prepared to wake up more often in the middle of the night, as they may wail and cry from the adjustment. This may go on for a day or two, but usually by the third day they will have adjusted.
We usually don't bring a baby bed (pack n' play) with us when we travel overseas, since we have limited space, but most hotels will accommodate you with an infant bed if you call and ask ahead of time. Sadly, our 6-month old at the time refused to sleep in the hotel baby beds, so we ended up co-sleeping with him. The bright side was that our toddler was still small enough to fit in the baby beds : ).
We usually plan out the places we want to try ahead of time, especially ones that require advanced reservations. That way, we don't have to wait in lines while the littles grow impatient and meltdowns begin. It is always a good idea to let the maitre d' know you have children, so they can prepare (or send you to the back of the restaurant, heh) a convenient space with highchairs for them. Most places we've visited have been very friendly and welcoming towards children, but it isn't always the case. If you know your meal will take longer than an hour, bring the goodie bag full of treats + toys to entertain, and if you brought an iPad or iPhone (hey, no shame there), save it as a last resort (we all get desperate). As for the infant, there's not much you can do when they wail...and they usually will at the most inopportune times. That is when you can "gracefully" exit the restaurant and return when they have calmed down. At the same time, sometimes it's easier just to stumble into the first restaurant you see the locals dining at, and you could be in for a pleasant surprise. When in Rome.
|Shameless selfies with my six-month old, still fresh before the jet-lag|
|Toddler on the floor, baby in the seat, and two parents unaware of what's in store...|
With that said...here are some of the "happier" moments whilst in Amsterdam --
|Waiting for a new cab after our hotel mix-up ^^|
|Waiting for Pancakes!|
|Typical JJ with a mischievous smile and a mouth full of cream|
|Sadly, some of the only tulips we saw in Amsterdam during the Autumn season|
|Dutch apple pie at Winkel's-- we had to order to-go because the seating was inside a tiny little bar several steps up.|
|Stroop waffles with a sweet syrup filling, a Dutch favorite!|
|Being a Mama sometimes has me feeling like this...|
|Jacketz Oud - Gigantic spuds stuffed with all sorts of goodness, making it a delicious, inexpensive meal.|
We made the mistake of visiting the Van Gogh Museum in the evening, and ate a plate of Dutch pancakes for dinner -- Thirty minutes in, I was ready to pass out onto the floor from the jet-lag.
|1 down, 2 to go!|
|Took a stroll in the beautiful Vondelpark, the Central Park of Amsterdam.|
|No matter how hard my OCD kicks in every time he stomps in a puddle, I have learned to resist and hold back (most of the time at least).|
- Goede Nacht! -