Monthly Archives: March 2013

Moais and Crosses

Whether or not you celebrate Easter I would love to share two of my favorite vacations which have, whether literal or not, an association with Easter.

My dad, who is the one who taught me not only the value of travel but the importance of doing it with kids, no matter their age, took me on a trip of a lifetime 10 years ago, when we flew down to Chile and spent time in Santiago and the Atacama Desert and then across to Isla de Pascua, better known as Easter Island. It was well before the Explora Rapa Nui resort opened there, which was unfortunate for us since it looks amazing (and is a good reason to return!). We spent 4 days there, one of which was spent visiting the single hospital on the island but the rest of the time was spent exploring the amazing Moais and learning the rich history of this island that is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. Unfortunately this was before I owned a digital camera and while I have many printed photos I haven’t scanned any yet, but I do have this one I took. I would love to bring our kids there some day, to show them one of the unexplained wonders of the world.

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Just some of the many magical Moais throughout Easter Island, photos by Passports and Pushchairs

When I was pregnant with our son 6 years ago my husband and I headed out on a second honeymoon to the Baltic, exploring the countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. As I didn’t know much, if anything really, about these countries I was surprised at how much I fell in love with them. But the highlight of our trip was one random afternoon in Lithuania, when we detoured to see the Hill of Crosses.

No one knows exactly when or why the first Crosses were left on this hill fort but it is believed to have been after an uprising in 1831. Since then thousands and thousands of crosses, crucifixes, statues of Virgin Mary and other effigies and rosaries have been left there.

You do not have to be religious to feel the spiritualism of this location. Everywhere you turn is another cross, and many have notes. It was an impactful afternoon, and I hope we can, one day, share it with our children.

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Hill of Crosses, photo by Passports and Pushchairs

Hill of Crosses, photo by Passports and Pushchairs

Hill of Crosses, photo by Passports and Pushchairs

What are some amazing vacations you have taken, with or without children?

East-West, Or How To Beat Jetlag In Kids

There is one train of thought that flying West to East is much harder on your body than flying East to West. And vice versa. And people seem to feel very strongly about how they feel, and they will list a million reasons why it is true.

For us, and for our kids, it is absolutely a killer flying back home from Europe, so flying East to West is the thorn in our side when it comes to trips. But no matter which way we fly there is no doubt that adding, or taking away, 5+ hours from our kids day is a challenge.

As almost all flights over to Europe are red eyes, and we hit the jackpot with kids who actually sleep on those flights*, it is a huge head start when we land that they have had at least 7 hours of sleep. On our last flight to Spain earlier this month both of my kids, ages 5 and 1, were so tired they slept through the landing and didn’t want to get up when it was time to disembark. Get them to sleep however is comfortable for them without compromising their safety; it is amazing how they can lay across the seat and still have their seatbelt on.

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After getting off the plane and getting to the hotel we immediately set off outside for some fresh air, which leads me to my number one rule – the more sun, the better! While sun isn’t always an option (hello England my old friend) at least getting your kids outside is important. Go for a walk, find a playground, find a park they can run around in, but the more they are outside the better they will do with adjusting their body clocks. We also make sure they have lots of water and snacks.

ImageAfter some outside time (and food) our second rule is naps – allow your kids to have them when they seem like they need them but never let them go too long, especially on the first day. Even our 5 year old, who decided napping was not his thing at a very young age, will nap on the first day of an overseas trip, but we never let it go over 2 hours. Waking up at that 2 hour mark is tough, and often the kids don’t want to get up but once they do please refer to rule one and get them back outside!

Rule 3? Stop worrying about schedules. Your kids will not go to bed early their first night. Even though it seems counter-intuitive, when they had less sleep than normal the night before, but they just won’t be ready for bed at 8. Or 9. Or probably even 10. So be ready for a late first night, and probably second, but they will make up for it in the morning by sleeping much later than normal.

Which leads to Rule 4 – Don’t let them sleep too late the next day! While it would be nice for everyone to sleep til noon the sooner you start trying to get them onto their new time the better. We usually wake them up by 10, get some breakfast (which, thanks to jet lag may or may not be eaten, and if not don’t worry, they will make up for it soon) and get going, out in the fresh air.

We are still in the stroller phase of life with one of our kids, so we let her body do what it needs to and if she falls asleep in her stroller in the middle of the day we let her sleep. If our 5 year old is tired and the 1 year old is not we let her walk and let the 5 year old climb in the stroller and take a short snooze. Basically, rule 5? Listen to their cues, and go with them.

Every child is different, but we have found that with both of ours it takes 2 days to get back on their schedule. It may be a different schedule than what they normally have, but it seems to be a schedule for wherever we may be. Flying back home is an entirely different scenario, and deserves a post of its own!

What works best for your kids when traveling across time zones?

*I know people who swear by using things like Benadryl, or melatonin on kids. I have no idea if these would work (I do know if you plan on using Benadryl, or probably anything, you should try it out ahead of time because Benadryl could have the opposite reaction on kids and that is the last thing you would want when stuck on a flight), but talk to your doctor before using them and make sure it is okay for your child.

A Crib In The Bathroom?

One of the most asked questions I get when we travel from friends is how we stay in a hotel with 2 kids. No one wants to go to bed when their kids do, and if your kids are anything like ours bedtime would come at the ridiculously early time of 7:30. Since this doesn’t make for a fun vacation we have come up with several options that work for us in different situations.

1) Our favorite thing to do is rent an apartment or house, which typically gives us 2 bedrooms, a kitchen and a living space. While we have always had good luck with  VRBO, there are many options, including HomeAwayVacationRentalsRentaloAirbnbRoomorama.

You can get as nice or as simple as you are willing to pay for. We have stayed in Jackson Hole right in the middle of Teton Village and in Phoenix we had a house with a private pool. Giving your kids the space to run and being able to get groceries and cook meals at home is a huge bonus as well.

2) If we do have to stay at hotel we look for hotels with suites, like Embassy Suites or Doubletree. There are many to choose from, and often breakfast is included. One thing to double-check is if there is an actual separation between the bedroom and the living area, so you can close the door and allow the kids to sleep in peace.

3) There are definitely situation where a single hotel room is the only option, and you have to make do with your options. We have mastered the art of placing the kids so while they don’t have their own space we can make it seem like they do. Have a walk in closet? Put the crib in it! Another place the crib usually fits is in the hallway by the door, where it is darker than the rest of the room. In a pinch the bathroom can even work, although that is always a little trickier. For older kids making a bed on the floor, and creating a fort around it is fun for them and means you may be able to keep the light on past 8.

What works best for your family when you are on the road? We love to hear what other families do!

The Beginning

Traveling is in my blood, it is in my heart, it is in my past, it is in my future, and it is something we choose to share, as much and as often as we can, with our kids.

When I was 8 years old I traveled to Mexico with my family and, despite our best intentions, got horribly ill from eating some fruit, and, sadly, I stayed sick for the Worlds Fair, which we headed to after Mexico.

I spent 3 weeks at the age of 9 traveling through Asia, visiting China shortly after it had opened up for tourism, and became a fan of fish head soup but learned I had no interest in trying turtle or bear!

At 10 I spent part of a Summer with a family in Madrid, with my brother and no parents, and lived as a Spaniard would. I spoke no Spanish, made friends who spoke no English, and developed a life long love of chorizo and plazas.

When I was 12 my parents took me to Costa Rica for spring break. Not only did I not have any idea where Costa Rica was, but I had no idea I would spend our week relaxing on a beach while monkeys swung from tree and tree and sloths crossed in front of us on the road. On our return trip someone called in a bomb threat and we had to make an emergency landing in a field, complete with slides and panic and pure awesomeness for a 12 year old.

At 13 we ventured to Ecuador; at 14 it was Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia (before it became the Czech Republic and Slovakia); at 15 I spent 3 weeks in Russia. I have been lucky enough to see the Moai’s of Easter Island, a glow worm cave in New Zealand, tango dancing in the streets of Buenos Aires, the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania, and more. I experienced ups and downs, illness and frightening situations, amazing adventures that I never knew possible, and it was all thanks to parents who believed in traveling with kids.

60 plus countries later there was no question that once we had kids our kids would have to become part of our travel plans, and we know how lucky we are that they did so seamlessly. Our trips may require more luggage (!) and less late nights, but they have taken on an excitement all their own.

Two kids, 7 passports between our family of four, and many overseas trips under our belts and we are standing firm in our belief that traveling with kids is not only possible but can also be fun. I hope I can convince everyone the same!