Tag Archives: travel with kids

August 13, 2008

exploring new zealand

We took our son Luke to New Zealand for seven weeks of exploring when he was 13 months old. I don’t know how much of the Kiwi culture he absorbed during that time, but he did display an innate ability to take long naps in a backpack during six hour hikes, to snooze through a helicopter ride with glacier landing, and to make it just fine sleeping through the night in any manner of pack-n-play, port-a-cot, or whatever sort of crib the bed and breakfast of the day could provide – so long as he was nuzzled in with his favorite blanket. And his parents learned that babies require a lot less gear than they previously had thought, that they are remarkably adaptable to drastic time changes and the obliteration of the daily routine, and that journeying to new parts of the globe with the newest member of the family only enhances the sense of adventure and camaraderie that motivates us to travel in the first place. Oh, and that those pull-down swinging bassinettes are an absolute God-send on overnight flights… as are portable DVD players… and the ability to breastfeed a toddler on a mountaintop or in a pub with minimal embarrassment. And the trip was enough of a success that, three months later, we took him to the Italian Alps for more of the same.

a globehopping little citizen

I realized then and there that our then-23-month-old, Milo is a true Little Citizen of the World. We were in a (perfectly engineered for strollers) taxi in London, heading for Heathrow, about to take the final leg of our 5-week journey back home to San Francisco.

“Milo”, I said, “do you know where we’re going now?”
“AIRPORT!” he cried (we had discussed this at length previously).
“That’s right honey, but do you know where our plane will be going?”
“Madrid!”
“No sweetie-pie, we’ve been there already. Where do you think we’re going now?”
“Berlin?!!”
“Nope, not this time! We’re going home to see Penelope (our beagle).”
“New York!”
“Uh..no. We live in San Francisco. Remember?”
“Airplane go Denver?”
“No Milo. We’re going home to San Francisco. Remember your bed there with the monkey mobile?”
“Mino’s hotel big bed?”
“Not exactly – we’re going to our house in San Francisco with your own big-kid bed. Remember that?”
Milo wide-eyed, “No.”

dutch tulips

Our most recent family holiday was a long weekend in Holland to see the tulips in bloom.  We arrived a little too late in the season to see all the tulips in the fields, but we had a wonderful day at the Keukenhof gardens just southeast of Amsterdam. It’s a great place to visit with kids.  There are tulips from all over the world, as well as a wonderful petting zoo and fun playground for the kids.  Olivia loved taking photos of everything and both kids are pretty silly when we take photos of them!  Our favorite tulip was the ‘ice cream’ tulip.  We took our bikes along and went riding every day.  Holland is the perfect place to cycle, especially with young children.  It’s flat, easy riding and there are bike lanes and trails everywhere.  We stayed along the coast and were able to do some beautiful rides each day along with our daily ride into town to do our grocery shopping.  We even got to watch some gliders taking off and landing.  Olivia just received a new bike with gears for Easter and was really excited to be able to ride along next to us.  She declared she loved Holland because she got to ride her bike on the streets in town like an adult.  D and I ride our bikes through Brussels, but there are not as many bike lanes and it is too dangerous for us to let Olivia to the same.  When cycling in Brussels, I use my Dutch made “Bakfiets” which allows both kids to sit in a box in front of the bike.  It’s big and heavy, but very secure and I take the kids to school in it as long as it’s 10 degrees centigrade (about 50 degrees F) outside…and not raining!

We had a wonderful time in Holland and plan to return next year with all of D’s family.  We want to go at the time of the Tulip Parade which travels through the entire tulip producing region and is held when all the fields are in bloom.  And of course, we’ll take our bikes!

We’re off now for a two week camping trip to the Italian Dolomites.  It will be the first time we’ve taken the kids camping and they are so excited.  It’s already been an adventure getting all the gear and figuring out what to pack. But no more time to write about that now.  It will have to wait for our return!

phil and ted’s most excellent adventure

Five stars, two thumbs up and a snap-snap for our neon orange stroller bassinet. It looks like a small hockey duffle and won admiring stares from just about everyone who’s ever traveled with a kid (or a peewee hockey stick). We put our then three month old son – Alastair – in it on the airplane, zipped it up to his neck, and stuffed him under our seat like luggage. Settled at our feet with the vibrations of the plane, he peeped out and grinned when he wasn’t sleeping peacefully from San Francisco to Europe.

The bag carried flowers, Alastair with flowers, dirty laundry, Alastair with dirty laundry, wine and cheese, things we were sneaking through customs, and Duty Free. Thanks to it (and his chic Tea suits), Alastair got lots of extra attention, and we got a bit of extra sleep on the plane.

August 12, 2008

daily tea made our vacation hassle free!

Lizzie, Daddy and I set out for a whirlwind tour of the east coast a few weeks ago. I knew exactly what to pack: a huge variety of Lizzie’s favorite Daily Tea pieces. For 10 days, I packed about 20 styles of dresses, shorts, tank tops, and leggings all from the Daily Tea Summer Collection. Because all the pieces are either red, white, or blue, they all match each other. This was a life saver as we traveled through airports, in rental cars, to Granny’s house, and in and out of welcome home parties. If Lizzie got wet (still a beginner with juice boxes), dirty (who can get a bib on a 20-month old?), or sweaty (yes, babies sweat in 100 degree weather!), I just quickly pulled out another great piece of Daily Tea and swapped it out to make sure that Lizzie was comfortable and stylish throughout our journey. Plus, Daily Tea washes and dries easily (no ironing), so all her clothes came out of the suitcase wrinkle free and even survived a washing in our family cabin’s 30 year-old washer! The knit dresses were especially helpful as we tried to keep Lizzie comfortable for the car rides, but still looking dressed up for her traditional Southern Relatives.

A great tip for the plane is to start with a layering tee, a tunic, and leggings. If the tunic gets wet or dirty, take it off, and your little one still has on a cute top and leggings. And, the tunic buttons up, so no fighting to get it over the head! Or, pack an extra pair of bloomer shorts. After flying in her warm leggings, we swapped out the leggings for bloomer shorts when we landed in North Carolina to give her an outfit that was better for hot, muggy weather. I will definitely be using Daily Tea for our little citizen’s next adventure!

August 10, 2008

turkish carpets

We had been in Istanbul, Turkey, for only a few days and already knew that we stood out. When the carpet sellers who lined the streets of the Sultanahmet, the city’s ancient historic district, saw us from the back, they took note of my husband’s close-cropped hair and yelled out, “Soldier! Soldierman! Mr. Army, Mr. Navy! Come inside and see a carpet. Maybe your pretty wife will like one, you buy it for her! Maybe not. You don’t like, you need not buy, but come look!”

But when they got a good look at our fronts, with the small, wriggling bundle strapped to my husband’s chest, they changed tactics. As soon as they saw our infant son held fast in his baby carrier – his eyes open wide and bright, taking in the extraordinary and beautiful city surrounding him – they took a slightly less aggressive approach.

One man walked toward us with his arms open wide and asked, “Please, excuse me, may I kiss your baby?” Others pulled photos of children and grandchildren from their wallets and invited us into the shop to see still more. Yet another seller asked us to come into his shop to see some carpets that he was sure our son would adore.

“Your son,” the man said, giving us his best sales pitch, “he may not remember Turkey. I don’t think so. But you will help him remember. Maybe the carpet will help him remember. I think, maybe yes.”

Memory. This was a small point of contention with us. When we told friends and family of our plans to travel with our son to Turkey, our announcement was sometimes met with disapproval – and always with many questions: What will he eat? Where will he sleep? Won’t the plane bother his ears? And the most-asked question: Why go through the hassle of taking the baby at all, when he won’t remember the trip?

It was only this last question that we had some difficulty answering, wondering a bit about the answer ourselves.

On our last full day in the city, we went to explore the Aya Sofya basilica. The baby had thus far been fascinated by Istanbul and, on this day, was just as intrigued with the immense interior of this building.

Enchanted by the history and majesty of the former church/mosque, none of us saw the schoolchildren approach. But all of a sudden, there they were – 20 or more – swarming around my husband and son, reaching for my son’s hands and kissing his face.

At first, I was a little worried that the baby would be unable to handle the onslaught. As a typical 8-month-old, he is fairly accustomed to being adored. But not like this. Still, when I looked over at him, to see if I needed to intervene, he was laughing so hard his whole body shook. He reached out his hands to touch as many of the children as he could reach. His delight in seeing so many smiling faces looking up at him was palpable.

All of a sudden, a young boy in the crowd noticed me and asked in heavily accented English, “You are mother? Excuse me, thank you, what is the baby name?”

“His name is Chet.” I replied.

“Chet.” He repeated the name a few times, working it around his mouth as if trying a new, intense flavor. “My name is Kerem. Hello, Chet Mother.”

The other children took note of the introduction and followed suit. I soon heard shouts of other names.

“I am Nazim!”

“My name is Berol.”

“Hello, my name is Alev, thank you, goodbye.”

“Kadifah, hello, how are you?”

And then a little girl with gorgeous dark eyes looked up at me and mischievously said, “My name is … my name is Jennifer Lopez!” The children laughed wholeheartedly at the joke, and my son laughed with them, the echoes joyfully reverberating in the great dome of the building. I couldn’t help but smile, knowing that my son’s first trip to Istanbul had offered him more than many – and even we – had thought possible.

True, he may not remember the specifics of the mosaics in the Aya Sofya or the grounds of the Topkapi Palace. But I believe that the most important aspects of any journey like this stay with you whether you are 8 months or 80 years old.

This trip included children’s laughter, the same as at home and yet still able to make a powerful impression no matter where you happen to hear it. Add the sublime mystery of ancient buildings, full of colors and echoes that stir the heart and mind. And, most importantly, the spirit of adventure that wells up inside as you stare out on a new and fascinating landscape – perhaps even better when held aloft in a baby carrier – and anticipating the magic of whatever comes next.

No carpet is needed to remind my son of that.

August 8, 2008

visiting tokyo and beijing

Hello, my name is Andrew and I am a husband and father of two boys, 7 and 10. My wife and I have been traveling with the boys since they were born. Since my wife was in grade school, she wanted to visit Japan and see Fuji-San, Mt. Fuji. So, when a business trip came up to Tokyo and Beijing recently, I took the whole family. The pictures of the boys in their Yukata robes were taken at a Ryokan in Kyoto. These Japanese B&B’s are extremely warm and friendly places. And, as an alternative to the skyscrapers of Tokyo, they offer a bit of the old Japan that is sorely missing in the big cities. This Ryokan had traditional cedar tubs that are filled, and overflowing, at all times. So, a tub before dinner was a must! The kids loved to learn about foods, the temples and even the architecture. Of course, the big excitement was for the Samurai swordsman!

Our trip continued to Beijing. After a day in China, our ten year old deftly noted, ‘Dad, China is the opposite of Japan’. The calm and contained was replaced with the frenetic and cacophonous. Noodles were replaced with shark fin soup and chicken feet. Clear blue warm skies turned to coal soot and down jackets. And, yet, the newness of the environment was the tread that ran through the trip. No doubt our kids experience was colored by their parents open hearts in Japan — and global concern and fear in China. We ended up leaving Beijing a day early and returning to Japan for a romping day and a half at Tokyo Disneyland. Yes, it looks just like Anaheim. Except instead of sugar everywhere, the Japanese eat rice cakes and bean paste (the Snickers marketing team simply hasn’t cracked the code on Japan!).

The last picture of our family next to an iceberg was taken a few weeks ago in Alaska. Just note: it’s summer — I don’t think I’d like to be in that same spot in November. More on Alaska (and the bear mace we had to carry in the bush) in my next post!

keeping your travel sanity

We are confirmed travel addicts.

As a couple, my husband and I traveled as much as possible and now that we have a daughter, we are pleased to announce she is one of us. Although we are troubled by the fact that she will not eat salsa, she indeed loves to travel and so we will, in turn, allow Olivia to remain in the family. Traveling is deeply seeded in her DNA. Okay, that was dramatic. The truth of it is that she thinks everyone does it and it is normal everyday life. We have had only one mild passive-aggressive objection from her and it was on her 1st birthday celebrated on the big island of Hawaii. She took her first steps there, which we thought was especially magical as her namesake is Hawaiian. However, during that week of her birthday (we celebrate “birthday weeks” at our house) we continued traveling and she continued walking in Hawaii, then California and then Chicago. This is when she went on strike and didn’t walk again for 2 weeks. We got the message, three states in one week is too much to ask of a one year old.

There are so many travel tricks that we have used over the years to make the air portion of our travel smooth. As she gets another year older we have to come up with new solutions for cohesive travel. We started her traveling as an infant using the obvious trick of breast-feeding on take-off and landing. Bottle, boob or pacifier is essential to make sure you do not have the screaming baby in row 4 that rows 5, 6 and 7 wished was not there. Seems obvious but I have witnessed many-a-parent traveling with their child screaming in pain upon the landing. The baby has to swallow to break the building pressure in the ear canal upon take-off and decent thereby keeping baby free from pain and allowing the parents to smile an elitist smile when all members of row 5 state “that is the best baby I have ever seen.” We flew today from San Francisco to San Diego and a box of soy milk with a straw and carrots were on the no-ear-pain menu now that she is 5. Although Olivia’s Berkeley/hippie pediatrician states I can breast feed until she is 6, I opt for carrots at this point.

There have been a multitude of travel secrets between her infancy and 5 years old. Some I am afraid to mention or should I say that I am too embarrassed to mention. Two of such involve the airplane bathroom. Our current all-important travel secret is… podcasts. Olivia has a Nano iPod filled with podcasts. While she prefers the podcasts I download which contain video, I have also loaded it up with stories sans video. Everything from French lessons to Sesame Street. We used to travel with the portable DVD player, which was both heavy and bulky. It was always running out of battery life but worse yet, her movie would be mid-point and she would hear the instructions to turn it of by the invisible pilot. Very frustrating for her. Podcasts are great for short flights with short humans with short attention spans. Great for driving around Saudi Arabia too but that is an entirely different story.

the story of our kids

My husband of 13 years and I are living in a tiny cottage on a strawberry farm in South Africa. We don’t have a phone, TV, AC, or microwave, and until March we didn’t even have a stove, but we are loving life. My husband is getting his PhD in ancient languages and I am writing, writing, writing. We have children on the way. Two little citizens of the world are coming to us from strange and unexpected places. Raising them in a foreign culture (for a time) with hardly two hands to rub together will be an exciting challenge. It will also be the experience of a life-time for all of us (including our adopted dogs, should they prove to have longterm memories).

After never having been outside the United States before, my husband and I decided to pack our dogs and move to South Africa. It was a terrifying and spectacular journey. We sold all we owned and headed towards an unknown world. My husband is now getting his PhD in ancient languages and I am sitting in a tiny shack on a strawberry farm, loving on the dogs and working on a new novel.

But this is the story of our kids and it really begins in the airport in DC. There was a family waiting to board the plane with us. A white middle-aged couple (the man clad in his safari best) stood with their six kids, all dressed in soft, pastel cottons. The oldest three were African girls with stunning skin, hair and smiles. They were wide-eyed with the wonder of traveling across the world, perhaps for the first time in memory. There were two six year old boys, one black and one white. They held hands throughout the airport, looking sharp in their matching plaid shirts and flip-flops. The youngest was a white girl, perhaps four years old. They were all so well behaved, despite their excitement. One of the girls leaned on her father’s elbow. He put his arm around her shoulder and kissed the top of her head.

I wanted to look away but I couldn’t. What a brilliant family this was! By the time we got on the plane, I was in love. I told my husband, “I want a polka-dotted family just like that one.” After 13 years of marriage and no success in the offspring-creating department, we didn’t know how we would get the white polka-dot, but we had long since decided to pursue the black one. The need for adoptive parents in South Africa is frightening. But like any official process in Africa, adoption is slow to happen.

Now, as we wait for our baby Xhosa son, I find myself pregnant for the first time at 34. More than ever before, I am excited about the opportunity/challenge of raising an African child. We are blessed to live in this country, to experience such an intense culture, and to be able to share it with both of our kids, no matter their color. What a gift for both of them to be born with the promise of a wider world view. In the months to come my husband and I will feel the full weight of this responsibility. How will the locals accept a white couple with a black child? How can we nurture a permanent sense of ethnic identity in both our children? Will they share a cultural affinity even though they are different colors? We know we cannot be ready for many things, including the obstacles we will face, but we enter this time with a sense of duty and gratitude and joy.

impromptu poppies

My husband’s job takes him away for long stretches and we have tried to work it out to join him when we can. As a result, we’ve traveled with our kids from the time they were born. Even though I’m thrilled to show them the world, it’s not always been easy or graceful. Lugging a sleeping 40 lb kid on the rush hour Tokyo subway is is not exactly my idea of a good time, but it is an experience to remember. Nonetheless, it’s been really important for us to expose our kids to different cultures, foods, and ways people live. (And quite frankly to wean them off mac-n-cheese and TV!)

One thing that I’ve learned over the years is that the best times are usually the ones that are very impromptu. As I prepared for our first big trip, a summer in France with the kids, I started to mentally make a list of the incredible towns, museums and places I had seen in college. The ones that I thought would be meaningful and important for my kids to see. My husband sat me down and gave me some wise advice, “Listen,” he said, “if you get a lemonade and sit in the park all day together, that’s a good day. Let them soak it in. Be slow.” I have to say, like in our everyday life as parents, I’ve come to realize that the most important and memorable moments are the quiet ones, the unplanned ones. So the picture you see is of my daughter, Ava and I. We were walking, exploring really, on the road outside the house we had rented in the south of France and came upon this incredible field of poppies. It was poppy season and they were all in bloom, in another few days they would be cut and sold in the market and the field would be almost barren. She’s older now, but we both vividly remember how it felt, smelled, the feeling of the wind and how relaxed and joyful we were. In that moment, we were so deeply connected and the world seemed really small…just her and I.