Here I sit in the quiet apartment of Cannes reflecting back on our time in Germany, Spain and now France. We have been to three different countries with three very different cultures, and I am incredibly grateful for this experience. I will say, the picture I had in my mind regarding this tour of Europe and beyond has turned out to be almost 100% different than it has played out. We have learned SO MUCH on our travels and one of the most important aspects of travel we have learned is HOW TO PLAN!
When I was in high school my parents took my siblings and I on a trip of a lifetime — Rome, Florence, London and Paris over summer break. This was in 2006 (I think??) when the world of technology was in a much difference place. No unlimited data usage, no FaceTime, no GPS at the push of a button and little to no quick and easy way to schedule train rides, airplane reservations, hotel reviews, etc. The sheer amount of planning that goes into a trip is unbelievable. Then you have to factor in how to get train tickets, where to stand on a platform, where to look for schedules and more all in a language that is most likely foreign… IT IS A LOT! Hats off to you travelers who went around the world before 2011…. I don’t know how you survived!
We did so much research before we left for our trip…. SO MUCH. Looking back now we didn’t even scratch the surface! So, what have we learned so far? Quite a lot actually, and a lot of it had to do with the way we planned our travels. I’m going to break up this blog post into two different sections. I am working on a check list of apps, products and websites we reference for the next blog post, so bear with me. This is more of a how we feel post regarding what we have learned…..
Here are a few key points to our travel I thought would be fun to share. They include travel tips and things we have learned so far…. Enjoy!
- You don’t necessarily need a car seat: I know, I know. There are a lot of car seat safety moms out there who will shame this post, but it’s just true. We brought Griffin’s car seat and a ride safer five point harness for Nolan. We haven’t used either of them, not once. Taxi drivers don’t care, and as long as Griffin is strapped into the Tula, with the exception of one driver, they don’t give us a second glance. Poor Gregg hauls the car seat to and from destinations and it is SO heavy and SO bulky. We were on the bus coming from Nice to Cannes and there was nowhere to put it, so for a few stops he was apologizing in French to old ladies who had to leap over the thing shaking their heads along the way. If you are planning a trip where you know you will be renting a car and you’ll be traveling long distance… absolutely, bring the seat! Public transit your mode of transport? Skip it!
- Plan ahead, for the big stuff: While it’s super fun to go on a whim and explore the city’s most unknown destinations and spots, it’s also important to plan ahead for some of the sites. We decided to go to the Sagrada Familia on a Saturday our second week in Barcelona. We hopped in a cab with the kids and started on our way. Half way there our cab driver asked if we had tickets. No, we replied, we were planning on buying them there. He kind of laughed… you need tickets. Sure enough when we showed up they weren’t even SELLING tickets there… you had to buy them way ahead of time. We luckily got a spot the same week, but Park Guell was sold out for the entire month of August. This was peak tourist season, so it was an unusual situation, but in these cases…. BUY TICKETS AHEAD OF TIME
- Patience, patience, patience: I think this is the most important for me… staying sane = patience. Traveling has been a major adjustment in our lives and it is important through traveling to stay patient. Everyone is going through the changes, and although it might seem easier for kids, it is just all around hard on everyone. I dread travel days, but once it is over and done with I feel like Super Woman for getting through it.
- Baby wearing = winning: I don’t know where I would be without my Tula during our travels. It is absolutely my #1 item of use on our travels and my #1 tool for sanity. I cannot imagine braving the crowds and parking a stroller in some of the places we have been, let along lugging it around through cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways. It is a great tool to use in airports, serves Griffin as a bed most of the time, keeps him close and away from germy areas. We joke around d because Griffin gets so excited when he sees the Tula being put on. Its like he knows there is a bed on the way and he can finally rest his little head.
- Always bring water… and snacks: One of the best packing decisions Gregg made was to bring his Camelpack. Not only is it small and easy to bring along, but it is free water and can be filled up wherever we see a fountain. You have to buy water here in restaurants, it is hardly ever free. I highly suggest bringing something similar and packing snacks into it as well. Little feet tire easily and Nolan is always begging for more water.
- Stick with most important parts of your routine: It isn’t logical to think that you will be doing exactly what you do at home when you vacation or travel abroad—in fact, most of the time we have learned it is easier to be flexible. With that being said, it is important to stick to the most important parts of the routine when you can. For us, nap time is the key constant in our routine. Nolan at four and Griffin at ten months both take an afternoon nap at the same time. After our flight to Germany that was the first and most important aspect we kept. No matter what, we make it home in time for nap. Bedtime on the other hand is flexible. As American parents we were bound by routine, so aside from scheduled nap time it has been kind of fun to add a little more flexibility in our day. Even when we stick to a routine we still make time for fun, together.
- Always have a backup plan: Options are important when you are traveling with little kids. You won’t always be able to do what you want to, and sometimes plans don’t go as you want them to whether it is because someone gets sick, someone has a tantrum, the site you want to visit is closed or too busy. There were quite a few times in Barcelona where we wanted to go out to eat at a certain spot and found out it was closed, it’s just how the Spanish roll.I don’t know if it’s Nolan’s age, personality or the combination of the two, but he likes to know what is going on before it happens. If we are going to the park, I need to let him know. If we are leaving and going home for nap, he needs to know. This often results in him pumping the breaks and shedding a tantrum tear or two, but at least he knows what is going on and can prepare his little four year old brain for what is to come. He likes to know what to expect, and I don’t blame the kid.
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