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How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe….with a Toddler!

July 24, 2018

Will and I have been determined to travel with our son (and hopefully future children) as much as we can but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t intimidating, especially the days leading up to a big trip.    Our son has traveled with us a lot, he has gone to the West coast a handful of times, Europe twice and up and down the East coast often.    I actually find that the more we do it, the easier it is.   The most nervous I have been to travel is when we are entirely out of practice.    There was one six week period early (maybe 7 or 8 months old) on where we traveled four times (including one of our West coast trips) and it became quite breezy because it was a set part of our routine.    This time before we left for France for our extended stay, we spent more time at home in Charleston than we have in years, and so I was feeling a bit panicked.   Regardless, I could easily remember how worth it it all is as last year’s memory was fresh in my mind.

How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe - The Coltswolds!

Flying to Europe

A redeye is great if you have a decent sleeper.   If you can, do an extra seat.   We never did it and we made it through just fine, back of the plane, hopefully not in the middle.   I do recommend booking flights on the phone and talking to an emphatic operator.  On more than one occasion, booking on the phone on JetBlue (local flights) and Delta has helped us get better seats — either the very front of the plane, which is desirable with a baby for so many reasons, or on a longer flight, in a two seat set rather than a middle row of four, which is far more comfortable.      Even if it is miserable, remember that it’s just a blip in time.   If there’s a meltdown, so be it.   Most people on the flight have either had children and wish to relate to you about one excruciating flight experience  or they have noise-canceling headphones and are just thrilled its not them.

I try to remind myself to just relax, go with the flow, bring baby carrier and lots of new toys.   Sticker books, a white board, and big legos were our go-to’s this time around.    My best friend traveled from San Diego to France to join us this year with her six month old and told me that she asked the hostesses to tell her all the worst things they had seen over a glass of wine — fantastic idea!

I forgo a handbag and just use a diaper bag packed to the brim with new toys, snacks, water bottles, extra pacifiers (because our guy still uses his), diapers, wipes, sanitizer, milk etc.      I also dress comfortably, and this time I switched from jeans into something more comfortable on the flight which was life-changing.   Growing up, my mother always taught me to dress up for flights, and I try maintain this as best I can while also being realistic.    Bring spare clothes for the whole family if possible!

How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe. - English Country Garden

Make yourself at home. 

An extended stay is designed to help you create a second way of life, a second home.    Put your baby on a schedule, settle into a new routine.   It’s not about a hotel mentality, it’s about a home mentality in a totally new place and it is such a pleasure!  I really recommend trying to find a rental so that you can get into a rhythm.

We try to get on the local time zone right away.   We’re zombies after the redeye but the excitement of arriving, and the endless espressos help.   If our little one sleeps in the car, we usually arrive mid-morning so try to skip a nap for the rest of the day to get on a regular bedtime.    The first year was tough with lots of nightly wake ups, this year was a dream.   Both trips were great, so we just did the best we could.

How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe - France Last YearHow to Have an Extended Stay in Europe - A Dip In The Ocean

What to pack

As little as possible while still also bringing the essentials that help with the transition:  a handful of cuddly toys, a favorite blanket, some familiar books and toys.   We find that our son is so fascinated by his new surroundings that he doesn’t need as many toys in the beginning, and then we pick up cheap and cheerful items as needed: a plastic truck, a noodle for the pool, some new books, etc.

In our case, all the toiletries that we use in the U.S. are readily available in the French pharmacies, so we can leave those heavy items at home and pick them up locally.   Same goes for diapers, formula, etc, no need to bring them for an extended stay.

I know that we have a laundry machine so don’t need to overpack on clothes, and if he outgrows anything on the trip, we leave it behind (give it away).

How to Have an Extended Stay in Europe - Playtime

 

Other thoughts, in no particular order: 

  1.  Don’t forget that you need a baby passport!!
  2.  Use the local currency, even when prompted on the card machines.
  3.  Rather than renting a hotel, I recommend renting an apartment or house for the extended stay so that you can have a kitchen and get into a routine without worrying
  4.  Go early in the summer.   Everybody in Europe takes their holiday in August, so go May and June.  August is the most expensive and most crowded.
  5.  Transition into village life, local life, as quickly as possible by finding out what the heartbeat of the town is,  pottery, rug making, etc.  and also where the best bakers and artisans are.
  6.  Eat where the locals eat (hint:  places that are full at lunchtime and evenings.
  7.  Buy local buy local buy local!!!!  As in America, look for local markets.  Cook at home 🙂  Particularly places like France, people don’t do big shopping they go every day to buy fresh bread, vegetables.   They buy what is ripe that day and they eat it that night, it’s a very different way of shopping and eating.
  8.  Pimsleur programs are a great way to learn the language, just enough to get by at least!

REALX AND ENJOY  you extended stay, it’s all a part of life’s rich tapestry. XX

Baby Holiday Style

The Perfect PJs with Petite Plume!

November 30, 2017

I recently discovered what a luxury pajama sets are and have been looking for a beautiful pair of classic cotton monogrammed pajamas.   A new friend introduced me to Petite Plume who make sophisticated and oh so cozy (and very reasonable!!) pajama sets for the entire family and I was thrilled to be able to monogram a pair for each of us before Christmas.  The baby looks particularly dashing in his…!

Baby R’s monogram has a little toy soldier next to it which is the sweetest and perfect for the holidays.   I opted for the double green piped pajamas in cotton for myself and selected a green flannel for Will (who was a bit more shy about having his picture taken in pajamas, understandably!).

We have been home for a longer stretch and have finally buckled down and started working on the house.  Even though we moved in nearly two years ago,  with all the travel and starting a family, it has fallen low on our list.    Some of you know that my mother very generously lent us a closet full of my grandmother’s things which we’re finally starting to pull out and strategically place around the house.   We hung up the mirrored Japanese ladies behind us to create a feel of an extended headboard and I have to say that I really love it.  I can’t wait to show you more (we hung up curtains and painted, too).

When Will and I met (pre-baby), we used to have a lot of breakfast in bed.  It’s something we still try to do from time to time but really our bed has become a place for the three of us to rest, laugh and play.  Baby R loves jumping around on it and we have been practicing petting the cats gently, too.   Needless to say, it is such a luxury to be wrapped up in our cozy pajamas as a family.  I highly recommend it! xx

Baby Travel

The Realities of Traveling With a Baby

October 17, 2017

We are constantly on the move with our little one.   We flew with him to photograph a wedding in the Northeast 5 weeks to the day after he was born.  I remember feeling totally overwhelmed and nervous, and then he slept the entire flight!  Seasoned parents will tell you the easiest is the beginning, and it gets harder the more mobile they get.  I will say though that mom brain in the beginning was a challenge for me — when we arrived at said wedding, I had forgotten my entire stack of work clothes and had 45 minutes to race to the shops before having to report to the rehearsal dinner.  I remember the shock that washed over me as I realized that all I had was a pair of ripped jean shorts, and giggling in the dressing room trying to find something to fit my post baby full feeding body.  Lesson learned!   Since then, we have flown to France, to the west coast three times, and up and down our East Coast more times than I can count, all with baby in tow.   It’s actually one of those things that is easier the more you do it, but here is what has worked for us (open to feedback/other ideas)!

I always take the stroller (it’s not a travel one, it’s quite bulky) and his giant bag as my carry on.  If he needs picking up, I put him in his carrier (bjorn, ergo baby, etc.) which is stashed underneath and I can throw his bag in the stroller.  It’s easy to get around this way.  I can feed him during meal times propped totally up, and I can take him strapped into the family restroom with me without worrying that he’s going to touch anything.  He inevitably ends up having some explosive bathroom session on all of our long haul flights.   I have literally thrown out the shirt that I am wearing and gone to my back up (which I ALWAYS have in his bag) twice while traveling because of bodily fluids which are just not worth traveling with.  Gross and TMI I know, but this is the reality of being a mom, at least for me!  I have tons of aiden and anais swaddle blankets which I can lay down underneath his little travel diaper thing to make sure that he isn’t touching anything.  Honestly, I care way less about this now that he’s older than one.  I let him hang everywhere in airports now (exposure exposure exposure, right?) but yesterday he ate something off of the floor on the plane that he had dropped and that was a bridge too far — I ripped it out of his mouth.

He spends a lot of time on the floor between my legs.  Now that he’s walking and standing he likes to use his own two feet!  He spends time crawling all over me tugging the hair of the passengers in front or flirting with the ones behind.  When they reach their limits, I place him between my legs and put toys in my lap.  We of course walk the aisle whenever possible on longer hauls.  We also do permit TV on flights now — with the inbuilt TVs, it’s impossible to keep off.  He knows how to adjust the brightness.  He honestly can’t watch for too long and I will trade that exposure for a moment of stillness on a really long flight.  We don’t watch TV at home and I try to limit screens as much as possible.  Flights feel like one of those times where all rules are cast aside.

That being said, we try to spend lot of time NOT looking at the screen, and we bring little toys with us.   His favorite though is to play with bottle caps.  A typical boy, he’s very interested in the way things work.  We find that rattling the snack bags and shaking the water bottles handed out are as adequate a toy as any.  As is reading the safety card and puppets made from the air sick bags… we do what we can! It’s well worth it in the end! xx

 

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