Holiday Book Ideas!

M Tree Holiday

We’re lucky that Baby Flyer is at a stage, and has been for awhile, where reading books is one of her favorite activities.  Most nights, the most effective bribe for getting ready for bed is having time for at least five books.  We live down the street from our local library, and try to keep up with seasonal books for her.  Right now, understandably, she’s ALL about the holidays, which makes getting into the festive season that much easier for us adults.

Here are some of her current favorites.  Books are always a welcome gift- they get plenty of use, last a long time, and equally great- they don’t take up much space in our house!

Bunny Slopes:

A really cute and interactive book in the theme of mix it up or press here.  Help the bunny go skiing by reading, turning, and shaking the book.

The Night Before Christmas – With Included CD:

This is a beautiful edition of the well known story.  The artwork is extremely detailed, and includes a DVD of the making of the book.

The Night Before Christmas On Sesame Street:

Your standard holiday fun for Elmo fans.

The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker

This is a fun one.  Baby Flyer is really into The Nutcracker this year, and this book has a page by page button to press to hear a few bars of the music.  She likes it so well we had to get replacement batteries.

When Santa Was A Baby

A cute concept.  Pretty much what it sounds like.

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas

If you have a Fancy Nancy fan for a kiddo, or one who appreciates dress up and comedy, this is a good one.

Pete The Cat Saves Christmas:

Pete the Cat’s addition to the holiday bookshelf.  It’s alllll good….

Pick A Pine Tree:

The Polar Express:

The classic, takes us back to childhood too.

Little Blue Truck’s Christmas:

Cute counting-centric book of little blue dropping off Christmas trees to his friends.  Also, the last page lights up.  Need we say more?

Olivia Helps With Christmas:

Olivia’s Christmas.  We’ve recently graduated to Olivia-length books as favorites.

Dream Snow:

We love Eric Carle in our family, and we could recommend plenty more.

Presents Through The Window:

For any kiddo who finds peek-a-boo and comedy go along well together.  A confused Santa tries to guess who’s in the houses by just seeing part of the picture.

 

Happy Reading!!

~Baby Flyer Blog

Video: Escape Lounge @ BDL Review

We value our lounge memberships more than ever when traveling with family.  It saves lots of money on airport food and drink, and gives us all a place to relax before our flights, or to get organized afterward.  Click HERE or the image above for a quick review of the Escape Lounge at BDL airport with Baby Flyer.  This lounge has free access with the Amex Platinum card (plus two guests), or is $45 for entry.

For more videos on lounges, flights, and miles and points, check out any of the other videos on @flyitforward.

-Baby Flyer Blog

 

Summer 2018 Part 2- Praha

paint wall prague

Part 1- Landings in Lucerne

We left off last time with the promise of an ‘economy flight to be jealous of.’  Yes, you heard me right.  In booking our Summer travels, I had one connection I just couldn’t make work “on brand” with Oneworld.  We needed to get from Zurich to Prague, and all the Oneworld connections had to go through Helsinki, London, or Madrid.  For a less than 2 hour flight, it just didn’t work.

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Baby Flyer with her “Pink Suitcase” from Travelpro

So, a quick google search found a nicely priced direct flight on Swiss airlines.  I up-fared to the level above the deep discount price to get a checked bag and a seat assignment (grudgingly, as with status this is a thing of the past with Oneworld), and we were set to go.  We didn’t think much of it- it’s a short flight, who cares, etc, until we actually took the flight.  It was great!

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The plane was clean and modern, and we had three seats together.  Once we boarded, the cabin crew came around with a special treat and a welcome for Baby Flyer.  They had her at ‘fruit snacks.’  It was just a quick flight, but they still did a full drink and snack service, including free beer and wine, and buttered pretzel bread that was honestly really guilty and good.  By the time we landed, everyone was grumbling about how US-based airlines don’t generally come close to this pleasant of an experience in coach.

We arrived and took a van/cab into the city.  I did see some bus connections, but the prices for transport weren’t prohibitive, and the airport is decently far away.  We were staying in a huge flat right in the center of the old town.  This was easily one of the most unique places we’ve stayed to date.  It was three bedrooms, slept 10, and was right in the old town part of the city, walking distance to everything down twisting cobblestone streets.

It was a unique experience, though in retrospect, when traveling with family in the summer to Prague, we’d recommend staying just outside of old town where the noise at night is less.  The city is understandably busy, and the inner streets are narrow.  The restaurants, bars, and street performers kept old town lively well past kiddo bedtime, and the need to keep windows open due to the heat made it a difficult choice between quiet and cool.  Luckily, the back bedroom opened onto a courtyard, which was much quieter.

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That bit of advice aside, we found some great family spots and enjoyed the reprieve from Swiss and Scandinavian prices for food and attractions around town.  As is the way with travel with small kids, the best moments were the unexpected- stopping for a cold beer (and a soda water for Baby Flyer) on the grass on Strelicky island, puppet shows and buskers on the streets, and small cafes along the river and canals.

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Though we did travel with a stroller, for our part of town, it wasn’t the best city for it since the streets were crowded and bumpy.  We were thankful to have a slightly older kid who could walk some, as well as the toddler size Tula carrier to get around.

Prague Canal

 

One thing we did book in advance was a dinner at Vytopna.  The pitch for this place is simple – scale model trains bring you your drinks.  To your table. To the endless joy of your 2yr old child.  Aside from the obvious attraction of that, they have solid Italian food, and we were honestly surprised to see so many tables there without kids.  It’s also located on Wenceslas Square, which was a fun part of town to see.

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We easily filled our time on this stop with both planned in advance activities, and just wandering the city to see what we could stumble across.  The food was great, if full of vacation-y guilty pleasures, and the Gothic architecture was larger than life.  Cathedrals, maze-like streets, and the many bridges and spires made it memorable, and a place we’d come back to if given the chance.

The main challenge was the heat which was far above average across Europe at the time.  By the end, we were looking forward to heading north to Stockholm in search of some cooler days, and the chance to explore a new Scandinavian city, of course!

Next up- Stockholm

~Baby Flyer Blog

**We took some time off for life lately, so will still be posting our 2018 adventures as we can.

Baby Flyer’s 2018 Gift Guide

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Baby Flyer this Summer in Prague – Showing off one of her favorites.

How is it almost the end of the year again??  And when did our little baby become an almost ‘threenager’??  The answer to both is- no idea, but it’s reality, so we better get ready.

We thought we’d share a few of our favorites from this year, both for travel and otherwise.

Boogie Board:

Boogie Board

This is a new addition to Baby Flyer’s carry-on, and it’s been an instant hit!  The boogie board is nicely kid-sized, but also makes a great notepad for the front of the fridge for to do lists, shopping, etc.  It comes with a pen, but can also be written on with a fingernail.  Baby Flyer loves showing it off, drawing, and taking ‘orders’ on it.  Even better – 100% mess free!

PlanetBox

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We (and Baby Flyer) LOVE this, and use it almost every day.  These stainless steel bento box-style lunch boxes are perfect for young kiddos because they keep everything organized, and the compartments are a great size for this age.  It’s easy to clean up, and comes with accessories like cooler packs, a carry bag, utensils, custom magnets, and containers.

KicKee Pants Stroller Blanket:

Kikee Pants

For naps on the plane, in the car, or as a cover-up when nursing, this blanket now goes on all our trips.  We love it because it’s lightweight and packs well.  Plus we’ve washed it over and over again, and it’s holding up great.

Kids’ Kindle Fire

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We’re the first to admit we’re not experts on this product, which is probably why we give it a mediocre review.  We don’t do a lot of screen time at home, and make it a special thing for plane or car trips.  We bought this highly discounted on Amazon Prime day, so for that value it’s worth it.  It comes with a year of “free time” which gives a bunch of downloadable videos, games, and books, and you set your kid’s account up so they only have access to what you want.  We did find some of her favorites included like Elmo, Pete the Cat, and Todd Parr’s World.  There are a few glitches though, like having to hook it up to wifi before travel to re-download content, and the home screen navigation being hard to figure out.  We wouldn’t have paid iPad prices for it, which thankfully we didn’t have to.

Menzo Case

Case

 

It should be noted that the case that comes free with the Fire is pretty kid-proof for drops and whatnot, however, it doesn’t have a ‘kickstand’ feature so if you want it to stand up on a tray table, you’ll need to accessorize.

Nenos Headphones

Kid Headphones

To go along with the tablet, Baby Flyer has some of these kids’ headphones.  They’re decibel limited for little ears, and are the right size for a large 2 yr old and up.  She’s just lately really grown into them.

Books:

What’s also a fun addition to our carry-on this year, are some favorite books.  Baby Flyer is really into them lately, and sometimes a good old fashioned book is what you need to get through cranky moments on a flight.  Here are some of her current favorites, travel based and otherwise.

Maisy Goes on a Plane

Maisy Goes On A Plane

Baby Flyer is currently loving this book.  She likes Maisy in general, but this one is the most detailed and practical book about air travel we’ve found for this age.  It follows Maisy through getting to the airport, checking in, and the like.  It even talks about how small the bathroom is.  Thorough.  Especially if your kiddo has a first flight, or first flight in awhile coming up, this one could be a help.

Planes

Planes

Aptly titled, this is a simple picture book about all kinds of planes.  It’s for younger kiddos, but it’s one she still picks out, and we find her quoting from when she sees planes in the air.

Go Go Go, Stop!

Go Go Go Stop

This was one of the earliest books that held Baby Flyer’s attention.  Not entirely travel related, but a good first step in teaching road safety concepts, as well as some colors.  We’ve read this MANY times, and have given it as gifts more than once.

Mix It Up

Mix It Up

Not travel related, but this book is definitely a favorite of Baby Flyer’s, and one we also really enjoy reading.  It’s fun and interactive, and really good for talking about colors in all different ways.  It’s as close to a painting activity as you’d ever want to do in a plane or a car.

Red: A Crayon’s Story

Red

This book about a crayon with a ‘Red’ label, who turns out to realize he’s blue.  While talking about colors, is even more about teaching tolerance and acceptance for who you and others are.  It’s a book that can grow with a child, and lead to several layers of understanding depending on their age.

Where’s Waldo Travel Edition

Where's waldo

For those of us who were early “Waldo” fans, you probably remember those huge hardcover books.  Well, Waldo’s still very much in print, and we found an easily packable travel edition that fits well in the carry on.  At two, Baby Flyer is definitely just growing into these, but she does really enjoy them (and if we’re being honest, so do we from time to time).  She was even ‘Wenda,” Waldo’s friend who appears on each page, for Halloween this year.

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As always, travel safely & Happy Holidays to you all!

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

 

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Summer 2018 Part 1 -Landings in Lucerne

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Dipping our toes in Lake Lucerne

We made so many memories last summer in Europe, we decided to do it again this year.  Well, really the airline’s revenue management team decided for us by releasing a bunch of bookable business class seats between Philadelphia and Zurich.  There were enough that we could get two award and one upgraded economy ticket round trip.

The seating for the flight was the ‘new’ cabin on American Air’s 767.  It’s not the biggest plane, or the layout with the most personal space, but it was ideal for flying with a toddler.  Even during takeoff and landing, you could easily reach over and give her toys, snacks, etc.

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We decided for the long flights to take and use our travel car seat.  If you’re going to do this on a premium cabin, make sure to check ahead.  Some of these seats don’t accommodate it well, and may have airbags in the seatbelts making it unsafe.  This configuration, however, was fine.

Baby Flyer had a great flight!  She loved getting special treats- like refills on her orange juice, and her own ice cream after dinner.  The flight crew was great, and got her a special pasta from economy that was more kid-friendly, but even dressed it up and put it  on a business class plate.  Admittedly, we didn’t sleep much, but she got in a few hours, and was in a good mood on arrival.

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Good to Go! 

Since we landed there by default, we took a couple nights in Switzerland to shake off the jetlag.  We decided on Lucerne, and we booked an Airbnb in town, close to the train from the Zurich airport.  This stop was all about kicking some jetlag, seeing the city, and enjoying the lake views.

It’s generally a good idea when flying east to Europe to not make too many ambitious plans in your first city.  Honestly, this is a good idea on any trip with little kids.

To get there from Zurich, you can buy tickets on a nonstop train at the airport station (Zurich Flughafen) or buy them in advance online.  Pro tip- if you book in advance, you may be able to get ‘super-saver’ tickets online through the website.  You can only see if they’re available once you put in your desired day and destination, and then the option will be shown if it’s possible.  It’s a big savings- basically half off!  The only twist is that they’re not flex tickets, so you need to plan in some time in case your flight is late.

We made our train, and after about a 50 minute ride through fields and mountains, arrived at the central station in Lucerne.  Here’s where we’ll just say… it was hot.  Europe was in the middle of a historical heat wave nearly our entire trip.  We’re not totally unused to the heat, living in Los Angeles, but I don’t think it’s what we expected months earlier when booking the tickets.  Luckily, we’d gotten organized, paring down luggage, and finding ways to get everything more portable.

Our Airbnb was about 15 minutes’ walk from the train, and was a perfect set up.  It was probably one of the most professionally run properties we’ve stayed at.  Everything was clean (down to the swiss chocolates on the pillows) and modern, and the host met us promptly.  There was a book full of things to do, local restaurants, and detailed instructions about all the appliances in the apartment.

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The Balcony of our Airbnb

They even had an oversized pack n’ play crib and a high chair for us!  Even better, there were fans in every room.  This was a minority amenity, which we would learn the hard way later in the trip.

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As advertised, Lucerne and the surrounding area are beautiful!  It’s also safe feeling and clean.  I don’t know that I’d test it out, but the locals claim you can drink the lake water.  In any case, it’s a beautiful clear blue, and surrounded by city and mountains.

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One of the best ways to see the area is to take one of the many cruises or ferries that travel the lake.  There are plenty of ticketing and tour options, but we went to the source and booked from the source.  Be sure to look at their sale/deals if you can book ahead.  We found there were significant savings for our “Panorama Yacht” tickets.

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After the boat, we walked through part of the old town, and made sure to cross the Chapel bridge, which is arguably the most photographed part of the city.  It did not disappoint.

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Afterward, we went to Rossini, which was a great recomendation from our hosts, and it was amazing!  Hand-made pasta, and generous portions of everything.  They were great and flexible with the menu as well.

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Rossini – handmade pasta!

One benefit of the heat wave, was that the lake was much warmer than average.  Our host let us know where the best public beach for families was, and we grabbed our bathing suits and headed over.  It was a perfect way to cool off after exploring the city!  Cool, but not cold, and remarkably clean and calm for a large lake boardered by a city.

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For our second night, we had dinner at Made in Sud, courtesy of great online reviews.  The thing about yelp, Trip Advisor, and the like, is that you have to keep in mind that people review based on the price point.  No place is this more pronounced than in Switzerland, where the savvy traveler is always looking for quality for a good deal.

Made In Sud is a perfect example.  I have to say right off that the food and service were great, especially for the entirely reasonable price point.  The owner and servers made us feel welcome, and were great with kids.  However, if you’re looking for super high-end ambiance, there are plenty of other places you could find in Lucerne.  However, I doubt you’d want to chase small children around them, and you’d probably pay at least double for the privilege.  As an added bonus, there’s a small playground right around the corner from the restaurant for any little folks who get restless waiting for the check.

Too soon, we were headed back to the Zurich airport to catch our flight onwards.  Even in a heat wave, we had a fun time checking Lucerne out, and I’d definitely keep it on the “to re-visit” list for the future.

Up next – An economy flight to be jealous of & three nights in Prague.

~CET

Summer 2018 Travel Gear Guide

 

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Baby Flyer starts a flight off right!

In just a couple weeks, we’re heading out on a 4 city, 12 day, family adventure to Europe!  We’ll be sightseeing through Lucerne, Switzerland on arrival, then Prague, Czechia, and on to Stockholm, Sweden, before finally one last night in Helsinki, Finland!  So….. what to bring??

Last summer we went to Europe as well, that time with an 18 month old.  When thinking this year’s trip through, we realized we needed to change up some of our gear.  We’ll be leaving some things home, and taking some new things to try.

Here’s some of the current packing list:

When you’re doing a trip with this many stops, and this many chances for things to get lost, damaged, or even just cost more to check, what suitcases you want to take is the first important question.

The we’re each planning bringing on a simple rolling suitcase that can either be checked, or boarded with, depending on the best option for the flight.  We’ve had several brands this size, but the Travelpro Crew 10 has stood up to the test the best, even when having other items tied on.  Do keep in mind, though, if you’re going to be doing a lot of intra-Europe flying, you may be asked to check a bag much over 20,” and weight limits may be enforced.

Travelpro crew 10

A good companion bag to bring in the cabin, or to tuck in the seat in front is also key.  For a lower price point we like the matching duffel to the Travelpro crew series, or if you’re looking for something that can be a small rolling bag, the Briggs & Riley rolling cabin bag is lovely.

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Baby Flyer demonstrates how nicely the Briggs & Riley rolls.

What’s different this year is that Baby Flyer is two, and so she has her own ticket and her own baggage allowance.  Keeping with family tradition, she has her own (pink, of course) Maxlite Travelpro roller.  We decided to get her ‘real luggage’ instead of a kids-type bag, hoping that the quality and size will make it a long term purchase, while still being small enough for her to roll on her own when she’s in the mood.

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Knowing that she won’t be in the mood yet to roll her own suitcase all the time, we ordered a simple attaching strap so we can clip hers onto one of ours for longer walks.  This brand is universal, adjusts well, and fits most wheeled luggage models.

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Best travel car seat ever- light and durable – Cosco Senecra

This is also the first major trip where we’re going to bring her car seat to install on the flights.  We’ll update with how this goes, as well as some of the rules later, but keep in mind that not all airplane seats are compatible with car seats, especially in business or first class cabins.  Check with your airline to make sure.  Seats, even in economy, that are in bulkhead rows also may not work as they may have airbags in the seatbelts, and be narrower, so only some slim car seats will fit.  As a general rule, most basic economy seats have a 17″ width, so that’s a good dimension to follow when measuring your car seat to see if it will fit.

Since we’re planning on taking the car seat through the airport, we’re trying out a harness that attaches it to a carry on size roller bag.  It seems to work great, though takes a couple minutes to sort out at first.  We recommend also packing a light gate check bag in case you decide to check it plane side to keep it clean.

car seat strap

This trip is also a first in that we’re leaving her well used traveller crib at home.  She’s just recently gotten big enough that she rolls into the edges at night and wakes up.  We’ve been experimenting with inflatable toddler beds like the Shrunks brand mattress.  It looks great, sets up fast, and is a cut above other basic air mattresses.  Baby Flyer really seems to like the idea and loved playing on it, but since she’s still in a crib at home, it’s just different enough that we’re not confident it’ll be worth it to drag around Europe.  We’re keeping it for when she’s a bit older for travel, sleepovers, etc.

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This bed really does seem to hold the air well, packs up small, and has separate air chambers for the inside and outside, so you can tuck blankets in.  It also fits a standard size crib sheet.

Instead, we checked with our Airbnb hosts, and at each location there’s either a crib already there, a kid’s bed on the ground, or enough extra mattresses that we can make her a safe place to sleep without having to bring anything with us.

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The Citi Mini Zip is a good option for a larger feeling stroller that packs away small.

We’re also not taking our own stroller this time around.  Last year we brought our City Mini Zip and backpack, but didn’t use it as much as we thought we would.  Baby Flyer likes to walk on her own, or be in a carrier.  If she was a better stroller kid we would likely bring it again, even though it’s nice to downsize our luggage.  Like the beds though, one of our Airbnbs has a stroller for us to use, and Stockholm has a convenient looking stroller rental option, so we’re more or less covered.

Tula

Plus, we finally admitted that she was getting too big for our Ergo 360, and upgraded to the Tula toddler carrier.  It has a high weight limit – up to 60 (!!) pounds.  This was one thing we didn’t take last summer that we really wish we did, so this is us living and learning.

We also are trading in our usual over the shoulder bag for an all purpose backpack to take on the plane, that should be easier to take around the cities when we get there.

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A big trip is also a good time to pick up some smaller necessities.  Last summer we definitely wished we had some extra plugs, so we ordered a spare Targus Universal Adapter, and a bigger remote power bank since we lost one in an airport earlier this year.

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When the stars align… even for just a while…

With all these things set, and our departure date getting close, we’re down to enjoying planning things to do and see!  It’s the best feeling to be done with the nuts and bolts of a trip to get to the good stuff.  There’s really no such thing as being totally prepared for an international family trip, but a little early organization can get you so much closer.

Travel well,

~CET

Summer in Scandinavia Part 7 – Nakemiin, Hej Hej, and Goodbye

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Waiving bye-bye to Europe.  See you next time!

Summer in Scandinavia: Preview

Summer in Scandinavia Part 1: Gear Up and Go!

Summer in Scandinavia Part 2: Well Connected

Summer in Scandinavia Part 3: This Is The Way We Board The Plane

Summer in Scandinavia Part 4: Hello, Helsinki!

Summer in Scandinavia Part 5: Old Town, New Adventures

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6: Hygge With A Chance Of Downpour Part 1

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6: Hygge With A Chance Of Downpour Part 2

And now, the conclusion….

Our trip home was, admittedly, long.  We left early in the morning from the Copenhagen airport, which is relatively small and easy to navigate.  There are a couple lounge options for Oneworld flyers.  We stopped at the “Apartment” lounge, which was the best option at the time.  However, CET has been back to Denmark since and they now have an even better option near the British Airways gate, past passport control that’s worth a visit.

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Entrance to the non-Schengen (International) lounges.  There’s a business class and first class side.  First class for Emerald, Business for Sapphire

From Copenhagen, we connected back to Helsinki to catch our return award ticket to JFK.  This gave us a chance to spend a few hours in the premium first class Finnair lounge accessible from the international gates.  It’s always fun to check out the best lounge at a Oneworld airline’s ‘home’ airport.  This one is unmistakably Finnish, complete with a real sauna, right in the airport (yes co-ed and everything).

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We both took showers before the flight home, CET tried out the sauna as well.

There are also plenty of good food and drinks, as well as a nice kids’ are with all kinds of books, blocks, and other toys.  Baby Flyer had a good time making a mess, which in the Finnish tradition, we then cleaned up ourselves before heading to our flight.  This lounge, with or without littles, is worth a visit.  It’s less crowded (at our flight time anyway) and with a higher level of amenities than the Finnair Schengen lounge we went to on our way to Copenhagen, and even that one wasn’t too shabby.

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I don’t even know what half of this is, but I’m going to eat it.  Plus, their glassware game is on point.

The Helsinki airport is clean, lovely, and quiet in comparison to many others, so we were able to let Baby Flyer stretch her legs on the way to the gate.  She, of course, insisted on carrying her own passport.  If you’re so inclined, there’s also plenty of food and shopping options along the way.

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HEL Airport, middle of the travel day.  Blissful.

The boarding process was fairly orderly, and we pushed back on time for JFK.  With a few exceptions, flights from the US to Europe are overnights, with the return trips being in the day.  This is good and bad- you don’t feel like you’re up all night, but babies also don’t sleep for as much of it.  Plane time is play time, at least for awhile.

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Baby Flyer checks out her Junior Aviator Logbook.  Even though it’s an AA thing, all our Oneworld crews have happily signed it.

Finnair gave Baby Flyer an activity/coloring book, and another Moomins cloth/blanket for the flight.  We’d packed all kinds of toys and entertainment, so she made herself at home in front of our seats to play.  The food, drinks, and IFE were much the same as on the outbound, and we picked up a couple more of the Marimekko amenity kits to take home.

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Setting up shop on our Finnair a330.  Soft sole ‘airplane shoes‘ are a must at this stage when they’ll be climbing on you, as well as the floor and everything else for 8 hours.

We made it back to the US fine, but ran smack into a painfully long line at immigration/customs.  We have Global Entry, but Baby Flyer didn’t.  This meant we had to wait in the ‘regular line’ which was an hour long, even for the automated passport control.  This mistake won’t be made again, thanks to our Amex Platinum’s generous reimbursement program for Global Entry, all three of us are signed up now!

We did finally clear, and then had to pick up and re-check our bags to LAX.  That all finally completed, we had a brief stop back in the Flagship Lounge to recharge for a few minutes.  Really, the travel caught up with us when we boarded the flight home from JFK to LAX.  Thankfully, seeing this coming, we’d cashed in some AA miles and booked two business class seats on AA’s best domestic plane – the 321-T.  It’s business class is as good as many international routes, and features fully lie flat seats in a 2-2 configuration, which is perfect for two people and a lap infant.

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Feels like coming home.

We barely made it through the meal service before all three of us fell soundly asleep for the remainder of the five hour flight.  It was just what we needed to be in good shape to navigate LAX on landing, and get ourselves safely home.  What is nice about the return flights is that they land later in the day on the west coast, so even if you don’t sleep much on the flights, you can go home and get everyone to bed and beat the jetlag.

They say that travel with kids isn’t a ‘vacation,’ it’s a ‘trip.’  It’s a good way to put it.  You definitely have to plan more, improvise more, and have patience.  Overall, though, the memories are worth it, and sometimes it’s nice to slow down and just do simple things in another country- like watching street musicians, or hanging out at a playground.

This trip was definitely one we’ve since looked back on fondly, even though we definitely learned a thing or two about what works traveling with an 18 month old, and what doesn’t.  That’s all part of the adventure though, and as it turns out, we’re even going to try to do it all again, now with a 2.5 (!!!) year old.

Thanks for reading & Travel well.

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6 – Hygge With A Chance of Downpour, Part 2

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To catch you up:

Summer in Scandinavia: Preview

Summer in Scandinavia Part 1: Gear Up and Go!

Summer in Scandinavia Part 2: Well Connected

Summer in Scandinavia Part 3: This Is the Way We Board the Plane

Summer in Scandinavia Part 4: Hello, Helsinki!

Summer in Scandinavia Part 5: Old City, New Adventures

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6: Hygge With A Chance Of Downpour Part 1

What’s a week in Scandinavia’s long summer days without a little rainstorm?  Both times we’ve been to Denmark in August we’ve had some rain, but this time around it was serious business.  The first full day we were wandering around town the skies decided to open up and absolutely dump rain on us as we made our way back to the condo.  Full on clothes-soaking, just have to give up and laugh, raining.  Some of our clothes never really did recover, but sometimes you just have to accept that there will be sacrifices to the travel Gods along the way.

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Baby Flyer stays dry in her Citi Mini Zip with Rain Cover

Thankfully, this wasn’t the case for the entire time, just light showers here and there the next day which didn’t stop us for getting out and around in the city.  However, Baby Flyer had her own plans.  Not only was she too proud to ride in the stroller most of the time, even though we’d thoughtfully gotten a nice rain cover for it, she also wanted to hold her own umbrella.

So, while all the (seemingly) well behaved Danish kids were quietly bundled up in their strollers, we were chasing our fiercely independent American child down the cobblestone sidewalks of central Copenhagen, in the rain, trying to get our umbrella back.

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Copenhagen, a portrait.

In retrospect, it was one of the cutest moments of the week, and we weren’t the only ones who felt this way.  We’re pretty sure Baby Flyer and her umbrella made it into quite a few people’s European vacation photos.

We took our time exploring the city, hitting some of the attractions, as well as a few old and new favorite restaurants and casual dining spots.  First, and most convenient was a stop by Torvehallerne in Norreport.  It’s a year-round market of kinds that includes shops selling vegetables, olive oils, deli meats, and wine, as well as some small restaurants and bars.  One of the most popular booths is definitely for smorrebrod, which is about as Danish as you can get.  It translates to ‘buttered bread,’ but is really a variety of open faced sandwiches with all manner of toppings that can stack up several inches.  One piece makes a perfect lunch, and a glass of wine to go with doesn’t hurt.

We also treated ourselves to a couple of nights out at some of the wonderful spots by our flat as well.  Just downstairs was a French restaurant called Honen & AEgget (roughly translated- chicken and egg!)  Along with a cozy atmosphere, the food was great, and the service was extremely friendly.  We went more than once.

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Our last night, we did things properly and had a true Danish meal out at Vaskt in Centrum.  This place is 100% scandi – cozy, just formal enough, farm to table, and homey yet decorative presentation.  Yes, we think we at the garnishes here too, but we regret nothing.

With all that food, we needed to get out and cycle it off.  This is Denmark, and really the only way to get around is by bike.  Plus, Baby Flyer was much more amenable to sitting in a kid’s seat on the bike than in her stroller.  There are various bike sharing systems in Copenhagen, but since we needed to rent the kids’ seat and helmet, we headed to Osterport to a rental shop.  In just a few minutes, we were on our way!  As a sidenote, it took us awhile to find the place- it’s actually down a ramp/stairs closer to the metro tracks.

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Baby Flyer LOVED it, and was inspired to try it on her own when she found a bike her own size in the courtyard of our flat.

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She is Danish now!

Now, as promised, we also spent a fair amount of time exploring the playgrounds around Copenhagen.  As a general rule, most of the larger playground designs that we commonly see in the US are designed by, or have their roots in, Danish companies.  They also are responsible for Legos, among other long lasting kid’s favorites.

What was funny, then, was that the playgrounds in Denmark don’t look a whole lot like ours, even our ‘good’ ones!  In Copenhagen, the parks are largely more natural- wood elements, terrain, bridges, and structures that in the US might make parents edgy – high ropes, BIG slides.

In short -they’re AWESOME!

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Playtime in Denmark- Sweater & Sneakers

The first one we stumbled on was just across the lakes from our flat.  A small, but imaginative local playground with ‘grass’ mounds, wooden planks, and a vaguely nautical theme.  It was off the beaten path a little, so we had it to ourselves most of the time.

We of course also spent some time at the iconic playground in the ‘King’s Garden‘ park in the center of town.  This playground was not only lots of fun, but really beautifully designed.

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It was nearly entirely made of wood structures.  Really, nothing overly ‘fancy’ but everything functional and inspiring to the imagination.

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It’s always interesting to go to some of the ‘local’ family spots on vacation to get a dose of everyday culture.  What we definitely kept seeing across Scandinavia was the independence of the kids (once they were out of their strollers).  Parents kept a watchful eye, but let their kids play more or less on their own.  This park was also perfect for that since most of the elements were simple and kids over 2 or 3 didn’t need assistance to get to anything.

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The King’s Garden itself was beautiful in Summer, especially after the rain.  The Danes both design, and use, their common spaces well.  On a nice summer weekend it can feel like the whole city is just out for a day in the park.  It’s not uncommon to see groups with elaborate picnics, complete with music and drinks.

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King’s Garden

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Bonus pic- Waterfront in Summer

All in all, we packed a lot into our four days in Copenhagen.  As always, you have to be flexible and keep your expectations simple when traveling with little ones, but the memories are worth it.

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Stopping to smell the flowers

Too soon, it was time to pack up again and say ‘see you next time’ to Denmark.  We had to start the long journey home to California.

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Baby Flyer at Christiansborg- historic city center and Parliament buildings.

Up next- All Good Things Must End – Hej Hej, Danmark – Kobenshavn Lufthavn to LAX”

~CET

Summer in Scandinavia Part 6- Hygge With a Chance of Downpour, Part 1

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A lovely break from exploring Copenhagen

The trip so far:

Preview

Part 1- Gear Up and Go!

Part 2- Well Connected

Part 3- This Is The Way We Board The Plane

Part 4- Hello, Helsinki!

Part 5- Old Town, New Adventures

It’s always a thrilling experience to arrive and feel at home someplace 5,000 miles from home.  It’s one reason that returning to the same place years later, even with other destinations on offer, can be worth doing.  It’s even more pronounced when you return, with a baby for the first time.

Almost exactly 4 years earlier, we traveled to Europe for the first time together as a couple, and Copenhagen was one of the first stops.  Last time around we stayed a block from Tivoli Gardens in the Radisson Blu.  It’s located right in the business/tourist district.  We rented bikes from a shop around the corner, and toured the city (somewhat aimlessly, but with a plan).

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Nyhavn- Probably the most iconic shot of Denmark.  All roads lead here eventually…

The weather was unseasonably warm, and we enjoyed taking our (admittedly well worn, budget priced) bikes on the train to Dyrehaven, frequenting a quaint wine bar with friendly service, and staying out late (ish) to have ice cream sitting on the edge of the Nyhavn canal as the nightlife spilled out onto the streets around us from nearby bars and restaurants.

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Copenhagen is (price point aside) a thoroughly livable city, which is what we liked about it.  It has plenty of attractions, architecture, and culture all fit into a manageable footprint.  There’s no high-rise skyline- few buildings are over 15 or 20 stories at most, and these are the exception to the rule.  The old parts of the city are well preserved, while the new structures are clean-cut, and modern to the point of being a Scandi version of avant-garde.

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Rosenborg Slot

Everything is accessible by bike or train, and with the possible exception of unexpectedly wandering into Freetown Christiana, easy to navigate without ever really feeling lost.  This is also the reason, along with the family-friendly culture, that we decided to give it a repeat visit, now as parents.

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So, back to the current trip report!  We took the short flight direct from Helsinki on Finnair.  Through our Oneworld status, we had access to the Schengen area lounge.  It’s nice and ultra-modern, with plenty of food and drinks for free.  We grabbed a few seats, and Baby Flyer thoroughly enjoyed going up and down the few steps nearby.  In fact, she managed them by herself for the first time!  It’s the little memories….

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It doesn’t get more Finnish than this.

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Mmmm….. Buffet with a view!  I should also strongly point out the plugs in the background.  Yes, you need to bring power adapters!  Everywhere, especially in Airbnbs!  We have two of the Targus Universal Adapters, and they’ve served us well.  Keep in mind that one may not be enough, depending on how many things you need to plug in at any give time.

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There was a small kids’ area in a corner, but it was smaller than one might expect for a lounge of this size, but a nice thought anyway.  Baby Flyer was having too much fun hanging out with us to play in it anyway.

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Kids’ corner.

Our flight went by quickly, and the service was good.  As Oneworld elites, we could check bags for free, pre-select our seats, and were served free drinks even though we had purchased the lowest level fare.  One more reason to pay attention to who you fly, even for short hops abroad.  What looks like a cheaper fare with a competitor can come with some hefty fees you’re not used to having to think about.

All that fun in the lounge finally tired Baby Flyer out, and she spent the trip taking her nap.  Quite unlike her, the nap even continued through deplaning, and all the way to baggage.

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She knows how to wait patiently for checked baggage…

Our next destination was our Airbnb townhome on Oster Farimagsgade, in the city center, near the botanical gardens and lakes.  We bought tickets for the Metro, headed for the Norreport station, but ended up on the regular train by mistake.  As it turned out, all ended well, and this train was headed for that station also.  Thankfully, no one checked our tickets!  For the return trip, we had it sorted out.  Both the trains and the metro here are good options to get to town, depending on your final destination.  The main difference at the outset is that the metro doesn’t go through the central station, stopping at Christenhavn and Kongens Nytorv instead.

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Welcome home!

Our Airbnb was wonderful, quirky, and homey- everything you want in a stay in Denmark, right down to the little Danish flags everywhere.  This is standard, the Danes put their flag on everything!  Might have something to do with it being the oldest one still in use…. might be a viking thing, who knows.

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Sorry, no you can’t have your place back. We live here now.

The place was two stories, with a terrace and loft on the top floor.  It was modern but cozy, and fully furnished.  As per usual, the thing that took the most adjusting to for us Americans was the bathroom, as the shower water just drained right from the tile floor, and would flood much of the space if it ran long enough.  But once again, this is par for the course in many of the old buildings in this area.  We (mostly) got used to it.  Plus, it would be far from the last water-related incident we learned to deal with on this trip.

More to come….grab your umbrella…

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

 

Summer In Scandinavia Part 5- Old Town, New Adventures

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The trip so far:

Preview- Summer in Scandinavia

Part 1- Gear Up and Go!

Part 2- Well Connected

Part 3- This is the Way We Board the Plane (Board the Plane)

Part 4- Hello, Helsinki

Happy 2018!  When last we ‘spoke’ about this trip, we were packing it up to leave Helsinki, and head to Tallinn.  To do this, we hopped the number 9 tram down to the ferry terminal.  It stops right where you need it to- across from the large and rather impressive ferry/cruise building.  The terminal itself is even an attraction, with great views, as well as food and drink.

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Go home, Helsinki, you’re backwards.

They tell you to get there a bit early, and they really do board and leave promptly, so it’s a good idea to give yourself some time so there’s no rush.  Plus, it gives you a chance to take in the sea, and maybe a treat.

Ferry Terminal Eckero Line Helsinki

Bon Voyage!

The ferry is the best way to cross over to Estonia, and takes cars as well as passengers.  We booked the Eckero Line with Direct Ferries, and it really is more of a small cruise ship than what we’d think of as a ‘ferry,’ complete with several bars, a cafeteria, concerts on board, and several decks of small private cabins.  This is more than enough for the just over 2 hour crossing.  There are several companies that make the crossing, so there’s some flexibility in the schedule.

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All aboard!

We elected to get a 4 person cabin each way for just a bit more than the basic ticket (around $40), and with a baby it was totally worth it.  The space was too small to really be comfortable for all the adults to be in at once, but Baby Flyer napped both ways and we took turns hanging out with her and relaxing with a snack and a ‘Long Drink‘ up on deck.

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Sleeping away the crossing.

On arrival in Tallinn, we checked into our next Airbnb, which was a 2 bedroom flat inside of the ‘Old Town.’  Old town, once the partially-walled medieval city, is now the hub of tourist activity and also of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife.  Our flat was on the edge of the Old Town, which was a good thing since this meant it was quiet at night.

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Our Airbnb host even left a crib for us, even though we brought our own.  If you travel with infants, be sure to see what baby/kid amenities are available if you decide to go with Airbnb/HomeAway/etc. properties.

Old Town is actually only a 15-20 minute walk from the ferry terminal.  If the weather’s good, and you don’t have a ton of bags, it’s entirely reasonable not to try and get a cab for the short drive.

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Estonia welcomes you!!

This part of Tallinn is all historic courtyards, narrow streets, and cobblestones.  It’s buzzing with pedestrians taking in the architecture in the day, and people out enjoying the cheap(er) food and drinks until late at night.  It’s common for the ferries to fill up with Finns on weekends headed out for some fun at a fraction of the prices of ‘true’ Scandinavia.

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View of Old Town from our top floor Airbnb.

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The old architecture has been beautifully preserved, yet the city is modern through and through.  The Old Town is divided into ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ areas, upper once upon a time having been home to the fortified castle and grounds, and the lower the sprawling town connecting it to the port.

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Heading up the hill from the lower part of town to the upper.

Though the streets are winding, it’s hard to get lost here for too long simply because it’s not a large area.  Eventually, you come back to where you started.

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Now….for the family travel review of this part of the trip-  First off, cobblestones are not pleasant with just about any stroller, and definitely not the smaller-wheeled travel models, our Citi Mini Zip included.  This was a place we were really wishing we’d brought her Ergo Baby carrier, especially because of the daytime crowds.

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A walk through the Torniade Valjak park, just outside the walls.

Still, we had some nice exploring time, and there’s plenty of green space within and just outside of the Old Town to let kids run around and play.

One thing we will say though, this was our favorite city of the trip for food!  It was easier to find and more relaxed than in Helsinki, and much much cheaper than in Copenhagen.  The service was family friendly, and everyone could find something they wanted.  Even picky Baby Flyer tried some new food and flavors.

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Quinoa and goat cheese with beets.  She hasn’t eaten this healthy before or since…

As simple as it is, I think some of our fondest memories of the city were of the restaurants close to our Airbnb that we stumbled upon by chance.  The first, Must Puudel, was our choice for dinner (twice).  It’s a fun (if a bit hipster) bar and restaurant tucked away off the beaten path, that included a hidden garden patio behind.  The menu had fresh, innovative dishes and very reasonably priced drinks.

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Yes, there are pea sprouts on everything.  This will not be the last garnish we knowingly ate on this trip.

As well as the good vibe inside, the cobblestone street out front was quiet- the perfect setting to let a restless and newly walking Baby Flyer stretch her legs while the rest of the crew finished up eating.  What’s better, it’s Estonia, and no one cares if you take your wine glass with you on baby duty.

 

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Taking an after (during) dinner walk in her new ‘See Kai Run’ shoes.

As luck would have it, just around the corner, we found a little cafe called Kohvik August, that we fell in love with as well.  They made great coffee and mate lattes, and had fun lunch specials, including the Estonian version of Aperol spritzers, just for a treat.

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Happy vacation!

While Old Town is fun, it turns out there’s more to Tallinn than that.  The next day we hopped the local transit to Kadriorg, an expansive park that includes both playgrounds and gardens, and the site of the historic palace grounds.

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The palace and the gardens really are beautiful in the summer.  The playground areas were decent, but not overwhelmingly modern or creative (just wait for the post on Copenhagen!!), and we’d had some rain in the morning so things were wet enough that Baby Flyer preferred to run around the other parts of the park instead.

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Through the secret passage!  Baby Flyer’s outfit by Ittikid

The park was our last attraction before gathering up our things again, and heading back to the boat.  All in all, Tallinn was a pleasant surprise in many ways.  I didn’t do too much research on it this time around, but it really wasn’t needed.  You can easily hit the highlights of Old Town in 48 hours, enjoy some good food and drinks, and return to your Scandi holiday satisfied at the diversion.

~CET

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Baby Flyer’s rating of Tallinn: Good times, much enjoyment. Would recommend – 10 out of 10!

Next up- “God Rejse og Velkommen,” or “Hygge With a Chance of Downpour.”  (Denmark…the next stop is Denmark.)