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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

Summer In Scandinavia Part 4: Hello, Helsinki

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Tervetuola!

The adventure so far:

Preview

Part 1- Gear up and Go!

Part 2- Well Connected

Part 3- This Is How We Board the Plane (Board the Plane)

We arrived in Helsinki on time and intact, though a little tired.  Thankfully, Helsinki is a strikingly welcoming place to get around as a family.  From the comfortable changing stations in all the restrooms, to the free ‘strollers’ to use in the airport, it really shows that they value accessibility for parents.  On top of this, even though it’s the largest airport in the country, the Helsinki-Vantaa airport felt largely empty.  There were no crowds, no big lines at customs.  We were through and waiting for baggage in a matter of minutes.

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Finnair checked our stroller through to baggage, but the airport had free kiddie carts.

From there, we followed the signs to the train to the city.  Helsinki has a new-ish direct high speed train that takes you downtown in about 25 minutes.  It too was clean, accessible, and quiet.  We enjoyed the trip through so many green fields and trees!  So nice after leaving from Los Angeles in the summer.

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Once we got to the central station, we got on the local train out to the neighborhood where our Airbnb was.  Again, easy and clean.  We’d looked up the stations and trains before going (you can never be too prepared) so we made it with minimal confusion.  I use this system across the world.  Though in northern Europe, you can just about count on signage in English, or locals who can answer your questions, it’s good to have an idea of what stops, what direction, and if applicable what color line you’re looking for.  This kind of down to the details research has saved me, especially in places like Shanghai or Tokyo, where the language barrier is worse.

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The enclosed porch of our flat.  The perfect place to relax between sightseeing.

Our condo was in Ruoholahti, which isn’t quite the center of town, but also isn’t far.  Helsinki isn’t a big place in general, so between walking, biking, and the easy on/off trams around the city, we felt plenty in the middle of it all.  We rented a three bedroom flat that was spacious and homey.  Our hosts were very nice and accommodating.  By American standards European Airbnbs are usually a mix as they tend to go heavy on the location, and light on a few amenities most of us are used to.  Dishwashers are rare in the smaller units, as are clothes dryers.  However, it was a MUCH better deal for us than a hotel.  Hotels are expensive, lack the ability to do your own cooking, and don’t have separate rooms to put the baby to bed in.  For stays longer than a night or two, it’s a great option.

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We settled in and took a much needed nap, and then headed out to explore the city for a bit.  It was high summer, some of the nicest weather they’d had yet in the season, and still the city was very easy to get around and lacked big crowds at the major attractions.  So, so nice when you’re bringing the baby around.  At times we could even let her walk down the sidewalks next to us without worrying she would run into anyone.

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She LOVED it, and even got used to how to get to the train station, and what train to get on.  This kid was made for this town!

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We got dinner at- you guessed it- Vapiano our first night.  Why break with tradition.  As advertised, it was good quality and affordable.  I will say we actually had a harder time than expected finding restaurants in this city.  Between their limited hours, and menus it was hard to agree on, we did a bit of wandering around.  If we go back, that’s one thing I would research more.

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The next day, more rested, we set out to enjoy the nature in and around Helsinki of which there’s plenty.  We headed up the shore from our flat to check out the open air museum, which is an island park that has quite a number of traditional buildings on display amidst the forest.  Again, it was very quiet and no crowds.

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The ‘museum’ was free to wander around.  Tickets were only required for guided tours and events.  The island also has a bathhouse, as well as several beach areas.  We took a loop trail through, but we had more things to do in the day, so we didn’t spend hours.

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This walk also takes you past one of the most advertised (as much as anything is in Helsinki) attractions.  The Sebelius Monument is one of the iconic sights in the city.  You can walk around and through it, which makes for some fun pictures.

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Before going, we’d looked up what to do as a family in Helsinki, and came across a fun and unique museum called the “Childrens’ Town.”  It’s indoors, in the city center, and best of all- Free!  We made a point to check it out, and it was a hit!  It consists of two floors of the building and has a bunch of different exhibits, all of which are play-with-able.  There’s a farmyard, a boat, a puppet show, a store, a classroom, and more.

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The exhibits highlight Finnish society and history, in a playful kid-friendly way.  The upper floors of the City Museum have adult exhibits that we also had a walk though.  What was particularly striking about taking Baby Flyer here was how clean and safe it was.  This was due to the design, but also simply to how conscientious and respectful the other patrons were.  Parents were attentive, and were meticulous in tidying up after their kids were done playing.  The museum didn’t need a big staff, and was therefore able to be free, likely in part due to this.  It was so refreshing!

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I’ll also take the time to say that while the city didn’t have all that many people in it (which isn’t just our perception, the entire country has only about 5 million people-less than the population of LA County alone) there were plenty of other babies and kids around.  There were a fair share of strollers on the sidewalks, and yes, both here and especially in Copenhagen we did see some babies napping in their strollers outside shops and restaurants while their parents were inside.

This would seem unbelievable in America, and has in fact, gotten some expats in trouble with CPS unwittingly.  However, these cities are very safe, and kidnapping is almost unheard of.  It’s estimated there have been about 3 reported kidnappings in Copenhagen in the last 30 years or so, and if the story is true, some of those were mistaken acts by thieves just trying to take property without realizing they’d managed to take a snoozing baby as well.

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Comfy enough in her Mini Zip, but she wasn’t about to let us leave her in it to go off and have a coffee.

We weren’t quite that brave, and Baby Flyer wasn’t feeling the stroller napping too often on this trip anyway.  She much preferred to be out of the stroller and exploring on her own two feet.

We visited two more of the main attractions on our visit- the Fortress at Suomenlinna, and the Helsinki Zoo.  The former we’d looked up before going, and had put on the list, while the latter seemed to be the place every local we managed to get to actually talk to us (the Finns are notorious for being a bit shy and reserved, a trait that Baby Flyer spent the entire four days trying to cure them of through forced games of peek-a-boo and other antics, at times much to their discomfort) suggested we go.  This was true from the first locals we met on the flight over, to our hosts, to waitstaff.

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Suomenlinna is a world heritage site situated on an island near the city center, and ferries run all day and are reasonably priced.  You can get a simple round trip, or an island hopper ticket that lets you stop at a few more of the smaller islands in the harbor to explore.  Suomenlinna itself is a large site with both relics of the old fortifications, and more modern buildings and restaurants and cafes.  There’s plenty of nature, and a playground that Baby Flyer thoroughly enjoyed.  Even better, just getting there on the boat was a cause for absolute joy.

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We spent a few hours walking around and taking in the sights.  As always is the case when traveling with toddlers, sometimes the best parts are impromptu.  In this case, Baby Flyer’s favorite part was the flocks of wild geese wandering around that were quite tame, yet not aggressive.  We had to console her for quite awhile when it was time to say bye bye to the birds to head back to the mainland.  Luckily for her, these were far from the last birds she’d get to commune with on our trip.

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Posing with ‘her friends.’

The next day we did a little shopping and sightseeing, and then caught yet another boat- yes, in Helsinki, everything is boats- to the Zoo.  Now, I think that you can learn a lot about the entire Finnish culture just from a quick walk through the Helsinki Zoo.  I mean this in a good way, hear me out.

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This is the middle of the Zoo.  Yes, really.

The culture, to an outsider, in many ways revolves around respect.  Respect for other people’s interests and boundaries, and respect for the world and nature.  You see this everywhere- people are reserved, almost unnervingly so to the common American, but they’re not pushy, they don’t assume, and public spaces are clean and safe.  Likewise, their parks dominate the city, and tend toward the more natural, less manicured.

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Baby Flyer takes control of the situation, and the map.  Radish dress by Ittikid, baby Keen sandals.

So now the Zoo.  It likewise was beautiful and unlike any Zoo I’ve been to.  There was as much open, non-cage and enclosure space as there was areas where the animals were kept.  What’s more, the animals in most cases had so much space that they weren’t visible to us much at all.  It was a statement that the wants of the animals were as important as our desire to see them.  It’s not to say we didn’t see some, but more often than not….we just had to take their word for it that there was something in the enclosure.

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This is a sculpture of an animal.  Good enough.

None of this bothered Baby Flyer in the least, though we adults did get a pretty good laugh out of it. Since the Zoo takes up a small island of its own, there’s also beautiful views to be had as you wander around.  Even more importantly, there were…. more birds for Baby Flyer.

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LET ME LOVE YOU!!

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So yes, there were some animals after all.  Przewalski’s Horses- some of the only surviving truly ‘wild’ breeds of horse.  Or as Baby Flyer calls them – “A Neeee!”

After walking around most all of the major exhibits, and stopping for some ice cream, we headed back to the ferry to the City.  We got dinner on one of the main shopping streets on the way back, and enjoyed some of the truly amazingly high quality street performers that seemed iconic of the city.  A far cry from the ‘guy with a keyboard’ or ‘bucket drummer duo’ we used to happen upon in the Boston subway now and then.

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I’ll have you know that you haven’t lived until you’ve seen that sax player drop and do 20 push-ups in the street as the tuba performs a truly amazing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ solo.  These guys alone are worth the trip.  Click here for a short clip of them playing.

Summer in Helsinki means mild temps, and long evenings as the light doesn’t really fade out until close to 11pm.  It’s a perfect time to go and enjoy this modern-yet-historic city.  This year Finland celebrated 100 years of independence, which in comparison to its neighbors isn’t much at all.  Over the land’s history there has been plenty of influence in from cultures far older, and the country’s largest city reflects this- Swedish and Danish design elements, wide soviet-style street plans and squares, all with native Soumi sensibility.  They’re low on cars, big on education, lake houses and saunas, and everything is nature.

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I think we all agreed we were glad we’d been able to make the trip, and wouldn’t mind coming back.   As a parting thought, we also got a new appreciation for a good gin & tonic!  Having a cocktail with lunch (and or dinner) on vacation is a fun treat, and the one of choice featured local Napue gin, and cranberries for color.  It was so good, we grabbed a bottle to take home from duty free on our return flight!

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Last day in the city.

After our 4 days, it was sadly time to move on to our next port of call- literally- We had a boat to catch!

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Nakemiin, Helsinki…. off to Tallinn, Estonia!

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

Baby Flyer Blog’s 2017 Gift Guide

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Is it really that time of year again….really??  Spoiler alert- yes it really is.

The holidays are just about cleared for takeoff, so as we put together our lists, we thought we’d share a few of our favorite things currently, and from the past year.  This time around, we’re combining ideas for any Baby Flyers in your life, both at home and on the go.

If you’re looking for ideas for baby’s first year, or your frequent flyers, check out last year’s gift guides:

2016 Gift Guide For The Baby Flyer

2016 Frequent Flyer Gift Guide

Sites and Services

As well as getting the baby, flyer, or friend in your life ‘things,’ sometimes it’s fun to think out of the box and get them (or yourself) services or memberships that they’ll appreciate.

Expert Flyer

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Expert Flyer is a subscription site that allows you to crack open the airlines’ booking and award systems, and use them to your advantage.  It allows you to find real time flight and seat availability, compare flights and schedules, and make informed choices about your flights.  In addition, it allows you to quickly search many of the world’s major airlines for award and upgrade availability.  You can specify dates, and types of awards.  Also includes a fun feature that sends you automatic alerts when the flight or space you’re searching for becomes available, or when your upgrade clears!  The best feeling is to get a text saying your seat back in coach has just gone vacant….meaning your new one is now up front!

Since it’s a detailed program that uses the airlines’ own codes, some learning is required to get the full benefits of a membership, but it’s time well spent.  We’ll be doing a tutorial series on Cruising Altitude in the new year.

Basic features are available for free, but the real useful tools come with a premium subscription, which is billed annually or monthly.  I don’t book flights without checking with Expert Flyer, and use it almost daily.

CLEAR

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CLEAR lines are popping up in airports around the country, including LAX, SEA, DFW, and many more that we frequent.  This service is a re-vamp of an earlier venture from several years ago.  CLEAR members fill out an application, and then do a quick bio-metric data session (fingerprints and iris scans) at an enrollment center, located at their local airport.  After that you not only are done pulling out your ID to go through TSA, but you will be escorted to the front of either the PreCheck or regular priority line, depending on what’s printed on your ticket, by a friendly CLEAR employee.  This can save LOTS of time and hassle.  We’ve given the program a detailed review HERE on Cruising Altitude.  To get a discount, sign up with a Delta frequent flyer number (make one if you don’t have one, you don’t have to actually be flying Delta), and if you want to add family it’s only $50, and all minors traveling with you are always included free!

For the Baby Flyer on the go:

Kids’ Headphones

Kid Headphones

If you’re going to be traveling enough, getting a pair of these can make long haul flights and drives much quieter.  They’re sized for little ears, and decibel-limited, so they stay in the safe range.

Color Wonder Pad and Pens

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This is a great product for keeping little ones occupied without the mess.  The pens only color on the special paper, but the colors are bright and do the trick.

Pura Kiki Kids’ Water Bottle

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Baby Flyer loves this cup.  It comes with both the sippy cup top, and a straw.  She’s never really liked most sippy cups or bottles, so the straw is perfect.  It keeps water cold for a long time, and minimizes spills.  Pro tip- take it on to the plane empty, and fill it from a regular water bottle, or ask the flight attendant to fill it once you’re at cruise.  The spill-proof top seals well enough that the pressurization affects it.

Reusable Snack Bags

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The less plastic in the trash, the better! These bags are simple and useful, and can go in the dishwasher when needed.  Great for travel, or just packing something for lunch.

EZPZ Travel Placemat

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We have both the regular and travel size of this place mat, and it’s a great idea.  It sticks to most table surfaces, and keeps food (as much as possible) where it’s supposed to be.  Easily goes in the dishwasher, or wipes down.  The travel size comes with a carry bag.

Phil & Teds Travel Bed

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We’ve recommended this product as part of other posts before, but in going over the items that we couldn’t travel without, this travel bed comes up every time.  It’s light and easy, and extremely pack-able.  We’ve taken it on quite a few trips, and it’s survived well being checked with our luggage in it’s included carry bag.

Cosco Senecra Car Seat

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Once again, this is an item we’ve mentioned before, but it remains one of our most used favorites.  We’ve even started using it at home when we need to quickly take the baby in the ‘other car’ or in an Uber.  It’s light, installs easily, and meets all safety standards for planes and regular installation.  Plus, it’s extremely reasonable in price, so it makes it affordable to have a dedicated travel car seat.

Baby Flyer’s Other Favorites:

Learning Tower

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This was our answer to the 5pm cranky toddler.  The learning tower lets the little ones get up to counter height to hang out and “help” around the house.  Baby Flyer loves it, and has mastered washing her hands….and making a pretty darn good kale salad.

Native Shoes

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Ready to fly!  Hanging in the Admrial’s Club.

Baby Flyer LOVES shoes, or as she says- ‘Shuuus!!’  She loves hers, ours, everyone’s.  She can walk in heels as well as we can, even if it’s just shuffling around the house.  These shoes, though, really are a favorite.  They’re a good rubber material that is easy on/easy off, but stays secure.  Even better, you can just rinse them off in the sink if they get dirty, and have been holding up well.  She was so tickled with them when we got them, she refused to wear her old shoes anymore, and wore these out of the store even though they were a size too big.

Baby RayBans

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On park patrol….

Okay, yes, we’ll be the first to admit this was a bit of an impulse purchase.  However, these sunglasses are up to the same UV protection as adult sunglasses, which is good to have in LA.  Plus, they’re completely adorable, and Baby Flyer seems to understand.  Even though these are probably on the big side for her now, she’ll grow into them.

From all of us, we wish you a very happy holiday season, and an adventurous new year!

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~CET, CAR, and Baby Flyer

 

Weekend Trip to Whidbey- Day 1

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Since the holidays are just around the corner, and we’re planning our yearly trip up to Whidbey Island to visit family, it seemed like a good time to finish up this trip report from earlier in the year.  We always enjoy going up north, and American’s new non-stop flights have made it even easier for us lately.  Thanks for reading!

Last weekend we took a last minute trip to Whidbey Island to visit family.  Whidbey is a beautiful and mostly quiet island north of Seattle.  We try to go a few times a year to visit, CET’s Mom, and Madeline’s 96 year old Great Grandmother.

It took us longer than we expected to get to LAX, so we ended up taking the bus to the satellite terminal where our flight was leaving out of and going to the smaller Admirals Club instead of going to the main club in Terminal 4.  The satellite club is small but has the same food offerings as the main club.  A variety of trail mixes, cheese and crackers, hummus, fresh vegetables, olives, angel hair pasta with capers and tomatoes, and mini brownies and a couple kinds of cookies.  It gave Baby Flyer a place to push around her Trunki before our flight.

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Baby Flyer’s outfit by TEA (click for 25% discount), baby moccasins by FRESHLY PICKED 

We were on a regional jet to Seattle.  Before boarding we found out we were upgraded thanks to CET’s Executive Platinum status.  Using Expert Flyer, we knew it looked good for both of us to get moved up, so we linked our tickets so our upgrade was based on her status and I used two of her 500-mile upgrade vouchers (about a $60 value if you don’t have enough available).  We opted to sit together in the bulkhead and were pleasantly surprised with how much leg room there was.  It felt quite spacious.  Baby Flyer stood and welcomed our fellow passengers onto the plane.  She loved it!

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Welcome to our flight to Sea-Tac International Airport.  Our flying time today will be approximately 2 hours, and 45 minutes.  I’ll be your Baby Flyer ambassador for the day…

Much to our surprise, we were served a full meal.  This regional jet didn’t have any way to heat entrees so we had the choice between a cobb chicken salad (with the chicken on the side, perfect for vegetarians!) or a curry chicken wrap.  We were served a small slice of caramel cheesecake for dessert.  Neither of us were expecting a meal, so we probably didn’t need to eat so much for lunch in the Admirals Club beforehand.  Live and learn.  Neither of us finished our entrees but we enjoyed a few bites.  I’m a vegetarian and I had the salad and CET had the wrap.

Since Baby Flyer hadn’t napped yet, and she usually starts her nap between 12 and 12:45, she slept most of our flight up, which gave us time to kick back and relax ourselves.

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We flew out of LAX around 2pm on Friday and flew back on the around 8pm on Monday.  Leaving LAX at 2pm meant we arrived in Seattle in time for rush hour.  Instead of sitting on the freeway in traffic, we opted to visit the Centurion Lounge in the Seattle airport and have some dinner before heading to the rental car center.

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For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Centurion Lounges, they are an airport lounge provided by American Express for cardholders.  The lounges offer regionally inspired food, drink, and comfortable seating.  Some of the bigger clubs even offer spa services (15 minute massages, manicures, and facials) and have a kids’ play room.  Currently, they are in Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), New York (LGA), Miami (MIA), Seattle (SEA), and San Francisco(SFO).  It seems like they are constantly working on expanding the network, and we’ve heard talk that in the near future there will be one in LAX.  We have the American Express Platinum Card and try and take advantage of all of its benefits.  At some point we will put together a post outlining the card’s benefits for any who’re curious.

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The Centurion in Seattle just opened a new area with lots of additional tables and chairs as well as a full bar.  Prior to this, they served beer and wine and it was served by the waitstaff.  Baby Flyer appreciated the new expansion and spent time against, pushing her Trunki throughout the club.  She made friends with all the waitstaff and loved the attention.

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We left the club around 7 and headed to the rental car center.  By the time we were on the road, traffic was still slow in some areas but was basically moving.  We made the 8:30 ferry to Whidbey and soon after we were settling in for the day.

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Up next- Some island time.

The End of an Era

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Baby Flyer & her trusty bag of snacks hangs out on the ottoman of the Dreamliner’s business class.  Baby Flyer’s outfit by Tea.  (Click here for 25% off coupon)

We just got back from a family trip to Dallas, and we’re quickly realizing that we’re nearing the end of traveling with Baby Flyer as a lap infant.  She’ll be two in January, and that’s both the cutoff by the airlines, and honestly, she’s just getting too big for it!

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Baby Flyer puts on her bib & catches the game at the new Terminal 5 Admirals Club at LAX

So, it seems like a good time to look back and share the synopsis of our experience and give our two cents on what worked, and a few survival tips.

But first, a little about the weekend- We hadn’t had a family trip that we all went on in a little while and so we made good use of American’s earlier US fare sale, and scooped up a couple of $71 round trip tickets from LAX to DFW and back.  We have family in Dallas, so it was a great excuse to go see them ‘just because.’  These kind of trips are even more special now that Baby Flyer is growing so fast, and really enjoys new and different experiences.

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CAR & Baby Flyer checking out their 787 seat.

We flew together on the way out, and scored an upgrade a day ahead of the flight, so we were assigned seats together on American’s 787 Dreamliner.

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The temporary AC at T-4

They’ve been having some issues with the catering service at LAX, so we didn’t know what to expect on board.  Since it was a dinnertime flight, we stopped off at the makeshift Admiral’s Club in Terminal 4 that’s been opened while the regular space is under construction.  It actually worked out well, because they offer full prepackaged grab’n’go meals, along with bottled beverages and snacks, so we stocked up in case.

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The ‘dinner service’ out of LAX.  Not up to the usual, but they did their best.

As it turned out, they did have some limited food on the flight, but it was similar to the options we brought on board.  We both chose the salad option, which came with chips, and packaged cookies.  Honestly, it wasn’t bad, and we arrived in Dallas well fed.  Baby Flyer arrived well rested too, since she took a late nap through the first two hours of the flight.

We stayed with family in Dallas, and rented a car from National for the first couple days of it.  We usually rent from National, since we can choose from the Executive Aisle.  This time, the selection was underwhelming- mostly nondescript midsize sedans, a couple Hundai SUVs and some trucks (it’s TX).  Yet, on a last pass through the row, we spotted a Volvo x60 hatchback… what??  Usually that make is saved for the up-sell area, but we took it and ran.  It was a little more space than a sedan, and fun to drive.

The area of Dallas we stayed in has some fun family activities.  We were walking distance to White Rock lake, which is a lake surrounded by parkland that incorporates plenty of running/biking paths, a playground, and most importantly, lots of ducks and other waterfoul.  Baby Flyer still loves birds, so she really enjoyed a daily walk to feed them and watch them swim around.

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CET had to leave to go back to work early on Monday morning, but CAR and Baby Flyer stayed a few more days.  If you’re an AA flyer like us, you may want to go check out CET’s review of American’s 777-200 Premium Economy class on the return flight.

But back to business here.  In our almost two years of flying with Baby Flyer, we’ve got some takeaways-

Seat Selection:

With the tiniest ones, before they’re moving and standing and walking, bulkhead rows aren’t necessary.  What’s more important at this stage is easy access to your diaper bag and supplies, so having under seat storage is more important.

The Infant Block Trick- On most airlines’ booking software, when a lap infant is added to an adult ticket, the computer blocks a seat in the row, most consistently when two adults on the same reservation (one with the infant) are in the same row.  We’ve had about 50% results with this getting us an empty seat in the middle.  If you have an Expert Flyer membership, you can even see by the big ‘X’ through the seat when an infant block has been put in place by the airline.

However, this won’t work on full or oversold flights, as these blocked seats will be assigned at the last minute to unassigned or standby passengers.

Toys & More:

When Baby Flyer was younger we used to travel with two diaper bags, one mostly full of various extras and toys.  Along the way we moved to just one, and now Baby Flyer has her own ‘travel bag,’ which is both handy and adorable.

She has a mini Fjallraven Kanken backpack.  it’s just the right size to put her toys in, but doesn’t result in something too heavy to carry.  We saw these EVERYWHERE this summer in Europe.  She sometimes wants to wear it, but then quickly reconsiders, so we end up just tossing it over the handle of a rollaboard.

Backpack

 

She has a few standard items that she takes in her very own bag.  We try for things that are interactive, but low on mess and noise.  Some of the current favorites-

Magna Doodle Pro – Travel Edition

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The magna doodle keeps her attention, and is mess free and packable.

Melissa & Doug Water WOW Coloring Book

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These things are made for travel- Just uses water.

Wiki Sticks

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Our local restaurant Saint & Second hands these out as kiddie activities to their youngest patrons.  We ‘hide’ them and save them for the plane.  They’re great to stick to the tray table in different forms & fold into shapes to be unwound.

Homemade Play Dough (click here for recipe– omit the spices if you’re not feeling the fall vibe).

This may seem counter-intuitive.  It could be messy, could get dirty, etc, but hear us out.  With supervision, some play dough can be a great option of last resort…like 10 mins before you’re set to give up and take your toddler to play in the sink in the airplane bathroom.  We pull this out and make shapes and play games on the tray table.  Using a little bit at a time does the trick, and can keep a kiddo happy for awhile, which is the entire point.

Thinking out of the box:

Sometimes you need to go that one step further to feel like you’re ready to fly with a baby, especially an older one.  We’ve tried a few things…

First- New stuff. Anything new really. Head to the dollar store and buy some cheap new toys.  Think one or more per hour of flight time.

Second- If your baby is still fascinated by unwrapping things, try taking the toys in your travel bag, and wrapping them in aluminum foil.  Pull them out when baby gets bored, and let them peel off the foil to ‘discover’ the toy.  Put all the wrapped toys in a gallon sized ziplock bag so you have somewhere to put the used foil in.

Third- All of the above.  Pro tip- If you have an older toddler, we recommend throwing some new toys into the foil mix.  The satisfaction of unwrapping combined with the new toy element may buy you even more peace & quiet.

All of these ideas also omit that either through the plane’s IFE screens, or ones you bring with you, if your kid has favorite shows or games, that’s always an option as well.  Likely because we don’t really have her watch TV at home, Baby Flyer’s attention span for this kind of entertainment usually runs out after about 10 minutes or so, which leaves us needing to be prepared with other distractions.

As our time flying as a family of three in two seats comes to an end, we’re definitely sad.  Not only because now we need to be more crafty about our flight planning, but also simply because Baby Flyer is getting older.  She’s less a baby, and more a kid.  It’s been an amazing journey to watch, and we can’t wait for the next chapter, but the backward glances into her early days always amaze and leave us plenty nostalgic.

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Her first flight at 4 months.  Was she really this tiny??

May your flights be smooth, and your babies be happy this holiday season,

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

Happy Thanksgiving!

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We are going to be so devastated when she outgrows her Ergo Baby

We’re actually traveling this Thanksgiving weekend!  In the past few years we’ve tried to stay put to avoid the crowds and high holiday prices, but this year things worked out and we’re taking to the skies to see family in Dallas.

We scored some decent tickets out of the Orange County airport, and back into LAX, which aside from being a nice change, means we’re missing the insanity at LAX!  So far, the experience has been great- short lines, quiet terminal, and the cutest little Admiral’s Club with friendly staff.

 

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Saying “hi” to the planes.

We just might have to head south more often!

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Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  As always, we’re thankful for each other, family, good health, and the wonderful adventures life continues to offer us!

Travel Well,

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer