In case you missed it, be sure to read the preview post about this trip here: Summer in Scandinavia Preview
We had a good (if a little tiring after a late arrival and short night) day in the Windy City. We made the most of our time- we took the train into the city from our airport hotel, and walked the few short blocks from Washington station to Michigan Ave. We hadn’t been up in time for breakfast at the hotel, so we stopped off at Le Pain Quotidien for some brunch. Baby Flyer hasn’t been feeling restaurant high chairs lately, so luckily they had a booth for us, and we all managed to eat a good meal. Next up, we crossed the street to Maggie C. Daily park.
We visited here last time we were in the city, and Baby Flyer wasn’t walking yet, so she couldn’t do much exploring on her own. It was also November, so the park was cold and quiet. This time, it was a different experience. We both thought she would be entertained for a while since the park has so many different sections and attractions.
However, this was one of those moments that encapsulates family travel with young kiddos. This time around the park was full of kids, mostly older than she was, and she wasn’t really enjoying the vibe. We played on the swings for a bit, and climbed up and down some grass mounds, and then decided to move on.
We ended up walking up the waterfront toward Navy Pier, which we hadn’t done before, and made our way to the canal where the boat tours leave from. At this point Baby Flyer needed a nap soon (and some air conditioning) so we bought tickets for the next river and lake tour. There are several tour companies that offer similar trips, for around the same prices. We didn’t have any trouble just getting a ticket a few minutes beforehand on the fly, which was nice. Most offer some form of an architectural tour, and a lake tour. The one we took, though not branded ‘architectural’ still hit the highlights of Chicago’s skyline, and given that it was a hot day, it was nice to get out on the lake.
We’ve always been curious about these on our Chicago trips, but never quite coughed up the time/money/planning to go. This time it was a great option. Baby Flyer LOVES boats, which is good, because we had a lot of them planned throughout the trip. She had a great time looking around on deck for the first half of the tour, and then we took her downstairs for a nap for the second half. True, you can’t see nearly as much from below, but the air conditioning was great, as was not having a cranky baby for the rest of the day.
From there, we headed back toward the train station, and stumbled upon the world traveler’s best friend when you need a good but easy dinner in a different city- Vapiano! Vapiano has locations throughout Europe, and the US. It’s a counter-order, first come first serve for tables place, which rescues the wandering traveler without a reservation. Plus the food is really quite good, and especially abroad- reasonably priced!
Now, we’d like to be able to say that Baby Flyer sat nicely in her high chair and let us have a relaxing meal, but that would be a large departure from the truth, which is also why Vapiano is a good choice. It’s just a little less formal, so if say…your kid wants to spend the whole dinner being helped to climb up and down the stairs from the bathroom while you each take turns quickly eating a slice of pizza, you won’t be all that ashamed.
After we’d had dinner, and Baby Flyer climbed the stairs at least 40 times, we took the train back to our hotel for the night and got organized. For this trip, we worked hard to lower our ‘luggage footprint’ since we’d have several transitions between cities, including 8 flights, a round trip ferry, and many trains and trams.
Before, we’d been traveling with a pack-n-play when we needed a bed, and either our britax b-agile, or our summer infant 3D umbrella stroller. These are fine for simple trips, but for this one we swapped them out for a Phil & Ted’s Traveler crib, and a Baby Jogger Citi Mini Zip with a carrying backpack. What a DIFFERENCE!!!
The Phil and Ted’s bed is SO light- 8 lbs, y’all!! It sits easily on a rolling suitcase, and has a carry strap as well. The mattress is like a thermarest camping pad, so it rolls up small. It sets up in just a few minutes, and Baby Flyer seems to sleep in it as well as she ever did in the pack-n-play. It’s best if you can put it on carpet though, for a little extra softness.
As for the City Mini Zip, we agonized over a travel stroller for quite awhile, and we’re down to the Citi Mini Tour, or going all out on the Babyzen YoYo. The Mini Tour definitely is the lightest, with the easiest fold, but it seemed like Baby Flyer was a little cramped in it, and she’s not a huge kid for her age. As per the dimensions, she shouldn’t be, but it is generally a smaller stroller (which is the point). The YoYo is quite nice, which it well should be for the huge price tag. When push came to shove, we didn’t feel like we liked it $300+ more than other options, and we didn’t have luck finding one used in time for the trip. Besides, there’s a certain arrogance on the part of a company to try and sell you a $400 stroller- and not include he seat! Yes, that’s right- the frame is $400, and if you want your kid to be able to sit in it, that’ll be another $100.
We ended up with the Citi Zip because CAR stumbled upon it at Home Goods, of all places. It was new & heavily discounted. It folds down nicely, though not as tiny as the City Tour. In the backpack though, it was comfortable to carry, even decently long distances. We didn’t try to carry it on the planes, but on the bigger ones with space, it would have fit sideways in the bins.
*Spoiler alert here- we took the stroller on a weekend trip to Seattle and loved it, but after bouncing it over cobblestones in Europe, we didn’t think it fared as well. Overall, it worked fine for our purposes, but it didn’t seem to take ‘off-roading’ easily. More on this later.*
In the end, we got all our luggage down to one carry on size roller, one cabin bag, the bed and stroller backpack, one mid size roller, plus a diaper bag. It was an amount we could wheel and carry fairly easily, even on 20 min walks to and from train stations. Once the bigger items were checked, we were going pretty light in the airports.
What was also different for this trip is that we made the decision to not bring our trusty Cosco travel car seat. It’s light as car seats go, but bulky, and we just couldn’t justify the hassle since we weren’t planning any rental cars in Europe. It did mean that we didn’t have the option to take a taxi or Uber (though we heard that in a pinch many European taxis may have a car seat of some kind stashed in the trunk).
We did a mix of checking and gate checking the stroller, and Finnair checked both it and the bed for free as ‘baby items’ even though Baby Flyer didn’t have her own seat. Baby Flyer wasn’t a big fan of any stroller- travel or otherwise- then, so much of the time it was nice to get rid of it at check in and carry her to the lounge and plane.
And the nitty gritty of all that, is coming up.
~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer