Summer In Scandinavia Part 4: Hello, Helsinki



The adventure so far:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.




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.


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.


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!


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!


Nakemiin, Helsinki…. off to Tallinn, Estonia!

~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

Baby Flyer Blog’s 2017 Gift Guide


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


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 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

Color Wonder

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


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

Snack Bags

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


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


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


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


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


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


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!


~CET, CAR, and Baby Flyer


Weekend Trip to Whidbey- Day 1


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Up next- Some island time.