Summer In Scandinavia Part 1- Gear Up & Go!

IMG_7579

In case you missed it, be sure to read the preview post about this trip here: Summer in Scandinavia Preview

IMG_7514

Our flight up to Chicago from LAX- Baby Flyer’s first 787 Dreamliner flight.  (She slept through most of it)

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.

IMG_7539

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. 

IMG_7544

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. 

IMG_7590

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. 

IMG_7626

IMG_7599

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. 

IMG_7632

“The Vapiano card” – you order from different stations and scan your card as you go, then check out on the way out the door.  Nice when baby is tired and you don’t want to wait around for the check. 

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!!! 

IMG_7644

IMG_7658

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. 

IMG_7645

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.  

IMG_7651

The City Mini Zip when folded- reasonably light, around 17 lbs.

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.*

IMG_7659

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

Up next- Summer In Scandinavia Part 2: Well Connected

Resort Life: Nuevo Vallarta

IMG_7081

Baby Flyer checks out the view of the ocean from Villa Del Palmar.  She could get used to this.

We spent a week this summer in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico at the Villa Del Palmar Flamingos. We flew American Airlines and had an overnight layover in Phoenix’s Sky Harbor on the way, and a couple hour layover in DFW on the way back. You bet Baby Flyer visited the Centurion Lounge on the way back, plus the adults all had 15 minute massages!  It was a welcome treat after having an almost 2 hour wait for our bags at baggage claim after customs because everything shut down because of lightening. Of course, safety is important but the wait was unexpected.

We stayed in the Aloft in Phoenix on the way out which has a free shuttle, is very close to the airport, and has a relaxed playful feel. They just started renovating and updating the whole hotel, including the rooms. They have a simple bar menu and we weren’t in the mood to go out for dinner since it was already around 7:45pm. We had grilled cheese- a guilty but tasty dinner, and Baby Flyer roamed around and stretched her legs. While we were waiting for our food, the hotel van took me to CVS to buy Baby Flyer a bottle of baby shampoo. Something I learned- they can take you anywhere within a three mile radius of the hotel for free (excluding tip). It was perfect!.

IMG_7026

The penthouse deck of our humble abode for the week.  We could also get used to this.

Fast forward to finally arriving at the Puerto Vallarta airport- we got off the plane, cleared customs, (which is generally straight forward if all your passports are in order.  Tip for Mexico- they give you back half the form.  Do not loose this part, it’s your ticket back out of the country!).

This airport has undergone some expansions and renovation since we’ve started traveling there several years ago.  It’s nice to see, and makes the experience better.  There’s a small Priority Pass lounge, even, and the majority of the flights are served by standard jet bridges, rather than buses.

After customs, we moved onto the gauntlet of getting our reserved shuttle to the resort.  For whatever reason, in Mexico this is usually the sticking point.  The resort provides us one free transfer per year, which is great, but it does mean you have to reserve in advance, and then wait for them to verify it and find you a driver.  In the end it works out, but it can take some patience.  We did learn that Uber has arrived in PVR, and seemed operative and reasonably priced from the airport, but when CET tried to use it for her return trip, it said ‘no cars available’ from the resort.

That all sorted out, we arrived safely and simply put, Baby Flyer LOVED resort life!  Her day typically looked something like this:

After she woke up, she would often visit the pool or play in the room with her Mema and Bumpa while I worked out. She slept in while on vacation too!  She would wake to nurse around 6 and then go back to sleep for a couple hours. Think her later bed time, two hour time difference, and all the pool time made her sleepy. Then we would meet for breakfast and she got to pick a pastry of her choice (total treat) which she had along with some watermelon or berries and orange juice. Of course, her favorite was what I initially thought was a bran muffin, but turned out to be a chocolate muffin- another first for her. This also was her first time having orange juice and she certainly enjoyed it.

IMG_7104

Check out those curls!

Once we were done eating, she would walk out of the restaurant and lead the way to the pool, so more time splashing around until it was time for her afternoon nap and a quick lunch. Afterwards she would head out to the pool once again, then play in our room while we all got ready for dinner. After dinner, she often would finish the evening with one last wade since the restaurant was next to the pool and it was too tempting not to stop as we walked back to our room. We paddle boarded and played a couple games beach volleyball one morning. It was fun, but let’s just say I have some room for improvement with beach volleyball.

Baby Flyer even managed to stay in her high chair during our long dinners. Something that has rarely been happening lately. But was a welcome change!

IMG_7047

I never appreciated the pool as much as I did on this vacation. As silly as it sounds, I really noticed all the features of the pool while playing with Baby Flyer. From the wading pool to the sprinklers and waterfall steps, to the infinity edges and gradual beach shoreline slopes. There was so much Baby Flyer could do! She doesn’t always like being held in the water when she can’t touch the bottom so she loved being able to walk in so many areas.

IMG_7136

I could have packed Baby Flyer a few less outfits but she did wear almost everything I packed. I thought I was being silly bringing a whole package of swim diapers but we left with only two extra. Her long sleeve UPF rash guard was my favorite since it covered all of her arms and I didn’t have to worry about sunblock. After one afternoon when she wore her short sleeve rash guard and it seemed like she got some sun, despite putting on sunblock multiple times (it’s strong down there!), I ended up just always having her wear the long sleeve top. It turned into a tan, but still…mommy guilt abounds.

IMG_7114

We’ve been going to this resort for years now, and many of the staff are familiar faces which makes it extra fun.  This year for simplicity, we opted for the all-inclusive meal plan so that meant we ate a lot of our meals at the resort.  However, one night we took a cab to the neighboring small town, Bucerias. Pre-baby, we used to do the 30ish minute walk all the time, but since it was so warm that really didn’t sound like much fun with Baby Flyer. We had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Sandrinas. They take Visa and MasterCard but offer a 15% discount if you pay in cash. We also really enjoy Mark’s and Karen’s Place. Both are in Bucerias. Karen’s Place is on the beach which is perfect for watching the sunset. In the past, they have been cash only but there is an onsite ATM (in the adjacent hotel).

Bucerias is a fun town to walk around and get more of an authentic feeling for the area.  Since we’ve been going for so long, we’ve been able to see how it’s changed over the years. They have open air markets where you can find some good deals than from the sales people on the beach.

IMG_7128

Baby Flyer loved spending some time on the beach too, especially as the sun went down and the sand cooled.  Puerto Vallarta’s coastline is beautiful any time, but the sunsets were truly stunning.  No better way to end each day.

By the time we headed home, we were already looking forward to coming back next time!

~CAR

To read more about our trip, you can head over to Cruising Altitude for CET’s trip report and more photos.

Trip Preview: Summer in Scandinavia

IMG_0245

Nyhavn, Copenhagen.  No, we’re not staying at this floating hotel….but It looks nice, right?

We’re packing again!!  This Summer has already been busy, with trips to Mexico and Seattle, among others, but this next trip is the one that’s been on our calendar for almost a year now.  We’re getting brave, and taking Baby Flyer to Europe!  It’ll be a week and a half of Oneworld award flights, Scandinavian Airbnb rentals, and a few side jaunts here and there.

Our itinerary starts off with a 787 Dreamliner flight to ORD and two nights in Chicago, which we added because our tickets start there.  Since we love that city, we added some time so we’ll have a day there to take Baby Flyer back to Millennium Park.  From there, we head to Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia), and Copenhagen (Denmark).  The international part of the trip lasts 10 nights (plus one on the flight out), and includes plenty of planes, trains, but not really many automobiles.

Canal

The canal in Ruoholahti where we’re staying in Helsinki

This trip was inspired by Finnair opening up some award seats to Oneworld partners in business class for the summer.  Since premium mileage tickets are notoriously hard to find without big taxes and fees, we jumped on them and booked a round trip ticket from JFK to Helsinki in business class for some miles and about $60.  It will be Baby Flyer’s first long haul international flight, but hopefully having the extra space and lie-flat beds will make it reasonably comfortable.

Finnair Seat

How Finnair claims we’ll sleep** on their international flights.  **Baby not pictured

Once we get to Helsinki, we’ll have three days and nights to explore the city.  Given that this is a family trip, we’re planning baby friendly activities, and luckily, Scandinavia in general is overall safe and welcoming for family travelers.  Highlights we’re hoping to hit include the ‘Children’s’ Town’ museum- an interactive exhibit where everything is play-with-able for the little ones, and importantly, is indoors, making it a good rainy day option since we’re likely to get at least one of these this time of year.  We’re also hoping to take the boat out to Suomenlinna island, for a little outdoors time, hiking, and sightseeing.

tallinn-old-town-toompea

Tallinn’s Old Town

The next part of the trip is taking the Eckero Line ferry across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia for two nights.  We’re staying in the ‘Old Town,’ which is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight.  Our plans here mainly involve exploring the medieval town, food and shopping.  We may venture out to Kadriorg Park, which includes palace grounds, as well as gardens, and several museums, and checking out the KGB museum at the Hotel Viru.

Eckero Line

Eckero Line- M/s Finlandia

As for the ferry, we booked the Eckero Line through Direct Ferries.  It’s a 2 hour crossing on a ‘ferry’ that looks more like a small cruise ship, and we went all out (all extra $40 of it) to book a 4 birth cabin with our reservation.  It’s not really necessary, but since the crossing times just about hit Baby Flyer’s naptime, we thought we might find a little privacy nice.  It also means we’ll have a private bathroom as well.

Once we get back to Helsinki, we’ll be off to the airport once again to catch a short flight on Finnair to Copenhagen.  We booked these tickets separately, and they were reasonably priced, so we didn’t use miles.  Technically, if we’d flown Norwegian, we could have saved a few dollars on the ticket price, but this was one of those lessons for people who don’t look hard enough at discount carriers.  Given that we’re Oneworld elites, we have free checked bags, and free advance seat assignments as long as we stay on partner airlines.  Had we flown on Norwegian, our ‘savings’ would quickly have been more than eaten up by the added charges.  Plus, because we’re flying Oneworld, we’ll have lounge access at Finnair’s comfortable and full service lounges before our flight.

We’ve been to Copenhagen before, and it’s stuck in our minds as one of the places we really wanted to get back to.  We’re spending four nights this time, and are looking forward to seeing the city as a family.  Copenhagen has plenty of kid-friendly places to visit and things to do.  It’s full of parks and playgrounds in the city center (Danish companies design the majority of new playground equipment around the world), and since everyone bikes, walks, and takes the train, it’s easy to get around.

IMG_0277

Central Copenhagen

This trip will be the test of our planning, and also of our Airbnb skills.  We’re staying in a suites hotel in Chicago, but once we cross the ocean, it’s all Airbnb all the time.  To start things off, our accommodation in Helsinki is a three bedroom flat in Ruoholahti.  It looks to be an easy walk to the city center, or a very short tram ride.  It will be nice to have the space to give Baby Flyer her own room, so she can go to bed before we do (hopefully!)

Renting an entire flat or house really makes traveling with babies more enjoyable over a traditional hotel.  Having the space, as well as a kitchen, and if you’re lucky, laundry goes a long way.  There are of course some draw backs as well.  If you haven’t seen the property before, there’s really no guarantees on what it will be like, aside from reviews.  Plus, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s really baby-proof, but the same goes for hotels in general.  If you’re lucky, you can generally find a reasonably priced rental as well, especially when compared to the pricey hotels in this part of the world.

IMG_0274

Deer Park (Dyrehaven).  One of my favorite pictures from our last trip there.

After our time in Copenhagen, we start the trek back home again.  We first have a flight back to Helsinki, then a couple of hours to enjoy the airport lounge and collect ourselves before flying Helsinki to JFK, and JFK back to Los Angeles.  That will make for a long day, but it gets us back home seamlessly, and I managed to find some award space in business class on American’s premium transcon plane, so we’ll have space for the three of us.

Wish us luck & happy summer travels to you all!!

-CET, CAR & Baby Flyer

Snowed In, Flight Changes, and Other Adventures

MSnowToy

Baby Flyer and I went to Massachusetts last week for a family visit.  It was just the two of us on the trip, so I had to brush up on my ‘flying alone with baby’ skills, but all went pretty well considering.  I’ve come to realize that while flying with our baby-turning-toddler is definitely different from our old flights, it can be pretty fun nonetheless.  It’s definitely more active, but she can be a pretty great travel companion.  Plus, it’s honestly surprising how kind other travelers can be when you’re doing your best to entertain a baby through a flight.  Baby Flyer has made her share of ‘in-flight friends’ already.

We were supposed to leave to fly home Tuesday, but in anticipation of what’s turned out to be the biggest winter storm of the year, American Airlines emailed me at the end of last week offering to waive the (usually significant) change fee if I changed our flight in advance to avoid flying on the day the storm was predicted.

Though adjusting plans is never simple, I’m so glad I changed early when there were still plenty of options and seats available, because our flight was understandably cancelled.  Since my original flight was already confirmed in first class, I really didn’t want to be a victim of post-storm overbooking, and stuck in the back of the plane in a middle seat with a busy toddler on my lap.  So, I jumped at the opportunity to change early.  We’re now set to fly back to LA on Friday.  The whole process of changing our ticket was actually incredibly easy.  It’s all done online now when there’s a weather emergency.  No waiting on hold!  You log in to your American Airlines account, find your ticket record, and then you can search for and see the available options.  Our new ticket ended up being $1.87 cheaper so we now have a $1.87 credit.

So, that taken care of, we could get back to enjoying our time away, and settle in to wait for the snow.  However, this same climate we were now enjoying tends to highlight how much I’ve (surprisingly) gotten used to not having this be our normal.  Baby Flyer loves being outside!  Unless it’s pouring rain, getting some fresh air is part of our everyday routine.  Since she was born, I’ve appreciated our mild winters SO much more.  I keep saying I would have to learn how to be a parent of a young child in a cold climate.

MPeekaboo

It’s cold out here!

It’s not just me either, I’m pretty sure Baby Flyer has gotten pretty spoiled with our typically nice weather.  Case in point- one afternoon we bundled Baby Flyer up for a short walk on a beautiful new handicap accessible trail.  It ended up being particularly windy that day and we had to cut our walk even shorter.  Even though only part of her face was sticking out, I’m not sure she enjoyed the wind all that much.

Fort River Trail

Photo Credit- Trip Advisor

When we were flying in last week, I was surprised to see no snow on the ground.  This is Western Massachusetts at the end of Winter.  I was expecting at least brown crusty snow, and instead was greeted by grass and bare trees.  The week before we got here, they had unseasonably warm temperatures and all the snow melted.

MBackyard

The backyard ‘before’ picture.

So, when I learned that a big snowstorm was predicted, I was pretty excited!  It was just what I was craving.  As crazy as it sounds, I was actually looking forward to shoveling (and grateful that I was here to help my parents do it).  And this snowstorm did not disappoint!

Snowy Sky

Coming down

All in all, we got about a foot of fresh powdery snow!  There was plenty of playing, and yes, shoveling to satisfy my itching for a good workout after being in the house too long.

CRStandingSnow

It’s thiiiiiiis deep!

We were lucky enough to be able to borrow a snow suit for Baby Flyer since we all were pretty excited to take her outside for her first real snow day.  Once the snow wasn’t quite as heavy, we took her out and she LOVED it!  She kept trying to step on top of the snow, like she does with stairs (she loves stairs lately).  She didn’t want to come in but we were worried her feet would get chilly since she only had on a pair of sneakers.  The next day, we borrowed a pair of boots for her.  I couldn’t wait for us to go outside.

Msnowwalk2

Playtime!!

Baby Flyer was pretty fascinated with the snow in general, even from inside.  She liked standing on the back of the couch looking out the window and watching it fall.  She seemed so intrigued.  The first time she looked out the front door, she seemed so puzzled and took a good long look.  It really reminds you how much we take our own understanding of the world for granted when you see her mind working on a new experience like this.  These are the moments where I really appreciate being able to travel and show her different parts of the country and the world.

LookingAtTheSnow

Watching the transformation outside

All in all, we are making the most of our longer trip.  The town was pretty quiet on Tuesday with most places closed.  We stayed home all day, since the roads were pretty snowy.  Today though, regular life is resuming as people dig themselves and their cars out.  I even ventured out for a 5 mile run this morning.  It was slow and slippery (not surprisingly).  There were snow banks I had to leap over, but it was perfect- sunny and barely any wind.

Icecicles

You don’t see these in Los Angeles!

In the end it was a fun adventure, and a longer trip than anticipated.  We definitely made the best of it, and Baby Flyer got her first real snow day!  Now we’re headed back to LA for a week or so before a trip to Seattle.  We’re pretty sure we’re in for some authentic rainstorms up there, but hopefully nothing this dramatic!

~CR & Baby Flyer

 

 

Baby Flyer’s 2016 In Review

 

img_7217

The last flight of 2016 has been taken here at Baby Flyer Blog.  All in all, Baby Flyer has flown 25 flights, totaling 34,500 flight miles.  We’ve had so many great trips to visit family, attend events, see some of our favorite places, and also to just enjoy being together.  She’s been a pro flyer overall, even ‘helping’ her Mommy complete American Airlines’ platinum challenge by flying 12,500 miles in just three months, qualifying them for AA’s 50k status level through January 2018.  Our combined family flight miles this year came in at just over 135,000!  (We’ll be posting more on elite status and family flying soon, and you can see CET’s travel photos from the year at Cruising Altitude).

img_7810

We feel so lucky to be able to travel as a family, and have so many wonderful experiences.  With this in mind, it seems like a good time to look back chronologically on our year of traveling by putting together some of our favorite travel pictures, and a couple from home life as well.

img_1790-1

Starting close to home with a walk along the beach- Long Beach, CA

img_3613

New England in the Spring with a walk on the Robert Frost Trail- Amherst, MA

img_1814

All smiles in Burlington, VT at her second cousin’s  graduation.

img_3870

Even more smiles at another cousin’s graduation- Dallas, TX

img_3902

Sleepy arrivals at LAX after a long day of travel- Los Angeles, CA

img_4729

Summertime at the Cape- Wellfleet, MA

img_4894-1

And more Summer fun back east- Amherst, MA

img_5271

Afternoon hiking- Whidbey Island, WA

img_3049

Summer views- Mount Ranier, Seattle, WA

img_2308

Baby Flyer enjoying our spacious Airbnb in Santa Fe, New Mexico

img_3137

Cabana baby!! Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

img_5552

Her first 777 ‘Flagship 1st’ flight to finish the Platinum Challenge- Enroute to Dallas, TX

img_6215

Getting some altitude- Boulder, CO

bob-on-hike

Walks in the fall leaves- Amherst, MA

img_6871

Friends, fun & architecture- Chicago, IL

img_3919

Brief stop at home for a hike in Griffith Park- Los Angeles, CA

img_3948

Checking out her first snow- Amherst, MA

img_4555

Ending the year up North- Whidbey Island, WA

Thanks everyone for reading Baby Flyer Blog this year!  We’re looking forward to posting plenty more family travel resources, reports, and inspiration in 2017.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and adventurous new year!

~CAR, CET, & Baby Flyer

Family Destinations: New England

puffers-pond

There’s no denying it, Fall in New England is perfect- the air is crisp, the leaves are brilliant, and the flavors are delicious.  It’s truly beautiful, and probably the season I miss the most since moving to Southern California.  ‘Fall weather’ in Southern California may surprise you a day or two during any time of the year, but it doesn’t go much farther than an overcast day, or maybe a few rain showers.  There aren’t any big piles of crunchy leaves to play in, it’s hard to find fresh apple cider in the grocery store, and you can’t count on being able to wear a sweater and boots.

It was time to get some real authentic fall in our lives, so this year Baby Flyer and I were lucky enough to spend almost three weeks in Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley during the peak of the season, and boy did we soak it up!

mt-holyoke-hike

Our favorite baby hiking gear!  Baby Flyer hangs out in the Ergo 360 carrier wearing her moccasins by Freshly Picked in “birch.”

We hit the highlights- apple picking at Cold Spring Orchard, made apple crisp and crazy crust apple pie, drank pumpkin beer (just me on this one, not Baby Flyer) and apple cider, visited a pumpkin patch, went on multiple hikes through the woods, drove to the top of Skinner Mountain to view the foliage, enjoyed the cooler temperatures; perfect running weather, went on a farm tour, stepped on as many crunchy leaves as we could, and wore sweaters and boots as often as possible.  We planned to go on a hayride, but we ran out of time.  Next year!

Next up- what to do with all those apples from our apple picking?  If you love apple pie but don’t have the time to make the crust, this Crazy Crust Apple Pie is a perfect option.  You essentially put the crust on top of the apples.  Very easy and equally as delicious.  We got this recipe from the apple farm and I thought it was too good not to share.

crazy-crust-pie

Crazy Crust Apple Pie

Ingredients

Approximately 3lbs or 5-6 medium sized apples; peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (*See note below)

Cinnamon/sugar mixture

¾ cup butter (melted)

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

1 egg (beaten)

Nuts (if desired)

Method:

Fill pie plate 2/3 of the way full with apples then sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar.  Add nuts, if desired.

Melt butter then add sugar, flour, and beaten egg.

Pour over apples

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, until browned.

 * Using a variety of apples and even adding one pear make for a nice flavor.  Empire, Macoun, and Cortland are all good if they are available where you are.  Otherwise, a combination of Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, Gala, and Fuji is an option.  I don’t recommend using Granny Smith apples as they are too tart.  Adding one pear can be a nice addition.

On top of the fun activities the weather was amazing, with only two rainy days during our whole visit.  I probably commented on the beauty daily, and it was perfect to be able to get outside with BabyFlyer as much as possible.

pumpkin-beer-at-judies

The Pioneer Valley is also a great place to eat any time of year.  For a special night out, we get a table at Chez Albert, one of our current favorites.  I’m probably late to the party, but I had my first pumpkin beer with a brown sugar rim at Judie’s in Amherst.  Holy yum (and decadent).  I’ve tried to replicate it at home out here but it hasn’t been quite as good.  I’m still looking for the perfect pumpkin beer.  The one I had in New England-Shipyard Pumpkinhead Ale- was local and isn’t carried ‘out west.’

Baby Flyer seemed to really enjoy our walks in the woods.  She was so peaceful, both in the Ergo 360 and the BOB Revolution Stroller.  She barely made a peep, and spent the time looking around.  You could tell she was taking it all in.  We tried to get outside in the woods daily to enjoy the trees.

bob-on-hike

Living in the city, there’s little things you don’t realize you get unaccustomed to.  It’s odd but since living in Southern California I’m not as used to hearing (or seeing) squirrels.  Whenever we would be out on a walk, I would get startled when I’d hear ‘something,’ which was always a squirrel, rustling in the leaves.  This might have something to do with the prevalence of lizards and rattlesnakes in SoCal.  We certainly have squirrels here too, but I don’t come across them in the same frequency as I do in the woods in New England.

There are a few iconic fall things that it just seems like you ‘need’ to do with family.  When we booked our tickets for this trip, I imagined visiting a pumpkin patch and taking some fall themed pictures of Baby Flyer among the pumpkins.  We did in fact, visit a pumpkin patch, but it was later in the day and Baby Flyer wasn’t in one of her moods where she smiles all the time but was still very interested and curious about the pumpkins.  So, while they may not be perfectly posed, they are real life and this is what we captured-

pumpkins-1

pumpkins-3

pumpkins-2

Baby Flyer’s Fall outfit- Jacket from Patagonia, leggings from Tea

Overall, we feel so lucky were able to enjoy so much of the fall season this year on this trip.  It is by far the longest I’ve been back during that time of year since moving to Southern California.

last-walk

No better way to end than a shot of the woods on our last walk in the woods before flying back home!

Thanks for reading!

~CR

This post is linked-up!  We’re joining Budget Traveler’s Sandbox for Travel Photo Thursday this week.  Be sure to head over there and check out some great end of the year travel posts!