xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' World Toddler: January 2016

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

A Passport Before Three

My Dad on a roadtrip

I had a passport before I turned three, and at least ten stamps before graduating from high school. In the midst of starting their own businesses, working off their student loans (albeit, cute compared to today's average loans), and providing for our family, my parents always found the time and money to travel.  In the truly lean years, this translated into weekend roadtrips up the coast of Maine with the occassional spare tire and frequent seedy hotel. As my parents' businesses thrived, my father became a Points-Connosuir straight out of Up in the Air, and my mom developed an intricate knowledge of the airline "bump" system, our family started traveling further and more exotically. 

While my childhood was always filled with friends, family, and love, my warmest, most vibrant memories almost all occurred after buckling my seatbelt and stowing my tray-table: Floating down a lazy river at a Tuscon resort; winning BINGO 4 times in a row at a Bermuda community center; nursing my dad through an epic bout of food poisioning in Tel Aviv.

My sister and me partying with Poppy
Before every trip, I remember my mom half-jokingly musing about why she was investing so much money into experiences that my sister and I would barely remember by the time we turned 18.  To my mom, I can now say that her investment has paid off.  Although I do not remember my favorite painting at the Louvre or why Hemingway retired to Key West, I will always remember exploring Anne Frank's house, just a little younger than the diarist herself, when I, alone amongst our guided tour, had a wide-open window into the feelings of a young girl.  And, even should I one day have amnesia, my bones would remember helping my dad push my beloved grandpa, Poppy, up the hills of Jersualem in a wheelchair, and holding on extra tight on the way down those hills. "Don't let go!" he'd shout from front.  Well, of course, we never did let go.  And, with incredible experiences to help me remember, I never will.


Monday, January 25, 2016

How to Celebrate your 30th Birthday

Best Friend + Best Husband + Buenos Aires = 
Best 30th Birthday


I celebrated my 21st birthday as a single girl on her Junior Year Abroad in Buenos Aires.  And in just over month, I'll return to the land of steak and malbec to celebrate another milestone Birthday.  Some things have changed since I turned 21 (welcome, husband and baby!), but my best buddy, Ms. Rachy, has been a constant throughout. I am beyond blessed to have had the most beautiful, loyal, empathetic, quirky best friend since before I can remember.  And I am even luckier to be able to celebrate another Birthday with her, this time in Argentina.

What could be better than celebrating a birthday in your favorite city on earth?  Celebrating that same birthday, in that same city, with your best friend, wonderful husband, and beautiful baby.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Romantic Getaway....With your kids?


Recently returning from a honeymoon to Bali, our friends could not say enough about their incredible, relaxing, beautiful, out-of-this-world hotel.  "Pure luxury," they said.  "Tell us more," we said.

Our friends described the lavish Rimba Resort and Spa, perched on the rocks of Jimbaran Bay, as everything one could imagine in a Balinese resort: gorgeous villas with private pools, spa treatments overlooking the Indian Ocean, world-class restaurants highlighting Indonesian cuisine.  Not long into our friends' description of this dream resort, we were ready to book our own stay at Rimba.  And then we remembered the 30 inch difference between our honeymooning friends and ourselves: a little girl, named Sydney.

Toddlers and romantic getaways are generally incompatible.  But on a daydreaming whim, I decided to check out the Rimba website: what types of massages would I get if I wasn't busy changing diapers? What exquisite culinary treat would I order if it were my honeymoon?  And that's when I discovered that mommies and daddies can have nice things, even when traveling with their children.

Although not the focus of our friends' trip, it turns out that Rimba is as family-friendly as it is luxurious. With a kids' club that will entertain your little one from 9 - 5 everyday; a kids' room that rivals a children's museum; and on-site babysitting services, Rimba keeps your kids occupied so you can truly relax in Balinese bliss.  You don't have to say "babysitting services" twice to get my attention; we have already booked our stay at Rimba.  We reach Rimba in May, so check back here then to see if you really can "honeymoon with kids."

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Finding a Babysitter Abroad

On any given night, the World Toddler has multiple babysitting offers.  Indeed, we are blessed to have so many wonderful family and friends that we have never had to even hire a babysitter.  Without on-call Aunties and Uncles while we travel, however, the only parenting-reprieve over the course of our five month journey will come in the form of babysitters. But how do you find a babysitter you trust in a city where you have never been?  We've decided to stick to hotels with established babysitting services in as many destinations as possible. Why try to find your own babysitter in a foreign country, when the hotel can do it for you?

 On the one hand, this limits our accommodation options (AirBnb apartments obviously do not have babysitters).  But, on the other hand, this will enable us to have at least a few days to our grown-up-selves throughout the course of our trip. While most of our trip is 100% family friendly, there are some destinations that are not just more appropriate for adults, but that would utterly bore a baby: hiking in Patagonia; learning to cook in Bali; visiting old synagogues in Budapest, to name just a few.  

So, thank you, Apart Hotel Del Arroyo (Bariloche, Argentina); Gangsa Private Villas (Bali, Indonesia); and Kempinski Hotel Corvinus (Budapest, Hungary).  By offering babysitting services, you demonstrate your commitment to maintaining a family-friendly environment; and we can be sure warm, welcoming lodgings await us.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Defeat Day-Trip Exhaustion: Wake up where you're going

Without a baby, a day trip can be exhausting. First, driving 1 - 3 hours to get to the destination. Then the actual tour.  Then another long trek home. With a baby, a day trip can be plain overwhelming.   So, how do you see everything you want to see when traveling with a World Toddler? One option is to leave Baby home.  Mom and Dad can take turns watching the baby.  This is exactly what we planned to do in Port Douglas, Australia: I would stay back with Sydney in Port Douglas, so Nolan could take a day trip to see the Rainforest, a trip which would just be too much for the whole family.  

But then we discovered the Thala Beach Nature Reserve, located in a private headland between Cairns and Port Douglas.  Fantastic tours depart directly from the
lodging at this magnificent "Eco- Retreat".  From Australia's only guided coconut tour (Thala is located on a coconut plantation) to butterfly tours, we will be able to wake up fresh, and step right into the day's adventure.  If Sydney needs a nap, the lodging is nearby, so we don't have to worry about ruining the trip for everyone in the group.  In fact, at Thala, you're so immersed in Adventure, it seems, that you might just meet a friendly wallaby in the lobby!

WWOOF'ing with Baby?

When we first started planning our Big Adventure, we considered WWOOF'ing (World Wide Organization of Farmers).  What could be more fun that spending a week or so on a farm in the Andes? I could picture it all so clearly: Nolan and I would pick a beautiful basket of ripe tomatoes while Sydney frolicked with the sheep.  Then a cowbell would ring, calling us all to an abundant lunch of fresh goat cheese and fruit. And, of course, some sparking white wine.  After lunch, we would also retire for a siesta before playing games with the other children on the farm all evening.  

Based on this wildly fantasized image of WWOOF'ing, I purchased the Chile WWOOF list for $50.  This is the list of all the farms in Child that participate in WWOOF, and will accept visitors to their farm to help with either farming or construction.  Since I wasted my $50; perhaps I can save YOU the trouble!  I can not speak to all countries' WWOOF'ing options, but in Chile, there's little space for a Baby WWOOFer.  Of the hundred or so farms listed on the WWOOF list (which they email to you after you paypal the $50 to WWOOF Chile), there were only a handful that accepted children.  Upon contacting those few farms, I discovered either that, while they accept children, our toddling daughter might not be enthusiastically welcome; or that the farm only accepts long term visits from families (2 weeks +).  

Upon further research into the few family-friendly farms, I realized that WWOOF'ing with a baby probably isn't the best idea.  In reality, you are there to WORK; you're not at a resort.  And where will your trouble-seeking toddler be while you're working the vineyard? Furthermore, by narrowing your farm search down to those that accept families, you are limited to farms that are not centrally located to Santiago or other major towns or cities.  So, what happens when your toddler steps on a rusty nail or gets bit by the farm dog?  I bet you see my point, and understand why we decided that WWOOF'ing is not for this traveling family.

What's Wrong with the Around-the-World Ticket when Traveling with Baby?

When we first decided to travel around the world, we naturally assumed the cheapest option would be to buy "around the world" tickets, offered by one of the two major airline alliances, Sky and One World.  For our rough itinerary at that point, these tickets would have cost us anywhere between $4,000 and $12,000 per person.  The baby's fare would be 10% of the adult ticket price.  Then we started pricing out the airfare independently, and soon discovered that it was much cheaper for us to book our own flights, not purchase an around the world ticket.  Here's why:

First, since we are traveling with the World Toddler, we cannot hop from place to place easily.  We are committed to spending at least 4 nights in each city we visit, to give ourselves time to breathe and adjust to our surroundings.  As such, over the course of our 5 month journey, we are only actually visiting 9 different countries, and only needed to purchase 7 international flights.  The around the world ticket, as we discovered, is better for true backpacking-youngsters, people who are skipping around the world, with significantly more destinations to hit.

Second, not all international airlines charge 10% of the adult ticket for the baby to sit on your lap. By purchasing the around-the-world ticket, you are locking yourself into the 10% flat fee for baby.

Third, you can be much more flexible by purchasing your tickets individually.  The around-the-world ticket limits you to the airlines within the ticket's alliance.  But it might actually be cheaper to just "go out of network."

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

How Much Does It Cost to Fly Around the World?

We managed to book all of our tickets (2 adults and baby on our lap) for just under $5,000.  Here's how we did it:
  1. Skipped the Around-the-World ticket option (see next post about why Around-the-World tickets might not be the best for families with little kids).
  2. Planned WAY ahead.  Airlines post their flights 11 months in advance.  We purchased almost all of our award-mile tickets the day the flights were posted, thereby securing ourselves the Super Saver fares.
  3. Strategically used and saved award miles.  We happen to be at the right time to open a couple new credit cards.  Before doing so, we investigated which flights on our trip were the most expensive, and determined the best credit cards to cover the flight.  By opening an American Airlines Mastercard and spending $3,000 in the first 3 months, we were able to cover the entire cost of our flight from Santiago, Chile to Sydney, Australia on Qantas.
  4. Maintained flexibility.  While we have stuck to only airlines affiliated with major international alliances (like Thai Airways, Qantas, Turkish) in an attempt to ensure all the aircraft we travel on are up to US standards, we were very flexible about which of these airlines we chose, enabling us to choose the cheapest flights to get us from place to place.
  5. Jumped on reasonable airfares.  When we saw an airfare that we were comfortable with, we went ahead and booked it.  We did not wait for cheaper airfares to appear.  Yes, we may have been able to find something cheaper eventually, but the tickets also might have gone up in price.  This not only locked in our tickets at a price we felt comfortable with, it saved us the gambling anxiety that we might lose the tickets all together.



Monday, January 11, 2016

An Around-the-World Bookworm

Sydney is a book worm.  I guess it makes sense, as she come from a long line of writers, teachers, and editors.  When she goes to her room to play by herself, she invariably sits down to read a book, leaving the stuffed animals to complete the puzzles.  So my biggest concern regarding her development while we travel is not being able to keep up with her passion for reading while we're on the road.  Books are heavy and take up a lot of space.  So we have to be very thoughtful about what we pack. 

It's not easy to just buy new books on the road; having spent time in South America before, I know it is hard to find English books, and probably even harder to find English children's books.  So what's our plan?  Lot's of skinny, lightweight books for the first leg of the journey.  When we hit Australia, we'll ditch the ones we brought with us, and buy a new set to get us through the next month and a half.  When we meet Grandma and Grandpa in Japan, they will deliver a new set of slim, lightweight books for our little reader.  

Sydney loves the "Early Reader: Level 1" Books, which are slim, lightweight, and also relatively lengthy, so they take time to read.  Her favorites right now are Little Monster, Elmo Says Achoo, and the Biscuit Series (Biscuit Goes to the Library, etc.). She is also obsessed with all things Dr. Seuss, so we are going to look for some paperback versions of Dr. Seuess- the traditional boardbooks just weigh us down.


World's Best Travel Stroller?

The World Toddler is now almost 18 months old.  And for 18 months, I have tested different strollers--from high-end to flimsy umbrella.  Is North West's stroller really better than Baby R Us's $17 foldable? Yes, it is.  The fancier (read: more expensive) strollers I have tried have been uniformly sturdier and more comfortable to push and carry things on.  However, the World Toddler, herself, has never really seemed to prefer one chariot over another.  And then we were fortunate enough to try out the Quinny Yezz, designed for travel.  Sydney is in love.  For the first time, she asks to get into her "sholleh" and has yet to tire of it.  I think she prefers it because, made of a canvas like material, the seat contours perfectly to her cute little bottom.  Also, it sits up like a regular chair, so she can catch everything that's going on around her.  At the same time, she's had no problem falling asleep in the stroller, which makes long days of exploring new places easy for mom and dad.  

As for the pushers- this is the first umbrella-like stroller that I have seen, that has high bars, so you don't throw out your back by pushing it all afternoon.  It glides along seamlessly (so seamlessly, in fact, that you better be careful about losing your grip on a downhill).  And it folds down into almost nothing-- size or weight.  So when Sydney is interested in walking, we just fold down the stroller and throw it over our shoulders (let's be honest, though, Nolan does most of the schlepping in our family).  Anyway, I say an absolute "yes" to the Yezz.  Expensive but worth every penny.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Keeping My Mess in Check

The first time I remember seeing the floor of my bedroom (surprised to find I had a lovely light blue carpeting!) was the day I left for college.  Since having a baby and becoming a permanent roommate, I have learned to maintain a semblance of order and cleanliness in my home; but at heart, I will always be a disorderly mess.  Whenever I travel, my messy-true-self calls to me: living out of a suitcase, no hangers, and sometimes even a cleaning person to boot!  By day two of travel, I invariably revert back to my messy, clothes-hanging-from-the-lampost self.

I think- I hope- I have finally found a remedy to keep my mess in check: Packing Cubes.  I found a set of 4 of these mesh, nearly weightless, cubes for $15 at Marshalls (online, they usually go for $30).   On our most recent trip to North Carolina, I organized my clothes as follows: 1 medium cube for Sydney's stuff; 1 small cube for socks and underwear; and 1 large cube for all of my other clothes.  When we arrived in North Carolina, unpacking consisted of merely pulling out the cubes from the suitcase: I had no excuse to throw clothes all over the room just because I needed to get to a shirt.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Baby in the Middle

As all experienced world toddlers know, Baby flies free until her second birthday.  And as anyone with a toddler --world traveler or not --- knows, Baby hates sitting still.  So how to take advantage of the free-until-2 policy without spending 10 hours harassing the poor passenger seated in front of you?

On a recent american eagle flight, we discovered that Sydney fits comfortably inbetween our two seats.  We put a coat behind her to cover the crack, and extended my seat belt so it wrapped around both of us.  Sydney was happy to be able to sit like a grown up, and her little legs, try as they might, couldn't kick the seat in front of us.  

To prepare for international flights, on which seat belts may not be as long, we are bringing a seat belt extender to make sure we can always buckle baby in.