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

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Sunday, May 29, 2016

5 Tips for Long-Haul Flights with Kids



1. Respect Routine


Resist the urge to manipulate your baby’s schedule to get her to sleep more on the plane. This strategy backfires, as you end up with an overly-tired grumpy-pants who refuses to sleep at all. Keep to normal nap schedules throughout the day leading up to the flight so baby stays calm so you can entertain her just as you would off the plane until she starts scratching her eyes.

The same goes for mealtime: feed your child at her regular mealtimes according to the time zone you just left. Note that the airlines will try to make this difficult for you: they will feed you dinner at 4PM; breakfast at 2AM; and turn the “morning” lights on at 1AM. Resist the urge to eat whenever food is served and to wake whenever the lights are on. If it’s not a normal meal time, decline the meal or ask that it be brought later. If it’s not time to wake up, “shh, shh” baby and keep sleeping.

2. Rotate Responsibility


It is not easy to keep a toddler quiet and still for 5+ hours at a time, especially when you yourself are exhausted. So take advantage of your partner if you are traveling with one: when he is running the childcare facility, you should be resting. In such tight quarters it is difficult to unplug from the baby wiggling next to you, but it is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. Recharge while the going is good. Then take over for your partner so he can shut his own eyes.

Denpasar, Indonesia Airport Playground


3. Make Meal Time Last


When the meal tray comes out, make every bite into an event. We introduce each bite with a lengthy prelude: “Do you want a piece of chicken? Are you sure? Chew…Chew…Chew…” Done correctly—that is, irritatingly slowly-- meal time can last an hour. Most long-haul flights have at least two meal services- so that’s two hours down and 3 – 14 hours to go.

View of the Andes on flight from Puerto Montt to Santiago, Chile

4. Don't Put Baby in a Corner


If you can afford and are willing to shell out for a seat just for your baby, your airplane life will be grand. You’ll have a row to yourself where your family can spread out without worry of bothering the poor stranger seated next to you.

If, like us, you refuse to buy your child a seat until you are forced to (the day she turns two), you can still create private space for her in one of two ways. First, pray that the seat next to you is vacant. Airlines save extra seats for traveling families; indeed, we have been provided a free extra seat on two of our last three long-haul flights.

If you lose the free-seat-lottery, however, you can still create private space for your child in the bulkhead area in front of your seat. To make sure you get the bulkhead, request the “baby bassinet” when you book your ticket (if you book online, call the airline after to have the request added to your ticket). Keep in mind that even if your child is too big to sleep in the bassinet, you can still request the seat and take advantage of the precious extra leg room. 

Arrive at the airport early on departure day to make sure your request went through. If you have one of the first babies to check in for the flight you are almost guaranteed to get the bulkhead.


5. Sleep Whenever Possible


Before having a baby, I spent entire long-haul flights drinking free wine and watching movies. Even now, duty-free Toblerone and Shakespeare in Love beckon me. But I now resist the urge to stay awake the whole flight because I have learned that the only thing worse than an over-tired baby is an over-tired parent.

You never know when your child will wake up and need your full attention. And you don’t know what challenges await you upon landing in a new country. Will your bags have arrived at the destination? Will you be able to find a taxi? Will your hotel room be ready? Dealing with these issues and a baby is almost impossible on little or no sleep. So take advantage of every moment your child is sleeping or watching Mickey Mouse to shut your eyes. Your entire adventure post-flight will go more smoothly if you can sneak in at least a few hours of sleep before landing.

Arriving in Sydney from Santiago to find our bags went to Peru

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Why we are Traveling the World with our Toddler

As we pass the half-way point of our five month trip, I thought it time to reflect on why we started out on this adventure in the first place...

From the day I was born— at 12:01AM on my due date— I have always done what was expected of me, exactly when it was expected. After high school, I embarked on a four-year liberal arts degree. 
Celebrating College Graduation with Friends

Freshly-minted bachelor’s diploma in hand, I immediately began law school, on the first day of which I met Nolan, the man  I would marry. After passing the bar exam, we  began our careers as attorneys. We got married over a weekend and returned to work on Monday. 
Just Married at Housing Works Bookstore, NYC

One year later we had our daughter, Sydney, and started house hunting for a home in a good school district.

A Newborn Sydney

We were truly on our way to realizing the American dream. But something did not feel right.

And then it hit me: the “American dream” was not necessarily my dream. After tucking our baby in one evening, I raised my concerns with Nolan.  Is a house in the suburbs what we really want? Are we ready to commit to monthly mortgage payments? 

Over a large pot of coffee, we talked for hours about what we wanted for our lives together. Our shared priority was to enjoy our new family, which our current jobs’ demands had made nearly impossible to do.  Second, we hoped to travel while still young and healthy enough to easily do so. As we sipped the dregs of our coffee, we came up with a crazy idea: quitting our jobs to travel around the world with our baby.

But could we travel around the world with a toddler? And could we afford it? We spent months finding our answers, visiting travel bookstores around the state and reading every blog about international family travel. I pitched my adventure to Carolina Woman Magazine, for whom I am a contributing editor, and was invited to share five feature articles about our travels. 

We ultimately decided that, although not easy, it would indeed be possible— and incredibly rewarding— to travel with a young one.

As far as cost was concerned, we could fit a world tour into our available budget if we were willing to live with less and returned to the United States before Sydney turned two, since such little children fly free. And so we spent the next year intensively planning our voyage, and aggressively skimping and saving to pay for it.

On March 5, 2016, as loyal blog-followers know, we left from JFK Airport for a 5 month journey around the world: Argentina, Chile, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Israel, Hungary, Croatia, and, finally, Italy. We are now finishing our stay in Japan, more than half-way through our trip, and feel as confident in our choice to travel as ever before.

We have spent almost three months learning about different religions, meeting interesting people, tasting wild foods and, most importantly, enjoying our family. Just over the past week, we have meditated in a Buddhist temples; eaten eel sashimi; and posed for pictures with Japanese school kids.
Kyoto, Japan

As Nolan often comments, when we lay upon our death beds, we may wish we had worked less or worried less, but we will never regret that time we traveled around the world with our baby girl.




Friday, May 6, 2016

How to be a 5-Star Cheapskate at a 5-Star Hotel

Even budget travelers sometimes splurge on lodging to have a unique experience. We recently enjoyed such a splurge at Tugu Resort in Lombok, Indonesia. To get there, we took a 30 minute flight from Denpasar, Bali, and then drove 1.5 hours north through rice paddies, past mosques, and over a monkey-forested mountain.


We savored much of what Lombok has to offer tourists right from the hotel beach: incredible sunrises, kayaking from shore, and vibrant coral for snorkeling.







We also visited the nearby Gili Islands, a paradise for honeymooners and backpackers alike, where automobiles and motorbikes are prohibited.


Day Trip to the Gilis





In addition to its incredible setting, the hotel itself was designed and decorated by the owner of the largest Indonesian antiques collection in the world with artifacts from his own collection, giving the hotel the feel of an interactive museum.





Private Villa at Tugu

And did I mention we had a private pool?


Reaching into your travel budget is, in my opinion, worth it for a unique experience that can’t be had more cheaply. The challenge when staying at a high-end hotel, however, especially one as isolated as Tugu, is that the hotel’s other services-- restaurant, laundry, activities-- are usually priced to match the room rates. But just because you splurge on lodging doesn’t mean you want to splurge on everything else. 

What if you want the luxurious, hide-a-way resort experience but don’t want to waste your entire travel budget? Here are 5 tips for  being a 5-star cheapskate at a 5-star hotel:

1. BREAKFAST ALL DAY
Breakfast is the most financially important meal of the day. Many resorts offer free breakfast, including coffee, fruit, bread baskets, and a protein-based main course. Few people actually eat such a big spread in the morning. So sip your coffee or tea and fill up on the main course. But ask to bring the bread and fruit (or anything else left over) back to your room. Nibble on your bread and fruit all day, pairing it with a fresh pot of free coffee you can make in your room. Voila! You just ate both breakfast and lunch for free!

2. MAKE FRIENDS
Chances are you are not the only cheapskate on the island. Look to your left, look to your right, at least one of the people sitting next to you also hates being charged an arm and a leg to go snorkeling. So make friends with other guests so you can share costs. 
Sydney's New Buddies: Reagan and Riley Ann

At Tugu we made fast friends with a family from North Carolina who are living for four years in Singapore. The family has two sweet little girls who took Sydney under their wings, pushing her on the swing and covering her in sand on the beach, while Nolan and I reveled in the company of other English-speaking adults. One day we split the cost of renting a boat to visit the outer reefs to snorkel and to visit the nearby Gili islands. While cost-cutting wasn’t the reason we made our new friends, it was certainly an added bonus.













3.  DO YOUR OWN LAUNDRY
Oh the money we have wasted on hotel laundry services! Those clean, white bags folded under your bathroom sink are just so tempting. Put your dirties in and they’ll be returned to you the next day stink-free. In a tropical climate, such as Lombok, where you can sweat through four shirts in an hour, this is a valuable service. But an expensive one, too. So do your own laundry. 

My technique: put the clothes in your bathtub. Fill the tub with hot water and laundry detergent, and then put the clothes through a manual “spin cycle." Be creative here with the tools you use-- umbrellas, wooden spoons-- anything that won’t conduct heat from your wash to you. Now let it sit for a while. Drain the tub and then do a “rinse cycle” with cold water. Now your clothes smells like fresh lilies. 

But how do you dry them? In cold, dry southern Chile, this was easy: just hang everything by the fireplace. In hot, humid Lombok, we ran into some problems. Indeed, at 70% humidity, two day “drying” left our clothes as wet as when I started. I ended up blow drying every article of clothing immediately before wearing it.


Some (such as my husband) might say this is an extreme cost-saving measure; laundry is not a good corner to cut.  But I think there are other extreme cheapskates out there who will understand why it is worth spending hours swishing your clothes around a bathtub with an umbrella and then days trying to dry them for the chance to save a few bucks.

4.  BYOBB (Bring Your Own Boxed Booze)

The biggest up charge at a resort is on alcohol. In a Muslim region like Lombok, it is particularly difficult to find booze, which hotel prices reflect. At the same time, when stranded in a remote Indonesian village, there’s not much to do after you tuck in your toddler other than have a couple glasses of wine. So bring your own. We prefer the boxed varietal, because it is less likely to open up in your suitcase, is cheap, and lasts the longest.

5. CUP ‘O NOODLES 
In Asia, Cup ‘O Noodles are not just limited to soups. There is everything from shrimp-flavored noodle cups to chicken-flavored rice cups. A Cup O’ Noodles-rich diet may lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, but is surprisingly delicious and easy to make. To cook, just add hot water, which you can make in your handy hotel-provided hot pot. For less than $1 USD, you can feed the whole family. 
Luxurious Bed. Cheap Dinner.

Follow these simple tips and you, too, can be a 5-star cheapskate at a 5-star hotel.


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Bus Tours and Toddlers


On our sixth day in Sydney, we booked a day trip to the Blue Mountains National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located about two hours outside of the city. Our tour itinerary included walking under waterfalls, hiking mountain trails, and visiting an Aboriginal community.

On tour day-- our first group tour of our entire trip-- we were all dressed, fed, and waiting outside our apartment for pick-up by 7:10AM. A few minutes later, an Activity Tours Australia van pulled up in front of us. Mike, our friendly chauffeur and guide for the day, jumped out and invited us to choose any of the 20 empty seats. We spread ourselves out over three. Sydney concentrated on her stickers as we spent the next 45 minutes winding through the city, collecting other passengers.

At our last pick-up, an older group of Americans boarded. Friends from the cruise ship that had recently docked in Sydney harbor, the buddies filled all the remaining spots, one man specifically asking for our daughter’s seat so he could put up his bad-leg. Now one of three people stuffed into two small chairs, Syd started to moan. And then cry. And then scream at the top of her lungs.

Mike introduced himself over our baby’s screams. While he kindly tried to make Iight of the situation, one of the new arrivals looked back at us, grimaced, and whispered, loudly enough for us to hear, that the child was out of control. Not even fifteen minutes had passed before Nolan and I depleted our baby tool kit: stickers, a stuffed koala bear, a chocolate chip cookie, nothing would do.
One more sidelong glance from the increasingly angry passengers in front of us, and we decided to abort tour. If I had wanted to be judged by older Americans, I would have stayed home. Somewhere on the outskirts of the city, I wobbled to the front of the moving bus and asked Mike to drop us at the nearest train station.

In the rear view mirror, I watched the other passengers nod to each other. Mike begged me to stay on at least until we reached the first destination, a nature reserve, just a few more minutes away. From there, we could find a train home if we still wanted to leave the tour.


By the time we climbed down from the bus, I felt so betrayed by my compatriots that I was ready to cry right along with Sydney. Then a brown marsupial jumped in my path. It is impossible to feel indignant about anything when confronted with a wallabee.

A bumpy morning then turned into a perfect day. While the bus tour spent only 30 minutes at the animal reserve-- just enough time to snap photos with a koala-- we spent four hours petting kangaroos, feeding baby goats, and meeting Fairy Penguins.


Our failed tour taught us an important travel lesson: bus tours are not for toddlers. In retrospect, this should have been obvious from the get-go. Indeed, only a rookie-parent would put a young child in a confined space, to be quiet and still for hours on end. Mary Poppins couldn't make that work.