Monday, September 29, 2014

Traveling with a baby

Before I jumped on a plane with my daughter, my carry on bag full of food, drink, toys and anything that would occupy Madison for the 14 hour flight, I went on so many websites reading about traveling with a baby. They all basically gave me the same advice, some of which I will repeat here, but there is so much more to consider and to think about that I thought I would break it down and make it easier for you. Now I'm no expert by any means but I think traveling for 6 weeks, going through 5 different countries on 10 flights with a baby gives me a little bit of insight. So let's break it down for you into 3 categories:

Airport
If you follow the usual travel guidelines you will show up to the airport around 2-3 hours before your flight, head straight to check in and get rid if your bags.....sounds about right! I was doing the first flight from Melbourne to Dubai by myself with Madison so I was terrified!! I think it was pretty obvious because everyone was so nice!! I checked in my bags, requested a bassinet seat and asked if I could check the pram in at the gate.....tick, tick and tick....all going well so far.
Now I had a few hours to kill, went and had some food and thought I would go through the departure gates early so I had plenty of time to get through customs and security, well turns out I didn't need it! Went through to security, was spotted with a pram almost straight away so was lucky enough to jump the queue. The security lady took me to my own line, saw that I was by myself so stayed to help me. Unfortunately prams have to go through the scanner so I had to take Madison out, show the lady how to fold up the pram and walk on through. There was another lovely lady on the other side of the screening point waiting to help me again, she helped unfold the pram, helped put my stuff back in my bag and then helped me put Madison back in, I basically just stood there.

Then I was SO happy to be given a fast track card so I could walk through the fast track line at customs. This is the line the flight attendants go through and anyone who needs to get through quickly, again.....SO HAPPY!! So the 2 hours I gave myself to get through security and customs and find my gate was so not needed. Found the gate straight away and thought.....what am I gonna do now???

I ended up being taken down the lift to the boarding area early so they could take the pram and I could board first. All the blogs I read before I left told me not to board first, means that the little one spends even more time on the plane than needed. I was hesitant but went on board early anyway. It gave me a chance to get my seat, get my stuff organised and meet pretty much every flight attendant. They were all so lovely and all said they were there to help if I needed it. They gave me the baby seat belt and then basically everyone else started boarding.

One thing I want to mention though, not all airlines will let you check your pram in at the gate, if that's the case please don't worry! Most airports have loan prams that you can borrow both before you get on the plane and once you get off. You can take them right up to the gate and they are right at the gate when you land as well. If you do get to pick up your pram straight off the plane maybe wait until last to get off, means you won't have to stand their holding your baby until they bring it up, sometimes it takes them 20 minutes to bring it up. Just as you step out of the plane into the tunnel that connects to the building, there is a door right there with stairs that lead down to the tarmac, that's where they bring the pram up for you, so just wait by the door. Who knew they were always this helpful???

Plane
So you're on the plane, quietly starting to freak out that you're stuck there for 14 hours with potentially a very unhappy baby. Well never fear because you will get off at the other end and it will all be over!! There is an end to your flight and your baby will sleep so don't worry!

I had the bassinet seat which I was super hopeful would work perfectly, Madison would go to sleep in the bassinet and I could have a rest too and in a few hours we could play then go back to sleep, boy was I wrong! If your baby hasn't slept in a bassinet ever or for a while there is a very small chance they will sleep in the bassinet on the plane. Madison never slept in a bassinet, not once, so how stupid was I to think she could sleep in one now! It was good to give both her and me some space though.

ATTENTION ALL AIRLINES: I understand that a bassinet needs a wall to support it, and that the seats behind it need some more leg room but can I tell you......the front of the seating area is the WORST place to put a bassinet!!

If your kids are anything like my daughter they have a massive fear of missing out. So instead on relaxing in the bassinet or even on my lap and going to sleep Madison spent all her time looking around and talking to people. Remember that wall I was talking about to support the bassinet, well that wall is what separates the seating from the toilets or the kitchen, so yes.....the busiest part of the plane! There was a constant stream of flight attendants walking passed or starting the food run as well as a constant stream of people going in and out it waiting for the toilet......seriously the worst spot to put a baby when you are trying to calm them down for a sleep. And because it's a baby everyone wants to say hello and chat, as lovely as that is I'M TRYING TO GET HER TO GO TO SLEEP!!! Next time airlines, find a spot at the back of the plane in a much quieter spot, or automatically give parents with babies an upgrade to business for a quieter flight with more room. Yep I'm gonna go with that option!

We found that on smaller flights that weren't as busy we request a spare seat next to us. Madison was never going to sleep so we gave her a seat so she could have her own space, lay the tray down, give her some toys and there you go....entertainment and space for a few hours! It wasn't always that easy but when it was it was great. Another thing that I came across was the brilliant idea from British Airlines. They gave you the option of having a flat bottom bassinet or a seat. The seat goes in the same spot as the bassinet and it kind of looks like the seat in her pram from home.  It lays reasonably flat or sits up and you strap them in.  Brilliant!! I grabbed the seat, strapped her in so she couldn't get out, let her play with her toys and I watched a movie.....again Brilliant!! Nice job British Airlines.

So now that's settled let's move on to the rest of the flight. Food was always difficult for us. Madi would eat her food fine but when I had some put in front of me, or the people next to me got food all she wanted to do was grab at it. I tried putting her in the bassinet while I ate but all she did was try and climb out, so yeah food time was fun. I always gave her food when I was eating, tried to occupy her as much as possible or distract her with some toys. One of the flight attendants came and played with her for the 5 minutes Madison would oblige so I could eat. That was fine but then they took forever to clean up the left overs, I understand that is how it works....another reason why the business upgrade would be ideal!

As for Madison's food though, I was worried about what I could and couldn't take on and take off the plane, but to be honest, if you have a baby they are so lenient. I took a sandwich on the plane to give her for lunch, some biscuits and a few pouches of food. The pouches were ideal because she could such the contents out herself and would be almost full. I ended up refusing a lot of my meals because 1. Just too hard and 2. I hate plane food. She was also still having milk, not formula but full cream milk at this point. In the weeks leading up to the flight I transitioned her onto cold full cream milk straight out of the fridge. I wasn't sure if I would be able to warm up her milk while we were away so figured if she can do cold it would be much easier! I ended up buying some of the long life full cream prima style drinks, each prima had 200ml of milk which was perfect. I tried to get her drinking from a straw but that just wasn't working so I wrapped the primas up in glad wrap separately then put them in a snap lock bag. Extra protection just in case. Then when she needed milk I would unwrap, poke the straw through and pour the contents into one of her bottles, done! She took them really well which was amazing and helped her drift off the sleep a few times!

For the times that she was asleep she slept on my chest, I would just lay the seat back as far as possible and snuggle in. Worked a treat. For the times she was awake she played with everyone and everything, she never stopped moving which made it hard but otherwise we got through it. And let me tell you.....just use the phenergen. It's kind of like when you're pregnant you keep saying no I don't want the epidural, then when your in labour your screaming for them to give it to you. Just go in with an open mind and do what ever makes both yours and your child's life easier. Remember as well that after a few hours your child will start to get so upset because they can't go to sleep, they need as much help getting to sleep as we need getting them to sleep, so it's a win-win!

Holiday
Before we left I had a visit with my doctor to make sure Madison was 100% healthy and to ask a few travel questions and make sure I was fully prepared. The advice I was given was that my biggest issue going overseas was gastro, and yep she was right. Madison had gastro for a whole week of our trip, we were in the beautiful Canary Islands and couldn't even go for a swim! It was tough but we got through. One thing my doctor did advise was to take some hydro lite with me, just to keep her hydrated if she did end up with gastro. Unfortunately this is something I forgot about in the lead up to going away so was cursing myself when she got gastro. I just kept up the fluids a much as possible. I was only giving her bottled water and for a bit I was boiling the bottled water in the kettle and letting it cool before I gave it to her, just the extra precaution. People always say don't drink the water when you go away and half the time it's fine, but for babies that's a must! Their little tummies are a lot more sensitive than ours so make sure you stick to that rule!
Food was always hard, the baby food in the supermarket wasn't great no matter where we were, she could eat our normal food but when you go out for breakfast lunch and dinner at was hard giving her variety and making sure she are all her meat and vegetables. Fruit was easy,  she had a heap of that, the jars or fruit were fine and we would buy fruit at the supermarket, only fruit with a skin that we could peel off, like a banana or kiwi fruit or even oranges. Yogurt from the supermarket was also good and easy, just make sure there is room in your bar fridge for it first. We were lucky enough to have buffet breakfasts supplied at a few of the places we stayed, I made sure that I grabbed a yogurt and some fruit on my way out each day, the hotels don't mind and saves you a bit of money and a trip to the supermarket.

As soon as we got to each new place I would find the closer supermarket and go pick up the essentials; nappies, wipes, bread and milk. Again make sure you could fit the milk in the bar fridge. Another option which we used quite a few times was filing up the empty milk bottles at breakfast as well, means she gets nice fresh milk each day and saved us again a few dollars and a trip to the supermarket. The buffet breakfasts were great, we could pretty much stock up for the day, I occasionally grabbed the jam spread for her sandwiches as well, they are just the single serve spreads but worked a treat and a lot easier to carry than a jar of strawberry jam! 

Another trick I had was a way of cleaning the bottles, because let's face it your room won't have a dishwasher! I grabbed one of the travel size liquid containers and filled it up with dish washing liquid, brought along a spare toothbrush and used the bathroom sink and hot water and voila.....clean bottles! After I asked for a kettle in a few places I would fill the bathroom sink up with boiling water say, once a week, and let the bottles submerge in the boiled water, I know it's not the same as how you would sterilise at home but it was just an extra precaution on top of scrubbing them clean. If you forget your toothbrush don't worry, just grab the one from the hotel, almost all of the hotels we stayed in had a dental kit in the bathroom, super easy.

I found in some places the nappies weren't the best but they did the trick. Also make sure you bring a huge amount of nappy rash cream, Madison had a few red spots each time we went through different nappies, nothing bad at all but I made sure I got then quickly before they turned into anything worse.

So after all of that was sorted out we had an amazing time on our holiday, we were lucky that she decided to sleep in her pram on days we wanted to go sight seeing, we took along one of our light blankets and dropped it over the front of the pram, just to help her sleep, nothing to look at therefore nothing to do but sleep. The cobblestone roads helped her sleep as well....nice thinking Italy!

I apologise that there aren't many photos in this post but I believe there is some really great advice in this post and hope that it can be helpful to many people. If you are flying with a little one it will be fantastic, just remember a few of my hints and tips and you will be fine. Remember the most important this is for you not to stress, if you relax and enjoy it so will your baby!

xxo
Kim

NYC Baby!!

After the fun adventures in Toronto we headed over to New York for our last stop before we jet off home. I love love love New York. They say that you either love New York or you love LA......well give me a city that never sleeps and a city full of fashion any day. I've always considered myself a pool girl rather than a beach girl so as amazing as LA is it was never going to be my 1st choice.

Sorry rambling....back to NYC. So we landed in the morning, got to our hotel by around 1pm, put Madison down to have a quick sleep then went out into the busy bustling world of New York City. There was a big UN meeting when we were there so police were everywhere. There was extra security all over the place, the kind of security that wear black suits, overly tinted sunglasses paired with the fancy earpiece. Not only did that make the place incredibly busy but the city had also decided that they needed to fix up Times Square and the majority of its surrounds so ......... construction galore! I would have been a little bit disappointed if it was the first time we were visiting New York, just because parts of Times Square were closed with tradesman using all sorts of loud machinery, I'm such a girl....loud machinery.......find the names!!
It was still great though, I had planned to pretty much go shopping in NYC, and maybe do a bit of sight seeing, just a bit though I had lots of shopping to do. The first day there we walked around quite a bit, stopped off at a few shops, spent a bit of $$, had dinner and went back to our room so Madison could go to bed.

Day two was a little bit more eventful, more shopping and spending, we visited the top of the Empire State Building, and let me tell you having a pram with a baby certainly made the trip a little bit easier, until we got to the top of course. Then people galore and the pram was just too big to move around. We did manage to get some great photos though.
Dropped by grand central station, found the whispering corners and had a nice little secret conversation. Looked like complete fools facing the corner away from each other, kind of looked like we were in trouble with the teacher and had to sit in the corner of the room. More shopping and spending, a bit of sleeping, catching up with family for dinner then sleep.  This shopping and spending thing was getting pretty amazing.....I would love to visit New York every year to do my Christmas shopping!
Day three was our last, we weren't flying out until around 7pm but knew that getting to the airport would take a few hours so thought we might have a little over half the day outside and then have to leave the hotel. We went out first thing and took a horse and cart ride around Central Park, that was just beautiful, did a bit more walking and yep spent a little bit more $$.......Madison seemed to score the best out of this trip, there was so many gorgeous little girls clothes we couldn't help ourselves. Had some lunch then headed back to the hotel to collect our stuff and go to the airport.
We left our hotel at 3pm got stuck in so much traffic it took us 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to JFK airport. Crazy right! That's New York for you. Our taxi driver was getting very frustrated, he mentioned that he was supposed to finish his shift around 4 so he was very late and apparently it was our fault that our flight decided to leave at a time inconvenient to him. Sorry driver but No Tip For You! It was so sad that we were leaving New York when we had only just arrived but it was still great to be there. Our flight home was long so I really wasn't looking forward to it. It was around 5 hours to go from NY to LA, then around 16 to get back to Melbourne from LA. The great thing though was that Madison slept for around 10 hours during the long flight home, I couldn't have asked her to be better, she was such an amazing little girl the whole holiday, we were so lucky. But that feeling when you walk in the door to your own home, knowing that you are going to be sleeping in your own bed that night and be able to wash clothes, use an oven and just be with your own stuff is the best feeling in the world!

I have a killer post coming your way about travelling with a baby. I know it's not normally my forte but I learnt a lot on this trip and thought that some of my tips would be helpful to those out there travelling with babies.  Will be posting that one shortly, but for now....

xxo
Kim

(Photos: all photos taken by Styled to Profit on an iPhone)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Oh Canada!

After what felt like a super long flight (it was 10 hours total) to get from Madrid to Toronto, via London of course, we were swooped up by family at the airport. It's so nice to see some familiar faces after you have been traveling for a month. I know it's not that long but I've just hit the 'time to go home' feeling so it's so nice to be in a place with family.....it already feels like home!

Whilst I would love to share with you all the happenings in Canada most of it is very personal and not necessarily about me so I'm unfortunately not going to share a heap with you. Canada was however the main reason for this long trip because my brother was getting married to the girl of his dreams, who of course is Canadian, and I was lucky enough to be a bridesmaid and be heavily involved in their amazing day, amazing doesn't seem like a good enough description. The bride was beautiful beyond words and the groom looked so handsome. The venue was so picturesque, the food was great and the party was fantastic, but it was always going to be.  But lets not chat about the wedding, lets chat about Canada!

When we were driving from the airport to the house we were staying in I couldn't believe how much it felt like Australia, there are so many similarities it's incredible. So after being away for a month it was so good to feel at home in a foreign place. On top of heaps of bridal adventures and to dos we managed to get in a bit of sight seeing.


After we had been there for a few days we hired a car and headed into Toronto. We walked around for a little bit and stopped at the CN Tower.
The views were beautiful. You will have to forgive me as the photos are just from my iPhone and there was a slight reflection in the glass when I took them.

The next day we headed to Niagraa Falls, now that was beautiful. I knew there were water falls of course but otherwise I had no idea what to expect. I was blown away. There were 2 water falls, one on the USA side and the Canadian one. The Canadian one is the shape of a horse shoes and is easily 5 times bigger than the other one. They were both incredible. We did as all tourists do and went on the Maid of the Mist boat, got completely saturated and absolutely LOVED IT!!

Check out those photos! If that isn't good advertising for an iPhone camera I don't know what is! Everything about the Falls is just perfect. I would have loved to walk behind them but 1. My daughter wouldn't be able to do it, and 2. I was so not dressed appropriately for that.

Around the Falls was also a little theme park as well. There was all sorts of games, shops, restaurants, even a observation wheel. The place was fantastic! Definitely somewhere you should try and visit if you can.

The next night we went to a place called Dave and Busters. It was after the wedding rehearsal and it was such a fun place. It was a restaurant and sports bar with a full games room thrown in. We had so much fun but unfortunately I didn't take any photos! Silly me! Our last few days in Canada were taken up with wedding duties, I felt so special to be a part of my brothers big day and had the best time, that's the personal part that I can't really share.

We had such all lovely time in Canada that I am planning to come back and have my first white Christmas in the next few years. Oh I can't wait! But before then let's get on with our holiday.....New York city!!!!! 

Xxo
Kim

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Spain

Our travels around the world have taken us through some amazing places and we have seen so many beautiful things. Our passports and of course the pilot have now dropped us on the doorstep of Spain, another country on my to go list.

We have the pleasure of spending just over 2 weeks in Spain, 1 of those weeks in Gran Canaria, part of the Canary Islands just off the coast of Spain, and the second week in Madrid. So incredibly different from each other it has been an interesting 2 and a bit weeks. Seeing as though my husbands job has included Spain in our family holiday we didn't choose these places to visit, they were a necessary part of our planning process, but still places I was really excited to go.

Let me set the scene for you, we arrive in Gran Canaria around 11pm, have a driver waiting to swoop us up and drop is off at an incredible hotel. The drive into the hotel is gorgeous, the road lined with palm trees and beautiful gardens, lovely archways covered in creeping plants with sparkling hidden ponds at the bottom. Sculptures everywhere! Greeted by the doorman opening the car door and helping with our luggage as we enter the foyer. A stunning looking hotel.
Sadly though the incredibleness (that's so not a word) stops there. Still a lovely place but need to pull my description back a notch. The room is fine, a little entry foyer, bathroom with a bath/shower, good for Madison, a largish room, large for a hotel room, but with 2 single beds. All good, we didn't book it so can't really request anything specific. We have a few necessities like a fridge and hair dryer but that's really it. I had to request a kettle be brought up to the room so I could have a cup of tea and heat up some of Madisons food. The place looks like a full on resort but has a rectangle pool like you would see in someone's backyard and the silly landscaper didn't think about adding any palm trees to the pool area, just a concrete jungle.
I keep reminding myself that this is a work trip, not a holiday because it seems to explain a lot. Our hotel is around 30 mins away from everything. It's like they dropped a big (kinda) resort in the middle of suburbia. I have had trouble finding restaurants to have lunch or dinner and have had trouble finding food for Madison. On my day out yesterday though I walked for ages before I came across what was obviously the place to be......central shopping district! The main street was lined with designer stores as well as a big chain store, the street ended at one end at the water and at the other end at a big round about lined with restaurants. Once you get passed the language barrier it gets a bit easier to order and the food is nice. I decided to break up my visit to this area into a few trips, give me things to do for a few days, so I walked my way down one side of the street towards the water. Things are either the same price as back home or a bit more expensive.....I'm saving my money for when we get to Canada and the USA! I was really hoping to end up on the beach when I got to the water, unfortunately this side of the island is covered in rocks, not sand, and it looks like oil rigs in the water only 5kms from the waters edge, probably not the best place to swim! I haven't been to the other side of the island so hopefully some beautiful beaches for the tourists.

After a pretty uneventful week in Gran Canaria we headed off to Madrid, weather was hot and people everywhere! Once you get to the centre of town that is! We were stayin about a 10 minute walk from hustle and bustle town but a beautiful hotel, still no kettle in the room but otherwise a beautiful hotel with a beautiful buffet breakfast on offer!
We did a bit of sight seeing and walking around but we had the same difficulty with food as we did in Gran Canaria, restaurants don't open until after bed time for Madison so it was hard.....damn you afternoon siesta! I did find a place that seemed to be open all day and serving food, became my frequent hang out place, the food was good, the people were lovely and it was kid friendly so ticked all the boxes for me! After walking around a bit, it turns out it's a chain restaurant so you can pretty much find them all over the place. For anyone wondering the restaurant is called VIPS.

Apart from lots of walking, lots of eating and lots of hot weather it was quite similar to Gran Canaria for us, streets were quite during the day because the local schedule was so different to what we were used to. The place goes crazy at night time though. My husband has been working while we have been here and not having dinner until late, he said that at around 10.30 everyone is out and the streets are packed, kids running around, restaurants flat out and almost all the shops still open. The touristy areas are busy during the day which is good but apparently the locals come out at night.....very True Blood!

It's been a nice place though, got to check out some nice sights and some fun shops, although I would suggest that if your coming here with young kids be prepared to eat in the hotel quite a bit or find your local VIPS!! We did head downtown one day and saw some amazing things, check out some photos from our trip.
Next stop is Canada and I CAN'T WAIT!!! We are over half way through our holiday now so on the home stretch. I have never been to Canada but I know it will feel a little bit like home which will be amazing, and......everything is cheaper there so shopping here we come!!! 

Xxo
Kim

(Photos: all photographs were taken by Styled to Profit on an iPhone)



Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Stop 2: ITALY!!!

Italy has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I've seen so many photos and movies filmed somewhere in Italy and I simply had to go! Well it's taken a while but I'm finally here and it was so worth the wait!!

Our Italian adventure started in Rome! Land of the smart car and the mini bus......seriously! So many amazing things to see in Rome so we booked ourselves 4 days to see it! We had planned on spending the first day, well evening, after we arrived just checking things out, nothing specific, but all we had to do was walk out the front of our hotel and look to the right before we saw this!
Ticked one thing off the list!

We spent the next few days walking absolutely everywhere and seeing it all. I made my husband watch the movie Angels and Demons just so we could check out the highlights! Here's a few more pics of the amazing places we went.
We left Rome on the train and headed to Florence. Beautiful Florence. Much smaller place but potentially the same amount of tourists so a little busier. I really enjoyed Florence, although it was busy it seemed peaceful and safe.
Oh and how could I not tell you about Festival of Gelati!!!! Over 100 flavours of gelati......Nutella was definitely the best, really....where have you been all my life! A apple gelati a day keeps the doctor away!!! You will have to excuse the random people in the photo, I stood out the front of the shop for ages waiting for the perfect opportunity to be people free, but unfortunately I have more sight seeing to do so had to snap and go.
After 3 days in Florence we trained it to Venice for a short trip. I'm going to let the amazing photos speak for themselves here!
Who's seen the movie the Tourist?? The hotel in the photo above was featured in the movie, the top floor was Angelina Jolie's apartment when she first arrived in Venice, the one the Johnny Depp stayed in. Apparently at the time of filming it wasn't actually a hotel, not sure what it used to be, but they loved the look when the hotel room was set up that they decided to go in that direction. There are only 6 suites in the hotel and you can only stay there if you are pretty much a millionaire at 6,000 euro a night, which I think works out to be around $10,000 AUD a night. I wish right!!

Then finally a short 1 night stay in Milan.
Our next stop is Spain, can't wait! Hopefully a relaxing feet up kinda place! Chat again soon.

Xox
Kim

(Photos: Taken on iPhone by Styled to Profit)

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