We had so much fun celebrating Lorenzo’s second birthday at The Proud Bird!
Are you noticing a pattern? One tip I gleaned from my research pre-trip was to get out of the hotel when the baby woke. This meant lots of early mornings beating all the tourists. I was glad we did this so we could see Notre Dame without millions of people there.
We began our morning with the Historic Paris walk. Particularly interesting was the section on the Notre Dame facade. I love traveling with a book so that I can really get all the details when I am standing in front of the building on MY TIME. I hate guided tours and audio tours, but that's just me. Usually I read the book out loud to Alex, but that didn't work so well with the baby. So instead we both read the tour before we left the hotel and merely absorbed the sight when we were there. We finished the tour at Pont Neuf which had all the locks from lovers on it who then threw the key into the Seine. It was quite romantic.
We then circled back around to see Notre Dame's interior. Lorenzo decided this would be an excellent time to wail and wail he did. We walked a few laps around, thinking he would fall asleep and we could continue to enjoy the church interior. He did not. He wailed louder and louder. After the third lap, we gave up and started to walk to our own church. I carried the pack for a little bit. We also stopped and got some excellent pastries, including an almond croissant with cream. Probably the best pastry I had while we were there. When we got to church, Alex attempted to put him to sleep again and still his screaming got louder. Eventually, we gave up and headed home. Alex and Lorenzo took marathon naps. I had trouble sleeping. When it finally came time to leave the hotel again, I was GRUMPY. Beyond grumpy. Alex said we were going to a park instead of trying to see a sight.
We decided on the Tuleries because it was the closest. Lorenzo really enjoyed it there. He crawled all around, charmed tourists, practiced walking, and I attempted to recover from my bad attitude. Finally, I turned a corner and we were able to continue. We attempted to go down to the Catacombs, but were met with a two hour wait. We grabbed dinner at a nearby restaurant to see if the line would die down. The food was so-so, but the crepe I had for dessert was excellent. We waited for a while and then decided that two hours was too long for a half-hour sight and popped out of line to finish our Historic Paris walk.
We decided to go back to Notre Dame area and hit the sights that were closed. First was Sainte-Chapelle. Stained glass on stained glass! We encountered one lady who was grumpy about the stroller in Sainte-Chapelle, but then she was kind after I folded it up. The floor is original, so I can understand that rule. I don't have problems with rules that make sense. I have problems with rules that don't make any sense!
We continued to wander and attempted to climb Notre Dame, but it was closed. We decided to walk home instead of take the Metro and it was the MOST gorgeous walk. The sun was setting on the Seine and the Louvre pyramid was lit up by the sunset. Probably my favorite parts of this trip were our walks home by the Louvre.
I found a lot of tips for traveling with toddlers and a lot of tips for traveling with babies/newborns, but not a lot for traveling with a one-year-old. They are their own beast. They aren't babies who like to sit still and sleep a lot yet they aren't toddlers who can be bribed and like screens.
A lot of traveling with one-year-olds is luck. Your best bet is to stack all the odds in your favor so that your trip is as painless as possible for you and your fellow travelers.
Of course I am no expert, however we have taken our baby on 10 flights so far and he is 14 months old. Here are the best tips I gleaned from friends and blogs.
1) This age generally does not like screens. If they do, only for short bursts of time. We found a way around this by downloading some action/reaction games. Think iPhone and iPad games where you can draw. This was the only screen thing that worked for us. We also try to save screens for desperate times due to their short attention spans. We usually only turn on the screen for landing, when babies are most likely to lose it.
2) Dress them in their cutest outfit for the flight. It's harder to dislike a well-dressed baby.
3) If they do have a major meltdown on the plane, take refuge in the bathroom. Those walls muffle sound really well. Think how loud it is in the bathroom when you flush the toilet, versus how loud it is outside the bathroom. People will still be able to hear your screaming baby, but it won't be ear-splitting.
4) Go with the flow. Our kid is not big on toys. He was amused by the things around him, such as the seat tables that opened and closed, the seatbelts, beating on the in-flight TV, the barf bags etc. Let your one-year-old play with whatever piques his interest.
5) If you do decide to bring toys, bring office supplies or toys from the dollar store. Think stickers, post-its, notebooks for ripping, straws, things that open and close, small things that can be put in containers (barf bag?) and taken out again. Don't let your kid see them before you get on the plane to increase the novelty. One blog I read suggested wrapping them in crepe paper for the kid to unravel. That didn't really work for us.
6) Everyone knows the trick about breastfeeding or bottle feeding as you take off/land. Sometimes that doesn't work out though. Some other things that work are: sucking on a pacifier, crunchy snacks, and baby food in packets. Most one-year-olds aren't all that interested in liquid feedings, but anything that gets their jaw moving will appease their tiny ears. Start with the food right as the flight attendant announces the descent, or sooner if possible. Ask the flight attendant to warn you when you will start losing altitude.
7) Try to sit near other kids. This age loves kids about the same age or a little older. Extra bonus if you find a seat next to a girl aged 8-12. They will usually be as interested in the baby as the baby is in them.
8) Ask for a bassinet. Some airlines carry bassinets, especially on long-haul flights. They say they will only give them to 9-month-olds or younger, but most flight attendants take pity on parents and hand out bassinets willy-nilly. They don't REALLY fit in there, but it gives you a place to store your stuff. And if they do fall asleep and you're able to transfer them, it suddenly becomes the easiest flight ever.
9) A little infant Tylenol and infant Benadryl go a long way. Of course follow the recommendation of your doctor and use weight-based dosing scales, but I find it helps everyone feel at ease to have these two bad boys in your carry-on for sleep/teething emergencies.
10) Try to make sure they get a good night's sleep and their normal naps beforehand and stick to their schedule as much as possible. Most of the meltdowns happen when they are overtired.
11) SNACKS! Our one-year-old is the slowest eater. We bought ourselves so much time giving him snacks.
12) Eat your in-flight meal in shifts if there are two parents there. I had the stewardess hold mine in the back and I went to get it hours later. It's too hard to both eat at the same time, don't bother trying.
13) Take full advantage of gate-checking the stroller. We didn't really end up using the stroller, but you need a lot of stuff when you travel with children. We had the baby in the backpack and used the stroller to tote our suitcases through the airport.
14) Look online ahead of time on the airline's website to see what is allowed for children. Most lap-children are allowed their own piece of checked luggage.
15) If it really is a disaster just repeat to yourself THIS FLIGHT WILL END over and over again. But, if you go in prepared, it probably won't be a disaster! Good luck!
No, I am not pregnant. But we are adding to the Get Globetrotting family! Meet LENORE!
She's my sister and possibly a more avid traveler than I am. She's going to be planning trips right alongside me as well as handling a lot of the marketing of GG. She's collaborated with me on a few trips so far and let me tell you... you guys are in for a treat!
We are also going to be working together on improving the blog so that there is always something new to see when you visit the site. Scroll down for an introduction to Lenore's trips!
After we got to our hotel from the flight, we all fell asleep right away, which means we woke up at 4 and were ready to go!
We decided on a walk to the Eiffel Tower, just for the heck of it. We bundled everyone up and away we went. It was so romantic walking along the Seine with nobody else there!
We were looking for food the whole time but nothing was open! We were starting to get desperate when we finally found a boulangerie near the Eiffel Tower. We ordered and waited and waited and waited. The food took forever! Finally, we just canceled our order and moved on. I felt bad, but Lorenzo was done. The next thing we did was admire the sunrise over the Eiffel Tower. This was an experience I won't soon forget! We were in shadow still as the Eiffel Tower lit up with the sunrise.
After we got our fill of Eiffel Tower pictures, we filled up on croissants for us and Pom Potes (squeezable baby food) for Lorenzo. We hopped on bus #69 and took a driving tour of the city. Unfortunately it was still dark so we couldn't see much. We got off at the last stop which was Pere Lachaise cemetery. Alex was apprehensive about touring a cemetery but I talked him into it. What better place to feel dead from jet lag than a cemetery?
It ended up being an OK experience. We were all really tired by this point, so we quit the walking tour after Jim Morrison's grave. We took Lorenzo out for a pack break in a highly trafficked area of the cemetery. He was being absolutely hilarious. Every time someone walked by he would give a little fake cough and then light them up with a huge smile. Probably my highlight of the whole day. He is such a charming baby.
We went to find food before taking the bus home. It was then that I ate my best Croque Monsieur of the whole trip. It was a double layered Croque with cheese in each layer and cheese on top and bottom of the bread. What really made it excellent was the pepper throughout. Yum.
We got back to our hotel and conked out for a five hour nap. Whoops. When we woke up, I was panicked that we slept half the day away! All we could handle that night was a walk around our neighborhood and dinner at a French restaurant during which Lorenzo looked like this:
We ate in shifts. There were some boys playing soccer outside the restaurant and Lorenzo really enjoyed watching them. The menu was only in French so neither of us had any idea what we ordered. I ended up eating pork with some delicious apple glaze and polenta. Alex got a steak. It was fantastic. I need to take up French cooking. More butter. I think this was the only time we really sat down to eat an actual meal. In retrospect, I wish we had eaten more French food even if we did have to eat in shifts.
I love learning about why people go on trips. Is it for an anniversary? For fun? Did you get a raise or a promotion? Feeling tired of your life? A reward for something? What spurs people to travel?
In this case, I wanted a reward for completing the first year of motherhood and breastfeeding for a year. I was adding bits of my old life pre-motherhood in bit by bit. The last element that needed to be added was travel. I had also just gotten a new job. Throw in Lorenzo's first birthday and our fifth anniversary and it was time to celebrate!
I looked for deals for the whole months of September and October which are my favorite times to travel. It's still warm but there aren't a billion tourists everywhere.
Little did I know that we would buy our first house before the trip came around! I actually contemplated canceling it because the house buying process was so stressful and expensive. But I am glad I didn't because time away from the house was exactly what we needed.
We decided on Paris because I had planned a few trips there and was dying to go. I figured it would be a good place to take Lorenzo because it's known for being family friendly and there are lots of parks. We signed up for a fancy credit card and cashed in the points for the hotel. I decided on staying in a super central hotel over an Airbnb this time because our credit card had deals with hotels. I cared less about being in a realistic Parisian neighborhood and more about being close to everything so we could come back if the baby fell apart. So far the only annoyance was that we don't have a refrigerator! Having a 24 hour concierge is super nice however.
I planned us a detailed itinerary giving scheduled breaks for naps and wiggle time between activities. We brought our stroller and our baby backpack and I researched each place to decide which will be better for each attraction. I probably prepared what we brought for a good two weeks to make sure we would use every item. We managed to pay no extra luggage fees which I was proud of.
We packed SUPER light. I only packed 5 shirts so we intend to do wash once during our 10 days. I rented warm clothes for myself because I have no use for them in LA. I wish I packed warmer clothes for the baby but we don't really have them and I intend on buying them in Paris. I brought a million snacks to entertain him on the flight. I also bought a bunch of toys at the dollar store and wrapped them each in crepe paper to provide maximum entertainment per toy. Also we can just toss them when we are done. I gave the baby Tylenol which didn't work super well. He wanted to wiggle for the whole fight. He didn't scream for more than a few minutes at a time though so I consider the flight
The flight there went OK... the baby was teething. He sprouted three new molars that I found a few hours after we touched down. He didn't have any huge meltdowns, but he didn't sleep the whole flight and it was a red-eye!
This was hands down my favorite day in Paris. That's surprising because we almost didn't go to Versailles. Doing a day-trip meant poor Lorenzo would miss his long morning nap. I also despise crowds and everything I read about Versailles said that Versailles is worse than Disneyland when it comes to crowd management. However, my love of palaces won out over my disdain for crowds, so off to Versailles we went.
My original plan was to leave the hotel by 7 and be at the gates of Versailles when they opened. What ended up happening is that we all slept in until 8:30. Whoops. Luckily my guidebook had a tip that said another good plan for crowd management at Versailles was to arrive in the late morning after everyone else and start with Petit Trianon and Domaine du Marie Antoinette's first. Best tip ever.
We got on the train and Lorenzo fell asleep. A point in our favor. When we got off, we tried to take Phebus straight to Petit Trianon, but we missed it thanks to a non-helpful bus attendant. So we began to walk. We walked around the side of the whole palace. I think it was over a mile in all. Eventually we needed to stop for a break to breastfeed and regular feed. We made it to the Grand Trianon first. The interior was ok. My favorite thing about it was the pink marbled exterior. Lorenzo's favorite thing about it was the stairs.
After we finished that palace, we tried to go to Marie Antoinette's palace but got lost in the hedge maze on the way. It was actually really fun to walk where there was absolutely no one else. Life goal: own a hedge maze. Probably not consistent with my other life goal to live out my days in California.
Next was the gardens and grounds around Petit Trianon. I loved all the details and the carefully maintained gardens. Lorenzo enjoyed the rocks. Literally. He kept putting them in his mouth.
I have a new fascination with landscaping now that I have an area to landscape myself. As I get older, I accumulate more interests. I guess that is a good thing, but it also means that there are no sections of Target where I don't want to buy things.
We continued on to the part of Versailles I was most excited to see, Marie Antoinette's Hamlet! While the peasants were starving around her, Marie Antoinette yearned for a simpler country lifestyle. She had a working dairy farm constructed so that she could enjoy the "simple country life." So it is a fake fairytale village. There is much historical debate on whether Marie Antoinette deserved her fate or not. How clueless was she about what was going on around her? Was she a victim of her circumstances? Whether or not she actually said her most famous quote about "Let them eat cake," is even disputed. Much of it may have been propaganda or yellow journalism. Also I learned that "cake" is not actually what we think of as cake, but it's the burned parts of the bread crusts. That statement is even more offensive than previously thought. I've read a few books about Marie Antoinette (one silly YA novel about her ghost and a very well done historical fiction novel) and I would love to read more. She is a fascinating historical figure.
Marie Antoinette's motives aside, her Hamlet was every bit as charming as I thought it would be! Everyone loved the fish and the farm animals. Yes, we went all the way to Paris to see farm animals. I also enjoyed the Korean family passing by exclaiming over the baby. Alex loves to surprise Korean tourists (there are a lot) by answering them in their native tongue. This was a good one. He told Lorenzo to bow to the family (a typical greeting in Korea) and the grandma was absolutely floored.
We ventured back to Petit Trianon. So the story of Versailles is this: Louis XIV built this amazing palace dedicated to himself. He called himself the Sun King. He moved the capital outside of Paris and basically "domesticated" the nobles by giving them leisure pursuits outside of the city hubbub. He was then free to run the country as he pleased without much meddling from the pesky nobles. His plan worked well, he ran the country for 70 years. At this time, Paris was the epicenter of European culture. Anywhere in Europe when you said "The King" you meant Louis XIV. He reigned through two successors and eventually Louis XVI took the throne. He did not have the ruling power his predecessor had. He married an Austrian princess Marie Antoinette and they retreated further from court life to Petit Trianon. Meanwhile, revolutionary fires simmered. The king spent lavishly while the commoners became more poor. Eventually, they stormed the palace (it was a group of storming ladies that got Marie Antoinette) and captured everyone. They then beheaded the whole royal family, as well as anyone else who got in their way. It got kind of crazy for a while, they were even beheading people on their own side for minor offenses. Marie Antionette accidentally stepped on the foot of the executioner as she was lead to the guillotine and apologized. Ever the lady until her last breath. From this madness, Napoleon took power and began to conquer Europe. One thing I found to be a total mind-trip was that Louis XVI actually met with Benjamin Franklin before the French revolution. This guillotine madness was not that long ago! American Revolution: 1776, Louis XVI and American diplomats meet: 1778, French Revolution: 1789-1799. They must have gotten some ideas from us. I hope the guillotine wasn't one of them.
After seeing where royalty retreated, we were ready to see where they lived. We went in through the side entrance to the right of the gates when you are facing the palace directly. No wait! Compare that to the two plus hour we walked by that morning. We let Lorenzo wiggle in the courtyard as we switched off touring the different parts of the palace. We decided to take him with us when we went to the Hall of Mirrors. Big mistake. He loved his echo in there and it was so packed we couldn't move quickly. We exited and allowed him to play in the courtyard some more. The courtyard ended up being my favorite part of Versailles, so it worked out. Although you could see less with a baby, I ended up enjoying the things I did see even more because I got more time there to inspect.
One mantra I always try to remember while traveling is to pretend you will return. This allows you to maximize your time and energy in each location. If something is closed or will take too long, that's find. Now you have a reason to return! There is just no way you are ever going to see EVERYTHING in any city, even if you live there. So take a deep breath, put your itinerary away, and enjoy what you do get to see.
We then left Versailles and got back on the train. Lorenzo fell asleep on the walk there. We had a funny moment where he was sleeping on the train and he woke up facing the row across the way from us. At first he didn't see anyone he recognized and he made THE saddest face I've ever seen. I will never forget that face. When we got home, we fed him and let him wiggle on the bank of the Seine. Alex was so tired after this day, so I ventured out to get Asiatique, which is to-go Asian food buffet that is very popular in Paris right now. A trend I can get behind.
A major thrust of elementary education is ethnic heritage as an attempt to connect children who live in small childlike worlds to the greater world. They're frequently asked to bring in outfits or food from their ancestral home, which, once you get to second and third generations immigrants, is a bit of a stretch. But now my kids have been there and experienced the culture. Though they're little, they understand a little bit more about who they are. And experiencing that was magical.
Thailand has the exotic animals and the jungles, but it also has a rich culture of religion and mysticism. There is something absolutely magical about the architecture both in the temples and outside every shop and home. There's the Buddhist influence of over 4,000 temples peaking out around every corner, the folklore represented at nearly every home, the large Muslim population, and the historical Khmer Hindu-Buddhist ruins. That's a ton of religious history.
The official religion of Thailand is Buddhism and the most important temple is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is on the same premises as the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is the current resting place of the beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej who died last October 2016. There were great lines of Thai people in black waiting to pay their respects. The entire country is covered with shrines to this great king (it's a constitutional monarchy) who served for 70 years. On the anniversary of his death in October 2017 there will be a giant giant giant party. Nearly every Thai person we saw wore an image of the late King around their necks and he is worshiped nearly like a deity. His son, however, is not. It's forbidden to speak ill of the leaders but you can tell the Thai people think the new king is a bit of a turd with poor morals. So the previous king's visage is every where. I had no idea that amount of black drapery existed in the entire world. Likewise, and less magically, I had no idea the amount of black wiring that existed in the world. Most of it is in Thailand. They have some wiring problems and it takes a walk of about one block to be reminded that Thailand is very much a second world in the city, third world in the country type of place. But for all their faults, they loved their king.
The Palace grounds and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha left my eyes spinning with glorious mosaic beauty. I have never seen anywhere more beautiful that the buildings and temples there and at Wat Pho. To think of the labor and artistic precision it must have taken to create these structures boggles the mind. Every tiny little tile and golden adornment, layers upon layers, buildings and buildings. Man, these people can make some serious decor. All of the roof swirlies (I'm sure they have names) and the mythological creatures all decked out in tiny tiling are sights to behold. Go to Thailand to witness the artistry alone.
Nonetheless, we enjoyed explaining the worship of a statue which seems in opposition with LDS teachings about worshipping idols. We got into a long discussion about idolatry that resulted in the general agreement that anything that leads you to God and peace is good. I love the overlap of religious activities. For example, before entering the temples there is a station for symbolic washing. You cannot go in without your shoulders and legs being covered and you must remove your shoes. You assume a posture of reverence, specifically including not pointing your feet directly at the Buddha. And to worship you kneel. There were special places where only Thai people were allowed to kneel before the Buddha and my children felt special and honored to be included in that opportunity. They said they prayed for me. Thanks, dudes. I need it.
After our visit to the ornate Emerald Buddha (who, by the way, gets his clothes changed by the King seasonally) we found our first tuktuk and headed for food. I love tuktuks. I want one so badly. They're the perfect form of transportation. You tell the driver what you want and he tells you how much and you pretend to walk away and he drops his price and you all pile in (yes, all six of us in one) and zooming away you go. They're a fraternity and since the tuktuks are open air the drivers often talk to each other and ask directions. There are few things more exhilarating than zooming around in tuktuks. I found their prices were usually totally fair because sometimes things are far and they have to navigate around a ton of traffic. To this guy we said "we need delicious food" and ten minutes later we were stuffing our faces.
Ok, next to Wat Pho. We went to Wat Pho because it's the birthplace of Thai massage, but it more famously houses the biggest Buddha in the world (? Idk if it's the biggest, but it's hella big) called the reclining Buddha. A Buddha after my own heart. Napping Buddha.
We signed in to the massage school and right as a downpour started all six of us lay down for our massages. The best. Anybody who knows me knows I am a Thai massage believer. In Thailand they only cost $7. I probably know where the good one is in your city if you deserve a treat.
Jude fell asleep. The rest of my crew was entirely converted and thus began our nearly every day Thai massage routine.
The second part of our Tour with Tong was a visit to the elephants. As soon as we got there we pulled up to little bamboo huts one of which served as a little home for a baby elephant. We paid our $30 and up sauntered three giant elephants.
By the way, I am not an animal person. In fact, I'm a little afraid of all animals. But here I am with all these little kids around me and I have to pretend that I think this is a totally normal and comfortable thing to do: climb up and sit on a twenty foot tall beast who could kill me. I turned to the Hippie with tears in my eyes and begged him not to make me go and then promptly turned to my boys and forced them crying onto the elephants. It all happened rather quickly and soon all six of us were marching toward the River Kwai on elephants and I was shaking in fear and pretending for my kids that everything was going to be fine. I've never been so scared in my life and not three hours before I'd been bitten by a tiger.
Down the steepest hill we went, crashing into the water, and then guess what the stinking' elephant's favorite thing to do is? Dive of course. And so scuba diving we went as the elephants fully submerged themselves. Surprisingly, once we were in the water we were all a lot less scared. They didn't seem quite so big because so much of their bodies were underwater. They were not aggressive and the guides who rode with us didn't use any kind of force to get them to do activities with us. The people running the place were very affectionate with the animals and the energy I got from everybody involved was that, though certainly these are wild animals made tame, the people loved being with the elephants and treated them like horses or dogs that they loved and enjoyed. I obviously do not know the psychology of elephants but they seemed to be having a lovely time lounging about in the water and spraying us.
There are two activities that cause me to bolt out of bed in the morning. The first is in-utero baby appointments, the second is international flights for adventures. We ubered from Danville to SFO where we met up with the Hippie (I was going to nickname him the Gift on here because he's been such a gift in our lives this last half year, but the Hippie seems to get more to the experience of being around my darling beautiful brilliant boyfriend) and his 11 year old Blake. They caught one flight and we caught another, both to Tokyo but to DIFFERENT AIRPORTS. Ha. Check your airports friends.
The vans in Bangkok are my second dream vans. Toyota makes these fancy 9 or more passenger vans with tricked out interiors. I wish they were available in America bc all moms would drive them.
The next morning the Hippie had arranged a killer tour through a company we found through Trip Advisor: Tours with Tong. The guide Lily spoke pretty good English and was totally accommodating to our needs for snacks and bathrooms. There was a tour guide and a 9 passenger van driver which cost about 4000 baht for the day. That's about $120 American. Cash is king in Thailand so if you go show up with about $300 in baht. Every couple of days I took out another $300 which we used to pay drivers, take tuk tuks, pay for food, pay for everything. For the 6 of us combined I'd budget about $100/day maybe for everything? Our hotel for all 6 of us was about $50/night in Bangkok (we had to move from Meg's to access our cooking class) and our AirBnB in Phuket was about $100/night. Here are the links of where we stayed, in case you're planning. I would ABSOLUTELY stay at the AirBnB in Phuket again. I want to buy it. Here's Urban House and here's the magical AirBnB: Rawai
Our first stop was about an hour and 30 outside of Bangkok so we saw the countryside before we saw the city. Every other block had a glamorous Buddhist temple with the golden curly and ornate detailing. Thailand feels magical because of these gorgeous buildings looming around every corner resplendent with mirrored tiled mosaics. The monks really outdo themselves. Each home dwelling also has a spirit home shrine in front of them which look like mini temples. We learned that the Thai people believe strongly in folklore and mythology so you see a lot of sparkly guys with masks and magical animals. More on that at the Siam Niramit show.
Destination 1 was one of the main motivations of this trip: my kids wanted to see animals. There's a zoo in Kanchanaburi where they keep the baby animals separate so that guests can interact with them. For $15 you can go into the cages one by one and feed these baby animals bottles. They are not sedated but they are chosen because of their age and temperament. Each animal has a cat nanny who works with it daily and goes in there with you. You feel at risk for scratches but the animals are babies for the most part or, in the case of the the lion Jude hung out with, it is just a really mellow beast that has never scratched nor bit anyone ever.
Not so with the tigers.
In went Jude to the young lion's cage. He was appropriately nervous because feeding animals with bottles is different from his extensive experience feeding babies. They eat aggressively. And they're thicker than house cats so you have to pet roughly. It started out apprehensive but then became snuggle time.
Next up went Blake and Silas into the baby lion cage. There were two snuggly lions who were like teddy bears. One of them latched on to Blake's hand but didn't break the skin. They were both brave and they loved it.
Then Mimi went in with the leopard. She put on Jude's shirt in case they crawled on her shoulders, which they did. Beautiful animals, leopards. She spent a lot of time playing with them.
It was my turn. I chose the tigers. I am an idiot.
There were four 4 month old tigers prowling around their cage. They were active. They were hungry. I threw caution to the wind and went in.
Of course when they told me to sit down over on the bench the tigers were milling around I thought "I should definitely not sit down on the bench the tigers are milling around." But I did it anyway because I am both brave and stupid. And one crawled on my back like Philo does every day and sunk his fangs into my shoulder. The guide happened to be filming and caught it on tape. I quickly pulled the tiger off and left the cage. When I took my hand away it was a bloody mess but in the chaos we didn't get a good picture of my bloody shoulder before the cat nanny pounced on me with iodine and bandaids. True to form, I could not stop laughing. It's my fear and pain coping mechanism and many of my babies have come into the world to the sound of my cackling.
After the incident everybody bullied me into feeding the nice lion that Jude fed. I did it and I didn't like it. I'm done feeding jungle cats.
Guess what! I just booked us a trip to Paris for a combined 5th wedding anniversary (what) and my son's first birthday! Best of all, we are only paying $800 RT for the three of us on a full-service nonstop flight. Yes! We are taking the baby. He will celebrate his first birthday under the Eiffel Tower. It is bound to be more enjoyable for me than his last birthday which was a world of pain and actually I don't remember most of it.
As I was booking this deal, it got me thinking. I've come a long way to figure out how to travel this cheaply. Since beginning this travel booking endeavor, I've had a few people ask me for the impossible, that is cheap plane fares when and where there are none. I am good at what I do, but I can't produce a miracle. Sorry. Here are my top tips for finding cheap travel deals.
1) PLAN IN ADVANCE!! I can't emphasize this one enough. Want to go somewhere in the summer? Start planning during Christmas. How about the winter? Start planning in the spring. This allows you to keep an eye open for deals. As a rule, the closer you get to your date, the more good stuff will be taken. I love Airbnb, but the good ones get snapped up quickly and you are left with the rentals nobody really wants.
2) Be flexible on either destination or date. I knew I wanted to go to Paris, but I didn't know when. My top choice was in the fall, but I also would have gone in the winter or the spring. As such, I kept an eye open for all those dates and eventually something came through.
3) Don't travel in July or during the last two weeks of December. The last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of August are also challenging. You will pay double, sometimes triple for the same trip. Do a road trip then or stay home. However, an international trip over Thanksgiving is doable because it is an American holiday. My favorite months to travel are: October, September, and February (warm destinations only).
4) Work through your bucket list. Instead of choosing ONE place, have a list of the next three places you want to go. Jump on the deals, as they don't last long. Next for us are Paris, Seoul, and Iceland. This helps narrow down opportunities and incentivizes you to jump on them when you see them.
5) Look into getting a travel credit card. We have one we really like and we ended up paying for our Paris hotel with our miles. Cha-ching! Also, many travel credit cards offer trip insurance and no foreign transaction fees.
Ask me for more specific advice tailored to your destination! Inquiry is free, we only charge $15 if you end up booking the flight (aka save a boatload of money). I am tuned in to a LOT of travel websites. I get many deals sent to me and I would love to pass them on.
If you've worked with me by now, you know I am a fan of budget airlines. I mean, why pay $1000 for a trip when you could pay $400 if you just plan ahead a little bit?
Here are my top tips for flying on a budget airline:
1) Pack light. If you can avoid checking a suitcase, you usually save yourself a large fee. Budget airlines bank on charging you for every little thing to make up for the low fare. We always bring one backpack and one small roller suitcase with a little bit of empty space on the way there.
2) Bring your own food. I can't emphasize this one enough. The main way these airlines make their money is by charging you when you are desperate. On the way there, I pack a HUGE lunch and dinner and snacks ahead of time. We both eat it on the plane and are happy as clams. I try to bring sweet things, fruit, veggies, crunchy snacks, and two main courses (sandwich and some sort of leftovers). On the way home, we make a stop at the grocery store wherever we are and load up on foreign grocery store food.
3) Bring TWO water bottles and fill them before you get on the plane. Most airlines don't charge for water, but another way they save money to get you a cheaper price is to down staff flight attendants. I have a serious fear of being without water for any amount of time (thanks pregnancy and nursing), so I hate waiting for a flight attendant to fill up my bottle.
4) Bring your own headphones! We are so bad at this. This is another way they get you. Many airlines offer TV, but charge you for headphones. So be one step ahead!
5) Lower your expectations. You get what you pay for. You are likely saving a TON of money flying budget, so if there are delays or things you don't expect, just roll with it. Honestly, it happens on nicer airlines too, so at least you aren't paying an arm and a leg to get delayed!
With a little advance planning, flying budget can be a great experience! It has been for us.
Shelley contacted me just a week before she wanted to travel with a request for a family Spring Break destination that was within driving distance. After going back and forth a bit, we settled on Pismo Beach.
It was a struggle to find an affordable hotel or Airbnb without much notice! All my favorite spots seemed to be booked. After a lot of phone calls and much searching, I found this adorable little place up in the green hills. Oftentimes when people go to Pismo Beach or any beach destination, they refuse to search for places that are not right on the beach. However, when you expand your radius, you can often find a gem in for a much more reasonable rate.
Here were her 4 favorite things she did, in her words:
1) Morro Rock was so cool we went twice.
2) We loved the ATVs and we had fun playing games at our Airbnb.
3) Marc and I liked Hearst Castle more than the kids did but I am totally good with that.
4) The elephant seals were super fun to watch.
Thanks for letting me plan your trip Shelley! You were super fun to work with. She's trusting GG with her Oahu itinerary next.
It is only $25 for a full-service weekend getaway planning, so if you've been thinking about trying out GG, a weekend getaway is a great place to start.
One of my intentions for starting this blog was to feature different trips that people have gone on for inspiration! My sister just got back from Costa Rica and had a fabulous time, so I asked her to share. Here are 5 Q&As about her trip to Costa Rica!
Q1: Why Costa Rica?
We wanted to go somewhere we'd never been before, somewhere warm, and not too far away or expensive.
Q2: What was the best thing you did there?
River rafting the Pacuare river. We had a boat guide who happened to be missing one of his eyes and he was the BEST wildlife spotter. He could spot a monkey so far away we thought that he was making it up, but as we got closer, there it was!
Q3: What advice do you have for someone who wants to take this trip?
Fly. Costa Rica's attractions are far apart but you can drive to them. Most people rent a car and drive around the country. The roads are bad and crowded and not well marked and it eats up days of valuable vacation time to drive. I would recommend flying within the country on puddle jumpers. We are so glad we spent the extra money to do that.
We also brought plenty of dollars (about 500) in small denominations to hand out as tips and we are glad we did. Skip the Arenal volcano town of La Fortuna (too touristy) and go to Monteverde instead.
Q4: What was the best animal you saw?
I loved the mammals. Sloths and monkeys.
Q5: Was there anywhere that really impressed you with their service?
Yes, Tortuga Lodge had excellent service and I would highly recommend it. The company also has a lodge in Monteverde that we wish we had stayed at.
Disclaimer: I did NOT plan this trip. She used a local tour company called Costa Rica Expeditions. If you are the kind of person who likes a very guided experience I recommend using a local tour company and can help you find the best one for your budget.
It's been about a month since I launched Get Globetrotting. I have been excited by all the interest so far! Planning trips is so rewarding; I am glad I took the plunge and started doing it for real!
I've had some inquiries about exactly what it is that I do. Here is what you will get for a $40 full-week trip planning service.
Overview: This is your trip on one page with a brief list of activities organized by day.
Interactive Map: Everything you're going to see color-coordinated and laid out on a map. This is when it's handy to have a husband who is a Data Scientist. ;)
Booking Checklist: An itemized list of everything to book before leaving on your trip. This includes things such as hotel information, flight information, and any activities that require advance booking. All of the websites and prices for everything are included in this list, so it's easy to get a snapshot of how much a trip will cost. This is one of my favorite things to provide for my clients because it ensures that they don't miss anything important by not planning ahead! One example of an activity that requires advance booking: Da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan. I'm still kicking myself for not getting advance tickets because we didn't get to see it!
Detailed Itinerary: This is the meat and potatoes of your full trip package. Every day is laid out for your traveling ease. I use Rick Steves, blogs, museum websites, Pinterest, and personal experience to craft the perfect trip. All you have to do is tell me the ages and interests of your group. One lady just sent me her Pinterest board and I planned her whole trip off of it. Here is an example of the level of detail for one day in Paris for a couple in their 30's. Of course it looks different than the trip to Paris I planned for a family of four.
Morning: Orangerie Museum. Either follow the tour or just go in and experience Monet’s Water Lillies for yourselves. (RS tour p. 191)
Directions: Metro stop Concorde or bus #24. The museum is in Tuileries Garden where you will be spending the day.
Midday: Reservations at Angelina. This place has the best hot chocolate in all of Paris! Their pastries are also delicious. Some of their food can be overpriced, so you may want to find some lunch elsewhere and then come here for the pastries and hot chocolate.
Address: 226 rue de Rivoli
Note: There is also another macaroon place worth knowing about near here. If you can stand it, maybe visit is after the Tuileries Garden. It’s called Laduree boutique and the address is 14 Rue de Castiglione.
Afternoon: Tuileries Garden: Go find the toy sailboat rentals and the Ferris wheel. Make sure to get a nice break outside between museums. Wander over and check out Pont des Artes, a bridge over the Seine where lovers put a lock on the bridge and throw the key into the river. Other option: go home and rest before your night at the Louvre.
Evening: Louvre. Fantastically huge museum with the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo. Open until 21:45 on Wednesday nights only. Museum passholders can enter through the group entrance in the pedestrian passageway (labeled Pavilion Richelieu) between the pyramid and Rue de Rivoli. It’s under the arches a few steps north of the pyramid; find the uniformed guard at the security checkpoint entrance, at the down escalator. Allow about 2-3 hours here at least, so arrive around 6 pm. (RS tour p. 131)
And there is your peek into how GG works!
The absolute best money saving thing you can do while traveling (besides having me plan your trip!) is to grocery shop!
When I travel somewhere, I like to pretend like I live there. Do the people who live in Paris eat out for every single meal? I'm pretty sure they don't.
Some of my favorite travel memories include traipsing around the grocery store trying to figure out what to buy and decoding packages in different languages. It's just fun to pick out weird mustard and try new candy bars. Grocery shopping makes me feel like I am actually experiencing the country rather than just being a tourist.
This is not to say you can't go out to eat. Honestly, when we were in Italy, we ate at restaurants twice a day. I had a friend who went to four pizza places in one day. Goals. But in Norway? No offense to Norway, but their restaurant food is overpriced and not super delicious unless you like very salty fish. Their chips and bread though? Unforgettable. I miss those blue Norwegian Doritos. Also they happen to have a scary looking do-it-yourself bread slicer in each of their stores. We figured out how to work it and still managed to keep all of our digits, though the directions were not in English.
Here is a sample list of things we buy when we touch down in a new country: bread, some sort of meat, cheese, mustard, Nutella, fruit, cereal, milk, plastic bowls and spoons, baggies. We bring along a little lunch bag and always have some food to eat on our person. This keeps us from getting hangry or getting stuck at an overpriced tourist trap restaurant. It encourages us to seek out worthwhile food instead of eating for convenience.
This also helps me to not have travel scurvy. I am not talking about the ten pounds you gain while traveling, (can't help you there) but the feeling of being constantly stuffed and not eating fruit or veggies. Plus, picnics! The only thing to make a beautiful sight better is to have food to enjoy while viewing it.
Here are three trips I've been working on this week. I love thinking about what the families will want to do, perusing travel books and blogs, and then finally writing it all up. I've been working hard to tailor the trips to the interests and ages of the people going, while also keeping costs low. It's not as easy as you might think!
10 days in Paris for a family of four. This trip has been SO fun to plan. I'll be honest, I am scanning flight deals for my family to go to Paris and follow this trip because it looks so fun. This family is interested in art, pastries, strolls, and flea markets, so I put together an itinerary that has all of these things! I also peppered the busy days with some leisurely park days so that their children don't get too exhausted. Alex has been doing some fancy computer coding to get an interactive map for this trip, something I hope to be able to offer for all trips eventually. ($35 for 10 days and the interactive map.)
5 days in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This trip is for a mom and her three adult daughters. They are really adventurous and wanted a trip filled with waterfalls, hiking, temples, and animals. So I spent a while researching ethical animal parks and amazing hikes around Chiang Mai. They are also going to the most famous temple at dawn to watch the sunrise. That will be an unforgettable day! ($25 for 5 days, airfare, and hotel.)
4 days in Branson, Missouri. This trip is for two retired couples. Apparently there are a crazy amount of shows in Branson! One challenge with this trip was actually getting them to Branson. It's not a huge city with a big airport hub, so finding flights at a reasonable price was very challenging. I had to use a lot of different price scanners to nail down the best fare. I also found them a hotel within walking distance of all the shows! ($15 for a weekend getaway.)
Hopefully this gives you a bit more of an idea of what I do. So far, I am loving travel planning. The deal for February is half off all travel planning. Get your spring and summer trips all planned now! There are some great summer travel deals going on. Ask me for more details!
Want to hear a funny story? My husband Alex and I were traveling in Taiwan. It was near the end of our trip and we were both exhausted. We were at the Chiang Kai-shek memorial and he flat-tired me so I glared at him. And so began WWIII. We were so mad at each other!
We continued to bicker until we got back to our Airbnb. I couldn't stand looking at him for one second longer, so I went to shut myself in the bathroom. I forgot that we had accidentally booked a weird Airbnb that happened to have a glass bathroom. So after I slammed the door, Alex just waved at me from the other side of the glass because we were still face-to-face!
You really get to know people while traveling, which can be good for a relationship or very very bad for it. You are in stressful situations together but also experiencing new and amazing things together. It's normal living elevated.
Here are my top five tips for ending a trip without ending your marriage.
1) Never let yourselves get both hungry AND tired at the same time. That was our mistake in Taiwan. We kept sightseeing through dinner when we were already tired. If one tank is empty, fill the other. So if you can't get food, take a rest. If you are trying to fight jet lag, make sure you are eating enough.
2) Have a clear set of duties. For example, I like to plan the trip and Alex likes to navigate when we get there. This way we feel like we are both contributing. Neither part of the couple feels like they are doing the work or like they are being dragged everywhere without giving their input.
3) Take turns choosing things to do. I want to see the Barbie museum so I must accompany him to the Ferrari factory. Don't let one person choose every single activity!
4) Have a budget decided on beforehand for the day. This saves you from many little arguments throughout the day every time your spouse wants to stop for gelato. Four times a day for Alex, I kid you not.
5) Take time away from each other! In real life (not on vacation) you spend time away from each other. One thing that Alex and I like to do is have designated phone time when we hit wifi or my personal favorite, a reading meal. We both bring our books and read as we eat at a restaurant. No talking allowed.
6) Ok I said 5, but your last tip is to travel with Alex. He is the best and most thoughtful travel partner in the whole world, even if he does blow all our money on ice cream.
Happy Valentine's Day everyone! Don't forget to take advantage of GG's deal today. Romantic getaway budget estimates for only $5! No booking required.
One of my friends just posted: "Every time somebody tries to sell me something on Facebook, an angel loses its wings." I laughed. I agree, there are far too many people trying to sell you stuff you don't need on all forms of social media! Disclaimer: I buy a lot of it, marketing works on me.
Get Globetrotting is not trying to sell you something you don't need. I started this service for a few different reasons:
1) I recently quit my nursing job to be a stay-at-home mom. I enjoy staying at home with my baby, but now I have some extra time I didn't have previously. I loved being able to serve people every day as a nurse. Becoming a travel planner will help me continue to serve people AND use my brain.
2) I noticed that friends and family were spending too much money when traveling because they didn't have the time to properly research and find deals. I've made something of a hobby out of finding great deals on self-planned trips for my husband and I.
3) I also noticed that when I got back from my trips, people would say things to me like: "I could never afford to take a trip like that," or "I have too many kids so I can't travel," or "I could never figure out how to work Airbnb," etc etc. I want to help people solve these problems because I believe travel is important and affordable if you are organized!
The idea is that I will actually save you cash in the long run by using GG's services, not take your hard-earned money for things you don't need.
Additionally, I am giving away a lot of services this month so that you can see what GG is all about! That's right, free stuff!
So what is it that I am giving away?
Get Globetrotting plans either complete trips or portions of trips tailored to the group's budget and interests. For example, I am currently working on activities for a family of four who are going Paris in April. They submitted their travel dates and interests, I sift through travel books, blogs, and Pinterest to give them a day-by-day itinerary that's perfect for their family.
Other services include: airfare research, accommodation research, cruise and tour information, weekend getaways, and advice on a pre-existing travel itinerary.
Travel Tip Numero Uno: Get rid of that huge suitcase. You know the one. It's too huge to fit down any airplane aisles. Toss it. Or use it to store Christmas stuff, I don't care just do NOT take it with you.
"But I'm going for two weeks, how will I fit everything??" You will. Trust me. You just need to pack better and possibly do laundry once.
Here's what will happen if you take your giant suitcase with you:
- You will likely have to pay extra baggage fees.
- You will not fit down any train aisles.
- You will not be able to store your luggage in a locker while exploring cities.
- You will have to heft it up and down stairs unless you are rich and can hire someone to do it for you.
- You will be sorry.
Less is more when gallivanting off around the world! So do yourself a favor and pack light.