404 Travel Advice

Count: Children & Bags + Learn Numbers

C

I’m loosely following the theme of “the A to Z’s of family travel” for this challenge. I was kind of stuck on what to write about for C, though. So, I turned to my husband and asked him. His response? Count your children before you get off the train.

We only have two children. Two children that I’m leaving him with while I head off to London for a mom’s getaway next week.

I’m worried.

But, he does have a point.

No – counting children is not an A-Z of family travel, but learning to count in the language of the place you visit is.

This is a basic thing that kids can learn at a very young age. Something they’ll be able to use at almost every shop and site they visit. Something that will give them more of a connection to the place. Something they’ll likely remember when they get back home.

Counting in a foreign language: More than words

And counting goes far past actually saying the numbers.

In the US we show our number signs by starting with the index finger for one, add the middle finger for two, etc.

In Europe we show numbers by starting with the thumb for one and moving down the line. (Remember that scene in Inglorius Basterds when the guy, pretending to be German in a flawless accent, gets called out because he uses the wrong gesture to signify two beers? This stuff is important.)

In China, finger counting is the same as the US from 1-5, but then switches dramatically. Here’s a photo to show the basic method. There are some differences depending on where in China you happen to be, so do your research before committing to this example:

IMG_5356

This makes me wonder, what methods to other countries use when they want to count to 10.

Side note:

My husband also wanted to point out the importance of counting your luggage before you leave a train.

Now head on over to Have Blog Will Travel. They’re also participating in the A to Z Challenge, focusing on BC, Canada. (What method of finger counting do Canadians use?)

 
commander les huiles massages en lignespelling check online for freemicro SDHC

Airplanes with small children

Thanks to my friend DJ at Dream Euro Trip, I have decided to participate in this year’s A to Z challenge.

Today is brought to you by the letter A.

A

Airplanes and small children

As a mom who not only loves to travel with her clan, but also actively encourages others to do the same, the topic of flying with kids is one that is close to my heart. 

Many parents dread flying. We typically have no experience bringing our kids into an enclosed space with a bunch of strangers, limited in what we can bring to satisfy our kids, while depending on variables out of our control.

Sounds like fun a situation. Add the grief of knowing that most people around you have already decided that your children will ruin their flight, and I can see why more parents simply don’t want to do it.

If you are a parent traveling with a small child, ignore anyone around you who is not smiling. They’re either ignoring you or rolling their eyes at your decision to show your kid the world and you don’t need to pay them any mind. Know that your one job during this flight is to keep your child comfortable. It’s exhausting at times, but this is your responsibility. In the end, it will be ok. The flight will not last forever.

If you are traveling in the vicinity of a small child, think of it like turbulence. It can get bumpy, it can get uncomfortable. The person in charge is doing everything they can to fix the situation. It may be hard, you may need to wear your seatbelt (or headphones), but you will get to your destination.  

P.S. 24 Great Tips for Flying with Young Children

Even the Rijksmuseum is child friendly

Last week I found myself in Amsterdam aching to go to the Rijksmuseum. Aching? Really??

Yes!

On our previous trips to the city I had managed to avoid some of the city highlights, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s highlights. I’ve known that the Rijksmuseum was undergoing renovations, but that wasn’t the real reason I didn’t go.

I didn’t go because I’m just worried about my kids in an art museum.

It turns out, I had nothing to fear.

It turns out, the Rijksmuseum doesn’t mind kids.

It turns out, they even have special things for kids.

It turns out, I liked it so much, we went twice!

Rijksmuseum with kids, Part 1

(AKA: Does it count as a visit with kids if the kids were asleep the whole time?)

I’m not sure if I really intended actually going the first time we went. My kids were asleep in the stroller. The rest of our party was on a canal cruise and I needed to pass the time. I was sick, it was cold, and decided to just walk past the museums.

The day before we discovered just how long a long line could be. Even with a museum card or previously purchased tickets people had a serious wait in front of them. I thought if the line’s short, maybe I’ll go in. I approached the line and distracted myself by looking down into the lobby – the warm, inviting lobby.

Then someone said, “do you want to go in?”

Sure.

So he opened the obvious, not so obvious elevator and pushed “0” and we were on our way. (And for a while, I wasn’t even sure if he worked at the museum or was just someone walking by. I’ve since confirmed he DID work at the museum. I’ve also confirmed I’ll trust anyone that offers me warmth when I’m sick.)

Fortunately, I have a museum card for the Netherlands so I didn’t have to wait in line to buy tickets… because yes, the people that are waiting outside to get in then have to wait to buy tickets inside.

I walked past some renaissance art and headed for an area marked “Asian art” before finding a room called the Picknick room. There were placemats and blank postcards set up with colored pencils, art work, pencils, and pens inviting me to have a seat and draw. Which is exactly how I spent most of my time visiting the Rijksmuseum with kids the first time.

Rijksmuseum with kids, Part 2

(AKA: This time they’re awake!)

One reason we knew the museum was going to be child friendly was their map specifying a route that is interesting for kids. This included stops to see the Dutch Old Masters, doll houses, airplanes and more.

The highlight for my son was Rembrandt’s Night Watch. Not because he’s an art aficionado, but because of the excitement surrounding the piece and because the image is also used on the museum’s ticket. Plus, it’s massive.

rm2

Around that time we discovered removable information sheets located next to some of the photos. We played a game of locating the art work listed on the information sheets, and pointing out a detail or two before moving on. Some of the staff even helped us locate the pieces.

While it was fun exploring the museum, kids are still kids. Ok, to be fair, I need a lot of breaks when I’m visiting an art museum.

The Rijksmuseum cafe and Picknick room were both good places for adults and children for those breaks. The cafe has a children’s menu that includes the very popular hageslag (chocolate sprinkles) on bread, or cheese and bread. The presentation was just nice enough to make it feel like a special occasion.

rm1

After 4-5 hours at the museum, we headed back to our hotel. What was a big surprise to me is that the kids didn’t even nap while we were in the museum. I guess they were too caught up in the art, but it definitely exhausted them since they napped the whole walk back.

Thoughts and tips on visiting the Rijksmuseum with young kids

  • If you have a stroller you can avoid the long lines and enter via the outdoor elevator. It may take a little looking for, but it’s at the other end of the lobby from where the line forms.
  • It’s best to purchase tickets, or a museum pass, in advance.
  • It’s free for children under 18, but they will still need a ticket. When you enter the museum, the person checking your ticket will be able to give you one for your child.
  • You aren’t allowed to bring backpacks in the museum, so use a different bag to bring anything you will need for the children.
  • Keep your tickets or cards easily accessible because you have to show it at various entry points past the main entrance.
  • There are many elevators within the museum itself. The very first elevator you find will likely have a long wait, skip it and go to another one.
  • Go online and print pictures of some of the artwork you might encounter at the Rijksmuseum. Share those with your kids to start building excitement in the trip.

rm4

 

This post is part of the Instagram Travel Thursday linky hosted by Skimbaco LifestyleDestination UnknownChild ModeHines Sight BlogLive.Do.Grow.House of AnaïsLuxury Travel Mom. Click on any of those links to access all Instagram travel posts.

 apple smart case coversou vetement femme pas cherdutch to english free translationsite de lingerie erotiqueWT M3best binary options sites

San Francisco CityPass

sfo

We recently spent a few days in San Francisco.

We bought the CityPass.

It’s really easy to use. A coupon per attraction, 4 attractions, valid for 9 days, and a public transportation and cable car pass for 7 days. We already planned to go to all the places listed, so purchasing admission via one pass was the economical way to go. The question then becomes, are the sites included worth it? Here’s my feeling about the things we did and places we saw.

MUNI & Cable Car 7-Day Passport

The cable car, and MUNI, both get very crowded. With all the hills it’s understandable. As a family with two young kids, on vacation, we do a lot a walking. We keep our stroller with us. We didn’t use the public transport too often because it required folding the stroller if the bus/trolley was full.

In the mornings when we set out, awake and without any souvenirs crowding our baskets, we took the bus. At the end of the day one of the kids was likely sleeping and it was too much of a hassle. So, we just walked back.

Unfortunately, due to the long lines when we ready, and shorter lines when we weren’t, we didn’t get a chance to go on a cable car. But, we also didn’t go out of our way to try to find a way to ride one. It just wasn’t a priority for this trip. Don’t worry, San Francisco, we’ll be back when the kids are older.

sanfranexploratorium

Exploratorium -or- deYoung Museum

With the CityPass you can either go to the Exploratorium or the deYoung Museum. We’re a science center family so the Exploratorium was the obvious choice.

I loved this museum and wish we had more time there. It never felt crowded. The exhibits were not only captivating, but ranged in difficulty levels that kept the one-year-old, the almost three-year old, and the two thirty-somethings interested.

Among our favorites? A water fountain built into a toilet bowl (daring you to take a sip out of it), a stop motion camera set-up (that you can then email to yourself), and the marble machines (pictured above, and doesn’t it look easy to recreate at home?).

Aquarium of the Bay -or- Monterrey Bay Aquarium

With Aquarium of the Bay being right at Pier 39 and Monterrey Bay Aquarium being 2 hours away in Monterrey, my guess is most people will go with the Aquarium of the Bay when they buy the CityPass.

Unfortunately, the Aquarium of the Bay wasn’t one of our favorite aquariums. We enjoyed the two tunnels giving you a nice underwater experience, seeing all the schools of fish is amazing. Even with the two-year old who stopped at every fish, though, it was a quick tour. Our time would’ve been better spent in other areas of the city.

sanfrancruise

Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise

There are a lot of options to cruise the Bay, but this is the only one offered with the CityPass. I don’t know if it is the best or the worst, but it is one of the busiest.

The Blue & Gold Fleet is conveniently located between Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. The boats leave several times a day. The line gets long quick, so get there early to up the chances of securing a better seat. We sat on the top deck. Our preference is usually to sit inside (with two young kids it’s just easier), but the windows were extremely dirty. I don’t know if sitting inside is ever an option (there weren’t chairs there either), but if so, I do hope they clean them!

The information shared during the one hour cruise was interesting. It included facts about the different places we passed on the coast and how the Golden Gate got its name. We also cruised around Alcatraz to view it from a different angle.

Whether you go with this line, or another, definitely take time to see the city from the water.

California Academy of Science

Our short time in the city meant that we had to miss this stop. I’ve only heard good things, but can’t review it from personal experience.

San Francisco’s CityPass – Last Thoughts

If you are planning to see these sites anyway, get the pass. While the pass is valid for 9 days, each coupon can only be used once. It doesn’t allow multiple visits over the validity of the pass. The Exploratorium and Aquarium of the Bay, however, do allow same-day reentry.

We were able to do everything on the pass, aside from the California Academy of Science, in one day. And that’s with two children two and under. We could have easily spent more time at the Exploratorium. I think that’s worth a day on its own. However, we also could have completely avoided the Aquarium.

 keyword trackingLed Lensersouth beach miami condo

Christmas Markets with young kids

‘ Tis the season for… CHRISTMAS MARKETS!

PC010093

Now that we’re in our fourth Christmas season in Germany, we’ve come to look forward to the Christmas markets. We try to see as many as possible. It means a lot of advance planning to get the perfect combination of big city, small city, big market, and small market experiences. I usually rely on recommendations from friends and the information on the major markets on the German Christmas Market website. Don’t worry, my own family-friendly recommendations will be at the end of the post. (Also, updated 9 Dec 2013: I added a chart rating some of the German Christmas markets I’ve been to at the bottom of this post.)

PC010079

The wonderful thing about Christmas markets is that there is a little something for everyone. Matching stalls and twinkling lights, selling anything from handmade items to antique treasures to mass-produced decorations, fill the city centers. There’s usually at least one carousel ride for the kids, someone selling large balloons, and maybe even a ferris wheel to see the city from a new perspective. German festival food staples, such as bratwurst, mushrooms in garlic sauce, and fresh waffles and crepes are plentiful. Some markets include food stalls from other countries making it easy to try a variety of food in one place. Then there’s the drinks: beer, glühwein (hot mulled wine), hot chocolate, and kid punch – usually in some cute souvenir cup that’s worth collecting.

PC010087

 

Plus, it’s really inexpensive overall.

PC010092

The hardest part, especially for families with young kids, is the crowds.

PC010076

 

But, this isn’t the Black-Friday-snatch-the-last-barbie-doll-before-someone-else-gets-it type of crowd. It’s a community crowd. Young and old, it’s rare to find people who don’t want to be at the Christmas market. It can easily be an all day adventure. People stroll. They grab a small bite, stand at one of the benches, and chat. Check out the vendors, maybe grab a gift or two, and repeat. They keep warm with the drinks. The children ride the carousel. Young kids, snuggled up in their stroller, will likely fall asleep. There’s no rush. So, don’t let the thought of crowds deter you!

PC010081

 

 

If you’re thinking of going to Germany around Christmastime, it will be almost impossible to avoid the Christmas Market scene. Here are some tips to keep in mind when planning:

  • Though most, if not all, of Germany’s neighboring countries have their own Christmas Markets, German markets are extra special. Markets along the border can get busier during the day and on weekends because of the influx of day-trippers from other countries. There can be smaller crowds at night at those markets.
  • Most markets are located near big shopping areas. Most shopping areas are closed on Sunday.
  • While some vendors accept credit cards, most food and drink vendors do not. Bring plenty of cash.
  • For all drinks there is a deposit, or pfand, on the glass or mug. It’s a fun game to try to figure out which vendor has the best mug at each market. You can keep the mugs, or return them and get your money back.
  • Big cities will usually have multiple markets running at the same time. One that is always fun is the medieval market. The market doesn’t rely on electricity in their stalls for lighting or cooking.
  • If at all possible, stay at a hotel that offers a view of the city.
  • Most markets are free. For those that do charge an entrance fee, it is usually small. The only Christmas Market I remember paying an entrance fee for was the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin. It was completely worth it. The white stalls and twinkle lights are beautiful. The market is small compared to others, but with the atmosphere of the grand buildings, the orchestra playing, and the most amazing food I’ve had at any market, it’s a place I want to return to every year.
  • Erfurt’s Christmas Markets are another place worth visiting year after year. There are many markets between the New Town, over the quaint Merchant’s bridge with permanent shops set up on both sides, then down to the very large Domplatz in front of St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Church of St. Severus. Erfurt is beautiful throughout the year, but there is definitely magic in the air in December.
  • German Christmas Market season ends December 23. Many neighboring countries will continue their markets until the first week of January. See as much within Germany before they end, then venture to other countries. My favorites are in Antwerp and Edinburgh.
  • Holiday Nomad has a great comprehensive list of specific European markets visited and loved by other travel bloggers. Check it out.

Here’s a photo of my son looking down into Erfurt’s Christmas Market from our room at the Radisson Blu a few years ago.

2011

Wherever you live, do you have a favorite Christmas celebration?

Updated 9 Dec 2013: I’m including a table rating different Christmas markets I’ve visited on different aspects that I like looking for personally when traveling with my kids. In regards to the column “Stuff for kids” – any high score means that there’s a few rides for kids. Lower scores indicate there are no rides, but it’s possibly still child friendly. A score of 10 would mean that there’s rides as well as a children’s program that we attended.

[table caption=”German Christmas Markets” ]
City, Market Name, Time of Visit, Crowd, Food, Souvenir Mug, Quality of Goods, Atmosphere, Stuff for Kids
Berlin, Gendarmen Markt, Night, 9, 7, 10, 8, 10, 2
Berlin, Gendarmen Markt, Afternoon, 2, 7, 10, 8, 8, 2
Essen, Multiple in the City Center, Afternoon, 5, 7, 8, 8, 8, 7
Essen, Multiple in the City, Night, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 7
Erfurt, Multiple in the City Center, Night, 7, 8, 10, 8, 10, 7
Oberhausen, Centr”O” area, Afternoon, 7, 8, 5, 7, 8, 10*
Düsseldorf, Altstadt and Kö area, Afternoon, 7, 7, 8, 8, 7, 7
Köln, Zentrum/Dom area, Afternoon, 9, 10, 8, 9, 9, 4
[/table]

*Oberhausen’s Centr”O” area has a Sea Life Aquarium and Adventure Park, plus a Legoland Discovery Center. So within the vicinity of the Christmas market there are lots of activities for kids anyway. (But, I do believe they have Christmas market season-only activities for kids, too.)

 G808 JADE