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Success! Rotterdam with Kids

As I mentioned on Friday, we spent the weekend switching roles. I went to a conference for travel bloggers. My husband stayed with the kids at the hotel. We all survived to talk about it. Not only did we survive, we learned so much.

Their daily walk included crossing various bridges.

Their daily walk included crossing various bridges.

I learned that Rotterdam is now one of my new favorite cities (only because each building deserves its own moment of silence to observe its beauty and uniqueness), that I love listening to success stories (of which there were plenty), and I enjoy meeting like-minded people (yeah, I like hanging out with people who travel). I learned that my husband has no fear taking our two little ones out to explore the city (unlike myself who tends to stay closer to the hotel when I’m the trailing spouse), that my son’s love of all things transportation is still strong (and with views of the boats on the water and trams on the street this made for a fun time for him), and that I still missed them all like crazy even though they were never too far away (how is it possible that an 8 month-old can grow so quickly in a matter of hours?).

Both kids enjoying the Rotterdam Spido Harbor Tour

Both kids enjoying the Rotterdam Spido Harbor Tour

Since my husband stayed with the kids, here are his tips for visiting Rotterdam with kids.

  • Buy the Rotterdam Welcome Card. Available in 1, 2, or 3 consecutive days it gives the user access to all metros, trams and buses in the Rotterdam public transport network. It also offers discounts to many attractions around the city (and the booklet that comes with it let’s you know which of those attractions are family friendly). Plus, it saves having to buy tickets when the toddler in the group must get on the bus RIGHT NOW.
  • Eat a toastie, a small baguette cut in half filled with cheese and ham and melted. Be on the lookout for the toastie stand near a McDonald’s on Coolsingel. The other side of that building has a puppet theater.
  • Go on harbor boat tour. Sit on the right hand side of the boat (aka starboard) if you want to actually see anything. If you want to guarantee that no-one will sit with you, sit on the port side (aka left). They run 75 minutes while telling the story of Rotterdam, the city’s architecture, and the harbor. Only 10.75 EUR and kids under 3 are free.
  • For those with a stroller, note that there is only one place for trams on strollers, towards the middle of the tram. While waiting for the tram, stand towards that area.

We are looking forward to a return trip to Rotterdam to see some of the many places we missed: the Rotterdam Zoo, Maritime Museum, Kinderdijk and oh so much more.

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I’m Leaving on a Road Trip

Many travel-loving people worry how travel will change once they have kids. I was one of those people. Put me any place in the world and I’m usually comfortable. Make me adapt my travel plans because of little people I had yet to meet? No, thank you!

I found out I was pregnant one month before we moved to Germany. As excited as I was about the baby, I was also worried. No, I wasn’t nervous about giving birth in a foreign country (though that changed), or having no family within a one continent radius of where we lived (which is actually a blessing), or even how we were going to afford this bundle of joy (Germany has great programs for families.) I worried about how this baby was going to cramp our traveling style. We were moving to Europe! For two* years! And I had plans to travel, travel, and then travel some more. But, really, how could we do it between work obligations, financial obligations, and baby obligations?

First, I decided that I loved this baby too much to let it carry the burden of blame for why I couldn’t have the travel lifestyle I wanted. Then I decided I loved travel too much to not let my offspring experience it. And finally I decided that it was time to get crafty. And that meant business trips.

One thing my husband and I discussed before we had kids was his work and my work. My work was to stay home with the kids (which is something I wanted to do and is mostly rewarding), his work involved a lot of business travel. My husband likes travel a lot. I sleep, eat, and breath travel. I told him this: I want to be a stay at home mom (because working a 9-5 job with limited vacation time also ruins a nomadic lifestyle.) However, my greatest sadness (yes, I was this dramatic) would be to stay home while he went on all these fabulous business trips all over the world… sob, sob, sob.

So when he goes out-of-town for his work, we all go out-of-town for his work.

Except today.

Today, I am leaving for a travel blogger’s conference. And because I have a nursing 8-month old, the whole family is coming with me. And even though they won’t be at the actual conference, I’m pretty excited to have them all there. Being a trailing spouse on a business trip isn’t always easy. Now I get to see my husband’s POV when we go with him, and he gets to see mine. Even more importantly, my little ones will get to spend some quality time with their dad in a new place. I can’t wait to hear their stories at the end of every day.

Another thing I’m looking forward to? Adult conversation, about travel, with people who love it just as much as I do. Eating with people who, I’m pretty sure, don’t drop more than 75% of their food onto the floor. Using the iPad without little fingers trying to take it from me. And meeting all the bloggers. This will a great weekend.

One blogger I’m especially looking forward to meeting is Farrah from The Three Under. She’s an expat living in the Netherlands with her family. We live close enough that our families can (and will soon) get together to explore our host countries. She invited me to guest blog for her, so please go on over to her site and read more about my expat experience. Thank you for inviting me, Farrah!

*Our original plans to move to Germany for two years has been extended to indefinitely.villa in miami beach

Toddler Tantrums at Train Museums – Lessons Learned

Last Friday we went to see Thomas the Tank Engine. It was a weekend exhibit at Het Spoorwegmuseum (Railway Museum) in Utrecht, Netherlands.

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It was crowded. Beyond belief.

I know. I know. Kids love Thomas.

We thought we were doing things right. We went there on a work day instead of a weekend. We went in the afternoon to avoid the morning rush. But, I knew as soon as we parked that no amount of “avoiding the crowds” was going to avoid the crowds.

The website says in plain English that it gets busy (on a regular day, not even a THOMAS day). Parking fills up. It’s best to take the bus from the train station

We ignored their advice. There was street parking within a 10 minute walk, and with a 10 EUR price tag for 4 hours. The worst part was walking to the museum and seeing bus after bus driving by. Each one filled to capacity. Filled with families with strollers. Knowing those families and their strollers were going exactly where we were going.

My son loved posing for these photos.

So, in honor of my very crazy, hectic, trained-filled Friday at a really cool, crowded, toddler-friendly train museum, I share with you five tips for handling crowded tourist spots at lunch time.

Tips for Handling Toddler Tantrums at Lunchtime while at Museums.

  1. Lunch in Europe means 12:00. To avoid the rush, avoid that time. Now, I realize that this could be true everywhere. However, before kids I ate when I was hungry and that was rarely noon. My kids, though, they like their schedules. Since I’ve only had kids in Europe, this noon lunch-rush is something I associate with Europe.
  2. If a website tells you they are going to be busy on a normal day, and you are visiting on a day when a childhood idol is going to be in attendance, and you plan your arrival to avoid the morning rush, but not to avoid the lunch restaurant-rush… then eat before you go. There is absolutely nothing worst than standing in a long restaurant line with Thomas || this far away with a toddler that has forgotten he’s hungry. Unless, of course, you love starving with screaming toddlers in enclosed locations, and people staring at you and shaking their heads.
  3. If you spot a restaurant with an especially long line, ignore the map the attendant gave you that said there’s only one restaurant. Go ahead and just ask someone to be sure. Because some places actually do have the foresight to have more places to eat located throughout the museum grounds for this special occasion. Since they know it will be busy and all.
  4. If your toddler runs out the restaurant door to take matters into his own hands, leaving with you no option but to leave your baby girl in her stroller to chase after him, really emphasize in your facial expressions that you made eye-contact with your husband standing only a few feet away and he’s watching the stroller. That way, people won’t look at you like you are the worst mother for either having an uncontrollable toddler or leaving the baby behind unattended or both.
  5. Later, when you’re walk through the museum with your child satisfied with the trains he saw and no-one starving, take note. There are other families with screaming, crying children. It’s not just you. Smile and enjoy your day.

Have you had any really difficult days when taking your kids out to see something they love? Please share in the comments so I know it’s not just me.

This post is part of Travel Tip Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels. Click on the links for more great travel tips!les sextoys pour luiadvokatSigurabinary trading signals

National Mill Day

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There’s just something about windmills. Part nostalgia, part mystery, part “wow those look pretty cool”, and part environmentally friendly. The Open Air Museum in Arnhem, NL has an exhibit that includes looking into a Polder mill. Looking into this mill, you can’t help but appreciate the engineering involved in moving water and air. There are almost 1000 windmills throughout the Netherlands and tomorrow, they will all be  open to the public for viewing. It’s National Mill Day.

Here are some fun facts about Dutch Windmills.

  • There are eight mills in Amsterdam with one regularly open to the public, Molen van Sloten.
  • A nice day trip from Amsterdam is Zaanse Schans (pictured above). Aside from the eight windmills, you can ride a boat, see how wooden clogs are made, and see the first Albert Heijn grocery store.
  • Another popular place to see windmills is at Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage SiteThe 19 windmills are the main attractions, with walks, bike rides, boat rides, and even horse-drawn carriage rides and small flights to see them.  The story of “Cat and the Cradle” originated here.
  • Many of the nation’s windmills pumped water away from areas that needed to stay dry.
  • Windmills, though a popular Dutch icon, actually originated in France.
  • And one last fact, pictures just don’t do them justice.

 

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Open Air Museum Arnhem, in front of a smaller wind-driven drainage mill. It is also known as a spidermill.

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A day trip to Zaanse Schans is a nice way to escape the crowds in Amsterdam and learn more of the country’s history.

This post is part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

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Tips for Flying With Baby and/or Toddler

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24 tips to help make flying with babies and toddlers easier. My son’s first flight at 3 months! – TT

I love reading how people fly with their kids. There’s always something that I didn’t know, or something I forgot, or something that reassures me that I’m doing ok.

The following tips are based on things that have worked for me when I fly with my kids.

Selecting a Flight and Seats

  • Pick a time that works best for you, when you are most alert during the day. Logic has told me that trying to schedule flights for times when my kids normally naps. This has repeatedly not worked for me. Toddlers and logic don’t mix. I’ve had flights delayed so much that they were just waking up from naps as we were boarding. I’ve had later flights where I’m exhausted, but my kid is wired with the excitement of flight. So now, I schedule around my needs.
  • Pay for peace of mind. I don’t want to have to worry about sitting together, so I pay for the ability to select a seat. I consider it part of flying now and don’t think of it as a separate fee. For international flights, I upgrade to comfort seating. I need the extra space and early boarding.
  • Window when possible. We usually end up in the middle three seats, which means there are two aisles my son will want to try to run down. The window gives him something to look at, which he loves.
  • In the debate between bulkhead and back row, I pick back row. Bulkhead is nice if you get a bassinet and you have a lap infant. However, each time we’ve had bulkhead our son has been distracted by all the people waiting for the bathroom. Or worse, the people who want to cross in front our seats to get to the other aisle. Also, our son is a bit visual. Being at the front of the plane, he doesn’t really know or notice all the other passengers so he’s more likely to be loud. In the back of the plane (or, I should say, the back of the section) he sees all the other people and he’s more likely to behave. The only thing I don’t like about the back row is that he can now kick the seat in front of him, but we’re working on that!

Carry On Tips

  • Bring exactly what you need and nothing more.
  • I’ve read that a diaper an hour is a safe bet. This doesn’t really work for us since we tend to fly for longer periods of time and I’ve never actually needed 18 diapers. For diapers, pack what you would normally pack for an excursion of that length, and then add 1 diaper for every 3 diapers you pack. If you normally need 6 diapers, pack 8.
  • Pack an extra outfit for the kids, an extra shirt for the parents.
  • Make space for all the electronic things you can’t pack in your check-in.
  • Enough snacks/formula/bottles to get you through the flight and a extra for delays. Include snacks for yourself.
  • Pack a few toys. My son doesn’t need too many toys. Bring their favorite, something somewhat interactive, a coloring book and crayons, and a surprise toy for desperation.
  • Andrea over at Passports and Pushchairs brings her kids pillows on flights. Though bulky, it is worth the space it takes up. It helps create both a comfortable and familiar environment for children to relax in.
  • If you have any more space (which I don’t know any parent who does), take a look at the food and diaper supply and add more if needed.  
  • Keep packed in a separate bag things you will need easy access to. For me this is usually a few diapers, wipes, and a changing mat. Then a separate bag of snacks and toys. Once on board, unpack that bag and place it under the seat.

 At the Airport

  • Get there early, especially if you don’t have your seat assigned. Depending on the airline, you won’t be able to request a bassinet until you are at the airport. Keep that in mind.
  • If you have a lap baby, ask if there’s space for them to have their own seat. 
  • I bring their stroller and have a baby carrier (I use the Beco Butterfly II). I let my toddler walk as much as possible and alternate carrying my daughter or putting her in the stroller. (While most airports that I’ve been to in the US will have gate-checked strollers at the door of the airplane when we exit the plane, some airports in Europe don’t do this. The gate-checked strollers are sent to the luggage carousel with the other luggage. Find out in advance so you know where to look.)
  • Start prepping for the security line as soon as you can. I once saw a family keep a cheap tote bag in a pocket in their carry on. When they went through security, they threw all of their loose things in that bag plus their jackets, belts and shoes. Then they just grabbed the bag and headed to the side to get themselves fixed up again.
  • Waiting for your flight isn’t the time to just sit and wait for your flight. You have plenty of time to do the sitting on the plane. Let the kids explore, play, walk, run, jump.
  • Some airlines and airports still allow families with small children to board first. If that’s the case, it can be worth it to guarantee you have enough space to put your suitcase in the overhead bin. My kids are still young enough that this is our best option. It’s likely that the next time we fly, my very active 30 month old son will need extra time to get his wiggles out pre-flight. In that case, I’ll board with my daughter and the boys will join us later.

On the Flight

Flying with Toddler

Flying with Toddler

  • Let your children lead you to what they want to do on the plane. Within the rules, of course.
  • Use Andrea’s advice and use their pillows and blankets to make their space comfortable.
  • Draw out each activity to last as long as possible. If they’re looking at a magazine, make a game out of it. Search for certain photos, talk about what’s on the pages. If they’re eating a snack, take it out of the wrapper slowly, let them eat it without other distractions.
  • Let them be bored and just observe what’s going on. Don’t feel you have to entertain them if they’re not actively doing something. Some kids just want some space.
  • For long flights, let them walk around when the seat belt light goes off.

Aside from the tips above here are two more things to help for smooth airline travel with kids:

Keep your children involved in the whole airport process. Talk to them about flying, tell them what they should expect at the airport and on the plane, and how you expect them to behave. While on the plane, point out all the new sites and continue to tell them what is going to happen as the plane lands and you leave the airport.

Most importantly, be patient. Flying is stressful for everyone involved. Kids included. As parents, it’s our responsibility to help our kids through it and remain calm regardless of everything else. It’s ok, though, because as parents we can also book ourselves a nice spa visit once we land.

This post is part of Travel Tip Tuesday with Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walkingon Travels . Click on the link to see more great tips.

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