Preparing for a Family Adventure in Spain

Afton and PassportOur next European adventure is booked and we’re heading to Spain next week! This trip will be a little different as we’re bringing along our nine month old daughter. There are plenty of blog posts and websites that offer tips on traveling with infants, so I can’t say I’m unprepared. But, there is always the element of surprise with children. Take into consideration feeding and napping schedules and then toss on a five hour time difference. All the makings of entertaining “remember when” stories are there.

As we plan and pack, there is a lot more to take into consideration. It’s become second nature for me to pack my bag. I know what I typically use and what is not worth bringing. I have packing light down to a science. But, now we’re packing for our daughter who is not known for packing light. For the most part she always has diapers, wipes, toys, spare clothes, pacifiers, bibs, bottles, food, a car seat – and occasionally a pack and play.

As much as I want to bring everything she could possibly want in order to keep her happy and entertained, I know I have to pair things down to the essentials. She will survive. As my husband likes to remind me, “They have babies in Spain too.” Anything we need we can get while abroad.

Packing light was one of the lessons I learned on our first family getaway to Snowshoe Mountain this past winter. You don’t need as much as you think. Bring less and you’ll make do with what you have.

Family Photo

Other tips that have helped me prepare for this first of many vacations as a family:

Don’t prepare for things to go wrong. Allow for the possibility for things to go right.

Be flexible. Sometimes a baby’s desire to eat or sleep will take precedence. Mentally prepare for that now. I’m sure there will be evenings when we won’t be able to make a late-night tapas run.

Ultimately, it’s not worth over thinking it. The essentials will be packed, and we’ve left some room in our bags for lifelong memories.

Advertisements

4 Airfare Sites to Snag a Deal

If you’re taking to the skies this holiday season to visit family or escape to warmer climates, you’ll probably spend some time searching for flights on websites like Expedia.com, Kayak.com or airline-owned websites. Trying to find a deal can be a time-consuming task and more websites are popping up hoping to ease the pain.

What site do you use to find the best deal? Let me know below in the comments.

1. GetGoing

getgoing.com

Apparently, it pays to be flexible and put caution to the wind. This travel-booking service for leisure travelers provides significant discounts when you allow them to choose your destination. As part of the Pick Two, Get One™ service, you can pick a region of the world you’d like to visit or choose travel based on activity themes like “History and Culture” or “Beaches and Sun.” From there you create two flight itineraries and enter your personal and payment information before knowing which destination GetGoing chooses for you. The site can also be used to compare and book flights in the traditional manner.

 

2. Hipmunk

hipmunk.com

This West Coast startup co-founded by the creator of Reddit breathes new life into flight search by visually displaying arrival and departure options in a timeline. Move the arrival and departure sliders to narrow your search and repopulate results on the same screen. Hipmunk aims to show you only the best results by filtering based on your priorities: price, duration, arrival and departure times, airline, number of stops, and the uniquely termed “agony” – a combination of price, duration and number of stops.

 

3. FlyinAway

flyinaway.com

If you’re a fan of eBay bidding wars, then you’ll likely get a kick out of this site that lets you bid against other travelers for flights. Key to this equation is that a route doesn’t open up until enough people have expressed interest. Currently flights are for U.S. destinations only.

 

4. Momondo

momondo.com

This colorful website shows best prices available through monthly bar graphs, making it easier to see daily trends in flight costs throughout a particular month. Momondo also offers different airlines for your trip out and back if it helps you save money. The footer of the website offers links to popular destinations and insightful information about the area including weather, hot spots, and the cost of items like water, beer and taxi rides.

Injured Abroad

No one plans on getting hurt when traveling abroad. I myself have never mapped out the closest hospital to my hostel. Nearest café or bar? Sure. I don’t intend to break a bone or become very ill, so that’s not top of mind for me when I’m anxiously packing my backpack. I mean, really, what’s the worse that could happen?

The Incident

About this time last year, Wes and I were exploring London and enjoying the Olympics as ticketholders with my brother-in-law and another couple. We were half way through our two-week trip when our experience was turned on its heels. We walked out of Tower Hill tube (subway) station to an unobstructed view of the Tower of London. Brandon (my brother-in-law) and I stepped up onto a ledge about a foot off the ground to take photos. When Brandon stepped down from the ledge, he caught the side of his foot in the drain lip and came tumbling to his back. In unrestricted agony he repeatedly rolled from his stomach to his back.

Tower of London

Tower Hill Tube Station

Brandon had rolled his ankle. It didn’t appear broke and he could put some pressure on it, but he decided he wasn’t going to walk to other side of the Tower of London with the rest of us. Just below the plaza was a temporary bar and viewing area for the Olympics. Perhaps a little alcohol would ease the pain? When we met back up with him, he was sitting on a lush couch with his leg propped up and wrapped in ice. Already you could start to see his ankle swell.

House of Nations Olympic Viewing Area

Ibuprofen and CodeineI recalled my mother telling me that you could buy ibuprofen with codeine over the counter in England. Along with an ankle support from Boots (pharmacy), it would do wonders to keep Brandon moving.

Brandon’s ankle ended up turning black and blue and swelling badly. “I think I should go home,” he told us. What? Really? None of us knew if it would be more cost-effective to buy a plane ticket home or to go to a hospital in a foreign country. Not a gamble you really want to make, right? Brandon decided to take his chances on the hospital.

Swollen and Bruised Ankle

My uncle graciously offered to take us to Darenth Valley Hospital, also known as ‘Death Valley’ to locals. “Many go in but never come out.” We sat in the waiting room for an hour alongside an elderly woman who was bleeding from her head and a teenage boy who had broke his arm after falling off his dirt bike.

Having British relatives I knew that they got free healthcare, but I wasn’t sure if it applied to us as visitors. I often heard the negatives of socialized medicine, and I experienced disappointment with England’s system when it came to the treatment of my relatives. I never understood why someone with cancer would have to be put on a 2-3 month waiting list for treatment. But, as we were about to experience first hand, it is free healthcare. Brandon walked out of the hospital with an x-ray, soft cast, crutches and codeine without dropping a penny, er pence. Brandon had gambled and won.

Brandon at Hospital

Though a bad sprain, he was grateful it wasn’t broke and now he had enough support on his ankle to hobble all over town. That cast intimately knew the streets of London.

Walking in London with Cast

Plan Ahead

We didn’t know what the hospital bill would be until leaving. That’s a risk not all are willing to take. Since free healthcare while traveling abroad isn’t always an option, it pays to make sure you’re covered in the event of injury. You don’t have to spend a great deal of time planning for the unexpected, but it helps to do a little research before you travel. Here are some options to consider:

1. Ask your medical insurance company if you’re covered when traveling out of the country.

2. Buy a short-term policy to cover you while traveling. A list of U.S. providers can be found on the Bureau of Consular Affairs website.

3. Major credit card companies often offer travel accident insurance as part of their member benefits, though it usually just covers the loss of a limb.

 

Have you ever had to go to a hospital in a foreign country? Share your experience in the comments.

Five Essential Travel Items

No,  I’m not talking about your passport, camera or money but rather some often overlooked, not-so-glamorous travel companions that fit into your toiletry bag. I should probably point out that I was not paid to endorse any of the brand name products I’ve listed. It’s fair to say they don’t even know I exist.

1. Downy® Wrinkle Releaser
As neatly as we may fold or roll our clothes for packing, they never arrive at our destination the same way. Spray your tops and bottoms with Downy Wrinkle Releaser and let your hands do the magic. Smooth the fabric back and forth with your hands or give the sides of the fabric a couple of quick tugs. And, its fresh scent means it doubles as a fabric freshner extending the number of wears before a proper washing is needed. Pictured is a full size bottle that isn’t ideal for packing. Rather than buying the travel size wrinkle releaser, save some money in the long run and purchase the large bottle and empty some into a travel size spray bottle.

2. Talcum Powder/Baby Powder
If you tend to travel in warm weather and enjoy seeing the sites by foot, baby powder can help keep you dry. Arms, legs, feet — wherever you tend to sweat, it does the trick. It keeps you comfortable during those days of intense sun.

3.Shout® Wipes
Taste great foods on your travels but don’t let stains that end up on your clothes prevent you from wearing that shirt or pair of shorts again during your trip. I pack a limited number of clothes with the intention of re-wearing items throughout my trip, and I don’t always have access to a laundromat. The Shout Wipe handles the stain until I can wash it.

4. Tide® Detergent Sink Packets
Along that same thought, these are great for washing items when needed and when you have no access to a laundromat. If you do have access to one, these sink packets can be used in the machine as well for small loads. Tide also has larger travel packs for machine wash, but they they take up more space. Both are small in size and weight which make them an easy addition to your toiletry bag.

5. Wet Ones® Antibacterial Hand Wipes
These wipes are great for cleaning your hands when you don’t have a sink nearby. They’re good for wiping lunch off your face too.
Toiletry Items

Make Your Resolution a Travel Resolution

Interlaken Canyoning

Getting ready to rappel, slide and jump down rocks and waterfalls in a local canyon in Interlaken, Switzerland

A recent article by travel writer Maureen Jenkins highlighted some great travel-themed resolutions worthy of seasoned and unseasoned travelers. I’m personally inspired by “start a travel-specific savings account” and “say you’re not a “tour” or “cruise” person? Give one a shot.”

Here’s her top eight:

  1. Take off on your own — even if you’re traveling with a group.
  2. Don’t let the lack of a foreign language keep you at home.
  3. Say you’re not a “tour” or “cruise” person? Give one a shot.
  4. Don’t be ashamed to fall back on what’s familiar.
  5. Vow not to leave vacation days on the table.
  6. Start a travel-specific savings account.
  7. Do at least ONE thing that scares you while you’re on the road.
  8. Don’t let other people’s fears keep you from going.

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/27/travel/travel-resolutions/index.html?hpt=hp_bn10

Happy New Year! What’s your travel resolution for 2013?

Plan Your Trip with Google Floor Plans

Do you use maps to plan your trips? If so, you’ll be happy to hear that Google recently launched Floor Plans for the web version of Maps. Until now, indoor maps were only available on Android devices. And, it’s probably because I own an iPhone that I didn’t even know that Google Floor Plans even existed. Finding your way around an airport, museum or rail station just got way easier!

It’s still in beta, and I’m wishing I had this tool when visiting the museums in London this past summer. The British Museum is over 990,000 square feet with numerous rooms and galleries; you could spend more than a day trying to see everything. The British Museum is one location in Great Britain that has submitted their layout to Google’s tool. You can see a complete listing here. I’m thinking I would now be able to use my phone, which I carry with me anyways, to get around a museum. Google Maps can also display where you are within the venue’s floor plan. No more need for large, folded maps! Well, except for a souvenir.

Now, if only it could tell me where someone else is if I get separated in a museum or airport…

The British Museum Floor Plan

The British Museum Floor Plan

5 Packing Tips for Your Upcoming Vacation

Three days until the Olympic Games! That also means I’ve got three days to figure out what I’m packing. I would bet money that most people find packing their least favorite thing about traveling. It’s definitely one of the most important parts of planning a trip though. There’s an art to not overpacking or under-packing.

Finding that sweet spot has been a process of trial and error for me. It seems that with every trip, I pack less and less. I’ve realized that I always end up wearing that same favorite shirt or pair of shorts. Packing less also means I’m more mobile. I don’t end up feeling like I’m dragging my house with me on my vacation.

  1. Pack clothes and shoes you’ve worn before. If you’ve never worn it at home, what makes you think you’re going to wear it on vacation?
  2. Traveling for two weeks or more? Pack what you need to get through one week and then find a local laundromat.
  3. Planning a multi-leg trip? I highly recommend using a travel backpack over a rolling suitcase. Backpacks make getting on and off trains and buses much easier. Plus you get to dodge all the rolling backpacks and cut through foot traffic faster. I learned the hard way trying to get up and down train station platform steps with a suitcase.
  4. To avoid overpacking, lay everything out and make outfits before you pack it away. Choosing neutral colors allows you to mix and match with a limited number of tops and bottoms. Check out this packing checklist written by travel writer Rick Steves. He also has a list tailored to women.
  5. Just because the airlines allow you to check a 50-pound bag doesn’t mean you should. You can get by with a lot less and your back will thank you for it.

BONUS TIP: Been wanting a new wardrobe? Consider packing clothes that you wouldn’t mind donating to a shelter or shop when you’re done wearing them. Your bag will be so light on your way home.

Clothes for two-week trip

Wes’ two-week travel necessities

Wes' two-week packing
Threw in a tenner for a little perspective