The Good, The Bad & Not So Bad of Traveling with a Small Child, Part 1- The (Not So) Bad

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 | Posted under Family and Friends, Family Travel, Personal, Travel Tips

I am not going to sugar coat traveling with a baby or toddler. If you’ve read anything online that is telling you that it’s easy, THEY’RE LYING. Ok, fine, maybe not lying completely, but they might not be telling you the hard parts of traveling with a small one. Because I love you all, I am going to give it to you straight — no chaser. Traveling is still doable, but there are definitely some things that you need to think about more fully than when traveling solo or traveling with your buddy/significant other. Here are some areas to think about while you prep for your next trip with the little person in your life (You ARE going to keep traveling by the way… because I said so. :))

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Getting ready to head to the beach in Antigua

Sleep – Some people are blessed with children who will sleep anywhere everywhere at whatever time. If you happen to be one of them, then please bow down and worship any deity that you choose or at least thank the Universe because many kids aren’t like that. I kid you not as I am drafting this post Husband J and I are trying to figure out where to go in 2015, and part of what is holding us back are time zones. People travel with kids all of the time across time zones, but when you’ve got one like mine that seems to have low sleep needs and wakes up at the butt crack of dawn, wanting to brave a drastic time zone change just doesn’t sound fun. Time zones definitely played a part in our experience in Costa Rica, and I can tell you that it is dark at 3am in Costa Rica in August…in case you were wondering. Our trip to Canada in 2013 was before Baby C was even sleeping through the night. With a little co-sleeping we took care of that, but good dear, we were a little bleary eyed for parts of that trip.

 P1090380Hanging in the Park in Montreal – She’s going to kill me when she’s older for posting this. 

This is all to say that sleep is real, maybe more for some kids than others, but if your kid sleeps well or even if he or she doesn’t, it will still be a factor in how you experience your trip.

Oops…I almost forgetting napping. Baby C needs to nap in a room. She’s fallen asleep in a stroller a total of five times her entire life. When she was a smaller baby, she would nap in the carrier and that was helpful because we just kept it moving during the day.

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Carrier naps are your friend! 

These days, Baby C needs to have things shut down, or she won’t shut it down. She really does need to be in a room in some sort of a crib to get that necessary nap. Yes, that nap is necessary. Baby C is great kid, but she’s even better in the afternoon after a nap.

Activities – Baby C is still at the age where activities can be tricky. Unlike during her small baby stage where we just took her almost wherever we wanted to go, we now have a mindful little person who is beyond curious and is absolutely ready to run everywhere and touch everything. I know not all kids are like this, but this is one we’ve got, so we’ve got to work with this little bundle of energy. One of the reasons I was hesitant to go to Costa Rica was the fact that we’d be limited in some of the activities we chose. Zip lining? White water rafting? Probably not. That doesn’t mean that we weren’t able to do fun things. We just needed to be more particular.

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Off for a walk in Manuel Antonio Park 

Food – Okay. I’m not going to totally count this as a possible difficulty for us while traveling with a small child. Baby C gets modified versions of things on our restaurant of choice’s menu. We try to steer clear of the children’s menu, but boy, does she love her some French fries like her mother. I know some kids are a little pickier than others; so for some, having to be limited in where to eat can be challenging. I do remember the time we went to Antigua, and Baby C wasn’t totally eating regular solids (we did start with pureed food). Food pouches are your friends in that case, but we did bring some of our own food for her. Depending on where you are, some hotels are helpful in preparing baby–friendly foods or staying in an apartment like setting with a kitchen can help if you just need to have a meal in for the night.

Rooms – I don’t really know if I can stay in a small, little hotel room anymore. Baby C goes to bed early (often by 7:30pm!). I have no desire to go to bed then. None. We’ve stayed in a larger hotel room, but even that wasn’t much more comfortable. We’ve had a much better time with Air Bnb and other rental apartment set ups where we could spread out with the gear we try to limit bringing with us (that’s another post). I will say that I did like our hotel in Costa Rica, which had the benefit of essentially being a large apartment. It was actually bigger than where we live now! If you’re okay with smaller spaces and have one of those kids mentioned above that sleeps through anything, then a traditional hotel room might work. Being choosy about accommodations is just another aspect of travel that just changed for us.

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Don’t look down, Baby C!

Did I forget anything? I hope this post hasn’t dissuaded anyone from traveling with your young one. I’ve actually enjoyed many wonderful travel moments with Baby C. Seeing her observe the parts of the world we’ve visited since she was born has been one of the best parts of being her parent.

There are absolutely great things about traveling with small kids, and I’ll highlight those in a separate post.

If you’ve traveled with a small child, what was the hardest part for you?

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How to Dress As a Female Tourist in India

Monday, October 15th, 2012 | Posted under India, Travel Tips

A fashion post? Well, not really. Every country has its own cultural norms that include customary dress for locals. I believe when one travels you are a guest in someone’s country, and as such, you should try your best to respect local customs. It’s the nice thing to do, and it’s about being a conscious global citizen.

When I was planning for India, one of my biggest concerns was how I going to dress particularly as a woman traveling alone at certain points in my trip. As I mentioned before, late April and May are some of the hottest months of the year in India. I also know that style of dress for women in India is rather conservative. I read many stories of women, both nationals and travelers alike, encountering harassment due to dress. This is not an indictment of India or its culture, but it definitely reminded me that I needed to be careful about I presented myself while there.

Beautiful Sari at Taj Mahal

Okay, so I will admit here that this was one moment where I didn’t ask for my usual permission to take a picture (I can be honest). I just had to get a pic of the fabulousness that is this sari. I feel bad, but I made sure that I told this woman “thank you.”

I looked online for tips but a lot of the advice I got just didn’t resonate with me. Everything was either super extreme like you can’t wear anything that exposes absolutely anything OR wait until you get to India and then commission a tailor to make local Indian women’s clothing like a salwar kameez or sari.

Yeah, I wasn’t really feeling any of that. The rationale for the latter suggestion was that Indians will appreciate your attempt to dress like locals and adapt. Yet that just didn’t feel like me. I’m not Indian, and I felt like it would be akin to me wearing a costume. I think Indian local style is beautiful, but I wasn’t really interested in dressing like a local woman because that’s not who I am. Besides, Indian women often look so elegant and wonderfully accesorized, and I don’t think I could hold a candle to them (see above and below).

Here’s an example of a salwar kameez via C Bazaar.com 

I didn’t really feel too secure with any of these sets of advice, and so I consulted Ms. K. from the blog, Chronicled, aka the blog formerly known as From India with Love, about what to wear. She had just come back from spending a year in Delhi, and her blog was really an important resource for me to prepare mentally for my trip to India. Her advice was to err on the side of conservative but that I didn’t need to worry about attracting attention with my clothes. Just being me was going to be attention grabbing enough. 🙂 Between my own conversation with K., my own research, my own analysis of what it’s like for me personally to walk around in 100+ Farenheit heat and some observations of women after I arrived, I think I’ve come up with my own ideas about what women tourists can wear in India while still holding true to their own style aesthetic.

Again, please remember that I traveled to India during its hottest period, and I was in both small towns and some North Indian cities, so my perspective is skewed that way. Here it goes:

Long, loose pants made of light, breathable fabrics – Indian heat and the sun are just so strong. There was no way that I could get by in jeans. I never saw any Indian women in shorts or skirts that were not to the ground. Skirts were relatively rare. Usually the skirts were a part of a sari outfit. Most women wore loose pants or jeans (jeans were mostly worn by younger women that I saw in Delhi). Here’s an example of a pair of pants that I wore during my trip.

In Udaipur. The pants I’m wearing in this picture are these cute, loose, linen pants that I got from Old Navy.

TDM Taj Mahal

Another pair of linen pants. I wore these alot. They were long, light and exactly what I needed.

Cover your shoulders – This is true in India, and I would also extend this advice for women traveling to many Muslim countries, too. I think I only saw one Indian woman in a spaghetti strap shirt the entire three weeks I was there. In many cultures, particularly Muslim ones, women should not show their shoulders.

By the way, I saw many women wear saris, and their stomachs were exposed. I found that ironic considering that in the U.S. and many other cultures exposing your stomach is considered a touch racy. Aren’t cultural differences fascinating?

At first, I was concerned about wearing shirts that didn’t cover my arms, but that seemed to be fine. This shirt below (and one other) was probably the shortest sleeve I wore the entire time.

TDM Hotel Room

I brought lots of loose, light shirts that covered my arms and weren’t particularly tight. I only saw tighter shirts on women and girls in Delhi. Most women didn’t wear close fitting clothing. Local Indian fashion is very much about draping. 

TDM at Agra Fort

 At Agra Fort. A shirt that I had in my closet. You can’t see it, but there are lots of sparkles on it.

So let’s review:

1. Jeans or long pants are fine. If it’s a hot time of year, I would suggest long, loose bottoms made of cotton or linen.

2. If you do want to wear a skirt, wear one that is a maxi skirt, i.e., long and to the ground.

3. Make sure to cover your shoulders. Short sleeves are okay, and you don’t need to cover all of your arms. If it’s very hot, lighter fabrics and looser shirts tend to keep you from feeling too sticky.

4. I would advise against shorts. Capris or pants not to the ground are okay. Bottoms should reach past your knees at the very least. I would advise against showing a lot of leg.

5. In general, I would not show lots of cleavage.*

6. The farther you go away from cities, the more conservative women’s dress will be. It will be rare to see women not in salwar kameez, sari or other traditional dress in smaller towns. Make sure to dress accordingly.

I love hot weather, and when the mercury rises I shed clothes. India was a travel fashion challenge for me, but I think i still found a way to look the way I wanted to and still feel like I was respecting local custom.

Have you ever dressed differently than you usually would in order to fit into local custom or styles of dress? How did you feel about it? 

 

* At the end of our tour in our last city, Team Ozzie and I saw a few female tourists wearing low cut shirts. It was so completely jarring after not seeing people dress that way for a few weeks. It’s amazing how you can get acclimated to seeing certain things so quickly.

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3 Advanced Travel Gear Items

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 | Posted under India, Travel General, Travel Tips

Another post about travel gear? Of course. While I’ve already talked about my basic travel items including my backpack, that’s honestly the baseline stuff. I think there is a next level of gear that you might need at some point in your travels.  Maybe I’m a little too much of a Type A planner/safety freak, but I don’t like to be caught out there unprepared for certain situations.

I brought the items I’ll highlight below with me to India, but these items can help you regardless of your destination. Here are some next level travel items that you may not have thought to bring with you:

1. A money belt

The main purpose of the money belt is to keep your money (and passport, if you want) on your body. Pickpockets are out there in touristy areas, and some people prefer to keep money and other paper valuables very, very close.

Travel Money Belt

I’ve used a money belt off and on since I started traveling independently years ago. I’ll say that if you don’t mind your money being a little sweaty (I sweat. I’ll admit it.), it can be an effective way of keeping your moolah safe.  Someone would have to reach under your shirt and cut it off of you to get your stash. On the other hand, if you’re wearing tight clothing, it will create a bulge in your clothes signaling to the robbers where you money is. I tend to like it better than whipping out my wallet from home, which is pretty big. I leave my wallet from home in the hotel safe.

When choosing a money belt, I would make sure to find one that adequatly wraps around you. Not all of them are going to be comfortable to you. I needed to replace my old one before leaving for India, and I have to admit I was not a fan of the Belle Hop brand that I bought in the picture above. It just never seemed to stay wrapped around me and kept slipping. I fell for the pretty packaging. Bad idea.

 

2. A sleep sheet

Silk Cotton Sleep Sheet

I’ve found that people tend to use sleep sheets for a few reasons. If you’re in a totally low-budget hostel with no sheets (Do these still exist? They did when I traveled when I was younger), then you’ve got an automatic set of sheets with you that’s easy to fold, store and clean as you keep on traveling. Another option is for camping purposes as a liner for a sleeping bag in case you’re sleeping in colder conditions (camping/outdoorsy people, help me out here if I am wrong).

In India, I used the sleep sheet at those hotels and situations where the sheets just looked a little suspect. That definitely was the case in a few instances. I could put my feet into the sleep sheet, and it was like an extremely lightweight sleeping bag.

Here’s an example of a place where I used my sleep sheet below: on an overnight train from Ajmer to Delhi. Sheets and a blanket were provided, but I decided to pass on them.

Silk Cotton Sleep Sheet Train

On the top bunk of my sleeper train. Okay, so I wasn’t actually in the sleep sheet yet, but there it is. Please excuse my ashy feet.

 

3. Extra strength bug killer

Malaria and other disease that are transmitted by insects are still common in parts of the world. You will need the extra protection. Not every place in every country is going to require you to dose yourself in extra strength repellant, but you should be prepared in these areas. For those in the U.S., I highly recommend checking the Centers for Diseas Control website. They give pretty detailed information on countries and their levels of malaria and insect-borne disease and is a great resource overall for travelers’ health. I’m going to do a traveler’s health post soon.

There are a variety of creams and products you can use to keep the buggers away that have strong acting ingredients, namely DEET. This time around instead of a cream, I used individually-wrapped towellettes.

Ben's Wipes with DEET

In the U.S.,  a maximum of 35% of a repellant product can include DEET. My Australian travel mates from Team Ozzie had creams with 95% DEET in it. Lucky…

There was a stick that I could have bought, and I think I will next time. I just hated that fact that I needed to thoroughly wash my hands every time I used this. Just make sure to not get this stuff near your eyes and mouth after you’ve applied it.

 

So I’d like to hear from you. Have you ever used any of these three pieces of travel gear? Am I just being overly cautious? While this isn’t an exhaustive list, what piece of travel gear do you think more people should consider using?

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7 Things To Know About Eating & Traveling in Argentina

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 | Posted under Argentina, Travel Tips

I like to research the heck out of a place before arriving in a new destination. At the same time, you can’t know everything beforehand. You’ve just got to experience it. That’s how I felt about some of the situations we experienced in Argentina, so I thought I’d share them with you.

 

1. Internal flights can be expensive – If you are a non-Argentine, finding cheap flights in Argentina is downright difficult. When buying a domestic airline ticket online from outside of Argentina, the prices are different than for locals. That includes buying them within the country. To get a reduced rate, you either need a DNI (Documento Nacional de Identidad/National Identification Document) number or need a credit card issued from an Argentinian bank, which……requires a DNI number. One of the main reasons for expensive flights is that there is no competition between airlines for domestic air travel. There are really only two to choose from, Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN. I hear that the high-end buses are amazing and relatively affordable. If you choose traveling by bus, know that Argentina is a vast country, and there are long distances between major areas.

2. You may need to send up smoke signals to get your waiter’s attention. Sometimes I get a little miffed when wait staff here in New York City drop the check on your table and say “Whenever you’re ready….” while I’m still eating dessert. In Argentina, I felt like I had to send up flares to get the wait staff to notice us, especially at the end of the meal. People lounge over food or even a very small cup of coffee, so don’t be in a rush per se (you’re supposed to be relaxing anyway). We weren’t necessarily in a rush at all of our meals, but sometimes we did want to actually get back to our hotel.

El Cabildo in downtown Buenos Aires

3. Vegetarians, be wary – Argentine cuisine isn’t exactly known for its meat-free options and vegetable cookery. Even if you say you don’t eat meat at a restaurant, wait staff might just think you don’t eat RED meat. I would suggest asking for things specifically without carne (meat as in red meat), pollo (chicken), etc. Spell it out, if you must. Because of the strong influence of early 20th century Italian migrants, Argentina really has great Italian cuisine. Pizza and pasta are always good bets. Buenos Aires also has a Koreatown and a Chinatown, which may have great veggie options (didn’t get to check them out). In Patagonia, it was harder to find good vegetarian fare, although I do recommend Pura Vida in El Calafate. Vegans, I don’t know what to tell you because everything had cheese on it. Buena suerte (Good luck!). 🙁

I enjoyed taste testing empanadas wherever we went in Argentina. Every place has their own recipe and style. Vegetarians, try the spinach ones!



4. Watch your money – I mean literally examine it closely. Counterfeit money is a real issue in Argentina, and it is very much a part of the monetary system. You may get some fake funds from unlikely places: shops, restaurants and maybe even your hotel (although most places like this take great pains to weed out bad money). I have heard that taxi drivers can be some of the biggest culprits, but I’m not going to throw shade on a whole profession. Here’s a good link to know if you’ve got the right money.

5. You may know Spanish, but the Argentine usages are different – I’ve heard lots of jokes about bringing together Spanish speakers from different countries in one room, and many of them not being able to understand each other because of regional word usage. Argentina uses some words that I haven’t heard before for common nouns. Sanitario = bathroom, coletivo = bus are a few that come to mind. You can still use the Spanish vocabulary you know, but just know that Argentines occasionally call things by a different name.

U.N. Plaza, Buenos Aires

 

6.  You can get by without Spanish, but it sure does help. In most destinations around the world, making a feeble attempt at the local language is going to get you far with local staff. Both Buenos Aires and El Calafate (where we were based for our time in Patagonia), were major tourist centers, so many people spoke English.  Yet they weren’t always totally fluent, and sometimes it was easier for me and for them if I just spoke Spanish. I think I’m trying to give myself props, but at times I think we also got better service because of it. Ok fine, I’m probably just dreaming, but I believe my knowledge of Spanish helped us. If you can use some basic phrases or learn even a few key vocabulary words before your trip, it might help.

An iceberg in Lago Argentino in Patagonia

 

7. Argentine men are flirty (at least with me) – I got quite a few (okay, many) winks and even a few catcalls. I wasn’t exactly expecting that.  I suspect it’s because I’m a little exotic looking there? (Unlike its neighbor, Brazil, Argentina has almost no Black people) Actually, I think it’s just an Argentinian man thing and probably nothing to do with me. 🙂 In case you’re wondering, Argentines are pretty good looking.

Are there any details you wish you had known prior to your last trip to a new place? 

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I Became a Backpacker in my 30’s

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012 | Posted under India, Travel General, Travel Tips

Okay, the title of this post is kind of pushing it. I now own a backpack, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m a backpacker. By the way, many people use the term “backpacker” to refer to a certain way of traveling on a tight budget for long periods of time that usually means traveling light (hence, with just a backpack or very light luggage), staying in hostels, and trying to get away from mass tourism. I’m not going to really touch on that phenomenon in this post, as I’ve never considered myself a backpacker.However, I now own a backpack!

A few hours before heading to the airport for my flight to Delhi. Our apartment was a mess with all of the packing. 

For the first two weeks of my trip to India, I was on the Classic Rajasthan tour with Intrepid Travel (more on that experience in another post). One of Intrepid’s recommendations was to make sure that we could easily carry our luggage, and their pre-trip materials suggested that we either pack very light or carry a backpack. Pack light? That. Does. Not. Compute. 🙂 Okay, fine. I can pack light to some degree, but for three weeks?

I really didn’t want to spend the money on a backpack. Ones that could hold what I needed for the length of trip I was going on were well over $100 USD. 🙁  Plus, I usually don’t feel the need to carry one for the type of travel I tend to do. I can pack a 20 inch carry-on for almost two weeks worth of travel depending on my destination (warmer places are easier to pack for me).

In the end, I decided to buy a backpack. Here’s what I bought:

REI Tour 60 Women’s Travel Pack. The smaller day backpack is missing from this picture. 
Did I fit everything into my backpack? Of course not. Especially since I brought an arsenal of products with me, which I will tell you about later. I did have one small additional bag with “stuff” that I probably could have done without but ended up using that bag to fit souvenirs. I also carried my travel purse/daypack (remember that?) to keep important items close to me, like my electronics.
Was it worth it to have a backpack? Here’s what I think:What I liked about the backpack

My backpack kept me honest about packing clothes. I only packed 10 days’ worth of clothing for three weeks. That was a challenge for me. I did have my laundry done at one point during the three weeks, but I found a way to make do with what I had. I wore many things multiple times; and, unlike some destinations, I didn’t feel the need to look fashionable in India. 😉
I will say that I always felt like I could carry my stuff myself when I wanted to. While we often had help with our bags, my backpack definitely made it easier to get through extremely crowded and frenzied train stations (especially ones with lots of stairs) and other places.
We traveled on so many different modes of transportation that I’m glad I had something that I didn’t mind taking a beating. It’s not like I baby my luggage, but I do want it to last as long as possible. This backpack seemed to do okay getting hit from all sides and enduring Rajasthan’s never-ending dust.

Our luggage being packed on top of a jeep. I used to say a little prayer when our stuff was on top of moving vehicles in India. You would, too. Trust me. 


What I didn’t like about the backpack
Sometimes the backpack just felt bulky and cumbersome, although I will be the first to admit that mine was packed to the gills by the end of the three weeks.
I felt that it was hard to find some items in the bag when I wanted them. Again, this is probably just my lack of experience efficiently packing a backpack, but sometimes I felt like I had to take out too many things just to find what I needed. I probably should have gotten a bigger bag, but I couldn’t justify the money.
Either way, I feel like I got an understanding of what many travelers experience just by carrying a backpack, even if it’s not my usual travel style. I didn’t get to backpack through Europe, Latin America, or South East Asia, as many travel bloggers do, but at least I can say I actually own one. 🙂
Have you ever used a backpack while traveling? Do/did you like using one? Do you have particular type of luggage that you like to use? 

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