January 5, 2015

Our trip to Ireland

Now that I’ve shared a bit about traveling internationally with a toddler I thought it’d be fun to rehash our actual trip.

We flew in/out of Dublin and upon arrival we picked up our car from Dan Dooley car rentals.  Their customer service was great and they did a good job working with us when we had our carseat issues.  (Just a heads up car rental insurance is a requirement in Ireland and well worth the peace of mind when driving on the “wrong” side of the road!)  By the time we were leaving Dublin to head to our first stop along our circle of the Southern half of Ireland it was around 3pm.  We were pretty tired, but excited to get to Kilkenny and start the first leg of our trip at the Bridge View B&B, our only B&B stay for the duration of the trip (Ireland is known for their B&Bs).

Kilkenny- 2 nights

Emer greeted us at Bridgeview with tea and cookies and then showed us to our room.  It was a standard European room (ie small), but clean and cozy.  We unpacked a few things, set up Amelia’s travel cot Emer provided (all of our accommodations for the trip provided us a travel cot (European term for packnplay) for Amelia), and headed out to find some dinner.  We ended up at a small hotel pub that the menu looked good at and wasn’t too busy.  Amelia loved the fish n chips and Nathan and I both enjoyed a bottle of Bulmer’s cider.  The following day we were up early and enjoyed a fabulous Irish breakfast provided by our host.  After we headed over to Kilkenny Castle where we picked up the Irish Heritage Pass and passed the time waiting for our tour to start by walking the grounds.  The tour was long but interesting and Amelia got a nice nap in in the Ergo.  For lunch we picked up some excellent sandwiches and snack food from the deli at the market (Dunnes) across the street from our B&B and headed back to our room to enjoy lunch and a short nap.  From there we toured a few churches and then caught the last tour at Smithwick’s Brewery to see how one of Ireland’s finest is brewed.

The next day we were up early and on the road to head to Killarney and we took in Rock of Cashel along the way- medieval ruins set into the hillside above a small Irish village.  We loved the twisted, narrow country roads as we crossed the countryside in a typical Irish mist.

Killarney- 3 nights

We had a little trouble finding our first vacation rental, turns out it was a cottage behind a B&B.  It was a more modern cottage, recently built, with 2 full bedrooms, a bathroom, living room/kitchen/eating area. It also came complete with a wardrobe- we had one at each of our accommodations and they all quickly became Amelia’s favorite place to play.  We got settled and headed out to walk the streets of Killarney.  We ended up picking up a pizza for dinner and having an early night in.

Our second day was my 31st birthday and we started it out with delish pastry’s at a local cafe and then we headed into Killarney National Park to hike the Gap of Dunloe.  I think it was close to 7 mile round trip, Melia rode with me in the Ergo and was a champ the whole trip.  She enjoyed her morning nap as Nathan and I took in the amazing sights and sounds of wild Ireland.  After our hike was complete we strolled the streets of Killarney looking for the perfect Irish sweater for me.  Dinner was another delicious pub dinner.

Day 3 we headed to Muckross House and enjoyed a tour of the house with Amelia along in the Ergo again.  She got a bit fussy towards the end of our long tour and was thankful I was able to easily breastfeed her in the Ergo.  One nice thing about European museums is that their cafe’s always have excellent food!  We enjoyed a delicious lunch in the cafe and set about to tour the grounds.  We ended up negotiating a good rate for a jaunting car ride (horse and buggy basically) across the property to view Torc Waterfalls and Amelia enjoyed riding along behind the horse.  After our Muckross House experience we headed back to our accommodations where we considered putting Amelia down for a nap and resting ourselves, but then decided to tuck her into her stroller for another walk around town.  We love small European villages, the stone paths and ancient feel.  Not to mention the delicious sites and smells of the varied foods.

Galway- 2 nights

Day 1 We were up early to leave Killarney and drive through the countryside to visit the Cliffs of Moher.  This was one of our most scenic drives as we passed through the Burren and other small villages.  The Cliffs of Moher were astounding in the afternoon Irish mist.  The sea roaring below as we traipsed along the obscure path following the cliffs further from the visitor center.  An experience to never forget.  We continued on our journey and arrived in Galway around dinner time.  We were very pleased with our vacation rental that was attached to a lovely women’s home.  It was a small apartment that came complete with a delicious homemade breakfast each morning.  It was more on the outskirts so we still drove into town each day, but the price and food made that worth it for us!  Our first evening we toured the Galway City Museum and ate dinner at a delicious little Italian restaurant.  Amelia loved running through the museum and playing peek-a-boo.

Day 2 Up and into town to walk along the Salthill Promenade.  Nathan and I walked to the end and back while Amelia napped.  It was a wonderful time for us to discuss the trip and all we’d seen and what we still hope to see on future trips.  For us vacation time is a lot about just that- uninterrupted time with each other where we’re not worrying about things that need to be done at home and everyday life.

Dublin- 2 nights

Day 1 Up early to leave Galway and head to Dublin. We needed to return our rental car and at the last minute we decided to forgo hiring a taxi (saving us nearly $100usd) and to brave public transportation to our next vacation rental- which had a bus stop a block from it. It was quite the challenge with two suitcases, a backpack, a toddler, and a car seat in a backpack as well.  Nathan’s back was aching by the time we were able to navigate busy Grafton Street to our condo, but we made it! Our condo was in the absolute best location and I would highly recommend!  Our first afternoon we visited Trinity College, the Natural History Museum, and the National Museum.  As we were wandering back to our condo at the end of the day we came upon St. Stephen’s Green and the Christmas Market was in full swing! Having experienced the Christmas Market in London and Paris there really is nothing like a European Christmas Market.  We enjoyed pushing through the crowds, eating our crepes, and perusing the merchandise.

Day 2 Up and out the door for the hop-on-hop-off bus tour we had purchased tickets for.  What a fantastic way to see Dublin!  We stopped anywhere that caught our interest- St. Patrick’s Cathedral was gorgeous and the Kilmainham Gaol prison tour was not to be missed. Dublin Castle was another great stop.  Amelia rode along in the Ergo for all of these and was a huge champ.  She’s quite the little traveler now!  Our evening was spent wandering the streets of Dublin searching for the perfect farewell Ireland dinner.  We ended up in a popular pub where the food was perfect and the wine was cheap 🙂

Our last day we were up early and on the public transport back to the airport for our flights home.  It was such an amazing trip that we were so blessed to experience with our little girl.  Looking back we enjoyed having her with, but hope to do a return trip to Ireland in the future where we can enjoy the Irish pub experience a little more thoroughly.



January 1, 2015

International travel with a toddler

In November of last year we took Amelia with us to Ireland, which as I look back on our blog it looks like we never really mentioned it.  So now’s as good a time as any!  We booked our airfare for our November trip in June, so I had 5 months to research and prepare for flying overseas and traveling internationally with a toddler.  I don’t think we could have been more prepared!  The trip was a hit and we had an amazing time as a family.

First off you may be wondering- why go through the hassle of bringing a 14 month that won’t remember any of the trip on 12 hours of plane rides?  First- because we couldn’t bear the thought of leaving Amelia behind for 10 days, second- finding childcare for 10 days isn’t exactly easy, and third- we really wanted to go to Europe again before having a second child and the only way to do that was to bring her with.  We chose the closest European destination with the shortest flights- Ireland- a place that has always been close to the top of our travel list.  We also believe that while Amelia won’t “remember” the trip, impressions of what she saw and did will stay with her.  We hope that all the time we spent hiking and outdoors while in Ireland will have helped to nurture her love of the outdoors and all of the different foods she ate and experienced will have expanded her taste buds.

Now that you’ve got a little background on our trip I’d love to share the successes of our experience abroad with a toddler.

  • When you get to your flight’s gate at the airport, let the gate attendant know you are flying with a lap infant.  I went to ask the gate attendant a simple question having nothing to do with Amelia, and when she realized I was traveling with a lap infant she immediately set about moving our seats to give us a third seat for Amelia’s use.  This third seat was a lifesaver for our overnight flight!
  • Bring a Boppy type pillow.  The plan was to use this for her to sleep on in my lap, but with the third seat I was able to horseshoe Amelia in the extra seat and she slept like a baby for 5 hours on our flight while momma happily zoned out to a couple of recent movies.
  • Snacks, snacks, and more snacks.  The amount of people handing this advice out online is overwhelming and it couldn’t be more accurate.  We packed Amelia’s own little backpack and the front pocket was just for snacks.  She figured out where her food was quickly and didn’t let us forget it.  (And don’t forget a munchkin snack cup- this was great for on the go in her carseat or stroller.)
  • Normal, everyday things were almost always better than toys.  The biggest hit on our trip was momma’s wallet.  In the month leading up to our trip she was fascinated with my wallet, so for the trip I packed it full of coupons, promotional cards, and my old school IDs (and used a different wallet for myself).  She LOVED it.  She spent many hours on our trip pulling everything out of the wallet and trying to put it back in.  We also brought a few of her favorite toys and books, but just enough to fill her small backpack.
  • Bring an Ergo/comfortable baby carrier.  Wearing Amelia allowed us to zip through airports for tight connections and to use public transportation without worry of her being snatched or wandering off.  It was also fantastic for all the museums/old houses we toured that weren’t stroller accessible.  She spent more than a couple of naps in the Ergo while mom and dad were happily touring old castles.
  • Skip the diaper bag and bring a portable diaper changing station (I brought this one– not an affiliate link) to throw in a normal backpack.  The changing station would hook to our stroller and had a pocket to fit small snacks/disposable bibs if we just wanted to grab it and not my whole backpack.  It was perfect!
  • Bring a travel friendly stroller.  Several months before our trip I picked up a MacLaren Techno XT on Craigslist.  We chose this stroller because it’s lightweight, sturdy, AND fully reclines for sleeping.  There were several afternoons when it was time for Amelia’s nap and instead of returning to our accommodations we would just recline the stroller and continue on our day as she napped on the go.
  • That brings us to accommodations.  Book vacation rentals!  Our vacation rentals were always cheaper than hotel/B&Bs and we had a bedroom to put Amelia to sleep in at her normal bedtime (7pm/8pm) while we could still enjoy a few glasses of wine and watch a movie, plan the next portion of our trip, or just chat.  It was perfect!  Not to mention having a full kitchen to prepare snacks, refrigerate leftovers, or to eat our takeout in was just convenient (you can also cook if you choose to!).
  • My last tip would be to bring your own carseat AND gate check it (at least TO your destination).  We would have saved hours of hassle if we had gate checked our carseat.  Amelia’s carseat was lost somewhere between Minneapolis and Dublin and initially we didn’t think it would be a problem.  We got to our car rental agency and requested a carseat only to find that NONE of their 3 carseats safely buckled into our chosen rental car.  We ended up having to trade our automatic rental in for a manual transmission car (which ended up saving us money and Nathan had a grand old time driving it so it worked out) just to get a safe and proper installation for the rental agency’s carseat.  But then when once we got Amelia buckled into the safely installed carseat it became apparent that European carseat standards are vastly different than the US’s (forward facing starting at 9 months and NO chest clip).  We lost over 2 hours of time trying to get the right carseat safely installed.  Next time we will go through the hassle of hauling the carseat through airports to ensure we have the right seat on arrival.  The airline did find our carseat and got it to us 24 hours later and even returned the rental carseat for us, but it made for an extremely stressful first few hours in Ireland (especially after having not slept for over 24 hours!).

The trip was a once in a lifetime experience and we had so much fun.  Amelia loved being with her parents non-stop for 10 days and we loved having her alongside us as we all soaked in the culture, food, and beauty of Ireland.