Motion Sickness

motionsickness.gifApparently motion sickness is written in your genes and it’s therefore hereditary. So given that I get sick when riding backwards in a black cab or when I’m waiting on the platforms for a motorboat in Venice, my poor son was bound to have a motion sickness issue.
I am glad to report that he is getting somehow better as he gets older; at least he can now warn you when he is about to throw up… a major improvement!
Every tip I’m going to give is just common sense — we have never tried medicines (we thought he was too young and not sick enough) and we never tried the elastic armbands (because they did not work with my pregnancy sickness).
The first important thing is to try to keep the fluid intake on the low side before you get on the car (or bus or boat), and definitely avoid milk. If he throws up milk you will regret it for the whole vacation. Juice, chamomile or baby tea do not leave the same smell!
Of course the ideal would be for your child to be asleep during the more troubled part of the trip (open sea tracts or mountain roads), but one can’t always be that lucky. My advice is to bring some very dry savory snacks and let him eat those during the most troubled moments. Sailmen swear on bread with anchovies, but that may be a dash too strong of a flavour for Junior! (more…)

Traveling with (two) kids

Phil and Teds ‘Vibe’We’ve already mentioned before how much we love the Phil&Teds double buggy, but as a mother of two little boys, I can tell you the importance of taking it with you on holiday

  • It’s a must-have in airports when you need both your kids to sit still, or if you’re in a hurry and you don’t have time to walk at your child’s pace. (Try traveling on your own with two kids and being dropped off by a taxi to the wrong terminal at Heathrow airport while running late to begin with!!!)
  • The double buggy is brilliant if both your kids still take naps. Who wants to spend any extra time in the hotel waiting for nap time to be over? Both kids can sleep, even at the same time, in the Phil&Teds!
  • It’s also quite useful even if one of your kids isn’t riding in it, as it provides storage space for all your shopping!

It’s obviously not as light-weight or travel friendly as, say, the Maclaren, but if you’ve got two kids and you’re going to a city where you’ll be walking, the Phil&Teds is a life-saver!


Magic (mess-free) markers

Crayola color-wonder markersWe travel from London to Seattle (a 10-hour flight) at least twice a year with our two boys, and I can assure you it is never an easy travel day. I always chalk it up to being an awful day, and then I’m just pleasantly surprised if it all goes well. It is the little things, like these magic markers, that help make it more tolerable.

Crayola makes mess-free color-wonder travel packs that are brilliant. The markers only work on the special paper, and while the ink is clear, each marker magically shows up as a different color on the color-wonder paper.

These kits are perfect for long-haul flights, as you’ll need more than just a few tricks up your sleeve to keep your kids entertained…


Restaurant bag

restaurant bag1Tired of the toys wandering around in the Hervé Chapelier shopping bag I tend to use as a nappy bag, a couple of years ago (when I had only one child and thus more time on my hands), I started making little bags out of cute left-over fabric. The purpose of these little bags was to hold a handful of toys to bring to restaurants or on journeys — to keep my toddler entertained and my head cool.

When my girlfriends saw me, being so super organized with my little cloth bags, they fell from their chairs out of admiration for such highly innovative ideas and amazing skill work :-) . They all wanted me to sew them little cloth bags for their nappy bags (which I did, of course — sigh). The bags were quickly baptized ‘restaurant bags’, and we all started to bring them to restaurants, or on our travels. (more…)

Vive le café

noisette.jpgEvery country has its own coffee etiquette. The US has given us the coffee chains with the ubiquitous paper cups in different sizes. The Italians have given us the no frills espresso and the cappuccino. But what about the French? What is the difference between a noisette, a crème and a café au lait? What is the difference between ordering at the bar, in the sitting area or on the terrace?

After having innumerable visitors come to stay with us and witnessing the confusion when ordering a coffee, I have decided that it is time to shed some light on the situation. (more…)

Bring a carrier

bjorn.jpgAirport luggage handling is unreliable to say the least, and you shouldn’t depend too much on them. That is why you should hang on to your equipment (stroller and car seat) for as long as you can. But sometimes even that that is not enough….

This past spring my family and I were caught in the Terminal 5 disaster at Heathrow. We left London on day 3 of its (mal)functioning, and when I handed our three bags at check-in, I was quite sure we were not going to see them for way longer than a few hours. What I did not expect them to loose was our stroller (which I carried myself to the plane door)! It took British Airways over a week to locate it and deliver it to us.
While our adventure was quite unique, it is, unfortunately, not very rare that strollers get delayed or damaged during the flight. So one of the best advice for any frequent traveler mum I can give is to bring an alternative form of transportation for your baby, and possibly one that will go with you in the cabin. Front carriers, back carriers and slings are all fine. Just bring what you are most comfortable with.
And you can even use them during the flight, once the seat-belt sign is off, to hold your baby and still have your hands free!


Make it fun… and educational!

Easton’s suitcaseWhen our first son was born we thought it would be fun to buy him his own suitcase — something small enough for him to be able to lug around when he was a bit older, and in a fun recognizable color. From the minute he was able to drag his suitcase behind him, he has been pulling it through airports and hotels wherever we go. He also loves to help pack his suitcase, and it’s always a big deal for him to find his suitcase on the baggage carousel. We’ve even been lucky enough before to see his suitcase being loaded onto the plane from the view out the window. His suitcase makes traveling fun, and it also provides some level of comfort whenever we are somewhere new. (His suitcase is from Kipling.)

We also thought it would be a fun tradition to collect patches from all the countries we’ve visited and attach them to his suitcase. Every time we travel to a new country, we go on a search for the perfect patch. It’s fun for him to recognize the flags, and for him to be able to remember all the places he’s been. (The patches, of course, make his suitcase even more unique and personal to him.) (more…)

Familiar melodies

sigikid sheepI’ve read that an unborn baby seems to be able to listen to a melody through his mother’s belly, and after he’s born he will recognize that familiar melody and feel more at home in his new surroundings.
I decided to experiment with my last baby, and religiously held the Sigikid musical toy my mother-in-law gave me when I was about 7 months pregnant to my belly before going to sleep. My husband was looking at me as if I was insane — which I probably was, given the hormonal overload in my pregnant body!

I never knew for sure if that familiar melody made my son feel more comfortable after he was born, but he did grow very attached to his toy.
I always bring his music toy with me when we’re traveling, and the music (Mozart’s wiegenlied, in our case) always calms him down when he’s upset about new, strange surroundings.

Available in different cute models through Amazon UK or US

xxx Esther

Travel books for children

M. Sasek “This is London”There are loads of benefits of traveling with your kids… you give them a broader perspective of the world, introduce them to different cultures and practices, prepare them for bigger things to come, etc. But sometimes I wonder just how much my kids are soaking up from all our traveling. Will they remember it? Will they gain anything from it? Right now my son knows that he gets croissants when we go to France, that his best friend, Sara, lives in Amsterdam, and that you eat gelato and say ‘ciao’ in Italy. That’s pretty much the extent of it.

I’m sure it’s an overwhelming concept to grasp for a little kid, which is why it helps to do a bit of reading up on some of the places you visit. My favorite informative travel books for kids are from the “This is…” series by Miroslav Sasek.

Sasek believed that young people deserved to know about the things they would be seeing when they traveled. His descriptions of the different cities are marked by a subtle humor, and are filled with interesting facts about the city and its people/buildings/transport, etc. And the bold, stylized drawings are simply beautiful. (more…)

Traveling in France

mapfrance.jpgNo wonder France is one of the prime destinations in the world for holidays. Beach, mountains, culture, food, wine… you name it, we have it! And kids are (mostly) welcomed anywhere.

Most restaurants have some kind of kids’ menu, often serving the universally appreciated steak hache et pommes de terre roti, otherwise known as burgers and chips. But contrary to northern European countries, you will rarely find any special equipment for kids. Over here even toddlers are expected to sit with their head barely reaching over the table for a whole 3 course meal using normal size cutlery and glass cups, and surprisingly, they mostly do. Hotels are similar — kids are welcome but are expected to fit in. That being said, every hotel I have stayed in has been able to provide a cot so there is some kid-friendly equipment.
Another thing that needs a word of warning are the French toilets… (more…)

Cleaning them

duckok.JPGMaybe not everyone knows that in this space-constrained land called Europe not every hotel room or flat has a bathtub. You will find tubs in 4-star resorts and hotels but even in many 3-star-rated accommodations there may only be a shower available. If your baby is too big to be bathed in the sink (or bidet) and too small to take showers, you may consider packing an inflatable tub.
We have the Munchkin Duck Tub and we are really happy with it. It’s fun (babies are definitely not scared), it’s comfortable, there’s a bottom plug to drain it and it has a suction cap so you can hang it in the shower nicely out of the way.
AND, if you squeeze the beak it goes “quack! quack!”… but then I’m not sure that’s a plus!


Roll ‘n Go bibs

Tommy Tippee Roll ‘n Go bibsThese Tommee Tippee Roll n Go bibs are great for traveling because they roll up perfectly and stay fastened. They’re soft and light-weight so they’re easy to tote around in your diaper bag, they have a scoop for catching spills, and they wipe off easily (and can even be put in the dishwasher).

These bibs come everywhere with us. They make dining out in restaurants that much more easy (and tidy)!

Alternatively, you can buy disposable bibs , but for some reason I’ve never liked them as much. (Not to mention, they’re not as eco-friendly as using just one bib and wiping it clean after each meal.)



Eurostar TrainI have been traveling to and from London and Paris for years and years and it is some of the most relaxed traveling ever. The Eurostar leaves from the center of one capital and arrives a mere 2 hours and 15 minutes later bang in the middle of the other capital city. I would sometimes just go from one city to the other for a night out!

Even now with 2 little travel buddies, it is still the easiest way for traveling… but there are a couple of tricks! Firstly there are two “kid friendly” cars — car 1 and car 18 at the extremities of the train, but it is only possible to book yourself into these cars if you book by telephone, not on the internet. Kid friendly does not mean much except that the seats are all grouped by 4 in those cars and there are changing table facilities. Most importantly, I don’t feel like I have to worry as much about a child running around or crying in those specific cars. (more…)

Truly portable beds

samsonite.JPGI don’t know what happens in your family but whenever we pack our stuff for a family holiday of any length, we always seem to be relocating to the moon. I have long understood that my days of cool carry-on luggage are gone, but I still have not given in to the idea of needing a truckload of stuff. That’s why packing is so stressful– it’s a complicated exercise in which you trade-off transportability with comfort.
Which is why I am a big fan of the Samsonite pop-up beds; they make traveling easy, and you don’t have to make any trade-offs. They fit easily into your suitcase, and are light and super-easy to assemble. I own the two sizes — the cot and the bubble, and I have used them both so many times. (more…)

Airport fun…

If you’re flying with children, make sure that you check the website of the airport you depart from beforehand. With kids, it’s advisable to arrive at the airport in time; not only to avoid stress (and fights with your husband :-)), but also to make sure that you get good seats (meaning next to each other) and that you will really get that bassinet or special meal you reserved beforehand.

rijksmuseum expoBecause you’ll have to spend some time at the airport (and assuming not all of you have a platinum frequent-flyer card allowing you to get in those chic private lounges), it’s good to know about all the children’s facilities around. You want to keep the kids entertained, as you don’t want them to sleep BEFORE the flight!

Take for instance our ‘homebase’ airport here in Amsterdam: ‘Schiphol‘.

Did you know that Schiphol is the first airport in the world to have a museum in its terminal? And not any museum — it is an annexe of the famous Rijksmuseum! So while waiting for your flight, you can show your kids ten works by famous Dutch masters (like Jan Steen, or Rembrandt)! There’s also a temporary exhibition to enjoy; currently ‘Books in the age of Rembrandt’ (until October 2008). (more…)

Kids and Jet Lag

Jet Lag globeJet lag is, unfortunately, a huge, unavoidable inconvenience for my family. We travel from London to the west coast of America at least twice every year, which means we have to reckon with an 8-hour time difference each time we travel. My grandma has always said that it takes you as many days to get over jet lag as the amount of hours you’re off schedule. Which means, by her measures, it takes us at least a week to feel normal after traveling. Ugggh!

Of course, it’s always a bit easier when traveling west because your clock is gaining time, and it’s worse when traveling east because you lose time. We always do much better when we travel to the states than when we return. Also, it seems that kids are generally less affected by jet lag than adults, and if you’re pregnant it seems to really knock your socks off!

Here are my tips for dealing with jet-lag and getting your family back on track… (more…)

The perfect travel outfit

Petit Bateau reversible stripey suitMichela has already raved before about the Petit Bateau reversible striped suit, but I thought it was worth mentioning again because it is my favorite travel outfit for babies (0-24 months).

This all-in-one coverall is cozy enough to be used as pajamas, but cute enough to be worn during the day, outside of the house. It’s also reversible, so if a 3-hour drive leaves your baby looking like he hasn’t been washed in years, a quick switch-up of the outfit will reveal a new (clean) stripy side. How convenient!

If we have an early morning flight, I dress my baby in this outfit the night before so I don’t even have to change him in the morning, and voilà — he’s ready to go. I wish they made them in my size…


Cash in the car

cash.jpgCar journeys are a trial for the whole family. I still remember sitting in the back of the car, being completely bored and knowing that there were still 7 hours of journey ahead of us… To make matters worse my mother had a policy against a tape player in the car as she thought it hindered us talking to each other.

I have no such ideas; I think that sometimes the less conversation between kids (otherwise known as fights) the better. But my thing is: how many times can I listen to Incy Wincy Spider sung with a falsetto voice?

My solution is the The Johnny Cash Children’s Album — great songs for the whole family to listen to and I am hoping I am subtly influencing my kids in their taste in music. How great would it be if, at the age of 14, my daughters don’t decide to be goths, but are in to country music just because of all the long childhood car rides around Europe!

- Emilie

Traveling in Italy

italy.jpgIf you are taking your family to Italy here’s some good news: Italians love children. Now the bad news: Italy is not structurally child friendly.
Old towns, narrow stairs, and nonexistent lifts are barriers that you’ll have to overcome if you want to travel around Italy. But relax, you will always find somebody willing to lift the pushchair with you (or for you, if you are lucky).
Other forms of equipment like highchairs, booster seats, changing tables, children’s menus and toy boxes are everything but ubiquitous. But Italians are flexible, and their rules made to be bent, so they might dig out a pile of pillows for your child to sit on while having dinner, or happily bring half-portions to children even though a specific menu is not available.
Changing tables are to be found in airports, Eurostar trains and a few restaurants in very touristic places…. but nowhere else! In the summer you can use an outdoor bench (nobody will frown upon an open-air nappy change), but in the winter you will have to use public restrooms. These are rarely spotless so my advice is to always have a disposable changing mat on which you can place your child directly, or (for more comfort) you can place your padded mat on top.
If you travel on Italian motorways you will stop (like millions of other holidaymakers) at the Autogrill cafés and restaurants that are scattered from north to south. The bigger ones with a Ciao! restaurant are the ones better equipped for children: you can find highchairs and even a meal-preparing kit for babies by Plasmon. During the summer this kit and any child menu will be on sale for just 2 euros. If you want to have some quiet time and enjoy your meal you should plan to stop early, around noon or even before.

Buon Viaggio!


Traveling with kids!

It’s mid July, and even though it has been raining the entire last week here in Amsterdam, it is supposed to be summer in this part of the world! School vacations have more or less started, and everybody is packing their bags, cars, minivans, private planes (I wish), etc. to relocate their families temporarily to another, hopefully more sunny/beautiful/exciting part of the world.

Now, I’ve tried to count the number of hours that Courtney, Emilie, Michela and I have spent traveling the globe with the 8 children we have between us, but it is sheer impossible. It must add up to weeks – if not months!
I think Courtney has probably made the most flying hours with her kids, traveling to her family in the States and back. Emilie definitely made the longest flight with kids — she flew to her in-laws in Australia! I’ve hit the most orient location when we took our baby to Hong Kong, and I’m sure Michela has spent the most hours in car journeys with her children.

PlaneSo, this begins our second week-long series: a series of all our best tips on traveling with kids!

Now, although we all have traveled loads with our kids, we are FAR from mastering the skill, so we would really like to hear YOUR experiences and advice on traveling with kids – so please feel free to leave comments!

OK – here we go with my first tip… (more…)

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