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International Traveling and what I've learned...



It’s been a minute since I blogged! Sometimes I feel like I could write for hours but then I think, who wants to read this stuff? So I pause and think about what I would personally want to spend my time reading (if it’s not a great book or something of that nature). So a travel blog it is! And I’m no expert, but this was our second time flying to Europe with kids for a longer period of time. We were there for 3 ½ weeks and learned a lot! Anyway, hope this helps and at the very least maybe can help ease some anxiety I know we all feel before a major trip.


We traveled to London, Algarve (South of Portugal) and ended in Lisbon. I will be breaking this blog down by categories so that if one doesn’t interest you, you can skip!


**I will also link all of the items that helped us at the end of the blog for you.


Let’s start at the beginning…


Packing


Regardless of who you’re traveling with, one kid, two or three plus, packing can be daunting, especially for anything over a week. Here are some tips that I think work for adults and or kids!


  • Started packing about a week before just to make sure I had everything I needed.

  • I make the twins a packing list. I weed through their selections (based on my list) and then pack it into the cubes. This helps me remember what to pack since I’m writing it down, and allows them to help and have opinions!

  • Packing cubes are a must. I organized things per clothing type. Also, after London, I placed the items that I wouldn’t need in Portugal (like long sleeves or sweaters), in a cube and never opened it again!

  • Because we stayed in apartments at the beginning and end of the trip, I knew we would wash clothes so I packed enough underwear that sort of thing for about a week.

  • I put all my larger liquid items in plastic bags. Then, I can also re use those bags for anything I need on the trip. For example, sunscreens or larger lotions.


  • I packed our swimsuits in plastic zip locks too. We didn’t need them until the middle of our trip so we kept them there and then put them back in after that leg.

  • Packing cubes also helped keep the kids organized. The twins shared a suitcase so I organized them with their own cubes.

  • I packed Eriela in a smaller bag, a carry-on size, although we did check it. This made it easier to travel in general and kept her things organized, since she was always in her own room (or not with the twins).

  • Shoes for Europe mean not many heels, comfortable walking shoes and wedges.

  • A SNACK CARRY ON SIZE BAG – Because of my dietary needs and Eriela’s, I made sure to take an entire bag filled with my go to snacks. I was able to find quite a bit of snacks all of my destinations (Especially London), but this was I didn’t worry about it right when we arrived and also this bag made for a great extra bag for the flight home because we always have extra things! (purchases, dirty clothes etc.).

Some go to reminders that I usually forget to pack are:

  • nail polish remover wipes, nail clippers and a file

  • Sun hats/hats

  • Phone chargers & adaptors for each country (found mine on Amazon, I will link)

  • Sunscreen for E and the rest of us

  • Medicine (especially when traveling internationally, I take everything in a brand new bottle to avoid leaks. I put all the medicine we usually use at home, in a plastic zip lock!)

  • Extra zip locks (always come in handy)


Packing specifically for my toddler


Will keep this brief as I rent a lot of her baby gear (will talk about that in a bit). But here are some things specific for her that always make the trip easier:


  • Small plastic containers. Allows for saving extra food and having food on hand as we travel.

  • One or two bottles that she prefers (sippy cups etc)

  • An extra diaper bag. We have her regular diaper bag filled for the airplane. I don’t like to undo it every time we get to a new country or city. So, I pack an extra lightweight backpack for our every day outings. This way I keep the travel diaper bag packed and ready for the next major move. The backpack is also much lighter and I can throw in just the things we need for the specific outing. BIG LIFE SAVER over the years.

  • Pack and Play crib sheet (I’ve found most places just throw a regular sheet on there and I don’t like that it’s not flat and secure like a crib sheet).

  • Noise maker for Eriela (I have an extra one of the same one she sleeps with specifically, for travel)

  • Slumber Pod

  • Travel stroller (we love ours, it folds up small enough to fit in the overhead compartment)

  • Count out enough of her vitamins and probiotics and bring in zip locks

  • Extra pacifier, Lovey and sleep sacks.

  • All her lotions and toiletries since her skin is so sensitive (@tubbytodd).

  • Snacks


Airplane Diaper bag


Pretty much your typical bag but here are the items that have really helped!

  • Books (small, paper pack ones)

  • Stickers and sticker pad (linking these later on)

  • Ipad and toddler headphones and charger

  • Lovey and small stuffed animal

  • Diapers/wipes

  • Food container, found one we love!

  • Extra food and snacks because you never know what could happen with delays

  • Thermos

  • Coloring book/crayons

  • Extra change of clothes

  • Always keep a small sunscreen stick in there



Baby Rentals



When the twins were 10 months old, we decided to take them to Hawaii. Just Nick and I, before they were walking. Once I realized we would be needing so many things for them, because twins, I panicked. I thought, maybe we can rent some of this stuff! No clue why I thought that but I researched, yes 11 years ago, and found baby rentals in Hawaii! I was so excited! We rented everything from their cribs, high chairs, baby carriers, a stroller and they were even able to bring us diapers and wipes (well before amazon prime and Instacart you guys).


So we bought a travel stroller (this one we had to check at the gate because find me a twin stroller that fits in the overhead compartment), packed a few things in the diaper bag(s), we traveled with two when we flew because you can imagine the amount of things, and we did it!


Ever since then I have been renting the gear everywhere we go. Even when they were 5 in Barcelona and Paris, we rented scooters for them to ride around the city, a box of toys, and books!


On this trip, we used a different baby rentals company in every country/city. Here are the ones we used:


London

Tiny Explorer Rentals


Algarve

Little Rascals Algarve


Lisbon

Upababy


And this is what I rented in every stop:

  • Strong stroller (a jogger preferably) because of the older cobblestone streets and to run with!

  • Diaper gene (when they had it)

  • High chair

  • Pack and Play

  • Box of toys

  • Books

  • Baby tub in case the apartment didn’t have a tub. She would sit in it and we would use the shower to fill it. Most showers also had a hand-held spout which is how we bathed her once she was in the little tub. She loved it!

  • Diapers and wipes (not borrowed of course)

  • Toddler plates and cups (if they had them to rent)


I have never traveled anywhere that doesn’t have a company that rents baby gear! It has honestly been such a life saver. They come to your hotel or airb&b and set it up! Just coordinate with the host or hotel staff beforehand. The rental companies are very flexible. They also pick it up for you at the end of your stay!


Flight and Jet lag



Let’s just get it out of the way, you’re going to be tired. BUT the flights we have found that work the best that have allowed us to avoid jet lag while going to Europe are the red eyes.


Eriela has her own seat now but she is not good at sleeping unless it’s in her own bed or slumber pod. So, I have to bring her to my seat and kind of “force her” to sleep. If not she is way too distracted and won’t sleep.


I bought a couple “help toddler sleep” commodities but she didn’t want either (let’s hope I can return them).


I pack some deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste (first class has some in every seat too) and some face wash. I feel like when I wash my face before we land I feel refreshed and more awake.


We leave anytime after 7pm. Have dinner on the flight and then try, key word, to sleep a bit. Everyone slept for about 3-4 hours (except for me but I can manage). We woke up in London and landed at 2pm UK time. We got to our apartment, set up and unpacked and then went outside! It helped raise our energy a bit and was nice to just be outside walking around exploring our neighborhood. We did this with the twins in Paris too years ago.


I always and only order food in the first night of traveling. Even if we have time, no one is in the best mood and we are all hungry and just want to eat and get to bed. So we ordered “take –away,” showered and went to bed around 10! I put Eriela down right around 7. We all slept through the night and woke up fine the next day!


I always start her off on her normal schedule right away. So we wake her at 7 if she’s not up (since she is ALWAYS up by 7 on her own usually), and then put her down for her nap at her usual time. This gets her on her routine, which allows her to be a happier kid, and allows us too to not have to guess or worry about her being tired or hungry.


There are less options (for us traveling to San Diego), on the way home. But in this case I make sure everyone stays awake so we can all sleep through the night when we land.


Accommodations


Because this was a longer trip, I knew having our own space, washer and dryer and kitchen would be best. TBH it’s usually best with kids and sometimes even without kids! Because of my food allergies I prefer to have quite a few things handy and having a kitchen is really helpful.


With that said, we love hotel life. SO what we did was make a hotel sandwich. Meaning, we stayed in an apartment (we used One Fine Stay- https://www.onefinestay.com/), in London (stayed in Kensington and loved it. I would definitely recommend that area). After London we opted for a hotel for 6 nights in Algarve. It gave us a little break and a little extra pampering. Then we used airb&b for our last stop in Lisbon. This also made it really nice to be able to wash clothes and not come home with a pile of laundry.





Few tips if you’re staying in home/apartment:


  • Order groceries and ask host to bring in for you so they’re there upon arrival. Ask the host for grocery delivery aps, there are a lot!

  • We are breakfast at home kind of people unless we are in a hotel so cereal, eggs, milk and fruit were staples. And each country had a huge selection of dairy free milks and yogurts! I love doing this because I feel like I get to know a city when I grocery shop and see what amazing things they have!

  • Double check that the apartment has a coffee maker AND coffee and that you know how to use it. Our stay in London had a French press which was nice but I prefer brewed or expresso. It worked for the first morning and after that we found amazing local coffee shops!

  • Ask for a late checkout! Most have an 11am checkout and we always like for Eriela to take her nap before we leave/travel if we can. Most have been very accommodating.

  • Ask for a cleaning service mid stay (especially if it’s a longer stay).

  • Ask the host for any tips and tricks for the home and or getting around!

  • Ask if there are a lot of stairs (something we should have asked) and if they have a bathtub in case you need it for your toddler (and what floor that bathtub is in).

**I do a lot of this stuff in a hotel stay too! I always ask for a mini fridge especially since Eriela is the first to wake up and the first to want breakfast! This way she can eat even if none of us are hungry (Nick too LOL).


Nanny and Babysitters


This is a big topic, and one that I know some people may assume a lot about.


Before Lupita, we didn’t have a nanny. Yes I had people help with the twins when they were 2 a couple times a week but we didn’t have help 5x a week like we do now, and we certainly didn’t have anyone traveling with us!



However, since that first trip to Hawaii when the twins were 10months, we found babysitters in the cities we went to. TBH we never used a nanny service other than in the hotels that we trusted (once the girls were older too). The way we found help was by asking around! And this was before social media was big too.


Most of us know people in other states, countries or cities. So I always started there. We asked friends if they knew anyone or if they knew anyone who might know anyone and the answer was always yes! When the girls were little we would put them down to sleep and then head out to dinner. As they got older, they were used to having a sitter come once in a while so it wasn’t ever a problem. This allowed us to go out once or twice a vacation! Especially on those longer trips.


Lupita started with us when Eriela was in my tummy. She was actually the twins’ Spanish tutor when we had to homeschool them during the Pandemic. I needed them to speak more Spanish and was pregnant and I’m not a teacher. She would come over a couple times a week and do some fun projects with them (also a little tip if you’re trying to bilingual rout). These were all fun projects but all in Spanish!


Anyway, when Eriela was born and I was ready to let go a little, around 8 weeks, we had her stay and help. She started a couple times a week and then eventually took on the 5 morning she has today.


We wanted to head to Puerto Vallarta with Eriela but were wondering how to do it since we also wanted to hang out with the twins. This is where that age gap is a little tough so we asked her to come and she was all for it! Ever since then, we are lucky enough to have had her come on most of our trips.


But again, it just takes some asking around and digging to find people who can help! You would be surprised how many options we ended up having and how much fun the twins had with everyone!


Workout Routine



Both Nick and I like to keep our routine going, especially on longer trips. If we are going to a beach or resort for a few days we take it down a bit and take that time to let our bodies relax. We take long walks (which is still great exercise) and always take Eriela in the stroller with us when we do.


Because this was a longer trip, we kept our schedule. We jogged every other day of the week with Eriela in the stroller (which also allows Lupita to have extra time in the mornings to herself), and the other days we found workout classes or a gym.


London had a lot of options, we opted for f45 since Nick take this class at home and it was a 5 min walk from our apartment. In Algarve, we used the hotel gym and, because of how many hills there were there, we ran hills while one of us played at the park with Eriela (the hotel had a nice park right on property which allowed us to do this).


We continued this in Lisbon too and found a fun workout class.


What we also forgot is how much walking we do in Europe and how many hills there are in Portugal! I don’t think I’ve ever been in this good of shape haha. I don’t count my steps but when we looked, it said I was tripling what I normally do in a day.


In other words, we didn’t worry about working out too much but it was nice to keep a little routine for us too.


London tips


A few things I learned while in London that helped us out:


  • Ubers work great there

  • Make reservations for dinners in advance (you can always cancel)

  • We booked a pod for ourselves at the London eye. A little pricier but worth it with so many of us.

  • Try to see a musical

  • There were tons of beautiful parks, gorgeous free entertainment and so much history. We never got a tour guide, google is pretty awesome!

  • Prepare for all the weather (especially in July). We got it all but snow!

In general, London was my favorite. I love the diversity and culture the city has to offer. There are pockets that, like any city, are a bit too crowded and touristy for me, but I feel like I could have stayed another week or more! We were there for 9 days!


Algarve, Portugal


For us, this was a more relaxing part of the trip. We did this on purpose since we knew we would be wanting a few days to relax after London. It was perfect for that! We stayed at the W hotel in Albufeira. We stayed in a “residency” which gave us a lot of space and a kitchen. The food (especially the breakfast buffet) was incredible. And we visited a few other surrounding restaurants that were also delicious.





A few tips here:


  • See the caves by boat. It’s a must, one of those things you can’t even imagine until you’re there in person. We went on a tour for an hour and it was the perfect amount of time.

  • Walk around Old Town. So many cute little shops and things to see

  • Head to the beach. Every beach is small and so quaint. I never felt like it was too crowded

  • Very warm but we had a strong breeze most of our trip which made it very enjoyable.

  • Since we had the huge breakfast buffet, I would make a plate and bring it back to the room of food I stored for Eriela. This way she could eat right after her nap or whenever she was ready for lunch and I didn’t have to worry about ordering food.




Lisbon, Portugal


One of the most colorful cities I’ve ever seen. It is truly magical and one I hope everyone can visit some day. We stayed at an airb&b here. It was gorgeous and we stayed in the barrio called Chiado. It was very quaint and somewhat calmer than other barrios. The only tough part in Lisbon were all the hills. Without a stroller and with older kids, it wouldn’t have been as challenging, but here we were very thankful Lupita was with us as there was no way we were taking Eriela with us every time we went out to do something.




A few tips:


  • If you have a little one, a jogger is a must. Double strollers would be very challenging here. It is all cobblestone so insist on that jogger, it saved us.

  • Ask your host, if you are doing an apartment, if you have stairs you will need to climb up. We had three flights to our apartment. Not the most convenient but at least we now have the best butts we’ve ever had LOL.

  • Make sure your Airb&B has AC (we did but just reminding you to ask).

  • We also ordered groceries here through Uber Eats. It was simple. We did the basics but of course there is almost everything you need.

  • In general, nothing is sold in bulk in Europe so just be aware of that if ordering groceries.

  • Go see the Pena Palace in Sintra (Uber there and back!)

  • Go see the tower of Belem. Not too far from Lisbon. We also rented a catamaran that day and saw the city from the river. It was amazing and highly recommend it especially with kids who don’t want to walk around and “tour” for hours.

  • Sight see after 1 or 2 pm. We didn’t hit many crowds at all even on weekends!

  • There is a law in Portugal that if you are a family with a child under 3, if you are pregnant, if you have an elderly person with you or anyone with disabilities, you get to skip to the front of the line! This saved us so many times. (and use this at the airport especially!)

  • Remember that you can get $ back from taxes at the airport if you buy things in Europe. Ask the employee of the store you are purchasing items from to give you the form (they can fill it out for you). There are kiosks at the airport! So worth it!

Global Entry


The short answer is apply for it. Yes I know it might take a year, but it is so worth it. The application process is easy. You can click here:



Once your application is reviewed you will be asked to make an appointment for an interview. The interview is maybe 10min long.


Global has helped us bypass such long lines trying to get back in to the US and it also comes with TSA! So when you get to the airport you are also bypassing a lot of crowds and get through security so much faster.








In general, we have a rule of thumb when we travel that we do one big thing a day. We never kill ourselves to see everything because let’s face it, we won’t be able to see it all. So, the things we do have time to see, we want to enjoy and not feel rushed or exhausted! This mind shift has made all of our trips so much more enjoyable.


Lastly is that anxiety that pops up when we change our routines. I get it, I am a creature of habit. But the world is too important to not see because of that. Trust me, I was anxious about that until the minute we fell asleep the first night. And then I realized, I can bring my routine with me! And in fact, everyone thrived from having a routine abroad too. You might have to alter it a bit, it may take a day to figure out, but trust me, you will and it’s doable!


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