Posts filed under traveling with kids

Pack Your Bags | Belfast (with Kids!)

If you’re looking for a fun place to get away to- and not have a ton of hassle- I’d like to suggest Belfast. It’s often forgotten, but with easy and frequent flights from London airports- it makes for a fun weekend getaway. And since the tickets are cheap and flights are short- it’s especially great to bring the kids along, too. 

Here’s my quick and easy guide for a great weekend in Northern Ireland’s famous capital city, Belfast.


WHERE TO STAY

THE FITZWILLIAM BELFAST | This hotel is gorgeous and has a great location in downtown Belfast. We’ve stayed in other places in recent years, but have made this our official favourite in the city. It’s just so nice and so well priced. Annnnnd, for any Game of Thrones fans, it’s where the cast and crew was living for a few months this fall. (And we got to share the lift with several of them!) If you’re going with kids, it’s worth it to upgrade to a larger room or suite for the extra space. You can also book an adjoining room here. Breakfast is fantastic, and staff is lovely.

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WHAT TO DO

TITANIC MUSEUM | You can’t go to Belfast and skip a visit to the Titanic Museum. Situated on the site of the original shipyard where the Titanic was built, the Titanic offers an amazing view of the history of chipmaking in Belfast, the actual building of the Titanic, and the heartbreaking single voyage of the ship. The cafes on-site are really nice and the whole experience is very kid-friendly. (And if you don’t have kids, even better. Ha! You may be able to glean more information than we can.) Either way you do it, it’s pretty much a must-do when you’re in the city.

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ST. GEORGE'S MARKET | Every town needs a great food market, and Belfast isn’t an exception. St. George’s Market is open over the weekend and offers food stalls, eats and the occasional live music performance from musicians. It’s indoors, so it’s a place you can go and not worry about it getting rained out in bad weather. Plus, it’s located in downtown, so it’s an easy walk from everything.

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THE GIANT'S CAUSEWAY | So this place isn’t exactly a playground or theme park, but it’s great for kids in the fact that they can roam/explore and you won’t be too nervous for their safety. The rocks are like little steps and easy to help them navigate by holding their hands. The coast is there, but it’s so far out that they can’t run there too quickly without you noticing. The visitor’s centre has some nice children activities and, when all else fails while you’re teaching them of the folklore surround Finn McCool, there are sheep that graze along the fences of the property. Voila. All you really need for a fun day out. 

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The Giant's Causeway is about an hour and ten minutes from Belfast. It’s an easy drive, but you will need a car. 

BUSHMILL'S INN | While you’re out at the Giants Causeway, plan to stop for lunch at the famous Bushmills Inn. With cosy nooks and hearty food, it’s a great stop. The inn may look tiny off the main road in Bushmills, but when you wander back- you’ll see how expansive the site really is. Also, if you go on a Sunday- you’ll be there for their legendary roast. It’s served on a buffet… and MASSIVE. Your plates will be piled higher than Christmas dinner. It’s insane and so, so good.

BELFAST CHRISTMAS MARKET | Each year, we end up being there at the start of the Christmas market, so for us, Belfast has a great holiday feel to it. With windy weather and dark days, the Christmas market is a great way to end the day for our little family. I mean, any time I can feed my family without going to a sit-down dinner is a win. Plus, it’s so cheap. Definitely recommend going, if you can!

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WHERE TO EAT

MADE IN BELFAST | This is our favourite place to eat in Belfast. We typically try to sneak away from the hotel (if we have our au pair) for date here, but if that’s not possible, we bring the kids for a lunch time meal. The interiors and locally-sourced menu make if too good a spot to miss. We go to the City Hall location, as it’s the closest to our hotel. Reservations needed,.

FRATELLI | This is a great Italian restaurant dishing up massive bowls of pasta and warm Italian dishes. It would work great for adults only or for the family. It’s got a big dining room, but I’d still recommend booking a table due to it’s popularity. For a rainy day in Northern Ireland, this place is not only warm and cosy… but super tasty. 

What a fun city! We are already planning a return visit in April, and I’m excited to see the city in springtime. Maybe next time, we won’t have to be so bundled up.

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(These coats are all Boden - one of the best British brands out there. Our family is perpetually wearing Boden because everything looks great, can stand up to the crazy weather and stands the test of time between kids.)

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ONE | TWO | THREE | FOUR | FIVE | SIX | SEVEN | EIGHT | NINE | TEN | ELEVEN


Looking for things to do in the rest of Ireland? Check out my guides to Dublin and Ireland.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

A Dummies Guide to Iceland (With Kids)

This spring, I’ve been B U S Y with travel consults. It’s definitely the most chaotic time of the year for me as summer approaches and so many people are getting their trips ready for the months ahead. While the bulk of people come for help with vacations for the UK & France, I have to say- Iceland is quickly becoming a big contender for the most popular destination.

While it definitely appeals to the young traveler- it is equally as popular with young families. And, as someone who has brought her own small children with her for the past five years on repeat trips there, I can easily vouch for why it is a fantastic spot to travel with children.

For anyone that is planning to come to Iceland, I thought I’d give you a few basic facts that either are asked often by clients or that I have learned from being there year after year. I figured there would be endless resources online for families planning a trip to Iceland echoing these same thoughts, but when I actually checked- everything was several years old… and now wrong! With the increase in tourism over the past few years, things have changed and I figured I would give some updated and specific pointers that really can change how you plan your family trip to Iceland.


1. CHILDREN UNDER TWO ARE NO LONGER ALLOWED IN THE BLUE LAGOON

I hate to charge in straight away with this bummer, but I have yet to talk to a person going to Iceland who doesn’t plan to visit the legendary Blue Lagoon. This is a real bummer, as I’ve always brought my babies in the lagoon with me. However, with the growing popularity and increase in visitors, there is now a VERY strict rule that children under two aren’t allowed in. You can swap off on who has the baby, but the lifeguards will (basically) yell at you if you bring a little baby in the lagoon that is under the age limit. 

If you’re still looking for a similar experience, you can always try another lagoon in Iceland. There is the “Secret Lagoon,” also known as Gamla Laugin, that (as of 2016) allows little ones. Or you can head to any of Iceland’s local pools where kids are not only welcome, but will have amenities to really entertain them…. for about $3 per person. Not only will you be with 100% real Icelanders, but you’ll get a great view at the (admittedly, quirky) fact of culture of life in Iceland: they are obsessed with swimming and go to their local pools frequently throughout the week!

 

2. YOU CAN RENT CAR SEATS FROM RENTAL CAR AGENCIES AT THE AIRPORT

Many people seem to feel restricted by the thought of checking car seats and having to schlep their own car seats all the way from the US. I feel that. It’s a hassle. The good news is, you can rent one with your rental car and skip having the hassle of bringing your own. Just check in advance, but there is typically a giant rack of them ready to distribute when you get your keys.

If you aren’t renting your own car, I’d recommend bringing your own car seats. Taxis WON’T drive your children unless they are in a car seat. While countries like the UK & France have loopholes to allow for children to ride in their parents’ laps in taxis, Iceland has strict laws that prohibit driving children without a carseat. (I’ve learned this the hard way!)

3. ICELAND IS VERY KID FRIENDLY

The good news is: Iceland has been kid friendly and, from all we have seen on our recent visits, continues to be so as the country booms in popularity. Sure, now there are some chic restaurants that wouldn’t be the best place to bring your toddler, but for the most part- the country is geared for little ones. Hotels are happy to put baby beds in room, when they have been requested in advance. Rental car companies can provide car seats, again when they have been requested in advance. While some countries feel a bit stuffier to the notion of bringing along a baby with you, Iceland is a great place to take the kids for their first trip abroad as the culture is still unique… but with enough personal space and freedom to give young families flexibility without a scornful eye.

 

4. PACK A SNACK

I know this sounds silly, but if you have room to bring some snacks for your kids- you’ll save yourself some serious cash by avoiding stuff in the gas stations and grocery stores. As you’ll most likely know or have heard, Iceland is EXPENSIVE. With the high value of the krona combined with the unceasing demand of tourists, the Iceland people are raking in the cash. They have no incentive to keep their food at normal prices when tourists will keep shovelling money their way. Save your money for good meals out, and don’t fond yourself tearing up over the absence cost of granola bars and bottled water. (PS. All tap water in Iceland is 100% perfect. Just bring refillable bottles and save yourself the unnecessary expense… and having the locals giggle at you for paying for bottled water when you can get the same out of the tap.)

5. ICELANDAIR IS GREAT WITH KIDS

While most people coming from the US will have to connect at some point in their journey to Iceland’s main airport in Keflavik, it’s worth considering flying with Iceland’s own airline, IcelandAir. Especially if you’re traveling with kids. While most airlines operate under the policy that all ticketed passengers pay the same fare (after all, a seat is a seat), IcelandAir has reduced fares for kids. Not only is the economic value a plus, but they are just, well, really nice to families. When kids board, they hand them a little box of food, headphones and colouring books. All seats come with personal entertainment systems, and there are plenty of options for kids. 

The other perk that IcelandAir famously offers passengers is the ability to do up to 7 days of a “lay-over” in Iceland (where all of their US-Europe flights connect anyway) for no additional fee. It was originally a marketing aim to get people to explore the country, but even now that Iceland is one of the top travel destinations- it’s still an offer to their passengers. This makes it a great stopover for families on their way to Europe, as it can help pace out the craziness of jet lag between the drastic time changes. Basically, a couple of days in Iceland doubles the fun… and halves the jet lag.

6. KIDS ARE FREE MOST PLACES

The truth is, most of the sites won’t actually charge you anyway. With the main attractions being beautiful outdoor sites, you’ll be able to walk up to most of them and enjoy them without paying a dime. However, for some of the paid outings- small children are free, too. For example, Into the Glacier is an amazing experience that we have taken my children to several times. While the site doesn’t say it, I’ve written to verify that small children are free. The company does need to know that they will be coming, so they recommend buying tickets for the adults and then writing to say that lap children (think toddlers & babies, not your 8 year old. Sorry!) will be coming, too. While they don’t need a ticket, they do need to be accounted for in the giant trucks that transfer people onto the glacier. If you’re planning for any paid excursions, its best to check with the provider. My guess is you’ll either be relieved to hear that they can join for free…. Or are too young to come with the group outing. Either way, it’s best to check in advance to avoid a busted day of travel.


Find all my travel posts for Iceland here or check out my travel guide to Iceland here.

Still want more? Book a travel consult for one-on-one with a session to help plan out your trip. 



 

*Images by Ashel Parsons for Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on May 17, 2017 and filed under iceland, travel, traveling with kids.

Little London | Christmas (with Kids!) in London

In travel consults, I'm often asked if coming to Europe at Christmas is a bad idea. My answer is- most always- not at all! Christmas in Europe feels so magical. You simply can't beat the charm of a German Christmas market, sipping chocolat chair from a tiny cafe after shopping in Paris, or being absorbed into the grandeur of a carol service held in a candle-lit Westminster Abbey.

While so many destinations in Europe are steeped in various traditions, I'm biased to the way that London celebrates Christmas. It's a style that would make Dickens proud and Hugh Grant smile. In a big way, the city embraces the "festive season" and splashes out weeks of fun, holiday events full of the quirky items you've heard of in movies and books: mince pies served with mulled wine, nativity plays, potatoes roasted in goose fat, Santa's Grotto, and of course- the Christmas pudding.


You'll find no other time of the year to have so many great options for kids, either. Days out for families are all just waiting to be enjoyed during the run up to Christmas. I've put together a list of my favourites- the ones we share with our own kids and make into a yearly tradition.

CHRISTMAS TREE LIGHTING CEREMONIES | Each year, the major areas of town will have tree lighting ceremonies in early November to kick off the season. The bigger areas will often have celebrity performances and tons of festive fun. The largest ones are typically around Oxford Circus and Regent Street.


HYDE PARK WINTER WONDERLAND | This is our family's favourite Christmas tradition- Tyler & I have gone every year since we moved to England! Set up in Hyde Park (on the East side- between Hyde Park Corner & Marble Arch), is Winter Wonderland. Think of a State Fair and a German Christmas market having a baby. A really big baby. Entrance is free, but rides aren't. (You pay with tokens purchased in endless kiosks in the park.) Food is paid for in cash and most stalls now accept credit cards.

Come early in the day with kids to avoid the really long lines... and come hungry! There are so many great stalls and things to do- you're going to be glad you have room to eat.


FESTIVE AFTERNOON TEAS | At Christmas, tea rooms around London will swap out their regular afternoon tea menus for a Festive Tea. These teas are afternoon teas with a Christmas twist. Expect to get all the standard items like tea, scones and sandwiches:.. just with some seasonal items tucked in to the menu: turkey and cranberry sandwiches, mince pies and miniature Christmas puddings... and most will have a sweet children's version, too.

This is one of my favourite things to do in London with a little girl at Christmas, as it typically involves dressing up and strolling through picturesque streets for window shopping when you've finished.

CAROL SERVICE AT WESTMINSTER ABBEY | In the Advent Season, most of the churches will have carol services. We like to take guests to Westminster Abbey for their big one on Christmas Eve when we can get tickets. The service on the 24th is ticketed so you'll need to get tickets in advance. Tickets are free, but allocated in advance.

However, they have a few other services which do not require tickets. The full schedule can be found here on the Abbey's website.

ICE SKATING AT THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM | This is a great example of how doing something ordinary can become cooler when it's in a pretty place. Book tickets for ice skating in the courtyard of the Natural History Museum and you'll not only have fun- but some gorgeous photos to look back on.

You don't need to be a good skater to skate- most people there won't be! For the little ones, there are helpful little penguin/standers to push along!

SANTA'S GROTTO AT HARRODS | Again, this needs to be booked- but you can book a special trip to see Santa. When you enter, Santa will be waiting for your child(ren) and will speak to him by name. As they wait to see Santa, the children get to play games and explore his "workshop." It's really sweet and feels very fancy! See our visit here from last year. 

CHRISTMAS CAROLS AT TRAFALGAR SQUARE | This is a great free option for families on a nice day. Throughout the month, various groups and charities will sing carols in Trafalgar Square throughout the day. Take a seat on the steps in front of the National Gallery and enjoy the sounds of Christmas and Big Ben in the backdrop. It's best to bring a warm drink and some mince pies with you, too!


Looking for more ideas of what to do in London? Find my travel guide here or book a travel consult.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy
 

Pack Your Bags | York's Teddy Bear Tea Room

Hello from a train to Edinburgh. The rain drops on the windows compete in number to the fingerprints of my children. Ha! Only 46 minutes left, but who's counting?

I wanted to share this adorable stop in York that has become a favourite on mine in the past few years: Stonegate Teddy Bears. While the store downstairs will lure in children with its shop windows stuffed with, you guessed it, teddy bears- the tiny tea room upstairs is what will get mom & dad to gladly stick around.

The Teddy Bear Tea Room

Perched above the adorable Stonegate Teddy Bear shop in the city centre of York is the Teddy Bear Tea Room.

Wind your way up the stairs to the second floor (well, third, if you're an American) and head to the room on the left. If the table by the window is open, snag it and enjoy the gorgeous views of the nearby York Minster.

The menu has been newly expanded to a range of items that spans across your daily meals- from breakfast, lunch and tea. While there are endless option listed, make sure to ask about the daily rotation of cakes- as they are homemade and absolutely worth getting.

While portions may be bigger than you might expect, don't worry- I can proudly say that a single person can polish off a slice on their own.

The room was decorated for Christmas and Michael Bublé's Christmas album was playing on the speakers. With the cold winter night coming out above the street and the Christmas mood set, I realised that it was officially that time of year. What a way to start the festive season!


My mom heard we were going and offered to buy each of the kids a teddy bear. (Classic Grandma move.) Viola immediately found the most sparkly one with a pink scarf and named her "Cinderella Bear Two," as "Cinderella Bear" is at home on her bed. Harrison grabbed a panda, among 40 other items, but since this was the cheapest and cutest- we decided that was the one for him. He hasn't touched it since.

We love the Teddy Bear Tea Room and it's one of those simple stops that makes traveling to the same place a fun adventure for us... and our kids, too! ;)

Find more of our favourite places in York here, as well as my travel guide to England here.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy
 

Breakfast | The Most Important Meal of the Day... with Kids


I get emails from people asking for advice when traveling with kids: What do I do about jetlag? (Sadly, you only can suffer through it. No shortcuts. Expect one day for every hour in the other timezone before life gets back to normal.) What's the best stroller? (Quinny Moodd is great, in my books.) Do most places have highchairs in Europe? (England, yes. France/Italy, no. Stuff a cloth one like this in the bottom of your stroller.)

But over the past few years, I have come to develop a theory on dining out with children while traveling. You see, it's not that scientific, and I have a suspicion that other parents would feel the same... but it goes towards how to eat out with kids in a way that leaves everyone without trauma (you, them, other diners, and waitstaff!).

Basically, as parents, we know that children peak early in the day. As the day progresses, the behavior becomes less and less reliable and long dinners out seem nearly impossible. I would agree with this, too. The thought of bringing Harrison to dinner at 8pm in Paris makes me sweat. So where does that leave us? Sititng at home and never leaving the house? Packing sandwiches to eat in a corner of a park for every meal?

Nah. I couldn't get all those croissant shots for Instagram from my house. Here's what we do. I'll break it down meal by meal to help talk through each section of the day.

 

BREAKFAST

We eat out at the most gloriously gorgeous place for breakfast when we travel. Gorgeous hotels, amazing restaurants, fancy sunlit spots... you name it, we gladly haul our crew there. First, because my kids can be the best behaved. Second, because those around us have different expectations for who "should be" dining around them at this meal. If a kid is rowdy in a candlelit room at night, eyes rolls. If kids chatter and wiggle at breakfast, it's no big deal. Third, we like this because breakfast- no matter how nice the place- is never going to break the bank. Even at the poshest of hotels and places, breakfast items stay around $10.

 

LUNCH

Lunch is always on the go when traveling. We don't want to go back to the hotel or apartment to do lunch, so it's going to be out. Since we have typically done something bigger for breakfast, we can get by with something a bit more casual for lunch. Cafes, picnic in the park, sidewalk tables... something easier that isn't too stuffy and won't mind kids being there.

 

DINNER

Tuck and run. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not put your familiy through the chaos of sitting through a long multi-course meal. I mean, if you kid is tiny enough to do it- go you. We took Viola everywhere for ages no matter the hour of the day and she did fine. Additionally, if they are old enough to not flip out from a detour from normal bedtime- enjoy it. But if you have more than one that is mobile and not logical, know your limits.

This is a big selling point to getting an AirBnB when you travel. It just gives you the option to go to the local markets (so fun!) and get stuff to cook dinner at home. After dinner, toss the kiddos in bed and unwind with your spouse. Besides, you know you need an early night in to usher in the next day and the inevitable early wakeup.

So there you have it. One of our secrets for sanity in traveling with kids: start big in the morning and work your way down throughout the day. It's better for everyone and still lets you do great eating without the risk of tears!

 

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Traveling with kids is so fun- you just have to adjust your expectations and rethink what normal looks like. It doesn't mean to skimp and go without on everything. (Okay, some things have to go like sleeping in.) This is an easy way to still eat well and keep that integral part of the travel experience still on the table... just with a twist that helps it work for young families.

Please share some tips that help your family when traveling/eating. I'd love to hear the success stories from others!

 



 

*Images by Grant Schol. Original to Aspiring Kennedy.

 

 

Posted on August 30, 2016 and filed under eat, travel, kids, traveling with kids.

Planes, Trains or Automobiles | Traveling Between Paris & London.

The need to travel to/from Paris from London has been brought up a slew of times over the past few weeks. I thought it might be easiest for everyone planning a trip if I did a quick post on what I think is the best way to get from London to Paris.... and back.

 

There are so many options to choose from. Before the tunnel was built, my family took a hovercraft across the channel in 1994 to get us to Paris. After that, I've mainly traveled by the Eurostar on the "chunnel." However, there are endless flights between the two cities operated each day and I have many friends with cars who will drive and take the tunnel over, too.

So which is best? Well, my opinion is definitely to take the Eurostar! This isn't sponsored or endorsed in any way, but just a dedicated post to saving you a lot of time and hassle. Here are some of the reasons why I think the Eurostar is the best option to get you between London & Paris:

1. It's really cheap if you book in advance. Prices start at £29.00 per person, each way. Plus, since you won't need to trek to airports- you can save the money on ubers or the airport trains. Also, no tickets needed for children under 4, which can save you some cash if you're fine with sharing a seat. (Eurostar actually made a cost comparison between flying/train here.)

2. It's really fast. You leave from Central London and arrive in Central Paris. While you need to be there 45 minutes early, the wait time also allows for getting customs done before you ever depart. So once you're train arrives after the 02:44h journey time, you're there!

3. It's really nice. The trains are all being upgraded and the new trains are really slick. We upgrade to standard premier for the same price of

4. It's easy to pack for since they don't fuss with the same airline packing standards. There are some official packing guidelines, but they aren't checking for weight or size. Bring three bags and they won't blink. Oh, and you don't have to take out your liquids. Hoorah!

5. It saves you so much time. While the journey time is a bit longer than a flight, you save so much time getting to and from airports, going through security, waiting on a gate and then going through customs upon arrival. When your train pulls into Gare du Nord, you can hop in a taxi and be to your hotel in 10 minutes. 


A FEW OTHER THOUGHTS.

1. If you're traveling with small kids, upgrade to Standard Premier (not first, but the class in between). Rather than buying three tickets (2 adults, 1 small child)- buy two in the class above for a bit more. There have always been empty seats and, on the day, the agents are happy to swap your tickets to a table to get everyone together with some extra room. And they feed you meals. So... bigger chairs, same price, meals and less people around to watch you juggle children. It's been a game changer for our Eurostar adventures.

2. Book a car for pickup upon arrival to Paris. The taxi queue at Gare du Nord can be horrendous and it can be complicated to liase with where to meet an uber driver around the station if you're not fluent in French. Standing in the taxi rank for an hour in cold weather or late at night could be considered a mild form of torture.

I have a great guy that I highly recommend that will meet you at the end of the platform and take you, if you email me. lauren@aspiringkennedy.com). You can take a standard cab/uber on other legs of the Eurostar journey- but arrival to Paris is the one I would recommend pre-booking. Just make sure you have got Euro from the ATM at the station to pay him before you leave!

3. Book early! The tickets are inventoried by the cheapest to the most expensive. When one ticket price sells out, it bumps to the next one up. There isn't a best time to buy and PLEASE DONT WAIT to buy them until you get here. It's a common mistake that really gets expensive. You'll save loads if you book in advance on the Eurostar website. (Think of them as airline tickets and not regional train tickets.)

Hopefully that helps you in your planning. Please drop in any memories or advice you have on the topic. This is a subject that I feel weirdly nostalgic about.

Find more of my travel advice here: 6 Easy Tips for Traveling Europe with Children or Heathrow Transport Options

Need a bit more help for your trip? Maybe a travel consult is right for you!

 



 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

 

Posted on May 27, 2016 and filed under travel, paris, london, traveling with kids.

Flying With A Baby... and a Toddler.

The other week a friend, who was facing her maiden voyage with her newborn, asked me for any advice on flying with a baby. With the luxurious 38 seconds I had allotted to reply to the email before breakfast, I came to my blog, found this post on traveling with a baby and sent it to her.

After the email sent, I re-read the post that I wrote a couple of years back. I wrote it after Viola had traveled quite a bit and I wanted to help out other moms who felt the same knot in their stomachs when thinking about traveling... but still weren't ready to give up adventures quite yet.

Reading it now- after a recently flying to Iceland with both kids and NO Tyler- I laughed. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Looking back on that post, I saw myself as a first-time mom acting like I had it all together. As if all those other frazzled parents on the plane had flunked an imaginary course focused on traveling with infants. To be fair, those ideas/steps I posted were really helpful for us- so if you are nervous, use them! They really will help! While I was still learning how to be a mom and how babies worked, it was nice to have some tips/tricks that helped us maintain some control in a moment that felt out of control.

Now though, some of those things just are a bit more intuitive to me. I just get kids a bit better. I just am a bit less scared of a baby getting sad in public. I just am a bit less intimidated by being uncool in front of other people without kids.

But I've got great news... I didn't do a single one of those tips for flying when traveling with Harrison for his first two international trips. And he traveled just as well as Viola did.

It's funny that in a subject where I seemed so sure of myself, I can now look back and actually feel confident. Not to say that I have had some enlightenment that now allows me to travel perfectly now that I have two children.... but more in the respect that, regardless of what happens, I'll be fine. One bad flight or trip won't break me. (And that is actually confidence to me.)

And just imagine what will I'll think in a few years down the road when I come back and reread the post I am currently writing on traveling with two kids. Apparently, old habits die hard, but, hopefully, if nothing else it can encourage you to travel with your kids just by seeing some crazy lady try it first.



 

*images by Ashel Parsons

EURODISNEY | Worth the Trip?

 

When we were in Paris this spring, my sister & her husband came to visit. As it wasn't their first time to Paris, they were a bit more relaxed in what they wanted to see. In fact, the only place they really cared about getting to during their week in France was Disneyland Paris- or "Eurodisney" as it was once known.

I had been 10 years before while backpacking through Europe, and the golden memory I have of my unbathed nineteen year-old self stumbling into that slice of Americanized heaven was enough to charm me into the idea of going back. We used the excuse of going for the sake of our kid, and headed out to make the trek to Disneyland. And of course, once we got there we reused that same excuse when making the leap into season passes.

We went out to Disney three more times during our time there, which more than paid for our season passes. We tried the park out on a number of different days: midweek, rainy, sunny and on in the early days of peak season. As you can imagine, the lines are better earlier in the year and on the weekdays. However, you'll also miss out on many of the rides and restaurants being closed as the park operates on a slimmer staff. For us, that was a small price to pay as we were stroller-laden and visiting with a baby. We, literally, could stay on It's a Small World and loop it as much as we liked. 

Even though the park is smaller, it has many of the Disney essentials you'll hope to experience (Madhatter's Tea Cups, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pinocchio, Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, Main Street, It's a Small World, Space Mountain, etc). You'll see all the characters and there are daily parades. 

Also, sitting next door to the Disneyland Paris is the Walt Disney Studios Park. You'll need a ticket that allows for both parks. These are about €10 more per day, but you can access a slew of more rides and attractions like The Tower of Terror and the newly opened Ratatouille ride.

 



Here are few tips & thoughts that can help your visiting Disneyland Paris be a bit easier:

GETTING THERE: Eurodisney is easily reached by the RER. Literally, you're dumped out by the gates of the park at the Marne-la-Vallee stop. Just take the RER Line A from Central Paris all the way there. It'll take you about 45 minutes. Read more on how to access the park here on the Disneyland Paris website. The round-trip RER ticket price to the park is roughly €15 per person. These are available for purchase at any metro or RER station.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST: The standard day passes can give you a bit of the sticker shock that you might expect. However, there are few ways to work around the normal pricing. First, check the offers page on the site. They are typically family passes or other seasonal promotions. With a valid student ID, you can get a daily ticket for €41 for both parks. Most of the must be purchased in advance, so do this before arriving at the park. The basic ticket for one park is around €79 per day.

The season pass start at around €120, but you can't use it for a second day until 5 days have passed from having your card issued. (It's a tricky system that makes it really hard to use unless you're living locally or in Paris for an extended time.) The general pricing page can be found here.

EATING AT THE PARK: The park has various restaurant options available. Some are hilariously overpriced in the seated options (around €75 per person!), but if you grab lunch or dinner you can typically get a LOT of food for around  €10 per person. At the various restaurants, they have a standard menu of items... but the value comes in the meal deals. You can get a main item, fries or salad, yogurt, dessert and a drink for a few euros more. With all the various sides, we easily shared a couple of meals between three people. You can find a full list of eateries on the property here.

We would pack snacks for the morning and the train ride back at the end of the day. It's fine to bring food into the park, if you'd like. Either way- I'd recommend bringing a bottled drink for your day at the park. You'll be glad you grabbed one at the grocery store when you see them for €4 at the park.

DSC_2702.jpg

So, overall, would I recommend going out to Disneyland Paris? Sure! Maybe not if it's your first time to Paris, or if you're time there is rushed, but if you're a repeat visitor to the City of Lights or you're traveling for a longer stretch of time? Why not?

 

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on September 24, 2014 and filed under france, kids, travel, viola, traveling with kids, paris.

6 Things To Make Traveling Europe With a Baby Easier.

 

Is it possible to travel with a baby and not be completely out of your element? Is there any hope that you won't look like a flustered hot mess with stuff flying everywhere and baby gear strapped to every part of your body? Well, in the airport, no.  I haven't mastered that yet (so much stuff to carry!), but once you arrive to your destination? Yes, I daresay it is possible! Here are six things that help you travel with a baby and still keep some dignity in tow, too.

ONE  |  BYOHC

Bring your own... high chair? In England, a few places will have high chairs. In France, we probably encountered three. One being at the newly opened Chipotle. Holding a toddler during a meal can be described in many terms, but "relaxing" is not one of them. Plus, it makes eating nearly impossible.

We marched to Monoprix and bought a cloth one that slipped over the back of chairs and snapped Viola into an inescapable sitting position. It was amazing, and it folded up in my bag. We loved it, and I have a feeling it will travel many places with us over the years to come. 

Here's a similar one. If you use a high chair at home and are planning to travel: buy it! Trust me.

 

viola_knight_jardin_des_tuileries_aspiring_kennedy

 

TWO  |  WEAR A SCARF

 Wear a scarf? Yes. Stop hauling around your nursing cover and just get a large summer scarf. It's one less thing to schlep around, it is way more inconspicuous than a giant paisley shawl, and hey- it's Europe. You'll probably be wearing light layers and a scarf anyway. This is my #1 trick I like to share with people. All the modesty, way quicker than "cloaking up", and looks like the baby is just snoozing on you. And yes, that is why I wore a scarf for pretty much the entire year of 2013.

GAP has these ones on sale that should do the trick.

THREE  |  DOUBLE'S TROUBLE

If you have more than one child, a double stroller can be a great thing on a day with lots of walking. On behalf of all the citizens of a large city, can I ask you a favor? Don't get a double-wide! The side-by-side strollers are great for surburban walking trails and amusement parks, but in cities where massive amounts of people use sidewalks? It's one of the worst offenses possible. It bottlenecks the traffic and people have to dodge around you to get past. Just trust me, a stadium seating stroller will save you annoyed glances and mumbled comments. Plus, the side-by-sides don't fit on buses!

The Baby Jogger City Select is what we bought. We love it, and it collapses in half quickly when you're in a pinch. Just make sure you check it when you fly. Airlines have broken two of ours from handling it when checking it at the gate, and airlines take no responsibility for them.

 

FOUR  |  URBAN JUNGLE GYM

Give your little a break and take advantage of the playgrounds and parks around the city. Not only is a great time for them to get out some energy, but they are typically in amazing places. It's fun for adults, too. 

Some of our favorite places to let Viola play in Paris are the park alongside the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower, a tiny garden playground right next to the Pompidou, the playground at Place Des Vosges and a neighborhood park in the shadows of the Picasso Museum near our apartment.

parisian_playgrounds_for_kids_aspiring_kennedy_eiffel_tower
viola_knight_place_des_vosges_paris_aspiring_kennedy

 

FIVE  |  LIVE LOCAL

Hotels have some great amenities, but when traveling with a kid- renting an apartment is so nice. You can get cozy, have access to a fridge and food, and extra space to stretch out with little. Plus, the lower prices make it way more affordable. Almost all of them can provide you with a pack & play, if you request it in advance. We typically book through AirBnb or One Fine Stay.

tyler_knight_viola_knight_chenonceau_aspiring_kennedy



SIX  |  PACK SOME SNACKS

Maybe this seems obvious, but I often forget. Meals are long and there is no "hold-over" food waiting for children once you're seated. No chips and salsa. No bread. No kids meal out early, It's a good habit to form, but it may save some sanity to have some small toys (we love finger puppets) and puffs or crackers to munch on while you wait.


the_knights_at_the_louvre_aspiring_kennedy_traveling_tips

 

There you have it. Six easy things to make your trip overseas a bit more doable... and, hopefully, a bit less hectic!

 

FIND MY OTHER POST ON FLYING WITH BABIES HERE.

 

*all images via Aspiring Kennedy

Paris | Family Friendly Hotels.

 

Paris is stuffed with cute hotels that overlook gorgeous sites and are the perfect romantic escape.But if you're looking to travel with your children, there's an immediate buzzkill when you can't find hotel rooms that don't have extra beds or adjoining rooms...and a baby suddenly ends up sleeping in your bed.We may have used a suitcase on various occasions for a impromptu baby bed though I can neither confirm or deny this.

I digress.

paris_left_bank_aspiringkennedy_rive_gauche

 

Here's a quick list of hotels that offer family-friendly solutions! Some offer adjoining rooms while others offer quad or triple rooms.

HOTEL EMPEREUR | This boutique hotel sits right next to Les Invalides. With quad room options, you'll be able to keep your kids near without paying the extra cost of a room... or having them cram in with you.

VICTORIA PALACE HOTEL | With adjoining rooms available, this is a great option for families who are traveling with children that are slightly older.  This sits in walking distance from several of the Left Bank favorite attractions.

HOTEL DE FLEURIE | This hotel on St. Germain de Pres offers adjoining rooms perfect for four people. Plus, the pristine location is hard to beat. (Go eat steak-frites at Le Relais De L'Entrecote nearby for me.)

VILLA DAUBENTON |This is a great option for families of four or six people. Plus the option for having a kitchen a close access to the Latin Quarter makes it a perfect option.


I hope that helps give you a starting point for making your trip a bit more family-friendly! For more of my Paris hotel picks,

check out my guide here.

 

 

*photography by Noah Darnell

 

Posted on May 14, 2014 and filed under paris, traveling with kids.

Traveling with Kids | Playing Fair

 

Tonight while we ate dinner,

Viola was zoned out watching

Yo Gabba Gabba on my iPhone.

 

I know, 

I was totally that parent in the restaurant,

but here's why I did it

(and while I'll do it again)...

 

Today we woke up at 9:00.

 

We put our clothes on,

and were out the door within the hour.

 

 

We drank coffee at the cafe downstairs,

we walked to the boulangerie for pastries,

and we hopped in the car.

 

We drove an hour,

 explored a cute little town 

and it's famous copper shops.

 

We ate a three course lunch

and we hopped back in the car

for another hour of driving.

 

We reached Mont St. Michel

where we spent the next three hours 

exploring the city

and watching Viola roll around in the grass of the abbey.

 

We walked back down,

hopped on the shuttle,

got in the car,

drove another two hours.

 

When we got back to Bayeux at 8pm,

we went in search of dinner.

 

It was a LONG day.

 

A long, adult-friendly day.

 

My baby was exhausted

and she had sat, sweetly, in her carseat

and through long meals for several days.

 

(She sat through a three hour dinner

on Friday without a moan or cry!)

 

But tonight, she was tired

and wanted to be in bed.

 

So I let her watch weird animals dancing around

as she rubbed her eyes and ate pizza.

 

I won't pretend to have a magic formula for traveling with kids,

but I can tell you:

it's a give and take relationship.

 

You get to see and do great things,

but you have to be kind to them

when you're running them around

without a say in the schedule.

 

You expect big things from them?

Fair enough.

I do, too.

 

But I also try really hard to make it easy on her

when we are in slow moments.

 

 

You may find yourself doing things that make you cringe

(hello baby with iPhone!)

because you put them through a lot 

when you bring them to travel with you.

 

IMG_5627.jpg


Take it easy on them!


Order Dominos into your hotel room

when you've been out all day

so that they can have the night in.


Let them crawl around on the floor

of the back room of the cafe you're having coffee in.


 

If you're nursing, feed them an extra time

to help settle them and make them comfortable.

 

Or whatever may arise that makes their day a bit easier.

You're asking a lot of them...

and it will help reset them for the day ahead.

 

And trust someone who has learned the hard way,

a little "give" during travel

helps everyone out!

 

FIND MY POST ABOUT TRAVELING EUROPE WITH BABIES HERE>

FIND MY POST ABOUT FLYING WITH BABIES HERE.

 

Posted on April 29, 2014 and filed under life, travel, traveling with kids.

In case this looks too easy...

People always ask me 

how we travel with a baby.

Well, we just do.

It's possible...

and it's not too painful

at this stage in our life.

In fact, it's actually pretty fun.

But don't be fooled...

it's not always easy.

No matter how serene

our pictures may seem...

well, she's still a baby.

Have a great weekend!

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Traveling with Babies | Here's What I Know.

I've been getting a lot of people asking me

for advice for traveling with kids.

First of all,

I feel the need to clarify:

traveling with a baby

is an entirely different ballgame

than traveling with a kid.

Kids seem easier than traveling with a baby

in a few ways

such as having their own seat,

carrying their own little animal-shaped suitcases,

and, generally, knowing to not poop themselves. 

Though the idea of going anywhere

(grocery store included)

with a toddler is completely terrifying.

None the less,

let me help offer what I know & have learned

traveling with Viola.

I'm not going to pretend to know all the answers,

but the kid did clock 8 countries by 8 months old…

If I'm not a professional,

I'm at least not intimidated by traveling with a baby.

*     *     *

First things first:

adjust your expectations.

Even traveling across the ocean,

I always think this phrase over & over 

during the day (and night) before we fly:

"Even if it's a completely awful day,

it's only one day

and then I'll be in (insert destination here)

and it will all be worth it."

I would exchange one crappy/miserable day

to spend a week pretty much anywhere, 

so that gets my eyes on the prize.

Second: Know your allies.

Airline employees = nice.

Fellow passengers = hate you.

I was pretty amazed at how sweet 

the airport staff & airlines treated us

and welcomed us on board.

They helped us board early,

snag empty seats,

and made our travel so much better.

I was equally amazed 

at how many mean looks

and snotty remarks we got

while traveling.

On our way home last month,

I walked to our row

and the man who was sitting by us

looked up, looked at me, and then snarled:

"Ugh, really?"

I gaped so loudly out of shock 

and then laughed in his face:

"Yup. Sorry dude."

Fortunately, all the people around us overhead

and went out of their way to compliment

what a sweet baby Viola was after her A+ performance,

but still.... wow.

Third: Manipulate the schedule.

I start planning the day before

how to make Viola's schedule line up

to need to feed as we take off.

I'm doing everything I can to make sure she is hungry

at the time our flight is scheduled to take off.

This not only helps her pressurize her ears

as we take off,

but it makes her sleep like a champ. 

If she starts trying to eat or sleep

in the gate, we play with her

and get her right near that edge of feeling crazy

so that she'll conk out once we start taxiing that runway.

Fourth: Get them to drink.

Babies can get crazy whenever they want on flights,

but they cry most often during the last thirty minutes of a flight

because the pilots start the descent

and their poor ears aren't able to pop.

They don't know all the tricks we grown ups know,

so you have to be the brain for them on this.

This can be a bit tricky, 

since it's a long period of time.

I'm not sure if this is fool proof, 

but it worked for me.

I think of the 20ish flights

we have been on, 

Viola has only cried once

and that was because it was such a short flight

and I couldn't time her feeds up for take off & landing.

Go ahead and nurse them

and then- once they are finished

and the world still looks a million miles away: 

pull out the secret weapon,

the bottle of goodness.

When Viola was really little,

I put a bit of sugar water in a bottle.

I would drop a bit in her mouth

every 30 seconds or so

and she would gulp it down and pop her ears.

As she got older, 

I've diluted juice with water and given her just little drinks

to help keep her curious until we touch down.

Sometimes I've used Smart Water, Apple Juice, whatever...

Heck, I'd even resort to Sprite, if I had to.

Anything to keep her from hurting.

The goal isn't for them to chug it down,

just something to intrigue them

into drinking a bit more

after they have already filled their bellies.

Fifth: Get to the airport two hours early.

Flights have bulk seating reserved

for the day-of travel.

The sooner you get there, the better options

the airlines can offer you 

for your seating.

Even if you don't get the bulkhead,

getting their early can help your family

make sure they are all seated together.

You can also hop to get an "infant block" seat, 

if there are a few unsold seats.

Five: Shop the unpopular flight times.

We try to skip peak travel times

in order to play the odds for a uncrowded flight.

Uncrowded flights means empty seats.

Empty seats mean that you + hubby

could score a row of three

and lay a baby down to sleep between you

while you do fancy things like read a magazine and drink coffee!

We look for midweek travel

at non-commuter travel times

like the early afternoon.

Six: Let the kid call the shots.

Airplanes are not the time to enforce schedules

and try to hem children into new things…

Don't fight the small stuff.

If they want to roll around and lick the tray table,

let them have at it.

Your baby wants to eat 365 puffs?

Great. What a time killer.

They want to squish the vomit bag into oblivion?

You go, Glen Coco.

Those things are not your battle today.

Your battle is getting to wherever you are going,

with your sanity in tact

and your baby happy.

The rest is, just… well, it's not important.

*    *    * 

Okay, those are my favorite tips.

Nothing mind-blowing,

but it works for us.

I hope that this can help you…

and please, if you have tricks that have

made your travels easier with kids,

share them with us.

What are some things that have helped you

when you've traveled with kids?

*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

GiGi New York: Tote-ally Awesome.

Traveling a lot

offers you the ability to learn

how to travel smart.

You learn what things you can do without

and what things you absolutely can't live without.

Pretty much anything that weighs more than 

my makeup bag or a paperback book

isn't making the cut...

my shoulders are so worn down from years of schlepping

my laptop, notepad, camera, water bottles,

piles of books I wanted to read (but never did)

around as we traveled.

But I'm older & wiser now....

and I have a kid

that requires lots of other transported

junk

gear.

So how do you travel smart

when you need all the essentials,

need it to double as a diaper bag,

but want to look like a normal/non-mom person?

Well, I have no idea...

but I think this cute tote bag

by GiGi New York

gets me pretty close to it.

I like the idea 

of using a bag

that is cool enough to me to wear pre-baby 

... after you become post-baby.

Obviously, I realllly like that idea. Reason 1051 I'm not a fashion blogger. God bless those special people.

Plus, you can put your own initials

on the cute bag tag...

or have them stamped directly on the bag.

{Like my cross-body from last summer had,

remember

?}

Your choice.

Traveling is hectic enough...

so why complicate it with extra pieces

when you could just carry everything in one, pretty, chic bag?

Especially when you've already got your hands full.

GiGi New York Teddy Tote

in Taupe, $295.

Sounds like it's time for you to get packing, too.

Check out the entire line

here

.

***

PS. This bag comes in so many colors!!! One for everyone. ;)

*all images original to Aspiring Kennedy

**tote bag c/o GiGi New York.

Memories for a Lifetime: Childhood Travel

Next week,

we are getting our baby girl

her wings to fly.

That's right.

This traveling circus

has added another member,

and is setting off on our first

international flight

& whirlwind trip.

With yesterday's arrival of her passport,

we are officially ready to spend three weeks

in the U.S. of A.

Even though this kid of ours

is a complete champ

in most every sense of the word,

I'm a little nervous

about the (six!) flights. 

Viola, on the otherhand,

is ready to go.

This kid pleases me in every possible way.

If she loves to travel like her parents

it will just be icing on the cake.

If not,

well, 

we'll still keep her.

While this kid is making it across the ocean at the ripe age of 9 weeks,

I was 9 years old when we had our first "big" trip.

My dad cashed in his AA miles and took us all around Europe

in a fashion that could make

 W. Clark Griswald

feel like an underachiever.

It was an epic time

full of metallic track suits....

fluffy scrunchies... 

colored jean shorts....

& the creation of family memories that have stuck around

for the twenty years since.

What are some memories of your first BIG trip?

***

Oh, and, as you all know, GFC is going to be extinct

in the not-so-distant future.

{Bummer, I know.}

Keep up with ye olde blog by subscribing

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Posted on April 23, 2013 and filed under "Jet Setting", "travel", "viola", traveling with kids, kids.