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Archive for the ‘Travel With Kids’ Category

This continues a series of articles featuring trips taken by real travelers.  If you have taken a trip you’d like to see featured here, please contact What A Trip!

 

The Travelers:  Laura, her husband Alex and their 2-year old daughter Anya, along with Laura’s parents and Alex’s parents.

The Trip:  Two weeks on the island of Lefkos, on the Ionian Sea, and one week in Crete.

 

Laura answered some questions about her travels for What A Trip:

 

WAT: Why did you choose this destination?
L: My husband’s father was born in Greece, on the island of Lefkos and emigrated to the US at age 18. So, we had an insider’s perspective, as he has a huge extended family there, who brought us home cooked lunches every day, showed us the best beaches, and hosted barbecues and parties for us.  Plus, we had a tour of the monastery where my husband’s grandfather was a Greek Orthodox priest, and my husband had a tour of sights from his dad’s childhood, such as the old school he attended.

 

WAT: How did you book your trip?
L: We used the internet to look for a rental villa and then asked family members to visit it in person and help us negotiate.  We were quite happy with the two villas we rented.  My daughter loved having a big yard to play in, and we had a swimming pool in a Mediterranean-style villa.  Plus, with a child, it is wonderful to be able to cook your own food for some of the meals.

 

WAT: What were your favorite sights during the trip?
L: We loved relaxing on the amazing white sand beaches. We took a boat cruise around the islands, including Ithaca and the Onassis islands and really enjoyed the stops the boat made.  We had a few hours to have lunch on a different island, wander around a private beach, and swim in the ocean outside of one of the Onassis islands.

 

WAT: What were some of the most memorable moments during your trip?
L: I loved seeing my daughter carefully examine the olives on the olive tree and ask for Greek salad and French fries at every restaurant!  It was the smaller moments I remember… reading a book under a beach umbrella on a stunning beach, stacking up rocks on the beach with our daughter, eating course after course of amazing food with Alex’s relatives, who could not have been more welcoming, and exploring the winding markets in the evenings, in search of gelato.

 

WAT: Do you have advice for others planning travel to this part of the world?
L: I think you can’t go wrong with a trip to Greece! Eat lots of Greek food, especially the salad, gyros and fries, and leave lots of time to relax on the beach.  We traveled to a different beach almost every day. Since we were traveling with a child, we did not try to do as many sights as possible as we might have on prior trips, but we really enjoyed soaking up a taste of Mediterranean life.  It was truly a relaxing trip and one we will never forget.

 

WAT: Was your trip different or more challenging because you were traveling with a toddler?
L: We had a lot of help with babysitting (grandparents!), which was wonderful because we had the chance to take some day trips by ourselves, and I’m not sure how we would have felt about finding sitters in a foreign country.

 

WAT: Were any special challenges involved in doing an international trip like this with a small child?
L: The lengthy airplane flights: I was terrified about this issue. It actually turned out totally fine! We bought a small portable DVD player, so our daughter could watch Signing Time and Sesame Street, which helped a lot! We would recharge it in the airport, and it had 6 hours of playtime time (a lifesaver, even though she doesn’t ordinarily watch a lot of TV).  We also packed a bag full of snacks and new toys, just small trinkets a kid would like, like an Elmo finger puppet, a Magnadoodle sketch book, new board books, and crayons.  Plus, to my surprise, and unlike us, my daughter thought flying was a blast, even when we were stuck in customs in New York for several hours, and then our flight home was delayed for an additional few hours. I think she may have been the only cheerful person on the plane sitting on the runway because she enjoyed seeing the other planes out the window!

The swimming pool in the backyard of the villa: this was totally open and not fenced, which did concern me. We made sure one of us was always specifically in charge of her when we were outside, so she never wandered near the pool.

Baby gear: We traveled light.  We were able to rent a Pack n Play in Greece from a local travel organization, again thanks to the Internet, and we brought a car seat. I did not bring a stroller, thinking we would buy an umbrella stroller in Greece… HUGE mistake! An island does not have a lot of baby shopping opportunities. There was no Babies R Us or Target type shopping or strollers at a large grocery store. In retrospect, my assumption that cheap strollers would be available was silly.  Even in Athens, where we spent a few days, I could not find a stroller for less than $200, which was not what I had in mind. So we carried our daughter or she walked, but we wished we had brought a cheap umbrella stroller with us from California, to make outings easier.  We were able to buy sand toys and a ball easily, plus the Greek relatives gave her a Barbie doll, and between that and the beach, she did not need any other toys at least!

I am really glad we had the whole family together. Yes, traveling with a baby is more work, but we could not have left her for so long at that age, and it is also special to experience Greece through the eyes of a child!  How else would she have been able to add the word “gelato” to her vocabulary so young?

 

See Laura’s photos below!

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I read a lot of travel writing. It’s fascinating to read other people’s perspectives on distant places, foreign cultures and the state of modern tourism. Currently, I’m reading How to Fit a Car Seat on a Camel: And Other Misadventures Traveling with Kids, a collection of travel essays edited by Sarah Franklin. As you might guess by the title, the essays are all about traveling with children.

 

I’m not sure how much this topic would have interested me before I became a parent. In those heady days, when I could be on a plane with only a few days notice and could travel for weeks with just one carry-on bag in tow, the intermingling of children and travel were vague concepts, brought to my attention only when I had to sit next to a particularly unhappy baby on a plane. Now, as the mother of a toddler, I recognize that even a quick flight to visit family these days requires the sort of advanced preparation and strategy I used to apply to tasks like coordinating a cross-country move or planning a wedding. Not only is the sheer amount of gear involved intimidating, but you can bet your buttons that junior is far less psyched about waiting in line for airport security than you are. And that’s really saying something. Suddenly, I am that person. The one with the screaming child who everyone else in the airport, on the plane and in line at the rental car agency is glaring at mercilessly. It’s enough to make a parent stay home and content themselves with the Travel Channel.

 

The essays in this book reminded me that I am certainly not the only parent to take a child on a trip, for better or for worse. Some of the stories are highly amusing in a been-there-done-that kind of way.   I nodded in solidarity with the mother who is stranded in an airport with her child when their connecting flight is canceled just before Christmas.  Some are of the “what were they thinking” variety, like the couple who takes their unvaccinated, cloth diapered infant to Ecuador for three months. Many of the stories are poignant, including the sisters traveling by train to take newborn quadruplets home from the hospital.  If you are a parent, you will find something in this book that makes you laugh and something that makes you shudder.

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