2018 has been one hell of a ride. We’re finally taking a a step back to breathe and rehash the great memories created as we navigated our travel lives with addition of our daughter Selima. As a family, we flew over 87,000 miles (that’s three times the circumference of earth) and 200+ hours, across two continents and six different destinations. We got to see friends tie the knot, drink cab sav in THE Napa Valley, climb a glacier, glimpse the northern lights, visit English pubs and even lounge in the famous Hungarian baths. Instead of babbling on about what we did, we thought it might be most interesting to recap what stood out and what we learned this year, especially with baby in tow (for more details on Napa, Iceland, England and Hungary, check out our destinations page).
Baby wearing is the real deal: Humans have been “wearing” babies for thousands of years for a reason. It is easier to get things done when you have both hands to do so. And that is exactly what we’ve found when traveling with Selima. So whether it is carrying luggage, hiking a mountain, or snapping selfies at the Gulfoss waterfall in Iceland, we’ve been wearing our little girl. Originally we started with a small baby bjorn, but have needed to upgrade now that Selima has grown out of it. We were fortunate to get an opportunity to partner with Ergo Baby and they sent us their new Cool Air Mesh (CAM) Carrier. It is much larger and more padded than the bjorn and allows the baby to ride several different ways. We would highly recommend. While we acknowledge the need for strollers, and we bring one on every trip, our carrier has certainly made traveling easier for us.
Napa has changed wine forever: Kailah and I never used to be wine drinkers. Neither of our families drank wine growing up, we certainly didn’t dabble in college (Save the occasional box of Franzia) and both of us essentially dove head first into America’s craft beer craze. We didn’t understand wine. For us, it was this pretentious and expensive beverage that rich people ordered at dinner. But then we started traveling and quite honestly, learning. We started tasting new foods and drinks while trying out new ways to eat and drink the ones we already were familiar with. We ate octopus in the Azores, steak in Tuscany, duck in Paris, chocolate in Belgium and on and on and on. But it was Italy that started a wine movement for us and I credit it for tipping the scale. In a land where great wine is cheaper than water, you simply do not imbibe in anything else. However, this post isn’t about the chiantis, rossos and brunellos of our world. It’s about the Cabernet Savignons, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays…
The week before we left for Napa, we made a huge mistake. We went and filled our wine shelf. And then hopped on a plane for America’s most famous wine region, where we would be getting a crash course in appreciation by the people who make it. The experience that stands out in my mind to this day was a private tasting we set up at Pride Mountain Vineyards. We paid $90 a person to get a private tour through their caves and an extravagant sit-down tasting in their summit room. While feeling rather kingly through all of this, it wasn’t where I gleaned the most value. Once our tasting was over, our guide took us back into the caves for an “experiment”. He paired us up, gave us two glasses and led us to two areas, each with a pre-tapped barrel of cabernet. From the first barrel we drew from, he said it was taken from a part of the property where the vines were only 5 years old. I took a sip and noticed it was a bit watery, but smooth and easy to drink. For the second glass, he said that it was harvested from 15 year old vines. This one packed a punch and was much dryer and full of flavor. He then asked us to mix the glasses together and taste again. The result? It was the best of both worlds. And little did I know it, but we had just built a WELL BALANCED WINE. So that’s what those fancy wine drinkers are talking about!? It’s not pretentious at all! I couldn’t believe how real this made wine tasting for me. I could actually understand the difference because I had become educated on it and little did I know how much this would change my perspective on wine.
Iceland the beautiful (but expensive!): There is nowhere else on earth (see what I did there?) that you can walk on black volcanic beaches, glimpse towering waterfalls, visit active geysers and scale a glacier, all in the same day. It’s truly a gorgeous country and is one of the first places we’ve traveled in Europe where we felt isolated by natural beauty. With that being said, Iceland’s tourism is booming right now and there were no shortage of tourists during the day (yet way less then any other European location we’ve been to). But at night and in the morning, when all of the buses are parked back in Reykjavik, Iceland gave us an amazing sense of being alone in nature.
Obviously isolation and tourist demand drive increased cost. And that is exactly what we found out when visiting Iceland. We don’t want to deter people from visiting (because you should!), but we want everyone to know what to expect, budget for and how to save money. During the northern lights season, late August to mid-April, hotel prices soar as people flock to small villages in hopes of glimpsing the Aurora Borealis. In addition to hotels, food and drink costs outside of Reykjavik are significantly higher than any American or European city we’ve ever been to (Reykjavik is similar, but has a few alternative options to eat/drink for low cost). For example, when we arrived in Vik, we visited a small brewery in town called Smidjan Brugghus (highly recommend). We each had two beers and a burger. The beers were $15 a piece and the burgers were $20 each for a lunch-time grand total of $100. A bit pricey eh? Especially the beer, which is marked up almost 200% compared to cities and close to 300% in other locations. As you can imagine, dinner time can easily run you $150-$200 a couple at a decent restaurant. So as value-based travelers (aka we don’t like to pay more than something is worth) we started thinking about how we could adjust, so that we weren’t paying $400+ a day in food and drink. Instead of eating out for breakfast and lunch, we bought yogurts, bread, meats, cheeses, peanut butter, jelly and so on at the grocery store (Yes, larger towns have these). One bonus find was the same pureed food for Selima as we buy at home - huge win when we ran out of what we brought in our suitcase. We also found local beverage stores and grabbed bottles of imported wine and local canned beer, which were still marked up, but only 15%-20%. This overall strategy dramatically reduced our daily cost because we were not longer paying a gigantic premium. And at the same time, it made us very flexible traveling with a baby because we could eat on the go.
Moral of the story: Go see Iceland’s beauty, budget wisely and spend what you budget :).
You are never flying with the same baby: The first time we flew with Selima was a breeze. Despite a five hour delay, our little three month old snoozed the entire four hour ride down to Austin, Texas. I can remember thinking “This is it? What’s the big deal?”. What we hadn’t accounted for was that she was going to get older, and at an exponential rate.
The second time we traveled, we upped the stakes to six hours of flight time to match her six months of age. This time we booked a seat for her on the way there because it was a night flight and we wanted her to have her car seat to sleep in. This worked great. The ride back however, was in the morning and our little darling angel had no desire to close her eyes. Fortunately, Kailah’s parents were on the same plane and we took turns juggling her. Despite a mid flight diaper adventure, I can remember thinking at the end of the flight, “This was tougher, but it could have been worse…”
Flights five through eight were where we really started to appreciate the challenge of taking a baby on a plane. Both flights were over five hours and we played the same hand - night flight on the way out with her car seat and then a day flight back. We had done this twice already. We were pros right? Wrong. What we hadn’t accounted for was that Selima could sit, crawl and stand now. She had no interest in sitting down for a flight. And with all of these people to look at, why would she want to sleep? Yet again, we were flying with an entirely different baby than we had at three months and six months. She was larger, smarter and required more attention. There are only so many times you can feed a baby and play the Muppet Babies theme song on your cell phone.
Flying with a baby is pretty similar to our experience as a whole with our new addition. Each month, week and day, we see new development. Diapers and clothes become too small, we have to put protectors on our outlets and move anything from our lower shelves that we don’t want destroyed. It’s the same for flying. What worked the first time, may not work the second, or third. Our job is to keep adjusting, changing and supporting as Selima develops.
7 out of 8 weeks on the road makes for a tired family: Simply put, we pushed it a little too hard over the past two months. There were some unexpected trips, like my travel to England for work, but overall we probably tried to pack too much into a short time period. I think if it was just Kailah and I, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but throw a baby into the mix and it adds a whole new dimension of stress (not to mention lack of sleep). With that being said, we are unbelievably grateful to have had these opportunities and have learned so much in the process. We can’t wait to tell Selima these stories and show her the pictures of the places she visited in her first year on this earth. Traveling with her is a new challenge and it would certainly be easier to do it without her (and we will in January, when Kailah and I take our anniversary trip to Vietnam), but we know the value of building this foundation for our family and hope that Selima will enjoy traveling the same way we do.
Thanks for reading and hope to connect with everyone soon! Please don’t be afraid to reach out!