One Week into Having a Travel Crib

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It’s been a week since we opened the package that contained our brand new travel crib (thanks, Guava Family!), and I can’t even begin to tell you how amazing it’s been.  Here are just a few features that I love:

Setup

It was way easier to set up than any pack-n-play I’ve ever used.  Not to mention, WAY lighter!

Size

I love the size of it—you can carry it through doorways without having to break it down at all, and it’s light! (Sorry, I’m just really excited about how light it is.)

The Side Door

We always bring the crib out into the living room during the day and unzip the side door.  We read books in it and I’ll often find him piling up his toys inside.

Carter Loves It

He sleeps so well in it, and I think making it a fun to place to play during the day has really helped him to be more comfortable at night.

Comfortable

When Carter and I are playing in the crib, I’ll sometimes lie down in it and snore loudly to pretend I’m sleeping—I don’t feel any bars or rough edges, because there aren’t any.  It actually surprises me how comfortable it is!

 

In short (even though the article already is short, haha), we love this thing. I’m sure we’ll have more thoughts the longer we have it, but for now we’re so happy to be traveling with a crib from now on. It’s something we never thought we’d be able to do.

If you want to see how much Carter loves it already (and how easy it is to set up), you can check out our video here: http://youtu.be/LUi3RsFIA4A

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*Guava Family is a sponsor for Twelve Countries in Twelve Months, but all opinions are our own.  We take great consideration into who we partner with as sponsors because we want to feature products that match our values and we think you will love as well.  Our shared experiences with these products are real and unexaggerated to provide you with honest, reliable information.

Trip Planning with Kids

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Carter is talking on his “phone” in the above picture.  I think Domino’s must have gotten his order wrong…

As much as we’d like to be sharing all of these amazing traveling experiences with Carter, it can often feel like we’re just dragging him around.  Have you ever felt that way with your kids?

One thing that we’ve done since the beginning with Carter is dedicate time every day, or a whole day, to cater to him. This wasn’t much effort when he was younger—we would just spend extra time reading to him or having really good one-on-one time.  Especially since he’s been able to walk, our outings can feel a bit confining for him.  I try and balance this by taking him to the park almost every day for an hour or so.

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At the park is his time to walk as much as he wants and really spend time exploring new sights, sounds, textures, smells, and if he’s fast enough, tastes. I pretty much just let him do his thing (which often includes falling or getting stuck) and I don’t interfere unless he asks for my help.  At the park, he’s able to interact with other children and strengthen skills. He’s learning to be independent and confident, and each time we’re at the park he finds new ways to challenge himself.

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I’ve read several tips about the benefits of including kids in the initial travel planning.  It’s supposed to help your kids be more excited during the days/weeks before the trip, almost guaranteeing that they’ll enjoy it more.  Carter is still a bit young to ask him if he’d prefer to go to the Eiffel Tower or swim with whale sharks (though I bet I know which one he’d prefer!), but I am excited for when we can include him in the planning process.  This article–Top Tips for Trip Planning with Kids–has some great ideas!  Here are a few of my favorites:

“Give your kids travel magazines and ask them to show you what kinds of images appeal to them.

Allow your child to envision the perfect vacation. Let them get creative by drawing ideal travel scenes or describing a favorite travel memory in words or images.

Once you narrow it down to a few possible trip ideas, ask the kids to help make the final decision.

Kids are naturally curious and love exploring with their parents, so it’s easy to plan a trip that the whole family will love.

Travel is a time to explore limits and try new things, so seek out travel opportunities that will give your kids exciting new experiences.

Part of the wonder of travel is experiencing the new and unknown, but for kids, developing traditions and building on those memories year after year is also rewarding.”

Maybe when Carter is old enough, we’ll just show him pictures of the three of us traveling on this Twelve Countries trip instead of a travel magazine, and he can help us choose where to go next!  Have you had experience with including your kids in the travel planning process?

Traveling with a Toddler

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We’ve recently hit the toddler stage with Carter.  He’s loving his new freedom with walking and he seems to becoming more and more of a daredevil each day as he gains more confidence in himself.  As much as we love that he’s walking, he’s really starting to slow us down.  We’ve said from the beginning that when traveling with kid(s) you have to take it slow, but this is a whole new slow.  We’re learning to have a lot more patience with him as he explores his surroundings and soaks in all the new sights, sounds, and textures of all the new places we go.  And let’s face it, there’s a lot for this little guy to take in.

Here are a few things we’ve learned in the last two weeks from traveling with a toddler:

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1. Take it Slow

Like REALLY slow.  And that’s okay!  Since being in Florence, Italy, we’ve learned that as we plan out our days, we just need to add an extra hour (or two) into our outings.  We make sure to let Carter get out of the Ergobaby carrier for 15-20 minutes at a time and we don’t keep him in it for much longer than that before taking him out again.

In the above picture, Carter is actually screaming and Scott and I are helplessly laughing.  Carter was walking around at the Palazzo Pitti doing his thing, then he started trying to walk downhill, which turned into an accidental run, which was going to end up in him biffing it, so I picked him up.  And he didn’t like it.

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2. Keep His Attention

Once we’ve let him explore for a while, we always try to guide his walking in the direction that we need to be going.  He’s not one for wanting to be told what to do while walking, so we’ve found that if we can keep his attention on something in our path then he’ll walk productively for a few minutes.  We point out dogs for him to walk towards or we find a line in the sidewalk he can watch pass as he steps on it.

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3. Distract Him

He still enjoys being in the Ergobaby carrier, but once he’s been out of it and we’ve let him walk around for a bit, it’s hard to get him back in without him screaming.  This leads to us just carrying him in our arms as we distract him from his inevitable tantrum.  We sing to him or point out birds and dogs to try to distract him from wanting to get down to walk and to calm his cries.  Once he’s calm we attempt to put him in the carrier again and we’re usually singing with him most of the time that he’s in the carrier to keep him entertained.

4. Food!

Carter loves food so this is a life saver for us.  If he’s back in the Ergobaby carrier after walking, we can keep him content by feeding him a croissant or gelato.  And lucky for us, there are bakeries and gelaterias on pretty much every corner here in Florence!

What are some things you’ve learned from going on outings with your toddler?  We’re new to having a toddler, so we’d love any insight!

Things Travel Has Taught Me About Babies

Seeing as I only have one child, I know I’m not an expert.  I do feel like my unique situation of traveling during his first year of life has opened my eyes to things I might not have experienced otherwise and I’m grateful for these experiences.  Parenthood is a beautiful thing and each parent-child relationship is so personal.  Your choices should be based on your lifestyle and your baby! All so unique and beautifully different.  Here are just a few things that travel has taught me about babies:

1. Muslin blanket makes the best towel

When I was in my 8th month of pregnancy, I wanted to buy the cutest little hooded monster towel and wash cloths set from Target.  I knew it wasn’t absolutely necessary to have this hooded bath towel, but from what I’d seen in advertisements (and the fact that those are the only kind of towels in the baby section of Target) I figured I could convince Scott that this was the best towel one could buy for a new baby.  Scott hesitated for a minute, but I batted my lashes at him and rubbed my pregnant belly and in the end he let me buy the towel set. 🙂

Everyone I knew was talking about how amazing the muslin blankets are for swaddling (and yes, I definitely agree that these blankets are a must with a new baby!), but I had never thought to use it as a towel.  When we lived in Australia, our host opened my eyes to the versatility of muslin and my favorite use for my muslin blanket is definitely as a towel.  It’s the perfect size for baby, not too big, not too small, it’s super soft, dries baby off really well, and it doesn’t take very long to dry out!  I will definitely be using muslin blankets as towels for my future babies.

2. Nursing solves everything

Whether Carter is teething, experiencing a growth spurt and all the fun that comes with that, has fallen, or hurt himself, I’ve experienced that nursing solves everything.  It’s nice to know that in those moments that feel like utter chaos and Carter doesn’t know what he wants (so he just screams… yeah, like that makes anything better…) I can cuddle him up and nurse him.  Sometimes it takes a little while and he still has small outbursts of cries, but in the end he knows he is loved and I get some peace and quiet.

3. Babies Can Be Easily entertained

I know that babies are experiencing new things all the time that hold their attention really well, but I’ve been amazed at some of the little things that Carter is entertained by.  Here are just a few everyday things:

  • Pulling things off shelves.  He could seriously pull things off shelves all day long if I sat by him and put them back on the shelf as soon as he pulled them off.
  • Shoes.  Not that shoes are my favorite thing for him to play with, but the fact that he’s stopped trying to put them in his mouth has eased my mind at least a little bit.
  • Containers.  Water jug, shoe box, cracker box, sand pail, paper bags, you name it.  It has been really fun for me to work with him on putting things in and taking things out of containers.
  • Straws.  He’s recently learned to blow bubbles in our water bottle through a straw… that’s been fun…
  • Clothes.  He loves to pull clothes off of the shelves, unfold them, and play in them.  He’ll throw them up in the air, he’ll crawl around with them, he’ll roll around in them, it’s hilarious.

4. Babies grow and develop wherever you are

News flash: some people thought we were crazy for traveling the world with a baby!  So, maybe we are crazy, but we definitely are not hindering our child’s development by traveling.  We’ve had people tell us that, seriously.  Babies will grow and develop wherever they are.  They can be on an eight hour flight or at home and they’ll still teeth, they’ll still get hungry, they’ll still take naps.  As a parent you just have to be aware of necessary precautions to take about where you are and learn to adapt to your surroundings.  It’s easy, I do it every month. 🙂

5. McDonald’s is your friend

Whenever I’ve traveled to a new place, I always make sure I know where the closest McDonald’s is (or other American fast food).  I know it sounds silly, but it has been a huge blessing in some places!  Especially if you’re nursing, you don’t want to get sick from the food and end up dehydrating yourself because first of all, you’ll be super sick, and secondly, in some cases, you won’t be able to produce sufficient milk.  In Mexico, for example, we ate out for 2 out of 3 meals a day and our bodies weren’t yet acclimated to the “street food” so when we were struggling with stomach pain (and other fun things!) it was a huge comfort to know that there was a Burger King and a Subway a few blocks away.  We learned to eat fast food in between street food meals until our bodies were acclimated and then we were golden.

Since we had previous experience before coming to Taiwan, we immediately located the nearest McDonald’s upon arrival.  We ate our first few meals there and when we feel like we’ve eaten some street food that seems a little more daring, we’ll eat at McDonald’s for the next meal.  I understand that fast food is not the healthiest option, but when you have no way of cooking at home, it’s the best thing you’ve got sometimes!

6. Everyone loves babies

It’s pretty much a fact.  And I’m definitely guilty of it myself.  Having Carter with us as we’ve traveled has opened so many doors!  We’ve been able to meet and bond with so many amazing people while traveling and I think it’s mostly because they see a blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby staring them down and they’re drawn to him.  We’ve had memorable conversations on trains and buses because of Carter, and we’ve made lifelong friends.

7. You can still travel with a baby, though you might have to take it slow

Again, a lot of people thought we were crazy when we started announcing that we were going to be traveling the world with a 7 month old.  Just because it might be a little crazy doesn’t mean that it’s not possible.  Traveling was definitely easier when Carter was younger and he slept more (5 months makes a huge difference!), but it’s still very possible.  We take it day by day and sometimes we decide to stay at home instead of going out if we feel like it would be best for Carter.  He might slow us down a little bit with the occasional nursing and diaper changing, but we’ve been doing this for a while so we don’t even give it a second thought any more.

I have a friend who I worked with in college who just had her second little boy and she’s out doing two day hiking trips with her baby!  I highly recommend doing the necessary research for your specific needs, but know that your life is not over once you have kids, your life has just begun and your children will make every experience even more memorable.

8. Diapers and wipes are sold everywhere and are even cheaper than the US

This may seem extremely obvious to some, but as a mother who would be traveling around the world with a baby I couldn’t find any conclusive answer in regards to the availability of diapers and wipes.  As I researched, I was engulfed in the cloth diaper craze and we even brought cloth diapers with us (after 4 months of use and experience) as a way to save money and guarantee that we would have diapers.  We didn’t have the means to care for the diapers appropriately so we had to sadly part with them in our second country, but we’ve found that there are indeed disposable diapers and wipes where we’ve been.  And as a bonus, I’ve spent less on diapers in each country than I would have in the states!

9. Babies grow up way too fast

Whether your traveling the world, established in your home with an adult job, or scraping by as you’re finishing school, babies grow up way too fast.  Here’s a picture of Carter at 2 months:

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Now look at him!  He’s almost 1!

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6 Baby Things I Took for Granted Before Traveling

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The other day, Scott posted a status on Facebook (featured at the end of this article) about what we miss and don’t miss about America.  I guess I was sort of inspired by that list to create a list of common things I took for granted before we traveled that made life with a baby much easier.  So here it goes!

#6: High Chair

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Oh how I miss having a high chair!!  This little guy is always all up in my food, or in my face trying to take food straight out of my mouth.  Let’s just say it’s getting old, and I look forward to having a high chair for the little Mannings that come in the future.

 

#5: Rocking Chair

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I knew I was spoiled with a rocking chair and I tried to soak it all in and appreciate it as much as possible, but I still feel like I didn’t appreciate it enough.  Carter goes to bed just fine by being bounced and swayed, but it’s killer on my back to do it for so long!  I can carry him in the baby carrier for hours on end no problem, but having to hold him is a different story.  Someone please invent a collapsible rocking chair that will fit in a 36L backpack! (Inflatable chairs don’t count… I can’t even sit in one of those by myself without it falling over, let alone with a 20lb baby.)

 

#4: Crib

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Since Carter was about 5 months old we’ve been co-sleeping, and it definitely has its ups and downs.  Overall I love it and I think we’ve all been able to get much more sleep than if we tried it any other way, but that’s mostly because we don’t have a crib.  Whether we’re co-sleeping or not, a crib is just so nice to lay a sleeping baby in because we don’t have to worry about them falling off the bed while you’re in another room.  Oh to have that luxury!

 

#3: Carpet

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Don’t get me wrong, carpet can get pretty gross, but since discovering that Carter is a very active baby I wish that we had carpet.  In my dream home there’d be a whole kids’ room with padded flooring and plush surfaces to fall on and roll around!  Carter has been doing great at pulling himself up on every object possible and walking around the apartment holding on to walls, but I hold my breath way too often while he explores, and my face is starting to turn blue.

 

#2: Bathtubs

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I’ve missed these so, so much. Not only are bathtubs the safest way to bathe Carter, but being in a bathtub is such a fun time for him to explore.  We’ve been blessed to have various wash tubs/basins for Carter to take baths in (courtesy of our amazing hosts), but having a real bathtub is something I’m really missing about home.

 

#1: Books

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I’ve never been much of a reader (which I’m not proud of), but I love having children’s books around.  The colors, the pictures, the simplicity!  I could read children’s books all day long to Carter if we had them.  But thanks to the flight restrictions on baggage weight, we’re not really able to collect books while on the road.  We’ve visited libraries in every country we’ve been to and we’re grateful that they’re so common, but I wish I had a case (or two, or three) of children’s books that Carter could explore all on his own whenever he wanted.  That’ll be the day…

 

Traveling has been a wonderful experience for me and my little family and we’re so grateful for all the memories we are making, but we do dream of returning to some sort of “home” every once in a while! 

And here’s Scott’s Facebook list:

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