It happens to the best of us. We’ve been traveling internationally with Jake since he was 3 months old, but even with more than 10 overseas family trips under our belt, we still make mistakes from time to time. Our last trip was no exception. These are some of the mistakes we made and lessons we learned the hard way on our January trip to Brussels and Seville.
Ditching the Stroller on a City Trip
Since Jake is now 3 and perfectly capable of walking — stepping out regularly in NYC to get to school, the playground, Whole Foods, etc — we decided to travel lighter and skip the stroller. Big mistake. Our rationale was: we didn’t use the stroller last summer at all in Sardinia (where we had a car, and there was lots of sand), we didn’t use the stroller at all last winter in Zermatt (because there were piles of snow everywhere and Zermatt is a one-street town.) Seville on the other hand is a city. A walking city. Yes he can walk happily for 30 minutes but he can not even begin to clock the 6-10 miles we routinely walk each day when we’re exploring a new city. Each time we left our hotel, we saw families with kids much older than Jake, strapping them into their strollers. We looked at each other and shook our heads each time, pointing and motioning with our hands a knowing “see?” My husband carried him around for pretty much 8 hours a day, we took more cabs than necessary and even resorted to two (not one but two) horse and buggy rides. I don’t think we will make this mistake again.
Skipping the Siesta
Kids in Spain stay up really late. There’s tapas to eat, there are rides to go on (we found a small amusement park under the Metropol Parasol that stayed open til midnight.) There is no way a 3 year old can make it out that late without a nap at some point. Even my husband and I needed the break. We caught onto this halfway through our stay in Seville and it made for some much more civilized night time behavior.
Not Booking a Real Seat on the AVE Train
We booked our train tickets through a travel agency in Seville, noting that we were 2 adults and 1 child. Kids under 4 are free, they told us — fantastic. Unfortunately, you don’t get anything for free, and that was true in this case as well. The train to Madrid was sold out and seats are assigned. So Jake, with no seat assignment, spent 2.5 hours sitting on my (6 months pregnant) lap. Next time we would definitely specify that we want an actual seat and we’re willing to pay for it.
Getting Separated in Brussels
This is actually a funny story. We were at the Winter Wonders festival in Brussels, which is essentially a giant Christmas market featuring over 250 chalets selling food, drinks, crafts and holiday wares. There’s a big ferris wheel on one end and a few carousels in between. My husband wanted to stop for some gluwein and told me and Jake to go ahead a few chalets, he’d catch up with us. It was about 8 degrees outside. Jake withstood the cold for about 90 more seconds and then tearfully begged me to take him somewhere warm. We headed back in the opposite direction towards my husband who was no longer at the gluwein stand. I bought a hot chocolate to warm his hands; that didn’t cut it. We left the market and took shelter in a nearby chocolate shop, where I texted my husband where to find us. A second text did not go through — his iPhone battery was dead, and I was holding the charger. I thought it best to stay in one (warm) place, so we waited…and waited and waited by the window for him to pass by. After about an hour, he stormed in, shattered iphone in hand (not only did the battery die but a kid had knocked it out of his hand running around the festival.) He reminded me that he had never been to Brussels before and that a text that read “We’re at Pierre Marcolini” was not helpful. (There may or may not have been about 3 other Pierre Marcolini stands scattered throughout the festival as well.) My takeaway from this was don’t separate if your phone’s about to run out of battery. My husband’s was, don’t veer from the original plan. When you’re with kids though, sometimes you have to.
Connecting Flights When a Direct Flight Exists
Sometimes this is unavoidable, but this time we tried to save a few bucks by connecting. Madrid to NY is a very nice straight 7 1/2 hrs on a direct flight, which is not too bad at all. This time we flew to Amsterdam for our connection, which is already out of the way. Add in a layover, you get the point. Door to door it took over 16 hours to get home. Next time we’ll shell out and skip the connection.
Those things notwithstanding, we still had an awesome time and won’t be discouraged from packing up and doing it again as soon as possible! Next time with two kids! (Send tips please.)
Tell us, what was your worst travel mistake?