Baby Packing List: Vancouver

I have mentioned this before and I am sure I will mention it again and again but it never ceases to amaze me how much stuff one tiny human being can have! Packing for a short week in Vancouver I realized that I would have basically needed the same amount of stuff for a shorter or longer holiday! I think I actually had more stuff than Hawaii (Click here for that packing list).

Sleep:

  • Pack and play: my dad actually brought this as he drove and they have an extra one at their house!
  • Sleep sack
  • Noise machine: I am sure this is one of the only reasons she slept sometimes!
  • Elmo and Bunny
  • Goodnight Moon: because we read this every night before bed! (one of our must have board books)

Eating:

I knew I could get anything I wanted there (and I did), but I brought a couple things just so I didn’t have to go anywhere if I didn’t feel like it for the first day

  • food pouch (just from the grocery store)
  • baby cereal
  • spoon (I just find H prefers a plastic one)
  • sippy cup
  • food mesh thing: I put chopped up strawberries in it, sometimes frozen bits of fruit for teething. We have a couple different kind, but I seem to use this one the most!
  • Phil and Ted’s Lobster Chair: I borrowed this from a friend thinking… yah maybe I’ll use it… two days after getting home I have one of my own… it was awesome!

Entertainment:

  • her favorite toys including (but not limited to) her chewy banana, rattle ball, a wooden car, and a little piano things.

Other:

  • car seat
  • adorable outfits including her pjs, hat and little Adidas shoes
  • umbrella stroller (and rain cover)
  • carrier
  • baby toiletries
  • diaper bag
  • diapers/wipes: similar to the food I knew I could get things there but I just brought them as they don’t weight much and then I didn’t have to run out and get anything else

Things I brought that I really didn’t need to:

  • pea pod tent: I threw this in at the last minute just in case I needed to try eliminate light to help her sleep… If I didn’t have access to a play pen this could have been a good option
  • so many toys… Why I brought so many toys I don’t know… above are really the only things I should have brought with me!
  • Way to many Pj’s… seriously they can wear them two nights in a row, if there isn’t any compromised diapers!
  • An entire box of baby crackers… did I seriously think she would eat an entire box of these things? And then to bring them home I couldn’t empty the box or they would all break… silly me!

Vancouver: Part 1 Obstacles

This post will focus on some of the obstacles we had on this little trip… how we overcame them, or just gave into them. I really think what I experienced and learned can be applied to many different situations away and at home!

Let me start by saying that I love Vancouver! Not only is it a beautiful city, I also consider it another home. I have been very lucky growing up to have an uncle whose home my family would often completely take over. I have spent many Christmas’, Easters, summer holidays and basically any slightly plausible reason for visiting Vancouver there, so I know it fairly well (at least my little corner of it)! I decided to head to Vancouver on my own with little H, for a week, to visit my Uncle, brother and dad because I know the place so well and I have other plans for my husbands holidays!

Obstacle 1: Illness

Unfortunately just as we were set to leave for our little visit all of H’s baby friends started getting sick… so I knew it was coming… it was only a matter of time! Sure enough as soon as we got to Van the coughing, sneezing and runny nose hit. This was H’s first time getting sick… so as you can imagine I was a bit worried! Fortunately I had my baby toiletry kit with me… I knew I would one day be glad I had the Nose Freda with me! That and the saline solution were very helpful in providing H a little bit of relief! If I were to be in an unfamiliar place I might want to very quickly have a look at where the nearest children’s hospital (or regular one) is… just for peace of mind (really it take 2 seconds with google!). She was never hospital sick… but the cold just had me wondering what I would have done had it been more serious. Her being sick also reminded me that she is kinda the boss… what I mean is that you need to manage expectations of what you are actually going to be able to accomplish with a baby (never mind a sick baby). Perhaps you will be able to do everything, but sometimes you wont do much… I think it’s important to be prepared for both outcomes!

Obstacle 2: Weather

Again… love Vancouver… but it can have some chilly weather! Coming from sun, and boarder line summer temperatures, to damp, wet and cold I was slightly under prepared. Adding to this a sick little girl, I had to adjust my expectations of what I could actually do! Hindsight I would have also packed a bit more of a variety of clothing… and maybe an extra blanket… but we made due! (packing list coming next week!)

Obstacle 3: Open concept

We stayed with my uncle, with the option to stay with my brother (a block away). They both live in the greatest (in my opinion) area of Vancouver… steps away from Granville Island! Staying with one of them was just a given… unfortunately I had somehow blocked from my mind the fact that they both live in the MOST open concept home on earth… seriously what’s wrong with a wall or two? My dad actually brought a tent in case we decided we were in a truly desperate situation and needed to set this up in the living room… not even kidding. Fortunately we didn’t get to that point. H ended up sleeping in a laundry room with a tarp covering the large skylight… it gave the room a lovely blue vibe!

Obstacle 4: People who don’t have babies

“So, wait, you can’t just leave the baby to go and have a coffee?!” direct quote from one of the family members I was visiting (I don’t want to name, names). Visiting and particularly staying with people who don’t have babies can be wonderful, but it also reminded me that they might not understand exactly what they are getting themselves into. My uncle and brother really were trying their very best, but you could tell they were also rather unsure as to what to actually do with little H… I was the same before her! I found it really important to be very clear about what was fine and what would just not work. A perfect example was my brother wanting me to come over for a late dinner… I can do that BUT our dad would have to stay with H. Even staying with someone who has their own baby can be challenging because, as I see time and time again with H’s little baby friends, each child has their own thing going on!

Despite these obstacles I still had a great visit and managed to actually do some things that I have never done before! Next week long with my packing list I will have part 2 which will be the activities I managed to do and some that I wish I had…  till then!

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Playing queen with a giant chess set in my Uncles apartment!
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Managed to go for a mini hike in Lighthouse Park!

Flying Solo With A Baby: Short

I believe there is a big difference between flying on a short flight and a long flight with a baby… so I want to be clear that this was my experience with a solo one hour flight. I still learned a lot on these flights that I will be using on my longer flights in the future! You can find my first big flight experience by clicking HERE!

Check in:

The first thing I did to ensure a successful flight was to arrive with enough time to not be stressed out about check in, security and finding my gate! I flew with Westjet and found flying out of Calgary they were absolutely wonderful, flying home they were fine, but nothing to write home about. I was meeting my dad, uncle and brother in Vancouver and fortunately my dad brought a few things from Grandma and Grandpas house so I didn’t have to being everything… I still ended up with a huge suitcase, a backpack, diaper bag, stroller and car seat that I had to deal with! I couldn’t believe how much stuff this little one required… but I realized that you need a certain amount of stuff no matter how long you are going. 1 week vs. two weeks doesn’t actually mean that much more! You get two free baby items with most airlines, that I fly with, and what I realized was that you don’t have to gate check them both, or you can… whatever you want to do! When there were two of us we gate checked the car seat and umbrella stroller. Because it was just me, I was able to check in the car seat with the giant suitcase! They provided a bag for it and tagged it all up… easy!

FYI: My packing list will be in the next post!

Security:

So far in my flight experiences with a baby I have only had to wait with everyone else to go through security once, otherwise I have been put in an express line… so nice! I like to be nice and prepared for security so I don’t wear a belt, usually I wear Toms so I can slip them on and off easily(usually they let me keep them on), no extra jewelry… seriously make it is easy on yourself! With a baby you are allowed liquids, just be prepared for them to swab them. I had all my liquids (basically a food pouch and a Sippy cup with water) easy to access and ready to go! On my way out of Calgary apparently I set off some alarm with one of the food pouches I brought, so I ended up getting a very thorough search! Talking to the very nice security guy, he mentioned that often the food pouches do set off extra alarms (maybe because they have liquid, metal and plastic in them?). He did say if there are some less than 100 ml that they don’t need to swab them… if I find these I might pick some up, but on the way home I had the same brand of pouch and had zero issues!

Past security:

In Vancouver I discovered a family bathroom… wonderful! It was huge so I could roll the stroller in and have plenty of room. There was also a little bench where I could nurse baby H easily. In the airport I made sure I had a blanket with me, to put down on the ground so that she could roll around and play before we left (naturally she did end up on the airport carpet a bit, but what are you going to do?). I also always grab a bottle of water for the plane, which was great because there was no way I was going to be able to put a tray down with her!

On the plane:

It is so nice being able to get on the plane first and get all settled. I believe the airlines really prefer you do this as well, so they can go through all the safety stuff and make sure you are good to go! Also I should add, as we were boarding one of the lovely attendants helped me out by holding H while I folded up the stroller (there was almost a fight amounts the gate agents about who would help me! Haha). Being a short flight I made sure I was in an aisle so I could walk around if I wanted… I am a window girl usually! Being that it was such a short flight I changed H prior to boarding the plane. I put my diaper bag in the seat in front of me with easy access to toys (although I was correct in thinking she would be more interested in the people on the plane!). Also I made sure I had a little bag of baby puffs and crackers in the outside pocket of my diaper bag. H is happiest when eating, just like her mom. I have never had issues with her ears, but do make sure she is sucking on her pacifier for takeoff and landing. Going to Vancouver H was a bit excited so she spent most of it jumping on my lap, for an hour not a big deal! On the way back she slept for most of the flight… giving me a dead arm!

All in all it really was a very easy experience… being prepared and knowing it was only an hour flight… I had confidence I would be able to handle it! If you are travelling by yourself and have an issue just ask for help! People are HAPPY to help!

Happy travels!

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Baby Toiletries: For Travel!

I hesitated to call this a baby first aid kit… but in many ways it is that as well. Along with all the stuff (toys, food, bed, carriers, clothing, etc.) here are the things that I bring with me for trips. Many of these items were actually gifted to me in a beautiful basket and I have to say it was one of the best gifts I received! So practical, and things, as I new mom, I didn’t have much of a clue about!

  • Baby Tylenol – as H is on and off teething this is nice to have around just in case!
  • Baby Benadryl – I recently decided to add this to my kit when one of our baby friends had an allergic reaction to a new food! It is perhaps a more paranoid item, but I just feel better knowing I have it in my back pocket if I need it (full discloser I haven’t actually used this)
  • Baby Thermometer
  • Baby nail clippers and nail files – I still struggle with clipping H’s nails so the file is my usual go to for her razor claws!!
  • Saline solution… great stuff for a little stuffed up nose!
  • Little travel baby shampoo/wash – obviously only necessary if you plan on being gone long enough for a bath, but it’s so little I just keep in in the bag!
  • Weleda moisturizer – H gets a thorough rub down every night to keep her dry skin under control! It has made all the difference.
  • Weleda Diaper rash cream
  • Little pack of Qtips
  • Baby D drops – particularly being Canadian H gets her daily vitamin D!
  • Nose snot sucker (there are different verions of this… click here for the one I have) This is another item that I haven’t actually used… but if I was going on a longer trip why not just throw it in?

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How to Choose Child-Friendly Accommodation

Now that you have figured out where you are going it is time to sort out where to stay exactly… Choosing the right place to stay on a vacation, be it for two weeks or one night, can make or break a trip in my opinion! Here are a few things I have found helpful to think about. I am going to use an apartment as my example, but these thoughts can totally be applied to hotels, hostels, camping… whatever! If you choose to rent an apartment my favourite websites are listed at the bottom with a few more tips.

  1. Location, location, location… take some time to research the exact area that you want to spend your time in and then book a place there! This will allow you to really make the most of your vacation. Having a little one you never know when you will need to make a quick trip “home”! Being close to your home base allows you to come and go as you will. I like to take note of parking options (if you have a car) and/or access to public transportation. You would be shocked at how much parking can be sometimes and if you are staying somewhere for a while it is nice to be near public transport! In Europe I have noticed that not all public transportation is created equal. You may need to lug a stroller up and down stairs… so be prepared!
  2. How much space do you and baby need to sleep soundly? If you have a sensitive munchkin you might put the most emphasis on this, or if not this might not be a big deal. For me I have a very hard time sleeping beside H… I wake up to every sigh, peep and squeak. This doesn’t necessarily mean we need to have a separate bedroom for baby H, but we do require a large enough room that she is not right beside my head! Having a separate bedroom for naps is glorious. Also having a separate bedroom for when the little one goes to bed early is nice (so that you don’t have to hide under the covers watching Netflix with earphones). Depending on your little one, splurging on having a bedroom can make all the difference or, if you are really lucky, maybe it doesn’t matter as your babe can sleep anywhere!
  3. Safety… I have noticed looking at many apartment photos that some people just really love to decorate… this can make a place look far more inviting, eclectic or sometimes a bit odd. An apartment’s decorating style is something that takes on a whole new level of importance with a little one. If you have a curious munchkin seeing a thousand knick-knacks might now be a good idea. If there are numerous open fireplaces with massive pointy coffee tables… perhaps this will be an issue for your family. Are their stairs in very inconvenient locations? These are all things to consider… None of these things would necessarily sway me away from a place, but if there were a place next door that didn’t have these issues why wouldn’t I book there instead?
  4. Cleanliness (floors in particular). After our house in Hawaii I realized once H was mobile I would need to pay more attention to the floors… seems a bit funny but with a little person crawling around and sticking everything she can possibly get into her mouth, floor cleanliness takes on an entire new meaning.
  5. What extras does the apartment come with? Not necessarily a make or break, but something that might just sway you on one place over another. For our France trip I made sure that each place we are staying at has a washing machine. Sometimes places will specifically list that they have things such as cribs and high chairs, which can be totally awesome! As I mentioned in my previous post (about choosing a destination) if you don’t want to bring things with you, renting is also an option. I found that if baby things were not listed, if you ask, often places would still provide them! If you are staying in a hotel you will want to ask them as well. Something to keep in mind is that some cribs/high chairs or whatever might not be in the best condition. At the bare minimum I always like to bring my own sheet for baby H. Also, most likely there won’t be any crib bumpers or anything like that. I always have in the back of my mind that if something looks REALLY not clean or safe enough for me I can always either make H a bed in a bathtub, or N and I have even discussed how he can sleep on a pull-out couch and I can sleep with baby H… you can always figure something out!

Other things that might make a difference if you have a particularly fussy little one: noise level of the area, what sort of blinds do the rooms have (is it going to be dark enough for babe to sleep) and heating (in colder months some European houses really have poor insulation)!

I love booking accommodation with airbnb.ca and vrbo.com. I have used both of these sites and have never had issues with either. Make sure you don’t forget to look at the cleaning and service fees. Sometimes the cleaning fee can be significant and then other times it is nothing! It is worth noting that with airbnb you can have rates in Canadian currency, and with vrbo the rates are in American dollars. Also don’t be afraid to branch out and try other sites depending on where you are going. When we were in the Cinque Terre, Italy we found an individual website for what turned out to be a really wonderful apartment (most of the rentals in this area at that time had personal websites and were wonderful)! The key is to do a little bit of research to make sure it is legitimate but sometimes you can find some hidden gems!

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My computer screen when searching for the right accommodation!

7 Things to Consider When Choosing a Destination for Travel With a Baby

 

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So it has been decided… we are off to France in the Spring. Baby H will be 10 months old… so we will see how this goes! I knew that I wanted to go back to Europe in the Spring, but where!?!? Here are a few thoughts that helped us make a decision, in no particular order. The thoughts I have can really be applied to choosing any destination with a baby!

  1. How are you planning on getting around? What I mean by this really is: are you comfortable renting a car? Will you be bringing your car seat with you (is that even possible with specific countries regulations), or will you be renting one (this can be a rather $$$$ option!)? While we have rented cars before in different countries we decided that we would rather not NEED to rent a car, but would be comfortable taking trains, metros and/or city buses. We feel that if we decide when we are there that we really want to rent a car, and car seat, then we can do that for just a day or two.
  2. How long does it take to get to where you want to go? N and I travelled to New Zealand before we were married, and have maintain that we could move there very easily, we loved it so much! To fly there, from here, with a baby… not my idea of a good time. Could we have done it… absolutely… but we decided we would rather go somewhere closer and save that stress for another time.
  3. How flexible do you think your little one is? Just looking back at baby H (at 3 months versus 6) her adaptability and flexibility has greatly decreased. When they are really little they will sleep and eat anywhere, now less so. At 10 months we know that it will be nice for her (and us) to be able to set up in one location for more than a couple of days! I am also thinking having at least one solid nap is going to make us all much happier! We decided we wanted 2 destinations over 2 weeks to keep us sane.
  4. What do you want to do? This had a huge impact on us choosing France over another country. We had a few options we were floating around. One of the top three contenders was Scotland. We realized quickly that we wanted to do so much stuff in Scotland it would mean staying in one spot for a maximum of 3 nights (see the previous point). In Paris we were comfortable with the idea of basically eating croissants and drinking wine… if we get to the Louvre, Awesome! Go up the Eiffel tower… Great! Window shop on the Champs-Elysees … just an extra bonus! We still think that we can do Scotland with baby H, but at 10 months old there are better choices!
  5. How comfortable are you going to be in the country you want to visit? I am dying to get down to South America but at this point I realized that I wouldn’t be very comfortable… Having travelled in Europe I feel good that I have at least some idea of what to expect, the food is familiar to me, I also speak a little French (poorly, but enough that I can somewhat get my point across). I don’t want to go on a vacation and be stressed about every tiny little detail… travelling overseas with a baby is enough stress for me!
  6. How much stuff are you bringing with you? This ties in closely with the first point (how you are getting around)! If you are renting a car from the airport (like we did when we went to Hawaii) you can bring a ton (and we did). If you are planning on taking public transport for even a tiny bit of your trip you may want to leave the crib at home… or, if you think you can manage, go to town! The key here is to try and be realistic.
  • There are many baby gear rental sites for countries and cities around the world, which is rather nice as this means you don’t actually have to take all your stuff with you. Obviously it’s nice to have things you know how to work but maybe you only need to rent a crib for part of your journey or maybe you want to try out a particular stroller? I did a quick google search for “NYC baby rental equipment” “London baby rental equipment” even “Tokyo baby rental equipment” and a ton of sites came up!
  1. Where do you want to stay? Do you want to stay in a hotel? Rent an apartment? Hostel it up? All of these are options, you just need to be realistic about what you and baby can handle. For us, we knew hotels and hostels were out. We wanted space and sadly could not afford the space in hotels and hostels were too crowded for us.
  • For more on finding the perfect accommodation check out THIS post

Finally: Sometimes you have to just jump right in! We still wonder if we are mental to be taking baby H to France for two weeks when she is 10 months old… but flights are booked, accommodation is pending… so here we go! We figure if she is going to have a bad day, she is going to have a bad day… I would rather be in Paris! No matter how well behaved these French children are supposed to be, someone is bound to have a meltdown at some point!

 

Hawaii Part 1 of 2 (the North Shore of Oahu!)

First off can I just say that baby H loves not wearing pants… she is the queen of the pants off party! When I say pants I really mean any clothing. Unfortunately we had been given so many outfits for this trip that she was forced to wear adorable dresses that were changed way more often than necessary. Anyway back to the North Shore. Upon arriving, we grabbed out rental car and headed straight North!

 

A couple quick notes if you are heading to the North Shore of Oahu:

  • I loved staying up on the North Shore… far more relaxed than Honolulu and Waikiki
  • Traffic can be busy as there is only one route in many places! People also just randomly pull over onto the side of the road to park and then pull back into traffic, so be aware!
  • Shrimp trucks… do it! Perfectly poaches shrimp in delicious sauces with some rice and salad… yum!
  • Skip Waimea Valley (more details if you keep reading)
  • Hang out on any of the beaches along the Banzai Pipeline and you will see some impressive surfing!
  • Macadamia nut ice cream… enough said! Not 100% what the big deal is with the shaved ice (I am an ice cream girl though!)
  • Dole plantation… I dream of the Dole Whip… yum! We didn’t do the train as they had just harvested and the maze was closed, sad face… but If you want to purchase anything with a pineapple this is the place to do so! It is a totally typical tourist trap… but it is cool to drive up to it and see all the pineapples in the fields!

 

What we learned:

  1. The joys of a rental house: Arriving at our rental house we knew this was going to be good! We had originally thought we might make one of the bathrooms baby H’s room (dark, quiet, her own space), but due to how they were laid out and how massive our room was, having her in the bedroom worked out ok for us! First thing we did was set up a changing station, second thing was to show baby H the ocean! Back home she absolutely hates any wind… in Hawaii she thought it was great! The thing that I will now be considering more closely as she starts to be more mobile is floor cleanliness… strange carpets in tropical locations are not going to work for a crawling, face-planting babe… just something to think about.
  2. When travelling with others we found it essential to have a rental car that was ours… my brother and girlfriend joined us on a couple of adventures to town, to the outlet mall, the beach and on a little hike… but always with the understanding that at any moment we may have to abandon everything and make a break for it! The rental car was one of the few places baby H would actually nap so we got some excellent driving in!
  3. You really can do all sorts of things with a baby if you really want to! Example Waimea Valley… which turned out to be kinda lame. The great thing about Oahu was the warmth! Glorious, glorious warmth. It would spit here and there, but it was so warm you didn’t even worry about it! We decided to head up to the Waimea Valley because apparently there was a lovely hike to a waterfall that was supposed to be very easy (sounded right up our alley!). Upon arriving at the valley it was dripping a bit… no biggie… yah, turned into a lot more than a dripping so we managed to purchase a cheap poncho and N threw it over himself and baby H. We made sure that baby H had her head poking out of the poncho and off we went. Off we went up to completely paved path to the mudfilled watering hole and a waterfall… We did it, but I think that our time would have been better spent doing something else.
  4. Beach with a baby can be fun! We went to a couple beaches, but my favourite would have to be the ones along the Banzai Pipeline. A friend lent us a little baby tent that was great on the beach. I loved it because it was small, protected her from the sun and wind! We never managed to stay super long at the beach but we got there and had a good time while there!
  5. Not all sinks are created equally. We wanted to give baby H at least one bath while away and figured we would just use the kitchen sink… she was still small! Unfortunately this did not work at all… the plug would have poked her little bum! The bathtub didn’t have a plug that worked and all bathroom sinks were teeny tiny… sooo dad hopped in the shower and held onto her very tightly and I gave her a little shampoo and scrub!

 

Gear we brought that we actually used:

  • Baby carrier! On the North Shore sidewalks were not always a given so we never used our stroller! We also had a large muslin blanket that we would throw over her if we were in the sun! Poor baby has Mom’s complexion. We also had a little hat that was probably from the 80s if not older as it was an old-school bonnet style, but she loved it because it covered her ears and still had a nice sun brim on it!
  • Baby tent (pea pod?), not a 100% necessity but it was nice to have for beach time to protect from sun, sand, wind and bugs!
  • 100 outfits, baby sunglasses, baby sandals… ok were any of these things necessary?  … absolutely not as baby H would have loved to just hang out in her diaper…. But I loved and used them all!
  • Pack ‘n Play portable crib for sleeping
  • Noise machine, stuffed bunny and elmo… again bringing things from home that she was used to sleeping with.
  • Tummy time mat and a few toys (we brought many toys… a few would have been adequate). We brought a blanket that is somewhat thicker (so grass couldn’t poke through) and has a bit of water-resistance to it (it’s for tummy time). This was great to lay down as it could be put anywhere and she could play on it in! If she had spit up, the material could just be wiped off!
  • We did not bring a baby monitor but I had my iPhone and iPad which were equipped with iSitter which uses wifi to monitor baby… it worked great!
  • Car seat, car seat cover (again for that sun!) so that when she was sleeping we could cover her up and take her outside (usually to eat tacos or shrimp).

 

*It should be noted that baby H was 5 months, was just starting to be introduced to solids and had just learned to roll over on this trip.