If youโ€™ve got kids you need to go here solely for the kids club!

Weโ€™re just headed home after 10 days at the Iberostar Cancun. I have a 5 year old and 1.5 year old so trying to entertain them both simultaneously is an effort.

Kids club! What can I say, the ladies running the kids club (Paulina, Sehem, Koral & Nancy) are absolutely fantastic! They are so hard working and the kids absolutely love them! They are open 930-445 and can also take them to dinner and the show which can extend it to 930pm. My daughter loved it so much she was upset when she had to do anything else. They take them to the beach, pool, buffet for lunch and dinner, art and craft and even put on shows and play treasure hunts and discos. I cannot rave about these ladies enough! Thank you so much for making ours and my daughters holiday so much fun and relaxing!

Other than the kids club the staff are the most friendly weโ€™ve ever had on a trip and we travel a lot. The cleaning ladies were so thoughtful with flowers daily and the restaurant and buffet staff were so happy and friendly it was so nice to be around.

We were in an ocean view room with balcony which was perfect for us, the balcony was big enough for night time when the kids were asleep. They have fridges in the room with soft drinks and beers, my favorite restaurant was the Japanese restaurant and steak house.

The pools are amazing and the kids pool with the pirate ship was perfect for kids. The pool bar is great however the last 2 days they were renovating.

They have a number of activities from shooting to volleyball, table tennis and yoga.

Overall the only thing that would be nice would be different options each day at the buffet. We were there 10 days so we felt like we ate similar things each day.

Nashville with kids: Where to go and what to do on a hot day in Nashville.

We are 6 days into our week long vacation in Nashville. Like many people frequenting the city we are here for a friends bachelor party however in our case we bought our kids with us!

After spending the better part of 5 days in party mode, today was a day for the kids and it was hot! So where do you go in the city when it’s hot and what do you do?

Here’s my itinerary for a family of 4 and the cost of the activities.

Morning breakfast: we decided to stay at the Aloft hotel in midtown. Great hotel approximately 20 mins walk from downtown Nashville and out of the party chaos. There are amazing eateries around such as the midtown cafe, the row, midtown tavern and Hattie B’s chicken. This hotel can also be free if you save up your SPG points on your Amex SPG card which we did. Being located outside of the tourist trap, restaurants tend to be cheaper however on this particular morning we decided to go to Just Love Coffee and Cafe. I would say they make the best coffee and Chai latte we’ve had so far in the US so it’s a must stop! We had a latte, Chai, 2x breakfast wraps and 1 full sized berry waffle (shared by both kids) for under $30. Not too bad when traveling and it was quick and filling. Obviously there are cheaper places to eat out there but it was good quality and a nice atmosphere so it was a plus in our books.

After breakfast we jumped in the rental car or should I clarify pick up truck (a must have when frequenting Nashville) and drove to the beach. The closest lake to Nashville is Percy Priest, less than 10 miles from the city. We headed out to Anderson Beach, $5 entry per vehicle and they have a beach, playground, toilet block and BBQ tables. If you are organized you could bring a picnic however as we had, had breakfast we were just happy to spend the day at the beach with some snacks for the kids and wait to eat lunch a little later in the day. The water was very clear for a lake and was warm at 85F/ 29.4 degrees Centigrade. Perfect temp for the little ones and it means you can spend a good chunk of the day there.

By 2pm we were getting hungry so we decided we would hit up one of the restaurants that Anthony Bourdain frequented when he shot his Nashville episode; Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish. This place was great but be prepared for spice if you add it. I thought of myself as pretty well versed in spice but this was something else… for the kids you can get no spice and that’s perfect. I had medium spice and I couldn’t finish the food. I was crying and my husband who got hot was sweating like never before. We got the chicken tenders, wings and pork chops which are all hand rubbed with spices in addition to sides of macaroni, fries and corn. All up with drinks it was under $30 but we definitely over ordered and the meals are huge. If you don’t like spice get plain, I think if I went again I’d get mild ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ”ฅ

After lunch, which we had later around 3pm we took a drive round the city to retrace some of our steps taken on our nights out. Took a few pictures of the city from Rolling Mill Hill (around pinewood social) then headed back to the hotel to get the kids ready for bed.

All in all, a relatively inexpensive day out and ticked off a few experiences along the way. Percy Priest Lake is a great way to get out of the city on a hot hot day!

6 nights in Nashville: What’s in my bag?

I’m going to admit I’m an ‘over-packer’. I love to be ‘prepared’ for all occasions however we’ve just spent the past 7 weeks living out of 3 suitcases so I decided we were reducing to 1 backpack for our 6 night break in Nashville. The great thing about Nashville at this time of year is it’s hot, so I’ve managed to cut down on clothing just by having summer gear only.

Here’s whats in my bag for this trip;

Medicine bag: can’t leave home without this! From allergy tablets for my husband, to Imodium, the handy Advil and Tylenol for the kids and adults, I’m basically a walking pharmacy.

Toiletries: I got a great bag from Nordstrom which zips open and has pockets to put things in. This is a real space saver when you’ve got 4 people to pack for. Even has a pocket for makeup ๐Ÿ˜‰ I generally have shampoo/ conditioner, toothpaste, makeup, floss, toothbrushes, jimmies electric shaver, razors, tampons, deodorant etc. In addition to the bag I have a tone of diapers and wipes in the front pocket of the pack.

Clothing: I’ve packed a few extra sets of clothes for the kids but jimmie and I have exactly 6 sets each. I rolled all the clothes up in batches within the pack, this way it saves space and is easier to pack. Best thing about a pack is there are compartments. I have the shoes in the bottom which is separated from the clothes. Toiletries and medicine bag up top and diapers in the front.

Sheet: for the pack and play

High chair: we have a material high chair that rolls up and loops over most chairs. Great for inside your hotel room when you need to feed your baby/ toddler.

Stroller: Can’t go wrong with a stroller when you’re in a hot busy place like Nashville. Generally we’d take an umbrella stroller however we have been traveling the past 7 weeks so didn’t have access to it. The baby jogger X3 is really handy however as our 4 year old can sit on the foot piece. 2 for 1 stroller right here!

Pack and play: just because we like to have consistency for Augustine when he’s traveling; same bed each night.

Car seats: both kids car seats come on our trips.You can get away without them in certain places but we know we will be using Uber a little during this trip and will need them for the reason.

That’s my bag. Not a lot but still has the essentials!

The American dream: visas and pathways to living in the US.

The United States of America, many people dream to live and work here but how is it possible? Generally speaking you need qualifications or equivalent work experience to get a work permit however here are some of the visa types I am familiar with. From my experience the US is one of the hardest places to get a working visa.

L1 visa: one of the more straight forward visas, this visa is available if you have worked for an international company in another part of the world and can get a transfer to the US office. This visa is eligible for a path to permanent residency.

E3: if you are an Australian citizen this is the visa for you. Renewable every 2 years and available with a job offer. The role does require a labor skills assessment and you need a degree or experience equivalent to get the visa. The hardest part is getting a job offer.

Diversity Lottery: controversial and the Trump government has this on their list to remove but at present is a lottery which takes place once a year in October for Permanent Residency (Green Card). One of the easier ways of getting a visa and I actually know 5 people who have won this. (All had university qualifications)

H1B: another visa which is being scrutinized at present, mainly due to the number of recruitment companies who are abusing this visa and repurposing it. This visa is big in the tech space and is for specialized roles. These positions are supposed to be hard to fill roles and in demand in the US. This visa also leads to permanent residency.

J1- if you were ever contemplating being an Au Pair this is the visa for you. You can participate in the Au Pair program for a year and live and work in the US as an Au Pair. We are currently looking to sponsor an Au Pair as we are looking at child care options once I head back to work at the end of the year. This visa does not lead to PR.

There are other types of visas out there but above are the more common working visas. Please note these are my experiences and information on the visa types above are my opinions. For more information check the US department of state for more information.

Vancouver to Calgary: traveling with a newborn

When I look back now, nearly a year on I think to myself how the hell did I do that?

Living in the US you only get so much leave after having a baby; Jimmie was due back to work in 2 weeks and having lived in Canada previously and driven this route I thought, “let’s go to Vancouver and drive all the way to Calgary, it’ll be fun!”

I booked Augustine an early immunization appointment at 6 weeks, we got the shots and 1 day later we (myself, jimmie, Ophelia (4) and Augustine (6 weeks) boarded the plane.

There were a few bumps along the way, including some of the worst wild fires BC had experienced. We got stuck behind a horrific motorcycle accident on our 3rd stop and had to reroute a few times due to wild fires blocking our path, in addition to having a few extra stops due to breastfeeding a newborn. I think if we did it again I would split it up over 3 weeks rather than 2 as we were always on the move.

Our route looked like this and we drove over 2,500 km:

Vancouver (1), Whistler (3), Lac Le Juene (3), Revelstoke (1), Kicking Horse (1), Banff (3), Calgary (1).

Canada is one of the most pristine clean beautiful countries out there. Coming from New Zealand and my husband, Sweden it reminds us of our home countries. Out of all the locations my husband liked Kicking Horse/ Nelson the most and I really enjoyed Lac Le Juene (mainly because I had never been there).

We were extremely lucky and avoided the smoke during our trip. 2 weeks later and it would have been a different story but we got lucky with the winds. I did think about canceling the trip numerous times, mainly because we were traveling with a newborn and smoke inhalation can be an issue. Despite my anxiety, it all worked out. I think the biggest lesson learnt was take the stops you need, be prepared to reroute if needed and don’t prepay accommodation like I did without buying travel insurance upfront that covers you for natural disasters. Booking it the day before when the fires have been burning for weeks isn’t going to cover you.

Essential items during a road trip with such a young baby?

#1:Plenty of diapers, not all countries have the same brands and generally they are always a lot cheaper in the US.

#2:bring your own car seat (and base) and gate check it. We made the mistake of not bringing the base and it was a pain. We also spent 30 mins trying to figure out the locking system of the seat belts for our SUV. Also note in the EU seat belts don’t lock like in the US so you need the base and ISO hooks.

#3: stroller (either second hand or a travel stroller you don’t mind getting banged up).

#4:plenty of changes of clothes, you don’t want to be doing laundry during a 2 week trip and newborns have those blow out runny ๐Ÿ’ฉ also make sure you have options in case it’s super hot, raining or freezing.

#5:back facing car seat mirror. You want to make sure you can see your baby if you can’t sit in the back seat.

#6: gate check bags for the car seats. These bags save your car seats from some serious dirt.

#7:pack and play. When traveling off the beaten path, not all accommodations have a crib. I also preferred my newborn in his own bed each night to keep one thing consistent.

#8: water bottle, for yourself if you are breastfeeding. You want to ensure you are constantly hydrating. If you are bottle feeding enough formula and some more for your journey. Like diapers most countries have their own brands of formula and you don’t want to get caught out without enough.

#9: visas and passport for your new bundle? We fast tracked our sons US passport and got it within 2 days. In the US the biggest problem is waiting for the SSN and then getting a copy of the birth certificate. In our case it was fast but I’ve heard it can take months to come through. Booking ahead can sometimes be an issue due to the logistics surrounding these documents.

#10: plane pillow. Perfect size for breastfeeding on the road with a newborn and their head just fits perfect when on a plane.

10 ‘must see’ attractions in San Francisco

#1: Golden Gate Bridge

There are many ways to see the Golden Gate Bridge. You can walk all the way along the Embarcadero, over Fort Mason for a view. You can visit Chrissy Field or Baker Beach for a closer view or walk over the bridge and take in the sites. My favorite is walking or cycling over from the Golden Gate visitor center.

#2: Painted Ladies

The park across the road has recently been renovated so you are once again able to get a great view of the Painted Ladies. Just note people live and own these houses. Don’t be one of those tourists to take pictures in the driveway or on their steps. I see tourists doing that all the time and it must be so annoying!

#3: Coit tower

One of the best, if not the best views of the city in the city. Try to go mid week when it’s less busy or even better during the winter months.

#4: Lombard Street

The most crooked street in the world is definitely worth a visit. If you have a car, driving is even better!

#5: Alcatraz

If you are planning a trip to San Francisco book your tickets way in advance. I went in 2008 and managed to get tickets easily however I’ve been told since living in the city that you need to plan in advance to ensure you get to see this spectacle.

#6: Fisherman’s Wharf

A very tourist focused area of San Francisco but there’s lots to see from the San Francisco Aquarium, Bubba Gump Shrimp, lots of crab restaurants and food outlets.

#7: AT&T Park- Giants Stadium

If you are visiting San Francisco around April-September generally you can get a ticket to a baseball game. Groupon and goldstar normally have discounted tickets so also check these sites. Great atmosphere and if you can afford it get club seats as these are the better ones.

#8: Clarion Alley

Great, generally political graffiti street art in the Mission. While you are there check out one of the numerous great eateries. Everything from the famous Mission burrito to craftsman and wolves bakery. There’s definitely something for everyone.

#9: Lands End

A labyrinth of walking trails along the coastline. Best on a sunny day free of fog so you can enjoy views of the Golden Gate.

#10: Ferry to Sausalito

Take a ferry from the Ferry Building over to Sausalito and grab an ice cream, take a wonder round the shops and even grab a bite to eat. Best part about the ferry is you can use your clipper transit card on this particular ferry as well!

One last tip. When you are in San Francisco, never call it San Fran EVER ๐Ÿ˜

Family of 3 becomes 4- Top 5 travel items with a newborn

Gone are the days of grabbing one car seat and a stroller and heading off to the airport. Traveling with 2 kids makes the complexity of traveling with kids all the more difficult and throwing a newborn into the mix means a number of items to think about packing. We just got back from a 12 day road trip from Vancouver to Calgary across Canada, some of the must have items below saved my family from unnecessary stress and meant my little man was comfortable.

1) Travel cot: many hotels have a crib or cot available however if you are going to be heading off the beaten track it’s worth the hassle to lug one of these along. You can pick one up on Amazon or the likes in other countries. I also like taking my own crib traveling because i feel like it’s a little bit of normality for baby and it means he’s sleeping in the same bed each night regardless of the location. I also FREAK out about SIDS so knowing he’s safe in his bed each night makes me sleep easier.

2) Car Travel Mirror: I cannot recommend travel mirrors enough! We just drove 2,500km across Canada and it was great to be able to look back as see Augustine and whether he was ok. A lot of SUV’s you rent when doing a road trip may only have 2 seats or there are three but the two car seats take up most of the room. It means you can see your rear facing child and talk to them through the mirror. The version i have just clips onto the head rest of the back seats and you have the ability adjust the position.

3) Pram/ Stroller: When I first had my daughter 4 years ago i flew to New Zealand from Australia with my Baby Jogger Summit X3 and stuffed the wheels therefore I highly recommend NOT taking your expensive stroller traveling, even when you gate check it. My recommendation when you have an infant is to buy a second hand stroller that is compatible with you car seat capsule. Jimmie and I were thinking of just taking the carseat and our baby bjorn on holiday however i cracked last minute and looked on facebook market place and managaed to pick up a Bob stroller compatible with my Britax B Safe 35 capsule. It was a life saver on vacation as we were able to go out for dinner with friends in Whister and Calgary for a number of hours but it also means Augustine was able to sleep in it during the day as he refuses to sleep in hs crib unless it is night time.

4) Airplane pillow: Not what you would generally use this for but I used my airplane pillow for baby head support while breastfeeding on the plane. It means baby’s head isn’t hitting the metal headrest, it’s slightly more comfortable and a support for you and once he is done he continued to sleep comfortably

5) Car seat gate check bag: these things are a must, whether you are gate checking or counter checking your car seat, these bags keep the dirt and dust off your car seat. You can buy these on Amazon really cheap, a definite must have!

The last point is to take it easy and breath. The airport experience can be painful, especially with 2 kids but it doesn’t last forever. The memories you make on the road are always more memorable than how you arrived at your destination so breath through and try to think of that cocktail in the lounge!

10 ‘not so’ touristy things to do in San Francisco

After living exactly 2 years and 7 months in Mission Bay, San Francisco I feel like I ticked most, if not all tourist attractions off my list. When you are living in a city you want to try and find some of the less touristy places to explore and with this post comes the top 10 ‘not so’ touristy attractions in San Francisco. I can guarantee these Wont be on the big red bus stops ๐Ÿ˜‰

#1: hike up the 16th Ave tiled steps

#2: take in the views of the Golden Gate Bridge from baker beach

#3: watch a concert or a baseball game from The Yard

#4: stroll through Balmy Alley and view the graffiti art in the Mission.

#5: go to a concert at Bottom of the Hill

#6: catch the E tram from Mission Rock to Fisherman’s wharf

#7: take the ferry to Angel island and hike. Best views of San Francisco from the water.

#8: eat the poke at Atwater tavern

#9: drink beers in the sun at Reds Java house

#10:head to the ferry building on Saturday between 8-2pm for the farmers market

That Mum on the plane…

I think one of the hardest parts of traveling with kids is getting from A to B with all the ‘stuff’ and keeping your sanity during the flight. Sure, once you are at the hotel lapping up the sun it’s easy to forget the horrid flight but many parents are too anxious to even contemplate traveling with their child let alone two and avoid travel altogether until their kids are older.

I’m not going to sugar coat travel and make out it’s easy, it’s not but here’s a few tips to make the flight more comfortable so you’re not ‘that mum on the plane’ with the kid who’s screaming down the plane.

First thing I’ll recommend is that you have a couple of wines before a long flight, seriously it brings you down a few notches and well it’s always after midday somewhere in the world right? That aside what I’ve found helpful to make a flight more comfortable is having access to a lounge. It’s relaxing and a lot of lounges have kids corners or play areas. My favorite lounge is the AMEX lounge in San Francisco airport; you get free access with your Amex platinum card and it means you can dump your kids in there to be as feral as they like without interrupting other customers (they are basically in big glass box). The upside of this is after 2 hours of going crazy and 2 hours of mum drinking cocktails, the kids are ready to sleep and mum is in a much better frame of mind.

Travel essetials on the flight, by age;

2 years and older: this group is the easiest as by 2 most kids would have mastered the ability of watching a screen for more than 2 minutes and will be entertained by iPads or airline entertainment. One tip is to always bring kids headphones. Generally airline headphones are only made for adults so it’s best to bring your own. On shorter flights make sure you have an iPad handy as some airlines fail to provide screens. Also load up your iPad with videos which can be watched offline, you want to be prepared.

In addition to screen time you want to have lots of snacks on hand; snack bars, fruit, lots of water and a few spare changes of clothes. I don’t know how many times my now 4 year old has vomited on a flight and I’ve been caught out thinking she’s too old. If you are in the awkward toilet training phase also opt for a diaper; you might think it’s regression by putting it on but having your 3 year old pee through the seat onto the passenger behind is NOT FUN. Trust me, don’t even attempt it.

1-2 years: quite possibly the age where your child turns into a travel demon. All they want to do is walk laps around the plane, scream for no reason and cannot be consoled. I understand why parents avoid travel st this age. My only tip is lots of activities (think Pinterest) and Hylands Baby- Calming Tablets. These have worked extremely well for me when flying. If you can afford a seat get one. Makes such s difference having space (especially on long flights) but if you have a chilled child you can definitely get away with a lap infant at this age.

6-12 months: this age can go either way. If you baby isn’t crawling or walking it’s easier but once they’ve mastered walking you’re into the 1-2 year category. Baby carrier when you need to walk laps and If you have an active kid a seat is always helpful. Airlines such as Air NZ have a skycouch which means you can lie down with your child, other airlines have bassinets available for 0-12 months but each airline has different weight and age requirements. We found Finair pretty good with bassinets and British Airways. If you manage to get a bassinet seat bring a muslin blanket or something similar along with some adhesive or blue tak. Put this over the bassinet so when the lights are on the baby isn’t woken up.

0-6 months: if you’re breastfeeding this can be an easy age however my son wasn’t as easy as my daughter at this age so be prepared either way. Breastfeeding as much as possible, especially during take off and 20 mins before landing. If you are bottle feeding having a flask of hot water so you can mix bottles during the flight or ask the air hostess for hot water. Note not all flights, especially short flights have boiling water so take your own just to be safe. (Yes you can take baby formula and hot water on flight) in the US they might just open it and take a swab.

The biggest thing I can suggest is just breath. In the scheme of thing the flight is only a short part of the trip. It might be painful at times but it’s a small price to pay for a great experience!

About Me

My name is Natalie and my passion (obsession) for travel began at 19 years of age. My first trip away without family to Sydney Australia gave me a taste of the world outside of Auckland New Zealand and the endless adventures that could be had.

Fast forward 15 years and I’ve just moved to Washington D.C with my husband Jimmie and our two kids, for yet another adventure in the US.

I am currently taking time off from work to enjoy the summer and set up our new base, however to keep my mind in the game and pass on my handy travel tips I am starting this blog.

Hopefully this blog will inspire other Mums out there to travel more and how to make life easier when traveling with kids, especially toddlers.