travel in comfort accessories

Essentials of Traveling in Comfort

travel in comfort accessoriesWhen we had our child, our pediatrician said something brilliant: “Unhappy parents make unhappy babies.” He singlehandedly justified not feeling bad about putting on the airplane mask before my child and having one extra cocktail at every dinner.

This idea inspired me to write about what accessories and strategies I use to be more comfortable (and thus happy) on long trips. They aren’t complicated or expensive. Both of those words generally make me uncomfortable. Read more

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To Mexico City With an Infant – Part 1

Traveling is something that neither one of us wanted to give up when we had a child. In our love-hate relationship with Chicago, the hateful days land primarily in the forever greyness between the end of winter and the real end of winter. For those of you who cheat at life by living somewhere without slush, it’s like the stressful 15 minutes between pulling pecan pie out of the oven and not searing your mouth with goodness.

So, we escaped five days of April to Mexico City and did some learning about traveling with an infant. Read more

Do I need an EHIC card in Europe

Why US Citizens Do Not Need an EHIC Card

There are numerous questions surrounding the European Health Insurance Card; what it does, how to apply for one and who needs one being among the most popular queries. In short, a valid EHIC card entitles its bearer to access state healthcare when staying in a European country on a temporary basis (on holiday, for example). The EHIC card is great if you are looking to find medical help before being flown back home and means that the healthcare you receive will either be free or offered at a reduced cost. So, why do US citizens not qualify for an EHIC? Read more

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Free Range Nursing at Culver’s

Now that we have a newborn baby, our adventure travel will likely have to be put on pause, unless we consider long trips with the stroller down the third-world streets of Chicago’s Milwaukee Avenue an adventure.

For this reason, I’ve decided to provide up-to-date reviews on various places where my wife has been required to nurse our impatient young man. We hope to… 1) Help other weary parents find a quality, emergency respite when the cries are inconsolable…  2) Poke some fun at the low-quality places where desperation has landed us.

Our first impromptu nursing spot comes from a recent holiday trip from Chicago to St. Louis:

The Location:

Culver’s – Bloomington, Illinois [map]

The Situation:

  • 30 minutes before hungry baby meltdown.
  • 10 minutes before hungry parent meltdown.
  • A planned stop to satisfy all parties, complete with an exceptional butter burger, chicken sandwich and caramel shake as well as the friendly service one can expect from a Wisconsin-based company.

The Nursing Review:

Environment – 3 out of 5 Swaddles: 

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It was a busy day, being a holiday week and its “what-the-hell” vacation attitude that convinced people of good taste to spend the extra buck to pass up McDonald’s and try a more refined, more buttery burger.

Diners were spread out in the large seating area, with light traffic going to and from the bathroom, the soda fountain with surprisingly good diet root beer, and the doors. The environment was warm enough – clean and quieter than one would think, perhaps due to the many mouths focused on the well-cooked beef and soft buns as cozy as a corner booth.

Privacy – 2 out of 5 Swaddles: 

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Unfortunately, taking up the big corner booth seemed like an asshat thing to do, considering that a family with five ravenous kids in the middle of a long haul from Green Bay could have come walking through the door at any second. Those were the kind of Cheeseheads we were not willing to fight – even with the sympathy we may have gotten from the mother.

We settled for a booth against the wall instead of the tables in the middle of the room. Shielded by a highway-facing window on one side and my own body on another, Elise only had to deal with potential look-sees from a few adjacent diners and the awkward, yet diligent young busser.

Entertaining Distractions (for Mother) – 2 out of 5 Swaddles: 

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With the table so close to the booth seat, the primary focus was on preventing our child from splitting his head open and completely ruining our day. The divinely slight char on the beef and the ever-so tenderly-browned bun was a worthy distraction, but the omnipresent bus boy was a constant reminder of how our child might end up after an unfortunate head wound.

Entertaining Distractions (for Father) – 2 out of 5 Swaddles:

swaddle-2The unnecessary stress of watching potential reactions from passers-by and hiding bare breasts from view with a baby blanket over-shadowed the joy I had from my own succulent breast in my Detroit Rock City of a chicken sandwich. In addition, our slow-eating son outlasted my interest in Facebook, personal emails and even a few old Oatmeal cartoons. It was a long hour.

Ease of Escape – 4 out of 5 Swaddles (3 if the burger is left behind):

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Unless you’ve come across a pit-stop for Jeff Foxworthy’s funeral procession, the car is probably very close. The only issues in running out of a Culver’s because of an uncooperative baby are confused stares from people you’ll never see again – and leaving behind the last half of the burger you’d been thinking about for 165 miles.

tips to travel with kids - children

Traveling with Kids: A List of Valuable Resources

Someone asked me recently if I had any tips for traveling with kids, both on airplanes and/or internationally. For better or worse, my kid travel has been limited to a few road-trips with my siblings. All I remember from those frustrating times is that I needed a roll of duct tape or a rag soaked in chloroform.

To help this friend and others who’ll soon be traveling with kids, I scoured the internet and put together a list of credible blogs, articles and other resources that should help prevent readers from wanting the same things I did. Read more

Cartagena travel tips photos 8

Free Range Colombia – Day 20: Enchanted

Originally, we thought we’d head to the northern coast of Colombia, spend the night in Cartagena and hop on a bus to Tayrona – a popular national park a few hours northeast of Cartagena. One American couple we met said Tayrona was definitely pretty, but not the best hike in the world. Hm. And the Spanish couple staying in the Amazon with us couldn’t stop going on about how “super enchanting!” Cartagena is. Hm. And we were tired of transportation. Getting to Tayrona from Cartagena requires a lot. Hm.

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Free Range Colombia – Day 17: Puerto Nariño

On Day 17, we took a trip to the small town of Puerto Nariño on the Amazon River. About one hour by powered canoe, it’s popular for a lack of streets, well-manicured walkways, a small museum and common services that can’t be found in the villages. However, we enjoyed the way our Lonely Planet guide spun the quaint, jungle town into an ecotourism destination. Let me translate from “American hippie” into “Amazonian Reality” in the parentheses…  Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 14: The Great Boat Caper

Today we woke up in a room cooled to a comfortable 68 degrees. It would have been even more notable at the time if we’d had prior experience to the perma-sweat about to come.

After a now typical morning breakfast of two fried eggs, a home-baked roll, a solid coffee and smile upon payment, we headed back to the hotel.

JOHN: I packed the backpacks, keeping the most necessary items accessible – in priority:

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Church pereira

Free Range Colombia – Day 12: Cleveland v. Pereira

We woke up too early – tired and crabby – in Salento.

or.

We woke up too late – hungry and rushing for the bus – in Salento.

 

We wanted the 7:50am bus to Pereira [map], the workman’s town and capital of the coffee region where we were to catch the plane to the Amazon on the following day. Many mountain-turns and grinded-gears later, our small bus arrived at the Terminales around 9am.

 

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colombia-cocora valley hike salento 9

Free Range Colombia: Day 10 and 11: On the Back of a Willys

When we told Jorge at Hacienda Guayabal that our next stop was relatively nearby Salento, his face dropped. He launched into the kind of story that every person has about someplace that was dear and has changed, but not for the better. When Jorge was a kid, Salento was quaint, beautiful and affordable. The people used to gather there on the weekends to sell and buy, but now it’s too expensive and they must travel further to sell and buy. Tourism has changed it… Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 8 and 9: Into the Coffee Fields

Today we completed our first domestic air travel from Bogota to Periera, a large working class city in western Colombia with connections to the Zona Cafeteria – the coffee zone. Located in the mid-elevations of the Andes mountains, it’s warm, muggy and covered in tropical coffee farms. First stop… Hacienda Guayabal – our splurge for the trip where we’ve read that the service is excellent and the coffee culture authentic.

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Free Range Colombia: Day Seven – Pride and Passion

Louis, John and I hopped in a taxi cab on Friday morning to check out Iza, a nearby pueblo known for its beauty and merengón (a cake-ish treat with a thick layer of jammy-fruitness)before getting the bus to Bogotá.

Louis is a get-things-done kind of fellow. As John and I casually looked for a nice shop where we might put our big backpacks for an hour, he was already inside a building with doors wide open, asking the first person he saw behind a desk to watch our stuff. This request occurred using perhaps 2 Spanish words, a string of Sp-English words and a whole lot of gestures. Smiles exchanged, bags dropped, “muchas gracias” expressed. Louis hadn’t noticed that the office was marked: “Juzgado Municipal ” as in, the municipal judge… Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 4 and 5: Seemingly Simple

Sometime in between the taxi, coach bus, mini-bus, and second taxi rides, I wondered if we had made a mistake. Villa de Leyva is one of the many colonial towns north of Bogotá in an area called Boyacá, and it was starting to feel like too big a pain in the butt to be worth the trip. Once we finished all the transportation, I still wasn’t convinced. Renacer Colombian Highlands seemed like a nice enough hostel above the touristy town, but they were doing some work on the buildings and it was noisy and not tranquil and I couldn’t stop sneezing because the crazy Páramo ecosystem is high and dry. Read more

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Free Range Colombia – Day 2: Shifting Gears

The weeks leading up to our Colombia adventure, I found myself explaining away the lengthy duration of the trip.  “You see,” I said over and over again, “we get to take over 3 weeks because John works for the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago and we’re not Jewish and there are a lot of Jewish holy days in September and I freelance, and don’t you see? We are going to take advantage of this time.” Read more