The Challenges of Travel

I’ve been meaning to write a post on The Challenges of Travel for quite some time now, and I finally have a bit of time to get my notes (and my thoughts) together, as baby is sleeping. So here we go…

To be honest, and to give a fair representation of our travels, there were some difficult times. Of course we can see the humorous side of a lot of the things that happened along the way, so it’s not all doom and gloom. If the food, fun, and positive aspects of travel are the only parts that interest you, then this blog entry is not for you (but never fear, future blog posts will return to food and fun times)! If, however, you would like to hear more about the challenges to overcome when travelling internationally (especially with a baby) then please read on… but also please remember that I am very grateful for the opportunities to travel the world, and all-in-all I have a lot to be thankful for.

The everything-is-closed-on-a-Sunday issue: 

Okay, so this is good in theory, and it is great that everyone can have a day off on Sunday and focus on things other than work, but it can be pretty difficult for travellers if they arrive at a place (ahem, Germany) late on a Saturday night or on a Sunday. So take note, travellers – be prepared that you may have to wait until Monday morning (as we did) to get things done such as grocery shopping. This can be especially important with a baby.

Speaking of supermarket shopping… on to the next issue: 

We learnt the hard way that a lot of places don’t accept a Visa card. Hmm, the most accepted credit card in the world? Germany, what is going on? Three bakeries, three supermarkets, a pub for lunch, a bistro for dinner, the zoo, the museum – none of them accepted a Visa credit card. We are Aussie travellers who are living in the States right now but we felt like real Americans when the Starbucks was the only place enticing us with its baby change table and acceptance of Visa cards! There was one supermarket that accepted the card (the most expensive out of the supermarkets, of course)! … but not until we had gone elsewhere and had all our items processed through the register at a major (and huge) supermarket (just like a Walmart here in the States) – and then: “No Visa!”  were the unwelcome words greeting us at the end of this massive supermarket shopping expedition (we’re talking two hours – it takes a lot longer with unfamiliar items). We had stocked up on all the essential baby products as well as all the everyday household items to keep us going for the next few weeks. So after much discussion with the staff, we looked at each other in disbelief and left empty-handed. It certainly makes a good story (or warning) to tell people when it comes to the challenges of travel. 😉 (“Your money is no good here”)!

Wifi in hotels, cafes, and AirBnB:

We had excellent wifi in Amherst, Massachusetts (USA), Charlottesville, Virginia (USA), and Newcastle (UK). Yay for those hotels! The places that weren’t so good for us were Oxford (UK), Dubrovnik (Croatia), and Monterey, California (USA). This was just the luck of the draw, and I’m not mentioning any hotel names here. As far as AirBnB went, we again didn’t have great experiences with the wifi at these unfortunately (in two locations: Munich, Germany, and Manchester, UK). Cafes didn’t seem to have wifi in Munich generally, but there were occasional internet cafes.

The most expensive load of washing in the history of mankind:

And the award goes to … Croatia! Each pair of baby socks and each baby bib were itemized and it came to a grand total of $142 (American dollars). We managed to convince them to reduce it to $100, but it was still the most expensive load of washing we have ever done. Warning: don’t do washing at the hotel. Look for a laundromat even if they claim for sure that there isn’t one in town (there was).

Creepy people who are “looking for a friend”: 

America has been great as a hassle-free place to live. They take credit cards (even when you want a $2 cup of coffee), and they are generally very polite, genuine, and friendly people, in our experience. I understand as I write this that this is all from our own personal experience, and positive and negative features of the different countries we travelled to is nothing but our own very individual experience. As a female, I definitely get a lot less unwanted attention in the States than I do in Europe or Australia. People are very polite here in the USA. A creepy experience I had in Europe was when the elevator had broken down in our apartment building and was being repaired right at the time I was returning from a walk with the baby. Someone offered to help me with the stroller up the four flights of stairs, and I innocently accepted the offer, not at all realizing they were going to want something in return. All of a sudden from out of nowhere the guy grabs my hand and says: “Are you alone? Do you have a man? I’m looking for a friend”, and I was right there with the baby feeling pretty scared at this point. It could have been a lot worse I realize, but watching out for this kind of thing is important, as it can catch you off-guard and when you least expect it. It was unfortunate that this person couldn’t help me without having an ulterior motive. Sad. Still, I definitely feel lucky that our big trip was mostly uneventful and we made it safely home.

Speaking of lifts and elevators:

In Europe (well, at least in in places such as Croatia and Germany) we found that in order to get to the lift, you had to climb a flight of stairs. Not impossible with a stroller or pram, but how do people in wheelchairs manage? This was a strange architectural feature of more than one place in Europe. The USA is the winner when it comes to wheelchair and stroller access from our experience. It’s something you really don’t think about day-to-day, that is until you have your own baby in a stroller!

People who ask: What do you do during the daytime?

Innocent enough question it seems, but do you really want me to answer that?

Okay, here goes…

When travelling with a baby under the age of one, I spend each day (or at least every second day)

– looking for a laundromat/laundrette so that we don’t have to deal with incidents such as the “most expensive washing of all time”. As people with babies already know, there is a lot of laundry to do!

– going to banks to get the correct change in the correct currency for the washing machine and dryer (sounds simple enough, but seven countries in the space of about two months means a lot of different currencies were required!) and laundromats rarely have credit card facilities – they are still mainly coin-operated. Boo. Banks were often closed at lunch-time (Germany, I’m looking at you) so take note of this as well!

– In almost every location we travelled to, waiting for the rain to stop was a common theme so I could take baby out in the stroller. We have become so used to New Mexico where it hardly ever rains (lucky us, I know!) and the rain does make it more difficult to exercise and get out and about with baby, that’s for sure. Not impossible though; I made use of the rain cover for the stroller from time to time which really helped.

And another thing to note, department stores are great resources for baby change facilities (and Starbucks!) 😉

So, looking after baby (feed/change/clean/play/nap), and looking for supermarkets, banks, laundromats (and more) in each and every location we travel to is what I do from day-to-day.

And now, for some awesome (and funny) things that happened on our travels:

Free croissants! That’s right – the German bakery took pity on us when we walked in with only our credit cards (as they only accepted cash), and as they were closing up for the day they happily offered us delicious fresh plain and chocolate croissants. So nice of them to do that for us.

Britain was a winner when it came to strong tea (no surprises there). I had delicious tea in both England and Scotland on our travels (this is very very important for Hot Tea, Travel, and Thyme) 🙂 The hotel rooms in the UK had really good tea-making facilities so we were really happy about that.

Most of the fun and happy travel stories are in my other blog posts, so be sure to check them out.

Travel Tips:

Check which countries or cities do or don’t take credit cards ahead of time, because some places really won’t take something as common-place (to us) as a Visa card.

Be aware that some banks will close at lunch-time (say, between 12:30 and 2pm).

Confirm that places such as AirBnB apartments really do have wifi when they are claiming that they do. The two places we stayed in eventually delivered on their promise, but it took them some time.

If you are able to, travelling with a baby is much easier when staying in each place for a week at a time. A week is a good amount of time to get into a new routine. We found moving once a week really was not so tricky, but moves every day or two were when things got more difficult. Of course this is not always the way it will turn out when travelling from place to place, but it does make life easier.

Getting to the airport with double the amount of waiting time as you normally would have is another recommendation when travelling with a baby. It worked really well for us this way, as things do take twice as long when you are stopping to change and feed the baby along the way. Some airports have parents’ rooms with codes to unlock the door (you can get the code from a member of staff) and this was very useful. Going through security will also take a lot longer when travelling with a baby (even when they wave you through to the express line), as you have to deal with packing up the stroller to put through the scanner, etc.

Extra items to pack on your travels: 

(very useful in hotel rooms or when road tripping)

Plastic knives, forks, and spoons

Tea bags/creamer/sugar (or coffee bags if you prefer)
Scissors (but not in your carry-on luggage)

Sticky tape

Extra wet wipes

Hand sanitizer

Spare tissues, especially for the bathrooms where they often seem to run out 

Summary: How each country excelled, and didn’t…

(Disclaimer: These were our own personal experiences over the three months)

USA – Overall winner for travelling with a baby and convenience for long-stay travellers.

USA – Winner for the Land of Convenience, including wheelchair/disabled and stroller access.

USA – Winner for Service 🙂 (and unlimited refills for hot and cold beverages) – and Super Sizes :/

UK – Winner of the Hot Tea, Travel, and Thyme award for excellent tea 🙂 Very important.

Germany – Winner of the tiniest elevator of all time (it just fit the stroller plus one person, luckily)

Europe – Winner of inconvenient bathrooms with no towel racks/hooks/railings, fans, or shower head stand (?)

Croatia – Winner of the most expensive load of washing known to mankind. (Mostly baby clothes!)

Europe – Winner for the smallest everything – bins, ovens, stoves, cars, roads, highways… It was so funny!

That’s all for now on the topic of The Challenges of Travel. Stay tuned for future posts on New York City, Surreal Moments from the UK to the USA, American Road Trips, and more food, fitness, and fun. 

See you next time!

Bridget @ Hot Tea, Travel, and Thyme x

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