Traveling is such an exciting experience and you often want to bring home a memento to remind you of all the fun you had. When we lived in Germany and just started traveling Europe, I didn’t often purchase souvenirs. I ended up regretting it later, so we made a point to do a better job when we were based out of Ukraine. Here are some ideas of things to bring home that are beyond the knick knacks you find at the airport stores and tourist trap shops. These are great ideas for yourself, but most could also be gift ideas to bring home for others as well!
Something about anything in a vintage motif seems to add elegance and charm immediately. I have a few things that fit this category. A framed print of the Opera House in Paris, a couple magnets, and a postcard of the Cathedral in Berlin. These are also very inexpensive and typically easy to transport. Look for stylized postcards that can be framed as a small piece of art, rather than the typical photographic style.
These are probably the things we purchase most. It is always fun pulling out the ornaments from our travels and reliving the memories. We try to pick something representative of the place we went or a memory we have there. Sometimes I can’t find an ornament, in that case a magnet will do. I glue a ribbon on the back later when we get home, and voila!
Professional Photography Session
This is a little more of an investment, but worth every penny. We all know how hard it is to get everyone in the picture, so let a professional take over! These days there are several companies out there to help you connect with local photographers. Flytographer, Wanderloud, and Travel Shoot are a few examples. Know someone who had a great shoot in a destination you’re heading to? Ask them to pass along the photographer’s information. You can also ask for recommendations on Instagram, Facebook groups, or by searching Google. You won’t regret spending the money to have beautiful pictures of your family altogether while on vacation!
Buying a children’s book in your destination is a great way to keep the conversations going when you get home. My daughter was too little to remember a lot of the places we have been, but she likes looking at the books we have from different destinations! I typically look for books in English so I can read it, but buying something in the native language is another option. It’s something you can use over and over again when you get home.
This carpet from Morocco is one of my favorite purchases. The buying experience was not pleasant, think high pressure sales and haggling, but I love it! We bought it when I was pregnant for the first time and had just learned I was having a girl. The carpet is still used in her room today. To get something like this home you may have to pay an additional baggage fee. The shop was able to wrap it up like its own little package. We managed to squeeze it in a bag, but could have checked it separately if we needed to.
I also love a cute tea towel for decoration as well as function. Tea towels can be found inexpensively most of the time. You can buy something with the destination name right on it, or something more subtle that just nods to the location, like a bike motif when you visit Amsterdam. This can also be a conversation starter when people come to your home.
Food and Wine
Though food and drinks won’t be around forever, they are generally crowd pleasers and bring back good memories. Look for packaged candies, cookies, crackers, pasta, honey, wine, or spirits. Ask for some extra paper or bubble wrap if available and pack inside a plastic bag just in case. You can save it for a special get together, give it as a gift to someone when you return, or just pull it out on any old Friday night!
How many times have you seen artists selling their work in the big plaza in town? This is usually very easy to find. Buy a watercolor or small oil painting that can fit in your luggage. Often the artist can help you find a way to package and protect your art for its journey home. Also consider art in the form of a beautiful wood carving or metalwork. Our silver platter from Sarajevo is one of my favorite decorative pieces. Think outside of the box!
Clothes and Jewelry
Find a piece of clothing or jewelry you love and bring it home. It doesn’t have to be a traditional folk piece, it can be from a modern store. I think it’s more fun to find something at a small, local store than at a big box chain store that could be found anywhere. I bought this red cape in London near the Portobello Road Market. The red will always make me think of London!
What have been your favorite souvenir purchases? Please share with me below!
Washington D.C. is a great place to spend the holiday season. There are beautiful decorations, lights, and displays in addition to all the wonderful attractions that are already here. Additionally, you will enjoy many of the museums and sights with far less crowds than in the summer. Here are our favorite things to do at holiday time around the city and around the area!
U.S. Botanic Garden’s Christmas Display
The U.S. Botanic Garden is a fun place to visit anytime of year, but at Christmas time it goes above and beyond! Come see the displays of all the monuments made out of plant materials. There is also a room with a miniature train that goes through different landmarks from around the country. We have been the past two years, and both years both the kids were really entertained! Also they have plant passports you can pick up and carry around while you look for different stations throughout the garden. Stamp your passport at each station and enjoy the scavenger hunt. Besides all the beauty of the plants and Christmas displays, it’s warm in the gardens! Pop in for a little bit to warm up after you’ve visited the Christmas tree at the Capitol just across the street. Check the schedule because they also do evening jazz concerts during the season as well.
Visit the Christmas Trees
There are a few notable trees around town you may want to visit. The first one is the National Tree at the White House. You can find it outside the gates of the South Lawn. Just an honest caveat here, don’t go expecting the tree at Rockerfeller Center. This tree is not as grand. But with a view of the Washington Monument behind, it is still worth seeing. Check the schedule for the Tree Lighting ceremony and try to get tickets if you will be in town.
There is also a tree outside the Capitol Building. This one is a bit bigger and more decorated than the National Tree. It will be on the National Mall side of the Capitol building. If you’re at the Capitol, you can also pop into the Library of Congress to see their tree! The Library of Congress is just behind the Capitol and is one of the most beautiful buildings in D.C. Adding in the Christmas tree makes it is even more gorgeous. The Library of Congress, Capitol, and U.S. Botanic Garden are conveniently located to each other and could be done all in one day. Also drop by City Center for some high end shopping, another gorgeous tree, and the seasonal hanging decorations.
White House Christmas Tours
This one takes a little bit of prior planning and luck. If you know you are visiting D.C. at this time of year, apply early for an East Wing Tour of the White House. This self-guided tour (more of a walk through) is in high demand at this time of year, and for good reason. The decorations are absolutely beautiful and change each year. The East Wing staff works tirelessly on them and enlists the help of volunteers to help get all the decorating done. The tour is family friendly, you can bring children and babies. We did a night time tour and the final cherry on top was a choir singing Christmas carols just before you exit. It was magical. I would do this every year if I could!
Arlington National Cemetery Wreath Laying
Arlington National Cemetery is a stunning and humbling place to visit. Every year there is a wreath laying event put on by Wreaths Across America. I attended last year with my mom and we both thought it was such a wonderful experience. Anyone can show up to lay wreaths, and people come out in droves for it! Expect to get there early and for it to be crowded upon arrival. It might sound like a somber event and not kid friendly, but the atmosphere is actually very uplifting and joyful. There are many families there showing their children what it means to serve and sacrifice. I would not hesitate to bring my children. If you won’t be in town for the actual wreath laying, still stopping by to see the headstones with the wreaths is worth the visit. I can’t think of a more beautiful time of year to see the cemetery.
If you won’t be in Washington D.C. but would like to participate in a similar event near your hometown, click here to see where you can lay wreaths at a cemetery near you. And click here to donate a wreath ($15) for the wreath laying.
Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden
This one we attempted to do last year, but it didn’t quite happen. In the winter the National Gallery of Art Outdoor Sculpture Garden turns its fountain into an ice skating rink! What better place to go ice skating than at the National Mall?! The cafe here is also lovely and serves up good food and warm drinks, better than most of the other museums on the Mall!
Wolf Trap Singalong
This one is a bit outside of DC, but it is worth the journey! Wolf Trap is an outdoor amphitheater and every year they put on a FREE holiday singalong. The “President’s Own Marine Corps Band” provides the music along with other local choir groups, and everyone enjoys singing along to their favorite holiday songs. It’s a very fun, celebratory atmosphere. The crowds shows up wearing festive attire, bringing coolers of snacks, and everyone has a genuinely good time! Be sure to arrive here early as seating is first come, first served. If you can’t find seats, there are some grassy areas at the back. You may not see the musicians as well but you can still hear the music and the kids will have some room to dance and play.
When I married my husband I had no idea what the term “trailing spouse” meant or that I would become one. A trailing spouse is someone who follows their spouse’s career opportunities to different cities and often abroad. While it is an exciting life that affords travel opportunities and may seem glamorous on Instagram, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes. I asked other trailing spouses (and one former trailing child) for their insights on their lives. They provided thoughtful commentary to help illuminate the ups and downs of following their partners. Enjoy reading about what they love, what frustrates them, and if they would do it again!
Helen, Former Trailing Child
My father works for the State Department, so I grew up moving all around the world. I am the oldest of four children, and we were all born in different countries. I’ve lived in Panama, Paraguay, Croatia, Austria, Virginia and Maryland, and as an adult, while living in the US, I have been able to visit my parents while stationed in Greece, Peru, Germany, and now Turkey (I have not visited them in Turkey yet).
My personality is pretty extroverted and outgoing, so growing up, I usually did okay making friends with each move. However, being social and having friends was always very important to me and caused me a lot of stress, even as a young kid. I often felt like 2-4 years at each post was just enough time to really make good friends, get settled on a sports team, etc., only to have to start all over again. Some of my younger siblings had an even harder time with this than I had, some easier. In middle school and high school I always played sports, mostly as a way to make friends. I figured if I could get on a team I would have automatic friends and a sense of belonging. Family support was huge for me, and my siblings and I were close due to our circumstances. My faith was also huge, as I knew my church would be wherever we went. I am a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the congregations varied in size, but they were always there.
When I graduated high school and left for college, we had been living in the Washington D.C. area. That summer, my family was moving to Athens, Greece. We went to the airport together as a family, but were going two opposite directions. I flew to Salt Lake City, Utah for college, and they flew to Athens. Their plane left first, and I cried privately in the bathroom after they left until I could board my plane. Luckily, when I got to Utah my aunt was there to move me into my dorm room and get me settled, but it was hard! It certainly wasn’t the typical college send off you see in the movies! That was something I really wasn’t prepared for, how hard the moving around would be even after I was out of the house.
I have been able to have some wild experiences due to my dad’s job like meeting President Obama in the Oval Office, meeting Colin Powell at “bring your child to work day”, interning at an American Embassy when I was in college, and playing “hide & seek in our house’s bomb shelter in Zagreb, Croatia in the 90’s which my siblings and I had no idea was a bomb shelter because typically we just got evacuated. I have been able to go to some amazing “bucket list” places too, some of my favorites being Machu Picchu, the Amazon, Santorini, Salzburg, and Venice.
As a kid, I didn’t really appreciate all of the beautiful places we got to visit, and honestly would have rather been at my grandparent’s house playing outside with my cousins. My siblings and I often complained about every sightseeing trip we did, and certainly didn’t appreciate the amazing places we got to go! However, now as an adult, I am very grateful for the global perspective I believe I have, and the travel experiences I was able to have that have shaped me. I always went to international schools, so I had friends from a very diverse range of backgrounds and cultures that I believe was very good for me. Even though I am a proud American, I view myself as a global citizen and still enjoy traveling, now with my own four children.
Any advice I would give is to be patient and gentle with your children of this lifestyle. It’s hard dealing with the constant uprooting, and brings challenges you don’t even see coming sometimes. You are much more vulnerable, and “third culture kids” often make bad decisions out of a desperation for connection and friends. I was lucky that my mom was not only a “trailing spouse”, but also was a trailing child as her father was a diplomat as well. Her and my father were always very understanding of us. However, you also have incredibly rich experiences, see parts of the world some people never get to see, and great cultural experiences that will shape you for your entire life. I believe these experiences can make children become more empathetic, understanding, and aware.
I grew up outside of Seattle, Washington. I lived in the same house my whole life until I went to college in Arizona. Right after I got married, my husband received his first overseas opportunity in Germany and we jumped at it! We were so excited about the potential travel and new experiences we would have. We lived there a few years then moved back to the U.S. Before too long we found ourselves with another chance to live abroad and moved to Ukraine for about a year. After that, we moved to the Washington D.C. area where we currently live, but are looking at more opportunities back in Europe soon.
Overall I have loved this life! I love living and traveling in Europe. I have been able to see and do more things than I ever imagined. I have developed a passion for travel and photography and I love getting to pursue them by living abroad. I have also enjoyed living in different places in the U.S. You have the opportunity to explore the region and become a mini-expert in many places. I like “trying on” different locations to see what we enjoy, what we don’t, and what we will look for in a forever home/location. Though it’s hard to imagine anything will ever truly be forever.
My least favorite thing about being a trailing spouse is leaving friends and family. I hate saying good-bye and at times it’s hard to maintain friendships via FaceTime and Facebook. I also don’t like feeling like I’m depriving my children of growing up nearby grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
I was a teacher for four years before we started moving around. People always told me that I could do that job anywhere, but I have found it hasn’t been that simple. In Germany I was lucky to find an English speaking preschool to work at. However, once I had my daughter I stopped working to be home with her. When we moved back to the U.S. I was pregnant again and had an almost 2 year old to care for, so I chose not to work. In Ukraine, my daughter’s preschool was interested in hiring me, but we knew with the amount of travel we planned to do I wouldn’t be able to commit to a regular schedule. Now we are back in DC, I am pregnant again and currently on bedrest-I’m definitely not working! I often wish I studied digital marketing, graphic design, or anything related to computers to give me something easier to do remotely from home.
My biggest challenge is finding my own niche. My husband has a career which instantly integrates him and gives him something to make him feel accomplished and productive. Sometimes I feel lost when all I have done is cook, clean, and try to prevent toddler meltdowns. I don’t have that same sense of accomplishment as a stay at home mom. It can be lonely and it compounds when you’re in a different country, can’t speak the native language, and not fully comfortable with the day to day routine.
Another challenge is the expense to move and feeling like our house is in a constant incomplete state. Everytime we move things get damaged and purged. What works in one house may not work in the next. It is always a dilemma of “do I keep this in case it works in the next place, or just get rid of it?” About 6 months before a move, I start to feel that it’s not really worth it to invest in home décor/organization because we are just going to box everything up anyway. I don’t like that temporary feeling in my own house. I keep hoping that in the next house it will feel complete, but so far it hasn’t happened.
Finding a community and something just for me are important to help me thrive in each location. I find that I am much happier when I feel integrated into a group of friends who I can relate to. Sounds obvious, but finding meaningful friendships can be a challenge. I think jumping into social events right away is very helpful. Friends aren’t going to just appear so you have to get out of your comfort zone a little. I try to say “yes” to anything I am invited to when I arrive at a new place. It might not be a perfect friend match, but you don’t know if you don’t go. At the very least it is a way to get out of the house! For example, I was never a runner and when I moved to California I joined a running group. To my surprise I ended up enjoying running and I made great friends! Similarly in Ukraine, I tried a barre class for the first time and formed lasting friendships with the other women who attended. Trying these new things gave me friendships as well as a meaningful activity just for myself.
Traveling as a family is something that I really look forward to as well. I like planning out the trip, doing the homework, and then of course exploring once we get there. Having something always on the horizon to look forward to is something that excites me and gets me through the lulls. Our daughter celebrated her 4th birthday in Paris and our son celebrated his 2nd birthday in Montenegro. Those are fun memories we will have forever!
I think it is a little early to determine how our children’s lives will be affected by this lifestyle. My daughter makes friends easily, which I think will her with all the change. My son is becoming more and more social as well, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the next move. So far they have been very adaptable to each new situation. They have also learned how to be good travelers (though there are definite highs and lows there too). It is fun to see them recognize world landmarks and know that they’ve been there. I love giving them special experiences that will hopefully leave an impression, even if they don’t remember all the places they’ve been. I am happy for the education they will be afforded by being exposed to different cultures, people, and ways of life. I want them to know that there are many different ways to live and there isn’t one “right” way.
Honestly after living this way, I can’t imagine if we had just stayed in one place for all these years! There would be other benefits I’m sure, but now that we have all these experiences and memories made I wouldn’t trade it for anything!
I grew up in the deep south of the United States. I lived in Mobile, Alabama from my birth until I went to college in Pennsylvania. I met my husband in college; we were lab partners in Physics 201. We married right after college and moved to Columbus, Mississippi for his job. After a year and a half in Mississippi, we moved to Tucson, Arizona. Next to South Korea, and Las Vegas, Nevada, where we welcomed 2 children. We then moved to Washington, DC, and Alamogordo, New Mexico. Finally we moved to Germany where we currently live and have welcomed a third baby.
I have thoroughly enjoyed following my husband’s job around the world! We have had the amazing opportunity to live in some incredible locations. I think my favorite part about the unexpected locations we have lived is the fact that you really can find community everywhere. From big lights and never quiet Las Vegas, to a tiny, quiet town in Germany we have made some life-long friends and have been surrounded by fabulous communities. It really forces you out of your comfort zone to meet new people. If we weren’t forced to embrace some of these new locations I don’t think I ever would’ve tried them on my own. I am definitely thankful for the unexpected blessings in each location we’ve called home!
I can’t think of much I don’t like about the life we’ve been given, but if I had to choose one thing that is difficult about the trailing spouse life, it would be my career advancement. I went to school to become a meteorologist. It’s what I knew I wanted to do since I was a little girl listening to the weather radio I got for Christmas in 4thgrade. It’s a passion of mine and unfortunately, I have not been able to continue in that career field while moving to these unique locations. I was able to continue my education and pursue a career of teaching, which I have also thoroughly enjoyed. I have even been able to teach meteorology! I decided to stay home with our children after our daughter was born and it has been a true blessing for our family! I’m now the family travel-planner! One other sad aspect of this lifestyle is missing family. On the other hand they have truly enjoyed visiting us around the world!
I think my biggest challenge as a trailing spouse is stepping out of my comfort zone and meeting new people and finding a new community in each new place we settle. At the same time, I would also call this my biggest reward! I would never step out of this comfort zone if I wasn’t forced to, and I’m so thankful for all of the opportunities it has provided our family. From new friends who are like family to incredible travel experiences, it has ultimately been an incredible life for us!
A sense of adventure and flexibility have allowed us to thrive in this lifestyle. We have truly embraced all of the opportunities presented to us, and have tried to enjoy each and every move. Whether that is to the middle of the desert or to a foreign country, we have succeeded in finding opportunities for exploring all that each spot has to offer.
I think the best piece of advice for someone entering this lifestyle is to find something that can bring you joy no matter where you are! There can definitely be challenges to following a spouse around the world, but if you learn to embrace your situation and find joy in each new location, you will learn to love the lifestyle. Finding a community quickly in each new location can also help. Whether that is through church, work, or neighborhood activities, finding a community is always what makes me feel at home.
I think my children have been affected in such positive ways by moving around. They are flexible, resilient, world-travelers, and are now also bilingual! They can make friends easily and while leaving those friends is never easy, they can also say they have friends around the world. What incredible experiences they’ve had at just 6 years, 4 years, and 3 months old! Our kids can sleep anywhere, find adventure in a pile of sand or a stick and 2 rocks, and explore a museum like it’s their job. We are so proud of the kids they are and are thrilled for the opportunities this lifestyle has given them.
I might be biased, but I think the trailing spouse lifestyle is the best out there! I have everything I need in my faith and family and those can go with me wherever we live!
I grew up in Germany before moving to the UK. After graduating high school I moved to The Netherlands, where I met my partner whose career means we relocate internationally.
I love seeing the world not as a tourist but actually living in different countries and experiencing mundane everyday life. I like that whenever you move you get to explore a new side of yourself. In a way, wherever you go you get a fresh start and can “reinvent” yourself.
My least favourite thing, especially now that we have a son, is the fact that we want our little one to have a home and friends and we feel he is missing that. My husband and I are still in touch with some of our childhood friends. We feel that we take that away from him as he is growing up as a third culture kid.
Currently I am a stay at home mom, but our next assignment location will be the UK. I am legally allowed to work there and am keen to look for employment, even if it’s a part-time role. I am not focused on a career at this moment. I just want to have a professional life, colleagues, and not be fully financially reliant upon my husband.
One of the biggest challenges is you often cannot make choices about how and where to live. At the moment we are waiting to relocate to the UK and the employer will choose our housing. I wish we had more control and input. I am over living in furnished houses. Sometimes they are not according to our taste and then you have to live in a house that never feels like home. It feels like living in other people’s “old junk” or sometimes a stylish hotel, which is not really suitable for babies.
The advice I would give a new trailing spouse is not to expect a life full of glamour and travel. Often it’s lonely and you have to be very independent and self-reliant. But, if you get the chance to experience life abroad DO IT, GO! You will not regret it, as overall the adventure and memories will outweigh the bumps in the road. Always remember the days are long, but the years are short!
Hi! I’m Camille, the voice behind Get Globetrotting. We are frequent home exchangers based in LA. We exchange our home with other families in the country/world most months. I run an Instagram account aimed at helping other parents find affordable things to do with their children at home and abroad. I also work one-on-one with clients to help them plan budget international trips. My overarching goal is to help parents find joy and fulfillment by making travel a part of their lives!
We’ve lived in Utah, San Francisco, and now LA. We have traveled all over the world by exchanging our homes with other families. We follow my husband’s career. I am primarily a stay-at-home mom but I work outside the home as a nurse 1-2x a week.
I knew I wanted to primarily stay at home with our children. Because of this, we decided to send my husband to grad school 2 years ago meaning he would have a higher earning potential of the two of us. We think of ourselves as a team. He recognizes the sacrifices I make to help him excel in his career and I am grateful to him for providing a good living for our family. However, I do sometimes struggle with him receiving awards, promotions, and recognition while I put aside my career for a time to raise our kids!
We aren’t a nomadic family because my husband has a typical 9-5 with every other Friday off and a fair amount of vacation time. He really likes his job and we’ve investigated remote work, but nothing ever felt right. I work 4x/month any day of the week I choose so I can build my schedule around our travel plans pretty easily. Also, I am working on building my travel planning, Instagram, and photography business so I can do that from pretty much anywhere! We also own our home and it’s a good investment for us plus we can exchange it for other homes.
One of my greatest challenges is struggling with doing the same thing every day and I miss the stimulation of talking to people that aren’t children. I try to remedy this by planning outings with friends and daydreaming about travel. Every time I go to the hospital to work I cannot stop chatting with all the adults!
Communication has been key to thriving for me! My husband is really good about hearing me out, even when my concerns are completely irrational. I try to treat his successes as my own because it’s me doing all the behind-the-scenes work! We also have a good divide of chores at home so I don’t feel like I am constantly doing housework.
I would tell other trailing spouses to communicate with your partner. Recognize that the work you do may not be recognized by the world, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Find something that you love to do that has absolutely nothing to do with childcare and make time for it. You may resent your spouse sometimes and that is OK. Just don’t let it consume you. Talk about how you’re feeling; don’t hold it in.
Marriage is a team sport! Today women are told they MUST work or they are not fulfilling their potential. But the great thing about being a woman now is that we get to choose the life we want. If you choose to be a trailing spouse, a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or some combination of them all, realize that those choices are between you and your spouse. Keep your sense of self-worth because the work you’re doing is just as important as the work your spouse is doing. As Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
We keep a house in order to provide stability for our son. We want our child to have one place he feels grounded. We were both raised in a really traditional manner and we wanted that for our kids. But I do get jealous of others I see online who have freedom to move around as they wish.
I have a complicated birth history. When I got pregnant for the first time, I had a certain picture in my head of how it would be to labor and give birth to our baby. I thought it would be extremely painful (obviously), but that I would endure it with the help of my midwife and likely an epidural. My mom had two quick deliveries so I kind of thought I would be the same. Things didn’t exactly go according to the plan.
This is how it actually went: 20 hours of active labor, 1.5 hours of pushing without progression, and ending in a C-section. I was not prepared for that outcome at all. All the books tell you to make your birth plan, bring music, ask for skin to skin time, decide what interventions you’re OK with, and do your research but I never seriously thought about the possibility that I might end up having a C-section.
The recovery was rough, I felt like I got hit by a truck. I remember holding my scar when I laughed, when I walked, and going over bumps in the car. I wasn’t prepared to be separated from my daughter for an hour after I left the operating room (the normal recovery area was full so I had to be in an ICU unit where the baby couldn’t be). I was so disappointed that I “couldn’t do it” and ended up having surgery. I was jealous of the other women I knew who were able to birth their babies what seemed like so easily.
Newborn photo taken by Angela Inc. Photography.
When I got pregnant for the second time, I had an idea that I might not be a good VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean) candidate but I wanted to at least ask and explore the option. I was told by multiple doctors that indeed I was not a good candidate. They recommended I have a planned C-section.
I really struggled with this idea. I felt guilty that I was giving up, or not trying hard enough, or not asking the right doctor. I heard success stories of other people and wondered if that could also be me. I decided it didn’t seem worth the risk to go against this medical advice, but I still had a hard time being at peace with the idea.
I started being more accepting of a planned C-section about three months before my due date. It seemed right as I had come to accept it, I was given some unsolicited advice about having a VBAC. It came from a woman I didn’t really know, I had just met her. She decided to interject when we started talking about my upcoming birth being a planned C-section. She proceeded to tell me about how she had a VBAC, she had a great doctor if I was interested in switching practices, I should really consider the VBAC, do my research, and so on and so forth.
I went home and cried. It brought me right back to feeling guilty, like I had failed, and that people were going to think I “took the easy way out.” She may have been well-meaning, but it was very upsetting to me. My point in bringing this up is we don’t always know the background of people’s situations, and feelings. By offering me all that advice, she was actually reopening wounds that had taken me a long time to heal.
About 2 weeks later I ended up delivering my son very unexpectedly while I was on a trip alone with my daughter. I had an emergency C-section, and afterwards I honestly didn’t care at all about the C-section part because I was just relieved that my son was OK. I was 30 weeks pregnant and I had no idea about premature babies and how his health would be affected. It was another episode of being completely blindsided by the situation I found myself in.
Talking to my son when he was about 9 days old.
My recovery after that C-section was much better. I actually felt pretty well later that day and felt really ready to be discharged the next morning. I made sure to get up and do my walks up and down the hallway to show the doctor I was ready for discharge. I needed that discharge so I could leave that hospital and move to the children’s hospital where my son was being cared for. I hadn’t been able to hold him yet, and that is all I wanted to do. Once I held him, I felt at peace. I didn’t see tubes, wires, and monitors I just felt whole, like I was finally where I was supposed to be.
The following 6 weeks in the NICU were not easy by any stretch. We were lucky that our son’s stay was relatively uneventful and he came off breathing assistance fairly quickly. It was wearing on us as a family though. I spent most of my days in the NICU holding him, and caring for him as much as I could. I was pumping every 3 hours. Eventually I was trying to work on nursing him (something that I tried and struggled with for several weeks before resigning myself to exclusive pumping). I was also still trying to spend time with my daughter who was only 2 years old. I felt torn between spending time with her and spending time in the NICU. Thankfully we had family in the area who helped a lot with caring for her, but that was another big source of guilt for me. I went from spending all day every day with her, to seeing her sometimes only for an hour during the day.
We were not sure if we would try to have another baby. I wasn’t really prepared for my son to be my last, but the experience of his birth was traumatic. I didn’t know if I wanted to risk having that experience again. Through a lot of careful thought, reflection, time, and speaking with doctors, we decided to try for one more.
For this pregnancy, I am again planning to have a C-section. I am hoping to have a scheduled C-section at 39 weeks and not an emergency C-section earlier because I go into labor. I feel completely differently about it now than I did the first and second times. I am so hopeful that I will get to have my planned C-section-it is my goal. I would give almost anything to be able to have it! There is so much fear and chaos surrounding an emergency situation. I would be so thankful to feel prepared and calm going into the birth of our son. I have no qualms about not trying hard enough, giving up, or feeling inadequate about my birth plan. I went through two very traumatic birth experiences and I know now that I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. It was not easy, but it is the reality of my situation. When I really think about it I am so grateful to live in a time where these interventions are possible. Because at the end of the day, all I want is to have a safe, healthy baby and to be safe and healthy myself.
If you are grappling with the idea of a C-section or a repeat C-section, I’m always happy to talk and share support for you. Reach out at any time!
In the summer of 2017 we did about a 3 week road trip through some of the Balkan countries: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. This was the best trip of the year for us, we absolutely loved it and were totally in our happy places. We had been to Croatia before and were over the moon about it, so we knew we would enjoy that. The biggest surprise for us though was how much we loved Montenegro.
Montenegro is Croatia’s neighbor to the south. It is a tiny country…….We entered Montenegro from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our first stop was Kotor and before we even arrived, we were pressed up against the car windows oohing and ahhing over the scenery. Montenegro, meaning “Black Mountain,” has large mountains that seem to back right up to the coast. It is a dramatic scene with these beautiful walled coastal towns and towering mountains right behind them.
When we arrived to Kotor we were greeted by the surprise that cars were not allowed inside the city walls. We hadn’t realized that upon initial trip planning so we were a little caught off guard with trying to park, and pull in luggage. However, our friendly apartment host was there to assist and get us squared away. We had a wonderful family apartment in the old town. Our host went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable and taken care of. You can find the link here
We spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering the town, checking things out, stopping for gelato…you know, the perfect European afternoon! If you are a photographer, you will love Kotor’s white stone buildings and green shutters. There is something beautiful and charming to photograph around every corner. We enjoyed wandering, exploring, and looking at all the city’s most famous residents…the cats!
Kotor is a popular cruise port and when there’s a ship (or 2) in port, you will definitely feel the crowds. To get a better experience, try to stay at least one night so you can see the town after the cruise crowds have all left.
Kotor City Walls
The next day we knew we wanted to hike the city’s walls or fortifications that wind up the mountain directly behind the town. The weather had been a bit overcast and raining on and off. So once there was a little window of sun, we decided to head up and see how far we could get with the kids and the weather cooperating. There is a small fee to enter the trail, and at the church midway up there are people selling waters, some snacks, and trinkets. My daughter really appreciated the shopping stop to break up the hike. She smiled and chatted with a lady selling stuff and the lady ended up gifting her a little princess hair clip. This happened to us multiple times in Kotor. People were so kind to the kids and kept gifting them sweets or little trinkets.
The magnificent view!
The views from the walls are phenomenal. We had some cloud cover restricting the full view of the Bay of Kotor, so I can only imagine how wonderful the view must be on a clear day. Next time, I would try to get up the trail early in the morning for 2 reasons:
1) less people
2) cooler temperatures
While not overcrowded, the trail did have quite a few people up there, and there was some waiting and jockeying for certain photo ops. It also was a little hot and sticky-the climb is all stairs and uphill. Add a toddler who doesn’t want to walk and now you’re carrying extra weight. Also, I totally get that you want to look cute in your photos with the amazing view, but be warned it’s a little tricky with loose rocks and hiking up a mountain. Decent shoes are recommended 🙂
From Kotor we drove south to Budva. Our original plan was to stay here a few nights but upon the recommendation of someone who had lived in the Balkans for years, we opted to change our reservation to stay in Sveti Stefan instead. However, we still wanted to see Budva, so we just stopped there for the day. Budva is also a walled city right on the ocean. Unlike Kotor, it also had a couple beaches for sunbathing and swimming.
Budva’s Old Town
The best thing we did in Budva was walk a path along the rocky coast to the right of the main beach. It gave us great views of the old city, and led to a more secluded Mogren beach. If we had more time to spend, we definitely would’ve camped on that beach all day!
Pretty much paradise!
Our final stop on the trip was possibly our favorite. Although it’s hard for me to pick between Sveti Stefan and Kotor. Sveti Stefan has a tiny little peninsula that jets out from the mainland. This little patch of land is completely private and can only be accessed if you are staying at the resort or one of the rentals on it. It is very exclusive, and very expensive. But not to worry, if that’s not quite in your budget, there are plenty other hotels and apartments you can stay at where you can enjoy the magical view of the peninsula. Our apartment had a gorgeous view, the link to book is here.
This is the actual view from our balcony, stunning!
The beach in Sveti Stefan was rocky (like most other European beaches) but the water was warm and clear. There’s plenty of chairs to rent, also little paddle boats if you wanted to paddle out on the ocean for a bit. There is a restaurant called Olive not far from the beach, and there is a playground outside. Always nice to have the kids get some playtime before asking them to sit nicely at a restaurant for dinner.
Our first night there also happened to be our son’s 2nd birthday. The restaurant was very sweet and brought him a chocolate cake and sang to him. It was unexpected but very appreciated!
Sveti Stefan was a nice relaxing oasis. We didn’t tour around, no hiking, no sight seeing. We just hung out on the beach and enjoyed relaxing and the beautiful views! It is a welcome respite after enduring the crowds of Dubrovnik.
I’m the first one to say that I absolutely love Croatia. I love the gorgeous blue water, the warm summer air, the beautiful architecture of the old cities. But just as I love it, so do a lot of other people! There was a very noticeable increase in tourists from our first visit in 2014. Montenegro is still a little bit under the radar, though I’m sure it will quickly catch up. So go there quick, before everyone else figures out how wonderful it is! We found it to be less crowded and less expensive than Croatia.
Kotor is an easy day trip from Dubrovnik, but Montenegro is really deserving of a dedicated vacation. Besides the three coastal towns we visited, there are many more. There are also some expansive national parks inland that have great hiking and kayaking opportunities.
We had a rental car and found the driving to be relatively easy, but there are winding mountain roads. Be sure to check with your car rental agency if you will be driving from another country because sometimes there are country restrictions on where they will allow you to take the car, or you may need special documentation.
If you’ve been to Montenegro, I’d love to hear your experiences! Or if you have questions please feel free to reach out!
I have loved connecting with other traveling families via blogging and Instagram. One of the most inspirational families I’ve come across is the Smith Family from Our Family Passport. They are a multi-generational family that travels together all over the world. I just love how they make it a priority to travel together. They know a lot about keeping many different personalities and ages happy and fulfilled through their adventures. Enjoy reading below about their favorite things to do in Munich!
After first arriving in Munich or München as the Germans say (Beckham loved to try and say “München”) we immediately knew we were going to love it! It quickly turned into a favorite family European destination, and we know we will have to get back to Bavaria soon! While most people think of Munich and “Oktoberfest” as synonymous, we found it to be extremely family-friendly and we had a wonderful time participating in all of the family-oriented activities Munich has to offer. To help with your Munich vacation planning, we put together our family-friendly itinerary for our favorite things to do in Munich in 5 days!
The Best Things to do in Munich in 5 Days
DAY 1 – ALSTADT, VIKTUALIENMARKET, MARIENPLATZ, AND THE BEST GERMAN PRETZELS
We had a wonderful private tour by Big Hat Tours of the Altstadt (Old Town). This is a great way to get a layout and overview of the city. The starting point should be the top of the Oberammergau street and end at the super adorable and picturesque Viktualienmarkt for some Bavarian treats. On the first day of your trip, we suggest taking your time and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere of the old town. To us, it is a fairytale and there is something adorable and charming on every corner.
Our Old Town Munich Walking Tour Recommendations:
Munich’s Neo-Gothic Square is home to the famous Glockenspiel. This square is DARLING! It was partially rebuilt and reconstructed after the bombing in WWII which explains the new architecture adjacent to the old. However, today this visual history adds to the charm and allure of this square. There are often street musicians and a crowd of people eager to see the clock built in 1908 chime and retell a Bavarian story at 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM every day. Honestly, the only person who was impressed by the chiming of the Glockenspiel was the 4-year-old (he thought it was the coolest haha). It may be overrated, but we think it is worth doing one time.
This cathedral is impressive in scale and the little onion-shaped domes can be seen from various points in the city. It isn’t our most favorite interior. However, the panorama from the top of the towers is fabulous! On a clear day, there is a beautiful view of the Bavarian Alps.
This is the beer house of all beer houses-and this is coming from people who don’t drink beer! HAHA. Historically it is steeped in importance and infamy. Vladimir Lenin was once a regular and this is where some of the first National German Workers Party (Nazi) meetings were held. Today it teems with tourists and locals alike. When you go, don’t forget to sneak back to see the lockers where the locals can clean, and lock up their own unique beer mugs. It is a classic!
Okay, CUTEST STREET MARKET EVER! Like, ever! And guys, the food here. Think fresh pesto, divine cheeses, and soft pretzels the size of your face. We could have wandered this market endlessly. Make sure to try the Baerlauch Pesto and don’t forget to stop at Karnoll’s Back Und Kaffeestandl and have one of their pretzels. We were told by several people that these were the best pretzels in Munich and we were not disappointed! Go early, they often sell out later in the day.
Other fantastic places to see in the Altstadt
Ohel Jakob Synagogue
DAY 2 – NEUE PINAKOTHEK AND DACHAU
This is a mood swing of a day here, but no matter what you do, Dachau is going to be heavy. So we suggest pairing the horrific remnants of the Nazi’s first concentration camp with a morning of pleasant easy going viewing of world-class 19th-century art.
Neue Pinakothek (New Picture Gallery)
Out of all of the museums in Munich, this was our favorite! If you are going to go to any museum in Munich, in our opinion, this is the best. While we enjoyed the Alte Pinakothek (Old Picture Gallery) I thought the overall works in Neue were superior. However, the Dürers in the Alte are out of this world! But, if you only have time for one museum, we would suggest the Neue.
In the Neue, there are some fantastic works by van Gogh, Degas, Turner, and a lovely gallery upstairs that was empty. We took our time and went through the whole museum. It is definitely worth a visit!
*Note that the layout of the museum is a little confusing. It is almost organized by rectangles within rectangles. If you are not sure where you are going, ask a docent or a museum employee. In our experience, they were all very helpful and accommodating.
* Also, in almost all of the museums in Munich you have to check your bags and some of the bag checks require several euros in coins.
There is so much information about visiting Dachau that we decided to write about it in a separate post. We cover the best way to see it, our reactions, and answer the question if you should/could take young children to Dachau. See our Parents Guide to Dachau here.
DAY 3 – DAY TRIP TO THE ROMANTIC ROAD
Rothenburg de Tauber and Dinkelsbuhl
Day trip to the Romantic Road with stops at Rothenburg de Tauber and Dinkelsbuhl. You could go to the Harburg Castle as it is an easy stop combined with the two, but we would suggest skipping Harburg Castle altogether and spending more time in Rothenburg and Dinkelsbuhl. These are two of the cutest, fairytale German towns! While both are touristy, if you get off into the back roads there are some amazing shops and sights. I don’t think two villages could be any more picturesque. Allow time to stroll, get a snack, and enjoy the charms.
DAY 4 – NYMPHENBURG PALACE, MUNICH RESIDENZ, AND THE ODEONSPLATZ
Nymphenburg Palace is a really quick taxi ride out of the main city center of Munich and it is splendid and grand. It is a great place to be able to get some background on the Bavarian kings and the history of Munich. We had read that spending a whole day there was a must and while we thought it was super cool, we were ready to leave before lunch.
Our favorite things about the palace were exploring the riding stables (this requires an additional ticket – and it is SO worth the couple extra euros), the palace grounds and gardens, the main ballroom, and the delivery room of the “mad” King Ludwig II. You can also pay extra to visit the Porcelain Museum, but in our opinion, it was a snoozer. If we could do it again we would bypass it.
Okay, so the Munich Residenz is SERIOUSLY cool but be prepared for opulent overload. Like almost on the level of Versailles, overload. We honestly didn’t have many expectations for this (I am not sure why) but totally ended up thinking it was so awesome.
This palace is the largest palace in Germany and it makes the interior of Nymphenburg Palace look … eh. Expect some crowds but once you get through the coat check and ticket area the crowds seem to thin a little. About halfway through the palace, you will have an option to take the long way through the palace or the short way. We chose the short way and still spent over 2 hours visiting the complex. So, if you have a little one with you when visiting the Residenz bring plenty of snacks and point out all of the cool details. There is a whole room made out of seashells, unexpected hidden pathways and tunnels, and some cool swords.
Munich Residenz Extras
Like Nymphenburg, you can pay extra to see additional things at the Residenz. In our opinion the additions of the Opera House and Wittelsbach Crown Jewels should not to be missed. The crown jewels are housed right in the palace and you can walk two seconds from the crown jewels to the beginning of the palace tour. To visit the Opera House you must walk about 5 minutes to it’s location in the palace complex. When we visited, there was NOBODY there! We had the whole theater to ourselves and it was exceptionally lovely.
THE WITTELSBACH CROWN JEWELS
We thought the crown jewels here were more impressive than … are you ready for this… the British Crown Jewels. The diamonds weren’t actually bigger but the collection on display was really impressive and some of the pieces dated back nearly a thousand years. I usually hate audio guides but the audio guide for the crown jewels was wonderful and even Beckham loved it.
Odeonsplatz and Surrounding Area
Just a couple of steps away from the entrance to the palace is the gorgeous and picturesque Odeonsplatz square which houses the exceptional Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshall’s Hall) and the famous lions of Munich. What was so gripping about this square was that while we were in Berlin we visited the Topography of Terror Museum and they had a huge image of a massive Nazi rally right on the Feldherrnhalle and today it is a peaceful and charming area where children and other tourists rub the feet of the lions and snap selfies.
For me, it was a strange dichotomy to see what a span of 70 years can do. This is so cheesy, but I found myself wishing that I could listen to the stories that those lions have to tell.
This area was one of my favorites in Munich. I could have wandered the streets for hours and thought the pastel facades of the buildings and the view of the onion domes of the Frauenkirche in the background made for a perfect evening.
DAY 5 – NEUSCHWANSTEIN AND THE BAVARIAN ALPS
The Bavarian Alps and Neuschwanstein
By far, and I mean BY FAR, our favorite thing was visiting the Bavarian Alps! I don’t think it gets more stunning than the exterior of Neuschwanstein juxtaposed with the background of the alps, tall pines, alpine lakes and foggy clouds. This was a place that we had been dreaming about for a decade, and it totally measured up to our expectations. Even the drive there was so beautiful! Be ready for the crowds and be prepared to fight your way onto the bridge to snap some good photos. Trust us, it’s worth it.
However, that being said don’t expect too much from the interior. It is largely unfinished and the areas that are finished are strange and feel inauthentic. We anticipated it being totally over the top and kitschy, and that was exactly what it was. But, it gives a fantastic glimpse into poor Ludwig II’s life and some of the best views are from the inside of the actual castle.
TIPS FOR VISITING NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE
Expect crowds, just do.
There is a driver that comes to the base of the hill and will take you to the top for 2 euros p/person. Do it.
Have a ticket beforehand. If you miss your ticket time, you are out of luck.
Allow at least an hour before and after the tour of the castle to wander around and view the castle from different vantage points.
Go to the bridge adjacent from the castle – OUT OF THIS WORLD beautiful!
Following the conclusion of the tour, walk down to the cafeteria and go out to the balcony and you will get a stunning view of Hohenschwangau castle and the Alpsee and Swansea lakes. Most people don’t even know you can go out on the balcony and get pictures.
Other things near Neuschwanstein that should not be missed
Linderhof Palace (absolutely beautiful) and the grounds are SO much fun! Beckham could have played here for ages.
If warm weather permits visit either the Alpsee or Swansea lake
MUNICH FOR KIDS-BECKHAM’S FAVORITE EXPERIENCES
Our little man LOVED Germany! We found it to be so kid friendly and there were so many things that captured his imagination and attention.
Visiting the toy shops in Rottenburg de Tauber
Feeding the ducks and swans at Nymphenburg Palace
Running and playing on the grounds of Linderhof Palace
Throwing sticks off the bridge at Neuschwanstein (Dude was obsessed!)
Rubbing the feet of the huge lions at Odeonsplatz square
Eating pretzels and feeding the birds at Viktualienmarkt
Listening to the performers at Hofbrauhaus
Waiting for and watching the Glockenspiel
OUR MUNICH RECOMMENDATIONS
Where to Stay In Munich
We stayed at the Charles Hotel and it was family friendly, ideally located, and had wonderful amenities. It was perfect for us and our little horde. The restaurant there is also fabulous as is the indoor swimming pool and spa area.
Our Favorite Schnitzel in Munich (as recommended by Big Hat Tours)
Schnitzel, oh how I need you in my life!! The turkey schnitzel salad at Opatija is what dreams are made of. This place deserves a visit .. or two .. or three haha.
Where We Ate the Most While in Munich
Aside from the yummy restaurant at the Charles Hotel, we ate several times at L’Osteria near Karls Gate and Karlsplatz. It was Italian and I know eating Italian food in Germany seems pretty stupid, and maybe it was, but we had a little man who was dying for pizza and the food was delicious. It is also really well priced. My recommendation would be the carbonara pasta and the turkey caesar salad.
How to Get Around
We used public transportation with one of our guides and it was clean and efficient. Our German is less than stellar however and the instructions in English are almost nonexistent, so we also used taxis and found them to be reasonably priced and super easy to use. We downloaded the MyTaxi app on our phones and scheduled taxis from our phones. So easy and user-friendly!
Needless to say, we LOVE München and can’t wait to get back!
Don’t forget to pin this and visit Our Family Passport for the full post and more destinations!
A Little About Our Family Passport:
“We are an average family living in a crazy busy world, trying to juggle work, school, and family responsibilities. As a multi-generational family, we are always growing and changing. We have found that traveling all together with our family of 10 from the Grandparents on down to the little Grandbaby, provides a “time-out” where we can reconnect with the ones we love the most without daily interruptions or distractions. We have been to 6 continents and over 45 countries together! Our family adventures are tremendously educational and most of all, fun! It is our goal to encourage other families to take a “time out” together and go explore our amazing world!!!”
When you find yourself dreaming of a Croatian vacation, Zagreb probably isn’t the top of your list. While it is the capital city, it is inland and removed from the beautiful beaches and islands Croatia has become known for. We found ourselves with a couple days in Zagreb during our long road trip through the Balkans. It is just a couple hours drive from Ljubljana, our first stop on our trip. Here are our favorite things to do in Zagreb!
Ride the Funicular to St. Mark’s Church
Look at that roof!
When in Europe, there is no shortage of amazing churches. After a while, many of them can run together. But this church will stand out in your memory for its gorgeously tiled roof! The bright colors and interesting design make this church very unique-it has a look all its own. Unfortunately we were unable to tour the inside because there was an event being set up. But the outside alone is worth the trip uphill. You can walk if you want the exercise or for under $1, you can take the world’s shortest funicular ride up the hill.
If you still want to see some more churches, check out the Cathedral of Zagreb which has a fascinating history and is still under repairs and restoration.
Zagreb Cathedral still under reparations.
Colorful buildings and people watching!
This street is full of charm and life. The colorful buildings and cobblestoned street are lined with bars, restaurants, and shops. This is a great place to pick up a souvenir or grab some ice cream on a hot day. We even found a little playground with the cathedral peeking out behind it. This little strip is the perfect place to sit and people watch, many of the cafes have their chairs all facing the street. You can find all different kinds of food-everything from burgers to Indian food!
Playground with a view!
Vehicles galore at the Technical Museum!
If you’re into machines or have kids who are, the Nicola Tesla Technical Museum is the perfect place to spend the morning. Go check out their displays on trains, automobiles, boats, planes, and even rockets. Most of the descriptions were in Croatian, but it is fun to go have a look at everything regardless. There is also a planetarium and some tours are offered in english at certain times through the summer.
Spend some time relaxing by the fountain.
We walked through several parks in Zagreb like the park near the art museum (Fontana kraal Tomislav) and Park Zrinjevac. We were there in early summer and everything was green and in bloom. We spent time here just letting the kids run and play. We would find fruit vendors nearby and pickup a carton of cherries or strawberries to snack on. The kids would go through the whole container in one sitting! With scenery like this, it’s easy to sit down, relax, and take a break!
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