Hiking with a baby or a toddler

Hiking with a baby or a toddler

This summer hiking became our new favorite family activity. Hiking with a baby or toddler offers a great alternative way of training. Plus you get to spend time with your family and enjoy the great outdoors. So here are my top tips for hiking with a baby or toddler.

Get a good baby carrier

When our son was quite young we would carry him in a normal baby carrier or baby wrap. However this was only a solution until he wanted a bit more view. We were given a used baby backpack carrier, which can be used when they are around 9 months old and can sit fairly stable. However we didn’t like the model and looked for a better one. Because this is key for making hiking with a baby or toddler fun and comfortable.

What to look for in a hiking carrier

  • Adjustable shoulder and hip straps for the carrying adult: of course you want to adjust the backpack to the personal size of your back. This helps to make carrying comfortable and to avoid back pain.
  • 5 point safety harness for the child: you want your child to be safe, even when it moves around or falls asleep
  • Adjustable seat for the child: The carrier should be able to accomodate a growing child
  • Foot rests: so your child’s feet don’t get numb after a while
  • Soft pillow: at one point your child will fall asleep. This will make them sleep even more comfortably
  • Sun and rain cover: some baby hiking carriers offer sun covers. As your child’s skin is still very delicate, I would highly recommend it. In addition, I always carry a rain cover because the weather is sometimes unpredictable in the mountains.
  • Enough pockets for your stuff like diapers, changing mat, food, drinks, toys…

We got a Deuter Kid Comfort Active Baby Carrier, with extra pillow, sun roof and rain cover. And we are very happy with it because it offers great value for money. But there are also other brands we looked at, like these carriers by Thule, Vaude or Osprey.

hiking with a baby

Take enough breaks

In the beginning we were really ambitious with our hiking goals. We would try to hike long routes with lots of vertical ascent. But this got more and more difficult the older our son got, and the more active and mobile he became. Because he also wanted to explore and walk himself. So we now plan our routes in a way that we can take enough breaks and have lots of activities for him.

We usually look out for:

  • Restaurants with children’s playgrounds
  • Flat open spaces and lawns where he can run around freely
  • Everything with animals like cows or goats. (children are usually fascinated by animals)
  • Small streams or ponds where he can play in the water on a hot day

Places we avoid:

  • Fancy viewpoints (because this usally means steep surroundings)
  • Places with lots of people (just harder for him to run around freely)
  • Routes that are completely in the sun

Hiking with a baby

Bring enough snacks

And with enough I mean a lot of snacks. Hiking will make you hungry because the extra weight on your back will burn a lot of calories. And snacks also can distract your child for while when you can’t take an immediate break. I know that as parents we are told not to comfort our kids with food, but sometimes it just works wonders when hiking with a baby or toddler. And there are a lot of healthy snacks that you can bring along and feed your child while in the carrier without making a huge mess.

My favorite hiking snacks are.

  • Rice or corn crispies
  • Bell peppers cut in into stripes
  • Thin italian sausages (not so healthy, but super yummy)
  • Apple slices

 

Do you have more tips for hiking with your kids? Let me know in the comments!

Life hacks for traveling with a baby

Life hacks for traveling with a baby

When my son Lucian was born, my fiancé and I were still in a long-distance relationship. While he was commuting between Austria and the UK on a weekly basis, we also agreed that I should come and visit him with the baby once a month. In addition, we were also traveling with the baby a lot to see friends and family. And we also flew to Chicago Marathon when the baby was only 4 months old. Let’s say baby Lucian was an experienced frequent traveller before he was even one year old.

But all this traveling with a baby didn’t come easy. It was actually the result of lots of planning, great baby travel gear and also some trial and error. (Lot of errors actually). So here I’ve compiled all our tips and tricks for traveling with a baby.

Plan your trip wisely to make traveling with a baby easy

As parents you probably know one thing by heart: with small children planning is key. This is especially valid when it comes to traveling with a baby. So here are the most important things to consider:

  • What place am I travelling to? Is it safe? Does my child need vaccines?
  • What is the weather going to be like? What clothes should I bring for the baby?
  • Do I need to bring diapers or can I shop them somewhere?
  • How will I cook baby food? Is the water potable?

Once you’ve thought about your trip and planned everything, I highly recommend making a packing list of all items you need. I now have one complete packing list of all items that I go through even though I might not pack some things in the end. Before having such a list, I was forgetting lots of small minor things that I then had to buy somewhere else. At the bottom of this article I’ve compiled a list of my favourite products to bring.

At what time of the day should you travel with a baby?

For short distance travel we now always schedule traveling around our baby’s nap times. This is especially useful when I am driving on my own for 2+ hours. But also, when flying we try to book flights that fall around his nap times. The worst times to travel are actually early mornings or late evenings, because it means disturbing his normal sleep schedule. And traveling with a cranky baby is definitely not fun.

For long distance flights however, it is just not possible to book them just around nap times. We there prefer to book them so most of the flight falls into the baby’s regular sleep time. This makes our life a bit easier.

Should I book a hotel room or an apartment?

I personally prefer to book apartments when traveling with a baby. The main reason is simply because preparing food and cleaning the baby’s things is so much easier if you have a fully equipped kitchen. However, not all of the apartments will have a baby crib. So we usually bring our own super light travel cot and travel high chair.

In case we have to stay at a hotel we let them know in advance that we will be coming with a baby. Most of the hotels will have baby beds available, and some also have kettles, diaper trash bags, and bottle warmers if you ask for it.

Another tip, no matter if you stay at a hotel or apartment is to bring a baby nest that fits into your suitcase. In your room you just move the bed towards the wall, and let the baby sleep in his nest between you and the wall. Therefore, they will can’t fall off the bed, and they still feel comfortable in their own nest with you being close.

Flying, driving or taking the train?

Sometimes you don’t have the option to choose between various means of transportation. But when you do, it is better to take the car, the plane or the train? Generally, each of them have advantages and disadvantages for traveling with a baby.

Traveling by car is the most flexible way of traveling with a baby. You can pack everything you need, which is usually a lot with a small baby. However small babies should not stay in a car seat for an extended time.  They need to take frequent breaks where they can move freely. But in case you are traveling by car you can always take as many breaks as you want.

Traveling by train with a baby is also a comfortable way to travel. You can walk around as much as you like. But one major disadvantage for me is that you can only bring limited stuff. If the train access is not step free, you have to lift everything on and off the carriage. And I also found the diaper changing facilities not always very convenient. Some trains have great facilities where the baby also can’t fall off the changing table. On other trains I found the changing tables not safe at all, especially when the train is moving fast.

Flying is definitely the best way to travel long distances. However, the process of going through security and boarding the plane is quite stressful with a baby. All parent’s nightmare is a crying baby due to pressure changes during take-off and landing. However, I found that this was not a problem for us at all as I generally nurse the baby during take-off and landing. What was a big problem however was that we had to change his diaper right when the fasten seat belt signs were on. And even then, the diaper changing facilities on planes are usually very small and not practical.

Tips for flying with a baby

After flying over 10 times with a baby less than 6 months old, most of the time on my own, I think I am now quite experienced. And here are my top tips:

When you book your flights check with airlines on what terms you can check in baby’s stroller or car seat. Some airlines like British Airlines let you check in two items for free, whereas others like Ryanair charge extra for every piece. Book flights during the middle of the day, where there are less travellers. Be there with lots of times in advance. I generally bring a light travel stroller, a car seat that fits onto the stroller, a baby-wrap or baby carrier, a big backpack. and If I need to check in extra luggage, I bring one big suitcase on wheels.

One of my key items for flying with a baby is a cabin-size stroller. It just makes everything so much easier because you don’t have to carry the baby all the time, you have somewhere to put him when he needs to sleep. Also, if you can bring it onto the plane it doesn’t get damaged as often compared to checking it in. Especially when traveling alone I always bring it.

I also have perfected my routine when flying with a baby. First, I check in the baby’s car seat in its travel cover. There is enough space under the travel cover that I can also put the foot muff or blanket inside it. After the flight I put the car seat onto the stroller so I don’t have to carry it.

Going through security with a baby

When going through security I find it very important to have everything ready so you don’t lose time with the baby. When I am alone, I first put on the baby into his travel stroller so I have my hands free. I then pack everything in to my boxes. The last thing I do is take the baby out of the stroller and onto my arms, fold the stroller with one hand and lift it up onto the conveyor belt. In case you can’t handle the stroller on your own there is usually someone there to help you, but it might be difficult to explain to strangers. I’ve also found security personnel really helpful when the baby was sleeping. Sometimes they just checked the stroller without waking him up.

In case you don’t want to bring a stroller, you can often borrow one for free at the airports. I also always bring a baby carrier or baby wrap, but during security I found them not helpful at all when traveling on my own. You will have to take them off during security, and I find it hard to put them off and on again while holding the baby. (Yes, I could give the baby to someone else and put on the baby carrier, but I don’t like the idea.) However, after security, once the baby is back in the stroller and I have packed everything up again, I put on the baby carrier or baby wrap to be prepared for boarding.

After security I generally try to find the diaper changing rooms and toilets first. Most of the time the disabled toilet will also have a diaper changing table. In some of the airports there are some bigger toilets especially for people with luggage where I can fit the stroller into the toilet. I then try find a quiet spot in between the boarding gate and the diaper changing facilities.

Boarding a plane with a baby

I generally try to be at the boarding gate some time in advance, to let the staff know that the baby and I are here. I ask them to have pre boarding (which they generally do for families with kids) and that they could let me know some minutes before so we can get ready. It once happened to me, that when they announced pre boarding, I was not ready in ten seconds, and then they let everyone else board. I then had to wait at the back of the line with a crying baby, and ask other passengers if I could go in the front. That’s why I recommend that you always let staff know that you are there first.

When boarding starts, I pack up everything, put the baby into the baby carrier or baby wrap, fold up the stroller and board the plane. I generally book an aisle seat at the back of the plane. The advantage there is that you have no pressure when packing up your stuff when going on and off the plane. Also, you are close to the toilets and diaper changeing facilities in the back of the plane.

So when I arrive at my seat, I lift the stroller into the overhead bin or I ask the flight attendant to help me. This is also a great opportunity to say hi to the flight attendants. They usually love cute babies and are super helpful. At my seat I then prepare a nappy change emergency kit, which consist of changing mat, a diaper, wet wipes and one spare outfit.

During take-off and landing

The flight attendants also have to hand out a baby seat belt and life vest for the baby. Putting on the seat belt for the first time can be a challenge, but you will soon get used to it. During take-off and landing I generally breast feed the baby to help him with pressure changes. In case you are not breast feeding you can also give him a bottle of pacifier. Whatever means you choose, it is important to find the right time window to let the baby suckle. If you start too early before take-off he will be done before the main pressure change happens, which can lead to pain in his ears. Also, you should start early enough during the decent phase, as this is where most of the pressure change happens. You can ask the flight attendant to let you know when the decent starts, so you get the timing right.

On the plane

In case it is a short distance flight, you will be busy most of the time with taking care of the baby, helping him during take-off and landing, changing a diaper etc. Most of the babies also nap during the flights. In case they get fussy you can put the baby into the baby carrier and walk to the back of the plane. The noise there will help them to calm down and fall asleep. And before you realize it is time to go back to our seat for landing.

On long distance flights, I recommend you book front row seats in advance. Most of the airlines offer infant beds that can be attached in the front rows. However, only some airlines reserve these seats for free for families with infants. At other airlines you have to pay extra for these seats. Also, the quality of these infant beds varies a lot. On our flight to Chicago we had one of these cots for baby Lucian, but he was already too big for it. As a result he was very uncomfortable. In the end we were taking turns in letting him sleep in our arms or wrapped up in the baby carrier.

Some airlines allow you to bring your car seat onto the plane, if it is certified to be attached to the plane seat with the seat belt and if you book an extra seat. The advantage is that you baby can sleep in the car seat during the flight. However, this is another piece that you have to carry. Also, if the baby is able to sit upright, you can buy a special seat belt system.

How to deal with jet lag when traveling with a baby

Just like adults also babies can have jet lag. And trust me, it is not fun. Because not only can the parents not sleep because of their own jet lag. Also, the baby is keeping them awake. My tips for dealing with baby jet lag is just the same as for adults. Before traveling try to adjust your schedule for 2 hours towards your destination. At your destination try to set you circadian rhythm with light and darkness. If you and the baby need to sleep, make it as dark as possible. During daytime, try to get lots of fresh air and sunshine. And most importantly: always give yourself enough time to adjust by maybe taking off two more days after your trip. The more you stress about jet lag, the more your baby will.

My favourite products for traveling with a baby

 A collapsible cabin size stroller

In the past, the Babyzen Yoyo has been the first stroller to fit onto a plane. This is also why we got it. It also has a new-born kit for babies under 6 months. However now several other brands came up with collapsible travel strollers. For example the Bugaboo Ant and Bonavi Air.



Diaper changing mat

Another thing that I love is this diaper changing mat, which also has pockets for diapers and wet wipes. It has a really practical size, and I generally just toss it into my backpack. When we need a diaper change, I then just take it out instead of taking the whole bag with me.

Travel high chair

This booster seat is great when you have booked an apartment that does not have a high chair for your baby. You can attach the booster seat to most of the chairs. Your baby can then sit in this seat attached to the seat belts and it cannot fall off. Also, you can save space and put your baby’s food into the bottom of the seat. This makes it perfect for traveling with a baby.

Baby carrier or baby wrap

I am a huge fan of baby wearing (you can check out my article here) and having your hands free while traveling is one of them. I personally use a Baby Bjorn baby carrier in summer and a bamboo baby wrap in winter.

Travel cot

We have bought this super light travel cot for baby Lucian. It is quite expensive, but super practical. Setting it up and taking it down is super easy and takes less than a minute. While the baby is small it can sleep in the top crib. Once it gets too big you can detach the crib and have bigger bed that also doubles as a day cot. If you open the zip on the side, the baby can also crawl out if he wants to. We love it so much, that we even got a second one as his permanent bed in London.

Travel toys

When traveling with a baby you will also need to bring toys to keep him entertained. However, bringing lots of toys can take up a lot of space. That’s why I prefer multifunctional toys that don’t take up a lot of space and can be used in various occasions. My favourites are stackable cup toys with holes that can also be used during bath time.

UV sterilizer and travel kettle

While your baby is still small you will have to sterilize baby’s pacifiers, teething toys and bottles regularly. At home I have a big steriliser, but I can’t take it with me while traveling. That’s why I got this handy UV sterilizer. And if you still prefer to you boiling water, you can buy a small travel kettle instead.

Do you have any more tips for traveling with a baby? Just leave me a comment!

 

 

 

Vacation in Austria – my favorite hotels

Vacation in Austria – my favorite hotels

This year our summer holidays will look very different than the years before. With all the COVID-19 restrictions and travel bans in place, we might not be able to go abroad for our vacations. But while we are a little bit sad about it, we are looking forward to spending out vacation in Austria. And I’ve got the perfect hotels for active foodie families with kids.

But htese hotels are not only great for Austrians while we have to stay in Austria. I highly recommend them to everyone once tourism is back to normal. Simply because I highly recommend spending your vacation in Austria. Our tourism offers so much more than the now famous apres-ski bars in Ischgl.

Why I love these hotels for Vacation in Austria

I am not writing this blogpost because I am getting paid for it. But because I really love these hotels. I’ve stayed there several times and I had a great time there. They offer great quality and service. The food there is outsanding. They are child friendly and also great for outdoor enthusiasts. lAll of these hotels are family owned and I know the owners personally. All of them live and strive for their family businesses and put a lot of effort into making their customers happy. I want them to stay in business and I can’t wait to spend my summer vacation in Austria these hotels.

Best for family vacation in Austria: Stanglwirt – Going / Tyrol

Even though the Stanglwirt is famous for attracting a celebrity crowd during the even more famous Kitzbühel ski race with its legendary Weißwurst-Party, it offers much more than that. It originated from a historic inn (Stanglwirt literally means “Stangl” – Inn) which has been around for over 400 years and is now a 5 star luxury ressort. It has it’s own organic farm (yes you can watch the cows during dinner in their cowshed restaurant) and its own Lipizzaner stud. And it offers a lot of different sport activities: horse riding, indoor and outdoor tennis, golf, hiking, fishing, skiing, swimming etc.

(c) Stanglwirt

But in my opinion it has the best offer for kids of all ages. There is a special Kindergarden childcare service for kids aged one to three years old. For older kids they converted a small farm into their hotel childcare center (“Kinderbauernhof”). Not only can the kids can pet and feed the animals there, they also learn about them. So far I have not met a child who didn’t love playing with the animals. They also offer all the sports activities mentioned above, plus a huge children’s water world with a 120m long water slide. The children’s water world is separated form the huge adult only spa, which is also great if the parents need a break.

(c) Stanglwirt

In case are coming with a small baby (like us) they have everything you need: a baby crib made from famous Zirben-wood, blankets and linens, a bottle warmer, nappy bin, and even a Nespresso machine for sleep deprived parents. But it is higly unlikely that you will not get any sleep as the hotel room furniture made out of Zirben-wood is supposed to give you the sweetest dreams.

(c) Stanglwirt

And the food is also great too. Not only do they produce a lot of the food themselves, like cheese from their own farm. They also give every guest a loaf of home made bread as a good-bye gift. With details like that you can really see that the owners want you to feel at home at the Stanglwirt, which as been their motto for years. And it is definitely true. You come as a guest, and leave as a friend.

Best for golf vacation in Austria: Sportresidenz – Zillertal / Tyrol

For a very long time the famous Zillertal valley in Tyrol was known only for skiing and hiking. But this changed when the Schultz Group – which is owned by the Schultz siblings – built the Sportresidenz, an amazing 4 Star Superior golf ressort into the valley. Not only does it offer a great golf course, including the island green on the 18th hole. It also offers a beautiful modern alpine style boutique hotel. From every room you have a great view on the local mountain range.

(c) Sportresidenz

Besides golf there are a lot of other activities: skiing on the slopes, hikingthe local mountains, cycling, paragliding, smimming in the infinity pool and relaxing in the “cloud 7” spa. But I highly recommend this hotel in early spring: in the mornings you can go skiing in the Hochfügen Ski ressort, wich also belongs to the Schultz group, and in the afternoon you can play some golf. And afterwards you can relax in your hotel room in your personal infra red sauna cabin, and have an amazing meal at the hotel restaurant, or a nice glass of wine at the bar.

(c) Sportresidenz

(c) Sportresidenz

Best for mountaineering in Austria: Gradonna – Kals / Tyrol

The 4 Star Superior Gradonna in the small mountain village Kals in East Tyrol is another gem of the Schultz group. It offers the same benefits of all their hotels and ressorts:

  • interesting architecture and design
  • great food,
  • childcare,
  • gym and fitness area
  • amazing spa.

In this hotel you even have the option of staying in a hotel room or your own personal chalet.

(c) Gradonna

But for me the biggest bonus of this remote hotel is the proximity to Austria’s highest mountain, the Großglockner. You can see this majestic mountain from the village of Kals. And if you are up to it, you can book a tour guide and summit via the “Normalweg”. Usually it is a two days trip. On the first day you climb up to the Erzherzog Johann Hut, the hightest mountain hut in Austria. After one night in the bunk beds you summit in the morning and then decend again. If you are an experience moountaineer who is used to climbing with crampons, you might be able to do it on your own. but generally I would recommend booking a local tour guide.

(c) Gradonna

I climbed the Großglockner in 2017 and it was a once in a lifetime experience. I highly recomment it as a vacation in Austria to everyone who is fit and loves mountaineering. And spending a few relaxing days at the Gradonna hotel afterwards is a real nice treat.

 

Best for Spa & Wellness: Edelweiss – Großarl / Salzburg

The Edelweiss hotel in the Großarl valley is a true family business. Founded as a small hotel by Grandma and Grandpa Hetteger, who also raised 11 kids while running the hotel, it has seen a steady expansion and modernisation.Today 14 family members work in the family business.

Edelweiss Großarl © Michael Huber, Huber Fotografie

The most recent expansion has made it the perfect spa getaway. With several indoor and outdoor swimming pools, saunas and several beautiful relaxation areas it offers everything you could with for. Especially the relaxation areas are perfect, if you want to cuddle up during a romatntic weekend trip with your significant other. In case you feel a bit more adventurous (or have adventurous kids) there are several waterslides. Trust me, you don’t want to stop sliding because it is so much fun.

(c) Edelweiss Großarl

The breakfast buffet is probably the biggest one I’ve ever seen, and the food is delicious. The hotel lobby and the hotel bar is absolutely stunning. It is just perfect to try a glass of wine from their extensive wine cellar. And if you feel like working out you can either use the hotel gyom or go hiking and cycling the beautiful Großarl valley.

(c) Edelweiss Großarl

Best for foodies and party people: Hotel Aichinger – Nußdorf / Attersee

Hundred years ago the painter Gustav Klimt always spent his summers at lake Attersee and painted its turquoise waters. No surprise that is is still a great place to spend a vacation in Austria. And the hotel Aichinger is probably the best place to do it. Its origins trace back more than 200 years, but it has been fully renovated and refurbished in recent years without loosing it’s traditional charm. Run by the Aichinger family you still feel that it is a true family business, with all of them workiong actively in the hotel and restaurant. Grandma Aichinger was the main chef whos cooking skills earned them two hats at the Gault Millau rating.

(c) Hotel Aichinger

It also has two bars: the Mayer’s bar wine cellar bar, and the famous American bar. Even though both of them will be unfortunately closed this summer due the Coronavirus Pandemic, they offer a great alternative: as of May 15th they will open their new beach bar “Achterdeck” directly located at their private beach at lake Attersee. A great way to enjoy the clear waters of lake Attersee, the beautiful scenery and a glass of delicous Austrian wine.

(c) Hotel AIchinger

The area around lake Attersee is also great for hiking and cycling. Or for some sightseeing at Salzburg, Bad Ischl and the famous Hallstatt Village. And when you’ve need a bit more down-time, you can also relax at their small hotel spa, or at the hotel pool.

(c) Hotel Aichinger