When we agreed to a family summer vacation in Florence, Italy I had no idea that I'd be 13 weeks pregnant. I was worried that I'd have severe morning sickness and not be able to endure the 14 hour flight from Seattle. Thankfully, I was worried for no reason and it ended up being a fantastically relaxing trip!
Since my husband has limited vacation days, I headed over to Italy a week before him with my in-laws. We stayed in Florence for the first few days and developed the perfect pace of travel for older folks and pregnant ladies. Since we had all been to Florence before and had seen the major sights, there wasn't so much pressure to be on the go. In the morning, we'd pop in to visit a Museum (and soak up the A/C) for about an hour and then head to the cafe for a cold beverage. Freshly squeezed orange juice was available at most cafes. Then, we'd walk a tiny bit though the streets of Florence before stopping at another cafe for more cold beverages and to sit down. Eventually we'd stop for lunch and gelato before heading back to the hotel for a long siesta. After an extensive nap in our air conditioned room, we'd go have dinner and enjoy the beautiful Florence evening before calling it a night. By slowing down the pace, we got to absorb the ambiance.
After we got over our jet lag in Florence, we took the train to the famous Cinque Terre. It was nice to just sit on the train and stare out the window at the rolling countryside. We stayed in Monterosso overlooking the water and I felt like I was in a movie! There were several options for food within walking distance and there were plenty of gelato stands. We were even able to walk to the next town for dinner and it was a pleasant walk in the evening. The only tricky part was when we took the ferry around to see the other towns. I felt pretty queasy partway through and had to get fresh air. I also ate my weight in freshly steamed mussels (they were so yummy) before realizing that pregnant women are supposed to avoid mussels. And I ate a lot of prosciutto and melon (also incredible) but again found out I was supposed to avoid.
We headed back on the train to Florence to meet up with my husband and the rest of his family after our jaunt in Cinque Terre. We stayed at a castle outside of Florence and our room was on the top floor. That was a lot of stairs for this pregnant lady to hike so I basically became a pack mule and grabbed everything I could think of from our room and headed down for the day. The lower level of the castle was the coolest, so I parked it there for most of our time.
We did a few half-day trips from the castle. We hit up the outlets, which offered very little shade. The stores had the A/C cranked, so we absorbed as much as we could and then quickly waddled to the next store. Their bathrooms had long lines and were so hot. I ended up grabbing papers and fanning myself so I wouldn't faint. We also found several restaurants with outdoor dining in the shade that were lovely. And we headed into Florence for a family dinner and to see a few of the sights.
7 Tips for Pregnant Travelers:
Our toddler Owen has been so fortunate to have opportunities to travel the world at such a young age. He's been to Thailand, Italy, Greece, Canada, Hawaii, Disneyland, and more. We know that he won't remember most of these trips years from now, but he definitely remembers them vividly for months and has absorbed so much about other places and cultures. I believe that these global experiences will impact the person he becomes.
With Baby #2 expected this Fall, I know our lives are going to be a bit more chaotic. However, I really hope to continue exposing our kids to the amazing people and places in this world. We plan on traveling with our kids as they grow up, but there are definitely some places that would be cool to see as a young child.
Toddler Travel Bucket List:
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Santorini was one of the stops on our Royal Caribbean Cruise around the Mediterranean. I'd wanted to see Santorini ever since I watched The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. It seemed like such an exotic island and the white houses and blue doors simply sold me!
Santorini was much drier than I anticipated. When we got to Oia, we had one hour to walk around town. Since it was such a short time, we just grabbed a few things from the backpack and hit the road. We first headed to a little spot to see the two blue domed churches that are featured in many postcards of Santorini. Then, we hiked to the ruins of a castle to get better photos of Oia. It was a 10 min walk and we were all fried by the time we got there!
Since we had such a short time in Oia, we just put Owen in the baby carrier and completely forgot about his sun hat. Poor guy was so hot that we had to take him out of the carrier so he could cool off a bit. We headed to one of the many souvenir shops that lined the streets hoping to soak up some air conditioning. Owen decided to pick up a shot glass that was on a shelf his height and he dropped it on the ground, where it shattered. He was very startled, but immediately grabbed another and threw it on the ground. We were mortified! He'd never done anything like that before. The shopkeeper came out and gently scolded him, while showing us that she wasn't really upset but wanted to make sure he knew it wasn't okay. Then she quickly ushered us inside because of the heat. That's when things got interesting.
She told us that they were in the midst of a heat wave and that people were dying. She literally ran to grab Owen wet paper towels to cool off his head and neck and gave him a straw hat. We were told how vital it was to keep his head covered and even though we explained his hat was just a few minutes away in the bus, she insisted that we take the straw hat to protect him on the walk. This is when we really felt like unprepared parents and that we had endangered our child. This is not a good feeling.
On the bus, our tour guide informed us that it was 40 degrees Celsius outside and was the hottest day of the year! The 30 minute bus ride back to Fira was nice so that we could all cool down in the air conditioned bus, drink some water and Owen could grab a snack.
By the time we got to Fira, we were ready to grab an early dinner. We brought out our Rick Steves book and he suggested a restaurant called Archipelegos. The view was amazing and the food was delicious! We ate the very best mussels we have ever had (butter, dill, lemon, Greek wine, garlic). We also tried the tomato fritters (something Santorini is known for) and they were so flavorful, with a crunchy exterior and a burst of tomato goodness in the middle with a thick tzakiki sauce to dip in, which Owen appreciated! Darren had the veal souvlaki that also packed quite a bit of flavor. The seafood risotto wasn't nearly as tasty as the rest of the dishes, but was okay. We also got freshly squeezed orange juice and the Greek version of Fanta. Both were very refreshing on the hot day!
As we headed back to the boat, we got to see the parade of donkeys coming up the steep cliff. This was also a memorable scene from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, so I was thrilled! But, when I turned to show Owen, I realized that he was passed out in the carrier. He stayed asleep the whole way down the cliff (inside a gondola) and all the way back to the ship.
Check out more about our Royal Caribbean Cruise through the Mediterranean
Cruising with a Toddler
A Toddler in Rome
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On our cruise around the Mediterranean last summer, on of our stops was Athens. We arrived in Athens on the same day that their Prime Minister stepped down and Athens was a true ghost town. It was a bit eerie as we drove through the city.
We boarded a bus and drove past many buildings and statues and had 10 minutes to look around the Panhellenic stadium, which was much larger than I expected. Then, we headed to the Acropolis, one of the most famous tourist attractions in Greece. It was at this point that were put on our headsets to listen to our guide lecture about the Acropolis. It was very hard to hear and my husband and I just looked at each other before taking them off and walking around on our own. For us, it's better to experience in person and read about it later. Additionally, it was difficult to interact with Owen while we had on headsets (and he just wanted to take them off our ears.)
It was very hot (no surprise) and the marble underneath us was very slick. It would be very dangerous in the rain! We had Owen in the carrier for all the walking up and down the stairs. The Acropolis was very crowded. Once we got up near the Parthenon, we took Owen out of the carrier so he could walk around and cool off a bit. The ground was very uneven, so we really had to watch him extra closely. Plus, it was crowded and we didn't want to lose him!
I thought we would be able to walk around the Parthenon, but it was under construction and everything was roped off with lots of security guards. It makes total sense. I just thought it would be more like the Colosseum, where you can walk around more. We completely lucked out that a photographer my husband met earlier in the trip offered to take our photo at the most perfect time!
Because I'm obsessed with dressing Owen in costumes, I had brought a toga that I had constructed from a pillow case. We quickly changed him into the toga and started taking photos when another tourist came up to us and said that her friend got kicked out of the Acropolis for wearing a toga. Since there were security guards everywhere, we got nervous and just took a few photos before quickly putting his regular clothes back on. Then, we grabbed our Seahawks 12th Man flag and took a few photos!
At the end of our tour, we were dropped off at the port terminal where we caught a cab to a gyro place at another port so my husband could finally have a really gyro in Greece! We were not disappointed! Plus they had fries with a delicious sauce that Owen couldn't get enough of.
While Athens was very doable with a toddler (and would be with a baby, as well) I think we'll hold off coming back until the kids are older and have learned a bit about Greek history and mythology. Having more background information (even if it's just watching Percy Jackson movies) would make Athens fascinating for kids!
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I'm a mom to a 3-year-old and a baby. We believe in traveling as a family as soon as possible and sharing our tips and tricks with other families!