London to Paris for Cheap – Ouibus

We went to meet my Father-in-law during our Easter Break, since he had to go to England for work. The trip was wonderful, and I learned even more about the art of traveling with children (it’s an art, trust me). My oldest daughter is obsessed with Paris and since my FIL had taken my husband to Paris when he was 9, and my oldest is 9, FIL asked if we could find a way to get the whole family (6 of us total) from London to Paris for less than eight hundred dollars.

Challenge accepted.

London to Paris for Cheap!

I scoured the internet for the cheapest travel options. There are severals ways to travel, through the English Channel in a giant metro car for cars and buses, by ferry, by train, or by plane. If you find a good flight, they can be as cheap as $120 per person. But flights through budget airlines don’t go every day, and that might not work out if you have a limited amount of travel time like we did. I found a flight for 6 for around 800 dollars, but the days were impossible with our schedule. The next thing I looked up was the train. In general, trains in England are expensive. I learned that when I traveled from Manchester to Liverpool, but outside the country, man… so much money. The train tickets I found on the dates we wanted to travel were around 600 per person. Yikes! I saw an add in London for 20 pound train tickets to Paris, but psh… when I looked them up again online, there were none to be found. I’m sure a few exist, because if not that would be false advertising, but I couldn’t find them. The next avenue I checked was taking a train to a ferry and then another train from the ferry to Paris. This was cheaper than flying or the normal train, but it was still above my budget. Finally, I found a company called Ouibus. I found tickets for all of us for around three hundred dollars. But then I saw they had an overnight bus which was more expensive, but would save us two nights of accomodation expenses. The total for six overnight bus tickets from London to Paris was under 450 dollars. Sweet, right? Little did I know that two late night adventures were in store.

On the bus!
On the bus!

The First Leg… London to Paris

The way there, we got onto the bus at 9. The bus station in London is easy to find, and the seating is adequate. We boarded the bus after they checked our tickets and passports and got ready for sleep. The seats reclined, a lot! The seats were comfy and the bus in general was nice and clean. The only problem was that we left on Friday night, and apparently the top floor of the double-decker bus turns into a party bus on Friday nights. In fact, at one point the couple across from us was watching pornography on a laptop. Thank God the kids were asleep. The paper they give you for the night bus asks you to shut off your devices and stay quiet once 10 pm comes. On the way there no one followed this rule. Maybe bring an eye shade and ear plugs?

The Bus Driver and The Guy He Wanted to Strangle

When we stopped at the border control between England and France, they let me stay on the bus with the sleeping kids while Travis went through passport control and customs (with six backpacks). That was super nice of them. When we went the other way we had to wake the kids up and drag them through the line. Thankfully they insisted we went to the front. That was nice. All the people with kids got to go first. Back to the first leg… so once we got through passport control we were waiting in line for the giant train to take the bus through the English Channel. But there was a mall near the passport control, and one passenger from the bus took an hour and a half walk around the closed mall. Because we had to wait for him, we missed our spot on the giant train which left. Then we had to wait for two more trains because both were full of buses and cars that didn’t miss their reservation. The bus driver told everyone (In French, a neighbor translated for us) that, “Now we have to wait for two hours because of this guy. I would prefer to strangle him, but the least he can do is buy everyone coffee.” He didn’t… and we sat in the hot bus for two hours as we waited for the train. Ok, so the idea that your bus is in a giant train (which reminded me of a giant metro car) is cool. I found the whole process fascinating, but eventually sleep took over and I didn’t wake until we were out of the train thingy. My FIL got out and walked around outside the bus. He said there were even bathrooms in the train. Nice! We got to our Airbnb two hours late, but our host was understanding.

From Paris to London

As soon as it turned 10 pm, a business man next to us asked every person on their phone or listening their music to stop. Score! We were able to rest in peaceful silence. Then we found out the tunnel was closed because of a bomb threat. Instead, the bus drove to a ferry, and we got out of the bus and found a place to camp out on the ferry. By the time we got off of the bus, most sleeping spots were occupied… one lady was sitting on a couch with a bench and five chairs around her. We asked if we could join her and she said, “Well my husband is coming, I need room for him.” I’m a polite person. At least I try to be, but I was tired, and I was dragging three half-asleep children through a giant ferry. I also hate confrontation and I would have just avoided her after that. I think my husband was surprised when I replied, “Well can’t your husband sit next to you on the couch. Even if you both want to lie down, there are five chairs here, can’t we use the chairs?” She rolled her eyes at me and nodded. I guess eye rolling is universal. The kids ate a few pieces of toast and sausage my FIL had gotten them and promptly fell asleep. British people know how to do breakfast. The food was amazing. My hubby got me a fried egg and a piece of wheat toast and I ate, then fell asleep with my middle cutie asleep on my lap. An announcement came over the ferry PA for people to head to their vehicles, and people rushed below to the buses, trucks, and cars. We hopped back on our bus and everyone went to sleep for a few more hours.

In Conclusion

If you want to go from Paris to London, or the other way, and you have lots of wiggle room in your schedule, the Ouibus is awesome. You can’t beat the price. Just remember to bring ear plugs and eye shades. Oh, and neck pillows.

Happy travels,

Kristin

Using a Menstrual Cup on Vacation

The title says everything, doesn’t it? If you don’t want to read about how successful I was in using a menstrual cup on vacation, feel free to skip over this article. If you are intrigued, however, read on.

using menstrual cup on vacation

Almost a year ago now, a dear friend messaged me on Facebook and said something like, “Sorry if this is TMI, but have you ever tried a menstrual cup?” It was just the thing I needed to hear. I am allergic to every kind of disposable pad here, and I pass out from tampons (since the very first time I wore one, and yes I have tried again at least twice a year since that first, fateful day when I was 13). So about two years ago, I made the decision to switch to cloth pads. Cloth pads are not bad. They were ok but I still got a rash. I think it was from the detergent, even though I tried every kind. Apparently I have extremely sensitive nether regions. The doctor gave me a cream, but it always took at least seven days to work, and I was really depressed every time my period arrived, knowing it would take two weeks to complete this tedious routine I somehow found myself in. As you can imagine, my friend’s message was an answer to prayer.

A Diva Cup for Christmas

When my father-in-law came to visit in December, he brought me my first Diva Cup. It might seem weird that I asked my FIL to bring me something so, well, private, but I was desperate! I honestly didn’t care if he thought it was weird or not. The timing worked out that he headed back to the States just before my period started.

Diva Cup Dilemmas

Every crazy thing you read about Diva Cups happened to me, minus it getting “lost.” I pinched my cervix trying to put it in too many times to count. About once a period I accidentally pressed on my bladder and felt like I had to pee for an hour. There were innumerable leaks. The first month was the worst, but I noticed that each month, things seemed to be getting better, and the leaks were almost nonexistent. Just for the record, I use the “C” method, where you fold the cup in half so it resembles the shape of the letter this method is named for.

Then it came time to plan for our family vacation. I knew my period would occupy one of the two weeks we were away. I had used the cup for four periods, but was that enough practice? What about washing it in between emptying it out? What would it look like to use it in various bathroom in different countries?

Going For It

I decided not to pack any cloth pads because then I would have to carry them around with me dirty as we backpacked. Gross. I thought, “Hey, if I fail halfway through, I can buy disposables and use my trusty seven-day cream.” I packed several small packs of pads, figuring I could just wipe the cup out when I was in a strange bathroom where the sink wasn’t close, and then wash it thoroughly with warm water and soap when we got back to our Airbnb.

Success!

I didn’t even need wipes. Toilet paper worked great for wiping out the cup, and wiping off the outside, after I emptied it into the toilet. The only problem was that I was often accompanying my girls to the restroom, so a few times I had to take them in, walk them back to my husband when they were finished, and go back into the bathroom alone. Trust me when I say, you do NOT want your kids to see you emptying your menstrual cup. They will think you are dying or something. However, in all of the countries we visited, you could flush toilet paper, so it wasn’t a big deal. If I had tried to that in Greece, the trash bin in the stall would have looked like a murder scene. Just saying. When my period was over, I put the cup into it’s handy draw string bag, and threw it into our toiletry bag, ready to be cleaned with hot water and hydrogen peroxide when I got home. Ta-da!

Ok, I won’t go into any more detail, but if you have questions, please feel free to ask.

Happy travels,

Kristin

Backpacking With Kids: 5 Backpacks – 5 People

Hey everyone! The last two weeks have been a little crazy, but I think it proved that our family has moved into the next stage of traveling; backpacking. We went to London, Paris, Budapest, and a tiny village in Hungary called Vajta. Why Vajta? Some of the most amazing people in the world live there… but that’s for another post.

On our way from Paris back to London for our flight to Hungary. As you can see, one of the girls wasn't very happy...
On our way from Paris back to London for our flight to Hungary. As you can see, one of the girls wasn’t very happy…

Five Backpacks for Five People

That’s right, our family has been introduced to the world of backpacking with kids. We took two medium sized backpacking backpacks, one large school backpack, and two small school backpacks for our entire family of five. This was our first time traveling without any suitcases, and it was so much easier. The only catch was that we had to do laundry, but we had planned for that ahead of time. We knew there would be a washer at our Airbnb in London, and Travis found a laundromat in Paris where he went to do laundry while I read and the kids played on their Kindles. In Hungary, we stayed with friends and they let us do the remainder of our laundry. We also used vacuum bags to make everything in our packs more compact.

My New Purse Rocks

I got to test out my pickpocket proof purse (anti theft purse), which is a tutorial I’ll be doing in the coming months. It worked out just like I wanted it to.

A “Sprouts En Route” Book

We have realized that, as a couple, we are now on the tail end of traveling with small kids (since our youngest will be four this summer), and we want to compile everything we’ve learned into a book… I have no idea when I will be planning and writing that since I have a full writing schedule for the next few months, but it’s a goal.

Now that we are home we are all struggling with some kind of intestinal virus we probably caught on the plane (yay!), but once that is over, I should be posting on a regular basis again. I hope you are in the mood for many exciting posts about our trip, and traveling with kids in general. The timing seems perfect, as everyone is starting to plan for their summer vacations.

Happy travels,

Kristin

When To Go Home Early

If you are on vacation, various things can happen that make it impossible for your family to enjoy your time together. This year, we decided to go to Kalamata (yes like the olive) to visit a dear friend the day after Christmas. We were set to stay for two nights, but we quickly realized that we may have to cut our trip short.

Christmas night my son threw up all over his bed. He also had a high fever. He’s the little guy so he tends to catch everything. His immune system isn’t as built up as the girls. They have gone to school for years, so they have plenty of opportunities to get sick. It didn’t surprise me when only he got sick. It happens that way quite often. The next day he seemed better with no symptoms at all, so we decided not to cancel our trip.

On The Road

Everything was peaceful. My oldest didn’t even get car sick, which is a miracle. We arrived, checked in at our hotel, and went to meet our friend. They were having a bunch of free activities by the dock, so we went on a nice boat ride. We started to feel hungry so we went to a place we had gone to a previous time. It was fun. We ate burgers, talked to the owner who was also from the US (married to a Greek guy), and went back to the hotel for a nap. We had gotten up early to make the three hour drive.

Before she got sick, enjoying the balcony with her brother.
Before she got sick, enjoying the balcony with her brother.

The Beginning

During the nap, my oldest threw up. She made it to the toilet though, praise the Lord! So we rearranged our plans. My husband, his dad, and the two youngest would go hang out in the city center while my oldest and I watched “You’ve Got Mail,” on the hotel TV. There are mildly inappropriate parts for an 8 year old, just an fyi. She liked the movie. Then after the movie my husband appeared with the kids.

“She threw up on the way home from the park.” He pointed to my other daughter.

She probably got sick at least 8 times during the night, but each time she made it to the bathroom.

Fast Forward

Sometime during the middle of the night, my husband and I joined in on the fun. At least we didn’t need the one bathroom at the same time. I will confess something to you. In the morning, my oldest daughter found me asleep on the bathroom floor and helped me get to the bed. That has never happened to me before! I mean, never. No virus has conquered me so thoroughly as that one did. The next day went ok. We all had fevers, but at least the vomiting ceased. None of us were hungry, besides the three year old, who was starving. I had packed some food, so we let him eat all of it.

Our friend that we went to visit brought a bag of things to help from the pharmacy, which I really appreciated. Especially the club soda.

Dead Dreams

When we first checked into our hotel, I was so excited. The kids could sleep while my husband and I could hang out on the balcony which overlooked the ocean and mountainside. It was an amazing view. But after spending the night on the bathroom floor, I realized that everyone was miserable. When you are miserable, it’s better to be home. At home you can make peppermint tea and watch your favorite movie. It is not fun when you are sick and you don’t have any of the things that normally make your sickness more bearable. A hotel is NOT a fun place to be sick. This is especially true when your bored three-year-old is feeling fine and driving all of the sick family members crazy because he has no toys to play with or movies to watch.

Part of the view from our balcony. There was a mountain on the other side.
Part of the view from our balcony. There was a mountain on the other side.

I Just Want To Be Home

After thinking about our options for several hours, I finally told my husband I wanted to go home. I was willing to suffer and stay if everyone else was feeling better, but that wasn’t the case. We decided to go home early. He already had plans with his dad to see a movie with the girls, so they went. Our youngest girl fell asleep in the theater, poor thing. We left directly after at 11pm and drove for three hours. We had to carry each of the three kids into the flat and put them in bed, but I think it was the right decision. In the morning everyone was happy to be home.

How To Decide

Every situation will be different for each family. Maybe your family deals better with insane and evil viruses than mine does. You know you could have stayed and it would have been fine. Maybe you would have canceled the trip just in case. Then you wouldn’t have missed peppermint tea and toast like we did. Whatever you decide, make sure you communicate to your children why you did what you did. Kids want to know things like that. It helps them with disappointment if there is a “why.”

Hopefully our next trip will be virus free.

Happy travels,

Kristin

Warning for Pregnant Moms Traveling to South America

Since posting this article, the CDC has issued an official warning for all pregnant women traveling to areas where the Zika virus has been infecting people. You can read more about the current situation here and find specific information on updated travel destinations here. The only way to avoid catching the Zika virus is avoid mosquito bites! Updated March 1st, 2016

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Since this is a travel blog for mothers, I think it is really important to share with you a potential risk associated with traveling to certain regions of South America. Are you a pregnant mom traveling to South America? Do you know a pregnant mom that will be traveling to South America? Here is what you need to know.

warning for traveling pregnant women

According to this article on NBC News:

U.S. health officials are considering a travel warning about Zika virus, the once obscure virus rapidly spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean that experts fear may cause birth defects.

It’s not clear what the officials will tell people just yet, because so little is known about the virus, which is spread by mosquitoes. But evidence is growing that it may cause a catastrophic birth defect called microcephaly.

“We are in the process of developing a travel warning not only for pregnant women, but for everybody,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, who heads the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s division on diseases carried by mosquitoes and other insects and animals.

Not An Official Warning

At this point, you will have to decide what to do about your future travel plans if you are pregnant and planning to head to any of the countries where the Zika virus has been found. At this point there isn’t an official warning that officially discourages you from traveling to specific regions while pregnant. So far, the most cases of infant linked Microcephaly have been found in Brazil. But according to this article by the New York Times, there are quite a few countries on the list of countries that potentially contain Zika infested areas:

Although the travel advice would most obviously apply to Brazil, which is struggling with an alarming surge in newborns with microcephaly, it could soon apply to much of tropical Latin America and the Caribbean.

Local transmission of Zika virus has been found in 14 Western Hemisphere countries and territories: Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Paraguay, Suriname and Venezuela.

I’m not saying that you should panic and cancel your plans, but I believe this story is worth further investigation and monitoring.

Safe travels,

Kristin