New Year – New Plans

Happy New Years to all you travel minded families out there! I’m excited to get back into blogging. If I’m being completely honest, I will admit that by November I was pretty burnt out on blogging. My life got crazy busy and I just needed a break. One of those crazy things that happened was that I turned 30 in December!! So far I like being 30. I am glad to report my blogging slump is over and I am extremely excited about what this year has to bring in general and here on Sprouts En Route.

This is what 30 looks like! I admit, I did photoshop one zit out... but other than that, you see what you get.
This is what 30 looks like! I admit, I did photoshop one large zit out of the photo… but other than that, what you see is what you get.

 

First of all, I am going to finish all the series I started last year but didn’t have a chance to complete. This means there will be more posts on Traveling and Child Safety along with the completion of my Better Family Photography series.

I am also thrilled to announce that our family will be completing a Coast to Coast road trip this summer in the United States, and you will be coming along with us! We are going to be blogging and video blogging our way through many different states, and there will also be some unique sponsorship opportunities for businesses to advertise in different ways. I will give out more information on this as the planning gets more detailed. I am also going to try to set up one or two meet ups along the way for you readers if there is any interest.

Another goal I have is to publish a Family Vacation Travel Guide where you can write down all your plans in one place. So be on the look out for that later on in the year!

With a new year beginning I thought I would do a short 2013 review… here we go!

5 Most Popular SER Posts in 2013:

#5 – Phil & Teds Verve: The Ultimate Double Stroller

#4 – Hitchin’ A Ride: Travel With A Car Seat On Your Carry On Bag

#3 – SER Baby Travel Pillow – Tutorial DIY

#2 – DIY Passport Photos Tutorials: Adults, Children, and Toddlers

and for the second year in a row…

#1 – Infant Passport Photo Tutorial (with almost 12,000 views!)

There were 104 new posts and visitors from 155 different countries.

So let me throw out one giant THANK YOU to all of the readers that took the time to check out my humble little place on the web, and especially the people that shopped Amazon through the site. Also a big thanks to every single person that left a comment. Comments are my happy place! I am looking forward to the places 2014 takes us!

Happy Travels,

Kristin

Product Review: Passport Holders by 11:11

Today I received a happy yellow envelope in the mail. The actual mail, here in Greece. And there was something very special inside. Two new passport holders handmade using recycled material from my own personal hometown, Los Angeles, California.

passport holder

A week ago I got an email asking if I would review a product made by a company called 11:11. After checking out their website, I was really excited and asked if Ashley would sent one for me and one for my hubby. It was really hard to pick just two passport holders because there are a bunch of really wonderful designs to choose from.

I am also impressed that these items are handmade out of recycled material. Trust me, when you see them, you will find this hard believe because they are so aesthetically impressive!

I honestly am in love with this passport holder. I am seriously considering order three more because we have three uncovered passports now, and they just look pathetic compared to the covered ones. I really appreciate the benefits of this holder because I use my passport often. Since I use an International Drivers License, I need my passport whenever I drive, and so does my husband. His passport is thrashed, but now it looks brand new and will be protected during future use.

The other extreme benefit is I know which passport is which without having to open it. This alone is worth purchasing this product if you have more than one person in your family! Opening passports and shifting through them as you board your plane is such a pain when you have five uncovered passports! I am speaking from personal experience.

I have to say, I really love this product, and I hope that is evident by the number of exclamation points in this post (which I try to reserve for only my most exciting statements).

Would I purchase this product myself? Absolutely yes! It is a great price, durable, eco-friendly, helps me stay organized, and most importantly protects my passport (i.e. travel documents).

Thank you 11:11 for making such a wonderful and needful product, and for shipping two of them all the way to Greece for us to test out and enjoy.

Happy travels!!

Kristin

A Word I Love: Free!!

On Sunday we planned to go to the Acropolis. Even though it was seriously raining when we left the house and hardly anyone else was out, we went for it. Why? Why would we drag our three children out in such awful weather? Well the first reason was because it was Sunday, and we wanted to go to church. The second reason was that Sunday going in to see the Acropolis was free!!

I love the word, “Free!”

It makes me want to sing, but I won’t, because I’m trying to tell you how to find free stuff!

It’s not that I don’t want to spend money, but that I choose how to spend money very carefully. And that means that if we can save 24 euros (the admission price for two adults, the kids are free anytime) when we go up to take our bi-annual Acropolis family picture, we are going in good or bad weather.

I know God loves us because it stopped raining right as church let out. Nice and dry for picture time!
I know God loves us because it stopped raining right as church let out. Nice and dry for picture time!

But how did Travis figure out that Sunday was a “get in free” day in the first place? Well, my husband is a research-a-holic. Hmm, that sounds like he has an addiction, but it’s a good thing, I promise.

When we first moved to Athens he found a website that lists all of the free days for historic sites and he periodically looks at it in case we want to go make a day of it.

If you want free stuff, you have to be willing to put in the time to research. I’m not saying you should plan your trip around the times you know things will be free (unless it is a really big freebie, like thousands of dollars worth of free)… but there is definitely no harm in researching online to see if there are any fun free (or discounted) activities at your destination during your time of travel.

Dark ominous clouds hovering over Athens. We got some great shots, and didn't pay a thing to get in!
Dark ominous clouds hovering over Athens. We got some great shots. It was totally worth the hike.

For example, last year when we went to visit my grandmother in Colorado we drove through New Mexico only to realize while we were there that if we had planned it a few weeks different, we could have gotten to see the amazing Hot Air Balloon event they have in New Mexico every year. Yeah, we definitely could have planned that one better. We didn’t even bother to research New Mexico, or we would have figured that out immediately.

So before you head off on your next family trip, why not take a few hours with the google machine typing in things like, “Free events in New Mexico,” just an example. In fact, I may try to convince my hubby to write a guest post all about how he finds cool, fun, and free things for us to do on the web. Well honey? *bats eye lashes* Will you? To be continued…

Happy travels!!

Kristin

Staying Home For The Holidays

If you are a dedicated reader of this blog, you know that on Wednesday we got home from a ten day trip to Hungary, ending with a one night stay in Vienna, Austria. It was a really nice trip, and I even got to see my best friend (besides my husband of course) and her family. It works out that our daughters are best friends as well, don’t you just love when that happens? All that to say, it was a great trip but I am over traveling right now.

Ksena decorating Christmas cookies with her best friend, Nina in Vajta, Hungary.
Ksena decorating Christmas cookies with her best friend, Nina, in Vajta, Hungary.

How can that be, you ask? I know that as a travel blogger it is my job to travel. Since I am also always encouraging you to love travel, I also must love traveling. However, there are times when I get sick of it, just like anything else. Read more

Phil & Teds Verve: The Ultimate Double Stroller

About 9 months ago we decided to upgrade to the Phil & Teds Verve stroller with Doubles Kit. We already had the Dash, a stroller that I loved, but there were a few features on it that drove me crazy. First of all, it didn’t fold with the doubles kit on it, and it was so difficult to fold and unfold that my hubby always had to do it for me. This was a huge problem for us because we live on the first floor, and in Europe that means we have to go up stairs to get to our flat. It was also a pain to adjust the straps, and with two kids constantly wanting to switch between the front and the back seat, I wanted it to be easier. The main feature that we wanted was the two front wheels as opposed to our one front wheel because the stroller would tip when getting it off of the bus, which was dangerous for the kids and for me.

The girls in our old stroller, Phil & Teds Dash

When the Verve stroller came out, I could see that they had addressed all of my problems with the Dash, and along with those addressed issues came a hefty price tag, so we decided to see if we could sell the Dash. We ended up selling it for 80 dollars less than we paid for it in the first place to a couple that had a newborn and a 2 year old. I am telling you, these things hold their value! But enough about that, let’s dive right into the Verve review!!

Kati and Timo in the Verve with the Doubles Kit on the back.

Phil & Teds Verve 2011 with Doubles Kit

Travelability: 5/5 This stroller is super easy to open and fits into the back of our tiny Skoda Fabia… which means it can probably fit into any trunk. It goes up and down curbs easily and goes on and off the bus and metro without tipping thanks to the two front wheels. The shocks make the ride nice and smooth for the kids.

Maneuverability: 5/5 This thing could turn on a dime, again the shocks and the two front wheels make a huge difference, but in a positive way.

Sturdiness: 4/5 Everything is great except for a few fabric issues. The under basket came unraveled within the first month of use, which should not happen when you spend almost $900 on a stroller (I’m talking to you Phil & Teds!). The problem is that the Doubles Kit presses on a certain spot when it is folded. I plan on using a patch kit and sewing it up myself (just like I did on the Dash when I had fabric problems on that).

Kid Pleasing: 5/5 This super comfortable stroller makes all of our kids happy. I would say though that I don’t know how comfortable a 6 year old would be in the large seat because their legs would dangle. Phil & Teds says that a 6 year old can ride in the front, but my 5 year old will no longer fit if she has another growth spurt any time soon. My newborn son LOVES this stroller. He is so comfy all he can do in it is sleep. Plus I can adjust the straps while my kids are in their seats, and it only takes a minute! I was so excited about this feature. The back seat on the Doubles Kit also came with a sun shade and has three different positions of recline, which my kids love.

Timo chilling in the back seat.

Folding: 5/5 This stroller folds stupendously, even with the doubles kit on the back.

Price: 3/5 At a retail price of $820 (including doubles kit) this is the worst thing about this stroller. However, if you are going to expect a stroller to do all of the things that this stroller does, you have to be willing to shell out the big bucks. I found mine on ebay.com for $740.

Weight: 5/5 28 lbs (13 kg) is a respectable weight for a double stroller. I can lift it my 5’5 foot self. The aluminum tubing on this model looks amazing and weighs less than the older models.

Overall Rating: 4.57/5

Would I recommend this stroller? If you have heavy duty stroller needs (including getting on and off the bus, metro, curb… you get the idea) then yes. If not, then I can’t justify spending so much on a stroller. But for our family, this stroller was worth every penny and met all of our stroller needs.

Here is what it looks like with the Doubles Kit in front, which is ideal for a toddler and a newborn.
Timo in the back, sleeping comfortably.

I wanted to show you pictures of kids actually using this stroller, so here are pictures of my own kids in it. My 5 year old and 3 year old can also fit in it as long as my 3 year old is riding in back. I hope you found this review helpful, and as always, feel free to leave a comment with any of your thoughts or questions. If you purchase one through this link you are helping me out (as an affiliate) and you won’t pay anything extra. Thanks!

Happy travels!

Kristin