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With the dollar’s value rising, now is a great time to travel abroad with children in tow.


Although there are many logistics to consider, traveling with young ambassadors doesn’t have to be intimidating. International travel expands a child’s horizons, widens their world and yours, and promotes global citizenship through exploration of other cultures. When traveling abroad with children, you live more like temporary expats than as tourists because you’re compelled to slow your pace and accomplish less. However, the memories aren’t any less meaningful than an adult traveler ticking off every tourist box.

Here are my tips for planning a successful—and mostly stress-free—adventure around the world.

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  1. Get your passports ready to fly

Obtain new passports or renew expiring passports well in advance to avoid expedited fees or hassle of visiting your nearest passport agency. Keep in mind that minors under age 16 need a new passport every five years, and some countries require a passport to be valid for at least six months beyond the dates of your trip. Most airlines won’t even let you board the plane unless this requirement is met. Some countries also require visas or necessitate extra immunizations. Certain post offices can accept passport applications with the convenience of having your passport photo taken onsite for an additional fee. (Quick tip: preview the digital photo before you commit. In a rush, I sent my darling husband with ma petite fille to the photo booth while I corrected the pesky forms. She’ll thank me later for the re-takes. It was worth the extra $15.) Also, make sure to book airline tickets with the exact names—no nicknames—on each passport. A friend recently swallowed a hefty re-booking fee when her son’s plane ticket was mistakenly reserved with his nickname.

I snap photos of our passports and keep stored on my iPhone then email copies to the grandparents and myself just in case. It is easier to replace a passport abroad if you have a copy in your possession. I like to have a photo of my passport that is easily accessible during shopping excursions when I need to present my passport for VAT refund forms because I love an opportunity to save a few euros or pounds. I prefer not to carry our passports once at our destination. I either lock in the hotel safe or zip inside the liner of my suitcase if we are renting an apartment.

2. Get your baby gear in gear

When traveling with a baby or toddler, I encourage investing in a high quality stroller that can handle uneven sidewalks and cobblestone streets. The lightweight Bugaboo Bee (pictured above) gets my vote with its agile handling and full recline—key for napping and diaper changing. Be prepared for creative diaper changing abroad, as changing stations can be few and far between.

A lightweight Maclaren stroller, which collapses for easy carrying up and down stairs, works well for older toddlers and preschoolers who still need the opportunity to ride rather than walk. A rain cover and stroller bunting can be helpful accessories, depending on where you go.

Now that our daughter is older, we travel with a Micro Kick Scooter that brilliantly comes apart and fits in a suitcase. I suggest the Scoot ‘N Pull Strap accessory that serves as a hands-free carrying option or as a tether to pull a tired child who needs a rest. Overtired children and even parents make for grumpy travelers.

Soft carriers, such as an Ergo, are also key for parents of infants since many museums and historic sites deem strollers verboten.

Travel high chairs like the foldable Totseat can be helpful in places that lack high chairs. While hotels will have access to cribs, some apartment rentals might not have cribs or pack and plays readily available.

Phil and Teds makes the lightweight Traveller Portacotthat fits inside a suitcase and accommodates babies and even older toddlers.

Nowadays, it is also super easy to rent anything from cribs to strollers in most tourist destinations. A cross-body bag that zips shut is my preferred purse or diaper bag when traveling, as it keeps my hands free and my belongings safer from pickpockets.

3. Consider Air and Ground Travel

If you will not need a carseat at your destination, there are plenty of options for transporting little ones safely to and from the airport without having to schlep a bulky carseat. Ask a friend to drop you off or book a car service like Uber Family. Now that my daughter rides in a booster seat, I carry an inflatable Bubble Bum in my bag for taxis and Uber. It is wise to pre-arrange transportation from the airport to your hotel or apartment because who wants to be dealing with that headache after a red-eye. And do not even think about tackling public transportation from the airport to your accommodations with a stroller and luggage since elevators are not always available. I learned that lesson the hard way when I thought surely we could manage a toddler in a cast, a stroller, and a couple of heavy suitcases on the RER in Paris. Traveling with young children is much different from backpacking post-college. But that is another story for another time.

Long flights mean packing lots of snacks and distractions in your motherly bag of tricks. New and novel small toys along withWikki Stix,Usborne Sticker Dolly Books, coloring supplies, movies, and iPad apps have all contributed to mostly peaceful flights across the pond. For flights to Europe, we usually book a red-eye and attempt to sleep most of the way. Bringing your child’s lovey or blanket can certainly help. So can Benadryl. I cannot confirm or deny. Oh, and a glass of wine for the parents. When my daughter was younger, I even changed her into pajamas and sleep sack because that mirrored her routine at home. A cozy pashmina serves as a more sanitary blanket than the scratchy airplane ones. I also pack a full change of clothes for everyone in our carry on in case someone gets sick on the plane or our luggage gets lost. Better safe than sorry, right?

4. Finding Accommodations and Dealing with Jet Lag

When traveling abroad—especially in cities—with children, a rented apartment often makes more sense than a hotel or even a hotel suite with its cost savings, extra space, and kitchen access. It also affords the opportunity to live like temporary expats, rather than just tourists, albeit for just a few days. Looking for the right apartment abroad can be a daunting task though, as the options seem limitless until you start scrutinizing photos and reading the fine print. A friend fell victim to a bait and switch last year when she booked an apartment that seemed too good to be true and found her brood sleeping under a leaky ceiling and sitting on broken furniture.

Most agencies won’t give you the exact street address (for security reasons) until the deposit has been paid. I like to book apartments with easy access to public transportation, tourist sights, and museums along with markets, playgrounds, and restaurants nearby. I prefer word of mouth recommendations and agencies that accept credit cards for added consumer protection. We lucked out in finding Farnum & Christand Paris Deluxe Rentals for our London and Paris travels years ago and continue to book through them and recommend to friends and colleagues.

To combat jet lag, I attempt to reset everyone’s internal clock the moment we cross the jet-bridge. When flying to Europe, I find overnight flights helpful with decreasing jet lag’s effects if everyone can fall and stay asleep. That is easier said than done. We usually spend our first day orienting ourselves and shopping for supplies before visiting a playground and eating an early dinner. Over the years, I have learned that forcing my family to eat and sleep on our destination’s time zone helps alleviate jet lag. However, jet lag can also work to a parent’s advantage, as many museums have evening hours one or two days a week. Popular museums are often less crowded during extended hours, too.

5. What to Pack:

I keep generic lists for each type of trip we take then customize it based on our destination. I usually bring the list with me then make notes for future trips.

If traveling with an infant, be sure to pack feeding supplies and enough diapers for a couple of days unless you’re traveling somewhere like Belize, where diapers are ridiculously expensive. In that case, I would pack enough for the entire trip. When my daughter was newly potty-trained, I brought a foldable potty seat that fit in a Ziploc bag to make potty stops less stressful. I always pack universally useful Ziploc bags in a variety of sizes along with a reusable snack bag. Even though my daughter said goodbye to diapers years ago, I still bring wipes with me everywhere. They clean anything from hands to stains. Medications and a thermometer always make the list in addition to a couple of cheap umbrellas, stain stick, small flashlight that doubles as a nightlight, travel clock to remind darling daughter to stay in bed, and easily packable toys like playing cards. Paperback children’s books about the sights and art we’ll see make the cut, too. If you have a picky eater, you might consider packing a few staple snacks or even peanut butter, provided there is no allergy. Microwaveable macaroni and cheese and a jar of peanut butter, which is hard to find in Europe, have saved us from a few foodie meltdowns.

While I do pack a couple of guidebooks, I also download books or apps onto my iPhone and iPad to lighten my load since every kilo counts. An offline translator helps when you have exhausted the few key phrases learned. Be sure to pack several adapters but leave the converters at home. Most computers, cameras, and smart phones don’t need them, and anything that needs a converter will not work properly. I bought a dual voltage curling iron at Target that can be used with a simple adapter. Since many apartments provide towels but not washcloths, I toss a couple in my suitcase just in case. Now that most airlines strictly enforce weight limits, I bring a portable luggage scale to check weight and afoldable duffle—such as a Longchamp bag — to transport purchases home. A trip to Europe usually means new shoes and a handbag pour moi. Speaking of shopping, I have a no-foreign-transaction fee credit card and use it for everything abroad. Credit card companies often add 3-4% in fees, which can add up quickly. Be sure to let your credit card company know to expect foreign purchases. I never order foreign currency ahead of time and just withdraw money from an airport ATM once we land. The exchange rates are usually better at a foreign ATM than at your bank back home. While I add an international plan to my iPhone, my tech-savvy husband purchases a new SIM card and saves us a few extra euros, which means more money for my shopping budget.

6. Get Busy With Kid-Friendly Planning

Once the plane tickets are booked, the planning and research commences. I read voraciously to learn as much beforehand about what we are going to see and do. I make notes on my calendar what days certain museums close or stay open late then have a menu of ideas for things to do and see each day. Flexibility is key. Children’s books help prepare young travelers for everything from flying on an airplane to seeing Monet’s water lilies for the first time. I ask ma petite fille what she wants to see and do and include her in the planning process.

A typical schedule as temporary expats usually includes breakfast at our apartment then a plan to see a couple of historic sites, museums, or tourist attractions with time at a playground planned each day. Traveling with children means slowing down and embracing your young audience. Perhaps your best memories might entail your child assimilating through the universal language of play or finding the local café or pub where families linger on a Sunday afternoon. We usually eat one big meal out per day either at lunch or dinner then picnic or eat at our apartment the rest of the day. Some of our favorite meals are simple ones comprised of market finds. With a little research or recommendations from locals, it is easy to find kid-friendly places to eat that are not chains or fast food.

If you want a night out sans kiddos, book a babysitter before you travel. Some hotels offer babysitting services, but you are on your own with most apartment rentals. I have found babysitters abroad through my local mother’s listserv, reputable agencies such asBabysitters of Kensington and Chelsea, and even through the study abroad office at my alma maters. I have also found sitters independently through sites like Yoopies in Paris. However, that route takes a lot of online interviewing, vetting, and triple checking of references. Hiring a trusted babysitter can be a win-win for everyone. My daughter loves the attention from a babysitter and some downtime at the apartment, and we enjoy a leisurely night out at an adult-centric restaurant with perhaps a walk or respite at a café afterward.

Au revoir, baby!

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

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Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
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Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

News

Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

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  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

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My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

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But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
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