Your Summer Guide to Santa Monica with Little Kids

Santa Monica is one of America’s most famous beach towns and as you can imagine, summer brings an influx of traveling families from far and wide.

As a local and a mom, I spend (almost) every single day here in the summer, figuring out a fun, nearby activity for my daughter. Bonus points if we can find an outdoor activity with water to cool her off a bit!

After lots of trial and error, we’ve found our top summer spots for daytime play with toddlers in Santa Monica.

*All these activities are generally for walkers, but we still did many of them when Aurora was crawling only and still had a great time!

 

Pools

The Annenberg Beach House is only open in the summer but they make the most of it with a ton of family friendly activities, many of which are free! Access to the pool itself is $10 and comes with showers and changing room facilities and access to a snack bar and game room. 

Annenberg Beach House Pool

The pool is a clean, refreshing place to cool off. There are abundant lounge chairs with umbrellas but they are often occupied. This place is popular especially during hot summer days, so planning to go during off times (before noon or after 4pm) if you want to avoid a crowded pool or full lounge chairs. Busy or not, it is still one of the best pool experiences in Santa Monica!

Another great thing to note: the Annenberg Beach House has programming throughout the summer with many free kid friendly events! The Santa Monica Public Library does an especially cute “library day at the beach” (see above) which comes with books, crafts and live storytime. Check the Annenberg events schedule here

 

Splash Pads

Annenberg Splash Pad

Annenberg Beach House Splash Pad

There are two splash pads worth checking out: the Annenberg Splash Pad and Tongva Park. The former is located down on the beach, with tables, chairs and umbrellas as well as a little lawn area which makes it easy for parents to sit and watch their littles running (and screaming) through the water. The water is very warm and the area is usually not too crowded, but I’ve never seen it empty either. Later in the day, there’s often some shade which is very nice for delicate little skin. Bring a bucket or ball for even more fun and don’t forget a towel. 

Tongva Park Splash Pad

Tongva Park Splash Pad

Tongva Park’s Splash Pad is located inside their playground area. Surrounded by rocks, this splash pad is very aesthetically pleasing but note that you (aka the parent) have to push a button to turn the water on and it turns off when you stop pushing. This makes it more environmentally friendly but a little more work. The water here is pretty chilly so make sure it is a warm day! There is usually no shade here. 

 

Santa Monica Pier

Pacific Park

The Pier is the icon of Santa Monica, and I think the Pacific Park rides are the ultimate summer experience for kids of all ages. I was curious if my 14 month old would have as much fun here as older kids, but I needn’t have worried–she had a blast! 

Inkie’s Air Lift

There are 3 rides in the Pacific Park area for little ones with an adult. We weren’t comfortable letting her go alone yet, so we stuck to those three that we could join: Inkie’s Wave Jumper, Inkie’s Air Lift and Sea Planes. Each ride is $5 for both adults and for kids — which can add up quickly — so we picked the two that looked the best to us: Sea Planes and Inkie’s Air Lift. 

Sea Planes ride at Pacific Pier

The Sea Planes ride was the most relaxed, with cute 4 seater planes slowing lifting up and down as they twirl. Inkie’s Air Lift is the same but are you in hot air balloons, facing your little one and can control the spin as you want. We skipped the Wave Jumper though it looked pretty cute, just because the bounces were a little more aggressive than we wanted for our little one but I’m sure it’s great for older kids. You can see a listing of all the rides here

 

Santa Monica Pier Carousel

This historical landmark is 105 years old–built in 1922! The beautifully restored horses really take you back in time and it was a joy to take our daughter on her first carousel experience here. It is only $1 for adults and children under 3 are free, so cost is not an issue. To me, Aurora’s smiles, waving and astonishment at the moving horse was really a worthwhile experience. 

 

Playgrounds

North Beach Playground

Playdate with Ezra at North Beach Playground

This new playground is clean, modern and covered with the soft, spongy flooring that makes it feel very safe for little ones. There are no sand or water features here, but that is okay as you do have a beach access path just across from it. I like the far side for little kids, which has a slide, a teeter-totter, infant swings and some fun swirly rides. This park can get busy, especially on the bigger kid side but overall it feels very safe and clean. The only downside is there is very limited shade. 

 

South Beach Playground

South Beach Playground with friends

How can you not love a playground that is shaped like a ship! This very large playground is set along the beach path, across from the sand and adjacent to some parks. The whole space huge with swings, sand, grass, trees and a variety of play areas. There are some tables on either end and there’s even a little shade. The only downside is you have to follow your child closely because there’s a lot of obstructions so you can lose them pretty easily. Also, I don’t love that majority of the structures are made out of concrete but still, it’s pretty great regardless. 

 

Cayton Children’s Museum

Sienna and Aurora in the ball pit

If you need a break from the sunshine, the brand new Cayton Children’s Museum is a super interesting interactive space for all ages and interestes. From a little market and diner area, to a “vet office” to a ball pit and giant water table—there’s so much to do here. There’s even a real helicopter and firetruck inside for kids to explore. 

Girls at the “diner”

I love the mix of areas that promote imagination and pretend, as well as the tactile areas like the sand and water tables. There’s a playspace that changes as well– sometimes there’s large foam shapes for building, another there’s costumes for dress up and I’ve even seen a sing-a-long music group.

For those under 2 years old, there’s a padded, protected space that is a nice, calm retreat for younger kids.

Under 2 Play Area

The only downside to the museum is it can get very busy, so just be sure to keep close to your little one as some older kids and summer camps are usually running around full speed. 

Firewoman!

 

These are just some of our summer favorites in the area. Hope they help your little one have even more fun in this family friendly beach town!

Luxury Getaway for Families in Los Cabos, Mexico [VIDEO]

I can’t say enough about this resort. The Montage Los Cabos is the ultimate luxurious getaway for families.

A sandy beach, plethora of pools and mouthwatering dining– the new Montage Los Cabos is luxury family travel at its FINEST. On my first trip to Cabo, we brought our 11 month old toddler to this resort, located right on the tourist corridor, in hopes of some rest and relaxation for us parents. I had no idea what to expect from Los Cabos, and what we found was beyond all expectations. Turns out, this property knows how to make families feel so welcome.

Some highlights & recommendations:
-All kids are greeted with a wagon full of stuffed animals for their choosing
-The beach is NOT rocky–very swimmable with gentle waves for little ones
-There is an awesome kids pool and sand area
-The Paintbox Kids center is super fun and has a daily schedule of activities
-We opted for the 1 bedroom King Suite, which had a sliding door that separated the living area from the bedroom, allowing us to have the lights on during our daughter’s naps and early bedtime
-The Montage has recommended babysitters for a much deserved night out
-The Spa Montage is another MUST for the grown ups–get a treatment or just lounge in the serenity pool!

Flying with a Toddler: 15 Tips for Airplane Travel with Baby

Flying is not always easy as an adult. There are constant delays, airport traffic, annoying seatmates, shrinking legroom and an overall lack of gates available (am I right?!). 

All that aside, flying as an adult WITHOUT a baby is pretty much… a luxury. Few things are more stressful than an unhappy, non-sleeping baby when you are on a plane. I look back at my “bad” flights pre-baby, they were nothing compared to what we deal with now. 

I’ve taken Aurora on 15 flights at this point, from 2 months to 13 months. Each flight throughout the year has had its own challenges and good surprises. However, now flying with a toddler definitely has been the most…active….

 

Here are my 15 best recommendations to make you and your little one a little bit happier while flying. ***Each tip and product has been vetted by me or a close parent friend, so these won’t lead you astray. 

Also remember: traveling with your little one is always worth it!

 

  1. Dress Toddlers comfortably

 

Don’t put on the cute dress or stiff baby jeans–put on the comfiest, loose cotton outfit that completely covers legs and arms. For Aurora, that looks like a long sleeve cotton dress from Splendid and leggings, her comfiest sneakers and thin socks. I forgo any bows because they will get lost. 

 VERY IMPORTANT: bring at least one extra change of clothes for the inevitable blowout or stained shirt. I usually rollup 2 additional comfy outfits in my carryon. I also carry jacket or sweater, extra socks and a hat.

 

  1. Only a Carryon Backpack 

Did you know that you get an EXTRA carry on bag when you are flying with a child? That means, the parent gets one personal item and one carryon + one additional bag. 

If flying solo (without spouse or friend or grandparent): Bring one roller carryon and one well thought out carryon bag. Any more than that and your hands will be too full because remember, you always need at least one hand to carry your toddler/hold their hand/  grab them out of harm’s way. In this bag, put the essentials and make them easy to grab (aka. Don’t over jam or you’ll never be able to reach in with one hand and grab what you need).

You also will benefit from putting bottle, water cups, a wrapped snack and wipes in the out pockets for easy grabbing. 

I use this backpack here and have been pretty happy with it. 

 

  1. Fanny Packs are your NEW BFF

Personally, I have always liked fanny packs, but no matter your style preferences, know that a fanny pack is a lifesaver when traveling with a toddler. You can keep your passports, tickets, your phone and one credit card on you for easy access as you go through the airport. Rather than stopping to take off your backpack or fishing around a diaper bag, this streamlines things and keeps you from losing your items (or losing your toddler). 

 

  1. Keep Your Toddler WALKING Pre-Flight

You’ll need to have your baby in the stroller (or be wearing them) until you get close to your gate since we all know that toddlers aren’t the quickest or most efficient walkers. But when you get near your gate, find a quiet area and let your toddler out. Let them walk and wander and expend a lot energy. And expect them to make lots of friends.

This can be tough if you don’t have a partner to watch your things but when I fly solo with Aurora I ask the most trustworthy looking person to watch my bags and have my valuables on me (fanny pack!) so off we go. The more energy the expend before the flight, the happier everyone will be. 

 

  1. Bring a BAG to Cover your Checked Stroller

I’ve used my Bugaboo Chameleon and my Doona carseat/stroller while traveling and both have to be checked at the gate. Twice I forgot a bag to at least cover the seat part of my Bugaboo stroller. That was a mistake. The seat came back dusty and dirty both times (who knows what was piled on top of them). Just bring a large bag to cover the seat part to at least have a barrier. Once you disembark, you won’t have time to clean it before popping your baby in. 

 

  1. Use CLEAR Water & Milk Straw Cups (or go through with empty cups!)

I wish I had realized this but if the cup is clear, the security will not need to open the bottle. They can visually examine then maybe swab the item. If the item is not translucent, they need to open the bottle and look inside, then swab the air above. I didn’t love this because you are worried that they are going to touch the inside of your cup (ew) and also it takes MORE TIME. 

Note: if you want to save time in security, go through with empty cups and buy water and milk on the other side. Now that we are off of breastmilk (which I’d NEVER dump), it’s now almost worth skipping the extra security check and getting what you need on the other side. 

 

  1. Download TV shows on your iPhone AHEAD of time

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that Netflix allows you to download kids TV shows (for free) to your device. Llama Llama, Daniel Tiger and Little Baby Bum episodes truly saved us from complete meltdowns when even the onboard televisions weren’t cutting it. At 12/13 months old, airplane movies and tv shows are often too slow or complex–meant for older children. Find a couple shows that your child likes and have them easily accessible. 

Note: We try to have no screen time in our everyday lives, save for a few minutes every other day to help us achieve a goal (stay in the highchair a little longer, cut fingernails, sit at restaurant longer etc). When you limit this at home, it becomes that much more mesmerizing when you bust it out on a plane!

 

  1. Bring Kid Sized Headphones

I did not bring these last time and it was a mistake. Aurora would have enjoyed the inflight entertainment more if she could have heard the sounds, songs and words. These headpphones have been highly rated and are one of the few that fit little ones around 1 year old.

Note: They don’t have a limit to volume like some others, so make sure it’s not too loud! 

 

  1. Pack “Never Before Seen” Toys In Your Carryon

I try to bring at least 1 or 2 brand new toys that Aurora hasn’t seen before. I time the opening when she is getting fussy and make a big deal out of it. It’s helpful to choose something that has a lot to look at so you can show her things, talk about it and kill a lot of time with the toy. You don’t want anything with lots of pieces that can fall or that is too heavy. 

This Magnetic Doodler can occupy LOTS of time

Some toys that have worked for us on planes are: 

 

  1. Bring SUPER lightweight Books

Books (especially Indestructibles)

All books are lifesavers while traveling but they can be really HEAVY. However, I’ve found these Indestructible books which are paper thin and SUPER lightweight so you can pack quite a few in your bag. They are inexpensive and can even be washed in the washing machine (and don’t tear) — perfect for flights. 

 

  1. Go “Excursions” in the Aisles

This is inevitable. You’ll have to do laps of the aisles if your little one is energetic. To make this more manageable, go slow, say hi to people and then stop and waste time in the galley (until you get a dirty look from the flight attendant). The purpose of this is to keep them standing, moving and getting tired. 

 

  1. UPGRADE if you can

I mentioned this in previous posts but the bulkhead seats in economy can be wonderful because they give you so much extra legroom–enough for your toddler to stand, sit and even lay down. 

Bulkhead seats are GREAT

If that isn’t available, it might be worth the splurge for business class or an improved economy class. You’ll want to be near the front of the plane to get off quicker and have closer access to bathrooms. Every extra inches of legroom means a happier baby.

Lots more space in business class

Note: We haven’t purchased an extra seat for Aurora yet as she is under 2, but we might consider it in the future. 

 

  1. Make a comfy sleep area

This inflatable cube footrest pillow can turn a seat into a lie flat bed for your little one. Inflate it on board and put it on the floor next to your child’s seat.

Note: this only works if you have an extra seat for your little one.

This specific one has been used & approved by a fellow traveling mama. 

 

14. Organize your space

Make sure wet wipes, at least one snack, water bottle and hand sanitizer is within reach at all times. I suggest taking these items out and putting them in the seatback pocket. This is especially key if you are in the bulkhead and have to put your diaper bag in the overhead compartment on landing and take off.

 

15. No Mess, Easy To Serve SNACKS

Now that your toddler is eating most things, this is a great distraction! Think about your kid’s favorite foods–the ones that he/she will always shove into their mouth and pack those in ziplock bags or small reusable containers.

I try to bring the LEAST messy snacks as possible so here is my go to list: 

    • Mini mozzarella cheese balls (ciligine)
    • String Cheese
    • Cooked Pasta 
      • Pick a shape that doesn’t need to be cut (wagon wheels, shells or fusilli usually work well)
      • Avoid red sauce: olive oil or cheese sauce is better
    • Cooked Sweet Potato
      • Chunks, whole or slices
    • Cooked Chicken/Steak
      • A simple cooked protein in slices usually is easy and mess free
    • Avocado
      • A little messy but Aurora eats it so quickly, I can usually avoid mess
    • Once Upon a Farm Pouches
      • These need to be refrigerated after 8 hours so give earlier in the trip if it is a long one. Also, pick a flavor that doesn’t stain like Sun Shiny Strawberry Patch  (avoid the Goldy Mango & 3 Coconuts flavor because the turmeric stains)
    • Puffed Snack
      • Hippeas
      • Bambo
      • Puffins Cereal 
    • Crackers
      • Late July Peanut Butter Crackers are great
    • Blueberries
    • Strawberries
      • Avoid blackberries or raspberries! Messy!
    • Pears
    • Pineapple Chunks
    • Mango
    • Dried fruit 
  • Creamies
    • I try to limit the processed stuff like Happy Baby Creamies but on a plane, these can work wonders!

 

I hope these tips help your next flight and take some of the fear/pain/anxiety out of flying with a toddler. It’s not easy but it’s worth it!

Feel free to share your tips too!

VIDEO: Falling in Love in Geneva, A Love Story starring my parents

This past April 2019, my parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. To commemorate the event, we traveled back to Geneva, Switzerland–the location of their honeymoon back in 1969. See the Swiss love story that unfolded.

Travel While Breastfeeding: How to Bring Milk Home

Picture this. You are a mom and you are breastfeeding, but work/family/etc requires that you to travel internationally. For most Americans, an international trip means a trip longer than 3 days.

Now here comes the problem: breastmilk can only be safely refrigerated for around 4 days (some say 3, some say 5, so I’ve settled on 4). You can’t guarantee shipping since breastmilk will get stopped at customs. So you either dump your milk or you come up with another solution.

I found that solution.

I had the opportunity to go to Switzerland for work. The trip was short, 7 days total, including the 14+ hours of flights. It was an important project professionally and personally since my parents were actually involved in our video shoot. What did I do? I went!

AND I GOT ALL MY BREASTMILK BACK SAFELY.

Here’s how:

(Read my Blog about Breastfeeding during International Travel for the full checklist)

 

Keeping Cool During Transit

When I pumped on the plane, I stored all my milk in this refrigerated backpack. I used a Cooler Shock freezer pack in this backpack, which is guaranteed to stay cold for 24 hours (AND IT DOES). This set up allowed me to get my expressed milk to the hotel during my trip there, and home during my return, perfectly chilled.

My backpack with my milk and everything I needed to pump on the go

Freeze Half, Refrigerate Half

While in Switzerland, I pumped 4x daily and put the milk in the in-room mini fridge. However, I needed to FREEZE some milk and REFRIGERATE the rest. Since I was there for 7 days, my goal was to freeze all the milk from Day 1-3 and then carry home the refrigerated milk Day 4-7.

How to Freeze Half

My first hotel, the Four Seasons des Bergues in Geneva, was gracious enough to let me borrow a freezer in my room. Now I don’t expect that this is common but it is worth asking. This is the ideal scenario. In order to move my milk from hotel to hotel, I used the Cooler Freezer Bags mentioned above, and a cooler bag.

Hotels will also usually let you store important items in their freezer. My second hotel in Vevey allowed me to store my cooler bag in their freezer. I zipped it up and told them it was very fragile, needed to be upright and shouldn’t be opened. When I needed to add milk, I waited until the end of the day and added all the new milk at once.

How to Refrigerate Half

Your in-room mini fridge is your new best friend. I removed all the items that I was able too from it (like waters etc) and left a note that I needed to use the refrigerator to store things. I was now refrigerating milk from the second half of the trip up until day of departure.

Now on departure day, I had around 50 ounces of milk that I had to take on two flights, a train and an uber before it would arrive home with me. To keep this milk perfectly refrigerated during this time, I used Milk Stork.

 

Transporting Frozen and Refrigerated Milk Home

Now that you have your full trip’s worth of milk, the hardest part is getting all of it home in usable condition. Here’s how I managed to get 100 ounces home safely, half frozen and half refrigerated.

Milk Stork is Your Best Friend

Milk Stork took care of the refrigeration part easily. Domestically, Milk Stork allows you to FedEx your milk home. However, shipping breastmilk internationally is a different story. Their service allows you a safe, guaranteed refrigerated situation where you can check your box of breast milk and know that it’ll be just a cold when you pick it up at baggage claim on the other side.

At the time of ordering my Milk Stork package on their website, I put in my hotel address and when I arrived, a box was waiting for me in my room in Switzerland! No need to worry about carrying anything on the plane with you there.

Milk Stork provided me with refrigerated box that could hold 108 ounces of milk and keep it refrigerated for 90 hours (if your trip home takes longer than that, then… you might be going to the Moon and back). They also gave me a cute duffle bag to put the box in, with branded luggage tags.

I was able to pack in the newer milk from the second half of my trip in the refrigerated Milk Stork box. On my departure day, I just had to pop the button on the box to activate the refrigeration, pack in my bagged milk, seal the box and place it in the duffle bag. I brought the bag to the check-in counter and checked it right there. Milk Stork made it so easy and boarded the flight, relieved.

When I got to my final destination, my bag of milk came out the other side, untouched. In the future, I’d suggest putting a twist tie or a luggage lock on it if you want to make doubly sure it was not opened.

Carry On your Frozen Milk

*THIS IS HEAVY.

If you are a mom, there’s a good chance that you have some serious arm muscles, but this definitely is difficult even so. Frozen milk is heavy.

The upside is that most securities around the world do not care if your liquid is frozen. I didn’t even have to show them or explain anything in Geneva or Zurich.

I used my AO Cooler bag with the Freezer Packs. I made sure to use at least 2 Freezer Packs (use more if you can fit them). The bagged milk needs to be touching the freezer pack.

I carried it onboard and put it in the overhead. My total travel time was over 20 hours and when I got home, all the milk was still mostly frozen and a few were a little slushy. From my research, if it is mostly frozen, it is still safe. Into the freezer it went and we’ve been using it all ever since.

Happy Baby waiting for me at home!

Are you planning on traveling while breastfeeding? Leave me a note if you have questions!

How to Travel Internationally While Breastfeeding

You can go abroad without your baby & still continue breastfeeding!


At 11 months, I have traveled internationally with my daughter and without. Both are rewarding and positive experiences, yet both require A LOT of planning and having the right tools.

I recently traveled to Switzerland for work for one week — WITHOUT my daughter. She was 10.5 months at the time and I didn’t want to end our breastfeeding journey just because I had to be away. My goals were to make sure that she had enough breastmilk at home (we were at around 18 oz per day) to pump while there to keep up my supply to continue when I returned and to bring all my expressed milk home safely (it is liquid gold, people!).

Trust me, it wasn’t easy. I was on a video shoot so I had to be out all day. I pumped in the bathroom mountaintop, in the bathroom of a Swiss fondue chalet, a family/nursery pumping room at Zurich airport and the worst–the  airplane bathroom twice there and twice back. Ugh!

Mobile Pumping station!

SPOILER ALERT: I got all my expressed milk from the entire week back home safely AND my daughter is still breastfeeding (oh, and I had a very successful trip)! It was definitely a lot of work but with careful planning and consistency, it worked! Here’s how I did it

1. LEAVE A HUGE SUPPLY

Yes, this may be the most challenging part. I needed exactly 140 ounces for Aurora to have enough breast milk while away. I was able to leave exactly that–to the ounce– and not a drop more. Luckily I didn’t have any travel delays because when I came home, we was ready for her feeding and we were out of frozen milk.

To do this, I made sure not to dip into any of our current frozen supply. I was very cautious to always be around to feed her 4x per day.

I also did some pumping before bed, after her last feed. This wasn’t ideal as I was usually exhausted and had to wait till around 11pm for my breasts to “refill” but it did help give us an extra 25 ounces or so.

I also did some middle of the night pumping. I made sure to have all my pump parts ready to go and the breastpump plugged in and set up near the couch. I’d sneak out to the living room around 2/3am and pump for 10 minutes. Though this is brutal, it often yields the most milk at that time as you are completely full from the last feed so it is very efficient. Sometimes it’d only be a 5-6 minute pump to get 8/9 ounces.

2. MAKE A BACKUP PLAN IF YOU RUN OUT OF MILK

Aurora has never had formula to date but I knew that if something happened — delays, growth spurts — and she needed more milk than we had, I had to have a backup. I researched and decided to get a container of Holle formula, from Holland. Holle (and also Hipp) are among the best out there. They are organic and have complete nutrition and not a lot of the bad stuff. This was the site that I used.

Whatever formula that you choose to have, have something there and brief the caregivers on how to use it.

3. USE MILK STORK

If you aren’t familiar, Milk Stork is a MUCH NEEDED service that sends a refrigerated box to your hotel room ahead of time. When you arrive, you can put all your expressed milk in the refrigerator box, pop the refrigeration on, pack it up and FedEX will come grab it and get it to your home overnight. They also have a Pump & Tote service where you carry the breastmilk as a carryon on the plane in a refrigerated box. However, all this works for domestic travel only.

I was excited to find out that they just launched an INTERNATIONAL service. I ordered the 108 ounce box and it arrived a few days early to the Four Seasons Geneva. When I checked in, it was sitting there waiting.

On my day of departure, I activated the refrigerated box, packed away my sealed milk. Close it up and carried to the airport checkin counter. From there I checked it and picked up at my destination. The refrigeration lasts for 90 hours so I wasn’t even too worried about delays. It was a huge relief!

4. ORDER ALL THAT YOU NEED AHEAD

Planning ahead is key to this whole thing working out because when you are in a different country, Amazon Prime might not have your back.

MY CHECKLIST

FOR STORING MILK ON THE GO:

HEAVY DUTY BOOBY BAGS

I brought 2 sets of bottles for the pumping but I had to have bags to store the many ounces that I was accruing throughout the trip.

I have used a lot of different types and these Booby Bags are by far the best. They are thick plastic and have a double seal. I think they hold more milk than other bags too.  I also think the name Booby Bags is funny, so it always makes me giggle when I see it. 🙂

FOR KEEPING MILK FROZEN/COOL:

Cooler Shock Freeze Packs

These were the key to it all. I was worried that the freezer packs would “lose their cool” and these did not. Ever. They last for basically days. I have no idea what is in them but I do know that once you pour water into them, you put them in the freezer for 24 hours (or as many as you can). After that, they are frozen solid for at least a full day out, if not longer.


The great thing is they are completely flat when not filled with water. I order the 4 pack so I filled one to use for the flight there and I packed the other 3 for the return. I ended up only using 2 for the return because they were that good. Buy these. Trust me they are amazing.

These kept my frozen milk FROZEN in a cooler bag. And for non frozen milk, they kept it very chilly for the entire travel day. Learn why I decided to freeze some of my milk while traveling and how I did it in this post here.

FOR TRANSIT WITH MILK

BACKPACK FREEZER BAG

This is your best friend for long travel. Walking through airports and getting to your hotel can be taxing as it is so I knew I wanted to have my hands free and all my frozen/refrigerated milk on my back. I did a lot of research and the Tourit Cooler backpack was the best one that I found. After using it, I can attest to how cold it kept everything, how comfortable it was and honestly, how stylish it looked! For a cooler backpack, it was kind of sleek!

DUFFLE COOLER BAG

This is one of the most highly reviewed cooler/freezer bags on the market. It is guaranteed to keep the contents cool for a very long time–and it did. The AO bag is made of a thick material and I could fit a good amount of milk in there.

Remember to account for the space that the freezer pack will take up as they are quite large when full and frozen. I had to discard one that didn’t fit, but I managed to get 2 freezer packs in along with 4 days of frozen milk.

Note: This bag will be very heavy. I definitely pulled something in my forearms lugging this home.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The reason that I brought both was because I wasn’t sure if one would work better or the other. I also wasn’t sure if I needed a backup plan and wanted to prepared. In the future, I’d pack only one or the other. The backpack was easier to carry but I think the Duffle kept the contents colder. Your call based on the length of your trip. I used the Duffle for FROZEN milk so that was important to me.

For Pumping in Transit:

MANUAL HAND PUMP

If all else fails, this little hand pump will get you through and it’s small and super easy to pack.

Medela Battery Pack

This was a lifesaver so I didn’t have to hand pump. It requires 8 AA batteries but it worked well all over. It is small and lightweight. I recommend bringing extra batteries in case they are drained but in my week of using it a few times a day, I did not need any new batteries.

POCKET FREEZER BAG

This little leopard print bag was the perfect size and inconspicuous look for me to carry it to/from the bathroom and have it popped in my bag while I was out. It has water built in so you just need to freeze it the night before you take it out for the day.

Note: it doesn’t stay frozen long and your milk will get warm if it is longer than 6 hours or so. I found this okay for my days out but it didn’t work well on the plane as my flight was 12 hours.

It only holds 1 very full bag or 2 less full bags. That is the one downside. If you need more, you can get this one below that is from the same company. It is shaped more like a lunchbox so a little less convenient to carry in a purse but it definitely holds more and keeps bottles secure if you aren’t using bags.

SANITIZING WIPES

Now for pumping on the go, you might not have access to soap and hot water. The most convenient thing to have in your pocket are these Medela Wipes. They sanitize all the parts and pieces on contact and allow you to use them again, without ever needing water. Very handy.

For Pumping at your destination

Plugs and Converters

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL ADAPTER VOLTAGE CONVERTER

Many destinations across the globe have different outlets and different voltages. This is key if you are planning on using a breast pump that connects to the wall. **Don’t make the mistake that I did in Italy on my first trip while pumping. I fried my breastpump day 1 and then had to hand pump the rest of the trip. Non bene.

I was traveling to Switzerland and since the voltage and plugs, I ordered a converter strip so that I plug several things in at once. It worked like a charm!

This was my converter  and it works  in 150 countries, including the UK, Europe and Asia. I can promise that it will not fry your breast pump if you make sure that it apply to where you are going  (and if you have the Medela Pump in Style 2 like I do).

EXTRAS PUMP PARTS

I brought one extra set of each part of my breastpump.I didn’t need them but I was glad that I had them.

  • Extra Flanges
  • Extra Breast Shields
  • Extra Bottles
  • Extra Pump Valves (the yellow things)

I hope this post helps you plan your next trip! Please leave any questions, tips or comments below.

The Catalina Island Guide For Everyone

My second time visiting Catalina made me fall even more in love with this island just off the Southern California coast. This time around, I was not pregnant and it was one of my first trips away from my infant daughter–meaning MOM WAS OFF DUTY! I was ready to dive into all the experiences on Catalina that I couldn’t do the first time around.

What always gets me is how This island is popular for all types of travelers–from the wee ones to the older set, the luxury seekers to the adrenaline junkies. With 48 hours to enjoy, I chose to do a little bit of everything.

THE OUTDOOR ADVENTURER

Highlights: I enjoyed a whole new perspective of Catalina from the treetops. The Aerial Adventure ropes course has routes for beginners to the experts. The beautifully designed courses subtly blend in with the surrounding nature. Challenge yourself to jump off platforms, maneuver around and balance feet above the ground.

Tips: Work up your confidence by starting with one of the two beginner routes. Once you get the hang of the ropes and clipping/unclipping, you can move on to the intermediate and advanced routes.

Cost: Adults, $49.95, Children/Seniors/Military: $39.95

Also check out: Zipline Eco Tour

THE LUXURY SEEKER

Highlights: The former Wrigley residence, the Mt Ada hotel is only accessible for those staying in one of the 12 guest rooms– unless you have a lunch reservation. Step inside this former Wrigley residence to enjoy a memorable lunch on their wraparound patio, which might be my favorite view of Catalina Island. The three course lunch includes your choice of champagne, wine or beer.

Tips: Take a golf cart up to the hotel for a scenic drive.

Cost: $62 per person

Also check out: the Island Spa Catalina to pamper yourself poolside.

THE WATER BABY

  • Kayaking off of Descanso Beach

Highlights: The waters around Catalina are crystal clear and a stunning turquoise shade of blue. Appreciate their clarity upclose from your own kayak. You can opt for a guided tour or just taking one out on your own and either way, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking coastal views and new appreciation for California’s rugged beauty.

Tips: Take the Journey to Frog Rock tour to be treated to insider knowledge on the island and a stop on a breathtaking beach only accessible by boat.

Cost: $22 Single Kayak, $30 Double Kayak; Frog Rock Tour: $54 Adults, Children 25% off

Also check out: Snorkeling

THE HISTORY BUFF

Highlights: I wouldn’t say I seek out every museum when I travel but I am sure glad that I toured the recently built Catalina Museum. The building itself is a work of art and the exhibits are fascinating. Walk through on your own or take a guided tour to learn about the stories that give this island its unique personality. From Hollywood starlets to presidents, baseball heroes to wartime tales–Catalina’s history is truly unexpected and exciting.

Tips: Come for one of their monthly outdoor movie screenings located on the roof. Do not miss the Bird Park exhibit that shares the quirky history of the exotic bird sanctuary that once existed in town.

Cost: $17 Adults/Children (under 15) Free

Also check out: Wrigley’s Catalina

THE FAMILY TRIP

Highlights: Just under the water, there’s a whole new world of marine life. Dive into it without ever getting wet on the Undersea Expedition. It’s a safe, comfortable way for an up close look at the vivid Garibaldi, the impressive kelp forests and maybe an occasional dolphin if you are lucky.

Photo courtesy of Catalina Undersea Adventure

Tips: Be prepared for lots of photo opportunities both in the submersible and above the water when they sail back on the surface.

Cost: $39.95 Adults/$37.95 Children

Also check out: Glass Bottom Boat Voyage

THE FOOD FOCUSED

Highlights: A circular bar, comfortable booths and water views, the Avalon Grille tastes as good as it looks. Menu signatures include the hangar steak and the pan seared scallops and I particularly loved the tempura green beans.

Tips: This restaurant is popular so definitely book ahead. And order yourself a Wrigley Martini for me.

Cost: Appetizers around $18, Entrées around $35

Also check out: Bluewater Grill

IMPORTANT TRAVEL DETAILS

Where to Stay: The Pavilion Hotel

Personally, I wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else. The waterfront location is an easy walk from the ferry and perfectly situated to access all the main spots in Avalon by foot.

I love the tropical courtyard where you can enjoy their included (hearty) breakfast spread in the cool mornings or toast to a fun day next to the fire pits during the complimentary wine hour. The crisp, nautical rooms are spacious and comfortable and the included bike rental was very helpful for getting around.

Cost:  $180 to $350 per night, dependent on season

Getting There: Catalina Express

The ferry ride is half the fun of going to Catalina, in my opinion. With many departures daily, this hour cruise covers the 22 watery miles in just an hour. Sip on bloody marys in the Commodore’s Lounge or soak up the sun on the outer deck. You might even spot a dolphin or a whale! Cost: $74.50 Adult Roundtrip/ $59 Children Roundtrip/ Under 2 years old Free

Fun Easter Party Ideas for kids and adults too

Aurora is about to have her first Easter and I am going to throw her a little party. Yes, I understand that a 10 month old will not have a lot (or any!) memories of her first Easter. However, that doesn’t mean she won’t enjoy it! I love hosting get togethers so my goal is to make this fun for everyone, big and little!

Our little Rory meeting the Easter Bunny at 9.5 months


Set Up & Decor

We’ve chosen to host this in a nearby park, since the weather usually cooperates in Southern California. Of course, this would work in your yard or indoors as well.

Photo from Frankixo.com

For set up, we are going to keep it pretty minimal and rely on the great outdoors for most of the ambiance. However, there are a few necessary items to make this party a success.

  • Folding Table
    • This is necessary for all the food, Easter baskets, plates and to keep other items away from little hands.
  • Table Cloth
    • I purchased this Gingham one on Amazon
  • Blankets (for babies to hang out in on the grass)
  • Paper plates, napkins and cups
  • Easter bunny ears!
  • Fresh Flowers in Mason Jars
  • Balloons
  • Cooler

Easter Party Food

I wanted to keep it to light finger foods for adults and some fun snacks for the little ones too.  

  • Deviled Eggs
    • Delicious and thematic, deviled eggs are also healthy and tasty for little ones on solids.
    • I chose to follow this recipe here, but leaving out the tabasco.
  • Bunny Fruit Dish
    • Take advantage of the holiday and set up your fruit in a cute way!
From smartschoolhouse.com
  • Biscuits
    • Easy to make and a crowd pleaser. Add cheese for a savory twist or serve with butter and jam.
  • Beverages for adults AND kids!
    • Rosé, chilled beer and sparkling waters are on our list. Remember to add flavored sparkling waters which are a crowdpleaser for all!
  • Easter Basket Cupcakes
    • I love how easy and delicious these look!

Things to Do

To keep the little ones entertained, here are some fun things that you can do.

Easter Baskets

Give out Easter Baskets for the kids! Fill them with age appropriate toys and snacks. Avoid the candy or limit that for the adults.

  • Baskets
    • I love the heart details and they come with grass!
  • Carrot Teethers
  • Bibs
  • Snack Pouches
    • Go for my go-to brand, Once upon a Farm or to stay on theme, Peter Rabbit Organics
  • Egg shakers
    • Musical and on theme! These are sweet and inexpensive.

Have an Easter Egg Hunt

  • This is fun for all ages. You can modify the difficulty based on ages. Since ours are little, we will be basically just setting the eggs out on the grass for the little ones to play with!

Blow Bubbles

  • A timeless pastime that all ages can enjoy.

Music

  • Bring some toys and instruments for littles to use on the blanket.

Invite the Easter Bunny!

  • If you want to go for it, ask a friend (or a fellow parent) to don an Easter Bunny costume and surprise the kids. That will be sure to make a lot of kids smile and have some amazing photos!

Unique Baby Brands that I Love

I kept a short list of my favorite baby brands in a notes document on my phone. I decided it was time to make this into a blog post and share some of my faves with you all.

Coco Moon Hawaii

A brand with a real sense of identity, Coco Moon Hawaii is a truly Hawaiian company. I fell in love with it when I stumbled upon the softest swaddle I had ever felt while on my babymoon in Kauai. Back on the mainland, I researched and found that Coco Moon’s prints are created by Hawaiian artists and their bamboo material is buttery soft.

In addition to their swaddles, I am a big fan of their sheets and bath towels.

 

Wild Wawa

Photo by @justyolive

Neutral tones and sweet motifs like rainbows–wild wawa is a far cry from a lot of the super bright kid brands out there. There’s something really wholesome about their style that makes me want to be a kid again to wear these adorable clothes.

 

 

Oeuf

I can’t get enough Oeuf. All their products are very cute and unique–and eco friendly to boot. The clothing is made by a group of female knitters in Peru and Bolivia and all their furniture is designed in Europe (so you’ll use them for a long time!). This brand tends to be pricey so I feel like I shop here for more of a statement piece rather than the run-of-the-mill, everyday stuff. However, as you can see from things like this bunny hoodie, their products are worth it.

 

Cheeky Chickadee

This Australian company has some of the cutest animal prints around. The sizes are a bit tough (out of about 5 things, 2 didn’t fit well because of narrow cuts) but I loved the other pieces so much it was worth it.

 

Egg Baby

My favorite long sleeve zipper pajamas for Rory come from Egg and I don’t know how, but she’s been able to wear them for so long! They stretch well, are easy to get on and super adorable. Egg’s fun prints and high quality mean that I will probably be buying from here for Aurora well into her older years.

 

Monica & Andy

Aurora on the left in Monica and Andy

I’m a sucker for clever prints and I fell head over heels for all the beachy prints that they used to have (seashells, mermaids). However, the prints are only for a limited time so follow their IG to see the new ones. I have to say, the new tulips and pretzels are pretty cute too.

 

Angel Dear

Angel Dear pjs

 

WOW SOFT! Angel Dear is my go-to for Aurora’s beloved lovees (we have the monkeys). But did you know that they made clothing? And their clothing is so cute and soft? I was gifted some and now love putting her in them. I can tell she likes how soft they are!

 

Hanna Andersson

More well known but this brand is high quality. The prints aren’t for everyone and I only like some (especially the stripes) but I’ll keep this brand in the mix because of their comfy fits and great sweatsuits.

 

Zara Baby

A bit more mainstream, Zara actually has amazing clothes for kids. Very stylish, good price point and easy fits make this a good every day staple. Like they do with their adult lines, they are very much about the ‘trend of the minute’ but a much more affordable way to get your little one in that cute animal print but not break the bank on it.

 

Spearmint Love

From Spearmint Love Instagram: @victoriamcfall

This store carries a lot of my favorites brands and has been a great way for me to discover new ones. Plus the site is designed really well. With Easter coming up, I am all about their Easter shop.

 

Maisonette

Like Spearmint Love, this is another one stop shop that has a well curated bevy of clothing and gear brands for kids. I love their Toys section as it is a great list.

 

Pacapod

I carry my diaper bag every day and now usually don’t even have an extra bag for my things. These beautiful bags from the British Pacapod are so functional yet stylish. I love how they don’t scream “mom” when you wear them out. The idea behind the included “pods” is too keep everything organized, which is so helpful when this bag carries everything from socks to sunscreen, diapers to snacks. Mine is the Fortuna, one of the Luxury bags, complete with the map pods that I am OBSESSED with–link to it here.

 

Do you have any other favorite brands that I didn’t mention? Please share! 

Some featured brands are sponsors, however I strongly stand behind all my recommendations!

Babymoon Destinations for Every Type

The Tropical Babymoon: Hawaii

When I was toting a beach ball around my midline, all I wanted to do was relax in the sun, eating delicious foods, and dangling my toes in the warm ocean. Hawaii was the obvious choice for me. I spent a week on Kauai and this isle’s feminine energy and super laid back vibes helped me let go of my anxieties in this transitional phase of life.

Hanalei Beach Bump

I indulged in açai bowls daily, enjoyed pineapple smoothies in lieu of piña coladas by the pool and had fun exploring the North, South and in between of this ruggedly natural place.

Also, there’s nothing better than floating in the pristine waters when you are pregnant. You feel weightless!

Hotel Recommendation: Ko’a Kea Hotel & Resort in Poipu

 

The Snowy Babymoon: Tahoe

Though most winter activities were off limits, I had an amazing time in Tahoe while pregnant. By taking skiing, sledding and skating off the itinerary, we had more time to really explore, relax and hang out. Northstar was idyllic because the village is so walkable, has cute stores (even a kids store!) and great eats. Plus the gondola goes right into town so I felt like I was on the slopes!

 

We cozied up on the cabins, made s’mores at the outdoor firepits of the Ritz Carlton Tahoe and we even did a yoga class. If you plan to go, I’d suggest trying to make a Mountain Table Dinner held on the summit at the Zephyr Lodge.

Hotel Recommendation: Northstar Lodging

 

The Good Eatin’ Babymoon: Austin

Austin is a central hub for hip hotels, cool neighborhoods and amazing food. Come here hungry because you might be trying to squeeze in a few extra meals. The atmosphere is friendly, the shopping is unique and the food is much more than just barbecue (though that is great too!).

Check out Torchy’s, Cafe No Se and Joann’s.

Hotel Recommendation: South Congress Hotel 

 

The Historic Babymoon: Martha’s Vineyard

For those on the East Coast, Martha’s Vineyard is a drive and a quick ferry ride, though this historical island feels like a world away. With several towns, Edgartown being my favorite, there’s a lot to do here but it’s also okay to do nothing at all. Take a drive, go for a stroll or watch the boats come into harbor–these are all acceptable day activities.

Edgartown is my absolute favorite. Its walkability, lighthouse views, shops and cafés and overall charm is captivating. Life on Martha’s Vineyard moves at a slower pace but with a lot of appreciation for the little things. On a babymoon, you might appreciate the calm, happy ease of MV.

Hotel Recommendations: The Harbor View Hotel and The Kelley House

 

The Euro Babymoon: Rome

Definitely a longer haul, a babymoon to Italy might be daunting. If you are earlier in your pregnancy or have a bit of energy, then I highly recommend it. I went at 22 weeks and felt great. There was lots of walking but always balanced by delicious food waiting at the end of each stroll. Definitely book a hotel central to the sites that you are most interested in so you never have to go too far. We didn’t take one taxi while there because we were in the heart of everything!

Rome The Roman Forum

Each day we just picked a neighborhood and just walked around, stopping for gelato, to shop or dine. I’d recommend not trying to pack in too much sightseeing and rather just enjoy the city. If you want to see some of the major sites, pick 1 per day so you don’t overwhelm yourself. We saw the Colosseum and Vatican with LivItaly Tours which helped us make the most of our time.

Hotel Recommendation: The First Roma Arte

 

Easiest Babymoon: Mediterranean

From the moment you step onboard, you don’t have to worry about your bags, your credit card or you daily itinerary. This type of stress-free holiday is just what the OBGYN ordered. The food onboard Viking Ocean Cruises is delicious, fresh and changes daily. I loved the main dining room, but the speciality restaurants were really what set it apart.

However, you will probably eating off the boat on whatever European itinerary you choose. Our “Iconic Mediterranean” itinerary took us through Barcelona, France, Monaco and Italy–so its safe to say that we ate well. For the times that you are on the boat, there’s a putting green, infinity pool, lounge areas, and a fabulous nordic spa.

The rooms are well appointed and the bed is oh-so-comfortable. Order breakfast to the room for the ultimate morning treat on your balcony.

Recommended Cruise line: Viking Ocean Cruises