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  • Writer's pictureKristin

We're Off on our 'Pat Leave' Trip | 1st Stop London

Updated: Feb 20, 2021

Last week we started what we have dubbed our "pat leave" trip! Alex had the ability to bid off his vacation to take off an entire month off, so partway through my second pregnancy we started thinking about taking a paternity leave trip. Although there is the option to do an actual 'paternity leave' we didn't want to do it officially through the government services because then I would have to shorten my maternity leave and the compensation wouldn't be enough to let us survive our normal expenses for the month. So we worked out another scenario where we would still have some income coming in while we went away for a month.

When we started to talk about our 'pat leave trip' we threw out several different options of where to go. We looked at cost, accommodations, interesting things to do/see and some places we had never visited, as well as places where there aren't a lot of travel viruses or vaccines needed so we wouldn't have to vaccinate Connor earlier than needed. At the end of it we ended up with Spain and Portugal....although I can't really tell you how we got to these two and eliminated a few others.

Packing for a Month Away with 2 Kids Under 3 Years Old

The first task was packing! We tried to keep things as minimal as possible and if it was something you could buy in Europe, we decided to do that rather than bringing it with us. Amazingly we got all our things into 2 suitcases. It also helps that we have access to laundry machines at almost all the places we're staying and we only brought enough diapers for the first 2.5 days of the trip! We are also renting a car from when arrive in Madrid to the end of the trip, so we brought both car seats so we didn't have to pay to rent them and our stroller. Most of the time we try to bring our small umbrella stroller, but this time we decided to bring our BOB stroller and we're already glad we did - it can hold so much more when we're out and about. Plus if we get desperate, our daughter can sit on the front end. Then for our carry-ons we had a diaper bag, a grocery bag and a little backpack our daughter kept her things in. We also brought along a cooler bag for food on the plane ride and then we use it daily for packing lunches/snacks when we're out and about.

Flight to London

We caught an early evening flight from Calgary to London and the flight went as well as could be expected with a 3 year old and 6 month old.

They both stayed awake for a couple of hours after the flight took off; even though about 1 hour into the flight it would have been past their bedtime. However, when they had to do food/drink service they kept the lights on so it was hard for them to sleep. We changed them into PJs and had gotten some dinner in the airport before boarding, so after watching Frozen, playing a couple of games on her iPad and the cabinet lights turning off Clara was ready to go to bed. The plane didn't have any extra seats (full flight!) so our family was seated in the 3 seats in the middle of the plane and we had to figure out how all 4 of us would sleep. The kids definitely got the better end of the sleeping arrangements, as Clara was little enough to snuggle up in the middle seat and Connor slept on us. The two of us had to somehow sleep sitting up and with a baby in our arms. However, our 6-month son isn't light (almost 18 pounds) so after a while of holding him in our arms or on our legs that part of our body would go numb. At one point we laid him next to his sister in the middle seat at the opposite angle.

At least it was somewhat amusing to watch him move/twitch and hit her and then watch her sleep reaction back to it. We let them both sleep until the flight landed, which Clara did wake up a little crabby.

Arrival Into London

When we arrived in London it was about 11 a.m. local time. However, upon de-boarding Gatwick airport had these complimentary strollers at the gate you could use to get your kids to the baggage carousel. These ended up being so wonderful since she had just waken up and was in no mood to walk and we wouldn't be able to pick up our stroller until we picked up the rest of the bags. Great work London - Gatwick!

We got our bags and headed to our hotel which was just across the street from the hotel, as our flight to Spain didn't leave until the next afternoon. We allotted for an extra day in case there were any flight cancellations, etc. Normally we don't like to spend extra money on hotels connected to the airport, but it was great to have a good location!! I would definitely recommend if we had to do this again!

The afternoon/evening we arrived in Gatwick was one of the toughest, as we were all still really tired. We got an early check-in and then headed back to the airport to get some sandwiches and other food to take back to our room to eat. We ate our lunch in the room, but it just made me more tired to sit in there. So Clara and I headed to the reception area as there was a coffee shop there (got a large coffee that afternoon!) and we played hide and seek with her stuffies and colored some pictures. We tried to stretch going to bed to the latest time possible, but around 4:30 p.m. we just couldn't last any longer, so we all went to sleep. However, around 12 midnight local time we all woke up and decided to just hang out for a couple of hours until we could all fall back asleep again. Alex and Clara headed to the airport to get some more food to eat, while Connor and I stayed in the hotel room. Eventually we all went back to sleep around 2-2:30 a.m. and were able to sleep until around 7:30 in the morning. However, one learning from this was that it probably would have been better to go out and explore or do something as soon as we arrived, rather than just hanging out.

Exploring London

In the morning we enjoyed our bacon buns and coffee for breakfast at the shop downstairs and then headed into London on the train. I am always reminded that I'm in another country when I ride their trains or subways - it's eerily quiet on them. Amazingly the kids were pretty quiet for the ride as well.

We arrived at Victoria Station and headed out to look at the sites of London for the 4.5 hours that we had in the city. We headed to Buckingham Palace, walked through the Palace Park there over to Big Ben and the London Eye. Clara was pretty impressed by the palace guards in their red suits and black tall fluffy hats, Big Ben ringing and the red phone booths. She stopped and tried to call Grandma, but didn't get a connection.

We walked along the river to the bridge just down from the bridge by parliament and Big Ben, where Clara and I replayed the roles of Elsa and Anna from Frozen several times. One of the things in traveling with a 3-year old I have learned is that you have to let them have some imaginary or play time. Although it may not be in your room or like they would normally play, its amazing how adaptable kids are and how they will just start playing/pretending anywhere they are!

We grabbed some lunch and then headed over to Westminster Abbey, which was closed to public viewing that day. We sat in the courtyard to nurse Connor, while Alex and Clara went to the store to get some Flake - a special treat that Dad tried to introduce to his daughter!

We started to head back to the train station and spent some more time in the park across from Buckingham Palace. The pigeons there were super tame and hardly flinched as our daughter ran at them. We also found a great playground where we played for a while - it had a cool slide, climbing wall, and bridges - and an amazing view of Buckingham palace through the trees! It was fun to discover some new playgrounds in other countries - I know we'll be visiting several of them on this trip!

When we were walking back we also came across a military parade, which added a nice British touch to the end of our visit.

Flight to Madrid

We headed back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and headed over to the airport to catch our late afternoon flight to Madrid, Spain. We passed the time in the airport with playing at the kids play area - I'm really starting to appreciate all these playgrounds at key places, such as airports! After a busy day in London and jet-lag, I would say Clara did amazingly well. There were a few outbursts but I think you can only expect that from a 3-year old who is tired, maybe a little hungry and taken out of her routine. She played some games on her iPad for a bit, had a sandwich for dinner and then fell asleep for the last portion of the 2.5 hour flight to Madrid. However, she was so out of it, that she never woke up when I transferred her from the airplane to the stroller to the car to the hotel. However, in trying to be careful in transferring her off the airplane, I accidentally held up all the passengers on the bus transferring us to the airport - oops!

It was good that she slept so well though - as the GPS that we were using to get to the hotel wasn't that good - and it took us longer to get there than planned. Luckily we figured out the car GPS system and eventually we got there and settled into bed for the night.

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