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Holiday Inn Charleston Historic Downtown {Charleston, South Carolina}

Holiday Inn Charleston Historic Downtown {Charleston, South Carolina} | CosmosMariners.com

I am a part of the Holiday Inn Influencer program and was provided a two-night stay to help me write this post. As always, all opinions are my own. 

I don't know about you, but I am the world's worst about exploring my hometown. In my case, I live in one of the most visited cities in the South--Charleston, South Carolina--yet, I rarely make it out to see all of the historic homes in the area or take one of the many tours offered. 
I have all of these big ideas on adventuring in my hometown, but I find myself scooting off to other places when I have a free moment. I've consciously worked to change this over the past year, and it's been lots of fun re-discovering the places in my own backyard. 

The Ultimate Round-up of Travel Gift Guides

The Ultimate Round-up of Travel Gift Guides | CosmosMariners.com

Christmas is less than a month away. Let the panicking commence!

If you know someone who loves to travel, you've come to the right place. Here, you'll find all sorts of travel-related gift guides for every type of traveler: your luxury hotel lovin' sister, your budget backpacking second cousin, and your great-aunt who likes the idea of travel (but, in reality, only goes on the same exact cruise every year).

Basically, if you read this article and you still show up to your family or office party's holiday gathering, don't blame me. You've got more inspiration here than your pocketbook will allow!

So, no excuses. Play like a champion. And buy those travel gifts for your favorite globetrotter.

Kicking off the Holiday Season with College Football + New Shoes



Kicking off the Holiday Season with College Football + New Shoes | CosmosMariners.com

Although I love traveling (which is no big surprise since I run a travel blog), I also adore my home state of South Carolina.

For many others, the holiday season kicks off with Thanksgiving and then leads into Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's.

As a proud South Carolinian, I know that the holiday season really starts when the weather gets chillier and the words "college football playoffs" are beginning to be bandied about. This past weekend, my husband and I headed back up to our alma mater, Clemson University, to see a football game and get into that holiday mood right before Thanksgiving.

10 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Rome

10 Fun Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Rome | CosmosMariners.com

"Everyone sooner or later comes 'round by Rome," Robert Browning

As one of the most visited cities in the world, Rome has plenty to offer--a deep history, delicious food, literary ties, and stunning architecture. Simply said, Rome is a fascinating place no matter what part you choose to see. With all of the history and architecture, it's no wonder that Rome is high on my list of places to visit in the very near future.

Although Rome is known for the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain, the city has plenty more to explore. These 10 fun facts about Rome might teach you something new about this ancient city--and a few of its most famous sites.

A Magical Birthday Surprise at Walt Disney World

A Magical Birthday Surprise at Walt Disney World | CosmosMariners.com
Have birthday button, will travel

Last Sunday, as we were getting ready for bed, my husband said, "I have a surprise for your birthday." I'd already gotten my birthday present--season tickets to the Dock Street Theatre--and I wasn't expecting anything else, so the fact that I had a surprise was a surprise in itself. We're really big into giving experiences rather than things, so I was curious what he'd gotten me.

After about two minutes of pestering him for more details, Landon gave in and told me (we're both awful secret keepers): he'd decided to use his last two vacation days on the 12th and 13th, so he could spend my birthday with me. Add in the fact that, as a banker, he already had the 11th (Veteran's Day) off, and I was really excited about spending several days with him and Britton.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com

Even if you don't know the name of it, you've definitely seen pictures of it before. As one of the
world's most recognized castles, Neuschwanstein is a must-see stop on most people's visit to Füssen, Germany.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Neuschwanstein Castle
However, to focus on Neuschwanstein is to learn only half of the story. The smaller, less imposing-- but equally as interesting--Hohenschwangau should be visited as well. Seeing both in a one-two punch will give you a better view of the Ludwig II, the man who links these two properties, and his short, tragic life.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Hohenschwangau, as seen from Neuschwanstein
When we visited during our 11-day road trip through Germany and Luxembourg, we decided to visit the castles in chronological order. I find it helpful to see how the history builds on each other, but you could easily do them in reverse if you were more familiar with Ludwig's history.

After getting our tickets for both castles, we tried to make our way to Hohenschwangau. I say tried since we weren't quite successful the first time. Britton spotted a horse and carriage under a sign that said "rides to castle," so (not thinking) we hopped on it...only to find out that the castle in reference was Neuschwanstein, not Hohenschwangau. We walked back down to the village and then climbed the many stairs up to the correct castle to finally start our day of tours.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Hohenschwangau
The story that slowly unfolds about Ludwig as you tour the castles is quite a sad one that's filled with lost opportunities, family mysteries, and mental illness.

No Happily Ever After Here

Hohenschwangau is the childhood home of King Ludwig II and Prince Otto, the two children of Maximilian and Marie. Of the two castles, it feels more like a home, and it's easy to imagine the king and queen entertaining in the rooms here.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Hohenschwangau
After his father passed away suddenly, Ludwig was crowned king at the age of 18. Unlike his more outgoing little brother, Ludwig was withdrawn and private, and had difficulty with large gatherings and social events.

He never married, and, as he grew older, he became more reclusive. In 1869, Ludwig began construction on Neuschwanstein (one of four major construction projects he had going at this time), a castle that he'd dreamed of building in that spot since he was a boy at Hohenschwangau.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Neuschwanstein peeking through the fog
Ludwig, who was deeply disappointed that he hadn't been born into a monarchy with absolute power, spent his time brooding over his lack of governmental control. He admired France's Louis XIV, who had the type of power for which Ludwig wished. If he couldn't have that kind of ruling power, Ludwig decided that he'd start spending his money and time on making structures that reminded him of the ornate Versailles.

In the portion of Neuschwanstein that was finished, you'll be able to see the intricate details on every inch of every room. Ludwig was close friends with composer Richard Wagner, and you'll see references to Wagner's operas, including Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, and Lohengrin in the expansive murals. Unlike Hohenschwangau, Neuschwanstein seems isolated, dark, and quiet. It's not hard to imagine the haunted Ludwig wandering the silent rooms by himself in the middle of the night (in his later years, he would often stay up all night and sleep all day, so as to avoid visitors).

At the age of 40, Ludwig was deemed to be mentally unwell and was taken from Neuschwanstein to Berg Castle so he could be watched. Just three days after arriving, Ludwig's body was found floating in the nearby lake next to the body of his supervising doctor.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com

The family difficulties extended to Ludwig's little brother as well.

Otto, as the second son, was sent into military service and served during the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars. As a direct result of his military service, Otto began to grow depressed and distant; he was ultimately deemed mentally ill and placed under the medical supervision of several doctors and his uncle Luitpold. Although Otto was declared king by the Bavarian cabinet after Ludwig's diagnosis of mental illness (and subsequent death), he wasn't ever able to rule, and his uncle Luitpold served as Prince Regent until Otto died.

So, by 1916, you have two deceased brothers and no direct heirs. Neuschwanstein was never finished and sat vacant for years until it was turned into the touring destination that it is today.

There are all sorts of theories about what exactly happened to Ludwig and Otto, as it's very possible that their mental illnesses were invented, exaggerated, or not treated properly for political gain. Ludwig's death in particular is highly suspicious, as he was a strong swimmer and likely wouldn't have drowned in the shallow water in which he was found.

Knowing all of that, it's strange to me that people look at Neuschwanstein at this fairy tale castle, as Ludwig's life was anything but a fairy tale. Walt Disney, who visited during the 1940s and then used it as inspiration for the castle that appears in Sleeping Beauty, is partially to blame for this, but there are many visitors who don't even consider the history of this area when they're putting Neuschwanstein on their itineraries.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
Braving the rain as we trekked to Neuschwanstein
Walking through Hohenschwangau first gives you some sense of the potential both brothers had as children, while a follow up visit to Neuschwanstein shows you the darker chapter of this family's legacy.

Both castles are well worth a visit, and, if you're anywhere near Fussen, I highly recommend a stop. There are guided tours in multiple languages, including English and German, throughout the day.

Practical Things to Know Before You Visit

Know How to Get to the Castles
While the only way up to Hohenschwangau is via your own two feet, you've got some options when it comes to getting to Neuschwanstein. You can walk, but it's quite a long trek, and there's a steady incline the entire 20-30 minute way up. You also have the option of taking a horse and carriage (€6 per person, kids 3 and under free) or a bus (€1.50 per person, kids 3 and under free). The horse and carriage gives you more of an idea of what Ludwig experienced on his way up to the castle, but the horse and carriage stops below the castle. The bus is quicker and stops above the castle.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com
After we rode up in this carriage, Britton said, "Danke schön, horses."
Make sure to pay attention to the entrance times on your tickets. 
You can't show up late for your tour, or you won't be able to enter the castle. There's no free time to wander on your own on either tour, so the tours are kept to a very strict schedule. Show up at the right time, or risk missing out completely.

A Tale of Two Castles: Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau | CosmosMariners.com

Pick your parking carefully.
There are several parking lots in the village of Hohenschwangau, but the best one is lot 4. Lot 4 is right at the base of Hohenschwangau Castle, across the street from the bus stop and public restrooms, and just up the street from the ticket center.

Have you visited either of these castles? What do you enjoy more when visiting a place like this: the history or the architecture?
_______________________________

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Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up | Vol. 8

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 8 | CosmosMariners.com

What a weekend. On a global scale, the bombings in Paris took me back to when I lived through the 2005 London bombings while studying abroad.

On a happier note, my family and I had a wonderful time in Walt Disney World for my birthday. Then, I spent a few nights in downtown Charleston for a staycation at the newest Holiday Inn hotel on the peninsula. Look for a full review on that in the next few days!

As always, I've got some great travel reads for you in this week's edition of Odds + (Week) Ends, so without further ado, here we go.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 8 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user hjl | creative commons}
If you've got plenty of money and you want to see the world, check out this $120,000 plane ticket for a 24-day global jaunt. But, as the author asks in this New York Times article, "If you wake up in Tanzania in the morning, take a dinner cruise along the Bosphorus in the evening and jet off a few days later to tour Catherine the Great’s palace in Russia, are you really seeing the world? Or are you just playing spectacularly expensive hopscotch?"

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 8 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via flickr user Richard Rydge | creative commons}
While you're shelling out the big bucks for some luxury travel, why not add in this double New Year's Eve Celebration? At the low, low price of £8,400, you can party in Sydney, Australia, then hop on a plane just to time to ring in the new year again in Los Angeles. Or, you can hang out in your pajamas and fall asleep at 10 like me.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 8 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo of Playa de las Catedrals via flickr user Jose Miguel | creative commons}
As someone who's grown up on the beaches of South Carolina, I'm pretty happy anywhere I can find some sunshine, a few palm trees, and some gently lapping waves. I'd love to visit these 10 unusual beaches around the world. Have you visited any?

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 8 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo of koala at Lone Pine Sanctuary via flickr user Stephanie Bond | creative commons}
Traveling allows us to do many things: learn more about history, interact with new people, and challenge our perspectives. It can also introduce you to new ways of helping others. These 10 incredible animal sanctuaries are a wonderful way to add some philanthropy into your next trip.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 8 | CosmosMariners.com
Britton and I at Neuschwanstein Castle
Walt Disney World is a magical place (especially with a toddler)! In honor of our recent trip, I thought I'd share this fun article. If you want to see the inspiration behind some of the most iconic structures from the Disney movies, check out these 14 amazing places. I recently went to one of them (Neuschwanstein Castle) on our trip to Germany!

How was your weekend? What are you looking forward to this week?
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Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery

 Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

I don't know when I first heard about my grandmother's brother.

I had to be very young because I remember always knowing that my great-uncle Ernest was killed in World War II. He'd been killed by friendly fire towards the end of the war, my grandmother had told me. On rare occasions, she'd take out his Purple Heart (which was normally kept in its box in the dining room sideboard) and let us see it.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com
My great-uncle Ernest (on the right) in the only picture that my grandmother has of him
Even decades later, it was obvious to me that Ernest's death had greatly affected my grandma. After he'd been killed, he'd been buried in Luxembourg. We weren't sure why my great-grandfather had chosen to leave his son's body there: it would've been free to have it shipped home.

At some point, the idea of going to the Luxembourg American Cemetery began to be bandied about between my grandmother, my grandfather, and my mom. My grandfather was actually very close to my great-uncle Ernest--it was because of their friendship that my grandparents actually met. I imagine that my grandfather, who was a World War II Pacific theatre veteran, would have liked visiting his old friend one last time.

My grandparents were going to Germany and Luxembourg to see the grave back in 2001--but, just days before they left, 9/11 happened. They got spooked, canceled the trip, and never planned another. My grandfather passed away in late 2013 without ever going on that journey.

About a year ago, my grandmother began talking about finally going to see Ernest's grave. She wanted us to come with her, and our preliminary plans began to take shape.

As we firmed up our itinerary, it became obvious that my grandmother wouldn't be able to keep up. She's still in great health, but she has trouble walking long distances. About 8 months ago, she decided that she wasn't going, but she wanted the rest of us to keep planning the trip in her absence.

A month ago, my mom, dad, sister, daughter, and I climbed aboard a plane to begin our journey towards finally seeing my great-uncle Ernest's final resting place. After 10 days of working our way across southern and western Germany, we arrived in Luxembourg, and, on a foggy fall morning, we entered the golden gates of the American Cemetery.


Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

The superintendent of the site greeted us and took us around the cemetery, sharing details about the construction of the cemetery, the fighting in and around Luxembourg, and current operations.

I'd done a little research before I'd left home and discovered that my great-uncle Ernest had been a member of the 166th Engineer Battalion. He'd enlisted in mid-1943, been a part of the Utah Beach invasion (one of five areas that were part of the D-Day offensive), and had helped construct bridges and roads with Patton's army between Normandy, France, and Luxembourg City.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com
Display at the cemetery showing the Battle of the Bulge
When he was killed in March 1945, he was only 2 months shy of surviving the war: V-E Day was May 8, 1945. Ernest survived the Battle of the Bulge, only to be killed when he stepped on one of our own land mines.

Learning these details about him made me feel as if I knew him a little bit. He died before my mom was born, so my only way to know him is through my grandmother's stories and what I can find through my research.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com


As the superintendent led us towards Ernest's grave, I was sobered by the thousands of white headstones stretching out on the green grass. All of these men (and 1 woman) died thousands of miles from home away from the people they loved.

When we arrived at Ernest's headstone, I couldn't believe that we'd actually made it. I'd heard about this moment my entire life, and we were there, fulfilling a goal that my grandparents had wanted for decades.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com


We paid our respects and stood quietly at his grave for several moments. I was moved to be there in this place with my great-uncle, a place that is so far from his hometown of Florence, South Carolina.

I have no idea what happens to us after we die, but I hope that, wherever he is, my uncle knows that his family still loves him. When we got back to Charleston and showed these pictures to my grandmother, she cried. She was so glad to hear that her brother had finally had some company.

We also took the time to look at the rest of the cemetery, which is immaculate. A team of soldiers comes to clean all 5,076 headstones each week. The grass is kept trimmed and free of weeds. It's wonderful to know that, if these people couldn't be buried in their hometowns, they're still taken care of--even 70 years after the war ended.

If you visit, take time to visit the memorial, which has a beautiful mosaic ceiling that took an Italian craftsman 18 months to construct.

Paying Our Respects 70 Years Later: World War II, My Family, and the Luxembourg American Cemetery | CosmosMariners.com

Ultimately, this is what travel is all about to me: finding those moments where emotion, personal interest, and history intersect. I feel incredibly privileged to have been given the opportunity to travel to Luxembourg and experience that moment with my family.
_______________________________

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A New Tradition: 8 Reasons to Take a Family Holiday Instead of Exchanging Gifts


About this time each year, I start thinking about what I'm going to give my family for Christmas. Lists are made, budgets are created, and I spend hours scouring the internet for gift ideas.

More often than not, I'm usually panicking come December 20th since I either can't come up with a decent present or I've remembered even more people who need gifts.  On more than one occasion, I've thought, "I wish we could just forget the gifts and spend more time together!"

Stirling Castle, Stirling, Scotland
Best 28th birthday present ever!
In fact, my husband and I have nearly done away with gifts all together for our anniversary and birthdays, as we both love to give new travel opportunities or experiences to one another. For my 28th birthday, we went to Scotland. For our fifth anniversary, we went on a Caribbean cruise. And, for my birthday this year, I got season tickets to the Dock Street Theatre here in Charleston.

We'll probably continue to do gifts for the next year or so for my daughter, but I would love to make a tradition of giving a family holiday to her once she's older. Here's why:

1) It's unexpected. 

Giving gifts during the holiday season is what you do. I'm all for contributing to the office gift exchange or continuing to do the present thing with grandparents and cousins. At least within your insular family, you can go countercultural and give experiences instead of more stuff.

2) Your kids will never forget it. 
Traveling with my parents and sister was (and still is!) one of my favorite parts of childhood. My sister and I still sit around the table at my parents' house and laugh about stuff we saw and did on some of those trips.

I'm a huge proponent of family travel, as it gives you a chance to bond and step out of the ordinary. Plus, imagine your kids' eyes when they come down on Christmas morning to see their bags packed and a big sign that says, "We're going to (insert destination of your choice)!" Even as an adult, I would flip out about that!

3) Your kids already have enough toys. 

Between friends, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, I promise that your child will not feel neglected if you substitute a family holiday for 20 boxes of the hottest new toys. Chances are, those toys will all be broken and/or stuffed under the bed by February 1st anyway.

4) It will give you more time together. 

If you ask most parents what they want, you're likely to hear "more time with my kids." You can't exactly wrap up more time in shiny ribbon, but you can budget for a vacation--and the end result is the same. Unwind, leave the phones and tablets at home, and experience what you love about your family for a few days. It will be much better than hearing your kids argue about which toys are theirs.

5) It could be less expensive than giving gifts (depending on where you go). 

A family holiday doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg--unless you want it to. There's something out there for every family's budget from all-inclusive family friendly resorts to cabins in a nearby state park.

If you're used to splashing out on extravagant electronics and toys, your Christmas budget could easily be exchanged for a few days elsewhere.

If you're more budget minded during the holidays, you could plan a staycation in a local hotel and finally go see a few of those sites you've been meaning to visit with your family.

6) You don't have to clean up all of that wrapping paper.

Unwrapping presents is fun. Cleaning up all of the tape, wrapping paper, and boxing isn't.

7) Traveling is an incredible educational experience. 

A family holiday isn't just about enjoying one another's company. It's also about discovering new things about each other and the places around you. Going on a trip together changes the dynamics of your family, so your kids can see their family group in a new light. They might learn that Dad can hula with the best of them or that Mom can't get enough of the hotel's water park!

If you choose to go somewhere with museums or a historical focus, your kids can learn so much. I remember going to Paris the semester after I'd studied the French Revolution--seeing the Conciergerie after hearing about the Reign of Terror made what I'd learned real. Learning isn't just for school, and it's always better in the company of the people you love.

8) It puts the focus of the holiday on people instead of things. 

Joy. Love. New beginnings.

We hear those same themes over and over again throughout the holiday season. What better way to spend the holiday than focusing on the most important people in your life?
______________________________

If foregoing presents completely seems a too extreme for you, commit to a family holiday, but also include a small gift component, too. You can put a very limited budget on the gifts (say, $5 for each person) or you can tell everyone to get creative and only give handmade gifts. You'll retain the fun factor of gift giving while retaining the majority of your budget for your family holiday.

You could also start by doing smaller trips for birthdays and other special times for your family before changing your Christmas traditions. It might make for an easier tradition for kids who aren't too sure about the idea.

What's your favorite part of the holiday season? Would you consider swapping out gifts for a family vacation?
_______________________________

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Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com

When we originally started to plan our trip to Germany and Luxembourg, taking my daughter wasn’t a part of the plan. We had some distinctly non-toddler activities planned, including a trip to the Dachau concentration camp outside of Munich, plus I was worried about how she’d deal with sightseeing and new places to sleep and irregular schedules. 

Then, a few things changed: we all decided we didn’t have time in our very packed schedule to go to the concentration camp, and Britton started talking about planes all of the time. One afternoon, I was talking with my mom and she asked (again) if Britton could go. 

Even though I’d been staunchly against her going up to this point, it was as if a lightbulb went off in my head at that moment. 

Why shouldn’t Britton go? What was the worst that could happen? 

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
Running around outside the Pilgrimage Church of Wies, Germany
In a flight of fancy, I applied for and got Britton’s first passport, we purchased her plane ticket, and ordered a car seat for our rental vehicle. She was going to Germany with us, a trip that would require her to fly on five different planes, deal with a six-hour time difference, and spend 11 days sightseeing in 6 areas of Germany and Luxembourg. 

I was nervous about taking her once everything was in place, but I was excited to share this time with her. 

So, how did she do? 

For the most part, she was a champion traveler! If you’re thinking about traveling long distance with your toddler or preschooler, here’s what you need to know. 

Lay a groundwork before you leave. 

Even if your child has traveled on a plane or overseas before, it’s always a good idea to prepare them for what they’re about to go through each time. This was Britton’s first plane experience and her first time abroad, so we talked a lot about what she’d see and do on the airplane before we even stepped foot in the airport. 

I also made sure to show her pictures of the castles, the Alps, and Munich before we left, so she’d have something tangible to focus on. 

Be prepared to work on the plane

And by “work,” I mean get yourself in a frenzy as you try to keep a toddler quiet-ish and still-ish for the duration of the flight. Of all of the components of toddler travel, I found the plane rides the most stressful. The space each passenger is given is tiny and not truly suited for someone who’s main goal in life is to move as much as possible as often as possible. 

We walked up and down the aisles as much as possible. When we were confined to our seats during turbulence, Britton was allowed to watch some of her favorite movies, including "Frozen" and "Paddington Bear" (both of which were in the Delta Sky Kids movie lineup). 

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
Britton in the Charleston airport testing out her new Frozen headphones
A few other tips for the plane:
  • Order the kid's meal before you board. My kid is pretty adventurous when it comes to eating, but she still loves the kid standards (apple slices, bananas, chicken fingers, PB&J, etc). The kid's meals that she got had fresh fruit, a biscuit, cheese, ravioli, juice, and chocolate pudding. 
  • Bring noise-reducing headphones. Britton loves messing with knobs and buttons, and I didn't want to run the risk of her turning up the movie audio too much. We bought a pair of kids' Frozen headphones and didn't have to worry about her harming her hearing while watching movies. 
  • Pack some cheap toys. If you get a handful of small toys at the Dollar Store, your child can play with them without worrying about losing them. If one does get left behind or broken, it's no big deal. 



Consider doing self-guided or privately guide tours


Those little legs and little attention spans aren’t often made for a traditional 2+ hour walking tour. We ended up doing some self-guided tours of Munich, Luxembourg City, and Trier, which was fantastic, since we could stop and start as necessary. 

If you’re not as cheap as we are, you could consider hiring a private guide who would be willing to go at a slower pace. Many cities also have shorter tours specifically for kids, so look into booking one of those when traveling with little ones. 

Leave free time in your schedule. 

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com

At several points in our trip, we’d head back to the hotel in late afternoon to rest, take baths, watch a movie, or play. Having some extra time at the end of the day allowed Britton to wind down and get used to her new schedule. We even had a playground at our hotel in Trier (Berghotel Kockelsberg), which delighted Britton. 

Bring a toddler backpack. 

First off, I know these look ridiculous. You look as if you’re walking your kid on a leash! If you can get over the weird factor, this can be a lifesaver when you’re traveling with little kids. Carrying a 30 pound kid can quickly wear anyone out!

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
My dad and my daughter in the Residenz in Munich
We’d brought a stroller, but, after a while, Britton would get tired of sitting. We’d put on the backpack and leash (or “lush,” as Britton called it), and she’d get to stretch her legs. It was particularly great when we were in museums (so we could keep her from touching everything in sight) or in crowds. 

The backpack also served another purpose: it carried a small case of wipes, a few pull-ups, and some snacks. I got to leave my heavy diaper bag back in Charleston, and Britton liked being in charge of her snack stash. 

(We had the Brica Safety Harness Backpack in green; it also comes in pink.)


Booking.com


Pack snacks. Lots of snacks.  

Even though you’ll get peanuts and pretzels and meals on the plane, your toddler will still want more. Having a box of cereal bars and some special treats saved me when my daughter started getting super grumpy on the plane. 

When we were on the road trip, those snacks (as well as the ones that we picked up at grocery stores along the way) were crucial to keeping Britton happy in between the stops. 

Know that that toddler jet lag is even worse than adult jet lag. 

When I get jet lag, I force myself to stay awake as long as possible in order to try and get into some sort of new routine. If I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep, I force myself to lay there in bed and just relax. 

Toddlers have no concept of either of these coping mechanisms. When they’re tired, they want to sleep. When they’re ready to get up, they climb out of bed. 

Despite our best efforts to readjust Britton’s schedule, we still ended up having a very tired, very grumpy toddler on our hands the first day we were in Munich. The first three nights of our trip included a wonderful little break around 3 AM, where Britton decided that she needed a snack and playtime. Next to the plane rides, the readjustment period was the toughest part of traveling with a little one. 

Take a travel cot

When we were booking our rooms, we decided to get family rooms or apartments; these were cheaper, and I’d have more help watching Britton. However, even the family rooms only slept four adults, which meant we’d have to rent another room just for Britton. 

Since she’s so little and she can sleep just about anywhere, we decided to purchase a toddler travel cot (we used the Regalo My Cot Deluxe, which I can't say enough good things about). At only $27, this was an awesome investment, and she loved her special bed. Since it had such a small profile, we could put it next to my bed, so Britton felt safe and secure in an otherwise unfamiliar room.

I liked that it was soft and comfortable, it only weighed a few pounds, it collapsed easily, and it came with an attached pillow and sleeping bag. 

Work some teaching moments into your trip

At 2-4, your child isn’t going to remember everything about the trip—and that’s okay. This age is all about living in the moment and appreciating what’s directly in front of you.

However, this age group is amazing in that they are constantly soaking up what they’re seeing, hearing, and doing. Britton was in love with the castles that we visited, probably because they reminded her of Walt Disney World. Even after she realized that Mickey Mouse wasn’t popping out of the castle door, she still liked learning about King Ludwig (who lived at three of the castles we visited: Neuschwanstein, Hohenschwangau, and Linderhof).

Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
Braving the rain and fog at Neuschwanstein Castle on one of Britton's favorite days of sightseeing
We found her a free pamphlet at Linderhof with his picture on it and told her a little bit about King Ludwig. By the time we’d visited all three places, she was able to tell us that King Ludwig lived in three castles. We heard, “I love King Ludwig!” more than once on the trip! 

She was also amazed at the Glockenspiel (which she still calls the “Clock-and-spell”), and tell us regularly that it goes “ding dong!” 

These types of experiences excited our toddler so much that, even three weeks after we’ve returned home, she asks to go back to Germany at least once a day!
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Have you traveled with young kids before? What’s your best tip?


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Traveling Overseas with a Toddler or Preschooler: What You Need to Know to Make Your Trip Fantastic | CosmosMariners.com
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14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life

14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com

Is anyone else stunned that it's already November? Once that calendar flips over after Halloween, I start to panic a little because the holiday season is upon me again. It's time for family get-togethers, office parties, and present exchanges, so you and I better start thinking about our gift lists. 

If you love to travel or if you're buying for someone who does, I've got you covered with these seriously fantastic gift ideas. And, if there's anything left over in your budget, you can always send one or two of them to me, too!

1) Travel Magazine Subscription

$5-$20 per year

14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your next trip! These gorgeous glossy mags will help your favorite traveler figure out his or her destinations for 2016: Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure and Afar.


2) Secret Travel Scarf

$20-$22

14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com

One of these went with me on my trip to Luxembourg and Germany, and I cannot say enough good things about it! I loved being able to toss my passport and extra money into the small pocket: for the first time ever, I wasn't paranoid about being pickpocketed. The scarves come in all sorts of fabrics, so you could get one for tropical trips and another for cooler destinations. Read my review here.


3) Cute travel mugs

$9.99 and up

14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
London Underground mug | Oh Darling mug: Etsy shop Exaltation | Multicolor world map mug: Etsy shop Doufaith

If I can't travel, the next best thing is thinking about travel. These adorable mugs will let you ponder your past and future trips over a cup of coffee or tea. Plus, this one changes colors based on the temperature of the liquid inside (tell me that's not cool!):
14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
Think Geek Day and Night mug

4) iPhone DSLR lenses

$25-$200
14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
{photo of Techo lens via}
If your favorite travelers want better pictures but don't want to purchase a DSLR, these lens kits are the perfect gift (see one by iPro here, a less expensive option from Olloclip here, and an even cheaper option from Techo here). All of the lenses attach directly to the iPhone. Since they're so small, they'd take up little to no room when they're packed.

14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Etsy shop Kreations by Kiara}
This is the cutest little necklace that would complement any wardrobe. I don't know what I love more: the quote from Dr. Seuss or the tiny passport charm. 

6) Sseko sandals

$57
14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}
I came across these earlier this year, and I am in love! As a minimalistic packer, I'm all for any product that can be used in multiple ways, and these sandals deliver. Pack a few colors of ribbon, practice your different tying techniques, and there's no need to put any other shoes in your case for that tropical vacation.

I wear them ALL of them around town and when we're traveling, and I get compliments on them constantly. Plus, they're super, super comfortable. It's a win all around!

7) Luggage tags

$9.39-$25
14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
Leather luggage tag: Etsy shop Exsect | Wood luggage tag: Etsy shop Mile Nine | Map luggage tag: Etsy shop Marmaline
You can't ever have too many luggage tags! Stick a few of these cuties into your nomad's stocking, and you'll have one happy traveler on your hands.

8) Subscription boxes

Price varies on type of box and number of months ordered; most boxes average $20/ month

A photo posted by Try The World (@trytheworld) on


Getting a present is fun, but getting a present in the mail for every month is even better. With a global-themed subscription box, you can keep the holiday spirit alive long after you put up the tinsel and lights.

Try the World and Grub Box sends you snacks, jams, crackers, and more to sample from different countries. If you've got a sweet tooth, try out BoCandy, where you'll get treats from all corners of the globe. Disney lovers might like the official Disney Park Pack.

9) Compass cufflinks

$22.72
14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Etsy shop SuedeSentiment}
My husband decided a few years back that he loves french cuff shirts, so I've been on the hunt for cool cufflinks ever since. I think he'd love these silver compass cufflinks--they make a statement without being too flashy. 

10) Scratch off map

$18.14
14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

If there's one thing that any traveler loves, it's the ability to show off where they've been. This map would make for one cool conversation starter! Best of all, it's inexpensive, so you can get one for all of your travel buddies.

14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}
Another great stocking stuffer, these stick-on nail designs will let your favorite traveler show off her wanderlust in style.

14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Etsy shop JewelryFineandDandy}
I can't resist a good pair of studs these days (my toddler thinks it's hilarious to pull on my dangly earrings--ow!), and these earrings by Etsy shop JewelryFineandDandy would make an awesome gift to fellow travelers. Plus, these tiny compasses actually work! 

13) Global Monopoly games

$20+
14 Awesome Gifts for the Traveler in Your Life | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Amazon.com}
Game night just went global with these fun takes on the classic board game. Bayern, Cambridge, Canada, Edinburgh, Las Vegas, the U.S. National Parks, and New York City have all gotten the Monopoly treatment. If one of your favorite locales isn't listed here, no worries! There are over 80 different Monopoly options, so you're sure to find something that your favorite traveler will love.


14) Mirrorless camera

$628
{photo via}
I know that this camera made the list last year, too, but I'm still in love with my Sony A6000 after all this time. After owning a DSLR and constantly complaining about the size and weight, this teeny camera is the best thing that ever happened to my travel photography. It takes great pictures, and I actually want to haul it around. Get this for that extra super special traveler in your life.

If you need even more gift ideas, see my travel-themed gift guide from 2014.

Which of these would you be excited to get or give? What travel-related gift would you add to the list?

This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through them, I will receive a small commission at no additional charge to you.
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