This year, I booked a destination elopement in Ireland. How cool is that? Well you guys know me, I am kind of like an extreme couponer in the travel world. And it's not like I charge my couples travel fees for my son or my husband haha. So if they are going to join me, I really have to budget like a madman. I tried a million different flight options and scenarios... I started with direct, and then I tried some other ideas which included everything from flying Southwest (who we have a companion pass and many miles saved with - learn more here.) to a gateway city like NYC, Boston (great for Ireland!), Atlanta and more.
This typically a great option for us because we live deep in the heart of the United States in Colorado and often times we stop in one of these cities anyway. Another thing I spent a lot of time looking at and messing with was Google Flights... you can look at the overall calendar AND you can look at multiple destination cities in Europe. It's a little tricky to get it to do what you want, but it works. So I looked at flying into every city from Paris to Rome and then how much it would be to fly from those cities to Dublin or Belfast. (I promise, I will do an in depth blog on finding the best flights). I finally landed on London.
I found a flight DIRECT from Denver to Heathrow with United for less than $600 a person for Tyler and I and less than $500 forJake totaling up to be $1664 and then a about a week later flights fromHeathrow to Dublin with Aer Lingus for less than $400 total for all 3 of us.This saved us about $1000 vs flying from Denver to Dublin with 2 layovers in between. AND we were able to spend time in one of our favorite places for a few days. England.
Now this was my 3rd stay at the Dumbleton Hall Hotel which sits on the North West edge of the Cotswolds in England. I could just leave it at the fact that we've been back so many times and you would know it's awesome. BUT instead, I am going to share a gazillion photos with you and explain why we will continue to go back year after year.
I am ONLY going to share photos from our trip this spring. I could share a million more, but I will save them for other blog posts.
1. How CHILD friendly it is
Okay, so I will admit... Jake is not their usual guest. But we have seen other families with young children each time we have stayed. They have an amazing family room with beautiful views of the property (with 3 beds and a wonderful big bathroom with a shower and a bath!) Really the two biggest reasons I say Dumbleton Hall is so kid friendly is because of the property size and setup and the wonderful staff. I will elaborate on both subjects below.
2. The Property
Like I said above, one of the reasons Dumbleton is so kid friendly is the property. Dumbleton Hall Hotel is a 19th-century Cotswold stone manor House with set on 19 acres with gardens, a private lake, walking trails and forest land. As you drive up the half mile driveway through the field that is usually dotted with sheep, your whole experience begins. During this visit, the fields beyond the manor were covered in blue blooms. As a gardener, I was entranced. I never imagined a place with wildflowers so thick that you actually have to mow paths through them. And many of the rooms are situated to have views of this area. Dumbleton also has more formal gardens to walk through, pastures for sheep and their lake where there are always black swans swimming around. I cannot even begin to describe how much I personally love this property, but I will tell you Jake loves it and Tyler says it's the most relaxing place on earth and his favorite hotel we've ever stayed at. (That includes the Broadmoor guys.) I've always been a better photographer than writer, so I will just show you instead of going on and on. I added some aerial drone shots this time! Make sure you pay attention to the details, you may catch the blue wildflowers or the white dots are sheep!
3. Dinner on the Terrace
Every time we go to Dumbleton, we try to maximize every second there... and we are always sad to leave. So we ALWAYS eat on site. They have a more formal dinner you can make reservations, but starting in the evening you can get 'pub food' on the terrace. Which is perfect for us anyway. In the times we have visited, it has been Spring or Fall, so it is definently chilly out. But we prefer to just bundle up and sit out on the patio. I have also discovered a few of my favorite Cider Beers at Dumbleton - Rekorderlig and Koppaberg. We usually carry one around while we walk through the gardens and visit the sheep. The food is typically locally sourced. Our favorites are the Fish and Chips and the Cheese Platter. YUM. Fresh cheese in the Cotswolds is so delicious. And their fresh tartar sauce is so good, I always have to ask for a second side of it. You can also eat inside in one of the sitting areas near the bar if it is raining or too chilly. We also love doing this because we always enjoy the other guests and the staff. But our view on the terrace is one of my favorites. The gardens lining the walls of the manor are beautiful.
4. The Staff
I don't have any photos of the staff, but I will tell you that it's always the same people and they are always so kind and welcoming. They treat Jake like a king and do a fantastic job. The food is great, the service is great, the rooms are always clean and neat, the property is loved and even more than that, the staff members actually take the time to have great conversations with you.
5. The Company of the Other Guests
Part of our love for Dumbleton stems from it's small nature. It's not as small as a Bed and Breakfast... but it isn't as big as an American hotel that's for sure. The thing about Dumbleton is that it is a destination. Like I said earlier.... there is so much to do in the area, but we try to maximize every moment at Dumbleton and save our other activities for another day. You'll notice that many of the guests do the same. They come to Dumbleton, not just for a bed to sleep in, but for the whole experience. The property is big enough that you don't feel crowded or like you can't get away from your neighbors, but the hotel is small enough where you get to know the other guests in the library over a drink or when you say hi in the gardens. And Jake makes friends everywhere he goes, so we generally get to meet most of the guests when he introduces himself. One of our favorite things is that many of the older British Military regiments meet up with each other here. There is nothing like having a beer with a bunch of retired British military men and their wives. We have been paid such wonderful compliments by many of the guests on what a wonderful, polite but still spirited boy Jake is.
6. The English Breakfast
With every stay, you get a full English Breakfast. Complete with your eggs, British Bacon (back bacon which is thicker like sliced ham), beans, cooked tomatoes and hashbrowns. They also have an assortment of yogurts, juices, fruits, cereals, pastries and toast.
7. The Sheep
We LOVE seeing all the sheep when we visit. Of course its common all over the Cotswolds, but visiting them in the pastures is one of our favorite things. When we just visited at the end of April, the lambs had already arrived and it was so cute to see them running around after their mommas. Jake really enjoyed the 'baaaaaby sheeps" and scared a few of them away from the fence with all of his BAAAAAAAA-ing.
8. The Entire Experience
I could write all day and tell you every detail about Dumbleton, but really you need to experience it for yourself. Because it's not really one thing or the other that makes it special. It's all of it. It's the way it looks when you come up the drive, it's walking around with a cider and saying hi to the sheep. It's sitting on the bench up by the lake or overlooking the wildflowers. It's hanging out in the library with a bunch of new friends. It's waking up and looking out your bedroom window to the fog rolling out over the forest. It's the heated towel racks. It's the crown moulding. It's crawling into a cozy bed at night with a fully tummy and a tired body from exploring all day. It's the pouring rain and green grass. It's the delicious breakfast. It's the way the light hits the building when it's a sunny evening. It's the air... some of the freshest air I've ever breathed. It's the building, it's the property, it's the people...
It's all of it. I just love all of it.
To Book your stay at the Dumbleton Hall Hotel in the Cotswolds of England, please visit their website at: https://www.dumbletonhall.co.uk/
Please let them know you were referred by Callie Riesling <3 Thanks guys!
(WITH ANY CAMERA!)
Being a professional photographer, I have an advantage here. I know my way around a camera, I already know what lighting to look for and I know the rules of composition and posing.
That's all great. But it really doesn't mean too much when you are photographing a wild 3 year old.
You can own all of the best equipment and it doesn't matter if your kiddo doesn't want any part of it. So here are my best tips to help you take better travel photos of your kids.
1. PLAN AHEAD. PACK WITH PLACES IN MIND.
Yes. I know this takes a lot of work. But it is so worth it. One of the biggest things that ruins photos is wearing the wrong clothes. This is true for the professional engagement sessions I do and for photos when we are traveling. I hate feeling out of place somewhere and I try to adapt to fit in wherever we are going. I always joke with my mom that I have multiple personalities depending on where I am. I have my Fancy/City personality that dresses in camel colored pea coats, slacks and big sunglasses. I have my California/Surfer/Central American personality (my primary style) that dresses in an excessive amount of bright colors, crochet and surf hats. Then I have my Colorado personality that wears too much flannel, ripped jeans and lives in my hiking boots. This also translates to my son Jakey.
When we are packing for each trip, I try to fit the style of the location. Our suitcase to Hawaii was very different than our suitcase to Europe or our trip to NYC. This isn't just based on the climates or the time of year and weather... but the colors in the locations, the styles that compliment the place and the cultures we are visiting.
Here are some examples of how I would dress Jake for different locations:
London - Rugby and Khakis with a raincoat or one of his London shirts.
California/Hawaii - Boardshorts, Surf shirt, flip flops and a trucker hat.
Colorado/Mountains - Colorado Tshirt/Flannel, Shorts and Hiking Boots.
Now I do try to do some other fun things like Lederhosen in Austria or his lei in Hawaii. It just kind of depends what you have and if you are wanting to buy something for it. Most everything we already have and I just try to 'style' it for the locations.
Here are the key tips for this section:
* Dress for the style and culture of the location
* Consider the colors of the area you will be in.
* WEAR PLAIN COLORED SHOES - the cutest outfit will be ruined.
* Keep it classic. Stay away from brands, tv show characters and things that will age the photos. Paw Patrol will go out of style.
* Avoid neon clothes and bright clothes that will cast colors on their faces.
2. BRING BRIBES.
This is another thing to plan ahead with. Even at weddings, I try to bring a bag of M&Ms for ring bearers and flower girls. This isn't something we always do, but it works great for toddlers who are jet lagged and uncooperative. If you are above bribery... good for you! ;)
3. ACT LIKE A TODDLER TALK, LIKE A TODDLER. BE FUN!
Talk in a way they understand. Instead of saying stand there and smile. Tell them to fly like an airplane or point and moo at the cow or laugh like *Insert Disney Movie Villain here*. If you make silly noises at them or if you make it a game, it will go SO much better. "DON'T SMILE! DON'T LAUGH! DADDY'S GOING TO TICKLE YOU!"
4. EXPECT THEM TO BE KIDS
Lets be honest. They don't really care if you get the photo you want. At Jakey's age he is just starting to understand that photos are fun to look back at later. And that still doesn't mean he is going to care in that moment. Don't give them too much instruction. Just hang back and let them do kid things. Let them climb, let them run.
Let them be little.
5. GET ON THEIR LEVEL
Being at eye level totally matters. Yeah it doesn't always work out... but it really is the best angle to capture anyone. If you get down on their eye level, they also are more likely to give you a smile or cooperate with your wishes. My knees and hips will hate me when I'm older, but the photos will be worth it!
6. CAPTURE THEIR WONDER
Forget everything that you want to accomplish and follow them while they experience things for the first time ever. Sure, I encourage my son Jakey to explore in pretty spots in good outfits, but one of the best things you can do is to step back and watch the wonder in their eyes. Take photos of them eating new things. Take photos of them smelling new things. The best photos come when you do it for them, not for you.
7. LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
Seriously, go in with ideas and a loose plan... but if you expect too much, you will end up disappointed and your kiddo probably won't have any fun.
Remember your expectations should be age appropriate too. Don't expect your baby to not be tired at naptime. Don't expect your toddler to not throw a tantrum over something completely irrelevant. Make sure you don't expect them to do things they aren't ready for developmentally either. There have been times where I have been disappointed when Jake wasn't ready for something yet. But it's all okay. Make sure your expectations are acheivable.
8. CAPTURE WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS.
Whatever age your children are at right now... they will change. They will always change. Capture what actually happens. Babies fall asleep and need diaper changes. Toddlers throw tantrums and need to ride in strollers when they get tired. Yeah, there are a lot of amazing travel photos of kids out there. But my favorite ones are the ones that are true memories. The ones who show who Jake is and how he was at that age. REAL LIFE.
Many of my favorite photos have come off my phone, but I do try to shoot with real camera equipment when possible.
OTHER CAMERAS/TECHY THINGS WE LOVE:
CAMERAS FOR EVERY SKILL LEVEL
Obviously a Canon Girl... so sorry if you like Nikon or others,
I can't recommend a system that I am not familiar with :)
We were so excited when Wayfair approached us to partner with them this Thanksgiving! Here are our Wayfair picks for Thanksgiving! If you haven’t shopped with Wayfair yet, you are missing out!
So we are a little bit behind. Right now, Jake is 3 years old and has been to 25 different countries. But it all had to start somewhere and lately in a lot of my travel groups, I have seen new moms or mommies to be asking about traveling for the first time with their new baby.
One of the best ways to inspire your child is to read with them. Even when you cannot afford to travel to a destination or haven't had the opportunity to visit a place yet, you can teach them so many things with books. Thankfully Amazon provides a HUGE marketplace of Travel Books for Kids, but often times it is kind of hard to sort out the good ones. Obviously we don't own all of these (we would be broke), so if we don't own them - they have been recommended by friends or are reviewed well on Amazon. Enjoy and let me know if there are any I should add to my Amazon List!
Also Make sure you share with us if you end up getting any of them!
As far as travel bloggers go, we are kind of unique. Most of the travel bloggers you see all over social media travel full time, live in some cute little bus or have sold all of their belongings to backpack around the world. As cool as that is, we can't do that. It isn't realistic for us. It isn't a lifestyle we could sustain. And honestly, many of us look at people like that and go "How on EARTH can they Afford to Live That Way?" I know I sure do. So bear with me here while I explain why and how we choose to travel the way we do.
If you are a toddler parent who has flown before, I am sure you have said “sorry” to the stranger in front of your child 500 times on a flight while trying to reason with a little person that can’t really be reasoned with. Especially if you have a strong willed little babe like I do, with busy feet and a desire to always be on the move.
I would have to say, this is probably our most asked question. I probably get a message or email about this at least weekly if not more frequently and when I first started traveling with Jakey when he was a baby, I couldn't find ANY resources online about this topic.
So this blog post is not an official TSA recommendation.
This post is simply what I have observed about the
screening process with babies and toddlers and how I've learned
to make the process easier on myself, my son, my family and the TSA agents working hard
to keep us safe.
Also, if you are here to knock TSA, move along... go somewhere else. They are doing their jobs to keep us safe and I am very grateful for that. I do want to mention that I do not have any actual photos of the TSA experience, that is not allowed for safety reasons.
*** TSA RULES CAN VARY BASED ON AIRPORT + AGENT. RESTRICTIONS CAN CHANGE FREQUENTLY FOR NATIONAL SECURITY REASONS, SO PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU CHECK THE RESTRICTIONS HERE BEFORE YOU TRAVEL***
We are so thankful you are here to read our travel blog. I have several posts I have been preparing for the start of our blog and I think you will find them helpful!
Feel free to share with friends, family and even pin them on Pinterest! Do remember that this is a brand new blog and we are still working out the kinks.
Anyway, excited you are here!
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