Tips on Traveling with an Infant

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disclaimer: I was provided the Dockatot Grand and Travel Bag in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own.

Wondering how to travel with a baby? It doesn’t have to be as scary as it seems. I would encourage any family wanting to travel to definitely do so, and to start young. We took Leo on our first family (car) trip up north at 3 weeks, first international trip to Mexico at 8 weeks, and to Nashville at 6 months.

Many of our friends and coworkers couldn’t believe we weren’t going to curb our travel once we became parents, but it is truly a passion of ours and we never want to stop exploring or going on adventures together. We want to show Leo the world!

Here’s a few tips and pieces of information for anyone traveling with an infant.

1. Getting a Passport
Infant/Child passports are good for 5 years. Birth certificates are made available to the State within 3 weeks of birth. Both parents will need to be present when applying for a passport, and it must be done in person. You can check online using your zip code to see what office is closest to you. Normal processing time is 4-6 weeks. We expedited ours for an additional $60, and it arrived in about 10 days.
*Try to print a picture beforehand. The size is 2×3, which is NOT the same as “wallet size.” Learned that one the hard way…*

2.Planning Flight Travel
An infant up to 2 years of age can be considered a “lap child/child in arms” and you do not need to purchase an additional ticket for them. After purchasing an (international) ticket for yourself, contact your travel agent or the airline and let them know about your child and they will add them to the flight. For international flights, you will need to pay the international fee and taxes for the baby, even if they are considered a lap child. (For Mexico, this was about $18 each way.) For domestic travel, the check-in counter can add them to your flight ticket and it will print with your boarding pass. *Be sure to bring the baby’s passport for international travel and either passport or birth certificate for domestic travel.*

When you check-in for your flight, ask the airline if the flight is full. If it is not, you will be able to bring your carseat on the flight with you (placed rear-facing, in a window seat.) Make sure you have the FAA sticker that approves it for flight. Some flight attendants may ask to verify.

3. Navigating the Airport
Bring your stroller and car seat for FREE! Both these items, as well as your pump, and diaper bag all qualify as “courtesy items” and will not be charged as a carry-on or checked item. If you are traveling with breast milk, this is considered “liquid medication” and does not have to be stored in 3oz sizes-it can be more. Pack in a cooler with ice and go through security-they’ll likely scan it with a laser to make sure its just milk.

When we’re traveling with Leo, we keep him in his stroller until we get to the gate. We also bring our Ergo360 for transporting him-this is handy walking through the airport if he wants to be held, or if the flight is full and we aren’t able to bring our carseat on.
When you get to the gate agent, ask for the tags that say “gate check” Put your stroller (and carseat if the flight is full) in your gate check bags, and put the gate check tag on each bag. This way, the ground crew will bring your stroller and carseat back up to the ramp as you deplane.

My biggest tip in-flght would be to feed your baby at take-off and landing. This will help their sensitive ears adjust to the rapidly changing pressure in the cabin. Other than that, kids will be kids and you can only plan and pray so much that it will go well. You could try introducing a new toy, packing snacks, or trying to plan your flight during nap time. We’ve been very fortunate that Leo has been a happy, sleepy, curious traveler so far.

Don’t leave home without….
Dockatot
For those that follow my blog or instagram, you know how much I LOVE our Dockatot! This is the #1 thing I recommend to all expecting parents. We bring it with us everywhere. Its great for tummy time, play time (look how cute the new play bar is!), sleepy time, and all the times in between. Who wouldn’t want to travel with their own bed? Its comfy and familiar. The geniuses at Dockatot just came out with a travel bag that makes it so easy. The travel bag is available in both the Deluxe Size (perfect as a carry-on) or the Grand Size (needs to be checked.) I pack all of Leo’s diapers, clothes, and necessities for the week in the bag as well.
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Have any questions on the Dockatot, what to pack, or traveling with a baby? I’d love to help! email: emeraldandoakblog@gmail.com

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City Guide: Nashville

nashWelcome to the south, y’all!

We headed to Nashville for a quick getaway over Memorial Day Weekend. We’ve had Nashville on our minds for a number of reasons and decided it was time to check out the neighborhoods and experience downtown already. We were not disappointed by this southern city! I’m a city girl and Cody is a southern country boy, and Nashville is the perfect mix of both.

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There’s live music everywhere, from Broadway Honky Tonks to the Grand Old Opry, even stages on street corners and bands playing in the airport terminal as you deplane.

We loved the food! From the sweet tea given as you enter Reese Witherspoon’s boutique, Draper James, to the incredible burger scene at Burgerup and The Pharmacy, amazing brunch at Pinewood Social and Flipside, and of course, hot chicken and classic meat and three barbecue.

The city is surprisingly familiar feeling, and I found it easy to get my directional bearings right away. It feels both accessible and approachable. We loved exploring the neighborhoods of East Nashville and especially 12South, and spent a lot of time downtown by Broadway and The Gulch.

If you’re seeing Nasvhille in 3 days, here’s what we’d recommend:
Nashville Eats:
The Pharmacy (East Nashville) Amazing burgers, German beers, and one hell of a courtyard to sit in. Too busy? Walk across the street to Mas Tacos.
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Pinewood Social (Downtown, walkable to Broadway and the Pedestrian Bridge.) This is a warehouse converted into your ultimate hangout-brunch, bowling, bocce ball, TVs, Soaking pools, chairs for laying out, and even an outdoor Airstream bar for ordering poolside.
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Hattie B’s hot chicken, hot line…order ahead or go early.
Flipside (12South) Don’t even order brunch. Just order the $25 Bloody Mary. You won’t be disappointed. or hungry.
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bartaco (12South) Tacos in a fun indoor/outdoor nautical feeling setting. This place draws a crowd and has some killer food and drinks.
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Biscuit Love (Gulch) order at the counter style brunch, easy and fast and equally delicious.
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Jeni’s (12South) a must stop for the best ice cream you’ll ever have.
Five Daughters Bakery (12 South)
Jack’s BBQ (Broadway) If you’ve had too much to drink at the honky tonks on broadway, slip into Jack’s for some quick eats and get back to it.
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Explore Nashville:
Murals. These instagram-worthy murals are all over the city! The quintessential “I believe in Nashville” mural is located in the 12South neighborhood and the Wings are in The Gulch.
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Broadway. Broadway packs honky tonk after honky tonk in this six block area, and is known as the bachelorette mecca. They start to fill up at 10 am and most are open until 4 am.
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Pedestrian Bridge. The bridge is located downtown, just a few blocks from Broadway and Printer’s Alley, and is also a really easy walk from Pinewood Social. This bridge goes over the river and connects to the Tennessee Titans stadium. Great for taking pictures, getting fresh air, or having a picnic in the park afterward.
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Grand Ol Opry. This is a destination country fans surely don’t want to miss. We took the backstage tour and learned more about the birth of country music, how the Opry came to be, how it was rebuilt, and even toured the dressing rooms and got up on stage with the mic.
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Opryland Hotel. Connected to the Opry, and within walking distance to a huge shopping complex and everything kids may ever want to do, the hotel is massive and fun to explore.
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12South Neighborhood. Cute boutiques & awesome restaurants!
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If we had a week to spend in Nashville, we would have added in a few hikes and explored Franklin. We’re already excited to get back and experience more!

Have you been to Nashville? What are your must see’s and do’s?

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Mexico

Cody, Leo, and I just got back from our first international family trip! I’m still on maternity leave and we decided to make the best use of the time and take a trip now during the cold winter months. Leo absolutely loved being outside and was such a great traveler.

One of the visions for our family is to travel as much as possible and we want to share those experiences and sense of adventure with Leo, even at two months old.

We expedited a passport for him and booked a long weekend to Puerto Vallarta for an all-inclusive. (I promised Cody a relaxing, all-inclusive vacation after traipsing all over Europe for a few weeks last year.) It was great to sit in the sun, swim up to the bar, get massages on the beach, and not have to make any decisions. This was an easy first vacation with an infant as well because we had everything we needed at the family-friendly resort.

We were a little nervous about his first flight, but he was amazing! Leo fed at take-off and landing to help his ears adjust to the pressure, and during flight, slept in his carseat.

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2017

A year ago, I wrote a reflection on 2015, the year of becoming. It was a transitional year in my life, pivotal in laying the foundation for my life today: who I am, where I am, where I’m going. It was an incredible year, the best I had yet known.

In 2015:
The chapter of a decade long relationship closed, and I found peace despite the pain.
I started my blog, a goal I’d had for years, and was able to connect with others traveling through similar seasons of life, opening the conversation in so many directions.
I bought my first house, and shortly after, my boyfriend moved in with me to create the home together.
I fell in love: hard, fast, and completely.
I traveled to familiar and new places around the US: Orlando, Atlanta, Vegas, South Dakota, Chicago, Rhode Island, Boston, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Philadelphia, and all around Michigan’s beach towns.

We ended 2015 and welcomed 2016 up north in a little town called Frankfort for a long weekend to rest, relax, and explore northern Michigan. We took walks into town for breakfast, watched the bowl games at the one screen movie theatre in town, and grabbed brews at Stormcloud. On New Year’s Eve, we stumbled upon a party in a local furniture store just down from the brewery and movie theatre, and enjoyed a few hours mingling among total strangers, perusing furniture, enjoying the band, and even a little dancing.

Little did I know that 2016 would top 2015 and every year before that.

In 2016:
I fell even more in love with Cody and the life we are creating together and happily accepted his marriage proposal in April under a glittering Eiffel Tower.
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We finished the remodel of our house: kitchen, dining room, office, guest room turned nursery, laundry room.

I became a mom to the most beautiful boy, Leo Emerson, on the last day in November.
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I traveled to familiar and new places around the world: Montreal, Chicago, Florida, Cape Cod, Boston, Oklahoma, Amsterdam, Paris, Florence, Barcelona, Venice, and Rome.

We ended 2016 similar to 2015, in the little beach town of Frankfort for a weekend to rest, relax, and explore. I love that this trip has become a tradition, the perfect bookend to the year, coming full circle. This time, we had our little Leo with us as we explored Traverse City and its wineries, grabbed brews at Stormcloud, and enjoyed a reflection on the incredible year its been.

I love the transition that the New Year brings, the soft close on one chapter of life that unfolds into a new one. There is something peaceful and promising in not knowing what lies before us in this year: the travels, the defining moments, the firsts for us and for our son, as well as the struggles, the disappointments, the failures. We have dreams for this year, and the years that come after it, both personally and as a family, and I’m so excited to see how those chapters unfold before us.

And I hope as I sit to write my reflection a year from now, I can say 2017 topped 2016, and 2015, and every year before that.

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City Guide: Philadelphia

Earlier this summer, while city hopping out East, my sister and I took a day trip to Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a great city: easy to navigate, filled with both history and tourism all within walking distance of city center. Its a great city for both young professionals (as evidenced by the packed beer gardens) but also for families, with lots of historical sites, bus tours, and outdoor spaces ideal for picnic lunches.

Here are my highlights and suggestions for a visit to the city of brotherly love:

Reading Terminal Market
51 N 12th St
Reading Terminal Market is located in city center and boats dozens of shops and eateries, with everything imaginable under one roof: cheese shops, sweets, fresh cut flowers, barbecue joints, local butchers, hand rolled sushi, ice cream, and more.
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Historical Sites and Architecture
There’s a lot of historical sites in Philadelphia, most notably Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Visitors can tour Independence Hall and the various buildings surrounding the area and learn about the Liberty Bell and when/why it has been rung throughout American history. The architecture, attention to detail, and ornate sculptures in the buildings are something not to miss around the city.
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Independence Beer Garden
100 S Independence Mall
Located directly across from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall is the Independence Beer Garden. Packed on the weekends, its the perfect place to grab some friends and hang out with yard games in the afternoon over some beers and apps. They had corn hole, giant jenga, cards, and bocce ball located throughout the garden, with various seating options: bar, picnic tables, lawn chairs and stumps.
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Philly Cheesesteak
I think it would be a crime to visit the city of brotherly love without ordering a Philly Cheesesteak. We couldn’t decide on traditional or creative, so we ordered one at the market and one at Sonny’s and split them both. Dinic’s is located within the Reading Terminal Market and Sonny’s is located in Old City, a few blocks from the liberty bell, and was named best Cheesesteak by GQ.

Cheesesteak #1: Dinic's

Cheesesteak #1: Dinic’s (roast beef, mozzarella, broccoli rabe)

Sonny's: Voted #1 by GQ

Sonny’s: Voted #1 by GQ

Sonny's Cheesesteak

Sonny’s Cheesesteak

Rocky Steps
2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
No trip to Philadelphia is complete without running up the Rocky steps (added bonus: working off a few cheesesteak calories.) The infamous Rocky steps are located at the Museum of Art. Run the steps, explore the museum and beautiful botanic gardens, take in the view of the city from the top of the 72 steps, and explore the nearby museums like Rodin.
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What are your favorite Philadelphia locations? I’d love to hear!

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Village Cheese Shanty: Leland “Fishtown” MI.

There are few things that I love more than a sleepy Michigan beach town that comes alive in the summertime. Its a common phrase, “Up North”, an all encompassing term for any destination in Northern Michigan. US-131 starts to back up around 3:30 on Friday’s from Grand Rapids, everyone headed to lake houses, cottages, and campsites. “Up North” includes unique, one of a kind, irreplaceable locations like Traverse City, Charlevoix, Petoskey, Leelanau, Glen Arbor, Frankfort, and many, many more.

The water Up North on Lake Michigan is often clear, majestic in its shades of blues, shipwrecks visible from Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Manitou Islands. June-August, the colors of the water rival that of the Caribbean, a sight you have to be present to believe.

I love the beach town feel: the sound of seagulls, the smell of bonfires at night, clear skies illuminated by billions of twinkling stars. I love sitting around the fire in a cozy sweatshirt, surrounded by friends and family, telling riddles and roasting smores. I love the feel of the warm sand under my feet at the beach and the way a shower feels after a long, sunkissed day outside. I love the boutiques, small town shops, and quaint restaurants serving up impressive happy hour’s. I love watching the boats glide effortlessly through the lake and harbors, the grandiose ones beckoning the drawbridge to raise and let them pass.

More than anything else, I love specialty shops and delis. I love sampling the jams, jellies, cherry salsa’s, and cheeses. I could stand in front of a fromagerie or charcuterie case for hours, reading every label, pouring over every description.
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One of my all time favorites is the Village Cheese Shanty in Leland, MI. Affectionately known as “Fishtown,” Leland is the ferry passage to the Manitou Islands, and home to cottages, beachgoers, wineries, and more. The small village has shops lining the water, and the best is the small, unassuming Village Cheese Shanty, easily dismissed if you don’t know what you’re looking for. (A favorite of Mario Batali’s as well!) My friends Ross and Kari introduced me to the Village Cheese Shanty last summer, a suggestion for boxed lunches to take along on our wine tour through the Leelanau Peninsula.

The sandwiches are made with the best ingredients: creative toppings, local, fresh, topped on homemade pretzel bread. With names like the Shipwreck, Fishtown, Lake Effect, and Manitou, the only thing better is the price: boxed lunches are only $8.95 and include a sandwich, chips or cole slaw, a pickle, and a drink.

My favorite: The Orchard
Chicken Breast
Brie
Dried Cherries
Spinach
Tomato
Sunflower Seeds
Cherry Vinaigrette
Pretzel Bread
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I’ve gone several times now, always ordering The Orchard (on pretzel bread!) and crave it CONSTANTLY, to the point that I recreate it with a few substitutions at home for lunch on a weekly basis. I rarely have pretzel bread on hand, so I will bake a small ciabatta for 5-7 minutes at 400 degrees, lay down the brie (so it starts to melt a bit) and top with either chicken breast or prosciutto, and top with spinach, tomato, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and sprouts.
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If you go (and you should!)
Village Cheese Shanty
Leland, MI
http://www.villagecheeseshanty.com/
Call ahead for pickup! 231.256.9141
CASH only.

Have you been to the Village Cheese Shanty? I’d love to hear what you order!
What are your favorite Northern Michigan businesses? I’d love to hear your must stop’s, see’s, and do’s!

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Travel Guide: South Dakota

Travel Guide: South Dakota

I recently had the privilege of joining my friend Kyle on a trip to South Dakota. Kyle is an insanely respected photographer and instagram influencer.  His work often means traveling around the world on behalf of major brands and campaigns, so when the South Dakota Tourism team asked him to come to their great state, I jumped at the chance to tag along.

Every state has a tagline and South Dakota’s, or “SoDak” is known as the state of “Great Faces, Great Places.” Although the tagline commonly refers to iconic Mount Rushmore, it certainly applies equally to the amazing, fun, thoughtful, and hospitable South Dakota Tourism staff that hosted us throughout the week.

South Dakota is an ideal state for road trips and camping, small town stops, and outdoor adventure. There is so much to take in, especially “The Great 8.”
Mount Rushmore
Crazy Horse Memorial
Wind Cave National Park
Custer State Park
Badlands National Park
Historic Deadwood
Jewel Cave
Missouri River

Upon arrival to SD, we drove to Prairie Berry Winery and Miner Brewery for a welcome reception. Not only was the beer delicious, we were greeted with charcuterie boards, bacon topped brownies, and delicious flatbreads. Our welcome to the great state even included gift baskets filled with SoDak gear, wine, blankets, water bottles, stickers, confections, and travel notebooks.
SoDak Welcome BasketAfter touring (and sampling) our way throughout the winery, we headed to Mount Rushmore for the evening lighting ceremony. The next morning, we woke early to go back to Mount Rushmore, before the daily crowds arrived. We learned all about the history, the time it took to complete the monument, and even sampled amazing ice cream with breakfast.
Mount RushmoreFrom there, we headed to Crazy Horse Monument for an exclusive tour to the top of the arm. Did you know all four presidents from Mount Rushmore could fit into Crazy Horse? It’s that big! We had time to explore the grounds, shop the merchants, learn about the cultural history of the tribes in the area, and explore the college at Crazy Horse before lunch.
Crazy Horse from the TopCrazy Horse Memorial

After lunch, we headed to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary for a private tour. There are over 700 wild mustangs that call the Wild Horse Sanctuary home. It was amazing how close the horses would get to us and how many allowed us to touch them. Driving through the reservation, we had the unique privilege and timing to witness part of the assembly and preparation for the annual rain dance by one of the tribes in the area. It is a very sacred and emotional event and a rite of passage in their culture.
Black Hills Wild Horse SanctuaryThis Year's Christmas CardBlack Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary

After heading from the Black Hills to Custer State Park, we were treated to a dinner at the State Game Lodge. I indulged in the Elk Osso Bucco…incredible! We experienced a sunset buffalo jeep safari ride after dinner. Our driver was not only hilarious, but also a ton of fun. (Although there was one scary descent from a hill incident involving a branch where nearly everyone gasped and looked back at me, thinking I died!) I would definitely recommend this experience.
Buffalo Jeep Safari

The next morning we headed to Needles Highway to check out the Spires and amazing landscape. The scenery was so lush, so green, so quiet, and so peaceful. It was truly remarkable.
SpiresNeedles HighwayEye of The Needle

I was able to check off a huge item off my bucket list as well, with a helicopter ride in the Black Hills over Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Needles Highway. The aerial views are an experience unlike any other!
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We headed to Sylvan Lake at Custer State Park for sack lunches on the rocks. Sylvan Lake was featured in the film National Treasure and is an incredibly beautiful area. You can kayak, hike, camp, picnic, or even watch a lakeside wedding here.
Sylvan Lake, Custer State ParkHike Around Sylvan LakeWedding at Sylvan Lake

I had to cut my trip short to head back to work, but can’t wait to get back to South Dakota and explore the Badlands, Wall Drug, Deadwood, and Spearfish Canyon!

Other Notables:
-South Dakota is also home to the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year!
-If you’re visiting in September, be sure to check out the annual Buffalo Round Up in Custer State Park. This event is celebrated with crowds and picnics, and you can watch all the buffalo be corralled to be counted and checked for pregnancies. Photographers and tourists all around come in to see this!

South Dakota is filled with tons of outdoor adventure, awe inspiring monuments, natural elements, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and countless great faces and places. I am so grateful for the adventure!
Have you been to SoDak? I’d love to hear what’s on your must see and do list!

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