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If you follow along in my Instagram stories, you probably saw snippets of our family’s recent trip to Scotland. We traveled for 18 days with our one year old, and had an absolute blast. I’ve had lots of people reach out and ask what we did and what we packed for her, so this is where you’ll find ALL of that!
We left Nashville at 8 pm on May 31st on an overnight direct flight to London. We timed it this way in hopes that our daughter would sleep most of the flight, and when we landed in London at 10 am local time, we’d all be a little less jet-lagged. The flight started out a little rough because they kept the lights on and served dinner right away, but eventually we got her to sleep and she did great.
We flew British Airways, which has free infant seats that sit on a fold-down table in the bulkhead. On our flight to London, she our toddler got overtired and only wanted to be held, so we didn’t use the seat very much. On our trip home though, this was a huge help, as it gave her her own seat and gave us some space, too. They won’t allow you to keep your child in the seat during takeoff or landing, but if you have a relatively smooth flight they can spend the majority of it in their own little seat.
We spent one night in London, then hopped on a quick flight to Edinburgh the next day. After one night in Edinburgh, we met up with Jonny’s parents and sister and drove a rental van up to the Highlands. Jonny and I both have said since that we would probably rather have had one long travel day and not spent a night in London because there’s just so much stuff to set up and tear down in a hotel room when you’re traveling with a small child.
It’s one more thing to set up and tear down, but the Slumberpod is a life changer. It’s a lightweight blackout tent that fits over a pack & play and blocks out light (and a lot of sound) so that your baby/toddler can sleep in an unfamiliar location. Our daughter loves it, and when she was really tired on our trip she reached for it so we would put her to bed. It’s great for when you have to share a hotel room with your child, but don’t want to go to bed when they do. When we stay in a hotel and share a room with her, we put our toddler to bed and then usually watch a show in bed with our AirPods in. The Slumberpod comes with a fan, and it has a pocket at the top for a video monitor. The Slumberpod and this sound machine that can run for up to 12 hours (we plug it in overnight just in case) are two things we never travel without these days.
On our way up to the Highlands, we stopped at the cutest little berry stand and got the best strawberries we’d ever had. They were so good that we had to stop again on the way back to Edinburgh a few days later.
We stayed at the Craigendarroch Suites in Ballater, which was beautiful. In the Highlands, we explored cute little towns (Ballater and Braemar were favorites), did a Land Rover tour of the Balmoral Estate (one of my favorite things we did!), hiked in the Cairngorms National Park, and had a family history day. Jonny had done quite a bit of research on his Scottish roots, and had tracked down ancestral homesites and graveyards. I know our idea of a vacation may be a little different than some, but we had a great time exploring the places his ancestors lived.
After the Highlands, we dropped Jonny’s parents and sister off at their hotel in Edinburgh, and the three of us headed over to our Airbnb. We spent several nights in Edinburgh, and loved it so much that we extended our stay there by a day.
Edinburgh is a friendly city that’s packed with history, things to do, and great food. Some of our favorite things were hiking Arthur’s Seat, which overlooks the city, and visiting St Gile’s Cathedral for a church service on Sunday morning. We stayed in this Airbnb, which had an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle.
We walked everywhere from our Airbnb, and though there is good public transportation, we put quite a few miles on our travel stroller. I cannot say enough good things about this stroller–it’s not the cheapest travel stroller, but I’m a big proponent of buying quality that will last and that can be handed down rather than something cheap that you’ll have to throw away after a trip or two. This stroller held up perfectly through miles and miles of cobblestones, and looks brand new. It reclines almost totally flat, which was great for naps on the go, and it folds up and fits in even small airplane overhead compartments. My only complaints are that I wish the seat back sat up a little straighter (our daughter just leaned forward to see things) and the basket at the bottom has a support bar running through it, so you can stuff a lot of small stuff into it, but large bags wouldn’t fit. Honestly though, those are the only downsides, and being able to roll it right up to the door of the airplane and not worry about gate checking it was hugely helpful.
Another amazing baby/toddler travel item is this super light fanny pack baby carrier. When you’re traveling anywhere in Europe you never know when you’re going to run into a set of stairs or somewhere that a stroller just won’t be able to go, and having this made that so much easier. We could take our daughter out of the stroller, put her in the carrier, fold up the stroller, and hike up all the stairs.
We found that we were able to get into restaurants for dinner with no reservations pretty frequently, just because we were eating a little bit earlier than everyone else, around 6 pm. It seemed like the dinner rush really started after 7, which was fine by us with a toddler. We keep this mat in our diaper bag for eating out, which is wonderful for protecting the table from too much mess, and a cleaner surface for your baby to eat off of.
After our stay in Edinburgh, we rented a car and drove to Glasgow. I’ll say this about Glasgow: skip it! We didn’t see any travel blogs beforehand telling us not to go, but since we’ve been back and talked to friends, everyone who has been has said the same thing. The city has so much potential to be a hub of arts, culture, history, and tourism, but the historical sites were mostly closed, and the entire city was filthy. I can be a bit of a germaphobe when it comes to “city” germs (getting dirty hiking is just not as gross as getting dirty from a city bus, you know?) but even Jonny agreed that it just felt gross. Trash everywhere, graffiti on most buildings, and it smelled bad. To be fair, we happened to go during a heat wave, which I’m sure didn’t make the smell any better.
The icing on the cake in Glasgow was a busker sitting outside our Airbnb condo building and playing an out of tune rendition of “Despacito” on violin to a backing track on repeat. FOR HOURS. For 4-5 hours every evening, he played nonstop. Between the smell, the heat, and the soundtrack from hell, we couldn’t help but laugh at what a bad impression we got of Glasgow.
After a day in Glasgow, we got out of the city for a day to drive up to Loch Lomond to hike. It was beautiful, and made us both want to come back to that part of Scotland for a longer stay.
I did a lot of research on hiking baby carriers before our trip, and we’ve been really happy with the one we bought. It packs flat, and while it’s too long to fit in most suitcases, you can purchase this travel bag separately and check it for free as a baby item on most airlines.
After Glasgow, we were happy to hop on a flight back to London, where we stayed for the last few days of our trip. We love London–there’s so much to do, great food, and once we figured out public transportation with a stroller, it was easy to get around. If you use Google Maps in London, it doesn’t always work well, so it’s helpful to make sure that you’re stopping at Tube stops that have a handicap accessible sign, which means they either have an elevator or no stairs. When we weren’t traveling with our suitcases, we just carried the baby and stroller up and down the stairs separately (that fanny pack baby carrier coming in handy again!)
We visited St Paul’s Cathedral, where our daughter took a nap in her stroller and we got to enjoy the air conditioning. Win-win.
We also visited Liberty London, a design house known for their distinctive floral fabrics. I could have spent hours there, and Jonny loved it, too, but our toddler was ready to be done for the day. We’ll definitely visit again next time we’re in London! We shopped at Harrod’s and in Notting Hill, and loved walking through the pinterest-worthy winding streets of Notting Hill.
After 18 days, we were ready to come home. On our flight from London to Nashville, our daughter took two naps, played quietly, and watched Ms Rachel on an iPad. We had lots of people give us compliments on our behavior, which we accepted while laughing to ourselves because as any parent knows, a one year old’s behavior has very little to do with parental discipline or guidance, and very much to do with whether they’re teething, hot, hungry, tired, bored, or overstimulated. We got very lucky with an easy going kid who happened to have great days traveling, and we’re grateful for that! We also know that next time we travel, it may not be so easy, and that’s okay, too.
If you have any questions, want more details about anything, or have your own stories to share, please send me a message!
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