Big changes coming to the adventures of the Black Beret and Grey Cap! We are expecting a little Baby Bonnet in September. This travel blog started mainly as one, to two, and soon our future travels will be three! How life has changed over the past 6 years…
Planning the Babymoon
While newly wed couples have a honeymoon, lucky soon-to-be-parents can have a babymoon! Our babymoon had to be a trip abroad of course. After toying with idea of Norway, Barcelona, and Hawaii, we choose the romance of Venice and the charm of London.
As a child, I had watched a TV documentary with my Dad on the sinking city of Venice on TVO. It had filled me with a sense of urgency to see Venice I remember to this day. Decades later, Matt and I were making that dream come true.
My first trip abroad had been to London with my Dad when I graduated from high school. My partner Matt had only visited London briefly for a day during a stopover 20 years ago and he was eager to see England! Lucky for us, flights to London were super cheap! It made an excellent springboard to see Venice from.
My research showed that the second trimester of pregnancy was the best time to travel. So in January, we booked a flight for the end of March. We got a good sale price with West Jet, but were floored by the price of a flight from London to Venice: just $45 with British Airways! To fly this deal, we needed to go to Venice on the day we got into Gatwick, so we got a ‘daylet’ in the airport at Departures. Apparently day beds are a thing in Europe – how sophisticated!
Pregnant on a Plane
Travelling when pregnant may require a different approach that you’re used to when flying. Multiple articles I read recommended the following:
- Book an aisle seat: you will need to get up to use the washroom often; it is also advisable to get up and walk around every hour
- Bring a huge water bottle: keeping well hydrated is vital
- Inform flight staff you are pregnant: you may get more water and be treated with extra care; advanced seating may also be offered.
- Wear compression socks or stockings: apparently flying aggravates pregnant ladies’ viscose veins
I contacted employer’s health insurance provider (Green Shield) to confirm whether or not I was covered for pregnancy complications through my travel insurance. As long as I wasn’t travelling during the 4 weeks around my due date, I was covered by my insurance. I just had to ensure I had my provincial health care card and my Green Shield ID card on me at all times when travelling. Articles and friends also recommended the following:
- Doctor’s Note: If you are in your third trimester, you may need a doctor’s note to travel.
- Travel Insurance: Confirm your travel insurance covers pregnancy-complications. If it doesn’t, request a top-up for peace-of-mind.
Planning for Venice, Italy
Choosing Accommodations in Venice
As soon as our flights were booked, we looked at AirBnBs in Venice. Venice is a relatively small city, so most things are within walking distance. After much scrolling and comparing, I narrowed our search down to 3 options. The most alluring rentals within our budget happened to be in the countryside outside of Venice. We ended up going for an attractive one bedroom apartment all to ourselves with a small courtyard for $70/night plus fees near the Rialto Bridge. It was a new listing with a new host which was a bit of a risk. The apartment didn’t face the water, but I understand that is just as well as the canals can be quite stinky. It was also above street level which I felt would be important for risk of flooding and mold.
It was important that we had access to a kitchen in addition to our own private space. We had been told by multiple sources that the food inVenice was horrible as the entire city caters to the tourism industry. Hardly any Venetians actually live there now! Most apartments are owned by foreigners or are rented out to tourists like ourselves. So, the food is bland and boring to cater to tourist tastes, not Italians. There were still grocery stores and food markets though. I looked forward to making our own tasty meals in our little kitchen. I was just a little sad thinking of the Italian wine, soft cheeses, and deli meats I’d have to forego on my pregnancy food regime… but at least I can still eat pasta and bread!
Day Planning for Venice
I was very excited to visit Venice despite how boring my friends said it was. Three people told me you can do all of Venice in a day –but then they probably don’t stop to take photos every couple of feet like Ido! I began plotting out the sights I wanted to see, looking at other pictures photographers had taken in the city, and perusing my Venice travel guide.
I was quite intrigued by a photo I came across of Burano.It was a row of colourful houses on a sunny day. Turned out it was on an island that used to be inhabited by fishermen. It was one of the many islands of Venice you can take a ferry to! My dad had fond memories of visiting Torcello as a young man and a couple friends had loved Murano when they visited, so I thought why not make a day of it and do the islands!
Next we looked at day trips outside of Venice. Verona was close by, but didn’t seem all that exciting (beyond a rumour the food was better there). It had a Roman amphitheatre that was still used to host music today, but no shows were scheduled during our visit. We might go to Verona. We might not – we’ll see how the trip goes.
I was thoroughly intrigued by the Dolomite mountains, but unfortunately that was too far away to make a day trip out of. Matt had loved visiting the mountains outside of Milan when he had visited Italy a couple years ago. He said they were beautiful! We made a promise to one another we’d go back and rent a little chalet in the mountains and take our child hiking one day!
We always like to see a concert or a show when we travel. Theatre in Venice was incredible expensive – $200 a seat! However, we did find a Vivaldi concert in a church for $25 or so dollars. It must be an age-old tourist thing, because it sounds like my aunt went to the exact same concert in the 1990’s! I do enjoy Vivaldi, so I’m more than willing to give it a try. Matt and I missed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at the Toronto Symphony last year after all…
Planning for London, England
Finding Accommodation in London
For London, I had envisioned staying somewhere like the charming inn we enjoyed so much Glasgow this past fall. Once I started looking at our options, I was shocked at how expensive accommodations in London were! I looked at youth hostels, dorm rooms in universities, AirBnB’s, and budget B&Bs, but all were well above $100/night for a private room and quite dumpy looking. I was discourage. So, reached out to my friends on Facebook with a post for personal recommendations. To my pleasant surprise, many people responded! I knew more far people living near, in, or expats from London than I thought!
Numerous people recommended AirBnB. A friend from England recommended staying in the area with the postal code SE1 near Borough Market. My aunt recommended staying away from the Wharfs as they are complicated to get to/from. Another friend who lives just outside London recommended looking at hotels around Covent Garden/Seven Dials. Both my Dad and aunt recommended the British Museum area, but it was outside our budget. In the end, we booked a budget inn in Pimlico through Expedia for $125/night including breakfast. It was $20 per person, per night more than the AirBnBs we were looking at and with its central location and buffet breakfast included, we figured the extra $20 paid for itself in convenience and food.
Choosing a Bus Tour
As I’m pregnant, Matt and I were making an effort to plan a more chill holiday than we usually do. This meant no car rentals as driving on the opposite side of the road in a foreign country was stress inducing for both of us (see our recent trip to Scotland). However, we wanted to see sights outside of London and only had three days in England. Matt wanted to see Stonehenge and I wanted to see Oxford. It was unreasonable to take a train and public transit to both these places in the limited time we had, so we opted for a bus tour.
I had never taken a bus tour before. The idea of being swept from one sight to another with a gaggle of tourists is not appealing. We like to do things on our own terms, at our own pace. However, if we wanted to get out of London for a day, this was our best option. Like accommodations, I was shocked at the price tag on bus tours in a big tourist city like London. The cheapest tour to Stonehenge alone I could find was $88/pp. Many tours that were around $100/pp did not even include admission costs to the sights you visited! Some included a packed lunch, but upon reading reviews found these usually entailed a sad leaf of lettuce and tomato slice between two slices of bread.
I spent a whole sunny Saturday morning in February doing research. After Google searches, Expedia and Travelocity comparisons, and word-of-mouth recommendations (companies like Viator), we settled on a bus tour with Evan Evans Tours. For $159.57 through Expedia we would be driven from Victoria Cross Station to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford in a single day – and admissions were included! It was the one tour I could find under $200/pp that did both Oxford and Stonehenge with admissions – and didn’t have deplorable reviews. All we had to do was pack a lunch and walk 12-minutes from our accommodations to the bus station!
In the end, we felt satisfied with our choice. It was more than we wanted to spend originally, but would meet both of our day trip wants: Oxford and Stonehenge. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to do the Inspector Morse Pub-Crawl I had aspired to do, but in my current state, I couldn’t drink alcohol anyway. Matt and I envision a family road trip in our future with baby in tow, where I’ll get to see the Cotswolds, the White Cliffs of Dover, hear the Kings College Choir at Cambridge, and do a self-guided tour of Oxford to see filming locations of some of my favourite British TV shows (Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour). Matt wanted to see the many science sights of Cambridge too, including Newton’s tree. Next time… next time…
Going Carry-on Only for Our Babymoon
To keep costs low and for ease of plane hopping to and from Venice, we opted for carry-on only. Coming home, we would take advantage of West Jet’s free baggage check for their credit card holders. But what do you pack for your last vacation before parenthood? Due to limited knapsack space, I kept it practical:
- Kitchen essentials: We have learnt he hard way that you can never trust an AirBnB’s kitchen inventory. So, we pack our Aeropress coffee maker, salt, pepper, elastics, bag clips for cooking at our home-away-from-home. For packing lunches while exploring the city, we pack a water bottle, reusable ziplock bags, and a mini-cooler pack (airline friendly). I also snuck in a tiny bottle of olive oil for cooking, some honey, and cereal for our 3-night stay in Venice.
- Rain coat, rain boots, umbrella: It is springtime. There will be rain – and we will be in London.
- Fall/spring jacket and scarf: Despite the fact spring flowers bloom in London while Toronto is still covered in snow, it will still be chilly in Europe in March.
- European adapter and power bar: Charge all the things – all at once! Very useful when you have multiple electronics and batteries to charge daily.
- Lysol wipes: Being pregnant makes you overly conscious of everything you do, ingest, smell, and touch. If anyone told me in November I’d be the type of person to bring Lysol wipes on a plane I’d laugh in their face… but I’ve become that ‘crazy’ person. I’m growing a tiny human inside my body and for its sake, cannot get sick – and planes are notorious breeding grounds for germs and illness.