Valencia: On Traveling Solo

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I’ve traveled a fair amount.  Not nearly as much as some people I know, but I think it’s safe to say I’ve seen more of the world than your average Joe.  That being said, I’m pretty clueless when it comes to the planning and execution of any sort of travel.  So while the idea of meeting my husband in Valencia for the weekend sounded delightful…deep down it stirred up a big ole batch of anxiety.  I’ve never flown alone.  I’ve never even taken a subway alone.  And I’ve certainly never done any of it while pushing a stroller with a toddler in it and dragging a suitcase behind me.

So how did it come to pass that I’ve visited 8 countries on two continents and seen a healthy amount of the US but don’t have a clue what I’m doing?  Well, here is where I blame my husband.  He travels a lot for work.  Usually not anywhere particularly exotic or exciting, but travel is travel when it comes to logistics.  He’s probably been on a hundred or more flights, rented cars, ordered Ubers, read subway maps…you name it.  So when it comes time for us to pack up and set sail for the great wide open you can probably guess who the captain of the ship is.  And me?  Well, I’m just a tourist on his finely tuned cruise ship to wherever the hell we happen to be going.  Got my head in the clouds, taking in the scenery, not a care in world…it’s a great way to travel!!!

That is, until you have to do it yourself.

All of a sudden I realized what I’d gotten myself into.  This would be stressful for me on my own, but throw in a two year old too?  Dear God.  What have I done?  So I did what I do when I’m trying to feel prepared, I made lists.  Things to buy.  Things to pack in carry-on.  Things to pack in purse.  What metro to take in Valencia.  I’m not going to lie, Dru still took care of a lot for me.  He bought my plane tickets, printed my boarding passes, printed directions for me, ordered me a taxi with a car seat to the airport.  He emailed the hotel to make sure they’d have a crib in the room for me and checked to make sure I could use the pool and wifi while I waited for our room to be ready.  He really can be a very good boy.  So I was as prepared as I could be, but still frazzled.

Friday morning my alarm went off at 3:30am (gross) and I pulled on my big kid pants and tackled the day.   Here is what I learned:

1) Ryanair check-in desk at Zavantem is in Section 11.  Section 11 doesn’t exist (confirmed by airport employee).  Proceed to Swissports info desk, which apparently is a stand-in for the mysterious “Section 11”.

2) The people that weigh your carry on and check the size at the check-in counter use a different employee handbook than the ones at the gate (who will also check the size of your carry on).  So if the lady puts a tag on it and says absolutely nothing to you this means your bag needs to go in the baggage hold because it’s grown since it was measured 15 minutes ago.  The stewardess WILL chastise you for not knowing this.

3) Never put carbonated water (which is all you will find at Zavantem) in a child’s Contigo water bottle.  The water will spray from the bottle like a goddam fire hose when your child opens it, subsequently soaking her and her stuffed lion and causing a total meltdown that includes her screaming “LION! LION! LION! LION!” over and over until the lion has been dried off.

4) New toys are crucial to keeping a toddler occupied on a 2 hour plane ride.  And I mean like she’s never seen them before in her life.  Don’t let her touch them, or smell them or even keep them in the same room as her.  The fresher the better.  This was my plane survival kit and it worked WONDERS:

-small coloring book (with stickers) and colored pencils

-tiny toy tractor

-“paper dolls” set (they are reusable stickers, basically window-clings)

-plastic beads that snap together

-the always trusty iPad with new tv episodes downloaded

-snacks, keep these new if possible too.  E had never had raisins before so brought a couple boxes.  They aren’t messy, and fishing them out one by one kept her           distracted.

-flash cards and a pouch for them.  E loves the pictures and loves taking them out and putting them back in.

-sparkly bangle bracelets to take on and off.  This was a hint from a fellow expat!

-a new book


5) Print a map if you have to walk any distance to your hotel (it’s very much like the GPS on your phone, but it’s just a sheet of paper and doesn’t speak or tell you where you are).  This is helpful when your prepaid SIM card doesn’t allow for data roaming.  Let’s just say I got a very scenic walking tour of the area surrounding the Marítim-Serrerío Metro station and had a lovely conversation with two Spanish women who spoke no English before I got headed in the right direction.

6) When you get to your destination and your child is napping in her stroller go straight to the lobby bar and order the largest cocktail they have.  Cheers to not losing your child or your luggage or your sanity!!!!

So we made it.  And it was actually fairly painless, but VERY tiring.  We relaxed and hung out at the pool and beach and stayed in for supper (room service is best for a tired and somewhat cranky toddler).  Then Saturday our knight in shining armour joined us for the rest of the weekend and relieved me of most all motherly duties so I could unwind and enjoy Valencia.

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