Travel Advice For The Royal Baby (And His Parents)

family travel advice for the royal baby
Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Royal watchers greeted the new prince this week with pomp, circumstance and silly hotel packages. Prince George Alexander Louis’ first trip will likely be to his mother’s hometown of Bucklebury, about an hour west of London, or to visit his grandparents on their annual holiday in Scotland. As Gadling’s de facto baby travel expert, with 50+ flights and 14 countries under my belt with my (now) two-year-old, I’d like to offer some family travel tips, with some special considerations for the future king:

1. Take big trips early: The first six months are the easiest time to travel, before the baby’s mobile and while they still sleep round the clock. As a tot, jet lag is easy to manage when you nap every other hour, and entertainment is easy to find anywhere when you are mesmerized by your own toes. The new parents might aim to take Prince George to visit his subjects in Canada in early October, once they’ve gotten the hang of his schedule and before the fall weather turns cold, or perhaps down to Australia during the spring shoulder season.2. Learn some local baby talk: Traveling with a baby is a great way to talk to locals, share common experiences, get help and recommendations and (possibly unwanted) parenting advice. When traveling to a country with a foreign language, knowing a few commonly asked questions and answers will go a long way in making connections. The people’s prince will be undoubtedly be popular anywhere he goes, so learn how to answer “How old is he?,” “What is his name?” and “Where is he in line to the throne?”

3. Check out of hotels: With a baby in tow, a kitchen and a washing machine make more attractive amenities than a hotel bar or concierge. Renting an apartment or house makes sense for a family, giving you extra room for the baby to sleep while the parents stay up, and a place to prepare bottles and baby food. Surely the Duke and Duchess have some castle time-sharing agreement to stay local? You might miss the service of a hotel, but if you are traveling with your own royal butler, it’ll still feel like a relaxing vacation.

4. Not all airlines are created baby-friendly: Air travel has gotten more stressful and uncomfortable for all of us, especially when you are terrified that you’ll be the one with the screaming infant. Some airlines do offer a few ways to make the experience more pleasant for you and your lap child. JetBlue still offers early boarding for families and a free checked bag (a lifesaver when you are toting a baby with your carry-on), and Emirates offers a baby kit with supplies for young children. Staying loyal to the UK carriers, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have free baby bassinets, special meals, and entertainment for kids. Even if you are flying by royal private jet, there are still ways to make flying with a baby go smoothly.

5. Don’t rush the kid stuff: Many parents think that travel with a baby means finding specially-tailored activities and kid-friendly destinations right away, but hold off on Disney — it’ll be years before they can appreciate it. Look instead for places that I call baby-friendly, with plenty of things for Mum and Dad to enjoy: a trip to Sicily where His Highness will be cooed over by Italian grandmothers while you, Catherine and William, sip wine on a piazza and take in museums too “boring” for a child, or a second honeymoon to the Seychelles.

Don’t Burn Toilet Paper While Camping, Experts Say

camping, toilet paper
Wikimedia Commons

Camping is a fun summertime activity, and everyone who cares about the outdoors wants to reduce their impact on the environment as much as possible.

That’s why many people burn their used toilet paper. Dirty toilet paper is ugly and unhygienic. It takes a long time to decompose too, and in the meantime the rain turns it into an unsightly mass as shown here.

Burning your bog roll may not be the best way to spare Mother Nature, however. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has issued a warning not to burn your toilet paper because it increases the risk of wildfires. Scotland had several bad wildfires earlier this year, and the annual wildfires in the United States have caused widespread destruction.

With dry summer conditions, even a stray spark can cause a major conflagration if it isn’t caught in time. The organization also warns of the dangers of campfires. Fires can often smolder undetected along root systems, flaring up hours after campers have doused their campfire and left. The organization suggests using cooking stoves and packing out your used toilet paper.

Secret Toilet Discovered In Scottish Castle

castle, Drum Castle
Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologists working on a conservation project at Drum Castle near Aberdeen, Scotland, have discovered two secret chambers, one of which includes a medieval toilet complete with its wooden seat.

Drum Castle features a 13th-century castle keep that’s the oldest intact example in Scotland. Besides the hidden toilet, the team found a second secret chamber that’s reputed to have been where one of the men of the clan hid out for three years after the defeat at the Battle of Culloden. The chamber with the toilet was hidden by bookshelves installed in the 19th century, while the second chamber was a real-life safe room for rebellious Scots. Both were found in the medieval keep.

From 1323-1975, Drum Castle was the seat of the Chief of Clan Irvine. In addition to the keep, the property features Jacobean and Victorian additions. It is now open to visitors and is only 10 miles outside Aberdeen. Visitors can see the historic interior and stroll through the surrounding ancient oak woodland, a rare survival of primeval forest that’s been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Scuba Diving Amid The Imperial German Fleet At Scapa Flow, Orkney (VIDEO)


The Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland offer an amazing variety of things to do, from visiting prehistoric monuments to bird watching and traditional music in cozy pubs. Orkney is also a popular spot for scuba diving thanks to it being the site of the sinking of the Imperial German Navy in World War I.

After the Armistice ended World War I, 74 German naval vessels were taken to the bay of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. The ships were moored in the bay under the command of skeleton crews of German sailors under the command of Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter. Reuter decided he didn’t want his fleet to be reused by the British so in defiance of the Armistice agreement he scuttled every one.

Since the German sailors were already prisoners of war, there was little the British could do but fume. In later years most of the ships were salvaged for scrap but there are still several impressive vessels on the bottom of the bay to explore. Several dive shops in Orkney offer tours.

This video is a compilation of several dives along with some cool music. Sit back and enjoy!

Better Know A Holiday: St. John’s Day (And Eve)

Witch burning on St. John's Day
f_jensen_at_sdr.vinge, Flickr

AKA: Fete Nationale du Quebec (Canada), Kupala Day (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Poland), Festa Junina (Brazil), Foguera de San Xuan (Brazil), Jaanilaupaev (Estonia), Saint Jonas’ Festival (Lithuania), Jani (Latvia), Dia de Sao Joao (Portugal), Sant Joan (Spain), Johnsmas Foy (Scotland)

When? June 23 (Eve) and 24 (Day)

Public holiday in: Quebec, Canada; Turin, Italy; Catalonia, Spain; Estonia; Latvia; Lithuania; Porto, Portugal

Who died? St. John the Baptist. June 24 is his feast day.

What’s a feast day? Certain Christian traditions, notably Roman Catholic, keep track of which liturgies are given when by way of something called the General Roman Calendar, or Universal Calendar of Saints. Around 60 percent of the days of the Gregorian calendar year are associated with one or more saints, martyrs or holy figures. Even some relics have feast days. The feast day for St. Peter’s chair is on February 22. St. John the Baptist’s feast day falls on June 24.

Interestingly, St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers, lost his feast day back in 1969. A lot of people think St. Christopher was “desanctified,” or lost his sainthood, but in fact he was just stripped of his feast day because there’s no proof he actually existed.

Also interestingly, the patron saint of travelers is also the patron saint of bachelors and bookbinders, among other things.

You were saying about St. John the Baptist… Right.

So why June 24 of all days? That’s when John the Baptist is said to have been born. But more than that, Christianity has a long tradition of co-opting pagan rituals into Christian holidays. It’s a good way to gain converts. Pagan celebrations generally aligned with the turning of the seasons – equinoxes and solstices. And so Christians have major holidays around these dates: Easter near the vernal equinox, Christmas near the winter solstice and Michaelmas, which celebrates Lucifer being cast out from heaven, near the autumnal equinox.That June 24 is close to the summer solstice is certainly not a coincidence. Even if the summer solstice used to be celebrated on a different date (which it was when we used the Julian calendar), the church would have had a significant feast day to coincide with such a major celebration in the northern hemisphere.

Is that why it’s particularly popular in northern Europe? Bingo, mysterious person. St. John’s Day is celebrated all over the world, but the biggest celebrations occur in traditionally Christian nations well above the equator. In strongly Christian countries like Ecuador, where there is little change in sunrise and sunset throughout the year, it’s not such a big deal. But in Tallinn, Estonia, the sun sets at about 10:45 p.m. on the summer solstice and 3:30 p.m. on the winter solstice. St. John’s Day is just an extension of the reverence these places have for the summer solstice.

But isn’t it celebrated in Brazil? Yes, and other places where colonial powers instilled their traditions. Joao Fernandes, an early Portuguese explorer, was particularly devoted to the holiday and took John the Baptist as the patron saint of his exploits at Pernambuco, which is where St. John’s day is celebrated most in Brazil today. Fernandes had canons fire salutes around the camp all day long in celebration. This was in no small part because he shared the same name with the saint.

John the Baptist is also the patron saint of French Canada. And Turin, Italy and Porto, Portugal and numerous other places as well. That’s why Quebec celebrates June 24 as its national day.

Fete Nationale du Quebec
abdallahh, Flickr

Is it celebrated the same everywhere? Not quite, though most celebrations share one thing in common: fire. If there’s one thing everyone does on St. John’s Eve, it’s get rid of their old furniture and spare kindling in a giant bonfire. Or if you’re in Shetland, Scotland, where wood is in short supply, your excess heather and peat.

The city of Poznan in Poland had a unique take on the fire tradition in 2012, when they released 8,000 Chinese lanterns into the sky on St. John’s Night, setting a world record in the process.

Bonfires are more typical and are found everywhere, from prominent mountain peaks to valleys and plains. If you’re a traditional fisherman from Brittany, France…

I’m not. Well, if you were, you’d even light a fire on top of your ship’s mainmast to celebrate with your fishing fleet. Curiously, Breton fisherman are said to have a fear of tailors, another group that John the Baptist patronizes.

Elsewhere, the celebrations have unique local flavor. In Scandinavia, figures of witches are added to the flames because, as on Halloween, demons and evil spirits are said to be able to roam freely this day. Up until the 1700s, the French would incinerate cats by the sackful and chase a flaming cat through the streets, evil incarnate as they were (the cats, not the French… ostensibly).

Latvians eat a special cheese flavored with caraway seeds. Ukrainians eat eggs, dumplings and liquor for dinner. Ukrainians will also symbolically wash themselves with the morning dew after watching the sun rise, as do the Lithuanians.

Girls celebrating Jani in Latvia
Dace Kiršpile, Flickr

The Irish and others will set a wagon wheel on fire and roll it down a hill to symbolize the sun’s decline. With any luck, there’s nothing flammable at the bottom. Many cultures will dress in traditional costumes. Russians douse each other with water in one of the few actual nods to John the Baptist. The Swedes, celebrating their Midsommar festival a few days before St. John’s Day, raise a giant pole that is supposed to imbue the earth with fertile soil.

Sounds phallic. Indeed. In fact, most rites and rituals surrounding the summer solstice have to do with fertility. Many of the cultures celebrating St. John’s incorporate dancing and singing erotic songs into the celebrations, much to the consternation of the Church, I expect. It’s said to be a good time to predict who will be your future spouse, as well.

No need. Well, another common activity is jumping through the flames. It’s said to cleanse and purify the soul. Or you could wear a garland of flowers.

Not really for me, either. Can I just see some photos? Sure. Check out a slideshow of St. John’s Day (and Night) celebrations from around the world below.

Check out more holidays around the world here.

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