You know that cool-cool-cool friend of yours. The one who just has great taste in everything—from music, clothes, film, art, etc. The one who just seems to get it before everyone else. The one who doesn’t even have to try. Okay, so that to me is SWEDEN. Just the naturally cool kid in the European block. Ikea, H&M, Skype, my goodness even friggin’ Spotify— all these originated from Sweden—so now do you catch my drift?? The world owes maybe 30% of it’s coolness to them. So yes, I am giving myself total brownie points for making it the very first country on my son’s list. Sure, it’s not exactly the first country that comes to mind when planning a trip with the baby–in fact, we got a lot of “Why Sweden??” with puzzled looks when friends/family would ask about our travel plans. Now that we’re back from our trip, I think we made an excellent choice in selecting Stockholm as Theo’s very first introduction to the world outside of Manila. If you are not a parent yet, then there is completely NO reason for you NOT to visit Stockholm. It will elevate your coolness by 10 points!!!
- Stockholm is hands down, the most BABY/CHILD friendly city I’ve ever visited.
I’ve been fortunate enough to travel extensively around the world pre-Theo (for both work and leisure) so I sort of have an idea of what makes a city child-friendly. The Gold Coast is definitely a family-friendly destination and so is Tokyo, Seattle and Singapore. But Stockholm WINS by a mile and a half. 1) Museums and other tourist spots have pram parking slots and interactive stations for children spread out 2) Public transportation is stroller friendly and even provides free passes for babies 3) Parks and playgrounds are practically everywhere, in every corner! 4) Restaurants are very accommodating–they will gladly heat your baby food (baon) for you, provide high chairs, and offer kiddie menu choices. You don’t get that “look” when you enter with a carrier/stroller 5) Swedish people are so charming and will actually play with your kids!
It’s easy to find “child-friendly” destinations around the world—the US alone will grant you 50 or more options. But what I loved the most about Stockholm is that although they may be very considerate of families–both locals and tourists, they never seem to have lost it’s COOL by doing so (yes, I’ll use the term again!). They’ve managed to keep their culture rich and vibrant in the changing times, their art scene always relevant, even their food industry has serious game. And adults are able to experience all these things alongside their little tots—and that’s what makes it such a superstar in my book.
You don’t get that feeling of FOMO (sorry had to “millenialize” it– Fear of Missing Out) as a parent which is often the case once that baby arrives. They make it manageable for you to go about the usual adult activities with your kids in tow. Other kid-centric destinations make you feel like you have to give up the things you once enjoyed pre-baby and settle for the predictable, often boring, run-of-the-mill kiddie activities. If there’s one thing I’ve learned through our Stockholm experience is that having a child should not be the death of you. Yes, being a parent requires selflessness but it shouldn’t make you feel trapped or limited, in fact, having Theo with us made us feel so excited to try new things as a family and to rekindle individual interests with a different perspective.
I have definitely LET GO of a lot of myself to make room for Theo and never once have had any regrets. It’s just so amazing to become a parent and it just happens so naturally and happily. But I always constantly have to remind myself that I am also responsible for shaping Theo’s world view and that is why I have to also keep a part of me true and constant. As his parents, Pat and I are his immediate connection to the world out there—and our experiences, our interests, our belief systems, our preferences, all of these things will add color to his life as he grows up.
It’s nice also for our kids to see us for who we really are and lead them to consider varied options in life—“Oh so dad used to play the drums, maybe I should try a new instrument too!” or “My mom loves visiting museums, hmmm.. I wonder what it is about museums that fascinate her!”. Of course, the goal is for him to ultimately form his own likes, dislikes, and understandings independent of ours but while he is under our care we want to be able to shape and mold him through our own example. We want every opportunity to be a teaching moment and that we will be able to make him see that life (although modest and simple in our case) can be exciting, interesting, and colorful!! So even in our trips, we are purposeful about making them teaching experiences for Theo. We try our very best to consider our interests as Pat and Patty and then tweak it to make it more comfortable and enjoyable for our baby. Like I mentioned before, there are some activities that would naturally not make the cut and that’s totally fine. You’re a parent now, so relax 🙂 I don’t believe in forcing the issue if you know that it will put your child at risk, make him feel uncomfortable or over tired, etc. The goal is to achieve a balance somehow—to consider your baby’s health, safety and comfort first and then incorporate your interests and things you’d like your child to be exposed to through the experience. If you subscribe to this way of parenting—then Stockholm might be a good fit for you too.
2. Stockholm is generally safe, very clean and organized.
I always tell Patrick that if hindi ako Filipino, I’d probably be Scandinavian. Hahaha. I’ve been to Copenhagen and Reykjavik prior to this trip and I have nothing but heart eyes for both Scandi cities. Aside from being naturally pretty, Scandi cities are just so charming! AND SAFE! As a mom and wife, having peace of mind is a total gift especially when you are on holiday. I never felt nervous, paranoid or anxious while in Stockholm. We roamed the streets with our 11 month old freely and confidently. Public transport is efficient, tourist spots are well monitored and never too crowded, and there’s just so much space to do pretty much anything and everything you like.
We got an airbnb in the hip SOFO, which is short for South of Folkungagatan. It’s ranked the 2nd trendiest spot in the world so you can understand why I felt so kilig to be there! Click here to see more about the neighborhood we stayed in. And if you’re booking an airbnb property for a trip soon (applies to ANY property in the world), you can use my link www.airbnb.com/c/plaurel for a special discount!
3. Everyone, I mean everyone, speaks fluent English.
I love listening to different languages and accents. It’s one of the things that I love about travel! It’s like music to my ears. But when you’re lost, trying to figure something out, or just frustrated in travel—ENGLISH is what you will be begging to hear. I know it sounds very touristy to say it, but hey, just keeping it real. Thankfully, most Swedes are fluent in English. In fact, they almost sound American with a twang! I hear it’s also because most of their movies are in American English (not translated into their local language) so that’s why they sound American to some degree. This is just a simple woman’s observation—I could be wrong of course. But as Pinoys, it’s very easy to converse with them. They are so easy-going, generally warm and pleasant. All the people we encountered were wonderful!!!! They’re like a country filled with ONLY NICE people! Hahaha!
4. The NEW Style Capital
Parisians are constantly dripping in luxe designer wear, the Milanese are always so sexy and feminine, Sydney dwellers are happy hipsters with beards and skinny jeans, while the Londoners are always in something well tailored, structured and sophisticated. Stockholm is my style soulmate. I felt more like myself in Stockholm than anywhere else in the world. Stockholm stylephiles have mastered the art of straddling both the under and over dressed. Their style is functional yet polished, classic but current at the same time, and just generally well put together. You don’t get that over the top-in your face kind of fashion that only a few can pull off yet you know that they love good quality and adhere to style rules without being too rigid. It’s dressing up to look good and to feel comfortable without having to prove anything. Hay, I just love Stockholm street style!!!! Even Patrick has become a fan! He noted that all the men just know how to dress so neatly—well tailored pants with cool sneakers, versatile jackets with the right length and fit, even their haircuts are on point!
5. Itinerary heaven!
Okay so some destinations are not exactly itinerary friendly—by this I mean, it may not be as dynamic when it comes to varied activities, sights, and experiences. Some places are pretty straightforward, let’s say the Maldives or Amanpulo is really for honeymooning and shacking up in your suite all day..to do calligraphy! HAHAHAHA! You’ll be bathed with glorious sunsets and you can sit in awe of the breathtaking scenery all day and not be bored at all. When you visit these places, you already have that CHILL mode on and expectations are sort of managed.
But then there are places like London, New York, Tokyo, that are just ladened with choices–the good problem you will have is how to narrow down your choices. Building an itinerary is one of my most favorite activities in trip-planning and Stockholm is an itinerary maker’s heaven.
If you’re traveling as newlyweds or singles, my golly wowwww! You will need more than a week to explore Stockholm. The restaurant and cafe scene alone will make you drool—then if you add all the design and style spots, GAAAH!!! Shopping is great here too with really nice brands—so you my friend will have it made! It may be a small city but trust me, you’ll never run out of things to do here. As you can see, I sort of went overboard on Instagram because I just wanted to document everything!!!
Of course as parents with a baby, I was expecting it to be a bit of a challenge to plot out our schedule. BUT to my surprise, it was a total breeze!!!! It was so easy to make plans for Theo while considering our interests too. We are the type of parents that value sleep and nap schedules so we tried to work with Theo’s routine in planning—and it worked out perfectly fine with minor hitches. Our only regret was that we didn’t stay longer, we certainly missed out on a lot of things because we only had a week there and had to fly to Paris.
My favorite kid-friendly places would have to be (please excuse any spelling mistakes!):
- Vasa Museet
- Rosendals Tragard
- Gamla Stan
- Fotografiska Museum
- Moderna Museet
- Hillsong Sweden
- SOFO (for cool restos, nice cafes, etc)
I’ll lead you to the website that has all the information so you can plot it out based on your preference–go to www.visitstockholm.com. These places are also ideal for adults (without kids) as well, so I highly recommend these places for the singles too! And so that was quite an intro, hahaha. It’s time to flood you with photos 🙂
Only while composing this blog entry that I realized Sweden is actually number 35 on my personal list of countries traveled at age 33. I just wanted to say thanks to Patrick for embracing this travel nut and for sharing this passion for travel with me. It means we work twice as hard and never stop—hehehe, kayod kabayo mode all the time—but I’d like to believe it’s all been worth it. When I was still single I was really gung-ho about this little goal of matching my age to my countries list and admittedly, I still consider it quite a feat and feel very proud of myself especially since these trips are a result of all those years of saving and working hard.
But now that I’m a mom, things have definitely changed and I have a completely new kind of kilig attached to travel. I find myself more excited planning for Theo’s travels and adventures these days–sure, it would be great if he could add more countries on his list! I would love for him to be a well-rounded globetrotter. But truthfully, Theo has the sweetest soul and is easy to please! He would be just as happy, just as eager, just as interested if it were in Paris or Laguna, Hong Kong or Mandaluyong, or New York or Bulacan. The beauty of travel is that it doesn’t matter where you go—all that matters is who you’re traveling and experiencing that new adventure with. So for as long as I’m teaching my son to discover something new—kahit saan pa yan sa mundo, it’ll be awesome for sure!!! 🙂 So I hope I can encourage you to discover something new with your loved ones today, you don’t need a plane ticket to go on an adventure—all you need is a bit of creativity and an open mind! Happy travels!