How to navigate a complicated world, one near-miss at a time.
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Q: I’m traveling with three young children soon, between the ages of five and eight. It’s a long, uncomfortable international flight, and they are hardly seasoned flyers. I’m concerned that they won’t be able to sleep and will end up groggy when we arrive, in addition to driving me crazy along the way. My mother suggested that I give them each a low dose of an over-the-counter drug that would make them sleepy to keep the chaos to a minimum. That’s tempting, but I don’t want to hurt my kids, of course. Is it ok to slip them a little something?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the parents around me, it’s that drugging your kids is HUGELY tempting. One friend and his anesthesiologist wife decided to try giving their kids something to calm them down before an international flight, but they overestimated the dose and their eight-year-old spent the rest of the night “tripping balls,” as my friend put it. Another friend—one of four siblings bouncing between multiple continents—often mentions that her parents always had the younger kids pop a Benadryl before boarding (although her parents were covert agents for an intelligence agency, so maybe their bar was different? I don’t know.)
I can only assume that putting your 3-year-old into a situation that most adults find barely tolerable is the parenting equivalent of Russian roulette. Having never been vomited on by a toddler at 3,000 feet, I won’t weigh in on the necessity of drugging one’s children (although as a fellow traveler, I would NEVER judge you for doing this). But just to be safe, I spoke with Dr. Tanya Altmann, a pediatrician and spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Altmann was way more chill than anticipated when I asked her if people should roofie their children.
“In general, we don’t recommend drugging kids,” she said, which is a great disclaimer. “However, sometimes there are specific situations where it may come in handy.” Her key recommendations were: 1) never give a child any new product right before a flight (see above) and 2) follow the instructions on the label (i.e., don’t give out lower or higher doses than prescribed).
But even if you do manage to sedate the little lambs, you may have won the battle at the expense of the war. “If it’s not your child’s usual time to sleep, and you put them to sleep, then when you arrive at your destination if they’ve slept all day they’re going to be up all night,” noted Altmann. It may work for you sometimes, she said, “But more often than not, your child is drowsy, uncomfortable and cranky, then they eventually fall asleep hours after you want them to, then when you get to your destination, their sleep schedule is just messed up anyway. So, it can be used, but it just takes a little bit of navigation and practice.”
In other words, as with many things in life, so with dosing your brood: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Q: I’m going to be in Lisbon for about a day during a business trip and was looking for some dining options in the city. Any personal favorites?
I really like Taberna Portuguesa and Taberna da Rua das Flores, which are close to each other in the Barrio Alta neighborhood. They’re both very low-key. On the more expensive end, Cervejaria da Esquina is wonderful for seafood and Restaurante 100 Maneiras is on the more posh and modern side. BA Wine Bar has a wide selection of unusual Portuguese wines and locally produced cheeses, meats, and canned seafood (it’s a wine bar, not a restaurant, however, so don’t expect a full menu). It also boasts a very knowledgeable proprietor who offers excellent recommendations and once slipped me a glass of port made before cars were invented. The coffee is mostly excellent; A Brasileira is among the most famous cafés, although the last time I was there, it was a bit of a tourist shit show. And if you can swing it, head out to the Belem neighborhood and swing by the pasteis de Belem bakery for a hot egg tart. Pastéis de nata are found throughout the city, but the freshly baked version here where it all began are worth the trip.
Pro tip: at the beginning of a restaurant meal in Portugal, food is typically set down on the table, such as bread and olives. You pay for it if you eat it; if you don’t touch it, it’s not added to the bill. It’s just the custom there, but often visitors think they are being offered something complimentary and feel cheated. Don’t!
Q: One of my dearest friends is getting married in Stockholm next summer and I’ll be attending with my husband (we live in Seattle). I’m very excited about the trip and I’m sure it will be a beautiful wedding, so I hardly consider this a hardship. On the other hand, the flights are quite expensive even with the advance notice. In addition, we’ll need to cover our own accommodation once we get there. Also, the friend in question and his fiancé attended my wedding this year and have yet to purchase a gift, although they have expressed their intention to do so. I would be perfectly happy without a gift, of course, I’m just noting that so far they don’t seem to give it much weight. My friend and I have attended other people’s weddings together, and I know that on those occasions, he has purchased a wedding gift for the couple. As a final complicating factor, my friend is gay, and I wouldn’t want him to think I was treating his wedding differently than other mutual friends who are straight for whom he knows I have purchased wedding gifts. Considering all this, do I need to get them a wedding gift?