Two months ago today we were traveling to Albania for the first time with Emma. As you all know I am Albanian and Mark and I have visited numerous times while we’ve been dating and married. This years visit had so much meaning behind it, not only because it was Emma’s first time in my home country but my baby sister was also getting married!
Emma has been on planes before but never for more than 3 hours. I wanted to make sure she was comfortable and had activities and things to do. The flight from Miami to Austria was over 10 hours long, the good thing was it flew overnight so she was able to sleep a while. I also stopped by Targets dollar aisle and made her little packages with different toys or activities to open up when bored.
As far as packing for a family of 3 with a toddler for 3 weeks, I found it really helpful rolling our clothes and placing them in zip lock bags with the air taken out before closing them. I was able to fit 6-10 tops a bag depending on whose they were. We ended up with 3 large bags, 1 medium, a carry on, stroller, diaper bag and car seat. In the end at the airport they didn’t make us pay extra for any of our bags and took the carry on too! The only frustrating thing was our car seat and stroller were taken away too, not the best situation for airports with a toddler!
We traveled as group of 12 people from Naples, FL to Tirana, Albania. With one layover in Austria and 10 adults and 2 kids under 2, exhausted and searching for a place to lay and put up our feet! Once we got to Albania we were all to excited to be jet legged!
Where we stayed
Most of our family in Albania lives by “ishfusha Aviacionit” in Tirana and that’s where we wanted to be. They were able to find us a 2 bedroom 1 bath apartment. It was the same neighborhood my family lived. The apartment was perfect, the kitchen had all the appliances like dishwasher, garbage disposal etc, there was central a/c, a kids room full of toys, a rainfall shower and so much more. We rented the place for the 3 weeks as a “home away from home” with my sister.
If anyone wants more information on the apartment please DM me on Instagram! This apartment had all the amenities we were used to and is in a great location for families. Just downstairs there is a walking boulevard with restaurants, bars, ice cream stands, markets, stores and numerous playgroups!
The next couple days we enjoyed our family, tried to get adjusted to the time difference and finish up any last minute items before my sisters wedding. A week after getting to Albania was the wedding and we couldn’t wait. Slowly more family and friends kept arriving and the day was getting closer!
Shop the Looks
The Rehearsal Dinner
The night before the wedding we had a rehearsal dinner at Stella Resort, right outside of Tirana. This is a favorite place of ours, in the past we’ve spent the day by their private pools. The food was delicious and the beer was served in very tall beer kegs. Right outside the doors was a huuuuge playground, with activities for all ages, which came in handy when Emma got restless during dinner.
The wedding was set at Eiffel Tower Complex and they did a great job with the little details. Weddings in Albania are very different, first of all they are days on days long of celebrations! My sister and her hubby choose to do one wedding as one family. Weddings start later, like 9:00 pm and don’t have a set end time, but usually end around 4:00 am. Now that night we didn’t stay till 4:00 am, we stayed till 5:00 am. I remember when we were waiting for our taxis and the sun was rising thinking, wow that was a celebration! We really enjoyed ourselves and I am so glad so many of our family and friends could join us!
My sister as you can see came out a absolutely gorgeous bride and together with the groom they made such a handsome couple! That day we spent getting ready together, my sister, me and her best friend Kalynd. We got picked up from the beauty salon in a limo and were whisked away to the venue.
The ceremony started at 8:00 pm, we took family photos after and during the cocktail hour. After that we all entered inside the venue where the tables were set, the music had started and the food was served. I danced so much, my feet had blisters for days after and let me tell you, I’m not even good, I was just so happy for this moment in my sisters life.
Emma did the best she could that night. We had a room behind my sisters and husbands table with a bed for her but the music and commotion was so loud she barely fall asleep around 2:00 am for an hour or so. The rest of the time she was either running around the venue or we were trying to get her asleep some how! Shout out to my mother in law for taking care of her most of the night so Mark and I could enjoy the moment!
Last couple days
After the wedding we slowed down and took it easy for a few days. Spent a lot time at the neighborhood restaurant drinking beer, eating ice cream and spending quality time with our family! We spent a morning at Bazaar in Tirana and found some great items, like a pair of Ray Ban dupes that I’ve been wearing all the time! Another night my grandmother cooked up a huge meal for some friends and family that traveled for Lilys wedding. We had it in the backyard of the local neighborhood restaurant and ran the home cooked food on elevators downstairs as a waiting staff!! Hahaha
Overall Emma did okay during our vacation in Albania. She’s used to a slower pace here, surrounded by the same people on the daily, there was a lot going on there and new family being introduced. But after a couple days she started trying to say their names and even had favorites, like my aunts son Danieli and my gyshi & nena (grandfather & grandmother)!!
I’m so glad that Mark, Emma and I were able to travel to Albania, I was able to introduce her to my family and show how I grew up. She might not remember this trip but we have pictures that say a thousand words and will be going back throughout her life. Here’s to many more years and memories in Albania!