Category: Discovery and Exploration

How do you prepare your children for international travel?

Guest Post by Terumi Pong

“Can you find Iceland on the map?  I’ll give you a hint, it’s in the North and it’s in the Atlantic Ocean.”

We’ve been traveling since our kids were very small and now that my twin boys are nearly six, we’re finding it’s getting a lot easier and a lot more fun… and they’re really curious about where we’re going to go next!  Our last trip was a European trip which included Iceland and Denmark that were new to both my husband and me, we weren’t sure what to expect.  But, that is the adventure in traveling with our family and all of us learn a lot along the way.  For me, the toughest part of packing is realizing I can’t bring 5 pairs of shoes or outfits that I “might” wear… that space goes to an extra pair of shoes for the kids or a just-in-case outfit for them if they spill or have an accident.  We like to travel lightly so that we can take public transportation and walk with our luggage if we have to.  But every family travels differently!  For us, here are a few of our favorite tips and maybe they might be helpful to you too:

The first thing we do when we book a trip is find it with our kids on a map we have in our office.  We talk about how many hours it will take to get there by plane or train and discuss where it is in comparison to other places we’ve been.  We wonder together if it will be hot or cold and if there will be swimming pools or animals to see.  We think about the food that is grown there and what we might like to eat.

Then we buy books.  Sometimes I buy them online so they show up when we first start talking about a trip, or the kids and I go to the library or bookstore to pick them up together.  We like picture books that are set in the place we’re visiting or travel books about the place.  If we can find a family-friendly DVD we do that too.  For our recent Iceland trip, my guys enjoyed the travel clips on the Tourism Bureau’s website. We also like the Dodsworth books by Tim Egan -we’ve read them for Paris and Tokyo and we’re curious where Dodsworth will travel next.

If the country speaks a different language we make sure we know at least “hello” and “thank you”.  Dover Publications makes coloring books that are in French, Spanish and English and Usborne Books have great 1000 words books in many languages too.  We’ve found that if the kids can say “hello” and “thank you”, many people are much more receptive to us bringing our kids almost anywhere.

A couple days before the airport we buy a small toy that’s under $10.  This saves the panic of having to find souvenirs or treats for the kids when we get somewhere to entertain them, and it gives them something to look forward to after they nap on the plane, or get to the airport or whatever the agreed pact is for opening the toy.

And when the travel day arrives, we think of some kind of walking/running/energy-burning activity before the flight – especially if it’s a long one! We wake up extra early if we want don’t want a late night in our destination or we nap if we want to keep them up to get our family on a new time schedule if we cross a couple time zones.  We’ve found that walking and taking public transit to the airport from our home in Seattle gets a lot of pre-trip energy out and saves us a few extra dollars for coffee at the airport.  Which is definitely another travel must for my husband and I!

And then we go…

 

Terumi is a 30-something Seattle mom of twin boys. You can learn more about her and her family’s travels on her blog, An Emerald City Life.

Learning Languages

Meyer

Zid Zid Handmade Modern for Kids

I have been a fan of Zid Zid Kids for a long time, admiring the work of Julie and Moulay.  They create beautiful items for play and home, all made in Morocco by hand. I find the pieces and overall aesthetic to be so charming. 

Moulay and Julie live in Morocco and speak French, Arabic and Spanish to their children daily – so it was only natural that their next endeavor would be a creative hands-on language program for children! Petit Zarafa is a play-based multi-language learning subscription website for little citizens ages 2 and up.


My children have Chinese flashcards that they play with when their grandmother visits from Taiwan, but we haven’t picked them up in a while.

The combination of the activities with learning lessons, grasping different sounds with familiar tasks, is inspiring to me.  My kids love playing with games and are currently learning letters & numbers at their own schools – it will be interesting to see what they gravitate to most with this program.  In general, my kids love listening to stories… I’m sure my mom, a former French language teacher, would love to teach them French stories.  It would be magical if they could speak a little bit of French when we visit my sister in Europe this summer.

Are you teaching your children a second language? What do you find works best? I’d love to know!

Asia: Through the Eyes of Matthew and Adam

Going to Asia: Family Travel Tips from the Founders of Petunia Pickle Bottom

When we were getting started with Tea, we met Braden & DeNai Jones, the founders of Petunia Pickle Bottom, at a New York trade show. We connected instantly – fellow entrepreneurs building great products for mamas. Emily and I returned to our office in San Francisco to find a (surprise) floral arrangement from our new friends at Petunia! The crush was mutual.

Our paths continued to parallel not only through building our businesses, but also in building our families. Braden & DeNai also have two boys: Sutton (8) and Miller (6); just a year ahead of my two boys! I have enjoyed keeping up with their families these past few years – especially when they packed up their kids and took them to visit their vendor partners in Asia.

Now, it is my turn! Once each year, I travel with a few members of our production team to visit our partners abroad. It just so happened that my husband’s calendar opened up around the time of this year’s trip, so we thought this would be the perfect opportunity for a family vacation! Our boys are very excited about an extra long spring break.

As soon as we started planning the trip, the first call I made was to Braden & DeNai for advice, which was beyond helpful. I felt selfish keeping their suggestions to myself, so read on for the full details of my conversation with the Jones’ and get tips for your own kid-friendly trip abroad.

Leigh: David & I are concerned about jetlag for the kids. It’s one thing for adults because we can just push through as long as we have an extra coffee. But that doesn’t work for kids!
Braden: I try and put the family on a sleep schedule during takeoff to give us a jump on the time zone we are traveling to, before we arrive. That tactic seems to help the boys with jetlag.

Fun things to do in Hong Kong when you aren’t working?
Braden: There are some great activities we do to get the boy’s legs moving; we like the Tian Tan Buddha, we visit the HK Zoo or ride The Peak Tram up the hillside. Ocean Park was a big hit with the boys too. Most of the time we just enjoy walking the streets, exploring temples, and browsing markets and other nook and crannies of the city.

How about the food? My kids like some Asian food, but they tend to rely on their go-to favorites like Pad See Ew and avocado sushi – does that even count as Asian food or sushi for that matter?
DeNai: Our boys usually enjoy trying new foods, but for those times when they aren’t feeling as adventurous, Cup Noodles is always an option. You can get these just about anywhere or bring them with you. I also like to bring granola bars wherever we go as back-up. When I can find western grocery stores, I’ll stock up there on things I know the kids will like.

I’m excited to take our 7-year-old to our factory outside of Bangkok. I can’t wait to show him how clothes are made! Plus, we have known our partners and their families there since Adam was born. I think it will feel like a family reunion! Our partners in Hong Kong have invited my family to join for dinners too. It will be a pretty amazing “take-your-kids-to-work-day”! Any tips?
Braden: Honestly, it’s an amazing experience for everyone. We first brought our boys along so that we could work for several solid weeks without having to be away from them for too long. It’s a very family centric culture, so bringing our kids really enhanced our relationships with our colleagues, friends, factories and staff. The boys join us for work, dinner and entertainment, and our partners love to see Miller and Sutton grow over the years. As hard as it is for them sometimes, I will tip my hat to my boys for being along for the ride and being great sports about it.

The Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Shanghai airports are a lot bigger than San Francisco… Not to mention the number of people and languages! Do you have any practical tips?
Braden: A time saver I suggest, is to grab a stack of Customs Cards (Arrival or Departure forms) and fill them out before you are in the customs line. It’s much easier to focus on keeping the family together when you’re not fumbling with the papers and passports. I also memorized all of the passport numbers, saves time for border access and if you lose a passport.

How about hotel recommendations? Any specific kid-friendly, designer-y hotels? You two always seem to find the perfect stylish hotels!
Braden: Finding a room with multiple beds in HK is hard, but it can be done. Most websites only allow you to add one child (not two) when you make your reservations. I suggest making the reservation with one child and then explaining (with a smile) that you need a hide-a-bed for your second or third child once you arrive. On the Kowloon side we tend to stay at the ICON Hotel. It’s new, modern, has every amenity for a great price. On the Hong Kong side we have stayed at the Hotel LKF right above LAN Kwai Fong. At this hotel you are right on top of the party street, restaurants and activities. Other child-friendly hotels we have visited in Asia are: The Racha Hotel in Phuket, Thailand, the Osaka Hilton in Japan, the Lotte World Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, and the Hotel Majestic in Vietnam.

Tips for packing? We’re gone for more than two weeks and I can’t bear the thought of packing enough clothes for such a long stretch! I’m not worried about clothes for the kids because Tea has that covered! Always easy to mix & match, comfortable and great looking. Next time you go, promise me you will call so I can send some Tea for your boys – I would love to see your Instagram pics with your beautiful sons in some Tea!
DeNai: We always pack a lot of black and gray clothes for the kids because they hide the messes and can easily dress up or down. We tend to bring about four to five days of clothes and use the laundry service at hotels to refresh the selection. We’d love to dress Miller and Sutton in Tea next time!

How about emergency kits? And I mean all types of emergency: medical, long layovers, sleepless nights….
DeNai: I usually pack my Petunia Pickle Bottom Wistful Weekender for traveling. It has plenty of storage space and I have a handful of emergency-type items stored inside for the boys: everything from a thermometer and Dermabond (liquid stitches), to small toys and a travel art set to fight boredom. Oh and Cleanwell hand spray is the best germ spray out there!

You are amazing! Thank you! Such practical, helpful tips. I couldn’t be more excited. Keep an eye on my Instragram! I hope to have lots of pictures to capture what will undoubtedly be a crazy & beautiful trip.
Note: Tea is currently hosting a fun baby sweepstakes, which includes our friends Petunia Pickle Bottom. Please sign up for a chance to win over $3,000 in prizes. Perfect for new mamas!

Leigh’s Family Is Traveling to Asia, Share Your Tips!

What Should We See & Do in Thailand and China?

I fell in love with Thailand nearly 15 years ago. My husband and I had a six week trip bopping around Southeast Asia & the South Pacific the summer before we started business school. We visited Buddhist temples and rode elephants and ate our way through the country.

And now we return… with our kids!  Maybe it won’t be as romantic, but I have a feeling there will be a ton of falling in love. This time we’ll get to see the Buddhist temples, elephants, and delicious food through the eyes of our 5 & 7 year old boys.

After a week in Bangkok and Hua Hin, we’re heading to China!  We’ll visit Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Yangshuo — and we want advice! We have our flights and hotels booked, plus lots of time planned with our beloved Tea vendors. But there is a lot of open time for sight-seeing and digging deeper into the culture.

So please share any must-see sights or must-do activities!  I have loved reading through advice on Oh Happy Day and Design Sponge — what other blogs are out there with insider tips, especially with perspective on family travel?

 

 

Preparing The Kids For The Experience

I think a lot about preparing my kids for life. Education, manners, planning ahead, keeping an attitude of gratitude, etc, etc. Of course I like to think that I have a huge impact on their lives through all of the thoughtful preparation, but sometimes I admit to myself that I am just here for the ride. Every day is a new world and new discovery for a kid.

I remember my first trip to Manhattan. I arrived via the train, then transferred to the subway with a friend from Long Island. We came up the subway escalator and I just kept looking up and up and up. I was in college and I had seen a thousand pictures of New York, but when I came out of that subway station, I FELT it.  I felt the height, the energy, and the life of New York. I was in love to the bone.

So, no matter how many maps and documentaries we show our boys, I have a feeling that I can never fully prepare them for the size, energy, and life of Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Shanghai.

Of course I still have to try.  So here is the plan (and I welcome your feedback)…

  • We have a huge world map on the wall in the boys’ room. That helps a little with the context. At least I think so!
  • David found a great documentary from 2008 about China. It is certainly dated and the population numbers are probably 20% higher now, but it is well done and riveting for all four of us. I keep wondering if it is stealing the power of the first impression…. and then I remember my escalator ride up from the subway in NY for the first time.
  • Adam takes Mandarin at school four days/week. We are trying to use common phrases for familiarity:  thank you, hello, and my name is…
  • We order in Thai food regularly. Does that count?
  • I’m researching ways the kids can take pictures & blog on their own. Maybe Kidblog.org? I would love to see what pictures and captions they would post. Plus, their friends could write questions and comments, which could create a fun conversation.
  • Of course we have to expedite passport renewals. You can see from these pictures that not only are the passports expiring, but the photos are a little out of date!

 

 

Traveling with Kids Overseas 

I have been asking globetrotting families for advice about the travel itself. Here are the tips I have received so far:

  • iPads. How did parents travel before Apple? The trick is that the kids really like to stream videos on Netflix, which won’t be possible for much of our trip. So I need tips on apps–both educational and entertainment. I am just not sure Star Wars Angry Birds will get us from SFO to BKK!
  • Adjust clocks when you board the first flight. Easier said than done of course. We depart at 1:45pm which is 4:45am in Bangkok. So do we get on the plane and I try to convince the kids to sleep??  When I fly to Asia each year for work, I usually try to sleep as little as possible so that when I arrive at midnight at the hotel in Bangkok, I can crash — even though my body will think it is 4pm the next day. I’m hoping those iPads are REALLY entertaining.
  • Snacks. Snacks are actually the cure to many problems wherever we are! I’ve heard Clif Bars, Tic Tacs, and soy sauce packets have gotten many families through China. Rice is available almost anywhere and with soy sauce, we should be okay.

What else should I keep in mind?
Leave a comment below — I welcome all feedback & suggestions and can’t wait to hear from you!

Guest Post: Raising A Child In Morocco

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

There is no denying that packing up a household and a family and transporting them across the world is a hardship… but when the destination is Morocco, and you have the good fortune to not just visit but live in this vibrant country there are many more delights than difficulties.

Many people asked us how we would manage with a young toddler in Morocco. It’s true that the usual protections you become used to in the United States (rubber playground floors, clean organic vegetables, etc.) are conspicuously absent in Morocco. But the warmth of the people, towards children in particular, and the wide array of experiences you can expose your child to more than make up for it.

There is so much to choose from… ancient buildings, bustling markets, tanneries, cafes, beaches and more.  Here are some of our favorites for kids from our year in Morocco.

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

The Majorelle Gardens: Marrakech

Marrakech isn’t hot year round, however, the summer is particularly brutal. But even when the thermostat hits 105 in the busy media, the Majorelle Gardens beckon with a promise of cool shade and lots of running space!

When you visit Morocco with a child, particularly a toddler, keeping them off the ground is key given the number of mopeds, donkeys and carts that are competing for the limited alleyway real estate. But in the Majorelle Gardens, it is strictly pedestrians only.

The Gardens were designed by a french expatriate and were loved and owned by famous designer Yves Saint Laurent. It houses various species of plants and birds as well as a museum of Berber Culture. It is a beautiful introduction to Morocco for all ages and a welcome oasis of calm.

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

The Old Kasbah: Aït Benhaddou

If you want to get up close to the Morocco of legend, then you have to head to Aït Benhaddou. There is something for children of all ages. The little ones will love the (mostly) empty, winding alleys up to the fortress and older ones will be thrilled to know they are standing where the stars have stood since films and series from Gladiator and Game of Thrones have come here for the ancient backdrop. You can even stay in an 11th century mud brick Kasbah (watch out though… no electricity!).  The best part of our little one? Your baggage porter is your local obliging donkey. We named him Hercules.

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

The Clock Cafe: Fes

There is of course no better way to get to know a country than through its cuisine. If you have an opportunity to visit a Moroccan restaurant near you, be sure to indulge in a fragrant Tagine (pressure-cooked, spiced meat dish) and any of the sweets on offer.  In Morocco, the best food is to be found in a family home. But one restaurant that came close for us, was the Clock Cafe, deep in the Fes Medina. The Clock has reinvented many traditional dishes and offers menu choices like a camel burger, which is sure to thrill your adventurous eater.

Raising Kids in Morocco via Tea Collection

For the more squeamish, there is delicious almond milk, Moroccan salads and other delicacies! Don’t miss out.

 

Natalia Rankine-Galloway is the founder of CultureBaby; seeking out new global products and hearing from mothers worldwide about how they celebrate culture with their kids. You can read more about her personal adventures at The Culture Mum Chronicles.

Foreign Correspondents: A Whirlwind Voyage

valerie

We are a family of experienced travelers – having visited more than 20 countries, from Canada to Jordan. On our far-flung jaunts, we enjoy immersing ourselves in the local culture, language and cuisine, experiencing the locals’ lives.

Our latest voyage was our longest – 3 weeks, 7 countries, from Copenhagen south to the D-Day beaches of Normandy and back again.  This time, our itinerary was carefully planned with the tastes of our 12-year-old son Michael in mind. Michael, with his zeal for ancient history, medieval weaponry, seafood, and chocolate, and strong opinions to boot, sets the tone for our activities. As always, he did not disappoint.

ghentcanal

Leaving Copenhagen’s Kastrup Airport in the morning, we began our GPS-aided foray into downtown Copenhagen on an unseasonably warm day. Although temperatures hovered in the high 20s Celsius, low 80s Fahrenheit, the lack of humidity was summer time bliss for us, natives of Washington, D.C.’s  sticky suburbs.

Our first stop was Amalienborg Palace, where we enjoyed the sun-splashed morning and jostled with tourists of various nationalities as the changing of the guards unfolded. Soon, our jet lag caught up with us. We craved rest, finding welcome relaxation amidst a fountain and flower garden. Michael inspired our second wind, styling with my Tea Collection FashionABLE scarf.

After our car’s GPS led us astray a few times in the capital city and around Copenhagen’s teeming crowds of bicyclists, we found the Nationalmusset, home of the new Viking exhibition, featuring the Rothskilde 6 – the world’s longest surviving Viking ship. Michael enjoyed the exhibit’s interactive computer program, where he lived the Viking life. Not surprisingly, his pillaging, negotiating, and trading earned him the title of Viking.

lubeck1

After several wonderful days in Denmark, we headed south. Our destination was the Netherlands, through Germany via the Autobahn. While my husband Bruce enjoys life in the 130 plus km/hour lane, I take things a bit slower. After watching dozens of German drivers zip past me on the left, I wanted a break for lunch. Finding an Autobahn rest stop, we toasted each other with German bottled water, cheese, chocolate, and fruit.

The soaring cathedral, marvelous architecture, and canals of Utrecht, Netherlands, warmly welcomed us that evening. Utrecht is a university town, with its share of cyclists admirably navigating the narrow alleys and cobblestone streets. After the bicycle overload of Copenhagen, Michael noted that Utrecht’s two-wheeled denizens were much fewer in number, although no less brazen while driving through pedestrians and forcing cars to avoid them.

Our early morning Utrecht departure was marred by heavy rain. Fortunately, our rainy drive to Ghent, Belgium was short. Michael was excited about Ghent’s 12th century Gravensteen Castle, with its “Museum of Judicial Objects.”  These torture instruments, racks, handcuffs, and knives, were used to extract confessions. If no confession flowed from the persuasion, the guillotine awaited. We eyed the castle’s own guillotine, pondering its gory past. As the rain continued pelting us, we found salvation in our hotel and a bag of Belgian chocolates.

Les Andelys, France (2)

Sunshine marked the next morning when we drove to France for nine days. We all eagerly anticipated croissants, baguettes, cheese, and much more.

From our wonderful gîte in Caumont l’Evente, we drove the narrow Norman roads to the magnificent Bayeux Tapestries, cathedrals, abbeys, and chateaux, highlighted by the stunning Chateau de Carrouges and William the Conquerer’s birthplace in Falaise. Everywhere we went, monuments, flags, and markers reminded us of World Wars I and II, and of course, D-Day, June 6, 1944.

My great-uncle from Pennsylvania came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day and was killed in action. Michael wanted to know more about what his ancestor did that day so we visited D-Day beaches, inspected German fortifications, talked about the allied landings, and gazed somberly at the starkly white grave markers of the American military cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer. While walking among the American graves, Michael quietly noticed the number of soldiers killed on D-Day and those who died during the war’s final days.

We topped off our last day in Normandy with a fantastic dinner at Chateau d’Audrieu, a marvelous 18th century abode and a one-star Michelin restaurant. C’est magnifique!

marmoutiercath

Wrapping up our journey, we headed east, visiting Alsace-Lorraine. Michael enjoyed the many Roman artifacts we saw. While my husband and I marveled at the Roman Empire’s ancient reach, Michael shrugged, assuring us that this was old news to him.

Driving through Germany on the way back to Copenhagen, we stopped in Cologne. There we visited the city’s magnificent cathedral and our priority – the Schokoladenmuseum. Michael loved learning how chocolate was made, enjoying a Willy Wonka-esque sample.

Three weeks later, we returned home with great memories, wine, chocolate, jam, crackers and tea that will keep our trip alive for a long time!