Tag Archives: travel with kids

October 22, 2012

Beijing to Shanghai: Part I Mid-Autumn Festival

To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).

Cindy Young, the manager of technical design at Tea, recently traveled to China. Read on about her adventures!

On my recent trip to Beijing and Shanghai, it was the week before the Mid-Autumn festival and National Day holiday. Both cities were in the midst of preparing for the festivities; displaying good luck lanterns everywhere and selling an abundance of moon cakes and a vast variety of treats and gifting merchandise.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese people. The festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar.  The Chinese government listed the festival as an “intangible cultural heritage” in 2006, and it was made a Chinese public holiday in 2008.  It is also a public holiday in Taiwan.  This year it was on Sunday September 30th, and National Day occurs on October 1st every year.  The double holiday is one of the Golden Weeks in China where seven consecutive holidays can be taken to allow long distance family visits and promote travel activities (although only 3 days is Paid).

Historically, the festival was strongly associated with the legend of Houyi, an archer and his wife Chang’e. Upon completion of an important task to Emperor Yao (2200 BCE), Houyi was rewarded a pill to eternal life but he was to wait a year to be able to take it.  However Chang’e discovered the pill one day and took it herself, therefore she became immortal.  As a result, the couple became estranged and Chang’e escaped to the Moon while Houyi stayed on Earth.  Houyi built a palace near the Sun where he visits his wife once a year on the 15th of the eight month, hence the reason why the moon is so full and beautiful that night.

Traditional Mooncake

Traditional Mooncake

Traditionally, family and friends gather in the evening to celebrate, eat festive food and moon cakes.  After dinner, a visit to a public space, such as a park or shoreline, may follow for, literally, “appreciating the moon”.  Importantly, lanterns and candles are lit, to enhance the ambiance and festivities.  They come in different shapes and sizes with unique details but most often in red and gold colors as they symbolize good luck.

Non-Traditional Mooncakes

Traditional practices are given a modern twist, most often for marketing purposes. For example, the traditional moon cake with lotus seed or red bean paste and egg yolk is now available in alternative fillings, such as green tea or chocolate or even in the form of characters from the popular Angry Birds game.  My favorite is the mixed nuts filling without egg yolk but also love the green tea and taro fillings.  The salty egg yolk provides an interesting mix of flavors, as the sweet and savory flavors complement each other. Those with the double yolks are considered as more generous gifts with double the luck J.

Since my family immigrated to San Francisco three decades ago, much of the Chinese traditions have diminished as we have assimilated to the American culture, but my father still preserves the tradition of making moon cakes every year, especially now to share the experience with the grandchildren.


October 17, 2012

Culture Shock in “Asia-Lite” Singapore

Today we’re featuring guest blogger Linh Tran, who recently moved to Singapore with her two kids, daughter age 3, son age 6.

Travel with Kids

Our family lived in the San Francisco Inner Sunset neighborhood where numerous Asian-Americans live.   Stroll down Irving Street, pass 20th Ave and see store fronts with names and banners in both Chinese and English.  You’ll hear people speak in different languages intermingled with English.  It’s much the same here in Singapore compared to the Sunset.  Perhaps that is why some people refer to Singapore was ‘Asia-Lite’.

travel with kids to singapore

Early in my career, I conducted cross-cultural training programs for families who were about to move abroad on an international assignment.  The night before each training, I would take a glass bowl and put a few large ice cubes in it.  “Culture is like an iceberg,” I used to say, “On top the surface of the water are all the things we can easily identify that are different between the U.S. and your new home.  What might be different could be food, language, buildings, clothing, transportation, and people.”  I warned them at some point during their stay in X country, they’ll experience culture shock- that’s the larger piece of the iceberg that is below the surface that is not so obvious and will make you ask the question, Why.

Travel with Kids

Some claim that children adapt quicker and easily to new environments compared to adults.  My children don’t seem to shocked by many things so far here in Asia-lite, but they have certainly asked a lot of why questions:

Why do have I have to take my shoes off (at a public play structure)?

Why do they sell small packets of tissue (at a hawker stall)?

Why did you call him (the taxi driver) uncle?

Why is there no mac-n-cheese?

Why do they have Christmas lights up? Is it Christmas?

Why is do they look in my mouth with a flashlight?

Why are there octopuses with hats on the taxi?

Why is that leaf so ginormous?

travel to singapore with kids

To foster their curiosity whilst helping them through their temporary states of culture shock, we encourage them to be news reporters and ‘interview’ locals to get the answer to their why questions before using the internet.  Being only 6 and 3 years old, they usually get me to doing the questioning and do the internet search themselves  but I don’t mind because we do it together they are learning how to satiate their curiosity.   Hopefully, when we move back to San Francisco the signs in Mandarin will be less foreign to the kids and their experience living abroad fosters their global citizenship.

Travel with Kids

September 6, 2012

Win a Nordic getaway with Tea Collection + Jetsetter

Sweepstakes with Tea Collection + Jetsetter

Has our Nordic Collection tickled your interest?  Did you want to see our inspiration for the Copenhagen tee in person?  Or did you just need a vacation?  Now is your chance to win our grand prize of a $500 Tea gift certificate to pack your bags and $1000 in Jetsetter credit.

Entering is as easy 1, 2, 3 and will only take a moment from your busy day.  Submissions must be received by September 24, 2012.

Click here to win!

September 3, 2012

Travel Sanity Tips from an Insane Travel Mom

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Caren and her family traveled to Kenya this summer for a service trip. Caren is the President and Co-founder of The Kilgoris Project, a non-profit that runs schools, medical programs and economic development efforts in rural Kenya. We outfitted Caren’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part one of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

You’re crazy! That’s the usual reaction I get to traveling halfway around the world with kids.

Once I flew solo to Sydney with a two year old, while limping along with my own foot in a boot cast. This year I brought two elementary schoolers for a month in Kenya sans husband.

These might sounds like prescriptions for the loony bin. But having taken kids to every continent, except Antarctica, I’ve developed a few strategies for getting home without losing my mind.

1) Build in unscheduled time- Flights, meetings, tours and museums don’t run on child-friendly schedules. And there’s always a temptation to pack in whole cities in a day. Grown ups may be fine with this. However, kids need more breathing room. Fight not to fill the days. It’s ok to horse around in a hotel room for a couple of hours or just watch an iPad movie during a layover. The world will still be there when you’re done.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

2) Find ways to play- The moving parts of travel bore kids and adults alike. And buses, trains and taxi don’t offer space to work out any wiggles. But if you’re willing to look silly in public, you can create fun anywhere.  Take turns finding yoga moves that fit into economy class seats. (This is far easier for the kids.)  Play Follow the Leader at an airplane gate. Make up ballet dances while the tour van fills the gas tank. I’ve done them all.  My kids are happier for it. And I often find the release helps me, too.

3) Relax the rules, but not too much- Travel days are never going to run like days at home. So it’s ok for the rules to shift a little to compensate. Pringles and peanuts will keep a child alive for a day. Everyone can stay up until 11:00PM for a few nights. Just go easy on the anarchy. If you create a free for all, you’ll pay when you need control. Sometimes you do need to lay down the law: No, you cannot pinch your sister during an immigration check. You’ll wear your seatbelt for take off and landing. And yes, you’ll be quiet when the tribal elders speak.

4) Give kids a little control- My children are much happier traveling when they feel like they make some of their own decisions. It helps to balance the powerlessness they feel at the structure of getting from A to B. We start trips with each girl having a stash of sugar-free gum to be chewed at any time. They have their own packs of markers and magnet dolls. And as their ages allow, they get to hold their own boarding passes.

5) Put your own oxygen mask on first-The airlines are on to something with this one. None of us can be in top form all the time. It doesn’t happen at home. And it’s even less likely happen when you’re jetlagged. Do what you can to carve out a little alone time, even if you can’t physically leave the kids. Take a bath. Walk hotel hallways on your floor with the room door cracked. Put your headphones on. Pretend to sleep on the plane. Just do something for yourself.

These tips, combined with humor, prayer and few deep breaths, keep me sane as I lead my kids to become citizens of the world.


10 Things the Kids Love about Kenya

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Caren and her family traveled to Kenya this summer for a service trip. Caren is the President and Co-founder of The Kilgoris Project, a non-profit that runs schools, medical programs and economic development efforts in rural Kenya. We outfitted Caren’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part two of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

While we involve our kids in service travel for the noblest of reasons—developing empathy and discovering the joy of helping others—I love how their experience remains uniquely childlike.

From the mouths of the four cousins, ages six through ten, their favorite things about Kenya:

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

1.  Squealing at baboons on the side of the road- Driving from Nairobi to the rural Transmara area often brings flashes of a safari, including sightings of baboons, gazelles, giraffes and zebras.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Mike Knowles

2.  Stopping for Kenyan fast food- Roadside vendors sell fire-roasted ears of maize from a coarse, starchy type of corn. It tastes like popcorn on a stick.

3.  Saying good morning to the happy sisters- We stay at a convent-turned-guesthouse run by a lovely group nuns from the Little Sisters of Saint Joseph order. Their smiles and morning singing are a joy.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

4. Sleeping in our “cousins room”- At the guesthouse, we turn a conference room into a dorm, with a bed for each girl. It has the feeling of a month-long sleepover.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

5.  Playing with the neighborhood kids in the afternoons- The guesthouse lawn makes a natural playground. Neighborhood kids drift in after school for pickup games of Frisbee and soccer, twirling hula hoops and chasing bubbles.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jennifer Fletcher

6. Picking passion fruit straight from the tree- The kids love the sour pucker and the availability of quick snacks.

7. Brushing our teeth with sticks- Fibers from branches of salvadora persica, known as the Toothbrush Tree, form bristles when chewed. The sticks have a spicy taste and contain a natural antiseptic.

8.  Drinking soda- Some of our usual healthy habits get relaxed for travel. Rural Kenyans often serve soda, a store-bought treat, as an honor to guests. The kids know it’s polite to indulge.

9. Seeing weird, creepy things- A tourist jaunt to the Karen Blixen home, a Nairobi Museum, showed the fruits of old-style safari hunts. The décor included mounted horns, tiger- and cheetah-skin rugs and an elephant’s foot stool. Parts of the classic movie “Out of Africa” were filmed there.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

10. Being silly with the little kids- Our kids often help the preschoolers when the service team is leading stories and crafts. Drawing and gluing often lead to making goofy faces and tickling.

Travel with Kids

Photo by Jon McCormack

September 1, 2012

The Unexpected Benefits of World Travel with Kids

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Caren and her family traveled to Kenya this summer for a service trip. Caren is the President and Co-founder of The Kilgoris Project, a non-profit that runs schools, medical programs and economic development efforts in rural Kenya. We outfitted Caren’s family with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part one of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Non-profit work in Kenya makes world travel a regular part of my life. The office is in California; the groundwork happens half a world away.

Unlike some working moms, I often get to take my children with me on business trips. Since my work is service, there are great lessons for them to learn from my efforts.

Yes, I want my daughters to know about a big world beyond suburbia. And I want them to care about the less fortunate in it. But there are some unexpected perks that delight me every time we haul ourselves around the globe.

Here a few benefits I noticed on this trip:

Free play—There’s a freedom to rural childhood that my kids get to taste for a few weeks at a time. Maasai kids don’t have playdates; they just play.

Travel with Kids

They wander in fields with cows and sheep. They build houses for stick dolls under palm trees. They play catch outside after dark. My kids easily fall into this rhythm, and I love the creative play that ensues.

Family bonding—My two sisters-in-law also happen to be colleagues. They bring their children on our longer business trips, too. So the cousins, who live across the U.S. from each other, get more time together abroad than at home.

Travel with Kids

The younger girls all sleep in the same room. The older ones give piggyback rides and help tuck in mosquito nets at night. They giggle and fight, sing and annoy each other, tell inside jokes and make rabbit ears above each other’s heads. I’d like to think these growing bonds will keep them well connected when they’re older.

Cultural comfort—The more we travel, the more I see my kids at home anywhere. They’re learning to take language barriers and different customs in stride. They played peek-a-boo with a Pakistani toddler on the plane. They remembered to cover their arms in Dubai. They offered their heads for Kenyan elders to pat.

Travel with Kids

In years past, not understanding a local language or being presented with unfamiliar food would have thrown them more. But now they’re rising to new occasions.

On this trip, we visited a possible new school site, so remote that many local children had never seen Caucasians.  They took the curious touching of their skin and hair in stride. Soon they were jumping rope with new friends. I love when my kids inspire me like this.

Travel with Kids

World travel with children can be stressful, but I’m blessed to be able to do it. The great surprises outweigh any obstacles.



August 22, 2012

Discovering Wales & England

Guest Blogger Alyson shares her experience of traveling to Wales and England with her husband (Craig), kids (Eric, five and Abigail, three), Alyson’s parents (Adele and Paul), her husband’s dad (Dave), and her grandmother (Debbie).

Travel with Kids

The kids loved having extended family along – Grandma and Grandpa brought lots of great snacks and activities, and there were plenty of people to interact with and play with during long drives and at interesting spots along our journey. This was particularly helpful on the first day in the U.K.; a full day of touring following the children’s first “red-eye” flight. Eric and Abby didn’t let it phase them, engaging themselves with the interactive exhibits at the Roald Dahl museum and exploring the gardens at Anne Hathaway’s House.

Travel with Kids

Eric and Abigail particularly loved areas where they could run and play – along a short walk, at an old Roman coliseum. Actually, they are able to turn any venue into an opportunity to run and play. That’s why this journey through Wales was great for our kids (and their mom and dad). It was short on traditional museums and long on interactive experiences. And they loved exploring old castles, climbing the historic towers where 800 years ago the soldiers of King Edward I guarded the fortress, and racing along the tops of the ancient stone walls surrounding the magical village of Conwy. We also got to explore part of the vast canal system of the U.K. that helped propel England’s industrial revolution, and the kids loved helping Grandpa drive the boat.

Travel with Kids

Eric and Abigail made other important contributions to the group, including helping us navigate through the maze pathways traversing the gorgeous Bodnant Gardens.
Travel with Kids

Our children love trains; who doesn’t? The narrow gauge train ride up and down Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, was a big hit, despite the rain and dense clouds at the top – typical for Snowdon’s summit.

Travel with Kids

The rolling hills of Brecon Beacons National Park dazzled our senses, and we loved seeing the numerous sheep roaming around and even crossing the road!

Travel with Kids

The dying art of slate cutting was introduced to us at the National Slate Museum as the master slate cutter demonstrated his skill splitting a ¼ inch thick 1 foot square into two 1/8 inch squares, with a mallet and chisel. Abigail was delighted with the perfect heart shape made in seconds by a few strikes with a broad knife.

Travel with Kids

Toward the end of our trip, we reconnected with some old friends now living in Surrey, England. We were invited to a nursery school to explain to approximately 20 three- and four-year-olds the significance of July 4th. Ultimately the children all understood that this was the birthday of our country. After playing for hours with his British contemporaries, Eric could effortlessly switch into, and out of, a great British accent!

This was only the second time we’d taken our kids out of the country, but the first time where we truly got to immerse them into another culture; what a gift.

Travel with Kids





August 19, 2012

Parenting, Danish Style

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Lency and her family traveled to Denmark this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part four of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

Different parenting styles have been big news in the past couple years, or maybe I’ve just started noticing since I’ve entered that chapter of my life. A couple years ago it was the Tiger Mom, this year it was French parenting. I thought it would be fun to reflect on some of the differences I’ve seen in how the Danes parent compared to American parenting, as viewed through my personal lens.

Travel with Kids
Danish kids nap outside. Rain, shine, sleet or hail, all Danish kids I have ever met nap outside in their giant, beautiful prams. When they start attending nursery school at around a year of age, the prams go with them and all the babies nap outside in a covered area with sound monitors. It is believed that napping outdoors strengthens the babies’ lungs and gives them better health. While I have my personal doubts about whether that claim would bear out scientifically, I do like the idea of outdoor napping and have given it a half-hearted try with my two daughters (without much success, unfortunately). You can always find a parking lot of prams parked outside a restaurant or any public space.

Travel wit Kids
The Danes are famous for their biking, and cargo bikes are an especially popular way to transport the groceries and kids in Copenhagen. Cars are subject to a 100% car tax in Denmark and gas is at least twice as expensive as it is in the U.S., so many Danes choose to get around by bike instead. Cyclists enjoy extremely safe and convenient biking conditions in Copenhagen, including bike paths that are separated from the cars and special traffic lights for bikes. On any given day of the week, you will see hoards of cyclists: men in suits, women in high heels, students going to school, adults with kid seats on the back, big and little, male and female, young and old. I should mention that my my mother-in-law, who raised three kids and lives in the countryside, has never had a driver’s license and biked the 6 miles to and from work almost every day of the year until she retired last year. It’s quite inspiring!

Travel with Kids
Our annual trip to Denmark to visit half our family and friends is always a reminder of a different pace of life. We observe and reflect on the more relaxed daily living and high quality of life. People work fewer hours, commute less, have at least six weeks of holiday a year. These are just a few of the many reasons they have claimed the top spot in United Nations’ 2012 World Happiness Report. We find that our friends have an excellent balance between work and home life and while there are arguments against the system, Danes overall seem quite content.

Travel with Kids
We love being outside in the Danish summertime, even if the weather is not always summery. Our friends were eager to show us their sprouting gardens and walk along the newly minted bike path that replaced the old abandoned railroad. The kids were excited to jump on their ubiquitous trampolines and make use of the many play structures. Due to the intense weather during much of the rest of the year, Danes appreciate their summers with enthusiastic gusto. As soon as a ray of sunshine appears, the Danes immediately run outside to soak up the rays, even if it means being wrapped up in a blanket because it’s still cold.

August 18, 2012

These are a Few of Our Favorite Things

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Lency and her family traveled to Denmark this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part three of their adventure.

Travel with Kids

We’ve been going on trips to Denmark every summer for the past nine years, but the last four visits have taken on a new meaning: we’ve had our kids with us. We travel differently now, and enjoy Denmark in a new way.

Travel with Kids
When you live across the world from Farmor (father’s mother), time together takes on a new meaning. We spend a lot of our trip making sure our kids get to be with their farmor. The sight of Farmor’s yellow brick country house nestled amongst the fields of wheat and barley is always an exciting one, but it’s extra special now that we are reuniting our daughters with their Danish grandma.

Travel with Kids

We love visiting the cows that live near Farmor’s house and feeding them grass. They come running over, as the hares and birds scatter out of their way. It’s fun to see that a farm with around forty cows can exist.

Travel with Kids
Shockingly, we go to children’s parks now. The playground equipment is different from what we have at home, so it’s a novelty for our girls. On one of our park trips the skies suddenly clouded over and the rain poured down. Everyone gathered under a covered area, but I didn’t last long there because of all the smoking. There are some cultural differences that are hard to get used to.

Travel with Kids
Reuniting with our friends and all their children is so much fun every year. Our older daughter does well with the Danish, but really kids can make do without a common language. Most of the kids we know have  summer birthdays (you would want a summer birthday, too, if you lived in Scandinavia), so our older daughter has become very fond of the Danish birthday cake: a layer cake with jam and vanilla cream filling  covered with whipped cream.

Family, animals, playgrounds, friends and birthday cake: these are a few of our favorite things.

August 17, 2012

Danish Hygge

One of our Foreign Correspondents has returned from her travels! Lency and her family traveled to Denmark this summer. We outfitted them with a suitcase full of Tea before they left, asking them to share their adventures with us upon their return. Below is part two of their adventure.

Travel with kids

Hygge is a very uniquely Danish word that has no English translation.

The closest approximation is “coziness.” It’s what happens when it gets dark at 3:00pm in the wintertime, when it’s too windy and cold to enjoy the outdoors, when everyone is forced to be close together inside. Out come the candles, the music, the food and drink, the stories and jokes and laughter. That’s hygge, or at least how I’ve come to know it. To tell someone that your visit was very “hyggelig” (full of hygge) is the highest compliment. Luckily for us, hygge exists throughout the year so we get to soak it up in the summertime during our visits.

Travel with Kids

Danes love their open-faced sandwiches and it’s what we ate for lunch every day. The dark, heavy rye bread comes out first, and then all the toppings: butter, cheese, liver pate, eggs, cucumber, tomato, herring. There are many variations, but certain combinations are acceptable and others shocking. Who knew that liver pate and cheese was such an outlandish mix?

Travel with Kids

Perhaps because of all the time spent indoors enjoying hygge during certain times of the year, Danes care about how the interior of their homes look. Danish design is known around the world as simple, sleek, and light. Our Danish friends furnish their homes with a great deal of thought and intention- always hardwood floors, usually white or off-white walls and furnishings, lots of soft lighting, carefully chosen artwork.

Travel with Kids

It took me a while to get used to the length of the Danish meal. I remember my very first meal on my very first trip to Denmark many years ago; everyone was so lovely and eager to show me their beautiful country, but I was seriously jet-lagged and unprepared for the stamina the Danes have for sitting down and talking. A summer dinner date with friends can easily last seven hours, so it’s a good thing we like our friends.

Travel with Kids

I really love how the Danes make a point to sit down together for a meal. It’s how I was raised and it’s how I try to raise my family.

Perhaps it’s a bit easier for the Danes because they are usually able to get home earlier than the average American, at least in my experience. Nevertheless, the family meal is something I think is incredibly valuable and seems to be at the core of Danish hygge.