We live in San Francisco, while all of our family is in the Mid-West which means at least a yearly cross country trip is in store for our family, plus vacations. I am on the constant watch for products to make traveling with our 2 year old easier while trying to downsize the amount of gear that we need to bring along.
Quite often, when one thinks of vacation, one’s mind is immediately drawn to places outside of the United States.This year, my family found our-selves not on vacation, but residing at our home away from home, Kiawah Island, South Carolina.My grandparents on my mother’s side have a home on Kiawah Island.Strange as it is, my husband’s grandmother on his mother’s side also owns a home there.We both feel a bond to that Island.As kids, my husband and I remember the Kiawah that used to be.We remember the quiet beaches, the local roadside vegetable markets, and the wonderful preservation of the surrounding ecosystem.It was a place where people could embrace nature in a pure form without giving up the comforts of home.It was a modern day lifestyle that embraced the efforts of the Kiawah Indians.We brought our daughter to Kiawah this year, and as I watched her play in the surf, I felt a strange melancholy come over me; my daughter would never know the pure Kiawah that I knew.The quiet beaches and no-fuss island life that I knew is slowly disappearing, and in its place stands a ritzier, more glamorous, and much more populated Kiawah.It begged the question: what kind of Kiawah would we leave her?
Even as the island has gained recognition, it remains one of the most carefully preserved barrier islands that exist today; hopefully this will not change. The Kiawah Island of old was owned by the Kiawah Indians, populated with wild horses racing through the waves.In the 1980’s nature tours had to be given in a safari-like automobile while tourists were given a layout of the land in the midst of bobcats, wild horses, herons and alligators.The natural habitat is authentic on Kiawah specifically because of the many laws that protect the wild life on the island.For example, there are no street lights on Kiawah; the community does not want to disrupt the natural cycle for the animals.Not only do the animals have the communities’ respect, but the actual land itself has immense respect from the people of Kiawah.The fact that no building is permitted on the dunes certainly prevents any additional erosion.I hope that my daughter gets to experience the ecosystem of Kiawah.I hope that things do not become too commercialized.Seeing my little one splash in the water made me realize just how simple it is to enjoy nature and how humans are naturally drawn toward natural wonders: waterfalls, beaches, mountains, caverns, lakes and valleys.We all travel to see and experience these things.There seems to be something within nature itself that is innately human.Hopefully we won’t lose that piece of ourselves within nature as these areas that we love so dearly become more and more populated. There is an Indian saying that I really connect with regarding these issues: ‘Mitakuye oyasin!’Literally translated, it means: ‘we are all related.’Hopefully we remember these words and treat the land as if we are all related, the ocean, the moon, the stars, the animals, the people; we are all related.
Flying doesn’t scare me. For some, the mere mention of an airplane elicits panic. Not this girl. Often, when a plane passes overhead, I’ll glance up and wonder what exciting place it’s bound for. And I’ll sigh with a brief moment of envy before returning to the day’s activities. I’ve flown often and for the vast majority of my life. My first flight was at 4 weeks old and I haven’t slowed down since.
Recently, I flew alone for the first time in quite a while. To celebrate my birthday, I met my husband at the tail end of a business trip for a long weekend in California. It was our first trip alone together since Annie P joined our family. The traveler that I love to be, I picked a place that left a whole country between my daughter and I. Better to just close my eyes and jump rather than dip my toe in the water by way of a close location, I say. I’ve flown halfway around the world, for goodness sakes. I figured I could leave Annie P on the east coast for a couple of days. So off I went.
The first thing I noticed about traveling alone for the first time since becoming a mother was the absolute tranquility of the experience. I don’t think that’s something you often hear people say about a plane trip. But for a mother, it can be downright therapeutic. Let me elaborate with a few examples.
On the way to the airport, I filed my nails – don’t worry, I wasn’t driving. I sat in the car with no sippy cups to dole out, no nursery rhymes to sing and filed my poor neglected nails. I chatted with my friendly limo driver (part of the birthday present). I took part in the excitement of a trip to the airport where I would be leaving for somewhere other than home. This was going to be good.
Once I made it to my gate, I just sat and watched my fellow travelers. People watching is a too often overlooked perk about traveling. When people go somewhere, they are inclined to hurry from one overrun tourist attraction to the next, without truly looking around them. One of the easiest ways to experience a new culture is to grab a seat in the center of the action, be it a market or a town square, and just watch how people live. Throw away the agenda and just be. That isn’t easy to do with a child. All your focus is on them; are they safe, where did they get the mystery object they’re chewing on from, are they bothering the person next to you. You get the picture. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s surely not as easy to come by. So I soaked it in. At one point they came over the intercom to announce that our flight would be slightly delayed. For the first time ever, I truly didn’t care. I didn’t have any real place to be. I’d get there, my dear husband would be waiting, and we’d carry on.
We did eventually make it on the plane. And here’s where my trip truly began. I ordered a drink. I drank slowly, and without having to share. I read the vast majority of a book. I ordered a movie that I watched in the middle of the day with no interruptions. It was almost like a spa day. All I needed was the robe and slippers. Unfortunately, I wasn’t in first class.
I did see a few uneasy travelers around me, sweating out the flight all the while reassuring themselves that eventually their feet would be on solid ground again. But me? I kicked my feet up as far as the space between seats in economy class will allow and enjoyed the blissful sounds of someone else’s kid crying.
First, the itinerary: four days in Kyoto, an overnight in a “wooden” mountain town, then in Tokyo for more exploration at urban-energy pace. Emily describes this trip as almost spiritual, honoring the culture that inspired Tea’s founding aesthetic seven years ago. Enjoy the sights and senses of the Fall Collection and learn how Japanese culture affects Emily—profoundly.
So why Japan for Fall 2009?
The aesthetics of Japan are part of our soul. Their innate simplicity and the cultural colors of indigo, black, and red move us immensely. We visited temples and artisan workshops. We instantly made connections between ancient traditions and the ceaseless innovation in everyday life. Our pure enthusiasm is what we wanted to share.
What do you get when you combine a car, three children, a cat, a vehicle full of luggage and over 800 miles?
You get a ROAD TRIP!
How does one safely make the journey, while also retaining sanity?
Some of our tried and true tips for surviving a road trip with kiddos:
I’m refraining from posting my thoughts on traveling with pets, as I hope to never do that again … if you need tips, email me and I’ll be happy to share our suggestions individually with you.
WHAT TO BRING:
CELL PHONE CHARGER! Too often I make the organizational mistake of packing this in my luggage that I don’t have easy access to. Huge bummer when you have a cell phone with a dead battery!
Bottle brush (We love this kind) — makes cleaning out sippy cups a BREEZE when you’re on the go with no access to a dishwasher.
Boxed milk that requires no refrigeration (We love this kind) — if your kiddos can’t live without milk, this reduces the need for a cooler in the car!
Ziploc bags of all sizes — perfect for trash bags (when you need to contain smelly trash, or to ensure that random french fries from the last drive-thru lunch stay put instead of all over the car).
Diapers that your little one has outgrown — maybe a strange tip, but they make for a really fun game of hot potato without fear of breaking or hurting anyone!
Dryer sheets to place underneath carseats — another strange tip, but it helps keep the car smelling … well … spring fresh!
Ziploc Big Bags (we LOVE THESE!) — pack one in your overnight bag for dirty clothes. The size holds your entire family’s dirty laundry AND zips shut to keep the odor-ifious-ness contained.
Travel size of Johnson & Johnson Baby Shampoo. This works for bathtime, sink-cleaning laundry if needed, washing out sippy cups, etc.
Nightlight. Nothing is worse than an unfamiliar bedroom (whether hotel or with family) than a dark bedroom.
If you are staying in a hotel or with friends along your way, pack what EVERY member of the family needs into ONE bag.
change of clothes for the next morning
Ziploc big bag
When you arrive at your first night’s destination, it is so nice to only have to remove ONE bag for the night instead of pulling all sorts of random bags into the lobby, WITH your tired and cranky kiddos.
If you are staying at a hotel, ask the front desk attendant when you check in to allow you to raid their continental breakfast room/fridge for some milk cartons (put them on ice with your bucket) and boxed cereal.
Throw in some fruit, and you’ve got your own bedside breakfast ready in the morning without forcing you to get dressed and wrangle the littles into clothes first thing.
Use a small cookie sheet that magically transforms into a lap desk. The benefits to this are numerous:
Colors are contained within the outer lip
Snacks are easily kept at bay (imagine goldfish flying all over the car when you hit a bump?)
They easily slide underneath the seats for storage
We find our trips go the best when I’ve pulled aside some toys several weeks prior to our trip, so that the toys become “new” to them.
The dollar bin at Target, or your local dollar store also makes for great “new toys” for in the car. Don’t go overboard, but pick up some cheap things and your kids will be thrilled!
We also intentionally swap out toys every 30-45 minutes … even if they’re not “done” playing with them. Instead of waiting until frustration levels are high and they’re beyond playing with the toys, refresh their scenery and swap out on a regular basis.
Ziploc or grocery-store bag each GROUPING of toys. Explain to your kids that they need to keep all like items together and you’ll all save yourself some much needed energy.
If you have room between carseats, throw in a plastic crate (like THIS) — the crate will serve numerous purposes along the way. (For the kids to keep their juiceboxes, snacks, toys in their reach, etc.)
Pack each kiddo a backpack of their own special things. Include in their backpack their OWN bag of colors, kid-friendly scissors and … a roll of tape. No joke here … that roll of tape can keep them busy for H.O.U.R.S!
Create a BINGO game of sorts (afix it to their cookie sheet lap tray for ease). Identify several things that the kids will be likely to see along your journey and let them color in the squares when they spot each one.
Create a “map” of your journey with your starting location, your final destination and pinpoint several landmarks or locations along the way. Provide stickers just for this map and help your children identify and understand a bit more the process of the journey. It cuts down a bit on the “Are we there yet?” question.
EACH AND EVERY TIME you stop for gas or potty breaks, clean out the car. Take the extra 5 minutes to throw away that trash!
ANOTHER MUST? Designate the pouches on the back of the seats for the kids’ shoes and socks. If they have special blankies or lovies, also use those pouches for those items. Instead of having to search high and low for these things when they are rapidly needed, form a habit of always placing them in those pouches.
DVD Players. I canNOT stress this enough. Each child gets their own DVD player AND headphones. Saves from fighting over which movie to play, whose player is louder, etc.
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With a little bit of planning, alot of patience and some organization, you can make your summer road trips bearable! I’m sure there are SO many more travel tips. Share your favorites!
In two weeks, we’ll be taking off to Japan to explore Osaka and Kyoto.I’ve been to Japan before but without a baby boy.Even then, the hustle and bustle of a big Japanese city can be intimating.I’m most excited to explore the hot springs culture, eat a bunch of ramen and sushi, and buy things from vending machines.Japan should be a load of fun for baby Kai who will be 11 months when we arrive.I’ll keep you posted on my adventures when I arrive, but in the meantime here are some things that are on the itinerary:
Some of the travel ideas, I found in this cute and insightful book Japan for Kids:The ultimate Guide for Parents and Children
SpaWorld Osaka Japan, I have high expectations for this place.It will be fun for the whole family with three floors of onsens from around the world.On the third level, there is a full water park amusement pool for the kids.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan-It’s known to be the world’s largest aquarium complete with exhibitions of Japanese rain forests, California Coastline marine life , a giant Ferris wheel, and IMAX theater.
Ryoan-Ji Temple Kyoto-Here we’ll find one of the most beautiful Zen gardens which will be perfect after a day of sightseeing.
Japanese Supermarkets—I’m excited to find fresh bento boxes and cool baby food at the supermarket. He’s especially fond of rice crackers, and there’s no doubt we’ll find tons to choose from.
Stay tuned for photos and reviews of the places mentioned above.
If you’re considering visiting Viet-Nam, a must-see is the lovely coastal town of Hoi An located in Central Viet Nam.
The best way to arrive is to take a train from Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.I recommend the sleeper train, it’s a bit cozy but you get amazing views as the train passes through rice fields and vast flatlands with water buffalo.
The people are charming and less likely to upsell foreigners.There are abundant tailor shops and art galleries that won’t break your budget. One of my favorite shops is Hoai Ngap (Reaching Out )Handcrafts, a gift shopped filled with fair trade crafts made by artisans with disabilities.
The cobble stone streets make it a pleasure for walking or biking amidst the ancient Japanese and Chinese style architecture.Kids will love drinking fresh fruit shakes on the beach or even taking a lantern making class in town.At night, the town is picturesque with several outdoor cafes and strings of colorful silk lanterns illuminating the streets.
The women at the market place will tempt you with fresh marigolds and lotus flowers and even offer you fresh slices of mangosteen and sweet lychees.
Officially Hoi An is listed as a UNSECO heritage site.Unofficially I can tell you this place has a lot of heart.Look for my auntie and grandmother who make banh mi (baguette sandwiches) with a slammin’ secret sauce.Their stand is near the south entrance of the marketplace on the river. Grab sandwiches to go and hop on the ferry for a breezy tour of the scenic Hoi An River.
The longer I do this Mom thing, the more I realize that no two Moms do things exactly alike. For example, many Moms record their child’s first years in a baby book. Other Moms squirrel away their baby’s clothes, socks and shoes to help them remember just how small tiny really is. Others spend their child’s first years double-fisting it with a video camera in one hand and a trusty digital camera in the other. We captured our son’s first years with a map of the United States.
Travel has always equaled memories for us so one of the first things we did when our son was born nearly two years ago was to hang a map of the US on our fridge. Each time we visit a new state with him, we color it in on the map. Visits to family and friends quickly took care of most of the Maine to Florida route. And a planned Winter trip to California will soon balance out the brightly-colored East coast. We also have plans to expand the map to reflect future international travels and the trip we took last Fall to London, Dublin and Belfast.
Although packing up our almost two-year-old toddler and heading out on the road sometimes makes us wonder about our own sanity, we wouldn’t trade the memories for anything in the world.
Last week a wonderful thing happened—our local representative from Barefoot Books (www.barefoot-books.com ) visited our son’s preschool.The entire lobby was canvassed with the most beautiful, diverse and intriguing books, music CDs, artwork and toys.It was all I could do to control my retail impulses.But that’s the great thing about buying books—no guilt!
With Halloween coming up quickly and the Holidays right around the corner, it’s fun for me to get in the gift-giving mood now.Like everyone else, our family has been impacted by the economy, so it feels smart to zero in on presents that help us celebrate our loved ones without going broke.Plus, there is something magical about buying and giving books to children.When I find a great story, I feel just as great about sharing it.Books are cost-effective, provide endless entertainment, and often generate opportunities for children and parents to discuss new topics that were inspired by the stories in greater depth.
I was doubly excited about Barefoot Books when I saw an entire table of titles with an international theme.Some were fables and legends lifted directly from other cultures, like Russia, Japan, India, France, Senegal and Polynesia.Others were focused more on teaching American children about foreign geographies, histories, cultures and languages.Some of my favorites combined multiple short stories into single volumes, such as “Grandmothers’ Stories: Wise Woman Tales from Many Cultures,” which included a read-along CD narrated by Olympia Dukakis.Another colorful book, called “Elephant Dance,” is a perfect fit for our family, because it is about a little boy “interviewing” his grandfather who comes from India.
There are so many ways to introduce little ones to other cultures: food, movies, music, museums, and of course travel.From my perspective, all of those efforts are worthwhile and complemented perfectly by a bookshelf full of fun and interesting stories.I hope we’re fostering a curiosity about the world in our son as well as a love for reading.I also hope that both become lifelong passions that inspire him to run barefoot whenever he can.
Turks and Caicos is a peaceful Caribbean destination for families with small kids. Our week of vacation was spent on the island of Providenciales, where most Turks and Caicos resorts are to be found. Here’s a run-down of our top activities and outings with Grace, our 10 month old at the time. Although Grace would have been content to stay on the beach and eat sand all day, we got out and did quite a bit. We think these activities would be enjoyable for kids of all ages.
1. Iguana Island – This uninhabited island is a national park just a short boat ride from Providenciales, but with no domesticated cats and dogs the native iguanas have no predators and have taken over the island. They are harmless but fascinating and a short walk around the island’s boardwalk reveals interesting fauna as well as these dinosaur-type lizards.
2. Snorkeling – Obviously at 10 months Grace wasn’t up for this activity, but thankfully we had grandparents along. Our entire group (grandparents, Grace’s aunt and uncle, plus the three of us) took a boat trip to one of the incredible reefs off the island. We chose a glass-bottomed boat so even those who weren’t snorkeling (namely Grace and Grandma) still got a peek at the sea life below. The rest of us enjoyed some of the world’s best snorkeling in the warm clear blue waters.
3. Sapodilla Bay – Our resort was on the north side of the island on Grace Bay Beach. We rented a car for one day and drove to the south side of the island to experience the tranquil waters of Sapodilla Bay, affectionately called “Children’s Beach” by some. We had a little trouble finding the unmarked beach but finally found a small parking area which led us to the clear still water of the Bay. Unlike Grace Bay, which experiences small but constant waves, Sapodilla Bay is perfectly calm. The water is incredibly clear and shallow as well, making it possible to both see and touch bottom even 200 feet from shore. We floated, snorkeled, splashed, sat and soaked up the sun and the quiet of this hidden gem of a beach.
4. Conch Festival – Our visit to Turks and Caicos happened to coincide with the annual Conch Festival in November. Here all the best restaurants in town cook up their best conch (pronounced “conk”) recipes and for one price you get a ticket to try and vote for them all. Let’s just say there’s good conch and there’s really nasty conch. It was a packed event with live music and a conch blowing contest, in which my brother-in-law won second place!
5. Beach time – While there are diversions such as those listed above, the real reason to go to Turks and Caicos is for the beach. The sand is white and soft as flour. The water is warm and the waves lap the shore, never crash. Grace Bay Beach stretches for miles in either direction which makes for great walks. We saw families with kids of all ages and they all seemed to be having a wonderful time. For our family it was a tranquil, rejuvenating experience.