Friday, April 20, 2018

Tips for Travelling with a Baby (12-18 months)


We are firm believers (and proof!) in the fact that it IS possible to travel internationally and adventuredly with a baby, and we are here to help. We've now travelled extensively within Canada and abroad with our daughter at virtually every age from birth to eighteen months.

To read our tips for travel with a 0-6 month old, click here.
To read our tips for travel with a 6-12 month old, click here.
To read what we learned this time around travelling with a babe at 15-16 months old, keep reading below!

Also, feel free to send us a message if you have a specific question or are looking for a recommendation. Whether your trip is small or big, there are ways to help it go more smoothly. And, as always, every baby is different so we've outlined what works for us. Take what's helpful and ignore what you know won't work for you and your family.

Posing with the tulips in the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park

Packing List
Hoofing it to the train station in Tokyo
with all of our stuff
We truly tried our best this time around to cut down on how much we brought. But it is definitely possible to do it with less. We bring a little extra to help ensure Baby has some of her comforts from home and because we keep a quick enough pace that we don't want to have to go out and get something we need. If you're planning on staying in one place for a while, we'd highly recommend looking into a rental service for big items like a crib, stroller, high chair, etc., or if you're staying in hotels (and even other vacation rentals), check ahead of time to see if they have something on site. We've even had AirBnB owners offer us pack n plays or books and toys for Baby, which can really cut down on the amount of luggage you have to carry.



Clothes
Heavy rain won't stop us!
This list will always vary in size depending on climate at your destination, how messy your child is, and how frequently you plan on doing laundry. For this trip we did laundry every 5-7 days. We brought a bit of laundry detergent with us so that things stayed smelling like home. This tiny bit of extra weight is worth it to us because it provides Baby with some much needed comfort, especially in the realm of sleeping. She will literally pick up Mom's pajama shirt and take a deep sniff if she's feeling unsettled. On this trip for her we brought:

2 short sleeve onesies
2 tshirts
3 long sleeve onesies
3 long sleeve shirts
1 sweater
1 dress, 1 summer romper
4 pairs of pants of varying weights
2 sleepers
1 bathing suit and swim diaper
4 pairs of socks
1 raincoat, 1 splash suit (because we knew it would rain a lot!)
1 pair of runners, 1 pair of sandals that can get wet, 1 pair of rain boots
1 sunhat

Making friends on the ferry!
Gear
2 washable Kushies bibs
5 washcloths
2 sheets for the pack n play
1 change pad
1 travel wipes container, 1 double package of wipes
Diapers!!! (as many as we could fit in our bags after they were packed)
Pack n play
Stroller (Summer Infant 3D Flip)
Carrier
Travel high chair (Summer Pop n Sit)
Wet/dry bag
Hand sanitizer
Cloth collapsible cooler bag
2 small baby bowls, 2 spoons, 1 fork, 1 cup for milk
Collapsible hamper
Medical supplies: baby Tylenol, D-drops, saline drops, nail clippers, baby polysporin, etc.
Simple baby-proofing supplies like silicone twist ties, elastic bands, outlet covers for the country you're going to, etc.
Inflatable bathtub and pump (this was completely unnecessary because everywhere we stayed in Japan had a bathtub, but all three of us love the froggie bath so it was another "comfort" item we were happy to lug along)

Overlooking the Cherry Blossom Festival in Tokyo

Toys
At this age, we found our baby is most into: books, balls, cars, stacking and nesting, organizing/sorting, and imaginative play. As tempting as it was to bring our entire library and play kitchen along, we felt that we nailed it this trip with the two small bags of toys we put together. Everything is fairly lightweight, small, and diverse in type of play. Nearly everything can be washed easily or even go into the bath. We kept them organized in two small mesh bags so that we could alternate which toys we had out at each accommodation (meaning that she had "new" things to play with every 5 days or so).

Above: Making toys
out of what we have

Below: Concentrating
on buckles and zippers
These were supplemented by everyday items we'd brought that she enjoys playing with. She got endless pleasure from pulling her little tupperware containers out of the collapsible cooler bag and organizing them, along with "taking care" of her stuffed bunny by cleaning her with a washcloth, brushing her teeth, "dressing" her in Baby's own clothes, putting a diaper on her, etc. This was such great play because it required no additional "toys." Then there is always something new and interesting at each accommodation for her to discover, like a different type of doorknob to learn how to open, a bag of clothes-pegs to explore, or in Japan, indoor slippers to pull off a shoe rack. Traditional Japanese style rooms were great for playing in because of the soft bamboo mats on the floor and futon mattresses for climbing on. They made for great family cuddle spots.



When heading out, we never took any toys with us. People watching (along with bird and dog-watching), and food were the main activities. If necessary, we could pick up a subway guide for her to fold and unfold, or Baby could pull things out from underneath the stroller.

Toy Bag One
1 tiny Boon pull-back car, 1 tiny Boon wooden car
1 set of 5 small stacking cups
1 super small board book, 1 super small bath book, 2 cloth story books
2 bath squirt toys
2 thin cloth hand puppets
1 beloved Jellycat Bunny ring rattle

Toy Bag Two
1 set of Oball Flex and Stack balls (3) - these were SO awesome for travelling with! They smoosh up small, nest, stack, are easy to throw or kick, and can go in the bath.
6 super small story books that fit perfectly in the bag for our Munch Mitt (This was a GENIUS idea of mine...Baby loves to pull them out and put them back in. It was great for on the plane)
2 bath squirt toys
1 buckle toy with zipper
and a Happy Valentine's Day card my mom gave her that has pictures of dogs and cats on it that she still loves
1 beloved Jellycat Bunny ring rattle (shh! Don't tell Baby that we actually have two identical ones!)

Posing in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Accommodation and Pace
Exploring the nearby playground in Tokyo
Please take a look at our 6-12 month tips post for our recommendations. The biggest thing we suggest is staying in a rental property where Baby can have her own room. This means that we have our own space to relax in after she goes to sleep at night and for her naps. We opt for places close to sites we want to see whenever possible, meaning we cut down on travel time each day. We build in an extra two days at the beginning to allow for jet lag.

A note about jet lag: some people try to adjust ahead of their trip to the new time zone. We believe that the journey itself is the most tiring and challenging part of the trip so it's best to be as well-rested as possible going in. Babies recover quite quickly from jet lag because they are more used to sleeping for long stretches during the day. Follow normal recommendations of getting lots of water, sunlight, and eating at local mealtimes to help adjust more quickly.

This trip admitedly included
much more playground time
than our usual travels :)

The other benefit to rental properties is having your own kitchen. Children at this age may not be adventurous enough to gain all of their calories from local food at restaurants. Our baby also likes to eat a huge variety of food during a day so having a fridge is key in cutting down cost and food waste. We also like having a fridge to keep have milk on hand for her.







The Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto


Climbing the steps at the Nanzen-ji Temple in Kyoto

Travelling
Plane travel with a 12-18 month old can be a little daunting. This is commonly referred to as the most difficult age group to travel with because kids this age want to MOVE, yet they are too young to understand why their world is being turned upside down. So keep that in mind as you plan your itinerary.

We still gate-check our stroller wherever possible so that we can dump our stuff in it and have it in case she gets tired or fussy. When going through security, remember that you'll need to empty the stroller fully and either put it through the scanner or give it to a guard to pat down (this depends on the protocol at your airport). If you have your child in a carrier, you will need to take them out of the carrier to go through security.

To make security easier, put all of your luggage/laptops/liquids, etc up in bins and be totally ready to walk through the scanner before taking your baby out of the stroller or carrier. Pack liquids at the top so they are ready to hand over. Most airlines allow you to bring on as much liquid as you need for your baby but containers over 100 mL need to be swabbed and checked. For long-haul flights we each carry a small backpack with things for the plane and we carry a small collapsible cooler bag packed with all the food we'll need for the plane, plus a little extra for Baby just in case. It's not unheard of to be stuck on a plane for a few extra hours because of maintenance or bad weather. Be prepared! In the cooler bag we have smaller cloth cooler bags with meals and snacks designated out. This makes it easier to leave most of the food in the overhead compartment and only bring down a meal at a time. (I don't know about you, but if our baby saw all the food we'd packed for an entire 15 hour travel day at once, she'd want to empty everything out and then refuse to eat anything that's not an absolute favourite). The standard rule is to bring one diaper for every hour that you'll be travelling, again just in case your plans go awry.

You know your baby best so plan your travel day in whatever way you think will be best for her. Ours won't sleep unless she's in her crib so we try to travel between her naps whenever possible. With her at this age, we board separately so she can run around til the very end while one of us collapses the stroller and gets things set up on the plane. If you can, book a seat with extra leg room so that Baby has a place to play or you are at least more comfortable while you have someone climbing all over you.


Enjoying the blossoms at Nijo-jo Castle in Kyoto
Travelling with a Baby in Japan
We'd been told by many people that Tokyo is fairly inaccessible with lots of stairs. We didn't find this to be the case at all; we found an elevator in every one. There is a large cycling community in Tokyo, so the city has made accommodations like ramps built into staircases and elevators to cross bridges...you might just need to do a little extra walking.

On the bullet train, we booked seats in the last row so that we could tuck the stroller in behind our seats. If you're deciding between Tokyo station and Shinagawa station to board the shinkansen (bullet train), we found Tokyo station (the train terminus) to be easier because there was more space for our bags near our seats. (A baby at this age does not need a subway or train ticket). The bullet trains were surprisingly spacious with tons of legroom and even seat room across two seats. We were able to comfortably have her sit between us or play at our feet while we were stopped. The sway was quite strong when moving because you are travelling at such a high speed so make sure Babe is secure and safe.

Walking amongst the torii
at Fushimi-Inari Taisha

Public washrooms are easy to find (and don't require a fee). At major locations there are family washrooms or nursing rooms, otherwise change tables are normally found in the women's washrooms. Many stalls also have a little chair that you can set your baby in while you use the toilet (it's indicated that these are for children between 5 and 24 months of age).

For us tall people, we fondly referred to Japan as "the country where we hit our heads and Baby can reach everything." Be prepared that what your child might not be able to do at home (reach doorknobs, tops of kitchen counters, stove elements, etc), may be easier in a tight space. We had a few close calls where we hadn't realized she could reach a sharp knife from her high chair, for instance, because accommodations are so cramped.

It was very difficult to find public garbage cans in Japan. Be sure to carry some small bags for dirty diapers, banana peels, etc.


Enjoying the blossoms at the
Shukkeien Garden in Hiroshima
We've heard the phrase frequently: "it's too bad Baby won't remember any of this." Of course it's true that she won't remember specific places we went to or things we did. But each of our travels has impacted our baby in significant ways. The resiliency she is building by being on the road is by far more than we could expect to gain at home. By the time she reaches 19 months of age, Baby will have slept in 49 different places overnight, and countless different places for naps! It's no wonder she's a confident, independent sleeper.

The bond she has with both of us is so strong. We are so fortunate to have had this time as a family. And there's a big difference in our day-to-day life on the road compared to at home. Baby's seeing us discover and try new things, which she is surely picking up on. The pure joy you exhibit when encountering a new wonder is infectious. We hope that by her witnessing us being vulnerable and courageous, she will be encouraged to live in a similar way.


If you find the right pace and destination for your family, you will surely have an unforgettable and positive experience. The days fly by with a child, so you've got to make the most of your time together.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Japan Day 15: Itsukushima



A highlight of our time in Hiroshima was our visit to Itsukushima, or more commonly 'Miyajima' (literally 'shrine island'), a sacred island just off the shores of Hiroshima's port. It was a simple street car and ferry ride to get there, with the boat ride over providing views of the Itsukushima Shrine, otherwise known as the "water temple", and the iconic Great Torii.


The tides didn't work in our favour to see it at its best, but we were provided with the opportunity to walk out near it, and for Adventure Baby to practice walking back and forth across a stepping stone bridge. When the tide is high, the temple and torii both look as if they're floating on water, and boardwalks give visitors a way to walk around the outside of the temple.


We turned back for town and found another Izakaya. We had a huge platter of food, a local brew, and explored every corner of the building following Baby around. Setting out to see more of the island, we were delighted to find another vegan gelato shop for dessert. We wandered our way through the small streets towards the ropeway that would take us up Mount Misen.


We shortly there after found a shuttle stop that would take us to the lower ropeway station. Having just missed the shuttle, we opted to continue on the path. The pictured sign didn't quite account for the extra time needed to manipulate a stroller up stairs and through the woods, but in the end we made it up, only shortly after the shuttle we could have waited for.


The walk was not without its charms, though baby failed to nap in the calm woods even with a soothing creek babbling by. After many stairs and sitting on nearly every bench at Baby's insistence, we reached the ropeway and left the stroller behind.

The ride up the mountain provided stunning views and once at the top we took in the panoramas of Hiroshima Bay and the Seto Sea. We absorbed what we could before making our way down the mountain (in the gondola once again). On the walk back to the docks we stopped briefly for some yakitori and fries before having to pack up in a panic as the deer that tourists feed came storming over to us.
You can only smile so much while trying to soothe a baby.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Japan Days 13,14, & 16: Hiroshima


Hiroshima was a welcome change from Kyoto in that nearly everything we wanted to see and do was within easy walking distance from our front door. Hiroshima is, of course, known for being the target of the first ever attack with a nuclear weapon. Our main goal of visiting the city was to learn more about what happened, how it impacted Japan in the years to come, and honour those who lost their lives to such a deadly and devastating bomb.

The next generation rings for peace
Our AirBnB was located 800 m from the hypocentre of the nuclear blast. The walk from our place to it was lovely and set along the Ota River. In between lies an island, a part of which has now been devoted to the Peace Memorial Park. Many monuments line the path including the Peace Clock, which chimes each morning at 8:15 (the time the bomb hit), the Peace Bell (which you can strike to show your support in ending all nuclear warfare), and the children's memorial (inspired by the true story of Sadako and her thousand paper cranes). Craig and Erin both read this story in elementary school and Erin re-read it before we arrived in Hiroshima. With so many monuments and green space, the crowds were quite dispersed, making for a peaceful walk through an area with such a heavy history.


Across a small road is the cenotaph for the bombing victims, and a flame set to burn until all nuclear weapons on Earth have been decommissioned. These, plus the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, line up perfectly with the hollowed out Atomic Bomb Dome that was left standing amongst the flattened city. Like Japanese gardens, great intention went into the planning of this important site.

Touring the grounds brought forward many memories of our recent trip to Sarajevo, and their war monuments and memorials. We remembered how difficult it was to visit the genocide museum and fully honour and appreciate the exhibits with Baby in tow, so we decided to take turns visiting the  Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. We feel this was the right call given the hushed atmosphere and copious amounts of reading that was displayed.

With all three of us still recovering from a bad cold, Hiroshima was a beautiful place to relax for a few days. We even got to know our dog-walking neighbours with our consistent 7:35 morning walks, which included a daily visit from the kindergarten bus outfitted to look like Thomas the Tank Engine. Baby doesn't know who that is, but trains and buses are two of her favourite things at the moment.

You could easily visit the Hiroshima and hit most of the highlights all in one day because of their close proximity. But we'd highly recommend taking an extra day to visit Itsukushima. But more on that in our next post...

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Japan Day 12: Speeding Off to Take it Slow


To get to Hiroshima direct, without transferring trains with our heaps of luggage, we only had one option for a departure time: 8:20 am. This was less than ideal because Baby had generally been going down for a nap at 8:30 and our AirBnB in Hiroshima didn't allow check-in until 3pm. That meant both naps were going to need to be done on-the-go and we'd end up needing to kill over four hours in Hiroshima with all of our luggage.

By this point, Baby was seeming the tiniest bit better from her full-blown cold and teething combo so instead of being pretty much unbearably cranky, she had a slight fever and seemed too exhausted to cause a fuss. Strapped in her stroller and squished into the aisle beside us, she fell asleep the moment the train began to sway. For the remainder of the trip, she was content to cuddle. Giving us a chance to see the steep green hills whenever we exited one of many tunnels.

Astute Civ 5 players may notice a
world wonder in the background.

Riding a bullet train was another experience we were both excited about before coming to Japan. The train we took from Tokyo to Kyoto hit a maximum of around 320 km/hr. The speed was definitely noticeable in the sway of the train and if you tried to walk anywhere.  But looking out the window it didn't really look like we were going that fast. However, changing a diaper at that speed was certainly challenging!


Feeling positive with how the trip had gone, we easily found a luggage storage in the Hiroshima train station and walked the short distance to the Japanese gardens, Shukkeien. We spent a very relaxing couple of hours wandering the beautiful grounds in the sunshine. Japanese gardens are so intentionally designed that we can't begin to appreciate all that goes in to them but we can say that they are both aesthetically pleasing and complement the natural setting at the same time.





The 25 minute walk from there to our flat took us past Hiroshima castle. We found a quiet corner to rock the stroller and a tired baby to sleep.

We found our apartment, got some Indian takeout, and collapsed into bed at 7:30 pm having already ticked off two top Hiroshima sites before we'd even had a full day here! 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Japan Days 10 & 11: Tears and Torii


Chilly temperatures, rain, and a sick and teething baby had us abandoning our day trip plans to Nara. We attempted a few small outings but generally tried to stay warm and keep Baby rested. Kyoto had gone from 27 degrees to 9 within the span of five days. It was even as cold as -1 when we awoke in our very cold apartment early one morning, thankfully the heater was in Baby's room. We were pleased with the few experiences we did manage to share despite the challenging conditions.


Our walk through the torii gates in Fushimi Inari Taisha was a sure highlight. We were on the hillside by 7 am meaning we had sections of the path to ourselves and the early morning light cast long shadows through the forest. The crisp air hummed with the sounds of nature and the quiet admiration of our fellow visitors. Gate after gate stood closely together for tight sections, then opened to shrines. The site was built in 711 for the god Inari, and foxes adorn the complex. They are said to be messengers to the gods.





We enjoyed our best meal out of the trip at Kushikura where we got to sit in our own private room, an experience we'd both been looking forward to. We had a feast of a meal with a bento box full of goodies and skewers on the side. The matcha cake and ice cream dessert were especially exquisite.


For an easy outing on our last day, we took the subway back to the Philosopher's Path. The change in scenery was remarkable. We were so thankful that we'd arrived in Kyoto when we did and had headed right there. There were basically no blossoms left on the trees. The walk was pretty but not nearly as stunning.



All in all, we loved our time in Kyoto and would highly recommend spending a few days to a week here to fully appreciate all that there is to see. With a week, we did not even make it to half of the 17 UNESCO world heritage sites in the city, though some of our favourite sites are not on the list (yet).

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Japan, Day 9: Splash Splash Splash



The forecast for our fourth day in Kyoto showed heavy rain. We decided to skip a day-trip to Osaka and instead planned a chill family day. The Kyoto aquarium didn't quite compare to what we'd hoped to see in Osaka (theirs boasting a whale shark), but fish are one of Baby's favourite things so we figured she'd be happy with something simpler. Surprisingly, the aquarium was quite empty. That, plus the calming atmosphere they created with darkened hallways, massive sting rays swimming above, and quiet music, meant for a very relaxing visit.

We capped the day off with a big plate of pasta and enjoyed being cosy inside while we watched the distant hills disappear behind a veil of clouds.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Japan, Days 7 & 8: Kyoto Wanderings


The next two days were spent wandering stunning Kyoto by foot with the aid of various forms of public transportation. Baby, now fully recovered from jet lag, resumed her Adventure Baby status by cheerfully embracing new environments, people, and sites each day. She quickly became comfortable with the subway, waved frantically at buses, and crossed 18 lanes of traffic consecutively on foot like a champ. We even managed to lull her to sleep in the stroller one afternoon when our outing took us too far from home to return for a nap.

It has been incredibly difficult to choose which pictures to share in a city that seems built for photographers, but we've managed to narrow it down to the ones below. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

...

First, we lingered along another section of the Philosopher's Path, its meandering canal bursting with colourful blooms. Tourists and locals alike quietly appreciated its calm beauty in the early morning light.





Gion, a neighbourhood with narrow streets and many centuries old buildings steeped in history boasted impressive temples, lovely homes clustered along the canal, and many people dressed in traditional clothes to have their picture taken. Adventure Baby climbed countless temple steps without hesitation.








We beat the heavy crowds in the Arashiyama area by climbing higher up the hill to visit some magically serene temples. In a short time the landscape unfolded from riverbank to cherry groves to bamboo forest to lush hillside. The Otagi Nenbutsu-Ji Temple was our last stop and despite fatigue and swarming mosquitoes, it was difficult to tear ourselves away from the endearing Rankan stone figures depicting the disciples of Buddha.