Last March, my family and I traveled to Tokyo, Japan for my mother’s 60th birthday. I was extremely excited at the same time nervous because it was the first time to go to an out-of-the-country trip with a toddler in his prime toddler years (if there is such a term). The last time we traveled overseas was when we went to Hong Kong, but our son was just one year old that time. He was easier to manage because he mostly slept in the car or in the stroller. Traveling with Dia, now that he is 4 years old, is a different story. He was overly excited all the time because everything was new to him. It was definitely an unforgettable experience and I would like to share how we managed to survive the trip without being (completely) insane.
I am no expert, and even if I have been in the world of motherhood for about 4 and a half years now, I am still learning how to be a super mom! Read on to know my five tips and tricks on how to travel with a toddler 🙂
1. Plan! Plan! Plan!
Plan your itinerary down to the schedule of your flight! It was very important for us not to book a super early flight because based from my past experiences with Dia and early wake-up calls, it was never a pleasurable one to wake him up in the wee hours of the morning. We also made sure that we would get aisle seats in the plane so it would be easy to go to the toilet in case Dia needed to relieve himself (and also so it would be easy for me to run to the toilet in case I feel sick and need to throw up!). I filled my iPad mini with his favorite shows the night before our trip to keep him entertained. He knew enough to be in his best behavior in the plane because we kept telling him that the flight stewardess will get mad at him if he is being too makulit. 😀 He managed to keep quiet the entire plane ride, happily watching shows from the iPad. I also made sure to fill his knapsack with his favorite snacks because I know that he can be such a picky eater, and he wouldn’t eat what the airline served. Planning your itinerary and the places that you want to visit would mean better peace of mind, and will help you be more prepared.
Aside from planning the places to visit, we also looked for restaurants that serve food that Dia eats. Again, he is a picky eater. His menu only consist of fried chicken, tonkatsu, pizza, spaghetti, and tofu. I know the choices of foods are not really completely healthy, but hey, anything that will get him to eat. I was happy when I found out that there was a Family Mart right across our hotel. It would be easy for us to buy mineral water for Dia and some snacks (the Family Mart in Tokyo is awesome! We were able to purchase big, juicy, super red strawberries, strong instant coffee, and delicious pastries that we ate for breakfast. Family Mart also sell (delicious) packed meals such as tonkatsu, which Dia was only too happy to eat). Emong and I hoarded snacks that Dia loves na pang suhol sa kanya just in case mag-inarte sha sa pagkain! Haha!
2. Bring things that will remind your child of home.
Whenever we go out of town, we always bring Dia’s pillows. These small pillows have been with him since the day he was born and he is very much attached to them. Having these pillows help Dia not to miss home too much, and help him get a good night’s sleep. Dia can be difficult at night sometimes when he his overly tired. As in parang may kaaway sya habang natutulog! Hahaha! Dia also loves stroking that small silky tag on his “cover-eyes-pillow”. It helps him sleep, magwawala sya pag wala yung pillow na yun when he sleeps! We also brought a couple of his favorite toy cars to keep him company in the train, in the car, during the flight, and even while he is on the stroller!
3. Expect to reach utter insanity.
A toddler is a toddler. There will be one point in your vacation when you have reached the limit of your patience and you just want to throw your child away and cry… yep, that’s insanity *lol*! Dia was overly excited to be in Japan because he experienced most things for the first time. You need to increase your level of patience and expect the worse. And when the worse comes, don’t go momzilla on your child. Instead, take deep breaths, be calm, and think of ways to distract your child and help him realize that he needs to be in his best behavior. I learned the hard way during our first couple of nights in Japan. Aside from being overly tired, he was overly tired as well. I lost it and had a screaming match with him as soon as we got back in the hotel. As in with the matching bulging eyes and gigil face. Ang kuuuuulit nya kasi! *lol*! In the end, parang ako rin yung napagod and I felt it was not worth it because between Dia and I, ako yung mas may isip, and I should be teaching him, instead na patulan sya.
4. This is not your trip!
Yes, this trip is not for you. This is for your child. I have been telling this to myself over and over again before the trip began so that I would not expect too much from it. I told my husband that don’t expect this trip to be easy because we have a terrible-four toddler (yes, after terrible-two, there is still terrible-threes and fours!), and that this trip was for Dia. A colleague once told me that I shouldn’t expect a “me” time in my trip. Because I have a child who I should prioritize, and more importantly, to care for. So that’s what I did. I always considered the restaurants that we ate in, to make sure that Dia had something to eat and that he was comfortable (most restaurants in Japan is small and cramped). Whenever we bought something for ourselves, we also made sure to buy a little something for Dia (kahit na yung small toys lang from the toy vending machines) so he would not feel left out and jealous. We made sure to give him what he wanted so he can be quiet and happy, and so to spare ourselves as well! Ha!
5. Let it go!
Yes, let it go! Don’t sweat the small stuff. Our best “strategy” was to give Dia whatever he wanted, and we let him eat what he wanted to eat. May thing si Dia na ipaghalo yung mga food that he likes. Example, eat cookies and rice, and chicken all at the same time (ew, I know). We don’t normally allow him to do that at home. But since we were traveling, and we wanted sanity, we let him be. If it meant allowing him to eat Pepero or even Pringles first before eating his rice, then we allowed him! It was just for 7 days. We just made sure to make it clear to him that he should go back to his normal eating routine as soon as we go back home. Some of you might look down on this tactic, but hey, it worked for us 🙂
Above all things, remember that you are lucky enough to be able to spend some time with your family. I was super blessed that I had the opportunity to go to an all-expense-paid trip to Tokyo with Emong and Dia. It was my mother’s 60th birthday treat for us. There were a few bumps in the road, but I do not regret any part of it because we all ended up having fun, and having a very memorable family trip.
PS1: If you are going to Tokyo with a toddler and debating whether to go to Tokyo Disneyland or Tokyo Disney Sea, I suggest Disneyland. We went to Disney Sea, and while it was alright, Dia was looking for Mickey Mouse, who wasn’t in Disney Sea. There is no parade in Disney Sea, only the lights show at night.
PS2: I noticed there weren’t too many kids in Tokyo. The train rides and most restaurants were too quiet. Nahihiya kami tuwing nag iingay si Dia hahaha! We were told that Omakase has a more relaxing vibe than Tokyo, so next time, that’s where we will go 🙂
PS3: If you love pens, papers, notebooks, anything artsy like watercolor, brushes, expect your money to be gone in one trip to a store. That’s where most of my shopping money went!
PS4: Try all the crepes!!! And pancakes!!! Lahat ng pagkain sa Tokyo masarap!