Fort Lauderdale, FL – Day 3

Day 3 

It was so nice to catch up on sleep on this trip. While I still had to wake up around 6:15, getting a good 8-9 hours was awesome. While Harper does make funny noises throughout the night, she doesn’t actually wake up. She’s so good to us!

Once the alarm went off, we changed and fed Harper, and enjoyed coffee and muffins on the patio while we watched people run up and down the beachside. There was a 5k of some sort going on and quite a lot of people! We eventually joined them for a stroll about a mile up the coast to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.

Originally, we were going to do an hour long drive to the Everglades to explore for the day, but we opted to keep it local and do the Park instead. It was a nice morning; about 80 degrees and a bit humid but the beach breeze made it really nice. Once we got into the Preserve, the trees blocked the breeze and it was muggy and HOT. We had to be careful with Harper since her stroller was not vented and the little fan was just not cooling enough. We also quickly realized that the trails were not paved and off-roading in the stroller was pretty bumpy. Ryan walked in the front on the trails to help lift the stroller over big roots in the path that were pretty frequent. 

After we found our way along the trail, we came up to this massive, 20O+ year old tree. The only thing I’ve ever seen like it was was in El Salvador, but I think this one was bigger. It seemed like the roots grew out from the top and then down, making more and more trunks from the same tree as it grew. So cool!

As we walked, we also noticed about a million mosquitos and we didn’t bring our bug spray. Mozzies love me and I was getting eaten right and left. The trail led us into marshy section and this guy in front of us was being followed by 20+ mosquitoes. The trail was slightly flooded so we decided to turn around and walk on the paved road instead where there were not as many mosquitoes. Harper was getting hot so we were holding her as well. After about an hour of walking, we decided to turn around instead of continue the loop so we didn’t overheat. Overall, the park was nice but would have been much better on a cool day with bug spray. Thank goodness we didn’t go to the Everglades instead!

Thankfully, a quick shower helped us cool down and we were back out the door to head to the water Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi station about 5 mins down the road. The closest station was pretty shallow, so only the small water taxis stoped there and you had to call ahead. I did and the lady said it would be about a 20-30 minute wait for the next taxi. We hung out under the shade of a tree and a few more families showed up. About 45 mins in, we were getting impatient and I called again and the girl said it would be another 20 minutes, not the next way to spend vacation time. Some do the families decided to walk another .5 miles to the next station. We decided it wait it out and finally, after an hour, a taxi showed up. Good thing we waited since some of the walkers didn’t make it to the stop in time to be picked up by our boat (Yikes!).

We got settled and put Harper’s headphones on so it wouldn’t be too loud for her between the boat engine and the taxi driver’s speaker. The driver pointed out the big homes along the drive, who owned them, the cost, and the major yachts that went with them. The sheer number of billionaires that had places along the canals was incredible and the boats were really impressive. 

Harper was so interested in looking all around. It was about a 45 minute ride to Stop #2 of Los Olas Blvd where we were going to hop off for lunch. Just a few minutes before our stop, I moved my hand from holding Harper and realized it was slightly wet. Oh no! I tried not to panic Ryan and asked him gently to get the diapers and wipes out. I had poop all over my leg and it was all the way up Harper’s back to her neck. It was probably one of her biggest blow outs yet. Ryan got the wipes out but put them on top of the diaper bag and then put them back in the diaper bag and shut it. He didn’t understand what was happening so I had to tell him. He couldn’t hear me over the engine so I raised Harper up like Simba in the Lion King and showed him. His eyes went really wide as he saw the organge, goo all up her back, and it was business time. We got the wipes out and her outfit was just completely destroyed. Thankfully, I had a change of clothes in the diaper bag (and diapers this time!), so it was a quick change. Both the diaper and the onesie went into the garbage. There was no saving that really adorable outfit! As soon as the bag was packed, it was time to hop off the taxi. We cut it really close but everything was fine and we had a good laugh about it all.

We hopped off a taxi and were on our way to find something to eat. At this point it was 1:30 in the afternoon and we had breakfast at 6 AM so we were starving. El Camino was the first restaurant we came across and looked really good so we got a patio table. I ordered a strawberry basil margarita, chips and salsa, and we split some tacos. They were really tasty and filled us right up. Of course, Harper got her second lunch of the day at that time too. We only had about an hour left because I had to get back to the hotel and pump. Being on a 4 to 4 1/2 hour schedule really does make things a little complicated and the hour wait to get on the taxi really messed that up.

There were a few people walking around the boulevard with drinks in their hand so I asked the waiter if he could take some margaritas to go and he said the boulevard is actually open container! With two margaritas in hand, we started walking the boulevard. There were tons of really cute boutiques and galleries. I would’ve loved to go through all of them but we didn’t really have time. Effusion Gallery caught our eye and allowed drinks inside, so we popped in for a look. We like to buy art when we go places because there’s so much more meeting than just going to home goods and buying something off the shelf. We started this trend when we were in Santa Fe with a piece of abstract art featuring Marilyn Monroe. Given this was Harper’s first vacation, we had to get her something!

There were these really cool donut pieces of art that could not have been more perfect. Harper’s favorite onesie that she wears all the time has donuts on it and the donut art fate! While it doesn’t really match her room, it will definitely go somewhere in our house and will go with her for the rest of her life. We ended up buying three donuts and the gallery owner told us that the artist was actually her daughter. She was one of nine kids! The art had so much more meeting with our love for donuts for Harper and then the fact that this gallery owner’s daughter made the art.

With our big purchase made and ready to ship we had to walk back to the water taxi. We made it just in time to do a quick FaceTime call with my parents at the taxi station, check out some iguanas that were hanging out on the dock, and then hop on the boat. It was about a 45 minute ride back to our stop and went relatively easy compared to the first go-round. Harper was an angel, of course, and the weather was nice. This taxi driver definitely as an interesting facts about the homes etc. We even passed International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum which has the highest diving planks in the world at 880 feet. You if you drive off the top, you enter the water going over 55 miles an hour! The only other diving platform in the world that is as tall is in China! Really interesting to see considering I used to be a swimmer.

We were pretty exhausted and sweaty by the time we got back to the hotel. We freshened up and decided to take a bit of a siesta before heading out to dinner. We had reservations at a waterfront restaurant called Shooters Waterfront. Shooters was one of the stops on the water taxi route but, after how long the taxi took, we decided to drive there in our rental car. There was also a storm rolling in so we took a risk by sitting on the patio where we had a good view of the canal and all of the boats going by. One of the waiters kept running up and down the wharf yelling at the boats to slow down because they were causing too much of a wake.

I ordered this absolutely amazing strawberry frozen lemonade. It was probably one of the best drinks I’ve had in a long time (but also probably also a ton of calories – eh, it’s vacation!). Harper was very interested in trying some, but I only let her touch the glass.

I also had macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi with a peanut curry sauce. It was pretty decent but could’ve used some basil and a little more salt. Shooters was our least favorite meal of the entire trip.

We are pretty exhausted when we came home. We fed Harper and, while doing so, Ryan discovered his new favorite show Below Deck. It was dreaming on Bravo the entire trip and we ended up watching it every time we were back in the room! Ryan wanted us to sign-up for Peacock so he could watch it from start to finish. His obsession was is OK with me because it might inspire a chartered boat trip through the islands at some point, right?! I am always thinking of the next place to go and how to get Ryan’s OK to go there!

Ps. If you are a new mom or day and traveling with a little munchkin, I put together a quick guide with tons of tips and tricks for traveling with a kid. Check it out!

Fort Lauderdale, FL – Day 1 & 2

Boy, did we need a vacation. We had a few planned in 2021 but, due to pregnancy risk issues, we had to cancel. Those cancelations led to a $500 Sprit Airlines credit that had to be used by December 31st, 2021, so I had to book something. With our baby Harper on the way and no baby passport in hand, I needed to find a relaxing spot with a short flight that was in the US. Fort Lauderdale, FL seemed to fit all of our requirements for a long Memorial Day weekend trip with a baby.

The week leading up to our vacation ended up being crazy. We went on our first road trip to Houston; a combined a work trip with a visit to the in-laws so Harper could meet her great-grandmas for the first time. We got back Sunday and then I left early Monday for a two-day work trip to Minneapolis. I got back Tuesday, packed Wednesday, and we were off Thursday for Florida. I made our Florida packing list a week in advance and our Houston trip gave us traveling-with-a-baby practice, so we were good to go despite the jam-packed schedule.  

Our flight was at 7:10 AM so we woke up at 4:50 AM (yikes!). I pumped while getting ready and Ryan fed Harper quickly before the Uber pulled up. We brought soooo much stuff and filled up the Uber’s trunk. We used to just travel with carry-ons and a backpack but now we’re fully equipped with strollers, carriers, checked bags, 3 backpacks, and a baby!

The line for bag check was already really long at the airport, but we got to skip to the attendant area since we had Harper and our bags were checked pretty quickly. We walked past the longest line I’ve ever seen to get through security to the short TSA Pre line. Somehow, Ryan’s ticket didn’t have TSA Pre on it, so Harper and I went through while Ryan ran back to the gate agent to get his ticket reprinted. Going through security was not too hard but, when people say “wear your baby through it”, do it! You need both hands to break down your stroller and car seat and manage all of your bags. Fortunately, a nice man helped me get everything into the scanner. Harper and I grabbed Starbucks while Ryan got through and then we went to the gate to check the stroller. I tried to board but the agent said I needed a ticket for Harper. I thought we had one since I booked the trip with a lap child, but we had to go back to the gate agent for 15 minutes of unchecking and rechecking-in. Thankfully, we kept our row 4 seats.

We were excited to sit down and relax after the stress of getting everything onto the plane, but then realized Spirit had no in-flight entertainment and we only packed things to do for Harper! Whoops! Thankfully, Harper fell asleep on me and didn’t wake up until an hour into the flight. She was so perfect, just cooing at people around us and being a happy baby. We fed her about 2 hours into the flight and we smelled her “popcorn” poop (yes, her poo smells like movie-theater-grade, buttery popcorn). I got the diaper bag out in search of diapers, and I searched, and I searched.. and no diapers. I had put a whole sleeve of diapers in the bag but moved them into a carryon and just assumed the diaper bag had its usual supply. Oh boy! Thankfully, it didn’t smell thaaaat much so we were able to power through until we grabbed our bags from bag check and found a bathroom. Harper was such a trooper! (But seriously, who forgets diapers!?).

We hopped on the shuttle to grab our rental car and then it was off to the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. Our room was perfect for a little family because it had a living room and kitchen area which was great for cleaning bottles, pump parts, and making breakfast! We had a stellar beach view too. The only thing I would have changed is that we could not see the view from the bedroom so we couldn’t relax and watch the ocean as I would have liked. Other than that, the hotel was in the perfect location and the staff was so nice. 

After we settled in, we took a short walk down the beach side to Wild Thyme for lunch . We sat on the patio and enjoyed the view and some fancy car watching (we saw a $1.9MM Bugatti Veyron). I had a delish Ahi Tuna salad and Ryan had buffalo style shrimp with these crazy crispy potato wedges. Yum! 

After lunch, we went to Publix to grab baby supplies, drinks, and breakfast stuff. It was an easy and short trek but we had to wait for the drawbridge both ways because there were some mega yachts going through the canals! It was pretty neat to watch such insane engineering. 

It’s amazing how time flies when you have a baby. After another feed and quick pump, it was time for dinner. We went to the S3 (Sea, Surf, & Sand) restaurant at the hotel and got seats looking at the beach. We were in for such a treat. We got local goal cheese croquettes (aka fried cheese balls) with this delish Peruvian sweet sauce. Ryan had never tried hamachi before and had apprehension to ordering it, but ended up loving the tender yellowtail with hints of truffle! We also split two sushi rolls and a ponzu old fashion. They were excellent! The funny thing was the wait staff also brought a kids menu and crayons for Harper. She was only 4.5 months and still only drinks breast milk so it was pretty funny thinking she could eat Mac and Cheese. It was nice of the staff to think of her though!

After dinner, we went back to up to the room and were asleep by 8:30 PM. We really needed a good rest! I still had to get up at 1:15 AM to pump as usual but I didn’t wake Ryan or Harper since we had have separate rooms.

Day 2

6:15 AM wake-ups were never a thing on trips in the past but, with a baby and pumping schedule, now they are! It was really nice to get an early start with some coffee on the patio. After enjoying some muffins and cuddle time with Harper, we took off on a morning beach side stroll. It was in the 80’s but not hot. We walked to a CVS to get some additional supplies and came back to grab our massive beach bag to head to the beach.

There were tons of chairs and umbrellas set up. We picked one with a good ocean view, put Harper in a swim diaper, and headed to the water. While the water was pretty warm, Harper was not a fan. We tried a few different ways of testing the sand and water with her but she just didn’t want it… probably because she was hungry. Nothing can get in the way of this munchkin and her food.

After about 10 mins of ocean time, we went back to the chairs, fed Harps, and relaxed for 1.5 hours or so. It was so nice. And yes, I did get Harper and I matching swimsuits!

We had noon reservations at a Mexican place called Lona which was just down the beach from our hotel. We took a short walk over and got a table looking out at the water. We had some passion fruit margaritas and I decided to try something new. Instead of my usual carnitas taco order, I went with the lobster quesadilla. OH MY GOSH. This quesadilla was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It was stuffed with huge chunks of lobster, pickled red onion, cilantro, the perfect amount of cheese, and this super yummy southwest sauce. Even as I write this, I want it again! (Spoiler, we went back so I could have it again). Ugh, so good! Ryan, a quesadilla purest who proclaims that the perfect quesadilla is just tortillas and cheese, even admitted that this one changed his mind! I you are close to Lona, you MUST go try it.  

With full bellies, we decided it was time to test out the pool and see if Harper would like it more than the ocean. Ryan went back to the room to change her and grab the beach bag while I scored us a spot in the shade. There weren’t many so I had to be quick. It’s amazing how your pool priorities change when you have a baby from sunny spots with a good view to the most shaded area you can find! Ryan and Harper arrived and we blew up Harpers floaty and hopped into the warm water. The temp was perfect and Harper was quickly too comfortable in her floaty to stay awake. She passed out for about an hour while ryan, myself, and about half the other people in the pool obsessed over how cute she is and enjoyed floating around.

Eventually, our time at the pool was up. Being on a 4-4.5 hour pumping schedule does put a limit on things. We went up to the room and I took a bubble bath with Harper to get her all cleaned up. We took a family nap for about 1.5 hours and got ready to go to dinner. After a nice 15 minute walk down the shore, we arrived at Thai On The Beach, a tiny restaurant on the second floor of a shopping plaza overlooking the water. Ryan got a Thai boba tea and green curry and I had a Thai stir fry. It was really yummy and quite a cute little restaurant. We have been pleasantly surprised by how delicious all of the food has been on this trip!

After dinner, we went back to the room and got ready for bed. We had some birthday cake Oreos for desert and passed out around 9 PM.

Ps. If you are a new mom or dad and are traveling with a little munchkin, I put together a quick guide with tons of tips and tricks for traveling with a kid. Check it out!

Traveling With A Baby

Getting back into traveling when you’ve just had a baby can seem like a daunting task. There are just so many things to think about! My hubs and I used to be a “carry-on and backpack” only type of travel crew, but the addition of our baby, Harper, turned us into the “checked-bags / arrive two hours early” family. Such a different travel experience! Good news for you is that, it really isn’t bad at all (even if you find out mid flight that your diaper bag does not, in fact, have any diapers in it…yikes!) You just need to be prepared. To help my fellow travel-mommas, the following post will go over booking, hotels, plane flights, and more based on our first few trips!

The first important thing to discuss is mindset. It can get very stressful planning a trip with a baby. Our first vacay was supposed to be stress free, but 2 weeks out from our Florida trip, 2 additional trips popped up. We had a work/ family road trip to Houston, a solo mom work trip to Minneapolis, and our first flight trip to Florida all within 1 week, while pumping! Talk about the need to plan ahead. We made it through all of that because, at the end of the day, what was the worst thing that could happen? Yes, Harper could have cried in the car or on the plane. We did, in fact, forget diapers on the plane which we realized when she had a poop, but we made it and no one on the plane complained. We could have forgotten something but there are always Targets, Walmarts, or other stores close to pickup anything we forgot. If we ran out of bottled milk, I was on tap. At the end of the day, just know that “the worst thing that could happen” is not THAT bad and you will still enjoy yourself. As moms, we have so much to juggle, so take a breath and don’t be hard on yourself!

The second part is your expectations. If you haven’t read about my other trips, in summary, I pack A LOT of activities into a little time. I almost killed Ryan in Rome with trying to see the city in one day! Traveling with a baby is a completely different pace than what we are used too – but that is OK! The vacation will be slower, but honestly, you probably need it to be that way to get rest, take naps (Naps on vacation? What?! But yes, naps are good!), and not stress yourself out. For Florida, I told myself I wanted a restful vacation. We had no places we HAD to be, no time frames, and just a very rough outline of things we could do if we were up for it. Honestly, that was perfect. It gave us so much flexibility to do things based on Harper’s pace and our energy levels. This is your time to get some R&R, so give your self some grace. Your trip will be what you make of it and mindset is a huge part of that!

Harper ready for takeoff!

Considerations For Planning Your Trip With Baby:

  • Where To Go: You have so much stuff to bring with a baby. A trip that has multiple hotels, locations, and un-packs / pack-ups is going to be tough. We opted to go to Florida and stay on the beach in the same hotel for 5 nights which made it so much less stressful. Also, consider places with lots of outdoor places for you to enjoy with your little one. Just make sure to check the weather for the time of year you are going.
  • Distance to the Airport: Babies should not be in carseats for hours on end. Pick a spot within an hour or so of the airport because you will be exhausted after the flight. Also, if you choose an early flight like we did at 7:10 AM to Florida, expect a VERY early wake up (aka 4 AM) since you will want lots of time at the airport. The further your drive to the airport, the earlier the wake up. Also, if you have a rental car, you will need to add more time for getting gas, dropping the car off, and getting to the gate.
  • Activities: We usually book so many excursions on our trip, but with a baby, most of the usual suspects (long tours, adventure activities, etc.) are off the table. However, that does not mean you can’t have fun! Beaches, pools, areas to hike, zoos, gardens, water-taxi / larger boat rides, and National Parks, areas with town squares or walkable shopping districts are great places to go with kids as they usually don’t require a certain time to go, are paved for strollers, are cheap to get in, and give you areas for down time if needed. Indoor places like museums, aquariums, art galleries, malls, restaurants with a great view so you can camp out, etc. are great for rainy or hot day options as well.
  • Renting a Car/ Ubering: Ubers ARE doable with a carseat (even without the base). We did Uber to the airport and then we rented a car in Florida to get around. It was just easier to keep our stuff in and have our own, flexible schedule. Also, I could pump in the rental car while Ryan drove if we were out longer than expected. That would be AWK in an Uber.

Baby Friendly Hotels:

  • Location: Hotels close or walkable to the main areas you want to explore are super helpful. We booked our Florida hotel right on the beach, so it was a 2 second walk to the huge pool or beach. Also, the hotel was right next to the beach walk with tons of restaurants so we went for a stroll every morning and walked to almost all of our lunch and dinner spots.
  • Amenities in Order of Importance:
    • Baby Crib: Many hotels offer cribs, you just need to ask or check their website! This will provide a safe sleep space for your little one so you don’t have to lug one with you. So helpful! Just make sure to call a few days in advance and confirm you have one set aside for your room.
    • Kitchenette Area: To me, washing bottles and pump parts in the bathroom just does not feel sanitary. We had a little kitchen area in FL with a sink and it was a game changer. Also, having a freezer instead of just a mini-fridge for any extra pumping milk for those breastfeeding mommas out there is a nice-to-have as well.
    • Double Queen Beds: We got a King in FL and had double Queen beds in Houston. It was so nice to have an extra bed to use for Harper and her stuff in Houston. She played on it, we changed her on it, and if she spit up or had a blow out, we were NOT sleeping on it. The extra play space was so nice.
    • Elevators: If you are staying in a motel, get a 1st floor room. You do not want to lug all of your stuff up and down those stairs.
    • Balcony with a View: Getting up so early with a baby, we spent a lot of time drinking coffee, eating breakfast, and enjoying nap time on our hotel’s balcony in Florida. Having a way to enjoy your new environment from the hotel room is an big added benefit.
    • Kid’s Clubs / Activities: We traveled with Harper at 5 months old. Most Kids Clubs / hotel babysitting services have age minimums (starting at 6 months) in order to use them. Check that when booking if you want to take advantage for a date night or two.
  • AirBNB / VRBOs: These are always an option and having a bathroom / kitchen would be so helpful. The biggest thing to call out with rentals is a safe sleep space for the baby. Check in advance if they offer cribs or if you have to bring your own.
  • Darkness: Hotels are full of natural light during the day. While I love light and windows, it is not conducive to nap time! Our Houston hotel was way too bright and we had to put Harpers crib in the closet and use our cloth wrap on top to try and block the light. We bought this crib cover for our Florida trip and it made nap time so much easier!

Flying With Baby:

  • Booking Your Flight: If you have a baby under 1, they can fly free as a lap child! Doing so for a 3 hour flight to Florida was easy. Just consider how comfy you would be having a baby on your lap for longer international flights of 5+ hours. That might be the time to book a second seat, even if you have to pay. When you do book, just make sure to indicate you are flying with a lap child in the booking. Try and get seats to the front of the plan for a quick exit and an isle seat for easy trips to the bathroom if needed.
  • Airport Arrival Time / Check-In: Give yourself at least 1.5 hours (2 if this is your first time traveling with baby) to check in. Our first flight needed all of that time since we hit a few snags. Even if you check in online, most airlines require check in at the desk for the lap infant. You will also likely have to check a bag with all of your stuff. MAKE SURE THEY PRINT A BABY BOARDING PASS. You will need this to get on the plane. Even though I booked the tickets with a lap infant and all of Harper’s details, they did not print a boarding pass for her upon checkin and we had to recheck in at the gate as we could not board the plane without one. We lost our original seats in that process too. Talk about stress. You will also need to check your stroller and carseat at the gate and get a tag so you can bring it down the jet bridge.
  • Getting Through Security: Wear your baby! We went through TSA Pre (which is so nice since you don’t have to take your shoes off and the lines are so much shorter) and Ryan’s ticket did not say TSA Pre so he had to go recheck in. I went through security while carrying Harper in my arms and getting the stroller / car seat broken down and the milk out was so hard. A nice man had to help me out. On the way back from that trip, I carried Harper in the Ergobaby carrier and it was so much easier! If you are brining milk, just have it in a cooler that you can easily take in and out of your bag. We used this Skip Hop cooler that fits 3 Dr. Brown’s bottles. I also bought these long lasting, sandwich-size icepacks to keep things extra cold.
  • Flying & Pumping: Being on a pumping schedule is hard. You will likely have to do so at some point during your flight experience. It is not that bad! Airports have lactation rooms or pods in each terminal. I used those on my work trip to Minnesota and trip to Florida. Just check the terminal maps for their locations. I used my Momcozy pumps which are perfect for travel to do so and brought a cooler for the milk / Ziplock freezer bags for the pump parts. I also pumped mid-flight twice as well. I brought a scarf to wrap around while I was in my seat using the Momcozys and it was super easy. If you are traveling solo with baby, make sure to pump in the airport as doing so on the plane without someone with you will be very challenging.
  • Stroller / Car Seat: Most airlines (even Spirit!) let you check your stroller and car seat for free at the gate. You will need to get a tag at the gate agent and carry these things down the jet bridge. I highly recommend getting a case or protective bag for your carseat. If you buy it from the carseat brand, they usually will replace your carseat if it gets damaged in transit if in the case. Checking at the gate will reduce the risk of damage in transit and you will get them back as soon as you get off the flight on the bridge.
  • Baggage: You can also bring an extra bag for your kiddo onto the plane for no extra charge. Pack your bags for flights strategically and have Bags 1 & 2 for under the seat/ easy access and Bag 3 in the overhead bin.
    • Bag 1: Baby stuff. Toys on the bottom, food, pacifiers, and changing stuff on top of the bag for easiest access. Wipes / hand sanitizer.
    • Bag 2: Your entertainment, pumping stuff if needed, snacks, purse, water, and wallet.
    • Bag 3: Additional stuff you need mid-flight or cannot fit in your checked bag. Since it is overhead, it will be harder to access. Try to put anything you need during the flight in bags 1 & 2.

Baby Packing List Must Haves:

  • Baby: Diapers / wipes, changing pad, bottles, ice packs for milk if needed, cooler for bottles, cleaning supplies for bottles, light blanket or towel (we used one for the beach), toys / books, pacifiers, moisturizer / shampoo / baby wash / diaper cream / baby sunscreen, hats, baby bug spay, stroller fan, stroller rain or bug covers, stroller cup holder for walks, bathing suits that cover arms with UV protection / swim diapers / swim hats, swim inflatable for the pool, baby ear protection (you never know when it will be loud like on a water Taxi), small packable umbrella for the beach or other random times there is sun, bows (because they are cute, duh), baby carrier, crib cover, PJs and outfits plus lots of backup outfits, and bags for bringing dirty clothes home. We used packing bags and put swimwear, pjs, day clothes, and accessories all in different bags for easy access and neater packing.
  • Momma: Pumping parts / chargers / cleaning supplies, pumping bras or shirts, swimsuits that can’t be pulled off easily, water bottle to keep hydrated, a fully charged phone with lots of space for new photos / videos, and excitement for the trip!

Overall, making your baby into your travel buddy is so easy and absolutely worth it! They will be so engaged with their new environments and you will get some needed rest and quality time with your baby. Talk about making core memories! Just take it slow, listen to your babies cues / don’t push too hard, and enjoy every second of it!

Miyajima Island, Japan

We met around 8:15 AM for our morning breakfast hunt. Since the tea at the café the night before was so good, we went back for some ham and egg sandwiches and coffee. It was so yummy!

My parents wanted to go back to the hotel and brush their teeth so Ryan and I split to go find some Advil and decongestant since my mom and Ryan were feeling under the weather. Ryan downloaded this insanely great app called Payke to help ID products at the drug store. He just scanned the bar code of each box and the app gave him a detailed description in English of the uses of the product and reviews from people who tired it. SO HELPFUL! We were able to find just what we needed outside of cough drops. I typed “do you have cough candies for sore throats” into my Google translate app and showed the Japanese text to the shop clerk. She quickly nodded and brought me to the cough drop area! It was so easy to communicate! With our meds in hand, we walked back to the hotel, met up with my family, and headed off to the ferry for Miyajama island.


We got a bit of a late start to the island and it took about an hour to get there via train and then ferry. Thankfully, all of that transport was covered by our JR Pass. While the 14 day pass cost us roughly $450 each, it was totally worth it. We were able to travel so easily and so far!

Miyajama Island is known for its giant Torii gate in the middle of the ocean. At high tide, it floats above the water. At low tide, you can walk out to it on the sand and get a full view of how massive it is. The locals believe that God resides in the island itself.

There is also a floating temple to walk through on the island. While slightly crowded with tourists, it was all very beautiful and serene. There were even a bunch of deer walking around and unabashedly taking food from all of the tourists – even digging through their bags when unsupervised!

It was pretty cold and about time for lunch so we found a little spot up on a side street and devoured some very tasty food. There are a ton of oyster farms all around the island so mom and Ryan both tired fried oysters in various forms that were scrumptious! I had beef udon with eel rice – again, so good and warming.

After lunch, it was time to hike up to the top peek. There was a 2 hour each way hike to the top of the mountain, but we opted to take the cable car up and then do the 30 minute hike from there. The views from the cable car were great…But just a preview of the views from the top!

The hike was pretty strenuous, especially since were were moving at a fast pace to ensure we made the last cable car back down the mountain.

About half way up, there are a few shines. One that had a flame, called the “Eternal Flame”, that has been going for over 1,200 years! It also used to light the Flame of Peace in the Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima City. There were also some very cute little figures around the temple.

We continued upwards and got to this amazing rocky area. The views of Hiroshima from the peak were just unbelievable. The city is so huge!

The decent back down was much easier than up and we were back in 15 minutes. It took some time to get through the lines for the cable car since the number of people that can ride at a time is somewhat limited.

We finally got back down the mountain, walked to the ferry, got across the channel and to the train station, rode back to Hiroshima and then had to wait 20 minutes for the bus back to our hotel area. We finally arrived around 6:30 PM! What a long, but totally worth it, journey!

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Since it was relatively cold and only going to get colder throughout the rest of this trip, Ryan wanted to grab a matching puffer jacket to the one I got from Uniqlo in Tokyo. My mom had been wanting to shop for the past 1.5 days in Hiroshima and wasn’t too impressed that Ryan got to shop first! Ha!

After grabbing a jacket, we met my parents and sister at a sushi place for dinner. My parents had discovered it the night before and couldn’t stop raving about how delicious it was. We waited about 30 minutes (just enough time to run to Starbucks for a potty break) before being seated.

We tried somewhat successfully to order a bunch of sushi and tempura and boy, were my parents right about how good it was! The Unagi just melted in our mouths and the raw crab and tuna was the freshest I have ever had. It was the best sushi of my life and we just kept ordering more and more! What a dinner for the books.

Our waiter was in his early 20s and studying English. He was so helpful and nice! I tried to thank him by writing “thank you so much” on my napkin in Japanese letters based on Google’s translation. He said I did a pretty good job!

After dinner, Ryan and Julia wanted another crepe but, since it was a Sunday night and past 9PM, everything was closed. Instead, we opted to go to Don Quijote, the most overwhelming store I’ve ever been in, and get a bunch of snacks. There were some really odd snacks in there too, (like dried bugs and sea creatures), but we kept it safe with chocolates and gummy candy.

We went back to the hotel and enjoyed our haul while getting ready for bed.

Mt. Koya

Today marked our travel day from Osaka to Mt. Koya to stay in a Buddhist temple. We decided to visit Mt. Koya at the recommendation of one of my dearest, Japanese culture-loving friends, Lauren. Boy was she spot on with this recommendation!

We met my parents in the hotel lobby for breakfast and walked about a mile to find a place suitable for my mom for breakfast. After poo-pooing on 3 options, she finally settled on Tullys – again. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Tully’s is good, but we need to add some diversity to our breakfast routine. We told my mom it was the last “Tully’s breakfast” of the trip and she said “we will see”. Of course, that means “no”. Haha! If mom’s not happy, no one is happy, right?

We grabbed some snacks for the 2 hour train ride to Mt. Koya and hit the train station. We ended up missing the express train but the extra 30-minutes on the regular train was not bad. We had great views, some snacks, and all got time to decompress.

Once we arrived at the station, we hopped onto the cable car which took us up this insanely steep slope to the top of the mountain. It was packed with people and I cannot even begin to fathom how they installed the cable car on just a steep incline.

It took about 10 minutes to get to the top and then we hopped on a short bus ride which dropped us off right in front of the Koyasan Onsen Fuchin. The lodging was part temple, part onsen (Japanese baths), with Japanese style rooms. We were not able to check in yet so layered up in jackets and scarves before heading out to explore. It was pretty darn cold in comparison to the 60 degree weather in Osaka!

We decided to find a spot for lunch and ended up at this little place at a traditional style table where you sit on a high platform, on a pillow, around a short table. Ryan almost wouldn’t fit!

My sister and I split some sushi and I had a delicious tempura udon. The food was so filling and warm on such a cold day!

After paying, we took off to find the temples and renowned cemetery. There is a grouping of temples on one side of town which were all different styles and pretty amazing to look at and explore.

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Photos are not allowed inside the temples but there are a ton of gold ornaments and sculptures very similar to those in Thailand. They were quite stunning.

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We then took off to the other side of the town for the Okunoin Cemetery. You can do cemetery tours at night but we opted to walk it during the day so we could see it more clearly, not freeze completely, and be back to the onsen in time for our 5:30 dinner.

The cemetery was awe inspiring. The faded light coming through the trees, slight fog in the air, moss that covered the monoliths and huge trees that went up 100’s of feet in the air gave the whole place such and ancient, eerie and sacred feeling.

I could have stayed in there taking it all in for hours but my mom was on a mission. She was speed walking ahead of us so fast that we lost her for a good 20 minutes! When we finally caught up, we had arrived at the Okunoin temple. It has over ten thousand lanterns inside and is absolutely magical. We were able to go inside and take it all in and then we went to a side building that had even more yellow lit, golden lanterns. It was well worth taking our shoes on and off to go inside.

The whole walk was well worth the hour or so trek. We spotted a sweets shop on the way back and grabbed a few to sample. A lot of the sweets in Japan have red bean inside and have a gluggy consistency with pastry on the outside. Super good and filling though.

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We got back to the Fuchin and checked in. We had to leave our shoes at the door and wear special red shoes within the buildings. We were brought up to our small room that kind of smelt like straw. There was a small table in the middle and we settled in with some tea. We also had to wear robes around the building and to our meals!

Once 5:30 hit, we went to room 23 for our multi-course Royal dinner. The dinner we had was monks’ cuisine (shojin ryori) and completely vegetarian!

There were so many things to try and they kept bringing in more dishes. Quite a bit of the food had a gelatin consistency which we weren’t too keen on but, overall, the food was delicious. Ryan tried this one piece of spongy white tofu (or something related to it) and , when he bit into it, all of this liquid came out. He flipped and couldn’t stop laughing at how strangely foreign it was! The rest of us tried it but didn’t get very far into it… It barely touched my lips before going straight back into the bowl. Amazing how new food textures can create such a different dining experience.

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After dinner, my sister and I decided to try out the onsen. Japanese baths are separated by men and women because you get completely naked and are not allowed to wear swim suits. We walked down in our robes and took our shoes off to be pleasantly surprised that the floors were heated! Thank goodness because it was only 30 degrees or so in the temple’s halls!

Once disrobed, we had to wash ourselves off in a shower station in the central bath room. There was a big shallow bath pool inside, which was too hot for us, and then a outdoor rock pool. We were the only ones there and chatted for a good 30 minutes before anyone else joined. It seemed like everyone finished their dinner around 7 and had the same idea as us because a huge group came and it was far too crowded to stay in the onsen so we headed back to the room. Totally refreshed, we hopped in our Japanese style beds and passed out.

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