Planning our Japan Summer Family Holiday

The first half of 2017 is almost over and I’m so glad that the June school holiday is here. I know I am so looking forward to it because it means I also get a well deserved break from coaching Sophie in the evenings after work. Of course, what we are looking forward to is our family vacation to Japan in June that’s finally happening!

Alexis has been striking Japan off our family vacation for years due to the radiation scares especially since we always travel with Sophie. But as much as I long to travel to Japan especially after seeing friends going there for holidays, I know it’s not worth arguing with Alexis about it, until a recent work trip that made him change his mind.

Newly weds then at Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo

Japan here we come

So, we’ll be off to Japan in 2 weeks time, covering Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo and here are my top 10 tips on how we planned our Japan family holiday.

1.Booking our accommodation

Once we settled on the places we wanted to visit in Japan, we checked out our options, from hotels, ryokans and even Airbnb. In my research, I came across forums saying that Airbnb is illegal in Japan. If you don’t already know, Airbnb has recently gotten the green light to operate in Japan,  but I believe they are still awaiting for the legislation to be officially passed.

In any case, we decided to stay in a hotel. But not just any hotel, we choose a hotel with an onsen or hot spring for a more localised experience in Osaka since we’ll not be heading to Hakone on this trip. Never mind that it will be Summer in Japan, we are not going to let the chance slip for an immersive authentic onsen experience. Get my pun there 🙂

There are many hotels with onsens that boast of scenic views however they also tend to be far from the city. We managed to book the Dormy Inn Shinsaibashi Hot Spring  that is in the heart of Osaka, close to Dotonbori and received pretty good reviews from Trip Advisor.

For Tokyo, we booked the Hilton Tokyo Bay Hotel as they are one of the 6 Tokyo Disney Resort hotel partners. The hotel provides complimentary shuttle to Maihama station where you can hop on the ‘Disney Resort line’ station for a train ride to Disneyland themeparks. Plus being Hilton Gold members, we get to enjoy a free upgrade with breakfast. Yipee!

2. Buy a JR pass in advance

As our Japan itinerary includes Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo, buying a JR pass seems like the most natural thing as it gives us unlimited JR train rides including the bullet train aka Shinkansen.

In case you didn’t know, JR passes can only be purchased by tourists visiting Japan from foreign countries for sightseeing and they can only buy them outside of Japan.

You can refer to this link for the list of authorised JR pass sales agents and we bought our 7 days passes from Klook, where we paid S$543 for two adults and one child.

Prices of JR passes as at May 2017 from www.jnto.org.sg

For those working around Tanjong Pager, you can also purchase your JR pass conveniently from the Japan Rail Cafe too.

I got to be honest that the trains system does intimate me and I am leaving Alexis to settle all matters relating to transportation. #divideandconqueror

3. Buy themepark tickets online

With choices like Disneyland, Disneysea and Universal Studio Japan, which do you choose?

Us in Tokyo Disneyland 11 years ago!

It’s impossible to skip any of them, and it’s DISNEYLAND you’re talking about, so of course we’re going to ALL 3. I think I may be even more excited than Sophie about Disneyland and I can so see myself with a popcorn bucket and donning a pair of Minnie ears already.

No doubt a visit to 3 theme parks will burn a big hole in the wallet, so a more cost effective way is to book our tickets with Klook. Not only do you save time, you also save money especially with their current Summer sale.

4. Plan your theme park visits

We take our theme park visits very very seriously and when we heard that queues can go as long as 3 hours, we know we have to be very strategic about it to maximise our day and money!

Needless to say, public holidays and weekends are going to be crazy crowded, so do try to plan your visits on off-peak or shoulder seasons. In addition, you want to make sure to check the Disneyland and crowd calendars here and here to find out the best days to visit. The calendars are updated daily and you’ll be pleased to know that the website is in English too.

Don’t forget to check out the theme park’s website for rides that may be closed for maintenance, the ones that has fast passes (for Disneyland and Disneysea), and download or print a copy of the map, so you can conqueror the theme parks and make the fullest of your day.

Running for the fastpass at Disneyland is mandatory and Alexis have also given instructions to wear comfortable running shoes so that we can make a dash for it. For USJ, you can consider purchasing the express passes so you can skip the long snaking queues.

5. Travel blogs

Travel blogs are such a helpful resource for our holiday planning. And for us, fellow parent bloggers are so important where they share their personal experiences and lets you in on what’s worth it and enjoyable for the family.

I’ve bookmarked these mummy blogger’s blogs for their Japan experience and you should too!

Life’s Tiny Miracles themepark guides are a MUST read- Universal Studio JapanDisneyland and Disneysea are a must read

madpsychmum on her recent trip to Osaka and her family even visited an instant ramen museum.

Sakura Haruka on exploring Ueno Park and Asakusa Hanayashiki Theme Park.

Bumble Bee Mum is the Japan expert and you can find all things on Japan on her blog.

The J Babies Tokyo diaries to Osaka Castle and Minoo Park in Osaka.

6. Watch Youtube channels

In addition to blog, watch vlogs or Youtube videos on Japan too and here are some of my favourite ones where they recommend everything from tourist attractions to must eat food, to shopping hauls, must buys from Japan, etc.

In fact, I’m inspired myself to start creating videos of our vacations.

7. Pocket wifi or Sim Card

Sim card or pocket wifi? I left it to Alexis to do his research and he managed to find us a good deal on Q100, where we paid $39 for 15 days that gives us 7.5GB worth of data over 15 days. Our hotels and Airbnb also provides wifi, so it should be more than sufficient for us.

8. Google translate app

11 years ago, we were worried about the language barrier in Japan. But fast forward a decade later, most Japanese understand some English and they have become more tourist friendly with English signage everywhere.

In addition, I also downloaded the Google Translate app onto my handphone and I’m so blown away by the technology. For greater accuracy, you can download your chosen language and here’s how it works when you choose the camera option and hover your handphone over Japanese words.

I’m hoping that this should be somewhat helpful when I’m at a Japanese restaurant or trying to by some Japanese cosmetics.

9. Shopping for skincare in Japan 

I know I wouldn’t be able to resist doing some shopping for cosmetics and skincare products when I’m in Japan but I recalled being utterly overwhelmed by the sheer choices they offered.

So this time, I’m doing my research beforehand and making a list of the products to stock up on as well as items that I want to try, like the Evita Beauty Whip Soap that dispenses into a rose!Hopefully with some planning, I’ll be more disciplined to stick to my shopping list and not overspend.

10. Travel diary

For this trip, I’ll be preparing a travel mini album to bring along for our vacation and hopefully that will fire up my creative juices to get scrapbooking again. Nothing beats recording those precious memories on paper to preserve everything we experienced and ensure they are not forgotten.

Plus it’s a great way for Sophie to learn some interesting facts and information on this trip which I’m sure will be memorable on its own too 🙂 

 

You can follow me on Instagram to see all the places that we’ll be visiting for our Japan family holiday and I hope to cover them together with our free and easy itinerary on the blog too.

Meanwhile, if you have places to recommend in Osaka and Tokyo, do drop me a note 🙂

 

 

Pretty sure I’ll go gaga over Hello Kitty everything in Japan!!!

Family Run at The Music Run by AIA 2017

The Music Run by AIA returns for the 3rd year at Sentosa, Singapore and this year the atmosphere at the run was bigger and better!

Just like the past years, the venue for the Music Run by AIA was held at Sentosa island. Runners received complimentary entry via the monorail from Vivo City and it’s really the most convenient way to get there by public transport.

When we alighted at the Beach Station, we were welcomed by upbeat tempos and music from the Music Run village where runners could be seen streaming in for the pre-run activities.

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Primary Two Diary – 30 minutes revision + recommended list of assessment books

I’ll like to think I’m a pretty chill mum when it comes to Sophie’s studies. However, all alarm bells went off after she entered Primary Two when I had well-meaning friends prepping me for the huge jump in academics from Primary Two to Three.

Even her teachers reiterated the same message at our first PTM after Term 1 where they shared about the added demands towards the end of Primary 2 and even touched on streaming. I was sweating inside and thought to myself, the pressure is getting real.

As a parent, it can be a struggle to stand your ground and not succumb to societal pressure when everyone else seems to be sending their child for tuition or enrichment for every single subject to get ahead. I know that if I followed suit, I’ll just be giving Sophie unnecessary stress stemming from my insecurities.

When Mummy plays teacher

So the next best thing I did was to be more “hardworking” and coach Sophie on my own. I call it my 2nd job after my official job.

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Rebooting my life with a birthday retreat

With every birthday, I feel the need to get away from it all and have a quiet retreat.  A sure sign of aging or maybe just getting more consciously in tune with myself where I look forward to recharge my body, mind and soul. Though I may be approaching 40, I’ll like to think I have many more years ahead of me.

Alexis being the ever sweet hubby took leave on my birthday and booked us a massage at Elements Wellness which comes with the private use of an onsen. Yes, a couple onsen so I don’t have to go butt naked on my hatch day with other ladies. 

According to their website, they claimed that an onsen therapy had anti-aging and detoxification effect thanks to the ionized water used. While I’m skeptical of these claims, I can however testify that it worked wonders for stress relief and eased our bodies of the aches from spending long hours in front of the computer and getting us prepped for a massage that follows.

The afternoon of pampering was a relaxing experience and I even fell asleep as the masseuses did their magic and skillfully kneaded away all my aches and pain where I left feeling absolutely invigorated and refreshed. 

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Living by design, not by default

There’s something about an impending birthday that always gets me in a contemplative and pensive mood. Ever since I’ve landed on the wrong side of 30, birthdays are no longer a date I look forward to with as much anticipation.

I joked that Sophie is now the only one in our home who looks forward to birthdays and I’m glad there’s still someone who’s reminding me of my upcoming birthday.

I have a tendency to be more introspective than usual as I inch towards my birthday, which is a fairly common phenomenon for many too I’m sure.

The main theme of my reflection was about life.

My life.
More specifically where I am in life and where I want to be in life.

Hitting the pause button in life

Having these moments of reflection is sort of my way to hit the pause button and take stock of life because it’s just so easy to get sucked up by life.

A recent conversation with a girlfriend got me thinking about how so many of us are just drifting through life day by day, feeling unhappy, unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

But more often than not, we’ve thrown in the towel and resigned ourselves to the unending demands of life. We wonder when we can ever get off the perpetual cycle of mothering duties, work, up keeping of the home where the end appears so far from sight.

I know I feel like this at times and it’s so frustrating because there must be certainly more than this in life.

The life where we live by default is far from what many of us picture ourselves. Yet it happens, because we feel we can’t fight it and simply drift along the path of least resistance.

Living by design, not by default

The sails that we’ve set up determines where we end up ultimately. But just imagine, that with just a slight re calibration to our sails, we can change the course and land in a very different place.

But before getting there, we need clarity of where we want to go and how to get there.

 You are going to go through life either by design or by default. ~ Rick Warren

I’m done with living by default and intend to live by design. One where I wake up with intention and be driven by purpose that is so crystal clear so I don’t end up chasing after things that takes me off course. 

One where I know what I was designed and fashioned for.

So for now, I’ll remind myself to 

Be courageous
Be bold
Be unafraid

And that’s birthday wish for my 37-year-old self.