We’ve all been there. We know that a screaming child on a quiet plane is never fun for anyone involved. But, what if the parent of the six-month old you’ve been sat next to starts off the flight with a bag of candy and a note like this…
We bet you’d laugh a little, take immediate pity on the parent traveling solo with little ones and sincerely thank them for the earplugs!
Friendly Sky Kit makes traveling with children a little easier on everyone – we’re such fans! This could also be a great DIY project with the family before your trip. Throw your child’s favorite candy into a bag with a pair of earplugs (the most important item), tie the baggies up and pack them for the flight. Make it more personal with a note explaining that this is baby’s first trip – Your neighbors will thank you and your trip may be a little easier. Offer a bag or two to your flight attendants – you never know when that speedy second snack may come in handy for a necessary distraction!
As a 7-year Beijing resident, I’m so excited to share more about discovering the best of the city that was the inspiration for Tea’s Fall/Winter 2013 Collection.
As Emily mentions in her introduction to the Fall/Winter Collection destination inspiration, “China is so big it’s hard to take it all in. The cities are huge, the palaces are massive…” which both the Busy Beijing Tee and the Traffic Jam Pajamas illustrate pretty well.
To take away any intimidation of visiting this great city, I’m thrilled to point you to the best kept secrets and hidden gems of what makes Beijing such an exciting and special place to visit.
Obviously, you want to make sure you visit Beijing’s greatest hits: the Great Wall, the Forbidden City Palace Museum, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. If you have private transportation sorted out and a great guide to help you make the most of your time in each place, you could easily discover all of those sites in two days.*
For culturally curious families who want to experience the best that Beijing has to offer, however, you’ll want to leave enough time to explore the off-the-beaten path sites and experience the city like a local.
Exploring Beijing’s Ancient Hutong Neighborhoods
The most important and locally unique activity you must save time to do is wandering through Beijing’s ancient hutong neighborhoods. Many of these historical neighborhoods have been torn down to make way for new modern developments, but a good number still remain in the city center.
A hutong literally means “alley,” and the hutong neighborhoods are labyrinths of alleys connecting Beijing’s traditional courtyard homes. In addition to homes, the hutongs house many different local businesses. Recently there has even been an upsurge in hip cafes, restaurants, and boutiques located in hutongs.
Wandering hutong neighborhoods, you can see residents living an integrated community street lifestyle that has been part of Beijing’s unique rhythm and spirit for centuries. You will see elderly residents playing mah jong, chatting outside while neighborhood kids play in the alleys, and various local vendors biking by, shouting the wares they sell.
Some of the most fun hutong neighborhoods to wander through are the ones surrounding the Drum and Bell Tower or the Lama Temple.
Vibrant Early Morning Park Culture
Early Beijing park culture is one of the most fun and unique experiences for visitors. Each morning, Beijing’s parks are vibrantly buzzing with activity like group tai qi, elderly men congregating with their caged bird pets, water calligraphy on the pavement, and women’s exercise groups.
One of the best parks to visit is Ritan Park in the Embassy District. Ritan Park is one of Beijing’s four ancient altar parks where the Emperor would go annually to make the appropriate sacrifices and rituals that would ensure peace and prosperity. Positioned symmetrically throughout Beijing–north, south, east, and west of the Forbidden City–Ritan Park is the sun altar park on the east.
The sun altar is still there, but nowadays you are more likely to find locals flying kites in the altar than stumble upon an imperial ceremony. Handpainted kite-making is a local craft, and taking the family to fly kites with locals in the ancient sun altar would be a great family memory and iconic Beijing experience.
China is not only a wonderful place to discover ancient history and culture but also a place alive with modern energy, creativity, and exuberance.
In the last few decades, China’s contemporary art scene has exploded on the international art stage. A great place to take the family to explore Chinese contemporary art is the 798 Art District, the inspiration for Tea’s Modern Dot Bubble Dress.
798 Art District used to be an old industrial factory complex located between the city center and the airport. Local Chinese artists started moving into the abandoned factories to create studios and galleries slowly followed. Now what you have is a full blown art district with many of the world’s top art galleries present.
798 is huge, with lots of open spaces to run through and outdoor art and sculptures for kids to play on. Among all the galleries, cafes, and shops in 798, you don’t want to miss Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA). UCCA is a great museum built by dedicated contemporary Chinese art collectors that also has many kid-friendly and kid centered activities.
Nearby, Caochangdi (not walkable, you need a car or taxi) has more galleries and studios with a lot less visitors than 798. If you go to Caochangdi, don’t miss the beautiful Three Shadows Photography Center, which is the premier spot to discover contemporary Chinese photography exhibitions.
As Tea notes in their Destination Inspiration introduction, China is an enchanting land of contrasts and we are sure you will have a memorable time discovering the fascinating city of Beijing where the energetic optimism Tea noted is palpable and a fascinating combination of ancient and modern awaits your adventures.
*For help designing customized private itineraries with local experts who have experience guiding young families visiting Beijing for the first time, I recommend contacting Stretch-a-leg Travel.
Another great resource for visiting families is http://www.beijing-kids.com/ and the related free publication, Beijing Kids, you can find in restaurants and cafes around town.
Charlene Wang is a 7-year Beijing resident who runs Tranquil Tuesdays, a Beijing-based Chinese social enterprise dedicated to showcasing China’s finest teas and rich tea culture. To learn more about discovering Chinese tea, teaware, and design please visit www.tranquiltuesdays.com
This past Christmas, I received a gift I’d been waiting almost a decade for… my husband took me back to Spain!
I am absolutely bananas about Spain. Call it nostalgia: I lived there for three years as a child, and vacationed there frequently throughout high school and college. But as is typical of your twenties, I never had the time or the money to make it back. But this past December, I got to return with my husband and toddler son, Xavier, to introduce them to Spain and fall in love with it all over again..
When people think of Spain, they think of beaches or exciting nightlife. Neither being possible in December or with a two year old, we tasted many of the country’s lesser known charms. On our circuit up from our current home base in Morocco, we started in Andalucia, visiting Ronda and Granada before driving through Alicante to ferry to Mallorca. Then back west again, we hit Valencia, Cordoba and Seville. Of all the wonderful memories we made, I’ll remember three things in particular.
I’ve found that one of the best ways to involve a child in international travel is to tie it into their passion of the moment. Though Xavier has since moved on to elephants, December was the month of the horse.
In many of the cities we visited, horse and carriage rides were among the most convenient ways to see the city, particularly given how rough cobblestones can be on stroller wheels! Although they can be expensive, choosing at least one city to partake in a ride can be well worth the cost. Everywhere else, we took time out to spot other carriages around town, ride carousel horses or book a pony ride.
In Cordoba, we visited the Royal stables for an equestrian show. The beautiful animals and talented riders dance around the paddock to music and lights. It was magical to see the wonder in Xavier’s eyes and yell “HORSIES” every minute or so. The horses can be seen training by day as well and an even larger show can be seen in Jerez.
In Seville, horsies were out in force for the Three Kings or “Reyes” celebration. No one does festivals quite like the Spanish and kids are never left out, no matter how late they go. On January 6, Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior arrive and are welcomed with a parade of mounted attendants and elaborate floats. It is an exceptionally raucous but wonderfully festive event. If you are visiting Spain with kids, look to see if you can time your visit with a local festival; there will always be plenty to entertain the kids.
One of my favorite things about Spain is the food. Tapas, fresh seaside fish and a wonderful array of sweets. But until visiting with a toddler, I never appreciated that Spanish food is as good in casual, fast food environments as it is in the finest haute cuisine establishments. I am all for 5 star restaurants, but nothing puts a kink in the evening like playing airplane with your gourmet entree.
Spanish mainstay Paella was fortunately still on the menu for us. Since it is served family style, it is easy to offer kids a smaller portion. Moreover, the seafood version of the dish, although the best known, is by no means the only kind. Chicken and even rabbit versions are also available. We had our finest sampling in Valencia, Paella’s birthplace.
Elsewhere in Spain, Xavier enjoyed the Spanish pasties. In almost any Spanish city, it is easy to find “chocolate con churros”. The chocolate is not what you are used to, it is darker, thick as pudding and ideal for dipping fresh, hot, deep fried churros. It will never be part of a complete nutritious breakfast but it was a hit!
The island of Mallorca, off Spain’s eastern coast, has it’s own special and delicious tradition of pastries. Our little man made a morning “ensaimada,” a curly, soft confection topped with powdered sugar, a morning tradition (hold the traditional accompaniment of café con leche).
Finally: Chorizo – it probably will land me in Bad Parenting’s hall of fame as the chewiest, saltiest most toddler inappropriate snack on the market today. But I’ve got to confess to a very naughty pride in seeing how my little man took to this classic Iberian dried sausage.
3. Time to Run
We have found that it’s best not to travel in spite of a toddler but to open yourself up to new experiences you might never have had traveling as a couple. Slow your pace, choose more open spaces, and try to act less like a tourist and more like a local. Don’t make yourself a list of “must sees.” Linger in a park, seek out historical or cultural attractions with gardens. Before we travel, we find it prudent to check in with a local parenting websites. You’ll find more off the beaten track walks and authentic experiences than ever before.
Our favorite moments were less about dragging our poor kiddo through world famous exhibits and more about watching him chase bubbles through a public park or collect oranges in the gardens of the famous Seville Alcazar. Don’t forget to celebrate the kid in you. Indulge in purely childish pleasures like aquariums and zoos….you might find yourself wondering why you skipped them all these years.
Finally, the wonderful thing about Spain is how they welcome children at almost any event or occasion. I was shocked to see that I was about the only parent at New Year’s Eve celebrations who had left their baby at home. Even if there is a typically adult pleasure you are eager to experience, like a wine tasting, call ahead. Odds are, children are accommodated. For me, it was just one more reason to love Spain that I never expected.
Natalia is the founder and managing partner of CultureBaby. She started the company in 2011 when her son was five months old. On bad days, she puts the whole thing down to a fit of postpartum lunacy. But on most days, she loves seeking out new global products for CultureBaby and hearing from mothers worldwide about how they celebrate their culture and heritage with their kids. You can follow along on her adventures on The Culture Mom Chronicles. Follow her on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter!
We go there – we explore and dig deep into other cultures. We know you go there too. This new series will feature stories from world travelers; they’ve taken their first flight over seas with little ones, they’ve traveled back to their native country to introduce their children to grandparents, they’ve packed up only their necessities and traveled to developing countries. Here, you will find their stories and learn about how they’re going there too.
We’re so excited to have Sarah Tucker from Fairytales Are True with us today on Studio T! After learning she took her six month old across the great big sea for a family vacation, we were eager to hear how things went. Thanks for sharing a little piece of your trip with us Sarah!
Before his half birthday Tuck had already made his way to four countries. My husband and I lived abroad as newlyweds and that opportunity afforded us many opportunities to travel to places I never imagined I would. When we had our son we wanted to share all of the rich insights and experiences travel gives, and raise a “little citizen of the world”. Fortunately, having a baby did not mean the end to our adventures, just different kind of adventures altogether. Traveling with a baby allows you to see things through their eyes; which are always filled with amazement. It’s true you have to go slow, but it’s a welcomed pace from trying to cram in all the sights all of the time. Most recently this past summer we took off overseas to introduce our baby to our newlywed hometown of Basel, Switzerland. There we visited old friends, introduced him to swiss german, and wandered the cobblestone streets. It was fun taking him to old haunts. Of course no trip to Basel would be complete without getting a cheeseboard at Consum! Surprisingly enough tea at the famous Les Trois Rois (Napolean once stayed here, as did the Rolling Stones) was a great spot with babies. My friend who has also become a new mom, another old friend, and I enjoyed a long leisurely lunch with our babies. We visited markets, smelled swiss peonies, and strolled along Spalenberg which has houses dating back to the 1200’s.
After that fun swiss holiday we headed down to Sicily! We took a day to visit Mt. Etna and finished with a wine tour and “light lunch” at Murgo Winery. The light lunch was an eight course meal. We we’re stuffed, but it was all so good. We ate at some amazing restaurants, and pretty much all of Italy is kid friendly. They love babies and are incredibly accommodating. We ate at Sea Sound one night, and Casa Grugno another. Both beautiful Michelin rated restaurants you can take kids to.
Though he may not remember it, we will! And I will always enjoy exposing my kids to different cultures, languages, and food. Love raising him to be a little citizen of the world!
We’re so happy to announce that the Moore family will be traveling to South Africa in 2014!
Andrew, 10 & Jonathan, 5
“Everyone is really looking forward to our trip next Spring Break in South Africa. My 5 year old asked how he was going to be able to go to the bathroom on the flight… I guess it’s been too long since we took a long family vacation!”
Congratulations again and we can’t wait to hear about your trip!
In our new series, “Across the Street, Across the Globe” we hope to prove that you don’t always need to travel internationally to expose your children to other cultures. We’ve reached out to some of our favorite bloggers to find out how they’re raising little citizens of the world in each of their hometowns.
Today we have San Diego native, Bonnie Rush from A Golden Afternoon, sharing her family’s favorite spots. Be sure to follow Bonnie’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram. We’re also big fans of her Pinterest board! Thank you Bonnie for sharing your world with us – we can’t wait to take a trip down to San Diego and explore!
San Diego is full of amazing sights and sounds for kiddos and adults alike! Although we are a young city, we still hold pieces of history which connect us to the rest of the world and cultures of long ago. Philadelphia may be laden with cobblestone put down by men during the time of our founding fathers, but Cabrillo discovered San Diego long before William Penn was even alive. It just took a few years for anyone to actually live here, but who’s really counting. I love that my kids can be in this one city and yet still learn so much about the world around us.
As a homeschooling family, we have the opportunity to use San Diego as our living history book and are able to explore pieces of land that crazy important people have stepped foot on. I’d love to share some of our favorite spots that help my little ones understand more about that big world out there with different countries, languages, and even food (my favorite topic!).
Presidio Park. I’d have to start here because this is where our city began. I love that the Junipero Serra Museum is so humble and yet can offer so much in the way of beauty and also history. It’s a GORGEOUS place for a family picnic, as you can see the ocean and the area where Spanish monks came through on their first journey through the valley. Trust me, it’s an amazing place to sit with your kids and take in our city. I love opening a map and talking with them about which countries the explorers came from and which ones finally staked their claim on our city. After, you can drop down below to Old Town, check out what life was like when our city was born, and grab a pair of trendy Minnetonkas for everyone, to finish off your visit.
Scottish Highland Games. Part of exploring culture is exploring where your own family came from. For us, that means heading up to the way North of San Diego to Vista and the Scottish Highland games. It’s a lot of fun even if you don’t have Scottish blood. You can listen to plenty of bagpipe music, eat a meat pie, watch the sheepdogs work their magic on the sheep, and enjoy the games. Who doesn’t love a good ol’ log throwing competition?
San Diego Museum of Art: Art museums are definitely a go-to for soaking up culture and history in any city. The San Diego Museum of Art is a modest size, but that makes it perfect for kids. It still has many famous works of art like my daughter’s favorite, Degas and his perfectly poised ballerinas, my son’s favorite, Duque de la Roca (whom he believes is George Washington), or mine, Matisse’s beautiful bouquet. They don’t walk in feeling over-whelmed because of a huge building with endless flights of stairs and thousands of people waiting to run them over. Don’t get me wrong, seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre was amazing for me, but kids can get taken aback by the hustle and bustle of a HUGE museum. This museum also has a fun kids game where they use cards with a small picture of a piece of art used to search for the real piece somewhere in the museum. My kids love it!
Balboa Park offers a FREE day (that’s right!) every Tuesday for residents and military which is a great help. Go to this link for a PDF with things to do in Balboa Park with kids. We love this place because you can walk to so many fun spots in a small surface area. You can find a huge fountain to amaze the kids, good coffee, gardens for wandering (where we took our wedding photos!), and plenty of art and culture to soak in. Balboa Park also houses International Cottages for many different countries, with festivals and events being hosted for each country all year long! The San Diego Art Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden mentioned in this post are both in Balboa Park.
San Diego Public Marketand theLittle Italy Mercado are two of my favorite stops. Food is an important part of our life as a family, as we cook and eat at home most of the time. One single bite of food can bridge the gap between countries. Between these two markets, you can taste authentic African, Italian, French, Thai, and fair trade coffees and teas from the other side of the world. It is very important to me that my little ones try new foods. I just ask them to try one bite. Sometimes we are all surprised when a new food for them becomes a favorite., like sushi.
The Japanese Tea Garden is a beautiful and peaceful part of Balboa Park. My kids love the koi pond as well as the rock garden. Having visited Japan, I think this lovely place reflects the gardens of Japan well. I’m thrilled for the places, even small ones, where my kids can see what parts of a foreign country would be like. You can grab some tea to drink for an even more authentic touch. An expansion is in progress so there will soon be more to love!
Sushi Mura. We love this traditional Japanese style sushi restaurant because the food is fresh, the rice is very well prepared, and they make their own soy sauce. Plus, it’s casual enough that the kids can come, but my husband and I can still enjoy a great meal (and an extensive sake menu). My kids didn’t always love sushi, but after years of ordering teriyaki chicken, they took more and more of those one bite testers and finally fell in love with it. If your kids (or you) don’t like seaweed, you can always order it with a soy paper wrapping which tastes like nothing, but holds the other delicious parts of the sushi together just like the seaweed would. My kids love the salmon roll or the rainbow roll, if we let them have it on a special day.
For food reflecting the Portuguese and Italian fishing communities of old San Diego, a fast-favorite of ours is Roseville Cozinha. Also located at Liberty Station, this restaurant is comfortable and delicious. Our favorites are the wood oven-roasted whole shrimp with chili, parsley, and garlic as well as the salt cod fritters with lemon aioli and arugula. The kids get to color on the paper table covering which my boys love!
The New Children’s museum. For something more modern and unique, the Children’s museum is a great place to stop by. We love their hands-on approach towards creativity, community, and culture. My kid’s eyes are always opened wide to the world around them after paying a visit there. They did things right by allowing the kids to explore with their hands instead of limiting them to their eyes, as in a typical museum. While each museum type has its benefits, the New Children’s Museum will mix things up for your kiddos with something for everyone to explore. Plus, there is a VW bug you can paint outside. What kid wouldn’t get a thrill about that?!
Whether out and about or at home, there are so many ways to bring the world into your home and to your kids. The most important to me is living as an example to them. If they don’t see me trying new things and exploring, they will eventually lose interest, as they start to form their own values and traditions based on what they observe. All of our children are little sponges, just waiting for the next exciting thing to soak up. I love seeing them try new languages, foods, and learn how people around the world live. As adults, we have such an exciting job! We get to show the kids in our life how to be explorers, by going out there and navigating our own city!
To help everyone at Tea “go there,” we make a yearly contribution to each employee for international travel and exploration. Upon their return, our Tea travelers write blog posts to share their adventures with all of us (and the world).
Amy McKinstry, Senior Sales Executive of Department Stores here at Tea, traveled with her family to Mexico to enjoy sandy shores and ancient ruins.
When my husband and I were deciding where to vacation this year with our kids, we went back and forth quite a bit. France was high on the list, having never been to Paris (shameful, I know) and also wanting to see the French countryside as well as the beaches. We considered Portugal. We talked about local destinations in the US as well but having not been on a proper vacation for several years, we wanted to go a little further away – insisting however, on a combine of relaxation as well as some great cultural influence (sitting pool side in the confines of a massive resort was not what we had in mind.) So we landed far, but not too far – on Soliman Bay, Mexico. Probably one of the best kept secrets on the Maya Riviera (about a 90 minute drive south of Cancun) Soliman Bay is a secluded beach just 10 minutes from the magnificent beach town of Tulum – and with so many terrific cultural activities to choose from on any given day!
I feel compelled to first paint you a mental picture of Soliman Bay – a beach so beautiful and secluded that we were challenged to find even 2 more people sitting on the sand or kayaking in the crystal blue water on a regular basis. Kayaking and snorkeling became my every day exercise and source of meditation – I found myself in “vacation mode” nearly the moment my toes hit the sand. Palapas (the Mexican thatched roofs) dotted the beach and each villa (be it modest or luxurious) had its own unique beauty and charm. A little hut at the end of the beach referred to as “The Fish Shack” served lobster, ceviche and ‘the like’ on modest plastic tables under palm trees and could rival the very best seafood restaurants in Manhattan. Our kids swung on hammocks and played in the sand at our feet as we waited for our food and enjoyed some cold Modelos. Needless to say, we were happy campers and gloating over our choice of destination almost immediately…
Of course, we soon felt the need to explore the area and with some guidance from a good friend who had been drawn back here year after year, we enjoyed a few wonderful experiences worth mentioning.
The Tulum ruins (again, just 10 minutes from our location) was our first stop. These ruins sit along the shore of Tulum and are one of the few elevated locations along the coast (so the views alone, as you can imagine, were just beautiful.) With a terrific Mayan tour guide leading the way (Senor Miguel) we learned about the significance of each ruin, their location within the walls of this
“city” and the carvings and traces of paint that amazingly still remain on so many of the ancient walls.
Another great experience was our visit to a Spider Monkey Sanctuary that had only been open to the public for about 6 months. This property, spanning 67 acres of jungle, is a safe haven to protect this dwindling species of monkey. The kids enjoyed feeding these amazing creatures (they took peanuts right out of their little hands) and just watching them in their habitat. We hiked the property to also discover small alligators as well as a Cenotes (the underground rivers which are a very popular attraction in the area and are often referred to as the sacred waters of the Maya Riviera.) My husband and I reluctantly jumped into the Cenotes with the other in our group (and if you knew us, and our collective fear of heights and small spaces… you’d be impressed. Trust me!)
And of course, there is Tulum… a more perfect beach town I challenge anyone to find. The beach itself is just beautiful – eco friendly and relaxed, it is a beautiful hybrid of an authentic Mexican surf town, and the most sophisticated of locations all in one. Local artisans sell the most wonderful handmade jewelry on the streets and airy cabanas and palapas line the beach along with amazing bars and restaurants. A great spot during the day or for a night out – heavenly!
We were inspired daily during this trip with the cultural as a whole – the vibrant colors of their textiles, hand embroidery, Mayan art, beautiful architecture, amazing food and the graciousness of the locals. So many little things brought me back to Tea’s visit to Mexico and the wonderfully authentic details that they included in their designs just a few seasons ago (and before that, during their first visit to Mexico back in the earlier years of Tea!)
In short – it was a wonderful family vacation full of relaxation, culture, amazing food and fun activities. I am also so grateful to Tea for reminding me, through their own inspiration & travel, to always recognize the small, beautiful details of the world around us – in every culture. It is such a special place to work and such a special practice to pass along to our children.
So if you are considering a trip to this region of Mexico, I’d say… pack your bag. Go there. ENJOY!