Konnichiwa (hello in Japanese)! I currently live in Chiba, Japan with my two-year-old daughter and husband. We've lived in Chiba for almost four years and we absolutely love it! For those of you who don't know, Chiba is a city bordering the metropolis, Tokyo and is a neighbouring prefecture. To give you a better idea of distance, you can reach Tokyo from Chiba with a 15 min train ride depending on where you live in Chiba. Whereas Tokyo is the well known bustling capital of Japan, Chiba is the more relaxed countryside of Japan. So if you ever want to escape city life even for a few hours, Chiba should be your go-to destination for that much-needed city break (P.S. If you need any more motivation to visit Chiba, then check out this post on 6 Reasons to Ditch Tokyo and Head to Chiba!).
If you look at a map of Chiba, you will see Minamiboso or the Boso Peninsula located on the southern part of Chiba. Minamiboso is a hidden gem that has picturesque beaches running along the Pacific Ocean coast that's royal blue in colour and that looks so majestic! There are so many of these beaches all along the coastline and they are famous with surfers all-year long. This area is where my husband and I decided to take our first vacation as a family along with our daughter.
View from the ropeway at Mount Nokogiri, Chiba
Within Minamiboso, the road from Tateyama to Chikura is called the ‘Flower Line’ as the route contains many botanical gardens and flower fields that are a must-see! Among these, the most famous ones are the Tateyama Family Park, Nanbo Paradise and Shirahama Flower Park. These places are popular as vacation destinations, especially in spring. My husband and I decided to take our daughter and go for a family trip to the area, visiting several places but namely Tateyama and Mount Nokogiri (Chiba's version of the famous Kamakura city).
We had a lot on our itinerary for a two-day trip and this was our first long distance trip with our then eleven-month-old daughter to the Kamogawa area in Chiba. You may be wondering why we waited almost a year to take our daughter out on a long distance trip. Well, truth be told, there was no concrete reason for this, now that I am looking back at it. It was simply because we were worried that she might not enjoy the trip and that it would be more troublesome for all of us. But after mulling it over, we decided to just face our fears and go for it!
This was also the first time we stayed overnight in a hotel with our little one. As you can imagine, my husband and I were both very apprehensive because we weren't sure if she would be able to sleep in a different bed from home and whether she would enjoy being in this new setting. We were also worried about how our girl would behave on the 2.5+ hour train ride it takes to get there as she recently had been very difficult to take care of even in just 10-minute train rides! She refused to stay still, wanted to stand while the train was in motion and wanted to hold onto the hand straps the entire ride. So when we were planning this trip, you could imagine our hesitation.
But Alhamdulillah for us, everything went very smoothly. Our daughter did get a little fidgety but it was nowhere near as daunting as what we expected! She was a little restless at times during the long journey to our destination as it was a 2.5+ hour train ride from our home. We had a few train transfers on the way where she was happy to get out and move around a little. To get her to sit still for the train ride, we sat her on down on a window seat so she could enjoy the beautiful scenery and she actually did (with a bit of kicking going on as well)! She also stood up on the seat and we walked around inside the train car when it was safe to do so. And whenever she got too restless, I would take her under my nursing cover and breastfeed her which would eventually put her to sleep, or give her some snacks. Overall, she did an excellent job considering that it was her first long distance trip. I think the rhythmic movement of the train also soothed her up and helped her stay asleep as she napped. And of course, we had our bulky stroller with us where the seat completely reclines so that she could sleep comfortably. Moreover, because it was December when we took this trip, the train car was warm and cosy with the heating so she was able to sleep better.
Once we arrived at our inn in the Boso Peninsula (which is famous for its beaches among surfers, its rural landscape and of course its position facing the vast Pacific Ocean), we settled down for a little and freshened up before setting out for our beach excursion. The inn was located within two minutes walking distance of the Pacific Ocean with a beautiful beach! On the way to our inn, we were able to see a panoramic view of the ocean and the snow-capped Mount Fuji from the summit of Mount Nokogiri. We stayed in the Minamiboso area for two days and as mentioned earlier, we went exploring to a beach on the Pacific Ocean coast, saw another beach on the royal blue waters of the Pacific in Tateyama and went on a ropeway at Mount Nokogiri. We did all this travelling via train as all of these destinations were easily accessible by walking from the nearest train station. Although the trains in Chiba, especially in this very southern part of Chiba, are less frequent as compared to Tokyo, we were still able to manage the time to visit each place with enough time to spare for eating, taking pictures and sightseeing.
With this in mind, I have some suggestions to share when you are out travelling with young ones for the first time or any time for that matter.
1. Actions often defy expectations
My husband and I were so hesitant to go on a long distance trip with our daughter that it took us a year to muster the courage to do this (our daughter was eleven months old when we took this long-distance trip for the first time). Now looking back at it, we are wondering why we worried so much about this in the first place instead of just going for it. So don’t waste your precious time stressing over how the trip will go with a little one because they grow up so quickly and then you will regret it just like we did ? Travelling creates wonderful memories for us to keep for a lifetime. Your child will never remember how you worked so hard every day preparing his/her meals but instead, they will cherish those memories that were created outside of the home. So let go of your fears and trust me, our fears are worse than the reality. Just take my advice. Go book that trip you’ve always dreamed about with your little one which may not seem like the best idea now but in hindsight, may turn out to be a life-changing experience for all of you!
Sunrise from the Pacific Ocean
2. Your baby is as excited as you are to see the wonders that Allah SWT has created
Our daughter really enjoyed the train ride, the hotel stay and the rural landscape. And she was utterly surprised at seeing the sunrise from the coast of the Pacific Ocean, not to mention the huge waves, right in front of her eyes. The sunrise was spectacular but her expression was simply priceless! I will never forget this expression. I never imagined she would be so pleasantly shocked to see her first sunrise from the largest body of water in the world! Subhan Allah. I think our daughter understood the magnitude of her experience despite not being able to understand much of anything else in the world, literally speaking.
3. Babies are more adaptable than we think they are!
Our daughter enjoyed every part of the trip, even our stay at the inn. This was her first time away from her cosy bed at home but she really enjoyed the combined twin beds even more than the one she has at home! So it goes to show you that babies are more adaptable than we think they are. She ate breakfast with us at a long odd shaped table in the office of the inn and did not once complain about eating there on my lap and not at her usual spot at home on her baby chair. On a similar note, don’t worry too much about following nap time schedule so strictly when you are out and about. This is where a large size stroller with a reclining seat or a carrier comes in really handy as your baby/toddler can sleep while you can enjoy some alone time with your partner.
4. Some places can be more accommodating when you have a baby
First of all, when you have a baby, it’s a great icebreaker. What I mean is it’s a great conversation starter because who doesn’t like to look at babies and blurt out that they are so adorable. So this is a great way to not only get to know locals but is also a great way to entertain your baby. Aeroplanes, hotels and tourist locations are generally more accommodating when you have a baby companion with services such as priority seating and baby cots that you can arrange to have in your room. Check out this post which has more detailed tips for flying with young kids. Most importantly, you get more attention when you have a baby as people are more friendly and helpful when there is a baby involved! So definitely take advantage of this opportunity by travelling more often with your young children.
5. Travelling long distance with young ones requires a few key items
- If you plan to do a lot of walking and your child is not at the stage where he/she can walk for a long time without your help, then you need to bring along a stroller with a large storage compartment. The stroller that we have is great for travelling, especially for long distance travelling in winter where each of us has coats, gloves, hats, snacks and of course our essential items for the night away. Without a proper stroller and storage space, the trip might become tiring very quickly as you have to carry around your baby while lugging around your belongings as well. And you need all the energy you can get, especially when you are running behind a little one.
- A nursing apron is a must-have for all mommies who are breastfeeding. The best way to comfort a baby (at least in my experience) is through breastfeeding. If for some reason your baby is not in a good mood, then you need to be prepared to feed him/her anywhere, even in public, in which case, a nursing apron is a must. And plus even when you are not feeding your baby, it acts as a great cover to help him/her sleep while blocking out some of the light.
- Toys, baby snacks and hand wipes are also of necessity. For young babies, this one is especially important because baby food is not readily available everywhere so be sure to take extra along. If there is one thing that you should take extra, it should be baby food! Take food of different variety so your baby won’t get bored eating the same meal every time and it will be less of a struggle for you to feed him/her. Toys that you can attach to the stroller are great (in the case that you do bring a stroller along) because they free up space in your bag and can be easily removed from the stroller to place in the hands of your little one, if need be. Hand wipes for cleaning the mouth and hands of your little one are also a necessity, especially if your little one is eating on his/her own. And last but not least, a water bottle for your toddler is a must-have!
- Strollers (ones with sturdy seats that can recline) are ideal to use for diaper changes when you're out and about as you can use the stroller seat for nappy changes. It's not the easiest but it’s definitely better than having nothing to use. Or if there is a table nearby in a secluded area, you can also use it if you have a toddler who uses pant-type diapers. Or simply lay down a mat or any piece of clothing on the floor for a diaper change if you have no stroller or table nearby (of course make sure to have your partner provide some coverage). These are some ideas in the case that there is no baby room available for use.
As for planning this getaway, it actually didn't require much work in terms of preparing separately for our baby. Because it was only a night away trip, we didn't need to pack much. And also because it was winter and we had no plans to actually play in the beach, we were just fine with one change of clothing. We also fed our baby instead of having her eat on her own so she didn't get too messy after feedings either. As for food, halal options and generally speaking, food options are very limited in these remote areas especially during end-of-year holidays when small shops and a lot of restaurants are closed. So after eating dinner, we bought cooked rice and other items for breakfast for the next day from the supermarket that was about a 15 to 20 min train ride away from our inn. As for food for my daughter, I bought pre-packaged food for her, which I knew she would eat.
But all things set aside, relax and have fun with your little one(s). If you have fun, then chances are your kids will enjoy the trip as much as you do! That said, I hope these tips will be helpful as you plan your next trip and if you need more tips, check out this post. I also hope I have lowered some of your anxiety in travelling with a baby or a toddler. It is really a memorable experience for all of you and parenting sometimes is easier outdoors rather than inside the home. As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I were very hesitant about our first long distance trip with our baby daughter who can get quite fussy at times. But we had no reason to worry as the trip went quite successfully. I could never imagine I would be visiting the Pacific Ocean one day, let alone staying there for one night, watching the sunrise on New Year’s Day and celebrating all this with my then eleven-month-old daughter, who was speechless looking at the view of the Pacific Ocean! Subhan Allah, it was truly a beautiful experience! Needless to say, I truly am grateful for this once in a lifetime experience that I was able to enjoy with my family on New Year’s Day. Come to think of it, it was one of the best decisions we made! So don’t hesitate and plan away!
An island in Okinawa, Japan
As I am writing this post, we are planning another long-distance trip with our now two-year-old daughter to Okinawa, an island in Japan. It will take us 2.5 hours by plane to reach Okinawa from Narita International Airport in Chiba, which is the route we plan to take. We are all excited for this upcoming trip. Insha Allah, we hope to plan many more trips with our little one as she enjoys travelling as much as we do!