Scoring sweet swag, reviewing awesome products and living the rad mom life.

Posts tagged ‘travel’

From Japan with Love

You may have noticed that the scenery has changed a bit in my pictures and that’s because it HAS! That’s because a few months ago I relocated from sunny Southern California to The Land of the Rising Sun (seriously, the sun rises crazy early).

So I thought I would share what I’ve been up to and what I’ve learned over the last few months!

Trains are the way of life.  I’m still trying to navigate the train systems – like figure out if I need to be on a local or express train.  I had never been on a train before living here, so this has been quite the experience.  There is also train etiquette – everyone is pretty quiet and you don’t invade other people’s space.  They are also very clean!  This is kind of surprising since public trash cans aren’t as common as they are in the U.S.

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Noodles are on every corner.  You won’t find many drive thru fast food restaurants here with the exception of a McDonald’s here and there, but you will find sushi and noodles spots everywhere!  And ramen is amazeballs here!

No drink refills.  Unlike dining in the U.S., you will have to pay for each cup of soda in most restaurants.  But you will get unlimited water and many places have pitchers of ice water right on the table!  Also, there is no tipping and the servers rarely check on you because they want you to enjoy your meal without being interrupted.

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Treats are everywhere!  While we are on the topic of food, you will also find donut shops, ice cream, pastries, crepes, etc. on almost every block.  Sweets are a big deal here and it’s all delicious!  You will also find KitKat bars in all types of flavors like wasabi and wine flavor!

Starbucks isn’t the same.  You will find Starbucks all over Japan, but their drink options aren’t quite the same as they are in the U.S. (no pumpkin spice lattes here) 😦 And the drinks are also a little sweeter than they are back home, but I’ve tried some interesting flavors as well like the Almond Milk and Granola Frappuccino!

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Vending machines.  Speaking of coffee, you can find it in any vending machine.  Cold or HOT!  That’s right, you can get hot coffee, tea, or hot chocolate right out of the vending machine!  And you literally can’t walk more than 10 steps without passing a vending machine in Japan.

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Toilets.  Toilets are either really fancy or really primitive.  😉

Playgrounds.  The parks in Japan are unlike anything you’ve ever seen!  So much larger and complete with streams, bouncy areas, zip lines, roller coaster slides, etc.  Even the adults have a great time!

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Manhole covers. You can find art everywhere you look, including the street!  Even the manhole covers are beautifully painted!

Nature.  You really don’t have to go far to appreciate the nature in Japan!  There are gardens everywhere, beautiful forests, and the trees are so unique and gorgeous!

Temples.  Temples are everywhere and they are quite sacred so do as the locals do as respect the grounds.  Also visit the Big Buddha! It looks just the way it does in the history books!

Narrow Roads.  The roads are pretty narrow here which takes some getting used to…as well as the whole driving on the left side of the road deal.  There’s also tons of pedestrians so you gotta watch out for people riding bikes and crossing the street.

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Tokyo.  Tokyo is enormous.  There are so many different districts and things to look at…you could easily get lost for days in this city.  Harajuku has some pretty amazing shopping spots and the architecture is unique and beautiful!  Shibuya Crossing (Pedestrian Scramble) is insanely busy and a great place to sit and watch all the traffic!

The people.  The people here are so friendly and many will try to speak as much English as they can when speaking to you. They are so polite and will help you if you are lost!

I’m still adjusting to this new life, but trying to enjoy the ride. 🙂  Stay tuned for more updates on Japan and I will continue to share the SWAG as much as I can!

And continue to enjoy the view! 🙂

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Have you been to Japan?  What was your favorite part?

I’m off to explore!

~SM

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PAW Patrol is on a Roll!

If you have tiny humans that LOVE Paw Patrol then you’ll want to load them up and head to the nearest Roll Patrol Road Tour!  This is different than the PAW Patrol Live! Tour and bonus: It’s free!  So if it’s not in your budget to attend the PAW Patrol Live! Tour then I definitely recommend checking out the Road Tour.  Here’s a little preview of what awaits you and your little PAW Patrollers at the Roll Patrol Road Tour!

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If you want to guarantee an entry into Adventure Bay and save yourself a little time, then preregister your family online.  If not, you may have to wait in a longer line and register on a tablet at the actual event.

You will then be given a wristband and the fun will be begin!

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The kids will love spending oodles of time in this life size and interactive PAW Patroller!  They can spend time in the command center, look out upon Adventure Bay, pose for photo ops, take a spin on the slide, and much more!

They can also pick their favorite PAW Patrol car and pedal along a kid-sized track!

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Then head over to the play table area to try out the newest PAW Patrol toys!

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And have a blast at the kinetic sand table!  I really loved this stuff!

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And keep a lookout for an opportunity to meet your fave PAW Patrol characters!

Every location is a bit different, but at our event: Chase was on the case, Skye took to the sky, and Marshall was all fired up!  You will also receive a free printed photo at your meet and greet to commemorate your day!

So was there any SWAG?!

Well the event was free so it’s kind of swag in itself.  BUT we did get photos and some sweet headwear!

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A couple of things to know:

  • Plenty of staff were on hand to keep things safe and organized.
  • The event is outside so prep for the elements.  It was really hot the day we attended.
  • The event is free – but preregister to guarantee entry!  Also, many of the Roll Patrol events are held within another event.  For example, this event was an attraction within the county fair.  So fair admission prices were still in place.
  • It can get crowded so be prepared!
  • There’s a lot of interaction on the tour, but nothing to actually purchase (i.e. toys).
  • Every location could be a little different, so what you see here may be slightly different than what would be at your event.  Check the event page for more details!

Ready to hit the road?  Check here for the 2017 dates and locations!

And checkout #RollPatrolTour on Instagram to see more pics of last year’s event!

Overall, I really enjoyed the event and my daughter had a blast!  So I would say…mission accomplished!!

Have you experienced the PAW Patrol Roll Patrol Tour?  What did you think?!

I’m off to review the next event!

~SM

 

 

Flying with Tiny People

So I’ve had the pleasure of flying twice with kiddos.  Last year I flew alone with my 18-month old daughter via Southwest (Bags fly free!).  Just recently I flew with my husband, 3-year-old daughter and 10-month old son via Alaska Airlines (Active Duty Military is allowed 5 free bags!).  Here’s a brief comparison of the two experiences:

Southwest

Us on the Southwest flight –

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TSA lines: Be prepared to have milk/formula tested, hands swabbed, and car seats thoroughly examined.  So factor in time for all of those extra tasks.  I recommend wearing babies/toddlers if possible ~ it’s easier to be hands-free without worrying if your tiny person is going to try and wander off at any given moment.  I also recommend a Go Go Babyz Travelmate because it is helpful to have wheels on your car seat if you plan to bring it along.  And it does fold up small enough to fit inside of an overhead bin.

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Boarding the plane: Southwest doesn’t offer assigned seating, you are just assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a position (1-60). The earlier you check-in the closer to the front of the line you can be.  So their boarding goes a little like this: Group A – Family Boarding – Group B – Group C.  I felt that boarding during the “Family” time gave me sufficient enough time to get situated and seated without being too much in the way.  I chose to bring the car seat along on the plane and have my daughter sit in it during the flight.  She really seemed to like having her own special seat on the plane.  However, the flight attendants were a bit perplexed as to how to strap the seat in and were confused about all the rules surrounding car seats on a plane.  Apparently people don’t bring their car seats on planes often and I was really surprised that they weren’t up to speed on car seat procedures.   In fact, they were even kind of rude about it which was even more surprising.  The only thing they did know was that the car seat had to be placed in a window seat.

Layovers: One in Kansas City which was super boring since it is a really small airport.  One in Nashville which was actually not too bad because they have a kid’s play area.  ALL airports should have this!  Starbucks was also nice enough to give me a free cup of milk for my daughter.

Swag: Basic airplane stuff – peanuts/chips, beverages, headphones.  Also to note: they don’t offer milk on the plane, so bring that with you!

Overall, I would give this experience a B-

Alaska

Us on the Alaska flight –

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TSA lines: Similar to the previous flight; however, we flew back a few days after Thanksgiving which made for horribly long lines.  One agent did give my daughter a TSA badge sticker which kept her distracted for .7 seconds.  Get there early if you plan to travel with kids during the holidays!  I also used the Alaska mobile app this time which made checking in and flight tracking easier.

Boarding the plane: Alaska does offer assigned seating, but they also allow families with small children and active duty military to board before everyone else which eases some of the stress.  The flight attendants seemed a little more knowledgeable about the car seat rules and actually checked the seat to confirm that it was airline-approved. Same rules as previously mentioned-the car seat has to go in the seat closest to the window. I also learned that the car seat can’t go in the very first row because of the air belt. And only children 30 lbs and above may sit in that row.

Layovers:  None this time, just a very long 5 hour flight each way with some antsy kids.  I counted down the hours and minutes with the handy app that I previously mentioned.

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Departing the plane: It took us so long to get off the plane that we actually got to baggage claim too late.  Thankfully, a representative from Alaska Air held our luggage in the office and came and found us in the airport.  They get bonus points! 🙂

Swag:  We flew coach on our way to FL and First Class (thanks Mimi) on the way home.  So along with the basic airplane swag, we also received a whole meal, dessert, bottled water, extra snacks, and a hot towel (which I’m still unsure as to what the purpose of a hot towel on a plane is).  And my daughter even scored this sweet kids pack:

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So what was in it?

Pirate’s Booty White Cheddar Puffs

Old Wisconsin Honey Brown Sugar Turkey Jerky

Tree Top Strawberry Applesauce

My Super Snack Chocolate Chip Granola Bar

YumEarth Organic Fruit Gummies

Wikki Stix Play Pack (These were awesome!  They kept my daughter entertained for hours!)

Overall,  I would give this experience an A- Only because my son was upset half the flight and there was a seating mishap which made things a little stressful.

My final tips: Pack light and allot yourself extra time and patience! Also bring suckers for not only a distraction/treat, but it also helps with the ear popping. And keep diapers and wipes within reach because it’s a tight squeeze between the rows and you don’t want to be digging around your bag for supplies with a screaming/kicking baby.

~SM

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