5 Reasons Why We Travel with the Kids

Travel is one of the things we like doing as a family.  We love planning for roadtrips and out of town trips during holidays.  Of course, vacations out of the country are special and takes more time (and resources) so planning is longer and more deliberate.

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Our kids in one of our trips to Tagaytay

Our last trip overseas was in October 2016.  It was our first trip as a family of five and our first time in Osaka, Japan as well.  A lot of people were a little surprised that we were bringing 12-month J to the trip.  Some even suggested to leave him with my mom so that we can enjoy more.

“It’s difficult to travel with a baby.”

“Leave him with his Laly (Grandma).  He’s too young to remember this, anyway.”

I do recognize that bringing a baby with us on a trip changes the pace and even our itinerary but we really didn’t have the heart to leave him this time.

Truth be told, that trip was my first time to fly with a baby. S was already 2 years old when we first travelled by plane and it was only a 2-hour local trip.  That was also F’s first time to ride a plane and he was almost 4 years old during that time.  Admittedly, I was also a little anxious so I sought help from a friend who is a seasoned traveller with babies. Thank God for her and the tips she shared, some I really would not have thought of myself.

Many well-meaning friends advised N & I to wait when the baby is older before we bring him along in our travels.  I guess every one has their own preferences and I believe that we each should follow our gut.  But for those of you considering travel with kids, here are my five reasons why I think you should go for it (as I did) no matter what age:

1.  TRAVEL = FAMILY BONDING TIME – When we travel as a family, we are stuck with each other’s company whether we like it or not.  Inevitably, there are times when we get into each other’s nerves! Like when N would get frustrated with me when I navigate wrongly… or when F would be irritated with S and her constant bugging 😛.  For most parts though, we find it to be a great opportunity to reconnect and bond.  We get the chance to talk, have fun and create memories.

2.  TRAVEL PROVIDES for NEW & BIGGER ROLES – I remember one time when we planned a trip to Boracay with friends.  N had a business trip scheduled so we decided that it was most practical to just meet in Boracay.  This meant travelling with F & S (then 8 and 6 years old) by myself.  It was a pleasant surprise that the kids rose to the occasion and picked up after themselves.

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Boracay with F & S (2011)

During this recent Japan trip, S was such a helpful assistany to me, especially when taking care of baby J.  On the other hand, F was a willing helper to his dad, carrying our luggage and even navigating around the city.  They also learned how to be more responsible with keeping their own tickets, buying their meals and keeping their own stuff.

3.  TRAVEL TEACHES ADAPTABILITY and FLEXIBILITY – We all know that the most well thought-out travel plans can still go wrong.  Delayed flights, missing baggaes, weather abberations.  These things will teach our kids how to adjust and make the most out of unforeseen situations.  In this trip, we initially wanted to go to Universal Studios mainly for the Harry Potter experience.  After checking though, the crowd estimate was outrageous!  I actually still wanted to give it a try (being a HP fan that I am).  It was F who put things in perspective — that it would be difficult for J and that we would not really enjoy if there is waaaaay too much people.  S said that since they’ve been to two other Universal Studios anyway, they’re willing to wait a few more years till J is ready for theme parks. How is that for flexible?

4. TRAVEL LETS US DISCOVER THE WORLD FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE –  Experiencing a diffent culture first hand helps us appreciate better those things that are different from what we’re used to.  Personally, I used to dislike Japanese people (think World War II and how the Japanese invaded the Philippines).  But having been in close contact with them in this trip showed me how they are nice people,

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Snippets from our Japan trip (2016)

courteous, polite and very helpful.  I believe that when we expose our children to more of the world and its varying cultures, they will become more inclusive and accepting of others.  They will accept and appreciate diversity much easier.

 

5.  TRAVEL PROVIDES A BETTER LEARNING EXPERIENCE – Learning about a city or country by reading about it is so much different from actually experiencing it.  Travelling gives the kids a better learning opportunity as they see, feel, touch and taste what a place has to offer.  That was the case when they went to Times Square in New York or ate fresh sushi at the Kuromon market or rode the elephants in Thailand.  The experience makes everything more tangible and memorable.

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Times Square at night (2014)

And so, while there may be real inconveniences travelling with kids, for me, the benefits outweigh them by leaps and bounds that we will travel with the kids as often as we can 😊

Football Diaries: Negros Occidental Football Assoc. (NOFA) Cup 2015

When told us that he is part of the team going to Bacolod for a tournament, I was thrilled and excited! First of all, the team is composed of 8 boys from DLSZ and 8 kids from La Salle Greenhills.  The thought that he was one of those selected by the coaches to represent his school is an awesome feat!  Secondly, this is his first out of town tournament — and to the football capital of the country, no less! Plus of course, Bacolod is also known for its gastronomic feasts.

F is required to travel and stay with the team for most parts of the trip.  S and I booked the same flight as the team so F would have a companion.  Plus, I figured that we have to bring him to the airport anyway, so might as well take the same schedule to save us a trip.  N had work duties so he just followed us in Bacolod.  Here’s a run-down of our five days in the City of Smiles.

Day 1: Team screening, training and welcome dinner

We arrived in Bacolod at around 7am.  Thankfully, the rooms at Luxur Place were already available so we checked-in immediately.  I just helped F settle in with his teammates in their room and then we all proceeded with breakfast and got some rest.

The boys at the airport waiting for our flight

The boys at the airport waiting for our flight

Coaches Hans, Alvin and Manji called for an assembly at 3pm for players only.  They went to the Bacolod City Government Center for a screening and interview of the players and then off to a last training session.  All participating teams were invited to attend the Welcome Dinner prepared by organizers.

U13 La Salle team off to  interview and training

U13 La Salle team off to interview and training

Since this was exclusively for coaches and players only, S and I spent our time relaxing at the hotel.  In the afternoon, we went out with N to check out Calea — a cafe and bakeshop famous for its luscious cakes and pastries.  Everything looked sooo good, we had a hard time choosing!  In the end, we got a slice of chocolate cake, berry cheesecake and an ice cream cake.  All did not disappoint! ☺🍰

Still tired from the travel, we had dinner at the hotel then hit the sack.

Day 2: Opening Ceremonies and Start of Games

We headed off to Panaad Stadium where all the games will be staged.  There were 12 competing teams in the tournament.  After the lots were drawn, Team La Salle was grouped with Malaya FC, Crocodile FC (Davao), Barotac (Iloilo), NOFA, and Sta. Barbara FC (Iloilo) — all very strong contenders!

One La Salle Team at the opening ceremonies

One La Salle Team at the opening ceremonies

First game against Malaya FC ended with a heartbreaking lone goal from their opponent.  La Salle dominated the game with ball possession majority of the time.  The boys had several attempts at the goal but it just wasn’t to be.

F in action (photo credit: Malaya FC)

F in action
(photo credit: Malaya FC)

We comforted ourselves with a good and hearty lunch at 21 Restaurant.  N and I tried their famous batchoy while the kids got steak and chicken.  Great ambience and delicious food, no wonder it came highly recommended by a lot of our friends!  We left the restaurant happy with our food choices and ready for the next game.

Pre-game huddle

Pre-game huddle

The afternoon game against Crocodile FC was more to our liking.  La Salle dominated the game and didn’t let the opponents from Davao score.  We had several missed shots at the goal but we were happy to go home with a 2-0 score.

For dinner, we went to another restaurant recommended by friends.  We went with some of F’s teammates and co-parents.  Dinner at 18th St., Pala-Pala was well worth it!  Stuffed squid, grilled tanigue, buttered garlic prawns, pork barbecue, calamares. Y-U-M-M-Y!!! After that sumptuous dinner, we were ready to call it a day.

Day 3: Games vs. NOFA and Barotac

The game in the morning was against the hosts, NOFA.  According to Coach Hans, their selection came from approximately 80 kids who tried out.  So to say that this team is first-rate is an understatement.  Our boys played their hearts out.  At the end of the half, we were down by only 1 goal.  However, as the game wore on, the NOFA boys found their groove and scored 3 more goals until the final whistle.  It was a tough loss indeed.

Everybody went back to the hotel to rest and get ready for yet another anticipated gruelling match in the afternoon.  We decided to try out the ribs place very near the hotel.  Lord Byron’s Ribs was a hole-in-a-wall restaurant — no aircon, just nipa huts and makeshift furniture — but it had a full lunch crowd!  The menu was limited.  They only offered ribs, sisig, bangus steak and burger so we opted to get the house special.  The ribs were so good and tender and the portion is very generous.  In hindsight, S and I should’ve just shared an order and that would’ve left us both full.  It was no wonder that this place is packed!

Yummy ribs from Lord Byron's

Yummy ribs from Lord Byron’s

The boys were ready for another battle with Barotac FC, one of the football teams that has made quite a name for itself.  Apparently, Barotac was the team of former Azkal captain Chieffy Caligdong when he was younger.  Our boys played a good game and won the match by 2-1 margin.

Post-game interview with local television network

Post-game interview with a local TV network after the win against Barotac FC

For dinner, F decided to stay with his friends and go back to the ribs place. N took S & I to Manokan Country for some authentic chicken inasal (barbecue).  After three days in Bacolod, all I could say was “Finally!”.  Manokan Country is a line of small reastaurants all offering inasal.  We chose to go to Aida’s for arguably the best inasal in the area.  The three of us had paa (chicken legs), chorizo, chicken liver and of course, chicken oil drizzled over a cup of garlic rice.  It might have been the simplest meal we had but one of the yummiest by far!  After we’ve had our fill, we headed to Calea again for dessert before going back to the hotel to get some rest for the next day’s games.

Day 4:  Game vs. Sta. Barbara and Quarterfinals

The morning game against Iloilo’s Sta. Barbara was a thriller.  We were down 0-2 by the end of the half but we started the second half strong with a quick goal.  There were several shots on goal but the boys weren’t able to convert. Sta. Barbara scored another goal towards the latter part of the game which eventually sealed the match.

By lunch time, we were told that our scores were good enough to get us through the quarterfinals.  We decided to just stay at the hotel for lunch to prepare for the battle against Pag-asa FC from Iloilo.

Warming up before the big game

Warming up before the big game

The quarterfinals game was exciting! Up against the best team from the other group, our boys showed up and gave their all.  It was quite a tough match from start to finish.  In the end though, we had to bow to the other team with a final score of 4-2.

The boys were sad and disappointed that they didn’t make it to the “trophy rounds” but we, the parents and coaches, were truly proud of how they fought in all their games.  They lost in some of the games but they picked themselves up and played their hearts out in the next one.

One La Salle team with parents and coaches

One La Salle team with parents and coaches

We arranged for a team dinner at Ana’s Garden and Seafood Grill for players and parents and also as a thank you to our coaches who have been nothing but patient, understanding and supportive of the kids.  It was no easy feat handling 16 tweeners so all I can say is “Kudos, Coaches!”.

Day 5:

After several days of early call times, we decided to sleep-in on our last day.  Shortly after breakfast, we went to hear Mass at a nearby church as we won’t be able to make it to any of the Masses in Manila due to our flight schedule.

For lunch, we decided to go to Bacolod Chicken House for one last bite of authentic inasal.  Afterwards, we let the kids have some more fun time swimming and bonding with their friends.

Swimming time

Swimming time

Before we left for the airport, we were informed that Team La Salle was awarded Best in Sportsmanship.  I believe ours was the only team that was not handed out any yellow or red cards during the entire tournament.  Truly, fair play is at the core of the team’s values and it was a great feeling to be recognized for that by the other teams.

We bought our pasalubongs and Bacolod goodies from Merzci and Bongbong’s and soon after, we were headed back home to Manila.

I am sure that Bacolod has sooo much more to offer.  We barely scratched the surface of places to visit and restaurants to try! And so, while we bid the City of Smiles good-bye, we cannot wait for another opportunity to come back.

Our U.S. Adventure (Part 2)

While we left the east coast wanting for more, we were also ready for our next adventure stop: California.

We already had a taste of sunny California as we spent two days in Los Angeles before flying to New York.  We had time to go around Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive and Santa Monica Pier.  We also checked out the Hollywood Wax Museum, Ripley’s “Believe or Not” and Guiness Museum.

Hello, Mr. President! Nice to meet you!

Hello, Mr. President! Nice to meet you!

My princess with another princess' star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame

My princess with another princess’ star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Having fun at the Guiness Museum

Having fun at the Guiness Museum

We flew back to LA right in time for Game 6 of the LA Clippers and Oklahoma Thunder.  If there was anything that F looked forward to in this trip, it was to watch an NBA game live.  In fact, when we were getting our visas, this was what told the consul when the latter asked why he wanted to go to the States.  That being said, we really couldn’t pass up on this opportunity.  But since it was the playoffs, the ticket prices were triple (or was it quadruple?!) the regular season tickets!  So as it went, saw the game with his dad while I stayed home with S, who was just happy to stay  home, watch some TV and rest.

Donning matching complimentary shirts. Go Clippers!

Donning their matching complimentary shirts. Go Clippers!

 

The next day, we took a road trip to San Francisco to visit other relatives of hubby,  N.   We reached the Bay Area around 2pm and headed straight to the Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch.  Once we got settled in our booth at Joe’s Crab Shack, the two buckets of crabs and shrimps didn’t stand a chance.

Happy tummies!

Happy tummies!

We walked off our big lunch around the Marina area where we had a nice view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.  The kids had some time to play at the nearby park before we headed off to meet N‘s cousin, Mayette.  We met at Off the Grid in Fort Mason where they had about 35 food trucks convene in one location.  There were all sorts of food, drinks and desserts, we didn’t know where to begin!  In the end, F & S got chicken barbecue, N got this super yummy Korean beef rice burger and I got paella.  We wanted to stay longer and check out the other food trucks but it was getting too cold for comfort so we decided to call it a day.

We spent the following day exploring San Francisco’s must-sees.  We walked to Union Square and the kids were thrilled to see Manila being mentioned in the monument dedicated to Admiral George Dewey for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay.  The cold weather got the kids craving for hot chocolate so we went in a Ghirardelli store to get some but they quickly changed their mind and ordered ice cream instead 🙂  We also rode the famous cable car and drove to Lombard Street to see the crookedest street in the world.

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Lunch was at the Ferry Building Marketplace where they had all kinds of food offerings – from organic veggies to freshly-harvested fruits,  from artisan cheeses to gourmet sandwiches and coffee.  It was food paradise, if you ask me!  & I loved the vibe of the place so we decided to stay longer and had coffee and pastries while we catch up with N‘s cousins.

We only had a week left in our vacation as we headed back to our base (LA) that Sunday.  This was already reserved for the kids’ main event: theme parks! Even before we left for this trip, we knew that there were just too many theme parks and attractions for our allotted time (and budget) to accommodate.  So, after careful consideration, we trimmed it down to four:  Universal Studios, Legoland, Disneyland and California Adventure.

We spent one full day in each of these parks and needless to say, we all enjoyed every minute of it! We probably took hundreds of pictures in these last four days and I’d be happy to share some of them with you.

Disneyland

Disneyland

Universal Studios

Universal Studios

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Our first trip to the U.S. is really something for the books!  We know that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the list of things to do and places to see but we all had a wonderful time.  We are grateful to our family and friends who generously opened their homes to us, took the time to meet up with us, showed us around and bonded with us.  N & I know that the memories that we made during this trip are priceless and is something that our family will cherish and remember.

Our U.S. Adventure (Part 1)

This summer, we had a great opportunity to travel to the U.S. as a family.  It’s the first time for me and the kids to go to the States so to say that we were excited is the biggest understatement!  Planning for the trip was a major production as there were 101 things to be done – from getting our visas to airline ticket bookings, from planning the itinerary to getting tickets to all shows, amusement parks and attractions that we wanted to see, watch and do! Details, details, details! Of course, foremost on our agenda was to visit our relatives there.  That was bit of a problem since my family is on the east coast while hubby’s are mostly on the west coast.  After checking almost every possible flights and airlines, we finally decided to book MNL-LAX-MNL and then just took a domestic flight from LA to New York. Ours was a jam-packed itinerary to say the least. So let me give you a glimpse of our 3-week vacation in parts.

East Coast: New York – Atlantic City – Washington D.C.

New York has always been at the top of my “places to visit” list for as long as I can remember.  Before we left, I must have looked at a dozen websites searching for the best itineraries, tours and must-see places.  In the end, I followed suggeations from family and friends who’ve either been there or currently staying there. We took the red-eye flight from LAX to Newark Airport.  We were able to sleep through the 6-hour flight so by the time we landed, the kids were up and about and ready for the day’s adventure. Our first destination is Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.   We took the tour from Liberty State Park (instead of Battery Park in New York).  It turned out to be a good decision since the lines from Liberty State were much, much shorter.

F & S listening to the audio tour at the Statue of Liberty

F & S listening to the audio tour at the Statue of Liberty

The tour was very educational and interesting, especially for who is fascinated by history.  We stayed there for a good two and a half hours before heading back.  From there, we drove around Manhattan just to get a taste and feel of the city.  By this time, the kids were dozing off already so we decided to meet up with our other relatives for early dinner and then rest.

The next day, we were back in the city to check out other tourist destinations: Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Empire State Building, Madison Square Garden.  We even had a picture with “The Bull” as we walked along Wall St.!  As much as we wanted to visit all the museums, our time allowed us to see only one.  The kids chose American Museum of Natural History and that was how we spent our afternoon.  By evening, we took the subway to the other part of the city to catch “Wicked” on Broadway.  Again, kids’ choice prevailed on which show to watch.  No complaints here though! “Wicked” was fantastic!  After the play, we lingered a little bit more in Times Square before finally calling it a day.

Times Square at night

Times Square at night

Day 3 was about a whole lot of walking. We met up with my cousin, Roy, our designated tour guide for the day.  We went to 9/11 Memorial first as we wanted to see what has become of the famous landmark.  The place, though packed with people, radiated a serene atmosphere.  It was sad thinking how many lives were lost during that time but at the same time, a little comforting that they have not been forgotten.

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After that, we attempted to cross the Brooklyn Bridge by foot! We only made it till the first post of the bridge  before I decided that I’ve seen enough of the bridge and was ready for lunch.

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Undoubtedly, the lunch venue was the highlight of the day – Peter Luger’s!!! A train to Brooklyn and a few blocks walk took us to (arguably) the best meal we had in the States.

Yummy food! Could you tell from our smiles?

Yummy food! Could you tell from our smiles?

After our scrumptious meal, we were ready to get back to walking.   We wanted to stroll and hang out in Central Park but it started to rain so we made a detour to the shops- NBA store and FAO Schwartz, mainly.

Checking out the BIG piano at FAO Schwartz

Checking out the BIG piano at FAO Schwartz

The next day, we headed off to West Point before going to Woodbury Common for some retail therapy.  There was just tooooo many stores and so little time!!! It was a little overwhelming for me that in the end, I only got a couple of shirts (for my sisters), a dress for my daughter, S, and 2 pairs of shoes and a bag for me 🙂

The following day was Mother’s Day and we made plans to celebrate together.  My aunts, uncles and cousins went with us to Atlantic City for a another day of bonding, shopping and eating!

Walking along Atlantic City Boardwalk

Walking along Atlantic City Boardwalk

Our family bonding time includes shopping!

Our family bonding time includes shopping!

We took off early on the following day for another road trip…this time, to Washington D.C.!  When we arrived, we wasted no time and went straight to the Smithsonian- Air & Space Museum. After the kids had their fill of airplanes and space shuttles, we went around to see the famous landmarks and monuments – The White House, The Washinton Memorial, the Capitol.

A view of the White House

A view of the White House

The next day, we checked out the remainder of the famous monuments and brushed up on a little history along the way – Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King, Korean War and WW II Memorial among others.  It was truly a great experience fo us and the kids.

Family picture with Abe

Family picture with Abe

By afternoon, we were headed back to NYC.  We still had a little time before I met up with my friend for dinner so we stayed in Central Park and let the kids play for a bit.  How I wish we had more time to explore the park!

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Perfect day for a stroll in Central Park

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the west coast.   We decided to spend our last day with my relatives relaxing and bonding at their home.

S with my cousin, Roy enjoying some bonding and play time

S with my cousin, Roy enjoying some bonding and play time

F & S were so sad to leave! They said they were too “bitin” and I couldn’t agree more! New York has so many things to offer and spending a week was really not enough.  We truly look forward to the time when we can visit again and hope that it wouldn’t be too long.