Thursday, October 27, 2016

Typical Family Vacation NOT (Part 1)

Hilariously Failed Family Vacation at the most beautiful place in Japan
Hilariously Failed Family Vacation at the most beautiful place in Japan
Ever since I got pregnant with my first child we haven't traveled anywhere. The fault was part money, part busy schedule and part me feeling it would definitely, most likely, end in some sort of nervous break down on my behalf, because, well, I was a vivid traveler pre-kids and on those trips I have seen how those little joyful angels turn their parents' holiday breaks into pure HELL.

Then, several weeks ago, my husband announced he has accumulated enough points by his work-related travel on and we could have two free nights at some nice hotel of our choice. Surely, you can't let such an awesome (free!) deal just expire, right?

Now with two kids (three and one years old) in tow, we decided that time has come for us to experience first hand the wonders of traveling as a family.

Click on the title to read more....

Preparation Check List:

* Found a Ryokan (Japanese style hotel) in a tiny fishing village hidden behind tall mountains (and most of the civilization), just few minutes stroll from the beach. SO ROMANTIC!

* Booked a room with a hot-springs bath in our room. I have never ever tried a hot springs, so I wanted to have that as the main theme. I also wanted it to be private because I wanted to experience it as a FAMILY (all of us should get inside and not be separated by sexes like in the public ones).

* Awesome bonus: the hotel has FREE ALL YOU CAN DRINK ALCOHOL! LOL just for that it is worth coming, isn't it? *Side-note: I am breastfeeding, so can't drink. My plan was that my husband would drink for both of us and tell me in details how every drink tasted and then I would imagine the taste in my mouth and fantasize it's me who is drinking it. I'm weird like that.
Mom says alcohol is your enemy. Jesus says love your enemies

* Check the timetable of the transportation and plan our route, allowing extra four spare hours (because we have kids.)  

* Found a fun town with free hot springs and a bamboo forest at which we can stop to take a rest and take the bus to our final stop.

* Found a restaurant in the above town to have lunch at. Didn't reserve because we worried we might be late or find something better on the way.

* Weather forecast said there is some chance of rain, but in Japan the weather is nuts and the weather forecast is not that reliable. We decided to just hope it won't rain or rain just a little.


6:00 AM: We packed lots of clothes, diapers, more clothes and more diapers into three backpacks and loaded them on the stroller, which now transformed it's original purpose into a "baggage vehicle".

7:00AM: Departed home with two sleeping kids. One carried by me, the other carried in the arms of my husband. We couldn't depart any later because of the bus which we had to take later on.

We don't own a car, so we had two options: take two regular trains totaling two and a half hours to our fun destination mid-way, then take a one hour bus ride through the mountains and finally have the hotel management pick us up by their car.  Or, pay almost double but take the bullet train, without the need to change trains and arrive half hour earlier to the mid-way fun destination. We decided that half an hour wasn't worth to pay double for.

Here the fun part starts.

First we needed to go to the station from which our first train departs. Having a massive stroller topped with luggage and two kids in our arms I was thinking Dear Husband will kindly take us a taxi. Wrong. Dear Husband, wanted to use the metro, assuring me that 7AM wasn't yet that-crazy-rush-hour-where-people-are-packed-in-the-train-tighter-than-sardines-in-a-can and that being it a short two-stations ride taxi wasn't worth the money.
Reluctantly I've complied and when we entered the gate we discovered that yes, that is that-crazy-rush-hour-where-people-are-packed-in-the-train-tighter-than-sardines-in-a-can.
By this point we have already wasted nearly half an hour, which meant half hour less fun at the fun mid-way stop (so that we could catch the bus).
Trying not to go all "I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!" (nah, actually I did say that), we exited the metro and took a taxi.

7:40AM: Arrived to the station and entered the gate to catch our first one-hour ride train of the day.
By that time we have missed our originally planned train and the available one turned to be another of those crazily-packed-trains-that-even-sardines-in-a-can-have-more-space. Arghh! You see, we stupidly assumed that just because this train is heading for the suburb it won't pass some central-city stations. We waited for the next train wasting again some of the precious time, but as the next one was approaching we already understood that there is no way we could tolerate a one hour ride.

8:00AM: I stormed my armed (with bags) vehicle (stroller) into the black and white mass of human flesh in business suits and for the next five minutes (seemed like eternity) had a life-or-death struggle for air while other people elbowed us and we them.

8:05AM~8:20AM: We exited at a central station, bought the expensive tickets and boarded the bullet train. Lesson learned: when traveling with kids, it might be wiser to just get the more expensive ticket from the first place and save the hustle and time rather than buy cheaper and then go through all the hustle and lose time and at the end buy that expensive ticket anyway.

Two hours passed in comfort and harmony (a.k.a I managed not to lose my mind at the sight of my husband blacked out snoring like a wild boar while I breastfed and tried not to have two little devils scream and cry their souls out). But, jokes aside (not), the bullet train was a pleasant experience, especially as I imagine what could have happened had we taken the regular crowded one instead.

Almost 11 AM: We arrived to the train stop at our fun mid-way destination - a hot springs town in the mountains with 2 small but beautiful FREE hot spring foot baths located at the river and a nearby bamboo forest.

Ok, so the hot springs place and the station are located half hour walk from each other but we are two big lovers of walking. Even with a stroller filled with bags and two kids in our arms. Even in a hot noon of mid summer. Even with a stroller filled with bags, two kids in our arms, in a hot noon of mid summer and when it's pouring rain. And we don't have umbrellas. No problem.

11:30AM: After some time the rain stopped and the sky cleared. I spotted the restaurant of our choice (It's not that easy to find one actually. Has to be non-smoking, kids friendly, big enough to store the stroller somewhere, have reasonable price and reasonably sized dishes, etc, etc, etc.)

 I felt so relieved to see the restaurant. I could already visualize myself sitting down, putting my younger kid on my knees (to give a rest to my aching arms and shoulders and back from carrying him), eating something delicious....ahhh.....and then out of nowhere, five steps before the door, a group of three guys appeared and entered the restaurant. They were exactly one second before us to enter. The hostess welcomed them then turned to us and said "SORRY WE ARE FILLED".
Jackie Chan says DAFUQ
We turned our back and decided to explore the rest of the restaurants packed street. The alternative was to wait two hours for a table and in our situation that would have been ludicrous.

Easier said than done. Every single restaurant on that street turned to be either completely out of our budget, either smoking, kids unfriendly or bankrupt.

From here the really juicy parts begin. Wait for it!

Part 2 to come soon....

In the meantime, have any funny story of how your family vacation turned out? Do share!

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