I’m always looking for new ideas for taking Pacific Northwest vacations. And even though it may come as a surprise for those who know me, I’m actually an introvert at heart. With my smile and energetic laugh, most people would peg me as an extrovert. But as bubbly as my personality is, it’s sometimes hard for me to meet new people.
This year, though, I’ve been trying to branch out and meet more people in the travel blogging world. I think it’s a great way to make connections within the community, and the perfect opportunity to get some travel tips. The first person I reached out to was one of my connections on Twitter, Terumi, writer for the blog, “An Emerald City Life.” She’s a great resource for ideas about Pacific Northwest vacations.
Chatting about Pacific Northwest vacations with Terumi
To be honest, I was a bit nervous to meet Terumi. I’ve been following her on Twitter and Instagram for a while now, and love all the pictures she posts about her adventures around the Emerald City. Being a much more established blogger than me, I thought it would be a long shot to meet up with her, but she responded right away, and we agreed to meet at Moore Coffee in downtown Seattle, next to the Moore Theater.
We chatted over coffee, and Terumi was quite candid about her experiences taking Pacific Northwest vacations with her kids. Here’s a peek at our conversation.
You seem to do a lot of Pacific Northwest vacations with your family. And you also travel to other places around the world. What do you like best about traveling with your family?
I get bored with everyday life. Usually I’ll see something on Instagram, or somewhere online, and it will make me think of some where I want to go. It could be some little coffee shop or animal experience, or I wonder about where something comes from.
Like, for Hong Kong, I’m wondering where tea comes from. So, I want to see where it actually comes from before it gets to my house.
Do you do research before you travel about the places you’re going to go to?
I’m a little bit more spontaneous. It all depends. For one of our trips to Iceland, the airline switched some of our flights, so we ended up in Copenhagen. So then we thought, “Okay, we’ll try Copenhagen.”
I like that every place has something to offer. So you just look and see what interests you.
Do you use any apps or things you use to figure out what’s there?
I use Expedia for booking. I look for a cancel-able hotel just in case. Whenever I book my flights, I book my hotel, and that may not be the hotel that I end up with. Sometimes I might do Airbnb or something else later on.
And then I look for locals. There’s enough bloggers in every place. You can contact someone there, and ask them what they like to do here, what they do on an every day basis. You can follow people on Instagram so that you can kind of get a feel for everyday life.
What is your general philosophy when it comes to Pacific Northwest vacations and family travel in general?
I think my kids need to see everything, otherwise they won’t love everything. That’s kind of how they learn. I have boys, so I was worried that they might not like things. Girls are taught, “Oh, you have to like this, you have to do this.” At least that’s how I grew up. But then when I notice how boys are being raised, it’s a lot more of, “Oh, they like to fight, they like to do adventure things.” I don’t want my kids doing adventure things all the time, and I think a lot of the things I enjoyed doing growing up, they would also appreciate.
So what I focus a lot on is animals. When I taught middle school, sometimes the appreciation wasn’t there when it came to animals, especially among the young men that I was working with. So I thought, well, we could start our travels with talking about the animals that come from the place. So, a focus on conservation.
You talk a little bit about understanding the local culture. Do you do any kind of cultural excursions or exchanges, or is it more of an ad hoc, walking around the city?
It kind of depends on where we go. We try and go where people go in the city. We try and figure out what people like. When we’re in a café, we ask, “Oh, what do you like to eat for breakfast?” Or when you check into the hotel, you ask the people there. I think the more you talk to people the more you find out. Usually I find out if there’s a cute coffee shop, there’s usually other things around that neighborhood where you can see things. Some of the things I like are usually near other things I like.
We haven’t done homestays, but when we go to visit places, if we have family or friends in the area, we’ll go and bug them and ask, “what do you guys do?” Sometimes it can just be a question of “tell me where to go.” Sometimes we’ll meet up, and sometimes we won’t. That’s as close to cultural exchange as I’ll go.
Because I read so many blogs, I forget about guidebooks. I just borrowed a bunch of them at the library. Why don’t we use these anymore? They’re so valuable. That’s something I always forget. Sometimes I go out and I buy everything, but then I think, “okay, you can also just rent them.”
Where have been some of your favorite places to visit with your kids? And what is it about those places that you liked?
Costa Rica was one of our neatest places. I really love sloths, so my husband found this place called the Toucan Rescue Ranch. It was kind of like that movie, “We Bought a Zoo.” My kids were only four, and we just had a really good time. We got to see the animals at night and collect eggs in the morning. And the owners there were just lovely people. It made me connect with the area, they helped us figure out our rental car, they helped us figure out where to go for eating. And they helped us feed the animals. I like that.
I also like taking my kids to see their roots, like visiting their great grandmother in Japan. That’s a little piece of who they are, and the trip lets them have a chance to know that piece.
So you write a lot about your Pacific Northwest vacations and your travel experiences with your boys in in your blog. What have been some of the challenges of traveling with your kids, and how has it evolved as they have gotten older?
When they were little, we used to think that we’d only be able to go from here to Hawaii and back. That was a safe couple of hour flight. But even then, toilet training was an interesting adventure. At one of the hotels, my kids peed in a plant in the lobby.
Right now we’re trying to figure out in Asia there are hotels that only fit families of three, and not families of four. So it’s hard to find hotels that have enough rooms for four people. On airplanes one time, they thought the milk that I brought had bomb stuff. You know, getting searched.
But the same kinds of things would happen if I was at my house, like the meltdowns. So it’s never a reason not to travel, it’s just scarier when you’re away.
Do your kids do well with jetlag?
Sometimes. Coming back from a trip, I always push through. You put them to bed, and even if it’s three in the morning when they wake up you say, “the day is starting!”
I remember we screwed up one time. We were in Japan and we thought that we would visit Tsukiji Market. But we picked the wrong day that they were closed. So my kids woke up at four in the morning, and when we got there it was closed, so I thought, “Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?” So we put them in the bathtub and let them play.
So you had a bit of flexibility or a backup plan. I feel like that’s the most important thing when you travel, because a lot of things don’t usually turn out the way you plan.
You can only choose a couple of things you really want to do. Anything else is icing. If I don’t get to see it, I can come back later without my kids.
So this leads to my next question. Sometimes as parents we tend to put our needs before our own. How do you balance your own travel needs with your family’s travel needs?
I don’t know. In Seattle, if they want to go on a bike ride, I pick a restaurant that they can bike ride too. Or a coffee shop, or a store. So you pick the things they want to do, and meld it with what you want to do. So it’s a little bit of compromise.If you get memberships to places, sometimes they get reciprocals.
The Pacific Science Center has good reciprocal benefits, so if you’re traveling in the United States, I don’t have to pay entrance fees to some of the museums we’ve gone to. So then it’s not like, “I paid thirty bucks for this, so we better stay the whole day.” It’s more like, “you guys get an hour here, and then we’ll go somewhere else.”
Making a commitment to connect with other bloggers
Terumi and I talked for a bit longer about Pacific Northwest vacations and travel. We exchanged stories and commiserating about the pitfalls and successes of traveling with kids. I had such a great time talking with Terumi. In fact, it felt like we were two old friends just chatting about our lives here in Seattle, which was what I wanted out of this meeting. It was nice to know that I’m not the only one trying to figure out how to balance travel with raising a family.
After meeting Terumi, I have some more ideas percolating in my head on how to meet other travel bloggers, to get their take on Pacific Northwest vacations and beyond.
I’m planning on attending the Women in Travel Summit coming up in March in Irvine, CA. It’s a gathering of women travelers around the world, and will surely be a great opportunity for me to learn more about the travel industry as well as connect with other like-minded women.
I can’t want to attend and share about my experiences with all of you. And in the mean time, I’ll continue to follow “An Emerald City Life” for more great Pacific Northwest vacations and travel stories!
Don’t miss out on my latest tool, the Overseas Family Vacation Checklist. Click here to receive your free copy and subscribe to my newsletter.