Iwakuni is a small, rural town but just 30 minutes outside of the base, tucked into the mountains, is one of the largest international sake breweries in the world! You can find Dassai sake in over 18 different countries – including a new brewery opening in New York! We had the opportunity to tour the brewery and do a tasting of four of their best selling sakes. It is incredible to see the care and attention to detail required throughout the process.
If you told me a few years ago that I would be traveling internationally…alone…with a baby, I wouldn’t have believed you. But Barrett is about to go on his sixth international flight and he isn’t even one year old yet! Each flight, I learn a new tip or trick (usually the hard way!) and each time it gets easier. While flying alone with an infant can be challenging, it is totally manageable and more than worth it! The biggest trick – take advantage of the options they offer to make your life easier!
- Request the bassinet: If I had to pick my number one travel tip, this would be it! The bassinet attaches to the wall of the bulkhead and is a little crib for the baby. It is an absolute lifesaver, especially when traveling alone. Barrett is great at sleeping in the bassinet but he will also lay there and play with a toy while I grab a diaper, mix a bottle, or eat my meal. You can call the airline to request a bassinet in advance and I may or may not have cried in the Tokyo airport to get one
- Request an assistant: Japan is amazing to us. I’ve said this so many times but it is the truth. I called our airline to let them know that I would be traveling alone with an infant and when I arrived in Tokyo, a sweet lady was waiting for me. She lifted my bags at baggage claim, carried them to the bus, rode to bus with me to transfer between Haneda and Narita, and then checked my bags in for the next flight. It was amazing! Nothing like this was available to me in New York but it was a huge help in Tokyo.
- Request baby food and diapers: Did you know that you can call ahead and request baby food and diapers? I totally did not until I saw another mom on the flight get a package from the flight attendant. The long leg back to America is 13 hours – my bag is so much lighter when I don’t have to pack 13 hours worth of baby food and diapers!
- Dress your baby in pajamas: I’m all about cute clothes but on the flight, you are only going to want to deal with zippered pjs. The bathrooms are small, the changing tables are tiny, and it just so much easier!
- Pack extra clothes (for you too!): On our flight to New Zealand, I was feeding Barrett during takeoff and he immediately threw up all over me. I mean allllll over me. Of course, I had no spare clothes for myself and ended up wearing Rob’s patagonia the entire flight. Lesson learned there!
- Stay incredibly organized: I pack everything in packing cubes. Even my carry on. Diapers and wipes in one. Bottles and formula in another. Toys and 43987502 extra pacifiers just in case. Change of clothes, burp clothes, etc. When you have a baby on the verge of screaming, the last thing you want to do is dig through a hectic bag for one specific item. I put our tickets, passports, my wallet, etc in a thin purse on the side of my carry on bag and pack my normal purse/diaper bag in my checked bag.
- Baby wear: On the plane, off the plane, through security…wearing Barrett in the Ergo and having my hands free is so helpful. Unless I have an extremely long layover, I check my stroller (in its bag! totally worth the money!) at the beginning and don’t mess with it. In Japan, they have strollers that you can use while in the airport. (Get with it America – this is so helpful!) When B was small enough, I would also carry on my Dock A Tot so that he could lay in there at the gate and in the sky lounges. Flying with a baby was extremely intimidating but B has turned out to be our favorite travel buddy!
The weekend following my brother’s wedding, we celebrated Rob’s sister Erin’s wedding in Charleston. It was wonderful to see so much family on both sides, two weekends in a row, before heading home. Now we are just counting down until Erin and Andy come visit us in Japan!
Wedding photos by Catherine Ann
My sweet little Japan-born baby made his first trip across the ocean to America! While Rob was on the MEU, we traveled to the United States to spend a few months with family. It was the best decision ever! We attended three weddings, visited four states, and got to introduce Barrett to all the people we love. It’s not the most relaxing flying internationally alone with a baby…but it is totally manageable and beyond worth it! We spent most of our trip with my parents in Pittsburgh but also were able to travel a bit! In May, we reunited with Rob in Sedona and celebrated my brother’s wedding. Wedding photos by Sincerely Photos
Just 3.5 hours south of Iwakuni is Japan’s 6th largest city, Fukuoka, and our new favorite place for a weekend road trip. I’ve been to Fukuoka several times for shopping (Hello, Ikea!), but this was our first overnight trip as a family and we loved it! It’s such a good mix of old and new. We were able to explore several temples and shrines, including the Nanzoin Temple. This temple is home to the largest reclining buddha in all of Japan and is quite a sight to see!
Fukuoka also totally lived up to the foodie hype. As tonkatsu ramen originates from Fukuoka, a huge steaming bowl was obviously our first stop. We also found great coffee everywhere and enjoyed an amazing brunch at Bill’s. I normally love to travel via shinkansen but I have to admit, I was grateful we drove. The drive is beautiful and the rest stops along the San’yo (expressway) are incredibly nice. We love to stop (multiple times!) for road snacks along the way and even found Pinkberry fro-yo at one stop!