Journy Traveler Sarah Pace On Her Family Reunion (With Toddlers!) In Japan

First time in Japan, with two toddlers, AND on a family reunion? We had to know how it went.

By Jacqueline Parisi

12 December 2019

There are a whole slew of reasons why travelers turn to Journy for help planning their trips. Lack of time is a BIG one (who has 10-30+ hours to spend digging through review sites?), as is the desire to travel deeper. Because think about it—even if you do have the time to plan, you're probably reading the same "10 things you MUST do in [insert city here]" articles that everyone else is reading. And who wants to be constantly surrounded by tourists on their well-deserved vacation? Didn't think so.

And then there are travelers like Sarah Pace who, yes, do want to save time and travel more meaningfully, but also have the added challenge of traveling with young children. And for all of you out there who have done it, you know that it's the farthest thing from easy. From planning around nap time, to making sure restaurants have high chairs and museums room for your stroller, there are countless small things to worry about that can have a BIG impact on your experience.

That's where Journy comes in. Because every itinerary is built 100% from scratch, we tailor everything to your specific needs, tastes, preferences, budget...the whole nine yards. But don't just take our word for it. Hear from Sarah herself, who recently returned from a whirlwind family reunion in Japan.

Why Japan? What made you want to travel there?

My husband is 1/2 Japanese and 1/2 Iranian, and has been may times before.  He wanted to share his ancestral home with me and our two daughters.  His father is Japanese and his mother is Iranian—and unfortunately the current political regulations prohibit his mother (and all Iranians) from entering the United States (and reciprocal for Americans visiting Iran), so we meet them in other countries once a year so that they can see their grandchildren.  This year it made sense for us to go to Japan to see his family there.  

My brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and niece joined us for Kyoto and Shirahama, along with my father-in-law and mother-in-law.  In Kyoto, some of my husband’s cousins joined us and acted as our tour guides/hosts.  In Shirahama, we were constantly surrounded by local aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Sarah Pace

Was this your first time visiting or had you been before? What cities did you visit?  

This was my first time! We started with three days in Tokyo, then three days in Kyoto, lastly five days in Shirahama, which is near my husband’s family in Tanabe.

What was it like working with your trip designer, Sarah, to build the itinerary?

Sarah was great and kept the process easy. I explained to her the occasion, that I need more fluid suggestions rather than a set itinerary, particularly for restaurant suggestions, because we were not sure what family members would be joining us during the planning process.  I also explained that we have two toddlers (three if you include my niece) that require kid-friendly activities, restaurants, and nap time! She was surprisingly creative and accommodating with her suggestions and it worked out really well! I already had a lot of sites I knew I wanted to see, and she came up with a logical and efficient way of fitting it all in.

READ MORE: A Guide To Tokyo With Kids

What would you recommend for future family travelers to Japan? Any tips? Dos and dont’s?

Japan is extremely family-friendly, but they do expect your child to be well behaved. Even though your child will be accommodated with their own special “junior chair” and kids' table settings (often Hello Kitty), they rarely have kids' menus.  Even my children, who have been raised on sushi, curry, and stir fry, reached their breaking point when they needed to have French fries—which required an after-dinner visit to McDonalds! Know your kids limits and respect them. But my children loved it and ask everyday to come back.  

Sarah Pace

What surprised you most about Japan?

There is a dichotomy between ancient history and techy/flashy modernness existing all at once. Serious reverence and plain silliness!

What was the highlight of your trip?

Everything about Kyoto was amazing. My daughter’s favorite was the free-ranging Monkey Park at Arashiyama. My favorite was seeing The Yasaka Shrine at night with hundreds and hundreds of lanterns.

READ MORE: A Guide To Kyoto With Kids

Yasaka Shrine | Sarah Pace

Interested in hearing from more Japan Journyers? Meet Sukhjeet Batth, who traveled to Japan with his 16-month-old (!!!) and Jasmine Nobis-Olson, who took a trip to Japan with her husband for one very important reason: food.

Sarah Pace