Travelling with toddlers in Taiwan & Japan

In late January, Mr. T, Baby T1.0, Baby T2.0 and I, along with my parents, my brother and his wife went back to Taiwan to visit our relatives. About 4 years ago we went to Japan with Baby T1.0 before he turned 2 (Mrs. T was pregnant with Baby T2.0 at that time) and we thoroughly enjoyed that trip. So during our visit to Taiwan, we decided to take a side trip to Japan to maximize our time in Asia.

Flying with toddlers

Since their births, both of our kids have flown many times, including a few trips to Denmark, a trip to Texas, and a trip to Hawaii. Now Baby T1.0 is five and Baby T2.0 is almost three and can entertain themselves on the flight, flying for an extended period of time is getting easier and easier.

We are very thankful that the two kids behaved very well on all the flights for our Asia trip. To make the flying experience enjoyable for everyone, we utilized a few tips that we learned over hte years.

  • Have a small backpack for each kid. Have each kid pick out one or two toys they can play with on the plane. Also, pack a drawing book and some pencil crayons.
  • If kids want to sleep on the flight, let them sleep. It’s far worse to have to fight with them and try to get them to stay awake. You can worry about jet lag when you get to the destination.
  • Have a few videos (like Paw Patrol, PJ Masks, etc) available on your smartphone or tablet in case there’s no back seat entertainment system on the plane.
  • Pack a few healthy snacks. Don’t just rely on snacks from the airline.
  • Have an emergency/backup plan. For us, both kids really like the Lego Junior Create & Cruise game so we usually have the game installed on my phone before any plane rides and can use it as a last resort. Ideally, we try to avoid having the kids playing on our smartphone.

Visiting Taichung

For the first part of the trip, we went to Taichung to visit relatives from my dad’s side. Because we didn’t have any cars, we relied on public transportation to get around the city. Interestingly enough, for trips less than 10 km, Taichung buses were free with an EasyCard (can be used for all public transportation in Taiwan). Since most of our trips were pretty close to our hotel, we spent $0 on fares when we were in Taichung.

We took a very slow pace for the 4 days we were in Taichung and didn’t visit many tourist attractions. We visited Taichung’s National Museum of Natural Science one of the days. Both kids were able to run around in the museum and burned off some energy. Unfortunately, the museum was more geared toward older kids as there weren’t too many things you could touch and play. The highlight of that day was our lunch. While trying to find a place to have lunch, Mrs. T noticed a shop with a very long lineup. Upon a closer look, the shop had been around for over 35 years and sold Taiwanese pastries. A giant lunch for the 4 of us with some fruit tea drinks from Yi Fang (一芳) cost less than $10 CAD. Awesome!

Yum yum!

When we weren’t spending time with my relatives, we took the kids to Folklore Park where they enjoyed exploring the Taiwanese traditional architecture and various historical artifacts. I had to wear my tour guide hat and explained to them and Mrs. T about the architecture features.

Both kids check out the old traditional Taiwanese house

We had a big family dinner at a fancy restaurant the last night in Taichung. In 2012 we had a big family with 24 people and all we sat at a giant round table together (the table was HUGE!). This time, we had 34 people and couldn’t all fit together at one table anymore. So we had to split the group and sat at 3 different tables.

The giant table for our family dinner in 2012
Menu from the family dinner. 11 dishes in total. So much food!

The dinner was quite good and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much dinner cost. It cost $30,000 NTD or about $1,250 CAD. That’s about $37 CAD per person. If we had this kind of dinner in Vancouver, it could have easily cost at least double that price (or maybe even triple).

Here are some more pictures from Taichung.

Miyahara (宮原眼科), an iconic cafe in Taichung that sells bubble tea, ice cream, and confections
What Miyahara looks like inside. It looks more like a bookstore than a cafe.
fancy chocolates from Miyahara
I thought these are vinyls but were actually tea

Visiting Japan

After Taichung, we flew to Osaka and stayed there for 6 nights. Since all of us have been to Japan multiple times, we felt we could stay in Osaka for the entire duration of the visit and check out some of the lesser known tourist attractions nearby.

The key reason to visit Japan was for the food. Lucky for us, Osaka was known as the food capital of Japan and we ended up eating a lot of sushi, ramen, gyoza, and various Japanese food.

Exploring Dotonbori

Dotonbori district is a popular area and boasts a number of well-known restaurants. We visited Dotonbori last time we were in Osaka but decided to visit again for the food. Since there were a lot of gigantic signs in Dontobori, both kids really enjoyed visiting this popular area. Baby T1.0 especially liked the 2 Spiderman figures outside of one of the restaurants.

The famous billboards in Dotonbori
Giant signs like these made it easy to know what the shops were selling
Takoyaki…yum yum yum. And I found some of Mr. Tako’s relatives. Sorry they ended up in my stomach.
Kushikatsu Daruma. No double dipping into the secret sauce!
Enjoying revolving sushi
I have no idea why there are 2 Spiderman figures at this beef restaurant but it sure got the kids really excited.

Tailoring activities to kids

Before arriving in Japan, we had planned for a day trip to Kyoto. Other than that, we didn’t have specific plans or things we must see. We decided to let the kids (well mostly Baby T1.0) decide what they wanted to do. We thought this could help to avoid some temper tantrums. For example, one night we discussed with the kids about going to Osaka aquarium the next day. Both kids were very excited. However, the next day during breakfast Baby T1.0 declared that he didn’t want to go to the aquarium. Instead of arguing with him and forcing him to go to the aquarium, we asked what he wanted to do instead. He told us that he wanted to play at a playground. Knowing there was a big playground by Osaka Castle, we took the kids there and they ended up spending almost 3 hours there. Crisis & temper tantrum avoided and we all had a great time as a family.

In case you’re traveling with young kids, here are some places in Osaka that we found were great for toddlers/kids:

  • Kids Plaza Osaka. This was an excellent place for younger kids as we ended up spending the whole day in this amazing kids museum. There were lots of things for the kids to touch and play with. Baby T1.0 particular liked the Kids Plaza TV station where he got to become the news anchor. Unlike some of the kids museums that we’ve been in North America, Kids Plaza Osaka had adult supervisors throughout the museum to make sure things were kept in order. At first, I didn’t like the “orderly” idea (just let the kids play, I thought), but later Mrs. T and I came to appreciate the supervision as exhibits were kept in great shape and things weren’t missing.
  • Osaka Castle. Both kids enjoyed exploring the castle (we told them they could find ninja and samurai). What we particularly liked was the area around the castle since both kids were able to run around. There was also a big playground area called Osaka Castle playground equipment square by Morinomiya Station. As mentioned, we ended up spending almost 3 hours there and both kids must have gone down the 3 storey slide at least 150 times each.
  • Ogimachi Park playground. We discovered this playground when we went to Kids Plaza. There were a handful of slides and kids climbing walls that kept both Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0 busy for a few hours.
  • In addition to Dotonbori, we found both Kuromon Ichiba market and Tenjimbashisuji shopping street to be great for young kids. There were tons of different shops to check out and kept the kids entertained

Here are some more pictures from Japan:

A kids only grocery store in Kids Plaza Osaka. There were groups of kindergarten/grade 1 students in the museum that day.
Baby T1.0 being a hair stylist
Walking around in Kyoto
Arashiyama Bridge in Kyoto
Walking around in Kyoto with a passed out toddler. She’s getting heavy to carry around!
Sushi lunch
We walked by a cat cafe and decided to check it out
Enjoying the famous Pablo cheesecake
Seafood shop in Kuromon Ichiba market
Walking around in Osaka

Visiting Taipei

After Osaka, we went back to Taiwan and spent 3 days in Taipei. We met up with relatives from my mom’s side and meals together. Unlike Taichung, there was no free public transportation in Taipei. But fares were much cheaper in Taipei than Osaka.

We stayed in Marriott Taipei and were upgrade to a suite due to my elite status. When we walked into the room, there were only couches and a table. I decided to pull a prank and told the kids in a disappointed voice that we didn’t have any beds for the hotel room. I told them that we had to sleep on the floor. I then pointed out the storage compartment by the TV and joked that Baby T2.0 could sleep in there. To my surprise, she actually went in, lied in the compartment, then complained that it was too hard. Mrs. T and I had a good laugh.

The suite living room. Baby T2.0 went into one of the compartments below the TV. (Pics from Marriott)

When we walked around the corner of the living room to discover the bathroom, then the bedroom, both kids were quick to declare that the room was HUGE and it was the best hotel room ever. Having stayed in the same type of suite in Taipei Marriott a few times by myself, I’d say it was way better staying in a suite with the family than by myself.

Fancy bathroom (Pics from Marriott)
A massive king sized bed that could fit all 4 of us. (Pics from Marriott)

While in Taipei, we tried many different Taiwanese cuisines like braised pork rice, beef noodle, oyster omelet, bubble tea, tian bu la, ba wan, stinky tofu, xiaolongbao, fish ball soup, mochi, etc. Best of all, these dishes were very cheap, usually less than $3 CAD. In comparison, these dishes would easily cost over $10 CAD plus taxes in Vancouver.

Some places in Taipei that the kids really enjoyed:

  • Martyrs’ Shrine (忠烈祠). Armed Forces took turns to guard the shrine. The key attraction was the hourly change of guards. Because of the way the guards marched and performed drills with their guns, both kids really enjoyed it. They even tried copying how the guards were marching.

  • Taipei 101’s observation deck. Both kids ran around the observation deck and thought looking down at the small buildings surrounding Taipei 101 was very interesting. They also enjoyed posing with the Taipei 101 Damper Babies.
  • Eating at Din Tai Fung was definitely one of the highlights of our trip in Taipei. We ordered both savoury and sweet xiaolongbao. Mrs. T and the kids particularly liked the chocolate
    xiaolongbao.
  • Raohe Night Market & Songshan Ciyou Temple were both a hit. It was neat for me to check out the temple and see all the architecture details. The night market was very interesting in the sense that we got to try many different types of street food.

Here are some pictures from Taipei:

Stinky tofu! It wasn’t as stinky as I remembered.
Din Tai Fung… yum yum!
Ceiling in the temple. Lots of details.

Some Random Thoughts

I’m happy to report that travelling to Taiwan and Japan with two toddlers was relatively easy. We just had to take a slower pace and discuss with both kids on what they’d like to see and eat. Family collaborations went a long way, we were able to avoid some temper tantrums, and a great time as a family.

I’ll wrap up this long post with a few random thoughts about our trip to Taiwan & Japan and travelling with two toddlers.

  • We did a lot of walking in both countries but especially when we were in Osaka. One day my Fitbit showed that I took over 20,000 steps. Neither kids complained about walking that day (they must have walked more than 20k steps). We didn’t bring an umbrella stroller, so Baby T2.0 had to walk all by herself (and Baby T1.0 too). At almost 3 years old, we were amazed that for the majority of the trip she didn’t complain about walking long distances every day.
  • The 4 of us managed to pack everything in 1 suitcase weighing less than 23kg. I thought that was a major accomplishment. Gotta thank the Marie Kondo folding method!
  • In terms of whether Japan is expensive or not. Well, housing and transportation are on par with many high cost living North American cities like Vancouver and New York, but I found it was easy to find cheap food if you stick with typical Japanese food like ramen, sushi, soba, tempura, etc. Of course, just like any city, you can find some really high-end restaurants if you look for them.
  • On the other hand, cost of living is much lower in Taiwan. The 4 of us had some really good non-fast-food meals for less than $10 CAD. This is simply not possible in Canada. The Canadian dollar certainly goes a long way in Taiwan.
  • I would love to go back to Japan and Taiwan in the near future and explore each country a bit more. For Japan I’d love to go to Nagano or Hokkaido in the winter time and ski there. I’d love to explore the eastern part of Taiwan Mrs. T and both kids.

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Joe
    February 25, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Great pictures! You guys had an awesome time. That’s a great family trip to remember.
    It looks like there is a lot of kid stuff to do. In Thailand, there weren’t many places geared for kids.
    The hotel room looks very luxurious, nice.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2019 at 9:57 am

      Thanks Joe. It was a great time but traveling back and forth between Japan and Taiwan as well back and forth between hotels and various attractions took a toll on the kids. Simply too many transitions and we faced some temper tantrums because of that.

  • Reply
    Snugfortune
    February 25, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Since a long time I have a wish to visit Japan. I haven’t managed it yet. But this report increases my desire to make it happen. A lot of inspiration here. I would also love to try all that delicious food 🙂
    Thanks for sharing these insights!
    Cheers
    Alex

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2019 at 6:37 pm

      Japan is pretty amazing. One of my favourite countries to visit. 🙂

  • Reply
    Chris @ Mindful Explorer
    February 25, 2019 at 4:28 pm

    Wow , what an incredible looking trip Bob. Looks like an interesting mix of history, culture, touristy activities and beautiful outdoor locations.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 25, 2019 at 6:38 pm

      Thank you Chris. We had a lot of fun in Taiwan and Japan. 🙂

  • Reply
    piggy
    February 25, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Oh, Japan and Taiwan are my two favourite countries in Asia. I am from Singapore. I love Japan for their exquisite and expensive products, and love Taiwan for their tasty, affordable food and everything. Taiwan is like a copy of Japan at an affordable price (though as I understand not too affordable for the locals there as their purchasing power isn’t that high). I like Taipei because you can get and see everything there without having to travel to other parts of Taiwan. I am looking forward to my Japan trip next year during cherry blossoms!!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 26, 2019 at 10:56 am

      Haven’t been to Singapore yet, would love to go there one day. You’re right, Taiwan has great food but at a much more affordable price. 🙂

      • Reply
        Piggy
        February 26, 2019 at 5:16 pm

        You probably need 4-5 days in SG 🙂 SG is an expensive city, but you will love the cheap and affordable hawker food. :))

        • Reply
          Tawcan
          February 27, 2019 at 12:14 pm

          Thank you, will keep that in mind when we visit Singapore. I guess you can hop over to the nearby countries when you’re in Singapore too. 🙂

  • Reply
    Mr. Tako
    February 25, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    Oh man, that looks like a great trip! Osaka is one of my favorite towns in Japan. Tons of great food, and quite affordable too! If you go with western style hotels it can be a little expensive in the city, but minshuku just outside the city can be downright cheap (like $25-$50/night)

    One place our kids really liked was Spa world. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g298566-d320973-Reviews-SpaWorld-Osaka_Osaka_Prefecture_Kinki.html

    It’s part waterpark, part onsen! Great place to relax after a long day of walking, and still lots of fun for the kids.

    Thanks for all the great pics! I’m missing all the good food in Japan right now!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 26, 2019 at 11:00 am

      Ahh will have to see about staying outside the city next time. We didn’t check out Spa world, next time for sure. 🙂

  • Reply
    Buy, Hold Long
    February 26, 2019 at 3:30 am

    Awesome pictures, thanks for sharing! My brother must have been over there and visited the same places as you. How crazy is that timing. Thanks for sharing mate, love it.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 26, 2019 at 11:03 am

      Well Japan and Taiwan are big and densely populated countries. Wouldn’t be surprised that friends of mine were in Osaka and Taiwan at the same time. 🙂

  • Reply
    Travelin'Dad
    February 27, 2019 at 6:39 pm

    Wow, awesome post and pics! That Din Tai Fung looks tasty. I’ll definitely remember to refer back to these destination tips of yours if we ever get the kids over to Taiwan or Japan. I’ve found the same is true for walking – our kiddos can walk amazing distances without complaint, assuming we remember to feed and water them once in a while.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      February 28, 2019 at 4:36 pm

      Thank you, Din Tai Fung is really tasty but not cheap. 🙁

  • Reply
    Wealthy Content
    March 4, 2019 at 3:17 am

    Awesome pics and well done Bob. As ours are the same age I understand the courage it took to undertake such a “touring” approach. All the best and keep it up!

  • Reply
    DivvyDad
    March 14, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    That hotel room in Taipei looks amazing, and the pictures from each destination are great! Happy to hear that you guys had a great trip, and it sounds like your flexible approach worked out great. I haven’t been to Osaka for a couple of years and miss all of that great food. One of the few touristy things I did there was visit Osaka Castle and I spent a good bit of time there enjoying the grounds. Thanks for sharing your trip!

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