He will be 3 in a few months so he isn't a young two-year old. He is the kind of little one who wants to do everything for himself even though he can't. He will not sit in a stroller unless he is about to pass out from walking for miles. He is too heavy to carry. He loves yelling and screaming instead of talking in a normal tone of voice. He will run into traffic or in front of a train if he is not physically restrained at all times.
Before we came to Japan I was very lucky to find so many helpful tips on what to do with him while here. I even found an amazing babysitter who was able to come in the evenings and many afternoons so that I could work, get breaks and have time alone with my husband, who was working around the clock for the most part.
First, let me tell you what I had planned for us to do in the two weeks. Mostly it was do something in the morning and let Jacob nap in the afternoon or if I had a babysitter, take him somewhere in the morning and go somewhere alone in the afternoon and then fun dinners at night.
Lego Brick Park
Home visit lunch
Cup Noodles museum
Home visit for lunch
National Children's castle
Home visit for dinner
Museum of Science and History
Tokyo Fire Museum
Takeshimaya dept store
Shinjuku station department stores
Niko Niko park
Tokyo Sea Life Park
Let me describe what it was like to take our very active toddler to Tokyo.
First there was jet lag which meant he was up at 3:45 for 4:45 for the first couple of days. Boy is it hard to start your day that early! Even once he was over jet lag and getting up at a normal time in the morning, at least an hour was spent trying to convince him to get dressed.
Once dressed I would get out the door with him and start our day which involved either getting in a taxi or getting on a number of trains.
I like taking the trains in Japan but it is excruciating with a small child who will not listen. First there is the screaming when you want to hold his hand so he doesn't jump onto the tracks. Then there is the throwing himself on the ground. There is the laying on the ground and rolling around.
It got especially crazy on the trains because he wanted to stand on the seats or run around in the cars or even roll around on the filthy floor. He was always covered in filth by the end of our train trips.
Taxi rides were easier but he often refused to be buckled in and wanted to run around the back of the cab so a lot of our outings were spent with me trying to find ways to physically restrain him while he screamed and tried to kick, hit and bite me.
Toward the end of our trip he took to licking everything. He wanted to lick the glass as he rode up the escalators. He wanted to lick the posts in the road. He wanted to lick us.
I think it might be an understatement to say this travel was very hard on the boy. I found that days when we did nothing more than go to the park by our hotel, have a quick lunch and a nap were easiest on him.
As much as I wanted to show him different stuff for little kids, traveling around was hard on him and he took it out on everyone around him.
If I knew of some way to put him in a pre-school environment every day I'm certain that would have been the best thing for him because he would have had friends, toys and a regular schedule.
So if you have to travel to Tokyo with a toddler, do get a babysitter or set your child up with some kind of daycare situation so he can have a simple daily experience with toys and playing to counteract the total unfamiliarity of a new language and a foreign place.
If you have to be with your toddler the whole time, plan to take a nap in the afternoon with him. You will need it.
Either way, plan to go to bed early every night. You will need your strength!
If your child will use a stroller, bring a stroller!! I would have loved to have one - it would have made our entire trip different because there was a great deal we could have walked to but the few times I tried to walk around with him were entirely spent trying to keep him from getting run over which meant having to carry him kicking and screaming.
Also, and I read this beforehand but didn't really listen, bring snacks from home. Our boy will eat anything so I didn't think food would be an issue and sure enough he loved the food in Tokyo but he was homesick for everything and could only express that by saying over and over the list of people he missed and asking for goldfish crackers. I should have brought goldfish crackers. I did bring a huge bag of cheerioes and he ate them every day until they were gone. On the other hand, we found some fun Japanese snacks that he loves and that might not have happened if I'd brought a bunch of goldfish crackers.
I found great babysitters through the Tokyo Mother's Group - http://www.tokyomothersgroup.com/apps/auth/signup
And I loved meeting wonderful people through Nagomi visit http://www.nagomivisit.com/ and The Global Families http://www.theglobalfamilies.com/
Nagomi visit lets you sign up to eat lunch or dinner in someone's house. You say where and when and people apply to host you. We did that three times and each experience was really wonderful. However it isn't for the faint of heart. It was so challenging to bring our son to people's homes since he basically tried to destroy everything and beat up their kids and steal their kids' toys. It was unbelievably stressful and embarrassing but the people who hosted us were so nice and I'm so happy we did that. It would be great to do with older kids for sure.
The Global Families might be a better option because you just meet up with people but I liked doing both things and would do both again.
I'd love to hear other people's stories about traveling internationally with a toddler. I guess I should start interviewing people. The pictures alone would make a hilarious book.
Here are some of Jacob's "I just can't" pictures, but I didn't get the most exciting ones of him licking things or kicking me or beating up other little kids.
You can't exactly tell that hundreds of people are going by in Shinagawa station where Jacob just parked it.
One of the escalators he surely licked.
A very crowded train with no room - he is sitting on my feet.
I briefly pondered what would happen if I just got off the train...
Licking the floor of train.
I realize these pictures don't even come close to capturing the screaming and chaos and exhaustion that toddler wrangling is...