Osaka – Where to Go, Eat, and Drink

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While in Japan, we made a visit to the island of Honshu to spend time in Osaka. Our visit there was full of sight-seeing and eating (of course). Osaka is known for its happening nightlife and fantastic street food, and I am happy to report that it lived up to its hyped reputation! Think of this as an introduction to all things Osaka.

Osaka Sights to See

A visit to Osaka should be composed of shopping and sightseeing. Luckily, we did both!

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Shinsaibashi – A trip to Osaka is not complete without a visit to Shinsaibashi, which is entertainment central. It is a popular shopping destination known for its many high-end retailers. Additionally, it is home to several restaurants and nightclubs. Now that I’ve visited, it’s easy to see why visitors to this street number about 60,000 on weekdays and about 120,000 on weekends and holidays.

Dotonbori – Another popular entertainment of Osaka, Dotonbori is a colorful area that borders the Dotonbori Canal and is known for its many bright neon lights. It has several restaurants and bars, as well as many street food stalls.

Osaka Castle Park – The main landmark of Osaka is Osaka Castle Park. The centuries-old castle has been rebuilt and renovated many times over. When you tour the castle, you may be surprised by how modern it is inside, but they have retained the history within the castle museum. In addition to the castle, the park is beautiful with an amazing garden and 600 cherry trees.

Osaka Foods to Try

If you have been following along with my Asia travel blog series, then you know the biggest part of all our visits was the food. We love to try new foods, and Osaka is known for serving usual and delicious dishes.

Takoyaki – This is a ball-shaped wheat-based snack you can find at street food stalls that are filled with octopus. Takoyaki is also fondly known as “octopus balls.”

Okonomiyaki – Another popular dish in Osaka is okonomiyaki, which is a pancake made of batter and cabbage that is filled and topped with a variety of ingredients.

Fugu – While we didn’t try it, Osaka does have restaurants that serve Fugu – toxic puffer fish. This is a Japanese delicacy where even the smallest mistake by a chef can prove fatal to the person eating it.

Akari Soba – We enjoyed dining at Akari Soba, which serves delicious soba and tempura. This restaurant is located in the busy area of Dotonbori and made our visit here even better.

Kyoto Tsuruya Sabou – Located in the Hilton Plaza, this dessert café was wonderful! We enjoyed matcha desserts.

Why a Visit to Osaka Must Include an Izakaya

An izakaya is a Japanese bar, and Osaka is covered with them. When in Osaka, you must visit an izakaya to enjoy a sake or a drink. After spending the day shopping in Shinsaibashi, an evening spent in an izakaya is the perfect way to finish out a day filled with fun and food.

How to Fly Singapore Suites for Free and My Time in Singapore Suites

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My recent trip to Asia became a dream come true as soon as I arrived at JFK because I knew I was about to embark on the most luxurious plan trip of my life. My husband and I had booked Singapore Suites through Singapore Airlines. If you have not heard of Singapore Suites before, prepare to be amazed. If you have heard of Singapore Suites and desperately want to enjoy them yourself, I can tell you how you can make it happen.

Why Singapore Suites Should Be On Everyone’s Bucket List

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When you are traveling across the world in a plane for several hours, the last thing you want is to be in a small cramped airplane seat. Even the standard first-class seats just aren’t enough to make a long journey enjoyable. That’s just the start of the beauty of Singapore Suites.

Singapore Suites are luxury suites in the sky – complete with privacy walls and double beds for couples. Think of the most extravagant way to fly – and that’s Singapore Suites. Each spacious suite has a comfortable, plush chair that converts into a bed. Since I traveled with my husband, we booked two suites that allowed us to form a double bed between the two suites.

In addition to the amazing sleep options, the suite is also designed for you to have everything you need to have an amazing flight. Think of the amenity kits you may have received from a different first-class trip – now up them about a hundred. Each suite has a tv with plenty of options, and you have a pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones to enjoy it. Plus, the cabin crew will make you feel like an esteemed guest. We felt like royalty as they served us Dom Perignon champagne and hot towels.

The Finest Dining Experience in the Sky

My readers already know how much I love food, so it should be no surprise that one of the main reasons I believe you should fly Singapore Suites at least once in your life is because it will allow you to eat luxuriously in the sky. A dinner table forms from the center console, which allowed us to enjoy this fine dining in the sky together. And, when I say, “fine dining,” I mean it. Caviar, lobster, and an in-flight wine-sommelier who will suggest wines that work best with your meals and the altitude. Amazing!

Yes – You Can Fly Singapore Suites for FREE

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Now I am sure some of you are reading this have already started to think this is impossible for most people. You’re wrong! You can fly Singapore Suites for free – no lie! By saving up points and miles, you can also enjoy this luxurious flight. Here are some things you need to know if you hope to one day use your points to fly Singapore Suites for free:

  • Singapore Suites are only on the Airbus A380s. In the US, JFK is the only place in the US that operates an A380. (We flew from JFK to Frankfurt to Singapore – a Singapore airline suite route.)

  • You can only use points through Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer Program. This means you cannot use Mileage Plus or Aeroplan miles to book this trip.

  • However, you CAN transfer points from the following reward programs: American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG).

  • These reward points transfer 1:1, with the chance to earn a 5000-mile bonus for transfers over 20,000.

  • Current miles needed range from 76,000 miles to 135,000 miles depending on your route.

  • Because JFK is the only place operating a flight with a Singapore Suites A380, you MUST book your trip as far in advance as possible – especially if you plan to travel with someone else and want to book the suites like ours that can be turned into a double bed.

One final note about this dream flight – We were in the “old” Singapore Suites, which as you can see were incredibly, but there are “new” ones that are even more amazing if you can believe it.

Exploring and Eating Your Way Around Singapore

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Recently, my husband and I went on the trip of a lifetime. We visited several countries in Asia over a few weeks (kid-free!), and it was an experience I will never forget. Because I know traveling abroad can seem overwhelming to some of my readers, I want to share my experience with you. Over the next few blogs, I will be telling you all about my great adventure. I’m hoping my trip will inspire you to take your own!

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We are starting with our visit to Singapore where we did the touristy things but where we mostly ate, ate, ate.

Must See Places to Visit

Singapore is an amazing place with a mesh of cultures and is a beautifully planned city with tropical temperatures year-round. While there is plenty to see and do in Singapore, I want to highlight two of the places we visited in Singapore on our trip that I believe are must-sees for other travelers.

Flower Dome and Cloud Forest

A major tourist attraction and a part of the city’s initiative to turn Singapore into “City in a Garden,” Gardens by the Bay is home to the amazing Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. The Flower Dome is the world’s largest glass greenhouse offering visitors the opportunity to view several different gardens, including an olive grove and a beautiful floral display that changes periodically. It also has a bistro where guests can sit and enjoy the beauty surrounding them. The Cloud Forest is a higher elevation offering mountain views and gardens that will traditionally be found in tropical temperatures. It also features the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. Guests get to walk through the mist-filled Cloud Walk on their journey.

The New Jewel Changi Airport Expansion

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We also visited the newly opened expansion at the Changi Airport called the Jewel. It is a major lifestyle hub with outstanding shopping and dining options. On top of the shopping and dining fun, the Jewel also follows Singapore garden concepts by including a lush forest valley and a waterfall. Get your camera ready when you visit because experts are predicting this will be one of the most Instagrammed spots in the world.

Eat and Eat Some More at Singapore Hawker Centres

One of the main reasons to visit Singapore is to eat. Singapore is foodie heaven. As a tourist, you absolutely must visit the Singapore Hawker Centres, such as the popular Maxwell Food Hawker Centre Market, which are basically like food courts offering guests tons of food options at decent prices. My husband and I pretty much spent our entire time in Singapore eating and talking about food. It was wonderful!

When you visit, be sure to try:

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken - Be prepared to wait to eat here as it is Michelin star-rated. Worth the wait!

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Rojak, Popiah & Cockle – A popular stall offering popiah (fresh spring rolls) and rojak (a crazy delicious tropical fruit and vegetable salad)

Authentic Mun Chee Kee King of Pig's Organ Soup – If you choose to try one of the most popular dishes in Singapore (pig organ soup), you must get it from here!

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Nan Hwa Chang Fish Head Steamboat – One of the oldest fish head steamboat shops in Singapore is another must-visit on your eat-your-way-around-Singapore adventure.

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Kams Roast Goose – When we visited the Jewel at the Changi Airport, we tried the roast goose, and it was amazing! It is a Michelin Star restaurant for a reason!

Ah Chew Dessert – No trip to Singapore is complete without a visit to Ah Chew Dessert. Yum!

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The Must-Have Dish While Visiting Singapore

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While we ate and ate and ate, I have to say the best Singapore dish we had was the classic chili crab at Long Beach Seafood. This seafood dish is stir-fried crab coated in a delicious and savory chili sauce. I’m still thinking about it.

Have I made you hungry? Sorry! Now, I’m off to start finding NYC spots where I can find similar tasting dishes. Wish me luck!

Stay Tuned for Even More Details About My Visit to Singapore!

How I Make Kid-Free Travel Easier for Everyone

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It’s no secret that I love to travel or that I love my girls. It is also not a secret that I strongly believe parents should take kid-free vacations. You can read all my reasons why I am so pro kid-free vacations here. However, I realized that while I have told my readers the importance of heading away with their spouse and leaving the kids behind that I haven’t explained what I do to make it easier.

Mom friends, I am here today to make it easier for you to leave the kids at home. Whether you are worried about the logistics or the guilt, there are a few things you can do that will instantly make you and your kids feel better about your upcoming kid-free vacay.

I Leave Them with People I Trust

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First things first – I always leave my girls with people that I trust. Who these people are is going to be different for everyone, but here are some things that I think make it easier.

  1. Choose people your kids know. It is even better if you choose people your kids love.

  2. These people should know your kids. They should know your kids’ routine and their quirks.

  3. Pick people who will keep them safe but will also help them cope with you being away by filling their days with fun and happiness.

I Prepare Them in Advance

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My girls are old enough now that I can prepare them in advance for an upcoming trip. For example, I put it on the family calendar so they can countdown. I tell them where they will be staying and who they will be staying with. I also tell them the basics of where I am going and how they can reach me if they need me.

I Keep in Touch

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Today’s technology makes it so easy to stay in touch while you are away. You can even keep in touch while you are in the middle of the sea on a cruise! I know some parents worry that if their kids talk to them while they are away, then they will get more upset. This hasn’t been the case for our family. We call them and use video chat to stay in touch. We also send and receive pictures from their caregivers the entire time we are gone.

PS. A good cell phone call makes all the difference –, especially for international travel!

I Leave Them Notes

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I also like to leave my daughters little notes in their luggage for the days while I am away. Just like how I will leave a note in their lunchboxes, these little notes are sweet reminders that mommy is thinking of them even while I am away.

I Buy Them Souvenirs

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Like most moms, when I am away from my girls, I spend countless minutes of my time away thinking of them, looking at pictures on my phone of them, and shopping for them! How can I not, right?! It makes my heart happy to find gifts I know my girls will love while I am away and helps me when I am missing them.

What tricks do you have making travel without kids easier? Let me know in the comments!

Why You Should Take a Vacation Without Your Kids At Least Once a Year

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I’m here today to give you permission to do something that might feel a little crazy. Moms, you need to take a vacation. And not just any vacation. You need to take a kid-free vacation at least once a year.

I’ve heard the excuses. You are too busy. It just isn’t possible to find childcare. You would feel guilty. Enough with the excuses! I’m not saying you have to go somewhere for an entire week or spend a ton of money. But hey, if you can pull that off, go right ahead and don’t feel guilty.

Your kids will survive without you for a couple of days. Plus, you will come back refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to do all the mom stuff without complaint. Think about it. Don’t you always feel a little bit better when you get some downtime? Now just imagine if that downtime was more than fifteen minutes of privacy in your bathroom. You’d be the best mom ever!

Now that we’ve got the whole guilt issue out of the way, let’s talk about all the reasons you should take a vacation without your kids.

To Remember Who You Are

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Being a mom is the best job in the world. But, once upon a time, you were more than “just mom.” Do you remember that lady? While being a mom is going to be your main priority when you are with your kids, something magical happens when you step out of that role for a couple of days. The women you were slowly starts to reemerge!

To Reconnect with Others

For those of you who are married with kids, you no doubt understand the importance of having alone time with your spouse. It is so important to spend time with your spouse without kids to reconnect. While date nights are wonderful, you should also try to sneak away together for a weekend. After 14 years together, I appreciate time away with my man even more.

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Along these same lines, if there is any way possible you can pull off taking a girls trip each year – do it! Getting away with your girlfriends kid-free is good for the soul – and even better for your sanity. Like they say, sometimes talking with our girlfriends is all the therapy we need.

To Have Some Real Rest

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Even though my girls are well past the stage of waking up throughout the night, I still feel like I don’t get as much sleep as I would like. It’s probably because like most moms, my senses are always on alert when my girls are nearby. But, when I travel without my kids, my brain gets a little break, and I can rest easy.

To Have Someone Take Care of You for a Change

Moms are always taking care of others and putting someone else’s needs above their own. I cook, I clean, I work, I tuck my babies in each night, and on and on. It is so nice to stay at a luxury hotel where I don’t have to lift a finger unless I want to. Room service? Maid service? Turn down service? Yes, please!

You Deserve It!

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Being a mom is a tiring, demanding job. You deserve a break! While working moms get vacation days and sick days, your mom job does not come with those off days. That’s why it is so important for you to create those days yourself without feeling guilty about it. We all need time to ourselves to refresh. Without a vacation, employees know their workers will burn out and lose productivity. The same thing goes for parents. Invest in yourself and avoid mom burn out.

Remember, Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Your kids are not going to forget about you while you are away. Instead, it is likely they will miss you and be overjoyed when you are reunited. And, you know what? You will appreciate all their little idiosyncrasies even more.