12 Days of Christmas|Day 7- Holiday Travel Tips|2018

I can’t believe we’re already at Day 7 and less than two weeks away from Christmas! As this post is going up, I’m in an Uber on the way to LAX ready to hop on a plane and head back to see my family for the holidays. Since traveling is something that almost everyone does during the holidays in one way or another, I thought I would share my holiday travel guide/tips for today’s post. I’ve done some other “travel tips” posts in the past (be sure to check those out!), but this one will be my updated one specifically for the holidays. Enjoy and happy traveling! xx

 

Preparation/planning:

– As we all know flights during the holiday season book up SO early and quickly, so be sure to get those tickets booked far in advance (or as soon as you are able to nail down dates).

– Check different airlines and airports for the best deals and times. This is something that’s good to do any time you’re planning a trip, but especially during a time when everyone is trying to go everywhere. You might find better deals at a smaller airport or with an airline you don’t normally fly with.

– Leave early enough so you give yourself PLENTY of time at the airport. While traffic may not be your biggest concern, driving into the airport and getting checked-in, through immigration and security can be an absolute nightmare during the holidays.

– If you have the means to do so, get TSA pre-check. It will save you so much hassle and time at the airport. You don’t have to worry about taking off your boots and sweaters and taking out your laptops and tablets, which can make a really stressful situation just a little less stressful.

– Get all of your travel documents together and organized using a travel organizer. I always have a passport case/cover (I’m obsessed with the Kate Spade ones), which I keep my passport and boarding pass in, but I’ve also started using a travel organizer to keep my flight confirmation, check-in documents and all those other things. I’m not naturally a very organized/neat person, so having a case where I know all of my important things are prevents me from having to desperately rifle through my bag looking for my boarding pass.

 

Airport chaos:

– Have a portable phone charger and extra cords. Chances are you’ll be spending a lot of time in waiting around in lines and you’ll most likely whip out your phone to pass the time. There’s nothing worse than traveling or being on a flight and realizing your phones about to die. Be prepared, have portables and chargers with adapters so you can charge your phone wherever and whenever you need to.

– Don’t waste time or money on airport food. I know this is common knowledge, but seriously. The number of times I’ve dropped insane amounts of money inside the airport on food is crazy. Try to be prepared and have food/snacks with you so you don’t end up waiting in long lines or spending $15 on a small sandwich. Also try to have some healthy snacks for the flight as well (veggie sticks in a little baggie is so easy).

– Check in online and get a digital copy of your boarding pass, if possible. These days a lot of airlines allow you to not only check-in, but check your bags in and get your boarding pass on your phone. If you’re given the option to do this, do it! It’s going to save you so much time at the airport, especially during the holidays when everybody is going somewhere.

– Give yourself enough time. I’ve always been one of those people who wants/needs a lot of time at the airport. I’d much rather sit there and be bored than end up missing my flight. Especially during the busiest travel time of the year, you never know what’s going to get you held up. So be prepared and get there with plenty of time.

 

On the flight:

– Have a change of clothes (top, pants, undies and all). You really never know what’s going to happen when you’re traveling but I would hate to be in a situation where something spills on you or maybe you leak a little (ladies…) and you having nothing to change into. I also just like having a extra clothes on longer flights/trips to change into half way so I don’t feel so gross.

– Have all your favorite shows, music and movies downloaded on your computer, iPad or iPhone. The night before a flight I always make sure that everything I’m going to want on the plane is downloaded so I don’t have to worry about it the next day. I forgot to do that the night before once and tried doing it at the airport, but the s****y airport wifi was not having it. Do it ahead of time and you’ll be glad you did.

– Have a pillow or blanket and a neck pillow and eye mask. Seriously, it’s the best thing ever. I love having my own pillow or blanket with me on the plane (as annoying as it may be to carry around) because it helps me feel comfy and safe. And as far as the neck pillow and eye mask go, it’s just a must-have. You don’t want to fall asleep on a flight only to wake up unable to move your neck, it’s awful. And since you can’t control the lights on the flight an eye mask will help you sleep at any time.

– This is one of my golden rules of traveling, but HYDRATE. I can’t emphasize this enough, when you’re up in the sky with the air circulating throughout the cabin you get so dehydrated. Not only do you want to be drinking a ton of water (but seriously though, like a ton), you also want to make sure you have moisturizer and face lotion easily accessible.

 

Happy traveling, see you for Day 8! xx

Missing Home- SG Shotz

Happy Thursday loves!! Being back in LA for my sophomore year of college, it’s really hit me how much I miss Asia and Singapore. I knew I was going to miss it, but I had no idea how much. So for today’s post, I thought it would be fun to put together a small collection of my absolute favorite photos of my beautiful home. If you’re looking for some SG travel inspo, I have it right here for you!

Travel Wishlist- Where I Wanna Go

What’s the number one place you want to visit right now? I get asked that question all the time and it’s so hard because the answer is: EVERYWHERE. I would love to not have to worry about school or working or money and just travel the world experience all the different cultures. But since that’s not reasonable, I thought I would sit and put together the 5 places that are at the top of my travel bucket list right now. What do you think of my list? What’s on your list?

*All photos courtesy of Creative Commons*

1. New York City, USA- NYC, I don’t even know what to say. Everything from the yellow taxis, the bright lights of Times Square and the quaintness of Central Park draws me to the city. I could get lost looking at pictures of New York for hours dreaming of everything I would do when I finally get to go. And it would be even better if it were Christmas. The tree at Rockefeller Center, hot chocolate at Serendipity (just like the movie!!) and New Years Eve in Times Square, ugh it would be so magical!

2. Sydney, Australia- I honestly don’t know how I lived in Singapore for over 18 years and never visited Australia, but it’s very high up on my wishlist. Not sure what it is, but I always just get such a chill/relaxed vibe from Sydney and the people seem so incredible warm and welcoming! And the growing food scene doesn’t hurt either.

 

3. Sicily, Rome and Amalfi, Italy- Isn’t this pretty much a staple on everyones bucket list? If I could spend a chunk of time exploring every single city in Italy I think I would die. But these three cities are the top three on my list for sure. I’m so intrigued by the contrast of the bustling city of Rome and the pure, calm, breathtaking Amalfi Coast. And then I would just love to move to Sicily and live on a winery and eat all the seafood I want all day.

4. New Orleans, USA- New Orleans is definitely a recent addition to my list, but it’s so intriguing to me. Obviously it would be amazing to go during Mardi Gras, but any time would be incredible. The atmosphere just seems to laid back yet fun and old school funky. I would love to stroll through the French Quarter and spend the afternoon eating beignets at Cafe du Monde.

5. Island Hopping in Greece- Although I’ve been to Athens and the island of Sifnos, I’d love to go back and just spend time on a bunch of different islands. I love everything about Greece, the food, the people, the scenery, the oceans, it’s spectacular. The dream is to spend a month island hopping and spending the evenings sipping on wine and gorging on spanakopita and baklava. Wouldn’t that be amazing!

Life Through A Lens #25- SUMMER 2018

In-Flight Essentials

Here I am, once again, getting ready for another trip. This one is a little different since my family is leaving Singapore after over two decades to start a new adventure in Tokyo. As I’ve been preparing for this trip, I’ve been trying to think of what I want to have with me to make the trip as comfortable as possible. Usually I love flying, but this time I’m prepared to be overwhelmed with emotion as we are saying goodbye to the only home my sister and I have ever known. With that, I decided to put together a little “must-haves” for the flight. These are some of the things that make me feel safe and luxurious on a flight. I’ve done a lot of other travel posts before, so be sure to check those out by typing “travel” in the search bar. Hope you enjoy this post and comment some of your favorite in-flight essentials down below!

1. Phone Charger- Starting off pretty basic, but I always carry around a phone charger with me. Whether I plug it in while waiting to board my flight or charge my phone while actually on the plane, having a fully charged phone always makes me feel more comfortable knowing that I can reach somebody at any time. And plus, with all that free time there is lots of game playing, social media scrolling and other things that are eating up all your battery.

2. Water- I always have a water bottle with me on the plane whether it’s a plastic one or one that I’ve brought with me. When you fly, you get extremely dehydrated so it’s very important to drink more water than normal. Don’t be afraid to ask the airline staff to fill it up for you or to bring you some water. I always say I’d rather have to go to the bathroom multiple times during a flight than get off the plane with a massive headache.

3. Face Masks- Along with your body getting dehydrated on flights, so does your skin. The cabin re-circulates oxygen through the air making your skin breakout prone. One way to avoid walking off the plane with a new friend on your face is to use the time on the flight to do a face mask. I know it may sound crazy to be sitting there with stuff all over your face, but your skin will thank you at the end of the long journey.

4. Lavender Oil- This is actually something I always carry with me, but especially so on the plane. My mom got into essential oils a while back and I’ve finally caught on as well. I’ve been constantly amazed at the power of Lavender. It does everything from prevent bruising to stopping a bad bleed or even clearing up a zit. I also like to add a drop or too to my moisturizer if I need a little extra hydration. This is one thing I always find myself reaching for when I’m on a flight and I’m always glad that I have it.

5. iPad & Netflix- I think that downloads on Netflix is arguably one of the best things to ever happen. I have always carried around my iPad while I’m traveling so that I could watch a movie I’d purchased or read a book, but now I always download as many TV shows and movies as I can before getting on a flight. I love watching documentaries comedies on flights because they’re light, funny and entertaining, as opposed to watching a thriller or a horror (I could never do that). Some of my favorites for a plane ride are Mean Girls, Bridesmaids, CrossFit Games documentaries Full (and Fuller) House, Friends, and Queer Eye.

5. Wet Wipes- This is something I’ve more recently started doing, but I always have wet wipes when I travel so that I can wipe down my seat, the TV screen, the remote, the tray table and the arm rests. I can’t believe I haven’t always done this, but if you really stop and think about all the people who’ve touched those things and the germs that are on there, it’s pretty gross. So I always make sure to wipe things down the second I get to my seat. And with me being a bit of a klutz, I always find myself in need of a wet wipe.

6. Neck Pillow & Eye Mask- My parents got me a neck pillow and eye mask set from Victoria’s Secret about 5 years ago and I’ve had it with me on almost every flight since. I always find that using a neck pillow is a lot more comfortable than leaning your head all the way back on the seat or leaning it to the side. You don’t want to wake up after sleeping on a flight without being able to move your neck. As for the eye mask, it’s the best thing ever. You don’t have control over the lighting on the plane, so it does wonders when you want to take a quick nap while all the lights are still on.

7. Toothbrush and Mouthwash- I always always always have to have a toothbrush and mouthwash (and tons of gum) with me on flights, especially if it’s a longer flight or one with a layover. First of all, I’m super big on oral hygiene, and I always feel like having that minty flavor in your mouth just helps me feel a lot more fresh and put together overall. And if you’re on an overnight flight you still need to stick to your routine and brush your teeth and do all that jazz before dozing off.

8. Makeup Basics- I’m not one to wear a full face of makeup on a flight (or any at all), but I do love having a little bit of the basics to smack on right before I get off the flight. It helps me feel alive and human after being a zombie on a flight. And if I have friends or family picking me up at the airport, I feel like having a little bit of makeup on makes me look more presentable and like I made an effort for them. The basics I like to keep with me are eyebrow products, concealer, mascara and a tinted lip balm.

9. Dry Shampoo- One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to beauty is oily hair, I absolutely cannot stand it. And for some reason every time I get on a flight, whether it’s short or long, I always walk off with oily roots. So to combat that I always carry around a mini sized Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak dry shampoo just to spritz in my hair right before getting off the plane. I love it and the smell is also amazing.

10. Snacks!!- If there’s one thing I will always have with me no matter what, it’s a ton of snacks. After getting sick from airplane food five years ago, I’ve had a really bad aversion to it and almost never eat it. So I have to make sure I’m stocked with snacks of all kinds to keep me going. I love having healthy snacks with me like pretzels and hummus, dried fruit, protein bars, and trail mix, but I also let myself splurge a little bit when I’m on the flight with a bag of chips or some chocolate or candy, just to feel like I’m treating myself a little bit.

I hope you all enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Happy traveling!!

Phuket Travel Diary

Living in Singapore, long weekends would typically consist of a quick trip to paradise, Phuket. Going about once a year for a while, it’s become one of our home away from homes. After our last trip, I decided it was finally time to sit down and share all the things I love about Phuket with all of you. I will leave all the links down below and hope you venture out to this little gem of an island in South East Asia!

Hotel:

After staying at a bunch of different hotels and resorts, we finally found our favorite and go-to place to stay: Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort. While it is about an hour drive from the airport, the resort sits only ten minutes away from the downtown area (Patong and Karon) making it super easy to get around. The resort is sprawled out over a huge piece of property with it’s own private beach, tennis courts, an amazing spa, two tropical pool, multiple eateries/bars and stunning, comfortable rooms. While the rooms may be a little older than others, they’ve been kept really well and feel modern with a vintage twist. The private beach is only a few steps away from the pool area and are lined with lounge chairs and bean bags, while crystal blue water and really clean sand. They offer a range of water activities from jet skiing to kayaking and surfing. In the middle of the day when you’re looking for a quick bite, you can just head over to Ton Son out by the pool to order anything from Thai to Italian and American. You can also head over there for before-dinner drinks where they offer classic cocktails as well as tropical/Thai cocktails. One of my favorite things at the hotel was the energizing shots they had at breakfast. Every morning they had a couple different kinds to really get your body working and wake you up. My favorite was the watermelon-chili shot which was just to die for. And what’s a trip to the beach without some relaxing time at the spa? Le Spa offers different treatments from massages to scrubs and facials, all beach and tropical themed. Our time at Le Meridien is always made even better by the super friendly and helpful staff. We absolutely LOVE staying at Le Meridien and cannot wait to spend more nights there.

Food:

Like I mentioned above, the food at the hotel is not like any others. It’s very different and authentic, but still really good. However, I love spending time around Patong and Karon exploring other places to have meals. One of our all time favorites is Eat. Bar & Grill in Karon. Priding themselves on incredible service and hearty, rustic food, the little bar/restaurant serves burgers, steaks and other unique dishes. After going there four times over our past two trips, I’ve had some of my favorite dishes there. Some that I would recommend are the burger and fries, the chateaubriand (steak), the beef tartare, the lobster cappuccino, and most importantly the mojito bucket (5 servings of a mojito in one big bucket, photo below). This year we also went to Baan Rim Pa, which is one of the only “fine dining” restaurants in Phuket serving authentic Thai food. We had the chicken and crab Thai dumplings, grilled eggplant salad, minced pork with noodle crackers, green curry with chicken and stir-fried morning glory, and a really good passion fruit mojito. The food was all really good and some of the best Thai food I’d ever had (and I’ve had a lot of Thai food). Other than those two places, we also love going to different seafood restaurants along the water front and trying different dishes. As most of you know, my family LOVES food and one reason we love going back to Phuket so often is because of the huge variety of amazing restaurants to chose from.

Getting Around:

While you can have your hotel arrange a car/transport for you, one way I love to get around is by taking a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk is motorcycle powered vehicle with seating for passengers attached to it. They’re commonly found around South East Asia and are open air. I love driving back to our hotel at night after dinner with the wind blowing through my hair and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore in the background. Depending on where you flag one down, a 10-15 minute drive can be anywhere from 10-12 SGD, which may seem a bit pricy but is normally much less than having your hotel arrange transport for you. If you are around Patong or Kata beach, it’s really easy to walk around. Whether you’re beach hopping or looking around the market, I always say that walking around is one of the best ways to explore a new destination. And the excitement of Phuket nightlife makes the evening a lot more fun and interesting.

What I Wore:

When I go to the beach, my absolute must-have is a ton of bikinis. I love mixing solids with solids and solids with prints from different brands. Some of my favorites for bikinis are Cotton On, Victoria’s Secret (now Pink), She In and Hollister (and Jolyn for suits that won’t budge). I don’t like wearing the same suit more than once a trip (I know, I’m a snob), so I love having variety in my suitcase. In addition to suits, I wear all different kinds of cover-ups and summery rompers and dresses that work at both the beach and a casual meal out. For sunglasses, I personally don’t love wearing nice/high-end glasses at the beach because I love spending time in the water and body surfing waves so I’m always paranoid that I’m going to lose a nice pair. I typically have a couple cheap pairs of Cotton On sunglasses that are perfect for the setting and look bomb in all those insta photos. For a more in-depth look, check out my summer beauty post (linked below)!

I always love a good beach getaway, and Phuket is the perfect destination for a stress-free and relaxing weekend away. Have you been to Phuket? If so, what’s your favorite thing to do there? If you haven’t what’s your favorite beach getaway destination? Comment down below!

I hope you all enjoyed this post, and I will talk to you soon!

Hotel:

Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort

Restaurants:

Eat. Bar & Grill

Baan Rim Pa

Airline:

Scoot

Other:

My Summer Beauty Post

Life Through A Lens #24- SUMMER AT HOME

Top 10 Travel Tips: Part 2

About a year ago I posted my first Top 10 Travel Tips blog filled with lots of little hacks and tips to make traveling just a little bit easier. Today, in honor of summer and vacation season coming up, I’m going to do part 2 of my travel tips!

I hope you find these useful useful for your next trip:) Comment down below where your next adventure is taking you!

1. HYDRATE! This is mainly for actual plane ride, but of course hydration is always key. When you’re flying, the oxygen is being recirculated throughout the cabin, and the moisture in the air is extremely limited. Be sure to carry around a water bottle (make sure it’s empty when you go through security!!) to make it easy to continuously drink water. Hydrating your body is great, but don’t forget about your skin. Take the time on the plan to stick on a hydrating mask (my favorites are linked below) and load up on lotion. You’ll walk off the plane feeling fresh and hydrated.

2. Make good use of document holders and passport cases. I used to think it was so dorky when my parents used cases to hold all their travel documents in, but as I began to travel more and more on my own I realized how useful it is to have everything together and in one place. I also love using passport covers (maybe it’s because I have the absolute CUTEST Kate Spade one:) because it makes it so easy to find in your bag, and I’ve found that it reduces the risk of misplacing it (or the fear of losing it).

3. Learn a few basic phrases in the other language. You say “hello”, “goodbye” and “thank you” to the people in your life at home, so why not spend 5 minutes learning the phrases to show appreciation to all the people who make your trip easy and comfortable (“where is the bathroom” may come in handy too:).

4. Relax. Vacations can be a bit of a stressful time, but don’t forget to take some time to just sit there and enjoy the beauty around you. There’s nothing wrong with jam-packing your days with activities, but there’s also nothing wrong with just sitting on the balcony of your room or lounging by the pool and doing absolutely nothing, it is a vacation after all.

5. Use a travel website. Companies like Hopper are great for finding and tracking low-price tickets to your desired destination. I haven’t personally used it yet, but two of my friends used Hopper to find their tickets to come visit me in Singapore and it worked great. Super user-friendly and definitely gets you the best deal in town.

6. Carry around cash. In today’s day and age, it’s easy to rely on your credit card for everything, but remember that not every place you will go will accept cards. Make sure to convert some money at the airport to carry around just in case. It’s nice to be able to pay for small purchases or tip the people that help you with cash.

7. I had this one in my first post, but I’m going to say it again: PICTURES! I’ve heard a lot of people speak out against taking tons of pictures on trips because you should be “in the moment”, but I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to capture as many moment as possible. Not only can you share it with your friends and family, but it’s also a memory for you. You can look back on the photos 5, 10, 20 years from then and remember all about your trip.

8. Take public transportation. Not only will you save heaps of money, but you’ll also get your body moving and get to explore local life. Hopping in an Uber may be easy, but your missing out on so much. Taking public transportation forces you to walk around (move your body everyday, right?) and see so many things and places that you may have missed out on if you just hailed a cab.

9. Talk to locals. Getting to know the people is the best way to learn more about the place. Ask them what their favorite thing to do it or where their favorite place to eat is. You will find so many hidden gems that no travel website would lead you to. We have found some amazing little spots and eateries that the locals have led us to. Don’t be afraid to ask around and to step out of your comfort zone, that’s what traveling is all about!

10. Watch the sunrise. Get up early and watch the sun come up. Early mornings may sound grueling, but they don’t have to be. Grab a cup of coffee and appreciate the morning. No matter where you are in the world, the sun will always rise. Appreciate the beauty of that.

“Top 10 Travel Tips” Post: https://swimeatlove.com/2017/03/18/top-10-travel-tips/

Links:

Hydrating Face Mask (perfect for the plane): https://www.sephora.com/product/sleeping-mask-P398102?skuId=1668615&icid2=products%20grid:p398102

Kate Spade Passport Cases: https://www.katespade.com/accessories/travel-accessories/

Basic Phrases in Other Languages (website with many languages): https://www.infoplease.com/common-english-phrases-translated-other-languages

Hopper: https://www.hopper.com/

Travel Must-Haves

It’s getting to the time of year where a lot of us are getting ready to jet off on another adventure. Whether it’s to the beach or to explore a new city, traveling can be excited, but also a bit stressful. Today I thought I would share my travel “must-haves” for vacations. I hope you find some of these things helpful, and let me know if I’ve missed anything that you have on your list. I’ll also link my “top 10 travel tips” post down below. Happy traveling!

Beach Getaway:

1. The first thing I always have to have for a beach trip is an array of cute bikinis. I love my suits and can’t stand to wear the same suit two days in a row (that’s just me though, haha!). One our beach vacations, we spend almost the whole day laying out by the pool or the beach, which means that we’re in our bikinis for a majority of the day. If you are going to be in the ocean, make sure the suits you bring stay on well and don’t fall off. The absolute WORST thing is having to spend the whole day hiking your bikini top up because it keeps slipping down.

2. Another must for a vacation in the sun is sun screen. I used to hate sun screen because I thought it kept me from getting tan, but I quickly learned that using sun screen isn’t only protective for your skin and health, but it actually helps you get a nice even tan that lasts. In addition to sun protection, make sure to pack some aloe vera or coconut oil to use as after sun care.

3. Bring sunglasses and hats! If you’re going to be out in the heat all day, you’re going to want to have different ways to keep your body cool (you do not want to deal with heat stroke on a vacation…not fun!). Look for cute hats and visors to slip on when you need to cool down, and make sure you have sunglasses on anytime you’re in the sun. Sun damage to you eyes is a real thing.

4. If you’re going to be lying on the beach all day, bring some entertainment. Whether it’s a coloring book, a fun group game app or a ball, we love having things to do when we want to get up and moving or just use our minds a little bit.

5. In addition to bikinis, I always have to have cute cover ups with me. I usually wear my bikini around all day (literally put it on right after I wake up), so having a cover up is easy to slip on whenever I need it.

 

City Exploration:

1. Outfits that fit the city. One thing you have to be careful about is making sure that what you wear is respectful of the culture or religion of the place you’re visiting. Some places don’t like women in shorts or showing your shoulders. Be aware and respectful. Dressing modest doesn’t have to be boring!

2. When I’m on a city vacation, I typically do A LOT of walking, so I always make sure I have comfy shoes on. They don’t always have to be sneakers or closed shoes, there are plenty of sandals that are super comfy to walk in. Find what works for you.

3. I’m a blogger and instagrammer, so this one is obvious for me: a camera. Some people think that it’s better to enjoy the views than to be behind the lens, but I say do both! It’s so fun for me to capture moments to share with others and as memories for me. I love going back through photos from old trips to remember all the beauty of the world.

Any trip!:

1. One thing I always have to make sure I pack for a trip is my workout clothes and shoes. I used to go on trips all the time without workout clothes, and used it as an excuse to not workout. Now, I always always always have my stuff ready to go so that I don’t have an excuse to skip a day of sweating. Even though you may not have a lot of time or space to get a workout in, you have to make it a priority. I’ll link my post about staying fit on the road if you need some inspiration!

2. A map (or virtual map) of the country or city you’re visiting. I love taking a little bit of time to look at the area I’m going to be visiting on a map, and also looking at a close up map to see all the places I wanna go/visit while I’m there. It gives me a better understanding of the kind of place I’m going to be in, and helps me plan out the activities for each day.

3. Toiletries! No matter how far away I’m going or how long I’m staying anywhere, if I’m going to be overnight anywhere in the world, I have to have all of my toiletries. This includes my skin care, my toothbrush/paste and floss, and everything else. It gives me piece of mind to know that I won’t be changing anything about my routines just because I’m away.

 

‘Top 10 Travel Tips’ Post: https://swimeatlove.com/2017/03/18/top-10-travel-tips/

‘Staying Fit on the Road’ Post: https://swimeatlove.com/2017/07/12/fitgirllife-staying-fit-on-the-road/

TOKYO Travel Guide

Hello everyone and happy Thursday! Today’s post is going to be all of my favorite/recommended things to do in Tokyo. I grew up visiting Tokyo at least once a year (sometimes twice), and it has quickly become my home away from home. When I was younger, I didn’t really appreciate all the amazing city had to offer, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown more and more in love. There’s so much to do, so much to eat and so many places to go, but this is my little guide to spending time in Tokyo!

Food:

  • Crepes at Takeshita-dori, Harajuku- This first one is pretty basic, but it’s always a must for me when I’m in Tokyo. Walking down the chaotic Takeshita street, there are tons of little creperies selling crepes of all kinds. In the summer when it’s hot and I’m ready for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, I love getting a crepe to share with my family as a sweet treat.
  • Kohmen, Shibuya/Harajuku- I don’t think many people have ever visited Tokyo without having an amazing bowl of Ramen, it’s a staple. But with so many options, it can be hard to settle on one place to go. One of my family’s favorites is Kohmen, located in a small alley in the backstreets of Harajuku. My favorite ramen to get there is the ‘tan-tan men’ (ramen in a spicy peanut sauce). During the summers, they have a ‘hiyashi’ (cold) tan-tan men, which is everything I want on a hot summer day. In the winter, the hot tan-tan men is the best way to warm myself up.
  • Tiger Gyoza, Shibuya- My parents have been going to Tiger Gyoza for a long time, and we all just love it. While they do have regular sized gyoza, they also have giant gyozas (just like the name). And along with the normal gyozas, they also have funky fillings like lamb served with an amazing coriander sauce.
  • Tenkaippin, Meguro- Another one of my new ramen favorites is Tenkaippin in Meguro. It opened just about a year ago, and is SO good. They have loads of condiments and choices for your ramen, but nothing too fancy. Sometimes just a simple, heart bowl of ramen is all you really need.
  • Aponte, Ebisu/Meguro- My dad discovered Aponte a few years ago, and it’s quickly become one of our Tokyo favorites. Right by the Ebisu train station, it’s a tiny little place run by just a few young guys (they run the bar, kitchen and front of house). The kitchen is open and creates a really cool space for the chefs to talk with the customers. The place only has a few tables, and the rest are counter seats. They specialize in seasonal pastas, pizzas and mains, and have incredible desserts. HIGHLY recommend checking this place out next time you’re in Tokyo.
  • Anmitsu at Azabusado or Tatsutano- I’ve never been one to have much of a sweet tooth, but I love Japanese sweets/desserts because they tend to not be too sweet. Anmitsu is shaved ice with matcha syrup, anko (red bean) and shiratama (small mochi balls), just a whole lot of deliciousness.

Kohmen website: https://www.kohmen.com/

Kohmen TripAdvisorhttps://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g1066456-d1688885-Reviews-Komen_Harajuku-Shibuya_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

Tiger Gyoza Trip Advisorhttps://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g1066456-d8024519-Reviews-Tiger_Gyoza_Hall_Udagawacho-Shibuya_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

Tenkaippin websitehttp://www.tenkaippin.co.jp/

Tenkaippin TripAdvisorhttps://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g1066854-d1660242-Reviews-Tenkaippin_Meguroten-Shinagawa_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

Aponte TripAdvisorhttps://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g1066450-d4674051-Reviews-Aponte-Meguro_Tokyo_Tokyo_Prefecture_Kanto.html

Shopping:

  • Backstreets of Shibuya- My absolute favorite place to shop in Tokyo is the backstreets of Shibuya. While a lot of people are drawn to the famous crossing (so am I, as you’ll read later), I love exploring the areas behind it. There’s Seibu, a huge Forever 21 and H&M, a Donquijote, and lot’s of little, small boutique stores. You’ll still get the crowds and the chaos, but a little more relaxed.
  • Karuizawa- Just a 60 minute bullet train ride from Tokyo Station, Karuizawa is a small town with a huge outlet mall right next to the station. From Kate Spade to Coach to Le Creuset, there are over 100 stores to shop at. Just on the other side of the station, you’ll find a quaint little neighborhood filled with vintage stores and onsens (bath houses). At the end of the day, there’s a whole strip of restaurants to eat at before heading back to Tokyo. If you want to spend the night, there are tons of little ryokans and hotels around the area. We stayed at the Karuizawa Prince Hotel for a few nights, and it was beautiful!
  • Takeshita-dori, Harajuku- I know this is pretty much on every list of things to do in Tokyo, but I couldn’t help but put it on here. As touristy as it may be, I just love the chaos and excitement of this street. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been here, but every time I go I find a new store or eatery that I end up falling in love with. If you want to see the peak of the craziness, go on a Sunday afternoon. If you want it to be a little more chill, try to go on Monday-Thursday mornings.
  • Roppongi Hills- Roppongi Hills is a huge shopping area/mall filled with tons of eateries and higher end stores. While I prefer the Shibuya-type shopping, I know my family loves spending time here (and I like going for the food:). It’s a really pretty half indoor, half outdoor area that we could easily spend half a day at.

Karuizawa Prince Shopping Plaza (Outlets): http://www.karuizawa-psp.jp/en

Karuizawa Prince Hotelhttp://www.princehotels.com/karuizawa-east/

Landmarks:

  • Shibuya Crossing- As mentioned above, I love the Shibuya Crossing. No matter how many times I go, I am always so amazed at what I like to call the “organized chaos”. The mix of local businessmen and tourists is always so cool to see, and the giant billboards and loud sounds always takes my breath away. If you are ever in Tokyo, going to the crossing is an absolute MUST DO.
  • Asakusa, Senso-ji temple- The huge red temple in the middle of Asakusa is stunning and beautiful, but the areas ans streets around it are just as amazing. A perfect morning is walking through the temple, and them strolling around the back streets before heading back into the city for the day.
  • Meiji-Jingu, Harajuku- If you aren’t able to make it out to Asakusa to see the Senso-ji temple, just hop over to Meiji-Jingu in Harajuku and walk around the area. The rock-lined walkway to the temple is a peaceful and beautiful walk, and is the perfect weekend afternoon activity.