Seoul, Korea with a Toddler

You'll have to forgive me for this photo heavy post but I think it will give you a far better understanding of our trip than anything I could possibly write.  In short, we ate and shopped our way around Seoul, Korea.  As far as I can tell, that is about as an authentic way to see this city as possible - I regret nothing!

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As the post title implies, we took Aggie with us (of course!). The thought of taking a toddler on a 18+ hour flight seemed to horrify most people but there is no question having her there made the trip all the more fun.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't looking forward to the flight but it turned out perfectly fine - she played mostly happily for the flight there and slept nearly the entire way back.  She adjusted to the time change around the same time as we did both going and coming. In other words, I had worried over nothing.

We decided to stay a little bit outside the city center at hotel called The Classic 500 which is located in the very busy area around Honkik University. Plenty of activity surrounded us but we were a little bit out of the way for the more popular markets and tourist attractions. We rented a one bedroom which allowed us to have baby snacks in the fridge and put Aggie to bed at a decent hour while we could still stay up and enjoy the evening in the living room.  The apartment was huge and gave us lots of space to run around. Having the extra space more than made up for a few extra minutes on the subway everyday.

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Once we got settled in, we quickly learned that Koreans love children.  We didn't go anywhere without people stopping to give Aggie a treat or take photos with her.  One woman gave her money and refused to take it back. It was crazy in the most fun and welcoming way possible.  As a result, we experienced a side of Seoul we would have never even guessed if we had been there as a twosome.

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One of the more fun things about Seoul is that the locals are snack masters.  We couldn't go a few feet without stumbling upon a small bite of something that was absolutely delicious.  And we tried a lot!  These little breakfast egg cakes served on street carts throughout the city were my favorite.

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We spent a lot of time in the open markets.  The shopping is so incredibly plentiful and excellent. Especially for children's clothes and shoes - the quality was high, prices not outrageous and the fashion unbeatable. (Sadly, Im far too gigantic to fit into any women's fashion there but if you are petite, this is the place to be for women's shopping) My favorite market was definitely Namdaemun as it was large, easy to navigate and had some of the best shopping and food.  Since we only use one suitcase between the 3 of us, I had to resist buying Aggie a whole wardrobe here.

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Another highlight of the trip was Noryangjin Fish Market.  I was concerned it might be a bit difficult to navigate with a stroller but it was just fine (and there were several other families with strollers there too).  After being wow'd by the sheer size of this place and deciding what to feast on, you get walked to a restaurant that will cook whatever you just purchased.  The tourist specialty is eating a live octopus which of course we did and loved it.  It's really not as bad as it sounds.  Also had some great sea urchin and crab.  Yum!

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Seoul is a huge city by any standard but has an excellent subway system that took us everywhere we wanted to go.  We spent lots of time walking around and riding the rails.

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As a special treat we took Aggie to Pororo Park - the indoor theme play space hosted by Korea's most famous penguin.  To say that Aggie loved it would be an understatement.  She literally ran around with extreme delight to every attraction and couldn't get enough. It was a great way to burn off some energy while we got the joys of playing with her. We had so much fun we went twice during this trip. Highly recommend it!

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Not to be forgotten is our visit to a cat cafe.  There are quite a few dotted around the city but we went to one near our hotel - Godabang Cat Cafe.  Lots of fun playing with all these adorable kitties. I was worried it might be dirty or smell but my fears were unfounded - these cats are very well cared for and the cafe was spotless.  We were surrounded by locals who were clearly regulars who loved these cats!

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The one thing we didn't do is go on a DMZ tour. Sadly there is a strict age restriction if you want to see the most interesting parts and Aggie is about a decade away from meeting it.  I guess we'll have no choice but to return to this great city!

All too soon it was time to pack up and get back on the plane.  Until our next adventure!

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20 comments:

  1. .........eating a LIVE octopus?!?! I have so many questions!!!

    love how much you all travel and have some serious envy of Aggie's passport already! I know you have done posts before about how you travel, but what about the financial aspect? How do you budget/plan for these trips? Any tips on when to buy tickets?

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    1. Thanks Courtney.

      We are crazy mile people - as in we only fly one airline alliance (even if it means more connections or some other inconvenience) and we hoard miles like crazy (yes, we are that person buying a pack of gum with a credit card for miles). So on a trip like this - where the airfare is very expensive - we generally plan way ahead of time and secure a seat using miles. You have to plan ahead b/c there are only a few seats on every flight available using miles so if you don't book way in advance, there is never any availability. Case in point, we already have 2 trips planned for next year. Because we know our travel plans pretty well in advance, it makes it easier to budget for everything else as well because we know that expense is coming up.

      In this case, American was flying a new route from Dallas to Korea so we bought our tickets because the price was so good but that situation is pretty rare.

      Generally speaking the majority of our trip expense is hotel - which is part of the reason why I love going to Asia. You can stay in the most amazing places for very reasonable rates. And the food it cheap too!

      (Note how I'm saying we? That is really unfair b/c its my husband who does all the work on the miles thing. I do all of the trip research in terms of hotels and attractions but without him, we would never even get there!)

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  2. Love these photos! My mom's whole side of the family still lives in Seoul, and I've always wanted to visit. Well, I should say that I want to go back, because there is photo proof that I was there as an infant - but no memories tied to it!

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    1. You totally should go - its a great place to explore. Im sure it would be even more amazing if I had family there.

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  3. Gorgeous pictures! They definitely took me back to the year we lived in Korea (pre-baby). I can't wait to take my daughter there one day.

    It is the friendliest and safest place I've ever been.

    I both sympathize and empathize with you on not fitting into all the amazing Korean clothes. There is actually a store in Itaewon called "Bigtoria" that sells clothes for size six and up. So ridiculous!

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    1. Oh i wish I had known about Bigtoria! Although if size 6 is considered big, they might not fit my XL self anyway. Its such a shame b/c they have the most fabulous things there.

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  4. I'd stop and take a photo of Aggie too - she's so adorable! Love seeing your family travel adventures. A cat cafe, live octopus - I'd love to go on a trip like that.

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  5. She is so lucky you guys are taking her on these trips! I think it is the BEST education any of us can get. And man, she is a CUTE kid! I can see why everyone wanted to take pictures of her. :-)

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    1. Thanks!

      While I'm sure she wont remember a thing about Korea, I'd like to think seeing other parts of the world seeps into her personality somewhere :)

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  6. I know this is mostly a home blog, but I just wanted to pop in and say that I totally dig the glimpses into your parenting style. My husband and I have been together for 12 years and are starting to think about the prospect of kids (we're slow) and I just love your approach to parenting - or at least what you've shown on the blog so far. I have so many friends with <2 year olds who "won't" eat anything but very specific foods, and who won't even take a weekend roadtrip because they deem it impossible with kids. You give me hope at maintaining our love for travel with kids, and also raising chill, non-picky eaters! You guys may have just lucked out with an awesome kid, but I have to think the baby-led weaning, traveling since she was young, etc. had something to do with it.

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    1. Thanks Julie.

      I'm not sure how much credit we can take for any of it vs. just lucking out with a mostly happy kid.

      But as you may know, we were together for 16 years before we had Agatha. Everyone told us we wont be able to travel once we have a baby. And while we certainly travel differently now, its completely ridiculous for anyone to say you can't do it. Or that its not as fun. Like with all things, if its a priority for you, you do it.

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  7. Great photos! It looks like you all had so much fun.

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  8. Did Aggie travel as a lap child or in her own seat? I'd love to hear your pros/cons of both ways, especially on these long flights.

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    1. She traveled as a lap child for this flight. Since she will be required to have her own seat next year, we took the opportunity to save the $ here.

      In terms of pro/cons, it definitely depends on the age of the child. When they are very little (or if you happen to have a really clingy kid), having their own seat is only useful to have more room for your stuff since you will end up holding them for the entire flight anyway. But at this age - when she is much more independent and can watch a movie, sleep for long periods without being held, eat a meal mostly independently etc. - having her own seat would be handy. Obviously the con is that its quite a substantial additional expense for a long flight.

      Last year we took a few flights where she had her own seat and it was definitely a nice luxury but not worth the expense IMO.

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  9. Of course, you know I'm giving you a big thumbs up. Well done!

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  10. I love those pictures of the locals taking pictures of your baby! Hilarious and adorable and an honor. Great post!!

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  11. Great photos! You guys are my travel Heros and remind me that we can still travel with a baby!

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    1. Thanks! You definitely can. It's a different kind of travel but no less exciting :)

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  12. what a beautiful family you have!! and stunning photos, what kind of camera do you use??

    my husband, son, and i are going to seoul in april! (i was adopted at age 2, and im so excited to return and visit with my family!) my son will be 14 months at the time. im so nervous about the flight—i hope he's as well behaved as aggie! :o)

    i've heard/read that seoul is not very stroller friendly. it seems as though you were able to navigate the busy city (namdaemun/fish market) and subways easily. we were planning on leaving our chameleon at home, but i may reconsider after seeing this! we could also invest in an umbrella stroller too i supposed, since the bugaboo is a little big. what do you think?

    also, did you find many restaurants had high chairs? im such a planner and not knowing these things drives me crazy! any insight would be appreciated :o)

    thanks in advance!

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    1. I had the exact same concerns as you but you will see, it all works out just fine.

      We brought our bugaboo with us because I knew my daughter could nap in it and it had good storage space for us to carry what we needed around the city. We have the bee, not the chameleon so I think its a bit smaller. We had no problem navigating the streets or the markets with it. Even if its crowded, people make way but we didn't find the crowds too bad.

      The only place the heavy stroller was a little cumbersome was at the subway stops that did not have elevators. There was always the two of us so we could easily carry it up stairs if we needed to. If I was going to be alone, there is no way I could have carried her in it myself as easily so if you have plans of spending some time without someone to help, then an umbrella stroller would be best.

      High chairs were sometimes available and sometimes not but it was never much of an issue. Most of the hole in the wall type places we visited were sit on the floor style so having her sit next to us on the floor worked very well. In places where there were tables but no high chair, she simply sat in one of our laps. It really wasn't as big of an issue as I imagined.

      I know all too well that its easier to say than to do but don't worry and just enjoy it. It's a great place to visit with babies.

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