Young families hit the road
No one ever claimed being a parent was easy.
Not only is it not easy, but travel options can be seriously limited because of the preparation that goes into hauling kids across the country.
Just ask Lee Jeong-yeon, co-owner of Lux J Pension, a “kids’ pension,” in Pocheon, Gyeonggi.
Lee said she got the idea to provide a child-ready getaway for young families after watching parents struggle to unload all their luggage and baby supplies from their cars.
“I felt pity for them because I know how tiring it is to travel with so many bags and necessities,” said Lee, who operates the pension with her husband.
And what young parent is not in need of a vacation? For mom and dad, it’s a 24/7 job. A mother rocks her baby to sleep in the wee hours of the morning until her arms go numb. If that fails, she sings lullabies until her voice fades. Those are precious moments to be sure but sometimes they don’t feel so precious at three in the morning.
And parenting is not a job only for mom. If dad feels like an after-work beer, he can forget about it. That’s peek-a-boo time.
Of course, spending quality time with your baby comes before anything else, but parents also need to get away from the house once in a while.
But planning a trip with your baby is a Herculean task, especially when he or she is less than 2 years old. This statement needs no explanation for parents, but for those with no kids of their own, here’s why: In one day, a baby can use up to 10 diapers, can consume four bottles of formula and will need three baby meals.
Not to mention the rest of the days when they need baby bottle sterilizer, four or five nursing bottles, a vacuum bottle (for hot water), a can of baby formula, homemade baby meals, wet tissues, baby utensils, a bib, baby shampoo, lotion, a bathtub, a car seat, a stroller, extra clothes, a pacifier, blankets, baby snacks and some toys.
And don’t forget about the diapers.
In short, parents are overwhelmed.
If you have your heart set on hitting the road, the JoongAng Daily is ready to help with some baby-friendly accommodations in the nation’s three most sought after destinations. And the best part is that since peak travel days are long past us, you could enjoy a late summer vacation on a shoestring budget without the crowds.
Pocheon, Gyeonggi: Do it for the kids
A pension is a type of holiday home for rent in the countryside popular with city dwellers.
But the pension has also attracted a lot of young parents since co-owner Lee Jeong-yeon transformed it into a family-friendly environment.
She pounced on the niche market. Instead of parents bringing their own baby supplies, she has them ready at the pension, saving them the hassle of packing and unpacking the car.
That’s when she started to buy baby necessities like baby boosters and baby bath gel. The rooms are all also “baby ready.” She also started to buy toys and stuffed animals. But also available are strollers, bathtubs, baby utensils, baby bottle sterilizers, germ protection sprays and even disposable diapers.
“I’m proud that this pension contributed in coining the new term ‘kids’ pension,’” Lee said with a laugh.
Lee’s success has meant that she can continue with plans to expand kid-friendly spaces in her pension by turning two terraces into playgrounds.
The pension not only satisfies babies but also parents. Each family room has an open-air private spa that is big enough to accommodate up to seven people.
Prices start at 200,000 won ($181) per night.
Nearby tourist attractions include Sanjeong Lake, Mount Myeongseong, Pyunggang Botanical Garden, the Korea National Arboretum, Herb Island, the Africa Art Museum, and Hangwa Cultural Museum. For more information, go to www.wsps.kr or call (031) 532-8984.
Jeju Island: 5-star hotels cater to kids
If close-but-far is what you are looking for, Jeju Island is a good choice because it’s accessible and affordable. Just an hour in the air and you’ll meet emerald green seas and balmy weather.
Since Jeju Island is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Korea, most five-star hotels such as the Shilla Hotel Jeju and Hyatt Regency Jeju offer baby amenities.
At the Shilla Hotel (www.shilla.net/kr/jeju), guests are able to rent strollers, baby cribs, potty chairs, bathtubs, baby bottle sterilizers and baby cups. But these necessities are offered on a first-come-first-served basis.
What differentiates the Shilla from similar places is its baby meal service; four types of baby meals can be delivered to your room upon order.
“One of the biggest concerns for mothers is how to make baby meals when they are away from home when their babies are less than 24 months old,” said Myung Ji-young, a manager at the Shilla. “[Our] baby meal service is very popular among moms who care about food safety.”
Babies who are younger than 2 years old need sugar-free, oil-free and salt-free porridge-like food. Four types of baby meals are on the menu, including beef and sweet potato porridge with green pumpkin and broccoli puree, and beef and asparagus porridge with sweet potato puree. Each baby meal costs 18,000 won, excluding 10 percent tax and another 10 percent service fee.
The Hyatt Regency Jeju (www.hyattjeju.com) offers fewer baby amenities than the Shilla, but you can reserve those items in advance.
The Hyatt offers baby bathtubs, bottle sterilizers and cribs.
If you want to stay on budget, Phoenix Island (www.phoenixisland.co.kr) is recommended.
The resort opened in 2008 and was designed by famed Japanese architect Tadao Ando.
Basic baby necessities such as bathtubs, bottle sterilizers and strollers are available.
Hoengseong, Gangwon: A classic family getaway
And in Hoengseong County, in the middle of Gangwon, a place called Namugrim Pension that also caters to toddlers. Although Namugrim Pension offers fewer baby amenities compared to the Lux J, it is still worth staying here if you have a toddler because two of its family rooms with attics are full of toys.
“They were regular rooms, but I’ve started adding toys after greeting many family visitors,” said Lee Nam-su, an owner of the white wooden pension. “Kids love attics, you know.”
Namugrim Pension has plenty of toys, blocks, stuffed animals, children’s books and baby utensils. There is even a sandbox for kids that want to get their hands dirty.
“We are still in the process of upgrading those two family rooms,” Lee added. The pension also has a public spa that costs 15,000 won.
Another charm is that it offers American-style breakfasts, unlike other pensions, which could be a huge relief to mothers on vacation. For lunch, stuff your stomach with hanwoo, or Korean beef, as the Hoengseong region is famous for its high quality beef at reasonable prices.
Prices start at 140,000 won a night. Nearby tourist attractions include Phoenix Park, Daegwallyeong Sheep Farm, Farm Herb Nara, and Jucheon River.
For more information, go to www.namoogrim.com or call (033) 345-7773.
By Sung So-young [firstname.lastname@example.org]