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From this past year until now, my little family & I have been traveling a lot. Whether it’s to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or anywhere else in between, we’ve surely racked up quite a few miles on the road. Jian & I aren’t quite ready to take our little bean on an airplane ride just yet. More than worrying how she’ll react being cooped up in a pressurized cabin with nowhere to run around, we’re still not completely confident regarding airline COVID safety practices. So, we’ve only opted to take our little bean on trips to places we can turn into a drivable trip. On top of all that, Jian & I are too stingy to pay the extra airline baggage fees in case we have to check-in our little bean’s stroller, car seat, &/or any other baby gear too large for the overhead bin.

Since we have been traveling a lot lately, I thought I’d share with you some of the essential items I always pack in my suitcase. There are a few items I absolutely cannot go without, either because of my persnickety-ness or because of my sensitive skin, but I just won’t travel without them. So they may only be essential items to me personally.


01. Like the compulsively organized person that I am, I am a firm believer in using packing cubes when I travel. Packing cubes (& compression bags) are some of the world’s greatest inventions. They keep your fresh clothes clean, your bags organized, & you won’t believe how much you can store in one of those lil’ suckers which means you can bring more junk with you when you travel to soothe your over analytical thoughts on what to pack. I don’t understand how people can just throw things in their bag & go. I don’t care if you know how to Marie Kondo origami-fold everything into your suitcase. Packing cubes make preparing for a trip so much more efficient & easy.

^ This is not the way to travel. ^

02. If I can’t find travel-sized versions of my at-home skincare products, then I will transfer small amounts of each into small reusable TSA-friendly containers. Luckily for me, I have developed a skincare routine that works perfectly for my dry skin, but also doesn’t require me to use more than 3 to 4 products. So it’s easy for me to travel with mini-sized versions of my daily skincare regimen. I don’t wear makeup, like ever, therefore my usual toiletry bag when I travel is about the size of a small men’s dopp bag.

* EXAMPLE *

03. Ever since I was a little child I’ve had severe allergies. I’m practically allergic to most shellfish & fruit known to mankind. Dogs & Cats used to be my arch nemesis (damn you, pet dander!). I mean, when I was in high school I got allergy tested by my family physician & found out I was allergic to over 100 different things (not all food related). I had to get two allergy shots weekly all throughout high school & take prescription allergy medicine. Nowadays, I only take over-the-counter allergy medication as needed, but I always carry a bottle of nasal spray with me whenever I travel. (My preferred brand is Flonase.) It’s a quick & easy way for me to immediately combat my allergies. Plus, Jian uses it now as well whenever he gets that tickle in his pickle…um, sinus…like after he’s walked through the perfume aisle at Sephora or passes by a Bath & Body Works/White Barn/Yankee Candle Co. candle store.

04. Until my little bean was diagnosed by a dermatologist as having keratosis pilaris, I never knew I had it too. I just lived with having those tiny little bumps on my skin my whole life. It never bothered me, never itched, or felt irritated. It just felt like having permanent goose bumps. I’ve used numerous types of lotions to keep my skin feeling less dry & patchy, but the bumps were always there, not noticeable unless you touched the skin. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties when I started using loofah sponges when I bathed. Once I switched from a loofah poof to the long wash cloth style, it was such a game changer. I was finally able to fully scrub & exfoliate my entire back (not just my body). That’s when my keratosis pilaris bumps started to go away. My skin feels immensely smoother in texture, & I can definitely see a difference in a more even skin tone. It has definitely improved the dryness & overall itchiness of my skin, which I’ve battled my entire life. I love using my loofah wash cloth so much that I have an extra one that I bring on all of my travels.

05. As I have said before, I am a compulsive persnickety person. Not really a ‘Type-A’ kind of person, but just very stuck in my habits & personal preferences. I like the way my at-home body wash smells & how it works well with my specific skin conditions. This also applies (no pun intended) to my body lotion. I have a proprietary mixture of various body lotions that I use at home that also works on my sensitive skin. So it’s obvious that I also bring travel-sized versions of these items with me on all of my travels. I have been known to use hotel-provided bath products when necessary, but my preference is to use my own body wash & lotion because it works best on my always dry & itchy skin. I know it is totally extra of me to practically bring my whole bathroom with me when I travel, but I at least try to keep everything to a TSA-approved travel size.

06. I remember the first time one of my former bosses explained to me how she kept a small pill case in her purse at all times. She was often getting migraines & stomach irritability, so she always kept a small packet of over-the-counter medicines in her purse. But of course, me in all of my compulsive glory, decided to upgrade that to a full on first-aid kit. It made sense back in those days when large tote bag purses were the trendy style & I used to use a messenger bag style purse. I put everything in that purse like a crazy bag lady…everything from nail clippers, to folding scissors, to cough drops. Even as I downgraded my purses over the years to be more compact & practical, I’ve always found a way to incorporate some sort of first-aid pouch. This pouch will include over-the-counter headache medicine, folding scissors, bandage plasters, & a few emergency feminine sanitary products. When I travel, especially overseas, I will include a few extra items like cold & anti-diarrhea medicines because who has time to Google Translate every single thing at a foreign pharmacy.


When I travel on long flights, mostly to overseas, the select items listed above are what I like to pack. These items are mostly to be used on the airplane, but they have definitely made those long flights more bearable. Slippers are great to keep your feet clean & reduces swelling. Neck pillows are so much more comfortable & more sanitary than using those thin cotton pads airlines pass off as “pillows”. Even before this pandemic happened, I’ve been an avid user of disposable face masks, especially on airplanes. The recycled, barely circulated cabin air really activates my allergies, so using a disposable face mask really helps to reduce my allergy symptoms. In recent years I’ve tried to not bring my personal tablet with me when I travel. I end up not using it that much when I’m on a trip, & I am more paranoid now than ever regarding property theft targeted at obvious tourists. However, on long flights I will bring my tablet, lest I go crazy over sheer boredom & lack of good in-flight entertainment options.


Now that I’ve got a kid to travel with, she also comes with a lot of her own baggage (yes, pun intended). I try to keep my little bean’s travel gear to a minimum. I don’t want to be one of those people who loads up the hotel luggage cart on a mere 3-night stay.

* EXAMPLE *

Here I’ve compiled a short list of the must-have items in her little kid’s packing list.

01. I will start off by talking about my little bean’s keratosis pilaris skin condition. Though it’s not curable, it is treatable, which means if you have it you just have to work at it most of your life to suppress the symptoms. We as parents treat our little bean’s keratosis pretty much the same way as I treat my symptoms. We have a soft silicone exfoliating brush that we use along with a gentle baby bath wash & delicate skin baby body lotion. This combination of silicone brush, bath wash & baby lotion has improved my little bean’s skin & reduced the keratosis breakouts on her skin. We still have a long, long way to go in fighting this skin condition, but these are our go-to products that we can’t go without during every bath time at home or away.

02. Almost every child has a favorite snuggle toy for naps & bedtime. Our little bean is no exception. She has a butterfly lovey security blanket that is her absolute favorite to sleep & play with. We have to be extremely careful with this item because it has since been discontinued by the brand, & the only place to get a replacement is eBay, apparently. It’s because of this that we never bring this with us when we travel, for fear of losing it. Our little bean has already lost one of her other favorite stuffed toys during one of our hotel stays in Los Angeles, & we were lucky enough to be able to get her a replacement without her knowing the difference, but we are not planning on doing that every time she loses one of her “special friends”. (P.S. We call all of her stuffed toys her ‘friends’.) Fortunately for us, this butterfly security blanket is not the only thing she is able snuggle with when she sleeps. When we travel, we will bring one of her other replaceable stuffed toys for her to use during nap time & bedtime.

03. I have a travel set of kid’s cutlery & snack boxes that I like to use whenever we take our little bean out to eat, at a restaurant or at someone’s house. She has a growing collection of kid’s utensils that she uses at home, like plastic bowls, spoons & forks, but I have a specific set of utensils that she only uses when we go out. Our little bean also has her own insulated lunch bag to carry everything in. That way we don’t have to bring her at-home stuff out with us & replace them every time she loses something. We take her mealtime eating kit with us whenever we know we’ll have to feed her outside of the house. It’s very convenient & easy to clean. Plus, we feel like we are inconveniencing the restaurant if we ask them for kid’s stuff, even if they have it. For me, I like to bring our own kid’s cutlery when we go out because it just calms the germaphobe in me.

04. This goes with the previous item, the sippy cup. Our little bean also has an ever-growing collection of these at home as well. She has one for all of the stages, from baby bottle style all the way up to full on toddler trainer cups. We have a tall sippy cup that we specifically use whenever we go out with our little bean. It can hold a larger volume of water which is good when we’re going on road trips & don’t have opportunities to make sudden pit stops. Right now the sippy cup we are using has a hard silicone tip, but we are very slowly trying to teach our little bean how to slurp from an actual straw. She knows how to sip/gulp from an open cup, but you know me, & you know I don’t like myself or my kid getting messy, especially when we’re away from home (& a fresh change of clothes).

05. When we go on family trips, I like to pack a few simple toys for our little bean to play with when we are in the hotel room, or staying at a relative’s house. I don’t pack an entire toy chest worth of toys, but I will select at most 2 or 3 toys to entertain my little bean, especially when we the parents are trying to get ready in the morning & need to distract her for several minutes. Some toys I will consider bringing are a sandwich-sized Ziplock storage bag of plastic animals, or one of her interactive toys like her toy cell phone. I try to not bring toys that are difficult or expensive to replace, & I like to bring toys that are compact & easily packable into her small duffle bag.

06. My little bean loves to read books. We can read at least 5 or 6 children’s board books in the morning before we get out of bed. So, I like to bring a mini selection books for my little bean & I to read together. My little bean also has a bedtime book that we read together almost every night before she goes to sleep, & I like to bring that book as well. When packing for my little bean I won’t pack more than 3 or 4 books, including her bedtime storybook. I try not to bring too many books in case we happen to buy more books when we travel, which is often.

07. This last one is optional. I read in some other mommy blog that it’s best to try to recreate the child’s sleeping environment as best as possible when traveling, so the baby won’t have a hard time going to sleep, but sometimes that’s just not feasible, or practical for that matter. I used to bring my little bean’s crib blanket when we traveled, so she’d have some comfort reminder of her room back at home, but lately I’ve been going through a ‘less is more’ phase, & I’m trying to scale back a lot of the junk we bring with us on vacation. I don’t bring her crib blanket on our travels anymore, but if we were perhaps to go on a longer vacation or go somewhere overseas, I might be more inclined to pack it along.


This is the end of my list. I must confess that we are taking another trip to Los Angeles, & leaving this coming Sunday. We didn’t go on that last Los Angeles trip I talked about in my previous blog post, the one where my nephew celebrated his high school graduation & birthday. Jian asked me repeatedly, yet casually, if we should go but we ended up saying no. Honestly, we really needed a break from living with my mom, & my little bean needed that time away from smothering grandma as well to develop & mature.

This time we are going to L.A to celebrate our new niece turning one year old, & celebrate another nephew turning four. We thought it would be more meaningful to have our little bean interact with more kids close to her age. Also, Jian wants to snoop around the L.A office of his company’s department. I guess I should mention that this isn’t exactly a “vacation”. Jian still has to work everyday (except on Monday’s Memorial Day observance), but I get to spend quality time exploring the city & the area around our hotel with my little bean. My mom won’t be traveling with us, as she just recently returned from L.A herself, so this will give us even more badly needed time away from my mom, a.k.a. grandma -slash- super crutch for my little one to revert back to acting like a baby & not want to learn how to walk at all. It will be interesting to see how things go. Maybe I’ll write another hotel review post since we are staying at a brand new hotel we’ve never even heard of before. Until then, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

I feel as though it wasn’t that long ago that I was talking about my family’s quick weekend jaunt to Monterey Bay. At that time, Jian (& probably my little bean too) was itching to travel. It was his idea to go away for an impromptu weekend getaway to temporarily satisfy our wanderlust after a prolonged vacation drought due to that nasty virus going ’round. I know we’ve already been to Los Angeles & Las Vegas multiple times since the pandemic restrictions in our state have eased, but we’ve only gone to visit specific family members & only went out to pre-selected places that were not typically prone to major outbreaks. Since the pandemic crashed down on us, & more importantly since we’ve created our own tiny human, we haven’t really taken a family vacation that was solely for ourselves & not for some family event or celebration holiday.

Shortly after coming back from Monterey, Jian started seriously looking for a new job & very quickly plunged himself into the interviewing pool. He had been thinking about changing jobs for quite some time, but decided that now would be the best opportunity for him to transition to a new environment. Before we knew it, Jian had landed himself a big corporate tech job. It was a very important milestone in his career & a major cause to celebrate. Luckily for us, through a delay in the process of some paperwork Jian’s official start date got pushed back which granted us a few extra days to spend some quality time together, just the 3 of us. It also gave Jian some much needed rest & relaxation time in-between jobs. This gave him the brilliant idea to go on another family road trip again. We had just a little more than one week before he would start his new job. So we decided to take a proper vacation. We waffled back & forth over where we would go, but ended up settling on our trusty go-to vacation spot: Los Angeles. (Again. *Sigh*)

This time on our travels, we ended up booking our stay at a super swanky, elite hotel. I mean, when Jian says he wants to splurge & indulge the family, who are we to turn him down? I haven’t done a hotel room tour in a long time, somewhat because it’s so tedious to edit all my photos; mostly because my little bean won’t let me use the computer for more than 2 minutes before she tries to grab the wireless mouse & keyboard to play with. On this trip, we chose to stay at the West Hollywood EDITION Hotel. The EDITION hotel series is an elite boutique set of hotels owned by the Marriott Hotels parent company & designed by Ian Schrager, the man behind the infamous Studio 54 in New York City.

Back in 2017, we stayed at the London EDITION Hotel in the Soho neighborhood of London for my early birthday celebration. When I first found out about this series of elite boutique hotels, I had figured that it would be an impossible feat to be able to afford staying at any of these hotels, ever. Then, by a sheer stroke of extremely good luck, we were able to grab one of the most incredible deals of a lifetime when we booked our stay in London. I mean, it was nothing short of a miracle we were able to book our stay for a mere fraction of the standard rate (which was triple what we paid). I never thought we’d ever get that lucky again, but this time it was by no means of luck that we were able to book a stay at another EDITION Hotel.

Right before this trip Jian had said to me, “We always drive by that hotel when we are in L.A & keep saying we would love to stay there one day but never actually do it. Why don’t we do it now? Why don’t we once & for all book a stay at that hotel?” So, after some consideration about saving money, we let ourselves splurge & indulge a little bit. We don’t splurge like this very often, & this was definitely a special occasion, so why not?

Also, I should note that on top of being a high-level rewards members through the Marriott BonVoy program, we also got a special employee discount, which grants selected family members of Marriott branded hotel employees special benefits. On top of the very generous BonVoy rewards upgrades, we also got a slightly discounted rate for our stay. We had originally booked a Loft Room with a king-size bed, which is already a very spacious size, but then we got upgraded to a Premier Suite. That 2-room suite was larger than our first apartment! Here is a look inside our posh hotel suite. (Side note, I’ve never stayed in a suite-sized room at a hotel ever in my life.)

As you can see from the photos above how fabulous this room was, you can pretty much guess that we tried to take advantage of this room during our short-but-sweet stay. Our little bean is just learning how to walk right now, so we let her explore around as much as possible. Crawling is our bean’s specialty, but she can side-step (we call it crab walking) around a room as long as she’s holding on to a table ledge, a straight wall, or a chair.

On this trip, we really let ourselves be truly lazy. Aside from our usual early morning wake-ups (because our little bean wakes up at the same time everyday like clockwork), we’d spend our mornings lounging in bed letting our bean crawl around the bed while watching the morning news on TV. Then we’d slowly get ready for the day & head out by mid-morning. At home, we’re usually up & ready for breakfast before starting work, but whenever we’re in Los Angeles we tend to forgo breakfast time so we can take more time to get ready & pack our things for the day’s outing. We will grab a mid-morning coffee at one of our go-to coffee spots (i.e. Alfred, Intelligentsia, Verve, or some other hipster spot nearby). By that time, we’re ready for lunch.

When we go out with our little bean, we try to limit our activities & only explore one or two districts/neighborhoods not too far from our hotel. We will grab an early lunch & try to get our little bean to take a nap. Our little bean is barely over one-year old, & we haven’t yet fully tested her endurance for an entire day’s outing. Therefore, we limit our activities so we can minimize any chance for a fussy freak-out in a public place. On this trip, we decided not to let our relatives know we’d be in town & just keep to ourselves, the three of us. We had considered telling everyone, but since our vacation was planned very on-the-fly, we thought it’d be inconsiderate to call upon our very busy relatives at the last-minute. That helped in making our trip even more relaxing. We didn’t have to rush anywhere to meet people & such.

Overall, we had a truly relaxing vacation. We didn’t have to rush from place to place. We didn’t pack our days with too much driving, & you know how pain-in-the-arse it is to drive anywhere in Los Angeles. We really just took the time to enjoy being with each other & eating good food. Our little bean got to spend quality one-on-one time with her mama & papa. She also got to take a much needed break from her maternal grandmother, who was spoiling her too much to the point of enabling her new bratty behavior.

Since writing this post Jian has already settled in nicely at his new job, & we are already planning our next vacation to Los Angeles again in May. My nephew (a.k.a. my cousin’s son) is graduating high school & heading to military school on a scholarship, lots of May birthdays in our family, & my aunt will have fully recovered from having major surgery done. There’s just so much to celebrate! We haven’t quite worked out all the logistics yet, or whether or not we are actually going back to L.A, but we can definitely say that we are feeling that wanderlust bug again, but this time we are itching to travel out of the country. Maybe we’ll start small & travel outside of our state first, like, Jian wants to go back to New York where he grew up after immigrating to the States. Either way, you know I will write about it when the time comes. Until then, cheers!

Today’s song of the day:

I went on a quick road trip to Monterey Bay this past weekend with Jian & our little bean. We had a really fun time taking a scenic drive & enjoying the good weather. Our main purpose on this trip was to not only introduce our little bean to a new place, but to take her to a proper aquarium (the Shark Reef attraction at the Mandalay Bay casino hotel in Las Vegas does not count). All in all, we had a great time eating lots of seafood, hanging out at the Cannery row & the wharf areas, as well as exploring spots that were new to us, like the Lighthouse district & the hipster spots in the downtown area.

Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

One thing I reluctantly decided to do while we were in Monterey was to book a spa massage at our hotel. Jian always encourages me to take advantage of the extra amenities (anything other than ordering room service) at the hotels we stay at on our vacations, but I am always stopping myself & making excuses not to do anything extra. I find it to be too extravagant & expensive. Doing things like getting a spa massage makes me feel selfish (in a non self-care kind of way), & I’d rather spend the money on my little bean instead.

This time Jian convinced me to book a spa appointment & treat myself to a massage. I guess he was feeling extra generous that weekend, specially since he got a new job working at a mega brand name tech company. He said he could handle our little bean by himself for an hour or two, having some quality father-daughter time. So, I bit the bullet, pushed aside all of my inner overreactions & excuses & booked an appointment. Well, I’ll just say it outright. I was simultaneously looking forward to getting a tension-relieving massage & looking forward to getting it over with.

I have had a couple of spa massages in my life. This wasn’t my first experience. Most of those past experiences were a waste of time & money, & a few of them stood out as being exceptionally memorable. Well, only one massage experience stands out in my memory as being the best massage I ever had & it was at a family-style ranch resort. My sister had plans for her kids to go swimming in the pool, learn how to feed chickens & ride horses all while my mom & I made plans to get shiatsu massages. That masseuse worked out every kink & knot in my body to the point of hurts-so-good pain. I nearly cried “ouch” out loud. I could feel every single nerve ending & muscle in my body being electrified in the best way imaginable. I was basically having a massage-gasm. It was incredible.

On this trip, however, I did not have the same experience, not even close. Don’t get me wrong. The masseuse I had in this experience was an absolutely delightful woman. She could not have made me feel more comfortable & relaxed. It was through my own stupidity, though, that I did not properly communicate or express my preferences.

Throughout most of the massage, I was feeling so ticklish all over my body. The masseuse noticed me wincing once in reaction to being tickled, & had asked me to tell her if I was feeling ticklish, but I was feeling too embarrassed to say anything after that. The appointment went very well. We had a fun time talking to each other & telling stories about our families. The massage itself was satisfying. It wasn’t a rock-my-world experience like the one I had before, but it was still adequate. I didn’t exactly feel like all my knots & kinks were relieved, but I did feel more relaxed & calm. Over all, it was a soothing massage.

Most often, almost always, when I think about getting a professional massage I stop myself with my own self-insecurities & weird quirks. First off, I’m very insecure about my own body image & shy away from professional massage therapists from seeing my exposed body rolls. Oh, & never mind my apprehension in changing my clothes in the shared dressing room. Next, I am not sure if I am supposed to keep making polite small talk, or if it’s ok to be quiet, like, am I being rude if I don’t engage in a friendly conversation? Also, I am never sure how much I am supposed to give in gratuity, & who am I supposed to give it to (i.e. charge the gratuity to my bill, or directly tip the professional in person?). Then, there are more news stories popping up about spas being fined for having pervy, handsy employees. Lastly, it’s the massage oils that deters me from getting massages; well, it’s more like the smells of massage oils that deter me. I just can’t stand the smell of any massage oil/lotion/product.

This is a big issue for me. Never mind the fact that I feel like an absolute grease ball afterwards, but I just can’t get rid of that unpleasant plastic-y coconut-y smell. I understand that not all massage oils smell bad, but the ones that I have encountered have all evoked an unpleasant feeling for me personally. Immediately after the massage, before I put my clothes back on, I vigorously wiped myself down with a towel. It was useless. In my mind, I still felt greasy & sticky afterwards. The smell, oh the smell!

The massage oil smelled like a cross between plastic & old cooking oil from a sketchy Chinese restaurant. I could not wait to get back to my hotel room for a thorough scrub down in the shower. I even made sure to scrub myself twice with extra body wash & my loofa towel, but the scent still lingered everywhere. Not even dousing myself in cologne could mask the odor smell of the massage oil. For the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but feel paranoid that all I could smell was the scent of the massage oil all over me. Maybe it was some sort of psychological reaction I was having, & I was so fixated on the smell that I was imagining that I could smell it everywhere. That was the perfect time for my quirky OCD behavior to pop up & drive me crazy.

Just the aroma of any massage oil is enough to turn me away from getting massages in the future, but I believe that with more careful planning, & communication on my part, I would probably get more massages in the future. Oh man, I wish I could go back to that ranch resort again just to book another epic shiatsu massage. Hopefully that resort has survived through the pandemic. Right now though, I don’t think I will be interested in going to a spa for quite a long while. Until the next time, I gotta work on being less ticklish. Cheers, all!

Today’s song of the day:

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