If you are contemplating traveling with kids then you need to check out Nika Kai Travels. It’s the blog that has all the tips from real moms who are racking up the miles traveling the world with their young ones in tow. Big thank you to super-mama Tania, founder of Nika Kai, for featuring my brood. Check out the full interview below and learn from my mistakes.

Hi! I’m originally from Macon, Georgia but moved to NY in 2003 where I met a handsome young man (we married in 2009!) who I later followed to Hong Kong in 2007. A year ago we relocated to Singapore for his job. I’m a mom to one three year old smart-as-a-whip boy named Adam Easton and one very smiley and talkative six month old, Eivor May. Since the age of 14 my life has revolved around the world of fashion. I started off on the runway and in magazines then later turned to work behind the lens as a fashion and portrait photographer. I founded First Wife Studios and www.TheFirstWife.com where I shoot and share my love of fashion respectively. I also bake a badass chocolate chip cookie and can swaddle like nobody’s business.

Motherhood in a nutshell: 

It is so much harder and wildly more gratifying than I ever could have imagined. Everyday is busy from the moment your eyes are pulled open for you (my son sits on my chest and literally pries my eyes open) to the moment you collapse into bed each night. I cry more than I ever have before- mostly from laughter or being so proud and so overwhelmed by love and joy but yes, the occasional break down too. And I’m stronger now than I ever felt before – both physically from hauling kids and their gear and mentally from the day-to-day dilemmas and decisions you are stressing over and making on the fly.

What no one tells you about motherhood…

I think the fact that it is 24/7 is the part that I didn’t really grasp before having kids. Everything pre-motherhood has an end date (if you want it to). Work stops at a certain time, you get weekends off, a big project ends, etc. But with motherhood it just keeps on going. You are just as busy on the weekends as you are Monday- Friday. You get up just as early and are up at night just as many times on Saturday and Sunday as all the other days. The day doesn’t stop just because the sun goes down. Evenings are spent sleep training or nursing a toddler’s fever or literally nursing a baby at all hours. It’s amazing how few hours of sleep I can really function on. And you are constantly worrying about your heart, which is now out walking around outside your body.

Hardest part of traveling with kids: 

First, keeping up with Adam through the airport. I put a neon orange shirt on my son so that I can easily spot him. I was traveling without a stroller for a while just to minimize the amount of stuff to haul and would use the i-Angel carrier for him over my little bump. Once bump #2 got too big to wear the i-angel then Adam had to walk next to me and it made everything more frenzied. He just wanted to run and push every button. I caught him just in time before he pulled a fire alarm! Now I don’t’ take the chance and I keep Eivor secure in the i-Angel carrier while Adam is strapped in the Bugaboo stroller. I hang a tote with just the in-flight essentials from the stroller and keep it as streamlined as possible.

Second, is keeping up with the schedule when traveling. Adam and Eivor thrive with a strict routine so changing time zones makes everything go a bit off. I try to always do meals and naps and the same time each day and when we travel I try to get on the new time zone asap! There is always an adjustment period and a few days of mayhem, but it’s usually straightened out in less than a week.

And the best part?

The best part is for sure the memories we make along the way. We went to Hawaii for the last two years and Adam is still talking about the cat that would stop by for a dish of milk each night and the cave he got to explore. He tells me about the sand castles we made on our last trip to Bali and the train ride we took with Santa in Vermont. It’s the little things that really make an impression and I love hearing all that he remembers. Seeing him experience the world for the first time fills me with such joy. Getting to share my childhood favorites with him when we go back to my mom’s house in Georgia is bliss. I only hope he likes bbq as much as his mama one day! I’m looking forward to making many more memories now that Eivor has joined the team.

Top 5 “life saving tips” for parents traveling with toddlers? (And being pregnant with number two) 

1-Bring a roll of duct tape with you. Not for keeping your kid in their seat on the plane (tempting!), but for childproofing the hotel room. You can close drawers, cover outlets, and pad corners in seconds flat.

2- There are no screen-time limits on planes (with the exception of scheduled sleep times). He is now at an age when he can “plug-in” and zone out and his attention span is long enough for a movie. I also add a few new apps to the iPad the day or two before we leave and surprise him with these on the plane. “Beck and Bo” and “Bugs and Buttons” are two house faves that keep him busy the longest. We also love the “Endless Alphabet” and “Endless Reading” apps by Originator Inc.

3-Use a backpack and check everything else. This keeps your hands free to multitask. I may look like a pack mule with a kid on the front and the backpack on the back, but it makes everything easier! Use snappy straps and carabiners to keep sippy cups attached to the stroller and toys and pacifiers to the carrier. This minimizes things getting thrown or lost along the way.

4- Zipper pouches from Muji making packing and unpacking loads easier. The top is mesh so I can see what each pouch contains. Adam and Eivor each get their own pouch with the small accessories in another. I pack a larger empty one for dirty laundry to keep it all straight. When we get to the hotel I can just throw the pouches in the drawers and not have to rummage though a huge suitcase to find a tiny onsie.

5- An endless supply of snacks (nothing sugary) and more clothes, diapers, and formula than you think you need. I pack about three days worth of diapers in my bags as I find it so annoying to have to run out immediately and restock as soon as you land. This allows us to settle into the hotel for the night and enjoy our morning and then leisurely pick up what we need as we are out and about the next day. There is no scarier feeling then when you realize you only have one diaper left and hours before you arrive.


Any advice for pregnant mama’s who have a very active / big toddler :)? 

Get all the help you can! Ha! Also, be sure to set good habits in place from the moment you find you are pregnant (or better yet, before!). Our biggest thing has been following through with whatever we say. Adam knows that mama doesn’t play around and if I say something it is as good as gold. (Ex: If you throw that toy again I will take it away until tomorrow. He throws it and it immediately goes high on a shelf until the following day.) He knows I’m serious about what I say and he typically obeys very quickly. We have very few meltdowns because he knows what is expected and the consequences. He also knows he always has a choice and he controls the next step. This is also true for the good things too. If I say we are getting ice cream then we go out and get the ice cream. He can trust me and that makes the world of difference because we can then work together.

Our biggest thing we have been working on is being gentle. He’s an active boy and is testing his limits and strength and needs to know how rough is too rough. He is now in school for a few hours a day, which is something he loves and looks forward to as “his time”. He also goes to a play gym a few times a week and has time outside every afternoon to run and jump and climb. He has to get that energy out. This also gives me time to spend some quality time with Eivor as well. Then when he is in the house he is calmer and more focused so we all benefit and can really enjoy our quality time together.

Your on the go kid snacks (airplane survival kit)? 

I have a bit of everything in my bag when we travel. I usually have a container of berries, sliced peeled apples, and partially steamed carrot sticks. I also bring loads of mini boxed raisins and he will do just about anything for a box of raisins! A crowd fave are these homemade sugar free oatmeal banana muffins too. I can whip up a batch the day before we leave and that way we have snacks for the plane as well as breakfast sorted the next day too.

Your go to outfit for travel?  

My travel outfit is always black and gray. It can take a beating and not really show the strain. Zara cotton tanks roll up tiny and are very comfy. I keep an extra one or two in my carry on for spills or sickness or both. Top that with a soft gray Club Monaco blazer and I somehow look polished. For the pants, my current faves are actually a pair of maternity treggings from Mayarya that have piping down the sides making them look more like pants and back pockets helpful for a boarding pass or phone. I also have an awesome gray scarffrom Mayarya that doubles as a feeding cover or baby blanket and is way less obvious than those printed apron style ones. For shoes, I usually opt for loafers, which allow me to slip them off for security checkpoints, chase kids, and walk for hours with ease.

My Mischa City Breaks backpack in black looks sleek and carries loads and is my go-to baby bag. My husband uses a rolling suitcase and a shoulder bag (the Belber Bowling bag is wonderful) which are stuffed with extra clothes for all, fave sleep toys, diapers, snacks, extra bottles with sterilizer bags, and phone and computer chargers for the first few days in case our checked luggage is delayed.

Stroller or carrier for travel?

We have the Bugaboo Bee stroller with the roller board attachment and the maxi cosi car seat. I check the car seat and put my son in the stroller now (lesson learned about running free!). I then use the i-Angel carrier for baby as it goes on fast and is very comfortable. Both kids are restrained and my hands are more or less free for an iced latte and a boarding pass. Once we hit the town then Eivor goes in the Maxi Cosi and Adam rides the “fireman seat” roller board. And yes, I typically make fire engine siren noises as we zoom around!

The top family travel destination you have even been too are (Asia, Europe, US)

While Bali and Thailand are super easy travel spots for weekend getaways I really loved our trips to Kauai and was so thrilled to make a return trip this year. We rent a house so we could cook each night and really settle in. There’s a big yard for Adam to run in and also the beach where we all play. Where we stay is a ten-minute walk to the main town area so we get up early and take the stroller out for a cool morning walk. There’s an amazing coffee shop with loads of kids chasing chickens out front so we can just let Adam loose to make friends. The food is all so fresh and all the restaurants are kid friendly and very relaxed. We rent a car and do big drives around the island popping in here and there for fish tacos or poke or ice cream as the mood strikes. Adam is an angel in the car and just stares out the window commenting on the mountains and beaches that we pass. Eivor is good as long as the car is in motion. All bets are off at stoplights though! All in all it’s a really magical trip.

Hotels or Rented homes?

I prefer rented homes/ villas/ Air-BNB type places over hotels when we travel as a family. It gives us more space to spread out and I don’t have to be as concerned if the kids wake up from jet lag at two a.m. and want to make noise. I can take them into the living room and shut the bedroom door and let my husband get a bit more sleep. This also allows us to do our own food shopping and cooking allowing healthier options for the kids.

Although I do love how hotels are totally prepared for babies where most rental homes are not. You can find baby supply rental places in most cities though and book in advance. The last time we stayed at the Four Seasons in Hong Kong they totally kitted out the room with a bottle warmer, baby bath and toys without even a mention that I had kids. There was even a face mask on the nightstand for me! Way to secure a return visit!

Describe your ideal family “staycation”? (Singapore ) 

I’d actually opt for just staying at our house over going to a hotel here. Homes in Singapore are on the whole more spacious than in HK and many feature pools and playgrounds and green space on the grounds. Our condo has a great pirate ship playground and pool for Adam and a little lawn perfect for playing soccer with dad. He also has lots of little friends here and at any given moment one of them is out and running about making playdates super convenient. We are also just a short walk from the Botanic Gardens, which makes a wonderful spot for a picnic on cloudy afternoons.

Favorite kids stores in Singapore, world? 

Pottery Barn Kids – Halloween costumes and monogrammed goods (you can take the girl out of the South but can’t take the South out of the girl). They ship to Asia, but it takes several weeks.

Land of Nod– Beautiful wooden toys and great toys for creative play. Ships in about three weeks.

Seed Heritage – the baby girl dresses!

H&M, Zara – for the everyday clothing. I also love how long and skinny their pants are for my long/tall kiddos.

Etsy – BABY TURBANS! And crocheted everything.

Children’s Showcase in Tanglin Mall– This is a lovely shop that sells the toys that you keep for years and years to come. Perfect for gifts as well.

Boutique’s Fair – A huge fair with loads of independent boutiques and brands in Sg. It happens twice a year and I look forward to it so much. I always leave with a giant bag of kid gear and home décor and maybe a  little jewellery for myself too. It’s great for discovering new brands that maybe only sell from their homes or online.

Amazon – For everything you can’t find in Asia.

When heading out with your baby – You do not leave home without? 

My Mischa backpack stays packed by the front door at all times. When we return home I restock whatever was used on our outing. In it you will find my Mayarya nursing cover, a Tang Tang Tang Tang diaper mat, 3-4 diapers, large pack of wipes, pacifier wipes, change of baby and toddler clothes and socks, sterilised water wipes, Vaseline, scissors for cutting food, band aids and alcohol wipes, bug balm, antibacterial hand spray, coloured pencils and paper, as well as my wallet, key, phone, sunglasses, and two lipsticks for me. If you need something, chances are I probably have it!

How do you keep balance as a working mom? 

I find the word balance so funny. I never feel balanced! Some days I am a rockstar and can tackle to whole to do list while feeding one kid with one arm and playing play dough with the other. Other days I can’t find my glasses when they are on my face.

Your typical morning … 

Everyone is up at 6:30am, but usually I am already awake when my alarm goes off. Adam has breakfast while he plays on his mat. I eat avocado toast and an egg as fast as possible while Adam tells me he does not want an egg but then runs over to eat most of mine. I get him dressed for school while Eivor plays on her play mat and sings to all of us. Thankfully, Singapore weather just requires a shirt and shorts for him and maybe a raincoat each day. I dash him over to school at 8:15am and then pop by Starbucks almost everyday for an iced latte. Then back to the house for Eivor’s nap, which is also when I get my workout in. I try not to let her sleep on me as I had major sleep issues with Adam and am trying hard to not repeat the same mistakes… I’m making plenty of new ones though, I’m sure! Post workout I attempt to check emails and work as fast and hard as I can until 11:15 when it is time to pick up my boy.

Do you have a parenting philosophy? 

Be mindful of our words and actions. Even when it is 4 am and I haven’t been to sleep yet I still take time before I speak to make sure I don’t say something that I can’t take back.

What does the word education mean to you? 

Start young and learn from everything around you. Make it fun and be excited about learning new things. Try a little bit of everything to find out what you like and later you can focus on that. Save for college now. And when you don’t feel like going to school, do what my mom always said and “Put a smile on your face and play the game”.

How do you make sure your husband creates a bond with the little ones? 

He’s great about making time for each kiddo. Now that Adam is three he is a blast to play with. They make pancakes and then go to playgym every Saturday morning together. Then we have a family ice cream date on Sundays. Friday night we typically have a family dinner at a kid-friendly restaurant where Adam can color and eat grilled cheese and “French fries and dip”, his favorite food. They go swimming on the weekends and play soccer in the yard.

With Eivor it is trickier at this age as she is still so young. He gives her bottles and settles her at night while I put Adam to bed. She gives the biggest most endearing smiles as soon as you make eye contact with her so that creates a bond instantly!

Co-sleeping or separate rooms? / floor sleeping? 

With Adam we have tried it all! He was colicky when he was young and got into some pretty bad sleep habits from this. For the first year he woke every 45 minutes. One month he actually woke every 20 minutes! I was a mess! So, I did what I had to do for the house to function. This meant co-sleeping with him until he was 2.5. He would start in his room on a mattress on the floor and then at 10:30p when I would go to bed I would go get him and bring him in. Once we started doing that he would pretty much sleep through the night.

But as he got bigger and I got more and more pregnant we couldn’t all comfortably fit in the same bed. While the idea of a megabed was tossed around, we opted just to get him in a toddler bed with a rail in his own room. I worked with him for about a month getting him in there. There were a lot of tears from the both of us. And a lot of sickness from me as the late/sleepless nights and constant motion made my morning sickness worse. But finally, he got it. As long as he doesn’t nap, it takes less than ten minutes to put him down (prayers, one thing you did well/ one thing you need to work on, and a song) and then I walk out telling him that I will check on him after I get Eivor to sleep. Now he is telling me to get out and not check on him!

Eivor was in her crib from the start. We had a confinement nanny for the first two months that slept in her room and was great about following my plan for Ivy’s sleep. Now my six month old is sleeping 7p-6:30a in her crib with only a dream feed! The Baby Merlin Sleep Sack is amazing and I will swear by it! Also, white noise, a consistent routine and sleep times, and giving her a monster feed before bed all help contribute to more sleep for all.

IPads and technology, what’s your take on kids and screen time? 

We didn’t use any screens until Adam was a year old and then it was only videos that taught him something and educational games for no more than 10 minutes a day. He would get unlimited screen time on flights unless it was nap/ bed time. I don’t do any screens after 4pm because it is too stimulating for him as we are trying to wind down his day. When I was on bedrest while pregnant I was more lenient because I couldn’t take him out as much and I couldn’t really play as I couldn’t move! Now that I am healed and can manage his day better we only do ipad on Sundays.

As far as TV goes, we have a projector, which I love because it is very much out of sight out of mind. I like this far better than ipad as we can watch together comfortably. We usually opt for Bob the Builder, Elmo’s World, Daniel Tiger, Caillou, or Winnie the Pooh which are all relatively calm shows that educate and don’t drive me nuts with screaming/sirens/annoying songs. I also love Word World and Super Why for spelling and reading.

As far as toys go, simple is better for our family. We constantly have music going in the house and we love to dance and chase each other around. We also do loads of baking and arts and crafts. He goes to a play gym several times a week, plays soccer outside and digs in the dirt, and goes swimming on the weekends.

Fave one pot meal that works for the whole family. Recipe if possible 🙂 

We eat very clean in the house and typically just steam or bake food with no salt or oil. Adam loves veggies so we do a big steam with sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, edamame and then some salmon and we are all happy. I wish I had some great recipe for you, but dinners are pretty simple here.

Photography website: www.FirstWifeStudios.com

Blog: www.TheFirstWife.com

Instagram: @sabrinasikora
Twitter/ Snapchat: @sabrinasikorahk
Read this and more over at Nika Kai Travels.