The secret to a Tan-tastic vacation

We are the kind of family that likes to take their vacations in a relaxed, unhurried manner. It was something we consciously decided on beginning with our first out-of-the-country trip for Akira’s 1st birthday.

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Dream come true. J and I are huge Japanophiles. We couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate our daughter’s 1st birthday than a first-time trip to Japan.

We were travelling with seniors (J’s parents) and a baby. We agreed that if most people could fit 3 or more stops for a day’s itinerary, ours would be 2 sites max, or 3 if they were really convenient. As much as possible, we didn’t want to go on a trip that would disrupt her normal routine too much, so that meant ample time for naps, and coffee breaks for us. Everybody is more comfortable if we’re not on a rush.

The baby is now a three-year old toddler. She can run as fast as Ponyo, she has stopped wearing diapers since last year, and she no longer needs ‘special’ baby food. Yet our travelling style remains the same, and we learned that we like it that way.

We kept it local this year for Akira’s birthday, with a 2-night stay at Pico De Loro in Nasugbu, Batangas. I’ve been here last year with my parents and Akira. She loved their pool, I found the place beautiful, and I was confident it was a place that J would also like. I know for most people an overnight stay would suffice, but for us 2 nights is just right.

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Pico De Loro 2015. Where of all things what I forgot to pack is my swimsuit and had to contend with whatever fit me from the souvenir shop (hence the horrid tackiness of this suit).

In my experience, the key to a memorable vacation is one where everyone involved is clear with their non-negotiables. I actually picked that up from my friend Macon, it seemed that was her plan of attack when it came to group trips. It’s effective!

Everyone has a mission or an objective in every vacation, whether that is something as simple as getting a lot of sleep, having loads of pics to share on Facebook and Instagram, or getting to do something exciting for the first time like scuba diving or exploring a cave. Unless something unfortunate happens, such as when it rains the whole day, I believe that when vacation objectives are met is when the vacationer feels satisfied and happy.

For this trip, what I really set out to do was to trek. I thought Mt. Pico De Loro was something accessible or connected with the resort, and it turned out it’s not. I also thought it was a mountain climb that’s beginner-friendly, but people in the resort told me it was not.

With that, I decided to make do with the resort’s existing hiking trail. I was at the beach at 7 am with a small bottle of water and an empty stomach. I realized a little too late that I looked more like I was going to a weekend market instead of a hike.

This is the meeting point with my super nice guy guide, Bryan (or Brian). He’s helpful and polite and just a pleasant person to share a kind of hike that would turn your legs into jelly. I also appreciate that he didn’t seem too judge-y when I kept asking him to repeat what he just said because I couldn’t hear him over the loud pounding of my heart.

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Yay, back in time for the breakfast buffet!

I made it until the highest peak, but not until the very end of the trail. It was only one way through and back, and the last leg of the trek just seemed a little too much for my beginner legs (and lungs). I’m down for another Pico visit just to conquer that trail, really. But for this trip, I was able to do what I wanted to do, and I could go home happy.

J is pretty easy to please when it comes to swimming sojourns. He is not particular with swimming pool sizes, only that he gets a couple of minutes to himself so he can do his laps. If the sea were nice and clean, he’d swim in the sea versus the pool, like me. Most of the time, what ruin it for him though, are the crowds, and that’s unfortunately beyond anyone’s control even with the best planning.

Pico De Loro has three pools – a lap pool, a kiddie pool, and a kind of wading pool in between the two where the partially submerged lounge chairs are. It’s wonderfully designed for people like him because the kids and non-swimmers are automatically corralled in a different pool.

The sea also met his standards. Like what I told him, the beach isn’t white sand, but the water is very clear. With the water up to my chest, I can still clearly see my toes below. Having been here twice already, I can also say that what’s nice about visiting Pico De Loro in summer is that the sea is pretty calm. When I was here around June/July last year, the life guards would tell swimmers to get out of the water as early as 4-ish or 5 pm. The waves weren’t scary big, but I guess it’s the undertow that could be dangerous.

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So J is fine with watching Aki for the rest of the day, as long as he’s had his proper swim (and brewed coffee in the afternoon). He also takes advantage of Akira’s naps to read or would go right ahead and take a nap with her. And that’s all he really needs for an enjoyable holiday.

It’s nice to be with someone with simple needs like that because I can get pretty specific with my wants in a trip. Plus, and this has got to be the best part by far, J takes beautiful, beautiful pictures. That single handedly makes him the best travel companion.

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What about our princess imp? She knew this was a swimming trip, so she was very happy spending time in the pool with us and splashing about in the sea.

The surprise we had in store for her though, and the other reason why I chose Pico for this trip is the pony ride. Since our trip to Baguio this December, she will ride horses any chance she gets.

That’s the activity we reserved for our last day. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise even for us who just tagged along and took photos because their pony ride trail is beautiful. It goes a bit into the forest and you get a wonderful view of the woods and Mt. Pico De Loro. I even spotted a kingfisher in this trail. Now, I wouldn’t mind riding a horse with my kid here next time, and even going for the full hour instead of just 30 minutes.

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So, for all of us to be happy and satisfied with this trip, it took 2 nights. It’s an extra expense but worth it. Nobody is cranky or feeling bad, and it felt just right to be heading back home by that time.

It also helped that the destination was worth it. Sure, we had a few problems when we had dinner, when food took very long to arrive and certain dishes were forgotten, but all in all, the place is clean, well kept, the staff is nice, and it’s just naturally beautiful. I tell J, it’s one SM development that’s exemplary, it doesn’t look and feel like your typical SM development. They really did well with this one, we all don’t mind going back here again.


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