Thoughtful Gift Ideas for Everyone!

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Spending hours in long lines in the store or scanning through websites for that perfect gift can sometimes take away the joy and fun from the gifting process. Moreover, a huge focus on objects or a bunch of stuff people may not need can get stressful on your mind and pocket. To that end, I try hard to make, create or buy gifts for family members and friends that has to do more with the person’s soul instead of a hefty price tag.

I am sharing below my gift ideas that are my personal favorites be it for the holiday season or any event in someone’s life. Some of these ideas are DIY, some can be purchased online within minutes while some are more personal and need your time and presence. I am also sharing here some tips that can help you decide what that gift could be.

TIP 1 Listen  – Did your friend, colleague or family member talk about a product or service they want to try? Try gifting them something they really want. Even though it might be something predictable or boring, but research has shown that gift recipients are more appreciative of gifts they ask for than those they do not.

TIP 2 Don’t focus on size – In the spirit of gifting and showing love we sometime focus on the size of the gift instead of focusing what someone would really love. Be smart and practical and save money!

Tip 3 Keep it simple- Shopping for a“PICKY” friend or cousin can be stressful and one is always second guessing their gift. Keep it simple and uncomplicate things by getting them what they like and not what you think might me cute.

TIP 4 Focus on the moments & the experiences – There are overwhelming number of gift guides and Top 10 gift items lists out there online sharing so many different types of goods and products. But if you want to focus on improving your relationship or make a family member or friend feel closer ,than experiential gifts have more impact than material goods!

(According to a research by Chan and Mogilner’s, the relationship improvements that recipients derive from experiential gifts stem from the emotion that is evoked when the gifts are consumed, not when the gifts are received. Giving experiential gifts is thus identified as a highly effective form of prosocial spending and can have a greater impact on improving the relationship between the giver and receiver.)

Here are some gift ideas that cover the above 4 TIPS

MAKE A GIFT

These gifts take your personal time in making something that will be cherished by someone.

PHOTO & MEMORY GIFTS – Photo books for grandparents, Family calendars with quotes, Personalized story books, Pillows, & Photo mugs. You can get great deal on stores like Shutterfly, Vista Print, Costco, Minted, Sanpfish etc. I personally use Shutterfly.

Digital Art Print -I love this idea, it is easy to get and can be a great piece of art in someone’s house in the nursery, bedroom or kitchen. You can add your touch by selecting a frame that will go with someone’s taste. Digital prints can be a quote you like, an image , a collage or anything that speaks to the person’s taste and preferences you are gifting too.

Personalized GiftsEtsy has so many fantastic options to personalize gifts from glass bottles, fabric bags to metal and leather key chains, diaries etc. I gave my best friends personalized jewelry with our initials on it Nordstrom usually has a small kiosk at their stores where you can personalize anything!

Build a Box/ Gift – This is extremely simple and a fun way to create something for a friend and family member really focusing on what they will appreciate most. Example: A coffee box with a cute mug with a fun quote, their favorite coffee blend, some chocolate and a cute message holder.

You can also buy a cozy slipper and fill it with some spa essentials like bath salts, candle, nail polish, face mask for someone who can enjoy some Me time. I just made some gifts for son’s teachers with Bath & Body works items.

Build a terrarium: My personal favorite! I must have gifted so many. It’s a great project if you like. From simply buying a gorgeous succulent or cactus and placing it in a cute mug to creating a terrarium garden in a glass bowl with tips from Pinterest. A plant is always a great gift idea!

SMART & PRACTICAL GIFTS

Movie, TV or Music Streaming Subscription gift- with so many great options available for entertainment and music today you can be sure this will be a much appreciate gift especially if you can’t meet someone physically.

You can gift a year’s or few months subscription of Spotify Premium, Netflix, Apple Music, Apple TV, Disney + to HBO etc

You can also give other subscription gifts like lifestyle boxes for wine, beauty -A face mask subscription box

Kids STEM Toy box from Amazon

Lifestyle subscription box Fab Fit Fun (Use code ARUSHI to get $10 off)

Dollar Shave Club box for men

Membership gifts can really bring ease to someone who needs it and haven’t signed up yet. Be it from a local gym or boot camp class membership to Amazon Prime or Shipt home good and grocery delivery service, they add a lot of value to someone’s life by saving their time. For families Zoo, Museums, botanical memberships make great gifts too.

Gift Cards– This might not be personal, but they make the person excited they can shop something they like whenever. For example, a $50 Zara gift card is great idea for friend or family member who loves to shop there and can add some more $$ and buy their favorite bag. Gift cards of stores where people prefer to shop makes most sense. I personally prefer gift cards over any random gift that I might not use.

 Charitable donation- Contribute to your friend’s racing fund or donate to a charity of their choice. Giving to a charitable or social cause in honor of someone you care about is one of the most thoughtful ways to celebrate the season of giving.

Experiential Gifts

Experiential gifts are perfect for our loved ones who reject the notion of receiving material gifts during the holidays. From workshops and museum memberships to immersive artwork and trans formative books, there’s no shortage of meaningful experiences to gift our minimalist friends. Groupon has some great experiences you can look at and even Airbnb.

Meditation classes– Most major cities have unique meditation and mindfulness studios for classes and workshops, so look around for local options as well.

Pampering Sessions -Relaxing Spa day, boutique pedicure and manicure services, hair spa day and more are perfect way to pamper your family member or friend. Join them too.

Creative Workshops- If your spouse, friend or family member likes cooking, music, pottery making or like to learn how to surf or scuba dive a workshop or class gift makes a great call. This is great for date nights and also for bonding between siblings and friends.

Annual Pass to national parks is a great gift for the outdoor lover.

Tickets to a musical, sports event or concert

For the adrenaline junkie you can look at flying lessons, race car driving and escape the room tickets.

I hope you like these ideas , they make great holiday and special occasion gifts too. I have seen people’s face light up with a smile when they receive a gift they didn’t expect with awe and surprise. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? I believe we all can appreciate a gift that is thoughtful and meaningful and care less of the brand or its price.

Happy Holidays !

Arushi (2)

Pink and Deep Plum Skincare Tips Pinterest Graphic

 

Crafts, Toys and Activity Ideas for Tricky Three Year Olds

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I love listening to Vir’s stories when he plays with these toys. He loves to see his favorite Sago Mini charterers come to life with this Road Trip Collection.

Forget the ‘terrible twos’ – meet the ‘tricky threes’! As our little ones toddle their way into preschooler-hood, they leave the obsession with ‘no’ behind, and begin to develop their own unique tastes, faves and dislikes. While it’s a unique privilege to watch them blossom into little people, it does make coming up with activities they’ll like even trickier.

In my previous post I shared our love for Sago Mini and few other apps on our Top 10 Best Educational, Interactive and Engaging apps for toddlers and preschoolers. Check it out if you haven’t already!

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One of Vir’s favorite toys. Robin’s barn, you can pack it all up in the box and head to the cafe.

This post covers a master list of fun toys, crafts, apps and activities that even the pickiest, trickiest three-year-old will get into! (Originally published on Sago Mini’s website (Click Here

22.Practice sorting with a muffin tin.
21. Play dress up (or try a mess-free virtual version!)
20. Host an epic play date.
19. Head out on an impromptu scavenger hunt – ask your child to find anything from all the purple fruits in the grocery store, to all the red cars on your road trip!
18. Have an indoor dance-til’-you-drop party.
17. Collect leaves on your nature walk and create crayon rubbings of them in a special ‘explore journal’.

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16.Explore textures and practice sensory skills by placing various objects in a paper bag and have your child guess what they are.
15.Take a Portable Playset to your neighborhood cafe.
14. Work on a puzzle together.
13. Clean up your craft game with these zero-waste activities.
12. Practice organization by packing a suitcase for a pretend-play trip.
11. Fill up the bathtub with water, throw in some fun water toys and create a splash-zone play area!

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10.Create an on-the-go puppet show with the Walk & Play Finger Puppets.
9.Act out your favorite fairy tale – or better yet, create your own!
8. Learn all the dance moves to your kid’s favorite song (Baby Shark, anyone?)
7. Craft a creative hat (& then try it on unsuspecting family members.)
6. Take the subway or drive to a new area, and be a tourist in your own town.

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If you follow me on Instagram you know we love to go to our neighborhood library every other weekend.

5.Set up your very own Tickle Trunk.
4.Get some help in the kitchen.
3. Check out the local library or community center for free activities.
2. Find a petting zoo – or create your own with animal figurines and stuffed animals!
1. Snuggle up with some sweets and their favorite story – this one’s fun for both the 3-year-olds and the 30-ish-year-olds. 🙂

I will love to know how you keep your little one’s busy!

Love

Arushi (2)

Top Things To do in BALI -A 5-day Travel Guide

I had always wanted to go to Bali but the thought of traveling for almost 30 hours door to door from Houston, Texas would take away the fun. However, things finally fell into place and like most of my travels this year I planned a trip to Bali out of the blue.  You can click here to read more on my recent trips to San Antonio, Cancun and San Francisco . Thanks to my husband who wanted to travel to India this year and so we worked out the perfect plan where he traveled with my son to India to his parent’s house in Delhi and I traveled directly to Bali and joined my family later in India after 6 days to celebrate Diwali.

I love that I can break a trip solo or with family to another Asian country while traveling to India. I plan to do that more often now as I mostly end up traveling to Europe, Mexico and South America from US every year. This time on my travels I got to experience the gorgeous island of Bali with my cousin who joined me in Taiwan,where both of our flights had a layover. This was a perfect girl’s trip I could have imagined!

You can check out my Instagram Page for all the spots I visited in Bali. It is saved under Highlights on my feed!

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One of the first things you hear and read about Bali is the amazing hospitality, the hotels, villas and the most instagrammable resorts. Since mine was a short trip I knew I will have to change base to experience one 2-3 sides of the island. And so, I went ahead and booked a small cottage on Airbnb in Ubud for our first few days of travels and then changed base in Seminyak. This was a great decision and I highly recommend my readers to keep maximum one or two bases for your trip to avoid the hopping around with luggage’s. Our cottage was so cute and had the most gorgeous views from the pool. We were served fresh breakfast daily and the hospitality was great. The property was amazing and there were more villas around, so it felt safe.

Day 1 Ubud

Ubud is the place one needs to stay in Bali to truly the experience the culture and character of the island. Also, most of the tours start from Ubud, so it’s easier to travel around.  We stayed for 3 days in Ubud and were able to accomplish a lot than we had thought.  One of the most important things to note is that you need a driver in Bali to travel. Its convenient and safe and relaxing as the traffic can get crazy in peak hours. Our driver was so helpful and trust worthy, he was recommended by a friend and I am happy to share his information in cased anyone wants it. (Pl email me) All our tours were organized by him and after comparing the costs online and on Fb chat groups we know those were the best prices offered. The Bali Life Fb page is one of the best resources to seek help and advice on any topic. It is a huge community of travelers who are so helpful in answering any questions.

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1) Tegalalang Rice Terrace, one of the most visited tourist attractions in Ubud. I had never seen anything like it before so had to make a stop. Tegalalang rice fields is a series of rice paddies located in the centre of Bali, famous for its terraced layout. This is a traditional Balinese irrigation system known as subak. Although the fields had no water in it as we went in October the fields look stunning. You must give a small donation to enter but to experience the Bali swing and some other spots there is a small fee. We weren’t into the swing experience maybe because we prefer roller coasters 😊

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2) With so many beautiful waterfalls to choose from in Bali, it is hard to decide which one to visit. We visited Tukad Cepung Waterfall. A few hundred stairs down the cliff is worth the effort once you arrive at the destination. The circular cliffs give you the feeling of being in a cave, while the open sky right from where the waterfall emerges, gives you the most enchanting view. To avoid lines, we made sure we visited it at 9am. Also carry swim suits and waterproof shoes. The hike up and down can be hard for younger kids. Also, on our way up we enjoyed the breakfast on a swing. The entry is IDR 10,000 per person

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3) Cantik Agriculture Coffee Plantation apart from offering the famed Luwak coffee, also explores different flavors to create a variety of unique products including teas, chili chocolates and flavored coffee. The plantation offers educational tours that suit any ages. This was one of my favorite and most unique experiences in Bali. We tasted 15 different types of coffee and teas. I loved the simple set up and bought some coffee and chocolate as souvenirs from the trip. The tour is free you can tip your guide and support the farm by buying some coffee.

 

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4) Ubud Palace– After our long drive to the above 3 places on out first day we made it back from our road trip and tours back to Ubud by 3pm, relaxed and enjoyed some delicious Indian food at Ganesha Restaurant tasted some local ice cream and headed to Ubud Palace for a stroll. Originally built in the 1800s by the late Ida Tjokorda Putu Kandel. The Ubud Palace, which is also known as Puri Saren, is a must-visit on any tour itinerary to the Ubud area. It is spectacular and is free to enter. We couldn’t make it to the evening cultural performance as we were tired and jetlagged. But I can imagine how stunning it must be to experience it.

5) Pura Taman Saraswati Temple in Ubud is slightly different from other temples in Bali. The temple has ponds with pink lotus flowers and neatly arranged water parks. It was one of the most majestic sights ever. We sat there for some time to soak in all the beauty.

Day 2 Trip to Nusa Penida

Just 45 minutes from Bali by boat, Nusa Penida has beautiful views, stunning landscapes, and one of the most gorgeous beaches. We started early at 7 am from Ubud to catch the speed boat and arrived at Nusa Penida. I recommend hiring a driver if you don’t plan to stay back at the island. The roads are bad and hiring a scooter isn’t a good idea. We honestly focused on snorkeling and had limited time to explore the island so lost some opportunities there. Also it turned out to be an extremely taxing day as there was so much travel within the island as well. I recommend staying here a night to truly experience all of the majestic beaches.

1)Manta Ray snorkeling: The giant manta rays are usually present throughout the year, but we had no luck in Nusa Penida that day and couldn’t find any at the Manta Ray point which was a bit sad. Especially as we spent a lot of time on snorkeling transfers and on boat. However, we visited 3 other snorkeling spots and I got to snorkel for hours and it was fun especially as I snorkeled after a year.

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2)Kelingking ‘T-Rex– This was truly an amazing sight. My desktop wallpaper just came to life. The Instagram famous coastal cliff, which truly does look like a T-rex was just spectacular. I still remember the moment I laid eyes on the beach below with crystal clear water. Stood there for a while to soak in all the beauty. We were tired to hike down the cliff to really enjoy the beach also itb was extremely hot and I felt my skin was burning. There are some small cafes where you can stop and grab a drink and cool down. I was a bit scared of getting a picture near the cliff as it was seriously too high but made it.

3)Nusa Penida Treehouse was a huge miss due to the limited time we had on the island as we gave to take the ferry back at 4 pm and most of our time was gone in snorkeling. The Tree House (Rumah Pohon) is perched up on the mountain at Thousand Island (Pulau Seribu) viewpoint near Atuh Beach. It is part of the Thousand Island viewpoint area costing only 10,000 rupiah to park and enter, which is less than $1 USD.

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Day 3 Ubud

This was a relaxing day where I wanted to just enjoy the cafe culture and shopping in the city and just take it slow. Unfortunately, the second half of my trip I had severe nausea and vomiting due to which I lost an entire evening to enjoy in Seminyak. Bali Belly is real guys, I think something I ate dint suit me and my system just wanted everything out! So, after 6 hours of vomiting I could hardly move and rested to get better.

1) Ubud Monkey Forest The monkey forest demonstrates the coexistence of humans and nature. Several temple festivals are held within the grounds of the monkey forest. The area enclosed by the temple walls and the forest area around it is considered sacred. We left our belongings at the reception as the monkeys can take your stuff so it’s important one is careful. As I entered the forest a monkey came towards me and gently pulled my skirt. I was a bit scared, but it was smooth from then on. Just keep a safe distance from the monkeys. Entrance fees for adults is 80,000 Indonesian Rupiahs which is roughly $6 and children 60,000 rupiahs $4.50.

2)Ubud Art Market – I love to take some time out to shop and honestly Bali has some beautiful things for home décor, fashion and jewelry. We spent hours strolling through stores and looking for unique pieces and gifts for friend’s and family. After shopping at Seminiyak I can say Ubud market is much cheaper and has more traditional items.

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3)Spa and Wellness – One can’t leave Bali without a good spa session. And honestly a good 1-hour massage is very cheap and so relaxing. Almost every area in the city has massage parlors and spas. I was not really looking for a flower bath so dint venture for a fancy place and stuck to nice local small shops. The massage can range from IDR 50,000 to 300,000 depending on the place and service you request.

4) Lazy Cats Cafe – A cafe, bar, and gallery, Lazy Cats’ architecture combines industrial bohemian with classy decor. They also have a mix of art, lush vegetation, and vintage furniture. We spent 2 hours lounging there and enjoying our lunch and some drinks. I just wished there was some air conditioning there as it was one of the hottest days in Ubud in October.

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Day 4 Seminyak

Seminyak has a more urban look and feel unlike Ubud. It’s very chill and I liked the vibe there especially if you are looking to party and enjoy the beach bars and cafes. We booked our hotel here from Hotels.com (I use this site to book all my hotels when I travel. After 10 nights I get a free night at a hotel of my choice!) Our hotel was central to everything. Seminyak sits a little way along the coast from the famous Kuta Beach in Bali. This part is more focused on beach clubs where you can sip a drink with your feet in the sand, although there are also some clubs to be found in the area. Also, Seminyak is known for its shopping with some of the biggest names in Bali. We rented a scooter here. It was easy to ride around the area, and parking was available easily everywhere. We spent IDR 60,000 on the scooter for a day.

1) Floating Brunch at Cabina Bali: I wanted to experience the floating brunch in the pool in Bali as I knew it wouldn’t be something I won’t get to do elsewhere. So, I researched and came across Cabina Bali a gorgeous cafe to indulge and enjoy with friends or family. The pastel pink walls, tall palm trees, aqua sunbeds, and cacti lining the walls were so IG worthy. The food was delicious, and we spent almost 2 hours lounging in the pool. The staff is extremely friendly. Note: You need to make a reservation to go to this cafe. We booked weeks in advance.

2) Chill at La Plancha – I had not imagined such a magical sunset setting, with a mango lassi or a mai tai in hand, lazing amongst a field of rainbow beanbags on the beach. We spent 4-5 hours just lazing here, enjoying the live DJ music, hitting the beach and finally enjoying the sun set views. If you find yourself in Seminyak, be sure to check out La Plancha during your search for that perfect beach resting spot. Don’t miss a sunset here, you won’t regret it!

3)Party in the night at Motel Mexicola- After so long I went dancing and Motel Mexicola was so much fun. The place is a boisterous, Mexican-inspired restaurant in day and at night it’s a big bar. The music is fantastic and the energy too. People were dancing on tables and there is no cover also the best part is you can get some late night tacos too.

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Day 5  Seminyak

1) Mount Batur  Sunrise Treak and Breakfast with a view. One of my most recommended experience of Bali will be the sunrise trek to Mt. Batur. This was my first time hiking a volcano and it was majestic. Mount Batur is situated in the Bangli region on the island of Bali, Indonesia. You can hike it to watch the sunrise over nearby volcanoes Mount Agung and Mount Agang. The hike is two hours (for most, quicker if you need fewer breaks) and remember you are hiking a volcano which is 1,717 meters, or 5,633 feet, above sea level. I started at 2 am from Seminyak by car. The hike starts at 3:30 am from the meeting point. So, it’s a night out plan.

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Take time to do what makes your soul happy. Because when you take care of yourself, you’re a better person for others. This is not just an instagram caption,it’s my reality. And a topic that I have often discussed on my feed 🙏🏽 . Hiking Mt. Batur a volcano in BALI 🌋 which is 5,633 feet, above sea level at 3 am in the morning and summiting in 2 hours to see the incredible sunrise is one of my favorite experiences from my recent trip. This moment was especially important to me as I was almost about to cancel this hike after a very dramatic 24 hours in Bali like- from having the worst nausea and vomiting for 6 hours, to burning my hand by a curling iron to frantically searching for my Iphone 11 pro for 5 hours in Bali and finding it in a cab 20 miles away (have to share this on a separate post) and then hiking without a day’s sleep. I thought this trip was jinxed. But then I just dint want anything to dampen my spirit. So I partied hard and went hiking the same night. #snazzymomtravels 🙏🏽 . On another note my name ARUSHI means dawn or the red sky or first ray of sun ☀️ So gotta rise up and keep shining 🙏🏽 . . #bali #balilife #femmetravel #mountbatue #dametraveler #sheisnotlost #wearethetravelgirls #shetravels #girlswhotravel #ubud #visitbali #balivibes #thebaliguideline

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 For me the hike was easy as I have been training for a half marathon, so as per your fitness level you can decide to hike and see the timing to finish. The main issue was the volcanic rubble which was making everyone slip.  Note: the temperature and climate will be different from one night to the next and changes throughout the hike. I wore comfortable leggings, trainers and layered with a jacket and workout top only. Also carried a small back pack of the gear I needed.

I booked my hike with my driver for a private hike as I was coming from Semniyak which is an hour and half drive at night. It costed me $120. This includes everything, including pickup and drop off from Seminyak, local guide up the mountain, water, flashlights, simple breakfast at the top. It’s cheaper if you are doing it with someone, also recommend doing it from Ubud as its closer. If you like to hike the mountain,  I recommend booking through Airbnb tours.

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 2) Bruch at The Junction House- Right after I returned from the hike, I wanted to indulge in a brunch experience! And I don’t think there could have been a better way to end the Bali trip. The Junction House is an urban-styled Haussmann Parisian House. The French elegance, tall windows, the chic color coded and modern interior resembled a cozy Parisian apartment

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It's a good day when avocado toast + coffee is involved! 🥑 ☕️ And on my recent trip to BALI, the brunching scene went one step further with the refreshing tropical açaí bowl and the decadent chocolate ball dessert at the @thejunctionhouse ! This place is a must visit if you are heading there anytime soon! ❤️ . #OnTheBlog I have shared my most recommended brunch spots, cafes and beach bars that should be on your must go list! On my recent trip to the tropical paradise “Bali” I uncovered some of the most beautiful spots on the planet to the best cafes! Bali truly has some of the most incredible cafe scene! . What is your go to brunch dish? Avo lover anyone ? 🥑 . . . #brunchtime #sundayfunday #balieats #balifoodies #femmetravel #dametraveler #ubud #sheisnotlost #wearethetravelgirls #shetravels #girlswhotravel #balitrip

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This House is not a place, it’s a feeling! I loved the delicious tropical acai bowl, avocado toast and had 2 cups of latte with the gorgeous Bali Latte art. The staff was so friendly and gave us great recommendations for choice of food. The latte was strong just the way I like it and by far this was our best meal of the entire trip!

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3) Shopping at Seminyak: The streets of this beach town are lined with some of Bali’s hottest stores. From sleek home ware, delicate silk dresses and cool craft work Seminyak has some of the coolest designer and boutique stores to shop from. At the Seminyak Village shopping mall you can find all major designer brands, great pubs and restaurants and some good views of the beach from the mall terrace. I bought some souvenirs and gifts for family from the local shops and art market. Note you must bargain at local shops to get a good price.

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I hope you find this guide useful. You can DM me on my Instagram to have a faster response for any of your questions here.

LOVE !

Arushi (2)

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The 4P’s of Mastering the Road Trip with Kids

Traveling with kids can be such a rewarding experience. And making some unique memories on a road trip that will last a lifetime is worthwhile. We have an unforgettable memory from our Texas Wild safari trip at San Antonio this summer where the ostriches stuck their head into the car windows to get some food. There was a lot of yelling and excitement involved and that is one of the coolest experiences I have had in the car lately!

I love how our toddler is excited to spot a trailer truck , motorbike or an eighteen wheeler on the road, how he has made a game of his own called “Where is the moon” on night drives and how recently on our very recent road trip in San Francisco he enjoyed, sang and memorized the lines from his current favorite song Senorita by Shawn Mendes!

But it can be easy to forget about all those joys when you’re three plus hours into what probably feels like the longest drive of your life. We’ve all been there. And to help keep your sanity I am sharing my 4Ps for an enjoyable and stress-free road trip with kids.

 

1) Planning

 Time to Go: I like to plan the best time to drive with kids ahead of time, so all unfinished tasks and last-minute shopping or stops can be avoided. Night time works best if kids are younger or under 2 or 3, they sleep well as per schedule, stay in diapers and that also meant uninterrupted conversations with your partner.

Or leaving bright in the day, early morning works best too for a lot of parents especially of you are on a 6+ hours trip.  Making sure the person driving is well rested is very important on long road trips, so time to go is one of the first steps to having a stress-free road trip.

2) Play Stops

Mapping out the entire route before you travel gives a good sense of breaks you can take for food or restrooms. We also like to find interesting places to stop for like historic sites, museums, charming towns, and beautiful places for picnics, including state parks, lakes or even a playground. This helps burn of some energy on the road trip. Another tip I have is to book a hotel/motel with a pool if you are on a very loooong drive. Something the kids can look forward to while great for cooling down.

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3) Packing

Important Gear for Family

Phone charger, Battery pack, Tablet, First aid kit, Mosquito repellant, Sunscreen lotion, Water, Snacks, Dryer sheets for the car to smell fresh. I also make a small backpack of important items that I might need immediately and keep in the passenger seat.  Few trash bags to collect all trash and clean up.

Gear for Kids

 Activity books, stickers, toys, crayons and a car seat organizer help too. I usually make a busy bag for my son for flights and now use that for road trips too. I highly recommend getting magnetic games for the car.  Also, surprising kids with a new toys ensures less tantrums. Worked for us. I always grab some new toys from Target $1 aisle or Dollar store and introduce them to my son when he listens or when the tears won’t stop. You can hunt for some on amazon too.  A kid friendly playlist is great for bonding and learning some new rhymes, so I make one on Spotify. For older kids’ audio books is a great idea. And when everything fails, I give my son his tablet to plays some fun and educational games or cartoons that you can download from Netflix and you tube kids. We also carry a scoter for our son, so he can get out and ride it on a long drive. Try including a fun activity on a long drive where you end up taking more than 2 plus breaks. Bring on the snacks, try carrying new variety of crackers, cheese, candy, cookies that your kids can enjoy or be excited about. Don’t forget fruits, juices and milk. Also buying a snack at a gas station can be helpful to calm the situation at times. I always carry a blanket and a stuff toy for my son as it helps him sleep.

Also I found these Road side games online. Great for older kids 3+ . Going to use them on your next trip.

Free Printable Road Side Scavenger Hunt 

Free Printable I spy

Free Printable Big Kids US License Plate Game

 

4) Patience

There will be potty emergencies, snack breaks, tantrums, but there will also be magic on these long drives. If I have learned one thing about being on the road with a baby, then toddler, it’s that nothing will ever go as planned. There will be delays, you might forget your kid’s favorite toy or something else. This is already life with a three-year-old. Just embrace the chaos. Above all, bring your sense of humor and patience fully intact. Road trips are fun, and they are hard. Keep your partner calm, sing and avoid arguing and stressful moments by taking some deep breaths and putting your favorite track from the 90s.

Have a safe journey my friends!

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

 

San Francisco Travel Guide. Things To Do in Five Days In & Around the City.

 

There’s no shortage of fun to be had in this gorgeous city with tons of exciting landmarks and family-friendly attractions. We have been to San Fran over 3 times before Vir was born and this time we were able to experience the city differently. My mom was here visiting us and so we planned to travel to San Fran for a 5 day trip this summer. We also did a road trip San Antonio t just few weeks before San Francisco and were glad to have so many different experiences and a big change in scenery. (Read more here)

One of the most important things about exploring San Fran is planning the places you want to visit in the city itself or downtown,  and spend those days close by to avoid traffic.

img_9001_facetune_20-07-2019-08-55-15We stayed at the Clift Royal Sonesta Hotel and it was such a great decision. Right in the belly of busy, high-rise downtown, the hotel is conveniently close to the famous Powell-Hyde cable car turnaround, bus tours at Union Square and public transport on Market Street. The interior of the hotel is unique especially the lobby which is so creative in designs and furniture elements. Since there were 4 of us travelling, we booked the 2-queen room suite. I was surprised to see that our room was so spacious compared to the hotels I have stayed earlier in NYC. The interior of the room provided such a relief from the city streets, especially loved the pastel colors like lavender, peaches and lilac colors apart from the fabulous sky line views. We always book hotels that serve a good breakfast spread or buffet and the Clift has a great selection of dishes that can’t be missed.

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The Redwood room at the Clift 

On our trip to SFO we also celebrated our 9th marriage anniversary and the legendary Redwood Room Bar in the Clift was the perfect and glamorous venue to enjoy drinks with my husband while Vir and my mom rested in the room. We were so impressed with the interior features -the original redwood paneling and enormous bar, which, legend has, was carved from a single redwood tree! The ambiance is so classic and rich, and I highly recommend going there!

Here’s what we did in San Francisco with a toddler!

Powell-Hyde Cable Car Ride: It was extremely convenient to take the cable car as our hotel the Clift was very close to the turnaround. We left in the morning at 9am to avoid the long lines. The Powell-Hyde cable car cruises from the wharf past the top of Lombard Street, through Chinatown, past Union Square and ultimately ends at Market Street downtown. Bring cash (exact change not required), so you can quickly pay the operator for your trip. You can buy a one-day pass for use on all the city’s public transportation ($20), or just a one-way cable car pass ($7) which we opted for. Vir was so excited all through the way, it was his second time sitting in a cable car (we sat in few on our tip to Portugal a year and half back)

Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf : It is a must do if you visit the city.  It’s a captivating destination to visit with children. Travelers can easily spend a full day visiting. The famous sea lions that took up residence on the docks of Pier 39 in 1990 and now rarely ever leave. These creatures play, splash, and sometimes even fight, all while hundreds of tourists look on. It’s an amazing animal encounter that is hard to have in the busy city without visiting a zoo. We also did a boat tour( highly recommend doing one),  few carousel rides shopping and had some delicious crepes.

Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito : This was our second time back here and even though it was very foggy the day we choose to visit, we were able to get some fantastic clicks and views from the Battery Spencer.(just wait for the fog to pass, it comes and goes every few minutes) Vir took a nap on the drive and missed it but my mom enjoyed the postcard views and city skyline. We drove just a few minutes further north and found ourselves in the seaside city of Sausalito. This little seaside town in SF’s back yard has unbelievable scenery, protected “banana belt” weather, and a laid-back Mediterranean atmosphere. Apart from enjoying a stroll around the city, grabbing lunch at some boutique restaurants you can also enjoy the 30-minute Sausalito ferry ride. It is better, more interesting, and less expensive than tour boat rides. In fact, it is the second most exciting ferry boat ride in the world.

 China Town: It’s easy to spend a day here, exploring the streets and alleys, browsing the shops and enjoying the authentic Chinese food. I have fallen in love with this area! The sights, sounds, smells and culture are just amazing!! Look down every ally for the talent of artist and murals. Try the foods! The shops are perfect for souvenirs. A must see! Walk through and just take it all in!

img_9358Stanford and Palo Alto neighborhood: Vir and my mom on this trip also got to visit my husband’s Grad school. This was a day trip where we spent our time at the Stanford campus, shopping at the college shop, exploring the campus and facilities. Deep was so happy to return to his school and share some fun memories from his past with Vir. This is a good trip for kids as there is splash pad in the schools, big parks to have a picnic and some cool spots and buildings. It is open to public. Pl check the website before you visit.

We had lunch at Palo Alto downtown and took a stroll around. Vir also participated in a small activity at the Apple store for kids, I don’t think he understood much (as it was 5 and up) but was very intrigued. Don’t miss grabbing a coffee at the gorgeous

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Roaring Camp Steam Train Through Santa Cruz Redwood: We planned a road trip to Roaring Camp train ride, and it was one of the best things we did in a while with Vir. The Steam Engine added to the fun, as in modern times steam engines are obsolete and their hiss, puff and whistles adds extra excitement for kids. Train ride goes through Redwood forests, and train driver talked about some interesting facts about Redwoods. Train ride is not just a train ride but gets you closer to nature. I would recommend it for family with kids for sure. Love the setting of the place just like an old town with small shops and activities for kids. Recommend booking tickets ahead of time as it guarantees your spot and your choice of departure time; rides often sell out, especially in the summer.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk: We drove from San Francisco to Santa Cruz to spend 2 days there. And stayed right near the Santa Cruz boardwalk.  What a great place to spend the day! There is no admission fee. The boardwalk has so many fun things to do, excellent food selection and access to the beach. My family had a great time here! Vir enjoyed some toddler rides while I went on a roller coaster ride!

Seymour Marine Discovery Center: We stopped at the discovery center on our road trip for 30 minutes. There are 2 giant whale skeleton exhibits that you can’t miss the blue Whale and the gray whale. The 87-foot blue whale skeleton is one of the largest skeletons of any kind, displayed anywhere in the world. These skeletons are outside of the center and can be seen for free. There is also an aquarium, touch pools and small marine exhibit inside, which was closed as we visited after 5 pm.

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Capitola Village : One of the artsy, secluded spots close by, but away from the crowds of Santa Cruz. This is a wonderful little beach and small town. There are pastel colored houses next to the beach and many restaurants have outdoor seating looking toward them. The beach is small and paid parking is limited. We all enjoyed spending a few hours in the town and grabbing pizza and ice cream. Do visit if you have time.

Sand City : On our drive to Monterey we came across a spectacular sand dune and took an exit to see where this came from? These dunes are the highest found on California’s Central Coast. Me and my husband parked the car to hike the dune and check what’s the view like on the top. Once above the dunes, we saw a sky full of paragliders. Sand City is one of the prime spots in the state for paragliding. The winds are perfect, the launch area ideal — and the view is incredible. I wish we had more time and I would have loved to explore it more. For next time!

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For our 5 day trip we had the comfortable, powerful and stylish Toyota Highlander Hybrid . I love that we made so many amazing memories with my mom in this car while exploring the city and neighboring areas. Supreme ride comfort, a smooth and punchy V6 drive train and spacious interior accommodations for people in the first two rows. This SUV has an upscale cabin with an abundance of safety features. We loved it !

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Monterey, Carmel and 17-Mile Drive: It is must do for any visitor especially if you have time. This was our second time on the drive, and it was spectacular! The 17-Mile Drive is a road that passes through an exclusive neighborhood. And you must pay an entrance fee just to drive on it. You can spend close to 3 hours here. We made a few stops here and enjoyed the looking at Point Joe, Bird Rock, The lone cypress, seals and the restless sea among other things.

 

 

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These fun things to do in San Francisco will only enhance your trip to a great city. Add some of these to your itinerary especially if traveling with kids and  to the must do things in San Francisco and you will find yourself having so much to do!

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where to Eat in San Antonio! Kid Friendly Places you can’t miss.

Dining with kids on a vacation can be a daunting task, especially if you have a lot of places to visit and cover. When mealtime rolls on a trip, instead of dragging everyone back to the hotel to eat, we look for the nearest kid-friendly restaurant or cafe.

And on our recent trip to San Antonio, we were delighted to learn that there were tons of kid-friendly places to eat at almost all main attractions we visited. One could easily spend a three- to four-day trip eating your way through vibrant San Antonio. It’s the perfect place to introduce any kid – toddler to teen – to healthy, tasty, unique and flavorful eats. From Mexican food joints and handmade ice cream to adorable cafes!  

One of the things we are very particular about is vegetarian food, since I am a  vegetarian, my husband eats chicken, and Vir is trying to eat chicken but prefers a vegetarian meal. So, we always look at the menus online before we hit the place. I also love to check out on Instagram how the restaurant looks and feels, and if it’s a casual and kid-friendly place, too. 

The Bottling Department Food Hall at Pearl is a one-stop place for everything from beer, cocktails, donuts, ramen , hamburgers, garden bowls and more. The emerging local chefs are truly the heart and soul of San Antonio’s rich and growing reputation as a culinary destination, and their mix of ingredients, tastes and styles all combine to create a community united by culture and rooted in well-crafted, high-quality food. I loved the prickly pear margarita I had at the pub there. It was one of the best drinks I had in the city! The Good Kind restaurant offers some of the healthiest food in the city. They have a great variety of bowls, cold-pressed juices and smoothies, too. For our drive back home, we also packed some Maybelle’s donuts.

Bakery Lorraine We ate here twice, and love it! I wish they would come to Houston soon. One of the few bakeries I have been where the breakfast and lunch menu is as wide as the bakery menu. Their coffee is very good and food items are healthy and flavorful. Vir ate mac and cheese and croissants, while we enjoyed the tomato soup, sandwiches, and avocado toast. You must stop at the Pearl to sit at the bakery and grab some food to go, as well! And shout out to Doseum Museum for having bakery Lorraine instead of a fast food chain!

 

La Margarita Restaurant & Oyster Bar at the Historic Market Square offers excellent food and great margaritas in a charming, Old World setting. The Tex-Mex dishes and the sizzling fajitas were too good. The service is excellent, and the food is amazing. The live Mariachis was also great, Vir loved the vibe there and for us, the margaritas were spot-on. After shopping at the market square, this is a great place to get some rest, grab some delicious food and head for the next destination. They have outdoor sitting, too. 

Ocho– Location and elegance!! The café is inside Hotel Havana and is situated in a glass conservatory overlooking the River Walk. It is one of the most beautiful cafes I have been to in a while. They serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks indoors and outdoors. I love that they offer complimentary wifi and serve Stumptown espresso drinks. We had our morning breakfast there, and it was a short walk from our hotel. 

La Gloria is in Pearl Brewery and has a great atmosphere, great food with excellent service and staff! The outside patio is right by the River Walk and it’s covered and has fans! It was a perfect spot to cool down and enjoy some snacks and drinks while overlooking the river. The menu is Mexican; we ate some tacos and got a side of rice and beans for Vir. They also have live music like most of the other Mexican restaurants.


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A Popsicle and ice cream store at the Hemisfair park is a must-visit for everyone. The local husband and wife-owned store offers wholesome treats made with fresh, natural and organic ingredients. If you take the kids to the splash pad or park, you must visit this store and surprise yourself to a unique flavor popsicle. Their popsicles are priced very reasonably, from $3 onward. We got the Tamarind water-based popsicle , while Vir had the mango- and milk-based popsicle. 

For family friendly spots in San Antonio, you can’t miss check our my last post here.

I hope you get to enjoy these restaurants and cafes, and do share with me your favorite spots to eat in San Antonio if you stay or have visited the place. If you haven’t yet visited the city. Check my post here why you should travel there this year!

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

This post was produced in partnership with Visit San Antonio and Travel Mindset.

 

Family Friendly Spots in San Antonio You Can’t Miss ! Our Mini Summer Getaway

 

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Location : The Doseum

Without a doubt, San Antonio is one of the most tourist-friendly cities of Texas! And I love how it has so much to offer every time we come back.

Our family has been in Houston, Texas, for more than  9 years now, and San Antonio is one of our favorite destinations to go for a long weekend road trip with friends or family visiting us. It is also a great place to chill and enjoy a mini couple getaway. This was our fifth visit, while it was our son’s first time in the vibrant city.

Our recent road trip to San Antonio was completely different than the previous ones! I guess it is the beauty of traveling with kids. The place is the same but the memories we make and the adventures we have are different every time!

The last time we traveled to San Antonio was around 3 years back, when my cousin and her husband visited us in Houston from Chicago. The two of us were pregnant then, and we enjoyed our trip by shopping and eating on the famous River Walk. One cannot miss the River Walk if in San Antonio, and I can’t get enough of it every time we go!  I just love how lively it is throughout the day. 

We ate at the restaurants on River Walk every night on this visit, too. (Note: Usually there is 20-30 minute at most of the restaurants, so we put our names on the list at 2 different spots and explored the place until we got a call for a table that opened for us on either of the restaurants). Also for the first time, we got a full tour on the boat ride, as Vir was super excited to go on it!

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Vir was in awe of the river walk.

I have to say, I am seriously blown away with the number of things we were able to do with our toddler in three days.  From splash parks, to boat rides, historic markets to a museum and more! In this post, I will be sharing a guide to all the must visit places and to do activities in San Antonio with your little ones! I am also sharing some fun family clicks from our family trip. Hope you enjoy them and like these recommendations:

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Location: The Pearl 

The Pearl Experience – I like to call it an experience, as there is so much in one spot for everyone. You can spend half a day here eating, relaxing, shopping and letting your kids run around in a huge park while enjoying the splash pad. From amazing food, a farmer’s market, and night concerts to boutique shopping and a splash pad located right in the center, the Pearl Brewery has something for everyone. I love the industrial architecture mixed with urban style. This is one of the coolest spots to be in Texas for sure. If you visit on the weekend, plan to go to the farmer’s market. 

Historic Market Square– We loved the bright sights and flavors of old Mexico at Historic Market Square. Shopping is one of my favorite things to do at any trip, and we loved exploring at the locally owned shops and stalls, all at a festive indoor mall famously described as the largest Mexican market outside Mexico. If you like Talavera pottery, exotic curios and handcrafted works of art, you will love it here. I bargained and got a lamp and some outfits! Vir got some wooden cars while my mom and Deep enjoyed some flavorful local street food. Do try the Tamarind flavor popsicle!! It was out of this world. 

 

The DoSeum, San Antonio’s museum for kids was such a great afternoon affair.  We spent $14 on tickets per person, parked conveniently in front of the museum and got to stay away from the Texas heat while staying indoors and checking out the interesting and fun exhibits. Vir had so much fun at the bubble area, and I like to say we all did, too.  We made giant bubbles for an hour!

The Little Town was by far one of the coolest towns Vir must have been to! Ha ! He sat on an excavator, drove a food truck, changed the tires of a car and even went shopping on his own. I loved the educational experience. Also, the Sensations Studio is a must visit exhibit for kids of any age.  They can make sound and light come alive by playing with a wide variety of light and sound phenomena! I loved how Vir got to explore the intersection between science and art! We must have spent close to 3 hours there and still couldn’t complete all the exhibits! I was so happy to the see the yummy and kid-friendly food from Bakery Lorraine at the museum! As vegetarians, that was a big win for us.

Hemisfair Park – On one of the evenings, we hit the delightful Hemisfair park. I was very impressed with the water gardens, kid-designed wood and sand playground, which includes a castle and space tunnel! We spent more than two hours here chatting and watching Vir enjoy and make new friends. A must-see! Love that the park was so clean and has something for younger and older kids, too. It’s a great spot to have a family picnic

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch – On our way back to Houston, we stopped at an African Safari with a Texan Twist just 30 minutes away from San Antonio! Truly one of the best experiences we have had in awhile! Imagine seeing more than 500 animals representing more than 40 species from all over the world in the comfort of your own car. We fed ostriches, goats, buffalo, zebras, gazelles and more! This was a winner really. I can’t believe we waited so long to go there. But, well, it was perfect! The weather was terrific, it was cloudy and breezy, and we loved spending close to four hours feeding animals and exploring the 450 acres! It didn’t feel like we were in Texas at all! There were hills! I am so glad we had the Toyota RAV4 for this trip. My son and I took full advantage of it to watch the giraffes and find the deer and kiwis. I loved how the ostriches stuck their necks inside the car for food! Some amazing unforgettable memories were made in this car and trip! Also, there is a petting zoo, a restaurant and a cute store!

You can bring you own food and have a picnic there! We got some snacks and sandwiches, packed for our drive and had lunch there. The tickets are fairly priced to $24.50 per adult, $22 for senior citizen and $15.50 for kids 3 -11 years. If you are a local or live in the neighboring cities, I highly recommend getting any annual pass. We plan to go back again in winters!

Natural Bridge Caverns – Although we didn’t go there on this trip with Vir I wanted to include it in my list here, as it is definitely a great place to visit with older kids. We have been here twice already in our past trips to San Antonio. I found it to be a very unique attraction, honestly a geographic wonder underneath Texas! There are different tour options to choose from. All tours are guided, and tickets can be bought online. We have done the Discovery Tour and Hidden Passages tour. Both the tours were wonderful, and the guides were quite knowledgeable and engaging. Hidden Passages tour is slightly longer than the Discovery Tour.

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Source: Natural Bridge Caverns

The former involves more stairs and probably goes deeper down. The latter covers more area and passes through some gigantic stalactites and stalagmites formations, including the Watchtower, a majestic 15-meter formation which is the largest column of the tour. Wear waterproof shoes if you can and active wear or shorts. Tickets range from $18-$25 depending on the day you visit. Buy ahead of time and save. There are also zip lines and other fun activities for older kids. 

If you have enough time, I recommend doing the Natural Bridge Safari and Caverns on same day as they are just a few miles from each other. 

I hope you find this guide useful to travel with your kids to San Antonio! For places to eat with kids in San Antonio click here

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

**This post was produced in partnership with Visit San Antonio and Travel Mindset**

Top Family Friendly Spots in San Antonio0