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.

 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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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.


Paleteria
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.

Castle of the White Giants

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

Healthy Homemade Popsicle Recipes for Toddlers + Kids

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I have been lately posting a lot of stories on my Instagram of the popsicles batches I have been preparing for my son to be beat the H town heat. And as promised to all my followers who sent me so many DMs, here are the recipes to Vir’s favorite popsicles that are easy to make and healthy too!

It’s hotter than hot in Houston and so these nutritious and healthy popsicles end up as snacks and even sometimes as a meal on those hard days with a toddler.

The recipes are extremely simple and has almost 3- 4 ingredients max.

You need these 2 very important things to start with the process.

1)      Ice Cream Mold

2)      Blender

I planned a trip to my local grocer Kroger on the weekend to get all the fresh fruits, yogurt and ice cream molds. While shopping I came across the Brawny Tear-A-Square® paper towel! I cannot tell you how much I hate wasting paper napkins and tearing an entire sheet to just clean a little spill or to have to use as a napkin while feeding.

The award-winning Brawny Tear-A-Square® just solved such a huge waste problem for me, as the quarter sheet size works for both clean-up and as a napkin! Just the right size of paper towels a toddler can use. It is perfect for home use, picnics, barbeques, road trips, just anywhere. I highly recommend getting this product and trying it out. I wished I found them during Vir’s Birthday Party, I threw so many napkins out that just had a little bit of cake on it or were just left on the floor.

Below are my most recommended popsicles that you and your kids can enjoy. To make them interesting I added some layers with yogurt for a bit extra!

Strawberry, Blueberry Watermelon Smash

IMG_6422These are 90 % fruit and 10% yogurt for that extra zing. It helps balance your electrolytes.

I hate wasting food and fruit especially. A big watermelon sometimes at our home gets wasted and so I made sure I blend it with other fruits to get the taste, strawberries add some more sweetness and the blueberry adds the deep dark colors ( It can also make it tangy ). You can choose to add sugar or replace blueberry with lime for a zing.  I didn’t add either.

Pour the blended mixture in ice mold upto ¾ till top and freeze for 3 hours.

After 3 hours use some store bought strawberry or vanilla organic yogurt. And pour it in the remaining portion of molds to fill up the rest and add a layer.

Check after a few hours. It should be ready to eat!

These are beautiful looking, tastes awesome like any other fruit popsicle in the market minus the sugar.

Mango Mania!

IMG_6454I had been wanting to introduce mangoes to Vir, he somehow hasn’t appreciated the fruit as much. I guess because it’s a bit tangy and not as sweet as alphonso mangoes.

So, I took 1 whole peeled mango, added 2 tbsp sugar and some whole milk to make it smoothie like and not entirely fruity. Please see how much sugar you need to add as some mangoes can be tangy.

Like above I poured the blended smoothie in ice mold upto ¾ till top and freeze for 3 hours.

After 3 hours use some store-bought vanilla organic yogurt. And pour it in the remaining portion of molds to fill up the rest and add a layer.

Check after a few hours. It should be ready to eat!

This was a hit, as Vir got excited about the yellow color. You can also add pineapple and make it a tropical smoothie without the milk.

Peanut Butter, Banana and Chocolate Pop!

IMG_6478This was a hit especially last week when my son was sick and wasn’t eating a lot. I tried to give him milk and he kept refusing it. So, I took his store-bought chocolate milk, add 1 tbsp of peanut butter and half banana and blended it.

You can add sugar too or even honey. I added 1 tbsp of sugar as the peanut butter had no sugar added to it. Taste the smooth mixture when you are done blending and add accordingly.

Pour the mixture in mold and added the rest of the banana pieces in the mold and set it to freeze. Check after 3 hours.

I had fun making these popsicles as they are super easy, healthy and flavorful. To beat the mess while cleaning up or just simply holding the popsicle Brawny Tear-A-Square® came to our rescue. The sheets are durable, strong and the perfect size! You can find them at a Kroger near you.

For the Tangy Coconut and Kiwi Kicker click here. I posted this a while back.

Tip: While removing the popsicles from the mold, make sure you run hot tap water on the mold to easily remove the popsicles.

Have a fantastic summer and do share with me your favorite popsicle flavor!

 **This post is sponsored by Kroger as always, all opinions are mine**

XOXO

Arushi (2)

5

The 10 Best Educational, Interactive & Engaging Apps For Toddlers & Preschoolers

TOP 10 APPS FOR TODDLERS AND PRESCHOOLERS (2)

The right amount of screen time is a completely personal choice for all the parents to make and I would like to stress I am not promoting the use of devices on this post today. However, we live in a device obsessed world and setting limits on screen time is a more crucial point to think over than ruling it out completely. One of the greatest struggles we’ve experienced as new parents has been how to foster digital savvy‐ness in our child– while we don’t want to shield him from today’s latest technology.

Responsible use of media currently is important, and tablets or phones can be used for either reading books out loud, or for learning apps and games that could be like educational toys. Or for example sometimes watching language promoting cartoons (in our case Hindi cartoons) while eating dinner or having lunch at the restaurant. (moms just banish that mom guilt, we can eat at least 1 meal in peace)

Note: The American Academy of Pediatrics has offered guidance on children’s and adolescents’ media use saying, “Limit entertainment screen time to less than one or two hours per day; in children under two, discourage screen media exposure.” 

We are constantly looking for some new ways to entertain our energetic toddler without feeling guilty about, while offering something that offers creativity, is educational and engaging!

So, I am rounding up some apps that is my top picks. We have often used these on our long flights and have usually downloaded them just days before to keep him interested.

Recommending apps for kids of age  1-5 year below

  1. Lego Duplo Train (Age 2+ )– This app is a lot of fun – first it FREE,it’s Lego there are Trains ! One of Vir’s favorite, build tracks, choose the wagons, load the train , drive it and also make bridges. It is almost like a puzzlelego
  2. Talu Town for (Age 5 and under) – Another app we recently introduced to Vir. In this app kids drive around a virtual city and help friendly characters with various tasks—disguised as mini games. I love how all the tasks help in practice counting, matching, sorting, shapes, puzzles, and more. Completing each task allows them to earn stars, which can be used to buy new cars and outfits.talu
  3.  Artie’s World (Age 3-6) – We started using this a month back and love it. Artie’s World is a playful app that teaches kids how to draw with a dot-to-dot system. Kids trace basic and irregular shapes to draw toys, vehicles, and animals, then watch as their creations come to life with funny animations. The app is simple enough for young kids, and there is no reading requiredartie
  4. Woodie Hoo Animal Friends Ages 2+ . This game can be played  at the kid’s own pace and stimulates to learn with fun, colorful, high quality animations and pictures. I like how it hold’s the attention for a good amount of time. Note there are in app purchases.

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 5. Alphabet Flash cards 3+ to Pre-Schoolers -This app helps to learn the alphabet by using digital flashcards. Our son has learnt all alphabets with practice and this was helpful too part from books.

6. Sago Trucks and Diggers (Age 2+) One of my son’s favorite he likes to play it till date. Kids can drive a dump truck, pile dirt high and dig deep in the ground with diggers, cranes and bulldozers. Great for motor skills and no in app purchases.

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7.My Very Hungry Caterpillar (Age 2+) This is a unique app and promotes imaginative play. The app is basically an extension of Eric Carle’s classic book. Vir really enjoyed it as he was reading the book and could see the caterpillar in action. On the app daily, the caterpillar is up to some new challenges and things to play with including painting, making music, and watering your garden. After around 6 days, your caterpillar is quite large and makes a cocoon, emerging the next day as a beautiful butterfly. A great lesson on the life cycle!

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8.Daniel Tiger’s Stop and Go Potty (Age 2+) – This app helps in toilet training and helps in understanding important bathroom routines. There are some games too that  are simple and appropriate for the target age, and the narration is excellent.

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9. Bimi Boo Kids Baby Piano (Age 1+) This app has been one of the first musical apps Vir started with. It allows little ones to develop creativity, an ear for music, hand-eye coordination, fine motor and attention.

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10. Peek a Boo Barn (Age 1+) was one of the first few apps that we introduced to our son when he was 2. He learnt the names of animals and sounds within days. They have many other apps but first definitely try this.

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Please do share with me in comments your most recommended apps too.

Thanks

Arushi (2)

Top 5 Legacy Gift Ideas for Father’s Day – My Fox 26 Houston segment

Hey Friends!!

I am so excited to share with you all my segment today with Fox 26 Houston. I was invited to do a Legacy Gift Special for Father’s Day and share some unique and quintessential gifts the network’s viewers on 14th June 2019 in Houston, Texas.

This is truly such a fantastic feature for me and my blog right before my blog’s Third year anniversary and I am so grateful to you all for all the support. It means a lot!

Unfortunately I hadn’t slept the entire night prior to this segment as my son is sick and is having a temperature which keeps coming back every few hours. And at 3:30 am in the morning it went over 102 and poor guy was shivering too much. He slept at 6 am and I caught a cat nap of 30 mins, since I had to be ready by 7:30 am and wanted to make sure I am able to hide my tired eyes with all the concealer 🙂

Thankfully my mom is here for few months and was able to take care of him when I had to leave at 8am and my husband too went late to his office.

To watch my segment CLICK on the image above

For the segment I wanted to make sure I share some timeless treasures for Father’s Day. Legacy gifts are increasing in popularity. And they truly are special and unique. Thanks to the amazing anchor Jose Grinan and Sally Macdonald for having me on their show.

Life Untold: This Father’s Day wouldn’t it be amazing if you could share dad’s life’s story including photos with your children and their children and future generations?  A Life Untold is a rare, story-telling company that makes it easy to turn anyone’s life story into a captivating and professionally designed hardcover book.  Think of it as a “do-it-yourself” autobiography where your dad answers over 100 detailed, thought-provoking questions.  Then A Life Untold captures those answers and turns them into a beautiful book for anyone to read.  Hard-copy or digital, these books will forever tell the history of your cherished father. This concept is meant not only for the person being talked about in the book (your dad,) but also for all who want to read it. Imagine all the great stories and experiences in dad’s lifetime put to paper and printed. This concept of encapsulating a person’s life story is not like anything else out there.  After all, it is not just a  gift  …. it’s a legacy left for generations to come.

Personalized pottery at The Mad Potter in Houston : Simply visit a pottery studio with the kids and paint a special gift for dad on a ceramic piece. I made the ceramic plate with Vir’s feet when he was under 6 months. His feet are so tiny here and this is one of the cutest pieces of art in our house. I am going to save this forever hopefully and maybe pass it on to my son’s wife.

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DNA kit: Here is no one quite like Dad. After all, he is the story-book-reader, the scraped-knee-healer, and the piggy-back-ride hero of childhood. And even though no one is exactly like dad, there is someone who is at least partially like him: YOU. In addition to the piggy-back rides, your father also gave you half of his DNA.  This year how about thanking your dad (as you wouldn’t be you without him) by giving him generations of knowledge about his own family line?   Family Tree DNA is home to the world’s largest genealogical DNA database.  With the simple swab of a cheek….in 6 weeks’ time your dad can find out his unique ethnic origins, can locate  relatives dating back hundreds of years with 99.9% accuracy and so much more.  So this year how about giving dad a FamilyTreeDNA genealogy test for $69 which is a gift that will last a lifetime.  After all it’s not just a gift ……it is his legacy!!

The Articulate Gallery: Melt dad’s heart this year with hand print-art made from their infants, toddlers or small children’s hands or have a photo taken of dad with the kids and then display that art in the coolest line of frames ever! Articulate Galleryframes come fully equipped with awesome slot-sides that make it super easy to display 2D and 3D children’s artwork versus just putting stuff on the fridge! The frames allow for easy rotation of the art and provide easy access to switch out pics without ever having to remove the frame from the wall thanks to the slot sided function.  So whether it’s a picture of your little ones painted hand art or perhaps a photo of dad with the kids…. Articulate Gallery Frames make some of this year’s greatest dad gifts around.  Please see more detailed information below. I am excited to gift this to my husband so he can place it on his office cabin wall. You can buy them for just $26 on Amazon.

A Night Sky: I wasn’t able to share this amazing piece on the segment as unfortunately there was a shipping delay. But I can’t wait to see the package when it arrives. How about giving dad a framed picture of the Night Sky Star Map of the day he was born or the day he turned to be a dad!  After all, that was a day or night that changed the world.   The Night Sky makes an incredible, memorable gift with a star map of the night in history that you choose!  This framed artwork and memento will be treasured for years to come as it is a way to memorialize a special dad in dad’s life. With this service, it is simple to create an 18″ x 24″ star map of any night in history! Your unique and personalized star map is printed on high-quality, Art Matte paper with over 190g weight. Choose from 8 different styles at any place or time in the world to memorialize what is special to you or to the recipient.

I hope you like all of the above legacy gift ideas that are unique and a great alternative to the traditional Dad’s Day presents.

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Love

Arushi (2)

The snazzy mom

Vir’s Construction Themed Birthday Party

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Unlike last year where we decided to go on a vacation with our 2-year-old to Los Cabos on his birthday, this year we celebrated our son’s third birthday party at our place. One of the major reasons I wanted to have it at our home was that I hardly got to invite my friends and family over last year. With all my travels, pending projects and of course never having enough time to complete errands- planning a party, potluck or dinner was never on my list. However, this year I am hoping to host more parties and get together for our friends and especially now when our son is getting older and making so many memories.

Vir’s Third Birthday is such an important milestone for us. He is a preschooler (unbelievable), full of energy and questions, finally potty trained (Thank god!) yet still in that adorable toddler stage where he wants his independence but still wants mom and dad around for everything. I made sure to make his big day truly special and so we went and choose a theme that is exactly what he wanted and cared about at this age. TRUCKS and TRUCKS and all kinds of trucks. He clearly knows way more heavy-duty vehicles than me and often corrects me if I call a dump truck just a truck.

I took me 2 weeks to put together his Construction Theme Birthday Party at our place. I think this was by far my biggest Pinterest mom moment. I thought through every detail and scanned several stores to land the items I needed for the party and visualized in my head.

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Invitation: I wanted to make an invite for Vir’s party, I always make the invitations on apps like Canva or order from Shutterfly. But I decided to buy a template from Etsy store, I looks for the right card and was very happy with my choice.

 

Decorations: The most important element that truly brings out the theme of a party are the decor pieces. From Amazon, to Etsy, to local Boutique shops and party stores I went and shopped everywhere. We used our dining table as the main table to display the cake and construction items. The key pieces I used for the construction theme birthday party were:

You can also get

  • Yard Signs
  • Banners
  • DIY cardboard dump trucks backdrops

 

Dinner wear: For adults I kept the simple and goodquality plastic plates and cups, but for kids we stuck to the theme and included the below

I avoided black as much as I could and used more yellow and blue colors for the theme. I used a lot of black and grey on Vir’s first birthday party.

Snacks and Kids Table: For kids we rented 2 small center tables with 16 chairs from a party place so that the kids could comfortably sit, eat and play the games there. It was tough to have them all seated in 1 place for long, but I was so happy at different times of the party several kids sat to eat, chat and play. Apart from candy on the center table I has these items on the kids table

  • Fruit Punch flavor Juice packs
  • Veggie sticks
  • Fruit Salad
  • Sandwiches
  • And of course, Cakeimg_5277

 

Construction Birthday Cake: I had so many designs in mind for the cake and found so many great ideas on Pinterest. Having visualized a lot of yellow on the center table I stuck with a blue 2 tier cake for 40 people in chocolate flavor. The kids loved it and most of all Vir was so happy! We got it from Alphorn Bakery, I have ordered all our event cakes from there.

Party Activities and Games for Toddlers : This Birthday party had 15 kids mostly of the age 3 and under, except for a couple of 6-year-old. Initially I was looking for a party entertainer mostly a balloon twister and I couldn’t find a good one as it was too last minute.

Not many party entertainers fit in a construction theme, so we made 2 simple activities, but the biggest hit were the 20 construction trucks out of which Vir owned most and few I borrowed from our friend who has a 4 year old equally obsessed with trucks as Vir.. All the kids found their favorite toys and played together. It was amazing that there was no crying and yelling for any toy!!

Truck Coloring Pages and Crayons– I downloaded this  that I found online and gave it to the kids.

 

  • Pound the Nail Game: I was sure that kids will enjoy a fun pounding session. Just give each item to the kids and ask them to pound the nails. Offer more nails and Styrofoam when kids are done with one session. The game was huge hit and surprised everyone. You need:
  • Styrofoam cubes
  • Plastic Golf Picks
  • Toy Hammer

 

Sand Play Site: You can also make a sand play area if you have a backyard and can take the party outdoor. We didn’t do it as we have a town home and no backyard or outdoor space.

  • Construction Pop up photo booth– This was also a huge hit. I forgot about it until the end of the party but all the kids who hadn’t left loved taking their pictures and seeing them too. I got this from Arnes in Houston.

Party Favor for kids: I found the cutest party favor box from here ! The sell 12 boxes per pack so I ordered 2 bags. In the favors I kept sunglasses, whistle, fun bracelet, small trucks and candy for kids. Also, the hard hats, hammer and a gas balloon each was used as a favor. For older kids and babies, I got age appropriate gifts.

Party Food for Family and Adults- All the parents and adults in the house got good few good hours to chat and indulge in adult conversation as kids the were busy having fun. We had drinks and snacks items as the party was from 3pm-6pm. Here is the food we kept which hardly got wasted

  • Cheese Platter- 5 Cheeses,Dry fuits and jams with crackers from Whole Foods
  • Tomato Basil Bruschetta from Whole Foods
  • Caprese Sandwiches from Whole Foods
  • Cut Fruit Platter from Whole Foods
  • Samosas from Tarka Indian Kitchen
  • Chips
  • Dry fruit
  • Chocolate Balls
  • Lemonade
  • Wine
  • Beer

Family Matching Outfits: We also coordinated our outfits with yellow as the primary color. Instead of wearing the family construction T shirts we wore our regular outfits but stayed in theme through color. I wore a Yellow Striped Jumpsuit (sold out), Vir and Deep wore matching yellow bow ties and my mom wore a yellow shirt.

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I hope you have a great celebration and these ideas help you prepare better!

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

Our Family Friendly Adventure near Cancun.Fun activities & Things We Did With Our Toddler

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One country or city that I have been returning every year for a vacation is Cancun, Mexico. Of course, the proximity and cheap flights from Houston is a huge advantage! The place is a haven for the conventional beach goer looking to lounge by the turquoise water or the emerald green waters in Playa Del Carmen, but the unique and remarkable experiences Cancun has to offer is amazing. The three times I have been to Cancun earlier I not only relaxed at the beaches but got the opportunity to truly experience the nature, history and ecotourism of the place.

The last family vacation the three of us took outside of US was to Portugal in Sept 2017. Although I travel a lot for work and recently got back from India on a 2-week vacation with my son, me and my husband and my son needed to go on a full family trip together. I had been craving this family getaway a lot and so just 3 days prior to our travel, I went and booked everything for my birthday weekend in April.

Yes just 3 days ahead of booking and planning is not very efficient as I like it to be, but I have realized spontaneous plans have their own fulfillment and excitement even after having a toddler. Having been to Cancun before I knew what to expect in terms of logistics and so it was tad bit easier to plan a 4-day itinerary.  Our focus of the vacation was to relax and enjoy the simple moments. So, it simply meant avoiding any huge water parks, historic sites, or long drives with our son unlike our previous trips.

You can catch a snapshot of our travel on my Instagram Highlights .

Accommodation

We simply choose to relax at our favorite All Inclusive hotel Sandos Caracol that has been our top choice for staying in Cancun and also in Los Cabo. You can read my previous post on our Cabo getaway here.  We loved the Cancun resort too when we stayed there 4 years back when our son wasn’t born and were truly impressed by the amount of activities it had for children. It was a no brainier that we wanted to stay at this property with our son this year too. I love it so much that my review for the property got selected in the online Trivago magazine. Also, when travelling with kids it is easier to go for all inclusive restaurants as there is no worry about meals and meal prep and we being vegetarians always check the cuisines available at any resort and see their menu too before booking. Sandos Caracol was rated by Expedia as the first place in the world to spend an eco-friendly vacation.

Flights

We booked our flights from Kayak.com it gives you excellent pricing comparisons with several airlines and is extremely easy to navigate. I often put price alerts on it for destinations I plan to travel in future and get a great deal. Cheapoair and Google flights are also other sites where I like to compare and explore pricing.  Google flights has a fantastic map capability that shows you where all you can travel for the filters you put in at the time of your search.

Local Transport

For local travel within the city I recommend booking cabs at the hotel or at the airport itself. They are legit and give you best pricing. Our hotel pick up and drop off 1 way costed $100. It depends where you are staying. We stayed in Playa Del Carmen which is 45 mins away from the airport.  Also we have always traveled locally in a cab or in the tourist buses for any activity or excursions we signed for. They pick and drop you at the hotel, are safe and you also become friends with other travelers.

Important Things to carry

 While travelling with children you end up carrying a lot of gear. However, minimizing it has become key if you travel a lot. This time I chose not to carry any stroller. It really depends what stage your child is in and what you prefer, and are comfortable with. As Vir is growing I have got him the habit of using the Micro Scooter more often to travel in parks and on sidewalks at a controlled speed. One of us is constantly jogging with him or navigating him as he is still learning the sense of direction. The scooter was very useful in the resort, especially for exploring new sites and we also used it as an activity in the evening. The resorts are very big, and kids tend to get tired. Umbrella strollers help a lot in such cases too.

I also ensured we had only one suitcase with all our stuff in it and 1 backpack for each one of us without any carry on luggage. I only carried Horizon milk packs for my son as I wanted Vir to drink the same milk he has at home. They are convenient  to carry everywhere. We also packed some snacks for the flight but apart from that we didn’t worry about his food. At our resort there were 4 restaurants that had a full buffet every day with a kid’s section too and of course a huge spread of desserts.

Things we did

Honestly this family vacation was all about less hassle more fun. And from our previous trips I have realized planning long itineraries and things to do takes away all the fun. So, we relaxed for 4 full days in our resort and didn’t step out at all! One of the reasons was also because of the weather , we couldn’t make it to the swimming with the dolphin activity on the last day as it started to rain. Yet we don’t think we missed anything.

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Beach and the Swimming Pools

Seriously Sandos Caracol has so much to do!! From heading to the beach every day and to lounging in the different pools in the afternoon, we made sure we spent the most time outside. Vir is at an age where he is not yet ready to go in the water and preferred playing in the sand. So while he got to play in sand, I also got to catch up on beach Zumba and sports throughout our trip and my husband got to read.

 

Animal Farm

One of our top things from the hotel was the little animal farm. We went there at least 5 times a day as Vir is such an animal lover. They have donkeys, pigs, sheep, ducks, deer and even peacocks and peahens. The birds were free to roam around and were not in any cages and were very friendly as well. Vir fed the ducks and even the peacock. Also, there were monkeys iguana, raccoons and herds of coati that roamed freely in the resort and didn’t bother anyone.

 

Cycling to Mayan Sites

There were free bikes for adults and kids and with toddler seats too. We biked twice around the biking trails in the resort and stopped at 2 historic Mayan ruin sites.

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Cenotes and Eco tours

I love how Cancun have so many Eco tours and excursions to offer and there is a huge list if you look here. But with a toddler we were limited to some activities only. I am glad I did soo much in my earlier trips with excursions, but I also got to a take a dip and experience the cenote in the resort and spot turtles and fishes while snorkeling. The gear was provided for free and was open to adults and kids of a certain age.

Daily Shows

If you followed my IG stories we landed on my birthday at the resort and I was so glad they had a Dream Girls show that night and it was perfect way to end the night with some dance and music. The resorts literally have its own theater where every evening there was a new show. For kids they had a superheroes show which I found hilarious! My son had a blast. However, our favorite is the elaborate Mayan show with elaborate costumes, music and great performances in a great atmosphere outdoor with an open buffet.

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SPA

No trip end without a good spa break. Me and my husband did an alternate day of getting some deep tissue massage therapy during our son’s naptime in afternoon. It was reasonably priced. They also had some specials every day, and I also got a body scrub for free!

I feel like there was soo much to do already at resort we didn’t even think of venturing outside. However, we plan to go back soon and hopefully by then Vir will be able to join us in some excursions and fun activities and sports. Next thing on my list to do in Cancun is to swim with the Whale Sharks. They are gentle creatures and are, for the most part, solitary by nature. In contrast, during the summer months from June through September, the area just north of Isla Mujeres attracts a huge number of whale sharks gathering together to enjoy the plankton-rich waters.

 

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Where are you planning to go this summer with your kids?

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

 

 

 

Tips and Tricks on Flying with Babies and Toddlers

Texas Hill Country with family

The first time I traveled to India or outside US with my son was, when he was almost 8 months old. My husband also accompanied me on that trip as we were nervous first-time parents flying with a tiny human ocean apart. During that visit we only stayed in Delhi and avoided any local travels within the country. You can read my experience on taking the long-haul flight with a baby here. There are some tips, tricks and details that might help you plan your flight experiences with an infant.

This trip was planned almost 2 weeks before I booked my tickets, as I found the perfect travel window and dates to take leave from my work. My family was very excited to see Vir as they hadn’t met him since our last visit and was so eager to see him all grown up. With all the excitement also came a lot of planning.

I wanted to make sure we visited Mumbai, Kota and Delhi on these two and a half weeks visit, so my son can meet my immediate and extended family as well my in-laws. I wasn’t sure when I will go next, so I did my best to cover as much I could on this vacation.

The thought of travelling to India can often make parents filled with dread or awe or possibly with a combination of both. The last time I traveled my son got sick and lost a lot of weight, he even stopped breast feeding and it turned out to be an emotional experience to see my baby in that position. Yet I knew this is the perfect age to take him, as now his immunity was way better from going to the school and that now I had better control of his diet and hygiene. I followed the recommendations and tips from a Pediatrician on this post .

Booking flights for smooth travel 

This is one of the most important steps to a stress-free trip. I booked our flights with Turkish Airlines from Houston since I wanted a red eye flight where Vir can sleep in most of the commute. I categorically stuck to this airline, because it was a 13-hour journey one way. I wanted to break the journey with a short 3-hour layover before we hop on the second flight which was another 7 hours to give us a break from flying while also not spending too much time at the airport. Also, since I had planned my journey within India to major cities Mumbai and Delhi, I booked my return tickets from Delhi. This fit perfectly in plan and dint have a huge difference in fare.

My Top Kid’s Travel Gear recommendations 

For details on how I kept my son busy in flight, at the airports and on my Top items for travelling with kids read here

Preparing your toddler for the travel

Once I booked the tickets I started preparing Vir that he will be travelling with only mummy and going in a very big airplane to visit Nani, Mama and Mami. Every night I would talk to him about the fun he is going to have there from sitting in a train, to seeing some animals to visiting new places.

Repeating this daily helped him be mentally ready to travel without daddy, meet new faces and most of all be excited about the long-haul flight. This worked wonders as he didn’t shed a tear while my husband dropped us off. He was in a good mood at the airport spotting airplanes and enjoying the in flight experience on the way to India and this really helped me stay stress free.

My In Flight & Layover Experience during arrival and departure.

46 hours of flight travel is way too much especially if you are doing it alone. I was nervous and was really praying everything goes well. I packed extremely light and kept a small backpack for myself for all the necessities, a busy bag for Vir and a JetKids Bed Box for converting Vir’s seat into a bed and ditched the umbrella stroller. Read my full review here on the JetKids Bed box and Top items to travel with here

As we sat in our 1st 23-hour flight to India, Vir deleted the you tube app which had all downloaded videos!! Awesome I said to myself while fearing the start already but hey I had a plan B – The Busy Bag rescued me.

Vir hardly saw the Tv in flight although he enjoyed pressing all the buttons. He slept most of the way to Istanbul and then to Mumbai. I packed lots of snacks that kept him entertained and full. I got to use the restroom once in flight and asked an attendant to watch over Vir and changed his diaper on the seat only when he was asleep to avoid all the hassle.  (I did the same while coming back too)

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BUSY BAG Ideas

Both the times are layover was in Istanbul and although it was tiring to be out of the plane and go through another round of security. We stopped at Starbucks to have some snacks and at the duty free to buy him a car. The new car was a reward for good behavior and hope for keeping him occupied in the 2nd flight to our destination. This tactic worked on our return journey to Houston too.

Although on our way back Vir was more grumpy than usual, it seemed like his excitement for being in an airplane had faded away. However, I made sure we have ample number of videos and games on iPad to keep him busy. At one-point Vir was frustrated with the iPad and so I bought the WiFi in flight and allowed him to see some new cartoons. The person sitting next to me was kind enough to entertain him for an hour, so I could get a break from all the whining and it did help a lot!

How to overcome Jet lag with toddler

My only worry on this travel was jet lag and so I made sure we stayed longer in Mumbai for our first stop in the country to be well rested. It took Vir 5 days to recover and be back to a normal schedule. He would sleep at 6 pm and wake at 3am for the first 2 days. From the third day I started to push his sleeping time to 7pm, following by 8pm and 9pm and within 5 days he was started getting 10 hours of sleep at a stretch. His afternoon naps started off with 4 hours and slowly brought it down to 2 hours from day 3 of arrival. We tried staying in the sun most of the day. My brother’s society had an amazing open space, pool and play area for kids. In evenings we took short Auto rickshaw rides that my son was obsessed with. Staying active, eating sufficiently and really waiting it out with my son helped us overcome jet lag.

Honestly the first week I must have slept for an average of 5 hours daily.

Best way to travel within the country

Cars/ Uber/Taxis – I didn’t carry a car seat. And I don’t advice on not taking one. Please choose as per your comfort and discretion. We mostly took Uber within the country or auto rickshaws, carrying a car seat didn’t seem practical as we dint have our own car. My son sat in my lap and honestly it wasn’t as easy as I thought since we two weren’t used to it and he would try to stand up most of the time. I only traveled in cars when it was needed, but we stayed at home most of the time. If you are planning to travel to India for a long time and have your own transportation, pl do carry a car seat or buy one there.

 

Trains I love the Indian railways and I was so excited for Vir to experience it again. Vir has been lucky to experience the Swiss Golden Pass when he was one year old and now the Indian Railways. He just loved being in a train and watching the train tracks and engines pass by.  We traveled by AC first as it was most convenient and safe from Mumbai to Kota. We took special care of sanitizing hands and avoided eating in train.

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Adjusting to Co sleeping while traveling 

My son slept on his crib since he was 3-month-old and we rarely co slept as that was the arrangement I wanted, due to my monthly work travels. This was the first time I traveled somewhere without worrying about having a crib or pack and play for my son to sleep in. I knew we were going to co-sleep and was looking forward to seeing how it went. Being a light sleeper, I woke up several times in the night when Vir moved, but within a few days we both were loving the cuddles and the idea of sharing the same bed. However, I can’t remember the amount of time I was punched and kicked while sleeping by a toddler!

Getting the kids back to original sleeping schedule at home

Once we were back, I made sure my son had the same routine. I sent him to school the next day and picked him up within 5 hours. It really helped get him back to sleeping at night for longer hours. I also kept the same bedtime routine of having a bubble bath right before he sleeps, our favorite story time and a body massage. All this prepared my son, that he will be sleeping back in his crib. Staying in his room and assuring him I am there helped him sleep in his crib from the very first day we came back. I stayed there for at least thirty minutes. He did wake up in the night and came to our room for the first few days, but I remained consistent and put him back in his bed. The key is staying consistent. Within five days Vir was back to the same sleep schedule of sleeping at 9pm and waking up at 8am.

Hope this post helps all parents travelling with their kids .

Please use the comment thread to share, ask or recommend anything related to the topic.

Have a fabulous trip !!

arushi

Top 10 Products For Kids That Can Make Traveling Easier For Parents.

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Vir at the Delhi International Airport all set for the long flight

After travelling to over 6 countries and taking several long haul flights with my son when he was baby to now when he is a toddler, I have come across several brands and products that I have loved and hated. We parents on our travel come across so many hiccups like a frantic airport terminal, rogue luggage carts, judgmental passengers and thousands other possible hiccups that can make daily parenting battles a bit more strenuous? So being prepared with the right travel gear and travelling light has become my mantra for traveling!

The key to successfully flying with kids boils down to three things:getting to the airport early, planning, and packing light and the right gear. And extra snacks always help.

Below is a list of items I recommend for travelling with toddlers.

1.) JetKids BedBox

I highly recommend this JetKids Bedbox to all parents who are traveling with their kids in flights especially on long haul flights. We got this for our 23 hour journey to India and I knew that it would simplify traveling for me and my son. This suitcase comes with adjustable strap,two sheets of decorative stickers and a mattress with seat extension.

Although Vir is young to have his feet on the floor to roll the bedbox, he comfortably sat on it while I pulled the jet-box around the airport. The mattress is convenient to extend the seat in the flight and turn it into a bed. It is great for keeping little children’s feet up and also gives space to stretch especially on long flights.

 

 

While sleeping my son’s legs were curled up and although it helped a lot as now there was more space to sleep, the area between the seats is still limited for growing kids to stretch comfortably. It will be perfect for infants! Also I recommend getting an economy plus or the front row seats for more leg room if your are traveling coach. The jetbox also had ample of storage space to hold some snacks,books, iPad and headphones . When my son didn’t feel like sitting on it while we were waking around the airport, he enjoyed pulling it . Since he is still young to understand proper directions , I had to assist him while walking . But older kids will be able to navigate the bedbox very conveniently. We also used the JetKids Bedbox in a train chair car from Kota to Delhi which was a 7 hours journey! And I seriously felt I hit the jackpot as my son slept comfortably on it. Also there was way more leg space than in a flight.

2. A Busy Bag

In my previous post I shared a lot of ideas for toys and activities you need to have ready in case your in flight entertainment is not going as you preferred. I added below items on my list. With growing kids, we need activities that keeps them interested and occupied.

water wow book

Water Wow color book – If you don’t already know about it, the Water Wow! is pretty much the greatest coloring book ever invented. I love that there is no hassle of taking markers, paints, or crayons. I bought 2 new books for Vir to keep him busy!

Play dough with new shapes and cutters.

New books -We love reading and so I got some new Pete the Cat books for my son. For older kids I recommend some cultural books that can educate them more about the destination. Please send me recommendations if you have any for India.

3. Foldable earphones

earphones JL BuddyWe have the J Buddies folding headphones that are east to pack in a bag and not bulky. Also they aren’t too expensive so I am not worried about misplacing them.

 

 

4.Tablet

We can’t leave without one anywhere. And the tablet or ipad is absolutely a must when locked in an aircraft. I took it out only when Vir was done with everything else or when I needed to catch a nap for atleast 1 hour. We took the youtube subscription where you can download the videos in offline mode. I also downloaded his favorite Nat Geo animal documentary series and many games.  I highly recommend having a variety of age appropriate games to keep them busy. And one tip, definitely download some new games and videos that you think the kids will enjoy.

5. Fold-able potty seat

potty seatWe are still working on potty training so I made sure we had a convenient potty seat that I can carry with me anywhere. Thanks to my cousin I was introduced to this easy to carry potty seat that came with liners and a carry bag. And yes it was so convenient than buying a potty seat in India and carrying it within the cities I was going too.

 

 

6.Hand sanitizer and wipes

We cant do without wipes, but we carried a big and small pack for lots of cleaning. The hand sanitizer is very important on travels. I didn’t want Vir to be sick for any reason and was almost sanitizing hands almost every few hours in flight and outdoors.

7.Blanket and sleeping toy

I definitely recommend carrying your child’s favorite blanket and plush toy. Its is especially helpful in a long flight and also when you are sleeping in new places and  beds. My son slept comfortably with his Pooh everywhere and I carried it with me on flight and in train too.

8. Collapsible bottle 

BOTTLEOne of my favorite gift items and must have item for people on the go. This collapsible bottle from Hydaway is truly the best. It is ultra portable, easy to pack , non toxic and leak proof. This is one of the portable bottles that have a spout , so my son was able to sip easily. I carry it with me everywhere, and the best part is that there is no need to carry any plastic bottles that take space in a backpack or bag.

 

 

9.Insulated food jar

Thermos jarThis jar has saved us so many times. If your baby or toddler is eating solids but is picky, likes warm snacks, or is just not into eating restaurant food yet (and you aren’t too keen on always giving them jars of pre-packaged food), I would bring along one of these Thermos insulated jars.

 

10. Tegu Blocks

We love the Tegu Blocks  as they are so easy to carry and stick to each other. I love the convenience of having a simple and compact toy that is so versatile. Definitely get a new one for a long flight so it keeps them interested.tegu blocks

I hope you find these recommendations helpful . Also you can read some more information on travelling with kids/ babies below on my previous blog posts.

 

 

Airplane Busy Bag Must Haves + Tips on Flying Internationally with a Baby or Toddler

A Pediatrician’s advice on caring for your child’s health while travelling to a new country

Tips for Traveling with a baby. (Our short trip to New York)

How I Survived a Long Haul Flight With a Lap Baby

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Girl Room (1)

Arushi (2)