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.

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

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)

Our Holiday Getaway to Texas Hill Country

 

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Happy Holidays Friends! I love this time of the year as it is so bright and cheerful everywhere. This year my in-laws decided to visit us from India, making it an even more cheerful holiday season. I love it when our family visits us from back home. We miss them so much. These visits are even more joyful now because we get to see our son make lovely memories with his grandparents and learn couple of new words and sentences in our native language, Hindi.

Since the schools were closed and we were able to take few days off from work, me and my husband planned to take our family for a mini getaway out of Houston. We skipped hopping into flights and avoided the holiday airport madness for a 3 and half hour road trip to Texas Hill Country. The Upscale Horseshoe Bay Resort resting on the shores of lake LBJ was our home away from home for 2 days.

We had already been to this hill country retreat last year in summer with our friends and so it seemed perfect to also enjoy the hospitality in the winter months with our family. We are obviously big fans of this place and in this post I wanted to share with you all, a glimpse to our fun getaway.

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Stay: We stayed in the 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom Palm Villas. It is perfect for families and groups looking for more space. The villas have  contemporary decor and comfortable living, sleeping and dining areas. A full kitchen is always crucial for our trips especially because most of us our vegetarian and prefer to cook few meals and breakfast. Me and my mom in law were very pleased with the huge kitchen .Throughout our stay we also got to enjoy the resort’s amenities and concierge services, as well as the restaurants, lounges, finesses centers , pools and more.

Activities: The most important reason why we chose this stay cation was for the number of things to do within and around the resort. Apart from enjoying the heated pools, tennis courts, golf course and dock fishing, I love that they had so many activities for kids and families. Our favorite this time of the year was the 18 hole Whitewater Putting Course. Vir enjoyed the experience and so did my in laws. The scenery is beautiful and I highly recommend this activity. The resort also has beautiful trails one can’t miss, we loved walking around the resort on a crisp sunny day and spotting some turtles, ducks and birds on our way.

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The resort also has large fire pits where they host camping with s’mores events , I saw it was huge hit with kids especially after pool time. Make sure to look at their events calendar before booking. We missed out on sampling some of the amenities like the Spa and water sports due to weather and time. Definitely on my list to do for next time.

RESTAURANTS. The restaurants at the resort are fantastic. There are upscale restaurants like the Yacht Club with gorgeous lake views and outdoor seating. You need to make reservations here and also note there is a dress code. The other Family friendly restaurants like Lantana and Cafe Del Sol have large tables and patio seating. There are gigantic TV’s scaling the walls and outdoor seating to which helped our son relax and enjoy lunch/dinner without a fuss. Also they had heaters everywhere to keep it warm and cozy. You can explore more restaurants and sports bars here.

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The Jungle Kids Club

This place was one of the new additions from our last visit and an excellent one ! The Jungle Kids Club is a two-story jungle gym featuring a tunnel slide and is included as one of the room amenities. Vir loved it and spent more than an hour playing here. He also tried the rock climbing wall finally. I saw some older kids enjoying the art, craft and block activities with the staff. BTW you can also reserve a kids night out here !

Special Events

RING IN THE NEW YEAR AT HORSESHOE BAY RESORT. On 31st Dec at 9:30 pm, the ballroom at the resort will open and The Argyles will keep the dance floor packed all night with an incredible live music performance to ring in 2019!! Find more information here . Highly recommend it for families as you can drop off your kids at the Kid’s club for their own party while you enjoy yours! I really hoped we could stay for this one, but my in-laws fly out on 1st Jan and so we had to head back home to finish a few things.

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Local Must See :
Sunset Cruises- 
Definitely recommend the Sunset Cruise on the beautiful Lake LBJ. You can also get your own wine and some snacks.

Explore the Vineyards-Take a tour of wineries, taste world class vintages, and discover the rich wine making traditions of the Texas Hill Country. Best is to drive up to the local vineyards.

Head to Fredricksburg-On our way back home we took a short detour to Fredricksburg. An hour long drive from the resort we visited the Main Street in Fredericksburg. I love the window shopping here and the German vibe. There are some great wine tasting shops where you have to stop. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas and also had 30 ft Christmas tree and ice rink this time of the year

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Have a fantastic 2019 everyone!

Arushi (2)