Moms Give Yourself The Gift Of a Solo Getaway – Sharing My Experience From My Hiking Trip to Machu Picchu

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In my recent post My Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu & Solo Trip to Cusco, Peru: An Adventure of a Lifetime I shared with you all my three minute movie , lots of pictures and so many other details of my amazing SOLO trip. (Check it out if you haven’t) This post focuses on what this journey meant and how it has affected me personally . Also I am sharing a list of benefits of jet setting alone and going on a getaway by yourself.

Travelling Solo was one of my top goals for the year and I knew that this year for my birthday I wished to do something different, something special, something truly just for myself. I wanted to rediscover the girl I was, before spouse, before a kid, before all the parenting responsibilities. So, a few months before my 33rd birthday I decided to challenge myself, both physically and mentally with a Solo Trip to Cusco, Peru.

I have had several opportunities to travel around the world with and without my family and friends. Travelling alone for work to a new country or state has been a part of my lifestyle and something I am familiar with since I was sixteen years old.

However, planning a getaway on my own to a country where I have never been before, hiking for two days with a group of complete strangers or for that matter living in a hostel and meeting people of all age groups from different parts of the world…… truly made this trip an Experience of a Lifetime! This journey has given me one of the most valuable collection of moments and experiences that has added depth and value to my life and who I am.

“Traveling Alone is Radical Form of Self Care”

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On this solo trip not only did I get to discover the stunning landscapes of Machu Pichhu on my hike and enjoy the breathtaking architecture, lively artisan markets and the delicious local cuisine of the vibrant city of Cusco, I also got to spend time by myself — walking alone, eating alone, writing alone and sitting alone. And honestly, this was far from lonely. It was in fact restorative!

I can’t think of the last time I had been alone long enough to revel in my own thoughts without being interrupted by my child or the nagging to-do list that lives in the back of my mind. I could have conversations with people that didn’t revolve around my child or me being a mom. It was kind of strange and exhilarating. Radical Self-care is the assertion that you have the responsibility to take care of yourself first before attempting to take care of others.

There is endless list of benefits to jet setting alone and by sharing my experiences I hope to inspire others to try out a solo adventure too.

Makes you Independent and Empowered: One comes back with a new perspective. Solo travel represents independence, wanderlust and of course freedom. One gets to create their own When and How to do it list!

Self-Discovery: Through solo travel you get a chance to listen to your gut and control the direction you want to go to. You get to know you, be you and reflect upon yourself.

Self Confidence: Yes, solo travel is a brave endeavor. There is a lot of planning and preparations that one needs to go through, especially us moms. And as women we need to research more into topics like safety, cultural norms etc. By stepping out of your comfort zone and travelling anywhere new and unknown we learn to face various types of scenarios and gain much confidence.

Making new Friends and lifetime connections: One can always choose to be alone, but on a solo trip you get an opportunity to connect and make new friendships on your journey that could last a lifetime. Travel leads to exciting adventures and meaningful connections, it provides you an opportunity to meet like minded people in a new cultural setting devoid of digital distractions.

Your well-being gets healthier: Each one of us know spending time alone makes us release a lot of stressful toxins and travelling makes us happy. Research shows that travelling alone is such a healthy option as it makes you a happier person and cuts out your depression and stressful phases.

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Being a Mom is hard work! By taking time to focus on myself, recharge and relax a little, I have returned home more mindful. I can’t think of travelling alone as “Selfish” now, as this trip has nurtured my body and nourished my mind while giving me chance to follow my dreams and do what I love – Explore! Also, I want my son to see me as a person with interests, rather than the person who does everything

Have you taken a solo trip? What was your experience? 

Love

Arushi (2)

 

My Inca Trail Hike to Machu Picchu & Solo Trip to Cusco, Peru: An Adventure of a Lifetime

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“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take”

Travelling Solo was one of my top goals for this year and the timing to accomplish this goal couldn’t have been any better, since I got to experience this lifetime adventure on my birthday week! Hiking through brutal altitude and stunning panoramas towards an unmatched destination: the ancient Incan city of Machu Picchu.

The Inca Trail hike is one of the most iconic treks that I had been wanting to do for past many years. And finally, in February 2018 I booked my itinerary to Cusco, Peru in a single day without deliberating too much on where I should travel for my Solo Trip.

My fitness regimen for the strenuous hike was already in line with my 2018 fitness goals, with weekly 30-minute mountain climber sessions, Reformer Pilates on weekends and daily 3 mile runs on my trail. Thankfully I was right on track with my fitness.

Access to the Inca Trail is strictly controlled — only 500 permits per day are issued (including guides and porters) and only authorized companies can receive permits. I was very lucky to find a spot with a group for my hiking experience so close to my birthday. The Inca Trail is among the most expensive and is undoubtedly the most exclusive hiking route to Machu Picchu; other options like the Salkantay or the Lares treks allow travelers to book mere days in advance and pay a fraction of the price. But I was fixated on the classic Inca Trail, that connected hauntingly beautiful archaeological sites, breathtaking views, and heart-pounding mountain peaks.

MY SOLO TRIP MOVIE 

Thousands of my followers on Instagram were present with me virtually on my IG stories daily and kept sending me their love, best wishes and all the motivation I needed to go on this journey all by myself. It is unfair to log all of this by simply putting it in words and pictures, so I made sure that I can share this Lifetime Experience with all my readers and followers through a short movie that I made through my Go pro Hero 5 camera (P.S This is my first attempt to creating a Travel movie, I hope you like it)

Cusco

I landed in Cusco, a vibrant city located in the heart of the Peruvian Andes Mountains, 2 days prior to my hike to acclimatize to the altitude. Cusco is located at an altitude of 3,400 meters (11,200ft), and I came from Houston’s altitude of 24 meters (80 ft.) ! Within hours of arriving I started to notice the difference in my breathing.

 

 

Once the capital of the ancient Inca Empire, this mountain city is steeped with Inca and Spanish history and overflowing with Peruvian culture. From the breathtaking architecture and lively artisanal markets to the friendly faces and delicious local cuisine, it didn’t take long before I fell in love with this city.

After checking into my hostel, I headed to get some breakfast, where I met with two young people who too were travelling solo like me from Germany and Mexico. It has always been easy for me to start up conversations and make friends with likeminded people. The three of us headed out in the morning for a day hiking trip around the city and exploring the streets and neighborhoods of Cusco. To my surprise and delight, I made it around the city, despite being ridiculously out of breath every time I attempted to climb upstairs. Other than a bad headache, I was in pretty good shape. I drank copious amounts of coca tea and tried to rest in the afternoon once I got my room keys at 2 pm, almost 6 hours after my arrival. Honestly, I was very exhausted from my travels as I first landed in Lima and had a 6-hour layover to Cusco starting at 12 am in the night, which meant I was travelling and had been awake for almost 14 hours.

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My headache had been bothering me a lot for the first 2 days and to keep my attention diverted from it, I continued exploring the city on my own by visiting the top attractions closer to my hostel like the Plaza de Armas, Cathedral of Santo Domingo and the San Pedro local market. I loved shopping around the cute souvenir shops for colorful hats, scarves, amongst other things. Also, I made sure to enjoy the authentic Inca vegetarian meals on the upper floor with a balcony seating of two different restaurants placed at ancient colonial buildings overlooking the gorgeous Plaza de Armas.

The next day I met my guide for the pre-trek briefing. He was funny, with smiling eyes he reassured me that the symptoms of altitude sickness would pass and that trekkers with a good level of fitness would have no problems once they were off trekking. At the back of mind, I couldn’t help the nagging of self-doubt that was creeping through me. However, I kept my calm and mingled with my lovely group members. I made sure I had enough snacks and water for my hike so I went shopping for some chocolate, cookies and chips, (comfort food at its best.) Of course, I had the healthy granola bars stocked too.

Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

My expedition company picked me from my hostel at 4 am and we took a bus to the train station to leave on the 6:10 a.m. train, from Ollantaytambo. This is one of the most magnificent train rides in the world, with its phenomenal views of the Urubamba River, the soaring snow-capped mountain peaks and cornfield farms.

 

 

After the train ride our group met with our porters and chef and enjoyed the breakfast before we prepared for our hike. Our hike was challenging but rewarding and honestly manageable as we were all coursing with energy and excitement.

Chachabamaba was the first ancient Incan checkpoint for entering to the Inca trail. While hiking I would stop and look around the breath-taking scenery and the stunning landscapes. I knew then that over the course of the next two days, I would never fail to be moved by the beauty of my surroundings. After the first three hours of climbing we reached the most famous Inca site along the trail, Wiñay Wayna.  This site was a teaser to what was coming at Machu Picchu and I couldn’t have been more excited. Wiñay Wayna consists of two constructions, one is located on the top, and the other is below that, united by a type of stairways, where you can see some of the terraces used for agricultural activities.

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Wiñay Wayna.

We took a break near the site and were served delicious buffet style Inca meal by our chef and porters. The variety of vegetarian options had blown my mind and I was pleasantly surprised by the local recipes.

We headed towards the Sun Gate for another round of an uphill and downhill hike. (The Sun Gate was used by Incas to observe the sunrise from Machu Picchu during the summer solstice.) It started to rain on our way. Now, I always end up forgetting to pack something or the other during my trips and this time it turned out to be Poncho! However, I had my rain jacket that gave some protection in a rain forest. (some)

 

 

We stopped on our hike a few times to spot the beautiful orchids and plants, click some pictures, grab a breath and just like that on one of our stops, an Andean Bear also known as Spectacled Bear jumped out in front on our trail a few feet away from us and ran away into the forest. We got just a brief glance of the animal. While most of us initially thought it was a big black dog, our guide confirmed that it was a BEAR! This was one the most exciting episodes of my hike and was just adding up to this once in a lifetime experience.

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My amazing group , with whom I met as a stranger and we ended the hike as friends!

Once we reached the Sun Gate I got to experience the climax of our hike with the dramatic dusk and the stunning views of the Ruins of Machu Picchu! The air had retained all the grandeur and mystery around this gorgeous site. The elegant Sun Temple, the surreal Royal Mausoleum, the monolithic shrines of the Sacred Plaza and the mysteriously carved Intihuatana stone. I was in awe of this wonder and proud of my journey. Never again would I recapture that feeling, the pure wonder and elation at being there. My moment, alone, on the mountainside, feeling like I had discovered Machu Picchu for myself.(This ancient city was never revealed to the conquering Spaniards and was virtually forgotten until the early part of the 20th century)

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The next day we hiked back at 6 am from our camp site to Machu Picchu, this time to explore the site with a guided tour and know all about its fascinating history and see the sun rising from the site. I can’t effectively describe what I saw before me. I’d seen it on so many websites, in guidebooks and on countless social media pictures, but nothing prepared me for that view. I breathed in the fresh morning air and gazed at the 600-year-old citadel. Gradually the sky grew lighter and I gasped as the first rays of sunshine touched the tips of the ruins. This was it, my magic moment – sunrise at Machu Picchu. I explored the ruins for few hours with my group, got some great pictures and selfies with the Llamas and then headed for a short hike to the Inca Bridge. The Inca bridge, which is constructed of a few narrow logs perched above a sheer vertical drop – is believed to have served as a secret entrance to Machu Picchu. The trail to the Inca Bridge wraps around the backside of Machu Picchu Mountain in the opposite direction of the Inca citadel.

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After exploring the ruins for from 6 am to 1pm we headed back to Cusco in our private van, it was a long journey with beautiful views of the Andes and the countryside. This time I choose to stay in a traditional boutique hotel with a bigger bed and an attached bathroom! I had been wet, cold, hot, sweaty and exhausted from the hike and needed some extra comfort. I was travelling back home the next day and after stuffing everything in my back pack, I headed to a spa for the best 90-minute massage and some last-minute shopping.

Truly, what an amazing experience this has been! What a fantastic gift I gave myself. This Solo journey to Cuzco, Peru and trek to Machu Picchu is one of the most valuable collection of moments and experiences that has added depth and value to my life and who I am. I have realized to live a fulfilled and meaningful life, you must live it yourself. I finally found the courage and willpower to go on this trip by myself. This adventure was impossible without the support of my amazing husband as he watched our toddler for 7 days while I was gone! (Parent of the Year)  Thanks to my family and friends who supported me and sent me all their love and best wishes to do my dream hike.

I hope this inspires you to do your dream trip by yourself when you are ready! If you are planning a trip to South America, you must stop at this world wonder and see it with your own eyes. I can’t wait to get back there sometime soon.

( In my next post I will be sharing more details on my trip details , recommendations, logistics etc with links)

XOXO

Arushi (2)

My Top 2018 GOALS – Finding the Right Balance

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December is coming to an end and holiday festivities are winding down and pretty soon we’ll have a fresh start for “resolutions” or “promises” for 2018. Honestly I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, as in the past I have typically bitten off more than I could chew, which led to disappointment. Have you been there before? I certainly have.

I started to work on making goals few years back that are realistic and logical. I try to work on goals that can be accomplished in a calendar year. As goals force you to look at the big picture and work towards something, instead of just working. I want my goals to be doable and also enjoyable and eventually become second-nature. They should contribute towards a happier life and a healthier body and brain. I followed below simple steps to work on them-

How to make Goal?

Start with some categories like Personal, Health, Family, Financial etc and focus on just a few.

Classify the Goals

Big Goals (Mostly Yearly Goals) , Smaller Goals ( Quarterly Goals) and Tasks (Monthly Goals). In my opinion, the best actionable way to meet goals is to have a mix of the three and then break each down into clear achievable monthly objectives. Remember the saying -“How do you eat an elephant ? One bite at a time”.

Prioritize

We need to set priorities and reminders for our goals. A good way is to maintain a Planner, or simply set reminders on your phone and email calendar that sends you alerts weekly or monthly. I also like to put notes on my refrigerator on a white board or sticky notes.

So before the start of 2018 I took out sometime from my schedule to set my 2018 goals that will help me find a better balance.

  • Find more ME Time – Honestly I have been stretched too thin and have overextended myself this year with my full time job, running behind my toddler, managing my home and all my official and personal travels. So this year I am going to take out more time for myself. Personal space is very important for my sanity and I am going to start by organizing my home, binge watching my favorite shows in my bed and going on a SOLO trip this year (I need to plan this out and it will definitely be somewhere close to nature! )
  • Mixing up my workouts- This year I have focused only on running to maintain a healthy lifestyle and I definitely need to switch it up and start going to the gym. Running has been convenient because my son also joins me in the stroller and I don’t have to worry about leaving him for my workouts right after I finish work. However, this year my goal is to workout at least 4 times a week in the morning instead of evening.
  • Plan a Special Activity every weekend with my kid- Being a busy working mom I end up being away from my kid for a solid chunk of the day while he is in daycare. So my goal is to make sure that every week or weekend we do fun activities together like going out to a Library, children’s museum, the zoo, botanical gardens, open gym etc. I will be making a list of all age appropriate events happening in our city and plan to attend them too.
  • Set Long Term and Short Term financial goals –It’s important to look household finances squarely in the eye, because that’s the only way to control them. It is very important I sit down with my husband and set a family budget. By watching our income and expenses, we can better plan for our vacations, activities, big purchases and plan for future. As distasteful as the task is, it really is important to map out our expenses and purchases so we can see just where our money is going.
  • Learn to cook 1 new healthy recipe weekly – This is definitely something I can accomplish in a calendar year. I am hoping to find new recipes I love, and that I can incorporate into our weekly menu. I want my son to enjoy different types of meals and get introduced to new flavors too. Definitely will be bookmarking many healthy recipes on Pinterest . While my life may be busy, I have found that making the time to learn something new – and eat at least one good meal a week – is always worthwhile.
  • Concentrate on my Relationships– As moms we tend to put our energy into kids and that doesn’t leave much time for anyone else. I want to make sure I am planning Girl’s Night with my gal pals once a month. Find a good babysitter so that I can plan date nights with my husband. Nurture my relationship with distant family members by calling them more regularly. Making these relationships a priority is good for the soul.

I will be giving you updates on my progress on my workout goals, the new recipes I am trying, plus more as the year progresses!

What are YOUR goals for 2018? I’d love to hear! Let me know in the comments!

Arushi (2)

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

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A recent pic from our Portugal travel diaries. (Pena Palace,Sintra)

Me and my husband love to embrace adventure and explore new places. The idea of exploring this big beautiful world with our toddler is exciting.  Yes it takes a lot of work, time, patience and planning and no doubt it gets difficult sometimes too. But, then anything difficult has the opportunity to help you grow. I have realized after travelling to 4 countries and total of 6 destinations this year with my son,  that each trip comes with new challenges and learnings.

In this post I will be sharing all the different techniques l learned from our past travels for not just surviving but thriving with a growing toddler on our travels.

In April we travelled to Switzerland & Amsterdam for 2 weeks,(Post here with our travel pics and more tips) Our son was 10 months old at that time . His major food source was formula, he was crawling and standing with support and was understanding just a few words. This is a good age to travel as they sleeping comfortably in the stroller.

My learnings from that trip was –

  1. Always carry at least 2 days worth of formula or milk in the carryon luggage, to avoid shopping for your baby’s food in a foreign land (with packaging in foreign language) since they are chances your baggage can be delayed
  2. Try to take only red eye flights so your baby can sleep in your lap and not be awake throughout your ten hour journey
  3. Every country is not baby bathroom friendly (We faced this issue in Amsterdam). It was almost impossible to find a restroom that had a changing table in the city.

In July we travelled to Los Cabos, Mexico (Our Vacay pics are here ) for a 3 day getaway when our son was 13 months, almost walking,  drinking cow’s milk and eating real food.

My learnings from this trip was-

  1. Always carry extra food on the flight or places you visit at your destination -like bread, cheese, fruit or any other snacks, as you will run out of them especially if your kid throws everything on the floor. Be prepared if you have a picky eater at this age.
  2. Plan your day trips around the kid’s nap schedule so they can be happy when you plan to step out, since a tired kid and cranky kid can cause stress if you are miles or hours away from your hotel.

In September we travelled to Seattle for a 4 day trip, where Vir was walking, eating well and understanding many words and communicating with us.

My learnings from this trip was

  1. Even though kids are tiny and can fit in your lap easily, it is a good choice to get their own seat for more comfort. (I carried a pillow with me on the flight on which our son comfortably laid across me and my husband )
  2. Once they learn to walk, it will be hard to have them seated in a stroller for long periods of time, so be prepared to carry them in a baby/toddler carrier or in your arms half of the time when you are sightseeing or shopping.
  3. The best way to keep them excited about visiting new locations is to allow them to explore it by running around in a safe place and burn all that energy. Once they are tired they eat peacefully and want to sit in the stroller.

 Post these travels I started to plan ahead of time on what I need to do for our recent vacation to Portugal. We were now aware of all possible scenarios   – covering in flight entertainment, meal preps at destinations, planning the day trip around the toddler’s schedule, dealing with jetlag , expected crankiness  and meltdowns at public spaces etc.

However my biggest concern this time around was to handle the 14 hour journey with an extremely active and energetic 18 month toddler.  Unfortunately we didn’t get a red eye flight from Houston to Lisbon and for that reason I worked on my BUSY BAG solution to keep my little guy occupied with the least amount of screen time possible.

Below are the items I used in the busy bag that was a huge success in keeping my little one entertained.  Honestly, I was so happy my tricks worked and we had a smooth journey.  Also as expected my son didn’t sleep the entire flight, which means I had to keep him engaged for over 14 hours.

15 Dinner Ideas for You and Your DadToys

I only pack items that are small and can be sorted, stacked, or otherwise moved from place to place. My son’s favorite are his pull back Cars from My B toys  (good for play at the airport ) Finger puppets, legos , a musical remote,  wooden activity board were a huge hit too. The buckle toywas a new toy we introduced on the plane, it’s great for learning basic skills and kept Vir busy for over 15 minutes.

Books

Small board books with flaps are great to engage also try getting new books so it keeps them interested , I really like this Water coloring On the Go book

Craft Play

Play Dough is low mess and easy to pack , my son tries to eat it but he enjoys cutting it and pressing it too. You can also get felt activity books.

Games

Flashcards are fun and also cheap, easy to find at the dollar store or at Target dollar bin, I never feel sad about losing half the cards by the end of the trip). (They’re great for quizzing her on words and sounds, and making piles to stack and counting the cards as we put them back in the box (that’s a game, right?)

SNACKS

Anything bite-sized is perfect for little fingers…plus, it stretches out the snacking time twice as long. YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY SNACKS. I probably pack twice as many snacks as toys, because snacks double as entertainment. When it doubt, get out the snacks. I always carry the Oat bars from Happy Baby, raisins, fruit, cheerios , yogurt and for long haul flights even get homemade pasta, veggie sandwich or  veggie muffins(Recipe here)  and very importantly Horizon organic low fat milk. Always carry extra milk and yes these packs are allowed in flight in carry on luggage along with any other baby food.

Random Things like

Glow stick was very helpful to divert his attention if he was cranky and great play when it got dark on the flight. Stickers are fun to carry too.

Screen time (And yes the ace in your bag of tricks when everything fails )

Let’s face it. As much as I try to avoid giving our toddler the tablet, it’s going to happen on travel days. We expect a lot out of our little guy and we definitely push our limits of what a little body can handle, so I find that bending the rules and treating him to the Amazon Fire HD tablet and his favorite snacks is the least we can do to help ease the stress for everyone involved.

Downloads Shows  from  Amazon Prime or Netflix, Little Baby Bum, Super Simple Songs, Word Party, and Sesame Street are a few of our favorites.

Fun and educational Apps like Peekaboo Barn, PBS kids, Happy Valley Friends and Sago Mini Truck and Diggers are few of our favorites.

I completely forgot to carry headphones for my kid , so definitely going to carry them on our trips moving  forward .

Here is more information and tips on travelling with kids.

A pediatrician’s advice on caring for your child’s health while travelling

How I survived a long haul flight with a lap child

How I prepare to leave my Breastfed baby for a work trip

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Vir wanted to stand for sometime and play on his ping board in the flight

Hope this post was helpful, please do share any tricks or tips you have on travelling with kids. Please feel free to leave me your questions and I will get back to them as early as I can .

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

 

Our First Summer Family Getaway to Los Cabos, Mexico



“A vacation is like love — anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.”

This trip was our 14 month old son’s first official summer vacation.  Some of my favorite memories were made in this past 1 year travelling with our son. The funny incidents, the little mishaps, the closeness shared and so many other lifetime memories have been made on our getaways.

Vir started travelling in flights since he was 3 months old. His first trip was to New York, followed by India, Switzerland, and Amsterdam and recently to Mexico. Our little one has already been to 4 countries in this past year!

Travelling with a baby/toddler to any destination needs a lot of planning from packing,  scheduling flights around their nap time, flexibility of stay, meal preps at the destination and things to do with a little one. Through my past travel experiences I am constantly learning and getting more and more comfortable with it.

So this time for a short getaway we decide to go somewhere close to Texas .Los Cabos, Mexico has long been known as hot getaway for honeymooners, sport fishermen and spring breakers. The truth of the matter is that this sunny destination at the tip of the Baja Peninsula also makes a fantastic getaway for families. The price of a family vacation doesn’t have to break the bank. Cabo, all-inclusive resorts abound, and many of them offer very reasonable rates and promotions. It was the perfect destination for us from the point of flight duration, pricing, length of stay and activities with a kid.

If you follow me on my Instagram you are aware that the place completely stole our hearts. I posted so many pictures on my feed and uploaded tons of insta stories to share our fun and excitement with my followers. We ate our weight in guacamole and tacos, swam in the pool, and Vir did something he’s never done before say Agua ! (Water in Spanish)

I’d love to share a few anecdotes and photos, if you’d like to see.

Oustide a local souvenir shop near the marina . I love shopping at local flee markets. Bought the straw bag

Some lovely views from our hotel of the Cabo marina

Strolling around the downtown sipping some milk

One of the best things about an All inclusive restaurant is the food! It was also a matter of convenience

Vir’s first Catamaran ride at a sunset tour to the Land’s end at Cabo San Lucas

The perfect ocean and pool view from our room balcony

There was no shying away from the sun ! He loved playing with the sand

Enjoying our time in the pool !

We had some beautiful views on our 2 hour catamaran ride. We saw a lot of sting rays jumping out of the water.

Exploring some local restaurants at downtown Cabo

 

 In the end, of course, our vacation or, as my friends put it, our “relocation” was filled with many lovely moments. Our son learned how to say a few new words; he danced in front of a live Mexican band; he fell asleep on the beach under the shade, took a catamaran ride with us and watched the sunset .He kept waving to so many people at the resort while eating his meals and enjoyed all the attention.On the flight he slept most of the time or was busy in his books and toys. When he started to fuss and was restless to get out of our laps, we had to finally use the iPad to calm him down.

I spotted a baby, no more than a few months old on the flight sleeping calmly in the baby carrier and whispered to my husband. “Remember when Vir was so small ?”. “I miss those days,” I said, already sure that, in just a few years, I would be saying the same of these.

You can check my previous Travel posts and Tips here- 

Also for any parents travelling with kids on long haul flights and other countries , read here for advice from a Pediatrician.



We had an All inclusive stay at Hotel Sandos Finisterra in Los Cabo and travelled by Spirit airlines. I always look for deals on Hopper.com for flights and for hotels on Hotels.com. I recommend  checking reviews of the location before travelling to any destination on Tripadvisor.

Have a great summer .

Love

arushi

Our Much Awaited Vacation to Switzerland 

“The best things in life are the People we love the, Places we have been and the Memories we make”. 

I am very excited to share with you our sweet memories from our recent trip to Switzerland . This was a very special trip and I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures.

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The first picture we took after landing in Zurich

Whenever I am at a vacation I make sure to capture as many memories, as many shots as many beautiful locations and as many sweet moments I can, as I believe there is something very special about reminiscing in the past.

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The magnificent Bernese Oberland region

While planning for our much awaited vacation, I was sure of one thing-  that we needed to be extremely close to nature. And for that reason Switzerland had always been on the top of my 2017 travel goals for its awe-inspiring natural beauty.

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Capture of Mt . Jungfrau from Interlaken

We have travelled earlier with our son to New York and Delhi since his birth last year. However, this trip was our first family vacation, where it was only about traveling, exploring and relaxing. Although he will not remember any of it, he still got to enjoy the experience of traveling in trains, looking at swans, enjoying the long and breezy lake side strolls and so much more.

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Lake Lucerne was one of our top favorite spots

If you follow me on my social media Instagram or Facebook you must be aware that we had a really bumpy start. Not only were our flights cancelled and delayed our baggage also arrived two days later. The stress and anxiety and the  chaos we were caught in didn’t linger once we stepped out of the airport. You cannot be in a negative state of mind when you come across stunning countrysides and the friendly people of that country.

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Views of the beautiful Chapel Bridge at Lucerne

Switzerland has a story book charm to it with ravishing Alpine scenery to quaint villages. From spectacular mountains, flower lined natural paths, lakefront beauty, to picturesque historic centers this beautiful country also has a lot of cultural diversity.

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Breathtaking views from Mt Pilatus

We knew that a week will not be enough to explore all the stunning spots. Yet we planned the itinerary in such a way that we cover some of the best sites of the country. When you travel with a kid there are many considerations to be made and certain restrictions to keep in mind. We had to avoid the Jungfrau region which is the top of Europe and is on a very high elevation. It is extremely cold there and  not recommended to visit with young children.

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A boat trip at the lake is a great way to explore

Traveling in the country between different cities is very convenient. They have an excellent public transportation system. We took trams, boats , buses ,cable cars and of course trains . The ultra-modern trains that operate on the GoldenPass Panoramic are extremely comfortable, they have panoramic windows through which you can immerse yourself in the nature outside.

 

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Panoramic views from our Golden Pass Train ride.

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Changing trains at the Bernese Oberland region

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Views from our cable car to Mt . Pilatus

And did I mention about the food there! Being a vegetarian I didn’t expect to have a lot of food options, but I was pleasantly surprised as almost every restaurant menu had veggie options. The food was extremely tasty but was highly priced. A meal for 2 could easily run upto $60 . We loved the food, fondant , chocolates, pastries ,wine and beer.

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Views of the The Kapellbrücke wooden bridge at Lucerne

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Jet d’Eau Fountain at Geneva

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Vir’s moment with the swans at Lake Lausanne

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Viewing point from Mt. Pilatus

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Mt. Pilatus

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Vir thoroughly enjoyed the lush gardens and lakes at Interlaken

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Old Houses of Switzerland dating back to 16th century

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Hiking on top for the best views from Mt Pilatus. 

 

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Vir wasn’t to happy when I put him on the grass at Interlaken

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The Toboggan ride was an unforgettable experience

We were in Switzerland for 7 days and we traveled to Zurich, Lucerne, Interlaken, Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen and Geneva. We spent most of our time in Central Switzerland around Lucerne while the rest of the cities were more touch and go.

I feel like we hardly did the places justice in the time that we were there. To truly savour all the country has to offer, one needs to spend at least a couple of weeks there if not an entire month.

Our trip didn’t end in Switzerland as we caught up with 2 of my oldest pals in Europe’s finest city Amsterdam. Stay tuned for more pictures from our reunion!

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One of the best display of mountain flowers at Interlaken

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

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As a new parent we have so many questions and fears about travelling with our children for the first time. After travelling with my son to India on a 30 hour one way journey for a 2 week vacation, I now know that vacation or travel plans are not as easy as they were pre baby.  And while there are tons of tips on how to get there, there is not much advice for how to manage once you arrive.

In my last post How I survived a Long Haul flight with a Lap Baby I discussed my inflight experience/nightmare and shared some tips. And now, in this post we will be discussing on concerns related to our children’s health once you arrive to your destination.

Infants are at high risk for many food related and waterborne illnesses. This is not because they are travelling to India or any other country. It is simply because their immune systems are not developed. This post discuses some of the practical issues faced by us on our trip to India. I reached out to Dr. Abha Sharma a General Pediatrician and an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) to talk more in details about precautions and measures parents can take while travelling to a new country with their child.

Dr. Abha practices and resides in Southern California with her Husband and 2 year old Daughter. I am very thankful that she was able to take out some time from her busy schedule to attend to this list of questions and give us advice on how to prepare ourselves and manage our kids while travelling overseas. Follow her journey on Instagram @healthymamadoc for some great tips and advice on healthy and nutritious meals.

My hope here is to help all my readers with vital information of caring for their child’s health while travelling abroad .

What is a good age to make a long distance travel?

Newborn babies and young infants have developing immune systems and are more susceptible to becoming ill from diseases spread by cough and sneeze.  I usually recommend that parents wait until their baby is at least 2 months old to travel – waiting till 6 months is ideal. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) strictly cautions against travelling with a newborn younger than 48 hours old; most airlines prohibit babies younger than 2 weeks old to travel without a Physician’s clearance.

What medications do your recommend to carry, to avoid catching cold and flu in flight.

It has been thought that secondary to recirculated air and limited ventilation in a confined area over a long duration of time, airline passengers have a potentially higher risk of infectious diseases. But, the good news is that one study by the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that because the spread of infection is usually by direct contact, the risk is no different than that if you were travelling by train or bus.

If you have an older infant or toddler and are travelling by plane, make sure you carry non toxic sanitizing wipes with you. Germ laden surfaces such as the tray table and arms rests should be wiped down frequently – your little one may want to lick and chew on these repeatedly!

Most OTC Cough and Cold Medications are labeled for use in children above age 6, secondary to the potential for serious side effects and overdose.  Sticking with your little one’s regular diet, keeping them hydrated, and nursing them if you breastfeed, will help prevent illness and help them cope should they come down with the sniffles inflight.

Three items that I would definitely recommend parents take with them when they travel is a Rectal Thermometer, Fever Reducing Medication, and Powdered Packets of Oral Rehydration Solution (i.e. Pedialyte).  For fever, stick with Acetaminophen (Tylenol) prior to 6 months of age, and after they cross 6 months you can use Ibuprofen (Motrin) as well. Consult with your child’s Physician regarding safe dosing of these medications.

Is giving Benadryl recommended to help the baby sleep?

It is not recommended to give Diphenhydramine (commonly marketed as Benadryl) to children for the purposes of the side effect of drowsiness.  Diphenhydramine has the potential to cause several side effects in children, the most serious being overdose and allergic reaction.

What precautions are a must when a child is taken to a different country for the first time? (Vir was on formula and even though we carried bottled formula and took good care of sanitizing bottles he caught a fever and had diarrhea. He lost weight and wasn’t eating properly.)

Strict attention should be paid to hand washing and cleaning bottles, pacifiers, teething rings, and toys that fall to the floor or are handled by others.  The water used to clean these items should be drinkable water.

Parents should be particularly careful to wash hands well after diaper changes, especially for infants with diarrhea, to avoid spreading infection to themselves and other family members. When  handwashing facilities are not easily available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (containing ≥60% alcohol) can be used; hands should be then washed with warm water and soap for 15 seconds as soon as possible.  Hands that have visible soiling are preferably washed right away.

 

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Dr. Abha Sharma with her beautiful family.

Is it important to get the child vaccinated for travel like for Malaria? At what age do you recommend it?

Malaria is a disease contracted from mosquito bite in an area endemic to this disease. To prevent transmission, the first step is to identify if you are travelling to an area with a recent outbreak. The website Cdc.gov/travel and your Pediatrician or Family Physician are great resources to assist you in this. Your Physician will determine if it is recommended for your child to take medication to prevent transmission of this disease.

General preventive measures include:

  • Wearing lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs, and wearing socks.
  • Mosquito repellents used on skin can also be applied to clothing; it must be reapplied after laundering.
  • Apply lotion, liquid, or spray repellent to all exposed areas of skin; reapply frequently.
  • Avoid the outdoors from dusk till dawn, as this is the peak time for mosquitos to bite

Which fruits or vegetables should be avoided in a new country? Do your recommend and food we should carry? ( I carried liquid formula bottle, cereal and snacks but ran out of it and switched to Indian Nan Pro formula which I mixed with bottled water)

Don’t offer your child food from street vendors, and stay away from food prepared and served in unclean conditions. Raw or under cooked meat should be avoided. All raw fruit and vegetables should be washed, peeled and cut by you before offering it to your child.

Safe beverages include bottled carbonated water, boiled water, and water treated with chlorine or iodine.

If your infant or toddler is formula fed, I do recommend packing more powdered formula than you anticipate you will need. The constitution of formulas abroad may not be the same as the one you regularly use. Additionally, pack plenty of dry snacks that you normally keep at home; if your child is picky they may not like what is available locally.

How to handle breast feeding strikes while travelling? My son stopped breast feeding completely in India. I tried to feed him in the night. Once we were back in US, it took him over 2 weeks to get back to his normal feeding schedule.

A nursing strike during or after travel is not an uncommon issue – you can maintain your milk supply AND eventually get your baby back to the breast. During the strike, pump or hand express the milk at the same frequency as you would breastfeed. This helps maintain the supply and prevent infection; this expressed milk can be fed to your baby.

To help get your baby back on the breast:

  • Nurse the baby during the night or while napping –  babies who refuse to nurse when they are awake will most often nurse when they are sleepy.
  • Switch up the position you use to nurse.
  • Rock your baby or walk around while nursing.
  • Nurse in a quiet, darkened room.
  • Maintain skin to skin contact when nursing
  • Keep the baby close to you in a sling or carrier in between nursing attempts.

How long do infants, toddlers generally take to get over jet lag? What is the best way to help overcome jet lag? Vir took over 10 days to get over jet lag .

 In general, count one day for each time zone crossed to give you a rough estimate of how long it may take your little one to recover from jet lag.  Of course, direction of travel impacts recovery time – eastbound travel, i.e. from the New York to London, may be prolonged in comparison to your westbound return trip.  In order to reduce jet lag, adjust your child’s sleep schedule 2-3 days before departure (Some sleep medicine experts recommend doing this upto 4 weeks prior to the trip).  After arrival, encourage your child to be active outside or in brightly lit areas during daylight hours to promote adjustment.  When returning back from a trip, the same applies – make a trip to the park as soon as you can after reaching back home.

Any other recommendations you will like to give to new parents travelling long distances with babies for the first time ?

Discuss your travel plans with your doctor at least 4-6 weeks prior to your trip, so as to allow any preventive medications that are prescribed to be effective.

Review your child’s immunizations with your doctor, and make sure he/she is up to date with the recommended immunizations necessary for their age.  Other immunizations, including those providing protection against Typhoid fever, Bacterial Meningitis, and Japanese Encephalitis, may be recommended depending on your destination.

Ear pain can be an issue for infants and children during the plane’s descent and landing Pressure in the middle ear can be equalized by swallowing or chewing.  You can nurse your little one, offer them a bottle to drink from, or for your toddler, a chewy snack.

Lastly, if you plan on using your child’s car seat on the plane, make sure it is approved for use. Children weighing between 22 lbs and 44 lbs can use an approved restraint system called the CARES Child Safety Device.

I definitely learnt a lot from this interview with Dr Abha. I am SO glad that she was kind enough to accept my email and request to collaborate on this post. Thank you once again Dr Abha for your advice!!!

We both hope that this post truly helps all the new parents and parents to be, who are excited to travel with their new born babies. Good luck and safe travels!!

You can also follow Dr Abha at her social media accounts on other Twitter and Pinterest.

Check out the  Healthy Travel Packing List by CDC (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention) 

arushi