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

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

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

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

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

Day 1 Ubud

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Day 2 Trip to Nusa Penida

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

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

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

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

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Day 3 Ubud

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

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

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

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

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

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Day 4 Seminyak

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

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

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

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

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Day 5  Seminyak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOVE !

Arushi (2)

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

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

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

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

 

1) Planning

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

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

2) Play Stops

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

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3) Packing

Important Gear for Family

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

Gear for Kids

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

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

Free Printable Road Side Scavenger Hunt 

Free Printable I spy

Free Printable Big Kids US License Plate Game

 

4) Patience

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

Have a safe journey my friends!

XOXO

Arushi (2)

 

 

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

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

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)

 

Our Memorable Fall Family Getaway: Apple picking & day trip to Martha’s Vineyard

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I learned on this trip, there’s no better reminder to live in the moment during those too-short childhood years than a special vacation just for you and your son.

My son and I hopped on a flight and traveled to Boston, Massachusetts recently. Diwali was just the perfect time to introduce him to his cousins and make some lifelong memories. He is now two and half, and is very aware of all the festivities around him. So I thought it was apt to make this trip, as kids at this age start remembering names, faces and start building relationships with people around them. I was very excited to travel here during the fall months and was looking forward to experiencing the fall colors, overcast foggy crisp days and some peaceful walks with my toddler.

Apart from reuniting with my cousin sisters and their families, I was lucky enough to finally get to celebrate Diwali out of Houston after 8 years and get a four-day break from my regular life. My official travels have been keeping my schedule booked for the entire year and it has been very hard to find a suitable month and time to plan any family travels. I finally found the perfect window and opportunity and was able to book our tickets almost a week prior. Although, I have been to Boston thrice before, this was the first time we explored places outside the city.

This trip felt like a mini vacation. I needed this time to enjoy and bond with my family. Watching our kids play, dance, fight and enjoy themselves brought back fond memories of our childhood days back in Kota, Rajasthan, where me and my cousin sisters grew up. This also made me realize how old we are getting, and time does fly! Being away from our families in India has not been easy, I miss the support system, the festivities, the love, the food and so much more. But every year me and my cousins try to visit each other when we can. Last time they visited us in Houston and so this time it was my turn to pay them a visit.

The first 2 days we stayed in and let the kids bond. I was pampered by my sisters and brother in laws with great hospitality and food. We chatted for hours, face timed with our families in India and prepared for Diwali celebrations at home. Here are a few pictures from the Diwali celebrations.

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With my cousin sisters in Boston

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2nd generation of cousins

                                                       Apple Picking and Farm activities

If you have been following me for a while on my Instagram, you might know I love to explore any place I visit, and we made sure we were able to do some fall activities in this short trip. So, we packed up our kids and headed for Apple Picking at Honey Pot Hill Orchards, an hour’s drive from my sister’s house.

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Guess Moms had more fun

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His dream came true that day !

This was one of the most exciting activity of our trip. It was our first-time apple picking and we all had the best time. Even though it was very cold and windy that day, the beautiful fall colors, the excitement of exploring the orchard and getting to feed the farm animals kept us all charged up, especially Vir. He had 2 full apples at the orchard, sang “Old Mc Donald” to the sheep, goats and rabbits, sat on the tractor and harvester at the farm and guided everyone which way the maze would lead to exit. I was so proud of him all the time and it brought me so much joy to see my mini me enjoy the little things. It felt like I was reliving my childhood with him.

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Feeding the goats at the farm

Martha’s Vineyards

The next day we left for Martha’s Vineyards at 6:30am, it was a 2-hour drive and then a 45 min ferry ride to the island. The kids did very well in the car, they snacked all the way and even watched some cartoons towards the end of the drive. (the ipad always saves the day)

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The ferry ride is a fun experience on the way to Martha’s Vineyard

End of October is not the best time to visit the island as it is very cold, and the island is usually a summer getaway, but hey! We had to go because I wanted to 😊 and it had been on my list for a while. Even though most of the tourist places and restaurants were closed, we got to explore the beaches, lighthouses and the ginger bread houses, one of the main highlights of Martha’s Vineyards. Thankfully we had a lot of sunlight the entire day even though it was cold and windy, the sun was very soothing.

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My favorite ginger bread house , the kids spend 30 minutes playing here

So happy !

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Ginger Bread House at Martha’s Vineyard

We spent most of our time exploring the Ginger Bread House at Oak Bluff camp ground and I highly recommend going here. A tour through the Wesleyan Grove National Historic District known locally as the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association can make you feel like you have stepped into a fairy tale, or even a game of Candy Land. In this district are some of the most photographed and admired homes in all the nation, and with good reason. Loved how whimsical the place was. The bright, painted colors of the tiny houses, reminiscent of the vivid hues of a candy aisle, popped against the gorgeous fall backdrop. There are around 300 gingerbread houses at this camp site and BTW you can also rent them and stay in a few.

There is no surer way of connecting with the Island’s maritime heritage than by taking time to pay a visit to one or all the Island’s five lighthouses. After spending couple of hours at the ginger bread houses and taking hundreds of pictures we headed to the Edgartown Light House. We spent an hour around the light house and the beach. Vir and his cousins kept themselves entertained by throwing pebbles in the sea.

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Edgartown Light House.

After the visit to lighthouse we grabbed some cheese pizza for the kids and had lunch at a Thai restaurant called Bangkok Cuisine. Props for the place for being open in off season. The kids caught a 1-hour nap in the car and we had a few more hours left before we could take the ferry back. We quickly searched our phones for a closer place to visit and came across Island Alpaca. At first, I couldn’t believe it as these animals are present only in South America, but then soon I realized they are also present on an island in Massachusetts.  We dropped our plan to see another Lighthouse and used our time to head to the Alpaca farm. Vir was so happy to see the alpacas and kept going to each one of them and saying “Hi Paca! How are you”.  Some of the alpacas had hairstyles from afro puffs to spiked punk attitude after their shearing. I also got to touch a few who had maximum fluffiness and then we did see them spit on each other. For few minutes I was transported back to my trip to Machu Picchu where I saw the lamas and alpacas on my hike. There is also a small gift shop where you can buy the softest alpaca blend hats, scarves, scarfs etc. Oh BTW you can also buy an alpaca here.

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Vir: “Hey Paca”

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Mama and Babe

In the end all I can say is life with kids is busy, As I learned on that first trip, there’s no better reminder to live in the moment during those too-short childhood years than a special vacation just for you and your son.this trip was the perfect bonding experience for me and my son. Spending time with my son out in nature helped increase my emotional health and our physical well-being. I believe family travel doesn’t have to be all about finding the most amazing places to visit but instead focusing on your FAMILY and what each one of you loves to do.  Kids love to have special time with their parents, it doesn’t need to be a getaway only. Scheduling an outing that is just for the two of you. Whether you run out to get milkshakes or just go walk around the mall, being together and having one-on-one time brings you closer.

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Happy Holidays !

Arushi (2)

Cafes and Experiences, You Don’t Want to Miss in London!

 

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On my travels I always like to experience the café culture of a city. If you follow my Instagram stories you will know how much I love a good cup of Java and appreciate latte art. So on my recent work trip to London I made sure to go and experience the tea and cake shops of the city and I realized within a day whether you’re after caffeine, cake, or just a spot to plug in your laptop – London’s cafés and coffee shops are little havens

The British are known for their love of tea, scones and cake, so as the tea room capital of the world, and yes London lived up to some high expectations I had.  Alongside its grand, sophisticated afternoon tea establishments, the capital has a range of smaller, quainter and infinitely more charming tea rooms – perfect spots for sitting with a book and a homemade treat on a good bright day, or for indulging in a little luxury with a group of friends.

In this post I am sharing my top 4 Instagrammable cafes and cake shops in London I visited and an experience I missed but definitely recommend to all my readers in London or travelling anytime soon.

 

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Peggy Porschen Cakes, Address: 116 Ebury St, Belgravia, London SW1W 9QQ
For those of you on Instagram, you’re 98% likely to have seen a picture of this Belgravia cake shop. It’s become the place to throw on the Gram, thanks to its pastel pink exterior, floral wreath and cutesy flowers lining the windowsill. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you’d probably just assume that this place was made especially FOR Instagram… Just look at it! Be prepared to wait for some time to sit at the café and enjoy some cake. There are long lines all day I believe, we had to wait for almost 25 minutes

 

 

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With my bestie Richa !! 

Saint Aymes, 59 Connaught Village Hyde Park London, W2 2BB

My favorite cafe from the trip. Just order a unicorn latte or a cappuccino with 23 carat leaf and grab a seat by the flower wall! From the outside you know it’s going to be something special, as the window is framed by gorgeous wisteria, and once you step inside, the flower theme continues. It’s a girlie dream. But of course, it’s not just all show and no substance. Saint Aymes is a luxury chocolatier which is stocked in Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, and this cafe is their first venture out on their own. There’s all sorts of cute and perfectly presented sweet treats available, you should be aware, it is all sweet treats so just make sure you don’t come expecting a sandwich.

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Biscuiteers Icing Cafes , Notting Hill Icing Cafe, 194 Kensington Park Road, W11 2E

I was in a rush when I visited Notting Hill and although it offers a lot of things to get excited about, but a cafe filled with delicious biscuits, cakes and chocolates caught my attention. This place has that Sunday-afternoon-London-in-winter kind of vibe. It’s cozy and intimate, in a beautiful setting surrounded by incredible biscuit masterpieces! Everything is provided for you, and at the end you’ll walk out with a tin of your own beautifully iced apres-ski biscuits to take home… SOLD!

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Dominique Ansel Bakery, 17-21 Elizabeth Street, London, SW1W 9RP. 

Behold for the What-a-Melon Soft Serve, one of my favorite treats I had on this trip !! It’s a ripe slice of watermelon filled with watermelon flavored soft-serve ice cream and topped with miniature hand-cut chocolate ‘seeds’ to finish. Refreshing and cute me and my friend couldn’t wait to dig in. The bakery has something for everyone. From crust less cucumber sandwiches and dry Victoria sponges to cronuts and delicious savory items, this bakery had the best menu. You definitely want a table near the flower wall!

 

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BB BAKERY AFTERNOON TEA BUS TOUR

7ed1f03d-6cfa-4863-90d2-bb2818a1428eI was so disappointed I didn’t book the tickets in advance for this tour. This is a must do experience in London. Taking in the sights as your sip your brew on board an antique bus. Yep a unique experience! This 1960s double-decker (nab a seat on top if you can) passes by all the major attractions, including the London Eye, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. It’s a great way to multitask your tourist-ing. The bus is a fusion of London meets Paris! I was able to get a glimpse of the bus only as the tickets were sold out and I was travelling back home next day.

Special thanks to my sweet friends Richa and Jasbir who traveled with me to these gorgeous cafes and took me to all the fun spots, bars and Indian restaurants in the city!!

Arushi (2)

 

 

 

 

 

birthday ideas

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