This Mama Needs a Vacay

Parenting & Travel Blog with tips, guides, reviews and honesty about family travel and parenting.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Diwali Gift Guide

Diwali, popularly known as the “festival of lights” is celebrated by Hindus all over the world.  Some other faiths also celebrate during this time such as Sikhs who celebrate Bandi Chhor Divas to mark the release of Guru Hargobind Ji and Jains who observe Diwali as the mark of the final liberation of Mahavira. It is a time for celebration, reflection and spending time with family. Diwali symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance. While there are a variety of traditions to celebrate Diwali, giving gifts is a common tradition for everyone. Here is a gift giving guide with some inspiration on how you can spread the light this Diwali.

Follow this link to Masalamommas to check out the gift guide.

A fun activity box for kids from The Playful Indian

Greeting Cards from Kushiya Designs and The Neela Collective


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Travel Tips: How to plan a family vacation without blowing the budget (maybe)

For a long time we didn't do any real family travel, other than visit family. No beach vacations, or big city exploring, no cruises or all inclusive tropical getaways for us and our babes.  

We were brave enough to take the littles on a plane, and even more brave by battling jet lag and time differences while naively trying to stick with their schedules (did I tell you about the time we thought weaning our kid off of her pacifier while driving from BC to Seattle was a good idea? Short version: it did not go well.)

But once we had gathered enough courage (and were no longer perpetually sleep deprived), we started to travel as a family. We were ready to explore the white sand beaches of tropical islands, to battle the concrete jungle of big cities, to take in the language, food and culture of places near and far. We were going to go on family vacations!

And if you've been following along on this blog, we've been travelling and having fun (that's my story and I'm sticking with it!). But it's not so much of a vacation for this mama, because I'm still parenting and 'momming' along during every trip. Yet, I'd still do it again, and again and again (sorry honey, didn't I tell you marrying me would be expensive?)

Gulp - yes family travel is expensive. I haven't figured out how to do it for free, but since I'm practically an expert (on nothing really) I've put some tips together that can help you plan a trip and maximize those dolla dolla bills y'all.

1. Set a budget: Figure out how much you can and will spend on a trip (then add a little buffer to that because it always goes over!) Every year I tell my husband (since he's our banker) about where I'd like to travel and when and how much I think each trip may cost. We then try to budget for them. In reality it's more about changing my expectations and putting off that trip to Bora Bora yet again (sigh).

2. Sign up for the offers: I know we don't love having random spam email come to our inbox, but sign up for emails from different airlines and hotels. For example,  in Canada there are really only the two major airlines, so I'm signed up for West Jet and Air Canada. Last week we received an email with 20% off flights anywhere in the world up until June. So I logged in at the last hour and booked flights for a trip in March! 

3. Try not to travel during high season: If you can pull your kids out of school, DO IT. I'm a firm believer that travel is education and the kids will be just fine missing a week of school. Plus the prices are often a lot less. Also, consider travelling during off season to some popular destinations. Yes, a beach trip sounds about perfection in the middle of a frigid Toronto winter in February, but it is likely to be more expensive than it would be in May. And really, a beach vacation is great any time of the year ( just watch out for hurricane season!). 

4. Reward Points: This may require some research on your part to find out how to best use the programs offered on different credit cards for travel. We use our CIBC Aventura for travel rewards.  Sometimes I use it just to pay for one person's airfare, depending on how many points we have.  We also use our yearly travel credit from American Express towards our flights, hotels or car rentals. Research to see what your credit card offers and use that to your advantage.

5. Book in advance: I like to book my flights in advance, about 3-6 months. That's also mostly because we are now limited to travelling during high seasons, and I have found that I can find the best prices then. But Sky Scanner has a full article here about when the best time to book flights out of Canada are.   

6. Check nearby airports: Expand your search to see if you can save on airfare if you drive out a little further. Sometimes driving to another city can save you big dollars if you are willing to spend more time driving.

7. All Inclusive : I'm not a lover of all inclusive trips, even though there is the appeal of not having to cook for an entire week! They can be quite expensive. We prefer to spend money ensuring we have spacious accommodations and to live more like home and to eat at local places.  But if that's your jam, go for it!  Check out this link for more tips about when to book an all inclusive vacation. 

8. Accommodation Rentals: Ask family or friends if they have any vacation rentals that they are renting out. One of our early trips was borrowing (yes for free!) a friend's townhouse in Miami. Another time we rented a 3 bedroom house from an acquaintance in Kauai for a fraction of the cost. I also like VRBO,, Sonder Stays, Air BnB, Kid and Coe for vacation rentals.

9. Travel with friends or family: If you can find someone you'd love to travel with, then you can share the cost of the accommodation and as a bonus the kids can have a built-in play dates! Meal sharing can help with costs as well as give you some down time and a little break. We do this in the summer when we rent a cottage with some family. 

10. Bring some food with you. When we stay in an accommodation with a kitchen, we often bring some of our own food since we can get gouged with exchange rates and inflated prices. Packing cereal (take the bag out of the box), bagels, snacks etc. can be helpful for both cost savings and convenience.  We invested in a durable large duffel bag for these extra things that we can fold up and put in our suitcase when we return since it will be empty. Just make sure you read the rules about what you can and can't bring into the country you are travelling to!

11. Early Check in/Late Check Out: check to see if the hotel that you are staying in has an early check in or late check out privileges.  We recently took our teen to LA and had 3 full days in the City of Angeles while only paying for two nights since we had early check in and late check out privileges. 

12. Adjust your expectations: Life with kids is unpredictable and on vacation even more so. Let them surprise you, but also let them eat ice cream every day if that's what will keep everyone happy.  When we took the kids to Paris years ago, the kids wanted to stop and play in every. single. playground we saw. And if you've been to Paris you'll know that there are a surprising number of playgrounds around every corner. Even though we came all that way, the best thing was watching our kids talk to other kids in French on Parisian playgrounds (while I got a mental break devouring my croissant).I can tell you that I hadn't included that in my itinerary.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Do we let our kids quit?

We've all been there. We sign our kids up for a program, team, activity, and they give it a try, heck - sometimes even stick with it for a full season or two, but then they turn on you. They refuse to go. There's no room for threats or bribes.  They want to quit.

And this mama ain't raising no quitters right? Right? Umm..right.

But it's not always that easy. 

My daughter recently had a week long school camp trip. It would be her second trip of its kind, but this one would be longer. She was going with her school, with her friends and teachers and it would be amazing. She'd love it just like her older sister did. 

But nope. I got a call on the second day that she was away. That call had a child, my child, trying desperately to hold back her tears and not let her voice crack. My child telling me that she needed to come home. No, she wasn't really sick, she just wasn't feeling well. No, she wasn't homesick exactly, she just wanted to come home. Yes she slept well the first night but just wanted her own bed. No, nothing had happened, she was just ready to be back at home.

So what do I do? Do I give in and let her quit and drive 2.5 hours each way to pick her up, or do I let her work through the last few days at the camp. My heart ached for her, as I knew she was unhappy, and yet I knew that she was in a safe place and that there was nothing seriously wrong. Do I honour my child's needs or do I encourage her to work through it and to become more resilient (I hope) in the process?

I gave her 24 hours. Mostly to buy myself some time to figure out what the right thing to do was.

She called me back.  I honoured my promise and I picked her up and she was happy and didn't regret coming home early at all. But I had still worried that perhaps I shouldn't have let her quit. That perhaps I had done the wrong thing. Am I teaching her that she can quit anything she wants and that's totally acceptable? And if I am, is there really anything wrong with that?

I don't have any regrets about my decision (what good are regrets anyways?)  But it did have me thinking about this notion of quitting and why as parents we are so anti-quitting. Is it really that terrible?

  • Quitting sometimes is ok.  Knowing when to quit something is important, whether it be a friendship that is toxic or a job that undervalues your work, it is ok to quit. It is ok to quit when something causes you a lot of stress, anxiety and unhappiness, because at the end of the day I want my children to be happy. If something doesn't work for them anymore, they need to know that sometimes it's ok for them to move on.
  • Quitting isn't a sign of weakness. Being able to say that you have to let something (or someone) go doesn't mean you are weak, in fact I think it means you have the strength and wisdom to recognize when something doesn't work for you anymore. 
  • Don't let yourself down: We've used the line "but you'll let your team down" on our kids when they weren't feeling up to going to a practice.  But I didn't stop to realize that they needed to not let themselves down first. They may have needed a break, or rest or just a chance to be kids. I want them to learn how to be able to put their own emotional needs first sometimes. 
  • There is a difference between following through on a commitment and quitting. We want them to honour their commitments, but also to recognize when something has come to an end because it no longer works for them.  And you know what? In all the times that we've allowed our children to quit something even after they've taken a break and closed out a season or a session (karate, soccer, piano, camp), they have had zero regrets. None at all. In fact, they've been happier and they've found another activity they love that fills their time instead. They may not become concert pianists but they may end up being a lead guitarist in a garage band. Whatever makes them happy.
  • My own fears: it's my own fears as a parent that get in my way sometimes of doing what is best for my child. If I let my kid quit something, what am I teaching them? Am I teaching them that they can quit anything they want in life and have no accountability? Will they then end up being horrible human beings who live off of us for the rest of their lives always ordering over priced avocado toast!?! If I let them quit then they won't know how to learn how to push through the negative experiences and won't learn to be resilient and therefore never succeed in anything ever in their entire lives while still expecting me to pay for their over priced avocado toast! The fears and anxieties can clearly spiral. But they stem from a place of love and concern.
Letting my children quit doesn't mean that they won't grow up to be well adjusted, happy humans. There are lots of other parenting tactics of mine that may end up doing that instead! Ha! I'm joking, but I do know that I have to treat each child, each event in their life as separate experiences and parent them as I see fit at that time, and that my friends, is something I won't ever quit doing!


Thursday, September 26, 2019

What's in my carryon

I aim to try to pack light for myself and for my kids, mostly because I don't end up needing nearly as much as I think I do. After years of having my carry on filled with all things kid related, I'm finally in a place where my own tote has whatever I need to make my flying experience as enjoyable as it can be.

My carry on bag: I invested in a large Longchamp Le Pliage Tote Bag, because I like the sturdiness of the leather handle, the zipper to keep everything inside, the durable fabric that is easy to clean and the fact that I can fold it up into a small little pouch for easy storage.

My essentials inside my tote always include the following:

  1. Hand cream : I love L'Occitane's shea butter and this one by Nivea is a long time favourite because I like having a thick cream for the plane, plus it remind me of when I was younger and would sneak into my mom's bathroom and slather myself in it!
  2. Lip Balm - I'm liking this one by Sun Bum with SPF 30 right now but my go to is always EOS.
  3. Passport Holder: I use this Tumi passport case that fits in our passports, nexus and  airport lounge cards. But this one is super cute and on sale now!
  4. Air pods - because I need to get onto the entertainment system ASAP. Air pods or sound cancelling headphones such as these by Bose are always in my travel bag.
  5. Swell Water Bottle because hydrate, hydrate hydrate!
  6. Gum - nothing like a minty gum to help refresh my breath and to help with the pressure in my ears. I like Pur gum these days.
  7. Caudalie Beauty Elixir - a spritz or two of this helps refresh my skin by moisturizing and toning it. And frankly I like having a little bit of the luxury in my bag with me.
  8. Reading Material: while I could pack a whole library, I try to stick to one book and one magazine, this one I couldn't put down during our flight to Maui.
  9. Blanket scarf - on our last flight we were freeezzinnggggg! Thankfully I had packed a light blanket scarf, but I'm looking for something warmer and more chic like this one from Cuyana
  10. Snacks - I try to stock myself with healthy snack such as trail mix, nuts, dried fruit or dry chickpeas. I'm really not this healthy, but I like to convince myself that I am, when really it's all about keeping my hangry self happy.

What are your essentials for your carry on?


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Bullying: What role parents play - my latest for Masala Mommas

"When I was in kindergarten, my bibi (grandmother), would walk me to school everyday. The short distance I walked towards my classroom by myself (I was a big girl after all), was long enough for me to have my first bullying experience.  I had been pushed down by two older girls and called “paki.” 

Sadly, this wasn't the only time growing up that I heard those words. The racial slurs that I didn't quite understand as a child, were common to hear growing up in Malton, a suburb of Toronto that had a lot of Indian immigrants such as my family.  While the the scars of hearing these words have faded slowly, one thing that stands out clear in my mind is how my parents, specifically my mother, reacted.

Her strength, determination and intervention paved the way for how I try to deal with bullying now that I am a parent, because the sad reality is that bullying is very common.  Bullying says that 1 in 3 youth report being bullied recently, that doesn't even account for all of the incidents that go unreported.

Read more on Masala Mommas where I write about the role parents play in Bullying.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Sephora Haul

I'm obviously no beauty blogger or beauty queen. My general philosophy is to use whatever it is I have. The problem is actually that I have a lot of products. Things I read about, see online or have someone recommend I often end up getting and trying.  It's a bit of a problem, especially since I rarely ever finish products before moving on to the next one. So I decided that I was going to streamline and just focus on the products I love and not buy anything until I had completely run out.

Enter the Sephora VIB sale this past August. Gulp.  I had to take advantage one final time (or at least until their next sale), and stock up on some of my favourites, and try a couple of new products out. But hey, with Sephora's amazing return policy I can return whatever doesn't work out for me. So here's what I bought in my recent haul, some items are repeat and some are new.
On Repeat:

Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer: This is the one make up product I would not want to do without. I love the texture, the coverage and the colour matches to help cover my under eye circles. 
Re-buy? YES

Caudalie Premier Cru Anti-Aging Eye Cream: I was introduced to Caudalie first during a facial at Toronto's Miraj Hammam Caudalie Spa and was hooked instantly. This eye cream is thick and perfect to help moisturize my delicate under eyes.
RE-buy? YES

Caudalie Premier Cru Anti-Aging Cream: I matched the eye cream with the Premier Cru cream that I use primarily when my skin is dry, such as in the winter months. I don't breakout from it and it's not greasy or oily.
RE-buy? YES

Herbivore Coco Rose Coconut Oil Body Polish: I love love the rose smell of this body scrub, plus the hydration from the coconut oil. But mostly it's the smell I love.
Re-buy? YES

Bumble and Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Heat & UV Protective Primer: I purchased this after I used a trial sample that I got from Sephora. I love the smell and how it protects my hair from the heat torture I put it through.
Re-Buy? YES


Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick (Colour: Pillow Talk) : I bought this one a whim, mostly because I liked the packaging and I saw it recommended somewhere online (I forget where). But the colour doesn't work for my skin tone. It washes my lips out. I still love Tom Ford's Indian Rose as a neutral pink for my skin tone ( that is on my Re-Buy list for sure)
Re-Buy? No

Briogeo Apple Super foods Shampoo & Conditioner: I decided to purchase this Shampoo and Conditioner duo once I tried the free sample I had. I was able to get two uses out of my samples, and was hooked! It made my hair so healthy and shiny.
Re-Buy? Most likely

Caudalie VineActiv Vitamin C Anti- Wrinkle Serum: So as a Caudalie fan, I'm keeping with the same line of products. I had been using the Premieur Cru serum, but it is pricey and I didn't love the smell. So I'm trying this one out because it has Vitamin C which should eliminate a step before my serum (or is that for after?)
Re-Buy? Undecided 

Earth's Nectar Jojoba & Tea Tree Scalp Oil: Lately my scalp has been a disaster! It's been very dry and flaky and even the medicated shampoo hasn't been great. I've been using this oil lightly on my clean hair on the spots that are super dry and then use more as a scalp massage before I wash my hair. So far I really like this product! When used sparingly the smell is very mild and it absorbs well onto my scalp and has been helping with the dryness without making my hair weighed down with oil.
Re-Buy? YES

What are your Must Have Beauty Items? Any that I should add to my list for the next sale?


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Celebrating Year One on the blog!

It's officially been one year!

One year since I set up my blog.
One year since I posted my first post.
One year since I got out of my comfort zone.
One year since I stopped making excuses.
One year since I finally just did it.

The idea of starting a blog had been circulating in my mind for several years. I've always  enjoyed writing, I've always loved to share my honest experiences and reviews on places I've been to and talk frankly about my parenting truths. Plus I needed a creative output, the endless cycle of laundry and dishes wasn't doing it for me. I needed something else. So a good friend planted the idea of writing a blog. Then another friend whispered some kind encouragement about writing online, then another friend yelled at me and basically told me to get off of my butt and just do it already.

So I finally did it. I set up a blog. This Mama Needs a Vacay was born. It took multiple false starts for this blog. I was trying to find the right focus, the right name, the right look. Nothing ever felt perfect, so it all just lay lost someplace out on the inter web. But somehow, this time one year ago, I just did it. I created this site, imperfect as it was, imperfect as it still is. But it's here, and it's been one whole year.

But in this last year, every like, every click, every comment, every DM, every share, every text message, every word of support that I have gotten from family, friends and strangers 
has given This Mama a purpose. So I thank you. I thank you for all of your support. I thank you for every click, comment, share. I thank you for reading this.

What's up next? I don't know exactly. But I do know that I started this strictly as a family travel blog because I was playing it safe. I had also had a banner travel year celebrating my 40th birthday so I had lots of content to share. However I've got more to share. So slowly I'm helping the blog turn into a different direction where there still will any kind of travel related content that I can muster up (which also means, ahem - honey, I need to book some trips!). I'm also going to share more of my parenting thoughts and journey. I'm going to share my interests in reading, fashion, eating out and basically thoughts on whatever may be happening out in the world. I'm going to share more of this mama.

I hope you continue to stay on this journey with me. But more than anything else, I thank you for being here already and for reading this.

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