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

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Mother Day Gift Guide

Mother's day, a day for us moms to get the appreciation and pampering we deserve. And maybe the most stressful day for those buying us the perfect gift! While most of us moms do appreciate breakfast in bed (but please kids - let me sleep in first!), us moms sometimes wish that our families were mind readers on this day.  We'd love for the day to have the perfect balance of time to spend with our loved ones and to have time and space for what we really want - a break.

In a perfect world, I'd be sent on a luxurious spa-beach-tropical getaway as the perfect mother's day gift to recharge and rejuvenate and to feel fully appreciated for all that I do. Just pack the homemade macaroni necklace and handmade cards in my suitcase please, see ya' when I get back kids - love ya'! 

But in case that doesn't happen (darn you adulting), I've curated (yeah I'm fancy) a list of gifts for me - I mean for moms that love to travel for mother's day.

  1. Just for Laughs: Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me? By Mindy Kaling is a great fun beach read, or for those times at home that mom is hiding in the bathroom and needs a moment for herself.
  2. Quiet Time: When mom needs some quiet time on the plane or at home, she can blissfully block everyone out with these Bose headphones while listening to her favourite podcasts about parenting.
  3. Beauty by Nature: From my favourite skin care line, Caudalie, this starter set has some of my favourites that mom can pack in her carry-on for some luxury and self-care. 
  4. Travel Wallet: This pretty vegan wallet from Matt & Nat that is also perfect for travelling and keeping everything safe in one place.
  5. Keep her cozy: A lightweight cashmere scarf is a classic staple, this one from Cuyana is my new favourite. It's perfect for airplanes and breezy evenings on the beach.
  6. Keep her comfy and cool: Soludas makes cute and comfy shoes such as these.
  7. Keep her prepared: A natural pharmacy of essential oils perfect for travelling from Saje.
  8. Surround her with roses: When in doubt, opt for perfume. My personal favourite is Roses De Chloe right now. It even comes in a rollerball edition here, which is perfect for - yes travel!
  9. Timeless Treasure: For a super special gift, a classic Cartier Tank Franscaise will make her forgive you for not sending her away on a spa trip.
  10. The Perfect Mom Bag: Longchamp tote is a classic bag perfect for a carry-on, or for lugging around diapers and snacks IRL.
  11. Keep her hydrated: If the mom in your life doesn't have her own Swell water bottle by now, grab her one and get it personalized with her name.
  12. Oh heyyyyyy what are these gorgeous Chanel sling backs doing here?? In case you need a reminder, click here. But seriously, they are the perfect pair of shoes to go with every outfit.  Easy to take on and off for the security line at the airport and ready for any chic excursion. Or also perfect to say "I'm sorry we didn't send you away on that luxury spa trip you kept hinting about."
And if you do decide to send mama on a vacay, get her a special keepsake with some gorgeous photographs done by Flytographer.  You can see why I love this company so much here.

You can save $25 off of your first photoshoot with Flytographer by using the code:   RAJBINDERGREWAL 




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Monday, April 29, 2019

Is Disney World Overrated?



Disney? Meh. Don't get me wrong, I get the appeal of Mickey, even though Goofy is my personal favourite.  I lived through the princess years with all three of my princesses and can sing "let it go"in my sleep. But the happiest place on earth? Skeptical. I prefer nature as a playground for our family trips - running on the beach, building sandcastles and swimming in the ocean. Plus I am not fan of amusement parks. I just can't handle the rides or the long lines. 

But for the sake of giving my kids the ultimate childhood experience (and to get over my mom guilt) - I decided to see what made the Magic Kingdom so magical. Here's what this Disney non-believer loved:

  •  It really is fun! Disney does back up it's hype and is fun for the whole family.  The best part of the whole experience for me was that we could all ride the rides together - which was Walt Disney's original vision right? All 5 of us could ride almost every ride together - height restrictions and fear (mine) weren't a major issue at all for us.
  • The characters spread the magic, joy and belief.  I'll admit I did get a little (ok, very!) excited when I saw Mickey Mouse! It was also such a joy to see my tween-going-on-to-teen, get her autograph book out for every character she saw. Seeing the characters brought out the little kid in all of us.
  • Seeing the huge smiles on my kids faces (even through the dripping sweat- we went in August!).  While Disney may not have been my first or second or third choice for a family vacation, it really is a place where kids are happy (well maybe about 75% of the time).


So I'm ready to plan our next trip to Disney (land or world, I'm not picky), especially as now Star Wars is coming to this galaxy. But what I learnt about planning our first Disney trip was that DisneyWorld isn't  just a show up and enjoy kind of trip. Not if we expected to see and do everything we wanted to; or not spend a gazillion dollars; and especially not if I wanted to keep my sanity.


So I took copious notes, set up spreadsheets and crossed my ankles, legs and fingers in hopes that I knew what I was doing. I didn’t. But somehow it worked out anyways ,but I did gain some insight for next time:

  • Stay on resort: We stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando which at that time wasn't a Disney hotel (but that just changed!)but is on the Disney world property. It is a beautiful, luxurious property. We had tons of space in our one bedroom suite for us to spread out after a long day at the parks. They have a couple of pools and attached is the Hilton with their lazy river. Location is great because it’s easy to get to the parks and they provide a complimentary shuttle in an air conditioned luxury bus to the parks as well. Only drawback is that the schedule isn’t as convenient as being on the monorail at a Disney hotel. Next time we would consider staying at one of the Disney properties to get the full experience. But this mama likes her luxury, so I’d have to research what fits the budget and my princess needs. But other advantages of staying at a Disney hotel include: earlier access to the parks, and earlier booking window for fast passes and character meals (which the Waldorf now offers!)
  • Fast passes are no joke: Try to book and plan your fast passes AS SOON AS your window allows you to. Space them out and make sure you can get to them on time. Give yourself plenty of time to explore that part of the park as well - The Magic Kingdom is BIG. Take advantage of the fact that once you use up your 3 passes, you can add a fourth. We got up to using 5 fast passes this way. I felt like it was one of my greatest achievements as CEO of my tribe. I used Pinterest to see what rides were the hardest to get fast passes for and tried to get those first.
  • Character meals: They were worth it, not so much for the food, but for the overall experience.  We ended up booking two lunches because it gave us a break out of the crazy August heat and humidity mid day. These experiences gave the girls memorable  one on one time with so many characters. Mickey really is as charming as you think.
  • Try to be somewhat prepared: We packed refillable water bottles, snacks, sunscreen, hats, comfortable walking shoes and dollar store ponchos (which actually came in handy!).  I also purchased autograph books from the Disney store at home, along with a pen each. This gave the girls something to do when meeting the characters and they were a memorable keepsake.
  • Give yourself enough time. If you want to see all the parks, fully, then book enough time. We didn’t get through all the Magic Kingdom in one day (although we tried). If we had allocated two days we could’ve done more at a more leisurely pace. Next time!

But for me the ultimate Disney trip would be with Disney's VIP Tour Service, where this mama would get a break from having to do all the planning and keeping us on schedule. A mama can dream, can't she?


What are your top tips for managing a trip to DisneyWorld? I’m just a novice when it comes to the magical world of the mouse- so help a mama out! Share below!
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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Why Travel is Good for You

I recently had a chance to write for Fit In The Now, a digital Women's Health & Fitness magazine that focuses on empowering women by sharing the truth about fitness and health and being a supportive community so that women can be the best version of themselves.


The Top 5 Health benefits of Travelling
Walks on the beach with your family is so good for your health!



We all understand the benefits, and need, for regular exercise and balanced eating to keep ourselves healthy – both mentally and physically.  We invest in gym memberships, stock our fridges up with kale and kombucha (and convince ourselves that it tastes great!), and help keep up Lululemon’s stock by making sure we have the right leggings to do our squats in.  But what about travel? Sure, hitting up a gorgeous beach with all you can drink margaritas is a dream winter escape, but travel is actually a key piece in maintaining your good health.



Head over to Fit In the Now and read the rest of my article here.
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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Books to Read this Sikh Heritage Month






In 2013, Ontario officially recognized April as Sikh Heritage Month which brings communities together to celebrate and recognize Sikh art, heritage and culture. It also marks Vaisakhi which is a celebration of both a renewed beginning and of the creation of the Khalsa - the Sikh identity. 

Sikhs celebrate the birth of the Khalsa on April 13th and of the birth of the Sikh identity. The 10th Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji, named the The Five Beloved ones on this day in 1699. They were the first to be initiated into the Khalsa. They represent five key human characteristics: 


  • Daya - kindness
  • Himmat - courage
  • Mohkem - determination,
  • Sahib - strength 
  • Dharam - fairness. 
Vaisakhi is celebrated today as a reminder for all of us to embody these characteristics to make our world a better place. In celebration of Vaisakhi and Sikh Heritage Month, I've gathered some of my favourite books that explore themes in Vaisakhi, Sikh identity and history. 



Children's Books:
Vaisakhi , written by Deep Kaur & Illustrated by Keerat Kaur, is a colourful, easy to read book that tells the story of Daya Kaur and how her family celebrates Vaisakhi and what it means. A wonderful new addition to our family's collection this year.

You can order your own copy here






Canadian educator and author, Navjot Kaur has written these beautiful children's books that discuss Sikh Identity in A Lion's Mane, the significance of Vaisakhi as global citizens in The Garden of Peace, and a soothing lullaby told by a Sikh father to his daughter in Dreams of Hope.
She has created stories that depict Sikhs in mainstream daily life while masterfully weaving in main principles and tenants of Sikhi within the global community.  I can't recommend these books enough for every household, library and school.  On her website, Saffron Press, she explores issues around the growing need for diversity in literature and well as great resources for teachers and parents to use alongside the books.


Order your own copies here 




Poetry


Canadian Rupi Kaur is a #1 New York Times best selling author, with two works of poetry and prose, Milk & Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers.  She explores issues and themes of love, loss, trauma, healing and migration. Her poems are written in a style inspired by the Gurmukhi script, to honour her Sikh heritage, with its simplicity and visual equality of text. She explores Sikh issues such as the 1984 genocide in her poems entitled "rooh", and in her issues around female body hair in the poem "hair"(pg. 185 in Milk & Honey). Her book was the first time I saw my own name of "Kaur" reflected back at me on the shelves of a bookstore, and it brings me such pride and happiness to know that my own daughters will continue to see themselves reflected in this space.

If you don't have them yet, you can order them here and here


Fiction

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of a fragmenting Punjab and moving between Canada and India, Can you Hear the Night Bird Call? by Anita Rau Badami charts the interweaving stories of three Indian women, each in search of a resting place amid rapidly changing personal and political landscapes.  This book hauntingly begins with the first Sikh Journey to Canada with the Komagata Maru incident, (read more here) and weaves in the the political and personal turmoil during the events that unfolded during the 1984 genocide both in India and in Canada. It is one of the very few, published works that explore the events leading up to 1984 and how it affected the lives of both Sikh and Hindu, Canadian and Indian women through Rau Badami's characters.

Get it here




In Shauna Singh Baldwin's What the Body Remembers, the brutal drama of the 1947 Partition of India is told through the lens of two female Sikh characters who find themselves married to the same Sikh landowner.  The impact of this significant historical event on Sikhs is beautifully explored through a feminist lens in Baldwin's first novel.

Get it here

What other resources do you use to celebrate and teach Sikhi and Vaisakhi? Share in the comments!



Note: I am not a scholar of Sikh traditions, history or practices, and all views expressed here are to the best of my knowledge. Please forgive any mistakes that may have been made. Please email me through my contact page for any further discussions or clarifications to anything stated above.


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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Carry On Essentials for kids

In my evolution as a mom who travels, I've started to make the conscience effort to pack light. Not only do luggage fees add up for a family of 5, but I've learnt that taking the extra time to plan and pack can save us from lugging around all sorts of unnecessary things that never see the light of day (I'm looking at you Barbie and family with your full wardrobe and accessories).

So after surviving our 12 day tour of India that consisted of going to 10 different villages, towns and cities,  I can confidently say that none of us really need as much as we think we do when travelling (wanting, however, is a different post!) After surviving a 14 hour flight with 3 kids in economy, I've got it down to the basics for what my kids really need to survive (and for me to keep my sanity). But if you are a mom of smaller children, I'd probably pack a mini version of my house just to keep my sanity. Because at the end of the day mama - you do whatever you need to make it work!
  1.  Wipes and personal sized hand sanitizers because germs. Shop here
  2. Refillable water bottles - each has their own labelled that we fill up after security. The Swell bottles do a swell job (pun intended). Shop here
  3. Travel pillows are great for long haul flights, and we like cute fun ones that have machine washable covers and clips to keep attached to their backpacks. Shop here
  4. Card games such as UNO take up little space and offer hours (ok maybe minutes) of entertainment. 
  5. Treats such as mints, gum and lollipops all help with alleviating cabin pressure in their ears. I like to try to minimize their sugar whenever possible so these lollipops make me feel slightly less guilty. Shop here
  6. Activities and Books - I get each child a new book that they are excited to read (or pretend to read). I also like to get them each a new, fun activity book that they can draw and doodle in.  Don't forget to pack them some pencils or markers too! Shop here
  7. Devices. Yes. The end. So while my kids most certainly do NOT have their own I-pads, there are enough devices in our house for the kids to be entertained with on long haul flights (or any flight!).  Sometimes the have to share an ipad (ugh - the struggle is real kids!), so we use a headphone splitter like this one. Tip: Make sure the battery is full and that you've downloaded more than the kids could possibly watch!
  8. Flying is dehydrating so each of my kids has their own new hydrating lip balm and mini lotion too. Part of the excitement is the newness of these little things. It'll give you about 5.3 seconds of peace and happiness. Shop here
  9. Headphones for each child is a given, so that they can get comfy and start watching a movie as soon as they settle on board. Shop here and these are super cute here.
  10. We don't count on airlines passing out blankets anymore, so we love these lightweight micro fleece blankets. Shop here


Each of my kids has their own carry on that they can carry and keep close to them for all the things they need. They all always include a change or clothes and/or PJ's for overnight flights in a large Ziploc bag. The bag can double to hold any dirty items if they need to change. They all also carry snacks that they like since sometimes the meals on the long haul flights aren't all that kid friendly. Tip: request a kids' meal when booking your flight

What do you absolutely have to pack to make travel easier for your child (and you!)
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