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

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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, booking.com, 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.







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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!










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