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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

This Mama Needs a Souvenir

Flights booked, hotels reserved, research done, itinerary laminated - this mama is ready for her family vacay! The only problem is, where is the evidence that this mama was actually there on that trip??

Thank God for the invention of the selfie, so that there is evidence that mom, in fact, was there too. Cue this amazing start up:  Flytographer- vacation photography that is inspired by the glossy pages of travel magazines made super easy! They make the best souvenirs too, so you get to save space in your suitcase from bringing home yet another vase or sweatshirt.

Super simple:
                       1. log onto their site
                       2. type in your destination
                       3. pick you dates and photographer of your choice
                       4. Let them do the rest!

Their concierge contacts you with the availability of your chosen photographer and helps arrange all the details easily online via email with you. The hardest part after that is choosing your outfits and even then they provide a helpful guide of suggestions for what photographs well.

Our great photographers in Maui, Rojeena and Amanda in New York, were kind, sweet and fun! They made our family of 5 feel at ease and captured the exact kind of photos I wanted and surprised me with even more gorgeous shots. I got an email link to the full gallery just a couple of days afterward, and have beautiful souvenirs from our trips.  The best part? These gorgeous shots help fade the memory of the fighting, crying and tantrum throwing, because apparently kids don't get the memo that vacations are supposed to be all fun all the time!


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Apple : NYC Guide with Kids

Flytographer Captures in Central Park
Ah New York - the city that never sleeps! Sounds like the wrong place to bring the kids right? Well, my husband and I LOVE this city for a couples' trip (post to come!), or for a weekend girls trip - but we took the plunge since we are in this golden age with our kids (meaning, we don't need to wipe their butts or get them to their nap time anymore, but they still think we are cool enough for them to be seen with!).

New York is NOT an inexpensive city, and while I did look at the Air BnB route - I really didn't want to be making beds or breakfast on our short trip. 
I called American Express to see what benefits we could use with our Centurion program and booked the Manhattan Suite at the Loews Regency. It is a one bedroom suite that is larger than most apartments in Manhattan, but for the price of two adjoining rooms in the noisier Times Square Area. We still had two bathrooms, early check in, late check out, daily breakfast for two and a $100 food and drink credit all thanks to our Centurion benefits.
Two blocks from Central Park - our favourite area and mama got the luxury she craves from a gorgeous boutique hotel.
TIP: check your travel benefits with your credit cards.

Oh New York, how you satisfy my appetite for delicious food! We've slowly been training our kids to expand their palate and to try new foods. We basically took our kids to eat wherever we wanted to eat, but kept earlier reservations so bedtime meltdowns would be avoided as best possible.

Some of our favs:

Sarabeth's by Central Park for brunch
Quality Italian & Quality Eats - two delicious restaurants ( the best steak ever! But even the simple butter pasta for the kids was mouthwatering)
Chelsea Market - so many options!
The Spotted Pig - a gastro pub with our favourite burger with blue cheese
Hakkasan - someone is now a fan of dim sum. More specifically, we now have three fans of Michelin Starred Dim Sum!
Marea - a personal favourite, consistently excellent for service and food 
Shake Shack - quick and easy for kids and a NYC staple
Eataly in the flatiron district - so many choices under one roof
Le Bernadin - Michelin starred, fine dining (might be best to leave the kids with a sitter!)
Fig & Olive - lots of locations, great for brunch
Beauty & Essex - for a fun night without the kids, great food for sharing, cocktails you'll want to keep to yourself, and a DJ in house

For Big Cities and small kids, I love big bus tours where you can hop on and off and see all the major sites without getting too exhausted. However, we opted not to this in NYC (why? I have no idea!) 
The weather for us was perfect walking weather, so we took our kids out exploring as much of the city as we could manage.
We also opted to not do as many of the regular touristy things such as the Empire State building and the Statue of Liberty.

Central Park: an obvious one with kids! But so much variety within the gorgeous green space: The Central Park Zoo, Bethesda Fountain, Walk the the Mall with all of the street artists, Belevedere Castle; playgrounds galore; rocks to climb and fields to run in.
Flytographer Captures at Bethesda Foundation in Central park

Museums: perfect rainy day adventures and for some culture. Great options for the kids: American Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs!), The Met, The Guggenheim, MOMA and the Copper Hewitt museum which was recommended to us but we didn't get a chance to check it out on this trip
Dinosaurs! Oh My!

Rockefeller Centre has an amazing Lego Store and American Girl Doll store to get lost in and to spend some of your dough.

The Highline- a wonderful stretch of park to walk along and get in the views of the city from a different perspective with a variety of vendors
Art Collector in the making at the Highline
 Times Square - the sights! the sounds! The kids actually loved it! Just fun to sit and people watch.

Times Square
Broadway shows: We took our eldest who is a Potter head to see Harry Potter and The Cursed Child. It is a two part show so hubby and I took turns and each saw one show. It was SPECTACULAR!!!!!! I took the younger kids to see Aladdin and it was super fun and entertaining. Broadway is truly a remarkable experience!

The Details at the Lyric Theater!
Tip: My new favourite obsession is Flytographer! After getting a little tired of selfies and not being in most of our vacay pics, I found this great company that does everything for you to find a great photographer almost anywhere you are traveling. They make gorgeous souvenirs and are a fun experience to learn more about the place you are travelling. 

Even Flytographer can't always get us all to pose, but they sure can make our pics look amazing!

My Dress: Aritzia; Shoes: Vince
Her Jumpsuit: Zara Kids; Shoes: Birkenstocks


More Maui

Maui Part Two

A tropical paradise like Maui can't be contained to simply one blog post, and even two seems like inadequate. But I'll give it a shot ;)

Wailea captured by Rojena @Flytographer

For the first week of our stay, we enjoyed a spacious 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo at the new Westin Nanea resorts in Kaanapali. Clean, modern, all the amenities we needed with a gorgeous beach.

Our last three days we moved over to Wailea, and used our Fairmont President's Club perks at the Fairmont Kea Lani .  For a truly relaxing escape, this all suite resort delivered on all fronts.  The one bedroom suite was spacious enough for our family of 5, and the grounds were immaculate and the resort fronted a gorgeous beach. 
The lobby of the Fairmont Kea Lani

Sunset views poolside

Do: In my first post about Maui, I shared our tips for taking on The Road to Hana - a tropical, lush paradise of black sand beaches, eucalyptus trees and waterfalls galore.  But this is also Maui:

Not Mars- bur rather Maui! Haleakala Crater
The Haleakala Crater is a breathtaking wonder! The journey up to the crater required a kit full of Gravol and anti nausea meds with plenty of crackers, and the high altitude (elevation is over 10,000 Feet!) does cause some altitude sickness - so come armed.
But the views were spectacular even as the clouds rolled in. It was as if we were on a different planet.
We used the GyPSy Guide to help navigate and entertain us on the way up. 
Tips: Pack sweaters/jackets (its pretty cold up there!) and something to help with the high altitude.
For the more adventurous, you can do a bike tour with the Maui Bike Company, who can take you up to Haleakala and then you can ride your bikes all the way down. It’s easy coasting downhill, but caution - it’s also a small two lane road that is shared by lots of cars. 

- Whale Watching : Maui's shallow, warm waters are the perfect place for whale watching and we were lucky enough to be there just before the migration season was over. We did a whale watching excursion through Pacific Whale Foundation, and while we got some amazing sights of whales up close, it did cause some nausea issues for 1/2 of us which took away from the incredible sights. But we were also lucky enough to witness amazing whale sightings from shore! It was definitely a bucket list item checked off for me.

- Zip lining: A family favourite activity which was a first for us. We went through Maui Tropical Plantation because they allowed for kids as young as 5 to participate. Extra bonus, the plantation is home to The Mill House restaurant - perfect for a post zip line lunch or dinner.

- Beaches - Oh there are so many and each one is unique and beautiful. I highly recommend exploring as many as you can around the island. We loved the ones in Wailea, they are picturesque as you would imagine Maui to be and not as busy as Kaanapali. But also, the ragged shores of the in Kapalua give you the memorizing Dragon's Teeth 

Maui is expensive for everything  - especially food. If you have a place with a kitchen, it is easiest to stock up on food and cook most of your meals. There's a Costco right by the airport so you can stock up right away. We loved the Foodland Farms for prepared meats and other items in Kaanapali, but the Safeway also did the job well.

- Dukes in North Kaanapali beach which is right on the beach which is great for families.
- Whalers Village in Kaanapali has lots of choices 
- Mama's Fish House in Paia is AMAZING! Perhaps the very best on the island, it does require reservations as it is always busy (and pricey!) but so worth for a special occasion. 
- The Mill House on The Maui Tropical Plantation is a farm driven restaurant with gorgeous views.
- Ko at the Fairmont Kea Lani: a fusion of Hawaiian, Chinese, Filipino, Portuguese, Korean and Japanese favourites!  
- Nick's Fish Market also at the Fairmont - delicious fresh fish dishes 

Special Treat Tip:
Hawaii's specialty is shaved ice. On the surface it looks like a simple snow cone, but it is a uniquely Hawaiian treat.  Ulani's in Maui is the best - they have a few locations.

Dragons Teeth in Kapalua

Shaved Ice Treats at Ulani's


Have Kids, Will Travel

Flytographer Captures the best moments

This mama isn't afraid anymore of travelling with kids...well OK, maybe a little afraid. It can be scary packing up a family, boarding a flying vehicle and crossing over different time zones. But man, are the payoffs amazing!

Once you get over having to pack up a portable version of your house ( diapers, snacks, toys, books, clothes, multiple pacifiers, strollers), you can start to get excited of having a "vacation". HA! Let's be honest, there is no real vacation from parenting - ever. But sometimes parenting in a different locale can make things much more rewarding.

Being as prepared as possible can make it easier as well (but not perfect because...seriously what is perfection in motherhood?)

Some tips that have helped:

- in their carry on backpacks pack a large Ziploc bag with a spare change of clothes, underwear, bathing suit and pjs....JUST in case your checked luggage doesn't make it at the same time as you. The kids can still hit the beach or pool while you make the calls to track down the rest of your stuff!

- get the kids their own, size appropriate luggage with wheels. We usually are able to pack 5 of us into two suitcases for almost 2 weeks of travelling, but that also meant having to organize and pack everyone and puts the workload back on me! Now with their own carry on luggage, they are learning to pack for themselves and to keep their belongings together. Plus this way I've got the extra space for all those special souvenirs mama buys!

- Drugs. Pack them all: Benadryl, Advil, Pepto bismal, Gravol, Bug Spray, After Bite and anything else the travel doctor may advise.  Even though its often easy to find what you need in big cities or at the resort gift shop, its a lot easier to pull out what you need from your suitcase in the middle of the night to help a fever.

- When the kids were younger I would always over pack their toys and activities. But every single time, the kids never touched them. Like ever. So now, we pack a book or two and i pads and maybe some colouring sheets and pencils and a deck of cards. 

- headphones for each kid. Life saver.

-Since air travel has changed and not every flight has seat back entertainment (whyyyyyy????), our kids have to share i-pads, so we make sure they agree on and download shows for the flight beforehand. We also pack earphone splitters so they can each use their own headphones.

- I always bought and packed beach toys and goggles from the dollar store before we would travel and then leave them behind for other kids to use. But I also discovered that most resorts have these toys ready to use, and if not we would pick them up from a local store or gift shop.

- locate and have the information for a local hospital, clinic and doctor to where ever you are heading. After all , this mama needs some peace of mind

- But sometimes mama, you need to survive and just pack everything and the kitchen sink!

What tips do you have to make travel easier with kids? Leave a comment below :)


13 years ago we visited the Hawaiian island of Kauai and ever since then we've been scheming of how we could call it home.  Well that hasn't happened just yet (we are slow learners ok?), but we did figure out how to book tickets and hotels to return to gorgeous Hawaii. This time we opted to see what the fuss was about Maui. And let me tell you, there is a lot to fuss about!

We decided to stay the first 7 nights in the popular Kaanapali area and chose to make the new Westin Nanea our home. It is a sister property of the larger, popular Kaanapali Westin that was recommended by friends.

We had a spacious, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo unit with a pull out sofa, a full kitchen and a washer/dryer with a lovely view of the resort and ocean from a distance. A great space to come back to every night to unwind from our days of adventure and exploring.  The resort offers first come first serve bbqs which was an easy way to cook up dinner while the kids swam, and a lovely quiet stretch of beach to watch the whales dance!
Resort views from our balcony
Maui is known for its beaches, but it truly does offer so much more! We used Maui Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook, which from our adventures in Kauai proved to an invaluable guide. We explored almost the entire island, starting with West Maui in Kapalua where the Maui beaches were replaced jagged lava formations called "Dragons Teeth.

Dragon's Teeth, Kapalua
To majestic views on the rugged West Shore, 
West Shores views

Nakalele Blowhole
 Right around to the famed Road to Hana, where our day started bright and early at the Kuau Store to stock up on some healthy, yummy treats and lots of cold drinks for the windy road ahead. Pro Mom Tip: stock up on gravol and candies - it is a windy, nauseating road!
Surfs Up@ the Kuau Store, Paia

Famous Road to Hana sites include waterfalls galore, lush tropical rainforest, rainbow eucalyptus trees and black sand beaches and so much more. We used  The GyPSy Guide which is great app to connect download and connect to your car's bluetooth. He tells interesting and funny stories and his must stop sites along the way.

Pipawa Trail
 While the Road to Hana was lovely, the town of Hana itself is small and sleepy. We thought we'd stop off on our way back as we wanted to get to the 'Ohe'O Gulch (also known as the seven sacred pools) and the Pipawa Trail. While the pools were closed off due to unsafe conditions at the time, the hike up the Pipawa trail was spectacular. Double rainbows, a bamboo forest and a spectacular towering Waimoku Falls at the end made it our second favourite part of the day.

Second favourite part of a day that included a bamboo forest, waterfalls and a black sand beach? Really lady, what can possibly beat that? Well, the drive home through the South East part of the island! Every guidebook and blog tells you that that you must turn back and drive back down the Road from Hana in order to get back to the South or West part of Maui. But we trekked on with the advice of the parking attendant at the Pipawa Trail. The views home were SPECTACULAR! 

Magnificent Maui Sunsets

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