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

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Fairmont Miramar Santa Monica

When we decided to head to sunny LA, with just our eldest, we opted for a hotel since it would be a quick stay. But of course, where to start when choosing a property and location? Our criteria included:
  • Luxury: I like nice things and I cannot lie and that means I like staying at nice places. As American Express cardholders we are able to pick properties from their Fine Hotels & Resort program which include a vast selection of luxury properties almost anywhere in the world. 
  • Perks: While I like nice things, I don't like to have to pay the big bucks (but really who does?).  So part of the advantage of booking the Amex FHR's program are the benefits included. For our stay at The Fairmont Miramar daily breakfast for 2 included was included, a guaranteed late check out (so we booked a late flight out and got a full day in), a $100 resort credit (which we applied towards lunch) and a room upgrade (see more below).
  • Location: Travelling with our kids means we need a family friendly hotel in a location that has things of interest for our kids and ideally are easy to get to. Walking distance to the beach is a big plus! Plus the location in Santa Monica meant we were somewhat closer to the airport when we were battling LA traffic (which is a real thing folks!). 

So based on price, availability and above criteria, we opted for the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica. My thoughts? Read on...


I'm starting off with the weakest link here. We had booked a deluxe double ocean view room and were upgraded to a Premier Ocean View Room in the Ocean Tower. But honestly, I felt our room was (quite) below Fairmont standards (to put it kindly). It was smaller than expected with two double beds and a desk in the corner but had a balcony with chairs (nice). It was also a room that had some wear and tear, things need to be updated and replaced. The bathroom was small, especially for an upgraded room in a luxury hotel.  The view was more of a partial Ocean view and of the Santa Monica Pier but most mornings it's hard to see much anyways with the LA smog. Overall it was underwhelming and quite expensive for what it was. If we had brought our whole family, it would have been a very tight fit for the five of us in this room category, we would have to get two adjoining rooms or upgrade to a suite or bungalow.

 View from our Premier Ocean View Room


I personally feel that the Fairmont brand has done a very good job with training their staff for their customer service. In reflecting on our previous Fairmont stays (the most recent being in Maui), it has been consistent from housekeeping to concierge to the front desk to basically every member of staff we encountered.


This property has valet parking for $50 USD a day (parking costs in LA - don't get me started!); a complimentary house car that can take you or pick you up from anywhere in a 3 mile radius (which we did use!); complimentary use of house bicycles (they also had bikes for kids); a beach club with shuttle provided to take you to their beach. However you have to make a reservation for this and as we were there on a busy weekend we were placed on a wait list and didn't get the beach club experience. That was dissappointing as one of the main reasons for choosing this property was its proximity to the beach.Here is a complete list of the amenities available at this property.

Complimentary bikes to take out 

One thing that we thought was thoughtful and fun was their Bedside Reading program where complimentary books are left in your room for you to take to the pool, the beach or even back home. And they had included one that was teenager approved.


We dined at The Fig Restaurant for breakfast twice and were met with friendly service, and delicious food and even a celebrity sighting!!! (hint: "I'll be back".). We also grabbed some lunch at the the little Dogtown Coffee cafe and were met with friendly service and fresh food.


The Fairmont Miramar is located right across the street from Santa Monica beach and a short walk to the Santa Monica Pier. There are restaurants and shops within walking distance in the 3rd street promenade. The hotel is a 30 minute drive in moderate traffic to the airport, but also about 20-30 minutes to most locations in LA such as Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, Venice beach. 

The bungalows


Fairmont properties are consistent and we usually know what to expect from them. They are family friendly properties, but this one in Santa Monica also has a party vibe with their bar The Bungalow ( so if travelling with kids, ask to not have your room close to it!).  
Based on the location, amenities and service standard the Fairmont makes for a good choice, however the rooms are a little tighter for space if you have a family of four or more and frankly they need a complete re-haul especially for this price point. 

Pool Views

 Where do you like to stay when in sunny LA?


Monday, August 26, 2019

My latest for Masala Mommas

Summer is almost over ( say it ain't so!), and with it may be the notion of the "summer body".
Check out my latest article for Masala Mommas where I talk about the ridiculous pressure women face to get and maintain a body that is fit for summer.

Click here to take you to Masala Mommas


Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Truth about Travelling with Kids

It sucks. There, I said it. Travelling with your kids can be a miserable, terrible and soul sucking experience. I know my posts on my blog and on my instagram tell a different story. The story of whimsical days at the beach, frolicking together in the warm gentle waves; of walking city blocks hand in hand exploring big city culture; of fun filled family days at amusement parks; of building memories that we will forever cherish.


Ok, not all complete lies. I may be a little bit dramatic here (I like to think of it as one of my endearing quirks.) If you ask my kids, 99% of the time they come back with stories of the great time they've had and usually forget about the times that mom screamed - a lot. I usually come back from our trips and upload our pictures and think, wow - what a great time that was. The pictures remind me how breathtaking Haleakala was and how much fun the kids had playing in both oceans in Panama and how adventurous the kids were trying oysters in New York.

What those pictures fail to tell is how sick three of us felt from the altitude change and how we hung back in the car; how the no see 'ems ate us up alive in the Atlantic ocean to the point where we couldn't even sleep; and how much the kids complained that they were still hungry after eating dozens of oysters (and spending all my money). Because who actually takes pictures of the miserable moments? The whining, complaining, tantrum throwing, yelling, crying just don't make it into the photos. I just don't think to pull out the camera and document that part of the reality of our travelling, because I'm often too busy putting out the fires, wiping tears away (mine) and trying to (but often failing) to stay calm.

Also, If I'm also being completely honest here, there is a little bit of shame associated with the honesty too. I don't want to come home and only remember the terrible moments. I don't want to admit my kids made me cry on our vacation and that I wanted to leave them in Halifax to finish our East Coast trip while I flew home by myself (true story, I even checked the return flights!).

There is a lot of time, money and energy spent on planning and doing these trips, and I do them because I want to show my kids the beauty of this world. I want to show them different cultures, expose them to people and customs from around the world, to have them try new food and to see the beauty of our planet with their own eyes. I want to take in their reactions and see things that I've seen before through their lens. I also want my kids to be grateful and appreciative for these experiences and to be on their best behaviour at all times justifying the cost & time associated with travel and reassuring me of my competent parenting skills. I'm not asking that much (ha!)

Reality: not all of them will be happy posing for pictures
But we all know what the reality of travelling with kids can be, and frankly the everyday reality of parenting in general. It's not perfect, and that's ok. I have to remember that, but I also have to keep the following in mind when I travel with my family:

  1. There will be tears most days: and some days those tears will be mine. Just pack tissues.
  2. There will be complaints: of being bored, or tired or hungry. Pack snacks, lots of them. And maybe ear plugs. 
  3. Adjust your expectations: think the kids will be overjoyed with seeing The Mona Lisa or be thrilled with being taken to the most magical place on earth - Disney? Maybe some of the time, but they may also just be happy playing at a local playground so if they are happy, let them be.
  4. Remember that they do appreciate the work: just like with everything else involved in parenting, kids will one day, eventually appreciate what amazing experiences you've given them. I hope.
  5. Sometimes the trip isn't about them: it's about you and for you. Disney World was for my kids, but Udaipur was for me, and that's okay because the kids came along for the ride and were wowed themselves.
  6. A family trip still means parenting: Just because we are on a gorgeous beach in Maui, doesn't mean that I'm on vacation ( do parents ever really get a vacation?). I may not have to cook all of our meals, but I still have to parent. I still have to plan our daily itinerary, and pack the snacks and water bottles and set the navigation or pick out the restaurant and make sure we eat our meals before the hangry sets in. Oh and wipe snot, kiss the boo-boos, breakup the fights - you know - parenting. Just in Paradise.
  7. Set Time for me: I don't usually escape to the spa on family trips (although maybe I should!), but usually working in a 20 minute walk by myself, or browsing in a store or sitting on my own reading gives me the mental space I need to breathe. The kids can sit in front of the i-pad for awhile if they need to - it's their vacation too.

What do you do to help you enjoy the most out of travelling with your kids?


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Cape Breton

Inverness Beach Boardwalk

I wasn't going to write a post about Cape Breton, which was the final leg of our East Coast trip, even though it was my favourite part! Because we only got a small taste of this beautiful island I wasn't sure about it being enough for a post, but I'm giving it a try anyways. 

How to Get There:

Cape Breton Island is part of the province of Nova Scotia and can easily be accessed by car from the main part of the province. We took the the ferry from Woods Island, PEI to Caribou, Nova Scotia which took about an hour and 15 minutes, (you can read more about my thoughts on taking the ferry here). From Caribou it took about 2 hours for us to drive Cape Breton Island, in particular to the town of Inverness where we stayed.

From Halifax Stanfield Airport you can drive to Cape Breton in around 3 hours.

Where we Stayed:

One of the reasons why this may have been my favourite part of our trip was probably due to our amazing accommodations. We splurged and stayed at the Cabot Links Resort  in a gorgeous 2 bedroom villa. We had two spacious and luxurious bedrooms, two full bathrooms complete with l'Occitane bath products, a full stunning kitchen and sitting room overlooking the golf course and ocean, along with laundry facilities. I basically came back home wanting to redo my whole home to look like our modern villa. Sorry honey - looks like this trip will continue blowing the budget!

The service was also amazing, as they had a rollaway bed set up and ready for our third kid upon arrival. My favourite part probably was the coffee maker and the perfect covered back porch to drink it on!

The villas at Cabot Links Resort

The splurge at this resort was well worth it, but other options that I looked into and would consider staying in next time include this property by Kid & Coe which looks like a perfect stay for families not far from Inverness. The Keltic Lodge and the Cape Breton Villas also look like good choices for families.

A place for mama to relax

What to Do: 

Golf: If staying at the Cabot Links Resort, golfing is a no brainer because it is home to two of the world's best golf courses, Cabot Cliffs and Cabot Links. Our girls got to play at the Cabot Cliffs in the evening, and while I am a non-golfer, I walked the course with them and took in the breathtaking beauty of the area. Cabot Links even offers golf lessons for children in case they are new to the sport. We found the whole property to be very accommodating and welcoming for our kids.

Cape Breton has over 1/2 dozen spectacular golf courses, and was called "The Hottest Island in Golf" by Forbes Magazine.

Inverness Beach Boardwalk: A huge stretch of beach that is 5 minutes away from Cabot Links (they provide a  shuttle or you can walk down easily), Inverness beach claims to have some of the warmest waters north of the Carolinas. With a huge stretch of boardwalk along the beach - perfect for a run or stroll, the beach is also manned with a lifeguard, so a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Cabot Trail: spanning 298 miles long, the Cabot trail makes for a perfect road trip (unless you have kids, then it may be a different story!) There are breathtaking views from wherever you are, and lots of places to stop and pull off the road, or to head out and explore. We only attempted about an hour's worth of driving up to the Cheticamp Visitors Centre, which is one of two visitor's centre's in the Cape Breton Highlands National park. Approximately 1/3 of the Cabot trail is in the park.

Stopping off at the visitors centre allows you to get information on the many hiking trails, events and to stock up on any items you may have forgotten (ahem, like we did!).

Views of the Cabot Trail

Lots of stops to make along the Cabot Trail
SkyLine Trail: There are many trails and hikes to do within the National Park, but we opted for the popular SkyLine Trail.  The trail itself is relatively easy and you can even take a stroller for most of it if you have young kids. It took our family approximately 2 hours to do the full trail and get back to our car. The views are breathtaking!
Tip: before starting your hike, the kids can look out for the Xplorer's Book from parks Canada at the start of the trail. Bring along a pencil to help them fill out their booklet along the hike!

Sky Line Trail
There is so much more to discover along the Cabot trail from hikes to waterfalls to beaches, local towns and artisan trails. You can also do whale watching excursions, go fishing, bike ride and more! We have much to discover for next time!

Where to Eat:

Since we had a full kitchen we were able to eat breakfast and small lunches in our villa. There is a small variety store, The Inverness Pantry, directly across the street from the resort where you can stock up on your basics, or head down to the Inverness Co-op down the street for more options.

We dined at Route 19 Brewing for a more casual fare, but for delicious pizza, seafood and more. For a special meal book yourself a table at sunset and request it by the window at Cabot Link's Panorama Restaurant. We left the kids back with some pizza from the Cabot Public House.

We also stopped off for some sandwiches and baked goodies at the Aucoin Bakery after we left the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. But we did pass by many other restaurants, bakeries and shops along that way.
Make sure to enjoy the sunsets here

While we certainly didn't get to see or do as much as Cape Breton offers, it earns a spot on my list of places that we definitely would like to return to. But check out fellow Toronto blogger, Yashy Murphy who has so many great posts on Cape Breton on her blog Baby & Life


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

6 reasons to visit Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island is one of the three maritime provinces in Canada and also the smallest province being about 5,620 km2 in  in size  and is the world's 104th largest island. Nothing remarkable about these statistics, so then why head to this small Canadian island? Lots of reasons! Keep reading!

1. Channel your inner Anne with an 'e':  If you grew up reading the adventures of Anne of Green Gables and falling in love with Anne's island, then visiting PEI is a no-brainer! There is much to discover to channel you inner Anne. We went to the Green Gables Heritage Place where you can step inside the world of Anne Shirley.  Kids are free and you can get an interactive activity booklet at the visitors information desk to keep their interest piqued.

You can often find Diana & Anne around the property!

Before you step into Green Gables, you can learn all about Lucy Maud Montgomery and Anne at the newly built interpretative centre and interactive exhibition. There are also daily tours available, two short walking trails,  and a small cafe where you can get your fill of Raspberry Cordial. Try to spot Anne & Diana as they pop up throughout the grounds!

We followed up our Anne of Green Gables visit by heading over to Avonlea Village, a re-creation of the fictional 19th century hometown of Anne Shirley.  Here you can choose one of the many restaurants for lunch, a snack or special treat or pick up a souvenir.  And if you haven't filled up on enough Anne adventures, you can catch a musical show in Charlottetown as well, check out the details here.

Re-created Avonlea

2. The Beaches: Picture smooth warm sand, red sandstone cliffs, rolling sand dunes, soft blue sky, and white-capped waves. That should be enough of a reason to go to PEI - just to visit the beaches! You can spend your whole time on the island discovering the different beaches and spending blissful days ocean side. You can get into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean for a invigorating swim - but be warned, the warmest ocean water temperatures come in the summer and even then they are more on the chilly side.

3. Golf: With over 15 courses to pick from, the island makes for a great golf destination. Our family enjoyed a couple of rounds at The Links at Crowbush Cove, and as a non-golfer I can tell you that I enjoyed the stunning scenery while I watched my family play.

Golf at the links at Crowbush

4. Oysters & Potatoes:
Ok, not just for oysters and potatoes, but for the overall fresh food that PEI offers! We enjoyed fresh lobster and seafood everywhere we went from charming restaurants in Charlottetown (try Terre Rouge) to an amazing dining experience at the Fire Feast at Inn at Bay Fortune. Starting with a farm tour, oyster hour and a feast served communal style with organic and locally grown, caught and farmed food from the island. It is truly a feats for all of your senses! Book early as it fills up quickly or put your name down on the wait list as we did and see if you luck out! Tip: depending where you are staying on the island, you may choose to stock up on some groceries and your best bet is to stock up in Charlottetown where you will find the most selection.
Where you don't need a reservation and will be a hit for everyone is indulging in in ice cream from Cows where ever you are on the island.
Oysters, oysters, oysters!

5. History, arts and Culture in Charlottetown: 
The capital city of PEI is Charlottetown where you will find shops and restaurants by the water by Confederation Landing and live music while you dine on Victoria Row. Also home to Victoria Park, St Dunston's Basilica Cathedral, and the Confederation Centre of the Performing Arts where you can catch an Anne of Green Gables Musical.
Sit & chat with Canada's first prime minister

6. The slow pace: Come to the island and enjoy life on island time - the Canadian version. Enjoy scenic drives around the island, go light house hunting and see how many you can visit in one day, or just laze around on any one of the stunning beaches. Prince Edward Island is about slowing down and enjoying life on a Canadian island.

When to go

Prince Edward Island is probably best enjoyed in in the mid summer months when the temperatures rise and the island can be enjoyed for all of it's natural beauty.

How to get there:
We were coming in from Halifax and drove over the Confederation Bridge. Our drive form Halifax took about 3 1/3 hours to get Charlottetown.

If driving, consider taking the North Cumberland Ferries from Caribou Nova Scotia over to Wood Islands, PEI. The journey is about 75 minutes long and so easy! Just drive on, park and head upstairs to take in the pretty ocean views, listen to live music or grab a snack or treat from the on board cafeteria. I highly recommend making your reservation online ahead of time.

Air Canada also has numerous flights from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa daily that fly you into the Charlottetown Airport.

Where to Stay:
We chose to make Rodd Crowbush Golf & Beach Resort our home for our 3 night stay. The property boasts one of the best golf courses in the country as well as a tranquil setting along the island's North Shore with stunning sand dunes and a long stretch of beach. With almost 50 guest rooms and suites and 32 cottages, it was a no brainer for us to book. We had a spacious, two bedroom cottage with two bathrooms, kitchen and bbq and daily housekeeping. It was the perfect choice for us to spread out comfortably as a family of 5. Bonus: Kids stay, eat and golf for free! Another extra special offer is by Travelzoo, click here to check it out

Another hotel recommendation by one of my favourite family bloggers The Local Passport family was the Delta Hotels in Charlottetown if you prefer to stay in the province's main city.

Other notable accommodations that I would stay at are the historic Dalvay By the Sea and the luxurious country Inn at Bay Fortune (more to come about their Fire Feast!)

Have you been to PEI? Share what your favourite thing to do there is!


Thursday, August 1, 2019

Nova Scotia: Where to stay, what to do and see

Peggy's Cove

I love travelling and seeing different parts of the world, and our kids enjoy it too ( that's my story and I'm sticking to it!)   But recently my husband reminded me that we have so much left to see of our own beautiful country - Canada! So this summer we decided we would hit the East Coast of Canada.

Our itinerary was 3 days in Nova Scotia, 3 days in Prince Edward Island and two days in Cape Breton (technically Nova Scotia). Even after 9 days we felt like we only got a small sampling of the stunning Maritimes, and can't wait to go back to explore even more!

For this post I'm going to just focus on our 3 day Nova Scotia Itinerary (not including Cape Breton - that'll come later!)

Halifax Harbourfront
How to Get there: 
To get to Halifax, Nova Scotia where we started and ended our trip, we decided to take a quick 2 hour flight from Toronto rather than doing a full on road trip from Toronto. 

Getting to Halifax from Toronto was a quick flight and I forgot how easy it is to travel within the country! Air Canada has over 10 direct flights daily from Toronto to Halifax.

If you choose to drive, it is about an 18 hour drive from Toronto.

You can also take a ferry from Bal Harbour Maine, St John's New Brunswick or Wood Island PEI over to Nova Scotia on North Cumberland Ferries. We used the ferry to get back from PEI to Caribou Nova Scotia which was a pleasant journey and made for a nice break from driving.

Where to Stay:
We chose to make Halifax our home for the 3 days we were there as it seemed to be most central for what we had planned. We stayed at the Cambridge Inn & Suites which is located right across from the Citadel. It was an adequate accommodation for us that was clean, had enough space in a one bedroom suite and also had breakfast included in our stay. Except that getting my family downstairs in time for breakfast is much harder on vacation!

Other hotels in and around Halifax that I would consider for next time would be:

The Prince George Hotel
Westin Nova Scotian
OceanStone Seaside Resort 

What to Do:
Don't expect to need to fill your itinerary with a lot to do, but definitely give yourself lots of time to do it. That's mostly because getting from one place to the next from Halifax can take at least an hour.

  • Halifax harbour: you can easily spend a couple of days just strolling along the Halifax harbour at a very leisurely pace. From exploring the Museum of Immigration at Pier 21  to strolling along the waterfront boardwalk you can stop and sway in hammocks, grab ice cream from Cow's , discover some delicious places to dine such as The Bicycle Thief , or sit down for some gourmet nibbles and local wine at one of Canada's Top 100 restaurants Little Oak Bar. Or you can just grab a lobster roll and explore the waterfront with its historic buildings, shops, view the tall ships out on the water or let the kids play in the playground.  
Historic Halifax Buildings
  • The Citadel: For a taste of some history and really just a cool fort, head uphill to the Citadel. Bonus: The kids are free! Once inside, head over to the visitor centre to get the kids their free Xplorers booklet that can be found at participating parks Canada places. It's a great way to get kids involved in exploring the grounds, history and activities and keeps them busy so you can actually take it all in. Don't forget to go back to the visitor center with their completed booklets to get their little free souvenir! This was our best discovery for the kids yet!

Doing one of her challenges from the Xplorer's activity book!
  • Peggy's Cove: Is driving an hour out to the most photographed lighthouse worth it? Yes! When you ask our kids what their favourite part of the trip was, they say Peggy's cove! Be warned of the throng of tourists however, we tried to get out earlier before tour buses came in, but failed. Also make sure to follow the signs and heed the warnings about slippery rocks and the dangers of them.  You can still find to explore and wander around the rocks and take in the gorgeous views from this area. Don't forget to get some lobster rolls or an ice cream treat before heading back on the road. 
Peggy's Cove

Safely exploring Peggy's Cove
Joining the Flocks of Tourists
  • Lunenburg: This port town is a UNESCO World heritage site and is filled with colourful little buildings sitting right by the water. It is about an hour from Peggy's Cove and from Halifax, and you can spend an afternoon strolling around, having some delicious food to eat, shop for some arts and crafts, take a walking tour or a horse drawn carriage tour. 

Grab a bite from the South Shore Fish Shack in Lunenburg

  • Bay of Fundy, Burntcoat Head: The Bay of Fundy lies between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and is known for the highest tides in the world.  While there are numerous places to go and see the tides both when they have come in and gone out, we choose to go to Burntcoat Head Park as it was the closest park from Halifax, about an hour's drive. Plan ahead of time to get there for when the tides are the highest and plan your day to get back when the tides have come out. Depending on the timings you can have a guided tour of the ocean floor! 
Walking on the Ocean Floor at Burntcoat Head
When the tide is in at the Bay of Fundy

Other Tips:

Car Rental: If you plan on flying in and renting a car, be sure to book one early as there are limited car rentals. Having a car is really the best way to get out and discover this beautiful province!

Enjoy the Food Scene: eat all the seafood you can, and then have some more! We aren't huge Lobster fans, but I couldn't resist a lobster poutine or a lobster roll every time I saw one. There really are some great places to eat such as Edna's Restaurant in Halifax, Little Oak Bar, The Bicycle Thief and the Stubborn Goat.

History of Beer: Nova Scotia's oldest brewery is open for a visit, tours and some beer tastings. If beer isn't your thing you can still pop by Alexander Keith's Brewery for some historical charm.

Wine a little: Nova Scotia has a growing wine region and offering of wines. We popped into Lightfoot & Wolfville while we waited for the tides to go out at the Bay of Fundy. It's a beautiful little winery that also serves food on its outdoor patio overlooking the lush vineyard, even if wine isn't your thing, you can enjoy the gorgeous grounds on your way into the cute town of Wolfville - home of Acadia university, to grab a meal while you wait for the tides to change.

Flytographer: my not so secret tip and favourite thing to do when travelling is to get professional pictures by Flytographer. They make for great souvenirs and ensure that I'm actually in the pictures! Also, our photographer, Heather had some great tips and stories to share about Halifax as well as for our upcoming leg to Prince Edward Island. Check out her more of her travel tips on her blog at

Flytographer Captures

Captured by Flytographer

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