It is truly a joy to travel. We see historical and natural sights, taste new foods, and meet new people from different cultures. It’s a way to expand our horizons while also deepening our appreciation for our lives back home.
When we feel this way about traveling, we want to share it with our family. However, traveling alone is quite different from with a family. There are so many more things to consider, to pack, and to plan around. Here are some of my travel tips for families based on my personal experiences of traveling with families (my extended family, my friend’s family and families that I have met on the road).
Logistics: planes, hotels, and baby beds
At the beginning of every trip is the booking of transportation and accommodation. What I have learned about flying is the importance of reserving a baby bassinet, which attaches to bulkhead seats. They are free, and you can settle your baby in nicely instead of trying to hold him/her in your lap.
For older kids, stock up on movies and games on mobile devices so that they’ll have lots to do on a long flight or drive. Since downloads can be time-consuming, this goes on my to-do list at least a week in advance of the trip. Don’t forget to bring books, because mobile devices run out of power. I hit the local thrift shop and buy used books, and these are left behind as they get read, so by the time that we all head home, our luggage has room for souvenirs.
Other flying tips are to bring a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage (because kids are messy), book non-stop flights if possible, and book seats with extra room.
I always consider apartments or houses when looking for lodging, especially ones that come with kid-friendly gear. When I look through websites, I look at the amenities to see what’s available. These places have a kitchen, so we save time by not eating out, and they usually save us from having to pack or rent things such as strollers, bikes, skateboards, and more.
When a “lived-in” situation isn’t possible, the hotel suite is the next option. I always have to do a bit of digging here, to make sure that the suite has what we need, such as a kitchen, a baby bed, and more than one room, but it’s worth the effort. Wherever we go, I look for a laundry machine, because washing clothes cuts down on packing.
Packing: fitting it all in
When the kids are along on a trip, it’s no fun trying to keep track of everyone’s luggage. Sometimes, we know that we can cut down on luggage by buying things such as diapers along the way. Other times, we have to plan as if we might be without certain everyday items for the entire trip.
I make a pretty comprehensive list of what we need to bring by writing down everything that we do in a normal day and how we need to do it. For example, we all brush our teeth with toothbrushes and toothpaste, so those items go on the list. Baby’s diaper is changed in the morning, so I write down one diaper.
Then I have a list of things that we travel with but don’t use every day, such as passports, travel chargers and adaptors, or a first aid kit. This list is kept year-round because I never know when I will think of a useful item such as plastic bags for dirty clothes, or foreign currency. It also doubles as a reminder to check on certain things, such as the expiration dates of our passports.
After my list is complete, I figure out if we should pack enough for the whole trip, or make purchases once we get there. Whenever this task seems daunting, I just remind myself what it would be like if I didn’t pack the cream for diaper rash. For trips where we need to bring along car seats or other large items, I invest in, or borrow, items that are collapsible and aren’t too heavy.
We also save space by using items that serve more than one purpose. For example, nursing moms need both privacy and comfort when they are on the go, or in a place where breastfeeding is not accepted. A breastfeeding cover may be bulky to pack, but if that breastfeeding cover doubles as a scarf, then it can be worn and discretely converted whenever it’s needed. Another example is a stroller/car seat combo.
Then I practice packing! If what we pack is down to an amount that can be reasonably managed by two adults and a luggage cart, then things start to get cut. Most people overpack clothing, so I start with shoes and see what I can eliminate. I also pack “family-inclusive” suitcases – ones that have clothing and necessities for everyone in case luggage gets lost. This helps me to choose truly essential items.
A dream vacation with the family is definitely doable with good preparation. I hope that you’ll start planning an epic adventure today. Don’t forget the camera!
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
It is truly a joy to travel. We see historical and natural sights, taste new foods, and meet new people from different cultures. It’s a way to expand our horizons while also deepening our appreciation for our lives back home.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
These days the trending buzz words in Bangalore city are demonetization, closed ATMs, cash crunches, hot days and chilly mornings along with the usual culprits of bad traffic and increasing pollution levels. Thankfully, there will be some good buzz words trending in the city the next 4 days as Bangalore welcomes its 480 year old traditional festival. And if you have made no plans for this weekend or for the first 2 days of the coming week, this might be your opportunity to embrace Bangalore’s rich traditional past.
Kadalekai Parishe or groundnut fair will decorate the entire Bull temple road starting today and until Tuesday. Celebrated on the last Monday of the Karthika month when the harvest is offered to Lord Basava of the Bull Temple, this festival has already covered both sides of Basavanagudi’s Bull temple road with all kinds of groundnuts and traditional glitterati and fanfare.
For someone who has lived a kilometre away from Bull temple road for over a decade, I have attended this festival every year. And over time, I have learnt a lot about the legend behind this festival, which I am pretty sure you are also keen to know.
About 500 years back, during the reign of Kempegowda, today’s area of Basavangudi was surrounded by fertile villages that used to have rich harvests of groundnuts. However, in spite of this rich harvest, the farmers used to suffer a lot at the hands of a raging bull that used to run amok every full moon night and damage all their crops and harvest. To prevent this bull attack, the farmers started offering prayers to Lord Basava (Nandi). As part of their prayer, they offered to give the lord their first crop in return for peace.
Somewhere along this legend came another, which is the birth of today’s Bull Temple. It is these farmers who found an idol of Nandi in their fields and it is said that this idol grew rapidly. Pretty soon, this idol was installed and a temple was built around it. We all know this temple as the Bull Temple. And this is the location of the Kadalekai Parishe.
Groundnut farmers from all over the region – villages surrounding Bangalore, from Tamil Nadu and from Andhra Pradesh come with their produce to offer their first crop to the lord. And while they are offering their prayers to Lord Basavanna, we citizens of Bangalore get to sample different kinds of groundnuts (fresh, boiled, roasted), along with a lot of other local produce that prevails in the region at this time of the year.
What I love about Kadalekai Parishe is its rich street atmosphere. For a city that is turning into a concrete jungle, such rustic festivals give us an insight into our traditional past. Whether you are exploring alone, with friends, with family or with kids, this festival offers a lot of avenues for all kinds of people.
Kids will definitely have a ball with the giant wheels, old generation fair like atmosphere, cotton candy and lots of munchies. For street shoppers, you will find everything from traditional vessels, jewellery to flowers and fruits. For those foodies who love street food, you can sample different kinds of groundnuts, taste some goli soda, masalai mandakki and many other local snacks. And for the religious and spiritual ones, there is the Bull Temple, Dodda Ganesha temple and the Ramakrishna Ashram all accessible within a short walk.
In simple words, Kadalekai Parishe is full of rich street action when the whole Bull temple road (from Ramakrishna Ashram to Bull temple) turns into a walking street. If you are traveling from another part of the town and wish to make this a memorable experience, South Bangalore hotspots like Gavi Gangadeeswara Temple (Bangalore’s 1000 year old temple), Brahmin’s Café, Vidyarthi Bhavan, Lalbagh, VB Bakery (Bangalore’s oldest standing bakery) and Thindi Beedhi (Bangalore’s traditional food street) are all in the vicinity. In fact, this part of the city is full of rich traditional food joints. You could either choose to walk or take an auto.
So, go on and become a part of Bangalore’s rich traditional festival. May be, we will bump into each other. See you at Kadalekai Parishe.
Tip: Don’t bring your vehicles (2 wheeler or 4 wheeler) near Bull temple road. Park either in Hanumanthanagar, near Gandhi Bazaar or in NR Colony and walk the rest of the distance. You could also take an auto.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
It is the land of the midnight sun. It is the land of the polar night. And it is the land of the northern lights (Aurora Borealis). This place is home to some of mother nature’s best spectacles. This land is the Viking kingdom of Norway and possibly one of the most scenic countries that I have stepped foot into.
From fjords to glaciers, from snow capped mountains to scenic roads and from one picture perfect town after another, Norway is full of spectacular sights and experiences. If you are the outdoor kind and love to dibble in a little bit of walking, hiking, cycling or driving, this country is tailor made for you, especially in the summer months.
These are 7 special holiday experiences from Norway that should be in every Norwegian holiday itinerary. While most of them are experiences to be had throughout the year, some of them are season specific, like the midnight sun in the summer months and the Northern lights in the winter months.
Midnight Sun at Lofoten Archipelago
Located well above the arctic circle, the Lofoten archipelago with its picture-perfect fishing towns, high mountains, gorgeous fjords and pristine white sandy beaches is possibly one of the most scenic zones of Norway and definitely one of my favorites. In the summer months, you can enjoy the midnight sun from the western beaches. In the winter, one can experience polar night and see the Northern lights.
While you are here, do book yourself a night or more in a rorbu, the traditional fisherman cabins for a true local experience.
Hiking in Jotunheimen
Jotunheimen is hands down the best Scandinavian mountain area! The hikes here are simple and offer breathtaking views of glaciers with lakes, crystal blue rivers, steep climbs and amazing mountain scenery. The hike across Besseggen is the most popular as it offers the best sights in the shortest hike.
Your local guide to Norway could potentially help you find some lesser known trails and routes for a more offbeat mountain experience.
Northern Lights at Tromso
Located in the northern most edge of Norway, Tromso is definitely one of the most sought after winter destinations in Norway. From late September to late March, chasing the Northern Lights is possibly the most popular tourist activity here. In addition to northern lights chases, winter holidays here offer opportunities to indulge in some reindeer sledding, cross country skiing and whale watching.
If you are visiting during the summer months, you will definitely get to experience the midnight sun, you can go on long glacier walks or you can simply go on a quiet fishing trip.
Glacier view at Fjaerland
I love this town because it gives me the opportunity to see a close-up view of a glacier without having to go on an arduous climb. The quiet fishing town experience is just an added bonus.
If you are visiting during the summer months, do opt for the ferry cruise from Balestrand to see stunning glacier views and to keep the photographer in you heavily engaged.
Flamsbana Train Ride
If you a big fan of train journeys across the world, you will definitely dig this one. One of the steepest train rides in the world, the Flamsbana or the Flam railway offers a great perspective of the Norwegian fjord landscape. Named by National Geographic as one of the top 10 train journeys in Europe, the Flam railway, in a matter of 60 minutes or so, gives you a whirlwind tour of amazing waterfalls, long tunnels, steep mountains, beautiful valleys and so many gorgeous fjord views that the hangover will last for quite a long time.
Atlantic Ocean Road
This 8.3 kilometre ocean road is possibly one of Norway’s top road trip circuits and definitely one of the most scenic road trips in Europe. With ocean tunnels, mind blowing bridges and a heady concoction of the ocean, fjords, snow laden mountains and lush green vegetation, this road stretch is a must-do, must-see and must-experience whether you are on a bicycle, motorcycle or in the cozy confines of an automobile.
Hiking and Camping at Nordkapp
If you are the hiking and camping type, Nordkapp is the place for you. Towering high above the arctic ocean, this steep cliff in the northernmost reaches of the European shelf is an ideal getaway to enjoy the midnight sun in the wild. Mountain climbing, hiking and fishing are popular activities to do here.
Note: The photographs in this post have been borrowed from wikipedia.org under the creative commons license. Each photograph has been linked to its original host page on wikipedia.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Are you planning to explore the cultural gems of North Central Sri Lanka? And I am pretty sure if you are then you will be looking for a comfortable pad from where you can explore exotic destinations such as Sigriya, Anuradhapura, Dambulla and Minneriya National Park among many others.
As you know, I explored these cultural hotspots on my recent holiday to Sri Lanka. During this holiday, the luxurious base from where I explored all of North-Central Sri Lanka was the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana. This luxurious property tucked amidst lush green vegetation and surrounded by water bodies was my perfect home for 4 days and 5 nights during which I got to explore Sigriya, Pidurangala, Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Mihinthale, Minneriya National Park, Habarana Lake and an authentic Sri Lankan countryside experience.
This detailed review of the property and my overall experience should help you get a good idea while planning your North-Central Sri Lankan holiday.
Fantastic Access to all the Hot Spots
Be it 30 minutes to Pidurangala rock, 45 minutes to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sigriya, 90 minutes to the caves of Dambulla, 2 hours to the ruins of Anuradhapura or an hour to a rich wildlife experience in Minneriya National Park, the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana gave me the ideal base to explore all of the top attractions in the region without worrying about packing, unpacking and shifting hotels.
This proximity to luxury comes in super useful after a tiring day of climbing and exploring in the bright sun and humid conditions. After all, the hotel swimming pool, the spa or simply just your comfortable hotel room is right there to help you recuperate quickly from your active day trip.
Having your own mode of transportation will come in handy. If not, the hotel can arrange transportation services for you.
Oodles of Luxury and Lovely Service
Cinnamon Lodge Habarana is a five star hotel that has a traditional décor and feel to it. Its signature experience is it being situated in the middle of a pristine forest where you get to wake up to the sound of birds singing and see langurs and flying squirrels during the day either from your balcony or during your walk inside the property.
Whether you are staying in their villas or bungalows, each one of the them is located on top of a pedestal that is similar to that of South Indian Hindu temples. And the rooms come with all the modern amenities and luxuries that fits the bill of a luxury hotel property.
The property has 2 gorgeous swimming pools that offer the precise break that you need after a tiring excursion to all the tourist attractions. The spa, the massage parlor and the bar are just icing on the cake.
The staff of the hotel are a lovely bunch who are always keen to make your stay comfortable. Personally, I had a fantastic experience with their kitchen staff and their naturalists who dazzled me with their knowledge during the bird watching walks and countryside trips.
Yummy Local Food
For me, a holiday is not complete without a traditional food experience. At Cinnamon Lodge Habarana, I was transported to heaven with every meal. Their assortment of traditional curries, fruits, spices and dishes in addition to an international menu was possibly the best gift anyone could offer to a foodie like me. If you have a specific dish or creation in mind, do share it with the chef and/or the restaurant staff and I am pretty sure that they will prepare that for you. I certainly did and I had an absolutely delicious time.
Their Ice Cream is a Must Experience
If I remember right, I tried 34 flavors of ice cream in less than 60 minutes. But, these are not your stereotype ice cream flavors. Rather, the flavors that I tasted included curry leaves, cinnamon, chilly, durian, mango and so many more. I did not like all of them, but some of them certainly did blow my mind…in a good way of course. These off beat ice cream flavors are the specialty of the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana and hence it is something that you must try out. I am pretty sure that you will leave a richer person after the ice cream experience. Don’t blame me if you get a sugar rush though.
Fast Internet Almost Everywhere
As a travel blogger, I always look for fast connectivity. The Cinnamon Lodge Habarana did certainly take care of my needs in that department.
Whether you are a family with kids, a group of kids or a couple, the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana is a great luxury base to enjoy your rich North-Central Sri Lankan holiday. I certainly had an amazing time with them and would love to stay there on my next Sri Lankan holiday.
Friday, November 11, 2016
If you are an Indian national then you know that the one thing out there preventing you from exploring some of the world's most awesome destinations, is a visa!
You cannot always get an appointment at an embassy on time, or even worse you have to travel hundreds of kilometers to actually get to the nearest embassy.
There is some good news though!
One thing that has been changing over the past few years is that several countries started implementing Electronic Tourist Visa that you can apply for online from the comfort of your home without ever having to visit an embassy. This visa application still requires you to have a valid passport and answer some personal questions, but you apply online, pay online and receive your visa via email in PDF format. You simply have to print this paper and you are set to travel to your destination!
Now unfortunately not all countries have implemented this type of visa yet, but I believe that more and more countries will implement these visas, not only boosting the tourism industry but also helping locals who will benefit from the increase in tourist numbers.
So what is an eVisa, how does it work?
Different from the traditional visa that you would get from an embassy (sticker/stamp in your passport), the eVisa also known as an electronic visa is electronically linked to your passport number.
Meaning you simply take the printed visa receipt that you get via email and this document will allow you to enter a country just like the old visa sticker/stamp. Saving you lots of pages in your passport and hence fewer headaches when it comes to passport renewals.
You apply online and receive an email with your visa. No need to visit an embassy anymore!
What countries offer eVisas to Indians?
The Kingdom of Bahrain offers eVisas to Indian citizens. The approval of this visa can take anywhere from 3-5 business days but this will improve as their screening methods improve.
The eVisa allows Indians to stay in Bahrain for 2 weeks (14 day), multiple entries. You can extend this visa for 2 more weeks once you are already inside Bahrain by visiting NPRA in Bahrain. You need to submit a copy of your return flight reservations as well as hotel itinerary or reservation.
If you are in the mood for a beach holiday or if you always wanted to visit Angkor Wat in Siem Reap then you will be happy to know that Indian citizens can apply for the Cambodian tourist visa online.
You can stay up to 30 days and the visa comes with one single entry. Remember that you will need to have a digital passport photo to complete your application online so have yours ready before applying.
You can use this eVisa ONLY if you enter into these 5 selected border points: Phnom Penh International Airport, Siem Reap International Airport, Poi Pet (Banteay Meanchey), Bavet (Svay Rieng), Cham Yeam (Koh Kong).
Note that you will however be able to exit the country at any border post though.
And if a safari has been on your bucket list for long or even if you plan to climb the 2nd highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kenya, then you will be happy to know that you no longer have to visit an embassy to get your visa. Simply complete the online application form, submit your travel itinerary and your hotel reservations and you are all set.
The Kenyan eVisa allows Indians to stay for up to 30 days and comes with a single (one) entry for tourism or if you have business meeting then this visa is also valid for business related trips. And just like the Bahrain visa, this visa allows you to extend your stay by visiting the local NPRA office.
From 2016 onwards, the Malaysian tourist visa is now also available for Indian nationals. The eVisa is a Single Entry Visa and you can stay in Malaysia for 30 days only.
The restriction here is that you can only apply as an Indian if you are applying from the following places: India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Australia.
Indian nationals must ensure that they have these documents before they can apply:
● Passport valid for at least 6 months after your arrival to Malaysia
● Digital passport sized photo
● Return flight booking reservations
● Birth certificate for all underage children
Indian tourists staying less than 28 days in Myanmar can apply online. All you need is a valid passport, digital passport photo and answer questions online.
Restriction here is that you can ONLY enter Myanmar through the following airports: Yangon International Airport, Mandalay International Airport, Nap Pyi Taw International Airport
All Indian citizens are required to get a Sri Lanka visa online before they arrive. The Sri Lankan eVisa, also known as an ETA can be sent via email in as little as 30 minutes. The Sri Lankan ETA is for stays up to 30 days and comes with 2 entries.
In order for Indian tourists to apply online for their Turkish tourist visa (valid for 30 days, single entry), they have to agree and confirm the following:
● Passport that covers the period of your stay in Turkey.
● Proof that you hold a return ticket, hotel reservation and at least 50$ per each day of your stay.
● You are travelling for the purposes of tourism or business.
● You have a VALID Supporting Document (Valid visa OR valid residence permit from one of the Schengen Countries, USA, UK or Ireland). E-visas of these countries are not accepted as supporting documents.
Indian nationals can also apply for the Vietnam visa approval letter (also better known as the pre-approved visa on arrival) if they plan to arrive at an airport.
This “pre-approved” visa letter will be used once you arrive and you will show this letter to an immigrations officer so that you may get the visa on arrival.
Note that there is an additional fee associated with this at the border so make sure you have cash or a credit card with you. Fees are as follows: $25 USD (single entry) or $50 USD (multiple entry).
How can Indians apply for an eVisa?
All you need is a computer, tablet or smartphone and printer.
Complete your application form online. Wait for your email with the visa and print it. If anything else is needed you will receive an email requesting more info.
Its that easy!
Apply online today and start planning your travels from the comfort of your home!
Monday, November 07, 2016
Gorgeous beaches, exciting cities and ancient temples make Thailand an enticing travel opportunity. Thailand flights are easy to find and getting around the country once you arrive is simple. Hop on a scooter or hail a cab and explore the most amazing places that Thailand has to offer.
Surrounded by the mountains of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a flourishing city often used as a base among tourists wishing to explore the lush landscapes, hill tribes and outdoor adventures of the region. Nevertheless, Chiang Mai itself is a large and culturally important city where historical and modern Thai architecture and traditions coexist. A walk around the historic center bestows views of old city walls and dozens of Buddhist temples. However, the most famous of these temples, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, lies outside Chiang Mai on a mountainside overlooking the city.
For a taste of adventure, travellers should make their way to Railay. This peninsula is accessible only by boat and Railay’s stunning surroundings make it well worth the trip. Untouched beaches are surrounded by staggering white cliffs which are perfect for rock climbing. Visitors can also take part in other activities such as kayaking, jungle trekking, quad biking and more!
Islands in the Andaman Sea
The islands located in the upper Andaman Sea of Thailand are a tranquil image of clear blue seas, white sand beaches and fishing boats. Most of these islands are just off the coast of Thailand and are easily accessible by ferry from the mainland. Each island is as beautiful as the last and they are all perfect for soaking up the sun, admiring the wonderful surroundings and enjoying some hard-earned relaxation. Water and adventure enthusiasts will love the amazing coral reefs complete with rich colorful marine life.
Bangkok is a must visit for any Thailand traveller. The city is famed for its exciting street food scene, trendy rooftop bars and numerous shopping malls. Look beyond Bangkok’s modern additions and you’ll find a wealth of lavishly decorated ancient temples. Be sure to visit Wat Arun during your time in Bangkok which is so popular that it even features on Thailand’s currency! Plan carefully and you could time your trip to coincide with the annual Loi Krathong festival and get to experience the stunning festival of light in Thailand’s captivating capital city. Or may be even Songkran, the water festival that is held around the mid of April every year.
Pai is a small, peaceful town that offers a taste of rural life in Thailand. The area is often used as a base by backpackers due to its location in the foothills of the mountains, but it’s also popular with people who want to stay in the town for a week or more. Despite its quiet nature, the town is packed with things to do. Night time markets, fishing opportunities and walking trails offer plentiful entertainment for visitors who want a relaxed break in a truly picturesque setting. Taking a trip to Thailand is a once in a lifetime trip for many travellers, and the ones who are lucky enough to return savour every second. Make the most of your time in and you’ll leave with an understanding of why so many people fall in love with this country.
Sukhothai Historical Park
Every traveller will find Sukhothai Historical Park to be both enchanting and nostalgic as the glorious complex of ruins can be attributed back to mid-13th to late-14th centuries during the famed Sukhothai Kingdom. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This historical park stretches across 17 square miles, so the best way to enjoy the scene and landscape is to get on a bicycle and to follow the road that leads to crumbling stupas and ever-calm Buddhas.
This small city can be found sitting on the verge of a mountain range, Kanchanaburi is known for the cool climate it provides some people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This place is probably well-known for the River Kwai Bridge, which is part of Burma Railway.
Known as Thailand’s largest island, Phuket is a total tourism magnet with its crystalline blue resorts and spas. People who go to Phuket usually want to just stay in the sun during daytime, and party with the locals and tourists alike. But Phuket does not stop there. If beaches and parties are not your thing, you may wish to learn Muay Thai. There are many gyms around the area that offer this from a day’s course to a month. Whatever floats your boat, Phuket has for sure something you.