Back to Reality

So I'm back from paradise and back to reality.  As some of you may have known, my husband and I just spent a week in Cuba; relaxing, exploring, dining & imbibing.  And I have to say, I think it's more of a culture shock arriving back home than it was stepping off the plane into a tropical paradise.

I will be posting more about our adventure in Cuba in the future, but for now I want to share a couple things I learned from my Cuban holiday.
  1. The Cuban people are ingenious. With a lack of resources and things we take for granted, I was amazed by their ability to repair just about anything; create beautiful items from the most unlikely materials and cook the most delicious dishes with the simplest ingredients.
  2.  Life is too short and we live to fast.  Many times we heard the term 'Cuban time' while on holiday and after a couple days of adjusting to this unique ebb and flow of the day to day, I have to say that I quite enjoyed this slower, more connected way of  life.
    My 'Hemingway Mojito' in Havana
    My 'Hemingway Mojito' in Havana
  3. If you want everything you have at home, then don't go on vacation.  I firmly believe a vacation should be an adventure and a way to experience new things and the beautiful cultures, customs and cuisines of foreign lands.  Forget what you have at home and embrace what you find on your journey
  4. Material possessions and riches are not important in the grand scheme of things.  The majority of Cubans have very little, but are very rich in family, friends and living life.
  5.  Mojitos are gluten-free & vegan!

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NOTE: I’ve added this post to the Sunday Traveler link up extravaganza. Check it out for other travel tales and inspiration.

Surviving Your Family Vacation 101

We just returned from our family vacation and I thought it only fitting to share with you some very important things I learned over the past 5 days. And just for a little back story - for our holiday we decided to take a road trip to Ottawa, ON which is approximately 640 kms from our house with our 2 small children.

1.  Your hotel can make or break your trip.    Trying to get kids to fall a sleep in the same room is next to impossible and if you've shared a room with your kids you know that they are the loudest sleepers on the planet.  So after a little searching I found the Albert at Bay Hotel; essentially like little apartments. And all for the same or less than you would pay for a hotel room! We had a full kitchen, balcony and a living room/dining room and a separate bedroom.

2.  Calculate your travel time wisely.  So when we were younger we would take road trips all over.  And it was quite easy to drive for 10+ hrs without kids.  But this holiday was our first significant road trip with 2 kids in the car.  The girls have always been great in the car, but I was definitely nervous about the 6+ hrs of driving each way.  After over 1500 kms in the car I think it's fair to say that when travelling with small kids you need to add an extra 30% to your estimated driving time.  We stopped twice each way for approximately 45 mins to an hour to stretch, visit a washroom and get the wiggles out.  Use this handy equation to stay sane: Estimated travel time + 30% car-free time = happy travels.

3.  Schedule downtime.  This is a very important vacation must.  We all try to cram in as many sights and sounds and activities as humanly possible into our holidays and I'm no exception.  We were gone each day by about 9am and didn't get back to the hotel till past bedtime just about each night.  The girls were great and were happy to hop from one adventure to the next.  But by about day 2 or 3 I could tell they were tired and on the verge of a melt down. Instead of more sight-seeing we took a drive to the Gatineaus and had a picnic on the beach and spent the afternoon watching the kids play in the sand and splash in the water.  It's imperative the incorporate some chill time with the kids.  We were tired and they were tired and what better way to rejuvenate then with a little nature.

Mosaika at Parliament Hill
4. Skip the souvenirs and stock up on memories.   I've come to the realisation that 'things' don't make you happy.  And really they just take up space and its just more stuff to clean and organise.  So rather then spending money on some terribly over-priced, tacky knick-knack, why not take that money and use it for something you and your kids will really enjoy.  Or even better, save your money and find some really cool FREE events to check out and make some family memories instead. Check out the local tourism sites for local events and festivals and for great coupons!

5.  Enjoy each minute.  We can get wrapped up in schedules and time lines and agendas.  We went on our vacation with nothing scheduled other than our hotel and tickets to the Museum of Civilization.  Each day was a new adventure and we took our time and enjoyed each minute.  If we were having fun we stayed and played; if it wasn't our thing or the kids were not interested we moved on.  We kept it simple and fluid and relished each moment.

NOTE: we’ve added this post to the Sunday Traveler link up extravaganza. Check it out for other travel tales and inspiration.

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