THE TODDLER TRAVEL SURVIVAL GUIDE! How To Travel Internationally With Your Toddler

My 15-month old toddler is proudly collecting her passport stamps. My husband and I LOVE traveling, and we made a pact when we had our baby Nainika that we wouldn’t let parenthood get in the way of our passion. Instead, we chose to expose her to as much travel as possible, because I truly believe that it impacts children in a positive way. I traveled a TON growing up since my parents were expats overseas. I may not have concrete memories of all my trips, but somewhere deep inside me is ingrained an appreciation for culture and adventure that was planted at an incredibly young and impressionable age.

We get lots of questions about how we manage traveling internationally, and my number one most important tip is:

HAVE
A
POSITIVE
MINDSET.

It’s going to be a lot of hard work and you’ll have to deal with some truly tough moments, but just keep reminding yourself why traveling as a family unit is important to you. If you begin your journey with a negative, stressed out attitude, then your experience will likely just be that. The key is to be positive and just recognize that this is going to be a different type of trip than past solo adventures and you will have different things to appreciate. If you focus on cultivating a positive mindset, then your child will imbibe that same energy. A sense of humor helps too! You’ll need it to stay calm during all those blowouts and meltdowns. 🙂

#2 most important tip: DO NOT OVERTHINK IT.

Parenting in this time and age is truly a blessing and a curse. We are exposed to a plethora of information in the form of books, blogs, online forums, social media, parental networks, etc. that can be immensely helpful. At the same time, it’s information overload. My parents didn’t research this stuff as heavily as we do today, and they were just fine. It’s important to be prepared of course, but do you need to buy every single travel-friendly product and toy out there? No. Sometimes the less you do, the more relaxed and ‘go with the flow’ you’ll be, which is the exact attitude you need to survive on a trip with toddler.

That said, here are some practical tips that have worked for OUR child on some of our past travels. She has traveled to Paris at three months, Western Canada at six months, and Sicily at 15 months with various domestic trips in between, and these tips have worked well for us. Of course every child is different and has unique needs, but hopefully this is a helpful guide for planning your own successful family adventures!

PLANNING

  • RENT AN APARTMENT: We’ve gone both the apartment and hotel route, and renting an apartment is so much easier when traveling with a baby or toddler. Whether you use Airbnb, HomeAway, or Vrbo, you can find affordable places with a kitchenette (extremely important for us since our toddler has allergies), second bedroom/and or living room area for chilling when the baby is asleep, high chair, and a crib. You will be spending a lot of time in your apartment, so makes sure it’s comfortable and roomy. Having a balcony is a HUGE asset so that you can feel like you’re outdoors while your toddler is napping or sleeping!
  • THINK THROUGH FLIGHT TIMES: When traveling internationally, it’s really helpful to book an overnight flight. We’ve done both overnight and daytime flights, and the second can TRULY be painful when your toddler is active and awake and just wants to walk around and explore the plane.
  • PICK YOUR TRAVEL DESTINATION WISELY: Sometimes this isn’t in our control if we’re traveling for a family wedding or pre-determined vacation. However, if you can, pick your destination with your toddler mind. Traveling east is always easier from a time zone perspective, because it’s not the end of the world if your toddler sleeps and wakes up later than usual. When we took Nainika to Sicily for example, she just went to sleep around midnight and slept in till 11 am which enabled us to go out for some late dinners and drinks. Keeping her as close to her normal schedule made it so much easier for us to transition when we were home! Traveling to California from Chicago was a challenge, because Nainika would be sleepy by 5 pm and wake up by 5 am. Not fun.
  • PACK EFFICIENTLY: We love using packing cubes for Nainika’s stuff, because it keeps her tiny clothes altogether in one place — we usually do jammies in one, daytime outfits in another, accessories/socks in another, etc. Also, please be practical. I know there are a zillion adorable little dresses or outfits that you want to pack for your toddler on vacation, but they will likely just be in comfy long sleeves and pants to protect them from sun exposure when you’re out and about. Just pack 2-3 impractical dresses/outfits so you can capture those priceless pictures, and be sensible about the rest. But DO pack an extra outfit per day to account for messes. Other important items to pack:
    • Sanitizing wipes for airport/on flight diaper changes
    • Travel-sized noise machine
    • Crib sheets
    • Medicines/thermometers/diaper cream
    • Tupperware (super helpful if you’re taking food for your toddler to restaurants)
    • Sunscreen, sunhat
    • Bath towel and bath soap
    • Enough diapers and wipes to last a couple days, in case your luggage doesn’t make it on time (speaking from experience)
    • Sippy cups, bottles, and formula (for when milk isn’t easily accessible)
  • BUY A TRAVEL STROLLER, DITCH THE CARSEAT: The travel stroller is a must. No need to carry around your bulky American stroller in narrow foreign alleyways! We purchased the Summer Infant 3D Lite Convenience Stroller and it works just fine. It’s lightweight, easy to maneuver with one hand, and does well on cobblestone. Yes, there are probably better, more expensive options but when we’re lugging it around the globe, it doesn’t make sense to invest a ton. As for the carseat, unless you’re planning a road trip or in a country where safe carseats are not easily available for rent, then there’s really no need to lug around a carseat. The lighter you travel, the happier you’ll be.

AIR TRAVEL

  • BULKHEAD ROW BULKHEAD ROW BULKHEAD ROW! Call ahead or show up to the airport three hours early to try to get the bulkhead row. This is sooo key when you’re traveling with a toddler. It gives you the extra room that you’ll need, and a bassinet if your child can still fit in it. If you call ahead they may make you pay extra, but we’ve usually had luck just showing up early to the airport. We got extremely unlucky one time when there were like 15 babies on the plane and we did not get the bulkhead row or bassinet…so just depends on whether you want to risk it! Same goes with purchasing an extra seat. If you’re risk averse and would rather spend the extra money for a seat, then do it. I’d rather save and hope the bulkhead row or an extra seat opens up!
  • PACK SNACKS, BUT DON’T STRESS ABOUT TOYS: You will need snacks. Lots of them. Especially if your child has any allergies, it’s always safer just to pack a bunch of snacks to keep them distracted and entertained. Don’t go crazy with toys though — just 3-4 new toys is perfect for keeping them busy, but they will more likely be excited about people watching and being in a new environment!
  • DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT SCREEN TIME: This is a tough one for me, because I whip out my phone/iPad pretty often when we’re traveling and feel super guilty about it. But you gotta do what you gotta do. I got a free one month YouTube premium trial before our Sicily trip which was a genius move…I just saved a bunch of Nainika’s favorite videos for offline use and would use them to distract her whenever she was about to have a meltdown. Worked like a charm every time.
  • USE A BABY CARRIER IF IT WORKS FOR YOU: Everyone told us to use a baby carrier when traveling so you can be hands free. We love our LILLEbaby carrier, but we never really used it prior to our trips..big mistake. I do recommend bringing a carrier (especially if you plan on hiking, etc.) but just make sure you and your toddler are comfortable using it beforehand. We only used it once or twice on our trips, and I just wish we had prepared more beforehand to get more use out of it!
  • SLEEPING HACKS: First and foremost — let your child run around as much as possible prior to the flight to tire them out. On the flight, I try to create the same bedtime environment that we do at home when it’s time to sleep. This means lullabies, a bottle, her favorite stuffed elephant, and putting on a sleep sack. They get easily distracted on the plane, so try to hang a blanket as a canopy over your seat to eliminate as much lighting as possible. Getting a toddler to sleep on the plane is not the easiest thing in the world, but just stay calm — they will eventually fall asleep! If a carrier works for you, try taking him/her to a quiet part of the plane and rocking them to sleep. Just stay calm 🙂

ON LOCATION

  • JETLAG: There’s no magical cure for jetlag even for adults. Depending on where you’re traveling to and for how long, it might not make sense adjusting your child to the new schedule right away. When we’re in Europe for example, we just stick to our regular schedules and have later bedtimes and wake times. Works great for us since we like doing late dinners and sleeping in on vacation anyway! If you’re staying somewhere for a longer period of time and need to adjust, then make sure to get your child out and active in the sunlight during the day so they’re worn out in the evening. This might mean missing a nap to get them tired earlier and that’s OKAY. Their schedules are not going to be perfect and it may take a couple days to get them adjusted.
  • DO NOT OVERSCHEDULE: Our strategy for managing toddler travel itineraries is to schedule just ONE activity/sight per day (excluding meals, of course). You are not going to be able to cram in multiple sights with your toddler, so don’t stretch yourselves. The struggle with toddlers is that they need plenty of time to run around and release energy. They also need to nap! One sight per day gives you the flexibilty you need to run back home for naps, relax at restaurants, and give your kid time to run around in town squares. This is why we usually just go to one place when traveling with Nainika, so that we can feel relaxed and give ourselves plenty of time to see everything we want. And make sure to scope out parks and playgrounds! This is their vacation too, but they will likely just be as happy people-watching and being in a new environment.
  • SLEEP SCHEDULES: If you’re able to stick to your child’s regular schedule when on vacation, then I applaud you. We try to stick to Nainika’s two naps as much as possible, but this usually doesn’t happen. As long as we could squeeze in one solid nap at our Airbnb, then everyone’s happy. My advice is to get out the door as soon as everyone’s up in the morning and explore until you see tired signs from your toddler. Then head back to your apartment/hotel and let your child nap or relax. Sometimes they’re so wired up that they won’t be able to nap, but just giving them some downtime in a quiet place can be enough to get them rewired for any evening plans you may have. Try to get their room as dark as possible and turn up the white machine during naptimes and bedtimes. They will likely take longer to sleep in the new environment – if they’re sleep-trained, try CIO for at least 15-20 minutes (but check up on them often). I’m always guilty of bringing my toddler into bed with me when on vacation, but if I stay strong and let her cry it out, she DOES fall asleep in her crib.
  • DINING OUT: This is usually the highlight of our trips, so we don’t skimp on dining out even with our toddler. That said, you have to be smart about it. Don’t schedule a late reservation at a fancy schmancy Michelin star restaurant — it will make you and everyone around you uncomfortable. My advice is to schedule an early reservation, eat al fresco if you can (everyone’s louder outdoors!), bring toys/snacks, and don’t feel guilty about screentime. And if you’re in Italy, you can do whatever you want, because everyone is BABY OBSESSED and your waiters will be entertaining your child for you 🙂

So there you have it — my most important tips for surviving international toddler travel! Stay calm, be patient, and enjoy the beautiful moments. There’s nothing more amazing than seeing the world through your child’s eyes.

I tried to cover as many different areas as possible, but there are obviously a zillion different things to consider, so just drop me a comment if you have any specific questions. And don’t forget that every child is unique and you know his or her needs best, so take these tips as guidelines. I’d also love to hear what your most important travel tip is in the comments section too!

Grilled Chicken with Lemon, Oregano & Cumin

Happy Friday, everyone! Summer is officially here in Chicago (it’s about time…) and we are soakin’ up the sunshine here and taking FULL advantage of our little deck, firepit, and grill in our new home. It’s been so wonderful hosting friends & family for a change, and this grilled chicken recipe has been on our rotation for BBQ dinners. It’s been a hit so far–it’s garlicky, lemony, and packed with delicious goodness thanks to the fresh oregano and cumin powder. We love it, and our taste testers have given me the thumbs up to share it with my readers! 🙂

Enjoy, and drop me a comment to let me know what you’re grilling this summer!

Ingredients (serves 4) 

4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp cumin powder
1 tbsp (at least) kosher salt – can add more depending on taste
Black pepper, to taste

8 chicken drumsticks
Vegetable oil, for brushing the drumsticks
Lemon wedges for serving

Mix together the marinade ingredients in a large bowl or platter. Add the chicken drumsticks and mix well, so that the drumsticks are well-coated in the marinade. Pop in the fridge if you’re prepping beforehand (overnight or the morning of is recommended) and leave out in room temperature at least 30 minutes prior to grilling.

Fire up the grill to high, then reduce to medium-high heat. Brush vegetable oil on each side of the chicken. Grill the drumsticks over medium-high heat with the lid closed, 5-10 minutes per side (time may vary depending on your grill). Once they’re done, we love to sprinkle then with some Maldon sea salt flakes and serve with lemon wedges and grilled veggies!

Food Guide: What We Ate in Taormina, Sicily

My husband, daughter and I just returned from a glorious weeklong escape to Taormina, Sicily where we gorged on some of the best cuisine we have ever tasted in our lives. I have never felt such intense sadness as we did on our very last evening in Sicily, when we realized that this would be our last chance to devour fresh seafood carpaccio while sipping on an Aperol Spritz (interchangeable with a Sicilian house wine), followed by some sort of crazy delicious homemade pasta and a streetside cannoli.

Taormina is a dream that exceeded my expectations. To be perfectly honest, we weren’t sure what to expect, since Sicily isn’t as popular (to American tourists) as mainland Italy. We had such amazing food memories from our trip to Italy a few years ago, that we really just wanted to go someplace we could feast on MORE pasta, sit by the ocean, and drink endless bottles of wine. We dabbled between Portugal and Croatia, and ultimately picked Taormina, Sicily based on a friend’s recommendation. Since we were traveling with our toddler, it wasn’t realistic to travel to multiple locations, so Taormina was the perfect baby-friendly hub for us just to relax, take in the Mediterranean vibes and do some (very) light sight-seeing while feasting on Sicilian food. In case you missed it, we tend to be food-centric travelers. 🙂 We would have loved to travel to other towns in Sicily, but it made more sense for us to stay put in one place to allow ourselves to truly relax and enjoy THESE views…

Views from the Greek Theatre, one of the main attractions in Taormina 

We picked a beautiful (and so affordable compared to the Amalfi Coast!) apartment rental overlooking Mt. Etna and the Ionian Sea, just a five-minute walk from the main, pedestrian-only street Corso Umberto. The main street tends to get very touristy and packed during the day, but is absolutely magical at night. The best part about jet lag was that we would sleep in late (including our little lady!!), and then head out for a late lunch, afternoon stroll/sight-seeing, nap time for the babe, then a late dinner & drinks when the streets were quieter.

Sunrise from our private garden terrace at the Schuler Residence

Taormina during the day, packed with tourists strolling around and enjoying the various boutiques and restaurants

Stunning views from the Public Gardens 

THE FOOD GUIDE

There are obviously PLENTY more restaurant options than what’s on this list below, but these are some of our favorite spots based on our weeklong foodventuring. I really hope you get a chance to visit the gorgeous hilltop town of Taormina and visit some of these restaurants. It’s truly such a beautiful blend of Greek, Arab, and Italian influences and the sea views just CANNOT be beat.

GRANDUCA
http://www.ristorantegranduca.it/

We literally stumbled on a sign of Granduca while walking along Corso Umberto, followed a narrow staircase downstairs expecting a little pizza joint and found ourselves instead in a beautiful restaurant with a spectacular verandah overlooking the Ionian Sea. I would go here for the views alone, but the food was INCREDIBLE. We had a simple eggplant parmesan, linguine vongole, and the “Granduca” pizza which is HANDS down some of the best pizza I have ever had in my life. Smoked salmon and truffle and cherry tomatoes…I seriously regret not coming back here for round two because the food was as spectacular as the view. I’m a pasta lover, but come here for lunch and order the pizza. You will not be disappointed.

DA CRISTINA
https://rosticceriadacristina.com/ 

This is a popular little takeaway joint right off the main street with some seriously delicious food. There’s a pasta/hot foods section, and a pizza & arancini joint right next door with the same owner. You order at the counter and then sit either indoors and outdoors while the cooks whip up your dish in less than ten minutes. SO simple but SO FREAKIN’ GOOD. We ordered the Pasta alla Norma, a traditional Sicilian dish with tomato and eggplant sauce, more linguine vongole, and tiramisu on our first trip. I’m normally not a tomato sauce girl, but there’s just something about the tomatoes (AND the eggplant) in Europe that is so sweet and incredibly flavorful. We came back on our last day to check out the pizza joint and were not disappointed with the eggplant pizza and prosciutto arancini. Drooling just thinking about this place.

ARCO DEI CAPPUCCINI
https://ristorantearcodeicappuccini.com/ 

We checked out Arco Dei Cappuccini on our very first day in town after reading that this was a popular spot with the locals. It’s pricey, but worth it for its fresh seafood. This was where we had our first taste of traditional Sicilian seafood carpaccio and let me just tell you – I don’t know how I lived my life before eating raw shrimp and langoustine. It has the most buttery, sweet, delightful taste in the world and you HAVE TO TRY IT when you’re in Sicily. The lobster pasta was also delightful and the tiramisu was to die for. The service was also wonderful, which I have to say was the case for every single one of these restaurants. Everyone was so sweet and loving and playful with our daughter, and it made for such a relaxing experience for us as parents.

OSTERIA ROSSODIVINO
http://www.osteria-rosso-divino.com/

This was one of the restaurants that kept popping up as a top recommendation in my research, so I made a dinner reservation ahead of time. It’s tucked away in a quieter part of town with a beautiful garden patio. The food is slightly more modern and inventive than your traditional down home Italian cooking. While this usually raises a red flag for me, we loved the food here – especially the delicious pasta with fresh zucchini flowers and shrimp. Beautiful and tasty. The veal was good too, but I’d err on the side of ordering seafood over meat while in Sicily. There’s just SO much good seafood to be had here!

DA GIOVANNI
https://www.viamichelin.com/web/Restaurant/MAZZARO-98030-Da_Giovanni-3cbq3xo 

This is another restaurant that we just stumbled upon after taking the cable car down to the beach to check out Isola Bella. We were disappointed to find that there was a long flight of stairs to access the beach and couldn’t take our stroller all the way down there. So instead, we popped into the first restaurant we saw located by the flight of stairs and were blown away by the view of Isola Bella. The food was fantastic too – we just had some simple fried seafood and pasta and it completely hit the spot. I don’t think you can really go wrong with any of these beachside restaurants, but I’m really glad we checked this one out. I discovered later that this one is on the Michelin Guide!

TRATTORIA TIRAMISU
https://trattoriatiramisu.it/ 

This adorable little trattoria was located right by our apartment rental and was always bustling with diners every night, so we knew we had to check it out. It was amazing, and probably offered my favorite seafood carpaccio of the entire trip (and trust me, we tried a few different ones). The lobster pasta was absolutely divine and the desserts were exquisite. The place is known for its tiramisu (duh), which was incredible, but the pistachio panna cotta was absolutely divine as well. My husband almost went back there on our last night just to try the panna cotta again.

OSTERIA NERO D’AVOLA
https://www.yelp.com/biz/osteria-nero-d-avola-taormina 

This beautiful Michelin star restaurant also came highly recommended from tourists and locals alike. While it wasn’t my favorite meal, I would still recommend it for some great dishes, wine selection and a lovely outdoor patio. Perfect for date night. We sampled the eggplant parm, sea urchin pasta (frozen, not fresh – but still tasty!), Sicilian ragu, and a delightful panna cotta.

So there you have it – our favorite eats in Taormina! Other notable highlights include pizza at Villa Zuccaro, drinking almond wine at Bar Turrisi in Castelmola, and the amazing live music and grappa at Cafe Wunderbar every night. They say Taormina can be done in three or four days, but we truly enjoyed spending the whole week there and enjoying all its little gems. We could have easily spent another three days there!

Hope you enjoyed this post and leave me comments/questions if you’re planning a trip to Taormina. Much love ❤

Green Tea Noodles with Ground Chicken & Zucchini

After yet another long hiatus (toddler mama over here…sigh), I am SO excited to finally share a new recipe that’s quick, super flavorful, and satisfies that Asian takeout craving that I always seem to get midweek. I discovered this package of Haiku Green Tea Asian Style Noodles at my local supermarket yesterday and was instantly intrigued. I love experimenting with soba noodles so thought I would give this one a shot and get all the benefits of green tea. Soba noodles are healthier since they’re made with buckwheat flour, but I really loved the flavor of these green tea noodles — subtle and not too overpowering!

Since time is a luxury these days, I paired the noodles with some ground chicken (cooks faster than regular chicken pieces), zucchini, and a quick homemade stir-fry sauce. The entire process took 15 minutes, and the meal was DEVOURED in less than ten. Give this one a shot — I guarantee you won’t be disappointed! Perfect weeknight dinner.

Ingredients (serves 2) 

3 rounds of the Haiku Green Tea Noodles, cooked in boiling water for 2 minutes and drained
1 lb ground chicken (you can also use beef or turkey)
2 tbsp Canola or avocado oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 small onion, sliced into thin long pieces
1 zucchini, diced
Toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Stir-fry sauce

1.5 tbsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Mirin/Japanese cooking sake
1/2 tsp honey
Pepper

Recipe

Combine the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Boil a pot of water and cook the green tea noodles according to directions for two minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the ground chicken, break up into little pieces, and stir until cooked. Remove and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and fry the garlic, ginger, and onion slices together until the mixture begins to soften slightly. Add in the zucchini pieces and stir for a few minutes. Add the ground chicken and stir-fry sauce to the pan and mix well.  Finally, add the noodles to the pan and stir everything together until the noodles are nicely coated in the sauce and ground chicken mixture. Serve with toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy! My only regret is not doubling the recipe for more leftovers!

Friday Musings: On Friendship

Happy Friday, everyone! I read an article from The Atlantic this week that really struck a chord with me. It’s about the changing nature of friendship over time, a topic that has been on my mind as I’ve transitioned into my new role as a mother, when every relationship aside from the one with your child seemingly takes a backseat.

“The voluntary nature of friendship makes it subject to life’s whims in a way more formal relationships aren’t. In adulthood, as people grow up and go away, friendships are the relationships most likely to take a hit.” 

Isn’t that the truth? In adulthood, and most of all, in motherhood. Even though I am the one who has likely become less available to my friends post-motherhood, I have still been holding on to a little bit of angst and resentment in regard to drifting friendships. I pride myself on being incredibly loyal and committed in friendships, especially the ones nurtured in that vulnerable state of young adulthood. I spent so much of my childhood moving countries and having to leave friends, that when I found lifelong ones in my early 20s, I clung to them. And naturally felt confused and perhaps even abandoned when regular communication became a challenge once we surged ahead with our respective careers but in different cities.

But reading this article, and especially this closing paragraph, was an ‘aha’ moment that helped reframe these friendships in a more positive, realistic light:

“Perhaps friends are more willing to forgive long lapses in communication because they’re feeling life’s velocity acutely too. It’s sad, sure, that we stop relying on our friends as much when we grow up, but it allows for a different kind of relationship, based on a mutual understanding of each other’s human limitations. It’s not ideal, but it’s real, as Rawlins might say. Friendship is a relationship with no strings attached except the ones you choose to tie, one that’s just about being there, as best as you can.”

I LOVE this perspective. It’s such a liberating thought for someone like myself who has always held my friends to high standards and expectations when it comes to communication. I’ve caught up recently with a few different friends from college after years, and the reunions all proved to me that even though we don’t need each other on a daily basis, those friendships are still intensely real and deep. And I was able to pour my heart out to them in a way that I simply cannot with just anyone in my life. It doesn’t matter that they weren’t there for recent life milestones, what matters is the connection and the understanding that we once chose each other for a reason. To borrow a line from my favorite movie The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating…and if I can have a few golden moments of true communication and friendship interspersed throughout our busy lives, then I consider myself lucky.

What are your thoughts on the changing nature of friendship? Did you catch this article, and do you agree that letting go of certain expectations can allow for more meaningful relationships in adulthood?

Park City From the Eyes of a Non-Skier

Hello, world. I’m back from my non-blogging slumber, though I can assure you I’ve been very busy in the real world, mostly chasing around my baby girl TODDLER, setting up our new home which we finally moved into in December, and navigating the world of suburbia, which is a brand new adventure for me. It’s been a busy, stressful, confusing, transitional time, but at the end of the day, I feel a sense of peace and gratitude that I haven’t felt in my life in a very long time. It’s truly wonderful.

Of course it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. Life as the mama to a very active toddler is chaotic and exhausting on many levels, which is why my husband and I try to prioritize some solo time when we can. We just got back from a lovely little couples getaway to Park City sans-baby (thank you, supergrandparents!), and I feel so refreshed and rejuvenated to be back home to my usual routine after four days of pure R&R. My hubby has been BEGGING me to go on a ski trip the last several years and I finally obliged, though frankly I’m terrified of skiing. Luckily one of our couple friends were in the same boat (he skis, she does not), so we booked the trip, seeking comfort in the fact that I would have someone to socialize with while the boys were on the slopes all day.

Park City did not disappoint. The skiing is phenomenal of course, but there are plenty of other things you can do in case you get tired on the bunny hill after thirty minutes (I’ve heard this is possible if you a) have zero experience and b) are a total chicken and have a deathly fear of heights). Here are a few non-ski related activities you can enjoy:

1. GO SNOWMOBILING! On the last day of our trip, we decided to book a guided snowmobiling tour with Summit Meadows, a company operated out of Garff Ranch. The company handled pickup, drop-off, helmet rentals, and offered a two-hour guided tour through beautiful snowy meadows with spectacular views of the Wasatch Mountains. Since I didn’t get past the bunny hills when attempting to ski, this was a great way to take in the views that I had missed out on. Perfect snow adventure if you’re not able to ski!

2. PAMPER YOURSELF WITH A SPA DAY. This one is a given. If you’re going on a ski trip, you simply have to treat yourself to a massage and escape from the snowy terrains for a bit. We loved the services at Aura Spa located right on Main Street–much more affordable than the fancy resorts, so we were able to squeeze in a two-hour massage and a facial. PURE bliss. Our Airbnb also had a private hot tub in it which added to our heavenly relaxation experience 🙂

3. BLOODY MARYS & APRES SKI AT THE ST. REGIS. We’ve all seen those drool-worthy Instas of fabulous skiers enjoying shot skis, poppin’ champagne bottles, and chugging beer after a tough day on the slopes. Apres-ski is simply the best, and doing it at the St. Regis Deer Valley just feels so luxurious (and less fratty). Sit outside by the fire and order one of their signature Bloody Marys. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

 

4. EXPLORE MAIN STREET. The heart of Park City is as cute and charming as you would expect a ski town to be. You can spend hours just walking around Main Street exploring art galleries, breweries, gift shops, and taking a hot cocoa break whenever you please. The nightlife on Main Street is also fantastic – we went to The Spur for a spontaneous night of dancing on a Friday night and O.P. Rockwell for some AMAZING live funk/90s hip hop music on Saturday night. We weren’t really expecting to party in Park City, so the nightlife was a pleasant surprise. The chic speakeasy O.P. Rockwell (pictured below) was especially great!

5. EAT! Park City is home to some really great (although pricey) cuisine. Whether it’s the resort turkey chili or gourmet Italian food, there’s a little something for everyone. Plan ahead and make reservations, especially for some of the more popular restaurants on Main Street.

Duck Enchiladas at Chimayo – such a unique and delicious dish

Turkey Chili at Deer Valley – so cozy and perfect for apres-ski

Amazing Italian fare at Grappa – my favorite meal!

Grub Steak Restaurant – casual vibes, live music, and your standard steak

Mushroom, Avocado and Ricotta Toast at Harvest, an adorable little Aussie-owned brunch spot

 

No-Bake Cacao Date Energy Bites

Hellooo everyone! It’s been a while since I’ve made an appearance on the blog, though I continue to be active on my Instagram. I try my best to be more regular here, but alas real life (aka PARENTHOOD) gets in the way. Most recently, my little one has been struggling with some food allergies. I won’t get into all the details here, but long story short, her allergist suggested cutting out dairy from my diet since she’s still nursing. It’s been tough, but of course I will do whatever it takes to help my babe. And to be honest, it’s been kinda fun exploring the world of dairy-free recipes, a world which I NEVER thought I’d be a part of before!

And that’s how I came across these delicious energy bites. I’ve been seeing these no-bake healthy energy bites/balls all over the ‘gram and vegan websites lately and was determined to try them out to help curb my serious sugar craving. There’s a plethora of variations all over the Internet, but here’s a quick recipe that I tried out based on ingredients that I had readily available in my kitchen. The key ingredients here are Medjool dates (richer than regular dates and with a slight caramel flavor), high-quality cacao powder (I got mine from good ol’ Trader Joe’s), and some sort of nut butter. Apart from that, you can really customize this recipe however you want. These are the PERFECT afternoon snack for a quick pick me up, though I can’t promise you won’t finish them all in one go…try to be more disciplined than my hubby and I are 😉

Ingredients (makes 6-8 bites) 

3/4 cup rolled oats
1.5 cups Medjool dates, pitted
1/2 cup cacao powder + 1 tsp for coating
1 tbsp smooth peanut butter
Pinch of sea salt
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp coconut oil

Directions

Throw all the ingredients in a food blender and blend, blend, blend. Add more coconut oil if needed to make more smooth. Take bite-sized pieces of the mixture and form into small balls with your hands. Place a teaspoon of cacao powder on a flat surface and roll the balls to coat them. Refrigerate and enjoy for a week! THAT’S IT.