Shades of Blue around the world experienced by us!

There are many gorgeous beaches on earth. We had the privilege of visiting many of them in the pacific as well as the Caribbean.
Here is a ranked list of beautiful beaches around the world from our experience each with its own shade of blue!

1. Bora Bora – French Polynesia

Stunning blue/turquoise waters like no where else on earth, shadowed by a giant mountain with palm trees gracing the shores. If there is a heaven on earth , this is it! This is the quintessential tropical island with nary an imperfection!

Aerial view of the Island of Bora Bora
Aerial view of the Island of Bora Bora

Bora Bora is located in South Pacific Ocean northwest of Tahiti. It is surrounded by islets, lagoon and coral reef. At the center is Mt Otemanu, which is remnant of an ancient volcano. Colorful corals harboring thousands of tiny fishes and diverse marine life make this place a divers paradise.

blue paradise!
blue paradise!

The color of lagoon has shades of turquoise blue which brightens and glows when sky is clear as if a perfect cut diamond! Most of the resorts have overwater bungalows, staying at these bungalows is an experience not to be missed. Family with kids will love this destination as the water is very shallow and resorts offer lots of kid friendly activities.
During our visit to Bora Bora we stayed at Hilton Bora Bora resort and spa. For more information on our stay at Bora Bora refer : Bora Bora

2. Turks and Caicos – Caribbean Islands

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Providenciales, has been voted #1 Island in 2015 based on TripAdvisor Travellers choice and Grace bay has been voted the best beach on earth in 2016. Providenciales covers 38 miles, to the north lies beautiful Grace Bay and to the south lies lake like Chalk Sound with turqoise water surrounding small cays. Taylor bay and Sapodilla bay lie to the south of the island and are kid friendly.

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Chalk Sound is famous for its turquoise colors. We haven’t seen such colors anywhere else other than Bora Bora.
For more information on things to do in Turks and Caicos refer : Turks and Caicos

3. St John – Caribbean Islands

St John is one of the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea. 60% of the island is national park. Only way to reach this island is to take a boat from St Thomas, a bigger island wth an airport.

The Trunk bay and the Caneel bay have best beaches with white sands in contrast to crystal blue water. We consider Trunk Bay to be the second best beach from our travels.

The water is shallow for a few miles and is a delight for snorkeling lovers and family with kids! We stayed at the beautiful Westin st John which has its own beach.
For more information on our stay at St John refer : St John

4. Cancun and Isla Mujeres-Mexico.


Cancun is a mexican city bordering Caribbean Sea and is famous for its resorts and beaches. During our visit to Cancun we stayed at The Ritz Carlton which had one of the best beaches in Cancun.

Really nice colors and shallow waters make this beach popular
Really nice colors and shallow waters make Playa del Norte popular

Isla Mujeres an island located 1 hr from Cancun by ferry has beautiful beaches like Playa del Norte. We consider this one to be the third best beach almost on par with Trunk Bay.
This beach has an amazingly long stretch of shallow bluish white waters ideal for spending a day.

Beaches on shores of Mayan remains in Tulum were also beautiful. Tulum is about 2 hr drive from Cancun. For more info on our stay at Mexico refer : Mexico

5. St Thomas – Caribbean Islands


St Thomas is the main island of the US Virgin islands cluster and has an airport with service to mainland as well as Puerto Rico. We flew here from Puerto Rico.
St Thomas downtown/ Charlotte Amalie has cruise ship port so this island is more crowded than St John. Charlotte Amalie’s buildings have old Danish architecture, as it was founded by the Danish.

The Magen’s Bay and Lindquist beach are two of the beaches we could visit. Maggens bay has lush surroundings while lyndquist beach is sparsely crowded making it ideal for families.
For more information on our stay at St Thomas refer : St Thomas

6. Oahu – Hawaii


Oahu is the oldest of Hawaiian islands, Honolulu is its capital. We visited the Waikiki beach in Honolulu and Kaneohe bay beach both of which were very beautiful. Beaches in Hawaii are not only beautiful; they have a very tropical feel to it. Best time to visit Hawaii is when temperature is low i.e between January and April.
For more information on our stay at Oahu refer : Oahu

7. Puerto Rico – Caribbean Islands

Blue and bright- Luquillo Beach
Blue and bright- Luquillo Beach

Puerto Rico is a Caribbean Island in US territory famous for its white sand beaches and coral reefs. It is also famous for scuba diving, snorkeling and surfing.

We visited the Luquillo beach which is somewhat secluded yet stunning. We stayed in Wyndham Grand Rio Mar resort which has a nice beach too. For more information on our stay at Puerto Rico refer : PuertoRico

8. Kauai – Hawaii

Welcome rainbow at coconut beach Kauai!
Welcome rainbow at coconut beach Kauai!

The coconut beach and the Hanalei bay beach were both beautiful! Hanalei bay is lush while cocount beach is easily accesible.

For more information on our stay at Kauai refer : Kauai

9. Maui – Hawaii

View from our room baclcony at Grand Wailea
View from our room baclcony at Grand Wailea

While Maui has many famous beaches like Wailea (stunningly soft sand; we visited this one while staying at Grand Wailea) and Kanapali ( which is where most of the big resorts are); one which takes the cake is Kahana beach.

Easy access, less crowd, nice colors and views! For more information on our stay at Maui refer : Maui

10. San Diego – California


Our hometown gets an honorable mention. Not tropical by any means, but excellent weather and beautiful sorroundings more than make up for it. La Jolla shores and Coronado beach are our favorites. For more information on things to do in San Diego refer : San Diego

11. South Beach, Miami

Highlight 5 : South Beach Miami, crowded but nice with green tinge water
South Beach Miami, crowded but nice with green tinge water

South Beach Miami unlike any beaches on the Mainland US has green hues to it making it beautiful in sun. It is a very crowded place though.
For more information on things to do in Florida refer : Florida





A simplified guide to stargazing!



The concept of stars in the night sky has always fascinated me. Being raised in a city it was really hard to imagine and comprehend the books and theories about stars.
My husband on the contrary was raised in a village with less light pollution and had the privilege of gazing at the night sky quite often with gorgeous views of milky way.
Thanks to the National parks in US, night sky viewing is made easy to all its residents.

But being new to this field (as we didn’t undertake any course in astronomy) we were posed with some questions on when to view, what to view etc. There are a lot of articles which helped us in taking up this adventure.
Here is our simplified guide to star gazing! This is dedicated to all those beginners who wish to star gaze in any part of the world.

Which is the best place to go for star gazing?

Any place which provides clear dark cloudless wide skies is best suited for stargazing. In US most of the National Parks offer night sky program.
The national parks in drier areas especially in California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and South Dakota offer best options.


When to go for stargazing or which is the most preferred time?

The night of the new moon or the nights leading to new moon or immediately after the new moon. The theory behind this is stargazing can be clear when there is no light reflecting from the moon.
That would make new moon night perfect! But the nights before and after new moon can also be perfect if timed well.

New Moon is not the absence of moon, it is just that Moon rises and sets with Sun so we cannot see it in the night sky . On days leading to new moon, the moon sets early in the evening i.e before sun set and
rises early in the morning, before sun rise. Hence these days of waning moon will also be perfect if you go before moon rise.

To sum it up:
1.  Choose the nights of new moon/days approaching it/2 to 3 days just after it.
2.  Check the moon rise and moon set times on the chosen day.
3.  Check to make sure the sky is cloudless and clear with no chance of rain.
4.  Time stargazing between sunset,moon set and moon-rise, sunrise i.e when there is no moon and sun in the sky.

Which season or time of the year is most suited for star gazing? What to spot in the night sky?

During winter/fall earth is facing only 25% of the milky way hence the stars are not dramatic. But they are very clear due to less amount of reflection from stars. We can observe the Orion constellation, Sirius, Rigel, Betelgeuse etc.
During summer earth is facing 75% of the milky way and hence we can see the dramatic night sky. Scorpius, Sagittarius, Leo, Ursa Major, Summer triangle (Deneb, Vega, Altair), North Star, Mars, Jupiter Saturn can all be sighted.
The picture is not as clear as that in fall due to reflecting lights from many stars.



What are the camera specifications and manual control features we used?

Pentax K-3 II 10-20mm, lens f/4, aperture ISO (up to 12800), 30 sec + exposure time. Bulb mode with a trigger can also be used. Tripod is a must!
Care must be taken when increasing ISO beyond 6400 as it introduces noise in the picture.
These are from a beginner DSLR photographer point of view!


A peek into our recent star gazing experiences!

Winter star gazing at Joshua National Park:


We spent our New Years eve star gazing at the Joshua National Park. We chose one of the waning days of moon. That day sunset was at 4.45pm and moon rise was not until 4 am in the morning, so we timed our star gazing at 7.30 pm at night.
We chose to go that early in the night because the temperature is very low in winters and drop sharp after sunset. The sky was pretty clear and weather was very chilly, our little girl had a peek at the stars for a minute and rested in car while we spent 30 minutes outside. This is one of the cons of stargazing in winter.

We did get a clear view of Orion the hunter constellation and the stars Sirius, Betelgeuse and Rigel. This was very special to us as my hubby and daughter had always talked and made stories about these stars during their play time!
The stars were very clear, but we could not spend too much time because of the chilly weather. With this amazing experience, we vowed to stargaze again during one of the warm summer nights.
As the luck would have had it , we got the opportunity at Badlands national park during 4th of July weekend.

Summer star gazing at Badlands National Park:

We spent my hubby’s birthday eve stargazing at Badlands National Park. It was the night before New Moon. We arrived at the Cedar Pass Lodge (where we had booked a cabin for the night) early in the evening when the sky was totally covered with thick black clouds.
We had lost all hope of viewing the stars that night. By the time our dinner was done, sky started showing a ray of hope. The sky was clear by 9 pm when sun had just set. We knew about the night sky program at the Cedar Pass Amphitheater, so we went in at 9 pm, we could observe the Jupiter with 4 of its moon from the telescope they provided as part of the night sky program. There was a talk by ranger till 10 pm. By then the sky had started to get dark and the stars slowly showed up when their turn came.
Waiting for the stars to show up after sunset was so much fun. At around 10.30 pm everything was so clear. Thanks to the night sky program we could spot Scorpius, Leo, Ursa Major and minor Constellations, planets like Jupiter, Mars and Saturn, and stars like Altair, Deneb, Vega which formed the summer triangle, North Star, Arcturus (the brightest star in summer sky) the satellites orbiting the earth and not to forget a shooting star too.


We chose to stay even after the program and take a few pics with our DSLR.
At a point of time only we 3 were left to gaze at the millions of stars in the pitch dark environment. We truly felt blessed.

We returned to our cabin at 11.20pm and the weather was not chilly at all. Our little girl enjoyed it as well all the way along. By 12 pm midnight the show ended with sky covering itself up in dark clouds followed by rain, thunder and lightning!


Tips for travelling with a kid and having fun!


The day our baby came into our lives, one of the many things that struck like a lightning bolt was :
travelling is not going to be the same and there may be a chance of travel being erased totally from our lives for a year or two!
But this negative thought pushed us into totally negating it and we started travelling like never before!
We found out that travelling was more fun with a kid around. Having our little daughter with us made us enjoy and take in the places more, the memories we made were stronger and definitely will last longer.

Our travel catalog till date is here Travelasfamily

Our little girl took her first flight and became  one of the youngest hikers of Glacier national park, Montana when she was just 2.5 months old! She is 4 years old now and has taken more than 70 flights, traveled to 8 different countries and hiked with us at 15 national parks!
The first trip with a kid is very hard, as we don’t know how they will react to it. We remember being tensed like kids who are about to take their annual exams! But in our case, the fact that she loved being outside and around nature and people, more than being at home put us to ease. It takes one hard step to come out of the comfort zone of home and once out, you will be glad that you took the bold initiative. Enjoying the scenery through the eyes of a kid is priceless for parents. Kids gain a whole lot of new perspectives and their horizon is widened. Our daughter now loves being around nature as much as she loves having friends, relatives and people in her life. She talks about mountains, rivers, volcanoes, waterfalls and glaciers every now and then.



Then there are instances where kids get cranky, the reason behind will be unkown. The best thing to do in such a situation is to sit down, take a deep breath and forget the fact that you are travelling. For once, assume you are at home! This will eliminate the feeling of you being watched by every one, you will start thinking rationally and the solution will automatically show itself . Your calm demeanor will also calm your child. When travelling with a kid, forget the word “embarrassment”. Remember that your child’s comfort is your top priority!

This being said I would like to share with you all, the tips needed when traveling with a kid between ages 2.5 months to 4 years.

1. Things to pack and always have handy:

Food, fluids, diapers (if not potty trained), emergency medical supplies (take pediatrician’s advice), clothing for all kinds of weather (weather can be unpredictable during travel), paper bags (waste disposal), extra pair of clothes for parents (especially for parents of kids under 2) apart from multiple extra pairs for the baby, diaper rash cream, sunscreen.

2. Type of food to carry on flights:

Kids under the age of one – a pouch/box of rice or grain cereal (gerber, earth’s best, cerelac etc), fruit and vegetable purees (gerber, earth’s best etc.) if taking home made food make sure they are non perishable.Bottled  breast milk and formulas are allowed ( if more than 3 oz it is better to notify the TSA officer)
Kids over the age of one – fruits and light snacks which they like the most.

It is always advisable to declare that you have baby food in the bag before the security check and take them out and keep them in a seperate bin if the need be.

3. How to engage kids on flights:

Kids younger than 2 years – This age group is toughest to manage but with some simple tricks life can get easy!

Most important point being these kids are prone to experience ear pain during take off and landing of flights. Having a pacifier or a bottle with fluid to suck on will make them feel much better.
Things needed to engage them – books (their favorite story or pictorial books), cards, colored papers, pencil, different textured light weight toys, tissue papers(little messy idea but kids love tearing them into bits, make sure to clean up after use).
When seat belt sign is off, take them for a stroll and make sure to keep their diapers dry.
For long/international flights a phone or tablet loaded with fun rhymes will help but don’t use it for long since kids might get fussy afterwards.
Kids over 2 years – This age group know to communicate, so a little easy to handle. But they can be unreasonable at times so, here are the tricks :

Be a kid, think like them, play with them. We, the parents, get bored too on long flights, so why not have fun together with kids. Have puzzles, their favorite books and colors handy. I try to browse some paper craft ideas ahead of flight and try to entertain her with them during the journey.

Most important thing is, talking to them about the journey, places they will be visiting, and about the flight they are travelling. This makes them feel comfortable and included!
Kids also need to enjoy the travel as much as parents do. Our girl now shows interest in knowing about the types of airlines, their logos, colors and the whole process of air travel.
This can infact be an informal schooling time for parents!




4. Engaging kids on a road trip:

All the tricks mentioned in the flight section above applies with an extra advantage of not having any baggage restrictions, so you can load up on many more things to keep the kids engaged on long drives.

The main trick here is to take frequent stops at rest areas, let them stretch and play for a while before you move on. Also ensure that they are hydrated. Just because the weather outside is cold, don’t be lulled into thinking kids don’t need to drink water/juice.


Strict Rule laid out by our daughter – 1. Her favorite toy accompanies her everywhere and she need not always pose for the camera. We love that idea too!


2. If the scenery is very beautiful,  its time for a snack break!


5.Hiking with kids:

Kids under 2 years of age: Baby carrier is a must, buy the best one in the market and adjust the carrier properly so that your baby stays comfortable in it.
Our little girl loved being carried in the carrier. Make sure to take frequent breaks, take them out of the carrier and hydrate them.


Kids over 2 years of age:
If the hike is easy kids this age love to walk but have to be carried often, you can buy an approriate carrier, or carry them without use of carrier.
Always keep an eye on them, as they tend to lose path and get hurt easily.

Irrespective of their age, parents with kids should choose easier to moderate hikes and limit them to be under 3 miles.
6. Strolling and city walks:

Kids of all age group love this part of the travel as they have lots to observe and explore around them. Having a light weight and portable umbrella stroller is a great help.

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7. Managing them at resturaunts:

Choose the resturaunts that are not too busy and crowded and most importantly make sure it has atleast some of your baby’s favorite food is on their menu. Many a times, this may not be feasible. In such a case see if you can ask for some custom items by talking to chef/waiter and also see if they atleast have some desserts for kids.

For kids under the age of one who prefer home food, getting them half full and letting them try textures of the baby safe restaurant food will help.
Using phones and tablets once in a while is fine, but make sure they dont make it a habit and demand it every time. Tablets/phones/TVs kill creativity if used too often!

8. Others:

Always have a relaxed itenarary for the whole trip and plan each section of the day ahead to avoid unpleasant surprises. If you think you need X days to cover a place if you were travelling without kids, add a day or two extra when you travel with kids.
Know the place you are going to travel ahead and in case of emergency take them to the nearest urgent care and have your pediatrician’s number handy. Some resorts and hotels have resident nurses or doctors (enquire at the front desk).

We always tell everyone that travelling with kids is not as daunting as it appears. It can be a lot of fun and a relaxing experience if planned properly.



Happy Travelling!

Ideal destinations for upcoming Memorial day weekend!

Memorial day weekend (May 30th) is often a busy travel season in U.S.
Spring is about to end and temperatures start shooting up as we approach summer.

Here are our top 5 choices:

1. Columbia River Gorge (Oregon)


Weather wise one of the best places to visit in May-June.
With multiple waterfalls, each of them stunningly beautiful, the gorge is just an hour drive from Portland.
The waterfalls include Multnomah, Bridal Veil, Horse Tail, Wakheena and many more.
This is “the” place to see waterfalls in continental U.S.
Duration: one full day at the minimum
If you have more time, visit Mt Hood area as well as downtown Portland.
Where to stay: Portland.
Visit our Oregon page for more details.Oregon


2. Bora Bora (French Polynesia)


A once in a lifetime/ Bucket list destination, this one is a good place to visit anytime.
But May/June is winter time there (southern Hemisphere) so weather is really pleasant.
Indians in U.S need a short visit visa from french Embassy (there is one in L.A and service is great there).
Duration : 1 week (2 days for travel and at-least 5 days there in the island).
Where to Stay : Main island (near Vaitape) or any resorts spread over Motus/smaller islands nearby.
Visit our Bora Bora page for more details.Bora Bora


3. Arizona-Grand Canyon


Grand Canyon region in Arizona due to its elevation has fair weather conditions during May.
Jaw-dropping scenery offered by Grand Canyon is not to be missed.
Other destinations nearby like Page/Antelope canyon tend to be hot and dry in May/June so better to visit them in early spring/fall.
Duration : 2 days
Where to stay : Flagstaff or Williams for decently priced accommodation. Staying inside the park is even better but will be more expensive and has to be booked months in advance.
Visit our Grand Canyon page for more details.Grand Canyon

4. Utah : Zion and Bryce Canyon


A hiker’s paradise, both of these national parks offer stunning scenery and lots of hikes/trails for the adventurous.
Zion will be a bit hot but Bryce which is at much higher elevation, will be pleasant.
Duration: 3 full days spread across two parks.
Where to Stay : St. George/ Hurricane for Zion NP; Bryce (we prefer Bestwestern Ruby’s inn) for the Bryce canyon NP.
Visit our Utah page for more details.Utah

5. Yosemite National Park and Southern California


Awesome sunny weather and great scenery everywhere! Southern California as well as Sierra Nevada mountains are best visited during May/June.
Yosemite valley will be bustling with waterfalls fed by snow-melt. Note that Tioga Pass section of Yosemite might still be closed.
 Please visit our Yosemite and Tioga Page for details.
Yosemite and Tioga


Southern California Theme parks will be easy to visit due to pleasant weather.
San Diego and Los Angeles are good cities to visit during this time.
Please visit our California page for details.California

6. Lake Tahoe


Beautiful alpine lake and lush scenery welcome you in Lake Tahoe. End of May/early June is a great time to visit due to spring melt creating waterfalls along the periphery of the lake.
Duration: 2 full days
Where to Stay: South Lake Tahoe or Reno
Please visit our Lake Tahoe page for details. Lake Tahoe.