50 Essential Outdoor Spring Activities


It's hard to believe that the month of February is already coming to a close.

You know what else is hard to believe? This weather we've been having. One week its sunny and in the high teens (or high 50s). And the next, its complete opposite - grey, snowing and you can't leave home without your winter gear.

Despite what it may be doing outside, I still have faith in Wiarton Willie's prediction - that we are going to have an early spring. 

50 Essential Outdoor Spring Activities + GlassesShop.com Sunglasses Review

Spring is my favourite season - colourful flowers, baby animals and fresh air. What's not to love? 


Spring is also the season to break out of the winter blues, ditch your heavy winter jacket, lace up your shoes and get outside. I’ve always been a fan of making seasonal to-do lists, and can't wait to start crossing things off the list for spring.

Take advantage of the warming temperatures, longer days and the fresh air with these 50 essential outdoor spring activities.

50 Essential Outdoor Spring Activities

50 Essential Outdoor Spring Activities

  1. Go on a picnic.
  2. Give back to the planet for Earth Day.
  3. Go for a bike ride.
  4. Visit the local zoo.
  5. Fly a kite.
  6. Plant some seeds.
  7. Play baseball at the park.
  8. Wash the car.
  9. Go on a scavenger hunt.
  10. Enjoy the flowers.
  11. Go for a hike.
  12. Visit a farmer's market.
  13. See the cherry blossoms.
  14. Sit on the patio.
  15. Play a round of golf.
  16. Pick strawberries.
  17. Have a BBQ.
  18. Fill a vase with tulips or daffodils.
  19. Watch the sunset.
  20. Take a photo safari.
  21. Hang a bird house.
  22. Browse your local garage sales. 
  23. Explore a new area of your city.
  24. Enjoy the stars at night. 
  25. Grab a pair of binoculars and go birding.
  26. Check out a maple syrup festival.
  27. Go for a run.
  28. Play frisbee golf.
  29. Join an outdoor sports league.
  30. Take a walk on the beach.
  31. Visit the baby animals at a local farm.
  32. Clean out the garage.
  33. Host a garage sale.
  34. Go on an Easter egg hunt.
  35. Wash the windows.
  36. Visit your local playground.
  37. Feed the ducks.
  38. Take in a neighbourhood festival.
  39. Paddle the local river.
  40. Take the dog for a walk.
  41. Help clean up a park.
  42. Organize a shoreline cleanup.
  43. Plant a community garden.
  44. Awe over a long weekend fireworks display.
  45. Sit around a campfire.
  46. Look at the stars.
  47. Brave your first dip in the lake.
  48. Sign up for a race.
  49. Window shop.
  50. Enjoy the fresh spring air.


50 Essential Outdoor Spring Activities

Spring means sun, which means sunglasses! Lately, I've been loving these Edith Round polarized women's sunglasses in Black from GlassesShop.com.  While I've needed prescription glasses since I was in 8 years old (I know, poor me), for the past ten plus years I've opted for contacts. As a result, I usually don't spend a lot of money on eyeglasses. Sunglasses included. One of the good things about wearing contacts is that I can wear any sunglasses I want (prescription or non), including these affordable frames. Aside from being affordable and stylish, they also fit my face comfortably and are very durable, which is extremely important when you have a little grabby hands that is instantly attracted to any pair of glasses she sees. These frames are available with prescription or non-prescription lenses and come in a decorative carrying case.

50 Essential Outdoor Spring Activities + GlassesShop.com Review

In the market for a new pair of sunnies? GlassesShop.com has a huge selection of affordable and stylish glasses frames and prescription sunglasses. Use code GSHOT50 for 50% off your next pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses with free lenses (sale frames excluded).


What are your favourite outdoor spring activities? I'd love to hear!

 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg


Disclaimer: I was provided a free pair of sunglasses in exchange for this review. All opinions are 100% my own. Thank you to GlassesShop.com!

Investing in Your Family


I recently read an alarming statistic that immediately hit close to home. For a child born in 2016 (my daughter, for example), it is projected that by the time they start university in 2034, the cost of a standard four-year degree will be around $82,000. Factoring in expenses such as books, shelter, food and transportation, that cost will be closer to $148,000*! 

How on Earth is a family expected to pay for that?!

Investing in Your Family with a Registered Education Savings Plan

With university fees in Canada having nearly quadrupled over the last two decades, the high cost of getting a post-secondary education is an enormous financial stress for families. Luckily, there are options. One of them being a Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP), the only government-registered investing vehicle in Canada specifically for post-secondary education. 

Investing in Your Family with a Registered Education Savings Plan

In 2008, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine & Freshwater Biology. The dream to someday be a Marine Biologist was one I had had since I was a little girl. Thanks to some early planning and regular contributions by my parents, a nice little RESP nest egg helped me fulfill this dream.

While many parents may not feel that regular contributions fit within their budget, it is important to look beyond the upfront “cost”. There are so many benefits to starting an RESP for your child as soon as you can. These are just a few:

  • RESPs can be opened with most financial institutions and contain a wide variety of investments, from GICs to individual stocks. 
  • Anyone can open and contribute to an individual RESP for your child. Consider encouraging monetary gifts on special occasions to contribute. 
  • The funds grow tax-free until the child uses the money for school. 
  • RESPs accumulate grants from the Canadian Government. The federal Canada Education Savings Grant matches 20% on any eligible contributions (to a maximum amount). 
  • RESP money can be used to pay for any education-related costs including books, equipment and living expenses. 
  • If the child chooses to defer schooling, the RESP can stay intact for up to 35 years.
  • If the child opts not to attend post-secondary education, the principal contributions plus growth are returned to the owner of the RESP. However, any grants accumulated would be returned to the government.
  • Now that we have a daughter of our own, it is my goal to one day be able to provide her with a quality post-secondary education, like my parents did for me. While still many years down the road, it is important to my husband and I that our daughter focus on her schooling and not how she is going to get out of debt once she graduates.

To help fulfill this goal, we opened a RESP in Morley’s name shortly after she was born. By making small, bi-monthly contributions to a RESP, we are investing in our daughter and family’s future with the hopes that one day Morley too will fulfil her dreams.


Investing in Your Family with a Registered Education Savings Plan

A RESP is just one of the ways to help pay for the rising cost of post-secondary education. If you require additional support, check out loanandgo.ca for more options.

How do you plan for your family’s future? I’d love to hear!

 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg


Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by loanandgo.cahowever all opinions are 100% my own. I am not a financial expert but I do strongly believe that investing in your family’s future, including opening an RESP for your children, is a smart decision.

*Information on the real cost of raising kids found here.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Printable


Traveling with your children is an unforgettable experience, no matter where you go. It is the chance to introduce your children to new cultures and environments, and to create memories that will last a lifetime. 

So, when the opportunity to take a girls only trip to Cuba came up, I knew it was one that I couldn't turn down. Just my mom, grandma, aunt, daughter and I - no boys allowed.

The last time I was in Cuba was almost 15 years ago, so I really don't remember a whole lot. However, the one thing I did know was that traveling with an infant this visit would definitely make it a much different trip.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

Now that the travel restrictions on Cuba have been lifted, those that have not previously been able to experience the country for themselves are keeping the destination in mind while preparing for their next vacation.

If you’re in need of a vacation, but one that is also family-friendly, a trip to Cuba is the perfect option. However, like any foreign destination, there are some important things to know before you go. 

Luckily, I'm here to help.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

Check out this comprehensive guide to traveling to Cuba with young children, which includes recommendations, personal experiences and a FREE complete packing guide printable (pdf).


Important notes about this guide:

  1. This guide is geared towards those traveling to Cuba with young children, specifically infant and toddler (and those that require a stroller and/or car seat).
  2. During our trip, we spent half of the week in a hotel and touring Havana independently and the other half at an all-inclusive resort in Varadero. Since these are two of the most popular cities, I am assuming that these tips also apply to the majority of the country. 

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

FOOD & DRINK


Formula-Fed Children
  • If your baby is drinking formula, bring the amount you need (plus extra). 
  • If you do not want to use bottled water to mix the powdered formula, bring premixed formula. 
  • If you happen to run out of formula, powdered formula (as well as pureed baby food) can be found for sale at a local super market (price unknown). 
  • Remember the standards are different in Cuba, so it is recommend to bring more than needed so that you do not run out.

For those babies drinking formula or breast milk, also see “water” below.


Children Eating Solids
  • Depending on what your baby is eating and where you are staying, there will be options. 
  • Resort and hotel restaurants/buffets have a wide variety of food to choose from - eggs, veggies, chicken, etc. It is often pretty plain and not a lot of seasoning is used, making it perfect for those that are just starting out with solids. 
  • While kept hot and chilled as required, buffet food does sit out for a few hours during meal time. If you are unsure of a particular item, do not feed it to your child. Instead, stick to fresh cooked items such as the pasta and omelette stations.
  • Local restaurants off hotel/resort grounds also offer a wide variety of food. Roast chicken is an extremely popular dish, and there almost always is rice and veggies on the menu as well.

Personal experience: My daughter was not yet at the stage of drinking whole milk, so finding and consuming whole milk was not something we experienced. However, I did see it available at both the hotel and resort.


High Chairs
  • High chairs are available at pretty much all of the restaurants/buffets, including the hotel, resort and independent restaurants. 
  • Not all high chairs come with trays. Be prepared for baby to eat off the table.  
  • High chairs are not thoroughly cleaned after each use. Pack disinfectant wipes (such as these ones) to clean prior to use. 
  • Bring a table food mat (such as this onefor baby to eat off of. It attaches to the table securely, and can be easily cleaned in between uses. 

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

Eating Utensils

  • If you require plastic bowls, cups and utensils, bring those from home. Only ceramic, glass and metal will be available at restaurants.
  • Bring your own non-cloth bib. One that catches food is recommended for easy clean up (such as this one).

Eating Times

  • If you are staying at a resort, keep in mind buffets open at specific times. [For example, the buffet at the resort we stayed at didn’t open until 6:30pm. Morley uses eats dinner at 5:30pm with bath time at 6:30pm. Not only did this require a bit of a shift in her schedule, but we also had to find something for her to snack on later in the afternoon.]
  • If dinner time will not fit your needs, most resorts also have a snack bar that is open 24 hours. Keep in mind snacks bars have limited menus. 
  • Most rooms have mini fridges, so you can always take some extra food from breakfast or lunch for your child to snack on throughout the day. Bring a small food storage container to fill with food from the buffet for them to eat at a later time.
  • Bringing your child’s favourite snacks from home or prepackaged pureed food will also help fill any feeding times. 

Potable Water

  • Bottled water can be purchased at the hotel or local market.  It is more expensive to purchase at the hotel, so if you have the option, visit a local super market.
  • While staying at a resort, the room mini fridge is usually refilled every other day. The fridge typically contains at least one large bottle of water. If the resort has a store, you will be able to purchase more bottled water there as well.
  • Bring an electric kettle (such as this one) with you to boil water for washing bottles. Most hotels and resorts have both two- and three-prong 110V outlets, but bring an adapter just in case.
  • Bring a small bottle of dish soap and a sponge and/or bottle brush for bottle cleaning.
  • Make sure to have lots of bottled water on hand for your children to drink. It is important they stay hydrated in the heat. If they drink from a sippy cup, bring one or two with you. 
  • To keep your child hydrated if they will not drink plain bottled water is to add a bit of sugar or fruit juice to make the water sweet.


Personal experience: I do not recommend using boiled water to mix formula. The water was extremely hard in Havana. After only a handful of uses, the kettle was lined with a thick layer of calcium and there was calcium “floaties” in the water.

DIAPERING

  • Normal diapers: When packing normal diapers, pack as many as you would typically need in that time frame, times two. There’s the possibility you may not use them all and then there’s also the possibility that your child may develop some tummy troubles and you will definitely use them. 
  • Swim diapers: If you plan to go in the water, aside from swim wear, you will also need swim diapers.
  • Wipes: Bring extra wipes. Like above, your child may develop tummy troubles and extra wipes will be needed. These can also be used to wipe off surfaces, like airplane tray tables and restaurant high chairs, before baby touches them.
  • Change tables: Change tables are few and far between. Often times, you will find yourself changing baby on the fly in the stroller or on a counter in the bathroom. Be sure you have a changing mat that you can put down for baby to lie on, or disinfect the surface before and after use.

Personal experience: Like a rookie, I ran out of normal diapers. Luckily, I was able to purchase a small bag in the resort store. A small pack of 20 cost around $4 CUC (approximately $6 CAD). While these were in no way the same quality as American and Canadian diapers, they did the job. The store also sold wipes and swim diapers. 

ACCESSIBILITY

  • Building access: Accessibility is not a huge consideration in Cuba like it is in Canada or the US. A lot of the buildings have stairs, with no elevators or ramps. 
  • Streets: Many of the side streets are a cobble-stone style and not paved, making them very uneven.
  • Street curbs: The street curbs are about twice as high as they are in North America, and there are no ramps at street crossings. 
  • Sidewalks: Sidewalks are cracked, uneven and often missing chunks of concrete.
  • Cross walks: Crossing the street is very different for pedestrians. There are red and green lights, but crosswalks are almost non-existent. People cross at their own risk, and often across multiple lanes of traffic.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

TRANSPORTATION

  • Car seat: Leave the car seat base at home. Unlike vehicles in North America, there are no buckles for a car seat base. If your child requires a car seat, you must use the seat belt to securely fasten it to the seat. 
  • Stroller: Consider the stroller that you bring. If your child is scheduled to take a nap while you are out touring, make sure the stroller is one that they can sleep comfortably in (i.e. one that reclines). It must also compact well for airplane and vehicle travel, be able to handle uneven streets, sidewalks and curbs and be light for potential carrying and lifting.  If you are taking taxis while out touring and your child requires a car seat, make sure your stroller is compatible with the car seat (i.e. it has an adapter to connect the two) so that you are not carrying the car seat as you walk around.
  • Coach bus: If you are taking a coach bus to and from the airport and resort, be aware that not all have seat belts. If you are not planning on taking taxis (i.e. only going between airport and resort or hotel on a coach bus) and are comfortable with it, leave the car seat and heavy duty stroller at home. Depending on your child’s age, bring a small umbrella stroller or infant carrier/sling instead.
  • Large groups: If you are traveling in a large party (i.e. 5 or more) and need to take a taxi, van taxis are available but rare. Be prepared to split up the group.
  • Vintage cars: If riding in a vintage car is on your Cuban bucket list, you will have to leave the little ones out. These cars do not have seat belts. Many are also convertibles.
  • Sun protection: If you are traveling in a vehicle, consider which side of the vehicle the sun will be shining on and, if possible, place your child on the opposite side to limit exposure.

Personal experience: We use a BOB Revolution Single Stroller and Peg Perego Primo Viaggio 4/35 Infant Car Seat. The stroller has an adapter to secure the car seat to the stroller. Since we were taking taxis while touring Havana, we needed to bring the car seat. If we were not touring the city independently, I would not have brought the car seat on the trip.  I am, however, glad that I brought this stroller. It was easy to transport and heavy duty enough to withstand airplane abuse. streets and sidewalks of Havana and walks on the beach in Varadero.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

ENVIRONMENTAL

  • Temperature: Like any tropical destination, be aware of the temperature. In Cuba, it is hot during the day but can be cool in the morning and at night. Dress in layers. It is easier to remove a layer if you’re too hot, rather than add a layer you don’t have if you’re too cold.
  • Sun: Don’t forget the sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses for your child. If you will be pushing your child in a stroller, consider bringing a UV screen (such as this one) to put over the stroller.
  • Insects: If  you are visiting during mosquito season, bring child-friendly bug spray.
  • Smoking: Unlike in North America, smoking is allowed everywhere in Cuba, including hotel rooms, restaurants and stores. Many people smoke, especially cigars.

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

SLEEPING

  • Cribs: Cribs can be found at most hotels and resorts. If one is required, let the hotel or resort know upon booking so that one can be reserved. The type of crib provided is typically a travel crib/pack-and-play. For baby’s safety, bring your own crib sheet.
  • Insects: If you are visiting during mosquito season, bring a mosquito mesh that can be fit over the crib at night. This can also be used over the stroller during the day and/or night.
  • Air conditioning: Most hotels and resorts usually have the AC pumping. Luckily, most also have individual room controls to turn it off or down when needed. Be sure to dress your child appropriately during the night, especially if you plan to keep the AC running. 

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

MEDICAL

  • Vaccinations: Pay a visit to your family doctor before you leave. You and your children may require vaccinations.
  • Medical attention: If needed, doctors and clinics are available for a fee. Before you go, check that your medical insurance covers out of country.  
  • First aid kit: Bring a full stocked first aid kit. Pharmacies are available, but the selection of products is not the same as in North America. In your first aid kit, include an easy-to-read thermometer, extra pain reliever (both adult and children), allergy medication (both adult and children), alcohol-based hand sanitizer, antiseptic wound cleaner and tweezers.

TIPPING

  • While money is appreciated for tips, so are specific items that are hard to come by or expensive in Cuba. 
  • The most appreciated are hygiene products such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, deodorant, panty hose and sanitary napkins, and children’s clothing and shoes.
  • Before you go, or even when you are packing to leave Cuba, if you have any clothes no longer in use by your child, leave them for a hostess, waitress, housekeeper or someone else you meet during your stay. 

Personal experience 1: I brought a bunch of Morley’s gently used onesies and pants to leave for the housekeepers. However, during our stay at the resort, we met a hostess in the buffet that was pregnant with her first child, a girl. I ended up giving her the big bag of clothes and she was very grateful. 

Personal experience 2: While touring Havana, I had several women come up to me and ask if I could spare anything for their families. I was not prepared for this, so the answer was always no. Scams are present in Cuba, so this could be one and I was targeted because I had a little one in tow.


CUSTOMER SERVICE


Customer service in Cuba differs greatly from what you would expect in other places of the world, including North America. This can be attributed to a number of things, including low wages for workers. When you visit, you must be patient as well as keep an open mind. You may not get anything or go anywhere fast, but that's ok. Sit back and relax, you're on vacation after all. 

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable

FINAL THOUGHTS


I will admit, prior to our visit to Cuba, I was a bit nervous. Rightfully so with visiting a foreign  country, let alone with a 10 month old. I stressed over things like packing enough clothes, what she would eat and how I would wash her bottles. Turns out, once we got to Cuba, all of the stress was for nothing. I quickly found out that I had overpacked, there was a lot on the menu that she could eat and washing bottles was not as difficult as I thought it would be, among other things. 

At no point during our travels did we feel unsafe. Hassling in the streets and on the beach is limited, and easy to avoid. The Cuban people are extremely friendly and laid back, especially if you have children in tow. They love babies, and every single person we came across in our travels quickly became my daughter's favourite, stopping to talk and ogle over her.  

Bottom line - Cuba is a beautiful and colourful country filled with culture, history and fabulous beaches. It is also a country I highly recommend adding to your "must see" list, even with young children in tow.


To help you plan for your trip, check out this FREE Complete Packing Guide Printable (PDF).

A Guide to Traveling to Cuba with Young Children + FREE Packing Guide Printable



*Please note, this a recommended guide based on our experience and does not included required clothing or other attire. There may be items included on this list that you do not need and those not included that you will need. Plan accordingly. 

Stay tuned for a guide to visiting an all-inclusive resort with your little one!


Have you visited Cuba with your little ones? See something missing from the guide? Have more questions? Leave a comment below or email me at toandfro21@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!


 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg


*This post contains affiliate links at no additional cost to you. Purchasing products through these links helps support To & Fro. Thank you in advance!

Talking Daycare & Preparing for a Positive Experience + Giveaway


Ladies and gents, the time has come.

The time has come to officially head back to work and put my daughter's care in the hands of someone else.

Cue the waterworks.

Talking Daycare & Preparing for a Positive Experience + Giveaway

While I originally planned on taking the full year maternity leave and not go back to work until it was done, an earlier spot opened up at the local daycare and we jumped on it. Daycare wait lists are no joke, and we didn't want to pass it up.

So, daycare starts and back to work I go.

Again, cue the waterworks.

Talking Daycare & Preparing for a Positive Experience + Giveaway

Today marks day three of the official first week of daycare. And speaking from experience so far, it has not been all rainbow and butterflies.  While minimal tears were shed from both parties, last week's transition week definitely came with its highs and lows.

The start of daycare marks a significant transition for your family. There are so many things to think about when it comes to selecting, registering, preparing, transitioning, waving goodbye and everything in between. And if you're like me, you want it to be perfect.

To help both you and your child navigate this big change in routine, check out these tips that I learned, and used, to help prepare for a positive first daycare experience.

Start the change in routine early.

If attending daycare requires a new schedule (i.e. waking up earlier, eating breakfast at a different time, etc.), begin this new routine several days before to make the transition easier for your child.

Ease into it.

Take advantage of the transition week. A slow, part time introduction to the new environment works best for many kids. Most centres also give parents the choice of dropping off and leaving or hanging around for a bit during the first week.  

Our daycare required us to hang out in the building for the first week, just incase they had any questions.

Trust and communicate.

While the thought of someone else caring for your child, teaching your child new things and creating memories with your child may scare you (and even make you a wee bit jealous), remember this is their job. They are licensed professionals, so you must put your trust in them. 

If you're nervous, call the daycare and check on your child. The facility should be more than happy to give you first day updates.

Start a goodbye routine.

Establishing a specific goodbye routine will help your child be more comfortable at drop-off time, so begin one the first day. Even if your child is upset, stay calm. A confident attitude will help reassure your little one that everything will be okay. 


Be patient. Be flexible.

The first week of day care involves an adjustment for you, as well as your child. Be patient. It will take some time, but everything will work out for the both of you. 

If you are heading back to work right away, make sure your employer is aware of your situation. You might need a little extra flexibility in your schedule over the next few days to establish your new routine.

Be prepared.

Most daycares will provide parents with a list of items to bring beforehand. This usually includes diapers, wipes, diaper cream, extra change of clothes, indoor shoes and weather-appropriate outdoor clothing.

With strict health regulations and restrictions, most daycares cater meals for the children. That's great if your baby is eating solids. But, if they are still also drinking breast milk or formula, you will need to be prepared to supply your own.

For those that are still breast feeding, providing enough expressed milk will be a huge priority. A good quality breast pump will help you achieve the required supply for baby when you can't be around. I've been a huge fan of Philips Avent throughout our parenting journey, so my breast pump of choice was the Philips Avent Comfort Electric Breast Pump

I opted for the single electric model because it was budget-friendly, allowed me to have one hand free during pumping and the compact, lightweight design made it easy to use, storage and transport. This pump features a gentle stimulation mode and three pumping settings to help you pump more milk, more comfortably. The pump is compatible with all Philips Avent bottles, making it easy to combine breast and bottle feeding for when you are with and away from baby. While I don’t have experience with other pumps, the only downside to this product would be that the motor on this pump did seem a little loud when operating.  However, that in no way hindered its effectiveness at getting the job done. This pump also comes in an easy manual operation. 


Talking Daycare & Preparing for a Positive Experience + Giveaway
Talking Daycare & Preparing for a Positive Experience + Giveaway

Tears are ok.
Lastly, there will be tears. From both parties. And that's ok. 

The transition from being home with mom to being in a daycare setting with new, strange people can be traumatic. Even with the best preparation, your child is likely to be upset, at least in the beginning, when you leave them at daycare. And so are you. It's a big change! But, it will get better.


It's hard to hand your baby over to someone else, but focusing on the friends they'll make, the new things they'll learn and the fun they'll have will make the both of you feel better about the experience.


Do you have any tips or tricks for creating a positive daycare experience? I'd love to hear!


**GIVEAWAY**

Because we love Philips Avent products so much, we're teaming up with Philips to give away TWO Philips Avent Sterilizer Gift Sets to our readers! 

Whether there's a new baby on the way or you're looking for the perfect baby shower gift, a sterilizer is a must have for any new parent. And this giveaway is perfect for both breast and bottle fed babies!. Enter below for your chance to win one of two Philips Avent Sterilizer Gift Set. This giveaway is open to all Canadians, excluding Quebec, and runs until March 12, 2017. Good luck!

Philips Avent Sterilizer Gift Set Giveaway


 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg


Disclaimer: As a member of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Philips Avent, I received products and/or compensation in exchange for this post and my honest review. The opinions and advice shared in this post are 100% my own, and I only work with companies that I genuinely love.

Two Days in Havana

My mom has been talking about a trip to Cuba for a few years now. And with the recent events in the United States (I'm looking at you, Donald), the urge to go now was becoming greater and greater. 

A few weeks before Christmas, we were sitting in our living room, talking about Cuba and how a trip would be possible. Morley and I are pretty good travel companions, so I suggested we all go together. I was still on mat leave, Morley had yet to start day care and Steve had just started a new position that was demanding all of his attention, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Right then and there it was decided - a girls trip to Cuba was in order.

A few days later, the trip was booked and a short two weeks after that, my mom, grandma, aunt, daughter and I would be boarding a plane to spend three days touring the historic capital city of Havana followed by four days relaxing on a white sand beach in Varadero. 

Two Days in Havana, Cuba

Located on the north west coast of the country, Cuba’s capital of Havana is home to 2.1 million inhabitants and spans nearly 281 square miles. Its size and population make it the fourth largest metropolitan area in the Caribbean region. Filled with history and culture, it is also a stop you don’t want to miss on your trip to Cuba.

On our recent visit, we had two full days to explore the colourful city of Havana. This is how we spent our time.

Day 1 in Havana

Day one was filled with independent exploration, and A LOT of walking.

From the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, where we were staying, we took a taxi to the Capitol Building. 

In a city full of ruin, El Capitolio definitely stands out. Constructed after WWI, the building closely resembles the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, but on a bit larger scale. Formerly it was the seat of the Cuban Congress, but since 1959 has housed the Cuban Academy of Sciences and the National Library of Science and Technology. 

Two Days in Havana, Cuba
Two Days in Havana, Cuba

Our first goal of the day was to find a local cigar factory. You can’t go to Cuba without bringing home some authentic Cuban cigars! According to the map provided by the hotel, the factory was located not far behind the Capitol Building. Easy.

Two Days in Havana, Cuba

Word to the wise about Cuba, be aware of scams. There are many of them, including, but definitely not limited to, fake/homemade cigars.

Anyways, with the map from the hotel in hand, we started following the directions laid out for us. We were walking in the direction the map told us to go, when a man on the street asked if we were looking for the cigar factory. We said yes, and he confirmed the directions. A few seconds later, a woman walking down the street started chatting us up. She was heading to work at the factory and told us she’d show us the way. Since it was Sunday, we were told, the factory was closed, but the store was open. We were fine with that. It didn’t even cross our mind that we might be getting sucked into a scam. After all, we had a map, from the hotel, with the cigar factory circled. All of the sudden, we realized where she was taking us… to someone’s “house”. I say “house” because it really was the most random place, and looking at it from the outside, you wouldn’t think that is what it was. We had read about these types of scams before our trip, so as soon as we realized what was going on, we turned around and hightailed it out of there.

Backtracking on the events that had just happened, we figured that the guy that gave us directions and the women who “worked at the factory” were probably in cahoots together and saw us as a bunch of suckers. The confusing part was that this factory was on the map that the hotel gave us. Safe to say, we gave up on finding the actual cigar factory, if it even did exist. 

Two Days in Havana, Cuba

Our second goal of the day was to visit La Habana Vieja, or Old Havana, an area declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

We got over that potential scam really quickly, as soon as a daiquiri from El Floridita popped into our heads. Located in Old Havana, not far from the Capitol Building, El Floridita is a historic cocktail bar made famous by the invention of the frozen daiquiri in the 1930s. In the early 40s, the Novel Prize-winning American writer Ernest Hemingway was a frequenter, and today, the establishment contains many noticeable memorabilia of the author. Opening at 12pm on the day we visited, it is a very popular place, with a lineup to get in that extends down the block.

Two Days in Havana, Cuba
Two Days in Havana, Cuba
Two Days in Havana, Cuba
Two Days in Havana, Cuba

Inside, the music was loud and the rum was flowing. But after a sandwich and a couple of daiquiris, it was time to move on. 

Heading down Calle Obispo (Bishop Street), we walked past the Hotel Ambos Mundos (Both Worlds Hotel), another hangout of Hemingway’s during the 1930s and currently a popular Old Havana tourist attraction.

Two Days in Havana, Cuba

For the rest of the afternoon, we continued to wander around Old Havana, past buildings of both old and new, large open squares and beautifully constructed churches. To escape the heat, we made an afternoon pitstop at one of Havana’s two microbreweries, Factoria Plaza Vieja, located in the square of the same namesake. At this microbrewery, there are only three beers on tap - Clara (light), Oscura (dark) and Negra (amber), and while very different from the breweries we know and love back home, the Clara was a refreshing treat in the afternoon Cuban heat.

After a day full of exploring, and exceeding my day's step count goal, we made our way to the Malecon at the mouth of the Havana Harbour, hopped in a van taxi and headed back to the hotel for an afternoon siesta.

To end the night, dinner was at La Cocina Esteban, located just up the street from the Hotel. If you are staying in the area, I definitely recommend checking out this restaurant. There was a wide variety of items to choose from, and at a very very reasonable price  (less than $20 CDN for two large chicken meals with a handful of sides).

Day 2 in Havana

Day two, we decided to take a guided tour of some of the more popular places in Havana on the Habana Bus Tour, a hop-on, hop-off style double decker bus tour.

We picked up the bus not far from the hotel, along the Malecon, the roadway and seawall that stretches for 8km along the coast in Havana. It was a windy day, Cuba was being hit by the tail end of a storm coming off the US. The waves were being pushed over the seawall and onto the road, where, in places, the flooding had closed the Malecon to both cars and pedestrians. 

Two Days in Havana, Cuba
Two Days in Havana, Cuba

Because of the wind and the sun, both of which do not make a great experience for baby, we opted to sit down below, but still had a great view of everything we passed.

While you pass many attractions on this specific tour route, the most noted were the National Capitol Building, that we had visited the day before, the Plaza de la Revolucion (Revolution Square) and Cemeterio de Cristobal Colon (Colon Cemetery).

Two Days in Havana, Cuba

Plaza de la Revolucion is the 31st largest city square in the world, measuring 72,000 square meters, and is truly a remarkable place. It may look like any old parking lot, but this famous square holds so much history. 

The Square is notable as being where many political rallies took place, and where Fidel Castro and other political figures addressed the Cubans. In 1998 and 2015, visits by the Pope also took place at this location.

The Square is dominated by the Jose Marti Memorial, a 358 foot tall tower and 59 foot tall statue dedicated to the namesake national hero of Cuba, and surrounded by the National Library and many government ministries, including those with the recognizable steel memorials of Che Guevera and Camilo Cienfuegos. 

Two Days in Havana, Cuba
Two Days in Havana, Cuba

Named after Christopher Columbus, the Cemeterio de Cristobal Colon is one of the largest, and most ornate, in the world. Established in 1876, this 140 acre historical cemetery houses over 800,000 graves, including those of Cuba’s most historical figures, from baseball players to political figures, musicians and actors.

Two Days in Havana, Cuba

Notes about the Habana Bus Tour:
  • Depending on what you want to see, there are three bus routes to choose from.
  • We boarded the bus in the morning hours. This was considered “peak time” so the cost was a bit more expensive than in the afternoon, around $10 CUC per person per day (approximately $13 CDN). In the afternoon, the cost was $5 CUC per person.
  • Buses swing by along the route every fifteen minutes or so. 
  • Buses run every day from morning to dusk.
  • While the ride does include a tour guide who will announce the main landmarks along the way and will also broadcast the main stops, it was extremely difficult to hear what they were saying. If you want to get off at a certain spot be sure the guide knows, as they will not formally stop unless someone wants to hop off or someone is waiting to hop on. 
  • I recommend getting an official map of the route to familiarize yourself with the stops beforehand. We received a map from the hotel and it was both not to scale and inaccurate, so there are some things we probably missed.
  • Riding on the upper deck gives riders a unique perspective and allows photographers to get some great shots. But beware, there are low lying wires and the bus can make sudden stops. Also be prepared for the sun.
  • If you are traveling with a child in a stroller, there is an accessible area that allows one or two strollers to “park”. 
  • There are no seat belts on the buses. 
  • The windows on the lower level slide open all the way, with only a metal railing preventing you from falling out. Make sure young kids are attended to at all times.

The Habana Bus Tour is also a great alternative mode of transportation, to get from one end of the city to the other, as taxis can begin to add up over the course of your visit. 

Two Days in Havana, Cuba

While we didn’t get to see the entire city in those 48 hours, we did check off all of the sights that we had wanted to see. We were all in agreement that two days was plenty to explore this historic city. It was finally time for a little rest and relaxation, and a few pina coladas, on the beaches of Varadero. 


How to get to Havana:
  • Most visitors of Havana fly into Varadero and either take a bus or hire a car to take them to Havana. The drive is approximately 2 hours.
  • Since we booked our vacation as a package, a van was waiting at the airport to pick us up and drive us to Havana.

Where we stayed in Havana:

Calle Obispo Esquina A S/N, La Habana 10100, Cuba+53 7 8363564

Where we ate & drank in Havana:

Obispo, La Habana, Cuba
+53 7 8671300

Factoria Plaza Vieja
San Ignacio, La Habana, Cuba

Calle 21, Havana, Cuba
+53 7 8329649


Traveling with little ones? Stay tuned for an upcoming guide to visiting Cuba with young kids!


Have you been to Havana, Cuba? What was your favourite part of the city? I’d love to hear!



 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg