Tag Archives: travel

Denver Getaway

8 Nov

Mini kid-free vacations are the perfect way for me to rejuvenate, relax, and reconnect with my hubby.  As a busy mother of 4, these little getaways are quite limited and cherished beyond belief!  Typically, when my husband and I get that rare hall pass from the kids, we escape to a local hotel or revisit somewhere from our past.  For some reason, I fail miserably to think out of the box, and always go for the same old thing…can I say Vegas?

As a last shindig before the end of summer, my hubby and I decided that a quick getaway was needed for our sanity.  We found a last minute “weekend babysitter” for our favorite monsters and we were all over going anywhere away from the craziness of our daily routine.  It was last minute and we weren’t set on anything specific.  While browsing the internet (of course looking for a deal on a Vegas getaway), I came across a last minute deal on a couple of flights to Denver.  The flights were a steal and we were even able to take advantage of some hotel points that we don’t typically use for family travel.  It all fell into place and I pulled the trigger.  While everything seemed to work perfectly, I was honestly still a little unsure about Denver for “vacation”.

We arrived in Denver with a rental car waiting and 2 nights booked at the Cherry Creek Marriott.  We had no plans or expectations, how completely out of character for me!  We kicked off our weekend with a champagne toast and set off on foot to explore.

The night life was fabulous, food was amazing, and the crowds were overflowing with hip, yet laid back people.  We spent the weekend walking all over and loved the bike rental stations (felt very Paris like…haha) to really let us explore every corner of Denver.  We covered miles of the Mile High City and were able to totally unwind.  One of my favorite weekend getaways of all time…sorry Vegas!

Where to go next?  Maybe St.Louis or Boise?  I don’t want to plan too much, it ruins the excitement.

(Thanks to Pinterest for the great photo of the summertime dining and biking scene in Denver)

Belize Zoo

2 Aug

I must start this off by saying that I am not a zoo person.  The thought of spending an entire day (and a spending a small fortune) walking around a zoo, among crowds of people, all to see a some sleeping animals from 20 yards away, does nothing for me.  If I had the option, I’d rather stay home and watch the National Geographic channel from my couch.  Simply stated…zoos are not my thing and you will rarely find me making them a part of a family adventure.  I look at zoo excursions as more of a time killer when all else fails or simply something I do to appease my persistent children (shhh! don’t tell them that).

So that being said, while in Belize this summer, my kids started begging to visit the Belize Zoo.  I was totally hesitant.  The weather was insanely hot, the mosquitoes were out in full force, and bottom line… zoos aren’t my thing.  While the Belize Zoo prides itself in being a rescue and rehabilitation center to local animals, they also offer some unique and once in a lifetime animal encounters.  I knew that a visit would be supporting a great cause and would have an educational aspect that I always strive for with my kids…but still it’s the “zoo” thing.  So after a few beers poolside, pleading children, and the possibility of doing the “once in a lifetime experience” of  the Jaguar encounter (explanation at bottom of page), I reluctantly agreed.  My expectations were low and it made clear that our time was limited.

We arrived at the zoo right at the peak of the heat.  Let me explain that this is not just hot, it was over the top hot.  The kind of hot that burns your skin and instantly makes you soaking wet in sweat.  We quickly learned that it was even too hot for “Junior” the jaguar to be taking visitors into his cage, so we had to settle for a visit with the Tapirs (photo below of this interesting creature).  I was instantly disappointed, but logically knew that getting inside a cage with a grumpy jaguar is probably not a great idea.  Maybe a blessing in disguise.

We wandered through this amazingly well kept facility, taking a quick look at the local animals of Central America.  My feelings about zoos started to change for the better.  We were able to hang out in the enclosure with the Tapirs, the national animal of Belize, and get up close to some really unique creatures. Our visit was quick, informative, had no crowds, and the kids had a blast.  We ended with an ice cream from the gift shop, experienced something totally new, and supported a great cause all during our quick and informative 45 minute stop (exactly how a zoo should be seen).  Perfection!

Jaguar experience:  So, for $50 USD, 5 people can pile in a cage, inside the enclosure of a Jaguar. You would have the opportunity to learn from an animal trainer about “Junior” the jaguar, feed him a little snack of raw chicken, and even get a kiss from him.  Sound crazy?  Absolutely yes, but talk about a once in a lifetime experience!  Hopefully my next visit to Belize will be a little cooler for Junior and I’ll have a chance to get up close and personal.

Belize Getaway

15 Jun

In honor of my upcoming family vacation to Belize this summer, I’m feeling inspired to share my amazing experiences in Belize for Flashback Friday.  Just about 3 years ago, somehow I convinced the grandparents to watch my kids for a week (I’m sure this commitment was made after a fairly large consumption of wine) so my husband and I could get away for an extended break.  We took full advantage with a 9 day break from the kids and daily routines of life.  We headed to Belize with no kids, explored 2 very different regions, and had an absolute trip of a lifetime.  I’m not really quite sure how I ended up taking our 1st and only week away ever  to this tiny Central American country, but it was a decision that made travel my passion. Many people would ask why Belize?  I can only imagine that I came across it by chance and our airline flight miles made the final decision.  Perfect fate.

Let me first start off by explaining my family.  I grew up traveling a bit and enjoyed the family adventures from my childhood.  Still to this day, my parents are a couple of crazy jet setting retired folks.  Travel and adventure is in my blood.  My husband on the other hand, not so much.  He grew up in a small town alongside the corn fields and hog farms of the Midwest.  His idea of a travel was taking a 2 hour road trip and an international destination to him was Tijuana.  So when I booked our 1 and only getaway, since becoming parents, to Belize I was a going out on a limb.  (I say one and only, because I was pretty confident that the grandparents would NEVER do it again after spending a week with our “angels”).

As we were landing into this simple and relatively poor country, my husband was busy looking and watching out the window.  He looked at me in shock and said something along the lines of  “where the hell are you taking me?  Why didn’t we just go to Hawaii?”  At that moment, I promised him it would be great, but I really crossed my fingers and hoped more than you can imagine that my research was correct.  I was pretty confident in my planning of our Belize trip, but I knew that my role in my family’s future for vacation planning was riding on this decision.

Well, it all worked out and overly exceeded our expectations.  This tiny little country in Central America is a true gem.  Situated on the Caribbean, you get a Latin American feel, with a flair of the Caribbean culture, and add a dash of Mennonites (yes, as in the German religious folks that don’t use electricity).  Unique, diverse, and amazing.

We started our trip off with a 90 minute drive to the Ka’ana Resort in San Ignacio (a region near the Guatemalan border).  We were stunned by the beauty and detail that was put into this resort.  Over the next 4 days, we explored and learned.  We visited Mayan ruins, caves, and dined on some of the most amazing foods we had ever experienced.  You truly felt that you were the only people at this fabulous boutique resort and I loved every second of living the life of a celebrity.

After our Jungle adventure, we hopped on a quick 20 minute puddle jumper off to the island of Ambergris Caye.  This busy little town still has dirt roads, filled with golf carts, restaurants, and gift shops.  The Caribbean Sea was as blue as pictures showed and our hotel, Victoria House, was perfectly situated just far away enough from town for relaxation, yet close enough to enjoy the hustle and bustle.

The last half of our trip was spent lounging on the beach, exploring the town of San Pedro, enjoying oceanfront massages, and of course taking advantage of Belize’s incredible water activities.  Being that I am not a scuba diver,  snorkeling and fishing  filled our desire for new adventures.  Under the sea was better than I could of imagined…sting rays, sharks, and bright colored beautiful fish.

So, I’m off again to the beautiful country of Belize, but this time with 4 wild, crazy, and adventure seeking kids.  I know it won’t be nearly as relaxing (actually it won’t be relaxing at all), but there will be plenty of adventures and stories to tell.  Reflecting back…I think I picked the perfect place for our summer adventure.  More posts to come, but with a wild & crazy family twist!  As they say in Belize…you’d better Belize it!

Rude Parisians? (I must have missed that part)

5 Jun

Finally…I made the trip to Paris.  Last week, I flew across the Atlantic and took my daughter to visit her friend who moved with her family to the French Riviera.  Being so close to Paris, I felt that I would be crazy to skip an opportunity to visit “The City of Lights”.  I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I did learn in my planning that many people have very strong opinions about the French, especially Parisians.  I’ll admit I was pretty intimidated.  I heard the horror stories and hesitantly listened to all of the warnings.  “The French are rude”.  “French people HATE Americans”.  “You better speak at least a little French, OR ELSE…”.  I was traveling with my daughter and speak just about zero French (actually, now I can say 2  words in French).  Luckily, I did master saying hello and thank you in French before I arrived in Paris.  But, the reality was that I was that I was heading to Paris with “American Tourist” stamped on my forehead.  I hoped for the best, yet was prepared for the worst.  I wouldn’t have ever told my daughter, but I was scared shitless.  The last thing I wanted to do was feed my daughter to the wolves and make her afraid to ever travel again.  So, we left the comfort of our amazing friends and hosts in Southern France, boarded a train, and set out to the jungle of Paris.  I tried to stay open minded and armed and ready to use my smile (and 2 French words) as my only defense.

The attendant on the train was courteous, our cab driver was very informative, and my hotel check-in went very smoothly.  I was starting to think that I just might survive Paris and was feeling pretty positive about not permanently damaging my daughter’s love for travel.  The next couple of days continued to work in my favor and I was convinced that I was either very lucky or wrongly informed about Parisians.  At that point, I realized that I really wasted quite a bit of energy worry about people possibly refusing to acknowledge me, giving me wrong directions, or spitting in my food.  I actually spent quite a bit of time, while sitting in amazing cafes, thinking about my thoughts and ridiculous fears.  I observed and watched.  I began to better understand.  Let’s face it, the French aren’t an overly warm culture.  Heck, it pretty obvious that you’re not in a small village somewhere in Latin America mingling with the locals.  But rude?  No, not really.  Different, yes.  Waiters don’t rush you out to turn your table.  The chance of you waiter having a quick smoke and chatting with a colleague, before bringing your bill is pretty likely.  Plan on waiting while dining.  On the other hand, I observed more people in 2 days give up seats on the bus to an elderly passenger or child than I have seen in the States in the last 10 years.  The French are just more relaxed and not so hurried.  This is a great thing and I quickly embraced the trait.  It forced me to look around, visit a little more with my favorite little lady, and have that second glass of wine.  I couldn’t have been happier that I was forced a bit to slow down and “smell the roses”.  Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I am sure glad that I took the time to look around and embrace the culture.  Enjoy the view, the wine, the culture and smile a lot. Cheers!

Staying Sane in the Friendly Skies

10 May

Traveling with babies and children can be a very challenging situation.  I have had my fair share of great flights and some horribly embarrassing situations also.  Here are a dozen of my favorite practical in- flight tips for parents…

1.)  Remember that traveling with kids is NOT fun.  Airline flights can be successful, but they are not easy for parents.  Do not expect to relax and watch a movie, read a novel, or look at every page in your People Magazine.  If you ignore your kids, your children will misbehave, you will be stressed out, and the other passengers sitting around you will give you dirty looks.  Just plan on being a non-stop babysitter the entire flight and it will be easier for everyone.

2.)  Have your child sit in their car seat if possible.  You can’t expect a 3 year old to sit in a lap belt for an entire flight.  It is way too much fun to jump on the seat and make faces at the people sitting in the row behind them.  Entertaining for the kid, annoying for others.

3.)  Pack plenty of HEALTHY snacks.  Feeding your kid 10 packs of fruit snacks and candy is not a good idea.  One word…Puke.

4.)  Always carry on a simple change of clothes for each child and parents.  There is nothing like your potty trained preschooler falling asleep in your lap and having an accident.  It’s pretty rough walking off the plane with a half naked and screaming child wrapped in an airplane blanket.  Even better when it happens in 1st class…classy!

5.)  Bring a portable DVD player, over the ear headphones, and several DVDs.  Your little one might actually sit and watch the movie.  If not, the act of changing the movie 5 times can even keep your child quiet and busy for a few minutes.

6.)  Loosen up on your regular media rules and let them watch something you wouldn’t usually allow.  Popping in an action filled PG-13 movie for your tween son will keep his attention much better than the regular stuff he watches.  Being in a crowded box, 30,000 feet in the air, with a bunch of strangers is all about survival.  Save the rules for when you are on solid ground.

7.)  Plan for ear pressure during take off and landing.  Be ready to feed or give a pacifier to babies and encourage older kids to swallow or chew on something.  Sippy cup, box juice, gum, or whatever works.

8.)  Bring a small blanket and pillow for each child.  It can make all the difference if they sleep or not.

9.)  If you are traveling on a longer or night flight, older kids may need some help getting some sleep.  I’m not a doctor and recommend talking with your family physician about what the best option is for your child.  If you are interested, I have had pretty good luck with melatonin.  Words of advice, think twice before using Benadryl, some kids have the opposite effect and it may dry out their sinuses.

10.)  Pack some new and fun activities.  Some of my favorites are WikiStix, colorful pipe cleaners, Play Foam, and coloring pages on a clipboard.  These are all small, easy, quiet, and inexpensive.

11.)  If your kid is going to kick the seat in front of them, take their shoes off.  It’s not nearly as fun to kick a seat barefoot.

12.)  Most importantly, keep calm.  You can do everything right and your kid can still decide to behave like a total monster.  Don’t let other people around you stress you out more.  Parents are in a hard position on an airplane.  It’s not like you can take them for a little walk out front to resolve the issue.  You are stuck.  Remember, you’ll never see these people again in your life.

Good luck and happy travels!

Mission Inn (minus the kids)

26 Apr

Southern California has an abundance of beautiful beaches, amazing views, elegant hotels, and restaurants to please even the pickiest palate.  The number of options can be totally overwhelming at times.  Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, San Diego and Malibu are just a few that come to mind.  I always love to find a new amazing destination or a place that just simply exceeds my expectations.  My quick getaway to the Mission Inn in Riverside (yes, I said Riverside), did exactly that.

This last minute and loosely planned overnight trip was really unlike anywhere I have ever visited in Southern California.  While on our spring break adventure in So. Cal, I decided last minute to squeeze in an overnight grownup getaway.  The Grandparents offered to watch the little monkeys so my hubby and I could detox from our 3 long days at Disneyland.  There it was, I had 24 hours to escape, including drive time to and from Palm Springs.  I wanted to spend as much time relaxing and as little time as possible on the freeways.  This last minute booking of a hotel room in the hottest  spring break destination of the Southern California desert proved to unsuccessful.  So the search began and I started moving my hotel options further from the spring break mecca of Palm Springs.  I remembered years ago, during my days as a Southern California girl meeting once for a quick brunch at the Mission Inn in Riverside.  I recalled it being nice, the location worked, and even better there was a room available.  I did zero research (very unlike me) and I booked a room.  How terrible could it really be?  Any night without kids is a treat and even better after the Disney marathon we had just completed.

As soon as we pulled up to the valet, I was stunned.  This property was much more beautiful than I had remembered.  As I walked through the lobby and entered this quaint and amazing hotel full of history, I knew at that point I had found one of the gems of Southern California…in Riverside!

The service was impeccable, the rooms were unique and spacious, and the beds were plush.  The steakhouse was amazing (one of several dining options) and compared to any top steakhouse I’ve ever visited.  My late night stop in their Presidential Lounge & Bar was the perfect place to end a great night.

I put my old iPhone camera to work and came up with some half way decent snapshots to document my visit to the Mission Inn.   Mission accomplished…I detoxed from Disney.  Amazing what some eye candy for adults and a great dinner can do for the mind!

Traveling with Grandparents

5 Apr

Dedicated to all of the cool Grandparents out there willing to give the “multi-generational travel” thing a chance!

 

 

 

Vacationing with Grandparents can be a great way to spend quality time as a family and really create some fabulous memories.  Getting in quality time with family during crazy holiday visits, birthday parties, and normal routines is hard to come by in our fast paced lifestyle.  I am all about creating memories for my kids, since memories will stay with them forever.

Since our Grandma and Grandpa live out of state, our visits always include sleepovers.  We have spent several days together under one roof, without driving each other totally insane (insane, yes).  Our sleepovers are always at one of our homes, which means that someone has to plan and host.  When the visits are at my home, I’m busy with the daily routine, plus entertaining my guests.  Laundry, bills, cooking, and running kids here and there.  Hubby is busy with work and his iPhone never stops chiming.  The kids are distracted by their friends, the phone, homework, and sports.  All of the daily stuff plus trying to be a good hostess.  The Grandparents do great jumping into our daily routine, fill in where they can, yet are ready to step back out after a few days of the craziness.  We also try to make an annual visit to their world.  It happens to be a 55 and older Country Club community.  This is another story.  We roll in like a tornado and never slow down. When their perfectly organized and quiet home is invaded by 6 people (4 kids and sometimes a dog) it is quite the adventure and not much of a relaxing vacation for anyone.  Controlled chaos at best.  Need I say more?

So, on one of our “regular” visits we started talking about travel, my absolute favorite subject.  We have traveled together in the past…once.   That trip consisted of a little multi-generation camping trip.  I figured if we survived that without any major catastrophe, it was time to go bigger.  So it was decided (after a few glasses of wine I’m sure) to travel together again, go big, and really make it happen.  Costa Rica was a thought, I started planning, and we did it!  It ended up being great and accomplished exactly the goal…a great experience for everyone!

I have to credit a good part of the success to the Grandparents giving up control and trusting my love for planning travel.   We agreed on some dates, set a budget, they booked their flights, and showed up where I told them to go.  Perfect.  No stress in the planning!  Then while on the trip, they rolled with the punches.  They went on the tours I arranged and seemed to enjoy every minute.  They weren’t concerned about the kids making a neighbor crazy (like at their house) and I wasn’t worried about picking up the next big mess.  The kids loved the new and improved Grandpa and Grandma.  While the kids knew that their Grandparents would be meeting us, they were still thrilled.  The look on their faces when two familiar faces appeared in a very unfamiliar place was amazing!

I won’t lie and say that there wasn’t a couple (okay, several) times before our trip that I wasn’t sure if I made the right decision.  I worried if my kids would be too much for my parents and my parents too much for me.  I seemed to forget that being away from the real world and in a vacation frame of mind changes everything…for the better!  Relaxed Grandparents, stress free parents, and rested kids makes for an amazing visit.  This time away with the Grandparents allowed for some of the most amazing memories.  My kids will always remember the special time they each had with each grandparent.  No distractions and no real worries, unless you call where to eat dinner a stress.

While I am fairly new at planning this multi-generational travel, I feel really good about the couple trips we have shared .  I think I can consider it successful if we can’t wait to plan the next one!  Here are a few decisions we made that I felt were a big part in making our trip so amazing…

We traveled separately and met at the destination.  Dragging a retired couple though the travel sagas of our family, on planes and in airports, would have been ugly .  The stress of that alone could have pushed even the most most doting grandparent over the deep end.  We even chose to spend few days alone before meeting up.  Great decision.  My kids were all relaxed, adjusted, and had some great adventure stories to share.

We made sure Grandma & Grandpa were set up with some of their own space.  We rented a house with an attached studio apartment in Costa Rica.  It worked perfect.  They could escape for some R & R and it gave our family a little space as well.  We didn’t invite them along to be built in childcare, we wanted them to have a great time too!

I planned a couple activities to let the kids see that the older generation is not all boring.  Kayaking, boogie boarding, and zip lining.  Watching Grandpa zip line through the jungle was a mind blowing experience for my “cooler- than-cool” preteen.

This experience was able to to create some great memories and let my kids see a very different side of their Grandparents.  As a whole, it was awesome and we would do it again in a heartbeat.  The memories that were created will last a lifetime.  Now to decide where to drag Grandma and Grandpa next year!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 28 other followers