Today is my husband’s birthday and for the past three years we have been taking a winter vacation to celebrate. Even though we live close to the beach, we travel 2 and a half hours to another beach. It’s not warm here, but it’s not home. It’s a week where we can spend time in a different atmosphere, and just have fun. We take this trip with our 12 closest friends. We are big board gamers, and we all bring our favorite games and play all weekend. As I was sitting here thinking about something travel related to write about, it got me thinking. Why do we predominately take our vacations during the summer? Why not divide the long winter season up by taking a much-deserved vacation? I have put together 5 reasons why you should start planning for a winter vacation.
The beach house that we are staying in is almost 6,000 sq. ft. It includes 10 bedrooms, 10 full bathrooms and 2 half baths, 2 kitchens, 2 living areas, 2 dining room areas, a theatre room, two recreation areas that include arcade games, air hockey, table tennis, and a basketball game. There is even a billiards room. In the winter you will only pay $2,495/week. Which is only $205 person/per week for our group of 12. In the summer you will pay $6,950/week. That’s a $4,455 increase.
Nice Break After Holiday Rush
After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, why not take some time to breath? While the holidays are a time of togetherness and love, it can also be a time of stress. We all need a break once in a while, what better time than shortly after?
This is one of my favorite reasons to travel during the winter time. I am an introvert and crowdedness can often overwhelm me. If you travel to a summer destination during the winter (i.e. the beach), rental neighborhoods can be a ghost town. We literally pulled up into the neighborhood last night and it was pitch black. Literally no one is here. The only downside to traveling to summer destinations in the winter is the fact that there are hardly any restaurants open. The grocery stores don’t offer everything that they normally would either (smaller selection in the meat section, etc.). It’s not a problem though if you are staying in a rental home. Simply bring your food with you if it’s a short drive, or plan according to what the grocery stores may offer during the month you will be traveling there.
When you live in a place that is extremely cold, you often stay indoors most of the time to stay warm. This can be frustrating. In my case, the trip that we are on is only 2 and a half hours away from my home, which is on the east coast. It is still cool here, but the vacation house is much larger, which provides a different atmosphere. The beach is only a walk down the street, so I bundle up and take the walk. Back home, the beach is 30 minutes away from where I live. I also have to find street parking and walk to it. With that being said, I’m less likely to visit the beach at home in the winter months, despite the fact that it is so close.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
“Did you know that seasonal affective disorder is estimated
to affect 10 million Americans? Another 10 percent to 20 percent may have mild
SAD. Research suggested that people with SAD also may produce less Vitamin D in
response to sunlight; vitamin D is believed to play a role in serotonin
activity. Insufficiency of vitamin D is associated with clinically significant
depression symptoms.” (Psychology Today) https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder
Psychology Today, they suggest planning pleasurable activities for the winter
season (as well as other examples). This would be the perfect time to get
excited about planning a winter vacation. Plan a trip to a warm destination and
soak up some of the sun to aid in natural vitamin D.
I hope I have provided you with a few ideas on why vacationing in the winter is an excellent idea. Let me know in the comments below if you and your family have done a winter getaway.
Vacation is a time of relaxation. Not worrying about cooking dinner, cleaning, or any other responsibilities that you would have while at home. If you are following a diet plan and trying to stay on track with your workout plan, traveling could stress one out a bit. It takes a little planning beforehand; but staying on track can be done, and I am going to share some tips with you.
If You Are Staying in a Rental Vacation Home
If you are staying in a rental property, you will have the amenities to cook all or some of your meals. Before leaving on vacation, simply create a menu and grocery list. On the day/night that you arrive at your destination, take a trip to the grocery store to get everything you need for the duration of your stay.
If You Are Staying in a Hotel
If you are staying at a hotel, see if there are refrigerators or microwaves available in the room. This option is best if you will be driving to your destination. We previously took a trip to Durham, North Carolina for a board game convention. The hotel that we stayed in provides microwaves, but you have to ask the front desk to bring one to your room. The night before we left for our trip, I went to the grocery store to pick up lunch meat, 647 bread by Schmidt, a bag of pre-cut veggies (for snacks), beef jerky, Sargento Balanced Break packs, and fiber one 70 calorie snack bars. When I got home I prepared a batch of chili and portioned it out in containers. Let’s get back to the 647 bread. I absolutely love bread, and there is no way I would cut it from my diet. This bread is amazing as it only has 40 calories, 6 grams of carbs, and provides 7 grams of fiber per slice!
As mentioned above, going on vacation is nice because you don’t have all of the responsibilities of being at home. We were on our trip with a bunch of friends, and knew that we would be going out to dinner with them in the evenings. With that being said, we used our pre-made food for our lunches during the week and of course snacks during the day.
Tips on Eating out
This is the part that stresses me out. It is often hard to tell what the food is cooked in, how much ingredients are added to the dish, and if it is portioned out the way that is described in their nutritional guide (if they provide one). Don’t be afraid to ask the waitress what dishes are cooked in, as well as any other information you would like to know about your selection. Try to avoid things that are labeled creamy, breaded, fried, crispy, crunchy, and even sautéed. Sautéed could indicate lots of butter or oil. Sticking with fresh veggies and meats with healthy spices is the way to go.
To ensure you are eating the serving size you are targeting, there are two good ways to take your measurements:
This is a great method if you didn’t bring along your measuring cups and spoons to the restaurant (which may be a little awkward and messy).
Another idea is to purchase a small travel size scale. I have this one from Amazon. https://amzn.to/39cKt89 Ask your waitress for an empty plate to place on the scale and zero it out. Next add your food and take note of the weight.
Many hotels, and even cruise ships offer workout rooms that provide a few machines and a rack of weights. Figure out what time of the day will work best for you and take advantage of what your hotel has to offer.
If you are staying in a rental home, you may not have access to gym equipment. That doesn’t mean that you can’t workout, it just means you will have to be a bit more creative. My husband and I do workouts from Beach Body. If you are not familiar with Beach Body on Demand, it’s like Netflix for workout programs (I do not sell Beach Body products). You can also find many workouts on YouTube. Our current favorite Beach Body program is Liift4, which is weight lifting and high intensity interval training 4 days a week. We also do yoga on rest days. We download all of our workouts on to our computer, so that we can still stay on track while we are away from home. If we are at a place that doesn’t provide weights, we just do cardio workouts. We even did all of our downloaded workouts while we were on a cruise!
If weights are a part of your workout regimen, there is another option available. You can actually find travel weights. Don’t worry, they aren’t heavy…well at least not until you fill them up. Once you are ready to use them, you fill them with water. It’s such a great idea! If you opt to try them out, please let me know what you think.
If you are going to a theme park or doing a lot of hiking, this may be enough exercise for you during your trip. You could even take advantage of the hotel pool and do laps. Don’t forget that if you don’t have access to a gym, or downloaded workout videos, bring your tennis shoes. Do a fast-paced jog or walk around the hotel facilities, or the neighborhood of your vacation rental home.
I hope my tips will help you during your fitness journey while on vacation. Let me know in the comments below if you have any other tips for staying fit while on vacation.
In May 2019, my husband and I celebrated our 20th Anniversary. We have always wanted to see Alaska, and that is where we decided to celebrate our special milestone. We toured Alaska by cruise, and the ship left out of Seattle. Click here to read about our Alaskan cruise. We have family that lives about an hour away from Seattle, so we spent a day/night with them. The next morning, we got up and headed our way to spend 1 day in Seattle.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Seattle without visiting the Space Needle. I don’t mind heights, but as a child I had a strong fear of elevators. I grew out of that fear, but I have to say that I was a bit nervous about going into an elevator that goes up that high up. It’s a long way down if something happened. I didn’t let that fear bother me though, and really enjoyed the view from the top. There were so many exciting things to see being that high above the city. Many of the apartment buildings had roof top terraces where you could lounge. They even had grassy areas for you to walk your dog. We also saw some amazing murals that were on the roof of the buildings.
One of the levels of the space needle had a rotating floor
with a glass bottom, which was very exciting. If you get motion sickness, you
may want to opt out. It’s not that it goes fast, it just might affect you with
the slow spin and seeing through the floor. At least that was why my husband
skipped that portion.
On the way out, you can explore the gift shop and even do a virtual reality experience that is included with your ticket. My son did it and I believe it was a bungee jump.
Museum of Pop Culture
Just a short walk away from the Space Needle is the Museum
of Pop Culture. There were so many amazing exhibits to view in a short period
of time. While we only did a few hours, I can see taking a long day at the
museum or even two days to really take it all in.
Some of our favorite exhibits were the Lord of the Rings, The Princess Bride, Mario Bros., Phantasm, Nirvana, the music room and the guitar sculpture. They always have a changing exhibit, and while we were there it was Queen (the band). The featured exhibit is not included in the general admission ticket. As much as we love Queen, we unfortunately didn’t have time to tour the exhibit.
The Public Market
Our feet were hurting dearly by this point and we were so tired, but only having one day in Seattle, we crammed it all in. The Public Market is somewhere that you really should visit at least once when you are in the area. It’s the famous market where they do the fish throwing. They don’t do it as frequently as they did in the past. We didn’t even see it, but we did see the fish market. There were so many other wonderful vendors in the market. We saw florists who did arrangements that were so beautiful. Other artisans included jewelry makers, artists, butchers, and varied food vendors. For lunch we ate at The Crab Pot where we had delicious Dungeness, King, and Snow crabs.
We are big fans of tacos and came across Tacos Chukis on Yelp, so we chose it for dinner. It did not disappoint. I have never been a fan of corn tortillas, but Tacos Chukis changed me. My tacos also had the most delicious avocado sauce on top, and I don’t usually like avocado anything. It’s a simple shop that only offers main dishes such as tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and Mexican sandwiches. They don’t offer sides such as rice, beans, or chips. It’s not a problem though as their servings are enough to fill you up.
We just walked out! We had heard about this market and were excited to see what it was all about. Amazon Go is a small shop that has pre-made meals, and other convenience items. You have to download the Amazon Go app and login before you begin shopping. Once you enter the store, you open up your app and begin shopping. Simply put what you want in your bag, and walk out when you are done. There is no need to stop at the check-out line. In fact, there is no check-out line in the store. I am not sure the technology behind it, but there is something in the store that knows what you put in your bag and charges it to your account.
As you can see, we crammed an extremely large amount of
stuff into a one-day period. We like to see it all and we were only there for
one day. We live on the east coast, so it is not a place that we visit
frequently. You could easily take my one-day plan to Seattle, Washington and
turn it into a 2-day itinerary.
If you have visited Seattle, Washington, what were some of your favorite places to visit that I may have left out? Let me know in the comments below.
Virginia Beach, Virginia is a coastal city in Southeast Virginia. It lies where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. It is an amazing place to visit in the summer where you can spend the day sun bathing on the beach. It does get cold in Virginia during the winter, but it’s pretty mild. January and February are the coldest months, but the city offers a wide array of activities to keep you busy all year long! Below you will see a list of my top 15 things to do in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
3 years ago, I surprised my husband with a trip to iFLY. If you have ever wanted to go skydiving, but want to try a safer version first, you have to schedule a visit. When you arrive, you are greeted by an instructor who teaches you how to communicate with them in the wind tunnel, as well as several motions/movements that will help you get the most out of your flight. Once you step into the wind tunnel, relax, and enjoy the ride. You even have the option to fly high in the tunnel. It is definitely worth it! iFLY has several locations around the U.S. as well as international locations. Children can be as young as 3 to fly. FYI…you will want to try the real deal after this experience. I’m hoping to for my 40th birthday in July! https://www.iflyworld.com/virginia-beach/
Ziplining is what Adventure Park is all about! The park spreads through about 6 acres of the tree canopy just north of the Marsh Pavilion. From the main platform, climbers have the choice between 16 different trails that are color-coded to indicate the degree of challenge they offer. Trails are marked just like ski-runs, with some suitable for novice, some for intermediate, and some for advanced climbers. These trails include more than 165 challenging crossing made of rope, cable, and wood. Among these crossing are more than 25 zip lines. The most challenging trails are up to 55 feet above the ground. Their longest zip line runs 315 feet and crosses Owl Creek. You will definitely get a good work out in after a day at the Adventure Park! https://virginiabeachadventurepark.com/
The mission the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is to inspire conservative of the marine environment through education, research, and sustainable practices. Some of the major exhibits include harbor seals, komodo dragons, tomistoma crocodiles, sharks, ray touch pool, and a Chesapeake Bay aquarium. In the winter you can go on whale watching tours; in the summer dolphin watching tours are available. They even have an Imax theatre for educational documentaries. https://www.virginiaaquarium.com/Pages/default.aspx
Ocean Breeze Waterpark
Ocean Breeze is Virginia Beach’s only waterpark. It offers 17 waterslides, a million-gallon Runaway Bay Wave Pool, the Buccaneer Bay Water Playground, a quarter-mile Adventure River, and other fantastic attractions. You can even rent sunbrella canopies as well as full-sized cabanas (this can and should be done online as they sell out fast). Be sure to buy your tickets and food voucher’s online to save money. Parking is also free at Ocean Breeze. https://www.oceanbreezewaterpark.com/ (All pictures are from the Ocean Breeze Waterpark website.)
ViBe Creative District
Nestled within the oceanfront area is Virginia Beach’s cultural arts enclave – The Vibe Creative District. “It is a hub for artists and spirits, roasters and restaurants, workouts and wares, museums and more, the ViBe is where creative businesses have set up shop to share their passion and inspire a sense of discovery in locals and visitors alike.” – ViBe Creative District https://vibecreativedistrict.org/ (All pictures are from the ViBe Creative District website.)
Old Beach Farmers Market
The Old Beach Farmers market is a fresh outdoor marketplace
in the heart of the resort area, just six blocks from the ocean and one block from
the Virginia Beach Convention Center, in the parking lot of Croc’s 19th
Street Bistro. They feature seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs,
seafood, cheeses, a wide assortment of baked goods, artisanal breads, savory
foods from local chefs, soap, and flowers. They are open the second Saturday of
every month. http://www.oldbeachfarmersmarket.com/
Virginia Beach Farmers Market
The Virginia Beach Farmers Market is open year-round and features a variety of agriculturally inspired shops and related businesses that offer seasonal, fresh vegetables and fruit in addition to many other products. Some of the shops include a butchers shop, seafood market, dairy and ice cream, florist, candy store, bakery, full-menu restaurant, home, garden and specialty stores, offer a unique and varied shopping experience. The Market is located at 3640 Dam Neck Rd. https://www.vbgov.com/government/departments/agriculture/farmers-market/Pages/default.aspx
Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
“The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art is a non-profit institution which exists to foster awareness, exploration, and understanding of the significant art of our time.” (MOCA) Their regularly changing exhibitions feature painting, sculpture, photography, glass, video and other visual media from internationally acclaimed artists as well as artists of national and regional renown. https://virginiamoca.org/
Cape Henry Lighthouse
Cape Henry Lighthouse is the first federally funded public works project of the newly formed United States government. It was authorized by George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamilton. The Lighthouse is situated near the “First Landing” site where English settlers first set foot on their way to settle in Jamestown. Built with the same Aquia sandstone as much of Washington, D.C, the lighthouse guided sea travelers to safety for almost 100 years. The distinctive black and white striped “New” Cape Henry Lighthouse was built in 1881 but remains closed to the public. During your visit you can enter the lighthouse and climb to the top. https://preservationvirginia.org/historic-sites/cape-henry-lighthouse/ Please check the website before visiting as it is currently under renovations (January 2020).
Spend the Day at the Beach
The Guinness Book of World Records has awarded Virginia Beach
the title of “Longest Pleasure Beach.” Virginia Beach offers 35 miles of coastline
waiting to be explored. Be sure to check out the King Neptune Statue on 31st
St. The bronze statue was sculpted by Paul DiPasquale.
There is also a 15,000 square foot beach park that features wheelchair-accessible entrances and an incredible playground that includes poured-in-place surfacing, raised sand tables for sandcastle building at an accessible height, a sensory board for children who are autistic and visually impaired, and a sway boat. https://www.vbgov.com/government/departments/parks-recreation/parks-trails/city-parks/Pages/grommet-island.aspx
Kayaking at the Beach
While visiting the beach, be sure to book a kayak trip with one of the local rental shops in the area (link provided below). Many of these shops will take you on dolphin tours where you may come eye to eye with these magnificent creatures. We did a tour a few years back and was instantly hooked. We now own kayaks and frequently take them to the beach. http://www.vbsurfsessions.com/VB_Surf_Sessions___Kayak.html
World-renowned Mount Trashmore Park encompasses 165 acres and is comprised of two man-made mountains, two lakes, two playgrounds, a skate park and vert ramp, and multi-use paths. The main mountain, Mount Trashmore, now 60 feet in height and 800 feet long, was created by compacting layers of solid waste and clean soil. Recognized for its environmental feat, this former landfill features a water-wise garden that boasts xeriscaping which requires minimal water. The park also features a smaller mountain, Encore Hill, and two lakes. Lake Windsor (located along South Blvd.) is brackish water fed by Thalia Creek. Lake Trashmore (located along Edwin Drive) is freshwater and hosts various species of fish. Fishing is permitted from land only and requires a Virginia freshwater fishing license. Anglers must adhere to all State regulations regarding creel and size limits. No boats, swimming or wading is allowed in the lakes. Kayaks are permitted at Lake Windsor. https://www.visitvirginiabeach.com/listing/mount-trashmore-park/44/
The Town center area is Virginia Beach’s slice of city life. Visit many popular shops and restaurants and enjoy live entertainment in front of Bravo’s. In the summer, take advantage of YNOT Wednesday free summer concert series. https://www.sandlercenter.org/events/free-events
COMING SOON 2020! The Wave VB and Wavegarden Cove
The image below is a conceptual rendering of The Wave Virginia Beach surf venue being developed by the Venture Realty Group and supported by Pharrell Williams. The plan proposes a 2-acre Wavegarden cove that provides up to 1000 waves per hour, right and left waves, multiple surfers at the same time, great for pro surfers and beginners, and open year-round! There will be an area for live entertainment, as well as 150,000 square feet of dining and retail space. https://www.surfparkcentral.com/the-wave-vb/
These are my top 15 things to do in Virginia Beach, but I am sure that I left out a few other places. If you have visited Virginia Beach, what were your favorite things to do? What on my list sounds interesting to you? Let me know in the comments below.
When my husband invited me on his business trip to Salt Lake City, Utah I was quite excited. We visited St. George, Utah the year before and loved all of the hiking offered in the national and state parks. ST. GEORGE, UTAH LINK HERE Salt Lake City is at the opposite end of the state, and we were eager to see what new trails we could explore. It definitely did not disappoint. This 5-day itinerary to Salt Lake City, Utah will interest anyone who loves to take in all of the beauty of the great outdoors.
Day 1: Tracy Aviary & Botanical Garden in Liberty Park
Tracy Aviary is the largest and oldest of only two-free standing aviaries in the nation with 19 different exhibits. It’s a beautiful place to spend the day. The snow owl and the toucan were my favorites to admire. The aviary is located in Liberty Park. If you have time to visit the park beforehand or after, I highly recommend it.
Day 2: Hiking Bells Canyon Trail
We did this trip in August and the trees were already turning beautiful shades of fall. Our hike on the Bells Canyon Trail took us about 4 hours. We took many stops to take in the beauty of the scenery. We also took time to explore the waterfall. To get to the waterfall you have to go down a steep area. This made me come to a complete stop. It isn’t a straight down area, but I began questioning the danger I would be in if I slipped. With that being said, I sat on a rock to think about things for a few minutes. I LOVE waterfalls, and the hike to the fall was about 2 hours. I could hear the fall from where I was sitting and could see a tiny bit of it. I began to give myself a pep talk that I didn’t go that far to see a sliver of it. So, I grabbed onto my courage, got up, and walked straight to it. It was all worth it!
Day 3: Hiking Small Cottonwood Canyon
Small Cottonwood Canyon was such a fun trail to hike. As we ascended up the mountain we came upon a lake on top. It was absolutely stunning and I could have stayed there all day in the silence. It was an amazing place to relax and meditate. Coming from the east coast I was on the lookout for some big animals, particularly moose. My husband’s coworker had mentioned seeing a lot of moose on this trail in the past. I unfortunately didn’t see any on this hike or the Bells Canyon trail we took the day before. Perhaps if we take a trip in the future we will get lucky.
Day 4: Hiking Lake Mary at Brighton Ski Resort
We got an early start in the morning for this hike and it was surprisingly cold for August. On our drive to the trail we saw a moose! I was so excited and hoped it was a sign that we would see some on our hike. As we began the ascend up the mountain. We learned the air was much thinner than we were used to, and we were out of breath quite fast. I had done some research on what animals we could see on this hike and have to admit that I was a bit nervous about stumbling upon a bear. I felt eerie for most of the time, despite never seeing one. I know it was all in my head. I also know that they were there, but want nothing to do with us. We did however see several chipmunks, ground hogs, and a squirrel that kept throwing things at us from the tree.
Day 5 Antelope Island
Antelope Island State Park is about an hour away from Salt Lake City, Utah. The park is home to several herds of bison, and it was quite amazing to see these gorgeous creatures roaming about. They look so gentle and calm, but don’t let that fool you. They are large and can charge you if they so choose.
Island, with an area of 42 square miles, is the largest of ten islands located
within the Great Salt Lake, Utah, United States. The island lies in the
southeastern portion of the lake, near Salt Lake City and Davis County, and
becomes a peninsula when the lake is at extremely low levels. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antelope_Island
Antelope Island has an array of wildlife and is famous for its large bison population, the Antelope Island bison herd. Though the island was named for the pronghorn antelope that John C. Frémont and Kit Carson discovered there when they explored the Great Salt Lake, bison (American buffalo) were later introduced. All of the bison on Antelope Island are plains bison. The Antelope Island bison herd got its start when, “Twelve bison, 4 bulls (males), 4 cows (females) and 4 calves were taken by boat to the island on February 15, 1893 by William Glassman and John Dooly. These twelve animals provided the foundation for what has grown into one of the largest and oldest publicly owned bison herds in the nation.” The herd of bison increased quickly in numbers and by the early 20th century, several hundred of them were present on the island. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antelope_Island
In 5 days my husband and I were only able to explore a small amount of the hiking that is available in the Salt Lake City, Utah area. We hope to go back again some time in the future to explore even more.
Let me know in the comments below if you have ever hiked in the area. What were some of your favorite trails? Also, be sure to let me know if you spotted moose along the way.
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As a travel blogger, it is apparent that I love traveling. What many of you might not know (if you didn’t read my article on packing cubes), is that I despise living out of my suitcase. I love adding items that provide organization to make it easier for you to unpack. I also appreciate components that are compact to make you feel as though you have everything from home, but without the extra baggage. If there is a woman in your life that you know feels the same way, you will surely find something off of my list of “10 gifts under $20 for the woman who travels” that will make her very happy.
I absolutely love this toiletry bag! There is plenty of room for your makeup, hair products, and other personal hygiene essentials. The added bonus is that you can hang it up in the bathroom, and never have to unpack/store a thing on the vanity.
I love costume jewelry, but have often avoided traveling with it in fear of my pieces getting damaged (until I purchased one of these). This travel storage jewelry bag provides plenty of space to store your bracelets and earrings. What I love best about this bag is the necklace storage area. You never have to worry about them getting knotted or twisted while traveling.
Like many of us, I travel with quite a few pieces of technology. I have my phone, Apple Watch for working out, and my headphones as I love listening to music. I also carry around a portable phone charger to make sure that I always have enough battery to snap lots of pictures. This electronic storage bag provides an area to keep all of your wires in place to avoid all of the untangling later.
This travel adapter is amazing for the world traveling woman in your life. The Dandelion travel adapter provides different travel shapes for anywhere you travel. It covers more than 150 countries around the world!
Packing cubes make me smile! So much that I did a write up on them about their practicality (The Best Suitcase Organizer (Ever). They eliminate the dreaded, “living out of your suitcase”, or the need to unpack each and every item. Store all of your clothing into the different cubes, and then unpack them into your dresser at your destination. If I had to recommend my most favorite item on this list, this would definitely be it!
This infinity scarf is genius! Not only will it keep you warm, but it provides a safe place to store your valuable items. It is also great for when you are out jogging in pants that don’t have pockets.
While I am at home I always have a water bottle within arms reach. The one thing that I usually forget to pack in my suitcase is you guessed it…my water bottle. One of the main reasons is for lack of space in my luggage. This collapsible water bottle solves that issue.
Most travelers choose standard luggage in the black, blue or gray variety. This issue causes all of the luggage to look the same. My husband usually ties a bright shoestring to our suitcase, but I wanted something a little more stylish. That is why I created these personalized luggage tags. They are now available in my Etsy store, with free shipping in the U.S.
Selfies serve their purpose and I have nothing against them. I do however, appreciate a full length body shot of my family or myself at the beautiful destination we have traveled to. This selfie stick tripod makes it easy to capture those moments, and even has a remote to snap the picture when you are ready.
This passport holder would be great for anyone. My son actually used something similar while he was studying abroad. It is easier for someone to pick your pocket than it is for them to grab something off of your neck. This holder also offers RFID blocking.
There are many other items that I could have added to the list, but I wanted to keep it brief. Have you used any of these items or did I leave off one of your favorites? Let me know in the comments below.
We absolutely love everything about the west coast. The mountains, the desert, you name it. While my children have never been a huge fan of the outdoors, my husband and I crave it. The one thing that we all agreed on, in regards to an outdoor vacation, was that we wanted to take a trip to the Grand Canyon. The Southern Rim is the most popular, which means that rental properties close by are going to be expensive. With that being said, we opted to explore the North Rim, where it is less crowded and a bit cheaper in regards to lodging. We also wanted to do some hiking in St. George, Utah, so we decided on a combined 5-day trip that included Las Vegas, Utah and the Grand Canyon.
Las Vegas, Nevada (Evening Preview)
We flew in to Las Vegas around 3:00pm via plane and immediately picked up our rental car. From there we took our boys to dinner at Secret Pizza. If you’ve never been, you must give it a try. The restaurant is hidden (hence the secret), on the 3rd floor of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. You will not see a sign for the restaurant and will have to look out for a hallway leading to it. There is limited seating in the actual restaurant, but there are plenty of places to sit in the hotel lobby.
After dinner we took a walk to see the 9:00pm show of The
Fountains of Bellagio.
St. George, Utah is almost 2 hours away, so we left shortly after seeing the fountains. The drive was breathtaking with all of the mountains so close to the road. We are from the east coast and see lots of flat land, so mountains are always a sight to see.
This is the condo that we rented and it was perfect. It had everything we needed to cook with in the kitchen, and even had a community pool for relaxing in the evening. This condo has 2 bedrooms and a sleeper sofa.
Sand Hollow State Park
There is lots to do at this park from ATV riding in the sand dunes to jet skiing in the man-made reservoir. It’s about a 30 minute drive from St. George, UT. We spent our morning on the jet skis and had a blast. It was a hot day in Utah (as it is in June), so this was refreshing. Just be sure to use sunscreen or you will burn. Here is the link to check out the prices on their rentals. https://thebeachatsandhollow.com/rental-pricing/
Cinder Cone Volcano
If you don’t spend all day at the reservoir and want to explore a bit more, I recommend a short hike on the cinder cone volcano in Snow Canyon State Park. It was about 20 minutes from our condo in St. George, UT. “Cinder cones are the simplest type of volcano. They are built from particles and blobs of congealed lava ejected from a single vent. As the gas-charged lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as cinders around the vent to form a circular or oval cone. Most cinder cones have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit and rarely rise more than a thousand feet or so above their surroundings. Cinder cones are numerous in western North America as well as throughout other volcanic terrains of the world.” https://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/volc/types.html
On our walk to the cinder cone (before ascending up), we had a moment of uncertainty. You have to go through this chain latched gate to get there. It felt like we were about to enter Jurassic Park. There were no lists of these “dangerous animals”. We scouted the area before going through and didn’t see a thing. We think that the property owners are just protecting theirselves legally incase of injury due to snake bites, etc. If anyone knows what kind of animals we needed to look out for, I would still love to know.
North Rim, Grand Canyon, AZ
Get up early and drive to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Without stops, this is about a 3-3 ½ hour drive from St. George, UT. While the North Rim only has three sights (Cape Royal, Point Imperial, Angel Point), it is still absolutely breathtaking. There is a $30 fee to get in to the canyon park. Please visit the Grand Canyon website for their schedule as they close in the winter months because of snow. https://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/north-rim.htm
Mt. Zion National Park
Mt. Zion National Park was
about an hour to an hour and a half away from our condo in St. George. We found
many trails for hikers of all skill levels. We did the easy trails as our son
was with us, but there were some amazing trails for the advanced hiker. Be sure
to get to the park early as it gets very hot in Springdale, UT. We went in June
and the temperature was already up to 92 degrees by 11am. It got to 100 degrees
by 2pm. Make sure to bring your water and take sips throughout the day to avoid
getting sick. The cost to enter this park is $45.00 as of December 2019.
Las Vegas, NV
We left St. George, UT around 11am and arrived back in Las Vegas around 12pm. We had a delicious lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Burgr. After lunch we visited the Gold & Silver Pawn shop, the location of the Pawn Stars show. We were hoping (but not expecting) to see some of the people from the show, but unfortunately, they weren’t there. It was neat to see though. After that we did more exploring on the strip.
Have you ever been to any of these destinations? What were your favorite things to do there? Let me know in the comment section below.
During my oldest son’s last year of middle school, we started planning on which high school he wanted to attend. He didn’t go to private school, but there were several academies available (11 in total). Learning new languages and studying different cultures in the world was something that he was passionate about. With that being said, he decided on the Global Studies and World Languages Academy, and was accepted into their program.
A week before he began his Freshman year of high school there was an information session on the academy’s expectations. At the end of the session, a current senior got up and spoke about his experience with the school, and how he participated in a foreign exchange program. At that moment, I remember internally freaking. I was thinking that there was absolutely no way that I was going to send my almost 15-year-old off to another country to live temporarily with a family that I didn’t know. It just wasn’t going to happen.
A few months later our son came home from school explaining to his father and I that there were scholarships available for a summer exchange program in Japan. He was taking Japanese in school, and a coordinator from Youth For Understanding came in to talk to them about it. We wanted our children to experience the world, so I didn’t want to hold him back. We told him to go ahead and complete the application process, and I did some research to ease my mind.
I believe it was around April when I found a packet in the
mail addressed to my son from Youth For Understanding. I was so nervous (but in
a good way) about whether or not he earned the scholarship. I couldn’t wait to
pick him up from school to hand him the envelope. It was the news he had been
waiting for, he got accepted and was going to stay with a family in Japan for 6
weeks! My husband and I were so proud and excited for him!
I wanted to write this post to help ease other parent’s minds about giving their child an experience of a lifetime. Here are the reasons that I recommend allowing your child to study abroad for either a summer or year:
Learn Cultural Differences
They get to experience the values, beliefs, and lifestyle of a family from another culture. It gives them an open mind to learn that “their way” isn’t the “only way” in life, and that it doesn’t make it wrong or right. Their experience allows them to educate their peers on the acceptance of cultural differences.
Experience New Foods
They get to experience all of the different foods from another country. Being from America, our son couldn’t get over how small the serving sizes were in Japan, or I suppose how big the serving sizes are in our country. He absolutely loved the cuisine in Japan and missed a lot of it when he returned home.
It gives them a chance to be independent. I want to address that while I was nervous about sending my child to stay with people I didn’t know, it had nothing to do with him exploring another country. His father and I were more nervous about him losing his check card, passport, or other important documents. He was barely 15 when he left for his exchange program. Guess what? He didn’t lose a thing and he came back a more independent young man because of his experience.
Establish New Relationships
They get to meet amazing people that embrace them as part of the family. We are extremely grateful that our son’s host family wanted to share all that they could with him during his 6-week visit. Not just about their family, but about the beauty of their country as well. The sole purpose of an exchange program is to be a part of a family to learn about and understand their culture. Host families are not required (or supposed) to treat your child like they are on vacation. We truly appreciated all that his host family did for him out of the kindness of their heart.
The relationship that they develop with their host family can last throughout their life. Several years after our son graduated from high school, his host family contacted him and wanted him to join them on a trip to New York. He was extremely excited, and enjoyed showing them around and helping them translate English.
Explore a New School
He also got the chance to attend school in Japan. By doing so he was able to learn about the different teaching styles compared to his home country. He also got to interact with many students close to his age.
A Once in a Life Time Experience
It’s a once in a lifetime experience. As adults we always have the opportunity to travel around the world; but not in a way where you get to be a part of a family, and truly embrace the culture with the people that live there.
Promotes Cultural Curiosity
It opens their eyes to wanting to explore more of the world. The year after he returned from Japan he applied for another scholarship with a different exchange program, and was awarded a 2-week trip to South Korea, which he visited during the summer of his Sophomore year of high school. During his Senior year of his undergrad studies, he completed a semester in Spain and also visited many places along the way (London, Morocco, Iceland). While my husband and I have not been to Japan, Korea, or Spain (and we are a little jealous), he has taught us a lot about his experiences. His influences even caused us to share our culture with others as well, and we have hosted students from Japan and Denmark.
Giving our son the opportunity to explore other cultures has been one of the best decisions that we have made. We don’t have any regrets whatsoever, and we highly recommend using Youth For Understanding to find a foreign exchange program that interests your child. If you are considering sending your child on a foreign exchange program and have any questions, please post them in the comments below.
This is a must-read post if you are searching for a place to stay in the Outer Banks. When choosing a place to stay, I have a few requirements: cleanliness, décor, and closeness to attractions. The location that I am about to share with you covers just that and then some. I have used many of the descriptions from the rental homes web page, so that I can keep the description as accurate as possible. You can view this page at https://seasaltcottageobx.com/
Sea Salt cottage is located at the 16.5 milepost on
the beach road in Nags Head, North Carolina. The location is magically situated
directly across from the beach and just a block or so from the Sound to the
west. You can literally walk to the beach!
This home has 3 bedrooms and 2 baths (it sleeps up to 8 people). The large master bedroom and full bath is furnished with a plush, comfortable king bed and is tucked away on the first floor of the home. There is also a sitting area in the master bedroom for beach reading or watching TV.
Two other bedrooms invite guests to relax and get their summer on! The queen-bed bedroom is a boho-chic inspired mid-century modern beachy oasis. The third bedroom is a bright, fun bunkroom that provides maximum sleeping flexibility for up to 4 people with custom-built in beds – one a built-in full-sized and the other a built-in bunkbed. It’s designed for kids AND adults to enjoy. A second full bath and a laundry closet with full sized high-efficiency washer/dryer complete the second floor. All bedrooms are equipped with flat screen TVs, digital cable and DVD players. You’ll be fully connected throughout the home with high-speed WIFI.
The third floor
of Sea Salt Cottage provides plenty of seating and a large flat screen TV. The
deck off the living area is a great place to sit in the evenings and take in
the stunning sunset over the sound. The kitchen is fully stocked and includes
stainless steel appliances and a full size dishwasher. There’s a Keurig and
traditional coffeemaker for the coffee lovers! The dining area offers table
seating and bar stools for more casual meals.
One thing that this beach rental offers that many don’t is a spacious back yard with your own private pool! The owners truly make sure that you are covered with everything you need for the outdoors: beach chairs, beach cart, boogie boards, grill, cornhole boards, and a giant Jenga game! Did I mention that you can WALK to the beach?
As mentioned above, I love a rental home that is within
close proximity to restaurants and attractions. The following places are within
walking distance: The beach, Jockey’s Ridge (7 minutes), Oregan Inlet Fishing
Center (15 minutes), Manteo (5 minutes), Cahoon’s Supermarket, 7/11, Sam &
Omie’s Restaurant, Owen’s Restaurant, Super Wings for souvenirs, Tangier
Outlets, and much more!
The owners of Sea Salt Cottage have really thought of everything when it comes to providing a comfortable stay for their guests. Upon arrival you will receive a welcome bag with many complimentary goodies such as trashbags, detergent, dish scrubbies, a couple rolls of toilet paper and many other items you may have forgotten to bring to get you through your stay.
My Final Thought
Sea Salt Cottage is definitely where I would love to stay
each and every time I visit Nags Head, NC. It is extremely clean, can provide a
place for me and 7 other friends/family to vacation, the décor is like no
other, you can walk to many locations, and the owners truly care about their
Let me know in the comments below if you have ever been to Nags Head, NC. What do you love most about the Outer Banks? Is there a particular activity that your family likes to do or a favorite restaurant that you like to dine at?
There are two types of individuals when it comes to laundry.
The individual who washes, dries, places in basket and then leaves in basket.
The other type MUST fold and put everything away immediately. I am an
open-minded person, and feel there is no right or wrong way to go about it. I
personally subscribe to folding everything straight out of the dryer, and
putting all of my garments in their respective places.
With that being said, one thing that bothers me about
traveling is having to dig through suitcases. It is alright if it is just a
weekend, but any longer than that, I cringe at the idea of it. Everything in my
house isn’t extremely configured (I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about
me), but there are a few things that are a necessity…suitcase organization is
one of them.
Last year my husband introduced me to packing cubes. We
bought a few and tried them out, and it was a game changer for traveling. It is
like having drawers in your suitcase and makes it so easy to find what you are
looking for. My favorite part about it is the fact that you can pull the cubes
out of your suitcase and place them in drawers at your hotel or vacation rental
This brand is by ebags and comes in an array of colors: aquamarine, black, blue dots, canary, eggplant, geometric, grasshopper, leopard, peony, and tangerine. These packing cubes are made of nylon and have breathable mesh on the top. Your purchase includes one small, medium, and large packing cube starting at $29.99 on Amazon. https://amzn.to/3012plQ
When our family went on our last vacation, we were away for almost two weeks. We didn’t have quite enough cubes, so we decided to try out a set by Amazon basics. These cubes are comparable as they are also made of nylon, and have breathable mesh as well. The Amazon Basics cubes come in a set of 4 in the following colors: black, blue, green, grey, sky blue, and red. You can find these cubes starting at $20.00 on Amazon. https://amzn.to/31qNKgx
Both brands hold up equally well. They are both made of the same materials, and the only difference is where the mesh is placed on the packing cube. Ebags offer more variety in colors, but Amazon packing cubes are more economical. I can honestly say that I don’t prefer one over the other, as both packing cube brands are equal in regards to quality. It all boils down to cost over option of colors.
Have you tried either brand of the packing cubes? Do you have a preference? What do you think of this method of suitcase organization? Let me know if you have in the comments.