The Best Gift For People Who Love To Travel

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Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

One of my favorite things to do is travel. I love going new places with my family and spending quality time with them away from all of the household chores and to-do’s. Though our trips are limited to a few days or a week, I like to keep the memories alive by incorporating bits of my travels in my home. I shared before about some of the travel collections I have, including mugs and magnets, but one thing I always wanted was a giant map to hang and mark our travels on.

I finally found an amazing travel map at 76th & Newbury, an online shop that specializes in custom designs for the home. I love that their maps are made of high quality canvas and can be completely customized. Not only can they be personalized with names, but you can pick the colors of the canvas and the text and choose a quote that’s meaningful to you. Each custom design comes with a proof so you can see what it will look like and request edits if needed. I decided I didn’t like the color combo I had originally requested and asked for an image that was on it to be removed and both requests were done without problem. They want you to LOVE your custom creation!

There are a number of travel quotes I love but in the end I decided to put this one on our map:

I chose to get one of their world maps that I could put pushpins in to mark our travels but they also have some you can put pictures on. I think this is such a cute idea:

Know any newlyweds? How adorable is this personalized map for couples:

76th & Newbury has so many wonderful gift ideas! Do you know someone who would love one of their travel maps this Christmas?

Our Favorite Restaurants In Wisconsin Dells

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One of our favorite places to go on long weekends is Wisconsin Dells. During the summer it’s nice to be outside by the lake and playing in the outdoor water parks and during the colder months we can stay inside and splash around at all the indoor water parks. One thing we also enjoy doing is trying out new restaurants in the Dells so I wanted to share some of our favorite places to eat at when we are in Wisconsin Dells.

Ravina Bay

We discovered Ravina Bay on our last trip to the Dells when I was on the hunt for a waterfront restaurant that had a patio. Situated right on Lake Delton, it’s across the water from where the Tommy Bartlett show is performed. If you are dining during the season you can even catch the performers practicing which was pretty cool. As far as food is concerned, we all enjoyed our meals. I enjoyed the Deviled Egg on Crostini appetizer. I still think about this food- it was that good :)

Kaminski’s Chop House

Though on the pricier side, we loved Kaminski’s when we went a couple years ago. If you are looking for a nice place to celebrate a special occasion or just enjoy a great steak or seafood dinner out with friends and family this is the perfect spot to go. You’ll want to make a reservation beforehand as this is a popular place.

MACS Macaroni and Cheese Shop

Located right near Kalahari resort, Lucas was delighted to see a restaurant named after one of his favorite foods. Macs has a menu that is full of cheesy goodness and is sure to be a hit with the whole family. The boys stuck with regular mac & cheese while Sinisa got the Buffalo Chicken Melt and I tried the Memphis Mac & Cheese. Everything was amazing and, though the portions looked small to the eye, they more than filled up our bellies with food leftover.

Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty

Paul Bunyan’s is a restaurant that I’ve been visiting for years and I still enjoy going at least once a year for their large lumberjack breakfasts. Their sugar doughnuts alone are worth the trip. I also love the atmosphere of the restaurant, from the family style dining to the log cabin feel.

Belgiis Waffle Bar

Another breakfast spot I liked was Belgiis Waffle Bar. These are not your typical waffles, but instead are more dough like waffle sandwiches. Though we enjoyed breakfast here, they also have a number of sweeter waffle sandwiches that would be perfect for a sweet afternoon or dessert treat. I had the Maple Bacon Egg Sandwich which was delicious. Do you have any Wisconsin Dells restaurants you’d recommend? Leave a comment below and let me know! We are always looking for new places to try.

How We Fill Our Home With Travel Memories

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Do you love to travel? So do I! Traveling is one of my favorite things to do- whether I’m exploring a new place or visiting somewhere I’ve been a dozen times. I thought it would be fun to share about ways our family remembers our special vacations by filling our home with travel memories.

The first way is pretty obvious and that is with photos of our travels. I have four square collage frames and a half dozen smaller frames I use to display our photos. I set the picture frames on a cube shelf unit and hang the collage frames on the wall above it. Seeing my family’s smiles and photos of where we have journeyed to makes me extremely happy.

Another way I fill our home with travel memories is with three collections I have. I hang Starbucks “You Are Here” mugs above my coffee cart from places that have mugs for their state (This is a plee to Starbucks- please make a mug for every state! I seek out my Iced Caramel Machiatto wherever I am and am bummed when I go to states that don’t have mugs made for them. #FirstWorldProblems). A second item I collect on my travels is fun magnets to stick on our mini-fridge. I often find these at tourist stores or gas stations. A year or so ago I also started collecting Christmas ornaments for our tree at the holidays.

I also try to bring something home from every place I go- whether it’s my airplane ticket, sand from the beach, or a napkin from the resort’s restaurant. My memory is horrible since having kids but I have found that physical things jog my memory so it’s nice to have them. I plan to make a travel scrapbook in the near future.

The other thing I recently started with my boys is a map of their travels. I bought a cork board map and little push pins and every time we return from a family trip they add a pin to their map. Right now it’s looking a little empty on the West Coast but I hope a trip to California sometime in the next couple years will give them their first pin there :)

How do you remember your travels and fill your home with travel memories? I’d love for you to leave a comment below and let me know.

 

10 Things For Families To Do In Dubuque, Iowa

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Thanks to Dubuque CVB for hosting me in their town.

I have shared about where to stay and where to eat in Dubuque, Iowa and now I’m sharing about what there is for families to do in Dubuque.

1. Splash around in the indoor water park at Grand Harbor Resort & Waterpark. Whether your little ones like the splash pad area, the water slides, or the big bucket that dumps water on them, they’ll have a great time at this waterpark.

2. Steer a boat at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. Kids will enjoy pretending to be a boat captain as they steer their boat around a little pool.

3. Take a ride on the Fenelon Place Elevator. Get a bird’s eye view of downtown Dubuque and the Mississippi River from the top of the hill and enjoy the ride as you go up and down on the world’s shortest, steepest elevator ride.

4. Visit the Dinosaur exhibit, Dinosaurs Unearthed, at National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium (now through 10/10/16). Dinosaur loving kids will get a kick out of seeing life-sized animatronic dinosaurs, along with fossil and skeleton specimens.

5. Have lunch by the water and watch boats go by. There are a number of restaurants that are near the water but my favorite was The Yardarm.

6. Families with children 10 years and older can go ziplining at Sky Tours Zip Line. Experience all 9 ziplines on a 2-hour guided tour of historic Union Park. Learn all about it in this video from Angie’s Lens.

7. Take a tour of the William M. Black, an old Mississippi River dredging boat. Explore where the crew worked, slept, ate and lived and imagine with your children what life must have been like for that crew. This boat is part of The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium and is located outside nearby. The tour admission is included in your ticket price.

8. Walk around downtown Dubuque, where there are a number of stores, and the Port area which features a riverwalk. It’s the perfect way to spend a sunny, warm day.

9. Visit The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. Look at the animals, get up close to animals in the “touch tank”, learn about the river and more!

10. Not in the city, but nearby, baseball fans and movie buffs will love visiting the baseball field where the movie Field of Dreams was filmed. Families can even play baseball on the field!

Have anything to add? If so, I’d love to hear about what you enjoy doing in Dubuque so I can add it to my list of things to do next time I’m in town.

Best Places To Eat In Springfield, Missouri

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My family had a great time visiting Springfield, Missouri last month. I’ve shared about where we stayed and the best things to do with your kids while you are there and today I wanted to share about the places to eat at. Below are six of our favorites that we went to while we were there.

Best Places For Lunch

Big Momma’s Coffee & Espresso Bar – We had lunch here one day and the food was delicious. Though a coffee shop, I thought they had an impressive menu for lunch. My mom chose to get a salad and slice of quiche while I enjoyed a sandwich with chips and an iced coffee drink.

Incredible Pizza Company - Incredible Pizza Company is a buffet restaurant located inside their large entertainment building. There is pizza (obviously) but also a great salad bar, other sides and entrees, and a variety of desserts. The kids both love buffets so they were in heaven and for the price I thought it was well worth it. With one of their packages, for $26.99, you got a $25 game card and an all you can eat buffet which basically makes the buffet only $1.99/person.

Best Places For Dinner

Andy B’s – We enjoyed eating dinner while we bowled at Andy B’s. They had a special deal where if you purchased an item off a special menu you would receive a $10 game card. If you are planning to play games in the arcade anyways it is worth it to take this deal.

Image from Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub

Jimm’s Steakhouse & Pub - This was by far the best meal I had while in Springfield. Not only was it delicious but it was very affordable considering I had steak and my mom had prime rib. We went during their early evening dinner which is offered Sunday 11-3 and Monday through Friday 3-6pm. Our meals came with a side, salad bar, warm honey wheat bread, dessert and a drink for only about $16. The kid’s meals, priced at $5.49 to $7.19, came with the salad bar, a drink and an ice cream sundae.

Best Places For A Snack Or Treat

Urban Cup – We stopped here for gourmet cupcakes and coffee. The shop was adorable and there were a variety of cupcakes to choose from. Lucas chose carrot cake and Jacob chose a chocolate one.

Pinneapple Whip – On a hot day there is nothing better than a cold treat. I noticed this trailer as I was driving and had to pull over to try it and I’m glad I did because their pineapple whips are delicious!

Do you have any favorite places to eat in Springfield? I’d love to know so I can add them to my list of places to check out on my next visit.

Best Places To Eat In Dubuque, Iowa

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I love finding unique places to eat while I travel, whether it’s a mom & pop restaurant or a place with a great view. Recently I was in Dubuque, Iowa and I wanted to share five places I enjoyed eating at and would recommend for visitors to try. Some of these restaurants offered us a free meal which I really appreciate.

Breakfast

 

Sunshine CafeWe ate at Sunshine Cafe our first morning in town and I thought it was an all around great place to eat. I was in the mood for french toast and bacon so that’s what I had. The food was good, the prices were cheap and the service was fast.

Lunch

Dubuque Marina & YardarmI was looking for a restaurant that offered outdoor dining by the water and came across this one. It had just reopened and had all new decor. I loved sitting by the river and the surf vibe the restaurant had. The food and drinks were good as well. I ordered a wrap which came with homemade chips.

Cremer’sWe were told this is a must try when visiting Dubuque. Cremer’s Turkey ‘N Dressing sandwiches are basically Thanksgiving in your mouth, with a mixture of stuffing and turkey on a bun. If you are looking for a quick lunch, this would be it. Located inside a small family owned grocery store (known for their butcher department), this specialty is sold in to-go containers found in refrigerated cases. They give directions for reheating it in the microwave and then it’s ready to eat. I wasn’t sure how I would like these sandwiches because I tend to be really picky about sandwiches but it was delicious and reminiscent of my leftover turkey sandwiches I enjoy around the holidays.

Dinner

Tony Roma’s- Located in our hotel, Tony Roma’s was the easy choice for dinner our first evening in town. They have a large dining room but also a patio so you can eat outside. There was a good variety of items to choose from on the menu and I wasn’t that hungry so I just got sweet potato fries (that had maple syrup on them) and a side Caesar salad. I had never had maple syrup on my sweet potato fries before but it was a unique flavor I enjoyed. The flatbread that one of the bloggers I was dining with looked delicious as well!

River Rock Kitchen & Tap - So. Much. Food. You’ll want to make sure your stomach has plenty of room in it when you eat here! Our table ordered a bunch of things to share because everything on the menu looked so good.

We tried the crab cakes and guacomole for appetizers. The guacamole is made fresh tableside and customized so you can let them know if you like it chunky or creamy.Before our meal came with tried the corn chowder which was delicious. For the meal we ordered steak and a pork chop along with four sides that we shared.

I couldn’t pass up dessert here. They had a selection of desserts that change daily and I chose the caramel apple tart along with Bailey’s Iced Coffee.

Know any other places in Dubuque that I should try? I’d love for you to leave a comment below so I know where to go next time!

10 Things For Families To Do In Springfield, Missouri

Fun in Springfield Missouri

If you are looking for a family friendly town that also has some history, you’ll want to visit Springfield, Missouri. I recently went there with my mom and kids on a sponsored press trip and found it was the perfect mix of learning and fun.

Here are some of the things our family enjoyed doing while we were there.

Andy B’s Restaurant & Entertainment

Andy B’s Restaurant & Entertainment center is a huge building filled with lots for families to do. With 21 lanes of traditional bowling, 10 VIB (Very Important Bowler) bowling lanes, an underground laser tag arena designed to look, feel and sound like an abandoned mine, a large arcade game room with every game you could want, and a full-service Restaurant and Bar, you’ll never run out of fun things to do at Andy B’s.

We enjoyed bowling together at Andy B’s. They have a really updated system with an interactive scoring system that allows you to customize the game for your group and adds a lot more fun to the bowling game. While we bowled we ordered food and they had a great deal going on where you received a free game card with every item ordered from their special menu. After bowling the kids played laser tag and some video games and arcade games for tickets. We all had a great time there!

Learn more here.

Discovery Center

Discovery Center of Springfield (DCS) is an interactive, hands-on museum committed to inspiring people of all ages with a life-long love of learning and an appreciation of the world and our place in it. Kids will have such a fun time playing with the exhibits that they will forget they are learning!

Our favorite part of the museum was the area that explored careers. The kids loved pretending to do a newscast on television where they sat behind a desk just like a real news anchor would and talked to a camera that was recording them. They could pretend to be weathermen and give the weather report using a green screen as well. Another area they enjoyed was the grocery store where they took turns shopping and being the cashier. Other areas they could pretend in included a doctor’s office, a newspaper office, a construction zone and a theater among about a dozen other areas.

Learn more here.

Askinosie Chocolate Tour & Tasting

Askinosie Chocolate is a small batch bean to bar chocolate manufacturer sourcing 100% of their beans directly from the farmers. At Askinosie Chocolate they hold the craft and quality of their chocolate in almost equal balance with doing as much good as they can in the world. They have a great business model and improve the communities of both where they are located and the farmer’s where they get the beans from. They offer tours of their factory where people can learn about how and why they make chocolate, their cocoa origins, their farmer partners, and their engagement in their community and their origin communities.

The boys were open to doing anything that involved chocolate- Luke’s favorite food group- though they were very surprised to find that cocoa nibs do not taste like the chocolate they are used to. We enjoyed the tour though and learned about how chocolate was made and where the cocoa beans come from. We tasted some pieces of chocolate that they sell and the boys loved the white chocolate the most. After the tour we bought some chocolate because, hello- chocolate. (Please note: The tours are for older children. If you have a child under five they require they be held or in a stroller for safety reasons.)

Learn more about Askinosie Chocolate Tours here.

Wilson’s Creek National Battelfield

Wilson’s Creek was the first major Civil War battle fought west of the Mississippi River, and the site of the death of Nathaniel Lyon, the first Union general killed in action. The costly Southern victory on August 10, 1861, focused national attention on the war in Missouri. Visitors can visit this National Park to check out their Wilson’s Creek museum and then take a self-guided tour of the battlefield by vehicle. Along the tour you can stop at eight places that are considered significant battle-related locations including The Ray House, dating from the 1850s, which served as a temporary field hospital for Southern soldiers following the battle. There are five walking trails off the tour road, varying in length from 1/4 to 3/4 of a mile and a seven mile trail system for horseback riding and hiking.

I honestly wasn’t sure how much the boys would enjoy the tour, because they haven’t learned about the war in school yet, but they seemed to really like it. We were lucky to meet some costumed characters at one of the stops that showed us what the dress looked like during the Civil War, what types of things they would have carried and what their guns looked like. We even had a private demonstration of how they would have loaded and shot their guns which I think Jacob really enjoyed.

Learn more here.

Arcade At Incredible Pizza Company

America’s Incredible Pizza Company has been voted as the #1 Family Entertainment Center in the world, twice, and it’s easy to see why! Along with a delicious buffet they have plenty for the family to do. They have a large trampoline area, arcade games, go karts, rides, laser tag, an XD theater, bowling, rides, and an area just for little ones.

The boys loved playing the arcade games of course. We also raced go karts. Jacob was tall enough to drive his own go kart so it was him against Lucas and I and I loved seeing his smile as he was racing. We all enjoyed the buffet which had a great salad bar, pizza selection, and variety of desserts.

Learn more here.

Fantastic Caverns

Fantastic Caverns is America’s only ride-through cave. It was discovered in 1862 by an Ozarks farmer -or more precisely, by his dog, who crawled through an entrance. It wasn’t until five years later that the first exploration took place: 12 women from Springfield, answering a newspaper ad seeking explorers, ventured into the cave. Because the beauty of Fantastic Caverns is vulnerable, the Cave is toured in jeep-drawn trams. Since you ride all of the way through, you experience the magnitude, the stillness, and the splendor of Fantastic Caverns while preserving its natural features.

I loved being able to sit down and enjoy a ride through the cave. It was a much better way to explore it than having to walk through because you could really focus on looking at it the whole time instead of having to watch where you were walking. The boys loved when they turned the lights off and we were in complete silence and darkness for a bit.

Learn more here.

Fun Acre Mini Golf

Fun Acre has an 18 hole mini golf course and batting cages. Though it is not the most well kept mini golf course we’ve ever played on, it is the cheapest which is why I’m adding it to my list. Adults play for $2.50, kids ages 5-11 play for $1.75 and children 4 and under are free. We had a lot of fun playing mini-golf here!

Learn more here.

Swim At The Historic Best Western Rail Haven

We loved staying at this hotel. They have a great outdoor pool that the kids loved playing in. Read my whole review of our stay here.

Two other places that looked fun but we didn’t explore much were Ms. Gilmore’s Tea Room and Bass Pro Shops. The tea room was next door to a restaurant we ate at and I walked through it briefly. It was so adorable and the perfect place to have afternoon tea with your child! Bass Pro Shops is also a place I’d recommend. We have one near us and there is always a lot to do there. This one in Springfield is the original Bass Pro Shops store and probably three times the size of other Bass Pro Shops. They are even getting an aquarium soon which I thought was awesome!

Overall we enjoyed all the things we did while in Springfield, Missouri. Stay tuned for my post on the best places to eat while you are there!

Waterfront Views At Grand Harbor Resort & Waterpark In Dubuque

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary stay but all opinions are my own.

Every time I wake up in a hotel room with a waterfront view I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I recently stayed at the Grand Harbor Resort & Waterpark in Dubuque, Iowa and loved waking up to the Mississippi river outside my window.

In addition to having a wonderful view, my room was spacious and comfortable. I liked that the room had a desk so I could get some work done. It also had a mini-fridge and microwave so I could bring back my dinner leftovers which was nice because I always order more than I can eat and I hate throwing the food away because I’m traveling and have no way of reheating them.

Probably the best feature for families is that Grand Harbor Resort has an indoor water park. Grand Harbor Resort’s water park offers 25,000 square feet of wet fun for the entire family. Their water park has waterslides, tube rides, rope ladders, waterspouts, water chutes, squirt guns, and water cannons, as well as a lazy river, activity pools, and two giant hot tub whirlpools. There was also plenty of seating around the water park which I appreciated.

Near the water park they have a game room with video and arcade games. For those that like to workout on vacation (I’ve heard some people do this lol) the resort has a fitness center as well. If you are just looking to relax in your room, Grand Harbor has free wifi and large flat screen televisions.

After a day full of all that fun you don’t have to walk very far to dinner because there is a Tony Roma’s restaurant in the resort. I loved sitting outside on the patio and they have a great variety of food for every meal.

To learn more about Grand Harbor Resort & Waterpark you can visit them online here. Stay tuned to learn what other fun things Dubuque, Iowa has for families.

Family Guide To Visiting Bowling Green, Kentucky

Bowling Green Kentucky

I recently had the chance to visit Bowling Green, Kentucky as a guest of the CVB and it was very different from what I was expecting. Instead of a small farming community I found a town very similar to my own Chicago suburb that had plenty of things to do for the whole family.

Bowling Green is an easy drive from Chicago and worth the short hour drive if you will be nearby in Nashville. You’ll want to be geared for fun when you visit!

National Corvette Museum

The first thing that comes to mind when many hear “Bowling Green” is the National Corvette Museum and it’s definitely a popular tourist stop. The 115,000 sq. ft. building houses more than 80 Corvette models and one-of-a-kind concept cars spanning the history of Corvette. Made even more famous by the Corvette sink-hole, they now have a special exhibit about that national phenomenon that caused millions of dollars in damage to a number of rare corvettes. I found it interesting to look at.

Kid’s Activity at the National Corvette Museum

Those with young kids will want to visit the car themed playroom at the museum. They also have a Corvette Cafe so you can have lunch in the retro diner while you are at the museum, too.

Drag racer at the Annual NMCA Bluegrass Nationals

Speaking of cars, Bowling Green is home to the Beech Bend Raceway Park. Check the schedule online to see if anything is going on while you are there. I was lucky enough to visit during the Annual NMCA Bluegrass Nationals and got to see all the drag racing cars up close and personal, along with having the chance to talk to some of the drag racers themselves. I never watched drag racing before but I found it fascinating to watch and enjoyed listening to how passionate the drivers are.

Kentucky Rumbler, Wooden Coaster at Beech Bend Amusement Park

Next to the race track are two must visits during the summer months- Beech Bend Amusement Park and Splash Lagoon Water Park. Though these parks look to be on the smaller side, there is plenty for families to do here for the whole day and I loved that it was cheaper than all of the other amusement parks I’ve been to and there were no long lines to stand in. There are over 30 rides, mini-golf, a petting farm, a pool, water slides and other water attractions. If you love coasters you’ll want to make sure to ride the Kentucky Rumbler (currently ranked in the Top 33 wooden roller coasters worldwide!)

Mammoth Cave National Park

Want to spend even more time outside? Mammoth Cave National Park is a free U.S. national park. You can walk or bike around the park but the most popular thing to do is take a cave tour. The park encompasses portions of Mammoth Cave, the longest cave system known in the world at over 400 miles of cave that has been discovered. There are a variety of cave tours but I went on one called the “Frozen Niagara” that was one of the easier tours, prefect for families.

Trail at Lost River Cave

Another cave in Bowling Green is the Lost River Cave which offers a boat tour of their cave. It was fun to explore the cave by boat on their tour which lasted about 45 minutes. There are lots of other activities to do with kids here including walking along trails, playing bird bingo, cooling off at the natural spring, treasure mining, visiting the butterfly habitat and playing at their Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom.

Brisket Pizza at Lost River Pizza Co

Once you work up an appetite at Lost River Cave you’ll want to stop by the nearby restaurant, Lost River Pizza Cofor lunch. Though most well-known for their pizza, make sure to get an appetizer to go with it, like their spicy fried pickles, Brown Ale Shrooms, or wings. For kids there are plenty of affordable options.

Ice cream from Chaney’s Dairy Barn

Don’t forget dessert! Head on over to Chaney’s Dairy Barn for some homemade ice cream. Named #1 ice cream in Kentucky by USA Today, you will see why after just one taste! There are a variety of flavors from Bourbon Crunch to Mocha Moo. I tried their peanut butter fudge swirl in a waffle cone and it was delicious. During the summer they also host events like farm tours and outdoor “MOOvie” nights so be sure to check their calendar to see what’s going on during your visit. Have baseball fans in your home? Head out to a Hot Rods baseball game while you are in town. They also have a great kid’s play area, with a playground and carousel, for kids to play. They have theme nights and other fun events so again, check the calendar to see what’s happening. I went to a game on Star Wars night and it was fun to see so many in costumes. Within walking distance of the baseball stadium is the Railpark & Train Museum. The train museum is in a former station and has historical exhibits, a model railroad & vintage car tours. It was interesting to walk through the train cars and imagine what it would have been like to travel in them years ago. I also enjoyed checking out their downtown area. Fountain Square Park in the middle of their downtown is a beautiful place to sit and relax. They also had a number of storefronts, including Mary Jane’s Chocolates, for those of you who love chocolates. If you like to stop at Farmer’s Markets, it should be noted that Bowling Green has a large Farmer’s Market that’s open a couple times a week year-round.

Amazing firebread at Montana Grille

One other place I enjoyed eating while in Bowling Green was Montana Grille (not to be confused with the chain restaurant that has a similar name). They had lots to choose from on the menu and I loved the cabin-like atmosphere. Favorites include their Bourbon filet, Spike’s Mean Beans and Jalapeno Cornbread.

As you can see, there are tons of great places to play and eat in Bowling Green. You’ll need a place to sleep as well and I’d recommend staying at the Hilton Garden Inn. It’s a well-taken care of hotel with spacious guest rooms, nice outdoor patio areas and a delicious breakfast selection. The hotel also has an indoor pool as well which I know is always on my boys’ wish list when it comes to accommodations.

Bowling Green, Kentucky has plenty of fun for the whole family! What are you most looking forward to doing on your visit?

‘I Need Vitamin Sea’ Printable

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #CentrumFunFlavors #CollectiveBias

Life is typically very busy but I find that things can get really chaotic during the spring and summer seasons when I’m traveling a few times a month. This past month was no exception- I traveled to Missouri, Kentucky and Iowa with only one day in between the first two trips and a few days in between the last two. I love traveling but it really messes with my schedule and routine. I’m very Type A so this is hard for me. One routine that I struggle with is taking my vitamins every day.

I thought of a few ways to help me remember to take my multi-vitamin on a regular basis. The first was to go to Walmart to buy new Centrum Vitamints* that I can take on the go, without any water.

I bought two flavors- Cool Mint and Raspberry. I put my mints in a vitamin case which takes up minimum room in my purse or suitcase and ensures that I always have my vitamins with me. These vitamins freshen my breath like a breath mint so every time I reach for gum or a mint I’ll see my vitamin container and take one of the Vitamints instead.

I also realized that I need a reminder at home to help me remember to take my vitamins on a daily basis. Since I love to travel I chose to create a fun print that I can add to my travel display. Those who visit me will think my “I need vitamin sea” print is just a quote about my love of being by the water but to me it will have a double meaning. My travel display is in a spot that I pass by numerous times a day and can see from both my kitchen and my television room so it will also serve as a reminder to take my vitamins. Pretty clever, huh?

Want to get the print for yourself? Download the image here and then print it out. You can stick it on your bulletin board, refrigerator or frame it and display it.

Want to use an image that reminds you of your own travels? Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to make your own:

1) Go to picmonkey.com

2) Go to “edit photo” and upload your photo. I chose one that had a lot of water since I just wanted the text on water (check out how clear that water is in the Bahamas!)

3) Crop the image

4) Resize your image so that it is the size you want (Here is a link to photo dimensions that I found helpful)

5) Use the text option to insert the words “I need vitamin sea” to your image and then pick the font, color and size you want the text to be

6) Once you are satisfied with your print, save the image in picmonkey. (I chose to then upload it to Google Drive so I could resave it as a PDF)

7) Print, frame and display!

Enjoy staying healthy with simple solutions like Centrum Gummies and Vitamints. You can find coupons here. What methods do you use to remember to take your vitamin every day? I would love to hear your tips!

*These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The Historic Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Motel

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A few weeks ago I visited Springfield, Missouri with my mom and children. Visiting as a guest of the CVB, we received a complimentary stay at the historic Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Motel. According to their website, the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven motel features eight original sandstone cottages that were built in 1938, just 12 years after Route 66 was established in Springfield as one of the main routes that leads to the west coast.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect because of the motel’s age and the fact that it was a chain motel but I was pleasantly surprised when we got there. The staff was extremely kind and helpful, there were fresh cookies available when we checked in and our room was nice and clean. They also provided many great amenities like free wi-fi, parking, complimentary breakfast and a “to go” snack bag upon checkout.

The first thing we noticed upon pulling into the parking lot was the vintage charm of the hotel. I loved the ambiance. There is an old Ford Crown Victoria out in front along with a phone booth and some old gas pumps.

The lobby of the motel also had a vintage feel with the cafe area bringing me back to the sock hop era. The breakfast buffet area was modernized though. In the mornings you could make your own Belgium waffle and they had a variety of toppings to choose from. Other options included a number of hot breakfast foods (like eggs, sausage and biscuits with gravy), cereal and bakery items. There was also a fridge with waters, yogurts and fruit. For drinks they had a hot drink machine (which my boys loved getting hot chocolate from) and a juice machine. Overall, I thought the selection for a complimentary breakfast was great.

Once we checked in and grabbed our freshly baked cookies we headed to our room which was just a short drive away. The room itself was typically furnished with two beds, a table and chairs and a dresser with a large flat screen TV on it. The dresser had both a minifridge and microwave which I love because it helps to save on food when you can bring your own simple lunches and dinners to heat up or store your leftovers when you order too much from the restaurant.

The bathroom was a bit small but had a bathtub which the boys enjoyed splashing in. There was also a counter with a large mirror outside the bathroom which provided extra space and helped keep things moving in the mornings with everyone sharing one bathroom trying to get ready.

Speaking of splashing, the boys were the first ones in the motel’s pool this season. Though it was a warm day the water was still chilly since it had just been filled but that didn’t stop the boys from playing in it. I sat under a pergola while I watched the boys swim as my mom took a nap in the deck chair beside me.

I liked that the motel had a lot of outdoor space. Besides the pool area there was a large covered area with tables and chairs, outdoor seating outside the lobby and chairs outside each room. It is the perfect place to relax when you aren’t exploring Springfield, Missouri!

10 Road Trip Preparation Tips For Parents

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DotComDIY #CollectiveBias

My family loves going on road trips. We do a lot of travel around the Midwest but we also drive the car for other vacations as well and have traveled as far as Miami and New York City from the suburbs of Chicago. It takes a lot of preparation and time to drive places but I’ve found that it is much more affordable for our family of four. Since we are headed into the busy travel season, I wanted to share some of our tips for preparing for road trips with kids that can help you save both time and money.

TIP #1: Prepare in advance

My first tip is to prepare in advance. I find that when I start making my lists and preparing at least a month in advance things just run smoother. Things I do include making a packing list, booking any hotel stays we might need to split up a longer trip and making a shopping list. Though I don’t shop, or pack, that far in advance, I’ve found that I always think of things I want to make sure to buy or bring and it just helps having lists already started. It also helps save money because I can look for deals on things.

TIP #2: Make sure your vehicle is ready for the long drive

Another thing that should be done in advance is making sure your vehicle is ready for the long drive. We usually do this the week before we are leaving. We clean out the van of all the sports gear and other items we will not need and vacuum it out. We make sure the tires are in good condition and not low on air. This is also the perfect time for an oil change.

To save myself time and money I’ve discovered that I can easily order oil and other road trip necessities online at Walmart.com and get them delivered to my home or pick them up at the store. I love the convenience of this because I can shop at anytime of the day and avoid the crowds and lines at the checkout.

Right now Walmart.com has great deals for Pennzoil products. I found this 5qt Pennzoil Platinum High Mileage 5W-30 Motor Oil on Rollback for $22.47. I saved $2.50 just by shopping online! The high mileage oil is perfect for our van because it just hit 100,000 miles and this oil helps to reduce leaks and oil consumption in higher mileage engines to help keep them running clean and going strong for a long time.

TIP #3: Pack more than you think you will need

One of the things I love about driving as opposed to flying is that I can pack as much as I want. I’ve found that it is always a good idea to pack more than I think I will use. It’s no fun having to buy something you know you have at home, especially when things are lots more expensive at tourist destinations or gas stations. I often pack out of season items as well because you never know what you will need. I’ve taken a summer trip to the lake before and needed jeans and light coats during the day and sweatshirts under the coats once the sun went down. A few of the things I always pack are extra clothes, bathing suits (even if going somewhere without a pool), and double the socks and underwear I think the boys will need.

TIP #4: Pack an activity bag for each child

I let my boys each pack a backpack full of fun for the car ride. They each bring a couple electronics, books, small toys, travel games and coloring items. These bags are set in between their two seats and it works great because then they can trade items when they get bored of them. I also always have a couple additional games or toys tucked in my bag that I pull out when we are more than halfway to our destination which the boys always enjoy.

TIP #5: Bring plenty of snacks

It never fails that my boys are hungry anytime they are in the car for more than 5 minutes. For road trips everyone gets to pick a few favorite snacks to bring along. Putting the food in snack size ziploc bags helps keep the portions reasonable and the car a little cleaner. We also pack a cooler with drinks and put it towards the hatch opening so when we stop for bathroom breaks everyone can get a nice cold drink from the cooler which saves money because we don’t have to buy drinks on the go (other than my Iced Coffee from coffee shops along the way).

TIP #6: Be thoughtful when packing the car

There is nothing more annoying than being on a long road trip and discovering that things you need aren’t within reach. We’ve had one of the boys spill something before and the wipes were all the way in the back and it wastes time having to pull over somewhere to get out and get them. I recommend having a bag of important things up front. Our necessities bag includes a plastic bag for garbage, wipes and/or paper towels, extra batteries for the handheld electronics, water bottles and a first aid kit. I also found that ordering some motion sickness over-the-counter medicine for Jacob on Walmart.com (when I’m buying my oil) is a very good idea since that is something we don’t keep stocked on a regular basis but is something I need to bring with on road trips.

TIP #7: Do as much the night before as possible

We tend to leave for road trips as early in the morning as possible so we like to get as much done the night before as we can. This includes putting gas in the car, making sure all electronics are charged, putting the suitcases in the car and gathering everything else we need by the front door. The things we have to get at the last minute all go on a list that is put by my purse so that nothing is left behind in the morning rush to get out of the house.

TIP #8: Make sure everyone will be comfortable in the car.

I always put a sweatshirt, blanket and pillow in the car for everyone so that we all stay warm during the trip. We also dress in comfortable clothes because it makes the long ride more bearable. I usually find that keeping the boys in their pajamas is easiest since we are normally waking them up in the mornings to leave.

TIP #9: Have a plan for the inevitable “I’m bored”

I like to have a list of games we can play when the kids start to get restless. We play things like “I Spy”, “Guess who?” (ie I’m thinking of a Super Hero who wears red), “This or that?” (ie ice cream or cake?) and find the letters of the alphabet on signs we pass by. Our favorite game though, and one that I frequently play with the kids is one we call “the color game” but can be about anything from colors to foods to games. The object is to take turns saying something in the category without repeating something that has already been said. My boys can keep the color game going for a good half hour using colors from the crayon box.

TIP #10: Enjoy it!

So your car is ready to go and everything is packed. You’ve armed yourself with plenty of snacks and some fun game ideas. Now there is nothing to do but just drive safely and enjoy your road trip. It’s quality time with your family making memories that you all are going to cherish for years to come. We enjoy stopping at the state lines and taking pictures as a way to capture the memories!

Remember, you can find all the necessities you need for your road trip, like Pennzoil motor oil and travel games, at Walmart.com. Their site-to-store option is awesome because you can place your order and pick up at your convenience, avoiding the crowds. What things do you make sure to pack for road trips? Any special games your family loves to play or tips you have to make the trip more enjoyable? Leave a comment below and let me know! :)

 

Travelers Can Earn Points Faster With The New Choice Privileges

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I love traveling and enjoy it even more when I get perks. One program I’ve been a member of for the past couple years is Choice Privileges so I am happy to be working with them on this sponsored post to share about some changes to their rewards program which gives people points for staying at Choice Hotel chains. Choice Hotels has more than 6,300 hotels in over 35 countries and territories.

The demand for bigger, better, and faster rewards from loyalty programs is at an all-time high so Choice Hotels has made some exciting changes to their rewards program to meet this demand. Their program now brings greater and faster value to their over 25 million Choice Privileges members.

Some of the new benefits include:

Your Extras. Weekday travelers can earn a special reward — a little something ‘extra’ — right when they check in. For each qualifying stay that includes at least 1 weekday night (any night Sun. through Thurs.), the member can earn a special reward of their choice. U.S members have 5 options, varying from Fuel Rewards® savings at participating Shell locations to Amazon.com credit. International members have 2 options: 500 bonus points or 100 airline miles from participating airline carriers.

FlexRewards. Get to a free night faster— Members can redeem points for free nights at discounted point levels at participating hotels, varying by season. There will be up to 2,000 hotels reduced during either the weekdays or weekend at any time.

Digital Gift Cards. The first hotel company to offer immediate in-app gift card downloads, Choice Privileges members can receive instant gratification with new digital gift cards.

Keep Your Points. As long as members stay active by completing a qualifying activity at least once every 18 months, they get to keep their points.

10 Points per Dollar. All 5,500 Choice Hotels now earn 10 points per dollar spent – including economy and extended stay hotels, such as MainStay Suites, Suburban, EconoLodge and Rodeway Inn.

Which new reward are you most excited about?

My Gourmet Inclusive Nickelodeon Getaway In Mexico {AKA That Time I Got Slimed}

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I am thankful to have had the chance to be invited on a press trip to Azul Beach Hotel in Riviera Maya, Mexico. If your family is looking for your next vacation spot, read on below for all the slime-tastic fun that you can experience in a beautiful all-inclusive resort.

ABOUT THE RESORT

Azul Beach Hotel by Karisma is a beachfront oasis that caters to families and couples who desire a more intimate experience. The resort has 148 deluxe rooms and suites (including some swim-up rooms), six restaurants, five pools, four bars, a Nickelodeon themed kids club and a spa. They feature a Gourmet Inclusive® Experience which means gourmet meals, premium drinks and excellent service from beach butlers to room service.

THE LOCATION

Azul Beach Hotel is situated on the beautiful Mexican Caribbean in the heart of Riviera Maya. The hotel is located 20 minutes south of Cancun International Airport and 35 minutes south of downtown Cancun.

THE ACCOMODATIONS

The suite was large and spacious as you can see in the video above. I loved the large bathtub, the comfy beds, the sitting area and the view from my balcony.

THE FOOD AND DRINKS

Karisma Hotels pride themselves on offering The Gourmet Inclusive® experience throughout their resorts. Azul Beach has five restaurants. Blue serves a variety of world cuisines along with a delicious assortment of food at their breakfast buffet. Chil offers an array of burgers, salads, wraps and tacos for lunch and has a patio that overlooks the water.

Latino offers a variety of a la carte dinner options, all with a latin flair. Tainan is the place to go if you are in the mood for Asian food, including my favorite, Sushi. Roma is the resort’s Italian restaurant, serving large portions at dinner-time.

The resort also has four bars. Agavero, their Tequila bar, serves 30 different tequilas served straight, frozen or mixed. Aquanox bar and Chil bar serve my favorite fruity drinks. Try a Miami Vice while you are there (it’s a layered strawberry daquiri and pina colada drink). They also have a swim-up bar called Bubbles which lets you enjoy your drink without even getting out of the pool!

Along with the restaurants and bars they offer room service and service at the beach. One of my favorite times on the trip was sitting on the beach in a cabana with some of the other bloggers and getting drinks and lunch delivered while we enjoyed time by the ocean.

THE FUN FOR KIDS

I loved vacationing alongside SpongeBob, Dora, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We had breakfast with the characters, found them walking around the resort during the day and danced with them at night. We even got special Nickelodeon goodies delivered to our room.

Azul Beach features a couple places just for the kids. The Azulitos Playhouse by Nickelodeon has themed activities planned for every day so that parents are free to enjoy some kid-free time.

For children 4 to 12 years old, the My Gym Center at Azulitos Playhouse offers daily classes and programs designed to help children develop physically, cognitively and emotionally.

And, in true Nickelodeon fashion, I got slimed. Green goo was dumped all over me and I was brought back to my childhood.

Another thing that sets Karisma hotels apart is that they really think about the needs of families with little ones and do everything they can to make the trip as smooth as possible. From having baby food readily available to providing baby monitors for parents who want to relax on their deck while baby is napping, they provide so many amenities so you don’t have to pack them.

THE FUN FOR ADULTS

Azul Beach features a number of activities for adults such as yoga, Tequila tastings, live music and beach volleyball. They also have excursions people can sign up for, like swimming with the dolphins or scuba diving.

The spa at Azul Beach is the perfect place to relax while getting treated to a massage, manicure, or one of their other services. Adults would even enjoy just relaxing while they soaked in the tub right in their room.

EXPLORING NEARBY, AZUL SENSATORI HOTEL

While in Mexico I had a chance to visit Azul Sensatori hotel which was nearby. Here are some pictures from my visit there!

Looking for your next family escape? You will find it at Azul Beach!

Finding Relaxation In The Chicago Suburbs

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(Disclosure: I received a free stay and spa service but all thoughts are my own.)

Now that school is back in full swing I find myself wishing I had a break from the craziness to relax and take time for myself. While I don’t have time for a vacation right now I definitely think that it’s important to find other ways to take a mental break and get away. Le Méridien Chicago, located in Oakbrook, provides just what a mom needs.

I recently stayed over night there and enjoyed a spa service. Unfortunately, Sinisa was out of town so I had to bring the boys with on my little getaway but I left feeling relaxed so I can only imagine how much more tranquil it would have been sans kids.

When we first got to the hotel we checked out the room which was beautiful and then headed to Oakbrook mall which is right next door. It’s the perfect location for those who enjoy shopping and the hotel even offers complimentary rides between the mall and hotel. After I got coffee we went to a few stores I wanted to visit and then a couple the boys insisted we go to. Once it started raining we were ready to head back to the hotel. One thing I will note here is that it’s best to give the car service notice of when you will need to be picked up so you don’t have to wait. If you have your own vehicle it’s probably just easiest to drive yourself over there.

Once we got back to the hotel we enjoyed their VIP lounge which had a delicious selection of snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. They had some prepackaged choices and some freshly made options from their kitchen. We enjoyed our view of town as we ate.

When it was time for my spa treatment someone came to my room to get me and the boys. I wasn’t sure how it would go with them in the room while I was getting a facial but I was pleasantly surprised to walk into a hotel room that was set up to entertain my boys while I enjoyed some relaxation. There were snacks and water for the boys, a small building set for each and a television they could watch. They were excited to see all of that and I loved the thought that went into making sure everyone was taken care of.

My massage therapist was friendly and explained everything that she was doing. She gave me tips on taking care of my combination skin and what I should be looking for in products which I really appreciated. After a nice facial I planned to head back to the room with my boys but she told me that everyone who has a spa service gets to stay in the room for an hour after their facial or massage. Half the room was a serene bathroom so I was more than happy to soak in a big tub while my boys built their LEGO sets outside of the bathroom.

Afterwards we headed back to the room where the boys quickly claimed their bed. We ordered room service for dinner and watched television before we fell asleep in the comfort of our hotel beds. It was such a great day and the perfect way to relax when you only have a day to escape reality.

Exploring Glenview, Illinois With Kids

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Thanks to Go Roma for sponsoring this post.

I love taking road trips and one of the best things about living in the Chicago area is the amount of fun things there are for families to do within just an hour or two of where we live. A few weeks ago we headed to a town I’d never been to before called Glenview which is about 14 miles North of the city.

The boys and I spent a whole day exploring the town and didn’t even get to do everything on my list. Here are the things I’d recommend doing on your next trip to Glenview.

Play: Little Bear Garden Park

My boys spent hours playing at Little Bear Garden Park. It was a wonderful area with something for everyone. There was a playground, splash pad, huge sand pit, and plenty of grassy area and seating. There was also a path that went around the park with storybook pages every so often which would be perfect for families with preschoolers to walk around and read a book as they went along the path. The park was busy but large enough that it did not feel overcrowded.

Eat: Go Roma

I enjoyed eating at Go Roma when I was pregnant with Jacob so I was excited to see that a new location opened in Glenview. Go Roma features quick and delicious Italian foods. Their pizza is my favorite. Go Roma was affordable which I appreciated when I was working retail and on a very tight budget and I still appreciate.

When we tried out their new location for lunch I got the BBQ Chicken Pizza which I really enjoyed. I loved that the chicken was very prevalent on the pizza instead of diced up really tiny and barely there like at some other places.

Jacob got the kid’s cheese pizza and Lucas got the kid’s macaroni and cheese. They were so excited to see that their kid’s meal came with a cookie and they happily gobbled up their entree to get to their dessert.

Shop: The Glen Town Center

If you love shopping you will enjoy spending time at The Glen Town Center. It’s a beautiful, outdoor shopping area with stores, restaurants, and even a movie theater. I found Fourth of July shirts for the boys at Carter’s and looked around a few other clothing stores. We stopped by The Book Market and then stepped out of the sun for a bit and spent time reading our books while I enjoyed a coffee. We checked out the local candy store, Rocket Fizz, and ended with a trip to GameStop so the boys could look at Skylanders.

Some other places located in Glenview that we didn’t get to visit are Wagner Farm, the Grove and Kohl Children’s Museum. There really is enough to keep families busy for a day or two and it’s so close to the city for those who want to visit Chicago but then escape the hustle and bustle (and parking fees) of the city!

Have you been to Glenview? What other fun places should we check out next time we visit?

 

We Love Family Time Around The Campfire

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Thanks to CustomInk for sponsoring our camping trip and providing us fun shirts to wear as we made great memories!

 

One of the best parts about summer is all of the quality family time that it brings. Every time we have a day or two without anything scheduled I try to schedule a road trip to somewhere within two to three hours. A few weekends ago we spent a couple days camping as a family.

Camping, to me, is the ultimate family trip because there are no tvs and lots of time spent telling stories around the campfire, talking in sleeping bags as we fall asleep and playing games at the picnic table.

We ended up picking a rainy weekend to enjoy nature but we were in a cabin so we just relaxed on the porch and under our tent as we talked and enjoyed an early lunch.

Thankfully the rain tapered off and there was some sunshine for us to get out and enjoy the day. The boys clamored to get in the pool and had fun jumping in and playing games in the water.

After the pool they wanted to check out the playground. They immediately found other kids to play with and started playing tag, one of their favorite games. There was also a tetherball pole so Sinisa and I took turns playing with the kids. It was a fun game I remembered from my childhood but neither of the kids had played before.

After exploring the campgrounds we headed back to our cabin for dinner. While the burgers were on the grill we played a game of Uno and some of the fun toys we had brought.

After dinner it was time for a camping favorite- smores! The boys laughed as daddy accidentally caught the marshmallows on fire. When they were nice and crisp we’d squish them between graham crackers and chocolate to make the best dessert!

***

I’ll have the memories of our amazing camping trip for years to come. I’d like to thank CustomInk for sponsoring our family trip and also sending us some fun shirts to wear. I created them myself online in less than 5 minutes and each was personalized with our name on the back of them.

CustomInk is the leading online provider of custom apparel and accessories for groups and occasions. CustomInk believes that t-shirts and other custom products have the power to bring people together and strengthen their sense of community. CustomInk combines an easy online Design Lab with personal customer care to help its customers create the perfect design for any club, school, business, team, or charity.

Let CustomInk help you make your next family reunion or family outing even more special! What would you create shirts for?

Discover it Miles® Card: Summer Travel

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Thank you Discover for sponsoring this post! Click here to learn more about the amazing rewards and benefits of the Discover it Miles® credit card.

Summer is a time for leisure and a worry free life.  As a family we love traveling in the warmer months, exploring quaint little towns and large cities alike. We go on quite a bit of road trips to towns within a few hours of Chicago and also have enjoyed traveling to the Caribbean.

No matter where you go or what you do with your family the goal is to have fun. In today’s world, traveling brings worries of losing your credit cards and being stranded in unfamiliar locations. Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than being broke.

One card that helps people avoid this hassle is the new Discover it Miles® Card. Besides giving you rewards for travel, Discover has a great 24/7 protection plan and awesome benefits. The Discover it Miles® card features include a no annual fee and miles that never expire. Fly any airline, any time. Just buy a ticket and use miles to credit your statement. My wife loves to plan ahead so having reward miles is great for anyone who loves to plan a perfect vacation.

So take time to travel, see the great sites and tourist attractions. As an introductory offer, Discover it Miles card members will now receive double the amount of miles they’ve earned at the end of their first year – with no spending cap. That gives travelers using the Discover it Miles card the opportunity to determine for themselves the amount of bonus miles they receive in that first year. And even better, Discover It Miles card members can redeem miles at any amount for cash, or as a statement credit toward their travel purchases, including commercial airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, commuter transportation and taxicabs. As a Father that loves to spoil his kids during travel I like the ability to cash in the rewards and get them prizes.

Discover is ranked “highest in customer satisfaction with credit card companies” by J.D. Power. With all the benefits and protection it is clear to see why. There are no fees on foreign transactions which is a big deal and gives members the opportunity to discover little towns or big cities anywhere.

Discover can be used anywhere, and even visits to smaller places, like water parks and zoos, can earn you rewards. Buying gas to travel will not seems so expensive while using Discover either. Summer activities will be fun and you will feel confident when using your Discover card.

It is 80 degrees out today. Take a 10 minute ice cream break with the family or take an overnight getaway. Enjoy the fun the summer brings. Keep up with our family and discover what adventures we find.


 
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Wisconsin Getaway

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Disclosure: I am receiving a free stay at the resort in exchange for a post.

We’ve started planning our spring and summer trips and I’m so excited to visit some new places! Along with a couple longer trips we try to take smaller road trips that are just a day or two long because with Sinisa’s work schedule these are the easiest for us to do. We get up to Wisconsin quite often and I’m looking forward to exploring a new town. We will be staying at the beautiful Blue Harbor Resort & Spa in Sheboygan.

Blue Harbor Resort & Spa is the #1 resort on Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coast. With stunning beachfront and water views, Blue Harbor Resort features 182 suites, 64 villas, more than 17,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a 54,000 square-foot indoor waterpark entertainment area including a mini glow golf course, a full service spa, three restaurants, and recreation amenities including watersports and access to the Bull golf course. This award winning resort is located just two hours north of Chicago in nearby and scenic Sheboygan, WI, and is known as the “Malibu of the Midwest.”

To plan a trip to the resort yourself, visit BlueHarborResort.com or call 866.701.BLUE. My Readers receive FREE Water Park Passes and Savings Up to 30% OFF with this exclusive Blue Harbor Resort coupon http://usfamilycoupons.com/coupon.php?regionid=75&bid=11746&dealid=1749.

Pizza Making And Fun At Four Seasons Hotel Chicago

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(Disclosure: My family and I received accommodations courtesy of the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago but all thoughts are my own.)

What’s more fun than eating pizza? Making it! My boys stepped into the kitchen at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago during our recent stay there and had a lot of fun creating their very own pizzas.

The kids donned their chef’s hats and were greeted with an assortment of pizza ingredients on a table and a cook who was there to help them create the perfect pizza pies. First they slathered sauce on the dough, then they sprinkled cheese on and finally they started adding the ingredients.

Jake tried making his as colorful as he could by adding lots of peppers and ingredients by the handful. Lucas on the other hand was very specific in placement and put each ingredient down in just the right place, as if he was creating an artistic masterpiece.

The boys really loved creating their own pizzas and still talk about the fun they had. They were very proud of what they made.

After we made the pizzas we headed upstairs to our room for the next surprise- dessert before dinner! The “Ice Cream Man” (who was actually the ice cream lady) arrived at our room so we could create our own personalized sundaes.

Jacob and Lucas liked the assortment of toppings available and loaded their sundaes with whipped cream, sprinkles and chocolate sauce.

Even mommy got her own ice cream sundae! So delicious!

After our ice cream we decided to checkout the indoor pool area. The 50 foot long pool is in a gorgeous domed room and there is a hot tub for adults, a swimming lap lane, and plenty of lounge chairs.

Pool image courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Chicago website

The kids worked up an appetite while playing in the pool so we called down to the kitchen to have the pizzas made. They were quickly brought up to our room on a room service cart. The boys were excited to see that their doughy creations had turned into our dinner.

While the boys had fun making the pizzas I don’t think they realized that whatever they added would be on the pizzas we were going to be later eating. If your children are picky eaters you may want to remind them of this fact. Jacob likes peppers so he was okay but Lucas added a little of everything to his and then wanted everything picked off his slice when it was time to eat.

After dinner we decided to check out another area of the hotel- their kid’s clubroom. Seriously, the fun at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago doesn’t end! We went up to the room, opened the door, and discovered a room full of toys and games. The room also had a great view of the city to enjoy while playing.

When we were done playing it was time for some family cuddle time while we watched a movie. The hotel had a nice selection of family friendly movies that you can borrow to watch in your room.

They also provided us with popcorn and coke that we could enjoy while watching the movie.

Once the kids were fast asleep it was mommy’s time to relax and I got to pretend I was at a spa and take an {uninterrupted} bubble bath in the extra large tub. It was heavenly.

The perfect ending to our day in Chicago was being able to sleep in a nice bed.

The next morning I got to lounge around and enjoy the view a bit since the bedroom had a door to separate it from the sitting area.

Want to enjoy a little family getaway to Chicago? When you book your stay at Four Seasons Hotel Chicago just request the Let’s Get Away package. It includes:

  • A visit from the Hotel’s Ice Cream Man or Martini Man, or Pizza Making Class with a chef
  • A USD 50.00 Spa credit or overnight valet parking for one vehicle
  • Age-appropriate in-room amenities
  • Luxurious accommodations in an Executive Suite

Always available to guests of Four Seasons Hotel Chicago:

Escape The Cold At Wilderness Resort {Wisconsin Dells}

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My family and I received a complimentary stay at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells but thoughts are my own.

During the winter, on frigid Chicago days, we like to escape to the indoor water parks of Wisconsin Dells. We recently visited the Wilderness Resort to explore all the new indoor fun they had from water slides to go karts to mini golf.

We spent the majority of our time in our bathing suits playing at three of the four indoor water parks on the property. Our favorite one was the Klondike Kavern and their large family friendly play structure called the Bonanza Bluff. The boys especially loved the fact that they could go down the water slides all by themselves. The Wild WaterDome’s wave pool (the largest indoor wave pool in the nation!) was fun for all and I really liked all of the sunlight coming through the roof.

We didn’t go on many water slides as a family while we were there since the kids are both small but there are a variety of both tube and raft slides to choose from. We went on one that was completely dark throughout most of the ride which we all enjoyed.

After a water filled day of fun we had a nice, spacious room to go back to. The room had two double beds, two person table and dresser with tv on one side of a privacy wall and then a wet bar with stools and sitting area on the other. The sitting area features a sleeper sofa, coffee table, television, and sink area.

The room had both a microwave and mini-fridge which means you can bring your own snacks and meals for the kids. The room also features a deck off the sleeping area which is perfect for trips taken in the warmer months. Ours faced a wooded area which would make for a relaxing way to end the day.

Though the draw of the Wilderness Resort is the water parks, they also feature a lot of other family friendly activities to do. We got Wild Fun Passes which gave us admission to some of the top attractions at the resort. We played blacklight mini-golf together and raced go karts.

Sinisa and the boys even went on a high ropes course. I was so proud of the boys, especially Jacob who is afraid of heights but tried the course anyways.

I’m really glad that we got the Wild Fun Pass because we were able to do things that we normally wouldn’t (like the sky ropes course). The passes can be used by anyone in the family so if one person doesn’t want to do something on their pass another family member can use it. If you are interested in this pass, I saw on the website today that these passes are buy three, get one free. Learn more about the pass and the limited time offer here.

We can’t wait to visit the Wilderness Resort again soon!

Vacation With A Purpose At Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

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(Disclosure: Best Friends invited me on an all expenses paid press trip to experience the sanctuary first hand but all thoughts about the sanctuary and charity are my own.)

Recently I went on an amazing trip to Utah. It was my first time in the state and I was there for a very special reason- to learn more about Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Located outside of Kanab in Angel Canyon, this sanctuary is the largest in the United States and is home to about 1700 animals. Best Friends is a leader in the no-kill movement with a mission to end the unnecessary killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters and to ‘Save Them All’.

I’m excited to share all about it today because I think it’s the PERFECT volunteerism trip for families. Your family can enjoy the beautiful views while spending time with animals and supporting a wonderful non-profit.

Let’s talk about those views…. I’d always thought no view could be better than the beach but I don’t know anymore… the beauty of Utah really amazed me! Angel Canyon is famous for being the backdrop of famous westerns, including ‘The Lone Ranger’.

As much as those views were a highlight of my trip, they were nothing compared to the people and animals that I got a chance to spend time with. I loved chatting with the founders of the sanctuary and learning how Best Friends Animal Sanctuary came about, how they have grown and what plans they have for the future. They told stories of the animals that they had rescued, from hoarding situations across the US to taking in some of the dogs from the Vick dog-fighting case (that they nicknamed “Victory” dogs).

I enjoyed visiting all of the animals that lived at the sanctuary and even got to spend some time volunteering in one of the cat houses that housed cats with special needs. I enjoyed taking one cat named Bob on a walk. He is said to love his leash so much that he will come running when he hears it and he sure did like to rest in the sun. I also got to spend some time with a three-legged cat and hear how brave she was.

Another fun thing I was able to do while I was at Best Friends was visit their puppy preschool. This is where the young puppies go to play and get used to household things (like the noise the vacuum or doorbell make) and how to interact with other people and animals. The puppies were so sweet and it was fun watching them play. A few even attempted to ride skateboards which was seriously the cutest thing I’ve probably ever seen in my life.

You can tell each staff member truly cares for each animal by the pride in their voices when they spoke about them and by watching the way they interacted with them. The staff takes great care of the animals there but the main goal is to get all of the animals adopted. I loved seeing signs in each building that showed how many animals had been adopted.

While Best Friends has an amazing team, they couldn’t function without the help of volunteers. From taking animals for walks, cleaning their homes, or just cuddling with the animals, there is lots to do at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary! You can learn more about volunteering here. I think this would make a great trip for the whole family. You can enjoy the breathtaking views while making a difference. This is truly a vacation your kids would remember for the rest of their lives.

Join The #USTravelChat Next Week

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I’m excited to help moderate the first Wanderlust Moms US travel chat! I hope you will join us next Wednesday night to talk about fun things to do in Florida.

HOSTS: @WanderlustMoms, @Kbunn, @DebThompson

MODERATORS: @SavingUGreenMom, @mommy_GAGA, @funsavingmoney, @aliciamarie112, @karynlocke

SPONSORS:

WHERE: ON TWITTER BY FOLLOWING THE HASHTAG #USTRAVELCHAT

WHEN: November 19th, 9pm-10pm EST

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: You must be following the hosts and sponsors on Twitter as well as RSVP via the linky in this post to be eligible to win

PRIZES:

  • $50 Amazon Gift Card from @WanderlustMoms
  • 2 tickets to Medieval Times Dinner Theater @MedievalTimes
  • $100 Pilot Travel Center Gift Card @PilotTravel

GRAND PRIZE: 2 night stay at Tuckaway Shores Resort AND 4 tickets to Kennedy Space Center & Lunch w/ an Astronaut

Indiana Dunes ~ Summer 2014

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Even though I live in the Midwest and am no where near an ocean, I still am able to enjoy the beach. Chicago has numerous beaches along the lakefront but I prefer to head to Indiana and visit the Indiana Dunes. Only an hour and a half away from my day-to-day life is my sandy escape.

Overall, I’ve found the Dunes to be pretty clean, the water temperature comfortable and the beach area not very crowded. Here are some of my favorite pictures from our day trip earlier this month.

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Share Your #VacayGoneCrayCray Story

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(Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.)

I love going on vacation with my family. It’s nice to just get away and relax. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to be at least! Have you ever went somewhere and had things go awry?

I remember one time I was so excited to visit an apple festival in a town about an hour and a half away. It was going to be a road trip and a quick mini-vaca to enjoy some of my favorite Fall traditions. So we got directions from the internet, loaded the car and were off. We drove and we drove and we drove. We could not find this little town, even after stopping and asking for directions! We ended up having to just turn around and heading home. When all was said and done we had spent about six hours driving without ever having stopped anywhere. Every time the weather starts to get cooler I am reminded of that story. Maybe one day we will try to go to the fest again and we will actually find it!

Do you have a crazy vacation story of your own? Choice Hotels, one of the world’s leading hotel franchisors, is celebrating their 75th anniversary and wants to hear your story so they can help turn those crazy misadventures back into positive memories. You can tell your vacation misadventure stories for the opportunity to have your trip re-enacted by YouTube sensations Rhett & Link who will select the best of the worst vacation experiences to reenact on their Good Mythical Morning Show every Thursday. Along with that, you will have a chance to win a grand prize of $10,000 to re-do the trip that went awry the first time around. The winner will be announced on August 29th.

Here is the first #VacayGoneCrayCray story that was re-enacted (it starts at 4:19 in the video below):

For Official Rules, including prize descriptions, and how to enter, visit www.vacaygonecraycray.com.

 

Catamaran Adventures In Jamaica and The Turks & Caicos

Look at that beautiful water! This picture was taken when the catamaran pulled up next to the private beach.

While at Beaches Resorts in Jamaica and the Turks & Caicos I got to enjoy Catamaran rides. Catamarans are medium sized boats that have netting towards the front that you can sit on and look at the ocean beneath you. A huge thank you to Island Routes for these amazing opportunities!

I thought I’d share some of my favorite pictures from both excursions. This would definitely be on my “must do” list if I was traveling to the Caribbean again!

While in Jamaica, Jacob and I went on a catamaran that stopped near a cave and we got to swim into the dark cave and out the other side! We also watched people jump from a cliff into the water below.

Jacob relaxing on the catamaran

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The cliff people were jumping from while we cheered them on

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This is the cave we swam in. We went in the left side, went around inside and then came out the right side of it. This was good exercise since I had to pull Jacob along the whole time.

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My little ham

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Enjoying the sunny day

Our Turks & Caicos catamaran adventure took Sinisa and I to a private island and also stopped in the middle of the ocean for us to go snorkeling.

The Catamaran

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Look at that beautiful water! This picture was taken when the catamaran pulled up next to the private beach.

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Taken after we went snorkeling. Those yellow things in the water are people still snorkeling :)

Catamarans are a unique way to explore the Caribbean. Ours had some snacks and drinks as well as a DJ playing music. Here are my tips for enjoying the ride:

1) Wear lots of sunscreen!

2) Be careful walking on the net and do not run on it. I sprained my ankle trying to get Jacob away from the edge of the boat because my foot got caught in the net.

3) Try new things! Snorkeling, swimming in a cave, jumping into the ocean from the boat? How often do you get a chance to do something fun like that?!

4) Bring a coverup for your bathing suit. Once you’ve been in the water you will want to wear something over your suit while you cruise back to the island. That wind gets chilly when you are wet.

5) Bring a camera to get some pictures. Waterproof cameras are the best.

Enjoy!

 

 

Free Fun At The St. Louis Zoo

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I love finding free activities in towns that I visit so I was really excited to be in St. Louis last weekend and discover that their zoo had no entrance fee. Not only was it free, but it’s a fan favorite. It was just announced that is had been voted the second best U.S. zoo in the Readers’ Choice awards by USA Today (beating out the zoo I’m a member of, Brookfield Zoo in Chicago).

The zoo grounds were beautiful and the zoo was spread out so it didn’t seem very crowded for a Holiday weekend. The zoo boasts over 600 species so there was lots for us to see in our short afternoon there. We probably didn’t even see half of what the zoo had to offer.

Lucas noticed the train going around the zoo and just had to ride it. We sat in the back and the boys all got to help the Conductor. They loved saying “All Aboard!” into the loudspeaker.

And no trip to the zoo is complete without a stop to the snack area for an “Elephant’s Ear”!

We had a great time at the zoo. Can’t wait to go back!

Note: There is a fee to park but you can park a bit farther away and walk if you want it to be absolutely free :) Some attractions also cost money. We chose to do the train which was $5/person. There is an option to buy a decently priced package which includes the train and a number of other attractions. If we were there longer we would have probably chosen to buy the package.

Beaches Turks & Caicos Debuts Key West Luxury Village

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(Disclosure: I was invited to Beaches Turks & Caicos for the opening of their Key West village but all thoughts are my own.)

I was so excited to head to Beaches Turks & Caicos earlier this week. Not only was I headed to check out a resort, but it was the first trip that Sinisa and I have ever taken together without the kids. I love traveling with my boys but sometimes it’s just nice to get away and have some couple time ;)

This was my first time to the islands and my second time checking out a Beaches resort (see my thoughts on Beaches Negril here). The resort was only a 15 minute van ride away from the airport. The resort was gorgeous and well-deserving of the Six Star Black Diamond Award for overall excellence that was bestowed upon it.

I took hundreds of pictures throughout my visit, including many of the other three villages at the resort, so I’m just going to focus on the Key West village that we stayed at for this post. This new village at the resort features more than 150 suites and villas, three gourmet restaurants, private pools and more!

There was lots of outdoor space to enjoy. I loved that even though the resort was almost at full capacity, it didn’t FEEL like it was. Even the beach never got too busy!

Our room overlooked the garden space. I worked a few of the days we were there but I didn’t mind sitting in the room because it felt nice and airy, especially when the balcony doors were open and we had a nice breeze.


When we weren’t in our room or at the beach we were sitting by the pool or eating at one of the restaurants that overlooked the water.

Stay tuned for more about Beaches Turks & Caicos! It’s the perfect place for a couples escape or a family vacation :)

Enjoying A Day At Great Stirrup Cay, Bahamas

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(Disclosure: My family received a complimentary vacation on MSC Cruises but all thoughts are my own.)

On our recent cruise, we stopped in the Bahamas and spent a few hours at the beach in Great Stirrup Cay. We left the kids in the kid’s club on the boat (since they had gotten too much sun at our first stop) so it was just Sinisa and I. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the afternoon!

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The beach’s sand wasn’t silky smooth like at other places we’ve visited and the ground as you walk into the ocean is full of rocks. While I don’t think the beach itself was that nice, the water was amazing. It was clearer than the other islands in the Caribbean we’ve visited.

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Great Stirrup Cay was really busy. When we got to the beach a few hours after our ship had arrived, almost every beach chair was being used. I did notice that if we would have walked down the beach more there were open chairs but that was away from everything else (including the food).

Along with the beautiful water of Great Stirrup Cay, other perks included on duty lifeguards and the fact that our food and drinks were included just like they were on the ship.

Overall, it was a really relaxing afternoon. We enjoyed just sitting on the edge of the water with a cold drink in our hands as we chatted. We are looking forward to visiting again!

Treat Mom To A Luxurious Stay At The Cheshire In St. Louis {Giveaway}

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(Disclosure: I will be enjoying a complimentary stay at The Cheshire but all thoughts are my own.)

Are you still stumped on what to get mom this Mother’s Day? I know I am! What about taking her on a trip to St. Louis where you can stay at The Cheshire?

The Cheshire is one of St. Louis’ iconic properties. Originally built in the 1920’s, it was completely renovated in 2011 with modern day conveniences.

PROPERTY FEATURES, SERVICES & AMENITIES

  • Heated Outdoor Pool with Fire Element
  • Wellness Center with Matrix Equipment
  • ”Cozy Study” Business Center
  • Complimentary High Speed Internet Access
  • Complimentary Euro-Continental Breakfast
  • Wellness services by The Face & Body available by appointment
  • On-premise dining options, including: two award-winning restaurants – The Restaurant at The Cheshire and Basso, The Market at The Cheshire and the Fox & Hounds Tavern (next to hotel lobby)
  • Complimentary British tea service
  • Pet Friendly (up to 60 pounds)
  • Captain Barnaby’s Traveler’s Den with (108) books for private meetings
  • Complimentary Secure Covered & Self Parking
  • 4 House Bicycles provided by Big Shark Bicycle Company
  • Clayton Courtyard
  • Vintage Art & Décor showcasing elements of British Heritage & literature
  • Complimentary chocolates from St. Louis’ own Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Company

All guestrooms feature:

  • Luxurious triple sheeted Presidential Pillow Top Beds, down chamber pillows and comforters
  • Specialty Art highlighting elements literature
  • Spacious Tile entry
  • Original Stained Glass Windows
  • Individual Climate Control
  • Large working desk with built in power outlet
  • Sophisticated Soft Seating
  • 37” LG Flat Screen HDTV
  • Clock radio with MP3/ iPod adapter
  • Cordless Phone for complimentary local and long distance phone calls

In addition to their normal rooms, The Cheshire has 6 Signature Novelty Suites. Each Novelty Suite features uniquely themed décor, specialty artwork and custom furniture. Room themes include: “James Bond”, “Passage to India”, “Romeo & Juliet”, “Treasure Island”, “Death on the Nile”, and “Bride’s Head Revisited”. The suite collection includes separate entertainment seating and signature bathroom with a soaking tub for two. Below are artist renditions for to offer an interpretation of the design elements to be used.

The Cheshire has a number of special accommodations and programs like:

  • Extended Stay Guest Accommodations for travelers whose length of stay is 7 nights or more
  • Noble Pet Program sponsored by Nestle Purina
  • Royal Kid’s Program offering Kid Friendly Activities
  • Royal Perks Traveler Rewards Program
  • Royal Rewards Planner Program
  • Various Specialty Travel Packages
  • Live Music
As a parent, the Royal Kid’s Program is something I definitely can’t wait to learn more about. I’m also looking forward to lounging by the pool. Doesn’t this look relaxing!?

GIVEAWAY:

One person will win a $100 gift card to The Cheshire in St. Louis

(Please note: Winner is responsible for all other costs associated with their travel to St. Louis and stay.)

HOW TO ENTER:

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do.}

1) Leave a comment telling me why you want to win

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Comment on another one of my posts

Giveaway ends May 9, 2014 at 11:59pm CST. Must be 21 or older and a US resident to enter.

 

 

 

8 Tips For Packing A Caribbean Cruise Wardrobe

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(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Kohl’s but all thoughts are my own.)

I just returned from my very first cruise. I struggled with packing for the week long trip but now that I have experienced it, I want to share some tips for packing in regards to your wardrobe. Many of these tips will also work for other travel plans, too!

1) Pack jewelry pieces that can work with a variety of outfits you are bringing. I brought a number of pieces, including this gold bracelet and long silver necklace from the daisy fuentes® collection at Kohl’s.

They fancy up simple black dresses.

2) Pack swimsuit coverups that can go from the pool to the beach to walking around the islands of a Caribbean cruise. I brought a cute little black one made of cotton that looked like a dress.

3) Bring dressy clothes. Many ships have “gala” nights. Some women were wearing fancy evening dresses but many on my ship were wearing dresses a little less fancier and fit in just fine. I don’t own any fancy dresses so I went shopping at Kohl’s and chose a black and white striped dress from the daisy fuentes® collection. I paired it with some black sandals that had gold embellishments for one of the gala evenings.

4) Look for wrinkle resistant fabrics since most cruises won’t have irons. I also packed a bottle of wrinkle releaser for those fabrics that got a little wrinkled during transit.

5) If you want to work out while you are on board, make sure to pack some clothes and gym shoes you can exercise in.

6) Bring layers. Even Caribbean nights can get a bit chilly when the wind is blowing. I brought a black cardigan that I could wear over my dresses in the restaurant and that worked with a tank top and jeans as well.

7) Shoes take up a lot of space in the suitcase. I try to keep my outfits in the same color groups so that I can limit how many shoes I bring. Almost all of the clothes I brought went with black shoes so I was able to mainly wear the same two pairs of sandals: a dressy pair and flip-flops. I brought a few extra pairs of sandals as well to be able to change things up a bit.

8) Don’t forget the waterproof sunscreen if you are going to the Caribbean and make sure to apply it frequently. That sun is HOT so you can’t go by what the bottle says regarding how often to reapply it. (Trust me…we learned this the hard way…) Sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat are great as well.

What packing tips do you have?

Views From Beaches Resort in Jamaica

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A couple months ago I talked about our amazing sponsored stay at Beaches Resort in Negril, Jamaica and shared how kid-friendly the resort was. As the weather here in Chicago is teetering between Winter and Spring, I am daydreaming of the warm weather of Jamaica and Beaches Negril and wanted to share more pictures of the resort with you all. Pictures do not do this place justice. It was truly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been and I hope to go back and stay again soon.

Our room (we could see the ocean from our patio!)

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 The private beach

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Eating with views of the water (we ate on the beach a couple times as well!)

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Great pools!

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I really loved how everything was open and airy throughout the resort.

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See why I hope to go back to Negril to stay at Beaches Resort again soon? It’s such a beautiful place!

The Ritz-Carlton Chicago: A Kid-Friendly Luxury Hotel

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Despite living only about an hour away from Chicago, we don’t really go downtown that often. I wanted to go somewhere over President’s Day since the boys were out of school and I had the day off from work, so our family headed to Chicago for a couple days of fun in the big city. I was really excited about this trip because I would be reviewing The Ritz-Carlton Chicago hotel. I had heard of this hotel, and assumed it would be too “fancy” for me to bring the boys to, but when they invited us for a “family sleepover” we decided to go and I’m so glad we did.

When I checked out the website I noticed a few things immediately that keyed me in to how great it would be for kids. Room-wise they offered childproof rooms which I think is great for people with young children. They also had a bunch of amenities just for the kids. To keep children occupied they also had a pool, cookie baking, and a candy cart that you could have come to your room.

When we first walked into the suite I was amazed at how large it was. We were staying in their Deluxe Lake-View Suite. It was about the size of my first apartment. Here is a video walk-through of the suite:

This suite was located on the 24th floor and was on the corner so we had lake views from every room. I even got to wake up to the lake outside of my window as I laid in bed! That to me is a dream!

The boys were so excited to see a little tent in the room. One of the maids also came before bedtime for “turn down” service and made the pullout couch into a bed for the boys. Some of my other favorite kid-friendly features in the room were the bathrobes and kid-toiletries. 

We didn’t make it to the pool but the boys loved baking cookies in the kitchen. They were then delivered to our room about an hour later with whipped cream and sprinkles so the boys could decorate them and then eat them.

There were delicious treats for mommy and daddy, too!

Along with the fun inside the hotel, guests of The Ritz-Carlton can take an elevator down to the Water Tower mall. This was perfect for our winter visit to the city because we could enjoy the mall and it’s restaurants without having to put on our coats and walk in the slush and snow outside. The boys enjoyed playing at the LEGO store and Luke and I walked through the American Girl store. We also went up every escalator in the mall and then took the elevator down.

Another thing I liked was that the check-in and check-out times were really generous. Check-out was at noon so we were able to walk down Michigan Avenue and relax in our room a bit before we had to leave. We wanted to avoid this wintery weather for as long as we could….

Are you looking to enjoy an evening in Chicago? While the $785/night suites are a little pricier than my family would normally stay in, I think it’s worth splurging a bit to experience the luxury that we did! When I checked there were also hotel rooms priced at $295/night. Along with the beautiful hotel located in the perfect spot on Michigan Avenue, the staff was excellent and the beds were really comfortable. I think both couples and families would enjoy staying at The Ritz-Carlton Chicago. It is definitely a hotel we will go back to!

(Disclosure: My family received a free stay at the hotel but all thoughts are my own.)

#RockYourVacation Instagram Contest

EXK Rock Your Vacation Logo

Are you dreaming of vacationing somewhere warm? Experience Kissimmee is hosting a “Rock Your Vacation” video contest on Instagram. Show how you and your “entourage” would Rock a Central Florida vacation and you could have the opportunity to enjoy adrenaline-pumping attractions and heart racing adventure, just moments from Orlando’s world-famous theme parks.

From now until March 16, entrants with an active and non-private Instagram account will be able to create and post an original 15-second video. In order to qualify, entrants must follow @ExperienceKissimmee and use the #RockYourVacation hashtag on Instagram. Once the submission has been approved, Experience Kissimmee will post a comment on the Instagram video with a link. The user will go to that link to “verify” their entry and the video will appear in a video gallery on www.RockYourVacation.com.

Submissions will be judged based on overall creativity and general knowledge of the destination. From among those, the top 8 videos will be narrowed down throughout a public voting period of 3 weeks using a bracket system.

The grand-prize winner and their entourage of five will receive a 6-day, 5-night VIP trip, during which they will have the chance to experience the destination in a way they may have never done before. Their getaway will include a stay at an amazing vacation home provided by All-Star Vacation Homes, an SUV car rental for a week and a number of exclusive experiences.

Learn more at rockyourvacation.com.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for posting this information.)

Escape The Cold At KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort {Giveaway & Coupon Code}

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(Disclosure: My family received a complimentary stay at the resort but all thoughts are my own.)

It’s been cold and snowy here in Chicago and I’m really ready for warmer weather. Last weekend we took an hour and a half drive North to Gurnee and escaped to the warmth of KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort.

Once inside we immediately felt like we were in Florida. The main hall was decorated to look like a street and it hinted at the fun we were going to have during our stay.

At check-in we learned that KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark is conveniently cashless. We received a Smart Band® RFID wristband which was our room key and also allowed us to charge everything back to our room just by the swipe of our wrists. The wristbands can be used for vending machines, token dispensers in the arcade, lockers, restaurants, spa, gift shops, and concessions at KeyLime Cove. I loved that we didn’t have to carry cash or worry about losing our room key.

After we checked in and headed to our room which continued the tropical theme. I thought it was nice that the sleeping area and the “living” area were separated by a sliding door because it created different living spaces.

Once we put everything in our room, the boys were begging to go to the waterpark. KeyLime Cove Resort’s Lost Paradise waterpark features 65,000 square feet of indoor fun. They have a wave pool, water slides, lazy river, and a great kid’s area.

I really love that the waterpark opens at 9am on weekends because my kids wake up really early and it is so hard to wait three or four hours for the park to open like at some places we’ve been. As far as safety goes, I thought the lifeguards were very aware of what was going on at all times and none of them looked “checked out” while doing there job. There was also plenty of seating in the water park.

The resort features a lot of other fun activities outside of the water park. I loved that there was a kid’s daily “Fun-tivities Guide” to tell us what was happening each day. The guide features new activities almost hourly during the day where children can participate in a kids’ parade, decorate a cookie, do a scavenger hunt, listen to a story, or do a craft. These activities are free! The boys did one where they colored a sports visor to wear. There is also a large arcade for kids of all ages.

Adults have a lot of options at the resort. Looking to relax? The resort has a spa with all sorts of services offered. Like to shop? Check out one of the unique shops to find the perfect gift for a friend.

While at KeyLime Cove you are bound to get hungry. There are many delicious options. While there we enjoyed a breakfast buffet at D.W. Anderson’s. The buffet featured an omelet station and a waffle station. I’m not really a fan of buffets but really loved this one because the food was freshly cooked and didn’t seem like it had been sitting there a while. The buffet even had blintzes which Sinisa loved and you don’t normally see at buffets. While at the water park we lunch from their Sharky’s Big Bites snack area. Dinner at The Crazy Toucan also exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed a strawberry colada with cheesy crab logs. Crab is my favorite food and this mixture of crab and cheese on toasted bread was amazing. They also had a large variety of choices for the kids. We headed to Island Temptations for dessert where candy, ice cream, coffee and more is available.

Overall, we had a great time at KeyLime Cove Resort. We stayed one night and enjoyed the waterpark the day before our stay and the day after which was perfect for my young kids. Then we headed home in this…

It was nice escaping reality for a bit :) Do you want to take a mini-vacation like my family did? Check out the great deal below!

 GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a $50 KeyLime Cove gift card

HOW TO ENTER:

Tell me why you want to win

EARN AN EXTRA ENTRY:

Share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends March 1, 2014 at 11:59pm Central time. Must be 21 or over and a US resident to enter.

Beaches Negril Resort & Spa: Jamaica’s Family Friendly Resort

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Do you ever have an experience that is so absolutely amazing that you can’t even put it into words? This is how I feel about my trip to Jamaica. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel on a press trip with my son Jacob to visit Jamaica and stay at the Beaches Negril Resort and Spa. I’ve honestly never been somewhere so wonderful. Before my trip was over I knew that I wanted to save up money to go back again with my whole family.

Our experience is going to be split into multiple posts since I have way too many pictures to share but I thought I’d start off by sharing about the family friendly aspect of the resort we stayed at. I think a lot of places use the term “family friendly” very loosely but Beaches Negril Resort and Spa truly is. They made TripAdvisor® Travelers’ Choice Awards list of ‘Top 25 Hotels for Families in the World’ last year and they definitely deserved to make that list.

Beaches has a partnership with Sesame Street and we experienced fun with the Sesame Street characters all throughout our stay. The first night we went to a party to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the partnership between the two companies. There was even cake!

Every week there is also a character parade. It was fun to watch the characters dancing.

There was a balloon artist that was making balloon animals and other things for the kids. He made Jacob a sword and a crown.

When the parade passed by everyone followed the characters as they led us to the beach to eat a huge buffet dinner. Jacob enjoyed meeting all of the characters as we listened to live music.

During our stay we did a few other different Sesame Street activities. We watched a live Sesame Street show in an auditorium. We also turned ‘Trash to Treasure’ with Oscar the Grouch.

Jacob’s favorite Sesame Street activity was having Elmo come to our room and read a bedtime story with him. He was so surprised to have Elmo knock on the door and come visit! First they stretched and then they settled down to listen to a story before Elmo left a stuffed animal with Jacob to drift off to sleep with.

Another fun activity we participated in was Pop-Up Adventure Play. The children arrived to a grassy area with boxes, tape, leftover materials and numerous other discarded items. It was amazing to watch the children use their imaginations. Two boys built and airplane, some of the kids put together a bakery, and Jacob and his friend built some sort of huge building before helping “open” their bakery.

Along with all of the activities there are pools with water slides, a playground, an Xbox lounge, a DJ Scratch Academy, and a fabulous child care center.

Stay tuned for more details about the Resort, the food, Jamaica, and our visit to a local school with the Sandals Foundation!

Take A Mini-Vacation At Chula Vista Resort {Giveaway}

chula vista giveaway

(Disclosure: I am a Chula Vista Resort Ambassador and received a free stay at the resort. All thoughts are my own.)

Everyone needs to get away from it all once in a while so I’m really excited to be working with Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells to offer a giveaway for a two-night stay! Their indoor waterpark is the perfect way to escape the cold winter days. We went there this summer and had a great time! Here are some pictures of the resort:

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GIVEAWAY:

One reader will win a two-night stay in the tower guest rooms at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

(The winner will be able to upgrade to a suite, villa, or condo for a nominal fee if they’d like to.)

HOW TO ENTER: 

{Do any or all of the following, leave a separate comment for each you do}

1) Check out Chula Vista’s website and tell me what your favorite thing about the resort is

2) Share this giveaway on a social network

3) Follow @ChulaVistaWI on Twitter

4) Follow @aliciamarie112 on Twitter

5) Subscribe to this blog via email

6) Comment on another one of my blog posts

Giveaway ends December 10, 2013 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident and 21 or older to enter. Giveaway includes resort stay only, no other fees are covered.

I’m Headed To Jamaica {Soon}!

Jake is all about the pool since he thinks fish will touch him in the ocean :)

I’m so excited to share that I will be headed to Jamaica next month courtesy of Beaches Negril Resort & Spa! The last time I took a trip somewhere warm I was in College and went to Orlando, Florida. I wasn’t doing anything fun though- I was on a mission trip spending most of my time tarring a roof in the hot sun.

Headed to Jamaica is a dream come true and something I never thought I’d be doing. I’m going there with my five year old and am excited to come back and share about our experience. I’d never thought of taking kids to a Beaches resort, because I’d always thought of Beaches as a “couples” honeymoon type place, but upon looking at their website I discovered there is tons for kids to do.

With outrageous waterparks, XBOX® Play Lounge, the Scratch DJ Academy, exclusive Kids Camps, teen nightclubs, Certified Nannies, Butler service, and Red Lane® Spas, Beaches Resorts provides an unrivaled experience in the Caribbean. As a proud sponsor of Sesame Street, Beaches Resorts also offers the Caribbean Adventure with Sesame Street®, where kids can spend their vacation with their favorite friends from the Sesame Street gang with daily activities and weekly stage shows.

Here are some pictures from their website which make me wish the trip was today as I sit here looking outside at a sky filled with rain clouds.

Check out that beach! Have you ever seen anything so amazing?!

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Jake is all about the pool since he thinks fish will touch him in the ocean :)

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I think every vacation I’ve ever dreamed about had a variation of this. What a fabulous way to spend a day!

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Of course the rooms are beautiful as well. Imagine waking up to palm trees and a crystal clear ocean!

Have you ever traveled internationally with children? I’d love any tips you have to share with me since I’m a little nervous!

50 Things To Do When You’re Stuck At An Airport

50 Things To Do When You

 

Great Midwest Family Vacation Town {Branson, MO}

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I recently traveled to Branson, Missouri with a few other bloggers on a trip with US Family Guide courtesy of Branson Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. What was supposed to be a mom/daughter trip ended up being more of a family trip but in a way I’m glad the boys could come with because that gave me the chance to see how kid-friendly Branson was. I went into the trip thinking Branson was more of a place for adults but I left knowing that it is a perfect family vacation destination.

Branson is quite a drive from the Chicago area but do-able. Leaving in the afternoon meant the kids slept most of the car ride. Once we got to Branson we checked in to Thousand Hills Golf Resort where we were staying for the duration of our trip. The condo we stayed in was beautiful and bigger than my first apartment with a view of the golf course.

Condo at Thousand Hills Golf Resort

We spent our first day at Silver Dollar City. I started the day by riding their new record-breaking ride, Outlaw Run. It’s the first and only double barrel roll on a wood coaster, the only wood coaster to twist upside down three times, the world’s steepest wood coaster, and the second fastest wood coaster in the world. It was an amazing thrill! I spent the rest of the day with my kids riding “kiddie rides”, eating delicious food, and walking around looking at the 125+ booths of crafts during their National Harvest Fest.

Rides at Silver Dollar City

After a day at Silver Dollar City we went back to our hotel room, changed, and headed to Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede for dinner and show. The show was action packed and we loved watching all of the performers including the man who rode 2 horses through a ring of fire and the ostrich race. My boys even got to be part of the show as they chased chickens in the arena while about a thousand people watched.

Ostrich Race at Dixie Stampede

After a good night’s rest we headed to the Hollywood Wax Museum where my mom and the boys posed with wax figures of famous actors and actresses. Some of them looked so real!

My favorite wax celebrity at the Hollywood Wax Museum- so real!

 Our next stop was to The Track Family Fun Parks. With 5 locations spread along the main highway, there is something for everyone at “the tracks”. The boys loved riding Go-Karts by themselves and all of the kiddie rides. My favorite was racing Go-Karts on a couple of the best tracks that I’ve ever been on.

Go-Kart fun at The Track Family Fun Parks

Our evening consisted of a nice dinner cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle. We enjoyed delicious food while watching some great talent. One of the women performing had me amazed when she was playing the violin upside down while doing aerials! The comedian and magician was so good that I’m still trying to figure out how he did one of his last tricks.

Beautiful evening for a cruise on the Showboat Branson Belle

The next day was our last day in Branson. We spent our morning at the Titanic Museum. I found it interesting to learn more about this ship I had only known about from the movie. The boys loved all of the interactive exhibits.

Model ship we saw at the Titanic Museum

Before we left we stopped at the Christmas store and a local shop selling taffy. We had a great time together on our trip. If you are looking for a family-friendly vacation spot I recommend heading to Branson, Missouri. See more fun things to do at ExploreBranson.com!

Thousand Hills Golf Resort {Branson, MO}

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(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson, Missouri and while I was there stayed at Thousand Hills Golf Resort courtesy of the resort. All thoughts are my own.)

After a long day of traveling, nothing feels better than coming back to the hotel room and relaxing before falling asleep in a nice comfy bed. While I was in Branson I was lucky enough to stay at an amazing resort called the Thousand Hills Golf Resort.

Thousand Hills Hotel, Golf Resort and Conference Center provides Branson lodging luxury, variety and convenience found nowhere else in Missouri. Whether you choose the secluded Branson cabins, the centrally located condos that surround the 18-hole golf course, or prefer to be on Table Rock Lake you will enjoy many features not found at competing Branson, Missouri hotels and resorts. All three of their Branson Lodging properties feature free wi-fi internet, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, exercise facility and hotel lodging loaded with special features.

My family stayed in one of the one bedroom condos. The living room and bedroom had a view of the golf course. The condo also had a balcony with table and chairs for relaxing or eating outside.

When I walked into the condo for the first time I was amazed at the size of it. It was larger than my first apartment!

The main living area featured a kitchen, dining room, and living room. There was a closet with a washer and dryer off of the dining room which is perfect for families staying a while.

I liked the fact that there was a full kitchen complete with small appliances. Eating out can be expensive so running to the grocery store and cooking your own food is an easy way to save money while traveling.

The living room had a pull-out couch which we used during our stay. There was also a large TV with a DVD player so we ran to Redbox and got a couple movies for the evenings.

The bedroom was really spacious. It contained a large bed, 2 nightstands, and an armoire with a television. The bedroom had a “his” and “hers” closet and a sink area w/ mirror which is nice for getting ready in the morning when someone is in the bathroom. The two door bathroom was off the bedroom and featured a nice Jacuzzi tub.

The features of the condo units include:

  • Swimming Pool
  • Whirlpool Jacuzzi-Type Tub
  • Private Patio or Deck
  • Spacious Living Room
  • Fully-Equipped Kitchen
  • DVD Player
  • Televisions in all bedrooms
  • Cable Television
  • Premium Channels with ESPN, HBO
  • Pull-Out Sofa Sleeper
  • Washers and Dryers
  • Soaps & Detergents
  • Iron with Ironing Board
  • All Major Appliances
  • AM/FM Alarm Clock Radios
  • All Linens Furnished
  • Electronic Door Locks
  • Free WiFi Internet

The condos sound like they’d be expensive but they are really affordable and comparable in price to normal hotel rooms. The smallest unit starts at $74/night. The one bedroom condos start at $115/night. There are also 2, 3, 4, and 5 bedroom condo and town-home options that sleep anywhere from 2-12 people.

If you will be traveling to Branson, Missouri I recommend staying at the Thousand Hills Golf Resort. Learn more about the resort here.

Showboat Branson Belle {Branson, MO}

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(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson and tickets to the Showboat Branson Belle while I was there. All thoughts are my own.)

While in Branson we had a chance to go on the Showboat Branson Belle which was a dinner show cruise. I wasn’t sure what to expect entertainment-wise because I had never been to a dinner show on a cruise. I thought maybe I’d find some good singers or acts but I was blown away by the excellent talent that was featured.

Janice Martin astounds audiences with her gravity-defying performances. Her show is extraordinary and original – a master musician and acrobat/aerialist, doing both at the same time. You will be amazed! The ShowMen, hailing from all across America, feature musical selections spanning the decades from Gershwin to the Beatles to the Black Eyed Peas. You’ll love their powerful harmonies and stand-out solos. Returning this season is comedian and magician Christopher James as the ultra-funny Master of Ceremonies. Completing the LIVE entertainment experience is the Rockin’ Dockers Band.

Janice Martin

I was amazed as I watched Janice play the violin, then the piano, then sing, and then play the violin while doing aerials. And she didn’t just do everything…she did it all well. I sat marveling over how someone could have mastered all that she has.

The ShowMen

I enjoyed the selection of music that was played. I am not a country music fan so I’m glad that all of the music played was not country. The ShowMen were wonderful and I loved how all of their voices blended together.

Christopher James

As for magician Christopher James, I have to say that he is one of the best magicians I’ve ever seen. The biggest surprise came during the end of the act and I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how he did what he did. He also kept us all laughing throughout his performance.

No dinner show cruise is complete without food! We were sitting in the Captain’s Row so we had choices of steak and seafood to enjoy. I enjoyed the Mate’s Choice meal which consisted of a Kansas City strip steak, grilled shrimp scampi, garlic mashed potatoes, and seasonal veggies. The dinner was a nice change from the chicken I had been eating for dinner most of the trip. Dessert was flavored cheesecakes. I loved that they had a kid’s menu even though I didn’t see many kids on our evening cruise. The boys even got a special ice cream cake dessert covered in chocolate sauce, sprinkles, and gummy bears.

Lucas trying to balance a spoon on his nose like the magician was directing everyone in the audience to do.

I had the kids with me and although I think this cruise is geared more towards adults it is still appropriate for kids and both boys behaved pretty well during it. The acts are family friendly. The music had Lucas dancing at points (both in his seat and out of it). The magician mesmerized the kids like it did the adults. Also, if the kids got restless they could walk around the boat. I brought the boys’ tablets so that kept them occupied while they were waiting for the cruise to start and during some of it. Lucas, my son with Autism, spent most of his time lining up the sugar packets then gathering them in a teacup, then lining them all up again. It was a nice quiet activity for him to do and it didn’t bother anyone that he was standing and on the floor some of the time.

Overall, we had a nice experience. The show does go late so if you have kids I’d recommend an earlier showtime. If you get there early make sure to checkout the area by the lakefront. There are a couple little shops and plenty of green areas to walk around in.

(Disclosure: All images (other than last three) courtesy of Showboat Branson Belle. I received tickets for free but all thoughts are my own.)

The Track Family Fun Parks {Branson, MO}

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(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson, Missouri and free day passes to The Track Family Fun Parks. All thoughts are my own.)

When we were in Branson last weekend we did a lot of fun things but none was more exciting for the kids than riding go-karts at The Track Family Fun Parks. I’ve driven many go-kart tracks in my life and I have to say that these were the most exciting tracks that I’ve ever driven on. One truly felt like a rollercoaster at points and another track had me positive that my go-kart was up in the air.

My two favorite tracks were the Heavy Metal High Rise (pictured above) and the Wild Woody. The Heavy Metal High Rise was four stories high! When we were driving down from the fourth story I felt like I was flying in the air at some points. It was awesome! Wild Woody (pictured below) was also four stories high but felt more like a wooden rollercoaster than a go-kart track. There is one point that you can’t see what’s over the hill and as soon as you speed over it you are headed down. It was exciting!

The Track Family Fun Parks’ rides are split between 5 locations, all located on the central highway that goes through town. We spent most of our time on the kid rides at tracks #5 and #3. Many of the go-kart rides the kids had to ride with an adult and it was a nice feature to have double go-karts that featured two wheels so the kids could feel like they were driving.

The boys took turns riding with me and the other half of the time they rode with their Nana.

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There were a few that they could drive on all by themselves. They really liked this!

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When the boys were done riding the go-karts they got special stickers that said “first time driver”.

The Tracks Family Fun Parks had a lot more than just go-karts. They had indoor arcade games and other outside kiddie rides.

I really appreciated that the rides were long. They are all on timers and lasted about 5 minutes so you really can get your money’s worth on these rides.

The staff was really nice, too. The one man operating the train ride saw that Jacob was upset about not being able to be in the engine to toot the whistle so he promised Jacob that he could go again and ride in the engine part the second time. It’s little things like that that really makes a difference when out and about with the kids. This man understood that Jacob was having a difficult time and stopped a full-on meltdown from happening with just a few words.

Other rides included a kiddie ferris wheel, bumper cars, and bumper boats. We loved spraying each other on the bumper boats and the cool water was welcome on the hot day.

Overall, we had an amazing time at the Tracks Family Fun Parks. There is plenty to do and with four locations, one could spend a whole day playing! I look forward to going back the next time I am in Branson.

(Disclosure: As stated above, I received free passes to the park but all thoughts are my own.)

Jake & Luke’s First Acting Audition {Wordless Wednesday}

wax museum

Can you guess which child probably wouldn’t have gotten the job?

(Disclosure: I received tickets to the Hollywood Wax Museum in Branson, Missouri but purchased this portrait with my own money.)

Titanic Museum {Branson, MO}

titanic branson

(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson, Missouri and tickets to the Museum while I was there. Thoughts are my own.)

It is said that the best way to respect and honor those who gave their lives is to simply tell their stories. This is what the Titanic Museum is around for. It’s a tribute to the ship and the 2,208 passengers and crew members that were on the Titanic when it sank in 1912. The Museum has two locations, one in Branson, MO and one in Pigeon Forge, TN. I visited the location in Branson.

When we got to the museum we were greeted outside by the “crew” of the ship. They gave us cards that had a name and story on it and told us it was the real name of someone on the ship. We could look for our name throughout the museum and I thought that was a really great way for people to connect personally with the experience.

We were also given personal listening devices to listen to more about the exhibits in the museum. Children were given their own as well and had special numbers so their stories were more age-appropriate. Upon entering the museum we stood inside the beautiful lobby where we saw a picture on the wall of how large the ship was compared to other things including the Statue of Liberty and the St. Louis Arch. The thing on the ceiling that looks like a fan was actually the smallest propeller on the ship {it doesn’t look like it in the picture but it is huge}.

There were many displays in the museum. There was a wall of ice you could touch and see what the iceberg might have felt like. There was a large model of the ship when you first walked in that was interesting to look at.

New this year, the Museum has a special children’s exhibit honoring all the children that were on the ship.

The boys were able to see what kinds of toys children played with years ago and see pictures of all of the children. We learned that the youngest survivor was an infant that the mother wrapped in her jacket and that baby grew up and just passed away a few years back.

I loved seeing the rooms on the Titanic. Above is where the 3rd class passengers stayed, four to a room and below is a picture of the rooms the 1st class passengers stayed in.

The boys enjoyed the interactive exhibits towards the end of the museum. They could sit in a rescue boat and listen to stories of passengers that lived. They could stick their hand in a vat of water that showed them just how cold the water was that fateful night. Most of all they enjoyed climbing up the different ship decks that showed what angle the ship was sinking at during different times of the night. They found it very hard to climb up and hold on when the ship was at the steepest angle.

This is a press photo- not my kids :)

Overall, we enjoyed our trip to the Titanic Museum and learning more about the Titanic than what was in the movie by the same name. I really liked that the Museum featured plenty for kids and wasn’t just for adults.

(Disclosure: I received free tickets to the Titanic Museum. Opinions are my own.)

Keep Your Car Healthy With Techron Fuel System Cleaner From Pep Boys

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pep Boys and Techron for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

I recently went on a roadtrip to Branson. I spent the couple days before my trip busily preparing by packing my suitcase, buying snacks, putting together a “fun” bag for the kids and getting hotel details. One of the most important things that I had to do though was to prepare my vehicle for the long trip. I first took out the random toys, sports gear, and anything that I wouldn’t need for my trip and then I got an oil change for the car. I would have loved to vacuum it out and wash the outside too but I didn’t get around to that.

One other thing that you can do when preparing for a roadtrip is to use a fuel system cleaner. What this does is prevent deposit formation, and in the case of deposits left behind by low quality gasoline, works to remove those deposits.

One great product is Techron Fuel System Cleaner from Pep Boys. You can watch a video of how the cleaner works below:

While I can’t give my car an oil change I love that I can easily take care of my vehicle and keep it running smoothly. Find a Pep Boys Near You to purchase Techron Fuel System Cleaner.

 

Visit Sponsor's Site

Hollywood Wax Museum {Branson, MO}

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(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson and free tickets to the Hollywood Wax Museum while I was there. All thoughts are my own.)

I got to hang out with the stars of Hollywood today! Okay, so they were really made of wax but some of them looked so real. In fact, Samuel L. Jackson’s wax figure looked so much like a real person that I stood there staring at the eyes waiting for them to blink. I thought maybe I was being punk’d and it was really him in between all those wax figures! {It wasn’t….}

Samuel L. Jackson

My mom saw a few characters that she wanted to pose with including Tom Hanks, Dolly Parton, Leonardo DiCaprio and the genie from I Dream of Jeannie.

With Leo on the Titanic

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Posing just like Jeannie

The boys got in on the action, too!

Making silly faces

Here are a few of my favorite wax characters:

Judy Garland

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Jamie Foxx

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The 3 Stooges

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Morgan Freeman

There were even monsters! Here are two famous ones:

Frankenstein and his bride

So many celebrities! Which celebrity would you like to see at the Hollywood Wax Museum?

(Disclosure: I received tickets to the Hollywood Wax Museum but all thoughts are my own.)

Silver Dollar City {Branson, MO}

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(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson and free tickets to Silver Dollar City while I was there. All thoughts are my own.)

Since becoming a mom I hadn’t been on an amusement park ride more exciting than a kiddie rollercoaster so I was really excited to spend a day at Silver Dollar City Attractions in Branson, Missouri. This park is home to Outlaw Run, the world’s first and only double barrel roll on a wood coaster, with a 720-degree (double) barrel roll. It’s also the only wood coaster to twist upside down three times, the world’s steepest wood coaster with a first drop of 162 feet (more than 16 stories) at 81 degrees, and the second fastest wood coaster in the world, reaching a top speed of 68 miles per hour. I had a chance to ride Outlaw Run and wow! What an adrenaline Rush! It was a great way to start my day at Silver Dollar City. There are over 30 rides at Silver Dollar City.

Outlaw Run! This is a view from the train ride. See how the coaster goes upside down? I was brave and rode that ride!

After that ride we headed over to the Grand Exposition area where the kiddie rides are located. The great thing about all the rides for the kids was that they were all big enough that the adults could ride, too. The boys loved that I could sit with them on the rides but Jacob also loved finding rides that he was big enough to go on all by himself. My little boy is growing up!

Big boy on the carousel

Jacob’s favorite ride was the flying elephants where you could push a button and go up or down. Lucas loved the teacup ride. My favorite ride that we all went on was “Fire in the hole”, an indoor rollercoaster that went through a dark building and had a couple drops that you couldn’t see coming. There was also a train we took around the park that included a stop at a staged interactive show in the woods.

The teacup ride that Lucas enjoyed.

There were plenty of other things for the kids to do as well. There was a climbing area where the children could climb up steps, through netted areas, and down through obstacles. There was a sand area for children to play as well. If you wanted a memory from the park that your child could take home with you, there was a store where children could make their own stuffed animals.

The climbing area for the kids

If you are not into rides that’s ok because there are plenty of other things to do at Silver Dollar City as well. There are over 40 live shows every day, ranging from Western Stunt Shows to string bands to cooking. There are craftsmen all throughout the park so you can watch them create works of art that are sure to become treasured by your family as heirloom keepsakes.

We had an extra special time because the National Harvest Fest is going on through October 26th. Over 125 visiting craftsmen from around the country have all come to one place. There is so much to look at! One of my favorites was a woman that was making art out of barbed wire!

Barbed wire art

During your day of fun there is plenty to eat. The park serves buffet breakfast and lunch for those who are really hungry. The ladies in the buffet were extremely friendly. Jacob had cantaloupe at breakfast and at the lunch buffet was looking for the cantaloupe and was upset that he didn’t see any on the buffet. Overhearing him, one of the ladies went back into the kitchen and got some from the refrigerator. It’s small things like that that sometimes mean the most and that’s definitely a story I will retell often :) There are also over a dozen restaurants serving food throughout the park. I stopped at a store where they made delicious apple items and got a hot apple turnover smothered with homemade apple butter. Yum! They also had some spiral potatoes with different seasonings that I wanted to try.

Overall, we had a great day of old-fashioned fun at Silver Dollar City! It is truly a place that has something for everyone and the whole family can enjoy. We spent about 6 hours there and didn’t even see half the park. I’d love to go back there again soon to ride more of the adult rides and see some of the shows that they have.

(Disclosure: I received free tickets to Silver Dollar City but all thoughts are my own.)

 

Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Show {Branson, MO}

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(Disclosure: I received a free trip to Branson, MO and free tickets to Dixie Stampede while I was there but all thoughts are my own.)

Looking for a live show in Branson, Missouri that the whole family can enjoy? You have to visit Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Show to watch one of the best live shows that the town has to offer while eating dinner as you watch it. I took my kids and my mom to see the show.

I was told to arrive a little early for the show because there is a pre-show that is included in the ticket cost. After viewing all of the horses in their stable areas we got our tickets and some snacks and sat down in their Carriage Room. A juggler by the name of Josh Casey performed many tricks and got us laughing with his jokes. My favorite juggling trick was when he juggled 3 items that were on fire while he hopped on a pogo stick.

Once the preshow was over we headed into the main arena. The arena was split in half- one side was the “North” and one side was the “South” and there was friendly competition throughout the show. The show was action-packed and based around one story line with fun features though out. I loved watching the horses and the racing ostriches. My mom liked watching all of the competitions between North and South. Jacob seemed to love the act that had one man, standing with his feet on two horses and jumping with the horses through a ring of fire.

Image from Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede

I think Luke’s favorite part was when he was part of the show himself. My two boys and two other kids were chosen to go into the arena, in front of about 1,000 people, and chase chickens trying to catch them. I’m proud to say that my two boys brought the victory home for their team. In return for their hard work they received a Dixie Stampede medal, book, and a letter from Dolly Parton telling them how brave they were :)

One feature that sets Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede apart from others is their fabulous four course feast. We got so much food that we ended up taking more than half of our plates as leftovers back to the hotel room. Their creamy veggie soup was delicious and their cheddar rolls reminded me of one of my favorite seafood restaurant’s. The chicken wasn’t just a small slice of chicken but a whole rotisserie chicken for each person. The look on Jacob’s face when that huge piece of meat was put on his plate was priceless.

Image from Dixie Stampede

Overall we had a great experience at the show and can’t wait to go back again! You can learn more about Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede, including how to get tickets here.

(Disclosure: I received tickets to the show for free but all thoughts are my own.)

Fun Things To Do In Branson, Missouri

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I am super excited to be heading to Branson, Missouri on a blogging trip with US Family Guide and Branson Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. I have heard there are many fun things to do in this Midwest vacation town. Here are some of the things I will be doing on my trip:

Live Shows: There are many star-studded country music performances in Branson. If you aren’t a country music fan don’t worry because there are many other shows as well. I’m hoping to experience the Acrobats of China featuring the New Shanghai Circus. The Showboat, The Price is Right LIVE, and Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede Dinner Attraction all look enjoyable as well.

riverblast-battle

Image of Silver Dollar City courtesy Of Branson, MO tourism department

Silver Dollar City: This award winning theme park, with over 30 rides, is sure to be tons of fun! For families with little ones they have a special area just for kids called “Half Dollar Hollar”. There are over 40 live shows daily, 60 specialty shops, and plenty of home style meal options {I’m looking forward to trying their beef brisket. yum!}. From September 12th to October 26th Silver Dollar City will be hosting the National Harvest Festival.

Hollywood Wax Museum - Pirates of the Carribean

Image from Hollywood Wax Museum courtesy of Branson, MO tourism office

Hollywood Wax Museum: I’ll be rubbing elbows with celebrities at the Wax Museum. Hope to see some of my favorite actors and actresses there so I can get my picture taken with them.

Branson Tracks: The Track Family Fun Parks provide the fastest way for your family to have fun together in Branson, MO. High-rise and classic go-kart tracks for all ages, laser tag, bumper boats, bumper cars, kids’ rides, mini golf, arcades and more – all with no gate admission charge. I love racing in go-karts so I can’t wait for that adrenaline rush!

The possibilities for a memorable vacation with those closest to you are truly limitless in Branson! Get special offers here:

Have you ever been to Branson, MO? What attractions or shows should I visit while I’m there?

(Disclosure: I am receiving accommodations and experiences courtesy of Branson Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. All thoughts are my own.)