Travel Tips: Family Getaway

For a recent family getaway, we went to Las Vegas for two nights.  We enjoyed a wonderful time, and I will detail our activities in a future post.  But today, I wish to share with you some of my travel tips.  This is not a sponsored post- no one is paying me to talk up their products.  Just a couple of tips and tricks I have picked up along my journey.  I am a strong believer in “paying it forward-” and I hope my experience may help you plan your own fabulous vacations!

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Eiffel Tower, Paris, Las Vegas

 

We packed for all four of us for two nights.  Happily everything fit in one big suitcase. (Always pack your medications in your carry on.) Basically we packed two day outfits for each person, plus pajamas, underwear and bathing suits.  Everyone wears tennis shoes on the plane, and we pack flip flops for swimming. For myself, I packed an extra dress and flats, because I like to dress up if we are going to see a show.  My daughter wore cute skorts that were comfortable in the day and pretty for evening.  My husband and son wore khaki shorts and a polo shirt or t shirt.  We were in Las Vegas, after all!  Where is was no less than 105* F.

When I am in a hot, humid location, I prefer to use liquid makeup.  I find this keeps my skin moisturized and not itchy. I use liquid foundation and concealer, as well as liquid lipstick.  A tube of lipstick can melt.  A liquid lipstick tube with applicator fits the bill.  I also bring along these Almay Q-tip eye make-up removers for touch ups.  When traveling, I bring eye shadow crayons, like these double sided ones I found on Avon (similar here).  They are super convenient! Six colors on 3 sticks and I can do “Sunset Eyes.” sunset eyes Read more about my travel make-up case (and other tips!) here in my post “Cruisin’ 101”

The best tip I have for you is to bring along these microfiber towels.  You can find them in Target, or on Amazon. I hold them one at time under the faucet to fill it with water.  Then you must really wring it out.  A quick “snap” and you are ready to go.  Wear around the neck for instant cooling sensation.  So important when we are traveling in the hot summer.  If you can keep cool, you can keep your wits about you- am I right?

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Cool Kids

Here is an awesome bag I found on the internet last year. It is called Not-a-bag and it folds into itself for easy storage, then opens up to a regular tote bag, or you can pull the straps through to turn it into a back pack. 25 Euro and worth it.  I pack it in my airplane carry-on, just in case. It is perfect for when you are walking down the Strip.  Sometimes places do not allow backpacks for security reasons (sport arenas), and so this is convenient alternative.

One more thing- I love to read but I did NOT bring a book this time. I had finished my “vacation” book the week prior, because it was so good!  And the next book I wanted to read was a big and heavy paperback.  So I downloaded the free sample from Amazon Kindle (usually 1-3 chapters) and brought a magazine.  #PackLight

I will detail our travels in a separate post, but for now, let me share with you that in Vegas, I prefer taxiing versus using Uber.  Uber is only very slightly lower in price, but the designated pickup spots are NOT at the front of the hotels.  They are in weird locations such as the parking garage, 3rd floor. If you are in Vegas without a car, you don’t want to even enter a parking garage.  For that reason it’s so much easier and more convenient to just take the cab.

Finally I want to underline the importance of planning.  Do your research before.  Think about what you want to see and do, and mock up an itinerary. I used minitime.com for this trip. I am so glad I did, because I found out that a couple restaurants we wanted to revisit had since closed.  Understand that you may need to be flexible.  Things happen.  And in a taxi town, everything takes longer to get to than you think.

Tune in next time to see what we did!

What are your favorite travel tips?

 

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My Alaskan Cruise: Day 7

Come vacation with me!  I love to write about my family’s vacations.   I hope you are inspired to plan your own exciting journeys! Have you been on a cruise?  Have you been to Alaska and Canada?  Let us know in the comments!

My daughter and I rise early again for our early excursion.  I am so excited to be in Victoria, Canada! This is a special place I remember visiting when I was a young girl, and now I get to share the experience with my little girl. We are going to see the beauteous Butchart Gardens.

Somehow my in-laws didn’t see us, and so they missed the bus.  (They got on the next bus).  We love these little bus tours, the friendly guides/ drivers and their oft cheesy remarks.  It’s a bit chilly and there are clear umbrellas at the gardens for everyone to borrow, if needed.

imageThe Gardens themselves are exquisitely gorgeous, every bit as wonderful as I remember.  We take many photos and enjoy the lovely blooms.  We enjoy a rousing ride on the carousel, and a light snack of popcorn, after.  My daughter had just said, if I were separated from my granddaughter and there was a merry-go-round, I would know that that would be the place to meet.  When sure enough, her grandparents approach the carousel!  She runs to greet them, it is really cute.    The carousel and the popcorn stand accept our U.S. Dollars, and give me change in Canadian dollars.  I love the Sunken Garden, and the Rose Garden the best.  The fountains are beautiful.  I am deeply moved by the Love and Peace rose, vintage 2001.

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Butterflies by Del Sol (white indoors, sun-activated colors!)

We take a photo near the tea room where my parents took my sister and I thirty-some years ago. I tell my daughter the story of how we waited over an hour in the heat, and my little sister ordered both a chocolate sundae and a chocolate shake.  Our sweet mother balked, but my dear father said it was okay, as he knew he would be lucky enough to help her finish both!  Smart man!  She delights in this story, but we do not have enough time to dine here today.  Our tour bus awaits.  And since they didn’t wait for my in-laws before, I doubt they will wait for us if we are late.   We say goodbye to the in-laws and get on our bus. We will pass a cool spinning globe in front of a Starbucks, as well as the famous Empress Hotel. The bus is stopping at the Empress, and I decide we should exit here.  It is a lovely pier area, and very near our next excursion.   We take some more obligatory tourist pics.

 

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Near the meeting point is another Starbucks.  Happily we run inside for a lunch/snack/drink.  My sister in law and niece are inside!  They just finished their excursion: a horse-drawn carriage ride through downtown.  We enjoy a lovely mother-daughter reunion and share our stories.  My husband brings the boys (our son and nephew) off the ship after their lunch, and we all meet up for the Hippo Tour: a bus that turns into a boat.  The kids are delighted- it really is a unique tour.  Unfortunately for us, although we are first to line up, they boarded from the end of the line and we ended up with the worst seats on the bus- right behind the driver / tour guide  in the heat with closed windows and no leg room. The kids squished in the middle and got good views, but all my photos have the windshield in them.

IMG_3638[1]The bus becomes a boat and we float through the water.  We see a seaplane land in the water, which was very cool.  Our Hippo sails so close to our Royal Caribbean ship that the ship’s wifi pops up on my phone!  After the water ride, we drive through a park with lovely peacocks everywhere. After the tour, we split up again, and my son stays with me to souvenir shop in town, and the others walk back to the ship via another park/playground.

We are looking for another baseball cap for my son’s collection. But of course, we must also stop for the famous fudge, that was once eaten in space! I am using my Canadian dollars and coins, and I am looking for a penny, when the cashier  reminds me that they don’t have pennies anymore!  I vaguely recall this news from more than a few years back.  Why do they continue to ring up amounts with pennies, then, I wonder?  The fudge is fantastic.  I try the famous maple, Dear Son tries another flavor. It’s quite fun exploring with my son, just he and I.  He navigates quite well, shares appropriate observations, and some punny jokes. It is in many ways, like hanging out with another adult 🙂  It is sprinkling, and I consider taking a penny cab back to the boat, but we can handle it.  And I log a ton of steps today!IMG_3695[1]

We return to the boat and meet for dinner.  Tonight will be for packing.  You can pack by 10pm and the staff will take your luggage off the boat for you, or  you can select early departure/ walk-off luggage, which is what we will be doing.  We packed light.

We join the karaoke line-up and Dear Daughter selects Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.  This Cyndi Lauper classic is a bit to high for my alto range, and I regret I did not do it justice.  Fortunately my sweet girl skips happily around me during the instrumental break, and we are saved.  But I do not think I will share that video.  LOL.

Tomorrow we will disembark in Seattle, and enjoy the city before we head home in the evening.  Can’t wait to share more with you!   I will also be sharing my godson’s video with you.

 

 

 

My Alaskan Cruise: Day 1

My family has been so fortunate to enjoy some fun family vacations at some spectacular destinations.  I am so grateful for these opportunities.  It is my hope that  writing about them will encourage some of you to get out there and plan your own dream vacations! 

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Can you tell we’re related? ❤

We began the morning already happily packed. This is one of the times my creative brain works very well with my logical side and I can Plan, to Have Fun. May I say, I’ve got packing down. Four outfits,  three pairs of shoes, carry-ons. See my recent post on packing necessities. 

 

For some reason, we had decided to pack two large bags for the family, and check them this time. Upon checking in, we observed that the checked luggage was piled near the area, and we saw one of our bags get on but not the other.  So we hovered and watched about twenty bags go through the queue, before they got to our second bag.

Turns out, that second bag never made it on our flight!  There was a similar-looking suitcase spinning on the carousel, and I thought maybe someone had taken mine, instead.  This was the larger suitcase containing all clothes and shoes for myself and my daughter, as well as our toiletries and borrowed binoculars.  My hubby tells me he added his own toiletries and medications to our bag. too.  Great. Our airline offers $600 if it is lost, but there remains a possibility it could arrive on the next flight which arrives in two hours.  They ask me what uncommon or easily identifiable objects might be inside, in case they need to open it. The first unique item that comes to my mind is my romance novel paperback!

I tell my hubby I think we should take the $600.  I can go to Target or Walmart and shop.  We cannot wait until 2pm to go shopping, because we have to be at the pier by 2:30pm.  So we decide to do this: I take a taxicab to the nearest Target and begin shopping.  Meanwhile, my kids and hubby wait at baggage claim.  Fortunately, I had made sandwiches for everyone, and the kids enjoy those while hubby calls his doctor’s office to see what happens if he doesn’t take his meds for a week.  If the next flight arrives and our bag is not on it, then I purchase.  If our bag arrives, then I just abandon my cart.

I happily sail through the girls and shoes departments throwing items in my cart. This part is very easy, actually, as I’ve now memorized my packing plan and I know what items are needed, and there are many 4th of July sales/ clearance items, as well.  Perusing through Women’s is much less fun, however. I quickly decide just to abstain from swimming and not even buy a swimsuit.  I have to dig deep and search for a black sundress which could double as “formal” night wear.  Four tee shirts, two skirts, one pants, one shorts, all complementary colors per capsule wardrobing.  Darnit, my beloved reversible necklaces are in my suitcase!  I need to buy three bras, jammies, underwear, socks, jewelry for me and hair accessories for my daughter, the whole kit and caboodle.  It’s not completely overwhelming, as I’ve still got my wits about me.  But it is less fun, now. The whole time I am thinking: Thank God I had the sense to keep my anxiety meds in my backpack! I’ve just sailed through health and toothbrushes when my hubby calls with good news:  our bag arrived!  I purchase only a few items and run outside to wait for my family.

Their taxi arrives and I eat my sandwich in the cab.  We are on the phone with the cruiseline, saying we can see the boat from our taxi, we are only 2 miles away.  They say, fine, as long as you are here by 3:30 for the 4pm departure.  And here we were rushing to get there by 2:30 per their instructions.  We meet our family on the pier and check in together.

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Boarding the Explorer of the Seas

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Hubba Hubba!

I’ve brought lanyards for my kid’s Sea Pass Cards, which are our ID’s, room keys, and charge cards while we are on the cruise. Hubby says, “Do I get one of those?”  Uh, no, as you are not a kid. LOL.  Our Jr. Suite is every bit worth the upgrade we paid!  We have a balcony and a walk-in closet, more shelving and drawers than we know what to do with, but most of all, all this space to walk around in the room! Last summer we were in a regular Balcony room, and it was tight quarters.  (We learned to upgrade to a Jr. Suite  when we sailed to Mexico earlier this spring.)  Our nephew is visibly and vocally jealous. I almost feel bad telling them about the walk-in closet.  The closet is really handy though, as it also serves as a private dressing area, which is nice when you are travelling with family. One time, when we were just hanging out in the room, I looked up at the kids and said, Where’s Daddy? They said, In the closet!  (The rocking of the boat had shut the door on him.)  Here are some pics I found online of our Jr. Suite. Beds View Desks View

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Panoramic View from our balcony

We are all starving, so our Party of Nine checks out the Windjammer Café (buffet).  We all decided to go back for seconds and call it our dinner.  Exploring the ship is really fun, there are so many more activities than we are used to.  Arcade, Ping pong, rock wall, mini-golf, and surf simulator.  It’s too cold to surf or golf, though.  My 8 year old daughter proudly carries her notebook wherever we go and takes notes for her daily journal entry.  We end up at the Theater and enjoy a welcome production show including singers, dancers, live musicians, and a comedian.  The Cruise Director is also extremely entertaining. It’s like he is a comedian, too.

We begin our bedtime routine although it is still sunny outside.  Sunset will be at 10:30pm!  The blackout curtains overlap, so its all good.  The boat is rocking, gently, well, moderately.  But I love it.  We are on a boat.

Tomorrow is our first day at sea.  I can’t wait to explore the ship even more!  Plus, it will be Formal Night, which is always fun.

 

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making friends wherever she goes!  a crewmember brought her chocolate milk.

My Mediterranean Journey, Days 9 & 10

Dear Friends, I have just returned from another cruise, this time to Mexico.  So I feel compelled to finish posting of my Mediterranean Cruise last summer.  

This is the last day of our Mediterranean Cruise.  Disembarkation is remarkably well organized, and passes quickly.  Our luggage was collected last night, and we have only our carry-on’s with our morning necessities.  We are assigned a disembarkation location and time, and all goes well.  We enter the taxi queue at the  Port of Barcelona and are pleasantly surprised with the efficiency.

Our planned excursion had been cancelled by the cruise line, so we found ourselves without a plan.  Upon checking in to our hotel, my sister-in-law and I briefly review our guidebooks and the maps available.  We plan to meet the grandparents at La Famila Sagrada in the afternoon, but we are on our own until then.  So we decide to take cabs to this aerial gondola/ tram which they call a “cable car.”  After some confusion at the drop-off, (our taxis dropped us off at different points) we embarked on the cable car.  This was a wonderful opportunity to view the Barceloneta Beach and all its glory.  The weather is gorgeously sunny, and yet not hellish-humid hot (as it had been for the duration of our trip thus far).

We delight in the Barceloneta Beach drop-off,  strolling along the paved sidewalk as we admire beachcomers and the area’s sculptures. We decide to stop at Tapa Tapa, where we enjoy Sangria and salami baguettes.  This is the most relaxed we parents have felt the entire vacation.  I don’t know whether it is the weather, having wifi,  being free of the ship, not having grandparents around, or maybe the Sangria– but we are thoroughly enjoying this afternoon.

We taxi to La Famila Sagrada and enjoy a little shopping at the kiosks before meeting up with the grandparents.  This is the famous cathedral designed by Gaudi.  It really is impressive.  We designate a meeting point for after 45 minutes, and my niece and nephew GO STRAIGHT THERE.  Seriously, they don’t even look around inside this beautiful, famous cathedral.  Too Cool for School. My husband and I take too long, as we have found the museum and gift shop, below the church.    As we return to the meeting point with our apologies, we see that only my father-in-law remains with our children, the matriarch is shopping, and my sister-in-law and her kids have long gone.  Thankfully, there is some brilliant entrepreneur selling chilled bottles of water for One Euro at the gate. The boys decided to adventure on the subway, whilst we girls taxi back to the hotel.  The front desk has our keys ready, now, and so my daughter and I take all of our family’s luggage to both of our rooms.  That’s just how they do it in Europe.  There’s only two allowed to a room.  So our family of four is always separated.  Here again, as in Rome, we are not even next door.  Though this time, we are on the same floor at least.  Of course, there are also air conditioner issues, so my daughter and I switch rooms with my husband and son, after all.

We start walking to dinner and it is starting to rain!  How wonderful!  We are making our way to a Tapas place recommended by the hotel.  But we are dining at 6pm, and the restaurant is not even open yet!  So we head to an Italian restaurant, here in Barcelona, and we are seated at a large table upstairs.  It is fabulous fun, with views. The four cheese pizza seems to include blue cheese, which is not to my niece’s liking, so we trade.   On the way back to our hotel, we stop at a grocery store and are at once impressed and frightened by the crazy crowd within.  We cannot believe that the bottled water is so cheap!  Then it is back to the hotel.  We journey home tomorrow.

Day 10:

 Unfortunately our pre-paid airport transfer now wants us to be ready a half-hour earlier, and have all our luggage at the Hard Rock Café, which is  a fifteen minute walk.  We are struggling, toting all our luggage as fast as we can through the sprinkling rain in the pre-dawn busy city.  This is the worst of our trip for me, somehow I got the largest, heaviest suitcase to roll, and so I am half a block behind my young daughter, who is starting to cry because she can’t see me.   (I can see her, of course, and she can see my hubby and son ahead of her.) Stupid airport transfers.  I think the travel agent gets a cut for booking these.  There’s no reason to not just call a cab. Now we share a small bus with strangers.  It’s not bad, but this part, but the hurried walk with our luggage, I could have definitely done without.

Happily, we board our flight without any delays.  The kids are seasoned travelers by this point!  We have a brief layover in NYC, but not long enough to visit anyone. The flights pass without problem.  We watch the movies: Theory of Everything, The Longest Ride, Godzilla.  The boys watch Guardian of the Galaxy, but we girls do not. Dear Daughter has done so well this whole trip, I give her the “emergency comfort device” as a reward.  She is smitten with Joy (from the movie Inside Out).  (Be sure to read of our vacation to the island of Guam, and use of her emergency comfort device then!)

I love that feeling when you are waiting for your family to pick up  from the airport, and you see them pull up! We are so happy to be home! Thankfully I have a day or two before I have to return to work.  I am so grateful for this opportunity to have finally gone to Europe!

❤ Blessed be.

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 If you enjoyed this journal entry, be sure to read the rest of my travel posts!

My Mediterranean Journey, Day 1

Coming Soon: Mexico!