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Top 3 Family Vacation Ideas For The Fall

School’s back in session and you know what that means, car pools, after school activities, and homework.  It’s a bitter sweet change in your daily routine and it can feel daunting at times.

I can relate.

Children have the same mixed feelings about the school season and while parents celebrate having our homes kid free during the day, planning a fall trip will ease  the pressure of a demanding family schedule.

Why not take advantage of school breaks and plan a family getaway?
Here are the top 3 vacation ideas taken from Travel Agent magazine.

Theme Parks

Perennial theme parks are a popular choice family getaways and every year there’s something new for visitors to experience. Universal Orlando opened its new Volcano Bay water park late spring.

It’s the third theme park in the resort, spanning 30 acres and four themed areas. Enjoy the 200 foot body plunge slide, 124 foot water slides and the Krakatau Aqua Coaster. If death defying rides isn’t for you, there’s multi-directional wave pool with sandy beaches, a winding river and plenty of places to lounge and relax.

The 22nd annual Epcot International Food and Wine Festival runs from August 31 through November 13th.

This festival is  packed with activities the whole family can enjoy. There’s entertainment and eats for foodies. Children receive a passport that can be stamped at a collection of 35 global marketplace booths.

Local indoor theme parks in Wisconsin Dells offers an wide array of fun too..

Road Trips

Did you know that Georgia is a hotspot for the Hollywood film industry?

That’s right, location scouts and director flock to this beautiful state to film movies like the Hunger Games: Catching fire, XMen First Class, and The Blind Side.

Georgia Film Selfie Spot Tour, a self-guided tour, is open until  the end of the year. Visit 33 sites across the state. Each site marks the ideal spot for the perfect selfie.    Visit “Captain America: Civil War,” at the Porsche Experience Center, Atlanta, where families can test drive a Porsche and take a selfie at the Avengers’ Headquarters.

Resorts

Little River Inn, a three hour drive from San Francisco. Spend time at the Pennyroyal Dairy tasting handcrafted cheeses, ride the heritage Skunk Train along redwoods and take a guided kayaking tour of nearby sea caves.
A special 2 night package for two adults, two children under 12, above mention activities and 1 breakfast for four is priced at $945.

Did I mention Little River Inn is pet friendly?

You can begin pricing vacations for October and November, when the weather averages are mid-eighties and seventies in most southern states.  Perfect timing for the first days off from school.

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Weekend Trip To Minneapolis

Sculpture Garden
Sculpture Garden

Our weekend trip to Minneapolis went exactly as I hoped. The 6 hour road trip kicked off with a visit with Ryan’s parents before heading across the state. The smooth ride allowed me to catch up on my reading as we drove through endless farmland.

Ryan and I kept the pit stops to a minimum and only stopped for lunch.
(Although I enjoy frequent pit stops on a road trip, we didn’t have time for laligaging).

We ate lunch at El Tequila Salsa in Wausau. The festive decor and great food made this restaurant a worthwhile stop.

Intermedia Arts

Intermedia Arts
Intermedia Arts

Once in Minneapolis, we checked out Intermedia Arts on Lyndale Avenue in south Minneapolis. If you’ve ever driven down Lyndale Avenue and seen a building covered with colorful murals, that’s the place.

Intricate graffiti, expressive portraits, and whimsical landscapes covered the exterior. Since my honey enjoys photographing murals, we had to stop.
Each mural was different from the next and some were so strange that I had to have a look inside.

As I tip toed through the door, and as I stood in the small entry way, I could see people in small groups engaged in deep discussion.

Feeling like an intruder, I immediately  began to turn back around.

Before I could make a break for the door, I was greeted with a warm welcome and asked if I wanted to join in the discussions. After introducing myself and explaining why I was there, the manager allowed us to take pictures and roam around.

Intermedia Arts
Intermedia Arts

Intermedia is a multidisciplinary, multicultural arts organization. Their mission is to build understanding among people by catalyzing and inspiring artists to make changes in their lives and communities.
What a cool mission and a true asset to Minneapolis!

Our next stop was the family. Ryan and I met little Marin for the first time. She slept for the first we were there. Ryan’s first time holding baby Marin was a precious moment.
We hung out with his brother and family for a few hours. They have 4 year old twin girls who are hilarious! The girls read to us, danced, played keyboard, and gave us a tour of their house.
It was a great time catching up and spending time with everyone.

Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden
Sculpture Garden

Sculpture Garden in downtown Minneapolis was our last stop before heading home. The sun came out and revealed this charming garden, filled with quirky sculptures and playful contraptions.  The proud rooster stood at attention as the guardian of the garden.

I took in the garden with all of my senses with the curiosity of a child.  We could have stayed there for hours but it was time to hit the road and start our journey back home.

My weekend getaway pretty low key and chill. The gloomy weather was a good excuse stay in and watch Fixer Upper reruns.  It was a carefree trip. I spent time with family, learned about an amazing art organization and indulged in the simple things.  Thank goodness I put aside those negative thoughts and focused on what was important; connection and relaxation.

What are your plans this weekend?

Would you like to win a spa/golf getaway for two? Sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win!  Drawing will be held September 18th.
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What Are Your Plans For The Weekend?

This weekend, my honey and I are taking a trip to visit his brother’s family and their new born.  It’s a joyous occasion and while I love babies, enjoy road trips, and the family is nice, I’m apprehensive.

Is that bad?

Maybe it is, but that’s how I feel.
Why?

It’s awkward visiting my boyfriend’s brother. The nervousness, the over thinking, the feelings of being judged, it’s energy draining. I’m worried I won’t be accepted.

That’s crazy!

I’ve connected with them plenty of times!

Ok, maybe it’s all in my head.

Although.

They gossip.

They tell everyone’s business and it’s nerve wrecking.

Yes, I’m carrying on like an 8 year old right now.

My arms are folded and I’m pouting (well maybe not physically, but the little girl in my mind is).

It’s a day before the trip and I have to spew whatever venom I have inside so I can turn this  stinkin’ thinkin’  around. Since backing out isn’t what I want, finding the good in this situation will get me out of this funk.

So what do I want?

I want to be at peace driving through rolling farm lands and quaint towns. I want to laugh, delight in the simple things, and be carefree.

I want confidence to be myself and connect with others, especially my boyfriend’s family.
Relationships make life worth living and we all want to be loved for who we are.

Moments of acceptance creates unforgettable memories.

Most of all, I want to fill up my emotional bank account with unforgettable memories.
Much like a retirement plan, the longer you wait to start saving, the more time works against you.

I have a dear friend who’s emotional bank account is filled with great memories.

He enjoys sharing his favorite vacation experiences.
The other day, my friend shared the story of when he and his family took a 3 week trip to D.C.

While my friend reminisced about the trip, I could hear the love in his voice. I visualized his family trekking around D.C. sight seeing.
“We had a plan A, plan B, and screw the plan!” My friend proudly stated with laughter.

It wasn’t the first time he shared this story with me. He knew it and I knew it but neither of us cared.

My friend took me with him on vacation every time he shared that story.
And I appreciate it.

Every time my friend shares his stories, I’m reminded of what a fulfilled life is all about.
A great life is filled with experiences and I have an opportunity to create amazing memories this weekend.

The trip we’re taking tomorrow can be special and exciting if I choose.
Know this, I acknowledge my hesitations and with confidence, envision a fun weekend.

Now it’s time to pack.

Have a great weekend!

THANKS FOR READING MY BLOG!
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Forbidden Destinations: Set Sail to Cuba


It’s time to set sail for an exotic adventure. An island previously off limits and only 90 miles south of Florida.
Let’s tour this island in classic American cars, sip on the world’s best mojitos, and take in panoramic views of old Havana.
Yes, Cuba is an amazing island with plenty to offer.
Although business ties between Cuba and US are somewhat in question, this beautiful island is still open to American travelers.
If you’re daydreaming of a trip to Cuba, the Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas might be the ideal vacation for you. Here’s a look at this boutique boat and what you can expect with Royal Caribbean.

Sail To Cuba In Style

Royal Caribbean recently spent 90 million dollars to renovate the Empress of the Seas. It’s a boutique boat, holding about 2,000 passengers, which makes for an intimate and elegant voyage.
Affordable luxury comes to mind when comparing the cost of Royal Caribbean’s trip to other Cuban cruises.

The festivities begins as the Empress sets sail.
Rhythmic music fills the air as salsa instructors gently guide you to the dance floor for lessons.
There’ll be many opportunities to show off your salsa moves in Havana.

If you’re a history buff and prefer engaging in conversation, connect with Cuban historians or take Spanish lessons.
With plenty to do while onboard the Empress, enjoy taking in the sights, and sound of Cuban culture.

Sight Seeing In Cuba

Once you arrive in Havana, chose from 6 tours the Royal Caribbean has to offer or explore on your own. There are walking tours, motor-coach tours, or tour in an iconic vintage car.
Each tour varies in time and destination.
When visiting Cuba, you cannot use bank cards and phone service is limited, but you can use American dollars (bring singles, fives and ten dollar bills). You can also exchange your dollars for Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) and pay an exchange fee.

And yes, you are allowed to bring back up to 50 cigars and 1 liter of Rum (get Santiago De Rum).
Sights to check out include the Malecon, Plaza de la Revolution, El Morro Castle, and Tropicana Cabaret (great mojitos). And if you’re staying in Cuba overnight, check out western Cuba’s Soroa Orchid Garden and Vinales National Park.

The Empress at Sea has deployment to Cuba scheduled for the end of 2017 through 2019 and seats fill up fast so book your trip today!

Would you like to win a spa/golf getaway for two? Sign up for my newsletter for a chance to win!  Drawing will be held September 18th.

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7 Beach Vacation Ideas

When it comes to going on a beach vacation, it can be challenging to pick a destination. There are many places you can go, whether you want to explore the
beaches of Hawaii or just play golf in Georgia. Below, you’ll find 7 ideas to help you decide where to go for beach vacation.

1. Hawaii

Put your frequent flier miles to good use and visit Hawaii. Relax on the beach, enjoy snorkeling in clear blue waters, play golf, and even indulge in one of the many innovative spa treatments. Hawaii enjoy some of the best weather in the world – making it a great choice for your beach vacation.

2. Georgia

Popular among the East Coast, the luxurious Cloister at Sea Island in Georgia offers you 54 holes of championship golf, sandy beaches, and a wide array of things for
you to do.

3. Oahu

At the Kahala Mandarin Oriental, you can expect to be pampered like never before. You can visit the spa, take scuba diving classes, or choose to swim it up
with the dolphins. The resort is conveniently located 15 minutes away from Honolulu and Waikiki Beach.

4. Virgin Islands

At this vacation destination you can enjoy blue waters and sandy beaches. The Ritz Carlton, and St. Thomas resorts offer you the best of luxury hotels during your beach vacation in the Virgin Islands.

5. California

Located just 30 minutes by car away from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is a quick beach vacation away from the normal busy life of the city.

6. Bermuda

Two hours away by flight from New York City, Bermuda is a quick and ideal vacation away from the East Coast. Ariel Sands offers gourmet food and breathtaking views.

7. Jamaica

With unique rooms and splendid views of the Caribbean, gourmet cuisine and amazing beaches, The Caves resort in Jamaica helps to set the beach vacation mood like never before.

 

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10 Most Dog-Friendly Vacation Spots in the U.S.

As more dog lovers are bringing their beloved pooches along on vacation, finding accommodations can be challenging.  A great blog written by Inteletravel lists the top 10 dog friendly places to travel in the U.S. Below are the 10 cities and must visit destinations ranked by Vacations.com.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

Definitely Visit: The Lighthouse Ice Cream Shop, a sweet family owned ice cream parlor that stocks doggie ice cream line, Frosty Paws.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VIRGINIA

Definitely Visit: One (or two… or three) of the wineries that allow dogs to tour their grounds! A few of the dog-friendly ones include Bluestone, First Colony Wineries and Blenhelm.

THE FINGER LAKES, NEW YORK

Definitely Visit: The Watkins Glen State Park, which is home to nineteen breathtaking waterfalls, and will allow your leashed pet to enjoy the scenery

WISCONSIN, THE WHOLE PLACE

Definitely Visit: Have a dog that really loves getting wet and wild? The Kettle Moraine State Forest has a designated area where you can train your dog in water skills!

ARIZONA, THE WHOLE PLACE

Definitely Visit: The Grand Canyon National Park, where you and your pup can enjoy one of the most famous and breathtaking views in the country.

PORTLAND, OREGON

Definitely Visit: The annual Canines Uncorked Wine Tour. With this event, pet parents and their pups are able to participate in a benefit for shelter animals. Tour 16 wineries with free wine tasting and doggie activities including decorating dog treats, meeting adoptable dogs or letting your pooch enjoy a doggie massage!

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Definitely Visit: The Mercury Canine Cruise, where you and your pet can enjoy a 90-minute boat ride on the Chicago River.

AUSTIN, TEXAS

Definitely Visit: The Bow Wow Bone, a mobile dog-food truck that cooks up some snacks for pups of any size.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

Definitely Visit: The Mutt Lynch Winery in Sonoma County has brought together the wonderful worlds of wine and dogs. Grab a bottle of Merlot Over & Play Dead or Unleashed Chardonnay and help support local dog shelters and animal rescues!

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

Definitely Visit: The K9 Fun Zone, an indoor doggie playground. You can rent the space for a single dog or a group of dogs to play and exercise.

Have fun vacationing with your four-legged child!

 

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How To Plan Stress Free Travel Recap

Stress Free Travel
Stress Free Travel

 

Stress free travel is essential to a great vacation and now you have the information needed to plan an epic getaway. The How to Plan Stress Free Travel articles include many insider’s tips that you may not have heard before or considered.

If you’ve had mediocre travel experiences or you’re looking for a sure fire way to make all of your travels amazing, these articles are for you!

Before we dive into our recap of Planning Stress Free Travel, you might want to click here for an introduction of the series. The Planning Stress Free Travel series includes budget planning, itinerary and activities, lodging and transportation, all-inclusive vacations, and travel agent vs online booking.

Planning a travel budget: How To Prioritize Your Budget

Question– What travel components are most important to you?

All too often, travelers spend most of their travel budget on transportation and lodging and little funds left for activities and entertainment. Having and amazing vacation is about what you do while traveling more so than where you stay.

Creating a travel budget that reflects your priorities will help ensure there’s enough funds in your budget for what’s important to you.

Itinerary & Activities: Set The Tone For Your Trip

Create a rough schedule of your daily activities and include free time. The right combination of excitement, spontaneity and relaxation will create an amazing travel experience. Researching activities and purchasing them ahead of time will save you money.

Lodging & Transportation: Insider’s Knowledge

Calling hotels directly can get you great deals, better than third party booking sites.
Understanding hotel brands and booking hotels near the attractions you’ll visit can also amount to great savings.

All-inclusive Vacations: Are They A Good Value

The term all-inclusive can vary by resorts and package deal. It’s integral that you ask questions and understand what’s included before you book. All-inclusive deals aren’t necessarily less expensive than booking meals and activities separately.

Travel Agent or Booking Online: Which Is Better

Booking through a travel agent has many advantages from saving time, to having an advocate should anything go wrong. This recap is only one tenth of the juicy information provided in each article so go check them out before you book your next getaway!

 

Please feel free to ask questions or make comments regarding How To Plan Stress Free Travel.
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Plan Stress Free Travel: All-Inclusive Vacations 4 of 5 Series

Stay calm and float your worries away
Stay calm and float your worries away

Many people ask me about all-inclusive vacation packages. They’re great for many reasons however, here are some questions you should ask when deciding if an all-inclusive vacation is right for you.

What’s included in all-inclusive deals?

Sometimes all-inclusive is truly just that, and other times the term is more flexible. For example, some all-inclusive resorts charge surcharges for things you may not think of, such as a safe in your room, internet use, or top shelf liquor or wine.

Others offer unlimited meals at the buffet while limiting, or charging for, meals at their a la carte restaurants.  Beverage plans also vary in options.  Some beverage plans include unlimited nonalcoholic drinks, some have limits. Since the rules can vary drastically from resort to resort, it’s important to do some research and understand them ahead of time.

What activities are included?

Often times, motorized sports and other activities are excluded from all-inclusive deals.

Is entertainment available for children and adults?

Many offer “kids club” as entertainment for children and depending on the brand and package, might be included.

All-inclusive vacations can offer great value. They’re not necessarily a less expensive option but a convenient and less stressful way to vacation.

I cannot emphasize enough about doing research before purchasing an all-inclusive trip.

I have heard many stories of mediocre travel experiences because the vacationer failed to research all-inclusive deals and assumed EVERTHING was included when it wasn’t.

Not a fun surprise!
It’s better to know all the terms of your all-inclusive vacation before you book it then learn about them after you arrive.

Please feel free to ask questions or make comments regarding How To Plan Stress Free Travel.
THANKS FOR ALLOWING ME TO HELP YOU IMPROVE YOUR TRAVEL!
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How to Plan Stress FreeTravel: Lodging and Transportation 3 of 5

Lodging and Transportation
Lodging and Transportation

When planning a vacation, it’s typical to spend a third of your travel budget on lodging. While some travelers spend more, it’s safe to say we all want lodging that’s clean (no bed bugs please), safe, has good customer service, and has amenities.

Searching for ideal lodging using DIY websites can will provide cheap deals, pictures and reviews, but there’s still no guarantee you’ll secure great lodging for a great price (I often wondered if I got the best price for my stay and 9 times out of 10, I didn’t! Darn you DIY sites).

Did you know you can get amazing deals on room rates if you called the hotel directly?

Hotels Deals

If you didn’t know this, don’t be alarmed because most travelers don’t. Hotels can offer the same deals if not better than the DIY sites. This is due to the commission hotels must pay vendors when travelers book through third parties (online, travel agent, etc.). Once you identify the hotel deals you’re interested in, call the hotels direct and ask about their discounts and special offers.

Now let’s talk about hotel chains and brands.

To cater to the wide spectrum of travelers, hotel chains have a variety of brands (the Marriott has Courtyard, Marriott Vacation Club, Spring Hills etc.).

The hotel industry understands travelers vary in preference, style and purpose so they create different brands to cater most traveler’s needs. Marriott’s Spring Hills Suites hotel caters to business travelers. They offer apartment style rooms with amenities like free hot breakfast, fridge and microwave, etc.

How does this information help you?

By understanding hotel brands, you can pick the hotel that best fit your needs. Also, having this knowledge could mean big savings.  Reserving a room during off peak times (hint: booking a room during the weekend at a hotel brand that caters to business travel) could mean big discounts.

Now, I’m going to share with you something that most people don’t think about until they come home from their trip and review their spending. This will save you a good amount of money, you’ll have more fun, and it’s almost a no brainer once you hear it.

Choose lodging near the attractions you’re seeking.

I have friends who booked lodging at a hotel 8 plus miles away from the departure port of their cruise ship. They chose the hotel to save money.
They didn’t take into consideration transportation costs and time. They also missed out on all the fun festivities the night before departure.
Once the cost of transportation was added, it actually cost more to book at their hotel versus staying at one a few blocks away.

Transportation

Transportation is another big ticket expense. Not only will you need a way to get to your destination, you’ll need a way to get around once you arrive. Some hotels offer transportation for a minimal fee and it’s convenient.

I’m a huge fan of using ride share services. It’s inexpensive, the drivers are often times personable, and they are likely to recommend great places to visit.

Air fare fluctuates in price, more so than hotels (of course, you know that).

Knowing when to book your flight for the best price is tricky and sometimes unpredictable. It mostly boils down to demand so paying attention to peak tourist seasons and watching prices will help you save on your flight. The more flexible your are with dates, times, number of stops, airport, and class service, the less expensive the airfare.   Reward programs and membership discounts are great ways to save on air fare.

Tip if you’re visiting a metro area.

Consider purchasing rail passes and other transportation passes a head of time as well. While planning a trip to New York, I purchased a weekend rail pass. It was the best purchase I made. I was free to roam and explore the city as I chose to.

 

Please feel free to ask questions or make comments regarding How To Plan Stress Free Travel.
THANKS FOR ALLOWING ME TO HELP YOU IMPROVE YOUR TRAVEL!
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