I love Charleston, SC. It is beautiful, not too big and great to spend a long weekend with the family. Sharing places that kids will enjoy is fun for me, especially since I have a lot of family and friends who visit. Sometimes we want to do break up our time with something other than going to the beach with the kids and I have my favorite spots to share with you.
We went to Napa this June to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We went with another couple we are great friends with and have traveled together several times. I love planning trips. The anticipation is half the fun of traveling. Although we don’t have an unlimited budget I do like to feel like a VIP when I am traveling. Who doesn’t, right?? 🙂
One of our biggest questions when planning a trip to Napa was “How do we get around?”. We had a rental car but I was talking about from winery to winery. We all wanted to drink. Was it best to use a car/jeep tour where they drive you from place to place or is it easy to get an Uber in Napa to come pick you up whenever you are ready to go to the next place?
Since I was young my family has had a vacation home on the beach. Now that I am the only one that lives in the area I am in charge of renting the home and we use VRBO. I think it is a great way for renters to find places to stay a lot less expensive than the same home via a large resort rental company. It is also wonderful for the owners to go around paying a large percentage of the rental price to a property management/resort rental company.
In the 5 years I have been in charge of renting the house I have found that there are definitely ways that some people get a bigger discount than others. Here are my 3 tips to get the best price on a VRBO rental.
“Watch out for that car!”
Do these things just fly out of your mouth while you are riding in the passenger seat?
It is so difficult to just be the passenger, let go of the control and trust that the other person sees all the other drivers on the road.
This past summer my family took a highly anticipated Disney Cruise. I am notorious for getting super involved in the planning of the trip. I over research, over plan, and over think everything. But to be honest the planning of the trip and anticipation is half the fun of going on a vacation, anyone else think this way? 🙂
We had never been on a cruise and heard that Disney was the best when it came to cruise lines. I will say that we were super happy with the cruise line and with all the service and amenities.
Here were my major problems and where I went wrong so you can avoid these mistakes:
1. On a 3 night Disney Cruise you really only have 1 day on the ship! I didn’t realize this. I had all these plans of leaving the kids in the kids club so we could hang out at the adult pool and just relax. Only a day or two before the trip did I realize that since we were stopping at Castaway Cay for one of the days we would be off the boat that entire day. That meant that if we didn’t get off in the Bahamas we would have 1 day on the cruise ship to do everything we wanted to do, which was a ton! I had way too many things on my “Must Do” list. Meet the princesses, do the Mid Ship Detective Agency, pools, water slides, Goofy’s fun deck, live shows I had everything possible on my list. How do people get it all done?
2. No one else did any research before the cruise. This meant everyone was staring at me all the time asking “What’s next?” or “Where is that activity?”. It was my first time on the ship too. I may have over reacted a bit when everyone was staring at me when I said Bingo was on Deck 5 and they asked me how to get to Deck 5.
3. I did not give ourselves enough time to get ready for dinner. In such tight quarters it actually takes longer to get 5 people ready than if we had more space. I would constantly be using a hairbrush to brush someones hair and then set it down real quick to put a bow in and someone else would put something on top of it and then I couldn’t find it. There are plenty of drawers and closets in the room but not many table tops to put things on. I should have taken more time when we unpacked to put everything away in all the drawers.
My suggestions to avoid all these difficulties are:
- Book a 4, 5 or 7 night cruise. Especially if it isn’t a regular occurrence to go on Disney cruises. I would rather have not had a balcony room and spend the money on an extra night.
- Have the other adults in your travel group at least do some basic research on what activities are available and look at the map of the ship. Assign someone else to at least figure out which night they want to go to a show and where they show is on the ship so they can take the lead.
- Unpack and organize everything in your room when your bags arrive. This will help with the stress level of getting everyone ready for dinner.
My friend Andrea is a Disney expert and she has an awesome post 5 Tips For Planning Your First Disney Cruise that you should check out.
I will gladly go on another Disney cruise again but I would definitely have a talk with myself that it is ok to not do every activity on the ship. Hopefully we can even spring for a longer trip next time.
I just got back from an annual girls trip I go on with some of my girlfriends. There is nothing like getting away and recharging with some great friends. It made me thankful that we all enjoy the same thing, the spa! About 15 years ago, it seemed that a lot of trips revolved around where the coolest bars and dance clubs were located. Bachelorette parties and Las Vegas are fun but now I like to come back from my trips feeling refreshed and recharged.
I am not saying that I didn’t enjoy a couple classes of wine. 🙂 But, I have no desire anymore for staying up super late and drinking a lot then feeling bad the next day.
There are lots of fun activities we can do that don’t involve a lot of drinking. Here are my Top 5 Girls Trip Activities that don’t revolve around drinking.
1. Spa – this is my favorite. You can book appointments at the same time and see if you can order food in and make it a couple hour event. Even just having manis/pedis is so much fun. I guarantee no complaints from anyone.
2. Cooking Class – This can be a lot of fun to all work together and learn to create a great meal. The 2 classes that I have attended were very hands on and so fun for a group. Usually you get to eat the meal you prepared at the end.
3. Painting a canvas – Have you ever been to one of these places? I thought I was a terrible artist and wouldn’t be able to create anything I would want to hang. Well, shocker, the night I went you could paint a front door hanger and I love mine and it is on my front door today.
4. Comedy/Improve show– a guaranteed good time. The whole point is to laugh like crazy. Last year I bought my husband tickets for us to go see a famous comedian as a Christmas present. We had so much fun. This would be a great time with a group of girls as well.
5. Pole dancing class – Yes I am actually suggesting this, especially for bachelorette parties. What could garner more laughs and bonding than this class? Plus, what better way to get your significant other on board with your girls trip than by saying, “Hey Honey, I’ll be learning a new skill that I think you will love!”.
So head out with some girlfriends and enjoy lots of laughs and still feel great tomorrow!
Since we just got back from our first family ski trip, I thought it would be helpful to share what worked for us and made our trip a success.
We went to Gatlinburg, TN for our first trip. I have 3 kids, twin boys who are almost 8, a daughter that is 4 and my husband who is a beginner as well. It was a little intimidating planning the trip and worrying how everyone would handle learning a new skill. Especially because I was the only one in our immediate family that is an experienced skier. I really wanted them to all have a good experience and love it.
Here are the top 5 tips for taking your kids skiing for the first time.
- Book your lessons before you get there. Let the experts teach them the proper technique for their first time on skis. I am an experienced skier but I am not at the level to teach others. Plus, I am not the most patient person in the world (both my sisters are cracking up right now if they are reading about me talking about patience).
- Get a locker for your shoes and extras. Don’t think your kids will walk from the car to the slopes in their ski boots like you have in the past. The first time they are in the ski boots they have a very difficult time walking. Have them walk as close as you can to the slopes then put their ski boots on and we have one adult take all the shoes back to the locker.
- Get to the slopes early. Most people don’t show up until about 11:00am. My kids are early risers so it was no problem for us to get there right when the slopes opened at 9:00am. This means we had over an hour with hardly anyone on the slopes. This helps make the whole situation less stressful and intimidating. If we had a bunch of people around like I saw in the afternoon it would have been very distracting.
- Plan on an early lunch. My kids were hungry at 11:00am. The first day they had their lesson at 9:00 am and then had worked on the bunny slope for another hour and after 2 hours of really using their brains and bodies they were ready for a break. I find eating at the real restaurant with servers is a good idea for our crew. It is too stressful for me to try to deal with carrying trays of food and drinks for a lot of people. Plus we needed a break so actually sitting down at a table was a good idea.
- Leave them wanting more. Isn’t that a classic saying? 🙂 But it is true! Be sure to leave when you hear the first “I’m cold” or “I’m tired” statement. Don’t push beginners past the point of exhaustion. We made sure to only do about an hour more after lunch and then went tubing. This made them really excited to go back the next morning.
Using all these tips helped make our trip way more successful than I expected. I had planned to only have them ski 2 days and they ended up begging to ski all 3 days. I just love ski trips so am looking forward to having a new family activity.
Any recommendations on where we should go for our next ski trip?
For my post on our thoughts of Gatlinburg as a ski destination. Click Here.
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While we were in Gatlinburg, TN over the long weekend we decided to book tickets to the Dixie Stampede dinner show. A family member told us that it would be great for our group. Traveling with us were 7 adults and 5 kids that were age 7 and under.
There are 3 things you need to know before you go to the Dixie Stampede.
- They do not provide silverware. You eat with your hands, or if you are like us, you bring in your own plastic silverware.
- They do not serve alcohol. This was surprising news and I definitely heard lots of groans from some of the men in our group. To be honest, I would have liked a glass of wine myself. 🙂
- It is actually a pretty impressive show. We all agreed that we liked it, even the men.
The dinner show we signed up for started at 6:00pm. They told us that there was a preshow that started earlier and we meant to get there in time but we didn’t arrive until 5:45….big group problems. 🙂
We got there just when they announced that it was time to move into the big arena. We saw everyone get up at the same time and while it looks like the pre-show was good, it was in a big room that had lots of popcorn and frozen drinks for sale so I was glad we hadn’t arrived in time because it would have cost us a lot more money and ruined my kids appetite for dinner. So happy that arriving late worked to our advantage this time.
We were seated and everyone sits at a long table facing the arena. Luckily, there is a way to get out of your seat without having everyone in your row get up. I was worried about that with young kids that you never know when they need to go the bathroom. The servers quickly came to take drink orders.
A big thing we were unaware of is that they do not serve alcohol. A few of the men in our group, that will remain nameless (cough, cough), were a bit put out by this news. 🙂
The servers all come out at the same time with all the parts of the meals. Everyone gets the same meal so there isn’t any ordering. But for example, when it is time for soup, all the servers come out of the kitchen at the same time. The food was ok, nothing amazing and nothing terrible.
The show was absolutely fantastic. I was impressed. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much and I was pretty blown away. It kept all the kids attention the entire time, even the 22 month old in our group stayed in her seat the entire time. That says a lot!
My father was actually picked to be a part of the show. I don’t know how that happened. He did get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the show so maybe they grabbed him while he was out of his seat? But the kids were super excited to all of a sudden see their Grandpa in the middle of the arena. A great memory.
I will say that it was expensive but if you can afford it it was worth it. I would actually take the kids again in 2 years and I think they would enjoy it again or I hear they have a Pirate themed dinner which may be a good option for us.
Let me know if you have even been to the show? Was it worth it to you?
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What a great introduction to skiing. We met up with family in Gatlinburg for a trip to introduce my twin boys to snow skiing. I have only been to Gatlinburg one other time when I was very young and didn’t really remember much of it. So I didn’t really know what to expect.
The first day we arrived in the afternoon we unpacked at our cabin. We stayed at Parkside Resort in a 4 bedroom cabin. It had a hot tub, fire pit and movie room. It was beautiful and perfect for our crew. It is a little bit out of town but had great amenities. That evening we decided to walk around Gatlinburg and pick a place to eat dinner. I had no idea that Gatlinburg was like walking through a state fair. Candy shops, arcade games, indoor putt putt places, etc all lining up the street. It was so fun. I think the kids could have stayed busy on that street for the entire trip.
We went to dinner at Cherokee Grill. It was probably the most fancy restaurant we saw in the entire town. My parents like nice gourmet style restaurants and I must admit that I don’t mind them either, so we had a great meal of steaks and seafood. My little girl had quite the meltdown when she had thought ordering grilled cheese was the same thing as Macaroni and cheese and I was super impressed that the waitress immediately said she was going to go get her a bowl of macaroni and cheese and she ran to the restaurant across the street and got her a bowl!! Wow!! She was amazing.
The very next morning we got up early to get to the slopes for ski equipment and ski lessons. We laughed because we were rushing to get there and showed up and we were the very first people to arrive for the day. Seriously, we parked in the very closest parking spot. I guess skiers sleep in, unfortunately my kids do not know how to sleep late.
With our rentals taken care of and while the kids and my husband took lessons, I went up the lift to take a few runs to refresh my body on how to ski. It had been 13 years since my last ski trip. I forgot how much I love to ski. I used to go for a week out west each year so have lots of experience but need to take a few runs by myself before I could think of helping others.
If you arrive early the process to get ski equipment and lessons was super easy. If you arrived after 11:00am I noticed that the lines were super long and the parking lot was so full you had to park at the bottom of the hill and take a shuttle so a much longer trip.
We ate at the restaurant upstairs that had a great view of the ski slope. I must say that my reuben was so good I ordered it 2 days in a row. It is a pretty good place to grab a bite to eat in the middle of the day. I looked like they have a great set up for Apres Ski at the end of the day too but unfortunately we didn’t get to partake in that tradition.
After lunch we went tubing. Make sure to buy your tickets the day before downtown at the office at the bottom of the Tram. This was a hit with all the kids. Even my 4 year old and my 3 year old nephew absolutely loved tubing and went every day. The tickets are for 90 minute sessions and for the first 30 mins of your session it is a little more crowded and then quickly the crowd dwindles and then there isn’t very many people tubing. I am surprised that so many people buy the ticket and only go down the hill twice. But I will say that 90 mins is plenty of time. We were about 15 mins late to get there every day and were ready to be done about 15 mins early.
I will say that my boys at almost 8 years old were the perfect age to learn to ski. They took to it very fast and we were going down the green hill the 2nd day and even went down a blue the 3rd day. I about had a heart attack watching them go down the blue (intermediate) hill super fast and a little out of control. I told them only the green hill after that.
My 4 year old did not do as well and was not as interested. We did a lesson for her the first day and she could just barely go 4 feet down a small incline into my arms by the end. Then the 2nd day she only put on skis for 15 mins and the 3rd day not at all. She went tubing both of those days instead of skiing. My husband only likes to ski for a little bit and then would take our daughter to do other things the rest of the day.
Tomorrow I’ll write about our experience at the Dixie Stampede. All 12 members of our family went and I would love to share about it in case anyone is thinking of going.
Sorry this is so long but I love to read about what other people did on trips before I consider going to the same place. This was a perfect trip for 4 nights and really we could go back and do even more. I especially would love to go in the summer.
Have you ever been to Gatlinburg, TN?
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