Travel Time

Hitting all 50.

I have a goal in life to hit all 50 states for a visit.  And I don’t just mean where we travel through but actually visiting or doing something in each of them.  Hopefully by my goal of hitting all 50, my kids will have a good head start on their own 50! Especially since I’ve already done about half of them without them (bold below are the ones I’ve hit)!

The challenge for me is when we travel, I often want to pick places I know I like, or we travel to convenient locations – like the Carolina beaches or somewhere else on the East Coast.  As my kids get a little older, I’d love to do an extended trip out west where we have an RV or big SUV to travel around many of the national parks and sights out West.

Alabama 
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado 

Connecticut
Delaware 
Florida 
Georgia 
Hawaii 
Idaho
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana 
Maine 
Maryland 
Massachusetts 
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada 
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York 
North Carolina 
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania 
Rhode Island
South Carolina 
South Dakota
Tennessee 
Texas
Utah
Vermont
Virginia 
Washington
Washington, D.C. 
West Virginia 
Wisconsin
Wyoming

Some of my favorites so far –

Hawaii – Of all the places I’ve visited in the US and abroad, Hawaii is the #1 place I’d choose for a second visit.  I just really enjoyed the trip – beautiful beaches, great weather – a 20 min afternoon shower each day and otherwise sunny, delicious meals and awesome snorkel spots.  I think if I went back it would be to a different island. I know they all have their own flair!

Maine – We visit every few years for a family reunion. It’s chilly nights and cool/warm days.  Lots of delicious lobster and the town we visit (Ocean Park/Old Orchard Beach) is stuck in the 60s so it’s a nice departure from our busy life.  Plus Portland’s a pretty cool town.

North and South Carolina – There are some great coastal towns in the Carolinas and I’ve loved visiting them. Topsail – where we got married, Wilmington/Wrightsville – where Dean and I both went to college, Charleston, Calabash, Carolina Beach and the Outer Banks – they all have a quaintness that makes it great to visit.  The little hole in the wall joints that you remember for years.

New York – I really enjoyed a visit I took to NYC and I think it would be great to go back during the holiday season when it’s all gussied up for the holidays.  I’d love to take my kids on a Big City adventure. I’d also love to get upstate to visit more of the state.

Massachusetts – Boston was a fun overnight adventure when we took our last trip to Maine. We flew in there and did the Duck Boats and toured the city with our kids and family.  I love the historic nature of that town. It’s just so different from Charlotte’s modern vibe.

When I look at the places I have yet to hit, I think I’m most excited about: Alaska (the glaciers), Utah (seems very picturesque), Illinois (hitting Chicago), Texas (I feel like TX cities will all have their own personality – and be very Southern with great food!) and Washington (Seattle seems really fun with it’s own vibe).

Has anyone hit all 50?  Any spots I should be especially excited to visit?

 

Bucket List: Domestic Travel

I love to see different parts of the world.  I’ve had the chance to hit some international highlights over my years and I want to keep adding to my world travel bucket list.

During a recent lunch with my co-workers, we were discussing places we want to go or have visited around the world but then got into the discussion of hitting more places in the good ole USA.

It really got me thinking about places I want to hit over the next 5-10 years and who I want to travel with.  In some cases, it seems like a great couples vacation and sometimes I envision a road trip with all my boys.  I’ve done a pretty good job of hitting a bunch of places on the East Coast, but I really haven’t ventured much from that.

Couples Hot Spots:
Chicago – I just think this is a cool city and I’d love to go there. Something about the big lake and the hustle and bustle make it appealing to me.
Hawaii – while I went to Maui a few years ago traveling with my mom and her BFF, I think it would be a great trip to take again with my husband.  Maybe for a big milestone anniversary.  And hopefully to a different island since I did a lot of the Maui stuff last time.
Nashville or Memphis – While it’s too far for a short weekend trip, I think hitting one of these towns known for delicious Southern cooking would be a blast.
San Diego – I want to do some California traveling and San Diego is on my list.  I’ve only been to Southern California once – that I can remember – and I’d definitely like to go again.

Bringing the Whole Fam:
Yellowstone – Maybe rent an RV for a week one summer and do the whole boys thing – cabins, tents, hiking and fishing.  Definitely a little too young right now to appreciate it but it seems like a good late elementary school, early middle school years trip.
Alaska – I think my boys would have a great time as they got a little older.  A little wilderness adventure. No wifi. Just the scenic outdoors.
San Francisco, Napa and the Redwoods – I think hitting the City by the Bay for some urban fun and then adventuring to the huge redwoods would be a blast. And the hubby and I could hit a few vineyards as well.  I visited San Fran in college when we went out for a family ski trip, but I’d like to do it again with my own family.
Texas – Not sure if it would be Austin, Dallas or Houston, but I’d love for my boys to see why everything is bigger in Texas.
Grand Canyon – Everyone I’ve met says that its 100x more magnificent in person than in pictures so it seems like something I need to do.
Seattle – It just seems like a cool city to visit.  I’m sure there is some adventuring to be done.
Niagara Falls – This just seems like something everyone should do at some point.  So sign us up!
Washington DC – I grew up there and definitely got my fill of the National monuments and zoo.  But now that I’m older, I’ve taken for granted some of those trips and I wish we had something as educational and historic in our backyard.  Since we visit the in-laws in Baltimore each year, DC would just be a short trip away for our kids to experience some of that same fun. I know they’d be in awe at the Air & Space museum.
Disney – It’s time for our kids to experience the magic of Disney we got to enjoy when we were growing up.  We’re shooting for this fall – assuming Brooks is good height-wise for most of the rides.

Traveling is such a great way to visit different cultures – even regional differences within the U.S. and I hope that my kids enjoy visiting new places as much as I do.

What would you add to my Bucket List?  Any best tips for bringing the kids along?

Travel Time: Dominican Republic

Since it’s frrrrrreezing out – yes, we actually had snow flurries over the weekend – I’m taking a virtual trip back to our Dominican Republic vacation from October.  It was a great time of the year to go, it was just starting to get a little chilly in Charlotte and we enjoyed bikini weather all weekend.

Here are a few of the highlights from our trip:

This was one of our favorite excursions – we drove 2 person jet boats on the ocean, we did some snuba and then snorkeling.  We really loved the snuba.  There were tons of  cool fish and being able to stay deep was great!  The jet boats were great, too!DR1

These are a few pics of our resort in Punta Cana. We stayed at the Bahia resorts (there were two on one property) and it was beautiful.   I loved that there were so many pools and the first pic below shows the pool with the beach just steps away – where the palm trees are. And they had fun and different drinks all over the place so we definitely took advantage of the “all inclusive”.

DR2

Another excursion we took was to ride dune buggies (boogies as they call them down there). We drove to a super beautiful beach and got suckered into letting someone take our picture with his lizard on us.  Probably the worst part of my trip because it was gross!  After we dune buggied to the beach, we went to an underground cove. It was chilly in there!

DR3

DR4

After three days in Punta Cana, we headed to La Romana – the Dreams resort – where we met up with my family for my cousins wedding. It was very picturesque – just like Punta Cana.  Loved the clear water and warm sand.  The day after the wedding, we went on a starfish cruise.  We probably found about 10 of them within our group.  It was awesome to have the whole boat to ourselves.  Of course, we also imbibed in some refreshing rum beverages so everyone was having a good time!

DR5DR6

The DR was a fun adventure.  I’d never been to the Caribbean so it was great to check it off of my Travel Bucket List.

Oh, and I took home more than souvenirs – I also brought back a GI bug from too much tropical water.  Silver lining:  At least the vacation pounds came off quickly!

Now, to bundle up and head out in 30° temps!  Mr. Groundhog better be right on his early-spring forecast!

We did the Boston Duck Boat tour.

And it was awesome.

Seriously such a fun time and the kids really enjoyed it.  I think they would enjoy it even more at an older age because the driver knew tons of cool facts about the town and its history.

boston

boston5  boston6 boston7

boston4 (My sis and her fam loved it too!)

No shock that Brooks was quick to volunteer to drive the boat. None of the other cousins were interested – maybe the were just a bit shy, but he proudly took us through the waterway.

boston1

boston2

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Super Captain Brooksie wearing his badge of honor!

I’d definitely recommend this for others heading to Boston. Such a unique way to see the city and cover so many places.

 

Toddler Travel Tips

We headed to our family reunion in Maine just two weeks ago and had a great time with family.  Of course getting there meant that we’d be doing some travel both in the airplane and in the car.  In planning our trip, I did a couple things to help make our travel experience as easy as possible.  These were my travel tricks and tips:

1. Think about your kids normal schedule as you plan travel.  I purposely didn’t take the 6am flight or 9pm flight knowing that there was a good chance my kids would be in meltdown mode if I did that. I picked times that were their usual naptimes, that way they’d still be sitting and having a rest time, even if they didn’t sleep.

2. Bring a stroller.  You can gate check it right before you board the plane and it’s so nice to have a place for your little one to sit when you’re walking through the airport.  We always had Landon (4 y.o.) walk and Brooks (2 y.o.) in the stroller as we headed through the airport and walked the .7 miles to the hotel from the shuttle.  There’s no way Brooks could have made the journey safely on foot and my arms were full with other things and a 2 y.o. would have been too much.

3. Pack treats.  My kids don’t get treats all the time, so for me to pull out a pack of fruit snacks or a lollipop on the plane made their trip.  Whenever I felt them getting a little antsy, I tried a new activity or handed a treat.  Brooks ate 2 lollipops on the way up and 1 on the way back and they both got a pack of fruit snacks. Just enough to get another 5-10 minutes of calm!  (Also, sucking lollipops can help with ear popping during take off and landing!)

4. Bring a variety, and bring something new.  I grabbed a couple of their favorite things for the journey – dinosaur flashcards, and Cars figurines.  We also just got the Planes movie and we loaded that onto the ipod and let them watch it on the plane.  That was a hit and gave me about 20-30 mins per kid.  Also Cars movie on the laptop was a clear winner.  They watched about 60 minutes straight. It is their favorite. Even buying a dollar store trinket that would work great at your destination (i.e. blow up float for the pool) and wrap it so they can open it on the halfway point. Who doesn’t love presents?

5. Don’t miss naptime every day.  If your kids are like mine, they like a semblance of routine most days and when they don’t get their downtime, afternoons can be tough. When we missed naptime, I made sure the kids got to bed a little earlier that night and then I made sure we didn’t miss naptime the next day, so we scheduled a beach morning or park afternoon to make sure that we could keep them on their normal schedule most of the days we were gone.

6. Do special time with your kids each day.  Whether it was reading a book right before bed, or letting them go with Gigi and Papa to the candy store to pick out a treat, let your kids know that this is a special and fun time.  I wanted my kids to know this was vacation and so it was a little different than our normal day off.

7. Expect the worse and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. As is my motto in almost anything, if I think about the absolute worst that can happen and then expect my day to go that way, I’m often pleasantly surprised when it goes better than I expect.  And at least I am not in a tailspin because my not-a-cloud-in-the-sky overly optimistic plan gets ruined and dampens my mood.

8. Talk it up in advance.  Our kids knew months in advance that we’d be riding on airplanes to go to Maine.  We went to the airport and watched planes take off and land and we let them know how fun it would be to look out the window or get a special juice on the plane.  We even did an airplane countdown on the oven at home and ripped a sheet off each day as we traced the days.

9. Fly nonstop if you can.  Once the fun starts wearing off, it can be hard to talk up another plane ride plus sit around during the layover, so if it makes sense financially, try to choose a nonstop flight and get there as quick as you can!

What else would you add to the list to make your trip as fun as possible for the little people you travel with?

I wanna travel the world…

Traveling to faraway places is something I really enjoy.  Getting to see another culture, beautiful sites, delicious food and beverage, relaxation.  I love all of these things.  Whenever I go somewhere, people always ask me, would you go back? And I’m always hesitant in my answer because while I may want to go back, changes are I’d rather try a new country that I’ve never been to when considering my next trip.  Why go to the same place when there are so many other places to uncover.  Here are some of the cool places I’ve been and locations that pique my interest when considering my next vacation.

Where I’ve been:

Sydney Australia (and surrounding areas- Wollongong) – This was my first time out of the country.  I traveled here for almost a month in college. I took some summer school classes and experienced life Down Under. I loved the accents, the laid back environment, exploring the town and of course visiting koalas and kangaroos. I also went skydiving over some beautiful land. The one downside was while it was an American summer, it was an Australian summer so we didn’t have much beach weather – it was pants and jacket weather, mostly.

New Zealand – After Australia, we took a layover in New Zealand for a week and this place is beautiful.  It is green and hilly and exciting.  It’s definitely the home of extreme adventures because I did some cool things while I was there – stayed in a Haunted Hotel (freaky!), did hi-speed jet boating, tried black water rafting (in caves).  Such a fun and exciting place.

Hawaii – I visited Maui and I think Hawaii is one of those places that I would do a double visit if my husband wanted to see it.  He didn’t get to join me on this trip and it is a gorgeous place. The weather is perfect – always warm and breezy. Theres a 15 minute rain shower daily and then it’s awesome again. The food is delicious – pineapple, macadamia nuts, onion rings, several fish (Ono) and I loved doing the Road to Hana tour where we jumped into the waterfalls and pools and the water is just gorgeous for snorkeling all over the island.

Costa Rica – For our honeymoon the hubs and I went to Costa Rica and we loved all the things we got to do on this trip. There were several days that were just absolute downpours but at the beginning and end, we had great days. One thing that was hard to see (and this is for many vacation places) was once we got out of the resort, we were quickly in an area of poverty – people living in makeshift homes and run down buildings. We saw an active volcano, went to the hot springs and got a mud bath, went ziplining through the rainforest and best of all went on a one-on-one snorkel adventure that was just amazing. Our guide caught a starfish, baby octupus and blowfish for us to hold while we snorkeled in clear blue waters. Very cool.

Venice, Italy – The cool thing about Venice is the water roads, you don’t drive ANYWHERE in this town, everything is on the boat or taking narrow, wandering paths and bridges all over town. The food was delicious and there were tons of cool street vendors and shops. I really loved just riding the water taxi around and seeing the buildings and hotels sitting right on the water. There’s nothing like it!

Split, Croatia – During our Mediterranean cruise, we took a day trip to Croatia. We weren’t docked there for long, but while we were there we enjoyed the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted. In Europe, cafe’s are huge and we hit them up daily – sometimes multiple times a day. We also went through this really cool castle that now houses modern shops and buildings. It is just such a unique set up to be within the castle walls and to see big name stores tucked within the stone walls. I also loved their unique food, it’s not something you’d ever eat in an American restaurant.

Greece – Wow, we made about 6 stops in Greece and they were all so different. I loved visiting the Parthenon in Athens – and being up so high on this historical site and seeing the equivalent of NYC all around me – just tons of buildings, skyscrapers and homes as far as you can see in each direction. What a cool masterpiece at the top of a huge cliff.

I also loved visiting Mykonos and Santorini – they were the cool hotspots – with their trendy stores, little cafes and quaint settings. Of course, these towns look just like they do in the postcards – all the pics I took were amazing, weather it was the whitewashed buildings and windmills of Mykonos or the unique “built into the side of the cliff” setting of Santorini – where we rode donkeys up the cliff into the main area.

The landscape and views were beautiful and the drivers around these parts are crazy! We rented little cars in many of the places we stopped so we could try the non-touristy settings and it was just amazing to see this country towns with houses spread far and wide. Each person with their own slice – and view – of paradise.

Another place we hit in Greece was Olympia and it was cool to see such ancient history. We visited the site of the first olympics and while they are half dessecrated, being in that setting with the ruins of Olympic buildings just felt so cool. They did a great job of describing and showing what things looked like and were used for during the Ancient Games, so you could picture the setting.

Where I want to visit:

Ireland – Something about this setting in the movies always intrigues me. Of course, I’d love to visit a laid back town where it’s not uncommon to share an afternoon pint and delicious, hearty meals!

Spain – Because I minored in Spanish in college, this is always a place I’ve wanted to visit. I’ve done the studies on many of the towns, I’ve retained a little bit of the language. I’d love to see the old history that goes along with it.

England – Something about the presence of the royal family after all these years and the british accent makes me want to visit England. I hear it’s rainy and gray most of the time, but hey, I can pack an umbrella and poncho.

African Safari – Lions. Cheetahs. Giraffes. Sign me up. How cool to go through expanses of dry land, spotting animals that you only see behind glass and barriers at the zoo, living in their natural environment.

Caribbean – Shockingly, living so close to it, I’ve never really been on a vacation to the Caribbean. Nope, never took a spring break trip or a long weekend away to any little island south of Florida. But hopefully, this one will get checked off later this year, as the hubs and I are thinking about a Caribbean hotspot for our 5th anniversary vacation away.

Alaska – After seeing so many cool pictures on Nat Geo channel and hearing many people rave about cruises through arctic water, I think that a trip to Alaska is something I’d like to include on my bucket list of vacation spots. It’s completely opposite of many of the tropical destinations I’ve been to. I think seeing glaciers and wide expanses of icy tundra up close would be so cool.

Thailand – I think experiencing this culture would be beautiful. The colors and flavors. The little markets and the differences from my American culture and comforts. Plus, I like my food a little spicy – I think they could accommodate it!

So, the question is, where next – which one will get checked off the list? Will it be the Caribbean for an anniversary vacation later this year, or will we find another fun destination that we’d like to exlore!
Any others you would suggest I add to the list?

Vacation vs. Trip

Once you have kids, vacations aren’t really vacations anymore – they are trips… trips that require lots of energy and work. When I come back from “vacation” with my kids, I’m not really rested, I’m often more exhausted!! 🙂

Instead of spending a couple hours with them each day, I spend 24/7 with them. It’s so much fun to have the play time and fun with them… but also very, very tiring! I loved watching Landon enjoy his extended cousins, aunts and uncles.  He loved playing with the “big kids” and they really were so, so great with him.

I also have to give a huge shout out to Papa for all of his help with my kiddos. I was solo for the first half of the week and he really stepped up to help me with travel, sleeping arrangements, keeping them occupied and more. He definitely went above and beyond! (As well as my sister and her hubby!) We’d always determine the plan for the day based on our adult:kid ratio! 🙂

Here is a quick preview of pics from my cell phone of the trip… More pics and stories from Maine 2012 to come. For now I leave you with a couple cute shots!