Tag: adventure

Mexico = Vacation

Adventures & Travel Inspiration Self-care

Mexico = Vacation

“Willing to relocate,” was a phrase I put at the bottom of my resume in English class when I was 16. My mom and sister thought it was hilarious, but I was not joking. I’ve always been a wanderer, and if it’s not in the physical sense, it’s through hearing other people’s stories of their travels, books and dreams. Sean, my partner in this life, has the same desire to wander, it’s something that we share and talk about often. We enjoy taking adventures together, just the two of us, and it has been a while.

Riviera Maya Resort
Walking to dinner!!!

I never imagined we’d be ready to go anywhere without the kids until we were finally ready. Three nights in Mexico (!!) alone! It was a bit surreal, so so fun and everything I’d dreamed it would be.

I wouldn’t say we traveled often before kids, but for a while we took some pretty great trips during our dating years and early marriage. I’d studied in Italy and Sean was later stationed in Italy and Germany with the Air Force so we got to spend some time abroad together. Then in the 6 months before I was pregnant with Brady, we got to travel to St. John for my best friend’s wedding and then we did a 2 week journey from London to Rome.

Then we had kids. : )

Riviera Maya Resort
Grand Princess Sunset Resort

I’m an advocate of traveling with kids if that’s what you want to do. And it has been what we have chosen some of the time. We’ve ventured to Portland, Oregon, the Jersey Shore, Charleston and the Hudson Valley. Nothing too wild, but just enough for us to satisfy our cravings to discover new land, food and people.

We both love to travel and really enjoy it together so to be able to take a mini adventure with just each other was a huge gift (thank you to Sean’s parents and my mom).

I truly enjoy travel research and poking around to find a location and a place to sleep that is unique and fits our tastes. I like to build trips for our family.  So when we decided that we may be ready to spend 3 nights away without the kids (I originally proposed 2 nights and Sean countered with, “If we say three you have a deal.”) I got to work searching any and all direct “islandy” flights from Philadelphia. Our tropical destination awaits!

But then reality set in and the prices of airfare were nowhere near in our price range. I searched and searched and used all my travel notes and favorite resources to no avail. I concluded the search and told Sean, “If we’re meant to go, the right trip will find us.”

Grand Sunset Princess Resort Beach Mexico
The beach!!!

I kid you not, that evening we were watching something on TV and a commercial for Apple Vacations came on. I don’t remember the specifics, but the ad was something about $550 per person for 3 or 4 nights in Cancun including airfare, lodging, food, airport transfers and taxes. We paused the TV and were like, “Huh? How can this be real???” Well, I opened up the vacation search again and after some quick emails with Apple Vacations we were booked and going to Riviera Maya for 3 night getaway!!!!

Our contact at Apple was amazing, the process was ridiculously easy, the price was great and the trip was outstanding.

We flew Frontier (no complaints, actually really enjoyed it because the plane was new and the crew was super friendly), we stayed at the Grand Princess Sunset Resort in Riviera Maya. It was picture perfect. I honestly didn’t expect to be wowed because of the price, but we totally were. The grounds were gorgeous, the rooms were clean and pleasant and the staff was great. For an all-inclusive, the food was good, never great, but that is what I expected.

If you are considering this resort, here are my notes. If not, skip this paragraph.

  • If you go with kids, there is a kid building with pool and cute little kid lounge chairs. They have push cars to borrow and other fun things. Kids are welcome everywhere but this area really caters to families. We checked it out for future reference. We also talked to families and they all loved it.
  • The Platinum rooms are closest to the beach and are an upgrade that we wanted but were not available. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s even necessary because our room category (Junior Suite Deluxe) was perfect as it included the extra restaurants.
  • There is a shuttle that takes you to Playa Del Carmen daily for $4 per person each way.
  • One night a week they bring in local merchants and have a market in the hotel square. It was so cool.
  • Don’t go to the steakhouse. We enjoyed the Mexican Restaurant and La Fleur.
  • They stock your fridge daily with plenty of bottled water (and beer).
  • At the pool bar, try the Alexander if you like Baileys, try the Mango Tango if you like rum.
  • Dance at the nightclub.

The first two days were rainy and it was still a party. We went swimming in the rain, drank at the pool bar (excellent people watching) and went dancing at the resort night club. The energy at the resort was awesome and everyone was so excited to be on vacation.

Nearly everything went right for us on the trip and it was so fun to just sit and talk with my best friend for hours uninterrupted.

Grand Sunset Princess Resort Mexico

Top photo credit: Pineapple Supply Co.

Old City Philadelphia With Small Children

Adventures & Travel Family Inspiration

Old City Philadelphia With Small Children

I mapped out this itinerary for our family when we had an unusually warm Saturday in February. It’s a bit aggressive yet can easily be modified. We did 1, 5, 6 and 7 on our list and it was perfect! It’s a walking tour concentrated in the Old City section of Philadelphia. We found street parking on N. 3rd street, which was ideal!

 

(1) Start at the Betsy Ross House (on Arch Street between 2nd & 3rd). Sometimes they’ll have demonstrations or storytelling in the courtyard. On the day we went they were demonstrating the making of drinking chocolate and selling/sampling it! They were showing how they broke down the cocoa beans and I was super interested since cocoa butter is my favorite ingredient to work with in my products. It was amazing. I was way more interested than the kids.

Adults are $5 and kids are $4. We didn’t do the audio tour. It’s super tiny in there and very narrow, but beautiful and worth seeing. It’s said to be haunted upstairs. While in the basement, I learned that Ben Franklin’s sister was a soapmaker, awwww, yay! Me too. : ) The historical actor explained that they used to put liquid lye in the laundry as well as urine. Hmmm, made me feel much more grateful for my trader joe’s lavender liquid laundry soap.

Betsy Ross House
Betsy Ross House

(2) Head East on Arch, left on 2nd and you’ll see Elfreth’s Alley on your right. Here you can walk our nation’s oldest residential street. It’s FREE to wander and there are beautiful pictures to be taken here.

(3) Go back the way you came, past Betsy Ross’ House and between 4th &  5th Streets (on Arch) you’ll see Christ Church Burial Ground where you can see Ben Franklin’s grave. You can view from the street for FREE or pay the admission to walk around inside the burial ground.

(4) Continue down Arch and turn left on 5th, walk one block and you’ll be at 5th and Market to visit the National Museum of American Jewish History. I was lucky enough to see this museum as it was being built and again soon after. This page is helpful for families.

(5) From there, head East on Market (away from 5th) towards 4th Street. Here you’ll find Franklin Court – museum and printing office . This is actually my favorite historical attraction in Philadelphia! I discovered it when I had to give a historic tour as a student in college and fell in love. You can stroll through the courtyard and see the “ghost houses” which represent where Franklin’s house stood. You can look through the glass below the ground and see different parts of the basement. There’s also a museum that has a fee but the printing office is FREE. When they are open you can see people demonstrating the printing press and it’s fun to see inside. There’s also a working post office on the Market Street side where you can mail your letter with a B FREE FRANKLIN ink stamp! A friend mailed her wedding invitations from here, I thought that was such a cool idea.

Carpenters' Hall
Carpenters’ Hall

(6) When you exit Franklin Court, exit on the Chestnut Street side (opposite from where you entered on Market Street). Head across the street to Carpenters’ Hall (it’s FREE). A historical building which held the First Continental Congress and Franklin’s Library. I LOOOOVE anything that has to do with a library. I know. Apparently there’s a “treasure hunt” in there – you can tell the kids to find all the Carpenters’ Co. Emblems. Apparently there’s 5. I found 2.

Greenspace Old City Philadelphia
Greenspace Old City Philadelphia

One of my favorite things about Carpenters’ Hall is the path leading up to it and the grounds around it. There’s green space and we just walked down and parked the stroller and let the kids run around in the huge lawn. It’s so perfect. Once that’s done, head across the street to…

(7) The Little Lion– it’s on the corner of 3rd and Market Streets. Super cute, great food and beer and I love the decor. Reservations recommended. I’ve been here 3 times and every time the service was outstanding, as well as the food. All I’ll say is sweet potato fries.

On our walk back to our car this little shop caught my eye and now they are carrying my lip balm! I love it in there and it’s very fun to poke around. I picked up a soap when I dropped off my lip balm to them, I love to support other local makers.

Philadelphia Independents
Philadelphia Independents

So that was our Old City adventure in a nutshell. The Kids loved it and Brady asked for days when we were going back. If you go, enjoy!!

Betsy Ross House Courtyard
Betsy Ross House Courtyard
More Frugal Fun With Little Ones

Adventures & Travel Family Inspiration Motherhood Simplicity

More Frugal Fun With Little Ones

Something I have right now is flexibility. Tons of it. We can fill our days pretty much with whatever we want, working around a small preschool schedule. Adventures are always calling and I’m frequently on the hunt for something fun to discover with the kids, however, whenever I google kids activities, I always feel empty inside. The usual kids museums or activity centers come up in the search and that’s about it. I’m always left wanting more. And frankly, a little baffled. I do love those places, and we’ve been to most of them, but that’s just one small bucket of ideas.

Kids stuff doesn’t have to be limited to “Kids only” stuff. Kids are real people that want to interact with the world and be intrigued and challenged. Their brains are literally wired for discovery and it’s my job to provide the path. Here’s three kid-friendly ways to spend a morning or afternoon. These are all local to Philadelphia/Montgomery County, PA.

Abington Art Center

This beautiful campus is super close to our house and it’s always felt a little mysterious because it’s behind large walls. We made our way one chilly February day when everyone was bouncing off the walls. They had an exhibit by Temple University students and an Art trail to walk, all for free. SOLD.

abington art center field
Running off into the field for ninja turtle battles

The exhibit was entitled Surface Tensions Wall Projections by Temple University Graduate Film & Media Arts  and it was a feast for the eyes. When we entered the exhibit hall, the lights were out and projections of lights and videos flashed about on the walls. The looks on the kids faces were priceless. Meadow, holding her baby doll, looked up in wonder. Brady, eyes wide, said, “What the HECK is this place?” “Where areeee weeee?” asked Meadow. I told them and they were fascinated, albeit a bit confused.

We wandered about and took it in. The work was interesting and the kids reaction to it was even more fun to watch. And this is what I love about art! “Who made this?” They exclaimed in wonder? “Why?” The questions were hilarious. We had a blast. Then we wandered around the building and found the fabric workshop and were invited in where Brady asked some questions. The bright and beautiful room was even warmer with the welcoming teacher who didn’t seem bothered by curious children. The bathrooms were great too, big enough for a stroller and clean – that’s how I evaluate most places.

frugal fun with little ones
Little wooden booth we discovered on the trail

We made our way to the art trail where the questions continued. A field large enough for ninja turtle battles, a stage to continue our battle and little wooden houses and huts to tuck our bodies in and pretend we lived in. There was no end in sight for the fun and it was all free. Our moods shifted from being out in February winds and that was part of the goal in discovering that trail.

RyersS Museum

This place is amazing. It’s a FREE museum in Burholme Park (northeast section of Philadelphia/Fox Chase). I have very fond memories of being here while I was a kid and kinda forgot about it until recently. It’s only open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays so plan for that but it’s so worth the visit!

It’s both a museum and library full of family heirlooms and collections of the Ryerss Family from their travels around the world. We got a children’s coloring/activity book in the library when we were there and it says, “Visiting the Ryerss Museum is like taking a trip around the world.” I could not agree more!

The first floor has the parlor and dining room setup so you can see what it was like when they lived there. Little dolls and tea sets caught Meadow’s eye and I explained that you can not go under red ropes in museums. Just as soon as the words left my lips she looked and me and proceeded to go right under the red rope towards the Victorian tea set. Note to self: explain museum etiquette more clearly.

Ryerss Museum Dining Room
Dining Room

The back parlor was cozy and dark and explained the family’s Turkish corner. Have you heard of this? It amazed me! The exhibit rooms housed Buddhas, shoes, seashells and swords. Brady was engaged. I commented on how impressed I was that he was behaving so well and he said, rather seriously, “Well I’m busy. I’m doing the scavenger hunt.” We got a scavenger hunt worksheet in the library before we toured the house, it was great for the kids. Nothing fancy, just images of several statues that they had to look for.

Ryerss Museum with Kids
Scavenger hunt, very serious

We ended in the library where there are kids tables and coloring sheets. I had some questions about the dollhouses I saw as a kid but seemed to be missing from the exhibit hall. Apparently Fairmount Park claimed them as they didn’t belong to the Ryerss Family, but to a neighbor. BUMMER – they were my absolute favorites and I could not wait to see them after all these years. The library is a real library and you are welcome to borrow books if you live close by.

They also do kids activity days and flea market events at the museum. Don’t forget to walk around to the front porch and you’ll pass their pet cemetery on your way. Victorian porches steal my heart and they really help me imagine the time period when I’m on one.

They have free parking and a playground as well.

Ryerss Museum Library
Magical Ryerss library – kid friendly

Ikea – Kids eat free on Tuesday

Have you ever heard of Ikea? That’s a joke. Of course you have. Well, it’s a really fun place for kids and not because they have a play area that you can leave your kids at (we’ve yet to utilize that feature but it does look fun in there). It’s literally a HUGE indoor playground. We love to go and wander, stock up on candles and pretend we live in the little fake living rooms.

The cafe can be accessed via shortcut as soon as you enter (at the Conshohocken location) and it’s right next to the children’s department. We’ll go on a Tuesday, I’ll get a veggie/hummus wrap or whatever and the kids meals are both FREE. And you get a free coffee if you have their “Family” card. Plus they just got a new cafe machine so it makes lattes! I’m not sure if this is permitted but I bring my latte to the children’s area and sip it leisurely while the kids take their shoes off and roll around in the beds. I know. I know. I told them not to but they don’t really listen sometimes so whatever.

Ikea kids fun
Meadow playing at Ikea

By the time we get home, we’re all exhausted from Ikea, we relax and then I make dinner. Day planned. 🙂

Now pick one and go explore!

xoxo

 

 

The Hudson Valley With Small Children

Adventures & Travel Family Inspiration

The Hudson Valley With Small Children

Traveling with small children is insanity in the making, yet I love it. Well, I love travel and I have kids that I love, so that equals loving traveling with small children in my head. The first time we took Brady across the country on an airplane I had a panic attack in the bathroom and sent frantic messages during the trip to my mom and sister that he would not listen to anything I said. He was 18 months old. Ha, it’s par for the course.

Since then, we’ve sat out on a few vacations and I’ve gotten a little more savvy with my research and planning (built in down time and space for kids to run is hugely important for our family).

Here are my notes and tips from our family vacation we took June 2016 where we road-tripped to the Hudson Valley, NY and rented a cozy cottage in the country. Every family flows differently, this is a snapshot of our “flow.” Enjoy!!!

 

The house we rented was perfect for our family of four. I loved it so much when we arrived that I cried. I could not believe we got to stay there for a week!!! It was complete with cozy nooks, window seats, books galore, games, kids toys, gorgeous views of the meadow behind the house and comfy beds.

I loved drinking coffee in the morning in this house and the coziest table was in the kitchen that looked out the window. It was perfect for dreaming. Nikki, the house owner, was so hospitable and we even got to meet her one day when she had to repair the swing in the yard. Her design touches were so inviting and enjoyable.

Cozy morning cartoons
Cozy morning cartoons.

 

Kitchen Window
The view from our kitchen window.

 

Kid's Room
The kids checking out “their” room.

 

Trampoline fun in the yard.
Trampoline fun in the yard.

 

Yard fun with Daddy
More yard fun with daddy.

 

dreamy kitchen table
Cozy table in the kitchen where I wrote and dreamed one morning.

 

meadow painting
Meadow painting in the kitchen.

 

The last night at the house.

 

♡Fun things that I researched in the area. Time noted is drive time from Red Hook, the town our house was in.♡ 

What we did:

Greig Farm (5 minutes away). They had pick your own fruit, we picked strawberries.  BBQ truck was cool (pictured below) and there are goats to feed with a cute shop where we got great local syrup and jam to bring home. They also have a Saturday market that we didn’t get to.

Poets Walk Park (in Red Hook). 2 miles of trails, we allowed 2 hours at least. Breathtaking Hudson River Views, bring water! A dreamy place with benches to read and think.

Montgomery Place (in Red Hook). Recommended by our Airbnb host, Nikie, “Historic Hudson Valley site. Beautiful park and spectacular waterfalls. Very nice hike.”  These grounds were breathtaking. Gross bugs by the water but we had fun exploring, sitting on the porch and taking in the falls.

Village of Rhinebeck Has many kid-friendly restaurants, shopping, Sunday am farmers market (10-2). I went to the farmers market and it was worth the special trip but parking was crazy hard. Town is adorable but all the shops close early. Makes for peaceful strolls down the street, but would have liked to browsed after dinner.

Lake Taghkanic State Park (15 minutes away). Has lake, beach, playground, paddle boats. Loved this place. It felt HUGE! Cleanest bathrooms ever. My kind of beach, park your car, walk 10 feet and sit under a tree in the shade on a beach! Loved it.

↠Town of Woodstock -Would have loved to had more time here. We didn’t have a plan and were hungry so that’s always a lethal combo but we went to the local pizza shop and had beer and pizza and the world was ok again. We had new “toys” and markers for the kids in our bags. Yay, us! We saw a community drum circle on the main street and felt very “Woodstock” to me. I wanted to tell everyone to hold on while I snuck in a yoga class, but that obviously never happened. Made our way to Opus 40 it was really cool and different, great for adults and kids.

Red Hook Lunch
Lunch spot in Red Hook.

 

Poet's Walk
Poet’s Walk, Where the cranberry fight took place.

 

Poet's Walk
Poet’s Walk

 

Lake Taghkanic State Park

 

Lake Taghkanic State Park – beach!

 

montgomery place
Exploring Montgomery Place…

 

Montgomery Place views

 

Sawkill Farm, Red Hook
Sawkill Farm Store – where I got to talk soap techniques with the shop keeper!

 

Woodstock, NY
Woodstock, NY

 

My travel “journal” is below and is basically an assortment of phrases and words that I write down each day on vacation. I’ve surrendered to the fact that I don’t really write much on vacation but want to so badly. So I bottle up a few words, to me, the only words that matter. These may not make much sense but you get the idea!

Saturday, June 11, 2016 Roadtrip begins! “Is there blood in blood inside blood?” Asked Brady in the car. Arrive at Spring Lake Road house…BEAUTIFUL!!! Kids love it. Cool kids room. Awesome toys! Amazing discovery. Would you rather? game. Books galore.

Sunday, June 12, 2016 Cocoa puffs, turtle battles. Connect four. Rhinebeck Farmers Market. Opus 40…”Whichever path you choose will be the right one,” says the older man. Woodstock. Catskill pizza. Community Drum circle.

Monday, June 13, 2016 Poets walk park. Kids fighting over cranberries. Meadow in the meadow. Dead mouse on trail. Long meadow nap. Brady and I found play doh in the house. Trampoline and swing fun in the yard. Snake! Dinner at Terrapin in Rhinebeck. So good and fun! Kids were awesome at super fancy restaurant. Ice cream. “Hey! How’d the moon get here?” Turtle batters on the street.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016 Catskills…Kaaterskill falls. Crackers. Crackers. Crackers. Hold my sweatshirt. Crackers. Ninja battles on viewing deck. “Take a video of me. Let me see it.” Beautiful waterfalls! Dangerous cliff. Skipping stones. Throwing rocks. Snake! Chipmunks everywhere. Pink hair. Snacks in car. No service. Dunkin Donuts. Beer. Wine. Fussy Meadow. Poor kid needs to sleep! Turtle paints. Beach toys. Beer on deck with Jack Johnson. The Sandlot.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016 Relaxing morning, coffee on deck, breakfast in sun room. Turtle battle. I was Mikey. Lake Taghkanic State Park. Playground. Brady bug bite. Beautiful lake and beach. Saw cabins and tents. Sandlot part 2. Smores.

Thursday, June 16, 2016 Greig farm strawberries. Tastebuds lunch. Bug collection. Flat Iron. Sticker book. Tick. Super fun hangout night with wine and Battleships and Connect Four and Bubble Guppies.

Friday, June 16, 2016 Early rise, super tired Brady. Montgomery Place – amazing views of Catskills & Hudson. Cool porch. Gross flies. Waterfalls. Gigi Market with cool local buys. Crazy screaming kids. Goats. “Is hay dirty?” Airstream lunch with wiffel ball. MUCH needed naps for both kids. Blue skies, amazing weather. Last afternoon in our house. What a treat this house is. Meadow said at Montgomery Place about a squirrel, “Chipmunk! Chipmunk! Chipmunk! I’m just kidding.”

 

Good Links that helped me research and plan: 

General www.redhookhudsonvalley.com

For Kids Activities: http://hudsonvalley.kidsoutandabout.com/content/top-20-places-take-kids-hudson-valley

The one that started this whole idea: http://cupofjo.com/2010/07/hudson-valley-trip/

The family road trip packing list from The Art of Simple: http://theartofsimple.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/packing-list.pdf

I hope this inspires your next family adventure! xo