Why You Should Visit Vail In Summer – A Travel Guide

Vail is one of my favorite mountain towns in Colorado. We typically go every few years and it never gets old. I love the architecture and the Swiss Alps’ vibe of the town. I know Vail is a popular ski destination however, it’s just as amazing in summer. I think there is actually more to do in summer.

Vail, Colorado is a small town at the base of Vail Mountain and is set within the White River National Forest. In summer it’s a popular destination for golfing, shopping, fishing, hiking, festivals, and more.

If Vail is in your future travel plans, save this blog post as I’m going to share all my favorite things to do, where to stay, and where to eat when visiting Vail.

Let’s talk about places to stay.

Tivoli Lodge – They feature 65 rooms with mountain or village views, great amenities and are located in the middle of the village.

The Sebastian – Also in a great location and has their own private club and an amazing spa!

Austria Haus Hotel – Intimate hotel, great breakfast in the lounge every morning, and a boutique feel.

Sonnenalp – A modern lodge with a luxury feel.

Where to eat:

Lancelot, Vail’s original Prime Rib house. A locals’ and tourist favorite. Go for the atmosphere alone!

La Nonna, A traditional Italian restaurant with an extensive wine list.

El Segundo is one of our favorites, we go there every time we are in town. You have to get the nachos and bring your appetite!

Matsuhisa  is a favorite as well. You’ll love the beautiful views and the expansive menu.

Mountain Standard has a pub vibe with an upscale menu. Their Executive Chef holds the title of Colorado’s Chef of the year. It’s a must-try.

Things to do:

Enjoy a scenic ride up Vail Mountain. At the top, you’ll find Epic Discovery Adventure Park. Tickets are $28

Head to Turtle Tube rentals and tube down the Colorado River. You can also swim and play in the river in the town square.

Epic Discovery, located at the top of Vail mountain features rope courses, trampolines, golf, and an alpine slide.

Vail has so many cute boutiques that feature souvenirs, unique gifts, sports equipment, clothing, and more. You could spend a whole day shopping!

Get out in nature. Some great trails nearby include Pitkin and Booth Falls.

Head to Game Creek Aerial Adventure to capture some amazing views and zip lines in the mountains.

If you’ve been thinking of a trip to Vail, go! It’s a place you’ll never forget.

Happy travels!



Four Things You Need To Do In South Dakota

Recently my family and I took our summer road trip, which included a stop in Rapid City, South Dakota. I haven’t been there since I was a small child so I forgot how beautiful it is! If you’re taking a road trip or planning a trip to South Dakota, here are four things you need to do!

First stop, head to the Black Hill Mountains. The views are incredible, the air is crisp, and there are so many things to do. There are over 400 hiking trails. Two of our favorites are Lover’s Leap and Cathedral Spires. For camping, I recommend you check out Sheridan Lake and the Iron Creek Horse Campsite.

You can pop into some mom-and-pop eateries and souvenir shops. We stopped in Custer and you really feel the small town historical vibes. Some others that were recommended to us were:

  • Deadwood
  • Dell Rapids
  • Hill City
  • Keystone
  • Hot Springs
  • Pierre
  • Spearfish

If you have kids with you, stop in the Rush Mountain Adventure Park for some family-friendly thrill rides including a mountain coaster, and a sky climbing course. You can also explore a cave.

The next stop is, of course, visiting Mount Rushmore. I went in the 80s when I was a small child and boy has it changed! The monument is pretty incredible by itself but now they have a museum, an eatery (with ice cream!), a gift shop, and an amphitheater. You can even walk up the mountain (weather permitting), on the Presidential Trail (0.6 miles long, 422 stairs) to get up close and personal with the mountain sculpture and perhaps glimpse some of the area’s wildlife.

You need about 1.5 to 2 hours there. Admission is free to get in however parking is $10.

Speaking of memorials, another memorial to visit not too far from Mount Rushmore is Crazy Horse. Crazy Horse Memorial is 70 years in the making and is the world’s largest mountain carving located in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It is considered The Eighth Wonder of the World in progress.

You’ll need about 1.5 to 2 hours here as well. Entry per car is $30 to get in. For $125 you can go to the top and explore what will one day be Crazy Horse’s outstretched arm.

Lastly, you have to check out Badlands National Park. You can drive the 1.5 scenic route around the entire park to see some buffalo, wildlife, and be surrounded by the geographic formations. You’ll also see a ghost town that once was thriving during the Gold Rush. If you don’t have time for that then make a stop at Pinnacle Overlook which provides sweeping views of the Badlands. The best time to go is at sunrise and sunset! Parking is available and is free. It is also a quick 15 minutes from the main interstate.

My family and I loved spending time in South Dakota and recommend making a stop if it’s in your future road trip plans.

Why You Should Take Your Family On A Cruise

Hey friends! I’ve missed you. I took a few months off from the blog as I was working on an exciting project with Google, but I’m back!

Our family just got back from a Caribbean cruise for Spring Break and I’m here to tell you that if you’ve been thinking of going on a cruise but haven’t yet – this is your sign.

First I’ll start off by saying that I used to be that person who wouldn’t even consider a cruise. I assumed they’d be overcrowded, the food would be terrible, and the rooms would be small and not a place I’d want to be. I reluctantly booked a European one with my husband shortly after we got married for our “babymoon” and fell in love! I was wrong about everything!

I will say the cruise line matters and I would suggest getting a balcony room to give you some extra space and views. They really utilized every nook and cranny for storage space. Even with our family of 4, the one balcony room works just fine. Our favorite cruise lines are Disney, Celebrity, Princess, or Royal Caribbean. Celebrity is my top favorite for food, Royal Caribbean has the best ships for families. There are always “upgrade” restaurants on all lines but as far as the free dining options, Celebrity was the best in my opinion.

I’m going to share all the reasons why YOU should consider a cruise too:

  • A floating city is a fun thing to experience. You don’t even feel like you’re on a boat more like exploring a small city.
  • You can visit multiple destinations in one trip.
  • They are super easy to plan, all you have to do is show up!
  • Everything is very organized and cruises offer lots of options for off-shore excursions from scuba diving to swimming with dolphins, visiting beaches, walking tours, wine tastings, and more.
  • You’ll never run out of things to do on the ship. They have something for everyone from casinos to shopping, bingo, trivia, yoga, and more.
  • Cruising is very family-friendly. The ships also provide FREE childcare in their kids’ clubs! The kids LOVE spending time in the clubs and it gives parents a break to enjoy all the adult activities.
  • Many ships now have water slides, rock climbing walls, mini-golf, and sports courts. This makes for fun sail days.
  • Ships have theatres to showcase Broadway-like shows, comedians, magic shows, and more.
  • There are so many itinerary options throughout the world to choose from.
  • You meet new friends with each cruise. We still keep in touch with friends we’ve met on multiple cruises throughout the last ten years.

If you’re considering a cruise, I would research the different ships to see what best suits your travel needs and sign up for their email campaigns so you snag deals when they post them. Here’s a photo dump of our recent cruising adventure!

My kids already can’t wait for our next cruise. We are thinking of Europe next summer! Want to join us?

Palm Springs – A Travel Guide

This summer I traveled to Palm Springs for the first time and was so mad at myself for not visiting sooner. What a dessert gem I’ve been missing out on! The fun architecture, vibrant vibes, vintage boutiques, and amazing restaurants have Palm Springs on must return list.

We only had a few days there but got to explore downtown, some great eateries, and check out all the magnificant mountan views. If you’re headed to Palm Springs in the near future make sure to save this list of must-dos!

Let’s start with resorts. There are so many great places to stay in Palm Springs but the ones that top my list are:

Palm Mountain Resort & Spa  A favortie among traverlers for the pool, resort feel and mountain views.

The Hilton Palm Springs Spacous rooms and great resort vibes.

The Westin Mission Hills Villas. We ultimatley decided on this place for the pools and space. Having a whole villa to spread out in was great. I worked for the Westin brand for over seven years so I’m partial to them and their heavenly beds.

If you’re looking for something eclectic with old Palm Springs charm, you have to stay at The Saguaro Palm Springs.

Let’s move on to eats. I’m a foodie so anytime I travel, I scope out the best resturants to try. Here are some we visited and some that were recommended to me.

Tommy Bahama Restuarant & Bar The open bar and patio were amazing. They have a great drink menu and the food was beyond expectations. I would make this a staple if in Palm Springs.

Farm Palm Springs features South of France vibes with a signature cocktail list that will have you going back for more. I highly recommend dining on the patio. It has a very intimate feel.

Okura Sushi was a local’s referral and I’m glad we got this referral becasuse the sushi was fantasic! They had some great signature rolls, the space itself was gorgeous and the cocktail list was great too!

Lulu California Bistro Palm Springs is the best for brunch! They have an all day menu too, but bruch is where it’s at. The colorful mid-centry modern vibe is so fun and and the food is so delish! The patio is perfect for people watching and you get the best views of old Palm Springs.

Maracas is another Old Town Palm Springs gem. Located right on the strip, their patio is spacious, their margaritas hit the spot and their portions are large! Highly recommend!

Before you leave Old Town Palm Springs be sure to grab a crepe and visit all the local boutiques. I found several vibrant cute pool cover ups and some fun jewlery at Fashion Fix. Here’s a little glimpse of Old Town Palm Springs.

If you want to visit some of the local attractions I highly recommend checking out Salvation Mountain. Salvation Mountain is about an hour from Palm Springs and is a tribute from artist Leonard Knight to God and his gift to the world with its simple yet powerful message: God is Love. It’s a beautiful piece of art and is worth the short drive.

My last recommendation is to visit the Cabazon Dinasours. Another short drive from Palm Springs, this iconic roadside attraction is a must. You may recognize this attraction from Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and The Wizard movies. They have a fun dinosuar museum with a gift shop, and they also dress up the dinosaurs for the holidays. Even if you just want to snap a picture, it’s worth a stop.

My only suggesstion when planning a visit to Palm Springs is to not go in July or August unless you can handle extreme heat. This Chicago girl was definitely struggling. I can’t wait to go back, but this time it will be in winter or spring.

What are your favorite Palm Springs spots? Comment below or send me a DM on Instagram.

Washington D.C. With Kids – A Family Travel Guide

I’ve been to D.C. before on a girl’s trip and we took advantage of the nice restaurants and rooftop bars overlooking the White House and it was a blast. Visting D.C. on a quick weekend trip with kids looks a little different. Our family trip gave me a new appreciation for the history and beauty of D.C. and our great nation. If you only have a few days to explore D.C. with the family here’s some must-dos while you’re there.

You can’t go to D.C. and not visit any monuments or memorial sites. Many are within walking distance of each other so it makes it easy to visit many of the sites in a short amount of time.

We started our monument tour at the Washington Monument. The 555 feet structure was built to honor our first president and it is quite a sight. You can walk the grounds, get a great view of the Capitol, or you can go to the top for a bird’s eye view of the city. If you want to go inside just be sure to get your tickets prior to your visit. They do not accept walk-ups or day-of-ticket purchases. After visiting the Washington Monument, you can walk down to The National Mall , “America’s First Yard,” to get a closer view of the Capitol or other nearby monuments.

World War II Memorial If you walk from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial you will come upon the WWII Memorial. From the National Park site: Through stone architecture and bronze sculptures, the World War II Memorial recognizes the ways Americans served, honors those who fell, and recognizes the victory they achieved to restore freedom and end tyranny around the globe.

Lincoln Memorial My favorite monument of all. Not only is its majestic marble statue honoring Abraham Lincoln a must-see, but the steps to the memorial witnessed many history-making moments such as the ‘I Have a Dream speech. It’s a beautiful structure that reminds me of ancient Roman times with the large marble columns and grand stairs leading up to the temple where Abe Lincoln is enshrined forever. The view of the Mall and the Washington Monument is spectacular at the top too!

Vietnam Veterans Memorial This memorial site is within close walking distance to the Lincoln Memorial. My kids were most touched by this memorial because they could read the names of all those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives protecting our country.

White House You can’t go to D.C. and not see the White House. My kids were most excited to see this historic building that houses all of our presidents. They were surprised to see it sits right in the middle of the city and seems small compared to its surroundings. We also got a glimpse of the President returning to the house as we were leaving.

Now on to the museums. There are so many amazing museums in D.C. and you’d need many more days to experience them all. Due to lack of availability and some closures due to Covid and refurbishing we didn’t have many to chose from during our visit. Pro tip: Make sure you plan in advance and get your tickets early. Some museums sell out months in advance. Our top choices were The Smithsonian, The Air & Space Museum, The African American Museum, and the International Spy Museum.

We were only able to get tickets to the International Spy Museum but it was perfect for the kids. Once we arrived they said you need two hours to complete the tour, however, I would plan on more like 4-5 hours.

From their site: At the International Spy Museum, you get to go undercover to test your spy skills at seventeen different digital and physical interactives spread throughout the Museum’s permanent exhibitions over two floors. You’ll be challenged to remember your cover identity, stay undercover, and participate in activities ranging from cracking codes to crawling through an air duct and spying on other “spies.”

The museum was incredible, very interactive, and super cool to learn about spies around the world. The best part was seeing all the spy gadgets and technology used from decades ago up until recently. It’s amazing what they can do with little cameras and microphones!

Once you’re done with all the historical sites, I highly recommend you head over to the Capitol Riverwalk. There are many restaurants nearby and you get a scenic view of the city and river.

Speaking of restaurants, here are a few we got to check out and others that were recommended to me as being kid-friendly.

My last recommendation is to visit Georgetown. Not only is it a beautiful and very European feel, but there are wonderful little shops and eateries to explore throughout the entire neighborhood.

All About Asheville – A Travel Guide

This summer we traveled to Asheville for a second time and fell in love with it even more. If you haven’t been, Asheville is a city on the western side of North Carolina and located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Asheville is known for its history, breathtaking mountain landscape, being home to the Biltmore Estate, and for their booming art district. It’s a great place for a couple’s get away or for the whole family. I wanted to share some of my recommendations and you’ll want to save this post if Asheville is in your future travel plans.

Since I’m a foodie, let’s start with some resturants you need to check out first.

  • White Duck Taco Shop known for its eclectic, ever-changing delish taco combinations, a great patio, and sometimes live music. This is a must.
  • Chestnut Creative cockails, yummy cuisine and don’t forget their desserts – which are made fresh in house!
  • Tupelo Honey Want some real down home southern flare. This is your spot!
  • Cúrate Tapas and authentic Spanish cuisine. People love this spot so much that they now ship some of their stapes nationwide!
  • Sunny Point Cafe We loved this place for breakfast but they serve lunch and dinner and it is also a local favorite.
  • Any restuarant located on the Biltmore Estate, I highly recommend too.

Speaking of the Biltmore Estate, if you are in Asheville this is a non-negoatiable. The Biltmore is magical and a must see. From their website: Once the luxurious family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt, it is a marvel of elegance and charm and as magnificent today as it was more than a century ago. Faithfully preserved and filled with original furnishings and masterpieces of art, no other residence in America offers a more authentic and inspiring view of Gilded Age life while suggesting that the Vanderbilts and their guests are still at home.

You can tour the estate gardens and the Biltomore Village for free. They do offer tours of the house and there are some eateries and shops in the old stables of the estate to visit as well. They have a winery on site along with several lodging acommodations. We like to stay at The Inn at Biltmore due to the incredible views of the 8,000 acre estate and the mountians, but any choice is great. There are hiking trails, biking trails, carriage rides, horseback riding and a wildlife tour and discovery activity for kids. In Antler Village they have live music and fun activites all around the village for adults and families. Check their event calandar for more.

If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, here are some recommendations:

Lake Lure. Lake Lure is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Make it a beach day where you can rent jet skis, water sport equiptment, or you can walk along the flower gardens or go fishing.

Chimney Rock. Located in Chimney Rock State Park, Chimney Rock is a large granite outcropping located on the summit of Chimney Rock Village. If you want the best views in all of North Carloina you have to check out “the Rock”. There are stairs to climb to get to the top (my 5 year old made it to the top by himself), but there is an elevator as well. There’s a great eatery at the top to enjoy a nice beverage while looking out into the mountain views.

Sliding rock. If you want a fun unique thing to do, especially with kids, check out Sliding Rock. North Carolina’s natural waterslide. sliding down a 60-foot all-natural water slide in the heart of gorgeous Pisgah National Forest. Good for all ages, but I recommend being able to swim as you slide into an 8 foot deep pool of water. The water temperature during summer season is 50-60 degrees so it’s definetly a rush! There are some fun adventure parks near by with ziplining, tree climbing, and more, if you want to continue the adventures.

Fred W. Symmes Chapel (Pretty Place). If you are up for an hour drive from Asheville to the border of South Carolina you’re in for a real treat. Pretty Place sits at the end of the road and is one of the buildings of a YMCA camp, yet vistors from all over come to check out these amazing views. Religious or not, this is without a doubt – a pretty place.

Headed To Hilton Head – Read This!

If you haven’t been to Hilton Head Island yet, add it to your list of places to visit. Hilton Head Island is consistently named a top island vacation destination in the U.S. It’s located in the low country region of South Carolina and is a short drive from Charleston or Savannah.

Hilton Head Island is known for its beaches, resorts, golf courses, lush greenery, and amazing restaurants. We only had a weekend there, which wasn’t enough time. Now we have an excuse to return – which we can’t wait to do.

There are a plethora of amazing resorts and rental properties to chose from in Hilton Head, but we went with the Westin Hilton Head Resort. I worked for the Westin Brand for a long time and their properties are always consistent in cleanliness and great service. You can’t beat their heavenly beds, either. They have an amazing pool space with lots of activities, a DJ, food and beverage service chairside, along with other eateries with amazing views, and it’s a short walk to the beach.

The hotel was great for families, we could have stayed a the pool the entire weekend. They have cabanas and daybeds for rent, just be sure to reserve those in advance as they sell out fast.

Other popular resorts are:

Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort

Ocean Oak Resort by Hilton

Marriott Beach Club

There are so many amazing restaurants on the Island you’ll have a hard time choosing between them all. Make sure you reserve a table ahead of time at any restaurant on the island as they fill up fast. They also are quite understaffed from Covid, so most aren’t running at full capacity and there are extremely long wait times. In some places the wait isn’t so bad because you can grab a cocktail at the bar and listen to live music, people watch or take in the views. Here is a list of places we loved and others that were recommended to us:

  • The Crazy Crab
  • Dock Side
  • Skull Creek Boathouse – best views!
  • Hudson’s
  • Hinoki – this was our favorite. The inside is beautiful, the service was great, and the food was excellent.
  • Salty Dog Cafe
  • Santa Fe
  • San Miguels

We spent most of our time lounging by the pool and strolling the beach, but there are so many things to do in Hilton Head. Here are just a handful of things we saw and did ourselves:

  • Love to golf? They have some of the best courses.
  • You can rent bikes and ride along the island.
  • Check out the famous Harbor Town Lighthouse.
  • Do a nature tour.
  • Check out the Coastal Discovery Museum.
  • Play some putt-putt at one of the adventure parks. We went to Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf and the boys had a blast.

Have you been to Hilton Head? If so, share your recommendations – I’d love to hear them.

Summertime In Savannah – A Travel Guide

Savannah is such a beautiful historic city. I spent time here as a kid as my mom grew up in Savannah, but it wasn’t until I went back as an adult that I saw its true beauty.

A little bit about Savannah:

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia which serves as an important industrial city due to its Atlantic seaport. The historic district still has cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture featuring new and old buildings. Savannah also has over twenty-two “squares” throughout the city adorned with historical statues, park benches, and majestic trees with Spanish moss dancing in the wind. You may recognize one of the squares, Chippewa Square, which was featured in Forrest Gump. The bench is no longer there, but it’s still cool to check out the area where they shot the film. Whether you’re headed to Savannah on a girl’s trip or family vacation there are so many fun things to do. I already can’t wait to go back!

Here’s a list of my top “must-do’s” while in Savannah.

Wormsloe Historic Site – Even if you are not an “Instagrammer” you must get pictures of this beautiful site. There is a small fee to enter and take pictures, but totally worth it. You drive along a few miles of a tree-lined street of grand Live Oaks and Spanish moss to enter the colonial estate of Noble Jones (1702–1775). The grounds feature historical landmarks and remains of the old estate from one of the original settlers of Savannah.

Bonaventure Historical Cemetery – If you’re like me and love history, this is a great site to see too. Famous historical figures are buried here and the cemetery is featured in many famous books including Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil. They do free tours every second weekend of the month and they are on a first-come, first-serve basis. My great grandparents and great great grandparents are buried here as well.

River Street – If you only do one thing in Savannah, do this! River Street is in the historic district and is filled with amazing restaurants, views, shops, and more. You’ll get the best views in the city and you can stroll along the river and watch the cargo ships pass by. The old cobblestone streets give you a sense of the times when Savannah first came to be. If you’re dining on River Street be sure to make reservations in advance as restaurants can be very busy and normally have 1-2 hour wait times without reservations. Restaurant recommendations: Vics On The River, Hueys, The Old Pink House, or The Cotton Exchange. After dinner be sure to stop by Savannah’s Candy Kitchen for some pralines or homemade fudge. If you want some even more amazing views and a yummy cocktail, head to the rooftop bar at the JW Marriott River Street.

Ghost Tours – If you want to add a little adventure to your Savannah trip take one of their many ghost tours (for ages 7+ and up). They have city and cemetery ghost tours along with ghost pub tours (21+ and up)!

Forsyth Park – Want something free to do? Take a walk in Forsyth Park. Forsyth Park spans more than 30 acres and is Savannah’s largest and oldest public park. The park features an iconic fountain you’ll want pictures of, splash pads, acres of green grass and Live Oaks, playsets for kids, and a restaurant, Collins Quarter. We ate at the restaurant and it was delish. Be sure to order the strawberry mimosa.

Tybee Island – If you want to hit the beach, I recommend Tybee Island – especially if you have kids. Tybee has family-friendly clean beaches, fun souvenir and beach shops, great cafes, and lots of beach activities. Fort Pulaski National Monument is nearby and a fun place to visit too.

The Pirate House – A fun historical site for families or history lovers. From their website: Savannah’s World Famous Pirates House is located on one of the most historic spots in Georgia. It was first opened in 1753 as an inn for seafarers, and fast became a meeting point for pirates and sailors from the Seven Seas. Since then, The Pirates House has been entertaining visitors with a bounty of delicious food, drink, and rousing good times!

The kids had a blast and you can even take tours of the hidden underground tunnels that sailors would take from the bars back to the ships.

Eateries – If you’re a foodie like me, you’ll love Savannah! Shrimp and grits and biscuits galore! There are so many amazing restaurants and just not enough time. Some of my favorites are listed below:

  • Husk
  • Ms. Wilkes Dining Room
  • Cotton & Rye
  • Fox & Fig
  • Savannah Seafood Shack
  • Hitch
  • Goose Feathers Cafe for breakfast

Are you wishing you were in Savannah right now? I know I am! If you have any favorites in Savannah I’d love to hear them – comment them below. Here are some more photos of our adventures.

Discovering Starved Rock –Illinois Travel

Thanks to Covid, I haven’t been on a plane in almost a year but, as always, there are silver linings. This year made our family look in our own backyard for fun places to visit and who knew there were so many! One of our now favorite places to visit is Starved Rock National Park.

Starved Rock is located on the south shore of the Illinois river just under two hours from Chicago. This 2600+acre National Park showcases dramatic sandstone caverns, lush forests, and twenty hiking trails ranging from beginner to experienced hikers. The views over the Illinos River alone make the park a must see. The park is best known for its fascinating rock formations, primarily St. Peter sandstone, laid down in a huge shallow inland sea more than 425 million years ago and later brought to the surface.

You can make a day trip out of your visit to Starved Rock or stay at one of the several campgrounds in the park. If you do want to camp be sure to check out my post on must-have camping gear. The park is busiest during Spring, Summer and early Fall. I recommend going in Fall because then you get the added bonus seeing all the lovely autumn leaves changing colors. The cooler temps are nice to have when hiking, too. It also wasn’t nearly as busy as summer days.

Some things you need to know before you go:

Basic Info: Admission is free and so is parking!

They start turning people away once the parking lots are full to help maintain safe social distancing guidelines.

There is one main parking lot and one overflow parking lot, both are pretty large.

The park is open at 6 am and closes at dusk. Hiking the trails at night is forbidden.

Get there early because it gets VERY busy, especially in summer.

Dogs are allowed, but must be on leashes at all times.

Masks are required when social distancing is not possible. Luckily it wasn’t too busy so we only wore our masks if we were in a crowded area and unable to distance ourselves.

Extra tips:

Wear hiking boots or some sort of shoes with grip. The sandstone in some areas is very worn and you can slip easily if you don’t have proper shoes.

Wear water proof shoes or shoes you don’t mind getting wet. If you want to see the waterfall in French Canyon, you have to walk through some wet areas to get there.

It’s best to go in Fall after some rain so the waterfall area is full of water.

Expect to spend several hours here if you want to take full advantage of the trails. If you don’t have a lot of time, I suggest walking the French Canyon, Eagle Cliff or Starved Rock trails for the best views.

Do NOT bring a stroller. You will not be able to use it on any of the trails. Wear your little one if you can in a wrap or a carrier.

There are A LOT of stairs on all of the trails. A LOT. Be prepared.

My 6-year-old made it almost seven miles of the trails, so it’s kid-friendly and doable for smaller kids. Toddlers might not make it far.

We brought some sandwiches and stopped along one of the trails to have a picnic and we loved it. I highly recommend bringing extra snacks and lots of water for the trails. There are no water fountains, etc. along the paths.

Check the website before you go as they close periodically for upkeep and/or for stay-at-home orders during Covid.

The last tip – take lots of pictures!

Starved Rock is definitely a place we will return and may even plan a camping weekend there. Walking through the trails is good for the soul. Fresh air and green space was just what we needed and I know you’ll love it too!

Camping With The Family – Here’s What You Need

With restrictions and safety measures in place due to COVID-19, this summer’s travel has been a little bit different. One trend I’ve seen make a big comeback among families is camping.

I’m not going to lie, sleeping in a tent in the summer heat did not sound appealing to me in the beginning, but I knew the kids would have a blast. As I started planning the trip – I started getting more excited about the idea too. I still prefer a resort and pool cabanas don’t get me wrong, but I think I’ve been won over by the great outdoors.

Planning a camping trip with kids can be very overwhelming. It’s hard to decipher what you really need and what you could do without. Camping gear can also be pricy, but good quality gear will last you decades. I went into this trip knowing if I bought the gear, camping was going to be a part of our future travels. I also bought things over the span of several months so it wasn’t a huge expense at once.

After crowdsourcing friend’s camping must-haves I went to work building our list and wanted to share it with you. I’ll break it down with camping must-haves, what’s convenient to have but you could do without, and luxury items (more of glamping) if you want to spend the money.

If you’re not up for a tent, many campsites have cabin rentals which feature small kitchens and bathrooms so be sure to check those options out. We have done both this summer and both were great experiences. I brought my own cleaning supplies and did a wipe down of the cabin when we arrived. You also bring your own sheets, etc., so it felt safe and clean. If you are on a campsite in a tent, many grounds have communal bathhouses to shower and use the restroom.

Now, let’s get started with my must-haves for camping. I’ll share my list and links below to the exact items we used. All were bought from Amazon and most were available on Prime.


Tent: we bought a Coleman 8-person tent to have the extra room. Most family blogs I’ve read said if you have a family of 4 – buy a 6 or 8-person tent.

Tent Kit: I feel like this was a must-have as it has a hammer for the tent stakes, extra stakes, a small broom with a dustpan (you’ll be amazed at how much dirt ends up in your tent!) and a small tool to help take out the stakes when you’re packing up.

Tent Tarp: This you lay down on the ground to put your tent on top of. It protects your tent from tears, water, etc. Tip: When you set up your tent, set the tent a little further back on the tarp so it gives you a space to leave your shoes before you step in the tent.

Sleeping bags: These ones are highly rated and not too hot but keep you warm when the temps drop. My tall hubby fit just fine in these as well. You can buy blow-up pillows, but we just brought our own. I’m weird about pillows.

Lanterns: We had four lanterns. Two that we could carry around and hang from trees, two that hooked on the ceiling of our tent / screened tent and doubled as a fan too. We also had these head flashlights that were needed at night to walk and when you needed your hands free.

Stove: We used the Coleman Stove and bought a griddle to top it as well. The griddle made it easy to cook eggs and bacon in the morning. You can also use it to cook over the campfire. Be sure to buy extra propane. We took two for a three-day trip and had some leftover. You can get the carrying case for the stove which makes it easier to transport. I’m all about compact and easy when camping. You can bring paper/plastic plates, cups, utensils to use and be fine, but I’ll share what we had in the next list.

Cooler: We brought two and had to make a few ice runs to keep all our food cold. One of our coolers is an electric refrigerator, but I forgot the electric plugin attachment as it only comes with a car lighter plugin. We had a site with water and electric hook up (which I recommend if you can), and could have plugged that in and saved on ice runs. Highly recommend this cooler and you can use it anytime. Don’t forget to buy the electric plugin with it!

First Aid Kit: This is a must, especially with kids. The one we got has everything you need in case of a minor emergency.

Table Cloth: Get a disposable table cloth for your picnic table. You’ll thank me for this advice.

Duct Tape, Dawn Minis, lighters, lighter fluid, chillers for the cooler, and string. Trust me.

Here’s a quick look at all the must-haves:

Now onto my “makes your life easier” list:

Camping Shovel: You may not need this but we did. The ground was pretty hard and we had to shovel a bit to get our stakes in. It would have taken a much longer time to set up if we didn’t have this.

String with links and hooks. You tie these between the trees to hang wet towels and other camping gear. We had two of these to hang our gear and outdoor pantry.

Water Jugs. These things were a lifesaver! We filled them up at the basin and then used the water to wash our hands and brush our teeth. It came in handy when washing our pots, pans, and dishes too!

Soap Sheets and Wipes: These soap sheets are magic I tell you! They also made my kids want to wash their hands. Put the sheet in your hands and add water and it suds up. These wipes are perfect for camping too.

Shower Pods: These are handy and a one time use. I got these along with mini loofas and a shower caddy. If you want to save space by not packing towels, these came in handy for our tent and cabin weekends. These are compact and come with a face towel, bath towel, and washcloth.

Battery: Even if you have an electric hook up these batteries come in handy and last a long time. They have an electric outlet, lighter and USB connections. Speaking of batteries, take some extra batteries as you may need them for flashlights, etc.

Tent Fan: If you’re camping in summer and want to sleep without being miserable, I highly suggest a larger fan. This one gave off a lot of cool air and ran on D batteries. It lasted all three nights.

Sleeping Cots: Could you sleep with just a sleeping bag? Yes. Is it comfortable? No. Our tent was on some tree roots and we tried to use small pads under our sleeping bags and it was brutal. Definitely get a quality air mattress or a cot. My husband actually drove back to our house and got these for us to sleep on. The only con is they are bulky and take up a lot of car space. We have a large SUV and could have used a rooftop luggage storage but we shoved it all in. I fit most of this gear in one suitcase and we packed our clothes in backpacks.

Camping Backpacks: I am all about compact items when camping as we have to fit it all in our car or it doesn’t come. These backpacks are great and we fit 3 days worth of clothing and a few stuffed animals in them. They worked great for taking our towels, sunscreen, and water bottles to the pool area too.

Outdoor pantry: This was so helpful! We used this to house our bread and dry food and hung it from the strap on the trees.

Camping Chairs. Sure you could bring your own fold-up chairs, but again that takes up too much space. I found these chairs and they fold into very small zip bags with a handle. They all fit in my suitcase with the other gear. Highly recommend.

You can’t go camping and not have S’mores! We love our marshmallow roasting sticks!

A quick look at makes your life easier items:

Lastly, here is my glamping list to really making tenting easy!

Outdoor Kitchen: This is the one we got and loved it! It has a zipper compartment that held our chips and our dishes and cooking utensils. Totally worth it and folds up small into a nice carrying case. This set up made life easy and made cooking outdoors fun.

Kitchen supplies: We bought reusable dishes and camping pots and pans as we want to use these for the future and they are compact. We took these knives and these cooking utensils that came in very handy.

Spices. Don’t want to bring all your spices? This is perfect. Everything you need in one small bottle.

Collapsable Sink This sink has a cutting board as well and came in useful for washing our cookware and prepping food. I also bought a collapsable trashcan that zips up at night and keeps any animals away.

Screen Tent: We had this and have used it at the beach before and it came in handy for camping. We put it over the picnic table so we could eat without bugs swarming us and our food.

Hammock: My kids would say this is a must-have as they spent most of their time in it. They must be popular too because so many other people had them. They are comfortable and fun!

Recap of my glamping list:

Most of these items were $25 and under with the exception of the larger things. We also store all the small items in two bins in our basement so they don’t take up a lot of space. I know it seems like a lot but just remember you can use these items for years to come and they making camping life so much easier! In the next post, I’ll share some camping hacks!

Here’s to making many more camping memories!

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