All You Need To Know About Boyne Mountain Resort

Recently our family wanted to get back into skiing and was looking for a family-friendly ski resort near Chicago. Its been about 20 years since my husband and I skied and we have two young boys who’ve never skied before. When I started my research and asked around our friend circles, one resort continued to come up as the best – Boyne Mountain Resort.

Boyne Mountain is just under 6 hours away from Chicago, it’s located in northern Michigan and it’s a very easy drive. What sold us was all the activities available for the whole family, but before we go into the fun let’s talk about lodging.

The resort itself has a wide variety of options from condos to villas to cabins, but we decided to check out VRBO to see if we could get a bigger space to fit in our budget. We found a lodge on-site that could accommodate our entire party. We traveled with family friends and there were nine of us total. The lodges on-site were nice and spacious, we could have fit another family in there if needed. Check your options before you book.

As far as the activities go, you need more than a weekend. There is so much to do!

The resort was much larger than I anticipated with 60 runs to chose from at all different levels for skiing. I liked this because you didn’t get bored going down the same runs over and over again. They also had quite a bit of beginner level runs for us to get reacquainted with skiing. The staff was very helpful and the system to check-in and pick up your equipment was like a well-oiled machine. They are very organized, which I appreciated with kids. Parents, you know what I mean! We were in and out in 15 minutes. We rented skis, poles, and helmets.

TIP: Buy your lift tickets before you go! Saves you from waiting in line and you get a discount buying online. You can choose a full-day or half-day. Looking back, I think half-day would have been enough. Prices vary during non-peak/peak days.

Once we had our gear, we dropped the kids off at ski school at 8:30 am. When booking ski school, you can choose by age level and/or experience level. You can also choose half-day or full-day. Full-day was from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm and lunch was included. The boys had a blast and the instructors were very hands-on. The lift ticket was included and could be used after ski school on the beginner runs if you felt they are ready.

In the morning, the resort was not too busy. I didn’t feel crowded on the runs and we never had to wait for lift rides for longer than a few minutes. The crowds started coming in after lunchtime. At that point, I was ready to call it a day.

Speaking of lunchtime, there were several meal options to choose from. One day we ate at Forty Acres Tavern which was worth the wait. The food and service were excellent. The second day we took advantage of a taco truck parked next to the slopes – and again delicious! The quality of the food was another present surprise. There were several other dining options around the resort to choose from. If you want to head off property for meals, I highly recommend Red Mesa Grill. It’s only five miles from the resort and was amazing. We will definitely go there next time too.

One of my favorite things about the resort was the live band entertainment that you could hear even at the top of the mountain. Sitting at the tables outdoors with a beverage listening to the band was my definition of fun. Maybe I’m more of an Aprés skier? Either way, it was a blast!

Other activities we took advantage of were going to Avalanche Bay Indoor Water Park. The kids had loved it and there was a great variety of rides for all ages. We also took the kids to the arcade which was conveniently located next to the water park.

Other activities available at the resort were tubing, cross country skiing, Fat Tire Biking, Groomer Rides, Horseback Riding, Ice Skating, Sno-Go Bikes, Ziplining, and Snowshoeing.

Now you know why I said you need more than a weekend. The fun was endless! If you are thinking about a Midwest winter getaway, I highly recommend Boyne Mountain Resort. We are already planning for next year.

Living The High Life in LA – A Travel Guide

I haven’t been to Los Angeles in a good fifteen years so when we added LA to our west coast adventure, I was thrilled to head back. Palm trees, perfect weather, an ocean breeze, and hiking – what more could you want? We only had three days there so we had to squeeze in as much as possible. Any of these recommendations are great for kids too if you’re traveling as a family.

OUE Sky Space.

Once we arrived we headed to the OUE Sky Deck and it was so much more than I expected. OUE features unparalleled 360° views from California’s tallest open-air observation terraces where you can see iconic landmarks such as the Hollywood Sign and Capitol Records. You also get a bird’s eye view of Dodger Stadium and can see as far out as the Santa Monica Pier. On your journey to the top, you walk through an interactive space filled with Los Angles history, fun facts, and displays of artist’s work. My favorite space was standing in front of a screen with a red carpet and paparazzi jump out to take your picture to give you the true Hollywood experience. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the Skyslide! This slide sends you sailing down to the floor below on a small carpet in a glass encapsulation. It’s a separate charge but totally worth it. If you’re headed to LA, make sure to add this to your list.

Griffith Observatory

Another must. Griffith Observatory is Southern California’s gateway to the cosmos! Visitors can look through telescopes, explore exhibits, see live shows in the Samuel Oschin Planetarium, and enjoy spectacular views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Sign. We went during the day, but I bet it is even more magnificent at night. There is parking up at the top, however, it fills very quickly. I recommend getting there early if you want to get those prime spots. Otherwise, there are parking spots all up the mountain. Once you get to the top, I recommend strolling throughout the museum and going to the top of the observatory. You can also have a picnic on the front lawn. Before you leave don’t forget to take a picture featuring the Hollywood sign behind you. You have great views of the sign from many areas of the property, but the best is on the north side by the outdoor restrooms.

Hollywood Sign

Speaking of the Hollywood Sign, there are so many great areas to get the perfect photo. You can head up to Runyon Canyon for a hike and get a great view there, you might even spot some celebs. Another spot to get a great picture of the Hollywood Sign is from the 3rd floor of the Highland Shopping Center on Hollywood BLVD. If you want an Instagram worthy shot then head over to 5th Street and S. Windsor BLVD. On a clear day, the Hollywood Sign will be your perfect backdrop. There was smog when I was there so my picture didn’t turn out clear, but still a beautiful shot! If you enlarge it you can barely see the sign.

Pop-Up Museums

There were two places I wanted to go but unfortunately, we didn’t have the time. The Museum of Illusions and The Museum of Selfies came highly recommended. You can’t NOT have fun at a pop-up museum!

Los Angeles Museum of Art

Another spot on my list to visit was the largest museum in the west. The LACMA has an installation called Urban Light and it’s a sight to see. Composed of 202 historic streetlamps dating from the 1920s and 1930s originally spread throughout Southern California, the large-scale sculpture, the Gordon Family Foundation’s gift to Transformation: The LACMA Campaign, has become ubiquitous as the face of LACMA, a point of pride for many Angelenos, and a destination for visitors from around the world. 

Walt Disney Concert Hall

Even if you can’t catch a show here at least drive by to check out the architecture and snap some pics. It’s breathtaking.

Walk Of Fame and the TCL Chinese Theatre

Both very touristy spots but worth it if you haven’t been before. It’s similar to Time Square where there’s a ton of people, it smells, and it’s complete chaos with street vendors and people trying to sell you stuff. My advice is to find the stars you want to see on the walk of fame, check those out, and skip the rest. Walking through the TCL Chinese Theatre is fun, historic and worth it if you move through it fast during a downtime.

We were with the kids so we didn’t get to experience too many nice restaurants but we did get a chance to go to Yamashiro. Not only do you get incredible scenic views here but the food is incredible! We had a few celebrity sightings, too. I read it is a popular place for celebs. I don’t really care about celeb sightings, but it was cool to see Russell Brand and Nick Cannon there. We also had an incredible brunch at Blue Jam.

If you’re an Instagrammer, two spots you have to check out are The Pink Wall and The Dream Butterfly Wall for some photo ops!

Santa Monica

If you want to head to the beach or see another beautiful area north of LA, head to Santa Monica and Malibu. We stayed in Santa Monica one night to stroll the Promenade Shops and have a beach day. The Santa Monica Pier is fun to see but it gets insanely busy with some interesting people, so I would plant too much time there. The Beach was clean and not that crowded. Across from the beach, there were a ton of awesome restaurants to visit. I advise making reservations anywhere you go. A little further North is Malibu and equally as beautiful and less busy.

I hope this Los Angeles travel guide helps with your future travels. Feel free to share your top spots below!

Vegas Off The Strip – A Travel Guide

When people think of Vegas they think glitz, glam, gambling, night clubs, food, and fun. Vegas definitely is a fun place to be, and wait for it – even with kids! Gasp. I know. I know. I said it and it’s true. My family recently did a west coast adventure over the span of two weeks and we had a stopover in Vegas. When planning this trip I had to find some alternative things to do and was surprised at how many activities we could do outside of the Vegas Strip. We had a blast and it ended up being a favorite stop on our trip.

Here are the must-dos off the strip when in Vegas.

Hoover Dam

This may be the nerd in me, but combine architecture, engineering, and history – I’m sold! The Hoover Dam has always been on my list of places I wanted to see and let me tell you, it’s magnificent!

There’s a couple of ways to enjoy the Hoover Dam. You can not see it from the highway anymore as they built a pedestrian bridge blocking the view. You can park on either side of the dam for free to walk the pedestrian bridge. There is free parking on the Arizona side if you want to walk the dam, take a tour, or visit the gift shop. Parking on the Nevada side is $10. You have to go through checkpoints on either side to enter the property.

If you just want to walk the bridge it’s a great way to catch an aerial view of the dam. There are stairs and accessible paths to walk up to the bridge too. There are also portable restrooms in the parking lot. I recommend you do not go without water, especially if in the warmer months. We were there in summer and it was dangerously hot – like you feel like the sun is sitting on your shoulders hot. If you don’t stay hydrated you could put yourself at serious risk. There are warning signs everywhere on the path to make sure you have water.

If you want a tour you can do a guided or self-guided. Guided tours will run you about $30, non-guided only $10. If you have the time, I highly recommend a guided tour and walking the bridge. Hoover Dam is only a 42-minute drive from Las Vegas.

Our next stop, The Neon Museum.

This gem showcases the history of Las Vegas through neon. The museum was founded in the late 90s and preserves iconic Vegas hotel and casino signs. The museum has grown so much they recently had to purchase more surrounding land to hold their growing collection. As you walk through the rows of signage employees are around to give you background information and fun facts about the signs. The whole museum might take you about an hour to walk through.

The museum is located not far from the strip so easy to Uber or drive to. I will warn you of the heat. I mean, Vegas is in the desert and it’s always hot, but the employees warn you of extra heat radiating off the metal of the signs. It was HOT. Luckily they give you a sun umbrella and have bottled waters on hand. The Neon Museum is definitely a must-see.

Our last stop was a beautiful sight in the middle of the desert, Seven Magic Mountains.

From their site: Internationally renowned Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains is a large-scale site-specific public art installation located near Jean Dry Lake and Interstate 15, approximately ten miles south of Las Vegas, Nevada. Comprised of seven towers of colorful, stacked boulders standing more than thirty feet high, Seven Magic Mountains is situated within the Ivanpah Valley adjacent to Sheep Mountain and the McCullough, Bird Spring, and Goodsprings ranges of mountains. A creative expression of human presence in the desert, Seven Magic Mountains punctuates the Mojave with a poetic burst of form and color.

Next to the large scale boulders, there was a small pebble replica by the parking lot which I thought was so cute! We only spent about 30 minutes there as we were on our way to Los Angeles, but I’m so glad we made the stop. The kids loved it and we got to take some pretty awesome pictures.

Aside from these, there were several kid parks near the strip, a town center, the iconic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, and my all-time favorite west coast destination: In & Out Burger. What are your fave Vegas spots?

Phill-ing The Love In Philly: Part 2

This month I took another quick trip to Philly and was able to take in more sites and eats! If you read about my last trip to Philly, I shared more of my historical and tourist recommendations. This trip, I was focused on food and other fun attractions. If you’ve never been to Philadelphia, I definitely recommend seeing all the historical sites like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell first – then take advantage of all the amazing food and other sites. Here are some of the places I got to check out this time around:

Elixr Coffee

A quaint coffee bar close to Rittenhouse Square. Stop by for a morning treat and cup of joe, you won’t be disappointed.


If you want a full breakfast or brunch spot, look no further than Located in AKA Rittenhouse and boasts one of the country’s most innovative wine and spirits programs. They’ve also been named One of America’s Best Wine Restaurants by Wine Enthusiast! Stop by for classic American flare or small plates to share, and don’t forget the wine.


Great spot for a happy hour or dinner. Located in Rittenhouse Square, this space delivers a fun atmosphere, authentic Mexican food, and an endless tequila menu. I went here for a group dinner and the service was amazing. The portions are pretty large, so I recommend sharing.

Zama Restuarant

Zama is a swanky sushi spot that offers a wide variety of a la carte fish flown in from around the world that changes daily, along with a large selection of specialty Maki and a sushi bar crafted from only the finest ingredients. The service was great and the cocktails did not disappoint either. If you go, you have to order the Philly roll! It’s a mini Philly Cheesesteak made into a sushi roll. Fun presentation and super delish. Highly recommend!

Bar Bombón

Coined a delightful bar on a popular corner, Bar Bombón takes authentic Puerto Rican recipes and adds a twist. The menu is plant-based meals that satisfy temptations in a healthy way – so you can fiesta now, siesta later. You have to get the chips and queso and the traditional tacos – es muy delicioso!

Now onto some must-see sites!

Boathouse Row

Boathouse Row is a historic site from the 19th century on the east bank of the Schuylkill River, just north of the Fairmount Water Works and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It consists of a row of 15 boathouses housing social and rowing clubs and their racing shells. They light up at night and create a picturesque reflection off the river. A must see!

Magic Gardens

Head to South Street and then you must, I repeat, you must go see Magic Gardens. Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens (PMG) inspires creativity and community engagement by educating the public about folk, mosaic, and visionary art through recycled materials. PMG preserves, interprets, and provides access to Isaiah Zagar’s unique mosaic art environment and his public murals. The gardens are truly magical! Before you go, buy your tickets online and reserve your time slot. Slots sell out quickly so I would get them advance. They are $10.

South Street

Take a stroll down one of Philadelphia’s most famous streets and experience a variety of eclectic dining, fun shops, artwork, and the city’s best cheesesteaks. Jim’s or Geno’s are my recommendations.

Unfortunately, a weekend trip is never enough time to check out all that Philly has to offer – but, if you make it to a few of these above you’re ensured a great weekend. Happy travels! Until next time, Philly.

Feeling Grand At The Grand Canyon

If you haven’t been to the Grand Canyon – it needs to be added to your bucket list ASAP. I’ve wanted to go since I can remember and I’m so happy we were able to include it in our travel plans this summer.

Before this summer, I’ve only flown over the canyon which boasts insane views, but it’s not the same as being there and seeing it up close and personal. Any pictures or Goggle Earth searches just do not do this wonder justice.

We flew into Phoenix and drove to Sedona to stay the night there. I feel like if you’re going through Phoenix to get to the Grand Canyon you need to check out Sedona too! It’s equally as amazing. The drive to Grand Canyon from Sedona wasn’t bad either – only 2 hours. From Phoenix, it’s 3.5 hours. The drive between Sedona and Grand Canyon National Park is incredible, you drive through the mountains and are surrounded by lush greenery, crisp air, and breathtaking views.

Okay, now that I’ve convinced you to go there let me give you some tips and recommendations.

You can stay close to Grand Canyon National Park, but the hotels are limited which is why we chose to stay in Sedona. Check out their website for lodging options nearby if you want to stay closer.

To enter the park there is a $35 fee which lasts for 7 days. They give you a pass to put in your car. They prefer debit/credit cards so don’t worry if you don’t have cash. You could do three days there easily, however, we only had time to check out the south rim. When my kids are a little older we will definitely stay a few days and get some hiking in too!

There is ample amount of parking and shuttles if you get there early, that can take you all throughout the park. They have shuttle services from outside the park as well. I recommend parking in lot A or B at the South Rim Visitor’s Center when you first come in. There are several villages and market places inside the park at different lookout points for food, beverage and souvenir shopping. We scored some yummy tacos at a food truck inside the park. You can also enter the park from the west and north if you’re coming from those directions. If possible, go on a weekday or right when they open. The crowds didn’t get too big until around noon. Right at 9 am or after 4 pm are the best times to go.

Parents – the south rim at Mather Point does have rails and large rocks blocking the edge. I was really concerned about this because my little one cannot be trusted. I felt safe walking throughout this lookout point with the boys. If you want to venture a little off to the sides of Mather Point you can get some views without rails if you’re the daredevil type. I am not.

There’s a nice path to walk up to the rim and once you get there you truly cannot believe your eyes. Like I mentioned before, pictures never do it justice. The canyon is so vast it’s hard to believe it’s real. There are tons of spots for great pictures, some rocks you can even walk out on for more beautiful views. Again, we only chose the ones with rails. Check out more of these views!

If you want to head north to the north rim, plan on a few hours of driving. Grand Canyon North Rim’s season is relatively short as well, so check to see if it’s open before you go. The main visitation area of Grand Canyon North Rim is much smaller than that of the South Rim. While the South Rim has close to two dozen major viewpoints, the North Rim has only three. So, if you only have a day there and are with small kids, I suggest the South Rim.

Next time we go when our kids are a little older, we will definitely make it to the north side to see Horseshoe Bend. The trail to Horseshoe Bend is 1.5 miles round trip, so not bad with kids. Walking time is said to be about 1 hour and it will give you plenty of gawking time at the canyon’s edge. Because you’re in the desert, don’t forget to go prepared with lots of water and sunscreen.

If you’re going to check out Horseshoe Bend, then it’s a must to check out Antelope Caverns as they are close to each other. You can do guided tours through Grand Canyon Adventures. They run all day and include transportation, the best photo ops, and lunch.

If you’re a hiker and want to get the ultimate hike in – the Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point (12.2 miles total). The Bright Angel trail ends at an insane view overlooking the Colorado River. A less intense hike is the Cedar Ridge trail which is only 3 miles.

Lastly, if you’re looking for something a little extra but don’t want to hike, you can head to the Grand Canyon Skywalk at Eagle Point, located at the West Rim. According to the website, the Skywalk is a 10-foot wide, horseshoe-shaped glass bridge extends 70 feet out over the rim of the Grand Canyon. Look down and you can see right through the glass platform 4,000 feet to the floor of the Canyon below. The glass can withhold the weight of 70 fully loaded 747 passenger jets – so don’t worry about it cracking while on it! The Skywalk is an extra ticket and in my opinion pretty pricy, but it is the experience after all. It’s about 4 hours from the South Rim so this is a better area to visit if coming from Las Vegas. I have read that you are not allowed to carry bags, purses or cameras on the Skywalk. Photographers are there to take photos for you, but of course, at an extra charge. All and all you’ll pay $60-$80 per person, plus photographs.

Our short trip to the Grand Canyon was enough for me to want to go back and feast my eyes on more of this natural wonder! If you have any tips about visiting the Grand Canyon, let me know in the know in the comment section!

Site Seeing In Sedona

Last month my family and I decided to take on a west coast adventure starting in Arizona and working our way to Los Angeles. We flew into Phoenix from Chicago, rented our car and headed north to our first stop – Sedona.

I have to admit, Sedona has never been on my radar. I’ve been to Phoenix, Tuscan, and Scottsdale many times but never considered areas outside of these cities to explore. It wasn’t until I had a family and rekindled my love of road trips and traveling that Sedona took a spot on the top of our must-go list. For the last four years, we’ve been covering thousands of miles all over the country and we could not wait for this trip.

We flew into Phoenix early in the morning so we could have the whole day as our time was limited in Sedona. The drive was just under 2 hours. Once we arrived we checked into our hotel. We stayed at Arabella, which was a cute little boutique hotel. The room was nice and it served its purpose for the one night we stayed. Two days was plenty of time to explore Sedona with our kids. More of the activities, restaurants, and hiking are for older kids and adults.

Once we arrived, the red mountains were more majestic than I could have imagined. I understand the spiritual aspect of Sedona now. I could’ve sat at a restaurant and stared at the landscape and scenery all day – it was very peaceful.

Now onto my recommendations.

Jeep Tour. Our first activity was a tour of the Broken Arrow trail with Pink Jeep Tours. Everyone told us to do this and they were right! Not only was it a blast for our entire family, but we learned so much about the history of Sedona and got to see spectacular views off the beaten path. The tour took about two hours and felt like minutes as we had so much fun. They have several tours to choose from to fit a wide variety of budgets, time frames, and preferences. If we had more time I would have done the full day one where you go to Antelope Caverns. It’s definitely on the list for next time!

Snoopy Rock. You can see Snoopy taking a nap from many areas of Sedona, but if you want to get a nice view while checking out some great shops or sip a Starbucks coffee and admire the view, head to The Shops at Hyatt Piñon Pointe. You get a panoramic view of the red rocks and Snoopy Rock. His friend, Lucy is looking over too! There are also some great restaurants with balconies facing the rocks. This sunset you can’t beat! Shhh, Snoopy and Lucy are sleeping.

Slide Rock State Park. We didn’t get the chance to make it here, but it was something we really wanted to do and bummed we couldn’t fit it in. We did drive by it and it looked so fun. On our list for next time for sure! Slide State Park is a beautiful state park with hiking, camping, some historical sites and a natural water slide on the rocks. Even if it’s just to take a few rides on the natural slides, it would be worth it.

Chapel of The Holy Cross. Another site to see. Chapel of the Holy Cross, sitting high atop the red rocks, was inspired and commissioned by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude. In 1932 she was inspired to build such a church by the construction of the Empire State Building. Parking is limited and so are the tours so check the website if you want to tour the inside. Otherwise, it’s worth the quick drive just to see its beauty up close.

Sky Tours. If you’re really brave, you can take it up to the sky and book a hot air balloon or helicopter tour of the red rocks. I, however, am not that brave – but I was in awe watching the balloons going up. Maybe one day I’ll muster up the courage but for now, I leave it with you.

Restaurants. If you’ve followed me for a while now, you know I’m a foodie. I worked in the luxury hotel industry for many years and food is one of the best parts about traveling. There were so many amazing restaurants to chose from in Sedona. My recommendations are Hudson (the food and the views – incredible!), Mesa Grill, Elote Cafe, Hideaway House, and Creekside Sedona.

If you’re driving and want even more breathtaking views, head up to Flagstaff (or Grand Canyon) from Sedona. The drive north from Sedona was like nothing I’ve ever seen. The mountains reminded me of Colorado and the air was crisp and fresh. I’m so glad we made the drive on to our next stop, the Grand Canyon, as the views were worth it alone. Sharing all my Grand Canyon recommendations in the next post!

Here’s to a summer of adventure.

spritual stuff.

Travel Hacks For Seamless Travel

If you are like me – you live to travel! I travel for work a few times a year and my family and I try to travel as much as possible. Even if it’s a short road trip, we will take it. I also worked in the hotel industry for ten years, so I’d consider myself a travel expert or at least a wanna be one.

As I pack for our next trip, a ten-day west coast adventure with the whole family, I’m sharing all my top travel hacks with you for a smooth vacation.

Here’s some of my prep for travel tips:

My first tip is to make a list. I’m a list person as it helps me remember everything we need. If I don’t make a list, I’m bound to forget something. Write everything on this list even if it’s a no-brainer like a toothbrush. This is my lifesaver especially when the whole family is coming because kids need so much stuff!

Next, take out a bunch of outfits and lay them on your bed. Try on things you want to take. I always advise to try stuff on because nothing is worse than taking an outfit for a trip and when you get there it doesn’t fit anymore or is damaged and you can’t wear it. Once you try everything on, limit one outfit per day you’re gone and then bring one extra. I do this for the kids as well. This step saves me from over-packing.

Be honest with yourself. As a female who loves her shoes, I take out all my shoes I want to take and pair them with different outfits. I hate overpacking so I try to be honest with myself. Like, AM I REALLY GOING TO WEAR SIX pairs of shoes? Ask yourself this question and then put most of them back.

Pre-buy. If you’re traveling with kids, head to the grocery and get a lot of snacks. If we go on a road trip we take a cooler with sandwiches and tons of snacks so we don’t have to make stops and eat fast food a long the way. When we fly, we grab bars and little snack packs before we leave because airport snacks are up-charged like crazy.

Let everyone carry their own stuff. I give the boys each a backpack and they can take their iPads, headphones, a few snacks each and one toy/stuffed animal. If it doesn’t fit in the bag, it doesn’t come. Giving them their own bags saves me from carrying around all their stuff. We started doing this at age 3 and they love the independence of having their own bag.

Now onto must-have travel accessories:

TRAVEL CUBES. Why oh why did I not buy these earlier? Cubes keep everything organized and you can fit a ton more. I like having the extra space in case we come back with souvenirs, too. Here are the ones I use. I like them because they come with a laundry bag to separate the stinky clothes from your regular clothes.

Don’t forget about the jewelry! Another travel accessory that is a must is a jewelry case. I used to use the little bags jewelry came in and my earrings and necklaces would get tangled up. I love this travel case as it works for bigger earrings and separates all the items for easy viewing.

Roll em up! When packing your suitcase or kid’s suitcase, roll all the clothes for more space in the travel cubes. But wait… there’s more. Take the shirt and shorts (or whatever the whole outfit is) and lie one on top of the other and roll them together! Brilliant, right? This way my kid grabs a roll and his outfit is ready. I love these verses them rummaging through their suitcase trying to pick bottoms and a top to wear. When you roll them together it takes the guesswork out of choosing an outfit and keeps the suitcase organized.

Pack an empty water bottle. Once you get to your gate you can go fill it up and save money on those expensive water bottles in the airport.

Take your health routine with you! I have a shake every morning with some supplements and this is not something I can leave behind when I travel. I take my travel blender with me everywhere! It’s powerful, light weight and easy to charge. This is the one I use.

Skip the ironing! I love my travel steamer. I also despise ironing, so this steamer is a win-win! It’s quick and works well. It’s also lightweight and hardly takes up any space. Nothing worse than pulling out all your clothes once you get there and they look like they’ve been balled up in a hamper. This steamer is a quick fix and allows you more time to enjoy your trip instead of hanging out in the room ironing all your items.

Travel Hangers. Once you steam all your stuff you’ll need to hang it up. There are never enough hangers in a hotel room closet, especially if you are traveling with others. These hangers are compact and fold up so they take up little space and I use them on every trip we take!

A Travel Booster Seat – God Bless the makers of this thing. I hate traveling with car seats or boosters. The ones you rent at car rental places are usually filled with a million germs and beat up. Once my son was old enough for a booster we bought this travel booster seat – and it’s been a lifesaver. It’s so compact and works just fine. Moms, this is a must.

If you want to look cute AND be comfortable while flying, this jumper is the best! I wear it on all my flights with a light sweater. Easy to get off and on for restroom breaks too!

Now onto hotel / flight tips:

Book A Hotel Last Minute. Normally I wouldn’t give this advice, but if you’re a risk taker you can use the app, HotelTonight and get huge deals on rooms that aren’t sold yet! You have to book the day before or day of usually, but it’s worth the savings. We use this app on our road trips once we decide where to stop for the night.

Book flights on Tuesdays. A lot of airlines post their new rates on Tuesdays along with deals. Try to book your flights then. Also, if you book a flight on SWA on points, then later find it for a better deal you can cancel your previous flight, get all your points back, then book the cheaper flight.

Want a hotel upgrade? Kindness (and a tip!) gets you very far in hotels and so does a $20. Offer the front desk agent a tip when you hand them your card while asking for an upgrade and you’ll more than likely get a nicer room, access to the club lounge, free breakfast, etc.

Google Maps Hack. Y’all. I was today years old when I found out you can download Google Maps to use offline when your phone doesn’t have an Internet connection. Mind blown, right? All you have to do is go to the area you want to save on your map, then type the words “ok map” into the search bar and press download. You’re welcome.

Roaming Through Rock City

If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you know my family and I love to travel. We especially love road trips. Well, I love road trips – not so sure about my husband as he does most of the driving.

For the last several years we have covered a lot of territory in the U.S., and recently the southeastern region. We drove from Chicago to Miami. You read that correctly. We drove from Chicago to Miami. That’s a lot of ground covered and things to see. We stopped along the way to see friends in Atlanta and check out a few touristy spots. One of the spots we visited was Rock City in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Chattanooga is a beautiful place located on the rolling green foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s not a place we would necessarily travel to so I am glad it was a stop on our trip. This is why I love road trips! You get to see so many sites along the way.

We had not heard of Rock City until we saw signs along the interstate. I decided to do some research and take a poll on social media if it was worth a stop. With a resounding “yes” from my poll, we added Rock City to our plans.

If you’re in the area or looking for fun road trip destinations, I highly recommend adding Rock City to your itinerary. It’s located on the Tennessee-Georgia border right outside of Chattanooga.

According to their website, Rock City’s history as a world-famous tourist attraction dates back to the days of the Great Depression, but its history as a geological marvel of nature reaches back several thousands of years before that. Each year, more than half a million people visit the attraction to enjoy the many natural splendors that abound. Over the years, several features have been added to the original attraction, including the popular Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village, the Cornerstone Station, as well as a myriad of shops and restaurants. In addition, the annual events such as Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights during the holiday season bring in guests by the droves. And the gardens have also grown through the years to include more than 400 different species of native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees.

You need to plan on spending a minimum of two hours here so you can make it through the entire area. You can buy tickets online or in person.

There are several gift shops and vendor areas with food and beverage right when you walk in, then you make your way over to the entrance which is adorned with this gnome statue and a cute red door. There are red doors throughout the entire gardens.

It’s not a strenuous walk through the gardens but there are some areas the trail gets narrow and you have to walk between two large rocks. I’m not going to lie, a few times it gave me a little anxiety –– but, that’s just me. I always felt safe, just a little claustrophobic.

The trail leading to up to Lookout Mountain was filled with little gnomes, beautiful flowers, and natural waterfalls.

Before you get to the top you have to cross a suspension bridge. I would have been more comfortable with this if the people in front of us weren’t shaking it and trying to take pictures. So, my advice is to stay back and let the people in front of you go first. There may also be another trail leading to the top, but this is the one we took.

After the bridge, the trail circles around the side of the mountain to this stunning view. It makes for a perfect photo op!

Once you reach the top, the views are stunning. The mountains seem to go on forever. You can actually see seven states.

We stayed up on the point for about 15 minutes to take in the views and snag some pictures. There are also more vendors, restrooms and a gift shop at the top. As you make your way down, you think it’s over but you’re pleasantly surprised by the “lands” you enter: Fairyland and Mother Goose Land. It feels very Disneyland-esque. I won’t spoil it with too many details, but it’s so clever and the kids loved it! I didn’t get any pictures of these “lands” as you’re in the mountain and it’s darker.

We loved Rock City and are so glad we made the stop. It’s a treasure and something I would recommend to anyone. There is another attraction nearby called Ruby Falls you can also visit. It’s an underground (like WAY underground) waterfall. You take an elevator down 1,120 feet. Yes, that number is correct. Once we got to the bottom I was a little freaked out. We tried to do the tour, but the caves were way too narrow and we only made it about halfway through before my little one got scared. If I’m being honest, it was a little too much for me too. There aren’t any bathrooms during the 1-2 hour tour either so we turned back and missed the waterfall. I know it would have been worth it to see but I couldn’t wait to get back to ground level. If you visit Ruby Falls, just be prepared on what to expect and if you don’t like close quarters, I would suggest passing this one up.

Rock City was money well spent and I know the memories we made there will last a lifetime.

Disney Travel Must-Haves

We are at it again! We loved our experience at Disney World so much this last November that we decided to head to the original mouse house in California this summer!

I shared all my hacks for Disney World and will do the same for Disneyland once we return – but, wanted to share some travel must-haves before heading to the magic land. These are items you want before you get to your Disney destination, so buy them early and take them with you.

The first, of course, being Mickey gear. You can’t go to the park without some cute shirts! I found the least expensive family shirts were on Etsy and there are so many options. You can also find some on Amazon, but I felt they were more pricy and not as big of a selection.

We bought some for each day we were at the park. It helps you keep an eye on the kiddos, too! I didn’t get personalized ones with our name on them because I didn’t want a bunch of strangers in the park calling my kids’ names. We stuck with mom, dad, big brother, etc.

But, back to the shirts! Aren’t these the cutest? You can find all the links to the shirts here.

Next travel must-have when you’re going to the park is a bag to hold all your stuff. If you have a little one your diaper bag will do, but we used light-weight drawstring bags for all of us and it worked out perfectly. The straps are little so they don’t hurt your shoulders or are uncomfortable. You barely notice you’re wearing it. We were able to carry all the essentials in the bags without having to remove them for rides or leave them in the rented stroller. My boys loved them too, and they were able to hold all their own stuff and souvenirs we picked up along the way. Talk about the ultimate mom-hack! Moms are the ones who usually end up carrying everything, so this worked out perfectly for me.

Each of us had a bottle of water that we were able to refill during the day throughout the park, versus paying a million dollars every few hours for bottled water there. We also each had a few snacks, sunscreen, and our sunglasses. The boys still use their bags at home and we are packing them for Disney again! Ours didn’t have any personalization on them, but you can get them personalized or monogrammed. They run about $12 for 2.

Next, you can’t forget about the hats! Not only will it protect your face from the sun but again, why not – you’re at Disney! Soak in all the fun. I also had a pair of ears to take some fun photos in.

Disneyland doesn’t require magic bands, so don’t worry about those.

Lastly, you’ll want to get an autograph book for your kids. You’ll encounter Disney characters all throughout the park and they’ll sign the books for you. Getting signatures became a fun adventure for my boys and they feel like they are meeting celebrities. They even got nervous around Mickey – the cutest! There’s bundles you can get with Disney starter kits for your kids to open before you go, or you can buy the autograph books separately. Most come with a little matching pen too.

We can’t wait to experience Disneyland and all the magic of the original mouse house. Even though I went as a kid there is nothing like re-living the experience through your child’s eyes. I’ll share all the must-dos and my advice to navigate the park after we go.

Here’s to a summer filled with magic and memories.

“FTC Disclosure: This post or video contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through my links”

Soaking Up The Sun In Scottsdale

Girls trip for a leadership retreat to Scottsdale? Yes, please!

I was looking forward to this trip for months since this Chicago winter has been nothing short of hell on frozen earth. In fact, while I was in Arizona last weekend, it snowed. Snowed! Like, a lot. In damn near May. I can’t.

Anyway, I was desperate for some Vitamin D and pool time and Scottsdale delivered. If you’re planning a trip to Arizona, this is actually the perfect time to go. It’s a comfortable hot and you are still able to do a lot of outdoor activities.

I’m heading back in June with my family, but that will be a different post with different activities. This time around it was all about outdoor adventure, delicious food, rooftop patios, fancy cocktails and pool time. If you’re looking those recommendations – I got you!

We stayed at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, which was a great hotel and resort. Beautiful property, great service, and great food. It was affordable and they had lots of options between villas, townhome suites, and regular rooms. This was a great option as we traveled with a group. Four of us stayed in one of the upstairs/downstairs townhome suites and it was plenty of room. The room also had two bathrooms which is a must when traveling with a group of ladies. They also provided free shuttle service to Old Town, Camelback and other places within a five-mile radius. That saved us a lot of Uber fares. I would definitely stay there again. Scottsdale is about a 25-minute ride from the airport, thanks to the shuttle that was the only fare I paid my entire trip.

There are several other hotels I would also recommend from previous trips to AZ.

The Phoenician is a staple. You really can’t go wrong here. They have an amazing spa, pool space and the views from the resort are breathtaking.

Valley Ho Scottsdale is a beautiful art deco, eclectic hotel with a fun pool area and a rooftop deck to swoon over. Talk about the best views! Head up there right at sunset – you won’t be disappointed.

The Arizona Biltmore is another beauty. You won’t want to leave the resort. Everything you need is right there.

Now that we have hotel recommendations out of the way, let’s talk about all the sites to see.

Scottsdale has a beautiful section of the city called Old Town. It’s a mix of new and old. This charming area of town has many eateries, boutiques, and the like. You could literally spend a whole day here walking around. My most favorite place to eat in Old Town is The Mission. It’s modern Latin cuisine with a twist. The specialty mojitos and margaritas are enough to get you there, and the food will keep you coming back for more.

Another place I would go back, again and again, is SumoMaya. It’s Mexican-Asian flare and insanely good. Like, I could eat the whole menu until I was uncomfortably full, which was pretty much what happened. I couldn’t stop! Oh, and the cocktails – so innovative and delicious. They have a lot of gluten-free options and a bottomless brunch.

Some other recommendations:

Rehab Burger Therapy

Citizen Public House

Culinary Dropout

Diego Pops

Bourbon & Bones 

You really can’t go wrong with most of the restaurants in Scottsdale, especially in the Old Town area. And, if you have a sweet tooth, you have to stop by one of Old Town’s favorites, Sugar Bowl.

After you’ve eaten your way through Scottsdale, you need to work it all off with a nice hike. Head over to Camelback Mountain but get there early. We went at 6 am. When you go early you miss the heat and the crowds, but you also get to see the sunrise. It’s kind of magical being on top of a mountain looking down over a city as the sun comes up.

Besides getting there early, make sure you are prepared.

  • Bring a little backpack or some kind of pouch for a water bottle and a few snacks.
  • Wear sunscreen and bring some extra.
  • Have proper shoes. I wore Nike running shoes and my ankles and knees were killing me by the time we were done.
  • A fully charged phone.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Turn around if you’re halfway through your water supply.
  • Pick a trail that’s right for you.

There are two main trails: Cholla and Echo Canyon.

Cholla is “easier”. I would say the first half is doable for most. When you start getting toward the top it gets difficult as it turns more into climbing than hiking. There were a few vertical climbs we made it through. About .2 miles before the very top we decided our family loves us and we needed to turn around. It was too dicey. Could we have made it to the top? Probably, but I would have preferred to be more prepared.

Echo Canyon is definitely more challenging, even the pictures make my stomach sink. Even though I would consider myself to be athletic and in shape, I know I would have struggled with this trail.

Either way, if you’re feeling uncomfortable just turn around. You still get some pretty amazing views even if you only make it part of the way.

I saw a few kids going up with parents. I think the first part would be fine but after that, the trails get more narrow and I don’t trust my rambunctious boys that high up. Next time, I’ll be more prepared and make it all the way to the top!

I head back to Arizona in June and we are going to explore Sedona and the Grand Canyon with the family. Can’t wait to share those adventures too! Until then, Arizona! XO