Orlando Travel Diary: How to Vacation in the City without doing Disney

Since we are headed on our first Disney Cruise (five days out of Port Canaveral), we wanted to maximize our vacation and spend the weekend leading into the cruise in Orlando. However, as we’ll be spending an entire week with Mickey and friends on the ship, we did not want to visit any Disney parks during the Orlando leg of our vacation.

Instead, our family will be exploring Orlando’s many other awesome attractions and enjoying another side of the city. After researching potential activities, we landed on two attractions and a few yummy restaurants to kick off our getaway.

Here’s a sampling of our planned itinerary. I’ll be sharing full posts on each attraction once we’re back from our trip 🙂

Day One

Crayola Experience

We’ll be hitting the road bright and early and driving straight to Crayola Experience for a colorful kick off to our family vacation. Not gonna lie, I’m pretty excited about spending the day in a magical Crayola world that is bigger than an NFL football field! There are 26 hands-on attractions to explore from starring in your own coloring page to naming and making your own crayon (fingers crossed adults can curate their own Crayola crayon too)!

With two floors and more than 70,000 square feet of play space, we will be giving our creatiovy a work out. After all that fun, we will need to re-fuel and will likely grab a bite at the on-site Café Crayola, which serves pizza, salads, hot dogs and snacks. This entire experience will easily entertain W for 3-4 hours, which is perfect as we will then head to our hotel for check-in, nap and then off to dinner.

The team at Crayola Experience is so sweet they have shared a special offer for all of you! Click here to access the discounted general admission ticket for $18.99!

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 Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming

I’ve been dying to try Chef Art Smith’s new restaurant in Disney Springs. Last time we visited there were no reservations available, so I made sure to book well in advance for this trip. Chef Art Smith is an FSU alum who cooked for two Florida Governors and was Oprah’s personal chef. He’s fairly active in the Tallahassee community, making appearances over the years, so I’m looking really forward to this Southern cuisine experience. The hard part will be deciding what to order. I literally want EVERYTHING on the menu. A must have will be the Jasper Board with smoked fish dip, pimento cheese, shaved country and Tasso hams, bread and butter pickles, candied pecans and buttermilk crackers. Can’t wait to bask in all the grits, gravy and goodness of good ole Southern food and share the food experience post trip!

Day Two

 Columbia Restaurant, Celebration

I LOVE the original Columbia restaurant in Ybor City (Tampa) and the gorgeous St. Augustine location, so when we were discussing Mother’s Day brunch, I came across the Columbia in Celebration (an adorable Truman Show-esque perfect little town near Orlando) and of course decided to book it. Sam and I have a slight (okay huge) obsession with Cuban food, so there is no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than with an original Cuban sandwich, “1905 salad,” Boliche, Sangria and Crema Catalana. Que rico!

 Medieval Times

This Queen will be spending Mother’s Day with her King and the Little Prince at the Medieval Times Castle in Orlando. We are super pumped about this experience because it will be a first for us all. I vacationed in Orlando growing up, but somehow never made it to this attraction. Sam has loved the idea of Medieval Times since he watched The Cable Guy way back when and Westley is all about horses and knights, so this will certainly be a treat.

We selected the 6:30pm show for obvious reasons (there’s also an 8:30pm show) and doors will open at 4:45pm, which will give us plenty of time to check out Medieval Life Village & Museum as well as the Castle Halls. The coolest part? In its 34-year history, the show has always had a King ruling the kingdom, but now a Queen is in charge. Can’t wait to check out this show.

Ready for jousting, epic battles, Falconry (our last name Faulkner is derived from Falconers!) and an exquisite equine experience all paired with a royal dinner and libations. Now what to wear to go with my crown?

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Excited to share pictures, videos and full reviews of each of these attractions and restaurants in the coming weeks!

 

Happy Traveling,

 

Ivette

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Road Trippin’ Tips for Road Warriors with Kids

Westley and I hit the road solo to meet my family in Orlando this weekend. Since I prepped for a four-hour drive with my wild 3-year old, I thought I would share some tips for making a long drive as smooth as possible:

1. Fill Up, Check Your Vehicle and Load Bags The Night Before

Part of fulfilling tip #2 “leave early” is to prep the night before. I always get gas, check my tires and make sure everything is in working order and load luggage before going to sleep. That way, when you wake up, you simply get in the car and start driving. This also allows for handling any last minute details that may have been forgotten prior to the start of a road trip. Planning pays off!

2. Leave Early

If you start the drive early, it’s dark and your child is usually tired and will likely fall back asleep with the vibration and hum of the road. There is also less traffic if you’re driving very early, which makes driving more enjoyable and less stressful. I don’t mind long road trips, but once you have precious cargo, there is a new level of awareness and stress that comes with driving. I would much rather drive on a nearly empty highway than deal with tons of cars, speeding cars and drivers who are auditioning for the latest Fast & Furious movie.The final perk to leaving early is you likely won’t hit traffic, arrive early and not waste an entire day driving!

3. Have Entertainment

Let’s be honest, driving for long periods of time requires entertainment for all of us, but especially for small kids. I personally love listening to podcasts while driving, and for Westley I always load his favorite movies and shows on the iPad, so he has endless entertainment during the drive. Pro tip, if you have Netflix you can download movies and entire seasons of kids shows, so you’re not using data while driving. I’ve loaded ours up with Moana, PJ Masks, Voltron, Trolls and Puss n Boots.

4. Snacks FTW

While having a food stop figured out is great (see #5), you always should have drinks and snacks in the car. This can also serve as entertainment. I always pack water, milk, Pirate’s Booty, apple sauce and string cheese, giving W healthy options for the road.

5. Midway Stop 

As soon as Westley wakes up from his car nap, I usually stop to grab food and let him walk around and stretch his legs. If we’re driving to Orlando, we usually stop in Gainesville for breakfast. If we’re doing the long drive to Miami, then Orlando becomes our stopping point.

Do you have any go to road trip tips?

Happy driving!

XO,

Ivette

Disney Cruise: Vacation Planning Tips

Our big family vacation of 2018 will be setting sail on our first Disney Cruise! We’ve always been into cruising. In our 10 years together, Sam and I have been on numerous cruises, sailing on different cruise lines, but we have never embarked on a Disney Cruise adventure, partly because we thought it would be best enjoyed once we had a little one. (Kids are not a requirement and we’ve heard from a lot of people that it’s a great option for an adults only vacation too.)

Planning this trip for a while, I’ve learned some tips and tricks I wanted to share and a few I learned from friends who have cruised before. As we get closer to our cruise, I’ll be sharing our packing lists, and of course all about the Disney Cruise experience from itinerary and excursions to culinary and entertainment. But for now, here’s what I’ve learned during the off-shore planning portion of Disney Cruise vacation planning.

Do Your Research/Plan Ahead

Compared to other cruises lines, a Disney Cruise is going to be more of an investment, albeit a worthwhile one. Once we decided this would be our next vacation, I began extensive research, looking into the different ships, ports, length of cruises, room options, etc. I read a lot of blogs (like these) to get real people’s insights on their experience and recommendations. This was helpful as we were making Cruise decisions.

Because I started the planning well over a year before the actual cruise, all the room types were available and based on what we chose, we were able to budget and plan accordingly.

Use a Travel Agent/Vacation Planner

I recognize I may be the minority when it comes to truly enjoying the research and vacation planning stage. For me, it’s all part of the fun and makes our trips feel more exciting and longer in terms of build up and anticipation. (I know, I’m weird…)

However, one of my good friends who just went on her first Disney Cruise used a travel agent to help plan her family’s vacation. She raved about the process and all the insider tips she received from her travel agent. The best part, using this service is completely free. Disney pays the travel agents! If you’re interested in taking that route, my suggestion is to Google “Disney Cruise Travel Agent + Your City” to find a vacation planner near you!

Find the Right Room Type for Your Family

There are several room types and levels available on a Disney Cruise and knowing the options, perks and pricing is a key component to making a decision on which cabin will be the best choice for your family.

Disney Cruises offer indoor cabins (which still include an interactive/magical port hole), port hole cabins with an ocean view, verandah cabins with a balcony and Concierge level cabins, which have a separate bedroom, dining and living space along with a larger balcony. Concierge level guests have access to concierge service off-shore (for planning, booking and early access to activities) as well as on-board during the cruise.

Land on Excursions Pre-Cruise

Again, this may be another Type A tip, but I’m a fan of having everything booked and figured out before we step foot on the ship. The Disney Cruise website allows you to explore all of the excursion options ahead of time, based on the ports being visited. You can also filter by level of activity, half or full day, etc.

As we will be stopping in Nassau and Castaway Cay during our five-day Cruise, we selected a full beach day at Blue Lagoon island for the Nassau port stop. This excursion includes a Ferry Boat ride to the island, full beach day, lunch and kid’s activities like face painting.

The other benefit to pre-booking, you can budget ahead and if you change your mind you can cancel up to a certain time period.

Book Character Meet n Greets

Before you set sail, you are able to pre-book special character meet n greets for your kids. Depending on Cruise status (the more you sail, the higher you climb), the pre-booking window will change, but once it’s open, check out the available character experiences and lock them in.

Our cruise will feature a Frozen experience (Elsa, Ana and Olaf) as well as a Princess meet n greet. Since W loves Frozen, I’ve already booked this for a set time, avoiding the stress of waiting in line!

Join the Private Facebook Group

This tip was another great one from my friend who just went on a Disney Cruise. Every cruise has a dedicated Facebook group you can join by answering three questions (simply search Disney SHIP NAME + Sail Date on FB). The group is made up of other people who will be sailing with you. There is a moderator and it’s a great resource for asking questions and getting pro-tips, especially for first time cruisers.

Fish Extender Gift Exchange

Another fun part of joining the Facebook group is the ability to take part in the Fish Extender gift exchange. This is not an official Disney Cruise activity, but it’s a way to add more magic and fun to your cruise experience.

If you choose to participate, there is a Google doc you can access from the FB group where you sign your family up (name, age, fave Disney character, cabin number). The gift exchange usually includes anywhere from 8-12 families that you’ll bring special gifts, dropping the surprises off at some point during the cruise.

To collect your gifts, you hang a Fish Extender (looks like a hanging shoe holder with pockets) outside of your cabin door and the families leave the goodies inside.

Since this is our first time participating, I’ll be sharing more about the experience after the cruise in a separate post. But it sounds fun and I’m looking forward to being part of the gift exchange!

For the Shutter Bugs: Prepaid Photo Package

This is another gem I discovered while going through the online check-in process. If you know me, then you know I’m OBSESSED with photos. So this pre-paid photo package was a no brainer. Cruises (regardless of Cruise Line) are notorious for selling photos for outrageous prices. However, most people end up buying at least a few since they’re professional quality.

By pre-purchasing the photo package you save 15 percent off on-board price. So you can definitely still make the decision on-board to buy the photo package, but I knew right away having ALL THE PHOTOS was necessary for me! There are three packages to choose from: 10 Digital Images, All Digital Images and All Digital Images + 10 prints. As I’d rather print my own pictures at a later time (or likely create a Shutterfly photo book), I decided on the all digital one.

Friends who have cruised with Disney before all shared the photo options are endless with photographers capturing moments with characters, family pics and more. So having the ability to take home all those amazing memories digitally made for an easy choice!

Hope this is helpful for anyone thinking about taking a Disney Cruise or in the midst of planning. For expert Disney cruising peeps, I’d love to know any additional tips, tricks or recommendations.

Excited take you all on our adventure and will be sharing more Disney Cruise related posts throughout!

XO,

Ivette

Currently Crushing: Swimsuit Edition

So it may be in the 30s every morning, but my mind is ready for warmth and beach vibes.

I’ve started curating my wardrobe for our May Disney Cruise and naturally, swimsuits are at the top of the to buy list.

I’ve been working out consistently since March and am actually excited to wear bathing suits this season. I even ordered a bikini (high waited) for the first time since W was born. 🤗

However, I still am dream to one pieces – they are just so gorgeous these days and I feel sexy in them, not basic at all.

So while I await my package delivered, figured I would share some of the suits I’m currently crushing on:

Ruffle Vibes – the yellow and off the should ruffles make this simple suit a next level contender. I would pair with statement earrings for a total Beach Babe look.

All the Tassels – this is a fun and flirty suit. The plunging neckline and tassel detail along with the electric color oozes Beach Vibes. The only thing that would take this up a notch — a frothy beverage delivered to your lounge seat!

White Hot – I absolutely love a crisp white suit, especially when my Cuban tan is on point, (currently not happening with this extended winter). This suit takes it to the next level with mesh and different textures. Definitely a showstopper.

Pretty Little Thing – this is such a sweet suit with the crochet details and ruffles. It’s all the girly things in one gorgeous suit. You can add a long, flirty maxi to take this look from the beach to a lunch date!

The High Line – this retro inspired suit lets you do the two-piece look with a little more comfort. The pom pom and mesh detail adds interest and edge.

As you can see most of the suits I ordered are from ASOS. I love the variety, free two-day shipping and no hassles return policy, which is also free. I feel totally comfortable ordering different cuts, colors and style, knowing if they don’t work, I can simply return for a refund.

Can’t wait for my suits to arrive and to debut them on a beautiful tropical paradise!

XO,

Ivette

Visit Maine: Family Vacation Itinerary

I’ll preface this by saying outside of a lot of research on the destination and a few must dos (aka Lobstering), we did not set out on this vacation with a full on itinerary. However, our week long journey ended up being pretty awesome and epic, so I figured for those of you wondering about Maine, an itinerary post could be helpful.

A lot of people have asked why Maine? First off, it’s absolutely gorgeous in the summer time and very different from our Florida surroundings. As I travel a good bit for work, when it comes to family travel, we always try to find destinations that are new to all of us. Another factor that played a role is our little wild man. As our first big family vacation, we wanted to stay domestic and East Coast (given this was W’s first flight). And finally, I have to say, domestic travel is severely underrated IMO. Granted globetrotting is awesome and I’ve been to Europe, South America, Canada, Mexico and all over the Caribbean, BUT our own country is absolutely GORGEOUS and so incredibly diverse. So as a family with a young child, our plan is to explore and enjoy the good ole US of A and leave the international travel for when W is older and better able to handle and appreciate it.

We traveled with our 2 and a half-year-old, so everything we did was family friendly and especially toddler friendly 🙂 Here is a breakdown of our aMAINEzing vacation.

Accommodations

I can’t say enough about Capt. Phil and Tina’s getaway. This has been by far my greatest find EVER on AirBnB. I stumbled upon this gem by doing tons of research on apartments and homes available in Southern Maine. Once we landed on visiting Southern Maine, I began my deep dive into the area and even ordered the Visit Maine CVB magazine (old school, I know). Then we narrowed our search to a cute little town called Ogunquit and began looking for places to stay. We definitely did not want to stay in a hotel for 8 nights, so I went straight to AirBnB and started searching for apartments and homes.

After exploring a few likely candidates, Capt. Phil and Tina’s getaway quickly rose to the top. They had 20+ reviews and every single one was five stars. And honestly after staying in their beautiful guesthouse, I would give them 10 stars, if that was possible. Their place is technically in Wells, which is a town right next to Ogunquit and by that I mean, it’s literally on the same main road – practically one in the same.

The two-bedroom, one bath cottage was absolutely perfect and impeccably decorated. You could say Tina is the Joanna Gaines of Southern Maine. No detail was overlooked and everything we could have needed or wanted was provided. Capt. Phil and Tina were born to be hosts and embody hospitality.

When we arrived at our little slice of Maine heaven, we were pleasantly surprised to see the set up. Tina had baked us a fresh fig pie (made from her tree), Westley’s room was a toddler paradise complete with bed rails, giant stuffed Dori and Nemo fish, books and a basket full of toys. There was a beach cart with chairs, an umbrella, towels, sunscreen and a red wagon for W. The house was stocked with toiletries, hair tools (did not need to bring my flat iron and curling iron as Tina provided them), a high chair, beach bags, books, magazines and everything you could need for a successful week long stay. Tina is so fabulous that she even bought us a stroller for Westley as we had forgotten to bring ours. Seriously, they went above and beyond.

And then of course the highlight of our trip was the incredible “Sea to Table” experience – Lobstering with Capt. Phil in the morning and then a four-course meal prepared by Tina at home. More on that below!

Fabulous Food

This is one of my passions, so needless to say, I had quite the laundry list of food stops researched and saved on my Yelp collection for Maine. I spent a lot of time reading reviews, looking at food pics (#foodporn) and curating a list of food stops that would be fulfilling!

Clearly, lobster was one of our Maine objectives, but we also wanted to try a variety of other food, so we ate everything from tacos to Indian and it was all delicious. Food in Southern Maine is part of the attraction. Here’s a taste of our foodie adventures:

  • All the LOBSTA
    • We ate lobster every day…sometimes twice a day and it never got old. I mean, Maine lobster is EVERYTHING and it’s prepared in so many ways, and did not disappoint. The Maine Lobster Rolls are as good as everyone says and we tried all kinds of interpretations from hot with drawn butter to cold with light mayo and scallions. And while we did not try this, even McDonald’s had a Lobster Roll offering. LOL.
  • Sea to Table with Capt. Phil and Tina
    • This was an unforgettable experience all around. Our hosts Capt. Phil and Tina offer a special excursion to guests of Lobstering and a homemade meal with your live catch. This was hands down my favorite part of our vacation.
    • We woke up early on Monday and drove to the Wells Marina, boarding Capt. Phil’s boat. It was a beautiful, cool morning – the air was crisp and the water was ice cold. We embarked on our lobstering adventure by going to five different traps and taking home five lobsters including a big mama (that I would end up eating that night). As part of the excursion, we learned all about the lobster industry and the crustacean — from how to identify whether it’s a male or female to a lefty or righty. We also saw porpoises and did some fishing. Overall it was a magical Maine morning.
    • We wrapped the adventure with an incredible poolside four-course meal that evening starting with a caprese salad, followed by homemade lobster bisque (Westley loved it), steamed, fresh caught (by us) Maine lobster with drawn butter paired with corn-on-the-cob and new potatoes and a raspberry vanilla cake. And of course, crisp and delicious white wine.
  • BeachFire Grill
    • This was our first dinner stop in Maine on Sunday night. It’s right on Main Street in Ogunquit and was a tasty kick off to our trip. We shared the signature nachos with buffalo chicken, a lobster roll (our first! in Maine) and Fish n Chips with local Haddock, malt vinegar and tartar sauce.
  • Tulsi North
    • Our 6-year wedding anniversary fell during our vacation, so we celebrated with our favorite food, Indian. I was not expecting such a gem in Maine, but this spot was legit and one of the best Indian meals we’ve ever had. We ordered chicken tikki masala, palak paneer and lamb korma. The flavors and sauces were next level and the lamb was the most tender we’ve ever tasted. Finished the meal off with Indian beer. Cheers to six years 🙂
  • Jake’s
    • This was home to our favorite Lobster Roll and you order and pick up from a window. We tried both versions hot with drawn butter (our fave) and traditional, cold with light mayo and spices (only time we say yes to mayo) served with hand cut fries and fresh battered onion rings. YES!
  • The Maine Diner
    • As avid watchers of Guy Fieri’s Triple D, the Maine Diner was a must visit. It is a traditional diner with incredibly creative food. We tried all of Guy’s favorites including the famous Lobster Pie, seafood chowder (best chowder we had) and a lobster club. Topped off the meal with a homemade chocolate cream pie. A winning combo.
  • Feile Irish Pub
    • A local treasure, this real deal Irish Pub is located in a historic old structure that housed the Lindsey Tavern from 1799 until the mid-twentieth century. Owned by an Irish couple from Limerick, the Pub had great food and great beer all with live Irish music as the backdrop. Westley of course LOVED the live music. Food wise, we shared the Nachos O’Houlihan (house cut potato crisps with bacon, cheese, and rosemary beef gravy) Bangers n Mash and a Reuben. Nom nom.
  • Jameson Tavern in Freeport
    • We stumbled upon this historic eatery while spending the day in Freeport. We had some local brews and the lunch special which included a Maine Lobster Roll paired with Clam Chowder.
  • Cobblestone Grill in Old Orchard Beach
    • Before we hit the arcade and carnival rides, we fueled up at this Italian Café. Great service, atmosphere and food. We noshed on a lobster quesadilla (it was amazing) and chicken parm sub.
  • Pizza Napoli
    • This was the perfect lunch post walking the Marginal Way. Simple, but tasty we ordered a large specialty pizza (Italian style) and Coca Cola classic.
  • Las Olas Taqueria
    • If you know me, you know I LOVE Mexican. This local, QSR spot had fresh tacos, burritos and quesadillas and a caliente salsa bar. Perfect lunch spot.
  • Scoop Deck
    • We all scream for ice cream! This place was sweet on all fronts from the décor to the 70+ flavors. We each ordered a cup of homemade ice cream and topped off the outing with a photo shoot (Instagrammabale moment anyone?) in front of the “Life is Sweet” mural.

Things to Do

A sample of our family fun and Maine adventures!

  • Ogunquit Playhouse
    • This 85-year-old theater is such a treasure. During the summer they put on spectacular children’s shows with the Junior Players and these kids are truly talented. We were lucky enough to catch a matinee of Lion King, Jr. Westley loved the musical and it was a perfect start to our Sunday.
  • Portland Head Light
    • A quick hour drive to Portland made for an awesome day trip. We spent part of the day at one of Maine’s iconic lighthouses in Cape Elizabeth. The setting was absolutely magical, hiking down to the rocks and water and took it all in.
  • Portland Science Center Real Pirates Exhibit
    • We saw this advertised on a bus at the Head Light and decided on a whim to visit the National Geographic exhibit. This was a very rich exhibit with lots of artifacts, authentic pirate treasure and history on one of the most famous pirates and his sunken ship, discovered off the coast of Maine.
  • Marginal Way
    • This mile-ling scenic walkway ends in Perkins Cove and borders the beautiful cliffs and water. We brought the stroller and took in the beautiful scenery, making stops along the way to sit on the many benches that overlook the water. Not to be missed!
  • Ogunquit Beach
    • Being a Florida girl, I wasn’t sure if Maine’s beaches would be up to par. Happy to report, while the water was COLD, the beaches were beautiful. Ogunquit Beach was unique because on one side you have a bay and then the beach on the other side. There is a current that takes you from the bay side to the beach and many people brought floats, making it a lazy river type ride. The other part we loved about the beach was how far back the water was set during low tide – probably a half mile. There were tons of small pools, sand bars and waves. Perfect beach for a toddler. Next time, we’ll bring a wetsuit though 🙂 
  • The Ogunquit Trolley
    • While this isn’t necessarily an attraction, the Trolley was a great way to get around town and something W thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a great way to see Ogunquit and enjoy the summer breeze.
  • Playland at Old Orchard Beach
    • This classic boardwalk amusement park was tons of fun from the giant indoor/outdoor arcade to the rides. There are tons of kid friendly rides and the operators are teens rather than carnies J
  • L. Bean HQ + Village in Freeport
    • This little port town is a shopper’s paradise. We visited the enormous L.L. Bean headquarters, which is more like its own little city with multiple buildings, an amphitheater and even a children’s village. We then grabbed lunch (lobster roll and chowder of course) at one of Maine’s oldest Taverns.
  • Boston Duck Tours
    • To maximize our last day, which also included travel back home, we left Maine early and did a 9am Duck Tour in Boston. This was a fun and fast way to see the city by land and water.

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Toddler Travel Tips: Brace Yourself + Have A Drink

Optimistically or naively, we decided to take our first official family vacation (or trip as some of my wiser mama friends have told me – vacation is just the two of you) to Maine. This meant a two flight journey there and back (four flights total) with our strong-willed two and a half year old toddler. I know, I know, you probably think we’re crazy…jury’s still out. The trip was a roller coaster in the sky with ups and downs, but certainly a trip we will never forget. 😆 After flying with our sweet and spicy W (tantrums on the floor and all 😱😱😱), here are my tips for traveling with a toddler (tyrant):

Invest in Delta Comfort (or 1st Class)

  • Feel free to apply this to whatever airline you choose — just choose one that offers some kind of upgrade 😃 First things first, there are drinks for mommy and daddy. 🙌🏼 Second, it’s closer to the front and you have more leg room (especially nice for the tall hubby). We chose aisle 10, which is the first seat behind first class, to ensure even more leg room and the closest seat possible to the front.
  • While the ticket may be a bit pricier (not wildly different from coach), is there really a dollar figure to keep you sane? Exactly. 😜

Buy a Jetkids

  • This little invention is definitely worth the investment. It’s a BOGO — a riding suitcase + airplane bed. Need I say more! W was definitely the talk of ATL – everyone from flight attendants to travelers asked about this amazing contraption. It kept him busy and entertained, provided a fun ride, storage for toys and books and a bed on the plane. Now, if they only made these for adults 👌🏼

Sky Club It

  • If you have a long layover (we had a 2+ hour layover), do yourself a favor and go straight to the Sky Club (or airline equivalent). It is much more safe and intimate than the gate and provides a welcome change for parents and toddler.
  • Outside of the food options, coffee, juice and water, there are complimentary adult drinks to help you deal with toddler travel. I enjoyed some white wine, while the hubby partook in Bloody Mary’s. Another win, the private bathrooms with a nice changing table and plenty of space for toddler play time. W enjoyed his time in the Sky Club and it paid off majorly, when he fell asleep on the flight. With a Delta Platinum Amex, it’s $29 per person. Best $60 I’ve EVER spent.

Tire Them Out

  • First, make peace with the fact that you will have two kinds of people to deal with: the sympathizers (those who have been in your shoes and totally understand) and the judgers (those who have selective memory or have never been in your shoes). Once you have come to terms with that, focus on your give zero f$&@s attitude and let your kid run wild in the airport, sky lounge or wherever. Trust me, this paid pay off BIG when he immediately passed out upon boarding the plane, sleeping for 2 hours. 👌🏼🙌🏼🙏🏼

Board LAST

  • When I travel for business I’m happy to board early with Gold Medallion. As a traveling mom, zone FAMILY (aka last to board) is a blessing in disguise. Our strong willed toddler is equally awesome as he is restless. We learned during our first flight that early boarding was not a good thing. He wanted freedom and was not interested in his seatbelt. Our second flight, we waited until last call, making the wait one before take off minimal. You live, you learn.

Gummy Bears FTW

  • This was a Pro Tip from my work wife BFF, KA who suggested gummy bears during taxi, take off and landing. As most kids don’t know how to pop their ears and can’t chew gum that young, gummy bears are a welcome treat that will keep your child occupied and chewing during critical flight times. Since W doesn’t often get to enjoy candy, this was a highlight for him and avoided any ear issues. Win, win.

Overall, travel days were better than anticipated. I set expectations low to then be pleasantly surprised. W is not scared of flying, which is awesome and between our four flights, the first was the toughest, but after that it was smooth-ish flying.

XO,

Ivette

Parenthood Hacks: Playing Hooky

There are vacation days, personal days, mental health days and now as a parent, I revel in parenthood play days. This is all part of keeping us sane, happy and connected as adults and as a couple.

Because Westley is still in daycare, I am able to drop him off and have an entire day to get things done – some fun, some just plain chores. Either way, these “play days” give me an opportunity to get some “me time” and decompress.

Two Friday ago was one of those days. We were off from work, so I took advantage of the day to get things done. Dropped off W at daycare and kicked off the day with an 8:30 a.m. Body Sculpt class. After an hour of getting my butt kicked, I headed to Chick-fil-A for an egg white grill and an iced coffee (I work out to EAT). Then it was over to Market District to pick up a giveaway prize (y’all Instagram contests really work…I won an awesome prize pack!) and some shopping at two favorite boutiques – Elle Market and Harper Hill Kids. By 10:30 a.m. I was at my hairdressers’ ready to get my summer hair on – a little bayalage to give my hair some new life. In my post hair happiness, I headed to Old Navy to get the little guy a picture day outfit and then by 1:30 p.m. I was lying in a spa room ready for my first Fire & Ice facial at Axios Salt Spa. That was quite the treat and included a peel as well as a delicious organic smoothie when my facial was complete. All of this was accomplished before 3 p.m., which gave me time to get home, do some laundry, put away clean clothes and shower before the hubby and toddler got home. All in all, it’s what I call a perfect day.

Similarly, as a couple, we sometimes take a day off to enjoy each other’s company. We’re headed to a music festival in Jacksonville this weekend and the Monday following the festival will be a travel day back and a chance to play parenthood hooky. Planning to try a new taqueria in town and maybe catch a move before we pick W up from school. Having three days to ourselves will be glorious, but I’m sure by Monday afternoon, we’ll be ready to hug and hang out with our little guy. He’s our favorite person and topic of conversation J

For me, it’s all about balance. While 85 percent (or more) of our activities and time is spent as a family, we do try and squeeze in some alone time – whether it’s taking a whole day off and hanging in town, or taking a few hours to have a nice adult meal. Making our marriage and relationship a priority makes us better parents because we are happy and healthy. One of our goals is to ensure Westley grows up knowing how much his parents love and respect each other and values that.

As with everything, once you’re a parent your strategy changes – even for vacations. We definitely use vacation days for real vacations, like our upcoming summer family trip to Maine, but I always reserve a chunk of my PTO for parenthood play days because these days there is no better vacation than a day that’s all about me or all about us J

How do y’all spend your vacation time? Have you ever played parenthood hooky?

XO,

Ivette