travel-section

Category : Travel

If you are planning your next family vacation and want to shake things up a bit, have I got some exciting destinations to share with you! Expedia Viewfinder challenged me to put together a list of great family travel for 2015, including places families could go looking for adventure. This year, I want you to think outside the vacation box, step away from the typical resort pools and kids’ clubs and take your family vacation to the next level. These family vacations are not only are exciting, but they will inspire, educate and create memories to last a lifetime.

Vista Verde Steamboat Spring Colorado Family Adventure Travel 2015
1. First Class Dude Ranch

Vista Verde – Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Vista Verde Ranch is a luxury guest ranch located just north of Steamboat Springs, CO. Visiting a dude ranch has always been on my bucket list, and from the looks of it, Vista Verde is the place to go! Not only is the riding program top-notch with great horses, tons of instruction, and beautiful trails, but this ranch offers so much more. Other activities include mountain biking, fly fishing, hiking, rock climbing, wild yoga, cooking classes, wine tasting and even a hands-on photography workshop. The Kids program is filled with a variety of activities, including a ropes course, scavenger hunts, panning for gold and painting on horses! They offer 7-night stays during the summer, and Vista Verde is an all inclusive ranch — all meals and activities are covered. It’s a good idea to book sooner than later, as they usually are fully booked for the summer.

Caves Branch Jungle Lodge Belize Family Travel Adventure 2015

2. Cave Tubing

Cave’s Branch Jungle Lodge –  Belize

Enter the exciting world of rivers disappearing into the underworld as you float on inner tubes with only your headlamp to light your way. Sound exciting? It sure does to me — sign me up! Caves Branch Jungle Lodge in Belize is non-stop adventure, whether you are hiking through caves, rappelling down a 300-foot cliff, exploring the Mayan underground or cruising the seven miles of underground rivers. For 19 years, Ian Anderson has been creating wild adventures for families, they have stepped up their services to include first rate amenities that brings them up in standard, which includes five star tree houses, but they are not a resort and still remain a rustic jungle lodge. The youngest age for a cave expedition is seven years old, and many of the cave trips are for 10 years and older. Caves Branch is not for everyone, so be sure to check the website to make sure you and your children will be comfortable and your little ones can participate.

Check out Expedia’s viewfinder for more Belize photo inspiration

Western Expeditions Soutwest Sampler Rafting Tour Utah Family Adventure 2015

3. Family RaftingTrip

Southwest Sampler, Utah

Western River Expeditions provides stunning family rafting trips alongside the beautiful red rocks of Utah. Their Southwest Sampler is perfect for families seeking a variety of activities, which includes a two-night stay at the Gonzo Inn in Moab, Utah, a guided tour and hike of Arches National Park, lunch and a Hummer Sunset Safari. Then you’ll spend 2 days / 1 night drifting along the Colorado River, taking in the beauty of the beautiful rock formations and camping under the stars. This trip will allow you to bond as a family while giving you a sense of adventure, reflection and renewal. Children as young as 5 years old may go on these exciting rafting trips.

Tierra Magnifica Surf Camp Spanish Immersion Nosara Costa Rica Family Travel
4. Learn Spanish & Learn to Surf

Tierra Magnifica – Nosara, Costa Rica

Imagine spending your family vacation completely immersed in the culture and tradition of a Costa Rican seaside community, surrounded by abundant wildlife and one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Tierra Magnifica is a first-class private estate that sits high above the quiet beach town of Nosara on the pacific coast of Costa Rica and caters to large groups and family vacations.Tierra Magnifica offers one and two week summer Spanish Immersion Camps that combine 17 hours of Spanish instruction with a selection of activities, tours and family time that will create memories for a lifetime. Spots are limited for the Spanish Immersion Camp, and it fills up quickly, so be sure to make your reservation soon! They also offer a Family Adventure Surf Camp throughout the entire year.

Cinnamon Bay St John Camping Family Travel 2015 5. Camping on the beach

Cinnamon Bay – St. John, US Virgin Islands

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be stranded on an island?  Okay, maybe not stranded, but if skipping the traditional hotel room and sleeping right on the beach sounds like fun to you, Cinnamon Bay Campground on St. John is the place for you!  Cinnamon Bay offers families tents and small cottages right on the beach, just steps from the water.  You can either rent a tent, which has a solid floor and mosquito netting, or you can rent a small cottage that comes with four walls, four twin beds, electric lights and electric plugs. Both options come equipped with a picnic table, charcoal grill, propane gas stove and gas lantern, ice chest, water container, storage bin and cooking and eating utensils. There is a restaurant and general store, and cribs are available upon request. This will not only be a great family adventure, but for the budget-savvy. it’s a great way to get that beach front room — without a high price tag. For pricing, visit Cinnamon Bay rates. 

Anthonys Key Resort Roatan Honduras Family Adventure Travel

6.  Dolphin Scuba Summer Camp

Anthony’s Key Resort –  Roatan, Honduras

At Anthony’s Key Resort you’ll stay in over-the-water wooden bungalows and get up close and personal with dolphins during their Dolphn Scuba Summer Camp. Roatan is know for its first-class diving experiences and their dolphin programs for both adults and children. During the week, children ages 5 to 14 will interact with bottlenose dolphins through various encounters, feeding and training sessions. They’ll also be exposed to diving and snorkeling skills, depending on their age and skill level. Oceanside discussions, short classroom sessions, snorkeling trips and other outdoor activities will give your child a real appreciation for the ocean, marine life and the environment in general. You might not have thought of Honduras as a family vacation spot until now!

Rubys Inn Utah Camping in a Tipi Family Adventure 2015

7. Sleep in a Tipi

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Sure you can sleep at the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel or at their sister property Ruby’s Inn, but why would you when you can sleep in an authentic Native American Tipi? That’s right. Ruby’s Inn also has RV and campgrounds where you can rent a tipi for the night. How cool is that? These are the closest accommodations to Bryce Canyon National Park, a must-see and must-do destination as one of Utah’s most beautiful red rock parks. The best way to see Bryce Canyon is either by horseback, where you’ll literally ride on the trails used by outlaw Butch Cassidy, or by the popular ATV tours. Next to Bryce Canyon is Zion National Park, where you can explore even more hiking trails, mountain biking and rock climbing.

Big Cedar Lodge Wilderness Resort Family Travel 2015
8. Luxury Wilderness Resort

Big Cedar Lodge – Ozark Mountains, Missouri

Big Cedar Lodge is known as America’s premier wilderness resort and was founded by Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris. Big Cedar Lodge offers a wealth of outdoor adventure perfect for families. The resort provides an amazing lake-front setting, five swimming pools and land and water adventures ranging from bass fishing, water skiing and lake cruises to campfire wagon tours and horseback riding. The children’s adventure program is for ages 4 – 12, and kids receive a backpack filled with adventure tools and a hat for collecting pins. Adventure pins include BB gun safety and training, camping, tent making, fire building, rocks and fossils, canoeing and plant and animal identification. I know my kids would love to earn and collect all these pins.

The Springs Resort Arenal Costa Rica

9. Adventure in the Rainforest

The Springs – Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

The Springs is a luxury resort nestled in the middle of the rainforest in Costa Rica and has one of the best views of the Arenal Volcano. The Springs is a spectacular resort with large, lagoon-style pools, and a secluded section of hot springs and waterfalls called Perdido Springs (Lost Springs). These pools are surrounded by lush tropical plants, and in the middle of this hidden oasis is a small jungle bar and a water flume called the Monkey Slide. Sitting just below the resort, lagoon pools and springs is Club Rio, an outdoor center with river kayaking, river tubing, rock climbing and rappelling, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking nature tours and a Wildlife Preserve for rescued animals. Not far from the resort you can also visit the popular Arenal Hanging Bridges and zip line through the jungle at Sky Trek. We have actually been here, and our family had an absolute blast.

The white sand beach of Isla Carmen.10. Family Kayaking Trip

Baja California / Mexico

ROW Sea Kayak Adventures  features a family-friendly kayaking trip that is easily accessible from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The Isla Espiritu Santo Kayak Sojourn takes you to the tranquil waters surrounding Isla Espirito Santo, a National Park and UNESCO Biosphere located just north of La Paz, Baja. The island features numerous deep coves, fantastic rock formations and beautiful white-sand beaches voted by Travel Magazine as some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit) Island is uninhabited, and you’ll spend days 5 days / 4 nights snorkeling with hundreds of tropical fish, sea lions, parrot fish, and sometimes even dolphins. Trips from mid-January to late March may be combined with their Pacific Coast whale camp to see grey whales and their calves!  What could be better than that!?

 


Where will you take your family in 2015?

 

Disclosure: This was a post written in partnership with Expedia, however, I personally selected all of these locations and trips. All my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own.

 

 


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Travel apps help with winter travel

Winter travel can mean timing delays and changes in your travel plans. Stay connected to keep up with airport delays and road detours. A little advance planning also means finding the best new game apps for kids with pent-up travel energy. Be sure to download these fabulous winter travel apps to keep everyone sane while traveling this winter.

travel apps

TripIt keeps everything organized

Airlines, hotels, and restaurants do a fabulous job sending email confirmations for trip reservations. The problem can be finding the exact confirmation for which you’re searching when you need it. TripIt takes the searching out of your travel plans. Each time you get a confirmation for a flight or hotel reservation, you forward it to your TripIt account, where the app creates a comprehensive travel itinerary. See all of your plans in a single place, no matter where or how you book your travel — plus the app is free for Android and iOS devices. You can add custom notes, packing lists, and other personal information, too.

travel apps

Be prepared for any sort of weather

Winter weather is a necessary hazard during winter travel, and an effective weather app can be crucial — especially if you’re traveling by car. Weathersphere is absolutely the only weather app you’ll ever need. The app collects massive amounts of data in real time and breaks it down into easy-to-understand updates, warnings, and alerts.

travel apps

Keep kids entertained when plans change

Even the most well-prepared parents can run into trouble when traveling. When your flight’s been delayed — for the second time — or your bag of kid distractions isn’t working, having a new kids’ app on your tablet or phone can mean the difference between calming your child or adding stress to everyone’s vacation. If you and your family celebrate Christmas, Wubbzy’s The Night Before Christmas is a fantastic, multi-layered app that can keep kids busy with stories, games, and coloring options. For an educational game that taps into a fairly common kid favorite — animals — try Toca Nature. Kids can design their own forests, add animals, and photograph their creations.

travel apps
The best apps for skiers

Winter travel gives you the chance to hit the ski slopes at your leisure, and you can use the best ski apps to make the most of your winter vacation. Start with Liftopia, a free app that gives you access to deal on ski lift tickets. The better deals you can find, the more resorts you can explore. Ski & Snow Report provides information about slope conditions at various resorts, including current information, live webcams, and trail maps. If you’re interesting in a little friendly competition with your friends — or just like checking your own progress — Ski Tracks is a must-have app. The GPS tracker can track your activity for around fourteen hours, providing data about your speed, altitude changes, and distance covered.

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The Voice - Season 7 Photo by Trae Patton/NBC

Last week I got to represent Savvy Sassy Moms at a live recording of the hit show The Voice at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. My mother was visiting from Connecticut for the holidays and it was a perfect outing for us – music, stars, behind-the-scenes glimpses at the action, and we were even caught on camera at the beginning of the show, clapping and laughing and having the time of our lives. Not only did we have a wonderful time at The Voice, but we also got to drive there in style, thanks to Nissan’s little gift of a 2015 Versa Note for me to drive for the week.

THE CAR

As a sponsor of The Voice, Nissan wanted us to arrive in style. I told them I’d like to try the Versa Note because it’s the tiniest car they make, and I wondered what it would be like to zip around Los Angeles, a car-centric city, in such a small vehicle. The car they sent is a 2015 Versa Note SR in Metallic Peacock.

Look how cute:

2015 versa noteInside its kicky exterior, it’s a pretty basic car. The engine is loud and takes a few seconds to pick up speed. But it gets great gas mileage with a combined city/highway 35 miles per gallon. I’ve been driving it for 6 days all around my normal places and I’ve only used half a tank of gas. Despite the Versa Note’s small size, which allows me to squeeze into small parking spaces without fear of bumping other cars, it has a comfortable roomy interior. It seats five people without crowding, which I discovered when I drove my parents and my 2 kids out to dinner one night. On the other hand, the cargo space with all those people is limited. One load of groceries for my food-vacuum family required me to push the back seats down. It’s a perfect car for getting from point A to point B, and this actual car with all of its extras costs just over $19,000.

THE SHOW

The Voice - Season 7 Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC

The Versa Note got us from point A to point The Voice just fine thank you very much. I appreciated the modern sound system, which is a departure for me because I drive a 10-year-old sedan with a CD player that was broken long ago by my children and doesn’t have an iPhone hookup or Bluetooth connection. So in the Versa Note my mom and I got to play some tunes on the way to the show.

You can get free tickets to the Voice live shows just by going through NBC’s website. We were lucky to have VIP passes, so we were whisked directly to our seats – which were amazing – by friendly staffers. The whole process was fascinating. On the day we were present, Gwen Stefani and Pharrell taped a special performance of “Spark the Fire” complete with sparklers and torches and dancers and glow sticks for everyone in the audience to wave. They did three full performances of the song, then the producers edited a package together and played it during a later segment of the live show.

Let me tell you something. I am pretty sure that rocking out with my mom to a live Gwen Stefani performance wasn’t ever on my list of things to do, but I am definitely glad that it happened! We loved Stefani’s unique fashion choices – who else can pull off rock’n’roll pajamas and make that look cool?

As if that wasn’t awesome enough, then there was the whole episode of The Voice to experience. As audience members we had a very important job: applause. This was serious business. We had to stand up and applaud and cheer before every segment began, and stand during every performance. We were grateful for our awesome seats which were to Adam Levine’s left and level with the stage. The poor folks who stand down below stage level had to stand there for three hours! At least we got to sit down during commercial breaks and while the judges were talking with the contestants.

I was glad I picked something cute to wear, because as it turned out, our seats were right where the top 8 were headed at the end of their opening song, “Geronimo.” I couldn’t believe it when Craig and Damien danced and sang their way right up to where I was standing. That was when I wished I had taken the time to do my hair. We show up around 3:50 in the episode on the NBC website here.

on the voice

thevoice2The show was so much fun in person. The sound was excellent, all the performers sang their hearts out, and it was fun to watch the judges joke and goof around during breaks. Nick Jonas performed during this show and the audience went nuts. I hadn’t watched the Voice before but being there for this episode definitely made me invested in the outcome!

The Voice - Season 7Photo by Tyler Golden/NBC

After the show, a staffer drove us back to the parking garage in a 2015 Nissan Murano. That’s more the style of car for my family, but I liked both driving experiences. We stayed at Universal for dinner at City Walk and then finally went home to show the DVR’ed episode to my family. What a day! My mom has a great story about her trip to Los Angeles and I got my face on network television for a nanosecond. Not too shabby. (Also, now I really want a new car.)

Nissan gave me a car to drive for the week and 2 VIP passes to a taping of the Voice. All opinions are my own. Or my mom’s.

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6 Reasons to visit the Disneyland Resort During the Holidays #DisneyHolidays

It seems as though the Disneyland Resort and the holidays were a match made in mouse-shaped heaven, Disneyland is quite frankly the perfect locale for all things happy and festive. We were recently invited to enjoy the merry festivities, all opinions are own. After a day full of holiday Mickey heaven we have created a list of reasons why you should run and not just walk to the Disneyland Resort during the holidays.

The Castle during the holidays at Disneyland #DisneyHolidays
Just Got Merrier Decorations

I personally love over-the-top decorations around the holidays; the more the merrier I always say, but somehow the Disneyland Resort takes it just a step further and has the ability to fully immerse guests into a magical world of snow capped castles, wreath strewn lamp posts, gigantor Christmas trees and jingle belled adored horse drawn carriages down Main Street U.S.A. that makes Christmas even more merry. Both the Disneyland Resort and California Adventure are a gorgeous sight to behold during the holidays that are decked out to the fullest with decorations and festive décor everywhere.

Jingle Cruise Ride at Disneyland #DisneyHolidays

Holiday Rides

During the holidays at the Disneyland Resort a few of our favorite rides receive a festive holiday transformation. The Jungle Cruise becomes the “Jingle Cruise” with super fun surprises along the boat ride and can we talk about how funny that ride has become? I mean, I can never stop laughing at the boat drivers corny jokes. It’s a Small World Holiday is a popular attraction over the holidays and a must see. The Haunted Mansion Holiday is a complete Christmas transformation with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme (my 7 year old and 4 year old loved it!).

A Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland #DisneyHolidays
A Christmas Fantasy Parade

Twice a day and starting at It’s A Small World and ending in Town Square, the “A Christmas Fantasy Parade” marches through the resort and features everyone’s favorite characters while they don their most festive apparel. Disney Princesses (even Anna and Elsa!) join the parade along with prancing reindeer, marching toy soldiers and dancing gingerbread cookies. To round out the entertaining parade Santa Claus makes an appearance with his rosy cheeks and jolly laugh.

Santa Claus at Jingle Jangle Jamboree
Jingle Jangle Jamboree

Located in Frontierland in Big Thunder Ranch is the ultimate Christmas activity showdown known as “Jingle, Jangle, Jamboree”. There are games and activities, such as coloring (every kid that colors a Sheriff’s star can participate in the stage show), cookie decorating, reindeer games, yummy food and even a petting zoo. Guests can even visit Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus too.

Holiday Food at Disneyland #DisneyHolidays

Holiday Eats and Sweets

No piece written about the Disneyland Resort can complete without a mention of the food and sweet treats to be had at the park during the holidays. All along Main Street U.S.A. and Buena Vista Street in DCA you can find handmade sweets such as fudge, toffee, candy canes, caramel apples, candies, cookies and so much more. New to the Disneyland Resort are the Souvenier Soup Cups available at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, where guests can grab a insulated soup cup to go and enjoy it while watching the parade. The soup stays warm inside, but the cup is cool enough to carry!

World of Color - Winter Dreams #DisneyHolidays
World of Color – Winter Dreams

The World of Color show every night at Disney’s California Adventure is always a sight to behold; however the World of Color – Winter Dreams is a magical visual feast that you absolutely cannot miss. Hosted by the huggable Olaf, the show consists of holiday magic and sparkly colors with upbeat music that everyone will enjoy.

Log on now to book your Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure holiday visit today.

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Caneel Bay Ferry St John Us Virgin Islands Family Travel

Caneel Bay, St. John US Virgin Islands

As we jetted across the water on the ferry ride from St. Thomas over to Caneel Bay, McKenna was cuddled up next to me, her tiny cheek was pressed against mine and one of her curls kept blowing in my face. We had just arrived from a very long travel day and we were catching the very last ferry of the night. Anxious to see the clear blue waters that the caribbean is known for, instead, we both sat quietly gazing up at the millions of stars lighting up the black sky. This was the beginning of our first mother daughter trip together and a ferry ride I’ll never forget.

Caneel Bay is located on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands, it sits on 170 acres, nestled along the Virgin Islands National Park and home to seven beautiful beaches. The entire resort and property has a very laid back, beach chic vibe that compliments the island instead of taking it over. I found this very refreshing. There is a calmness here, even the water is calm. You won’t hear waves crashing, instead you’ll hear a steady pulse of the water hitting the sand. Which is why it doesn’t take long before you easily fall into the rhythm of the island and unplug from it all.

Turquoise Blue Water US Virgin Islands St John Caneel Bay Family Travel

Caneel Bay Dock US Virgin Islands

Caneel Bay Resort

The Caneel Bay Resort has a variety of different room options from ocean view, garden view and beach front. The rooms are spread out throughout the property so it never feels crowded. It reminded me a bit like summer camp with the different cabin and lodging areas. Our room was right on Caneel Beach and along our particular stretch of sand there were about 12 rooms and it was as if we were all sharing our own private island. Our room was literally steps feet from the beach. I rolled out of bed, opened the door and walked 25 feet and my toes were in the water, if we were any closer I would have been sleeping in the sand.

These rooms are excellent for families because they are so convenient to the ferry dock, water activity rentals, restaurants, tennis courts and gift shop. There is also a floating dock at Caneel Beach for the kids to swim out to and jump off of, they could have done this all day long.

Caneel Bay Donkeys St John US Virgin Islands
There are also roaming donkeys on Caneel Bay, but don’t be alarmed, they are tame and very friendly. They’ll even stop for pictures and the kids can pet them.

DCIM100MEDIA
Snorkeling on St. John

Our first morning we walked a short walk over to Honeymoon beach where we got suited up for our kayak and snorkel tour with Virgin Islands Eco Tours. This was the first time McKenna had been in a kayak and she was a little hesitant to snorkel, but she quickly got over that when we were told there were turtles down below! We saw three turtles and even witnessed them come up for their five breaths of air and then dive back down. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. McKenna would pop up and scream with excitement when she started seeing all the colorful fish near the coral. Our guide Robb from Virgin Islands Eco Tours was incredible with the kids and took some amazing underwater photos for us.

DCIM100MEDIA

Sand Art Honeymoon Beach Caneel Bay St John US Virgin Islands

Honeymoon Beach

After the snorkel tour the kids were lucky enough to be the first to create sand art on Honeymoon Beach. They are just starting this program and our kids took it for a test run with Robb still by their side! This is a great activity to get the kids out of the sun for awhile and create a special keepsake to take home. Honeymoon beach is open to the public and anyone can rent water equipment or book a tour with Virgin Island Eco Tours.

Caneel Bay Kids Club St John Virgin Islands

Caneel Bay Kids Club

There is a free kids club at Caneel Bay. Hooray! This might be one of the biggest perks for families looking for a caribbean vacation. Sometimes moms and dads want to be able to explore on their own, get a massage or spend some alone time with one another. Turtle Town is for children ages 3 -11 and hosts a variety of daily activities and fun educational programing for the kids. They even host a kids dinner and a movie so parents can enjoy a night out on the town.

Caneel Bay Tennis Courts

Tennis Lessons

Tennis lessons are available everyday for both adults and children. This was a great way to start the day the Moms were on one court while the kids had a blast on the court right next to us. You and your kids do not have to be serious tennis players to take a lesson. The kids will have a blast and the adults can get a little work out in.

We also had dinner on the beach, which you can have specially set up for you and your family or group. There was a local man selling some unique island arts and crafts. McKenna loved learning how to use the Ra Ra Toy which is a traditional island toy and St. John’s version of the yo yo.

Ra Ra Toy US Virging Islands St John Caneel BayCaneel Bay Gelato

Be sure to stop in the Caneel Bay gift shop for any essentials you might have forgotten or to buy a new sun dress or cover up, they have a beautiful collection of clothing and accessories. They also have a kids section with adorable clothing, swimsuits, toys and souvenirs. Inside the gift shop is Canella Cafe, where you can order sandwiches and snacks to go for your day at the beach and be sure to grab a scoop of gelato!

Cruz Bay St John Virgin Islands

Shopping in Cruz Bay Caneel Bay US Virgin Islands Hook Bracelet
Shopping in Cruz Bay

Cruz Bay is just a 10 minute shuttle ride from Caneel Bay and on the way you will see a few look out points of Caneel Bay and Cruz Bay, so be sure to ask your driver to stop so you can grab some gorgeous ariel views! Cruz Bay is a popular spot to do some shopping and has a lot of great restaurants and bars. Some of the local favorites are; Fatty Crab, a fun and casual restaurant for the whole family. High Tide, where the kids can play on the beach and often features live music, and LaTapa a fine dining just for mom and dad and has live jazz music on some evenings.

We went to Cruz Bay on a little bit of a mission, to find the original St. John hook bracelets! The hook bracelets are a famous caribbean treasure that represent love and unity. Depending on how you wear your bracelet, with the hook facing out or facing in, it lets people know if your heart is taken. We all loved them so much we each bought one at the Bamboo Studio. This is the perfect little gift to take home from St. John. I was on this trip with my friends Nicole and Kim Marie, which makes these bracelets even more special to me.

Caneel Bay View Family Travel
A Classic Family Vacation

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we boarded the plane to Caneel Bay, other than the turquoise water of course, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Caneel Bay reminded me of how family vacations should be spent. So many family vacations today consist of packed itineraries and schedules that leave little time for relaxing and just spending quality time together. Caneel Bay has the perfect balance of plenty of things to do but also leaves time to soak up the sun and actually relax and enjoy your vacation. Finally, I went home from a vacation feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Has your family been to the Virgin Islands?
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Panama City With Kids Savvy Sassy Moms Travel
A few weeks ago we headed to Panama City for a long weekend, and I have to say – it surprised me! This historic city known for the Panama Canal offered so much more and it was a great palce to take the kids!

Panama City has two very distinct areas, the old and the new. On one side it is vey much a cosmopolitan city, the skyline itself was much bigger than I expected. The buildings were all beautiful shades of blue and grey, very polished and sophisticated. Then on the other side of town it is the historic area, Casco Antiguo, which is has been declared a World Heritage site. This part of the city was founded in 1673 and is now being renovated and many hotels, restaurants and specialty stores are going in. This part of the city has old world charm and filled with warmer colors of reds and browns. I loved that Panama City has the juxtaposition of both.

Here are some of my favorite Instagram photos from our weekend in Panama City to give you a small taste of this eclectic and thriving city. This is apart of the Instagram Travel Thursday hosted by Skimbaco Lifestyle.

1. Rooftop Pool jumping at the TRYP Centro Panama City Hotel.
2. Family picture before heading to dinner.
3. Panama hat shopping, a must do.
4. Stunning building in the Casco Antiguo area.
5. Walking from Casco Antiguo over to the new Avienda Balboa
6. Mercado de Pescado $1.25 cup of Ceviche
7. Inglesia Catedral in Casco Antiguo
8. Shaved Ice with condensed milk on the street for $.50
9. The beautiful floor tiles at The American Trade Hotel
I’ll be sharing more Panama City details over on Wanderlust Living soon!

Be sure to follow my travels on Instagram

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I have never been to the South but have always wanted to visit and soak up some of that good ol’ southern charm! This past summer we went on a seven-city road trip and one of the places I was most excited to experience was Savannah, Georgia. I’m not really sure exactly why, but I pictured it to be a charming old city with a small town vibe. I also stumbled upon this Savannah blog, Life on the Squares which got me even more excited to see this fine little city and discover all its historic squares.

Savannah Georgia Travel

Savannah Georgia City GemsEllis Square Savvanah Georgia Splash Fountain

Savannah Georgia Historic Squares

The city of Savannah is set up on a very easy-to-navigate grid that connects to 22 historic squares. We stayed at the historic Inn at Ellis Square which is in a great location right across from the Market Square splash fountain, perfect for the kids to cool off on a hot southern afternoon. This is also where you’ll find the Shops at Ellis Square and the popular City Market, a pedestrian-only street filled with restaurants, shopping, and outdoor entertainment.

Savannah Candy StoreSavannah Candy Kitchen Family Travel City Gems
Savannah’s Candy Kitchen

The original Savannah’s Candy Kitchen is down on River Street, but we wandered into the City Market location. “Beware of Flying Taffy” the sign says when you enter and you can feel the sugary goodness seeping into your pores the minute you set foot in this place. I think my kids thought they had officially died and gone to sweet treat heaven.

You can watch the candy makers making their famous Pecan Pralines, a popular confectionary treat in the South. They’ll give you a sample too, and when in Savannah… you must try the Pecan Pralines! There is also a conveyor belt that sends salt water taffy on a track all around the store, my kids could not take their eyes off of them and the giant barrels of taffy where they ended up.

Savannah Old Town Trolley Tours
The Old Town Trolley Tours

I definitely recommend the Old Town Trolley Tour. Sure it’s touristy, but it is a great way to see the city and hear all the historic facts from a local tour guide. My daughter and I did the trolley tour together, it was a perfect way to spend a day — just the girls! The trolley tour is hop-on hop-off, so you can take your time taking pictures and visiting different city stops you want to spent more time at.

If it wasn’t for this tour I may have missed a few scenic places, like the park where Tom Hanks sits in the opening scene from Forest Gump and says “Life is like a box of chocolates,” I might not have known I could step inside the stunning Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, or I may have missed where the very first Girl Scout Headquarters was or missed hearing about the history of The Pirates House. This trolley tour not only gave me the history of Savannah but a great overview of what a wonderful city it is today too.

The Coffee Fox Savannah Georgia
The Coffee Fox

Whenever I am in a new city, I always try to find the local coffee shop.The first morning I was in Savannah I stumbled upon The Coffee Fox and I went back two more times while in Savannah. I got up early and snuck out to get some work done and this was a fantastic place to wake up and work. Not to mention the coffee was fantastic! Finding a local coffee spot is also great for people watching, you can get a vibe for the place and the people that make up a city.

Red Clover Savannah Georgia The Paris Market and Savannah Bee Company Savannah Georgia
Shopping in Savannah

The very first shop I walked into was the cutest boutique, Red Clover, located on Bull Street near Chippewa Square (which is the Forest Gump film location I mentioned). This fashion gem is a mix of bohemian chic and southern sophistication. The collection of clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories are right on trend and you’re sure to want everything. But if you can’t get to Savannah, they sell online so you can shop Red Clover from anywhere!

If you stroll down the main street of Broughton Street you will find many shops and restaurants, (including the Coffee Fox) but do not miss the Savannah Bee Company and The Paris Market, both are worth taking a peek inside! The Paris Market is a gorgeous, eclectic store filled with beautiful furniture, home goods, books, gifts, toys and so much more! I could have spent all day in here browsing for treasures. The Savannah Bee Company has honey samplings daily and carries a variety of honey flavors and an entire line of bath and body products.

The Funky Brunch Cafe Savannah Geoorgia City GemsFunky Brunch Cafe where to eat with kids in Savannah

The Funky Brunch Cafe

The Funky Brunch Cafe, I liked it so much here I ate here twice! My daughter and I had lunch here and the Tuna Sandwich was spectacular and that is when I found out about the tables for “Make Your Own Pancakes” and so we had to come back to do that. The tables have a warm griddle center that heats up. The kids get to squeeze out the pancake mix, add a variety of toppings to their pancakes and flip them!  I have never been to a restaurant that does this, the kids loved it.

The Olde Pink House Savvanah Georgia City Gems

If you came to Savannah for that some of that traditional southern cooking then head to either the famous Paula Dean’s restaurant, Lady & Sons  – where I tried Shrimp & Grits for the first time! Or you can dine in a historic mansion at The Olde Pink House. Both restaurants will serve you all southern fried chicken, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes and grits you could ever want. Then if you have had all the fried food you can take, then go to Aroy-Jung Sushi for some fantastic sushi! Sushi in the South? I know, but this sushi was really spectacular!

Savannah Childrens Museum

The Savannah Children’s Museum

The Savannah Children’s Museum is brand new museum to Savannah and is extremely unique. It is literally built in and around the old railroad storage yard. This is an outdoor museum, so you may want to visit before it gets too hot outside. The Children’s Museum is located right next to the Georgia Railroad Museum and the Savannah History Museum. You can easily visit all three in one morning or afternoon and you can take the kids to eat inside a train car at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

Leopolds Ice Cream Savannah Georgia City Gems
Leopold’s Ice Cream

There are some things worth waiting in line for and Leopold’s Ice Cream is one of them. In fact, the day we went to Leopold’s there was a line out the door and it stayed out the door the entire time we sat and enjoyed our ice cream cones. I am pretty sure this is the best damn Ice Cream I’ve ever had in my life! For real. Leopold’s is a ice cream parlor legend from 1935 and was recently re-opened in 2014. With their secret ice cream recipes and a famous Hollywood background it’s no wonder people line up around the block.

Savannah Georgia Riverfront Shopping
The Riverfront

If you do one thing, you must walk down by the water at the Riverfront, we went at sunset and before we boarded the Ghosts and Graveyards tour. There are plenty of places to grab dinner and do some shopping, but just sitting by the water watching the sunset and ships passing by was enough. This is also a perfect place to go for a morning walk or jog.

The Ghosts and Gravestones tour takes you through Savannah and tells you about all the stories of paranormal activity in the area and tells the unfortunate tales of many murders that took place many years ago. Our kids were 7 and 9 and weren’t too scared but it does have some mature content.

Savannah Georgia Riverfront DistrictSavannah Georgia Riverfront Sunset
I could go on and on about Savannah but I had to stop somewhere. The city of Savannah is just as I thought it would be, a small historic city with big time charm! Traveling as a family, this city was the perfect size with plenty to do and see, great food, unique shopping, friendly people and you can literally walk the entire city – with good shoes of course. Be sure to put Savannah on your list of American cities to see!

What did I miss? Have you been to Savannah, Georgia?
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Halloween at Disneyland

Halloween, like only Disneyland can do it

A visit to Disneyland Resort is pretty special any time of the year; however Halloween at Disneyland Resort is an especially spectacular time to visit. Every Fall, (September 12 to October 31, 2014) the Disneyland Resort is transformed for the Halloween season with magnificent decorations, special “spooky” attractions and Halloween sweets galore at every sweets shoppe. We were invited to Disneyland as members of the media, all opinions are our own. Halloween is magically celebrated at Disneyland Resort like only Disney can do it.

Disneyland HalloweenTime Candy Corn Cotton Candy

Candy Corn Cotton Candy

It’s all about the Sweets

The Disneyland Resort is becoming quickly infamous for their culinary delights, from the Mickey-shaped pretzels to the gumbo bread bowl at the Royal Street Veranda (and so much in between), the Halloween Time sweets at Disneyland are no exception. Found in any sweets shoppe in California Adventure or the Disneyland Resort, the Halloween Time sweets are stunning works of art. I stopped in to several shoppe’s to get a glance at them and without fail, I drooled every time. I got to personally taste the candy corn cotton candy, Mickey Pumpkin Cupcake, apple twist, pizza twist, Mint Julep and Gibson Girl ice cream in a Halloween waffle cone. I have heard very good and yummy things about the pumpkin Mickey beignets from Café Orleans and the piping hot banana fritters from Royal Street Veranda.

Disneyland Halloween Time Sweets and Treats Special Halloween Time Attractions

Without question, the quintessential icon of the Halloween season is the Haunted Mansion Holiday. The 2014 Halloween Time Haunted Mansion Holiday is decorated inspired by Jack Skellington, from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and the spooky residents of Halloween Town. I snapped the picture below of the Haunted Mansion Holiday during sunset, giving the Mansion an extra spooky glow. We didn’t get to ride the Haunted Mansion Holiday this year (my kids are too little and are easy frightened!) but I have heard the entire ride is decorated for Halloween. Space Mountain becomes Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy during Halloween Time at Disneyland. Although the queue time is a bit longer to ride during Halloween Time it is worth it. Pick up a fast pass so you won’t have to queue too long! Haunted Mansion at Disneyland during Halloween

More Halloween Time Special Attractions

Big Thunder Ranch, which is known as the Halloween Carnival during Halloween Time at Disneyland Resort offers several special events during the Halloween season. Meet your favorite Disney characters in special Halloween garb, see the amazing hand carved pumpkins that are true works of art, the kiddies can do some Halloween crafts and catch a glimpse of popular Disney villains. Observe Dia de los Muertos with a traditional skeleton display in Frontierland too! Halloween Time at Disneyland Media Reception with Jack and Sally

Magical Holidays at a Magical Place

A visit to Disneyland is always special however, the ability to celebrate a holiday at the happiest place on earth is made even more magical due to the unique attention to detail Disneyland can do. My older children and I had the best day ever at Disneyland, my kids loved the special decorations, the special treats and most especially the Halloween Time sweets. It was a magical, happy day. I mean, just look at these faces:

Happy Kids at Disneyland

My kids

Halloween Time at the Disneyland Resort is every day now until October 31st, 2014. Head on over to Disneyland to purchase Halloween Time tickets now.

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Our City Gems Series travels to Baltimore…with the kids

The urban seaport of Balitmore, Maryland is one of the most colorful and interesting cities on the East Coast. Its cozy city center makes for a manageable and enjoyable adventure to explore with kids. Packed with American lore, industrial history and hubs of science, parents will find loads of exciting family friendly outings. Everyone in the family will revel in the delicious food and beautiful Chesapeake Bay views. Here are one Savvy Sassy Mom’s must-do stops in Charm City.

What to DO

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Baltimore National Aquarium

501 East Pratt Street

One of the world’s most extensive aquariums, kids can view a living collection of more than 17,000 marine-dwelling animals. The new Blacktip Reef exhibit replicates an Pacific reef and features a school of blacktip reef sharks. Kids can also visit with the aquarium’s eight Bottlenose dolphins and their expert staff. Private dolphin encounters for children age eight and up are available for an additional cost.

Where to PLAY

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Port Discovery

35 Market Place

Baltimore’s children’s museum truly lives up to its name, providing kids with a day’s worth of activities for discovery. Exploring art, science and technology become ridiculously fun thanks to the engaging exhibits. Kids will particularly love the giant KidWorks three-story urban treehouse with rope bridges, “secret” passages and slides.

What to SEE

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The Walters Art Museum

600 North Charles Street

This world-renowned (and completely free) art museum is packed with works by Monet, Manet, artifacts from ancient Egypt and Rome and more. But parents know the museum’s master stroke was the establishing of a Family Art Center that provides kids with interactive gallery materials like drawing kits and art books. Saturdays and Sundays the museum hosts ever-changing, but always free, art activities for kids.

What to EAT

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Joe Squared Pizza

133 West North Avenue

This urban joint always appears on food critics’ lists for best pizza places in the country and it was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. But you will not see any Italian papis or red-checkered tablecloths here. Instead you get eclectic art and celebrated sourdough coal-fired pizzas baked in the out-of-the-ordinary square shape. Kids can customize their own pizza creations or choose from the interesting cheese and topping choices. Gluten-free eaters will appreciate the wheat-free pizza and pasta options.

Where to TREAT

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Pitango Gelato

802 South Broadway

The freshest, only locally-sourced ingredients make up the finest scoops of heaven at this Fells Point gelato shop. Freshly-squeezed tangerine juice, hand-ground pistachios and an entire pint of raspberries are expertly folded into each artisan cup. The cappuccinos and affogatos are crafted by baristas trained in the Italian art (complete with perfect latte art “leaves.”) Sure, this place will cost you a little more than the ice cream shop at the mall, but you will remember it for freaking ever. Take your gelatos out to watch the boats on the harbor while you savor.

Where to SHOP

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Sassanova

805 Aliceanna Street

OK, I will admit it: This final Baltimore pick is not for the children but for the women who are raising them.

The coolest boutique in town is stocked by the savviest buyers. Shelves and racks overflow with treasures by Calypso St. Barth, Tory Burch, DVF and loads of up-and-coming designers. Handbags and jewelry choices are always totally on-point. And the shoes! Sisters, the shoes picks are exquisite. Frequent sales, trunk shoes and awesome clearance racks make finding a little something special attainable.

Are you a Baltimore fan? What is your fav thing to do in Baltimore with kids?
Photos courtesy the destination websites and Getty images.
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Toyota Highlander

When Toyota challenged me to trade in my gas-guzzling SUV for a week with their Highlander Hybrid, I was skeptical. But, little did I know how cool this car would be.

On going hybrid

Toyota Highlander Hybrid Features

My family and I took the Toyota Highlander Hybrid on a week long adventure to Seattle. We were excited to leave our SUV parked for the week — as Seattle is known for its killer, gas-consuming hills — and try out a car that was actually quite similar to what we own in both size and features, but its hybrid counterpart.

To be honest, I was skeptical. I couldn’t imagine a hybrid, of all things, being able to withstand my lead foot and my city-driving tactics. And, there was no way that it would save me that much in gas over the week, especially with all of the driving we were planning on doing during our visit.

And, of course, I was wrong. From the moment my foot hit the peddle, I could tell that everything I thought I knew about hybrids (which was next to nothing) was wrong. There was no lag. I didn’t feel like I was driving a slug. In fact, it was quite zippy, even surviving what Seattleites lovingly call the Mercer Mess, a particularly hairy bought of traffic downtown that leads to the freeways. We tackled it at rush hour, with stop-and-go traffic for nearly an hour and it was a breeze in the Highlander.

Looking for something a bit smaller? Check out A look at the savvy Kia Sorento SX.

I admit that I was pretty obsessed with watching the power gauge on the dashboard, pictured above. I didn’t realize that a hybrid actually only charges (shown in blue) when you are moving, then put on the brakes. There were also times when the car would switch from hybrid to gas power when we were sitting in traffic for a long time, giving me a fun display of what was happening as it did. It took me a couple of days to adjust to that switch — the car is so quiet when it’s in hybrid-mode that I jumped every time the engine kicked on!

Over the course of the week, which would have guzzled at least a full tank of gas in my own SUV (brand withheld to protect the environmentally unfriendly), the Toyota Highlander barely used a quarter of a tank. I kept waiting for the gas gauge to drop, but it never did, and I was so impressed… as was my wallet.

6 Things I loved about this car

Other than it’s hybrid features, here are some other things my family and I loved about the Toyota Highlander Hybrid:

1. The roomy backseat: I have to admit that the Highlander Hybrid took out my car, hands down, on space, when it came to the backseat. Both of my kids — one in a car seat and one in a booster — both had ample room, which means that I didn’t have little feet kicking my seat while I drove.

Toyota Highlander Cupholders Down

2. The easy-access third row: We put the third row into use on the Highlander Hybrid and we  loved how the center console easily folded away to allow my oldest daughter to sneak into the back.

Visiting Seattle like we did? Take note of the Best Seattle restaurants for the whole family.

Toyota Highlander Dashboard

3. The sneaky dash compartment: It sounds silly, but I really loved the long, slim, open compartment that went along the length of the dashboard in the front seat. It would be perfect for stashing papers that need to go into school with the kids or for an extra book for long school pick-ups.

Toyota Highlander Sun Roof

4. The awesome sun roof: The entire roof seems to slide back on the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which the kids loved.

Toyota Highlander Trunk

5. The roomy trunk: Even with the third row up, there was a ton of space in the trunk for all of our gear and we put it to the test, multiple times, during that week!

6. The size, inside and out: While I’ve shared how much I loved the spaces inside the car and how roomy they seemed, it’s equally important to share that this car isn’t huge. They’ve maximized every spare inch on the interior, but the car itself is small-ish and sporty and very easy and smooth to drive.

Do you have a hybrid? Do you love it?
If not, would you switch your gas-guzzling SUV for one? 

 This car was provided for review. All sassy opinions are my own.

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