Why Airbnb?

Why Airbnb? Five benefits of choosing an Airbnb over a traditional hotel for your next trip (and a couple drawbacks).

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Airbnb has quickly become a trend in the travel community. It allows hosts to show off their accommodation for rent and allows travelers to quickly and easily find a place to stay at their destination. When compared to traditional hotels Airbnb offers many perks.

1. We will start with the most basic: the cost. Often times, although not all, an Airbnb can be rented for a much lower price than a hotel room. Along with the lower costs, you often get more for the money. On several occasions I have rented entire homes for less than the cost of some hotel rooms. It is most private, comfortable, and homelike.

2. There is a great variety of options. You can find any type of accommodation on Airbnb, including entire homes, private bedrooms in a home, cabins, camping sites, apartments, condos, and houseboats. The opportunities are endless and offer unique experiences you otherwise would not have had.

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3. The location. Although you can get hotel rooms that are out of the way and not in the popular tourist areas, Airbnb offers many more options to get you as close to where you want to be as possible. If you would rather be out in the country-there is something for you. If you would rather be in the city-there is something for you. Airbnb makes it easier to get closer to your desired location.

4. Flexibility. Airbnb can offer more flexibility with check in and check out times. From my experience, 99% of the time check in will be through a lock box that you retrieve the keys from or a code. In general, you don’t have to be there by a certain or forfeit the room. Without having to worry about getting to the front desk before closing you are free to enjoy whatever adventures you may have planned for that day.

5. Space. Airbnb accommodations often offer more space than a traditional hotel room would. I once stayed in a very expensive, fancy home for less than the cost of a hotel room. The home had 7 rooms, 4 bathrooms, 3 floors, and plenty of room for privacy. Splitting the cost of the nightly rate with my travel party made for an inexpensive, amazing experience.

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There are, of course, some draw backs to using Airbnb as well. You are trusting that the host is being truthful about the accommodations and that on arrival you will get what was expected. However, on occasion, disappointment can happen and the accommodations are not as advertised. My advice would be to research before booking an accommodation. Review the host reviews. I tend to avoid accommodations if there are not adequate reviews and I do not feel confident with the booking.

Another draw back is the fees. This does not apply to every booking, but occurs often enough to make it worth mentioning.  Cleaning/service fees are left to the discretion of the host, and some hosts take this as an opportunity to up the price. Although the prices of the accommodations tend to run lower than a traditional hotel room, the extra fees are something to watch out for.

A Family Friendly 2 Day Itinerary in Montreal, Canada

Day 1:

On day one we arrived to Montreal mid-afternoon. Our first task was to track down a currency exchange location and then we continued on our way to the Montreal Botanical Gardens. Our first stop proved to be a very unfortunate start to our visit.  We arrived to the sight of fire trucks and police cars lining the entrance. We were, however, still able to enter the parking lot and walk to the entrance of the gardens. Upon arrival, however, we soon discovered that the power was out and thus the computers were down. The admission booth was unable to allow ticket purchases and therefore only the lucky few that had paid ahead and had printed tickets at home were able to enter. This was not us.

We, therefore, had no choice but to continue on to our next stop: Olympic Stadium. This was a much more pleasant experience. We parked in the underground parking (take note, however, that this is not inexpensive) and entered the stadium. We strolled past the Montreal Biodome, which unfortunately was closed at the time of our visit due to construction. We continued on to the Montreal Tower. We took the two minute ride to the top and took in the stunning views of the stadium and surrounding city of Montreal. After the ride we spent some time exploring the grounds of the stadium and enjoying lunch from a Mexican themed food truck on the premises.

Our next stop was Old Montreal. I can not say enough about Old Montreal, I would be satisfied spending the entire trip in Old Montreal. The atmosphere is wonderful and the architecture is absolutely stunning. The cobblestone streets and charming shops and cafes take you right back into the 17th century.

Our first stop in Old Montreal was Notre-Dame Basilica (it was close to closing and I didn’t want to miss it!). The design and architecture of the interior is splendid. The church was very crowded, even less than an hour before closing. The entrance line spanned the street and many had to be turned away. Any trip to Montreal would not be complete without a visit. Directly across from the basilica is the Place D’Armes Square, where live music was being played during our stop at the basilica.

After visiting Notre-Dame Basilica we headed down St. Sulpice Street for some shopping and a bite to eat. We found a small café that offered homemade ice cream and an old-fashioned candy shop, where we spent a few minutes relaxing. We then headed down Notre-Dame St. East to Place Jacques Cartier. Here we were greeted by many street performers and vendors. My daughter was naturally drawn to the woman making balloon animals. After exploring Place Jaques Cartier we headed down St. Paul St. to Bonsecours Market. We didn’t spend to much time here before heading down to the Old Port of Montreal, but did get some great views of the architecture and cobblestone streets. There was a summer festival going on at the time with fair like vendors set up and inflatables for the kids at the Old Port. After a short jump we headed to La Grande Roue de Montreal. Once again we were greeted with stunning views of Montreal from above, and the line was very short. From above we got views of pedal boats and zip liners. The Old Port of Montreal offers plenty of activities any member of the family is sure to love.

After the ride on La Grande Roue de Montreal we headed back for check in for our accommodations for the night. For this trip we opted for an Airbnb, which was definitely the right choice. For less than we would have paid a standard hotel room we were able to enjoy our evening in a condo with a private balcony offering stunning views of the Montreal skyline. After check in we headed straight to the balcony, enjoyed our dinner while taking in the breathtaking views of the city, and ended up falling asleep (unintentionally) on the patio couch. I think this was one of the most relaxing naps I’ve ever taken!

Day 2:

We started the day at Parc Jean-Drapeau. Navigating through the park to get to the locations we wanted to visit was a little bit difficult at first, but once we got the hang of it we were able to find our way. The majority of our time was spent at the Jean-Doré Beach. We arrived shortly after opening while the crowds were still low, giving us a couple hours to enjoy a chunk of the beach to ourselves. There were various food trucks set up along the beach and we were able to save some time from stopping for lunch. There was also a hopping bar, for those of you who enjoy a good drink while soaking up the sun.  One important lesson we learned was, unlike our home town, never feed the seagulls. My daughter and I are accustomed to feeding the seagulls at our local beaches, but we were provided with some scowling from the lifeguards when they took note of the swarm of seagulls around us. We soon found out that these seagulls are not very friendly and have no problem jumping up onto the table and stealing the bun right off your burger. Boy was that an experience!

We spent the second half of the day before venturing home hiking Mount Royal. If you are looking to enjoy some nature in this very city like environment Mount Royal is the perfect choice! You can start at the bottom and hike to the peak or you can drive up with a couple parking lots at Beaver Lake, Chalet Du Mont Royal, and the overlook. We chose to drive up. The walk to Beaver Lake is a short one from the parking and worth the stop. There is also a very nice restaurant near the lake, but we did not stop for a meal. Take note that you do have to pay for parking at the top, but once you pay you can park in any of the parking lots along the Mount Royal drive throughout the day. If you’re lucky you may be able to find someone willing to give you their ticket on their way out-it seems to be a common thing there.

The must do on Mount Royal is the Chalet Du Mont Royal. It sits near the summit with absolutely stunning views of Montreal’s skyscrapers. It is a short walk from the parking area and a great place to relax. It is the most populated area on Mount Royal, so be prepared for the crowds. Inside the building is a souvenir shop and small café offering great treats and coffee, of course. One of the most memorable moments of our trip occurred on our way back to the car from Chalet Du Mont Royal. We came across three racoons, who were very obviously accustomed to people. We spent some time admiring them and then continued on our way.

After visiting the Chalet, if you continue on the drive you will come to an over-look area. While the views are not quite as spectacular as those from the chalet, these are still worth stopping for. This location also gives you access to some hiking trails, taking you to the summit and Mount Royal cross. Also at this location you will find a small bar with a balcony and wooden swings.

After visiting Mount Royal we said goodbye to Montreal and continued on our way.

Three tips for making the most out of your visit to Montreal:

1. One important thing to consider when visiting Montreal, not unlike most cities, is the parking. Almost every attraction you visit you can expect to pay for parking. If you plan to travel around the city via personal vehicle be sure to include this in your budget.

2. Research festivals before arriving. To make the most of your visit and take in life as a local be sure to do some research before arriving and see what festivals are going on during your visit. The Old Port of Montreal often has some kind of celebration going on.

3. Map out Old Montreal. Old Montreal is full of great sights, history, shopping, and food. There are public walking tours available (at a small price) or you can do some research and go at your own pace (my preference). A little planning will ensure you see all the highlights.

15 Family Friendly Attractions in Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Falls, Canada is one of the most famous water falls in the world. It is full of great attractions and is a wonderful option for family vacations. Check out these 15 great family friendly attractions for your family!

The Horseshoe Falls as seen from Skylon Tower. 2018.
  1. The Falls

It goes without saying that the number one attraction in Niagara Falls, Canada is the falls. Every member of your family will marvel at the thundering sounds of the water rushing over the falls. You can walk along the Niagara Parkway, getting up close to the top of the Horseshoe Falls and taking in stunning views of the American Falls across the river. The mist spraying off of the Horseshoe Falls is a great way to cool down on a hot day. For ideas on how to get up close and personal falls click here.

2. Clifton Hill

Clifton Hill is a fun filled street a short distance from the Falls that offers many great kid friendly attractions, including mini golf, bowling, an arcade, an upside down house, a maze, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and the Hollywood Wax Museum. There is something here for everyone…my daughter had a blast.

3. The Floral Clock

Be sure to take the short drive from the Falls to the Niagara Falls floral clock, a flower bed in the shape of a clock featuring the words Niagara Parks. It is a beauty to see and at most times does not seem to be overly crowded. Another plus-this is a free attraction!

The Niagara Floral Clock

4-The Bird Kingdom

Located along the Niagara Parkway a short distance from the falls is the Bird Kingdom, the largest free flying aviary in the world. The Bird Kingdom features many different species of parrots and other exotic animals. You will have a hands on experience. This is a great attraction for the whole family, especially if you have animal lovers in the bunch!  Tickets are required for this attraction and can be pre-purchased online for a discount. On-line tickets are $15.95 for adults and $11.95 for children.

5-Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory

The Niagara Falls Butterfly Conservatory was a highlight from our recent trip. Enter the conservatory and you are met with array of different butterfly species. Be sure to watch your step…you don’t want to step on any of these critters and don’t be surprised if a butterfly makes you its landing spot! This attraction is $16 for adults and $10 for children.

6-Fallsview Indoor Waterpark and Arcade

The Fallsview Indoor Water Park is a great option to escape the heat on a summer day and enjoy some splashes.  The waterpark is located near Clifton Hill, just a few minutes from the falls. There is also an arcade in the building that the kids will love. Right next door is the Rainforest Café, a great option for lunch or dinner with animals that come to life.

7-Journey Behind the Falls

Journey Behind the Falls is a great experience for the whole family. Take an elevator ride down 125 ft. to underground tunnels that take you just below and behind the horseshoe falls. This journey will show you just how mighty the falls are and the kids will enjoy wearing the provided ponchos and getting splashed by the falls. Admission tickets are $22 for adults and $14 for children.,

The platform 125ft. down at Journey Behind the Falls. 2018.

8-Skylon Tower

Skylon Tower is a great way to get views of the falls from above. The base of the tower also features an arcade that the kids will be sure to enjoy. The tower offers 360 views of the falls and the city. Also located inside the tower at the observation levels are a 360 rotating restaurant and stationary restaurant that will give you great views of the falls.

9-Whirlpool Aero Car

Take a ride on the Whirlpool Aero Car, which is suspended 200ft. above, will take you over the Niagara Whirlpool. For younger children this can be quite the thrilling experience and is a great way to see the whirlpool. Admission tickets are $16 for adults and $10.25 for children.

The Niagara River. 2018.

10-Visit the Niagara Botanical Gardens

Get away from the crowds at the falls and take the approximately 20 min. drive to the Niagara Botanical Gardens where you can walk the 99 acre garden taking in the beautiful flowers and trees. It is a quiet, peaceful way to spend a couple hours. There is also an option for a horse drawn carriage ride around the gardens to make your little girl feel like a princess.  

11-Visit the Dufferin Islands Park

Dufferin Islands Park is another great way to escape the crowds of the falls and visit a location that is well known to the locals. Dufferin Island Park is made up of several small islands that are connected by bridges and walk ways. Pack a lunch and enjoy the secluded, quiet area with great views.

12-Visit the Queen Victoria Park

Located on the other side of the Niagara Parkway from the falls is Queen Victoria Park. Spend some time walking the park, enjoying the views of the falls and the numerous gardens, and have a picnic lunch while the kids run and play. This is a great, free attraction for the family to enjoy.

13-Visit Old Fort Erie

Take the approx. 24km ride from Niagara Falls to Old Fort Erie at the end of the Niagara River. Here you can explore the grounds of the famous fort that played a role in the American Revolution and served as an entrance point into Canada as part of the Underground Railroad. Here the kids can spread their legs and run while taking in some history lessons.

14-Take a Hornblower Cruise

Hop on a boat and cruise past the American falls and up to the foot of the Horseshoe falls with Hornblower Cruises, Canada’s version of the Maid of the Mist. This cruise is something that the whole family can enjoy, from toddlers to adults. If you are able there is a night time fireworks cruise option that will take you out under the falls at night where you can admire the illumination of the falls and end the evening with a fireworks show over the falls. For more information on Hornblower Niagara Cruises click here.

15-Visit the Niagara Glen Nature Area

The Niagara Glen Nature Area is located nearby the Whirlpool Aero Car and is another great quiet, secluded adventure. The nature area is comprised of 4km of walking trails with overlooks of the whirlpool and glen. As you walk the trails you will come into contact with many natural rock formations. The trails are free of charge, but be aware that you may have to pay for parking. Be sure to bring proper footwear, it is a hike. Due to the steepness of the climb, it may not be appropriate for younger children.

All images are original and copyrighted. © Navigation Junkie, 2019.

Is There a Difference Between a Traveler and a Tourist?

We’ve all heard the term traveler and we’ve all heard the term tourist. Is there a difference? Is one different than the other? Is there a difference between going on vacation and traveling? This seems to be a major debate in the travel world. Some say those who proclaim themselves as travelers vs. tourists are snobby tourists and that they really is no difference.

In my opinion, a traveler is much different than a tourist. A tourist is going someplace to get away from their daily life, they are going for a break, a vacation. They are going to see the major, famous landmarks and then returning home. For a traveler, however, travel is their life. A “vacation” is not the exception from their normal life, it is their life. A traveler seeks to immerge themselves into cultures around the world. They seek to see, feel, hear, taste, and experience all that a culture has to offer to better understand that culture. A traveler is more at home on the road than they are at home.

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My goal is not to define myself as a somehow superior individual because of the extent and depth that I enjoy traveling, experiencing the culture, and immersing myself into that culture. I make no such judgements or thoughts that a tourist is somehow less than a traveler, only that there are two separate definitions. Seeing the major landmarks at a destination is part of that culture and there is something to be cherished about visiting them. I do not assume that a traveler can not visit these sites, but they do so in an attempt to better understand the culture.

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  1. A tourist is visiting a destination for the popular attractions, a traveler seeks to immerge into the culture of the destination they are visiting.
  2. A tourist looks forward to their annual or bi-annual vacations while a traveler is constantly planning their next trip. It is a part of their everyday life.
  3. A tourist wants to see all the main sites, a traveler wants to see these too, but also wants to see the off the beaten path locations.
  4. A tourist stands out from the locals, a tourist attempts to blend in-to dress like a local, to learn the local language, to learn the local culture and social standards.
  5. A tourist tends to travel in a group, while a traveler may often travel solo.  
  6. A tourist may eat at nice, fancy restaurants, while a traveler will eat where the locals do.
  7. A tourist tends to stay in their comfort zone. A traveler pushes to leave their comfort zone.
  8. A tourist seeks to enjoy themselves, a traveler seeks to learn something.
  9. A tourist seeks to take a break from their lives, a traveler’s life revolves around each trip.
  10. A tourist tends to stay in the nice, 3-4 star hotels. A traveler will stay anywhere-a hostel, a motel, camping in the middle or nowhere, hell even sleep in their car.
  11. A tourist takes the trip and then returns to work. A traveler has most likely turned traveling into their work in one form or another.
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Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being a tourist. We all at point in our lives have been a tourist. It is great to get away, to see a destination, to experience the locations that you always hear about, but truly being a traveler represents much more than that. Is one better than the other? No. It is simply a difference in life style.

Do you agree? Is there a difference between being a traveler and a tourist? Feel free to comment below with any thoughts!

A Northeastern Road Trip: Part 2

Days 3-5

Stop 1: New Haven, CT (Day 3)

We spent the morning of day 3 exploring the campus of Yale University in New Haven, CT. The architecture that is on the campus is stunning. We stopped at the Yale University Art Gallery and saw some stunning artwork. Even the four year old enjoyed it! Another plus-the art gallery is free of charge.

After walking the campus for about an hour we headed to the nearby Grove St. Cemetery, where we located the grave of Eli Whitney, the inventor of the cotton gin. We then headed to the Providence, RI.

Stop 2: Providence, RI (Day 3)

After checking out Yale University we headed to Providence, RI to spend the afternoon and evening. Our first stop was the Roger Williams park. The park is home to a zoo, Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, Carousel Village, and gardens. Our first stop was the Museum of Natural History and Planetarium, which is full of animal themed exhibits and a large planetarium that offers shows throughout the day. There is also a little scavenger hunt that the children can do and in exchange they win a small prize. This was a great hit with my daughter!

After the museum we spent some time walking around the gardens and visiting the Carousel Village. The village offered a carousel ride, train ride, and a nice play area for the kids, another great hit with my daughter. If visiting Providence with small children this park is a must!

After spending the afternoon at the Roger Williams park we headed over to Little Italy. It was a little smaller than expected, but it still offered some great views and great food! We browsed the streets for a little while and had a bite to eat at Angelo’s Italian Restaurant.

We concluded our evening in Providence with a boat ride on the Providence River. It was a great, relaxing way to end the evening with great sunset views and views of the city. All in all Providence, RI was a beautiful place to visit and was very family friendly!

Stop 3: Atlantic City, NJ (Day 4)

Day 4 was more of a relaxed day with some beach time and boardwalk exploring in Atlantic City. We spent the day at Steel Pier and the nearby beach along the Jersey shore line. Steel Pier offers a number of different classic amusement park rides as well as helicopter tours that take off from the end of the pier (but with a high price of course). And don’t forget boardwalk fries of course!

Stop 4: Philadelphia, PA (Day 5)

 The last day of our road trip was spent in Philadelphia, PA, the City of Brotherly Love. We opted for the hop on/hop off package as we had limited time in the city and wanted to see as much as we could.

We started the morning at the Liberty Bell Visitor Center and Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell Center is free to visit. It takes you through a hall of exhibits about the history of the Liberty Bell and then brings you to the end lobby where the Liberty Bell now sits. Arriving as early as possible is recommended, the center can become quite crowded, making it difficult to get unobstructed views.

 We chose not to take a tour of Independence Hall due to time constraints, but if you have the time it would be a great option! The tour is free, but a timed ticket is required. The tickets are handed out beginning at 830am at the Independence Visitor Center.

We enjoyed a nice, breezy ride on the top deck of a hop on/hop off bus which allowed us to take in views of many major points and sights in the city. Generally I like the freedom of being able to choose where I want to go and go on my own time, but for a quick and easy way to a destination bus tours are great options.

The first stop that we got off at was Eastern State Penitentiary. Eastern State Penitentiary is a former prison located in Philadelphia that was open from 1829 to 1971. At one point it housed Al Capone and his cell block is still viewable today. The prison is open for tours most days from 10am to 5pm and admission tickets are $14 a person, but well worth it, especially if you interested in exploring abandoned buildings. Check out more on Eastern State Penitentiary here.

After Eastern State Penitentiary we hoped on the bus to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to check out the famous Rocky Steps and Rocky Statue. We didn’t spend much time here, but did climb some of the steps (it was a very hot day) and posed for a photo with the Rocky Statue. Warning: You may have to wait in quite the line to snap a pic with Rocky.

From here we went on to the Philadelphia Zoo, a great attraction for families with small children. We spent some time exploring the zoo and viewing the animal exhibits. Our personal favorite was the Reptile and Amphibians exhibit-it was air conditioned! (Again, it was a very hot day!).

After a couple hours exploring the zoo we headed back to the car to begin our journey home, but not before taking in some stunning views of Philadelphia’s skyline.

Tips:

1-Big cities=limited parking. And the parking that is available may be high in pricing. Be prepared to pay the prices for city parking or find an alternate way into the city, such as a bus, subway, or train. Another option-car pool!

2- When taking a road trip-be sure to plan a relaxing down day. While road trips are made for seeing and doing new things, you don’t want to over plan and overwhelm yourself. We had a great time enjoying all the new locations-but it was a lot for a 5 day period! I don’t think I would have changed it though-that beach day in Atlantic City was certainly needed.

You can find the itinerary for the first half of the road trip here.

All images are original and copyrighted. © Navigation Junkie, 2019.

Ten Family Friendly Things to do in Puerto Rico

The Seven Seas Beach

1-Visit the Carolina Children’s Museum  

Every young kid is sure to have a blast at Puerto Rico’s children’s museum. The museum is a 3 story museum offering many exhibits and play areas as well as a mini zoo outside, pedal boats, outdoor playground, and go-karts. HINT: If you need a break from the heat…this is a great option for your kiddos! They also have a small onsite café for refreshments on a hot day.

2-Explore El Morro and Castillo San Cristobal

El Morro, also called Castillo San Felipe del Morro, is a historic 16th century fort built by the Spanish to help protect Puerto Rico. Castillo San Cristobal is a nearby fort (within 2 miles) that was built in the 17th century. Both forts were a big hit for my daughter Olivia on our trip to Puerto Rico. Many areas of the fort offer big open spaces with plenty of room for the youngsters to run and explore. Olivia loved the winding staircases in particular. Along with exploring comes some history lessons for the kids as well, making it a fun yet educational experience.

When visiting El Morro be sure to bring a picnic lunch and kite! One of the great attractions of El Morro is kite flying on the rather large lawn. There are nearby vendors selling kites, but as they are much more expensive than you would find in a store I would definitely recommending getting one ahead of time.

  • 3-Spend the day at the beach!

Puerto Rico has no shortage of great white sand, turquoise water beaches to choose from. Pack up the kiddos and the sand toys and spend the day soaking up the sun. The kids can build sand castles and dip their feet in the ocean waves while you kick back with your favorite tropical drink and relax. The crystal clear waters will leave you feeling like your in paradise.

4-Visit the Carabali Rainforest Park

The Carabali Rainforest Park is situated at the bottom of the El Yunque Rainforest and offers a variety of activities for children of all ages. You can hop on the back of a horse and trot through the El Yunque Rainforest. The minimum age for this is 3, so even young kids can enjoy it. The park has horses of different sizes and your child will be fitted with a size appropriate horse. The tour guides will also ride next to your child to ensure their safety. For older children (12 years and up) there is a horseback riding through the beach option, another great experience.

Aside from horseback riding the park also offers hayrides to a small river, go kart racing, and ATV/UTV adventures. The hay ride was a nice, relaxing experience. My daughter seemed to enjoy this much more than the horseback riding, which leads me to say that this may be a better option for the younger children. It was a scenic ride and the Mameyes River was a great place to cool down a little bit from the hot summer sun.  The go-kart racing was a typical go-karting experience, but what kid doesn’t love racing around the tracks? I will not comment on the ATV/UTV adventure as we were unable to experience this. This adventure is designed for older children. After all the fun you can grab a delicious bite to eat at the Carabali Bar and Grill.

5-Go Kayaking/ Snorkeling

Puerto Rico’s beaches have many great options for kayaking and snorkeling adventures. On our trip we rented a kayak through the Pirate Snorkeling Shack in Farjado. We were able to rent a kayak for $20 for the hour and explore the Seven Seas Beach. We were also able to rent some snorkeling gear and observe some ocean life. The great thing about the Pirate Snorkeling Shack is they have snorkeling gear for younger children so they too can enjoy the experience. This is a must do adventure for any Puerto Rico trip.

6-Visit the Pigeon Park

The Pigeon Park located in Old San Juan one of the highlights of the trip. After getting over the initial fear my daughter absolutely fell in love with this park. There is a vendor right outside the entrance of the park selling pigeon food for $3 a bag. As soon as you enter the park you are swarmed by hungry pigeons who have no reserve about landing on you and coming after the food. The pigeon park provides many laughs and great memories!

7-Explore Old San Juan

Spend some time walking the color filled streets of Old San Juan and enjoy some shopping, good food, and mini parks.  Walk around the city walls and take in the views of the waterfront and visiting the old city gate. Be sure to stop and pose for a photo in front of the Puerto Rico flag door on Calle San Jose street and visit La Fortaleza Street to view the colorful umbrellas.

8-Take a day excursion to Flamenco Beach

We ended our visit to Puerto Rico with a day excursion to Flamenco Beach through East Island Excursions and it was definitely a great way to end the trip! My daughter had a blast right from the get go, laughing hysterically as the boat hit the waves (it was a bit of a windy, rough waves type of day). We were first brought to an area to snorkel before heading to the world famous Flamenco Beach. Before heading to Flamenco Beach  we enjoyed a delicious, tropical lunch with sandwiches, tropical pasta dishes, and fruit. Another plus…we had access to a free open bar for most of the trip.

We were instantly met with stunning views as we pulled into Flamenco Beach and spent the afternoon enjoying the crystal clear water and walking the white sandy beach. It was by far one of the most beautiful beaches I have had the pleasure of visiting.

9-Visit the Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park

The Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park is a little out of the way of San Juan, but well worth the drive. We spent the majority of the day exploring the many hands on exhibits, including an Indian village, pirate cave, pirate ship, the Spanish conquest, playground, mini aquarium, and Splash by the Lighthouse (mini water park). The Arecibo Lighthouse is also located on the grounds and although we were not able to go into the lighthouse on our visit we were able to go the base and get some great views.

10-Visit Cuevo del Indio

Cuevo del Indio is located close to the Arecibo Lighthouse and Historical Park (about a ten minute drive) and is a great little adventure. After the Lighthouse Park we headed here. There is a parking lot near the entrance and a small fee to walk the path, but well worth it. After a short walk we reached the rocks and caves. I would recommend extreme caution if visiting with younger children, but my daughter was perfectly safe (four years old) and we were not the only ones visiting there that day with young children. You are able to climb down into the caves where Indian carvings can be found on the walls, but there is no longer a ladder for easy access. We skipped this part as it would be too dangerous with young children, but were still able to enjoy many great views.

Puerto Rico is a wonderful, tropical destination and as you can see a great destination for a family vacation. I would highly recommend it when considering your next family vacation!

Looking for more reasons to visit Puerto Rico? Check out these eight great reasons here.

Five Reasons to Stay at Disney’s All Star Movies Resort

When some people think of Disney they see a big fat $ sign. Why? It’s a well known fact that a Disney vacation can become quite expensive, especially if you want to stay on Disney World property.

There are, however, some less expensive options, but is the lower price worth it? I’m here to say it is and to show you why with a review on one of Disney World’s Budget hotels: The All Star Movies Resort.

I have stayed at the All Star Movies Resort multiple times, and while it may not be as fancy and luxurious as the other Disney World Hotels such as the Grand Floridian and Animal Kingdom’s Wilderness Lodge, it still has a lot to offer!

Here are five reasons why I love Disney’s All Star Movies Resort:

  1. It is a dream come true for children (and the young at heart). Disney’s All Star Movies Resort is full of larger than life size characters from some of their favorite Disney movies including the 101 Dalmatians, Toy Story, the Mighty Ducks, Fantasia, and Love Bug. This alone makes staying at this hotel a wonderful experience for children and even some adults who are given the opportunity to be a kid again. I honestly keep choosing to stay at this hotel because I feel that my daughter may get bored in the absence of all the décor at the All Star Movies Resort.
  2. The hotel features two great pools to cool off in on a hot day. Disney’s All Star Movies Resort is home to two pools: The Mighty Duck Pool and the Fantasia pool. My daughter’s and I favorite preferred pool is the Fantasia pool due to the Mickey Mouse statue and fountain. However, we have used both pools and both are a great place to cool off and relax on a cool day.
  3. The hotel offers many great activities. The hotel features many great activities for guests to participate in throughout the day such as crafts (e.g. t-shirt tie dying) or movies under the stars. There is also a playground on the grounds for kids to enjoy. If the parks are overwhelming and the children need a place to calm down the All Star Movies Resort is a great place to do that while still having a blast!
  4.  Food options-The hotel features the World Premier Food Court, which offers a variety of different meal options.  There is also pizza delivery options available. The restaurant is a quick service restaurant, so it is great for a busy schedule at the Disney Parks. It always seems to be a great option for me.  The pool side bar is another great feature for the adults who want to kick back and relax at the end of the night.
  5. Perhaps the most obvious reason to stay at Disney’s All Star Movies Resort is the price! You get all the benefits of staying on Disney World property as you would If you were staying in one of the more expensive resorts, including transportation to and from the park, delivery of souvenirs to the hotel, options for in-room celebrations, and magic hour access to the parks, but at a much lower price.

Disney’s All Star Movies Resort is one of the three All Star Resorts. The All Star Sports and All Star Music Resorts have comparable prices, but as I have not personally stayed at either I will not comment on them. I will, however, say that I have never had a bad experience with the All Star Movies Resort.

When I am planning a trip to Disney, the All Star Movies Resort is my go to for the above reasons and always seems to make our trip more enjoyable. I would highly recommend it if you have a tighter budget for your Disney vacation.

A 3 Day Itinerary for Rochester, NY

Rochester, NY is a medium sized city located about an hour outside Buffalo, NY. My daughter and I took a weekend trip here recently and discovered that it is full of family friendly attractions. If you’re looking for a short getaway with the kiddies Rochester may be a good fit!

The Freddie-Sue Bridge, Rochester, NY (2019).

Day 1:

We arrived in Rochester, NY at about 5pm on a Friday night. Our first order of business was checking into out hotel: Rodeway Inn Rochester Airport. The hotel was a budget hotel, so nothing luxurious. It was, however, a clean, quiet environment. Our stay also included free breakfast, which was decent. Again, nothing luxurious, but it filled us up. If you are looking for an inexpensive stay in Rochester I would recommend this hotel.

After checking in to the hotel we headed to the Clubhouse Fun Center, an attraction aimed specifically for my daughter. Here we played some mini-golf, raced some go-karts, and tested our luck in the arcade. It was a bit crowded when we went, but it was a Friday night and there was a birthday party going on at the time. After the Clubhouse Fun Center we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a nearby McDonald’s and returned to the hotel.

Ontario Beach Park (2019).

Day 2:

8am: We started the morning at the Ontario Beach Park, which was a great choice. Ontario Beach Park is a gorgeous beach on Lake Ontario that features a pier, playgrounds, and benches to relax on. We went first thing in the morning and avoided the crowds and were able to spend some time walking along the shore looking for seashells while watching the seagulls play.  On our way out of Ontario Beach Park we stopped and took in some views of the Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse. It was not open for tours at the time we went, but it was still beautiful to view from the outside.

10am: Seneca Park Zoo

After we finished at the Ontario Beach Park and the lighthouse we headed over to the Seneca Park Zoo. It was a hot day, which made navigating the grounds of the zoo a little uncomfortable, but it was well worth it. The zoo features many animal exhibits as well as play areas for children and small learning centers on the campus with tablets featuring educational games. There were also many animal encounters/interactive shows throughout the day. We grabbed lunch at the zoo café, the standard fried foods, nothing too spectacular.

5pm: After the zoo we drove around the city and took in some sites, including the Susan B. Anthony, the Freddie-Sue Bridge, High Falls, Middle Falls, and Lower Falls. We spent some time walking the nature trails around the lower falls park before heading back to the hotel.

Day 3:

8am: We began our day with a complimentary breakfast at the hotel. Again, nothing to spectacular, but it filled us up for the morning.

9am: After breakfast we headed over to Highland Park, which  was full of bright, beautiful flowers and a castle featuring a sunken garden. We spent a couple hours walking around the park, relaxing in the shaded gardens, and viewing Warner Castle. After this we headed to the Strong Museum.

11am: The Strong Museum

Rochester is home to the Toy Hall of Fame featured inside the Strong Museum, a large children’s museum that is sure to be fun for children of all ages. The museum features a mini Wegman’s shopping center (a great hit for the kids), Sesame Street, an arcade, toys through the years on display, a butterfly garden, and fairy tale re-creations. We spent about 5 hours at the museum and were still not able to see everything. We headed home after this.

Tips:

If you are looking for a medium sized city that offers many great attractions-family friendly, historical, and natural, Rochester is a great option.

1-If you have the opportunity to visit, remember it is a city and therefore traffic may get heavy. Consider this when planning your trip.

2-If you have the opportunity to-visit the Toy Hall of Fame. It will bring back fond childhood memories for everyone.

3-If visiting Rochester, be sure to add on Niagara Falls! It is a must see only a 90 minute drive from Rochester. View some tips on viewing the falls here

A Northeastern US Road Trip: Part 1

Days 1 & 2

Last summer a friend, my daughter, and I ventured out on a 5 day road trip, leaving from NY. It was quite the experience and I was able to mark off 4 states from my bucket list: New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut as well as revisit two states: Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. We started in New York and headed out…

Warning: This road trip itinerary is far from relaxing, but it was designed specifically for what we wanted: to do and see as much as possible. Many long days with night driving were involved, but it was well worth it in the long run.

Stop 1: Cambridge, Massachusetts (Day 1)

Our first stop was Cambridge, MA, a short 15 minute drive outside of Boston. We set out to see the Harvard University Campus first thing in the morning. We decided on touring the campus on our own in the interest of time, but be aware that there are options for guided tours if you want to take in more of the history of the campus. These tours are timed but free of charge. We spent about two hours walking around the campus admiring the architecture and envisioning what life as a Harvard student must be like before continuing on to our main destination for the day: Boston.

Stop 2: Boston, Massachusetts (Day 2)

We drove the 15 minutes and arrived at our main destination for the day: Boston, MA. We decided on a parking garage located near the USS Constitution instead of attempting to find street parking. Immediately on leaving the garage we were met with downpour, a bit of a disappointment. We spent the first few minutes desperately trying to track down ponchos and were finally successful at one of the museums near the USS Constitution. We spent a quick few minutes touring the USS Constitution before continuing on the Boston Freedom Trail. We made our way to the Bunker Hill Monument (and the rain finally stopped). On our way to Bunker Hill we enjoyed strolling down some beautiful Boston streets.

A little rain never hurt anyone…

From Bunker Hill we continued on the Boston Freedom Trail, seeing many historical sites including Copp’s Hill Burying Grounds, Old North Church, the Paul Revere house (stopping for lunch at an Italian restaurant near this location), Faneuil Hall, site of the Boston Massacre, and the Old State House. I won’t get into the details about each of these sites in this post, but each has a significant relevance to American history.

The Freedom Trail continues for a few stops after the Old State House, but we did not complete it as we had to make it to the Boston Harbor for a whale watching excursion (which would become the highlight of the trip). We made our way down to the harbor and found our way to our dock. We boarded the boat and patiently enjoyed the cruise out to the Stellwagen Bank Marine Sanctuary, anticipating whale and other sea mammal sightings. While ourt on the water we encountered another rain storm, but once again did not let this ruin our experience. We did not spot any dolphins, but we did have three whales hanging out around the boat for about 40 minutes. This cruise was a big hit with my then 2 year old daughter (parents keep this in mind when visiting Boston with toddlers!)

Boston Harbor

After the whale watching cruise we headed back towards the car, making a stop near Quincy Market. This is a must for any trip to Boston, whether at night when most shops are closed, or during the day for some shopping. We visited at night so we didn’t get the shopping aspect, but we were able to watch many street performers, which was well worth the visit. Such diversity! This concluded the first day of our road trip and we made our way to our hotel for the night.

Stop 3: New Castle, New Hampshire (Day 2)

The next morning we were up and on our way by about 8am. We drove the approx. one and a half hour drive to New Castle, New Hampshire to visit Fort Constitution, an old military fort with the nearby Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse (our main reason for visiting). We spent about an hour or so exploring the old fort (free of charge). We took in some great views of the harbor and Portsmouth Lighthouse while we waited for the tours of the lighthouse to begin.

A view of the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse from Fort Constitution.

When it came our turn to tour the lighthouse we were greatly disappointed. My mini-me did not meet the height requirement to climb the lighthouse. We were therefore turned away, but we did get some good views of the lighthouse. (Parents-keep this in mind if traveling with young children-to this lighthouse or any lighthouse for that matter, make sure you always check the requirements).

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse

After visiting Fort Constitution we continued on to Portsmouth, NH’s Prescott Park where we spent the early afternoon.

Stop 4: Portsmouth, NH Prescott Park (Day 2)

Prescott Park is a water front park in Portsmouth that features gardens, harbor views, and festivals/concerts throughout the summer. We spent some time enjoying the gardens and walking near the water, a nice relaxing break from the busyness of the day before.

After enjoying the gardens we grabbed a bite to eat and headed on to Kittery, Maine.

Step 5: Kittery, Maine (Day 2)

After spending the morning and early afternoon in the sun, we drove the 20 minute drive to Kittery, Maine to spend some time at the beach. We spent the afternoon at Fort Foster, which is home to a beautiful beach and the ruins of an old fort that kids now use for exploration. We spent a couple hours enjoying the cool water and exploring the ruins.

Stop 6: Salem, Massachusetts (Day 2)

We concluded day 2 in Salem, Massachusetts with a Hocus Pocus Walking Tour. Salem is a small, quaint town in Massachusetts that forever has my heart. We spent some time exploring the streets of Salem and grabbing dinner at a local pizzeria before our tour began. We were only in Salem for a short amount of time, but the tour gave us the opportunity to see much of the town. If you are interested in the history of the Salem Witch Trials as well as a big movie fan of Hocus Pocus this tour is the perfect way to explore the town. It took us to many of the filming locations of the movie as well as many historic sites related to the witch trials.

After the tour we headed back to our hotel for the evening, concluding the second day of our road trip. (Stay tuned for Part 2: days 3-5).

Before I go I want to give you a couple of great road tripping tips:

1-Be prepared but spontaneous at the same time! Have a plan for where you want to go, but don’t be afraid to stop and see something that catches your eye! After all, that’s what life is all about!

2-Budget, budget, budget! Make sure that you have budgeted all the essentials before leaving-including gas, accommodations, food, tolls, and activities! You don’t want to run out of money and be stranded. Oh…and a big one if going to any major city…Parking! Prepare for the unexpected!

3-Make sure you have everything you need before you go-check out this road trip packing list!

As always-happy travels!

Road Tripping with Young Children: Ten Tips for Success

Road trips can be a great, exciting, and diverse experience, but a lack of planning and the presence of young children can result in disaster. I learned this first hand.

Don’t get me wrong, I did do some planning and had the important things planned out, such as destinations and accommodations, but many things slipped through the cracks and we paid the price. Lets just say, trying to sleep in a car with a toddler was not the best experience.

1. Make an itinerary

Road trips and spontaneity can be a great combination…but not when toddlers are involved. Before you go make out a plan of where you want to be and when. Make reservations for accommodations so you can be sure you will have a decent place to sleep with your toddlers.

2. Camp!

While I would say it is necessary to know where you’re going to sleep when a toddler is involved, it does not mean that camping is not an option! It will save you money in the long run and may even end up being a great experience.

3. Do your research!

Before leaving for the trip make sure you do your research on the destinations and the accommodations! The major downfall for my first road trip with my then 2 year old was quickly choosing a hotel with a low price. We arrived at the hotel, but within twenty minutes we were on our way out. The room was full of mold, had a musty, dirty smell, dirt in the bathtub, and was in a very sketchy area. In the interest of saving money I quickly booked the hotel and failed to properly research it prior to arrival. For any road trip, or any trip for that matter, I would recommend fully doing your research and choosing accommodations that fit your needs, not just your budget.

When road tripping with toddlers I would also recommend researching attractions that the toddler will enjoy. I find that the best way to road trip is to find an even combination between attractions geared towards the child and attractions that you may want to see.

4. Bring entertainment for the car ride!

On a road trip there is a great probability that you will spend many hours in the car. This can be boring for young children. Be sure to bring some form of entertainment for young children, whether that be toys or a tablet. It will make the ride much more enjoyable for you and them.

5. Make your playlist!

While driving radio stations can be tricky and you may not be able to get what you want. Making a playlist ahead of time will ensure you have the right music for the perfect road trip. You can also make a child friendly playlist that will keep them entertained.

6. Take the Road Less Traveled

If you have the time, spend some time driving the back roads instead of the highways. This may give you something a little more attractive to look at and can introduce you to local life. The scenery may be more entertaining for your toddler as well.

7. Eat Local

Chances are local restaurants will be cheaper than fancier ones. Another plus is that you will get to experience local life, always a great addition for any trip. Dive into the culture!

8. Make sure you have a working GPS

On any road trip you are going to need to know where you are going. Make sure that you have a working GPS, whether it be an actual GPS or your phone. I would recommend an actual GPS to avoid running into areas with low or no cell service. As a backup plan having maps or directions printed and with you can help prevent a possible disaster.

9. Have a full tank of gas…don’t push it!

Always make sure you have a full tank of gas before venturing out onto the next destination. You are unfamiliar with the location and you never know what may happen. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no gas and a toddler is not my idea of fun.

10. Stay Organized

Keep your luggage organized! When taking a road trip you generally will have all your luggage in the car-keep the most needed items accessible so that you don’t have to dig through suitcases on the side of the road. This applies especially when traveling with young children because as any parent knows-kids require a lot of equipment! Stay organized and reduce your stress!

11. Be flexible!

While traveling with a toddler it is important to have a plan for the basic necessities, such as a place to sleep. Having an outline of the destinations and attractions you want to visit is great-but don’t be disappointed if you are not able to hit all of those attractions. When traveling with toddlers things come up or things may take longer than expected. Be prepared ahead of time that you may not be able to hit all the spots you want to-this can help lessen the disappointment.

What are you tips on road tripping with a toddler?