The Disney Cruise Is Everything You Dreamed It Would Be !!!

So I started blogging because I love to write, almost as much as I love to eat, and travel the world.  But the day that I found out that I was pregnant with my second child, I lost all interest in writing, eating out, and traveling.  For some reason, I just changed.  I stopped coordinating events for my dinner club, stopped making travel plans, and gave up on my blog.   Even after the shock of being a mother of two went away, I still could not get motivated to write.  My husband and I would dine at an amazing restaurant and I would say ” wow this place really deserves to be discussed on the blog” but I would never take any action.   Although I hoped that I would get back into it, I feared that Eat Breathe Travel was a thing of the past.  That was until …our recent Disney Cruise!  

 

A close friend was planning to go on the Disney cruise and I decided to join her.  I thought that it would be the prefect gift for my oldest daughter’s fifth birthday.  Well I was right!! It was the prefect gift.  Going on the cruise was a great experience for my family.

There are so many websites dedicated to the Disney Cruise that I originally thought I had nothing to add, but let me just share a few things that I learned from my experience and touch on some highlights :

  • Book early to a get a lower price:  Disney can get pricey, so try to book as far out in advance as possible.  Once you select a date, go ahead and book.  The price increases about every two weeks so make a decision and put down the deposit like yesterday!  I called one day and was quoted approx. $1,750 for my family of four ( 2 adults 2 kids under 5 years old) I called back less that two weeks later and the price had increased to approx.  $2,000.  I booked that day and kicked myself for a few weeks for losing $300.00 due to procrastination.
  • Pay for you trip by the deadline or else: Disney is great about payment plans but... You can pay online and you can pay as much or as little as you like, you just have to have the trip paid off 60 days before your travel date.  Oh but if you miss that deadline it is a done deal!  Disney will not entertain extending the deadline for you or anyone else.  If you miss the deadline, Disney will refund your money and cancel your reservation faster than you can say Mickey Mouse.  Take as long as you want to pay… but pay before the deadline please!
  • The three day trip is a beast:  We had a ball but we had no time to rest.  Everything is do or die.  Because the trip is so short, plan accordingly.  If you do the trip that goes to Nassau, Bahamas and you have been to Nassau before, stay on the boat and chill.  If your trip goes to Castaway Cay the following day, save your energy for that.  At Castaway Cay your food and transportation are included in the cruise price.  The beach is great and there are enough lounge chairs and umbrellas to accommodate everyone …so spend your time there.  Ok…back to Nassau…if you have been and can miss it, then take that time to do fun stuff with the kids on the boat like hang out at the pool and get great photos, and eat and drink all day.  Doing so, helped us save our sanity and reboot from all of the craziness  of travel and just being on a Disney Cruise ..lol
  • The nightly performances are not to be missed:  They are offered twice a night to accommodate both dinner seating times.  The shows are Broadway quality and we enjoyed everyone of them.  They are great and should not be missed for any reason!!! Don’t miss the shows ok?
  • Kids Club.…super fun for the kids, super necessary for the parents, super safe ( get registered before you sail and include everyone in your party that is allowed to pick your child up…if you are with a big group you may want to allow a few people to collect your child)  Just a note:  there is kids club at Castaway Cay as well…that was a game changer for us.

Disney rocks!! Here are a few other examples:

  • Hand washing stations at the buffet:  I am so funny about buffet style eating largely due to the cleanness or lack thereof of the patrons.  Well Disney addresses that issue head on.  There are hand washing stations and hand sanitizer at each restaurant entrance..use them.
  •  Complimentary strollers: Can I also say that Disney provides complimentary strollers at Castaway Cay so you don’t have to take yours off the boat !!!!
  • Healthy Food: Disney offers healthy food options.  In addition to the all you can eat soft serve ice cream and endless soft drinks,  you can also get fresh cut fruit, smoothies, salads, and wraps.

Everything else you need to know all the way down to which travel route is quicker can be found at: https://www.mousesavers.com

Worth mentioning:

  • Rental car companies run shuttles to Port Canaveral.  If you are traveling by rental car you can drop it off at Orlando Intentional Airport and ride the shuttle to Port Canaveral instead of paying  for a rental car to sit parked at the port and paying for parking.  Parking at the port for the 3 night cruise is ($64.00).
  • If you are traveling with a large party ensure that your rooms are linked so that you will be seated together for dinner.  We had a party of 20 and although we made arrangements in advance, they did not get us seated together until the final night.  It was a real bummer ..but that was the worst of it.
  • Carry your own collapsible water bottles .  We got these and they were a great purchase.   The non-alcoholic beverages are unlimited on the ship, but going back and forth to get them can be a hassle.  Make things easy by taking your own bottles.
  • The gym is good too! Imagine getting your taking your daily run overlooking beautiful ocean views.

Above all else, have a really good time!  Planning a Disney Cruise can seem intimidating.   Print off a good check-list and do your research ….but by all means enjoy your family and have a ball !

Happy trails

Travel Necessities: The Braun ThermoScan 5 Ear Thermometer: It’s Quick, Easy, and Accurate!

When I travel, I try to pack light and carry only the necessities.  Despite my best efforts, I still end up with too much stuff anyway.  Lately, I have been compiling a list of must have items for every family trip so that I can be a bit more organized and cut down on some of the clutter.  I recently added a new item to my travel medical supply list: the Braun ThermoScan 5Ear ThermometerBraun ThermoScan 5 ear thermometer I was recently asked to review this product and I was pleasantly surprised.  I have always been curious about which thermometer renders the most accurate reading.  Braun addresses this question in the first few pages of the owner’s manual.  According to Braun, the ear temperature is the most accurate measurement because the eardrum shares blood supply with the temperature control center of the brain.  Therefore, changes in body temperature are reflected sooner in the ear than other sites on the body  (p. 5 Braun ThermoScan 5 manual 6500 2014).

Likes :  There were several things that I liked about this product.  The very best thing about this thermometer is the speed!  The device only takes about three seconds to render an accurate reading. That’s amazing for me because my daughter hates getting her temperature taken!   Another thing that I liked is that it comes with batteries ( seems like a small thing but when you are traveling or even at home with a sick kid you need all the help you can get).  Another great convenience, it comes with a lens filter already installed so the product can be used immediately after it is taken out of the packaging.  Having the lens filter installed also gives new users a guide when installing filters in the future.  The product also comes with a  neat carrying case for the thermometer and the lenses so that everything is right there when you need it.  Braun ThermoScan 5 ear thermometer Without the case I could definitely see myself misplacing the lens filters.

Potential Improvements: I wish the device and carrying case were a bit smaller because I need all the space I can get in my luggage and around the house.  I must admit the case is only about the width of my Motorola cell phone but the smaller the better in this instance.

Overall it is a great product: fast, convenient, and accurate which are all things that help me keep my sanity when dealing with a child or husband who may be feeling under the weather at home or abroad.

 

Disclousre:  This product was provided on a complimentary basis for testing purposes from Influenster

 

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Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Here We Come: How I Got Prepared For Disney!

There are few things that are more magical than taking a trip to Disney World!

So, when we decided that we would be taking our daughter to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom for her birthday, I grabbed a stack of books and got busy planning.  But the more I read, the more nervous I became.  Neither I nor my husband have ever been to Disney, so by book number two, I was completely overwhelmed.

There are lots of books on the market explaining strategies on how to make the best of your Disney experience and here are a few that really helped me.

Fodors’s Walt Disney World with Kids 2014 by Kim Wright Wiley   

This book was so comprehensive and was by far the best tool that I consulted.  Although the book is quite large the information is easy to digest.  Wiley gives you a break down of each park along with a strategy for navigating each.  The book also provides a chart which explains each attraction’s location, line speed, ride duration, and age and height requirements.  This chart was essential because we are traveling with a small child whom may not be able to ride everything. So knowing exactly what she can and cannot ride in advance is a time saver!  In addition, Wiley gives a brief description of what to expect on each ride so parents can decide whether it is appropriate for their children.
The book explores so many important pieces of information from what time to arrive at the park, when to use a fastpass, how to get around the park, where to stand during the parades and the best place to view the fireworks in the evening.  Not to mention the best strategy for snagging a character breakfast and which hotel will best suit you.

Birnbaum Guides 2014 Walt Disney World 

Let me tell you why I enjoyed this book so much:

The book is colorful and easy to read with plenty of pictures which made it fun for me and my daughter to read together!  The book only took about an hour and a half to read cover to cover.

In addition to being a quick read, it is very comprehensive and well structured.   The authors leave nothing to chance.   After reading this book, you will know when the parks are the least crowded, where to go to meet the characters in each park, how much money you will spend on average, what to pack, where to stay and how to prepare the kids for the trip!

Similar to the Fodor book, the Birnbaum Guide outlines the rides in each park that are appropriate for each age group.

The book also provides itineraries for each park to get the most out of each day without passing out or going broke!

Some of the best tips that I learned from the book are:

Tip 1: Prepare small kids for the trip by watching Disney movies and listening to Disney songs leading up to the trip.  The more familiar the more enjoyable the experience for small kids.

Tip 2: Small children usually interact better with characters with human faces i.e. Cinderella verses masked characters such as Mickey Mouse or Pluto.  The book recommends that parents allow small children to warm up to characters by allowing them to interact with the “human” characters first before introducing masked characters.

Some of the other things the book does well include: providing a full color map of Disney World, complete hotel information with a complete break down of each Disney resort with an explanation of the activities and amenities offered at the resort.  In addition, the book includes the type of traveler that will most appreciate each resort.  The book also breaks down fun activities for single travelers, mature travelers, travelers with disabilities and couples traveling without children.

After consulting these guides, we feel prepared to have an amazing trip to the Magic Kingdom!

Have you been to the Magic Kingdom?  How did you prepare?  Do you have a resource that I should check out or great information that you would like to share?

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San Francisco,California: What a great place to Eat !

So Xeric and I visited San Francisco, California in July and we had an amazing time!  We stayed at the Hilton hotel located in Union Square.  Union Square is a great place to stay because it puts you in the heart of great shopping, dining, and transportation access points. We rode BART from San Francisco International Airport to the Powell Street Station, which put us just blocks away from our hotel.  BART was clean and easy to understand.  All trains leaving the airport take you into San Francisco.  The fee is based on where you are going.  It cost $8.00 for each of us to travel from the airport to the Powell Street Station.

San Fran is a walk-able city but with the steep hills and cool weather… dressing appropriately is key.  Wear comfortable shoes and dress in layers.  Coming from Atlanta in July we were not prepared for the 60 degree weather that we faced upon arrival.  If you come under dressed…don’t worry,vendors are stocked with San Francisco wind breakers and warm hats. The City is so unique.  It is the only place that I have ever been where the temperature varies so drastically.  If you travel to Sausalito, a neighboring city just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, you can expect the weather to be up to 20 degrees warmer.

So let’s get down to the food.  As tourist, our days started early, so getting a good breakfast was essential.  We stopped at a diner near our hotel the first morning.  It was just ok and not worth spending much time discussing.  However, the next two days we let Yelp reviews lead us to some great places!  First, we went over to Nob Hill Grill.  I had the chicken and waffles which were really good.  Xeric had the sausage and egg breakfast sliders with home fries. 

On the third day, we went to Mama’s.  Mama’s is a great place to have breakfast or brunch on the weekend.  Tip: get there about an hour before the place opens.  We arrived about 45 minutes before the place opened and there were at least 20 people ahead of us.  Luckily we made it in with the first wave of guests. The place is really small but full of character…you really feel like you are in a comfy family kitchen having a wonderful breakfast just like the ones mommy used to make.  We tried the cinnamon and chocolate french toast.  It was awesome!  Tip: the place is cash only and you should look over the menu ahead of time. Once you are inside things move quickly…know what you want.

Later that day we went to Brenda’s French Soul food. What can I say? The Yelp views are stellar and for good reason. The place is great. When you arrive, place your name and the size of your group on the chalkboard wall… which sits on the right side of the register.  Once you are seated, prepare to be amazed. Biscuits, grits, crawfish stuffed beignets and anything else that may delight the palate.  Get the flight of beignets which includes one of each type :traditional, chocolate, apple and crawfish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also ventured to 21st Amendment for drinks.  Xeric is a beer connoisseur and he couldn’t stop smiling.  I even found a beer that I liked and beer is not my thing.  Try the apple cider beer and everything else!

Well I haven’t even really talked about all of the great places to see and things to do.  Of course we walked the majestic Golden Gate Bridge.  It is impressive.  Cold ..but impressive.  We took the 1.6 mile trek across with piping cups of hot cocoa from the little cafe near the bridge.  You get the best views of the City and Alcatraz from the Golden Gate.  Tip: If you plan to visit Alcatraz, buy your tickets well in advance. We didn’t make it this trip 🙁

We took a two-day jump off jump on tour through Big Bus Tours.  The company picks up at the Hilton and most hotels in the San Francisco area.  We got the 48 hour pass for $50.00 per person.   It was a great deal.

We spent time at Fisherman’s Wharf which was a fun experience.  We ate dinner courtesy of one of the many vendors serving fresh seafood.  There are at least a dozen places to get street food.  There are also sat down restaurants.

So as a tourist you can’t go to San Francisco without riding a trolley at least once!  It will run you $6.00 per person per ride.  We waited in line for nearly an hour to ride the trolley …but it was worth the wait. Traveling through the city by trolley was exhilarating.  Going downhill hanging off the side was thrilling.

We also went to Chinatown and took in the abundant shopping options in Union Square.  Macy’s was awesome; the second largest in the country with one entire level devoted to shoes…lol.  Tip: ask for the 10 percent visitor discount on your purchase.

I could go on and on but I won’t.  

You really need a minimum of five days to really even scratch the surface of this diverse gem.  We cannot wait to return.

Happy travels  

 

Our 12 Travel Commandments: Make Every Trip Amazing

 

  1. Budget Accordingly – There is nothing worse that running out of money or overspending and dealing with the bill once you return.  Travel within your means.  If the African Safari or trip to the French Riviera is cost prohibitive right now, make it a long-term goal and start saving.  It will mean more to you if you saved for it.
  2. Do your research – Have knowledge of the local culture, attractions, weather, etc. to make sure you make the most of your time. Find ways to appreciate the history that has shaped your destination.
  3. Take reviews with a grain of salt – We always read reviews before we travel.  However, don’t just look at the rating given by the reviewer, read the entire review.  The reviewer may have given a low score for something that isn’t important to you.  It’s a great idea to consider several reviews when planning parts of your getaway.  We frequently use Tripadvisor and Yelp.
  4. Don’t over plan your vacation – If you try to see every attraction listed in the brochure you will turn your vacation into work and return home in need of a vacation!
  5. Don’t over pack – With bag fees on the rise, it makes sense to simplify.  Use accessories to take outfits from day to night and stick to one or two color schemes to cut down on the number of shoes and handbags you need.
  6. Be a courteous and respectful traveler – for example, have your documents out and ready for the TSA agent at the airport so others don’t have to wait.  Respect the local customs and traditions of your travel destination.  If you are on a road trip, offer to drive and or offer to keep the driver company when possible.  I could go on…but you get the point.
  7. Be Adventurous– get out of your comfort zone. Take that excursion, eat the local cuisine.  Remember, you want to fully experience your vacation, not just say you’ve been there.
  8. Make time to relax – It is called a vacation for a reason.  As you develop your itinerary, add in some time to rest and relax.  Maybe you schedule a long lunch in between museums or a stroll through a park on the way to the next attraction.  No matter what, take some time to breath and enjoy the experience.
  9. Be safe and use common sense – need we say more?  Just be smart about safety on your journeys.  Buy an invisible wallet to wear under your clothes, keep your eyes open and you will be ok.  There are certain parts of the world that may warrant notifying the State Department of your itinerary just to be on the safe side.
  10. Buy meaningful souvenirs – Don’t we all have enough key chains and magnets? Instead, bring your loved ones back a beautiful scarf or an inexpensive work of art crafted by a local artist.  It will be more meaningful and creative than the standard stuff they don’t really want anyway.
  11. Manage your photos – once you arrive home you may be tempted to leave your luggage on the floor for weeks and your pictures on your camera for months.  Don’t do it!  Unpack your bags and download your photos.  Respect your memories by designing a photo book for each trip within days after your return home.  Doing so helps you build an amazing library of photos done in a fun and artistic way.  Sites like Shutterfly provide many tools for doing an assortment of things with your shots.  These sites are also an alternative to house your memories in the event that something happens to your computer or camera.
  12. Pay it forward – post a review.  Your experience may be able to help a fellow traveler.

 Do you have travel commandments that you follow?  I would love to hear them.

Why We love TripAdvisor

We generally don’t make travel decisions without first consulting with TripAdvisor…

Top Reasons we love it

§  It is comprehensive – You can find just about any hotel anywhere in the world

§  There are lots of reviews – You can read reviews and form an opinion based  

on  several hundred points of view

§  The rating system is fair

§  The reviewers are loyal and committed to the cause!

http://www.tripadvisor.com/members/suggstravelllc

Road Trip to the Emerald Coast (Destin & Fort Walton Beach)

 

Emerald Coast
Brooklyn’s sun hat flew off…it was kinda windy

Recently Xeric and I celebrated our second year of marital bliss with a trip to the Emerald Coast.  It was a five hour car ride from Atlanta to our destination.  Thankfully, he drove the entire way while I attended to our daughter Brooklyn.

We prefer to fly to most destinations but with a newborn, driving was the best option for a number of reasons.  First, we had privacy; if she was fussy the only people who had to endure it were the people who created her …lol.  Second, as a breastfeeding mom, I was able to pump in the privacy of our car.  Having the Medela dual electric pump with the hands free bustier and car adapter is awesome. Because most babies love car rides..and Brooklyn as exceptional as she is was  not the exception in this case,  slept for at least 85% percent of the journey.  Third, although she has had her first set of vaccinations we wanted to play it safe and limit her exposure to large crowds ruling out the airport and airplane.  Last, as you can imagine we were able to travel with our baby gear and other “essentials” without having to lug things through the airport, which can be a huge hassle.

Over the course of three days, we divided our time between Fort Walton Beach and neighboring Destin.  The great thing about vacationing along the Emerald Coast is that it is very laid back and lacks pretense…two things that are perfect for fatigued parents who just want to relax.  Sure both cities offer plenty of activities from deep sea fishing to para sailing to historic attractions (Indian Tribal Mounds, Fort Walton Beach ).  However, unlike some places, one doesn’t feel overwhelmed or pressured to devise a packed literary ultimately changing the vacation into a busy hustle to see every attraction before time runs out.  This trip we opted to make spending time on the beach reading and relaxing the primary focus. Emerald Coast

We are seafood lovers so beach vacations are always a culinary delight.  We were pressed to find local fresh seafood at a reasonable price.  We made the mistake when we arrived by venturing to one of the local but commercial eateries on the beach.  Despite its proximity to the beach the seafood wasn’t exceptional.  The food was just ok and had me longing for blackened shrimp tacos from Six Feet Under.  Anyway, we did end up finding a local restaurant that has been touted as the best in the area: Dewey Destin.  With a 45 minute wait we were expecting a fantastic meal and for the most part we were not disappointed.

Emerald Coast
Fresh is best!

The food was fresh and local just like we like it.  The atmosphere although busy, was very relaxed and they were able to accommodate our newborn.  Our only issue was that we had to leave our stroller outside by the hostess stand located outside.  In the event that it rained while we were dining we would have been pretty upset.  Overall, Dewey Destin satisfied our seafood craving.

To sum it all up we returned home on Sunday relaxed and rested from a weekend well spent.  If you plan to visit Destin we recommend going right after spring break and right before summer vacationers start arriving ( late April -mid-May).  We stayed at the Four Points Sheraton.  The view from our room was amazing and the hotel provided all of the amenities that were needed.  We booked our car through RentalCars.com and secured a fantastic rate.  We spent less than $100.00 for the car for the entire weekend.

 

Happy trails,

Jennifer