You Can Take The Kids: 5 Ohio Hikes To Do As A Family

The way people talked about having kids, I thought my life was ovvveerrr once we had a few babies.  But hooray- it doesn’t have to be!  If you’re a natural explorer you can still get out and enjoy fantastic scenery WITH kids in tow.

These 5 Ohio places have been tried and tested by our family.  Some are even stroller-friendly!

Hocking Hills area

Hocking Hills is full of natural beauty in all seasons!  One of our favorite times to visit is winter because of all of the ice formations.

Two areas in particular are perfect for parents of small children:  Ash Cave and Conkles Hollow.  Ash Cave has a 1/4 mile handicap accessible trail that is perfect for strollers or new walkers.  The trail does get very busy on weekends, holidays, and in the fall, so plan accordingly (i.e. you may NEED the stroller for containment).

Conkles Hollow has a one mile disabled access trail.  This is also perfect for a stroller, BUT due to the cliff walls, a lot of sunlight does not hit the sidewalk.  We’ve found this trail to be fairly icy and slushy in winter.  Make sure kids wear snow boots, and you may want to forego the stroller. The ice formations on the rocks make this totally worth a little slipping and sliding!  In summer, this is the perfect place to give the stroller a go- I’d stick with a single if possible because the trail isn’t very wide.

Ash Cave and some of my “little” family

Hocking Hills Hotels

Flint Ridge

A ancient flint deposit used by Native Americans and now owned by the Ohio Historical Society, Flint Ridge has a few different hiking options for your family.  One of the trails is mostly boardwalk/paved trail and is perfect for for strollers.  There are other trails past the museum that are ok for ages 2+ to walk (no steep cliff faces).  We visited last winter and it was MUDDY, so don’t wear good shoes.  The museum is open March-October, so plan accordingly.

We graduated off of the stroller path at Flint Ridge

Blackhand Gorge

Located near Flint Ridge is Blackhand Gorge.  Blackhand Gorge is named after a sandstone formation.  A four-mile bike trail is perfect for your family’s stroller or bikes, and you’ll still see lots of great scenery even if you don’t get off of the beaten path.  The Canal-Lock trail showcases of piece of the Old Ohio-Erie Canal towpath.  The kids will love this, and even toddlers could handle the walk (with a little help from mom or dad).  More info HERE.

Hotels near Flint Ridge & Blackhand Gorge 

Cuyahoga Valley National Park area

Ohio’s first and only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park really surprised me!  My favorite spot in the park was the Virginia Kendall State Park (aka The Ledges).  This wouldn’t be ideal for a stroller, but I’d say ages 4+ would have no problems handling the stairs and grades.  Within Ohio, this is second only to Hocking Hills as a place that will remind your family how small we really are in comparison to Creation.

Deep Lock Quarry (within Summit Metro Parks) is also very doable with young ones.  This trail would be best used with a jogging stroller and you will have to miss one small part of the loop, BUT it’s still worth the trip.  Our kiddos loved climbing on the giant sandstone rocks.  More info HERE.

Hotels near CVNP

Sheldon Marsh 

This Ohio nature preserve doesn’t involve an vigorous hike, but it does offer up views of a rare coastal wetland habitat.  The kids enjoyed viewing different birds, seeing lots of chipmunks, and then ending up on the shores of Lake Erie.  This path is definitely stroller-friendly until you get to the beach (no swimming allowed).

Hotels near Sheldon Marsh

Have you hiked any of these trails?  Where does your family enjoy hiking?

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SAHM survival: Keeping your sanity when your husband travels

I know I normally write about family travel destinations, but there’s another aspect of travel makes me a little cray to the Z every month and that’s when my husbands travels for his job.

Ever since we just had one teeny tiny baby, Mr. YT has been leaving me for 2-3 nights per month. I know some of you have a husband that travels much more more- so I shouldn’t complain.  In reality, in 7 years it’s never gotten easier but it has gotten more manageable.

While Mr. YT was away this week, I realized that in years past I could have used a little advice on what to do on days when he wouldn’t be home in the evenings to give me a little relief.

Here are 5 things I do to maintain my sanity (and a little bit of order) whilst the husband is away:

  •  Sleep (or lack thereof) is super important.  You have to take the age-old advice and nap when baby naps.  If your kids are a little older, don’t feel guilt over turning on the TV or sending them to their rooms so you can get a little shut-eye.  I can go from Mommy Dearest to the Wicked Witch in about 17 seconds if I haven’t had enough sleep, so I KNOW that if I am going to make it through the marathon I have to close my eyes to the mess and just REST.
  • Eat.  Eating is my favorite.  No, really.  Mealtimes with little ones are stressful at best, downright chaotic at their worst.  I’ve noticed that in order to help with my own sanity I will eat my meal while I’m cooking for the kids.  That way, if I’m getting up and down a lot while they eat, I’ve already suppressed my own hanger (#notjoking).  Before your husband skips town, grab a frozen pizza, mac n cheese, whatever convenience foods you’re going to need to make dinner time be easy. “Snack lunch” is a personal fave of mine- cheese and crackers, grapes, single serve applesauce, yogurt, those type of things that are easy & easy to get on a plate.  This is not the time to be Julia Childs.  You can also use lunch time to do read-aloud… I read and drink coffee, they eat in peace.  Winning!
  •  Bedtimes.   There is only one of you, so start early.  My kids always try the stall method 20x worse when Daddy isn’t around so be kind, but firm–  You’re just down the hall.  I’ve found that calling Daddy right before book time can give them a happy little assurance that they can go to sleep and all is well.
  • Plan ahead for adult time.  I’m an extrovert by nature, so being inside with 3 kids for 3-4 days can be a little hairy.  Think of simple ways to speak to adults without creating a lot of work.  Playdates can work (pick a neutral place so you don’t have to clean!).  A Skype date with a faraway friend.  Asking a child-free friend to stop by after work for a coffee date.  These are all things to refuel that don’t require a lot of work.  If you have babysitters that can do daytime, this may be the time to spend a little money and head out on your own.
  • Lower your expectations.  My #1 piece of motherhood advice is also the most important for the weeks my husband travels.  This is not the time to be a screen-time martyr.  This is not the time to start the Whole 30.  This is not the time to dive into painting or reorganizing the house.  Get up. Get dressed. Be present.  Having a husband that travels is not always easy.  Try to connect with him positively – now that mostly involves my kids sending him Snapchat videos of our day or me texting him in the a.m. to remind him I miss him.

 

Does your husband travel for work?  What things do you do to save your sanity?

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2017 Travel Bucket List

Where I want to go this year.

2016 was a year of big travel and big changes for our family.  We traveled Down Under in January and moved an hour away from our home of 7 years just two days after Christmas.  Now that the boxes are unpacked we’re settled in to our new city (kinda) – I wanted to share with the world our travel plans for 2017.

(Our 2016 Travel Bucket List)

Ohio 

Toledo Zoo & Aquarium  +  Oak Openings (this is one we didn’t get to last year and now that we live a little closer I’m hoping we can)  Here’s a coupon for 50% off of the zoo until March 3rd.  If we get an unseasonably nice day, that’s a GREAT deal.

Cedar Bog Nature Preserve & Johnny Appleseed Museum – two very close attractions

Gorge Metro Park (Summit County)

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Cleveland Museum of Natural History– Specifically the new Perkins Wildlife Center

How cool does this look?!

 

In our new town of Mansfield

Kingwood Center Gardens

Richland Carrousel Park

The Blueberry Patch– Blueberry picking, a winery, and cafe.  I hear they have donuts.  Enough said.

Malabar Farm State Park

That’s some lofty travel goals!  Good thing we have 11. 5 months.

United States

Outside of Ohio, we don’t have a bunch of concrete plans.

One trip that is booked is Topsail Island, North Carolina.  Our family has been there numerous times, I think this will be Mr. YT and I’s 9th time!  On our last visit C was only 9 months old, so this time should (hopefully) be a little more relaxed- and include more sleep.

That view never gets old.

On the way to the beach I’d like to cross off New River Gorge, WV.  This National River was on my list last year, but the timing never quite worked out!  It’s only a quick jaunt off of I-77 so I don’t see why we couldn’t leave a couple of days early for NC.

Photo from nps.gov

Fort Wayne, IN-  June will take us to Fort Wayne for the Mr’s work conference. (Last year it was at Belterra Resort & Casino and we traveled alone).  We’re planning to bring the kids this time and make it a family adventure.  Did you know that Fort Wayne has one of the Top 10 zoos in the nation?

Beyond that, we hope to do another week of travel in the USA or Canada.  I’m thinking a Canadian Road Trip to Montreal and Quebec City might be fabulous, but then I get sidetracked thinking of some Southwest miles we’ve accrued and how we could use them for Texas (Joanna Gaines, I love you) or Southern California.   My van is OLD (we only buy used cars with cash) so I’m not sure it could even handle a road trip.  Maybe that will pressure is into flying!

I’ve also got my eye on a few flower festivals. Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan is fairly close to home and looks like a fun weekend.  I’d also like to head south again- New Orleans?  The Lowcountry?  Eh, first things first- we better sell our vacant home.

 

Have you made your travel plans for 2017?  Where are you headed?  Have you been to Fort Wayne?  

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My 2016 Christmas List

Blogland is full of lists- Best gifts for travelers! Best gifts for boys aged 7-12!  Best gifts for dad!

This is the list titled– Best Gifts for Leah Yoder — fully egocentric and very specific.  Friends, since I can’t have a 10-day Pacific Islands cruise with my family (and a nanny), I’ve resorted to a traditional list.

I wrote this for 2 reasons.

  1.  So I don’t receive a turkey baster wrapped in a Target bag (We made it through that one, Mr. YT) 😉
  2. Because I want to know what you want.  So that’s your job in the comments.

So here’s my list.  Some of affiliate links (no cost to you, but the 20 cent commission may help Mr YT afford my taste in boots)!

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#1- I love these boots.  We’re moving to the snowbelt and my Uggs are not going to handle the wet snow.  I just wish I’d had these in Canada.

#2- I’ve been wanting a functional world map- good for school and décor.  This one I found on Amazon takes the cake, and it comes with push-pins to mark where you have been!

#3- I’m a homeschool mom, and I’ve gotten this book from the public library more than once.  I think it’s probably time I buy it for our home library.

#4- I was born in 1983, right around the time Return of the Jedi hit the big screen.  So our names aren’t quite the same, but I still adore this mug!

#5- These beatitude bracelets by Mercy House Global are perfect.  I love the message- and I love that they support impoverished women.  I subscribe the Earring of the Month club- check it out.

#6- Have you seen prints by Lindsay Letters?  I’m thinking this one would be perfect for a gallery wall in the new homeschool room.

#7 & #8 We’ve started the Little House series for our read-aloud time of homeschool.  Through that, I realized that it would be helpful if our family had a set of our own (instead of having to renew it multiple times)!  I saw the Little House coloring book at T.J. Maxx and it is GORGEOUS, but I was too cheap to buy it ($10 for coloring?)  However, this could be 3 pm therapy for me and the littles! Lol.

So what’s on your 2016 Christmas list?  Boots?  Jewelry?  A nanny?  A turkey baster?

 

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‘Hygge’ and the Allure of Scandinavia – 6 cities you’ll want to visit

Today I have my dear friend Richelle Z. sharing about her love and knowledge of Scandinavia.  Richelle is from the Midwest (she was my R.A. in college!), but is now living and working in the UK.  She has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Asia.  Thanks so much, Richelle!____________________________________________________________

The idea of ‘hygge’ has been everywhere these days (Google it- the results will surprise you!). You can read books about this Danish art of living, raise your children in accordance with this philosophy, cook meals that represent this way of life, and even transform yourself into a happier person by following these principles. While I can’t profess to being an expert in the art of hygge (pronounced ‘hoo-ga’), I must admit that there is something alluring about Denmark, and, Scandinavia as a whole, and this new-found interest in ‘hygge’ has made me think more and more about the unique aspects of Scandinavia that truly set it apart.

After six trips to the region (and an awful lot of time spent in Scandi cafes in London!), this is what ‘hygge’ means to me and why I believe the entire region of Scandinavia has something to offer all ages.

Reykjavik: Other-worldly landscapes and awe-inspiring natural beauty

Reykjavik was my first brush with Scandinavia. My sister and I had ten hours in between a flight to London to explore the city. Of course, it wasn’t nearly enough time, but it did give us a small sense of what Iceland has to offer.

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Oslo: Austere architecture amidst tranquil natural surroundings (photos 4757, 4391)

Oslo is one of my favorite cities. There was a formality about it that really resonated with me, but it was also very quirky and hip at the same time. I loved the bright buildings and the connection that one felt with the sea and nature. Norway also has a proud history of discovery and exploration, and this was surely felt in Oslo with the many statues of Roald Amundsen, the famous Arctic explorer.

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I like this photo that was taken in a cemetery near our Airbnb flat because it represented such a tranquil space (it was also a garden park in the city center). The gravestones had a very spartan quality that was in stark contrast to the many gravestones I’ve seen in London in Highgate Cemetery or Brompton Cemetery.  The day after I took this photo, it snowed and the entire place was lightly dusted with soft white powder.

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This photo was taken at Vigeland Park, the world’s largest sculpture park made by a single artist. The park was brimming with sculptures of people in strange poses, as you can see by the photo of me with Vigeland’s art. I’ve chosen a tamer sculpture here so as not to frighten Leah’s young readers, as there were some rather strange ones.

Bergen: Charming seaside fronts and UNESCO World Heritage sites

Bergen is one of the most charming places I’ve ever been and may even give Salzburg a run for its money in terms of being the most charming city on earth. In addition to strolling along the historic Bryggen, the city’s historic wharf and UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was most interesting to wander through the little neighborhoods behind the water. Not surprisingly, the seafood was outstanding, but, visitors beware, everything in Bergen is terrifyingly expensive. A simple pint will set you back £8, for instance, and most starters are around £10-16, which I consider a bit high for an appetizer.

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This is the beautiful wharf, Bryggen, which is also a little labyrinth of shops and cafes, albeit slightly touristy ones these days. The site is extremely well preserved and belies the fact that it dates back to the 1350s.

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To get the best view of Bergen, climb to the top of Fløibanen mountain, one of the city’s Seven Mountains that surround it. You can hike to the peak of the mountain or you can take a cable car. We actually chose to hike, which friends of mine would find quite surprising. My advice to other would-be climbers is to wear proper hiking shoes, not pointed toe flats. The reward for your hard work, however, will be this stunning view along with a glimpse of the trolls who dot the top of the mountain (yes, there are trolls!).

Copenhagen: One of the world’s most liveable cities as well as a haven for cyclists

Copenhagen stands out to me as one of the most liveable cities I’ve ever visited. This may also be due to the fact that I absolutely loved our Airbnb flat, but I think there is more substance to back up that claim. The trains in Denmark are efficient to a tee, it’s easy to cycle everywhere (in fact, most people get around entirely by bicycle in Copenhagen), and the overall quality of living seemed very high.

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The Little Mermaid Statue
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Overlooking the Danish rooftops in Copenhagen

Stockholm: Beautiful churches combined with an innovative food and art scene

We only had a short three-day weekend to spend in Stockholm, but it was certainly long enough to get a taste of the city and confirm that we absolutely need to return. Stockholm had all of the hallmarks of a great Scandinavian city to me- extremely clean and efficient travel infrastructure, close proximity to water and natural beauty, eclectic churches, and an overall austere feel to the streets and neighborhoods. Two of my favorite churches are pictured here:

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Helsinki: World-renowned design district and the Moomins

Helsinki is a strange city in that I’m not sure it fully identifies as being Scandinavian. Technically, yes, Finland geographically finds itself within Scandinavia, but it also shares characteristics with Russia and the Baltics, given its proximity to and history with that region. Yet, after exploring Helsinki for a few days, I did come to the conclusion that it was a true Scandi city, deeply possessing all of the things I’ve come to love about that part of the world. The food was off-beat and interesting, the coffee was amazing, the architecture had that clean austerity about it, and one could be close to nature.

Helsinki stands apart from its more glamorous cousins of Oslo and Stockholm with a strong identity rooted in design. The Design District comprises street after street of shops filled with contemporary designs and, in true Scandi tradition, they were extremely expensive.

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Have you been to Scandinavian?  Favorite city?  Maybe you follow hygge?  I’d love to hear!

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The Wallhouse Hotel in Walnut Creek, Ohio

Not your typical Amish Country accommodation!

Walnut Creek, Ohio is known for rolling hills, idyllic farmland, craft shops, and family-style foods.  It’s a hospitable place, one oozing with country-styled B & Bs and hotels.  That’s absolutely awesome- if that is your style.  But if you’re looking for something a little more edgy, shiny, and modern- I recommend taking a closer look at The Wallhouse Hotel.

Room

We stayed as guests of The Wallhouse in a premium corner suite.  The two-room suite was extra large. I don’t know about you, but this mama can get a little crabby when we’re all packed in like sardines, don’t worry, you will have plenty of space here.  wallhouse-1

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The fridge is also a helpful size for storing leftovers (oh, those hearty Amish meals) and there was a microwave as well.

The sofa was a pull-out bed.  Our kids are used to sleeping on these when we stay in smaller suites so they volunteered to sleep in the living room.  This was probably so they could get their own TV.  Nonetheless, there are two TVs in the suite, which means the kiddos can be watching Disney Jr, while you and the hubs relax with a little Chip & Joanna Gaines.

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The bedroom was large enough to sleep 4.  I loved the little office nook.  The window there offered a great view of the valley:

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My only complaint about the room was the bathroom.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the bathroom is roomy and high-end.  I love the title work throughout and the huge, walk-in shower.  Here’s the deal, though- the bathroom ONLY has a shower.  It isn’t a deal breaker for us because our youngest is old enough to stand in the shower, but if I was traveling with a baby or toddler, I’d want to know ahead of time.  So, now you know!

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Common areas

The Wallhouse Hotel builds “fresh” into their hotel by using solid surfaces that can be wiped clean.  You can see that the above bathroom is immaculate, but even common seating areas and the lobby screamed “clean.”  No moldy looking fake flowers in these spaces!  As a mom, knowing that everything can be easily disinfected (did you see the dura-leather sofa in the suite?) is a HUGE perk.

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My kids were also totally smitten by the pool.  If you follow me on Facebook, I posted that when my kids were headed for the pool, an employee saw them and offered up a giant basket of pool noodles and floaties.  Be still my mama heart!  They would have stayed all day if we had let them!

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Breakfast

I love food almost as much as I love my family #jokingnotjoking.   Breakfast is included at the hotel and it’s not just some cereal and a donut, it’s a full, hearty meal.  I always look for hotels that offer a full breakfast because it saves us money in the long run.  If all of our bellies are full we avoid extra snacking and an early lunch, which also helps with the extra calories after those maple-glazed cinnamon rolls!  Haha!

I think The Wallhouse Hotel would be a great stop for your family on your next Amish Country adventure.  If you live nearby, it would also make the perfect staycation.  Give me my own TV and some cinnamon rolls and I am SOLD!

Have you been to Amish Country before?  Have you ever done a staycation?  Maybe you’re mad for cinnamon maple rolls like me?

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**We were provided accommodation at The Wallhouse Hotel, however, all opinions are my own**

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Six vacation rentals for post-holiday relaxation

Everyone is blogging their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and I’m here to say, “Just take me away!”  We’ve been in a particularly busy season here at the Yoder casa (more on that later) and I’m realizing just how much I desire less STUFF and more TIME.

Family memories and experiences are always TOPS on my list, so I compiled a list of six vacation rentals ya’ll can book that offer post-holiday relaxation.  Maybe we should all stop the gift-giving and just go on vacation?  I vote YES.

My criteria for picking these rentals was:

  1.  They had to fit my family of 5
  2.  The price had to be reasonable.  I think the most expensive one is $215/night- not bad considering all have at least 2 bedrooms.

(Some of these would not be ideal to visit January-March, but that’s ok, just having something to look forward to will get me through the dark days of Ohio winters.)

header-pinterest-vacay-rentals1. Have you heard of the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario?  No?  I hadn’t either, but now I’m planning a long weekend there!  Check out this rustic, Canadian-themed beach house from airbnb.

2. Lake Louise and the Canadian Rockies really proved to be magical.  I’d love to go back with the entire family during summer so we could enjoy more of the hiking trails when it isn’t FREEZING.  Grey Owl Lodge would be perfect.

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photo from Airbnb listing

3. We visited Sanibel Island for a day while in Florida last year, but I’d love to go back and have more time!  This condo has a great view AND a great pool- the perfect combo for the post-holiday letdown.

4. Southern Arizona offers up some serious scenery, sunsets, and stargazing!  Our friends just stayed at this home near Tuscon and I’m smitten by the desert at dusk.

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Photo courtesy of S. Tornero

5. Kauai has been on my Bucket List for ages.  The mountain views from this “Garden Isle” condo are just what I want for Christmas (hint, hint, Santa!).

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photo from VRBO listing

6.  This home has been on my Airbnb Wish List for awhile.  Located in the mountains of Virginia, the home looks out across the Shenandoah Valley.  I’ll be in that rocker if you need me.

Any stand out to you?  Maybe you’ve booked a vacation instead of giving traditional gifts?  Maybe you’re ready to escape, too?  I’d love to know!

If you’d love to travel with Airbnb- Here is MY LINK to get started!

 

**This is not a sponsored post, but may contain affiliate links**

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Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

An honest review

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is a dreamy, castle-like structure tucked into the Canadian Rockies on the shores of some of the bluest glacier water you have ever seen.  It’s a place I’ve dreamed of since I was 16, when dear friends of mine traveled there and returned home bearing photographic evidence (before blogs and Facebook existed- oye!).

Lake Louise lies within Banff National Park and is a little over 2 hours from Calgary International Airport.  We rented a car at the airport and first visited Emerald Lake Lodge, then traveled south to Lake Louise.

While Brian parked the car, I headed into the lobby to get our room keys and take a few photos.  Because I’m very mature and refined, the stairway reminded me of the movie Titanic.  Haha. #jackandroseforlife.  No, really, it is a grand staircase.  Stately royal blue carpet says, “this place is fancy” while mounted elk and moose heads say, “but we’re in the mountains, eh.”

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sorry a little blurry- selfie stick woes

The Chateau felt stuffy, but down-to-earth (oxymoron, I know!).  Even though we consider ourselves “travelers on a budget” we didn’t feel as though we didn’t fit in. The staff is overly friendly and accommodating AND there are people visiting from all over the world, so lots of different styles and tastes.  The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is also an outdoor playground in the sense of all the hiking trails, ski trails, and the like, so even though the decor in the resort is very upscale, most people are just dressed for the weather!

Room

The room was adequate. Even though we *ahem* stayed for free, I thought the room was a little small for the nightly rate of $669 Canadian.  When we ordered room service (twice!  also free!), they could hardly even get the table around our bed, and one of us had to sit on the bed to eat it.  Only one chair would fit.  #firstworldproblems

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Teeny tiny bathroom. Shower was to your left.

The bed was super comfy though, and the complimentary robes and slippers were a plus.  There was also a small fridge in the room- just down the road in Lake Louise Village there are a few shops so if you wanted to save money on snacks and drink this could be helpful.

Location

The hotel‘s location right on the shore of Lake Louise can not be beat!  You’re less than a 5 minute walk from your room to kayak and canoe rentals, hiking trails, and more.  Unfortunately we hit Lake Louise right as winter hit Alberta, so we did not partake in any of the guided hikes or activities (mostly because we weren’t packed for snowshoeing, dangit)!

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Dining:

We enjoyed dinner at the Lakeview Lounge on our first evening.  This business casual dining option is great for the scenery AND the people watching (Hey you, people on their phones when you’re at one of the most beautiful places on earth, I’m talking about YOU.  GRRrrr).  The prices are mid-range.

As I mentioned before, we enjoyed the in-room dining for breakfast and appetizers and ate two rounds of poutine.  Have you had poutine?  Your taste buds will thank you, but your gall bladder will not.  I digress.

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Overall

As much as I dreamed of this place, I wasn’t as awestruck by the resort as I was by Emerald Lake Lodge.  While the views and the service are excellent, it felt like really any major worldwide resort.  However, we did find a big perk in those extra amenities like room service, that allowed us just to relax and enjoy some peace and quiet away from the hustle of family life.  We didn’t expect the weather to leave us wanting just to unwind, but sometimes those big resort treasures are worth the extra cost.

What do you think?  Have you been to Lake Louise?  Stayed at a Fairmont Resort?  Eaten poutine?

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*This is not a sponsored post*

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Travel Hacking the Canadian Rockies

A four-night, four-star trip for next-to-nothing.

I’ve been so eager to tell you how we took second-honeymoon style trip to the Canadian Rockies for pennies on the dollar.  We started travel hacking about 2 years ago and using points and miles has definitely helped with our travel game.

After booking our trip to Australia last year, I had a bunch of American Airlines miles left.   Reading Bryce’s blog about how to use the Fairmont VISA gave me an idea- I’d been dreaming of staying at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise since I was a teenager- travel hacking the hotel was the ticket!

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First, I booked our flight from CMH -> Calgary using 75,000 AA miles.  Here’s what I would have paid using the same flights but paying cash.

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Instead, here’s what I paid:  75k miles + $123.60 in taxes and fees

Savings on flights:  $1,232.40

You can accrue AA Advantage miles by signing up for 2 Platinum Select Citi AAdvantage cards- if you got the business card and the personal card, you’d immediately have enough miles.  More info HERE.

Our first night of the trip was at Emerald Lake Lodge (review).  Not only was the place exquisite, it’s very pricey.  One night was $329 CAD + taxes.  Our bill at check out for one night + dinner in the lounge and breakfast in the dining room was a whopping $497.89 CAD!

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Before we left home, the Barclaycard Arrival + was offering a sign-up bonus for 50,000 miles after spending $3k in the first 3 months.  We used the card for all of our expenses on the trip, plus  all of our personal expenses and my husband’s business expenses.  After less than 2 months, we hit the minimum spend on this card- giving us 50k points/ $500 in travel credit.

The charge at Emerald Lake Lodge converted to $375.82.  See how I erased the purchase below:

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Showing we hit the minimum spend and all the points we accrued.
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You can only erase purchases that cost over $100 each. These are the options Barclay gave me.

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So for 2 nights and 2 great meals: FREE

A savings of $375.82

Next we spent 2 nights at the aforementioned Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.  This travel hack involved signing up for the Fairmont Visa Signature Card.  We applied for this card over a year ago in order to have time to earn the miles and have open availability for the resort.  This card also requires spending $3000 in the first 3 months, but with that comes a bonus of 2 FREE nights!

After achieving the minimum spend I called Fairmont and booked the two nights at the Chateau Lake Louise (you must book directly with Fairmont resorts to use your free nights).  The resort quoted me a resort fee of $13/night, but I wasn’t charged it at checkout.

Here’s what our nights would have cost without credits:

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$669 CAD is currently $501 USD per night!!  Just having this credit card saved us $1002!

Earning Premier Status also gives you breakfast and dining credits at the resorts.  We were able to use 2 of these at check-out. The parking was $30/night.  Here’s our first bill from the resort and then a second one showing what we paid after the credits were applied:

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We had horrible weather while at Lake Louise (our mountain view room became a fog-view room), so we really just enjoyed the resort and the room service (YES!).  Our bill at check-out (after Fairmont dining credits) was $163.12 CAD.  This came to $123.13 USD and we were able to erase the entire stay using the Barclay points.

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Total cost of 2 nights at the Fairmont + Dining if paid for out of pocket and without credits:  $1002 + $216 USD ($288.12 CAD) = $1218

Total spent for 2 nights at Fairmont + gluttony and room service after HACKS = ZERO

The last night of our trip was in Banff.  I had prepaid for the hotel through AAA.  In hindsight, I could have also booked the hotel with the option to pay at check-out and used the Barclay points to cover it.  However, it was the least expensive option by quite a bit- we stayed at the Banff Aspen Lodge for $133 USD.  The room and amenities were just fine, but I would recommend this more for budget travelers or families.

Total for air and 4 nights before Travel Hacking: $3082.82

Total for air and 4 nights after Travel Hacking: $256.60

Savings: $2,826.22

Bam!!  The Canadian Rockies was one of the most magical places we’ve ever visited.  I think I’ve covered everything, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section. I’m not the final authority on all things travel hacking- I recommend reading 10xtravel.com for more info!  I love them so much, I wrote a blog for them!

Have you done any travel hacking?  Maybe you’ve been the Canadian Rockies?  Maybe you cry, too, when you see a dream come true?

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** I’m undeniably one of the world’s biggest haters of debt.  We only use these credit cards with the premise that the uses are already budgeted for and the cards are paid off EVERY month.  I don’t recommend using a credit card if you lack self-control.  My husband is also self-employed so we can easily hit the minimum spends just by charging his gas and other work expenses along with our household expenses.  More HERE.  End sermon. **

 


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A visit to the Newark Earthworks with kids

Some of the best travel happens right outside your door.

We’ve lived nearly on top of the Newark Earthworks for the past 7 years, yet never really fully explored them.  When some nice November weather hit us this past week, I realized that NOW was the time to visit.

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The Newark Earthworks are the largest set of geometric earthen enclosures IN THE WORLD.  The earthworks were built by the Hopewell culture between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D.   Over the years, the growth of Newark destroyed many of the earthworks (very sad), but three major pieces still survive.  We visited 2 of the 3 sites managed by the Ohio History Connection.

The Octagon Earthworks are on the grounds of the Moundbuilders Country Club.  While this is a private golf course, visitors to the earthworks can access this overlook any time of the year (just watch for flying golf balls).  The entire grounds is only open to the public four times per year (see the above link for details).

The earthworks are not considered burial mounds, researchers have concluded that they have some significance in aligning with the rising and setting of the moon.  Covering over 50 acres, the earthworks are mostly 5-6 feet high.

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The Great Circle Earthwork is nearly 12,000 feet in diameter.  The space is vast – it’s hard to see one side of the circle from the other!  Not only are the mounds about 8 feet high, there is an interior moat that’s over 5 feet deep.  It’s believed that this large circle was used for ceremonial purposes.

A small, on-site museum shows the timeline 0f the Newark Earthworks to other great milestones in history.  There are also some Native American artifacts like arrowheads and ceremonial pieces.

In more recent times, the Great Circle mounds were used as a fairgrounds until 1932.  This use of the land is what saved the earthworks from destruction.

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I would set aside 2 hours for visiting the earthworks with your children.  The Newark Earthworks are located 2.5 miles away from each other.  This is a fantastic outdoor attraction because the kids are able to run off energy while still learning about Ohio‘s Native American history.

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Where: Newark, OH – 45 minutes east of downtown Columbus

When:  Best times to visit are May- October mostly for programming.  Check the Ohio History Connection for dates of historian-led tours.

Stay:  The Doubletree by Hilton in Newark has fresh cookies on arrival, an indoor pool, and an on-site restaurant.  Plus, enjoy walking to Newark’s new Canal Market District.  It’s a great hotel for a small city.

While you’re in town:  Check out Dawes Arboretum and Blackhand Gorge.

Have you visited the Newark Earthworks?  Maybe there’s another attraction that is in your backyard which you forget to visit? I’d love to hear!

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