Oh my G-O-S-H: A stay at LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort in Florida

Anyone else’s kids know every single line from The LEGO Movie?  Mine do!  Last year while Mr. YT and I were painting rooms and fixing up the new house, the kids watched a LOT of movies!  The LEGO Movie was on repeat, and in the previews, there’s a short commercial for LEGOLAND. This is where my kiddos became obsessed with the idea of visiting!  They begged and pleaded and told us that LEGOLAND was the ONLY place they really, really, wanted to go!

When thinking about Christmas and the load of items the children receive and then lose interest in, we decided that we would rather DO something with them- create family memories.  One of these memories would be a stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort in Winter Haven, Florida.  I’m so glad we choose to stay on-site at the resort, and I can’t wait to tell you why!

A stay at LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort in Florida is sure to be a hit with the entire family. Here are my pros and cons for staying at the Resort.

Why we chose to stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort

When visiting LEGOLAND Florida, parents have the option of booking either the LEGOLAND Hotel or the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort.  The LEGOLAND Hotel is right nextdoor to the park, I assume some rooms would have a view.  The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort is across the road from the park (not really walking distance), but offers a free shuttle to and from LEGOLAND.  Theming at the resorts is different- in the LEGOLAND Hotel they offer Pirate, Adventure, Friends, or Kingdom rooms, while at the Beach Resort, all rooms have the LEGO Beach theme.

We chose the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort because I knew that both my sons and daughter would like the style of the room.  I also liked the idea of having a colorful little home and a huge pool.  I’m always drawn to more of a Airbnb-style accommodation and the Beach Retreat Resort seemed to fit the bill.

Here is a list of all the things I enjoyed about Florida’s LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort, along with those things I didn’t like:

PROS:

The property is very family-friendly.  In the room, the bathroom has a toilet seat with the child’s potty seat attached. The bathtub was situated in the bathroom so that parents actually had room to bathe their children!

The bunk bed has a trundle underneath so the room will sleep 5 (a rarity in the hotel world).

In the center of each cove is a small playground.  In the mornings while we packed up things for our day at LEGOLAND, the kids played out on the playground and we watched them from the window in the room.

The pool is heated and has large, floating LEGO!  The zero-entry kids section is perfect for little ones.  There were 3 lifeguards on duty and there was a supply of life jackets for children.

LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort, Florida. Staying here is perfect for families and a big hit with the kids. Here are my pros and cons to the resort.

A tour of our room:

The Resort restaurant, The Lighthouse, offered meal deals!  These may change seasonally, but we took advantage on both nights of our stay.  The first night we were able to get 2 appetizers, 2 adult entrees, 3 kids meals, and Coke products for $50.  The second night the deal was 1 appetizer, 2 pizzas, and Cokes for $40.  We found these deals to be very helpful with our trip budget.  I will say, the food was pretty average.  The kids loved it (who doesn’t love pizza and cheeseburgers?), but at the price, I could not complain.  The nachos were our favorite- definitely try them!

While the adults appreciate the affordable dinner, the kids LOVED the visits from LEGO character “Max.”  The appearance is included in the cost of the dinner and you don’t have to make a reservation.  I researched getting breakfast with some silly-speaking yellow men at another resort, and the cost for our family would have been over $130!  For breakfast!?!  LEGO creates so much value to the on-site stay.

A buffet breakfast is included for resort guests.  From hot items like sausage and eggs, to cold cereals and yogurts, the variety was appreciated.  I found this to be a value-added item as most similar resorts will charge an arm and a leg for breakfast.  Also, during breakfast the servers tried to sit families close to the large sand castle building area.  This gave parents some time to actually eat their breakfast.

A stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort. Meals at the Lighthouse include time with Max. This was a highlight for our children and showed added value for staying on-site. A stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort. The sand castle provided a fun place to play after meals.

CONS:

The room felt small.  Even though it was half of a cottage, it was no bigger than a standard hotel room.  I liked that the kids had a separate space, but because the room is separated by a curtain, not a door, light and noise were an issue.  Mr YT and I tried to stay up and watch TV, but Olen could see and hear it, so we had to just turn everything off and try to sleep.  This isn’t a huge deal, but I definitely prefer a true suite.

The bathroom layout and potty seat were a hit, but for all the thoughtful things they provided, a stool for the sink and a soap dish would be so helpful.  I know that’s a little nit-picky.

As a mentioned above, the dinner items (esp steak and the pizza) were just okay.  The buffet breakfast, however, was ample and tasty.

SHOULD YOU STAY?

I’d definitely recommend a stay at the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort, Florida.  Our kids were immersed in the LEGO culture for 2 days and they loved every moment.  The shuttle to and from the parks is convenient and easy.  A resort stay also includes free parking at LEGOLAND which we used on the last day after check-out.

The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat Resort offered so many on-site benefits – the meal deals, free breakfast, free LEGOLAND parking (normally $17), and the character dinners.  Our kids are already asking to go back and it’s not something that my husband nor I oppose!

Have you been to LEGOLAND?  Would you consider staying on-site?

** I was given a press rate for our stay.  All opinions are my own **

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A stay at Legoland Beach Retreat Resort in Florida is a fun escape for LEGO-loving kids and their fun parents! Here I share the pros and cons of staying on-site.

 

Traveling to Australia? Things to know before you go

10 Things to Know Before Visiting Australia

Australia has been near and dear to my heart since I spent a year as an exchange student Down Under. Since my time on Exchange, we’ve traveled to the country three times, this last time with our small children.  During my time as a travel agent, I shared my knowledge of Australia with many, and here’s my advice on things you must know before visiting Australia.Things to know before visiting Australia.

1. Australia is bigger than you think

You wouldn’t expect your friends visiting from overseas to cover the best of America is 10-12 days, yet Americans routinely think they can see all of Australia in the same time.  Australia is a big country!  Before visiting Australia, you’ll need to make a (short) list of your must-see locations.  In 12 full days, you could probably hit Sydney, Uluru, and the Great Barrier Reef, but you’d have to save Melbourne for next time.  Think you’d like to drive through the Outback?  From Adelaide in the south to Darwin in the north, it is approximately 1875 miles, or 30+ hours of driving.  Unless you have 3-4 weeks, you’ll probably be flying from place to place.

2. Australia is vast country with a variable climate

From the Snowy Mountains to a tropical rain forest, Australia has many climate zones.  If traveling in the winter months of July and August, you might wake up needing a heavy jacket in Melbourne, while in Cairns it would be a muggy 80 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the Outback, freezing mornings can turn into warm days, requiring plenty of layers.  Make sure you’ve thoroughly researched what you’ll be needing while visiting Australia.  If you’re in a major city, buying forgotten things at a Target or K-Mart, it pretty easy, but if you’re hoping to road trip further from the main cities, you’ll need to be prepared.

3. American citizens will need a Visa

No, not the Visa v. Mastercard debate.  If you’re traveling from the USA to Australia, you will require an ETA – Electronic Travel Authority.   This is Australia’s way of approving you to visit their country.  You can get one through the official government link HERE.  The ETA is electronic – unlike other countries, you don’t need to mail your passport away.  Make sure you thoroughly read through the requirements and submit your info (plus $20 AUD) well before your flight.

4. 85% of Australians live within 30 miles of the coast

You know Australia is a large continent, but did you know that most Australians live along the coast?  Australia is also very urbanized.  In Victoria and South Australia, over 75% of the population lives in Melbourne and Adelaide, respectively.

Things to know before visiting Australia. Tips for first time travelers to Australia.
The iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge

5.  Most travelers arrive through Melbourne or Sydney

If you’re arriving from the USA, you’ll most liking be arriving into either Sydney or Melbourne.  We’ve flown to and from both of these airports and here are our tips:

In Sydney, the airport is connected with downtown via the Airport Link train.  You can connect at Central Station for suburb stops, or take the Airport Link into Circular Quay to reach Sydney Harbour and the ferries. The same works in reverse.

Melbourne’s airport is over 13 miles from the downtown.  The best way to reach downtown is via SkyBus.  SkyBus will take you to the Southern Cross station in Melbourne, and from there you can transfer to a free hotel shuttle.  We found this to be the fastest and most affordable option to get to our hotel – especially for a large group that would not fit into one taxi.  What’s even better?  SkyBus offers free WiFi, so you can check-in with family and let them know you’ve arrived.

For more on visiting Melbourne click HERE


6.  Speaking of WiFi, free internet is hard to come by

Have a plan in place before leaving home, because while traveling in Australia, free WiFi is hard to find!  Our hotels did have WiFi, but it does run slower than most hotel connections that you are used to.  Even staying with friends, they asked that we not browse the day away, as Australians still pay for the data they use in their homes.  Yes, it’s not unlimited!   That said, you understand why not all cafes offer free WiFi.

7. Australia does have budget airlines and competitive flights between cities

While Qantas bears the logo of the kangaroo tail, there is competition among airlines within Australia.  We’ve flown both JetStar and Virgin Australia and had positive experiences.  Tiger Air is another airline, but due to less than positive reviews from my local friends, we avoided them.  JetStar and Virgin Australia service many cities throughout the country.  Check with each direct website for pricing on luggage, as it varies per the type of ticket you’ve purchased.

8. Things to know about traveling with children within Australia

For the most part, traveling with children in Australia is very similar to traveling with children in America.  Sidewalks are accessible for stroller use.  Upon request, hotels will provide cribs or pack n plays.  The main difference you’ll find is in eating out.  Aside from McDonald’s, Australia does not have many chain restaurants.  I’m not a fan of chain restaurants, but they do provide  a consistent experience when traveling with children.  Not all Australian restaurants will have the high chair you’re used to, or the children’s cups.

We often dined at “clubs” – places like the Royal Services League, Bowling Clubs, Golf Clubs – places that are set aside for groups of people that you’re able to sign into as a guest.  Because many of these places cater to members, they will have something for the children- a kids room, a playground, etc. Service at the club or pub is typically a “place your order a take a number” type!  We liked that we could get the kids drinks beforehand.  Note though, there aren’t typically kids’ meals or child sized drinking cups.  You may want to pack a few disposable sippycups in your bag, as we did for our two-year-old.

Dining in Australia is usually more expensive than the USA.  One night in Sydney we stopped at a local pub for dinner, for four meals (the youngest split one), 2 beers and 3 small sodas, our bill was over $105 Australian.  This was before any tip – which is not required, but a nice gesture.

9. You’re more likely to fight a koala than step on a snake.

Ok, not completely true!  Haha!  But while Australia is host to a slew of deadly animals, you probably won’t see them.  Yes, there are snakes and spiders, but common sense behavior will help you to avoid a bite.

If you’ve left your shoes on the floor overnight, shake them out in the morning. Redback spiders in the Sydney area like to make shoes their home.  If you’re walking on a trail, pay attention not a step on a snake.  Just keeping your eyes open goes a long way.

That said, a sighting of kangaroos and koalas is what most overseas visitors come for!  While they have the reputation of being cute and cuddly, neither are!  Feel free to admire-  from a distance.

10. Pig out on Chipotle before leaving home, because Mexican food is hard to come by.

At the risk of sounding like an American elitist, I extend my most compassionate plea to warn you about the lack of Mexican food.  Obviously Australia has little-to-no Hispanic population like the US of A, and while you’re now able to pick up some taco shells and Old El Paso at Woolworths, there’s little by way of Mexican restaurants.  Prepare accordingly. 😉

 


Have you been to Australia?  What’s your #1 tip?

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A look back- the best and the worst of 2017

Looking back on the year behind is always a little cathartic.  While I prefer to focus on the future, I know the past is what really shapes us!  I thought I’d share some of the highs and lows of the past year, mostly from the realm of travel, but a few from our personal lives as well.

Best of 2017

Visiting Marietta, Ohio on a press trip

This was my first press trip and it will probably live on as being the best.  Even though The Lafayette Hotel gave me a mild case of the heebie jeebies (the hotel has a long, haunted history), the historic nature was something I love.  While in Marietta, I was able to kayak and hike, two of my favorites.  But above all the fantastic experiences, I met other women that love travel and are all pursuing it through blogging.  I came home more energized about my craft and shouting “Girl Power!”  Ok, I didn’t really shout about Girl Power, but I did feel like I met my tribe.

Also, for 2017, Marietta was my most popular post:  5 Reasons Why You MUST Visit Marietta, Ohio

Kayaking on the Ohio River - The best and worst of 2017

Spending our 13th Anniversary in Cleveland

We didn’t want to spend a lot of money, or take much time away, but we traveled to Cleveland for one night in July to celebrate 13 years.  I booked the Hilton Cleveland on Priceline for under $100 and the front desk gave us an upgrade at check-in.  The views from our room were fantastic (if looking at the Browns stadium doesn’t make you too depressed).  The views were even better from Bar 32, on the 32nd floor and facing Lake Erie.  We finished our appetizers just in time as a storm rolled in from the lake.

The view from Bar 32 at the Hilton Cleveland downtown
This view was a little less sad over the summer, before the Browns went 0-16.

Visiting the Garden District of New Orleans

New Orleans was better than I expected.  That said, my favorite day was spent away from the French Quarter and within the Garden District.  I loved arriving by trolley, having a tour guide for Lafayette Cemetery, and then eating shrimp and fried green tomatoes.  Mossy trees, antebellum homes, and captivating history is what I love so much about the south- and the Garden District of NOLA perfectly encapsulated all three.

Great food in Sandusky, Ohio

Every few years we’ve driven to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, spent the day riding rollercoasters, and then driven home.  Never again.  After visiting Sandusky on a press tour, I’ve realized that the downtown area offers so much for locals and visitors.  Maybe one of their biggest strengths is the numerous places to eat or drink – my favorites – J. Bistro for a special night out, or Bates Farm Kitchen for a farm to table breakfast or lunch.

Being surprised by Fort Wayne

We enjoyed 3 days of family-fun in Fort Wayne while tagging along to my husband’s work conference.  We didn’t know what to expect from the small, Midwest city, but we absolutely fell in love.  As we were leaving, the hubs and I both confirmed that we’d be happy moving there if the need ever arose.  Fort Wayne is clean, has lots of public art, green space, and plenty to do with kids.  Mr YT’s conference is at the same spot in 2018, so we’re adding a couple days onto the trip and plan to explore (and eat) even more.

Best and worst of 2017 - We loved Fort Wayne, Indiana

 

 

Worst of 2017

I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but 2017 had plenty of hard moments, too.

My grandma passed away

I grew up within walking distance of both of my grandmothers.  I spent countless hours with them and they molded me in so many ways.  Even though Gran was 98, the loss was still hard to take.  In some ways, it felt like the official end to my youth as both of my grandmothers are now gone.

My grandma with baby Cecilia

Health drama

I shouldn’t complain because so many are worse off than we are, but this year we a battle of constant illness.  A mild case of the flu in February, two bouts of the stomach flu, and countless migraines.  One migraine in October was so bad, I chose to go to the ER (I thought I was having a stroke).  My other grandmother used to say, “getting older isn’t for sissies,” and I felt some of that this year as it appears my migraines have hit an all time high (and are mostly incurable).

Moving to a new city

I hate to put this under the “worst” because moving also gave us some positive things, but I will say, moving from somewhere that you’ve lived for 7 years, where you started your family, where your neighbors were like family… it was not easy.  Finding a new church, new doctors, new routines- it all takes time.  I’ve always thought I did well with change, but I think the older we get, the less we like change.  I am thankful for how well the kids adjusted.  The first couple of months were difficult, but they have handled it so well and adjusted to the new home with absolute ease.  I’m also thankful for budding friendships and for what is yet to come.

Losing my pride on a Segway

I know if I don’t mention it, my travel blogging friends won’t let me forget. Yes, I wrecked a Segway.  Yes, it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.  Yes, I got back on and continued with grace gritted teeth. 😉

What were some highs and lows of your 2017?  Maybe you’ve wrecked a Segway, too? 

Best Christmas gifts for the homeschool mom

Homeschool moms wear a lot of hats:  teacher, principal, and curriculum advisor, not to mention their homemaking roles, financial advisor, etc.  While that may create stress the other 364 days per year, on Christmas Day it means many more options for gifts!

Here are my favorite Christmas gifts for the homeschool mom.  Some for her, some to make homeschooling easier.  The things she wants but won’t ask for!  Read to the end for a fantastic giveaway just in time for the holidays!

EXPO Dry Erase Markers

Let’s just begin with reality- Dry erase markers are equivalent to liquid gold in our home.  They can also cause mama to LOSE HER COOL when the kiddos steal them for their personal coloring.  Save her sanity and stick some of these in your homeschool mom’s stocking.  She will love you for it!

Field guide to trees and Field guide to birds

Our family takes many nature hikes and the children are always asking about birds and trees and well, they are not a part of my repertoire!  These field guides are helpful for any mom that enjoys the outdoors, or uses Charlotte Mason-type curriculum.

Best Christmas gifts for the homeschool mom

Office essentials

Homeschooling often happens at the kitchen table, but it always feels good when it’s a little organized and pretty.  These office items from Target are perfect for making the homeschool mom feel pampered.  The globe will help her with teaching lessons, the files and paper organizer are great for separating each child’s work, and the bookends are functional and cute!  (I have these bookends and I love them).

 

The Unhurried Homeschooler or Teaching from Rest

Not gonna lie, most homeschooling moms could use a little encouragement.  Reading books from those who have been or are currently walking the homeschooling road is one way to help!  Both of these books have been on my “to-read” list for awhile and both received rave reviews.

 

For the Laura Ingalls Wilder fanatic

It seems to me that nearly every other homeschool mom has read the Little House books to her kiddos.  We’re almost done with the series and this new scarf from Litographs takes Laura’s words right off of the page!  Or this novel based on the life of Caroline.  Every time I start whining about motherhood or cooking, I think of how much easier we have it than Caroline.

Amazon gift card

I don’t know how you could go wrong with gifting an Amazon gift card.  Hopefully she’ll use it on herself and not school supplies, but even then, it’s always a great gift!

Best Christmas gifts for the homeschool mom- a massage

Groupon for a massage

She needs an hour of quiet and relaxation, you want to save a few dollars.  Why not check Groupon for excellent savings?  A massage, a pedicure, or an hour at the spa- I doubt the homeschool mom in your life will be too picky about which gift you choose!


best gifts for the homeschool mom

A new t-shirt to show the world she’s a proud homeschool mom

What’s even better?  You could win one!  I’m partnering with 6Money’s Creations to give one reader a chance at winning one of these styles.  You pick the design and the t-shirt size.  (Rules: Must be a US Resident, drawing ends 12/7 at 5:00pm and will be chosen at random.  Must follow the directions on the Rafflecopter below for ways to enter).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Which Christmas gift is your favorite?

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Picking the Perfect Family Road Trip Vehicle

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I didn’t formally mention it on the blog, but back in March we purchased a used 2014 Chrysler Town and Country.  My 2005 Dodge Caravan was beginning to have a more issues than we wanted to deal with, and we decided that it was the proper time for a replacement.

Mr. Yoder Toter and I had many lengthy discussions about getting an SUV versus sticking with a minivan.  We spoke to friends and family about the pros and cons of each vehicle, taking into consideration our family of five.   Because we do a lot of traveling, we researched gas mileage and storage holds.

Most of all, we considered our budget.   We had been saving for months and we didn’t want to go into debt.  Buying a car is no small decision- especially knowing that we don’t believe in car payments!

It came down to the question- “what would be the best vehicle for family travel?”  Here’s why we chose another minivan and why we find it to be the perfect family road trip vehicle!

How we chose our perfect family road trip vehicle. Yes, we went with another minivan- and here are the factors we considered.

Stow ‘n Go

Most Dodge and Chrysler minivans are fitted with the option to Stow ‘n Go the seats.  This means that the seats fold down into the bottom of the vehicle.  It takes less than 15 seconds to fold a seat down and create extra storage space.  This is convenient for positioning a cooler in the aisle or hauling extra suitcases.  While we checked out other brands of minivans, I knew I’d become too accustomed to the Stow ‘n Go in our old minivan.

Cruise Control

Another non-negotiable is cruise control.  A speed demon by nature (my husband calls me Richard Petty- yikes!), cruise control allows me to stay within a safe zone and give my foot a rest while driving on the highway.

Gas mileage

While our minivan will never get us the gas mileage of my husband’s Honda Fit, it still surpasses most SUVs.  We were able to get nearly 25 mpg while driving to North Carolina in September!  We like to spend money on experiences and hotels, not gas- so getting great gas mileage while road tripping is a must!

Space

Our friends with SUVs told us that they didn’t feel the trunk space was adequate for traveling with a large family.  Also, without the added head room or aisle-way that the van provides, we realized it may be harder to help little ones in third row seating.  These things, coupled with the Stow ‘n Go, really sold us on the minivan being the go-to family roadtrip vehicle.

Price

Obviously, the price was important and another reason why we went with a minivan over the SUV.  Mr YT was pressed endlessly to the screen of his smartphone in research until an unlikely deal showed up.   He drove to Cleveland early the next morning to purchase the Town and Country!  Yes, I let my husband buy a vehicle without me seeing it first! #wifeoftheyear

How we chose the perfect family road trip vehicle. Here are the factors we considered and why we went with another minivan.

That’s how we found our perfect family road trip vehicle!   If are ready to look for something new, cars.com enables you to research vehicles, sell your old car, and find a new car!  It’s a one-stop website!

What type of vehicle works best for your family?

5 FREE Christmas Events near Columbus, Ohio

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Central Ohio is the perfect place to enjoy the Christmas season with your family!  The chilled air and falling snow will get you in the mood to take in the sights and sounds with your children.  Here are 5 free Christmas events near Columbus, Ohio!

Scioto Mile Christmas lights

Bicentennial Park along the Scioto Mile is a great place to chill in the heat of summer, but now you can enjoy it once the holiday season hits.  The lights go on November 17th, but the inaugural celebration for 2017 will be a WinterFest event taking place on Saturday, December 2nd.  WinterFest includes a free concert of various local and national performers from 11 am- 4 pm.  Food trucks and beer vendors will also be present, with  a portion of food and beverage sales going to the Mid-Ohio Food Bank.  

If you can’t make it, the lights stay up until January, so swing by after that holiday party or business meeting.

Ohio Statehouse

The lights turn on December 7th at the family-friendly Holiday Festival, but there’s a chance to see the Victorian-era decorations the entire month (check website for times). Located in the center of downtown Columbus, you won’t want to miss the beauty and majesty of the Christmas at the Statehouse.  A visit is also a great way to sneak some education into a two-week Christmas break.

5 Free Christmas events near Columbus Ohio
Photo credit: ohiostatehouse.org

State Auto’s Nativity Scene

Bob Pein, State Auto’s Founder, began decorating the company’s downtown headquarters building in 1932 as a “Christmas gift to the community.” The present day decor, a life-sized Nativity scene, has become a destination for locals and travelers alike.  The display will open Tuesday, December 5th through New Years Day beginning at 5:30 pm each evening with local choirs performing on the weekends.  This may just be your new Christmas family tradition- and it’s absolutely FREE.  Check their website for special choir performances.

Village Lights in Historic German Village

Bundle up the kids and give them a taste of yesteryear as you begin the holiday season in German Village.  German Village is a FREE destination year-round, but when you add luminarias, a Christmas market, and warm beverages, you’ll feel more like you’ve been transported from Columbus, Ohio to Munich, Germany.  The Village Lights Festival is December 3rd from 5-9 pm.  Not only is the event free, but the parking is free as well, with a free shuttle running from 2 local parking lots.  More info HERE.

Granville Christmas Candlelight Walking Tour

A 30-minute drive from downtown Columbus: Granville, Ohio is like stepping foot into a small New England town.  Granville’s Christmas Candlelight Tour is completely free, yet you may want to pack a little cash (along with the kids) so you can enjoy a holiday beverage at a restaurant , or take the children on a magical horse-drawn carriage through the small city.  

Luminaries and lighted Christmas trees will line the streets making for a Winter Wonderland as you pop in and out of local churches to hear Christmas music.  The Granville Candlelight Walking Tour takes place December 2nd from 1-9 pm.  

 

Check current rates at Columbus hotels.

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5 Free Christmas Events near Columbus, Ohio. Take the family and enjoy a night out around the city- from a life-sized Nativity Scene to a Christmas Market or a WinterFest with music. You'll find it all in Central Ohio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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Best Christmas gifts for the travel-obsessed woman

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Do you know this type of woman?  The one that asks for a special trip or a weekend away in lieu of fancy shoes or the latest electronic?  The mom that brags about recent adventures instead of her latest set of wheels?  Oh wait, I’m talking about me.  Anyhow, here’s my list of the best Christmas gifts for the travel-obsessed woman.  Someone send this to my husband, please. 😉

Best Christmas gifts for the travel obsessed woman

Try the World Snack Box

Even if a woman has everything, she still eats!  I love the idea of a snack box because it 1. doesn’t require grocery shopping and 2. can be used by a woman on the go!  The Try the World Snack box is a curated box of locally-made snacks from all over the globe.

 

AMIR Camera Lens Kit

This is THE gift for the lady who takes a slew of photos on her phone, and really who doesn’t?!  This lens set allows the traveler to take her photography up a notch with a fish-eye lens, a macro lens, and a wide-angle lens!  And it’s under $15.  Sometimes I just don’t want to haul my DSLR camera around, and I’d like to see how this would add to my photography skills without toting all the extra weight.

 


World Changer Coin Bank

While this bank is a beautiful way to save some travel funds, what is even more important is that it is Fair Trade!  The World Changer Coin Bank from Trades of Hope is crafted in Bangladesh, giving impoverished women the chance to provide for their families.

 

Best gifts for the travel obsessed woman

HopSooken Packing Cubes

I can’t sing the joys of packing cubes enough.  If there’s a woman on your list that is traveling soon, share with her the satisfaction of having extra room in her luggage and removing clothes that are UNWRINKLED.  I pack each of my children in a different cube, so unpacking is a breeze and then THEY can be in charge of their individual cube.  My set didn’t come with a laundry bag, and this one definitely beats having to bring extra plastic bags.

 

Best Christmas gifts for the travel obsessed woman

Map art from Minted

I adore this map artwork from Minted.  It may be meant for a child’s room, but I think it could go in many spaces.  Minted also offers artwork of different cities, it would be easy to find something for the traveling woman!  As a perk, you’ll earn 4 Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards points for every $1 you spend at the shop!  Now that’s something to celebrate.  Get the Chrome extension HERE.

 

Winter shawl/scarf

I know I had a scarf on last year’s holiday list, but they really are the most versatile thing in a traveling mom’s closet.  On our beach trip this summer, I wore a lightweight scarf and it came in handy when we encountered a rank-smelling rest stop bathroom. Yes, you can even breathe into them!  #keepingitreal Scarves can add statement to an outfit, serve as a wrap on a cold airplane, cover a nursing baby, etc etc etc.  Buy all the scarves.  This one is under $15, too!

 

Best Christmas gifts for the travel obsessed woman

Clear Bottom Inflatable Raft

What more does an over-extended lady need than a clear-bottomed raft to watch the ocean move beneath her?  I DON’T KNOW.  Get out, skipper, Momma’s ready for a rest while watching the fishies. We’ve been talking for ages about visiting Hawaii in 2018 and I think all I’d need to pack is a bathing suit, my sweet family, and this.

Fossil Passport Cover

This pretty in pink passport cover is the perfect stocking stuffer for the frequent traveler.

 

What’s on your Christmas list?  Any of these items make the cut? 

 

 

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Best Christmas gifts for the travel obsessed woman

St. Paul Hotel – Wooster, Ohio

Downtown hotel in the heart of Wooster, Ohio

Not going to lie, I’m a hotel snob.  I like lush bedding, a spacious bathroom, and good breakfast options.  Imagine my surprise when I found this all at a boutique hotel in small-town Ohio?  Yes, it’s true.  The St. Paul Hotel in Wooster, Ohio is sure to please even the snobbiest of travelers (cough cough, me)!

The St. Paul Hotel is located in the center of Wooster, just two blocks from the square.  There are numerous dining and coffee options within a very short walk.

If you’re looking for modern conveniences, the St. Paul Hotel offers in room Wi-Fi, heated bathroom floor tiles (ohmygoodness, heavenly), and a rainwater shower plus a hand-held shower wand!  I appreciated that my corner room also had numerous windows and a Keurig coffeemaker.  The amenities kit was Tommy Bahama products.

St. Paul Hotel- Wooster Ohio St. Paul Hotel- Wooster Ohio St. Paul Hotel- Wooster, OhioSt. Paul Hotel- Wooster, Ohio

Maybe what impressed me the most was the history behind this hotel.  The St. Paul hotel has been rebirthed from it’s former life!  From the the early 1900s-1970s, the building did operate as a hotel, but it had a questionable past as a place of basement betting and card games.  Little history is known about those early years as a hotel- although there would have only been one guest bathroom per floor.  In the 1970s, the hotel was purchased by a non-profit group and turned into a subsidized housing, which was used until 2008.

At that time, the non-profit went out of business and a local developer came up with the idea for a boutique hotel.  While the building sustained an entire “gut job,” the interior brick walls were saved for the trendy exposed brick feature.  Dressers, beds, and desks were made by a company in Orrville, Ohio.  Each shower is enclosed with tempered glass made by the Wooster Glass Company.  My favorite piece of the interior may be this piece of stained glassed located in the hotel lobby.  The St. Paul O.P.N. glass was found at a Wooster antique store.  The hotel seems to fully encompass the ingenuity and history of the community – something I really enjoyed!St. Paul Hotel- Wooster, Ohio

The St Paul Hotel is the only property to service the downtown Wooster area.  Parking is free and getting around the small city by foot or car is very easy.  Wooster is located less than 30 minutes to Ohio’s Amish Country and close to attractions like Secrest Arboretum and the J.M. Smucker company store.

I would recommend the St. Paul Hotel for a romantic getaway or a birthday celebration.  The hotel would also work for family travel, but do note that the rooms do not have bathtubs.  Check rates now.

For more on downtown Wooster, see my post HERE.

Have you visited Wooster, Ohio?  Where did you stay?

**I was hosted at the St. Paul Hotel as a guest of the Wayne County CVB.  All opinions are my own**

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St. Paul Hotel- Wooster, Ohio- downtown boutique hotel

5 things to do in Sandusky, Ohio with kids

Sandusky, Ohio is a small city on the shores of Lake Erie that has a ton to offer families!  Sandusky is well-known as the home to  Cedar Point, but most people spend a day on the rollercoasters and then leave town (raised hand here).  However, there’s so many reasons to stay and play in Sandusky.  Here are my suggestions of 5 things to do in Sandusky, Ohio with kids!

#1 Enjoy top notch museums

I would not have thought of Sandusky, a city of only 25,000 people, having two fantastic museums!  I learned so much at both the Maritime Museum AND the The Merry-Go-Round Museum!

The Merry-Go-Round Museum is situated in the old Sandusky Post Office.  The circular building made for the perfect place to house a full 1920s Carousel.  I learned so many facts about Carousels- Did you know that every Carousel has a lead horse where the ticket taker would know to start and stop?  Did you know that British carousels go clockwise, but everywhere else they are counter-clockwise?  Or that carousels date all the way back to the 12th century?  Someone sign me up for jeopardy, this museum was a goldmine!

Kids will enjoy getting to ride on the historic Carousel (included in admission) that travels 9 mph!  If you’re weak in the stomach, I don’t recommend coming right after a very filling hotel breakfast.  I speak from experience!

Things to do with kids in Sandusky, Ohio- The Merry-Go-Round Museum

The Maritime Museum was another welcome surprise.  Sandusky’s location on Lake Erie makes for a history brimming with nautical mystery and drama.  The location wasn’t just known for shipping and ferries though, in the late 1900s, Sandusky was the largest ice producer west of New York City!  Children can also learn how Sandusky played a role in the Underground Railroad.  This was the last stop before former slaves could catch the ferry over to Canada.

Lastly, kids will love this interact pirate ship!  Yes, Lake Erie even had her share of pirates!

Things to do with kids in Sandusky, Ohio- Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum gives a family discount, offering immediate families admission for just $14.  This is a great deal- allot 90+ minutes to spend here.

#2 Hit the water

You can’t be right on the shores of Lake Erie and not enjoy some water activities!  Kids of all ages will enjoy Sandusky’s Goodtime I.  We took a sunset cruise and enjoyed both scenic views and Cedar Point.  Food and beverage can be purchased onboard- for adults that’s a full bar, and there were pizza slices for kids!  This is a relaxing way to end a day in Sandusky, and prices are affordable- costing our family of 5 less than $30 (under 5 are free).

Things to do in Sandusky with kids- Goodtime I sunset cruise

For the more adventurous, and those with teens, check out Air1Airboats out of East Sandusky Bay!  This was not my first airboat ride, but it was my first trip on rough waters!  What a hoot!  I’m glad I packed my rain jacket (similar), because we got WET!Things to do in Sandusky with kids- Airboat tour

#3 Fill your tummies

Sandusky has no shortage of fantastic places to dine!

How about a locally-sourced breakfast or brunch at Bates Farm Kitchen?  Large portions of biscuits and gravy and farm-fresh omelets were on the seasonal menu.  Chef Clint uses ingredients that you’ll be happy to let your kids indulge in!  I know my kids would enjoy the french toast with Ohio maple syrup.

Needing to caffeinate after a busy day with kids?  Try the new(ish) Boomtown Coffee!  I tried a nitrogen-infused cold brew (think coffee that comes from a tap and looks like a beer).  It was amazing- definitely a pick-me-up!

Wanting a lakefront lunch?  Try the Dockside Cafe.  Not only does the cafe offer up gorgeous vistas of the lake, the food is casual, kid-friendly fare.  (They are open seasonally- only til October 1 this year- so hurry).Things to do with kids in Sandusky- Dockside Cafe

Looking to affirm your sweet tooth?  Toft’s Dairy is a Sandusky institution for all things dairy- including their famous ice cream!  Visit their parlor on Venice Road to try the many flavors.  I love the story behind Toft’s family business, including the fact that all of their milk comes from farms located within a 50 mile radius.

#4 Cruise around town (in an atypical way)

For kids 14 and older, what better way to engage them in the history of Sandusky, than by doing so while riding a Segway?  Yes, Sandusky has it’s own Segway tour!  Jim, owner of Segwave, has the patience of Job with those that are a little nervous or unsure (i.e. – ME).  Jim offers 1 and 2 hour tours of Sandusky, and plenty of training time to get acclimated on the device.  Your favorite part will be cruising right by Lake Erie (and crossing your fingers that the Segway floats).  Just kidding!

#5 Play it up

When we pulled up to Ghostly Manor, I wasn’t so sure if this would be a place I could recommend.  My 7-yr old is afraid of  simple Halloween decorations, so the giant dragon at the door isn’t exactly what you’d expect for a kid-friendly playhouse.  Once inside, I could see why this is the perfect place for the whole family to hang out.  From a roller skating rink to an Escape Room, kids of all ages will be happy.  There is also a haunted house, black light golf, a jungle jym, and arcade games.  Our group of adults did the Missing Deed Escape Room, which was much harder than I expected, we needed various clue to help us get out!

Ghostly Manor is a place you could visit in Sandusky again and again.  I’d consider taking my young ones there if traveling with older children that wanted to be at Cedar Point or nearby Haunted Houses.

So there’s my Top 5 things to do in Sandusky, Ohio with kids!  Have you been to Sandusky?  Were you like me and chose to hit up Cedar Point and then call it a day?  I urge you to add more time to your stay!  Sandusky is celebrating it’s bicentennial in 2018 (more coming soon) and there is tons of revitalization in the works.  You won’t want to miss it!

* I was hosted by Lake Erie Shores & Islands on a media trip.  All opinions are my own.*

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Fall Reading List – 2017

I blinked and summer is behind us.  Booo.  But never fear, there is fall-foliage, crisp mornings, and chilly evenings that all make it a perfect time to curl up with a good book.  I’m excited to share with you my fall reading list for 2017!

Fall reading list for 2017.  What I'm reading this fall.

Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do – Chris Guillebeau is best known in travel circles for having visited all 193 countries.  However, he’s been able to build a remote worklife and his lifestyle is intriguing.  I’m most interested in his chapters on entrepreneurship and building a loyal following.

Mother of God – Mother of God is the Madre de Dios, a region of west Peru where the Amazon River begins its course. Paul Rosolie, the author, was only 18 when he left to explore this vast jungle.  You know they say that readers make the best writers, and I’m hoping that reading this travelogue will help me as I write about my travels (albeit I don’t plan to have any anacondas on my trips).

So Happiness to Meet You – From the publisher, “After job losses and the housing crash, the author and her family leave L.A. to start over in a most unlikely place: a nine-foot-wide back-alley house in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s poorest districts, where neighbors unabashedly stare into windows, generously share their barbecued rat, keep cockroaches for luck, and ultimately help her find joy without Western trappings.”  Just released in July, this is sure to be a fascinating read!

The Power of the Other – From the publisher, “Popular wisdom suggests that we should not allow others to have power over us, but the reality is that they do, for better or for worse.”  Ahhh, preach!  “Combining engaging case studies, persuasive findings from cutting-edge brain research, and examples from his consulting practice, Dr. Cloud argues that whether you’re a Navy SEAL or a corporate executive, outstanding performance depends on having the right kind of connections to fuel personal growth and minimize toxic associations and their effects.” From Dr. Henry Cloud, author of the popular Boundaries, this is sure to be a helpful book!

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World – I can’t think of anything more exciting than a trip around the world, which, in 2017, doesn’t involve much drama, thanks to efficient airplanes and affordable travel options. However this trip takes place in 1899!  Two women, both leaving from NYC, try to break the record for the fastest trip around the world.  Nellie heads east by steamship and Elizabeth heads west by train. I can’t wait to dive into it!

Knights in Training: Ten Principles for Raising Honorable, Courageous, and Compassionate Boys – Folks, can I just say, raising boys is hard?  Especially the strong-willed one that questions EVERY. LITTLE. THING.  I’m always open to new wisdom, and this book came highly recommended.  It will make a great addition to my fall reading.

What are you reading this fall?  I’d love to know!

PIN THIS:Fall Reading list for Fall 2017. Books to read in 2017.