A view from the bow of the Norwegian Gem
The Sound of Music is one of my all time favorite movies. I have watched it every Christmas since I can remember. When I visited Austria around 10 years ago, I went to Salzburg and did the Sound of Music tour. We visited sites used in the movie, and between stops they played the soundtrack. The people on the bus, including me, sang along with gusto. The next night at my hostel, the played the movie in the common room and I made sure that I went to watch it. more »
Spring is here, and with that, at least for our family, comes theme park season. Since my daughter was one, we have been frequenting theme parks. We lived in Williamsburg, VA for the first two years of her life and I had a platinum pass to the SeaWorld parks. Literally every week, we went to Busch Gardens Europe. Since then, we have taken her to Disney World, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens Tampa and Sesame Place as well. more »
When I was in my 20s, I used to take trips that were jam packed with things to do. I would hit the ground running, sometimes literally, after I dropped my bag off at my hotel. I remember on my first trip to Italy, I checked into my hotel in Rome, and 15 minutes later I was on a bus cross-town to go on a walking tour of Old Rome. On that same trip, I managed to pack Rome, Florence, Verona and Venice into a one-week trip; I would have also gone to Pisa if there hadn’t been a train strike. On another one-week sojourn, I took in Prague, Budapest and Munich.
Now, I definitely got to see a lot, but I didn’t get to truly know a place or its people. Everything was on the surface. I also didn’t really get to relax, which is why I call them trips not vacations. Back then, I was in school, so I didn’t mind if I was tired when I returned. Now, I have a job and a family, so if I am going to take a vacation, I want to be rested when I get back especially if I am leaving my kids to go on said vacation.
I have learned to slow down and to savor the lazy days just sitting by the water reading, having a conversation with my husband without feeling rushed or walking to nowhere in particular. One of the best vacations that I ever took was on a small boat tour in Croatia. I spent a lot of time reading and just looking at the clear blue water. We would stop in the middle of the ocean for a swim and pull into an island late afternoon and just stroll around. That was truly a vacation.
Will I never take what I deem a trip again? I definitely will. As a matter of fact, I am planning such a trip now, but I now have an appreciation for vacations that I didn’t have before.
Let’s Play Together is one of the shows at Sesame Place. I have been to Sesame Place three times before, but I guess I never went to this show. I didn’t realize that if you sat in the front, right behind the signs on the benches where it says do not sit here, you will have a lot of interaction with the characters. People are not allowed to sit there, because the characters come off the the stage and stand in those areas. My daughter was able to interact with a bunch of the characters at the show and it made it more fun for her. So if you are going to Sesame Place and the Let’s Play Together show, make sure to sit right behind where it tells you not to.
I love staying in hotels; not having to clean up or make the bed is the best feeling in the world. But now that I have a toddler and a teen, we have definitely outgrown a traditional hotel room and lets just say that a suite is not in the budget at this moment. So either we stuff ourselves into a traditional hotel room or we go for Plan B. Plan B for us is an extended stay hotel. I have written before about my new found love of timeshares because of the space, but the one downside is I still have to do the cooking and cleaning. An extended stay hotel is the best of both worlds; they have the space of a timeshare, but your room gets cleaned and some ever throw in breakfast. The extended stay that I frequent the most is the Residence Inn. They have buffet breakfast in the morning and Sunday through Thursday they have a happy hour with free drinks and snacks. You definitely can’t beat that.
For those of you who know me personally, or read my blog a lot, you know that I love to cruise. I have probably been on around 13 or so cruises, and I usually don’t get seasick. That all changed on my honeymoon cruise from the UK to NY. Cruising through the English Channel was horrible. I was laid out flat on my bed. It was too late for Dramamine and I didn’t have a patch or a pulse point bracelet. One of the crew members suggested green apples. They said that is what they eat on-board when they get a little bit queasy. So if you are on a cruise, and don’t have your pills, patch or pulse point bracelet, try a green apple.
Many people think that cities aren’t a great place to visit with kids. I used to be a member of this camp. But after I had my daughter, she started traveling with me to various cities for work and I found that there is plenty to do on a city break for a family. While amusement parks, resorts and cruises might be easier to do, visiting a city can be just as much fun or even more fun than the tried-and-true family travel alternatives.
Here are three cities that I have visited with my daughter and that I recommend for a family vacation.
1) New York – I have to start with New York as that is the city closest to me and the one that I visit the most. There are so many things to see and do in New York, especially in the summer. Take in a free movie at Bryant Park, and before the show starts, take the kids for a spin on the French carousel. Visit Central Park and go boating on the lake, check out a marionette show or play in one of the many playgrounds. Visit the Museum of Natural History and go back in time to the pre-historic era or walk through a butterfly garden. Take a boat cruise to the Statue of Liberty or visit the observation decks at Rockefeller Center or Central Park.
2) Boston – I have been to Boston many times and I find something different to do each time. One of my favorites is to visit Faneuil Hall and walk around looking at the vendors and the outdoor performers. Visit the Boston Aquarium or take a duck tour around the city and on the water, quackers in hand. You can also take a walking tour with a costumed character and learn about the American Revolution. Take a side trip to Salem, and learn about the witch trials, which are sure to fascinate kids and adults alike.
3) San Francisco – There are many great places to visit in San Francisco as well as great places to eat. One of my favorites is Fisherman’s Wharf; while it may be tourist, it is still a lot of fun. There is an outdoor magic show that is performed a couple of times each day at the Wharf. There is also a small amusement park as well. You can also see sea otters frolicking which is a lot of fun to watch. Kids can get fresh donuts as well as great ice cream. Further down the street is the Musee Mecanique which has great old video games that are a lot of fun to play. Also in the area is Ghirardelli, where you can get fantastic ice cream sundaes with some of the best hot fudge I have ever had. Anther great place to visit in San Franciso is Chinatown. Take a walking tour of Chinatown and sample some great food while learning some Chinese culture. It definitely wouldn’t be a trip to San Francisco without taking a trip on the trolley.