Even a travel blogger sometimes has a difficult time finding the right vacation….

Objective: an amazing family vacation before the husbands puts a baby in my belly.

Problem: money

Solution: working on it…

Try as I might, but I am having a difficult time finding a vacation package for myself, my husband and our two boys.  We are looking to have this vacation be the last big one with the kids until after the pre-production (aka, I’m not pregnant… yet…) addition is a bit older.  With a budget of (well, I’m not entirely sure what he budget is… so I’ll guess) $2500, you’d think it wouldn’t be that difficult, but it is.  Wanting something to make everyone happy, wanting something where my family will be safe and wanting something that is budget friendly to keep my husband happy is no easy task.

Redo an old adventure?

We tossed around the idea of recreating our vacations from 2 and 3 years ago.  Three years ago we spend a week in Wilmington, NY seeing family.  It was nice.  We learned a lot about the area.  The kids had a blast with their cousins.  Two years ago we had a road trip in New England.  Spent a few days in Boston with the husband’s aunt.  South Boston was a great location and his aunt definitely took us off the beaten path when it came to sightseeing.  Then we hit up Vermont, rented a cabin by the lake and took an opportunity to spend some time with my grandmother and aunt.  It was nice, laid back for the most part and beautiful.  But, we didn’t want to take the mooching off or relatives route again this year.  We’ll save that for when we have another child.

Last summer was awesome.  As you may recall from my inaugural post, the hubby and I took the boys on our first family cruise.  Thank you Carnival for a memorial experience ( and I do mean that in the most heartwarming way possible ).  But what to do this year?

Mike and I just took a cruise on Carnival back in April for his 40th birthday.  So, while a cruise is always appealing, we’re thinking lets not jump right back onto the ship just yet, since we just got our land-legs back and all.  Plus we did a cruise with the kids last year, we do want to keep it exciting for them after all.  Initially I was looking into another road trip.  I had an idea of driving up to Montreal and staying there for a few days, then hit up Mike’s Aunt again in Boston (since the boys keep saying they want to see Aunt Getty again) before returning home.  But as Mike so correctly pointed out, we will need lots of cash for food and activities for the kids.

Then Mike shocked me in a way that only he could… My husband the miser suggested an all-inclusive with the boys.  Oh. My. God.  Great, lets run with this!  Except he won’t give me a specific budget.  I just know him and assume that something closer to the $2000 mark would be ideal.  I can likely stretch it to $2500 – 2700 mark if I find some amazing deal that cannot be passed up.

Ok, onto my usual resources for an amazing all-inclusive deal.  Oh crap!  Forgot one thing… I’m actually looking to go away during a peak travel season.  Doh!

Needless to say, this isn’t as easy as I would have liked it to be.  But I want to be sure and happy with this decision for my family, since for the most part, it all falls on me to plan and book this activity.

Thus far these have been my go-to sights for deals:

http://www.expedia.com/
http://www.cheapcaribbean.com/
http://www.travelzoo.com/
https://www.groupon.com/
http://www.dreamsresorts.com/
http://www.iberostar.com/en
http://www.jetblue.com
https://www.southwest.com/

I’ll keep ya posted on what I (we – in theory) decide.

I love fall

I love everything that’s fall.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Halloween is awesome too!  I love the crisp in the air.  The smell of pumpkin and apple pies.  The taste of apple cider (and now hard cider!!).  Apple cider sangria (thank you pinterest!).  The changing of the leaves….  And most of all, I love New England in the fall.  That was my most favorite thing about college – New England in the fall.

I went to Eastern Connecticut State University.  In 2001 it was mostly a teaching school but to my luck, it happened to have a kick-ass Sociology department.  I feel that I got an unbelievable education and, despite not being a Connecticut resident, I still got it for a more affordable price than had I continued my education at a private college.  Nothing beat walking to class and looking at the trees, feeling the cooling air on my cheeks, driving around the area and taking in the scenery.  Loved it.

Looking forward to my next venture into New England in the fall: Salem, MA.  As crazy as this sounds, I’ve actually never been there.  And to be in town right before Halloween is very exciting to me.  The hubby and I are going with another couple, the same couple who introduced us to cruising, and I couldn’t be more excited.  Since our friends had never been to Salem either this will be an adventure for the both of us!

When you think of Salem, you can’t help but think of the the Salem Witch Trials.  I also think of The Crucible, you rock Winona 😉  This town appears to take great pride in their bewitching history and it looks like ghost tours are one of the top things to do, and if anyone knows me, I’m game!  It looks like they have a “red line” much like Boston’s Freedom Trail, to help maneuver one’s adventure through the historical sites.

Stay tuned to upcoming post(s) on the Salem trip!!!

TBT: London, England. Oh how I miss this amazing city!

Back in December of 2002 I decided to participate in a winter theater session through a sister college to my university.  The catch, while the theater class was through Central Connecticut State University, it was actually a theater class in London.  London is an amazing place to visit any time, but it felt very special being there in December/January.  I arrived on December 27th after a 7 hour red-eye flight courtesy of British Airways.  The flight itself was crowded and I had the misfortune of being in the center seat in the center row in the economy section.  Despite the uncomfortableness of flight, it was unmanageable.  I was able to get some sleep.  I was able to eat the food (it wasn’t terrible, yay!) and I was able to watch some tv/movies.

I do recall customs through London felt like a well oiled machine.  I was quickly allowed into the country and got my bags with ease.  My group took a charted bus and we spent just over 2 weeks at the Strand Palace Hotel which was conveniently located on The Stand and within close proximity to Covent Garden, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, West End and Trafalgar Square.    The closes tube station that I used was the one for Charing Cross.  As a New Yorker in London using their tube, I must say that London puts New York to shame in the cleanliness and decor department.  The tube station and train itself was very clean and well maintained.

As for my theater class, I had to see 6 (or 8) West End productions and one production by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon (a short train ride away).  The play by the RSC that I saw was The Merry Wives of Windsor.  While RSC did a great job in terms of acting, that was one of the longest and most boring plays I have ever seen.  Please don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Shakespeare’s work and I have read many of his plays both due to school and on my own accord, however I never liked that particular play and seeing on stage did not to make me change my opinion.  Even though that particular play wasn’t for me, I highly recommend if in London to spend a day in Stratford and see a play by the RSC, it is worth the experience.  I also toured Shakespeare’s Home, which was also fun and very interesting.

Back to the theater shows.  Wow, West End productions were amazing.  And I didn’t see the plays that you would expect to see on Broadway in NY, meaning not just musicals.  I saw dramas, comedies, plays I never head of.  On a whim, while chatting with other theater-goers at the various shows, I took it upon myself to see 3 additional plays.  The three that I paid myself to go and see were Art (Drama), The Play What I Wrote (a comedy) and The Reduced Shakespeare Company: All the Works of William Shakespeare Abridged (a comedy).  Phenomenal.  Amazing.  Loved them all.

While in London I found out that all public museums are free to the public.  So, of course, I spent just about every day checking out a museum.  I went to the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, the Science Museum, National Gallery and Tate Modern.  The British Museum, V&A Museum and Tate Modern I visited more than once.  One museum that I did pay for, and it was worth every penny, was the London Dungeon.

Ok, the London Dungeon deserves it’s own paragraph.  This was awesome, but you need to keep an open mind.  It’s technically more of a tourist attraction than anything else but it’s very informative about the history of London but with an interesting twist.  This museum exhibits the more shady and at times violent history of London.  It talks about events like the plague, Jack the Ripper, and other lesser known London historical events.  I found it with the money.  The actors/tour guides make it a fun and enjoyable experience.  Not sure I’d bring my kids till they are tweens ages but I do recall seeing younger children there.  I guess it just depends on how your kids react to a hunted house but in this case they tell you honestly that everything happened.

Other things I did in London was I toured the Globe Theater and St. Paul’s Cathedral.  I walked across London Bridge and the Millennium Bridge.  Also shopping was fun (isn’t it always ladies?).  While I mostly window shopped it was well worth it to just look around and take it all in.  I’m grateful that I didn’t bring all my credit cards with me on this trip, or I would have done some serious damage.  I checked out the world famous Harrods, Oxford Street, Mayfair, Covent Garden, and of course in the tourist trip sections of London.  I did look from the streets at Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben, The London Eye (big Ferris Wheel) and Kensington Palace, but I didn’t want to pay for the tours to any of them.  This decision was mostly based on the fact that I didn’t want to wait on the lines for each attraction.  Oh, and I went to Notting Hill to find the blue door from the movie (BTW, very cute section!  Loved the shops!).

Food in London was great, however, I found the further I traveled via the tube from the West End/Tourist trap areas, the better and cheaper the food got.  While in the tourist area’s I actually ate a lot of Subway.  It was cheap, I could change up what I was eating for lunch every day, and there was an internet cafe attached to it.  Back in 2002 Wifi wasn’t “a thing” and I didn’t have a smart phone / iPad / iPod / laptop on hand like I do today.  I love technology.

If I could do a London trip now, I would revisit the museums again.  They were free and interesting so I’d say it was all worth it.  Definitely would see more West End productions.  I would like to see a show at The Globe Theater.   This time I would like to actually go inside the Parliament, Westminster Abby and Tower Bridge.  I would go back to St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Dungeon again.  I would also do a haunted walking tour at night.  I didn’t do it back then because the girls in my group said that they would be too scared and I didn’t want to do it alone.  I hope to go back to London sometime soon, it’s been 12 years, too long!  And I would shop till I dropped!

Pour the Core: A first timers dip into hard cider deliciousness

On October 4th I went, in the pouring rain, to the Pour the Core Festival in Cutchogue, NY.  Despite the rain and the fact that I am definitely not a beer drinker by any stretch of the imagination, I must say that I had a great time.  This was the 3rd annual festival held at the Peconic Bay Winery.  Regardless of the rain, there was a pretty great turn out.  I purchased my tickets through Amazon Local for $20 each, at the door they were $44 each.  For the money you get 2oz plastic collective glass and all the hard cider and some beer your little glass can hold.  Refills are free and greatly encouraged.

As I said above, I am not a beer drinker.  I will always chose anything other than beer when given the chance.  Now cider, on the other hand, I can honestly say I am not all that familiar with.  I only purchased the tickets because the husband loves beer and it was an excuse to hang out with good friends.  I definitely got an education in cider on this day.  First off, I had no idea how many different hard ciders there are out there.  Even more importantly, some creators are even local to long island.  Rumor Mill Hard Cider was from Lieb Cellars in Cutchogue.  And Woodside Orchards from Aquebogue had a nice Cinnamon Apple hard cider that was quite delish.  Some of my favorites were J.K. Scrumpy’s Hard Cider, Bad Seed Hard Cider, Stella Cider (Stella, who knew!?  And it was good!), Pure Cider (a VERY LIGHT hard cider which I thought would be a great ‘intro to cider option for someone who’s never had) and Crispin.

Regarding the beer, my husband was in craft beer heaven.  Long Ireland was his favorite, plus the brewery is located in Riverhead.  Of course he spent plenty of time by the Long Ireland keg talking with the actual brewers.  Blue Point was also on tap (like the name, it’s located in Blue Point, NY), and that made him happy as well..  Blue Moon was on hand as well, however the hub isn’t a fan.  And I honestly do not recall if there were other beer vendors at the festival but the husband said that I listed those, who in his opinion, were those who mattered.

There was also a delicious couple of cider cocktail tasting drinks from the Long Island Girls’ Pint Out table.  I can truly said that I’ve never heard of them, but they are worth checking out.  All 4 of their offerings were amazing and I will have to do my research as to where I can more of their stuff.  Soooo yummy!

Last but not least, there was a free horseradish tasting table courtesy of Holy Schmitt’s Farm (Riverhead, NY).  I usually limit my horseradish intake to what is found in my Bloody Mary drink but I do have to say, their raspberry horseradish and mustard was scrumptious.

On the quick topic of Bloody Mary’s, Murph’s Bloody Mary Mix is what we use at home to make the delicious cocktail, and they were also supposed to be at the festival, but they didn’t show up.  I was disappointed!  But that won’t deter me of continuing to use their mix, because it really is the best.

What I did find was that, again, despite the rain, the festival/vendors seemed well prepared for the weather.  There was 2 food trucks and at least 2 other food vendor options for purchase.  I would have liked to have seen a tent or two for us poor souls were were stuck waiting in the rain for our food to be prepared, but thanks to umbrellas and rain jackets, we survived.

My overall assessment is that I would absolutely do this again next year.  It would be nice to experience it all and take my time tasting all that was offered without rushing through it because I didn’t like the idea of being out in the uncomfortable rain.  I felt like this was a great start to the fall weather and a great way to spend an afternoon on Long Island with friends.

TBT: Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA (for the non-Harvard student)

Back in my college day’s, after a, one year, unsuccessful stint at Long Island University: CW Post (awesome school, but too much for this former Nassau chick to do so I was easily distracted), I transferred to Eastern Connecticut State University (Fall of 2001).  I loved Eastern for many reasons, but mostly because I found it much easier to focus since I was in a more rural area of CT.  On the weekends I did find myself rather bored, so I went exploring.  I would take monthly day trips up to the Boston/Cambridge area, which was an approximate 2 hour drive away.  Whether with friends or on my own, I always had a good time in the Cambridge area.  A fun area to relax, read, or explore is Harvard Yard.  It’s beautiful.  And despite having a reputation as being the “school of snobs”, I found the students to be like the rest of us, friendly and also just looking to relax on their off time.  It also wasn’t as congested as Boston was and it was much easier to find parking at the time.  I would usually grab a park bench and read a good book, have some awesome local clam chowder (in a bread bowl!), window-shop along the perimeter of the college, have a cup of coffee or tea, or grab a drink at a local bar.

After looking at an updated map of area attractions, I’d say I would do something things differently.  Sure, I would love to take in the scenery of Harvard Square, relax on a park bench, and/or window shop with a good cup of coffee in hand on a crisp Autumn day, but I would add a few things to the itinerary.  For starters I would definitely do a Ghost Tour.  You heard right; a ghost tour.  If you want to learn the history of a city and not just hear about the cheery parts, I would always recommend a ghost tour.  Looks like Cambridge has a Haunted Harvard Tour that I would totally love to try out.  I would love to check out a show from the American Repertory Theater.  And I would, of course, check out what the night life has to offer.

TBT: Phoenix, AZ

My first “Throw Back Thursday” blog style!  Back in August of 2001 I spent two glorious weeks in Phoenix, AZ.  Now I know, “Phoenix in August? And she doesn’t mean ‘glorious’ in the sarcastic way?”  Crazy talk, I know, but I loved it.  First off, it’s true what they say about “dry heat”.  Minus the humidity, a 115F day could feel nothing more than a hot 88F.  Our hotel of choice was the The Hyatt Regency in Downtown Phoenix.  Back in the day this hotel was absolutely amazing.  Beautiful didn’t even being to describe it.  I only utilized the bedroom and pool area but, oh my, it was awesome.  Today, 13 years later, I have no doubt it would blow me away.  The photos on the website look stunning, yet I have no doubt that the pictures do not do the rooms justice.  I would love to go back and check it all out today.

It’s amazing how age can change your perspective on traveling.  Back then I was just in the “take it all in” mode and I wasn’t too adventurous.  I actually went on this trip with my then boyfriend and his dad for his father’s business trip.  I was also a mere 19 years old at the time.  So no drinking for me (yes, I was a good girl back then, I followed the rules!).  Therefore I cannot, unfortunately, comment on the bar scene at the time.  I did check out the local mall.  I forget what it was called back then but a quick search of GoogleMaps and I believe it’s what’s now call the Arizona Mills Mall.  They had the first Neiman Marcus (last call) that I had ever been to.  That mall was amazing to little old me.  Also went to one of the coolest baseball stadiums I had ever been to – the Arizona Diamonbacks Stadium.  An indoor stadium with climate control – I thought I had died and gone to baseball heaven.

So, 13 years later, I still think fondly on my time in AZ.  I wish I had done more (though transportation was a bit of an issue at the time).  I also wish I could remember the names of all of those cute little shops I visited, or even the direct from the hotel I was walking in to get to them.  I would love to do it again as a chick in her 30’s.  This time, I would even bring the updated man in my life =).  Love you hubby!