Travel

Our Bahamas Getaway: Days 3 and 4

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Even though our trip in total was 8 days long, the cruise went too fast with only 4 nights and a handful of days. Days 3 and 4 were some of the best to finish out the family fun, with a day trip to Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, and a day at sea enjoying all the perks on the Enchantment of the Seas. Check out our explorations and favorite pics!

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Day 3

As our only public port of call, Nassau was a familiar destination to me. My family and I had been there about 7 years ago on another cruise, but I have no recollection of what we did, so it felt like a fresh new adventure. I’m not personally a big shopper and really dislike souvenirs as a minimalist at heart, so before we left on vacation, I made sure to look into what sites are interesting to see and historical learning opportunities. My husband and I are big history nerds and prefer to spend our vacation seeing the world rather than seeing the same t-shirt for the third time. Plus, how can you not resist the charm of brightly colored building and Bahamian culture?

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Once off the boat early that morning, we decided to take a quick hike a few miles to the Queen’s Staircase and Fort Fincastle. The Queen’s Staircase is 66 step handmade staircase from the late 18th century forged by slaves as a direct route from the city center to the fort. With a now towering waterfall complimenting it’s facade, it’s truly a beautiful and relaxing area. The interesting part though is the walk is very hot, with lots of sun beaming down on you and store-lined streets, but once you steps under the canopies of the Queen’s Staircase, you;re transported to a Caribbean oasis.

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Just up the stairs and a short 2-minute walk down the street is Fort Fincastle, a small, but powerful, 18th century fort designed to help protect the harbor from awaiting foes. For only $3, we toured the fort, saw the cells that some slept and lived in during hot Bahamian days and even got to push the canons around – just in case our ship is under attack! The view was magnificent, with 360 degree views of Nassau city, Paradise Island and the port harboring our ship.

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The midday walk back to the ship was brutal as the heat began to rise, so we decided to relax in the port market for a little fun – and hair braiding! It’s pretty much impossible to go to the Caribbean and not have someone get their hair braided. Enjoy some funny pictures of my husband thinking he looks tough with cornrows (even though he admits they hurt terribly!).

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Day 4

Our fourth and final full day was spent cruising the seas on the Enchantment from Nassau back to Port Canaveral, but we didn’t let the thought of vacation ending get us down! We took full advantage of the benefits of the ship while we could. My brothers-in-law were excited to try the rock climbing wall and trampoline park they offered, while Jeff and I indulged in the peace and quite of the Solarium, Royal Caribbean’s adult-only pool and relaxation area. The day was spent basically going from pool to food and back, relaxing in the warm sun and cool ocean breeze.

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Instead of going to the formal dining room, our group was pretty sick of eating so much delicious food and decided to take it light that night, so we enjoyed our final movie on the pool deck, and I was pretty excited to see they were playing Solo since it was new and I had not seen it. By the way, it was actually pretty good!

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My biggest indulgence during our trip was their breads and desserts! The rolls were so delicious and their desserts are perfectly portioned to taste multiples with minimal sugar so I didn’t feel overwhelmed by one piece of cake!

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It was a sad day when we had to get off the boat and begin our two day drive home, but this vacation was one for the memory books with our two families coming together and having so much fun!

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Travel

Our Bahamas Getaway 2018: Days 1 and 2

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Our first year anniversary was a huge celebration this year, and when my husband proposed we plan a second honeymoon (since our original honeymoon got switch around due to Hurricane Maria), we couldn’t help but take the opportunity to get away. When we thought more about how we were one family, we turned it into a massive family vacation with both of our parents, and my husband’s siblings and grandparents – talk about major coordination!

This trip took a lot of time and many nights of work, but in the end, we had an absolute blast as one family celebrating a special time in our lives. Read all about our first two days of our adventure and my favorite tips to planning your next getaway!


DAY 1 – PORT CANAVERAL

I don’t count the two days we spent in the car driving to Florida from Chicago as part of the vacation, although the laughs were endless in the car with my parents. Day 1 truly started when we met up with the whole family. We opted to book a 4 night Royal Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas – my in-laws have never been out of the country so it was a great starter trip to experience, plus since we were so well taken care of on our honeymoon and still had a blast, we have sort-of become Royal Caribbean loyalists, especially for a mostly adult vacation of late night fun and delicious food.

Once through check-in at the port and on the boat, we spent the afternoon venturing around the Enchantment of the Seas while awaiting for our stateroom. We ate our way through the Windjammer buffet and saw amazing amenities like a rock wall and trampoline park. The kids couldn’t resist the urge to jump right into the pool immediately and we enjoyed the Sail Away Party on the pool deck before dinner.

Our group dinner was made extra special when the staff made sure all 12 of us fit at a single table for quality bonding time, plus the food was absolutely phenomenal! It became hard to turn away multiple entrees when it was so delicious – I felt bad leaving food on my plate.

After dinner, it was immediately back to the pool to relax and enjoy as the wind blew through the deck from sailing the Atlantic. The great part is that it was Monday night and they played football on a big screen right over the pool so no one missed a beat on vacation! Ultimately, day 1 was exhausting as is, so keeping it low key made the day nice and relaxing

TRAVEL TIPS

  • Your first day on a cruise is usually very crazy – don’t plan any activities and leave your schedule open to see the whole ship.
  • Spend an hour watching your ship sail away from port, it’s truly magnificent!
  • Make sure to try all of the food options before sticking with one all cruise. On our first cruise, we spent the whole trip in the buffet and didn’t realize how amazing the dining room food was until it was too late.

 


Day 2 – COCOCAY, BAHAMAS

Day 2 meant a relaxing day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island in the northern Bahamas. Because our party was so large, we booked two private bungalows on the island’s south beach which separated us from the public crowds. This was possibly the best decision we made the whole trip because we were able to have quality family time without losing people or worrying about crowds. Plus they were feet from the water and truly relaxing!

The bungalows came with floating mats, beach loungers, ocean views and catered lunch so we didn’t feel like we missed a beat of the main beach experience. We even brought our own snorkels to enjoy the magnificent wildlife with lemon sharks, sting rays and jellyfish swimming by our feet. When we wanted to tender back to the ship or check out some of the island shops, a quick shuttle service took us back to the main beach for fun – although, we spent almost all day at south beach!

Once we were back to the ship mid-afternoon before we sailed off to Nassau, our group enjoyed relaxing afternoon peace and quite (mostly in the form of naps!) before a delicious dinner again in the dining room. This night was formal night, so it was great to see everyone in their Sunday best enjoying delicious food and drinks. That night, we indulged in some late night bites at Windjammer while enjoying a cinematic classic, American Graffiti, on the pool big screen. My absolute favorite was the homemade corn dogs!

TRAVEL TIPS

  • If you’re planning a beach day during your trip, see what the local rental price is for equipment. Sometimes it’s just cheaper to buy it on amazon or at the local store and bring it yourself.
  • If you want to take an excursion, it’s worth the few extra dollars to book through your cruise line in the event that something happens, like cancellations or the excursion runs past port departure time.

Stay tuned for part two of our adventure, featuring our day in Nassau and 24 hours at sea!

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Travel

Must-Have Items To Make Your Next Vacation Easier

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With our big family vacation to the Bahamas just days away, packing has consumed our home trying to make sure we get everything we need. My husband and I try to travel every year, and each destination has different needs and products to make our trip successful, so I am sharing my favorite must-have products to make your next trip just a tad easier, no matter where you’re going!


A PORTABLE SAFE

Whether you room doesn’t have a safe to store your precious goods, or you’re heading out for a day on the beach, a traveling lock box is the best investment you could make for yourself. As the perfect size to fit your passports and money, the lock box we picked came with a custom code to secure our items and a tether of tie it to a physical object to that our goods don’t walk off with someone else. On our honeymoon, this is was the best product to take to the beach because we could tie our items to a post or beach chair without worrying when playing in the ocean!

EXPLORE MY PICK!


FOLDING AND HANGING TOILETRY BAGS

If you are traveling to multiple locations, a hanging toiletry bag is the best for easy packing. Keeping your toiletries in one place will not only prevent you from forgetting anything, but also will simply require a quick zip and right into the suitcase it goes! Once you arrive to your destination, hang it in the bathroom or closet for easy access. These bags are also great for small items, like undergarments and jewelry.

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ALL-IN-ONE BACKPACK

Finding the best travel bag makes every step of your journey easier. My favorite backpack was an easy purchase from Amazon and features a large pouch for our paperwork, wallets, and camera, and a small pocket for travel sized products and quick grab items. My favorite feature is the built in charging ports to charge our devices on the go!

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PASSPORT WALLET

An RFID-resistant wallet is a must-have to prevent any theft and convenient access to your travel documents. This wallet includes passport and travel ticket storage, card slots and easy access compartments for all of your needs. Plus, with a one-place-stop for all of your important documents, you have no worries about landing home safely because you’ll keep everything in your pocket or purse.

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PACKING CUBES AND HANGING LUGGAGE BAGS

Compartmentalizing your goods makes finding what you need easy and fast. It also prevents you from having to dig through our clothes to find the one item we want, causing our clothes to stay organized and neat. I am also a huge fan of a hanging luggage bag – with so many delicate clothes and dresses that wrinkle easily, this is by far the best investment without having to worry about carrying a clunky iron with you or having one wherever you go.

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PORTABLE STEAMER

In the event that you absolutely need every wrinkle removed on a day-to-day basis, a portable steamer is the best investment you can make! It takes up very little of your luggage and gives your daily style a boost of life by removing those worn in travel marks from being shoved in your suitcase.

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HARDSIDE LUGGAGE

After many trips with ruined luggage or tossed up goods inside, I found hard luggage to be my best option – and it doesn’t disappoint! When we went on our honeymoon, with multiple flights and luggage transfers, everything was just as I left it and the luggage remained in place without any issues! I tell any seasoned or new traveler looking to explore the world that hard suitcases are a complete lifesaver and usually don’t weigh more than soft luggage.

EXPLORE MY PICK!


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Travel

The Six Types Of Outfits I’m Packing For Our Bahamas Getaway

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My husband and I are both so excited to venture on another cruise this month with both of our families, which has been quite the planning process to coordinate 12 people, so some R&R is much needed! My head is totally focused on packing and being prepared – my type A personality has a dozen to-do and packing lists! Whether you’re heading to a beach or on a cruise like us, packing the right outfits has become my obsession because there’s nothing I love more than getting some new looks to compliment our destination. Check out a few of my favorite looks I’m packing in my suitcase and click the links below each image to see the pieces (or close seconds for those that are no longer available!).

Formal Dinner

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Black JumpsuitGold NecklaceNude Block HeelsClutch

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Tropical Print DressNude Block HeelsWoven ClutchEarrings

Hanging by the Pool

romper

Tropical Print RomperFlip FlopsSunglasses

Beach Day

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White Poncho Cover UpTassel Sun HatSunglassesBathing Suit – Tote BagFlip FlopsBeach Towel

Exploring the City Streets

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Striped Two Piece SetSandalsPanama HatWoven Shoulder Bag

Casual Dinner Dates

blue dress

Blue and White Striped DressNude Block HeelsEarringsWoven Shoulder Bag

green dress

Jean JacketGreen DressSandals

Nightlife Fun

formal

White DressEarringsGreen HeelsClutch

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Life and Marriage, Travel

Fun Summer Activities In The Chicago Area

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Looking for a little Midwest fun? Well put on your gym shoes and get ready for a day packed with activities and adventure! There’s nothing better than finally getting out of the house after a long, cold Chicago winter, and some of favorite activities are now open for business! See what I spend my weekends doing from May through September!


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Don’t let rainy summer days get you down – the museum campus along the lake makes any day wonderful and full of imagination! The Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium are just a few must-see spots to get the creative juices flowing. Even better, most museums have free admission days for Illinois residents with your ID! We happened to go to the Field Museum this year for my husband’s birthday and spent hours looking at all of the amazing and historical exhibits!

Learn more!


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Take a trip back in time and experience a real life medieval times! Jousting tournaments to shops and Ye Old Pub, get transported back in time for chump change at this spectacular event just minutes over the Wisconsin border north of Chicago. Also, who wouldn’t want to meet a few knights in shinning armor?

Learn more!


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Being a major city brings all of the best festivals to your front door, whether in the city or the suburbs. From the apple festival in Lake County to downtown music festivals like Lollapalooza and food fun at Naperville’s RibFest, you’re bound to find a festival worth your time! Find something you love and spend your weekend perusing artisan goods or jamming to your favorite bands.

Learn more!


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Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Chicago is home to not one, but two zoos! Visit Lincoln Park Zoo in the city with FREE ADMISSION to see your favorite wildlife creatures come to life in the urban jungle, or see the vast and beautiful exhibits at Brookfield Zoo just outside the city limits. Both are a great experience to see indoor and outdoor animals come to life on a fun and sunny summer day.

Learn more!


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See a game in the classically preserved Wrigley Field in one of Chicago’s most vibrant neighborhoods or take it out the suburbs to see the Chicago Dogs or Kane County Cougars for baseball fun on a penny pocketbook. A day in the sun soaking in some sports fun is exactly what the doctor called for the cure the winter blues. This is a summer tradition for my husband and I – we got engaged after a Cub’s game and always love seeing a little baseball with hot dogs and a cold drink!


Want the ultimate list of things to do in the city this summer? Click here!


 

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Travel

Travel Destinations Worthy To Top Your Bucket List

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The weather is starting to warm up, and long days in the office with a small window giving me a peek of sunshine isn’t enough to quench my wanderlust. Googling dream travel destinations is at the top of my list each and every day, and I have collected for you the top bucket list-worthy destinations one MUST travel to explore the world!

havasu

Havasu Falls has been a long awaited trip for many outdoor enthusiasts of the southwestern United States. In the west routes of the Grand Canyon, this two-day hike requires at least one overnight of camping due to the time it takes to hike from the starting point, but offers the dessert oasis experience with beautiful blue water. I’ve have been dying to make this trip for some time and it’s not going anywhere from the top of my bucket list any time soon!

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Very few people see Norway as an escape, but this set of islands offers an oasis from the average life. As an outdoors and fishing area, this more secluded area offers small town vibes and the perfect place to view the Northern Lights without crowds. Plus, imagine kayaking these waterways through the beautiful Arctic summerland of untamed island life!

bonair

I am incredible grateful to have checked this amazing island off my bucket list when we were diverted here from Puerto Rico on our honeymoon due to Hurricane Maria. This diving and scuba oasis just off the coast of South America offers incredibly stunning and clear waterways to view some of the best wildlife and coral reefs in the world. During our time there, we saw stingrays and sea turtles larger than any seen in my life! This Dutch-owned island gives incredibly hospitable island vibes with an unhurried lifestyle. If you go, checking out the local farmer’s markets are a must – we found some of the most unique hand-crafted jewelry and delicious cactus liqueur on our trip!

santorini

Santorini is the ultimate Greek romantic getaway. This popular wedding destination is vibrant with colorful street ways and the famous blue rooftops. This series of islands built on an actual active volcano gives traditional and delicious Greek/Mediterranean cuisine paired with perfectly made local wine.

san juan

Our primary stop on our honeymoon was this classic island just a hop away from the Florida coast. Walking through Old San Juan was a dream – the historical forts offered a days worth of beautiful and rich views, and the vibrant colored buildings brought the life of Puerto Ricans to the streets with delicious food and drinks around every corner. For anyone looking for a nice getaway without total isolation, this is an amazing urban experience one will never forget!

provence

The Provence region of southern France was one of the most beautiful bucket list destinations I have ever visited. So many years ago, my trip to the quaint towns and lush fields offers a French view that isn’t the standard Paris experience. Beautiful castles adorn the mountainous skyline and the expansive lavender fields is every Instagrammer’s dream! In town, walking through the narrow street markets with fresh baked good and hand-made trinkets give you the perfect opportunity to explore local culture. he pink salt marshes are a sight to see once outside the city, with glowing lakes reflecting peachy hues of color.

angkor

As a firm follower of the Eat, Pray, Love mentality, this is one of those places we all could use for our souls. The Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia is one that is quite the trek from our Chicago home, but this UNESCO World Heritage Site brings the heritage of faith to life. Angkor Wat dates back to the 12th century A.D. as a Hindu temple for practicing faith, and now has become a  sacrifice to the earth. It’s crumbling ruins make the historic site even more precious and magical to experience.

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Life and Marriage, Travel

Planning A Getaway On A Tight Budget

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2018 has been the year of struggling Fridays – the urge to up and leave for just 48 of solidarity with my husband has been completely deserved but under utilized. Careers, life events and all the little things in life get into our way, and when we finally have a solid weekend of peace, it’s mostly spent doing absolutely nothing.

The need to just getaway into a foreign environment and explore the sights and cultures of something other than my office desk is a desire. I like to think that we live by the phrase “die with memories, not dreams” and we dream every day of traveling and seeing the world together. We already have so many trips in the future planned that we can stop thinking about, and each one we plan on a budget because we’re twenty-something and not retirees with years of savings to back us up. That’s why it’s important to set your expectations of money and know exactly what you want to spend before planning, then finding ways to stick to it.

SEARCH YOUR “DRIVE MARKET” AVAILABILITY

In the business and travel world, we use this term “drive market” – it represents the area within 50 to 100 miles radius around you. It’s the area you’re willing to drive as a traveler for a quick getaway and you can often score great last-minute or in-state discounts. For us here is the Chicago area, destinations like Starved Rock or Springfield in-state or Milwaukee and The Dells in Wisconsin are just a quick car ride and can offer great last-minute lodging options with plenty of outdoor and indoor fun.

TRY ALTERNATIVE LODGING OPTIONS

When you travel, hotels are no longer your only options. With the rise of platforms like AirBnB and timeshare rentals, you can find something that may be more comfortable for your needs at a lower price. Looking for something a little different? Try a camping site or rustic cabin-like settings. You may not get housekeeping every day, but you’ll have a cozy place at half the price with peace and quite.

CHOOSE ENRICHING FREE OR LOW BUDGET ACTIVITIES

There is so much out there than you could every imagine for nearly nothing to your bottom line. If you’re traveling in state, many local options offer resident rates or even free days, like the museums in Chicago. Additionally, national and state parks give great rates for travelers to explore the beauty of nature all day for very little. My husband and I want to visit Arizona to hike the Havasupai Trail and camp for a few days of stunning Grand Canyon views and natural thrills – we will only have to spend about $200-$300 for national park and camping fees, making a great budget-friendly experience we will never forget and almost a week driving across the country together.

DO THE FOOD YOURSELF OR CHECK OUT LOCAL SHOPS

Restaurants and on-site locations jack up the price for simple sandwiches and salads knowing that most people are lazy on vacation and don’t want to cook. Invest in some in-room munchies and meals you can put in your mini-fridge, or even cook if you’re in a location with kitchen access. This can save you hundreds on a week-long trip with a little bit of effort.  Another great option is eating locally versus large chain restaurants. Although we know what to expect from national chains, we also know the prices and they may not always be the lowest. Local breakfast spots and coffee shops offer a wide selection of options and the locals are always happy to give great recommendations for places to try or visit.

WHEN YOU SET A BUDGET, PLAN A LITTLE MORE

I know it’s hard when you’re on vacation to not want everything, but think smart when making decisions. Know exactly what you have each day to spend and prepare in advance to have 20% more for those unexpected expenses. Knowing it’s there doesn’t mean you have to spend it, but then when you find that souvenir you really want, you have some wiggle room to get it.

HOW TO SET A BUDGET

Some of us aren’t always prepared or know how to set a budget, but here is a great example of how my husband and I budget for trips:

Arizona 2019 – 7 Days, 6 nights

Transportation – Driving – Approx. 2000 mi. round trip
10 gallons of gas/1 tank = 300 miles = $30 per tank of gas
Total Transportation Budget = 2000 mi./300 mi. = approx. 7 tanks of gas x $30 = $210
(round up) = $250

Lodging – 4 hotel nights and 2 camping nights
Hotel = $100 per night = $400
Camping = $30 per night = $60
Total Lodging Budget = $460
(round up) = $500

Recreation – Hiking the Havasupai Trail
Entrance fee and other fees – $135 per person x 2 = $270

Food – $30 per person per day = $420
(round up) = $450

Other expenses – $200

TOTAL BUDGET = $1670 for 7 days, 6 nights
WHAT WE WOULD SAVE = $2000

 

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