It’s Time for a Vacation

Ray and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary while sailing over the Caribbean. We won a pair of tickets on board the Carnival Destiny and were thrilled to experience our first cruise. We didn’t quite know what to expect. While our cruising experience left much to be desired, and we figured we wouldn’t sail on a Carnival cruise again, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our port stops in Jamaica and Grand Cayman. We went floating down the river and zipping through the sky in Jamaica. We went snorkeling in the deep blue waters of Grand Cayman. These experiences alone left us hungry for more cruising.

Fast forward six years – Ray and I are ready for a big vacation. With so many people to please, we wanted to be certain that everyone had plenty to do and see. We decided on a road trip to New Orleans, exploration of the historical sites along the way, plenty of fresh beignets, and maybe an airboat ride. After a few days in the French Quarter, we will be boarding the Carnival Elation!

Photo Courtesy of Carnival
Photo Courtesy of Carnival

Yes, we are eating our words and have decided to give Carnival another chance to impress.

Why?

The Price
When you are looking at cruising during the summer, fairs can be crazy high. We are vacationing during the very week before school begins, so none of our kiddos miss anything, meaning we are sailing during peak time. Now, with nine of us, we had to book two suites – one that sleeps five, and another that sleeps four – so we had to consider that, as well. But, remember – the great thing about cruises is that they are pretty all-inclusive. Sailing out of New Orleans, instead of Galveston, will also save us a bit of change. All in all, Carnival offered the best deal for our family.

The Food
In addition to the fine dining every evening, there is plenty from which to choose. Kid-friendly options were a must for our kids who love to eat. Here is what we will be enjoying on the Elation:
– Sushi Bar
– Pizzeria

– New York-Style Deli

– Mongolian Wok

– Rotisserie

– The Grill

– Taste of Nations

– Dessert Bar

The Entertainment
I am excited for my kids to enjoy Camp Carnival. The kids clubs just look like fun! And that 115 foot Twister water slide into the pool? Yes, please!

Photo Courtesy of Carnival
Photo Courtesy of Carnival

But, that’s not all. There will be plenty for all of us to do while at sea:
– Nine-hole Mini Golf

– Ping Pong 

– Basketball Court

– Volleyball Court

– Jogging Track

– Camp Carnival

The Ports and Excursions
Now, this is what excites me most – I can not wait to snorkel in Cozumel and explore the Chichen Itza ancient ruins in Yucatan. Ray did find these activities available at a much lower rate than what Carnival is offering, so we are exploring the option of booking them outside to save some money. After all, there are nine of us and the excursions add up pretty quick!

Chichen Itza Castle, Mexico  Photo via SOMATUSCANI
Chichen Itza Castle, Mexico Photo via SOMATUSCANI

I can’t wait to share our experience with y’all, but in the meantime I’d be happy to hear your tips for cruising Carnival!

Live Music, Good Eats, Delectable Libations, and Breathtaking Views – All in One Place

Ray and I went out with a friend last night to check out The House of Songs’ new concert series in downtown Austin. The House of Songs has partnered with the Westin to bring local and international artists in for a few hours every Wednesday night. Sahara Smith, from Girl Pilot, played for us last night, with a special guest appearance by Thorbjorn from Denmark.

The House of Songs

Sahara is a native Texan who has always had a passion for singing and songwriting with a delightful sound. Each of her songs were written from her own experiences and she plays from the soul. She is mesmerizing and her bluesy voice is calming and relaxing.

This was definitely a great way to spend an evening. What can be better than enjoying a glass of wine and some of the best biscuits and brussel sprouts around from Stella San Jac, all the while listening to some amazing artists!

Stella San Jac's Flaky Biscuits photo Stella San Jac's Flaky Bicuits

Brussel Sprouts with Candied Jalapenos photo Stella San Jacs Brussel Sprouts with Candied Jalepenos

There is a fabulous lineup of artists set to appear over the next couple of months. I am most excited about the concert on August 19th – Phoebe Hunt and One Village music project. I got the inside secret scoop on this particular concert and, trust me, you don’t want to miss it!

Now, I want to share a bit about this brand new hotel where these concerts are being held — First of all, the Westin Downtown is gorgeous! It has only been open for five days, but the staff is friendly, helpful, and more than willing to give you a grand tour.

We discovered on our tour that the rooftop pool and bar is open to the public on the weekdays. All are welcome to cool off and enjoy a drink made by one of the talented mix masters at this “highest rooftop bar in Austin.”

The views from this rooftop are incredible! You can see 6th Street, Zilker Park, Ladybird Lake, and more. Watching the sun set over the buildings of downtown Austin was just breathtaking.

6th St View from Rooftop Bar at Westin Downtown Austin

View of Downtown Austin from the Rooftop Bar at the Westin

Let me know if you’d like to join us next week for a good time!

5 Essentials for Summer Road Trips

This last weekend we packed the kids up and headed to Fort Worth for a little road trip staycation. My cousin has been working on Oklahoma and we wanted to meet half way for some fun and sun. Before heading on the road, however, I made sure we had a few essentials. After all, almost three hours in the car with seven children can be challenging if not properly prepared!

essentials for summer road trips

Portable chargers – There are just not enough charger plugins in the car for everyone, but everyone has a device and you never know when one will die. Best be prepared, so everyone stays happy. You can find some at walmart.com for about $10.

Travel with Extra Juice

Car Games – My kids only played on their devices for a bit this last trip before we whipped out a list of good old-fashioned car games. We played the alphabet game and the state license plate game, but there are many more that can keep the kiddos busy for hours. Check out these printable travel games – I’m using these for our next road trip!

Snacks – Pack up some goodies in the Igloo Quantum Cooler ($14.97 at Walmart. The one pictured below is a Coleman.), so as to avoid multiple stops when the kiddos begin complaining that they are hungry or thirsty. Bottles of water, boxes of juice, cheese sticks, and chips or crackers should keep their bellies full.

pack a cooler for road trips

First Aid Kit – I put together our own and included band-aids, pain relievers, after sun care, hand sanitizer, and of course my essential oils (which are helpful in dealing with a multitude of problems).

Sunscreen – I know sunscreen isn’t exactly needed while in the car, but it certainly will be once you arrive at your destination. Our favorite is Banana Boat. I just love the scent and it’s not greasy or too thick.

What would you add? Visit walmart.com to check out some more great ideas in the Walmart ad online!

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Laniwai Spa: One of Many Reasons to Visit Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa

Along the beaches of Ko Olina, nestled between mountains and ocean of Oahu, Hawaii sits the breath-taking and magical Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa. There are many reasons to visit this beautiful oasis that is just outside of the hustle and bustle of Waikiki, yet close enough to enjoy all the island has to offer. Laniwai Spa is one of these reasons.

Laniwai Spa at Aulani

Located within Aulani, Laniwai is an 18,000-square-foot full-service spa and wellness center featuring spa therapies, and a variety of fitness options for the whole family from group exercise classes to intense one-on-one training. It is home to the Kula Wai, a 5,000-square-foot outdoor hydrotherapy garden to enjoy before or after spa services that includes herbal pools, six unique “rain showers,” hot and cold whirlpools, and plenty of outdoor relaxation areas.

Aulani, A Disney Resort and Spa  Laniwai Spa

Aulani was voted this year’s “Top Hotel for Families in the United States” by the readers of Travel + Leisure and is one of the only true, luxury family wellness retreats that offers spa, relaxation and spectacular Hawaiian experiences for ages newborn and up. Laniwai meaning “freshwater heaven” in the beautiful Hawaiian language is a word that embraces the Hawaiian connection to nature and its waterfront location.

Cruisin’ on Royal Carribean #SeasTheDay

I am blessed with some amazing blogging friends, experiences, and opportunities. A few years ago, Ray and I went to New Orleans on one of the very first Brandcations – #BOBNOLA. While I had a great time, I was 7 months pregnant and it was oh-so-hot and sticky. I am very much looking forward to my next Brandcation adventure – A cruise on Royal Carribean with 39 old and new blogging buddies!

#SeasTheDay

We set sail in a little over a week, and I have tons to do before then. In fact, I still need to make it to the passport office, do some shopping, pack my bags, and make a quick trip to Cali!

But, let’s not get distracted… On this 5 day/4 night cruise, we will be going to Cozumel, Mexico and will get to see and experience all that the Liberty of the Seas has to offer. I can’t wait to explore the ship and share with you all it has to offer, from ice skating to surfing, and more! We’ll also be getting a behind the scenes tour of the ship, so stay tuned for lots of photos and info.

Liberty of the Seas

Follow along on our adventures – on the ship and in Cozumel – with the hashtag #SeasTheDay. And be sure to keep an eye on my Facebook page and Instagram stream!

Is there anything you’d like to know about cruising on Royal Carribean, or about the Liberty of the Seas ship? MAybe I’ll get a chance to find an answer for you!