The Best Portable Speakers for Travel

Our family loves listening to music. We can’t always agree on what to play, but we almost always have something playing, whether it’s in the background or to drown out the chaos. I wish I was kidding. Ahem, anyway. I purchased a portable record player for Ray for Christmas, and while it’s fun to play vinyls, it certainly isn’t practical on the road. Enter a few of our favorite portable speakers…

Bluetooth Speaker

First of all, we have the Insignia Bluetooth Speaker. We can listen to our music at home or on the go with this cute little portable speaker, which features Bluetooth technology for easy wireless audio streaming. Julia has actually stolen this speaker. It has a handy silicone strap and an ultra lightweight, compact design allowing for her to clip it virtually anywhere. It’s currently hanging in her bedroom, as she she forgot to pack it for our vacation. I imagine, however, that she will hang it on her backpack once school starts.

Here are some of it’s great features:

• Compatible with most Bluetooth-enabled devices for wireless audio streaming.
• Splash-proof design
• 1.5W total system power (2W peak power), produces quality sonic output
• USB charging port keeps electronic devices powered, so you can continue enjoying your favorite songs.
• Rechargeable lithium battery provides up to 6 hours of playback time on a full charge.

Insignia Bluetooth Plug In Speaker

Next, we have the Insignia Plug In Bluetooth Speaker. Now this one is my favorite and I DID pack it for vacation! We can wirelessly stream our favorite audio in any room of our resort condo here in New Orleans with this Insignia plug-in Bluetooth speaker. This speaker features a built-in power adapter and rechargeable battery, allowing over 2 hours of playback. It’s going on the cruise with us, too!

While this speaker does plug in directly to the wall outlets, it does not need to be plugged in at all times to work. The best part is that there are no wires, it doesn’t take up shelf space, nor are any expensive receivers needed. It really is perfect for on the go.

Here are the Plug-In Speaker features:

• Compatible with most Bluetooth-enabled devices for wireless audio streaming.
• Auxiliary audio input jack connects your non-Bluetooth devices for more listening options.
• Built-in power adapter allows the speaker to stay plugged into a wall outlet to maintain a full charge.
• USB charging port keeps electronic devices powered, so you can continue enjoying your favorite songs.
• Built-in rechargeable battery enables over 2 hours of playback when taking your speaker on the go.

Now through September 5th you can receive 30% off on the purchase of an Insignia Portable Speaker. Head over now to get your coupon!

I have been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Two Step On Over to the Barton Creek LIVE Summer Music Series at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin

Ray and I had the privilege of experiencing the Omni Resort and Spa at Barton Creek and attending the Shenandoah concert on Friday evening. It was quite the ultimate date night!

We started the early evening with a short trip to the Texas Hill Country. It was a gorgeous drive and reminded me of where I grew up in California. Beautiful hills covered in trees was our view for most of the journey. I was giddy with excitement for what was to come, but thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful drive.

Just after passing the golf course, we pulled in to Three Springs Spa there at the Resort. I had an appointment for my very first body scrub! I chose the Lavender and Honey Scrub, but wasn’t quite sure what to expect, even after reading the description:

This lavish sugar scrub is made in-house using locally sourced Texas Hill Country Lavender and honey derived from our very own Omni Barton Creek apiary. Honey gently cleanses and tightens, while lavender buds soothe and heal the outermost layer of skin. This scrub concludes with an application of our lavender-infused lotion.

I was literally scrubbed down, enjoyed a warm shower, and was spoiled with a mini massage with lotion infused with lavender essential oil. It was heavenly – so relaxing and rejuvenating!

Spa Time

It was great to be able to use the women’s locker room to get ready for my date. I only wish I had time to enjoy the sauna, steam room, or whirlpool hot tub. We’ll just have to come back!

Next up, we headed to grab some wine before our dinner at Hill Country Dining Room. I had to hold myself back from ordering some of their small bites. I knew I was going to need to save room for the buffet. And boy, was I right! The buffet contained such a tasty array of wonderful food – from beautiful salad fixings to perfect slices of prime rib. We ordered a bottle of wine (of course!) and enjoyed each other’s company while also enjoying the wonderful food and the view from the dining room.

View from Omni Creek Hill Country Dining Room

Finally, it was time for Shenandoah! They were performing as part of the Barton Creek Live Summer Music Series. Not only did they bring it, but I got Ray up on the dance floor and we had a fantabulous time.

Shenandoah at Barton Creek LIVE

This was definitely a night to remember. We enjoyed ourselves so much we even forgot to get a picture together!

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You, too, can visit Omni Resort and Spa at Barton Creek for a memorable night. There are only two more concerts this summer, so hurry!

And, if you are feeling lucky, head on over to the From Dates to Diapers Facebook page to enter to win a pair of wristbands to one of the last two concerts.

Barton Creek LIVE

Disclosure: We were hosted on Friday night by Omni in exchange for this post.

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.