5 Reasons You Should Give a Travel Agent a Try

Without_TravelAgent1

 

You use a professional for your taxes, your car repairs, your hair so why aren’t you using a professional for your travel needs?

In this day and age with hundreds of websites full of travel information, discount deals and special offers constantly in front of us, people need the services of a travel professionals more than ever.

  1. They read the fine print and compare offers. There are a lot of deals  on the internet seem far too good to pass up and people wonder why the quote they received from an agent was higher. However, what they are missing is the small details from the discount website quote that makes it less expensive. For example, it is a lower category room, doesn’t include transportation to/from the airport, includes horrible flight times, etc. An reputable agent is trained to put together the best possible deal for you and include everything you need for a stress free trip.
  2. They are your personal vacation shoppers. One you have established a relationship with an agent, you become more than just a client. They will often keep you in mind if they come across a deal or a trip that you might be interested in.
  3. The Human Factor. Let’s face it, a discount internet site isn’t going to share you vacation excitement and have real interest in how your trip was when you return.
  4. They are the experts. Like your doctor or mechanic, a good agent will ask the right questions, listen to your answers and help to guide you to the best fit for your vacation time.
  5. They can manage both the product AND the service of your vacation. A travel agent knows how to sell you the vacation that fits your needs-the airline and resort, the cruise or the vacation closer to home. They also offer the service that will guarantee your vacation is stress free and goes off without a hitch.

The best way to find a reputable travel agent is to ask your friends and family. You might be surprised how many people actually use an agent for their travel needs!

So, the next time you’re thinking about a vacation, give a travel agent a try!

 

Theme Park Etiquette

It’s that time of year. You know the time..we pack up the car and hit the closest amusement park (hoping) for a fun filled day of rides, smiles, and family fun!  As much fun as amusement parks are, there are going to be meltdowns (by adults and their children 😉) and long lines to wait in for rides, food and the bathrooms. 

Here are some tips to make the day more enjoyable for you and all the other guests in the park:

1. Be patient. If you are going to an amusement park during season, you have GOT to go expecting to wait in lines. Grumbling, complaining or being rude about waiting is not only making your trip less enjoyable, the happy family behind you doesn’t need to listen to your stinky attitude. 😱

2. No pushing or jostling other guests. This bears repeating-Do Not Push People. Please give people their space while waiting in line. Nobody wants to feel someone else’s sweaty body pushing against them in line. 😷 Shoving people forward or crowding them doesn’t get you on a ride any faster. 

3. Walking the right way. My kids learned the phrase “on the right to be polite in school” and this applies in theme parks (as well as malls or any place where people are walking). If you try to stay on the right hand side you will (hopefully) avoid walking into people or feeling like a salmon swimming upstream. 

4. Stopping in the walkways.  I love my cell phone as much as the next person, but if you want to send a text, upload a picture to social media or check your map app, please MOVE TO THE SIDE and do not just stop while you are walking. This could cause people to walk into the back of you or, even worse, have a stroller slam into your heels. 😲

5. Watch your language.  There are kids of all ages in the parks. They do not need to hear about your drunken escapades from the night before or the f-bomb peppering every sentence you’re speaking. Be respectful of the people around you-making fun of people makes YOU look bad. So just don’t do it. 👍🏻

6. Be prepared for meltdowns. From your children and your own! As much fun as a theme park is, it is also a long, hot and overwhelming day. We cannot expect our kids to be perfect all day, anymore than we can expect not to have our own moments. Just try to handle it as best you can, give a hug and a smile, let it go and move on!

7. DO NOT BLOCK CHILDREN. This is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. If you are at a park (or anywhere for that matter) and there are children waiting to watch a parade, or other show that requires you to stand, and children have been waiting DO NOT SQUEEZE YOURSELF IN FRONT OF THEM. I honestly cannot believe this even needs to be stated, but it happens over and over. Little Suzy has been standing there for an hour waiting to watch The Main Street Electrical Parade at Disney only to have adults squeeze in front of her. STOP DOING THAT RIGHT NOW. What kind of monster blocks a kid from seeing a parade so they can watch it?! 😠

8.  Stay with your group in lines. It’s super frustrating to have 6 people jostle their way past you because the rest of their party got in line 30 minutes ago and have been “holding” their spots. 

9.  Diaper changing. I get the frustration of needing to change diapers. I have three children with two of them being twins. So, I have changed my fair share of diapers. Please try to find an appropriate place to change diapers. Generally a diaper change is not an emergency situation so keep your eyes open for bathrooms.  I have seen people change their children on tables in food courts and picnic tables. 😳 Who knows if those tables will be wiped down before the next person sits down with their tray. 

9.  Smile! Remember that you are there to have fun and make memories with your family. Do not let the handful of grumpy or rude guests ruin your special day!

☀️Heather 

Travel Tip Tuesday: Road Maps

Did you miss me? I missed an entire week 😖. I have no good excuse-the week just got away from me! However, I’m back on track! So, here we go!

Road maps. An atlas. Whatever you want to call them…I think they are necessary to keep in your vehicle if you travel. 

I wonder if there is someone reading this that has no idea what I’m talking about (much the same way my kids do not understand a phone with a cord, a VCR, TVs without remotes or car door that didn’t always open from across the parking lot 😒)

If you are unsure WHAT a map is. Here it is:


You might be wondering WHY I think a map is a great thing to keep in your vehicle, and here is why: Linda (the name for the lady in my GPS-her name is a family joke and comes from The Wedding Singer. I’ll leave it at that! 😉) is not always right. *GASP* Yep. I’ll say it again. 
Linda is not always right. 

Neither is Mapquest, Google Maps, etc. *double gasp*

I does pain me a bit to write that because I ❤️❤️❤️ technology. I don’t like thinking that it cannot do everything all the time but, alas, it cannot. 💔

I would need 2 hands to count the amount of times we have pulled ours out because we’ve been detoured onto some road that isn’t recognized and we have had to figure out where we are and how to get back on track. We have also used it when we are in u familiar areas and not sure if we trust the GPS directions. It has truly gotten is out of more than one jam. 

They are also a fun way for kids to track your trip!

They take up very little space. We keep one of the US in the glove compartment. So, go get one. You might be surprised when you find you need it! 

Travel Tip Tuesday #4: Travel Binders for Kids

If your kids are anything like mine, they want to remain attached to their electronics on a road trip. Ultimately, 2 problems eventually come into play after hours spent staring at their screens:

1. Using your phone as a hotspot is eating your data like one of those ticket eating machines at Chuck E Cheese

2. Your kids 👀 begin to rot from staring at their screen and even they grow tired of using them. 

So, what is a mom to do with hours left in the trip?! Pull our your customized travel binders. 😍

 Travel binders are a great idea if you are traveling by car, plane, train or boat. Any kind of travel that requires your kids to sit still for a boring extended period of time and they are on a much needed electronic break. 

If you are unsure what they are, here is a picture of a binder from Creative Connections for Kids

  

I made travel binders last year for my kids and they were a huge hit. I set ours up the same way using the case that would clip into the rings of the binder. The nice thing about the travel binders is that you can tailor them for your individual child’s age or interests. 

Creating them is a breeze! I promise. I am not a crafter. I actually don’t like it all all, so I wouldn’t consider this a crafty project. It’s super simple this is what you need:

1. Three ring binder for each child

2. Pencil case or bag that can clip inside the rings

3. Those plastic page protectors for 3 ring binders

4. Dry erase markers/cloth to wipe off pages

5. Pages you have printed and slipped into the page protectors. 

Here are a few samples from the binders we still had hanging around:

 
At the time, my daughter was almost 9 and my boys were 6 so they had some of the same pages and some different ones. They could all play along with things like scavenger hunt pages, tic tac toe, word searches and road trip bingo. My daughter was old enough to follow along on maps of the trip, so hers held a few maps. 

If you have older kids, try creating pop culture trivia sheets, or “guess the song” with just a few words from the lyrics. All kids love hangman-make a hangman sheet! You are really only limited by your imagination! Plus, there are literally DOZENS of sites that have the sheets you can download. I’ll list a few at the end. 

I also picked up a few things at the Dollar Tree (my fav store! 😍) and Five Below and stuck them in there. 

Tailor them for your individual kids and you’ll have a car full of happy people!

☀️Heather

Living Well Mom She has over 150 downloadable forms and tons of great ideas!

Glue Sticks Blog This blog is an excellent source for travel binders! You must check this one out! 

How do you feel about hotel sheets? Inquiring minds would like to know. 😬

  
Hotel rooms. We all love them. They usually mean that you somewhere else and doing something fun.  What they also mean is that you are not at home loading a dishwasher full of dishes, putting away laundry or listening to an episode of iCarly for the bazillionth time. (😩)

I was trying to figure out what I was going to write about tonight and it just came to me as I was making my boys’ beds (I know it is 7:00 pm. Don’t judge me about it. 😖) For some reason, I thought how one of my girlfriends doesn’t use a top sheet. Her family just uses the fitted sheet and no top sheet. I know. I always thought it a bit odd, however she is not in the minority on this issue. (😘 Meg if you’re reading this). 

That led me to think about how she mentioned once that they take their own sheets to hotels. 🤔 What were my thoughts on that, I wondered. I surprised myself when I thought “I don’t hate it. Whatever makes someone’s stay the most enjoyable it can be-that’s the whole point!”

This train of thought led me to my sister. We have teased one of my sisters for years because if she is staying in a hotel, she almost sleeps as if she were an Eskimo trying to keep all her skin covered to avoid frostbite! (Maybe I am just surrounded by people with sheet phobias⁉️)

Let’s face it. We have all seen people like Diane Sawyer or Geraldo Rivera wander through hotel rooms with one of these looking for…😨 icky stuff.  (I could not subject any of us to some of the images I saw of low budget motel rooms with black lights 😷):

  
Their icky reports have you thinking you should carry around a black light everywhere you go to check for errant DNA.  (maybe we should, black lights can be fun! 🎉😂).

However, as much as I respect  people like Diane and Geraldo (not even a little bit), I actually feel pretty comfortable in most hotel rooms I’ve been in (if we disregard places I stayed in my early 20’s, but then I didn’t care 😳) . Not only do shows like this make for compelling television, I think they are necessary.  Reports like these make clean and reputable places better. It keeps them up on their toes.  I’m not saying that they are perfect, but I’m saying it makes them try harder to be perfect.  This is a situation where travel agents can often be helpful. We have lengthy lists of contacts and can find you the best hotels out there-hopefully the ones that are on their toes. 

As much as we would all like to be free of  gross germs all the time, we cannot live in a bubble.  Remember what happened to Bubble Boy? Even his bubble popped. 😟 (A nod to Seinfeld for my husband 😘) 

So, leave the black light at home, and get out and see the world!

☀️Heather 

Where to go Wednesday:The Finger Lakes and the Senaca Lake Wine Trail, Upstate NY

If you are from Upstate New York (some people are surprised to find out there is a WHOLE GIANT STATE outside of New York City. 🙄) you are familiar with The Finger Lakes and the Finger Lakes Wine Trails-including the Seneca Lake Trail. Before I get into good stuff about the wine, it seems like I need to share a few facts about the Finger Lakes and it’s largest lakes:

1. 11 lakes make up The Finger Lakes

2. Skaneateles Lake is a trendy little town where famous people and former presidents have been known to visit. (At least that is what the Finger Lakes website tells me. I cannot vouch for ever having seen even the back of someone’s head)

3. Cayuga Lake is not only home to tons of amazing wineries, but is also the home of Cornell University and Ithaca College (so if you have kids who want to tour either of these colleges, be sure to hit the wine trail to try and erase the dollar signs from your vision 🤑🤑)

4. Seneca Lake is the largest lake and has the largest amount of wineries in the area. Not only is Seneca known for it’s amazing wine trail, but Watkins Glen and the Watkins Glen International Race track sit at the southern end of the lake.

 

Finger Lakes in Upstate NY

The activities are endless in The Finger Lakes region. Boating, camping, fishing, summer home/cottages..the list is endless!

Ok. On to the fun stuff…the wine trails! 🍷🍷

I will confess, it has been a handful of years since I have been wine trailing. 😟 However, I can tell you that as a result of my many years spent happily on those trails, I went from someone who hated wine, to someone who needed the sweetest you could get to now preferring a glass a bit on the dryer side. I tell everyone who says “I can’t drink wine. I don’t like it” that they must hit the wineries and discover what they like-because there is one out there for everyone.

Heather, how does the wine trail work?  I’m guessing you’re wondering this and here is the answer:

Anyway you want it to.

Seriously. You can hire a limo to take you and your 8, 10, 12 closest friends to drive you from winery to winery so you can sample all the grape goodness (then stay in a hotel in Watkins Glen maybe?! No drinking and driving 😠) You can also drive from winery to winery (do I need to tell you (in clearer terms) to please drink responsibly and have a DD??). Many places have outdoor seating or decks so you can admire the stunning view after you’re done tasting. Maybe pick up some cheese or snacks and just…sit and stare.

Some wineries might charge you a nominal few dollar fee to sample, and some do not. You basically stand around the counter while a super knowledgeable wine person explains the grapes used to make the various wines, what to pair the wines with, etc. You will very quickly learn what you like and what you do not. You will also discover that a Reisling from Hazlit can taste different than a Reisling from Red Newt. That having been said, I feel like you can never go wrong with a Reisling ☺️ (just my 2 cents) I learned that no matter where I am, I can order a glass of Reisling and be happy!

 

Seneca Lake Wine Trail map
If you have someone who insists they only drink beer, never fear! I’ve got you covered. 😬 There is also a Beer Trail!


 

 

Lamoreaux Landing Wineries and Finger Lakes Scenery

I could fill this entire post with nothing but amazing images from the area, but I’ll stop myself. It really is an area you should experience for yourself. It doesn’t matter if it is winter (the wineries look so beautiful decorated for Christmas ❤️), spring, summer or fall. There is never a bad time to visit!

☀️ Heather

Here are a few sites to get you started:

Seneca Lake Wine Trail

Finger Lakes Things To Do

Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce

Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce

p.s. All of these images belong to someone else originally, but who knows who.

Travel Tip Tuesday #3: If you travel with kids on road trips you will thank me for this tip. 

I want to write that again….if you travel with kids on road trips, you will thank me for this tip. I am positive of that. If you don’t find it helpful, then I will find myself questioning everything my life has been about. 😂

We have 3 kids and when we travel, we travel. By that, I mean we’re a bit insane (according to our friends 🙄). We drive straight through from Upstae NY to South Florida without stopping. (Well, we stop to use the bathroom 😬) We spend up to 22 hours in the car  this often has us eating in the car. I’m certain I do not have to tell you that 3 kids eating in the car can very quickly make the inside of your vehicle look like the local land fill. Not to be forgotten in this scenario is spilled drinks while they are all screwing around (all the while insisting that they aren’t 😒). During hour 4 this scenario is manageable. During hour 14 (and every hour after that), this scenario has me considering stuffing myself into our car top carrier where it is quiet!

I came across these little basket things at The Dollar Tree (I just ❤️❤️❤️ that store!) a couple of years ago and picked them up. We’ve been using them for various things ever since! 

Feast your 👀 on this:

 

the “K” is for one of my kids. each of their baskets has their initial on it
 
There are so many great things about this basket. 

1. Can you see how it fits over our armrest on the captain’s seat?

2. It has a spot for a cup. It will hold plastic cups from our house or cups from most any restaurant 

3. The frog (sorry… My pictures reflect my life!) is sitting in an area that will hold a sub, hamburger, pretty much any kind of food. 

4. The little section next to the cup will hold fries, chips, apple slices, you name it. 

5. They come in different colors so there is no question about which basket belongs to which little person (we still did an initial because a certain mommy couldn’t seem to remember 😳)

The baskets also stack for easy storage. I’m all about easy, clean storage! 

BONUS TRAVEL TIP:

These also work great to hold crayons or other items to keep your kids busy on the road!

BONUS NON TRAVEL TIP:

These would also be great if you have a sick kid (or husband 😉) at home. You could set them up with this cup of ice or ginger ale, crackers, busy items, etc. 

I’m pretty sure they are out in the stores now. Do not walk-run to your local Dollar Tree and grab some! 

☀️Heather