Tag Archives: vacation

Highlights from Our Trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

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For those of us on the East Coast a trip to Mexico for a long weekend seems like a crazy idea. But, this is exactly what my family and I did. We headed out to Puerto Vallarta, on behalf of Expedia to try the new services being offered to travelers by Expedia Local Expert.

This new feature allows those booking their travel through Expedia to also plan and book their activities before they even arrive to their destination.

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Hotel Vacation Timeshares: Lodging with Perks

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A growing trend among travelers, especially among travelers with family members in tow, is vacation rentals or ownerships. And I don’t blame them. With the holidays coming up, those looking to visit NYC can expect hotel room prices to double from what they have seen so far. Yet, people want to get out and enjoy the city and all it has to offer while still not breaking the bank and vacation rentals is one way to do that.

Aside from renting apartments, another option when looking for lodging is to check out hotel timeshares. Turns out many hotels offer the option of vacation ownerships for some of their suites, which can be a nice perk considering you then also get to enjoy many of the perks staying in a hotel can offer.

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Marrakech Hotel, A Budget-Friendly Stay on Upper West Side

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Recently I toured a boutique hotel on the Upper West Side. “Upper West Side?” I thought, “I don’t recall ever seeing a hotel in that area of the Upper West Side.”

But, once I got off the 1 train on Broadway and 103rd St I saw it. A dark purple awning highlighting the name Marrakech Hotel. A short walk off the streets and up the stairs and I was taken into a warm, serene space. The colorful tiles, warm rich colors of the walls, furniture, and decor (most of which is authentic from Morocco) transported me to an exotic place.

After a great first impression (not to mention an extremely cordial and friendly front desk staff), I was introduced to General Manager, Keith Acker. He takes great pride in his establishment calling it “the hidden gem of the Upper West Side”.

In the lobby area you’ll see the Kazbar Lounge, a favorite of both visitors and locals.  Order one of their speciality drinks, like the Marrakech Martini or Oasis Ice Tea while there. A wonderful place to meet up with friends, and relax over drinks. They have also hosted sports viewing and other social events, such as speed dating or birthday parties. Drink prices range between $8.00 to $12.00, and though no food is served, people are welcome to bring in their own or order in from one of the many wonderful restaurants found on the UWS, or from one of the restaurants listed on the hotel’s Preferred list. The lobby also offers free WiFi and high-speed Internet access for guests to lounge by the bar and work.

Boasting 127 recently renovated guest rooms, each offers an intimate living space featuring an authentic Moroccan-style décor bringing the passion and allure of North Africa’s city. The building itself is over 100 years old, and many of the rooms were built around the set infrastructure, making each room different, and thus every stay experience unique. This also means there are no elevators, which might be an issue if you have problems climbing stairs. I wasn’t able to really measure the noise factor as most guests were out and about when I was there. I also didn’t experience an overnight stay, so can’t speak to the actual experience of a night there.

Only 15 minutes to Midtown and providing access to anywhere in NYC, including the Columbia campus for visiting students and families, this is a perfect location. The 1 train is located on the corner, but if you’d rather stay local, you are close to both Central Park and Riverside Park, shops, restaurants, and many other local favorites.

Average price for a room is about $89 during low season (January) to a little over $200 during peak season (November-December).

Marrakech Hotel 2688 Broadway, New York, NY 10025 * Tel: 212-222-2954

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Adventure to Orlando, FL!

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Just in time to de-frost, I will be taking a 4-day trip to sunny Orlando, FL.  Invited by the lovely people of Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. and the Loews Royal Pacific Hotel, I will be joining another small group of blogger to tour some of Orlando’s most exciting and fun attractions. And I will be taking my 12-year old with me. I know, lucky kid…should probably have write a few articles himself, huh?

We will enjoy the luxury and beauty of the South Pacific offered at the 1,000-room Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando. From lush tropical landscapes to refreshing waterfalls, this exotic resort will have what they promise will make us feel relaxed in no time, something I look forward to for sure! I’m also looking forward to the lagoon-style pool, checking out their kid-friendly Royal Bali Sea interactive play area.

Our itinerary is an busy one and I am excited to share all we do with you. With visits to popular destinations such as Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Gatorland, Seaworld Orlando, and Universal Studio Orlando, this promises to be a fun trip for sure.

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Ski and Fun at Pico Mountain, Killington, VT

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My family and I made our way out to Killington, VT recently to check out  Pico Mountain. I went on behalf of Trekeroo, a wonderful site where travelers with kids have access to tips, trips, and sights as experienced by other families like themselves, and where I am a proud contributor.

We had a wonderful time and I invite you to check out my reviews at Trekeroo for all the different experiences we had there. My little ones tried skiing for the first time, as did I, as we loved it (I didn’t even fall once!), my 12 year old better mastered his snowboarding skills, and my husband conquered the summit.

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Romantic Getaways to the Dominican Republic

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Today was a busy day.  Meetings and phone calls, work and work. Did I tell you I am a Stay at Home Mom?  You know, those “cushy” situations where I get to stay home and do what I want in my PJs, when I want?  Today not so much….work and kids and crying, hysterical claims of “ouchies” which lead to a visit to the ER.

And as I sit here, trying to relax from an insane day of responsibilities, both in and outside of my home, I look at my husband, who having experienced an equal level of exhaustion, is out cold on the couch.  And as I look at the man that I so deeply love, I yearn for the sounds of the waves, the hot tropical sun on my skin, and a cool Piña Colada on my lips, and my darling husband by me, no kids.  And I envision myself doing all of this in my old home town of the Dominican Republic.

There are many things that I could say about the Dominican Republic having experienced it as a resident and not just a tourist, but there is never any denying that this is an incredible country, so surrounded by natural beauty, incredibly blue beaches, and great people, that it makes it impossible for it not to be one of my top romantic tropical destinations.

When I lived in the Dominican Republic one thing my family and I used to do almost every weekend was stay at a resort on a beach.  Many of these places are so exclusive, so well managed, and so excellent in everything they do, that they remain, to this day, top hotel and resort destinations in the country.

One of our absolute favorite places to go, and where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, is Casa de Campo in La Romana. Casa de Campo is about a little over 1 1/2 hr from the capital city of Santo Domingo.  It is known for its extensive and beautiful golf courses, amazing rooms and villas, and endless list of activities for all tastes. They have over 20 restuarants, some of the best beaches around the island, and no matter where you go, and who greats you, you wil be treated like royalty.  I especially love visiting the artist community and amphitheater of Altos de Chavon, located near by, and though I enjoyed it much as a child, spending my honeymoon there was an unforgettable, incredibly romantic experience.

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Honeymoon Villa in Casa de Campo
Honeymoon Villa in Casa de Campo
Cathedral in Altos de Chavon
Cathedral in Altos de Chavon
Altos de Chavon
Altos de Chavon

Another great destination in the Dominican Republic is Punta Cana.  Now, when I was living there, Punta Cana was nothing more than a beach town.  The one and only resort there and one we frequented alot was Club Med.  Now, there is a new bread of hotels, much more romantic and exclusive than what I ever knew my Punta Cana escape to be, but then of course, I was also younger and not married to the love of my life and looking to escape with him.  Punt Cana has amazing resorts and incredible beaches and tons to do.  It may be, at this point, a bit too over developed and maybe even too touristy for me, but most people I know that have visited DR have gone to Punta Cana and have absolutely loved it.

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My absolute, absolute dream escape though, would be to the Peninsula of Samana.  I actually lived here, and know this little town like the back of my hand.  If I were looking to get away from it all and really just be alone with my husband, this is where I would go.  It is far from everything.  Roads are rough and the town is small.  But the mountains and sceneries are breath taking.  As a young teen one of my favorite escapes in Samana was El Cayo Levantado.  It’s a 15 minute boat ride off the cost of Samana, and at the time I lived there it was a small island, with only a few local food vendors and families who took the ride out to enjoy the beach (the beaches in Samana are like no other in the world, I promise you).  Now, the small island is home to the Gran Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado.  I swear to you, the ultimate romantic getaway, if you don’t mind the distance and rough roads to get there.

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Now, as a I look at my sleeping husband, and my snoring kids, I wonder when I will ever have the opportunity to enjoy the romantic dream escape with my man.  So even if I have no option other than taking road trips and other similar escapes with all kids in tow, if you out there can escape with your loved one for a romantic vacation, these are the places I suggest the most.

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This is a TravelingMom dedicated post.

Note: There are Pros and Cons to visiting a Third World Country, like the Dominican Republic.  The site linked here, Oyster.com, does a very good job at pointing those out.  Though I feel the Dominican Republic is a wonderful romantic getaway, you should be prepare and take caution when traveling there based on the information provided on the linked site.  Since I can’t go, I hope that if you can, this information will be helpful to you!

Romantic Vacation on raveable


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Vacationing in Madison, WI

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Ah, Madison.  Honestly, before I met my husband, I didn’t know much about Madison, or Wisconsin, except that it was known for its cheese and farms, and if I thought about it that much it was never.

But some years ago, I met the love of my life, my “cowboy” I used to call him when I found out where he was from, and not too long after that once we found out we were pregnant with another child, we kissed New York City buh-bye and left, never imagining we would ever return. Turns out though, that my man was not a “cowboy” at all, never even lived on a farm or milked a cow.  But, such were the images in my mind.

Life in Madison, WI was (is) in so many ways, and certainly in comparison to New York City, comfortable.  There’s a lot of open spaces, no noise, no crowds.  People tend to say, and this is how her husband convinced her to move there, that Madison is a diverse city.  But Mama would argue that this statement is in great part made because of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus, and by people who have never been to New York City. It does however have a strong artist community, and like New York, a its share of hippies, intellectuals, and such.  What Mama liked most about a lot of the people she met and became friends with there is their overall down-to-earth-ness.  The realness that can be found in most people.  She misses a lot of the friends they have there and know that people like that will be hard to come by in the big city.

It is also a beautiful town and I was very excited when we purchased our modest 3 bedroom ranch, white picket fence included.  We had two babies in Madison, (if I had to have another baby-which I will not-but if I did, I would go there to deliver for sure) and we got a dog, and had jobs that were never too challenging and allowed for us both to put family first.img_42262

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But the lack of diversity, and a wonderful professional opportunity for my husband brought this biracial family back to the NYC we swore we would never return to, not because we didn’t love it, but because we thought it impossible to raise a family here.  This of course, has proven to be a misconception.

In visiting Madison however, I felt the sense of peace that made me fall in love with the place in the first place. From the minute we entered the airport, everything seemed to slow down.  People were friendlier, more laid back, things from getting the luggage to getting the rental to driving to our destination was just so, so easy.

We took advantage of a slow rainy day and decided to stop at a few of our favorite places during our stay. One of these is Monty’s Blue Plate. I love their bakery selections, and if not ordering their “Special Scramble” which changes from day to day, I order the Breakfast Burrito, which is what I did during this visit.  Monty’s is one of the many local eateries developed by Food Fight Group, a local organization which has helped aspiring restauranteurs to establish eateries in the area. Other favorites in Madison under the Food Fight umbrella are Texas Tub’s, and El Dorado Grill.

The waitress at Monty’s recognized us (after not seeing us for an entire year!) and even said she had wondered what had happened to us (how sweet)!  We bumped into our former landlord, whom we had rented from when we had first arrived to Madison, and who adored us. No one cared that the kids were especially animated on that morning, nor that they kept going to people’s table to say hi.  It’s just that kind of place.

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Across the street from Monty’s is the popular Barrymore Theater, which always has some band or performer best recognized by my husband.

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The Capitol is a great building, offering tours and its surrounding grounds serving as host to the weekly (every Saturday morning) farmer’s market, which I always loved to take advantage of.  If you ever visit Madison, I encourage you to tour the Capitol building, and climb to the top.  It is truly a beautiful structure. The nearby State Street is a popular place to eat, drink and just hang out.  A lot of cute shops there too.

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My oldest likes to say that when he goes to college he would like to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Only time will tell, and he has much to see and learn, but there is no argument that it is an impressive and beautiful campus.  My husband, who attended University of Wisconsin-Greenbay, often laments not having gone to this school instead.  Its buildings and grounds are a great source of pride for Madison, as they should be.  The school spends millions a year maintaining and building, to the point that things that weren’t there a year ago are standing tall, and new ground is being broken for new structures.

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The outdoor of their Student Union, better known as The Union, is a fabulous lake front locale where both students and locals alike frequent for drinks (beer), grilled goods, and entertainment from local bands.  On sunny, warm days the family and I would frequent this location and have ice cream while the babies slept in their strollers.  Although the day of this picture was cold and grey, on a sunny day, this spot is beautiful and a great hang out.

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A structure that was completed shortly before our departure is the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA).  This beautiful building, designed by architect Renzo Piano (who also designed the recently opened New York Times Headquarters in NYC), hosts rooftop jazz parties, though the fees can a bit much for Madison.  A great place to visit will be the soon to arrive, newly developed Children’s Museum.  The one they already had was a bit old and in need of TLC.  It was great news for us to hear that they were finally getting a bigger, newer museum for the kiddos!

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It’s a shame I didn’t take more pictures of the many lakes found in Madison.  It is definitely one of the things that make it such a pretty town.  I also wasn’t able to get pictures of Monona Terrace, Madison’s gorgeous conference center.  A great spot for family concerts and events all year round, and a wonderful waterfront spot for weddings.

I did get a chance to drive by one of the kid’s favorite spots before calling it a day and going home to warm up: Olbrich Gardens, the town’s botanical gardens.  Had it been a more beautiful day I would’ve taken pictures, it truly is a nice garden, small in size, but with a peaceful garden, which has no admittance fee (the indoor exhibits, including the rain forest do share a fee).

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There are many other areas outside of Madison that are great, fun vacationing spots, like Wisconsin Dells, best known for their insanely huge water parks, and Door County, best known for their great B&B’s and camping grounds…or the gorgeous Washington Island.

The boys had a lot of fun revisiting Madison, and it is pretty accurate to say it is our second home.  We love it there.

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Midwestern Easter, Family Style, Madison, WI

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Easter morning. We were staying with family and having a great time.  We had already seen tons of friends, had seen almost all the family members, and even gone to two egg hunts in one day!

But today was a day where the family had planned to all get together and enjoy some time eating, drinking, and just being merry.  I don’t exactly remember when Easter Sunday became like a Christmas holiday, but this one surely was. My had already consumed more candy then I would ever normally allow, and whatever treats weren’t given in the form of candy were then given in the form toys. Needless to say the boys were having a great time.

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Airplane with kids

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Air traveling with kids.  We’ve all heard nightmare stories about the incessant crying, the constant kicking on the seat, the trying to keep the little ones from disrupting other passengers on the plane.  When we had just one child it seemed so much easier to travel, not only financially easier, but logistically as well.  We have avoided it for some time.  Even when the kids and I  moved back to NYC, I decided on driving overnight just to avoid having to take a plane with all the kids.

However, we weren’t going to be able to avoid it forever.  And the time had come.  With the oldest son having a week off from school, we had an opportunity to visit family and return to the Midwest.  

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