Stock-Up for a Road Trip at Jewel-Osco #AHugeSale

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #AHugeSale #CollectiveBias #JewelOsco

Heading our for a road trip can be a hectic time. You’ve got to make sure you have your itinerary ready, you’ve packed everything you need, and, most importantly, you’ve got the car loaded with all of your favorite snacks. My family takes road trips fairly often, and there’s always a tantrum when a favorite snack is forgotten.

Jewel-Osco-Trunk

Here are some tips on packing some snacks for your next family road trip:

1.) Keep it simple and easy. Any snacks you take should be just as appetizing as they are portable and transport-resistant. Snacks like salsa or dip would probably be impractical to take in the car. Granola bars, trail mix and crackers are great road trip-ready snacks to take on the road.

2.) Balance out the junk food. You don’t have to skip the junk food completely –  a vacation is the perfect time to splurge – but try to incorporate more than just candy and junk. So limit the sugar and try some fruit and veggies to keep yourself well-nourished.

3.) Stay hydrated. Be sure to take plenty of water and Gatorade to keep hydrated. Water and Gatorade will keep you hydrated and are better for you than other sugar-filled drinks you’d pick up at a gas station.

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Beginning 7/29 through 8/11, Jewel-Osco is having a huge Anniversary Sale. Lots of great items to be purchased! I actually stocked up for my upcoming road trip at Jewel-Osco and picked up some fruit, Pepsi, Gatorade, and my family’s favorite – Doritos! We’ll be in the car for awhile, so I probably should’ve picked up two bags!

Jewel-Osco-Aisles

You don’t want to miss out on the savings during the Jewel-Osco Anniversary Sale. Pop in today and save on everything your family loves, from snacks and drinks to cookout classics and more.

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Jewel-Osco is having a huge Anniversary Sale, but you can be sure to check out what great deals are available at Albertsons, Safeway, or Amigos too!

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Jewel-Osco is my go-to grocer. Shop the HUGE Anniversary sale and stock up on your favorite brands 7/29-8/11. I’d love to hear how your family will stock up!

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Planning a Family Road Trip to Sheboygan, WI!

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I am so excited about all the traveling my family plans to do this year. Family travel is so important to me (and I’m slowly starting to convince my husband of this too) and there’s no better education you can give your kids than out on the road. We have been blessed this year with a long trip planned, and a few Midwest road trips up our sleeve too. One destination that I can’t wait to see is the Blue Harbor Resort & Spa in Sheboygan, WI. Living in the Chicago area, I’ve traveled to Wisconsin many, many times with my family, both as a kid and as an adult with my own family. But I can honestly say that I’ve never spent any time in Sheboygan – and it’s only about 2 and a half hours from Chicago!

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Blue Harbor Resort & Spa is the #1 resort on Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan coast. With stunning beachfront and water views, Blue Harbor Resort features 182 suites, 64 villas, more than 17,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a 54,000 square-foot indoor waterpark entertainment area including a mini glow golf course, a full service spa, three restaurants, and recreation amenities including watersports and access to the Bull golf course. This award winning resort is located just two hours north in nearby and scenic Sheboygan, WI, known as the “Malibu of the Midwest.”

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To book a stay, visit BlueHarborResort.com or call 866.701.BLUE. Thoughts from Her readers can receive FREE Water Park Passes and savings up to 30% OFF with this exclusive Blue Harbor Resort coupon: http://usfamilycoupons.com/coupon.php?regionid=75&bid=11746&dealid=1749.

Disclosure: My family will receive a complimentary one-night stay in exchange for this post.

Winter Getaway: Wisconsin Dells’ Wilderness Resort

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If you’re anything like me, you’re already missing the warm weather and dreaming about your next escape.  While we haven’t had any heavy snowfall…yet…in the Chicago area, the chilly temperatures already have me getting a little stir-crazy and thinking about where I want to go next.  At the moment, that dream contains water, bathing suits, and family fun.  It’s a recurring dream, really, and I can’t wait to get away.  But with the holidays literally around the corner, I know I don’t want to stray too far from my home base.  I need a destination within driving distance – and a vacation that won’t break the bank!

Wilderness Lodge_Exterior

Located in Wisconsin Dells, approximately 200 miles from Chicago (about a 3-hour drive), the Wilderness Resort, offers everything I am looking for – and then some!  From multiple waterparks and restaurants, to an arcade and laser tag, this hotel has it all – it’s like an entire city located on one property.  I promise, you will never find yourself with nothing to do.  In fact, you never even have to leave the resort!

Wilderness Lodge_Territory

A few months ago, my family had the pleasure of staying at the Wilderness Resort and I can already tell you that we are eager to return.  My four-year-old (who is not one for rides or fast movements, by the way) had an absolute blast at the resort’s many water parks.  The Wild WaterDome, for instance, was one of our faves.  A 70,000-square-foot indoor waterpark that features a see-though-roof (very cool to catch some of the sun’s rays even when it was too cold to swim outside) that bathes the entire park in natural light and actually allows guests to tan all year long! The Great Wave, also known as America’s largest indoor wave pool, was probably where we spent most of our time.  Just seeing my son’s huge smile whenever the wave hit him was probably worth the trip for me.

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Wilderness Lodge_Wave Pool

There are also plenty of life vests at the First Aid Station that kept the “Helicopter Mom” in me happy.

Wilderness Lodge_Life Vests

The other water parks at the resort offer plenty to do for the whole family – from lazy rivers to fast-paced slides – but we loved the Bonanza Bluff at Klondike Kavern best.  Wilderness also offers 4 outdoor waterparks during the summer months, but we visited off-season so we didn’t get to experience those.  Just another reason for us to return!

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Family-friendly amenities don’t stop at the waterparks either.  The Wilderness Resort offers so many things to do – there’s never a dull moment here!  Their indoor amenities are fantastic!  You can ride go-karts indoors, play laser tag, complete a sky ropes course, ride bumper boats, try your hand at mini golf, or spend hours playing games at the arcade.

Wilderness Lodge_Go Karts

Our room, while located a bit far from all the water park amenities, was another hit with my family.  For one, it was HUGE.  There was a separate seating area (with a sink and counter) from the bedroom that really came in handy when my son was ready for bed.  My husband was still able to catch up with all the sports channels, causing minimal noise, allowing my little one to fall asleep quickly.

Wilderness Lodge_Room

Wilderness Lodge_Seating Area

I also have to give a HUGE shout-out to one of Wilderness Resort’s employees at Tommyknockers Lounge – Madison.  We had the most positive interaction with her, and my four-year-old was immediately smitten.  She was so sweet to my son, and I would definitely like to publicly thank her (and tell her that we still use her name when we want to get him to do something.) Thanks, Madison!

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Overall, our stay at the Wilderness Resort was really great.  My family loves the year-round fun that the resort allows – and kids adore the many water parks this hotel offers.  I urge you to check out this resort if you’re in town – you won’t be disappointed!  Better yet, if you’re looking for a spot to ring in the New Year, Wilderness could be just what you’re looking for.  Wilderness Resort is offering a guest-exclusive New Year’s Eve Party that will provide some serious fun with music, dancing, party favors, laser lights two ballrooms with DJs playing popular hits! There will even be a midnight balloon drop in one of the ballrooms. The cost for this fun event is $12 in advance ($15 at the door) for adults 21 and over (includes two drink tickets. IDs are required). It is $7 in advance ($8 at the door) for kids ages 3-20 (and this fee includes punch).  A great price for what looks to be a super-fun event!

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Kids will Love the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum! #ExperienceGR

The Grand Rapids Children’s Museum is located in the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, and just a short walk from other attractions in the area. I knew my toddler would love the activities there, but had no idea that my teen would have a good time there too! (I was just as shocked as you probably are by reading that.)

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My family visited the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon and the museum opened at noon. Admission is $8.00 for ages 1-64 and $7.00 for ages 65 and up. Children under 1 are free. There was a bit of construction going on at the intersection where the museum was located when we visited, but I noticed a few open parking spots right out front. Upon entering, there is a fairly large closet area where we were able to park our stroller. They do not sell food items here and I didn’t see an eating/snack area either. You could, however, rent a room for a birthday party.

Our first impression of the museum was that it was MUCH larger inside than we thought it would be. The two-story museum features some permanent exhibits, along with some rotating ones to change it up a bit. Some of my toddler’s favorites were the Construction Zone area where he built a foam “brick wall”, the bubbles exhibit (because, what kid doesn’t love playing with bubbles?!?!), the train table (always a favorite), the alphabet carpet squares, and hanging apples on the apple tree.

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GR Childrens Museum Trees

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Surprisingly, some favorites for my teenage daughter were the Mom & Pop Store (she relived the times when I used to take her to children’s museums), the Wee Bank (where I determined that she should NEVER work for a bank because I asked to withdraw $1,000 and she proceeded to give me the money WITHOUT asking for identification… LOL), and the Play Day Café where she was the waitress and I was her customer. I thought she would be bored to tears here while her brother played, but she surprised me by making the most of it.

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GR Childrens Museum_Store

One aspect of the museum that I couldn’t take my eyes off of was the bee exhibit with REAL, LIVE BEES! I was fascinated because I have never seen so many live bees before. My whole family tried to locate the queen, with no luck. The elusive queen was nowhere to be found. We all thought that it was really cool to see a bee colony in action – though we were thankful that they were all behind the glass!

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Overall, we enjoyed our time at the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum immensely. If you’re visiting the Grand Rapids area with kids, I’d put this attraction at the top of your list. Kids of all ages will find something to do and, chances are, will learn something new too.

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission to the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum to facilitate this review, and I was not asked to provide a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

The inside scoop on everyday travel with kids.

This review originally appeared on Trekaroo!

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Soak in the Beauty at The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan #ExperienceGR

The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a 132-acre botanic garden that has both indoor conservatories and outdoor gardens. One area of the property, Sculpture Park, contains more than 200 sculptures dispersed throughout the grounds. For those planning a visit, the park is open daily with $12 admission for adults over the age of 14, $9 for students and seniors, $6 for kids 5-13, and $4 for kids 3-4. My family – my husband and myself, my teenage daughter, my toddler son, and my mom – visited the park as our last stop before heading home from our road trip to Grand Rapids and spent about 3 hours here. I regret not visiting the park sooner, as I felt we missed so much during our short time there.

Frederik Meier Gardens Greenhouse

Frederik Meier Gardens Entrance

After entering through the main building, the first exhibit you see is the Tropical Conservatory inside the large greenhouse. We saw banana trees, cacti, carnivorous pitcher plants, and other tropical plants. We then walked over to the gorgeous Lena Meijer Children’s Garden. I love how there was a child-size gate to enter through too.  It felt very Alice in Wonderland to me – and kids loved going through over and over.

Frederik Meijer Gardens Childrens Garden

My toddler spent a lot of time at the Great Lakes Garden where he launched boats from one of the great lakes to another on the tiered water table.

Frederik Meijer Gardens Water Play

There were numerous opportunities to learn about the plants in the Children’s Garden, with some areas even allowing you to use your senses to learn about the plants. Our favorite was the Touch section where there were four different plants with varying textures to touch – the fuzzy leaf was interesting to feel.

Frederik Meijer Gardens Touch Section

And to continue with the whole Alice in Wonderland feeling I had – there’s the white, err, bronzed rabbit!

Frederik Meijer Gardens Rabbit

We then ventured to the Sculpture Park to head to the Waterfall. The sculptures were larger-than-life works of art – most of them very unique, and all of them beautiful.

Frederik Meijer Gardens Sculpture 1

Frederik Meijer Gardens Sculpture 2

Frederik Meijer Gardens Sculpture 3

The waterfall was breathtaking with lily pads and even a bunch of koi fish in the pond.

Frederik Meijer Gardens Waterfall

Probably the best part of our visit to the park was the lunch we had in their Taste of the Gardens Café. Seriously, probably one of the better meals we’ve had in a long time. The food was so fresh and delicious, I felt like I could eat there every day. My son had the peanut butter & jelly kids meal, while the rest of us chose sandwiches that were served with a fresh salad. I had the Calder City Pulled Pork Quesadilla and it was divine. Tender chunks of pork and pepper jack cheese, served with a honey chipotle sauce drizzled on top. A little spicy, but just how I like it.

Frederik Meijer Gardens Quesadilla

Again, I wish we had more time to spend at the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, but I figure that it’s a great reason for me to make a return visit since we still have so much to see.

Disclosure: My family received complimentary admission to the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park in order to facilitate this review, and I was not asked to provide a particular point of view. All opinions are 100% my own.

The inside scoop on everyday travel with kids.

This review originally appeared on Trekaroo!

Classic Comfort and Elegance at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan #ExperienceGR

I’ve been thinking about our next family vacation more and more lately.  We had some fun adventures last year and can’t wait to do it again!  Last summer, my family  ventured to Grand Rapids, MI for a weekend stay.  The whole brood came along for the ride – my husband and myself, my teenage daughter, my toddler son, and my mom.  Naturally, with the varying age groups in my family, we look for vacations that offer something fun to do for all of us (which is much harder than it sounds!).  On our trip to Grand Rapids we stayed at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel located close to many major attractions in the downtown area.

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel

Hotel: My first impression upon entering this hotel was “Whoa!”  I was immediately impressed by the décor and grand chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.  The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel first opened as the Pantlind Hotel in 1913.  Since then, a 29-story glass tower was added to the building and the hotel still maintains its old-world charm, combined with all the modern amenities.  The inside is definitely classy and elegant – I almost thought that my toddler would somehow destroy it! LOL  But we did see other toddlers (and even some babies) at the hotel too.

Amway Grand Plaza Addition

Here’s the addition to the Amway Grand Plaza hotel.

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Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Interior 2
When I learned that access to the pool wouldn’t be available during my stay at the Amway Plaza, I was a little bummed.  The photos looked great on the website, but unfortunately, due to maintenance being performed on the pool area we had to walk the Skyway to the JW Marriott to use the pool.  My kids look forward to a little pool time whenever we’re on vacation so we took the 5 minute walk to the neighboring hotel.  I was disappointed with the Marriott’s pool area as the floor tiles were VERY slippery, making it easy to slip and fall.  Also, towels weren’t immediately available (it took more than 20 minutes after another guest called to get towels sent to the pool area), and there wasn’t a locker room area we could use so we changed in a bathroom.  Not exactly the pool experience we had in mind.  But again, this was at the JW Marriott pool that was available for us to use.

Room:  We were fortunate to secure two adjoining rooms – one with a king bed and the other with 2 queens.  This worked out great for my family since my husband and I, along with my teenage daughter, could watch movies late at night without disturbing the toddler that was trying to sleep.  Unfortunately, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel does not have a movie pay-per-view service (or the ability to check out over the television) so we had to stop by a nearby Walmart to purchase some DVDs (and a cable to connect to the TV) to watch movies on our portable DVD player.  No biggie, but a staff member did tell me that they were looking into this option for the future.  The room was very clean and I did not notice any stains or rips in the upholstery.

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Room Beds

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Room Chair

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Room Desk

One of my favorite aspects of our room stay was the information (and chocolates) provided with turn-down service.  A small sheet of paper with the weather forecast for the next day was a really nice touch.  I also liked the fact that the hotel offers free WiFi to guests, as we needed it for my son to view content on our tablet.  My family’s favorite aspect of our room stay was definitely the soft and plush mattresses and pillows.  They were heaven!

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Turn-Down Service
Room Service: Like all room service options, the items on the menu are a bit pricey.  We opted for room service on our last morning at the hotel out of sheer convenience – we didn’t want to have to get out of the room early and come back to pack up before check-out.  I’m so glad we ordered in!  The food was delivered within 30 minutes and we had a FEAST!  Pancakes, eggs, bacon, fruit, yogurt – I felt like we tried it all!  And it was all delivered at the perfect temperature and was simply delicious!  My only gripe with our room service was that we were shorted a set of silverware so my husband and I had to share until another set was delivered.  But the food was so good that I overlooked that a bit.

Location:  My entire family loved the location of our hotel.  We were within walking distance to some major attractions like the Grand Rapids Public Museum, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum, the Grand Rapids Art Museum, and the Grand Rapids Public Museum.  Seriously, all within a 5-10 minute walk from the hotel.  And that’s not even mentioning all of the great restaurants within walking distance too!  The location of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel was just perfect for exploring the city of Grand Rapids.

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Room View 1

Aren’t these views gorgeous?!?!

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Room View 2

That’s the Grand Rapids Public Museum – just steps from the hotel!

Restaurants:  There are a total of 8 restaurants on the hotel property – from breakfast and coffee, to a deli for lunch and steak for dinner – the Amway Grand Plaza hotel can cater to a wide variety of cravings.  Personally, having a Starbucks in the building was a huge perk for me.  One of my biggest peeves when visiting a hotel or resort is cruddy coffee in the morning.  Thankfully, the Starbucks was just a short walk from our hotel room.

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Starbucks
We also dined at Cornucopia for breakfast (oatmeal, bagels, and breakfast sandwiches) and lunch (salads, paninis and pizza).  There was plenty of seating available, but we opted just to take it back to our room.  The food was good, but we mostly enjoyed the convenience.

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Cornucopia

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Cornucopia Menu

Cornucopia’s Menu

We had one “fancy” dinner at the Ruth’s Chris Steak House on the property.  Going in with a toddler, we were a little apprehensive because we thought he would be too loud and disturb other guests.  The service at the restaurant was so awesome that they sat us in a louder section of the restaurant and checked in every so often to see if we were doing alright.  The food at Ruth’s Chris was so delicious and we enjoyed getting to spend some family time together at a nice restaurant.

Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Ruth's Chris
Overall:  Our stay at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel was pretty great.  I do wish that they had more amenities available to children, but I would definitely recommend this hotel to any family wishing to visit the Grand Rapids area – the location alone can’t be beat!  We enjoyed our Grand Rapids trip so much since there are so many amenities in the area that appeal to varying age groups.

Disclosure:  My family received complimentary accommodations in order to facilitate this review and I was not required to state a particular point of view.  All opinions are 100% my own.

The inside scoop on everyday travel with kids.

This review originally appeared on Trekaroo!

The Traveling Family: Safety First!

Disclosure: As a Britax Latina Blogger/Advisory Board Member (and in partnership with Mami Innovative Media), this post is part of a sponsored outreach. All opinions expressed are my own.

I’ve traveled a lot (so far) this year.  Well, I mean, traveled a lot for me I guess.  Usually I’m lucky if I can get out of town once or twice a year, and this year I’ve been out of the Chicago area SIX times already…with another trip planned for the fall.  I’m a lucky gal!  Traveling has become one of my absolute favorite things to do, and I love taking my family on for the ride.

Pure Michigan

Our most recent family road trip was to the Grand Rapids, MI area and my entire family had a blast!  It’s not easy keeping both a toddler and a teen entertained, but Grand Rapids did just that.  We visited museums, a beach, a pool, a zoo, a park, and dined at some pretty fabulous restaurants.  An awesome family trip.

BRITAX Michigan

I thought our time would be a little too jam-packed for my toddler (because Momma is a Type-A, itinerary-having junkie) but he loved every minute of it.  The most important tip I can share when traveling with toddlers is: make sure you plan for naptime.  So even though our schedule was full, my boy’s naptime was definitely planned.  It allowed for a much smoother transition going from place to place.

This trip to Grand Rapids was also my son’s first road trip lasting more than 3 hours.  We were really nervous that he’d give us trouble on the way, but surprisingly he took it all in stride.  Aside from the obligatory potty breaks, we tried to keep our stops to a minimum.  Worked out great!

And I know one thing that definitely kept him safe and comfy: his brand-new BRITAX Pinnacle 90 car seat!  I can’t even tell you how much this boy loves his car seat!  For the first time (he’s almost 3!) he can finally hop in and out of it himself.  He’s not very fast, but it’s really cute:

And he’s so proud when he does it too.  A big plus for me since we upgraded from the Advocate 70 is the addition of the cup holders on the seat!  Well, actually, I might take that back because I’ve found Goldfish cracker crumbs everywhere since we installed the new seat!

BRITAX Pinnacle 90

As a traveling mom, there’s nothing more important to me than my child’s safety on the road and I’m happy to know that BRITAX has my back in that department!

Travel Safety Tips for Road Trips

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I am a Britax Latina Advisory Board Member and Blogger. As always, all opinions, ideas, and stories are my own.

I can hardly believe that the summer is just whizzing by!  In just over four weeks school will be back in session and summertime will be over.  JUST FOUR MORE WEEKS!  *GASP*

We have done so much as a family so far this summer, but there’s still so much we haven’t done.  I know, I know…there’s always next year, but still!  I want to make the most out of the next four weeks.  I still want to hit up a few festivals, watch a movie in the park, hang out by the pool, and so much more!

We took one family trip so far this summer, and still have one to go!  I’m so excited!!!  In just a couple of weeks we’ll be taking another family road trip…this time to Michigan!  Our first road trip was pretty hectic, and I was overly concerned with what we were bringing with us and, more importantly, safety on the road.  There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than traveling for hours in the car with kids in tow.  Just the thought of something going wrong, or an accident on the road terrifies me.  Here are a few travel safety tips for road trips to alleviate some of your safety concerns.

Have the Car Fully Checked Out

Car Engine

Image courtesy of markuso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do your tires need replacing?  Overdue for an oil change?  Has your “check engine” light been glaring at you for weeks?  If so, you need to get all automobile items checked…and pronto!  I would hate to be stranded on the side of a road, all because I neglected to take my car to a mechanic to make sure it was safe to drive.  And if you haven’t had a tune-up in awhile, now’s the time to do it!

Don’t Overpack!

All too often when leaving home, we tend to pack way more than we’ll need “just in case”.  And every time, I come home with outfits that I never wore and toiletries that I never used.  From now on – minimalism is key.  Not only does an overpacked suitcase leave you with too much “stuff” at the end of a trip, it also isn’t doing your gas mileage any favors, so skip on the multiple costume changes.  Chances are, you won’t need them.

Minimize Driver Distractions

Distracted Driving

Photo Credit: donttextanddrive.org

This should go without saying, but don’t text and drive.  EVER.  But aside from using your cellphone, there are plenty of other ways that a driver can get distracted.  “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”, anyone?  Well, we all know that kids can get pretty rowdy in the car – especially if they’re bored – so make sure that you have some activities the kids can do in the car, or even have a portable DVD player with you so they can watch some movies.  If the kids are engaged, they’ll be less hyper, and you can get on with the drive.

Buckle Up!

Britax Advocate 70And not just the kids!  EVERYONE should be wearing a safety belt.  Well, for one, it’s the law.  And two, it just makes sense.  I can remember family road trips from when I was a kid and would always question why we (the kids) all had to wear our seat belts, but my father never did.  Back then I was told that my dad was just uncomfortable with one on (um…weren’t we all?!?!), but all the kids needed to wear them.  While I’m grateful for being told to wear one, the whole family should be buckled up!  My son loves his Britax Advocate 70-G3 and we have never had an issue with him not wanting to buckle up (thank God!).  Please make sure all members in your vehicle do the same.

Hopefully you and your family get to go on a road trip this year.  And if you do, remember…safety first!

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I am a Britax Latina Advisory Board Member and Blogger. As always, all opinions, ideas, and stories are my own.

Wisconsin Dells, WI: Original Wisconsin Ducks

The Original Wisconsin Ducks tours have been taking visitors for a ride for almost 70 years, and they really are pretty unique.  Originally used to transport soldiers during WWII, these amphibious “ducks” take riders on a tour of Wisconsin’s Lake Delton, scenic wilderness, and through the Wisconsin River’s Lower Dells.  The tour takes about an hour and we were pretty lucky since we stayed at the Kalahari Resort and the Original Wisconsin Ducks actually pick you up right outside (no need to drive to the Downtown Dells area!).

Original Wisconsin Ducks

The tour starts off on land and takes you over some hills – my toddler was a little scared of the roller coaster-style drops.  But, amazingly, he fell asleep in my lap almost as soon as the boat hit the water.  Our guide told some pretty cheesy jokes throughout the tour, but she knew a lot about the area and it was nice to learn a little Wisconsin Dells history (albeit in the middle of a corny punch line).

The rock formations along the Wisconsin River were really gorgeous.  The boat travels slowly through the water and the scenery was very peaceful.

Original Wisconsin Ducks Tour

We learned on the tour, however, to not sit in the last two rows of the boat.  The tour makes a quick drop into the water and the last two rows got pretty wet.

Original Wisconsin Ducks Scenery

Towards the end of the tour is an awkward moment where the boat (well, it was on land at this point) stops in the middle of a wooded area to hand out booklets that give a bit more history and information about the duck tour.  (At the time, there were 4 other duck boats stopped in the same area – I thought that this was the time where we’d all get cut up, Halloween-style.  Seriously, it was pretty creepy.)  She then went on to say how she purchased the books herself and was asking for a $5 donation to help her with college tuition to keep the books.  (Mind you, the regular price of the tour is already $25 per person.)  I felt bad for her and would’ve purchased the book if I carried cash on me, but it was more than uncomfortable to have to hand her back the book at the end of the tour after listening to her story.

Awkwardness aside, the picturesque tour was really nice, and my whole family enjoyed the ride…well, all except the two-year-old who slept through most of it.

If you’re planning to take the Original Wisconsin Ducks tour, I’d look online for coupons and specials before I shelled out the $25 per person to ride the ducks.

Have you taken the ducks tour?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Wisconsin Dells, WI: Timbavati Wildlife Park

Kids of all ages love seeing animals in action and interacting with wildlife whenever possible.  On our recent road trip to Wisconsin Dells, WI we visited the (still under construction) Timbavati Wildlife Park.  Timbavati is being built on the site of a former water park, and some of the old water slide staircases/platforms are still existing.  There is still a lot of work that needs to be done here.  At the time we visited, Phase II (of 3) recently opened, and the exhibits at the entrance were nowhere near being done.  But, that being said, Timbavati Wildlife Park was still a lot of fun, for the things that we actually could do anyway.

Timbavati Wildlife Park

Our Experience:  Upon entering the park, I was surprised at the amount of construction going on.  The construction work extended to all areas of the park too, not just near the front entrance.  However, there were some animals on display right at the entrance (mostly birds).  I can’t exactly tell you what was in them, though, because most did not have any signs on the habitats to let you know what was in them (and some that were there were incorrect).  So far, this was not looking like a good experience…

Timbavati Under Construction

Construction, construction, and more construction!

We walked a bit more and were able to see lots of lions, tigers, cheetahs, and other cats.  My husband, for one, was really surprised that the viewing posts were only a few feet from the exhibits!  Of course, the habitats were completely fenced in, but still!  Talk about a close encounter!

Timbavati Bengal Tiger

Isn’t this tiger beautiful?  (And, yes, I was that close.)

Timbavati Wildlife Park Tiger

From there, our day progressively got better.

We got to watch a pig race…

Timbavati Pig Race

And pet some animals…

Timbavati Petting Animals

And see some other cool creatures – like the biggest rodent I have ever seen.

Timbavati Capybara

There was also a really large enclosure with some ostrich and zebras.

Timbavati Zebras

It’s also pretty cool that the Timbavati train ride uses the old attraction’s (Old Fort Dells) Engine #9 original train.  We even saw animals approaching the train so riders could feed them.  Very cool!

Timbavati Old Fort Dells Engine #9

But our absolute favorite part of our visit was the giraffe feeding.  Actually, my favorite pictures from our whole trip are from this exhibit. And Oh. My. Word.  My toddler couldn’t get enough!  He had no fear either…I think his entire hand was in a giraffe’s mouth at some point!  The. Best. Ever.

Timbavati Giraffe Feeding

Now that’s the stuff family vacations are made of!

Timbavati Family Vacation

Overall:  We did have a really good time at Timbavati Wildlife Park, although I wouldn’t block out a whole day for it.  One day, when the park is 100% complete, I’m sure it will be awesome.  Looks like there’ll be a cool water exhibit right at the entrance so I’ll be great for photo ops.  At Timbavati, you can also ride the go carts, take a ride on a camel, and even have your picture taken with a baby tiger or other baby animals!

So tell me, would you visit Timbavati Wildlife Park?

Wisconsin Dells: Fun for the Whole Family

If you live in the Midwest (especially in Illinois), a trip to Wisconsin Dells is a rite of passage.  It’s a great budget-friendly trip that’s close to home, and a ton of fun.  I’ve been visiting the Dells since I was a kid and, although much has changed, the family bonding and memorable experiences shared remain the same.

wisconsin-dells-visitor-convention-bureau

This time around we took a little road trip to the Dells with the whole family – my husband and I, our two kids, my mom, and my daughter’s friend (the friend was a strategic decision on our part to ensure there’d be no complaining about having to do all the “baby stuff” with my toddler from my teenage daughter – best decision I could’ve made!).

With the trip only being 3 and a half hours from the Chicago area, we only had to make one stop on the way – and of course couldn’t miss the photo op at the Illinois/Wisconsin border!

Wisconsin Welcome Sign

WHERE TO STAY

There are so many places to stay at the Dells from hotels and motels to camping sites and RV parks.  This time around we decided to stay at the Kalahari Resort!  We choose to stay at the Kalahari because of the many amenities they offer: an indoor and outdoor waterpark, an indoor theme park, bowling, a movie theater, free passes to some popular attractions, and so much more!  I needed to keep my spouse, parent, toddler, and teen all entertained and Kalahari delivered on that big time!  But I’ve also stayed at the Wilderness Resort, Great Wolf Lodge, Mount Olympus Resort, Paradise Motel, and Blackhawk Motel, and many others – all still really great options.  A lot of times we choose a place to stay based on seasonal promotions, so be sure to check what “freebies” you get before booking. Kalahari Resort Dells

WHAT TO DO

For Toddlers:

A visit to a pool is a must (Wisconsin Dells is the waterpark capital of the world, after all), but it doesn’t have to be a huge waterpark.  A smaller hotel pool with a nice toddler area is sufficient.  But you don’t have to spend all your time poolside during your trip.  For animal-lovers, take the kids to Wisconsin Deer Park where you can feed over 100 tame, free-roaming deer and see some other animals.  Or, you can visit the newer attraction, Timbavati Wildlife Park.  The park is still partly under construction, but offers unique viewing opportunities and the chance to feed some of the animals too.

Circus World

Photo courtesy of Circus World

Toddlers would also enjoy Circus World, a circus museum located in Baraboo, WI, where the original Ringling Brothers Circus was founded.  Visitors can watch a circus with acrobats, animal performances, and clowns, or stroll through and see restored old circus wagons.  There’s so much more to do at Circus World!

Knuckleheads Bowling & Indoor Amusement Park would also be great fun for toddlers with rides, bowling and arcade games.  There are also inflatables for kids to bounce around in – my toddler loves those!

For Teens:

For the more adventurous teen, the waterpark slides are the perfect way to get an adrenaline rush and have a great time.  The large waterparks like Noah’s Ark (America’s largest) and Mt. Olympus offer the perfect mix of waterslides and wave pools for hours of entertainment.  Go Karts are another fun way for teens to spend their time at the Dells.  With numerous Go Kart facilities like ADare Go Carts, Big Chief Go Karts and the Mt. Olympus theme park, even teens without a driver’s license can enjoy driving on fun adventure tracks.

Vertical Illusions Zip Line Tour

Photo courtesy of Vertical Illusions

If your teen is really, really adventurous, you can try the Wilderness Canyon Zip Line Canopy Tour at the Wilderness Resort.  The tour takes you through 5 zip lines that soar over a canyon – a thrill-seeker’s paradise.  Vertical Illusions is also a great option with zip line adventures, kayak tours and rock climbing tours.

For the Whole Family:

The whole family would enjoy one of the many scenic boat tours held throughout the Dells.  The Original Ducks tour takes riders through both scenic land and river locations on a “duck”, a boat that can ride on both land and water.  Originally used during WWII to transport soldiers, the Original Ducks now takes tourists through some beautiful landscapes of Wisconsin – the amazing rock formations are breathtaking.  You can also try the Dells Army Duck Tours, very similar to the Original Ducks, but with a military feel.

Tommy Bartlett Ski Team

Photo courtesy of Tommy Bartlett

Another must-see during a trip to the Dells is the Tommy Bartlett Show.  Adults, kids, and teens will have a good time at this 90-minute timeless show on both stage and water.  The show, currently in its 61st year at the Dells, has been a family favorite for generations – and images of the the water-ski team have been an iconic representation of the Dells for years.

WHAT TO EAT

The Wisconsin Dells offers a variety of dining options to satisfy any palate. Kids will love themed restaurants like Paul Bunyan’s Cook Shanty, an all-you-can-eat buffet, and Buffalo Phil’s Pizza & Grille, where your meals are delivered by trains.

Monk's cheesecurds

Photo courtesy of Monk’s Bar & Grill

Meat-lovers will love the steak options at the Dells like House of Embers or Kaminski Brothers Chop House.  But if you’re visiting the Dells for the first time, you can’t leave without trying some cheese curds at Monk’s Bar & Grill – they are fantastic!  Similar to a mozzarella stick, cheese curds are made with Wisconsin white cheddar and are lightly battered and fried to a golden brown…SO GOOD!

A vacation at the Wisconsin Dells is guaranteed to be fun for the whole family with so many options on things to do and see (& EAT!).  It’s impossible to do it all in one visit.  One trip to the Dells will only result in one question…”When do we go back?!?!”.

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