I knew that I wanted our next trip to be somewhere warm (but not nearly as humid as Tennessee was) and that the kiddos would be accompanying us. It also had to be budget friendly since we literally just returned from a trip. After a little research and playing around with different flights, we decided to book airfare from Seattle to Las Vegas. But we weren’t stopping there. From Las Vegas, we’d drive to a place that I’ve wanted to explore for a while: Palm Springs.
To be fair, Chris and I have been to Palm Springs before. It was seven years ago. We decided to road trip from Washington, down to Vegas for an event, then over to California and back home via highway 1. While it was fun to be young and spontaneous, we didn’t realize just how expensive our little endeavor would be. And when we finally reached Palm Springs, we were so broke that we couldn’t afford to stay in town. We had to settle for a meal of crappy Thai food before moving along.
Ever since that trip I’ve wanted a redo. I never would have thought it would be seven years and two kids later but it was totally worth the wait.
Flights from Seattle to Las Vegas were nearly $200 cheaper than flying directly into Palm Springs. We factored in renting a car and buying gas for the 4-hour (one way) drive and it was still worth it to fly into Vegas. We also scored BIG TIME when our first flight was delayed and we were offered $500 flight vouchers PER PERSON to switch to a later flight. Done deal. We ended up making money after all was said and done.
If you’re game, I’d recommend playing around with flights to see what will save you the most money. We could have also tried flying into LAX (with a shorter drive time) but ultimately found the best deal to Vegas.
There are two hotels that I’ve always wanted to stay at when visiting Palm Springs. Those two are The Saguero and The Ace Hotel & Swim Club. I was drawn to the brightly colored picturesque exterior of The Saguero. It looked lively and fun. So when I stumbled upon ridiculously affordable (non-refundable) rates for the The Saguero, I booked in a heartbeat.
I got one thing right: The Saguero is both bright and lively. In fact, there was a little too much of the latter. Young, twenty-something year old me would have loved this place. There were live DJs and all-day pool parties. The hallways were flocked with scantily clad youth talking about a variety of subjects not quite suitable for our small children.
There were a few pros to our stay at The Saguero. One: Holden’s obnoxiously loud train sounds were masked by the thumping beats from the DJ booth. Two: The large rooms allowed our children to run off any excess energy before bed time. Other than that, we realized that in our short stay, we had outgrown the hotel.
The final straw was when we returned from a day of exploration. We were hot, hungry, and tired. Chris was weaving our double stroller through the throngs of intoxicated party goers in the lobby when one very inebriated man pointed at our little family and loudly slurred, “I nevvvver want that liiiife.” Chris and I both rolled our eyes and made our way to our room. Within two minuted of being there, Chris was fiddling on his phone. And shortly after, he exclaimed, “I’ve got us a new hotel. We check in tomorrow.” And thus ended our time at The Saguero.
An oasis. That’s what The Ace Hotel & Swim Club was to us after our brief stay at The Saguero. It was clean. It was trendy. It was quiet. And it felt more, shall we say, “grown up.”
Our room was incredible. It had a large bed, two comfortable lounges that turned into twin beds at night, and the added bonus of a private, enclosed deck. When we weren’t at the pool, we were giving our kiddos their first taste of popsicles. It was incredibly messy but totally fine since we just rinsed down the space when they were done.
While we only had two nights at The Ace, we made the most of our stay by enjoying the awesome guest amenities– whether it was posting up by one of the nightly fire pits or enjoying a breakfast at The King’s Highway diner. And when it wasn’t a million degrees outside, we’d take the tots on a walks of the premises, collecting decor ideas for our future abode.
All in all, I’d highly recommend anyone book a stay at The Ace Hotel & Swim Club. Check their website before booking through a third party site as they often run promotions that will save you a little extra money.
It wasn’t all pool parties and popsicles. Even though temperatures were reaching the 100s, we decided to take in as much of the area as we could. In the end, I think we found a little something for everyone.
Holden’s recent obsessions include trains and dinosaurs. Thankfully, we were treated to both at the Cabazon Dinosaur Park. When we pulled up, our grumpy toddler immediately perked up when he noticed a freight train passing by. Little did he know, his mind was about to be blown with giant dinosaur models.
Admission is $13/adult (ages 13-54) and $11/children (ages 2-12). Children two and under are free. If you think your child will be happy with simply seeing the giant T-Rex outside the gate, save yourself the money. But if you have children that are even remotely interested in dinosaurs, digging for fossils, or panning in a cool stream, go ahead and fork over the cash. While Holden breezed through the winding path, barely stopping to take in any of the dinosaur models that greeted him, he LOVED “panning” for dinosaur bones in the little stream at the start of the park. I’m pretty sure he could have stayed there for hours but both Henley and I were over the heat.
Once we finished our dinosaur adventure inside, we stepped out to take photos of the iconic T-Rex and grab a bowl of Sweetosaur ice cream. That might have been my favorite part.
Okay, so the kids might have slept through our entire trip through Joshua Tree but I have full confidence that if they were awake, they would have loved. it. To be fair, we had poorly planned our excursion after a day of exploring (and dinosaurs!) and the kids were exhausted. They fell asleep before we even arrived and stayed that way until it was dinner time.
Chris and I, on the other hand, loved our evening drive through Joshua Tree. We stopped for some photos, watched a few tourists attempt to climb a few rocks, saw ALL the Joshua Trees, and then left. If the kids had been awake, I would have loved to stop and do a mini hike on one of the paths. Next time!
I’ve seen photos from Moorten Botanical Garden’s beautiful cactarium grace my social media feeds for years. It’s what the kids these days are calling “insta worthy,” The cactus nursery, as I’ll call it, was both the stuff of dreams and nightmares. The latter because sharp objects and inquisitive toddlers don’t really mix.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed walking through the garden and taking in the various local flora that is foreign to us in the Pacific Northwest. We visited early in the morning so that we could beat the heat of the day. Although we still ended up melting, Holden enjoyed scouring the gardens for dinosaurs (there were a few) while Henley was fond of giving me a heart attack every time she reached for a dagger sharp cactus. There were also a few tortoises and birds on the premises that both the kiddos loved.
All told, we spent about an hour exploring the gardens. We probably would have left a little earlier but I had a very special surprise planned for the family. Take a peek below.
One thing that I’ve been more conscious of since having kids, is taking photos for our children to be able to look back on. And while we take a ton of photos while traveling, we rarely get any with all of us in it. Enter Flytographer. This service offers you a personal photographer who meets up with you in a location of your choosing and delivers professionally edited photos in a fast turnaround.
While it’s easy to ask a stranger to take your family photo in front of the Eiffel Tower, you might end up with a shot where your heads are cut off or only half of you are looking at the camera. Flytographer takes out all the guess work and you’re left with frame-worthy photos to last a lifetime.
Chris and I have had a Flytographer shoot in Slovenia and one on Maui (for our babymoon) so I was extra excited to finally use them for our family photos. We met our Flytographer, Melissa, at Moorten Gardens early in the morning (in order to beat the heat) and she followed us around snapping photos as the little ones explored.
You can save $25 off your first Flytographer shoot by using “tawnyclark” at checkout
There’s no shortage of restaurants in Palm Springs but if you want to get down and dirty at a cool local haunt, you have to visit Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. This legendary watering hole is known for its hearty food, live music, and generous pours.
Pappy & Harriet’s felt like a gritty dive bar but was also a comfortable place that welcomes families. We were seated right behind the sound booth and Holden enjoyed looking at all the buttons and lights. It only got better once crooner Brian Whelan took the stage and wowed the crowd for a few sets.
Our dinner was delicious (steak for Chris and I bison burger for myself) and even though it was past their bed times, the kids seemed to have a blast.
As parents to two small children, I think it’s very important to take a little time for yourself. For me, that involved taking a shopping trip downtown Palm Springs. And for Chris, it was visiting a local tiki bar.
Bootlegger Tiki sits where the original Don the Beachcomber Tiki Restaurant once stood. Now a craft cocktail bar, it serves us some of the most delicious (and creative) libations in town.
While not a place suitable for the kiddos, it’s the perfect oasis for a parents’ night out. Chris snacked on sriracha popcorn while throwing back a “Thar She Blows”– a medley of O.F.T.D., White Rum, Plantation Pineapple Rum, Génépy, Amaro, House Falernum, Aperol, Pineapple, Grapefruit, Lime, Cinnamon, Grapefruit Bitters, and Cucumber Bitt.
Of course! All in all, our four short nights in Palm Springs were a blast. Our plan is to return to the desert during one of the cooler months so we can enjoy more of the outdoors (sans blistering heat). I’m also making it a goal to do an adults only vacay in the near future. I want some time with Chris at Bootlegger Tiki!
My advice for traveling to Palm Springs with small children is to take it slow. Plan for naps and breaks. Also be sure that you and the babies are staying hydrated. And unless your child enjoys boozy pool parties, maybe skip The Saguero.]]>
I don’t know about you but our toddler is extremely active. So active that he doesn’t realize he’s hungry until he’s well into the hangry stage. There are few things worse than a hangry toddler stuffed in a small space with hundreds of strangers. In order to prevent the typical meltdown, we packed what I thought was a ridiculous amount of snacks.
I packed healthy snacks. I packed naughty snacks. I packed old favorites and brand new treats. I even ordered Holden a pizza and a cheeseburger for both of his meals on Korean Air. My bag overfloweth and yet, we were running on literal crumbs by the time we landed.
You know the old traveler’s adage, “Pack your suitcase and then remove half of your items.” Well, when it comes to packing snacks for your toddler, do the opposite. And as always, make sure both you and your kiddo are drinking lots and lots of liquids.
Thirteen hours is a long time to be flying with a toddler. These tiny people have tiny attention spans and can only fixate on one thing for so long. While most international airlines now come equipped with personal TVs, it might be beneficial to pack a tablet uploaded with your child’s favorite shows, movies, and games. While we try to steer clear of screen time at home, travel days are the exception. If it makes them happy, keeps them quiet, and lets mama get a little shuteye, we’re all about it.
Even then, our toddler can only be riveted by the iPad for so long. Since he was very into construction vehicles at the time (he’s now moved on to planes- go figure), I bought a few small construction set toys and stored them in my carryon until we were at max boredom. Holden’s face would light up every time I revealed a new surprise and he would be entertained for another hour.
I also packed a handful of activity books that, to be honest, weren’t really a hit with our guy. That being said, if your child is into reading and coloring, I believe activity books would be a worthy investment.
One thing we always bring with us on our travels is blue painter’s tape. We use it to baby proof outlets and restrict blind cords in hotel rooms as well as to keep coloring papers in place on plane tray tables. It does its job and is easily removable. Bonus: it doesn’t take up a ton of space.
Since your toddler is now flying in their own airline seat (yay for a free lap), they can also reap the benefits allotted to most travelers i.e. a free carry-on and in-flight meals. I found it best to pack everything you need for your toddler in one bag that you can store underneath the seat in front of them. That way, you’re not frantically ruffling through three different bags to find diapers, wipes, favorite blankies, and Wet Ones wipes (a serious plane necessity).
For our 13-hour flight to South Korea I packed Holden’s bag with:
On our trip to Korea I packed all of this in my Nena and Co CDB (convertible day bag) but when we’ve traveled internationally before (to Germany, Czech Republic, Scotland, Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria), I used our Kånken Fjällräven backpack. Both do the trick.
Ok, this kind of sounds doomsday-y but if you prepare yourself for all of the worst case scenarios, you usually find yourself pleasantly surprise that not all of them happened. Our flight to Korea actually went really well until the last two hours. Our sweet son has a serious case of FOMO (“fear of missing out”) and although his eyes were bloodshot and he could barely keep his head up, he refused to go to sleep. This resulted in an extremely grumpy child. A child that was so tired he would only exhibit his discomfort by half-awake wailing. Nothing was good enough for him- no treats, no bulldozers, no Blippi. And of course, he passed out half an hour before landing thus leading to what might have been the angriest child through customs.
But you know what? We made it. No one was scarred and I had to really dig through my brain catalog to even remember that Holden had a rough time at the end of our flight. While traveling with a toddler certainly isn’t the easiest way to explore the world, I truly believe that everyone is better for it. Plus, look at all the fun he had in Korea!
What did I miss? Are there tried and true methods that you use for traveling with your toddler? Let me know in the comment section below or reach out to us on Instagram (@captainandclark).
What did I forget?]]>
Our friends Jackie and Paul had to learn that the hard way when they invited us to crash their Scotland honeymoon. It started as a joke while playing nerdy board games one night. “You guys should come with us. It would be awesome. Our condo even has two bedrooms.” And while it might have seemed like an off handed invite to them, I was definitely looking up airfare later that night. What started innocently enough soon turned into an all-out honeymoon crash. With the blessings from the newlyweds, we (Holden too!) planned on meeting them a week after they landed in Scotland.
None of us had been to Scotland before and we were thrilled at the opportunity to explore together. Chris and I booked our airfare using miles (thank you, Alaska Air!) and flew from Seattle to New York (where we stayed with Holden’s godparents for a night) and onward to Aberdeen, Scotland.
Chris, Holden, and I had one night in Aberdeen before we were to meet up with Jackie and Paul. We arrived in the morning and it was our goal to stay awake as long as possible so that we’d adjust to the time change. That’s easier said than done when you have a one year old. Luckily, Holden was a champ and slept better than he had in months.
Heads up: Scotland is pretty expensive in the summer and it can be hard to find affordable accommodation. We ended up booking our night at Mercure Aberdeen Caledonian Hotel and LOVED it. It was in an amazing location, had beautiful light-filled rooms, and only set us back about $60USD a night. This isn’t by any means sponsored. We just really enjoyed this hotel.
I really wish we had spent more time in Aberdeen. I enjoyed the laid back vibe of the city. There was festive bunting strung over high street and everyone seemed so friendly- especially towards Holden. Chris and I agreed to have a traditional Scottish dinner for our first meal in the country but we were so famished that we ended up ducking into the first place that looked decent. It turned out to be a vegetarian restaurant (Foodstory Cafe, for you veggies out there) but the atmosphere was inviting and the food smelled incredible. I had the vegan chili while Chris devoured the vegan taco bowl. We left feeling both incredibly satisfied and full.
We strolled around the town until we couldn’t fight the fatigue any longer. I’m pretty sure the three of us fell into bed around 5PM (so much for staying up) but thankfully everyone slept in until around 7 the next morning.
After rendezvousing with the newlyweds the following day, we piled into our rental car (well, rental SUV) and headed straight to our first sightseeing destination. Dunnottar Castle looks like it came straight out of a fairy tale. Attacked by the Vikings, taken capture by William Wallace, visited by Mary Queen of Scots, and eventually saved from ruin, the castle’s colorful history is one for the books. The castle grounds are perched upon sweeping Scottish cliffs and appears as if it rose from the surrounding waves.
Castle tickets will set you back £7/ adult and £3/ child although family passes (admission for two children and two adults) are only £17. Guests are allowed to roam for as long as they want until closing.
After climbing the stairs to the castle entrance (and be warned, there are a lot of stairs), we paid our admission and began exploring the grounds. I particularly enjoyed the “free range” experience. Unlike most historical sites, we were able to wander at will. Holden particularly enjoyed running around on the grass and exploring the various rooms and tunnels. It would honestly be an incredible place to hold our next archery tournament. Who’s down for our first international tournament?
While we could have stayed at Dunnottar all day, our grumbling tummies has us yearning for lunch. The next time we visit, we’ll definitely pack a lunch so that we can take in as much of the castle as possible.
While Chris and I were teaching in South Korea, we had the pleasure of making friends with a feisty red-head named Claire who hailed from Scotland. Her go-to noraebang (karaoke) song was “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond.” Or maybe it wasn’t. It might have been the copious amounts of soju, but we’d find often find ourselves in an inebriated stupor sining (or butchering) the song at the top of our lungs. If one actually listens to the lyrics, they’ll learn it’s actually a somber and heartbreaking tune, but to us, it will always be associated with Scottish Claire. So when we learned that the condo, Macdonald Forest Hills Hotel and Spa, is near Loch Lomond, we knew it was going to be awesome.
The two-bedroom timeshare that Jackie and Paul had for their honeymoon turned out to be a one-bedroom suite. Chris, Holden and I ended up claiming the fold-out couch in the living room so that the newlyweds could have their own little love nest. It ended up working out perfectly since Holden is an early riser. We would get up and start breakfast without disturbing the lovebirds.
Located in the Trossachs, the property itself was gorgeous. Though we were only a short drive from the town of Aberfoyle, we felt truly secluded from the outside world. On the mornings that we weren’t out exploring, we’d walk a kilometer alongside Lake Ard to a tiny breakfast haunt (I can’t remember the name of the place to save my life) for some freshly baked goods and posh porridge. We’d also spend lazy afternoons challenging each other on the giant chessboard. Holden particularly enjoyed frolicking around in his ridiculously adorable kilt.
We also had the privilege of meeting up with two of our good friends who we met in while living in South Korea. Corey and Paul currently live in Liverpool and made the journey to spend a few days with us in Scotland. One of the days we were together, all seven of us piled into our cars and made way for Loch Lomond.
The drive up to Loch Lomond was breathtaking. We stopped along the way to take photos of the scenery and the most adorable shaggy Highland cows. Loch Lomond itself was just as beautiful as we imagined it to be. We even stumbled upon a few waterfalls that made the perfect backdrop for family photos.
In typical Scottish fashion, the weather was overcast and chilly but if it had been a nicer day, I’m sure we would have spent it actually on the lake itself. If we visit Scotland again, we’re hoping to stay at one of the many hotels on the lake.
Due to the location of our condo being an hour drive to both Glasgow and Edinburgh, we had the opportunity to visit both cities twice. Honestly, I found Edinburgh to be the most charming of the two but we ended up spending more time exploring Glasgow.
My favorite part of Edinburgh was the Scottish National Gallery. Not only was it free, but we could have easily spent hours looking at all the stunning art. The Scottish National Gallery features fine Scottish art from the early Renaissance to the end of the nineteenth century. I was so proud of Holden who did well walking around the different galleries. While he might not have been as impressed with the art itself, he thoroughly enjoyed chatting and flirting with anyone who would give him the time of day. Other than exploring the Scottish National Gallery, we spent most of our time in Edinburgh walking around and shopping. I think we’ll have to go back to truly get to know the city.
Truth be told, we had more time to spend in Glasgow and thus, were able to see much more. Most of our time was spent on foot, getting lost as we searched for food. Isn’t that how we spend most of our trips?
Without a map or a plan, we wandered the streets, ducking into various shops until we stumbled upon the Glasgow Cathedral. Built in 1136, we were immediately entranced by the stunning gothic architecture and how the cathedral seemed to loom over the city. The cathedral was destroyed by a fire in the 12th century but was soon rebuilt with towers and updates evolving throughout the years. Walking around the interior of the cathedral, you’ll see the striking nave, ornate organ, the stunning Millennium stained glass window, and the tomb of Saint Mungo, an apostle of the Scottish Kingdom of Strathclyde and founder and patron saint of the city of Glasgow.
With all of our exploring, we worked up quite the appetite. Two of our favorite meals in Glasgow came from The Smokin’ Fox (6-8 Waterloo Street) and The Admiral Bar (72A Waterloo Street). The former, a sexy restaurant with a cocktail menu to match the swanky decor. And the latter, a laid back pub with an assortment of mac and cheese dishes. You really can’t go wrong with either.
We have so much more of our trip to share with you. In particular, our day trip though the Highlands, flying falcons, and our ambitious (and successful) hunt for Chris’ families’ ancestral home. Stay tuned as we roll out more from our trip to Scotland.
Holden is only nineteen months old and he’s been to Hawaii four times. That’s more than most people visit the islands in a lifetime. And the crazy part is that he has no idea just how lucky he is.
The first time we took Holden to Hawaii he was only six months old. It was our first trip to the islands with a baby and honestly, it sucked. We foolishly thought that we could continue with the same routine that we had in the past. We would sleep in (ha. hahahaha.), go get coffee at Arvo, then head off to the North Shore where we would swim, snorkel and surf. We’d return to our hotel with sunned cheeks and sand in our hair.
Holden obviously had other plans. Due to the time change, he would wake up no later than 5AM. His nap time routines were completely off. Oh, and he absolutely hated the beach. Everything about it. He detested the sand, was terrified of the water, and the sound of the waves sent him into uncontrollable sobs. Chris, the seafaring water worshipper, thought that we created a child terrified of all things aquatic. It was a sad time for us all. I was also that anxious new mom that refused to put her baby in the sun- even for a second. And since he was too young for sunscreen, we spent most of our time under the safety of the shady palm tress. Couple all of that with the fact that it was also election season (which, regardless of party lines, is a trying time for everyone) and I had yet to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. It was a recipe for disaster.
The best thing we got from that first trip was this sequence of Holden maniacally laughing as he tried to eat sand.
I’m happy to report that the subsequent trips that followed only got better and better. We have since fallen back into our groove. We’ve tweaked our itinerary to accommodate a toddler and have found our trips to Oahu to be much more enjoyable.
I know that doing something four times doesn’t necessarily make one an expert, but we’ve spent enough time on Hawaii that I feel comfortable sharing our tips and tricks to traveling to Oahu with a baby.
Ko Olina Lagoons
I always enjoyed the lagoons at Ko Olina before we had kids but now they are even more special. There are four lagoons in all and our favorite can be found at the very end. The lagoons offer protection from the surf and even the littlest of babes can enjoy the serenity of the water. Parking is on a first-come first-serve basis and be warned that there are no lifeguards on duty. We make the most of our trip by always packing a picnic lunch (or picking something up at the nearby ABC Store or Island Vintage coffee house). If you find yourself peckish, treat yourself to any of the resorts that line the lagoons.
Pro Tip: The Papalua Shave Ice shack at Disney’s Aulani resort is a great place to grab a bite.
Arguably one of the prettiest beaches on Oahu, Lanikai has always been a family favorite. Powdery white sand with crystal clear water is what you’ll find just outside of the town of Kailua. We’ll either pick up a plate lunch or stop by the local Whole Foods for beach snacks. The surf is perfect for kick boarders and SUPers and kayakers can even paddle out to nearby Nā Mokulua islands. I have to honestly say that due to the surf, Lanikai is better for older children. Infants and toddlers will still enjoy the soft sand between their toes and a little dip if the water is calm enough. On our last trip, we brought a pop up tent and both of the kiddos (an 18-month old and a 9-month old) absolutely loved it.
It would be remiss if i didn’t at least mention Waikiki beach. Not only is it extremely accessible to all that stay in Waikiki, but the surf is gentle and forgiving. It’s also typically shallow enough for kiddos of all ages. That being said, it’s often over populated and the water easily becomes cloudy and polluted with sunscreen and various other ambiguous fluids.
Totally unrelated: check out those chubby baby thighs! I can’t believe he used to be such a little chunk. #rollsonrollsonrolls
Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa.
I mean, you really can’t go wrong with a Disney resort. I had my eye on Aulani for years and we finally had the opportunity to stay right around Holden’s first birthday. We were there for a work trip but were able to explore nearly every inch of the resort. I particularly enjoyed how Disney truly catered to the kids. We barely had to baby proof our hotel room. The most we did was hide the pens. And our room even came with a pack ‘n play.
All three of us enjoyed the Waikolohe Valley pool area, in particular the lazy river. I also spent way too much time at the Ka Maka Grotto. I would head down right as the pools opened and spent a few quiet minutes to myself before everyone else arrived. As for Chris, we had a hard time pulling him away from the two different water slides. He’s a water baby through and through.
I might have fan-girled at the character breakfast. Goofy came right up to our table and spent a little one-on-one time with us. Holden was less impressed but he went to town on the Mickey waffles.
While Holden might have been too young to enjoy all that Aulani has to offer, Chris and I soaked up all the Disney magic that we could. For those that want extra time with Mickey and his crew, be sure to book tickets to the Ka Wa’a Luau. Not only was the food so ono, but luau guests are treated to extra time with the Disney crew.
The Laylow, Autograph Collection.
True to its name, The Laylow is where one can go to truly escape. Situated in the heart of Waikiki and only blocks from the beach, guests to The Laylow are treated to privacy and quiet. Plus, the hotel is ridiculously cute. I wanted to copy our room and paste it to our bedroom back home. Just look at that wallpaper!
Our room at The Laylow was so inviting and comfortable that we had to drag ourselves out for dinner. Holden is a little maestro and loves any and all instruments so the in-room ukulele was a huge hit. I was able to enchant him with all five songs that I can play.
The Laylow receives extra bonus points for The Hideout espresso bar located in the lobby. The baristas were full of aloha and our lattes were amazing.
The Sheraton Waikiki.
To be completely honest, the Sheraton Waikiki didn’t really look like much from the outside but I was completely blown away by our suite. We had two balconies to ourselves and a giant living room and kitchen area. Honestly, there was probably more square footage in our suite than in our apartment back home. And even though The Sheraton Waikiki is a huge resort, once we reached our room, we felt like we were at home. The Sheraton Waikiki will always hold a special place in our hearts and its where Holden first crawled. He scooted himself all over that living room and was oh-so proud of himself.
Another perk of the Sheraton is the pools. There’s a separate pool for kiddos and one reserved for adults only. Holden was only eight months at the time of our stay and was still a little iffy on water adventures. That being said, we managed to get a few smiles out of him while swimming with Chris.
We have another post in the shoot featuring all the fun things to do on Oahu with young kids. There will be a little something for everyone. Stay tuned and please send any questions you have our way. We’re happy to answer them!
Our idea for the holiday theme is a good ol’ traditional family road trip. For us, road tripping and the holidays go hand-in-hand. We have always done Thanksgiving at my parents’ house and Christmas with Chris’ family. That typically means loading up our car with treats, gifts, and goodies and then hitting the road. We have to cross Snoqualmie Pass during Christmas time and it’s usually covered in snow. We blare our favorite Christmas songs while the car smells of freshly baked cookies and peppermint hot chocolates.
We want our theme of Shell savings to continue. Our post will feature a few flashbacks to our favorite holiday road trips and also reflect on how our trips have changed since becoming a couple, and eventually welcoming a child. The Fuel Rewards Program allows us to reap benefits on something we’d already be doing: driving for the holidays.
Wait. How did this happen? How is the holiday season already upon us? I swear, it feels like just yesterday we were donning our swimsuits, sipping on mai tais, in the hot summer sun.
Winter has always been hard on me. The Pacific Northwest is a stunning place to live, but western Washington can also feel very cold, dark, and desolate in the winter. We tend to see way too much rain and not enough snow. And to me, rain=bleh and snow=festive. Both Chris and I suffer from seasonal depression if we stay in the cloudy and damp PNW for too long. Most years, we’ve been fortunate to have been able to escape to a tropical locale for a few weeks of the winter. Nothing a few pina coladas and vitamin D can’t fix.
There is a saving grace that’s doesn’t have us hopping on a place bound for sunnier shores: The Holidays.
I love Thanksgiving. Love it. Or at least the old school (read: ignorant) idea of it. Not so much the butchering of First Nations, bringing forth disease, taking over land that’s not ours- part. I enjoy the romance of family coming together from all over the country to spend time with each other and enjoy a delicious meal. And let’s be honest, the meal is really why I’m here. I rarely eat turkey and Thanksgiving food is some of my all-time favorite. In fact, my best friends know I love turkey so much that every year they throw a Friendsgiving party for my birthday. If that’s not love I don’t know what is.
Since we’ve been married, we tend to spend Thanksgiving with my side of the family (mostly because my dad makes the best mashed potatoes and my mom’s turkey is incredible) and Christmas with Chris’. This means multiple trips across the state. We probably log a couple thousand miles over the holidays. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, we kind of love it.
I’m not necessarily a huge fan of driving over the passes in the winter, but I love the road trip that we make to Quincy, Washington for Christmas. There, Chris’ mom’s side of the family convenes for days of baking, eating, laughing, and games. Our car smells of freshly baked cookies and piping cups of coffee. It’s typically packed to the gills with Christmas presents and baby paraphernalia and we blare our favorite Christmas tunes as we make our way over the snowy pass. I’m particularly excited for this Christmas because Holden will be more present and aware than the last. It also means there’s going to be a lot of toddler-proofing that needs to be done.
This year we have even more reason to celebrate our time on the road. Since becoming members of the Fuel Rewards Program we’re saving even more at the pump. And the more we spend, the more we save. It’s reassuring to know that even though we’re at the pump more often, we are saving more than we would if we filled up at any ol’ gas station.
Here’s what our holiday calendar currently looks like.
Drive from Spokane to Bremerton for Thanksgiving with Tawny’s family: 324 miles
Drive from Bremerton to Spokane: 324 miles
Drive from Spokane to Quincy for Christmas with Chris’ family: 138 miles
Drive from Quincy to Bremerton for holiday time with Tawny’s family: 204 miles
Drive from Bremerton to Salem to visit Chris’ dad: 217 miles
Drive from Salem to Spokane: 397 miles
Grand Total: 1,604 miles
I’m both excited and exhausted just reading that.
If you’re planning on hitting the road this holiday season, be sure to reap the benefits of the Fuel Rewards Program. And remember, sharing is caring. For every friend that signs up after your recommendation (with your unique referral link) and uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station, you will instantly earn 25¢/gal (up to 20 gallons). There’s no limit to how many friends you invite or how many times you earn! We plan on stacking our Fuel Rewards to truly make the most of the program. I foresee a lot of savings in our future. That means more money for presents and gingerbread houses!
Remember that if you sign up for the Fuel Rewards Program before the end of the year (how is 2017 almost done?) you’ll automatically earn Instant Gold Status for six months. After that, you just need to average 2 fill ups a month to keep it. Fuel Rewards® program members that have Gold Status can save 5¢ off every gallon (up to 20 gallons/visit).
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Shell. The opinions and text are all mine.
It was the perfect ending to our time in the Finger Lakes and a true reflection of the warmth that we encountered during our stay. From enjoying homemade wine-aritas at the home of Steven Fulkerson (General Manager at Fulkerson Winery) to arriving at the Gathering Hill Farm vacation rental to a welcome basket stuffed with local delicacies, we truly felt welcomed at every stop.
Having only experienced NYC and Tarrytown in previous visits to New York state, we didn’t really know what to expect in the Finger Lakes. Our ignorance was soon replaced with introductions to quaint towns, authentic Americana, and an abundance of wine. And speaking of wine, the Finger Lakes has a lot of it. In fact, the area is home to three distinct wine trails and more than 100 wineries.
One might think that the over saturation of wineries leads to fierce industry competition but Fulkerson Winery GM, Steven Fulkerson, disagrees. As we sat on his front porch and sipped on his innovative libation (a mixture of his Sparklin’ Diamond white wine, tequila, and cherry juice), he spoke of how he thinks of the surrounding wineries as neighbors, not competitors. They’re more likely to lend each other cups of sugar than to keep a baseball that’s made it over the fence.
That feeling of community translates throughout the entire region.It seemed as if everyone we met was happily intertwined. If locals aren’t getting down to a cover band at a nearby brewery, you might find them catching up at the town’s diner or sourcing ingredients for supper at the farmers’ market. The village of Watkins Glen was undeniably Americana. Not the kitschy Americana that we’re often inundated with on our domestic travels. This was the real deal–where bakeries sell homemade pies and diner patrons refer to their waitress by name. And while there’s a lingering “small town feel” to the Finger Lakes, the wide array of available activities rivals that of the bigger surrounding cities.
Watkins Glen State Park might be walking distance from the center of town but once you’re inside, you could have been anywhere. The lush gorge with overflowing waterfalls (19 in all) had us feeling like we were back at Krka National park in Croatia or trekking through Middle Earth. We made the decision to go super early in the morning and we were so glad we did. Minus a hiker or two, we had the park to ourselves. Holden was particularly enamored with a giant stick that was gifted to him by Carol’s son, Liam. He thought he was the coolest kid as he dragged it behind us on our walk. Our trip to Watkins Glen State Park was hands down one of my favorite experiences on our trip and I can’t wait to go back.
But enough about wine and hikes. Let’s talk about beer. Not to be outdone by “tannins” and “legs”, craft breweries in the area have been hard at work bringing beer enthusiasts some of the best booze in the biz. Arguably the less pretentious libation of choice, the beer we sampled in the Finger Lakes was straight forward and delicious.
Our favorites came from Grist Iron Brewing and Wagner Valley Brewing Company at Wagner Vineyards (that’s right, Wagner does both wine and beer). If you visit the former, be sure to grab a growler (or seven) of the Headless Hessian Pumpkin Ale. Pour it into a cold glass with a cinnamon-lined rim and enjoy. You’re welcome. If you stop into Wagner Valley Brewing, do yourself a favor and order the Hop Tropic IPA. It tastes like Hawaii in a glass.
Our trip to the Finger Lakes wasn’t all fun and booze. There was work to be done as well. The stars aligned with our time in the area and we happened to be there as the finishing touches were made on a big decision regarding TBEX. We partnered with the Finger Lakes Wine Country to produce this video to announce that the Finger Lakes will be the host destination of TBEX North America Conference 2018! We’re thrilled that more travelers will be able to experience the beauty and wonder of the Finger Lakes for themselves.
Finger Lakes Wine Country (Full Version) from Brave World Media on Vimeo.
We’re not done raving about the Finger Lakes. Stay tuned for more in depth information on outdoor adventures, our incredible stay at Gathering Hill Farms, and our visit to the Corning Museum of Glass. And Nancy Spaulding, if you’re reading this, the next time we’re in the Finger Lakes you owe us another dance.]]>
How is it already September? It still feels as if summer just arrived and now we can already feel fall nipping at our heels. I can’t believe the season of BBQing, slip and slides, and road tripping is nearly over. That being said, I feel as if we’ve taken full advantage of the summer months. Let’s do a little recap.
If you haven’t noticed, we have been racking *Fuel Rewards® savings to use at participating Shell stations. You can still earn Instant Gold Status if you sign up for the Fuel Rewards program and immediately start saving 5¢ per gallon (up to 20 gallons per visit). I can’t tell you how much we’ve saved by simply keying in our rewards number at the pump. Our Fuel Rewards savings have allowed us to take our summer travels even farther.
As you can see, our summer was both hectic and glorious. We’ve had our fair share of adventures both at home and abroad. And if there’s one aspect that has been consistent with each month, it was the sheer amount of miles we’ve invested on the road. We’re still enjoying watching our savings stack up with Shell and the Fuel Rewards program. Our only wish was that there were Shell stations for us to use on our European adventures. Imagine the savings!
Start saving and sign up for the Fuel Rewards program here. It’s free and took me about 60 seconds to complete. You can even link a card to earn more savings on your everyday purchases. Plus, once you’re signed up, you can send your referral link to friends and family so that they can join the Fuel Rewards program. The first time a friend uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station, you’ll instantly earn 25¢/gallon. Watch your Fuel Rewards savings add up. There’s no limit to how many friends you invite or how many times you earn. And stay tuned to see how far our Fuel Rewards savings take us this fall.
Thanks for coming along on our summer travels. We’re excited to spend some time at home and truly embrace the autumn season. Our house already smells of cinnamon and joy.
It’s officially summer! If you’ve experienced the kind of weather that we have in the Pacific Northwest the past nine months, you’re more than ready to welcome the warmth of the sun. With this season comes all sorts of summer travel and a personal favorite is a good ol’ fashioned road trip.
We’ve already taken advantage of the longer days by booking two trips to Oregon and Idaho, respectively. The drives are pretty long for a baby, but with a few tricks, we’ve managed to make the trips enjoyable for everyone. Now that Holden is a little over a year old, we feel well versed in the art of road tripping with a baby. And luckily for you, we’re happy to divulge our secrets so that you can learn from our mistakes.
I am food motivated. That’s the simplest way to put it. Food is a love language to me and I find myself booking trips based off of the food that I want to eat. Craving authentic spaghetti? Great- let’s go to Italy! Feeling like some spicy pad thai? Done. I’ve already booked our tickets to Chiang Mai.
Chris, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. He literally only eats to survive. Food plays such a little part in his day that he will sometimes forget to eat or skip a meal entirely. It’s soul crushing to me and I just don’t understand it. But now that we’re in charge of a tiny human, we need to ensure that he gets all of the nutrients he needs. That means frequent food stops.
Neither Chris nor I necessarily mind stopping to feed our kiddo his meals, but there are times that we’ve been on the road for hours, we’re so close to our destination, and we just need to feed the babe a snack to finish the last leg. That’s why we have a dedicated snack compartment in our car. In it, you’ll find snacks for everyone. Chris usually has sunflower seeds, Haribo sour gummy bears and a 5-hour Energy. My snacks include crunchy vittles like muddy buddies (because, delicious), trail mix, and chips. For Holden, we have Mum-Mum biscuits (he’s obsessed), organic baby yogurt bites, and fruit (his favorite are raspberries). We also make sure to pack drinks for everyone. That typically includes La Croix for mom and dad while Holden gets water or almond milk in a sippy cup. I pinky promise that we eat healthy 90% of the time but with road trips, almost anything goes.
And often. It’s easier to accept that your trip is going to take longer with a kiddo if you plan for multiple stops. These pit stops might be for snack breaks, diaper changes, or even to let the little one get his wiggles out. We try to plan our longer road trips around Holden’s naps so that we know we’ll be on the road during his designated sleep time. That means we have a few hours where he’s passed out and we can drive without stopping. However, once he wakes up, he needs food, cuddles, and a little play time.
In order to ensure the happiness of all travelers, we mentally prepare ourselves before departure for all the stops we’ll make around le bebe. A good rule of thumb that works for us is to plan for a 20 minute break for every two hours we’re on the road. I’m sure it’ll get easier once Holden is older, but with a one year old, this is the schedule that currently works best for our little family.
We’ve also learned to make the most of those 20 minute breaks. We pop shoes on the kiddo and let him run around like a banshee. The more energy he exerts, the better he’ll be in the car. We particularly enjoyed our spontaneous stop at the colorful fruit stand on our road trip to the North Shore. Holden picked out a pineapple and mango for our pit stop treat.
This summer, we teamed up with Shell in order to bring awareness to a pretty amazing promotion that is sure to save you dolla dolla bills. We are loving our Gold Status from Shell and the *Fuel Rewards® program. With Instant Gold Status, we save a minimum of 5c/gallon, up to 20 gallons per purchase. And our Fuel Rewards® points have been adding up fast. We’ve stacked our rewards by linking a card to our Fuel Rewards® account and use that card for purchases at restaurants and for travel expenses. One of our favorite things is to pull into a Shell station, enter our Fuel Rewards® number, and guess how much we’ll save with our visit.
Redeeming Fuel Reward® points is easy. Simply find a participating Shell station, swipe your membership card or type in your Fuel Rewards® ALT ID before you pay, and insert your credit or debit card to finish your transaction. Then, sit back and watch as your Fuel Rewards® points add up.
There’s still time for you to sign up for the Fuel Rewards® program and receive Instant Gold Status. Simply sign up before the end of the year to be automatically upgraded to gold status and start saving 5c/gallon at the pump. This is the only rewards program we’ve been a part of where you are instantly upgraded to gold status just for signing up. Don’t miss out and be sure to get in on the savings. You can sign up for the Fuel Rewards program here. Tell ’em Chris and Tawny sent you.
Chris has been so happy with the money that we’ve saved that he not only did he let me purchase a ridiculously huge pineapple floaty for our time on Lake Coeur d’Alene but he also booked us an extra night away. It’s going to be amazing. I might have even bought Holden a new adorable life vest and baby floaty of his own. We can’t wait to take our sail kayaks out on the water and enjoy some much needed family time.
This is where I get sappy. I know that Holden is only a year old, but time has already flown by since we welcomed him into our lives. And if you think about it, we really only have seventeen more summers with this guy until he [most likely] becomes an adult, flies the coop, and gets too cool for us. That’s only seventeen more summers of family vacations and road trips. I want to make the most of every adventure and hope that he looks back fondly on all of our family travels. Sure, traveling with children can be a challenge, but this part of our lives goes by entirely too quickly. Why not make the most of it?
*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the “Existing Member Introductory Period”. If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the “New Member Introductory Period”. The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the “Introductory Period”) is the “Qualification Period”. You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the “Benefit Period”. During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see fuelrewards.comfollow for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit fuelrewards.com/goldfollow or call (888) 603-0473.
There is something inherently rewarding about a good old fashioned road trip. I’ve lost count of the number of road trips that Chris and I have taken together. We chased the sunset on trips across Washington state, battled the wind and rain on our motorcycle rides through South Korea, got lost on the back country roads of Costa Brava, and even fought through a sand and ash storm in Iceland. I’m absolutely enamored with road trips. From blasting the oldies on the radio to fueling up on sugary doughnuts and cheap gas station coffee, some of my favorite memories are from moments together in the car.
As a storyteller, road trips are like an unwritten book. You are at the helm of your adventure and the destination is up to you. The best part is filling up the pages with unplanned stops, tales of exploration, and even stories of misfortune and danger.
Now that we have a baby, Chris and I find ourselves leaning into road trips instead of plane travel. Driving to a destination allows us to travel at our own pace and pack more than we would if we were flying. We also have the added bonus of not having to worry about bothering other passengers if our little guy gets fussy. In fact, we have multiple road trips planned this summer and we can’t wait to show Holden the ins and outs of road tripping (like the mandatory doughnuts).
As perpetual travelers, we are enrolled in numerous travel rewards programs. When it comes to booking flights, airfare, and car rentals, we are more than covered, however we had yet to find a rewards program that worked for gas. That is, until now. We’d like to introduce you to Shell and the *Fuel Rewards® Program.
We’re glad you asked. We recently teamed up with Shell in order to bring more savings to you, our readers, and any other avid road trippers out there.
In brief, the Fuel Rewards program allows you to save more at the pump so that you can go farther on your trip. That means more adventures, more road trips, and more doughnuts! In essence, we get to do even more of what we love. And Shell is showing its loyal customers love by rewarding us with extra savings at the pump.
Fuel Rewards savings stacks up fast. You’ll be able to earn Fuel Rewards savings on everyday purchases like groceries, dining out, and even when shopping online. For example, you can earn an extra 10¢/gallon for every fifty dollars spent at participating restaurants.
But wait. There’s more.
As with most rewards program, the Fuel Rewards program is composed of a tier system. Typically, consumers will need to spend a certain amount of money or book a certain amount of hotels/cars/flights to raise their status. And the higher the status, the better the savings. The Fuel Rewards program offers its gold status members 5¢ off every gallon (up to 20 gallons/visit). And to show their appreciation to their loyal customers, anyone who signs up for the Fuel Rewards program before the end of the year is upgraded to Instant Gold Status. That means that immediately upon signing up for the Fuel Rewards program, you will start saving 5¢ per gallon. You basically “level up” for free!
And maintaining gold status is easy. Simply fill your tank at a participating Shell station at least six times during your first three months. That’s only twice a month!
Fuel rewards savings can add up quickly, especially for those that travel as often as we do. Let’s do a quick break down.
For signing up before the end of the year, you’ll immediately earn 5¢/ gallon. Then, if you dine out at participating restaurants you’ll add an additional 10¢ off on your next fill up. Combine that with 15¢ off for qualifying online purchases and another 20¢/gallon for booking a family vacation. That leaves you with a whopping 50¢ off your next visit to the pump.
Just think about all of the Fuel Rewards savings you’ll acquire by booking travel alone. If you book your entire trip (flight, hotel, rental car) through the Fuel Rewards booking page. Before you know it, trips to your local Shell station will basically pay for themselves. And the money saved will literally allow you to travel farther. Your savings on gas can go towards nice meals, extra days at theme parks, or extending your trip all together. The possibilities are endless.
To sign up for the Fuel Rewards program, simply click here and fill out your information. You can even link a card to earn more savings on your everyday purchases. Watch your Fuel Rewards savings add up. It’s now our personal goal to see how much we can save at the pump. If we can get our total down to 50¢ a gallon, we might treat ourselves to a date night (grandparents, you’re on baby duty).
*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the “Existing Member Introductory Period”. If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the “New Member Introductory Period”. The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the “Introductory Period”) is the “Qualification Period”. You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the “Benefit Period”. During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see fuelrewards.com for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit fuelrewards.com/gold or call (888) 603-0473.
It was basically an email that I had been waiting for my entire life. Universal Studios Orlando was opening up Volcano Bay, a brand new water theme park and invited Chris and me to experience it for ourselves. Even better, we were given the opportunity to explore the park an entire day before it officially opened. Unlimited rides with no wait time? Where do we sign up?
As you might remember, I’m a theme park junkie and even had my bachelorette party at Universal Studios Orlando. There’s nothing like geeking out at Harry Potter world with three of your closest friends. We wore matching outfits (each one of us was a house from Harry Potter) and it was seriously one of the best trips of my life.
That trip was before Diagon Alley officially opened and sadly, I hadn’t been back since. Chris, on the other hand, hadn’t been to a theme park in over two decades. Over twenty years, people! I can’t even handle it. I was dying to see what he thought of the whole theme park experience as an adult. But that’s a post for another time.
Spoiler: it’s awesome.
A little backstory: Volcano Bay revolves around the history of the fictional Waturi islanders. The Waturi journeyed throughout Polynesia, sailing the seas in the search of the fabled golden-finned Kanuku fish that would lead them to their new home. As the Waturi encountered different islands, they would pick up and weave the various cultures and customs throughout their own. It’s rumored that they traveled to Hawaii (aloha, my peeps!), Bali, Tahiti, and even as far as Easter Island.
The Kanuku eventually lead the Waturi to their island paradise. The centerpiece of the island is the looming Krakatau Volcano, named after a Waturi god. And now, the Waturi spend their days in the sun and surf at Volcano Bay.
The Polynesian theme of Volcano Bay strikes you as soon as you enter the park. I appreciate that the Waturi incorporated different customs from their travels. The Maori greeting of Kia’Ora echoes throughout the park as you’re greeted by friendly staff. I immediately recognized a few of my favorite Hawaiian songs playing in restaurants and the gift shop. Truth be told, I experienced a moment of culture confusion as we had only been on Oahu two days prior. For a second, it felt as if I was transported back to my homeland.
As I wound through the entrance path and the park opened in front of me, I had that same moment of awe that I experienced when first entering Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. There before me was the 200-foot Krakatau Volcano.
Volcano Bay is massive. The 30-acre water park boasts 18 attractions, five restaurants, and a wave pool with nine different wave patterns. There’s a water rollercoaster, three (yes, three) trap door slides, and a wave pool with nine different wave patterns.
A quick draw of my personal favorites from Volcano Bay:
Hate waiting in line? Me too! Every visitor to Volcano Bay is given a TapuTapu waterproof wristband to wear throughout the day. The TapuTapu is multifunctional. Guests have the opportunity to link their TapuTapu account to a credit card and use it to pay for food, drinks, rentals, and souvenirs throughout the park. It eliminates the need to carry your purse or wallet around the water park.
My only wish is that the TapuTapu actually told the time. I’m so accustomed to wearing my apple watch that I found myself flicking my wrist up multiple times throughout the day to check the hour. That aside, the TapuTapu not only virtually stands in line for you, but also will alert you when it’s time to hop on your attraction. It also keeps track of photos taken of you on the rides. The TapuTapu also unlocks various interactive points throughout Volcano Bay. The hunt is part of the fun but I’ll leave you with a little hint: find the Burping Tiki.
Hot tip: Sign up for TapTu Pay before your visit so that purchases at Volcano Bay can be made with a simple flick of the wrist.
Don’t feel like waiting at all? Be on the lookout for attractions with signage that says “Ride Now.” Make the most of your visit to Volcano Bay by first tapping into a ride that might have a longer wait time and then jump on as many of the “Ride Now” rides as possible.
If you want to make the most of your trip to Universal’s Volcano Bay, my advice is to stay at one of the onsite hotels. Each of the five onsite resorts offers its guests early entrance to both Volcano Bay and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To truly take advantage of your trip to Volcano Bay, book your stay at Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort. Not only will you receive early entrance to Volcano Bay, but Cabana Bay guests also have their own exclusive entrance to the park.
Our recipe for the perfect visit to Volcano Bay: You’ll want to get in as early as possible. As soon as you enter, secure a beach chair and stow your bags in one of the nearby lockers. Use your TapuTapu to reserve your spot at one of the more popular rides and then find a few of the attractions with totem stations that read “Ride Now.” While you wait for your TapuTapu to go off you can ride as many of the “Ride Now” attractions as possible, lounge in the Kopiki Wai lazy river, or catch a few waves underneath the Krakatau Volcano. Be sure to enjoy a Watermelon Wai (or two… or three) throughout your stay.
Chris is the water baby of the family and was in heaven at Volcano Bay. He dared to take the Ko’kiri Body Plunge, the 70-degree fall down 125 feet of terrifying slide. Holden and I cheered him on from the safety of the shore. And while the Ko’kiri Body Plunge wasn’t my cup of tea (at least this time around), there’s something for everyone at Volcano Bay. The tiniest kiddos can frolic through the Tot Tiki Reef kid play areas, sun worshippers will love the luxurious lounge chairs, and foodies will drool at the tropical fare that awaits at Volcano Bay.
Stay tuned as we have more from our time at Volcano Bay. And you better believe there’s some Wizarding World of Harry Potter in the shoot too! Chris might have spent nearly $100 on butterbeer alone. Not joking.