Marco Island Florida Romantic Getaway

Sometimes you just need to getaway and spend some quality time with your mate in a warm beautiful place. Marco Island, Florida is perfect! Marco Island is located in the Gulf of Mexico near Naples, Florida. It gives you the feeling of being in another country and is just over an hour plane ride away.

While in Marco Island, I would recommend staying at the J.W. Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. The hotel is currently undergoing a $320 Million dollar renovation project, and you can reap some of the benefits now. There are 10 restaurants on the property, a full spa, two golf courses, a fitness center, excursions available and shopping within the resort. There is also a live Fire Dancer show, which begins at sunset nightly at Quinn’s on the beach.

The closest airport for us to fly into from Atlanta was Fort Myers, Florida. The drive from the airport to Marco Island is about 45 minutes to an hour. Even though the resort has everything that you need on site, renting a car is ideal. You can take your time and stop in Naples, enjoy outlet shopping in the area and most important, go to the grocery store. There are hotel packages available that provide a nightly resort credit, but that would be gone after one meal. Having snacks, juice and your own alcohol available in your room, will help your budget tremendously.

The J.W. Marriott at Marco Island is also kid friendly. They have a separate pool area for families and resort activities are available daily. There are also several great restaurants on the island that should be on your list to try. Marek’s Bar & Bistro is a family owned restaurant that has a diverse menu. The sea bas and short ribs are some of the best I have ever tasted. You can also take a cruise around the island on the Marco Island Princess.

Me and my husband enjoyed every minute of our stay in Marco Island and can’t wait to go back with the kids.

#LiveLoveTravel

Alisha

Cruise shore excursions in the Bahamas

Family Shore Excursions in the Bahamas

Picking shore excursions that will be a good fit for the whole family can be hard, especially when your children are in different age groups. I am giving my recommendations on shore excursions that will make everyone happy while visiting the Bahamas.

During our family cruise, we visited Freeport and Nassau Bahamas. My son has been obsessed with Atlantis Paradise Island since we visited and stayed on the property for a week, a couple of years ago. The Atlantis offers day passes to guests that are traveling to the island on cruise ships or staying at other properties. A day pass is also a great way to experience all of the perks of the property, at a fraction of the cost.

We purchased the Atlantis Aquaventure Day pass at a lower rate, prior to leaving for the cruise through Bahamas Day Pass

Your Atlantis Aquaventure Day Pass is a Full Day Excursion and Includes:

  • Water Slides – 18 thrilling water slides
  • River Rides – The Current & The Rapids
  • Pools – 11 distinctly   different pools
  • Beach – Miles of white sand & crystal water
  • The Dig Aquarium
  •  Lounge Chairs & Towels

The pass does  not include transportation to the Atlantis, but taxis were available and ready to take you as soon as you exit the cruise port. The cab fare is set at $4 per person, each way. The kiddie pool outside of the Royal Tower is my personal favorite. Several lifeguards surround the pool at all times and all water activity is in less than a foot of water. Life jackets are available at no additional charge in every size. Food and adult beverages are available and can be brought right to your chair. This is definitely a place where you can catch a small nap while the kids play.

 

While in Freeport, we decided to book our excursion through Carnival. Freeport was hit by Hurricane Matthew last Fall, and most of the island still has not been rebuilt. We chose the Family Beach Escape that included a straw market for shopping, free water play, sand castle competitions, ball games, sand darts, face painting, treasure hunts and more safe beach side activities. Our kids didn’t participate in any of the activities provided by the staff onsite, they stayed in the water with us the whole time. The food provided is described as a “light lunch” but it was a full Bahamian buffet that was so good! We enjoyed jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried fish, bbq ribs, pasta, veggies, conch fritters and salad. The fruit punch was amazing. The beach was beautiful, private and secluded. Everyone there was from the ship and we felt very safe.

Each excursion had elements that catered to the kids, but they also allowed the adults to relax and enjoy the water as well.

 

I am heading to Orlando this week for the 2017 Blog Her conference, and I am taking the family with me! I will be honored on Friday as a 2017 Voices of the year recipient for my blog photography. We will also take Rian to the Magic Kingdom for the first time. She is obsessed with Cinderella and we have so many surprises in store for her!

Cruising with kids

We love a good cruise, and I have been on about 8 myself, but we had never taken one with the kids! I found a good deal on a cruise for the family for the Memorial Day weekend and decided to go for it. We spent 5 days and 4 nights on a cruise ship with our two kids, my mom, sister and nephew.

The first few hours were a little shaky and made my husband and I think that this may have been a mistake. We drove 5 hours to port in Jacksonville, Florida and the kids were on the verge of a meltdown before we could make it on the ship!

Here is a major key… If you are cruising on Carnival, spend $49 on the “Faster to the Fun” program. It saved our trip at the beginning and the end. We were able to board early, walk into the port with our family and cut the long lines that had formed to check in. We were in our cabin, getting settled in within 20 minutes and we avoided the long buffet lines for lunch. At debarkation, we were held in a comfortable lounge with a light breakfast and escorted off the ship first. No lines, no wait. This is extremely important when traveling with kids. Read more about the program here: Carnival Cruise Faster to the Fun

As parents, our natural instinct is to protect our kids and extensively vet anyone who will be in charge of taking care of them while we are not around. I have heard how great these kids camps are on cruise ships from so many parents, but we have always been skeptical. Camp Carnival saved our vacation! My son is 8 years old and my 6 year old nephew joined us on the cruise. My son tends to be a complainer, Im sure that he is not the only 8 year old that does not find pleasure in doing anything that is not on “his” agenda in his head.

I signed all three kids up for the camp online before we left and crossed my fingers. We dropped the kids off at camp the first night at their dinner time and they were hooked. My husband and I ended up having a quiet night alone until after midnight. The camp offered late night glow parties, theme days, arts and crafts, dance parties and workshops. The boys spent every moment on the ship, in the kids camp. My advice for you is to let them go! It reduced our stress level and gave us time to enjoy the adults only “Serenity Deck” on the ship. I had the best naps there. The best part about Camp Carnival is that the price is already included. Read more about it here: Camp Carnival

On our day at sea, the kids were able to participate in the Green Eggs and Ham breakfast with “Dr. Seuss and Friends”. The dining room was turned into the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss and filled with fun! The menu included green eggs and ham and filet mignon for the adults. You can enjoy this experience for $5 per person. Take a look at the menu here: Green eggs and ham breakfast

The kids had such a great time and we did too. We are already planning for our next cruise with the kids!

Water safety with kids

Family vacations are meant to be fun, relaxing and memorable. They are for the kids, but parents often leave feeling like they need another getaway. Traveling to beach destinations and hanging out at the hotel pool is fun, but it is also a challenge when your children are involved and your focus is water safety. I have compiled a list of ways to make sure that your kids are safe in the water.

1). Always wear a life jacket and never leave your child unattended.

2). Use the “kiddie pool” when there is one available and hang out in there with your kids.

3). Choose a public beach or pool where a lifeguard is on duty, set your family up for water play right in front of the lifeguard shack.

4). Give your children the gift of swimming lessons. Private lessons start in my area for as little as $30 per session.

5). Don’t become distracted. A child can drown in the short amount of time that it takes for you to answer a phone call or text message. Travel with another adult or teenager that knows how to swim so that you can take breaks and have time to relax.

6). Learn CPR. You never know when an accident may happen, and it can help parents to know they’ll be prepared.

7). Talk to your child about water safety. Teach your children about important water safety rules:

  • Always have an adult with you when you go swimming. Never go near water alone.
  • Always ask permission before going in the water.
  • If a toy falls in the pool, ask a grownup to get it for you.
  • Don’t have breath-holding contests in the water.
  • If you see someone in danger or who needs help, don’t go in after them. Throw something for them and go get help.

8). Know the signs of drowning. Recognize when someone is in distress. A drowning person will be upright but will not seem to be using their legs to kick, and they will press their arms outwards and downwards onto the surface of the water. Someone who is drowning will also have their head tilted back, mouth open, and may have their hair covering their forehead and eyes.

9). Be cautious around natural bodies of waterincluding ocean shoreline, rivers and lakes. Cold temperatures, currents and underwater hazards can make a fall into these bodies of water dangerous.

10). Do not enter the ocean for any reason when the tide is high or when the waves are rough.

I hope that these tips lead you to a safe experience with water play for your family. Have a great Summer!

 

Take a Road Trip from Seattle to Portland in 4 days

Road Trip!

It’s that time of the year for me again… girls vacation! Each year me and my girlfriends from Grad school take a long weekend getaway without the kids and the husbands. This is our time to reconnect, relax and take care of ourselves. This year, we traded fun in the sun for exploration of the Pacific Northwest. We visited Seattle and Portland in 4 full days, leaving 2 days to travel. There is so much to do and see in each state, that you really need a week in both places but you can do it in 4 days.

I have compiled a “must see and do” list that includes places to eat and where to see the the best views in each city.

Seattle… The Emerald City is diverse, eco friendly and filled with amazing food. Oh, and there is a Starbucks on every single corner. Literally! With only 48 hours in Seattle, here is what you need to see and do.

  1. Visit the first ever Starbucks store across from Pike Place Market.
  2. Have a coffee tasting at Starbucks only Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room in the world.
  3. Have lunch at Pike Place Market.
  4. Take a 2 hours walking tour that highlights the city.
  5. See the best views of the Space Needle at Kerry Park.
  6. Enjoy panoramic views of Seattle from Sky View Observatory.
  7. Visit the love lock bridge across from Pier 52.
  8. Take the ferry and have lunch and wine tasting on Bainbridge Island.
  9. Have breakfast at Lolo’s, lunch at Serious Pie, seafood at Etta’s, Vietnamese food at Stateside in Capitol Hill at dessert at Hot Cakes.
  10. The Kimpton Hotel is centrally located and offers a happy hour with complimentary wine and snacks for its guests each day.

Rent a car and take a road trip to Portland. Here is the route to take and places to stop and see along the way.

  1. Head out for Portland early and stop in Olympia Washington for breakfast. Olympia is the capitol of Washington state and is a cute little town that reminds you of the movie “Twilight”.
  2. Stop at Multnomah Falls and hike to the top for gorgeous views and photo ops.
  3. Once you arrive in Portland, head straight over to Voodoo Donuts and wait in the long line for the best bacon maple donut that you will ever have.
  4. If you are there on the weekend, walk from Voodoo over to the Sunday Market for street food. Treat yourself to a “Portland beenie” you will need it.
  5. For the best views of Portland, walk from the market over to Capitol Grille and head to the top floor to have a drink and see Mt. Hood.
  6. Visit a local brewery.
  7. Have brunch at Tin Shed Garden Cafe.
  8. Head out of Portland and drive up the Pacific Coast to Cannon Beach, where the movies, Twilight and the Goonies were filmed.
  9. Visit Powell’s, the world’s largest bookstore.
  10. Get a photo of the Portland sign as you cross the bridge into the city.

This was a great trip with my girls as always! We were all pleasantly surprised with all that Seattle and Portland had to offer. Coming from the East Coast and the South, the Pacific Northwest was a whole new world that we ended up falling in love with. It is so much to see and do right here in our own backyard of the United States of America. I can’t wait to go back!

#LiveLoveTravel

Alisha

 

I am a BlogHer Honoree!!!

I am excited and honored to say that I now have an award winning blog! I am the recipient of the 2017 Voices of the year award for my blog photography for “BlogHer ’17” and “She knows media”.

My photo was nominated in the Eye Candy category and made it through a minimum of three rounds of judging with at least two judges each round.

We can’t share which photo they selected until after the ceremony, but I will be honored at a special ceremony and reception at the conference in June, and my photo will be on display during the Voices of the year ceremony and reception.

I’m so glad that my husband and friends encouraged me to start back blogging. This time, I am able to blog about what I am passionate about, travel and photography.

They say that your gifts will make room for you and mine sure did the moment that I started walking in it.

To God be the glory!!

How to see Istanbul on a long layover…

See all of the major landmarks, visit the continent of Asia and eat your way through the city in 10 hours.

On our trip to the Maldives, we were able to break the flight up with a long layover in Istanbul, Turkey. After 11 hours in economy class, we were  literally running off of the plane when we landed. Before heading to Turkey, our tour guide told us to get our Turkish Visas online in order to save time when going through customs. The online application was very easy and short. The processing fee for the visa was $20 and we received it immediately after hitting the “submit” button.

Here is a look at our itinerary…

Tour name : Private Evening Tour, Incoming Flight.

 
Tour duration: Pick up from airport upon arrival at about 16:40 and drop off back at the airport at 12:00 am
 
Sites included:  We will catch a ferry to cross the Bosporus strait to Asian side (Kadikoy), and we will see most of the Istanbul highlights, Topkapi palace, Hagia Sofia, Blue mosque, Maiden’s Tower, Bosporus and Galata Bridges and Galata Tower. Visit the local food market and sample the local specialities with your guide.  Dinner at a nice local restaurant where your guide choose the delicious foods for you, kebabs and many other Turkish food.  Ferry back to European side (Karakoy) Baklava tasting (the mouth watering Turkish dessert), and a Turkish tea /coffee break at a 300 years old cafe which was a former Medressa.
  
Price includes: Guiding. Pick up and drop off from and to Ataturk international airport. Dinner, food samplings, desserts. Public transportation fees, ferry fees, coffee and Shisha smoking. Three non alcoholic drinks over the night. 
 
Price excludes:  Extra drinks and shopping expenses and tipping to the guide.
 
Itinerary:  Our driver will be waiting for you at the airport with your name on a board. You will then be transferred to the center with the private car (Mercedes Vito). You will meet your guide at the center and he will lead you into the sights and share a lot of historic and cultural information with you. At the conclusion of your tour you will be transferred back to airport.
 Followed by
TOP SITES OF OLD ISTANBUL (Half day private tour ), Return Flight.

Tour duration: Pick up from airport at 07:00 and drop off at airport at 11:30 am.

Sites included:  Once you arrive to center your guide will take you to a nice place for a delicious breakfast until the sights open at 08:30 am. You will then visit the follow sights:  Karakoy neighborhood, Ayasofya, Basilica Cistern, Hippodrome Area and Grand Bazaar. Spice Market.

Price includes: Pick up and drop off from and to Ataturk airport. Breakfast. Profesional guiding. Entrance fees.

Price excludes: Drinks and shopping expenses.

Itinerary:  Our driver will be waiting for you at the airport with your name on a board. You will then be transferred to the center with the private car (Mercedes Vito). You will meet your guide at the center and he will take you to a nice breakfast cafe where you can enjoy an exclusive Turkish breakfast while the sights are still closed. After the breakfast then he will lead you into the sights and share a lot of historic and cultural information with you. At the conclusion of your tour you will be transferred back to airport.
Having a guided tour on layovers saves you time, gives you the most bang for your buck and adds an element of safety. We used the company, “My Local Guide Istanbul Tours”. You can check out their reviews and get more information about the company here: My Local Guide Istanbul Tours tour pricing is determined by your itinerary.
Istanbul has so much to offer! We felt safe and fell in love with this beautifully historic city. Layover tours are a great way to fit in another trip while abroad. Read reviews, do comparison shopping and ask for referrals before choosing a company.
#LiveLoveTravel
Alisha

Things to consider when planning a trip to the Maldives…

Everything you need to consider when planning your trip…

Me and my husband just returned from a trip of a lifetime to the Maldives, celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. This place was truly paradise, like nothing we had ever seen. We started planning for this trip back in October, so we had a little time to really decide what we wanted to get out of it. We knew that we did not want to have a jam packed itinerary while we were there. We wanted to relax and really be in the moment. That is exactly what we did.

Traveling to the Maldives is quite the journey. The flight from Atlanta is 18 hours long, so we decided to break the flight up with two, day long layovers so that we could explore a new city and take advantage of being on the other side of the world. We were able to connect in Istanbul. We had visited another city several years ago near the Mediterranean, but have always wanted to explore Istanbul. We were not fearful of exploring the city, but we always prefer to take layover tours with a guide so that we have transportation and maximize our time. I will give you all of the deets on the company in my next post about Istanbul.

So when planning your trip to the Maldives, the biggest decision will be where you will stay. Check out the Lonely Planet guide, it will list most of the resorts available with a list of their amenities. Not all resorts offer a pool, they don’t all come with over water bungalows and they don’t all have all inclusive plans. Here are a few things to consider and put on your must do list when visiting the island.

You have come all this way and you may not get the opportunity to come again, so splurge and stay in an over water bungalow.

Get the all inclusive meal plan. We had unlimited alcoholic beverages, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks each day. On the last night, we were over the buffet and ordered fries, a personal pizza and a drink to share that was not offered in the all inclusive plan and it was $27. A meal like this at home would be no more than $10.

Get a spa treatment! Most resorts offer Balinese spa treatments that are much cheaper than what you would pay in the states.

Take a ride on a Doni.

Make sure that your transportation costs to and from the airport is included in your package. The only way to get to each resort is by speedboat or seaplane and cost $150 per person roundtrip.

Make sure that you have an early arriving flight. The speedboats and seaplanes do not run after sunset for safety reasons, so if you arrive after 5pm, you will need to stay overnight in Male.

Have breakfast in bed. At our resort, room service was offered for guests staying in the over water bungalows. We were able to chose from a made to order menu and pick the time that we wanted to be served.

Take a shower outside. Our bathroom had open views of the ocean and there was also a shower and changing room outside.

Don’t overpack. We did not wear half of the clothes that we brought. We were in swim clothes all day, had quick dinners and back in our bungalow by 8pm each night.

Take pool/ beach shoes. There is a lot of coral on the island and in some areas, the beach can be rocky.

Don’t take the latest flight out. The last speedboat and sea plane returning to the airport leaves at 4:30pm. If you have a flight that leaves at 11pm like ours did, you will have to wait at the airport that has no air conditioning in the holding area for hours. You are not allowed to go into the terminal until 2 hours before your flight departs.

Download movies on your iPad from Netflix to watch at night. We only had the BBC and HBO to watch on the television, but we download about 10 movies and that entertained us when the jet lag would not let us sleep.

Buy a sim card from the airport! I paid $22 for an unlimited data package that last for 7 days, so I was never without wifi. Our resort offered a plan for the week for $37, but you only had wifi access in the room, the restaurant and at the reception desk. You did not have wifi at the beach.

We had the time of our lives in the Maldives! We relaxed, enjoyed just doing nothing and being in each others company. Add the Maldives to your list.

#LiveLoveTravel

Alisha

Snowmobiling on a Glacier in Iceland… The ultimate bucket list activity.

My family and I spent some time in Iceland recently, and we had the time of our lives! We only stayed for about 5 days, so we made the most of the time that we had.

Our experience on a glacier, click the link to watch… trim_C26412F3-9269-47AA-BB57-D8AF498919A3

There are many blog posts about Iceland, where travelers have listed their tips and tricks on seeing the country on a budget, where to eat and all things “Golden Circle”. Those posts are great and will definitely contribute to your itinerary.

My recommendation is that you save a little extra and enjoy the thrill of snowmobiling on a glacier. For many people (including me) this can be a once in a lifetime experience. I researched this excursion for months before we took our trip. I read reviews and even contacted the company with my questions. We used Mountaineers of Iceland and they walked me through this activity and answered every question that I had, very quickly before we booked. For me, using a company with a quick response time is a priority and it puts me at ease when it comes to spending my money.

This is a 10 hour tour (yes 10 hours) that includes seeing the Golden circle. Be sure that you are visiting the country during the right time of year, so that you can have enough daylight to get to everything. The sun rose at about 10:30am each day we were there and set at 5:00pm. There are a couple of months during the year where Iceland only has 4 hours of daylight.

We chose the “Pearl Tour” that included hotel pickup and drop off from Reykjavik, a one hour snowmobile tour and appropriate equipment. The tour also included stops at Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home of Iceland’s first parliament and the oldest extant parliamentary institution in the world. From Þingvellir, we headed inland toward the highly active Geysir Hot Spring area with its boiling mud pits and spouting hot springs. After that, we continued on to Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s most powerful waterfalls and we ended the tour at the Glacier.

We booked through Viator on TripAdvisor and we were able to save a couple hundred bucks. The whole day will set you back about $224 and its is worth it. Read more about the company at http://mountaineers.is

One things that I have read in many blog posts, is that the food is expensive. I agree and will drive that point home here as well. Choose a hotel or hostel that includes breakfast, bring your own snacks and share meals when possible. Two personal sized pizza’s cost us over $40.

Getting to Iceland now is easier and cheaper than it has ever been before. With careful planning, you can have a great time and have a trip that you will never forget.

Live, Love, Travel

xoxo, Alisha

Traveling abroad while leaving your kids at home

I recently became a contributor for Top Flight Family, a luxury travel website for sophisticated families. Click on the link below for my recommendations on how to travel out of the country with no worries while leaving your kids at home.

http://topflightfamily.com/caregiver-checklist-traveltips/