October 14, 2014

A Comprehensive Guide to All-Inclusive Resorts

Keeping in line with yesterday's post about our trip to Mexico, I wanted to go a little more in depth about all-inclusive resorts and what that really means. We had never done all-inclusive before and while I had read bits and pieces about it from reviews online, I still wasn't 100% sure what to expect. Would there be hidden fees once I got there, on top of what I'd already paid for the package? What was the deal with resort "coupons?" Etc, Etc. 

To help those that might be planning/looking forward to their first all-inclusive stay, I put together some information with what I experienced. So here we go!



What the Package Price Includes
- Cost of room and taxes
- All meals on resort premises
- 24 hour room service
- Domestic, Imported and Premium Brand Drinks
- Minibar stocked with variety of beverages such as water, juice and beer
- Water and land activities
- Day and night entertainment
- 24 hour front desk
- Fitness Center

What the Package Price Does Not Include
- Spa Treatments and services
- Items in the gift and souvenir shops
- Any off premise excursions or activities
- Parking Fees 
- Photography services on the premises
- Gratuities

Room
Most all-inclusive resorts have complimentary in room safes and we were required to put our passports in them. It's typically located in a small closet. You make the code and set your valuables in there. No big deal. We stayed at Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun and I really liked the layout. It was spacious, the minibar was restocked every day and housekeeping was always on top of it. One day, we found a "do not disturb" sign on our door that we hadn't put there and because of it, housekeeping had passed us over. But one word mentioned to the guy in charge of stocking the minibar and housekeeping came right over to clean up. Also, if I could recommend one thing to you about the room, it's this: Get the swim-out. Can't tell you how nice it was to simply walk out of the back door in our room and step right into the pool. 

Meals
Some resorts have special rules regarding the restaurants you have available. A few reviews I read said that they were only allowed to eat at a place on a certain day or a certain number of times before they had to go to a different one. We didn't have that problem, so I can't verify that. But you'll want to check with your resort to make sure. Each restaurant will have a dress code, typically casual elegance which is long pants, collared shirts and closed toed shoes for the men and pretty much anything besides shorts and flip flops for the women. The menus aren't huge, but sufficient. When it comes to the wine menu, understand that some are part of the package and some are not. Prices will be listed next to those that aren't and will be charged to your room. 

Breakfast was buffet style, but there were a ton of options. Something to note here: They will have scrambled egg trays that you can scoop from, but if you prefer scrambled egg whites or other types of eggs, visit the omelet station and ask the chef there. They'll make you whatever you want. I didn't find that out until the third day and up until then, had been pretty disappointed with the lack of egg whites.

Water and Land Activities
This applies to non-motorized water activities. Kayaking, Sailing and Snorkeling are among that list of inclusions. 

Resort Coupons
The most questions people seem to have are with resort coupons. Your resort will give you a certain dollar amount in hotel coupons which you can use on spa services, upgraded wine, a romantic dinner for two and towards the gift/souvenir shop. Our resort gave us $200, but only a certain amount of that could be applied in each category. We could use $40 each at the spa, $10 towards an upgrade of wine, etc. Honestly, resort coupons are sort of a ripoff. These extras are already largely overpriced from the start, so using coupons towards it doesn't make that big a dent or even "save" you money. In my opinion, it's a gimmick to make you feel like you're getting a good deal. 

**VIP! Make sure that you present your coupons at time of service. Do not save them for checkout on your last day. They will be charged to your bill and they are very strict about the coupons.**

Things to Ask About & Keep in Mind

- Transport to/from airport (No one told us that there was no complimentary shuttle. Arrange with your travel agent or locally for a van or taxi)

- Daily Hotel Use Fees (Some resorts charge approximately $25 a day just for staying at the hotel. Ours did not)

- In Room Calling Coverage (Do they offer free US/Canada calling? What is the International rate per minute? This might be less expensive than adding coverage on your cell phone)

- When packing pre-trip, triple check that you have all of your necessities, such as sunscreen. Or you'll end up paying $26 like we did for a bottle of $3 sunblock. In fairness, we brought sunscreen, but ran out on the third day and had to buy more. Talk about sticker shock!


I think that pretty much covers it. If you've gone all-inclusive before and have anything to add, leave it in the comments below for others who might need it. Overall, we really enjoyed our experience going all-inclusive. I'd highly recommend it to anyone! Tomorrow, I plan to do a review of our specific resort so stay tuned!

October 13, 2014

Five Reasons To Go On a Kid Free Vacation

(As if you need a reason-much less five, right??)

There is a time for family vacations and a time to drop the kids with their grandparents and haul ass in the other direction. We were extremely fortunate to be able to have both this year- our family trip in May and a "just us" trip last week to Mexico. October 18th will make five years that Mr. B and I have been married and we never had a honeymoon, so it all clicked together quite nicely timing-wise. 

At first, I was really worried that I wouldn't be able to last an entire week without the kids. We've never both been away from them for that long, so it was a little daunting. But after doing it, I can tell you with 100% confidence that it should be a necessity every year. 

Here are the top five reasons:

1. Stress Free Traveling
Okay, maybe not entirely stress free, but any veteran parent can tell you that stress takes on an entirely new meaning when traveling with kids. Especially, little kids. Lost sippy cups, fully stocked diaper bags, feeding times, nap schedules, battling boredom, bedtime struggles...need I say more? But when you're traveling sans kids, the world suddenly feels a little more peaceful. All I had to worry about during our trip was confirming times for flights/transport and what new alcoholic beverage I was going to try next. (spoiler alert: one of everything! ha) We ate whenever we wanted, slept when we were tired, laid around and did absolutely NOTHING. And it was good, friends. It was good.





2. Meals
Speaking of eating whenever we wanted, eating whatever we wanted was a luxury we indulged in thoroughly. Landon is a super picky eater. There wasn't anything I saw on the menus at any of the restaurants we visited, that he would have eaten. We got to try new food. There was none of that, "I need you to take a bite. Just try it. You have to at least try it!" Also of note, there was no getting up to retrieve fallen cups, discarded straws, clean up spilled water and milk and no having to entertain anyone while we waited on the food to come. There was however, candlelight, conversation and no 
rush.

 
Mayan Pork Tacos w/ Homemade Tortillas



3. Enriching Experiences
On our third day in Mexico, we traveled through Yucatan to the Chichen Itza. It took 2 1/2 hours to get there from the resort we stayed at. On the way, our tour guide explained interesting facts about it, recapped the history and shared old photos. Once we got there, the walking portion of the tour was another 2-3 hours in 93 degree heat with 100% humidity (no joke). Followed of course, with a Mayan lunch. The kids would have hated the entire thing! The travel time, the heat, all of that walking. It would have been a miserable time for all of us. But Mr. B and I, we thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved learning about the history and feasting on Mayan and Yucatan Pork Tacos with homemade tortillas. 







4. Couple Connection
"Experts" say all the time that couples should make their relationship priority ahead of the kids. In the daily goings-on, that can be difficult at times. Hell, it's hard to even have a conversation at times without having to try to talk over the sound of the kid's random demands. (We're working on that bit, though. Save it for another blog post!) Date nights are nice, but sporadic and two hours here or there to have a quick meal alone doesn't always cut it. Taking time away helped. Being "just us" again. 





5. It's Good For the Kids
If you had asked me pre-trip how I thought the kids would endure a week without us, I would've hemmed and hawed a bit. I hoped they would be okay. I wanted them to have fun. But I wasn't completely sure that they wouldn't have epic meltdowns and think we abandoned them forever. Being with family helped that, I'm sure. They were TOTALLY fine! Sure, they missed us a little, but they had fun! The world kept turning-it did not screech to a halt simply because we left the vicinity. And honestly? That was really, really comforting to find out. 




I know it's not always possible financially, professionally or even medically, to take long periods of time off or fly out to other states or countries. But even if it's a night or a weekend in your own home while the kids stay with family. Or if you're like us and don't have family locally, but within a few hours distance, consider making the trip, dropping them off and staying in a B&B for a weekend. Any way that you can make it work, you should really try. It's worth it, I promise! 







October 9, 2014

Friends & The SAHM: Guest Post by Julia Hunter

Today, my friend and fellow blogger Julia from Wine in Mom is sharing her journey to find friends as  a SAHM. It can be tough to find connections and this piece is so relatable, because I felt the same just after my first was born. Make sure to head over to Julia's blog when you're done here! 

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When I was younger friendship revolved around who was dating who, what bar we were going to on Friday night and who was the most fun after a few drinks. Then I became a stay at home mom and all of that changed and while I had held on to my friendships from my barhopping days, our lives were all vastly different.

Finding friends as a SAHM is not easy. When I worked, I made friends with my coworkers, I left my home on a regular basis, and I had a social life. As a SAHM, I spent most of my day at home with an infant who fussed and cried and really had no desire to socialize. And when we did get out to the park or play place I would watch other moms in pairs chatting and laughing and I would feel jealous. I didn't know how to break the ice, how to start a conversation, how to turn a stranger into a friend. I felt like I was at a bar hoping to pick someone up and my only wing man was a goofy looking guy with a toothless grin. 

It wasn't easy those early months as a SAHM; it was isolating and lonely. And I had to put myself out there in ways I hadn't before. Which is how I found myself on meetup.com searching for local mom's groups. As luck would have it, there was a new group forming and they were going to be meeting at the mall in a few days. So I got dressed; as in I wore jeans and a top that didn't look like it had been spit up on. I wore cute boots, I brought out the best me and headed to the play place at the mall in hopes of finding my people. SAHM's who were new to this, who were like me.

Except these weren't my people sitting in the play area at the mall. These were Moms who knew each other, moms who were experienced. Moms who wore their babies and traded carriers, and who seemed to know where they stood in this motherhood gig. And there I was with my stroller and my cheerios, both which received the fair share of eye rolls, as they tied their 3 year-olds to their backs and walked around the play place. I clearly didn't fit in. It wasn't them, it was me. These were not the moms I was looking for.

I was ready to leave but Jack was having fun and I had no reason to leave other than the fact that I didn't belong there. I wasn't apart of the circle they already had clearly formed. So I sat by myself and followed Jack around and felt lonelier than I had at home. At least at home my loneliness wasn't on display so publicly.

And just as I was about to leave with an excuse that it was nap time (because it was), another Mom showed up. She looked frazzled and a bit bewildered and she had a baby a little younger than Jack in a stroller. Be still my lonely Mama heart.

She sat down next to me and asked if her son could have some of my cheerios. We talked car seats and crying it out and sleep schedules. We talked about the parenting books that we had both read and the things that we wondered and worried about. And when we left, I wanted to find a way to say, "can I get your number?" Except that felt like too much, too soon. So we said we would see each other at the next Meet up.

I went back to another meet up with those Moms and New Mom Friend was nowhere to be seen, and I thought I lost her. So I went back to the Halloween party that the group was hosting knowing this would be my last event if New Mom didn't show. And I waited for her to show up and toward the end she arrived and I stayed an extra hour at the party just to chat with her. That day I finally got her number and we both stopped going to the meet up group.

We found each other that day, and I like to think it was luck or maybe fate or maybe a bit of both. That someone knew we needed to find each other. We texted and met up a lot that year, we went through the stages together with my son being a few months ahead of hers. We offered advice and an ear to listen. She became my go-to mom and the person who I knew I could vent anything to without judgment. Nearly 3 years later she's still that girl, who when I'm having a bad day I pick up my phone and text. She's still the mom that I commiserate with and who I share my small joys with.

I always think back on that chance meeting, and know that, that was the moment that I turned the corner and knew I wasn't so alone in this SAHM journey.



Find Julia on Facebook and Twitter.

October 7, 2014

Remember Why You Started: Guest post by Melissa Loren

Today, I want to welcome back Melissa from Love Like Johnny and June! She's such a sweet, lovely lady and mama. And a huge inspiration! Make sure to head over to her blog and keep up with her fitness journey as well as her fashion posts and updates on her little cutie, Henry!

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image via: @dalepartridge




Hey friends! It's Melissa again. I don't know if you remember me from this post, but I'm back with a little update and a reminder to stay inspired!


When you guys met me last, I was drowning in my postpartum baby weight and I was really letting it get the best of me. I wasn't happy with myself and I was ready to take charge of my body again. I promised myself I wouldn't rush and that I would do it the old fashioned way- working out and eating clean! And I'm happy to report that I've done just that. Not without hiccups, or times of weakness, and most importantly, not overnight, but I have made significant progress. Two months isn't a long time, but it can feel like it when you want to see results, right. now


 From July 25 to August to September to October 2. 



I'm only down about 12-15 pounds (weightlifting will keep the poundage a little higher), but I'm nearly 3 sizes smaller and I have lost several inches all over. For me, it's losing my 'love handles' and really starting to tone up that makes all of the difference. It's also the fact that I'm a much healthier version of myself. I already run faster, lift heavier and I eat better, all in a short couple of months. That's a lot to be proud of. I'm totally ok with patting myself on the back here.


This is where I get to the point of this post. I'm nearing my goal weight and all of my pants fit again, some even too big, but is this where I get complacent? Is this where I quit eating clean(because I really want to, trust me.) and quit working out? I've reached my goal, what's the point, right?
The point is, I don't want to go backwards. I don't want to have dropped this weight and go back to thinking that I can be unhealthy and eat as I please and balloon back up. I want to push myself to do more. Do I need to lose more weight? Not necessarily, but I can keep getting stronger and I can keep practicing healthy eating habits.


For example, my gym class has these bonus sessions from time to time. I go 5 days a week, so a bonus session can bring it up to 6 days a week, sometimes even 7. The other day I thought to myself, "Eh, I'll skip this bonus session, I'm pretty tired." But then something triggered inside of me, and I asked myself if I was already giving up. I could feel myself getting complacent. I immediately found inspiration and motivation in this quote, "Remember why you started."


I didn't just start all of this to be skinny. I started these work out classes and eating healthy to be stronger, to be the best mom that I can be, to have an hour a day to myself, to be a better version of myself. That is why I started, and I want to keep chasing after my goals and committing myself to new goals. I never want to forget why I started and I never want to give up. There is always room for improvement and everyday I want to be better than I was yesterday.


So...


image via: tumblr


This applies to some many things, guys. I really hope that if anyone out there is feeling like giving up, you remember why you started and you push yourself to keep going. No one ever regrets it in the end. It's not finishing the things you want, that you regret.
Get out there and tackle your goals, friends!


xx,
Melissa Loren


You can find me on Facebook and Instagram: @Kourtney_Shotz



October 1, 2014

Things to Do in KC: Renaissance Festival Edition

Welcome fair maidens and strapping gents, to the Kansas City Renaissance Festival! 

That's what I felt like proclaiming in Ye Olde English while waiting for our tickets. We went Sunday morning and I thought perhaps you'd like to know all about it. So, here goes!





First order of business: I have to set the stage-the mood if you will. I had never been to a Renaissance Festival before, but have always wanted to. The idea of walking into a time capsule and getting lost in a different period appeals to me. And did you know? It's not just the employees who get all decked out. People come from all over just to dress up and play pretend for a little while. Which is sort of cool, if you ask me. I played a game with myself where I'd spot someone dressed up and speaking with an accent and wonder what their real day job was. I bet that guy to the right in the above picture..the one with long hair and matching long sleeves..I bet he's an accountant. ;)


Upon entering, we immediately spotted the Children's Realm. And of course, that's pretty much where we spent all of our time. 




They have various free activities for kids. There are obstacle courses, play sets, craft stations. There was a wand making and testing station! I really wanted to try my hand at it, but I couldn't convince the boys to do it with me. 







We stumbled upon some jousting and also a falcon show? There was an owl too, I think. And they were flying back and forth, swooping just slightly above the audience. 





Now let's put together a list of the things I didn't take a picture of, but wish I had. Ready, go! 

The food: There were people everywhere chomping on Turkey legs? Huge portions of meat attached to bony handles- no silverware, no napkins. Talk about adventurous. 

The rides: This probably tops the list of pictures I wish I had taken. The rides were all hand cranked. There was a spinning swing ride like one you'd see at a fair, except this one was manned by three teenage boys who literally just ran in this caged circle, pushing as much as they could to keep it moving. And there was a swinging dragon ride which was even more impressive, because the guy would run with it and jump on the front to use his bodyweight to help it swing back higher. I asked the hubs why we bother with electricity at all for rides like those at the fair. Seems way more fun to go old school. But maybe that's just me? I'm not the one cranking it after all.

Even though we walked around a little to check out the artisan shops, we kept ending back up at the Children's Realm. Our 3 and 2 year old weren't interested in anything else. 

Overall, I enjoyed my visit. I think I would've enjoyed it more, had the boys been a little older. Two little people running amok amidst all of the costumes and action, was a little overwhelming for us. Perhaps, they'd do better around 5? It'd even be fun to go with friends or with a date. The Renaissance Festival really does have a little bit of something for everyone! 

The Festival runs through October 13th, so be sure to visit and let me know what you think.

Okay cuties, take us out...


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