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The Joys Of Traveling Alone With Little Ones

September 29, 2015

Boy looks at the plane at the airport silhouette shot from back

By no surprise, we found ourselves away from home for yet another family occasion this past week… my husband’s birthday. When my husband realized that he was booked to be in Chicago over his birthday, he made sure to make it work so that he could still spend his special day with his family. Besides, who wants to spend their birthday alone away from home? Since Alfonso was in Houston for an appearance and was flying to Chicago from there, I had the wonderful undertaking of flying by myself with our toddler and infant. Lucky me! (Can you say “ANXIETY?!”)

I have flown by myself with my two little ones before, but no matter how often you do it, it never prepares you to do it again. Most of the time, we fly as a family –a routine I have down pat. However, when I don’t have my husband for the man-to-man coverage, the experience never seems to go quite as planned. I prepped for the flight the same as I always do, with the most important items being my secret weapon: a ziplock of new toys from the 99 Cent Store. (I’ve learned it never matters how basic the toys are, as long as AJ has never seen them, they serve as a pleasant distraction/detour from oncoming tantrums or whining episodes on the plane.)

Fortunately, we made it to Chicago without too many hiccups. The silly putty and superhero sticker book were the biggest hits of the flight. All three of us were covered with Batman and Superman stickers by the time we landed. (A nice lady across the aisle even had them on her pant leg as she was nice enough to allow AJ to deck her out.) Overall, it was a successful flight, but not without constantly being on my “A” game. It’s one of those things I feel like I can never fully prepare for as there are so many unknown factors that can impact flying with young children. (Particularly when you are doing it without your spouse.) As moms, we simply just make it work. I never truly feel more like Superwoman until once the wheels touch ground and I know I survived. Thus, I didn’t even mind when I was walking to the O’Hare baggage claim covered in superhero stickers as I certainly felt like it was fitting. (Single moms… *kneels down to you*).

We ended up having a wonderful time in Chicago. Alfonso was very excited to be able to have us there with him to celebrate his birthday. His special day consisted of his favorite things: family (minus Sienna as she had school), golf (he was invited to play in a Northwestern University golf outing), and great food (we enjoyed a fabulous dinner with our dear friends in Glenview). One of my personal highlights was visiting my alma mater, Northwestern, with my boys while Alfonso was playing golf. I hadn’t visited the campus in 12 years so it was great to see all of the new buildings, supply my boys with some Northwestern gear, and show my sons my favorite view on campus overlooking downtown Chicago. I must say, it’s quite surreal to be in a place where you once created so many hopes and dreams… where you vividly remember all of the excitement yet uncertainty you felt about your future… where you had so many options laid out before you and hoped the path you chose was the best for realizing those hopes and dreams. To revisit this place with my children and share it with them was a very special experience for me.

Overall, despite the anxiety of flying solo with little ones, it was an amazing trip. (Fortunately, the flight back was a breeze since Daddy was able to fly back with us.) I’m happy my husband got the birthday he wanted and that we were able to help him celebrate it all together. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat. Nothing beats being able to be together as a family on special occasions. And every now and then, it may require us moms to drop our disguises and show the world our superhero powers. After all, isn’t every mom a superwoman?

Aulani Family Travel

Vacation Review: Disney’s Aulani Resort

August 8, 2015

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Looking back on my childhood, some of my most cherished memories consisted of our family summer vacations. We would typically drive to each vacation destination and stop at any and every tourist attraction along the way. I remember one of my favorite trips was our drive to Seattle when I was ten. We hit up several tourist attractions on the drive ranging from Mt. Rushmore to Yellowstone to a mining museum in Montana to exploring some cool towns in Idaho. I loved traveling with my family, and I was obsessed with wanting to visit every state. (I’ve almost accomplished this goal… I only have Vermont, Delaware, and New Hampshire to go!) Now being a parent myself, my husband and I hope to offer the same to our children – the opportunity to show our children new places while creating fun, long-lasting family memories. (And hopefully one of our future trips will enable me to check off my final three states!)

When debating where we wanted to take our vacation this year, Alfonso and I wanted a place that both Sienna and AJ could enjoy. We had an amazing experience last summer at Beaches Resort in Turks & Caicos – even though AJ was too young to really enjoy it. After many suggestions from friends and conducting my own research online, we concluded that Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii seemed like the best fit for everyone.

I had read hundreds of reviews about the resort before heading to Hawaii. I found some to be very helpful, (i.e. not using the resort to rent a car for a day, reserving a two-bedroom villa, attending a luau at nearby Paradise Cove, etc.) To offer my own review, here’s what I loved about Disney’s Aulani Resort:

  1. The resort is absolutely, positively beautiful! Aesthetically, it looks like a Disney resort in a Hawaiian paradise. It was the perfect mix of enjoying the Disney characters along with the Hawaiian beaches, food, and ambiance.
  2. The two-bedroom villa was wonderful. It was the ideal space for our family. (We brought all three kids, Sienna’s friend, and our baby-sitter.) The full kitchen was great for cooking the kids’ breakfast and dinners. (My toddler is one of the pickiest eaters ever. He is currently in the will-only-eat-oatmeal-for-breakfast phase.) Additionally, it was great to have the ability and space to clean bottles and breast pump parts -two activities that I find myself doing constantly.
  3. The beach was, in the words of my stepdaughter, “absolutely awesome!” The Aulani beach is on a man-made lagoon, which made it easier/safer to take AJ out for a dip and for the girls to snorkel without battling the waves and strong currents.
  4. The cabanas were a wonderful break from the continuous -and often unsuccessful- search of finding available chairs by the pool. We rented a cabana for two days by the pool and loved every second. There was a Pack ‘n Play set up for my 3-month old, a fan, curtains for privacy, TV, awesome waiters, and simply, it made the pool/beach experience much easier with kids. They were expensive, but well worth the splurge for two days out of the week.
  5. The Laniwai Spa was a favorite for Alfonso and me. We both had a deep tissue massage that served as the most relaxing and rejuvenating 90 minutes of our vacation. We also enjoyed utilizing the beautiful spa gardens consisting of a charming area of mineral hydrotherapy pools and showers at various temperatures. They offered a great array of massages at typical resort pricing. (Next time, I will definitely be trying the traditional Hawaiian Lomilomi Massage.)
  6. Ama Ama was hands down the best restaurant. My Korubuta Pork Chop with Coconut Rice and Thai Peanut Sauce was DELISH! Alfonso and I enjoyed a romantic date night here (sans kids) on one of the nights. The breakfasts here were also divine. Their Buttermilk Pancakes with Macadamia Nut Vanilla Sauce is a must! Your life will never be the same after letting your taste buds enjoy this delectableness.
  7. The buffet breakfast (Makahiki), where the Disney characters make their rounds, was sheer excitement for my toddler. Even though I always fed AJ in the room prior to heading down for breakfast, he used this time to stalk Goofy and Minnie and partake in the fun activities led by the Disney characters.
  8. The luau at Paradise Cove was fabulous! It’s a ten-minute walk from the hotel and totally worth venturing out to enjoy. The activities beforehand are great for all ages – the spear throwing was a big hit for our clan. (Not to brag, but I was the only person in our group to stick my spear in the target. Apparently, I have some mad spear skills.:)) The show itself was incredibly entertaining! The kids loved the experience of getting up on stage and partaking in the hula lesson. And the fire performers produced some major cringe-worthy moments with many “oooo’s” and “ahhhh’s.”
  9. The friendly Aulani staff –or “Cast Members” -were incredibly helpful. Everyone we dealt with was warm, welcoming, and always cheerful –just like at Disneyland. They certainly receive a 10-rating for hospitality!
  10. There was never a shortage of things to do! The girls enjoyed Aunty’s Beach House (where they offered activities for kids ages 3-12), snorkeling, paddle boarding, and the water slides. AJ had an absolute ball at the Starlit Hui show (featuring some hula and traditional Hawaiian dancing, as well as appearances by the Disney characters). He also enjoyed the Splash Zone, making sand castles on the beach, the Lazy River, and the Ka Maka Grotto pool. And, of course, Anders enjoyed observing all of the sights, sounds, and checking out the pool scene from his deluxe Pack ‘n Play in the cabana.:)

Overall, our family vacation was everything we hoped it would be. It was fun. It was relaxing. It gave us the opportunity to enjoy numerous activities together as a family. And most of all, we created some wonderful, long-lasting family memories. Aulani was the perfect place for our family vacation. I would highly recommend it if you’re a Disney-lover, Hawaii-lover, or love both. And if you have a range of ages, it caters to all!

Now all Alfonso and I need after the flight back with two under two is another vacation. Any suggestions?:)

 

 

Family Golf Travel

LAKE TAHOE TRAVEL TALES

July 28, 2015

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We have returned from yet another amazing family trip from Lake Tahoe. It is perhaps one of our all-time favorite places to visit. Not only does it have stunning views of one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in the world with its breathtaking mountain backdrop, but it is also the place where Alfonso asked me to marry him. Thus, it is a special place that we will always hold near and dear to our hearts. (Fun facts for you geography lovers like myself: Lake Tahoe is one of the clearest bodies of water in the world. It is the second deepest lake in North America, and if the lake were tipped, its contents would cover the entire state of California in 14.5 inches of water!)

The reason we make the trek to Tahoe each year is for the prestigious American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. It’s widely known as the ‘superbowl’ of celebrity golf. It involves PGA rules, competitive scoring format, prize money, head-to-head competition, no carts, and five days of golf (three of which count towards their overall score). There are also countless tournament dinners, parties, and concerts. Needless to say, it’s an exhausting yet incredibly fun week!

Considering golf is one of my husband’s greatest passions, I enjoy supporting it. For four of the five days, I packed up my BOB jogger stroller (Revolution Flex – the BEST stroller for hilly terrain) with my diaper bag and 2-month old, Anders. We set out for the 6-mile a day course to support and cheer on Daddy and his buddies. (24 miles total for the week… not bad for some good post-baby work outs!) In case any of you caught the coverage on NBC, you may have seen that my husband was not high up on the leader board. Unfortunately, he had a couple of rough rounds, but he still had fun and made his wife proud with some amazing shots, nonetheless. In addition, he was able to play all three days with one of his golf buddies, Justin Timberlake. They had a great time amusing the crowd and beach-goers on the 17th hole, which lines one of the beaches of Lake Tahoe – always the most entertaining hole on the course. To provide some highlights, here’s a video of Alfonso, Justin, and Jerry Rice dancing on the tee during the final day: Alfonso & Justin Doing The Carlton

The kids also had a great time, per usual. Anders enjoyed his daily naps in the stroller on the golf course, which offered some fresh, clean Lake Tahoe breathing air. (A far cry from the smoggy and contaminated LA air.) AJ had a blast with my parents, who came to help baby-sit. (My brother also came, as he caddies for Alfonso in the tournament every year.) My parents and AJ did plenty of the activities offered in downtown Lake Tahoe, ranging from the miniature golf course, Marriott pool, kids center, gondola, beach, etc. Sienna enjoyed hanging with her friends – fellow children of other players in the tournament – who she looks forward to seeing annually on this occasion. They partook in their typical ‘tween’ activities… jet-skiing, going to the movie theater, winning candy at the arcade, and staying up way too late during multiple sleepovers. As you can see, it’s impossible to be bored in Tahoe… there’s never a shortage of things to do, no matter the age!

Traveling this time was relatively easy. For starters, it’s a quick flight (about an hour). We were also fortunate enough to ride with a friend on their chartered private jet, which made the experience ten times easier with AJ and Anders. To be able to bypass the stress and strains of LAX and of flying with an infant and toddler on the airlines is such a hallelujah moment (let alone just riding on a private jet!). After working as a private jet flight attendant for nine years, I made sure to apologize profusely for the constant call-button pushing by my son. (That noise can drive a flight attendant mad in the galley. I remember going home from trips when I had kids constantly pressing the call-button. I would hear the ding sound in my head for days!)

Despite the golf not being as good as my husband would have hoped, overall, it was a wonderful trip. We were able to see some great friends, spend quality time together in one of our favorite places, and create some unforgettable family memories. What’s better than that? As one of my favorite quotes goes: “The best things in life are the people you love, the places you’ve been, and the memories you’ve made along the way.” Amen to that.