Travel Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman was one of those trips on my “list” and it did not disappoint. We traveled from November 10th-17th. A great time to visit the island because the weather was perfect and crowds were small. The flight is very easy and we were in Grand Cayman by 2pm. My tip for flying is to always take the earliest flight…yes I know it sucks to get up at 3 or 4 am, but you are less likely to be delayed then and you get to your destination earlier. Plus it allows you extra time for travel hiccups without stressing out and the morning the flight crews & airport staff are happy.😉 If you are traveling with young children you can check out a previous post I wrote on Airplane Activities!

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HOTEL: Another thing I never fully appreciated before having a child was the service and excellence of a hotel. I didn't always choose and still don’t choose the most expensive places to stay because I am usually not in the room long enough to care. The Westin went above and beyond to make us comfortable, feel welcomed, and the amenities were spot on with a small child. If you want to take a closer look at the hotel you can HERE. Check in was great and all of the staff were so friendly.

The beach is clean, the water is calm for the most part with an occasional knock me on my butt wave but I don’t swim much in the ocean because I don’t like not knowing what is underneath me 😬 A fear I need to get over. Honestly. It is not all inclusive and I am not sure there are very many there anyways. The poolside umbrellas have a button on them that you an push and someone will come to you promptly and take your food or drink order. I think we maxed out our daily strawberry smoothie orders! They have plenty of chairs around the pool for everyone and around the beach, which is something I always love because as much as I love the beach, I do not like sand 😬

The hotel has a fun challenge in their elevator that you take a selfie and tag them #westingcayman and we obviously had to participate. (Photo below)

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They pay attention to details! Of course I do social media influencing and it has it’s perks, but they were so kind to bring us wine, fruit and even a sweet little stuffed sting ray for Rowan. The kindness is appreciated and obviously shared because when you find something you love, you want people to go and love it too.

The one thing that could be better is the gym. Now that I actually use the gym, if I am in a warm place with an ocean view, I want to see it. Especially when I am doing something like working out. The gym is small and faces a parking lot but I suppose if I wanted to see the ocean I could just run on the beach.

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The hotel’s location is perfect! It is situated on Seven Mile Beach far enough from town the tourism isn't crazy but close enough for a taxi ride to shop.

Across the street are a few great restaurants including a sushi place and The Sunshine Grill (mentioned below). Also there is an equivalent to a Costco or Sams Club which is a great place to stock up on room snacks and drinks.

The shopping was very “touristy.” Rowan and I took a taxi into town one day while my husband was in his work conference meeting. Did you know chickens liked ice cream?? Haha we didn't either!

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THINGS TO DO:

Stingray City with Red Sail Sports: And I only say this because I was a huge scaredy cat at first and I survived, and it was so worth it! They pick you up at the hotel and drive about 10 minutes or less to the dock where you board a catamaran with several other guests. TIP: Take the early morning departure and check the cruise line schedule. Yes, I am a morning person but you will thank me later. The water is less crowded, so you get to hold the stingrays faster and you get there before all of the cruise ships arrive. You head out to the location and then you sail back….it takes a long time to get back which gives you time to soak up the sun and relax.

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Grand Cayman Tour by 4x4 Including Pedro St James and Botanic Park: A huge thank you to Marriott Rewards for sending us on this excursion! I was the perfect activity to end our vacation with on the Island. An open air jeep takes you on a tour of the Island, where we were able to learn some history and see the infamous Blue Iguanas. We started the tour with landscape and ended it with a little impromptu Rum tour at Cayman Spirits. I mean you get to try all of the varieties shown below for….wait for it….$5 🙌 We did take our daughter with us, and she is 5, but I would say it is not very entertaining for children. The riding in the jeep is fun but the walking tours are a little much for them.

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Those were the only two things we ventured out of the resort and did, but my advice is to grab one of these free Explore Cayman books (pictured below). They are outside of grocery stores and on the magazine stands all around the town! They are filled with things to do and restaurants.

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Places to Dine:

Gelato & Co. was a yummy find in Downtown Cayman where the cruise ships dock and shops line the streets. Don’t forget to feed the chickens! Haha! They serve gelato, Italian ice, pastries and cakes here!

Sunshine Grill If you are staying at the Westin or near it, this place is a little hidden gem behind the Sunshine Hotel. I didn’t find the ambience that great as their patio is the hotels pool, but when you are on vacation you want to sit outside. They are know for their fish tacos and you know I love them and try them almost everywhere I go! They were definitely good, but not my favorite. Tip: they serve you this coleslaw which is just cabbage. Take the sauce for the tacos and put it in your “coleslaw”. (Pictured below.)

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Craft We took a taxi into town to check out this place for the local brews. They were ok. Not worth the trip in and the food was good but not great. I would say you could skip this place and maybe try Peppers, as everyone suggested.

Blue by Eric Ripert This place was epic and actually kid friendly but I would not bring her back if I had the option, so we could enjoy the ambiance a little bit more. First off, it is located in the Ritz Carlton Hotel and it is the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in the Caribbean. We booked this on a whim. I opened up my OpenTable app, which I love, and saw that there was a time slot at 6:30 for 2 people. Well, we had 3 technically but how much room can a child take up? Soooo we booked it anyways. We were seated at a 4 top so it was no big deal, thankfully. TIP: They are closed a few months of the year and we happened to book our reservation the first day they opened back up and they are only open Tuesday-Saturdays. The food and experience is one of a kind but it is pricey.

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The Beach House & Ferdinands These are both on the Westin’s property. Convenient and delicious. The room service is also from Ferdinand’s and the hamburgers poolside are yummy!

Just finishing up this post makes me want to book it again! There are some places that I love to visit, and then there are places that one visit is enough. Grand Cayman is definitely worth another visit and I look forward to exploring more of what the Island has to offer!

I hope this post helps and please if you ever have any questions drop them below in the comments! Cheers until my next journey! XO

Travel Chicago!

Chicago is quickly becoming one of my favorite cities to travel to for almost everything. The shopping, the food, and the people are so friendly! My girlfriends and I have decided to make it an official annual "girls trip" I have already been there 2 times this year and I am hoping it's not the last. I had a lot of requests for recommendations this time around, so instead of trying to reply to everyone individually, I decided to do a little post for you so you can use it and share it too. 

We have traveled both ways, flying and driving. I would fly hands down every time because I love to fly but I think it is actually easier to drive if you are taking children. When we have a group of 6 ladies traveling, it makes it easier to split the cost of everything like an Uber or a taxi or you can pay $50 to park your car at the hotel. Other hotels may have different rates or policies. 

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Yes, I travel in heels 💁🏼 It is only a 48 minute flight (54 according to my friend 😜) and we hit the ground running once we arrive! Haha plus I am usually wearing heels. Our trip is from a Thursday to Sunday and I think that is the perfect amount of time for anyone! If you plan on doing more sightseeing you may want to add an extra day!

Hotel:

We stay at The Thompson hotel. We love it for several reasons, but the location for us is #1. Right in the heart of the Viagra Triangle (yes it is an actual location choice on Instagram 😂). No we do not stay there for that reason, but there are so many good restaurants and most of the shopping is within a 4-5 block radius! The hotel itself is very cool yet sophisticated with a great bar and restaurant on site, Nico. The staff are accommodating and definitely remember us each time we come back, yet I haven't decided if that is a good thing or not. ☺️

Off season pricing for our trip in May where we traveled with our 4 year old daughter was around $160 a night, so very affordable. During high season, you can expect that price to double.

 

Dining:

Portillo's- famous hot dogs, because when in Chicago!

Maple & Ash- upscale dining, cool bar scene and great food. I would say kid friendly if they are over the age of 10. Otherwise it is a great date night!

Turquoise- It is a Turkish restaurant about a 15 minute Uber ride from The Thompson, but the food is worth it. Two of my friends that I travel with are Turkish.

Hugo's Frog Bar- My favorite Key Lime Pie in Chicago but please only get one dessert there for a table of 4 or more. It is way way too much! This is also the fist place I tried frog legs 😳 We took our 4 year old here and she was fine so I would say it is kid friendly for the most part. The noise level is pretty high at peak dining times.

LuxBar- Across the street from The Thomson. The avocado toast is amazing, the truffle fries are yummy and it's also a great place for a patio happy hour.

Fig and Olive- Upscale with a cool indoor bar. I have been here for brunch and lunch and to be honest, the brunch was my favorite! I would say not very kid friendly either.

Lou Malnati's Pizza- I have not had the "other" cometetiors pizza, Giordanos, but the crispy, buttery crush from Lou's definitely won me over! I asked a local what his favorite pizza was and he suggested Pequods, so we will try that next time! 

Sprinkle's Cupcake Machine- I mean it's an ATM for cupcakes, definitely must try it!

Federales- Tacos and Tequila! Fun Mexican restaurant if you are craving it! Open roof and fun vibe weekend days!

RM Champagne Salon or Pops for Champagne- if you are looking for a fun place to sip some bubbly!

RL Restaurant- We grabbed lunch here this last visit and we were all concerned on what to wear but honesty it was preppy but not stuffy. It is a place to say that you have eaten at.

Spiaggia and Spiaggia Cafe- We had a cocktail at the Spiaggia bar waiting for our table in the cafe part. I loved the atmosphere and view much better than the cafe view. The food is very small portions, fancy, and I would say if you are a "foodie" you would love it. It is unique and the flavors are great.

Little Goat Diner, Duck Duck Goat & Girl and the Goat- These were also recommendations from a local and we will definitely be trying one of these on our next visit! All ran under same Executive chef who won Bravo's Top Chef title.

Gibson's Italia- Great rooftop bar for Summer, and the vibe and scene is hip and similar to Maple & Ash. This is different that the Gibson's across from the Thompson hotel.

Bellemore- A new Artistic American cuisine restaurant that my friend Jentry recommends in the West Loop. She said the food is amazing!

Monteverde- A great place for brunch or dinner! They hand roll the pasta right there in house and they have a great bar and rooftop patio open in Summer.

Tempo Cafe- We ate here for breakfast but a full menu is served all day long and you can bring your own booze until 10pm. 

The Pancake House- This is our go-to breakfast the day we leave Chicago! It is directly across the street from The Thompson. The omelettes are huge so you can share one! Obviously the pancakes are delicious.

Nightlife-

Nightlife in the Summer is all about rooftops! Probably because just like here in Des Moines, the weather is finally nice and people want to get out and enjoy it as much as possible. 

The Godfrey Hotel- A little older crowd with a nice rooftop bar.

Cyndie's Rooftop- Located at the Chicago Athletic Club on South Michigan, this bar hits the younger crowd.

Untitled- It is called a "supper club" because you can eat there too and you will think it is bizarre when you first walk in but later on it livens up! We just went there for dancing and a lot of it! 

Underground- Exactly what it says. It is a nightclub that is underground. I remember it being fun but that is not saying much 😂

 

Chicago with a Toddler:

Shedd Aquarium- I think it is so much easier to get tickets online ahead of time! The line can get long. There is so much to see! If you want to do the shows, make sure to get tickets as well and plan your day round those times! Oh and parking was terrible because it was super busy the day we went but we found a parking garage not too far away. 

American Girl Doll- it is an experience....an expensive one at that, but you must do it at least once if you have a doll loving child. 

Lincoln Park Zoo- 35 acre zoo with FREE admission and open 365 days a year! It is actually one of America's oldest zoos too! Check out their website for other zoo events HERE. (If you have a Blank Park Zoo membership you will receive 10% off food and merchandise.)

LegoLand- This is indoors at a Mall in Schaumburg, but it includes lego themed rides and a softer play area for the littles. Booking your tickets ONLINE is actually cheaper!

Rainforest Cafe- I feel like if you have been to one you have seen them all, but if you haven't ever dined at one, you should go at least once. 

Maggie Daley Park- This park is so fun! Also fun in the Winter with an ice skating ribbon around the park. It also features climbing walls, tennis courts, open picnic areas and a 3 acre children play garden. It's open from 6am-11pm and features 6 different play areas, including: The Wave Lawn, The Harbor, The Watering Hole, The Slide Crater, The Enchanted Forest, and The Sea.

Chicago Children's Museum-  This is located at The Navy Pier! Be sure to check the dates and times for fun events and also a free family night.

The Field Museum of Natural History- (You can use your Des Moines Science Center membership here) It holds Dinosaur exhibits, Underground and Egypt adventures. I would say this is more appropriate for children over 5.

The Adler Planetarium- (Also included with your DSM Science Center membership) This is for those littles who are interested in all things Space! 

If you are planning on seeing a few of these sites on 1 vacation, you may want to check out the Chicago GO PASS for discounts! 

 

I hope this list of fun things to do gets you started on your Chicago vacation! If you have other must see things or restaurant recommendations please let me know because I will definitely be back! XO

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Airplane Activities for Your Toddler

We have been jet setting with our daughter since she was 4 months old! Lucky her right? I remember that first flight wondering how I would ever survive it, but somehow we made it through! Each stage is a completely different task on how to keep them busy, but now we have it down to a science! We do not travel with our car seat, never have. If we rent a car, I rent a seat, and if we are in Mexico, well she rides in my lap or next to me in the car seat belt. She rode on my lap until we had to pay for a seat at 2 years old, but honestly, it is so much better to have her own seat. She has freedom to stand and move her legs, and usually curls up in her seat for a nap! But do whatever you find works for you and your family! 

I pack her a BACKPACK, usually her school bag, small enough for her to carry herself, but big enough to fill full of goodies. A trip to TARGET usually does the trick for me! Here is what I stuff in her backpack:

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CRAYOLA MINI COLORING PAGES. These are found in the painting and coloring isle. There are a few versions of these like DORY but it comes with pages and markers to color with. If you want the mess free markers, they have those too!

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Scour the dollar spot and you will find all sorts of goodies! We love these crayon packs that come with stickers, crayons and more pages to color! My daughter really just loves the stickers.

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If you have any sort of handheld device, earphones are a must! These are under $20 but you can find some for less too like THESE. Bonus: Use these at restaurants too with the devices!! Sometimes it is nice to have a quiet dinner with your sig.other!

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WINDOW CLINGS I think this is the most brilliant thing I have ever thought of! You can find these almost every season and they are super cheap! They stick to the windows, seat, tray table and not clothing! Plus you can rinse them off if you want to reuse them, but if not, pitch them out! Total must have for any age!

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WATER WOW! Another must have! You fill up the pen with water, then you can color on the pages with no mess. Once you are done, the pages will dry, and you will be able to re-paint them over and over again! It also have several things to reveal upon "painting" the photo. 

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The best of the best. The iPad. Make sure you have a good case like this one HERE. I am pro- iPad but we definitely monitor the use of it! So for things like traveling, here are some iPad tips:

1.) Download some new Apps!

2.) Download or rent a new movie for your child to watch.

3.) Put on some new music for them. We love Pandora baby Einstein radio.

4.) Load some photos of them over the years or videos of themselves in your Photos App. My daughter loves watching old videos of herself as a baby.

5.) YouTube. Ugh I have no idea why my daughter loves watching people make slime or open eggs but her eyes are glued to that screen. Hence the need for timed iPad use in our house. (only if airplane has wifi availability)

We are off to Cabo this Saturday and her bag is already packed! Don't let them peek inside the bag until they are on the airplane! That way it is all a big surprise!

We also used those Dum Dum suckers when she was younger to suck on if it seemed her ears were bothering her, but honestly it was more of a bribe 😊 She can now chew gum without getting it on everything so that is another helpful thing for her.

If you have other suggestions that you love, let me know! I am always looking for new surprises to pop inside of her bag! XOXO