Location: Toledo, OH, USA
Happy 4th of July friends! I hope you're celebrating our beautiful country with wonderful friends and family with all the fireworks and BBQs today! We're planning on spending a relaxing day with our family and BBQing later tonight for dinner. Kai Bear goes to bed before all the fireworks start so those will have to wait for next year. Always something to look forward to though!
At the beginning of last month, we took our first road trip with Kai and it was for our family reunion that was in Toledo, OH. Toledo is where my dad grew up and the last two years we've been having family reunions with our entire Karavida side of the family. They have been so much fun reuniting with our family and meeting new family members each year! Our family is so big and spread out all over the country that there are actually members that I've never met before so it has been so wonderful to bring everyone together to create bonds with these family members as well as make new memories with all my amazing cousins.
We drove out on a Friday afternoon. Kai did fairly well in the car for it being his first road trip. It got a little sick of the drive around the half way mark but who can blame him!? Five hours in a car seat would be annoying for anyone but it was nothing a little bit of me crawling in to the back seat and entertaining him for awhile couldn't fix. Once we finally arrived in Toledo and got all checked in to our hotel (we stayed at the Radisson at the University of Toledo and we highly recommend it!), we headed out to dinner with some of our family at my favorite spot in all of Toledo, Shorty's True American Roadhouse. This place is so good you guys. We have to eat there every time we visit. They have the most yummy corn bread you can possibly imagine. We discovered that they use cake batter to make it, so no wonder it's so delicious!
The next day was reunion day! The shindig didn't start until the afternoon and now that we're early risers thanks to Kai, we got up early and made our way to downtown Toledo to spend some time just the 3 of us that morning. We drove around and got some Starbucks then hit up the Toledo Farmer's Market in search of some breakfast. While we didn't find any pastry stands we did find the coolest food truck called Big C's BBQ. Caleb got a pulled pork parfait that had pork, mashed potatoes, and gravy in it and I got BBQ nachos. All of it was SO GOOD! We walked around the market for a little bit too and I got some amazing soy candles from Heaven's Gate Soy Candles as well as some all natural bug repellent to use on Kai and even Wrigley!
After our morning downtown, we headed over to my aunt and uncle's house for the reunion. We just enjoyed spending time catching up with family and reminiscing about great times in the past. I truly cherish these events and hope they stay an annual thing! I'm so glad Kai's first little trip was spent with family and full of so much love.
What was your first family trip you took with your little one(s)? I'd love to know! Leave me a comment and tell me your story! Hope you all have a great 4th!
The great natural wonder of the world known as Niagara Falls is located in Ontario, Canada and New York, USA. The Falls and the Niagara River create the border of the USA and Canada and can be seen from both countries. The more scenic side of The Falls is located on the Canadian side. We visited The Falls by driving there from Chicago. We crossed the border in to Canada through Detroit, MI, USA and drove through Canada, which is approximately an 8 hour drive + border crossing time. The other road trip route that can be taken is to continue on 1-80 E and enter Canada on the Rainbow Bridge in New York, USA, which is about a 9 hour drive + border crossing time. The other option is flying in to the Buffalo/Niagara Airport in Buffalo, NY, USA.
There are 4 bridges that will get you across the Niagara River to and from Canada and the US near The Falls.
This bridge is located north of The Falls near the Butterfly Conservatory and Floral Clock in the Niagara Park on the Canadian side. This bridge experiences less border crossing traffic during the day.
This bridge is the famous Niagara Falls bridge that goes through The Falls. You are also able to walk across this bridge for spectacular views of The Falls over the river. Border crossing times can sometimes be high for this bridge as it is the most popular one in the area.
This bridge is located north of The Falls but is a Nexus Only bridge. Do not attempt to cross this bridge unless you have a NEXUS card.
This bridge is located south of The Falls. This bridge experiences less border crossing traffic during the day.
To see live border crossing times visit the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission.
Best Sites to See in Niagara
Obviously the main reason to go to Niagara is the see Niagara Falls. The more scenic side of The Falls is on the Canadian side and from that view you can imagine what the New York side would be. However, if you are in the US and do not have time to cross the border or do not have a passport to get in to Canada, then the NY side will still do the trick as The Falls are spectacular no matter what.
Walk Across the Rainbow Bridge
For 50 cents a person, you can walk across the Rainbow Bridge and get to see The Falls from both sides of the river + be directly over the river in the process. How cool is that!? Don't forget your passport though because you need it to actually get off the bridge on both sides.
Maid of the Mist
Take a ride on the famous Maid of the Mist where you ride in a boat on the Niagara River right through The Falls. Don't forget your rain poncho though as you get soaking wet on this adventure.
Visit the Floral Clock in the Niagara Park on the Canadian side. It is one of the most visited attractions in all of Canada every year!
The Botanical Garden is located in the Niagara Park on the Canadian side, as well. Take a stroll through the beautiful garden as a nice break from the hectiness near The Falls.
Clifton Hill is like the Las Vegas Blvd of Niagara Falls. You can find everything bigger and better on this street. You can visit Ripley's Believe It or Not, the Guiness Book of World Records, tons of shops, restaurants, and lots and lots of lights at night
Things to do in Niagara
The Niagara Wine Region is quite incredible. There are 100s of wineries to choose from and many of them have tasting rooms. Each side of The Falls has plenty to offer with the USA side having what they call The Niagara Wine Trail and the Canadian side being called the Ontario Wine Country.
There are plenty of trails on the Canadian side to walk along the river but to experience some great hikes it is best to venture over to the American side and go to the Niagara State Park. Go for a hike in the Devils Hole State Park for some of the best views of the area.
Visit Niagara-on the-Lake
This quaint town is something that you don't want to miss. You'll discover some of the cutest shops you'll ever find and some of the best eats in this little town. Plus Queens Royal Park is right on Lake Ontario and a wonderful place to spend an afternoon relaxing.
Where to Eat
Il Gelato di Carlotta
This gelato is incredible! This shop is located in Niagara-on-the-Lake and is perfect for an afternoon snack lakeside. Try the pistachio or strawberry and you won't be disappointed.
Stromboli's Pizza Ltd.
A little pizza shop located in St. Catharines. Get the pizza combo for a ton of food and remember that if you order bacon on your pizza that you're in Canada...and it's not their fault ;)
This bakery/gelato shop is located in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Grab some breakfast here in the morning and some treats or gelato for a snack in the afternoon. We highly suggest their chocolate strawberry crepe and pasteries in the morning and some macarons in the afternoon.
Lococo's Fruit and Veggies
Grab some groceries at this fruit and vegetable store to have a picnic. A couple of perfect spots are right across from Niagara Falls on any of the lawn areas right on Niagara Parkway or in Queens Royal Park on Lake Ontario in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
This cafe is located in St. Catharines and is the perfect spot to grab a quick cup of coffee and a breakfast sandwich to start out a morning. Whether you grab and go while you're heading out of town on your last day or for a quick stop before you do a full day of exploring the area, their breakfast sandwiches are delicious.
Where to Stay
This gorgeous B&B is located in St. Catherines in Ontario, CAN. It is a dog friendly B&B. Their hospitality is mind blowingly wonderful and the house itself is gorgeous. Make reservations on their site here.
Any of the B&Bs in Niagara-on-the-Lake seem incredible. They are all located within walking distance of the main street and Lake Ontario.
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Woo sorry I've been a little MIA this week friends, we had a quite the week. We had a minor health scare with Wrigley and I'm not going to lie, I've been kind of a mess. He started acting very strange yesterday morning, so we quickly made an appointment with our vet. Thankfully after a thorough exam, it's been narrowed down to some kind of sprained muscle in his abdomen or back. He's on pain meds and already seems to be better. It was a very scary experience though because he's always been a very healthy pup. Please keep him in your prayers and send him some good vibes to heal up quickly!
On to happier things though...like trips to Disney! I know from experience that all the things Walt Disney World has to offer can be overwhelming sometimes. They try to make your life easier by having all these perks but sometimes it is just too much if you've never been before or taken advantage of them. Well, I promise you, all the things that WDW offers to vacation goers really does make your life so much easier and ensures you will have the best time ever! There's a lot that goes in to an amazing Disney vacation but today I'm going to break down the travel logistics of getting to Walt Disney World by plane and how to get around WDW.
Disney Magical Express
If you're flying in to Orlando, take advantage of the Disney Magical Express. It is a bus shuttle service that takes you from MCO airport to your WDW resort. The best part about it though is, it's free! No other shuttle/transportation service in the Orlando area is free to other hotels, so for us this is a huge perk and a way to save some cash. This also eliminates needing to rent a car. Sometimes a car is worth it if you want to go explore other parts of Central Florida, but if you are strictly doing Disney, then the Magical Express is the way to go. An added perk for us now is not needing to bring a car seat for Kai, too, since we would just be on the bus with him! The bus picks you up right at the bus depot at the airport and drops you off at your hotel. They also grab all your checked luggage for you from baggage claim, too! So you can get off the plane and go straight to the bus, not having to worry about waiting for your bags. When you book your Disney vacation and if you select using the Magical Express, Disney will mail you luggage tags to put on your bags so that the service knows to grab those bags at baggage claim. Disney will then deliver your bags to your room at your hotel. It's a very similar process for going home, too. You check your bags in at your resort when you're checking out of your room and Disney will bring them to the airport and check them in for you with your airline. You catch the bus at your resort at your designated time that Disney will give you via a slip of paper with your check out information for your room. It's usually around 3 to 4 hours prior to your departure time. The bus drops you off at the airport and you're on your way home. For any additional carry on items you want for your plane ride home, you can just leave them at the concierge desk and get them before you leave for the airport on the bus.
The only downside to this is you will need to pack anything you need for your first day at the parks in your carry on bag. I don't like to wear shorts on airplanes because I get cold, so I pack my outfit for the day and anything else I need for the parks in my backpack that I plan on using at the parks. I use that as my carry on with any additional items I want for the plane. When we get to our resort, I either empty those plane extras out in to our room or leave them at the concierge desk to get later if our room isn't ready yet and get them after we get back from the parks. I personally feel like this is a very minor downside to all the convenience Disney is giving you otherwise.
Disney Ground Transportation
I'm just going to come right out and say this, please don't drive from park to park. You'll waste so much time getting to your car in the parking lots and driving around the resort to another park. The best way to hop from park to park and back to your hotel is by using Disney's bus system. You can catch a bus to all 4 parks, both water parks, and Disney Springs from every resort and every park. So if you start at your resort and you want to go to Magic Kingdom, just go to your bus depot and catch the MK bus. Then if you want to hop over to Animal Kingdom, you can catch a bus to AK at the MK bus depot. Then to get back to your resort you would just simply catch a bus back to your resort from the AK bus depot. Pretty simple right? The buses start picking up for the parks about an hour before they open and run for about an hour after the parks close. Buses to Disney Springs start at 4pm and run till about 3am. The only thing to keep in mind is you can't get buses that go from resort to resort. So if you have a dining reservation at a different resort than the one you are staying at, then you will need to take a bus to a park and then catch another bus to the resort you are dining at or want to visit. I'm not going to sugar coat it, the buses can sometimes take awhile. Plan on about 45 minutes to an hour one way for waiting for the buses to come and driving to wherever you're trying to get to. It is still better than driving around in a car though!
The easiest way to get around Disney though is by using the Monorail. The Monorail stops at 3 resorts, the Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian and goes to Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It is fast and fun. It goes around the lake and has some amazing views while you ride it. This is the best way to get to those 3 resorts from MK and Epcot, which I highly recommend checking them out because they have some of the best restaurants, spas, and things to do outside of the parks. The Monorail will also take you to the MK and Epcot parking lots. There is also the option to take the ferry across the lake, but from experience, the Monorail is much faster.
If you must drive, here is all you need to know about parking. Disney has recently decided to start charging guests for overnight parking. For budget hotels it is $13 per night, moderate hotels it is $19 per night, and deluxe hotels it is $24 per night. It is still free to park at the parks during the day for resort guests. Standard parking for non-resort park goers is $22 per day and $45 for preferred parking. Parking at Disney Springs and ESPN Wide World of Sports is free all day.
That about covers all your transpo options for a vacation at Walt Disney World! When is your next trip to Disney? I'd love to hear about it, so leave me a comment below!
Hi all! Back to the grind of another week, but hopefully you all had a great weekend. We didn't really do much because the weather here was brutal this weekend! We tried to run some errands on Saturday but the wind and rain made it so hard. We ended up just staying home the whole weekend having a Star Wars marathon! Kai is starting to fit in to all his 3 month clothes and one of the things I bought for him for this age was a pair of R2D2 pajamas! I have some R2D2 PJs myself (mine are from last year but here are some similar ones), so we did some major twinning and snuggling in them this weekend and watched most of the saga.
So one thing I get asked all the time is how we can afford to travel as often as we do, and the answer always is because we budget for all of our travels! Seeing the world is our biggest hobby and in order to make that hobby happen we save our money to do it! Today I want to share with you how we budget for our big annual vacations that we take every year. We have a few simple tips that really make all the difference in allowing us to take trips of a lifetime all the time!
Pick One Big Destination a Year
We always settle on one big trip per year and then fit in smaller trips like road trips or trips to go see family and friends in to our travel schedule. Figuring out where you want to go is the first step though because that's how you're going to figure out how much it is going to cost you to go on said trip. I suggest doing this as far in advance as possible. Honestly, we pick where we want to go on our big vacations each year almost a whole year in advance.
Make a Rough Price Outline
After you pick where you want to go, it's time to start figuring out how much it'll cost you. I look up flight prices and hotel prices to the destination we have picked out. I always try to look for the average price as well as good deals and land somewhere in the middle for both flights and hotels. I add those two things up and then I add in around $1,000 in spending money if we are taking a domestic trip or $2,000 for international trips. Those amounts include everything that we would be doing except for renting a car if it's necessary. So I'm talking all food, shopping, and entertainment. If we have to pre-pay for any entertainment, then it comes out of that lump sum. Examples of these kinds of things would be sporting event tickets, theater tickets, and tours.
Input Trip Total in to Budget
Once we've figured out roughly how much it will cost us to go on our chosen vacation, we figure out when we want to go and add that rough price in to our budget. We have a nice spreadsheet budget that we use to track all of our bills that need to be paid each month. We have it extended out by a couple years for any annual bills, big expenses like Christmas or buying a new car, or for vacations, so we can see that any expenses we have this year won't severely effect us in the future. So if we want to take a trip this upcoming December, we would put the trip total in to one our December lines on our spreadsheet under additional expenses. This way we can look and see that we won't be too low in our savings or that it won't cause any issues with having enough money to pay bills around that time. It's a nice visual representation to make sure that we aren't stretching ourselves too thin by going on vacation. If it causes any issues then we go back to the drawing board of either changing the time of year we take the trip or pick a new destination that might not cost as much money. As we get closer to needing to book our vacation, we spread out the total to where we need to pay for our flight and our hotel. So with still using December as an example, we would take out the price of the flight and hotel and move it to October since that is when we would be spending that money to book the flight and hotel. Then all that is left for the vacation in December is the spending money we would need for the trip.
*If you're interested in how we set up our budget please let me know and I can do a post on it or just answer via e-mail on an individual basis. I know budgets can be intimidating!
Look for my next travel tips post about the best way to save money on travel, so you can travel for less more often! Where is your next big vacation to? We're hoping to make it down to Savannah, GA/Charleston, SC this fall! Hope you all have a great week ahead!
Hey all! Happy Travel Tuesday! Hopefully you all had a great Easter weekend full of candy, family, and Christ! We had a pretty full weekend actually. The first in a very long time! Friday evening we took Kai to the mall to do a little bit of shopping. It was his first trip out of the house besides going to the doctor or my parent's house! He did so well, too. We got Shake Shack for dinner and popped in to a couple of our favorite stores, and he was an angel the entire time. On Saturday, we got to visit with some friends of ours who also just had a baby! It was so fun to catch up and swap baby stories. Easter Sunday was so wonderful for us. I put together Easter baskets for Kai and Wrigley and had so much fun doing it. I got Kai Sebastian the lamb from Cuddle + Kind, and I can tell he just loves him! We did our annual Easter egg hunt for Wrigley where we put a treat in little plastic eggs and hide them all over the house. He's so smart and finds all of them by himself and pops them all open to get the treat! It's so impressive. My parents came over late in the morning to also give Kai an Easter basket and spend some time with us. For Easter dinner, we went to my aunt's house and spent the afternoon with our big family. It was everyone's first time meeting Kai and it was so fun to see him interact with everyone. I hope you all had a great Easter weekend, too!
So I know we took our trip to Seattle awhile ago, but like I said in my Portland Travel Story post, I really wanted to share this trip with all of you. We went to some amazing places while visiting Seattle and it is honestly my favorite city in the US.
We drove up to Seattle from Portland and went straight to Pike Place Market. Like I said, Seattle is my favorite city in the US and Pike Place Market is my favorite place in Seattle. So basically my favorite place ever. We walked around a little bit and smelled the flowers and grabbed some fruit from a farmers stand when we first got there. Then it was time for lunch. One of my favorite places at Pike Place is Beecher's Handmade Cheese. You can see them actually making the cheese there in the shop! It is the original cheese shop and they have a nice selection of cheeses to choose from. They also have a cafe menu, so we love going here for lunch. I always get the mac and cheese. It is so creamy and rich. Caleb got a smoked turkey sandwich that was also delicious! Next on the list to visit was a French bakery called Le Panier. They have amazing macarons and other French pastries there. We stopped in and grabbed some treats to have for later at our Airbnb that we were staying at. Next to Le Panier is Turkish Delight where you guessed it...you can get Turkish delights and Turkish coffee. We of course got both! After our food spree, we went to a couple of shops like Sur la Table and Made in Washington. I love the Made in Washington store. I'm not usually a big gift shop person but this shop has the most amazing huckleberry salt water taffies. They are probably my favorite candy ever! So if you're ever at Pike Place make sure you grab a bag for yourself and me ;). We didn't make it to Starbucks this time but I'm a huge fan and think it's just so cool that the first Starbucks location is right there in Pike Place. A lot of people will tell you it's not worth it to wait in the long line to get a drink there and you can just walk a block and go to the location there to grab your coffee, but I think it's worth doing at least once. It's not just about getting a drink, it's the experience of being in their first shop!
After our afternoon at the market we made our way over to the Freemont area to check in to our Airbnb. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing there because #pregnancytales. For dinner that night, we went to my favorite food spot in Seattle, the Walrus and the Carpenter. They have the best oysters I've ever tried, and I was so sad I couldn't indulge in them this time around. All the more reason to go back again soon though! We still had a delicious dinner and then walked around the Ballard neighborhood afterwards.
Our second day in Seattle we actually spent hiking in Mount Rainier National Park, and I'm going to save that adventure for another post because with pictures alone it deserves it's own post! Before we headed out to the mountains though we stopped in at General Porpoise Doughnuts for breakfast. This was my favorite doughnut shop of our whole trip to the PNW! I loved everything about it from the doughnuts to the decor inside the shop. All their doughnuts are sugar coated and filled with cream or jelly. I got a strawberry cream filled doughnut that was seasonal and Caleb got the lemon curd doughnut. Both we're out of this world delicious! Their coffee was awesome, too. It was the perfect start to a very memorable day.
Our next day in Seattle was a full day of exploring. We had a quick breakfast at Cederberg Tea House in the Queen Anne area. It is a traditional South African tea house. Ashlyn and I found it on a list of the best bakeries in the USA and it was listed as the best one in the whole state of Washington, so we decided to check it out. It definitely didn't disappoint! My favorite thing we got was the Malva Pudding. Their big thing with it being a tea house though is Rooibos tea, which is caffeine free tea that is ground very fine and pulled through an espresso machine. I did not try the tea for a couple of reasons being I need caffeine in the morning and also I tried to stay clear of most teas while I was pregnant. Ashlyn tried it though and said it was really good!
Since we were in the area, we went over to Kerry Park for an amazing view of Seattle and the sound. You can see the entire Seattle skyline as well as Mount Rainier off in the distance on a clear day. We relaxed there for a bit then headed over to Salty's for their brunch buffet. We met up with some friends from California at Salty's and it was a very cool experience. They have a huge breakfast buffet and their restaurant sits right on the water. You can see seals flopping around the water from your table!
Our afternoon was really enjoyable, too. We did the espresso tasting at the famous Starbuck's Reserve Roastery. We also all tried their coffee cocktails, too, and I personally liked Caleb's the most. He got a play off of a Manhattan and it was so good! My favorite espresso was both the ones from the Congo. The Roastery is honestly one of my favorite spots in Seattle. They always have new things to try, and I love going back every time were out there. I can't wait till the Chicago one opens up!
We went to another favorite spot of mine for pre-dinner drinks at Needle & Thread. I was so sad that I couldn't order a cocktail with Caleb and Ashlyn, but the bartender graciously made me an amazing mocktail. The great thing about this bar is there is no menu. The bartender asks you a series of questions about what you like to drink and then crafts your perfect cocktail. Ashlyn and I discovered this place on our first trip to Seattle and we loved our drinks so much we just knew we had to take Caleb here. They both loved the drinks they got this time, too. The other cool thing about Needle & Thread is it is a speakeasy style bar. It's located on top of another bar called Tavern Law. You have to make reservations to get in to Needle & Thread and when it's your reservation time you enter Tavern Law, pick up a phone in the back of the bar and when your reservation is confirmed, you get buzzed in to a secret door where you can enter. I love bars like this because it's not just about the drinks but also the experience you get to have while enjoying a drink. After our time there, we walked over to Bar Melusine for dinner. This is a sister restaurant to Walrus and the Carpenter, so we knew it was going to be great, and we were right! I was boring and stuck with a burger and frites due to being pregnant but all the seafood looked delicious. I definitely plan on going back here next time so I can try the oysters and steak tartare!
Our last day we only spent the morning in Seattle and with it being a Sunday, we of course had to get brunch! We chose Westward for our last meal in Seattle and it definitely didn't disappoint. The restaurant is also located on the water (we have a thing for views ;) ) and the food was great. We got lucky and got to sit on the patio to enjoy the water and sun before getting back in the car for a long drive back to Portland. I got the Dutch Baby pancake and Caleb got the lamb shoulder hash. We recommend both! Both dishes were delicious and their lattes were awesome, as well. We stopped off at Pike Place Market one last time to walk through the fish market part of Pike Place since we didn't get to walk through it on our first day. We grabbed some snacks for our road trip and started our long trek back to Portland.
Instead of heading straight down Interstate 5 to get back, we got off once we hit US RT 12 and took it all the way to the coast. From there we drove down US RT 101 and stopped off at Cannon Beach. I'll share this part of our trip in another post, as well, as it was a full day worth of adventures!
Have you ever been Seattle? If so, I'd love to hear what your favorite places are in this beautiful city! Leave me a comment below and let me know!
I’m Diana; curator & author of Tiny Dapper Fox. Here you’ll find posts on motherhood, home life, travel, & fashion/beauty as well as City Guides for places all around the world. Make yourself cozy and let’s be friends!
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