Happy Monday and MLK Day everyone! I have the day off of work today and am just embracing my time at home with Kai. We didn't do a whole lot this weekend because we got hit with a huge blizzard on Friday/Saturday, so we've pretty much just been cozied up at home all weekend. We ventured out for a little bit yesterday to go to the Garfield Park Conservatory in the city to do Kai's 1 year old photos! I seriously can't wait to get them back, I just know they are going to be the most gorgeous set of photos. We did make a lot of progress on organizing our office though and it finally feels like a place I can work and be inspired in. In fact, I'm actually typing this at our desk in our office right now and it feels so good! I can't wait to show you all the full transformation of it soon!
Today I want to share with you all my most used travel apps I use on my phone. Using resources like books and apps are some of my best ways for planning and having a great time on our trips. I keep a little EXPLORE folder on my phone with all of my travel apps in it to keep them organized in a place where I can easily find them. And as an FYI, all these apps are free. Alright, so here we go!
I prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps (I have an iPhone), especially when we are traveling. Reason being is that I like to favorite all of the places we are planning on going when we are traveling and they show up as little yellow stars on my map when I open the app. This makes it so easy to find everything and map out routes on how to get from place to place, especially if you're walking. I can also just tap the star and the place will pop up for me to click for directions, too.
I do most of my hotel bookings through Expedia. I personally like the layout of the app the most compared to all the other ones out there like Kayak of Booking.com. I also just feel like I get the best deals through Expedia.
This app is Chicago specific. In order to get around Chicago via public transport, you need to have a Ventra card. This app allows me to refill my account and look up train schedules for all of the lines on the CTA. If you don't live in Chicago and are visiting, I highly suggest this one!
This app is a lifesaver and probably my favorite travel app ever. We use this app all the time to finding parking spots everywhere. We use it every time we drive in to Chicago or Milwaukee, we've used it in Portland and Seattle, etc. The way it works is you type in your destination and it finds you all the available parking lots or garages near your destination and gives you pricing for the time slot you've filled in. We've saved so much money using this app with parking in Chicago. They always have discounted rates for garages in Chicago...I'm talking like we pay $18 for a spot that would normally be $40! Best app ever.
This app is a little specific to us because we always fly Southwest. We personally feel like we always get the best rates through Southwest and like that there are no baggage fees or change of flight fees. I like having their app on my phone especially for checking in for our flights since we have to do it 24 hours in advance to get a good seat (well we don't HAVE to now thanks to family boarding). I also like it just simply for looking up flights for upcoming trips. However, whatever airline you prefer the most, I suggest downloading their app and having it in your travel folder on your phone so you can easily look up flights and check in for your flights on your phone, too.
Skyscanner is another cool one. This app helps you find the cheapest possible flights out there (including Southwest flights!) Apps like Expedia never include Southwest which is always a bummer since that's who we fly with the most! A lot of times though if I'm traveling alone I like to just look up the cheapest airfare and will deal with flying something else besides Southwest since they only fly out of Midway and we live a lot closer to O'Hare. But anyways, you can find some insane deals on this app. Another cool feature of it too is you can pick a date range or a month and "fly anywhere" and it will show you the cheapest rates to everywhere in the US. So if you're in the mood for a little getaway but you don't know where to go, this is a fun little feature to try out! It might spark an idea for a place you didn't even have on your radar.
We're more of a rent a car or take public transit people but if you need to hire a car, Lyft is great. We use Lyft over Uber because you have to go through Lyft for the Minnie vans at Disney World. (A Minnie van is those cute red with polk dot cars at Disney that take you from resort to resort or to the parks so you don't have to use the bus system). This is a great option to save time at Disney because their bus system doesn't take you from resort to resort.
Disney World (My Experience App)
Speaking of Disney...I always have the Disney World My Experience App on my phone. This app shows you everything for your Disney World trips from your hotel reservation, FastPasses, photos from your trip, and dining reservations. You can update all your trip info on the app, too, and make FastPass selections on it. One of the coolest things about the app too is you can see ride wait times! Plus there is a great map of all the parks on the app for easy navigating.
This app is a great one for making dining reservations. They have a huge network of restaurants all over! You can easily search for a specific restaurant or you can search in the area you're in and a whole list of restaurants will pop up. They have reviews and information on all restaurants and you can see most menus on the app, too. They give you all available times for reservations and ask if you need any special accommodations. The best part though is with each reservation you make and honor you rack up points, which eventually turns back in to money!
What is your all time favorite travel app that you have on your phone? Share with me below in the comments!
Hellooooo 2019! I absolutely love the start of a new year. There's something so light and amazing about the week of New Years. I hope you all had a relaxing holiday yesterday and are ready to take on this year!
So for the last few years I've ditched the idea of resolutions and goals. I use to make a nice long list of things I wanted to do and accomplish each year but the problem I use to have with that is that life changes over 12 months. Sometimes a little or sometimes a lot. So when I would go back to reflect on the year I'd look at my resolutions or goals and think about how I didn't really accomplish them 100% because I either forgot about them or they just aren't relevant anymore. I settled on this idea of picking a word or phrase at the start of the year that I feel like my life needs more of and I concentrate on applying it to my life all year long. Last year the phrase was 'go with the flow.' I'm sure you recognize it because I mentioned it all the time. I still plan on continuing to incorporate that mentality in my life but with the start of a new year I'm adding a new word to my life and that word is 'REFRESH.'
I know you're probably thinking, "wow Diana, new year, yeah it's refreshing...how groundbreaking." But stay with me here. We accumulate a lot of clutter in our lives in all areas from things in our homes to emotions we feel about past events. I had a heavy year in 2018 and it's not that I want to just forget about all that happened last year but I do feel the need to purge and at the same time not let 2019 build up on me. I don't want to purge all that is weighing down on me from the past just to replace it with what might happen in the future.
This idea of 'refresh' for me is starting out by quite literally getting rid of what I don't need and use from things, people, emotions, thoughts, etc. I spent my whole winter break purging unneeded things from our house. I've started meditating again to get in touch with my emotions and thoughts. I want to concentrate on things that serve me and keep me motivated to be the best human I can be. I want to stay in touch with what is important to me and let the rest go. I plan to continually check in with myself on all aspects of life to 'refresh' all the time. Just the thought of this word makes me feel light and happy, which I've been needing for awhile now. I am so excited to be on this journey in 2019. I hope you feel just as hopeful for 2019 and can't wait to hear all your words, goals, and resolutions, too! Happy New Year, everyone!
Happy New Years Eve, everyone! I hope you all have the perfect plans for ringing in the new year! Whether it be at a big party or cozied up at home, do whatever your heart calls for. For us, we'll be cozied up at home, eating Chinese food, and having a game night. It's our favorite way to bring in a new year.
I've done a lot of "reflecting" on this past year this whole month of December. The best way to describe this year is that it was very complicated. It was the best year and the worst year. You might be asking, how is that even possible? Well I was blessed with the greatest gift of my life in 2018, the birth of Kai but was also stripped of one of the most important people in my life in 2018 by the death of my dad. If that doesn't make a year complicated, I don't know what does. The ultimate up and down. I've had many people say man you've had a rough year or this was the worst year ever, but I will never say that. Even though the passing of my dad was the hardest thing I've ever had to go through, Kai being born is still the biggest shining star of the year...my life really. So in a way, it's still the best year.
As much as I'm looking forward to 2019 beginning, I'm actually scared for it. New Years Day is probably my favorite day of the year. I love that feeling of new and fresh. You get to "start over," right? While I'm still so excited for that and all the new goals and accomplishments that will come in the new year, I'm also sad to leave 2018. I'm not ready to start a whole new chapter without my dad. When the clock strikes midnight tonight, we'll be in a new year where my dad will never be. But that's life. You have to roll with the punches and make the best of the situation you're handed. I'm trying to hang on to the thoughts that he's not going to be forgotten...ever. But it's still scary to think that a new year is starting tomorrow without him. It makes all this even more final. I'm so ready for the pain and hurt to go away from his passing, but I'm not ready to say goodbye. But life is forcing me to wave goodbye to 2018 and move on a little more.
The other thing that 2019 brings is Kai turning 1. Which is so exciting! But it's also another point of sadness for me. I plan to stop breastfeeding at the 12 month mark and for some reason this is so hard on my heart. It's such a special bond we have together. He's literally lived off of me for almost 2 years now and to think that he no longer will need that brings a lot of sadness to me. There is so much to look forward to with him turning 1, but on this last day of 2018, I am going to hold on to his babiness as much as I possibly can.
As for my 2018 mantra of going with the flow, I think I rocked this. I use to be such a stringent planner and I look back and laugh at myself. I started the year out real strong with going with the flow. I allowed myself to slow down, go in to labor naturally even though I wanted so bad to be in control and know when Kai would arrive. I went with the flow of that historic day in my life too of becoming a mother by trusting my body, my doctor, and the universe to safely bring Kai in to this world no matter what it took or how long it took. I allowed myself to enjoy his newborn stage so well and really bond with him with no expectations of being super mom or adventuring too much. I had a small hiccup mid-year with my bout of PPD, but I give myself grace when I think about this period because it's not my fault. My brain literally was not working the way it needed to in order to function properly and I needed help. Thankfully I got that help and was able to move past it fairly quickly. Most importantly though, I did my absolute best with my dad. I was there for him whenever he needed me, but I was able to keep rolling with life of being a mom, a wife, kicking ass at my job, and still took care of myself. I wouldn't have been able to handle all of it if I wasn't able to let go of things and go with the flow of each and every day. I didn't care if I didn't fold the laundry that exact day or if I didn't finish tidying up the house before bed. There is always tomorrow for those things and that mentality allowed me space for the things that really mattered. Kai, Caleb, and my dad.
I am very grateful for this year of growth and I am also thankful to all of you who are here. Whether you joined me on this journey in 2018 or if you've been here all along and stuck around through this complicated year. Thank you. I hope you all can look back on 2018 with a smile, too and I wish you all the best in the new year!
Metra - This train takes you to and from the suburbs of Chicago in to the city as well as along the lakefront within the city. It's one of the easiest ways to get in to the city if you are staying out in the suburbs and a great way to avoid the awful Chicago traffic.
CTA - This train primarily runs within the city limits of Chicago, but there are a few lines that run out in to the suburbs...the most convenient one being the Blue Line that will take you to O'Hare International Airport. It's only $2.50 to ride one way on the CTA with free transfers to each of the different lines. There are stations all throughout the city. This is the easiest and cheapest way to get around Chicago. You'll need a Ventra card to ride the CTA, but they are easy to get at any of the stations.
Pace - This is Chicago's bus system, which also runs on the Ventra card. There are bus stops all over the city and will take you just about anywhere you need to go, including the suburbs. This is a slower option of transportation though since you'll have to deal with traffic. But it's still better than driving yourself! The cool thing about Pace is they have special buses that will take you to Cubs games, Sox games, and Bears games from the Schaumburg and Lombard hubs if you're out in the suburbs.
Art Institute of Chicago - Chicago's amazing art museum. General admission for adults is $25 and children under 13 are free. They have special admission prices for teens and seniors, as well, which is $19. You can see some amazing pieces of art here including A Sunday on La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat, American Gothic by Grant Wood, and The Old Guitarist by Pablo Picasso. They always have special exhibits going on, as well.
The Field Museum - This is Chicago's museum of natural history. Basic admission is $24 for adults and $17 for children 3-11 years old. There is so much rich history at this museum including a massive dinosaur exhibit, history of the Pacific, and Ancient Egypt. This is home of Sue the dinosaur, who now has her very own exhibit! You can also see Lucy, the famous Australopithicus.
Shedd Aquarium - Chicago's aquarium! General admission for adults is $39.95 and $29.95 for children ages 3-11. Experience all the amazing fish and sea creatures including penguins, dolphins, and sharks. There is a fun dolphin show that runs all day long as well as many special exhibits.
Adler Planetarium - Chicago's space museum. General admission for adults is $12 and $8 for children ages 3-11. Explore the wonders of space through shows, exhibits and events. A big highlight of this space museum is the Mission Moon exhibit that is currently open!
Museum of Science and Industry - This is Chicago's science museum. General admission for adults is $21.95 and $12.95 for children ages 3-11. This museum is so great for kids because it is very interactive and a fun way for them to learn. They always have amazing extra exhibits and IMAX shows, too! A couple of the permanent exhibits that are worth noting are the spinning vortex, the model train, and the U-505 submarine.
Navy Pier - This fun attraction is a pier out on Lake Michigan. There are tons of restaurants, shops, mini golf, and a Ferris wheel that you can ride to see some amazing views of the lake and city. They also have massive exhibition halls that always have something going on in them, too. Whether it's a sports tournament or a special exhibit, it's worth checking out.
Millennium Park - This park is where The Bean is! It's an iconic spot in Chicago and fun to take pictures at. There is also a beautiful garden to walk through, a great cafe, and ice skating during the winter months! Ice skating is free and you can rent skates for $12. They also have a big lawn area where you can sit and relax to enjoy concerts that go on at the amphitheater and there is a fountain area in the summer for kids to run around in to cool off on hot summer days.
Sky Deck at Willis Tower (aka Sears Tower to us Chicagoans) - The Sky Deck is located at the top of the Sears Tower and offers incredible views of Chicago. They installed The Ledge a few years ago where you can walk out in to a glass box that hovers 100 stories above the city. You can look straight down and see the Chicago River.
Lincoln Park Zoo - This free zoo is located right in the heart of the city and is a fun one to do with the kids! You can walk around and see all the animals and it's the perfect size. During the holiday season, they have a special event every night called Zoo Lights, where the whole zoo is lit up to celebrate the holiday season.
Garfield Park Conservatory - This indoor botanical garden is fun to walk around in, especially in the winter. It's a nice break from the cold + it's free!
where to eat + drink
breakfast + brunch + coffee
The Doughnut Vault ( 401 N Franklin St.) - The best doughnuts in Chicago! They have a simple menu + specials every day.
Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits (2051 N California Ave.) - Great biscuits for breakfast, great pies for later. Delicious coffee + amazing jams.
avec (615 W Randolph St.) - A perfect spot for Sunday brunch serving Mediterranean style food. The bacon wrapped dates are a top 5 food item of all time for me.
Miller's Pub (134 S Wabash Ave.) - A Chicago institution serving the best burgers. Standard American fare done so well.
Lou Malnatis (1120 N State St.) - Best pizza joint in Chicago. The original spot for deep dish pizza. Sausage deep dish is our favorite!
Cindy's (12 S Michigan Ave.) - A swanky rooftop spot overlooking Michigan Ave. Amazing views of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan. What's even more amazing is their food...especially the lobster roll.
Tortoise Supper Club (350 N State St.) - Our favorite dinner spot in Chicago. A traditional American fare spot with a nice intimate feel. The food is the best in the city, especially the Berkshire pork chop.
Quartino (626 N State St.) - The best Italian food in the city. All served family style for sharing. There's nothing on the menu that isn't a 10 out of 10. All their pastas are made in house and I honestly can't pick a favorite!
Frontera Grill (445 N Clark St.) - The famous Rick Bayless Mexican restaurant. Their enchiladas are mouth watering and their margaritas are perfection. + the chips & salsa & guac are phenomenal.
Garrett's Popcorn (4 E Madison St.) - The best gourmet popcorn you'll ever have. Get the a large bag of Chicago mix and walk over to Millennium Park to sit and enjoy. Be careful though...the whole bag will be gone before you know it!
Original Ferrara Bakery (2210 W Taylor St.) - This 100 year old Italian bakery is the real deal. I personally think they are better than what you'll find in Italy! The tiramisu and canolis are the best we've ever had.
Alliance Patissere (615 N State St.) - A little French bakery with great macarons. They serve Collectivo coffee and is a fun little spot to pop in to for some sweets any time of the day.
cocktails + bars
Andy's Jazz Club (11 E Hubbard St) - A jazz club with a full bar and menu. Enjoy some drinks and listen to some spectacular jazz music.
Three Dots & a Dash (435 N Clark St.) - A fun little underground tiki bar! They serve some elaborately decorated drinks that are so yummy. It's worth booking a reservation to get a table so you can check out their food menu, too. The pork sliders are amazing.
Watershed (601 N State St.) - This basement cocktail bar is our favorite in the city. It's located underneath Pops for Champagne...another great bar, but they serve all local Midwest spirits, beers, and wines. It's a swanky local watering hole of sorts. It's nice and intimate and the perfect spot for great drink and conversation with good company.
where to stay
The Palmer House (17 E Monroe St.) - A beautiful Hilton hotel located in the Loop. Just a few steps away from Michigan Ave and Grant Park.
Sheraton Grand Chicago (301 E N Water St.) - The perfect spot to be if you love to shop. This hotel is right off the Magnificent Mile.
A couple of weeks ago we took Kai on his first flight and we went out to Salt Lake City, UT. My sister-in-law's little family along with my father-in-law all live out there plus my mother-in-law flew in, too so we could all spend an early Christmas together! We had so much fun spending quality time with our family and Kai got to meet his big cousins!
We got in pretty late at night and Kai had fallen asleep on the plane, which was such a blessing. He barely cried the whole way there! Our first stop after getting to Salt Lake was of course In-N-Out Burger. Anytime we fly out to Utah or California our first stop is always In-N-Out, ha! It's one of our favorite traditions we do when we fly out west.
On our first full day, we spent the afternoon up in the mountains and did a big family photo session...more to come on this later ;)! It was so nice to be back up in the mountains though. I've truly missed them and their beauty. After playing in the snow a bit, we drove back down the canyon and spent the evening out...baby free! Mimi watched Kai and his cousins for us while we went out with one of our best friends, Corinna! We had dinner at the London Belle Supper Club in downtown Salt Lake. This swanky little spot is the real deal. The drinks and food were so delicious. We ordered the charcuterie plate and duroc pork chili and rice. Both were phenomenal and we recommend them to anyone that makes it out to SLC in the near future! After dinner we popped in to Lake Effect for a drink to cap off the night. We're completely in love with this place, too! It has a nice and intimate setting, especially on the lower level. We got to sit in a fancy little corner booth that completely blocked out any noise from the rest of the bar. We really appreciated this for having nice conversation with great company! I also had the best French 75 of my life there. Again, 100% recommended!
The next day we were up bright and early to make it to our favorite breakfast spot in SLC, Pig & a Jelly Jar. We had breakfast with our Papa Joe and it was delicious as usual. I got the fried chicken and biscuits and Caleb got the chicken and waffles. Kai Bear had some chicken and eggs! We really love this spot but you need to get there early if you don't want to wait forever for a table. After breakfast, I headed to Arte Haus Collectif for the WildBird Pop-Up Event. Not only was this event happening while I was luckily in Salt Lake, but this little shop is right across the street from Pig & a Jelly Jar. I mean it's like all the stars aligned in my life for this to happen, ha! I got to the event pretty early and was one of the first ones in line! I made some new mama friends, too! I scored some amazing slings for myself and friends and was so in love with the Arte Haus Collectif shop. I literally wanted to buy everything in their shop! After lunch, we went to our nephew Stone's basketball game. He made a bunch of baskets during the game and played so well! Oh the things we have to look forward to with Kai! Later that evening we headed back out to have a special Christmas dinner at Station Park. We ate at Twigs and then did a little Christmas shopping. After our bellies were full and our feet were tired, we went back to Emily's house where we opened some Christmas presents and had a family game night. We also got Crumbl Cookies delivered and oh my goodness they are so yummy!
On our last full day, Caleb made breakfast a Emily's...his famous brioche French toast with vanilla marscapone. After a nice slow morning together, we eventually made our way back in to the city and grabbed some coffee at Publik. We walked around the 9th & 9th area and hit up a few small shops while sipping on our coffees. We had The Pie Pizzeria for our last dinner and just spent the night chatting.
We left bright and early the next morning to head home to Chicago. Kai didn't cry the entire flight home! I think we've got a little world traveler on our hands people! It was a short and sweet trip to Salt Lake but it was so needed. It was nice to be with family and be back in the place where Caleb and I first fell in love. We'll be back soon, SLC!
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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