Sedona in 24 Hours: Our Top Picks In Red Rock Country

Manic:  School starting here on August 3rd!  That doesn’t give us a lot of travel time with such a short summer break, so we decided to take a few quick trips this summer that also kept us on budget since we didn’t spend money on airfare this time around.

Managed:  Our first trip was to sunny Sedona, Arizona which is a beautiful place known as Red Rock Country since it is surrounded by radiant red rocks and mountains.  To keep costs down, we only stayed for 24 hours and we were able to fit a lot in, enjoy great food, shop at unique places and truly relax. red rock viewSedona is truly stunning and the town is very relaxed, quite welcoming to tourists and is known to have a spiritual presence.  Want to relax?  Head to Sedona! Here are our trip picks and pics….

*Where We Stayed – this isn’t our first pick because it is outdated but this is where we stayed and since we spent minimal time in the room, it suited us fine.  The digs we chose is the Los Abrigados Resort & Spa. We paid $259.69 for one night and for that we received a roomy 2-bedroom family style room that also had a teeny kitchenette and a living room area plus a small outside balcony.  One bedroom had a king size bed and the other bedroom had two double beds.  We liked the space the room gave us, however the room did not look like the pictures on the property’s website and were outdated with uncomfortable furniture that appeared and felt dated.  Since the property is labeled a resort with a resort price, we expected nicer and newer accommodations.  The room felt a little dingy to us, but we were happy to get a lot of space and we didn’t spend much time in the room at all.  We did like our view from the front door of our room…Sedona from our hotel room front door

And the lobby was nice, the employees were great and the massages we booked and received at the property’s spa were really terrific!  I highly recommend the Los Abrigados Spa for a quality massage.

Me and the teens in the pretty hotel lobby.

Me and the teens in the pretty hotel lobby.

And they have a game room for kids that the teens enjoyed for a bit…J & A in Sedona hotel playing ping pong

Our #1 Restaurant Pick – Hands down most people agree that dining at Elote Cafe is a scrumptious must! Lucky me has met the chef on my morning show and every time he cooks on our program his food is perfectly seasoned, perfectly spiced and absolutely delicious.  Chef Jeff Smedstad is the real deal and traveled to Mexico over a 15 year period to learn how to make authentic and amazing Mexican fare.  And boy does it show and taste like it, truly!  If you go, be sure to order the Elote Corn appetizer because it melts in your mouth. Fire roasted corn with spicy mayo, lime and cotija cheese is a spot on treat that delights the taste buds. Pair that with a beautiful fresh red Sangria and you will be in cusisine heaven and this is even before the main course comes out.  We enjoyed the Smoked Chicken Enchiladas, the Carne Asada and the Grilled Ahi Tacos appetizer and all were fantastic.

tacosenchiladasMake sure you go to Elote and get there early to check in because crowds are the norm since this place is popular and good.  It was very cool that we were able to check in, go change in our hotel room and come back right in time for our available table.  And the ambiance was so inviting. especially on nice cozy patio with beautiful Sedona views.  When it got a little chilly for us warm blooded Phoenix folk, warm blankets were on hand to keep us comfy and happy.

Jack and his girl keep warm after our incredible meal.

Jack and his girl keep warm after our incredible meal.

And we cleaned our plates and then some….so so so good! cleaned our platesOur Other Yum Yum Picks:

Canyon Breeze Juice & Smoothie Bar is a refreshing treat and they offer some healthy juicing, too.

Canyon Breeze Juice & Smoothie Bar is a refreshing treat and they offer some healthy juicing, too.

Pink Java Cafe offers stunning views while you sip delicious coffee and enjoy their sandwiches and treats.  Look at that view!

Pink Java Cafe offers stunning views while you sip delicious coffee and enjoy their sandwiches and treats. Look at that view!

Sedona houses a food court in uptown that has a nice selection of food, cocktails and snacks.  We didn't find the food to be anything special, but it did tide us over the view from the court patio can't be missed.  Very nice indeed!

Sedona houses a food court in uptown that has a nice selection of food, cocktails and snacks. We didn’t find the food to be anything special, but it did tide us over and the view from the court patio can’t be missed. Very nice indeed!

Fave Breakfast Place:

And for a scrumptious breakfast with delicious local fare with Sedona flair, you have to try the El Portal Bed & Breakfast restaurant.  Even if you aren’t staying in the bed and breakfast property, the restaurant which is housed in the hotel lobby entrance is truly terrific.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of our divine breakfast, but trust us when we tell you that the tasty Sedona Scramble is a must.  With three fresh eggs scrambled with scallions, cheddar jack cheese, roasted peppers, and fresh tomatoes served with soft flour tortillas, homemade salsa, sour cream, cowboy potatoes and refried beans, this dish will delight your taste buds and send you off nurtured and full to start the day.  Everything on the menu looked great and I can’t wait to return to Sedona to dine there again.

What To Do & What We Did in 24 Hours:pink jeep tour pic

We highly recommend taking a Pink Jeep Tour.  It was so scenic with breathtaking views and a driver/guide who really knew his stuff.  And the ride wasn’t too rough, although you can sign up for all kinds of side trips and some are more wild and rough than others.  Here are a few of our favorite shots from the very fun tour….

 

It was very cool that our tour guide made stops along the tour so that we could get out and take pretty pictures as we learned about the history of lovely Sedona.

It was very cool that our tour guide made stops along the tour so that we could get out and take pretty pictures as we learned about the history of lovely Sedona.

 

Me with my children.  Hubs couldn't get away so he gave us his blessing to go on our 24 hour trip to Sedona and this time with my kids was priceless.

Me with my children. Hubs couldn’t get away so he gave us his blessing to go on our 24 hour trip to Sedona and having this quality time with my kids was priceless.

And having Jack's sweet girl come along was very fun. She is a great traveler and my boy did great, even though he was outnumbered by all of us females....his faves, Mom, girlfriend and sis!

And having Jack’s sweet girl come along was very fun. She is a great traveler and my boy did great, even though he was outnumbered by all of us females….his faves, Mom, girlfriend and sis!

Our view from the jeep.  Awesome!

Our view from the jeep. Awesome!

So pretty!

So pretty!

Our Favorite Shopping Stop:better candle pic

Be sure to check out Sedona Candle Gallery.  These candles are so unique and are especially stunning when lit. We plan to return for some of our holiday shopping.

There is so much more to see, taste and try so we look forward to seeing Sedona again soon.  What are your Sedona picks?  Share in the comments section and if you haven’t been to scenic Sedona, make sure you go and take it in as these two cuties did in this picture….

Looking out over downtown Sedona to surrounding radiant red rocks that surround this wonderful and welcoming town.

Looking out over downtown Sedona and the radiant red rocks that surround this wonderful and welcoming town.

Our Top 10 Maui Moments To Remember & Recommend

Now that the crazy busy school year is back in full swing, I have found myself day dreaming more than once about our magical Maui trip that we took in June.  It was our first time to Hawaii and it was as wonderful as everyone had told us it would be.  Waleia beach

A lot of people have asked me what island activities were our favorite Maui moments, so here is a look at our awesome getaway along with some recommendations on what to do if you travel to Maui.  I have also included links for easy access and planning if you decide to book one of these fun adventures ahead of time, which I recommend.  Be sure to keep reading because our favorite Maui family fun pick is the #1 item listed and this countdown goes from 10 to 1.  If you go to Maui, you have to know about this cool activity that had us tasting, exercising, swimming and more all in one fun filled afternoon!

And two items to note.  One of the smartest things we did was to tuck in early every night so we could rise at sunrise every morning.  Not only did we take in the stunning sun rising over the ocean, but the winds come in the afternoon so you want the calm waters for morning outdoor water activities.  Here is our top ten list of things to do and see in Maui…group by surf board

10.  See a sunset and a sunrise.  Truly make time for Maui’s beautiful sunset.  You may find yourself packing your days with the abundant amount of island activities that are offered and I do recommend that, but do make time to just sit, relax and take in the sunset or a peaceful early morning sunrise.  The picture below was taken from our hotel which is on Wailea Beach.  We stayed at the Grand Wailea and the property was a little outdated in some spots, but extremely nice and very family and teenage friendly.  I will blog about my review of that property soon.  While staying on Wailea Beach, we never saw any planes in the sky, only the ocean and the island of Lanai that is located directly across the sea.  It was lovely.

HI sunset

trees and ocean

9.  Reserve a morning for relaxing beach time.  You will want to be sure to do this on Maui’s beautiful beaches.  We recommend the  Wailea beach for families because it is so pretty and offers smooth sand and gentle waves, making it ideal for kids.  The Grand Wailea Resort and The Four Seasons front the beach and although this isn’t a private beach, the intimate and small space feels like it is and was very relaxing.

meg excited on beach

gals on beach in Wailea

fav pic of girls in Maui

J & J on Wailea beach

8.  Do an early morning yoga class on the beach.  It was as wonderful as it sounds and this was a great activity that I enjoyed with the tween girls….

yoga on beach

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Staycation/Vacation Reviews of Hotel Palomar, Ritz & Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch Resort in Scottsdale

One cool thing I do for this blog is review hotels and resorts.  So a few months ago, I booked a mother-daughter getaway and we tried out three different properties in one fun filled weekend.  Our big splurge was the Ritz Carlton, then we headed over to the new Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix and we ended our fun at the Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch Resort & Spa in Scottsdale.  The upside of coming to Phoenix during our hot season is that the hotels and resorts cut their rates a lot, so take a look and then book.  Find a weekend and treat yourself! Here are pics from our adventure and our review of each place…

The Ritz Carlton in Phoenix in the Biltmore Area 

The Ritz Carlton is a luxury hotel in a great location in the Biltmore area of Phoenix.  ritz phxI was able to splurge because with our American Express card we were able to take advantage of a promotion that gave us the room, two dinners and two breakfast entrees all for around $300.  The food is amazing at the Ritz.  dinner ritzI highly recommend the salmon if you ever dine there.  My daughter’s spaghetti was yummy, too.  And the breakfast was just as tasty the next morning with a delicious breakfast burrito for me and hot cocoa for my girl.  Yes, we like to eat when we vacation, so the fare at the Ritz was a real treat.  We opted for room service and the property restaurant, called Bistro 24, looked very inviting, although not to my tween daughter who thinks room service is the best invention ever.  I so agree!ritz bkfastWe never made it out to the pool, but after I saw this picture, from the hotel’s website, I wish that we would have…ritz pool

We decided to save our pool time for the resort that we would hit on day #3.  We wanted to take advantage of the cool location of the Ritz, so we went to the AMC dine in movies that is just a 5 minute (or less) walk from the hotel to see the cool Gravity movie with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.  If you haven’t gone to a dine in movie, I recommend it.  I was able to have wine brought to my seat and my girl enjoyed a smoothie as you can see in our photo, that is a little dark since we were in the theatre…movie smoothieAfter our movie, we enjoyed going back to our nice room with the view of the Biltmore with the Camelback Mountain backdrop.  It was perfect and the next morning we walked through the underground walkway to shop and eat at the Biltmore.  win viewOn our way, we got to see a bride and groom posing for pictures.  They were having their reception at the Ritz.  My girl loved that!  After we left the Biltmore with shopping bags and full bellies from the yummy Zinburger restaurant, we checked out and ventured over to the very cool Hotel Palomar, where we were treated to a super cool room by a good friend of ours (lucky us)!

Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix

Although this picture is from the Hotel Palomar’s website, I would swear this was the room that we stayed in because it looks exactly like our awesome room that we spent night #2 of our hotel hopping staycation….palomar room

As you can see, we loved our room and posed proudly as we got ready to head out to the super cool CityScape mall where the Hotel Palomar is located.  We were clad in our new clothes from our earlier fun shopping trip at the Biltmore.  
in room
I chose a 60s inspired outfit to match the retro look and feel of the Hotel Palomar as is evident when you step into the funky and fun lobby…palomar lobby…and the staff were fun and friendly, as you can see here when the front desk clerk challenged my tween in a hula hoop contest right there in the hotel lobby…

hula hoopWe loved the Hotel Palomar and we highly recommend it as the perfect downtown Phoenix place to stay.

We were then ready for a different kind of hotel for our last night of hotel hopping, so we went the resort route and checked into the Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch Resort & Spa in Scottsdale.

Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch Resort & Spa

This resort didn’t disappoint, especially at check-in where free margaritas are given to guests checking in. The prickly pear rita was a nice and tasty surprise.  Here it is pictured on our room’s balcony which had a comfy set of table, chairs  margaritaand lounge chairs for desired outside dining.  That evening we went to the resort’s restaurant called SWB, A Southwest Bistro and the table side prepared guacamole was scrumptious.  Eating by the fire pit was a nice treat. patio

After dinner, my tween asked for her favorite pastime, smores!  kiteat smoresThe resort delivered with a delicious kit and I must admit that I had two of those tasty treats myself.  To our delight the fire for marshmallow roasting was located in front of the Gondola boats, which I hadn’t realized the resort offered to guests.  So we took a lovely ride and our captain also happened to be an opera singer, so he sang beautiful music to us as we relaxed and rode along the waterway under the stars.  opera singerCheck out our relaxing boat pictures.  I definitely recommend this….

She wasn't really asleep, but it was truly that relaxing!
She wasn’t really asleep, but it was truly that relaxing!

 

Two thumbs up for the Gondola ride.
Two thumbs up for the Gondola ride.

We saved my daughter’s favorite attraction for last and that would be the pools and waterslide that the resort offers.slide galThe pools are nice and the slide is high plus the resort offers a sandy beach entry for the kiddos, too.  Very nice indeed.slide at gaineybeach entryWe give our weekend hotel hopping a big thumbs up!  Have you ever hotel hopped?  What is your favorite hotel?  Tell us in the comments section and remember to check this blog under the travel section for a lot more hotel reviews from places like Vegas, Washington DC, Flagstaff and more.  Happy travels….or happy staycation! us in boat

 

Our Review of the Family Fun Arizona Grand Resort & Spa

If you are looking for a family friendly super fun place to get away from the heat, check out the  Arizona Grand Resort & Spa in Phoenix.  This review was written two years ago when I took my girl and her friend to check it out.  It remains one of our favorite staycation getaways.  I am running this review again since we are now on summer break and I will run some of my other resort/hotel reviews this month, too.  So before you book, read on to learn all about what to do, what to eat and how to fully enjoy The Arizona Grand!  And do keep in mind that this review is two years old, so some things like the televisions I mention have since been updated. Happy Summer!

The Arizona Grand sports a 7 acre water park complete with a lazy river and very tasty Prickly  Pear margaritas for Mom and Dad!

The Arizona Grand sports a 7 acre water park complete with a lazy river and very tasty Prickly Pear margaritas for Mom and Dad!

 

 

My girl and her friend at our recent stay at The Arizona Grand resort.  Great summer rates there this time of year!

My girl and her friend at The Arizona Grand resort. Great summer rates there this time of year!

 

The resort’s website describes the property like this…

AAA Four Diamond Arizona Grand Resort is the leading Arizona family vacation getaway and Southwest meetings destination. The 740 suite hotel and conference center offers an 18-hole golf course, athletic club, spa, salon, a 7-acre water park, seven unique dining venues and 117,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space.

That is all right on and the 7-acre water park will have your kids entertained all day long, but do beware of our powerful sun rays here in the Valley of the Sun.  I recommend not letting your kids play all day at the water park because even with sunscreen, they can finish the day sporting a bad sunburn.  So come and play at the resort’s Oasis Water Park, but do proceed with caution and with a healthy dose of sunscreen that needs to be reapplied throughout the day.

Our personal experience with the resort was very good.  I did have a few complaints that included outdated and small TVs in the room and an $8.50 room charge fee for a hot cocoa order that turned out to be a pot of hot water and several Swiss Miss packets.  However, upon calling a very nice manager named Darrell, he let me know that updated flat screen TVs were on order and he refunded my hot chocolate charge.  He told me that he appreciated my feedback and would share my request for real hot cocoa, complete with whipped cream on the side and minus the lumpy powdered packets, as a potential future menu change.  I greatly appreciated his ear and quick response, so kudos to the resort’s management!

To share the rest of our experience, take a look at our pictures…

I love the resort grounds layout of the rooms.  Most areas have ample parking right outside your room, so valet parking is not needed, which saves money.

Here the bellman takes the girls to our room.  I followed in my car and found a nice spot close to our room entrance.  We never needed my car again since the property is nicely laid out with attractions in walking distance.

Guests can also be shuttled over to the property’s restaurants, spa, golf course and more.  So getting around, while not needing our car, was nice and easy.  The resort offers so many activities and delicious dining that there is no need to leave the Arizona Grand which really means that you truly get away from it all.  I like that!

The exterior of the rooms are shown behind the girls.

The exterior of the rooms are shown behind the girls.

The Arizona Grand website describes the rooms like this…

At Arizona Grand Resort, luxurious over-sized, two-room suites provide intimate, residential-style comfort. Each of the 740 suites at our Phoenix hotel has been designed to reflect the natural comfort of the warm Arizona desert.

I found that to be true and I love how every room includes two rooms.  Many resorts require an upgraded room rate for a spacious 2-room suite, but this is standard at the Grand, which is nice for families who need a little space.

Our room included nice french doors that lead right out to the Oasis Water Park.  For families that want to partake in the pools and slides, this is a great option.

Our room included nice french doors that lead right out to the Oasis Water Park. For families that want to partake in the pools and slides, this is a great option.

This is our view on the other side of the french doors.  The building pictured is the entrance to the water park, so the close proximity was terrific!  If you want a room close to the water park, ask for the Camelback building when booking your reservation.

This is our view on the other side of the french doors. The building pictured is the entrance to the water park, so the close proximity was terrific! If you want a room close to the water park, ask for the Camelback building when booking your reservation.

Pretty view of the Oasis Water Park pool area with a healthy amount of tubes for all.

Pretty view of the Oasis Water Park pool area with a healthy amount of tubes for all.

 gals

water slide

The resort has plenty of kid friendly menu items and yummy fish tacos for me.  We enjoyed our poolside lunch.
The Oasis Water Park offers a good menu with lots of kid-friendly choices.

And fish tacos for me!

As far as good food and fun goes, the resort's popular western-themed restaurant called Rustler's Rooste is a great experience!

As far as good food and fun goes, the resort’s popular western-themed restaurant called Rustler’s Rooste is a great experience!

The super fun slide that runs down the middle of the restaurant and close to the country music stage is great fun for the kids!

The super fun slide that runs down the middle of the restaurant and close to the country music stage is great fun for the kids!

With steaks, fabulous fried chicken, even fried rattle snake (not for me, though!) the food is plentiful and although not gourmet, it is satisfying.

With steaks, fabulous fried chicken, even fried rattle snake (not for me, though!) the food is plentiful and although not gourmet, it is satisfying.

Complimentary cotton candy was a nice surprise for dessert!

Complimentary cotton candy was a nice surprise for dessert!

We also tried the appropriately-named "Cow Pie" dessert which house coffee ice cream under a scrumptious hard-shelled layer of chocolate and on top of a yummy cookie crust and my girl enjoyed the classic hot fudge sundae.

We also tried the appropriately-named “Cow Pie” dessert which house coffee ice cream under a scrumptious hard-shelled layer of chocolate and on top of a yummy cookie crust and my girl enjoyed the classic hot fudge sundae.

We left with the girls adorned by the balloon figures that the restaurant’s talented balloon artist made for them and we stopped by the eatery’s gift shop to purchase two darling stuffed horses that sold for under $10 each.  We loved our fun and tasty experience at the Rustler’s Rooste!

On Day 2,  I surprised the girls with a spa treatment because the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa offers a fun treatment for girls aged 6 to 11 called The Pretty Princess Package.

Surprise spa services for the girls!

For $80 your little girl gets a manicure, a pedicure and a beautiful hair style that includes curls and a princess tiara.  I think $80 is a good value for three different services.

The girls loved it, but if I do this again, I will ask to skip some of the pedicure steps since the girls found that part to be long, tedious and a little uncomfortable on their tender feet.  In the future, I would ask that they bathe and massage the feet, and paint the toenails, but skip the trimming, filing and buffing.  Take a look at the pictures to see the spa fun they had and to see their after photos once the very talented hair stylist named Cheryl finished the styles…

Hair stylist pro working her magic on my girl. This is the before shot…
After and both the girls leave with stunning styles! Thanks Cheryl!

 

 

 

The girls leave the spa happy and so very pretty princess-like!
And if you come to spa for some mom alone time, without the princesses, there is a nice deck for total relaxation.
And a nice fire pit for the cooler winter nights we get in Phoenix. Come, relax and enjoy!

Overall we were very impressed with our stay at the Arizona Grand and the resort has some great summer rates right now.  There are rules and restrictions, so be sure to visit the Arizona Grand website for all of the details.  Happy Summer everyone!

***No compensation was provided for this travel piece.  The opinions about how much I love this resort are 100% mine. 

Why I Love Living In Phoenix….Even In The Sizzling Summer!

This and the other beautiful desert photos were taken by my cousin, Terri Lynn...who by the way...told me that she loves visiting Phoenix in the summer!

This and the other beautiful desert photos were taken by my cousin, Terri Lynn…who by the way…told me that she loves visiting Phoenix in the summer!

Manic:  The school year, especially during these hectic last few weeks when finals hit, year end performances are scheduled and more.  It truly makes my head spin!

Managed:  The summer because my kids’ schedules slow down and I can catch my breath and relax a little before the busy school year starts up again.  That is definitely part of the reason that I don’t mind summer here in hot AZ.  However, I actually liked it even before I had kids and this crazy busy life that comes with being a mom.  And you know what?  I liked Phoenix in the summer back when I was a carefree teenager living here, too.  And now as an adult, I appreciate it even more.

And April is Keep America Beautiful Month, so when Tiffany of Dropcam asked me to write an article about what makes my slice of America so wonderful, I readily agreed to share why I absolutely love calling sunny Phoenix, Arizona my all time favorite home (and I have lived in a lot of places).

Want to know why there are people like me here in our 112 degrees and up summer weather temps who are hot, but happy?  Read on and then tell me if you still think I’m crazy? [Read more…]

Have You Seen The Fancy Remodeled Holiday Inns?

I was recently invited to tour one of our local Holiday Inn properties at the “Change Your View” event that was located at the Holiday Inn Phoenix Airport North.  As you can see, we had fun at the event and the remodel has me excited to stay at a Holiday Inn on my next trip.  My fellow reviewer, managedmoms.com team writer, Julie agreed.  We like the new changes.  The fantastic remodel has been implemented at Holiday Inns across the nation and we are impressed!

I took our managedmoms.com team writer, Julie with me and posing in a fun photo booth was part of the remodel celebration festivities!

I took our managedmoms.com team writer, Julie with me and posing in a fun photo booth was part of the remodel celebration festivities!

If you are planning upcoming travel and want to stay at a nice place for a good rate, you have got to check out the new and improved Holiday Inn properties.  Here are a few pictures of the remodel that we got to tour.  As you can see, the new lobby is hip and updated.  It is also spacious and very comfortable.

 

new lobby
new lobby hd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also thoroughly enjoyed the new bar with the modern lighting and extensive cocktail menu.  It is a welcoming, comfortable and spacious area….
cool hd bar [Read more…]

Our Hotel Hopping Hula Hooping Weekend

Last week was Fall Break for my kids.  Some folks, who live outside of Arizona, have asked me what the heck Fall Break is and I answer with the fact that my kids start school on August 5th.  With such an early school year start date and with the absence of snow days (thank goodness), here in sunny Phoenix, our kids get a week off in October for Fall Break and a week off in March for Spring Break.  It was a much needed break!  Since the school year kicked off in August, both of my kids have taken on a mountain of activities that include travel hockey, high school golf, honors classes, student council, broadcast club, show choir, dance and more.  Plus after recovering from a sprained ankle and a virus that hubs and I shared, we were more than ready for a break.

Hubs took our boy to the big UT vs OU game in Dallas and they had a big time, especially since the Horns won! jack ut horns game 2013So since my girl and I stayed behind, we decided to have a little fun ourselves.  Once the weekend hit and I was done with my busy work week, we ventured out and hotel hopped for three days in a row.  It was very fun and it gives me the opportunity to review three different properties for you to consider when you want to take a staycation or have friends or family coming to town that are looking for a place to stay.

We chose three very different properties to pitch our tent during our three day hotel hop.  Our big splurge was the Ritz Carlton, then we headed over to the new Hotel Palomar in downtown Phoenix and we ended our fun at the Hyatt Regency Gainey Ranch Resort.  Here are pics from our adventure and our review of each place…

The Ritz Carlton is a luxury hotel in a great location in the Biltmore area of Phoenix.  ritz phxI was able to splurge because with our American Express card we were able to take advantage of a promotion that gave us the room, two dinners and two breakfast entrees all for around $300.  The food is amazing at the Ritz.  dinner ritzI highly recommend the salmon if you ever dine there.  My daughter’s spaghetti was yummy, too.  And the breakfast was just as tasty the next morning with a delicious breakfast burrito for me and hot cocoa for my girl.   [Read more…]

Travel: How We Saved On Luxury Perks & Beware of These Surprising Charges

Believe it or not, we actually saved money flying home in first class a few days ago.  We also figured out how to get a free room upgrade at our hotel, get a few rental car fees waived and we were able to enjoy a late checkout, too.  Read on to see how we saved money on some very nice extras on our recent trip to Texas.  I also tell you about some unexpected fees so that you will know to look out for these extra charges the next time you fly.


Airline Savings Ideas & Surprising Fees to Know About Ahead of Time:


kids moneyOne thing we do every year is save up our membership awards points on our American Express card.  We redeem them every summer for our airfare.  We usually travel with these points on either Southwest Airlines or on US Air.  This year we took US Air and we were able to get three of our four tickets paid for with our AMEX points that are converted into frequent flyer miles.  Be warned though….it wasn’t exactly free!

AMEX has a ticketing charge of $39.00 per passenger so we still paid  $156 in fees for tickets that we thought would be free.  Since three of our four tickets would have been over $1,000 (tickets were $436.80 a piece), then the $156 is still a lot less, but just be aware when you are trading in travel points that you may still incur ticketing fees, so remember to budget for unforeseen fees.

To lower your airfare price search, always book as much in advance as you can and travel on the airline’s slowest days, which tend to fall on Saturdays and Tuesdays.  You will usually pay more if you book on a Friday, Sunday or Monday which are usually high traffic days.

[Read more…]

Travel Alert: Protect Your Family From Bed Bugs

Manic:  Summer travel is fun, but it can be manic for the Mom (or Dad) doing the planning.  So much to do, packing, budgeting, planning  plus the worries about sunburn, bug bites and don’t forget the dreaded and very unwelcome bed bugs that can come home with you.  Ugh!

Managed:  Decided to welcome Jim LaBrie’s, owner of Bug & Weed Martkind offer to write a guest post for managedmoms about how to protect our family from these dreaded and unwelcome potential pests….the evil bedbug.  Here is what Jim has to say about the issue…

Jim says:

shadesGoing on vacation? Make sure you take the necessary steps to avoid bringing  bed bugs back with you!  Living in Arizona during the summer is often too hot to handle. As a result, many people choose to spend the summer traveling to cooler destinations where they can beat the heat. While traveling, bed bugs may be something you never think twice about, but it is crucial to be aware of what or who may be stowing away in your suitcase when you return home. Travel is considered one of the major causes for the spread of bed bugs.

Facts about Bed Bugs:

*They can be found in every state in the U.S. except Alaska

*One pregnant bug can lay 500 eggs

*Bed bugs are the fastest growing pest problem and the hardest to get rid of

*A bed bug will travel 100 feet to get a blood meal

*They can live up to a year without a meal

 

What’s the deal with Bed Bugs?

The most common bed bugs only feed on human blood and other warm-blooded hosts.  Bed bugs can conceal themselves in tight cracks and crevices, which is why bed bugs are often found in bed parts such as mattresses and box springs. Bed bugs also thrive in temporary habits such as backpacks and under the seats in cars, buses and trains. Although bed bugs do not transmit diseases, their bites can become red, itchy welts.

But don’t cancel your next family trip, just know there are simple steps you can take to protect yourself from bringing home any unwanted guests.

 

How can you prevent bringing bed bugs into your home?

  • Before packing your bags, pre-treat luggage and purses
  • Pre-treat your car if you are taking a road trip
  • When you check into your hotel room, place suitcases in the bathtub
  • Never put your suitcase on the luggage rack (bed bugs like to hide in vinyl webbing)
  • Pull back bedspread and check sheets for dark spots
  • Pack bed bug detection strips to place under leg of bed and between headboard and mattress
  • Pack an LED flashlight

 

What should  you do if you discover bed bugs:

  • If you are staying at a hotel room immediately report it to the manager and find a new hotel
  • If you are staying with a relative and find bed bugs, check into a hotel
  • Don’t panic.  There is no need to throw everything away
  • Spend the money and use the best mattress protectors on all beds (you do not need to throw away your mattresses)
  • If you think you or someone in the family was exposed to bed bugs, remove clothes, put shoes in the garage, bag everything up and immediately wash and dry, and treat suitcases
  • Do not move to another room in your home, this will spread the bed bugs
  • Beware of professionals that claim they can eliminate bed bugs for less than $400 per room
  • Know that you can safely treat rooms, furniture and mattresses yourself, with the proper materials, but plan to spend approximately 2 hours on each infected room

 

Bed bugs are not dangerous and to our knowledge they do not carry diseases, but they are one of the most difficult and costly pests to eliminate. Practicing prevention when you travel is the first step to take in order to avoid the problem altogether; but if you do find yourself one morning with bites on your arms or chest, take action immediately.

About our guest writer:

Jim LaBrie is a father, a grandfather and the owner of Bug & Weed Mart, a do-it-yourself retail store that specializes in bug and weed prevention, with five location. To learn more about pest prevention and protection you can visit www.bugweedmart.com or on the Bug & Weed Mart Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grammy Museum Visit Is Part 3 Of Our Show Choir LA Adventure

If you followed part one of my Hollywood adventure with my daughter’s show choir and if you read part two, then you know that I promised another post with yet another cool place that we got to visit in LA.  This one is really cool, especially if you like music and watch the Grammys every year.  Our show choir got to visit The Grammy Museum and we really enjoyed it.  With four floors of exhibit space, there was a lot to see and a lot for our kids to do with all of the interactive exhibits.  This picture shows a wall that wraps around with information and pictures that takes museum visitors through the history of the Grammy Awards with interesting facts, historic pictures and more…grammy

The tour took our group up to the fourth floor first and we worked our way down from there.  The fourth floor exhibit includes a cool section called Crossroads and this big interactive table is filled with facts, pictures, songs and the history of over 100 different music genres.  crossroadsThere is also a Songwriters Hall of Fame and unique artifacts from the different genres of music like blues, jazz, rock and more.  I liked the Stevie Ray Vaughn display since I used to enjoy his outstanding guitar talents and music when I was going to college in Austin.  He was truly a gifted musician and his loss was a big one for folks in Texas and in the musical world. 
vaughn
Speaking of musical cities, the fourth floor also housed a giant map with information about the different music meccas across our nation.  That was interesting and gave the kids a connection between geography and how music influences our culture.

The tour then took us down to the third floor, which was my favorite because I love to watch The Grammy Awards every year.  This area is the official awards area with everything you want to know about the Grammy Awards, the history, fun facts and more.  The giant Grammy replica is a perfect photo op, as you can see in this picture of me and my two show choir mom friends….
moms in museum
There is also a wall that honors Grammy legends Elvis (of course), Miles Davis and Neil Diamond.  I especially liked the Grammy Telecast area that gives museum goers a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to put on a Grammy awards show.  Here is the official Grammy envelope that held the 2008 Best Female Pop Vocal Performance nominees….envelopeDo you remember who won that year?  The answer is Amy Winehouse.  I did remember that one, but any other detail that you want to know from the very first Grammy Awards show in 1959 until now can be found in this museum.

Another wonderful area housed on the third floor is the Roland musical instrument exhibit that allowed our choir kids to experience different instruments hands on and even make music together.  My girl enjoyed the drums and her fellow show choir member got down on the guitar.  It was so cool!bandguitarI also enjoyed the Michael Jackson exhibit that houses some of his most memorable wardrobe pieces that took me back to my youth because I could picture him wearing these pieces in several MTV videos.  At that time MTV was a new exciting invention that hit during my teenage years.  The exhibit also shows the original sheet music from the “We Are The World” song and much more.Michael Jackson partAnd speaking of elaborate costumes, there is also a musical fashion area that shows some of the coolest and most outrageous ensembles worn by the music stars.  Do you remember who wore this one….celoAt first, I thought Cee Lo Green…but it was Elton John and I was reminded that Cee Lo and others that have come after Elton have been influenced by Mr. John in more ways than one.

For our choir kids this museum was a musical history lesson, a fun star-studded visual exhibit and a tribute to music and how it shapes our lives and influences our culture.  I highly recommend a visit to the Grammy Museum.

I will have one more post of our Hollywood adventure in a few days with several other spots that I highly recommend you put on your LA/Hollywood to see list.  So stay tuned for that.