Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • Cherries hold a special place in my heart. My summers as a kid included afternoons of relaxing around my grandmother’s home in Alabama and snacking on fresh cherries with my aunt who’s only a few years older than me. I can’t forget about all those desserts that are topped with cherries. As I grew older, cherries could be found in my cocktails. However, I never considered the healthy aspects of snacking on cherries and quite frankly have taken them for granted. Now that I have my own children, health when snacking is something I take seriously, especially on all those family road trips we like to take.

    dried cherriesI recently received a number of dried cherry packets to sample with my family. I’ve not only shared them with friends and family, but we’ve all been sneaking a cherry here and there because they taste like candy. We decided to make a trail mix as a healthy road trip snack with cherries and even gave the recipe and some cherries to our neighbor who is soon taking a two week road trip to Yellowstone.

    The cherries weren’t the only items to arrive in the promotional package. I was also sent a beautiful Kashmere travel set, a Tory Burch small cosmetic case, and a reusable tote from the Cherry Marketing Institute printed with the website All the items are a beautiful cherry red (that even match my car). I checked out the sponsor website and didn’t realize all the benefits of consuming these delicious cherries. Here are some facts that surprised me:

    Jet Lag Relief – I fly frequently, so finding out that cherries are rich in melatonin. Melatonin helps regulate the natural sleep cycle so that weary travelers can be restored to normal sleeping patterns, which eases jet lag.

    Pain Relief – Cherries are particularly rich in anthocyanins – compounds that researchers have linked to reduced inflammation in the body. This means that arthritis and other inflammatory diseases can possibly be managed with cherry juice or the actual cherry itself. They’ve also been known to help runners recover more quickly post-race.

    Good for your Heart – Cherries are considered a “Super Fruit” and some studies have shown that consuming cherries helps reduce infection and inflammation due to heart disease.

    I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv, but I do know one thing – cherries taste really good! I’ll be making a conscious effort to make cherries part of our daily culinary routine and make sure that we pack them along on our future travels. In fact, I just may take a visit to the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, MI being held in a few weeks. I’ll be sure to bring along a pack of cherries to snack on during my travels. Be sure to check out for more information on the health benefits of cherries or to find a few tasty recipes for travel and home.

    Want to try some delicious cherries and get your hands on the designer items mentioned in this post? Check out and leave a comment stating which recipe on the site is your favorite. One winner will be randomly chosen through Contest closes Monday, June 28 at 11:59 pm CST with winner being announced sometime the next day. Open to US residents 18 years of age or older. Prize is (1) Tory Burch small cosmetic bag in red, (1) Kashmere travel set with scarf, socks, eye mask, and pillow case in red, (1) logo reusable tote, and a few samples of cherries. MSRP valued at over $345.00 US.

    Review items and prizes sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute but in no way influenced opinion in this article. The cherries really were delicious!

    Winner Update: Congrats to Leanne, lucky number 13!

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  • When the kids are happy, it makes a mama happy. Marriott International is banking on this statement to make entire families happy with the launch of their family travel promotion “Nickelodeon Your Stay”. This special promotion starts July 1 through December 26, 2010 and will be available at nearly 2,000 participating hotels across seven Marriott brands.

    Make Your Own SpongeBob 3-D Craft Marriott International Nickelodeon Your Stay Promotion by Shannon Hurst LaneI was able to get my hands on the actual items used during this promotion and have to admit that Marriott International has hit a home run with the “Nickelodeon Your Stay” family travel experience. Our entire neighborhood got in on the package opening action because the box sent to me included a picture of Dora the Explorer on the front. My kids are getting a bit older, but my 14 year old tore open the SpongeBob Squarepants 3-D craft and went to town putting it together. My daughter (age 12) pulled out her box of crayons and proceeded to color and play the games on the activity packet. My neighbor stopped by with her little ones ages three and five and I asked, “Who likes SpongeBob?”

    The three year old froze in his tracks, took a deep breath and started screaming, “I do!” over and over. I thought the poor thing was going to hyperventilate. He was so happy as he walked back down the sidewalk holding his mom’s hand and carrying the SpongeBob pillowcase over his shoulder. His sister told me she was a big girl and needed the book so she could read to her little brother and she also claimed the Nickelodeon logo sunglasses.

    Imagine how excited all the different age groups of kids will be when they experience some of these items while on vacation. Below are the details provided by Marriott International on what’s included with this promotion. Also, just so you know, this promotion is not available within a 150 mile radius of the Orlando, Florida area or in Quebec province. Be sure to check with your hotel and book your stay online through or call 877-NICK-STAY


    The Nickelodeon Your Stay offer will be available at Marriott brands, including JW Marriott, Marriott, Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites and TownePlace Suites. During the promotional period, kids staying at any of the almost 2,000 participating Marriott locations offering this program will receive a free bracelet with an online code (url) to an exclusive SpongeBob SquarePants branded game on; a book full of activities such as mazes and brain teasers; and Nickelodeon activity placemats during meal times.

    Additionally, parents can upgrade their experience by booking a Nickelodeon Your Stay package. At Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, TownePlace Suites and SpringHill Suites hotels, the items ($10 if purchased at the front desk) will include a SpongeBob SquarePants activity bag, a brightly colored splash ball, Nickelodeon sun glasses and a 3-D “build-your-own SpongeBob” craft.

    At Marriott and JW Marriott hotels, the Nickelodeon Your Stay promotion costs $20 if purchased at the

    front desk, and also includes a SpongeBob pillowcase and a travel-themed SpongeBob storybook at turndown.

    “This is a very exciting family travel promotion and by working with Nickelodeon we hope to provide a memorable and delightful stay experience for kids,” said Peggy Fang Roe, Marriott’s vice president of brand management. “After extensive research with families, we have designed this promotion with simple touches to make travel a little easier for parents and more fun for kids.”

    She added, “the Nickelodeon Your Stay at Marriott promotion was created to help alleviate the five areas that parents said were most stressful when traveling with kids, specifically planning, arrival, down time, meal time and bedtime. Most importantly, parents said their happiness on trips was a direct result of how happy their kids were on the trip.”

    “The Nickelodeon Your Stay promotion allows kids to experience the Nick brand through entertaining and practical premiums,” said Stuart Rosenstein, Senior Vice President, Nickelodeon Recreation. “Marriott brands are great vacation destinations for families and this new promotion will help kids extend their experience with Nick-themed items they can take home.”


    What do you think of this family travel promotion? Love it? Hate it? Does this offer give you an incentive to book a Marriott International property over another hotel? We want to know.

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  • Blairsville’s lakes beckon families for old-fashioned summertime fun – those lazy days of lounging on a sunny beach, showing off underwater handstands, and wolfing down a grilled picnic lunch so you can splash back into the lake, only to be told by Mom that you have to wait.

    Located deep in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest amidst North Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Blairsville beckons families with abundant and affordable family fun at its pristine lakes: crystal clear 18-acre Lake Winfield Scott in Suches; the 4,180-acre Lake Nottely with 106 miles of shoreline, two marinas and public boat ramps; and the 20-acre lake and swimming beach at one of Georgia’s most beloved summer getaways, Vogel State Park. Find your family getaway at

    On land, families can trek the 300-yard trail to Helton Creek Falls to see twin cascades set in a deep hardwood forest and head to nearby Brasstown Bald Mountain, Georgia’s highest elevation and one that offers a view of four states. They can follow the Misty Mountain Railroad – America’s largest 0-gauge train display with a 3,400-square foot layout featuring 14 Lionel trains – along 5,280 feet of track over 12 bridges and four trestles and through 15 tunnels; and find the unexpected at Sleepy Hollow, an enchanted fairyland of fanciful gardens, gnome homes, gypsy wagons and other dwellings where one might expect hobbits, gnomes and gremlins to live.

    Blairsville has an abundance of free attractions, including Lake Nottely and Lake Winfield Scott, Vogel State Park (parking only), Historic Courthouse Museum (including the internationally renowned Margarita Morgan Miniature Collection), Downtown Sculpture Garden, Sleepy Hollow Fairy Houses, Trackrock petroglyphs, Misty Mountain Model Railroad (free for 16 & under), hiking/waterfalls, two alpaca farms and Brasstown Bald. Free summer festivals include Blairsville’s Fourth of July Celebration, the Butternut Creek Festival, which celebrates the arts of the mountain region, and the new Green Bean Festival with pageants, square dance, tractor show, quilting exhibit, storytellers, crafts, green bean pizza eating contest and more.

    Blairsville has a charmer of a restaurant scene that includes pizza parlors, scratch-cooking cafés, pull-up-a-stool diners like the fun Aviator Café, palate pleasers like JB Roosters Wing House for its monster burgers, and the place all the locals know: The Sawmill Place, home of the mouth watering 32-ingredient Morning Glory muffin. Its lodging landscape was made with families in mind, with deluxe cabin accommodations with lots of elbow room for everyone – not to mention hot tubs, fireplaces, board games, even game rooms with pool table, dart boards and air hockey – tucked all over the county and with stunning views of woods and water.

    TIP: Misty Mountain Model Railroad is open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, May through December. Tours begin at 2 p.m.


    With four distinct seasons changing Blairsville’s rolling landscape – colorful spring, verdant green summer, blazing autumn and white winter, this authentic pre-Civil War community lives up to its promise: “Each Season Something New.” Located deep in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest amidst North Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Blairsville-Union County offers hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding; water sports on Lake Winfield Scott and Lake Nottely and at Vogel State Park, one of Georgia’s oldest and most popular state parks; unique attractions at historical Walasi-Yi Center, the Old Courthouse Museum and the Misty Mountain Model Railroad – America’s largest 0-gauge train display; art galleries, arts-and-crafts shopping and artists studios; a variety of restaurants; and mountain accommodations from primitive campgrounds to gourmet bed and breakfasts to luxurious cottages and cabins. This family-friendly burg hosts nearly two dozen festivals and events each year, including favorites Blairsville Scottish Festival and Highland Games in June and the annual Sorghum Festival at Meeks Park in October. Visit for more details.

    Special thanks to Kathy Witt for providing this great post to help travelers plan affordable and budget -friendly trips. You can follow Kathy on Twitter @KathyWittLRC.

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  • Would you like to just get away from all the busy daily rushed schedule with your family and just relax? I have the perfect place just for this. It is the family friendly Ocean Isle Inn which is located on the island of Ocean Isle Beach.
    My family has been there a total of three times and every time we go back we just keep falling in love all over again. The staff truly treats us like family with their superb customer service staff. Once you walk in the door, you are greeted with a friendly smile and they are eager to begin helping you.

    The inn consists of oceanfront rooms and sound view rooms. The oceanfront rooms come with a very roomy balcony which has a table and two chairs for you to sit down and relax by the ocean. The sound view rooms have a little more space than the oceanfront rooms, but they do not have the balcony. Each room comes complete with a refridgerator, TV with on-demand movies, coffee pot with coffee and creamer readily available each day in your room and a microwave. The beds are just heavenly. All the beds are pillow top and once you lay your head down at night, you are for sure going to get a good night’s rest.

    The floors are tile which makes it so much easier to come into when arriving in from the pool or beach with wet clothes or sand on your feet. Wi-fi is also complimentary with your stay.

    Each morning, you will want to begin your day in their conference room where they have a free deluxe complimentary breakfast. This breakfast is just not a simple breakfast with donuts and cereal either. They have two waffle machines where you make your own waffles with batter. Kids love to rush to the machines each morning to make their own waffles with parent’s help of course. All different kinds of cereal are available as several different kinds of oatmeal. Yogurt and fruit are options as well to make your breakfast even healthier. If you would like a breakfast sandwich, they have several different kinds for your selection such as bacon, egg and cheese. We all know as well that people love to get their carbs in the mornings. You have a choice of toast, bagels, donuts and muffins. All very delicious and it will round out your morning breakfast. If you go away hungry, it will definitely be your fault . As for beverages, they have 3 kinds of juice, milk and coffee.

    The inn has a indoor pool and a Jacuzzi. The indoor pool starts at 3 ft and goes to 5 foot. There are several chairs for you to relax in the indoor pool or just hop into the warm Jacuzzi and let all the stress drift away.

    There is a door from the indoor pool that leads to the outdoor patio and pool. The outdoor pool begins at 2 ft and goes to 5.5 ft.

    The 2 ft is such an awesome choice with families that have small kids. My youngest daughter just thinks it is the greatest that she has her own section of the pool that is just for her size. You will love all the tile and decorations around the pool. Just makes it so much more relaxing to be in such a great clean atmosphere. The pool is surrounded with beach chairs and tables with umbrellas. A gazebo is located right by the pool for your family to have a picnic, or play a game or just to sit and watch the ocean.

    I do have to tell you that there is a constant breeze coming off the ocean since the ocean is looking south. You really never know how warm the outside temperatures are because of the constant breeze. It really makes for such beautiful sunsets as well.

    A walkway from the pool will lead you to the beautiful beach. That is what makes Ocean Isle Inn the perfect family friendly getaway. You really never have to leave the premises because everything is located right there. The beach is so clean and so big. Spend the day building sand castles or take a ride out on a sail boat. The pier is located right above the inn so that is part of your scenery during your whole stay as well. At night, it is a great time to take a family stroll down the beach and search for seashells. Each night we were there, several families were taking strolls with flashlights as well. I seen two families that found sand dollars and just seeing the smile on the kid’s faces was priceless.

    You will want to keep coming back year after year once you have stayed at the inn once. Like I said, this was our third time back and we are already planning our trip back next year. We definitely give the Inn two thumbs up.

    Big thank you to Ocean Isle Inn for hosting my family!

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  • The historic maritime town of Astoria, Oregon is the oldest settlement west of the Rockies and will celebrate its bicentennial in 2011.  With many budget-friendly restaurants, free activities and various types of lodging, Astoria is perfect for a weekend getaway on the cheap.

    For breakfast, head to the Astoria Coffee House for a grilled breakfast sandwich for $3.95 while using the free wireless internet.  Then, hike up the Cathedral Hill Hike through an old growth forest and climb to the top of the Astoria Column affording an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean and mighty Columbia River.  Back in town, listen to a free downloadable audio tour highlighting popular historic attractions and movie scene locations (via CD or iPod). The free tours are narrated by local experts who reveal little-known facts and help visitors relive past eras. After your tour, have lunch at cozy T Paul’s Urban Café for about $8. 

    Next, get a dose of history at Fort Stevens State Park and explore abandoned gun batteries and relax among the miles of Oregon beaches, lakes and trails.  At low tide, walk through the remains of a shipwreck at Peter Iredale beach and watch oceangoing ships navigate the bar from the viewing platform at the South Jetty (all this for a $5 parking pass). 

    For dinner, head to the Fort George Brewery.  Split a beer taster tray for $8 and the Sausage Sampler (four types of house-made sausage, three cheeses and flat bread) for $12.95.

    After dinner, take a waterfront stroll along the Astoria River Walk.  If you find your feet getting tired, hop on the historic trolley for $1 (operates seasonally).

    There are many lodging options for budget-conscious travelers.  With more than 600 camping sites, Fort Stevens State Park offers a place for a tent for just $18 per night.  Yurts offer a bit more comforts than a tent, and these domed structures include basic amenities from $30 per night. The Commodore Hotel has recently been remodeled and offers European style rooms starting at $69. The Rivershore Motel offers many amenities, including free high speed wireless internet, free continental breakfast, deluxe kitchen rooms and views of the Columbia River and Astoria-Megler Bridge, all for a modest price. 

    This information was written by Christine Gerrie on behalf of  the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce. For more information, contact the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-875-6807 or visit

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