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I took my first real snow trip last year to Quebec’s Winter Carnival and had no idea what to pack. I live in a place where it rarely snows, so not only did I have a lack of knowledge about winter gear, but I knew that I would be hard pressed to find a store that carried these needed items. I did what I know best, I reached out to my friends in the travel and social media communities and was able to gather together a list of things to keep me warm and dry during my foray into the wilds of snow covered destinations.
The Base Layer
I was advised that a good base layer is made of a non-cotton wicking material that draws moisture away from the body. The best materials would be made of wool or polyester. We call these long-johns where I live, but athletic stores call them body suits or something. Also, be sure to use liners for your feet and your gloves. I had no idea what liners were, but was sure glad that I found some.
The Middle Layer
On top of the base layer, you want to wear a fleece jacket or something along those lines. You’ll need something that keeps your core (chest area) warm and can be peeled off if you get too warm later.
The Outer Layer
This is what everyone sees, if they can see in the snow. I noticed that most people walk with their heads down when it’s snowing, so it seemed that the foot gear was the most fashionable. Get outer wear that is not only water proof, but is lined with down or other insulating material. You’ll want closures that are easy to open and close with gloved hands. Most important, make sure this layer has ultimate protection from the elements and that you can move comfortably. You don’t want to look like a marshmallow person when you’re completely dressed.
The majority of your body’s heat will escape through your head. That’s why investing in a hat that is fashionable and practical is a good idea. You want to look cute when you’re outside in the snow, but that fashion won’t do you much good if you get frostbite of the scalp. Keep your ears covered and something around your neck that can be pulled up over your face. Also, a good pair of sunglasses or ski goggles will help with the glare of the sun on the snow. I like The Polar Buff which can be worn in a variety of ways and make you look like the ultimate Survivor in the snow.
A mama has to keep her hands warm at all times so that she can perform those tasks of motherhood. Be sure to wear those liners and top them with insulated waterproof gloves.
Sock liners will keep your feet dry, but you’ll also want a good pair of woolen socks to keep your tootsies warm. Check out Point 6 for some high quality cold weather socks. Finish the outfit off with some serviceable and stylish boots that will help keep you upright (don’t want to slip) and dry.
Be sure to pack some après ski socks and shoes in a cute bag where you can enjoy a hot drink and snacks inside the lodge after a day at play in the snow.
Are you thinking of getting married or renewing your vows and want something exotic? Are you looking for a romantic getaway that caters to various lifestyles? What if you don’t have a passport? The Florida Keys is a destination for every type of traveler. I’ve been there with a kid, and without. I even spent a week there, just checking out hotels and resorts to see if they are places I would recommend to TravelingMamas.com readers.
Here are some of my top romantic resorts in the Florida Keys (or Conch Republic, as it is called).
1. Little Palm Island Resort and Spa – This one has to be at the top of the list. It’s a private island tucked away off the shore of Little Torch Key and crushed gravel pathways lead you to your secluded bungalow. There are beaches, piers, hidden hammocks, and no stress. Cell phones are not permitted and the only television is in one of the common areas. The onsite SpaTerre is a tree house of relaxation and Zen. I enjoyed exploring this luxurious island retreat, listening to the waves lap the shore. It is quite possibly one of the most romantic places I’ve ever visited. Children under the age of 16 are not permitted on the island. It isn’t easy on the pocketbook, but if you can save up, you won’t be disappointed. For those that can’t afford an overnight stay on Little Palm Island, you can still enjoy a fantastic waterside meal.
2. Casa Morada – My favorite moment at this Islamorada property was sipping Champagne on the Sea view Terrace with Lauren Abrams and the other ladies of Casa Morada. It is a 16 suite property with hidden areas for couples to soak in the atmosphere of this bay-side resort. The décor is contemporary Caribbean and I must say that I felt like I was at an exclusive club and I was the most important person there. That’s how Casa Morada makes every guest feel. Pets are welcome too.
3. Cheeca Lodge – I’ve been to this property twice. Once was for a work breakfast, but that visit was enough to entice me for a second visit with my daughter. It is a family friendly resort, but whether a couple brings the kids or leaves them at home, romance can still be found. The beach is true Keys style, with a bit of rockiness. Couples have their own part of the property, but those with children should take advantage of Camp Cheeca. My daughter checked it out for one day and then begged to go back the second day. Couples can take this private time and enjoy a couple’s massage or just lay out at the adult-only pool. Currently this property is closed for renovations after a New Years Eve fire, but should be opening back up soon. Update: Cheeca Lodge has reopened!
4.The Moorings Village Resort and Spa – Ever wanted to be a Victoria’s Secret or Sports Illustrated swimsuit model? Well, this is where many of the photo shoots take place. It’s a photographer and movie director’s dream. This property is actually situated right next door to Cheeca Lodge but offers the white sand beach people look for. The cottages are laid out around the property and there is an onsite spa. Scenes from many movies have been filmed here, including “I Love You Philip Morris” starring Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor.
5. Reach Resort – This Waldorf-Astoria property was my first introduction to the Keys. It has one of the best beaches in Key West and is perfect for enjoying a cigar and glass of wine. I didn’t see any kiddos at this place and the only noise came from me and my traveling partners. There is a restaurant onsite, The Strip House, which is definitely adult only. There are silhouettes of strippers all over, even on the wallpaper. It was a fun setting and the food was delicious too. The rooms here are condo style with balconies. Great place near the action of Duvall Street.
6. Tranquility Bay – This property is like a little neighborhood of beach houses that all have an ocean view. I enjoyed watching the sun set with sand between my toes and an ice cold drink in my left hand. Great for families. Great for couples. Great for a group of friends seeking a place to relax and chill but still have the comforts of home (like a kitchen and laundry appliances in your unit). The beach bar makes killer drinks and serves munchies. An adult pool is available for those that want to stay far away from the little ones.
7. Sunset Key Island – Cottages in varying sizes are dotted around this private island that is part of the Westin chain. I ate THE BEST stuffed French toast for breakfast there. It is family friendly, but the property is large enough that couples can find some quiet areas. There are special packages, even a Girlfriend Getaway package where a drag queen will come in and do makeovers and then take the group out on the town in Key West.
8. Dove Creek Lodge – This property does not have a beach, but it is definitely the place to stay if you like fishing. The property has an atmosphere of a luxurious fishing camp with all the amenities. They had me at “hello” when I was handed a CD to enjoy in condo and what was on it? The love of my life, Kenny Chesney. Got to give kudos to a place when they know good music.
9. The Southernmost House – One word: Haunting. This place isn’t just the southernmost place to stay in the US, but it is also rumored to be haunted. Funky décor and ocean view pool. More of a bed & breakfast/inn style than a hotel. Super cool.
10. Key West Marriott Beachside – I didn’t stay overnight here, just took a look-see to tell you about it. If I had to get a room here, it would be the ones in the main building with the balconies. The beach here is amazing and I even had a bit of time to hang out in a nearby hammock. That’s what you’re supposed to do in The Keys, right?
If you want to tour all of The Keys, I suggest flying into Key West Airport and renting a car. Visit all of The Keys by starting with a few days in Key West, and then meander your way north towards Miami so that you can get a feel for each Key. They are all different and have their own personalities. Key West is the busiest of all, with Duvall Street being like a beach version of the French Quarter at night. There is so much to do in Key West. The rest of your drive will bring you to the relaxation you may need before dropping the rental car off in Miami and flying home. Be careful though. Many people have visited The Keys and failed to catch the flight back home. For more information, visit The Florida Keys Official Tourism Site.
Here’s a taste of Sam Brown’s visit to The Keys, which aired on The Travel Channel.
Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach), Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research released his list of Top 10 Beaches for 2009. He uses a multitude of criteria to evaluate beaches, which includes water and sand quality as well as safety, facilities and environmental management.
The Traveling Mamas love Hawaii, but we’re also big fans of beaches. Period. Here’s Dr. Beach’s official list. Some are great for families, others are perfect for that romantic escape, but all are perfect for relaxing and getting some sand between your toes.
1. Hanalei Bay Kauai, Hawaii
2. Siesta Beach Sarasota, Florida
3. Coopers Beach Southampton, New York
4. Coronado Beach San Diego, California
5. Hamoa Beach Maui, Hawaii
6. Main Beach East Hampton, New York
7. Cape Hatteras Outer Banks of North Carolina
8. Cape Florida State Park Key Biscayne, Florida
9. Coast Guard Beach Cape Cod, Massachusetts
10. Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Do you disagree with Dr. Beach’s list? Keep in mind that past list leaders are ineligible for inclusion. The annual top beach pick by Dr. Beach has always been in either Florida or Hawaii, with the exception of 2007, which was in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
My personal pick for top beach of 2009 would have to be Nannygoat Beach on Sapelo Island, a Georgia barrier island. It is undeveloped, pristine, fantastic for shelling, and the first time I’ve ever actually seen the beach shimmer with gold flecks. Simply breathtaking.
Here’s a video by brew journalist, Ale Sharpton, that ends on Nannygoat Beach.
If you were doing the choosing, what beach would be your top pick for 2009?