Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • Traveling alone can be fun, but it can also be nerve-wracking for some. I quite enjoy the aspect of solo travel, as it provides a reprieve from having to compromise on decisions or having to take charge of everyone in my family. I can eat where I want, order a glass of wine during my flight, stay at whatever type of lodging I choose, and I can truly relax.

    Solo travel can also have its downside, such as loneliness or issues of safety. During my recent attendance at CES 2012 in Las Vegas, I did what I always do when booking my own lodging — I waited until the last minute. Not the best decision when attending large conferences or events in a city, but there you have it.

    By the time I committed myself to attending, the hotel choices were limited and room rates were through the roof. Since a few of my friends had cancelled, I searched for a property that would be central to all the media events and close to the monorail. I’ve cut back on my speaking and consulting jobs, so I also needed a property that would fit my ever dwindling travel budget.

    I ended up booking the Imperial Palace due to its proximity to the monorail station for transport to the LVCC and it’s ease of walking to The Venetian for the press events.

    Check In

    I opted for a taxi instead of my normal shuttle due to the late hour of my arrival into LAS. The taxi delivered me to the front door and as there wasn’t a line at check in, it only took about 10 minutes. The front desk was helpful, courteous, and kind.

    The Property

    The Imperial Palace on the Las Vegas Strip is an older property that hasn’t been updated in a while. If you are searching for a kitchsy Vegas hotel, look no further. As soon as you enter the front doors the smokey stale air hits you. At the gaming tables, I noticed tired older gamblers who looked like they’ve been sitting in the same chair for over twenty years reciting a litany of “Hit me.” I have to admit, I was entertained by the atmosphere of the place.

    Onsite there is supposedly a spa, but I didn’t venture there as it reminded me of an upstairs massage shop in NYC’s Chinatown. There are a few dining options at this property, but the selling point is definitely the location.

    The Room

    I thought I had booked a Deluxe room, but when I arrived at my room it looked pretty sparse and basic to me. It was clean, just outdated and worn, but what could I expect for something that normally is less than $40 per night on the Vegas Strip? This place doesn’t even begin to compare to my luxurious girlfriend getaway at Aria. It was still a step above Circus Circus, then again, anything is a step above that place.

    My biggest concern about the room was the lack of a top door latch. It just didn’t seem a sturdy and safe room door, so at night I would stack things against the door to deter any intruders. In all the years I’ve traveled, I hadn’t had a theft or break in. Well that streak has now been broken thanks to Imperial Palace Las Vegas. The last night of my stay at around 11:30PM someone entered my room. Fortunately all the stuff piled against the door fell on them and they yelled “I’m sorry!” and then ran off. I called the front desk, but was told it was probably housekeeping so I didn’t need to speak to security. Really? At almost midnight? Needless to say, I didn’t sleep the rest of the night.

    Imperial Palace Las Vegas hotel double room

    The Location

    This hotel and casino has a shared monorail station with Harrah’s. During CES the monorail had a system in place for ease of transport for all the CES attendees. The line was pretty long and I waited about 30 minutes to board the monorail. It was still cheaper and easier than trying to get a taxi or take one of the free CES shuttles.

    The property is located across from Caesar’s Palace, and if one takes a right on the sidewalk out the IP casino, there’s a McDonald’s with free (albeit slow) wi-fi. Another five minute walk that way and you’ll be at The Venetian.

    Monorail Station at Imperial Palace during CES

    Overview

    This property is centrally located in a convenient spot on the famous Las Vegas strip. While my solo experience at Imperial Palace Las Vegas wasn’t optimal, it isn’t a bad choice for those looking for clean and affordable accommodations while in Las Vegas. I hope that when this property begins renovations, they consider installing a more secure door lock system for their guest rooms.

    I would recommend the Imperial Palace for a group of friends visiting Vegas with budget being more of a priority than a luxury stay. If you are a solo female traveling alone, just make sure you bring along your own hotel door security gear (yes, there are items on the market), or just do what I do — rig your own system.

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  • It’s been a pleasure for me to see the changes going on in downtown Baton Rouge. When I was growing up, it consisted of a few neighborhood bars, restaurants to feed the area office workers, and office buildings. In the evenings and on the weekends, downtown Baton Rouge was a ghost town.

    Fortunately that’s changed over the years, and now Baton Rouge has its first boutique hotel — Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge. The building where the hotel now stands has gone through a variety of changes, with its original use as a hotel. Formerly, the Hotel King, the building was converted to dormitories during the Depression. It then served as an office building before returning back to its original lodging use. I recently had a chance to check out Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge and was proud to see such a lovely boutique hotel to house visitors to my city and state.

    Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge lobby

    The Location

    Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge is a 93 room property located at the corner of Convention and Lafayette Streets, close to the Mississippi River. Some rooms provide a beautiful view of the Mississippi River or the Shaw Center. As with all Hotel Indigo Hotels, the atmosphere is a reflection of the neighborhood, not the overall destination. The decor and design elements reflect many of the buildings and natural landscape located within walking distance of the hotel.

    View of Shaw Building rooftop from Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge

    The Rooms

    There are 93 rooms of contemporary comfort, two rooms being luxurious suites. All rooms have complimentary wi-fi, 24 hour rooms service, and allows pets.

    Standard King Room Hotel Indigo Baton RougeHotel Indigo Baton Rouge standard bathroom

    The Amenities

    My favorite amenity at Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge (besides the free wi-fi) is the complimentary use of bicycles. The property is also home to Ride Indigo, a regular organized bike ride that offers a festival feel for participants when the ride is over.

    Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge amenity - bicycles

    There is also an onsite fitness center, featuring an image of the Louisiana State Capitol steps.

    Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge fitness room

    Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge also offers an intimate conference room and a nearby business center.

    Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge conference roomHotel Indigo Baton Rouge business center

    Dining

    Many travelers fail to realize that Baton Rouge offers a variety of culinary options for the savvy diner. Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge offers a menu offering more than your typical hotel fare. The King Bar and Bistro is the onsite dining spot featuring Louisiana favorites that reflect the cuisine of south Louisiana. My favorite aspect of this venue? They use local suppliers for the ingredients. I sampled a few of the signature dishes at a small group dinner hosted by Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge. I enjoyed the dinner, the company, and felt like I was on a mini vacation. You can read my take on King Bar and Bistro.

    Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge King Bar and Grill

    After dinner, a few girlfriends and I sampled a few of the many cocktails at the King Bar and Grill downtown Baton Rouge venue. It was a truly enjoyable evening and I had so much fun giggling with friends and gossiping about the many celebrities that walk through the doors of Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge. This boutique property would work well for a romantic evening, a funky girlfriend getaway, or for business travelers.

    Hotel Indigo Baton Rouge participates in IHG’s guest loyalty program Priority Club Rewards. It’s located at 200 Convention Street in Downtown Baton Rouge, LA.

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  • The Gaylord Opryland hotel has re-opened after flooding in Nashville, Tennessee, forced the landmark’s closure this spring.

    And its grand re-opening festivities happened during the season that the Gaylord Opryland does best – Christmas! I stopped by the Gaylord Opryland on a drive through Nashville recently and checked out some of the Christmas decorations that adorn the hotel’s atriums. There are hundreds of poinsettias, and millions of lights.

    The resort calls its holiday events “A Country Christmas.” This season, the celebration continues until Jan. 2, 2011. It includes:

    ICE! – A walk-through exhibit in a building chilled to 9 degrees. ICE! is an environment carved completely out of 2 million pounds of ice by artisans from Harbin, China. This year’s ICE! pays homage to the Christmas TV special “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”

    SNOW! – New this year, SNOW! is an outdoor winter wonderland made out of – you guessed it – snow. There’s a snowman building area, a place to make snow angels and a snowball throwing range. You can make s’mores and even see some live reindeer.

    The Radio City Christmas Spectacular – This show straight from New York City features the famous Radio City Rockettes. It is performed in the Grand Ole Opry House and features classic Rockettes holiday numbers such as “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.”

    Louise Mandrell’s “The Gift” Christmas dinner and show – This show features Louise Mandrell and her band doing Christmas music, choreography and comedy, along with a dinner of Christmas favorites. I grew up watching the Mandrell sisters on TV and pretending to be them with my two sisters. I was always Louise.

    Outdoor Nativity – You can listen to the Biblical Christmas story and watch a light show at one of the most elaborate outdoor nativities I’ve ever seen.

    Breakfast with Kris Kringle – Meet Kris Kringle and Topper from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” during these special breakfasts in Solario restaurant at the Gaylord Opryland.

    It’s not too late to plan a holiday getaway to Nashville. You can still get tickets to these events, and there are package deals that include A Country Christmas events and a stay at the Gaylord Opryland.

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  • If you are looking for a tropical getaway with the family, the Mayan Riviera is a wonderful option. It is located on the east coast of Mexico and spans an area moving south from Cancun. The resorts are generally quite large with multiple dining options, entertainment, miles of white sandy beaches, a number of pools and many activities to keep your family occupied.

    Azul_Beach_ResortMany families opt to book a vacation with a resort that is geared towards families, like Beaches Resorts, Breezes and Club Med. These are great options and include lots of activities for kids, babysitting services and day care. We stayed at Azul Beach Hotel on our last trip and were thoroughly impressed with what they had to offer, including 24-hour room service, beach butlers and gourmet cuisine.

    It is worth it when you stay on the Mayan Riviera to experience some of the amazing Mayan ruins. Depending on where you are there are many locations that accept visitors. Remember to consider the weather (heat) and amount of walking involved when you visit the ruins. Bring a baby carrier for infants and note that most places are not stroller accessible. Make sure to pack lots of water and snacks and leave early in the morning.

    A wonderful park to explore with the kids on the Mayan cost is Xcaret Park. It is an ecological park where you can not only see the ruins, but they have shows, demonstrations, a lazy river, hammocks, snorkelling, and swimming with the dolphins. It’s a great park for families and helps you get away from the resort for a change.

    Playa del Carmen is a beach city with lots of shopping. If you are in the need to get away from the resort, this is a nice place to visit. Over the years the shopping has become rather expensive there, but the food and beach is still exquisite. There are also many shopping options in Cancun. You can have the hotel concierge arrange a taxi to take you into town to some of the many outlet shopping malls. Adults can enjoy the night life there as well.

    When planning a trip to a tropical location with the family, it is important to ensure you keep your child’s schedule similar to what it is at home. Plan your day according to when your child normally takes naps. Head to the pool or beach for the morning and then take a mid-day break after lunch. This will ensure that dinner time goes smoothly.

    Here are some of my parent tips for surviving a resort vacation with kids.

    Parent Tips:

    • If you have a picky eater, try asking for substitutions on the menu at restaurants. Most places will accommodate kids.
    • Ask what the resort offers for children like strollers, cribs, foot stools, etc.
    • Find out ahead of time what activities or sports the resort has for children.
    • Use gate check-in for your stroller at the airport and ask about bulk seats on the plane so you can have more room with the kids.
    • Take along pool and beach toys.
    • Consider bringing a portable DVD player with your kids’ favourite movies for a family movie night at the resort.

    Rachna ClaveroRemember to always be safe and enjoy your vacation!

    Rachna Clavero lives in Canada and is a busy mom of three boys. She writes about fun family ideas including vacations, local attractions, toys, games, crafts and more on her blog The Fun Family Site.

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  • The Gaylord Opryland Resort re-opened this month after the spring floods in Nashville forced major renovations at the hotel.

    I got a chance to stop by and check out the new look earlier this week. If you don’t know much about the Gaylord Opryland, calling it a “hotel” doesn’t really do it justice. It’s a giant complex – the largest non-gaming hotel in the country — and besides the guest rooms and convention space, there are four atriums, more than a dozen eateries, shopping, nightclubs and even a river.

    As for what’s new inside following the grand re-opening, the Cascades Lobby has been totally redone. Where it was rather traditional, the feel is now clean, modern and elegant. Glass mosaic tiles frame the rotunda area in the center of the room. The seating is done in warm orange, green and neutral tones.

    I love the obelisk lamps and chandeliers at the registration desk.

    The centerpiece of the Cascades Lobby is now this gorgeous blown-glass sculpture by Ludek Hroch, named “Resurgence.” It features dozens of blown-glass flowers in jewel tones.

    The plaque beneath the sculpture reads:

    “Flowers are our companions throughout life’s journey, our inspiring and faithfully returning friends. This exuberant creation’s infinite colors and shapes, representing a range from buds to full blossoms parallel the unlimited resurgence and rebirth of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.”

    There are also some new dining choices open at the Gaylord Opryland, including Ravello, which offers Italian entrees like braised veal shank and pork tenderloin braciole, along with inventive pastas likes a sea scallop and sweet potato ravioli.

    And The Falls bar, which is next to these gorgeous falls in the Cascades atrium, has also been redone.

    If there were one thing at the Gaylord Opryland that I would have said needed an update, it would have been this lounge. It rotated and had a 1980s “fern bar” feel when I visited about a year ago. The update has really done this scenic area of the resort justice – the bar no longer rotates, and it now has a much more modern, upscale feel.

    But after all the new, I just had to see if my old favorite place at the Gaylord Opryland was still the same. I used to visit Nashville each Christmas season with my family, and we would come to the Opryland Hotel to stay and take in the Christmas decorations.

    That was many renovations and additions ago, and you check in on a totally different side of the resort now. But I still remember walking into the hotel and seeing a grand staircase directly in front of me. My mom would pose my sisters and I for a picture on that staircase, which was usually swathed in Christmas garland.

    I worried that the renovations might have changed this area, but there it was – in the Magnolia Lobby, just as I remembered.

    Check out my Gaylord Opryland review for more on this Nashville, Tennessee hotel.

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