Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • What is a romantic escape? Does it really have to be about time with your significant other? Does is have to be a honeymoon trip or anniversary journey? Is it who you are with or is it about where you go?

    My affair with Ireland began before I visited this magical place. I read about it as a child, with stories of fairies and legends like The Blarney Stone. I read about the mists in history books and her heroes in my romance novels. When the offer was made to travel across the ocean and actually step foot on this island, I jumped at the chance to meet one of my crushes.

    My entire being began to change when I stepped off the plane. My hair curled up, and I longed to start my exploration of the land that inspired so many writers. I visited faery rings, wondering if any of these places were portals into other worlds, like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia. I enjoyed dinner at a private residence overlooking the inspiration of Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats while my host read the poem aloud in between courses.

    I visited a seaside spa in Sligo and floated in a seaweed bath, imagining myself as a mermaid. I walked the streets of Dublin late one night, in search of Bram Stoker’s residence where he penned Dracula. I enjoyed a pint of Guinness at Davy Byrnes on Grafton Street, the place where James Joyce used to frequent.

    I learned about my name, Shannon, and the river my mother named me after. I also learned that the Irish don’t name their children Shannon, as it would be like an American naming their child Mississippi or Rio Grande, but the legend of Sinaan and how the river was named is a fascinating story in itself.

    I danced with friends and I danced with strangers all over the island, from Sligo, to Donegal, to Dublin. I enjoyed the food and the drink and the people. I fell in love with Ireland and I discovered a new depth in my soul and even fell in love with myself. I knew that when I returned home to my family I would be able to hold the memories of Ireland dear to my heart whenever I thought my life was dull with dishes, laundry, and carpools.

    Every once in a while, when life gets still, one might be able to find me listening to a bit of Celtic music, drinking a hot cup of Irish Breakfast tea, and flipping through photos or reading the poetry of Keats. My romantic affair with Ireland will always be in my heart, never to be forgotten.

    Ireland is a welcoming destination for families, romantic escapes (with or without spouse), girlfriend getaways, and definitely soul-oh trips. When you find the real Ireland, you find yourself. For more information visit DiscoverIreland.com or find your own romantic escape closer to home.

    This article was originally published here on October 26, 2008

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  • In anticipation of summer, Colonial Williamsburg has a special trip giveaway offer for Traveling Mamas readers. One lucky family will have an opportunity to win one (1) complimentary 4 day/3 night package getaway to enjoy interactive history and unparalleled southern hospitality at one of the country’s most popular must-sees for families. This summer, Colonial Williamsburg will be introducing a variety of new interactive programming adding to the fun, and the Colonial Williamsburg Resort is celebrating 75 years of hospitality, so you’ll enjoy the best in customer service, as well.

    Colonial Willamsburg Family Travel Destination image by Colonial Williamsburg

    Colonial Williamsburg Family BlacksmithProgram highlights this summer include RevQuest: The Lion and the Unicorn, the second chapter in a popular text message-based adventure through the Historic Area. To save the Revolution, players text in for clues that help them decipher codes and find symbols in Historic Area locations they might not otherwise explore. Find your allies among Historic Area interpreters and see if you have what it takes to save the Revolution! Additionally, Colonial Williamsburg’s newest exhibition building, the Public Armoury is open, showcasing historic tradespeople at work.

    Kids are invited to play games, learn to dance and practice 18th century manners at the Benjamin Powell House, help tend the plants at the colonial nursery, pick tobacco at Great Hopes Plantation, or take their shoes off and stomp in the mud helping the brickmakers at the brickyard. For a fun, family meal, the new Huzzah! BBQ Grille features great BBQ favorites with international flair.

    At the Williamsburg Woodlands, families can take advantage of the Fun Zone, including an outdoor pool, putt putt, shuffle board, ping pong, magic shows, cookie decorating, making your own sundaes and more, all right on-site at the hotel.

    With this offer, families can also take advantage of nearby Busch Gardens and Water Country USA.

    The Colonial Williamsburg Bounce giveaway package includes:

    • 4 days/3 nights at the Williamsburg Woodlands, an official Colonial Williamsburg Hotel
    • Daily breakfast
    • Admission to Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Area and Art Museums
    • Admission to Busch Gardens and Water Country USA
    • Access to the Fun Zone (outdoor pool, putt putt, ping pong, shuffle board, cookie decorating, magic shows and more)

    The package has a value of more than $800. Can’t make it this summer? This offer can be used anytime within the next 12 months, depending on your schedule.  Some blackout dates apply. The Summer Bounce Package is good until August 30, 2012. Aug 31-Nov 20, the package would include accommodations, breakfast, Colonial Williamsburg admission, and components of the Fun Zone (putt putt, ping pong, shuffle board).
    Colonial Williamsburg Family mini golf activity image by Colonial Williamsburg

    How to Enter:

    Leave a comment letting us know if you’ve ever visited Colonial Williamsburg and/or what activities your family likes to participate in during your summer family vacation. That’s it! Comments close on May 14, 2012 at 11:59PM EST. One comment will be chosen randomly via Random.org and the winner has 48 hours to respond once notified by email from TravelingMamas.com. Must be at least 21 years old. Transportation is not included and we’re opening this contest to citizens worldwide who are planning a visit to the US in the next 12 months. One entry per email address per day. Valid comments will be recovered from Spam.

    Thanks to Colonial Williamsburg for providing this fun family giveaway to TravelingMamas.com readers.

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  • Picture yourself at Walt Disney World, pushing a stroller around, possibly on a multi-generational family trip, and you find nap time is quickly approaching – for everyone. You just want a little Me Time. There’s nothing wrong with that. Parents need to stay sane and take advantage of down time, or even treat themselves to a visit to the parks WITHOUT the kids. Family travel can get crazy, so why not
    ask a family member to watch the kids, giving you and your spouse a few moments of adult time.

    Did you know there are nearly 400 places to dine across Walt Disney World Resort? And that’s not counting the portable food carts. In all, more than 6,000 different food items are available. And chances are, if the restaurants aren’t in the Magic Kingdom, they just might have an adult beverages on the menu for you to enjoy. If wine is your poison of choice, then you’ll want to know that more than 600 sommeliers have been awarded the Court of Master Sommelier Introductory Certificate at Walt Disney World Resort, with more than 300 sommeliers currently in restaurants.

    With so many restaurants and dining choices, where should you go for that “special” drink? Here are just of few of our top choices for a cocktail, beer, or wine while at Walt Disney World.

    Epcot’s World Showcase 

    United Kingdom – The Rose and Crown Pub and Dining room brings visitors into Victorian England with its etched glass panels, dark mahogany bar and authentic dart board. If you are looking for hearty ale, this place offers specially designed ale warmer can heat your Guinness to 55 degrees, should that be your preference.

    Mexico – The pavilion features a festive and colorful celebration of the beauty and culture of Mexico that is fun for guests of all ages. “Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros” is an excursion by tour boat through the vibrant, eye-filling sights and lively music of Mexico. If you’re interested in margaritas, you should check out ThemeParkMom’s review of inventive margaritas at La Hacienda de San Angel, a new restaurant in EPCOT.

    Japan – In the Matsu-no-ma Lounge, visitors see a majestic view of Future World across the lagoon while sampling sushi, Japanese pickled vegetables, tempura and exotic specialty drinks.

    Germany – Biergarten, an indoor German “courtyard” featuring a German Oktoberfest buffet. At lunch and dinner time, yodelers, dancers and other lederhosen-clad musicians perform an Oktoberfest dinner show. Guests are invited onstage to join in the musical fun. The wine shop nearby offers samples of Ice Wine for a few bucks. Definitely worth a try.

    French Champagne and Wine cart at EPCOT World ShowcaseFrance – Want a glass of vino but don’t want to wait in the long line inside the wine shop? Across from the front of France there is a wine cart serving Champagne, wines, and frozen blends.

    Want more? Check out our extensive list of wine, beer, and cocktails at Epcot’s World Showcase.

    Other Venues at Disney with Alcohol

    Victoria Falls at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Down a flight of stairs from the lobby, this mezzanine lounge serves wine and spirits imported from Africa, including Windhoek beer from Namibia and Imoya Brandy from South Africa. The specialty drink is a Victoria Falls Mist, with tangerine, melon and banana liqueurs. Animal Kingdom Lodge has the largest offering of South African wines anywhere in the US. Be sure to check out Jiko, The Cooking Place, too!

    The Wave at Disney’s Contemporary Resort – Trendy cocktails are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Start the day with a Pomegranate Splash (vodka, pomegranate liqueur, cranberry juice and soda water) or the Ultimate Bloody Mary (organic vodka, Bloody Mary mix and a dash of red chili sauce). The Pure-tini mixes organic vodka with organic mango and passion fruit liqueur. The Antioxidant Cocktail features wild berry vodka, black raspberry liqueur, açai juice with agave, lychee, aloe juice and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

    Tune-In Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, next door to 50’s Prime Time Cafe, looks like a family den from the ’50s, with black-and-white TVs and campy retro furniture. You can choose kitschy drinks from “Dad’s Liquor Cabinet” such as Uncle Tim’s Melon Margarita, Scooter’s Long Island Iced Tea or an Electric Lemonade. Beer and wine is offered, too. My personal favorite is a Magical Star. Check out this video of inside Tune-In Lounge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as part of our Cocktail Series.

    Dawa Bar adjacent to Tusker House Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Sit in the shade and sip a hard-to-find Tusker Beer from Africa or Safari Amber, brewed just for Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. South African wines are on the drink menu, too, along with cocktails like Lost on Safari with rum and fruit juices.

    Dawa Bar at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge

    Mizner’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa – A live orchestra plays nostalgic Big Band sounds just outside the doors of this lounge tucked away on the second floor of the hotel. The lounge’s namesake is architect Addison Mizner, whose designs launched a “Florida Renaissance” in the 1920s, so the sophisticated drinks are apropos: champagnes, caipirinhas, mint juleps and cosmopolitans, along with nine vodkas, seven different single malt scotch whiskeys and after-dinner cognacs and ports.

    There are more than 50 lounges in Walt Disney World hotels and three theme parks (no alcohol in Magic Kingdom. Again I stress. No alcohol in Magic Kingdom), making this list just a sampling of the many great place for big kids like parents to have their own magic time at Walt Disney World. If there’s a place you’d like us to know about, be sure to leave a comment, helping our readers discover new places to sample adult beverages.

    If you find yourself wandering around looking for a place to buy alcohol at Disney, all you have to do is ask one of the friendly cast members, who can point you in the right direction.  Be sure to drink plenty of water while you’re in the parks also, as alcohol is dehydrating. Designate a driver or take advantage of Disney’s resort transportation. Cheers!

    All Disney venues selling alcohol have a limit of two beverages per sale per person to limit overindulgence on property. Remember, cocktails can be fun, but this is a family friendly destination and not a place to act inappropriate.

     

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  • 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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  • Georgetown, Grand Cayman is one of those cruise ports and destinations that offers a number of excursions for the adventurous. A few years ago I went on a 4×4 Adventure around Grand Cayman which ended up turning into a race against the Go Galavanting Gals.

    During the recent Fun Ship 2.0 introductory cruise on the Carnival Liberty, I opted to stay onboard the ship so that I could sleep in and enjoy one of the port day spa specials. Little did I know that later in the day I would end up in Hell.

    Hell, Grand Cayman

    It all began with lunch at Hammerhead’s restaurant, when a colleague took all of our phones and wouldn’t allow any of us to tweet or update our Facebook status during the meal. A few drinks later and I was talked into exploring Grand Cayman with Nancy Schretter and Doug Parker. We hailed a taxi and asked for a quote to Hell. Getting to Hell is relatively cheap, with a beach stop on the way for only $15 per person.

    Beach at Grand Cayman

    We arrived in Hell and took the obligatory photos.

    Hell Grand Cayman photo opp

    And don’t worry about keeping in touch with family and friends in Hell, because there is a post office.

    Post Office in Hell

    Hell is similar to Hawaii. If you take any rocks, you’ll be damned.

    Hell Rocks SignFortunately, by the end of our day we were able to quench our thirsts and redeem ourselves in Paradise, within walking distance of the tender boats. I never knew Hell could be so much fun, but glad to end my Grand Cayman adventure in Paradise.

    Caybrew at Paradise in Grand Cayman cruise port stop

    Special thanks to Carnival Cruise Lines for providing this trip to Hell. This was part of the Fun Ship 2.0 media introductory cruise. It was tons of fun and if you plan on a cruise with Grand Cayman on your itinerary, a trip to Hell is a must. At least once.

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