Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • The story behind Ecogear is simple, as told by Ecogear’s founder, Jimmy Chen:

    “My inspiration for creating eco-friendly bags came while I was on vacation with my family. In the summer of 2006, watched my kids play on the beach. Realizing how special these moments were and thinking about how fast my kids were growing up, I was struck by a thought. What can I do to help to ensure my children have a clean and healthy planet to enjoy?”

    Jimmy not only had the environment and his kids in mind when developing products, but also the moms who travel and make the purchases. These bags come in a variety of styles and colors to suit any personality. The best part? Ecogear products are not only eco-friendly but they’re super-affordable!

    Ecogear Earth Fjord Travel Gear BagThe company sent me a sample from their new Earth Series so that I could test it out while on the road. I was delighted to open the box and see the color – pink. I’m always on the lookout for bags that are colorful and make a statement. The Fjord messenger-style bag looked a bit small at first glance, but I soon found out just how much this smaller bag can handle.

    The Earth Series by Ecogear is a sustainable line of bags made from RPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate) water bottles with PVC/toxic free backing. The buckles are recycled plastic and includes natural cotton webbing and details.

    Travel writer Shannon Hurst Lane tests out Ecogear's Fjord bagI tested this bag on a day trip to Houmas House Plantation and Gardens to research their Art Gumbo Days which are held on the third Saturday of each month. I was able to pack my mini-notebook in the larger back padded pocket. In the front area I placed my Canon Digital Rebel SLR, with extra lens, travel harddrive and various other travel writer supplies. In a side pocket I packed a small reporter’s notepad and my Blackberry (along with a few dollars to get a morning Mimosa at the Turtle Bar). The other side pocket was claimed by my mother, who didn’t want to carry around a purse.

    The Ecogear Earth Series Fjord would make a decent diaper bag in addition to doubling as a traveling mama’s best friend. I still had room to add a few magazines and full size folders inside the back pocket. The strap expands for carrying messenger-style, but can be folded nicely and secured by the padded velcro strap to act as a handle.

    This item is currently available at Ecogear’s official website for a retail price of $39.99. Other products, including the sassy kid’s line start at $17.99. The Ecozoo line would be a hit with the little kids and they retail at $29.99 and there are other styles available for the men of the family. Follow Ecogear on Twitter @Ecogear

    This product impressed me with both quality and affordability, making it On the Move Approved.

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  • A few weeks ago I had the chance to explore the northern part of Louisiana. I’ve lived in this state my entire life, but as any average American, when it comes to vacation time, we always venture far from home. I’m the first one that will tell you to “Boycott the Staycation” as we see how detrimental the lack of travel is on our economy, but I’ll also be the first one to tell you to get out there and see what is in your own backyard.

    I really think the idea of a “staycation” is just plain ignorant. Last summer, the media was telling people how to save money, by providing alternatives such as buying an outdoor movie theater or visiting places close to home. Well, the cost of that outdoor movie theater is equivalent to a week’s condo rental, should you shop around. And as far as visiting places closer to home, you should be doing that with your kids on the weekends anyway.

    I’d like to call my foray into north Louisiana as a sort of reconnaissance trip to determine what I’ll do with my kids this summer on short jaunts. This will by no means take the place of our annual family vacation, but now that they are preteens, my bonding time with them is growing short.

    Here are a few of the choices I’m giving the kids for their summer learning through travel. This year’s theme is about learning where you live.

    Monroe/West Monroe Area:

    Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge – This 1600-acre lake is dotted with cypress, offers a visitor/education center (complete with baby alligators and various snakes), a wildlife observation deck, nature trail, and pier.

    Poverty Point State Historic Site – This 400 acre site has been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The earthworks are dated between 1650 and 700 B.C. An onsite interpretive center showcases an impressive collection of items found here. It is one of the largest mounds in North America.

    Poverty Point State Park – This park and campground  offers cabins for overnight lodging. The cabins overlook Poverty Point Reservoir. Don’t let the name fool you, these cabins are a steal at around $99 per night for a two bedroom cabin complete with full kitchen, flatscreen tv with satellite, screened porch, and even free wifi. The cabin I stayed in had a queen bed in one bedroom and two sets of bunks in the other. The wildlife and nature trails make for a true Louisiana getaway. Plus, the nearby Black Bear Golf Course is part of the Audubon Golf Trail.

    Ruston/Lincoln Parish Area:

    Follette Pottery – Hidden just off of Hwy 86 in Ruston on Pea Ridge Rd is one the South’s hidden treasures. Kent and Libby are the nicest people and on the second Saturday of each month, they cook lunch for visitors and have a sale. Don’t worry if you stop in on another day, you’ll still get a taste of Libby’s sweet peach tea. Their products are sold in 44 states.

    Lincoln Parish Museum – Have you ever walked into an old house and wished that the walls could talk? Well, they do here! The murals on the main hall walls tell a story, and there’s audio to go along, recorder by former living citizens of the area who recount their childhood stories and history of Lincoln Parish. Upstairs is like walking into your grandma’s attic (without the dust). The music collection made me chuckle, it even included an Ace of Base CD. Someone is very funny at that museum.

    Arcadia Old Railroad Museum – This train station/museum/office/tourism center houses a collection of paraphernalia from the Bonnie and Clyde saga. In fact, the funeral procession of the legendary duo ended right across the street from the train station.

    Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum – This was truly an interesting stop in the little town of Gibsland. There’s nothing like seeing autopsy pictures blown up and hung on a wall. I have to admit, it was pretty morbid, but I know my preteens will love it, even while they scream, “Gross. Come look at this!”

    There’s so much more to see in North Louisiana and this is just the beginning. Be sure to check out my state’s Official Tourism Website for more information. Don’t worry, there’s more to come.

    Family Travel Tips on raveable

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  • I’m currently hiding out at Eagle Island, GA, a private island located in the inner coastal area of Georgia. This is a unique destination where all your worries and cares can be left behind. As I’m typing this, there is a bald eagle staring at me from her little hideaway in a tree above me. Whatever your reason for a visit, be it a romantic getaway, a family reunion, or just a place for all your friends to gather, you’ll find this a place to reconnect with nature and your companions.

    If you’re looking for an all-inclusive beach resort with 24 hour room service, you should look elsewhere, but if you want to bring your heart rate real low, visit Private Islands of Georgia.

    Here’s a video I put together of how to get to Eagle Island and the natural setting of this wonderful retreat.

    If you can’t see the video, the direct link is on the Traveling Mamas YouTube Page. I can’t wait to come back to Eagle Island and share it with my family on our travels, or even with the other mamas on a girlfriend getaway.

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  • Last night, Peter Yesawich of YPartnership spoke to a group of international media at Disney World about a trend that has recently been identified in the travel industry: Celebration Vacations. The Traveling Mamas have been doing this for years (we celebrate everyday!), but now it’s got a name. After all, what better reason to travel than for a special occasion?

    The nationwide YPartnership study uncovered that people are marking milestone anniversaries (like a blogiversary, ahem), honeymoons, family reunions, and a child’s first vacation, just to name some of the top celebratory reasons to travel. Other milestones, such as birthdays and retirement, give consumers a reason to travel. In fact, my own dad chose to celebrate his retirement with a trip to Disney World (his first visit) and brought the entire family along.

    Top destinations for a Celebration Vacation:

    1. Disney
    2. Hawaii
    3. Florida
    4. Europe
    5. Caribbean

    When asked where they’d like to go for a Celebration Vacation with children, 40% of all consumers polled chose Disney as their first choice. Interestingly, both households with children, and those without, ranked Disney at the top.

    Say what you might about Disney, but the numbers tell the tale. People overall love Disney, and as a mama who is enjoying my week at Walt Disney World with my tween, I have to say that this Celebration Vacation is a pretty sweet way to spend a special time. Everyone should experience the magic of Disney at least once in their lifetime. I’m so glad that my little girl has a wish that has come true and we are spending wonderful quality time together.

    The overall message is that families are celebrating life by spending time and special moments together. I’m not just preaching, but I’m practicing this trend myself. Thank you, Disney, for putting more magic into my relationship with my daughter. Sniff.

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  • El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa, nestled at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Taos, NM, is an environmentally friendly spiritual experience that nurtures the soul. The atmosphere of this resort provides the perfect setting for couples to renew their relationships and grow closer together. It is a place for a spiritual retreat.

    View of Taos Mountain at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort
    View of Taos Mountain at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort

    El Monte Sagrado was developed around a Native American sacred site, The Sacred Circle. A few years ago, my good friend told me about her amazing visit at El Monte and how it will always stay in her heart. I became intrigued and began to plan my own visit, to see if it would suit for a romantic getaway. The resort is hidden from the bustle of Taos, but close enough to visit the shops on foot. There were 32 rooms during my friend’s visit, but they now have 48 new guest rooms and a spa expansion.

    I wrote this a while back, when I visited to help my soul recover from a major surgery. I really enjoyed relaxing in one of the new rooms, which all have a large soaking tub, perfect for couples, an oversized shower, and luxurious bed. The fireplace provides a romantic ambiance and the view from my balcony is phenomenal. The room is decorated with suede, river rocks, and turquoise accents. The room is just made for snuggling. I did take a peep into the casitas and suites, each decorated in their own worldly theme. Some of them have their own private courtyard and hot tub.

    Mountain View Room at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort
    Mountain View Room at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort

    I decided to take a walk around the property before I had a spa treatment. The original rooms are hidden in alcoves built around the Sacred Circle. I felt a pull and stepped over a grassy knoll to sit on a rock near the circle. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, smelling a slight scent of wood burning on the breeze. The golden Aspen leaves fell gently all around me, like a light rain and the trickling of the water was a concerto for my ears. The wind caressed my neck and a deep calm came over me. I can see why many couples choose to bless their vows at this particular spot and why my friend insisted I visit this place.

    Pool at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort
    Pool at El Monte Sagrado Living Resort

    On my walk to the The Living Spa, I stepped into the enclosed pool area, which was similar to a grotto. Guests can swim year ‘round, so if you should plan a visit, be sure to pack a swimsuit. I had previously looked through the spa menu, which offers intriguing and unique specialties. Their special offerings include such treatments as Spiritual Cleansing with Grandmother Jean, The Soul’s Blueprint with Julie Kelly, Egyptian Anointing with Maria Mikhailas, and Trauma Recovery with Terri Picard. These treatments need to be booked in advanced, so keep that in mind. I opted for the Signature High Desert Body Treatment.

    My therapist, Jack, really made me feel comfortable and relaxed for my treatment. I was led to one of the new treatment rooms, a round, Native American style room with a skylight in the wooden ceiling. It reminded me of the kivas of the pueblos. The treatment began with a Zuni salt exfoliation that included a special oil blend of indigenous plants and flowers. The next step was a wrap of volcanic ash mask that draws out the toxins in the body. It was completed by a gentle massage that left me renewed in spirit and mind. I don’t write this lightly, but this was truly the best spa treatment I have ever experienced.

    Pork Loin Entree at El Monte Sagrado in Taos
    Pork Loin Entree at El Monte Sagrado in Taos

    Couples also look for fine dining during their romantic getaways, and El Monte Sagrado covers the cuisine aspect, as well as the spiritual well-being. Chef Ruben Tanuz prepares a menu full of fresh, organic dishes that delight all the senses. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner all offer surprises for the visiting couples. The onsite Anaconda Bar is also a favorite with visitors and locals alike. The bar’s mixologist, Jesse, is talented with his libations. Be sure to try Jesse’s Ginger Zen or the signature Kessler Kiss.

    This resort offers so much, that I hardly left the property. Fortunately, local artist Stephen Long offers customized guided tours through the property’s gift shop. He can take couples to Taos Pueblo, escort them around the art galleries, or even bring them to the nearby hot springs hidden in the mountains. Stephen took me to a few notable historic sites, but I was anxious to get back to El Monte and relax on the grounds. I took a quiet walk and noticed a couple sitting at the Sacred Circle, holding hands. Another couple was sitting on their verandah sipping champagne. Even a famous celebrity couple (who shall remain nameless) spent a weekend here and enjoyed a couple’s massage.

    El Monte Sagrado is not inexpensive, but well worth the visit. I would encourage couples looking for that special romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day, an anniversary, or anytime for that matter, to make plans to experience a personal couples retreat in the arms of this beautiful and intimate resort

    To learn more about El Monte Sagrado, visit http://elmontesagrado.com. This property is part of the Kessler Collection and The Leading Small Hotels of the World, as well as being a AAA Four Diamond Resort.

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