Traveling Mamas

Inspiring you to explore our world

  • This post is dedicated to all those Traveling Mamas, from the past and present, that have traveled to settle North America. This post was originally published Thanksgiving 2008.

    The United States has long been a haven for those fleeing political or religious persecution. It is a well-known fact that Native Americans lived in North America long before settlers from Spain, England, France, and all those from the East came to explore, conquer, and live. But today, our country (and this Continent) is a mixture of ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds. We are so fortunate to live in a place where we can be ourselves, where we can go where we want, where we can dream of the family trips we’ll someday experience.

    I sometimes travel alone to places, without a family member or a friend. It can be scary to many people, being alone in an unfamiliar place.

    When I traveled to Missouri a few weeks ago, my plane landed around midnight in Kansas City. People rushed off the plane, oblivious to those around them, anxious to get to baggage claim. I walked along, just like everyone else, until the automatic doors opened and a cold biting wind hit me. There was an older Black woman wrapped with a bed sheet around her head. She wore house slippers and held her hands out as if begging.

    People walked past her as if she wasn’t there.

    I stopped to see what she needed, but all she could do was make an unintelligible sound, tears in her tortured eyes as she looked at me. There was a lanyard hanging around her neck with a card she showed to me.

    “Hi, my name is XXXX. I am a refugee from Somalia. My destination is Kansas City, Missouri. If there is a problem, please call this number XXXXXXXX.”

    No wonder I couldn’t understand her. She was speaking in another language. I called the number listed and was told that someone should be there to pick her up. I motioned to her asking if she had luggage, but all she had was the plastic shopping bag in her hand. I settled her in the waiting area while I retrieved my own bag and thought of the bravery of this Traveling Mama, leaving her country with just the clothing on her back.

    As I grabbed my bag and turned around, I watched two young boys run to the woman and embraced her. Apparently they were her sons that she had blindly sent ahead to a different country to escape the violence and poverty of where they lived, hoping that she would one day see them again. The tears streamed down their faces as they just sat there, embracing. It touched my heart.

    The experience made me think of my life and how fortunate my family is. I am thankful to be born in a country where today my children can be raised without fear of where our next meal will come from and where violence is not part of a typical day. What are you thankful for? Be sure to check out TweetsGiving.org.

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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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  • Today is the first official day of exhibits for CES 2012. This event is so large that it fills up the entire Las Vegas Convention Center Hall and the conference space at The Venetian Sands Expo Center.So far I’ve only managed to see the South Halls of LVCC.

    This morning I opted for the monorail since last year I learned just how long one has to wait for a taxi or official shuttle to LVCC. The line to get into the monorail station was already extremely long and was a good indication of how my day would be. Fortunately, Nokia had a promotional dance crew providing entertainment.

    CES 2012 South Halls

    Getting into CES wasn’t as crazy as last year for me and I made my way to the South Halls before heading towards the rest of LVCC. My first stop was the Nokia booth so that I could see the legendary Lumia 900 in real life. It was gorgeous!

    CES 2012 Opening Day

    Then I set off exploring the rest of the South Halls and these are a few of the travel related finds that caught my eye:

    CES 2011 South Halls

    M-edge – Last year I was introduced to m-edge and man have they grown since then. Their previous lineup was ebook reader covers that could be customized. They’ve expanded their line with phone cases, custom ebook cases, and these funky military inspired canvas ebook bags.

    CES 2012 Opening Day

    Golla – Last year I discovered this brand which introduces a new lineup each year. The new products include iPad cases and bags for all your gadgets.

    CES 2012 Opening Day

    Zagg – This company offers accessories and protective covers for touchscreen devices. They also offer a line of products to keep those devices powered up when your juice is low.

    CES 2012 South Halls

    Samsonite – Most everyone is familiar with this brand, but they’ve introduced a number of new product and showcased some of their classic best selling items. The three-in-one travel pillow is one of their top sellers due to affordability and variety of functions. I was glad to see their new backpack, the Viz Air which provides a number of compartments for electronics, and even provides a layer of cushion at the bottom for safety in transporting a laptop.

    CES 2011 South Halls

    Verso – I was drawn to this booth due to the tablet covers in various designs. My favorite is the Vera Bradley collection. I can’t wait until this comes to the market because I’ve been hoping Vera Bradley would release a proper tablet cover. Plus, they also have a line of ebook reader lights in a select few of Vera Bradley patterns.

    CES 2011 South Halls

    Jaymo – Jaymo is a mom owned company providing custom phone and iPad cases that allow you to insert a favorite photo to display on the back of your device. It’s a cute way to personalize your phone or iPad and showcase your kids.

    CES 2011 South Halls

    iBrag – This mom owned company offers fashionable cases for tablets and phones and also provides compact storage options. The phone case is a practical item to take to the theme parks if you no longer have to worry about a diaper bag. It holds the phone, has a photo and wallet area, and wristband.

    CES 2012 South Halls

    These are just a smidgen of the many consumer electronics being showcased at CES 2012 this year. Of course there are home and lifestyle products, a plethora of phone cases, and so much more. I’m heading out again in search of interesting travel gadgets during my CES adventure.

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  • Celebrity couple enjoys quality family time at Orlando theme park.

    Academy award-winning actors Michael Douglas and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones along with their children Dylan, 10, andCarys, 7, flew over The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and past Hogwarts Castle while riding Flight of the Hippogriff at Universal Orlando Resort on November 27, 2010. Fans of the Harry Potter books and films, the family also sampled Butterbeer, got fitted for wands at Ollivanders and toured HogwartsCastle while on vacation at Universal Orlando over the Thanksgiving holiday. TheWizarding World of Harry Potter is the most spectacularly-themed entertainment experience ever created that was inspired by J.K. Rowling’s compelling stories and characters.

    This info was provided to TravelingMamas.com by Universal Orlando Resort. To plan your own visit, check out www.UniversalOrlando.com

    http://cocktails.travelingmamas.com/michael-douglas-catherine-zeta-jones-and-fami

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