Craft the Travel

Vero Beach, Cape Canaveral & St. Augustine; Not a part of Florida you may know!

We took a trip to a beach unknown and discovered a wonderful part of Florida! Friends had us to their place in Vero Beach. We delighted in local restaurants like Mulligan’s and Cravings, took in the local culture at the Vero Beach Art Museum and Mel Fisher’s Treasures, and spent lots of time by the pool and at the beach. Did you know that Disney has a property beach-side in Vero Beach? Located about an hour and half from the Orlando Airport.

After departing from our friends, we headed north up A1A into Cocoa Beach, FL for a night. We wanted to stay close to our next destination, Kennedy Space Center! We loved our time here. Everyone was awestruck by the size & power of all NASA’s toys. We had ‘lunch with an astronaut‘, specifically Anna Fisher. If you are visiting Orlando and want to do a day trip out to the Kennedy Space Center, you should consider this package.

Our next stop was in St. Augustine, FL at the Casa Monica, an Autograph Collection hotel. I was taken back by the charm and beauty of this town that claims to be the ‘oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the United States’. It began in 1565 by the Spanish admiral, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés. It screams old Spanish, European town. Gorgeous! The historic Casa Monica didn’t disappoint either. Beautiful intricate furniture and details that would delight any history fan. Sebastian felt like a KING in the ornate chairs that decorate the resort.

From St. Augustine, we made our way back to Orlando and stayed a night in the Orlando Marriott Lakeside near the airport. Anyone that knows my son, knows that all it takes is a pool to have a hotel make his ‘favorite’ list. Marriott Lakeside didn’t disappoint with their indoor/outdoor pool, redesigned rooms, and made our last night in Florida a happy one!

The city of Orlando and surrounding areas have so many opportunities for adventure, learning, culture, history and FUN! If you want a vacation in the states, consider what the Orlando area has to offer. Come visit Disney or Universal for a few days, but rent a car and expand to some of the surrounding towns. You will be delighted with the diverse options. I am happy to help get you in the right direction! #travelagentlife #craftthetravel

Orlando

Craft the Travel

This is not the Cancun I remember! It’s better. It’s the Riviera Maya.

The last time I was in Cancun, Mexico I was in my twenties. We did a typical ‘hotel zone’ stay off the strip, tanned on the beach and visited Mayan Ruins in Tulum. I remember getting off at a small airport and taking a small school-bus type van to our hotel. The guys on the van had a cooler full of iced down Corona and liberally distributed them during the ride. Long gone are those basic days for Mexico. It has clearly ‘grown-up’ in the world of tourism.

We flew on Sun Country.  I hadn’t used them since my 20’s but the tickets were a great price and I thought I would try them again. The flight going to Cancun was delayed twice, so they did rob us of having a real dinner at the resort our first night. We settled for room service after check-in. The airline did complimentary upgrade us to exit row seats and functioned on-time returning home. I want to note that with this airline if your flight is delayed – it does NOT mean you can check-in later than the 2-hr window from your original flight time. We did not know this and waited at home during the ‘delayed’ time. Come to find out we checked-in with 8 minutes to spare. Since charter, vacation airlines only fly a specific route/day/time they don’t keep a schedule like the majors (AA, United, Southwest) do. While this doesn’t mean all charters are late and all majors are on-time, I do think the fact that the majors have a schedule to keep helps them stay on time more often than not.  Just my two cents when choosing who to fly!

To my pleasant surprise, we stepped off our plane and into Cancun’s fully updated and modern airport. It was clean, air-conditioned, fast and efficient at handling the tourist. If you are ‘carry-on only’ you are through lickety-split. They have craftily created an area that you must pass through full of small lectern-type desks. It appears that these are here to help guide you or give information…..while they will happily give you info, it is not agenda-free. These are representatives of ‘Mexico Tourism’ and the Mexican-owned ‘time-share’ property Vidanta. They want you to buy/stay in Mexico-owned properties versus foreign-owned. They will entice you with all kinds of good freebies or discounts on tours/excursions for a mere 90 minutes of your time (try more like 5 hours). Just keep walking! If you have prearranged transfer or need a taxi, they will be waiting for you just outside the exit, so again KEEP MOVING.

We had pre-arranged, private transfer with Lomas Travel and they did a first class job at getting us to and from our resort. This was my first time to stay in an ‘Adult-Only’ property as I typically travel with my son. I was interested in staying here because of my desire to investigate the ‘Palafitas’ (which I will cover later), but the generous travel agent discounted rate on the suite helped seal the deal to take the trip. Oh, the demands of the travel business! 😉

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Continue reading “This is not the Cancun I remember! It’s better. It’s the Riviera Maya.”

Craft the Travel

PUJ, La Romana, Saona Island ~ Dominican Republic

Like most destinations in the West Indies, the Dominican Republic delivers you crystal teal-blue water and fine white sand. We found areas of our resort’s beach, at the natural swimming pool and off of Saona Island to be seaweed free and pristine. The trade-off to reach this stunning destination is a 4hr 15m (direct) flight (from DFW to PUJ).

Once you are in the Dominican you can elect to stay in Punta Cana where the airport is on the East tip of the Island or make your way about 45m Southwest to the town of La Romana or even farther West into Santa Domingo. Wherever you land you are likely to find yourself in an all-inclusive resort. From what we observed in La Romana, there wasn’t much in the way of restaurants outside of our resort. While the food in our resort was certainly edible and plentiful, it was different and challenged all of us to expand our palettes.

I would venture to say 10-20% of the people staying at our resort were Americans and the rest were nationalities from all over the world.  I had forgotten how much the rest of the world still smokes cigarettes and are used to doing so at any time/place they wish.  😒 The people that worked at the resort, as well as locals we encountered off the property, were all very helpful, kind and friendly.

We enjoyed the family time we had on the ‘touristy’ tours we scheduled. We participated in a day trip to go zip-lining, a boating trip to Saona Island and an afternoon of parasailing. Sebastian has really grown up and enjoyed these ‘big boy’ activities.

Our resort did have a restaurant at the end of their pier, which from what we observed most of the other resorts down the beach did not. We had one lunch and our final dinner there which were our favorite meals.

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We practiced traveling only with backpacks for this trip and while we all agreed that a lesser amount of stuff was ideal; we prefer that weight be hauled around on wheels versus our backs. I will be on the hunt for the perfect tiny roller bags.

Recommended Resorts:  Dreams, La Romana; Dreams, Dominicus; Catalonia; Grand Palladium; Nickelodeon Resort.

Things to be aware of in the DR:

-American Dollars & DR Pesos are both widely accepted, but be sure to take some small bills for tipping as when paying with a card or ‘on the room’ you are not offered a ‘tipping line.’

-‘Tours’ are very touristy and typically fully booked. Be sure to book private excursions if you don’t want to be a part of the crowd.

-Carefully consider whether you want to book ‘public’ transfers (vs private) as this will lengthen the time it takes to get you to your resort. You may be in luck and be the first stop or you may not…..and be the last!

-Wear insect repellent. Even though you may not feel like it is very ‘buggy’, other more unfamiliar creatures are around that may bite.

-Arrive to this airport (PUJ) 3 hours before your departure time. It is not a modern, ‘online’ airport. They make you stand in three (long) lines to leave the country. One to check into your departing flight, one to go through security and one (again) through customs to exit the country. The airport is an open-air building, so dress comfortably for the warm weather.

Lastly, after a long day getting home, I was SO INCREDIBLY THANKFUL to have Global Entry. We scanned our passports at kiosks, printed a paper for each of us, showed them to the attending agent and breezed right out to our Uber (we only had carry-on luggage). BRILLANT!

Leaving the Flock

10 Ways Travelling Has Ruined Our Kids Lives – Shared from 100 Bucket List Adventures

I haven’t had a chance to sum up our life choices into a tidy list like this, but if I had this article would have mirrored my thoughts and the experiences I plan to share with my son.

I’m not raising my kids to live a normal life. I’m raising them to live an extraordinary life. One that brings them joy, breaks the mould, pushes their boundaries and gives them the freedom to choose how they spend the precious days we have here on the planet.” -from 10 Ways Travel has Ruined our Kids Lives.

They’ve had to adapt and learn that home isn’t a place. Home is where our family is. It’s not the building that makes a place your home, but the people around you who love you, support you and make you smile every day.” -from 10 Ways Travel has Ruined our Kids Lives.

Travelling makes life unpredictable and that brings risk. But if I’m honest, this is why we travel. They learn that taking risks is ok and how to assess which risks to take. They learn to handle disasters. They learn how to stay calm under pressure and how to deal with volatile situations. These lessons are priceless and will serve them for the rest of their lives.” -from 10 Ways Travel has Ruined our Kids Lives.

I’m a firm believer that all the best things are outside of your comfort zone. If you want to be successful in life you’ve got to be comfortable doing things that make you uncomfortable. There’s no better way to practice this than travel.” -from 10 Ways Travel has Ruined our Kids Lives.

To view the original post by 100 Bucket List Adventures, go here:

https://100bucketlistadventures.com/10-ways-travelling-has-ruined-our-kids-lives/

Craft the Travel

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Leaving the Flock

Friends, Let’s Catch-up!

We are here in Orlando getting close to the end of our trip. This has been a well-timed trip.  Many things are in flux and changing in our world, so to take time to slow down and just enjoy ourselves in the company of family has been a nice change of pace. I will follow up with more on Orlando and Disney in a follow-up post.

I’ll catch you up on the last month or so of homeschool activities. We continue to tackle our basics (reading/writing/math/spelling/good citizenship) on a weekly basis and keep our schedule full of ‘field trips’ and ‘meet-ups’. The DMA continues to provide lovely, monthly art classes rich in both art education and hands-on fun. We gave a run at an ‘escape the room’ game with some of our homeschool friends and made it out with moments to spare. It was exciting for the team to work together and WIN! We worked a month on studying Picasso and cubism. This study finished with painting ‘Picasso inspired’ selfies. I guess my inner ‘she’ is Medusa! Ha! We have a new relationship with the director of Soar United, Lynn. She has REALLY stepped up to the plate and opened up the doors to Soar so our kids can have a fun, weekly place to be ninja warriors, play soccer and dodgeball. We are excited that this is continuing on and if you are Dallas local, feel free to join. (Tuesdays from 11a to 3p). Mention you are with the homeschool group for a discounted rate. We had heard about everyone visiting the Crayola Experience up in Plano, so we decided to try it too. We enjoyed the day, but for others considering it, we felt it was for younger kids or those really into coloring/crayon projects.

If you haven’t heard by now, we are making some big changes in our personal lives. We are selling our lake home in preparation of moving in a worldschooling direction.

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I have also affiliated with a wonderful, long-standing, incredibly connected travel company and taken on an Independent Travel Agent role. You will see changes as our blog evolves from just ‘homeschooling in Dallas’ to ‘Worldschooling and Travel Adventures’.  The deals, resources and inside info is TO DIE FOR!! I’m through the preliminary training and business set-up and really have not been as excited about my career since I launched Juxby in 2011.  I CAN.NOT.WAIT to share more info about this new journey and how it may help you too! CLEARLY a blog is coming about this.

Enoy the rest of your weekend and happy early mother’s day to all my fellow moms. Whether you homeschool, worldschool, public school or private school, we are all just making the best choices with the resources we each have available to us for the betterment of our child’s future. I salute you and hope you do something nice for yourself tomorrow! (like take a nap! 😉 ) 😘

Worldschooling

Washington DC: The Capitol, Smithsonian Museums and Monument Tours

Ok, I’ll admit Washington DC wasn’t on my personal list of travel destinations but now that we are homeschooling what better way to get a ‘civics and government’ lesson than a trip to DC, right?  Sebastian and I both agree this trip was fantastic! By the end, we were so sore and tired from all the walking, but happy and impressed!

White House

Here are a few summary suggestions: 1. Do not rent a car. Stay close to the National Mall. Traffic is bad and parking is expensive. While staying close to the NM may be more expensive, the convenience and access to popular sites is worth it.  2. You HAVE to submit your request to tour the white house 3 months in advance to even get a shot at getting a tour. We were under that window and could not get one. We DID get a tour of the Capitol which I was not that excited about, but would now say was the highlight of the trip. I will elaborate later. 3. DO make reservations and take a tour bus early in your trip. This will give you the lay of the land before you venture out on foot and help you better plan the rest of your time in DC.

Portrait Gallery
In front of the Portrait Gallery

HOTEL. I wasn’t sure what to book being a first-timer to DC.  I knew I wanted to stay close to the National Mall, close to all the museums and Sebastian wanted a pool. I am a Marriot member, so I do tend to look at their hotels first and found a Residence Inn by Marriot three blocks from the National Mall with an indoor pool. I was able to get it for around $250/night. We arrived at the hotel after a $15 Uber ride from Reagan (DCA) and were promptly checked in two hours early.  I was surprised to find a complete kitchen (except oven) in the room! It also had a small 2-seat bistro table, pull out couch, desk, queen-size bed, sink dressing area and bathroom. We were able to use Instacart & Safeway to have groceries delivered to our room. Mon-Wed the hotel did a food and/or drink give-away from 6p to 7:30p and again were pleasantly surprised to find a full hamburger, chips, and drinks bar served on one of the nights. Our room was clean, well serviced, quiet and comfortable. What more could I ask for?

Continue reading “Washington DC: The Capitol, Smithsonian Museums and Monument Tours”

Homeschool Resources

Practice Multiplication with this Cute Crawlies Worksheet!

Just sharing a fun multiplication resource! Practice multiplication with this cute crawlies worksheet!  multiplication_games_multiplication_crawlies

Need more practice? Head over to Education.com for more multiplication resources to help you master mathematics!

Leaving the Flock

Riding the Trail, Squeezing the Juice and Painting the Stars

I wanted to share a random, happy shot from one of our mornings. As a family, we place much value on decreasing the busyness and increasing the calm. Homeschooling affords us the time to support these values. On this day my little juicer and I made one of my favorite juices (recipe below) while discussing green vegetables and health, organic vs conventional produce, the mechanics of a masticating juicer and whether or not our worms would like our juicing remnants.

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Mexican Green Juice

6 Green Applies, 6 Stalks Celery, 4 or 5 Green Romaine Leaves, 1/4-1/3 of a bunch of Cilantro, 1 Lime and 1/4 of a Jalapeno Pepper (seeds removed).

We are both SO excited about finding River Ranch at Texas Horse Park. We learned about this ranch because it generously offers free services to the public on the third Thursday of the month. On that day, we did short little rides in their event arena. We loved it so much we booked a time to return for a one-hour trail ride. We learned a few basics about riding and got the feel for relaxed, western riding. If you want to experience a trail ride yourself, there is currently a Groupon. We plan to return for riding lessons over the next few months and take advantage of the pleasant spring weather to come.

We attended The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show at the Dallas Children’s Theater. I anticipated it being a little young for us, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a thoughtful, entertaining puppet show. It had almost a dream-like quality to it. The puppeteers did a lovely job of becoming their puppets and making their presence unfelt. This theater keeps the shows to 55 minutes with no intermission and has great organization with arrival seating and post-show departure.  Kudos to a job well done!

Last month at the Dallas Museum of Art, Jennifer did another wonderful job with the kids, teaching about The Silk Road, trade route. She told ‘stories from the route’, talked about the countries ‘along the road’ and discussed how China became known for its silk. In the art lab, the kids learned to hand embroider. Sebastian enjoyed it very much and asked if we could go to the store to get more embroidery supplies so he could continue to work on his design.

Level 2 robotics floor or basement level’s dino race are where you will find us at the Perot Museum. This trip included a tour of the NASA space exhibit currently on display.

Here Sebastian and friends took a ride in a space vehicle. The simulation makes you feel as if you are weightless and spinning around in space.

Sebastian and I coordinated a ‘famous painters’ series at Painting with a Twist in Richardson. For our first month, we started with studying the life of Vincent Van Gogh and did an ‘inspired by Starry Nights’ painting. This month we are studying Pablo Picasso and will paint a cubism ‘Selfie’. If you are a fellow homeschooler and wish to join us, please register here:  Thursday, March 29th from 12:30 to 2p. Use the passcode:  HIP HAPPY to register by March 21st.

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Sebastian is ready to try out the local skate parks this spring/summer, so I thought it was a good idea to get a few lessons in during the tail end of winter. We are taking lessons at Soar United on Thursdays at 3pm. There is a 4:30pm class. Both are open to the public, feel free to join us and chat about homeschooling! I have learned about my son, that his sport is anything with wheels or blades on his feet. His favorite sports are rollerblading, skateboarding and skiing.

Microsoft taught this month’s class about the Paint 3D software on Windows 10. The kids created or downloaded images which would then appear on the screen and through the computer’s camera. Sebastian finally got to get his picture with his Minecraft nemesis, Herobrine! Here are more details about using Paint 3D.

I want to offer a reminder to those pondering their child’s education; lessons and learning are found every day in everything, use that to drive your ‘curriculum’. Creativity grows from a mind allowed to think and question. Strategic thinking is spurred from reasoning through challenge. Happiness blossoms from a loving, supportive environment that respects and nurtures interests. Raising a happy boy that thinks creatively and strategically would be a good way for me to sum up my goal for this our first homeschool year. Whatever is driving that little whisper inside you to question the status quo, give it room to be a louder voice and research your options.

Homeschool Resources

The Great Backyard Bird Count Needs You! Feb 16th-18th

“Since 1998, bird watchers across North America have come together for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). This February 16th- 18th is your chance to participate in the GBBC as a citizen scientist! In 2017 “an estimated 240,418 bird watchers from more than 100 countries submitted 181,606 bird checklists reporting 6,259 species-more than half the known bird species in the world,” according to the February 7th GBBC news release. Participating only takes 15 minutes outside with your little one to record the birds you see. All the materials you need to get started are provided below. So, grab some binoculars and a bird book, and get started!” -Dallas Arboretum

GREAT BACKYARD BIRD INSTRUCTIONS

 

“Our spring #homeschool series kicks off March 12 with #PlantDetectives and CSI in the Garden. When you finish the session, step outside to smell the wonder of spring!”  -Dallas Arboretum

Spring Homeschool Days.