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! 😉

20180724_121201

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.

20180708_171354(0)

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!

Guest Bloggers

A Tiny Taste of Tokyo

Tokyo is a highly populated, dense metropolis of approximately 845 square miles that I had the pleasure to briefly explore in May.  When traveling to Tokyo, it is best to do the following ahead of time:

  1. Download the Google Translate app to help you with menus, directions and outdoor vending machines, and learn some basic Japanese phrases such as “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me” and “I don’t understand”. Very few people speak English, especially off the beaten path.
  2. Plan to spend a LOT of ¥en as many places (including taxis, train station kiosks, and local restaurants) do not take credit cards!
  3. Your best bet is to get Yen ahead of time through your bank or via Travelex super convenient as 45 minute wait times at the airport are likely. Travelex will even buy back your yen with a pre-paid return envelope upon returning home.  Keep in mind banks and Travelex do not buy back coins (only bills) so use up your coins – a ¥500 coin is equivalent to a $5 U.S. bill!  ¥en is so absolutely lovely you almost don’t want to spend it!  But… you will. 32946187_10216374642988310_1634453691438202880_n-1.jpg
  4. Wifi is spotty and not available in many locations. Here’s a brill concept… have a pocket wifi delivered to your hotel!  Once fully charged it will run up to 12 hours and you have wifi everywhere you go in the city – they will deliver to most hotels (mine was there upon check-in) and give you a prepaid return envelope to give to the hotel concierge upon checkout.  Stick the small device in your purse or pocket for continuous wifi.  Super duper convenient!
  5. Bring printed copies of the addresses of your hotel and places you plan to or think you might visit along with printed photos. These will be helpful when asking for directions!
  6. Work on your pantomiming skills.  Many Japanese will humor you by watching and attempting to figure out what you need/are trying to convey and others will flat out ignore your antics.  Either way, you’ll get a slight workout.
  7. Plan to use public transportation from the Narita airport (Skyliner train) and around the city as taxis are very expensive, drivers speak little or no English, and they don’t accept credit cards. Skyliner will run from Narita to Nippori where you can then buy a transfer (with yen only) to get you nearest to your hotel.  Friendly airport transportation information folks will help you find the best route to get to your hotel.
  8. Have a plan in place before you arrive as Tokyo is one very expansive and expensive city!

Continue reading “A Tiny Taste of Tokyo”

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

About Craft the Travel

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CrafttheTravel

bookit@craftthetravel.com (travel concierge service)

http://www.CrafttheTravel.com (booking engine)

http://www.LoveCameraEarth.com (travel & landscape photography) http://www.FatTowels.com (luxury, personalized linens) Facebook:

Instagram:  http://www.instagram.com/craftthetravel

Join my travel team! Learn more here: Join Craft the Travel

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.

Deck-Exterior1.jpg

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!