Exploring Madrid

Madrid is one of Europe’s great cities when it comes to culture, and the Spanish capital is renowned for its museums, architecture and theatres. Whether it’s for a weekend trip or a few days away, Madrid city breaks can also be very affordable.

The Golden Triangle of Art

This area of Madrid, on the Paseo del Prado, consists of three impressive art museums. The Prado Museum, the most famous of the three, displays art from great classic Spanish artists Goya and Velazquez. Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, often considered to be the most powerful anti-war piece of art ever created, is among the paintings that can be seen at the Reina Sofía Museum, while the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum possesses a variety of important work from German, Dutch, English, and American artists.

History And Science-Related Museums

Madrid’s National Archaeological Museum has a notable collection of artefacts from the past few millennia, including Celtic, Greek, and Roman, and impressive examples of work by Visigothic goldsmiths. Reflecting Spain’s prominent role in the colonization of the Americas is the Museum of the Americas, which includes items from prehistory to the present day. The major science-related museum in Madrid is the National Museum of Natural Sciences, which has six different departments ranging from Biodiversity to Geology.

Shopping And Entertainment in Madrid

Madrid has a wide range of department stores, but it’s also a city with many family-run shops, too. Salamanca is the upmarket shopping district of Madrid, while the city’s Rastro Flea Market is one of the biggest flea markets in Europe with an amazing 3,500 stalls. For fans of the theatre, Grand Via is the place to visit and found in this area are many opera houses and theatres. Significant venues in Madrid include the National Madrid Theatre and the Royal Theatre.

La Plaza de Espana and The Royal Palace

La Plaza de Espana is the most important avenue in Madrid, and notable features include a monument dedicated to Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, and its large fountain. Nearby is the Royal Palace, which is the biggest royal palace in Western Europe, and this is open to the public most days. Inside the Palace are important works of art, and a collection of furniture, ceramics, and tapestries. The Palace gardens are open to visitors, and guided tours are also available.

Abundant in captivating culture, Madrid is a city-sized museum, waiting to be explored.

Costa Rica Reminded Me…Life Doesn’t Have to be So Complicated.

Life is funny sometimes, and I am constantly being reminded that I need to embrace the curve balls that are thrown my way. You never know when an opportunity will present itself and you have to be open minded when it comes to travel – and life in general.

Last week, a friend called me on a random Monday night to catch up, and told me about her spur of the moment trip to Costa Rica for the following week. Before I knew it, I was booking a flight and hotel to join her! Could I have put a week at home to good use? Could I have caught up on work, cleaned the house…and finally gotten around to redecorating my home office and bedroom, like I’ve planned to do all summer? Of course.

But those things aren’t very fun!

I flew out to Costa Rica on Monday, and what a trip it turned out to be! Firstly, I always have a blast hanging out with my friend; ever since she moved away a few years ago, we try to get together at least once a year. This trip made three times I’ve seen her this year alone, so that in itself was awesome!

We hung out on the black sandy beach and enjoyed the gorgeous pool with a view of Snake Bay…

Andaz Adults only Pool in Costa Rica

We went snorkeling, I got stung by a jellyfish, we ate great food and drank lots of Imperial beer (the official beer of Costa Rica)…

We went on a Riverboat Tour and saw all kinds of Costa Rican wildlife…

capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica

We did a Zipline Canopy Tour with the best tour guides you could ever ask for…

Zip line in Costa Rica

I came home completely relaxed, refreshed…and happy. Oh so happy!

I’ve never really thought about visiting Costa Rica before. I have heard so many wonderful things about the country from the travel blogging community, but nothing really stuck out to me in a way that made me want to see it for myself.

Now? I am in love with the country. In love with the lush green forests, the white faced Capuchin monkeys eating breakfast in the trees outside our hotel, the bats that fly overhead as you’re walking to dinner…and the people?

The people of the Guanacaste area in Costa Rica are so different than Americans, it’s almost impossible to explain. Imagine us, materialistic, driven, ambitious – and Costa Ricans are the exact opposite. It’s a simple way of life over there, one spent preserving and enriching the landscape, a culture completely devoted to living life day by day, moment by moment, without the all-consuming materialism that we have here in the United States.

At one point, I asked our guides about taking me into town to see the city, to perhaps shop, eat in local eateries, see a museum…and they laughed. “Downtown” doesn’t exist in the way I imagined. As we drove through the small city of Filadephia and Liberia, the two major cities (or what would pass as cities in the United States), I realized just how excessive we are in the states. Instead of our mega chain grocery stores and department stores, they grow most of their own food and their grocery stores sell the basics, and aren’t much larger than our convenience stores. There wasn’t a Walmart in sight.

Small village

Why can’t we live like that? What makes Americans want more more more? What drives our Capitalistic desire to build, acquire, dominate – at any expense? In Guanacaste, the people are more concerned with preserving the forests and wildlife than they are building tourist traps. Life is simple in Costa Rica, and for the most part, people just live their lives day by day, spending time with family, eating good food, working their jobs and spending time outdoors. Everyone was so friendly, so kind, so genuine!

The tours we took were a complete change from the usual excursions I take on vacations in other countries. No one pushes to sell you things, no one reminds you a million times that you can tip them at the end – they are excited to show you a good time, show you how they live their lives and make you fall in love with their country…and we did!

pottery making

When you visit Costa Rica, you take it as it is, and if that’s not enough for you…well, it says more about you (and me) than it does about them.

Check out P.F. Chang’s Summer Menu & Win a Foodie Trip To Boston!

This article is sponsored by P.F. Chang’s.

Today I have a two-for-one for you guys! Firstly, we are going to talk about the awesome seasonal menu at P.F. Changs, which have a fantastic perfect pairing of wine with each dish…and secondly, I have an amazing foodie travel contest to tell you about!

The seasonal menu at P.F. Changs is full of delicious food, each paired with a spirit that compliments the cuisine. It’s like having a built in wine expert right there on the menu! Many of the dishes are paired with a Riesling, as that kind of wine pairs so well with Asian cuisine. It was actually the first time I’ve had a Riesling with Asian food and now I know what I’ve been missing all these years! They say that Samuel Adams beer also goes well with these dishes, but I do love my Riesling!

noodles

The P.F. Changs Seasonal Menu

Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken Spring Rolls - Lemongrass chicken, julienne carrots, celery root, cilantro, peanuts, Thai basil and mint wrapped in cool rice paper, with a sweet chili dipping sauce.

These spring rolls were so light and refreshing, I ate both of them! They were perfect with the sweet chili dipping sauce!

spring rolls

Heirloom Tomato Salad - Market-fresh heirloom tomatoes, avocado, Thai basil and zesty ponzu dressing.

Chiang Mai Curry Noodles with Chicken - Sliced chicken breast wok-tossed with egg noodles, Fresno peppers, cilantro and a coconut-curry infused broth, garnished with Brussels sprouts and topped with crispy wontons.

I ordered the Curry Noodles as my entree and loved it! It had a bit of a kick to it because those peppers are a little spicy. I actually set the peppers aside because I didn’t want it to be too hot for me, as I am sensitive to peppers. Chris had some too and he agreed that it was delicious!

curry noodles

Seared Ahi with Wasabi Guacamole - Yellowfin tuna, seared and served rare, topped with wild baby arugula and green beans in a chili-lime ponzu sauce, served with wasabi guacamole.

Orange Peel Shrimp - Hunan chili sauce with fresh orange slices, garnished with daikon sprouts.

Cantonese Lemon Chicken - Fresh, crispy whole chicken breast sliced and drizzled with warm lemon sauce and served with chilled broccolini salad.

Pink Cherry Cosmo - Absolut Citron Vodka and Cointreau Liqueur with fresh lime juice and cranberry juice garnished with a Pink Blush cherry.

Spicy Paloma - Tanteo Jalapeño Tequila and fresh jalapeño slices, balanced with freshly-squeezed white grapefruit juice.

foodie trip

P.F. Chang’s Perfect Pairings Contest

P.F. Chang’s Perfect Pairings contest began on July 11th and will run through August 18th, with a winner chosen on August 29th.

To enter the contest visit, simply visit  pfchangs.com/perfectpairings and say what two things you think pair perfectly together for the chance to win a trip for two to Boston to tour the Samuel Adams Brewery and dinner at P.F. Chang’s!

Do it like this:

“Asian-inspired dishes go with craft beer like _ and ”

Each participant will have the opportunity to win a $100 gift card and become eligible for the grand prize of a trip to Boston for an exclusive Sam Adams Brewery Tour for two, followed by a 4-course pairing dinner at the P.F. Chang’s downtown Boston!

Go enter to win the P.F. Changs Perfect Pairings foodie trip!

Don’t Let Bugs Suck the Fun Out of Summer! #CutterRepellents

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cutter® Insect Repellents.

Summer in Miami always means lots of time spent outside, but there’s one drawback to all of that summertime sunshine…it’s also mosquito season! We are so close to the Florida Everglades, which is beautiful…but it’s a swamp, which is prime mosquito real estate. We love being outside during the hot summer months, whether it be a day trip down to Card Sound to walk the trails in the mangroves, going to the Zoo or park or fishing down in the Keys – everything we love about summer is outside! Luckily, we have Cutter® insect repellents to help keep the nasty mosquitoes away so that we can enjoy our time outdoors without coming home looking like we have been struck with measles!

Cutter® insect repellents helps protect against mosquitoes as well as ticks, biting flies, gnats, no-see-ums, chiggers and fleas – all of which seem to breed and attack like crazy during the summer months. I want to focus on the issues with mosquitoes because that is my biggest issue during the summer because of the environment where we live.

Card Sound Road Crocodile Lake

We rely heavily on insect repellent during our outdoor adventures and Cutter® offers solutions in three great forms: Cutter® Skinsations Spray, Cutter® Dry and Cutter® All Family Mosquito Wipes. 

My favorite insect repellent for every day use is the Cutter® Dry insect repellent because it is so easy to put on and doesn’t need to be rubbed in! It is a non-scented spray and dries pretty quickly without leaving a greasy residue on your skin – so you can simply spray it on and go about your business without having to go wash your hands. 

Crocodile Lake Card Sound Road

Cutter® insect repellents contain a 7% DEET formula that the American Academy of Pediatrics recomments for children, so it is safe for the entire family. That means that you only need ONE insect repellent for everyone in the family!

Because Cutter® helps protect against mosquitoes, biting flies, ticks, fleas, gnats, no-see-ums and chiggers, it’s not only great for protection while we are out fishing in the Keys, but can be used everywhere, no matter what you are outside doing this summer! You can use it to help repel fleas, ticks and chiggers while out hiking and camping in the woods, and avoid those nasty biting flies and gnats while at the park too!

Cutter Insect Repellants

When we go fishing, I have started to bring the Cutter® Skinsations spray because it has a nice scent that isn’t overpowering and really doesn’t smell like the traditional bug spray we are all used to down here in Miami.

It also has aloe and vitamin E, so it moisturizes your skin while helping to protect you against mosquitoes! I think this might be the first insect repellent I have used that actually moisturizes your skin – it’s a pretty nice bonus!

cutter

When Chris and I go out fishing in Key Largo, we fish right in the mangroves, where mosquitoes breed like mad! It’s our favorite fishing spot because this channel is one of the biggest channels between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. There are SO many different species of fish, ranging from Jack, Snapper, Tarpon, Trout to our favorite: Snook! Last weekend Chris caught a Mutton Snapper, and while it was just barely regulation size (there are limits on size for certain species of fish, and the Fish and Wildlife dept take them very seriously – you can go to jail if you take fish out of the water that are undersized or oversized), it was our best catch of the day!

Mutton Snapper

The best time to fish in Key Largo is during sunrise and late at night, when the tide is going in and out. Unfortunately, that is also the best time to catch a nasty case of mosquito bites…bringing along Cutter® Skinsations insect repellent is vital to an enjoyable fishing experience because those mosquitoes bite right through your clothes! This spray is great for also spraying ON your clothes so that you don’t end up with bites all over your back and legs from thirsty mosquitoes.

Because all you really want to do is enjoy the spectacular sunrise over the ocean and catch fish. Who has time for swatting away bugs?

cutter repellents

Cutter® All Family Mosquito Wipes are also great for packing in your tackle box to wipe your face. If you’ve never had a mosquito bite your eyelid, consider yourself lucky. You can keep these in the glove compartment in your car, in your tote bag when you head to the park – they’re great for keeping on hand for bug emergencies!

Why Insect Repellent is so Important for Your Family

Of course we all want to avoid being bitten by any kind of bug, but there are two that really worry me: ticks and mosquitoes. We all know that ticks can carry Lyme disease, which can be fatal.

But did you know that mosquitoes can carry the West Nile Virus? According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were a total of 890 infections of West Nile Virus in the summer of 2013 – with 33 deaths! West Nile Virus is serious business and using insect repellent is an easy way to not only help prevent irritating mosquito bites, but also help reduce your risk of becoming infected with the West Nile Virus.

Using Cutter® insect repellent, in any of these forms, helps keep the nasty bugs away so that we can have fun this summer without worrying about irritating and painful bug bites or worse!

You can learn more about Cutter® insect repellents on Cutter.com. Also check out the Cutter® Facebook page to learn more about their products and their “like to win” promotions that happen weekly and bi-weekly!

cutter facebook page

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Cutter® Insect Repellents.

The New #DisneyMoviesAnywhere App Makes Summer Travel With Kids Easier!

This blog post is part of a paid SocialMoms and Disney Movies Anywhere blogging program. The opinions and ideas expressed here are my own.

Summer is all about travel and If you’ve been following along with me on social media the past month or so, you’ll see that we kicked off our summer travel season early this year! Now, Angeline is a teenager, but we face a lot of the same traveling dilemmas that families with young children face…namely, keeping her entertained during the to and from and during downtime.  With the new Disney Movies Anywhere app for iOS, parents lives are made a little easier because our kids have access to all of their favorite Disney movies anytime, anywhere!

Disney Movies Anywhere #DisneyMoviesAnywhere App

Each year, we take a family road trip to Western North Carolina, which is about a 14 hour drive. We have done this almost every year since Angeline was 2 and I think now that she is 16, we finally have that long stretch of driving down to a science!

I grew up visiting my grandparents in North Carolina and attending our annual family reunion, and I am so happy to be able to give Angeline that same experience. We are now preparing for a first for our family…we are taking along Angeline’s boyfriend on our NC Road Trip! He will accompany us to our family reunion and we plan to show him some of the places that we have been going to as a family since forever; for instance, Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah Forest has been a favorite sunny day spot since I was a kid, and we always take Angeline there to splash around on hot days!

North Carolina Road Trip

With two teenagers in the backseat for a 14 hour drive, I am so grateful to modern technology – thank goodness for the Disney Movies Anywhere app for iOS, otherwise we would have two very bored kids in the backseat!

The Disney Movies Anywhere app is perfect for summer travel because you can view your favorite Disney movies streaming when connected to wifi, but you can also download them to view when you are offline. After you download the app, just sign up for Disney Movies Anywhere and connect your iTunes account. You can enter the special codes from your Disney DVD/Blu-ray purchases to save your movies to your account or buy them from the iTunes store (and earn Disney Movie Rewards off those new purchases!) and they are always there in your account when you need them. There is also free content available in the app, including new original programming, exclusive clips, fun movie factoids, and you can preorder Disney movies that are in theaters or returning from the Disney vault.

The Disney Movies Anywhere app is available for iOS and works on the iPhone, iPad, iPad Mini and Apple TV as well. You can check out this video to get a better idea of how it works.

Right now, when you download the Disney Movies Anywhere app, register, and connect your iTunes account, you will receive a free copy of Pixar’s The Incredibles! A new Pixar movie will be released each week at the special price of $14.99 for a limited time – they are regularly $19.99, so now is the perfect time to stock up on your favorites! 

4 Tips for a Better Family Road Trip

Bring LOTS of Entertainment - Kids get bored so easily in the car, and there is nothing worse than a child crying “I’m bored! Are we there yet?” from the backseat. Make sure you download the Disney Movies Anywhere app on each child’s iOS device and have them choose a few movies to download so that they are available offline during your road trip.

Travel Tip: Electronics are no fun when the batteries die. Invest in an inexpensive back up battery charger with multiple USB ports so that your kids can keep their devices charged on long road trips without using up all of the outlets in the car!

Schedule Bathroom Breaks Into Your Travel Plan – When we map out our route, it’s easy to overlook things like gas station stops and bathroom breaks. At the end of the trip, those 10 and 15 minute stops can really add up and set you back, so plan accordingly. Count on stopping once every 200 miles for a gas refill and make sure the kids go to the bathroom each time you stop for gas. Even if they are sleeping or say they don’t have to go – wake them up and take them to the bathroom. It’s Murphy’s Law that as soon as you get back on the highway, the kids will all wake up with an urgent need to use the restroom!

Pack a Cooler Full of Snacks – Gas station stops are known for their aisles stocked with junk food and there’s something about a road trip that stimulates the appetite! Instead of spending a fortune and filling up on junk food during your road trip, plan ahead and pack a small cooler (or big one, depending on the size of your family) with juice boxes, bottled waters and healthy snacks that your kids will enjoy. Think cheese and pepperoni, carrots and small ranch dressing containers and apple slices. Of course, no road trip is complete without a little bit of munchies, so bring along a big bag of pretzels, granola bars or other snacks that won’t leave your kids with a sugar high!

Bring a Comfy Blanket and Pillows – There’s just something about being in the car for long stretches of time that makes us doze off. Bring along a pillow for each child, as well as a blanket so that they can cozy up if you crank the AC.

Go download the Disney Movies Anywhere app now and get your copy of Pixar’s The Incredibles!

 

You can also Like Disney Movies Anywhere on Facebook to stay up to date on their current promotions!

Adventure Awaits in an RV #GoRVing

Ah, summertime. As soon as the final school bell rings, I smell the open road calling! While we have had many different kinds of vacations, I have always dreamed about taking an RV trip with Chris and Angeline. My grandparents used to have an RV when I was a kid, and my cousin had an RV when we were in our 20s. My in-laws have an RV and take the grandkids on all kinds of summer adventures when they visit, and I greedily listen to their tales once she comes home.

An RV is such a perfect way to take a family vacation and my dream is to take a road trip across Route 66 or through the Smoky Mountains National Park in an RV with my family. With Angeline graduating high school in two years and heading off to college, I am hoping that we get to make my dream a reality before it’s too late!

I’ve drooled over RVs listed for sale in the neighborhood flyers and every time I see a new RV pulling into the RV-friendly park across the street, I feel a tiny pang of jealousy. That’s right, I have a park with an RV campground right across the street from me! Every winter, the RVs begin pulling in and I tell Chris, “Do you see how happy they are? They have a hotel on wheels!” Then I begin fantasizing about the RV adventures we would have on the open road…

Adventure Awaits in an RV #GoRVing

RVing Allows You To Go Whenever, Wherever

There are so many benefits to RVing for your family vacation. Each time a friend or a family member goes RVing, I pump them for details and then run back to Chris to tell him about my new ideas for a RVing road trip for our next family vacation. My very favorite RVing plan is to drive along Route 66. I want to see the historic sites, visit small towns and all of the famous roadside attractions.

You see, that’s the thing about RVing, you can visit all of the places that you wouldn’t ordinarily spend an entire vacation at – no one plans an entire vacation around visiting the biggest ball of yarn in the United States, or the Cadillac Graveyard. But in an RV? It’s so easy to work all of those places into your itinerary because all you have is time!

Go RVing #GoRVing

RVing is one of the most convenient vacation ideas for families and adventurers alike, for so many reasons!

The Benefits of RVing

Avoid Costly Hotels – Your hotel is built into the vacation so there’s no making reservations or saving up thousands to cover hotel bills. There are many parks and RV parks in most places where you can park your RV for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room.

RVs are Pet-Friendly – We have two shelties that I always want to bring with me on vacations. While they can handle a road trip in the car just fine, it’s finding pet-friendly hotels at our destination that proves to be an issue. With an RV, you can bring however many furry friends you wish along for the family fun without worry!

There’s Room for Everyone – Unlike hotel rooms that force you to book a second room for large families, RVs are a one-price-fits-all sort of vacation! My old pastor and his family used an RV for road trips, as it just wasn’t economical for their family of ten to pile into two separate vehicles and book several hotel rooms.

Save Money on Food During Vacation – Aside from airfare/hotel expenses, the biggest expense most families face on vacation is dining. Between breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks, the costs can quickly add up even for small families. When your vacation revolves around RVing, you not only have a fridge right there to hold snacks and groceries, but you can cook all of your meals and save a ton on dining expenses! Of course you can still go “out” to eat when you like, but wouldn’t it be nice to eat out only because you want to, not because you must?

#GoRVing Go RVing for Unlimited Adventures!

Go Wherever, Whenever – I love to explore and go on adventures, and that is why RVing appeals to me so much. When you go RVing, there’s no worrying about whether or not an airport is near your destination, whether or not hotels are booked…you can go anywhere you want, any time you want. Take a scenic drive along US1 from Key West to Maine, or drive along Route 66 and visit the Santa Monica Pier.

#GoRVing Go RVing for Unlimited Adventures!

Stop along the way, drive straight through – you are only limited by your imagination!

Get Social With GoRving!

Check out the GoRving website and take a look at the Scenic Route Blog for great ideas for your own GoRving adventure!

You can also like the GoRVing Facebook Page and follow @GoRVing for fun ideas!

Tell us what you love most about RVing or if you’ve ever wanted to try it!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Go RVing via Burst Media. The opinions and text are all mine.

Celebrate Summer & Be Prepared with a Puracyn® First Aid Kit #PuracynFirst

This is a product-provided, sponsored conversation that contains affiliate links. I received one 4 oz. spray bottle of Puracyn® OTC Wound & Skin Care and a branded first aid kit. All opinions, text and experiences are my own.

When we were kids, that first sweet day of summer vacation was like a freedom bell ringing across the country: let the fun begin! I remember being so excited not to have any school obligations, getting to spend more time with my friends, visiting family on vacation – summer meant two full months of possibility. Anything could happen! As we enter adulthood, start our families and become steeped in adult responsibilities, summer means something entirely different. I vowed to celebrate this summer and get out of my home office as much as possible – and I’ve done pretty well so far! We did something that we’ve never done before: we took an eight day cruise to three new destinations: Curacao, Aruba and La Romana!

I am a pro at packing light, but preparing for an eight day cruise with two adults and three teenagers requires a whole different level of packing. I even brought a Puracyn® first aid kit, because you never know what will happen when three excited teenage girls go running around the Caribbean, especially with them being in the water so much!

There were rocks, limestone bluffs – the landscape in Curacao and Aruba was completely foreign to us and we all ended up with a little scrape here or there.

Why You Need a Puracyn® First Aid Kit

When disaster strikes, isn’t it nice to have everything you need to quickly fix up the kids in one place? A Puracyn® First Aid Kit is perfect for the care of minor cuts, scrapes and lacerations! Whether it’s while you are out on vacation or simply a fun day at home, it’s so helpful to have everything you need in one little container.

So many things can happen during our summer activities, and while small cuts and scrapes don’t normally require a visit to the doctor, you need to properly care for them to help prevent infections and promote proper healing. When cuts and scrapes are cleaned properly, they heal better because you’ve removed dirt, debris and bacteria, and of course, cover them with a bandage to prevent any new dirt from getting in there!

The Puracyn First Aid Kit contains a 4 ounce bottle of Puracyn® OTC Wound & Skin Care spray as well as an ice pack and bandages, so you are covered no matter what the injury. No water is necessary, you can simply use the spray to clean the wound and then cover it up so that it can begin healing! Puracyn® OTC Wound & Skin Care is a unique, patented solution of electrochemically treated saline for cleaning and healing wounds, including cuts, abrasions, irritations and lacerations. The solution mimics compounds naturally produced by the body, making it an ideal aid in wound cleaning and healing.

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We all go outside and do things that we wouldn’t normally do during the summer. Did you know that 39% of outdoor, recreational related injuries happen during summertime activities? Whether you are walking along limestone bluffs, hiking, surfing, mountain climbing, horseback riding – you name the activity, and Puracyn® OTC Wound & Skin Care spray will come in handy!

Puracyn simplifies the process of first aid and frees up more time for summer fun!

Are you ready to kick the fun up a notch this summer? Puracyn® is hosting the Puracyn® Favorite Summer Firsts Giveaway on Facebook, where you can win a summer themed prize package for fun at the beach, on a camping trip, at a backyard BBQ and more!

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Puracyn® Favorite Summer Firsts Giveaway

Puracyn® wants to see your Favorite Summer Firsts. Show them your first summer backyard bash, your first summer splash, your first summer outdoor adventure, or your first summer road trip… or whatever comes to mind… and you could win! One winner will be randomly selected each week on Thursday, July (3), 10, 17, and 24, to receive one (1) of four (4) Puracyn Favorite Summer Firsts prize packages, each valued at approximately $400.

You can enter the Puracyn® Favorite Summer Firsts Giveaway here.

Prize packages include:

First Summer Backyard Bash
First Summer Splash
First Summer Outdoor Adventure
First Summer Road Trip

Have you had any summer firsts yet? Are you planning any first-time adventures for the rest of the summer?

This is a product-provided, sponsored conversation that contains affiliate links. I received one 4 oz. spray bottle of Puracyn® OTC Wound & Skin Care and a branded first aid kit. All opinions, text and experiences are my own.

The Beautiful Beaches of Curacao

While on the newly-updated Carnival Freedom last month, we had a port of call in Curaçao, a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela. It was my first time on the island and I didn’t know what to expect – other than sandy beaches, being that it is in the Caribbean! I was contacted by the Curacao Tourist Board and offered a complimentary tour of the island, and I thought what better way to see the highlights of the island? I was so excited to see the beautiful beaches of Curacao. I love taking tours when I am in a port of call because you can be certain that you will see the best that the destination has to offer without the hassle of arranging for a rental car, itinerary, etc.

Curaçao, pronounced “Cure – a – sow,” is quite an interesting island, and there’s a reason for that. Dutch, Papiamentu and English are the official languages, but Spanish is also widely spoken. I thought that Miami was a cultural melting pot, but it is nothing compared to Curacao, which is home to 150,000 representing over 55 different cultures including African, Dutch, German, Indian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Our tour brought us to National Park Shete Boka, the West End and Knip Beach at Playa Kenepa Grandi.

The Beautiful Beaches of Curacao

We began with a drive to National Park Shete Boka. The park begins at Boka Tabla, lined with limestone bluffs and beautiful waters. The girls had a blast taking photos here! It was such a different sort of park than I am used to…Curacao has desert areas, a gorgeous, green mountain range, salt flats (there are wild flamingos there!), limestone bluffs and some of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see in your life!

National Park Shete Boka

Beaches in Curacao

There are two hiking trails in National Park Shete BokaBoka Pistol Trail, and Boka Wandomi Trail.

Beaches in Curacao

Boka Pistol Trail is about a one our walk through Boka Brown, where you can see sea turtles laying eggs and Boka Wandomi Trail, also an hour-long walk, leads you along rolling lava hills down to Boka Wandomi and the limestone bluffs to a natural bridge.

Beaches in Curacao

My favorite part of the tour was our short visit to the scenic overlook of Knip Beach at Playa Kenepa Grandi. Knip Beach is very popular with both locals and tourists alike, and for good reason. I think it was one of the most beautiful beaches I’d ever seen, right up there with Maracas Bay Beach in Trinidad.

Beaches in Curacao

I was so tempted to just run down there and refuse to ever leave…but that’s not very realistic, now is it?

You could see snorkelers and scuba divers in the crystalline waters below the overlook, though the water was so clear that I don’t think that snorkeling or scuba gear was really necessary to see the marine life.

Beaches in Curacao

The water was crystal clear, due to the white sand below. It really made the bright blue water so lovely, which is completely unlike the darker blue and green waters I am used to back home in Miami.

Beaches in Curacao

Beaches in Curacao

We ended our tour with a stop at another local beach near Big Knip, which was also very lovely!

The kids had a blast running around and catching hermit crabs and watching the fish swim around their feet.

Beaches in Curacao

On the way back to the cruise port, our driver took us by the Salt Flats, where we not only saw flamingos in the wild (see those tiny pink specks towards the far right in the photo?), but a close up view of one of the many Tula monuments around the island. These statues are monuments paying homage to Tula, a slave who led a revolt in Curacao in 1795.

Beaches in Curacao

I took so many photos in Curacao, but this is by far my favorite: the ONLY time on our eight day cruise when Angeline would agree to pose for a photo with me!

One of the biggest reasons I try to take Angeline with me when I travel is because seeing the world together is such a bonding experience for parents and their children. Seeing Curacao, learning about its history and seeing such a different culture together – these are memories that will last us a lifetime!

Beaches in Curacao

You can find out more about Curacao on Curacao.com.

 

Win a Fishing Trip to the Florida Keys! #OmniFreezeZero #Sweepstakes

Lunchbox Disclosure

Have you heard about the Columbia Omni-Freeze ZERO Cool Down sweepstakes yet? No? Well then, I am so excited to share this awesome sweepstakes with you! You guys know how much I love fishing down in the Florida Keys, right? It’s one of the many reasons why my family has never wanted to move out of South Florida – our favorite fishing spot is just 45 minutes away, in Key Largo! The Florida Keys offer some of the best fishing in the United States, in my not so humble opinion!

Fishing in Key largo

People come from all over the world to go fishing in the Florida Keys, and I am so lucky to have that opportunity right in my own backyard! Of course, you can plan your own fishing trip down in the Keys, or you can enter to win a Fishing Trip in the Florida Keys in this fabulous Columbia Omni-Freeze ZERO Cool Down sweepstakes!

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The Columbia Omni-Freeze ZERO Cool Down sweepstakes is offering you the chance to go fishing in the Florida Keys too! The sweepstakes is fairly simple: you simply sign up by loging in with your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account!

It’s so easy, you don’t even have to create a separate profile, just use the social media networks that you are already using on a daily basis!

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When you sign up, you will automatically be entered to win a grand prize of a Fishing Trip to the Florida Keys! You can also purchase Columbia gear, scan your recipes and receive points towards really cool prizes!

Columbia Omni-Freeze ZERO Cool Down Sweepstakes Prizes 

Fishing Pontoon
Fishing Spinning Real & Rod Combo
A Tackle BagZero Rules™ Short Sleeve Shirt
Freezer Zero™ Bandana
Coolhead™ Visor
$25 Columbia e-gift cards

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New prizes will be awarded every two weeks for the entire summer, so you still have plenty of time to scan in your receipts and enter to win! You can also earn additional entries by getting social with Columbia! Simply engage with Columbia on their social media accounts – something that is fun to do anyway!

You can find out more about the Columbia Omni-Freeze ZERO Cool Down sweepstakes here: http://omnifreezezero.com/?cid=sbo.662.9241.2220

Check out the Fun Ship 2.0 Update on the Carnival Freedom #CarnivalFreedom

I’ve just returned home from eight glorious days on the newly-upgraded Carnival Freedom. I was invited on a complimentary cruise to check out the multi-million dollar update and after spending eight days on the ship, all I can say is…What a ship! I had never cruised on the Carnival Freedom prior to the upgrades, so I can’t compare the before and after…but I can tell you that the “after” is magnificent!

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

Our Carnival Freedom cruise took us to Grand Turk, La Romana, Curacao and Aruba, with three days at sea as well. I have to tell you, as much as I loved those ports of call, the sea days were just as much fun! You see, part of the new upgrades on the Carnival Freedom were components that made it a FUN Ship: branded eateries like Blue Iguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint, fun bars like the Alchemy Bar and EA Sports Bar, and the luxurious adults-only Serenity area.

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

There was no shortage of fun things to do on our fun day at sea!

That is, when we weren’t taking advantage of the three pools on the Lido Deck, or two whirlpools, or the super fun waterside!

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

One of the biggest changes that came with the upgrade to the Carnival Freedom was the addition of the Camp Ocean Kids Program and the Dr. Seuss Bookville family area. The Carnival Freedom is the FIRST ship in the Carnival fleet to introduce both programs!

Over 700,000 children cruise with Carnival every year, and the new Camp Ocean and Dr. Seuss branding will make those kids happier than ever!

Exciting New Family-Friendly Spaces

Part of an exclusive agreement with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, Bookville features iconic décor, colors, shapes and funky furniture inspired by the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss. Here, kids and their families can read beloved Dr. Seuss books or stretch their imagination through fun activities such as arts and crafts, toys and Dr. Seuss-inspired games. Bookville will also be featured on the new Carnival Vista when it debuts in 2016.

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

Bookville is part of Seuss at Sea, a dining and entertainment experience inspired by the world of Dr. Seuss. The program also includes the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with the Cat in the Hat and Friends, which requires a reservation and a $5 surcharge per person. We experienced firsthand during the last sea day on the Carnival Freedom and it was so much fun and the food was delicious!

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

 

 

There is also an interactive reading event called Seuss-a-palooza Story Time, and the Seuss-a-palooza Character Parade along the ships’ promenade.

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

Camp Ocean is the new Camp Carnival, which I think the kids will love even more! It’s all about bringing the wonders of the ocean to the inside of the cruise ship for the little ones to enjoy! There’s the Penguins for kids 2-5, Stingrays for kids 6-8, and the Sharks for kids aged 9-11.

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

In addition to fun new spaces – from miniature play igloos for the Penguins to interactive gaming stations for the Sharks – Carnival Freedom’s new Camp Ocean facility includes Party Reef, a common area that brings each of the groups together, as well as a breakout room for arts and crafts activities called Creative Cove.

Of course, there’s still the Carnival clubs for older kids, Circle C for 12-14 year olds and Club O2 for teens 15-17. Angeline and her friends LOVED Club O2, and we practically had to drag them out of there any time we wanted to see them!

Carnival Foodie Features

Carnival Fun Ships have some of the best food ever. If you’ve never been on a Carnival ship, then let me share some of my favorite things about their special branded eateries: the Guy’s Burger Joint and Blue Iguana Cantina! Both of these branded restaurants are completely free of any surcharges, unlike other cruise ships that have a fee for their special eateries.

Guy’s Burger Joint is licensed with Guy Fieri and I can tell you firsthand that these burgers are amazing! Each Guy’s Burger Joint space on Carnival ships are designed with Guy’s favorite Surf Shacks in mind, and tables are customized by him!

The food is absolutely amazing! I ate cheeseburgers almost every day while on the Carnival Freedom, they were that good!

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

I fell in love with the Blue Iguana Cantina last year on the Carnival Liberty and was so happy to see that the Carnival Freedom now has this fantastic burrito and taco eatery! You can have any combination of breakfast or lunch taco or burrito you want, and they make it fresh right there!

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

 

 

The Carnival Freedom also features a specialty steakhouse, the Sun King Steakhouse, which has a fee of $35 per person for a five course meal.

I ordered the filet and while my meal was complimentary as a guest, I can tell you that I would gladly pay $35 for that meal again!

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

Entertainment on the Carnival Freedom

There are so many different forms of entertainment available on the newly-upgraded Carnival Freedom! From Hasbro, The Game Show and family-friendly comedy shows at the Punchliner Comedy Club presented by George Lopez, to Broadway style shows for the whole family, you’re bound to find something fun to do when you need a break from the pool time fun.

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

There are also four brand new revues on the Carnival Freedom! Carnival’s Playlist Productions now include:

80s Pop to the Max – This high-energy show channels the era of Day-Glo, Spandex, and big hair with spirited performances of the hottest music video hits from the 1980s. From the pop-rock of Duran Duran and Cindy Lauper to the smooth soul of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson and beyond, 80s Pop to the Max takes audiences back to days when “video killed the radio star.”

Heart of Soul – This mesmerizing show tugs on the heart strings, capturing special romantic moments with recognizable R&B and soul hits from a host of legendary singers, from Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder to Otis Redding, Ray Charles and Al Green.  In a unique twist, six lucky couples are chosen for a special night of romance with VIP seats, champagne and flowers.

Getaway Island – A high-tech re-creation of popular beach movies of the 1960s featuring stunning 3D special effects, Getaway Island invites guests to set their watches to “island time” as they experience the ultimate tropical island bash with music from Jimmy Buffet, Bob Marley, the Beach Boys and others. Getaway Island also features its own version of Carnival Freedom’s new RedFrog Pub with a cocktail glass-spinning bartender and talented guitar soloist keeping audiences entertained. It’s always 5 o’ clock on Getaway Island!

88 Keys: The Rock n’ Roll Piano Show – Goodness, gracious great balls of fire!  Highlighted by sing-along hits from Billy Joel, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis and others – as well as an appearance from Carnival Freedom’s own piano bar pianist — 88 Keys: The Rock n’ Roll Piano Show spotlights these talented artists who have taken the term “tickling the ivories” to a whole new level.

One of my favorite parts of the Carnival Freedom upgrade is the addition of the Serenity adults-only retreat, which I loved on the Carnival Sunshine last year. There’s a lounge area in the shade, plenty of lounge chairs, a full bar, two whirlpools and lots of peace and quiet!

Carnival Freedom Fun Ship 2.0 Upgrade #CarnivalFreedom

 

The Carnival Freedom is at the Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port and has a 5 day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean as well as an eight day cruise to the Southern and Eastern Caribbean.

The 5 day Eastern Caribbean cruise has ports of call in Ocho Rios, JamaicaGrand Cayman, Cayman Islands.

The 8 day Eastern Caribbean cruise has ports in St. Maarten, NASt Kitts, WISan Juan, Puerto RicoGrand Turk.

The 8 day Southern Caribbean cruise is the one we just did, and has ports of call in Grand TurkLa Romana, Dominican RepublicCuracaoAruba.

I’ll be sharing more about the newly-upgraded Carnival Freedom in the coming weeks, as one post just isn’t enough to cover it all! Plus, I bet you guys are just dying to know about the awesome ports we visited too!

In the meantime, you can find out more about the Carnival Freedom on Carnival.com!

Summer Surf Guide to San Sebastián, Spain

Surfing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of vacationing in Europe, but, with miles and miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean, the continent is surprisingly home to a number of great surfing destinations full of big waves and swells.

In Spain alone there is nearly 2,500 miles of coastline welcoming surfboards. Spain’s top surfing destination is San Sebastián, located in the North of the country and also home to Basque culture and delicious tapas.

San Sebastian

San Sebastián’s Zurriola Beach offers world-class waves and every spring through fall is home to dozens of international competitions.

This summer I will be hitting the waves in San Sebastián with Stoke Travel co., improving my surf skills, camping near the beach and making new friends with surfers from around the world.

Instructor

Stoke travel is all about surfing and travelling your way, so they have plenty of options. Here’s a breakdown of their surfing packages near San Sebastián this summer.

Surf Day Trip

What: You could take a day trip from San Sebastián to a small Spanish pueblo, but a day trip to the waves sounds better for me. If you already have accommodation nearby but want to learn to surf, the surf day trip is for you.

Lauren Surf

Details: Includes transportation from San Sebastián to Zarautz surf camp, surf lessons and equipment and a hearty lunch.

Cost: Day trip 35 euros

San Sebastián Surf Camp

What: Surf your brains out all day and then at night party in San Sebastián with your new surfer friends.

Details: Basic package includes camping and breakfast. All-inclusive package includes accommodation in tents, surf lessons and equipment and all meals.

Cost: 30 euro a night for B&B, 60 euro a night for all-inclusive

Relax

Van Surfari Spain and France

What: The Van Surfari is for those surfers who truly live the search for the perfect wave. Travel between Spain and France wherever the waves are best.

Details:  Includes surf lessons and gear hire, camping accommodation and transportation.

Cost: 3-night packages start at 180 euros

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Surf and Spanish

What: It sounds a whole lot better to tell your mom you are running off to Spain for the summer to learn Spanish than to surf, right? Well Surf and Spanish combines the two with Spanish courses and surf lessons.

Includes: 6-nights basic camping accommodation and two hours of Spanish lessons a day from a certified teacher.

Cost: 6-night packages start at 350 euro

All right fellow surfers, Stoke Travel Company has so many wonderful options, what are you waiting for? Book today and hit the waves with me in San Sebastián this summer!

Surfer girl

 

 

How Do You Capture the Moment on Vacation? #AlamoDriveHappy

#AlamoDriveHappy Disclosure

Each day in our lives is made up of minutes that seem to pass slowly, but then we blink and years have passed. Life is fleeting and with Angeline about to enter the 11th grade next month, I feel the end of her adolescence creeping in closer and closer during everything we do together. Pretty soon, my only daughter will be off to college, then off to her own life: a job, marriage, kids…and what will Chris and I be left with?

Memories. 

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We will look back on our family photos and remember the days when the kids were small, when they were playing and laughing and filling our hearts with so much joy that we sometimes thought they might explode.

I am an avid picture taker and love capturing our family fun, including family vacations, through photos. The perfect photo captures the moment without being forced, just a natural smile or laugh at just the right time.

Angeline in Curacao with snorkelers

I snapped this photo of Angeline in Curacao last week. She was sitting on the ledge of this overlook, chatting with her friends and taking selfies, and I had them all turn around and BAM, just like that, the perfect vacation photo.

When Angeline is all grown up and brings her our children to grandma’s, we will look at photos like this and reminisce about that time we went to Curacao with her two best friends from high school.

We’ll laugh about all of the ice cream we ate that week on our cruise and tell the grandkids about how crystal clear the water was, so much so that we didn’t even need a snorkel to see them swimming between our legs!

Angeline in La Romana #alamodrivehappy

And the coconuts in Dominican Republic, they were so refreshing! We’ll share a funny story about how the bartender at the swim up pool bar almost gave the girls regular pina coladas instead of virgin ones, because they thought the girls were of age.

Shenanigans, I tell you!

Photos are so important. Memories slowly fade over time, being replaced by newer experiences and more exciting adventures. It’s so important to capture the moment as it happens to help keep the memories fresh in your mind.

Have you ever looked back at a vacation photo and the experience suddenly became alive in your mind?

I can practically smell the salty air just looking at our photos from our summer travels!

Angeline and Jenn in Curacao #alamodrivehappy

As you might recall, I am an Alamo Chief Travel Mom. Our goal is simple: to inspire you to get out and travel with your family! Whether it’s a family road trip, a flight to somewhere new and fun, or a cruise to an exotic destination, or even just a day trip to a local beach, these summertime travel memories are ones that will last you – and your kids – a lifetime.

This month the other Alamo Chief Travel Moms and I have come up with a few ideas for helping you perfect the art of capturing the moment.

July’s Alamo Drive Happy Box Contains: 

#AlamoDriveHappy

About a Mom – @aboutamom – recommends the My Life Digital Photo Album

Angela says: “This pocket-size album stores up to 4,000 images and can easily be carried in your bag or purse, so you can enjoy your vacation memories anytime and anywhere.”

A Nut In A Nutshell  – @blueviolet – recommends the Smash Book Style Journal

Liz says:“Capture your family travel adventures as you’re experiencing them! Live it up, jot it down, smash it in, and your favorite travel memories will turn into a forever keepsake.”

Dear Crissy – @crissy – recommends the Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens

Crissy says: “Sometimes the best camera is the one you have with you! Boost your mobile vacation photos to the next level with the 4-in-1 lens from Olloclip.”

The Divine Miss Mommy – @stacieinatlanta – recommends the Sharper Image Telescoping Selfie Arm

Stacie says: “Don’t wait to ask a stranger to snap a photo of you and your family – use this telescoping selfie arm! Bring it with you on your next trip to easily capture vacation memories – just point, smile and shoot!”

The Rebel Chick – @therebelchick – recommends the XCSource Bluetooth Remote and Mini-Tripod

Jennifer says: “This fantastic tripod allows you to capture the moment – and everyone can be in the photo! Just put your smartphone on the tripod, set the timer and say cheese!”

Sounds like a pretty awesome Alamo Drive Happy Box, right? I bet you want one for yourself, right?

Then enter to win one!!

Capture the Moment #AlamoDriveHappy Travel Box Giveaway

Just share your favorite family travel photos on Instagram with a brief description about why they’re your favorite and #AlamoDriveHappy and tag me, @TheRebelChick

You can share as many as you want, just make sure to use the hashtag and tag me so that I can find them all! One winner will be randomly drawn via Random.org at midnight EST on July 11th.

Get Social with Alamo: Visit the official Web Site  | Follow on Twitter  | Like on Facebook!

Capture the Moment Travel Giveaway #AlamoDriveHappy

Explore the Caribbean with The #CarnivalFreedom

If you’ve been following the #CarnivalFreedom hashtag this week, you’ve probably seen a few of my photos from this amazing cruise! One of the things I love most about Carnival Cruise Lines is that I can visit so many different islands without planning a ton of vacations.

I was invited on this complimentary cruise to check out the new Carnival Seuss at Sea themed activities and spaces, as well as the all-new Camp Ocean kid’s program. I’ll be sharing all of that fun stuff after I’m home and have edited photos…but for now? I just had to share a few highlights from our ports of call!

Let’s begin with Grand Turk. A simple day on the beach, splashing in the surf, watching fish swim by – it was the perfect way to begin our adventures in the Caribbean!

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Next up was La Romana, in the Dominican Republic. We went on a shore excursion to a private resort and spent the day playing in the pool and walking the sandy beaches…

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Next up we visited Curaçao, which is a tiny, 37 mile long island off the coast of Venezuela. We had a late night in Curaçao, but I was so exhausted from being in the sun all day that I called it a night at 9 pm!

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Our final stop on the Carnival Freedom was Aruba, where we want to De Palm Island to see their water park and go snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and the fish were aplenty!

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Next up is two FUN DAYS at sea while we sail home to the port in Fort Lauderdale…as much as it pains me to leave the Caribbean, I can’t wait to get home and start editing photos so that I can share this entire amazing experience with you all!