Tips to Survive Sleeping in a Standard Hotel Room with a Family of Four

For the most part, we consider hotel rooms to be a place to sleep after a long day of exploring but we have stayed at some amazing properties that were destinations in themselves. If it makes sense, we will invest in a suite or a vacation rental that includes a kitchen. When we went to Disney World for a week with five other family members, it made sense to invest in a suite with a kitchen. We cooked meals, prepared lunches to bring in to the theme parks and enjoyed the extra space. We also saved money because we were able to rent one property rather than three to suit the needs of the three families.

Sometimes, I just can’t justify the cost of anything more than a standard hotel room. This summer we are planning a trip traversing the state of Florida. At one point during the trip, we will be stopping for the night after driving about 9 hours. We will probably arrive late and it is just a stopping point before we continue on. I found a brand new, 2-3 star hotel off of the Interstate for $60. We will arrive late, get a good night’s sleep and the next morning we will eat a continental breakfast and then continue on the road. This is an example of when we would save the money and stay in an inexpensive room.

I am defining a standard hotel room as a room with two beds and a bathroom. There will probably be television and internet access but there are likely no additional amenities in the room. No kitchen. No room with a door to close when it is time for the kids to go to sleep and the adults aren’t ready.

We are a family of four, which right away makes it easy to choose a standard hotel room when we are traveling but I have a boy and a girl. I know that sometime in the next few years they will not want to share a room with each other (or their parents) and we will be ready to upgrade but until then, this is how we survive a stay in a standard hotel room.

We throw the bedtime schedule out the window. I should probably preface this with the fact that we aren’t really a scheduled family. We didn’t institute a consistent schedule until our kids entered school and were forced in to a schedule. Once summertime hits, the schedule disappears. It is what works for our family. When we travel, we don’t worry about a strict bedtime. If the kids are still awake at 9pm, I don’t panic. I know that after a long day of adventures, they will fall asleep quickly the next night.

Invest in a book light. My husband and I can read in bed at night while the kids are trying to fall asleep. We use book lights so that we can read without really disturbing the kids.

Watch television at a low volume. Depending on what we can find on the television, we will turn it on at a low volume and bore the kids to sleep. It is amazing how quickly my kids fall asleep while watching the late night news or a sports game.

Book a room with a sleeper sofa or book a roll-away bed. Hotels like Comfort Inn usually offer an room option with a sleeper sofa. It typically only costs a few dollars more than a standard room. The sofa comes with all the bedding you need and is a perfect way to separate my children so they aren’t fighting, crossing the line, or doing any of the numerous things they do to annoy each other. Another option is to book a roll-away bed but be sure to book it ahead of time.

Divide and Conquer. I will lay down with my daughter and my husband will lay down with my son until they fall asleep. Then we move them to the sleeper sofa or bed that they will sleep in.

Book a room with a balcony. We have spent many an evening chatting on the balcony while our kids fall asleep in the hotel room.

How do you make your stay in a standard hotel room more comfortable?

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Nashville with Kids – Gaylord Opryland

At the risk of showing my age, I have to share something. Every time I visit a Gaylord property, I can’t help but think about the movie, Bio-Dome. You know the one I am talking about, right? Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin find their way into a biodome when they are trying to prove to their scantily clad girlfriends that they are environmentally correct. They end up getting stuck in the biodome for a year. I can’t help but think of the movie anytime I visit a Gaylord biodome.

The last time I visited the Gaylord Opryland Hotel was about ten years ago. We were right outside of Nashville visiting family and they told us that we just had to see the Gaylord Opryland Hotel all decorated for the holidays. I remember wandering through the hotel looking at the beautiful Christmas decorations and twinkling lights. I remember thinking the property was ridiculously huge and couldn’t get over the fact that there was a river complete with a boat tour.

A few months ago, I headed up to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel for the Blissdom conference. In between sessions and socializing, I toured the property and explored the different things that the Gaylord Opryland Hotel had to offer.

Accommodations

The Opryland is set up in several different sections: Magnolia; Delta; Garden Conservatory, and Cascades. Each section is set up with rivers, ponds, waterfalls and more. We stayed in the Cascades in a typical two bed hotel room with a bathroom. I liked that there was a small sink area with a mirror outside of the bathroom. I was sharing the room with an old friend so it was nice to be able to have both areas so that we could get ready in the morning in a timely manner.

Our room and bathroom were clean and it was proof positive that the hotel seems to regularly deep clean the rooms. When we arrived, all of our furniture was moved about two feet away from the wall. We left it there and assumed that when housekeeping came by they would fix it. Nope! We called down to the front desk and they got a kick out of it. The women laughed at our story and sent someone up to fix it right away. Once the furniture was moved back to its proper place, our room was quite spacious.

Dining Options

There are a lot of dining options throughout the hotel. You could park your car and not get into it again until it was time to leave if you wanted to. I was pleasantly surprised by the options in all of the different price points. We ate breakfast once at the Cascades American Café. We had a pricey dinner at Solario, a Mexican restaurant. The first day we were there, we ate at Stax Burgers, a build your own burger place. This meal was the most reasonably priced. For only $10, I got a huge cheeseburger and french fries. There is a pizza place, a steakhouse, an Irish pub, a sushi bar, and more.

Activities for the Family

The Gaylord Opryland has two outdoor pools and one indoor pool to keep the kids occupied during your down time. There is a small arcade and lots of gardens to explore. You can grab a treat at Christie Cookie or Haagen Dazs Ice Cream. There is a water show set to music in the Delta Atrium. You can find the Dreamworks characters hanging out during certain parts of the year. SNOW! and ICE! are held during the winter and during spring break, you can celebrate with the Dreamworks friends. During select days in the summertime, you can build Princess Fiona’s Cookie Castle or have breakfast with the Shrek characters.  If you attend Summer Fun with Shrek & Friends, you can join in the Madagascar Crack-a-Lackin’ Pool Party, train at the Kung Fu Panda Academy of Awesomeness, watch a movie from the pool, and more. Head to the Delta Atrium and take a ride on a riverboat. This is one thing we really wanted to do but just never found the time.

Things to Know Before You Go

Parking is pricey. You will pay $18 per day to park in their lot and $26 per day for overnight valet parking.

There is a shuttle service but it isn’t included. Shuttle service from the airport is $40 per person for a roundtrip fare. There is also shuttle service to and from various attractions around Nashville. Most of the services begin at $20.

I felt like the Gaylord Opryland is in a pretty central location so it would serve as a good base for your Nashville family vacation.

The Dreamworks characters are not always visiting the Gaylord Opryland. If you are planning a Dreamworks experience, be sure you check the schedule of events and plan your trip around those dates.

I have now visited the Gaylord Opryland and the Gaylord Palms. I am hoping to visit the Gaylord National this summer while we are in Maryland. Have you visited a Gaylord property? Which one?

What do you look for when booking a hotel?

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Choosing a hotel for a family vacation can be a daunting task.  Do you choose a suite?  Maybe you choose a room for the price, location or the amenities. 

My family and I aren’t very picky when it comes to choosing a hotel room.  Cost is usually the main factor for us and location next.  When we can afford it we will splurge for a suite so that we can put the kids to bed in their own room.  If a suite or a condo type setting isn’t in the budget, we usually book a two bed standard hotel room.  If the room is clean and the price is right, we can make anything work.  We don’t spend much time in the room anyway, right?

Even though we don’t have a long list of amenities we must have, the one amenity that I check for is a pool.  It doesn’t even have to be a big, fancy pool with water slides and cabanas.  It can be a small pool, an indoor pool, or an outdoor pool.  I just want a clean pool for my kids to jump in the water and splash that last bit of energy out after a long day of driving or exploring. 

The many Omni Hotels deliver on the pool amenity.  From Los Angeles to Washington DC to New Orleans, the Omni Hotel has lovely pools for your family to experience.  Along with the pools, Omni Hotels offer the Omni Sensational Kids’ backpack filled with goodies to keep them entertained.  We are headed to Amelia Island in a few weeks.  Our accommodations are set for the most part but we still need a hotel for one more night.  After I heard about how accommodating to families the Omni hotels were with their Omni Sensational Kids Program, we are now looking into staying at the Amelia Island Plantation Resort! 

You have a chance to visit an Omni Hotel too!  Omni Hotels is offering prizes during the Traveling Mom Twitter Party on August 1.  Join us for a fun chat about traveling with kids.  You may even win a great prize!  I can’t guarantee you will win a prize but I can pretty much guarantee that you will laugh!  Be sure to RSVP for the party!

*I am being compensated for participation in this campaign.  As always, all opinions are my own with no outside influence.

Photo courtesy of Lee Coursey via Flickr

Holiday Inn Club Vacations South Beach Resort – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

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The Holiday Inn Club Vacations South Beach Resort is a nice resort away from the skyscraper hotels that line the coastline of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.  We are big fans of the Holiday Inn brand.  The hotels are reasonably priced, our rooms are always clean, and we have never had any issues so when I was offered the chance to visit the Holiday Inn Club Vacations South Beach Resort I jumped at the chance.  I had never been to Myrtle Beach and I was excited to check out these Club Vacation properties, the newest additions to the Holiday Inn brand family. 

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We quickly checked in and headed to our villa and started exploring.  The South Beach Resort has a variety of one-, two-, and three-bedroom luxury villas.  We stayed in a two bedroom villa that had a washer and dryer, two bathrooms, a living room area, and a full kitchen. 

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Our room overlooked the lagoon pool and it is my children’s opinion that this was the best pool out of the three that we visited.  I liked that the pool had a zero entry and even when it got crowded, it didn’t seem like it was.  Captain Cliff’s Lagoon Bar, where you can purchase a number of drinks, is located here.  There is a very small lazy river and several hot tubs, too.  I liked that there was a stack of pool towels in our room ready for use. 

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There are activities for all ages going on each day at the resort.  Activities range from flip-flop decorating, water aerobics, princess parties, scavenger hunts, and ice cream sundaes.  A lot of activities are complimentary and the ones that have an additional fee are reasonably priced.  When you check in, you will receive a schedule with the listed events.  Every Thursday, they celebrate “Southern Nights” with a Southern BBQ, music and games.  It had to be postponed due to weather, but we attended the next day and had a delicious meal and lots of fun splashing in the water.  There are also off site activities available for an additional fee.  They take groups to the La Bell Amie Vineyard for a tour and tasting.  There are casino cruises and nights out at local restaurants.

When you are ready to leave the resort and explore Myrtle Beach, stop by the Concierge Desk to get information, maps, and discounted tickets.  The concierge was helpful in pointing out some attractions that were off the tourist path and recommended a few kid friendly activities that were a hit with my family.

Because we had the full kitchen, we decided to eat many of our meals in the room.  We ordered pizza and wings the first night from a pizza place that was recommended by the front lobby staff.  The pizza was inexpensive, was delivered quickly and was piping hot and delicious!  The other nights we were there, we ate food that we had purchased at a grocery store around the corner. It was so nice to be able to come home from a day of exploring, relax on the couch or take one last evening swim in the pool and put the kids in their own room so I could have some peace and quiet for a few minutes!

Although the South Beach Resort is not directly on the beach (something I realized was not necessarily a bad thing!), they own a piece of property on the beach across from the resort.  It is called the Oceanfront Breezes Beach Club.  The club offers access to the beach, a pool, and a lounge area equipped with nice, clean restrooms.  There is a shuttle that will pick you up in front of your villa and run you back and forth from the resort to the Breezes Beach Club. The shuttle pick up is pretty quick but expect to wait a few minutes if the shuttle is running a group to an offsite attraction.  I was told that in the summer there are two shuttles that run to help ease the wait time.  We were picked up quickly to be dropped off at the beach, but when we were ready to go back to the resort we waited about 20 minutes for pick up.  There is parking available but you still have to cross a major highway so the 20 minute wait didn’t bother us.

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The best part about the Holiday Inn Club Vacations program is that you don’t have to be an owner to stay there.  You certainly can look into ownership at one of their six properties, but you can just reserve a room like you would any other hotel.  The properties are located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Gatlinburg, Tennessee (see a review by Amy at the Q Family Adventures), Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Brownsville, Vermont (see a review by Find and Go Seek), Panama City Beach, Florida and Orlando, Florida.  I stayed at the Orlando property on a girl’s weekend getaway (review to come soon!) a while back and we had a lovely time.  I am hoping to explore the Panama City Beach property on one of our many PCB trips!  When we stayed in Orlando, we joined the Priority Club Rewards Program which allows you to collect points with each stay to put towards a subsequent stay.

The Holiday Inn Vacation Club South Beach Resort was the perfect place for my family to rest our heads, have some fun in the sun, and use as a home base to explore Myrtle Beach, South Carolina! 

My trip was sponsored by Holiday Inn Club Vacations, who provided a three-night stay, expense credit and attraction tickets.  We paid for all other expenses.  This post is solely my opinion and based on my experience without outside influence.

Water Park Fun at the CoCo Key Orlando Hotel and Water Park

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Screams of children on water slides and splashing in pools and the roar of the International Drive traffic are just a few sounds you will hear when you wander around the Coco Key Hotel and Water Park in Orlando, Florida.  The hotel and water park opened just a few months ago and we were very lucky to be guests of CoCo Key on our last trip to Orlando, Florida.  Orlando’s hot, humid weather makes it the perfect home to water parks.  And a water park in which you can stay the night?  My kids thought that they had hit the jackpot!

The CoCo Key Hotel and Water Park are located in the heart of the touristy area of International Drive.  I had actually never been to this part of International Drive before and was fascinated by how much it resembled the Panama City strip or Gatlinburg’s main tourist drag.  Within walking distance of the hotel, you will find many restaurants and activities; however, there is plenty to do on the hotel grounds so you might not want to leave!

When we arrived and got checked in, I was disappointed to find that our room was located on the outside of the hotel near the main road.  It turns out that this was a great location because we could have thrown a football at the Dunkin’ Donuts that we got our breakfast from and it was much quieter than being next to the pools and splash areas.  The hotel room was large compared to other typical two double bed rooms we have stayed in and had plenty of room for my family of four.  It was clean and brightly decorated.  I believe I spied furniture from my favorite store!  When we realized that our room only had hand towels in the bathroom (surely they can’t expect us to dry off after a shower with these?!), I called the front desk for towels and they were delivered about ½ an hour later. 

We decided to skip the water play the first evening we arrived because everyone was exhausted from the drive.  The kids popped out of bed bright and early the next day ready to hit the water.  We were surprised to find the water park incredibly crowded later in the day.  We visited over Labor Day weekend after my kids had already started school.  I forgot that lots of people hadn’t started school yet!  There was plenty to do and I never felt like my kids weren’t able to play, but it was a crowded Sunday afternoon at the park.  We kept Little S in a life jacket the whole time and I was thrilled to see that after a few months of constant use by lots of children they were not showing any wear or tear.  We started our day in the Minnow Lagoon and Slides which is under the canopy. 

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The kids spent an hour splashing around, shooting water cannons and sliding down the little slides.  After they tired of that, we went to the area that I was dreading…the Parrot’s Perch. 

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As a slightly nutty mom, I openly admit that I think the worst of things and this was no exception.  How would I find my child?  Can they escape the area without me noticing?  What if they slip and fall?  I was happily surprised that none of this happened.  Both kids spent almost an hour and a half going up and down the stairs, sliding down the slides and waiting for the bucket to dump its 400 gallons of water on them.  To make this more fun for me, Daddy J and I stationed ourselves near the exit gate so we could see the kids at (almost) all times so we didn’t have to worry as much.  It helped that parents are welcome to play too so Daddy J and I were able to walk up with the kids for the first few times.  Little S and Big S both had strict instructions to wave at us every time they went down a slide and were ready to run back up to the top of Parrot’s Perch. 

There are also three very large slides.  Little S was too small to check them out and Big S didn’t want her to feel bad (which was sweet but I think he was secretly a little frightened!).  We saw many tweens and teens getting off of the slide and heading straight back up again.

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The water park is not just limited to guests.  You can purchase day tickets or even have your birthday party at the water park. 

Besides the water park, there is also a large pool that is open late into the night (one of the reasons I was glad our room was on the street side).  We hung out there after dinner for awhile before going back to the hotel and collapsing from water logged exhaustion. 

The hotel has a restaurant that offers kids eat free and there is a Pizza Hut Express.  There is also an arcade available full of state-of-the-art interactive video games.  The hotel has free wifi available but we could never get it working in the room.  We were traveling with two laptops and neither one would pick up the wireless in the hotel room.  Luckily this doesn’t happen often when we travel, but when it does it is incredibly annoying.  We had to spend time working in the lobby because it was the only place our computers would pick up the wifi.  The lobby is huge with plenty of comfortable seating.  There is even a children’s play area with a TV turned to children’s shows.

The room prices are reasonable and for a fee of only 19 dollars more, you add the cost of water park admission for four.  I think that we would stay at the CoCo Key Hotel and Water Park again because of its proximity to the theme parks, the price, the clean hotel rooms, and the friendly staff. 

Disclosure: We were guests of the CoCo Key Hotel and Water Park resort for two nights.  Our water park admission was included.  We paid for everything else including food and gas to get there.

Today we are linking up to Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday.

Orlando Hotel Review on raveable

Wilderness at the Smokies – Sevierville, TN – Part One – Salamander Springs

Last week, I shared my video of our experience at Wilderness at the Smokies!  Today I am going to go into a little bit more detail on our visit.  We got to visit Wilderness at the Smokies for two nights as part of the Trekaroo Superoo program.  If you have followed this site for awhile, you will know how much we love Trekaroo.  Trekaroo is kind of like a Trip Advisor for families!  You can do a search for a city or area and get reviews by families just like you and me for hundreds of hotels and activities!  If you haven’t already, definitely stop by and check it out!

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The Wilderness at the Smokies visit was so great for us as a family!  We spent an evening and a day splashing in the water at the three different water parks.  We have visited waterparks all over the country.  This waterpark resort is definitely not the biggest, but it isn’t the smallest either!  Our favorite of the three water parks, Salamander Springs, is what I am going to share with you today!  To see my full review of Wilderness at the Smokies on Trekaroo, head to my Trekaroo Passport.

When we first arrived at the hotel, we were so bummed when we realized that we were staying across the street from the large indoor water park.  Once we checked in, we had a chance to look out one of the windows where we spied Salamander Springs!  Salamander Springs is full of water slides, pools, hot tubs, and play structures great for kids of all ages but in particular, the younger kids.  My three year old was able to go down all the slides on her own.  They splashed around the pools and loved exploring the huge play structure.  The structure had slides, tunnels to crawl through, steps to climb, and a bucket that dropped gallons and gallons of water on unsuspecting children every few minutes! 

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Even the itty bitty toddlers can have a great time splashing around.  There is a small section set aside just for your youngest children with a little pool, slide and swings.  It is manned by its own lifeguard.

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The best part about staying next to Salamander Springs was that when our kids got tired of being in the sun and water, we took them upstairs to our room for a snack, rest and some tv time.  When we were all rested, we were ready to head back downstairs. 

I loved the fact that there were plenty of lifeguards watching and interacting with all of the children.  I also loved being able to sit in a chair while my kids romped around into the water.  I did not feel the need to have to follow them around as they played like I did at some of the bigger parks.

Disclosure: We were guests of Wilderness at the Smokies for two nights.  Water park admission is included with every hotel stay because you must be guests of the hotel to visit the water park.  While on this trip, we paid for everything else including our meals and the gas to get there.  My reviews are based solely on my experiences and opinion with no outside influence.

Next up – Part Two – Wild Water Dome Indoor Water Park.

Stop by Trekaroo’s Spotlight Thursday to learn about other places to travel!

Sevierville Hotel Review

My First Video!

I got this handy little Flip Mino HD as a prize for completing a ton of reviews on Trekaroo.  It was during a promotion that they were doing last year.  Since then, I have used it a handful of times but haven’t really done anything with the video.  As a matter of fact, when I went to download video from this last trip and there were 38 clips on it!  I have been inspired by the videos I have seen around the web so I thought that I would give it a try. 

It is definitely not greatness but I did learn a lot!  Most importantly, I need to pay attention to the screen (and not the subject!) when I record video.  This video is just a little sneak peek of what my posts next week will be about!  Enjoy!

Disclosure: We were guests of Wilderness at the Smokies for two nights.  Water park admission is included with every hotel stay because you must be guests of the hotel to visit the water park.  While on this trip, we paid for everything else including our meals and the gas to get there.  My reviews are based solely on my experiences and opinion with no outside influence.

Stop by Photo Friday at Delicious Baby to see where other travelers are today!

Photo Session in the Hotel Room!

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Not that kind of photo session, folks!  This is a family website!  We went to Washington DC this weekend to visit family.  My dad and stepmom were in town from Germany for work so we flew up to see them for a long weekend.  My sister and her family just recently moved to Virginia Beach so they drove the three hours up to visit as well.  The four cousins hadn’t seen each other since June and it has been much longer since the grandparents had seen all four cousins together.  Before the visit, we had planned to do a photo session to update our very out of date pictures of everyone together.  We had planned on doing the photo session somewhere on the grounds of the Homestead Farm, but unfortunately Mother Nature had other ideas.  We didn’t want to wait to take the pictures because we would run out of days and soon it would be time to go back home.  We thought about the hotel lobby, a covered area in a park, and many other options.  We settled on taking the pictures in the hotel room and we are so glad that we did.  A picture of my family sitting on the hotel bed will hang in my living room and will not only remind me of this particular trip but will also be symbolic of the many trips we have taken as a family and the many more hotel rooms we will be staying in! 

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Beautiful hotel rooms are perfect for impromptu pictures!  This particular hotel room has a beautiful head board and a big fluffy white down comforter that made for a gorgeous background.  The lighting was soft and the windows were plentiful. 

My dad, stepmom and the four grandkid cousins:

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My sister and her husband (they are still newlyweds!):

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My sister and her family:

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Me and my sister:

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A few things we learned during our photo session:

  • Snap the “everybody look at me and smile” picture first.  Then let the kids goof off!
  • Utilize the natural lighting coming into the hotel room through the windows.  Place your subjects near the windows.
  • If the sun isn’t shining, most hotels have soft lighting.  Turn on the bedside or table lamp.
  • Don’t worry about rearranging furniture to suit your purposes.  Just be sure to put it back in its proper place.
  • Take a look at your background.  Make sure that you are not going to have to edit out cords, lamps, luggage or half a picture that was hanging on the wall.  Some editing is good, especially if you know what you are doing.  We took a few pictures that were beautiful but we just couldn’t edit some of the stuff out of the shots so they are not fireplace mantle worthy. 
  • Some of the best pictures we got were when the kids were having fun just being kids!

Be sure to stop by DeliciousBaby to check out other great travel photos at Photo Friday.

Auf Schonberg-Oberwesel am Rhein

In 2005, we traveled with my 10mo son to Europe.  We had a whirlwind vacation and got to do so many different things.  You can read the other posts here: Berlin in Photos, The London Eye, Trier, Germany; Kelty Convertible Backpack; American Cemetery and Memorial; Amsterdam, NetherlandsZermatt, Switzerland and the Matterhorn, Brussels, Belgium, and Stuck in Bed.

We took a long leisurely drive down the Rhine River with our family.  My dad and stepmom told us to pack a bag just in case we went further than we had originally planned and decided to stay the night.  Little did we know what was in store!

We drove up and down the Rhine spotting and visiting many of the castles.  When we reached the Schonberg Castle Hotel, we stopped for hot chocolate and to give my son a break from the car.  We had our hot chocolate and suddenly one of the employees appeared with several keys.  He told my stepmom that the rooms were available to view.  My husband and I thought that she just wanted to take a look at the rooms.  We walked up to a beautiful room, the Tower Room, and when we got inside the employee handed us the keys and told us to enjoy our stay!!

Imagine our surprise!  My dad and stepmom whisked our son away and told us that they would be back in the morning and to enjoy our time.  We had a wonderful time in the hotel.  The many course meal was amazing and the room was absolutely beautiful. 

This is the Schonberg.  See that balcony?  That is our room:

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And this was the beautiful view from our room:

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Be sure to stop by DeliciousBaby to see the other great travel photos!

Hiking the AT – Photo Friday

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For this week’s Photo Friday at Delicious Baby, I decided to share some pictures that my husband took on his last Appalachian Trail hike.  Due to work constraints, he is not able to be a thru hiker but he does have a personal goal to section hike the whole thing.  During this last trip, they started at the beginning of the trail and hiked through a large portion of Georgia.  Being the photographer of the family, I made sure that I sent him with our little point and shoot so that he could take some pictures!

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Stop by Delicious Baby and check out all the great travel photos!