Smart Destinations Family FunPass Giveaway

Thanks to all who participated in the Smart Destinations Family FunPass giveaway.  It is because of all your support that I am able to conduct these awesome giveaways!  The lucky reader (chosen by random number generator) is comment #20, Annie, who said:

I would love to take my kids on southern CA trip!

I hope you and your family enjoy visiting these attractions in Southern California!    Please message me at jennifer (at) twokidsandamap (dot) com with your contact information to claim your prize within three days per the rules of the contest!

7 Links from the Past

Thanks to Wandering Off and Pitstops for Kids, I have been nominated to continue the virtual chain letter by Tripbase called 7 Links.  This exercise is to help you resurrect some posts from the archives that you would like to share with the world again.  This post is my 452nd post so it was interesting to go back through several years of my family travels in the form of hundreds of blog posts. 

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Most Beautiful Post

Traveling Mom, Traveling Daughter is a tribute to my mother and our love of travel.  This post epitomizes the very reasons why I love all things travel.  It is why Two Kids and a Map is here!

Most Popular Travel Post

I don’t pay attention to my site analytics as much as I should.  Awhile back I started to obsess over how many people were visiting the site, how much time they spent, etc so I had to stop looking before I went nuts!  While preparing for this, I logged in to Google Analytics and was surprised that A Day Trip: Five Things to Do in Mobile, Alabama with Your Kids is my most viewed post to date. 

Most Controversial

Like many of my other fellow family travel bloggers, I don’t really do controversial here.  I try to keep things positive around these parts.  I am honest but I don’t want to be negative and this showed even when I typed up Monday Dreaming: Clean Beaches on the Gulf Coast.  We had just spent the day participating in a beach cleanup to prepare for oil spill that was bound to hit our beaches. 

Most Helpful

I chose Traveling with Kids – Mishaps and Disasters as my most helpful post.  It didn’t really help anyone per say but as I mentioned above, I try to keep things upbeat andhappy around here.  The truth is that family travel can get ugly…fast.  And we have had our fair share of mishaps, disasters, and bizarre incidents.  In this post, I shared six disasters that were pretty traumatic at the time as family travel goes.  Not only did I get some hilarious comments, it was tweeted numerous times, and I got some great personal messages about how nice it was to read that it is ok to laugh when family travel disasters strike!  We laugh, we go home, and then we start planning the next trip!

A Surprise Success

Even though it has only been up since June 30th, the second most viewed post to date is Trip Expenses – 5 Day Road Trip to Asheville, North Carolina.  I wrote this post and then held on to it for awhile debating whether it was braggy, annoying, tacky or all of the above to share our trip expenses.  I finally decided to hit publish and was so surprised at how much attention it got.  I think that a lot of times we read these travel blogs and think that there is no way I could ever afford a trip like that.  I think it too when I read posts from fellow travel bloggers and we travel a lot!  This post helped show that a five day road trip for a family of four can be done for less than 1000 dollars (which is no paltry sum).  The post was such a success that we kept track of our Disney World expenses from our trip last week andI will be sharing that here later this month.     

Didn’t Get the Attention it Deserved

The post that I wish got more attention was Hurricane Ivan: 5 Years Later.  I wrote this on the five year anniversary of Hurricane Ivan, a hurricane that blew through and devastated the Gulf Coast in 2004.  One year later, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the devastation of Ivan is often overshadowed by that. 

Post I’m Most Proud Of

So I played by the rules up until this point but I couldn’t decide on just one post that I am most proud of.  The first, titled Appreciating What I Have in Front of Me, was a quick post I typed up during the time period when we were waiting for the oil to roll on to the Pensacola shore.  I was mesmerized by a post by Lucia at Dim Sum, Bagels and Crawfish where she shared some beautiful little shells she found.  We go to the beach and see these types of shells all the time but don’t really notice them.  I made sure to look for them on our next trip.  I think that as a lover of all things travel, I also need to make sure that I take time to appreciate the things that my own area has to offer.  It was one of the posts that caught the eye of Southern Living and got me nominated for Southern Living Mama Blogger of the Week…an accomplishment I am quite proud of!

The other post is titled I am a Southern Transplant.  I wrote this post as part of a Gulf Coast Blog Carnival, Hope Remains.  I reminisced on my move, my college days, and why we have stayed in the south so far.

Now it is your turn!  I am nominating Go Explore Nature, Outdoor Gulf Coast, Dim Sum, Bagels and Crawfish, Find and Go Seek, and Atlanta with Kid!

Priceline – Our Experience

The last time I used Priceline was so long ago that I can’t even remember what year it was.  We went to New Orleans for an Aerosmith concert (don’t make fun!) and we needed an inexpensive hotel.  I don’t remember much about the experience except that we got a great rate for a beautiful hotel right in the middle of the French Quarter (it was off season).  Since then, we have mostly stuck to booking directly on the hotel website or on hotels.com.  Since we had children, we avoided using Priceline because of this little disclaimer on their website:

All rooms will accommodate 2 adults

When I looked into using Priceline after having children, this kept me from actually bidding.  It isn’t that we aren’t willing to stay in a hotel room that only has one bed, it is that I don’t want to show up with my two children and be told that I have additional costs associated with my room (which, according to the Priceline online helpdesk is entirely possible).  Since finding that out, I have been wary about using Priceline.

When we were planning our trip to Asheville so that I could attend a conference, we decided that the $149 conference hotel room was not in our budget.  I started looking at different websites and pricing hotels but I found that because it was summertime and I was trying to get near downtown that I was having a tough time finding a hotel for less than $129.  At that rate, we might as well be comfortable in the conference hotel.

At this point, I did what every good social media chick does and I turned to Twitter and Facebook to see what they thought of Priceline.  I immediately got lots of good feedback and stories about how much money they saved.  And the highlight of this conversation was when the Negotiator sent me a tweet telling me to just Priceline a hotel already!

Who am I to argue with the Negotiator?

After two weeks of bidding daily (my starting bid was $50 for a 4 star downtown hotel), we eventually won a bid of $65 for a 2.5 star hotel.  Here are a few things that I learned during the process.

Start bidding early

If you have several weeks before your trip, you will have time to start your bid low and work your way up to an accepted price.

Start your bidding low

The only way to get a super low price is to start your bidding low.  The only harm done will be that you have to wait 24 hours to bid again and if you start bidding early (see above!) you will have the time to rebid.

Know the area before you bid

I had been to Asheville a few times but was not really familiar with what Priceline meant by Downtown-Biltmore.  To research this, I visited Better Bidding and read the posts about the Downtown-Biltmore area.  I visited websites for hotels that accepted the bids so I had a feeling about which hotels might accept, how far away they were from the conference hotel, etc.

24 hour wait period in between bids

I didn’t know this so imagine my surprise when I tried to rebid and it said thanks but no thanks!  You can rebid one time immediately if you are willing to raise your bid price by $15 and change one of your options (hotel star, location,etc.).  I wasn’t willing to change any of this so I waited the 24 hours in between each bid.

2.5 star does not necessarily mean poor hotel

I started bidding with a 4 star hotel at $50.  I figured there was no way it would be accepted, but hey…you never know until you try!  I increased the dollar amount every day until I hit 90 dollars for a 4 star hotel with no luck.  At this point, I changed my bidding tactics and started bidding for a 3 star hotel at $50 and worked up to $90 still to no avail.  I headed back to the Better Bidding website to see what qualified as a 2.5 star hotel in Asheville.  Keep in mind that the star ratings on priceline aren’t gauranteed and that they can change. The 2.5 star hotels listed for the Asheville Downtown-Biltmore area included a Holiday Inn Express and a Country Inn and Suites so we decided to try that.  I bid $65 for four nights in a 2.5 star hotel and the bid was finally accepted by the Country Inn and Suites on Tunnel Road.

Don’t Give Up

If you really want to priceline a hotel, don’t give up the first time.  Remember that the bids accepted are ever changing.  Your $65 bid might not be accepted on Tuesday but it might get picked up on Thursday.

Do you have any Priceline experiences or other bidding experiences?  Share with us in the comments!

Airstream Trailers in Seaside, Florida

Seaside, Florida is this lovely little sleepy town that has a line of airstream trailers that serve up all sorts of food!  You can get gourmet grilled cheese!

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But we chose to get snowcones from Frostbites!  When I asked to snap a picture of them serving up the snowcones they let me hop inside the Airstream and hand off the snowcones to my kids.

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The kids thought it was hilarious and talked about it for weeks!

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Wander on by Wanderfood Wednesday to see sweet and savory dishes around the world!

They wear the headphones now!

When we first bought our current car, we tried out the headphones that came with our purchase.  No luck.  They were too young and wouldn’t keep them on.  We put them away and forgot about them.  We don’t play movies the entire trip so it isn’t a big deal to listen to them while they are watching one.  On our latest trip, Daddy J decided to give the headphones a try and wow…what a difference the drive was.  We listened to our music and they watched a movie and it was glorious!

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Thank you to Debbie at Delicious Baby for hosting Photo Friday.

The Dole Whip

When we were in Hawaii, we stopped at the Dole Plantation just for a Dole Whip…this creamy pineapple treat…

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I have been informed that you can also get Dole Whips at certain shops in Disneyworld.  We are headed there in a few weeks and I will definitely be on the lookout.  Do you know where I might find one?

Wander on by Wanderfood Wednesday to see sweet and savory dishes around the world!

Winner of the $50 Play Outdoors Gift Card!

Thanks to all who participated in the Play Outdoors giveaway and thanks so much to Play Outdoors for offering the gift card to one lucky reader!  That lucky reader is (chosen by Random Number Generator) Tawnya Gilbertson with her comment:

Snowboard pants and gear! It’s so HOT that I am thinking of every way possible to cool off! With the heat and the rain my boys are growing like weeds

And boy, is it hot where I am so I know what you are talking about!  Congratulations, Tawnya!  Email me asap with your contact information so I can send you the gift card information!

Aunt Sally’s Pralines – New Orleans, LA

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Plates and dishes of food samples usually do not lure me in to taste test.  All I can think about are the germs and the people who have grabbed a sample before me and didn’t use the tongs but I make exception for the bowl of fresh pralines that have just been put out at Aunt Sally’s.  They always seem to have a flavor out that I haven’t yet tried.

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Wander on by Wanderfood Wednesday to see sweet and savory dishes around the world!

Win a $50 Gift Card to Play Outdoors

Play Outdoors is a kids outdoor clothing and gear site.  We love to get outside with our kids and own several of the products that are found in this store.  There are lots of things to help you with the many facets of kid travel including tents and travel beds, backpacks and diaper bags and travel games.  We are not in need of baby carriers anymore but when I was scrolling through them I am amazed at how far they have come since my big guy was in a carrier 7 years ago!

I love their eco-friendly toy section that has sand toys made from recycled materials.  Those would have come in handy during our beach trip this morning! 

How to Enter

We will be giving away ONE (1) $50 gift card to Play Outdoors.  If you would like a chance to win, leave a comment in this post before 9:59pm CST on Friday, June 24 with one thing you would want to purchase from Play Outdoors if you won the gift card.  Visit Play Outdoors to check out all the great items!  Don’t worry about being creative in your comment, the winner will be chosen by a random number generator.  Please make sure that you fill out the required fields by putting your first name in the name field and your email address in the email address field.  I do not share email addresses and you will not receive emails from Two Kids and a Map unless you win.

Winners

We will choose ONE winner randomly and announce the results here on Two Kids and a Map sometime after 9:59 CST Friday, June 24.  Thank you so much to Play Outdoors for their giveaway! 

Rules

One comment per person per giveaway post.  Duplicate comments and anonymous comments will be discarded.  Please make sure that the email address in your comment form is valid so that we can contact you (email addresses are never made public).  Winners must claim their prize within three business days after the date of notification of such prize.  We will disqualify any entries that we believe are generated by scripts and other automated technology.  No substitutions including for cash are permitted, except that Two Kids and a Map reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater monetary value for any prize. Winners shall be responsible and liable for all federal, state and local taxes on the value of their prize.  Relatives of Two Kids and a Map are not eligible to win.

Because this is a family site and we get a lot of spam comments, all comments on this site are moderated.  If your comment doesn’t show up right away, don’t worry!

Magnolia State Rocker

Every since finding Go Big or Go Home’s blog about BIG things and meeting her online, I had been paying attention to the BIG things around us when we travel.  We came across this chair during a short road trip to Biloxi, MS and New Orleans, LA.  It is the Magnolia State Rocker located in Gulfport, Ms just a few minutes of off I-10.  Unfortunately, it is just for looks.  My kids would have loved to climb up it!

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This rocker stands 35 feet high and after some research, I don’t know if it is the world’s largest according to a few websites I found but maybe the world’s largest wooden rocker should be its name!  The Magnolia State Rocker is made of Southern Pine and is located in front of its maker, Dedeaux Furniture.  It has recently been voted into Hampton Hotels “Save a Landmark” program.

 Thank you to Debbie at Delicious Baby for hosting Photo Friday!