Trip Expenses – 5 day Road Trip to Asheville, NC

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We travel on a tight budget.  I certainly wish that I had buckets of money like that picture over there, but the truth is I had to go to Flickr (Photo courtesy of borman818) to get the picture because I don’t even have 5 bucks in my wallet to take a picture of!  There are things that we give up in our daily lives so that we can afford to travel.  There are also travels that we have to give up so that we can afford to fix a broken washing machine or some other expense that we weren’t expecting.  We have responsibilities in our own city like house and car payments, swim lessons, and the electric bill (which is ridiculous this summer!).  My husband has a full time job where he has to show up at an office from 9-5 and is given a couple of weeks of vacation a year.  We have to work around that vacation, but believe me…we take every day we possibly can.  Sometimes, we don’t get to use all the vacation for that year.  Many times, he is tethered to his laptop working on our vacations.  

There are a lot of articles out there about travel being expensive and something that you can’t do.  We are here to prove that you can travel on a budget and have a great time doing it!  I am not sharing our trip expenses from this vacation to sound braggy…I am sharing them because it is one of the first questions we get asked…”Isn’t travel with a family of four too expensive?”

We aren’t the only ones that think travel can be done with a little bit of saving and prioritizing.  Spencer at The Traveling Philosopher and Carol at New York City Mama have both written about this issue recently.  My hope is that this trip report will show you a real life breakdown of what it costs for a family of four to take a five day road trip.  Here is a rundown of our expenses from our most recent trip:

Hotel Expenses

We stayed in a Country Inn and Suites off of Tunnel Road.  I pricelined the hotel for the first time in years and years (reviews of both the hotel and our Priceline experience to come!).  After several tries, we got the hotel for $65 a night.  After taxes, the total came to $307.48.

Gas Expenses

Luckily, gas dropped several cents right before we left for our trip.  Also, we were traveling to an area where the gas was cheaper due to lower gas taxes.  I had about 1/2 of a tank of gas when we left, we filled the tank 3 times – $49.07; $56.01; $51.54.  We got home from Asheville on Sunday the 26th and I got another four days of driving around town before I had to get gas.  We drove a total of 1164 miles.  Our gas total for the road trip was $156.62

Food Expenses

One of the benefits to staying in a Country Inn and Suites is the free hot breakfast.  The breakfast included make your own waffles, cereal, breads and pastries and more.  We ate breakfast in the hotel each morning.  I ate lunches at my conference and my husband and children ate peanut butter or ham sandwiches, chips and other snacks we brought with us.  We ate at local eateries that were reasonably priced for the most part.

Day One – $12.18; $13.18

Day Two – $40.86

Day Three – $26.72

Snacks and Lunch Supplies purchase before we went – $66 (We brought home a lot of food that we will use throughout the next few weeks while we are at home!)

Our food total for the trip was $158.94.

Activity Expenses

The main reason for our trip to Asheville was so that I could attend a blogger’s conference.  My conference ticket cost $149 dollars.  While I was at the conference, my husband and children explored Asheville.  They went hiking, kayaking, and visited a few other attractions.  The attractions listed below were for one adult and two children to visit. 

Asheville Outdoors Center (kayaking) – $34.00

Western North Carolina Nature Center (admission) – $16.00

Chimney Rock (hiking) – $17.00

Asheville Tourists baseball tickets for 2 adults and 1 child (my 4yo was free) – $32 + $6 (popcorn and drink)

Our activity total for the road trip was $105.

Total Expenses for a five day road trip to Asheville, NC (from Pensacola, FL) with my family of four was $728.04.  If you add in my conference ticket $149), the total is $877.04.  I know this is no small sum but I love that a 5 day 1100 mile road trip can be done for less than $1000.  With some planning and saving, a trip costing less than $1000 is doable.  Over the next few weeks, I will be going into detail on some planning and saving techniques that worked for us. 

Do you have any tips to save for vacation?

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!

Impromptu Photo Shoot at Brookgreen Gardens

You would never guess their mother has a camera permamently wrapped around her neck, would you?

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I snapped this picture at the Brookgreen Gardens in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on our last vacation.  Some of my favorite living room wall worthy pictures of my kids were taken on our vacations!

Thank you to Delicious Baby for hosting Photo Friday.

Family Friendly Activities in Asheville, North Carolina

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Last year, I went to Asheville, North Carolina for the Type A Parent Conference.  Besides learning a lot about my blog and the direction I wanted to take with it, I also loved meeting bloggers I follow and love and wandering around Downtown Asheville.  I brought my daughter with me last year and she went to KidCon, the babysitting service provided for an additional cost by the conference (which I highly recommend!).  This year, I am bringing my whole family.  My husband hasn’t had a day off of work since Christmas Day and he is looking forward to spending some solid daddy/kid time exploring Asheville.  In preparation for our trip, I put together a list of things for my family to do while I am attending conference sessions and rubbing elbows with other bloggers.  I am not sure what they will decide to do but I will keep you updated with reviews from my kids!

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Chimney Rock Park – I think my husband is most excited about taking the kids to visit Chimney Rock Park.  The kids will love wandering the Great Woodland Adventure hike and my husband will enjoy the Hickory Nut Falls trail, both of which are family friendly and doable with two kids under the age of seven!

“Splashville” – Located in front of the courthouse, this splash pad water feature will keep my kids occupied.  If it is turned on, that is!  I found Splashville listed in the comments of my pal Amy’s blog.  I did a search for it but didn’t really find much info. 

Colburn Earth Science Museum– My rock loving son will be in heaven in the Colburn Earth Science Museum.  Big S has to pick up a rock everywhere we go.  He will love looking at the gemstones and minerals.

Asheville Outdoor Center – Speaking of rocks and gems, the Asheville Outdoor Center has gem mining.  Pay for a bucket, take it to the water and use a sluice to find some gems!  There is also tubing and canoeing available.

Western North Carolina Nature Center – This is something I might make them wait to visit when I get out of conference sessions!  There are animal exhibits like otters, red wolves, black bears and other animals that are native to the Appalachian area. 

Health Adventure– This science museum has lots of interactive hands-on exhibits.  Check the schedule before you go because there are lots of activities throughout the week.

Drum Circles – I heard all about the Drum Circle last year and was so disappointed I missed it.  We definitely won’t miss it this time!  On Friday nights throughout the summer, impromptu drum circles occur in Pritchard Park.

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Asheville Tourists – This baseball lovin’ family is definitely going to try to make it to an Asheville Tourists game.  The Asheville Tourists are a Double AA club that feeds into the Colorado Rockies.  They are playing home games the whole time we are there and tickets are super cheap! 

The North Carolina Arboretum – Take a hike or a guided trail walk here or see one of the most unique Bonsai collections of the United States.

Go geocaching – We have been geocaching a few times and the kids love the treasure hunts!  Asheville has some great geocaches both in the downtown area and on the hiking trails. 

Go hiking – Asheville has so many hiking trails for levels of all kinds!  My children love to hike.  I have mentioned before how it amazes me how they will hike a mountain for hours but complain about walking across a parking lot to get to the store!

Lake Lure– Our hotel has a pool, but if my husband wants to get the kids out of the hotel and into the water he might make the drive to Lake Lure where there is the Water Works park and beach area.

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Carl Sandburg Home – Little S and I stopped here at this National Historic Site on our way home last year but it was raining.  I would love to go back and visit when the sun is shining.  We could take a walk and then tour the home of this famous author.   

These are just a few of the activities available!  There is so much more…a trip to the Biltmore, hiking to waterfalls.  I don’t think my husband and the kids will get to do everything they hope to!

Special thanks to Amy, at the Q Family Adventures, and her post 13 Things to Do in Asheville with Kids, TravelingMom’s 10 Free Things to do in Asheville, Kelby Carr of the Type A Parent Conference, the Explore Asheville, and Visit North Carolina who helped with my research.

Dreaming of Summer

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This morning marks the third to last Monday that I will have to get up, make a lunch, get the Big S on a bus (well, my husband has been doing this part), sign homework packets, and check homework after I fight to have him finish it.  There are many more responsibilities that come along with having a school aged child and I imagine they only get worse as the years go by but in just three weeks we will get to shirk all responsibilities for two short months.  We can sleep in if we want, stay up late with no repercussions the next morning.  We can eat lunches out, play at the beach all day, and my favorite part of summer?  We can travel whenever we want without worrying if Big S is missing too much school and without having to make up work when we get home.

I am looking forward to spending time around the house with my kids (ask me how I feel in the middle of the summer after breaking up the 100th argument of the day!) but I am also looking forward to our trips.  We have a couple of trips planned and we have a couple of little weekend getaways that we hope we will be able to take.  In June, we are heading to Asheville, NC.  Later on that month, a friend and I will be taking our four children to explore Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.  In July, we are headed to Disney for a multi-generational (just a fancy word for saying grandma is coming along) trip that grandma has been planning.  Along with my mom, we will be spending the week with my sister and her family.  We haven’t seen them since November of last year so we are long overdue!

What are you doing this summer?

Thank you to Mara at Mother of All Trips for hosting Monday Dreaming!

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.

Hansen’s Sno Bliz – New Orleans

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Snow cones, shave ice, shaveED ice, snoballs…these tasty, icy treats are served up differently in each part of the US.  If my kids see a snow cone stand on a hot day, they are usually begging for one!  In Hawaii, we ate our weight in the creamy shave ice that you can find all over the Oahu.  When I got home, I was lamenting to a friend (food does that to you, doesn’t it?) about how much I missed the shave ice and wished we had something similar for a cool treat on a hot, humid Florida day.  I am used to the chunky icy snow cones that don’t really pick up the syrup.  She said that I should try a New Orleans style snoball.  We actually have a place in Pensacola that serves up New Orleans style snoballs but it hasn’t opened for the summer yet so I was excited to come across Hansen’s Sno Bliz in my research for our New Orleans trip.

Hansen’s Sno Bliz has been in business for over seventy years and is a family tradition.  You will need a car or public transportation to get there if you are staying in the French Quarter as it is too far for the kids to walk.  We drove over there after a long, warm morning at the Audubon Zoo.  We arrived about five minutes before it opened for the day and there was already a line of people waiting for the doors to open!  Doors opened right at 1pm and we stared at the menu for about ten minutes.  Both kids got something blue (that was actually how they ordered!) and I tried the banana (my new favorite flavor!). 

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The prices are reasonable and they have a number of different sizes from small to a large so big that I have no idea how anyone can eat it!  As I watched her pour the bright blue syrup on Little S’s snoball, all I could think was that I made a big mistake by letting her wear her frilly white shirt and said as much.  We were told that it doesn’t stain!  The only one that stains is the chocolate and we definitely put it to the test.  The blue came out of the white shirt without any problems thankfully!

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Hansen’s Sno Bliz is located at 4801 Tchoupitoulas St in New Orleans. 

See what everyone else is eating at Wanderfood Wednesday!

High Hampton Inn and Country Club – Cashiers, North Carolina

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Driving through the mountains of Cashiers, North Carolina my children couldn’t wait to be at our destination.  After eight hours in the car, we finally arrived at the High Hampton Inn and Country Club.  The first thing we saw was the golf course and the Inn which would be our home for the next two nights.  The High Hampton Inn is perfect for those who are interested in unplugging and enjoying time together as a family.  We were thankful to be invited to the opening week of the 89th season of this lovely mountain lodge.

Accommodations

High Hampton Inn, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, offers all sorts of lodging choices.  There are over one hundred guest rooms and suites.  There are also a number of cottages scattered throughout the property.  We stayed in a pretty room with two beds, two bathrooms, a sitting area, and balcony with an amazing view of the mountain and lake on the top floor of the lodge.  There is wireless internet service, televisions, and phones in some of the public areas of the lodge but you won’t find any of that in your room.  What you will find by way of entertainment is a few board games (if there aren’t any in your room, stop by the front desk) and some books collected over the years. 

Dining

Meals are served buffet style in the Dining Room three times a day.  If your room is booked on the American Plan, all meals are included with the room.  These meals are not your typical buffet style meals.  Some of the dinner choices included chicken wellington, prime rib, locally caught rainbow trout, a salad bar and soup as well as a variety of desserts.  My children were ecstatic to see that lunch was a full taco bar one of the afternoons we were there.  If you plan on exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains during the day, you can order lunch boxes the night before to take with you.  One thing to note is that dinner guests are to adhere to a more formal dress code.  Men are supposed to wear a collared shirt and jacket to dinner and women and children are expected to dress accordingly.  At first, I thought that this would be a huge inconvenience but it was rather nice to spend all day mucking around the hiking trails, come back to the room for a hot shower, and to have a nice semi-formal dinner with my family.

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Be sure to stop by the lodge for Afternoon Tea where you can pick up some sweet tea and a cookie or two!

Golf Course and Spa

The High Hampton Inn Golf Course is an 18 hole golf course that is beautiful.  The tees, fairways and greens blend in with the nature around them and you can even see one of the greens out in the lake from the lodge!  The golf rates are reasonable and there are packages offered with a stay.  There is a driving range, which can even be used in poor weather, and there are golf schools available. 

The Spa and Health Club has a number of workout machines that you can use for your daily workout, outdoor yoga classes, and a rock climbing wall.  You can also get a massage, pedicure and manicure or a number of other treatments. 

Activities for the Family

As we explored High Hampton Inn, family summer camp was the phrase that came to mind often.  There is no shortage of outdoor and indoor activities for each member of the family. 

The grounds surrounding the High Hampton Inn are a family’s playground.  There is a lake with a diving platform in the water and a boathouse with canoes and paddle boats for rent.  A small section of the shallow part of the lake has been blocked off so that little ones can play under the watchful eye of their parents.  There are fly fishing schools offered at the lake.  Right next to the lake is a playground where we spent most of our time (it was much too cold to explore the lake!), as well as a few swings and a tetherball court. 

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Unfortunately, we visited during the first week of the new season so there was not much going on.  During the summer months, there are all sorts of activities for children and teens.  There is a teen room with scheduled activities and parents can drop off their children for an additional fee at the Kids Club where they will play games, do crafts, take nature walks and more.

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My children loved visiting with the resident miniature donkeys, Fred and Ed.  You can stop by the front desk/dining room and ask for a carrot or an apple to bring them when you visit.  Sometimes the donkeys even give carriage rides!

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We thoroughly enjoyed our nature walk on the Lake Trail.  The weather was pretty crummy while we were there but when we had a patch of sunlight we decided to take a walk.  The walk loops around the lake through the trees.  It is a nice and easy walk that both my 4 and 6yo were able to complete the loop without complaining.  There are miles of private hiking trails.  You can get a cardio workout on the Fitness Trail or head to the top of the Chimney Top Mountain or the Rock Mountain.   Pick up a trail map when you check in. 

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The High Hampton Inn and Country Club is located in the beautiful area of Cashiers, North Carolina.  Though you won’t have much reason to leave with meals, the lake, and more, you will probably want to explore the area. The Highlands and Cashiers area has many beautiful waterfalls around what seems like every corner.  The front desk and the concierge will help you find trails around the Cashiers and Highlands area as well.  Be sure to get a waterfall map!  It is about an hour and a half from the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville. 

The High Hampton Inn rooms are a bit more than we would normally spend on a hotel room, but don’t forget to add in the fact that you are receiving three meals a day for each member of your family.  Although we just got back from the High Hampton Inn last week, we had to leave daddy at home.  I would love to return in the early fall with my whole family.  This kind of trip is exactly the type of trip my husband would plan if I left it up to him.  I am dreaming about exploring the waterfalls as a family, seeing the leaves change colors (something we don’t get here in Florida) and perhaps trying our hand at fly fishing!

Disclosure: Thank you to the High Hampton Inn for providing my family with two complimentary nights and meals.  All opinions are my own without any outside influence.

Wikki Stix – Fun for less than $10!

In preparation for the 1400 mile road trip that I took with my kids all by myself (and lived to tell about it!), the Easter Bunny brought several new travel items for the kids.  One of those travel items was a package of Wikki Stix.

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Let me start by saying that I was not going to purchase Wikki Stix when all of the blogs that I read started raving about them awhile back.  Not because I didn’t think they were effective, I just didn’t see the point of spending the money on them when we had plenty of other things to keep the kids occupied.  Boy, was I wrong!!!

While at a Traveling Mom retreat, we received a little mini Wikki Stix sample that I shoved in my purse and forgot about it.  Well, fast forward a few weeks and picture us at a restaurant with poor service, waiting almost an hour for our food and at wit’s end as I furiously dug through my purse for something to do because, really, there is only so much Angry Birds an irritable mom can take.  I found the Wikki Stix sample pack and ripped in to it!  The kids LOVED them!  By loved them, I mean they did not even put them down when the food came even though they were hungry.

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As soon as I got home, I took a look at the Wikki Stix website and realized that they were very inexpensive.  I decided to go with the Original Package that comes with 48 eight inch Wikki Stix (Neon for Little S and primary for Big S).  They only cost $6.25 each plus shipping (and they arrived in less than 5 days!).

Out of all the travel gifts that I purchased, this was the fan favorite!  They held up even after my 4yo took all 48 Wikki Stix and put them in a gigantic ball resembling 48 pieces of already chewed gum stuck together.  I did have to help pull them apart, but after we pulled each stick off and stretched out they were good as new! 

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There are all sorts of different Wikki Stix products to choose from ranging from simple packs to activity packs and favors great for parties!

Disclosure: I…er…the Easter Bunny purchased the Wikki Stix and I am writing this review because my children adored them.  They have been Two Kids and a Map tested and given the seal of approval!

Another Broken Egg Cafe – Village of Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin

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One of our favorite meals while we were staying at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort was at Another Broken Egg Cafe in the Village of Baytowne Wharf.  Breakfast was a big splurge for us because we normally eat cereal back in the room if breakfast isn’t included!  I think that is why the meal stuck with my son all weekend and each morning my 6yo wanted to know if we could go back to the “Broke Egg Cafe”.

I had delicious french toast…

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And my husband had a skillet.  The kids had pancakes which they devoured before I hadn’t even gotten my camera out!

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See what everyone else is eating at Wanderfood Wednesday!