The Talking Suitcase | Experience the World With Kids
The Talking Suitcase are an American family of 4 living in Nice, France. They travel through Europe sharing their favorite kid-friendly destinations and travel advice. They want to show parents that they can still experience the world with kids.
Rome was once the largest, wealthiest, most powerful city in the Western world. It’s no wonder that today Rome is packed with countless historical landmarks, museums and over 900 churches.
While I loved the history and culture of Rome, I will admit that the city takes some getting used to. Rome is loud, dirty and seems to be bursting at the seams with the mass of people living in and visiting the ancient city.
I needed a lot of downtime to adjust to the hustle and bustle. We would venture out to see the fascinating historical sights then pull back to decompress in a quiet quieter spot like a small piazza, park or even back at our apartment. I think I needed the breaks just as much as the kids did on this trip!
If you’re planning to visit the highly popular capital of Italy, I’ve put together a list of 15 things you should know before visiting.
Things To Know Before Visiting Rome:
Rooftops of Rome
1. Kids under the age of 10 ride the metro for FREE. If you’re traveling with children, you don’t need to pay for them to use public transportation! This can add up to a nice savings when traveling with children.
2. Speaking of public transport, you need to purchase tickets prior to boarding. Purchase from the tabacchi (tobacco shop), select supermarkets or kiosks at the metro and train stations. We purchased tickets at the same time we grabbed an Italian SIM card. You can’t purchase tickets while on the bus or metro.
Since tickets aren’t considered in use until validated, you can purchase tickets in advance, then validate them (in the yellow machines) when you need to use the transportation. Tickets are valid for 75 minutes, so you can change buses within that time frame. You can also use the same ticket for the metro and bus.
Take a look at the ATAC website for more purchasing locations.
3. The airport is fairly far from the city center, about 30 km (20 mi). From the airport you can take the more touristy Leonardo Express Airport Train to Termini Station for 14€ or $16. But, you’ll find the locals taking the regional train for about half the cost. The regional train makes multiple stops, so you can get off at the stop closest to your lodging. Keep in mind that you may need to jump on the metro or even grab a cab to complete the final leg to your hotel.
Taxi’s can be expensive, but the City of Rome has set rates for visitors traveling from the airport. You can see all the rates on the Aeroporti di Roma website. You should expect to pay 48€ to get to the center of Rome or within the Aurelian walls from FCO. The nice thing about the set taxi rate is the price includes luggage and up to four passengers. As always with set fares, make sure the taxi driver knows you are aware of the fare rate before jumping in the cab. Even though it’s illegal to charge more, you don’t want to get scammed. There are also fake taxi’s that pray on unsuspecting tourists. You should look for white taxi’s with the taxi sign on top, an ID# and meter, before jumping in.
Plan your transportation from the airport to your hotel prior to arrival. Ensure you take into account added costs such as taxi fare from one of the train stops to your hotel or the Metro fare for one of the legs. Factor in these costs and the amount of luggage you’ll be hauling before leaving home.
Have cash on hand to cover these costs! You can hit the ATM while inside the airport.
4. Don’t get caught without a bottle of water. Water peddled to tourists is ridiculously expensive. You can pay between 1.50€ – 2€ for the equivalent of a 12 oz bottle of water from a street vendor! The same bottle of water will cost you 1€ at a corner store. Better yet, head to a grocery store and pay just 0.19€ for a 1.5L bottle! There are also fountains throughout the city with potable water from which you can fill a reusable bottle while visiting the sites. Just avoid aqua non-potabile or non-potable water.
5. Do not, I repeat, Do not take a rose from anyone on the street. Even a cute child. Do not allow them to slip it in your purse or pocket. Do not pick it up if they drop it in front of you. Firmly say “no” and continue walking. They will try to charge you for the flower even if they tricked you into accepting it.
A firm “no” also works for the pesky salesman congregating around the main attractions trying to unload their selfie sticks and umbrellas. Just keep repeating “no” to each one as you pass. They will surround you, so just be firm and keep moving.
St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City
6. You pay for table service in Italy. If you’re visiting Italy for the first time, you may be surprised to learn that you will pay a coperto for sitting down at the table to eat. It’s just the way it is.
The coperto rate is more in touristy areas, but the average is 1.50€ per person. If you want to avoid a coperto, stand at the counter to drink your café or grab a pizza to go.
You may also find a servizio charge listed as a percent of your bill which is usually 10-20%. This is a service charge to the wait staff. We didn’t see this often in Italy except at restaurants along the tourist tracks.
The price of the coperto and servizio will be listed in tiny print at the top, bottom or on the back of the menu. Make sure you take a look at this fee before sitting down. You may also see signs that state servizio e coperto incluso or service and cover included, so you’ll know there won’t be additional charges after your meal. Lastly, keep an eye out for a pane or bread charge. Usually if the waiter brings bread out to you automatically, they aren’t charging extra or it’s already included with the coperto. Sometimes stated as pane e coperto on the menu.
While I’ve read it’s now illegal to charge the coperto in the Lazio Region (Rome), it’s still at pretty much every restaurant.
7. Don’t be afraid to speak up if your bill is wrong. Always get an itemized receipt when paying for your meal and read it carefully. Know what you are being charged for. We were in Siena recently and I ordered the plate of the day. It came with an entree, wine, water and coffee for a set price. I received the bill and was charged for my water and the coffee. It may have only been a few euros, but I had them take it off.
While you will generally have a good experience eating in Rome, there are thousands of tourists that descend on the city daily. It’s easy to see why some places seek to take advantage. Overall, you should have a lovely dining experience if you avoid the “hot” spots. Just keep these little extra’s in mind.
8. Tipping is not mandatory or expected in Europe as it is in the US. Italian waitstaff are paid a respectable wage including benefits. If Italians leave a tip, it’s a few euros or rounding up of the bill. A 5 – 10% tip from an American is more than enough for great service or if you’re child made a particularly large mess. Do NOT tip on top of a servizio and remember that a tip is not required. I usually tip around 5% for good service. Even that is still hard on my American programmed brain.
9. Another ordering tip. If you order an appetizer, you will likely be asked if you want it “for three” (or however many are in your party) or “for the table.” They are asking you if you want an appetizer for each person. Like many American’s, we will order one appetizer to share before our meal. If you order “for the table” you will end up with the 4€ bruschetta being brought out to each person at the table. If there are four in your party, that inexpensive appetizer will now cost you 16€ when the bill comes out. OUCH! Specify that you want one or the “antipasto for two” even if there are 3 or 5 of you at the table.
View of the Tiber river from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo
10. Choose accommodations carefully. There is no shortage of accommodations in Rome. You will find hotels, apartments and hostels to suite all budgets. The biggest challenge is finding a property in a good location. While the train, metro and bus systems are extensive, we find it much easier to stay near the center. You will pay less if you stay outside the city walls, but I always prefer the convenience of staying “in the middle of it all.”
While the most of the main sights are within a relatively small area, the actual historical center of Rome is quite large. It’s divided into several districts that all have something unique to offer visitors. When booking accommodations, don’t just rely on the fact that the hotel boasts it’s in the historical center. You need to know WHERE in the center it’s located. Look at the location in relation to the places you want to visit.
11. Pay to pee. While those who have traveled in other European countries are already aware of this fact, I thought it may be a new concept for newbies on the continent. You must pay to use public restrooms. The fee is 1€ in Rome. Children are free. Or you can just head into one of the MANY MacDonald’s locations to save your change.
12. Avoid driving in Rome, if possible. Moped drivers zip around cars without a seemingly second thought to their own safety. Horns are blaring, lanes mean nothing and no one seems to have an ounce of patience behind the wheel. We picked up our rental car at the train station to drive to Florence and I nearly had a panic attack trying to navigate through the streets. If at all possible, just don’t do it.
13. As with all major cities, pick pocketing is a real threat. Mind your belongings at all times. Don’t put your bag on the ground unattended and don’t carry large amounts of cash. Gypsies are also commonplace in Rome. Men, women and children are taught to pray on tourists. While I’ve heard stories about women throwing their babies at tourists so they drop their bags, I always thought it was an exaggeration until we spoke with the property manager of the apartment we rented during our October visit. She was giving her standard speech to us about safety in Rome and she said that these things really do happen.
Bottom line, be vigilant when you are in crowded areas and using public transportation. It’s a major city after all. You will be crammed next to strangers, so sneaking your wallet could be easier than you may think. Luckily we haven’t had an issue, but I try to be cautious while still enjoying our travels.
14. Wear comfortable shoes. While you may dream of strutting the streets in your stilettos, Rome isn’t the place for heels. The old cobblestone streets are no place to wear anything but flats. Breaking your ankle will put quite a damper on your travels.
15. Learn basic Italian phrases. You don’t have to be linguist to travel, but it’s a good idea to learn a few basic words. Greeting someone in their native language is simply a sign of respect. We’ve found that a little bit of effort goes a long way.
Buon giorno = Good morning/Good afternoon
Buona sera = Good evening
Ciao = Hello/Goodbye
Arrivederci = Goodbye
Grazie = Thank you
Prego = You’re welcome
Per favore = Please
Sì = yes
No = No
Mi scusi = Excuse me/Pardon me
Parla inglese? = Do you speak English
The above phrases are just a few basics to help you get through your trip. If you have time, learn more. Traveling is always a great time to increase your awareness of new languages and cultures.
The OMNIA Vatican & Rome Card is a sightseeing pass that gives holder free entry to top attractions in Rome and the Vatican City as well as a Fast Track Entry, a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, free guidebook and travelcard. Tailor-made for visitors to the city, tourists can save both time and money during their time in Rome.
Free entry to Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel – plus a free Wi-Fi downloadable audio guide for St Peter’s Basilica
Free entryto your choice of 2 out of 6 top Rome attractions including The Coliseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill, Capitolini Museums, Borghese Gallery and National Museum of Castel Sant’Angelo
Fast Track Entry to St Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel & The Coliseum – save over 4 hours at each attraction during busy periods
Free hop-on-hop-off bus tour ticket of Rome for 3 days
Free travelcard for unlimited access to Rome’s public transport system
Free detailed Guidebook to help plan the perfect trip
Discounted Entry to another 30 plus sights, attractions and museums in Rome
Rome is a city unlike any other. It’s chaotic and enchanting at the same time. With a little forethought, planning and a good map, you too just might find that Rome captures your heart. And who knows, if you the throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, you may find the tale to be true and visit the city again one day.
What other things do you wish you knew before visiting Rome?
Whether your visiting Busch Gardens Williamsburg for the first time or you’re a local, making the most out of your Busch Gardens trip will help you see and experience all the park has to offer.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg is more than your typical amusement park. It has been voted the “World’s Most Beautiful Park” every year since 1990. Take time to enjoy the landscape or you’ll miss out on what sets Busch Gardens apart from other theme parks in the US.
How to Maximize Your Visit to Busch Gardens Williamsburg
First, don’t wait in line to purchase your tickets. Buy your tickets online before you go, redeem at the kiosk (when required) and head right into the park. Even better? You can take advantage of Busch Gardens discount coupons to help you save more on your trip.
If you’re planning to visit for multiple days, you may want to consider a seasons pass, at least for one adult. The hefty parking fee of $15 can add up quickly if you don’t have a seasons pass!
Keep in mind that you will need to have your bags checked before entering the park. If you don’t have a bag, just keep left and skip that line. You will also need to wait in line to scan your ticket at the turnstiles to enter the park. Take a look at the far left and far right sides for the best line. Everyone seems to gather in the middle, so you can usually get through faster by avoiding the center lines.
Photo Credit: Busch Gardens
Also, don’t waste time and stop for a potty break at the restrooms near the ticket buildings. This location is always crazy busy, so unless the kids are dancing, get into the park and visit the restrooms to the left of the clock tower (past the Globe Theater) or near the Clydesdale stables.
When to Go:
Busch Gardens will be crowded during the peak season and at certain times of the day. School gets out about 2-weeks into June, so you will find the park to be even more crowded after summer vacation begins. Heading into the park on a Friday before it opens daily will save you a lot of time fighting crowds.
Plan to arrive early in the morning – just before opening time or right at 10am. If not, try to wait until 2pm – 4pm during the summer. The lines for entry can get extremely long during peak times. It’s common for visitors with young kids to be done with the park around 2pm to get home for naps. You’ll notice more people heading out of the park during this time.
As you can imagine, weekends are prime theme park time! Sunday afternoon is good if you are a passholder as well as holidays such as Mother’s day. Most families are taking Mom to dinner or spending time with extended family not wanting to ride roller coasters.
Evenings are also another great time to visit – except on Friday and Saturday nights. Just keep in mind traffic in the Williamsburg area is ridiculous during rush hour.
Don’t let bad weather deter you. If there is a day with slightly questionable weather, the park will be significantly less crowded. As long as it’s not pouring rain or lightening, most rides will remain open. There have been days when they called for rain and with the exception of occasional drizzle is was a perfectly lovely day and the park felt empty.
Please note that refunds and rain checks will not be issued due to inclement weather. This is an at your own risk time saver….
Make a plan of attack before heading to the park. Do you want to see all the shows? Ride all of the roller coasters five times? Eat your way through Europe? A little bit of planning before your trip can save you hours of running around the park.
My kids always want to ride the roller coasters, so we will try to hit the popular rides such as Griffon early. Don’t try to squeeze into Sesame Street Fun Forest first, that is where all the other parents head. Instead get the roller coasters done before the lines form or visit Land of the Dragons before other visitors make their way to that side of the park.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg features more than 50 rides and attractions, so every member of the family will find something they enjoy.
Adults and older kids can get their adrenaline rush on the 7 roller coasters. Verbolten is a favorite of my 15-year old. However, it kills my neck and gives me the most awful migraine. It’s just as bad – if not worse than the Big Bad Wolf that used to be in the same area. It’s is a fun ride with the indoor/outdoor experience and the plunge toward the Rhine River, if your body can handle it though. My son and his friends will ride it over and over again on a slow day.
They also love Invadr with it’s 74-ft drop and can’t wait to try the newest ride, Finnegan’s Flyer, opening May 3, 2019!
The Griffon is amazing as are the other rides; Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, Tempesto and the original Loch Ness Monster. The Loch Ness is typically a ride that can be ridden multiple times as the lines aren’t usually as long.
I am personally not a fan of water rides, but my kids enjoy Escape from Pompeii, Le Scoot & Roman Rapids. Just be warned that the lines for Roman Rapids can get extremely long. Even on a slow day at the park, waiting over an hour isn’t unusual.
There are also a ton of other adventure rides that will give visitors old and young a thrill. My favorite ride, even as a kid, has always been the Battering Ram. It’s one of the many rides at Busch Gardens that the whole family can enjoy.
There are even quite a few rides for the little ones. In addition to Land of the Dragons and Sesame Street Forest of Fun which are dedicated specifically for the youngest visitors, there are kiddie rides scattered throughout the park including lil’ Clydes, airplanes (Der Roto Baron) and little balloons – just to name a few. Don’t miss the carrousel or mini swings while you’re making your way through the park as well!
Photo Credit: Busch Gardens
Quick queue is a paid option to help save time by skipping the lines. I have not personally paid for this service, but you may find it advantageous if you are visiting for a single day when it’s extremely busy in the park.
Dress for Success:
Busch Gardens Williamsburg consists of rolling hills, so make sure to wear comfortable shoes. It is also advisable to put swimsuits under the kids clothes and to bring a towel for little ones that will want to splash in the water. There is an opportunity for water fun in Sesame Street Forest and Land of the Dragons. This is a fantastic way to let the kids cool off during those hot summer days and to give parents a break.
If you forget a change of clothes or decide to try a water ride, there are family drying stations available for a fee near all the water ride locations.
Take a Break:
If you need to take a break from the fun, ride on the Rhine River cruise, skyride or steam train. These are 3 ways to see the beautiful landscape and get some downtime.
Let the kids rest and cool off during the heat of the day when you view one of the many fabulous shows. You can even see a show while dining on Italian food at Ristorante della Plazza. Feel the energy of Irish dance with Celtic Fyre or explore rock-n-roll in England with London Rocks!
You can also stroll through Lorikeet Glen to get a close-up look at a wide variety of gorgeous birds or rest your tired feet and sit on the nearby benches surrounded by lush trees and fragrant flowers.
My kids love spending time gazing at the animals at Wolf Haven and Eagle Ridge. They also enjoy taking time to learn about a hawk or other bird of prey that is out on display. You’ll typically find these animals just on the outskirts of Ireland.
Keep Your Wallet Full:
Let’s face it. Busch Gardens makes a lot of money selling food, drinks and gifts. You’ll find world-class shopping and a variety of culinary experiences to tempt your taste buds and wallet.
Save money by packing water bottles and a few snacks for the kids in your backpack or stroller. Kids need to eat constantly to keep their energy up, so don’t get stuck at the pretzel vendor every 30 minutes! Sit behind the swings for a quick snack and a quiet spot to recharge.
Pack lunch and leave it in your car instead of dining in the park. Ride the tram back to your car, grab lunch and eat outside at one of the picnic tables. Then you can just ride the tram back to the park after everyone has a full belly.
The food is decent a far as theme parks go, so if you are only making one trip – you may want spend a little and enjoy food and a show at Das Festhaus in Oktoberfest or ribs at Trapper’s Smokehouse. We tend to split plates of food – there is worse than trying to walk around overstuffed in the heat.
You can also set up a Food & Wine Cashless Wristband at the beginning of your visit if you want to avoid pulling out your wallet throughout the day. Set up a spending account with your credit card or cash and charge purchases throughout the park with just the swipe of your waterproof wristband. It’s a FREE and convenient way to enjoy the park without worrying about misplacing your cash or credit card.
Dining deals are available for pre-purchase as well. It’s worth a look to see if this is the best option for your budget.
My family can usually complete everything we want at the park in about 4-hours. Now, we do visit multiple times per year, so I could pretty much navigate the park with my eyes closed.
Busch Gardens Europe will definitely be on your list of favorite amusement parks once you experience the cleanliness, friendliness of staff and perfect combination of thrill and nature.
What are your tips to make the most out of a trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg?
It’s difficult for me to find the right words to describe the rugged beauty of the Scottish countryside, the friendliness of it’s people and the power of countless looming castles to transport you straight into the past. It’s a country where movies and photos can’t accurately portray the way the light shines through the trees, the way the rain glistens off the grass or the excitement of finding puffins nestled on the cliffs. The best way to experience Scotland and truly see the lush and changing landscapes is by car. We’ve put together the ultimate road trip guide and include the best places to visit in Scotland. While I could definitely return again and again, we covered a lot of ground in our 2 week journey and hope to inspire your visit.
Best Places to Visit in Scotland
Our favorite area of Scotland is the highlands. The landscape is rugged, green, boundless and most of all, stunning. It’s a sharp contrast to the bustling city of Edinburgh where modern and old world charm merge.
If you find yourself limited on time or just want to relax and enjoy some of the countries unique heritage, we’d suggest not missing the following:
Oban – pretty seaside village and tasty fish and chips
Edinbane – see Fairy Pools on the way
Durness – you can’t miss the puffins!
While these aren’t the only spots on our list of the best places to visit in Scotland, they are our top picks.
Scotland Roadtrip Itinerary – Overview
Our 15 night roadtrip was jam packed with activities and allowed us to get a great overview of the country’s various regions. There is so much to see and do in Scotland that it wasn’t easy to balance drive time with everything we wanted to see. We also found a limited amount of accommodation options available in our budget and even booking 6 months in advance meant that we had to alter our planned stays slightly. We traveled with my mother-in-law, so we needed a minimum of 2 bedrooms at each rental. Booking a rental for 5 people and 2 bedrooms instead of four people and one bedroom can drastically change the availability of options in small villages.
Here’s how we broke down our trip:
4 nights in Edinburgh
2 nights in Glasgow
1 night in Oban
1 night Edinbane
1 night Durness
3 nights Inverness
1 night Barra
2 nights Stirling
Here’s what we did in a nutshell:
= we saw or did this activity = not enough time or we chose something else. These are other highly recommended stops.
*Please only use the drive times mentioned as a guide. Once we arrived in Scotland and started driving, it took longer than anticipated to reach our destinations.
Day 1 London to Edinburgh 4h 20m
Kings Cross station heading to Edinburgh
Stay 4 nights in Edinburgh
Day 2 Edinburgh Edinburgh Castle Scott Monument Saint Giles Cathedral National Museum of Scotland Tom Riddles tombstone
Day 3 &4 Edinburgh Calton Hill (amazing view) Holyrood Palace The Royal Mile/ Old Town Scottish Parliament surgeons hall museum (18th century) Princess street gardens (views) Camera obscura world of illusions
Optional Tours and excursions family ghost tours (1 hour) Real Mary Kings close (1hour) Maid of forth (boat trip wildlife 4 hours) Royal Botanical gardens Authors Seat Leith the coastal village Royal yacht Britannia
Day 5 Drive to Glasgow 1h 6 m to Glasgow Kelvgrove art gallery Ashton lane Glasgow University
Stay 2 nights in Glasgow –
Day 6 Glasgow Riverside Transportation Museum (The tall ship /science center) Cathedral St Kentigern Glasgow Necropolis Drygate brewery Lighthouse tower
Day 7 Glasgow to Oban
Stop at Waitrose for groceries before arrival
1h 5m Fynre ales brewery (PA26 8BJ) 13 m Inveraray Castle (PA32 8XE) Glencoe (PH49 4HX) 45m to Oban may see roadside bag pipers
Stay 1 night in Oban
THINGS TO DO IN OBAN
Wander the waterfront
Day 8 Drive Oban to Edinbane Stop at Tesco supermarket
Stop for photos of Castle Stalker 1h 28m Glenfinnan Viaduct for “Hogwarts Express” (PH37 4LT) best to be in position by 10.45 20m Neptune staircase (PH33 7NG) 1h 30m Eilean Donan Castle (IV40 8DX) 1h 15m Fairy ponds (IV47 8TA) 30m Portree(IV51 9HQ)
In Portree stop to get gas and groceries if needed 16m From Portree to Edinbane
Stay 1 night Edinbane
Day 9 Drive Edinbane to Durness 22m Isle of Skye brewery (IV51 9XP) 10m Quiraing hike (IV51 9LA). rain/ fog so we missed out 5m Mealt falls/ kilt rock (IV51 9JE) 10m The old man Storr (IV51 9HX) rain/ fog so we missed out 2h 30m Ullapool village (IV26 2TY)o 1h 19m to Durness
Stay 1 night Durness
Durness Ideas Smoo cave
Day 10 Drive Durness to Inverness Fairaid Head puffins in Durness 1h 30m Dunrobin castle (KW10 6SF) 22m Glenmorangie Distillery (IV19 34m Black Isle brewery (IV8 8NZ) 22m to Inverness
Stay 3 nights in Inverness
Day 11 Inverness Inverness Wildlife cruise, drive the West Bank of Loch Ness Speyside brewery (IV36 2GU)
Day 12 Inverness 40m Urquhart Castle (IV63 6XJ) too expensive for ruins, we took photos Cawdor castle could skip if not enough time
Day 13 Drive Inverness to Barra 1h 11m Dufftown AB55 4DH GLENFIDDICH DISTILLERY 930 to 4 1h 15 m Kinaird lighthouse (AB43 9DU) justtook photos 40m Fyvie castle (AB53 20m barra Castle
Stay 1 night in Barra
Day 14 (7/16) Barra Castle to Stirling 33m Dunnottar castle (AB39 2TL) ruins, just took pictures 48m Glamis castle (DD8 1RJ) 38m St Andrews Castle (KY16 9AR) bridge closed with 2 hour detour, so we missed it
try land yachts (KY16 9XL) reservation needed, st Andrews 45m innis & Gunn Brewery (PH1 3TS) 35m to stirling (FK12 5NZ)
Stay 2 nights Stirling
Day 15 Stirling Stirling castle William Wallace monument saw from parking lot, didn’t pay to go up Falkirk wheel (FK1 4 RS)
Day 16 Stirling to Edinburgh 45m returned car to Edinburgh and took the train back to London
Scotland Roadtrip Itinerary – Ultimate Guide
Day #1 Edinburgh
We took the train from London, leaving Kings Cross Station and arriving at the Edinburgh Waverley Station. If you have extra time, get in line for the all important photo opportunity at Platform 9 3/4 before departing.
Note – If you choose the “anytime” option, you won’t have an assigned seat. You’ll need to hurry to the specified train cars to ensure seating together. Have tickets ready to scan to get through the barrier when the track is announced. Booking on the same day can cost hundreds of pounds per person, so you should definitely book in advance!
We packed drinks and lunch with plenty of books and movies downloaded to make the 4.5 hour journey sail by. The views from the train were pretty but varied little during most of the trip.
Other than getting settled into the apartment, hitting the grocery store, and cooking dinner, we didn’t do too much on evening #1. There was a match for the 2018 World Cup, so we HAD to stay in and watch. Our apartment was within walking distance to the station, but is no longer available to rent. Consider a hotel or apartment within walking distance of the Royal Mile which will allow you to navigate a large part of the tourist attractions on foot.
I have a friend planning her first cruise. She was shocked to learn about all the “extras” she’d have to consider. She thought cruising was like an all-inclusive resort – just on the water. But that’s not really the case, with the exception of river cruises and luxury cruise lines.
The first thing to note is that it is possible to take a cruise and not spend a penny more than your cruise fare, taxes and gratuities. However, there are a lot of additional expenses you need to know about that can add up quickly. The good news is that you can purchase some of these add-ons in advance, as a package, to help alleviate the shock of a high shipboard account balance at the end of your cruise.
Cruise fares may seem quite high, but they do include almost everything you need for an awesome vacation. Your accommodations, transportation, food and entertainment are provided at one cost. When you breakdown everything that’s included, a cruise can be a budget friendly way to travel.
The cruise fare includes:
Stateroom (your floating hotel room)
Transportation (cruising) from port to port
Food including breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts and snacks with service in complementary restaurants including a buffet
Children’s clubs & activities (usually free for ages 3+ and potty trained)
Basic beverages (such as water, iced tea, hot tea, filter coffee and some juices at breakfast)
Entertainment (such as musicians, performers, and comedians)
Activities (such as lectures, contests, competitions and demonstrations)
Use of shipboard facilities (such as pools, whirlpools, fitness center, sport decks and more)
Twice daily stateroom service (morning cleaning and nightly turn-down service)
Port Fees and Taxes
Port fees and taxes are listed separately from your cruise fare when booking but are paid with the cruise fare before departure. This will not be an additional expense during your cruise. They just aren’t included in the base cruise fare.
Gratuities are not included and are charged per person per day. You’ll find these automatic service charges on your shipboard account. Service crews are generally paid a lower wage and they depend on gratuities as part of their income. However, if you aren’t satisfied with the service, you may request a reduction of the gratuities at the guest services desk. The gratuity amount varies by cruise line, but is an average of $12 per day. The gratuity will be higher in suites. That’s an average of $84 per person on a 7-night cruise or $336 for a family of 4. Even if you don’t spend another penny, you want to factor gratuities into your budget.
Common extra expenses:
Alcoholic beverages (purchase packages online prior to cruising to save $)
Soda (Disney does have complementary soda stations, however)
Specialty dining (restaurants with an additional fee per dish or a set price menu) Typically, you can purchase packages online prior to cruising to save money or book on the first day of your cruise for a discount.
Room service (when not offered free plus a small tip should be given)
Spa services (look for deals in the Daily Planner)
Port excursions (sometimes deals are available for specific excursions if purchased online prior to cruising)
Transportation to and from the port(s)
Photography (Getting your photo taken is free. It’s the prints that will cost you)
Internet Access (typically, you can purchase in advance to save $)
Children’s programs for kids under 3 and not potty trained
After hours child care, when available (usually starts around 10pm)
Despite the optional additional costs associated with cruising, it can be a great bargain to sail on one of the many floating resorts. Countless activities and entertainment is provided free of charge on most cruises. More food than you could (or should) consume during your vacation is available day and night. Plus there is no stress of packing and repacking suitcases as you visit different cities or even countries.
What other advise do you have for new cruisers on onboard expenses?
This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc., Abreva, Breathe Right, Clorox, Robitussin and Theraflu. All opinions are mine alone. #SoothesOfTheSeason #CollectiveBias
What’s on your bucket list for the holiday season?
It can be difficult to keep my family healthy during the busy holiday season and we don’t want to let a cold or the flu hold us back from checking off everything on our bucket list. There are too many places to go and things to do to let an illness spoil our plans. Apple picking, skiing, baking Christmas cookies with Grandma, and road tripping to Florida is at the top of our list. Hopefully, our bucket list provides some inspiration as you create your own. Make your bucket list and don’t forget to check it twice!
Take a minute to quickly write down 5 things you want to experience this holiday season. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Well, it can be if you want. Visiting Christmas markets in Europe or skiing in Aspen would be awesome experiences and could totally go on the list, but you don’t have to think that big. My bucket list is all about creating memories with my family.
We were able to check off apple picking from our list in mid-November. We took a short road trip to Charlottesville, VA and picked 14 lbs of apples! That was a bit more than intended, but it was a fun experience for the entire family. Lucy is super excited for us to make homemade applesauce together. We turned our apple picking trip into a weekend getaway and also visited Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. While it wasn’t originally on my bucket list for this season, visiting the homes of some of our former Presidents is something I’ve wanted to do with the kids. It’s important to bring American history out of the books and give kids firsthand knowledge of the lessons they learn in the classroom.
Skiing is on our bucket list this year and while Aspen, Vail, and Lake Tahoe would really kick the experience up a notch, we’ll be sticking closer to home and taking the kids to Wintergreen or Massanutten. I’m having to work shorter trips into our hectic schedules this year.
I’ve had a long tradition of baking Christmas cookies with my mom, and once Lucy was a couple years old, she joined in the fun. Each year we would get together for a marathon baking session. This is our first Christmas back in the USA in 4 years, so I’m looking forward to starting the tradition up again. We always bake chocolate chip cookies, snowballs, fudge, and many more cookie varieties, then try to keep everyone from eating them all before Christmas Day.
This year, we’re hoping to road trip down to Florida as well. We love to visit the Gulf Coast, but I’m thinking the kids would enjoy visiting Key West for the first time. We typically stop over for a night in Savannah, GA as it’s a great halfway point. This year we may even add in a visit to Derrick’s Grandparents. Their house is like a museum, showcasing decades of travel.
That’s all for our holiday season bucket list. If you had trouble coming up with ideas, hopefully, our list provided some inspiration. And since I don’t want a cold, cough or the flu to keep us from checking off everything on our list, this year we’ve stocked up at Kroger with sick season essentials like Theraflu Power Pods Daytime Severe Cold, Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes, Abreva®Pump Cold Sore and Fever Blister Treatment, Breathe®Right Extra Clear Nasal Strips, and Robitussin® Maximum Strength Honey Cough & Chest Congestion DM. These are our absolute must-haves for not only surviving the holidays but enjoying them as well and Kroger is a destination for all of our cold and flu needs.
Remember, Theraflu Power Pods Daytime Severe Cold and Robitussin® Maximum Strength Honey Cough & Chest Congestion DM should not be used at the same time.
Derrick had a bit of a stuffy nose on our apple picking trip, so I gave him Breathe Right® Nasal Strips. It was easy-to-apply and helped us all sleep better in the hotel room. With Breathe Right®, you can Breathe Better, Sleep Better, & Feel Better. Get instant nasal congestion relief that’s drug-free.
To help keep away the germs, Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes are a must-have in every room. I use them on hard non-porous surfaces and regularly wipe down the surfaces that get touched the most such as door handles and light switches. Plus I wipe away 99.9% of the most common allergens!*
Abreva® Pump Cold Sore and Fever Blister Treatment is easy to apply and could heal your cold sore in 2 1/2 days**. That’s pretty fast treatment when there are so many holiday parties and experiences to share during the season! Theraflu offers powerful relief without a prescription.
Theraflu Power Pods Daytime Severe Cold fits right in your routine. Compatible with most single-serve coffee makers, these fast-relieving pods work on even your severe symptoms. This is our first season trying the pods and I love how easy they are to use – Press. Sip. Relief.
New! Robitussin® Maximum Strength Honey Cough & Chest Congestion DM has the real honey you want, the powerful cough relief you need. Gluten Free. No Artificial Colors. True Source Certified Honey. With Robitussin Honey, you can fight your cough and help kick your symptoms to the curb. The liquid-strength of Robitussin Honey soothes on contact and provides cough relief for hours. We don’t want a cough to keep us off the slopes!
We all like to save money. It means more money for the travel fund, right? Here are the offers that you’ll want to print before heading to your local Kroger (or affiliate) store.
$1 Off Any Theraflu Product (beginning on 12/9/18 through 1/26/19)
$2 off Theraflu Power Pods, 12ct Powders, 40ct Caplets, and Syrups Twinpack (beginning on 12/9/18 through 1/26/19)
So what’s on your bucket list for the season? Don’t let cold and flu season keep you down. Apple picking, skiing, baking Christmas cookies with Grandma, and road tripping to Florida are on our bucket list. I’ve stocked up at Kroger on all the essentials, so we’re ready to create lasting memories and get away from the hustle of the busy holiday season.
Theraflu-(c) 2018 the GSK group of companies or its licensor. Theraflu is for use in adults 12 years and older. Use all products only as directed. Read label and follow directions.
Abreva, Breathe Right, Robitussin – Use only as directed. Read label and follow directions.
*Use Clorox products as directed for removal of non-living allergens like pet dander, dust mite matter and pest matter on hard nonporous surfaces in your home. Keep out of reach of children.
**When used at the first sign, median healing time was 4.1 days; 25% healed in 2.5 days
The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962…and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.
FAST DRYING – much comfortable for next use & convenient to pack. SUPER ABSORBENT – capable of repeat use in short time & dry you fast. BEAUTIFUL COLOR – much suitable for multi use daily.
ANTIBACTERIAL – keep your towel fresh and away from mildew & germ. SKIN FRIENDLY – remarkable soft suede like feel on your skin and face.
ULTRA COMPACT & LIGHT WEIGHT – easy to carry and space saving. HANG SNAP LOOP – practical & easy to hang anywhere and dry. CARRY BAG – reusable and waterproof.
With all the features of Rainleaf microfiber towel listed above, they can do their job well as travel towels or sports towels. Also they are ideal for beach, travel, camping, swimming, backpacking, gym.
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Highest Capacity: Most powerful “mini” portable charger on the market. Adds over one charge (14 hours talktime) to an iPhone 6, almost one full charge to a Galaxy S6 or one full charge to most other phones.
What You Get: Anker PowerCore+ mini (3350mAh Premium Aluminum Portable Charger), Micro USB cable, travel pouch, welcome guide, our fan-favorite 18-month warranty and friendly customer service.
Buyer beware: products shipped directly from overseas without the trademark TravelMate as indicated under the product descriptions are counterfeit/fake products made from a different manufacturer. As such, the reviews under this listing have nothing to do with the products these sellers offer. Products offered by TravelMate are manufactured with its own trademark TravelMate on every travel pillow.
Helps maintain proper head and neck alignment. Made of high quality, thermo-sensitive memory foam. Molds perfectly to your neck (Size: 11 x 12 x 3.8 inches)
Zippered, machine-washable plush velour cover (Color: Dark Blue)
Built-in elastic strap makes it easy to attach to a carry-on luggage
Great for travel or use for neck support anywhere you like. Every product comes with the trademark TravelMate.
Dubai is a fantastic place to visit. Unsurprisingly, every year around 15 million tourists make their way there. If you are planning to do the same, like most first time visitors, you are probably wondering about what to pack. No doubt, at the forefront of your mind is the fact that Dubai is a Muslim city, which leads many non-Muslims to wonder if there is anything special they need to pack. To find packing tips for Dubai, all you need to do is to read on.
Beach attire for Dubai
Dubai is blessed with numerous beautiful beaches. It has at least a dozen, so it would be a shame not to spend at least some of your time on one or two of them. The beaches are pristine, varied and offer visitors stunning views and, in many cases, the chance to enjoy natural surroundings away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
In theory, you can wear whatever you like to the beach. There are no citywide laws that govern the type of swimwear you should wear. Only nudity is banned. However, you should still be sensitive to local customs and norms. Instead of packing a bikini, why not try a swimdress. They are very stylish and comfortable as well as being extremely modest. Wearing one or maybe a one- piece swimsuit will help you to fit in better than if you were to wear something skimpier.
In public places, both men and women need to dress modestly. This means nobody can wear transparent or tight clothing that expose parts of the body. Clothes that feature offensive slogans or images are also banned for both visitors and residents.
The recommendation is that both men and women cover their shoulders, arms, and legs. You need to bear these recommendations in mind when deciding what to pack.
Because you will be covering yourself up when you go out in public it is best to wear mainly natural fabrics. These will allow your skin to breathe and will soak up any sweat. Do not worry about feeling too hot. Most people soon realize that they feel just as cool wearing a top that is made from cotton as they do when they bare their arms.
Visiting a mosque in Dubai
If you are planning to visit the Jumeirah Mosque while you are in Dubai, you will need to be dressed appropriately to be able to do so. The official UAE culture website is a bit sketchy about the dress code for visitors. It just states that modest dress is preferred and that traditional attire can be borrowed from the mosque.
Therefore, the best approach is for both men and women to wear something that covers them completely. That means long trousers, or for the women a long skirt, and long-sleeved shirts or blouses. The women will also need to cover their head with a scarf. All visitors need to remove their shoes too, so popping a pair of socks in your pocket is probably a good idea.
As you can see, packing for a trip to Dubai is not that different. You just have to aim to dress modestly.
What other packing tips for Dubai can you share?
Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Simply Be.
As we headed toward our room, we stepped aside as smiling kids rushed through the halls with their wands, giggling with delight as they watched a tree light up or crystal glow letting them know they scored more points. When we walked into the waterpark, we saw a little boy grab his mom’s hand and pull her toward the water fort tree house as wolf howls blared through the speakers. It had been years since we visited Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg and it was wonderful to be back. I have fond memories of my kids splashing, swimming and sliding at the large waterpark and heading back to our room with friends after a day of fun.
Still, I was a bit hesitant when booking our stay. Would my tween and especially my teen still enjoy Great Wolf Lodge? Were they too old? While the best ages to enjoy the lodge is 7 – 13, that doesn’t mean older kids can’t have fun too! There are still plenty of attractions and activities to keep kids of all ages entertained with parents following behind letting their children lead the way.
Let’s Look at the Rooms in Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg:
I will admit that upon entering our room, I felt it was in need of an update. While the room was large, clean and well appointed, I didn’t notice much of a difference from our previous visits many, many years ago. The good news is that all 450 rooms will be getting a full renovation in January and February! That is a huge task that I’m sure will make a stay at Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg even more inviting. The rooms will even be getting new 50” TV’s which will be perfect for helping kids wind down and enjoy a movie night after a day of adventure and excitement.
Since the look of the rooms will be changing, I thought I’d share some of my favorite room features instead of a full room review. I love the long counter with microwave, coffee machine (though I hope that gets upgraded), a mini fridge, 2 free water bottles and granola bars. Having the microwave and fridge is perfect for families who might want to heat up a snack, store milk or juice for little ones and maybe a bottle of wine for mom and dad to enjoy on the balcony after the kids fall asleep.
The large dresser, couch and sofa table are perfect for families to spread out. This is a great asset when traveling with teens. They start to take up way more space in a hotel room! The large vanity and sink is located outside the bathroom which is useful for families as well. I can’t wait to see the bathroom remodel, but the pressure in the shower was great so I hope that doesn’t change! All the corridors are being renovated as well as some of the cabanas in the waterpark which should add a more resort feel.
What are the best attractions for tweens and teens?
Again, there is a ton of stuff for younger kids at Great Wolf Lodge. Older kids may feel a bit “too cool” for some of the activities, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to keep them occupied. K and Lucy’s picks for older kids include:
Oliver’s Time Challenge
Northern Lights Arcade
Howly Wood XD Theater
Howlers Peak Ropes Course
Wolf Rider Wipeout (Flowrider)
Howlin’ Tornado waterslide
My kids enjoyed all the (larger) waterslides but Howlin’ Tornado was their absolute favorite. They also spent a lot of time on Totem Towers and Alberta Falls. River Canyon Run is a great waterslide for the entire family to enjoy together.
What About the Food?
Kids love to eat and there are several restaurants inside Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg to tempt your families taste buds. You’ll find fresh pizza, hamburger ground from high quality sirloin steak, handmade every day, and pastries made on site plus homemade ice cream cones. We didn’t get a chance to eat at the Lodge during our visit with the exception of our morning Dunkin’ Donuts coffee which was great. There are also plenty of restaurant options just a short drive away if you want to venture out.
When traveling with older kids, you may want to have their Great Wolf Lodge water park wristbands activated to allow room charges and the ability to unlock the hotel room door. Teens and tweens will enjoy the freedom of grabbing a bite to eat, playing games in the Northern Lights Arcade or visiting the Howly Wood XD Theater without mom and dad hovering the entire time.
Even parents seemed to enjoy this quality time with their kids – going down the slides, floating along in the Crooked Creek (lazy river), and trailing along as they played MagiQuest. I witnessed one dad come back and take a seat for all of 5 seconds before the kids were there asking him to ride. He smiled and followed along as his little girl, huge smile on her face too, took his hand as they walked to the next water adventure. At Great Wolf Lodge, the kids are the customer and parents are just along for the ride.
Road tripping around Scotland was a fantastic experience for the entire family! We started our 16 day adventure touring the city of Edinburgh before picking up our rental car booked through Auto Europe and hitting the open road. So why rent a car in Edinburgh with Auto Europe vs other forms of transportation in Scotland? The answer is easy – you get to see so much more of the country! While I love public transport in Europe and enjoy taking the occasional guided tour, having ultimate control over where to stop, how long to stay and what to do made the trip more enjoyable and relaxed. You can’t make an impromptu 2 hour hike to find puffins if a coach full of other travelers is waiting for you!
Why Rent with Auto Europe
After extensive research, we had the perfect road trip itinerary planned that allowed us to make a loop from Edinburg to Glasgow, along the west coast and up to the Isle of Skype, back down the east coast and even hitting some spots in the middle of the country. Once we had our route, it was time to find the best deal for our car rental. Having used Auto Europe for past rentals, we knew it was the best website to do just that with 20,000 pickup locations worldwide, we knew Auto Europe would have plenty of rental options in our destination.
The website was easy to navigate and in just a few minutes we found a great price on a rental wagon with Hertz. We were able to compare rates from several agencies as well as compare car statistics all on one screen. While we traditionally choose smaller vehicles, we needed something a bit larger since my mother-in-law was traveling with us. We knew the roads in Scotland can be narrow, so it was important to keep the car size to a minimum while maximizing storage space and legroom.
Picking up the car in Edinburg went just as smoothly as the online booking experience. When renting a car, it’s important to us to get unlimited miles and Auto Europe had us covered! We almost got a free upgrade from a manual transmission to an automatic but the customer just in front of us got the last automatic wagon. Derrick wasn’t terribly upset not getting the upgrade but it would have been a nice bonus! It’s not easy to drive on the opposite side of the road and shift at the same time.
Some of the other great benefits renting through Auto Europe include:
Free Cancellation 48hrs Before Pickup
No Credit Card or Booking Fees
24/7 Rental & Support Hotline
Why Renting a Car is Better Than Other Forms of Transportation in Scotland
Car rentals offer more flexibility than other forms of transportation. We drove along one lane, winding, twisting roads that large coaches couldn’t navigate. We were stopped more times that I can count as sheep lazily crossed the roads. We pulled over in the highlands so the kids could dip their toes in a frigid mountain stream. We saw the steam train similar to the Hogwarts Express cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct. We searched for the Loch Ness Monster, stopped at random tiny villages and shops, explored several castles and even spotted puffins as we hiked next to the sea. If we had opted not to rent a car, many of our experiences wouldn’t have been possible.
Scotland is definitely best explored by car, even if you only have a few days. Renting a car in Edinburgh from Auto Europe is the perfect option. You can easily compare rental car companies and prices then book everything online with the knowledge that your car will be waiting at the selected location and date. Edinburgh has a major airport or you can easily jump on the train from London making the city a great starting point for your adventure. Hit the road to see castles, sheep lazily munching grass on the side of the road, puffins, sandy beaches, windy mountain tops and Fairy ponds. You’ll thank me later.
Have you rented a car in Edinburgh with Auto Europe? Do you agree that renting a car is better than other forms of transportation?