New York City:: Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A trip without kids. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with my kids BUT, NYC without kids is quite different than with. We went to New York City in 2009 with my parents and Abby and Cade when they were 3 and 1. This time, we left the three kids with my parents at their house and Derek and I flew off to NYC, just the 2 of us.

Derek and I left out of Milwaukee’s General Mitchell Airport and flew into LaGuardia Airport. We flew on a tiny Delta plane and landed with some queasiness, but hey, we landed. We had decided ahead of time to take a taxi to our hotel and so we did. It cost $20 to get to Long Island City in Queens to the Verve Hotel. I had read many reviews about the hotel and they were all great, so I had high expectations. The front desk staff was very friendly and the hotel lobby was clean. If you stay there, just request an upper floor room. We were on the first floor near the breakfast room. It was a bit noisy and the view out our window was of a fence which was a few feet outside the window. Other than that, the room was clean and spacious. There was a hot drink machine and water available all day outside the breakfast room, along with a microwave. The room had a fridge too. Another nice thing about the hotel, which is one reason I chose it is the proximity to the subway. Overall, for the price, the hotel was worth it. We paid just $125/night through That is my favorite place to look for hotels. If you travel or use hotels quite a bit, it is even nicer because once you complete 10 nights, you get one free (or at least a credit towards a night, depending on how expensive it is.)

Once we settled in, got unpacked, checked the map for directions, and packed a day pack, we headed toward the subway. Being from a small town, I am always intimidated by the subway at first. I am used to stepping into my garage, hopping in my van, and driving to where ever I want to go. And, when I get there, having no trouble finding a parking place. This is not the case in NYC. We decided to buy the 7 day unlimited pass for $31/person even though we would only be there for 4 days. That way if we messed up we didn’t have to feel bad like we wasted the money. We would just reswipe the card and be on our way. The first obstacle came just minutes after buying the cards. The line we wanted to get on wasn’t running. I think it had to do with it being a weekday morning. So, we first had to travel in the opposite direction to the end of the line (about 4 stops) and then get off and come back the other way. It took awhile but wasn’t difficult. We made our way to the 9/11 Memorial area. We stopped for a panini, chips, and a Coke at Panini & Company Bread and ordered our 9/11 Memorial tickets online. I had read on a few different sites that we had to have them ahead of time so we messed with the website, which took forever and paid the $4 handling fee for the free tickets. Because we didn’t have a printer with us, we then had to go the the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site on Vesey Street. It turns out that we could have gotten tickets there although we would have had to wait an extra 1/2 hour. It would have been worth it though because I would rather donate the $4 handling fee to the Memorial and not have to mess with it online. We had enough time to look around at St. Paul’s Church and saw some headstones from the early 1800’s. Many of the headstones were so worn that they could not even be read anymore. After that, we walked to the 9/11 Memorial and got in line to get in. It turns out we could have gotten tickets there as well, although we would have had to stand in line. We still stood in line with our tickets but not for nearly as long as those who didn’t already have tickets. After making our way though airport-type security (minus having to take off shoes), we walked to the view the pools. The South Pool’s waterfall was on and it was amazing. It was moving to see all the names and to think about the impact that day had on so many lives. Then we went through the gift shop and saw Paul Jr.’s tribute bike. Derek really liked watching American Chopper and Sr. vs. Jr., so he enjoyed seeing the bike. The 9/11 is a must see in NYC.

After the Memorial, we got back on the subway and headed toward Times Square. When we went to NYC in 2009, we only saw Times Square during the day and I really wanted to see it at night with all the lights and excitement. When we got off the subway at Times Square, it was a little after 6:00 and it was starting to get darker. I could already tell how amazing it was going to be. We ate at Hard Rock Cafe, which was right near the subway when we got off. We shared the nachos and a salad. When we came out from the restaurant, which is in the basement, it was dark out and the lights were amazing! We walked around, did a little shopping, and just took in the sights.

Then we took the subway back to the Verve in Long Island City. We had to walk about 3 blocks back to the hotel. I’m not sure I’d have wanted to walk it by myself, but I felt fairly safe walking with Derek.


Disney World:: Saturday, June 19, 2010

We met in front of the hotel early in the morning and boarded the bus for the airport. I wanted to sleep on the way there, but the driver just kept talking and talking. We stood in line forever and checked in with the less than helpful desk workers and were separated from the rest of the family, even though we had already selected seats online. Frontier/Midwest was not the best or most accomodating airline. In fact, other than the fact that they didn’t crash, they were not good at all. We landed in Milwaukee, collected our luggage and vehicles, and were on our way home. Mom and Dad rode with us and we stopped at a McDonald’s on the way back to Roscoe. We stopped in at Mom and Dad’s for a rest and then made it the rest of the way home. It was an amazing trip that we will never forget. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Milwaukee Mitchell Airport and Disney World:: Saturday, June 12, 2010

Happy birthday, Dave!

We started the day dark and early. It was 3:45a.m. when we pulled the kids out of bed and got in the van. We drove across town to David’s and they followed us to Milwaukee’s airport. Neither of the kids fell asleep in the car. We waited to check in while Derek and David went to park and then it was your typical security check. Ugh! Last summer I lost my swiss army knife key chain when we went to the Statue of Liberty and Mom got me a new one for Christmas. Well, guess what…yep, I lost it. So bummed. I love that thing. Mom asked, “Do I have to get you one every year for Christmas?” I think my answer was, “Yes.” The next thing I lost was a jar of peanut butter. Apparently I have been missing something about pb. I didn’t know it was a drink. Yes, apparently it is a liquid and therefore larger than the 3.4oz (or whatever) size allowed in a carry on. Huh? I asked the lady if she was serious. I think her answer was, “Yes.” By the time we got to the gate, we didn’t have too long to wait until boarding. We did preboarding with young children only to find out that our seats were not where they were supposed to be when we selected them online. The nice stewardess lady, Pat, from Midwest/Frontier airlines was less than polite to Beth when we were trying to figure out our seats and they demanded that we were going to pull out on time and blah blah blah. Well, after everyone boarded, there was more than 1 announcement to try to get people to leave the plane since the company had overbooked. We sat there for 1 hour…yes, literally an hour while they tried to figure it all out. Abby and Cade both fell asleep on the plane, but not at the same time, so I had to stay awake. Derek was across the aisle in the middle seat, so I was on my own. We arrived in Orlando a little behind schedule, gathered our bags, and made our way to ground transportation, only to find out that Disney ground transportation leaves from somewhere else. We went back in the airport, up to the 3rd floor, across the airport, back down to the first floor, and into a line. Then we found out that we didn’t have a barcode paper for the bus. Why didn’t Disney send it? Into another line for Dad while the rest of us stepped aside (McDonald’s syle). We finally got what we needed, got on the bus, and got on our way. The Wilderness Lodge would be home for the next 7 nights. We got checked in and it was beautiful. Well, the lobby and David’s room were, anyway, since Dad’s and our room weren’t ready yet. Check in wasn’t until 3 and it was only about 1:45 or so, so no big deal. We got a call that Mom and Dad’s room was ready. Then we went down for Magic Cookie hour at Roaring Forks. Magic Cookie=free sugar cookies with a dish of frosting and sprinkles to decorate with. We still didn’t have our room and it was getting close to time to leave for our dinner reservation. We dug through some bags and got what we needed. We left Wilderness around 3:45, took a boat to the Contemporary Hotel, and then the monorail to The Grand Floridian. Our dinner was at 1900 Park Fare. We were joined by Cinderella, Prince Charming, Lady Tremaine, and the ugly step sisters. The step sisters were hilarious. They really played up the part and were entertaining. It was all a bit rushed and I felt like I had to hurry with each character. It wasn’t because of anything they did, but just being our first character meal, I didn’t really know to just slow down and enjoy. It was a little difficult to feel like we could just sit and relax while eating though. It was a lot of up and down and pictures and signing of books, etc.

After dinner, we headed to The Magic Kingdom. It is amazing. Just walking down Main Street with Cinderella’s Castle in front of us…it is magical. Cade was so impressed that he fell asleep. It made it a little difficult to coordinate rides and such. Derek sat out of a few but we just couldn’t see waking him up or trying to hold him while standing in line. After a few rides, Mom, Dad, Derek, the kids and I decided to call it a night. On our way out, Abby just had to have a balloon. I knew it wouldn’t be cheap, but when the lady said $15, I almost choked. It was pretty special, though. It had a Mickey Mouse shaped balloon inside a round balloon and it flashed with red, green, and blue lights. We took the boat back to the hotel and slept.

Lambert St. Louis International Airport:: Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We left the hotel at 8am on the shuttle and got in line to check our luggage. “Derek, where are the car seats?” “Oh, shit.” Yep. The car seats were in our hotel room. Luckily we had the hotel phone number from the night before, called them, they were super nice and put our car seats on the next shuttle. Also, lucky we were early to the airport, as usual, so we had time to wait for them. Anyway, we made it through, got to the gate, ate some breakfast, waited, got on the plane, had a short turbulent flight, and made it to Chicago before 11am. Both kids fell asleep in the van on the way home. We were home before 1pm and we were glad.


San Antonio Children’s Museum:: Monday, March 8, 2010

Derek had a session Monday morning and then we checked out and headed to the San Antonio Children’s Museum. The best part was the HEB grocery store in the basement. The kids had a blast.

Remember the show Supermarket Sweep? Looks like they are ready!

Cade LOVED the bananas. He lined them all up, put them in his cart, lined them up, put them back…pretty much played with bananas the whole time! We left for lunch. We walked a few blocks to McDonald’s and then walked back to the museum. Cade fell asleep on the way back. Abby played dress up, read books, and played in a neat ball area.

When Cade woke up, we left and walked to El Mercado. I wasn’t quite as impressed as the first time we were there years ago, but we found a great Mexican bakery and got some good treats to eat on our walk back. On our way back toward the hotel, we found this neat fountain area in front of a church.

We made it the rest of the way back to the hotel and got our bags and met up with Karen. We took a taxi to the airport and got there pretty early. We ate and waited and waited. By the time we boarded the plane, I was so ready to be home and the kids were too. We were on our way and then, earlier than I thought, we started our descent. The pilot came on the intercom and announced that we were landing but that it wouldn’t look like Chicago, because it wasn’t Chicago. It was St. Louis. What?! Midway was pretty much shut down because of dense fog. Ugh! Abby started crying that she wanted our car. We landed and after some debate, we decided not to rent a car and drive home, but go to the Holiday Inn and take a flight in the morning. While we were making the decision, Cade threw up all over the floor, me and himself. Ugh! Derek went into a SW office and told them and that they might want to have someone come clean it up. About 15 minutes later, a paramedic was asking us questions about it. They had called an ambulance! Ugh! We made our way to where the shuttle was supposed to pick us up and there were so many people going to the Holiday Inn that we couldn’t fit on the first shuttle. Ugh! While we were waiting, Cade had diarrhea and it leaked through his diaper and pants. Ugh! After I got Cade cleaned up, Abby says, “I peed in my pants!” Ugh! I checked and they didn’t look wet. I checked again and told her that a few drips didn’t count. Thank God! We finally got on the shuttle, made it to the hotel, and were in our beds and sleeping by midnight! What a crappy travel day. They happen, luckily not real often.

Chicago Midway:: Thursday, March 4, 2010

Today is the day we were heading to San Antonio, Texas for Derek to attend the ASCD conference. Abby school in the morning and I made sure the house was picked up, dishes clean, laundry caught up, etc (all the things I have to do before leaving on a vacation) before I picked Abby up at 11:30. Cade took a short nap, for him, only an hour. Derek left school at 1:30 and we put a few more shows on the ipod touches before leaving for the airport at 3:00. Abby took a quick 20 minute nap on the way there. We got to Chicago Midway early, of course, but that is okay with me. I would rather be early and sit around than run through the airport, especially with 2 kids in tow. We parked in the parking garage. That was a first for us. We usually get dropped off. The luggage wasn’t too bad and I actually felt pretty organized and put together as we made our way through the airport. I absolutely love our backpack suitcase. There are no wheels, which makes it not as heavy. It is as big as a suitcase, but it has backpack straps or can be carried by a handle. It sure beats the heck out of trying to roll a suitcase and carry extra bags and keep the kids together and in this instance push a stroller. We got checked in, made it through security with little trouble (I brought no liquids.), and made it to the gate. There were 2 other people from Derek’s school going to the conference and one of them was at the gate with his family already. So, we visited, ate some supper, and waited…and waited…and waited. Our plane finally arrived and they had Group A line up. Then an announcement. There was no running water on the plane and they needed to fix it. I just hoped that wasn’t code for leaking fuel. Well, we left almost an hour and a half late, but we left. Twenty minutes into the flight, another announcement. There is no running water. We have hand sanatizer in the bathrooms. Nice. Luckily none of us had to use the bathroom on that flight. Cade was at the end of his day (remember short nap) and was ready to be DONE. That was with about 5 minutes left before we landed. He cried. We landed just after 10 and our friend John was coming to pick us up. Our bags came out right away and we went outside. Cade finally fell asleep sitting in the stroller while we watched the craziness that was SAT airport. The traffic was insane for a Thursday night at 10:30. Seriously. It was great to see John at close to 11:00. Partly because I missed him and partly because I was tired and just wanted to get to the hotel and go to sleep! Really, though, it was great to see him. He drove us to the Hilton Palacio del Rio on the Riverwalk. We checked in, said goodbye to John, and headed to the room. Abby said she didn’t want to go to bed. I told her it was time and that I was going to bed. To say I was tired was an understatement. Midnight hit and the rest of the eyes that had been open finally shut and we were all sound asleep.

Cozumel, Mexico:: Thursday, December 24, 2009

It was our last day in Cozumel and we planned to make the most of the morning and early afternoon before leaving for the airport. Before breakfast, I went to the lobby to try to check on our flight and weather conditions because we heard that there was terrible weather back home. We couldn’t get a wifi connection, so we finally decided that whatever would happen would happen and we went on with our day. We ate breakfast and brought our beach things with so we could head straight to the beach. We stayed at the beach for a few hours and then headed to the pool. Cade fell asleep so I went back to the room to shower and finish packing for our noon checkout time. Abby played with a new friend at the pool and Derek watched. At about 11am I met Derek and the kids coming back to the room just as I was coming down. We went back to the room and got everyone cleaned up and ready to go. We were able to leave our bags at the front desk, so we checked out and then went back to the pool snackbar to eat some lunch. We made one last stop at the buffet for some dessert when it opened at 12:30. After walking around a bit more and taking a few pictures, we were finally ready to leave.

We got a cab to the airport and got there around 2:30 for our 4:40ish flight. Abby and I checked out the airport shopping and Abby and Cade played toys while we waited. We left on time and hit some turbulance but otherwise had an easy flight to Atlanta. After claiming our bags and going through customs, we got back on the underground tram and headed to our gate. When we got there, the flight was delayed from 9:40 to 10:20. That was not what I wanted to see. We decided to go down the hall to a food court area for some supper. I called Mom and Dad since they would be picking us up at O’Hare and filled them in. We took our time, made a bathroom stop on the way back to the gate, and when we got to the gate at 9:40, no one was there! Well, just a few workers. All of the passengers were on the plane and the screen now read ON TIME. They had undelayed our flight and didn’t even make an announcement. I was shocked, but the airline worker assured me that they wouldn’t have left without us…yeah right! Anyway, we got on the plane and I made a quick call to Mom and Dad before we were on our way. The person in front of us had a hoodie on that was made to look like an animal with little ears on the hood and spots on the fabric. Cade took one look at those ears sticking out from in front of the seat and starting screaming and crying. I had to assure him that it wasn’t real, but it took him a few minutes to calm down. We hit more turbulance and my stomach was ready for the plane to land. Both kids were sleeping and we had to get our carry on bags. I carried Cade and the backpack and Derek took Abby and the 2 Trunkis. Luckily we had checked the stroller at the gate so Derek was able to put her in while we walked and walked to baggage claim. My arm was ready to fall off, but just as we stepped off the elevator by the baggage claim, I saw Mom walking in the door. Yeah! Perfect timing. I took Cade outside where Dad was waiting in the van and got him into the seat. He woke up, of course, but we were ready for the last leg of our journey home. Mom brought Abby out and she too woke up. I went in to help Derek get the bags and they came out quick, so we were on our way. We left O’Hare by about 10:20pm and made it home through the rain at midnight. Merry Christmas! Thanks to Mom and Dad for getting us and to Dad for driving us home. The kids slept and Derek and I shared some stories from the trip. After we got home, we had to get ready for Christmas morning. We moved the presents from our bed to under the tree, got Cade’s train table from upstairs, Abby’s Barbie house from the basement, hung stockings, and got ready for bed. Derek and I finally feel asleep about 1 am. It was an awesome vacation or trip. My theory on the difference between a vacation and a trip was kind of blown. I always said that if you go on a trip you come back tired and if you go on a vaction you come back rested. Well, what I failed to realize is that if you have to get back from somewhere, whether it is by car or plane or whatever, you will probably come back tired. So, vacation or trip, whatever, I will come back tired, but it is always worth it!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

After spending the night at Jay and Missy’s, just 20 minutes away from O’Hare, we woke up at 6 and were out the door at 6:20. Jay drove us through the snow and ice and slush and dropped us off. After checking in, we found out our 9:05 flight was delayed and delayed and delayed. The kids loved riding on their Trunkis through the airport. I wish I had pictures of it, but we were too busy pulling. By the time we left O’Hare, we knew it would be a close connection in Atlanta.
We got to Atlanta and had very little time. We made it to the underground tram and headed from Terminal A to Terminal E. When we made it to Terminal B, some stupid woman decided to piddle around in the doorway of the train and jammed it. She then continued to complain about it. Figures. After sitting on the train for 5 minutes, the maintenance man fixed it and we were back on our way. Up an escalator and I told Derek to go and have them hold the plane. I was carrying Cade and Abby was running. When she couldn’t keep up with Derek, she kept yelling, “Daddy! Wait for me!” I told her it was okay and to keep running. She started crying, but being the seasoned traveller that she is, she kept running! As we were running, they were calling our names over the intercom, but Derek got there just in time and we were not too far behind. Whew…that was the last Delta flight of the day from Atlanta to Cozumel. We got on, moved seats around and were on our way…again.
Cozumel airport is kind of crazy for how small it is. They have time share people that attack right when we came through the first door. Some people don’t know what it is for and go with them. I had read travel blogs and just said, “We’re taken care of,” and walked away. We ended up on the Collectivo van since the taxis are all off of airport grounds. We should have walked to the taxi. We sat in the van for a good (or actually bad) 30 minutes. Then the ride to the hotel and we were TIRED! When we saw the hotel, it was all worth it. It was beautiful. Amazing. Wonderful. We checked in to the all inclusive Park Royal resort with no problems, which I had booked through for a meer $120 per night. The open air lobby was cool…literally…with the wind blowing in, it felt like we were still in the Windy City. Well, not exactly, it was probably in the high sixties, but quite windy. We had someone bring our luggage to the room and we went and found our spacious room on the top, ninth, floor of tower 1. We had a steam shower, storage space, 2 double beds, and a balcony overlooking the ocean and the cruise ships. We were pleased. After we got our luggage and settled in, it was about time for dinner. We went to the buffet, which opened at 6:30. That is where we ate all of our meals, unless we ate at the snack bars, since the kids couldn’t go to the other 2 restaurants (which we knew ahead of time). We always found great food at the buffet and there was something for everyone. Some nights were better than others, since they were themed, such as Italian, Caribbean, Mexican, Oriental, or Chef’s Night. After dinner we sat by the pool and soaked up the fact that we were officially on vacation. We all feel asleep fast that night.