The second I knew that COVID had officially killed all our 2020 international travel plans, I knew I had to plan a great adventure that was not only SAFE but was also domestic. With my love for travel, there was no way I was going to be cooped up for months on end this whole year and NOT travel as well. So a two-week road trip along the western coast visiting different National Parks seemed like the most ideal plan since we could be socially distant and outside as much as possible!
Our road trip started in Seattle, Washington, and ended in Malibu, California, and totaled 2,871 miles! We made so many stops along the way at notable destinations like Olympic National Park, Cannon Beach, Redwoods, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Big Sur, and more! Our very close friends, Nick and Lindsay, joined my husband and me for the first week of this adventure and they brought SO much joy and laughter along with them.
Day One: Olympic National Park, Washington
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Lake Crescent - The drive from the airport to our first destination, Olympic National Park, was breathtaking! Beautiful mountainous hills and fall colors surrounded us on every corner. After about 2.5 hours of driving and a quick stop to a local grocery store for road trip essentials, we arrived at Lake Crescent. The arrival at Lake Crescent was something that I will always remember. We took a turn around a bend in the road and out of nowhere this beautiful lake was presented to us. All our jaws dropped at the beauty that seemed to have come out of nowhere!
What is Lake Crescent? Lake Crescent is nestled in the northern foothills of the Olympic Mountains and is the second deepest lake in Washington as an official maximum depth of 624 feet. It is known for its vibrant blue waters and exceptional clarity that is caused by lack of nitrogen in the water which inhibits the growth of algae. Residing on the lake itself, is Lake Crescent Lodge where we were fortunate enough to spend our very first evening.
Day Two: Olympic National Park, Washington
(Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Valley & Forks)
Side note: The only downside to visiting Olympic National Park is that driving through the park is not possible, as you can only drive around the park to visit its various locations. The 101 (main highway surrounding the park) is the only road that surrounds the park entirely, so that is the main road we drove during our visit in ONP and is the best way to get around this HUGE park and its various locations.
What is Sol Duc Valley? Sol Duc Valley is named the most beautiful falls in the entire park and is situated just a few miles from Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort and Campground.
What is Forks? Forks, Washington, is a small town that is located right outside of Olympic National Park. It is named after the forks in the nearby Quillayute, Bogachiel, Calawah, and Sol Duc rivers. The town gained popularity in tourism after the book and movie series, Twilight was set in Forks. Twilight tours are available here, but there was no way I was going to convince my friends and husband to take these tours (even though I hate to admit that I am a huge Twilight fan and would have loved to take part in these tours).
Day Three: Olympic National Park, Washington
(Hoh Rainforest, Third Beach, & Forks)
What is Hoh Rainforest? The Hoh Rainforest (pronounced “Hoe”) gets its name from the ever-flowing Hoh River that has carved its way from Mt. Olympus towards the Pacific Coast forming from glacier runoffs. Known as one of the world’s lushest rain forests, the Hoh Rainforest gets as much as 14 feet of rain each year and the prevalent fog and mist contributes the equivalent of another 30 inches of rain each year! Mosses and ferns blanket the surfaces of the entire forest and its surroundings.
What is Third Beach? Third Beach is a tidepool beach located on the Olympic Pennisula Coast near Forks. This is one of the Olympic Coast’s famed wilderness beaches with excellent opportunities to view bald eagles and seals. The hike to Third Beach is known to hikers worldwide as it delivers wonderment in every season throughout the year.
Upon arriving at the Third Beach Trailhead, we parked our car and began the infamous roundtrip 2.8 mile hike through extremely tall sitka spruce, western hemlock and red alder trees. Along the way, we could hear sounds of a nearby rushing creek and many birds in the trees above us.
The sun was beginning to set so we made the wise decision to begin our 1.4 mile hike back to the car to return back to the Forks Airbnb for our final night in Washington.
Day Four: Olympic National Park to Cannon Beach, Oregon
(Ruby Beach & Cannon Beach, Oregon)
What is Ruby Beach? Ruby Beach is located on the Washington Coast and is part of Olympic National Park. It got its name from the reddish granules that gather on the shore. It is known for the many rocks, sea stacks and huge driftwood logs on shore.
We said goodbye to our adorable Forks Airbnb and drove 35 minutes to Ruby Beach. We parked at the main parking lot and began walking down to the shore. The walk was amazing within itself offering views of Ruby Beach from above with extremely tall trees surrounding us. Once we reached the bottom, we climbed over many large driftwood logs to reach the beach.
What is Cannon Beach? Cannon Beach is located along the Pacific Coast of Oregon. It is a small, quaint beach town famous for the “Haystack Rock” that resides on the beach. Haystack Rock is a 327-foot tall sea stack that has tide pools home to many animals including colorful starfish, sea anemone, crabs and sea slugs. It is taller than the Leaning Tower of Pisa! The rock is also a nesting site for many seabirds and puffins. Low tide offers the chance to walk right up to the tide-pools. This famous Haystack Rock can be seen in the opening scene of the 1985 movie The Goonies.
Day Five: Cannon Beach & Bend, Oregon
(Cannon Beach, OR and Bend, OR)
We spent our morning enjoying coffee on the beach and watching the morning fog rise from the coastline. Come late morning, we left the hotel to explore the adorable small beach town of Cannon Beach. We had the most delicious crepes and eggs benedict at Pig ‘N Pancake right in town. It was the best crepe I think I have ever had. After breakfast, we walked around the town a bit, did some shopping, and stopped at The Wine Shack and bought some local wine to bring on the rest of the road trip with us!
Day Six: Redwood National & State Parks, California
(Redwoods National & State Parks)
Our first week officially came to an end and our lovely friends departed us as we continued on to our second week. Stay tuned for next week’s blog to read about week two of our road trip! Next up: San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Big Sur, and more!
Interested in planning a domestic road trip? Or visiting any of these destinations? Contact Christine Wolff to start planning your trip today! Call 314-439-5700 ext. 134 or email her!
My husband and I have always been huge Disney fans which means we absolutely love to vacation at Walt Disney World. My entire pregnancy people told me "you know you have to wait years before you go back to Disney World?" because people knew I would be dying to go back there and to most people it sounds like a miserable idea to take a baby to Disney. Well, when I announced I was planning to take my baby to Walt Disney World I got tons of push back! Of course I was a little nervous, but guess what - taking my 10-month-old to Disney was the best decision I ever made and I can't wait to go back with him! I will say it definitely was a different type of Disney vacation than what I've been used to, but it was completely worth it and here are some of my tips for taking your baby to Disney:
1. Be on your baby's schedule
On previous Disney vacations my husband and I would be the first ones in the park and the last to leave each day. We had to ride every ride, see every show and close out the night with fireworks. Unfortunately, this plan doesn't work too well with a baby. Nap time, feedings and bedtime all have to be taken into consideration. But this doesn't mean you can't still have fun! Be sure to have a stroller that you can recline back so baby can nap during the day and you can walk around the Park or get a yummy snack. Also, slowing down your pace will actually allow you to enjoy more of the Parks than constantly being on the go, which we definitely learned on this trip. Don't expect your baby will be awake for every photo opportunity. You have to learn to just go with the flow.
2. Ship baby necessities to your resort
If you plan to fly to Walt Disney World it's not practical to pack diapers, formula and food in your suitcase. You'll lose valuable space and you'll probably get stuck paying for heavy luggage fees at the airport. Instead, go on Amazon before your trip and select the items that your baby needs the most and have them shipped to the resort you're staying at. This was a lifesaver for us! I chose everything I needed and changed the shipping address to the resort. Be sure to include "Guest" with your name and check-in date on the shipping label so they can easily find the package when you check in.
3. Pack a change of clothes each day
Accidents and babies go hand in hand. You just never know when something will happen to a baby's clothes. Be sure that before you head out to the Parks each day that you have a spare change of clothes in your diaper bag. To quickly locate everything I recommend putting the change of clothes in a Ziplock bag, and this will also help keep the soiled clothes separate from everything else in your bag. Trust me, accidents WILL happen.
4. Mark your stroller
Any time you want to hop on a ride you have to leave your stroller in the sea of stroller parking. It can be difficult to quickly identify which stroller is yours, so to help out be sure to have a sign that you can attach to the back of your stroller. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, you could use a brightly colored ribbon. However I like to be a little extra and full of Disney flair, so I had a custom sign made that I found here on Etsy. Remember, don't leave valuables in your stroller!
5. Get a stroller fan
I can't emphasize this enough, you have to get a fan to clip on your stroller! There is almost nothing hotter than the Florida sun and you have to have something to keep your baby cool. I purchased this rechargeable fan on Amazon and it worked wonders. We clipped it to the top of the stroller so our son couldn't mess with it but it was securely aimed on him at all times.
6. Utilize Fastpasses for baby-friendly rides
Fastpasses are free with your park admission and they're a great way to make your ride-planning much easier. You get three Fastpasses that you can book in advance, and once you've used all your Fastpasses at one park you can request additional passes. To avoid waiting in lines and causing our son to get restless, we only went on rides if we had a Fastpass (or if there wasn't a long wait time). They made our day so laid back and our son thoroughly enjoyed every ride he went on! Our son got to experience The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Frozen Ever After, "it's a small world", Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Peter Pan's Flight, The Voyage of The Little Mermaid, Prince Charming Regal Carousel, Carousel of Progress, Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover and Kilimanjaro Safari. I loved how his face would light up with curiosity, he would let out happy squeals and clap his hands to songs!
7. Book Character Dining experiences
My son is obsessed with watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and I knew I wanted him to have the chance to meet all of the characters. The best place to do this is at Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort. I booked this during breakfast when I knew it wouldn't interfere with nap time and he would be in good spirits. It was the best way for us to have one-on-one time with each character without having to wait in long lines to meet them. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy all came to meet our son and he just couldn't get enough of them! It even brought a few tears to this Disney momma's eye.
8. Document as much as you can
Since Disney is so dear to my heart I wanted to document as many moments as I could with my son. Before the trip I made "first" signs for different experiences I knew my son would have throughout Walt Disney World. It made us pause during the day to appreciate little moments and take in different experiences in a new way. Not to mention I have so many more pictures for our photo album because I captured the moment!
Bottom line, just go with the flow and you'll have a fantastic time! To book your Walt Disney World vacation, contact Brentwood Travel at 314-439-5700 or send us an email!
We boarded the ship on Friday, May 24th after spending the evening prior in Seattle. We arrived at the Cruise Terminal and boarded Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas. The check in at the terminal was a breeze! We had completed our check in process before we even arrived in Seattle. I highly recommend doing this!
Our itinerary was absolutely wonderful! Although I will say, after this cruise I DEFINITELY want to see more of Alaska! This 7-night cruise featured stops to Juneau, Skagway and Victoria, British Columbia. We also had two days out at sea and one day cruising through Alaska’s Inside Passage as well as one day cruising through Endicott Arm & Dawes Glacier.
I will be honest, I was a bit bummed at first that we were only going to have 3 days in port, but after experiencing the views from our balcony stateroom during our days cruising, I totally changed my mind! I swear we could have sat out on that balcony for HOURS.
With a group of 16, it was hard for us all to decide on the same shore excursions so some of us did different things while in port. All our excursions & tours were booked through a company called Shore Trips because we were wanting smaller group excursions. Everyone LOVED their shore excursions! We all thought our tour guides were very knowledgeable and entertaining. The tours were very well done and worth every penny!
The tour that 8 other members of our group and I went on was the “Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier Combo Tour.” First, we were taken to Mendenhall Glacier where we were given an hour and half to do what we wanted. We decided to take the mile hike to the foot of Nugget Falls. The views from this point were just stunning! I have never seen a waterfall that big before. The waters of Mendenhall Lake were a mixture of blues and from where we were standing, we could actually see where the fresh water from the lake met the glacier’s run-off. This change in colors was beautiful to see! The glacier itself was unbelievable. I had seen many photos of it from all the research I had been doing prior to the trip but seeing it in person was a whole new perspective.
After our visit to Mendenhall Glacier, we were driven to Auke Bay where we boarded our boat and met our very knowledgeable captain and marine biologist tour guides. They were both very insightful and entertaining. They lead us directly to whales, sea lions, harbor seals, bald eagles, and other wildlife while teaching us all about life in Alaska and the habits and lives of these beautiful mammals.
Even though we had chances to see whales and dolphins from our ship, seeing them up close and personal like this was a whole other experience! We were all SO glad we took part in this tour!
Two members of our group did the “Mendenhall Lake Canoe Adventure.” They paddled their way across beautiful Mendenhall Lake leading them to the face of the living Mendenhall Glacier.
Three other members of our group decided on the “Helicopter and Dog Sled Tour” in Juneau. Their tour began with a 20-minute helicopter ride through glacier-carved mountains to the top of Herbert Glacier where they found about 80 huskies waiting to greet them. The mushers (tour guides/dog sled leaders) then took them on a 2-mile look through the mountains, even letting them drive the sleds!
Our group was split into 3 on this day also. Five members of our group went on the “Mt. Riley Nature Hike with Catamaran Cruise” taking them on a scenic boat ride and then to the trail for a hike to the summit of Mt. Riley at a height of 1,760 ft. The trail took them through the temperate rain forest in their almost 5 hours long round trip. From the top, they experienced panoramic views that include the snow-capped Chillkat Mountains. They LOVED their experience on this excursion!
Another group of 4 joined the “Yukon Suspension Bridge and White Pass Trail by Jeep” tour for an adventurous trip through the mountains. Each group of 2 was given a 4-door Jeep Wrangler to drive caravan style for the day. Their driving path paralleled that of the narrow-gauge railroad, the White Pass Railway and featured stops to experience many different beautiful mountain views. They also walked the 200 ft long Yukon Suspension Bridge, a pedestrian cable bridge hanging 65 ft above raging rapids of the Tutshi River Canyon.
I, along with 4 others, decided to take part in 2 excursions while in Skagway. One in the morning and the other later in the afternoon. We began our day boarding the Scenic Railway of the World on the “White Pass Train and Drive” tour, which took us on a 28-mile journey between Skagway, Alaska and Fraser, British Columbia. The historic train ride took us through breathtaking panoramas of mountains, glaciers, gorges, waterfalls and tunnels while we listened to our guides narration of the history of this route. The views from this train were unreal! There were many points in which I looked off the back of the train car and felt as if we were just going to fall right off the side of the mountain. The scenery changed drastically as we rode from Alaska into Canada.
Once we reached Fraser, a tour vehicle picked us up and transferred us back to Skagway with stops to Pitchfork Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and the infamous Alaska Sign along the way! This tour and our guides were simply amazing! I would recommend this tour to ANYONE visiting Skagway.
In between excursions, we walked the town of Skagway and grabbed lunch. Afterwards, 6 of us joined the “Speed Boat Fjord Discovery” tour for some thrills on the water! We met our captain and our tour guide and got into our “exposure suits” to protect us from the wind. Our boat was the same type of boat used by the U.S. Navy Seals and Coast Guard and was VERY fast! The tour took us through the Lynn Canal which is North America’s longest and deepest fjord! Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and got us up close and personal with many hidden coves, massive waterfalls and a lot of wildlife. We got to see harbor seals and a whole lot of bald eagles and their nests! This was yet another tour that I would recommend to anyone visiting Skagway. It was not only informative but very thrilling all at the same time.
VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA
Our balcony stateroom really did make our vacation! Waking up and enjoying room service on our balcony as we sailed past glaciers felt like living in a dream.
I am still in complete AWE of what we experienced during our trip and I still find it hard to believe that all these views are right in our backyard! If Alaska is not on your travel bucket list, it should be!!
Contact Christine Hakenjos at 314-439-5700 ext. 134 or email her
GETTING TO THE RESORT
They arrived at the resort around 1 P.M. They found out their room was not going to be available until 3 P.M., but the staff was accommodating. They held their luggage and suggested grabbing lunch and going to the poll while their room was being prepared. Christy suggests packing a change of clothes and a swimsuit in your carry-on bag so you can easily grab those items during your wait.
THE ROOM AND AMENITIES
The resort had four pools on the grounds. There was a pool for kids and families and a pool with music and a swim up bar. If you wanted to relax, there were options, such as a quieter pool as well as an adult only pool. You even had a beautiful ocean view from the pools!
Christy was impressed with the staff and service at the resort. The maintenance staff kept the grounds and even the beach, incredibly clean. Whenever she needed something, the resort staff would always eagerly assist her.
DINING AND ACTIVITIES
The resort offered kayaks and two-seater catamarans to their guests daily. They also hosted daily morning bike rides to a local shopping center about a 30-minute ride from the resort, which was right up avid bike rider Christy’s alley. Christy also tried the water aerobics class at the resort.
Besides the activities available on the resort, there were other options for a change of scenery. Christy went on a one-day catamaran ride with about 30 other guests to Isla Mujeres. She spent the day relaxing and snorkeling and felt it was worth the additional cost.
Every night around 9:30 P.M. there was entertainment for the guests. Christy enjoyed watching the different themed dance performances each night. Their themed shows included Grease, the Lion King, and Dancing with the Stars.
Contact Brentwood Travel to book your trip today!
(314) 439-5700 or email here
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES
MAGGIE AND RACHEL'S TIPS FOR FIRST-TIME CRUISERS
Opting for a drink package versus paying for drinks individually will save you money in the long run for your trip. These packages give you the option for unlimited soda, beer, wine, spirits, and more depending on the package you decide to purchase.
2. Book a balcony room
Balcony rooms give you the option to get fresh air and enjoy a view of the water without having to leave your room. Rachel felt that for her first time cruising, the balcony room was a great option that make her feel the most comfortable.
3. Download the Carnival Hub app
This was a game changer for Maggie and Rachel’s trip. If you plan on sailing with Carnival, make sure to download this app! They were able to view their daily itineraries, menus, entertainment and even get pizza delivered to them anywhere on the ship all from their phones! You can also use the app before your cruise to book shore excursions, schedule dining reservations and schedule spa treatments.
4. Pack for formal/themed nights
Make sure to check your itinerary while packing to make sure you bring the proper attire for any themed or formal nights.
5. Bring certain items to avoid heavy on-board costs
Be sure to pack items such as sunscreen, seasickness remedies (bands, pills, or patches), and the allotted number of approved beverages to keep in your room. These items can have high prices on board, so you can save money by picking up and packing these items before your trip.
Interested in sailing the Western Caribbean on Carnival Vista?
Contact Maggie Groene (314) 439-5700 ext. 120 or email her
to book your next cruise on Carnival Vista today!
Here in the United States, we have Americanized Italian plates to a crazy amount. Most Italian restaurants that we know, offer enormous portion sizes of their pastas that are easily big enough to share. This is NOT the case in Italy. The pasta in Italy, considered there as “Primo” is individually sized and this is not because the cook is being stingy. Italians like to stagger their meals. They eat their appetizers first, then their pasta and THEN their main entrée. By keeping their pasta dish to a smaller size, Italians hold on to their appetites long enough to full enjoy all courses without feeling too stuffed. Leaving room for plenty Tiramisu for dessert!
When ordering a Pepperoni Pizza in Italy, you will get a pizza pie covered in peppers. Why? Because pepperoni in Italy means ‘bell peppers’. Pizza originated in Italy, but again, we have Americanized the Italian Pizza to a crazy amount. For example, BBQ chicken pizza, Hawaiian pizza & yes, even the pepperoni pizza originated here in the United States. NOT Italy. The traditional pizzas found in Italy will be the Margherita (mozzarella, tomato & basil), the Marinara (which is just crust & tomato sauce), the Quattro Formaggi (white pizza with four types of cheese), and the Capricciosa (artichokes, ham, mushrooms, and black olives). So keep this in mind when going to order your favorite pizza pie in Italy!
As noted above, Italians stagger the way they eat. Enjoying the antipasta before moving on to first course (pasta/risotto/soup). The second course is either a meat or fish dish. This is why you will NEVER see a meat or fish entrée served on the same plate as your pasta. Italians consider these as two separate dishes that should be enjoyed separately, with the pasta being served before the main dish. Insider tip: Split your antipasta and then order either a pasta or an entrée. If you are STILL hungry, you can always go back for more 😉
We come from a land with AT LEAST five drinks choices being offered on almost any menu here in the States. At many sit-down restaurants, Italians will only sip on two drinks; wine and water. The wine in Italy will be served in chilled glass bottles and will usually cost about 2 euros per bottle. The waiter will usually ask you if you want “acqua naturale” which is flat mineral water or “acqua frizzante” which is fizzy mineral water also known as sparkling water. Do not ask for tap water, most restaurants will refuse to serve that to you. House wines can be ordered by the liter and are usually the same price as the water! Most will offer wine by the bottle also.
“Italian dressing” in Italy does not exist. That salad dressing was (yes, you guessed it) Americanized as well! When ordering a salad in Italy, the waiter will bring extra virgin olive oil and vinegar to the table or “olio e aceto”. This is the only way Italians eat insalata. Another fun fact! Italians will absolutely not dip their bread into olive oil and balsamic.
With foods like pizza, pasta and focaccia most think that Italians eat nothing BUT carbs. This is actually not the case. When ordering pasta, Italians would never consider eating their bread before their bucatini. The bread that is served at restaurants is used to scoop up the leftover pasta sauce onto your plate and ONLY when you are finished consuming the pasta.
#7. There are no such things as “doggy bags” to bring leftovers with you.
Italians love fresh, homemade meals. They do not appreciate leftovers the way we do here in the states. You must be careful not to over order while dining in Italy. The pasta that is left on your plate will be taken away and not returned back to you. So, enjoy the food that is in front of you while you can but do not expect to take it home with you.
#8. Some dishes will not exist in all of Italy.
Rome is world famous for Carbonara. Florence is known for its Fagioli and Venetians go crazy for their risotto. Wherever you travel in Italy, each region will provide you their own flavors. So the food you enjoy in Rome will not necessarily resemble what you enjoy in Sorrento. Insider tip: before heading to Italy, do some research as to the local specialties in each of the places that you will be staying.
#9. Cheese does not always go on your dish.
It is not customary to ask for grated cheese on top of your dish. Sprinkling grated cheese on pasta dishes and Italian entrees is yet again a very American thing to do. Unless your waiter offers you a spoonful of grated cheese, do not ask for it. It is not meant to be on that dish or it will be offered after it is served.
#10. Enjoy a caffe or digestive after dinner.
Only foreigners will order a cappuccino with or after dinner in Italy. Italians would much rather order a caffe or macchiato after savoring a full, slow meal. Cappuccino’s are filled with milk and cream and is considered much too heavy after consuming a bunch of carbs. It is also very common to order a caffe corretto after dining, which is a shot of espresso spiked with liqueur. Insider tip: NEVER pass up on dessert while in Italy.
Here in the States, we are so accustomed to the waiter bringing us our check when we are finished dining. This is not the case in Italy. The waiters in Italy want you to sit and enjoy your meal and do not want to hurry you out the door. Instead, they will wait for you to ask for the bill (which you can simply do so by flagging them down and requesting the “il conto” when you are ready to pay because they do not want to rush you out the door.
#12. Peel your fruits and vegetables.
Italians do not consume fruits and vegetables with the skin on them. They will always peel the skin off first. Many think that this is because Italians think the pesticides are unhealthy but most will say that this is because of tradition. If you start to bite into a fruit that still has the skin on it, you will most likely have the fruit ripped from your hand and the skin cut off for you by a local. Don’t get embarrassed this way 😉
It is considered rude in Italy to arrive early or on time to a dinner event. Italians will always try and arrive just a tad after the planned time as to not rush the host or chef.
Below you can find pictures shared by Travel Consultant Julie Skrainka, who travelled to Sorrento back in May. She & her husband, Alan spent an evening at their Agriturismo making pizzas with their host Natalia, her mother-in-law and her husband Luigi. Once Julie & her husband were finished creating their pizza masterpieces, Luigi then baked them in their own beautiful wood-fired oven.
Hungry for your next Italian adventure?
Contact us to get started on planning your next vacation to Italy!
Call us: 314-439-5700
Visit us: 1022 Executive Parkway; St. Louis, Missouri 63141
This summer I went on a 4 night Jamaica getaway to Secrets Wild Orchid with my friend Libby.
Secrets Wild Orchid shares their property with Secrets St. James. Each resort has their own set of rooms and their own main pool areas but they share the restaurants and the entertainment. You have access to both properties!
A quick walk across the sky bridge and I was in a modern, hip environment. Breathless Resorts are adults only but focus on a social environment. The pool area has a DJ and weekly foam parties. We had lunch at their rooftop restaurant and pool.
begin planning an amazing Jamaican vacation with Secrets!
We started our trip by flying into Vancouver two days before our cruise was scheduled to depart. We stayed at the Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel which was in a great location for exploring the city. To see some of the beautiful scenery in the surrounding area, we booked a small group tour with a local guide. He took us North to Squamish, where we were able to see Shannon Falls, the Sea to Sky Gondola, and the famous suspension bridges.
On May 27, we were able to board our ship: Holland America’s Westerdam. We spent the afternoon exploring the ship, and when it was time to depart Vancouver, we made our way to the top deck for the Bon Voyage party. The scenery was beautiful as we sailed out of the port and began our journey North to Alaska!
Our first full day on the ship was a day at sea. We decided to hangout on the top deck and enjoy the sunny weather while keeping an eye out for whales and dolphins. That evening we cruised through the inside passage, and the crew opened up the bow of the ship so we could all get a great view as we sailed forward! We then went to dinner in the main dining room and got a table next to a window to continue enjoying the passing scenery.
The first port we visited was Ketchikan, where we booked an excursion to go sea kayaking. Ketchikan is known for being the rainiest city in Alaska, and even though there was a light rain falling when we started our tour, the guides were prepared with rain gear that kept us completely dry as we paddled through the peaceful coves! After our kayaking adventure, we walked through the famous Creek Street. The sun came out and we had perfect weather as we did some shopping and sampled local beers. We then returned to the ship and spotted lots of eagles as we sailed on to our next port!
Our next stop was Juneau, Alaska’s capitol city. We started or day by visiting the famous Mendenhall Glacier. We took a leisurely hike down to the lake for a closer view of the glacier and Nugget Falls.
Our next adventure in Juneau was an excursion that I had been looking forward to for months. We had decided to splurge and book a helicopter tour to a dogsled camp on top of a glacier, and it was definitely worth it! The helicopter ride took about 15 minutes each way, and the views from the sky were stunning. When we landed at the dogsled camp, the workers there gave us an insight to their way of life and let us meet some of their sled dogs. (As an animal lover, I was in heaven!) They hooked up a sled and we took off on a ride around the snow-covered glacier. I was happy to see how much the dogs loved running through the snow, and we could see that they were well taken care of by their handlers. This tour was very well done and was a highlight of the trip!
Our next port was Skagway, which is known for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad. We had planned to take the famous train excursion, but there was a landslide the night before and the railroad was closed for repairs. Instead, we took a bus tour up the Klondike Highway (which runs parallel to the train route) and had a great time! Our local driver made multiple stops for us to get out and take pictures of the beautiful scenery, and we spotted a family of bears hanging out right next to the highway.
We spent the rest of the day hiking a local trail, sampling the local breweries, and walking around the historic town before heading back to the ship.
Another highlight of our cruise was sailing through Glacier Bay National Park. The weather was perfect as we sat out on the top deck and watched the glaciers calving into the water below. The captain was able to slowly rotate the ship to make sure that everyone got a great view. Holland America had invited park rangers onboard to talk about the surrounding area, and they were available to help spot wildlife and answer any questions.
When we arrived in Seward, we were sad to leave the ship, but excited to head up to Denali! We boarded a motor coach and began the drive North. We were able to stop at Potter Marsh for some free time and wildlife watching, and then we continued our drive. As we approached the park, our driver stopped at a scenic viewing point and we got our first look at the massive Denali Mountain! We then arrived at the impressive McKinley Chalet, which would be our home for the next 3 nights.
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On our first morning in Denali, we took the Tundra Wilderness Tour into the National Park. This tour took us far into the park with a guide that kept us well informed, and we were able to see lots of bears, moose, caribou, and Dall sheep. The tour took us to an incredible viewing point where we were lucky enough to see Denali’s mountain peak for a second time! That evening, we enjoyed the campfire and live music at the chalet after a wonderful meal at a local restaurant.
Because we booked a Triple Denali tour, we had another day in the park to do whatever we wanted! We decided to go whitewater rafting, and even though the water was freezing, our wetsuits kept us warm and dry. Our experienced guide told us fun stories about his life in Alaska and kept us safe as we paddled through the rapids. After our exciting rafting tour, we took a relaxing hike that followed a river and led us to a scenic mountainside with a whole family of caribou.
After our adventure in Denali, we boarded the McKinley Explorer for our scenic train ride back to Anchorage. The dome windows gave us great visibility as we traveled through the mountains. There were lots of food and drink options available onboard and we had a guide that gave us information about the areas we were passing through. This was a fun and comfortable way to make the 8-hour journey!
We had one night in Anchorage, and then our flight home was late the next day. We had lots of fun walking around town, shopping, and trying out more local breweries! I was glad that we had free time to explore this unique town before heading back to reality.
Overall, this was an amazing vacation! Holland America did a fantastic job of helping us experience Alaska by land and sea. The transition from the ship to Denali was seamless and very well organized. Each employee we met was so kind and helpful, and I would highly recommend Holland America for anyone who wants to visit Alaska. Many people consider this a once-in-a-lifetime trip, but we enjoyed it so much that I know I’ll be back again someday!
Contact Maggie at 314-439-5700 ext. 120 or send her an email to begin planning your Alaska adventure.
Just because you're pregnant this doesn't mean you have to sit at home for the next 9 months waiting for your child to be born. Now is a great time for you to get out there and travel because once that baby comes, traveling will be put on hold for a while (still trying to figure out how I'm going to cope with this reality!). With that being said, there are some challenges and joys while traveling that I experienced first-hand and here are some tips that I put together to help you as you make your travel arrangements.
#1 - Get Maternity Leggings ASAP
Whether you choose to fly, drive, walk, run, or lay down you will want to be comfortable at all times, or as much as your growing baby will allow you. The best possible thing to wear is maternity leggings, and I bought about five pairs from Motherhood Maternity before starting my travels. Depending on the color and design they cost anywhere from $15 - $20 a piece (gotta love the cost of maternity clothes!). They have definitely been a lifesaver and I take them everywhere!
#2 - Combat Swollen Feet
If your feet don't swell while you travel then consider yourself VERY lucky. This is probably the most difficult thing I've had to deal with while traveling. If you're in a car or plane for long hours without moving those little piggies just get bigger and bigger and it can become extremely uncomfortable. Try elevating your feet as much as possible and be sure to get a pair of compression socks (aka the most attractive things you will ever wear). I purchased mine at Walgreens for about $7. If your spouse or a very considerate friend is traveling with you and they are willing to rub your feet, definitely take advantage of that as well!
#3 - Ask for Non-Alcoholic Equivalent Drinks
One of my favorite things about traveling is tasting that area's local craft beers and cocktails. In the pregnancy world, you're often left to try that region's finest Coca-Cola or aqua products instead. However, any time I found myself at a brewery or restaurant I always asked if they had any NA (non-alchoholic) beers/root beers or if they could make a virgin Piña Coloda or Strawberry Daiquiri. Just because you're pregnant that doesn't mean you can't still have something similar to the alcohol you're used to drinking. It also helps to make you not feel so left out when you're with a group of people who get to enjoy the real thing.
#4 - Take Your Maternity Pillow
First off, if you don't have a maternity pillow go out and get one now! Unfortunately they are not cheap though, I got mine for $100 at Destination Maternity but it was $100 well spent. Sleep is so important during pregnancy so why sacrifice your quality of sleep while traveling just because it's a bulky item? Obviously if you're flying this probably isn't the most user-friendly carry-on item, but on a road trip, cram that sucker in the trunk and get a good night's sleep when you check in to your hotel. You, and your growing belly, will thank you for it.
#5 - Go on a Babymoon
Babymoon? What's that? Essentially it's your last vacation before the baby is born. This is your time to be with your spouse or partner while traveling before you have to lug around Pack n Play's, strollers and diaper bags. Take the time to reflect on this exciting time in your life as a couple and enjoy the wonders of traveling before you have a new travel partner with you. My husband and I went to Gulf Shores to relax on the beach for a few days and I would highly recommend it. Pregnancy is exhausting at all hours of the day, so getting to just sit on the beach and float in the water to relieve belly weight and back pain was the perfect thing.
#6 - Talk With Your Doctor
One final piece of advice, always talk with your doctor before making your travel arrangements. Depending on how your pregnancy has been going, they may give you a cut off at how many weeks you're allowed to travel, how far you can travel, or they may give you specific restrictions. For example, my doctor has advised me not to swim at Lake of the Ozarks. Although I've swam in this lake my entire life, it is filled with bacteria that can be dangerous to the baby, so until I give birth I just have to hang out on the dock and stare at the water. I have been told other lakes, pools and the ocean are safe to swim in, however had I not said anything to my doctor I never would've realized I could've put my baby at risk.
Your consultant at Brentwood Travel will be up to date on all of the latest regulations and amenities the airlines, tour operators, hotels and cruise lines may have for pregnant women, plus the areas that could be infected with Zika. No need to go in on your own without being fully informed!
To book your Babymoon, contact the Brentwood Travel team today at
314-439-5700 or send us an email!
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