Apr 2010
29

Travel Planning Tips: Puerto Rico with the Family

I have mentioned that we are heading to Puerto Rico this weekend for a week-long visit, yes? After the past few weeks of craziness at work and home, and turning FORTY, I can’t tell you how much a couple Piña Coladas on the beach is calling out to me. It is whispering, “Aimee, come see us! We know it snowed in Denver this week, the sun would like to have a chat with you! A big, big sunny and warm chat!!!”

By the way – did you know Piña Coladas were invented in Puerto Rico? It’s true.

And since we had so much fun sharing our Ireland experiences, after we get back – I will have a bunch of tales to tell about this trip too. Until then, I have a ton of guest posts lined up. And I will be tweeting while there too.

Because, that is the first thing we checked. Cell service. Since Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, AT&T has no roaming charges or extra fees for service. It will be like we are connecting from Milwaukee. A Milwaukee with beaches (we are staying very close to Luqillo Beach) and rainforests (also close to the El Yunque rainforest) and bio-luminescent bays (an hour away) and did I mention PIÑA COLADAS?

OK, I am kidding about the Piña Coladas. (Kinda.) The thing about this trip is all THREE of us are going, the 7 year old included, and it will definitely be a family adventure. I have been researching my booty off and I am so looking forward to the mix of activities we have found – cool stuff for Declan AND cool stuff for us.

So, I thought I would share. Here are some random things I have learned as we have been preparing to go.

____________________________________

Travel Planning Tips: Puerto Rico with the Family

PASSPORT
Hey, remember how Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory??? This means YOU DO NOT NEED A U.S. PASSPORT TO TRAVEL THERE. Unless you go out of the country on your way, of course. Only driver’s license or birth certificate. Honestly, this is how we zeroed in on Puerto Rico in the first place. We let Declan’s passport lapse after Ireland (dummies) but still REALLY wanted something tropical. No offense to Florida (remember, I went to college there, I love Florida), when I say tropical – I mean *exotically* tropical.

TIME OF YEAR TO GO
High season in Puerto Rico is the same as the rest of the Caribbean – Thanksgiving through Easter. Part of the reason we decided to go in early May was to catch the end of the season – but miss the rainy / hurricane season, which kicks up in mid-summer. Yes, this timing forces us to take Declan out of school for the trip – but we felt the experience was worth it. And when we notified his principal, she asked if she could stow away in our luggage.

COST
This comes back to what I mentioned above – cost on the edge of season is cheaper, yahoo! We are finding that our budget for this trip is (or would be, see disclaimer below) similar to, or even less than, the cost of doing a week at Disney. Of course this depends on time of year, where you stay, etc. But we have been pleased with what we have seen thus far. Bonus: ability to use US dollar.

FLIGHTS
Depending on where you are coming from, you may not be able to get a direct flight into San Juan, and Puerto Rico’s largest airport. We could not from Denver. But we noticed that most of the flights flew through Chicago. So, we are splitting the trip on the way there and spending the night with a friend. The costs were the same, and it’s like getting an extra mini-vacation!

WEATHER

Again, primetime being December – March, we are expecting a little bit of rain and LOTSA heat. Better than the SNOW we had this week though.

ELECTRICITY
No adapter needed. Puerto Rico is on 110 volts AC.

NATIONAL PARKS PASS
The El Yunque rainforest is the only rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. Which means, you guessed it! You can use your National Parks Pass there.

WATER
From what I have read, tap water is safe as Puerto Rico follows the same water treatment standards as the US. However, the general consensus seems to be, it is also safer to ask for bottled water when chugging after hanging on the beach all day. [Mmmm. Beeeacccchhhhh.] Also, when we visit Mexico, we bring some Pepto Bismal – um, just in case – and we plan to pack some for PR as well.

BUGS (& YOUR HEALTH)
With all that humidity, there are bugs. Specifically mosquitoes. Mosquitoes carry disease. In this case, dengue fever. Whenever you travel, it’s a good idea to check out the CDC Travel Alerts page, just to see what is going on. For dengue fever, the best offense is a good defense – so we have hella DEET bugspray and even a bug repellent treated sun safe hat for Declan.

SUN SAFETY
Have I mentioned my company builds health education web sites? Clearly (see above), we DO sun safety, so YES, I have packed about 50 tubes of sunscreen. We are PREPARED. No sunburn’s gonna ruin our vacation.

TRAVELER SAFETY
Bring a first aid kit. I *always* do. Mainly because *I* always cut myself on something. As far as crime in Puerto Rico, from what I have read and hear, it is similar to other Caribbean areas in that if you follow the same safety rules that you do on the mainland (don’t flash money or jewelry), you should be fine.

FUN WITH KIDS
We learned from Ireland that a nice mix of “our stuff” and “his stuff” was in order. No need to pack every day with excursions, we are really looking forward to some days of just relaxing poolside. [Mmmm. Piñaa Colaaaadaaass]. Also, loading movies on the iPod was a total WIN WIN for some parent Declan chill time. We have never done a kid’s camp at a resort before, so I am interested in checking that out (and hearing any feedback you might have) – but the great thing about a FAMILY vacation is spending time together.

I can’t wait to do it.

Any other advice for travel to Puerto Rico?

____________________________________

Blogger Disclosure: This trip was partially sponsored by the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort. They are graciously providing accommodations for my family while we are in Puerto Rico.

Jan 2010
27

Winter Park Wrapup + 4-Pack Pass Giveaway!

Over MLK day weekend, my family and I were lucky enough to be hosted by Winter Park resort, as part of a group effort from Colorado Ski Country USA to show off how families can have fun at resorts all over Colorado.

From the get-go I was honest with them about my lack-luster skiing abilities. I mean, seriously – have you SEEN the Terror On The Mountain video? Grace, agility + snow are not words meant to be in my vocabulary.

Luckily, Winter Park has a bunch of other activities for people like me, so Bryan and I did a snowshoe tour while Declan entered his very first day EVER at ski school. (More on that later).

WinterPark2010_19

Bryan has been trying to get me to go snowshoeing for YEARS, he was always the more adventurous one of us.

WinterPark2010_25

What I learned? I LOVE SNOWSHOEING. It was perfect for me. Tromping around in the snow, requiring pretty much zero skills other than the ability to walk like a duck, and taking photos of nature? PERFECT.

WinterPark2010_16

We even saw a porcupine sleeping way up in a tree.

WinterPark2010_21

And here, you can turn your head sideways for the closest thing we got to “Terror On The Mountain Part II.” I think it’s an improvement at least.

After all this snow plowing, we had lunch in the newly-finished village area next to the ski slopes of Winter Park. And I have to tell say – THANK YOU WINTER PARK, for this addition. Because while WP is so close to Denver (an hour and a half), the one other time we had been there, I was frustrated with the lack of restaurants, and particularly the lack of retail near the resort. They now have a nice balance. Sure, they definitely maintained the small-town feel that WP is so famous for – but it’s a nice step into the next century.

WinterPark2010_06

Speaking of the next century and whiz bangy stuff. Remember how Declan was in ski school all day?

WinterPark2010_10

Well, he also had a *GPS tracker* on him, which I know was for safety and all, blah blah blah, whatever, what WE loved was we could log-in on the Flaik (“flake”) website when we got back to the hotel and SEE exactly where he had been on the mountain (actually a ton of places, see below) and how fast he was going (not very).

And as I mentioned above, we were much happier with our dinner choices this time around. A few restaurants have exported from Denver, like Cheeky Monk and Lime, plus comfort food from Doc’s Roadhouse and several other places we didn’t have time to try over the course of the weekend. [Next time.]

WinterPark2010_27

The next morning was all about TUBING. If you have never been, you cannot go to Winter Park and skip TUBING. Have I mentioned we love TUBING. You can probably see in my header right now that we enjoyed the TUBING. But here is one extra special cute-as-hell photo of Declan to convince you. That we like TUBING.

WinterPark2010_50

Oh, and a video as well. Of the TUBING. And the CACKLING. What is up with the CACKLING?

There are *two* TUBING places, one family-owned, the original, which is the first you see and one is Colorado Adventure Park, which is the one we went to this time around and has more things to do. But, I would say both are great, and they exist on the same hill. [So pick whichever has the shortest lines, basically.]

In between all this extracurricular fun, Bryan did manage to get some snowboarding in, and I rode up and down the lifts, taking photos. By the way, people like getting their photo taken on lifts.

WinterPark2010_36

And here comes the part where those of you paying attention to the news will know that I pay attention to the news as well. Intrawest, who has a deal with the City of Denver (the real owner of Winter Park, making it truly “Denver’s Resort”) for operations over the next 50 years is in a bit of trouble. As in they also own Whistler-Blackcomb in Vancouver, the site of the Olympics next month, and plan to auction off *that* resort DURING the big event. Seriously. This was all announced 3 days after we got back from Winter Park. Folks here in Colorado are calm (as we usually are) – but I couldn’t help emailing my rep at Winter Park and offering to auction off *her* resort right here on this blog. Seriously. [She laughed, but declined.]

Now. To bring this all full-circle. For those REALLY paying attention, you will remember that Declan was actually *conceived* at Whistler-Blackcomb on a ski trip on Feb 8, 2002 [Yes, I *do* know the date] – almost exactly 8 years ago. ALSO, you may have heard the screaming in Denver yesterday when it was announced that our very own Editor-in-Mile-Highness, Amber, is headed BACK to Vancouver to cover the Winter Olympics! SERENDIPITY, PEOPLE! The Circle of Life! I feel like holding Declan up like Simba! [And I am really sure Winter Park is THRILLED they picked me as their Colorado snow mama right about now.]

WinterPark2010_52

OK, Aimee. Focus.

What was I talking about?

Oh, yeah! Fun in Winter Park!

The other cool new thing up there is the Fraser Valley Rec Center. Brand new, with huge pool, huge slides inside the pool, and just one huge rule: NO CAMERAS. OK, there are more rules, but that was the one I heard about within 5 seconds of taking my camera out was: NO CAMERAS. I managed to sweet-talk my way into getting a shot or two anyway.

WinterPark2010_55

So, net-net?

Clearly we had a great time. We’ll be back. We liked the convenience of the village, the convenience of their new concierge-esque Custom Delivery Service (as in, for $29 for 4 people, they bring your boots, rental and lesson paperwork and lift tickets to you, NOT KIDDING), the convenience of walking across from the hotel to the slopes, the convenience of having Declan in ski school while we did our thing… can you see convenience is big with me?

WinterPark2010_01

And hopefully we’ll make is convenient for you to get there too. Winter Park is giving away a family 4-pack of tickets through the Mile High Mama’s site. Contest deadline is February 15th, so get over there.


__________________________________________________________

OK, and also, I really had to let you know about all the FREE stuff going on up there every night of the week as well. Oh, and if you are ever going up for some TUBING, you know who to call.

WINTER 2009-2010 FREE ONGOING FAMILY ACTIVITIES

MONDAYS
ICE-SKATING LESSONS
TIME/DATE: Saturdays – Wednesdays, December 19 – mid-March, 4:00 – 5:00pm
LOCATION: Village Ice Rink & Gazebo

TUESDAYS

ICE-SKATING LESSONS
TIME/DATE: Saturdays – Wednesdays, December 19 – mid-March, 4:00 – 5:00pm
LOCATION: Village Ice Rink & Gazebo

WEDNESDAYS
ICE-SKATING LESSONS
TIME/DATE: Saturdays – Wednesdays, December 19 – mid-March, 4:00 – 5:00pm
LOCATION: Village Ice Rink & Gazebo

THURSDAYS
KIDS’ NIGHT OUT
TIME/DATE: Thursdays, December 17 – April 8, 5:30 – 8:30pm
LOCATION: Kids’ Ski & Ride School – Blue/Green Rooms

DISCO SKATE NIGHTS
TIME/DATE: Thursdays, January 7 & 21, February 4 & 18, 6:00 – 8:00pm
LOCATION: Village Ice Rink & Gazebo

FRIDAYS

COWBOY SING-A-LONG
TIME/DATE: Fridays, December 18 – April 10, 4:00 – 5:00pm
LOCATION: Village Gazebo

MINI RAIL JAM SERIES
TIME/DATE: Fridays, January 15 – March 19, 4:30 – 6:00pm
LOCATION: Bouncer Terrain Park near Discovery Center

SATURDAYS

FIRESIDE STORY-TELLING
TIME/DATE: Saturdays, January 9 – March 27, 3:00 – 4:00pm
LOCATION: Discovery Center Plaza

ICE-SKATING BLADE CAPADES (GAMES)
TIME/DATE: Saturdays – Wednesdays, December 19 – mid-March, 4:00 – 5:00pm
LOCATION: Village Ice Rink & Gazebo

MEET WINTER PARK WILLIE
TIME/DATE: Saturdays, December 12 – April 10, 4:00pm – 5:00pm
LOCATION: Village Gazebo

SUNDAYS

FREE ICE-SKATING LESSONS
TIME/DATE: Saturdays – Wednesdays, December 19 – mid-March, 4:00 – 5:00pm
LOCATION: Village Ice Rink & Gazebo
__________________________________________________________

P.S. If you need to see ALLLLLLL the Winter Park photos, here is a slideshow. I warn you. There are a bunch of us TUBING.


*cross-posted at Mile High Mamas today

Sep 2009
30

Finding My Mission

You might have noticed we went to Ireland recently. If you don’t know me in person, imagine an impish grin as I write that.

BECAUSE I HAVEN’T STOPPED TALKING ABOUT IT, RIGHT????

The truth is, while we try to travel as often as we can, this trip was big for us. Not just in scope. But in terms of doing it exactly as we wanted to. It. just. worked. out. The weather, the timing, the places, the people – everything JUST WORKED OUT.

We absolutely had the luck of the Irish.

And as you have seen me posting for weeks, I took thousands of photos. I whittled those thousands down to hundreds and organized them into sets. And FINALLY, I cut those hundred down to ONE group of my very best shots from the trip (below). Honestly, I had been holding off on the very last one, because that meant I was DONE.


(be sure to hit the “embiggen” icon in lower right after it starts playing for full screen viewing)

But that is silly, because, for once I really feel like I captured our adventures. Now when I look at these photos I will relive this vacation over and over again. Every sight, sound and smell.

Even as the trip was charmed, our luck kept going when we returned. Last weekend, I attended an all day seminar with two National Geographic photographers, Bob Krist and Ralph Lee Hopkins.

Mind, meet blown.

Hand, meet ache. (After scribbling an entire notebook of new ideas in an 8 hour time span.)

But one major thing I came away with was mission. Not a fake mission, mind you. Nothing I am going to lie about when I finally get the courage up to ask locals if I can take their picture instead of doing it on the sly – but a real mission that is important to me – even if it is only just like every other mission I seem to be on lately: to document our lives.

The purpose is what is important, what guides you, and turns a snapshot into a photograph.

Mar 2009
27

The Post Where I Pretend I am Pioneer Woman

I am not sure if I have ever mentioned how much I admire Ree, aka Pioneer Woman, and her photography. Not that it really *needs* to be mentioned, seeing as this is all like a universal truth or something and who *really* needs to mention a universal truth, right? Well, I kinda feel like I do since 1) I got the opportunity to meet Ree at SXSW and she was pretty much what you get when you look “nice” up in the dictionary, and 2) I use some of her Photoshop actions regularly, and 3) I went on a horse-drawn sleigh ride today and took a bunch of horse photos and felt like an uber-impostor.

So, with all that out of the way, I can actually show you the impostor photos from our sleigh ride in Winter Park today and we all know that *I* know they are nowhere near as nice as Ree’s but I still really enjoyed taking them, proving to the cosmos that you actually *can* take this city girl out into the woods – especially when the trip includes hot cocoa and roasted marshmallows. Yeah, that’s the kind of ranch life I can handle.

SleighRide_10

SleighRide_15

SleighRide_04

SleighRide_01

SleighRide_13

Rest of Sleigh Ride set is here.

Back to the city tomorrow.

Um, if we can make it through all that SNOW.