Is it me or does the winter make you want to hibernate? Well my family and I were determined to make the best of the start of the cold season and so we booked two short get aways for the end of November.

Hershey, Pennsylvania is known as The Sweetest Place On Earth!

My family & I, along with my nephew and Ryan’s best friends family headed there for an overnight stay at the Hershey Lodge for a day/night of rides, lights and…. well – chocolate of course.

The ride up is a little less than 3 hours from North Jersey and thanks to Mazda, we drove in style and comfort in a 2018 CX-9. This test drive came at the perfect time since we are in the market for a new SUV. The Mazda CX-9 is a mid-size, three-row crossover SUV that caters to families with seating for seven. The destination possibilities are endless thanks to CX-9’s all-weather capability from its optional predictive i-ACTIV all-wheel drive and class- leading fuel-ef ciency. CX-9 provides a premium driving and passenger experience, courtesy of an award-winning SKYACTIV-G 2.5T engine that delivers excellent performance in everyday driving scenarios and an interior cabin that is pleasing to the sight and touch. This SUV was one of the top safety picks and all the safety features are amazing! Another one of our favorite features is the 3rd row option which is perfect for a growing family.

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 As soon as we arrived in town we headed to Hershey Park! During the holiday season they transform the park into a Christmas dream filled with lights for their Christmas Candylane event. Theres more than 50 rides open, including 6 coasters, lights, live entertainment and even Santa and his reindeers make an appearance.
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After Hershey Park, you are going to want to head on over to Hershey’s Chocolate World where the fun continues. One of my favorite things to do while there is creating your own candy bar. It’s so awesome to see it created right in front of your eyes and you even get to create the wrapper! At Chocolate World you can also catch a 4D movie, go on a tour of the place and do chocolate tasting. By the time we were done the kids were starving so we had to skip the Hershey Sweet Lights but if visiting during the Holidays – it’s a MUST!
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We headed back to the Hershey Lodge and checked in. Our room was in the area with the pull up parking which I thought was super convenient.
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We settled in and headed to the Bears Den for some yummy comfort food. Once everyone’s bellies were filled we grabbed some board games and headed to the lobby to hang around the fireplace. During the holidays Hershey Lodge is decorated so beautifully and everyone really is in the Christmas spirit. There were a ton of people in the lobby hanging out in their pjs and just having a great time.
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The next morning before checking out we spent an hour at the indoor pool complex. All of the kids had the best time and I loved that there was something to do for all of them considering the difference in all their ages (2-14 years old)
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Hershey was the perfect destination for a short one night staycation for the kids (& adults). Everyone had the best time and I’m already looking forward to our next visit. When the weather warms up we will be able to take advantage of their outdoor pool complex, mini golf and the basketball/tennis courts.

download1. Spivo 360 Stick – My first time using this product was at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland and it was awesome! I loved that I could capture my surroundings but then with a simple click of a button have my camera facing me. Perfect for capturing all angles and works with both your GoPro and cell phone!

2. Travel Cord RollUncommonGoods is one of my favorite online shops for travel goodies. This Cord Roll is perfect for keeping your electronic cords tangle free and organized at the palm of your hand.

3. BESTEK USB Wall Charger  – This is currently one of my favorite travel accessories. With this set you no longer need multiple adapters and outlets. You can charge 4 electronic devices at one time without the worry of a slow charge and best of all – this set will work anywhere in the world since it includes all plugs!

4. mophie powerstation –  This 6,000mAh universal battery is packed with more power than ever! Two USB ports let you charge multiple devices while on the go. Best of all a portion of the proceeds from every (PRODUCT)RED™ purchase will go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa

5. Serengetee Scratch off Map – If you have never heard of Serengetee, click HERE! Their mission to support artisans and causes around the world is amazing and very inspiring – plus… they have some really awesome products! Their scratch off map is a super unique gift for the globetrotter in your life.

6. Genius Pack Aerial Hardside Carry-On Spinner – This has been my go to carry on for my last few trips. It’s a maximum size carry on with minimalist design with durable 360-degree spinner wheels, a secluded laundry compartment, interior category compartments for a think-free packing experience, integrated packing checklist, and oh it’s extremely light, just 6.2 lbs.

7. Travel Contact Case – When I spotted these on the Charming Charlie website, I knew I had to buy one. I am the queen of throwing my contact case in my bag and when it comes time to remove for an overnight flight – no where to be found. This little case keeps everything together and guarantees that I will no longer spend 30 minutes digging to find what I need.

8. Passport Cover – I am obsessed with the VinylPassportCovers shop on Etsy. They have the best designs for passport covers and at affordable prices. This one is my new favorite and I plan to pick it up soon – I mean, afterall, you can never have too many passport covers 😉 Check them out!

9. TRESemme Volumizing Dry Shampoo – Yes, this made my travel gift guide! Dry Shampoo is the travel girls best friend. This particular one from TRESemme is the perfect travel size for when on the go and brings so much life to your hair.

What do you think about my picks? If you love them – head on over to my Instagram page (click HERE) to check out my giveaway featuring THREE of these products!!!! 🙂 Good Luck + Happy Holidays xo

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As much as I love traveling abroad there is nothing like discovering local gems and that is why I love the concept of staycations. I personally am not one to take time off from work to stay home and so the idea of being able to take a short car ride for one or two nights away is perfect. I’ve been wanting to start a staycation series for some time now and hope my tristate readers [NJ, NY, PA + CT]  find it useful.

I want to begin this series with an overnight trip my family and I took last month.

Pocono Manor Resort & Spa

Pocono Manor is located in Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania – about 1.5 hours from North Jersey and less than 2 hours from NYC. I’m not sure why it took us so long to venture up to the Poconos. This may have been out first visit but it won’t be our last.

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Pocono Manor is a historic hotel which opened in the 1900’s. There are a total of 240 guest rooms and a ton of amenities onsite – three restaurants, indoor and outdoor pool, golf course, spa and various recreational activities. They offer live music on the weekends and a ton of seasonal activities such as horseback riding, hiking, tennis and snowmobiling.

We were in town for the Lantern Festival so didn’t have much time to take advantage of all their amenities but were really happy with the accommodations. The room was very spacious with a pretty view, the game room was a great addition to the property and every staff member we spoke with were not only friendly but super helpful. At the end of the night we were able to grab a drink by the bar to bring up to our room and then enjoy a family breakfast (which was delicious!) before heading back home. It was the perfect little night away! A big thank you to Pocono Manor for hosting us and we look forward to another stay in the near future.

Here are some photos from our stay as well as some pictures of the property and their amenities/activities courtesy of the Pocono Manor website.

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Traveling has been my number one passion for quite a number of years now and if you know me, you know I like to do it on a budget. I am totally one of those people that after I book I will check the flights over and over again to make sure I got the best deal. [FYI: Don’t follow my lead on that, it’ll drive you nuts] Budget airlines have been around since the 70’s and to be honest I never paid much attention to them… until now. Iceland has been on my radar for awhile but it just never happened. One random day in October of 2016 I was browsing flights for Iceland and came across a super low rate from an airlines called WOW air. When I told my husband the rate he insisted we book immediately and that is how our trip to Iceland for February 2017 came about.

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WOW air is an Icelandic low-cost carrier that is headquartered in Reykjavík and based at Keflavík International Airport. The airline was founded in November 2011 and serves 38 destinations across Europe, North America, and Asia.

Ok – so lets talk details.

Firstly, they offer direct flights to Iceland and that is also where you will connect to continue onto wherever your final destination is. You have to remember they are a budget airline so don’t expect the works but I promise you will get from point A to point B comfortably and at an incredible rate.

One personal item measuring 17x13x10″ is always included with your paid ticket as well as checking in either a stroller OR carseat for your little one but that is where the extras that are included end. There are additional fees and they will vary each flight based on time of travel and final destination. Here is a breakdown of the additional fees based on a random flight from Newark to Reykavik.

Departing Flight:

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Return Flight:

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For a Basic, no added extras, flight you would pay $250!

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Guys – $250 RT nonstop for 4 nights in Iceland??? That is a steal! Can not upgrading your luggage be tricky… of course, but get creative when it comes to packing. Attire for Iceland is all about layering so pick items that you can reuse to make different outfits each day and wear your coat and winter boots onto the plane.

Since I was traveling with my husband and a 17 month old when I went, upgrading the luggage was a MUST for us. Here are the additional luggage prices for this itinerary:

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If you decide to upgrade to a standard size carry on luggage you would then pay $330 per person for this flight.

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This rate is over $100 cheaper than another budget airline that flies this same route on these dates. Other airlines were over $600 for this same flight.

You also don’t get to pick your seat unless you pre purchase and here is a look at those costs.

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I’ve flown with WOW for 2 separate trips and I was pleasantly surprised at how comfortable and roomy the standard legroom seats were so don’t feel like you have to go for that XXL seat…. unless you want to of course. My first flight with them we did not pre book seats and upon check in the agents were super accommodating in making sure our party sat together.

Another option for this flight is to book WOW Plus and that includes an assigned standard seat, a carry on bag AND checked bag for $400! That is a steal.

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If you are traveling with someone and you were able to share luggage they could purchase the Basic rate and it would come out to a total of $650 for 2 adults for a 4 night trip to Iceland.

All food and beverages on flight are also an added expense. I’ve had a few items from their menu and it was all tasty but if you want to save money, just make sure to pick up a bottle of water and something to eat prior to boarding.

Overall I have nothing but great things to say about WOW Airlines. My family and I have had great flights with them and always experience really good customer service. As a mom, one of my FAVORITE features they have is the lap baby seat belt. I have never been offered this on any other airline.

We look forward to our next flight with them!

Have you flown WOW Air before?

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Chi-Town, The Windy City, Second City….

Call it what you want but this city [Chicago] is a GEM!

I have spent so much time exploring Europe over the last 5 years that my husband & I decided that we want to spend more time visiting and discovering the amazing places the U.S.A has to offer and CHICAGO was our first stop.

Where to stay?

In my opinion, Downtown is where it’s at. We decided to stay at the Raddison Blu Aqua and it was the perfect choice in a perfect location. We literally could walk to most of what we wanted to see and everything else was just a short 10-15 minute cab or uber ride away. The hotel in general was excellent and they had great amenities which include an onsite restaurant, outdoor and indoor pool, kids pool, hot tub, game room and fitness center.

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What to do?

Like with all big cities trying to fit seeing everything in just a short weekend is not only tough but stressful. I always tell people to pick a few places or spots and if you end up seeing more – great! This is a list of the must-see favorites:

1. Millennium Park (Cloud Gate A.K.A The Bean)
2. Navy Pier
3. Art Institute of Chicago
4. Shedd Aquarium
5. The Field Museum
6. Museum of Science & Industry
7. Adler Planetarium
8. Skyjack Chicago
9. 360 Chicago (Formerly John Hancock Observatory)
10. Lincoln Park Zoo

I highly recommend purchasing a Chicago CityPASS.

Your CityPASS Includes:
1. Shedd Aquarium – PRIORITY ENTRY
2. Skydeck Chicago – FAST PASS
3. The Field Museum – VIP ENTRY
4. Museum of Science and Industry OR 360 CHICAGO – EXPRESS ENTRY
5. Adler Planetarium – VIP ENTRY OR Art Institute of Chicago – FAST PASS

What I loved about this pass was everything offered in it were places we knew we would visit during our time in Chicago. We went to all of the above with the exception of the Museum of Science and Adler Planetarium. The Chicago CityPASS is $100 for adults (savings of $113) and $85 for children between 3-11 (savings of $95) – Children 2 & under are free at all of the venues listed above. Another perk of purchasing the pass is the fast pass, priority and express entries you receive. Just to give you an idea of how much time the pass saved, when we went the the Skydeck there was a 2.5 hour wait but it took us a total of 20 minutes to get up to the top since we had the Chicago CityPASS. Not only did we save money with this pass but we also saved time.

Some other things we did while in town were eating pizza at Giordano’s, visiting The Bean both at night and during the day, visiting the Chicago Theatre, spending time in both Millennium and Maggie Daley Park, grabbing treats at Stans Donuts, hopped on the water taxi to explore Navy Pier and went to the Jurassic Park exhibit.

I think the media plays a HUGE part in the bad rep Chicago gets. Every city has areas that are less than desirable but overall this is a city that is so worth visiting. It’s vibrant and rich in culture and history. There’s always events taking place and the food scene is top notch.

Feel free to send me over a DM or e-mail if you have any questions. Also make sure to check out their Tourism page (HERE) as they are a wealth of knowledge and have a ton of information to help you plan your trip.

Here are some of my favorite shots from our time in CHICAGO!

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