Coming to iRetreat? Join STASH Hotel Rewards!

Do you love to travel? Do you love a good deal? Then the STASH Hotel Rewards program is for you!  Stash is a hotel rewards program which allows you to earn stays at independent, unique hotels across the U.S. We are excited to announce that Stash has partnered with iRetreat 2015 which will be held in New Orleans on June 28-30 (use code IRETREATEARLYBIRD for 20% off your conference pass) and our host hotels, Hotel Mazarin and Dauphine Orleans.

When I travel with my family, I love to take advantage of the boutique hotels which embody the unique charm of each City we visit…something that big box hotels are missing.  From free breakfast buffets with local flare to some of the most luxurious pools and spas, hotels included in the Stash program have it ALL.  And just by staying at these hotels, you quickly earn points towards future stays.  Stash away your points to get FREE nights and make that dream vacation much more affordable! Ready to get started?

JOIN STASH–IT’S FREE!

SPECIAL OFFER

Sign up for STASH using this special membership sign up to qualify and immediately earn a bonus of 500 points just for joining! And if you are a blogger, write a blog post before February 15, 2015 featuring the STASH program and earn an additional 2500 points (report your post here to qualify for this bonus). Plus, one lucky blogger who writes a verified blog post post by 2/15 will receive a special award of 25,000 points!

Going to iRetreat Blog Conference?

iRetreat Attendees: Points may be redeemed at Hotel Mazarin or Dauphine Orleans Hotel during iRetreat. When you stay at Hotel Mazarin or the Dauphine Orleans Hotel during the conference you will earn on average another 800 points per night of your stay. Those who stay at least four nights will be awarded another bonus of an extra 2500 points from the New Orleans Hotel Collection.

Now that you have seen the benefits of Stash, join for FREE now!

Safe travels!

Get In The Holiday Spirit at the New Orleans City Park #CelebrationInTheOaks

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy as part of the Holiday of Wonder campaign sponsored by Wonder and Company and Celebration in the Oaks at New Orleans City Park. All opinions remain 100% mine.

Sometimes living in Southeast Louisiana can make it very difficult to get into the holiday spirit.  Wearing flip flops to Thanksgiving dinner, sweating while searching for the perfect tree and turning on the air conditioning while wrapping presents does not make me want to belt out my favorite Christmas carol.  But this is the reality that all New Orleanians have to face and as a Mom, I struggle to get my family ready for the fa-la-la-la-holidays.

For many years, my own parents took my brother and I to the New Orleans City Park to experience Celebration in the Oaks which was the signal of the arrival of the Season.  And now, I love carrying on the tradition with my own little family. More than 165,000 visitors flock to the magical light displays covering 25 acres of the historic City Park including the Botanical Garden, Storyland, and Carousel Gardens.

While I have visited Celebration in the Oaks many times in the past, every time I return I see something new.  The creative team at City Park works hard to add fresh ideas and breathtaking displays to delight even the seasoned guest.  New for 2014 is the expanded Sea-Labration exhibit and an animated light display set to music called “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” which is truly spectacular.  Looking down at my two daughters, they were dancing and singing along with the holiday tunes…in shorts…..in 75 degree weather.  Merry Christmas, everyone!

But, my entire family stopped in their tracks and gasped when we saw the enormous Dripping Snow Tree.  While we knew it was actual snow, the tree was covered in white lights and appeared to be dripping snowflakes on the ground below.  And can you believe that since the park uses energy efficient LED lights, the entire illuminated tree uses only as much energy as a simple toaster?

The dripping snow tree at #celebrationintheoaks #cito2014 uses the same amount of energy as a toaster!!

A video posted by Bridgette Duplantis (@experimentalmommyblog) on


One of my favorite activities in City Park when I was a kid was riding the train around the 2 mile track.  But when the route is decorated in lights, the ride is something to behold. I highly recommend you visit Celebration in the Oaks Monday -Thursday (as crowds are lighter on weekdays) and head straight for the train when you arrive to avoid long lines.  Even better?  Buy your tickets online at CelebrationInTheOaks.com which will make accessing the fun much quicker!

So, for people across the South who are melting in their fuzzy winter socks and scarves you insist on wearing, brighten up your holiday spirit by taking the trip to Celebration in The Oaks at the New Orleans City Park.  The experience is open from now through January 3, 2014 (closed on 12/1-12/4; 12/24 and 12/31).  Tickets are only $8 per person (children under 3 and Friends of City Park are free).  The train ride is well worth the additional $4 per person and you can also purchase tickets for the amusement park rides for $3/ride or $17/unlimited rides.

Need more info?  Follow New Orleans City Park on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Is Carnival’s Seuss at Sea Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast Worth It?

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy in partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines. While travel accommodations were complimentary, all opinions remain 100% mine.

You saved up all year to take an epic family vacation with Carnival Cruise Lines. Suitcases packed with your cruise travel essentials, you board the ship ready for some much deserved rest and relaxation.  If your family is like mine, you head straight for the food and quickly become mesmerized by the seemingly endless options all included in your price of admission.

But on your first full day at sea, your family wants to take part in the Seuss at Sea Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast…for an additional charge. What?! Why spend more money when you have already paid for the buffet?  Below, you will find my reasons why the $5 per person is completely and totally worth it.

1.  Let Kids Be Kids: We asked a lot of our kids on this trip. While we had tons of fun, we asked them to wait in lines with patience, sit at fancy dinners quietly, and walk long distances without whining. But THIS breakfast was ALL about THEM and they could let it all out!

2. Dine in Whoville: Carnival went all out with the themed decor at this breakfast. The entire dining hall was transformed into a colorful and magical world complete with a beautiful ice sculpture.  My girls could not wait to sit down at our polka dot table!

3. Fun Food: There are no boring omeletes, plain pancakes or bland bowls of oatmeal at this event.  My kids got to choose from menu items such as Horton’s Cereal Crusted French Toast, Truffula Tree Pancakes and of course, the always popular Green Eggs & Ham.

4.  Character Dining: Similar to other character breakfasts at other theme parks (which are WAY more expensive), the whimsical Dr. Seuss characters roam the dining hall and visit with every table. You are allowed to take pictures with your own camera so you do not have to pay extra for professional pictures.

5. Fancy Footwork: The wait staff on Carnival is over the top friendly and really go above and beyond to make your trip memorable.  This breakfast is no exception! The Staff dresses up in costume and performs a fun routine for guests which my kids loved.

The Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast on the Carnival Dream was more than a meal, it was an experience and in my opinion well worth the price.  This was the perfect was to start off our Sea Day which was followed by a kid-centric agenda of water slides, comedy hour and mini golf.  No wonder Carnival hosts more than 700,000 kids aboard it’s fleet each year!

Celebrate a Birthday with Carnival Cruise Lines

On July 16th, it happened.  Even though I attempted to flee the Country in hopes this day would not come, I was unsuccessful.  Forty found me.  FORTY.  What?  Wasn’t I just turning 21 like a year ago?  Despite my hesitation about this milestone, it turned out to be the best birthday ever (except for my 9th birthday when I had a party at McDonald’s and got a purple boombox from my Grandma…that was pretty rad).

My hubby (in cahoots with Carnival Cruise Lines) was a Rockstar and deserves all the props for making me feel like a Queen on my special day.  Here are some ways you can help a loved one celebrate their birthday while aboard the Carnival Dream.

1.  Decorate the Cabin: Cleverly hide some decorations from a local party supply store and deck out your stateroom with balloons, streamers, banners and signs.  Some Carnival ships offer this service for a fee if you cannot seem to hide the decor in your carry on bag.

2.  Breakfast in Bed: Order room service the night before so you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast in bed instead fighting the crowds at the breakfast buffet.

3.  Spa Appointment: The Carnival Dream has a lovely “Cloud 9″ spa which offers services for women, men and children, too.  My hubby surprised me with a morning massage and facial. It was a great way to start the day!

4.  Bucket List Excursion: Following my spa treatment, we headed off to swim with the Stingrays in Grand Cayman.  It was just the right touch of adventure and relaxation to make for a memorable birthday.

5.  Signature Dining at the On-board Steakhouse: While the regular dining options are fantastic, the steakhouse is a whole other level of exquisite.  Make a reservation and let them know you have a birthday being celebrated at your table.

6.  What’s a birthday without cake? Special decorated cakes can be ordered at the Steakhouse and I can tell you that it was delicious! A whole cake was delivered to my table complete with candles and of course the obligatory birthday song.

7.  Roses Are Red. And yellow, white and pink, too!  A dozen multicolored roses can be purchased on board (the Carnival Dream offers this at the Cherry On Top shop) and delivered to your stateroom.

8.  Send a Gift: Not on board with your loved one? You can still arrange to have a gift sent the their stateroom to let  them know you are thinking of them on their special day.  One of my best friends sent me a Carnival Sweatshirt which was much needed at the chilly theater on board.

9. Make a Memory: Professional photographers are on hand several nights on all Carnival ships.  I absolutely loved having a professional shot taken of my precious family. It was the perfect end to the perfect day.

Turns out, 40 is not so bad after all.

Top Ten Travel Essentials for Cruising

I wrote about my experience with Poise Microliner as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars. #PoisewithSAM

In just 5 short days, I will be boarding the Carnival Dream and heading off on an epic 40th birthday celebration.  This trip has to be perfect so I thought I would share with you my Top Ten Essential Items for Cruising.

Cruise Essentials #PoiseWithSAM

1. Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus: Did you know that cruise ships don’t have irons?  For this wrinkle-phobic Mom, I may have had a panic attack.  Fortunately, this product kept my family and I looking elegant night ready!

2.  Brita Water Bottle: Half the fun of a cruise are the exotic excursions and exploring new parts of the World. But to keep the fun going, you need to stay hydrated.  Don’t forget to take along your water bottle every time you leave the boat.

3.  Cute Accessories: There is just something about setting sail that just begs for a killer sandal, trendy sunglasses and a floppy hat.  Check out my Pinterest Board for inspiration!

Follow Bridgette’s board Sail Away With Me on Pinterest.
4.  Poise Microliners: I am sailing away to escape turning 40, but unfortunately I can’t escape my LBL I was left with after having 2 kids.  But, because Poise is thinnest liner available in the light incontinence category, I can be confident on those rugged adrenaline filled excursions. Get a free Poise sample for your next adventure!

5. Sunscreen: Don’t forget to shield yourself from harmful UV rays.  My essential sun protection product is Neutrogena Wet Skin SPF 85 Sunscreen which is perfect for our beach destination.

6. Lanyard: Consider purchasing a different lanyard for each family member before boarding. It’s much easier to keep track of your “Sail and Sign” card when it’s around your neck leaving your hands free for more food and drinks!  Letting the kids choose their own lanyard not only gives them some ownership to their card but provides an easy way to tell the cards apart in a hurry.

7.  Waterproof Phone Case: You are going to want to take pictures…and lots of them! But don’t ruin your phone in the crystal clear water and on the pristine beaches. Protect your tech with a waterproof case.

8.  Light Jacket: So you are cruising to the Caribbean, why would you pack a jacket? If you plan to partake in any onboard activities such as comedy clubs, casino or live theater, they can be downright cold. Be prepared.

9.  Hand Sanitizer: Is it obvious that I have a degree in Microbiology? Happy Hour is EVERY hour for bacteria and viruses on cruise ships. Stop them in their tracks by using hand sanitizer and anti-microbial wipes.

10. Bungee Cord: Want to fall asleep to the sounds of the Ocean? Hold open your balcony door with a bungee cord or use it to hand wet swimsuits overnight.

11. (BONUS) Your Inner Child: Don’t forget to have fun! Go down the waterslide, dance the night away, cartwheel on the beach and cross off as many bucket list items as you can. Enjoy!

What is one of your cruising essentials?

Sprinkled with Pixie Dust and Inspiration at #DisneySMMoms Day One

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy.  While I paid a conference fee to attend, portions of the conference costs were offset by sponsors.  All opinions remain 100% mine.

In 2009, I was so honored to be invited to attend the very 1st Disney Social Media Moms.  The experience was amazing (epic if you count sleeping in Cinderella’s Castle) so you can imagine my excitement to be invited to return for the 5th Anniversary celebration!  Instead of traveling East this time, I would have to head West to Disneyland.

Because I have never been to Disneyland, I knew I had to take along my family this time as they couldn’t join me in 2009.  I just had to share this new adventure with them because I knew it would be an experience like no other.  And it did not disappoint.

After our flight was delayed, we finally landed in Los Angeles but unfortunately we missed the opening reception.  The kids couldn’t wait to get started, so we took the opportunity to walk around the Disneyland Resort and grab a very late dinner.  As full of energy as the kids were, the travel caught up to them and they were ready for bed.  Until they saw the headboard light up! Magical!

Ready to hit the ground running, Friday was the main conference day.  While the family went exploring Disneyland, Hanes made sure I got off to a comfortable start by sponsoring a delicious breakfast.  Fueled up, my brain was ready to be inspired by a host of speakers.

From Donald Driver (Former NFL Player and Author) to Maxine Clark (Founder, Build-A-Bear Workshop), the speakers were full of great advice on being an entrepreneur and stoking the fire that lies within.  As the day progressed, we heard from more speakers that turned their passion into profit including the now infamous, Grumpy Cat.

I think my favorite speaker was Gary Buchanan, Social Media Manager for Disney Parks who I believe has the #1 most enviable job on Earth.  I can’t even describe how much fun this man has doing his job and it is truly inspiring.  Through Gary, we got a sneak peek at how the Disney Parks Blog is run and how the content is created.  I know it goes without saying, but the creativity within his team is endless.

Following a few special character sightings, we were off to enjoy the parks with our families and friends.  Honestly, networking with the enthusiastic attendees is one of the best parts of the Disney Social Media Moms Conference!  To close out the day, we were treated to VIP seating for the “World of Color” which was truly spectacular.

Stay tuned for more Pixie Dust on Day Two!

Walk of Shame is Perfect “Girls Night In” Movie

This post is the opinion of the Experimental Mommy.  While a sample was received to facilitate this review, all opinions remain 100% mine.

I am fortunate enough to live in the same City where I grew up.  I’m a New Orleans girl….heart and soul.  Because I haven’t moved around much, I have been able to keep in touch with many childhood friends.  But as life went on, our schedules got busier and we had less and less time to connect.  But I am so thankful for these friendships that have stood the test of time. When we do find time to visit, it’s like no time has passed at all and we pick up right where we left off.

We make a point to set a date about every three months and this time we decided on a “Girls Night In.”  Being that I had just attended the “Walk of Shame” premiere and it was being released On Demand, I knew it was the perfect suggestion.  Even though the girls didn’t know why, I told them that the movie has a yellow theme and that they should showcase the color in their wardrobe or accessories. Meanwhile, I got the house ready with yellow tablecloths and themed food and beverage for my two old friends.

Getting comfy on the couch, we easily downloaded the movie from iTunes and were ready to roll!  Before long, we were laughing and having a great time!  About the movie:

The outrageous comedy WALK OF SHAME stars Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect) as a resourceful reporter whose one-night stand with a handsome stranger (James Marsden of Anchorman 2) leaves her stranded the next morning in downtown Los Angeles without a phone, car, ID, or money – and only 8 hours before the most important job interview of her career.

We could totally relate to Elizabeth Banks’ character who, no matter how hard she tries to do the right thing, can’t seem to catch a break.  My friends and I are all turning 40 this year, so the idea that sometimes life throws you lemons and you just can’t make lemonade.  It’s just a part of life.
The film made us forget our worries, relax, have fun and realize that our lives aren’t nearly that bad!  Spending the two hours laughing with true friends was definitely good for the soul.  Learn more from the Walk of Shame Facebook page.

“Walk of Shame” Anything But Shameful

My weekly activities generally include going to work, helping kids with homework, bringing my girls to dance class and of course, blogging.  But my average week was given an upgrade when I had the opportunity to cover the red carpet premiere of Walk of Shame, a new movie starring Elizabeth Banks and James Marsden.
The outrageous comedy WALK OF SHAME stars Elizabeth Banks (The Hunger Games, Pitch Perfect) as a resourceful reporter whose one-night stand with a handsome stranger (James Marsden of Anchorman 2) leaves her stranded the next morning in downtown Los Angeles without a phone, car, ID, or money – and only 8 hours before the most important job interview of her career.
I may have been slightly (ok, extremely) intimidated to be standing next to entertainment giants such as EOnline! and US Weekly, but I was elated to have my own little spot on the runway.
I had a great time chatting with Writer/Director Steve Brill and Lead Actress, Elizabeth Banks.  They both expressed such a love for the movie and stressed that we should forget our worries, relax and have fun.  After seeing the movie, I can certainly see why!  I don’t want to reveal too much about the movie, but I can tell you that I was in stitches!

On May 2nd, the movie will be released in select theaters and VOD.  To celebrate, I will be donning my best yellow dress (you will understand why when you see the movie) and hosting a Girls’ Night In to watch the release and spend some time laughing with friends.  To join the party, follow Elizabeth Banks on Twitter while using the hashtag #WalkOfShame and she will be live chatting during the premiere at 8pmEST.
Want a sneak peek?  Check out the trailer below:

Top 5 Disney Tips from a Travel Agent

With Summer right around the corner, no doubt you are starting to plan your family vacations. If you are thinking about heading to Disney World, check out these tips from a Mom who also happens to be a Travel Agent:

1.  Slow Down.  If you have small children,  getting to the park at opening is not really that important if you are visiting on a lightly attended day.  Let the kids wake up at a reasonable time, stay at the park through lunchtime and return to the hotel for some down time or even a nap.  Head back to the park around 4pm when its not so hot and lines start to shorten.  If you plan to stay for the fireworks, don’t immediately try to exit the park with the masses but stay a few minutes until the crowd thins.

2.  Plan Ahead. Subscribe to a touring website such as www.touringplans.com for up to date closures and park crowd expectancy.  Use this website to track crowd levels and visit the least busy park for that day.  This tool will also tell you about any special events happening at parks which usually boost crowds up.  We also love the Disney World Wait Times App to determine which rides have the shortest lines.

3.  Consider the Dining Plan.  The Disney dining plan is well worth the extra money if you plan on doing character dining.  Most character dining will only cost you one table service meal on your dining plan and saves a lot of money.  In one trip we did Chef Mickey’s, Ohana and the Princess Storybook breakfast at Epcot on our dining plan.

4.  Location, Location, Location. If you plan on spending most of your time at the Magic Kingdom, consider staying at the Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Wilderness Lodge or Contemporary hotels.  You can save considerable time getting to the park by using the boat or monorail.  Also, if you have smaller children and hate leaving the parks after the fireworks you can watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks displays from the beach at your hotel.

5.  Take to the Water.  If visiting Disney during warm months, the Water Park & More option is well worth the few extra dollars to add it to your Magic Your Way ticket.  Both of the water parks offer excellent kids areas and in my opinion are pretty great as far as water parks go.

DISNEY DEALS

Now, for some Pixie Dust!  Right now Disney World is offering up to 30% off rooms at select Disney World Resort Hotels for stays 3/14-4/12 and 4/20-6/15/2014.  Save even more by upgrading to a room and ticket package with a minimum 4-Day Magic your Way ticket package and get one more ticket day FREE!

Ready to wear your Mouse Ears?  Call Mom & Travel Consultant for Travel Central Vacations, Rachelle Noullet at 504-487-7574 or email at rachelletravels at gmail dot com.

See ya real soon!

Join me for a Shari’s Berries Twitter Party #RAOBerries

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy.  While it is part of a compensated campaign, all opinions remain 100% mine.

Did you know that February 10-16 is Random Acts of Kindness Week?  What a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your family by spreading the love to neighbors, friends and even strangers.  As a Mom of two girls, I plan to use the Random Acts of Kindness Week as a teaching tool to show them what a difference they can make in the lives of others.

SharisLogo

To celebrate, join us for the Shari’s Berries #RAOBerries (Random Acts of Berries) Twitter Party on Monday, February 10th at 9pm ET to kick off first day of Random Acts of Kindness Week! Not only will there be sweet prizes, but you’ll also get to GIVE prizes to a special someone and brighten their day!  It’s so much better to give than receive!

Want to get a head start? Plan your random act of kindness by checking out what’s available at Shari’s Berries.  You can’t go wrong with a basket of comforting cookies, or a box of chocolate-dipped berries and right now you can get 20% off their Valentine’s Day collection with code SWOON.

Twitter Party Details

What: Shari’s Berries Random Acts of Berries Twitter Party
When: Monday, February 10 from 9-10 p.m. EST (8 CT & 6 PT)
Who To Follow:
Brand: @SharisBerries
Co-Hosts: @JollyMom @StacieInAtlanta
Blogger Panelists: @crissy @7onashoestring @BridgetteLA @ThriftyChicMom @GoGrowGo
Rules: For the Official Rules click HERE