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

Join Me for the Personal Creations #SweetestThing Twitter Party!

While most New Orleanians have their focus set on Mardi Gras, don’t get thrown in the dog house by forgetting Valentine’s Day!  With just two weeks left to go, it’s time to start thinking about those sweet things that make your loved ones feel special.

Come join us on Tuesday, February 4th from 8-9pm ET for the Personal Creations #SweetestThing Twitter Party. The party will be hosted by two of my favorite bloggers @StacieinAtlanta and @JollyMom but I (@BridgetteLA) will be joining as a panelist along with @ThriftyChicMom @TheShoppingMama @Crissy and @7onastoestring. We’ll be talking all things LOVE and sharing gift ideas perfect for your Valentine. It will be a great place to get some ideas from Personal Creations that will definitely help you woo your loved one!  What’s the sweetest thing of all? The prizes, of course! We’ll be giving away over fifteen prizes throughout the hour!

Twitter Party Details

What: Personal Creations Sweetest Thing Twitter Party
When: Tuesday, February 4 from 8-9 p.m. EST (7 CT & 5 PT)
Who To Follow:
Brand: @PCGifts
Co-Hosts: @JollyMom @StacieInAtlanta
Blogger Panelists: @crissy @7onashoestring @BridgetteLA @ThriftyChicMom @TheShoppingMama

Hope to see you there!

Reconnecting at the Beau Rivage Biloxi

This review was written by the Experimental Mommy.  While travel expenses were provided, all opinions remain 100% mine.

With two daughters involved in many different activities, my husband and I are able to get some quality time with each other about, um…..never.  Quite honestly, I think the last time we spent the night together away from the kids was at least four years ago.  Sad but true.  So, I could not have been more excited to head to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, MS for some time to relax and reconnect.

With many kisses and hugs (and thank yous to my parents for watching the kids), we headed out the door for a quick road trip to the State next door.  The Beau Rivage sits majestically on the Gulf of Mexico, reaches 32 stories and employs more than 3,800 people.  Upon entering the hotel and casino, it is easy to see why this is one of the most popular attractions on the Gulf Coast.

First step: check in.  We were told to head to the VIP check in desk which was filled with complimentary water, tea and coffee.  The staff was very friendly and got us into our room in no time.  We headed up to the 25th floor to discover we had one heck of an amazing view!

Our room was very spacious and included a King size bed with double pillow top mattress, a 32″ flat screen TV, free Internet access and a sitting area with table and chairs.  I will say that the huge bed looked very inviting to this Mom who is constantly on the go (the thought of taking a non-interrupted nap was almost too hard to pass up).

Alas, hubby and I headed to our couples massage appointment at The Spa at Beau Rivage.  Now, I have had a few massages in my lifetime, but this was hubby’s first time.  His anxiety over it only made me giggle which made for quite an interesting appointment.  Our massage therapists were wonderful and made us both relax and enjoy the experience.  The Spa was beautiful and no detail was forgotten.  My favorite part was that there is a co-ed area with lounge chairs overlooking the pool where you can have room service bring you anything your heart desires.  And you know what?  It was quiet and no one asked me to take them to the potty or get them a drink.  #winning

After we were nice and relaxed, we decided to catch the Saints playoff game from our cozy room.  Since the Saints lost, I think all of the good from our massages went out the window and our blood pressure skyrocketed.  But it sure was nice to watch the ENTIRE game together without interruption.

All that screaming cheering during the game worked up an appetite so we headed to Stalla, one of the casual restaurants in Beau Rivage, for a bite to eat.  About the restaurant:

Stalla, Beau Rivage’s new Italian restaurant, creates just the right recipe for an evening of classic Italian food: a reasonably priced menu of gourmet selections paired with premium Italian wines and excellent, attentive service.

Walking into Stalla, you can smell the wood burning oven and immediately get a cozy feel from the decor and lighting.  The only thing I didn’t like about the restaurant is the seating for couples.  We were having such a great time reconnecting and talking about things we never have time to discuss.  But the seating for tables of two are along a wall and very close together making it very easy to hear the conversation next to you.  That being said, the food was A-MAZING.  Hubby and I opted for an appetizer of blue crab cakes which we devoured in a short amount of time.  I finally decided on the Beef Tenderloin which had a port wine reduction giving it a very unique and tasty flavor…almost sweet.  LOVE.

The next morning, we had a take-out breakfast from The Roasted Bean which had some great options including fresh fruit, yogurt, bagels, biscuit sandwiches and more.  We loved being able to enjoy a quiet breakfast while watching the calmness of the Gulf.  While we hated to leave, we did miss our kiddos and were ready to head home for some hugs and kisses. The Beau Rivage Biloxi was the perfect getaway for my husband and I.

Quotes to Inspire Your 2014

With the turning of the calendar, we have a chance to create a new beginning.  Here are a few quotes to inspire your journey:

1.  To begin, take that first step.

2.  Surround yourself with the right people.

 

3.  Put the past behind you.

4.  Let go of your fears.

5.  Just do it.

See more inspirational quotes on my Pinterest Board!  Happy New Year!

Top 10 Places To Visit in New Orleans With Kids

This post is brought to you by CableMover, however all opinions remain 100% mine.  Check out my post on the CableMover blog!

When you think of New Orleans, chances are that images of Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street and general debauchery come to mind.  But, did you know that New Orleans is a very kid-friendly City?  As a New Orleans native, I have grown up here and am now raising my own children in this wonderful place that I am proud to call home.  In a City rich with tradition and culture, your kids will never be bored.  Here are my Top 10 Places to Visit in New Orleans with Kids:

10.  Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium:  If you have a bug lover in your home, buzz by this unique museum where you will look at, learn about and even eat insects!  The 4-D animated movie at the end of the tour is always a fan favorite.

9.  Roll on the River on the Natchez:  The last authentic Steamboat to travel the Mighty Mississippi, the two hour tour offers scenic views along with delicious food (and kids will love the calliope).

8.  City Park Storyland: Relive your childhood by taking your own kids to play in, around and on 25 larger than life storybook sculptures.  Be sure to visit the Amusement Park just next door and take a ride on the restored antique wooden carousel.

7.  Audubon Aquarium of the Americas:  Meet the penguins, sea otters, jellyfish, and white alligator that are proud to call New Orleans home.  Many interactive exhibits including petting stingrays and feeding parakeets are sure to delight your little ones!

6.  Cafe du Monde:  All of this sightseeing is sure to work up an appetite!  Don’t miss the sugary beignets that natives can’t get enough of.

5.  Take a ride on a Streetcar:  For kids that are train lovers, this is a great way to inexpensively see the beautiful and historic homes of the Garden District.

4. New Orleans Museum of Art: This museum has recently made great strides in making art accessible to little ones!  Join fun adventures such as StoryQuest which will both teach and entertain the kids.

3.  Louisiana Children’s Museum:  Looking for a hands-on interactive adventure?  Learn all about NOLA culture in a wonderland of fun at this museum.

2.  Audubon Zoo: Ranked among the country’s best for innovation and entertainment value, the Audubon Zoo is not to be missed.  Lions, tigers, elephants, sea lions, giraffes and my personal favorite, the orangutans are all asking for you!

1.  Mardi Gras:  Yes, I said Mardi Gras!  The two week long celebration is actually quite kid-friendly!  Choosing a spot to watch the parades is key (and an article all by itself), but your kids will never forget the lights, music, throws, costumes and sense of community you will only find in New Orleans.  And don’t forget to eat some King Cake, too!

Have I convinced you to visit or perhaps move to New Orleans?  If you are in the process of moving, check out this great free service, CableMoverwhich will help you find the best deals on bundled services for TV, Internet and telephone service in your new area.  Come share your City’s Top 10 on CableMover’s Facebook page and connect with them on Twitter for more tips!

I’m Shrinking with Weight Watchers 360°

I have received a free 3-month pass to experience Weight Watchers online. I am not being paid to use or endorse Weight Watchers and thoughts are my own.

Throughout my life, my weight has never been an issue.  I was an active dancer and I think the combination of exercise and a fast metabolism kept me trim most of my life.  That is, until I had kids.  After age 30, my metabolism did a 180 and I was so busy with the kids that I was unable to take as many dance classes as I would have liked.  My body showed it.

I didn’t feel like myself so I joined Weight Watchers in an attempt to get my old body back.  And I did!  I attended a local Weight Watchers meeting and managed to lose the remainder of the baby weight.  It was an awesome achievement.  However, now that age 40 is staring me in the face, the weight has slowly found me again.  This time, life is even busier and I have not found time to re-join my local Weight Watchers group.

As fate would have it, I recently learned about Weight Watchers 360°, a breakthrough approach that challenges members to not only track their food intake (PointsPlus), but also to manage those daily routines and spaces that sabotage weight loss.  The best part?  You can do it online!

For the next three months, I will be sharing my experience (successes and challenges) right here on the blog.  After four weeks on program, I am happy to report that I have lost a total of 6.2 pounds (people following the Weight Watchers plan can expect to lose 1-2 pounds per week)!  There is so much to tell you about why Weight Watchers 360°is working for me, but this month I will start with  a basic overview.

The new program encompasses three pillars:

  • Tracking.  Track food with PointsPlus, record weight and physical activity.  Being a former member, I was totally comfortable with this.
  • Spaces.  Create and commit to an action plan and bookmark provided tips under these six environments: home, shopping, workplace, eating out, travel and occasions.  I have such a problem with staying on plan at work.  I found some really helpful tips here!

  • Routines. You choose three routines (16 available) to follow every day (e.g., eat fruit with every meal). Record success daily.  For me, I decided to focus on eating a sensible breakfast, plan my lunch everyday and asking myself if a food item is worth the PointsPlus before consuming it.

I love that Weight Watchers 360° encompasses every aspect of your life and goes beyond the dinner table.  I wasn’t sure that I would love the online aspect, but as a science geek, I love charts, tables and graphs so this system was second nature!  Who doesn’t love seeing a graph of their decreasing weight?!?

I can’t wait to share what the next 4 weeks holds for me!  In the meantime, share your weight loss tips, tricks and secrets!

 

 

The Time I Slept in Cinderella’s Castle

In 2010, I was fortunate enough to attend the very first Disney Social Media Mom’s Conference in Orlando, FL.  What started out to be a wonderful trip turned into an experience I will never forget.

Throughout the conference seminars, door prizes were given away including some purses, gift baskets and even Build A Bears!  But when my friend (and co-founder of Double Duty Divas) won the Grand Prize, we were all stunned.  We were actually going to spend the night in CINDERELLA’S CASTLE!  And to think I was excited to stay at the Polynesian!  We were told to pack an overnight bag and be ready to be whisked away at 4pm sharp.

Ready and eager to go, we packed our bags in 10 minutes flat and ran to the hotel lobby to await our escort.  A white car pulled up and Jennae, our personal concierge, stepped out to greet us.  We were taken through the back lots of Disney and parked in a special space just for us.  We were greeted by more cast members who held umbrellas for us as we waited to see what would happen next.  Jennae asked if we wanted to ride any of the attractions to which we responded, “Haunted Mansion!”  Jennae took us through the “celebrity entrance” and got us on the ride immediately.  No lines for these princesses!  We were able to ride several of Disney’s main attractions without waiting for one second!  Finally, our room was ready and we were escorted to the Castle.

All I can say is…..WOW!  Cinderella’s Suite is the epitome of pampering for these four Moms!  Fresh flowers, fresh fruit, robes, slippers, bubble bath, whirlpool tub, fireplace, real 14K gold in the floor and mirrors than turn into televisions left us speechless.

 

We were told that you CANNOT rent this Suite as it is reserved for invited guests only.  Someone once offered $1.5 million dollars for ONE night stay in the Castle and Disney rejected the offer!  Oh My!

We were treated like royalty and the Jennae and Suzanne (the second shift concierge) were there to grant our every wish.  Of course, we had a great time coming up with things to ask (that’s a whole other post for a different day) but we never really asked for them.  Jennae was a good sport and humored our phone calls to her office.

We were treated to dinner at The Liberty Tree Tavern and escorted to a special viewing area for both the fireworks and the Electrical Light Parade.  When the park was closing, we stood on the steps of the Castle and waved at the guests leaving.  It was eerie to see the park so empty, but not more than five minutes after the last guests had exited, an army of orange clad workers swarmed the streets to begin a cleanup routine like nothing I have ever witnessed!  No wonder Disney is pristine!

After taking baths or showers, we donned the provided plush robes and went outside for a picture in front of the Castle.  I have honestly never laughed so hard.  There is just something about Disney that rejuvenates the soul.  While I was sad that my daughters were not with me, I can’t think of three better women to share this once in a lifetime event.  Cissy, Jennifer and Renee:  we are sisters in Princesshood forever!  Can you fetch me some cornbread?

Thank you so much to all those that put on the fabulous conference!  We truly had an incredible experience both in AND out of the Castle!  Till next year…..


StoryQuest for Kids at the New Orleans Museum of Art

This post is written by the Experimental Mommy.  I am a NOMA Ambassador however all opinions remain my own.

Even though I am a New Orleans native, I will admit that I have only been to the New Orleans Museum of Art a handful of times and I would have never included it on a list of kid friendly activities in NOLA.  Earlier this month, I was honored to be chosen to be a NOMA Ambassador and at our first event, I was beyond amazed at the opportunities for children.

For our first activity, we participated in StoryQuest which happens two Saturdays a month at 11:30am.  Participants meet at the Museum gift shop to hear a story related to the theme of the week.  As luck would have it, my two ballerinas were thrilled to learn that “Monet” was the theme we would be learning about.  We listened to a story about Monet’s Tiny Dancer sculpture and my girls loved every page.

After the story ended, each child received a scavenger hunt card with questions related to the story and theme.  As a family, we searched the Museum to find the answers to the clues.  Once finding a particular painting or sculpture, the girls had to answer a question such as “What do you think is happening in this painting?” or “How does this sculpture make you feel?“  I just loved that my daughters (ages 5 and 8) actually took their time and really thought about the questions.

Once the scavenger hunt is complete, you can take the card back to the gift shop and pick a prize!  And the best part?  The card also gets you a free cookie at Cafe NOMA with purchase of another item.  Let me tell you….BEST chocolate chip cookie EVER.

Over the next year, I will be letting you know all about the upcoming events at the New Orleans Museum of Art.  I can’t wait to see what else is in store!

 

The NOLA I Haven’t Experienced: Part 1

This post was written by the Experimental Mommy.  This was a press trip therefore hotel and meals were provided.  All opinions remain 100% honest.

With the 8th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina just two days away, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of memories and throwback pictures of the days and months after the horrific event.  I have my own memories and experiences to share which are forever engrained into my brain, but as the years pass the bad days become fainter and we become NOLA Strong.

It is for this reason, that I love to share the good and positive things about My City to prove that New Orleans is back…bigger and better than ever.  Recently, I was honored to take part in a blogger event hosted by the NOLA Collection Hotel group in which I got to explore sections of the City that I have never experienced before.  Living in New Orleans makes it super easy to play tourist in your own hometown!

On night one, we were welcomed by a New Orleans legend, Dickie Brennan, to his newest restaurant, Tableau.  Set in the historic Jackson Square next to Le Petit Theatre, the sheer ambiance of the place makes it worth visiting.

After being escorted to a beautiful private wine room, we listened to stories about the origin of the historic building and it’s new partnership with Le Petit Theatre while munching on authentic French Bread.  The truffled crab finger appetizer was delicious as were the shrimp remoulade.  But the pièce de résistance was my entree, the Filet of Beef Bearnaise.  Simply put, it was perfection.  Best.Steak.Ever.

Friday, I checked into the Bourbon Orleans hotel with my roomie Renee from What Mommies Need.  The location of the hotel is within walking distance of many popular attractions including Bourbon Street, Jackson Square, Cafe du Monde, and the French Market.  The lobby was impeccable and decorated with many fresh flowers but the ice tea bar was definitely my favorite part!

Our room on the third floor was very spacious, clean and comfortable.  The view of the pool and greenery made it hard to believe we were in the middle of New Orleans.  At night, I heard little to no street noise which is a great feature for a hotel in the French Quarter.  While our night was quiet, one blogger did have a paranormal experience…did I mention this hotel is haunted?

We finished up the day with dinner and dessert at the new restaurant, Kingfish Kitchen & Cocktails.  Chef Greg Sonnier, who studied under world-renowned Chef Paul Prudhomme, has created some delicious dishes with very creative presentations (see my chicken dish below).

But beyond the food, there are the cocktails.  Oh so many cocktails.  Head Bartender Chris McMillian, named Best Bartender 2012 by New Orleans Magazine, serves up some New Orleans classics such as the Sazerac but is known for his trendy modern drinks as well.

The first 24 hours just proved to me over and over again why I love living in New Orleans.  I can’t wait to share Day Two!