• minimoc
    MINIMOC

    Going Local: Minimoc Review

    Minimoc Introduction

    As we mentioned in our Introduction post for this series, we’re going to share all of our favourite companies in a variety of different kids categories. Minimoc is our favourite company for local and ethical kids footwear. Minimoc is a kids footwear company that started out by Amanda making moccasins out of scrap leather that Jeff used to make wallets for his groomsmen.  Almost all of their products are still designed and manufactured at their factory in Abbotsford, BC.

    Amanda and Jeff Penner are the husband wife team behind Minimoc and you can read what they have to say about themselves on the Minimoc About page; this post is all about why they’re our favourite footwear company for kids and the things we love about them.

    Our boys have been wearing minimocs for 2 years now and we have mocs in all sizes that will continue to be worn by our future kids. That’s one of the best things about Minimoc is that their mocs are so well made that they will last well beyond just one kids. They also have mostly gender neutral designs and patterns but they also have great ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ coloured mocs as well so you won’t ever have a problem finding something for your little one. We’ve been super happy with the service we’ve received and the products we have. The mocs seem to never wear out; even the used pairs we’ve bought still look brand new!

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    Our boys wear minimocs on the regular

    Minimoc: What We Love

    Our focus when we shop is to buy from companies that are local, ethical, and sustainable in the way they source, process, manufacture their products. Minimoc is our favourite company for footwear because they adhere to all of those qualities that we look for. We’ll save the details for the blog post about our interview with Amanda and Jeff, but everything they do is as ethical, local, and sustainable as they can. The best part though, is that everything is quality to top it all off. We’ve never actually had a pair of minimocs wear out. Besides the fact that everything Minimoc does is local, ethical, and sustainable, those aren’t the only things we love about them.

    They’re local. That’s what this whole series is about and the fact they’re a husband and wife team makes it even cooler as that’s not often a dynamic you see in local businesses; often it’s the wife with the help of her husband but the fact Jeff is so involved is really neat.

    They’re easy to get on and off. This is a very important quality of kids’ shoes because putting shoes on kids can be a huge hassle. Minimocs have a tab on the back of the shoes that allow you to pull them on easily. Taking them off is easy by just pulling the heel off and sliding the rest of the moc off the front of your kids’ foot. Sometimes you can get your kids’ pinky toe stuck in one side of the moc when putting it on but if you use two hands, one on each side of the moc, it’s much easier and you can avoid getting the pinky toe stuck. Another bonus, there isn’t specific shoes for left & right meaning it’s super quick to grab a pair and throw them on your kid as you head out the door.

    Their leather is ethically sourced. Jeff explains this in detail in the next post where we interviewed them so we’ll save the details for then, but this was a really encouraging point to hear about in detail as leather is often of the the most unethically sourced materials.

    They keep as much of their work local as they can. All of the mocs they make are made in the factory in Abbotsford but local employees. This means their employees are all getting fair wages which is great to see because they could easily move that work overseas to cut costs. To see their business also support the local economy by hiring local help is so great to see.

    minimocMinimocs make everyone happy!

    Their styles are classic and timeless. Almost all of their styles are simple plain colours that will never go out of style. Black shoes have never been out of style since even before we were born. They have cute patterns for certain seasons of the year of course, but the majority of their styles are classics that will be in style forever. Also, plenty of gender neutral options which we have personal opted for because we want to be able to pass them down through our kids and hopefully their kids too!

    They genuinely listen to their customers feedback. The way the Voyageur shoe came to be was because the customers, you and I, were asking them for a more sturdy shoe that can be worn outdoors. They don’t just send out a survey or ask for feedback for the heck of it, they take it to heart and listen to what we have to say.

    Their shoes can be worn all year long. Even as we get ready to approach winter, our kids wear the mocs inside as slippers and even if we’re going over to a friends house we put them in them to wear as slippers there too. Then the Voyageurs can we worn whenever we need to go outside and for playtime.

    They don’t make the kids’ feet stink. One thing we were worried about with wearing shoes barefoot is that the shoes and the kids’ feet will stink; well, they don’t. This was such a relief to realize because stinky feet are not okay in our household.

    minimocMinimocs are good for all situations!

    Minimoc: Our Minor Issues

    There are only two things we had an issue with when it comes to Minimoc:

    Learning how to put the mocs on takes time. Like anything, the more you do it the better you get at it. Learning how to put the mocs on so you don’t get your kids’ toes stuck took several tries before we could easily get them on. Putting the mocs on with two hands, one on each side, and pulling wide when putting them on was a game changer for us.

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    Minimoc Voyageurs in Santorini!

    The Voyageurs can aggravate sensitive skin. This is probably just an issue for a very small percentage of kids out there but for our boys, who have very sensitive skin and also have some eczema, the Voyageur shoes aggravated Nixon’s Achilles’ area of his skin and left some marks. This can be easily combatted by putting socks on, but if you decide to do this we recommend buying the Voyageurs a size bigger to account for the socks.

    Minimoc Rocks

    Minimoc is a fantastic company. We had to get pretty picky to find anything we didn’t like and one of those things will only apply to very few of you. We can not recommend them enough and we will continue to be lifelong customers of theirs. If you have not had a chance to get yourself a pair of minimocs, their online warehouse sale starts today! Hurry over there before everything is gone, though. We shared all about why warehouse sales are our favourite earlier in this series so check that post out to learn how you can save big money. And even better, you can win a free pair of minimocs by visiting our latest Instagram post and entering in the comments.

    Come back later this week to read our interview with Amanda & Jeff! And be sure to follow them on social media below!

    Minimoc Website
    Minimoc on Instagram
    Minimoc on Pinterest
    Minimoc on Facebook

    Be sure to follow us on Instagram to be alerted about new posts throughout this series!

    Never stop adventuring!

     

  • LIFE,  marriage

    The Best Wedding Decision We Made

    Yesterday we went to our second wedding of the year and it made us think about our wedding. There are lots of things we wish we did differently as we look back, most notably hire a videographer, but there are many things we are very happy about. One decision in particular was by far our best.

    We’ve been married for three and a half years so far. Yes, it has gone incredibly fast thus far.

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    When we were getting married we planned it right around the time we knew that my board exam was going to be. To become a Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) in BC you have to write a board exam which is an exam given by the governing body of all the RMTs in the province. That exam happens twice per year, in March and September. We had planned our wedding for September 5th so we knew there was a risk of the exam falling within our honeymoon time. Historically, the exam has been in the last two weeks of September so we took our chances and the odds were good.

    We planned for an ten day honeymoon, September 5th – 15th. So as long as the exam was the 16th or later we would we okay. The date the exam was scheduled for? September 13th. Well, that sucks. So we had to cancel our honeymoon, flights and hotel, and rebook. Luckily, we only lost on a few bucks as the airline gave us a credit for almost the full amount of the flights and the hotel gave us all of our money back. We still wanted to have some time away during our first few days of marriage so we decided to just go to Whistler for the weekend (we got married on a Friday) and reschedule our honeymoon for a later date. We could have just done a week holiday somewhere so I was back in time for the exam but delaying our honeymoon was by far the best decision we ever made. Plus Sam started school that Monday so logistically it made sense to delay it.

    We didn’t rebook the honeymoon right away but after my exam was over we started looking. If you’ve followed the blog for any length of time you’ll know we’re always on the hunt for a good deal. And a good deal we found. Groupon is one of our favourite apps, we recently went overour favourite apps for travelling families and it made the list, because it always has a deal. If you aren’t familiar with Groupon, it is a website where companies market themselves by providing their product or service at a discount.  There are hotels, restaurants, nail salon, etc on there. For our honeymoon, I found a deal where we would pay $99/night for a King apartment at a resort in the Dominican Republic. Our apartment had a full living room, king size bed, full bathroom, kitchen, and balcony. In our little section of the resort there were about 25 apartments that shared a pool.

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    The resort was massive. It took at least a half an hour just to walk from one side to the other. One of the perks of booking through Groupon was that we got VIP status at the resort. That meant we got access to private pools and private beaches. The private pool was right near our apartment and was where we spent most of our time. There was always a private cabana available which was perfect. The private beach has private cabanas too, but those were only available if you got there early enough to reserve one. The resort has eight different restaurants that you could make a reservation at and we ate at all of them plus the buffet a couple of nights.

    That honeymoon was twelve days in the Dominican Republic at an all inclusive resort where we paid $1,800 total. You can do the math and realize this was a steal of a deal. And we went in December.

    So why was waiting three months after the wedding to have our honeymoon the best decision we made? Two reasons:

    • it gave us something to look forward to
    • it gave us time to build our relationship with one another

    The first reason is pretty self explanatory. After getting married, most couples go on a honeymoon for usually two weeks. That’s definitely something worth looking forward to but what about after the wedding? There’s nothing left to look forward to. In the time before the wedding you’re looking forward to the wedding. After the wedding you go straight into the honeymoon and then it’s over.

    For us, we obviously were looking forward to the wedding then we got to go on a mini-honeymoon after the wedding for a weekend. Then we had something in the future to look forward to. For all of the spring and summer of 2014 we had the wedding to look forward to then for the fall of 2014 we had the honeymoon to look forward to. For us, it worked well because we had something to get excited about for almost the whole year rather than doing it all at once and having nothing but regular life to look forward to (not that that’s bad but most people would agree vacation is better).

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    The second reason might need some explanation but for anyone who is married you’ll know that married life isn’t exactly rainbows and butterflies right off the bat, if ever. If yours was, please let us know your secret. Ours took a while to get used to how the other person does things and you quickly realize how different the other person is than you are. It’s usually the little things like how your spouse loads the dishwasher, what their bedtime routine is, where they store things in the kitchen, stuff you never would have considered being an issue before the wedding. But trust us, it can take some getting used to.

    Also, the sex is better after a few months. For those who have never had sex together before the wedding, wedding night sex will feel like the best sex ever by default but as time goes on you soon realize it isn’t even close. Research has shown that the best sex usually comes after ten years of marriage. Yes, ten! That being said, it will hopefully be better after three months of marriage than it is after three days of marriage.

    Now, if you’ve lived together before and been sleeping together before the wedding then the second reason doesn’t really apply but the first one still does and giving yourself a vacation to look forward to is always a good idea.

    Having something to look forward to, knowing your partner better, and having time to build all aspects of your relationship made delaying our honeymoon the best wedding decision we made.

    What was the best wedding decision you ever made? Let us know below in the comments.

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • Uncategorized

    The Best Apps for Traveling Families

    Like most people, whenever we travel, our smartphones always come with. It’s like a personal travel agent in your pocket. With all the millions of apps in the App Store you can have everything you need to make your travels go smoothly all on one device. We are going to share with you some of the apps that we use all the time when we travel and maybe help you make your travels go a little easier.

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    Google Maps

    We looked long and hard for a good map app and honestly there just isn’t anything that can beat Google Maps. Google Maps can even be used offline if you plan ahead and download the area you are concerned with ahead of time. To download maps offline here are the steps:

    Open Google Maps > click the three horizontal lines in the top left > click offline maps > click custom map > move screen to the area you want to download > click download

    When traveling in a new city this is especially helpful when wanting to find landmarks, facilities, or just get directions. If you have something that beats Google Maps let us know, we’re always open to trying new things.

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    LoungeBuddy

    Being the points family that we are, we are often in airports with lounges that we have access to. Lounges are great because they provide you with a space to relax and get away from the chaos of the airport prior to your flight. They also usually provide complimentary food and drinks (sometimes alcohol is included) which is always appreciated rather than buying the overpriced, poor quality food on the flight.

    LoungeBuddy is great because it will tell you exactly what lounge you have access to whether it’s before you take off or after you land. After you create an account you will have to provide some basic personal information like your name, home airport and email address. The best thing about LoungeBuddy is that you can also input your airline elite statuses, lounge memberships, credit cards you have, and whether or not you’re an active US Military member. This is where LoungeBuddy really shines because after you put that information in it will always tell you exactly which lounge in which airport you have access to and whether the access is free or paid and whether you will be able to bring in guests or not and if they are free or paid.

    Basically, any time we are traveling, I always look up the airports we will be in to see which lounges we have access to because, especially traveling with kids, they can be a life saver pre-flight.

    If you are interested in knowing more about getting lounge access, it’s very easy and comes as a perk with some credits cards. Check out the Business Platinum and Platinumcards from American Express for unlimited lounge access as long as the card is active.

    TripScout

    Okay, in all honesty, we just got this app today and it’s already a favourite. For being a LoungeBuddy member we both got codes to download up to $9.99 worth of TripScout cities and we love it.

    How it works is you download the app for free then just pay per city map that you want. In each city map you will have all the popular shops, parks, restaurants, monuments, even Instagrammable locations mapped out for you already. Plus, you can download everything so it is available offline including directions from your location to whatever destination you choose (has to be one on their map). Sam got two codes so for our trip we downloaded Paris, Athens, and Santorini. There are some things on here that we didn’t even know about from our Google searches so it seems to really be worth it.

    Sam’s favourite feature is that you can sort what you want to see on the map through their filters. If you only want the map to shore restaurants you can do that. If you only want to see the monuments you can choose that. This way it doesn’t get overwhelming. This app is quickly making our trip planning a lot easier.

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    AirBnB

    We don’t always stay in luxury hotels when we travel so it’s really nice to have the AirBnB app on hand. Often times, depending on the city you’re in, you can get some really awesome deals staying in other people’s places and AirBnB is the best way to do so.  When we traveled to New York City last year, we stayed in a basement suite in Brooklyn for only $108/night when everything else was easily over $150/night and hotels were well into the $200+ range. Plus, it’s really cool to use AirBnB for your accommodations sometimes because you can get some really unique places to stay in that a hotel would never offer.

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    WD My Cloud

    WD My Cloud is how we store all of our photos. Taking photos is one of the things we love to do, as you can tell from our Instagram account, so rather than taking up all the space on our phone or our laptop, we needed somewhere to store all of them. Enter, WD My Cloud. This device plugs into your WiFi router and acts as a cloud storage device. Since it’s connected to WiFi (by being connected to your router) it can be accessed from anywhere that you have an internet connection. Even in our day to day living we upload to the device often to minimize the space our photos take up on our devices. Since the WD My Cloud is 2 Terabytes of storage, we are not worried about running out of space anytime soon.

    This device is great because all we need is internet to move photos. So, even when we’re abroad, once we get a WiFi connection, we upload the days worth of photos. The device doesn’t just store photos, it can store anything you upload to it whether that’s videos, documents or other information.

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    Lightroom CC

    Before we post to Instagram, most of our photos get an edit. Lightroom CC is our favourite app to do that with. In our opinion, it gives the widest variety of things to do with your photo. For those with a little bit of experience in photo editing, the one thing we love most about Lightroom CC is the ability to edit hue, saturation, and luminance of colours. We have found that this is not available as a free option on any of the other photo editing apps. Adobe is by far the leader in photo editing, so why not use their app for that as well?

    If you want to do things like edit RAW photos or sync with your desktop version of Lightroom, you’ll need to have an Adobe Creative Cloud CC membership. That is not free, but for what we use it for, it is a great app and it does everything we need and it does it the best.

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    Groupon

    If you aren’t already aware, we love deals. Any chance we get to save money we take. Groupon is a company that allows businesses to promote their company by offering their services at a discount on Groupon. As a consumer, this is great because you often get activities, restaurants, and services at a great rate and the quality is often still very high. Whenever we travel to a new city we always check out what that city has on Groupon. More often than not, we find a great deal on something, usually a restaurant or a local activity.

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    Spotify

    We love Spotify. We use it all the time. We use it in our house. We use it in our car. We use it whenever we need a musical fix. We have the paid version because we like to be able to download playlists and have them available to us offline. This is great when you’re on a plane or in a city where you don’t have WiFi/data to use. There are many apps out there that allow you to play music, Spotify is our favourite.

    Then there are the apps we only use sometimes:

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    Google Translate

    It seems like Google has their hand in everything these days and whenever they have their technology in a sector they seem to do it really well. This is the case with Google Translate as well. We will soon be in Europe where not everyone will always speak English, though most tourist cities you can usually find someone who does, and this app will likely come in handy.

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    Lyft/Uber

    Lyft and Uber are the two most well known ride share companies. Since we don’t have Lyft or Uber in Vancouver, we don’t keep these apps on our phone. But when we travel, we’re usually in a city that does have them so we will download them. Whenever we need to get somewhere, these are our go to. We seem to use Lyft more only because they usually have more coupon codes that we can use but we have used both and they both get the job done well.

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    SeatGuru

    This is a program that we mostly use on desktop but they do have an app that works just as well. SeatGuru is great because it tells you where the best spot to sit on your plane is. Are you going to be too close to the lavatory and have lots of foot traffic go by? Is your seat missing a window? Is your seat cramped because of the curvature of the airplane? All of these questions are answered on SeatGuru. When booking a flight, it is our go to before we decide which seats to reserve.

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    HotelTonight

    HotelTonight is an app that allows you to book a hotel room last minute at a discount. You can book anytime between that day and 7 days out. The hotels they offer are usually very quality hotels and almost always are at a discount compared to rate directly through the hotel, sometimes as high as 50% off. This is a great app if you’re in a city and need a hotel room last minute. The only downside of the app is that it does not offer any hotels in Asia, but other than that we can’t find anything negative about the app.

    Lastly, there are the apps that we are yet to try but sound really helpful:

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    PackPoint

    PackPoint is a packing list app. You input your destination and dates of travel and based on your information it will provide a packing list specific to your destination and time of year that you are in that destination. You can also add information like why you’re going there or what you plan to do there and it will make suggestions to add to your packing list based on what you’ve said. We haven’t tried it yet but this could be a great app to try on our upcoming Europe trip.

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    Citymapper

    While Google Maps is usually pretty good at finding the best route on transit sometimes it’s better to use an app that strictly does one thing and hopefully they do it well. Citymapper is a transit app that gets you from A to B only using transit. This can be especially helpful when in another city and are looking to use transit. Think of cities like New York City, Boston, Paris, Tokyo, cities with large and expansive transit systems that can seem overwhelming. We will be putting it to the test for the first time when we head over to Europe, Paris specifically, and hopefully it does the job well. Citymapper is also available offline which is extremely useful when you don’t have WiFi or don’t want to eat your data.

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    SitorSquat

    Have you ever really had to go but didn’t know where the closest free washroom was? Or better yet have you ever had a kid who really had to go but didn’t know where to take them? On our recent trip to Bali, we first encountered having to pay to use the washroom. While it was usually only cents to go, it was still a paid service which we weren’t used to. SitorSquat shows you where the public washrooms are around you and whether they’re “sit” which means they’re clean or “squat” which means you might just wanna squat.

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    WiFi Map

    WiFi Map is a lot like SitorSquat except for WiFi. Sometimes you just need access to WiFi whether it’s to lookup where you’re going, find a place to eat or just catch up on your Instagram. WiFi Map shows you all the networks around you that you can access. They are either free or if a password is required, the app will tell you what the password is. This is very very useful when you’re in a foreign city and the only WiFi you have access to is the one at the hotel. Now, you can access everything you need from wherever you are. You can also download the WiFi maps of the cities you will be in ahead of time if you don’t have internet access to check where the free WiFi is.

    Those are the apps we use and the ones we are looking forward to using.

    What are your favourite apps to use when traveling?

    Never stop adventuring!

  • Uncategorized

    How To Do Disneyland In One Day

    Since we’ve been married we’ve been fortunate enough to go to Disneyland 3 times. Each time we’ve been we’ve never had more than one day in Disneyland. Needless to say, we’ve become really good at getting all of Disneyland done in one day.

    This one day plan will give you a detailed guide on how to do all the main rides and attractions of Disneyland in one day. We won’t cover food because realistically you can eat wherever you want whenever you want. Plus, Disneyland let’s you bring in your own food so pack lots of snacks and water.

    There are also a few optional things you can do to make your day in Disneyland longer, if something is considered optional, we will make that very obvious as it usually comes at an additional cost or involves cutting something else out of your day.

    Last thing before we get started, during our times at Disneyland we’ve learned some fun facts and throughout this post we will share some of them with you.

    Fun Fact: Disney Cast Members are not allowed to point with one finger (considered rude in some cultures so they always use two fingers) or say “I don’t know”.

    Here is everything we want to accomplish when we go to Disneyland:

    Ride (for sure):

    • Space Mountain
    • Astro Blasters
    • Matterhorn Bobsleds
    • Indiana Jones
    • Splash Mountain
    • Haunted Mansion
    • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
    • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
    • Peter Pan’s Flight

    Ride (if time allows):

    • Mad Tea Party
    • It’s A Small World
    • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
    • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
    • Autopia
    • Jungle Cruise
    • Mark Twain Riverboat

    See:

    • Mickey Mouse
    • Disney Parade
    • Disney Fireworks

    Eat:

    • Dole Whip
    • Mickey Beignet

    Now, in order to get everything done in one day you’ll need to start your morning early.

    Optional Choice: If you stay at the Disneyland Hotel, the Grand Californian, or Paradise Pier you get a free Magic Morning. Magic Morning allows you into the park one hour earlier than regular park guests. These hotels start at about $300 per night so this is definitely optional. If you choose to do this, we suggest riding Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean then getting an Indiana Jones FASTPASS as soon as the park officially opens to everyone. These mornings alternate between Disneyland and California Adventure, Disneyland’s days are Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday which means you should stay either Monday, Wednesday, or Friday night at the hotel.

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    We have never actually been there right at opening and have still been able to get everything done that we wanted to. If you want to get everything done then we suggest getting there at least a half hour before open. This means getting there at 7:30am or 8:30am depending on the morning you go.

    The first thing you need to do is get a Space Mountain FASTPASS. Space Mountain is almost always the ride with the longest line. We’ve seen it as long as 3 hours!! We will assume this FASTPASS has a return time of 1:10pm – 2:10pm. This means we can not hold another FASTPASS until 1:10 pm. Since we’ve never actually been at the park right at open, the line is usually already over an hour by the time we get in and that is going to really cut into our day.

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    Optional Choice: do the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. It is usually a short line so you won’t wait long but you can definitely skip it as it is more geared towards the kids. It is very close to Space Mountain so it won’t take much to tack it on.

    One of our favourite rides, since we’re a competitive family, is Astro Blasters. Astro Blasters is a Toy Story themed ride where you need to shoot lasers at targets to receive points. The nice thing is it’s really close to Space Mountain so you don’t have to go far. By now the line should be around 30 minutes which we can wait in.

    Fun Fact: The high score on Astro Blasters is over 2,000,000. Out of our family the best we’ve ever got was 248,000.

    After getting the new high score (send us a screen shot if you did because that’s amazing), we might want to take a quick break and grab a snack. We always bring our own food but there are two things in Disneyland that are must-buys. Unfortunately, we only just learnt about one of them so we have never actually tried it, the Mickey Beignet. These usually are sold out by noon and are only available at the Mint Julep Bar and Cafe Orleans. Now would be a good time to go and grab one of them.

    After eating our delicious treat, we want to go to one of the rides which usually has the longest rides. Since it will still be morning, we want to get in line for a ride that has a short line but usually has a really long line. For us, it’s always a decision between Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain. Whichever of those two rides has the shorter line, we get in that line. We will use our next FASTPASS that we can get at 1:10pm on the other ride. So, if Splash Mountain only has a 40 minute wait and Indiana Jones has a 60 minute wait, get in line for Splash Mountain and then at 1:10pm we will get an Indiana Jones FASTPASS.

    Fun Fact: Mad Tea Party has tea cups with varying speeds. The orange teacup with diamonds and the purple one are the fastest spinners. The two teacups with hearts are the slowest.

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    After Splash Mountain we will head to Pirates of the Caribbean. This ride has no FASTPASS and it is nice and close to both Indiana Jones and Splash Mountain. It also does not have FASTPASS so if we want to do this ride, which we do, we will have to wait for it no matter what. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Haunted Mansion both have FASTPASS so we will use our last FASTPASS of the day on whichever of those has the longest wait time. Remember, though, we can not get another FASTPASS until the start time of our Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain FASTPASS time has started. This means whichever of those two we don’t want to FASTPASS, we will wait in line for right after Pirates of the Caribbean.

    Let’s take a break and recap where we’re at so far:

    • Got a Space Mountain FASTPASS for return between 1:10pm – 2:10pm
    • Rode Astro Blasters
    • Ate a Mickey Beignet
    • Rode Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain (whichever line was shorter)
    • Rode Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Rode Haunted Mansion/Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (whichever line was shorter)

    Now let’s look at things we still want to do:

    • Ride Matterhorn Bobsleds
    • Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad/Haunted Mansion
    • Ride Space Mountain
    • Eat Dole Whip
    • Get Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain FASTPASS
    • Ride Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain
    • Ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
    • Ride Peter Pan’s Flight
    • Meet Mickey Mouse
    • Watch the parade
    • Watch the fireworks

    Let’s assume now it is 1:10pm, which means we should go to Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain, whichever we haven’t rode yet, and get a FASTPASS for that ride. Let’s assume our return time is between 5:10pm – 6:10 pm which means at 5:10pm we can get our next FASTPASS.

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    To get to the ride we should do next we have to go right by the Tiki Juice Bar, which means it’s time for Dole Whip. This is a must for us because it is the most delicious thing to eat in all of Disneyland and you can’t even argue with us! 🙂

    Fun Fact: Club 33 is a private club in New Orleans Square. Club 33 is also the only place in Disneyland that sells alcohol. Club members pay $10,000 a year plus a $25,000 non-refundable initiation fee and there’s a 14-year waiting list to join.

    After eating our Dole Whip, we need to make sure we use our FASTPASS so we will go to Space Mountain and ride it. The FASTPASS line is usually still long and in our experience we still wait about 10-20 minutes which is significantly shorter than what the normal line will be.

    After Space Mountain, we will head over to the Matterhorn Bobsleds which is in Fantasyland. This ride is another one that is notoriously long to wait for but we have always had really good success going in the single rider line. The reason this works so well is that the bobsleds for this ride seat 5, that means when a family of 4 or 2 pairs get in there is always a leftover seat for you. Sometimes you even get lucky like my family did this past trip, my dad, mom, and brother all got on the same bobsled. If you really want to ride together then you’ll have to wait in line and who knows how long that will be. Taking the single rider line is one of the best ways to cut down on waiting in line and we’ve always had the best success at this ride.

    Fun Fact: Walt Disney had an apartment above the Disneyland Fire Station. When he was at the park he would always have the light on in the window. Since his passing, the light has been permanently on.

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    We will skip all the rides in Toontown because they’re very “kiddie” rides and aren’t something that will give us a ton of enjoyment. We still go there and walk around because it’s such a cool place to be and the best place to see Mickey Mouse, at Mickey Mouse’s house, which we’ve done the past couple times. This wait is usually 30-60 minutes and since you’re in Disneyland, you gotta see Mickey. After that we should head to finish the rest of Fantasyland.

    In Fantasyland, the rides we like to ride are Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and Peter Pan’s Flight. These rides do not have FASTPASS available so we will have to wait in line. We’ve never waited much longer than 30 minutes for either of these rides so after an hour or so these rides will both be done.

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    Optional Choice: You can add It’s A Small World to your day but the wait is usually much longer there, although FASTPASS is available there, but remember the FASTPASS rules, which mean you’ll have to wait in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or skip it and do It’s A Small World instead.

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    Now, the Disney Parade times vary by the day so you will need to check that before you go. Usually the parade is either 3:30pm or 6pm and on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday it’s usually both. We’ve always been there over a weekend when both times are available so what we do is we watch the parade at the 6pm and make sure we get good seats that have both a good view of the parade but also a good view of the castle so we can stay in the same spot for the Disney Fireworks. By now it’s probably close to 5pm. This means we should start looking at getting seats for the parade. The parade route can be found on the Disneyland Map but it basically runs from It’s A Small World to the end of Main Street so anywhere along there is a good seat for the parade, but we want to have the same seat for the fireworks which have projections on the castle so we want to be on the north side of the Walt Disney statue between that and the castle along the right hand side to see the parade best. An hour should be enough time to get the seats you want.

    Fun Fact: Disneyland has about 200 feral cats that they release at night to catch mice within the park.

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    Now that we have the seats we want, we need to use our Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain FASTPASS, but we don’t want to lose our seats either. Since we’re saving seats for the parade and fireworks we will have to take turns riding Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain in groups. Not a big deal because good seats for the parade and fireworks are definitely worth it. Also, we can now get another FASTPASS for another ride. So, on our way to Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain, we will stop by Big Thunder Mountain Railroad/Haunted Mansion and get a FASTPASS for whichever one we haven’t done yet. Hopefully they are still distributing FASTPASS tickets for whichever ride we are yet to do because if the day is really busy they might have run out. Make sure you take everyone’s park tickets (including those saving seats for the parade and fireworks) to get the FASTPASS so everyone can return as early as possible. Once the first group has ridden Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain the other group can now go and be back just in time for the parade to start.

    As of now, the Pixar Fest parade is fantastic. This last time we went was the second day of Pixar Fest, both the parade and the fireworks, and as always, Disney did a fantastic job with them and it was spectacular.

    Time for another recap of what we’ve done:

    • Got a Space Mountain FASTPASS for return between 1:10pm – 2:10pm
    • Rode Astro Blasters
    • Ate a Mickey Beignet
    • Rode Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain (whichever line was shorter)
    • Rode Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Rode Haunted Mansion/Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (whichever line was shorter)
    • Ride Matterhorn Bobsleds
    • Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
    • Ride Space Mountain
    • Eat Dole Whip
    • Get Indiana Jones/Splash Mountain FASTPASS
    • Ride Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
    • Ride Peter Pan’s Flight
    • Meet Mickey Mouse
    • See the parade

    We still have to:

    • Ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad/Haunted Mansion
    • Watch the fireworks

    We are making good time so far because as soon as the parade finishes we can go ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad/Haunted Mansion while waiting for the fireworks to start. Again, since we want to save our seats for the parade, we will have to go ride in groups. If our FASTPASS return time is good for anytime between 8pm – 9pm, then we can use those. Otherwise, we will have to wait in line. The line shouldn’t be too long and both groups should be able to wait in line, ride the ride, and get back to our seats in time for the fireworks.

    Fun Fact: The Dream Suite is a luxury apartment above Pirates of the Caribbean. It is meant to entertain VIP guests but Disney selects random park guests to stay there, too!

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    The Disney Pixar Fest fireworks we saw while we were there this past time were amazing. We won’t give a lot away but there was a flying object in the sky that was very Pixar. It may or may not have involved balloons, sorry if that gave it away.

    After the fireworks it is time to get some sleep after a very long and exhausting, but hopefully fun, day.

    One last recap of everything we did:

    We rode:

    • Space Mountain
    • Astro Blasters
    • Matterhorn Bobsleds
    • Indiana Jones
    • Splash Mountain
    • Haunted Mansion
    • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
    • Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
    • Peter Pan’s Flight

    We saw:

    • Mickey Mouse
    • Disney Parade
    • Disney Fireworks

    We ate:

    • Dole Whip
    • Mickey Beignet

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    Hopefully the next time you are in Disneyland you have more than one day to enjoy it, but if you’re crazy like us and have to get it all done in one day then this plan might just be a lifesaver for you as it was for us.

    Fun Fact: The Matterhorn has a basketball court inside it for cast members to play on their break.

    Next week we will go over how to do all of Disneyland in one day with kids so look out for that post.

    Never stop adventuring!

     

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Uncategorized

    *UPDATE* Travelling With Little Ones: Our Packing List

    In the interest of full disclosure, we are part of the Amazon Associates program. This means that some of the below items may earn us a small commission if purchased through the below links. There is no pressure for any of you to purchase these items through our links; however, should you choose to do so we thank you very much for your support!

    So before we left for our Arizona trip, if you want to see pictures of the trip check out our Instagram, we posted about the things we were bringing with us to make travelling with kids easier. If you haven’t read that post, you can find it here.

    We promised we would do a follow up post on how useful these items were and how much simpler they made traveling with kids, if at all. Here are our thoughts:

    Image result for ju ju be diaper bag queen of the nile

    Ju-Ju-Be Convertible Diaper Bag

    Was this diaper backpack as helpful as I was hoping? Yes. Because we did this trip with primarily carry-ons having a backpack was extremely helpful through the airports. All the pockets are ideal because it kept everything we needed for the boys organized and easily findable – especially if I was just telling Kyle where something is. Besides the airports & travel days, the backpack was still awesome. It allowed us more freedom when either one of the boys wanted to be carried or when we needed to hold Nixon’s hand while crossing busy streets, walking through Disneyland etc. Even though the bag is smaller than my old gym style diaper bag I never felt like I was compromised in what I could pack. In fact I found I only packed the essentials rather than filling the bag with all sorts of unnecessary items and never once did I think I was missing something.

    Image result for kidco peapod travel bed

    KidCo PeaPod Plus Travel Bed

    Again, this item proved to be as essential as we thought. There were a couple nights where all 7 of us crammed into a hotel room, and not having to worry about fitting 2 extra cribs in the room or making a bed on the floor was a bonus. They aren’t the smallest but they fit beside our bed no problem. It is nice that the boys are both contained but also helpful that there is fabric shades that roll down so it provides a dark & quiet space for them to sleep. A downside is the nylon material it is made out of. It makes a decent amount of noise when the kids move in their sleep but it really was a minor deal. Our youngest had issues in his tent but we found out pretty quickly that he prefers a plush mattress so we simply ordered an extra blanket from the hotel and put it under the entire bed (not inside where he sleeps to reduce risk of suffocation) and it worked surprisingly well. There are a couple modifications I’m looking into to help with the nylon bedding pad but I’ll update you on that once I find a solution.

     

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    Summer Infant 3D Two Double Stroller

    This too was a purchase I would highly recommend. After getting through airport security I was very thankful to have a stroller that folded up with one hand, into one piece. If we had brought our City Select that is easily an extra 3 pieces I would be carrying around when it was not assembled. Both the kids did awesome in the stroller, it folded up nice and compact – which was essential because our rental minivan was packed to the brim! A plus I hadn’t really considered was how nice it was to have it tandem style, getting through doorways, and even the crowds at Disneyland was much easier because we were nice and skinny rather than taking up the extra space. Now, I was warned when I bought the stroller that the seats did not recline very far and that is true. That made it a little difficult for the kids to fall asleep in a comfortable position, however, when they were tired enough it didn’t matter and they slept just fine. The storage bin underneath wasn’t huge but it held our UV shade and a couple water bottles which was awesome. The only thing I would recommend (& totally forgot to do) was bring our stroller caddy from our City Select. That would have just given us the storage for things like phones and sunglasses accessible at the handles – it’s on my list to grab when we go to Europe!

     

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    Jolly Jumper Solarsafe Net

    Truthfully we didn’t use this a lot but when we did it came in very handy. I only say that because we weren’t out with the stroller much in Arizona so it was primarily just used during our day in Disneyland. It was a little awkward for the kid sitting in the front seat of the stroller but often times they just got used to it. It kept the inside of the stroller decently cool and allowed us the extra protection from the sun, especially when standing in lines around Disneyland. A bonus, it helped the kids stay asleep because it was a little darker and harder to see what was going on.

    Image result for Herschel Supply Co. Survey Kids, Black, One Size

    Herschel Supply Co. Survey Kids Backpack

    This was something we didn’t really use a ton except getting on and off the plane. Since the kids got to bring one small item on the plane we used this as Nixon’s carry on and it was perfect for what we needed it to do which was carry his toys and stuff. It perfectly fit a few books, toys and his stuffed bunny. Plus, it was light enough that he could carry it himself and as I mentioned last time it’s a way for us to show him that he can carry his own things.

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    Native Jefferson Child Shoes

    Yes. Yes. Yes. This was all Nixon wore during our entire trip. Easy to put on, easy to clean & comfortable to walk in. He wore them all day in Arizona because our patio & grass were often very hot and he wanted to walk over the rocks or stand on the steps in the pool. I never had to worry about changing shoes which, one less thing to worry about is a win in my books! And when we got photos done in the dessert and they got all dusty, a simple dunk in the pool and they were as good as new! In fact, we’ve had awesome weather since we’ve got back home and so we’ve just continued wearing them. I can see these being a staple for both our boys for many years to come. I’m even wanting a pair myself!

    Image result for zhiyun smooth q3

    Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal

    This was Kyle’s baby so he will take over here.

    Hey everyone, I didn’t think I would have as much fun with this little thing as I did. I only opened it the day before we left and while I did use it a decent amount on the trip it was one of those things where I felt like I wasn’t using it to it’s full potential. It was super simple to use out of the box but it has many modes and other functions that I haven’t played with enough yet. I didn’t like that sometimes the Bluetooth connection took a few tries to connect but other than that I have no complaints. Stay tuned for a video of our Arizona trip!

    What is the one thing you never travel without?

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • Uncategorized

    Vancouver Travel Hacking Meetup

    We have some very exciting news to share with everyone! We will be co-hosting a second Vancouver Travel Hacking Meetup for all of you. We say co-hosting because we have decided to host with our favourite local travel hacking bloggers, PointsWise!

    We want to take a minute and talk about them because if you don’t want to come to the meetup for us, you sure want to come for them. There is no Canadian Travel Hacking blog that we love more than theirs. Their blog is so full of information which comes in great detail. I (Kyle), frequent all the big blogs that talk about award travel and travel hacking and PointsWise is by far my favourite. Tyler and Brad have traveled extensively on many airlines, have stayed in many hotels and have relaxed in many lounges that whenever I need a review, they’re my first stop. Let’s just say it’s an honour to be hosting this meetup with them.

    The travel hacking meet-up will take place at The St Regis Hotel in Vancouver BC on April 29th from 4-6pm and will cover a variety of topics. Rather than having a traditional ‘speaker/audience’ format, we hope to keep most of the evening informal with plenty of opportunity to network and share ideas! At the meetup we will be talking about a range of topics including the following:

    • Marriott/SPG program changes
    • Manufactured spending
    • Credit card churning
    • Leveraging referral programs
    • Identifying goals and creating a plan
    • Program sweet spots and high-value redemptions
    • Tips to stay organized
    • & more!

    There will be prizes at the Meetup, PointsWise will generously be giving away a one night stay at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver for 2. Also, those who attend the event will receive a special invite to a private group chat (hosted on Slack) as a way to keep the conversation going.

    If you are interested, the event is FREE but you will require a ticket as space is limited. You can get your ticket here. Those who attend the event are asked to support the venue by ordering food and/or drinks as there is no cost for attending.

    If there is something specific you would like us to talk about, please leave a comment in the comment section below and we will cover it at the meet-up. We hope to see you there!

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • FRUGAL FRIDAY

    Frugal Friday: Always Make Extra

    One of our favourite things to do together is cook. We love making food together and Sam has recently decided to start meal planning. This has been a huge money saver for us in a couple of different ways:

    First, we always know what we’re having and the nights of this conversation are gone:

    Sam: What should we have tonight?
    Kyle: I don’t know, wanna just order pizza?
    Sam: Sounds good to me.

    That doesn’t happen anymore because we plan our meals for the week and shop for the week. Plus, every time we make food we always make extra. This way after we make enough food for us two and some for Nixon, we always make sure there is enough left over for both of us to have lunch the next day. Even though we’re usually on cooking for 2 adults, we always cook as though we’re 4 adults, that way we guarantee leftovers.

    It’s no secret that eating out is one of the easiest ways to spend money. We all do it, spend $10 on lunch a couple times a week here, a few dollars on a snack there, but it adds up. If you can cook leftovers and take that for the lunch the next day along with a piece of fruit or veggies and another snack, you should be good to go for the day until you get home for dinner to do it all over again.

    This has been a huge money saver for us and while we still do eat out on occasion, we at least know what day it is and usually where we’re going rather than scrambling and settling on pizza every time.

    What have you found to be a big money saver in regard to food?

    Never stop adventuring!

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  • LIFE

    Travelling With Little Ones: Our Packing Essentials (We Think)

    In the interest of full disclosure, we are part of the Amazon Associates program. This means that some of the below items may earn us a small commission if purchased through the below links. There is no pressure for any of you to purchase these items through our links; however, should you choose to do so we thank you very much for your support!

    As we have lots of travel coming up, we have decided to stock up on some items that we hope will make our lives a little bit easier while away from home. All of these items are items that we currently own and some we have used and others will get their first use this weekend as we fly to Los Angeles for a day at Disneyland before driving to Arizona for a week of sunshine and relaxation.

    Image result for ju ju be diaper bag queen of the nile

    Ju-Ju-Be Convertible Diaper Bag

    The Ju-Ju-Be is our third diaper bag in 21 months. Our first two were typical diaper bags that you carry on your shoulder. There was nothing wrong with either of them, the first just looked very diaper bag-ish and the second was a gym bag, but with two boys twelve months apart, I needed something easier to carry. I initially had my eye (& heart) set on the Fawn Design bag. It is absolutely stunning, but this time I vowed to put in proper research. As I watched several YouTube videos and read reviews, the Ju-Ju-Be kept being named as a top bag. So I watched more videos comparing them. It broke my heart but being honest to myself meant that I wasn’t going to get the Fawn Design bag and I decided on the Ju-Ju-Be. My reasons came down to this: the Ju-Ju-Be has more organization due to more pockets and it can hold more. If I only had one child who needed items in a diaper bag, I probably would have gone with the Fawn Design bag but with multiple young kids I need all the space I can get. I don’t have a Fawn Design bag to compare to but I have had my Ju-Ju-Be for a week and I am in love. I wish I had done the research when my first boy was born. The backpack option is the deal breaker for me (even though it does come with a shoulder strap option as well), I need two hands free at all times without a bag falling off my shoulder. I’m also an over-packer when it comes to everything (more about that for our Arizona trip later), and this bag can accommodate it all! A couple of the other features that I love are that the lining on the inside is always light coloured so that it’s not impossible to find something, there are a ton of pockets (both open and zippered) which makes organization a breeze, and the way it opens allows easy access to the stuff on the bottom. The shoulder straps are padded which is awesome because I plan on carrying it around a lot on my back over our next few trips. A bonus – my husband doesn’t mind carrying it! It is pricey but if you’re smarter than we are, it is only a one time investment and I believe it’ll last us a long time!

    Image result for kidco peapod travel bed

    KidCo PeaPod Plus Travel Bed

    Travelling with two kids under two meant finding a smarter sleeping solution than pack & plays because those things are heavy and bulky and we will not be hauling them around with us. Also, most hotels are not fond of having two cribs in one hotel room (especially in Europe), so we needed a new plan. I began researching all sorts of travel beds, and I came across these PeaPods. The first thing that caught my attention was that they are basically individual tents and the kids cannot escape from them – because our oldest isn’t in a bed yet, this was a huge concern of mine. Secondly, they fold up into a tiny circle and slip into a carry bag that fits into a carry on – perfect! They take less than a minute to set up and about the same time to fold up (once you get the hang of it). They also have a mattress pad that is attached on the underside, that can be removed for washing when needed. We got 2 plus sized ones because that way our kids can grow into them and I don’t need to worry about it for trips in the future. We didn’t simply purchase these for big trips, they have already come in handy when we’re at family gatherings and one or both of the kids needs a nap. Plus, during the summer they’ll be coming camping with us. We’ve been having the kids practice sleeping in them so that they are used to them for the trip and we’ve had zero issues with them sleeping so far. So, fingers crossed we’re in luck for our trip!

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    Summer Infant 3D Two Double Stroller

    Deciding to travel with our two boys meant finding a second stroller because we are not going to bring our rather large City Select through airports and around the world. Travel strollers are very common; however, it was more difficult to find one with two seats. There are a couple options that were a sit & stand or a small bench seat for the second child but because our oldest child is still under two I wanted a proper seat for him rather than the bench style. I also wanted both kids to be able to join us in sightseeing and face forward rather than one being stuck rear facing or stuffed under the other seat. After several searches and reading countless reviews, we decided on the Summer Infant 3DTwo Double stroller. This was a perfect fit for what we need because it isn’t the side by side which is often difficult to fit through door ways or along narrow streets, it has two full seats that recline, two full UV protectant sun shades and it folds up with one hand to be nice and small. We’ve been testing it out the last couple weeks and the kids love it and so do Kyle and I. The undercarriage is small compared to our City Select but more than sufficient for the few things we’ll put in there (that won’t be in our Ju-Ju-Be). Kyle asked the other day if we should just sell our City Select since the Summer Infant functions so well and while I love it, we’ll still keep our City Select for everyday use around home and use the Summer Infant for travelling!

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    Jolly Jumper Solarsafe Net

    This was not a researched product but with a lot of our upcoming travel destinations being hot and sunny I knew I wanted a way to protect the kids while we are out sightseeing. This net is universal to most strollers so we will definitely use it at home over our City Select but I am most looking forward to knowing that the kids will be safe from the sun (& bugs) during our adventures.

    Image result for Herschel Supply Co. Survey Kids, Black, One Size

    Herschel Supply Co. Survey Kids Backpack

    This was an impulse buy that I am in love with, but it does serve a purpose. I am a firm believer that it is never to early to get kids to start pulling their weight. So, we purchased Nixon his own backpack to carry his items, especially on and off the plane. We obviously won’t put anything of great importance or weight in there but a couple books, toys and his stuffed bunny fit perfectly and that way he feels just like mum & dad with our backpacks & that also means it is less for me to carry. A bonus – Herschel is great quality (with a fantastic warranty policy) so this is a piece that will last us for a while!

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    Native Jefferson Child Shoes

    Having a toddler, meant that I wanted a versatile shoe that he can wear all the time and the Native shoe was exactly what I was looking for, especially with summer coming up. No more needing to worry about scraped up toes or stepping on sharp things; these shoes can be worn at the waterpark, beach, or on everyday outings. Needless to say, I might just be getting myself some!

    Image result for zhiyun smooth q3

    Zhiyun Smooth-Q 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal

    Kyle will talk about this item as it is his baby on the list.

    Hey guys, this is a really cool item that I’m excited to get. A gimbal is a mechanism that stabilizes a moving object. I’m sure you’ve seen one of these before, there is a very popular one all over Kickstarter right now, but basically you put your phone in it and as you move your phone it keeps it stable so that your videos aren’t shaky. As we look to do more videos for the blog and Instagram (follow us if you don’t already @adventureneverenns) this gimbal is going to come in handy and we will start with our flight Friday, time in Disneyland on Saturday, and our week in our Arizona next week so stay tuned to see this baby in action.

    When we get back we will review all of these items and how well they performed at what we expected them to do.

    Never stop adventuring!

  • MAIN STREET EATS

    Main Street Eats: Simply Delicious

    Overall Rating 6/10

    4316 Main St, Vancouver, BC 
    (604) 875-9866

    7 Days A Week 4pm – 1 am

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    After our amazing night at Ogenki Sushi we saw that we had another Japanese restaurant coming up, Simply Delicious, and were curious how they would compare. Though not the most Japanese name for a sushi restaurant, it was clear by their menu that they were. They describe themselves as a lounge type restaurant serving up casual Japanese fare. By the vibe we got from the place this seems very accurate.

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    Simply Delicious was laid out unlike any restaurant we’ve ever seen on this journey thus far. After climbing the steep staircase to get to the restaurant, you see that the tables are lined up parallel to each other across the whole restaurant. It was like a big picnic with these tables all touching each other and running parallel to one another. It was very unique and seemed to work for them although we’re not sure how private it would feel having your meal here. If they seat groups beside each other we felt like it would feel intrusive being so close to the next party and take away from any private moments you wanted to have with your group. If they’re going for the casual lounge experience where people are often standing and mingling then this doesn’t seem like it would be a problem, however, if your group wants any sort of privacy this seems like it would be a big turn off. One last thing about the layout of the interior, the patio seemed like it was the best part of this place; it looks right out onto Main Street and it was covered which is nice for all the rain we get. They also had a cool little bar height table outside their front door that gave it a cool casual feel before you even entered which we though was a nice touch.

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    We ordered take out from them and the service was excellent. We were told it would be ready within 15-20 minutes and when we arrived 15 minutes later our order was ready. The lady who gave us the food was friendly and happy to allow us to take some photos before we left. There wasn’t anything she could have done differently to make us feel better about the short moment we encountered with their service.

    Simply Delicious does not have an updated website, there is one from years ago but it is very old and has no menu on it, so the best we could find was this menu from a Yelp review.

    The food was good. Not great, not terrible, just good. If we had to compare it to Ogenki, it’s not even close but it definitely wasn’t the worst Japanese food we’ve ever had. We ordered the following:

    • Spicy Tuna Roll
    • Assorted Tempura
    • Gyoza
    • Chicken Teriyaki
    • Crispy Crunch Roll

     

    As we mentioned last week we prefer the tuna in our Spicy Tuna Roll to be marinated in the spicy sauce rather than just have the sauce poured on top as this was. The amount of sauce on this roll was almost too much and that’s coming from people who love sauce. Note, we said almost. The other thing we didn’t like about the Spicy Tuna Roll was that it was made maki style. We prefer our rolls to be uramaki style, in fact this was the first time we have ever had a Spicy Tuna Roll maki style. As you can see from the picture, this roll is just rice, seaweed, tuna, and sauce. In our experience, there is usually something else in the roll, most of the times something green like avocado or cucumber. This roll didn’t have that and it left it feeling cheap. It tasted fine but was nothing memorable.

     

    The tempura was solid. The crunch of the outside was, well, crunchy, as it should be. There were, however, two issues with the tempura: first, one of the vegetable selections was avocado. This was the first time we’ve ever seen avocado in a tempura and while we both love avocado it was basically just a mush when we tried to eat it which was unfortunate. It seemed like an odd choice to us because this seems like it would be expected if you deep fry avocado. Second, there were big pieces of tempura that were fish. The fact that they were fish was not the problem, the problem was that the fish portion sizes were massive. Most of us can usually eat a piece of tempura in about 3 bites, right? Well, this fish tempura as as if it had been taken off an entree order and battered with tempura. It was way too big which threw off the batter/fish ratio and  it was full of bones. The other vegetables pieces of tempura were excellent but the fish and avocado not so much.

     

    The gyozas were the second best tasting thing we had all night but they too had an issue. The filling, which is why we order gyozas, was severely lacking; what filling there was tasted excellent but the outside/inside ratio was way off in favour of the outside. But again, the taste was excellent which made the lack of filling that much more disappointing.

     

    The chicken teriyaki was the most disappointing thing we ordered. The chicken itself was seasoned and cooked well but the teriyaki sauce was non existent. Usually with a dish like this there is a decent amount of sauce that you can actually see. Well, in the photo above you can’t see anything really. It looks like a very mild glaze if anything. With a dish like this we usually have sauce running off onto the rice below. Look at that rice, it’s bare. This was extremely disappointing as chicken teriyaki is such an easy thing to do well. The salad that came with it was delightful though.

     

    The bright spot of the meal was the Crispy Crunch Roll. It had the perfect amount of crunch and spice on the outside to compliment the filling on the inside. Every bite was delicious and this is the best thing we ate all meal.

     

    In terms of value, this place was a little low on value in our opinion. The total bill for the 5 dishes came to about $40. If we say each dish is about $8 on average then, I think we can see it’s a little bit overpriced. We ordered two spicy tuna rolls and each one only came with 6 pieces, for $4 per roll on average, that’s high especially since there was nothing else in the roll. $8 for a specialty roll like the Crispy Crunch Roll is fine as that was our favourite dish, but $8 for 5 gyozas seems high to us especially since the filling was lacking. $8 for assorted tempura which only gave us 5 pieces total? Yeah that seems high too. And then $8 for an order of chicken teriyaki seems fine but again the sauce was an issue. If everything tasted as we expected it should have then we may have had less of an issue with it, but we would not be happy to pay that price for these dishes again.

    Simply Delicious is probably a place we wouldn’t sit down with the kids as it does have a very lounge like feeling where kids usually aren’t the most welcomed. In the end, we were happy this was a take out restaurant for that reason. There were also no high chairs in sight and, though we didn’t expect one, no kid’s menu.

    Though the service was extremely friendly and welcoming, the food did not live up to any expectation. We would be more than happy to walk a few steps down the street and get our Japanese food at Ogenki. If we had to return we would definitely order the Crispy Crunch Roll again but wouldn’t be very excited for anything else.

    Have you been to Simply Delicious? What was your experience with the restaurant and food?

    Food 5/10 – everything had an issue with it except the Crispy Crunch Roll

    Service 9/10 – the short encounter we had with the server was pleasant and without issue

    Kid friendliness 2/10 – no high chairs or kid’s menu and in a lounge-like setting we would avoid bringing the kids here to sit down

    Decor 8/10 – a cool vibe and all the wood tabletops were very neat

    Value 6/10 – overpriced for the quality of food

    Never stop adventuring!

     

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    An Aeroplan Luxury European Vacation: Booking Part 3 – Hotels

    This is Part 3 of a 3 Part Series about booking a European Family Vacation on points. In this part we will go over the details of booking hotels with points.

    Most of us know how to book a hotel. You go to whatever your favourite search site is, lookup the city you want, input your dates and select the hotel you want to stay at. It’s a very simple process for those that have done it at least once before. The unfortunate part about points is that the process is not necessarily that easy.

    The obstacle we come across when booking on points is mostly the same as booking flights on points, availability. For couples travelling as 2 people, this is a relatively easy process and availability is usually easy to find. When travelling as a family of 4 or more, things get more complicated as we learned when going through this process ourselves.

    Europe is very strict with their room occupancy limits and rarely will you find a room with 2 queens as you would in almost any city in North America. In Europe, most room occupancy limits listed are adhered to to the tee. The worst part is that most hotels include any person regardless of age as a person towards the room occupancy limit, including kids, even infants. Most of this is due to their strict fire codes and enforcement.

    While you would be hard pressed to try and get away with 3 adults in a 2 person occupancy room, we’ve found some hotels are a little bit more lenient when it comes to kids and the smaller they are the better in your favour. As you read this please keep in mind if your kids are older, you will have a harder time getting hotels to bend the rules for you and you will have a much better time booking adjoining rooms for you and the kids. Yes, that means you’ll have to pay for two rooms with your points but the stress of the situation is gone then.

    Here’s how we searched hotels to fit our family’s needs and how to talked to the hotels to allow 4 of us in a 3 occupancy limit rooms.

    First off, we are big Marriott fans. We explained why is this post. Basically, their points are easy to get and the value you can extract from them for high end luxury hotels is incredible. And the best part? You don’t have to have the points in your account until 2 weeks before check in so you can plan way ahead and have time to earn the points. That being said, we always search for a Marriott hotel first before we go to any other hotel chain. Before we search Marriott’s site for hotels, we always check if they have any PointSaver hotels available where we are going. PointSavers are hotels that Marriott is offering for less points than usual, a discount if you will. If we go to the PointSavers page, we see that there are hotels on sale. If you scroll down you will come to this screen:

    PointSavers

    Here we see all the available places that have PointSavers. It is broken down into USA and Worldwide, since we’re going to Europe we will focus on the Worldwide side. Lucky for us, the there are 2 Greece hotels on PointSaver the time that we want to be there.

    Remember, we are in Greece from October 26th to November 5th. Now, based on the time of year we are flying, certain hotels in Greece are not open. Greece is a very popular place to go in the summer but not so much the rest of the year, hence why hotels close during the winter. The hotel that we are most excited about on our trip is Domes of Elounda. Domes of Elounda, which as far as we can tell, closes on October 31. Lucky for us we are there in time to make it to the hotel for 5 nights. Whenever possible, to get the most value for your points, try to book 5 nights at a time. Why you ask? Because both Marriott and SPG offer the 5th night free when booking with points. That means we save one whole night’s worth of points when you book that 5th night; sometimes that can be up to 45,000 points which is a big deal.

    The thing about Marriott that we don’t like is their website hotel search function. Their website itself is fine but the hotel search function is awful sometimes. For certain hotels, just searching the city they are in and putting in your dates doesn’t work. That is the case with this hotel. Instead, you need to go directly to the hotel’s Marriott page and search there. We’re not sure why this is but obviously this is some sort of glitch in the system. For this example, we went to www.domesofelounda.com and searched through there. Not all hotels have their own site so sometimes it’s best to just Google “_____ Hotel Marriott” and click on their page that way. After we put in out details, even searching 2 adults and 2 children, we see this room as an option:

    Elounda Points

    This is perfect for a family of 4. This is a “Family” room as they call it but which can sleep 3 adults and 1 child. We are 2 adults and 2 children so we assume swapping an adult for a child is okay. Here we also see the PointSaver discount applied. Originally, 5 nights here would cost us 180,000 points, but instead will only cost us 160,000 points. This room has a sea view, a whirlpool and a balcony. More specifically, that whirlpool is on your balcony. This sounds like a mighty fine choice for us.

    Elounda

    Now we have 5 days left to see some more of Greece. Our suggestion would be 3 nights on Santorini and the final 2 in Athens. With the options in Athens we will have a fantastic location and only need one day to see the main attractions. For Santorini, getting there from Crete, more specifically Heraklion, has to be done by ferry. In Santorini, there are only 3 options for points bookings, all SPG hotels and they’re very hard to find availability at and very expensive in points as well.

    SPG Santorini

    Whenever you see “Please contact us to redeem your Free Nights” you know that it is either because the amount of points is above normal or that the availability is only for rooms higher than the standard option (suites, etc). Regardless, this is an instance when paying with cash is the best option.

    Santorini has many good options for families looking to stay on the island. We like to use Trivago as it searches all the other online travel agencies and finds the best price. Here is what comes up when we search on Trivago for our dates:

    Santorini Trivago

    They all look very nice. We suggest reading a little bit about the island and what areas are the best to stay in. Here are what prices are like across the island for our dates:

    Santorini Map

    There are many reasonable options for us to choose from, it’s just our choice as to which we want and where we want to stay.

    Lastly, we need to find us a hotel in Athens for our last two nights. We suggest flying to Athens; it’s cheap, usually under $100 per person, and quickest considering we want to maximize our last two nights in Athens. There is a ferry option but it is hours long vs the flight which is under an hour.

    SPG Athens

    SPG has two very good options in Athens and a handful of other options. As we see for our dates there is availability at the Hotel Grande Bretagne, a very nice hotel with great reviews. When we go, we will be staying at the King George, which as you can see in the photo says “Please contact us to redeem your Free Nights.” From experience, we know that this hotel is usually cheaper in points than the Grande Bretagne so it may actually be worth calling. Regardless, these hotels have reciprocal rights, which means you can use services at either except King George guests can not use the outdoor pool at Grande Bretagne, but can use the indoor pool, and either choice will be excellent.

    We now have to find hotels in Italy. We fly into Rome and have enough time to do 3 days in 3 cities if we want. We would suggest Rome, Naples, and Florence as they are all close to one another and will cut down on transportation time. We will start in Rome. As we always do, let’s see what Marriott has available. If we search for 2 adults and 2 kids we see there is an option for us:

    Rome Marriott

    Great! A hotel that allowed the 4 of us to stay in one room together. Wait, let’s look a little bit closer…

    Rome Marriott Shadow

    Upon further inspection the room is available on points but it’s a Points + Cash redemption where you can use points but you have to pay a cash addition to redeem the room for points. That 250 EUR works out to about $400 CAD. If you’re down with that then you won’t find a better luxury in a more ideal location. If, however, you’re more frugal like us we will keep looking. Let’s try changing the search from 2 kids to 1:

    Rome Marriott 1 Kid

    This time we see that we can have a room for the same amount of points but that cash portion has come down to 170 EUR ($272 CAD). This is better, but for our frugal selves it is still too much. Just for fun let’s see if we remove kids what we can find:

    Rome Marriott No Kids

    Now, we have options that don’t include a cash price but we will have to do some real sweet-talking to get a hotel manager to let us stay in the room with kids when only redeeming for 2 adults. One hotel we booked for our trip let us stay in the room with our kids after only booking for 2 adults because we are bringing our own travel beds for the kids. We use the KidCo PeaPod Plus Infant Travel Bed and since the hotel didn’t have to provide any extra beds for us they were okay with us using the room and our own beds for the kids. This is also something you could risk by booking the room for 2 adults and just bringing the kids without saying anything. The risk you run doing that is that you’ll have to pay a cash upgrade at check in if the hotel finds out. That or they ask you to leave.We aren’t willing to take that risk so we will always contact the hotel ahead of time. In this instance, if the hotel did not allow us to stay there, we would just get an AirBnB instead. Let’s check our what SPG had to offer in Rome:

    SPG Rome

    Again, we see here there may be something but it will likely cost a lot more points than normal. It is worth calling to see what the cost will be but our expectations wouldn’t be strong in our favour. Let’s search just 1 kid:

    SPG Rome 1 Kid

    Now this is something we can work with. The Westin is supposed to be phenomenal when it comes to kids so they are more than likely to allow the kids to stay there. It is up to you whether you mention to the hotel ahead of time that you are bringing two kids and not 1. Now that we have Rome figured out we need to check out our other two Italian cities. Let’s go to Naples first:

    No SPG Naples

    SPG has no hotels in Naples. Let’s check Marriott:

    No Marriott Naples

    Whenever Marriott and SPG are not able to meet our needs the next place we go is Best Western. If we search Best Western we see that they have nothing for 2 adults and 2 kids but if we change it to 2 adults and 1 kid we see there is something:

    Best Western Naples

    This hotel looks like a great location and can hopefully meet our needs if they allow the 4 of us in a room for 3. Again, we would contact the hotel to confirm this is okay. Lastly, we need to find accommodations in Florence. Let’s start with Marriott:

    Florence Marriott 2 Kids

    Okay there is a room available but look at the cash addition, no thanks! Let’s drop it down to 1 kid:

    Florence Marriott 1 Kid

    50 EUR, that’s much better and we would book this as that works out to about $80 CAD per night. At this point we wouldn’t even bother searching SPG because we’ve found what we’re looking for. We even get two options for the same cost. Since we travel with those kid’s travel beds we would choose the King option.

    Marriott Florence Rooms

    Now that only gets us to the 14th and we don’t fly out until the 15th, so this allows you an extra day somewhere, don’t forget you will be travelling between cities, likely by train so you could add a day in your travels that way. For us, we would just go back to Rome for the last day and get an AirBnB or hotel near the airport for that last night.

    If you don’t want to do 3 cities you could absolutely choose 2 cities at 5 nights each to maximize value with 5th night free.

    Now, we have our last country, France. We fly into Paris and we only have 8 days in this country so we suggest at least 5 in Paris to maximize value with 5th night free then the last 3 nights in another city. If you want to split it up 4 and 4 that is an options it just isn’t the greatest value.

    If we search for 2 kids and 2 adults we see this on SPG:

    SPG Paris 2 Kids

    Searching 2 adults and 1 kid shows us that there is availability at the Le Meridien Etoile and the Sheraton Paris Airport Hotel & Conference Centre. These are good options but always look at location. If we pull up the map we see 10 isn’t even on it and 9 is way out of the downtown core.

    SPG Map Paris

    Searching for 2 adults and 2 kids on Marriott shows this:

    Paris Marriott 2 Kids

    If you bring up the map you see this is way out of the downtown core. That’s because this hotel is at Disneyland Paris. We are staying there 2 nights on our trip and if you want to add this to your trip you can stay here for a couple nights. We want to spend at least a few nights in the downtown core so let’s see what happens if we search 2 adults and 1 kid:

    Paris Marriott 1 Kid

    Those are better options. In Paris, we definitely suggest contacting the hotel ahead of time as we found they are the most strict in following room occupancy limits. If that doesn’t work then try Best Western or as a last resort AirBnB. Best Western will always show no availability for 2 adults and 2 kids but we found they are more lenient when allowing infants into the rooms.

     

    For our last couple nights, remember we have a late morning flight on the 23rd so we will want to spend the night of the 22nd in Paris, we suggest the Best Western near the airport as it is cheap and offers a free shuttle.

    BW CDG

    For the last couple days let’s say you wanted to spend them in Nice, France on the south coast. It’s beautiful there and we wouldn’t blame you. Here is what SPG offers there (nothing for 2 kids):

    SPG Nice

    Both hotels are beautiful and we would likely stay at the cheaper one but check the map to see which location you like better.

    Marriott has this showing available (nothing for 2 kids):

    Nice Marriott 1 Kid

    Cannes is further west and south and Monaco is further north and east but all 3 locations are on the coast. It’s up to you to decide where you want to stay. Don’t forget to look at the cash additions.

    Our last night we will be staying at that Best Western near the airport so that means we now have all the hotels booked that we need.

    As you can see things are much more difficult when booking with kids in tow, but it is not impossible and if you’re a good sweet talker you can make it work in your favour, and by doing things like bringing your own beds for the kids, you can increase your chances of getting hotels to help you out. Of course, there is always the option of booking a room for 2 adults and just sneaking the kids in but we do not recommend that option as the consequences of getting caught don’t make it worth the risk.

    Hopefully this 3 Part series on booking a family vacation to Europe for a whole month was helpful to you and will make you planning and booking experience easier. If you have any questions or comments or need any help please let us know in the comment section.

    Never stop adventuring!