Sunday, May 22, 2016

Headed to a Sporting Event

I love summer!  LOVE!  The only thing that is missing from the season is college football.  But since this will be our first summer living in Denver, we are trying to embrace other sports.  After all, Denver has a soccer team, hockey team, basketball team, baseball team, two lacrosse teams, and football team.  We've already embraced the football and baseball team.  If you want tips on how to upgrade your MLB tickets, click {HERE}.  The soccer park is mere blocks from our home.  In fact, we enjoy the fireworks from the park out our back window often.

As you are traveling this summer, many families like to add tickets to a game as part of their adventure.  Will you be ready when you pack for the event?

1. The Bag - What bag are you going to carry?  I recommend logging onto the stadium's website to see what is allowed.  Most places will allow a clear bag such as {THIS}.

2. Camera - You'll want to document your visit.  Often the camera on your phone will suffice.  (Almost all stadiums/parks allow cell phones.)  However, if you want some action shots, you'll want to make sure you have the right camera and lens.

3. Food & Drink - Are outside food & drink allowed in the stadium/park you are visiting?  Checking their website is usually a good place to find this information.  Check specifically about their water bottle policy.

4. Tickets - Don't forget your tickets.  Will you have an electronic ticket that you can pull up on your phone?  Or will you need paper/hard copy tickets?  If paper, do you need a lanyard like {THIS}?

5. Cash - Do you need cash or does the stadium/park accept credit cards?  Will you need cash for parking?  Does the stadium have an ATM?  What about "special" cash?  You might not have a need for "special" cash but those of us that are Clemson Tigers have the need for two dollar bills.  A little history on this - what fun!
In 1977, Georgia Tech decided to stop playing football against Clemson. In a show of protest, students and alumni stamped $2 bills with Tiger Paws and used them in Atlanta to illustrate the money Tiger fans spent at athletic events. Today, fans still use $2 bills when attending away games.

What are some of your travel tips when attending a sporting event?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Major League Baseball - Seat Upgrade

Headed to a Major League Baseball game with your family this spring or summer or fall (baseball season lasts forever, doesn't it)??? Well, before you purchase high priced tickets, consider this. Download's at the Ballpark app onto your SmartPhone.

Within the app itself are things such as a ballpark map to find the closest bathroom or concession and a directory – all to make your visit more enjoyable. It seems to have a music section as well as a check-in area where you can get offers from your team. However, the most remarkable part of the app to our family is the ability to upgrade our seats. We tried it out at a Rockies game this past weekend.

We originally purchased some tickets at $16/each in a section between 3rd base and the outfield. A few hours before game time, we tried the UPGRADE section of the app. (This upgrade option also seems to be available through TicketMaster.)  For $10/each, we were able to upgrade our seats to club level seats behind 1st base. This means we paid $26 a ticket for club seats ($16 for the original ticket plus $10 for the upgraded ticket). The upgraded ticket will appear only to your mobile device; there is no new paper ticket. We didn't experience the dreaded “convenience fee” for using this feature.
You will notice that we received a section and a row, but no seat numbers.  We knew we purchased 4 tickets at $10/each, so the $40 made sense to us, but we were afraid it wouldn't to an usher.  This was a small glitch in the system (so it seemed).  Yet, the ushers used their radio/walkie talkies and worked it out.  Whomever the usher called on his walkie talkie was able to see where our seats were.

Then we were given these instructions:

We've read that this feature “kicks in” an hour before the game. However, we were able to do it approximately 3 hours before the game started. It seems the pricing for upgrades can range for as little as $5 up to quite a bit of money, but for us a $10 upgrade was well worth it. Of course, the price of the upgrade will really depend on the game.

And to top it off, I got a foul ball at the game!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Las Vegas' Monte Carlo

I've been to Vegas numerous times and Monte Carlo would not be my first choice of hotels. In fact, TravelMan stayed there for his bachelor party 16 years ago, so unless there had been a major reno, I wouldn't have given it the time of day. However, I was invited on a trip. And the lodging had already been arranged, so Monte Carlo it was.

The line for check-in was quite long and didn't seem to move quickly. The rooms are what I refer to as basic king bed, a desk, and a bathroom area. The bathroom what was most aging about the room; although, the carpet in the room needed to be replaced. The bathroom needed a major update. Plus, the water pressure was not good for oh, “me of thick hair.” Parts of the bathroom felt very dirty, which I'm assuming were mold. Things like the light fixture being cracked and not repaired shouts to me, "We don't give TLC to our hotel rooms."  
Sink area in bathroom
Broken light in bathroom

However, the bed was comfortable and the room was reasonably quiet.

The pool was always very crowded. It was difficult to find a chair but we managed. It was difficult to get food and beverage service at the pool.  Additionally, you had to move your location a lot if you were hoping for sun.  This pool gets a lot of shade throughout the day.
View from my room -- it was considered a pool view.  As you can see a ton of shade at the pool.  This was around the sun will move, but then the tall buildings on the other side quickly cause shade as the sun moves.
The hotel is certainly not a luxurious experience; yet, the location is somewhat good for the strip. If you can get a room for an affordable rate, then don't turn it away just based on it needed a renovation. Yet, be aware you are booking an average room that needs updating. As a little travel tip when booking, Monte Carlo is associated with the Hyatt. So if you have free rooms on your Hyatt account or points you want to spend, this is another reason to consider Monte Carlo.

The company I had with me on the trip made up for any deficiencies of the hotel.  We had a great trip.

TravelLady Rating: The Monte Carlo would not be my first choice of hotels in Las Vegas.  Yet, if the room were free or extremely discounted, I wouldn't say no.  Yet, I would know what to expect.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Embassy Suites - Deerfield Beach

Our family of four stayed at the Embassy Suites Deerfield Beach for New Year's Eve 2015. We had an ocean front room with a wrap around balcony (suite 404).
View from our room
This room could use some updating for sure. However, for us, it was nice to have a suite set up with two bathrooms, a king size bed in one room, and a pull out queen bed in the other. The view of the water was just beautiful.

For the facilities, I used the fitness center one morning. It is small; the equipment could be updated. Yet, the equipment I used was all in working condition. We enjoyed the pool. The bar had good service, and the towel supply was always in stock. If you follow my blog, then you know I believe that hotels should offer free internet. Embassy Suites Deerfield Beach does not. However, if you are a Hilton rewards member, then internet is included. We are not Hilton Reward members but had an easy fix. We went to the front desk, signed up, and had free internet within minutes for the duration of our stay.

The hotel was busy while we were there between it being New Year's Eve as well as the Orange Bowl for the college play-offs.  The staff didn't seem rattled by the crowd; they were pleasant and ready to help when needed. The breakfast buffet was crazy busy both days we were there, and the food was blah. We never attended the evening receptions that Embassy hosts. 

The beach is just outside the gate of the pool. It was easy to access. As someone who grew up in Florida, I am not a fan of “manmade/man-placed rocks” on the beach. I didn't ask, but they are probably there to help stop erosion. Beach chairs could be rented for $12/each per day. This is overpriced; bring your own chairs if possible. Something else that was overpriced was the parking. Consider this when booking.

TravelLady Rating: The location is great. If you are traveling with your family and want space in the hotel room, book a balcony, ocean-front room. Also, I used when booking this room two days prior to arrival and got decent pricing.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Southwest Bonus Is Back

The 50,000 point bonus is back with Southwest when you apply for the Southwest Chase Credit Card.  This is one of the fastest ways to make your way to the Companion Pass. Click {HERE} for the details of applying to the card.  {HERE} is the blog post about fast tracking for a Companion Pass.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September contest - ENTER to win!

Planning a trip can be time consuming. While there is so much information out on the web these days, it can still be confusing. A travel agent is a great service to use for planning your trips, but can they really save you money? Turns out he answer is yes, because travel agents don't charge customers for their services.  (They are paid by the hotel, cruise ship, etc)

We've teamed up with Storybook Destinations and for every person who mentions this blog, Our Family Loves to Travel, when inquiring about a trip will be entered to win a $50 Amazon gift card. If you book a trip, you'll be entered again. This will run for the entire month of September. Where do you want to go...on a cruise, a trip to Disney, the beach, Italy, Sandals, snow skiing? Inquire with Storybook Destinations to find out what trip might be right for you.

Storybook Destinations
Direct 1-719-964-1718

*Contest Terms & Conditions: Applicable to new inquires and bookings as of September 1, 2015, with Storybook Destinations. Must mention the blog, Our Family Loves to Travel, at time of inquiry. Open to all US residents during the contest period (September 1, 2015 to September 30, 2015). Winners will be drawn from all the entries received up to 11:59pm/MST on September 30th. Drawing will be held on Friday, October 2nd. Additional conditions may apply.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Traveling with your Sitter

Whether you call the person who helps you watch your kids a nanny, a babysitter, or an au pair, the same basic questions run through everyone's head when it comes to traveling with them. This post is written with the hopes to clear up how you may want to address travel with your nanny.

For the purpose of this post, a sitter is defined here as a person caring for our children. This person does not live with us full time, nor is caring for our children her full-time job; additionally, she does not care for them on a daily basis. On the flip side, she is one of the only people, outside of family, who cares for our children when we are not available.

When our children were younger, we almost always traveled with our sitter. Now that our kids are older, we often find a resort with a kid-zone or child care. Having our sitter with us was piece of mind. And let's all be honest, traveling with our sitter made the trips more enjoyable.

Here are some tips:
  1. Your sitter may not be familiar with travel When you begin discussing traveling with her, don't assuming she knows the area you are going, that she has a passport, or that she'll know your expectations. Therefore, it's important that you...
  2. ...Set the ground rules – It is important that everyone has the same expectations of the trip. You don't want anyone to come home disappointed. What will you be paying for on the trip? What will the sitter be responsible for? Will there be compensation in addition to the trip? How will meals be handled? What will the sleeping arrangements be? When will the sitter be expected to watch the kids?
  3. Make sure your sitter has a passport – Our sitter didn't have a passport, so we covered the expense for her to get one. Passports can't be gotten at the last minute, so there needs to be some planning.
  4. Work out a schedule for your sitter to have downtime – Your sitter may not have the opportunity to visit your destination outside of the trip. She will want to have time to explore the area. Plan to allow her to do this during your family time, so it doesn't take away from your vacation. Plus, you'll want to include your sitter in some of your fun as well.
  5. Remember your sitter is sacrificing something – While your sitter loves being with your kids, she is sacrificing something of her own personal life to travel with you. Make sure she knows she is appreciated and that she is comfortable with the terms you have agreed on from the points mentioned above.

Another thing we always did that you may want to consider is we allowed our sitter to bring a friend. The friend had to pay her own way, but she was welcome to share the room we got for our sitter. This always ended up being a positive for our family. We had another set of eyes watching our children. Plus, when our sitter had her downtime, she had a friend with her. In our experience, this worked out to be a win-win for everyone.

While I have listed the five tips above, you may still want to have a suggestion specifically on how to pay your sitter. Certainly, what we did may not be right for you and your sitter. This is something you need to establish while working through #2 above. I can only share what worked for our family and our sitter with compensation.

The sitters we took happened to always be college girls. They never had to take time off from a full-time job or miss a class to travel with us. We would arrange our travel time to coordinate with one of their semester or summer breaks. We did not pay them hourly. They were invited to go on a trip with us as well as bring a friend along. We always covered all of our sitter's travel expenses such as getting a passport, airfare, her own hotel room, and food. Additionally, we would give our sitter a pre-agreed amount of money for each day. The amount of money was based on where we were going. Whether she spent the money while traveling with us or saved it, that was up to her. All of the terms were given to the sitter ahead of time, so she could be in agreement prior to committing to the job. (Believe me when I tell you we had a number of sitters hoping they would be invited on one of our trips. Therefore, if the first one asked didn't like the terms offered, we had other sitters who would have jumped on it. However, we compensated fairly, and the first sitter we asked always was thrilled to accept the job.) It has always worked out beautifully for us and our sitters. They got to go to the Bahamas, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and various beaches in Florida with us.

Taking your sitter on vacation with you may seem like a huge luxury. However, if the terms are worked out ahead of time and you've budgeted appropriately, you may find that it isn't as big of a financial burden as you may have assumed it was going to be.

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