Jul 16, 2016

Road Trip Essentials


[My stay and this post come to you c/o TownePlace Suites by Marriott. While there are sponsor links throughout, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the businesses that support this blog!]

 D and I truly are no strangers to road trips (we've driven the 10+ hour route from FL to NC too many time to count), but this cross-country move was definitely the longest and most tedious one we've ever endured together. Maybe because I was 30-ish weeks pregnant, maybe because our car was loaded down with an extra 900 lbs...probably both. After logging in over 3,100 miles on the road from Central Florida to Northern California, I feel like I learned a thing a two about road tripping...most notably, the things you need to take/do in order NOT to kill yourself and any of your travel partners along the way. HINT: you may still want to kill yourself and/or your travel partner at varying points in your trip...but not because of boredom. Road tripping is just plain HARD sometimes. You're a liar if you say it's not. I may or may not still be delirious from our journey...jury's still out on that one. 


Tasty Snacks - You've got your gummie bears, your pistachios, your granola bars...those are just a few of our favorite travel treats (and local roadside fresh fruit stand scores, too!). But whatever you choose, try and have a good mix of healthy and non-healthy items, just to keep it interesting. Also, bring a small cooler with bottled water and drinks for the kiddos (if you've got them in tow), so you won't have to keep dolling out $3 at every gas station you stop at. Just replenish your cooler every morning with free ice from your hotel and boom, you're back on the road!

Camera - Don't just rely on your your iPhone for road trip pictures...grab your DSLR and keep it on the dashboard. You never known what gorgeous scenery you'll see just outside your windshield! Our drive through Colorado had me snapping photos and recording Snapchats the entire way. You may only do one big road trip in life, so be sure to document it all. Side note: I also recorded a handful of beautiful miles via our GoPro sitting up on the dashboard...and took a few dozen films with my Instax Mini, just for some unique ways to capture the experience. If you have either of those, bring 'em along as well!


Comfy Beds - Some days while on the road, the only thing I look forward to at the end of the day is a clean, quiet room where I can safely lay my tired head. Towneplace Suites has been our saving grace this particular road trip. We stayed at various ones across the USA (Savannah, Atlanta, Nashville, to name a few) and spent 10 consecutive nights at one here in California before we moved into our new home. As extended stay hotels go...Towneplace Suites is the best (especially where military families are concerned---military discounts available)! FREE hot breakfast & coffee each day, FREE wifi, spacious rooms with kitchens and large bathrooms and closets for storage, fitness centers, pool, BONUS...they're pet friendly! Plus, they're always located in great areas close to loads of local attractions and dining options. As a military family, we've stayed in LOTS of hotels while in transit to new bases, but Towneplace Suites continues to rein supreme for those long stretches of displacement. 

UPDATE: Towneplace Suites just began their partnership with Weber Grill! Starting today, the extended-stay hotel brand will roll out new high-end Weber stainless steel Summit® Gas Grills at more than 100 hotels across the U.S. and Canada.


"Barbeque enthusiasts staying at TownePlace Suites hotels can beef up their stay with unlimited access to new premium grills, tools, spices and seasoning in the outdoor patio area. Inventive recipes inspired by TownePlace Suites' In a Pinch market and created by Weber Grill Master Kevin Kolman can be downloaded from TownePlaceSuites.com. Available recipes include All American Steakburgers, corn on the cob with basil-Parmesan butter, and more. All guests need to do is B.Y.O.M. (bring your own meat)!"

Good Tunes - Good music changes everything. It's critical to keep you from losing your mind while on the road, especially when conversation wanes and you just want to zone out a bit. We had our iPhones full of songs we loved, but we blew through all of those the first 2 days of driving. When we hit dead spots in radio reception or areas where only 3 stations were available and they were all country music, we were thankful we also had Sirius XM Radio. D got a 2 month free trial and boom, our music woes were solved! 90s on 9 was my personal favorite, but we also got a lot of mileage out of 80s on 8, Pop2k, Z100 and Y2Kountry.


Comfy Clothes - Seems like an obvious recommendation, but I saw so many road-tripping gals wearing wedges and strapless dresses. IS THAT COMFORTABLE? WHO ARE YOU GOING TO VISIT? There is literally no one I was trying to impress at the Tennessee Visitors Center or the 7-11. NO ONE. So, I opted for my most favorite maternity shorts, tanks, and slip on sandals. But if your eggo's not preggo...choose breathable, flexible pieces that are easily packed and cute, yet comfy for the long haul. And don't forget those sunnies!

Road Trip Toiletries - Chapstick, Wet Wipes, hand lotion, tissues, oil blotters for your face, and a hair brush...just a few things I had in the glove box ready to go when it was time to get out of the car and face human beings. Going through multiple climates and elevations, my skin got so dry, so the chapstick and lotion were godsends. The wet wipes were useful for sticky hands and for nasty rest area bathrooms {shudder}.

GPS - Self explanatory. While getting lost can be fun, it can also delay your trip and add extra hours of unnecessary headaches. I love a good old fashioned paper map (and having an atlas on hand is quite fun to look at from time to time), but a GPS will be the most efficient way to get from here to there. 


Safety Gadgets - Spare tires, jumper cables, first aid kit, flashlights, a screwdriver...you clearly don't want to have a reason to use them, but better not pull out of the driveway without them. Murphy will find you! Just my two cents. ;)

Sun Visor - If you travel the open road in the dead hot of summer, make sure to have one of those nifty reflective sun visors to put in your front windshield when you're not in the car. We drove through the "American Heatwave of 2016" and thank our lucky stars we had that thing! Plus, it's a nice little deterrent for looky-loos if you decide not to lug your whole life into your hotel room at night.


Pillow, Blanket, and Windex (yes, Windex) - If your driver is a sweet one and doesn't mind the quiet, it's always nice to catch a few zzz's in the passenger's seat. I, for one, almost never sleep in the car (I feel like I might miss something and want to keep D awake, for safety reasons), but I did bring a pillow for my bum and to support my back for those long segments of driving. As for the Windex...you can't take pretty photos out your windshield if it's covered with bugs, now can you? One small bottle and a few paper towels go a long way in keeping your car looking fly...less.

Cash - Keep a couple bucks or coins on hand for grabbing extra snacks or for paying any tolls you may run into while on the road. 

Anything else you'd add to this essentials list? Shout it out!
Happy road tripping!

Jun 8, 2016

Florida to California PCS: The Road Trip



3,100 miles, 11 days, 8 different stops, and 7 hotel stays. 
#FLtoCaliRoadTrip 



T-10 days till go time! 
So, there it is...that's the route we'll take on our 11-day journey across the good 'ol US of A. This Northern route approach will have us logging almost 50 hours of driving. FIFTY. I know, kill me now. But, we've got enough stops planned to break it up quite a bit. Here's a better breakdown of our plan:

STOP #1: Atlanta, Georgia - Here we'll be logging in another sure to be FABULOUS stay at Towneplace Suites (this hotel chain is perfect for road trip stays for couples AND families alike) and hopefully enjoying some iconic burgers & shakes at The Varsity. We've been to Atlanta before so we're not gonna go too crazy exploring, especially since we've only got maybe 13-16 hours in the city. Plus, the drive from our starting point in Florida to Hotlanta will be the second longest leg of our trip (clocking in at an annoying 7 hours). I'm sure by the time I get to the hotel, I'll want to kick my feet up and chill.

STOP #2: Nashville, Tennessee - Even though we've also been to Nashville before, we were young (hello, 11th grade!), so we're excited to get to explore a little more. We'll have a good chunk of time here in Nashvegas...roughly 24 hours, but who's counting (me, I am--we've got a schedule to keep, unfortunately!). We're still undecided on whether we just wander the city or if we should hit up a backstage tour at the Grand Ole Opry or a couple hours at the Country Music Hall of Fame (thoughts?). We know FOR SURE that we want some good southern food (biscuits, preferably) and to buy Heidi some baby cowgirl boots. Because when in Tennessee, am I right?

STOP #3: St. Louis, Missouri - Another city I've visited once at a young age, so we're not spending a whole heck of a lot of time here either. But, I do want to show D the Gateway Arch (not that you could miss it) and we'll probably hit up Delmar Loop for some shopping/eating. I would LOVE to do the City Museum, but thanks to being pregnant, it wouldn't be nearly as fun. Next time!

STOP #4: Kansas City, Kansas- This may be the stop I'm most excited about. Not because I've never been here (hint: I have...like 5 times), but because we get to spend 3 days staying with my Kansas cousins! After a few days cooped up in a car, we'll be SO thrilled to have some quality time with some super familiar faces. Plus, KC is a really fun city and D has never been! Hoping to share the goodness of KC BBQ and Boulevard Brewery Beer with him. We've also got a date with a swimming pool. Can. Not. Wait.

STOP #5: Denver, Colorado - This will be our longest, most boring drive of the whole trip (8.5 whopping hours of midwest nothingness, yay!). So once we get to Denver...a city I HAVEN'T been to before (but D has, whomp whomp), I have a feeling we'll grab a bite to eat and pass the heck out. Not much time for sightseeing, but we did get a hotel with a view of the Rockies, so at least we're looking forward to that.

STOP #6: Moab, Utah - I'm super excited to make a stop here in Moab. We'll be staying at an fun motel just outside of Arches National Park and will get to spend a decent amount of time exploring the gorgeous rock formations inside the park. No hiking for us (thank you, Heidi), but we'll still drive through & stop at all the scenic pull-offs for a good taste of one of Utah's most treasured natural attractions.

STOP #7: Salt Lake City, Utah - Salt Lake will be another fairly quick stop, but that's alright with us. Aside from eating at some cute local eateries, the only thing I really want to do is explore Temple Square. Our hotel is just around the corner from it to make visiting super easy on my sure to be exhausted body. I wish we did have a little bit more time here just so I could meet up with some fun bloggers I've gotten to know. Hopefully this won't be our only time in town!

STOP #8: Reno, Nevada - the "Biggest Little City in the World"...if you would have told me we'd be making a pit stop here, I would have laughed at you (Vegas AND Reno in one pregnancy? You gotta be kidding me!). But we had an extra day and instead of facing a third 8-9 hour drive straight from SLC to Cali, I decided we'd stop and see how Reno compares to Vegas. We're staying right on the Reno "strip" at a casino/spa resort, so while D tries his luck with the roulette wheel, I might cash in on a prenatal massage. I'll have earned it by then, right? ;)

FINAL DESTINATION: Sacramento/Roseville, California area - At this point, I'll calmly get out of the car and kiss the ground. We aren't 100% sure yet where we'll be laying our heads when we FINALLY arrive to the Golden State, but I do know I'll be so darn thankful...and ready to hit the ground running on the house-hunting front (UPDATE: staying at another fabulous Towneplace Suites for the next 8 days!! HELLO, FREE HOT BREAKFAST AND COFFEE!). We aren't buying a house in Cali (I wish I had that kind of cash flow, plus we'll only be here 2 years), so a rental it will be. Fingers, toes and eyes crossed we find something perfect for our little family of 3.


As much as I want to hit this road trip hard and make the most out of our first big move cross-country, being preggo comes with more restrictions and less fun. My sole goal is to make it across without giving birth, ya know? My doc has been on top of that and so far, baby girl and I are healthy as can be. Even so, we're going to try to make this trip one to remember. How many times does one get to road trip across America? If you're military, often...but we like to think this will be our only chance. I hope I don't eat those words later.

Because the travel blogger in me can't let this opportunity go to waste, I'll be documenting the whole crazy adventure via Instagram and Snapchat (username: Caseadilla1016), so feel free to follow along! There will be exciting sights to see along the way and likely a whole lot of delirious car chat (and singing--consider yourselves warned), so help keep us entertained! Also, if you have any suggestions for great restaurants for us to try in any of the cities above, shout 'em out! We're always down for recommendations from past travelers. It's how the travel world goes 'round.

And as always, if you've got some spare good vibes and prayers hanging around...we could still use them! We're getting closer to that light at the end of the tunnel feeling, but we've still got 3,100 miles and a few questionable hurdles jump before we can breathe again. It ain't over until I'm surrounded by my belongings in a nice home in California, amen? AMEN! Oh, and baby girl...stay nice and comfy in there for at least 10 more weeks, mmmkay? Peace out, East Coast!

**Cool road trip map itinerary planner via Roadtrippers**

May 31, 2016

Sanibel Island: Babymoon


The last 2.5 months have been a total whirlwind of change. With a pending cross-country move, a house to sell (it's SOLD, thank goodness!), and an entire life to pack up and restart in a new state 3,000 miles away, it was safe to say D and I needed some time away from all the chaos. Even amidst the the busyness that is this military life, we wanted to take a moment to relax, recharge, and celebrate our baby girl in a way that we both love...on vacation! Since writing about our Florida Bucket List the end of last year (and thinking we'd have 2 more years to try and check things off that list), I knew our babymoon destination would have to come from that short list. It wasn't long before reservations were booked and off we went to Sanibel Island for 4 sweet days of sand, sea, and celebrating our little Heidi.


Sanibel is just about as dreamy as islands come. Palm trees and lush tropical greenery line all 33 miles of this gulf coast town and the water...oh, that GORGEOUS turquoise water...was so blue & clear that it sparkled in the sunlight. Everything about Sanibel was quaint, from the colorful beach shops and non-chain restaurants to the charming B&B's and 25 miles of scenic bike trails, the island felt like our own secluded slice of paradise those 4 bliss-filled days. Instead of staying at a large resort, we opted for a small inn on the Eastern part of the island called Song of the Sea. It was perfectly beachy, came with a continental breakfast each morning (hello, fresh Florida fruit!), complimentary bike rentals, and swoon-worthy views of the coast that kept me starry-eyed each day. There's nothing like waking up to salty sea air in the morning. Heaven must be a beach...MUST be.


Our Sanibel days were spent waking up early for sunrise walks on the beach, lounging by the pool, searching for shells on the beach, exploring the island by bike, and chowing down on local seafood by night. We talked about our days in Florida and how we felt we didn't fully appreciate our time in the state until it was being cut short. We reminisced about the last 5 years of our lives together...from Germany to now...and how crazy our journey has been. We tried to picture what our lives in California might be like with a baby and a whole new set of responsibilities on the horizon. And we prayed for our sweet girl, our move, and our marriage. There were some tears (mostly mine), but a whole lot of clarity and time to make peace with the big changes we both were still trying to wrap our heads around. Those moments, just the two of us, remain in the forefront of my mind as we continue to navigate our way through this move. I fondly look back and take solace in the words we said and plans we made every time I feel overwhelmed with all the tasks still before us. Thank goodness for the inception of the "babymoon"...trendy as it may be, it was too good for our souls. Two babymoon believers right here. 


If you're interested in making Sanibel your babymoon destination (or just a super fun vacation, for those not expecting), here's a few places you should try hard to not miss:

If you need help planning or booking your Sanibel getaway, I know a good travel agent! A little shameless plug, I had to. Email me at Casey@destinationstoexplore.com ;)


A few tips for planning the perfect babymoon:

  • Travel before you're 30 weeks! We only had a free long weekend around the time I was 22 weeks and it turned out to be just perfect. I wasn't too big to enjoy lots of activities, but still pregnant enough to be offered free ice cream and prime sunning spots. ;)
  • Minimize your travel time. Drive no more than 6 hours and stop every two hours to stretch your legs.
  • If you're a maternity body pillow lover (I'm obsessed with my Leachco Snoogle Body Pillow), bring it along with you! And grab a king-size bedroom reservation to add extra comfort.
  • Don't forget to pack pregnancy-friendly sunscreen (I LOVE this kind from Kiss My Face) and all your vitamins, belly creams (big fan of Burt's Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter), bug spray (I use Cutter All Family 7% DEET Bug Spray), comfy breathable clothes/shoes, healthy snacks, and a water bottle to keep hydrated.
  • Is your destination safe from Zika Virus? Sanibel is! Avoid any babymoon destinations with Zika Virus travel restrictions. For more info on the virus and it's affected locations, click here.
  • Check with your OB before you travel! Typical recommendations are to not fly after 36 weeks and most cruise lines won't allow you to cruise after the 24th week of pregnancy.
  • Make time for naps or ample down-time between activities. Be active, but know your body's limits while pregnant. Don't overdo it!
  • Document it all! We brought along our FujiFilm Instax Mini and took loads of fun Polaroid photos to put in Heidi's baby book. We also Snapchatted (find me at Caseadilla1016) much of the trip, so now we have little videos to share with her when she's older.



"Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory"
-Dr. Seuss
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