Choosing a Vacation Hotel

Following our California vacation, my friend Katie asked how we always manage to find incredible hotels/resorts when we go on vacation. My answer might surprise you.


I use Expedia to book flights and hotels, but Instagram tells the honest story. I started using Instagram to look into hotels because I wanted to know if pictures people were posting at these places actually looked like the sales photos sponsored by the hotel. Written reviews only tell you so much. Instagram gives you real, present time photos. You simply search the hashtag of the hotel (or surrounding area), for example #hyattregencyhuntingtonbeach or #marriottwaikiki and judge for yourself. Most resort style hotels have their own Instagram, so make sure you’re looking at people’s photos who aren’t getting paid to tell the story.

Since this extra step really seems to work, I wanted to share.


20131116-101951.jpgIn one day I’ve had the opportunity to explore the city, shop, swim, and even dance to some live music at an Irish pub.

John’s class went until 9:30 last night, and it wasn’t until he was about four Guinness in at Mo’s downtown that he told me the words of the PT professor as they were leaving the course, “Go home, get a good night’s rest. Tomorrow will be a long day!” Ha!

He might be tired, but we are making the most of our time away. The hotel 20131116-101959.jpgwe are staying at is within walking distance to everything! I walked to the mall yesterday, grabbed dinner downtown, and spent the evening around the hotel grading and swimming until John returned and declared he was ready for a drink!

My brother Matt spends A LOT of time in Milwaukee since his company’s corporate office is here, so he was a great resource for entertainment last night. In fact, his recommendation list is longer than we have time for, so we’ll keep notes for next time.

Shark Reef

SharkMandalay Bay Hotel e-mailed me photos from our aquarium tour today, and I can’t stop laughing at this shark attack scene. Apparently we’re not worried about the shark behind us…

The Shark Reef was a self-led tour and they had a variety of sea animals in addition to a lot of sharks. The highlight was working up the courage to touch a stingray!

Mandalay Bay Hotel is at the far end of the strip, but it was one of the most beautiful hotel grounds we explored. (The Mirage Hotel was probably my favorite!) Waterfalls, gorgeous palm trees, and the pool even had a lazy river! Here a few of my own photos from that morning.

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Add to your “must do” list!

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Sometimes it’s difficult to find class in Vegas. There are a lot of people who need to wear more clothing, drink less, and shower more often. If these descriptors don’t fit your profile, we found the perfect Vegas date night for you.

Dinner within the Eiffel Tower which overlooks the Vegas strip, including the Bellagio fountains and Caesar’s Palace. The ambiance is romantic with dim lighting and only a candle glow for each table. This allows the lights from the strip to capture your attention. We made reservations about a month in advance. From the looks of it, anyone with only two people was granted a window seat. Parties of more than two sat behind with still a great view, but not ideal. The dress code was business, but we did see a few men in jeans. It was a great way to end our trip dressed up and overlooking the city that we had spent days exploring.

Now I knew I was really paying for the view, but I was incredibly surprised when my meal was out of this world! Salmon, broccoli, and potatoes with a raspberry wine sauce was only my main course. The dessert was (in John’s words) “the best dessert I’ve ever had in my life!” We were completely stuffed but weren’t ready to leave, so we shared an apple turnover with cinnamon ice cream. It really was unbeatable. My mouth is still watering.

The next time you’re planning a trip a to Vegas, book evening reservations at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant. Your money is better spent there than the casinos.

*All of my photos were taken with my iPhone, so some images are a bit yellow from the lack of light in the tower.

Vegas Vacation

20130320-164905.jpgThe city is more than my eyes can handle.
We arrived at our hotel (New York, New York) around midnight on Sunday, after a three-hour delay flying out. No worries, the city was full of life for St. Patrick’s Day, and we made our way down the strip until the wee hours of the morning.
The last few days have been spent taking in sharks at the aquarium, eating at outdoor patio restaurants, reading by the pool, riding the NYNY roller coaster, and indulging in morning venti lattes under palm trees. It truly is vacation! The weather is in the high 70s, but we definitely hit 80+ yesterday.
We saw David Copperfield present the magic of Vegas on Monday night at MGM, and I doubt any other magician will ever compare. He has a great stage presence and it was an interactive show. Multiple times he did tricks or illusions out in the audience. I was praying the entire time that I 20130320-164912.jpgwould not be called on stage! Mission accomplished! Whew!
Tonight we have late dinner reservations on top of the Eiffel Tower. I can’t wait for the lit up view of the city from above.
As far as gambling goes, John won $3 and cashed out! One of the many reasons I love him! For me, I’d rather spend my money on dessert, a sure win! Cheers from Vegas!

Capturing Ireland’s Incredible Beauty

Some favorite photos of the trip.

Everything from supermodels on the beach “in incredibly warm 70 degree weather”, to famous historical sites and breathtaking views.

I plan to recap highlights of the trip in a number of posts to come, but this is a snapshot of our eight days in Ireland. (I’m sorry if you’re tried of it, but this is great documentation to help me keep track of everything we took in.) Cheers!

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I can’t believe seven nights in Ireland have come and gone. As I currently sit at the airport, I’m so thankful for everything the week brought. The beautiful scenery, the incredible weather, and so much fun with people I love! Have I mentioned how blessed I am? God is good!

The last two nights were spent in Dublin. Mostly we toured the city, hitting up the Guinness brewery and Jameson distillery. This trip was different than the family vacations to Ireland in the past. Traveling with Tony and Ashley allowed us to experience the night life of Temple Bar. Last night was incredible with talented musicians who led traditional Irish music. It was difficult to make ourselves leave when the music was so lively and the Guinness so cold. I took plenty of videos which I will upload when I return. Hopefully they will give you a glimpse of the culture.

Now onward for an 8+ hour flight. Cheers!



Cliffs of Moher and Blarney

I don’t want to jinx it, but we have yet to see rain! In fact, I got sun again today while we toured Blarney castle. We have been so blessed. Yesterday we left Galway and headed towards our next two nights in Limerick. We toured the Cliffs of Moher. The photos do zero justice for the beautiful view and the gorgeous waves. I captured a great deal of breathtaking framable photos.

After going out for more amazing seafood last night (I have had incredible meals!) and Irish pub music, we headed to Blarney Castle today. I really love Blarney, and I was looking forward to today’s trip. I have plenty of photos to come of John kissing the Blarney stone. We will see if he really walks away with the gift of gab. 😉 We also toured the Rock of Cashel. This was a first for all of us, so it was fun to take in something totally new to us, especially for Tony since it’s his 5th trip here. We jumped in with a tour group there, and it was fun to listen to some of the Irish myths. (Jump around the Statue of St. Patrick…nine times…on one foot….counterclockwise, and you’ll be married in one year!) ha!

Tomorrow we head back to the big city of Dublin. We will spend the next two days touring Guinness and Jamison, among other touristy stops. Tony is ready to get rid of the car after all of this crazy wrong side of the road driving. We’ll have a pint for you! Cheers!




Kylemore Abbey

Another gorgeous day without a cloud in the sky. We headed to Kylemore Abbey. These iPhone photos don’t do any justice the beauty. Thankfully, my Canon camera captured some amazing shots that I will upload at home. Here is a quick snapshot into the Kylemore castle. We have also been watching plenty of soccer in the pubs, so John was excited when he found a soccer ball this morning outside of our bed and breakfast.



Sunny Galway

It’s unbelievably sunny and warm for Ireland! After Guinness on the patio and a walk on the beach yesterday, we had to go inside to avoid sunburn. I can’t even believe it! Tonight we are in Galway. It’s very much a college town with plenty of pubs and shops to keep us busy.
Ashley and I had our Irish coffee at a pub around the noon hour, and I think it might turn into a traditional afternoon toast. Tony and John have stuck to Guinness. Cheers from gorgeous Galway!