Family, Travel, When in

Travel Guide: San Antonio Zoo

San Antonio Zoo


What do dragons, dinosaurs and lions, tigers and bears have in common….the San Antonio Zoo! San Antonio has lots of family friendly things to do and places to see but our favorite is the zoo. Covering 35 acres, the San Antonio zoo has 3,500 animals and is visited by over a million people annually. There lots of tee and plenty of ways to get around like the Eagle train that travels the entire park. We started our visit with the dinosaurs which have taken over the zoo. You’ll find all types of dinosaurs like the T-rex, triceratops, and raptors all through out the zoo as you visit each exhibit. The best part is they are anima-tronic so you never when know when they will start moving and roaring when you get close.

Africa Live

The African exhibit is our favorite attraction where you can see elephants, giraffes, rhinos and so much more. We happened to catch the elephants during feeding time which our kids loved. They are always amazed at how the elephants can find the small peanuts they get with the lettuce. While you visiting Africa Live you will definitely want to feed the giraffes! This expedition adventure lets you get up close and personal to feed the giraffes. A $5 fee and a mask gets you an experience like no other. I truly under estimated how tall giraffes are until I was up close and personal feeding one. They are truly beautiful!

Lions, Tigers, Bears and Australia

There are even more animals and birds to see at the zoo and you can even go to Australia. The Australia section is tons of fun and features kangaroos and Lory Landing where you can feed the Lory birds inside their habitat. This is not for the faint of heart and these birds love seeds and will sit on your head, shoulder or arm to eat. Its truly up close and personal.

But that’s not ALL the things you can do in at the zoo. Here are some other things we have planned for our next trip:

  • Dragon Forest
  • Dino Boogie Nights
  • Lory Landing
  • Beastly Breakfast: Roo
  • Beastly Breakfast: Hippo

Surviving Chaos

We had a great time at the San Antonio Zoo and although we did a lot, there is definitely more to explore. Here are our surviving chaos trips so your next trip will be awesome!

  • Early Morning: Visit the zoo in the morning – its not as hot and the animals will be awake and ready to eat. Plus, they take naps in the afternoon so you won’t see a lot.
  • Sunscreen: Be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen and wear a pair of sunglasses while your visiting the zoo. Some exhibits have shade and some don’t. The Texas heat can be brutal!
  • Walking Shoes: There is a lot of walking in the at the zoo so where comfortable shoes.
  • Backpack: By the time you tour the zoo, you’ll have quite a few new souvenirs! Keep a backpack handy for all your goodies, snacks and water while you are site seeing- you’ll need something to carry all your stuff!
  • Family 4 pack: Instead of purchasing individual tickets, buy the family 4 pack. The pack includes souvenir cup (see below), dining vouches and park tickets. So instead of spending $140 we spent only $100 for all those things! The dining voucher makes life so much easier when its lunch because you get preset options to choose. Less guess work and more fun.
  • Carousel Cup: This is the souvenir cup that comes with your family pack. You get free refills all day from any restaurant or snack station within the zoo. Plus, when you visit the zoo again in the future, you can use the same cup.
  • Umbrella: Bring an umbrella just in case. It rained the entire afternoon we were at the zoo so you’ll want to be prepared for unexpected weather.

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Travel, When in

Best Cities for Solo Travellers

Solo travel is one of the best options for a little “me” time. Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling with my family but sometimes I just need a personal getaway. I get to see the world on my own terms, make my own schedule and not feel rushed when site seeing. Besides, there is just something about that type of independence that’s freeing and energizing. I picked 5 destinations that are perfect for solo trips – some places I’ve already visited and some are on my travel goals list for 2021 and 2022.

Austin,Texas

Texas is a lot of fun and has a ton of fun places to visit. But Austin by far is the best! Known as the “music capital of the world”, you’ll hear lots of music and see lots of performances so bring your dancing shoes. And forget your diet, there is so much tasty food to eat. Plus, Texans are SUPER friendly so you’ll never feel truly alone while visiting. Summers in Austin are packed with events from the SXSW to the Pecan Street festival and there are lots of places to visit. Its the perfect place to meet new people!

San Francisco, California

If you really want to be free, head to San Francisco, California where literally anything goes! I fell in love with San Francisco when I visited and plan on returning soon. In general the Bay area is beautiful and the temperature is perfect. The multicultural aspect of the city is amazing and fun, you’ll get tons of experiences. Plus there are lots opportunities for rejuvenation and relaxation from a yoga or meditation class at sunrise to hitting the beach to visiting any 1 of the amazing spas.

Moab, Utah

If your an outdoor enthusiast, love van or camper life, hiking and bouldering Moab is where you want to be. From Canyonlands to Arches National Park you have plenty of space for outdoor activities and enjoy the wonders of our gorgeous earth. There are a ton of incredible rock formations to see! When your done with your outdoor activities, you can hang out at the free campsites or coffee shops and watch the sunset over Dead horse point.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Cape Cod is absolutely beautiful! Its very safe, easy to get around and about an 1 from Boston or Providence. You’ll definitely want to explore its beautiful beaches and epic sand dunes. If your a shopper, be sure to check out Wellfleet flea market on the weekend. Don’t forget to enjoy some delicious clam chowder at any of the fantastic restaurants.

Charleston, South Carolina

The perfect quaint southern spot, Charleston has lots of history and hospitality. This is the perfect solo trip if you love the beach, sipping tea-Charleston tea that is, or visiting a craft brewery! The best time to visit is the Spring and Fall as the temperature will be milder. One the best experiences to have is oysters and live music, a favorite past time for Charlerstonians.

Surviving Chaos, Travel, When in

How to Choose A Vacation Rental Property

As we get ready for Summer, I’m sure everyone has planned or are in the process of planning their vacations. After this past year, these are much needed vacations and I highly encourage you and your family to take one. While most people choose a hotel, there is a growing set of vacationers looking into vacation rental property. We have used vacation rental properties for over a decade and it definitely comes with its pros and cons. We have some really great ones and some horrible ones. We put a together a list of tips to help you choose a great vacation rental so your vacation will be smooth sailing.

  • Know What You Want: Before your book your vacation home, know what type of property you want. Do you need a lot of rooms? Do you want lots of amenities like washer and dryer or family board games? Do you need an ocean view, really? 5 minute walk or 10 minute drive to the beach? Pet friendly? Make a list and then do your research! Know your preferences and what makes you and your family most comfortable is key. If you don’t know your preferences, then your vacation property may disappoint. Also, be sure to know what is included in your vacation property such as shared beaches with other properties, kayaks, BBQ grill, etc.
  • A MISSING Picture Is Worth 1000 Words: If your like me, I like to look at ALL the pictures of a vacation property to get a good feel for place. Good property managers have lots of pictures in order to really sell you on their property. But what about the things that are not captured in pictures?? Vacation properties that don’t have pictures of all the rooms or pictures with the just the bathroom vanity should raise alarm. Pictures where only half of the kitchen or bedroom are shown or properties where there are no views of the beach even though it s a beach house rental are definitely a red flag. Also check reviewers pictures – if they don’t match the official sites pictures there may be a problem. This may be an indication that the owner is hiding something or the home is not as updated as they say. Trust me – we learned the hard way and were very disappointed with our not so updated 1970s yellow and green decor multiple property beach shared vacation home!
  • Not All Reviews Are Created Equal: Vacation properties with 5 stars reviews are great! But how many 5 star reviews is too good to be true? Too few 5 star reviews may give you pause and too many be sign that they may not be real. There is a sweet spot with reviews – there should be a good number of them with vacation properties that have been around for 1-2 years, but if there are more reviews than the number of times it has been rented be cautious. Be sure to read every review carefully especially ones within the past year. We I read a review, I look for topics about cleanliness, decor, amenities and if the reviewer would rent the property again. Also, if you see multiple reviewers complain about the same thing, be on alert! Reach out the property manager to see if these issues have been addressed or are currently being addressed. Good property managers will be honest and upfront about any issues…..and are very responsive to inquiries.
  • Cleaning Fees: Vacation rentals can be inexpensive based on what you are looking for. However, with the recent pandemic, we have all taken another look at how we clean our homes. This is especially true for vacation rentals. With the number of residents renting from all over the world, vacation rentals already had pretty good cleaning crews and schedules. But now those cleaning fees are much higher to due extra cleaning that needs to occur between renters. You will need to take this into account when budgeting for your vacation rental. Also, know what is expected from you in terms of cleaning. For example, the property owner may want you to start the dishwasher before you leave or put all the towels in the washing machine and start it. This helps both the cleaning crew and the property owner prepare for the next guest.

While these are not the only tips that can help you choose a vacation rental, we feel these are the most important ones that help us when decide to rent. Remember to make a list of preferences, do your homework, and read EVERYTHING! You’ll be glad you did!

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Family, Surviving Chaos, Travel, When in

The Exotic Resort Zoo – Johnson City, Texas

If your looking for some family fun, something that is social distancing friendly and you happen to be in Texas, then check out the Exotic Resort Zoo! Located in Johnson City, Texas the Exotic Resort Zoo is the perfect getaway for the whole family. This is a full scale zoo with exotic animals and safari cabins available to rent. Before the pandemic, you could hop on any one of the numerous guided tours for a trip around the zoo. While on the tour, you can feed the animals and visit the petting zoo which is a ton of fun. Also, if you wanted to spend more time at the zoo, you can rent a cabin…..even during the pandemic! These cabins are a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country. Each cabin can sleep 4-8 people and features basic kitchen appliances to a full kitchen depending on the cabin of your choice. These cabins are perfect for couples or the whole family.

Currently, the zoo has switched to a drive-through safari which is perfect for social distancing. You get to experience the zoo right from the comfort your car and still get the chance to feed the animals! First up on our drive-through safari was the petting zoo full of goats, fallow and axis deer. Although we couldn’t go inside, we were able to toss some feed to the animals which the kids loved! Following the petting zoo, we encountered all types of deer. From Sika to Axis to Fallow they were all eager to get some food right out of your hand. These guys definitely weren’t shy and came right up to car…talk about up close and personal! And of course they were accompanied by their friends the antelope and sheep.

Up next we entered the camel pen which was crazy! When you see a camel from far away you don’t truly understand the magnitude of how big they are. But once they get to your car and stick their WHOLE head and neck its a whole new perspective. And whats a camel without an llama or 2. These animals have no fear and enjoy every minute of their visitors.

My favorite part of the safari were the Zebras. They were absolutely beautiful and stunning and we spent the most time their feeding them. You definitely have to be careful with these guys because they bite! Be sure to drop the food on the ground so you can keep all your fingers. On our way out, we visit the Ostrich pen and encounter some Buffalo. To be honest, the ostrich and emu look very mean to me or maybe just angry….. These creatures are gentle giants but are very aggressive when it comes to food. Be prepared to keep your hand sanitizer handy or at least a towel because the buffalo loves to lick the food from your hand. Their tongues are long and EXTRA slimy, it was definitely a gross out moment for the kids.

The Exotic Resort Zoo is a perfect getaway for the whole family, especially now during these unprecedented times. If you plan on making the trip, here are some surviving chaos tips to make the trip smooth, stress free and fun:

  • Buy Ahead: Purchase tickets and at least 2 bags of feed BEFORE the day of your visit online. If your going on a holiday, buy your tickets at least a week in advance. This place sells out quickly.
  • Snacks: Be sure to pack some snacks and water for the road trip! Nothing worse than cranky kids stuck in a car.
  • Restrooms: Due to social distancing, the restrooms at the zoo are closed. Be sure to stop at the nearest gas station, about 4 miles north of the zoo, for your families pit stop.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Be sure to bring plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes since you will be feeding the animals. Their tongues are slimy so you’ll want to have clean hands when your finished.

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Food, Surviving Chaos

TSA Approved Snacks

If you’ve traveling by plane, you know that your normal routine and carry-on items have definitely changed. The pandemic has made us rethink and re-envision how we travel so we put together some tips and tricks to help you navigate these changes. One thing that is being done differently is how to pack your carry-on, you can find an updated options here. At this point, we’ve decided to look into what snacks to bring. Which ones are TSA approved and which ones are not. This list will help you save money and breeze through security. Here’s a list of the some of items you can bring so you’ll be prepared for your next flight.

  • Dried Nuts and Fruit: With this option you can bring a little bit of everything – raisins, dried fruits, cashews, almonds and so much more. An organizing tray makes packing this snack a breeze! NOTE: Check with your airline carrier first on this one as you might be on a nut free flight. If so, you shouldn’t pack this snack.
  • Whole fruits: TSA only allows whole fruits through security so slice a whole apple before leaving. Use a rubber band to keep slices in place. Throw the apple and a to-go pack of peanut butter in a plastic bag.
  • Bread: TSA considers this a solid food item that can be placed in your carry-on. So break out that whole wheat or pita break for some quick nourishment.
  • Cereal: This is the perfect option when traveling with kids. Use Cheerios or Chex-Mix and put in a zip lock bag to keep your kids satisfied. There is nothing worse the HAN-angry kids upset at the airport.
  • Pretzels: Pretzels are super easy to pack (you can get individual bags at your grocer) in your carry-on.
  • Cheese: Solid cheese is a great addition to your snack pack and will help keep your full for longer. You can bring creamy cheese but limit it to less than 3.4 oz.

Surviving Chaos Hack: If your still unsure if you can bring your snack on the plan, you can take a picture of it and ask TSA on their Twitter and Facebook Messenger page.

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Gougères: French Cheese Puffs

Gougères

Gougères (say goo-share) are delicious cheese snacks that puff up in the oven like magic. They are made with a special dough called pâta à choux (say “paat-ah-shoe”). Pâte means “paste” and choux means “cabbage”. French bakeries, called pâtisseries (say “paa-tees-air-ee”) use a similar dough to make cream puffs. This dough bakes into nice round shapes, like little heads of cabbage!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (128 g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 4 tablespoons (57 g) butter
  • 4 eggs cracked into a bowl
  • 1 cup (100 g) grated Swiss cheese

Let’s Make It!

  1. Preheat over to 375 F (190 C) and spread parchment paper on a baking sheet. Using a fork, mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
  2. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the milk, water and butter and bring them to a boil.
  3. Add all of the flour mixture to the saucepan, stirring it in with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low and keep stirring until the dough forms a ball (about 1 minute)
  4. Put the dough in the bowl. Now add all the eggs at once. Stir, stir, stir until the dough is pretty smooth.
    • Use a big whisk, if you have one, to break up the lumps.
  5. Add all the cheese. Again, stir until the cheese is all mixed in.
  6. Scoop 1/4 cups of dough and drop them on the parchment paper. Space the scoops a couple of inches apart.
    • The dough is sticky! Use a spoon to scrape the scoops onto the baking sheet.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the gougères puff up and turn golden brown.
  8. Bon Appétit!

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