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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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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5 Reasons to Travel by Train

If you plan on traveling, why not take the scenic route and travel by train. Traveling by train gives you plenty of opportunities to the see your country and towns, both big and small. Other than the great views, there are some other reasons you should travel by train. Here are out top reasons to travel by train.

  1. Save Money: Traveling by train is very cost effective no matter the destination compared to other forms of travel. Plus, you get deep discounts on tickets for children, seniors and students.
  2. Flexibility: Unlike flying, you can literally go to the train station and buy a ticket the day of you trip. No worries about reservations, seat availability or last minute fees. Its the perfect way to do a spur of the moment trip.
  3. Eco-friendly: Trains are more energy efficient per mile than planes or cars. Carbon emissions from trains are less damaging to the atmosphere. In turn, this keeps fuel prices low and less susceptible to price increase. Thus, train prices stay pretty consistent and affordable especially in an unstable economy.
  4. Relaxation: Trains and their seats are roomy, comfortable, and have plenty of leg room. unlike on an airplane. Trains are soothing and less stressful especially as you watch the beautiful scenery go by.
  5. Family Friendly: Along with ticket discounts for children, traveling by train is a great opportunity to spend quality time with your children. They will be thrilled and full of questions about all the things they will see along their trip.

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Weekend Trip: Houston, TX

Houston, Texas

*Note: This trip was taken pre-pandemic.

“Space City” or Houston is the largest metropolis in Texas and is the anchor of the mega-region known as the Texas Triangle. For all you history buffs, Houston was named after General Sam Houston who had one Texas independence from Mexico at the Battle of San Jacinto. With lots of rich history and culture, Houston offers a ton of things to see and do from the Space Center to art and music to sports. On our trip, we definitely had some places in mind that we had to see but there is still plenty to do when we go back.

Houston Zoo

If you couldn’t tell, we are big fans of the zoo. We visit a zoo in each city we travel to and Houston was no exception. The world famous Houston Zoo houses over 6,000 animals from 900 species and sits on 55-acres of land. Its the second most visited zoo in the United States and now we know why! You’ll definitely need a map to navigate this zoo as there are 12 exhibits to explore from the African forest to The World of Primates to The Bug House. Our favorite exhibits were the African Forest with the rhinos, giraffes and zebras and the McNair Asian Elephant exhibit. Plan a full day for these adventures as there are plenty of animals to see.

NASA Space Center

The NASA Space Center was by far our favorite place to visit while in Houston. We as a family have always loved learning about space, astronauts and rocket ships so the space center was a must see. The pictures don’t do it justice but the rocket ships are HUGE! We felt like little ants when standing next to them. With lots of exhibits like Rocket Park, Mission to Mars and Independence plaza you definitely won’t be bored. Plus, once your inside there are LOTS of children’s activities such as Space Center Theater, A Stellar Science Show and lunch with an astronaut. If your not afraid of heights, you can up and inside the Independence replica that sits on top of the NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. It’s not for the faint of heart but we loved it and the views!!

Downtown Aquarium – An Underwater Adventure

The Houston aquarium is a beautiful site to see with lots of exhibits, activities and restaurants. From the Texas Bayou to Shipwreck to the Stingray, these are just some of the exhibits featured at the aquarium-we suggest you get a day pass and visit them all. There are 300 aquatic species from all over the world and get the opportunity to touch and feel a stingray, our son’s favorite part! Once you’ve completed your tour inside, head outside for games and amusement rides. Carnival style games, Diving Bell Ferris Wheel where you can see almost the whole city, shark voyage some of the things offered outside the aquarium. Some people come just to visit the amusement park-its that fun! And remember to bring your appetite; the Aquarium restaurant offers a variety of specialties and delicacies.

But that’s not ALL the things you can do in Houston, TX. We have some honorable mentions that we think you should check out during your trip:

  • Houston Museum of Natural Science
  • Kemah Boardwalk
  • The Museum of Fine Arts
  • Hermann Park
  • Discovery Green
  • Teo Chew Temple
  • Vietnam War Memorial

Surviving Chaos

We had a great time in Houston and although we did a lot, there is definitely more to explore. Here are our surviving chaos trips so that your trip will go swimming well!

  • Sunscreen: Be sure to put on plenty of sunscreen while your visiting the zoo. Some exhibits have shade and some don’t. Also be prepared for the Texas heat and Houston humidity.
  • Walking Shoes: There is a lot of walking in the at the zoo and the aquarium so where comfortable shoes.
  • Backpack: By the time you tour the zoo and aquarium, you will 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!
  • CityPass: To save money (and time) and buy a Houston CityPass. With CityPass you make 1 simple purchase for 5 different attractions that must be redeemed within 9 days. You can visit the attractions in any order and you’ll save 47%! Who doesn’t love saving money!

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