8.25.2017

Is your Sleep Schedule Going to be a Wake Up Call for Back to School Days?

I had the honor of hosting WTVD Anchor/Reporter Julie Wilson and WTVD photographer, Shawn, in my home last week to talk about getting kids back into the groove on their sleep schedules as school begins.

In Wake County, traditional school begins on Monday. Here's the story.




Working parents outside the home have probably stayed fairly consistent in their schedules, but I have not.

We are a mess in this family. We've stayed up way too late and slept way too late in the morning.

My kids have never been easy with bedtimes except for when they were babies. That was easy peasy.

Now, I would classify them both as huge pains in our behinds. Getting my kids to bed now is a lot of work. My son has nighttime rituals that would make any sane person crazy. His covers have to be tucked in just right. The other won't go to sleep alone. Just as you've rubbed her back for the one billionth stroke, you slowly try to get out of her bed. Suddenly, you feel her feet wrap around you like an anaconda.  Immediately you hear, "I'm not asleep yet. Don't leave!"

What happened to us? We're two college-educated people. Why can't we put our children to be with success like other families seem to do?

We look at bedtime as our version of hell. It's something I dread nightly. Because even when we think they are snug as a bug in their beds, at least one usually makes a surprise appearance later in the evening.

Fill in the blank with whatever works best.
"The light is shining in my window."
"I have a headache."
"I feel itchy."
"My covers are not right."
"I'm hot."
"I  just can't go to sleep."

That last excuse always comes from our son. Instead of staying in bed and trying to go to sleep, he gets up and tells us that he cannot sleep.

Kids can wear you down. I think kids bedtimes sometimes get pushed back because if you start at 7 pm luck as it that you still aren't done with them two hours later. I think I'm guilty of starting the process later in hopes the ritual will be shorter.

It never is better.

As I told Julie in our interview that did not make the segment, I think it will all work itself out once school starts. The first week or two will be rough, but after a few mornings of getting up early and having full days then our beds will look very good at night. I saw this a lot with my youngest during swim team season. She was basically putting herself to bed and doing it within minutes.

But, UNC Children's Hospital Pediatrician, Dr. Michael Steiner's advice is golden when he says the four B's allow for consistency:

Bath
Brush
Book 
Bed


Sleep Schedules are important for Back to School


Teens need about nine to eleven hours of sleep. Elementary school children need ten to twelve hours. He also suggested moving your routine back 30 minutes a night to get used to change.
It's a little late for us. School is Monday.

Lights out for all of us need to be 9 pm at the latest on school nights.  If any of my friends see my behind on social media after 9 pm, tell me to "Go to BED!"

On a Side Note: I'm thrilled to be partnering with UNC Children's Hospital to work on more health stories this year and I will be joining in the Walk for Children's Hospital in Raleigh, N.C. on November 4.  If you live in the Raleigh area, join us.


Location: 
Midtown Park, North Hills Raleigh

Time: 
Registration to open: 8:30 am
5k Walk to begin: 10:00am
Celebration in the Park: 11am – 1pm
Join us for food, fun and entertainment!



8.12.2017

Don't go to the Bathroom around 2:40 to 3:00 pm or You May Miss the Eclipse on August 21

Luckily for me, I can count on my husband to keep me in the know on this eclipse thing happening on August 21.  The other night I said, "I heard you need special glasses."

He responded, "I already ordered a four-pack on Amazon."

I said, "What time will it be?"

He said, "I am not sure, but I won't be at work."

I laughed, "So, you aren't going to work late at the office like you do most nights."

He looked at me with that look that only husbands can do. "It's in the afternoon."

I said, "Oh, I thought it was at night."  I kid you not. I did say that as embarrassing as it sounds now. Now, I'm writing it down for all to think I am the biggest idiot on the planet.

But now that I've researched, I told him that the Primland Resort in Virginia was having special events for a week.  We love that place and it has this big huge planetarium, and the astronomy department will guide you through the eclipse. I thought it may get him in the mood to pack his bag, but he ignored me.

Path of the eclipse
Photo from Columbia Tourism 

The world is going crazy for this viewing of two minutes and 36 seconds, I think.  Columbia, South Carolina will have the longest viewing apparently so you all go on ahead and travel down (here's my Book your Hotel Tab filled with my media affiliates. My sites takes you to their site for the best rates.) and see it. I heard rooms are sold out though because the masses are flocking there. Lucky for you. My inbox is filled with travel releases to South Carolina and other states in his path.  I've tried to educate myself on this special day.

Do not go to the bathroom around 2:35 pm or you may miss this viewing window. Hold your pee and put on your glasses. Now that I know it's the daytime, it can be very damaging to the eyes.

If you want to go to Columbia, here's some more information for you.

http://totaleclipsecolumbiasc.com/

And if you want to go to the beach, the Pawley's Island area of South Carolina is prepping big time for the viewing. Their viewing will be after Columbia by a few minutes.  This is known as the hammock coast of SC. I don't know about the eclipse, but grabbing a hammock and just seeing this sunset would be amazing. 


Pawleys Island area of South Carolina, known as the Hammock Coast
Photo credit: Hammock Coast Tourism and Austin Bond Photography



At approximately 2:46 p.m. on August 21, the totality of the eclipse will pass over Georgetown, and there will be few better places in America to enjoy the solar event. 

Among the eclipse-related activities that will take place on August 21 in this coastal are:
  • Brookgreen Gardens, one of America’s premier outdoor sculpture gardens, will be hosting a Solar Eclipse Festival. The event will feature live music from Oracle Blue, free eclipse glasses, live streaming of NASA’s coverage of the eclipse as it crosses the USA, and live streaming coverage of the aviary in the Lowcountry Zoo, among other activities. 
  • Rover Boat Tours, a 4.5-star experience, according to TripAdvisor users, is offering a Total Eclipse Cruise, a tour along the smooth inland waters leading to a barrier island where Winyah Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. The view of the eclipse from the water will be spectacular. 
  • The Marshwalk in Murrells Inlet will be hosting Eclipse Day, offering people the opportunity to combine the natural wonder of the eclipse with the beauty of the Marshwalk. 
  • Black River Outdoors, one of the most popular outdoor adventure companies on the South Carolina coast, is providing a Total Eclipse Kayak Tour. While the eclipse will be the star of the show, tour participants will also be able to experience native wildlife including wading herons, egrets and alligators.
  • A special Eclipse Viewing Party at Kaminski House will feature a wedding as the totality of the eclipse passes over. 
  • Parts of historic Front Street in Georgetown will be closed and there will be a DJ playing music, glasses that allow spectators to safely view the event, hydration stations, and multiple places to enjoy the eclipse. The City of Georgetown will also be providing public transportation to Front Street to help alleviate crowding. 
For a complete list of eclipse related events along the Hammock Coast, please visit www.UltimateSPF.com

Sounds like a bunch of people in funny glasses gathering in one place to me. 

In addition to being the first total solar eclipse visible from any part of the contiguous United States since 1979, this year’s eclipse will be the first with the totality of its passing spanning from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic since 1918. 

As for Raleigh, N.C, I have no idea what time to put on those glasses. Some say 2:44 may be the best time. We will see a partial eclipse and not the full shebang.

For me, I will avoid the crowds and either go to our neighborhood pool or my favorite brewery up the street. If I have to wear those silly glasses, I might as well as have a nice North Carolina craft beer and take advantage of my husband not being at the office.

But if you really want to know the truth, I would rather be at the Primland Resort doing some spa treatment. They have nice windows. I can look out the window.







8.09.2017

Is the Right Travel Reward Program Card in your Wallet?


Life before kids, I was a member of seven hotel reward programs and two airline programs. I traveled on business more back then plus I planned a lot more personal trips. For one, I had more disposable income and it cost the two of us less to travel than it does now with four people. 

Now I write more about travel than I actually travel with two kids in school nine months out of the year, but I still have reward cards in my wallet.  According to U.S. News and World Report, I have the right hotel reward card in my wallet. 

Renaissance Hotel in Asheville, N.C
Renaissance Asheville, a Marriott Property. Marriott Ranked No. 1 for the best 2017-2018 Best Travel Rewards Program


Marriott gets the top spot in a new study released where they announced the  2017-18 Best Travel Rewards Programs. The annual rankings identify 26 hotel and airline loyalty programs with the most rewarding perks for everyday travelers. Marriott Rewards ranks No. 1 in Best Hotel Rewards Programs, while Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan holds on to the top spot in Best Airline Rewards Programs.

Marriott Rewards is No. 1 among the Best Hotel Rewards Programs due in part to the ease of earning points and its large network of hotels in popular destinations. The program offers complimentary Wi-Fi access and the ability to use points toward booking experiences such as sporting events and concerts. Two years ago, I changed my Marriott card to Ritz-Carlton Rewards, which is my favorite brand. With Ritz-Carlton rewards, you can earn Marriott points at any Marriott hotel, but not always vice-versa.  SPG Preferred (Starwood) which is now owned by Marriott is number 9 on the list, but it believed that Starwood points will eventually merge with Marriott on its point program, making it the largest hotel chain in the world for places to stay. (Side note: I am proud to be a media affiliated with both hotel properties so when you visit their sites from my blog, and book your hotel stay then I earn a small commission to help pay for this blog's expenses. I'm also with hotels (dot.) com and Expedia so you can book any hotel in the world right from my Book Your Hotel Tab now.) 

Out of the top five in hotel card rankings, I only own the No. 4 World of Hyatt rewards. 

Grand Hyatt in Washington D.C. World of Hyatt Ranked No. 4 on the list for best Travel Reward Program


At No. 2, on the list Wyndham Rewards continues to earn high marks for ease of earning a free night, member access to reduced room rates and the availability to earn points through two affiliated credit cards.

Soon to merge with the Virgin America Elevate program, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is the Best Airline Rewards Program for the third consecutive year. Its mileage-based earning structure makes it easier for travelers to earn miles at a faster pace than with revenue-based earning programs. Delta SkyMiles moves up to the No. 2 spot because of its competitive redemption rates for award flights and diversity of benefits, such as using miles for hotels stays, cabin upgrades, experiences and free flights.

"Today's travelers have so many rewards programs to choose from, comparing and contrasting them based on your specific needs can be a challenge," said Christine Smith, associate travel editor at U.S. News. "Our Best Travel Rewards Programs rankings emphasize the ease of earning points and miles, and redeeming them for free nights and flights, which everyday travelers identify as a top reason to join a loyalty program."

U.S. News ranks the Best Travel Rewards Programs in two categories: hotel loyalty programs and airline frequent flyer programs. The methodologies take into account membership benefits – such as free amenities, program-affiliated credit cards and redeemable experiences – network coverage and a strong emphasis on the ease of earning and redeeming free flights or nights. Additionally, U.S. News factors in property diversity for the Best Hotel Rewards Programs and Airline Quality Rating scores for the Best Airline Rewards Programs.


2017-18 U.S. News Best Travel Rewards Programs


Hotel Rewards Programs                        
1. Marriott Rewards                                    
1. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
2. Wyndham Rewards                                 
2. Delta SkyMiles
3. Choice Privileges                                      
3. JetBlue TrueBlue
4. World of Hyatt                                           
4. Southwest Rapid Rewards
5. Best Western Rewards                                
5. United MileagePlus 


What are the Best Travel Reward Programs


What reward program do you use most?

8.02.2017

What Happens when Travel Is Not Perfect and What You Should Do?

Let's face it. As much as we want it to be, life is not perfect. And that means our travels, too.  So, what is a traveler to do when things don't go quite as planned or as you had hoped? I don't talk too much in this space about bad travel or hotel experiences because I've been really lucky through the years.  In past years, my only real complaints seem to center around the coffee experience in a room. I hate when a coffee maker is not provided and I dislike it, even more, when stirrers are not left in the room. I get so irritated when not enough coffee, creamer or sugar for the guests are in the room either. In the scheme of things though that is just petty stuff. That's not really a big deal.

But, what happens when you plan a family getaway and the pool is closed in the middle of summer and that pool was the only reason you booked in the property in the first place? Or, perhaps you've been sightseeing all day with four kids and you go to check into your hotel and room is still not ready one hour after check-in and it's 5:00 pm. What if the room is dusty? What if the bathroom shower curtain is soiled? What if the entire hotel is just a mess?

What happens when travel is not perfect and what should you do?


Our vacations or even short one-night getaways are events we look forward to and have spent our hard-earned money for us to go.  As travelers, we all expect a few basic things when we stay in a hotel. When those basic things are not met, you need to complain, but still be respectful to staff.

That's what I did. All of the above mishaps are a true story and it happened to me and my friend on our annual kid's getaway in June. I can't complain about the coffee because the room was so dusty that I was afraid to use the coffee maker.

There is no need to bash a hotel chain because it is was just one property.  But folks, TripAdvisor doesn't lie. In some ways, I could kick myself in the butt for not taking my own advice and reading up on TripAdvisor before I booked this Double Tree by Hilton waterway property in New Bern, N.C. But, we needed the location. We liked the pool, loved being on the water and this particular hotel had the best room set-up of connecting rooms that met our needs.

New Bern Waterfront
The New Bern water-front is beautiful

This was my friend's first introduction to this hotel brand. Needless to say, she was not impressed.  I've stayed in this brand before and this is certainly not the norm. No, this is not a luxury hotel, but even with three-star properties, cleanliness and efficiency need to be priorities.
The staff could not help the pool situation. That is not their fault. It was a huge inconvenience for every traveler there. Had I known in advance, we may have canceled. In the hotel's defense, they did arrange transportation to a local YMCA that closed at 7 pm if we wanted the service.  Going to a Y pool is just what two Moms want to do when they pay over $300 for two rooms for one night for a quick getaway.

Yes, we want to lug across town to a pool that will close almost as soon as we get there. Never mind that we all wanted to enjoy a restaurant downtown then have the kids swim later in the evening when we were back to the hotel for the night. We had visions of the kids swimming after dinner while we sat poolside on the water sipping on a cocktail. I had already picked out my chairs below.

The DoubleTree by Hilton in New Bern was closed on our trip and has continued to be closed a lot this summer.
The pool was closed during our stay and has been closed a lot this summer. Not sure if it is back open or not. 

Front desk staff cannot help that the room is not ready.  But, hotel check-in is at 4 p.m. Rooms should be ready. And when rooms are ready, they should not be dusty. The entire hotel needs a renovation. Staff can't help that the tubs are peeling, the shower curtain is stained and the wallpaper is old, but they still have a responsibility to do a good job with cleaning.

Is there a positive in this story at all?

Yes, the beds were comfortable and we ended up sitting by the waterway in the evening which was nice. We were able to walk to dinner with ease.  We also enjoyed many aspects of New Bern that I will share with you later.

Plus, our kids enjoyed being together. This was our 5th year of taking an annual trip. We have had some good ones through the years. Even though this one was not perfect, being together was still fun.

Kids in New Bern property


The manager knew I wasn't happy when I kept going downstairs to check to see if my room was ready. Only one of the two were ready at 5:30 p.m. My friend was really irritated. We had unhappy kids. The desk manager asked what she could do to make this hotel fiasco up to us. I asked for complimentary breakfast for all of us. It, at least, saved us $60.

What would you ask for if you had been in our shoes?

A not so perfect travel story. What should you do if your hotel is not up to par at check-in?







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