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christmas beach vacation

Best Christmas Beach Vacation Ideas

The holidays are a magical time of year. The snow falls, the fireplace crackles and the egg nog flows.

I absolutely love the preparation, the planning and the excitement of the holidays. And especially with young kids in the house, the holiday energy reaches a fever pitch by Christmas Eve.

I love the holiday season. I really do. But I have something to admit.

Last year we spent the week between Christmas and New Years in Mexico on the island of Isla Mujeres. And this Christmas beach vacation was a-freaking-mazing!

Because to be honest, by the time Christmas actually arrives, I am kind of over the holidays. I’m usually pretty wiped out after all the shopping, decorating, eating, drinking and merry-making from Thanksgiving all the way through December.

So packing up and heading south on Christmas day was one of the best decisions we made all year. If you’re considering a Christmas beach vacation, I can wholeheartedly endorse that idea!

Here are a few of my top picks for the best Christmas beach vacation.

The Bahamas Out Islands for a Family Christmas Beach Vacation 

The Bahamas Out Islands are considered to be the “Caribbean Connoisseurs” destination. Consider the Out Islands if you’re looking for a place to relax, reconnect and keep away from the crowds.

bahamas out islands

The Abacos, a 120-mile chain of islands (kind of a mini-Bahamas within the Bahamas), are perhaps the most accessible of the Out Islands. Here you’ll also find the widest range of accommodations; bungalows, villas, vacation rentals and a few larger resorts. The tourist board website is a great place to start looking for a place to stay in the Out Islands.

While you’re in the Out Islands, be sure to enjoy the white – and the pink – sandy beaches. You’ll find a variety of nature trails and hikes spread out among the four national parks located within The Abacos, where you can see orchids, Caribbean parrots and exotic marine life. Kids also love seeing these famous swimming island pigs in the Bahamas Out Islands!

Belize Beaches for an Amazing Family Beach Getaway

Just short 2.5-hour flights from many airports in the southern Unites States, the best Belize beach vacations all include the island of Ambergis Caye. Originally put on the map as a mecca for divers, this funky beach town has grown into a fun home base for a week at the beach. Activities on Ambergis Caye revolve around the water; diving, snorkeling, boating, and fishing. Golf carts are the main form of transportation on this island.

Las Terrazas Resort is an Ambergis Caye family favorite. When traveling to the beach with kids it’s important to stay someplace where you can spread out as well as prepare some of your own meals. This family-friendly hotel checks all the boxes. Select fro a range of “town home” rooms available, all including kitchen and sitting area. And the La Terrazas private, white sand beach is one of the largest on Ambergis Caye.

christmas beach vacation

Especially if you have older kids, you may also want to consider a visit to San Ignacio while on your Belize Christmas beach vacation. Here you can visit ancient Mayan ruins and learn about the culture and history of this part of Central America. I like to plan this active and historical type of activity early in the vacation, so you can fully relax once you get to the beach.

Spend the Holidays with the Family in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a seriously fun place to visit around Christmas, as this country is host to one of the most traditional Christmas celebrations in the region. The celebration goes on for weeks. There are three Christmas parades; El Carnival with dancers and musical groups from all across the country, El Tope, a parade of show horses and decorative hand-painted ox carts, and the favorite, El Festival de Luzes, a nighttime parade filled with thousands of decorative lights.

These are magic events and well worth scheduling your trip to be in San Jose during one or more of these parades.

christmas beach vacation

Costa Rica is a great option if you’re keen to stay active during your Christmas beach vacation. Spend a portion of your trip next to the magnificent Arenal volcano on Guanacaste’s white-sand beaches.

Then head to another amazing beach, one of the best in the country in fact, at Playa Conchal. I love this Christmas beach vacation package from Vacations Costa Rica, which combines these spectacular Costa Rica beaches.

Consider Isla Mujeres for an Easy Family Christmas Beach Vacation

My family spent Christmas on Isla Mujeres island last year and loved every minute of it. Even though this island is only a quick ferry ride from Cancun, it feels miles away from the mega-resorts, crowds and shopping malls.

Condo in Mexico

We stayed at the Ixchel Beach Hotel, and of course loved having a kitchen and spent a fair amount of time in their beachfront pool. But what we loved most was being right on the magnificent North Beach, the best beach on Isla Mujeres island. The water here is a stunning shade of turquoise and stays very shallow far out, so you don’t have large waves and it’s safe for small children.

During the week between Christmas and New Years there were many private boats parked near North Beach, creating a very fun, festive atmosphere every day.

Be sure to rent a golf cart on Isla Mujeres at least one day during your trip to fully explore the island.

Book a Family Christmas Beach Adventure to the U.S. Virgin Islands

St. John, which along with St. Croix and St. Thomas make up the U.S. Virgin Islands, is perhaps best known for maintaining over two-thirds of it’s land mass as protected national forest. You won’t find a single resort or condo on any St. John beach.

No cruise-ship ports or airports either. While there is a main town, a number of private villas and a few hotels, St. John maintains a totally natural and pristine atmosphere.

Camping on St John

If you’re feeling adventurous or looking to save money on accommodations, consider camping on St. John. That’s right, I said camping! Kids love the adventure of camping on the beach, and you’ll love sleeping just a few feet away from the magical blue ocean in this secluded part of the Caribbean.

So what do you think? Is a Christmas beach vacation something your family would consider?

Out Islands image by Scott Smith via Flickr

La Terrazas image by Patton via Flickr

This post is part of the fun Travel Advent Calendar series, check it out here for fun travel posts the entire month of December!

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business travel tips

5 Working Mom Business Travel Tips

On this travel blog I work hard every day to inspire busy Moms to travel more. Family vacations, girlfriend getaways, romantic escapes… all very important!

But today I want to talk abut another kind of trip. Like many Moms out there, I also travel for business. And especially as a busy Mom, business travel can certainly be draining. But most business travel tips I’ve found don’t apply to the unique challenges we working Moms face.

Leaving my children at home for a week, especially as they get older, causes emotional stress. It takes military-precision and coordination for me to ensure my kids are where they need to be, permission slips are signed, school projects get completed and play dates arranged in my absence. Then add in the fact that mybusiness trips are full of early morning flights, stressful presentations and long, late night dinners. Upon returning from a business trip, I’m often exhausted yet can’t miss a beat getting back into the daily schedule at home.

But I’ve found that business travel can also be an excellent opportunity to explore and experience other parts of the world. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate business travel as a way to explore, experience and quite often have some important alone time.

business travel tips africa

Here are 5 working mamma business travel tips.

Take Morning Walks on Your Business Trip

Instead of slogging away on the treadmill in the hotel gym (you can do that at home right?!) get out and explore. Even a quick 30 minute walk in the morning is a great way to start your day and see a bit of your destination.

On a recent trip to Kenya I was able to explore a bit of the urban area where we were staying for business. I loved seeing the morning school busses, rush hour traffic and the general hustle of the morning in Nairobi.

business travel tips for mom

Of course you want to be smart and safe, so ask your hotel or a trusted business associate where you’re staying first.

Find a Good, Local Restaurant

A good meal after a full day at work is a great way to relax as well as experience your destination. Ask your business associates about their favorite restaurants. Try something authentic and local. If you can get off the beaten path and into more local neighborhoods even better.

Take a Local Yoga or Other Exercise Class

As I’ve written about before, the best way to experience a destination like a local is to do things that locals do; eat, drink, shop and exercise.

Yoga is a popular activity all around the world, and is perfect for travelers. Because it’s a teacher led class you don’t have to worry about too much. Simply surrender and enjoy. Plus, at the end of the class you can mingle and meet some new local friends.

Don’t Be Afraid to Relax With Some Room Service

While I’m not always a proponent of locking yourself in your hotel room and missing out on experiencing the local culture, as a busy Mom there is something really nice about a hot shower, warm jammies and someone bringing you dinner on a tray. Enjoy having someone serve you for a change.

Every once in a while go for it and take some time just for you!

Extend Your Trip and Stay an Extra Night

If your schedule allows, and especially if you’ve traveled a long distance on your business trip, try and stay an extra day. Take some time to be a tourist and learn more about your destination.

business travel tips africa

On my recent trip to Nairobi for business, I was able to sneak in a day of safari and it was worth every minute!

Want more? Check out my travel tips for experiencing a destination like a local!

How else do you explore and experience while you’re on the road for business?

 

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Camping on St John

Camping on St John

Camping on St. John is usually not top of mind for most travelers planning their next Caribbean vacation. It can be easy to fall into a little bit of a rut when it comes to beach vacations–wanting everything easy and done for you.  No one is knocking all-inclusive vacations in Cancun, but sometimes you want something a little bit different!

Camping on St. John

The notion of unzipping a tent and peaking my head out to a spectacular sunrise was all I needed to dig into it more.  Not to mention the fact that these pristine views lack the big time price tag that accompanies so many of those resorts.  

We loved camping in the Grand Canyon, but were unsure about camping in the Caribbean. To get a better idea of what we might be in for, we spoke to a few frequenters of the Caribbean and learned some more.

Here’s what we found out about Camping on St. John:

Although Caribbean has a lot to explore, the number of places you can camp in the tropical paradise are few. In fact, the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John is one of the only safe and family-friendly Caribbean destinations for camping. (It’s worth noting that Jost van Dyke is a close second. It’s renowned for camping, but getting up-to-date details requires a lot of research. If you have more information about camping there, please let us know!)

The U.S. Virgin Islands, made up of St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas, may be best known for protecting more than two-thirds of its land as national forest. As such, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any resorts, condos, cruise ports or airports on the beaches of St. John. But don’t let that deter you– there is still a town with private villas and a few hotels scattered among the pristine, natural island.

It’s for this reason you’ll find yourself returning to St. John over and over again.

What to pack for a camping trip on St. John

Packing for any trip requires planning, and it’s especially true for camping trips. We’ve talked about what we pack for backpacking and weekend getaways, yet packing for camping in the Caribbean is an entirely different undertaking. Unless you want to pay outrageous bag fees, you’ll have to be smart about what you bring.

Luckily, there are two main campgrounds on St. John that provide many of the amenities and camping supplies you’ll need. They offer things like clean sheets and towels on a weekly basis, as well as small kitchens with basic cooking essentials.

Camping on St John

Although most of the regular St. John’s campers recommended bringing select dry goods from the states, you can still find a handful of food and drink options when you arrive. There are grocery stores in St. Thomas and St. John that have adequate selections, and St. John has several great restaurants where you can easily dine out for any meal you don’t feel like cooking.

In the end, the simple island lifestyle makes your packing list a short one. You’ll want to bring enough to be cosy and comfortable in the evenings (read: slippers and games) but you won’t need much else. The must-haves include swimsuits, coverups, sandals, snorkel equipment, and, of course, a camera!

Getting around St. John

We’d be lying if we said traveling to St. John from the U.S. was always a breeze. Chances are you may need to change planes a few times. But at least United States citizens don’t have to worry about immigration. Since it’s part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, you actually don’t even need to bring your passport.

That said, it’s recommended you bring it anyway. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can rent a boat from the island and visit some of the nearby snorkeling locales. Some of the daily snorkeling trips hop along the neighboring islands, and these will require a quick visit to customs and another stamp in your passport. All well-worth carrying the extra ID.

Once on St. John, the easiest way to travel the island is via a rental car or, our favorite, a 4×4 vehicle. Whatever you rent, make sure you get a vehicle that can carry you across the rugged island roads in ease and comfort. By car, you can travel from one end of the island to the other in about 45 minutes. But don’t let the ease of exploration fool you– there is no shortage of things to see and do.

If you’re visiting St. Thomas too, you can rent a car there and take it with you on the ferry to St. John; however, this ferry only runs a few times each week, so you’ll have to plan accordingly. It may well be easier to just rent a car when you arrive in St. John.

The bottom line about camping on St. John

The bottom line is a sandy one. Camping on St. John will leave you with a remote, pristine, family-friendly, and affordable Caribbean beach vacation.

If you’re looking for an adventure, getting to St. John is just the start. There is surely enough to see and do on the island for more than a week-long stay. That said, the beach is easily the main attraction for this destination, and you’ll be lucky enough to sleep surprisingly close to the ocean. THAT is what makes camping on St. John such a memorable experience!

Not sure where to start? One of the main campsites with camping accommodations is the Cinnamon Bay Campground on St. John. For decades, they’ve been catering to guests with rave reviews who return time and time again. But be aware that they run on island time, so patience is encouraged when waiting for a response. If that wasn’t reason enough to book well in advance, they often sell out of spaces a year ahead of time. Better get started!

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why use a travel agent

Why use a travel agent to book your family beach vacation?

I know Mexico. I’ve been traveling to the Riviera Maya regularly, several times a year, for many years. I’ve traveled there with my husband for romantic getaways, with my girlfriends for Mom’s weekends away, solo to do yoga on the beach, and with my extended family.

But I just booked a family beach vacation to Mexico’s Riviera Maya using a travel agent.

And I’m glad I brought in the professionals for this one. My extended family is planning a trip to Mexico next spring. In addition to my own family of four, my adventurous in-laws will join us for a week at the beach.

I gathered family beach vacation ideas from across the internet, researched a few of the family-friendly all inclusive resorts in the area, looked at some villa rentals options and other vacation homes, but just couldn’t find anything that was perfect. Not having been to these specific units and locations, it was really hard to know for sure what was the best option for our group.

family-travel-mexico

My group has some very specific wants and needs, such as a great beach, balcony with views, in-unit kitchen, and a safe complex. But traditional travel-booking web sites didn’t allow me to search on these criteria.

So I turned to the experts to help me plan this Mexican getaway.

I looked for a travel agent who was personally familiar with the destination, has personal experience with the actual properties and could translate my laundry list of needs into actual amenities and property features.

I also looked for a travel agent with a heavy dose of patience.

So while we’ve all been hearing for the past decade that travel agents are a dying breed, I absolutely think travel agents are still a valuable part of the travel planning equation. In fact, it’s clear to me that the value added by a travel agent increases in direct correlation to the trip’s complexity, the size of the group and the distance from home traveled.

family-beach-travel

And here’s a little known secret. Booking with an agent does NOT cost you any more money. Travel agents are compensated in commissions from the travel supplier (the hotel or tour company for example). You pay the same amount regardless of how you book, direct or via an agent.

Using a travel agent is basically a free, awesome service to make your life easier and ensure that you’re trip will be amazing.

So, find a good travel agent today for your next family beach vacation. Need agent suggestions for Mexico, Caribbean or Africa? Email me and I’ll open my Rolodex for you!

 

**Shout out to LocoGringo, a Riviera Maya travel specialist, who booked this journey for my family. I was not compensated in ANY way to write this post. I was genuinely thrilled with their knowledge and service and would highly recommend their services!

 

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Yogi-Friendly Playa del Carmen

This is the second post in my series on the best yogi-friendly beaches in Mexico. Moving north from Tulum to Playa del Carmen, there are a number of fantastic places to practice yoga here as well.

Being a growing house for expats, there are a number of internationally trained yoga instructors teaching in this booming city.

Being a growing home for expats, there are a number of internationally trained yoga instructors teaching in this booming city.

Yoga by the Sea is a great option if you’re staying in Playa del Carmen. Email Arielle directly to schedule a private class or check out her regular class schedule here. She operates out of the fun Coco Maya Beach Club, which is directly on the beach between Calle 12 and 14, next to the Blue Parrot. Classes take place on a covered rooftop with stuning views, a great way to start or end your day at the beach!

Yoga by the Way is a private yoga studio located in Playa del Carmen on 5th Avenue. They offer regularly scheduled Vinyasa Flow classes Monday through Saturday.

While not directly in Playa del Carmen, Organic Yoga Mexico, in Puerto Aventuras is a unique option, especially if you’re staying in one of the villas in Akumal or Aventuras.  Leon, the owner, is your contact to schedule a yoga class or pop in on a Tuesday or Thursday morning at 8:30am for a group class.

You can also stay in their rustic jungle bungalows if you’re looking for low-key and inexpensive accommodations in the area.

You can also stay in their rustic jungle bungalows if you’re looking for low-key and inexpensive accommodations in the area.

Finally, the Viceroy Riviera Maya, a luxury resort located about 7 miles north of Playa del Carmen, offers yoga classes to guests and non-guests of the hotel.  You will need to call 24 hours in advance to make a reservation. Set on a pier over the water, it’s a beautiful spot to practice yoga.

And if you’re looking for cancun airport transportation down to Playa del Carmen, about an hour drive, check out Transfers USA. They are super responsive, affordable, have very professional drivers and you can even book right online!

Where else have you had a great yoga class near Playa del Carmen? 

 

 

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