Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria, British ColumbiaWe had the best week up in Victoria, British Columbia! We started early with an 8 am flight out of LAX to Seattle, then a quick less than 30 minute flight to the Victoria airport. Dave’s dad had a work conference and his parents were kind enough to invite us to tag along on the trip. The last trip with just out family and his parents was our epic South America trip to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay (before we had kids). This was my first time in Canada, and the kids as well (also their first time out of the country although it didn’t feel very foreign ;)

We stayed at the Fairmount Empress Hotel which is absolutely gorgeous! The gardens were absolutely gorgeous and July was the perfect time to visit. We had great weather, in the 60s with a nice breeze since we were right on the harbor.

Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel

Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel
Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel

Victoria British Columbia Fairmount Empress Hotel

Here are some highlights from our trip:

Butchart Gardens: Victoria is known as the ‘Garden City’ and these gardens were incredible to say the least! The 55 acre land is a former limestone quarry that the Butcharts converted into a series of extremely well manicured gardens, including a Japanese, Rose, and Mediterranean Garden. It also has a few fountains, a carousel, a fireworks stage, a tea room, restaurant and a gelato shop. Its one of those places you could stay all day.

Butchart Gardens Victoria British Columbia family travel

Victoria Food Walking Tour: the tour started at the Victoria Public Market and then the local guide took us to a few locations nearby. We tried amazing bread from a French bakery, macarons, ice cream, pierogis, meatballs and chocolate. Dave’s mom planned most of the itinerary and this was a really fun way to try local spots and all the food was delicious.

Parliament: the parliament building which was just a block from the Empress hotel gives tours and also has a restaurant on the ground floor. I honestly didn’t know much about Canada and it was interesting to hear more about their government.

British Columbia Victoria Parliament British Columbia Victoria Parliament British Columbia Victoria Parliament

Beacon Hill Park: 200 acres of an awesome, free, public park. The land was set aside by a former governor who didn’t want any for-profit activities on the park. It’s beautiful with walking trails, lakes, peacocks, mini golf, a small splash pad shaped like a watering can and a goat petting zoo! There were 42 goats when we went including about a dozen babies.

Beacon Hill Park Victoria British Columbia free public park kids Beacon Hill Park Victoria British Columbia free public park kids Beacon Hill Park Victoria British Columbia free public park kids Beacon Hill Park Victoria British Columbia free public park kids

Carriage tour: we liked learning from the guide more about the history of Victoria and seeing Beacon Hill Park, the coast and the historic part of the city.

Victoria British Columbia

China Town walking tour: it was interesting hearing about the history of China Town and seeing the alleys that were created that are now filled with little shops and restaurants.

Victoria British Columbia Chinatown

Royal BC Museum: we saw the Mysteries of Egypt at the IMAX then checked out some of the exhibits: Egypt and the mummies, sea life and a giant woolly mammoth.

We were impressed with Victoria as a city. It was not only very beautiful but it was clean, lots of good places to eat, pastries, ice cream shops, unique bookstores, polite people, and we loved the flower baskets that they hang from all the city lampposts. Even though we were only there for a short time as tourists and it was summer, it was such a nice city we could picture ourselves living in – that’s one of my favorite parts about traveling, seeing where other people grew up, live, work and play. It’s my dream to see literally every country in the world. I think each place and city has something unique and beautiful to offer the world.

Victoria British Columbia Victoria British Columbia

Advertisements

Wanderlust: starting a travel fund

Even though it’s only been a short time since my amazing trip to England, I’m always thinking about where I’d love to travel to next. Traveling (and moving) have been a big part of our 11 years of marriage and we’re really hoping to go back to Scotland together. It really was a magical time in our lives, and it’s a place we could see ourselves living (no, this is not another moving announcement, ha, ha!) I enjoyed this article with three ways to be inspired to starting a travel fund. The last point about inexpensive trips is something I’ve also been thinking about. Two places I’d love to visit that are close to us are Santa Barbara and Joshua Tree. I mean, look at this!!!

3 Ways to Inspire Yourself To Start a Travel Fund

By Christine H.

I think we all want to save. We have a desire to have a savings account, not just for emergencies, but so we can have a little bit of an extra money for fun saved away. For a lot of people, this is a travel fund. Because travel isn’t a necessary expense, a lot of people have a hard time putting the necessary money away to start a travel fund. It’s hard to save that money away when you could be using it right now. Here are a few tips to inspire yourself to start a travel fund.

Save your cash

A lot of people who struggle to put their money away into a special travel savings account, find some form of a coin jar to be an effective way to save money. You’d be surprised how much of your loose change can add up to be a substantial amount of money. Anytime you spend cash, come home and put all of your loose change in a jar, and continue contributing to it on a weekly basis. Before long, you’ll have a few hundred dollars stocked up. Simply take this money to either a bank or a coin counting machine(most grocery stores have one), and you can exchange your coins for cash. You can then use this cash immediately on travel, or deposit it into your bank to be used for travel expenses.

Another great cash saving method, is to save all of your 5 dollar bills. Have a jar (some people like the idea of using a shadow box!), or an envelope, or any other form of storage that works for you, and place every 5 dollar bill that comes your way into it. You probably have a lot more 5 dollar bills pass through your hands than you thought, and you’ll save up quite a bit of money this way. It won’t feel like a lot, because that’s basically the cost of a latte, but you’ll start saving and have a good amount of travel money saved up in no time.

Motivate yourself

One of the best ways to motivate yourself to save for anything, is to put reminders of your goals in places that you’ll be forced to see them every single day. Hang a large map on one of your walls, and place pins in all of the places you’ve been to. Not only is this a cute way to decorate your home, but seeing all the places you’ve traveled to, or rather all of the places you haven’t traveled to, will motivate you to put more money into your travel fund.

Take inexpensive trips

It’s easy to aim high and end up falling short, and in the end accomplishing nothing. If you have a hard time making yourself save up for a trip, start with a small and inexpensive trip as your goal. Don’t plan a 2 week trip all over Europe that you know will cost you thousands of dollars. Instead, plan a road trip with friends to a neighboring state, even if it’s somewhere you’ve been before(if you haven’t, even better!). This will keep the entire cost of the trip down to a minimum, and you can all share the cost of gas and lodging. Maybe this will satisfy your wanderlust, and you can continue to simply take short, nationwide road trips with some of your best pals. But it’s possible that this simple travel method will further motivate you to save for more exotic travel destinations. Just make sure that, no matter what kind of vacation you are saving for, that you make realistic saving goals for yourself. You won’t be able to save all of the money for a trip to Cabo in a week, so instead, plan for a trip months away. When it comes time to buy the tickets, if you can’t afford them, either postpone the trip a few more months, or purchase tickets for a less expensive destination instead.

Setting realistic goals and realistic expectations is one of the keys to being able to afford  to travel on a regular basis.

3 ways to start a travel fund

England

Last month I had the awesome opportunity to travel to England to visit Isaac in Bristol, where he has been living and working since Thanksgiving. I’ve also been itching to attend a Chelsea FC game in person and figured this was a great opportunity to do so! Pin and I found a great flight deal via Secret Flying and we’ve spent the last few months researching AirBnBs, hostels, trains, etc. When Dave and I lived in Edinburgh, we went down to London for a long weekend and were able to do some of the main tourist attractions. I loved going back to a place I enjoyed the first time and this second time around was really nice to have a more open schedule and flexibility to see the less popular items. My trip was exactly 7 days and needless to say was a lot of fun!

england

Our flight landed in Gatwick which is south of London. We took a train up to our hostel which was in the Kensington area. As I mentioned, we were trying to keep within our budget so we opted to stay in a 12 person room hostel — my first time staying in a non-private hostel room. I’m glad I packed a box on ear plugs because it’s definitely different sleeping in a room with 12 people (6 bunk beds all crammed in)! Isaac works every other week in a hospital in London so we met up with him to walk around, eat in the city and check out the Museum of Britain. We were also able to visit the National Portrait Gallery, Kings Cross and Platform 9 and 3/4, Baker Street (from Sherlock), Little Venice and Abbey Road.

We took the train out to Bristol, which is a port city about 2 hours west of London. It was a bigger city than I expected and fun to see his flat and where he works. We also saw a Banksy original street art, Bristol is one of his early locations. The next day we headed out to Bath to see the Roman Baths and abbey. Bath is about 10-15 minutes from Bristol. I had seen pictures of the Roman Baths but didn’t realize it was actually a huge complex that was unearthed. We returned to London that afternoon and stayed in an Airbnb and met up with Pin’s roommate, Brittany, who flew in from Utah.

bath england

The next day, I went by myself to take a stadium tour of Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s stadium and see their museum. It was so incredible and an amazing experience to see the dressing rooms, press box and press conference room and the stadium from field level. I loved seeing all the jerseys ready for the upcoming match and they had jerseys from other famous players in the Away dressing room — including my idol, Messi, Beckham, and Cruyff! The whole time I was trying not to freak out but I was so excited to see a place in person that I’ve seen just on TV for years.

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

england chelsea fc stamford bridge

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

The following day, the 4 of us went to the Chelsea match vs West Brom. It was pretty cold but I didn’t want it to end! The atmosphere was unlike anything we’ve experienced at any sporting game in the US. I loved how intimate the stadium felt and how involved the fans were. People didn’t come late, leave to get food or talk about things unrelated to the game. This was one of my favorite experiences of my life! The only way it could’ve been better was if Dave was able to be there with me because he gets my obsession with soccer. One of my favorite players, Eden Hazard, scored twice and Chelsea won!

england london chelsea fc stamford bridge

I returned from my trip refreshed and energized. I love how travel in general opens your eyes to the world and helps remind you how good the world is!

Some of my travel essentials for this trip:

Trtl travel pillow – this ‘pillow’ wraps around your neck and holds it so it doesn’t flop. It’s made of fleece and secures with velcro. It’s not your traditional travel pillow, folds up small and almost completely flat. I felt like it worked pretty well and I got a few good hours of decent sleep on the plane.

trtl travel pillow

G4Free foldable travel backpack – we didn’t check any luggage and I really liked this backpack. It was more efficient that a suitcase especially since we needed the mobility of using them on buses, trains, and foot. It was especially nice because a lot of the roads were cobblestone which would have been more difficult with a suitcase. This backpack folds up into a small pouch too! It had a good amount of pockets and straps and held everything I needed. travelbackpack england Ear plugs and sleep aid – Not only did I use these items at night but I used them especially to sleep on the plane and avoided jet lag. I calculated how long I should stay awake on each flight, took the sleep aid and planned to fall asleep within the hour. On each flight I was able to sleep more than most people and didn’t feel overly tired or jetlagged upon arrival. The sleep aid I brought was just a generic, over the counter one from the drug store.

Loving where you live

11 moves in 11 years of marriage. Now that Brent has started school we hope to stay here for a long time. We’ve loved getting to move around and see all parts of the country. One of the best parts of moving so much is being able to be a tourist in your own city, we’ve always been really excited to check out the best views, attractions, hidden gems and food in all the cities we’ve lived in. There really has been amazing things about each place we’ve called ‘home’ even if only for a short while – from the historical sites in DC, the BBQ in TX, the canyons in UT and the castles in Scotland. I feel like we feel settled here in Chino Hills and one of my favorite things about this suburban gem is all the parks and hiking trails. While we haven’t taken advantage of the hiking trails and state park (that supposedly have redwoods!) that are just minutes from us, we have because of the kids checked out a ton of parks. Chino Hills has a lot of open space preserved which is one of the most beautiful things about it. We are close to LA but far enough away to feel definitely suburban. One of my favorite places to walk around with the kids is the Chino Wetlands. It’s actually near a prison and an industrial area but inside the park is very peaceful!

chino ca wetlands park

chino ca wetlands park

chino ca wetlands parkchino ca wetlands parkchino ca wetlands parkchino ca wetlands parkchino ca wetlands parkchino ca wetlands park  chino ca wetlands park

chino ca wetlands park

7 Tips for Summer Sun Safety

We’ve been enjoying our first summer in Southern California, and especially the days the kids and I spend at the beach! Newport is the closest beach to us and we usually go about once a week for a few hours. I’m excited to share this guest post about sun safety. My favorite tip is the first one, which may seem obvious, but I’m always sure to slather sunscreen on myself and the kids with a combination of both lotion and spray sunscreen.

By Christine H.

It’s summer! And that means it’s time to get outside and enjoy the wonderful weather. However, as you spend time splashing in the public pool, picnicking at the beach, and hiking through the mountains, take precautions to protect yourself and your family from the sun.

Here are 7 suggestions that will keep you sun-smart this summer:

  1. Wear sunscreen… daily! If you simply slather on some sunscreen when you go to the beach, you’re not doing enough to protect yourself from the sun. Sun has a major effect on your skin. In the short term, it can lead to heat rash and sunburn. But it has more severe effects over time, and it’s cumulative, as this article warns. Sun exposure leads to prematurely aging skin – wrinkles, and sunspots, and loss of elasticity. Even more dangerous, sun exposure can lead to skin cancer. Some melanoma will be minor and simply require removal. Others can spread to the rest of your body and become life-threatening. Wear sunscreen every day, not just when you’re planning a big event outside and you’re worried about sunburn. You should have a daily face cream that protects against UV rays.
  2. Cover up. Sunscreen can’t do everything. Sometimes the best technique for protecting yourself from the sun is the old-fashioned one. Wear a hat to protect your eyes and face from direct light and glare. Wear longer sleeves to limit your sun exposure. Also remember to seek out shade and bring umbrellas with you for outdoor events. It might seem counterproductive to cover up more when you’re hot, but it can actually protect you from heat stroke and exhaustion.
  3. Guard your eyes. Wearing a hat helps protect your eyes from UV rays, but you’re better off wearing sunglasses to keep your eyes healthy. Much like your skin, your eyes can age prematurely with exposure to sun. UV rays can lead to a higher chance of cataracts and AMD. Not all sunglasses are created equal, so take a close look at your purchases. Do they say that they protect from UVA and UVB rays? If not, they might be even more harmful than not wearing glasses at all, since they encourage your eyes to keep the pupils dilated, which lets in more harmful UV light.
  4. Take precautions when you go camping and hiking too. If you’re in the woods or up in the mountains, you might not feel as hot and so you won’t think as much about how much sun you’re being exposed to. However, you’ll probably get more sun through the day than you usually do during just an hour or two at the pool. So bring sunscreen with you, and be realistic about the effects that the sun is having on you. Seek shade when possible, and drink lots of water. Sun exposure can also create fatigue in your body, which you’ve probably noticed if you’ve ever slept really well the night after a day spent sunbathing. This might be caused by dehydration, and your body working overtime to regulate chemicals and temperature.
  5. Think outdoor events through. Often, fairs, music festivals, and things like amusement parks can cause a lot of health problems because people aren’t thinking about how much sun and heat they’re getting. The crowds can make things even worse, especially if you’re at a music festival or other event where people are in close quarters. So, as you walk into an event, look around and see where the medical tent is. Plan your time under shade. This link has some great suggestions for being safe at an outdoor event.
  6. Be aware of signs of overexposure. Sometimes, exposure to sun isn’t just about your skin and your eyes. Sun exposure can lead to fainting, or heat stroke. So recognize the symptoms and take care of yourself if you start exhibiting some of these problems:
    1. Dizziness
    2. Faintness
    3. Blackout
    4. Headache
    5. Trouble focusing
    6. Spots in your vision
  7. Hydrate more than you think you have to. You may not feel dehydrated while you’re out and about and being busy. But if you’re spending time in direct sunlight, you will get dehydrated. Make a conscious effort to drink water before, during, and after your time outside.

 

Sun safety is important, but so is making the most of your summer. It’s a great season to meet new people, try new things, and have some fun! This article has some great suggestions for things to do to get the most out of your time, whether it’s in the sun or not. So don’t let the warnings scare you away from doing what you want to this summer. Just be smart!7 summer sun safety tips

My favorite beach products here

My favorite way to stay hydrated here

Staycation: Newport Beach

We went on our first staycation a few weeks ago! We really enjoyed it because it was nice to have time away, relax while not having to travel far. We are blessed to live in an area where there is so much to do relatively close to us. Even though the kids are I go to Newport Beach every week, it was great to have Dave with us on our trip.

Dave’s parents let us stay in their Marriott timeshare which is an amazing location and gorgeous property. There are 3 pools, kid play areas with toys and crafts, a movie theater and game area. newport beach staycation

newport beach staycation

newport beach staycation

We also went to Balboa Island which is so gorgeous! We had frozen bananas at the banana stand and walked around to admire all the cute homes and boats in the harbor.

balboa island staycation banana stand

balboa island staycation banana stand

balboa island CA staycation

balboa island CA staycationThe next day we went to Crystal Cove beach. The beach sand area is small, down a flight of wooden stairs on the cliff and it’s so gorgeous! We had a section of the beach almost all to ourselves and had fun with the kids playing in the waves.

newport beach staycation

newport beach staycation

newport beach staycation

Our last day before heading back to Chino Hills, we stopped by the Santa Monica Pier for a churro and to ride the carousel.

newport beach staycation santa monica pier

newport beach staycation santa monica pier

I would definitely go on another staycation especially when there are so many cool places close to LA area – Santa Barbara, San Diego, Mexico, Joshua Tree, Palm Springs, La Vegas and Phoenix are all places we’ve thought about for our next staycation!

Father’s Day gift ideas

Father’s Day is this Sunday and here are a few ideas for affordable gifts:

Father's Day affordable gift ideas

If your dad, grandfather, husband, significant other, etc already has a lot of stuff, give them an experience! I’ve used groupon a few times (for things like house cleaning and hair cuts) but they also have travel deals and ‘things to do’ like skydiving, harbor cruises, etc. Lots of ideas that are local to your area and a fun way to try new things right where you live!

I’ve recently discovered Vimbly which has tons of activities, events, dining, tours, etc. based on your city. They have deals available in most every large city in the US. A few that interested me in LA were a zip line tour, paddle boarding lessons and a Latin eating tour of LA. There were so many activities that would make awesome gifts for Father’s Day!

I also love this waterproof dopp kit, beard oil and Stance socks. Stance has a ton of high quality patterned socks including professional sports teams.  I’ve already spoken my love of the Hydro Flask water bottle and I feel it’s a great gift for anyone since hydration is important and it’s super convenient to take anywhere since it doesn’t leak or collect condensation on the outside.

Hydro Flask // dopp kit// groupon // vimbly // beard oil // Stance socks

Fiesta Friday: links I love and things to celebrate

We’re currently on a staycation in Newport Beach! I’ll write more about it when we come back (from an hour away, ha!) but we’ve been looking forward to relaxing and seeing a new-ish place without traveling far.

Here are some other places I’d love to see one day:

Canada – I’ve never crossed the border north and was inspired by these pictures of Banff and Lake Moraine

10 things to do in Barcelona (my top choice would definitely be Camp Nou!)

6 reasons to visit Bolivia

My top 10 travel wish list