Back to Africa!

Last year, we celebrated Thanksgiving in Roatan, Honduras swimming with dolphins and drinking strawberry margaritas. This year we plan to trade the turkey dinner for sundowners in the Kenyan bush with elephants, lions, and hyenas.

Russ lobbied hard for Iceland or the Corn Islands in Nicaragua and he almost won the marketing war by telling Finnegan and Declan that they would need a plethora of shots for a trip to Kenya. After I straightened out that “Fox News”- style-attack with the truth, the boys were still game for a safari. They do need a vaccine for yellow fever before we leave, but they were both willing to brave the needle in exchange for the chance to see a cheetah (Finnegan) and a warthog (Declan). Russ may be winning the tomato wars in our garden, but I won the vacation battle. Victory is sweet.


Since Russ and I went to South Africa for our honeymoon, we were interested in seeing a different part of Africa on this trip. Our highest priorities were finding camps that would allow both boys to go out on the games drives and unique cultural experiences. We contacted Hippo Creek Safaris and they recommended either Kenya or Tanzania based on our interests and budget. Since the airfare to Nairobi was MUCH cheaper than the airfare to Kilimanjaro, the decision was fairly easy. November is an off-season month in Kenya and the rates for the camps and lodges are 40% lower than the peak season, which makes it a great time to travel.

We haven’t finalized our itinerary yet, but we know it will include a stay in two different safari camps – one in the Maasai Mara and another in a different part of the country, possibly the Lewa Conservancy. We will most likely stay at Elephant Pepper Camp in the Mara and their tents are exactly how I picture an African safari. Now I just need Finnegan to stop watching shows on National Geographic about ‘Africa’s Most Deadly Animals’ or ‘How I Survived a Lion Attack’ so I don’t start second guessing this whole trip.

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Many of the safari camps in Kenya are near Maasai or Samburu villages so the cultural experiences are very accessible and the safari guides are generally from these groups. During the game drives we will be able to learn more about the wildlife as well as their traditional customs and lifestyle. I’m hoping Finnegan and Declan will also have an opportunity to meet Maasai kids.


My bucket list includes a stay at Giraffe Manor so I’m trying to squeeze in a one night stay. It’s outrageously expensive, but the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. What do you think – is it worth the splurge?


Photo Credit: Giraffe Manor website


I Don’t Want to Grow Up

In this case, what I really want is for Finnegan to stop growing up so quickly! When your kids are young, everyone warns you to enjoy every minute because of how quickly they grow up.  This warning already resonates with me since time has never seemed to go by so fast. I think it’s because of the constant achievement of new milestones that kids achieve like sitting up and crawling and walking and talking and counting to ten and starting preschool and playing a sport for the first time and something new seemingly everyday that makes the passage of time so obvious.

As I sit here filling out a passport renewal form, I’m realizing that Finnegan has reached yet another milestone. His first passport will expire in less than six months, which means it’s time to apply for passport number two.

How has this little baby (quite possibly the cutest baby in the history of babies in my totally unbiased opinion):

Finnegan Baby Collage

Image Credit: Tea & Brie Photography

Grown into this little boy already?!

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One thing that has not changed this time around is his incredibly awful passport photo. In Finnegan’s baby passport picture, he looked like an Oompa-Loompa. This time around he looks like a criminal and his passport picture will probably be mistaken for a mug shot.

In other recent firsts for the Curley boys, they went to the circus for the first time last weekend in New Brunswick, NJ. The State Theater sponsors a Family Day every year on President’s Day in New Brunswick, NJ. The featured event is the Hub City Spectacular by Big Apple Circus, which Finnegan described as ‘amazing’ and proclaimed that he loved it. In addition to the circus, there was free face painting and balloon animals, a DJ, several food trucks, and other activities like dance performances and an animal presentation by the Turtle Back Zoo that we didn’t stick around for because of the frigid temperatures. I liked the Hub City Circus because they don’t use any animals in the show except for a few dogs. All of the dogs were adopted from various shelters around the country and were rewarded with plenty of treats during the performance. Since most dogs were bred to do a job, I think these dogs were quite happy participants unlike the tigers and elephants used in some shameful circus acts.

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After the circus, both boys waited in line for the free face painting, which was another first for them. Declan picked out a penguin and insisted that she paint it on his nose. Finnegan chose a snake and opted for the traditional cheek placement.

Face Painting


Have you or your kids experienced any firsts this weekend?

Trip Review: Beaches in Turks & Caicos (Part 2 – The Activities)

A stay at Beaches in Turks & Caicos guarantees that you will never hear your kids utter the words, “I’m bored.”  This resort truly caters to kids of all ages with an incredible array of activities.  Each night, while preparing the turn-down service, housekeeping dropped off an itinerary with all of the special activities planned for the next day.  We used this information along with the weekly schedule for the Sesame Street character activities to plan each day in advance.  Inevitably, we were a little too ambitious with our plans and would run out of time to do everything, but we were never left wondering what to do next.  Finnegan and Declan slept well and turned in early most nights because they were exhausted from all of the fun by the end of the day.

The activities that we didn’t get to try were the ones geared towards older kids and adults.  One of the most impressive inclusions is free scuba diving for certified divers.  They also offer free snorkeling, paddleboarding, Hobie Cat sailboats, hydrobikes (which we wanted to try, but there is a minimum age of four so Declan wasn’t old enough), an X-Box Play Lounge, and a ‘night club’ for teenagers.

Listed below are of some of the resort activities that we did try.


There are at least nine pools (even though the Beaches website only lists six) and we tried almost all of them.  We even tried the adults-only pool that was located right next to our room before we knew that it was adults-only.  Oops.

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There are two kiddie pools attached to the main pools in both the French Village and Italian Village.  Because Declan doesn’t like wearing a floatie, these pools were a lifesaver because it was easy to keep an eye on both of them.  There are lifeguards at most of the pools, but they were not particularly attentive so I wasn’t comfortable relying on them.  In the back of each kiddie pool, the water was deep enough for Finnegan to practice his underwater swimming, which he did until his eyes were bloodshot.

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As an added bonus, there are swim up bars in both the Italian pool and French pool so you can easily grab drinks throughout the day to keep your kids hydrated.  If you don’t feel like going into the pool, you can also walk around to the back of the bar to order drinks.

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Water Park

We spent a lot of time during our first two days at the Pirates Island Water Park.  The pirate ship and water slides were perfect for Finnegan and Declan.  They loved running around this area with the other kids and going down the ‘big’ water slide.  Even Declan at 2.5 years old could go down all of the slides by himself.  They loved the pirate theme and Declan was impressed that ‘Captain Hook was all the way up in the scarecrow nest!’

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There is also a sprinkler area for the young kids and a tiny crab water slide for small toddlers to play on.

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We were also able to go on the lazy river a few times using the double tubes.  I sat on one side of the tube with Declan on my lap while Finnegan sat on the other side.  It was really relaxing and Declan started falling asleep both times.  I needed help to get both boys out of the tube, but it was never a problem finding someone willing to help.

Finnegan wanted to try the other water slides in the park, but he wasn’t tall enough to meet the 42” height requirement.  There is also a surf simulator for older kids that looked like it would be a blast.  If you’re not quite up for the challenge of surfing, you can also body board instead.


Bobby Dee’s restaurant is located in the waterpark area and it’s shaped like a ship.  We didn’t eat any meals at this restaurant (which serves fare of the hot dog and French fry variety), but the boys had daily ice cream cones here as well as popcorn and cotton candy.

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Sesame Street Characters

We live very close to Sesame Place so Finnegan and Declan have had many opportunities in the past to meet the characters.  However, they’ve never had as much interaction with the characters as they did at Beaches.  There are signs posted around the resort with the list of weekly Sesame Street activities, including five different things each day.  From walkabouts with specific characters to science experiments with Grover to bird watching with Big Bird, the options were seemingly endless.  During our vacation, the boys decided to exercise with Elmo, go on a treasure hunt with Abby, and bake cookies with Cookie Monster.

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Baking with Cookie Monster was absolutely adorable and I would highly recommend it if you go to Beaches.

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You can also have pictures taken with all of the characters at the French Pool on specific days.  You can buy the professional photos for $50 each, which benefit a local charity, or snap your own.

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Declan with Elmo and Abby

There are other activities that you can do with the Sesame Street characters that have an additional fee, such as a breakfast with the entire crew, a nightly tuck-in with a character of your choice, or a morning cruise with Elmo and Abby.  We wanted to go on the cruise, but it is only offered one morning per week so it didn’t coincide with our stay.  I think it would have been a nice way to see more of the surrounding area.  The cost if I remember correctly (but we all know what happens to your memory after having kids) is $60/adult and ~$30/child.

Nightly Activities

Each night there is a different theme or activity that the resort hosts.  There is typically a show or activity for the kids and then one for adults.  We went to at least one every night during our stay and were not disappointed in any of them.

Beach Party

We arrived on Friday, which is Beach Party night.  The party started ~6:30PM with a Sesame Street show about Big Bird’s fear of the water.  The kids sat in front of the stage in the sand where they were encouraged to sing along during the show.  Declan was wiped out from playing in the sun all afternoon so he fell asleep during the show, but Finnegan enjoyed it.  They also had a woman making balloon animals, a bounce house and face painting.  Finnegan waited in line for a balloon sword and was thrilled to jab at everything in sight for the rest of the night.  There was also a buffet dinner set-up at the beach party, but we decided to try one of the restaurants instead.

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Movie Night

I learned that there is nothing more adorable than watching Despicable Me 2 outside with dozens of kids belly laughing.  Once a week, Beaches hosts an outdoor family movie night and serves fresh popcorn.  The movie didn’t start until 8PM, but Finnegan and Declan both took long naps during the day so they managed to stay awake and laugh through the entire movie.  Earlier that night, Beaches also had an Oscar Sesame Street Show, a Kid’s Dance Party and a movie trivia contest.

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Chocolate Party

Finnegan began counting down the minutes to the start of the chocolate party as soon as I read him the list of Sunday activities.  I think he was a little disappointed with the actual event because it wasn’t quite what he expected (think candy bars everywhere, chocolate statues and a chocolate fountain).  In reality, there were several buffet tables set-up with mostly chocolate desserts that were probably a little too rich for most kids.  I’m sure chocolate loving adults appreciated it more than the kids.  Notwithstanding, they each picked out two desserts to sample before calling it a night.

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Sesame Street Parade

Tuesday night is the parade and it’s another must-do with young kids.  In addition to the characters, there were drummers, a stilt walker, and pirates in the parade.  It is relatively short, but very interactive.  The characters stop to pose for pictures and generously hand out high fives.

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Kids Club

When we go on vacation, we prefer to spend as much time as possible with our kids since we both work full-time.  This time was no different so I never actually dropped the boys off at the Kids Club, but we did stop in on two occasions to participate in some of the activities with the Sesame Street characters.  I think it’s great that the characters are brought into the kids club several times a day to entertain the kids and lead the activities.  I also appreciated that the nannies didn’t mind whether the parents dropped off their kids or stayed in the room to watch.

I thought the Kids Club for the 2-5 year olds was crowded at times and there was always at least one kid that was really upset about being dropped off.  In comparison, the infant center looked amazing.  It was brand new and practically empty with a much better staff ratio.  The Kids Club is open from 9AM-9PM every day and there is no extra cost.


There is a cute (and very slow) train that you can also ride.  It only takes about 10 minutes and is worth doing just for the pictures.  It is not a very exciting ride since it just goes out and back (very slowly) along the main entrance to the resort.

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There are many more activities at the resort that we didn’t have time to try and many excursions off the resort are also available.  In addition to the typical tours exploring nearby uninhabited islands and sunset cruises, there is a Sandals Foundation reading trip that’s offered on Thursdays.  I didn’t ask whether kids can go on this trip, but I think it would be a great experience for them.  You are paired up with a volunteer and will go to a local school to read and interact with kids between the ages of 3-10.  You are encouraged to bring a new or gently used book so something to think about if you’re planning a trip to Turks & Caicos.  One of the best parts about traveling is meeting new people and gaining an appreciation for what life is really like in the country.  This would be a great opportunity to get away from the resort and get a flavor for the local schools and teachers.

What activities would you look forward to the most at this resort?

Trip Review: Beaches in Turks & Caicos (Part 1 – The Resort)

Smiling faces and extra hands greeted us everywhere we turned during our recent stay at Beaches in Turks and Caicos.  It is hard for me to imagine an easier place to travel as a single parent with two young kids in tow. I brought Finnegan and Declan to Turks & Caicos without Russ and I was nervous that I was going to be stressed out the whole time and regret my decision to book the plane tickets all together. The reality was much happier. This wasn’t our typical trip exploring a new country or learning about a different culture, but it was a vacation. And it really did feel like a vacation – even for me.

Beaches is the family friendly version of Sandals. There are two Beaches resorts in Jamaica and one in Turks & Caicos. The resort in Turks & Caicos is the largest and it is absolutely enormous. There are four different ‘villages’ within the resort and it’s easy to walk between them.

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The Caribbean Village is the oldest part of the resort, but is centrally located and the rooms are close to the ocean and kid’s club. The Italian Village has the largest pool and is close to everything, including the beach. The one thing that I didn’t like about the Italian Village was the tower design for the rooms. Some of the towers were six stories high, which would have been inconvenient with two small kids.

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The French village is very close to the water park, but it is set back away from the ocean. Finnegan liked the pool in the French Village the best. Their favorite restaurant (sushi of course) is also located in this village along with an amazing coffee shop.

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We stayed in the Key West Village, which is the newest part of the resort. Our room was in the East Village located at the very far end of the resort. We loved our room and after I rented a two-seater wagon from the Kid’s Club for $10 a day, I didn’t mind the long walk to other parts of the resort. I actually appreciated all of the walking because it was my only form of exercise during the trip. If you travel there with young kids, you should definitely plan to bring a stroller or wagon.

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Our room was the least expensive one available at the time that I made our reservation just a few weeks in advance of our stay and it was even nicer than I expected.  When we made our reservation, the rooms were 65% off the published rack rate.  We booked a one bedroom concierge villa and it included more space and amenities than we really needed. The villa included a living room, four-person dining room table, kitchen with industrial grade appliances, a fully stocked bar and refrigerator, washer and dryer, and bedroom with a king sized bed. There was even an Xbox set-up in the living room, but I’m too old and the boys are too young to play video games. The room was also very close to the beach and we could see the ocean from our front porch.  With all of the amenities that are included at this resort, it was surprising to learn that we had to pay for internet access. Since Skype was our only option for keeping in touch with Russ, I paid $42 to have internet access for the week.

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We spent very little time in our room outside of nap time and bed time (which is really the point of going to a tropical destination during a frigid Northeast winter, isn’t it?) so I would have been perfectly happy staying in the cheapest room at the resort. There are 44 different room categories from which to choose and they vary dramatically in terms of price.

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Everything that I read about Grace Bay beach before arriving was true. The ocean is a brilliant turquoise and the sand is as soft as powder. The area in front of Beaches is the most crowded strip of sand on Grace Bay beach, but it’s easy to take a short stroll to find a spot that you can have all to yourself. We only went to the beach once because Declan didn’t like the sand getting stuck to his hands or the sun glare. There were very few people on the beach when we went right after breakfast and the water was crystal clear and extremely calm. Finnegan was more interested in building sand castles than swimming so we didn’t test out the depth of the water, which is funny since it was one of my reasons for choosing Turks & Caicos as our destination.

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The best part about the resort was the friendliness of the staff. Everyone greeted us with a smile and made us feel like they were happy to help. Have you ever noticed how most bartenders in tropical locations seemed mildly (or outwardly) annoyed when you order a frozen drink? Not so, at this resort. They gladly made our strawberry daiquiris (non-alcoholic of course) and didn’t make us feel guilty that they had to clean the blender yet again.  As an added bonus, many of the other guests were extremely friendly as well.  One woman in particular was like my own personal angel.  I started calling her Saint Heather because she always seemed to magically appear any time I could use an extra hand.  On our first night at the resort, Finnegan had a blister on the bottom of his foot tear open and was having a hard time walking back to our room.  Declan was sound asleep in my arms so I couldn’t carry both of them.  (This was the reason that I raced over to the kid’s club in the morning to rent a wagon!).  Right on cue, Saint Heather walked by and offered to give Finnegan a piggy back ride all the way to the restaurant where we had dinner.  She even went back to her room and got a band-aid and antiseptic to clean his foot!  Another time, she walked by as the boys were complaining that they were hungry and she gave both of them animal crackers.  Thanks again Saint Heather from Ottawa!

On the downside, we did have a bit of a mix-up with our luggage when we arrived and it was ‘lost’ for 24 hours. Because of our short connection time in Atlanta, I packed strategically and we had everything that we needed for our first day except toothpaste and sunblock because I didn’t want to deal with having liquids in our carry-on. The manager at the front desk was extremely apologetic and personally delivered toothbrushes, toothpaste, a razor, and a stuffed Grover doll for the boys. He also told me that I could purchase sunblock in the resort gift shop and they would cover the cost, which they did at check-out – no questions asked. It’s not clear how or why the luggage was misplaced, but it was delivered to our room the next day with everything in order so it was only a minor inconvenience. Problems can easily arise during a hotel stay and it’s the manner in which they are resolved that really counts. I thought the staff at Beaches handled our situation perfectly and left us happy customers.  Just look at this smile.

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Overall, we thought the resort and the staff were amazing. We would gladly return for an easy and relaxing vacation that involves no planning.

Have you ever stayed at this resort or another Beaches? What did you think? If not, would you consider this type of all-inclusive vacation?

Next up will be a review of the activities at this resort. Hint: they are amazing!

Turks & Caicos: Packing List

By the time this post goes live, we will be on our way to Turks and Caicos with forecasted highs in the low to mid-eighties.  This winter has seemed to drag on forever and we were without heat for a full day yesterday when an ice storm took down some trees in our neighborhood along with the power and phone lines.  Two winter storms in one week has just made us even more excited to escape and we will appreciate the warm sunshine even more.

With a very short layover in Atlanta, I had to be strategic about packing our carry-on bag in case our main suitcase doesn’t arrive with us.  We have everything we need for our first day in Turks & Caicos (except sunscreen because of the relentlessly annoying ban on liquids!) and hopefully enough entertainment to keep both boys occupied on the plane since this will be my first solo trip with them.

If I could put anything in my suitcase, here is what I would love to bring:

Turks Packing List

Sunglasses ($33): inexpensive – just how I like my sunglasses since I always seem to lose or break the expensive ones

Cover-up ($88): I could have made an entire board with things from Boden.  Love their new collection!

Anchor Bracelet ($11): from Furbish – my favorite store in Raleigh

Darva Sandals ($68) – they match everything

Baboon T-shirt ($242): while I would never pay this much for a t-shirt, I still love it and you could probably find something similar or have one made on Etsy for a lot less

Beach bag ($335) – this is actually a weekender bag, which means it might be big enough to haul everything that you need for your kids at the beach

Swing Dress ($33) – this is the only item on this list that’s actually in my suitcase.  This dress is so comfortable and so cheap.  I also bought it in white.

Stefani Dress ($108) – what beach bag would be complete without a Lily dress?!  This one goes perfectly from day to night.

Celebrating Two Birthdays – Russ’ and Our Blog

Today marks the annual celebration of Russ’ birth as well as the first anniversary of our blog.  Sometimes it still feels a little strange to share so much information about our lives on the internet, but overall it has been a lot of fun to document our adventures. Since we don’t keep a journal, or scrapbook, or even take videos of the kids (until very recently), I’m hoping Finnegan and Declan will appreciate reading these stories someday about what they were like as young hellions boys.

Here is a summary of our first year of blogging by the numbers. They are very small numbers since we don’t have a lot of readers – YET, but we appreciate every follower and page view that we’ve had so far.  If you haven’t liked our Facebook page or signed up email updates, we would be extremely grateful if you did!

Total Views: 8,057

Highest Number of Views in a Single Day: 124

Views by Country (the details are hard to read, but you get the idea.  It’s amazing how people from all over the world can land on your blog):

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Most Popular Posts:

  1. Krabi Trip Review
  2. Jen’s Bucket List (it’s not a competition, but it is a fact that my bucket list is way more popular than Russ’.)
  3. Trip Review: Banff & Jasper National Parks
  4. Faster than Usain Bolt
  5. In the Land of Giants: Redwoods Trip Review

Least Popular Posts:

  1. National Aquarium: Baltimore, MD (this post has only received four views and it was written by Russ.  He’s a much better writer than me so you should check it out.)
  2. Where the Wild Things Are: Sanibel Island, Florida (this is such a great destination with kids)
  3. Hotel Alternative: Family Friendly Farm Stays (I was just thinking about this post yesterday and the fact that I need to book a long weekend in Upstate NY at the Farm Sanctuary Bed & Breakfast near Watkins Glen)
  4. Extending the Unofficial End of Summer (there is not a lot of content in this post so I understand why it wasn’t very popular)
  5. Stockholm Sweden, Venice of the North


We hope that you enjoy reading our posts as much as we enjoy writing them, and will continue to follow our adventures in 2014.

And finally a birthday shout out to Russ who is going to be spending the weekend prepping for a trial while the rest of us are soaking up the sun in Turks & Caicos.  At least he will be able to listen to the new Bruce album while he shovels out our driveway if we really do get 30 inches of snow this weekend.  Happy birthday honey and thanks for putting up with us!

Russ in Princeton

Sharing Our Love of Travel (& a Giveaway!)

Traveling with kids can be challenging at times.  Keeping them entertained on long flights, dealing with jet lag when you’re exhausted, or trying to explain to your child why he can’t have his customary cup of warm milk before bed when you’re staying in the middle of a rainforest can add stress to any trip.

So with all of these challenges, a natural question might be, “Why travel with your kids when they are so young and won’t remember the trip anyway?”  For us, the answer is simple.  We think travel will make them better humans.  Even at the ages of 2 and 4, Declan and Finnegan are gaining an appreciation for other cultures, languages, food, and geography.  They are learning how much they have in common with kids all over the world.  They are also learning to embrace – instead of fear – things that are different.  Their favorite food is sushi, they know people speak Spanish in Honduras, and they have a genuine interest in looking at maps and talking about what different countries are like.  The conversation always ends with the same question, “Can we go there someday?”


Travel also helps us be better parents.  It’s a chance for us to completely disconnect and enjoy our boys without the day-to-day stress of balancing work, daycare, activities, and house work.  It refreshes us and awakens our inner child by offering new experiences or sensing the wonder and amazement through the eyes of our kids all over again.  We can’t imagine our lives being as rich and full without the opportunity to travel.  We look forward to creating many more memories with our kids as we continue to explore this amazing world.  Our love of traveling runs deep.


This post was brought to you by, but all opinions are our own.  Check out the Valentine’s Day deals on and enter the giveaway by February 14th for a chance to win a dream vacation!  Read my fellow travel bloggers’ stories on how they share their love of travel and enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below.  One of our readers will win a $100 Amazon gift card sponsored by

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Other ‘Sharing the Love of Travel’ Posts:

Jetlagged Julia

Chasing the Donkey

Angela Travels


A Southern Gypsy

Besudesu Abroad

Gallop Around the Globe

Jaclyn’s Jaunts

Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences in Photos

Over the weekend we took Finnegan and Declan to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia to see the special Dinosaurs Unearthed Exhibit, which runs through March 30, 2014.  The permanent Outside In exhibit, which is geared towards kids ages 3-8 and the Live Animal Center are currently closed for renovation so it’s not the ideal time to visit, but we needed to get out of the house as everyone was going stir crazy.  The Outside In Exhibit is scheduled to open back up in early February so the perfect window for a visit with kids would be mid-February through the end of March before the Dinosaurs Unearthed exhibit moves on.

The boys had a great time as evidenced by the photos:



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We may plan a return trip to the Academy of Natural Sciences once the Outside In exhibit is re-opened – especially if this cold weather continues and we’re forced to entertain the kids indoors.  Have you been to the old Outside In exhibit and Live Animal Center at the Academy of Natural Sciences?  What did you think – is it worth a return trip?