Noche Buena or Christmas Eve is celebrated in Cancun by families and friends coming together at houses and celebrating with a dinner that celebrates well into the morning. The children are often seen with sparklers and you can see some fireworks going off here and there. People start exchanging gifts, although Santa didn’t start visiting Mexico until recently. Since Mexico is steep in Catholic Tradition the Tres Reyes Magos, (Three Wise Men) visited on January 6th with their gifts.
Then on Christmas Day, their families and friends gather again and enjoy the traditional recalentado - or what's leftover from the evening before. A typical traditional Christmas dinner may include turkey, pasta dishes, salad and one of my favorites, Lasagna. However, a local traditional favorite is romeritos and bacalao, a salted cod dish.
However, Mexico celebrates the holiday season for about a whole month starting December 12th with celebrations for the Virgin of Guadalupe and ending on January 6th with celebrations for the Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Wise Men).
Did you know that you can even pick up a wonderful Nativity Set made out of clay while in Mexico? The Nativity set tradition stems from Spain, where Nativity Scenes were prevalent. In Mexico, they are made of clay and have the Virgin Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and barn animals. They are decorated in bright colors and each region of Mexico has a different decorating style. There are literally thousands and thousands of figures available and they take all of the space under the tree. In different religions they are thought to show different virtues and sins - some are even decorated to be a bit silly.
What I love about holidays is how it mixes all different cultures. One of Mexico’s traditions that I love, La Pinata, takes its origins from China. La Pinata, the Christmas Pinata has seven spikes (or peaks) that represent the seven deadly sins. Hitting the Pinata represents getting the sins out of our lives and we get a reward of sweet candy and fruits.
Now, although these are all wonderful traditions for going to Cancun and Mexican Rivieria, for Christmas time, what would be my favorite? Just spending time with my family and not having to cook, clean, and doing any of the work around the holidays. I would love just introducing a new culture to my children - enjoying time together at the beach, and perhaps doing a few new activities together. What a wonderful way to celebrate - actually spending quality time together without having any of the stress, and work.
Setup your free consultation today so we can get your toes in the sand this holiday season with your family - and you can enjoy the holiday and the traditions with out any of the work!
When I say all-inclusive resort, the first thing you think of is buffets with mediocre food and tons of those umbrella drinks. But what if I told you the all-inclusive resort has changed over the years to a better experience?
Did you know that there are all kinds of experiences that you can find at an all-inclusive resort? Each resort is as individual as the person visiting it. For couples, there are resorts that are couples only. They procreate the ambiance for romance. They have everything from alluring settings, secluded areas for just the two of you, gourmet romantic dining, and premium spirits. Some even include excursions.
If you are a spa person, there are resorts for you as well. There are resorts that include your spa treatments as well. Again, there is something for everyone.
If you want to have a fun time with your friends, but not couples, is there something for you? Yes, there is and again you can get the gourmet dining, not just the buffets. Do you need to make reservations days in advance? Not at all resorts - again every resort is different.
Well, this sounds great but what about the kids? I want to go on vacation with my kids. That’s possible as well. Did you know that there are resorts that can give each family a wonderful experience? There are resorts that are as different as each family's needs.
Sports families, there is a resort for you - did you realize that you can go on vacation let your kids learn or brush up on a sport while you sit at the pool relaxing and connect up at dinner?
But wait, did you want to sit at the waterpark today? Then let the kids go to the kids club for a couple of hours tomorrow so you and your honey can have a romantic lunch or dinner? Yes, there is a resort for you.
How about an adventure? Did you want your excursions included in your all-inclusive for you and your family? Yes, there’s a resort for that as well. And of course, if you just want to sit at the beach, there’s a resort for that.
When you are looking at all-inclusive resorts the options are endless. That’s when working with a travel advisor comes in handy. We can sit down with you and help you find the best fit and value for you and your family.
If you are ready to exchange white snow for white sand, Jamaica can be a wonderful place to spend Christmas. Did you know that Jamaica is a very religious island, with more churches per square mile than any other country?
So, what’s there to do for Christmas in Jamaica?
Let’s start with one of my favorite holiday traditions, Midnight Mass, did you know that you can attend Midnight Mass while in Jamaica.
Let’s talk decorations a bright - yes Jamaica can give you that. Once the ‘crismus breeze’ comes and cools down the island a bit, you will find local Palm Trees decorated with ‘Peper Lights’ and even some taxi’s decorated up. If you wanted a ‘real Christmas’ Tree, the Blue Mountain pines are available to give you more of an “elegant down-home Christmas feeling”. And those beautiful Poinsettias will be around as well.
And yes, of course, the guy in the big red suit comes to Jamaica as well - there may be no chimneys, or snow, but there is white sand and there are children all over the world for Santa to bring gifts too. Plus who wouldn’t want to get their toes in the sand?
Plus on Christmas Eve, he may want to stop at the ‘Gran Market’. This is one of the longest days around the island for both adults and kids alike. From Christmas Eve, until Christmas Morning vendors set up on the sidewalks in major cities and display their goods at these markets. They have not only the usual things but items that you would not normally find. These markets also entertain shoppers with fun festivities. The best Gran Market to attend is in Linstead, St Catherine, where you can find last-minute gifts, food, decorations, and most of all enjoy the party atmosphere.
In the past, these markets would be set up on Christmas Day, and the children would come with their parents dressed up in their best new clothes and they would come to the special ‘Gran Market’ to find the toys that were on sale. These would not be the normal stores that were open, but street vendors that would open a spot on the sidewalks.
Jamaican’s also love their Christmas Ham for dinner. I wanted to share a Jamaican Ham Recipe, that I found on about-jamaica.com that I’ve made and my family has savored and I wanted to share for you to enjoy.
Easy Jamaican Ham Recipe
So to me, the most stressful time of the year is the holidays! Why? It’s the decorating, having to be here and there, and to be honest all of the prepping and cooking. Sometimes as much as I LOVE all of the traditions it’s so overwhelming that I want to put my head under the covers.
Plus, I have to admit being in Wisconsin in the winter - well it’s not my favorite. My idea of a “White Christmas” would not be with snow, but with a white sandy beach. So, why would celebrating the holidays on a Caribbean vacation or cruise be a great alternative? Well, let me explain:
Having to get all of the house decorated - many hours and multiple stressors. Don’t get me wrong everyone LOVES putting the tree up, the ornaments on. They love putting up the manger scene, and all of the decorations around the house. However, come King’s Day in January, it’s me begging everyone to take everything down and back to the basement. Oh, let’s not forget the Tetra maze in the basement corner that I take apart, put together twice during that time of year.
Next, let’s talk about all the gatherings, and figuring out the “schedule”. You know what I mean figuring out what house and when you have to be where. Although we are totally blessed to have all of our family members with us to celebrate it’s hard to figure out the schedule to make everyone happy.
Lastly, all of the cooking between the baking, and the prepping of the big meals - not to mention all of the clean-up. The clean-up is the worst part!
Now let’s talk about celebrating in the Caribbean, first of all - out of the snow and in the sand. My personal favorite! That’s a gift right there. You are with your family at a resort that is decorated by someone else. They put up and take down the decorations. (YAY!) You will actually get to focus on your family and spending that special time together. You don’t have to worry about who’s going to clean up the table after you, or who’s going to clean up the house. You can actually spend time together talking, or doing something special like swimming with dolphins, or a sunset catamaran cruise. The memories of that holiday will live on for years to come. Much longer than that video game will.
You have someone cooking that holiday meal for you, and the best part - you don’t have to clean up the kitchen afterward. You just get to go create more family memories together, the true meaning of the holidays.
Each Island has its own holiday traditions. How wonderful would it be to watch how other cultures celebrate the holiday? What a great gift to share with your children and loved ones. Like seeing the Junkanoo Festival in Jamaica or attending the “Candles by Candelight” Celebration in Barbados. Surely a way for the family to talk about this holiday for years to come. And isn’t that what the holidays and Christmas is truly about, the memories.
This week I’ve been cleaning out my house. A bit late for spring cleaning, but our church is having a church rummage, and I’ve been having a freeing of spirit by cleaning out the closets, basement and just going through every last corner and getting rid of things. Boy, can we collect the “treasures”. As I’ve been cleaning with the boys, I have also been talking with them about what they want for gifts for Christmas and their birthdays. You see, my twins were born close to the holidays.
We have become big believers in not just physical gifts but the gifting of experiences. The boys get things like gift cards to water parks, or tickets to a concert, or a museum. Inf fact, last year we took them on a cruise for their Christmas and Birthday gifts as well. Now don’t get me wrong, they still get some gifts under the tree and to open on their birthday but not the 1001 things that they use to. There is something about making memories that last a lifetime that they enjoy and those memories are worth more than just another toy under the tree. What’s great is their grandparents, and aunts and uncles get into the spirit as well and “gift” them some of their excursions or give them some spending cash to purchase their trinkets.
We started discussing what we were going to do this next year. My boys wanted to go to an all-inclusive resort this time. So that is what we are going to do. You see part of the fun is planning the vacation as a family. We discuss where we are going to go, I give them ideas of things that they can do and then I go to work. I plan every last detail and they pack. Yes, I still make them pack - that’s about it. They are spoiled on the rest of the details though - I treat them like I do my clients.
This next year we are thinking of going to the Riviera Maya. I have to admit that I love the Cancun and Riviera Maya area. Now I just have to get all of the plans in place. The boys want to go to X-Carat, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and most of all playing pool. Oh, and a great swimming pool is a must for our family. I think that this vacation I want them to swim with dolphins too. Yes, sometimes I make them go outside of the comfort zone - I want them to do just about everything possible.
You see, this is not only a gift that is they will enjoy for just the amount of time that we are gone, but these are also memories that they will have for a lifetime. Some of the best memories that I have with my parents and siblings growing up are from when we went on vacation. When my Dad passed, we all talked about our family vacations and it brought us joy during sad times. That’s what vacations do - bring us closer together while we are on them and the memories bring us back together later on.
I always get asked, what are the essentials that MUST be in my carryon when packing?
Here are a few items that are definite MUST HAVE when traveling in my carry-on suitcase. Even if I’m checking a bag.
My Medications - yes I NEVER check any of my prescription medications. I always want to make sure that I have them with me. And when packing them, make sure that you have them in the prescription bottle or container.
Lip Balm - that’s one of those items that you need to have, it’ just stinks having your lips chapped when on a plane or at your destination. Have you ever been at a hotel and find out that the little sundries store ran out of lip balm? Yes, it has happened to me - and chapped burning lips on vacation is no fun!
Band-aids - I call these the MacGyver of everything. Yes, for scrapes, those little ouchies for kids, paper cuts, and ladies I’m sure you can relate to this one those back of the ankle burns.
Toothpaste and toothbrush. But why if I’m checking a bag? Let me explain - first if your luggage gets lost you have your toothbrush, and let’s face it if you are making a longer connection and you fell asleep during that first flight well you might need a refresher.
Fresh change of clothes and underwear if I’m checking a bag. Again if they lose my luggage - I have a change of clothing.
Deodorant - yes, in case they lose my checked bag, but for another reason. There have been a few times that either my flight has come in a bit later and I had to rush between gates etc and I need a quick freshen up!
Ibuprofen - I like to have a pain medication just in case I get a headache.
Antacid - You never know when you are going to have an upset stomach.
Gum or something to chew on. I like to have something in case I need to “pop” my ears. I like a mint gum just in case my breath isn’t the “Freshest”.
Safety pin - I like to have one or two with me - they are great for just about anything in an emergency.
Pony Tail Holder - okay this sounds crazy but you can put your hair up with it, if you need to put things together, it’s there.
Small Emery Board - definite MUST. It seems like every time I take my carry-on in and out of the overhead bins I break a nail.
Hopefully, this helps you with ideas of things to have in your carry-on. I always like to be prepared.
Until next time - Happy Travels!
Yes, that’s a question that I get all of the time. What can I bring through security at the airport? Here’s a quick list of things that are approved to go through security…
Makeup - any liquid makeup that follows the 3 oz rule including foundation, mascara, and eyeshadows. Power makeup can be brought as well, and any powder-like substances greater than 12 oz (350 mL) must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. Don’t be alarmed if the the containers are opened and you are required to have extra screenings.
Nail Polish - yes, if it follows the 3 oz rule.
Nail Polish Remover - yes if follows the 3 oz rule
Perfume - yes if it follows the 3 oz rule
Shampoo\Conditioners\Body Soaps Yes if it follows the 3 oz rule.
Disposable Razor - yes
Nail Clippers - yes
Safety Pins - yes
Scissors - if packed in the carry on they must be four (4) inches from the pivot point
Tweezers - yes
Blood Sugar Test Kit - yes just let the TSA know that you have diabetes and are carrying your supplies with you. Insulin pumps and supplies must be accompanied by insulin, and insulin in any form or dispenser MUST be clearly identified.
Inhalers - yes the TSA recommends but does not require that inhalers be labeled to facilitate the security process.
These are just some of the basic items that I get questions on. Sometimes there are items that you may have questions on that aren’t on this list. You can check for them on the TSA’s website here:
And for those of you wondering, what is the liquid’s rule for the TSA:
“You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Placing these items in the small bag and separating from your carry-on baggage facilitates the screening process. Pack items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters in checked baggage.
Any liquid, aerosol, gel, cream or paste that alarms during screening will require additional screening.”
Hopefully, this will help answer some of your questions on what you can and can not bring the next time you are flying.
And until next time - happy travels!
When traveling overseas, there are so many things to think of. More than just what hotel to stay at or which flight to pick. Here are a few things to add to your checklist of things to think of:
If you don’t already have one, make sure that you apply several months BEFORE leaving. If you already have your passport, make sure that it has NO damage, and that it is valid for at least 6 months AFTER travel. You will also want to make sure that you have at least two or more blank pages depending on your destination.
For your children who are under 16 please remember that their passports expire in 5 years, not 10 like adults, so verify their expiration dates as well.
For some destinations, you may need a Visa to arrive. Please check with that country’s embassy to see if you will need a Visa.
Always travel with your medications in their original prescription bottles. However, some medications such as narcotics that are legal in the US may not be legal in other countries. You will want to check with their countries’ embassy to see what their regulations and documentation requirements are BEFORE travel.
Traveling Alone with Children:
If you are traveling alone with minors, foreign border officials may require custody documents or notarized written consent from the other parent. To verify what you may need BEFORE travel, check with the embassy of your foreign destination.
Are you planning on driving on vacation?
Although your US driving license is as good as gold here, not every country recognizes it. You may need to get an International Driving Permit as well as supplemental driving insurance. Here’s a link to some great information from the U.S. Department of State on driving in other countries. CLICK HERE
As always working with a trusted travel adviser, they will help you navigate through all of these questions.
I always heard that I’ll have 18 summers to do things with my kids. Well, I have to say, even being a travel adviser that’s not always the case. This past Spring Break, my 15-year-old didn’t come with us on that family vacation. There were a couple of reasons. First, he didn’t want to go on a cruise ship, (yes he is my child) and second, he already has his “things” to do. Now could I have forced him to go and have him sit and pout and ruin the vacation for the rest of us, yes, but I didn’t think that it was fair to my other two and to my husband, me and to the oldest.
This made me realize something, we always said that we were going to put off that big vacation until they were older for them to enjoy it more, or to remember a part of it. Or we were going to save for that big thing first and then take the big vacation. As I’m getting closer and closer to letting one child go on his own I’m realizing that the memories that I wanted to create weren’t always just for him, but for me.
When the boys were 4 and 8 we took them to Walt Disney World. Some people told me that they were too young and that they won’t remember it. True, they only remember tidbits here and there, but I’m so glad that I took the time to go. I have the memories that last, and I can recall them to my kids and someday my grandkids. If I would have waited until now, my oldest would definitely not go - he hates large crowds. And my younger two, well they are out of the “magical” stage - they don’t get into the characters like they did when they were younger. So, yes, I spent that time and money for a vacation memory more for me, but I’m glad I did that. They will watch the home movies, look at the pictures, hear the story of how they marched at the end of the parade with the characters and how we had a wonderful time.
This summer we are taking another family vacation, and this time he is going with us. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to having all of my boys with me. There will be the “Mom… Mommmm” and as much as at the moment I might be “Uggh” it’s well worth every moment. As I tell Mark now, I want to take all of these last vacations as our boys are getting into those teenage years. Once the jobs, girlfriends, and responsibilities start coming we can’t just take off on our two schedules, we will have more to accommodate. I want to show them the world and see it through their eyes still. I know that time is a very precious thing and something that money can’t buy. I need to spend that time with them while I have it.
I’ve had a few calls this week from concerned travelers if they will still be able to travel with the government shutdown. Yes, you will. First, thank you to all of the TSA workers who are working diligently during this difficult time to keep us safe.
But what does this mean for us? At the airport, most of the agents are still here working hard and although on my last trip through Houston I did have somewhat of a slower time going through, it just took some patience to get through. Please remember that, and if you are worried to get to the airport a few minutes earlier.
Will your TSA Pre-check still work? Yes - nothing has changed with that, however the wait maybe a few minutes longer going through security. Yes, it will still save you time, a good example of this, last Friday in Minneapolis St. Paul the standard wait time was 24 minutes and the TSA Pre-Check was only 5 minutes.
How about Global Entry? Yes, again it’s still working if you are already approved. If you have applied for Global Entry, you will have to wait for your appointment until after the shutdown is done.
I want to get a passport, can I do that while the government is on shutdown? Yes, they are currently running on normal processing times. I can personally attest to that since we got passports for the boys over the holidays.
If you are looking to go see the National Parks, you will need to go to WWW.NPS.GOV site for updated information on each park. For example, one of my personal favorites, Mount Rushmore, is open to see, however, there are no NPS services such as NPS restrooms, plowing, and Mount Rushmore will not be lighted up in the evenings. The concession stands will still be open and there will be limited emergency services.
Hopefully, this shutdown will be over soon, and all will be back to normal.