Me, in my PJs. Or at least the awesome Snow Angel base layer clothing which I’ve been depending on to keep me warm as we’ve traveled through in the Andes in Peru and Ecuador.
I’ve just returned from my annual work conference in Las Vegas. As with last year, my husband and children joined me for part of my stay. Last year I chose to stay at the MGM Signature to be away from casinos and for the condo accommodations. This year, we all stayed at the Bellagio – where I was working – and I actually got to see more of my family during the day. My room at the Bellagio was paid for by Virtuoso.
During my stay, I didn’t really get a chance to explore the whole property or try out, for example, the award-winning Spa Bellagio which I would have loved to do. Some of the hotel features jumped out to me as a plus for a family, but just to ensure that there wasn’t something I’d missed which is worthy of a mention on a family travel blog, I contacted the MGM PR office (the Bellagio is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MGM Resorts). In an email exchange MGM Resorts, acknowledged that even though “many of our visitors are families traveling with children, we typically do not market our resorts as family-friendly destinations”. Fair enough. Full steam ahead with my own personal take on this property so.
Bellagio Layout, Design and Ambiance
My least favorite thing about Las Vegas hotels is that you typically have to walk through the casino floor to get to the rooms. My perception is that this is less painful in the Bellagio than in other hotels. It’s a quick walk from the front desk (and the beautiful atrium) to the guest elevators. Given that this is also the route to the “O” theater, this is a busy walkway where it’s not uncommon to pass strollers and groups touring the hotel. Your eyes are equally as likely to be drawn to the glass art pieces as the activity on the casino floor.
Bellagio Las Vegas Accommodations
My room at the Bellagio was a spacious Queen Room with two queen beds and a huge bathroom with a shower and a soaking tube. The beds were ultra-comfy. Honestly. Our kids were supposed to share a bed but since they’re just at the age where “I can’t share a bed with my brother” is becoming a regular complaint when we travel, BigB usually went to sleep in a nest made of pillows on the floor. I thought about ordering a roll-away bed, but since they weren’t complaining it didn’t seem necessary. I have two gripes about the rooms at the Bellagio: the Bellagio branded bath products were great, but the soap was very drying – not inconsquential when you’re in skin-drying air conditioned rooms all day; secondly in-room internet access is available at an additional fee of $15 per device per day! (Such charges are something I’ve ranted about on this blog before).
Bellagio Hotel Family Features
I spent my first afternoon at the Bellagio by the pool (that was one of only two times when I actually got to the pool during my entire stay!). The thing that struck me the most and which prompted me to write this review was how much more suitable the Bellagio pool area is for families than the MGM Grand (where we stayed last year). There wasn’t a lazy river, but also there were no buckets of beer or couples pre-mating – or, at least, none that I saw.
The excellent gelateria by the main entrance to the pool was a favorite spot where I met my family during my work day to say “hi” and also have some excellent gelato. Next to the gelateria, so neatly tucked away that you’d easily miss it, there’s a kid’s arcade. My kids disappeared. CAM was fascinated at the game selection in the arcade “a kid’s casino” he called it, explaining that all the games in the arcade were games of chance to fit with the casino location. Funny how kids notice weird details that you or I might not pick up on.
The Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Garden is a stunning interior feature of the hotel. If you want your child to feel as if he has walked on to the set of Alice In Wonderland, plan to visit this – regardless of where you’re staying in Las Vegas. The conservatory is free and open 24 hours daily. Similarly, the Bellagio Fountains mesmerized my children every evening. A sound-and-water show is always fun, but this one has 1,200 dancing fountains on a lake of more than 8.5 acres of water. The music varies from opera to Sinatra, but the display is always worth watching – and it’s free too. Saving the best to last, the Bellagio has one more out-of-this-world display which is free and will enthrall you and your children: the chocolate fountain at Jean Philippe Pâtisserie. This 26 feet, 3 and 3/16 inches fountain circulates nearly two tons of melted dark, milk and white chocolate at a rate of 120 quarts per minute and is certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest chocolate fountain. That’s Vegas!
Dining At The Bellagio
The Bellagio is the only hotel in the country with two AAA Five Diamond restaurants, not that any hungry, grumpy child will care. The food at the Bellagio is nothing short of sumptuous, but it’s expensive – even BigB was shocked to learn that a croissant at the cafe by the pool was almost $5. That said, we found Circo a perfect choice for our family. This upscale Italian restaurant has a great view of the fountains and although the menu has plenty of interesting options, you can also get a plate of plain spaghetti for your picky eater. The staff were friendly, accommodating and very patient. My husband chose the Prix Fixe menu and I the Lobster Gnocchi (see note on patient staff above). All of the dishes we sampled were beautifully presented, contained interesting and unusual flavor combinations or food preparations and were delicious down to the last bite.
Photo Credit: opalsson
In preparation for our family world trip I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time shopping for clothes lately. In case you think I’m gloating here, you should know that shopping is one of my least favorite chores and the fact that I can spell the word fashion just about sums up my knowledge on that subject. I was shopping for travel clothes for budgetary and logistical reasons. Trust me, there are a myriad other things I’d rather have been doing. After such penance, it’s shocking even to me that I could discern that travel clothing is, by and large, dreadfully frumpy. The shirts, pants and jackets have plenty of excellent features such as hidden pockets and the technical fabrics that can protect from bug-bites and sunburn are technically interesting, but no-one, even me, can honestly describe any of it as stylish.
In the midst of this research I had a fun twitter exchange with MomMostTraveled. She was lamenting as to why everyone and their mother appears to be compelled to dress down to fly. I, flatly stated that I’d rather be comfortable than stylish on a flight and admitted that I can’t remember the last time I wore anything other than my travel uniform of yoga pants, t-shirt and flip-flops on a plane.
That I’m not naturally stylish is, of course, a factor here. Something that’s compounded by the fact that I work in an industry (technology) with a dress standard only slighty above board shorts and flip-flops. I have worn PJs to work. (It was to trouble-shoot a late-night system outage but still, they were PJs). And I live in Seattle. Seattle is great, but Seattlites are not known for their style. The upside of this is that in Seattle you can turn up at some very luxurious events (Opera) or establishments (Fairmont Olympic Hotel) in your sloppy jeans and you won’t look out of place. The downside, for me anyway, is that it exacerbates my natural inclination to dress for comfort rather than style.
Hence, I made a little more effort than normal when dressing for my flight this morning. Then, in the car on the way I heard a description of an up-coming NPR/KUOW program on “Seattle style” and I thought a little pre-show polling would be fun.
So today, I’m wearing:
As any self-respecting Seattlitle would, I do have an Eddie Bauer fleece sweater in my bag. Old habits die hard.
So, ratings please peeps. Leave a comment below telling me how you’d grade my efforts based on this scale:
1. Fail: Please don’t write about fashion again ever.
2. Miserable Attempt: Ditching the yoga pants does not make you stylish.
3. A Worthy Effort: But not quite ready for NYC, Milan or Paris.
4. Good: If there was a traveler’s catwalk, you’d be on it.
Which do you care about most when you travel? Style or comfort? The data geek in me is fascinated to know. Let me know in your comment and I’ll upate this post in a week with the results of the poll.
I’m very excited to annouce the launch of a new online family-travel website: BestFamilyTravelAdvice.com.
I’ve been working on building this website with my friends Amie (from CiaoBambino.com), Jen (from TheVacationGals.com) and Mara (from MotherOfAllTrips.com) since Amie reached out to me late last year asking if I’d like to be involved in this project. Once I understood that this website is intended to provide a resource where moms like me can come to ask questions about family travel, I was all in.
You may think that there’s already a lot of people writing about family travel online – on websites, newspapers, magazines and blogs and that is true. As a blogger, I’m obviously biased, but I’ve found that the best independent reviews of destinations, properties and activities can be found on blogs written by moms. I find myself turning to these resources again and again as I’ve planned my family’s trips over the past two years or so. And that’s the best thing about BestFamilyTravelAdvice.com: questions submitted on this website will be answered by a long list of family travel experts – the best of the best of the family travel bloggers in fact.
But I find it’s still difficult for me to find the exact piece of information I’m looking for when planning a trip for my family. When I do a Google search, for say, “family friendly hotel in Maui” the results include as many entries from hotels and resorts who’ve paid to have their link show up as from journalists or bloggers or even guidebook publishers. All of which makes it insanely difficult to find an unbiased, honest review of anything. That’s where we hope BestFamilyTravelAdvice.com will fit in. You can enter a question or search our database of questions and know that you’re going to find advice and information written by moms for moms.
So there you have it. If you’ve got questions about your family’s upcoming summer vacation and you’re going a little nutty trying to find the information online, here’s a new option for you. Try it out. We’ll be very glad to help you if we can.
Wine and Travel are two of my favorite subjects. Spending an evening talking about traveling with children over a glass (or two) of wine with friends old and new sounds to me like a recipe for a good night out. Are you interested in joining in? You’d be more than welcome and Continue reading
I looked at the screen and felt the blood drain from my face and a ball of stress start to build in my stomach. What was that check for $795 that had just posted to my checking account? I knew I hadn’t written a check for that amount recently. I pulled up the check image and felt even more worried: I didn’t recognize the payee or the memo and although the signature looked like mine, there were obvious differences and the number 7 in the amount box was written in a style I’ve never used. What was going on?
I called my husband and left him a message saying that I thought we had a problem with our checking account and then I called my bank’s Customer Service number. This was not a time for wading through many levels of automated menus – someone could be out there with my checkbook merrily writing checks against my bank account! I hung up and called my branch who instructed me to come into the branch as soon as possible so they could set the fraud process into motion.
Driving home I was extremely worried. I knew I’d last used the checkbook in our house and that I’d left it in the house. This raised the very nasty possibility that someone had broken into our home and stolen the checkbook. But, I had a pleasant surprise when I got home, the checkbook was still there and the duplicate of the last check I’d written clearly showed my $39 payment for a parking ticket. Bugger. Now I’d have to pay the parking ticket again too.
Earlier in the week, I’d been rushing to work in the morning so I’d left the parking ticket payment in my mailbox with the handy-dandy flag raised to indicate to the mail carrier that there was a letter to be picked up. Well, it had been picked up alright, but not by the mail carrier.
I spent the next couple of hours at the bank dealing with the required paperwork to submit a fraud claim, freeze my checking account and open a new account. Thankfully, since I had noticed the transaction so quickly, the check had not fully cleared and I’ll get my money back within 48 hours. According to the bank branch staff, this type of fraud claim can take up to 30 days to be processed.
So why am I writing about this on my supposedly-travel blog? Well, this whole experience made me realize how important it is to manage mail delivery when you’re away from your home. If you’re only going to be away for a weekend or even a few days mid-week, it’s easy to think that a mail hold is too much hassle. It’s not. It’s a worthwhile security precaution. You can now start and stop mail holds on the USPS website, it couldn’t be simpler.
Normal, travel-related programming will resume promptly…
I hope you enjoyed the posts this week on flying with a baby. I thought it would be helpful to wrap up this series with a distillation of the mom-tested words of wisdom from the series.
This is the third post in a series of guest posts by my sister Trish on her marathon 28-hour trip from Sydney to London – with a five-month-old baby. The second installment of this story, Flying With A Baby: On The Flight, was published yesterday. Today, she talks about arriving at their destination and dealing with jet-lag.
This is the second post in a series of guest posts by my sister Trish on her marathon 28-hour trip from Sydney to London – with a five-month-old baby. The first installment of this story, Flying With A Baby: Pre-Trip Planning, was published yesterday. Today, she talks about how she chose what to bring on board, preparing for and the experience of, the actual flight itself.
This week I have a series of guest posts by my sister, Trish describing her first flight with her infant son. This past December she traveled from Sydney, Australia to London via Kuala Lumpur. The flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur is eight hours, from Kuala Lumpur to London, 13 hours and they had a four-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. If you add in a two-hour checkin window and the hour or so it takes to get through customs and passport control in Heathrow, that gives a total trip duration of 28 hours – with a five-month-old baby. Intrigued? Read on…