Post Lockdown Vacation – Rafting the South Fork of the American River

Post Lockdown Vacation – Rafting the South Fork of the American River

***note*** While my page is mainly dedicated to all things related to destination weddings, honeymoon and romance travel, I do have a family and we enjoy going on a variety of different trips and vacations.  Here’s a review of our first family vacation together in 2020 – enjoy!

So it’s summer 2020 and we’ve had a lot of time at home, reflecting on our lives, on the state of the world…truly, a LOT of time.  Like so many people, our summer plans were put on ice and with 3 kids we really were itching to get out of dodge, even for just a day or two.  Somewhere we could drive from our house would be perfect.  But what’s available?  Then the light bulb went off in my head…water rafting!  My husband and I love water rafting.  Our girls (ages 9 and 12) love water rafting and we think our son (age 6) will also love water rafting.  We called our favorite water rafting company American Whitewater Expeditions (we rafted several times down the South Fork of the American River, whenever one of our kids is old enough to go and we’ve always stayed at this campground and rafted with their guides) and YES! They are open for business!!  Score!!!  I was literally doing a happy dance in my kitchen.  I called my mom to see if she wanted to go and my mom without hesitation said absolutely yes!  Now my mom has never camped a day in her life.  But since my father passed away a year ago (Z”L) she wants to be able to do things that she really wasn’t able to when she was having to basically be my dad’s full time caretaker.  Which is a story for another blog post.  But here was an opportunity to spend time with her darling grandchildren 😉 and no way was she going to pass it up!  Our last call was to our good friends Phil and Danielle and their two boys, who also thought the idea of water rafting sounded fabulous and the perfect outing that is easy to socially distance as much as possible, but still have something to be excited about.

We’ve used American Whitewater Expeditions for our river rafting trips down the South Fork of the American River.  They have great service, a campground that was included in our stay and their guides are great.  American Whitewater Expeditions (A.W.E.) are located in Coloma, aka Gold Country.  In fact if you have  time (and it’s not too hot) a great side trip is to visit Sutter’s Mill, the famous site where gold was found, setting off the Gold Rush, a major event in California’s state history and the United States.  In the Bay Area many 4th graders will visit Coloma to learn more about our state’s history.  For those of us living in the Bay Area, it’s an easy drive to Coloma (for us living in the East Bay it was 2 hours, if you’re in the South Bay or SF it might be more like 2 ½ -3 hours).

Camp Coloma’s welcome sign (giant anchor?) greets you as you enter the campground

Depending on the type of river rafting trip you do with A.W.E., they will provide you your own campsite the night before you raft (or for however many days you raft; we did a 1 day trip but they also offer multi day) and we were also included tents and sleeping pads.  This is a big plus for us since it’s one less thing to pack, put together and take apart.  Especially since the morning we raft we need to be ready and packed up by 8:30am!

Our camping site, with tents and pads supplied by A.W.E. – camping chairs were ours. Go Blue!

We drove up on a Sunday afternoon and got to the campsite by 4pm.  Our friends happened to arrive just a few minutes after us.  Checking in was a breeze.  There are clear marked stickers on the floor to keep everyone socially distanced, but there wasn’t anyone else registering when I was so I got in and out really quickly.  There is plexiglass set up to keep us from breathing on the employees who are super friendly and got me a map to show me exactly how to get to our campsite.  All the sites are close to a full bathroom.  Not every site is right next to a bathroom with showers but it’s an easy walk to one if you need to get cleaned up after a long day of rafting.  There are signs everywhere that if you go inside the registration office you need to wear a mask and everyone was compliant.  I think we were all so happy to be out and doing something fun that no one wants to mess it up and create a scenario where A.W.E. would need to be shut down.  

Keeping common areas clean such as the bathrooms were a huge priority. I’ve never seen them cleaner.

One of our favorite parts of this facility is they have a pool!  We drove to our campsite, dropped off our stuff, got into our bathing suits and the kids got right into the pool.  There were a couple of families there and everyone pretty much were friendly, but kept to their own bubbles, as it were.  The kids were having a great time swimming and playing in the water and definitely we in no hurry to get out to go back to the campsite.  It was also HOT, and just made more sense to eat dinner at the picnic tables by the pool.  Now A.W.E. does offer the option to buy a hot dinner in their dining area but we brought our camping gear to cook dinner ourselves.  Not wanting to make anything complicated Danielle and I went back to the campsite, brought out my trust camping stove and heated up hot dogs.  Phil had made homemade guacamole (YUM), tortilla chips, carrots and delicious watermelon and you have a campout dinner of champions.  Delicious!  

Me and my mom – and the pool! Love that pool. Especially when it was approx 1000F outside. We brought our dinner so we could enjoy our meal poolside!

By 7pm we felt we should get the kids back to the campsite, so we changed out of our swim wear (which was hung up to dry since we’d be wearing it tomorrow – I’m a fan of packing “efficiently” for trips like these) and since we still had plenty of daylight we brought out a board game we could all play together.  We’re big fans of Family Trivial Pursuit.  You can play teams if you have more people than pieces, and there are adult questions and kid questions.  After the game it was time for dessert, so we brought out the Herhshey’s chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers to make s’mores and we all went to town.  For me S’mores are the perfect dessert for camping.  I’ve tried several different camp themed desserts (campfire cones, dutch oven desserts) and I come back to S’mores everytime. There’s just something about chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers that say “camping” to me. 

S'mores by the campire

S’mores – my most favorite camping dessert!  Nothing better than s’mores while camping – except maybe two s’mores 😉

The heat was finally cooling down as the evening went on and while the kids went to bed around 9ish, us adults stayed up to chat until we were sufficiently tired enough to be okay with sleeping on the ground (albeit with a sleeping pad).  I knew my one night of sleeping on the ground wasn’t going to be the best, but cie la vie.  A.W.E. has a strict quiet time starting at 10pm and everyone was very respectful.  New to their campsite:  Decent cell phone service!  Not that I am on my phone a lot since we’re camping but I like to unwind before I go to sleep so I was able to watch some mindless videos on YouTube before drifting off.  It usually takes me at least 2-3 days of camping to finally get a decent night of sleep, but that’s ok.  Sleep is for the weak, so I’m told.  Thankfully all the kids slept through the night without incidence and my mom, who has never slept a night in a tent in her life loved it!  I lent her my cot and between that and the sleeping she said it worked out really well.  

Someone was supposed to be getting ready who suspiciously looks like he is just fooling around in his tent instead

The next morning we made an easy breakfast of bagels and cream cheese fruit and coffee (coffee being for the adults).  A.W.E. also offers a hot breakfast for $10/person, but we aren’t big eaters in the morning so we just decided to bring our own.  After breaking down our campsite (not too difficult since A.W.E. provided the tents) and packing up all our gear (if you’re not spending another night at their facility you need to be packed up before heading out to raft- but they have plenty of parking by their registration office), we were suncreened up and ready to go!  What are you allowed to bring on the raft?  The answer is – not much.  It’s a 25ish minute bus ride from the campsite to the starting point so you can only bring what you can carry onto the raft.  The river guide has a small dry bag that I put a few snacks for the kids (it’s a long time between breakfast and lunch and I learned the hard way they need a snack in between while we’re rafting), and we brought water bottles and spray sunscreen.  I prefer to use a cream based sunscreen, but we need to reapply and it’s too difficult to use the cream-based while on the raft.  The spray makes more sense.  The guides outfit you with the proper size PFD (lifevest) helmet and oar.  We all were wearing our rash guards and I think next year I’m going to invest in board shorts.  The top of my thighs got pretty red even though I must have reapplied at least 3 different times!

Gearing up before we head to the bus

A look at our 5 star coach to the riverhead 😉 If you need A/C just poke your head out the window har har

On the 20ish minute bus ride from Camp Coloma to our start on the river.  Everyone was wearing their mask and everyone was very excited to go rafting!

Another post-lockdown precaution – everyone wears their facemask on the bus (you keep it in the dry bag while on the water – a wet mask isn’t going to be very useful lol).  Once you get to the start of where you raft, there’s a porta potty for that last minute need, and your guide double checks all your gear to make sure it’s fitting properly.  We get a few minutes of safety instruction and then we’re off!  

Where you begin the full 21 mile South Fork river run

Riding the rapids at the beginning of our rafting trip

There are both half days and full days options for the South Fork and we decided on the full 21 miles.  The view on the river is just gorgeous.  I really love the opportunity rafting gives you to see nature in all its glory.  Also it was 100F degrees outside so that water is…refreshing.  Yeah refreshing is a good word to describe it.  Some might say REALLY FREAKING COLD, and some might shriek every time the rapids crash onto her and some might even say it seemed like the river guide was intentionally seeing how loud she could shriek, but I digress.  Speaking of river guides, if you come across Horatio from Costa Rica, know that you have a PHENOMENAL river guide and tell him that Arielle and her family say hi!!  He was the best.  Super funny, really engaging and kept us entertained the whole way down the river.  He knew when the kids could jump out of the boat to swim around and even float down some of the rapids (feet first!)

Our awesome river guide Horatio

I would divide the river into two parts:  Before Lunch and After Lunch.  The ride down the river Before Lunch is longer than the ride down the river After Lunch, so just look for a calm time while rafting to fish out some granola bars for the kids because if they are anything like mine they will really need something to tide them over before we make it to the lunch spot.  PRO TIP:  Pack granola/energy bars that won’t melt.  I made the mistake of bringing chocolate chip granola bars and they were extremely melty.  Still tasty but a bit of a mess.  We brought plenty of water on the raft but Horotio was also kind enough to bring extra water bottles just in case.

Delicious wraps for lunch. Lots of options for everyone, including vegetarians and vegans. Everyone wore masks and socially distanced as much as possible

Roaring down the rapids – good thing it’s 100F outside because that water is COLD

The South Fork of the American River is a class II-III.  Perfect river rafting trip for a first timer (and more importantly our youngest son at 6 is old enough to go.  Most other categories you need to be 12+).  Speaking of first timers, my mom had never camped before let alone river rafted and she absolutely LOVED it.  To quote my mom “it was phenomenal, amazing and FUN!!  A nice roller coaster with waves but not too scary.  I can’t wait to go again!”.  Watching for birds, and the water glistening from the sun.  Watching my kids jump off some really high rocks!  I might have told my oldest I’d give her $1 to jump off the high rock and she might have met the challenge 😉  Personally for myself I’m a class III-IV type of girl.  I’ve done 5+ which in my expert opinion is way too scary for your humble travel blogger and travel advisor.  But with my kids I’m happy to do a less intense one and one day they’ll be old enough to go on some more high class rafting adventures.

Here’s a map of the full 21 miles of river we rafted on the South Fork of the American River

Lunch was off a great little beach where the kids could splash around in the water while the river guides got lunch prepared.  Lunchtime cleanliness post-lockdown was taken VERY seriously.  Everyone wears a mask, and there are not one but TWO washing stations.  Families naturally socially distanced while eating lunch and bottom   Lunch was wraps, there’s deli meat (turkey or ham) and hummus, and even PB&J.  Each family receives their own container of pringles and for dessert the guides brought out homemade chocolate chip cookies.  There’s nothing much better than homemade chocolate chip cookies after several hours of rafting!  

The family that adventures together, stays together

After a 45 minute stop we’re back on the river for another couple of hours.  Lots of rapids in the 2nd half, lots of excitement and lots of opportunities to get drenched.  You finish your journey at Folsom lake and are towed to shore by hooking all the rafts together to a few jet skis.  Back on the bus and between exhaustion and the masks it’s a very quick and quiet 20 minute drive.  As a nice little treat they have ice cold soda and bottled water waiting for us at the facility.  We drop off all our gear and then you have the opportunity to shower and change.  If you want you can also purchase photos that were taken of you while you were on the river.  The photographers did a great job, it’s a pretty reasonable price for around 80+ shots and since it was my mom and son’s first time we figured we would splurge.  As we’re only two hours from our home we elected to just get back on the road and had a nice (outdoor) dinner at an In n Out in Folsom before making it home, exhausted but happy to have a nice little adventure this summer.  

Have you been water rafting before?  What’s your favorite part?

Are you looking for an adventure to go on?  I would love to help you!  Click here to get started!!

The Top 3 Reasons You Need A Personal Stylist for Your Destination Wedding Or Honeymoon

The Top 3 Reasons You Need A Personal Stylist for Your Destination Wedding Or Honeymoon

So you and your fiance are planning your dream destination wedding in the most perfect place on earth.  You know you’ll need to hire an officiant, a photographer and videographer, someone to make the invitations, the flowers and of course your wedding dress.  You’ve hired a dedicated Destination Wedding Planner to help you navigate the details for you and your guest’s travel needs, from the flights and resort to the ceremony and reception and everything in between.  Now it’s time to think about YOU.  That is, you are going to be photographed approximately 8 million times before, during and after your wedding and it’s important to make sure that each photo looks perfect!  I know you have found or will find the perfect wedding dress, but what are you going to be wearing both before and after?  What are you going to be wearing in all those pics?  Is everything coordinated?  How does it look in relation to what your fiance is wearing?  If you, like most brides having a destination wedding, you could very likely be at the resort for several days, at least. There’s rehearsal dinners, cocktail receptions, brunches, dinners, it’s *a lot* of outfits to think of!  Or maybe you’re planning your honeymoon, where the opportunities for Instagram worthy shots are endless.  This is where a personal stylist could be a lifesaver.  A personal stylist can advise you on the latest fashion trends and clothing styles.  She helps individuals and couples on what will make you look your best, both inside and out.

green potted plants on a brown wooden rack showing off clothes

When you have something as important as your wedding or honeymoon, knowing what you want to wear before you go is just smart planning

I spoke with Lucy Bedewi a personal stylist and owner of Wanderlust Wardrobe to find out more about what she does and how she might be able to help that stressed out bride, wanting to look her best but could use guidance through the process:

***Want to check out a fantastic free offer from Wanderlust Wardrobe?  Click here to find out more!***

Lucy explained to me that she got into the business through retail initially, but went her own way after seeing how retailers focus on buying and not actually helping people find clothing that they truly love.  She’s been a stylist for 3 years and her favorite part of the job is seeing women get dressed with ease and become the most confident versions of themselves.  What’s a personal stylist’s biggest challenge?  The fashion industry’s inconsistent sizing!  Thankfully many websites offer free returns so you can try things out and return what doesn’t work.

a woman in a white dress holding a basket while sitting near a waterfall

So many Instagrammable opportunities, so little time

So how would Lucy help a destination bride find that perfect style?  Lucy conducts an hour long consultation where she dives deep into what her clients want to look like as well as present themselves.  Typically, Lucy searches commercial brands, but she’s definitely willing to go thrifting or into luxury lines if that is what the client prefers.  She truly prides herself on doing  whatever it takes to help a bride find that perfect piece.

I asked Lucy, what’s a current trend that she would encourage?  She said right now, it’s a sweetheart neckline. It’s universally flattering and can be paired with lace, tank top straps or an illusion neckline to fit the bride’s unique preferences.  Now I feel like I need to go online and start shopping!  Finally, I asked Lucy, what are her three top reasons for a bride to hire a personal stylist to help her with her destination wedding and honeymoon wardrobe?  Lucy’s top three were:

1) There are A LOT of outfits changes –and a personal stylist is someone to help you navigate them seamlessly.  A lot of brides today are professionals, they are working full time and have a lot on their plate.  Having one less thing to think about running up to the big day can be a huge relief!

2) It can help you pack intelligently and still look amazing!  It’s not just about packing everything and the kitchen sink and hope you have what need – pack smart and you can have every outfit put together before you get to your destination, and know that each outfit is put together, designed with YOU in mind so you don’t have to think about what to wear and that’s one more thing you can cross off your list.

3) It makes getting dressed easy so you can focus on your spouse and guests.  I remember my own wedding and I can just remember that I wanted to treasure and cherish every moment.  I knew this moment was fleeting and I wanted to remember it forever.  Having a personal stylist will make it so much easier to know what to wear and when, and you can just focus on your spouse, your guests and yourself!

three happy people jumping for joy at the beach

 We hired a personal stylist and couldn’t be happier!!

I’m SO excited to announce that Lucy is offering my readers an amazing FREE 20 minute mini-session!!  How cool is that?  Simply click HERE to sign up for your session, remember to add TRAVELFORALWAYS in the subject box so you can get your mini consult – did I mention for free?? 

I would love to hear from you!  What would you use a personal stylist for?  Be sure to tell me in the comments below!

Little French Key // Roatan, Honduras

Little French Key // Roatan, Honduras

So back in the beginning of 2019 my husband, our 3 kids and my mom wanted to do a Big Family Vacation that would be fun for everyone involved.   With 3 kids and Safta (grandma in Hebrew) we knew we wanted to do either an all-inclusive resort or a cruise because Mommy was not interested in being a cruise director.  I wanted someone else to be a cruise director.  So we decided on…a cruise! And we were so glad we did.  One of the best family vacations we’ve ever been on, for SO MANY REASONS.  We sailed onboard Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas, (stay tuned for future blog posts about this trip) and I could spend days on all the reasons we loved this vacation.  But just one of those reasons was our excursion to Little French Key when we stopped in Roatan, Honduras for our day at port.

King Triton, defending us vacationers from who knows what – maybe Urusla

After a couple of days at sea, our first stop was to Roatan, Honduras.  Roatan is a little island off of the mainland.  We wanted to go somewhere really special and after a lot of research decided on Little French Key.  Now you can’t book Little French Key through the cruise lines, and a lot of cruise lines will try to scare you away from booking excursions not through them.  They will frighten you with stories of people not getting back to the boat on time and yes, try searching on YouTube for “missing cruise ship at port” and you will find plenty of footage of people who for one reason or another literally…miss the boat.  Not fun and I don’t recommend it.  However the people who run Little French Key have been doing this for almost two decades and they have the process down, and that’s what makes this place so special.  The cruise ships like activities that can handle a huge volume of people, which is fine if you’re going to a big place that can handle that amount of people.  We’ve done plenty of shore excursions through the cruise ships directly and they can be great!  However this place operates more like a luxury boutique hotel and if the capacity wasn’t limited, it would ruin the experience. 

So we got ourselves breakfast on the ship, and then headed out to meet our shuttle to LFK’s little port.  As soon as you disembark from the ship, their drivers will be there waiting for your arrival outside the ship terminal. To get to their drivers from the Mahogany Bay’s Terminal,  walk outside and you see the taxi’s on your left. (If you have difficulty walking any Taxi will bring you to the outside of the gate for $2 per person – check with LFK to make sure this is still accurate), if not then please take a left and follow the main road up the hill for few minutes, until you get to the MAIN GATE OF THE PORT (this is important!).  Once you pass the   guard, keep walking down and look for the drivers on the right side. To get to your driver from the Coxen Hole Port of Roatan Terminal, When you get off the ship, exit to gate 1 for pick-up. You’ll find their representatives, who will supply you with the transportation to their private resort. Their drivers will always be wearing Frenchy’s 44 shirts with the LFK logo.

What’s up with the #44?  Click here to find out!

While we were waiting for our shuttle you will definitely see a more “real” view of Roatan ie poor.  However it was pretty clean and we didn’t feel we were in an unsafe area.  Once we got into our air conditioned shuttle van it was a 20ish minute drive to their port.  So LFK is a little island off an island and there’s a flatbed ferry to take you from one side to the other.  It’s very stable and is only about a 5 minute ride.  From there you get on the island, wait in line to pay for whatever package you decided on (we paid for the package that includes lunch, two drinks (could be alcoholic or if you are me and my mom you ask for two Diet Cokes) and for my husband and our girls we also got them a boat trip to go snorkeling, which they were crazy excited about.  LFK also includes paddleboards, kayaks and snorkel equipment (first come first serve) that my girls took advantage of before their snorkeling adventure.  My son was 5 ½ at the time and as he was too young for the snorkeling, he was more than happy to splash around in the absolute perfect water and playing in the sand.

My son’s happy place

First experience paddle-boarding!

The water!!  Oh my goodness, the water.  This was my kid’s first opportunity to experience just how warm the water is and they were like “where have you been my whole life???”  We live in the SF Bay Area and go to the beach quite often.  The water where we live, is cold.  Like I-will-stick-my-feet-in-if-I-have-to-but-it’s-really -freaking-cold and I’d be just as happy not to!  My kids will suck it up and get used to it because they love to be in the ocean but it’s NOTHING compared to the water in the Caribbean Sea.  So blue, so clean, so beautiful.  PRO-TIP:  If going with kids to LFK that aren’t strong swimmers, bring their puddle jumper!  There are spots where the water is deep enough that you need to swim, there’s fun activities like an “island jumper” that’s basically like having a bounce house in the middle of the water that’s a bouncy platform for the kids to climb on and then jump off and it would have been really nice to have his swimmy, but cie la vie.

I can fly!

My husband and our girls jumped off the ledge, me and our son…not so much

There’s a great spot to jump off a platform into the water and my son would have felt much more confident had we brought his swimmy.  It’s not like a water park where there are life vests all over the place, you need to bring your own.  Oh well, live and learn.  Still, we all loved the water and exploring the part of the island we were on, there’s benches over the water you can swim/walk to, swim up bars, over the water hammocks to lounge around on, even see-saws in the water.  Fun!

I tried to convince my kids to pose for Instagram but they were too busy swimming

That water – unbelivable

While my husband took the girls on their snorkeling adventure, my mom and I stayed back to relax on the chaise lounges – I mean supervise my son.  Our waiter was just amazing and took such great care of us.  Once my husband and our girls got back from snorkeling (which I was told was AMAZING!  We saw so many FISH!!  I was like a MERMAID!!!) everyone was hungry and we got our lunch, which was beyond delicious.  We got a combo plate with chicken, rice, fries and plantains.  If you are gluten free or vegetarian/vegan not to worry, just tell your awesome waiter and he or she will take care of you.  While you are visiting, of course there are souvenirs to buy.  I had a friend who had gone on a trip to Israel and brought me back a hamsa refrigerator magnet (I have a collection of hamsas) so I of course needed to find her just the perfect refrigerator magnet, which you can see here for yourself:

Tell me you wouldn’t want someone to bring you home this

 This is what your kids look like after a day at the beach

LFK has easy to spot signs that show the island time vs ship time and what time you MUST leave to get back in time for the ship.  We could have stayed longer than we did but we wanted to play it safe.  So after a day of enjoying paradise we knew we needed to pack it in and head back to the boat. 

We really can’t wait to go back.  (Although at the time of this writing we’ve been stuck at home because of Covid for 3 months so I’d be happy to go literally anywhere at this point, but I digress).  They have actual scuba diving, horseback riding, an animal sanctuary, swimming with the pigs and more.  I would highly recommend LFK if you want to enjoy a day of paradise with everything you could want for the day.  LFK is probably not the cheapest excursion you could do on Roatan but we felt it was great value for our money and we will definitely return for more time in paradise. 

What’s your favorite thing to do at the beach?  Swimming in the ocean?  Lounging on a chaise?  Kayaking?  Tell me in the comments below?  What would you see yourself doing at Little French Key?

Are you stressing out planning your honeymoon or just that perfect vacation?  Well you are in luck because my specialty is helping couples and families, just like you plan their ideal honeymoon or vacation of their dreams.   Click here for a FREE 30 minute consultation.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

3 Great Tips to Help You Navigate your Post-Covid Destination Wedding Plans  Without Causing Even More Stress and Worry

3 Great Tips to Help You Navigate your Post-Covid Destination Wedding Plans Without Causing Even More Stress and Worry

You’re newly engaged.  Congratulations!  What a crazy time to start planning a wedding, am I right??  Perhaps you’re even thinking,  we really want to have a destination wedding, how is this going to happen?  Perhaps you’ve set a wedding date or close to picking a date, and now you find yourself social distancing, staying home, and anxiously trying to make decisions about when, where, and how to start planning your wedding as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. To say these are uncertain times is the understatement of a lifetime. But… you have a lifetime ahead of you, and God willing, you get to spend it with your newly betrothed. That’s something to celebrate and think of what you’ll tell your grandkids someday!  And I firmly believe that when we’re all on the other side of this, there will be no more meaningful experience than a social celebration. So here’s my advice. Start planning! Here’s how… 

 

 

Tip #1: Pick a wedding date (or dates)

If you haven’t already, it’s time to determine when you’d like to be married. And then you need to select a few alternative dates. Now more than ever, flexibility is critical. Even if you’re planning an intimate celebration of less than 50 people, you may very well confront a shortage of available Saturdays in 2021. In many wedding markets, Saturday venue availability can be hard to come by in normal circumstances. That’s particularly true in coveted wedding destinations. That hardship may be amplified in 2021 because so many 2020 weddings have already had to postpone and reschedule into new 2021 dates. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself of the following:

  • The day of the week does not change the value, purpose, or meaning of your marriage, or of the way that you celebrate that marriage.  In fact, if you’re planning a destination wedding, depending on where you want to have it, might very well end up on a day that is most advantageous to your travel plans.  For example, you decided on a cruise and you’d love a beautiful beach wedding while you are at port.  Well if your ship is at that particular port on a Tuesday then your wedding will be on a Tuesday!
  • When we all emerge from our current reality, the world will be very different. Like you, your guests will also be craving meaningful social celebration. If they can make it happen, they will be there to celebrate you… on a Friday, a Sunday, or maybe even a Thursday.  The great thing about a Destination Wedding is that if everyone is there to celebrate your wedding, they are also there on vacation and that doesn’t mean confining yourself to a weekend in the slightest.  

Tip #2: Decide when you want to be married (as in married married, legally)

Do you want to be legally married this year?  That’s the first and most important question, and there is no right or wrong answer.  If the answer is yes, you want to be married, no matter what, there are several ways to approach this:  You can choose to forge ahead with your current wedding plans and prepare for how you might react if you are restricted to a smaller or different style event.  Or…You can decide to take a proactive approach and postpone your big party to next year. This is a good option if you find yourself obsessing over the news or constantly worrying “what if.”  This approach has been a popular choice among couples, as there are still a lot of unknowns – stress has no place in your engagement season!  With this option, you can still create an intimate wedding ceremony this year with a delayed reception in 2021, and something really amazing to look forward to!  Even if you are married in a small ceremony this year, you can still share a ceremonial exchange of your vows in front of your larger group of guests at your delayed reception in 2021.  And if you want permission to wear your dress twice, you have all our blessings!   If you’ve decided it’s safest (and less stressful) to postpone your original wedding plan (ceremony, party, and all) to a new date in 2021, an extra year of engagement may just mean extra joy on your wedding day!

Tip #3: Hire a Destination Wedding planner

This is the step that most mainstream wedding media articles will skip over. After all, it’s a luxury to hire a wedding planner, right? Yes it is. It’s also a luxury to hire a photographer, caterer, band, hair and makeup artist… and the list goes on. Have you ever heard the saying “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”? Well, it’s time to take that to heart.

Since quarantine measures were put in place, destination wedding planners have seen a steep rise in the number of couples reaching out, frantically seeking advice. Many couples have been forced to navigate uncharted territory of decision-making, contingency-planning, rescheduling, contract negotiations, cancellations, and extreme anxiety on their own. This is happening for couples of all budgets.

The bottom line is this: couples who have a full-service wedding planner have found themselves in a much better position. The rescheduling process has been smoother, more efficient, and grounded in expertise. Couples who do not have a planner have had to fend for themselves – or they’ve had to scramble to find someone to hire who can help them.

There are ample reasons to hire a destination wedding planner, but most people think the reasons to do so are just so that the wedding will be “organized”, “beautiful”, or “stress-free”. This is especially important when you are dealing with locations that are unfamiliar to you and you might not even see (or at most see once) before your big day.  In addition to your destination wedding planner being able to help you coordinate all the details for the actual ceremony and reception, she also can coordinate not only your travel needs, but also those of your guests so you are getting the most value for your (and their) budget.

We understand that a successful destination wedding or honeymoon, doesn’t just depend on a beautiful location, but also must have impeccable service, great restaurants, romantic suites and rooms, plus make your wedding and honeymoon a priority. That’s why every single destination wedding and honeymoon we design is perfectly matched to a resort and location that is based on your unique personality, dreams and vision as a couple. There are no cookie cutter experiences with us, and that is why we have a 100% success rate at giving our couples what they want.  Click here to request a free 30 minute consultation with me to discuss the destination wedding and honeymoon of your dreams without the stress and worry.  I can’t wait to hear from you!

XOXO,

Arielle

Top 10 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, secrets and tricks

Top 10 Perfect Day at CocoCay tips, secrets and tricks

Drone shot of Perfect Day at Cocoa Cay 

Royal Caribbean’s private island in The Bahamas, Perfect Day at CocoCay, has become one of it’s favorite port destinations in the Bahamas with all of the great activities and things to do since it’s complete $250 million overhaul in 2019.

Here are our top ten tips and tricks for visiting Perfect Day at CocoCay for when you are planning your own visit to Perfect Day at CocoCay!

1. There is lots to do that costs nothing extra

There is a lot of attention for the activities on Perfect Day at CocoCay that costs extra, but there is a lot of fun things to do that costs absolutely nothing extra.

First and foremost, you can walk around Perfect Day at CocoCay without paying extra.  Just like any port of call, you can walk off the ship and explore on your own.

Here is a list of things that is included with your cruise fare when you visit Perfect Day at CocoCay:

  • Splashaway Bay
  • Captain Jill’s Galleon
  • Skipper’s Grill
  • Chill Grill
  • Snack Shack
  • Oasis Lagoon pool (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • Chill Island (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • South Beach (Beach  chairs, umbrellas and towels)
  • Sports Courts
  • Fitness Classes
  • Freshwater showers
  • Tram service
  • Beach access wheelchairs

However, if you are going to spend some of your hard earned cash on some experiences while at Coco Cay…

2. Buy an admission to Thrill waterpark before the cruise to save money

If you want to go to Thrill Waterpark, make sure you pre-purchase it before your cruise, you will absolutely save money vs buying passes onboard the ship.

Royal Caribbean sells its waterpark passes via the Cruise Planner site and regularly puts the tickets on sale.  If you want to save money (who doesn’t?), buy your tickets before you board the ship.

3. Best times for shortest water slide lines

Thrill Waterpark is home to Perfect Day at CocoCay’s incredible water slides, and as you might imagine, a lot of cruisers are going to want to try them all.  While lines for the slides are usually quite manageable, here are the best times to try the slides to have a minimal wait:

  • Before 11am
  • After 3pm

4. Your drink package works at Perfect Day at Coco Cay

If you purchase a Royal Caribbean drink package for your cruise, you can use the drink package benefits while at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

This means if you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you can enjoy unlimited alcoholic beverages, along with bottled water, sodas and more. Likewise, the Refreshment Package and Soda Package benefits extend to Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Just like on the ship, souvenir cups or drinks served in pineapples/coconuts are not included with your drink package benefits.  If you have the Deluxe Beverage Package, you can get a discount on the souvenir cup.  Or you can ask for the drink in a regular cup to pay no additional charge.

 

5. Your Voom package works at Perfect Day at CocoCay

If you have a  Voom internet package,  you will have internet connectivity at Perfect Day at CocoCay.

WiFi coverage extends across the island, which means you can stay connected and share photos or videos with friends back home.  You can even post updates and pics in the comments below!  We’d love to see you photos!

6. Secret menu item at Snack Shack

Snack Shack serves up some great food, but they also have a menu item that is not listed on the printed menu. If you ask nicely, you can get a chicken parmigiana sandwich that is essentially a cross between the crispy chicken sandwich, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce.

7. Free tram service around the island

Keep an eye out for the complimentary trams that are found around Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Beginning when you walk down the pier, you will find tram service to take you down the pier to save some steps (you will have plenty at Thrill Waterpark).

Once on the island, there is complimentary tram service that can take you all corners of Perfect Day at Coco Cay.

8. If you want a quiet spot, go to Chill Island

If your idea of a fun day is quiet time getting away from it all, head to Chill Island.  Chill Island is accessible via the green pathway that is towards the left side when you walk onto Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Once at Chill Island, keep to the left side of the area for pristine ocean views that has no music or the sounds of people at the pool or water park.  Instead, you will find only the sound of the ocean waves.

 

9. DIY Ice cream sandwiches

You will find self-serve soft serve ice cream machines at Perfect Day, along with chocolate chip cookies…I bet you know where I am going with this.

Grab two cookies, dispense ice cream between the two and voila!  The perfect treat!

10. Keep an eye out for chickens, iguanas and birds

This is a fun tidbit, but Perfect Day at CocoCay is home to more than just beautiful views.  If you walk enough of the island, it is not uncommon to see wild chickens roaming the grounds, along with iguanas that sometimes get close to the dining areas to see if any scraps of food rolled away.

Seagulls can also be found flying around, so be sure to keep an eye on your food.

Regardless of the animal, please do not feed any of them.

 Need some help with wedding planning stress? Click HERE for my free video “The Top 5 Things You MUST Do When Planning a Destination Wedding.