Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sky Deck in Chicago, Illinois

In October, we took a long weekend trip to Chicago and going to the Skydeck was one of the top things on our list so we did it the very first night we are there. We got there on a Wednesday, so the line wasn't too long to get up to the top. You take an elevator to the top, but before you get to the Skydeck Ledge there will be a room with information to learn more about the statistics of the Willis Tower (hard to not remember it as the Sears Tower) and a scrolling screen of other sights and activities in Chicago. There will also be a screening room to watch a short movie, which we did not do so I honestly cant tell you anything about it, but it is included.

A few pictures with my kids in the waiting area and at the top.

Here are pictures of the family at the ledge. When you get to the ledge, there are 2 of them. One is for a professional photograph (you can choose to do this or not, we did). The other is the public ledge which you will wait in line longer for and have to ask someone else to take your picture. I am so wishing I had my selfie stick before this trip, because the picture of my husband and I on the ledge is all blurry and believe me when I tell you that this was the best one, some of the other ones it looks like we were moving, but it wasn't us moving, it was the person taking the pictures. Half a dozen pictures and that was the best one. Kind of disappointing, especially since I took there picture and know how to use a camera and make sure it's in focus and how to hold it steady.

The picture of my kids is one I took. You can see my son was slightly terrified and is probably not breathing at all while I take the picture. LOL!

I am definitely happy we went because the views are absolutely amazing. The kids have a cheaper price than the adults, so you save a little money there. I bought our adult tickets when I saw a deal pop up on Travelzoo that ended up saving a total of $9 on 2 tickets. Every little bit helps.

Here is my post from my Wordless Wednesday Post on Save Green Being Green, that includes the breathtaking views at night of the Skydeck.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Punta Leona / Playa Blanca

Punta Leona is the nearest white sand beach to Jaco, Costa Rica. It was actually recommended by our airbnb host, but it was something my husband had looked up as well. We really wanted to explore all kinds of beaches so the kids could see the varieties of sand that are so different in color and texture. Later in our trip, we did go to the beach at Manuel Antonio National Park that is also a white sand beach, but you have to pay to get in the the National Park to be able to access that one. But you should totally check it out because the sand there is even whiter and the water is crystal clear.

The only thing we had to pay for here was parking and I believe we paid $5. It's technically not "pay parking" as we think of in the U.S. You are paying the guys at the parking lot to "watch" your car. It's just another way they can make money from the tourists. We saw many locals walking to go there. There is a trick to accessing this on for more....

So, will see that you can pay at the hotel on this beach to have a day pass, but it's kind of expensive from what I have read. Well, expensive to access a beach that is technically a public beach. What I found is it is $20 a person for a day pass to the hotel. I am not sure what else that gets you besides access to the beach, but we weren't going to spend $80 for our family to spend a half day at a beach.

You can access this beach through another beach and doing a bit of walking. It's not a lot of walking, so don't let that scare you. You are technically parking at the other beach called Playa Mantas. It does look like a nice beach and they had a big inflatable obstacle course in the water you could pay to do, so you may even want to stay there. But if you want to know how to access Punta Leona at Playa Blanca, click on the link to access all the info on the website Two Weeks in Costa Rica.

And here is the post from last week of my Save Green Being Green Wordless Wednesday post regarding Punta Leona / Playa Blanca.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

My Costa Rican Vacation Shutterfly Book (PLUS FREE 8x8 Book Code)

A deal from Shutterfly just popped up today to get a free 8x8 photo book. I am just sharing this because I thought it was a great deal to get mine done. The code is good until March 22, 2016.
Now, the code gets you a free 8x8 photo book - hard cover. If you choose  a 8x8 hard cover it will discount $29.99, BUT!!!! You can choose a different size hard cover and it will also deduct that same amount. So, if you want a larger book you pay the difference. I upgraded to the 8x11 and I had to pay about $4 difference, but I think it's worth it to have bigger pictures when I am trying to fit so many on one page. It includes 20 pages, so if you have more than that it costs $1.10 a page (for the 8x11).

Also, you do have to pay for shipping which is $8.99. Plus, there are tons of ways they can "get you" to upgrade, so just be careful. It all does really add up, but this is when I make my books.

So, without further hesitation, here is My Costa Rican Vacation Photo Book:

Turn your favorite photos into a photo book at

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Crocodiles at the Tarcoles River

The bridge over the Tarcoles River in Costa Rica is a frightening and amazing sight to see. There are tours that will take you there as a stop, but it is just a bridge over a road and if you have a car you can go see it. There are also tours that take you in a boat right up to the crocodiles and the tour guide feeds a crocodile. High up on the bridge was as close as we wanted to get to these crocodiles.

We were told by a couple of tour guides (for other tours) that the only person who ever was attacked and eaten by the crocs was someone who decided to swim the river. Anyone could figure out that was not going to be a good idea. They said only the skull was found. Ugh.

So, in the zoomed out pictures you can see 6 or so crocodiles above water or near the surface. What is scary, is the longer you sit there and look at there you see more and more resurface for a moment and go back down. There are so many of them there!!!!

Plus, we saw this guy just hanging out as we parked our SUV near the bridge and got out.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016 Experience in Jaco, Costa Rica

Last week I mentioned that we rented a house in Jaco, Costa Rica. Well it was actually a side by side duplex. In Costa Rica you can find American chain hotels or big resorts, but there are many, many small local eco-hotels and bed and breakfasts. The first time we went to CR, we did a vacation package and stayed in a big resort. The second time we went to CR we split our time between a bed and breakfast, then a couple local eco-hotels, and our last night was in an American chain. This was the first time traveling there with kids and it is so much easier to travel with kids if we have more space to spread out and if we can cook some meals there and that is what makes a great option for us, because we can find alternative lodging that is not just rooms without breaking the bank.

The above pictures were taken of my family at the house we rented. It was a 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath vacation home with a fully equipped kitchen and a living room, and a pool that was shared by the 8 homes in the gated complex with off street parking right next to the house inside the locked gates.

This was our second experience with and we stayed an entire week. Our first experience was this past summer when we went to Vancouver, Canada and rented a condo for 3 nights. My next experience is coming up next month when I go on a Girls Weekend with some friend and we have rented a cottage for 2 nights.

So far, both of my experiences have been good. Both of the hosts have communicated very well with me. One thing I have learned though is to read very thoroughly on each of the descriptions, look at the maps, ask any questions of things that are important to you and don't let anything go unasked. Read reviews from other people left on the places, you learn a lot that the host might not have mentioned. You would not believe how many places I have looked at between those 3 reservations, plus 2 other reservations I am considering making this summer.

I have not stayed at any place that does not have reviews and frankly, I like reviews. It gives me peace of mind, so you won't catch me gravitating to those places. I tend to not even read about them. I will let others be the guinea pig.

Now, if you want to try out and click on any of the links in this post, you can get $20 off your first stay and I will get a $20 credit as well for referring you. This is not some blogger deal, you will have this same opportunity after you stay your first time. One of my sisters did it when it was twenty-five dollars off and I had a credit in the same amount which was used on this trip to CR. It's not huge, but frankly every dollar helps and that was pizza out one night.

All of the pictures of the fruit, floral and fauna taken above were in the complex we stayed in Jaco, Costa Rica. There were bananas, mangoes, and papayas growing right there for us to see and touch. The kids were amazed and learned so much about the plants just by seeing there right in our front yard. Sometimes a place you stay might have an unexpected perk like that.

In Vancouver, the place we stayed at had secure underground parking which was awesome because we had no idea how scarce parking is there.

Also, if you ask, your hosts often have great ideas of places to go while you are staying there and can give you tips that only the locals know.

When we rented a place in Vancouver, cost was a huge determining factor because hotel costs were quite high in Vancouver and we were able to rent an entire condo for the same price as a dbl queen hotel room. The same is true for the place we rented in Costa Rica. We had a whole house for the same (actually probably less) as we would have at a resort with a dbl queen room. And now the place we are renting for our girls weekend does cost a little less than what we have paid for a dbl room in the past, but now we each get our own bed, plus we have common areas we can hang out in and we don't have to worry about if someone is early to bed or early to rise.

I do hope my good experiences with continue. I hope you will check them out to and get $20 off your stay!!!