iFLEW at iFLY San Antonio!

Louis and I have been together for 11 years. Yes, over a decade! We’ve done pretty much every date night in the book, so we’re always looking for fun, different activities to try. Enter, iFLY. They reached out to me, and asked if we’d like to come in for some complimentary flights, and we JUMPED at the chance…get it? ūüėČ

In case you’re unfamiliar with iFLY, they are an indoor skydiving facility. Yes, you read that right. They provide flyers with the thrill of skydiving, without the risk of jumping out of a plane! Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

In fact, anyone from ages 3 to 103 can skydive, according to iFLY! (Sorry, if you live to 104, you’re out. ūüėČ I kid, I kid. ) It’s as easy as filling out a waiver, checking to insure you fit within the other parameters, selecting your flight package, and you’re in! They’ll even let you wear bright red lipstick, so you can unintentionally match your flight suit! I know, it just keeps getting better.

The iFLY team greeted us immediately upon arrival, got us quickly checked in, and minutes later, we were getting our flight training from our amazing trainer, Dave. The training was quick, but thorough, easy to comprehend and remember, and entertaining (thanks to our great trainer!). Next, we got to suit up! Your flight equipment includes a jump suit, ear plugs, goggles, and a helmet. (Make sure you wear lace-up shoes, as well! No flats, flip flops, or bare feet in the tunnel, please!)

Then, BAM, we were flying!! I mean, we had to go into the tunnel, wait our turn, yadda, yadda, yadda, but our flights came up even quicker than I was expecting! Louis went first and looked like a pro! At 6’4″, I was worried the tunnel would be too small for him, but he fit perfectly and did such a great job!

I’m definitely a daredevil, but something about the tunnel had me scared at first. Thankfully, about 5 children flew right before me, so they put my fear in its place. Thinking, “If they can do it, surely I can!” I stepped/fell/leapt into the tunnel, and I was flying!

Okay, full disclosure, our instructor was helping/holding me every second of the way, but still! I did it! And it was so fun! The time FLEW by, and before we knew it, our flights were over, and I was staggering around jelly-legged from the adrenaline rush.

We checked out the kiosks for our flight pictures and videos, got our super official flight certificates, and grinned from ear-to-ear! I love that they take high quality photos and video of your flight, so you don’t have to worry about trying to snap a blurry, grainy phone shot!

Tips from a self-proclaimed pro:

  • If you have long hair, BRAID IT, SLICK IT BACK, SHAVE YOUR HEAD (kidding.). I braided mine, but the few tendrils of hair that slipped out got twisted up like dreadlocks in the tunnel! Thankfully, they were easily brushed out, with¬†minimal-to-no hair loss ;), but I can’t imagine if I had left it down!
  • Wear lace-up shoes! Not flats, flip flops, or slip ons…lace-up shoes only! I wore my trusty Mickey & Minnie Mouse sneakers, and they worked great. Thankfully, there are tennis shoes on site if needed, but I’m sure you’ll fly more comfortably in your own shoes!
  • Don’t be scared! Try and relax in the tunnel. If you hate the feeling you get in your stomach when you go down a rollercoaster drop, don’t worry! You won’t experience that sensation at all in the tunnel.
  • Trust your trainer. They will be within an arm’s length from you (or in my case, constantly holding your flight suit) the entire time you’re flying, and they do everything they can to make your flight experience safe, fun, and amazing!

iFLY San Antonio was such a cool, unique, fun, original, thrilling experience! If you’re looking for a new¬†date night, an awesome birthday party, a great team-building event, or just want to try an exciting experience yourself, definitely check out iFLY…you won’t be disappointed!

 

 I received complimentary flight packages from iFLY San Antonio in exchange for this review, but, as always, all opinions are my own!

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Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas!

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CHRISTMAS IS NINE¬†DAYS AWAY. Yes, you read that right. It’s rapidly rushing towards us with no signs of slowing down, and I have about 33.7% of my shopping done and NOTHING gift wrapped. Yes, I know the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but I also love the spirit of giving surrounding the holiday.

If you’re like me, and Christmas snuck up on you this year, I’m here to save the day. Below are 20 gift ideas on Amazon that should suit many of the people in your life. I grouped them into categories to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Thank goodness for Prime 2-day shipping, am I right? Happy Shopping!

For Someone Who Needs to Relax…

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1. Bath & Body Works 3-Wick Candle, Eucalyptus Spearmint

2. Toms Women’s Slipper Loafers

3. Dr. Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt Soaking Solution

4. Spa & Resort Terry Velour Bathrobe

 

For the Fashionista…

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5. Burberry Scarf

6. Zicac Women’s Fur Collar Batwing Cape

7. Sam EdelmanWomen’s Petty Ankle Boot

8. Fossil Jacqueline Stainless Steel Watch

 

For the Wannabe Chef…

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9. Adjustable Bib Apron

10. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

11. KitchenAid 6-Qt. Professional 600 Series Mixer

12. Cook it in Cast Iron

 

For the Beauty Lover…

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13. Tarte Limited Edition Tarteist Toolbox Brush Set

14. Urban Decay Naked 3 Palette

15. Pink Chevron Cosmetic Bag

16. The Original Beauty Blender

 

For the Jetsetter…

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17. Eccolo Faux Leather Passport Case

18. Jessica Simpson Jewel Plaid Hardside Spinner Suitcase

19. Beats Studio Wireless Over-Ear Headphone

20. Eccolo World Traveler Style Journal 

 

There you have it! 20 gift ideas at a variety of price points that will hopefully cover some of your shopping list! Regardless, remember it’s the thought that counts! Merry early Christmas!

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Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon 1

With all of the craziness occurring in politics currently, I’m reminded of our trip to Mount Vernon last February. It was both of our first times visiting, and we had a wonderful time.

When you first arrive, you enter the Ford Orientation Building and can take a picture with the Washingtons and their grandchildren. It’s a wonderful greeting to Mount Vernon and made us excited to start exploring.Mount Vernon 7

Once outside the building, we ventured along the pathways until we saw this beautiful sight across The Bowling Green. It was so exciting to see such a familiar building and know we would be stepping inside soon.

Mount Vernon 6

Mount Vernon 2

We journeyed around the East side of the mansion, where we found the Blacksmith shop. They have live demonstrations from modern-day blacksmiths who shared and showed how the shop was used during the time President Washington lived there.

Mount Vernon 3

We had a wonderful time exploring the grounds as well. George Washington is said to have taken great pride in the grounds and gardens of his home, and it shows. There was beautiful landscaping, paths and trails throughout the woods, and evidence of what I’m sure is a beautiful garden during the spring. We visited in late February, which I’m sure doesn’t show the landscaping at its peak, and we were still very impressed.¬†Mount Vernon 9

One of my favorite parts of visiting Mount Vernon were the sweeping views of the Potomac River. The mansion was perfectly situated so that you could admire the natural beauty surrounding the property. Thankfully, the land situated across the Potomac has been preserved as parkland, so hopefully the views will survive for years to come. Mount Vernon 10

We spent the time before our scheduled tour simply enjoying the scenery and imagining what it must have been like to wake up with such beautiful views every morning. I would love to visit again on a sunny day or perhaps at sunset! I’m sure the views are stunning year-round.

Mount Vernon 4

Soon it was time for our guided tour, so we headed back to the west side of the mansion. Each tour is led by a friendly, knowledgeable tour guide, and I thoroughly enjoyed our journey through the home. It was amazing to picture our former President Washington penning a letter at his desk, or imagine the former first lady greeting visitors in the foyer. The mansion was well-preserved and beautifully restored, so it was easy to think what it must have been like for visitors staying in the famous home.

Mount Vernon 5¬†I simply expected to spend some time walking around and enjoying the scenery, but I wasn’t anticipating¬†the sense of patriotism and pride for our first President and country I felt at the end of our tour. Unfortunately, photographs were not allowed inside the mansion, but I can still remember so many of the beautiful details. You could really sense the pride George and Martha Washington felt in their home.

Mount Vernon 8

We had a mini photoshoot outside the mansion, that I will allow you to enjoy below. ūüôā It’s just such a scenic area, it was impossible to resist! ūüėČ

Mount Vernon 11 Mount Vernon 12 Mount Vernon 13 Mount Vernon 14 Mount Vernon 15 I snagged one of the clever George Washington for President buttons to wear around the property, too!
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Louis and I strolled over to the original vault and current tombs for the Washingtons for the last outdoor part of our visit. The original vault is pictured below, but Mr. Washington requested a larger tomb be built to house his remains along with those of his family after his death. The fact that he specifically requested to be buried at Mount Vernon should prove how much he loved his home. Mount Vernon 19

Once we walked past the tomb, we got caught in a bit of a rainstorm, so we hurried back to the museum to explore inside (where it was warm and dry!).Mount Vernon 20

We spent a couple of hours browsing the museum, and there was a lot to discover. It covered all of President Washington’s life, his time at Mount Vernon, and America’s history during his lifetime, as well as several personal artifacts of his and Martha’s. He was a pretty incredible and very interesting man.Mount Vernon 21

I happily wore my George Washington for President button the more I learned about him!Mount Vernon 22

Finally, our day came to a close, and we headed out. If you’re considering visiting Mount Vernon, I’d highly recommend it! It’s fun for all ages of people who love America. ūüôā There are also¬†more interactive activities, areas of the grounds to explore, and facts to learn. I’m sure the outdoor activities are big during the warmer months, too! I’m thankful such a wonderful piece of American history has been preserved so well.
Mount Vernon 23

What are your favorite patriotic spots on the East coast? I’d love to know for future trips!

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10 Ways to Save Money in New York City

10 ways to save money in NYC

Vacations are expensive…unless you’re one of those trip planning wizards who can get 17 credit cards¬†that magically provide you with First Class tickets across the world and free hotel stays for 2 months. If you’re one of those people, then get outta here. If you’re not, vacations are expensive. That fact is pretty inevitable. However, there are some things you can do to help bring the cost down. We lived on the East coast last summer and made countless trips into New York City. Here are some tips I picked up to keep our excursions to the Big Apple from breaking the bank!

9-11 Memorial

1. Use an app like TodayTix to get last minute tickets to Broadway shows.

We discovered TodayTix¬†early on in our trip, and I’m so glad we did! It allows you to purchase heavily discounted tickets for Broadway (and Off-Broadway) shows up to one week prior to the show date. You can choose the showtime and price bracket you’re comfortable paying. Once you pay, you will be greeted by a TodayTix team member the day of the show outside the theater with your tickets! It sounds sketchy, I know. However, we used TodayTix multiple times and never had an issue! If there’s an in-demand show that you don’t want to miss out on, definitely buy your tickets ahead of time. However, if you have some room in your schedule, definitely consider using TodayTix! You can also enter their lotteries for various shows to get even heavier discounted tickets. You can use my referral code to save $10, too! Simply enter ITHIP during checkout.

Broadway Playbill

2. Stay outside of NYC and take the train in.

We were living in Princeton, so we took the NJ Transit into town every time. If you’re going for a short trip, it may be more cost/time effective to simply stay in the city. However, if there are other parts of the East Coast you want to explore on your trip or you aren’t short on time, consider staying outside of NYC. Chances are, the hotel will be less expensive. We’ve gone on trips to Maryland where we drove to Secaucus, NJ and took the train to Penn Station from there for only about $10. It’s definitely something to consider to keep costs down!

Rockefeller

3. Make your “souvenirs” experiences.¬†

How many times are you really going to wear that I<3NY shirt or admire that NYC skyline snow globe? Chances are you’ll be happier if you spend that money on tickets to a Broadway show, seeing a special exhibit at a museum, or on a box of macarons from Ladur√©e. Even if this doesn’t technically save you money, at least it will be money better spent.


4. If you can’t resist a souvenir, plan what you want or what you’ll spend ahead of time.

Every trip we go on, I purchase an ornament for my souvenir. I love filling our tree with our memories of our travels every Christmas, and it takes the stress out of what to buy when we’re on vacation. If you plan what you want to purchase or at least your souvenir budget ahead of time, you’ll be much less likely to go crazy at that random kiosk in Times Square.

Broadway Lion King

5. Souvenirs get cheaper the FURTHER you get from Times Square.

That yellow NYC Taxi shirt you have to have? Chances are it’s about half the cost at a souvenir shop a few blocks further away from Times Square. Times Square is a major tourist trap, so basically everything in the vicinity is overpriced. If you have the time, explore the area further from Times Square. Actually, plan to explore areas away from Times Square. They’re much more relaxing, beautiful, and empty than Times Square, guaranteed!

Central Park Foundtain

6. WALK.

Walk around! Don’t take a taxi, or a bus tour, or a pedicab. WALK! You can see much more of the city that way! Plus, New York City is so easy to get around by walking. You can stop and admire things that interest you, and you may stumble across a hidden gem on your journey. Would you rather pass by the New York Public Library quickly from a double decker bus, or walk up to it and explore the inside on your own time? If you’re in a rush or can’t handle too much walking, try an Uber. If you’ve never used Uber, use my referral code to sign up, and get your first ride free! My referral code is: alil599ue.

brownstone

7. AVOID CityPass & Tour Buses. 

CityPass MAY be a good deal, if you complete EVERY attraction included in the ticket. However, their pricing “includes” full price tickets for places that are actually “pay what you wish.” Therefore, they may not be the exceptional value that they seem. And tour buses are a waste. As I mentioned above, the city is so walkable, and riding on a bus means you can’t see things up close or stop when you want to explore an area more. Yes, many of them are “hop on and off,” but we often saw long lines of people¬†form that were waiting¬†for the next available bus. Why sacrifice valuable time when you could simply walk to your next destination and enjoy the city along the way?

Metropolitan Statues

8. “Pay what you wish” at certain museums.¬†

Most notably, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, are both pay what you wish. That means, technically, that you could pay 1 cent for your ticket. While both have suggested donation ticket prices, you are not held to these prices at all! It’s as easy as walking up and saying, “Two tickets for $10, please.” Simply decide how much you feel comfortable paying for your ticket, and offer that amount. While certain exhibits have an additional fee, the majority of these museums are included with a base ticket. Many other museums in NYC offer pay what you wish or free visitation days as well. Do your research if there are any you’re hoping to visit!

Metropolitan

9. Use the subway!

Yes, I know this contradicts what I said about walking everywhere. While NYC is much more walkable than other cities, it’s also VERY big. For example, it would take roughly two hours to walk from the Met¬†to the Brooklyn Bridge. Sometimes the subway isn’t the easiest or quickest option, but you should definitely consider it. It may seem a little intimidating at first, but there are plenty of helpful people around if you have a question. It can cut down on your travel time, plus it’s a memorable experience! Beware of altered/delayed schedules as well!

Central Park

10. Visit free attractions.

So many noteworthy spots in New York are totally free to enjoy! A few that come to mind right away are Central Park, the New York Public Library, the High Line, the Staten Island Ferry, and more! A quick Google search will offer up list upon list of free things to see and do in New York City! Peruse those and make a list of fun and free things to do on your visit! Leisurely strolling through Central Park was one of our favorite activities in the city, and it never got old.

Natural history whale

Like I said, vacations are inevitably expensive. However, hopefully these tips will help you save some cash or at least feel better about the money you do spend! Most importantly, have fun and make memories in one of the most exciting cities in the world! Feel free to browse my #TraveLANG hashtag on Instagram to see more travel tips & ideas!

New York Public Library

Any questions about specifics of¬†one the tips I mentioned? Comment below, and I’ll do my best to help out!

Times Square

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TraveLANG: New York City in February

Have you ever had a day so perfect that even before it was over, you knew you’d remember it forever? I had one of those days on February 20th. I had been in Maryland for the week because Louis was there on business. On a whim, we decided to spend Saturday in New York City. And it was SUCH a great decision. We lived on the east coast last summer (oops, I should probably blog about that…) and visited New York City almost every weekend, so we figured it would be fun to visit in the winter.

We woke up at 6:00 in the morning, got in our rented Nissan Versa and enjoyed the most gorgeous sunset on our drive. We arrived at the NJ Transit Secaucus train station a few hours later and caught the next train into the city.

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The weather was perfect. It was just cool enough for our heavy jackets and just overcast enough to take great pictures. I warned Louis on the way to the city that I was going to be taking a LOT of pictures all day…trust me, I pared them down quite a bit for this post. ūüôā¬†2

Our first stop was The New York Public Library to see the beautiful architecture.3

It was beautiful on the inside…almost like a museum in itself! We wandered the hallways, popped in all the unrestricted rooms, and tried not to annoy the many people studying inside. (Probably unsuccessfully.)45

I loved how grand and ornate everything was! We both agreed the library looked like how we imagine the American version of Hogwarts may look…or at least the American Ministry of Magic. (Yes, I know there is a whole new chunk of information about the wizarding world in North America that we’ll learn even more about soon…Praise the Lord!)67

As you can see, we pretty much had the place to ourselves, which made the structure even more impressive and easy to admire.8

This was the “globe room”, which suddenly made me realize I desperately “need” a globe somewhere in our apartment. ¬†9

I distinctly remember saying we needed to take pictures of the rows of books below, “So we’ll remember we were in a library!” …As if we’d forget?¬†10

With Kindles, iPads, and tablets, I feel like hardbound books are starting to become a thing of the past. However, so many rooms we walked through in the library seemed like they were frozen in time 30 years ago, which I kind of loved. I couldn’t pass up taking a picture of the sign on the microfilm reader¬†below reading: “Please Be Careful Not To Bang Your Head Against The Overhang When Getting Up From This Microfilm Reader. Thank You.” Louis and I wondered how many times this happened before they decided a sign was a necessity. ūüôā11

More things of the past? These payphones! (So archaic in fact that I just had to Google “public phones” to remember what they were called…) We stopped and made a few calls (psych.) before exploring more.12

Louis loved these lions made of Legos created to resemble Patience and Fortitude, the stone lions guarding the library.13

After we had our fill of the library, we wandered over to¬†Rockefeller Center. Since we were last there in the summer, we were eager to see the ice rink for the first time! We’ll have to go back during the holidays sometime to see the famous Christmas tree! (Made famous by Home Alone 2 in my mind, of course.)14

After watching the ice skaters for awhile (and sadly seeing no one wipeout), we walked over to admire St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It really is quite beautiful.¬†15

Our journey continued over to The Plaza Hotel…again, famous for being in Home Alone 2.¬†16

We admired the general splendor from the outside, and I lost track of how many times I said, “Guests of The New Celebrity Ding-Dang-Dong stay at the world-renowned Plaza Hotel, New York’s most exciting hotel experience!” Please tell me someone knows what I’m talking about. (I’ll give you a clue…HOME ALONE 2)17

Once inside, we tried to act like we were staying there, but I think our touristy outfits and my insistence that we take selfies in every mirror may have given us away.18

We climbed the marble staircase and found a beautiful ballroom that I’m 99% sure we weren’t supposed to go in to, but life is short, and I was happy to admire it.19

We decided to balance out the glamour of The Plaza Hotel with a DELISH lunch at Shake Shack. I stayed in line to order our food, while Louis awkwardly stalked eating people in an attempt to snag us a table. His stalking paid off, and we got to enjoy our burgers and fries at a table with a window view. Anyone who has tried to get a seat at the Shake Shack by Times Square at noon, knows what an achievement this was! 20

With our tummies full, we strolled over to Times Square. I just feel like you can see in the picture below how HAPPY we were. It was such a wonderful day so far and not even halfway over!21

We snapped between 2 and 200 selfies from every possible angle, because…why not?22

There was also a cool art exhibit (?) of these giant gold shards, so we snapped another picture together there.23

After I had my fill of Times Square pictures, we walked over to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. We couldn’t come into NYC and not see a Broadway show, so we snagged tickets for the matinee of Finding Neverland.¬†24

We joined the already forming line outside the theater, next to the van below, which Louis remarked looked, “like a unicorn…no! A uniCONE.” Is it any wonder I never get tired of hanging out with him? Hilarious. He insisted I take a picture, so we could remember it forever.¬†25

Even though we purchased tickets relatively last minute, we managed to get fabulous 5th row seats in the mezzanine, which were awesome¬†considering how tiny the theater was. The show was amazing! We both loved it. It was funny, emotional, and heart-warming. Plus, we got the extra special treat of seeing Kelsey Grammar during a limited time engagement as¬†Charles Frohman/Captain James Hook!!! Yes, Kelsey Grammar, as made famous by Home Alone 2….er…I mean, Frasier! He was so talented and hilarious! A true highlight of the show.26

The show ended around the time the sun started setting, so we decided to stroll through Central Park to enjoy the sunset on our way to our last stop in NYC.272829

There were people out walking their dogs, jogging, and relaxing. It was a totally different vibe than when we were there this summer. It felt more laid back, and I was happy there weren’t as many tourists crowding the walkways or people bothering us to buy their self-produced CD or take an overpriced carriage ride.¬†30

We walked over to Bethesda Fountain and Terrace (ALSO SEEN IN HOME ALONE 2, SORRY NOT SORRY) to snap a few more selfies. For people who aren’t as avid Home Alone 2 fans as we are, this spot was also seen¬†in Gossip Girl, Elf, and Enchanted. ūüôā It’s a great, easy-to-access photo opp!¬†31

Once we’d had our fill of Central Park, we quickly walked to, possibly, our most important destination of the day…Ladur√©e. We became addicted to their vanilla macarons this summer, and we couldn’t wait to have more! I don’t care if this sounds snobby, but you haven’t had macarons until you’ve had Ladur√©e. Seriously, no other macaron I’ve ever eaten even compares. We spent an embarrassing amount of money there, and we had no regrets. We ate them immediately as a snack, for dessert later that night, and as breakfast the next morning. Worth. Every. Calorie. ¬†32

We caught an Uber from Ladurée on the Upper East Side back to the train station to head back to Secaucus. Instead of driving straight back to Maryland though, we decided to make a pitstop in Princeton. We lived there last summer, so we wanted to head back to our old stomping grounds to enjoy some spots we used to visit all the time.33

First we went to Conte’s to enjoy some delicious pizza. This place is the epitome of a college town pizza spot. Drinks served by the pitcher, the only decor is beer and sports posters, and college games are on every television. Most importantly, they have great pizza!¬†34

We couldn’t eat, TOO much pizza though because we definitely had to go to The Bent Spoon. To give you an idea of how amazing this ice cream parlor is, there was a line out the door when we got there…at 10:00 PM…when it was 30 degrees outside…in the middle of winter! If that doesn’t prove how delicious their ice cream is, I don’t know what will.35

They make it fresh with local, organic,¬†seasonal ingredients every day, and it is indescribably delicious. Louis stuck with his traditional double scoop of vanilla bean, and I got a bit more adventurous with strawberry mascarpone. YES. STRAWBERRY MASCARPONE. It was seriously the best flavor I’ve ever had there…and possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.36

Once we finished every last lick of our ice cream cones, we hopped back in our rental car, and drove back to Maryland. We finally climbed back in bed around 1:00 in the morning, bellies full of east coast treats, minds full of fun memories, and totally content.

Shout out to Louis, my sweetheart of an adventure buddy who is always coming up with amazing things for us to do together and always being up for anything. I can’t wait to see where life takes us next!

If you made it this far, thank you for letting me recap our day in painful detail. It was just such a perfect day, and I want to remember every little piece of it forever.

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