What is a Traveler?

Being a traveler is more than traveling.  It is a lifestyle.  It is the uncontrollable desire to explore, to leave no stone un-flipped, and to step outside yourself to see the world in a new way.  One can travel the world without ever truly experiencing it.  Never let fear stop you from doing something you want to. Take in whatever you can, try new things, connect the dots, and above all else do so with an open mind.  Accept that life is a mystery.  Search for the deeper meaning.  Try to understand.

There is no shame in being a backyard explorer.  There are times in life when one simply cannot get too far.  No matter where you are there are interesting things to learn and new things to try.  Be adventurous in life.  Do not accept the typical.  Be always moving forward.  See the beauty in the everyday. Remember what it was like to make a new discovery as a child.  Be always searching for that feeling.

Happy Travels

Tips For Traveling With Children

  1. Bring a bike lock for the stroller. They are not welcome in many restaurants and some shops. Best to be prepared.
  2. Check to make sure that restaurants are kid friendly before you visit. If there are no high chairs it is best to know up-front. Also kids and long lines do not mix. Make reservations for places you want to visit that have long wait times whenever possible.
  3. Do not over plan! You need a plan with kids but it must have additional time in it for the inevitable issues that come up when traveling with kids.
  4. Be flexible! (We once went to a restaurant for dinner only to find that they closed at 4pm! We had 2 hungry, cranky kids and we were 6 hours from home! We walked up the block to the first place that looked kid friendly. It turned into one of our favorite places.)
  5. Pack their “special” item. It is a common tip to bring a small child’s lovey or blanket but nobody ever mentions the importance of bringing something for older kids. Your tweens and teens need their favorite items to feel secure on the road. Don’t forget their Ipod or DS! You want them to be comfortable as well.
  6. Many hotels have crib rentals. It is often not only cheaper but more comforting for your child to bring a pack & play from home. I must stress this is only an option for car trips. Do not try to bring one in a plane!
  7. Pack a spare. Bring a spare of all basics when kids are involved. Spare outfit, shoes (we once lost a shoe while strolling around), socks, toothbrush (new in the pack for whoever loses theirs along the way), and a memory card for the parents! Nothing like a full memory card to make you mad!
  8. Do not let your kids eat drastically differently than they would at home. If you do not normally allow junk food and sweets than you must limit them when on vacation as well. Kids have sensitive little tummies (as do most adults!). When you change their diet to all fast food or way more sweets a day; you are asking for trouble! Nobody has a good time when part of the family does not feel well.
  9. Consider how active your family is. I have no problem with active trips! We are a very active family. That being said: If your family or even one member of your family is inactive or very out of shape then taking them on a highly active trip may indeed be too much for them. Think of the whole group when picking out what to do. Also consider a child’s abilities. Even children can go hiking as long as you pick an appropiate place to take them.
  10.  Learn about the history or culture of a place before visiting. This helps to turn the trip into a learning experience like no other. Make sure to see one historical or cultural point that goes with what you have learned.

Pompei – Chicago, IL

This little cafeteria style restaurant is simply amazing! It has been open and serving food since 1909! That kind of endurance speaks for itself. It was the driving force behind our visit. If it had been there for that long then they must be doing something right! It is now on my must visit list for Chicago trips. There is a long glass case full of sample plates and food. You pick out what looks good. They make you a plate that is hot and fresh from the kitchen. They do not have kids meals. Instead they offer half portions of all menu items. This is nice if your kids are not happy with the typical “kid fare.” Ivy is like this. She has been raised to try different things. She now has a varied palate and enjoys more “grown-up” food. Half portions are also nice for lunch or for light eaters. They are also nice to your budget!

I ordered a spinach and ricotta Pizzicottos. Michael got goat cheese ravioli. Ivy got a half order of chicken ravioli with tomato herb cream sauce. Bella got a half order of spaghetti and a meatball. Their meatballs are the size of a baseball! They have bottomless drinks but they do come with a $2 price tag. The low food prices more than make up for it!

Michael and I split his ravioli and my pizzicotto. They went wonderfully together! He joked that I managed to get him to eat a meal without meat and he was singing it’s praises. He is one of those people who thinks dinner is not dinner without meat. This was a huge moment for him. I am so easy-going and varied when it comes to food. I do not have “food rules.” Things like his “You cannot have dinner without meat” or my personal favorite “Pie is not breakfast food.” Yeah, I guess rules were meant to be broken or completely forgotten!

Ivy loved her food and the half portion was still large. Bella barely put a dent in her food. If I had it to do over I do not think I would have ordered her a meatball. The spaghetti was huge and very tasty. I suggest this place to anyone going to or living in the Chicago area. It was clean, family friendly, inexpensive, and delicious! It is the kind of place that you can let the kids take their time.

The Details:

Location: 212 E Ohio St, Downtown Chicago, IL

Phone: (312) 482-9900

Website (Menu): http://www.pompeipizza.com/menu/streeterville-menu/pizza/ 

Tongue Taco’s & Burritos as Big as Your Head – Indianapolis, IN

On a trip to Chicago we were trying to find a place to eat around Indianapolis. We were intrigued by a billboard promising burritos the size of your head. I could not eat a burrito the size of my head but the thought was interesting. I hoped I would see somebody order one. When we first came into the parking lot there was a building behind the restaurant with the name “Babes” on the side. I thought, “Now that’s an interesting name for a clothing store.” We went into the restaurant which had certainly seen better days but the smell was intoxicating and invited us in. After getting a whiff we were ordering food, even if we had to eat in the car.

Ivy and I ordered chicken tacos. They were more on our level in the size department. Ivy also got a plate full of cactus. Isabella got a cheese quesadilla. Michael was over the moon when he found out they had tongue tacos. They are hard to find in this area and he loved them growing up. We ordered a plate of rice to share. They have a condiment bar with hot sauces and spiced, pickled vegetables. They have fountain drinks but they also have traditional Mexican drinks at the front. My tacos were really good! I tried a bite of his because I had not eaten tongue before. It was not too bad but had an odd sweet taste. I wonder if that is just the way they cooked it. A man did indeed come in and order one of those burritos while we were eating. It was in fact as big as his head and a foot long. All I could think was “What a big freaking burrito! I hope he’s sharing with a couple people.”

It was great food at very reasonable prices! We ate our food and cleaned up our table. As we walked outside my husband started laughing. I asked what and he pointed to the building I had seen earlier. I said “Yeah, I know. It’s a weird name.” That just made him laugh harder. We got the kids in and situated. As we were buckling our own seat belts, he told Ivy to find a movie for Isabella and her to watch. There was no way out of the parking lot except to go behind the restaurant and past “Babes.” As we were driving out of the lot it finally hit me. We were driving through the lot of a strip club. That explained my husband’s laughing and the fact that he was trying to keep Ivy from looking out of the window. I guess this is a life lesson “When following billboards with children in the car into questionable neighborhoods you may stumble across strip clubs.” All I can say was that the food was well worth it and the laugh was just a bonus. Here’s to another crazy travel story!

The Details:

Location: 3820 Lafayette Rd Indianapolis, IN 46254

Cost: $25 for a family of four

Happy Travels!

Chicago’s Watertower Mall – American Girl & A Budget Breakfast

Traveling with a girl under twelve? You simply must visit the American Girl store. I got the pleasure of taking Ivy there. She used to read their magazines and be a bit of a fan. She had never been to the store though. They have a doll with the same name as her. She just wanted to see “Ivy” in the case and get a photo with her. They had a hula dancer at the back of the first floor. She did a show. Then she showed the kids some hula moves. We stayed to watch her for a few minutes but we were starving so we had to move on.

I had gotten a tip from an online friend that there was an amazing place to have breakfast in the same mall. I thought, “Breakfast…In the mall food court…weird!” But I figured it could not hurt to take a peek. It took us a minute to figure out the elevators. They are fast moving! The kids got a kick out of them. The place is on the Mezzanine level. Not all of the elevators will take you to this floor. We finally made it to the right one. As we walked into the food court we were struck by the line at one place. It was of course the place she had suggested. Their name is Foodlife but the sign above it simply read “Breakfast.” Ivy and I got into line. Michael and Isabella went to claim us a table.

Ordering here is confusing. The line is fast paced and cafeteria style. You grab a tray and move down the line. When they point to you it’s your turn. All I can say is decide in advance because you do not get long to order. Ivy is always very slow to choose. This was not for her. They were not going to wait. I ordered a little of everything and fast. At the last moment she yells, “Waffle.” The guy nodded and yells back, “4 Minutes.” I moved to the end and paid quickly. Only after I got back to the table did I realise that I only bought one drink! There are other restaurants and coffee shops on the floor. I was not going back through that line. So a word to the wise “Remember to order drinks!”

Our Order

1 Stuffed Croissant – $2.79

1 Side of Applewood Bacon – $2.49

1 Side of Scrambled Eggs – $2.29

1 Belgian Waffle – $3.99

1 Side of Pork Sausage – $2.49

1 Side of Chicken Sausage – $2.49

1 Regular Drink – $1.69

Tax – $2.06

Total = $20.29

We had two trays laden with food. Ivy went back up to the register to grab her waffle. I wish I would have taken a photo of that Belgian waffle! The food was all amazing! Their chicken sausage knocked my socks off! I could have ate a plate of nothing but it! The scrambled eggs were cooked to perfection. I cut the large stuffed croissant and waffle into four pieces. It was plenty of food for the four of us. Everyone left the table with a full belly and a smile.

Side Note: Do not forget to stop by the bathroom before leaving. It can be hard to locate a public restroom in downtown Chicago. The one on the mezzanine level was clean and not crowded. The kids and maybe even the adults will be amused by the double sided air dryers that you have to put your hands into.

The Details:

Cost: American Girl – Free to visit & Breakfast – $20.29

Location: North Michigan Avenue near East Pearson Street

Phone Number: 312-335-3663