Traveling is one of my greatest joys in life so when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, I refused to let my symptoms prevent me from doing what I love. Flying can be a big source of anxiety for those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. There are many factors that can play into the feeling, but one of the most common ones is the concern about not being near a bathroom. Flying is also a necessity in some situations - work travel, family visits, etc. Your travel schedule and GI symptoms unfortunately don’t coordinate to make sure you have a comfortable experience. That being said, anything to reduce the anxiety around flying when experiencing GI symptoms is a welcome suggestion. One of the most simple ways to combat a common concern is to make sure you are positioned near a bathroom on the flight.
On certain airlines, you can choose your seat ahead of time. This means locking in that prime aisle seat right next to the facilities. No stepping over other passengers mid bathroom emergency and you are close by so you won’t have to fumble down the aisle as you’re trying to make it to the facilities. This is great for airlines that offer this preselection option.This isn’t always the case, though. I most frequently fly Southwest which has open seating (i.e. no preselected seats). This has caused me a lot of anxiety over the years - panicking when I didn’t get an early boarding group, having to ask passengers to switch seats with me and awkwardly explaining why, and trying to do anything I could to avoid having to use the bathroom on flights (which was not very effective).
A few years ago, I saw some fellow IBD patients share a travel tip and it instantly changed traveling for me. Southwest offers disability preboarding and Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a disability. When I first found this out, I was in the stage of denying IBD was a disability that impacted functions of my life, but now looking back I wish I would have accepted this sooner so that I could utilize the resources that are there for IBD patients. That is why they are there, to help us!
I check in like I normally would for my Southwest flight and once I get to the gate, I speak with the gate attendant. I explain that I require disability boarding due to my Crohn’s Disease and need to be seated next to a bathroom. I always have my doctor’s note on hand to show if it is needed. The gate attendant updates my boarding pass to list preboarding status and I am good to go.
Disability preboarding includes passengers with all types of disabilities. This means you will often be boarding with wheelchair users and other passengers with mobility challenges. I understand that for them it is more necessary that they have the seats closer to the front of the plane, while for me I have the option of sitting near the rear bathrooms. That being said, I make sure not to take the front seats if they are needed by others. When I board the plane, I confirm with a flight attendant that there are functioning bathrooms at the back of the plane and head on back to secure my seat.
This small tweak to my travel routine has made a significant impact on my anxiety level while traveling. The knowledge that I will be able to have easy access to a bathroom while in the air is a huge comfort. I recently realized how many fellow IBD patients don’t know that this is an option. I didn’t for the longest time, until I saw a patient advocate share the information ( I wish I remembered specifically who because I would definitely shout them out!). I know how much that information helped me so I want to help spread the word that Southwest does offer this option to support passengers with visible AND invisible disabilities.
As I mentioned before, I went through a period where I was in denial that IBD was a disability. For a while when I started to actually utilize these types of programs, I would feel embarrassed. I thought people were looking at me strangely because they couldn’t see that I was sick. I went out of my way to awkwardly over justify why I needed certain accommodations. It has taken me years to work through and I still struggle with it, but I have gotten a lot more comfortable. Just because my condition isn’t visible doesn’t make me any less deserving of the programs that are in place to assist people like me. I am not saying to utilize every offered accommodation “just because,” but if it is something that will impact your condition, symptoms, or quality of life, you should feel empowered to use these resources that are there for you.
As an IBD patient did you know that this was an option for you? How would an accommodation like this impact your travel experience with IBD?
Family Trip: Williamsburg, VA
At the beginning of summer we planned a last minute getaway to Williamsburg, VA. We chose the destination for a few reasons.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Historic Powhatan Resort, which was perfect for what we needed. We had a two bedroom condo with a full kitchen. This was ideal for so many reasons. Maddox was still drinking bottles all day so the kitchen made it easy for us to store and clean them. We were also able to keep our own food/drinks/snacks handy. The second bedroom was a game changer since we could have Maddox set up to sleep separate from the main living space and our room. At that point he was going down for bed around 7pm, and we were not going to turn in for the night at that point. Every night we waited to have dinner until he went to bed and ordered something to be delivered. I picked up a mini charcuterie plate and wine downtown so we could have our own happy hour in the room while we waited on our dinner to arrive. We could then freely watch movies and hang out without having to worry about waking up the baby!
The grounds of the resort are beautiful and were great for walking Maddox around. We also had a full deck which overlooked a pond. It was perfect for blowing bubbles and showing Maddox all of the ducks swimming by.
Start Here: Merchants Square
The center of the downtown area, this is where you can find some of the best restaurants and local shops along with seasonal events like the farmer’s market. This is where we started all of our days. We strolled around in the morning to grab coffee and sometimes breakfast. I recommend Aromas, which was our favorite. They have to go orders and seating available indoors and outdoors so you have options depending on what your schedule allows. Whether you stop to grab a bite to eat or pop into a shop, the area is beautiful and very stroller friendly so I would recommend this as a must.
The Cheese Shop: Gourmet food and every type of cheese and meat you could imagine. You can make your own charcuterie board using their assortment of delicacies or buy a spread pre made. This is where I grabbed some appetizers for our in hotel happy hours with Maddox. There is also a wine shop in the basement that has a good selection and very decent prices.
The Farmers Market: Saturday mornings starting at 8am in Merchants Square. It was rainy when we went, but we still had a great time perusing through the stands of local merchants. Some of our favorite finds were a quality gluten free pasta, fresh pressed juice, and fresh tzatsiki dip.
Where to Eat:
Berret’s Seafood - Daily rotating specials of fresh, seafood centered meals. Outdoor seating is first come first serve, so we went a little after the lunch rush and has no issues grabbing a table. Their seasonal cocktails were delicious as well!
Blue Talon Bistro - This place is a must for breakfast with mouth watering sweet and savory options. We had to wait a bit for outdoor seating here, but you can put your name in and shop around while you wait.
Amber Ox Public House - Out of everywhere we tried, this was my favorite! The whole vibe of the place was relaxed, but also very cool. There was ample outdoor seating and we were able to get a table to a weekend brunch. The menu has unique snacks and features a lot of “boards”. I am a huge fan of that concept! They also have full entrees as well if you are looking to get your own meal. All of the food we got was very fresh and tasty so I certainly am planning to head back during our next trip to try their dinner menu. The cocktails were also very fun and they also have some handcrafted mocktails if you want to skip the booze!
What to Do:
Visit Sweethaven Lavender Farm
This was my favorite stop of our entire trip! The charming farm is home to lavender fields along with other flower gardens. They also have a barn with a gift shop and area to try some lavender flavored treats. We picked lavender (Maddox sort of helped but mainly ate dirt) and then tried some lavender lemonade and a lavender snow cone. We spent a couple hours just hanging around the grounds. It is a beautiful place to walk around or sit and relax in one of their cute seating areas. There is plenty of space for kids to run around and the whole family to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.
If it Rains:
I had to add this in here because we, of course, found ourselves with less than favorable weather for a portion of our getaway. Taking precautions for Covid, we were hesitant to head to any indoor activities with Maddox. We ended up at the outlets, which actually worked out pretty nicely. One of us ran into stores and shopped while the other walked Maddox around under the covered areas. He got to be outside and see new things while we got to score some deals on new clothes (mostly for him, of course).
On our next visit definitely want to make sure to get to some of the historic sites. We wanted to wait until Maddox is a little older before we get into some of the more historic attractions.
Overall I would rate this a very successful first family getaway. We didn’t worry much about sightseeing since we are planning to visit the historic sites when Maddox gets older. We tried to take on the town in as leisurely of a way as possible and this was a great place to do just that. We also spent a decent amount of time just playing around with Maddox at the resort, which is another reason I am so happy we opted for a family friendly spot with more room for us all.
Let me know if you end up visiting Williamsburg, VA and check out any of my favorite spots! Feel free to share your top restaurant or activity so I can add it to my list for our next visit!
Written while wishing I was back on a beach in Hawaii.........
I just got back from the most relaxing trip I think I have ever taken. It was also the most needed vacation! Matt and I met my mom on Oahu and we spent a little over a week getting a big dose of R&R at Disney's Resort, Aulani. That is a whole amazing experience to share, but in this post I want to talk about what is lingering over our heads these days when we talk about travel. Coronavirus.
We had planned this vacation far before the threat of coronavirus crossed our minds, but of course as the outbreak and fear heightened, it was very much on our radar to consider when traveling. Especially being immunosuppressed, these are things that I have to worry about. Flying during flu season already peaks my anxiety and requires extra precautions, but a potential worldwide pandemic... yikes. We have to keep in mind that my travel decisions were made a month ago now and the virus/spread has evolved since then. I had to make decisions based on the facts I had and the advice from my doctors. My gastro gave me the green light to continue with my travel plans, since the flu still seemed to be much more of a threat. I was to still move forward with my regular precautions and things should be fine. Matt and I weighed our options and made the decision that we were still going to go.
Since I've been back, I've chatted with quite a few people who have upcoming travel plans and are in the same exact debate we were in just a month ago. Should they go or not? I am in no way a medical professional so all I have are my opinions. The kind of scary thing though is that is lot of the advice that is being given out by medical professionals, opinions. We are finally getting some hard facts or the spread and fatality of coronavirus, but without the depth of studies we have on other viruses, advice stems from opinions. That being said, you have to make the decision for yourself on whether or not you will travel. For me, we weighed a lot of things before deciding. Once we made the decision that we were going, I did everything in my power to research proper sanitation and prevention protocols so we could feel confident we were doing what we could to avoid the virus. If you are traveling in the near future and are looking for some tips, that is what this post is here for. I've done posts before about staying healthy while traveling (vitamins, hydration, etc.) but I have never highly focused on disease prevention, until today. You have probably read similar things on the CDC website, but I'm sharing the specifics on how I navigated the situation in hopefully a lot more interesting and easy to digest way.
WHAT TO PACK
Don't fail to be prepared here! It is better to have some extra items instead of being the one begging fellow passengers for a Clorox wipe. For this trip here are things I brought......
Large pack of Clorox wipes- I went for the large pack because I could use these to wipe down our hotel rooms too. Make sure to store the package in a plastic bag to avoid any leaks in your carry on or purse.
Multiple hand sanitizers - I opted for one easy access bottle on my husbands backpack and a spray sanitizer for my purse. Having the easy access one is perfect for busy locations (like the airport). The spray is super user friendly and very kid friendly since you are less likely to get a ton of extra product on their hands. They also barely have to even rub it in.
Face masks - I know there are mixed findings about whether these are effective in preventing the spread of coronavirus, but I always opt for a mask while flying during fly season. To me, being immunosuppressed, it is worth the extra precaution. These can be difficult or expensive to get your hands on now, but you can try asking your doctor's office if they have one or two they can give you for your trip. This may not work, but it is worth a shot. Luckily we always have a supply of these in our home (who would have ever thought Crohn's would lead me to possess one of the world's hot commodities?!).
Socks- I know I am usually talking about how I need my aloe infused spa socks for long flights. Well, those are still preferred but being completely serious here, you need just any pair of socks, on your feet, at all times. I will explain as we go through things.
Pillow + Blanket- BYOB. Bring your own blanket. You do not want to be asking for the pillows and blankets they give out on flights. As sanitary as you may feel they are, I am not trusting it. You know you are going to have that thing next to your face for the duration of your flight while you try to snooze, so do yourself a favor and bring your own. I found this travel pillow/blanket on Amazon for around $20. It worked out great, and now I can wash it upon returning home and use for my future trips.
GOING THROUGH SECURITY
Okay, so you're in the airport, checked in, hopefully you sanitized after using the touchscreen kiosks, and now you are entering security. I made the mistake of not taking my jumbo pack of wipes out of my bag before going through TSA. They are totally cool if you bring them, just make it easier and separate them for your other belonging before sending them through the x-ray machine. Also, PLEASE WEAR SOCKS. You are walking on a floor that so many toes have been on. Give yourself a barrier and at least wear some socks while you take your shoes off to go through security. Once you pick up your belongings make sure to sanitize your hands. At this point I also wiped down my cell phone. Those things are nasty.
Once you get on the plane and get to your seat, the real fun begins. Whip out those Clorox wipes and get to cleaning. Airlines do the best they can to clean up in between flights, but let's be real, they are not sanitizing every seat. That's your job! Make sure to wipe down the seat, the tray table, the seat belt, the seat belt buckle, armrests, your air vent, and if you are sitting next to the window, the window and the wall. I know this potentially sounds excessive, especially the window/wall part, but listen up... how many times have you caught yourself on a flight with your head against the wall while in the window seat taking a quick nap. Your face is very close to that window and that wall, okay? From what I've read, the best seat for optimal air circulation (hopefully less germs) is the window seat. This in flight positioning also gives you the least contact to other passengers which will help prevent picking up germs. So grab that seat and get to sanitizing. Also, make sure to put your mask on.
WHILE IN FLIGHT
Relax, take a nap, watch a movie. Just remember to try and keep your hands off of your face, sanitize before eating, and sanitize after coming back from the bathroom even though you've already washed your hands. Also, do not go barefoot frolicking through the plane. This is a personal issue I have with unsocked feet on planes, but it also a medical concern. Socks are a barrier between your feet and all of the germs swirling around on the airplane floor, so wear them! I still always put on shoes if I am getting up to walk to the bathroom though. Utilize your self provided pillow and blanket instead of the airline issued ones. Also, make sure to keep your mask on as much as possible (aka whenever you are not eating or drinking).
As I said before, I am by no means a medical professional, these are just the precautions I took during my most recent travels. There is really no full proof way to prevent you being exposed to coronavirus, but we have to do what we can. Even if we weren't on the verge of a worldwide pandemic, these tips would still be relevant for preventing the spread of disease in general. Now more people are just tuned in!
Immunosupressed or not, I am interested in hearing your take on the coronavirus and its impact to travel. Are you worried? Do you think the news has over hyped things? What, if any, extra precautions are you taking?
Time to talk about one of my favorite things! Disney dining! After sharing what I was eating throughout or last trip, I received a few requests to share more about the gluten free options at Disney World. I shared a roundup of my favorite gluten free options from the Food & Wine Festival on my story highlight, here. I also shared some of our favorite hidden gem destinations, some of which a food related, here. I wanted to put together a guide that is specifically around gluten free food options that you can get no matter when you are visiting the parks. All of these places I have eaten at an received awesome service and equally as great food.
If you’ve been to Disney World before and have a good allergy, you know the lengths they go to in order to make sure your food is prepared correctly. If you haven’t been, here is a quick rundown on their precautions.
Disney always goes above and beyond to provide top notch customer service, and their allergy friendly dining is no different. I hope you like my round up based on my great gluten free dining experiences! Of course, there are other places I love as well, these just happen to be the ones that created truly magnificent experiences for me.
Jungle Skipper Canteen - Magic Kingdom
Jungle Skipper Canteen is one of the best places to go if you’re looking for gluten free options that are so good, they’re actually served on the main menu. There are plenty of dishes that are gluten friendly, but I do have two favorites that I highly recommend. For a starter, the cheesy bread is a must. It’s technical a special they have so you won’t necessarily see if on the menu but definitely ask for it. This bread is naturally gluten free and served with a parmesan and chimichurri spread that I could eat by the spoon. For an entree, I 100% recommend the fried chicken, aka the “‘Tastes Like Chicken’ because it is!”. It is coated in a gluten free tempura batter, so you get all the crunch without the gluten.
Kona Cafe -Polynesian Resort
I love the food at Kona Cafe and it’s a staple for Matt and me on our Disney trips. They have great gluten free sushi and entree options, but the reason this made this list is because of their gluten free bread. The first time I had it I spit it out and asked our server if it was actually gluten free because it tasted so good I swore it wasn’t. Well, it was, and now I can’t get enough. They serve these warm, really fluffy rolls that have a bit of sweetness to them, think like Hawaiian rolls but gluten free. I’ve been trying to find a comparable kind at home with no such success, so it looks like they will stay my Disney treat.
Boma- Animal Kingdom Lodge
Boma is an African food buffet located in the Animal King Lodge. Not only is the environment incredibly cool and the food is delicious and plentiful, but there are also a ton of gluten free options. I’ve been for both breakfast and dinner, both of which were great experiences. Since it’s a buffet, they provide gluten free guests with a pamphlet complete with charts that note specific allergens in each item. This makes it really easy to navigate the food choices and the options are really extensive. For breakfast, they brought me gluten free donuts and waffles and at dinner they brought gluten free bread and gluten free desserts for me to enjoy!
Tony's Town Square- Animal Kingdom
You can read about my love for Tony’s Town Square, here, and, spoiler alert, a lot of it has to do with the gluten free options. It’s not everyday you can get a good gluten free pasta, but here you can. They have some good entree options, my personal favorite being the shrimp scampi. I also love that they provide separately packaged gluten free rolls to dip in the olive oil and herbs at the table. It’s so nice to be able to participate in this Italian restaurant ritual and I sometimes even take one of the prepackaged rolls for a snack later.
50's Prime Time Cafe - Hollywood Studios
The 50s Prime Time Cafe is a destination for the experience itself, but also a stellar option for gluten free folks looking for some classic comfort food. The gluten free pot pie is a personal favorite and reminds me of family dinners as a kid. The fact that they could make a classic home style dish gluten free and still taste so good seriously surprised me. Matt was making jokes about wanted the extra gluten I couldn’t eat on his meal. Well, in typical in character cast member action they brought out his Caesar salad with croutons overflowing over the side of his bowl. I couldn’t stop laughing at his ‘extra gluten’ special.
Be Our Guest - Magic Kingdom
I’ve been here for breakfast and lunch, neither disappointed! It can be challenging to get a recommendation at this popular spot in Magic Kingdom so I suggest booking early. If you don’t score that reservation though, don’t freak, checking a few days before or even the day of for cancelations can be your ticket in! The gluten free appeal at Be Our Guest is their ability to make almost any sandwich (for breakfast or lunch) gluten free with bread that still tastes great. The portions for the regular sandwiches are pretty big and they keep it consistent with the gluten free options. You actually get two sandwiches which is crazy! Not going to lie, I usually bring a plastic bag and take one to go. For breakfast they also provide gluten free breakfast breads to enjoy.
Nomad Lounge - Animal Kingdom
You can read my whole obsession with Nomad Lounge here, but for now I’ll kept it focused on the gluten free options. They are so accommodating and can make almost everything on their menu gluten free. The menu is already a limited (but delicious) one so this is definitely a good thing. My favorites for a savory snack are the chicken satay skewers and the ribs. Both pack a ton of flavor into a little dish and are the perfect size to share with your park buddy. The real showstopper here are the churros. They’re gluten free and taste like heaven in your mouth. They are a perfect consistency and not dense at all like most gluten free desserts. They also come with dipping sauces to sample which, no pun intended, are the icing on the cake.
Let me know if you try any of these recommendations and why you end up getting!
Hidden Gems of Disney World
If you've been following my adventures on Instagram, you know that we just got home from one of our most frequented vacation destinations, Disney World! I can say that Matt and I a Disney World frequenters. We aren't as consistent visitors as the rest of my family are, but it has made its way onto one of our favorite places. This past trip I shared a lot of details on what we were doing/where we were going on my Instagram stories. While I shared our adventures, I got a lot of questions about the places that we were going that are a bit off the beaten path. I find that usually when I talk to people about going to Disney World they think in terms of rides and attractions only. We are lucky enough to have visited enough times to have the time to appreciate the other little hidden gems that you may not notice on your first or even tenth trip, unless someone points them out to you! I am super excited to share these finds with you. We've had great experiences at these places, which is why they are on our must visit list time and time again. Each of these gems exemplify the detail and magic of Disney in a way that I appreciate so much and hope you will as well! Let's count these down....
Number 5: Dockside Margaritas
First off, I find so many people skip out on Disney Springs during their Disney vacation. In my opinion this is a huge mistake because Disney Springs is full of culinary and shopping experiences that really deliver. I can give a rundown on all of my favorites in another post, but one of my favorite spots to hang out here is Dockside Margaritas. It is located right on the water while also still in the action so you get the best of both worlds. This is one of our go to locations to grab a drink and people watch before dinner reservations. The margarita selection is delicious - their seasonal options are so fun as well - and you really can't beat the view. For couples, like I said, this is a great pre dinner date spot, and for parents this is a great spot to have one parent relax and enjoy a cocktail while the other takes the kids to explore one of the nearby toy stores. Fun fact: this is where Matt and I grabbed bright blue margaritas right before we got engaged.
Number 4: Tony's Town Square - specifically before fireworks
I ride or die for Tony's Town Square in Magic Kingdom. I feel like this place always get forgotten about or hated on by Disney blogs and podcasts and I strongly disagree! Matt and I make it a tradition to eat here during every one of our visits. It is an Italian restaurant right off of Main Street with serious Lady & The Tramp vibes. The food, specifically the gluten free options, are delicious, and they serve decently priced wine by the bottle. If you can get seated out in the sun room portion of the dining room, you can people watch while you enjoy your meal. Personally, those are my favorite seats in the house. If you schedule your meal perfectly, you can be exiting right on cue for the nightly fireworks show over the castle. Since this restaurant is right off of Main Street, once you walk out you are just steps from a perfect viewing location for fireworks, but right near the park exit so you don't have to fight the crowds when the show ends. I highly recommend making a reservation since this place can fill up, especially at opportune times (like right before fireworks). On the other hand, if you aren't picky about timing, this is often one of the restaurants that you can find random openings for a day or two in advance (sometimes even same day!). This is pretty rare for a lot of Disney dining. I chalk it up to park visitors totally underestimating the greatness of this place.
Number Three: Trader Sam's Grog Grotto and Tiki Bar
This is an actual hidden gem inside of the Polynesian resort. They are located behind an unassuming inside of a hallway near the outdoor bar. With a quick knock, you are invited inside of a dimly lit, and usually packed room. What this bar lacks in size, it makes up for in atmosphere and entertainment. The decor is so incredibly detailed, you feel as though you truly stepped into a real, but crazy tiki bar. The decor is something you have to experience for yourself, so I won't ruin the surprise. What I will say is the tiki gods have an impact on the atmosphere, shining light on certain aspects, creating abrupt weather changes, and triggering volcano eruptions. When it comes to drinks, they have some killer tropical cocktails that you can also get in non-alcoholic form, which is a nice touch! They also have a variety of appetizer you can munch on as well, so if you aren't in the mood for a drink there are plenty of other reasons to come check it out. Make sure to keep an eye on other patrons as they order the signature cocktails, the tiki gods can really shake things up depending on what they ask for. Overall, we love this place because just being there is such a good time. We love looking at the detailed decor and interacting with the spirited and rowdy staff.
A few tips to make sure you have the best experience possible : Trader Sam's opens at 4pm most days so make sure to be there right there on the dot to get your name on the waiting list. The space and seating are limited so it can fill up quickly. Due to the limited space, a lot of the seating areas are communal which lends itself to great conversation and meeting other guests around you.
Number Two: Animal Kingdom Lodge
I could do a whole post just about why I love Animal Kingdom Lodge so much. To give you the summary, basically the attention and execution on detailed elements will set this resort apart from anywhere else you have ever stayed. I haven't had the pleasure of staying on property at the Animal Kingdom Lodge yet, but that doesn't stop me from enjoying its various restaurants, bars, and hang out spots. The back of the main lobby opens up onto a savanna, full of native African animals, many of which have been rescued and rehabilitated. You can stroll the grounds while enjoying your morning coffee and viewing, you know, giraffes. On a nice day, one my favorite things to do is grab a book, find an open rocking chair on one of the public decks, and relax. The environment is so incredibly magical and peaceful. I actually have to set an alarm because I will get lost in my book and the beauty of the surroundings. This is also a great pre dinner ritual if you have reservations at one of the restaurants on site, which are stellar dining options as well.
Number One: Nomad Lounge in Animal Kingdom
I could hang out here ALL DAY. Truly all day, I would if I could. I only just recently discovered this lounge, thanks to my family who has made this a regular hangout for them. It's easy to miss as you are walking through Animal Kingdom, but once you discover it, you won't ever want to relax anywhere else. This low key bar is designed all around celebrating the love of traveling. The indoor space is cozy, and features decor with travel quotes and conversation starters beautifully sprawled across the ceiling. The outdoor area has luxurious sofas to lounge on, a view of the lush green landscape, and to complete the luxe effect, draped curtains on the open air windows. The vibe here is so relaxed and the servers/bartenders are incredibly pleasant to interact with. The drink menu is pretty extensive in my opinion, ranging from regionally themed cocktails, to a nice selection of beers and wines. Non-alcoholic cocktails are also offered here, if you are looking to try the concoctions without the booze. If drinks aren't on your wish list, you are still in the right place because, beyond the atmosphere, the food is equally as amazing. Almost all of their small plates can be prepared gluten free and they even have gluten free churros which I wish I could eat everyday for the rest of my life. Seriously.
These are just a few of our favorite gems in Disney, but I know there are a ton more to explore and discover. That is part of the fun of going to Disney again and again, stumbling upon new magical experiences that you didn't even know you needed. We always love new suggestions on where to go so please share your favorites below! Also, make sure to let me know if you end up visiting any of our favorite hidden gems! I'd love to hear about your experiences! Magical travels.
We touched down back in Baltimore today from our week look vacation. As much as I didn’t want to come back to real life, I am happy to be reunited with my pups and sleep in my own bed. The day we get back from trips is always full of trying to get us set back up for the rest of the week. Unpacking, laundry, grocery shopping, trying to make the transition back to the daily grind as easy as possible. My to do list isn’t just full of chores though. I also make sure to take some time to reset my body after being on a different schedule (and potentially being jet lagged). I also prepare for my week and get organized so the 'back to real life' anxiety is kept to a minimum.
Rehydrating is priority numero uno. Usually while I’m unpacking I put on a hydrating face mask to combat any dryness from being on the plane. This past trip I tried this new face mask from Summer Friday’s call Jet Lag, so fitting right? I've also been liking the Drunk Elephant Lippe Balm to help any dry or sunburnt lips.
I also make sure to rehydrate my insides too. This is probably the most important part of my reset routine. If I don't rehydrated properly after traveling I feel pretty miserable and that on top of a post vacation slump is not fun. I usually carry DripDrop ORS on the plane with me so I drink one packet on the flight and another once I get home. On top of the usual dehydration from flying/ traveling I pretty much always have some type of Crohn’s symptoms when I’m away and out of my normal eating routine. This always requires a little extra dehydration relief to make sure I’m feeling good once I’m back to business. I notice, too, that the more dehydrated I am the more my skin will freak out from climate changes between destinations. I think of dehydration relief as the ultimate way to reset my body and make sure I am fueled and balanced to get back to the grind. DripDrop ORS also helps to pack in some extra vitamins that can help prevent getting sick from the nasty germs you can pick up on the plane. Win, win situation overall.
Whether I traveled through different time zones, jet lagged or not, I like to keep my nighttime routine consistent and calming. I make a cup of mint tea with some CBD oil to help me sleep and enjoy this while reading. I always feel the anxiety build in me as the clock creeps closer to having to go back to work. I try and limit this anxiety by trying to stay as relaxed from my trip as possible as long as I can. By getting a good night sleep, I’m more physically and emotionally equipped to handle playing catch up at work when I am back in the office.
The last thing I do, is block out an hour of the day to read critical emails and map out the rest of my week. It’s easy to wait until the morning you return back to the office to catch up, but to me that feels dreadful and chaotic. By feeling prepared and organized for the week of ‘real life’ ahead, my anxiety is lessened and I know what to expect. I make sure to plan my meals and time to move (walk, at home workout, gym) so I can get back into my routine as quickly as possible.
Right now I’m snuggled up on our sofa with our pups, catching up on our shows, and feeling as ready as I can be for the week ahead. What do you do to get back into your routine after a trip?
Our next vacation is just a little over a month away and I am ready to go. I mean, I’m always ready for vacation, but this is our last Disney World trip for a little while. I know I always say this, but for real it actually is going to be. We have another fun, very Disney related trip that we’re planning in the winter so really we have to chill on the trips to WDW for at least a little bit. The other day someone commented that we literally always have a vacation/trip planned. Yeah, we do. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Honestly, for me planning the trip is almost as fun as going. I love researching where to go, hunting for deals, and looking forward to the plans. Disney World is probably the vacation spot where it is the most crucial to plan ahead. I think this might kind of be why I love it so much. There is so much involved in the planning it’s an activity in and of itself. The way I think about it, if you’re going to spend money on a vacation, why not enjoy the anticipation and planning of it.
I’ve done Disney World enough times to appreciate the planning that goes into it and respect the hell out of people who do that as a job. (Shout our to my sister). Luckily she helps me with all of the tough stuff (reservations, fast passes, etc.). I do always make a 30 days out plan no matter what trip I’m going on to make sure I’m ready when takeoff comes and my stress is as minimal as can be. One thing I’ve realized about traveling with Crohn’s is minimizing the stress in the front end of the trip can be critical in preventing a flare.
For those who aren’t anxiety ridden Type A’s like myself, you may think I’m crazy for planning so far out, but I promise you, there are a few things that if you do early will save you so much stress come travel time.
My first piece of advice is to make your packing list. I know this seems far out but I swear there is a reason. By making your list early, you can identify items you are missing/ need to order. You can cue up your Amazon Prime list to fill in the gaps on your list. I like to plan outfits ahead of time so I can look for deals on additional pieces I need. I also like to start ordering cosmetic items from Amazon because I can usually get a good deal for them and I’m not scrambling at the last minute to pick things up.
Extra Tip: A little bonus tip here... I get SO many samples of beauty/makeup/skincare products. Between subscription boxes, free samples, and gifted items I have a big collection. I keep all of my extra sample and travel sized products in a special bin in my bathroom closet. This way, I can grab items to pack quickly if I need to. This is also great for guests that are staying at your house! Real friends enforce each other’s skincare routines, okay?
Check for upgrades. I LOVE this one. For our honeymoon, our cruise line sent out and email to bid on upgrades. This was the first time I saw this, but ever since I’ve been ON IT. If a cruise ship or resort hasn’t reached capacity by 60 to 30 days out, sometimes they will let you bid to upgrade your accommodations. This usually means blindly putting forth an amount of money, designated by you and usually A LOT less than market value, to score a nicer room. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always worth a shot. Sometimes vacation packages will offer add ons as it gets closer to your travel date that you can purchase for a discount. This includes things like drink packages!
Make sure dinner reservations are made and activity plans are solidified. This is a big one if you are traveling to a destination hoping to hit a hot spot for dining or drinks. When we went out to LA I knew SUR and Pump were on my ‘must see’ list, so I made sure to lock down reservations as soon as they were available. You can always switch things around as it gets closer, but it’s better to at least have something on the books. This is so key in Disney Parks where you can get highly coveted dining reservations six months in advance. Now this requires a TON of foresight so soon I’m looping my Disney planner sister in on a post to give you the whole scoop on that. Definitely it is something to be aware of though. When it comes to activity plans/ tours it is also important to research and plan in advance. Especially if there is something you really want to do or see, book it early so you don’t miss out.
These next 30 days as we gear up for our trip I’ll be knocking out these items on my ‘to do’ list. I’ve gotten a bit of a head start and have a huge Amazon clothes haul on the way, along with my outfit for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I’ll continue to update y’all on my finds and my preparation process!
Packing for a Long Weekend at the Beach: What You Seriously Shouldn't Forget But Might... So Read This
With Fourth of July weekend right around the corner, I have been getting ready for our upcoming beach trip. Matt and I are headed to Ocean City, MD with a few friends to enjoy the Fourth on the beach. Every year we always try to do at least one beach vacation and most years we end up in North Carolina or Florida. I honestly can't remember the last time I went to Ocean City in the summer, which is crazy because it is only a little over two hours away from Baltimore!
I'm working in the office right up until we leave this week so I spent the weekend pulling together items from my packing list so I'll be ready to hit the road as soon as work lets out for the holiday. My packing lists are NO JOKE. They are very detailed and live in an organized little notebook AND the notepad on my phone just in case one gets lost. Usually I'm flying to my destination so my packing essentials have to be paired down a bit. When it comes to beach trips, the more things you can bring with you the better. As I made my packing list I highlighted a few items that are crucial to bring but may slip your mind. I know this from experience......
The first thing is a BEACH UMBRELLA. Beach umbrellas are so key for protecting your skin from the sun and allowing you to enjoy being outside for as long as possible. I feel as though people are always so excited to get out and basque in the sun that they forget after 20 minutes it can get seriously hot. And amp up your risk for sunburn. I am a big fun of napping under an umbrella with a nice ocean breeze coming my way. If you are trying to read at the beach this is also key because you can have more control of the sun situation and not be squinting all day. Note cute and bad for the face wrinkles.
What about if it rains... BOARD GAMES, duh. I am always a fan of bringing board games on vacation. When you have a group of people together its nice to interact instead of sitting on your phones or watching a movie. Games are a really fun option to keep the group engaged without being glued to technology. I mean, you're on vacation, come on. Some of our personal favorites are Code Names, Scategories, and Life.
Staying hydrated is also critical for making sure your time at the beach stays fun and relaxing. I always recommend bringing your own INSULATED CUPS to fill up for a long day at the beach. They are way better than traditional plastic water bottles for keeping your water ice cold all day. Depending on where you are staying, they may not have these kinds of travel cups provided for you, so to be safe I always bring my own. This is my tried and true from Amazon that I am in love with.
When laying on the beach I am always trying to hydrate as much as possible. Sometimes this proves difficult when summer water aka rose is my ocean side beverage of choice. While I'm sipping my seasonal favorite, I pop some DripDrop ORS in my big water cup and sip away. It is so easy to get dehydrated when you are outside in the heat and enjoying some cocktails. I always pack pouches of DripDrop in our cooler or lunchbox, that's my little secret trick. It helps to rehydrate you very quickly so you can get back to enjoying your day at the beach and even prevents dehydration from occurring in the first place.
Next up are PAPER PRODUCTS. Just like with the insulated cup situation, you never know what you are walking into when staying at a hotel or beach rental. I always like to pack some paper products to keep cleanup easy and to prevent too much use of a host's nice dinnerware. Usually I will get a cute theme that goes with our trip and get coordinated napkins and straws as well. This adds some fun decor and prevents fights about who is doing the dishes on vacation. I DO get the recyclable options when I can so while this tip may be frowned upon, I have to speak the truth!
Then there is the potentially most needed and forgotten....ALOE LOTION. We've all come in from the beach just to realize we got a little more red than we had hoped. It is such a bad feeling when you get sunburnt on day one and are uncomfortable for the rest of the trip. I am vigilant when it comes to sunscreen but my husband, not so much. Even if you avoid the sun, packing some aloe products that you can share can save you from having to hear complaints the rest of the week. I definitely know this one from experience.....
Of course I've packed some other, totally extra items like I always do. Personalized wine tumblers, Fourth of July themed bathing suits, stars and stripes paper straws, just to name a few.... Target and Amazon are my go to's for low priced, cheeky items that add some themed fun to a trip.
Drop in the comments any links to Amazon products I can Prime in time for my trip on Wednesday! I'm always open to adding to my list, so give me some recommendations that you all love! Also, let me know, how are you spending your Fourth of July weekend, road tripping to the beach or grilling out at home?
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending my first ever Create & Cultivate conference. I’ve been wanting to go for a couple of years now and finally I was able to make it happen. Let me tell you, all of the hype I gave this event was totally warranted. The displays and installations were incredible enough to make the ticket well worth the cost. Live flowers, Insta worthy walls, and the most perfectly on brand decor was abundant. On top of the aesthetic, the content that was delivered was top notch and the room radiated serious girl boss energy.
I went with Amy (a la AmyScripts) and it was both of our first times attending Create & Cultivate. Since we were both rookies, we didn’t know what to expect at all. I mean we knew to expect as far as the content and flow of the day but as far as the dirty details and insider tips, we were pretty clueless. There were a few things that I wish a C&C veteran would have been able to share with us beforehand to help us prepare and make our day even better than it already was. I am volunteering myself, as the (now) experienced attendee, to share some insight onto what to expect and a few tips for making the most of your Create & Cultivate experience. Before I dig in, I will say, these are just my opinions based on my experience. Yours may be different if you attended in a different city or even if we attended the same conference! I want to hear your thoughts and tips! Please, please share! And, last, if you are looking for a recap of the event, you can watch my play by play via the Create & Cultivate story highlight on my Instagram.
Okay, here is the scoop…..
1. Dress for the day
This seems SUPER obvious but what I thought I should be wearing was not practical and definitely not sustainable for all day wear. I tried to dress cute but comfortable but also in something the represents me and my brand. My floor length kimono was cute in theory but was literally dragging through dirt by the end of the day. Plus, I was really cold. You certainly should pack a jacket and not make the rookie mistake I did. I didn’t understand that a lot of the event was going to be outside so I needed to be able to layer up or layer down based on the time of day and temperature.
I really tried for practicality by wearing heels but bringing flats. I wore my heels for a grand total of 30 minutes all day. And it was truly a pain to carry them around in my bag for the other 10+ hours. Next time, I am wearing comfortable flats and not bringing another option. There were tons of girls in the most adorable outfits with sky high heels, and if that works for them then go ahead babe, but for me I am not fun to hang out with when I am in pain.
Next time I’m opting for a more casual vibe; either jeans and a cute top or a jumpsuit paired with cute flats and a denim jacket of some sort. I’m telling you guys, I would have been SO much more comfortable if I would have followed this advice.
I've pulled together some items on my 'must have' list for next time.
2. Bring a big bag
*With extra room in it. The amount of swag and free stuff you get throughout the day is truly jaw dropping. I found myself wildly under-prepared to tote around my new goodies in my already stuffed (thanks unnecessary heels) bag. Next time I will probably go with a small bag to carry my essentials and a cute and large tote to store everything else. If you are traveling in from out of town to attend also keep this in mind. The gift bag alone is enough to set your luggage over the weight limit so make sure your re packing light and preparing to carry home your loot.
Here are a few of my suggestions:
3. The start time is a suggestion not a requirement
When it comes to schedules I love to abide. Having a solid plan and knowing where to be and when are two things that speak to my soul. That being said, it gave me MAJOR anxiety when Amy suggested we show up around 9am when the start time was 8am. Turns out, she was right. The world didn’t end, and this is a strategy I will follow next time. Create & Cultivate is a SERIOUSLY long day, so unless you can handle a 14-16 hour excursion, you need to get savvy with your scheduling. The morning schedule leaves a lot of down time for checking in and grabbing coffee/breakfast. We used this time to check out the pop ups and additional activities, which was great, but honestly, we could have fit that in later in the day. I also recommend prioritizing the panels you want to attend. If the morning panel isn’t hitting home with you as much as one of the keynote speakers at the end of the night, you may want to skip out in the morning so you can be engaged later in the day. By time we were exhausted, mid afternoon, we were seeing a whole new group of ladies roll in fresh faced and ready to go. They got the memo on how to do it!
This brings me to my last tip...
4. Prioritize and pace yourself
All of the pop ups, activities, speakers, and photo ops can be overwhelming. They jam pack the day with things to do so you are continuously engaged. I went into the day convinced that I needed to check every booth off my list and do absolutely everything. Have to get my money’s worth, right? That was another expectation that was wildly unrealistic. Going into the day, you have to prioritize what you definitely want to do/ what is worth waiting in line for, and make sure to plan accordingly. Getting to everything, while potentially possible, would be downright exhausting. Prioritizing and pacing yourself can ensure you have a fun day while still getting the most out the conference and not burning yourself out.
Create & Cultivate NYC was such a beneficial experience, like I really feel like I got a lot out of it. I came home inspired and ready to channel my inner boss babe. Now that I have the “insider tips” I can’t wait to see how great of an experience I have next time. To be honest, I considered booking a flight so that I could attend the Self Care Summit in Los Angeles in a couple of months, but somehow resisted. The next time C&C is on the East Coast, consider me in. Now, you have the tips to make the best of your Create & Cultivate experience, too.
So, tell me... have YOU been? What tips do you have that I should add to my list?
Saying a little proactive cheers to the weekend today. I’m counting down the days until this Friday when I’m going on a much needed long weekend girls trip to New York City. Amy Scripts and I are headed to Create & Cultivate. We’ve been dreaming of attending this conference for years and now that we finally have the opportunity, we’re making the most of it with a jam packed weekend in the city that never sleeps. As crazily excited as I am, anytime I look forward to an event, I enter the situation with an overwhelming amount of anxiety that honestly really sucks. There have been countless times that I’ve looked forward to events or trips, only to be hit with a Crohn’s flare or complication that has put a damper on my day. That’s the reality of IBD and while I can’t eliminate the possibility of feeling sick, I can make sure I am armed with the proper tricks up my sleeve to help me stay feeling as good as possible.
I scheduled my Remicade for today (a Tuesday ugh), but I needed to have it before the trip so I’d be feeling as good as possible. I stocked up on all of my prescription and OTC meds to throw in my extra large tote bag. And I’m making sure to throw ample amounts of DripDrop ORS packets in my purse. Everyone has their own way of navigating IBD and for me this is how I do it. I know certain things that will make me sick and avoid them. Then there are other things I have no idea will affect me until my digestive systems makes up its mind that day. When I’m traveling, I’m constantly eating at new places and trying new foods and cocktails. I’ve mentioned this before, but trying out a city’s unique cuisine and cocktails is one of my favorite things. IBD you’re not stopping me from that! I know the chances of me having a reaction to a food I eat out is higher than making something at home, but let’s be real, I’m going to NYC.... girl’s gotta enjoy herself. Where I’m really careful though (and where DripDrop saves me) is in the cocktail department. You know I’m a fan of a rosé or a cold glass of champagne, do not get me wrong, but the dehydration risk really does freak me out..... no matter how many times you see me post #roseallday.
Let me tell you, when you’re already dehydrated (thanks Crohn’s) and indulge in a few alcoholic beverages, things can take a bad turn. Most likely you’ll end up extremely hungover with GI symptoms to boot. Not fun when you’re trying to have a lively girls weekend, not fun when you are trying to make the most of your days exploring a city, and not fun when you are sharing a bathroom. SOS.
That being said, I am not saying see ya to my favorite NYC cocktail spots (While We Were Young and Pietro Nolita, I’m looking at you!). Life is about BALANCE. And enjoying the heck out of yourself when you get a well deserved break. After indulging in a couple beverages I make sure to drink a packet of DripDrop in my water before I go to bed AND when I wake up. This helps me to feel so much better when I get up in the morning and keeps my body from experiencing those negative impacts of dehydration. It’s like my secret weapon for not feeling like a total hungover human. My favorite packets to use in this case are the full serving sticks that you mix into 16oz of water.
This also makes me super popular on group trips because everyone is asking me for DripDrop. How popular now are those services who give you in home IVs to cure your hangover? I’ve basically got that in a little pouch. Dehydration is honestly one of the worst feelings and I’m incredibly happy that I won’t have to deal with that mess this weekend. I’m not saying this means you can go out and get college drunk and feel fine. I’m saying that you can enjoy celebrating with friends, trying cocktails at an event, and trying that bottle of wine you have no idea how to pronounce. You can live life without the constant anxiety of how dehydration will impact you. You can avoid that pit in your stomach that makes you feel like you are going to miss out. You can feel a little more like your 27 year old self who just wants to laugh with her friend at dinner and cheers to celebrating a well deserved weekend off.
Photos by Madison Short
Mental health advocate.
Sharing my raw and real journey through motherhood and navigating Crohn’s Disease. CrohnicallyBlonde is a place where I serve up my unfiltered commentary on chronic illness, mental health, pregnancy, and motherhood alongside lighter lifestyle content like beauty product reviews, travel tips, and book recommendations. My hope is that by authentically sharing my story I can help others going through similar situations not feel so alone and maybe even laugh along with me.
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