Top 5 Family Photography Tips w. Elina’s Dream Photography!

Picture this. 

You and your people in your favorite place…all smiles, hugs and good vibes. 

Making memories that last you a lifetime. 

Taking photos with your family should be a fun and engaging time. 

If I’m being honest, I know it can be tough to rally the troops and get the look you were hoping for, but with these top 5 tips you’ll be sure to stay ahead of the game when it comes time to snapping those pics that leave lasting memories!

  1. Plan Ahead!
  • Discuss with your photographer when and where you want to shoot! 
  • Golden hour (sunset) makes for the best pics, so keep that in mind.
  • Remind your family of your expectations! Is it one location? 3? Map out your day so everyone is on the same page. Communication is key!
  • Don’t make any other plans for the day. Coming straight from a birthday party or event can make for some overtired kiddos!

2. Simplicity is key!

  • Don’t overcomplicate your outfits. Yes, you want to look fabulous, but let’s try to keep everyone comfortable too! Try to color coordinate…the less busy the better! 

3. Come prepared! 

  • Snacks, iPads, perhaps or a special treat? Give the kids something to look forward to, so they know once they’re done they get to reward themselves for cooperating! 

4. Learn to pivot!

  • Yes, it might rain, kids might break down, but be open to shifting your expectations of what the perfect shoot should look like and manage your ability to realize there might be some obstacles and it will be just fine!

5. Have fun! 

  • You will look back at these precious photos for years to come and be so glad you took the time to make your family feel so important!

The next time you decide to book a family session you should totally consider working with Elina’s Dream Photography. Elina has an artistic passion for photos and snapping just the right one! Her mission is to let the love shine through every photo she takes.  

We met via Instagram, had a brief phone conversation and I just knew we had to collaborate! From connecting as Wellington mamas by way of New York and a true love for doing all things creative, she was open, honest and totally flexible. 

Our session started on Palm Beach Island where we snapped some pics on a dreamy winding road (kids decided to pass out on us, so we let them sleep and enjoyed was was almost like an engagement shoot! Lol) and of course it started to rain! So we ducked for cover and took some amazing photos at Bethesda by the Sea, made our way to the iconic Palm Beach clock tower and finished off the shoot, by the famous “blue doors.”

Our photos came back so fast and each one was more beautiful than the next. 

Elina IS a dream and I would absolutely recommend her for your next family photo session. 

You can get connected with her and see her incredible work here.

*This is a sponsored post. All opinions and suggestions are that of Briana D’Andrea of momgirlblog

Briana D'Andrea & family pose in front of Kravis Center Christmas Tree!

New Year, New Shows at The Kravis Center

Since the holidays have come to a close, the curtains are up at the Kravis Center and the New Year calls for new shows, designed to both get you out of your seat and keep you mesmerized! 

The family and I got the unique chance to get all dressed up to see “Rudolph the Musical,” just before closing out 2021. We put on our Christmas best and headed to the performing arts center in downtown West Palm Beach, to see one of only two exclusive shows of season. With strict COVID protocols in place, (*see below), we felt safe and at ease while singing along to everyone’s favorite reindeer tune! Upon being greeted by a giant red tree, grabbing a few tasty snacks, we found our seats and were ready to ride on Santa’s sleigh! The costumes, the set design and even the original score were incredible! Shockingly, I think my husband has been bit by the showbiz bug, because he thoroughly enjoyed it as well! It took me back to my high school days, performing on stage and feeling the rush of the curtain call. It was such an incredible time had by all and we cannot wait to go back soon!

New Year means new shows at The Kravis Center and we loved Rudolph the Musical!
New Year means new shows at The Kravis Center and we loved “Rudolph the Musical!”

Today marks the 2022 season at The Kravis Center, as they welcome their latest show “SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical,” known as the girl from Boston with a voice from heaven in what is said to be a ‘moving tribute to the voice of a generation,’ with tickets starting at $33. 

This weekend The Eisenhower Dance Troop invites patrons to experience an evening of exhilarating dance in a show called “F-E-E-L,” for $40 and a free drink. Cheers!

Then later this month Ledisi sings “Nina,” which is considered a beautifully orchestrated mixture of classical, jazz and rhythm & blues in honor of the great Nina Simone and if you can’t catch that show, then hopefully you can grab a ticket for Pink Martini and China Forbes, which will feature dozens of musicians singing songs in 25 languages. Both shows are offered at a starting price point of $29. 

The month will close out with an “Ultimate Tribute to Tina Turner” in “PROUD Tina!” From a live band to vocalists and dancers, the show is guaranteed to be an electrifying showcase of The Queen of Rock and Roll’s greatest hits throughout the decades! From her smash hit ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?,’ to ‘Proud Mary,’ the show will certainly have you rolling on the river! Tickets start at just 25 bucks!

Phew! That’s just January! Visit kravis.org to see their complete list of shows, snag tickets and get all of your questions answered!

*Upon entry everyone is required to show their vaccination card or a negative COVID test result, no less than 3 days old. You’re welcome to arrive early on site to take a complimentary test if that works better for you. Children under 12 are not required to do so. 

*Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post and a partnership in conjunction with Kravis.org. Opinions mentioned are original and that of Briana D’Andrea and momgirlblog.com. Follow Briana D’Andrea for her latest updates! 

Kennedy space center blast off!

Visiting Kennedy Space Center exceeded our expectations!

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has always been on our family’s travel bucket list since the day our 8-year-old son was born! Although he and my husband are both Star Wars fanatics, most recently our little guy has had an affinity for space and the world beyond. After seeing some rocket launches and doing a virtual visit with an astronaut this past year, we knew we had to jump on the opportunity to get to Cape Canaveral. We had quite the incredible experience at America’s spaceport from start to finish and the best part was, it’s fun for ALL ages! With our 5-year-old daughter in tow and a celebration for my mom’s birthday, we chartered a journey to the Space Coast!

We started off the day by taking the obligatory photo in front of the NASA meatball and it was the most gorgeous day! Something really awesome is the visitor complex is on an island, so the cross breeze is absolutely glorious! We made our way to the very back of the park to get things started off on the right foot…our journey to “Atlantis.” This larger than life exhibit was at the top of our must-see things to explore while at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, so we wanted to make sure we started off with a bang! After watching a quick and inspirational movie, we did a self-guided walking tour of the ship, complete with interactive exhibits to keep the kids fully engaged and learned all about NASA’s Space Shuttle program. From sitting in a cockpit to an interactive space simulation activity and even a slide that boosts you to another dimension, we were able to play astronaut for the day and see what it was like to eat, sleep and live in outer space.

We then made our way over to Planet Play. This new interactive play space is a glow in the dark, 3 story behemoth of a playground, where the kids can let loose and just be kids! Next stop was lunch! From a variety of salads and sandwiches to choose from and not just your typical pizza and chicken tenders lunch, it was great! We had a Cobb salad and a Beyond burger from the Orbit Cafe. We were lucky enough to dine in the courtyard otherwise known as “NASA Central,” where we snapped a quick photo op with a spaceperson! We ducked into where we learned all about space moving rovers and how they travel around Mars!

Next stop was “The Space Shop.” Whether signed memorabilia or space food is your thing, there’s something for everyone in this two story shop, which might I say, was very well done! After grabbing a few mementos to remember what was already such an incredible day, we grabbed some “Space Dots,” ice cream and boarded a bus for our next mission on the other side of the compound. *Best bet is to book your bus tour upon arrival, so you get to pick the best time for you and your family to explore.

The “Space Bus,” dropped us off behind NASA’s pearly gates, where some of the most famous spaceships in our nation’s history have prepared for launch! We drove past the Vehicle Assembly Building, one of the largest buildings in the world by volume, where rockets like the Saturn V moon rocket was assembled and arrived at the Apollo/Saturn V Center. We were able to see the Saturn V…the largest rocket ever flown! *Fun fact: Every human who has stepped foot on the moon, launched from Kennedy Space Center aboard a Saturn V rocket! It was completely breathtaking and larger than life and we are already planning an overnight trip to stay there at the facilities! Yes, you can do that! After learning about man’s first trip to the moon and honoring the three heroes, whose lives were lost in Apollo 1, we prepared for lift off, back to base camp just in time to catch a 3D IMAX movie about asteroids, which totally blew our minds!

On our way out we explored the “Rocket Garden,” home to incredible and famous rockets from NASA programs like the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo…a place where you literally feel like an ant in a sea of giant space vehicles.

We had such an incredible day and can’t wait to visit again soon! Highly recommend paying a trip to the Space Coast! For more information or to book a trip to visit Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

*This is a paid sponsored post with Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. All opinions are true and that of Briana D’Andrea from momgirlblog. Follow Briana D’Andrea to see more photos from our trip and follow her family adventures on her lifestyle blog momgirlblog.com. #kennedyspacecenter #momgirlblog #lookup

Check out our fun day in under an IG reel under a minute here!

-Briana D.

Four Ingredient Momgirlblog Lynora’s Pasta

This easy pasta dish with just 4 ingredients is sure to be a weekly household staple.

Have you ever had a dish you felt was just good for your soul?! For me it’s always a heaping bowl of pasta and I don’t discriminate. Whether it’s fusili, tagliatelle, bucatini, lasagna, parpadelle or penne…I LOVE THEM ALL! The thing that makes it the ultimate treat, is I don’t have it too often, so when I do, I go ALL IN!

When Lynora’s and I decided to partner up and share with the world our affinity for family and food, we were mutually ecstatic! It didn’t hurt that the kids and hubby were on board too! As they like to say, “Take me to Lynora’s” and that’s exactly what my family did! I had been a huge fan from the little squares I was swooning over on Instagram and couldn’t wait to dine at their fast casual establishment in West Palm Beach in what used to be a gas station! How retro is that?!

The company founded by an old school Italian couple, started the Lynora’s brand back in 1974. Raffaele and Maria Abbenante migrated from a small island in Italy called Ponza to share their love for Italian culture and food. They started by selling pizza by the slice right here in Lake Worth, FL and the rest is as they say “storia.” 35 years later, the Abbenante’s have 4 locations throughout the South Florida area with a cult following who crave the culinary traditions and old school recipes handed down by Maria’s mom. 2 restaurants are in West Palm Beach, 1 in Jupiter, another in Palm Beach Gardens. With Boca Raton set to open fall of 2021 and Fort Lauderdale in winter of 2021 and I can’t wait to pay them a visit!

Full disclosure, I’m not Italian, but my husband Michael is. (I think my love for spaghetti inspired my choice to marry him!) lol I do however remember visiting places throughout Brooklyn growing up, sampling some of the best pasta and pizza that New York had to offer. Now that we have little ones with ancestors from Naples & Sicily, eating and cooking Italian is a right of passage for me. Ladies and gentlemen Lynora’s is as good as it gets and I’m pretty sure we’ve only scratched the surface.

We were greeted by some of the most friendliest staff, who were so attentive and helpful every step of the way. Ana especially made our visit extra special. It felt like we were dining at our grandma’s house! It was sort of ironic how she even had my grandmother’s name!

We sampled the housemade meatballs, Arugula Stem Salad with shaved parmesan, cherry tomatoes, artichokes & a truffle mustard vinaigrette, the Burrata e Prosciutto Pizza with Bufala mozzarella, arugula, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto & the Rigatoni Alla Funghi, served with cream, porcini mushrooms, shaved parmesan and truffle oil. The kids had the Margherita Pizza, that was just as cheesy as it was tasty! Every single dish was perfection. You could tell that the recipes were well thought out and not something that was just slapped together. We enjoyed a glass of their house Cabernet Sauvignon, which paired nicely with our meal.

After dinner were were able to shop for all of the ingredients we needed to make dinner for the following week, right on site! There’s something to be said about supporting local. It just feels right.

Once we devoured our leftovers we went in for seconds. This time in our kitchen! The kids helped me choose the menu and chop the veggies for our very own Lynora’s homemade pasta dish. Hopefully this post will inspire you to try the recipe out and share such an incredible restaurant right here in our backyard.

You can purchase a bunch of the products on site at any of the Lynora’s restaurants in South Florida and for those of you who aren’t local, but are interested in trying out the brand, head on over to Lynoras.com/store to get the deliciousness delivered to your door!

*Some items are available for purchase at your local Whole Foods Market too.

As they say at Lynora’s with a little bit of flour, water, salt and ton of passion you’ll have the perfect dish!

Four Ingredient Momgirlblog Lynora’s Pasta

Ingredients:

Lynora’s Penne

Lynora’s Roasted Garlic Sauce

Lynora’s EVOO

Lynora’s Cabernet Sauvignon

1/2 red onion diced

1 cup baby bella mushrooms diced

Pinch of salt & pepper for taste

Pinch of 365 Whole Foods Parmesan Cheese

Optional: 1 basil leaf

Method:

Bring pot of water to boil

Add a pinch of salt to the water

Chop red onion & mushroom

Add 1 tbsp Lynora’s evoo

Saute onion & add mushrooms once onions are soft

Toss the Lynora’s roasted garlic marinara to the veggies and simmer on low

Add Lynora’s penne pasta to boiling water cook on medium heat for 8 minutes

Add 1 tbsp of Lynora’s cabernet sauvignon to sauce and let reduce for a few minutes until pasta is done

Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Drain the pasta and a tbsp of Lynora’s evoo to the pasta to keep moist

Scoop some of that yummy sauce goodness onto the pasta and sprinkle with some freshly grated 365 Whole Foods Parmesan Cheese

Top with a fresh basil leaf and enjoy!

Watch my children and I make the dish here!

*This is a paid sponsored post with Lynoras Kitchen. All opinions are true and that of Briana D’Andrea from momgirlblog. Follow Briana @brianadandrea to see a video of the recipe in action and follow her family adventures on her lifestyle blog momgirlblog.com. You can follow Lynoras @lynorasrestaurant, @lynoraskitchen or @shoplynoras #takemetolynoras #momgirlblog

-Briana D.

Our Family Trip on The Cape and “Around the Sound”

If you’re looking for a fun-filled family vacation full of summer vibes then look no further. 

Hy-Line Cruises is your ticket to an adventure at sea! Follow along with Briana D’Andrea as she takes you aboard their day cruise!

I can almost hear the words in my ear. Billy Joel singing “Noreaster Alexa.” You know the part where he says he had chartered a course to the Vineyard, but tonight he is Nantucket bound? I can now really connect with that verse, after taking a visit to the Cape this summer with my family for the forth of July. It’s been a tradition of ours to explore a new destination and there’s  something really special about that part of world. Perhaps it’s the easy breeze that hits your face coming off the coast, the back and forth rocking of sailboats on the docks or the sound of the seagulls chirping by, but one things for sure…no visit is complete without a trip to the cape’s neighboring islands…Nantucket, otherwise known as “The Grey Lady,” or The Vineyard you know…Martha’s? 

I knew when I was doing my research and planing our vacation, a trip to the Cape’s sister islands was a MUST, but I just wasn’t sure how I would swing it, with the limited amount of time we had and two kids with such short attention spans, it didn’t seem like the stars would align. Between our trip to Portland and Acadia and a visit with the majestic whales (also a must and probably a separate blog post), I knew our trip had to accomplish a lot in a short amount of time.  That’s where Hy-Line Cruises came in to play. Their staff, especially Ruth were so incredibly helpful with customizing a perfect trip for our little family. With a fleet of ships and an array of excursions to choose from, you can’t go wrong with the adventures they offer. We settled on a trip “Around the Sound,” and what an adventure it was! 

We departed Hyannis Port at 8:30a, quite literally ‘Nantucket bound,’ aboard the aptly named Grey Lady! The ship has sight seeing decks, a snack bar, bathrooms and plenty of room to stretch your legs both inside and outside on their rooftop decks. We made sure to arrive 45 minutes before departure and just before we loaded up, we grabbed a quick bite at their amazing on site restaurant, “The Landing Cafe.” Whether you’re a breakfast person or lunch is more your thing, there’s something for everyone! The kids split a bagel with cream cheese and a fresh fruit smoothie and the hubby and I had a quiche and an egg, cheese and bacon English muffin. Everything was fresh and the staff were super helpful and sweet. Highly recommend their grab and go section of salads and wraps too, in case you wanted to do a picnic on one of the islands. Next time I’m snagging a freshly baked popover! Yum!

ALL ABOARD! We were off! While the kids played patty cake (we had a nice chat about this trip being a little bit of work time for mommy, so they were on their best behavior! Lol) Michael and I honed in on exactly what we wanted to accomplish while on the islands. It took about an hour or so to get to our first destination and thanks to to all the health protocols put in place, it was a stress-free and relaxing little trip. 

Once docked, it was like we were transported to another dimension. Don’t get me wrong the Cape is great, but Nantucket? It has just a je ne sais quoi. Think hydrangea blooms, cobblestoned streets, gray shingled little cottages dating back to the 19th century, yachts along the dock, a beach for the kids to play (aptly named “Children’s Beach”) and the list goes on. The town was founded in 1641 and while most of the island is accessible by bike or foot, you can ship your car over for a small fortune. From little boutiques to cafes and hidden vias, this island is much like Palm Beach (my favorite local place), only with a much richer history. The fact that Beautycounter and Lilly Pulitzer have some real estate on the island didn’t hurt either and the people who come to summer there year after year, are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet. 

After hitting up a couple of shops (The Nantucket Surf Club is super cute and worth checking out), a quick bite at The Nantucket Tavern and a dip of the toes in the sound at Children’s Beach, we were back on board for our next leg of the trip. Make sure to arrive at least 15 minutes before departure, so they can scan your tickets and get a seat in the best possible spot. Should you need any assistance, Hy-Line has an adorable little office right on the port. 

On our way to the vineyard we had an incredible view of the famous Brant Point Lighthouse on the top deck of the ship and I happened to spot a pirate ship setting sail across the sound, which was pretty neat and made for a perfect photo op! 

After some incredible seaside views and quick cat nap, we disembarked on to Martha’s Vineyard. The vibe there was a tad different than Nantucket, more of a laid back flip-flops and beer kind of energy versus the oysters and champagne. (Both great in my opinion). 

We made our way over to a local ice cream shop where the hubby and I shared a coffee and Oreo ice cream and an iced coffee and the kids landed on rainbow sherbert and mint chocolate chip. We meandered our way over to the historic Gingerbread District, a real sight to see! Painted in shades of sky blue and peach cobbler, these whimsical homes stem back more than 150 years to 1826. Each one more darling than the next, in an array of colors with their own themes and names. Almost like a real life Disney World. We saw one for sale and just might make an offer! Lol  

Once we snapped out of it, we skipped back down to the beach (where jaws was filmed), passing the world’s oldest carousel and let the kids take a quick dip to cool off. (We told them the Jaws tidbit after the fact! lol) They guzzled down some fresh fried cod, before boarding the ship back to our home base on the Cape at the Anchor In. 

As I write this, it was such a dream come true to be able to make those memories with my family, an experience most definitely worth while and one I would highly recommend thanks to Hy-Line Cruises. Hy-Line makes it easy to travel with your family to create memories that will last a lifetime. We will definitely be back someday. 

*This is a sponsored post with Hy-Line Cruises. All opinions are true and that of Briana D’Andrea from momgirlblog.com. The “Around the Sound” trip was sponsored and paid for by Hy-Line Cruises. For more information or to book a trip today visit hylinecruises.com. Follow Briana D’Andrea for more adventures with her family on her lifestyle blog momgirlblog.com.  #thisishyline #momgirlblog

-Briana D’Andrea 

Changes in Latitudes, changes in attitudes

I had been looking for a place to whisk our little family away thanks to COVID-19 and all of its travel restrictions that came along with it. If you know anything about me, it’s that I love to travel and am always in search of a new adventure. Enter Margaritaville Cottages. It’s like a little slice of key lime pie smack dab in the middle of Orlando. An escape from the hustle and bustle if you will. Your daughter’s 5th birthday only comes along once and since we had to cancel our plans last year to the happiest place on earth, there was nothing coming in between my family and the mouse’s house this year! We packed up our stuff and went there just for the night and man do I wish we had stayed a week!

All of the cottages are just darling! We were in a 1/1 called “Twist of Lime,” this tiny, adorable lime green mini house decorated to the nines in a Key West vibe. There’s no shortage of options when it comes to stays for your entire crew! Whether you’re looking for a few bedrooms or just simply one, a pool or just a deck sitting atop shells (V was in absolute heaven), there are price ranges fit for every budget.

Most of the cottages come equipped with a Margarita maker and you betcha I took full advantage of it and all of the creature comforts like a dishwasher, washer/dryer and linens and place settings you need to feel like you’re at home. It’s a short walk to the little downtown area called The Promenade at Sunset Walk, so you won’t have to worry about blowing out your flip flop. See what I did there? lol With lots of shops and restaurants to choose from and even a live band and car show which we were lucky to catch, (I believe they’re on Saturday nights), it was literally the perfect little getaway for our family.

We made our way over to the hotel to walk around, smell the scent of coconut and feel like we were in the Keys (another one of my FAVES) and when the fireworks are back in business, I hear their top floor is the best seat in the house. We unfortunately weren’t able to catch any this round.

Will definitely make it a point to stay there again, especially because we want to check out Island H20 Live! A waterpark right on property, where you’ll most likely find me knee deep in the water somewhere once they open this summer! So the next time you shoot up to Orlando from South Florida or perhaps you’re making O-Town your home for the week, I would most definitely recommend Margaritaville Cottages, because after all, no passports are required!

-Briana D.

A hidden wellington gem

Tucked away all the way back in horse country in Wellington, Florida is a little slice of farmland home to some of the most exotic animals in the world. You’d never know it was there, unless you were looking for it and lucky for me and my family, I had my eye on the Wellington Conservation Center for quite some time now. I truly didn’t know what to expect and I can honestly say my family and I were blown away. It’s a place where rehabilitated animals go to get a second chance at life, a place where unwanted, abandoned and injured species find their second home and a sanctuary where each sweet soul has a truly unique story to be told. From orphaned birds, to mammals and everything in between their website says they “specialize in conservation of South American exotics who are endangered from habitat loss and poaching,” a truly commendable feat. 

If you ask my 4-year-old daughter Vera, her favorite animal on property was the unnamed little kitty, the horse we were able to feed apples to and the little bunnies she was able to snuggle up with. My son was thrilled by the lemur who grabbed bananas off a stick with his lefty hand and my husband thought the pot belly pigs were a sight to see. I especially loved getting up close and personal with the Brazilian Porcupines named Bonnie and Clyde and the 2-toed sloth family, especially the momma and baby duo. Feeding the sloths lettuce was an incredible experience, we won’t ever forget! I still have fomo that we never were able to get a front row seat to see the sloths while on our honeymoon to Costa Rica ten years ago and now I can finally say I was able to interact with them right in our very own backyard! How cool is that?!

 

From wallabys to foxes and even a crab-eating raccoon that bunks up with a Patagonian Cavy, the amount of animals we encountered exceeded our family’s expectations and I’m sure won’t leave you on the side of disappointment! Cole was an exceptional and knowledgeable host on the farm and we can’t wait to come back soon!

Sloths and lemurs are one of the primary focuses of the center due to the fact that these animals are an endangered species. The Wellington Conservation Center is a non-profit organization and they receive all of their funding through donations from their tours, grants, trusts and local sponsors. Tours are by appointment only taking place Wednesday through Monday and offered three times daily. Adults are $20 and kids 6-10 are $15. Those 5 and under are only $5. To book a tour call 954.448.1044. For more information visit their website at wellingtonconservationcenter.org.

-Briana D. 

D’Adventure of Summer 2020

Let me start off by saying this trip was NOT a vacation, it was an adventure. If I’m being completely honest, I was a tad apprehensive about taking a road trip on an RV, almost 12 hours and 800 miles away from home with our 4 and 7 year olds, especially during such a crazy time in our world right now. However, if there was ever a time to do it, that time is NOW! Thanks to this worldwide pandemic, resources are limited, numerous vacations cancelled and although the idea of stopping at a gas station to use the restrooms has always given me the heebie jeebies, this time it’s on a whole other level. Which is why the RV was the perfect vessel to get us from point A to point B on our summer road trip. We decided to embark on our maiden voyage to Gatlinberg, Tennessee, home of The Great Smoky Mountains.

My husband has told me a bunch of stories about when he was a child, how he and his family took a road trip of epic proportions there and how truly memorable it was. Years later, he wanted to relive those memories with his family and I thought why not?

So, after a little bit of coaxing and realizing that it was this sort of vacay for our annual Forth of July trip or bust for the summer of 2020, I obliged. This city girl took the entire week prior to pack up our entire house, cleared out the non-perishable shelve from the local Whole Foods and decided to dive in head first (pun intended…more on that later!) There are a ton of do’s and don’t’s, pros and cons if you will about the trip, but overall it was definitely a trip of a lifetime, worth remembering. So much so, because our children are really at an age, where they can participate, have fun and even remember bits and pieces for years to come!

So, let’s start with the pre-work. We rented an RV from Cruise America, I’m an intense research buff, but because we literally decided to take this trip in the spur of the moment (we were actually supposed to go on a cruise, which is a whole other topic of conversation) and because the entire world had the exact same idea as us, it seemed as though it was slim pickings, but ended up being perfect for the setting and campgrounds we were staying on.

We rented a 25 footer, no pullout and although not the most glamorous of its kind, that’s not what our trip was about. (If you’re looking to do a road trip where there aren’t any mountains, then a motorcoach is your best bet). Our RV had everything we needed for our so-called “glamping” experience and was a few steps up from traditional camping, if you will. It had a queen and full-size bed, bathroom, toilet, stove, fridge, microwave and all of the creature comforts you need, squeezed into a vehicle.

It took us up steep mountains and down long inclines, luckily without any crazy accidents and no one car sick. I didn’t drive it, but my husband said it handled like a champ and we both felt very safe in it. I prepared a few snacks ahead of time, because I knew stopping on the road to eat would just take more time, get expensive and because covid, plus that’s the whole fun of getting an RV, is to eat in it! I baked banana muffins, made a cabbage and bean salad and packed up some snacks for the kids: applesauces, crackers, chips, popcorn, cookies, fruit, nuts, jerky, waters (can never have enough!)  You will literally need to pack up the entirety of your home to make sure you are comfortable. From pots and pans, to linens and towels and even a trash bin, you can view complete list here. 

Our first stop was scheduled to be Hilton Head, South Carolina, we were supposed to arrive at 10 pm that night and little did we know the resort didnt allow check-ins past 5. Had we had to do it all over again, we would’ve rented the RV a day earlier to get everything packed in the way we wanted it, so that we could just wake up early the next day and head out on the road. Picking up the thing and then packing it up, much less unpacking it makes for an all day affair. So we pivoted and instead decided to do a stop in St. Augustine instead. We made the 4 hour trek, arrived at the time that we thought we were going to arrive in Hilton Head (ha!), because as a side note, you can just add 2 hours to time you think you will be anywhere in that behemoth of a truck! We got all settled in for the night. My hubby and I in the queen size bed and our littles in the full above the driving cabin (much to my dismay).

Fast-forward to 3am and we get woken up by a big thud and crying. Luckily little miss wasn’t hurt, I on the other hand suffered a few bruises and a head scrape/bump, darting forward to try and catch her midsleep. Note to self: don’t freak out and leap youself forward in an attempt to catch someone in the pitch black. I can laugh now, but we’re lucky no one was seriously injured! Our daughter slept with me for the rest of the trip and the hubby got demoted to the top bunk with my son! Lol

We got up the next morning and instead of getting on the road, we spent the morning cleaning up the cabin, because the toilet foot pedal got stuck! Another note to self…always check the foot pedal for water flow and make sure it is in the upright position to avoid flooding!! Once setttled and already having gone through half our towel stock, shoutout to the maintence guy at the KOA who had some apparatus that sucked up the water, we teetered on throwing in the towel, heading back home and chocking it up to we just weren’t the camping folk. However, D’Andreas DON’T QUIT! That’s sort of the motto in our home, so we put our big boy and big girl panties on and head out on the road towards our next stop Asheville, TN.

The cutest little quaint town, that we will absolutely have to come back and visit sometime! Filled with little restaurants and shops and let’s not forget about the Biltmore, we parked in the parking lot and had a picnic in our RV, before headed to our final stop in Gatlinburg, TN. One quick tip: whenever you gas up, that’s the best time for everyone to take a quick potty and snack break, so that you’re not making double stops.

As luck would have it there was an accident on the route we were supposed to take to Adventurebound Camground. So, we took the alternate route which I wish had a disclaimer stating *This route is not for the faint of heart. You will encounter steep hills, twists, turns and no street lights, so enter at your own risk! Luckily, the kids were fast asleep, because it was like riding an RV roller coaster in the pitch black! I was praying to all things holy and luckily we made it to our camground safe and sound! Now if you thought that was fun, here’s where things get even more tricky and as I write this, I can’t help but chuckle at the fact of what rookies we truly are. There’s all this jargon, pull through, full hookup, 50/30 watts, etc. if you’re a newbie, you have NO idea what any of this means. Michael and I were just happy to have gotten a spot, when there were only two left on the campus with a gold cart to boot! Lucky for us, our RV lot was on the corner with the best views and privacy the campground had to offer.

The downside? It wasn’t a full hookup! So what exactly does that mean? Well, water and showers are limited, as are trips to the bathroom (let’s not relive that nightmare shall we?). Therefore, every time we left the campground, we had to dump at the designated dump site. Now your RV does come equipped with a motherboard that is supposed to tell you when levels are getting full and as luck would have it ours was on the fritz. We made it through all the way to day 6, and that’s when our gray water (sink/shower) filled up and our neighborhood maintenance guy had to come through and clear out the pump and our golf cart decided to die on us to boot! I said adventure didn’t I?! Lol

I have to say that Michael was quite the trooper releasing the tanks, because I would’ve found the nearest cabin to stay in! Aside from that we had the most amazing time out on that creek. The kids loved searching for sticks and rocks, we saw a beaver and just sat there by the fire listening to music and sipping local beer. If you’re looking for a good time and you’re ok with letting go of some of the usual comforts you can really have yourself a wonderful time and make some incredible memories. We roasted hot dogs, had smores and just breathing in that fresh mountain air. Yes, that’s a thing!

There is no shortage of activities to partake in, in the Great Smokies and luckily covid managed to narrow the scope. We went tubing down The Little River with The Smoky Mountain River Rat, took a UTV ride up and down rugged terrain, to the highest mountain top to see a $500 million view, complete with a shot of moonshine and a fresh blackberry snack along the way. We treked an 85 foot waterfall at Laurel Falls, snacked on some seriously amazing smoked wings and tried the best doughnuts in town. Plus, the kids had a blast looking for “trolls” and their footprints the entire time! 😍