Monday, July 29, 2019

Deciding on Our Latest Travel Destination

We travel quite a bit and the question gets asked, "How do you decide where to go?" I thought it would be fun to share the process of how we decided on the location of our next destination...Seoul, South Korea! Each trip we plan has a different process, but the general idea remains the same.
Initial Planning: My husband and I both turn 40 this year (he was May and I'm December), so we knew that this milestone would involve a trip in 2019! We both decided that a trip for just the two of us was more "us" than going with a big group or having big parties, etc.  The last two years, we have gone on long international spring break trips with our kids. This eats into my husband's time off from work and into the budget. We decided early on we would take a trip in the fall, between our birthdays, which gave enough time after the spring break trip to be ready for another one!
Location: For this 40th birthday trip, we knew we wanted to choose a destination where we wouldn't want to take our kids. Think big cities, places where we would walk a lot, places we would want to eat the food but they wouldn't, places to pop into cool bars/cafes, etc. We talked about Canada (we've both never been), many different parts of Europe including London, Ireland, and Amsterdam. We briefly spoke about a few US spots, but ultimately decided we were going to go out of the country. Once you've been bit by the international travel bug, it's hard to think otherwise! We also talked at great length about Toyko. We had tickets in the cart, ready to pull the trigger, and we sat on them for a few days, and the prices went up. So, we started considering other options. My husband was looking at Google flights daily and he came home one day and said, "How about Seoul"? We did some research and decided to just go for it! We talked about it for one day and pulled the trigger on flights the next! I love that my husband is just a do-er! We fly out in September without kids!
Cost: Of course cost is something to consider and this is personal and specific to each individual/couple/family. When we know we are celebrating something special, cost gets a little more flexible. We spent a lot on tickets to Morocco for our 15 year wedding anniversary last year, but it was a special occasion and it was fabulous and I would do it all over again! With this being our 40th birthday trip, we decided we could spend a little more on flights. In doing our research, we learned that Seoul is pretty reasonable as far as big cities go. We don't eat at fancy restaurants when we travel and we don't do any crazy shopping, so eating street food and going on food tours and eating local isn't that expensive. We will be using points to stay at a nice hotel and that cost is eliminated. We will have breakfast provided from the hotel so that expense is eliminated. There are many pieces to the cost puzzle. Seoul has an amazing transit system that we will be using to get around and that is also inexpensive! There are ways to travel far and not blow the bank!

Flexible Dates: One thing to consider is being flexible on dates. We knew we wanted to go on a trip somewhere in the fall, but we weren't strapped to any one week or any dates. This helped us decide on a location because of cost of tickets. Tickets to Seoul were cheaper than tickets to Tokyo and we were flexible on when we could leave and come back. You must also decide how long you will be gone and all these bullet points tie into that!

Time of Year: When considering where to go, we had to look at weather. We knew we wouldn't be choosing somewhere warm or beachy. Just coming off summer, we weren't interested in that. We love a beach, but we ultimately like to pound the pavement and explore together and immerse ourselves on the streets and in the culture of wherever we are headed. September is, according to our research, the best time to visit Seoul! Fall-ish temps but still a little warm. Looking at these statistics are a huge factor in deciding where to go!
Time Off/Distance: I'm a SAHM and flexible on dates, but my husband has to look at time off when planning trips. We have been to Asia, and though it's far and the flights are long, it doesn't really phase us. It will take 15 hours to get to Seoul and we will be upside down on time. Jet lag for sure. We decided we could do what we wanted to do in 8 days. We decided we would stay in Seoul the entire time (usually we move cities/hotels) to give ourselves plenty of time to explore and to have plenty of down time. We also purchased our flights knowing we would need 1-2 days of recovery on the back end before going back to work. So, getting back on a Friday allows us to recouperate! 

Childcare: We have kids. We have to have childcare when we leave. Que my retired parents who live 3 hours away who love to babysit! We will never take this for granted. A true luxury to be able to leave our kids and venture off. We have to consider how long we will be gone from our kids. We believe in traveling alone and with our kids. We do both. Adult trips are just different, and necessary. Our kids are on the older side and will be in school full time during our trip. Our kids are pretty self-sufficient and we feel comfortable leaving them. They are good kids and it's pretty much a non-issue. They know by now that mom/dad like to travel together and they are used to it! We hope they will take note and do the same thing!
Research: Do your research when deciding on a place to travel! Is it safe? Is it expensive? What is the weather like during the time of year you are going? Is there public transit or will we need a car/Uber? Is there a language barrier? Do I feel comfortable in a big city? What is there to do that excites us? Will I be willing to try new foods? We always buy a little travel guide book on the destination after we book too! It's functional and fun to have on the shelf when you're done with it!
Planning: After we decided on a time of year, we started looking at flights a few months before and purchased our tickets 3 months out. I think the misconception is that planning big trips take forever and you don't have to do it way in advance. I think this needs to be talked about! I'm not saying wait forever, but you can plan a big overseas trip in a few months time, no doubt! 

After we booked our flights, we decided on a hotel that is in a neighborhood in the city. It works with our hotel points, offers a great breakfast, has an indoor pool, fantastic rooms, and great reviews. My husband looks at the map and decides if it's a good location for picking up the transit system and walking to restaurants and bars and shopping. There are so many travel blogs and resources to look at when deciding what to do! We decided to stay all 7 nights in one hotel so we can basically unpack and relax and settle in. We will be taking a few days trips outside of the city and we will for sure be booking a food tour. Mostly we like to walk the streets and explore and meet/watch the local people and take in the culture. That is the beauty of going somewhere far away...culture and new experiences like no other! 
All kuddos goes to my husband for being the trip planner! He loves it! There is something very exciting about going somewhere new, without the recommendation from someone else! There is so much world to see...choose a spot and go for it! We've never regretted any travel, if it's a few hours away or half a world away! I always use Insta Stories on trips and will be blogging about it when we get back! Be sure to follow me on Instagram! XO

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Is Air Duct Cleaning Worth It?

We recently had our air ducts cleaned and I wanted to share my experience because so many of you asked about the process and the results and the cost! To preface, we live in the Kanas City area in a home that was built 7.5 years ago (as of July 2019). We have a single-family home in the suburbs consisting of 3100 sq. ft. of living space, and 1500 sq. ft. of basement space. They cleaned every duct in our entire home. This post or service was NOT sponsored, I'm just sharing our personal experience!
We ultimately decided to get this done because this house was a new build over 7 years ago. Many homes on our street were constructed after it was built, which means lots of construction debris around. We also had our basement finished 2 years ago, which is more construction in the home. My son has been having allergy issues and I always just felt like our home looked dusty, even after dusting. I've also just read/heard it's a good thing to do for your air quality. I really also just wanted a baseline since we are the original owners of the home.

This particular company, Duct Doctor, uses a patented truck for all of their systems and output. Kind of handy! I found them online, called the service line, got an appt. set up, they showed up and did the rest!
They started by removing all of the return air vent and floor vent covers so they could get their large hoses inside to suck everything out. You will be surprised when you really start looking at how many vents you have in your home! The floor vents are easy to pick up and vacuum out just on your own. Gross right? And we have a newer home and no pets! All of these vents get cleaned inside and out!
This company was careful about covering their shoes and covering the areas where the hoses connected. The whole process takes about 3-4 hours, so you will need to be home!
This company provides before and after pictures which I really like. It seems everything was very transparent. This pics are grainy and dark because I had to take screenshots of them and then transfer over.

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A few bullet points:

>They told me that my humidifier dial was turned up. They turned it down for me and told me to keep it off in the summer! I appreciated that!

>They changed out our air filter. Despite what the "months" say on the filter, they recommend we change ours every month for optimal air quality.

>They recommend this service every 3-5 years. Now that we have had it done, and we don't have pets or construction going on, I will probably only consider doing it about every 10 years.

>This company charges by square footage, not by the number of vents. Our total cost was $549.

>They did tell me they work with home builders in my area to clean the vents after new builds now. They did not offer this service when we moved in over 7 years ago. Check with your builder to see if your home has been done before spending to do it again!

Have we seen changes? Would we do it again?

>I would do this again mostly because now I have peace of mind about what was lurking in the walls of our home and no longer is! They told me your home is only as clean as the inside despite how often you clean.

>I do feel our home looks less dusty. We pump our heat and air all year long, so I like knowing our vents aren't blowing out all that gunk anymore!

>This is a pricey thing to do, I don't deny that. It took me a few years to bite the bullet and have it done. I feel good about just doing it and not having to do it again for a long time. We spend so much time in our home, I just want to feel we are living the best we can.

Let me know if you have any additional questions! xo

Friday, June 21, 2019

Explore Kansas City: Louisburg Cider Mill In the Summer!

Country roads! Local products! No lines! Cider Donuts! A friend recently reminded me that Louisburg Cider Mill, a local cider mill and country store, operates in all year long, not just in the fall! Cider donuts and cider slushes and apple cider seem like a good idea all the time!
Just a few miles down the road off 69 Highway sits this farm/mill in Louisburg, KS. It's easy to spot. The place was quiet in the summer, unlike the fall, which is a bit refreshing because there are no lines. The place feels down home and family orientated and sort of old-timey.

We came on a Friday morning and the parking lot only had a few cars and we only saw one other family grabbing donuts and cider slushes. There are, however, still fresh donuts and friendly smiles inside the country store!
There are tables and benches to enjoy your treats. There is something sweet about being out in the country, while not being far from home.
We bought a dozen donuts for the three of us because we knew Dad would want some later on! And let's be honest, we all needed at least three!
The kids picked out some Lost Trail Sodas that are made on site. The offer so many flavors, it's hard to choose! You can even assemble your own 4 or 6 pack!
The small country store offers all kinds of jams, dips, apple butter, pancake mixes, sodas, candy, apple cider, tea towels, and all things gift worthy. I picked up some dill dip mix to keep on hand!

The kids have already requested to go back for slushes and root beer floats the next time we go! You can see a full list of activities hosted by the cider mill on their website. It's fun to think outside the "seasons" box we tend to live in! Let's make cider donuts in the summer a thing!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Explore Kansas City: Shop Scoobie Boutique

In an effort to bring you more things Kansas City, I'm going to be sharing more of the places I visit! I attended a grand opening event at a local boutique that just opened in The Shops of Prairie Village. It's called Shop Scoobie and it is adorable! This part of town, these shops and restaurants, and dreamy neighborhoods make Prairie Village a place to check out!
The aesthetic of the shop is so good! Full of bright light and pattern and small enough that is feels cozy and intimate. It screams boutique! A great shopping experience!
There are two dressing rooms located in the shop as well as a large bathroom. Good lighting, big mirrors, and helpful employees make try-ons easy!
 And can we talk about this wallpaper in the bathroom?  I need this in my laundry room I think!!
What a fun opening event! If you need a special occasion dress, vacation outfit, or just some pretty clothes for your wardrobe, check out Shop Scoobie in the Shops of Prairie Village!

The owner, Sarah, is as kind as she is adorable! You can also purchase items online at Shop Scoobie!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Explore KC - Wild Rose Equine Center Trail Ride

For Mother's Day last year, we decided to take a family horseback ride! We found a Groupon for a ride for four at a local equine center (it was about 40 minutes from our house) called Wild Rose Equine Center and we all LOVED the experience! My kids had never been on a full size horse before, so this was crazy exciting for them!
The Wild Rose Equine Center is located in the middle of the country in Dearborn, MO. We booked our time slot online and it was confirmed through email. The equine center was not busy when we went which was so nice! It is also not huge and overwhelming. A very family friendly place!
We arrived a little early and one of the employees walked us around the grounds. The have cows and donkeys and many horses. She told us about how the ranch functions and we got to pet all the animals. It was kind of a fun little bonus tour! I just started asking questions! I want to teach my kids that that's how you learn!
We were signed up for a 1 hour guided trail ride. Our guide made it fun for the kids and the scenery was so pretty! The staff makes sure everyone is comfortable on their horse and allowed time for the horses to drink water and for everyone to take photos. Our kids never felt scared! They loved it and didn't want it to stop!

It's hard to ride a horse, even on a walking horse, for an hour! Ha! These kids did great! They teach you basics on how to hold the reigns and turn your horse. They also teach you how to lean forward when going uphill and to lean backward going downhill to help with balance.
My kids have already requested to go back again! I would highly recommend the Wild Rose Equine Center! They also offer riding lessons if interested. These are the kind of experiences kids remember, so get out there and try something new!