My Skin Cancer Story

The year is 1997. School’s just released for the day. I head to the gas station and fill up my mustang for a grand total of five dollars. I cruise around town for a bit, I still have 45 minutes before I’m on the clock at the local tanning salon. Bored, I go ahead and head to work. I know just what I’ll do. Grabbing a Playboy bunny sticker and my favorite tanning lotion, I start the tanning bed ready for a quick nap before my shift starts. Twenty minutes later, I’m well rested and a shade darker. Life is good…

Image from Tanning Supply Shop

Fast forward to 2023 and I’ve just had my sixth, or maybe it’s now my seventh, skin cancer surgery. I’ve debated even sharing this story. But, my overall goal for this blog is to help people. I have dealt with skin cancer since I was sixteen, although I had no clue that’s what it was. I was twenty eight before I was correctly diagnosed and now at forty, I have more knowledge about skin cancer than I ever thought I would.

My first two skin cancer surgeries. 3 layers & more than 200 stitches for a spot the size of a quarter.

My first spot appeared on the middle of my back when I was sixteen. Two different doctors misdiagnosed the spot as a busted capillary. I’m sure they probably didn’t think a sixteen year old would have skin cancer at such a young age. This spot was flat, red, a little flaky, and about the size of a quarter by the time I got it removed at twenty eight. I finally saw a dermatologist when my husband would notice dots of blood on the back of my shirt where the spot was. Immediately the dermatologist knew it was basal cell carcinoma, but I still had to go through a biopsy to confirm. She was right and from there I had a full body scan and another small spot was found on my shoulder. Both of these were removed. The spot on my shoulder was pretty easy and I was able to have the procedure in the office. The spot on my back was a little tougher. I went through Mohs surgery and then reconstructive surgery afterwards.

This is my most recent surgery from about 3 weeks ago. The spot was about the size of my pinky fingernail and I ended up having 2 layers of stitches.

Since then, I have found several more spots. Lucky for me, all but one have been basal cell carcinomas and none have been on my face. I am terrified about melanoma and have only had one spot that was considered an atypical mole with signs of pre-melanoma. I wish that I would’ve photographed the before and after pictures of each spot. None of them looked like what I would have expected skin cancer to be. I’ve had skin cancer on my leg, back, both shoulders, and chest.

5 Warning Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma

  1. A sore that just doesn’t heal. This has been the number one indicator for me. Most of the spots I have found have looked like a small sore, sometimes even a bug bite. But it never goes away, even when using Neosporin. It might start to look better, like it is healing, and then it returns!
  • A reddish patch of dry, flaky skin. This is very similar to how the spot on my back was. It was often itchy, but never hurt. It was very dry and flaky and red. It finally started bleeding after twelve years.
  • A shiny bump or nodule. These bumps can be clear, pearly, or even white. Often, these are mistaken for normal moles.
  • A small pink growth. This is similar to what the bump on my shoulder looked like. It was described like a small pink eraser on the end of a pencil.
  • A scar-like area. This type is more serious, and can indicate an invasive basal cell carcinoma. The skin can appear shiny and the area is usually flat, white, yellow or waxy in color.

Living with Skin Cancer

If you follow along on our adventures, then you know that I don’t let skin cancer rule my life. We are a family that loves to be outside! We take beach vacations, we spend a lot of time hiking, and we even have a pool. But I have gotten REALLY serious about wearing sunscreen and ensuring that my boys do, too. Just one sunburn can double your chance of getting skin cancer. And unfortunately, even being as careful as I am, I have still gotten a few sunburns since this journey started.

Products That I Love

Rocking an at home fake tan and a cute rash guard!

Unfortunately I was raised in an era that promoted “you look best with a tan.” And even having skin cancer, I still want to have some color. However, you will never find me tanning or laying out in the sun anymore. I mean, I do lay out in the sun but it’s usually under an umbrella lathered in sunscreen! Below, are products that I love that keep my skin protected and offer a little bit of fake color.

This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission, at no extra charge to you, if you purchase any items using the links provided.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

  1. When in doubt, have it checked out. If you notice something that seems abnormal, have a dermatologist check it out!
  • Check your skin often, from head to toe. Look for new moles or even those pesky patches of dry or flaky skin. Monitor them often for any changes.
  • See a dermatologist annually. Make this one of your annual dr. visits. It is always best practice to have a professional check your body. And be prepared, these full body scans are super uncomfortable, but can be lifesaving!
  • Be sun safe every day! Stay out of tanning beds, wear sunscreen every day, and seek out the shade if you’re outside. This is the most effective way to protect yourself from skin cancer.
  • Share this habit with your friends and kids! Make these safeguards everyday habits with your friends and family. I have probably terrified my kids of skin cancer, they hate seeing my scars. They also hate to stop playing outside to lather up with sunscreen, but I hope that being so firm about this will help them in the future.

Let this be your sign to get your skin checked, especially if you’ve ever wondered about a spot or a mole. If you’re tanning now, please stop! And if you’re headed outside this spring break or summer, make sure to wear that sunscreen and reapply often. I am always happy to answer questions that you may have, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

Image found on Google Images

Travel Mishaps & How to Cope!

How many of you have a backup plan in the event that something goes awry on your vacation? I guess I was pretty naïve years ago and thought that nothing major would ever happen to us, I mean you’re only supposed to have fun on your travels, right? Well, sometimes I feel like we just might be the Griswolds, because we have some crazy travel stories to share! While looking back on some of these fiascos, we can laugh at the memories now. But, travel mishaps can be quite stressful in the moment. Here’s a look back at some of our worst travel memories and some of my suggestions for getting through these difficult situations.

Our Very Own Travel Mishaps

Car Trouble – Years ago we learned just what we were made of when our Yukon decided to completely shut down while we were out in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming, 19 hours away from home. I must also mention that this of course happened on a Saturday evening, after regular business hours. This was the first time I think I have ever seen my husband flustered and nervous. I mean, don’t most horror movies start out this way? And we also had our boys with us, so that added a whole other element to the situation.

My worst road tripping fear came true.

We quickly realized that we really work well together as a team. While Jereme tried to troubleshoot the issue and move us down the road to a better area, I diligently began calling towing companies in Wyoming and Montana. This was a job in itself, because most places were closed and cell service was spotty. Finally, I found a company that was open and even though we had to wait stranded on the side of the road for four hours while they worked a wreck, we were safe and we were together. Jereme somehow managed to get us near the only restaurant in this small town, so we were able to grab dinner while we waited. And we learned that there are still some pretty amazing people in this world. The waitresses at this restaurant refused to let us pay for dinner, I literally left that place in tears. We were so grateful for the hospitality. And even though we were stranded for three additional days in a hotel room without a vehicle, we managed to be okay!

Finally rescued after hours of waiting!

Now, I can’t even make this part up, but no lie on the way home the same Yukon, freshly repaired, completely shut down again. On the highway no less, in Colorado Springs. This was after spending all of our savings to get a brand new computer system shipped to Wyoming from Montana and then installed. I almost lost it, but managed to remain calm. Colorado Springs is a little bigger of a city than most in Wyoming, so we had better options all around. My dad ended up coming to the rescue and getting us home. And we actually ended up enjoying our unplanned time in CO. We were able to Uber around to some fun attractions while we waited for my dad to make the 12 hour drive to us from Texas. And even though I still have some PTSD when any vehicle I’m in makes the tiniest noise that seems out of the ordinary, we learned a lot about ourselves and how we work as a team!

Puzzles are fun when you’re trapped in a hotel room for days!

I sure did love that Yukon, but we quickly got rid of it when we finally made it back to Texas! Overall, we learned that remaining calm, saying lots of prayers, and working together helped us get through this situation. And, I will never regret over packing, it really came in handy when we had extra clothes while being stranded!

Main Attraction Closed – So, we are the people that spent thirteen months planning and preparing for a trip to Yellowstone National Park only to arrive and find out that it was closed the whole entire time we were there! Looking back, we would’ve done things a lot differently, but at least we can kind of laugh about it now and we have a story to tell.

The day we pulled into West Yellowstone was the very day that the Park made the decision to close due to the historic flooding that happened in the northern area. We were a little flabbergasted, as the area we were in, which is near the east entrance and hours away from the north entrance, had the most beautiful blue skies and not a drop of rain in sight. Nobody really knew what to do. Online sources were saying that the Park would be closed for years, while the local news stations in the area were predicting only a day or so of closures. We decided to wait and see what would happen. I wish we would’ve just got a refund and left early. We ended up spending a lot more money than we had budgeted for because we had to find activities to do outside of the Park.

We could literally walk to the Park from our hotel, but we never made it in!

This incident taught me a lot. Even the best plans can go awry at no fault of our own. While it was very disheartening, we rebounded and made other arrangements and ended up having a great time. In hindsight though, we probably should’ve just called it a loss and headed towards home and maybe stopped in Colorado for a day or so. I would advise you to cut your losses if you ever find yourself in this situation. Unless there is a confirmed re-opening date, I don’t recommend waiting it out and spending money while you do!

Severe Weather – We have had all kinds of different weather related travel issues on our adventures! We’ve been in Galveston during a hurricane and we’ve experienced true blizzard conditions in Colorado. We’ve been on the road during an ice storm and have flown home in an intense Texas thunderstorm. That landing attempt was NOT fun!

Weather conditions are definitely not in our circle of control. The best way to prepare is to be alert. If you’re traveling in the winter, be prepared for blizzard or icy driving conditions. If you’re traveling in the spring or summer, stay weather aware for any severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings.

This was scary!

We’ve traveled through it all and it’s not really fun. I’m sure I’ve gotten a few extra gray hairs from all the worry. My best advice is to remain calm, even if you don’t want to, but especially if you have kiddos with you. They’re great at sensing your moods, so give them the calm. On one road trip we were driving back home from South Carolina and there were tornadoes directly to the north and south of us. We were just driving along, no clue in the world that we were basically in between two very serious storm systems.

Oh, just another tornado warned storm we drove beside!

I learned the hard way to pay attention to those county line signs so that if a weather warning comes across the radio, you’ll know if you’re in the clear or not. I feel like weather apps are getting better at sending alerts specific to your location. So, make sure you download something like the weather channel app and allow notifications.

Sometimes those drives to the mountains are not very fun either!

I have also rearranged our driving route home a couple of different times. I’m kind of nerdy and enjoy things like the weather. I follow some storm chasers on social media, too. If they post about heading to an area for an upcoming chase or post weather models online and I’m planning to drive through that general vicinity, then you bet I reroute or change my travel dates and either leave earlier or stay an extra day!

For example, if we were driving to the mountains we’d plan to leave a day earlier or later to avoid this mess!

Illness – A few years ago we were hiking a super hard trail in Custer State Park, SD. Our boys were and 5 and 8 at the time. The five year old was rocking the trail, but our eight year old was in full struggle mode. We started fussing at him to keep up and to stop whining. Little did we know that he was starting to get sick. By the time we finished that 4 mile hike and got back to the hotel, he had spiked a fever. We felt so awful for him!

My sweet boy needed a day of rest and some Tylenol to get better!

Getting sick is never fun, but especially not while you’re on vacation. I swear, I started quarantines before that even became a household thing! Having kids and being a teacher almost guarantees that you might face an illness at some point while traveling.

Usually before we’re set to leave for a trip, I become a totally uncool mom. We don’t have sleepovers, we don’t visit places like those fun indoor trampoline parks, and I’m making sure we are all constantly washing our hands and taking our vitamins. I’ve learned to bring the whole medicine cabinet with us when we travel! I bring it all, the thermometer, fever reducing medicine, allergy pills, cold/flu, tummy, cough meds, etc. I also bring a first aid kit for any minor injuries. I feel like it’s better to be overly prepared than not prepared at all. I also make sure to bring Dramamine and Benadryl everywhere we go! I can get really car/motion sick and nothing can ruin your day like a bout of this on a long road trip. Being prepared really helps to ease my anxiety when we travel.

Other Tips & Recommendations

I know that even though we’ve had a few travel mishaps, we’ve been really lucky that nothing has been worse! This got me thinking a little about what all could go wrong on a trip and are we prepared? Here are some additional tips and things that I prepare for before traveling!

  • Check vehicle, make sure tires & windshield wipers are in good condition.
  • Bring along a battery charger or jumper cables.
  • Screenshot or print your reservation confirmation in case it’s lost upon arrival.
  • Call ahead to the hotel and reconfirm your booking before your travel date.
  • Make sure you have extra money or a credit card in case of an emergency.
  • Travel with a first aid kit, extra food/water, blankets, and medicine in case you’re stranded.
  • Take a photo of your passport in case it gets lost.
  • Bring your insurance cards.
  • Share your travel plans with a family member – Life360 app is great for this!
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Always follow your gut.

I hope this post was informational. My intention was definitely not to scare anyone from traveling, but to remind you that mishaps can happen and it’s better to be ready and prepared than blindsided. We’ve had far more positive experiences than negative ones! If you’ve had a travel mishap and have any other tips to share, I’d love to hear them. Otherwise, stay safe and happy travels!

Should You Road Trip with Your Dog?

I am convinced that we have the most precious Border Collie in the whole entire world! We love our Josie Girl to pieces!! And when we can, we take her along on our road tripping adventures. Yep, we became those people that got a rescue dog that ended up becoming the fifth member of the family, and probably the favorite!

Look how cute and little they all were!

While we’re traveling with her or shortly after returning, I am always asked about how it went and to share our tips. So, keep reading to learn about my thoughts on traveling with a dog, the pros and cons of bringing your pup along, and my tips and recommendations!

Things to Consider:

  • There are many things to consider when traveling with your dog, but I think you really need to truly know your dog first. Is your dog aggressive or docile? Will they use the restroom on the side of the highway with cars roaring by when you stop? Are they well-behaved riding in a car? These are some pretty serious questions that can make or break your trip.
  • Will your dog be more comfortable traveling with you or would they feel better staying home with a pet sitter, family member, or at a boarding facility?
  • How well does your dog walk on a leash? If your dog has trouble walking on a leash and will lunge at passerby, then I probably wouldn’t encourage you to bring your pup along. That doesn’t sound like a fun time for anyone! And I can promise you, if you are out with your pet at a popular location, the dog lovers will come up in droves.
  • Driving a long distance with a restless, pacing or barking pup would drive me absolutely crazy. So, before you begin making plans, ask yourself how your dog will behave in the car. Does your dog get carsick? Trying to drive from point A to point B while stopping to clean up a mess doesn’t sound like a good time, either.
  • You also need to think about the destination you’re traveling to. Is the location dog friendly? Does your lodging allow pets? What are the activities you plan to do on your trip and do these activities allow you to bring your dog along? When traveling with a pet, a lot of planning and preparation has to happen first!
  • And finally, is your dog up to date on their shots and vet care? Some places require you to bring proof of your dog’s shot records, so be sure that your dog has had the appropriate care and records to prove it!

Tips and Recommendations:

  • Before traveling with your dog, be sure to get them comfortable walking on a leash. We practiced for months with Josie. We actually live on about an acre of land, so I didn’t even buy a leash when we first brought her home! But I knew that we would want her to travel with us, so to the pet store I went. We practiced walking several days a week around our neighborhood until she got the hang of it before she ever traveled with us.
Our oldest walking Josie!
  • I also advise you to take your dog in the car with you as much as possible before venturing out on a road trip! We would take Josie to grab fast food to see how she did riding in the car and when we ordered food. Sometimes we would drive around town for a bit to get her completely comfortable riding with us. We started out practicing short distances before taking our first long road trip with her.
Josie’s first car ride was to Sonic!
  • When you decide where you’re going, be sure to check to see if the hotel or your lodging allows pets. If they do, I highly recommend calling the front desk, especially if you booked online. Sometimes there is a limited number of pet friendly rooms, so most places need to know beforehand if you’re bringing your dog along. Be prepared to pay an extra pet fee, too.  
It’s no wonder hotels charge an extra cleaning fee!
  • Travel somewhere close to home before venturing halfway across the country! We started with a short weekend trip to a cabin in Oklahoma that was only about 2.5 hours from home. We weren’t really sure how Josie would react to a new location or riding in the car for a long period of time, so we started off small. Once we knew how she would do traveling, we started going farther away and staying longer amounts of time!
So excited for our first road trip with Josie Girl!

The Pros and Cons of Traveling with your Dog:

It is always a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of traveling with your pet. And these can always change depending on your location, too.

  • Pro – Your dog is with you & you won’t miss each other!
  • Con – You’re still taking care of a dog while on vacation – potty breaks, feeding, etc.
  • Pro – You’re saving money by taking your pet with you vs. paying for boarding!
  • Con – Some places still charge a pet fee and extra cleaning fee.
  • Pro – Lots of places are dog friendly!
  • Con – Many places still don’t allow dogs.
  • Pro – My dog is very calm and well-behaved!
  • Con – Your dog may become out of sorts in a different location.
  • Pro – It’s going to be so fun adventuring with my pup!
  • Con – You have to clean up after them and dispose of their waste.

Dog Friendly Destinations we’ve Visited:

  • Broken Bow, Oklahoma

We took a quick weekend trip to Broken Bow, OK when Josie was younger to see how she would do in the car and away from home. She loved playing outside the cabin with the boys and exploring a new location! After this trip, we knew she would be ready for more adventures! Broken Bow is about 2.5 hours from us.

They only photo I got with Josie at the cabin!
  • St. Louis, Missouri

Our first big road trip with Josie was to St. Louis. I read that St. Louis is a very dog friendly destination, so we decided to bring her with us on our weekend getaway. We got lucky, not only with a great pup, but the weather on this trip was amazing. We enjoyed strolling around the city with Josie in tow. We started our adventure exploring Gateway Arch National Park. We got some precious photos with her here! The only downside was that it was a long elevator ride down from our hotel room when she needed potty breaks. St. Louis is about a 9 hour drive from us.

Gateway Arch
  • Boulder, Colorado

Josie has gone to the mountains several times! Boulder is another wonderful place to bring your pup. There are so many parks and trails that are dog friendly in Colorado. And it’s not as hot there in the summer like it is back home in Texas for us. We hiked and hiked and hiked and she just loved every minute of it! The only downside was that we ventured to Estes Park and visited Rocky Mountain National Park and dogs are not allowed on most of the trails there. She had to stay behind at the hotel while we were gone. Boulder is about a 12 hour drive from us.

Hiking in Boulder, CO
  • Crested Butte, Colorado

She’s also been to Crested Butte during the summer. Again, we mostly hiked and explored outdoors while we were there. She loved being with us, I swear she was even smiling in some of our Colorado photos! Crested Butte is about a 12 hour drive for us.

Hiking in Crested Butte, CO
  • Ruidoso, New Mexico

We took Josie up to the mountains last winter and she got to play in the snow. She loved it, of course! This was a pretty low key trip and we mostly lounged around the cabin and explored a little bit outside. Josie loved fetching snowballs that the boys threw! Ruidoso is about a 9 hour drive for us.

Exploring Ruidoso, NM

Pet Necessities We Travel With:

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Sometimes we choose not to take Josie with us on vacation. We have never flown with her and I don’t think we ever will. I am not sure that she would enjoy that. And if we have a lot of busy days planned with tons of activities on the agenda, we opt to leave her home. We are very lucky that my Dad will keep her for us at his house while we travel! Bottom line, there is a lot of planning and consideration involved before we bring our pup along on our travels. I hope this information is helpful for your travel planning! If you have any questions or your own tips/experiences, leave a comment. I’d love to connect with you!

Happy traveling! Be sure to check back to see where Josie Girl’s first adventure of 2023 will be!

5 Things Not to Miss in Grand Teton National Park

What a magical place the Grand Tetons are! I am so thankful we added this National Park to our summer itinerary. After being extremely disappointed that we were unable to visit Yellowstone when we were there this past summer, GTNP totally redeemed our whole vacation!

We were lucky enough to spend two full days in the Park and our family trekked over 15 miles of breathtaking hiking trails! We also encountered so much wildlife, it truly was an unforgettable experience.

Our family favorite was seeing a bear in the wild! We also loved that there weren’t long lines to get inside the Park and we did not need timed-entry reservations.

This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you purchase any items using the links provided.

Things NOT to Miss in Grand Teton National Park:

The Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center

We started with a stop at the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center. This place was amazing! The boys wanted to participate in the Jr. Park Ranger program, so we got the information and booklet they needed and explored the building. It was like a mini museum with different artifacts and visuals that we all enjoyed. The Ranger booklet was really fun for the boys to work on. And believe me, my kids never like doing workbooks and that sort of thing, but they had so much fun completing the pages in this book for their Jr. Ranger badges. Plus, it was something for them to do at night while we were back at the hotel! Once they finished, which took about a day, we went back to the Visitor Center and a Park Ranger swore them in as Jr. Rangers and they received a Grand Teton’s NP badge! It was a fun experience for us all and something we look forward to doing at each National Park we visit in the future!

Moose Ponds Trail

We decided that our first hike would be on the Moose Ponds trail based on different reviews I read on the AllTrails app and the time we had left in the day. This hike is a great introductory hike to the Park. The views were amazing every step of the way and it wasn’t too hard for anyone in our family. We didn’t see any moose at the ponds, but were told by fellow hikers that some were there sleeping in the thickets and to monitor the boys. We did see a marmot and several pronghorns while hiking!

  • Moose Ponds Trail Information:
  • Distance: 3.2 mile loop
  • Time: 2 hours
  • Location: Jenny Lake area
  • Rating: Easy

Phelps Lake & Overlook Trail

This was the MOST exciting hike of our whole trip because we saw a small bear on the trail! I have always wanted to see a bear in the wild and it finally happened on this hike! Our original plan was to hike to Phelps Lake, but the parking lot was full and there was a long line of cars waiting for spots to open up. So, we decided to hike to the overlook first and then head back to see if parking was open (which it was not). This was a fairly easy hike, even though it was mostly uphill and the overlook of the lake was beautiful! On the way back down there were hikers walking back towards us that said there was a bear up ahead. Luckily we had bear spray, so those hikers stayed with us and we walked a short distance until we spotted the bear. From here, we stayed and watched while the bear lumbered along the trail looking for food in the bushes. It was so neat to see in person! It finally walked down off the trail and we hurried along back to the car. While I was disappointed that the Phelps Lake parking lot was full, I am so excited that it worked out the way it did! For a video of the bear, check out my Instagram page ( The road leading to the trailhead parking lot is a dirt road and very bumpy! But we saw cars of all kinds, from sedans to vans to large SUVs. We drove all the way to the end, even though you will notice parking all along the dirt road. We parked when we saw the restrooms and were at the closest lot to the start of the trail!

  • Phelps Lake Overlook Trail Information:
  • Distance: 2 mile out & back
  • Time: 1.5 hours
  • Location: Moose-Wilson Road
  • Rating: Easy

Hidden Falls Trail

We hiked to Hidden Falls after our adventure at the Phelps Lake Overlook trail. This hike starts at the Jenny Lake area, so we decided to head that way and grab lunch at the store right at the trailhead. From here, we followed the trail around Jenny Lake. If you don’t want to hike, you can purchase tickets for a boat ride across the lake that drops you off about a mile from Hidden Falls. We decided to take the hike since we had been riding in the car so much on this trip! The views are fantastic around the lake and we even saw a deer along the trail. Before getting all the way to Hidden Falls you will eventually see a bridge with a raging river running under it. This is a great place to stop for photos! We stopped in this area and had a picnic snack on the rocks and just watched the river roar by underneath us. From this spot, it’s about a mile or less to the Hidden Falls. This waterfall is majestic and another great location for photos!

  • Hidden Falls Trail Information:
  • Distance: 4.9 mile out & back
  • Time: 2.5 hours
  • Location: Jenny Lake area
  • Rating: Easy/Moderate

Jenny Lake

You can’t visit Grand Teton National Park without stopping by Jenny Lake! It’s such a beautiful area and the start to many different trailheads. Plus, there’s also a Ranger Station, small Visitor Center, and store, and restrooms. The views around the lake are fantastic! It is a bit more crowded here than on the trails, but still a place you must stop to see!

As you can see, the Grand Tetons are not to be missed! If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone, be sure to add this as a stop since you’re only about two hours away. Again, we loved the easiness of this park and the short lines to get in. The views are stunning and the park offered some of the best hiking trails we’ve come across.


Orange Beach, Alabama

Have you ever felt like you needed a vacation from a vacation? Like, maybe you planned so many fun adventures into your day and your kids are tired, your feet hurt, you’re broke now, and just flat out exhausted? I have been guilty of this so many times. Not that I am complaining, because I love seeing and doing all the things! But, let me tell you a little secret… sometimes just being in a new place is all you need to have a wonderful time. I feel like this pretty much sums up our trip to Orange Beach, Alabama last month.

So, let me tell you the back story. My friend and I planned a very detailed, and if I’m honest, a too packed full of activities trip to Cape Canaveral, FL to view a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center. I happened to see that a rocket launch was scheduled around April 20th and we just immediately booked our flights and had a hotel and rental car waiting and ready for us on the Space Coast. Then, we started planning our days and decided that we were going to enjoy the hotel water park, visit NASA, kayak with manatees, visit an alligator farm, take surf lessons, find all the best beach front dining, and the list goes on and on. As luck would have it, the launch date changed by 2 days, so we changed our dates, which was a whole other ordeal. Then the launch was canceled, so we changed back to our original dates, only to discover that the launch was back on and moved to 3 days after the original date. Following me? Yes, it was basically a hot mess and like a sign from the heavens that we did NOT need to see that rocket launch. Well, being the troopers we are, we decided to still go to Cape Canaveral and have a blast with our kids in FL for a few days. Three days before our departure, the weather channel started showing videos of the torrential rain in the forecast for Orlando and all of the Space Coast area. I don’t think there is anyone that wants to spend money on a rained-out vacation, so we decided to cancel everything and look into other options. I had visited Orange Beach a few times in the past, but hadn’t been back in five years. Since we had already taken the days off from work, we decided to look there to see if any hotels had availability. And we got so lucky! We ended up being able to add an extra day to this one and decided to make the 10 hour drive to the beach and enjoy our week with our kids. I am so thankful we made this decision! It ended up being such a special trip for us and the biggest kicker – we literally did nothing except play at the beach and eat seafood dinners at night!

We rolled into Orange Beach and checked into our hotel around 7 pm. We stayed at Hampton Inn and Suites and had a lovely experience there. We booked a small suite that slept 6 and we had more than enough space for us all! Here are a few photos from the hotel and beach.

My boys and I both LOVE seafood, especially at the beach. We enjoyed everywhere we ate this week, but The Hangout was especially fun since they have foam parties every hour!

Here is a list of our dining experiences this week:

Bubba’s Seafood House

Angry Crab Shack

The Hangout

The Gulf Restaurant and Bar (my favorite)

The Yard Milkshake Bar

We basically only ventured off the hotel property for dinner/souvenir shopping. We stopped at the Walmart across from the hotel on our first day for lunches and took advantage of the really nice hotel breakfast each morning. The days were spent sleeping in, playing in the sand, watching dolphins from the shore, riding boogie boards, making memories, and just having an all-around actual restful and relaxing vacation. Our mama hearts were so full and our kids just really enjoyed their time together… and taking a couple of metal health days off from school!

How to Take the Best Beach Jump Photos… or NOT!

Hey y’all! I was going through photos this morning, I’m trying to spruce up our home office area since we’re actually using it now, and I came across these series of photos and had to share again.

A little background – All I wanted was a really fun “jump photo” of my boys at the beach. We were in Galveston and that is my family’s happy place! Well, keep reading to learn how I captured these amazing gems!

First, pick out the time of day and a good location for the shot. I was aiming for a sunset jump pic and I didn’t want a lot of people in the background.

Boys were happy, the sky was beautiful, the background was clear… perfect!

Second, you’ll need to have a countdown, so the person or people you’re photoing will know when to jump! It’s really important to know the number you’re jumping on haha!

Third, hold your camera shutter button down so that you can get a series of pictures to go through to find the best one! I start holding down the shutter button as I’m counting.

Special Notes – Be sure to tell the people in your picture to smile and look at your camera or phone when they’re jumping! Some people also like to practice their jumps first or come up with a fun pose for their jump! Be creative!!

Clearly, I am a professional with the most perfect “jumpers”! Check out our amazing shots!

Good luck taking your next jump pics!

Totally nailed it!

Click here to learn more about Galveston, like where we love to stay and some of our favorite places on the island.

How I Plan Trips – The Method to the Madness

Hey y’all! I hope you’re enjoying the summer so far. I’ve been busy planning away, mostly re-booking trips that were canceled this past spring. And that had me thinking, I should write a blog on how I plan our trips! I’m constantly asked how I find places or plan our travels, so keep reading to learn my tips and tricks!

So, I promise I am not a travel expert by any means, but if you follow along on our adventures, you’ll see that we really have gone to some cool places over the years. The internet has become my best friend and I’m not sure how anyone traveled anywhere without it haha!

So, to begin I must mention that I follow a lot of travel sites on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I also order free brochures and magazines for popular destinations like, Alaska, Colorado, US National Parks, Florida, etc.

There’s never a shortage of travel magazines in our house!

I think about 99% of our trips are planned around a single photo that I come across either from an online image or something in a magazine. It might sound crazy, but I am a very visual learner. I see a cool photo, I begin researching right away, and then I build my trip around that single image. Does that sound crazy?!

I need my picture taken right here, so can you guess what I’m planning next?

Once I see a photo and decide that we must go there and take the same picture, I begin researching this destination. I use google and Pinterest mostly for this. I type in that specific location and spend hours reading and planning.

The map app I use (the standard iPhone app) is also my new best friend. I have to see how far away the destination is and decide if we can do the road trip or if we will need to fly. Have I ever mentioned that I hate flying? I totally prefer to drive while the rest of my family would rather fly. Usually I start with the main destination in mind and begin mapping out our route and planning the drive there and back. Once I have that figured out I start building an itinerary.

Looks like another long drive is in our future!

When I figure out our next destination and have a plan on how long it will take to get there and back, I do more research to see what else is in the area that we need to check out! Typically, I’ll go to Pinterest and lots of options pop up when I type in the location – from places to eat, to historical sites to see, to unique roadside attractions. I use this information to see how many days we’ll need to plan for.

If my computer is out, chances are I’m up to something fun!

Once I know how many days we’ll need, I then go to Google and search the weather for that destination/best time to travel there. I try not to plan trips during the rainy seasons or when there’s a risk for winter weather (especially if we’re driving). At the same time, I’m limited on my travel days being a teacher and having kids that need to be in school learning! But I try to use our school holidays when I can and I’ve found that I really enjoy traveling over Thanksgiving break and spring break. The weather is pleasant and some places aren’t as crowded.

It’s going to be toasty in July…

I also reach out to some of the groups I follow on social media to ask for tips or recommendations! It’s always helpful to discuss travels with people that have already been there, especially if they’ve gone to your future destination recently!

So many people are willing to share ideas and it’s very helpful!

Now, here’s the hardest part… once I have the destination chosen, I know how long the drive will be, and I have an idea on how many days we should visit, I have to convince the hubby it’s a good idea! The best tip for this – finding something adventurous at that location that I know he’ll love to do to seal the deal! Once he’s convinced I start looking for hotel options. I have had good luck booking on Expedia and choosing the book now/pay later option. This has allowed us to book a few different options at the same time and then cancel without a fee the day before check in. There’s been a few times we’ve canceled a trip due to weather or our kids getting sick.

My hubby could NOT say no to a rafting trip!

After the hotel is booked, I make a list of those must see and do places. I take my list and we have a general idea of when we want to do those things, but unless I have to book an activity in advance, I don’t set specific dates for specific places. I like to keep the days open in case the weather changes last minute or we get a good recommendation from a local!

I also check out billboards when we’re driving. We’ve found lots of fun stops along the way just from billboards or roadside advertisements, like Smith Falls State Park in Nebraska or Uranus Fudge Factory in Missouri!

Planning around Covid 19 – I feel like I had to address this because my planning has really changed over the past several months and we have new considerations to think about. With this in mind, I can’t fail to mention that you really need to plan ahead and make sure that the places you want to visit are open. You also need to see if these places require advance reservations and if there are any restrictions in place. Be sure that you’re satisfied with the lodging’s sanitizing procedures.

I hope that all of this made sense! If you need any help planning a family trip, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or send me that favorite photograph and I will help build you an epic itinerary!

Traveling in 2020 – Should My Family Travel This Summer?

But maybe not in 2020…
(Image from google)

Hey y’all! I hope you’re all doing well out there. Isn’t this such a crazy time? I decided to write today after having several friends and family members reach out to me over the last few months and weeks to ask about traveling this summer. So, I thought I’d share my thoughts and feelings. But remember, I’m not a health expert!

Personally, my family has canceled/rescheduled 6 planned vacations since March. I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard on me! Traveling and planning our next trip has always been therapeutic for me. And having a countdown or some big adventure to look forward to just seems to slow down life, I guess because my family is so excited and ready to go. Most of our trips were actually canceled for us, we didn’t have a choice. Of course, that made things much easier, especially when it came down to telling the boys! But we also made some hard decisions for this summer.

Me, that one day I kept getting cancelation emails from all of our booked spring and summer trips.

We had two big trips planned, California – Yosemite, The Redwoods, & Monterey in June and Cabo San Lucas planned for July. We decided to cancel those and will reschedule for a later date, probably summer 2021!

Here’s my advice to anyone reading this:

First, listen to your gut and do what’s best for your family! If you have a feeling that you should stay put for a little longer, then stay put! If you feel safe traveling, go for it and have the best time!

Next, really think about what traveling looks like, not just the amazing pictures, but the “getting there/getting home” part. Will you fly or drive? Do you feel comfortable on an airplane or in airports with a large crowd? If you’re planning to road trip, what are your thoughts on gas stations, public bathrooms, hotels, and restaurants?

Then, be sure to do your research on your destination! There are so many restrictions and rules that have been implemented due to our current pandemic. Some places require masks, others have specific capacity restrictions. Most National/State Parks require tickets to be purchased in advance and there’s a limit on those ticket sales. It appears that most places are opening back up, but of course its being done in phases. So please, do your research before you leave! If you see different sites showing different information, call the place you’re visiting directly and speak to an employee to get the most accurate and up to date info.

Have you considered a Staycation or taking a fun day trip closer to home instead? We recently did this with our boys! We traveled to Glen Rose, TX which is about a 2 hour drive for us. We packed a picnic lunch and practiced social distancing at an outdoor park and then were in our car feeding animals while driving through a wildlife zoo.

Does it make sense for your family to reschedule your trip for a later date, like in the fall or next summer? We are planning to reschedule all of our trips and I’m excited to have a year to plan Yosemite, it will be our first time visiting there! Maybe you can use the summer to research and put together an epic itinerary for your destination!

Are current travel prices, like cheaper airfare, appealing to your family? Are prices low enough now that your family can take that special trip that you might not be able to afford later on? This has been hard for me, I want to book all the $50 flights I see!

Should you travel within your country or internationally? Again, do your research and make sure you know what’s open, what the requirements are, and if there’s any restrictions or required quarantines for that destination.

Should you travel with groups? I can’t really answer that, but personally we’re choosing to travel with only our family of 4 at this time. We have a 2 night trip to Robbers Cave, OK coming up. My mom is battling breast cancer, so I have to put her health into consideration, too. While we’re getting out a little more now and seeing friends & family, we likely won’t be traveling with them like we love to do! Next summer though…

Finally, just remember that this decision involves you and your family. So once again, you have to do what’s best for you! Try to put your feelings aside and really look at the situation from all sides. My husband really does not want to have our children on an airplane or in airports right now. He’s really against leaving the country, just in case there’s another spike and things begin to shut down again. I was actually traveling in Virginia over spring break with our boys when the world began shutting down. I think he was worried about us getting back and being healthy and just doesn’t want to take any risks right now! So while I’m ready to go, go, go and see the world, I really had to pause and consider his feelings. And I know in my heart, if we travel in a way that he’s uncomfortable with, he will be anxious and worried and then we won’t be having any fun!

I know I’m probably missing some key points, but this is what I’ve been telling my dear friends and family when they ask for advice! I’d love to hear, or read, your thoughts on traveling this summer! Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a great summer. Be safe, healthy and kind out there! And remember, no matter what you decide this summer, we will travel again!

Image from Google

How It All Began…

Hey y’all, I’m Jasha (pronounced like Jay-shu) and for as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with traveling! Often you can find me either planning my next adventure or on my next adventure. Everyone started calling me the Road Trip Queen and suggested that I write a travel blog, so the name kind of stuck and here I am, sharing all of my travels with you.

I am married to my high school sweetheart and we have two boys, Jett and Jake. I am also an elementary school teacher and a huge US History fanatic. I enjoy traveling with friends and my little family and really want to share it all with you – the good, bad, and ugly! Because, let’s be real here… I am traveling with kids ha!

My family!

Most of our travel adventures will be around the United States – we have a BIG goal to get our boys to all 50 states before they leave home. So far, I’m at 41 and the boys are at 39! I try not to include states that we just drive through, I want at least a hotel stay and some kind of experience to mark that state off of our list. Sometimes we take the boys out of the country, Mexico is one of our favorites! I am always happy to connect with my readers and answer any questions that you may have. I’ve also been known to help with travel planning, so please feel free to contact me!

I hope you all love taking this crazy, exciting, chaotic, unpredictable journey with me!