Planning a Family Trip to Tucson, Arizona

Saguaro National Park – Source: Christoph von Gellhorn on

We have our next family trip planned and I can’t wait for our next adventure! We are still exploring Arizona – we previously visited Phoenix and Sedona (January 2023) and then we did a fabulous smorgasbord of Arizona, Nevada and Utah (March 2023) (part 1 and part 2).

Well, next up is Tucson, Arizona!

Since we visited the middle and top of Arizona, we figured we should check out the southern part of Arizona too with a flight into Tucson. We will be flying in late in the evening, so that we can enjoy 5 full days exploring before we need to pack up and come home on a super early flight.

Here’s what is on our possible adventure list:

  • San Xavier Mission for beautiful sights
  • The Mercando District for some delicious food
  • The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum for hiking
  • Fourth Avenue for shopping
  • The Saguaro National Park hiking — East side one day and West side another day
  • The Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway for amazing sights and some picnic spots

I am a *little* nervous because apparently, we need to watch out for Mountain Lions, Killer Bees, and Rattlesnakes at the Saguaro National Park. So, we’ve been going over what to do if you see a mountain lion (don’t run, look big and fight back if attacked), killer bees (stay alert, run away as fast as you can for ¼ to ½ of a mile, scrape stingers out and call 911) and rattlesnakes (move in the opposite direction of them, don’t put your hands or feet in shaded areas). Oh yeah, and there are scorpions (check shoes before putting them on). So honestly, I’m hoping if I see any wildlife, it’s from the comfort of a vehicle…

Here is what’s on our yummy food list:

  • Charred Pie pizza
  • Eegees – an Arizona institution
  • The Tuscan Tamale Company
  • Daily Bread
  • The Screamery for ice cream
  • And I hear there is a pizza shop at the top of Mt. Lemmon that has cookies the size of paper plates!

If you have a place we MUST visit or a restaurant/food we need to try, please let me know!

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NYC Birthday Trip with My Preteen

One of the awesome things about Jack’s birthday each year, is that it’s typically followed by a three-day weekend off work and school for President’s Day. Who doesn’t want a long birthday weekend?! This year, I asked him if he wanted to go anywhere fun and he immediately said he wanted to go back to New York City. We visited NYC for Jack’s first time in November 2022 and he really, really, really wanted to go back. Even though I warned him that February in New York is cold. So, to NYC we went…

We decided to do it as a mom and kiddo weekend (since my husband isn’t a big fan of the city) and it worked out great that Jack still qualifies for half-price Amtrak train tickets. I decided to switch it up a bit by staying in Chelsea, so here is where we stayed, what we did and what we ate:

Where We Stayed: Motto by Hilton New York City Chelsea

It was our first time staying at the Motto in Chelsea and I would absolutely stay there again. The check-in was easy, the rooms were very clean and well designed, and the price was good by NYC standards. We took the train to Penn Station and then walked the few blocks over to the hotel (about a 10-minute walk).

Check-in was at 3pm and we arrived right around then and were checked right into our room. We did the king bed studio room and it was plenty of room for the two of us. A nice perk: We received 2 bottles of water a day and a daily $10 food and beverage credit for the downstairs coffee bar and restaurant.

Day 1: Chelsea Market, Crumbl Cookies, Lulla

After we settled into our hotel room, we bundled up and walked over to Chelsea Market. We ended up having a late lunch/early dinner by enjoying food from all the different food stands. Our favorites were tacos and horchata from Los Lacos No. 1 and the banana and Nutella crepes from Bar Suzette.

On our walk back, we stopped by Crumbl cookies and picked up a 4-pack to nibble on in our room while watching tv/playing video games/reading a book/watching the amazing sunset. And yes, we totally got crumbs in the bed.

A bit later, we got hungry again, so we went downstairs to Lulla and ordered an Aperitivo Bites box for two… which honestly wasn’t as good as I was hoping it would be.

The sunset was magical though:

Day 2: The Chelsea Flea, The Lego Store, The Harry Potter Store, The Nintendo Store, Eataly

We had a slow and lazy start to Saturday morning and basically hung out in the room relaxing until almost check-out time (noon). We repacked our backpacks and checked them at the front desk, before heading on our way for the day’s adventures.

After hitting up a nearby Starbucks for coffee and breakfast sandwiches, we did a bunch of walking around and exploring. The main spots were The Chelsea Flea (meh), The Lego Store (huge win for Jack!), the Harry Potter Store (super awesome and we loved the butterbeer bar) and the Nintendo Store (way more crowded than we’ve ever seen it!).

We had lunch at Eataly which was absolutely delicious – we both highly recommend the pizza, gnocchi and dark chocolate chip cannoli! It’s almost worth the train ride just for the homemade gnocchi… yum.

After all our exploring, we were cold and in need of some downtime, so decided to return to the hotel and hang out in the secluded second-floor lobby. Jack started building his super awesome Lego project and I got in a little reading. After a bit of a rest, we grabbed a Uber to the train station and thankfully our train was on time to head home! (I’ve had bad luck before with leaving NYC and getting delayed!)

It was a super fun overnight trip and a really great birthday for my newly 12-year old preteen!

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A Review of the Judea Travel Weekender Bag from Bostanten Bags

I’m not really a *winter* person, so after the twinkle lights of Christmas have come down, I’m basically grumpy, miserable and cold until spring. Which is why I tend to plan little trips here and there… to help me get through the grumpy season. Looking at January and February, I had a girl’s weekend away, visited Great Wolf Lodge with the family for an overnight, and also am planning to take Jack to NYC to celebrate his birthday.

So, it was kind of perfect timing when a nice person from Bostanten bags reached out to see if I’d like to review something from their collection!

They have an assortment of women’s travel bags and travel weekender bags, but I was intrigued by the Judea Travel Weekender Bag:

The Judea Travel Weekender bag comes in two colorways and retails for $149.99. I liked the black/brown version because I feel like it would hold up better long term, and they generously sent it to me at no cost in exchange for my honest review.

I picked the Judea bag, because I liked that it had a separate section on the bottom for shoes, which keeps them away from the rest of your clothing. It also seemed to be a good size – perfect for an overnighter – which fills a hole in my travel gear. It looks a little more high-end, which would be nice for work travel when I don’t want to be lugging around a backpack.

Here it is in person:

It’s a really nice size and has both the handles and an over-the-shoulder strap. Oh and it has a trolley sleeve if I wanted to take it as an airline carry-on (the pocket in the back slips over a luggage handle).

As it turns out, a few days after the bag arrived, I packed it up for a girl’s weekend:

I was planning to wear the same boots both days, so I used the bottom compartment for my pajamas so that they were easy to grab when I was ready for bed. On the right is everything else I fit in the top portion – a full outfit (jeans, sweater, underroos), my toiletry bag, and also a gift bag of stuff for my friend.

And here it is all loaded up! Of course, as soon as I prepare a travel bag Ollie gets nervous and tries to make sure I don’t forget to pack him.

The Judea bag was great for a weekend trip and I even had a little extra space to add in a few things I purchased while I was away. I was curious to see what would fit in the shoe compartment though, so here are a couple tries:

I wear a size 8.5/9 in shoes, so it looks like I can fit one pair of boots or up to three smaller shoe options… which works great since I wouldn’t need more than that for an overnight or weekend trip.

I really like the Judea weekender bag and it will be a great overnight bag for me for when a rolling travel bag feels a bit like overkill. I like that it has that separate bottom section to keep the bag organized, as well as interior pockets and an extra zippered section.

My only caveat is that while it is called the “Judea Leather Travel Duffle Bag” on the website, later in the description it clarifies that it is PU leather. If you were expecting a leather bag, you might be disappointed. However, PU leather (aka polyurethane leather) is vegan, water resistant, durable and easy to clean. So, for a travel bag, it is a good way to get a polished look for a lower price.

Disclaimer: Bostanten provided me with an item of my choice in exchange for my honest review. I picked the Judea Travel Weekender Bag and as always, all thoughts and opinions are all my own!

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