Disney Cruise: Dolphin Encounter

dolphin encounter 4Probably one of the most memorable parts of our summer Disney Cruise vacation was undeniably our shore excursion to Blue Lagoon Island for the Dolphin Encounter.   Scott and I had done it before many moons ago on a previous cruise to the Bahamas and we knew that we wanted our son to have the same experience we did, since this was a special vacation.  We booked the excursion directly through our Disney Cruise Line account, as the price of booking through them was not much more than booking independently, and because it was booked through DCL, we knew that if there were any troubles with returning back to port to embark the ship, the cruise line would be aware.

We knew that this excursion would be a bit more pricey given the nature of the 123experience, but in our honest opinion, the price paid is well worth the amazing experience of being able to connect with dolphins and learn about them in very safe and memorable way.  The current rate through Disney Cruise Line is $158.00 per person age 10 and up, and $143.00 per person age 4 to 9.   This includes transportation to and from  via boat to Blue Lagoon Island,  access to the island’s beaches and on site water activities, access to the facilities, and of course, the dolphin encounter, life vests, and locker rental.  In addition, the boat ride to the island is quite an excursion in an of itself.  During our ride over, the boat captain gave a mini-tour of celebrity homes and history along the way and another boat crew member got the on board guests moving with a mini Macarena dance party!

dolphin encounter 3The day of our excursion, thunderstorms threatened Nassau and the surrounding area, but we were fortunate that Blue Lagoon Island was far enough out that we only experience sunny, pleasant weather!  Debarking from the Dream and getting to the excursion was a snap, armbands were provided to guide you to where you needed to go in order to board your shore transportation and the process was seamless.

Once we arrived to our destination, we rested on the beach and snorkeled and played in the water while we waited for our excursion time.  The water at the island was so clear that you could see fish all over swimming around you.  The water was also very still and not deep, so children could play freely without much worry.   There were paddle boats, inflatable amusements, etc. available for an extra fee as well.  Dolphin Encounters at Blue Lagoon also offers a Dolphin Swim and a Sea Lion experience as well!

Before we knew it, though, it was time for our excursion.  We were able to lock up our dolphin encounter 1valuables in a small locker at no extra charge and we were required, of course, to sign a waiver.  Life vests were provided and required for everyone’s safety.  Groups of 10 were typically included in each area devoted to the encounter and a photographer and trainers were available to teach guests about the dolphin’s habits, life span, intelligence, etc.   We were able to feel their bellies, teeth, feed them, and the best part, give them hugs, kisses, and even dance with them.   It was incredible to see these magnificent animals up close and personal.  Seeing the joy on my son’s face with a giant smile was probably the best part of the whole experience!   After we were done,  the staff gave us details on where we could go online at a later date to download and order pictures.  We were with a group of friends and we all split the cost for the photos. The photo package was around $100-$150 and it even included videos and digital images of everyone in your group.  It was well worth it, especially if you are with a large group that can split the cost.

My son is STILL talking about his experience with the dolphins and he keeps asking when we can do it again.  If you are taking a Disney Cruise (or any cruise for that matter) to the Bahamas and you are debating a shore excursion to Blue Lagoon for a Dolphin Encounter, we highly recommend it, as it was a wonderful experience that will remain in our memories for years to come!

A few tips for your visit:

  • Bring the bare minimum needed in your bag.  The lockers are small and can only really hold your wallet, phone, camera, etc.
  • Cameras and phones are not permitted during the encounter.
  • There are bathrooms, showers, etc. available if you need to use them after the experience is complete
  • Unless you plan on buying a few snacks, etc.  do not bring a lot of $$.  You also do not need to pay for your photos up front.  They upload them to a server and give you a slip of paper with your download info.  When you go to download them, you pay!
  • If you have a small child you think may be freaked out by the dolphins, there is an option for them to just be a “viewer”  or “guest” – the website has more details.

2018 Disney Cruise: Stateroom Category 8A

I remember one of the first things that I was super curious about when we booked our Disney cruise was the accommodations on the ship.  Because we were paying a premium for our vacation, I was really curious about all of the resort style qualities that the ship had to offer as well as the size, quality, and comfort of our cabin.

stateroom 5520 I savoie faire blogOriginally, when we were booking and planning this vacation, our first thought was to book a stateroom with a veranda, that way we could sit outside and enjoy the sea breeze in the mornings and in the late afternoons, but the more we thought about it, we were kind of concerned safety-wise about our 6 year old daredevil.  While I don’t think he would ever try to climb over the edge of the rail, I was still nervous and concerned about that possibility.  Then a friend shared a little tip with me about the Category 8A Staterooms on Disney Cruise Line, and as soon as we saw the details, we were sure to book it, and we were VERY pleased with this setup.

On the Disney Dream & Disney Fantasy, there are a small quantity of these staterooms available.  They are considered Deluxe Family Oceanview Staterooms and they offer two large portholes and a split floor plan.   This means that there is typically a wall or a pole dividing the stateroom into two “rooms” – a bedroom and a sitting room to give a sense of a “suite” without being an actual suite.   Their square footage is slightly larger than the other Deluxe Oceanview rooms, with approximately 320 SF vs. the 241 SF on the others.  DCL Dream 5520 I savoie faire blogI think some of these come with bunks, but most only come with a sofa that converts into a twin bed, which was perfect for our little fella.  These rooms have large closets along a wall and very large desk area as well for storage.  There is a refrigerator, safe, etc. for storage, etc.  It is worth noting, however, than unlike other cabins on the Dream, we DID NOT have a split bathroom.  So we only had one toilet, one sink, one tub.  Some of the other 8A cabins have showers only.  We stayed in room 5020, which was forward on the ship and was one of the 8A cabins that had a privacy wall to divide the two areas. Other rooms in this category on the Dream are 6016, 6514, 5022,5050, and 5522.  From what I gather, only decks 5 & 6 have these rooms and they are always either forward or aft on the ship…never centrally located.  That is something to consider if you prefer to be centrally located on a cruise ship.

category 8a bathroom I savoie faire blogWe found the room to be incredibly spacious and roomy and we never felt cramped or uncomfortable.  In fact, we had friends come to visit us and even with them in our space, we didn’t feel overly cramped.  The sitting area was actually great to just relax and look out of the window if you wanted (and if you wanted, you could even sit in the porthole!)  There was lots of space to store our luggage under the large queen size bed (which was AMAZINGLY comfortable) and we had ample storage in the closets for our clothing and other incidentals.  There was also a clothesline in the shower to hang our swimsuits to dry as well as really awesome toiletries provided that can only be found on DCL… and there were even a hidden Mickey in the bathroom!  Every night, our stateroom attendant (who was awesome, Hi Mr. Tan!!!)  would turn down our bed and also turn our sofa into a super comfy bed for our little guy, and it was a perfect setup for the week along with some super creative and fun towel and blanket animals! blanket animals I savoie faire blogThe chocolates were certainly a nice touch, as well!

While this stateroom was in the forward location of the boat, we did not encounter a ton of movement or discomfort in this location,  Even on the one night where we had a little bit of rough seas, we did not noticed a ton of extra movement or sway… just a smidge, and that was easily remedied with some sea bands.

Also, someone really awesome did a youtube tour of our stateroom… so if you are interested in this category, you can also check this out!

While we didn’t spend tons of time in our stateroom, as there was tons to do on the cruise all day,  it was nice to be able to relax in our stateroom without feeling like we were in a sardine can.  When and if we cruise on DCL again, we will very likely try to get another Category 8A, because we loved it on this cruise!

Have you ever cruise with Disney Cruise Line?  What kind of stateroom were you in and did you like it? We are curious to know!

 

 

2018 Disney Dream Cruise Overview

Like I have mentioned before, sometimes our travels take us beyond what we can do in our travel trailer- usually once a year we will try to take a nice vacation that might take us somewhere beyond the continental US or even maybe somewhere too far to tow the camper (which is a whole post in and of itself!).   Back at the beginning of June, we sailed on our first cruise with Disney Cruise Line aboard the Disney Dream.   The Disney Dream was completed in 2011 and is one of the largest ships in the DCL fleet until they introduce their newest ships, the first of which is to arrive in 2021!   unlimited ice cream disney cruise i savoie faire blog

We took one of the few 5 day “Double Dip” Bahamas cruises on DCL’s schedule.   Because this cruise was during prime vacation and cruise season, our rates were somewhat higher than average.   Because of this, we opted to book our trip well over 18 months in advance to be able to save and make payments in preparation for this extra special vacation.  When reserving a cruise with DCL, there is a deposit of 20% required when you book your trip…. so keep that in mind!  We booked our Disney Cruise with a travel agent so that we would be in contact with someone who was knowledgeable about Disney Cruise Line, the tips, tricks, advice, etc. about sailing for the first time.    Amanda with Delightful Destinations is our choice for  a top notch agent with tons of tips, info, and amazing service with booking your Disney cruise vacation- we highly recommend her and if you haven’t already, take a peek at all of her blog posts about Disney!

Having cruised in the past on Royal Caribbean, we made a joke that the Disney cruise better be amazing, as it was significantly more expensive than those cruises we took in the past.    I can say, with confidence, that there is a reason why cruises with Disney Cruise Line are pricier than others- the seamless embarkation & debarkation procedures, attention to detail,   amazing guest service and experience,  cleanliness,  variety of activities for all ages and interests, and the entertainment alone were top notch and far exceeded our expectations for what we had experienced in the past on other cruise lines.  When people talk about the extra “magic” that Disney has to offer its guests, they are not kidding.  Just those extra touches made such a difference in the quality and enjoyment of our trip and we can now understand why so many people say that once you cruise Disney, you have a hard time cruising elsewhere. sailaway party disney I savoie faire blog

We had an amazing trip full of memories and fun and I am looking forward to sharing some of the highlights with y’all in the next few weeks I know that in the months leading up to our trip, I was scouring blogs and the internet to read about the trips of other families and what they loved, what they recommended, and any tips and tricks they had, so I figured I’d pay it forward!

If there is anything you’d like to know, please feel free to drop us a line and ask!   Stay tuned!

#DiscoverJuly: National Parks & Recreation Month 2018

Did you know that July is National Parks & Recreation Month?  We didn’t!  We recently discovered that the National Recreation & Park Association created this month to encourage the public to get out there and explore and discover what local parks, recreation sites, and historic sites have to offer the community.

“ This July, explore everything your local parks and recreation has to offer! Playgrounds, rec centers, sports leagues, summer camps — these are just a few of the things that come to mind when we think of parks and rec. But, parks and recreation is so much more than that. During Park and Recreation Month, NRPA challenges you to explore the “undiscovered” roles of local parks and recreation, like science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programming; senior programs; innovative health and wellness opportunities; community celebrations; outdoor education; flood mitigation; maintenance; and more! Redefine how you think about your local parks and rec, and uncover a lifetime of discovery!”

While we are nearing the end of the month, we still have one more week and now is as great a time as any to get out there and explore with the kids before school starts back up at your local state park, recreation area, or historic site.  There are several ways you can celebrate!

2018 Parks & Recreation Month Activity Book  If it’s too hot outside at the moment to head to the park?  No worries… get them started inside at home with this neat activity book provided by the NRPA.  It’s a free download and has lots of good activities for learning about the outdoors in your region!

#DiscoverJuly – Check out this hashtag across social media or check out the NRPA Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter pages for neat information and updates on what is going on around your community and region!

#NRPADiscoveryChallenge What is really cool is that the NRPA has a really cool photo contest going on RIGHT NOW! From now until July 30th, 2018, you can enter your photos via Instagram, Twitter, or on their site with the hashtag #NRPADiscoveryChallenge and be entered to win neat prizes, the grand prize being a GoPro!

This week’s challenge wants you to share pictures that lets them know… “What did you learn?

Show us something that you learned or lessons you took away from your discoveries to be eligible to win an Osprey Farpoint travel pack!

HOW TO ENTER

Take a photo in your local or park or recreation area — make sure it follows the weekly theme—this week’s is “What did you learn?”

Submit via Twitter or Instagram using #NRPADiscoveryChallenge or on the submission site.

The winner will be chosen by a panel of esteemed judges. The photo that best demonstrates the theme will be dubbed the winner! NRPA will reach out to award the prize. Winners will be chosen July 9, 16, 23 and 31.

At the end of the month, one winner will be chosen for the grand prize — a GoPro Hero5 action camera and 3-way mount! The grand prize winner will be selected and notified on August 1, 2018.

Sounds like a pretty cool contest, and I guess that means we need to go take a look and see what we have learned recently on our visits to local state parks and recreation sites!   It’s not too late to enter, so go check it out and enter, and be sure to check out all of the other photos from the contest!

What are you waiting for?  Go head out and #DISCOVERJULY with local parks and recreation!

REVIEW: BUCCANEER STATE PARK

Louisiana friends, if your family wants to try camping near the beach without having to take a long drive to Alabama or Florida,  there is an option in Mississippi for you. Located in Hancock County on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Buccaneer State Park is a coastal campground that has something for everyone.

buccaneer beach I savoie faire blogCompletely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Buccaneer State Park was rebuilt and overhauled to include a water park, campground, playground, nature trails, disc golf, and waterfront camping to provide an enjoyable experience for everyone.  An hour from New Orleans and its surrounding areas, Buccaneer State Park is easily accessible via I-10 or Highway 90.  Traveling to the park does require driving over railroad tracks; the tracks on the exit prior to the park are not good for a truck with a trailer or a motor home.  We highly encourage taking Lakeshore Drive to S. Beach Blvd. to prevent any damage. The park is easy to find and has adequate signage to guide to the camping area; once you pass Buccaneer Bay Water Park and the playground, you will come up on the campground office, which is also gated. sunset buccaneer I savoie faire blog

If you are visiting Buccaneer and would like to explore the nearby coastal areas, there is a nice shopping and dining area right down Beach Blvd. in Bay St. Louis as well as a pier and a paved bike trail along the Gulf of Mexico.  If the weather is nice, this is a great option for exploring the area and/or spending the day at the beach.

There is an attendant at the main gate and the campground is immediately to your right. The attendants are pleasant, but on all of our visits, we did not see any other park personnel.   Almost all of the roads and campsites are concrete and level and all RV campsites include full hookups.  In some of the loops, the arrangement of the sites can make backing in a little tricky.  Campsites are in loops, which are cleverly named with pirate references.   If you are looking for a shaded campsite, the Treasure Cove area is the most shaded, however it is closest to the railroad tracks, so you may have a lot of noise when trains come through.  We have found that the Barataria Bay & Jean Lafitte areas get the least amount of noise from trains.  campsite buccaneer I savoie faire blogThe Blackbeard loop is the only one in the campground without paved sites or picnic tables and it is also near the train tracks.  This loop is also somewhat shaded, however the sites are very close together and there is not much room to the campsites.  If you have more than one vehicle, you will have to park at the entrance of the loop, near the pool.  If you are looking for a beach view, there are a handful of campsites that are not paved but face the Gulf of Mexico and have basic hookups, but no sewer, and are considered “walk up” and do not take reservations.   All sites with the exception of those in the Blackbeard loop also include a picnic table and charcoal grill. Campsites are reasonably priced, with variations due to seasonal rates.  Average rates are around $25/night in the fall, maxing out with $28/night in the summer for a site with full hookups.

campgroun pool buccaneer i savoie faire blogAmenities at Buccaneer include disc golf, beach access, a water park with a wave pool and slides, a wading pool that is part of the campground, a game room, bath houses, and nature trails. The campground wading pool is large, clean, and well equipped with umbrellas, pool chairs, and a lifeguard and is about 3′ deep for those wishing to use it. However, there is an additional fee of $6 per person, per day,  to use the campground pool.   The game room is right next to the pool area, as well as a camp store.   There are lots of paved roads for bike riding and generally the traffic is not heavy throughout the campground, so children can ride safely.  Nature trails are pleasant and well maintained. The playground is not in the campground, it is near the entrance in the day use area.  It is well equipped and maintained with equipment for all ages, including swings and a merry-go-round.  Our son is a big fan of the playground and it provides hours of entertainment for the kids.    Depending on when you visit Buccaneer,  be forewarned that because it is located near the marsh, you may encounter lots of mosquitoes and/or biting gnats.  We have been fortunate the last few times we have gone that there were not many, but we have also been when the gnats bit so much we couldn’t spend much time outside.  Be sure to bring lots of bug spray and or repellent lamps to deter them.

Entrance into Buccaneer Bay Water Park is NOT included in your campground stay.  Inwaterslides buccaneer I savoie faire blog order to use the water park,  it is $13 per person under 48″ tall and $19 per person over 48″  per day.   This rate also includes access to the campground pool should you wish to use it on the same day.  There is also a “twilight” rate from 4-6 PM that makes entry $13 & $11.  The water park closes at 6 PM. Wristbands are provided so that you can come and go from the water park to your campsite, which is good, as no outside food or drink is permitted.  The water park includes a wave pool, small children’s pool, and 2 two water slides.  Children must be 48″ to ride the slides.   While we did really enjoy ourselves at Buccaneer Bay, we did not feel like the water park is a good value when camping at Buccaneer State Park… simply stated, the expense of the water park entry fees for a family of four along with the campground fees could total up to $208.00 for the weekend… which is incredibly costly, most especially since the water park does not have many activities – just the wave pool, 2 water slides, and a small baby pool.  While this was adequate entertainment for us on our camping trip, we did not feel like the water park was a good value for what was provided.  Specifically, had our child not been tall enough to ride the slides, the rate would have been $13 for him to play in a wave pool buccaneer I savoie faire blogbaby pool and in the wave pool, which would be very disappointing. When compared to other water parks, the cost per ride at Buccaneer is approximately $6.33/per ride, per person.   Right down the road, at Gulf Islands Water Park, there are 11 rides available for guests; all slides are good for kids 42″ tall and up, and the rate is $3.181/per pride, per person. (Rate during prime season is $34.99 and includes 8 more rides/attractions).  We did enjoy our visit to Buccaneer Bay Water Park and we felt that the pools and slides were well maintained, cleaned, and well staffed with lifeguards, however, we couldn’t help but feel like the water park was missing something or just a little bit “meh” with regards to what it had to offer for the price charged.

There are bath houses at every loop, except the Blackbeard loop.  All of the bath houses we encountered were adequate but not preferred.  While they are newer, they are not well ventilated and get very hot/steamy and/or really cold depending on the weather.  There was no hand soap or paper towels available either, which we found sort of pointless.  Also, on our last visit, it looked as though the shower had not been cleaned in a while, there were hairballs all over and mold growing on the tile.  There is also nowhere to hang a towel.  But, if in a pinch and you need them, they are okay enough to use.

If you are looking to camp somewhere this summer near the Mississippi Gulf Coast or New Orleans, but with the option for water or beach fun along with the traditional part of camping, head on over to Buccaneer State Park- there is literally something for everyone!

AMENITIES: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

BATH HOUSES: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

KID FRIENDLY: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

CAMPSITES: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

PARK STAFF: ⭐ ⭐

OVERALL RATING: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Update

just the other day I realized that it has been a good long while since we posted here at Savoie Faire-  between closing out the school year, going on a really cool Disney Cruise Line vacation and then working on our home along with wacky weather and such- we had not been taking a lot of trips in our camper! Unfortunately, the summer is winding down and our little fella is heading back to school in a few short weeks, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still exploring and checking things out!

Stay tuned, though, because we have some highlights and details from our Disney Cruise coming soon, as well as another campground review, some recipes, and maybe even an update on a project we completed in our home with our fireplace! We hope you’ll stick around!

Of course, I can’t do a blog post without at least one picture…. this was before dinner one night on our cruise and it is one of my favorites.

A Visit to Ms. Heather’s Strawberry Patch

ms heathers i savoie faire blogSometimes camping trips can be a fun opportunity to not only explore the outdoors, but also the surrounding towns and landmarks in the area where you are having your getaway.  Just recently, we took a short weekend camping trip up to Indian Creek Campground with friends, and while we were there, we decided to take a trip over to Ms. Heather’s Strawberry Patch in Albany, Louisiana.

Located about 45 minutes up Interstate 55,  Ms. Heather’s provides a fun and inexpensive family outing that is sure to entertain everyone in your family.   Since April is prime strawberry season in Louisiana and the farm was only about 15 minutes from the campground, we took a short drive over on a Saturday morning to see what they had to offer.   he location was easy to find if you follow the directions on their website (don’t follow Waze, it takes you to the wrong entrance!)  and there was plenty of parking in a grassy field next to the farm.   Rates vary from $12.00 for a bucket or half flat to $20.00 for a full flat of strawberries.  They will provide you with a box or bucket to take your goodies home.   The fee also covers play activities on the grounds as well.

When we arrived, the line was not long  and we were promptly helped and strawberry harvest I savoie faire blogobtained our family bucket.  Once you have your bucket in hand, you are free to pick as you wish.  There are ample berry patches to pick from around the farm.  Surprisingly, both my son and husband went to it enthusiastically and really  enjoyed scoping out the berries and harvesting them!  It didn’t take very long for us to pick our bucket full, maybe 30 minutes?  There is not much shade in the berry patches, however, so be sure to bring lots of sunscreen, a hat, and cool, comfortable clothes.

When we were done we took advantage of the other fun activities available for the kids (and the kids at heart) as well as had a nice break to sit in the shade and have a refreshment.  There snacks available for purchase- homemade strawberry shortcake, strawberry preserves, smoothies, and chocolate covered berries . There were also cold drinks available for purchase.  You can bring your own water and drinks should you want.  Because it was nearing lunchtime, we decided to grab a strawberry smoothie, which was amazing and tasted like strawberry ice cream, and our friends sampled the shortcake which they said was very tasty as well.  Unfortunately, we were so hungry, we forgot to take a picture to share!

milking the cow i savoie faire blogWhile the adults enjoyed our refreshments while resting in the shady tent areas provided, the kiddos had a blast playing and exploring on the expansive play area.  The play area is including in your cost of berry picking and includes everything from playground equipment, tractor races, a giant pillow, and the most popular- the zip line.  My son, along with our friends’ daughter, really enjoyed the zip line!  Tractor races, a fun slide that was made from a ripply drain pipe also provided a lot of fun for the kiddos!  There were trees to climb, giant rocking horses, and so much more.   We were pleasantly surprised at all of the good classic fun was that there was to be had at Ms. Heather’s.

If you and your family would like to spend a nice spring day visiting Ms. Heather’s, you can check on their berry availability, get directions and updates on their Facebook Page. 

Have you ever been berry picking?  Are there any other local places you recommend?  Do you have any great recipes to use with our strawberry harvest?

Ms. Heather’s Strawberry Patch is located at 31458 Highway 43, in Albany, Louisiana.  

10 REASONS WHY CAMPING IS HEALTHY FOR KIDS

I am always talking up going camping to local friends, especially when they seemed bogged down when they feel like their family needs a break from the stress and doldrums of daily work & school life.   Many times families will complain that their kids are irritable, lethargic or just plain difficult…  I always say one of the best cures for that is to go camping!

I decided that next time someone tells me “I can’t go camping,” or “We do the outdoors”  I wanted to give them a list that they could reference that will give them at LEAST 10 good reasons why they should take their kiddos camping, and much of it is backed up by credible, scientific research!

Unplugged.

One of my favorite parts of going camping is the fact that most campgrounds have virtually non-existent wifi connections.  Sure, they may have a wifi network, but 99% of the time, their connection is spotty and not worth the effort.  Given that a large portion of today’s younger generation spends a lot of time on screens, it’s incredibly refreshing to be able to tell them, oh well, there is no internet access, so get off your tablet and get on your bike!  (And to be honest, I love this for myself, as well… it’s nice to be able to avoid emails for a few days and have a good reason for it!)  Scientific studies have shown that screen time for children can become addictive and detrimental to healthy development.

Educational Opportunities

When you are outdoors on a camping trip, there are unlimited educational opportunities available.  Many science lessons can be taught with regards to biology, ecology and geology, just to name a few.  Math lessons can be taught with regards to symmetry in flowers, Fibonacci sequences in flowers, or using math equations to determine the distance of a hike.  Of course, many lessons in conservation just by teaching the rule of taking care of the space around you, and most importantly, social and emotional skills can be taught easily during free play opportunities while at the campground.

CAMPING IS HEALTHY FOR KIDS I SAVOIE FAIRE Independence

Camping fosters independence in our children.  Generally, campgrounds are incredibly safe environments because they are contained environments with easily defined parameters.  Many times, campsites can provide parents with a wide space and viewing area for children to play freely without much adult intervention.  The availability of new spaces and territories also allow children to develop creative ideas and games without being prompted by adults, as often is the case at school and in extracurricular activities.  Often, leaving children to their own imaginations can foster a sense of independence, but also help them develop important problem solving skills as well.

Sensory Input

Recent articles and research have made significant cases against current school practices that require young children sitting upright in desks all day, thus  preventing adequate development of  their sensory systems.  There has been a drastic increase in the amount of children developing SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) and of children requiring Occupational Therapy due to underdeveloped sensory systems.  The increase of screen usage and lack of adequate sensory input because of more time at a desk instead of at play has created a problem where children have no core strength,  fall out of chairs, need frequent movement, and a load of other problems. Camping is an excellent way to easily, and naturally,  increase much needed sensory input in children so that they can get a better sense of the spaces around them. Climbing trees, learning balance while bike riding, jumping in mud puddles, practicing parkour from rock to rock, and so much more are ways to help children gain the input needed.  There is a reason why children are so well adjusted after going camping, and one of them is due to the increase in their sensory input.

Physical ActivityFIRE SAFETY I SAVOIE FAIRE

Along the same lines as sensory input, another great health benefit for kids while camping is ample opportunity for physical activity.  We all know that with the decrease of recess in schools, increase of screen time, and the increase in obesity in our country,  that exercise is definitely a great benefit to our kids (and us!).  Camping trips provide opportunities for bike riding, hiking, tree climbing, and so much more because the distractions of screens, television, etc.  are not available.  Because there is limited “indoor” space, kids have to entertain themselves outside! Of course, because they are out exploring all day, kids automatically increase their activity and then the next benefit occurs….

A Good Night’s Sleep

Camping and being in the great outdoors is always a recipe for great sleep for our kiddos.  Our son always falls asleep quickly and deeply when we go camping and this is due to the first 5 reasons listed in this post.  Between the increased sensory input, physical activity, free play, and developing social and emotional skills, childrens’ bodies and brains are tired and happy with the stimulation and increase in movement and we all know kids can benefit from a good night’s sleep to help them grow!

Safety & Survival Skills/Problem Solving

Going camping also shows kids that you can survive without everything at your fingertips.  We don’t stock our camper with every little thing possible for survival, so sometimes we have to “make do”  with what we have on hand.  No BBQ grill, no worries, we will cook over the campfire!   If it is getting chilly outside?  Ok, well lets go source some firewood and then build a campfire, and while doing so, we’ll learn the key components of fire safety.  While on a hike, you can teach children how to use a compass to find their direction and get back to safety.  Going hiking and for walks can also be beneficial for showing them poisonous plants and berries as well and if they get stuck in a rut while riding bikes, encourage them to get out on their own!

CAMPING FUN IS HEALTHY I SAVOIE FAIREMental Well Being & Emotional Connection

Probably the most beneficial reason to take our kids camping is the mental & emotional benefits.  Studies show that being in nature helps increase concentration, relax the mind, and help to recharge our brain and bodies to perform better in stressful situations.  Spending time in nature can help our kids with ADHD, anxiety and even just the mental stress from life & school expectations.  Also, being unplugged while camping with your family also opens the door to more emotional connections with our children, thus leading to a more balanced, loving relationship and experience with our kids.

It is Fun!

Let’s just make it simple. Camping is FUN.  Whether you are on bike rides, exploring a ravine, taking a hike, or even playing make believe, camping enriches the mind, the heart, and the soul of our children. It gives them freedom and an outlet to explore and make friends and to just have a good time.

There are so many more reasons why camping is good for our kids- what are some of your favorite reasons?

 

 

 

 

 

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pajamas

It all started with a pair of pajamas.

When Krissy Ronk, a camping enthusiast from Bonita Springs, Florida, stopped in at her local Walmart she found an adorable pair of RV themed pajamas for under $10 that would be the beginning of something very special.  Soon after getting her pajamas,  she shared her find in a local Facebook “camping group” where users shared reviews and tips of campgrounds, gear, and RV life.  Soon after she shared her find, several other ladies in the group chimed in that they had them, too!  Before long the pajama discussions began to overwhelm the group, and then, the RV Pajama Party was born.PJ COLLECTION I SAVOIE FAIRE

Started in July 2017 with a small group of members, the RV Pajama Party Facebook Club has grown to include over 11,000 members from across the United States, Canada, and as far as Australia!  While the group began with members on a search for a certain pair of pajamas that were available only at Walmart stores, the group has grown to include women (and men) of all backgrounds who just want to have a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) while commiserating with a group of friends, (who just happen to like to do it in their jammies).  What has happened, though, is that this group has created a club of mostly women who have bonded through their passion for living life to the fullest, camping, RV life, camp themed gifts and products, and most importantly, pajamas.

It isn’t all about pajamas, though.

Last year, I was having a hard time letting go of a difficult ‘friendship’ and the RV Pajama Party provided me with a community of like minded people who are kind, generous, and thoughtful of those around them.  PAJAMA PARTY I SAVOIE FAIRE BLOGThe kindness of the group was easily visible when I saw how members were buying pajamas for complete strangers because they could not locate them;  reaching out when a member’s mother passed away;  or even heading across the country (in their RV!) to help a new friend who was about to face a major operation.  When Hurricane Harvey ravaged Texas, members rallied together to help others. The positive energy and environment were a great tool for bringing a smile to my day and almost a year later, I still enjoy scrolling through the many humorous, positive, and and kind discussions the ladies of this group share.

For members Kay & Gina, the group was the catalyst for a friendship that spans 2300 miles and an immeasurable bond.  Having met on an RV Tips page, their friendship blossomed when they both joined the Pajama Party group and built a friendship over a pair of pajamas that Kay gifted to Gina.  This friendship strengthened when Gina and her husband traveled in their RV to aid Kay and her family before she faced a major surgery.  There is a strong sense of ‘family’ among this group and a common bond shared by these women: the search for the elusive camping pajamas (which, the search includes all camping themed pajamas, not just the Walmart ones), the love of the outdoors, and most importantly, a quest for the connection of friendship and sisterhood with those who share the same interests.

One of the common things that our family has always treasured about our RV PAJAMA PARTY 2 I SAVOIE FAIRE BLOGcamping trips is the sense of “community” that is always present at a campground.  Everywhere we have camped,  we have always met campers who are incredibly friendly and hospitable, sometimes even sharing snacks, bug repellent, or even a glass of wine or a beer over the campfire.  Often,  a quick conversation while walking the dog or riding bikes can turn into a friendship along with fellow “camping buddies” for future trips.  This has certainly been the case with the RV Pajama Party group, where members have discovered each other at campgrounds around the country simply by the signature pajamas, the group’s official decal, or a garden flag placed strategically at a campsite.   Over the last year, members of the RV Pajama Party group have organized group camping trips, fundraisers, and even a celebration of life for breast cancer survivors, further bringing the online community together for in person connection.

PJ PARTY BRUNCH I SAVOIE FAIRE BLOGThe lesson is this:  if, when you are walking around a campground and you see ladies in their RV pajamas, maybe stop and ask them if they are part of the club…. and if you see ladies running around your local Walmart in a mad search for the latest in RV Pajamas (yes, there is a new version for 2018!)  don’t look at them like they are crazy, they are likely in search of those amazing pajamas that connects them to over 11,000 other ladies who share the love like they do.

Interested in joining the RV Pajama Party?   Get your jammies and join up!

Have you ever found a sense of community while camping? Are you a part of a camping club?

 

REVIEW: FONTAINEBLEAU STATE PARK

Nestled on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain and boasting over 2800 acres of natural beauty,  Fontainebleau State Park is an expansive and diverse state park and camping destination for anyone in the metropolitan New Orleans area.  Located only 45 minutes from New Orleans, just across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Mandeville, LA, this state park has something to appeal to everyone who wants to enjoy the natural landscape that helps Louisiana earn its title of “Sportsman’s Paradise.”

Fontainebleau State Park’s campground is one that seem to fall back on when we need a quick getaway and want to feel like we are isolated, but don’t want to travel too far from home.  This state park also boasts many amenities and activities for every interest and occasion and its unspoiled landscape,  abundant wildlife, and overall atmosphere make it an ideal location for a quick weekend to reconnect with your family. Not only is Fontainebleau only 45 minutes from New Orleans, but it is also very near the towns of Mandeville, Abita Springs, and Covington and provide short drives to many other attractions, restaurants and even shopping should the need arise.

FONTAINEBLEAU DEER I SAVOIE FAIREThis large, sprawling state park, which has a plethora of centuries old, moss covered oak trees, a view of Lake Pontchartrain, and an abundance of wildlife does not disappoint visitor when it comes to providing a serene, natural atmosphere.  Because the park is on Lake Pontchartrain, it’s beauty is not solely attributed to its forestation; it also has wonderful views of the lake, a small beach and swim area, and a fishing pier for those who wish to attempt to catch their dinner.  There is also a small fishing pond, but be careful, as there are often alligators wading in this area.   Depending on the time of day, you can drive or bike along the parks many roads and find deer grazing peacefully; this is likely one of our favorite parts of camping at Fontainebleau.  We have seen many beautiful sunsets and sunrises at this park and have many fond memories from these trips.

CAMPSITE I FONTAINBLEAU STATE PARKFontainebleau has two large campgrounds available, with around 150 campsites available.  If you are looking for larger campsites with more shade, then the North Campground which includes sites 0-99 is the way to go.  If you are looking to have sites that are close together (perhaps for a family get together, etc)  the campsites in the South Campground would be more suited to your needs.   We have camped in both sections and prefer the “new” campground… this area’s sites are much roomier, have ample shade and almost all are paved and somewhat level.  A few sites are a little tricky to back into and some may be gravel and a little bit unlevel.  Overall, though, the sites are roomy and shaded and bathhouses are centrally located in each camping loop.  As with other state parks, the one drawback to Fontainebleau’s campground is that there are NOT full hookups available.  There are only a few campsites that have sewer hookups and those are rarely available. Campsites also come with a fire ring/grill and a picnic table. It is worth noting that in 2017, the Louisiana Office of  State Parks increased campground fees by $10/night which was a significant hike in charges when paired with the additional $6.00 reservation fee and taxes.  FONTAINEBLEAU PLAY I SAVOIE FAIRERV Campsites at Fontainebleau range now range from $28.00 to $33.00, depending on the season bringing the total charges for a weekend visit up to $69.00-$82.00, respectively.  This is a large reason why our visits to Fontainebleau have waned in the last year or so; while we really love the park and its features, the cost for a campsite vs. the value isn’t comparable, given that there are not sewer hookups available.  It is also worth noting that there are cabins available for rent at Fontainebleau.   They are fairly new and refurbished after sustaining damage during Hurricane Isaac and are located on the lakefront, with stunning views of the lake.  All are well equipped and available for a fee.  Also, it is worth noting that the staff is relatively limited or small in recent years;  we have only seen one or two rangers on our visits and one or two representatives at the main gate.  The only time we encountered rangers was when they drove through the campground to enforce quiet hours or just drive through during the day.

Bathhouses are all centrally located within the campground loops and are well maintained and equipped.  They are air conditioned and/or heated and are cleaned regularly.  The showers are decent sized and the water has always been warm and has decent pressure.  The dressing rooms and showers are also spacious.  Given that there is no sewer hookups, we frequently use the bath houses and have no complaints, there is always soap, paper towels, and toilet paper stocked and they remain clean.

FONTAINBLEAU SPRAY I SAVOIE FAIREWhen it comes to amenities at this campground, there are many ways to occupy your time in this beautiful, natural environment.  Within the campground, there is a large playground that is great for all ages.  The playground is surrounded by river pebbles, though, so if you have a little one, this could be an issue.   There are several hiking trails that are clearly marked with educational information on native species as well as stunning views of the marsh and forest around the park.  Also, it is fun to note that there are several geocaches hidden through the grounds of Fontainebleau, should you wish to take on that adventure! There are not any specific biking trails, but there are many paved roads through the park and campground as well as the Tammany Trace bike trail which is near the entrance of the park.  A 20 MPH speed limit is enforced through the park and a 10 MPH speed limit is also required within the campground, to ensure safety of children.  During the main day use area of the park, there is another play ground as well as a splash park for the summer months.  As of April, the splash pad is open and working. It is closed on Mondays for maintenance.  There is also a nice size beach on the lakefront as well as a fishing pier and picnic pavilions.

FONTAINEBLEAU BEACH I SAVOIE FAIREWe have always enjoyed our visits to Fontainebleau State Park, specifically for the experience of enjoying its natural, unspoiled landscape and the close proximity to home.  Unfortunately, though, the rising expenses without any increase in campsite amenities make camping here less than ideal when there are comparable campsites at parks in Mississippi that are less expensive and have full hookups.  If you don’t mind having to dump your grey water and blank tank several times through a weekend or you are camping in a tent, Fontainebleau State Park is a great destination for a nice weekend getaway only 45 minutes from New Orleans!

CAMPSITES: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
AMENITIES: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
PARK STAFF: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
BATHHOUSES: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
CLEANLINESS: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
OVERALL RATING: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2

CAMP ANDREW BIRTHDAY PARTY

We started camping with our son when he was right around a year and a half old (18 months).   Often, we had friends and family think we were crazy for bringing our little lad camping at such a young age, but as we discovered, it was one of the best ways for us to develop a love for outdoors and a connection as a family from a very young age!

Within 6 months of getting our camper when our son was small, we camped over 7 times and over that time, it was evident that our little guy LOVED going camping!  His love for camping inspired us to throw him an adorable camping party  for his second birthday that was high on fun, but easy on the budget, especially since we had plenty of camping gear on hand!

CAMP BIRTHDAY 2 I SAVOIE FAIREParty Details

Because we wanted to keep his party budget friendly, I designed invitations that looked like postcards that were coming from a summer camp or campground that featured simple tent and campfire graphics and we printed them on inexpensive card stock.   I also used the same graphics and fonts to create a banner through Vistaprint with one of their coupon deals and it came out adorable!  Party favors included small lanterns we found in the Target dollar spot for a $1 each and carabiners and compasses that we picked up as well for the parents.  Still, almost 5 years later, these lanterns are going strong and we have guests from the party telling us how much they and their kiddos loved the favors!

When it came to activities, we brought out camping games that we usually bring on our camping trips for extra entertainment like bean bag toss and ladderball.  This entertained the adults as well as the kids.  We created a cute scavenger hunt card to let the little ones explore and mark off as they go as well as provided camping themed color sheets.  Also, because his birthday is in the heat of the summer and we have a pool, it was a no-brainer to make the party a swimming party as well.  We called the pool, “Lake TurningTwo” and encouraged the kiddos to jump in and have a ball.  We even featured some “fish bobber” floats throughout the pool that were super cute.

Party Decor

HAPPY CAMPER I SAVOIE FAIREWhen we had started camping,  we used this tutorial to build our son a small A-Frame tent from a twin bed sheet we had on hand as something he could use for indoor pretend play when the weather was bad.  It turned out to be the perfect prop, along with some tree limbs and tissue paper, for a cute play area and “photo booth” for the kids and families.  We also put out “camping chairs” for everyone to sit and relax and an extra “tent” (canopy) for extra shade for guests that included some fun lantern lights hung for some extra flair that we usually hung on our camper awning on trips.

We set up the party table with things we had on hand;  a brown twin sheet was used as a table cloth and other details included some lanterns, a small mini Christmas tree without ornaments, an old “gone fishing” sign we had inside our camper for decor, as well as the cake, cupcakes, s’mores, and chips served up in brown paper bags cut in half to give a “rustic” look.   We also had the reusable birthday banner that we created the year prior to give some color and pep to the event.

Party Menu

In order to keep the menu for the party authentic but simple since the kiddos were young, we had hot dogs, chips, and fruit pouches for the kiddos while the adults dined on more mature versions of the classic camping fare- chicken sausages, pasta salad, and fruit.  Of course, a camping themed birthday party wouldn’t be complete without s’mores, and we featured several versions of the camping classic without requiring a campfire. CAKE & FAVORS I SAVOIE FAIRE We also included a birthday cake and cupcakes that featured fondant decorations obtained from a local cake decorator that featured a tent, campfire, and little marshmallows.  Drinks included “bug juice” (juice pouches), water, lemonade and iced tea.   All refreshments were inexpensive and easily prepared in advance and fit the tone of the party perfectly.

It’s been almost five years and we are now approaching our son’s 7th birthday and this party still remains both his (and our) favorite party to date.   In fact, as we approach his next birthday, we have mentioned this idea to him again, but with the option to do a backyard camp out with a few of his friends and more focus on the outdoors and some of the things he has learned through his experiences in Cub Scouts.   What is great about a camping themed party is that it is timeless and appeals to kids (and grownups!) of all ages!

Have you ever thrown a camping themed party?  What were some of your favorite details?  What was on your menu?

REVIEW: INDIAN CREEK CAMPGROUND

INDIAN CREEK FLOWERS I SAVOIE FAIREIf you head up north on Interstate 55, just a little north of Hammond, Louisiana, you can make a stop for a fun family weekend at one of our favorite private campgrounds, Indian Creek Campground in Independence.

Just 5 minutes off the interstate and along the Natalbany River in Independence, Indian Creek is a small family owned campground who prides itself on promoting a fun and festive family atmosphere.   Several years ago, the Bowman family moved to Louisiana from up north and took over the campground and have made many changes and upgrades while preserving a rustic yet well managed property for guests to enjoy.  Since we began camping as a family in 2013, Indian Creek has been one of our holiday mainstays, especially for Halloween and Easter.   The staff always takes special care and attention to create activities and entertainment for their guests that create lasting memories and fun for families.

Indian Creek has 185 campsites in a wooded, natural environment.  Sites are mostly CAMPSITE INDIAN CREEK I SAVOIE FAIRElevel, but not paved and most have full hookups and options for both 30 & 50 amp electrical.  Our favorite sites are located in what we call “The Island” which is a small section of land between the ponds and trails and are nice and secluded for family gatherings and provide close access to bike trails, fishing, and the Natalbany River.  Campsites vary in size; some are large and others may be close to your neighbor.  All are shaded as there are adequate trees.  All sites come with a picnic table and daily trash pickup.  Upon check in, the staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating and will provide an escort to your site and assistance in backing in, if necessary.  Because this campground is rustic, there is no cable television.  A wifi network pops up, but we have never even asked for the password as they keep us plenty busy with their activities throughout the weekend.  Fire rings and fire pits are not included and are requested for campfires, for safety reasons.   Rates for campsites for regular weekends vary on electric hookups, weekend rates and/or holidays but range from $34 – $49; but are reasonable for the service, atmosphere and activities provided.  There are also cabins and primitive sites available to rent.

When it comes to activities, especially when it comes to holidays, Indian Creek does not EGG HUNT INDIAN CREEK I SAVOIE FAIREdisappoint.  Halloween, July 4th, Thanksgiving Weekend, and Easter are all some of our favorites.  Halloween features 3 weekends of trick or treating, site decorating, pennies in a haystack, pumpkin decorating, costume contests, and even a haunted house! Thanksgiving weekend features a visit from Santa for the kids, a white elephant gift exchange and Easter always includes a visit from the Bunny, an egg hunt, egg toss, and egg decorating contest!  Bingo is also a big hit at Indian Creek along with karaoke, live music, and bonfires for holiday weekends.

Other amenities include bike trails, a pool that has just recently been updated, a sun POOL, PLAY AREA & PAVILION IC I SAVOIE FAIREdeck, splash area, several playgrounds for the kids, a catch & release fishing pond, paddle boats, canoes, a camp store, basketball court, horse shoes, laundry facilities and of course, a bath house.  There is one bath house at Indian Creek that has several showers as well as restrooms and sinks.  The bath house is always clean and well equipped.  The bath house is centrally located on the grounds as well.  Laundry facilities are located at the bath house for a fee.

Since 2013, when we started camping at Indian Creek, we have watched the owners of  go above and beyond to make continual improvements on the grounds and with their facilities.  They have added new playground equipment,  televisions in the pavilion, upgraded the pool and sun deck, and kept the grounds well maintained.

Indian Creek is also an RV Park and there are several families that prefer to leave their campers there permanently as a weekend getaway.  While some families may not prefer this option, we have discovered that those families are just another part of the Indian Creek family.  Because we have gone there a few times a year for 5 years, those families and the owners remember us and treat us, too, like part of the family and that’s something we do truly enjoy about making our yearly trips there.

If you are looking for a family oriented campground that offers a rustic atmosphere, fun activities, and clean, well maintained amenities, look no further than Indian Creek Campground! Maybe we will see you there!

AMENITIES ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
CAMPSITES ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
PARK STAFF ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
BATH HOUSES ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
CLEANLINESS ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
OVERALL RATING: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Indian Creek Campground is located at 53013 West Fontana Road, Independence, LA. 

 

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