How to take an Actual Beach Vacation with Kids: Nayarit, Mexico

Traveling with kids is never that easy. However, after many trips with our first born, we have an adaptable 4.5 year old who is a breeze to take on vacation, like that on Cape Town Tourism! But wait, it doesn’t end there. We also have her little brother; an energetic, sweet 1.5 year old and he doesn’t enjoy sitting still too long. Given his age, we’ve decided long flights are on pause. Instead, we’ve set our sights on more local destinations and flights that are around 3 hours or less. With that in mind, we were excited that Puerto Vallarta, (specifically Nayarit) fit that requirement just right.

In less than 2 hours, we landed in Puerto Vallarta for a long weekend in Nayarit, a beachy location just 20 minutes from the PV airport.  Grand Velas Nayarit was going to be our home for the next few days and instead of exploring like usual, we planned to just hunker down and (hopefully) relax. When our friendly driver greeted us with cold beers and waters, whisking us from the chaos of the airport straight to the tremendous Grand Velas lobby, we had a very good start. Discover the joy of winning big while playing your favorite games in judi online.

Grand Velas Nayarit is a secluded, peaceful resort situated on Banderas Bay. In just a few minutes of arrival, we were being given neck massages and margaritas. I was in heaven. Our kids were wide eyed, staring at the high ceiling, the koi filled ponds and the many giant pools. I had a feeling this trip would be good. And it was. Here is my breakdown of all aspects that I look for in a great family resort: 


When the door opened, I knew we wouldn’t want to leave. The two bedroom ocean view suite had a wraparound balcony with a hot tub with newly replaced Hot Tub Filters, a giant living area with dining room, and three bathrooms! My walk-in closet was a dream! We were especially touched by the thoughtful details from the baby concierge (yes you read that right) who left a kid teepee, a high chair, baby bath tub, stroller and even baby bottles for us. They also had an open mini bar, meaning that they restocked all the drinks for adults and kids alike, as well as all the drawer of treats every day.

I was in heaven in that giant king bed overlooking the ocean. But what really made me sleep well was knowing that my daughter was just as comfortable in her queen bed, in her own room, with her brother happily snoozing in his pack-n-play in the adjacent (and large) bathroom. 

View from our balcony!

Speaking of bathrooms, each of our three were lovely and appointed with Molton Brown products. Ours was the largest and had a jacuzzi tub which was fun for bathtime!



Now my prior misconceptions about all inclusive resorts were that the food wasn’t top quality. I learned quickly that was not the case at Grand Velas Nayarit. WHOA. The three speciality restaurants were top notch–like any that you’d love to go out to for a special night. They had Lucca for Italian fare, Sen Lin for Asian styled dishes and Frida for the Mexican specialties. We did not try Piaf as it didn’t accommodate little kids, but that was just as well as the other three were incredible. 

Lucca was a delicious taste/sip of Italy!

We had tableside guacamole (complete with ants, worms & grasshoppers that my daring daughter tried) at Frida. Lucca offered Venetian ambiance with a violinist, delectable starters and delicious wine. And Sen Lin had rich flavors in their noodles, dumplings and my miso salmon that were surprising to find in Mexico! 

Margaritas at Frida restaurant were GREAT

Besides those outstanding dinners, we had a daily buffet or menu breakfast just steps from the sand. I always opted for the made to order egg quesadillas from the buffet, along with the fresh fruit, green juices and yes, some tasty Mexican pastries. 🙂

Breakfast with a view at Azul

Poolside lunches were great as well! We had a variety of salads, ceviches, tacos and burritos, all so delicious. 

Poolside lunch

The best part, when we needed anything for our kids or ourselves, we just had to ask. All inclusive really means all. Do you need a banana, crackers and milk for your son? No problem. Loved your burrito so much you want another? Sure! 

This even applies to room service. One evening we had gotten the kids to bed, let out an exhale and said wow, wish we could have a glass of wine and something to snack on now. It was just a phone call away. 

Truly, the food at this resort was such a highlight. I can be a bit picky with food and Grand Velas Nayarit exceeded my expectations. 



I don’t have to say much after you see the photos and videos. Just know that the pools are indeed even better in person. Their natural form blends into the property like a lagoon, making it always easy to find a quiet area.

Family Friendly Pools

The infinity pool overflowing onto the beach was a stunner. It was also home to the popular swim up bar, which frankly, never gets old. Even our daughter was swimming up and ordering strawberry smoothies like a big girl in no time. 

Swim up bar

The baby pool was a great height for our 1.5 year old to toddler around. He played under the fountains and enjoyed splashing in a safe environment. 

Perfect kid pool



The Grand Velas Nayarit property faces the beach and a curved bay. The sand was soft and clean. The water was very warm. However, since it was not a private beach and the pools were so tempting, we didn’t spend too much time on the beach. But when we did, we still enjoyed it.

It also offered one of the biggest highlights of the trip–a chance to see a just hatched sea turtle clamoring down to the water. A staff member who’s wearing a uniform that looks elegant scooped it up, placed it in a safe spot for release in the evening when it would have a better chance for survival. 

Baby sea turtle at Grand Velas Nayarit


This was our first experience with any kids club where we could drop off. The Grand Velas Nayarit kids club is outside right next to the pool in a shaded palapa area. They had tables set up and did different activities every hour. Our daughter would pop in for cupcake making or necklace crafts and then pop back out to our lounge chairs throughout the day. It was very easy and they made her very comfortable. There were usually only a few other kids if any, so she had a lot of attention from the two women that led the kids club. They were very sweet and Aurora even enjoyed learning a little Spanish from them! 

Grand Velas Nayarit Kids Club

The highlight of the kids club is the afternoon shows on the lawn behind the pool. Here they set up a picnic area with umbrellas and out come different fully costumed performers each day. We saw Sonic the Hedgehog among others. After they come and dance, there is a little show, then they play group games with the kids. Our daughter was thrilled. 

Grand Velas Nayarit Kids Club Picnic

Grand Velas Nayarit Kids Club Picnic

The kids club also hosts afternoon “shows” where they have performers and characters like Sonic, Spiderman, come out for a dance party. Umbrellas and picnic blankets are set up and the kids can relax and enjoy the show, or participate if they want. They time this around lunch time so parents can have a little quiet lunchtime too!

Grand Velas Nayarit Kids Club Picnic

The main kids club facility inside opens up in the late afternoon and throughout the evening. We enjoyed stopping here with both our kids before dinner to get their energy out. They had dancing, foosball, air hockey and all sorts of video games such as bro138 login, for instance. The entire space was fun and lively–even as adults we had fun here! We never left her here alone but that is definitely an option, even if parents want to go to dinner on their own, children can stay and watch a movie while they eat. 

Kids Club (inside)


I was lucky enough to enjoy a spa treatment at SE Spa by Grand Velas. Though I had passed the Spa entrance a few times, I had no idea that a whole separate world was on the other side. It was massive yet very tranquil, with many water features infused throughout.

SE Spa at Grand Velas Nayarit

SE Spa at Grand Velas Nayarit

I was greeted with a detoxifying tea and invited to relax in the women’s lounge area which had a natural lagoon pool, sauna, jacuzzi, steam room and healthy snacks. My 80 minute Cora massage was as interesting as it was rejuvenating. Traditional Mexican elements of sound, and scent were incorporated at the start. All the products were natural and the rooms were very well laid out and thoughtful. I felt so calm and centered after, which is especially needed as a busy mom! 

Post Massage at SE Spa. Grand Velas Nayarit

Post Massage at SE Spa. Grand Velas Nayarit

Other highlights: 

  • Water aerobics: my daughter had so much fun with this!
  • Nightly shows for all ages: We weren’t able to make them given our schedule but they have fire dancers, singers and more
  • Live Music: we could always find live music in an open air setting in the evenings
  • Koi Sports Bar: the adults only bar was dimly lit and swanky. They made an excellent martini and my husband and I took turns each going in there for a drink, which was a nice escape!
  • Beach sports: they offer scuba, kayaking and more at the activities stand. We didn’t partake because our kids were too little but next time!
  • Kids Club expansion: we noticed that they are building a new kids club and making it even better!
  • Service: Every single person that worked here was friendly, helpful and sincerely wanted us to have an awesome time. We could feel the warm, hospitality of the staff and that really made our stay that much more pleasant.

Kids Sized Cabana Chairs!

Would I stay here again? Absolutely! And I’d invite friends with families to come along! We actually overlapped with friends and the Grand Velas Nayarit setting made it so easy to meet for dinner, do activities and just hang out.


If you’d like to see more videos of the room and the property, click here for my Instagram reels!


Disneyland Resort with a 3 Year Old (January 2022)

I took my princess Aurora to Disneyland for the first time yesterday. It’ll be a day I never forget and though it wasn’t all together easy or without hiccups, it was definitely worth it for the memories of her experiencing this magical world of all her favorites characters in real life. She is 3.5 and I know was at the right age to appreciate it all but be able to handle some lines and walking. 

Favorite experiences and our tips for Disneyland right now with a 3-4 year old: 

Make lines fun: This is hard, especially if you’ve had a long day, but we ended up playing games similar to betend, and talking a lot during the lines, which is a very real part of Disney 

Don’t wait in ALL the long lines for rides: Pick maybe 1 or 2 that you really want to do and prioritize those, but remember that there’s so much else to see and experience outside of the rides, the majority of which are 3 minutes. We got there early and went straight to Alice in Wonderland’s ride. We waited around 25 minutes, and the ride was 3 minutes. It was entertaining but nothing that blew our minds or made it feel worth the wait.  Not once did Aurora mention that ride as a favorite later on and being packed like a sardine in the line was not ideal. We shifted course after this ride and glad we did.

It’s a Small World ride

Hardly any line and you ride in a real boat on water, this experience was mesmirizing and filled with tons of reactions and excitement from Aurora. It was a much longer ride—14 minutes—so you can really relax and absorb the impressive detail in all the animatronics that depict destinations all over the world. As a travel journalist I loved it as much now as I did when I was three, and Aurora agrees. 

Sleeping Beauty’s Castle walkthrough

Did you know that you can walk inside Aurora’s castle? We were surprised that there were few people doing this self guided walk through the castle, peeping into windows to see the story of Sleeping Beauty. It was a little scary at moments but my thrill seeker enjoyed it. 

Toon Town

The whole toon town world is really fun and being centered for little ones, it had a very relaxed and playful energy. We saw Mickey, Minnie and Chip and Dale there, and got to play on some of the cars and in the Chip and Dale treehouse. The rest of the homes are closed sadly but the Gadget Go-Coaster was running and it was Aurora’s favorite ride—enough of an adrenaline rush to be thrilling but not scary. The line was doable at the time, only around 10 minutes. 

Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups

We passed by these a few times and waited until I noticed the line was down (it was way more crowded in the morning). We waited like 5 minutes and were on. Such a classic and the spin-yourself aspect was really fun for Aurora. 

Enchanted Tiki Room

This 15 minute “show” is really nothing that’d I’ve ever experienced and it was a personal highlight. I could tell Aurora was blown away when the parrot above her started talking and singing. The magical fountain in the center, the songs, the talking walls, the “rain”— this was truly stunning display and a nice way to get off your feet. Also, no line! Grab a dole whip before you go in. 

Tom Sawyer Island

I am so glad I found a random blog post about this in my research because I never would have found it at the park. You take a little raft across the Rivers of America and arrive on an island with elaborate artificial caves, pirate hideouts, swinging bridges and lookouts. We spent almost an hour just exploring and it was so nice to be away from crowds, let Aurora lead the way and just have fun. We found pirate treasure and walked every bridge a few times. It definitely is for those with energy and mobility as it’s up/down/inside caves etc but for 3 year olds and up, it’s a memorable adventure.


Right now there weren’t parades but they did have unplanned appearances on the streets. Twice Anna and Elsa rolled up and we also had a mini parade with Ariel, Captain Hook, the Genie and a few more. We actually saw pretty much everyone Aurora had hoped to see but you had to act fast if you heard the music. We missed Elsa and Ana once because we were too late and crowds formed, but the next time we got ahead of them and Aurora got to wave to them. 

Check out Lightning Lane: You can pay per ride to skip the line with Lightning Lane but it only applies to certain rides. We didn’t really want to go on the rides they offered as they were for older kids but in the future, I’d definitely shell out the $20 per rider to skip a 45 minute + line.

MAMAS (and dads): If you are breastfeeding or are bringing a baby, the Baby Care Center was a helpful place to pump, breastfeed, warm bottles, change diapers etc. We had to stop in a few times for me to pump but it was crucial as I don’t know what else I’d have done. I actually think they should have at least another one of these in Disneyland. 


Post Partum Mom Products That You Need

Birthing a baby doesn’t just create a new human. It creates a new mother too. Your body goes from being at its most pregnant, right into labor and delivery and then BAM, you have a newborn baby that you need to care for 24/7. Not only do our bodies have to recover from intense physical and emotional stress, we also are not sleeping much and have to devote our energies to our new little human. Welcome to parenthood!

I am at 13 weeks postpartum and what has gotten me through the monotony and hard moments, are the little things. Whatever can make recovery, breastfeeding and just general daily life easier, has never been more important. 

The following products have really helped me recover, physically and mentally and also have helped me have a successful breastfeeding journey. 


Postpartum Body


Ondr Wear

Our female bodies go through A LOT during birth.. .and it doesn’t end there. We can feel the aftermath for weeks. Pads, disposable diapers or something along those lines are usually necessary. Ondr Wear is a reusable underwear that is WAY more comfortable, more discreet and more effective than those big fluffy diapers. (You also don’t feel like you are 85). You can also find our recommended vibrating panties here if you want to spice things up in the bedroom with your partner.



Compression socks and ball!

Not only did these help so much during pregnancy with swollen ankles and tough circulation, but now after birth, they give me more energy to take care of my little ones. Crazy that just helping your blood flow can give you more pep in your step naturally (see what i did there?). They also are cute and have lots of styles and colors. I definitely will continue wearing Comrads for life. 



Milky Mama

We’ve had a pretty positive breastfeeding journey these past 12 weeks. But he is definitely an eater. I’ve had a strong supply luckily but I thank hydration (see the Greater Than rec below) and adding Milky Goddess drops to my daily kale smoothie. These drops actually taste good on their own but I like to throw it into my smoothie (along with coconut water, chia seeds, frozen berries, banana and kale). I think it definitely has helped. 

They also make cookies that taste great but I was little worried about the high calorie content and felt like I didn’t want to consume TOO many–lol.


Sunflower Lecithin

With my first child, I had some painful clogged ducts. Luckily, I have not had a problem this time and I think it’s in part because I take a daily sunflower lecithin to help make sure everything is flowing well. For breastfeeding moms, our breasts are doing a huge job–giving our babies all their nutrients– so I want to support that as much as I can!


Greater Than 

I’ve found that the key to keeping up my milk supply has been hydration (and sleep). I don’t get as much sleep as I’d like so I compensate for it by being as hydrated as I can be. I drink water and seltzers frequently but now adding the Greater Than natural electrolyte drinks, I feel more hydrated because I am drinking even more. The flavors are great–not too sweet but just enough to feel like you are drinking something more exciting than water. I even put them in smoothies sometimes and love how much it improves their taste. I definitely can see myself drinking these with my buoyhealth multivitamins even beyond breastfeeding. 


Newborn Essentials for Sleep (from a tired mom)

Having a newborn is a lot like being thrown into the middle of the ocean on a very little boat. There are moments of calm when the sun is shining and it is smooth sailing. But there are a lot of torrential storms and rocky moments when you aren’t sure if you are going to capsize. 

Whatever you can find to make surviving the newborn phase a little easier is extremely important. And if ANYTHING can help your child to sleep better, I am pretty sure it’s worth its weight in gold!

I am now in week 3 of newborn life and can tell you, we’ve had a lot of big storms. But those calms seas do make it all worth it. Here are a few products that have really helped us tackle SLEEP. All of these have improved our baby boy’s sleep dramatically. When he sleeps, we can sleep and everyone is happier!


Dreamland Baby Sleep Swaddle

Wow. This has been a dream come true! We’ve tried a lot of swaddles over the past week and it wasn’t until we tried this weighted swaddle that we had any longer stretches for sleep. The Dreamland swaddle is like a sleep bag with evenly distributed weight on the front. After you put the baby in there, wrap the extra velcro band to keep their arms down and voila, baby should be snug and relaxed. Our Brooks instantly calms with the sleep sack on, even if he fights it going on a bit. 

I like how it is separate pieces so I can quickly wash the band if it gets any spit up on it, without having to wash the whole swaddle.It is all washable but the weighted sack takes a bit longer to dry. I truly think this is one the best swaddles out there and it is versatile since you can remove the band and just have a weighted sleep sack for when they are older. 


The Baby Dream Machine

This happy little bear night light has softly lit our nursery even in the darkest of moments. The pink noise is very soothing and less abrasive than a traditional white noise machine. 

 I love that it has a red light (3 degrees of brightness) which helps little bodies produce more melatonin to help them fall asleep and stay asleep. I have it right on the changing table so those middle of the night diaper changes can be done easily, without having to turn on a bright light. 

This 5-1 Baby Dream Machine also has aromatherapy and a humidifier, which we will try when our little boy is a bit bigger. Sounds lovely though!


4Moms MamaRoo Bassinet

We needed a bassinet but weren’t interested in going for the Snoo due to price and mixed reviews from friends. We thought the MamaRoo was the perfect mix of movement options and sound, without being overly high tech. It does have an app that pairs to your phone that allows you to change the movement type or adjust the level, but so far we haven’t had much need for that.

There are 5 movements (tree swing, kangaroo, car ride, rock a bye and wave), each with varying degrees of intensity from 1 to 5. We’ve kept it pretty much at 1 which is enough for our little guy. There are mesh sides so we can easily see in and it has an adjustable height. I like the sleek look of it too. We haven’t used the built in noise machine or music, but for the other features, we still think it is a worth it. 



The DockaTot was a huge success for our first child–being her go to lounger and napping spot until she grew out of it. We had a feeling our second baby would love it too and he sure does.

I love how lightweight it is so we can easily bring it in the car, to the beach, or move it around the house as needed. We’ve been angling it up a little since our little one has a bit of reflux and that has helped a lot. DockATot has different patterns for their covers, including this the Strawberry Thief print that I LOVE. I definitely suggest buying an extra cover as they often are soiled by spit up and other newborn fluids (lol). The carrying case is another great extra as it makes any sort or car/plane travel easier and also is a nice way to store the Dock in your house when you aren’t using it. If we leave ours out, our cat immediately jumps in it so I’m glad that we have a cover for it. 

Strawberry Thief print


DockATot Cabana Kit

What a great new addition to the DockATot accessories! This Cabana kit is a shady canopy with mesh sides and is SPF 50+ making it brilliant for keeping infants in a shady spot when outside. We’ve used this at the pool several times and since we live in Southern California, it’s been really nice so we can be together outside but have our newborn stay protected from the sun.



A Positive Birth & Induction Story: Brooks Beverly Lee

Pregnant with my second child, I thought my pregnancy and birth would be just like before. Boy, was I was very wrong. Both the pregnancy and my delivery were completely different than my previous experience with my now three old, Aurora, but both ended up okay. 

With Aurora, my pregnancy was not that challenging. I never felt sick. I didn’t show much until I was close to 30 weeks, and even then, I carried her high up and didn’t even have to buy maternity clothes. I wore some loose dresses during the last month but that was about it. I worked out the entire time, even running up until the last few weeks. I was even at a Flywheel spin class on my due date. 

With Brooks, I was sick from week 3, which was about when I found out I was pregnant. That nausea continued till around week 12, which wasn’t easy given I was primary caregiver for our toddler. After that, it was a whirlwind. I popped out with a noticeable belly around 20 weeks and that belly kept growing straight out. By 30 weeks, I looked far more pregnant than I ever did with Aurora. I also FELT way more pregnant early on. With the increased belly, I had so many aches and pains. Back hurting, pulled muscles and an end to my intense workout regime. I was able to continue biking and walking and some stretching till the end, but that was a big challenge. I needed maternity clothes from week 20 on and couldn’t get by with ANY pants that I owned. 

Ready to go for Aurora’s induction!

Aurora’s birth story was a bit traumatic for me. I was induced 2 weeks after her due date and the induction took 4 days, from start to finish. I don’t believe her due date was accurate and I think she was actually more of a late June baby. There were a lot things about her birth that I regret (they didn’t let me eat food for 3 days) and a lot of decisions that felt out of my control (they increased my pitocin every hour for 2 days to the maximum and my delivery was still not progressing). I also had an epidural on the second day of contractions but I am telling you, mine did not work well. 

Basically, I went in blind, my body was NOT ready to give birth and the induction was extremely long, utterly exhausting and very, very painful. I can say that with certainty now as after my second birth, I was not in the agony and complete delirium of the first. 

at the hospital, waiting for Aurora to arrive!

This time, my due date of May 29th put a lot of undue pressure on Brooks’ delivery. I had known based on LMP (last menstrual period) and ovulation tests, exactly when my due date SHOULD be (it was June 12th, my daughter’s birthday). But after a 10 week measurement, the doctor decided my due date was May 29th based on Brooks’ fundal length. This was confirmed by another doctor and by an ultrasound specialist like those at I was happy that it wasn’t my daughter’s birthday but I was very skeptical all along as I didn’t understand how I could have been pregnant 2 weeks earlier when I had taken pregnancy tests, had a period etc. 

Leading up to May 29th, I was dilated for 2 weeks at 2 cm, was feeling LOTS of braxton hicks and prodromal labor (basically contractions that escalate then just stop, then do it again the next day) and was feeling so so pregnant. I looked like I was about to give birth any second. 

My doctor knew that I was very reluctant to dive into induction again so she said, let’s get to your due date and talk. I did every old wives tales–castor oil is pretty yucky– and acupuncture was relaxing but did nothing. I walked SO much, I was in pain. I ate all the dates. Ultimately, nothing was doing anything but getting my hopes up and dashing them down when by that evening nothing happened and I was one day closer to getting an induction. 

One of the many non stress tests for Brooks

I told my doctor I wanted to let the baby come when he was ready and she had me come in every 3 days to check his fluid level to make sure he was safe. She had mentioned that he was “big” and I felt pressured that she was implying I might not be able to deliver him vaginally.  I came to the doctor’s office 4 times for non stress tests and fluid checks. My last one was on June 10th, two days before the due date that I knew to be true. The fluid was getting lower (around 7 when anything under 5 was immediate induction) and though he did well on his non stress tests, my doctor said she recommended induction on June 13th. 🙁

Devastated, I spent the next 3 days walking, praying and trying to “relax” so my body would go into spontaneous labor. The weeks leading up to this was an emotional time but these final days were extremely challenging, mentally. It was all I thought about. I had read many positive induction stories, but I also knew my own previous story and was convinced that an induction for me wouldn’t go well. 

At the hospital on our anniversary!

Sunday, June 13th, my 6 year anniversary, we went into the hospital for induction. I had found a way to accept it and hope for the best. We said goodbye to my daughter, left our very generous friends Brian & Kate with a lot of lists, a quick tour of Rory’s stuff and a lot of gratitude.

We walked into the very quiet hospital to hear a piano player playing Little Mermaid. We set up my very large and lovely room (as far as hospital rooms go) with flowers, candles and music. We had a giant bag of snacks. We were ready. 

Compression socks and ball!

We started on cervix ripener which helped me to get to 4 cm but after the second dose, and 8 hours later, no more progress. By evening, we had the option of pitocin, another dose or breaking water. I was very disappointed. I had hoped I’d go into spontaneous labor after the cervix ripener but no. We assessed and chose to go on a low dose of pitocin, only 2ml (with Aurora I got up to 20ml). My doctor had gone home for the night and I wasn’t sure I wante dto break my water to put me on the timeclock just then. The pitocin started and nothing much happened. My husband and I ate a dinner from the hospital cafeteria, we watched “Crazy Stupid Love” and we went to bed around 11pm, trying to be hopeful.  


By 12:15am the contractions started up. I breathed through them and rested as much as I could, not wanting to wake up Dave until I was sure we were getting to ‘go time.’

30 minutes later, I woke him up. It was getting intense. I used the techniques I had learned from watching a lot of Youtube videos by Positive Birthing Company & Built to Birth and felt that I had a handle on how to get through them. 

From 1am to 4am the contractions increased steadily- and seriously. It was my intention to attempt an epidural free birth but I was well aware that Pitocin-induced contractions are a differnet level of  pain and 90% of women get an epidural to handle them. I went as far as I could, 7.5cm and I hit my limit. It wasn’t even a question. I had no doubt in my mind that I needed an epidural to make it to 10cm. I also knew I wanted to have energy left to push. I didn’t want to survive to 10cm and then not be able to push my baby out. 

The anesthesiologist came in at 4am and I was able to start the epidural by 430am. I remember he kept asking me questions and I was like “OMG just give me the epidural now.” My poor nurse got a good squeeze as he inserted it. I am not great with needles and this was definitely a challenge for me.  Thank GOODNESS I got it. Those last 4 contractions before he was able to administer it, I will not soon forget. They were blindingly painful–pure agony. 

This time the epidural WORKED. I felt a flood of relief. I could feel the contractions but they were so manageable. WAS THIS WHAT IT WAS SUPPOSED TO FEEL LIKE!? I truly didn’t feel anything like this from the last time. I still felt SO much pain till Aurora came out, that I thought all epidurals were overrated. Or at least, maybe they didn’t work for me. This time around, I realize that they are not overrated and I’m very happy that I chose to get one. 

The calmness continued from 4:30am to 6:30am. We rested (half awake/half asleep). And by 6:30am I was nearly at 10cm. I hadn’t really felt much at all. It was so strange to have endured so much to get to 7cm and then 7 to 10cm, it was like nothing even happened. I chatted with Dave, dozed and basically felt okay. 

My nurse was surprised at the progress and she had me do some practice pushes. By 7:30am, she said “I think we need to change the bed,” which means convert it for delivery. She grabbed some other nurses and I could tell by the urgency in her voice, we were at GO TIME. 

Despite being hooked up to an IV and epidural, I was still able to use a birthing bar and even put weight on my feet. We tried several different ways of pushing and to my great joy, they were effective. It was really working. My pushing with Aurora lasted many hours and wasn’t nearly as effective and I remember getting so discouraged. 

With the direction of the nurse, the positivity of my husband and my personal determination to make each push “effective,” we were able to push this little boy out in around 45 minutes. That may sound long but I focused on each set of 3 pushes during each contraction and once they said his head was there, I knew we were at the finish line. We got the shoulders through and voila, there was our baby.

My OBGYN held up the baby, still attached to the placenta and yelled at me to “grab your baby.” I was so shocked, I didn’t realize that I would be able to do that. I thought someone would hand it to me and after all the exhausting pushing, I was just stunned. She yelled it again and I scooped up this beautiful, wriggling boy, and held him to my chest. 

It was over. He was here. 

I couldn’t believe that I was able to hold him seconds after he was born. My doctor left right away, saying it was actually her birthday and she had plans (lol). All the nurses knew I wanted a golden hour but I think they had so many other births that morning that they forgot about me. I stayed holding Brooks, skin to skin for 3 hours! Dave cut the umbilical cord, a little hesitantly but he did it nonetheless. And the nurse left so it was just our family. 


Brooks Beverly Lee was born at 9:22am on Monday, June 14th 2021. He weighed 9lbs 6oz at birth and was 21 inches long. He scored a 9 on all his APGAR tests and he let out a good cry just after birth, announcing his arrival into the world. 

Looking back I realize that the worst part of my entire delivery and end of pregnancy was the emotional stress around the due date and induction. My disappointment and fear about having a second induction was all consuming from about 38 weeks to 42 weeks. Do I think Brooks could have come out on his own a few days later? Of course. Could he have waited another week? Yes definitely. But I realize that we made the decision to induce on the 13th because the fluid was getting so low and I didn’t want to risk any other complications related to that, even if it meant forgoing a “natural” birth and being induced. 

Dad holding him for the first time

Ultimately, my wishes to have a birth a certain way did not go as hoped, but surrendering to another option and realizing that choice wasn’t so bad after all, was an eye-opening experience for me. I can’t control everything but that doesn’t mean the outcome will be bad. 

I was wrong about inductions. They aren’t all terrible, long or traumatic. I was wrong about epidurals. They can work well and did work for me. I was wrong about wanting to have a natural birth only because this was very natural for me. Many times natural births are longer, more traumatic and can be less positive than this induced birth. We had a very well planned goodbye for our daughter. We had a very calm trip to the hospital and set up the hospital room with flowers, candles (battery operated), snacks and music. The entire experience was actually very low stress. We made educated choices as they came and were confident in each one. 

Though the induction itself ended up being out of my control, everything else within that induction felt very much within my control. Even the pushing was very mindful and with purpose. I remember it all clearly and felt so present in the process. 

All births are natural and it doesn’t matter how our children are born, as long as they get here safely. I feel so much more empowered by this second birth. Even though it wasn’t what I had hoped, it went well. We got a healthy baby boy and I was able to handle bringing him into the world. 


To anyone out there who is nervous about birth, I recommend Positive Birth Company and Built To Birth. I also recommend reading positive birth stories. I hope this story can be one of them for you! 


Our Santa Barbara Weekend: Perfect Getaway for Families

Though there are many California beach towns, each one has its own attitude and vibe. At this point, our family has explored many of them from cliffs of NorCal to the laidback shores near the Mexican border.
But there’s something about Santa Barbara, located in right in the Central Coast, that is on a level all its own. With the mountains, the gardens, the ocean and a beautifully serene city, Santa Barbara is quiet class. But don’t mistake its peacefulness for boring–there’s SO much to do.

In the past, we visited Santa Barbara as newlyweds, wedding go-ers, wine drinkers and babymooners. This time we were visiting in a really unique moment in our lives and in the world: as parents, as second time babymooners and as the pandemic travel freeze was lifting.

Santa Barbara felt like the clear choice for us looking for a place checked these boxes:

  • A fun trip for our almost three year old
  • An easy trip for a 8 month pregnant mama
  • A safe trip to celebrate the return of “normal” life post pandemic crisis

Just 2 hours North on the Pacific Coast Highway, the scenic drive definitely added to the appeal and weather in April was just perfect for a spring weekend getaway.

As always, I feel where we stay is the most important detail. In the past, we’ve stayed at Santa Barbara properties that ranged from boutique to standard to super luxury. This time our needs were focused around our little girl. We needed something that was comfortable, convenient and it HAD to have a big pool (as mandated by her). Luckily, it wasn’t hard to find the idyll spot.


Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort
If you’ve been to Santa Barbara, you’ve driven passed the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort. It’s located right across the street from the main East Beach area, along a grassy, palm tree studded path. This prime location put us in walking distance to restaurants, to parks, to the beach and a few minutes from the Zoo, a must on our itinerary.

Comfy beds at the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort

Traveling with a toddler means we will be in the room A LOT. Naps, early bed times and toddler meals all require that we are in the room frequently so having a well equipped, good sized room is very important to us parents. As it turns out, the Hilton’s rooms were perfectly designed for us. Clean and concise, the decor was minimal and modern without those extra flourishes that can sometimes make a room feel dated. The focal point was the space, which I felt was quite large for a standard hotel room. A couch area, rugs like those turkish rugs, and desk, as well as balcony, were well spaced out and away from the king bed.

We brought a Pack n’ Play for Aurora and during naps, made a cozy area for her. The room’s blackout curtains were very effective (and so appreciated) which made her her naps great.
The bathroom was again simple, but has some modern touches giving it a spa feel.
The balcony faced the lush interior of the resort and we could see the ocean in the distance.
Since we are still in the time of COVID, I did appreciate the labels on the door stating that the room had been sanitized.

The main event for us was the pool. We had warm and sunny weather, so us (and everyone else at the resort) wanted to dive into their central oval pool. Due to restricted capacity during the pandemic, we couldn’t just waltz in. We had to put our name on a list and wait to be called for our turn as capacity lessened. Initially we were told it was going to be 3 hours, but luckily we were called after only an hour and managed to entertain our toddler until then. The resort even went the extra mile to offer us free access to beach chairs for use at the beach across the street while we waited.

Hilton Pool

The pool was worth the wait. It was very wide, with easy access via steps on one end. Our daughter was delighted to be floating in this large pool and all three of us were in the water the whole time. The nearby hot tub was a lovely retreat when we needed to warm up as I’m a wimp and felt it was a little cold, but it was actually very nice having a limited capacity as it was a very relaxing experience.
Drinks are served from the pool bar and though they looked good, this pregnant mama and busy dad didn’t have time to grab one. Next time!

If you aren’t in the main building, the rooms are located in free standing buildings throughout the grounds. Landscaping and giant chess and checker boards, as well as several seating areas made it feel very comfortable yet secluded.

We only had one breakfast here and it was decent but we felt a bit overpriced for the quality. It felt understaffed which led to some delays, but I’d have to blame that on the pandemic. However, with so many outstanding food options in Santa Barbara, there is tough competition.



D’Angelo Bakery
Make sure you stop here, even if it’s just for a pastry and coffee. All their treats, including bread, are made on the premises and just so, so good.I am very glad we had a full sit down breakfast because every single dish was great. It was clear that the locals love this spot as there was a line for the pastries when we left. I highly recommend their cappuccino as well–reminded me of Italy.



Everything about this Italian restaurant is authentic elegance. The exterior under their ivy terrace lets you dine on the handmade pastas, perfectly wood fired pizzas and freshly plucked salads while watching the Santa Barbara sunset. Convivo is a Mediterranean heaven.

Convivo in Santa Barbara

The service was excellent and menu is so mouthwatering, it’s going to be a challenge to choose what to order. Even their bread was outstanding. The quality here is evident in every delicious detail.

Convivo in Santa Barbara


La Paloma Café
A bright and buzzy feel, La Paloma is a trendy, welcoming hotspot in the historic Presidio. Serving a combination of California meets Spanish meets Mexican, their menu is artfully indulgent intertwining fresh vegetables with rich meats.

La Paloma

That salty, crispy “fried air” table snack that they bring you is addictive, but I do often think about the all natural Pork Shoulder carnitas main course. And do get those crispy brussels as a side, you’ve never had crispy brussels like these. Given the pandemic, we enjoyed the outdoor seating, enclosed by wildflowers, which was lovely at sunset and I can only imagine equally atmospheric at brunch or lunch.


Santa Barbara Botanical Garden

Calling it a garden feels like calling an Alp, a hill. This Botanic Garden is so expansive, you can easily get lost in the Redwoods, meander through meadows and find yourself alone at babbling streams. It’s basically like the prettiest of all the California landscapes in one setting.

Take a map as you wander through and pack a picnic if you are a planner, because you’ll want to spend time in this tranquil, fresh nature. I wasn’t sure it’d be fun for a toddler, but it surely was. Ponds, rocks to climb, so many settings and even wooden house/play structures definitely made it extra fun for the littles.


Santa Barbara Zoo
Definitely the most hyped activity of the weekend, we had HIGH hopes for this zoo. Aurora is loves animals and has been to 3 zoos prior, so I was hoping that she’d enjoy the SB Zoo experience. It did not disappoint.

We arrived early, just before opening on a Saturday, so we entered with only a handful of other visitors. The penguins and toucans were excited to see us, the Fennec fox was dancing by the glass window and the majestic lion family were enjoying a birthday treat as they watched us watching them. It’s not a large zoo but it feels very full, with so many enclosures that you can stumble upon within a few steps. The elusive amur leopard came out to see us and we caught glimpses of the gorillas.

However, the highlight had to be the giraffe feeding. We had tickets and got their 10 minutes early so we were first in line for the 10am feeding. They didn’t rush us, allowing us 5 whole minutes to place lettuce within tongue reach of the friendly Audrey, a female giraffe that beelined over to our platform as soon as she saw us. Aurora was delighted, we were enthralled and the whole experience was truly worth the visit alone.


Santa Barbara Sailing
With such a expansive coast line, Santa Barbara’s personality is centralized around its ocean. We had to get out on the water somehow and since I was pregnant, we thought a sailing excursion was just our speed.

Santa Barbara Sailing has a beautiful catamaran and a knowledgeable captain that took our group out for a 3 hour sail. Offering up drinks, snacks and an excellent playlist, we took in the sunshine and glittering sea views. I was curious if an almost three year old would get bored on the boat, and she didn’t, enjoying spotting sea lions as we sailed along.


Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
We raced from Aurora’s nap to make the final half hour of this museum because they had an outdoor exhibit we couldn’t miss: the Prehistoric Forest! We followed the walking path into their backyard forest to discover life-sized, animatronic dinosaurs bellowing, roaring and squawking as we approached.

This could have been cheesy. It wasn’t. The dinosaurs were so realistic in appearance and in movement, with no regular patterns or jolty movements that we expected. Aurora’s jaw was dropped, as were ours, as we walked past a T Rex, a Stegosaurus family and Rory’s favorite Parasaurolophus. The museum has a lot more to offer that we weren’t able to catch due to their 4pm closing, but the dinosaurs alone were certainly worth the stop at the SB Museum.


Alameda Park
We passed this park in the car and had to pull over. The huge wooden structure resembled a storybook castle in the middle of a park, with wooden bridges, towers and secret passageways. We stopped on a busy Saturday afternoon while a birthday party was going on and needless to say it was high energy and tons of fun for all aged kids.

Alameda Park

We managed to do all of the above in exactly 48 hours, even stopping for ice cream in Montecito on the way home. We had wanted to stroll the Downtown and check out the Santa Barbara Sea Center on Stearns Wharf, but the beauty of this destination is, we can always come back. And after this memorable family weekend, I have a feeling we will be back quite soon.

Top 5 Reasons to stay at Basin Harbor Resort

As a native Vermonter, it always gives me the greatest of pleasure getting to experience hotels in a place that I know so well. Of all the resorts in the state, I think Basin Harbor offers something unique and transporting, that you do not find anywhere else. It is not for everyone–if you don’t like complete quiet save for the birds, sipping coffee as you watch the sailboats, twilight golf rounds or croquet on the lawn, Basin Harbor might not be your speed. But if you crave a wholesome escape, this is the place to go.


**Author’s note: Our most recent stay was in Sept 2020, so there were COVID-19 safety precautions. However, as the resort is very spread out and open air, the stay was very similar to our stay previously pre-COVID. The only big differences had to do with dining options being more limited.


Here are my top five reasons why you should plan a trip here next year: 


1. You will travel back in time

The simple joys of life by the lake have transcended time–quite a lot of time since 1886. Basin Harbor has hosted generations of guests and the entire resort still embodies that simple charm of a bygone era.

Relax on the lawns in an Adirondack chair, just like over a century of guests have done before you or sip champagne in the main lodge in front of a roaring fire. Basin Harbor has a level of rustic, unfussy elegance that does not go out of style. With services like Sodding installation, such a place can be much more beautified.

Basin Harbor’s iconic adirondack chairs


2. You can finally slow down

Here you feel off the grid, in a glorious way, where your main concerns are when to swim in the lake, what book to read on your back porch or if you want to play golf or swim in the pool that day. Take your golf cart to  dinner at The Red Mill or at Ardelia’s and sit by the fire after for some s’mores. Let the kids run to beach or play on the playground–all is close by and so safe. There’s no need for big decisions or stress here. Just happy hours to enjoy connecting with your loved ones and yourself. It’s no wonder that families tend to return to Basin Harbor year after year. 


3. You can fully immerse in Vermont nature

Guided kayak adventures, hikes in the breathtaking forested hills or narrated daily history tours aboard the EScape, there are so many ways to fully connect with Vermont’s unspoiled nature. Very few places in the world allow you to wake up the waves of the lake lapping on shore and the bird songs and chipmunks rising with the sun. The entire resort is created to honor this nature and it’s up to you how much you want to dive in.


4. Stay in a lakeside cottage

As much as I enjoy being out in nature and disconnecting, I do crave a few comforts when it comes to my room. Choose one of the 74 cottages, each one a little different, to find the size, location and style to suit you. There are 45 guestrooms as well, typically with lower price points, but I do recommend the cottages if you are able as it’s a very special experience that you don’t find many other places. 

During each of my stays, I opted for 2 bedroom cottages. My first stay was on the South side and my latest, on the North side. Both had lovely sitting rooms and a little kitchenette area, along with spacious and well appointed bedrooms. 

Outside of size, location is probably the key factor in determining which cottage is for you. Cottages on the Northern side were a bit further away from main lodge but  did offer a lot of quiet and solitude (and with a golf cart, you can access everything easily). However, the southern side had the convenience factor as it was walking distance to breakfast, the pool and firepit. Consult their handy map to take a look at cottages and locations. 


5. Choose  your own local adventure

Though I can very easily see how you would never have to leave the expansive 700 acres property, there are quite a few experiences worth a short drive. Take a wagon ride to see all the animals at Shelburne Farms or grab an ice cream cone in the quaint Vergennes. Admire the waterfall as you lunch at American Flatbread in Middlebury or have an open air dinner at Starry Night Café, one of my favorite restaurants in Vermont. If you travel in Fall, you can take advantage of all the autumnal offerings like pumpkin picking, apple orchards and the most colorful foliage (see all my fall recs for this area in this post here).

Maple Creemees from the Basin Harbor general store!


Important Note: Basin Harbor is a seasonal resort, open from May to October. They are currently closed for the season but it is recommended to book ahead as there are many repeat families. Summer is high season but I’ve stayed in both early May and late September and found them both to be lovely. You have the resort more to yourself and you can enjoy the fresh spring air or the cozy fall vibes on either end of the season. You can book your stay here

Fall in Vermont: A Trip Guide

Though Vermont glitters under a white blanket in the winter and blooms shocking green in the spring and summer, the most famous season of all is definitely FALL. September and October bring in a fiery transformation that streaks across this state’s many trees. 

Fall in Vermont

But it’s not just pretty. The harvest season also means a lot of activity. Farms, orchards, wineries, breweries, hay rides and more are all underway. And yes, as I visited during the 2020 pandemic, there was less open than usual, but Vermont has always been about the outdoors, so many of my favorite activities are still happening in some capacity.


I was in need of a little fall country fun and was delighted to spend a week exploring the autumn bounty in the Northwestern area of Vermont. This region has glittering lake views, sweeping hillsides and picture perfect farms, scattered along it’s breathtaking roads. Adventuring with my 2 year old daughter, we had the most memorable week frolicking throughout the countryside and embracing everything FALL. 


When to go?

Last week in Sept – First 2 weeks in October

Peak fall in Vermont usually occurs at the end of September and early October. You might catch some golden leaves in mid September as well. Don’t wait too long in October though! By Halloween, there’s usually been some frost and the leaves lose their vibrancy or most have indeed, fallen. 


Where to Visit?

Vermont in the fall

I grew up in Woodstock, which is Eastern central Vermont. The fall in Woodstock is stunning and there is an adorable town to go along with it. But I think the most scenic countryside is along route 7 in Northwestern Vermont. Here you have quiet roads, farm stands and majestic mountains, all set on the backdrop of Lake Champlain, just a couple miles West. It has a full fall experience, all within 20 minutes. 


Where to Stay?

Basin Harbor 

Breakfast in our cottage at Basin Harbor

There’s no doubt that Basin Harbor is where to stay if you want to experience the best of Vermont. Quiet renovated cottages perched next to the dazzling Lake Champlain, a historic lodge that serves everything from waffles to sushi and an assortment of adirondack chairs thoughtfully placed with views. The peacefulness that Basin Harbor brings allows guests to breathe in the autumn air and fully immerse in Vermont’s natural splendor.

Basin Harbor’s iconic adirondack chairs

Don’t even bother with your car, use a golf cart to get around this massive resort, from the general store to the pool to the Red Mill restaurant. If you have had your fill of all that lake gazing and cozy fires, there’s actually a lot available for the adventure seekers too. 

Get around by golf cart at Basin Harbor


What to do?

Cruise the Lake at Basin Harbor

Boat cruise on Lake Champlain

Many leaf peepers take in the foliage by car or on foot, but I daresay that viewing it from a boat might be the most picturesque. Lake Champlain, Vermont’s largest and in my opinion, most gorgeous lake, is hugged by rolling hills, making it an autumn lovers dream. Basin Harbor offers daily cruising aboard it’s EScape, a 47’ modified lobster boat that can seat up to 48 people (modified capacity during COVID-19). The tour will include the centuries old history of the Basin Harbor and Lake Champlain, as well as highlight more scenic spots along the lake.

Daily narrated cruises on the EScape from Basin Harbor


Craving something with a little more speed? Rent a boat to do some tubing or waterskiing, or take out a motor boat with just your family if you prefer to have a more socially distant experience. The calm water and reflection of those leaves will definitely ensure that you have stunning photos!

The eagle’s nest


Apple Picking at Happy Valley Orchard

A quintessential fall experience, apple picking is one of those things that is just fun (and easy) for all ages. Great photos, lovely outdoor orchards and using a lot of tasty bites along the way. My toddler loved learning how to twist and pull off the apples on the low branches all by herself.

Apple picking at Happy Valley Orchard

We were told by a local about Happy Valley Orchard in Middlebury (about 35 minutes south of Basin Harbor) and it was perfect.  This cute family orchard has well maintained trees, which were simply full of apples. If you don’t feel like picking, the market has bags to carry out, including the beloved Honeycrisp, and other local specialties. It’d be a tragedy if you didn’t snag a bag of cider donuts to share (or not!). 


Pick a Pumpkin: Lester Farm Market

I daresay there’s a place in the country that has prettier pumpkins than Vermont. These beauties are for sale along the side of the road, at local farms and markets everywhere during this time of year. However, I have to give credit to Lester Farm Market.

Lester Farm Market is A+

Their thoughtful display is out of an foliage postcard. Wagons piled high, pumpkin “spiders,” and a pumpkin adorned house big enough to enter;  their market offers so much more than just picking out a pumpkin!  The photo opportunities alone are worth the price of these orange icons. 


Eat Well

Pizza and beer are a winning combo, any time of the year. The local favorite, Folino’s Pizza, is a laidback stop for some great slices, and next door, sample a refreshing beer from Fiddlehead Brewery. 

Lunch with a lake view from Mizuchi Sushi at Basin Harbor

If you want some more unique flavors for this area, Mizuchi Sushi is a new offering from Basin Harbor. These exciting rolls and other Japanese dishes from New York Times rated veteran chef Fumitaka Takeshita are absolutely delicious, on their own but I think they are greatly enhanced by enjoying them with a view of the lake. 


Hang out at The Historic Marble Works District, Middlebury

The collegiate Middlebury is a charming town, centered around a breathtaking waterfall. Though the town feels very historic, it is also very lively. A particularly fun and innovative spot is the Marble Works District.

Marble Works District, Middlebury, VT

Here you will find a park with picnic benches, art installations, gardens and a prime waterfall view. Bring a meal or some wine, or just stop by to enjoy the fall sunshine. Even better, there are cute shops to browse and the Vermont staple, American Flatbread, which serves outstanding pizza, salads and drinks either outside by a firepit, inside in non-pandemic times or to go!


Immerse in Nature on a Hike

Crunching on the crispy leaves as you walk along the Vermont trails is truly spectacular. Get in nature and leave your phones behind. Breathe in the rich air, hear the rustling of birds and let yourself be a part of the Vermont landscape.

A scenic “hike” (walk) with a toddler


Learn about local farming at Shelburne Farms

One of the most exquisite farms in all of the state, Shelburne Farms not only provides a beautiful way to experience farm life, including a wagon ride, but they also serve lunch, make their own cheeses (which you can purchase) and even have an inn. During the pandemic, much is closed, save for their hiking trails but if you plan to go at other times, don’t miss their friendly cows, baby chicks and excellent cheeses from their market!

Shelburne Farms wagon ride up to the barns


Some of my favorite moments of our week in this beautiful area of Vermont were spontaneous. We pulled over on the side of the road to take a photo of a cow near a fence or drove along old winding roads to be surprised by a stunning valley of red leaves or wandering the quaint town of Vergennes to find a delightful shop with toys and home goods (Malabar). There’s as much or as little to do as you want. And all the while, it was easy to be present in this gorgeously fleeting season, relishing every moment of its beauty while it lasts.

Two happy girls in Vermont’s Fall

Review of the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach

As you might have guessed, I LOVE far flung destinations. Some of my most cherished trips were taken halfway around the globe (looking at you South Africa, Japan, Australia and Greece!) But there’s something pretty amazing about the easy breezy local staycations that give “relaxing trip” a whole new spin. 

When a pandemic forces you to get your head out of the clouds and forgo planes, you discover so much beauty right out your doorstep!

With months stuck at home and limited adventure (and no break from mom duty!) my husband deemed it time for a “mom-cation.” (Maybe he was worried that this abrupt pause on my decades of constant travel as journalist was going to send me in a downward spin…) Luckily, I accepted this surprise invitation and started scouring my local area for a nice, safe place to unwind. It was not long before I came across the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach.

The Shade Hotel was imbued with a laidback luxury and given that it was on the marina AND had a rooftop pool. I was sold.


The Shade Hotel Redondo Beach is located right off of Kings Harbor Marina. That means,  breathtaking views of the harbor’s many yachts, sailboats and the like. There’s something about a marina that is just so glamorous!

I rode my bike to the hotel from my house–yes it was that close. But biking is a big thing at the Shade Hotel. They are located on the protected bike path, making it easy to get to the pier, the beach, restaurants and beyond. Naturally, they also loan out complimentary bikes for all guests. I happily used one of there’s just to try it out when I was heading out for dinner at the pier nearby.



To fully understand the safety precautions, I called the front desk and they explained all that they are currently doing to keep guests safe from COVID-19. You can find all here but here are some of the main points that I appreciated are listed below: 

  • Full-time COVID-19 Manager
  • Masks required in all public areas
  • Limited number of guests allowed on the rooftop and pool
  • Temperature checks for the dining and entering the building
  • No housekeeping until check out
  • Breakfast is fully sealed 
  • Upgraded and extended cleaning of surfaces and in rooms
  • Hand sanitizer stations throughout
  • Amenity kit with mask &  sanitizer when checking in

Love this Amenity Kit at Check-In from Shade Hotel Redondo Beach





Small but tasteful, the lobby is used for check in, breakfast and to access the elevators to upper levels and the rooftop. 



I stayed in a ground floor King Suite and was quite impressed the moment I stepped inside. Firstly, it was MUCH larger than expected. It even comes with a nice looking bed which may be perfect for cozy companions like those throws on sale. The entry hall led me passed the well sized bathroom and into the bedroom and sitting area. The bathroom had an enclosed toilet opposite a glass shower  and soaking tub, with a large sink and counter in between.

I liked the surf inspired art behind the bed, which you could even purchase. The mini bar which had some thoughtful additions (artisanal soda? cool!)  and wasn’t jam packed to allow you to add your own beverages.

Of course, the Tempur-Pedic California King bed, which may include a sertapedic, was heavenly, especially for this tired mom! I certainly spread out and enjoyed one of the deepest, quietest, most UNINTERRUPTED sleeps of the past 2 years. 🙂


My favorite part of the room? The balcony facing the marina! I sat out here with my morning coffee, an evening glass of wine and loved the sea breezes wafting in my room.  There was a table with two chairs and a soaking tub. I didn’t test out the latter but I wished I’d enjoyed a soak with a view of the yachts. 


Rooftop Pool Aquadeck

Understated and stunning, the rooftop is the cherry on top of this luxury boutique hotel. A view of boats, ocean and mountains spans your eye line.  Well spaced lounge chairs and comfy seats made it a cinch to find a quiet corner for my “me day.” I went up in the late afternoon after check-in and settled in a spot, far away from any guests. Since the deck railings are glass, you can gaze at that view even while nestled in your lounge chair. 

The pool deck enforces a limited guest policy so rarely did I see more than a handful of people up there. After breakfast, I decided to take advantage of that morning sun and had the whole deck to myself. In my opinion, the prime spot is in the left corner, with views of Palos Verdes, the marina and the sparkling sea.

Food and beverage was available to-go from the Sea Level restaurant downstairs. 



I happened to be staying on a Thursday so I was able to enjoy a special workout class on Friday morning. The local Shine Studio held a very high energy, open air class on the Aquadeck. What a treat to have such a fun class come right to the hotel. I was able to get a good sweat in and have fun before returning later to relax and read. 



As I was staying during a pandemic, room service was suspended. Breakfast was set out in the lobby with packaged items like yogurts, cereals and wrapped muffins. Coffee and tea were available as were some fruits. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a very robust or health minded breakfast offering but considering the pandemic situation and need to have things wrapped, I understand that this probably isn’t the norm. 

Lunch was much better at Sea Level restaurant. Tables are spread out and I enjoyed a mouthwatering salmon bowl and a glass of wine in the afternoon. I chose to go after the lunch rush so I could have more space. 

Though I biked to dinner off site (R10 Social House was a delicious option and 2 minute bike ride away), I do hear great things about the dinner at the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach. They even have a special weekend Izakaya menu, served on the roof. Another good reason for me to return. 



You don’t have to love boast like I do to love the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach. It has an open-air modern elegance and the rooms are pretty fantastic. I can’t say that many can compete in the size.

The rooftop pool and fitness classes offered were definitely the most memorable part of the experience for me. Dining is decent but if you want to check out other options, they are only a bike ride away.

My only real complaint was curt and occasionally slow front desk service, but I suspect the new procedures and pandemic also affected this. I was very grateful when I was able to switch rooms around 10pm when the guests above me where incredibly loud (I had been excited for a good night’s sleep and that wasn’t going to happen!). 

My Corner View at the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach

I am pleased to have found this spot in the South Bay and I plan to recommend it to friends and family, as well as come back for some dinner and that pool!


Staying Safe at Hotel during COVID-19

The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic and hotels have quickly stepped up to ensure that they are adapting their procedures to this new normal. Extra cleaning, masks required, sanitizing stations, no housekeeping, proper waste disposal through services like that dumpster rental in Neenah, distanced outdoor dining, pool reservations, spa closures… these are just some of the measures that have now been instated for guest safety across many hotels. 

During COVID-19 I’ve so far stayed at 3 hotels: one in Santa Barbara, San Diego and most recently, Redondo Beach. These short escapes allowed our family a much needed break from the pandemic monotony. Each instance was a good reminder that travel is possible, but we now have to be hyper careful. I took precautions and did my research each time to ensure that we were not putting ourselves at higher risk than our usual home life. I definitely understand if you aren’t comfortable with hotel stays and of course, staying home is usually safer. However, if you do plan to stay at a hotel, here are some tips. 


  1. Choose Wisely 

It goes without saying but some hotels have adapted much faster to this new normal and have already implemented new strategies to keep guests and staff safe. Often the hotel website or its instagram will inform guests what they are doing and also what is not open. I called each of the hotels ahead of time to speak with the front desk staff to learn more about what the hotel was doing. I recommend calling as some of the websites were not updated. 

Love this Amenity Kit at Check-In from Shade Hotel Redondo Beach

I was pleased to learn that Shade Hotel Redondo Beach provided an amenity kit at check in that included wipes and a mask and had sanitizing stations set up around the property. 

 Some hotels have GBAC Stars, which indicate that the Global Biorisk Advisory Committee has approved the cleaning practices and safety measures that the hotel is taking to be safe. San Ysidro Ranch in Montecito, CA has been awarded one of theses. 


2. Go Midweek 

My Corner View at the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach

Two of the three hotel stays that we took were on the weekend, which we couldn’t avoid as my husband had to work. However, my stay at the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach was a Thursday to Friday. I definitely noticed that there were less guests on Thursday and Friday morning than when I left Friday afternoon. Many were checking in for the weekend. Less people just means more space–that’s why I always recommend midweek trips, even pre-pandemic. 


3. BYO-Wipes

While I don’t doubt that any of the hotels that I stayed in thoroughly cleaned my room, I still felt better bringing wipes with me to give surfaces a quick wipe down. Use your common sense and wipe areas you know you will touch. Since housekeeping isn’t allowed to come in during your stay, you just have to do it once and then you are set.

I’d suggest wiping the following high use areas: 

  • All door handles
  • Room Phone
  • Mini Fridge Door
  • Night table
  • Area around sink
  • Arms of chair
  • TV remote


4. Bring Snacks!

Room service was not operating in any of the hotels that I’ve stayed in during COVID-19. I made sure to bring a tote filled with snacks for the whole family. My best work was a full meat and cheese board that we enjoyed for a beach sunset picnic at the Mission Bay Resort in San Diego. However, even just extra waters, seltzer and a bottle of wine that I brought to the Shade Hotel in Redondo allowed me to avoid the inconvenience of leaving. 

Brought all this from home for a beach picnic

If you are traveling with kids, you already know that you have to have snacks. We went so far as to prepare all Aurora’s dinners ahead in compartmentalized snack boxes. This made it much easier for us as we only had to worry about our food and not the stress of a hungry child! 


5. Delivery Dinner

My balcony is prettier than most restaurants! (Shade Hotel Redondo Beach)

If your room has an outdoor space, dining on a balcony or patio can be just as memorable as going to the hotel restaurant. It’s also a heckuva lot safer. Check out Yelp and order delivery from a local restaurant to be enjoyed al fresco with the family. The best part about this option–no masks needed! 


6. Sunrise Pool Time

Early Morning Pool Time at the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach

Okay, sunrise might be aggressive but if you are craving some pool time and want to be safe about it, check out the pool in the early morning. I found the rooftop pool deck completely empty at the Shade Redondo Beach on a balmy Friday evening. A couple people came around midday and more later in the day, but the hotel mandated that no more than 10 be on the pool deck so it was always relatively quiet. 


I know some pools have you reserve your pool time, and though it is limiting, it is a good way to minimize crowds and have more space. 


7. Off Peak Dining

As with all restaurants, going to eat at off peak hours will definitely make the whole process quicker as there’s just less people. I had a late lunch at Sea Level at the Shade Redondo Beach and we were happy that there was no wait for our waterfront table. At the other hotels, we chose to order ahead from the restaurant and simply go pick it up when it was ready to enjoy in a park nearby or in our room. 


8. Splurge for a Cabana

Day Bed at Mission Bay Resort, San Diego

We decided that we wanted a day bed during our weekend at the Mission Bay Resort in San Diego because we wanted to be away from other people. We were able to select the exact day bed that we wanted, which was far away from the chairs and pool, in order to have a private, relaxing pool day. It was definitely worth the extra $80 to have a reserved, cleaned area just for us. 


9. Wear a Mask 

Stating the obvious but I do feel that some people tend to forget when they are on vacation. For example, we noticed a lot of mask wearing in the lobbies and public spaces but not much at the pool area in the San Diego Mission Bay Resort. As a reminder, wearing your mask at the pool is just as important as in other spaces. But if that’s not something that you want to do, consider hotels that have cottages or bungalows where you can enjoy your room and not need to be in public settings.

We have glamping on our list next and cannot wait to have a family experience in the fresh air!