Israel Highlights 2018

Israel.

A land fought over. A nation set apart. A people loved by God.

I always had a deep desire to see and experience Israel. I remember in school there was a map mural on the wall above our desks. My desk sat right in front of Israel. Every day I would see Tel-Aviv on the map and I would dream about being there one day.

I never thought it would actually be a reality.

Until.

I was sitting in church, minding my own business. I was literally starting to doodle my sermon notes when they announced that there was still room on the upcoming Israel trip.

My heart leaped.

I didn’t know why. I had constantly said over the years that I wouldn’t ever be able to go because I wouldn’t be able to fly for that long. Fear kind of dictated to me the places I would and wouldn’t go over the years.

I couldn’t get past this feeling, so I whispered to God that I would only go if my father in law approached me on it. I was not going to look into it on my own.

The next morning, I walk into my office, just start putting my things away and my father in law walked in. He said something along the lines of ‘wouldn’t you want to go?’

I was kind of stunned, but I said yes (blah, blah blah, flight too long, nervous, love Israel, blah, blah, blah).

Next thing I knew, Brian was arranging for time off and we were sending our application off to the travel agency.

Done.

I was going to ISRAEL!!!

I was so excited that I started packing right then and there – 2.5 months before our flight was scheduled to leave.

Seriously, this trip did not disappoint!

It’s taking me so long to write about it because there was so much to take in.

If I had to pick my top highlights, I would be here forever because I loved EVERY MINUTE. Nonetheless, here are a few highlights.

See of Galilee
Imagine being on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, worshipping to hymns with your favourite human on Valentine’s Day. The only thing that would’ve made it better is if my kids were with us. The atmosphere is so hard to describe, but the experience will last forever in my heart.

Caesarea
Caesarea blew my mind. All I ever knew about Herod the Great was that he was a brutal, ruthless leader. What I didn’t know was that he was a genius in architecture. Also, as I learned throughout our trip, despite the fact that Herod wanted to kill Jesus, his ingenuity in architecture paved the way for the Gospel of Christ to be spread. See what I mean about blowing my mind?!

Bet She’an
Walking down the cardo (main street), seeing all the rich history of Bet She’an was breathtaking. The city was destroyed by an epic earthquake that devastated and leveled the place. You can literally see how the earth shook in how the ancient ruins are still laid out to this day.

Dead Sea
Experiencing this phenomenal place was such a unique experience. I mean, floating in the water was incredible! There were sharp rocks periodically under the water and we were later told that they are salt deposits or pillars of salt. Sound familiar? Did I just visit Lot’s wife?

Dead Sea

Jerusalem
There is so much beauty in Jerusalem, and overall it was truly breathtaking. It’s busy, and seeing all the points in Old Jerusalem and everything in between is a lot to take in. It’s a place where I feel like I left a piece of me and definitely want to go back and explore longer. My most solemn moment was with my sister-in-law when we visited the Wailing Wall – truly a memory I will cherish forever.

Ok, I could seriously go on and on and on with this post.

But I won’t.

Visiting Israel really connected history, the Bible and modern-day life for me in a way that I can’t even explain. Leaving Israel I feel like I have caught a glimpse of how much God loves Israel.

I will be back…

Have you ever visited Israel? Let me know your favourite thing about Israel in the comments below.

Travel for Less

There are 2 things I love in life – spending money and saving money.

If only I could do both simultaneously…except I can! (and I do)

Seriously, my husband loves me for it!

Ok, maybe love is a strong word, but who doesn’t love someone who saves a boatload of money?!?

One thing I always save money on, besides everything, is travel. It’s something that just thrills me to find a great deal.

I just love an amazing luxurious vacation without the price tag.

Is it a coincidence that my maiden name is ‘Price’??

I say it’s meant to be.

Think about this:
more planning/prep equals less $$ spent
less planning/prep equals more $$ spent.

Without much further ado, here are my top 10 ways to save on your next vacation.

Always be on the lookout
Frequently take a quick look through a few of your favourite vacation websites to see what’s out there, what’s on sale and what you’d like

Be flexible
Sometimes, people choose travel dates for many different reasons. If you can, be flexible with the dates you want to go. Last year when we went to Cancun, leaving 2 days earlier than originally planned saved us money.

Book last-minute
Some of the best deals are last minute. I can’t even count how many times I get into convos with people on vacation that tell me the steal of a deal they got that was hundreds of dollars above the price I paid.

Be prepared
Almost all of my trips are booked last-minute – I’m talking the book on Tuesday, leave on Friday type. This can be hard, especially if you have kids/pets to make arrangements for, but we have made it work with our 2 kids and a dog. The key is preparation. I always have a process that I follow once I book a vacation (like lists of babysitters, meal prep, packing lists, etc.) and it seriously helps me in those moments that I wake up deciding to go on vacation.

Be open-minded
It can be very easy to get caught up in going to the same places you swear by, but think about trying a new resort, cruise line, airline or destination. You may be pleasantly surprised.

However, this leads me to tip #6…

Check unbiased reviews & video footage
This isn’t really a money-saving tip, but it can be if you tend to waste your money on resorts that aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Resorts, hotels, cruise ships, etc. all want you to pick them. They will post the best pictures and sometimes they even give incentives to people to write good reviews about them. Check out recent, real people reviews and footage.

This is actually something that made me think about blogging – none of the reviews I read/saw gave an accurate depiction of the beach/oceanfront. When we got to one destination, there was a 5 day rain streak and we noticed that they pumped all the rain water into the ocean directly in front of the resort. Let’s just say it looked and smelled like decaying flesh (it was actually decaying trees branches). We won’t be going back there.

Cruise
Cruising can be a great way to see many different places without spending the money on traveling individually to each of those places. There are many cruise lines that offer discounts and incentives.

Travel off-season or during rainy season
I know it sounds unappealing to go to a warm, tropical destination and have it rain on your parade. Just hear me out…tropical rainy seasons aren’t like the rain we get here (Canada), they usually get spurts of rain, followed by bursts of sunshine. Within my short 15 years of cruises and resorts (most of them during rainy season), I’ve only had 1 vacation that it rained non-stop for 5 days – and the locals said it was not normal.

Fly the deals
There are many ways to save on flights. If you stick with the same airline, you can get miles to use toward flights. I’ve never personally done this yet because we’ve generally flown with Spirit or Sunwing, but I do have a new favourite airline – Southwest! You can definitely find cheaper base prices with Spirit, but I recently flew with Southwest and loved everything about it. I’m now at a place in life where I value my comfort more than saving $$. (Shh, don’t tell Brian!)

Think outside the box
This is actually better suited for a blog post on it’s own, but it’s worth mentioning in saving money. You know how people buy timeshares? You know how those same people don’t always get the week(s) they want so they don’t go? Guess what happens to those timeshare rooms/condos. They sell them to money-saving gurus like me! It’s called vacation resort certificates and you can buy them for super cheap. We went to Florida for 2 weeks and only paid $500 for a 2 story condo with 2 bedrooms, full kitchen, full laundry, that backed onto an outlet mall and was 15 minutes from Disney. We were able to use the money we saved to bring the kids to Disney, their water parks, Legoland, Arabian Knights & more!

So there you have it! My top 10 money-saving tips for vacation. Let me know in the comments below how you save money when you vacation.

10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Grand Cayman

7 Mile Beach
Photo by Marc Babin on Unsplash

If I ever go missing, you’ll know where to find me.

Imagine trying to wave for a taxi, exhausted after an afternoon in the sun. You’re standing on the wrong side of the road. The taxi is heading away from the port, but the driver says he can bring you back before you need to board your cruise ship.
You get in.
There are 2 people in the van already. They begin talking about life on the island, pointing out their favourite places. The taxi stops and picks up an elderly lady. She climbs in the front and joins the conversation, adding some history and memories. At the next stop, the couple leaves the taxi. On and on, dropping off and picking up people on the journey, each person adds a story or personal touch to the ongoing conversation about the island.
When you get back to the ship, the driver charges you the amount of money it would have cost you if you went directly back to the port. Then you find out that all those people, all those stories were his family and friends and you realize that he brought you into a glimpse of his home and gave you a part of his heritage – just because you were standing on the wrong side of the road.

That was the day I fell in love with Grand Cayman.

If that story doesn’t capture your heart, here are 10 more reasons why you should visit Grand Cayman.

  1. 7 Mile Beach
    Imagine a pristine beach that goes on as far as your eyes can see. 7 Mile Beach does not disappoint. If you ever go to Grand Cayman, this is the place to be!
  2. Stingray City
    This place is a large sandbar area sitting within the barrier reef that surrounds the island. It’s where the stingrays come to get fed. Apparently the fishermen of old used to go to this place to clean their fish. The stingrays thrived on what was thrown overboard and began associating the boats with food. It soon became a tourist attraction. The beauty is in the extremely friendly nature of the stingrays.
  3. Crystal Caves
    Brush up on your stalagmites and stalactites, because you’ll be seeing them here. The beauty of the natural caves are unique and fascinating.
  4. Hell
    Have you ever been to Hell and back again? Well, this is the Hell you would love to go to! It is full of limestone formations. It is quite small – about half of a football field. Although you won’t be able to walk among the formations, you will be able to see them and take photos from platforms.
  5. Dive Sites
    There are over 200 dive sites on Grand Cayman. If diving is your thing, take some time to check out some of the options here.
  6. Botanical Park
    This 65-acre park has beautiful tropical landscapes and trails. There are 5 themed gardens that you can explore on your own or with a tour. The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is famous for its Blue Iguana Recovery Programme. You can see the ‘blue dragons’ roaming around the park.
  7. Wreck of the Ten Sail
    If you’re a history buff, or love a good shipwreck story, the Wreck of the Ten Sail is for you. It is a historic shipwreck that happened near Grand Cayman way back in 1794.
  8. Starfish Point
    At Starfish Point you will find a breath-taking, remote beach with crystal clear water. Come see starfish, or sea stars naturally in their habitat.
  9. Coral Garden
    This is a great place for shallow snorkeling. It is located inside the barrier reef and you will find beautiful fish, corals and sea creatures.
  10. Turtle Centre
    A beautiful place to encounter Sea Turtles. They even have an annual turtle release that takes place during Pirate’s Week in November.

Obviously, my personal favourite and what won my heart was the beauty and heart of the locals. Nothing will ever top that. Theodore Roosevelt once said, ‘Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.’

I must say that I agree.

Have you ever been to the Cayman Islands? There are so many more things to do! What is your favourite thing in Grand Cayman? Let me know in the comments below!

Cruises vs Resorts

I was 21, just married and had never been on an actual vacation before. I knew so little about travel, that I didn’t even know I needed a passport.

I had no clue.

I literally got my passport less than 48 hours before we left for our honeymoon.

We cruised the Caribbean for 7 days on Princess Cruise Lines. It was heavenly. From that moment I was sold on cruises.

Until.

We went to an all-inclusive resort.

I’ve been to 2 resorts and have cruised 7 times. I’m still deciding whether it’s better to cruise or go to a resort. Here are some of my thoughts on cruises and resorts.

Cruises

Internet
Internet hasn’t always been available on cruises. You can now get internet packages on cruises, but they do cost some dollars. I personally like being disconnected from the stresses, but I usually find a café with internet when we get to each port.

Food
There is always an amazing array of food when you cruise. There are always plenty of options and you will never go hungry! My favourite cruise line is Norwegian and it’s partly because of the food.

Excursions
With cruises, you are at different ports throughout your vacation. This gives you opportunity to book the best excursions at the best places. Brian & I like to live life on the edge, so there are some ports that we find locals to bring us on excursions. When we went on our honeymoon, we chartered our own boat (with some locals), went snorkeling and deep-sea fishing for the day for a fraction of the cruise price.

Entertainment
Cruise lines put a great emphasis on entertainment. They have jazz clubs, comedy clubs, nightly shows, movies, games, bingo, etc. There is always something happening somewhere on the ship.

Swimming
I’m not going to lie. I don’t love swimming on cruises. The pools are usually packed and it’s hard to find a chair near the pool. Except the water slides – waiting in line is worth it. There’s also options such as The Haven. They have their own pools, sun decks, etc.
Maybe one day I’ll splurge for the sake of a review. You know, for you.

Spa
The spa is usually my downfall on a cruise. I was introduced to the spa on the cruise we took from New York in the winter. Not only was it freezing most of the time, but I also tore my meniscus right before we boarded the cruise. My hubby offered to get me the spa package to make me feel better. Little did he know that it would be my new expectation for every cruise.
There are only a certain amount of thermal spa packages available. The thermal spa usually includes a variety of whirlpools, heated ceramic loungers, salt rooms, saunas, steam rooms, ice fountains, etc.

Gym
The gym is almost always packed out the first day or two on a cruise – and it’s usually the treadmills. The area with the weights and benches usually only attract the hard-core gym-goers. One cruise, this intoxicated peanut of a man tried to take some weights from another bodybuilder.
Bold move.
I was sure I was going to witness some sort of crime. Just as Mr. Bodybuilder was about to pummel the kid, a sweet, little lady walked between them and softly, but sternly told them to grow up. I kid you not, it was as if it was straight out of a movie!

 

Resorts

Internet
At a resort, you can choose how (dis)connected you want to be. Some resorts have free wi-fi in the lobby for an hour, some have free wi-fi throughout the resort. The thing I love about this is that I can still talk to my kids when I’m away.

Food
I haven’t been to a lot of resorts, but my experience so far hasn’t been amazing. At the resorts I have been to, I usually only eat to live, not live to eat. The last resort that I was at I found a sandwich and fries from the sports bar that was decent. I literally ate that every day for the whole trip. Food is not my favourite part of resorts.

Excursions
Resorts do offer excursions. I haven’t taken one yet, because I’m not entirely confident in them. Plus, there’s only so many excursions you can do when you’re stationed in one place the whole week.

Entertainment
I have split reviews on resort entertainment. Poolside entertainment looked fun, but didn’t pull at my attention. As for the nightly entertainment, it really depends on the resort. One resort had a show one night, but the rest of the week everything closed and everyone went to their rooms by 8pm. Another resort we went to had breathtaking shows every night and they even transformed the courtyard into a local market one night. Amazing.

Swimming
See that line where the sky meets the sea, it calls me. When we went to Puerto Vallarta, you could find us boogie boarding in the ocean non-stop. It wasn’t until the day we were leaving when we found out that the red flag had been up the whole week and the beach had technically been closed. Oops. But the waves were amazing! Although the ocean did steal my favourite pair of Fendi sunglasses. Just be sure to check the resort beach ahead of time as some beaches supersede others.
Now for the poolside. We went into the pool once. We were together. Then Matt came. Who is Matt? I don’t know, but he was single and available. Me? I was taken and happily married (while pointing to Brian). We tend to skip the poolside now at resorts.

Spa
When I’m at a resort, I won’t use the spa unless the weather is horrible. The last resort we went to we booked the thermal spa for 2 days because it rained for 5 out of the 7 days of our vacation. It did not even compare to the thermal suite on a cruise.

Gym
Ok, I’m split on this too. I’m guessing that each resort has different gym qualities. One had only 3 machines in it, one was a full gym. It’s never going to be my home gym, but it’s enough to get by.

In conclusion, I like both. I can’t decide which is better. Maybe you can help me. What do you like better – resorts or cruises? Comment below.

Stress Free Travel

I LOVE traveling.

Ok, I don’t LOVE the travel part of it, but I do love being on vacation. I mean, who doesn’t, right?

When I was a kid, I would get so excited to go anywhere, that my trip started weeks (or sometimes months) before the day we were scheduled to leave.

Shout out to all my planners out there!

When my kids were little, I would make sure that I had every detail of every little thing worked out for the sitter (usually my parents!). Then, as they got older, I didn’t do any different! As a matter of fact, I’ve probably become more and more meticulous with organizing their lives before I leave. I have checklists and lists and notes and files and everything else you can possibly imagine.

Yes, probably a little over the top, but I want to make sure that life doesn’t skip a beat for them (or the sitter) just because the hubs and I are gallivanting across the universe (or lazing on a beach somewhere tropical).

Tropical

Let’s get into how to make travel easy peasy.

Lemon. Squeazy.

Well, Looky Here…
A typical vacation for us is when I find a deal online, quickly check coinciding flights, book the vacation and then usually leave within 5 days of booking.

How?

I’m ALWAYS looking.

I mean, usually the day I get back from vacation, I’m already hitting up my fav travel booking sites. You know, just to see what’s out there.

Regardless, I have tried and true favourites that I lean towards.

  • Favourite Cruise Lines
  • Favourite All Inclusive Resorts
  • Favourite Airlines
  • Favourite Deal Finders

I watch for sales and deals, freebies and incentives. This not only gets me great deals but it keeps me excited about our next travel adventure.

Plan on Planning
I have basic travel planners, spreadsheets and lists ready to go at any given time.

Sounds a bit crazy, but if you have a base plan, it will take the unnecessary stress away from the travel process.

Some of my lists include

  • Packing List
  • To Do For Vacation
  • To Do Before Vacation
  • Schedules (for kids and pups)
  • Schedules (for vacation)

Be Flexible
Last minute vacations usually get you the best deals. However, it’s difficult to plan last-minute vacations if you are not flexible.

If you can, try to be flexible with things such as

  • Vacation time with your employer
  • Where you are willing to vacation
  • When you are willing to vacation

Be Prepared
There is seriously nothing like being prepared for something. I usually keep a pre-packed travel bag that has everything but clothes so I’m ready on the fly.

You never know when the most amazing deal is going to strike and if you’re prepared, you could be vacationing sooner than later.

Rock Glen

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite travel stories.

The hubs wanted to go away on vacation.

I didn’t.

To appease him, I looked and looked for a deal, but was not finding anything that fit in our budget.

Grateful, I finally told my hubs that it wasn’t going to work out and asked if he could maybe switch his vacation time so I could find something at a more convenient time (not so close to Christmas).

Before he did, I thought I’d give it one last go. I found a 7 day cruise from Houston for only a few hundred dollars. I laughed and told him that I would go if we found cheap flights (under $100).

I did.

Ugh! I found $50 flights from Detroit to Houston and on top of it, the cruise line offered an on board credit of a few hundred dollars.

In the end, the trip only cost us peanuts and it was one of the greatest times we had.

Do you find travel planning stressful or do you thrive in the wake of lists and schedules? Comment below!

10 Days In A Carry On

My heart never cried to tour Israel. I liked the thought of it, but the overnight flight acted as a strong deterrent. I always figured I would have to wait for life on the other side to see Israel.

Then one day my father in law announced at church that there were still some seats open for the trip he was organizing. My heart leaped and I desperately wanted to be there. Still bugged about the long haul flight, I put it out there in my heart that if it was something I should do, it would have to happen without me asking about it.

The next morning at work, my father in law walked in my office and said something about how I should come on the trip.

Next thing I knew, we were sending our applications off. After a few minor obstacles, we were booked on the trip.

I was so excited that I started packing right away – literally 2 months before the trip!

sheri packing

My main goal was to pack in a carry on only. I like a challenge, but mostly I detest the hassle of dredging along with suitcases that could run me over if I lose control of it while walking downhill.

Although I worked and reworked my carry on over and over, I couldn’t quite get it under the 8 kg weight limit. By the night before our trip, I had it down to 8.6 kg.

However!

Due to an ice storm and our schedule being moved up by a day, the extra time I needed to shave off that last .6 of a kilo eluded me.

My daughter told me just to take her new Captain America suitcase and check it.

I did.

All that to say, this post is all about what I packed for my trip to Israel (in February).

Sleep/Awake Bag

Here is where I put everything that I will need to sleep on the plane and then wake up refreshed. Things I include are:

  • Sleep mask
  • Comfy socks
  • Compression socks
  • Sleep supplements & medications
  • Earplugs
  • Eye drops
  • Hand cream
  • Lip balm
  • Powder Face wash or cleansing wipes
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Makeup Bag

Makeup Bag

I usually save all my samples from Sephora and use them in my makeup bag. Some things I need more than a sample, so I will bring the original bottle (if it’s under 100 ml).

Liquids

I first put together all of my other bags and then whatever is a liquid, gel or aerosol, I take and put in my Ziploc bag.

Purse/Personal Bag

This is the bag that goes under the seat in front of me on the plane.

  • Sleep/Awake Bag
  • Headphones
  • Documents
  • Gum/mints/snacks
  • Water bottle
  • Phone/iPad
  • Journal
  • Pens
  • Sunglasses

Documents

I like to keep all of our important documents together.

  • Passports/ID
  • Tickets
  • Travel Documents

Carry On

Here is the clothing I packed for a 10 day vacation.

  • 4 pairs of pants (1 pr of jeans/1 casual pants/2 leggings)
  • 5 shirts
  • 3 tank tops
  • Unmentionables 😉
  • 2 pairs of pajamas
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 2 sweaters (1 thick hoodie/1 cardigan)
  • Winter Jacket
  • 4 pairs of shoes (Converse/Vibram 5 Fingers/Vibram Moccasins/Flip Flops)
  • Razor
  • Hair Accessories
  • Tide Travel Packs

All of this fit into my carry on, with the exception of my .6 kg overweight. I used everything I brought and never felt like I forgot anything.

Do you have other travel essentials that you bring on your travels? Comment below.

*Disclosure: Some of the links are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. There is no added cost to you.

6 Jet Lag Hacks

It’s 2am. Somehow I have an internal alarm clock that went off. Now I can’t get back to sleep. You see, I’m warm and snuggled in my bed in Canada, but my body believes I’m heading out for a full day of touring in Israel.

Jet lag.

On the way there it wasn’t as bad. We landed and started our day. The roughest part was the next morning when I didn’t hear the wake up call and only bolted awake 20 minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave. I still had to get ready and pack my suitcase. I would have to bypass breakfast and put my makeup on in the bus. I made it, but it could be because the bus was late to pick us up. We’ll never know.

I’ll say this. The jet lag I experienced travelling 7 hours ahead didn’t seem as bad as the jet lag I experienced travelling 7 hours behind.

Here are my tips for by-passing jet lag as soon as possible.

Prepare

There’s nothing like going on a trip of lifetime. Then there’s nothing like going there with the expectation that jet lag won’t affect you. If you prepare ahead of time, your body will thank you later. If you are travelling ahead in time, go to bed and wake up an hour earlier each day for a few days before you leave. It will help alleviate the shock of time change. Use a sunrise alarm clock to help.

Set your time

When you set your watch/phone to the time zone that you are travelling to, it helps trick your brain into helping your body bypass jet lag. The best time to do this is as soon as you get on the airplane (or just before).

Stay awake

As soon as we landed in Israel, we went straight into touring. It wasn’t a hefty schedule, but it was enough to help us stay awake until the evening. Very smart and strategic. Try to stay awake during daytime hours and try not to nap or your body will grasp at straws and give you a hard time about switching time zones. I made the mistake of taking a nap the day we arrived home. When my kids came home from school and tried to wake me, I couldn’t get myself together and asked them if they were real or if I was dead. Oops!

Sleep

When bedtime comes, take supplements to help you sleep. The very first thing I use in my ‘get to sleep’ routine is essential oils. For some reason the doTERRA Peace blend knocks me out every time. Melatonin is also great for naturally getting your body to sleep. If Melatonin doesn’t quite do it, ZZZ Quill is a great over the counter sleep aid. As a last resort, if needed, see your doctor before your vacation for something stronger to knock you out.

Caffeinate

The morning after we arrived, I felt delirious. I’m sure it was a scene that, if my husband had recorded it, it would’ve made it onto America’s Funniest Videos. I could NOT get it together. I was awake and not tired, but I couldn’t think straight. My husband literally held my hand and walked me to the caffeine station. Within minutes, my brain was back to functioning and I was ready to see Israel.

Hydrate

Last, but not least, hydrate. Drink as much water as you can. Your body is made up of a whole lot of water and by replenishing it, it will do what it does at it’s best – function.

Have you ever experienced jet lag? What are some tips that you swear by? Comment below.

*Disclosure: Some of the links are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. There is no added cost to you.