This past Thanksgiving, my family, Alex and I made a trip to Arizona to celebrate with my Uncle Jimmy and family. Our three days were filled with family, tons of food, and loving on their two dogs. Seeing the kids all together is always a fun experience, but there's a pretty large age gap between me, my sister, and then the rest of our siblings and cousins.
So when we needed a break from the slight chaos that is small children, Alex and I took my sister around Arizona and showed her how we like to take advantage of travel opportunities.
Whether you have a couple hours during a layover, you're in a place that you might think is boring, or if you're just driving through somewhere, there are always places to explore in every corner of the world.
My sister didn't think there would be much in Arizona, but if you look up a list of things to do, quite a few options come up. When I hunt for a quick itinerary, the first thing I do is Google "things to do in____" , then I'll read some personal reviews, and finally I'll Youtube it. When it comes to Youtube videos I look for the ones that say something along the lines of "____ in 72 hours" or watch one of the shorter videos. My favorite on Youtube is also looking up "Best Food Stops in _____". We were way to full from Thanksgiving dinner and leftovers to make some foodie stops in Arizona, but from previous trip experience, it never disappoints.
Now on to the travel adventures! My family lives in Peoria, AZ where there isn't very much to do, but just a short drive away and you'll end up in Phoenix and some pretty great nature and hiking places. Before getting too far into nature, we made a stop in the Melrose District and checked out some vintage furniture and art deco stores. These places made for some great, Instagram worthy backgrounds which were Alyssa's favorite part.
Then we made our way into the mountains and stopped at Phoenix Mountain Preserve and Papago Park. Also some great backgrounds and what surprised me is that they were very different from each other. Of course it's still desert, but the rock structures were total opposite and the landscape varied significantly as far as sand and plant life. There were hiking trails at both of these locations and even more located all across Arizona.
Next, before heading back home, we stopped at the State Capital Building, also adjacent to Bolin Memorial Park. In every single trip, I always try to make it a point to learn more about the history of the area and visit a historical location. Even though your destination might not have a history that's known worldwide, every place has an interesting story behind it and I believe that learning about even a little piece of it will take your experience to the next level. Seeing the memorial and capital building gave us a greater appreciation for our trip, and with the full day of stops, visits, and photos under our belts, it was time to go home and eat more leftovers.
Within a morning and afternoon, literally 9a-3p, we were able to explore some of the best places in Arizona and made memories that we will never forget. After filling our stomachs and spending the last of our stay with our family, we started making our way back west. We stayed overnight with my parents and siblings at a Hilton brand hotel (I want to say a Springfield Suites but I could be wrong) and made a sleepover night ordeal to hang out with the kids to make up for leaving them at the house during the day. And if you're wondering, Alex and I stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn during our stay that was only a few minutes from my Uncle's house. It was a beautiful hotel and had the most amazing pool area. Part of our hotel stay was due to not having enough room in the house, and part of staying with just the two of us was to ensure we wouldn't catch a case of the "I love my family but they're driving me crazy" holiday blues. It worked because if we had to hold one of those sleepover ordeals the every night we were there, we would've lost our minds.
The next morning we woke up and Alex and I were on our way back home. Like I said, some of the best memories happen when you make stops while driving through. Our first visit, the Ass Kickin' Hot Sauce Store where we bought some hot sauce souvenirs and got to hang out with their mascot... donkeys! We got back in the car and before we crossed the state line, we visited the Yuma Territorial Prison. I was able to see this place with my mom when I was a little girl. We love the paranormal and haunted stories so this was one of our haunted bucket list destinations that we created when I was about 12. However, I didn't tell Alex that it was supposedly haunted until we were already half way through the tour and he couldn't get a refund ;). Ghosts aside, this is a place full of history and one that's inspired many movies. I definitely recommend visiting here if you're in the Yuma area; another stop in Yuma- Ninja Sushi. I know what you're thinking... sushi in the dessert? BUT it really is so good and was a great stop before finishing our road trip back home to sunny San Diego.
Always look for potential pit stops that you can make while travelling through places and don't be afraid to explore the hidden gems of a city. No matter where you are, there are always wonderful things to see and memories to make.
Las Vegas holds a special place in the hearts and dreams of almost everyone. But for San Diegans I think it holds an even bigger place since it's one of the shorter road trips that we can make to get away from our everyday lives. A simple 5 hour drive northeast and we arrive in Sin City itself. Although known for the casinos, hotels, and well, being sinful, Vegas is also home to many kid friendly activities. In this post, I talk about my most memorable Vegas trips, including family vacations with my younger relatives and 'grown up' trips with our rave friends. I hope you enjoy!
Las Vegas is almost infamous in my family for being the place of holiday baseball tournaments. It's a great place to go in general but some people are hesitant to spend the holiday weekends with their kids in Vegas.
Alex was the coach for the Bandits during this particular trip to Vegas. As coach (and the coach's girlfriend) we had the responsibility of taking care of these teenage boys. Was it easy? No- but it also wasn't hard. Kids get excited just to be in Vegas let alone competing in a tournament with other guys from around the country.
When they're off the field, they're eating, and when they're not eating, they're talking or sleeping. It was fun to watch their up's and down's of being super excited to dead beat tired after a long day of baseball. Vegas is such a magical place to them and it was fun to give them a memorable experience full of candied apples, midnight bowling, In-N-Out runs, and playing ball!
EDC is one of the biggest raves in the world and is on so many people's bucket lists. I know it was on mine before I even knew what a rave was. Alex and I started raving in 2016 and grew an appreciation for the atmosphere. We definitely went all out in 2016 - 2017 and went to every Insomniac rave there was. Crush, Beyond Wonderland, Countdown, Nocturnal, Escape, and EDC. I will definitely have a separate blog just for raves, but EDC is the only one that is in Vegas, and as such, deserves it's own spot in this post.
The first year we went, it was 100 degrees at 1am. It was crowded during the day, same thing during the night, and it was miserably hot. BUT it was still one of the best raves we've ever been to and the Vegas vibe made it all the more special. We stayed with our group of rave friends at the Luxor and walked the strip on our first day, exploring the Luxor and its adjacent hotels, going to the M&M and Hershey's store, and walking around Cesar's Palace.
The rest of our time in Vegas was spent at EDC, catching up on most of our sleep throughout the day, and spending time at the pool when we were awake and able to enjoy the sun. One of the best things about EDC is that you meet so many people from around the world, get to see things that the other raves don't offer, and then you wake up and do it all over again.
I definitely recommend that if you're going to Vegas for EDC, make sure to spend that first day you arrive doing whatever else you want to do in Vegas, because unless you're staying a few extra days, you will be way too exhausted to explore after an all-nighter of partying under the electric sky.
This year when we went, EDC changed the date from June to May and as such- the weather was MUCH cooler. Almost too cold at night but still way better than being too hot. Alex and I were able to stay with his Uncle who lives a few minutes away from the strip in Sumerlin. It was so nice not having to pay for an expensive hotel and being able to come home to his Aunt's amazing homecooked meals. We didn't have a planned group to go with like last time, but we knew of friends that would be there and who we would meet up with. We went to Tao's Beach Club, of course bought a giant alcholic slushie from Fat Tuesday's, walked the strip, and explored the Venetian before spending the rest of our time dancing the night away at EDC. Seeing some of our favorite DJ's, meeting our friends, riding the carnival rides, and watching the spectacular fireworks display on the last night - EDCLV 2019 was an unforgettable experience.
Since Alex's Nino moved to Vegas for work, his family now has a new reason to go to Vegas whenever they want. (This is the Uncle that we stayed with when we went to EDCLV19). We just recently went to enjoy Easter with his Nino and family this past April. It's always nice to see how other people celebrate holidays and taking part in their traditions. For the Cervantes', Easter entails a full day of grocery shopping and cooking, dying Easter eggs, finding Golden eggs, and taking family pictures. I introduced them to my family tradition of making egg salad after the egg hunt and they introduced me to new Vegas experiences.
Since it was mine and Alex's first time in Vegas as 21 year olds, his parents, Nino, and Nina took us out to the Piano Bar inside of New York New York. It was such a cool experience to see the aura of the Piano Bar and of course to finally see the wasted side of Vegas. Of course we didn't get hammered, but we got to people watch and laugh at the people who were.
One thing that I want to emphasize is to always be kind to others. I was in the bathroom when I heard a girl in the stall next to me throwing up. There was no one else with her which for a girl, seemed strange to me. Vegas is pretty scary as it is, but to be drunk and alone in Vegas is a whole other feeling. I walked out of the bathroom and went to the bar that was directly across the walkway and grabbed a glass of water for the girl. I went back into the bathroom knocked on the door and offered her the water. She didn't want me to see her so I slid it under the door along with my number on a piece of paper. I told her to call if she needed anything or felt in danger. She didn't call but she did text me the next day thanking me. It's small acts of kindness that can really go a long way and ensure a person's safety.
Family trips to Vegas are also a staple in my family. In the past, my family goes for summer vacations, but one of the trips that stood out the most to me was when we went for Christmas. We actually went right before Alex and I went to Countdown in San Bernadino and we made a whole week long vacation out of the two trips for Christmas and New Years.
Our Christmas was so magical because we got to spend it with my siblings who were so young at the time. They were still considered babies in my eyes but this trip, they knew enough about Vegas to be aware of their surroundings and really appreciate the magic that is Vegas.
Seeing their eyes light up and their ear-to-ear smiles makes that time spent together so much better. It really was a pivotal bonding trip with my siblings. Taking them to Glowzone, the M&M store, New York New York, the Coca Cola Store, Circus Circus, bowling, watching them in our hotel room at Excalibur while our parents went out, and trying new things gave us an opportunity to just enjoy our time without worrying about anything else in the world.
Send us pictures of your next trip to Vegas and drop your favorite Vegas destinations in the comments below!
As some of you might know, I just recently started a new job as the Event Coordinator for AREAA (Asian Real Estate Association of America). I have been working so hard to put together my first official event with them, the Global and Luxury Summit. They hold one every year, and this year's (from what I heard) was over the top and exceptionally well put together thanks to the work of Monica and I. Monica is the Manager of Event Planning, and sadly, this was her last event with AREAA as she will be starting a new job soon. She's taught me A LOT about event planning which is something that I've wanted to do since I was a little girl.
With that being said, starting this job and having my first successful event was a dream come true. I won't go into too many details about what I had to do, but I will tell you that seeing all your hard work pay off and being able to do something that you've always wanted to try is extremely rewarding. I've felt stuck for a while and this past weekend seeing the event come to fruition and how many people enjoyed it gave me such a blissful feeling of FULFILLMENT.
Something that I've come to realize with being in school is that you can feel hopeless, or stuck, or stagnant. I feel like this especially applies when you have a job that you're solely doing just to pay the bills. But keep your head up and finish strong because once you find something that you enjoy doing, then it's all worth it. Would I recommend going to school and taking on a job that you could see as your career... honestly no because the amount of stress I've been taking on is kinda traumatizing. Of course take those internships and jobs that you think you might like, but starting a job that you truly want to build a career in can be difficult to balance and be distracting. Don't let the job take over the priority of going to and FINISHING school. But if you know you have the work ethic and drive, then go for it. An important lesson that I've held onto for years now, is that you can always say no. You can always quit and start over. There is no such thing as being stuck or limited if you have the gull and will to do what you want to do. Just make sure that you don't burn any bridges. Be the best version of you at all times because the relationships that you make during your journey go a long way and can further guide you down the right path.
There's my wisdom for the day! Some details that I think you guys will enjoy about my trip is that it was incredible to experience luxury travel and destinations. Although I was working the entire time and I didn't get the full luxury experience, it was so cool to be able to stay at the Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, for practically an entire week. The staff was incredible, the location was right on Rodeo Drive, and the food made the experience so memorable. The hotel was actually the place they shot Pretty Woman! I got to eat at some very fancy restaurants including Avra and The Grill on the Alley and even met some celebrities. I got to work closely with our keynote speakers at the event including Alpana Singh, Alan Yang, and Jeannie Mai. The most memorable part of all truly was getting to know our members and making connections. Hearing about what they enjoyed and being able to take pride in what it is that I do.
If anyone wants to come out to our next event, we'll be in Boston for our National Convention!
One of my life goals is to own a trailer or RV and road trip whenever and where ever I want. Until that goal is achieved, it doesn't hurt to know people who already have one. Personally, my family is very young and locally not very big. Alex's family on the other hand is basically all grown up and in the process of starting another generation of Estrada's - and the Estrada's are a huge family. But so is his mom's side, the Cervantes'. They're not growing the next generation yet, but they are still a very big, tight knit family. Someone on both sides of his family owns a trailer- his Nino Mario Estrada, the one that we went with to hang out at the Colorado River, and his Uncle Mike Cervantes, the one that we just recently went with to spend some time in Julian, CA.
If you've never been to Julian, it's a quaint, little town that transports you back to simpler times. It's very home-y, kinda woodsy, and very calming. If you've heard of Julian Pie Bakery or Julian Pies, this is the place they come from (and yes, you MUST visit the pie shop and buy at least two whole pies).
The Cervantes family, myself, and my little sister Ilima, headed up to their spot in Julian to enjoy a relaxing, one-day getaway. We stopped into town to see all the old shops and buy some pie, came back to the trailer and cooked lots of food, had a bonfire, swung on the tree swing, walk by the ponds, and enjoy the quiet outdoors. When the sun began to set you could hear hundreds of frogs and crickets chirping in the background while all the stars began to peak out from behind the clouds. It gets pretty cold at night so the warm fire, s'mores, and blankets are also very necessary.
One thing that all of us could agree on, is that it's important to take some time away from our busy lives and just enjoy each other's company. Lots of people say that you don't need to go anywhere to do that, but the whole family and I think that getting out of your normal environment is helpful in managing whatever stressful situation you're going through. You don't have to buy a plane ticket or travel very far- just get in the car and drive to the nearest town, campsite, or city that's DIFFERENT then your typical surroundings.
Our trip might seem simple or short-lived, but it's one that we know we can take again. It's important not so much for the location or the excitement, but for remembering to take care of yourself and your mental health. Everyone needs a break from something. For us, this trip was to take a fresh breath of air after Grandma Lorraine Cervantes' memorial service and take the time to remember her, spend time together, and unwind from all the other stress. We've all been dealing with health issues caused by this stress and it was time to address it.
Everyone feels stressed, but it's how we manage this stress that makes all the difference. Handle your business, but don't forget to put yourself FIRST! Take the time to assess what's going on in your life, with your body, and in your mind. Be grateful for every moment that you have on this earth and every moment that you spend with your family because you never know where life will take you next.
My entire life, I've always heard people say that they're going to the river and that the river is amazing and it's the best part of summer... but I never knew what that entailed UNTIL a couple weekends ago. Alex and I were invited to take a trip to the Colorado River near Parker Dam to celebrate his Tia's birthday.
I had this image in my head that it would just be a river with some trailers and hotels around and people might drink but that's about it. For the most part, this image was pretty accurate. But it never occurred to me that I have never seen an actual river. We saw part of the Mississippi River when we went to New Orleans but it seemed so industrialized that it almost felt manmade. We've seen the San Diego 'River' but is it really a river? Or just a stream filled with pollution and mostly dried up from the drought? Whether you consider these examples rivers or not, I was not prepared to be in this crystal clear, completely fresh, no salt at all, wide and curving river that carved its way through such beautiful rock ranges.
It was gorgeous and the perfectly sunny weekend to layout, tan, and relax with family and friends. It was a short 2 day trip but it was such a nice break to get away from the realities of working and school and all the other stresses that we've been feeling overwhelmed with.
Alex's Tia and Nino recently bought a trailer at one of the river properties, so we stayed in a hotel on the same property and spent our meal times at the trailer. When we weren't eating, we went down to the shoreline and laid out to tan, sip a couple of margaritas, and take a dip in the river. In the mornings, the boys woke up early to fish while the girls caught up on their beauty sleep. In the afternoons, we went out on our friend's boat and sped down the river before jumping off the rocks and cliffs into the brisk waters. Most people innertube or wakeboard off the back of their boats but the one we were on goes way too fast to do either of those two. When we got back to shore we ate snacks, drank a little more, and started grilling for dinner. After a eating dinner we would dance, laugh, and drink some more before going to the Bluewater Casino that was about 20 minutes away. If you sign up for their player card you can get free play which we took full advantage of. We want to go back to the casino during the day though because they have a beautiful water slide area and other places to explore.
Overall it was an amazing trip filled with even more first times- first time to the river, on a speed boat, gambling, and seeing such brilliant stars. I would recommend bringing lots of food, making sure to bring sunscreen, and making friends with the people around you. Everyone there is super friendly and sociable. The more friends you make, the more good vibes that join in on the river party.
About a year ago, Alex and I planned and purchased a trip to New Orleans to celebrate my 21st birthday. Lucky for us, my birthday was the day before Mardi Gras this year so we got to celebrate two events while there and cross something off of our bucket list!
Of course, travelling does come with it's fair share of stresses- which is one reason why some people don't like to travel. So I'll start off sharing the things we would've changed before getting to all the good stuff.
First things first- make sure to set up a travel alert with your bank. Alex's card was frozen and he was actually charged $300 from a gas station back at home. Obviously fraud, but because there was no alert in place, the second a transaction was made in New Orleans, his card was permanently disabled and a new one was being mailed to our house address. Solution: electronically transfer money to girlfriend and have her use her card all week.
Also make sure you bring enough cash with you. Don't bring a ridiculous amount, but bring a good chunk for the entire trip, only carry on you however much you will need for the day, and leave the rest of it in the safe in your hotel room. We had enough cash but we felt that it was spread thin because we couldn't withdrawal cash due to New Orleans not having a Bank of America anywhere.
Make sure if you're planning to take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft, to accommodate for the increase in special event or evening pricing. The cost can become super ridiculous so plan in advance. You can also try to save money by walking further away from crowded areas, but do so cautiously and be aware of surrounding areas and neighborhoods. Also be sure to compare the rates between Uber and Lyft, one is usually cheaper than the other depending on the area.
Lastly, if you're missing school, make sure you do you homework for the week before you leave (cough... Alex... cough). This will save a lot of stress and sadness when you miss out on parts of your trip or you end up with a zero for homework.
Alright, now on to the fun stuff! New Orleans is absolutely beautiful! The weather during early March can be a little bipolar with cold rains one second and hot humidity the next, but through and through, the city is one of a kind. The energy and hospitality of the locals make the city all the better and if you take the time to talk to them, it will add a special touch to your trip.
Day 1: March 2 - Travel Day
Welp, we woke up late and almost missed our flight, but we made it just in time! Most of our day was spent flying with a one hour layover in Dallas, and then losing 2 hours once we landed in NOLA. We went to the hotel, unpacked, and then.... Alex had to do some homework. We went to dinner at Acme Oyster House (highly recommend) and watched the tail end of a parade as it went down the adjacent street. From there, we walked down to the nearest grocery store and stocked up on some snacks and beverages for the hotel room.
Day 2: March 3 - The Bayou
Woke up early in the morning and headed to Westwego, LA for a swamp tour! It was everything we could've hoped for with alligators everywhere we looked, a nice swamp breeze, and some pretty hilarious locals. We went to a bar that was near by called the Mona Lisa and they gave Alex a bucket of beer for the boat ride and then gave me a pre-birthday shot of their special - Key Lime shooter. If you're ever in Westwego, make sure you stop by the Mona Lisa and give Ray a big hug for me. The people and bar owners there gave us our first real local experience and made us feel right at home. From there, we went into the city where we spent all day walking around town. We bought the New Orleans City Pass (highly recommend) however, most of the attractions you could use them for are closed on Sundays- Mondays, and they would also be closed on Mardi Gras Tuesday. Sooo... we just walked around the city and visited the other places that were on my list but weren't included with the pass. This included the Museum of Death and then the 4-in-1 Voodoo, Witches, Vampires, and Ghost tour. After that we went to a few other bars and restaurants before heading back to the hotel.
Day 3: March 4 - 21st Birthday Shenanigans
Woke up bright and early and made our way to the original Cafe du Monde. We enjoyed our breakfast right next to the Mississippi River before heading to Jackson Square and watching street performers in front of St Louis Cathedral. Fun fact: In NOLA, if you pin a $1 bill on your shirt, the locals will know it's your birthday and either buy you a drink or pin another $1 to you. Still unable to go into most attractions, we stopped by an old book shop, went souvenir shopping, made our way over to Frenchmen St, ate at The Maison where we tried crawfish, gator, and NOLA gumbo, and then continued to just wander about. We watched some Lundi Gras parades and then walked for miles to the Edgar Degas House and Museum (the only thing that was open from the city pass list). We were going to take a Lyft back to the hotel, buuuttt it was way to expensive. We just walked all the way back into the city and planted ourselves at a bar where we met a really nice couple who told us all about their travels. They were impressed by how mature Alex and I were for our ages and said that if you can travel together, you'll be able to stay partners for life. Then the sun went down over the city and it was time for our Haunted Pub Crawl. It was phenomenal and well worth the money. It took us to all the major bars that you're told you have to visit including Lafitte's Black Smith Shop, Pirate's Alley Cafe (where we tried Absinthe), and we even stopped by Marie Laveau's house (btw the true story of Marie Laveau kinda sucks so just stick with your vision of her from American Horror Story if you're into that kinda stuff). After a LONG day of walking and drinking, we made our way back to the hotel.
Day 4: March 5 - Mardi Gras
We woke up and went straight to Bourbon street to watch the parades of party people walk around. It's a myth that you need to flash to get beads because you will be arrested and people will throw them at you anyways. In between all the chaos, we went to several bars, grabbed some food, met some amazing people, got my face painted, and just took our time enjoying the crazy Mardi Gras atmosphere. We literally stayed out all day long and took it all in. It's an experience that's hard to put into words, but all the amazing things that you hear about Mardi Gras in NOLA is 100% true. The air just feels different and every thing around you feels like magic. The people are just different and everyone is there for the sole purpose of having a good time. There were absolutely no bad vibes this entire trip and if you're the type of person that can just go with the flow, this trip is the one for you.
Day 5: March 6 - Travel Day/ Pack it all in day
Now our last day was the most interesting and probably the most exhausting... ah maybe my actual birthday was the most exhausting. We ended up waking up early just to be able to see all the city pass attractions that we could see in a matter of 6 hours! We went to the National WWII Museum, took a tour of the St. Louis Cemetery, went to Pat O' Brien's, Preservation Hall, the Presbytere, St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, the Pharmacy Museum, and back to the Museum of Death before going back to the hotel to pick up our luggage and boarding our plane. I slept the entire first flight! We landed back in Dallas for our layover and rushed to the other end of the airport to get to our connecting flight because our first one arrived late. Made it onto our second flight where Alex and I watched Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born. It was the perfect end to a practically perfect trip and the best birthday I've ever had.
Since I was a little girl, writing was always my go- to way of expressing myself and escaping from the rest of the world.