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Did You Feel a Chill?: Favorite Haunted Places around the World

Did You Feel a Chill?: Favorite Haunted Places around the World. | CosmosMariners.com

On vacation, most kids collect postcards or sweatshirts. I collected (and still do!) books on local haunted spots. At seven, I visited my grandma in Myrtle Beach and found a copy of Nancy Rhyne's Coastal Ghosts--and an obsession was born.  My bookshelf now struggles under the weight of all of my ghost story books, but I'm still on the lookout for more!

Despite the fact that I may be the biggest chicken alive, I love the thrill of reading a ghost story or going on a ghost tour. There's so much history, intrigue, and underbelly-of-the-city activity wrapped up in all of them that keeps me going back for more.

Since Halloween is right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to round up a few of my favorite haunted spots and share them alongside some other bloggers' favorites.

Location: St. Francis Inn, St. Augustine, Florida


Did You Feel a Chill?: Favorite Haunted Places around the World. | CosmosMariners.com


As I was carrying my bags up to my room earlier this year, another guest greeted me in the hallway and said, "You know this place is haunted, right?" He then proceeded to tell me that during his last stay, he and his wife had listened to the sound of little girls laughing in the hallway outside their room all night.

Goodbye, good night's sleep!

I later found out that the St. Francis Inn is a hotbed of activity. One of the desk managers told us that she often sees things moving out of the corner of her eye, that televisions turn on without anyone being in the room, and something keeps opening and closing the doors of the washer and dryer.

Given that the inn has been in existence since 1791, it's no wonder that a few residents might have wanted to stick around the property. I may or may not have slept fitfully during my entire three night stay! It's tough to try and rest while you're simultaneously keeping an ear out for spirits.

Location: Old Sheldon Church, Yemassee, South Carolina

Did You Feel a Chill?: Favorite Haunted Places around the World. | CosmosMariners.com


This gorgeous shell of a church is hidden away off of Highway 17 between Charleston and Hilton Head, but it is well worth a quick detour. During the day, it's awe inspiring to walk between the large columns and imagine what the place looked like before it was burned.

At night, however, you might just run into one of the spirits that prowl this area. There's supposedly a woman who's looking for her baby: she's buried on the property in the small graveyard.

One of my sister's former co-workers, a normally unshakeable police officer, had a hobby of going out on paranormal investigations around Charleston. When he visited the Old Sheldon Church, he and his team distinctly heard a female voice wailing in the dark. The ruins aren't close to any other houses or buildings, so they weren't sure what they were hearing!

(For an easy day trip to this and two other spooky ruins in the South Carolina Lowcountry, check out this post.)

Location: Portland Underground, Oregon
Contributed by: Angie Golish, My So Called Chaos


Did You Feel a Chill?: Favorite Haunted Places around the World. | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}



In it's heyday, the Portland Underground was a hotbed of horrors and illegal activity.  It was home to prostitutes, the homeless, and criminals-both on the run and in current crime. These catacombs became known as the Shanghai Tunnels due to the amount of shanghaiing that occurred at that time, which the law tried to combat by hanging signs encouraging sailors and individuals to call home.  The vast majority of sailors, ranch hands, hard-workers-and even children-were kidnapped, dragged through the tunnels, and sold to sea-captains to work on boats or be sold along the voyage.


These days, the tunnels are shut down, but you can purchase a tour and learn the history for yourself as you're led through the various abandoned rooms and vaults hiding beneath a very active city.  The host will tell you about the various ghosts that are said to haunt the tombs, which are still partially furnished and still contain some items that were left behind by prostitutes, thieves, and children that passed through. They even offer a reward for anyone who is able to capture a spirit on camera.  

Unfortunately we didn't see one first hand, but this tour was definitely worth it because the history is rich and the atmosphere is very eerie!


Location: Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia
Contributed by: Shandos Cleaver, Travelnuity

Did You Feel a Chill?: Favorite Haunted Places around the World. | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Thomas Huxley on Flickr | Creative Commons License}

When I was in high school, I visited Port Arthur in Tasmania, Australia with my parents. Port Arthur is an old convict prison, where the worst-of-the-worst prisoners in Australia were sent. Now, I’ve never believed in ghosts (and am these days happy to take my dog to the local park at night, situated in an old cemetery), but it was different that bright summer day at Port Arthur…

I entered a room in one of the old, still-intact buildings and started to read the information plaque on the wall. But then I sensed something… I felt chilled, and was certain there was someone else in the room. I looked around the room, but there was no one there. And then I started to read about the supposed hauntings that had taken place in that very room over the years. I quickly hurried away to find my family, and quickly head back out into the bright sunshine outside.

Is it worth visiting? Yes, it’s a fascinating place, with beautiful old buildings, many just ruined shells. But I would advise you to stay away from the nighttime ghost tours!

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Location: Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Contributed by: Kayla Miller, The Felicity Jar

Did You Feel a Chill?: Favorite Haunted Places around the World. | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}


The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is said to be the most haunted hotel in America. It got this way due to several deaths there over the course of its 100+ year existence, including the deaths of many cancer patients hoping to be healed when it served as Dr. Baker’s hoax hospital. 

The Crescent is nothing short of creepy, and the best part is that there are nightly tours of both the hotel and the extra disturbing morgue. We took the tour for the first time in 2014, and while it was full of interesting tales of the ghostly residents, it was also very history-heavy, which was great for my lovely companion, who is much less ghost story inclined than I am. 

Because the hotel is still in operation, you can do one better than the tour and stay in the hotel overnight. We were not brave enough to do this, but you can choose to stay in the rooms said to be most haunted if you’re up for it!  


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And just for kicks and giggles, you can also check out the scariest destinations in the world, as suggested by Travel Observers blog. 

Are you ready to visit all of these places? What haunted spots have you visited? Do you have any ghost tour recommendations?
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The Best of Bavaria and Beyond: 11 Day Itinerary through Germany + Luxembourg

The Best of Bavaria and Beyond: 11 Day Itinerary through Germany + Luxembourg | CosmosMariners.com

Two weeks ago, I set off to Germany with my mom, dad, sister and daughter for an incredible road trip that wound through Germany and Luxembourg.

I've been home for four days now, and I'm still exhausted! I don't know if it's because we packed so much into our trip or because I'm not as young as I think I am, but I'm struggling to get back into our regular schedule.

Even with the tiredness, I wouldn't change anything about our road trip through Munich, Bavaria, the Romantic Road, the Lorelay Valley, and Luxembourg for anything. If you haven't been to this area of the world, you absolutely must put it on your travel list immediately. This itinerary is great for getting samples of the different regions: you'll be able to figure out what you'd like to go back and see for longer on a later trip.

8 Must-Do Things to Do in Jamaica

8 Must-Do Things to Do in Jamaica | CosmosMariners.com

Sun, sand, and palm trees: beach holidays are one of my favorite ways to relax! When we decided to go on a cruise for our fifth anniversary, we wanted to go somewhere that had stunning natural surroundings. We ended up selecting a cruise through the Western Caribbean that stopped in Jamaica. 

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up | Vol. 6

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 6 | CosmosMariners.com

I'M BACK! Our trip to Germany was absolutely incredible, and I cannot wait to share it all with you. The weather didn't want to cooperate--it hovered around 40˚ F during the entire trip and was horribly foggy--but we still saw some amazing sights. I'm also happy to report that my 2-year-old made it through 5 different flights with only one (very short lived) melt down. Go me!

I hope you enjoyed my guest posters while I was gone. I thought they did an amazing job sharing everything from hidden spots in Italy to how to save money at Disney World. :)

Since it's Monday, it's time for another Odds + Weekends round-up!

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 6 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Europe Diaries}

We'll kick off with a Germany-related post because I just can't give up my trip just yet. (I mean, my watch is still set to Munich time!) One thing that fascinated me about Germany was how much recent history has occurred from major battles of World War II to the Cold War. This great post over by Europe Diaries helps you imagine what it was like living in a divided Berlin during the Cold War.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 6 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via Viator Travel Blog}

When I came across this post, I didn't know whether to laugh or immediately sign up for one of these tours. The submarine scooter is an inventive (if slightly strange!) way to see the wonders of the ocean. It definitely beats swimming! Would you try this out?

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 6 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via werner22brigitte | creative commons}

While scuba diving, kayaking, boating, and snorkeling, I've come across some incredible wildlife from nurse sharks to eels to dolphins. One animal I've never seen in the wild is a whale, and I think whale watching would be an incredible experience! Local Adventurer has an awesome guide to whale watching in U.S. that's a must-read for anyone trying to catch a glimpse of these amazing creatures.

Odds + (Week) Ends: A Weekly Travel Round-up, Vol. 6 | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via What Boundaries Travel}

This is so strange (and perfect for Halloween week). This church in Prague is decorated with nothing but human bones. I'd like to visit just because I like weird places, but seeing all of those skeletons would be unnerving.

How was your weekend? Share what you've been up to with me!
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5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New}

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

To close out my amazing roster of guest bloggers, I'm featuring one of my favorite fellow bloggers today! Addie and her blog Old World New have been an inspiration to me as I've grown as a blogger over the last year and half. 

Old World New focuses on sustainable living and is anchored by Addie's incredible style! Today, she's sharing her favorite hidden places in Italy. Who doesn't love learning more about Italy!?!

Enjoy!




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So you've managed to make your way across the globe and you're finally in Roma!  Rome, Italy - architectural capital of the world, the Pope has his own city here, and the Colosseum.  Need I say more?  

My 2011 study abroad stint in Rome led me to explore a myriad of the well-known sites, as I majored in architecture and interior design. It also allowed me to learn about a lot of places that the tourist guides don't tell you about and places where the double decker buses won't take you.  

So, after you visit the Vatican, snap pictures in the Colosseum and drool over seeing the Pantheon, make your way to these amazing Italian sights.

Calcata

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com


This is a city away from the hustle and bustle of Rome - all you have to do is catch a bus, to catch a train, to catch a bus, and either walk or catch a ride a few minutes down the road in order to enter the city.  

It sounds like a lot (I nearly spazzed out because we were running late), but once you get there, all of your worries go away.  You can go hiking on a hill across from the city and end up at an overlook that frames the city perfectly, and you can explore the shops of the city while you are there.  

This trip is perfect for a full day getaway from Rome--just make sure you don’t miss that last bus back!  


Booking.com



Gallese

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

A walled city on a hill, Gallese is quite the charmer.  I was lucky to meet and dine with the mayor on a class trip there, as well as learn about the history of the city from local historians and my professors.  Depending on how you travel there, it could take anywhere from 1 hour (by car) to 4 hours (by train and bus) to get there.  


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Villa d’Este

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

If you want to experience an extravagant palace away from the city, visit Villa d’Este.  Renaissance architecture, renaissance garden, and my favorite aspect, a water feature that runs throughout the sloped garden.  Here (link: http://www.roninrome.com/sites-and-attractions/tivoli-villa-deste) is a detailed listing of how to get to Villa d’Este on your own. 


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Ostia Antica

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

Once a port city with stations for trading from all over the known world, Ostia Antica is a well-preserved site that hasn’t been used since the 9th century.  It was most active during the first through third centuries A.D.  Visiting today, you can see the names of shops created in tile at the market, the amphitheater and stage, walk through covered areas that housed food shops and apartments, and still see statues that stood at the entrances of homes.  For transportation, you can catch a commuter train from Rome to be transported into the ancient Roman world of Ostia Antica.  


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Monteriggioni

5 Secret Must-See Italian Locations {Guest Post by Old World New} | CosmosMariners.com

The last place on the list is not in near Rome, but if you visit Tuscany, you must make your way to the walled city of Monteriggioni.  It is a quiet walled city that seems to be locked in time away from the rest of the world.  You scale stairs to enter the city, and once you’ve entered, you can explore the few streets that it has, and walk around the perimeter of the wall to see the view of the rolling country side.  

I purchased hand-spun wool yarn from the artisans there and I still cherish it to this day, in the form of ear warmers.  Tourism is a major source of income for many of the people in Italy, so I am glad that my purchase went toward the local economy.


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Cities on hills, a million bus rides away, ancient Roman ruins and a unique experience of Italy unlike the one you experience while in the big city.  Take a walk on the wild side, step away from the city for a day or more, and experience the “secret” treasures that Italy has to offer.  You can see more of my Italian travel posts at my blog here.  

Thank you to Natalie for allowing me to share my Italian secrets with you here today!

xoxo, dolls and dudes,
Addie - Old World New

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Get even more of Addie's travel tips, thrifty fashion, and sustainable lifestyle ideas here:


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12-Day Grand Tour of Italy: Rome - Sorrento - Venice - Florence - Tuscany

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How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles}

How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com

I've never been to New York City. I saw it once from Ellis Island when we had a layover, but I've nver been to any of the Five Boroughs. Carisa from Peaches and Pickles has inspired me to bump New York City to the top of my U.S. travel list with the phenomenal time that she had with her daughter recently. 

Enjoy! 

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I have a confession...

I have not always loved New York.

When I was a kid, I really did. I spent my summers with relatives in Harlem. There are fond memories of having Mr. Swirly cones with my uncle while sitting on the stoop in front of his building, and going to the park...good times.

But then somehow, and I don't know when, I just stopped loving the city. I was disinterested in it. Crazy, right?

Well, I have recently had an opportunity to fall in love all over again, this time through the eyes of my boon companion, Miss Pickles.

NYC with kids can be a daunting task. It's big, loud, and busy. Or as Miss Pickles put it, "There's so much of....EVERYTHING!"

Fear not, travelers! Peaches &Pickles will help you navigate the Big Apple.

A few tips:
  • Plan out your day.
  • Get a New York City Pass and have pre-paid, quick entry into many sites, museums, etc. 
  • Plan for only a few hours of activities with kids- they get bored, tired and cranky and then no one is having a good time.
  • Be flexible!
  • Use Tripomatic. I must recommend this travel app, Tripomatic. With this app, you can plan your trip itinerary, change it on the fly, and estimate travel times between venues.

Our trip...
Day 1: We landed and travelled to Times Square. The M&Ms World! Today was just taking it all in... I introduced Miss Pickles to NYC pizza at Famous Original Ray's Pizza.... Yummy!!! Miss Pickles' first ride on the subway, and the Brooklyn Museum.


How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com
Times Square
Day 2: Saint Patrick's Cathedral, walking Fifth Avenue where the window shopping is almost as good as the real thing...almost! The plaza in front of Rockefeller Center had amazing Easter eggs that were on display. 
How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com

The rest of the afternoon was spent at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA for short). That evening we took on Broadway, and saw the phenomenal production of The Lion King.

Day 3: Brunch at Alice's Teacup, which is just the cutest place for scones and tea. Miss Pickles had her first try at having tea, and now loves Earl Grey, just like her momma. 

Next, we walked to Central Park, went to the Central Park Zoo, and later found our way to the Alice in Wonderland statue. We had dinner at The Loeb Boathouse followed by a walk through the park to my favorite bridge, the Bow Bridge.

Day 4: We spent the afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and took a handsome cab ( a horse-drawn carriage) through Central Park. Lunch at the halal stand- the best hot dogs in the world! Then, we were onto the American Museum of Natural History, where I'd hoped to see my nerd crush, Neil deGrasse Tyson, but it turns out he was somewhere else being brilliant that day...

Day 5: We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (www.nyc.org), spent some time DUMBO, and concluded our day at the NY Aquarium. The aquarium was still in recovery from Hurricane Sandy, but once repairs and renovations are completed, it's gonna be fantastic. After the aquarium, we sat and took in Coney Island. It was too early in the season, and therefore it was closed, but it was nice to breathe the salt air and feel the crisp early April breeze on the boardwalk.


How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com
Miss Pickles and the Brooklyn Bridge
Day 6: Top of the Rock, the observation deck on top of Rockefeller Center. They should call it the top of the world! The 360 degree views of, well, everything, are just breathtaking! The Statue of Liberty in the harbor, the Chrysler Building, the Empire State Building, and Central Park. A-MAZING!


How to Visit New York City with Kids {Guest Post by Peaches and Pickles} | CosmosMariners.com
Miss Pickles visiting the Alice statue in Central Park
Day 7: No visit to NYC is complete without visiting the great lady, the Statue of Liberty, and nearby Ellis Island. We once again took on Broadway, this time seeing the fantastical (yes, that's a word) production of Aladdin.

Day 8: The. World's. Greatest. Toy. Store. EVER!!!!! Of course, I'm talking about FAO Schwarz. The Hello Kitty and Barbie collections alone had me making a wish list for Mr. Claus! Sadly, FAO Schwarz closed it's doors in Manhattan in July 2015.) Lastly, we visited the Mothership, aka Macy's in Herald Square. Miss Pickles and I had many an ear splitting squeal at all the wonderful wares. And topped it all off with dinner at Stella 34 Trattoria. I thought they would have to roll us outta there!

Day 9: Sadly, we had to bring our whirlwind romance with NYC to a close. But even our cabbie was a tour guide, driving us past the United Nations.

À bientot, NYC! We love you!!

Have you been to New York City with kids (or as a kid)? What are your favorite family friendly spots in the Big Apple?
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Head on over and show Carisa some love!

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Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains}

Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.com


Hi, again, Mariners! Today, you're in the capable hands of Lauren from Talk of the Trains.

Lauren's been blogging since 2008 and shares everything from her amazing DIY projects to her family's travels. Below, she's sharing her best tips on how to save money on a Walt Disney World vacation. While I love Disney as much as the next person, I'm all for saving money while I'm there--after all, the more I save, the more I can travel!
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If you have ever been to Disney, you know it can be pricey. My family of five just got home from our first trip to see the Mouse and had a blast. Between the trip itself, preparations needed for the trip and then your week actually on property, it can all add up. While most Disney travelers think and plan for the extras, there are ways to save a little along the way and I wanted to share those with you today!

Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.com
Lauren and her family on their recent trip to Disney World
For us, shopping smart before our trip and a bit of planning paid off while we were there. Here are five ways that you can save as you plan, travel and play at Disney World.

ONE: Coordinating Clothes and Packing
Lets be honest. Everyone matches at Disney. Whether its for a family reunion, a newlywed couple or just the kids, its kind of like Disney law that you at least coordinate for a day. We saw people who had shirts made for everyday - including the drive to and the day they were leaving - and people who had attire all day and then PJ's at night! 

Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.comPersonalizing clothes (and purchasing them for night and day) can be cute but pricey. While I wanted my kids to match a day or two, I knew I couldn't afford to have monogrammed, embroidered, fancy outfits for every day of the week. 

The Target online clearance had a HUGE section of Disney clothes and then Walmart always has a decent selection for less. We got matching shirts for our family and I snagged the kids a few extra outfits that were on clearance...we're talking $3.50 for an Elsa shirt - which in five-year-old girl world is like winning the lottery. I put the boys in Frozen shirts too (one was $4.50 and the other $3) so for $11 they matched. They were thrilled with their new stuff and it fit the budget.



TWO: Dollar Store and Traveling
The Dollar Store always has Mickey and Minnie trinkets and we stocked the kids car to-do bags with goodies from here. 

They consisted of Mickey stickers, little Disney pencil boxes filled with crayons and pencils, coloring books and more. Totally got us in the Disney mood and my kids were happy to have new things to play with as we drove....Mommy and Daddy were happy that they had things to do and weren't asking over and over,  "if we were there yet!?" 

Also, some friends said that they have purchased toys from the Dollar Store, traveled down with them and when the kids ask to buy stuff in the park, they give them a selection of these to choose from instead. You do have to carry, hide and keep up with that, but it is a thrifty option! 
Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.com


THREE: Shopping In the Park? Instead Press Pennies and Trade Pins
All over Disney World are little booths that you can press pennies. They have a variety of designs in each one and my kids loved searching all over the parks for the penny pressers. We took a sleeve of quarters since each machine is around $0.50 and all the way up to $1.25 and my kids loved looking for them, choosing which one they would make and then cranking them. This saved us from going in and out of stores and having the gimmies as we made the penny pressing a game and they were so into that they didn't think anything of shopping. I think we came home with over 20 pressed pennies! 

At Disney World, all of the cast members wear a ribbon around their neck full of Disney pins. You can trade pins with them and this is lots of fun too. Since my kids were into the penny pressing, we saved this for a future trip down. They sell starter kits at Disney for around $20, but one of my Disney loving friends recommended picking up some at the Outlets and said it was cheaper there. I have not tried it, but am filing that one in the back of my brain!  


FOUR: Event Plan with Glow Sticks!
Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.comLots of Disney's evening events have lights, fireworks, flashing lights and more. They sell all of the glow stick paraphernalia you could ever want, but its pricey. We snagged a few from the dollar rack at Target and took them with us. The second that my kids asked for one, I pulled our cheap ones out. 

I threw a glowing necklace and bracelet on them and they had wands in each hand and were happy campers. 

FIVE: Dining - Take Food and Drink In
We were on a meal plan so we had two meals covered, but my littles always seem to be hungry or thirsty. You can carry into Disney World soft sided coolers and food and drink and so we did that to save a few bucks on all of the overpriced in park snacks. I didn't want to carry a ton, so we skipped the cooler and just threw snacks in our backpack. 

Great snack ideas include fruit pouches, individual chips, individual cereal packs, Capri Suns, granola bars, oranges, bananas, apples and gummies. I have heard that people take suckers for their kids while they are in line, so if you have antsy waiters, you may want to have a few of those on hand too! 

We also took in bottled water and then just refilled the bottles throughout the day. If you are on the dining plan and have snacks, you can use your free snack at STARBUCKS. WHAAAATTTT!?? Guess who had Starbucks for free while we were there, yup, this girl!! Thanks to the free Starbucks, taking in snacks and the bottled water trick, we spent very little on extra food and drink!

Ways to Save Money at Walt Disney World {Guest Post by Talk of the Trains} | CosmosMariners.com

I hope that helps as you plan your trip and think about ways to save and where to splurge! I am happy to answer any questions you have and I would love for you to come visit me and follow along over at Talk of the Trains! 

xoxo, 
Lauren

What's your favorite way to save money at Walt Disney World?
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Make sure to head over to Talk of the Train and show Lauren some love!

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Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with 2 Kids and a Baby {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family}

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com

I hope you've been enjoying the guest posters while I've been in Germany. Today, I've got another awesome blogger: Krystal from Healthy Happy Thrifty Family will be sharing her experiences traveling in South Dakota with her family.

When she's not blogging, Krystal can be found having fun with her three wonderful kids or working part-time as a college instructor.  Her spare time is filled with writing, gardening and chasing backyard chickens.
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My 6-year son had been begging to go to Mount Rushmore for years. We told him that he had to be able to name the presidents first! We finally decided to take him this year. I started researching the Black Hills area of South Dakota, and realized that there were a ton of activities in the area. 

We took a five day trip this year and plan to go back in a couple years to see the rest.  We really didn’t have time to fit everything we wanted to do into one trip!

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

MOUNT RUSHMORE
Our most important stop was obviously Mount Rushmore.  We visited twice, once during the day and once for the evening lighting ceremony.  Admission to the National Monument is free but you do pay a small fee for parking that is valid for the year. You can come back as many times as you like during the trip!  We really enjoyed the small but really informative museum area and we hiked up the hundreds of stairs to get a closer view of the faces.  

My 6- and 4-year-olds participated in the Junior Ranger program.  There is a little activity guide to complete and they receive a badge upon completion.  If you’re going in the summer, I suggest going early in the day to find parking and enjoy in cooler temperatures.

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

WIND CAVE NATIONAL PARK
We had a hard time deciding whether to visit Wind Cave National Park or Jewel Cave National Monument. They are both in Black Hills area.  We settled on Wind Cave because we heard that they had their own herd of bison.  And, I was determined to see a bison at some point on the trip. 

Wind Cave offers prescheduled tour times.  We signed up for a shorter tour that was about an hour long because I thought that was all that would hold our interest.   There was a small fee person for the tours.  It was a really cool tour and this particular cave has a unique boxwork formation that is very rare!  There were some tight spaces, but it was really dry inside and beautiful.  I was able to complete the whole tour with my infant in the carrier.  My kids completed the junior ranger program here as well.  


Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
{photo via}

 I also wasn’t disappointed in terms of bison.  We found the herd on our way out of the park!  There were probably around 50 bison with lots of calves. We’ll likely visit Jewel Cave when we return, because according to our tour guide, they’re actually very different on the inside.  These are both great choices for a rainy day, as conditions in the cave aren’t affected by rain.

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
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CUSTER STATE PARK
There is a ton of amazing scenery in this park.  You pay a fee for a multi-day pass to enter the park per vehicle. We took a swim in Sylvan Lake and hiked around it a bit.  It was serene and beautiful with large rocks protruding out of the lake.  We also drove on needles highway, with some tight corners and really amazing views and tunnels.  


Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
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I was hoping to see more bison, but we didn’t find any on the loop we drove.  We did find some free range donkeys that were pretty friendly.  I could definitely spend more time here on our next trip.

Visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota with Kids {Guest Post by Healthy Happy Thrifty Family} | CosmosMariners.com
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STORYBOOK ISLAND, RAPID CITY
This was the hit of the trip for my children.  There are scenes throughout the park that children can walk up to, play on and pose at for pictures. We happened to stumble upon their annual character day.  So in addition to all of the really cool structures, local teens were roaming around dressed as storybook characters.  They had a magic show and a really cute train ride for the kids.  Admission was free but they do ask for a donation.

I can’t wait to plan another trip to the Black Hills.  We enjoyed the friendly people and have so much more to see!

Have you been to the Black Hills?  What was your favorite attraction?


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Make sure to show Krystal some love!
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Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}

On my trip to Louisana a few years ago, I only broke the surface of the history, mystery, and food of the state. Apryl Chapman Thomas, who writes over at Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine, is here to share the wonders of Natchitoches, Louisiana!
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Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Beau Jardin

It may be the sight of Cane River Lake viewed from picturesque Beau Jardin, fun festivals, rich history or something else that travelers find enchanting about Natchitoches, Louisiana. Whatever the reason may be, it doesn't take anyone long to realize there is something special about this town.

Pronounced "Nack-a-tish," it was established in 1714 and is the oldest permanent settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. Throughout the years, Natchitoches has received numerous accolades and recognition, including Oprah Winfrey's proclamation in 2002, naming it the "best little town in the whole U.S.A. "­

Natchitoches holds the designation as "the B&B capital of Louisiana," offering well over 30 establishments for discerning travelers. It was also the setting for the 1989 movie "Steel Magnolias" as well as a few others.

While there are plenty of reasons to visit, here are five that'll appeal to every interest.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Fort St. Jean Baptiste

1. The 33-block National Historic Landmark District features a mix of historic sites, homes and structures. Some of the notable points include Fort St. Jean Baptiste Historic Site, situated on Cane River Lake, with a replica of a French fort built near the original fort site. The replica was built from actual fort plans found in France.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Steel Magnolia House

The Steel Magnolia House/ Herman Taylor Home is perhaps best known for its role in the movie. Opt to stay in the pink "Shelby" room, featured in the film or choose one of the other rooms named after the characters.

Located on the riverbank in downtown, adjacent to Beau Jardin, is the Roque House. Built by a freed slave around the 1800s, it is a prime example of French Creole architecture.

The shops downtown include Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile, the state's oldest general store.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame
2. Located within the historic district is the relatively new Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum. The architecture pays tribute to the area's rich culture.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Northwest Louisiana History Museum


As for the museums themselves, the Sports Hall of Fame highlights the many athletes who have called Louisiana home. Learn more about them as well as view jerseys, memorabilia and artifacts.

The Northwest Louisiana History Museum provides an overview of the history, people and traditions that have made an impact on this part of Louisiana.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Yucca House at Melrose Plantation

3. Tour plantations within Natchitoches Parish and learn more about the Creole culture. Places like Melrose Plantation, and Oakland Plantation and the Magnolia Plantation Complex, both a part of Cane River Creole National Park provides insight into the daily lives of all the residents.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}
Meat pies

4. Like every Louisiana destination, Natchitoches doesn't disappoint when it comes to food. From meat pies from Lasyone's to étouffée at Maglieaux's on the Cane, no one leaves the town hungry.

Five of the Many Reasons to Visit Natchitoches, Louisiana {Guest Post by Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine}

5. Celebrate the holiday season with Natchitoches Christmas Festival of Lights, the oldest holiday celebration in the state. Downtown and the riverbank take on a glow for 45 nights as 300,000 lights and animations are lit at dusk. However, that's not all. Festivities also include fireworks, special shopping hours, the annual Christmas Festival and much more.

Accessible off Interstate 49, Natchitoches is about an hour from Shreveport, and four hours from New Orleans.


Apryl Chapman Thomas is the feature writer for Southern Hospitality Traveler Magazine. Follow her on Twitter or at Instagram.
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