Friday, December 14, 2012

Caring for a baby in the Caribbean Hard Rock Punta Cana

Just spent 5 fabulous nights at the Hard Rock All Inclusive Resort & Spa in Punta Cana, Dominican. I was a bit skeptical about an all inclusive as my very first and last (as I thought at the time) was in Cayo Coco, Cuba at the Tryp Resort, which was probably a 4 star disguised as a 1 star. The food was horrible, I don't think I ate more than bread and butter for a week. However, I will say the beaches in Cuba are still some of the best I have seen (comparing to Europe and other beaches in the Caribbean and North America).

Back to the Hard Rock, this felt like a luxury Vegas resort dropped smack down in the middle of the Dominican. The decor and hotel theme was very modern and aligned with their branded hotels and restaurants in the US. It was a nice change from the floral hibiscus feel of most caribbean all inclusive resorts. Below I have quickly reviewed the resort:

Food
There were several great restaurants, from Italian (which was North American style, not really authentic italian), a teppanaki restaurant (I liked this one the most, the sushi and teriyaki was delish), a mexican restaurant (loved the nachos here), a deli that made fresh waffles for breakfast and sandwiches for lunch, a caribbean restaurant by the beach (lots of bean dishes), a delicious steakhouse (had really great appetizers here), and a pizza parlour with made-to-order individual pizzas. The breakfast buffet was also a huge hit, and we enjoyed the custom egg station. What I loved about the food situation here is that you were not limited to only using the a la carte restaurants like most all inclusive resorts. You could make reservations for all of them if you wanted for as many times. We also took advantage of a romantic dinner by the pool, which was an additional charge.

Activities
This resort is beyond kid friendly with camp activities, several pools, and a waterpark/lazy river. For adults there's child free pools and lots of tours and excursions that can be booked right from the lobby. The best part of the resort I would say is the Spa, I have never been to a more beautiful resort in my life. From the attendants at the spa, the facility itself (the hydrotherapy experience is a must!), and the beautiful whirlpool. There is even a Vegas like club called ORO which has celebrity deejays visit from time to time if that is your thing!

Staff
Everyone at the resort was super friendly and very helpful. Most were able to speak quite fluent English which made asking questions easy.

Resort Credit
When we booked the Hard Rock for 5 nights with a direct Westjet flight we used Expedia.ca. At the time each room came with a 1500 resort credit. You just need to pay 16% gratuities for the activities you end up booking. We used our credit towards 2 massages at the Spa, I definitely think the best way to use it.

With a baby we spent most of our days by the pools, beach, or in the buffets, and our nights at one of the great a la carte restaurants (and when we had a chance to the Casino). We went with my best friend and her hubby, and one night they even watched our son as we enjoyed a romantic dinner. We would strongly recommend visiting the Hard Rock in Punta Cana if you want a beach vacation with the hassle free advantage of an all inclusive!

Visit http://www.hardrockhotelpuntacana.com/ to get more details or book your next stay!

Pics below:








Thanks,
9to5travelgirl (temporarily matleavetravelgirl)



Tuesday, October 2, 2012

First time on a plane with baby

I just got back from Miami with my boys to celebrate my birthday weekend (or our first family vacation together). We decided to test Ronak out with a sunny location that had no time difference so his schedule wouldn't be too impacted, and the flight needed to be as short as possible. Of course Florida was the ideal location with a 3 hour direct flight. We ended up booking our whole trip (flight and hotel) through expedia.ca, which cost us 1400 for the 3 of us for 4 nights. The fact that kids are free until 2 is so fantastic!! We booked the Loew's hotel right on Collins Avenue, because of the great reviews on how baby friendly it was. If your a parent and staying in South Beach I would strongly recommend this hotel. They provided us with a stroller (long story on how we forgot our actual stroller at home), a car seat, baby tub, and random baby toys. You can find great deals for this hotel depending on when you book. September was a great time to go, the whether was still warm (while in Toronto it was starting to feel like fall), and it wasn't full of the young 18 year old summer crowd.

Both my husband and I have been to Miami before so we spent most of our days by the pool and the beach. We tried some great cuban food at "Young Urban Cuban American" on Lincoln Road (which also has some great shopping too), had an amazing dinner at Mr. Chow (Ronak fell asleep) in the W hotel, and did quite a bit of outlet shopping at Sawgrass Mills which I would highly recommend.

See some pics below:




Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First staycation since baby bear was born

Well I haven't posted since Ronak (my son) was born which I think I should be cut some slack (as the combination of poopy diapers, sleepless nights, and learning to breastfeed have taken over my life). My angel was born on June 24, 2012 at 7lbs, 7 ounces on the 7th day of the week (a Sunday) - clearly he will be very lucky lol. I can honestly say the first few weeks were very hard, you don't realize how much work these little guys are. I was pretty much stuck at home all day for the first few weeks, which was quite tough for someone always covered in travel bugs.  Our first outdoor adventure we had together was when he was just 4 weeks old. We went to Woodbine Beach which is probably the most disgusting beach in Ontario lol. However, I was very happy to go out.

So on to our first vacation (I wonder if it is still called vacation while your on mat leave?), prior to giving birth my 3 besties and I planned to do a cottage trip the weekend of August 24th. We originally planned to go to Blue Mountain but ended up on Lake Joseph in Muskoka due to some hook ups one of my besties significant others had. Boy was this cottage cute and absolutely perfect. Right on the crystal clear Lake Joseph (which I believe is one of the uber posh and luxurious cottage areas in Muskoka). We spent 3 nights enjoying one another's cooking/bbqing skills, played games, and of course soaked in the sun on the beautiful dock. It was perfect because I had the most amazing company, and I felt like I was finally enjoying my own backyard (aka ONTARIO). 

I would recommend to all my readers to visit cottageportal or any other cottage website to find the opportunity to stay anywhere in Muskoka. 

Below are some pics of our first outing.





Monday, August 27, 2012

Ronak will have the travel bug too

In late August just after Ronak turned two months we decided to get some professional pictures done of him.

I have posted two that show he's already packed and ready for future travels.



Saturday, June 16, 2012

HEYS luggage sale - beyondtherack.com

If you're planning to travel in the short to medium term and just realized that your current luggage set looks like its been around the world twice, well look no further than BEYOND THE RACK (www.beyondtherack.com)


Now until June 18, HEYS 3 piece luggage sets are on sale starting at $239.99. The sale is for their 'Nested Fashion spinners' ( have any of you been to the airport and seen that super cool family with their 4 wheel suitcases that can be pushed in any direction, instead of on a 45 degree tilt, well those are the ones on sale!). Pics below of some of the fun patterns, however solids are also available for a slightly higher price.



Friday, June 15, 2012

Let's get High on High-Low hemlines

If you aren't living under a rock, you'll notice EVERY fashion retailer is carrying some form of high-low hemlines, particularly for midi dresses and skirts.


I definitely think they are super cute, as they can be worn with cute embellished flats or a pair of wedge heels. If you are a little concerned with spending on a look that may be out of season next fall, then consider purchasing from Forever 21/H&M to get a bang for your buck.


Below are some cute looks all from Forever 21 Canada (available online now):

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Travel Zoo - Miami Deal



I don't know who doesn't love Miami? Nightlife, beautiful beaches, and lots of great shopping.


If any of you are planning a trip down south, don't miss out on Four Seasons latest deal, for only $199 per night you can stay in this beautiful 5 star resort close to all key attractions. There is only one weekend that is restricted, but all else is available until the end of the year. You essentially just purchase a travel voucher and call when you would like to book your dates.



$199 -- Luxury Four Seasons Miami Escape for 2, Reg. $369http://www.travelzoo.com/ca/top20/86880579-1254687/Source: Four Seasons Hotel Miami


Happy Travelling,

9to5travelgirl

Friday, May 25, 2012

Amex offers just in time for SUMMER

Below are two great offers from American Express that are perfect for a staycation in the city, your wedding night before you fly out to enjoy your honeymoon, or visiting relatives that want to spend some time in the city.

1) Offer 1: Ritz Carlton is offering all summer weekend rates for Amex Cardmembers in their deluxe rooms for only $150 a night. 
TERMS AND CONDITIONS:
To receive this offer, stay must be charged in full to your American Express Card. Offer valid on bookings between May 1, 2012 and August 31, 2012 for a weekend (Friday, Saturday or Sundays) up to and including September 1, 2012. Visit ritzcarlton.com/toronto for online reservations or call 1-800-241-3333; please use the “D59” promo code when booking this offer. Offer does not apply to existing bookings or group bookings. Offer valid at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto location only. Cancellations must be received 24 hours before scheduled arrival or cancellation charges will apply. Advance reservations are required. Offer is subject to availability of rooms. Discount applies to purchase before taxes. Taxes are not included. This promotion cannot be combined with any other Ritz-Carlton offer. Ritz-Carlton Toronto is responsible for fulfillment of this offer.

2) Offer 2: Now until end of June, Fairmont Royal York downtown is offering Amex Cardmembers a limited amount of packages each week to indulge in a night of fine dining and accomodations. The cost of the package below is $310. See offer details below:

Enjoy a lavish night-in at the luxurious Fairmont Royal York Hotel and join Executive Chef Collin Thornton and Chef Timothy Palmer from EPIC Restaurant as American Express Delights presents a weekend getaway event running every Friday and Saturday from May to June 2012 at The Fairmont Royal York Hotel. 
  • One (1) night stay in a deluxe room at The Fairmont Royal York Hotel1
  • Three (3) course dinner for Two (2) at EPIC Restaurant in The Fairmont Royal York Hotel
  • Wine pairings with each course, presented and explained by the Sommelier2
visit americanexpressdelights.ca for more information and how to take up the offer.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

St. Anne's Spa Last Minute Deals


St. Anne’s Spa Last Minute Deals

In early March of this year, my husband and I decided to take a mini staycation to St. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, Ontario. We were there to celebrate 10 years of being together, can you believe that? Wow after that many years I of course love him, but what’s even more exciting I still REALLY like him. I’ll stop being mushy, and I’ll share the great deal we got. Usually a night at St. Anne’s Spa for two can cost between 900-1200 a night (which includes accommodations, access to all facilities, afternoon tea, lunch, and dinner). I mean I do love the lavish lifestyle of the rich and famous, but who in their right mind can afford to pay that? (according to an RMT there, the real desperate wives of Oakville can lol)? Or for that matter who would want to pay that?

Well turns out St. Anne’s Spa has a really great Last Minute Deals page on their website, which lists every Tuesday all the rooms that are vacant for that weekend at extremely discounted prices. We got the 900+ package for only $318 plus taxes for two. So if you are considering go, just don’t be picky about the weekend and book last minute!

We had the most amazing time, roamed around in our robes most of the day, relaxed in the spa facilities, did a yoga stretch/meditation class, and ate the most delicious and HEALTHY food. They don’t serve any pop or alcohol (but you can bring your own).

See example deals below!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

New shopping sites

Hope everyone is having a Happy Victoria Day long weekend. The weather is out of this world in Toronto, and kinda of defeats the point of travelling elsewhere this long weekend.

Perhaps I am just saying that because I am beyond the prego travel time (I don't think any airline will allow me to fly). 9to5travel girl is really missing travelling, but know that I am already planning some mini ontario getaways and a trip somewhere warm this fall!

Since I am stuck at home trying to avoid the wrath of the sun (at least until it cools down a bit), I thought I would post my favourite new retail sites I have come upon.


1)      Ifoundasecret.com - Its a fashion blog and online retailer in one. What's great about this site is you can "Ask a stylist" for tips and key trends.
2)      Lovestoryshop.com - I absolutely love many of the pieces sold on this site. Another shopping + blog experience in one. See some of the looks before.

3)      Materialaddict.com - there are quite a few items that I want to purchase from this site, but I will refrain from now!
4) shoptiques.com - This is a very interesting concept online site that aggregates boutiques from top fashion cities like LA, NYC, PARIS, LONDON and allows you to buy items directly from these boutiques but ONLINE. So you no longer need to fly to these cities to get the boutique one of a kind pieces.

Check out and if you make a purchase let me know, as I am not  buying anything until post deliver (and when I am back in shape) would love to hear about your experiences.

Thanks!
9to5travelgirl




Sunday, March 11, 2012

Springing back to posting



I am back (and clearly in time for this great Toronto Spring weather)! I know I have been completely MIA these past few months, almost hibernating like a black bear. But reality is something has been and still currently is hibernating inside me, if you guessed it I shall be a mommy bear just in time for the summer. On that note, I was thinking about my blog and whether I could still speak to travelling, and reality is I am planning my first flight out the second baby bear is a couple of months old. My love for travel is still there, and if I am parked temporarily doesn’t mean I can’t share the awesome deals with the rest of my readers. As for the fashion side that will never go away, and below is my first post for 2012 talking about what’s a must for your spring wardrobe. For my hot mama’s, you can count on future posts on staying fit, 
hot mama wardrobes, and must have items.

I am not sure about you guys, but my FAVOURITE time of year is when you can smell summer coming. It’s like when you’re SUPER excited about an event or function coming up, the best part is getting ready for the event, because once the event happens you’re sad it’s almost over (and there goes months of anticipation). Well that’s how I feel about spring, the weather starts warming up and all you can do is think about cottage trips, weekend getaways, and of course that big summer vacation! The best part about planning those summer events is thinking about all the wonderful outfits you will get to wear, that cute dress to wear on a boat, that jumper to wear while walking the piers of a lakefront city, or the maxi you’ll rock while shopping at your favourite foreign boutiques. The best way to get excited is to start thinking about what pieces of fashionable clothing you can buy that’s on trend for this spring. So below are a few key trends you may want to sink your wardrobe into.

Pastel brights – I particularly love the evolution of pastels these past few years. We started off with the nudes/creams/whites and pastel pinks over a couple of seasons, and this season we have evolved to add mint green, yellow, and softer corals. These colours are perfect for the spring/summer; they give such a fresh crisp feel. I would suggest buying a fitted crop pant in yellow with a cream peplum top and white platform pumps, or buy a matching coral blazer and shorts with a pastel pink silk tee and caramel wedges. Three looks below from left to right - Mulberry, and the last three from Ralph Lauren's Spring 2012 collection.

Orange – Okay so I wasn’t too sure about Orange when it appeared in 2012 Winter apparel, I mean all I want to wear during the holidays is red. It drove me up the wall, but now that it’s back for spring I see it in a whole new light. Orange makes everyone look so sun kissed and ready to mingle (its super warm and inviting). Below two orange looks from Marc by Marc Jacobs, and Hermes. 

Colorblock - This is probably one of the hottest trends this spring, from colorblock sandals to apparel this look you'll find in almost every retail establishment. I would try not to overdo and avoid wearing more than one colorblock piece in your outfit, i.e. if you are rocking a sexy pair of purple, red, and yellow colorblock sandals stick to a solid colour top/pants or a dress, and keep your jewels a neutral metallic in gold or silver which ever works better. Try to avoid wearing this look from head to toe or you may look more clown than chic. Top to Bottom - Tommy Hilfiger - Dress, Christian Louboutin - Wedges, Giuseppe Zanotti - sandals, and Ferragamo- dress.

                                                                                                                                                          


Little White Dress – BYE BYE Little Black Dress, and hello Little white dress. Nothing says spring or summer like white. The great part about this spring's interpretation of white is there is no limitations. White can be in a bold floral lace print, cotton, silk, or anything inbetween. Try pairing it with one of the new pastel bright footwear, like a mint green platform or a coral flat. Below are to uber flattering looks from Cynthia Rowley.
A model walks the runway at the Cynthia Rowley Spring 2012 fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at The Stage at Lincoln Center on September 9, 2011 in New York City.


Crop tops in all forms – Okay so clearly I won’t be rocking this look, as should be the case for anyone that isn’t rocking a flat tummy. If you have the body of a 90210 star, crop tops are quite on trend. A crop top with a maxi or pencil skirt would look super cute. Maybe pop a matching light weight blazer on top and a pendant necklace and you’re ready for a night out! Below are two ready for spring outfits by Nina Ricci.

Peplum accents on tops and bottoms – I always found this look super flattering and helpful to my figure, because I am not quite hippy it gave the illusion that I was. The peplum accent adds such a feminine touch to any piece. We are seeing it on tops, shorts, skirts, and even jumpers. It almost feels like an accessory to an outfit. This was across the runways showing in many designers looks for spring, below are two looks from Jason Wu.

Drop waists – the Jazz era seems to be back in full force, with drop waist tops/dresses. This look can be dressed up for work with a drop waist top and skinny dress pants, or a drop waist light silk cotton dress you can rock with a cute ballet flat. Check out a chic dress from Alberta Ferretti's Spring 2012 line.


Pleats – Okay I know that in the past I always affiliated pleats with grandma's from the 1950's, but top designers have changed my outlook completely. Pleats are in several fabrics particularly in the form of chic skirts or dresses. Try a pastel bright with a neutral colour midi pleated skirt, with a pair of sexy colorblock pumps. Check out Prada's spring 2012 collector for some inspiration, below is one super sophisticated sheer pleat dress.