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Mom to Iris. Wife to Todd. Our little family lives at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Fayetteville, Arkansas. We love it here and I love sharing little bits of our life.

© 2014 sarahfortune.

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Category : Travel

TRAVEL LOVE: Hotel Vandivort in Springfield, MO

Whenever we have a rare, free weekend Todd and I try to get out and explore cities nearby. One place that I’ve driven through, but not actually stopped to explore is Springfield, Missouri. Just a little over two hours away from Fayetteville, it made for a perfectly easy one-night getaway.

Hotel Vandidvort played host to our stay and was the highlight of our trip. I thought this would be a post more about our overall trip to Springfield, but I was really surprised at how much I fell in love with this hotel! A four-diamond boutique hotel, the property is situated right downtown so once we arrived, we parked (for free!) and didn’t need our car again until it was time to go home.

If you’ve followed my travel adventures, you’ve probably heard me say this, but I’m a self-admitted hotel snob. In a previous position at my company I was the Meeting Planner, so one of my jobs was to tour and stay at various hotels we were considering for our conventions. Tough job, right? Well, that experience, mixed with my recent travel blogging, has led me to some pretty amazing properties. But I’m not exaggerating when I say that Hotel Vandivort is one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. I love a boutique hotel, but I really appreciate attention to detail, which Hotel Vandivort really focuses on. From the local chocolates given at check-in, to the assortment of “do not disturb” signs, and the local selection of booze in the room honor bar, they thought of everything. Nickelodeon was even set to come on when we entered the room (along with the lights and glowing artwork) – all of which pretty much blew Iris’ mind.

The combo of the historic building, with modern but comfortable features made the experience feel luxurious, yet unique. I was so impressed with the hotel that on the way home I Googled the history. Opening just a couple years ago in 2015, it was already already named Boutique Hotel of the Year in 2016.

While I could go on and on about the hotel (oh and I will later on), we also explored downtown Springfield, so let’s get on to that! After we got out all of our “oohs and ahhs” at the hotel, we walked down the street to grab some lunch.

From there, we walked around the cute little city square. While Iris made wishes in the fountain, I snuck away to The Golden Girl Rum Club for a huge, fancy drink, watching her from the patio. You guys might recognize this spot, as one of the owners is from A Beautiful Mess blog.

After that, it was Todd’s turn for a drink so we walked over to Mother’s Brewing Company where they were having sort of a backyard Fourth of July party. We sat in the shade with a beer, heard some live music, and watched the locals do their thing. Getting closer to dinner dinner time, we made our way back to the hotel.

Before we ventured to dinner, we stopped to have a drink at the bar in the hotel where Iris had the fanciest Shirley Temple I’ve ever seen. Realizing we were still pretty full from lunch, we decided to plan ahead and walk the short distance over to Hurt’s Donuts so that we’d have dessert for later. Freshening up back at our hotel (and maybe sneaking a little bit of donut), we decided we loved the hotel so much that we wanted to try their restaurant too. Our meal at The Order was not only delicious, but beautifully presented. Before we headed back up to our room (and donuts) we of course had to stop by the bathrooms on the bottom floor to take a famous #hotelvandivortbathroomselfie. I didn’t realize this was a thing until I saw the tagged images on Instagram!

The next day we slept in (!!!), taking full advantage of the noon check-out time. If you are near the area, I would highly recommend taking an overnight trip just to stay at the hotel – but of course explore the area as well! I want to go back just to stay in one of their suites, which are actually pretty reasonably priced. How cozy would this one be in the winter with the indoor/outdoor fireplace? So… Who’s coming with?!

Byyyyeee Springfield! See ya soon!

TRAVEL LOVE: Boulder, Colorado

A few weeks ago I met up with a couple of my old, dear friends for a long weekend in Boulder. Bev flew in from Kansas City while Laura, who moved to Boulder from Fayetteville several years back, played tour guide and set up the loveliest weekend for us. Timing our flights just right, Bev and I arrived in Denver within minutes of each other on Thursday morning. Before we even left the airport we were already sipping cocktails, diving into the girl talk, and I surprised us with matching bracelets to commemorate the trip.


Photo by Bev

From the airport bar we made our way to the amazing Four Seasons Denver for a little relaxation to kick off the weekend. We had wine and snacks by the rooftop pool while we waited for our spa appointments. The Four Seasons treated us each to a massage, which was amazing after an early morning of travel. The spa was heavenly – from the sheets (where can I buy those?!), to the relaxation room – this was the perfect start to our trip.

Leaving was hard, but we were excited to grab a bite to eat at the cutest little restaurant across the street and then make our way to Boulder! This was my first true Colorado experience and, thanks to Laura, we definitely did it right. Bev has already outlined (and narrated) our entire trip perfectly over on her blog, so check that out to see even more.

Our first stop in Boulder was to our adorable little Airbnb. When booking this trip, I had a really tough time. Nearly every hotel was already booked and the ones that were available were motel-like quality for nearly $500 a night. Even the Airbnb options seemed either scarce or scary. Turns out, not only was the triathlon Ironman taking place that weekend, but also a Greatful Dead reunion. So basically we couldn’t have picked a more “Boulder” weekend to go. Finally though, I struck gold. I stumbled upon an Airbnb that had just been listed. It was in the best part of town and was less than $300 for our entire three-night stay. Only catch was that it was so new there weren’t even any photos yet. I messaged the owner and she responded almost immediately calming my fears – she snapped a few photos for me and I immediately hit the “book now” button. If you followed our Instagram Stories on that trip, then you saw us drooling over this place our entire stay. It looked like it was out of a fairytale. It was the cutest little backyard cottage, coated in beautiful flowers, situated by a babbling brook. The decor was not only comfortable, but was very Instagram worthy (so naturally Bev and I felt right at home – hah).

After getting settled, we headed over to Laura and her husband Eric’s, condo and had a relaxing dinner catching up, drinking wine (because, duh). We had all of Thursday and Friday to spend in Boulder and our itinerary was full of the perfect mix of activities. On our first full day, we started out by walking to a local coffee shop for breakfast and then we walked even further on a hike up a freakin’ MOUNTAIN! That’s right, we hiked all the way to the top of a mountain (then sat for a while), and then rolled down. Okay, we hiked down too but that part wasn’t as impressive. It was beautful though and photos of course don’t do it justice. After spending over two hours doing physical exercise on vacation we obviously earned our next drinks, so we did a little shopping and beer drinking downtown. Knowing that eating and drinking were going to be at the center of everything we did on this trip, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Arcana and then it was time once again to return to our fairytale cottage.

Our last full day started out by walking to the Farmer’s Market, where I guzzled fresh watermelon juice, and then it was off to brunch! We did a little thrift store shopping and then picked up the loveliest picnic from Cured. Realizing that we had the most perfect spot for a picnic at our Airbnb, we set up shop by our brook. Another fabulous thing about our rental? The owners! They joined us for wine and were just the loveliest. The house became so popular that sometimes they have to pause the listing, but you can also find the renter here!

For our last afternoon, we headed over to yet another rooftop pool for (more drinks) and a little sunshine. After another lovely dinner and meeting even more lovely Boulder folks, our trip was quickly winding down. It was just the right amount of time and just the right amount of activities for visiting the quaint, yet lively town. After seeing all the beer selections and all the cyclists, I’m now convinced that Todd needs to visit, so hopefully we can go back one day soon as a family.

My New Hobby: Disney World Planning

Holy moly. I had NO idea what I was getting into when I suggested we go to Disney World this fall. We aren’t telling Iris until her birthday in October (so, shhhhh!) and then we aren’t going until Thanksgiving, so I thought I was doing good planning nearly six months in advance… Uh, no. I am so late to the game. I missed the precious 180 mark ahead of our arrival date, which is when you apparently are supposed to book all of your meals and experiences. Thankfully I still have time to figure out the system before the Fast Pass option opens up. I hear that I’m supposed to book those literally the minute they are available, even though it’s in the middle of the night.

I did get a little lucky though. I had some amazing tips and input from folks on Instagram, but also bookmarked a few things I wanted to try to reserve. The most obvious one? Dinner at Cinderella’s castle (did you know they serve champagne now?!). Of course when I went to reserve, every last slot was already taken for our entire trip. But then I read that you should check everyday just in case some one cancels… And guess what? It worked! We might be dining close to 10 pm our first full day there, but our plan was to close down the parks each night any way.

After several recommendations, I booked us a Royal room at the Port Orleans Riverside, got tickets to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, and reservations at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. So let me know what else should we definitely do or what really isn’t worth it. I fee like this is like learning another language, so I welcome any tips (and prayers)!

TRAVEL LOVE: My Favorite Travel Tips

It’s no secret, I love to travel. I travel for work, I travel for fun – basically whenever and however I can. So in my adventures I’ve gotten my travel routine down to a science. From the prep, to the journey, to the destination, I’ve definitely learned some tips along the way. Nothing on this list is sponsored, just my favorite travel tips that I wanted to share!

Apps & Websites
Obviously most travel is planned electronically these days. While I am old enough to remember buying plane tickets in person, I am forever grateful those days are long gone. So what are my go-to apps and sites for travel assistance? Well, first on my list is the driving app, Waze. Most people in larger cities are already familiar with it, but we live in a smaller city where it’s not needed day-to-day. However, I’m constantly surprised folks don’t use it on road trips. Owned by Google, it redirects you around any major traffic incidents. It has saved our booties multiple times on long road trips, directing us around interstates that are at a stand-still.

I have booked a lot of flights in my life. Not just for me, but at my job for other people, so I have used all the sites and Google Flights is currently my fave for one reason: you can view a fare calendar. So if you want to plan a trip to San Fransisco, but you don’t have certain dates, you can use the calendar to see when the most affordable time to go is. And if you’re feeling adventurous, but not sure where to go, you can enter your dates of travel, price range, and see your destinations options! Just keep in mind that not all of the discount airlines are listed on Google Flights, so it’s always good to check those as well.

As far as hotels websites, I do check out Trip Advisor but my favorite is Oyster.com. Their team inspects the hotel and gives pros and cons, as well as un-staged photos of EVERYTHING.

Driving as your connection
If you live in a bigger city with a large airport, then this tip isn’t for you. We have a regional airport, which is about a 35 minute drive away. Our flights are usually pretty expensive and it’s extremely rare to ever fly anywhere direct. However, we are about 2 hours from Tulsa, 3 hours from Little Rock, and 3.5 hours from Kansas City. If I’m able to score a cheap, direct flight from one of those airports it’s often worth the drive. Especially if the drive replaces the connecting flight you would typically have out of your regional airport (in terms of travel time). For example, when we recently went to Los Angeles, it saved us over $1,000 to drive to Kansas City for direct flights. And if you add up the time of the drive to the airport, the connecting flight, and the layover, it ends up being about the same travel time (if not less).

Packing Tips
I love my charging iPhone case so much, I have two. There’s nothing like travel to drain your phone battery, so I not only keep one on my phone, I keep a back-up in my purse when traveling. This ensures that I can go all day and all night, taking photos and ordering Ubers without stressing about my battery.

I have specific face soaps and creams that you can’t just find in the travel section of Target. The bottles are too large to take in my carry-on, so I found some travel salad dressing containers (kind of like these) at TJ Maxx and labeled them with a marker. Contact lens cases work well too!

I also pack my make-up/cosmetic bags a day or two before. That way I’m forced to get ready using everything I have packed. If I forgot to include something, I figure it out before I’ve left!

Checking a bag? Then don’t forget to pack your favorite box of wine. It’s less likely to break than a bottle, you don’t need a bottle opener, and the whole box is guaranteed to be cheaper than just one glass at the hotel you are staying at. Speaking of alcohol, Todd is a craft beer lover, so if I ever travel to a city that has beer he can’t get back home, I bring a few trash bags along. I tie up the cans in the bags, just in case they get punctured, and then pack them in-between my clothes for extra padding.

Credit Card Points
We opened a Disney credit card back when we started our kitchen renovations and have been using it for everything ever since. By this fall, we will have earned nearly $2,000 in cash to be used for a Disney vacation… so guess what surprise Iris is getting for her sixth birthday? That’s right, I’m deep into the planning stages of going to Disney World (that’s a whole separate post). We aren’t actually going until Thanksgiving, but about a month before we go, we’ll switch over to our other points card, which is for airline miles and start the process over again with new benefits. I have been extremely diligent about making sure the card is paid off monthly so that we haven’t paid a penny of interest, so it really is free money. I wouldn’t have been in the position to be so responsible just a few years ago, so I only recommend this if you are truly able to pay it off every month. Side note, I use my airline card to check my luggage for free on American Airlines, since that is the main airline I fly out of my local airport.

Make a List and Keep It
I very rarely forget to pack something on a trip. That’s mostly in part to my dorky, but necessary, packing list. I have Google Docs (so I can access/edit them from anywhere) of packing/to-do lists for my most common travel: family trips, work trips, and girl trips. They all vary slightly and I do update them based on the season/outfit selection, but it’s extremely helpful in staying organized. I also create a hand-written list for every trip called my “Do Not Forget” list. This is for things that I can’t pack until the last minute (like my hair straightener, favorite pillow for road trips, etc.). I place this list on my suitcase so that I’m sure not to miss it before it’s go-time.

Traveling with Kids
Here’s a list of items I like to pack/do for Iris:

– Slip-on shoes that are easy to get on and off. I love her Saltwater and Freshly Picked sandals dearly, but the first thing she does in the car is kick her shoes off and it always takes her an extra five minutes to get those back on at a restroom stop.

– Download Netflix movies/shows before we leave (I swear they take up a lot less storage than rented movies).

– Download kid podcasts so that she is entertained, but still looking out the window at the scenery (and hopefully not getting carsick). Thanks to NPR, we recently discovered this free one.

– Backpack full of toys, books, and coloring books. Iris uses this not only in the car, but takes it into restaurants, as well as our destination to play with.

– Sleep mask & blanket to make those much needed car ride naps a little easier.

– We take a lot of Ubers and Lyfts when we travel, but I of course want to make sure Iris is still safe. We purchased the mifold travel booster, which fits in my tote.

And there you have it! Hopefully something will help ya out and hopefully you’ll be having your next adventure soon! Speaking of, we’re leaving for a road trip in about five minutes, so I gotta run.

TRAVEL LOVE: Rosemary Beach 2017

For the fourth year in a row, we visited one of my favorite places on earth – Rosemary Beach, Florida. I’ve written about our previous trips here, here, here, and here! These posts are still some of my most trafficked stories. I swear if you go to the 30A area just once, you are completely spoiled by the white sand, emerald water, and quaint little coastal towns.

The first two trips it was just Todd, Iris, and me, but last year we finally talked some good friends into meeting us there. Once Seth and Ashlee arrived, they surprised us with the news that they were pregnant! One year later, they met us there again – with their little beach babe, Frankee. We also had another family of friends join us who have two little girls, one of which is Iris’ age. So for the first time ever, Iris actually had kids to play with at the beach. It was magical.

Our crew (photo by Stephanie Jones):

Since we had a much larger group this year, we needed a much larger house. If it’s just our little family we rent a carriage house, but it sure is fun to get to stay in one of the huge, gorgeous houses in Rosemary. This year we had a little trouble finding the perfect one, but finally we booked the Seahorse Cottage, which has its own private pool. Rosemary has several amazing community pools, so that wasn’t really a priority, but now that we had one it will be a requirement from here on out.

Originally we were booked for five nights, but at the very last minute we extended our trip. The ocean was a little rough in the beginning of our week, so the extra day ended up being THE perfect beach day.

On a couple different days, the dudes and the ladies took turns keeping the kids so that we all could enjoy some kid-free time. The girls opted for a spa day at The Pearl in downtown Rosemary and I’m pretty sure we won. I’ve admired the property from afar for years, but this was the first time I got to experience it. Ashlee, Stephanie, and myself each got an hour massage, which was right off of the adults-only pool area. Afterwards, we lounged poolside along with frozen cocktails and appetizers. We basically wanted to live there… So of course now I want to go back to Rosemary for a full girls trip and see what it’s like to actually stay there.

Over the course of the week, we hit up the staples: The Donut Hole, wandered around Seaside where The Truman Show was filmed, seafood at Crabby Steve’s, bike ride to the fountain at Alys Beach, Charlie’s Donut Truck, drinks at NEAT, tacos at Cowgirl Kitchen, sangria at Le Crema, and of course plenty of beach time. Usually once a vacation comes to an end, I’m ready to come home. But Rosemary Beach is one of the few places I feel like I could stay forever and be just fine. Since I can’t, I’ve already started looking for a property for next year because, if I can’t be traveling, I can at least be planning. ‘Till next time, 30A!

Tons more photos from our week: