Here are some of my tips about what you need to know before visiting Big Bend National Park! If you have been, let me know if I missed anything.
Tip 1: Campgrounds
There are 3 campgrounds in Big Bend National Park – Cottonwood, Chisos Basin and Rio Grande Village. All 3 campground are relatively far apart so plan accordingly – Chisos being the most popular! If you can make reservations ahead of time.
Tip 2: Cell Service
Do not expect to have cell service within the park! We had service at Chisos Basin and at the visitor center but other than that it was really sketchy. So my advice is to just make sure you have maps and important numbers already saved to your phone.
Tip 3: Weather
Big Bend is known for dramatic changes in weather, so even if you are going in the summer bring some kind of a jacket. We went for Labor Day which happened to be the tail end of monsoon season (who knew!?) and our tents flooded and we ended up having to find a hotel at 10:00 at night. It was not ideal.
Tip 4: Distance
If you need to know anything at all about BBNP it’s that EVERYTHING is far apart. This park is huge!!! The map looks very deceiving. We spent way more time in our cars then we would have liked just driving from point A to B and back again, so plan activities accordingly.
Tip 5: Lions and Tigers and Bears
Finally, just be prepared to see some critter. Whether you are camping or out hiking, chances are you will run across a tarantula or some giant lizards and maybe even a snake. In our case we also had an encounter with a bear (see video) and mountain lions are also prevalent within the park. So just be mindful of that and be safe!
In this weeks blog (and video), I will be taking about 5 practical things you should know before traveling to Germany in 2019!
Cash is King
You have to pay to use the restroom
Recycle to get money back for plastic bottles
Restaurant water & tipping culture
In Germany cash is still very much the prefered method of payment and actually the only method of payment that is accepted. ANd this is not just at Mom and Pop shops, this is at restaurants, tourist attractions, some grocery stores, etc. SO be prepared and always have cash on you.
Another thing that will come as a shock to most visitors, is that you have to apy to use the restroom at gas stations and shopping malls in Germany. At gas stations you get a coupon that can be used towards a purchase (the fee is usually .50 cents). Ins hopping malls you can choose how much you leave as a “tip”.
Tip 3 is all about recycling. Ever wonder how Germany is so clean? Recycling! Pay attention to the plastic bottles and cans you purchase. IF you look for the recycle symbol you will see if you can get “Pfand” back for the bottle. They give you .25 for every can or plastic bottle you recycle, it’s a refund of a deposit you paid when you bought the drink. I think it’s an awesome incentive to recycle! Another thing to note, if you are staying at an Air BnB or with someone, people split there recycling up into AT LEAST 3 bins inside their home. Just be mindful of that, it will probably be labeled. German efficiency and all that.
And last but not least, let’s talk about the “rules”. Now I know many of you have heard that Germans are notorious rule followers and well, I cant deny that… so here are some basics to keep you from getting yelled at in the streets. Bike lanes are for bikes. Period, end of story. Don’t walk in them, don’t stop to chit chat in them… people take there bikes very seriously and you will get reprimanded by a shrill bike bell if caught. I’m only half kidding. But the other things Germans don’t mess around with are the rules of the road. There is a reason why there are spots on the Autobahn where you can drive as fast as you want and it’s because everyone knows the rules. Left lanes are for passing and or ‘hauling ass” only. If you see someone coming in the rear view, speed up or get over FAST. Vroom Vroom.
If you are a YouTube junkie like me, I know you have seen an abundance of “assumptions” videos floating around over the last month or two. I find these so fun to watch, so I decided to make my own and add a little spin to it! So in my latest video, I talk all about “Assumptions about Germans”!
This video was so fun to make – big shout out to everyone that took the time to send me their assumptions. I could not stop laughing at some of them 🙂
The most common was definitely that all Germans drink beer and they are all super organized! I hope you enjoy my video – please feel free to comment below with any assumptions that you feel like I missed because I am down to make a part 2 of this video.
If you are a longtime reader then you may know that my main reason for starting a blog/ YouTube was to have a place to document and share all of our adventure. Both in motherhood and travel.
So every couple of months I like to include Sophie in a little sit down “interview” where I ask her some fun questions. While these may not be the most interesting videos for a stranger to watch, I love having these to look back on. Literally being able to watch her grow up from video to video…
This video especially cracks me up. You can see so much of her personality in this. Her love for all things girly. And most special to me, her love for her Mama ❤
Being a National Park lover and living in Houston Texas does not really equal to many opportunities to get to hop in the car and take a quick trip and go to one, I mean Big Bend National Park is 10 hours away. Yes, that’s right TEN and it’s still in the same state! But we weren’t going to let that stop us for a long Labor Day weekend. We packed the car, full to the brim with our camping gear and set out.
We were really hoping to be able to camp in Chisos Basin due to the higher elevation (cooler temps) but unfortunately were not able to book a spot in advance and when we got there all the sites were full. So on we went to Cottonwood Campground, which was practically empty! After we set up camp we made our way to Santa Elena Canyon – only a few miles up the road and started our first hike.
Now we weren’t in BBNP for long and didn’t get to do too many different trails but holy cow this hike… so epic! Standing between those massive canyon walls, Mexico on one side and Texas on the other was probably one of the coolest things I have experienced. It was an easy hike, minus the ankle deep mud getting to the start of the trail but the kids loved it.
I could tell you the story of how it stormed that first night and our campsite flooded and we had to try and find a hotel with no reception in the middle of the night… but i’ll spare you the gory details. Let’s just say that during monsoon season, you need to be very mindful of where you place your tent.
One of the many things that intrigued me about this park was astro-photography. So many people said things like “you’ve will never see as many stars as you will in Big Bend”, so I thought challenge accepted. And I made sure to pack my tripod and remote on this trip into the desert. And holy crap were those people ever right!!! We spent a good hour (with 3 kids) in the pitch black, just parked in the desert staring at the sky, me taking photo after photo… I was determined to get a shot of the milky way in all it’s glory! AND I DID!
We spent the next morning in Terlingua since that’s where we ended up after “the flood”. We had breakfast at a cute little spot next to the Starlight Theater that had the best waffles ever – it was called Espresso Y Poco Mas. We initially thought it was just a coffee place but it was delicious!!! And from there we walked around Terlingua at some of the old houses before making our way back into the park.
After we got back into the park we stopped off at Lower Burro Mesa Pour–off Trail for a short little hike – perfect for kiddos to stretch their legs. We saw tons of hawks and cool lizards and cacti…
Then we stumbled upon the highlight of the whole dang trip – BLACK BEARS!! We were making our way into the Chisos Basin, to hike the Lost Mine Trail and a Momma Bear and baby just come walking across the road. And as we parked we saw them cross the road again (be sure to watch the video at the end of this post).
We hiked to the halfway point of Lost Mine but decided to come back and do the whole thing the next day, so we could really enjoy it and then made out way over to Chisos Basin look out to catch sunset between the Window.
On our final day at BBNP we made our way back to the Lost Mine Trail and hiked all the way to the top. We really saved the best for last. We experienced fog, rain, sun and heat all within the few hours it took us to climb to the top (and back down). It was magical – we truly saved the best for last! It was so great that it made the sprint to the car in the pouring rain totally worth it.
We took a quick family trip to Mexico at the end of October and had the perfect weather during our 4 day stay. While having been to Cancun several times, this was my first time to Playa Del Carmen. Due to some scary travel advisories, we didn’t leave the resort the gated resort and shopping areas. Since we were traveling with our toddler, it seemed best to be on the safe side. And I have to say our beautiful resort, the Iberostar Quetzal, had plenty of activities for us to enjoy during our stay!
I just have to talk about this hotel for a second because it is hands down the most beautiful place that I have ever stayed at. We were lucky enough to stay in one of the ocean front junior suites which have a terrace that takes you right out to the beach. Not to mention that there a a jungle in the middle of the property with monkeys, flamingos, peacocks, nutrias… it actually blew my mind!
Our daughter was almost 3 at the time of our trip and even though she was too young for the kids club, she had a blast! Swimming in the ocean, chasing the peacocks around and sneaking treats to the nutrias that liked to hang out in front of our balcony it was a toddlers dream.
I will admit that we were a little nervous about going to Mexico with all the travel advisories that are in place, especially bringing our daughter… BUT for this particular area of Playa del Carmen, we felt very safe. Before you even get to the hotel, you enter in through this gated area that’s essentially all vacation homes, shops and hotels. So you are definitely isolated from the actual town of Playa del Carmen. So while you may not be getting the cultural experience you might in other places, you definitely feel safe.
And the little shopping area was only about a 10 minute walk from the resort. The perfect place to pick up some souvenirs, grab some Starbucks and talk to some locals!
Another thing I have to note about this hotel is the customer service: Our daughter actually got an extremely high fever in the middle of the night and the people at the front desk were so helpful at taking us to the onsite physician and then having a courier pick up a prescription at the pharmacy. They really went above and beyond and as parents in a foreign country with a sick child, we really appreciated the extra effort.
I put together a quick little video of our stay, hope you enjoy ❤
As a follow up to my 30 Day Keto Transformation, I thought it would be helpful to share what I eat in a day! SO I took the time to show your exactly what a day of eating Keto can look like. I even shared some recipes and snack ideas… check it out:
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