7 Essential Items to Take to the Beach

7 Essential Items to Take to the Beach

Nothing like waking up to a beautiful day at the beach!!
 
School’s out and it’s time for summer vacation!  For many families their vacation includes a trip to the beach. 

While enjoyable, a beach trip requires some extra packing. It sometimes seems like I pack everything into the minivan, including the kitchen sink!

Over the years, we have traded the 13 hour grueling car trip for  a plane trip (thank you Southwest companion passes!) and thus have whittled down my must-haves for a beach vacay. 

So, by all means bring your beach chairs, boogie boards and beach umbrellas, but if you’re traveling light…here’s what gets me through a beach week!

One important reminder…sunscreen is always on my list, and I generously slather that stuff on all day long!

image via Bed, Bath & Beyond

1. Bed, Bath and Beyond Lounge Chair Towel
Let’s  be real.  While the beach is fun, I prefer to lounge poolside while reading a great book!  This towel is life changing!  It’s super long, super comfy and  it has a hemmed “pocket” that slips over the top of most lounge chairs to keep your towel from blowing or sliding around!  

Priced at $19.99 it’s well worth the price, plus use your Bed Bath & Beyond 20% coupon or $5 coupon to get an even better deal!

Big enough to help you take an afternoon siesta!

2.  Target One Spot $5 Hat

What trip to Target doesn’t include a drive by the One Spot?  I had spied this hat earlier in the year but hesitated. As you might know, the One Spot’s inventory changes weekly, so I regretted I didn’t snag it. 

Thankfully, right before our trip Target had restocked these fabulous hats perfect for the beach! For five dollars

If you spy this hat at your local Target One Spot…buy it!  It travels well and is sturdy enough to not get blown about on breezy beach days!

happy shady lady wearing $5 hat, reader sunnies & rash guard top
 
3. Reader Sunglasses
Yes, I’m now at an age where I must wear readers.  I absolutely love my Kate Spade reader sunglasses because unlike a lot of reader sunglasses, you can order your specific strength. 
Similar style image via Amazon
 
I’ve had my sunnies for three years and they’re still going strong!  I recently spied fashionable, reasonably priced, different strength reader sunglasses at Sam’s Club!
So cute , so many selections and on sale! image via Land’s End
 

4. Land’s End Rash Guard Swim Shirt

No matter how much sunscreen I slather on, I usually get too pink around my straps and shoulders. A rash guard is your best friend!  I always throw one in my beach bag and when I feel like I’ve gotten too much sun or want to dip in the ocean I slip this on. 

Be sure to look for the American Cancer Society seal and for an SPF rating. The Land’s End rash guards have both and with a  50 SPF rating.  Thankfully cute rash guards are becoming  easier to find.  I’ve even seen them at Old Navy. 

A classic! image via Amazon
 
5. A 24 oz Tervis Tumbler

I know Yeti tumblers are all the rage these days, but I love the 24 oz size of a Tervis Tumbler and the price!  Tervis tumblers are lightweight to pack but heavy enough not to tip over in the sand or poolside!  

Another lifechanging product! image via Baggu
 
6. Baggu Reusable Folding Bag

I love all the cute beach totes. Seriously. All of them!  But they are a pain to fly with and said cute beach totes accumulate copious amounts of sand. 

If you haven’t yet discovered Baggu reusable bags order them today!  Besides having fun graphic designs, they are lightweight but tough nylon, fold down next to nothing and hold a boatload of stuff 

I’ve had my Baggu bags for over 3 years now and they still look brand new. I use mine all the time for grocery shopping. Anyway, this year I brought them with me and used one as a beach bag all week. Life changing!

Besides holding all my stuff, at the end of the week I shook the bag out and all the sand came out! Miraculous!

Lingerie Drying Rack for Wet Swimsuits! image via The Container Store

  
7. The Container Store Lingerie Drying Rack
Confession time… I have forgotten this foldable packable drying rack the last few beach trips!  And every time when its time to hang up dripping wet swim suits I groan!

Yes, I made it through drippy wet swimsuits without this drying rack, but having this is so much easier!   This rack works well with bikini bottoms and tops and can easily hang in the shower.  

Hopefully with this post I will not forget it next time!!!

So there’s my 7 must have items for the beach!  What’s on your essential beach list?  I’d love to hear!  Share in the comments!

Oak Grove Travels | Weekend Trip to Dallas!

Oak Grove Travels | Weekend Trip to Dallas!

 

We had the perfect view of downtown Dallas atop the Celebration Tower!
 
Happy Monday, y’all!  Is it just me or did we arrive in November waaaaay too fast?!  

We’ve been fortunate to travel to near and far away places recently, and Dallas was a quick trip getaway because it was a short airplane flight and place neither my husband or myself had fully explored!

Let’s just get this outta the way…everything is bigger and better in Texas!  And while many may fly in and out of Dallas/Ft. Worth on to further destinations (Costa Rica?) Dallas is a great town to explore for its own sake!

We flew into Dallas/Ft. Worth airport on Thursday and flew out Sunday morning. We rented a car but can honestly say after our time in the big D, would use the DART train system for our next trip as a station was convenient to each place we explored. 

We were so happy to discover that Dallas has a Dallas City Pass.  We love using these city oases to get great discounts on museums, attractions and restaurants!  The City Pass for Dallas just recently became available. While only $44, we were able to use all 4 admission tickets in the 2 full days we were there. Perfect for a weekend!

George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum doesn’t disappoint!

1.  George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Our first stop with our city pass was George W.’s presidential library and museum.  There is plenty of parking, but the lot is a little confusing to get to, FYI. The museum is located on SMU’s campus and we enjoyed not only documenting W.’s presidential terms but also the special exhibit documenting the long history of baseball and America’s presidents. 

2. Reunion Tower and GeO Deck

Located in downtown Dallas, the Reunion Tower takes you approximately 740 feet up to the GeO deck where you can walk around to enjoy a 360 degree view of Dallas!

Walking towards Reunion Tower!

We surprisingly timed our arrival perfectly to get to the deck during the sunset and stayed to see the city skylight and its lights at night!  We were so lucky to be at the tower during amazing weather and a super clear sky!

 

Amazing sunset reflected in the Bank of America tall building!

Once you’re up on the deck, you can linger as long as you like. There’s even a restaurant in the tower where you can enjoy the amazing city views. 

One word of caution….up at that height, it’s always windy!  They only protection on the outside deck are the cables. I’m not scared of heights, but I was a tad skittish out there.  I would have loved to gotten the cable free shots, but seriously, my safety and holding on to my phone were much more important!!

Traffic constant on Dallas’ freeways!
Bank of America building at night…with the deck cables for our protection!

3.  Perot Museum of Nature and Science

Yes, it’s named after Ross Perot, the no nonsense Texas billionaire who ran for President twice!  His museum is A M A Z I N G! 

We ran into a scary dinosaur right off the bat!
 

First, it’s a perfect museum to take your kids to…lots of hands on exhibits and a wholes loot devoted to engineering and robotics activities!

Also, the architecture of the museum is innovative and provoking. Definitely not your run of the mill box museum. 

Included with our ticket was a choice to watch one of three movies.  We chose a fascinating movie about Jesualem told through the perspective of three girls and their religions…Judiasm, Christianity and Islam and how they live in this walled city. 

4.  The Sixth Floor Museum 

The Texas School Book Depository Building on Dealey Plaza
  

As a college History Major although I had studied the JFK assassination extensively, I had never visited the location until this trip. The Sixth Floor Museum is located on the 6th floor of the Texas School Book Depository Building. The window where Lee Harvey Oswald shot is on the far right, second floor from the top in the photo above. 

At the museum you receive a handheld audio device which tours you through the photos and displays on the 6th floor. No photos are allowed but we were able to see the window where Oswald shot from…although we could not look directly from the window. 

Here’s the deal. There are a lot of unanswered questions about what happened that day and the following when Jack Ruby shot Oswald dead. I would say one definitely needs to go and see for yourself the relationship of the window, street and where JFK was shot to form your own opinion. 

 

The X marks where JFK was shot during the motorcade
  
The grassy knoll where many believe shots also were fired
 

I would have taken more photos, but seriously, we were being hounded by conspiracy theorists on the sidewalks who were trying to sell us their DVDs and books on their conspiracy version of why JFK was shot and who was behind it. 

Food

Oh, Dallas has amazing Tex Mex food!  I died and went to Tex Mex heaven when we found this authentic Mexican restaurant and got quesadillas to go!

 

Oh my stars! So delicious! the salsas were fiery hot but oh so bueno!
 
 

Dallas definitely delivers on amazing local food and we fell in love with this Korean Japanese restaurant and bistro on our last evening in Dallas!  

We got to see so much on our weekend trip to Dallas but definitely didn’t see all of it!  We’ll be back!

Have you visited Dallas?  What was your favorite place or go to restaurant?  Comment below!

Complete Travel Guide to Brussels!

  

In August we visited amazing, lovely, laid back Brussels and had so much fun exploring this European city on our own!  Most travelers visit Brussels on a layover but this city has so much to offer and is a destination in and of itself!  

We stayed a week and enjoyed it so much. While planning our trip, I discovered there wasn’t a “one stop” resource for travel to Brussels which is sad because I think everyone should travel to Brussels!  

So, if you’re ready to see the world and get out of your comfort zone, Brussels is a perfect starter European city!  And, as an added bonus, you will begin to understand the diversity of our world! 

Logistics to and from the Airport

Flying to Brussels from the United States is easy as many major airline carriers fly nonstop to Brussels and discount fares can be found!  

Baggage Claims/Customs/immigration at the Brussels airport was fast and easy and the agents were super nice and spoke English. 

Transportation from the airport to the hotel was streamlined as well.  At the Brussels airport we simply followed the signs and took the escalators down to  -1 Level, bought our train ticket into Brussels and boarded all within 10 minutes. The train ticket includes an airport surcharge fee and the cost was €8.50 versus €5 for the airport bus shuttle.  Taxis are available but the train/bus is definitely doable and preferred. 

For more info about Brussels Airport click here.

 

Plenty of room on the Brussels airport train into Brussels!
 

Airport Train versus Airport Bus Shuttle

  • Location: Your hotel location will help decide whether to use the train or bus (if your hotel doesn’t have a shuttle or you don’t want to spend the extra money on cab fares).  If your hotel is located close to the European Union Buildings, then the bus would be the natural choice as that is where the bus stop to the airport is located. Please note however, the bus stop is separate from the metro train station and is actually on the street sidewalk (no covered shelter) once you arrive.  The airport bus makes several stops, thus about 20 minutes or so to get to the stop. If you need to take the metro to then get to your hotel, the subway/metro station is 2 intersections away from the bus stop (a huge round about). That means packing your luggage.  So, my advice is only take the airport bus if your hotel is near that stop around the European Union. 
  • Time:  According to their website, the airport express trains depart every 15 minutes and make only 3 stops…North, Central, and Midi stations.  Quick tip…the train doors do not automatically open and they will close if you do not push the button on the right and the train will continue to the next station!  How do I know this?  We were supposed to exit at Central Station and got to see the Midi Station as well!!  Also, another quick tip, keep your train ticket in hand because the train conductor will come by to punch it!

Hotels

We stayed at the fabulous Raddison Blu Royal Hotel, Brussels during our stay and the Raddison Blu was truly a home away from home!  The hotel’s located within  3 blocks from Central Station which is Brussels’ main terminal and located in the heart of the old city near the Grand Place and art museums. 

 

Huge hotel room by European standards, and the couch pulled out to a comfy queen sized bed!
 
Every Raddison Blu staff member was super professional and welcoming!  All spoke English as well so checkin/checkout was easy. 

There are several nice hotels within the old city/Grand Place. The closest hotel to Central Station is the Hilton, which sits directly in front of the main Central metro/train station.  

Exploring Brussels

If you plan to spend a few days to a week in Brussels, I highly recommend purchasing the Brussels Card.  

 

Brussels Card Guide Book
 
You can purchase a Brussels card for 24|48|72 hours.  Your time starts when you first use your card at a museum/attraction that accepts the Brussels card. 

We chose the 72 hour card. The customer representative was extremely helpful and because we had a high school student, she recommended that we only purchases passes for two adults, as most museums offer steep student discounts or free entry to students!  

Quick tip…most museums are closed on Mondays, so take that fact into consideration as to when you begin your Brussels Card pass. 

Inside you’ll find a description of the museum/attraction, hours, and nearby metro/bus stations. 

The Natural Science Museum & Magritte Museum are a must!

The Brussels Card gets you free entry into 30 museums and reduced entry into 6 attractions!  

Brussels truly is a beautiful gem mans I don’t wish to spoil anyone’s own travel discovery of its charm, but here are my ….

Top 5 Must See Museums/Attractions in Brussels! (In no particular order!)

1. The Atomium! It looks like a tourist trap, but it really has charm!  I won’t give it away but take the metro out and spend a morning/afternoon of learning and discovering!

It’s shiny & huge and you go to the very top!!

2.  The Natural Science Museum

This is the place to see dinosaurs!  Seriously, Brussels’ natural science museum is ranked in the top 3 in the world for dinosaurs!  We were blown away, and we’ve been to the museums in NYC and DC!  Do not miss it!

Dinosaurs for Days!!!!!!

3. Musee Magritte Museum

The artist Rene Magritte was Brussels’ native son and this museum houses a comprehensive collection of his early years in advertising to his masterpieces. Over 230 works of art are collected here but sadly, photography is allowed.  

Magritte was an important surrealist and paved the way in iconic advertising images…using art as a way to disconnect the meaning of a word to its image. I always love seeing comprehensive collections of artists because you can see their ideas and growth take shape over the course of the artist’s careers.

4. Bozar

This center contains the artistic heartbeat of Brussels. Fun and funky, we enjoyed the History of Belgian Fashion! 

who knew…DVF is Belgian!!
  

Antwerp diamonds set in boots….fashion indeed!!
 
5. Belgian Comic Strip Centre

Brussels is wry and witty and we learned about the rich history of Belgian comic strips at this museum!  Go for the Smurfs, stay for the amazing art nouveau building by Victor Horta. 

 

Smurfs!
  
Whimsy and art nouveau!

 
Getting Around Brussels

 

Helpful Map of Brussels Metro, in our hotel room!
 

If your hotel is located near the Grand Place, walking is the easiest and simplest way to see the Grand Place, outdoor cafes, and certain museums. To take full advantage of your Brussels Card requires using their metro system. 

Now, some may be shy about exploring via a foreign city’s subway system, but do not fear!  Brussels’ metro is super easy!  

Brussels Reloadable Metro Mobib Card for €5

Again, we went to a nearby metro station and the Metro employee spoke English and was super helpful. Since we were staying for the week and had 3 travelers, we chose to pay €5 for the plastic reloadable Metro card. We told the Metro clerk how many rides we wanted to load on the card. The clerk assured us we could have 1 card and swipe 3 times to get access past the turnstile to enter the platforms. 

We initially loaded the card with 20 swipes and then we reloaded once more before we left Brussels!  

The Brussels Card employee had told us if we could get our €5 back spent on the reloadablecard by  bringing the Mobib card to their office at the end of our visit. We chose to keep our card as we know we’ll return at some point when we’re back in Europe!

Food

Belgium is known for 3 things:

1. Belgian Waffles

 

Behold the Belgian waffle, best plain and off a street vendor!
 

2.  Belgian Chocolate

 

Amazing…we’ve been robbed in the US with subpar chocolate!
 

3. Belgian Fries/Fritte

 

Behold, the perfect fritte, straight from the streets!
 

I also hear that Belgian beer is world renowned as well…but we didn’t explore the beer on this trip!

Conclusion

I can’t possibly squeeze everything about Brussels in this rather lengthy post…but this should get your wanderlust kicking in!

If you have a specific question about Brussels, leave a comment below and I’d be happy to answer!  

Also, follow me on Instagram here to see more travel photo.  You can also see where we travel to next using #oakgrovesocialtravels !

Postcard from Brussels 

Postcard from Brussels 

  

It’s been a week since our return from Brussels, Belgium and I’m still processing all we saw and did. Until I post my in depth, detailed Guide to Brussels, here’s a lovely postcard from a city and country that’s stolen my heart!

Brussels’ architecture is stunning.

   

    
   

Brussels’ lovely parks are lush and scattered throughout the city.

   

   

  

Brussels doesn’t take itself too seriously!

  

I heart Brussels!! xoxo

By the way…the deadline for entering the Simply Tuesday book giveaway ends TONIGHT at MIDNIGHT Eastern Saving Time!

  

Click here and complete the 2 steps:

1. Sign up for Oak Grove Social posts,

And

2. Comment in the linked post  what your typical Tuesday looks like!

Winner will be announced tomorrow, Friday, August 21, 2015!

Good luck!

Giveaway is now closed and winner has been contacted! Thanks for all who entered!