New Orleans Pictures & Tips for a Great Staycation

new orleans staycationSince many of you will be traveling to FinCon in New Orleans this year, I thought it would be fun to re-publish this post of yore that has some French Quarter pictures in it!

As many of you know, I am on maternity leave right now, but I’m popping in from time to say hi and re-publish posts like this that I wrote when it was just my mom reading my blog. :D

I hope it helps you get excited for your New Orleans trip if you are going to the conference, and if not, I hope it helps you get pumped about your own staycation.

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Before the hubs and I left Richmond, VA and moved to Grenada, we saw a ton of sites in the area. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to do all the things we wanted to do!

We couldn’t believe we spent so much time living in Virginia (4 years) and missed out on some of the most important sites. Had we stay-cationed more (that is, taken off of work to “vacation” locally), we would have seen all that and more.

So now that I’m home in Louisiana visiting for a little bit, I took a day trip to New Orleans with my two sisters-in-law. We were showing around one of their boyfriends who hails from Australia. Throughout the day, we enjoyed numerous low cost activities, which led me to write this post in praise of stay-cationing.

Here are some tips I thought of to make it a memorable experience:

1. Travel, But Not Too Far

Lots of people scoff at the idea of staying at home for a vacation. I mean, why should you (A) take off work to (B) rat around in your own city? So, instead of staying in your own town, look for the nearest big city or a quaint small town nearby. Consider driving up to two hours.

This cuts down on gas for far away locations, and you can enjoy one long day before coming back home. New Orleans is about an hour and a half from where we live. We enjoyed the ride, enjoyed the scenery, and enjoyed time with family. Sometimes, just stopping to smell the roses Café du Monde coffee is just the trick to get your mind off of work and other responsibilities.

muddy mississippi

2.   Cheap Hotel/Fabulous Food

You could also think about staying in a hotel on your stay-cation, especially if you think that staying inside your own house will give you the same old distractions and stresses of laundry and other chores.

My sisters and I didn’t stay overnight this time, but I might with the hubs sometime. My advice for a hotel is a pretty easy model actually: Cheap hotel/Fabulous food.

Why pay a lot for a hotel? Pay enough to make sure you are in a safe location but then get up and go see the sites. You can always dress up and have tea at the Four Seasons if you want. In fact, you can go inside any beautiful hotel for a drink at the bar or dessert. So, don’t think that by staying in a cheap hotel, you are robbing yourself of that experience. On any vacation, I’d much rather have a few nice dinners than a few fancy bars of soap. But, that’s just me!

jackson square

3. Look for Freebies, Baby!

Who said you had to spend any money for entertainment? Depending on what you like to do, there could be a wealth of free opportunities right there in nearby towns. Many cities have free art walks once a month or free (or very low admission) museums. There are also live bands, inexpensive wine tastings, or festivals all over many states. In New Orleans, I always like strolling around Jackson Square and looking at the art. :)

Basically, these tips show that there are tons of free or low cost opportunities right there in your own cities. While I realize New Orleans is a super cool city, don’t underestimate your own town! Look in the papers, google around the Internet, etc. Heck, just spend a day window shopping at some antique stores to get ideas and get refreshed before facing real life again! Either way, you’re saving money and doing something outside of your normal routine while still enjoying time with your family. What’s not to love?

Got any other ideas or suggestions on how to make the most of a stay-cation? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

The Most Thoughtful Staff: Hotel Contessa Review

hotel contessa

The view from our Hotel Contessa room

In January, the hubs and I took a little trip to San Antonio, Texas. We were celebrating our 4 year anniversary and also having a “baby-moon,” aka our last vacation together before the twins arrive.

I picked San Antonio because it was only about 8 hours from Baton Rouge, which meant preggo me didn’t have to fly. I remembered going to San Antonio with my family as a teenager, and I knew it would be so pretty around the holidays with all the lights. As you can see in the picture on the left, I was right. :)

San Antonio is famous for the Riverwalk, and so I really wanted to stay in a hotel that had great access to it. When doing my research, I found Hotel Contessa, and after obsessively reading reviews and Google mapping it, it seemed like it had the perfect location.

So, I booked 4 nights, mentioned to the hotel that it would be our anniversary, and called it a day!

The Kind Staff

I assumed the hotel would have a great staff given its high ratings, but I wasn’t prepared for how thoughtful they would be! When we arrived, they sent a little welcome tray to our room with chocolate covered strawberries, macaroons, and little bits of cheesecake. It was such a nice treat after a long drive, and it was just what we needed.

However, it was really the ladies in the spa that totally made me do the hormonal I’m-so-happy preggo cry. Hubs and I booked a couple’s massage for our anniversary and of course, we made mine a prenatal massage. During the massage, they casually asked us about the pregnancy and whether we were having a boy or a girl. When we told them we were having one of each, they were so sweet and happy for us.

I thought this was a pretty normal conversation, but what I didn’t know was that it was their sneaky way of finding out some information so they could give us a gift. When our massages were over, they handed me a little bag to thank us for booking a massage.

I thought at the time that it would just be little samples of lotions or something – you know, spa stuff. But, when I got back to my room and opened the bag, they had put two bibs and two rubber duckies in there, one for each baby. It was so sweet. They were some of the first people to give us a gift for the babies, and it was a really nice extra touch that truly made an impression on me.

The Food

We had a lot of great meals in San Antonio, but the very best one happened right there in the hotel. We decided to stay in and celebrate our anniversary rather than going out and about, and I’m so glad we did.

Our waitress, Roxy, was top notch. I’d seriously ask for her if you go there! The restaurant is called Las Ramblas, and you can eat there even if you’re not staying at the hotel. I enjoyed a steak and the hubs got the “Mariscoc Superiora” which was paella filled with chicken, clam, snow crabs and calamari. It was so awesome.

Of course, the impeccable service struck again when it was time for dessert. The hubs and I were having trouble deciding between the sweet “horchata” fritters (deep fried rice pudding) and the lemon custard. We ended up ordering the lemon custard, but then Roxy brought out both for us to try complementary because she said the rice pudding was so unique and she wanted us to try it! It was a really kind thing to do for our anniversary and one that we won’t easily forget!

The Location

River lights boat tour

River lights boat tour

As I mentioned earlier, the location of Hotel Contessa is great.

We could see the river and all the lights from our room. We were able to walk just a few minutes and hop on a boat for a river lights tour.

On the day before our anniversary, we walked about 10 minutes to the mall at the end of the Riverwalk and saw a matinee movie.

You can also walk to the Alamo, various shops and other places of interest too. We didn’t use our car the entire time we were there! We just walked around and hung out in our room, and it was really, really nice and relaxing.

Overall, I’m so glad we decided to take this trip. We often talk ourselves out of doing things like this, but because it was a special occasion and the holidays, we decided to go. A big thanks goes out to the staff at the Hotel Contessa for making this such a memorable way to spend our last vacation before becoming parents! We really appreciate all your efforts!

Have you ever been to San Antonio? Or, do you have a favorite vacation spot to share?

Disclaimer: The kind folks at the hotel did offer me a media rate when booking my stay, but all the sweet little nothings mentioned above are my own opinions and true. :)