What We Did on Our Summer Vacation 2018 : The Airstream Adventure

Every summer, in an effort to reinforce the pillars of exploration, curiosity, and independence, we plan an exciting summer adventure with our family. The qualifications for each adventure is that it be a little different than the year before and something that none of us have done previously. Being the extroverted bunch that we are, these qualifiers become more challenging year after year. We were fortunate enough to have some amazing partners to help us, quite literally, pull this adventure together(<<you’ll see why that was such a great pun in a minute). So, before we get too far along in our story I want to say a BIG thanks to Ford, Airstream, Vogt Family Fun Center, and KOA for helping make this summer adventure one that our family will never forget.

When we were dreaming up what this year’s adventure would look like, the travel method was a resounding: “ROAD TRIP!!” In a world full of technology, online reviews, smartphones, we are simultaneously more connected and less connected than ever before. There is just something classic and inspiring about heading out for adventure knowing you have every amenity and luxury of “home” literally right behind you. To be honest, the combined amenities of the Tommy Bahama airstream, East Austin KOA campsite, and the Ford Expedition we were traveling with may just have afforded us more luxuries than home.

Truck and Towing – What the Haul?

Maybe you’ve been secretly been interested in trying this out too but you’re a little nervous?

Never towed anything before? Same here. Put those fears aside you have nothing to worry about.

Being brand new to towing and hauling a home on wheels, I was a little apprehensive about calculating travel time, towing hookups, and setting up the airstream at the campsite. I may have been having flashbacks of the RV scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation with cousin Randy outside in his short robe…..which let’s just be honest, is not a good look for anyone. Thanks to the ease of the 2018 Ford Expedition and the great instruction from the crew at Vogt Family Fun Center, it was incredibly easy even for newbies like us.

The good news was that we had absolutely nothing to worry about because before we left we were given a very detailed walk around answering any questions we had. The ease of hooking up and towing with the technology in the Ford Expedition was going to make this trip a breeze. You don’t even need a spotter because you can see everything and are perfectly guided right behind the wheel.

Now that we were all hooked up, It was time to get on the road! You can read Randall’s account of the journey featured over on Thrills and Wheels. It’s a pretty sentimental father-son story that I really enjoyed hearing from his perspective.

Texas Airstream Adventure

The mileage between Dallas and Austin isn’t very far, even driving a little slower with the added weight of towing an RV is only a few hours. We’ve traveled a good deal of Texas so we the location wouldn’t be the unique factor but the accommodations would be. I’ve never been much of a camper. Lucky for me camping in a 2018 Tommy Bahama Airstream is the most luxurious way to stay on the road. Combine that with the amenities that were available to us at the East Austin KOA site,  it was like living a dream. This was in no way going to be a typical camping experience.

Setting Up Our Glampsite

Staying at a KOA site is really cool! There are various levels of camping available, from roughing it my preferred style of ‘glamping’. We had no idea how cool these locations could be! It was our first time to stay a KOA and it definitely won’t be our last! Some locations have tiny homes, treehouses, or teepees you can reserve. I really like the unique campsite ideas. It’s pretty much the only way I want to camp from now on.

Getting set up at our reserved campsite was so easy! We checked just a little after regular office hours but there was still an attendant on duty to give us a check-in packet. Getting our hookups in place and only took about 15 minutes to get set up.

KOA Airstream set up

Our deluxe campsite came with outdoor patio furniture, a fire pit, and a gas grill. The staff who also stay on-site came by to check on us and make sure we didn’t need any additional help. Everyone we encountered was so friendly.

KOA deluxe campsite

I really loved the East Austin KOA location and HIGHLY recommend booking here if you are staying in the local area. I’ll share a more detailed post specifically about this in a post of its own but for now here are a few pics of the amenities onsite!

KOA pool

Inside the Airstream – Home Sweet Home

We have always played with the idea of a tiny house or something of that nature all the while living in Texas-sized accommodations in the neighboorhood of 3000 sq ft. Could we really manage a vacation in an airstream? Not only could we but we loved it! My biggest concern was whether we would be cool enough since the forecast for the weekend we chose was hitting over 100 degrees every day. Not only were we cool enough, one evening we woke up and turned the air conditioner up because we were getting chilled.

Inside the Airstream were all the comforts of home. Let me take you on a quick tour….

In this first space, you’ll see the full kitchen(gas stove, microwave, ice maker, sink, refrigerator), dining room ( which transitions into a full/queen sized bed), bar area and SO MUCH storage and plenty of USB/outlets for all our devices. That part was a dream for traveling with teenagers who are always charging. Even on vacation.

Inside the Airstream kitchen

In this second view, you get a better view of the rest of the kitchen, pantry, queen size bedroom, television, closet, and an idea of where the bathroom and shower are located. The KOA site had amazing wifi so in the evening we could stream a movie or shows if we wanted to but we were so busy having fun there wasn’t really time for that. Still, it was cool to know that if a rainy day had been in the forecast we could have.

One area you can’t see from the pictures is the bathroom with a full shower, toilet, sink, mirror, and storage. The door folds in when not in use to give you more room in the bedroom. It folds out when in use to provide more space when someone is taking a shower etc., It never felt crowded or cramped. We were really impressed with the excellent use of space.

Glamping vs Camping

Glamping vs. Camping means that we expored city life too. While we did spend a good deal of time at our KOA exploring the property, swimming, and lounging about in our fancy airstream accommodations but we also got to enjoy our FAVORITE city some too. It’s no secret that we love Austin and we have the BEST time every single visit. We ate Torchy’s Tacos because truly their queso is heaven. We went night swimming at Barton Springs. It was too hot to sit over a campfire for smores so we went for fancy Smores rolled ice cream from a food truck. Oh, and did I mention I forgot to pack shirts? Yep, not a single one because …. ? That was totally okay though since Austin has some of the best thrift stores- vintage and otherwise- We went family thrifting.

I got this adorable dress for $8. Our whole family got new outfits actually and we decided to have an impromptu photo shoot. It truly made for the best memories and I’ll be hanging these new family photos on our living room gallery very soon.

As you can clearly see there is a lot of personality in our family. We love spending time together at home or traveling. This adventure was incredibly memorable for reasons I’m not sure I’ve entirely written here. Memories like this get deeper as the years go on. They are the things you talk about at Thanksgiving, weddings, making plans for the future and things your kids tell their kids. I’m actually tearing up just thinking about it.

Bottom line, get out and adventure with your family. Camp. Glamp. Take a road trip. Just get out, make crazy good memories and explore in every season of life.

Where to Stay and Play on South Padre Island

South Padre Island Texas WelcomeBeautiful South Padre Island has a known reputation for the influx it receives during a couple busy Spring Break weeks in March. If that’s the only thing that comes to mind when you hear South Padre, I’d suggest you think again! It is a WONDERFUL getaway for families too! During the rest of the year, South Padre Island is a relaxing oasis that rivals the best beach towns in America. This summer our family was invited to experience this Texas island as a family and we’ve got the best recommendations for a getaway you’ll never forget.

*We believe in full disclosure and wanted to let you know that this trip was provided by the South Padre Island CVB in partnership with Texas Travel Talk. As is common in the travel industry, our family was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation. As always we only provide opinions, recommendations, and experiences that are 100% authentic and our own.  

Where to Stay on South Padre Island

Pool at the Sapphire South Padre Island

One of the things I love most about staying on South Padre Island is that there are a wide range of available properties to fit every accommodation preference and budget. I can assure you that there is not a bad view anywhere on the island but if luxury accommodations are what you are looking for (you KNOW this is what our family enjoys most!), I highly recommend booking at the Sapphire through Coastal Lifestyles Luxury Rentals. The Sapphire has two private pools and rows of private cabanas to enjoy a beautiful day poolside.

Sapphire pools South Padre island

Beautiful lush landscape leads you to the beach boardwalk and the beautiful Gulf of Mexico just steps away from the pool cabanas. If you like to pool hop, staying at the Sapphire also allows you access to the neighboring Pearl pools and facilities as well. After spending a little time in the sun you can indulge yourself in luxury with amazing massages, refreshing facials, relaxing manicures and pedicures at the Sapphire Spa.

Sapphire Spa South padre island

Your teens can enjoy a space all to themselves in the Teen Game Room to enjoy some shuffleboard, pinball, pool and foosball! All fun and games here at Sapphire South Padre! At the end of the night, when you want to wind down as a family there is a private movie theater that let’s YOU choose the movie from a lonnnnng list of new releases. Just schedule the movie of your choosing with the front desk and it’s all yours!! This was one of our family’s favorite amenities.

Private Movie Room Sapphire South Padre island

Where To Play on South Padre Island

There is so much to do on the island you might have a tough time choosing exactly what to do first. We spent a very full weekend here and STILL didn’t have enough time to fit every thing in that we wanted to do. That gives us plenty of reason to plan a second (and third) trip back! Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy everything that the island has to offer.

-Get up early and watch the sunrise on the beach. 

Sunrise Sapphire South Padre Island

Build Sandcastles with the Experts!  Who else is fascinated with the elaborate sandcastles you’ve seen on the beach? I am always enamored with them. As it turns out, the experts are available and willing to teach you and your crew a few simple techniques to make you a master architect of sand as well. Several members of our group had the opportunity to meet on the sand to get an in-person lesson. This will be one of our “bucket list” items for our next beach trip!

Sandcastle building South padre island

-Get out on the water in a kayak, jetski, water bike or stand up paddle board!

If your body is a little water logged from being IN the water, you can still have fun ON the water. Even if your family has never kayaked before South Padre Island truly is the perfect place to learn. Of course you’ll all be wearing life-vests but the water surrounding the island in most places is only four feet deep. This means even if you are a little apprehensive about your stability on the water, and worst case scenario you do tip, all you need to do is stand up.

ProTip: Be prepared for the hyper-salinity (extra salty) of the water here. If it gets in your eyes it may be a bit more noticeable than average salt water.

Kayaking on South padre island

-Take a Eco-Sea life cruise while Dolphin watching or go on a pirate adventure on the Black Dragon with Osprey cruises

Pirates Pier Port Isabel

We arrived on a Friday night just in time for the evening pirate show and cruise on the Black Dragon. Drinks and snacks are available on the deck and aboard the ship. This cruise is IDEAL for families with young children.

Black Dragon Sign

The Black Dragon cruise is super interactive and the crew is just incredible with families! You’ll be on board to catch a beautiful sunset over the water and if you are there on a Friday or Saturday you’ll also get to watch the fireworks!

On Saturday, we took the 2 pm Dolphin watch cruise and we saw one of the most active dolphin pods I’ve ever seen!  This was a perfect time of day to be out on the ship too.

Osprey Cruises Chase Family South Padre Island

The ocean breezes kept us cool and there was plenty of shade on the deck to ensure we wouldn’t get too much direct sun. While sightseeing, you’ll also learn about the local wildlife and ecology of the Laguna Madre. The crew will use a trawling net to bring sea life directly to you onboard the ship and return it safely back into the eco-system.

Eco Tour Osprey Cruises Starfish South Padre Island

-Go Birdwatching at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. The birding center is fascinating and people come from all over the world just to see the birds that migrate here.

Swim the Day Away Remember the two awesome pools I mentioned at Sapphire? AND at the Pearl? Almost every resort or condo has great pool access to enjoy splashing the day away. Be sure to take enjoy some pool time while you are here!

Swimming at Sapphire South Padre Island

-Enjoy a fun filled day at Schlitterbahn South Padre

“Experience the best the Gulf Coast has to offer… a 25-acre paradise and the most popular waterpark in the Rio Grande Valley. Enjoy nearly two dozen world-class attractions, roar down 13 amazing indoor and outdoor water slides, or float one of the multiple river systems. The resort includes lodging, great Gulf beaches, fantastic dining location options, and unlimited use of both the indoor and outdoor waterparks.”

Where To Eat on South Padre Island

Vegetarian foods at the Painted Marlin grille

Whether it’s prepping for the day or coming in from a full day of island activities, South Padre has you set for dining options for breakfast lunch or dinner. Two of our best recommendations are WindJammers Beachfront Cafe ( located inside the IslaGrand Beach Resort) and The Painted Marlin Grille. Both have spectacular views and casual attire is acceptable at either location. Remember to be laid back enjoying the views and atmosphere, even though you are in Texas this is island life!

Painted Marlin Grille

Painted marlin South Padre dining

 

Fish and Chips at the painted Marlin Grille South Padre Island

For more family fun and ways to explore South Padre Island head over to Visit South Padre for all the latest activities and fun on the island! Be sure to check out our Instagram for more photos of our trip to South Padre Island and for the latest in Texas travel follow @TXTravelTalk on twitter.

Have you visited South Padre Island? What was your favorite activity, accommodation, or memory? Share in the comments below!  

Traveling to Tahoe : Winter Adventure Day 1 #SorentoFamily

Traveling to Tahoe #SorentoFamilyGetting out and adventuring together as a family is what life is all about. Sunshine or snowfall, the Chases are all about finding the next adventure any time of year. So when Kia Motors America invited us to join them for some #SorentoFamily winter fun in Lake Tahoe at The Ritz-Carlton, we jumped on a plane and were on our way!

Naturally, living in Texas we didn’t own a lot of true winter gear. Skiing, snowmobiling, tubing, snowball fights, and well, virtually every activity we would be participating in required winter gear that we didn’t previously own.  Solution: GetOutfitted.com

getoutfitted.com #SorentoFamily

Did you know you can rent everything you need for the ultimate winter vacation and have it delivered right to your doorstep or resort ?! That eliminates a lot of the pressure of shopping, stuffing bulky coats, boots, gloves, goggles and everything else into your suitcase and traveling with it. Fast growing children also means renting is a much more economical option rather than investing to only get one trip out of it. We will never choose to do it any other way now and have recommended this option to several friends going on their own winter adventure.

Once we’d packed up, we headed to the airport and off to Lake Tahoe. Sebastian was super excited to check a few photos off his travel photo checklist before we had even arrived. This one with the pilots was at the top of his list.

Picture with the Pilots #SorentoFamily

When we landed we were met at the airport by some of our favorite Kia representatives who directed us to the Kia Sorento we would be driving during our stay. They were incredibly thoughtful to equip our Sorento with a cooler of our favorite snacks and a warm blanket for our drive to the resort.

#SorentoFamily Snacks

The Sorento was the perfect vehicle for our adventure! The automatic liftgate and spacious trunk made it easy to load our many bags and the other luxury features kept the whole family comfortable inside.

#SorentoFamily Luggage

#SorentoFamily features

The Kia Sorento has heated seated warmers for the front AND back seats, heated steering wheel keeping the driver’s hands toasty warm, and an expansive sunroof keeping the gorgeous mountain peaks and treetops in full view. It also provides just enough lighting for the PERFECT selfies!

Family Selfie #SorentoFamily

Our navigation system kept us going the right way even while we kept distracting each other with “LOOK OVER THERE! OH WOW!” due to all the beautiful scenery we were driving through. Thankfully, Sebastian brought his GoPro along so we wouldn’t miss a thing.

Want to see what the whole drive was like? Check out the time lapse of our drive below!

Being that this was the very first time for the kids to experience what show was really like, we knew would want to pull over and stop along the way, let them play a little bit and capture their first reactions to this gorgeous landscape. I’m so glad we did because, you guys, I’m just in love with the pictures we got and the expressions on their faces are ones I’ll never forget.

Playing in the snow lake Tahoe Kia Sorento #Sorento Family

Kaitlyn first look Lake Tahoe #SorentoFamily

We played and played. Each time we stopped it took a bit of cajoling to gather our excited children back into the Sorento so we could make our way to the Ritz-Carlton in time for check in. I couldn’t really blame them it was a beautiful day to be outside.

Kaitlyn scaling rocks in Tahoe #SorentoFamily

Lake Tahoe Trees and Kids #SorentoFamily

We were haveing so much fun on all our little roadside stops together and the real activities hadn’t even begun yet. I truly wanted to live in these moments forever.

Finding a little zen in the snow #SorentoFamily

Pushups over the water Tahoe #SorentoFamily

We encouraged them to take a few moments of zen to focus and regroup. Then off to the Ritz! They had no idea how much more fun there was to come!

This week we will have several more posts covering our Winter Adventure in Lake Tahoe. I hope you will check back each day for a new post! Until then you can check out some of our photos and social posts we did on site by following the hashtag #SorentoFamily on instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

 

 

Chase Family Rock N Roll Christmas

Rock n Roll Christmas 2015

We decided to do Christmas a little differently this year. Instead of presents cascading around the tree (gift receipts aplenty), we decided to give the gift of making memories together. Soon after last Christmas our family determined we would set out on an annual holiday trip together instead of exchanging big gifts. We tried to center around something we all enjoyed in one way or another and music was the answer. Thus, Chase Family Rock n Roll Christmas was born. It’s turned out to be one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.

Chase Family Rock n Roll Christmas

The truth is, how many of us can remember what we got last year for Christmas? Do you remember what you gave? I don’t. We wanted to give something that our family would always have. My hesitation was calmed with the assurance that we were giving gifts that would last a lifetime. (Insert idyllic visions of sugar plums and Rockwell moments here) We were gifting memories and future conversations of “Remember when? ” followed by lots of head nodding and laughter. Well, that was the idea. All fingers crossed.

We took the budget of what we would have traditionally spent on holiday traveling, wrapping, gifts added it up and discovered we had a sizable budget for a family trip. It wasn’t a fortune but it was enough that I wouldn’t constantly be totaling the amount in my head as we went along. I found an amazing deal on airfare for the 6 of us direct from Austin TX to Memphis, TN ($333.36 for all of us!!), a holiday special at the Peabody Hotel, and a vehicle upgrade on our rental car so that we would have enough room not to be squished in. I also looked around to see what attractions had discounted days or coupons.

Off to Memphis

We had a lot we wanted to do on our trip! I’ll detail all the great places we visited in separate posts soon but to name a few places we stopped while in Memphis: Graceland ( a total MUST if you are in Memphis), Sun Studio (probably the favorite place for all 6 of us, Arcade restaurant, a couple of vintage thrift shops, Beale Street, crossed the Mississippi River, and ate delicious BBQ.  We even took a day trip to visit Nashville. Music abounds in these places and coming from Austin made the perfect transition to show our children and teens a music rich history. It was a wonderful experience.

elvis sun studio memphis

I can’t say I didn’t have my doubts from time to time, before and after the trip. I mean we were TOTALLY breaking tradition.  How would everyone feel  Christmas morning without a physical a stack of presents to open? Would we miss all the shopping and wrapping? What do we do on Christmas morning?!?

Full disclosure: We did have a few surprises Christmas morning. We all purchased smaller, thoughtful stocking stuffers for one another. The only rule was that all gifts were to be thoughtful, and no one was required to give. I gave each of the children a copy of our family picture that we took at Graceland together and am finishing up a family photo album of our time together this season.

All fears dissipate when I look back at these photos though.

Memphis Rock n Roll Christmas

These special moments can’t be purchased or planned for.

Peabody Rock n Roll Christmas

They can’t be wrapped up with bows or carefully tucked away under the tree but they were the very best we could have given this season and I am so happy we did.

It really has been one of the most relaxing Christmas seasons ever. We have spent our time talking with one another and doing all the “little things” that really make holiday time special. We’ve watched movies together, cooked holiday meals, baked cookies and made hot chocolate. Most of all we haven’t felt rushed or mentally ( or financially) exhausted wondering if everything on the list was checked off.

What has been the best part of your holiday season ? Have you ever done something that broke tradition during the holidays?