Monday, June 17, 2019

Aruba Travel Guide :: Where To Stay & Getting Around

Happy belated Father's Day to all the Dads out there! We came home late last night from an amazing week in Aruba. Back to reality today a.k.a work. A dear reader has asked if I could share some notes from my trip as they're planning to visit the island soon. That's what I am doing today. I'll split the information into 2 posts. I'll share where we stayed and how to get around the island in this post. Next post, I'll talk about top things to do in Aruba.
{Taken at the Renaissance Aruba} 
It was our first time in Aruba and it's been a wonderful experience. For a beach vacation, I've been to the Bahamas, Cancun, Dominican Republic, the Keys and Aruba. Aruba is actually the one place that I'd love to come back. No direct flight from Columbus, OH. We flew into Baltimore then Baltimore to Aruba. Total air time is about 5.5 hours.

Where to stay: For the first half of the trip, we stayed at the Marriott Renaissance. For the remainder of the trip, we stayed at the Marriott Stellaris. I'll explain why later in this post. There are 3 main areas in Aruba:
1. Downtown Oranjestad: The Marriott Renaissance is located in the heart of downtown Oranjestad. The resort has 2 separated buildings: the Marina Hotel (adults-only) located on top of the Renaissance mall across the street from the water. The Ocean Suites (family-friendly) directly on the water.
2. Eagle Beach (low-rise hotels): Eagle Beach is breathtakingly beautiful. It's ranked 3rd best beach and I can totally see why. I will talk more about this particular beach in my next post.
3. Palm Beach (high-rise hotels): This is where the Marriott Stellaris located. In summary, if you're looking for family-friendly vacation and/or a bit cheaper hotel rates then downtown area is a good option. If you want to spend your entire stay at the beach then definitely check out hotels near Eagle Beach. If you want to experience Aruba's nightlife then you'd want to look into one of the high-rise hotels in Palm Beach.
The main reason that we decided to stay at the Renaissance because the girls wanted to see the flamingos. It's a private island owned by the Renaissance. Access to the private island is included if you are a hotel guest. If you're not a hotel guest, a day pass to the island is $99. The private island has 2 sections: adult-only section (where the flamingos are) and family-friendly section. However, kids can feed, take pictures with the flamingos everyday between 9:00 a.m - 10 a.m. It can be chaotic during that time period. Tip: To avoid the crowds, go later in the evening. There are very few people on the island and they don't care if the kids are on the adult-only side after 6:00 p.m. The speed boat runs every 15 minutes to take the guests back and forth (the last ride is at 6:45 p.m). Since it's a private island, the number of visitors are limited. It never feels crowded.The water was calm and inviting. Is the flamingo island worth it? We enjoyed our stay there but to be completely honest, I don't think the price was worth it. We paid a little over $300 per night. The hotel is a bit dated and the suite was just alright. However, it's waking distance to everything you need and offers a laid back atmosphere which is a perfect vacation spot for families with young kids. There is a Starbucks and the Renaissance mall steps away from the hotel.
Inclusive or non-inclusive? I booked an all-inclusive hotel package when we were in Dominican Republic and the food wasn't anything to write home about. I did some research and found many great options within the walking distance of the hotel so we decided not to do an all-inclusive option. However, I wish we did. Everything is very expensive in Aruba. On average, a simple family lunch would cost between $60 - $75. A dinner for 4 is well over $100 and we're talking about bar food. We are creatures of habit when it comes to food. The kids are happy with cheese burgers, pizzas, chicken fingers and spaghetti. Even though there are many wonderful options available outside the hotel, they don't have an appreciation for international cuisines (which is fine). All depends on your preferences, if you're more adventures when it comes to food then I would not recommend doing all inclusive. If you're OK with typical food choices then all-inclusive is probably the way to go.
For the second part of the trip, we moved to the Marriott Stellaris. It's a beautiful ocean-front hotel located on Palm Beach. It also comes with a hefty price tag of $500 per night. I have nothing negative to say about this resort. The room was nice and clean. The service was great. Again, there is a Starbucks onsite along with several high-end jewelry stores in the hotel's lobby. They play live music every night. If you want to be in the heart of Aruba's busy touristic town, this is it. There are endless dining and entertainment options. At night, you can enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach and watch the sunset.

Other hotels to consider: 
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort: I've heard great things about this resort but it's an adult-only resort
Tamarijn Aruba (all-inclusive): Between downtown and Eagle Beach

Getting around: You can get a rental car, utilize public transportation or take a cab (what we did). One of the easiest ways to get around is getting a cab. They line up in front of the hotel or the hotel concierge can get one for you. It's super easy to hail a cab from point A to point B. Taxi drivers are incredibly friendly and helpful. Taxis in Aruba do not have meters. Rates are based on destination and set by the government. Each driver should carry a rate card. It's $21 from the airport to any of the low-rise hotels, $25 to any of the hotels in Eagle Beach and $31 to any of the high-rise hotels. The fares are fixed. The cab drivers cannot charge you prices different from the rate card. We did not encounter any issues with taxis.
Where to eat: As mentioned previously, we're not foodies. The kids basically lived in their swimsuits the entire week. For the most part, they weren't into taking a shower, changing clothes, finding a place to eat, waiting for their meals. If having something quick and easy makes them happy then so be it. Both of my kids are picky eaters so I am not going to sit at a fancy restaurant to hear them whine about their meals. I am sure there are wonderful dining options available if you're interested. That being said, we did enjoy our meals from these places
{Sunset at the Stellaris}
Other notes:
  • The US dollar is widely accepted. Taxis accept cash only. There are ATM machines throughout the island that you can get cash from. Some have fees, some does not. You just have to pay attention.
  • When travelling with the kids, safety is definitely our number one concern (especially with numerous of incidents reported in Dominican Republic). We felt really safe in Aruba. We walked around at night with the kids and never once felt it was unsafe. Aruba has a very low crime rate (1% - 2%)
  • Everyone was super nice and helpful. There was more than one taxi driver thanking us for visiting the island. It helps creating job. Did you know that Aruba attracts about one million visitors each year?
  • The temperature doesn't change much throughout the day (between 81-85 Fahrenheit everyday). 
  • It's really windy. The average wind was 20 mph during our entire stay. Don't bother doing your hair. It'll be a mess as soon as you step outside. Same with makeup. The only face product that I put on was sunscreen =)
I hope you find this post helpful. Stay tuned for part 2 if you're interested!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Floral Blouse + Mom Jeans

My favorite combination to wear at the moment. I purchased this floral top a couple of months ago and have been wearing it so much. It's lightweight and airy (perfect for this time of year). Pairing the blouse with my beloved Mom jeans. I rarely buy duplicates of clothes but these jeans are an exception. I love them so much that I bought an identical pair (in a different wash) last month. The new pair has no rips which can be worn to the office on casual Fridays. Outfit details: H&M floral blouse | Levi's wedgie jeans *size 24x26 in love triangle | Gucci bag | Target sandals
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Monday, June 10, 2019

Petite-friendly jumpsuits

PetiteFriendlyJumpsuit_SydneysFashionDiary For the past few months, Old Navy has truly been stepping up their style game. I found so many cute pieces at pretty affordable prices. This jumpsuit is one of them. Being only 5'2", culottes have never hit me at the right length. Not in this case! I got the jumpsuit in a size XS petite and couldn't have asked for a better fit. If this butterfly print isn't your cup of tea, this jumpsuit is also available in solid black and 4 other different color/print combinations. Outfit details: Old Navy jumpsuits *size XSP* | Le Specs sunglasses | similar nude mules *40% off* | H&M denim jacketPetiteFriendlyJumpsuit_SydneysFashionDiary PetiteFriendlyJumpsuit_SydneysFashionDiary PetiteFriendlyJumpsuit_SydneysFashionDiary

Sunday, June 9, 2019

An open letter to my daughter on her 14th birthday

Dear sweet child of mine,

You turned 14 today! How is that even possible? You were my first born, the one who made my dream of becoming a mother reality. Time has passed way too quickly. I watched you go to preschool, then kindergarten. I saw you in tears with your friends when you finished 5th grade. I blinked and you walked into that great big middle school. I blinked again and you'll be a freshman in a few short months. I still remember the night you came to us in tears because your best friend hurt your feelings. You were 12 at the time. I hate to see you getting hurt but at the same time, I am thankful you came to us to share your raw feelings. We explained to you that friendship breakups are a normal part of growing up (especially when you're still figuring out your identity). Friendships are a reflection of who we are and what we need. Friendships only last if both parties mutually bring value to each other's lives. Sometimes the people we think will be by our sides forever aren't. It's perfectly fine to miss the ones who go but cherish the ones who stay. The world is full of so much that is beyond our control. As parents, we set limits to protect you. However, the truth is, we know we can't protect you forever. I'll do anything for you including fighting with 2000+ people to get you a ticket to a BTS concert. Spent a whole day in the car to get to a different state and sat in the cold for 3 hours just so you can see your favorite band. People think I am crazy but I bet to differ. You deserve it!
You have grown into an amazing young woman. You are beautiful, smart, and so caring. You shine in everything you do. Your little sister looks up to you so much. Please know how incredibly proud I am of you. It was always delighted to meet with your teachers. They had nothing but praise for you. Raising you is easy. You're mature, well-rounded and you take the responsibilities seriously. Even though I know I can always count on you, one day you'll make mistakes and sometimes, bad mistakes. The most important part is in the mistakes, hopefully you can find your pathway to resolution. Embrace those mistakes, learn from them and be a better person. Making mistakes is part of learning to choose well. We don't always get things right. I want you to try new things and meet new people. You never know what door will open if you just put yourself out there. I want you to build up your confidence because having a positive attitude and confidence will carry you far in this life. As you continue your journey, knowing that we are here to support you, to guide you every step of the way and to love you unconditionally. You'll always be our sweet girl and your little sister's biggest fan. You got this! Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Love you,
Mom, Dad and Madelyn

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

May Recap :: June Plans

I can't believe the year is half-way over already. Summer feeling is in full effect. The little one just started summer camp today and she's loving it. Her competitive gymnastics practice also started this week. Looking forward to a busy yet fun-filled summer with the family.
{Our outdoor bar creates the perfect atmosphere for entertaining friends and family}

May recap:
- Finished the 30 day fitness challenge and reached my goal weight
- Had an amazing cookout with friends on Memorial Day weekend
- Took the boat out for the first time this season
- Had an awesome weekend with the family in Chicago
- Unfortunately I didn't have time to put together our summer bucket list but so far, our weekends have been jam-packed with activities.

Looking forward to:
- Celebrating my first born's birthday. She will be 14!!!
- Taking the kids to Aruba for our annual summer vacation. We're all excited! Speaking of Aruba, if you have any suggestions/recommendations in terms of where to eat, what to do in Aruba, let me know. It'll be the first time visiting for all of us.
- Celebrating Father's Day
- Celebrating one of my dear friend's 40th birthday
MayPurchases_SydneysFashionDiary May purchases:
I bought a few things last month in preparation for our trip: The biggest purchase was this Gucci bag (I talked about it here). Total spent in May: $1985
- Target slides *an Hermes dupe and oh so comfortable. I want them in every color* - $19.99
- Matching swimsuits with the little one *$15.99 and the quality is amazing!*
- Swimsuit cover-up *another amazing Amazon find* - $15.99
- Levi's jeans *I am seriously obsessed with these jeans* - $98
- Old Navy rompers *bought 2 colors - so cute and affordable* - paid only $10 each
- Gucci mini Marmont top handle bag *new newest love* - $1800
- Target shorts *a basic pair of shorts with no rips *I took a size 0* - $15

Monday, June 3, 2019

GymShark's Biggest Sale (up to 70% off)

Now I exercise 5-6 times per week, I am always on the hunt for cute workout clothes. Today, I am sharing GymShark's biggest sale (up to 70% off). I love their workout clothes. The sale is live now! Things are selling out quickly. Please keep in mind that only certain styles/colors are part of the promotion. My links will take you directly to eligible items. I just ordered a complete matching set (3 pieces) from the Fleur collection for $31 (was $105)
Baby blue leggings *70% off*
Charcoal sports bra *70% off*
Baby blue long sleeve crop top *70% off*
Dusty pink 1/2 zip pullover *70% off*
Dusty pink tank *70% off*
Light grey sports bra *70% off*
Pink long line sports bra *70% off*
Black & grey leggings *70% off*
Black & grey tank top *70% off

Friday, May 31, 2019

30-Day Fitness Challenge Results

I mentioned in this post that I participated in a 30-day fitness challenge with a few of my co-workers. Today, I am sharing my results. Here's what I did for 30 days straight (no rest days in between)
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The results: At the end of the challenge, I lost almost 3lbs and the BFP (body fat percentage) went down almost 1%. For someone my size, 3 lbs is a lot of weight. Keep in mind that I lost the weight over the course of 30 days. Losing weight wasn't the only goal (although I am happy that I reached my desired weight). I participated in this challenge to push myself and hopefully, working out regularly becomes a habit.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

A belated birthday gift

I hope you all had a fun and relaxing long weekend. 3 days flew by so quick. We had a pretty eventful weekend with friends and family. The weather was nice enough to take the boat out for the first time this season. The kids had an absolute blast. We had a few cookouts with friends (they make the best crawfish). We managed to do a bit of shopping as well. Next thing I know it was time to go back to work =( The kids are officially out of school and ready for a fun summer ahead of us. In today's post, I wanted to share my husband's belated birthday gift (his birthday was in March). It's been a year in the making. He finally got a call from Rolex to pick up his Datejust 41mm watch. It's identical to my watch except the size. The date wasn't set correctly on my watch because I recently got an Apple watch and haven't worn this one in a couple of weeks. I will do a separate post to go over the buying process, this specific model, discounts and everything you need to know if you're interested in buying your very first Rolex. We're very proud of our accomplishment. We achieved what we set out to do. We appreciate the finer things in life like the boat and bucket list trips and enjoy those kinds of things with our family. However, as my husband says this matching set is something very special between just the two of us. It's something we will for sure pass down to the kids one day.

Friday, May 24, 2019

A Weekend In Chicago

We took a quick trip to Chicago last weekend for 2 reasons. 1. Took Courtney to one of BTS's world tour concerts. 2. Picked up my husband's belated birthday gift. It's been a year in the making. I'd have to share it in a later post. Any guesses? This was probably my 10th trip to Chicago. We go often since it's a quick 6 hour drive from where we live. Perfect spot for a weekend getaway. If you haven't been to Chicago, below are quick lists of what to do, where to eat/shop in the windy city. Outfit details: Free People top | Walmart jeans *only $10* | Chanel boy bag | Heart sunglasses *affordable version & designer version. Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone! Come back tomorrow for a sale roundup post if you're interested

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Designer Bags On Sale Feat. Gucci

One of my favorite sales is here and this time, Gucci bags are included (what??). Hurry up if you're interested in these items. They won't last long. I have always had a great experience purchasing from them.
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All Gucci sale styles:
1. Gucci super mini Marmont *sold out* (I own this bag)
2. Gucci belt (how adorable!)
3. Gucci wallet on chain
4. Gucci tan velvet bag
5. Gucci card holder *sold out*
6. Gucci mini velvet bag
7. Gucci earrings *sold out*
8. Gucci black wallet *sold out*