Travel & Join The Panama Canal’s Centennial Celebration

clip_image001

Traveler,
A constant staple on travelers’ bucket lists, the Panama Canal is a man-made masterpiece of pure engineering prowess and ingenuity that must be seen to be believed. And, during its amazing 2014 centennial and our 50th anniversary in 2015, Princess has an assortment of 11- to 20-day adventures — including two festive cruises on December 18 and 29 — starting from $899!*
The canal was meant to be seen from the sea, so be sure to book a balcony for the very best views. Look on in awe as each massive Lock opens and closes raising or lowering the ship, stroll the streets of Cartagena’s beautiful colonial Walled City — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and see Costa Rica’s lush rainforest and exotic array of wildlife including scarlett macaws.

 
     

clip_image002

PANAMA CANAL (PARTIAL TRANSIT)
RT Ft. Lauderdale
Coral Princess® or Island Princess®

11-day | 2014: Oct 7, 12, 18^, 29^; Nov 9, 20^, 26^; Dec 1, 7, 12, 18^, 23^, 29^;
2015: Jan 3^, 9, 14^, 25; Feb 5^, 16, 27;
Mar 10, 21^; Apr 1^
Ports: Ft. Lauderdale, Aruba, Cartagena, Panama Canal, Colón, Costa Rica (Limón), Ocho Rios, Ft. Lauderdale

 

clip_image003

^Grand Cayman or Princess Cays replaces Ocho Rios.

 
     
 
     

clip_image002[1]

PANAMA CANAL (2-Day Canal EXPERIENCE)
Between Ft. Lauderdale and Los Angeles
Island Princess®

15-day | 2015: Feb 19; Mar 6^
Ports:
Ft. Lauderdale, Aruba, Cartagena, 2-Day Canal Experience (Full transit of the Panama Canal including the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun Locks; Fuerte Amador), Costa Rica (Puntarenas), Puerto Chiapas, Los Angeles

 

clip_image003[1]

^Puerto Quetzal replaces Puerto Chiapas and itinerary operates in reverse order.

 
     
 
 
 
     

clip_image002[2]

PANAMA CANAL (FULL TRANSIT)
Between Ft. Lauderdale and Los Angeles
Coral Princess® or Island Princess®

15-day | 2014: Oct 27; Nov 11;
2015: Jan 20; Feb 4^; Apr 12
Ports: Ft. Lauderdale, Aruba, Cartagena, Panama Canal, Costa Rica (Puntarenas), Nicaragua (San Juan del Sur), Cabo San Lucas, Los Angeles

 

clip_image003[2]

^Itinerary operates in reverse order.

 
     
 
     

clip_image002[3]

PANAMA CANAL (FULL TRANSIT)
From Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles
Pacific Princess®

17-day | 2015: Apr 28
Ports: Ft. Lauderdale, Curacao, Cartagena, Panama Canal (Full transit of the Panama Canal including the Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun Locks), Puerto Quepos, Costa Rica (Puntarenas), Topolobampo, Cabo San Lucas, Los Angeles

 
     
 

FOR MORE INFORMATION: sales@vacationadventuresunlimited.com

MAIA Luxury Resort & Spa in the Seychelles “BEYOND All-Inclusive”

MAIA Luxury Resort & Spa in Mahé, Seychelles introduces the new “BEYOND All-Inclusive” concept beginning November 1, 2014. This new approach includes a myriad of services such as a dedicated butler, high-speed Wi-Fi, complimentary laundry service, all daily meals, soft drinks and premium alcoholic beverages as well as food a la carte on a “Whatever, Wherever, Whenever” basis. Additional activities introduced include morning Yoga or Qi Gong, non-motorized sports plus unlimited scuba diving.

image

Located on 30 acres of award-winning gardens on the main island of Mahé, MAIA Luxury Resort & Spa features 30 private villas, all with 180-degree uninterrupted sea views. While staying at MAIA guests can choose between two villa categories, the “Ocean Panoramic” villas or the “MAIA Signature” villas. Designed by leading architect Bill Bensley, each villa offers guests the perfect escape while vacationing at MAIA. Dotting the hillside are the nineteen Ocean Panoramic villas, each offering guests exquisite views of MAIA’s lush gardens and the blue waters of the ocean below. Additionally, the eleven “MAIA Signature” villas are located closer to the shore and provide guests direct access to the surf and sand. Guests booking the “MAIA Signature” villa also enjoy additional inclusions like early check-in and late check-out, their choice of Champagne as well as in-villa offerings such as daily private yoga, one-time mani-pedi, and a specially prepared barbecue.

image

Other experiences available for guests to book at an additional cost include private fishing and scuba diving excursions or scenic flights from MAIA’s on-site helipad to the surrounding islands. Guests who prefer to relax at the spa can visit MAIA’s Balinese-style spa, which offers an array of exotic treatments and features world-class Omorovicza products. The Gold Apres Soleil Facial is exclusive to the resort, as is the “20 Dancing Fingers” massage delivered by two members of the highly-trained staff, accompanied by flautist.

Things to do on an Evening Out in New York

There are some locations around the world that are on almost everyone’s list of places they would love to visit. New York is definitely one of these and this famous city is a fantastic place to have an evening out. For those that visit and plan to do this, the following are some of the top activities to enjoy.

Events

The indoor arena Madison Square Garden is a prime center for special events in New York and a perfect place for an evening out. The Garden is a venue for all types of entertainment and whether you want to watch some professional sport, a music concert, a circus, or some other type of show, you are sure to find something to suit. The current venue is the fourth to bear the Madison Square Garden name and has been welcoming guests since the late 1960s. This, perhaps, is one of the reasons that sights and sounds of New York never fail to attract people to its lovely city.

hershey's

Sights

Times Square goes by the nickname The Crossroads of the World and is a must-see location in New York. It is one of the busiest intersections in the world, with the flow of humanity passing by and huge electronic billboards having to be seen to be believed. It is also the center of New York’s Broadway District, so after viewing the square you can go on to enjoy a show. A visit to the Empire State Building is obligatory on a New York trip and this iconic building has stood in place since 1931. With observation decks on the 86th and 102nd floors, it is the ultimate location for city views.

Dining

Dining in a restaurant with a view offers the chance to enjoy some good food and impressive city scenery. The sights of Central Park can be seen from the restaurant on the 9th floor of the Museum of Arts & Design, while Riverpark in the Alexandria Center serves favorite American dishes and looks out over the East River. For a view of the city’s evening skyline, visit the Mandarin Oriental’s 35th floor restaurant, Asiate.
The sights and sounds of New York are definitely something to savor and there is a huge choice of things to see and do on an evening out. Those shown above are just a few of the many options that are available in and around the city. This means that anyone on a New York vacation will fend plenty to make it an enjoyable experience.

Winding Down Summer With Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels

This is a sponsored post.

This summer has gone by in the blink of an eye. I spent 3 consecutive weeks on the road in July and August, attending BlogHer and visiting family and friends in California, doing a day trip in Washington, then heading on back-to-back trips in Arkansas and North Carolina for upcoming projects on MomStart. Suffice to say, I’ve been spending a lot of time in hotels recently! As Labor Day weekend quickly approaches, you may be plotting your own family vacation as the last hurrah of summer, so I wanted to point out Choice Hotels as a resource while your plan your travel.

Boasting nearly 6,400 hotels in the US and abroad, Choice Hotels are likely to have a location almost anywhere that your summer adventure takes you. They hosted over 67 million guests in 2013 alone – wow! Finding a room is easy: When you visit ChoiceHotels.com, you’ll find a search box where you can enter your destination and visit dates, which will show you what hotels are in that area. Choice Hotels is a franchise including 11 brands, ranging from Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites to Sleep Inn, Cambria, Quality, and more, which makes it easy to find a room. The Comfort Inn and Comfort Suites brands are also investing heavily in their franchises to add more value, taking feedback from 10,000 guests and franchise owners to get ideas on what would enhance their experience the most. Unsurprisingly, sleep and food ranked most important to travelers, so Comfort responded by rolling out 1.2 million new pillows into their rooms after choosing a favorite from the 100 pillow types they tested. That must have been a rough job. ;)

After guests finish a night of sleeping on their comfy pillow, they can also enjoy Comfort’s free breakfast buffet, with tons of filling and healthy options like eggs, meat, yogurt, fruit, and waffles. Did you know that Comfort is the only hotel where you’ll be able to have fresh flavored waffles made on the spot? Last year, they served approximately 25 million waffles – if you lined all of those waffles up side by side, you’d have 3,000 miles of waffles – almost the distance of traveling from Los Angeles to New York City. I think all travel should be measured in waffles, don’t you? And however many miles you’ll be traveling this summer, you’re sure to find a place to rest with Choice Hotels along the way.

#VacayGoneCrayCray Contest Reminder!

Don’t forget, there’s still time to share your funniest travel mishap story for a chance to win a cool $10,000! For more details and to enter, visit VacayGoneCrayCray.com – but hurry, submissions close on August 27th!

Are you planning any end-of-summer trips? Have you stayed at a Choice Hotels location before?

Watch As Endangered Sea Turtle Lays Nest on Beach @harbourvillageb #Travel

Humans aren’t the only ones drawn to Harbour Village Beach Club’ serene, sandy shore. The resort recently welcomed what scientists believe is a repeat guest: a critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtle, who laid a nest of about 100 eggs near where it likely hatched 17 years ago.

turtles

The hatchlings are expected to emerge from the eggs and scramble through the sand and into the sea between September 5 – 15. To capture the moment and help educate people about these magnificent creatures, Harbour Village is working with Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire to set up a live web cam and nightly watches near the nest beginning the week of August 18. Updates will be posted at http://www.harbourvillage.com/turtlecam.html

"This is something we want to share not only with our guests but with everyone interested in learning about sea turtles and how we can help protect them," said Jean-Marc Petin, General Manager of Harbour Village Beach Club. "We will catch the hatching live on camera, and Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire will provide volunteers to sit with the nest each evening around hatching time to document the event and notify guests when to come and watch the turtles come out of the nest."

Harbour Village Beach Club is located on a four-acre private peninsula on Bonaire’s mainland. The nest, currently marked and roped off so as not to be disturbed, is located near the resort’s dive shop.

Bonaire is home to three of the seven species of sea turtles in the world: hawksbills, green turtles and loggerheads. Hawksbill turtles weigh up to 185 pounds and prefer calm, tropical waters near coral reefs. They come ashore only to nest. The turtle who laid the nest at Harbour Village came onto the beach on July 12. A Hawksbill turtle laid her eggs near the same spot in 1997. Since sea turtles usually return to next where they hatched to nest, local scientists believe the turtle was likely one of those hatchlings.

In addition to sea turtles, the Caribbean waters surrounding Bonaire teems with a wide variety of marine life. The island is designated as having the most pristine coral reef environment and most species of fish in the Caribbean by the NOAA and is consistently named Best Overall Dive Destination by Scuba Diving Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Awards. Due to the island’s leeward location outside of the hurricane belt, and its consistently pleasant climate, crystal-clear visibility prevails at any depth and gives an enthralling view of the undersea landscape. On land, Bonaire is also home to the world’s largest pink flamingo nesting grounds.

Dive sites just off Harbour Village’s shore include the shipwreck of the 60-foot "Our Confidence," located just 50 yards out, while another popular dive site, "Something Special," is also a short swim away. The resort also offers florescence night diving, allowing guests to use special UV lights to see the astounding array of florescent colors emitted by underwater animals and corals.

For more information on Bonaire and Harbour Village Beach Club, visit the luxury hotel’s website at http://www.harbourvillage.com/ or call 1-800-424-0004. To access the resort’s Turtlecam, visit : http://www.harbourvillage.com/turtlecam.html.

Crystal Cruises Luxury Line Offering Infants Children’s & Teens Programs

For grandparents and families that want luxury travel with children or grandchildren, Crystal Cruises has made it an easy choice to cruise together in luxury, according to Ross Spalding, President-Crown Cruise Vacations.  Crystal offers one of the most comprehensive children’s programs at sea with outstanding offerings that exceed even the highest expectations.

Sophisticated cruise specialists at Crown Cruise Vacations provide exclusive offers, exceptional value & unparalleled service and can assist with any cruise information and booking.

image

Overview of the Children’s Program

Crystal Cruises’ extraordinary commitment to excellence and quality of experience applies to guests of all ages. Space dedicated to children is rare on luxury ships, yet Crystal has designed its ships to accommodate multiple generations. Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity offer spacious staterooms in a range of categories as well as suites, third berths, and connecting staterooms, child-friendly cuisine, highly acclaimed children’s programs on select sailings with activities for children ages 3-17, a Fantasia playroom, and a video arcade for teens. During holiday cruises, summer sailings and other selected itineraries, additional children’s activities are offered under the supervision of experienced Junior Activities Directors. For parents longing for some time on their own, all vessels offer in-stateroom babysitting.

The Facilities for Families
Many facilities on Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity were designed with young guests in mind. Fantasia has supervised activities, tables and chairs for board games, arts and crafts, giant padded cubes, puzzles, and large-screen televisions with kid-sized stadium seating. Teenagers enjoy the Waves video arcade, which has Sony PlayStation® 2, Nintendo Wii™ and Xbox 360TM kiosks. The Library offers a selection of children’s books and videos for in-room viewing; children can also see recently released films in The Hollywood Theatre.

The Activities for Children

Crystal Cruises offers children a broad choice of organized activities and entertainment options. A daily Surf Runner newsletter provides details on the following day’s activity schedule, tailored by age group, available on cruises that typically have many children (summer cruises, shorter itineraries and holiday sailings):

  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Hide and Seek
  • Story Times / Ice cream / Pajama Parties
  • Stretch-ercise / Dress-up Playtime
  • Bridge / Galley tours
  • Cookie Baking / Pizza making
  • Fashion Shows / Coke-tails / card games
  • Karaoke / Special Artists’ Performances
  • Mask Parade / Trivia
  • Movies / Dancing
  • Mini Olympics / Relay Races
  • Pool Games / Paddle tennis
  • Water Polo / Swimming
  • Shuffleboard / Volleyball
  • Late Night Pool Parties / Teen disco
  • Trivial Pursuit Teen karaoke
  • Twister Popcorn Parties
  • Pizza Parties Computer University@Sea®
  • E-mail Services

The Children’s Dining

Crystal’s executive chefs and other culinary staff can prepare custom dishes and items comparable to those found on shoreside kids’ menus. Baby food, high chairs and booster seats are available on request. In addition to meals in the Crystal Dining Room and specialty restaurants, the Trident Grill & Ice Cream Bar serves complimentary hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, and sandwiches as well as ice cream, non-fat yogurt and cookies throughout the afternoon.

Babysitting Services
All vessels offer in-stateroom babysitting for children over the age of 1. Arrangements can easily be made by contacting the concierge at least 24 hours in advance. Fees are $10 per hour for one child, $15 per hour for two children and $20 per hour for three children. To satisfy safety concerns, the maximum number of children/babies watched by one babysitter is three.

Family Savings

Children 11 and younger occupying the third berth pay 50 percent of the minimum fare when accompanied by two full-fare paying adults. Throughout the year, the line occasionally sets special promotions in which children can sail free when sharing a room with two adults.

Family Accommodations
Crystal Symphony offers ten connecting staterooms and 89 staterooms with a third berth available. On Crystal Serenity, there are 50 connecting staterooms and 154 staterooms with a third berth available.

Please note: Crystal Cruises is unable to accommodate children less than 6 months of age and reserves the right to restrict the number of those less than 3 years of age aboard the ships

Tweens/Teens

Teen Program (ages 13 – 17)

Daytime Activities

  • Sony Playstation® 2, Nintendo® Xbox 360 and Wii Tournaments
  • Afternoon Games in the Bridge Lounge
  • Afternoon Movie in the Hollywood Theatre
  • CU@Sea classes in the computer lab
  • Golf Pro Educational Classes
  • Clue Hunt
  • Paddle Tennis
  • Table Tennis
  • Shuffle Board
  • Golfing Range
  • Fitness Classes with the Fitness Director (ages 16+) Library
  • Lectures – Destination and Special Guest
  • Backstage Tour
  • Galley Tour
  • Teen Trivia
  • Teen Bingo

Night Time Activities and Theme Nights

  • Poker Night
  • Texas Hold Em Tournament
  • Karaoke Night
  • Movie Night – in Fantasia or the Hollywood Theatre
  • Disco Night
  • Pictionary Night
  • Game Night in the Bridge Lounge
  • “Coke”tails – meet and greet for teens
  • Liar’s Club – hosted by the Cruise Director, for all guests on board. Check Reflections for time and location.
  • Liar’s Club – teen version hosted by the Junior Activities Director.
  • Pool and Hot Tub Party Hangout
  • Paddle Tennis Tournament
  • Casual Dining with Friends in the Lido
  • Toga Party
  • Destination Party – with themes planned according to where the ship is sailing
  • “What if” Conversation Starters
  • Five Minute Mysteries
  • Murder Mystery Night
  • Sail-away Party

Infant/Toddler

  • Crystal Cruises is unable to accommodate children less than 6 months of age and reserves the right to restrict the number of those less than 3 years of age aboard the ships. There are no formal programs for children under 3.

Safety 1st Keep The Road Trip Car Organized #OurSummerJourney @Safety_1st

This is a partnered post and opinions are our own.

Unless you just started reading MomStart today, you already know I am a huge fan of road trips. I’m not afraid to just load up the family on a whim and travel somewhere. This year we’ve driving to San Francisco, The red wood forest, The Oregon Coast, LA, and Disneyland. We love road trips.

One thing I can say is that when we get back from road trips the car is a disaster. So we’ve recently teamed up with Safety 1st. to keep our car in better shape during our latest travels. We received a few organizational products, the Car Door Sanitation Station , the Just-in-Case Storage Station , and the Incognito™ Kid-Positioning Seat – Gray for review. They have helped so much. Not even ten minutes into our car ride today did my daughter start yelling eww grose Miles. I popped my head around and he had his protein bar melted in his hand playing with his truck at the same time. I was just thinking to myself, come on kid you know better than that. Really? I was grateful though that I had the Car Door Sanitation loaded up so I was easily able to grab some baby wipes and pass them back.

image

The kids love to color and draw and play with toys. Plus it’s nice to have snacks within their reach, the Just in Case Storage case has five different sections with pockets in a few of the sections allowing you to keep the car organized and the kids happy.

image

See Miles coloring:

 image

We’re about to head off to Florida to finish off our summer vacations because school doesn’t start until September. If you are in the same boat as us, don’t be afraid to take a road trip and use Safety 1St to help you along the way.

Safety 1st would like to know your summer journey stories too. Let us know where you have been.

image

And Visit and like Safety 1St on Facebook to win a grand prize travel kit.

Top Destinations in North America

This is a partnered guest post.

Summer or winter, North America offers a huge selection of beautiful natural scenery from pristine white sand beaches to lakes and spectacular mountains where you can have the vacation of a lifetime. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend at the beach or a week of fly-fishing in the mountains, you have a wide selection of locations from which to choose.

Vacations are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, but many people are too busy to make plans that give them the experience they want at budget-friendly prices. An example of a company that can do it all for you is Outdoor Traveler Destinations. It is much easier and less time-consuming to have all the places, prices, accommodations and travel guides in one place.

Florida is a famous winter vacation destination. It offers sun, sand and all the water sports you can think of as a getaway from the winter blues. Boating, fishing, diving and snorkeling are just the beginning of the activities that are available. Key West offers a Sunset Celebration every evening with live music, street performers, open-air bars and cafes all with the gorgeous sunset as the backdrop. You could also spend a weekend in Miami and enjoy the non-stop nightlife and world-class people watching on South Beach.

Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, offers summer and winter fun, including angling and fly-fishing, backpacking and trekking through the Canadian Rockies and spectacular mountain biking. Bird watching is also a great pastime in the spring and summer. For the experienced canoeist, there is the Bow River with its calm waters. It offers a beautiful experience in the outdoors. There is also horseback riding, hot springs and diving in underwater archeological sites. In the winter, skiing is king with cross-country skiing that is suitable for experts and beginners. There’s also ice skating for everyone.

On the eastern side of North America, there is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Appalachian Trail. Tennessee is full of outdoor adventure possibilities and historical places. This is a great place for families to spend a vacation. There are activities available for everyone and accommodations with outdoor hot tubs, swimming pools and special activities arranged for children.

Would you like to spend the weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, without giving up your outdoor activities? The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest offers fresh mountain air and cool daily temperatures where you can enjoy log cabin charm. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails and, in the winter, skiing and snowboarding just a couple hours away from all the glitz and glamour of the Las Vegas Strip.

If visiting true wilderness is your idea of a great vacation, there are several places in Alaska that offer excellent, comfortable accommodations and give you access to Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley, which is one of the most popular outdoor adventure destinations in the world. There is also fantastic salmon and halibut fishing nearby.

Palm Springs, California is famous for golf courses, beautiful high desert scenery and luxury resorts with spas, poolside cabana bars, fitness rooms, salons and fabulous shopping. When you stroll among the world-class shops, don’t be surprised if you see a familiar face. Celebrities and movie stars have been vacationing in Palm Springs for decades.

My Alabama Roadtrip in The 2015 Hyundai Sonata #NewSonata

Roadtrip with the 2015 Sonata!

All travel consideration provided by Hyundai.

As I mentioned yesterday, we finished our tour of Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama by getting into a 2015 Hyundai Sonata and driving it straight off the assembly line. This was something of a “Surprise roadtrip” – I knew we’d be test-driving the new vehicles, but I didn’t realize we would spend the whole day driving through the Alabama countryside by ourselves. This was my first-ever visit to the state, so it was a true adventure to step right into a brand new vehicle and start driving in a new area, armed just with a book of directions – part of the challenge was that we were asked not to use the GPS, so this just added to the mystery!

I was paired up with Tonya of The Traveling Praters, who would be my driving partner for the duration of the trip. We both drove two legs of the roadtrip in two different vehicles: The 2015 Sonata base model and the 2015 Sonata Sport 2.0T. Our goal was to drive from HMMA to Pursell Farms for lunch, then head back to the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel where we were staying.

Beeb driving the 2015 Sonata

Driving the 2015 Hyundai Sonata: Leg 1

I drove the first leg of the journey, getting into a brand-new Sonata that was parked on the assembly line. We tried to get some snapshots of the car before we started, as bloggers do, but once I felt the assembly line start to move I knew we had to hurry up before it rolled away. ;) I actually pulled over in the parking lot so I’d have a minute to properly adjust the mirrors and make sure I could reach the pedals – ha!

Tonya read from our instruction book and told me where to drive from the plant. It was a total mystery to both of us and a true adventure to be in the middle of nowhere in an unfamiliar car, unsure of your destination. The 2015 Sonata has a ton of great features including full iPhone integration with Apple CarPlay and a built-in USB charger that Tonya and I used to keep our devices charged up; but I must say that I didn’t really spend much time taking advantage of all the car could do, because my attention was fully on trying to find our destination and drive safely. For the first half of the drive, I was white-knuckled on the steering wheel trying to navigate through lanes on an unfamiliar Alabama freeway and make sure I didn’t miss a turn. I’m what you might call a defensive/anxious/uptight driver, so I don’t like to mess with settings on the car and be distracted while I’m driving. There wasn’t a great deal of time to stop and get familiar with the vehicle as we were on a schedule for getting to lunch and didn’t want to hold anyone up, but once we got off the freeways and into the countryside, we did make a few quick pit stops for photo opps!

Alabama countryside

Since this was my first time in the state, I thought it was great that we got to drive through the country and see things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Although I didn’t take advantage of all the Sonata’s bells and whistles, it did leave an impression on me as a comfortable, easy-to-drive vehicle. It was smooth to drive and I didn’t have to worry about anything other than trying to figure out where I was – I thought that was a testament to it; had I hopped into a vehicle with poor visibility or unintuitive controls, it would have made the drive a lot harder.

Beeb in the Alabama countryside

There was a pit stop at Shaylee’s Place gas station where we enjoyed yummy sno-balls from NOLA Ice and switched places. Tonya drove us from the gas station to Pursell Farms, a beautiful property in Sylacauga.

Mooooooo!

We had a really great time at lunch – I ate fried pickles and chatted with my friends, who had me literally crying with laughter at their stories! It was the perfect way to relax after biting my nails during the first half of the drive, so when it came time for us to leave and drive the third leg of the journey, I was a lot more relaxed.

Driving the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T: Leg 3

I drove my final leg of the journey from Pursell Farms back to Shaylee’s Place gas station in the 2015 Sonata Sport 2.0T. This model has a turbocharged engine and is a lot of fun to drive – I think part of that is user bias since the drive back was less stressful for me and thus more enjoyable by default, but the Sport 2.0T also handles very nicely and is just a nice ride in general. It was definitely my personal favorite!

Sheep

We stopped at a railroad crossing at one point during the journey, and while we were parked and waiting for the train, the people in the car in front of us did a less-dangerous variation of “Ghostriding the whip”, where the driver and passenger got out of the car, ran around it in a circle, and got back in. It would’ve made a perfect Vine video if we’d been fast enough to catch it. ;)

The long and winding road

I had more opportunity to use some of the features in the Sonata on the way home, so I did flip through stations on the Sirius XM/FM/AM stereo and managed to find one that had an interview with Adam Levine, because of course I did. With pop tunes going, I cruised through the winding country roads and had so much fun with Tonya. Our adventure was a true bonding experience! At one point, we were deep into a girly conversation about hair products when Tonya said, “Oh no, I forgot to tell you to turn!” We had gotten just a little bit distracted. ;) Fortunately, the highway we were on had many easy turnoff areas where you could make a U-turn and get on the other side, so I simply pulled into one of these. As I prepared to make my turn, I wanted to make sure I pulled out at an appropriate speed to keep up with traffic. In the Sonata base model, I noticed that it did take a little bit of a push to get up to speed, so I pushed the gas pedal down accordingly; however, the Sport 2.0T has no hesitation getting up to speed, so I completely peeled out and flew into my turn, tires screeching and literally burning rubber and leaving black marks on the highway behind me. We both started cracking up! Tonya, my condolences on being trapped in a car with me for that long! ;)

Beeb and Tonya

We made it back to our hotel and snapped one last pic in the car. What a grand adventure we had together! I’ll never forget my experience on this road trip, from driving out of the assembly plant to winding through country roads next to buzzards. Both the 2015 Sonata base and Sport models made it easy to drive and find my way in a new place. The handling is good – it’s the type of midsize car I feel most comfortable in, but with the leg room and spacious interior of a larger vehicle. Living in Seaside, Jai and I make a lot of short road trips similar in length to my Alabama drive – this week alone, Jai has made three round-trip drives to Portland and one to Seattle – so the route we took was actually pretty similar to much of the driving I do at home. I could definitely see us driving a vehicle like the 2015 Sonata in our day-to-day life!

What’s the most memorable road trip you’ve ever taken?

Touring The Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama Plant

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama

Travel consideration courtesy Hyundai.

At the end of June, I flew to Montgomery, Alabama for the first time to visit the Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama plant. This is the first Hyundai assembly & manufacturing plant in the US, and is also hailed as one of the most advanced. I was eager to get behind the scenes and see how their cars are put together – from start to finish!

Golf carts

Our group loaded into golf carts, donning safety glasses and a headset with an audio tour.

HMMA

Although HMMA is open to the public for reserved tours, photography is usually prohibited; but since we were members of the media, they allowed us to bring our cameras inside to capture a rare glimpse inside the plant!

Welcome Journalists

The tour starts at the stamping shop and winds through the welding and paint shops before stopping at general assembly, test track, and the engine shop.

Plant tour

Cars being made

Car being assembled

As we wound through the plant, we saw the employees working on each stage of the vehicle. We also saw some of the areas they have inside the plant for everyone who works at the plant, including a gym and cafeteria. The HMMA plant workers are rotated out of their post in the assembly line all through the day and switched to different tasks, which is done to prevent both repetitive stress injuries as well as boredom.

Assembly line

The employees work side-by-side with robotic machinery, which was really something to behold. We all know that the technology which goes into modern manufacturing is very complex, but you don’t often see it with your own eyes. Watching the robots at work was one of my favorite parts of the tour – check out this video I took during the tour. It looked like a scene out of The Matrix to me:

These little transport robots drive around the plant carrying parts:

As we finished our tour, we came to an assembly line filled with brand new 2015 Hyundai Sonatas. From here, we got into one of the cars and drove it fresh off the plant with nothing but a map guiding us to a mysterious location for lunch.

Brand new Sonatas

The assembly line literally started moving under my feet right after this photo was taken, so we quickly hopped into the car before it rolled away! ;) I drove the first leg of our journey, and I can’t think of a bigger adventure than stepping into a freshly-made car anddriving it off the assembly line into the countryside in a state I’ve never visited before!

2015 Hyundai Sonata

I have so many fun stories to share from our big road trip adventure, so stay tuned tomorrow for part two of my Alabama adventures with Hyundai!