Do you read travel blogs during the trip planning process or are you looking for a new blog to get the travel juices flowing? If so, TripAdvisor can help! We love finding exciting travel blogs that share stories and tips about seeing the world, and we want to share those blogs with you. As part of a new series on the TripAdvisor website and blog, we’ll be sharing Q&A’s from some of the best travel bloggers out there. And, since we’ve recently highlighted family-friendly travel destinations with the Travelers’ Choice family awards, we thought what better way to kick off our blogger series than by introducing a blogger who is dedicated to sharing tips and tricks on family travel – Shannon Lane from TravelingMamas.com.
Tell us how and why you started your travel blog.
I started TravelingMamas.com as an outlet for myself and colleagues in the travel industry to share our travel experiences from a mom’s perspective. I had launched travel websites in the past and had toyed with various blog content management systems before deciding on the WordPress format. I registered the site and invited a few colleagues to contribute and the blog has grown tremendously from that point with new contributors coming onboard each week. I also like to share my experiences as a travel blogger and speaker on ShannonLane.com, my personal blog since 2005.
What’s your favorite hotel (and why)?
I’ve been to many fabulous hotels all around the world, making it hard to choose just one as a favorite. I will however, tell you some of my favorites in popular destinations:
Hawaii – Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort and Spa: This Hawaiian hotel has it all for families, couples, or groups of friends. You’re right on the beach, there are fireworks every Friday night, and it’s close to the action of Waikiki. For a first time visit to Hawaii, I think travelers will have a good home base to explore Oahu.
Orlando – (Walt Disney World) – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa: I recently visited WDW with no kids. Not only was it refreshing to go to a theme park without kids, but it was very relaxing. This is the most expensive Disney Resort on property, but you get what you pay for. Even for families with children they won’t go wrong for convenience. The Grand Floridian is on the monorail and is one stop away from the Magic Kingdom. There’s a beach, multiple swimming pools, and a touch of elegance in the middle of all the theme parks. Plus, with the added benefit of an onsite spa, how could I not love this place?
Las Vegas – Aria Casino Resort and Spa: The first time I stayed at Aria with a group of girlfriends. The second time I went for a conference and was solo. Both times I loved it. It is one of the newest casino hotels in Las Vegas and it is absolutely fabulous. I noticed many families walking around the hotel property, as well as couples and groups of friends. The air filter system is so amazing that I didn’t even notice a neighboring slot machine player smoking, so this makes it my favorite place in Las Vegas.
As you can see, I have favorite hotels in many destinations. My choice all depends on who I am traveling with and the reason for my visit.
What’s your favorite restaurant (and why)?
I love to eat and being a frequent traveler provides me many opportunities to indulge in culinary delights. I’m also a Louisiana girl, so it’s hard to beat Louisiana food. One of my favorite restaurants in the entire world is Brennan’s in New Orleans. It’s not cheap, so I don’t visit too often, but I do love to introduce this restaurant experience to out of town friends who are in New Orleans for a first visit. I always visit for brunch and order the same thing every time – The Three Course Prix Fixe. My choices are a mimosa as an eye-opener, New Orleans turtle soup as a starter, entree is half Eggs Sardou/half Eggs Benedict (sometimes I’ll go for Eggs Shannon), and dessert of Bananas Foster made in the place of it’s birth.
Please tell us about a “hidden gem”- a non-touristy, neighborhood restaurant, a hole-in-the-wall bar, or a great little shop you’ve discovered on your travels.
In New Orleans I always stop in Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, located at the corner of Bourbon Street and St. Phillip in the French Quarter. It’s set away from the touristy bars and is the oldest bar in the United States. What I love about it is that it is the former front for the Lafitte Brother’s smuggling operations. They are legendary Louisiana pirates and the building is still lit at night by candlelight.
What’s the best travel advice you could give a friend?
Always pack a swimsuit in your carry-on and when you’re on vacation, it’s okay to splurge. You work all year long, so don’t sell yourself short by going cheap on your trip. Be good to yourself. Oh, and make sure you have your phone charger easily accessible.
What’s the best travel advice you’ve found on TripAdvisor?
I’ve been an avid user of TripAdvisor for many years. While I realize more people will complain about a property before they’ll go out of their way to say something nice, it has still assisted me when I’m researching for upcoming trips. Just yesterday I was researching the NH Laguna Palace in Mestre, Venice, Italy for an upcoming trip to Italy and I found some information on a great local pizza place near the hotel. The traveler property reviews always have some tips or tidbits for navigating around the properties, how to request a better located room, and just good advice. I can’t pinpoint one good fact because I always find something useful for my own personal travel planning.
Please tell us about your best and worst travel experiences.
My best travel experience was at El Monte Sagrado in Taos, New Mexico. It was an amazing moment of girl power when a group of us went to the sacred circle onsite under the stars. Awesome travel moment. My worst travel experience was a romantic getaway with my husband to Cancun at Hotel Solymar. It was fine to leave our luggage while we explored, but beyond that it was a total waste of money.
If someone was visiting your hometown, what would you recommend they do/see?
Many people assume I live in New Orleans, but I actually reside in a suburb of Baton Rouge in Zachary, LA. Within walking distance of my house is one of the last Juke Joints left in America – Teddy’s Juke Joint. Cool place that serves up soul food and the blues. Also, Zachary is a city with a small town feel and I think we have more nail salons per capita than anywhere else in the world. We also boast three amazing golf courses, a number of day spas, and plenty of restaurants serving good, southern cuisine. We’re also near Port Hudson State Historic Site, site of the longest seige on the Mississippi River during the U.S. Civil War.
If you could go anywhere in the world on your next vacation, where would you go?
I’ve always wanted to visit Scotland.