Tricks to Dining Out as a Family without Breaking the Bank

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Dining out as a family is a fantastic thing to do, both for parents and kids. Some people might say that children don’t belong in restaurants. But enjoying a meal out, whether it’s fast food or somewhere fancy, is a great way for kids to learn their manners. You can spend time together as a family and have valuable conversations while you eat. It gives parents a chance to have a meal without cooking, and without having to find a babysitter. But dining out when you’re on a budget can be a little difficult. If there’s four, five or even more of you, your meal can get expensive. However, it’s easy to find ways to save.

Find Somewhere to Eat in Advance

Before you go out to eat, it’s best to choose somewhere to go if you’re trying to save money. While wandering around and picking a restaurant on a whim is fun, it’s not the smartest strategy. You might not be able to find somewhere in your price range or getting a table could be hard. When you’ve got hungry kids with you, you don’t want to make them wait. If you find somewhere beforehand, you can also check the prices. Some restaurant menu info can be found on the restaurant’s website. Other information on meals and prices will be collected elsewhere on the Internet. If there are no exact prices, you can find a general price range.

Look for Places Where Kids Eat Free

Depending on what sort of restaurant you choose, you can find many places where kids can eat free. There might be conditions attached to this, so it’s important to be aware of the rules. For example, sometimes it’s one child per adult that pays for a meal. So if you’ve got two parents and three kids, you’ll be out of luck. In some restaurants, a child could mean under 12, while in others they might be under 6. The offer might also only apply during certain times or days.

Look for Small Plates

Adventurous kids don’t want to stick to the kids’ menu all the time. And if they do, you could even end up spending more money. If you want to avoid chicken nuggets and burgers, forget the children’s menu. Look at other options that come in small portions so your kids get to try something new. You can consider side dishes, which will often make a great meal on their own. There’s also appetizers, as well as half portions. Many restaurants will offer smaller portions of their usual plates instead of a kids’ menu.

Share Your Food

When you’ve ordered your own delicious food, you might not want to share. But if you find you often only get halfway through a large restaurant portion, don’t let it go to waste. Ask if you can have extra plates and dole out a little of it to your kids. Remember, they don’t need to eat as much as you. And if you’re having several courses, they’ll certainly get enough over the course of the meal.

Eating out as a family doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you want to save, approach it smartly and plan in advance.

Tips for Dining with a Toddler on Vacation (or anywhere, really)

Dining with a Toddler on Vacation - 3 Tips from a Family Travel Blogger
Dining with a toddler while on vacation might not sound like the most enjoyable experience, but if you take the kiddos along, you have no other option (unless they stay in the kids club).  As a travel blogger, it’s part of my job to experience each all-inclusive family vacation destination with the kiddos and by doing that, I’ve learned three valuable tips that I’d like to share with you.
When we visited Beaches Turks and Caicos Resort Villages and Spa, my oldest was four and my youngest was just about one.  My oldest loved the kids club but chose to dine with us every night and my youngest was in “cling to momma” mode, so she came everywhere with me.  Thankfully, all of the restaurants at Beaches were super accommodating and understanding.
The truth is, teaching kids to behave themselves in adult environments only works if you actually bring them around adult environments.  There’s nothing wrong with taking them to nice restaurants and teaching them good table manners, especially at a family-friendly resort.

Tip #1 – Don’t worry about other diners.  

Kids talk loudly, they occasionally scream and they like to drop the silverware.  Everyone knows this!

With my first child, I would cringe inside when she would cry or act out at the dinner table while on vacation.  It took me until she was about three to realize that she was bothering me way more than she was bothering other diners.  In fact, most of them thought she was cute.  If you’re on vacation with your kids, you’re most likely at a family-friendly vacation destination.  Honeymooners or couples that are looking to escape the kiddish atmosphere most likely wouldn’t be staying there anyways.

Tip #2 – Order your kids’ food first or keep them distracted with bread and shiny silverware.

I actually learned this on a cruise when my oldest was about two.  One of the staff members suggested that he bring her meal first to keep her distracted.  It worked like a charm and we’ve done this ever since.  In some instances, though, the kids finish before the adults which creates another need to distract them.  What a great time to order dessert!  After all, you’re on vacation and if you’re staying at Beaches, it’s all-inclusive so order every dessert on the menu.
My little one has plenty of fun playing with a spoon and a piece of bread, so if the restaurant brings bread before your meal, tell the waiter to keep it coming – and warn them that most of it might end up on the ground.
Some restaurants offer kids crayons and a menu to color, but this has never worked to distract my girls very long.  The crayons usually end up on the ground with the bread crumbs.

Tip # 3 – Ask for a kid-friendly cup and extra straws!

I don’t know what it is about those Beaches bendy straws but my girls couldn’t get enough of them.  From what I’ve read from other Beaches Moms and Dads, their kids loved them, too.  No matter where you’re dining, though, they most likely have a kid-friendly drink option for your little ones.
My girls love to play with straws and swirl them around in their drinks, but more often than not, the straws end up on the ground.  Having an extra straw (or five) within arm’s reach is always a good idea to avoid meltdowns.
Also, don’t be afraid to have the waiter remove any glasses that you don’t need from the table, if they haven’t done so already.
And when all else fails, hand them the iPhone!

Do you have any tips for dining with little ones?

This article was sponsored in part by:

Azul Sensatori Resort by Karisma – Riviera Maya, Mexico

I received complimentary meals and transfers to facilitate my tour and review of Azul Sensatori Mexico.  Any information shared is based on my own personal experience.
Azul Sensatori Resort by Karisma
Azul Sensatori Mexico by Karisma Hotels is another awesome family friendly vacation destination in Riviera Maya.  This resort has all the great qualities of the Azul Beach Resort, but in a larger scale with 438 fully appointed rooms – including honeymoon suites, presidential suites, swim up suites, complete with private outdoor hot tubs, and of course family suites with everything from strollers to bottle warmers.  Kids can also indulge in the fantastic Nickelodeon Experience at Azul Sensatori Mexico!

Azul Sensatori Mexico also has its’ own adult buildings, with accompanying pool/bar areas with in-water lounge chairs.  Everywhere you turn there is beautiful blue water at Azul Sensatori!  Being a larger resort, Sensatori also has a few other activities like tennis, pool volleyball, beach boot camp, water polo, tug of war games, a teen club with live DJ, arcade, conversation pits, and pool tables.
Azul Sensatori Resort by Karisma
We had the pleasure of having a meal at the Zocalo Mexican Restaurant at Azul Sensatori.  Fabulous food, excellent service, and beautiful sunset views from the large picture windows!
Azul Sensatori Resort by Karisma
Azul Sensatori Resort by Karisma
Azul Sensatori Resort by Karisma
The Nickelodeon Experience at Azul Sensatori will be something your children will remember forever!  They will feel like celebrities at the Orange Carpet event, with paparazzi taking their pictures with all the Nickelodeon characters!  The Nickelodeon staff put on such a high level energy show and encourage audience dancing and participation.  I saw quite a few sleepy kids being carried back to their rooms after this event!
Azul Sensatori Resort by Karisma
In addition to the Nick Experience, there’s also nightly entertainment for the entire family with magicians, singers, and other great performers.
Like Azul Beach Resort, Azul Sensatori Mexico also has the gorgeous Vassa Spa, with special rooms to accommodate bridal parties, as well as the cutest treatment and massage rooms for kids!  Vassa Spas’ menu includes everything from waxing to pedicures, for men, women and children.
What could be better than gathering your closest friends and family at sunset on the beach to celebrate your wedding?  The oceanfront venue at Azul Sensatori is absolutely magical!  You can include a rooftop cocktail hour for your guests, as well as a sit down reception inside the resort.
Azul Sensatori Resort by Karisma
Azul Sensatori offers you and your family the trip of a lifetime, with endless activities, shows, and relaxation! 
Azul Sensatori Resort by Karisma

Lorenzillos – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

We were hosted by Lorenzillo’s.  All opinions are my own.

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Walking around the Cabo San Lucas harbor, you have so many dining options.  “Two for one drinks!” one vendor calls out.  “Fish tacos!” calls another.  Just about every restaurant has someone shoving a menu in your face as you walk by with your family, with a deer-in-headlights look about you.  Around and around you go searching for the perfect eatery for your family.  By this time, you’re so hungry you could eat a horse and you’re willing to pay just about anything for a Corona with lime.
And then you see it.  That giant tub of live lobsters sitting next to the elegant staircase that leads to God knows where.  You follow the stairs after collapsing the stroller and gathering the family, until you reach a friendly staff member from Lorenzillo’s.  You’re not regretting this decision.  In fact, you’re fully embracing this and you’re loving it!

Sound familiar?  

This sounded just like our latest trip to Cabo San Lucas.  Having been many times before, we knew where our favorite eateries were and for some reason, we had always walked right past Lorenzillo’s.  Perhaps because we thought that the idea of eating a nice meal with kids sounded anything but pleasant?  Or maybe it’s because we were afraid of the unknown?
Well, this time around, we said YES to Lorenzillo’s and dined like celebrities in Cabo San Lucas harbor.  We each had a lobster sampler platter, shared an assortment of appetizers and indulged in homemade bananas foster and key lime pie.
The food was presented beautifully and tasted even better than it looked.  The staff at Lorenzillo’s was top-notch and some of the friendliest we’ve encountered in Cabo San Lucas.  The atmosphere was casual, yet elegant, if there is such a thing.  A great experience that we’ll never forget and a must try if you’re in Cabo San Lucas.

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Lorenzillo's Cabo San Lucas - Cabo Dining

Located in the prestigious marina of Los Cabos San Lucas, Lorenzillo’s Los Cabos offers its traditional award winner lobster dishes alongside delicious international cuisine. Designed by owner Mr. Salvador Vidal, Lorenzillo’s uses only the finest available woods to accentuate its elegant nautical decor.

Lorenzillo’s Los Cabos offers diners a memorable dining event in which one can enjoy the brilliant sunsets of Cabo San Lucas while viewing the yachts and sailboats of the marina.

Ryan’s, HomeTown Buffet, and Old Country Buffet introduce The Big Book of Savings (Limited-Edition Copies) + Giveaway (4 Winners)

The popular buffet restaurants Ryan’s, HomeTown Buffet, and Old Country Buffet are introducing limited-edition copies of The Big Book of Savings, filled with more than $75 in discounts. The coupon books are available for purchase for $10 at any of the 324 family restaurants, and is available for just $5 for senior guests (age 60 and above).

I honestly can’t remember the last time I had been to our local Home Town Buffet.  It had to be at least 15 years ago.  I remember it being super crowded, hard to navigate and expensive back then so I decided to give them another shot.  Okay, my family has been there twice in the past two weeks.  This pregnant girl doesn’t want to cook all the time.

My family and I have been super impressed with all of the food we’ve had at Home Town Buffet.  Much to my surprise, the restaurant wasn’t hard to navigate, wasn’t overly crowded, everything was extremely clean, the staff was very friendly and most importantly, the food was very good.  I’m actually very surprised that we all liked the food.  I really didn’t expect the food to be as good as it is.  Their drinks bar is also amazing and the entire restaurant is separated into groups like Asian, Mexican, etc.  The meat carving station is so yummy and the desserts are as good as I remember.  I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to go back.

About the Coupon Books
 Each coupon booklet features 25 coupons. Offers include discounts on breakfast, lunch and dinner, and feature BOGOs, “Two Can Dine” offers, specially discounted meal pricing, and more. Coupons may be redeemed at any of the restaurants and are valid through November 26, 2014. Offers may not be combined, but guests may purchase an unlimited number of books while supplies last.
We’re giving away four limited-edition copies of The Big Book of Savings good for any of these restaurants: Ryan’s, HomeTown Buffet, and Old Country Buffet.  Enter using the Rafflecopter form below.  We will choose our winners after 10/8/14.  Good luck!

Before you enter, please vote for us on Top Mommy Blogs by clicking the banner below.  One click a day is all it takes 🙂

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Top 10 Ways to Experience California’s Wine Country

Wine lovers who want to go beyond the tasting room during the 10th annual California Wine Month will find hands-on and unique experiences throughout the Golden State. To help oenophiles drink in the state’s signature beverage in new ways this September and beyond, Visit California compiled these top 10 experiences:

Northern California

1) Horseback Riding through Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards: Looking for the perfect date? Take someone special on a Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyard trail ride alongside chardonnay and cabernet vines in the romantic Santa Cruz Mountains wine region. Follow the horseback ride with a special wine tasting, then choose your favorite bottle to pair with a gourmet picnic lunch.

2) Napa Valley Wine Train: Now through October, spend a Friday afternoon or evening rubbing elbows with local celebrity winemakers during the Vintner Series. As the train winds its way through beautiful Napa Valley, guests can enjoy gourmet menus exquisitely paired with wines from the featured wine luminary. Now in its 25th year, the Napa Valley Wine Train continues to operate faithfully restored antique Pullman rail cars that evoke the spirit of luxury rail travel at the beginning of the 20th century.

3) Ghosts and Grapes in Gold Country: Haunted history and wine provide the perfect pairing this September and October in California’s Gold Country. Start with “Specter Wine-Sipping with Stan,”one of Placerville’s most active ghosts, on Saturday evenings in September (6:30 and 8 p.m. tours). Begin and end the tour at H.ART Lounge, where you can savor discounted wines. Be forewarned though: Stan is known to shatter wine glasses when provoked! Grace Patriot Wines hosts “Wine and Spirits” on Sept. 25, where Linda Bottjer, author of “Gold Rush Ghosts of Placerville, Coloma and Georgetown,” spins spooky stories accompanied by wine and snacks. In September and October, check out the popular “Grapes and Graves” tours by Gold Rush Tales in El Dorado and Calaveras counties. Intrepid explorers follow a guide into the Golf Rush era for shivering tales of specter sightings. After traipsing among the tombstones, the action moves to a nearby winery.

4) Taste Wines at a Historic Trappist-Cistercian Monastery: Make wine a more mystical experience and taste at New Clairvaux Vineyard,the only Trappist-Cistercian monastery in the Americas to grow, make and bottle its own wine. The winery is situated in Vina on what was once Leland Stanford’s Great Vina Ranch, the largest winery in the world in the 1890s. Taste renowned wines, tour the monastery grounds and winery, walk through a Gothic-style 12th-century Spanish chapter house (portion of a historic church), and join Trappist Cistercian monks as they chant during their prayer services. Visit on a Saturday and have one of the monks pour for you in the tasting room, which once housed Leland Stanford’s wine cellar. During the weekend of Sept 6-7, tastings are complimentary in celebration of the release of their 2013 Aimee Primitivo wine.

Central California

5) Vineyards to Market Jeep Tours in Santa Barbara: Take the ultimate culinary road trip every Wednesday in September and October with Cloud Climbers Jeep & Wine Tours. Explore the bounty of Santa Barbara wine country in an open-air, canopied covered Jeep, including tastings at three wineries, olive oil sampling, “grazing” at Solvang’s weekly farmers market, gourmet picnic lunch and off-road vineyard access to learn about production techniques.

6) Winemaking in Paso Robles: Wine lovers who want to play winemaker will enjoy programs poured this harvest season by First Crush Wine Experiences. The “Art of Blending Wine” class, offered Sept. 20 and 27, offers a fun way to learn how to make great wines, from evaluating aromatics and flavor to texture and aging characteristics. Guests can also create unique blends and make their own labels. Take winemaking to a whole new level with the Crush Encounter I (Oct. 3-4). This harvest experiences lets guests pick, crush, sip and stomp while learning the winemaking process. The program includes a gourmet alfresco picnic in the vineyard prepared by a local chef.

7) Zipline over the Vines in Santa Margarita: Pair wine with adrenaline with a Margarita Adventures zipline canopy tour. Soar over pinot noir vines at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch on five distinct ziplines spanning more than 4,500 total feet. Along the way, learn about the ranch’s sustainable winegrowing practices, abundant wildlife and role as part of California’s famed Mission Trail. Complete the experience by tasting Ancient Peaks wines grown on the ranch. The Ancient Peak Winery also is offering a special “Guided Vineyard and Food Pairing” experience every Saturday, featuring an intimate hands-on look at growing wine from ground to glass, followed by an educational wine and food pairing experience.

8) Winemaker for a Day in Santa Barbara County: Bacara Resort & Spa lets guests act as winemakers for the day with their “Bacara Crush” program, offering the rare opportunity to work alongside Santa Barbara County winemakers and producers. Walk the vines, sort grapes, assist with punch downs, and of course, taste! The package, which starts at $695 per couple, includes a private tour guide, crush activities, transportation to and from the winery in a luxury SUV, wine tastings and a gourmet picnic at the vineyard. Offer is good September through November based on vineyard availability. The resort is also offering other programs during California Wine Month, such as a grape seed ExFOLEYation spa treatment and a “Que Syrah” Art & Wine Class.

Southern California

9) Hiking in Los Angeles Wine Country: Take a three- to seven-mile hike with Reyes Winery through the Sierra Pelona Mountains near Santa Clarita, guided by owner Robert Reyes. Immediately following the hike, which features gorgeous valley vistas from a height of 3,500 feet, savor a light, healthy lunch paired with specially selected wines.

10) Master Sommelier Classes in Los Angeles: Wine lovers who want the ultimate training can sign up for Master Sommelier Classes at Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles. Study fine wines with the hotel’s expert sommelier and learn more about the innovative world of California wines, including overviews of the state’s wine regions and the art of deductive tasting. 

Visit for great trip ideas, from wine country to agritourism and leading restaurants. For wine events, activities and tastings, check out the Wine Institute’s California Wine Month page.

Visit California (formerly known as the California Travel & Tourism Commission) is a non-profit organization with a mission to develop and maintain marketing programs – in partnership with the state’s travel industry – that keep California top-of-mind as a premier travel destination. According to Visit California, travel and tourism expenditures totaled $109.6 billion in 2013 in California, supporting jobs for 965,800 Californians and generating $7.1 billion in state and local tax revenues. California travel and tourism-related businesses assess themselves to fund a $50 million annual budget for innovative marketing campaigns that promote California to travelers around the world. For more information on Visit California, go to For story ideas, media information, downloadable images and more, go

Villa La Estancia, Cabo San Lucas – Spa and Sunset Dinner Reviews

Thank you to the Desert Spa and Villa La Estancia for hosting us.  As always, all opinions are my own.

On June 20th my husband and I had the pleasure of celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary at the beautiful Villa La Estancia in Cabo San Lucas.  Coincidentally, Cabo San Lucas is where we went for our honeymoon which made this trip that much more special.  Since this was our five year anniversary I wanted to do something special for my husband so I decided to surprise him with a few things that we had never done before.

This trip was a family trip which included the grandparents so we were able to sneak away for a romantic couples afternoon and evening thanks to our babysitters.

Part One – The Desert Spa Facials

Our evening began around 4:00pm with our couple’s cleansing facials courtesy of The Desert Spa located in front of Villa del Arco (Villa La Estancia’s sister property).  We took a short trolley ride over to the spa which was super convenient.  The amazing 31,000 square foot spa is something I’ve never experienced before.  The aromas were so relaxing and inviting, the facility was just gorgeous and the staff was the most friendly, helpful staff I’ve ever encountered in a spa.
My husband and I were greeted at the start of our appointment and taken into two separate areas (one for men and one for women).  I can only speak about my experience as I was not in the men’s area but I was immediately taken up an elevator into a gorgeous bathroom/relaxation area.  Here I was given a locker/key, sandals and a robe and shown around the facility.  I was given access to the lounge chairs, hot tub, cold tub and warm tub, sauna, steam room, pressure showers, regular showers and more. I started my spa experience off with a nice shower with great beauty products.
Being pregnant I was a little limited on things to do as far as the heated experiences go, so I grabbed an apple and some ice water and relaxed in the skin temperature spa.  I then made my way over to the oh-so-comfy lounge chairs and relaxed for a while.  
After relaxing in the lounge chairs I made my way back into the skin temperature spa, followed by a rain shower.  I grabbed a towel and made my way back into the locker room where a staff member took my swimsuit from me.  She put it in a dryer that dried my suit in less than a minute.  I locked everything up and followed a staff member (in my robe) up to the next floor.  On this level I was able to sit and relax in a peaceful, serene room with more comfortably chairs.  I loaded up on more water as the room was a bit on the warm side and read a magazine until I was called for my appointment.
It was time for my facial so I followed the staff member through the winding halls where my husband and I met in the hallway.  We were both in robes and ready to relax.  We were taken in to this room (see above) that was adorned with rose petals and candles (just like the image) where we each got our own facial bed.  We both relaxed some more as our facials progressed and walked out of the spa feeling rejuvenated.
My husband had never been to a spa and seemed to have a great experience.  He was a little unsure at times that this was something he should be doing but overall I think he loved it.

Part Two – Romantic Sunset Dinner on the Beach

After a wonderful time in the Desert Spa at Villa del Arco, my husband and I returned to our room at Villa La Estancia to shower and get ready for our dinner at 7pm.  My husband really had no idea what was about to happen next, nor did I.
I had booked us a sunset prime rib dinner for two on the beach prepared by the amazing chefs at La Parrilla Restaurant (at Villa La Estancia) prior to arriving and I was really expecting a little restaurant setting on the beach with other couples.  We made our way down to the beach a little before 7pm to find this extravagant display.  We thought there was no way that this could be for us, but it was.  We felt so special.
The evening began with an alcohol-free cocktail for me (pregnant) and Corona for my husband.  Our waitress was so sweet and helpful.  
Our first course, bread with a view, or course!  (By the way, we had two staff members watching us the entire evening and not one beach vendor bothered us).
Next was my personal favorite, Caprese Salad.  We each got this gorgeous display of fresh tomatoes, cheese and pesto.  I pretty much devoured this dish.
Followed by a complimentary goat cheese/gnocchi sampler for each of us.
I believe this is when the soup came.  What kind of soup, you ask?  My husband’s favorite – Minestrone.  This Minestrone was unlike any other I’ve tasted.  It was filled with fresh broccoli, long noodles and other summer vegetables.  It was so good.
Out came the sorbet to cleanse the palate.
By this time, I was getting pretty full.  I was on my second “mocktail” and was so satisfied with all of the prior courses.  Then came the main course – prime rib, a loaded baked potato and fresh steamed vegetables.  Oh my!  I ate about a quarter of my prime rib (which was fantastic), a few veggies and a few bites of my potato and called it quits.  There as no possible way I could stuff any more food into this belly…
… and then came dessert.  And if you know me, there’s always room for dessert.  By this time the sun had gone down and our tiki torches had been lit by the staff members.  We enjoyed our amazingly moist brownies with cherries and ice cream with the sound of the waves crashing along the shore.

We ended up each taking a box of food back to our room to enjoy the next day and many, many great memories away from this experience.

If you’re looking for the most perfect vacation destination idea for your anniversary, or even just because, I highly recommend you check out the Villa Group Resorts in Cabo San Lucas.
We would like to extend a special thank you to the Desert Spa for our facials and to La Parrilla Grill for our fantastic dinner experience.