Monday, December 26, 2016

2016: A Year in Review

If I could sum up 2016 in two words I'd choose these: travel and baby. When reflecting on the year and all that came along with it, I was amazed to see how much adventuring we did. Between knowing we'd try for a baby and having a Southwest Companion pass, we had to capitalize on the ease of pre-kiddo traveling, right? It's fun to look back at my "16 Things I'm Excited for in 2016" post and see how we accomplished all I'd hoped to.  I know some of you stop by this corner of the web more than others, so whether you're new here or read on a weekly basis, here's a recap of our year: complete with travel highlights (click the links for guides!), popular blog posts, and fun photos and videos. Cheers to you, 2016- you'll be hard to beat!


In January, this blog marked its first birthday! I celebrated by sharing 5 Things I Learned in My First Year of Blogging. I also completed my first major home update of the year with our Rustic Dining Room, which I absolutely love!


In February, we celebrated Valentine's Day in Las Vegas with some dear friends. I had an amazing time playing in the Faculty/Student Courtwarming Game and performing with the LHS Staffires again: see the video below for a laugh! (I'm on the front right side of the video once we leave the circle and actually start dancing.) I also was pretty brutally honest about the 9 Reasons I'm Afraid to Have a Baby, which seems pretty ironic now!


March brought on the travel bug as we successfully got our Southwest Companion Pass. We kicked things off with our Northeast Spring Break trip to New York City, Washington D.C., Boston, Baltimore, and more. I also shared more of my heart in my post: What We've Got to Stop Telling Young Married Couples.


 In April, we hosted several birthday bashes for dear friends. It's always such a joy having people fill our home with laughter, fellowship, and good food! I continued to wrestle with motherhood, and sought out several moms to share What 25 Mothers Would Tell Their Pre-Mom Selves. I also found myself pretty close to 30 years old, and shared What No One Tells You About Your Mid-Twenties.


May brought on the end of school and the end of my 5th Year of Teaching.Yay for teacher tenure! We visited San Francisco and Napa Valley and had an amazing time in both places. Aaron's sister Angie graduated High School at the top of her class, and we are so proud of her.


In June, we celebrated our Third Wedding Anniversary. Being in love is oh so sweet! To celebrate, we spent 13 days on an "Anniventury" trip to Orlando, Jamaica, Niagara Falls, and D.C,and it's no accident that at the end of the month I found out that I was PREGNANT with Baby K (Due March 5th, 2017)!


July was all about travel, and we were gone nearly the entire month. We spent a week at Crooked Creek YoungLife Camp in Fraser, Colorado with our high school friends, and I had to be sneaky about the fact that I was pregnant and couldn't go horseback riding or on the swing. A few days letter, we jetted off for a 13 day adventure in Greece on an EF Tour through the Greek Islands and mainland ruins. It was just as dreamy and wonderful as you'd imagine (even with the sudden onset of morning sickness).


In August, I jumped back into coaching softball and teacing, and managed to redecorate and share our Farmhouse Living Room Update. We were also SO excited to finally announce my pregnancy to the world at the end of the month! (Check out our Announcement and fun videos of my parents finding out!)


September came and we made some big baby decisions like Why We're Not Finding Out Our Baby's Gender. I also shared How I Knew I Was Ready for a Baby and we hosted Airbnb guests while I coached my life away.


In October, we hopped on a plane and visited Aaron's aunt and uncle in Houston. I dreamed of all things baby, especially my Gender Neutral Nursery Inspiration. I also had a lot of fun starting to document my pregnancy, and shared my first "Bumpdate" at 18 weeks. Cue the awkward baby bump photos!


Between leading a weekend fall trip at Clearwater Cove YoungLife Camp and celebrating Aaron's 26th Birthday, November went by quickly. I still competed in the Thanksgiving family football game, but was all time hiker. I also shared 8 Blogging Mistakes I'm Guilty of Making.


We kicked off December with a snowy babymoon trip to Chicago that ended up being unexpectedly extended because of a cancelled flight. We had our first snow day, and I prepared our Cozy Holiday Home Tour. I've also thought a lot differently about advent this year, like I shared in my post Pregnant and Waiting: An Expectant Reflection. We'll round out the year with Christmas and one final babymoon getaway to Nashville.

From our growing family to yours, cheers to a very happy and blessed 2017! Thanks for sticking around this year. We are excited for all the big changes to come for us in the year ahead. I hope you'll join us for the new adventures!


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

5 Last Minute Gifts Everyone Would Love for Christmas

Today's guest post is from Lana, an architecture student and interior decorating fiend! She offers some fabulous ideas for last minute Christmas gifts that everyone would love! Check them out. 

 With another holiday season upon us, we’re all in a rush to surprise our loved ones with that one perfect gift. In order to unburden you from the stress of gift-choosing, we’ve compiled a simple list of 5 gifts that we’re absolutely sure everyone would be thrilled to get for Christmas. 

5 Last Minute Gifts Everyone Would Love for Christmas

Personal Is Always Better

There’s no doubt about it – if you’re not sure in which direction you should go, always opt for a personalized present. There’s simply something glorious about getting a gift with your name imprinted on it, as if it’s made specifically for you…who wouldn’t love that? There’s a variety of things to choose from, depending on the person you’re buying the gift for. From personalized cake stencils for your favourite cook, jewellery with engraved initials to customized keychains, coasters, portraits and even wardrobe. If you’re looking for something more spectacular, you can always choose to print out a sound wave of your song, vows or whatever holds the greatest meaning to you and your loved one. For those looking to give someone the moon and stars, there’s actually an option of choosing a specific star in the constellation and giving it a name and date.

5 Last Minute Gifts Everyone Would Love for Christmas


Gadgets Are the Future of Gifts

Nowadays, it seems like we can’t survive a single day without the help of some useful gadgets. If you’re looking for a useful gift for someone who’s practical and pragmatic, then the best solution is to choose a handy gadget that’ll help them in their everyday tasks. Look beyond expensive gifts like laptops, smartphones and surround sound systems and opt for something more affordable like a pair of wireless headphones, a portable power bank, an instant printing camera for all those selfie lovers or your personal home assistant like Google Home. The possibilities are endless, you only need to know what type of assistance your friends or family members need.

Home DΓ©cor Options

Know someone who just moved in a new house or somebody who’s in urgent need of a dΓ©cor refreshment? Well, why not combine a housewarming gift with a Christmas gift and offer them something that’ll contribute to a more welcoming home ambience? The choices are humongous and you can choose whatever you like from a wide array of items like a stylish vase, a nice lamp or a beautiful plant. If you still have doubts, don’t hesitate to take a sneak peek at the Tysiza online catalogue, as they offer plenty of options in the homeware and kitchenware department but also a high array of furniture pieces as well as faux plants.

5 Last Minute Gifts Everyone Would Love for Christmas


A Gift of Experience

Sometimes, the most thoughtful gifts are the ones you can’t physically touch, but the ones you experience with your whole being. The most treasured gifts are the memories we have, so consider giving your friend or family member something they would remember for the rest of their lives. This could be a pair of tickets for their favourite band, a road trip to a place they’ve always wanted to visit or something more adventurers like skydiving, bungee jumping or diving with great white sharks. 


If you still haven’t found the right fit or you’re having trouble with the financial aspect of the gift buying process, keep in mind that gifts don’t necessarily have to be bought. If you have a special kind of skill or ability, you can use it to create or do something beautiful for the person you care about. If you’re an artist, handy with crafts or you do tailoring, offer your help or services to your friend free of charge. Also, if you have a keen eye for decorating, offer to redecorate their house or make your pregnant woman happy by decorating the nursery in a stylish manner.
If you’re lacking inspiration, money or you’re simply not that good at choosing the right gifts, perhaps it’s a good idea to consider a few different solutions for your troubles. There’s always a nice way to surprise someone without going through a lot of hassle - you just need to find something that suits you personally.

Lana Hawkins is an architecture student and an advisory editor at Smooth Decorator.  She enjoys writing about interior decoration and landscaping. Lana is interested in sustainability and green building, and that's where she gets most of her inspiration. Thanks to her for sharing this great post!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Cozy Holiday Home Tour

As I hung ornaments and placed fun, cozy Christmas decor around our home this holiday season, I couldn't help but think about the little helper I'll have next year. With Baby K on the way in March, there is so much joy and anticipation for all that is to come- for both Christmas and for this new little life. Now that we've been in our home for over three years, and are celebrating our fourth Christmas here, I've got a pretty good feel for my decor style and preferences. There's nothing quite like making a house a home, especially around Christmas. So come on in, stay awhile, and take a peek at our cozy holiday home tour for 2016!

Cozy Holiday Home Tour

Our Front Room

This year our front room got a little farmhouse upgrade, so it's been even more fun to decorate. This space is the home of the tree, our beautiful new rustic pew, and an old sectional of Aaron's. I love adding pops of red to this room through fun Christmas pillows, paintings, and berries (which are my favorite). We went with white lights and white wrapping paper this year, and I love them both.

Cozy Holiday Home Tour, Christmas Tree
Cozy Holiday Home Tour

Aaron surprised me with a beautiful new burlap wreath  he bought from a lady at his school. I love having a wreath on the inside of the front door, safe from the weather and adding a little cheer to the room. My only purchase this year was a $5 "Merry Christmas" banner from Hobby Lobby. It's hanging out behind our pew in a makeshift gallery wall (including my weekly pregnancy update banner). 

Cozy Holiday Home Tour
 Cozy Holiday Home Tour 

The Dining Room

 This room also got a major upgrade last January, and I'm in love with this space ever since its rustic dining room reveal. Now I love switching out the flowers in the rustic centerpiece that Aaron made me. It's such an easy way to change with the seasons (and our burlap runner always stays). I also hang my dollar store ornament garland that I made, and then finish it off with pine cones and a few pops of red, green, and white.

Cozy Holiday Home TourCozy Holiday Home Tour
Cozy Holiday Home Tour

The Basement

This is where we spend most of our time hanging out. Since we already have dark green walls, I add red and black buffalo plaid stocking and pillows, and decorate our mantle. I also add a pretty wreath and red candle to give some holiday cheer to our "door" coffee table. I love the coziness of this space.

Cozy Holiday Home Tour

All in all, I'm a big believer that home decorating doesn't have to break the bank. I love figuring out new ways to bring little odds and ends into our Christmas decor, and I'm finding that sometimes simplifying and keeping things cozy ends up bringing the best results. Thanks for stopping by for the 2016 tour, y'all! May your days be merry and bright! 


Are you following along on Instagram and Facebook? Be sure to so that you don't miss out on photos and fun updates!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Pregnant and Waiting: An Expectant Reflection on Advent

Every year, we celebrate and eagerly await Christ's birth. We light candles and read scriptures and sing traditional Christmas hymns. We take time to pause and reflect on the goodness of our Lord and God's perfect plan to save the world through a tiny baby. And this year, as I feel our own baby kick inside of me, I look at advent in a whole new way.

I'm learning how to wait.

Pregnancy is ten months of waiting and anticipation. It is a time of being stretched, growing weary, and partnering with the Lord to grow a precious life. It is a time of waiting for lines to show up on a stick, for sickness to pass, and for results of ultrasounds or other tests. And it's a time of waiting for the weeks to tick by, waiting with discomfort and without certainty- but knowing that ultimately there is purpose in this. With much joy and excitement, we await our little one joining us here on this Earth, dreaming of all they will do to change the world, just as so many waited so long ago for an even more precious baby.

Just like pregnancy, advent is a time of waiting, a time of anticipation for the coming king- the Savior of the world who was born into a most unexpected setting. Although our version of advent usually includes, at most, four or five weeks of reflection, it wasn't so for those so long ago. They'd been waiting for years for the coming of Emmanuel, God with Us: the fulfillment of years of prophecy and the completion of the perfect plan set in motion since the beginning of time. I can only imagine the true joy they felt at the Savior's birth in that manger so long ago. While I'm only waiting ten months, they'd been waiting their entire lives, or lived and died without seeing the Lord's coming. Waiting is difficult and challenging, but it's oh worth it in the end.

I'm learning to be prepared, and to offer up areas where I can't be.

Bringing a new life into the world is truly a spiritual journey. Every day I am more aware of the fact that I'm not in control, and it is incredible watching this little miracle grow inside of me. As the days go by, I read books and blog posts and try to prepare myself as much as I can for all that awaits: labor, life with a newborn, and raising a child. But no matter how much I prepare, there are certain things I just can't be ready for. I don't know what my labor or birth experience will be like. I don't know what my baby will look like or how they'll sleep or really much at all. So I'm offering up those areas where I simply can't be prepared, knowing that the Lord will provide and that He has a plan in it all.

This advent season, I'm also trying to take time to prepare for the coming of our newborn king: Jesus. I'm trying to slow down in the sweet moments and offer Him thanks. I'm trying to direct my moments of fear to moments of prayer, to silent reflection for all of the blessings I've been given and could never deserve. And most of all, I'm anxiously awaiting His return. I'm striving to live life for Him and with no regrets, with my mind and heart set on things eternal.

I'm learning to be expectant. 

During the Christmas season, we wait with eager expectation for the birth of Jesus and the celebration that comes along with it. This season is all the more sweet as my expectant-mother heart truly longs and yearns with excitement for the moment that I'll meet my child. I can't wait to hold our little one, to find out their gender and give them their name. I am expecting great things in the moments of motherhood that are to come, and although I'm also expecting new challenges and demands, I know they will be so worth it.

Outside of my pregnancy, I'm still expectant. I'm expecting big things from the Lord this year and in the years to come. I'm expecting Him to move in my heart and in the hearts of others as He draws us closer to Him. I'm expecting Him to move in my school, in our church, in our ministry, and in this world. I know that even when things look bleak, He is sovereign- He has already won and his plan cannot be thwarted. And some day, I'm expectant of His return. I love the words of the old hymn: "Come, though long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free. From our fears and sins release us. Let us find our rest in thee." This is my prayer this year: to be released from my fears and my sins and to truly find my rest and purpose in Him.

I'm learning to slow down and trust with joyful anticipation.  

Throughout pregnancy, it can be so easy to want to jump ahead to when Baby is here. It's easy to want to skip the labor and the stretch marks and the discomfort. But I'm trying my best to slow down and enjoy this precious time. I'm taking weekly pictures and marveling in the flutters of our little nugget within me. And I'm learning that the only thing I can do is trust. Trust that God will get me through this. Trust that our baby will be exactly as the Lord has planned: knitted together in my womb with purpose. And trust that offering up my worries and fears to the Lord will allow me to move forward with joyful anticipation for all stages of motherhood. If Mary can trust God through her virgin teen birth in a stable with no medical help (and after riding a donkey while fully pregnant), then surely I can trust Him to keep me safe and lead me through bringing this child into a world.

We can be the same ways in our spiritual lives. We want deliverance from our challenges, without the road to get there. We want spiritual maturity without the prayers and discipline required each day. We want the end result right away without struggling to get there. But we have to choose instead to slow down and to trust that the Lord is good- that He will deliver and provide for us when the time is right. And we can expect this and look forward to eternity together with joyful anticipation.

Although you may not be an expectant mother, you too may have moments where you feel weary, longing for relief from being stretched and challenged. In these moments, I pray that you would pause, trust, and wait for the Lord with an expectant and prepared heart- ready for all that He has in store. I pray that you would have the strength to persevere and to endure the struggle that will be worth it in the end. And I pray that you would know His blessings this holiday season and beyond. Merry Christmas, friends!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

6 Cozy Home Decor Ideas for Winter

Today's moments guest post from Julie is all about cozy decor and winter ideas to make your home welcoming and beautiful. Check them out!  

As the atmosphere changes, new vibes begin to kick in as the weather starts to shift. It seems like everything is revamping and starting over, just like the leaves of the trees. Similarly, if you are an enthusiast with home decor, it's the perfect time to add some new ideas and decorations to make your house feel appropriate and cozy as well. Here are six cozy home decor ideas for winter. Have a glance at them!

 The Cozy Sweater Vase: 

Pick an ordinary or old vase and cover it with some knitted sweater. It will look stunning resting on your table by the window. Though you can choose the sweater of your choice, I suggest white as it goes with all snowy winter theme. This is an easy, doable and rather fun way of spicing up old things.

A Stunning Stoneware Crock: 

Winter means the festival season, and festival season means Christmas. What can be better decor for your kitchen than a Stoneware Crock? Take a wooden or plain plastic foyer and fill it with birch logs, some berries and Christmas tree clippings. To make things a little fancier and attractive, you can add a string of fairy lights. It will look festive and attractive while lit in the corner of your room.

Hanging Mason Jars:

This also is a very nice and easy do it yourself design. This is a perfect way to lighten up and brighten your porch, or you can use it as an attractive wall hanging for your living room or dining areas. Simply take some Mason jars and fill them up with candles or strings of light (preferably yellow as they look very warm and versatile). Then hang them using a burlap ribbon. In this way, you can custom creative your very own and easy chandelier.

Mirror Art: 


When someone enters your house, their first impression depends on the kind of entrance you have. You can create some mirror art to welcome them. Use an old mirror and use a spray paint to cover all the imperfections. Let it dry and then use some paints to create funky designs. It is advisable to use lead paints. Draw some casual Christmas trees to fit all the Christmas vibe, or add your favorite lettering. Add some beads too; it is stunning and innovative.

Cushions and Comforters: 

Add some fluffy cushions and comforters in darker colors. The earth shades look very cozy and composed. Make use of cushions of fur to add a soft, luxurious effect. Comforters and blankets are of course, a winter thing. By being a little careful in your selection, you can add an innovative and stylish effect to your room.


Source: Affinity Linens

Choose some thick fluffy rugs. Rugs naturally add a very comfortable effect to the room without much effort. Pick a rug that goes with the contrast of your room. It does not necessarily have to be very expensive, just be careful with the selection of design and hues.

Author Bio: This post is written by Julie Austin. She loves traveling, home decorating and hanging out with her friends. She regularly blogs at 


Monday, December 12, 2016

How to Distress Wood for A Rustic Farmhouse Look

If you've been around for a while, you know that I LOVE all things rustic, farmhouse, and "Fixer Upper" when it comes to home decor. (If you need a little proof, check out our Rustic Dining Room and Farmhouse Living Room.) I love adding light and brightening a room without having to tackle painting all of our oak trim, and thus I've repainted a lot of furniture with pale greens, whites, and pretty neutral pops of color. But what's a girl to do when working with unfinished or older wood? Distress it to look rustic and add some character, of course. Here's how you can make your wooden furniture look old and farmhouse fresh.

Distressing Wood for a Rustic Farmhouse Look

1. Make sure the wood is sanded, clean, and dry.

My hubby built me this new beautiful church pew as a surprise gift. I'll demonstrate the process with it, and if you love the pew as much as me, he can actually build you one. Just contact me on Facebook or through the Contact Form for more info on available sizes and pricing! It's my favorite part of the room.

Church Pew

2.  Choose your stain, apply, and rub off.

I initially thought I wanted to go with white stain for the pew, but decided that I'd rather go with the deep brown stain color that we used for our rustic centerpiece.  We chose Minwax Wood Finish Dark Walnut Oil-Based Interior Stain. Just use an older brush to do this, knowing that it won't be of much use for other paints after you use it to stain. Be sure to put down a drop cloth- stain will ruin clothes and carpet. After letting the stain sit for 30+ seconds, depending on how dark you want it, you will need to use a rag to rub off some of the excess stain and build texture. This is very important for the proper rustic look!

3.  Let the stain dry for a day or two, and choose your favorite chalky finish. 

While we let the stain soak, we landed on a dreamy chalky finish from Americana DECOR by DecoArt.  The color we chose was "vintage", a pale blue gray. Keep in mind that the chalk paint you choose needs to be lighter than your stain or the current wood color in order to create a rustic look.


4. Apply the chalk paint using "dry brushing" strokes.

This is the biggest part of a successful finish- choosing a good brush and using "dry brushing" to not overly apply your chalk paint. Make sure your brush has good bristles and is wide and flat. To dry brush, place just a little bit of paint on a paint can lid or a paper plate. Dip the edge of your brush very gently into the paint, and then dab the brush on a paper towel to remove any extra paint. You need the edge to be "dry" or else you'll end up with big globs of chalk paint that won't look rustic. (Make sure the bristles of the brush are still separated.)

Distressing Wood for a Rustic Farmhouse Look

5. Repeat as desired (or use a variation of these steps to paint older wood too!)

Use short, quick brush strokes in a variety of directions, and add a little more paint as you get more comfortable and reach your desired look. If you don't have new wood, you can simply skip to steps three through five, and use a chalky finish to add some texture and color to your wood!

Distressing Wood for a Rustic Farmhouse Look

How to Distress Wood for a Rustic Farmhouse Look

That's it! I love how our pew turned out, and I'm excited to "finish" the new kitchen island my husband also built me before Baby K comes in a few months! I love the way that we can make brand new wood look old and full of character. Let me know if you have any questions!

Distressing Wood for a Rustic Farmhouse Look

Are you a rustic farmhouse home decor lover too? Check out my board on Pinterest for some inspiration and dreamy looks I'm loving!


Friday, December 2, 2016

Five on Friday: November Recap & Babymoon Fun

Holy smokes, it's December! Alhough the months have always gone quickly, they seem to be flying by even faster during this pregnancy. Today is my gestational diabetes test (shoot up a prayer for me if you would!), and then I'm marching into my third trimester this weekend! Between the holiday parties, Christmas celebrations, and sweet traditions, December is always a blur. But this year, we're also throwing in a couple of baby-moons and a registry! Here's a little November recap, along with what we're looking forward to this month.

1. Thanksgiving Traditions

We are very blessed to live less than 30 minutes away from the vast majority of our family, so we always do double duty on holidays. On Thanksgiving, we spend the late morning and lunch with Aaron's family around a wonderful meal, and then head up to St. Joseph to see my entire Dad's side of the family. Up in St. Jo, we've got a long tradition of playing family football on my grandparents' land. With Baby K on the way, I couldn't get as involved as I normally do, but I still participated as "all-time hiker".

2. Black Friday Maternity Deals

Even though we never venture out to shop on Thanksgiving evening, I do enjoy a good Black Friday sale. Because of the generous offer of several friends to let me use their maternity clothes, I really haven't bought much of anything during this pregnancy. Now that the bump is really bumpin', I decided to look around and see if I could find anything cute on major sale; after all, it's always fun to have a little something of my own that I'll be able to use for multiple babies. I found some super cute outfits at Target for 45% off (heck yes!), as well as some Motherhood Maternity deals, and a few gorgeous wintery dresses from JcPenney online! So fun.

3. Aaron's 26th Birthday 

Another big November event is my sweet hubby's birthday! He turned the big 2-6, and we had a great time celebrating his birthday weekend by eating out together, watching the Beauty and the Beast musical, and leading worship together at Clearwater Cove's Fall Trip. In case you missed it, I also wrote him this birthday letter- because a few words just weren't enough. He will be an amazing dad.

4. Babymoons!

One thing I'm really excited about this month is all the baby-mooning we will be doing! With the Southwest Companion Pass, I fly free all this year and all of next year, and Aaron flies on points. Between that and our free hotel points, why not travel all over, right? Since I will be pretty grounded for January, February, and March, we're taking advantage of our time off to sneak in a couple more trips before baby comes. This weekend we're heading to a festive Chicago, and then at the end of the month we'll be flying out to Nashville! With Zika and other travel concerns right now, we aren't going anywhere tropical, but we are excited to head to these fun, low-key destinations to enjoy some time for just the two of us.


5. Holiday Decor

With the revamp of our Farmhouse Front Room this August, decorating for Christmas has looked just a little different this year. Aaron built me a gorgeous pew, so moving things around for the tree and such involved a few extra steps. I love decorating our home for the holidays, and we spent the Wednesday before Thanksgiving getting the lights, tree, and other cozy decor put up. I love the soft glow of the trees and the homey warmth of the holiday cheer. I'm excited to share more of a Christmas house tour soon, and I'm also so excited to think about this time next year with a sweet little one around!

In Case You Missed Them This Month:
I hope you had a fabulous November, and are ready for an even more cheery and fun December with those you love most. Be on the look up for a 2016 recap in the near future. Have a fabulous weekend!


Monday, November 28, 2016

The Best Way to See Niagara Falls

When Aaron and I went on our thirteen-day "anniventury" to Orlando, Jamaica, and more, there was one stop on our list that may have been a bit surprising: Niagara Falls. I'd never seen the falls before, and it was something that I'd always wanted to do. Since Aaron and I are both teachers, we didn't waste time coming home between our travel destinations; we just flew from one place to the next. We hopped on a plane straight from Jamaica to Buffalo, drove to the Niagara area, and had an amazing, less-than-24-hour visit with a perfect view of the falls. Here's the best way you can see Niagara Falls in one day.

The Best Way to See Niagara Falls

1. Fly Into the Buffalo Niagara Airport and Rent a Car

Aaron and I flew into the airport late in the evening, but we had no trouble renting a car and driving the half hour into Niagara. If we had more time, I would have stopped for dinner in the Buffalo area, but we kept driving. Just so you know, renting a car in the States and driving across the border is very common and not hard to do at all! We had a bit of a wait at the border, but this wasn't too troubling because we weren't going to see the falls until the next day. Make sure you have your passport if you'd like to return to the States!

Niagara Falls , Canadian Side

2. Drive to the Canadian Side of the Falls

I'm all about supporting my country with my money, but let me be real: the American side of the Falls isn't very exciting. Other than a large casino and some souvenir shops, there isn't much to see. The Canadian side is much more well-kept and has a ton of hotels and touristy activities to choose from. We actually stayed another 30 minutes past the falls in St. Catharine's, Ontario, because the hotels were much cheaper and we didn't mind the drive.

Niagara Falls

3. Stay the Night in a Hotel or See the Falls

When you see the falls will depend on how what time you get in. We arrived late at night, so we just went to dinner and to our hotel before getting up the next morning to drive to the falls. Since this is a tourist destination, I recommend finding hotel coupons and other discounts so you don't spend all your money on lodging.

Even with this plan, we still made it back to the airport and off on our next flight in less than 24 hours. You may want to visit the falls right away when you're driving through, especially if you have an early-morning flight the next day. Parking can be expensive, so see if your hotel includes it, or use this handy website to find your best option. We ended up doing some metered parking right near the viewing area, and it was reasonable and convenient.

Niagara Falls

4. Take Plenty of Photos From the Canadian Side

This is easy to do, since you'll already be on the Canadian side. That being said, if you'd rather stay on the American side of the falls, you do have some options. You can walk across the Rainbow Bridge on the pedestrian walkway, but make sure you have your passport so that you can return. There is a toll to cross the bridge, either by foot or by car. You'll obviously have to cross the bridge at some point. We found it easiest to park on the Canadian side, take our photos, and then cross the toll and come across to the US to ride the Maid of the Mist!

Niagara Falls

5. Visit the Maid of the Mist

This was one of my favorite parts of the trip! There is a Canadian version as well, but I liked the idea of seeing the Falls with my fellow Americans. You get up close and personal with the falls, and even get your own souvenir poncho, which you'll need or you'll get totally soaked! The line was surprisingly short for the Maid of the Mist if you book ahead of time, and the boats are constantly departing. Note the schedule, as the ride does not run year round (and could be pretty chilly depending on when you go!)

Niagara Falls

Overall, visiting Niagara Falls was a blast! We didn't need more than a day to visit, but it was definitely a worthwhile stop on our trip, and you can make it an easy stop on any vacation by following these simple tips. Since we saved money on this excursion, we're planning our next trip. We might head to Las Vegas and check out the shows in Sin City. Happy traveling!

(If you'd like to have a GPS-Guided version of this article, check out the app on GPSmyCity!)