Friday, December 20, 2019

A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS VACATION

Ahhhhh!!  Friends, I don't even know where to start this post!  Travel recaps are my favorite posts to write so when Holiday Inn Club Vacations reached out to invite my family (and my parents!) to their Villages Resort in East Texas for a complimentary holiday getaway I said HECK YES!  (Seriously.  I really said that out loud when I read the email.  In my best Napoleon Dynamite voice and everything. 😉)  In exchange, I would recap our Jollydays experience to share with all of you so here we go!  All opinions are 100% my own.

This was such a special (and completely unexpected) treat for us and when I say this place is a hidden gem I absolutely mean it!  Villages Resort is just a 2-hour drive for us in Mckinney (and the Dallas area) and we had no idea it even existed until a few weeks ago.  I feel cheated that we've lived here for 12 years and I'm just now finding out about it!

Never heard of Villages Resort either?  Well, let's remedy that, shall we?!  There are actually 29 Holiday Inn Club Vacation Resorts across the country too so don't let the fact that you aren't from around my area stop you from reading!




Villages Resort is in Flint, TX right outside of Tyler and next door to Pine Cove Summer Camp.  I know a TON of you Texas mamas are familiar with Pine Cove but I'm not sure you realize if you keep driving down the road for another minute, you'll hit this beautiful and charming resort!

Jollydays is such a festive addition to the resort.  From November 29th-January 3rd the Jollydays activities will be waiting for you and your fam!  From warm cookies and hot chocolate at check-in to fun family games with a holiday twist to mini-golf on their 18-hole course surrounded by Christmas lights, Christmas hay bales (so cute!) and the sound of Christmas music playing over the speakers...it's all so CHEERY and FESTIVE!!  (Two of my favorite words during the holidays.)  They even have outdoor movies, smores and cocoa stations, live music...what more could you ask for?!  (Oh I don't know...maybe an indoor waterpark?  Yep, they have that too!!)

But let's get to the recap because y'all know me and trip recaps.  I like to show it all! So settle in and/or pin an image to come back and check later!

We grabbed the kids from school a little early on Friday afternoon, packed up the car and headed out.  Once we got out of Dallas, the drive was quick and easy!  When we pulled into the resort we headed straight for the lobby to check-in.  First impressions were spot on.  Everything was super cute, clean, and up-to-date and it was just giving off a very peaceful and relaxing vibe.  And that's how we like to roll!


The check-in process was quick and easy, everyone was super helpful and there were the best cookies ever-fresh out of the oven-right next to a Christmas tree along with some yummy hot cocoa. My mom was like "Wow, we haven't even done anything yet and already I'm having fun." 😂 We helped ourselves to some little treats before jumping back in the car to head to our villa.


They also sent us on our way with a big list of all the Jollydays activities we could check out plus info on the Marina down the street next to their beach villas and (eek!) trail rides.  We had a LOT to pack in in the next 48 hours!

Not knowing much about this resort before we arrived, we weren't really sure what to expect with our villa.  But I can tell you with 1000% honesty that we were very very pleasantly surprised!  We opened the door to find a full kitchen (complete with an adorable snowman decorating our fridge), dining area, a living room with a comfy couch/sleeper sofa, a balcony with a table and chairs, two bedrooms and two full baths.  As far as pricing goes, I know they have a Jollydays special running right now (find out more HERE) and you are going to get a lot of bang for your buck! 


  The master bedroom had plenty of space for our stuff and the bathroom had a shower AND a huge jetted tub!  (Plus, the toilet room was enormous. It was just one toilet and enough space for about 10 people.)


The boy's bedroom was great too. Plenty of space for them and their stuff and if they didn't want to sleep together in the bed (Mason is a wild sleeper) then one of them could have stayed on the sleeper sofa.  As it turned out, we realized the second night that Nana and Papa had an empty bedroom in their villa next door so Matthew decided to have a little sleepover there. Why we didn't do that the first night, I have no idea. We loved being right next door to each other though!  The perfect set-up if you're coming in with friends and family.


After we unpacked, we went into town because we'd heard about a fun Mexican place that people told us we just had to try out!  We ate dinner at Mercado's in Tyler and it was delicious.  Highly recommend!  I love that we felt like we were staying out in the country but you were still super close to civilization if you needed it. 

 I do think it's important to note that there are only two places to eat at the resort.  They have a Subway and Mama Deluca's Pizza and wings. (Three if you include the marina down the street which I'll get to in a minute.) Both of those are perfect choices if you're only going to have two places to grab food at your resort though.  Everyone likes sandwiches, pizza, and wings!  But I will say that you might want to stock your fridge with a few essentials.  (Milk, breakfast stuff, fruit, etc and alcohol if you want it.  They don't sell alcohol there.)  

We stopped to grab some milk and a few other things from the store on the way back from Mercado's and then it was time for jammies and getting cozy.  We snuggled up in the bed for a while to watch Home Alone before everyone started dropping like flies.  We had a busy day the next day so we all said goodnight pretty early (for us!) and went to bed.


And then the next day we were up early to do #allthethings! 


We had a big list of stuff we wanted to do that Saturday and Sunday so we started with the boys' favorite!  Putt-putt.  Man, these boys love them some putt-putt.

But first, we stopped back by the lobby to grab a few cookies for breakfast (we were on vacation, people!) and some hot chocolate. ;)


I'm having flashes of him as a grown man seeing this picture! Ahhh!

Then it was off to the Activity Outpost!


We went inside to grab some balls and putters while the boys got themselves all distracted with the giant chess board on the porch.  Too bad they had no idea how to play chess.  (We had better luck with the giant checkerboard later on!) 


The mini-golf course is literally right down steps from the activity center so you don't have to go far.  I love that about this place!  Everything is just right there for you.

Mason and I were feeling super jolly in our red and green!


And we were so thrilled to have my parents with us!  They are so much fun to travel with.  Always up for anything, they never seem to get tired and are always in good moods.  Are they even human?


Get it, Nana!


This big pool is right next to the course and it looked so inviting...if only it were summer. ;) 


Mason is standing there trying to look innocent but just waiting to knock Matthew's ball off course the second he hits it...hahaha.



Everything at the resort was cute, rustic and charming.


Even this one-eyed "hay"man. 😂




My parents are really into nature and the outdoors so this whole trip was so perfect for them.  I have no doubt they'll be returning a lot in the future for little getaways.


And oh my gosh, how cute is this trailer!  I am kicking myself so hard for not getting a family picture in front of this!  Why?!!!!  😩😩😩 Maybe I could just photoshop us in?


After mini-golf we were hungry so we decided to go check out the Jollydays Menu down at the Marina.  This little place is tiny on the inside but you can sit outside on the dock and watch the ducks and birds doing their thing (which was highly entertaining actually) and afterward you can feed the giant catfish!




We tried a little of everything from the Jollydays menu but our favorite was definitely the "Turkey Tidings Sandwich"!  It had turkey, dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce on a Texas Toast and it was messy and delicious!  The boys munched on chicken strips and french fries and Matthew (who is a chicken strip connoisseur) declared them the best ones he's ever had. 

You can rent boats and even do paddle boats at the marina.  There is some good fishing here on Lake Palestine too from what I've heard.  






Not sure what Mason is doing here but he loves to make himself right at home. haha  I'm sure he was laying in bird poop or something equally disgusting. 😂


I made Matthew stand by this cute photo area before we left for a little picture.  He's such a good sport.


After lunch, my parents took the boys back down to the Activity Center while Craig and I headed to the room.  He wanted to lay down and watch football and I just needed some chill-out time.  After about 30 minutes I started to get a major case of FOMO so I went back to join my group.  Craig stayed back a bit longer.  He was really enjoying having that villa, couch, and TV all to himself I think. ;)

While I was gone, my mom made the boys sit and smile in the sleigh and I'm so glad she did! Look how cute!  I loved how they had great little photo spots in so many places! (Raise your hand if you have not done Christmas cards yet! 🙋‍♀️ This picture may be slapped onto a card just in time for New Years!  Ha!)



After that, they hit up the Arcade.  If y'all have been with me for a while then you may remember that I LOATHE arcades. I'll do anything to get out of going.  But my kids love them!  I showed up after they'd spent most of my dad's quarters so it wasn't too painful. 😉




We walked out of the arcade and Mason was ready for some pool! (That's the Subway in the background and they also have THE MOST AMAZING PIZZA EVER there too.  Seriously.  Mama Deluca's.  Get the pizza.  GET.THE.PIZZA.)


The resort isn't lacking in activities so once we finished pool, we went outside for some shuffleboard, checkers and Connect 4. 


The porch led us back to where putt-putt was in view again so the boys wanted to play some more.  We ran back inside and grabbed putters and balls and went back out.  Easy as that!


I just LOVE this picture of Matthew with his Nana and Papa!


After putt-putt, we wandered around to see what else we could get up to and found some more fun Jollydays activities set up!  Matthew and I whooped Mason and Craig at the reindeer ring toss game.


And then we played a little cornhole. 

Sidenote:  I never thought to tie a rope to the two boards but that's genius.  That way you don't have to measure every time you set them out.  How have I not thought to do this?!



Then we followed the sound of the music to find some live entertainment and a smores station being set up!  Now we're talking! (If you're questioning my Keto-ness this weekend, it was non-existent.  I'm only a low-carber now when I start to gain a little weight.  Therefore I will be a low-carber all this week after all my smores...and pizza...and turkey sandwiches...and Mexican food...hahaha.  Totally worth it.)

Mason loved lighting his marshmallows on fire. It was his favorite part.


And this guy singing was so so good!  Well done with the musician choice, Villages!



We curled up with our smores and our blankets as the sun set, chatted happily and listened to the music.  The whole vibe of this place is just chill and relaxing.



The boys dropped a little something in the musician's "honeymoon fund" jar before going inside to see what else we could get up to.


 We decided to grab some pizzas and sit outside by the fire for dinner so we ordered and while we waited, we took advantage of that super cute photo set up they had and got some fun family shots!

These two are a mess.


Dang, I love these people!


And then we calmed down for a normal one. ;)

(Sidenote:  We took 4 of these pictures and in every single one of them one of us is doing something to mess up the picture.  Two of them caught Craig mid-sentence, in one I was doing something weird with my mouth and the 4th one looked great until we noticed my dad's eyes were closed.  Sigh. Sorry, Dad.  We went with yours. 😂)



Red Sweater HERE (Wearing a small.  TTS. I also grabbed it in the black that has flecks of gold throughout!  Cute for New Years Eve!)


We all crammed in for one big group selfie before heading outside to eat the best pizza I've ever eaten!  Seriously.  My mouth is watering again just thinking about it.




After pizza, we went back in to grab some hot chocolate from the cocoa bar before heading back out to sit by the fire.  Look at all the delicious toppings they had!  This was so much fun and the boys loved it.  (So did the adults!)



We hadn't made our way over to the indoor waterpark yet so we decided to go investigate with a little pitstop at this firepit first.  So pretty!!  I love my little tween!



The boys were dying to see inside of this place so we ran in really quick before they closed for the night to see what to expect the next day.  



Yep.  We were excited!!

But by this point, it was time to get back to the villas and get warm and cozy.  Matthew and I visited Nana and Papa's villa for a while before I left to go back and he stayed to take over their second bedroom.


At one point, Matthew said, "I love how you guys smell."  It was so sweet.  And so random.  He loves his grandparents (all four of them!) so much!  And I love this picture of him and my dad!


The next morning, we woke up, got dressed and headed to...THE STABLES!  We were going horseback riding!

Matthew was the one who convinced us to even do this.  He said he really wanted to try it and we were all just kind of on the fence. This is my kiddo who doesn't love trying new things though so when he said he really wanted to do it, I knew I had to make it happen.

They only had 4 horses available and Craig was over the weight limit (sorry dude) so that left my parents and us.  My dad happily offered to stay behind with Craig and let my mom go with us.

None of us had ever ridden a horse before so we were all excited and a little nervous.   Mason was the most nervous but he quickly got over it.  Clearly. 😂






Tricia (Trisha?), our guide, helped us get on our horses, told us a few basics and we were off!  Who knew it was that easy!?! 

   


We walked down by the lake and Tricia showed us the villas on the beach club side of the resort.


Everything was just so perfect--and did I mention it was 77 degrees?!  So yes, I literally mean PERFECT!






I love this next picture so much! I need to blow it up and frame it. Those trees were gorgeous.



After the ride, we were all a little sore and needed to shake it out.  hahaha  I don't know those cowboys did it back in the day!




After we said goodbye to our horses, we headed back to the resort (just a minute or two down the road) to change and get into our swimsuits!  Not something I'm used to saying in December!  And I was nowhere near swimsuit ready so you'll see no pictures of me for the rest of this trip.  😂

But we had a blast!!

They had another pizza and sandwich place right inside the waterpark which was so convenient.
We grabbed Subway for Mason and more pizza for the rest of us because again...so good! 


The boys ate quickly so they could get to the slides!



This waterpark has two "big" slides that you use an innertube or double tube with and two smaller slides, plus a wave pool, lazy river and splash pad with some kiddie slides.  It has something for everyone and is small enough that you aren't constantly worried about losing a kid but big enough to keep everyone entertained for a few hours.

NOTE:  We didn't realize this but you will need to bring your own towels!  They don't have them there for you which, honestly, I thought was strange.  But they said they had them at the Activity Center which is good BUT the center is out and across the lawn, a good 100 yards away.  Not super convenient.  So bring towels!
 


Oh my gosh, when did he get so big?!  This kid has had the biggest growth spurt of his life over the past 6 months.  He's filled out everywhere and is just about to pass up his big brother in the weight department.


Matthew is still taller though.  They are 23 months apart in case you are wondering.


I didn't take a ton of pictures at the waterpark but I did grab a few while the boys were within camera range.


Papa decided to go join the fun!  He loves his grandboys so much.



We finally were able to drag the boys out of there, packed up the car, said goodbye to Nana and Papa and hit the road for the 2-hour drive back home.  Both boys immediately took off their shirts in the car because it was "so hot".  It WAS almost 80 degrees but I also think they just thought it was funny. 🤷‍♀️


If you are thinking this might be a great place to take your own family, then please allow me to push you forward with that idea!  #bossybritches But really...DO IT!!  I have had so many friends tell me they had no idea this place was basically right down the road and that they need to check it out for themselves.  We absolutely loved all the Jollydays touches from the cookies and cocoa at check-in to the beautiful lights, fun holiday games, festive mini-golf, the smores station...all of it was so perfect for a little Christmas getaway!  The indoor waterpark was just icing on the cake!  

Want to know what I think would be absolutely perfect?  Ringing in the New Year from this resort!  It would be so easy to book it quickly and drive the family down to spend a few days making some memories.  Invite the grandparents, your friends, and their families, or make it a big family reunion!  This would be a really fun idea for a "framily" vacay in any season!

This is just such a great place to come EXPLORE!  I know if we'd have been here longer, we could have gotten up to even more fun stuff. 😉  There were so many things to do at every turn that it was impossible to squeeze it all in.

Don't forget that Jollydays runs until January 3rd!  They have special pricing and all the cute and jolly activities and things going on til then! (And it's still amazing even when they don't, I'm sure but Jollydays is where it's at right now!)

 We were so sad to see our weekend come to an end but we left with such great memories!  We also know for sure we'll be back.  We all want to say a huge thank you to Holiday Inn Club Vacations for sponsoring our trip!

PS: No, I don't get a cut of anything if you book a stay here. haha  I mean, that would be nice and all but no.  So don't think I'm just trying to sweet talk you into going here.  I mean every single solitary word in this post and this is a true and honest review of our stay here.  Y'all know this about me by now, I hope!

If you're thinking you might want to put this on your vacation ideas list, be sure to pin the image below and save it so you can come back to it later!


For more of our travels, you can go HERE to browse the list and click on whatever you'd like to know more about!

And if you're just finding your way over to my part of the internet for the first time, you should come join us over in my Daily Deals Facebook Group!  Tons of great deals and fun finds to be had, friends!  You can also find me at all the places below.

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As always, I'd love to hear from you so leave a comment or question below!


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5 comments

  1. Anonymous12:18 PM

    I just wanted to wish your beautiful family a Merry Christmas! Your boys are so lucky to be surrounded by such loving parents and grandparents, and the love your parents have for you and your boys just shows. Thank you for sharing!

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  2. What an amazing trip! The pics looked like so much FUN!

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  3. Oh wow that looks amazing!! I am definitely going to have to see if they have anything like this near us.

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  4. Karen4:00 PM

    The pictures of your boys in the sleigh are just perfect!

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  5. Anonymous6:01 PM

    Amanda, thank you so much for sharing. We are Holiday Inn Vacation Club members and your experience hascmy family very excited for our first vacation ����. These pics are awesome and your input definitely is very much appreciated. You have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

    ReplyDelete

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