EXPLORE

Family Vacations Worth Taking

Blog About me

EXPLORE

Family Vacations Worth Taking

Blog About me

 

EXPLORE

Family Vacations Worth Taking

Blog About me

February 14, 2016
Kyla

6 Reasons to Stay at one of the Disney Resorts for Your First Visit to Disney World

 

Disneyworld's Cinderella's Castle
Cinderella’s Castle

When you plan your first visit to Disney World, you can get overwhelmed quickly by the choices. With four distinct parks that cover a large area, Disney World can be daunting. Where do you stay? Which park should you go to and what rides and experiences are must sees? If it is your first time to Disney World, I recommend staying on property. Here’s why.

 

Mickey and Minnie at the Dream Along with Mickey show
Mickey and Minnie at the Dream Along with Mickey show

 

  • Easy access! There are 31 Disney owned properties and they range from budget friendly hotels and campsites to deluxe villas and suites. Some of these properties, such as the luxurious Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and the more moderately priced Contemporary and Polynesian resorts, are located on the Monorail system. It links the hotels to the theme parks. Other hotels inside the park such as my favorite, Animal Kingdom Lodge, require shuttles and/or ferries to the parks. Being able to take a break or a nap mid day becomes much easier when you are staying inside Disney. You don’t have to travel as far and in my experience, you are more willing to return to the parks at night. Whenever I stay off property, I never end up returning to the park after the mid-day nap. Too much hassle. At least one night, I recommend returning to see the fireworks and parades.

 

Walt Disneyworld parade
Walt Disney World parade

 

  • Extra Magic hours! Every day, one of the four theme parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, opens its doors one hour earlier for guests who stay in Disney-owned properties. What an amazing way to get a jumpstart on your day! This can be the difference between waiting 20 minutes for a coveted ride or 3 hours! If you’re an early riser or your children are, why not enjoy the extra hour in the park.

 

Ride the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom
Ride the Jungle Cruise in Magic Kingdom

 

  • Free transportation from the airport! Disney offers a complimentary Orlando airport- to- hotel bus service called the Magical Express. You should reserve this service in advance and Disney will provide you with special luggage tags. When you arrive in Orlando, you skip the baggage claim and head directly to the Disney welcome center. We’ve used this several times. My boys love watching the Disney cartoons inside the bus. And we love having our bags delivered to our room, for free!
Waiting to ride the Speedway
Waiting to ride the Speedway

 

  • Free self parking at the theme parks and resort hotels! When we didn’t take the Magical Express, we rented a car at the airport and drove ourselves to the parks. Daily parking in the theme park costs $20. That gives you access to parking at all four parks. We felt good staying on property and saving that daily $20 charge.
Watching a parade at Magic Kingdom
Watching a parade at Magic Kingdom

 

  • MagicBands! When you stay on property, you receive a complimentary MagicBand. It is waterproof wristband that you can use as your room key, your key to get into the park and your charge card to make any purchases. You don’t need to bring your wallet or any other cards inside the park. You receive the MagicBands ahead of your stay, sign into your Disney account and link them to your reservation. My boys personalized their MagicBands and used them to unlock special surprises throughout the resort. We liked having one less thing to carry in our pockets.

 

His favorite balloon!

  • Speaking of buying anything- staying on property allows you to use the free delivery service. We only had to carry our balloons! You can purchase souvenirs anywhere inside the park and they will be delivered for free to your room by the next afternoon.

 

Staying off property has its advantages too. You can find great deals at resorts that have shuttles to the theme parks. When you stay off property, you can choose how much Disney you want. Now, it’s up to you to decide. Do you prefer staying on or off property?

January 18, 2016
Kyla

8 things to consider for your Disney Dream cruise to the Bahamas

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Disney’s Dream cruise ship

My family loves all things Disney and the 3 day Disney Dream cruise to the Bahamas did not let us down!

Here are 8 things to consider for your Disney Dream cruise to the Bahamas:

  • Bring your pirate gear! Pirate night kicked off with a buccaneer themed dinner, followed by a stage show featuring Mickey and the gang. It was fun to see everyone dressed in their pirate gear. The night ended with a spectacular display of fireworks.
Pirate Night on Disney's Dream cruise
Ahoy Mateys!
  • Plan an excursion! Everyday, you can choose to stay on board or take an excursion. In Nassau, we interacted with the dolphins at the Atlantis resort. My three and five year olds were hesitant at first, but once they saw how docile the dolphins were, they waded into the water. Even though it was an extra expense, it was our favorite excursion. How often do you get to pet a dolphin?
Dolphins
Dolphins!
  • Get off the boat at Castaway Cay. This is Disney’s private island. Rent a cabana or lounge on a complimentary beach chair. Disney provides it all- the towels and a huge lunch buffet, frequented by many of the Disney characters. We took a glass bottom boat tour. Our crew taught us about the native fish and the correct pronunciation of Cay—it’s “Key.” After the boat tour, we grabbed beach chairs and jumped in the ocean. There’s a nice set up with waterslides near the shore.
Disney's private island, Castaway Key
Disney’s private island, Castaway Key
  • Enjoy the phenomenal Disney productions. Each Broadway style show lasted about 45 minutes – the right length for young families. We sat in the front and in the back during two different shows and our boys could see well. These high energy productions kept us entertained each night.
  • Take advantage of the kids club. Our boys spent a few hours there while we had a quiet dinner. The boys wanted to return but we had too many other fun activities planned, which brings me to my next piece of advice…
  • Plan your day. You can be as busy or relaxed as you want. In hindsight, I would have slowed down. We tried to do every event and by 8 pm, we were exhausted. We liked our oceanview stateroom with bunk beds for the boys and a curtain to draw so the adults had some privacy. It also had a great balcony with chairs and I liked that there was a water closet separate from the shower and the sink. If one of the boys had a bathroom emergency while someone was showering, it wasn’t a problem. Disney does a great job with those little details that are important to young families.
He loves bunk beds.
  • Choose your dining time asap. We missed the window for the early seating at 6 pm and had an 8 pm dinner time. Each night, you sit with the same people and have the same wait staff, but you eat at a different themed restaurant. We are early eaters, so the second dining time at 8 pm didn’t work for us. We tried it the first night and my boys fell asleep in their food! Our waiter said it was possible to change but we never requested it. Instead, we ate as a family at a buffet area. Chicken nugget paradise!
Right before he fell asleep
Right before my son fell asleep. Can you believe he chose broccoli over ice cream?

8) Be ready for crowds. We went while school was in session, which we thought would be less crowded, but the pools were packed. Disney cruise line, following US Public Health service requirements, requires all swimmers to be potty trained. No swim diapers allowed in the pools or on the slides. There are splash areas where toddlers in swim diapers can go. Our boys were too short for the AquaDuck, the on board water slide, but they enjoyed a smaller water slide on the pool deck. We loved the beach at Castaway Cay and the large pools and slides at Atlantis.

Pint size slide at Atlantis

Overall, it was a fantastic experience. It was crowded but that’s something we expect when we do anything Disney related. This cruise was a fun way to introduce our family to the high seas. We could feel the boat moving at dinner but for the most part, it was smooth sailing. Disney cruise line pays attention to the details and makes cruising with a young family a pleasant experience.

January 8, 2016
Kyla

Top 5 things to do with preschoolers at Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii

 

Good morning Aulani

We’ve always wanted to take the kids to Hawaii, but we were never brave enough to take the 8 hour flight from Texas. Enter Disney’s Aulani resort on Oahu. Suddenly, Hawaii seemed possible, even with our young kids! We spent a week enjoying the resort and there was still more to see.

 

Here’s my top 5:

 

1) Be an early riser and claim your seat at the beach or pool! Both are family friendly. At the pool, we explored the 2 water slides and the climbing structure at Menehune Bridge.

Fun at the bridge

 

We also enjoyed the character pool parties at the main pool, which is zero entry level. At the beach, swim, snorkel, paddleboard or kayak! There are virutally no waves and the water is clear enough to see the fish.

Snorkeling at Disney's Aulani

My boys had a blast chasing after the fish. We brought our own swim googles. You can rent the snorkels, paddleboards and kayaks. The beach toys are free. My boys loved making sandcastles!

We made birthday cakes and snowmen in the sand.
We made birthday cakes and snowmen in the sand.

 

2) Rainbow Reef- My five year old grew very brave and decided to go into the Rainbow Reef, the island’s only saltwater lagoon reef, full of thousands of colorful fish.

Let's go snorkeling!
Let’s go snorkeling!

It’s only about 8 feet deep and perfect for beginner snorklers. Kids must be accompanied by an adult. Everyone wears an inflatable life jacket and there are lifeguards on duty. The best part- there was a observation deck and a viewing window so I could take pictures of my son’s first snorkeling experience. Awesome!

Loved watching this from the viewing area
Loved watching this from the viewing area

 

3) Aunty’s Beach house: This is Aulani’s kid’s club. The kids can go for open play or for the planned activities. Save yourself some headaches and sign up for the activities before you arrive. I saw some groggy parents lining up at 6:30 am to get their child a spot! Not my idea of a good time on vacation. During their time at Aunty’s house, my boys made space goo with Stitch. This was free, but there were some paid experiences too.

 

4) Get get the daily Iwa! This is your daily guide to what’s happening at the resort. There’s a phone number you can call at 8 am- which we called at exactly 8 am every morning- to find out where the characters will be. We found Minnie and Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Stitch and Chip and Dale.

They're always dancing.
They’re always dancing.

 

These two chipmunks were the best; they always interacted and danced with my boys whenever they saw them. We also signed up for the breakfast with the characters. Honestly, this was unnecessary as we got photos and interactions with all the same characters just roaming the resort. With this resort, you get the Disney flair- a handful of character sightings and a character breakfast, without the rides.

 

5) The Starlight Hui- It is very late at night, usually from 8-9 pm, but if you take a nap in the afternoon and can make it, this show is a must see!

Starlit Hui, Disney's version of a luau
Starlit Hui, Disney’s version of a luau

 

My boys loved it. We didn’t even plan to see it; we just saw a line and jumped on in. It’s crazy how Disney gets you to do that! We showed up at 6:30 pm and waited in line for an hour! Be prepared for a wait if you want to be in the front row. The family next to us played Heads Up on their IPhones which looked fun. They also brought a pizza from one of the resort cafes and a kit to build snowman cookies, also from the resort cafe. It was a great idea to keep their kids busy! The pre show is from 7:30-8. That’s when they teach the kids to hula which is fun to watch. Then at 8, the magic starts.

Aulani's Starlit Hui
Beautiful performance

 

Hula dancers grace the stage while fire dancers perform a tame version of their dance. We had two amazing ukulele players who played all my favorite Christmas carols, plus the Stars Wars theme. It was probably my favorite part! The Disney characters showed up at the very end of the show and led a few dances.

 

Across the street from Aulani, there is a shopping plaza with a coffee shop, convenience store, restaurant and clothing store just to name a few. Hauling groceries back and forth with two preschoolers didn’t work for us so we rented a car. You can rent a car at the resort or the airport. While it’s not cheap to rent and park a car at Aulani, it was worth it for us. We drove to Starbucks, McDonald’s and Jamba Juice within two miles of the resort. One day, we even ventured into Honolulu- be prepared for traffic early in the morning and late in the afternoon.

 

The boys loved listening to the audio guide provided for free by the aquarium.
The boys loved listening to the audio guide provided for free by the aquarium.

 

We visited the Honolulu aquarium (we spent about an hour there and felt that was enough time) and splashed in the famous Waikiki beach (very crowded!). If you don’t feel like renting a car, you can take paid excursions from Aulani too. Check out Aulani’s website to plan your trip!

Sunset at Disney's Aulani resort
Sunset at Disney’s Aulani resort