travel-section

Category : Family

If you are planning your next family vacation and want to shake things up a bit, have I got some exciting destinations to share with you! Expedia Viewfinder challenged me to put together a list of great family travel for 2015, including places families could go looking for adventure. This year, I want you to think outside the vacation box, step away from the typical resort pools and kids’ clubs and take your family vacation to the next level. These family vacations are not only are exciting, but they will inspire, educate and create memories to last a lifetime.

Vista Verde Steamboat Spring Colorado Family Adventure Travel 2015
1. First Class Dude Ranch

Vista Verde – Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Vista Verde Ranch is a luxury guest ranch located just north of Steamboat Springs, CO. Visiting a dude ranch has always been on my bucket list, and from the looks of it, Vista Verde is the place to go! Not only is the riding program top-notch with great horses, tons of instruction, and beautiful trails, but this ranch offers so much more. Other activities include mountain biking, fly fishing, hiking, rock climbing, wild yoga, cooking classes, wine tasting and even a hands-on photography workshop. The Kids program is filled with a variety of activities, including a ropes course, scavenger hunts, panning for gold and painting on horses! They offer 7-night stays during the summer, and Vista Verde is an all inclusive ranch — all meals and activities are covered. It’s a good idea to book sooner than later, as they usually are fully booked for the summer.

Caves Branch Jungle Lodge Belize Family Travel Adventure 2015

2. Cave Tubing

Cave’s Branch Jungle Lodge –  Belize

Enter the exciting world of rivers disappearing into the underworld as you float on inner tubes with only your headlamp to light your way. Sound exciting? It sure does to me — sign me up! Caves Branch Jungle Lodge in Belize is non-stop adventure, whether you are hiking through caves, rappelling down a 300-foot cliff, exploring the Mayan underground or cruising the seven miles of underground rivers. For 19 years, Ian Anderson has been creating wild adventures for families and what was once a simple, rustic, jungle lodge is now a full-service resort. Caves Branch even includes five-star luxury tree houses. This is sure to be one of your best family vacations yet! The youngest age for a cave expedition is seven years old, and many of the cave trips are for 10 years and older, so be sure to check the website to make sure your children can participate.

Check out Expedia’s viewfinder for more Belize photo inspiration

Western Expeditions Soutwest Sampler Rafting Tour Utah Family Adventure 2015

3. Family RaftingTrip

Southwest Sampler, Utah

Western River Expeditions provides stunning family rafting trips alongside the beautiful red rocks of Utah. Their Southwest Sampler is perfect for families seeking a variety of activities, which includes a two-night stay at the Gonzo Inn in Moab, Utah, a guided tour and hike of Arches National Park, lunch and a Hummer Sunset Safari. Then you’ll spend 2 days / 1 night drifting along the Colorado River, taking in the beauty of the beautiful rock formations and camping under the stars. This trip will allow you to bond as a family while giving you a sense of adventure, reflection and renewal. Children as young as 5 years old may go on these exciting rafting trips.

Tierra Magnifica Surf Camp Spanish Immersion Nosara Costa Rica Family Travel
4. Learn Spanish & Learn to Surf

Tierra Magnifica – Nosara, Costa Rica

Imagine spending your family vacation completely immersed in the culture and tradition of a Costa Rican seaside community, surrounded by abundant wildlife and one of the most beautiful beaches in Costa Rica. Tierra Magnifica is a first-class private estate that sits high above the quiet beach town of Nosara on the pacific coast of Costa Rica and caters to large groups and family vacations.Tierra Magnifica offers one and two week summer Spanish Immersion Camps that combine 17 hours of Spanish instruction with a selection of activities, tours and family time that will create memories for a lifetime. Spots are limited for the Spanish Immersion Camp, and it fills up quickly, so be sure to make your reservation soon! They also offer a Family Adventure Surf Camp throughout the entire year.

Cinnamon Bay St John Camping Family Travel 2015 5. Camping on the beach

Cinnamon Bay – St. John, US Virgin Islands

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be stranded on an island?  Okay, maybe not stranded, but if skipping the traditional hotel room and sleeping right on the beach sounds like fun to you, Cinnamon Bay Campground on St. John is the place for you!  Cinnamon Bay offers families tents and small cottages right on the beach, just steps from the water.  You can either rent a tent, which has a solid floor and mosquito netting, or you can rent a small cottage that comes with four walls, four twin beds, electric lights and electric plugs. Both options come equipped with a picnic table, charcoal grill, propane gas stove and gas lantern, ice chest, water container, storage bin and cooking and eating utensils. There is a restaurant and general store, and cribs are available upon request. This will not only be a great family adventure, but for the budget-savvy. it’s a great way to get that beach front room — without a high price tag. For pricing, visit Cinnamon Bay rates. 

Anthonys Key Resort Roatan Honduras Family Adventure Travel

6.  Dolphin Scuba Summer Camp

Anthony’s Key Resort –  Roatan, Honduras

At Anthony’s Key Resort you’ll stay in over-the-water wooden bungalows and get up close and personal with dolphins during their Dolphn Scuba Summer Camp. Roatan is know for its first-class diving experiences and their dolphin programs for both adults and children. During the week, children ages 5 to 14 will interact with bottlenose dolphins through various encounters, feeding and training sessions. They’ll also be exposed to diving and snorkeling skills, depending on their age and skill level. Oceanside discussions, short classroom sessions, snorkeling trips and other outdoor activities will give your child a real appreciation for the ocean, marine life and the environment in general. You might not have thought of Honduras as a family vacation spot until now!

Rubys Inn Utah Camping in a Tipi Family Adventure 2015

7. Sleep in a Tipi

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Sure you can sleep at the Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel or at their sister property Ruby’s Inn, but why would you when you can sleep in an authentic Native American Tipi? That’s right. Ruby’s Inn also has RV and campgrounds where you can rent a tipi for the night. How cool is that? These are the closest accommodations to Bryce Canyon National Park, a must-see and must-do destination as one of Utah’s most beautiful red rock parks. The best way to see Bryce Canyon is either by horseback, where you’ll literally ride on the trails used by outlaw Butch Cassidy, or by the popular ATV tours. Next to Bryce Canyon is Zion National Park, where you can explore even more hiking trails, mountain biking and rock climbing.

Big Cedar Lodge Wilderness Resort Family Travel 2015
8. Luxury Wilderness Resort

Big Cedar Lodge – Ozark Mountains, Missouri

Big Cedar Lodge is known as America’s premier wilderness resort and was founded by Bass Pro Shops owner Johnny Morris. Big Cedar Lodge offers a wealth of outdoor adventure perfect for families. The resort provides an amazing lake-front setting, five swimming pools and land and water adventures ranging from bass fishing, water skiing and lake cruises to campfire wagon tours and horseback riding. The children’s adventure program is for ages 4 – 12, and kids receive a backpack filled with adventure tools and a hat for collecting pins. Adventure pins include BB gun safety and training, camping, tent making, fire building, rocks and fossils, canoeing and plant and animal identification. I know my kids would love to earn and collect all these pins.

The Springs Resort Arenal Costa Rica

9. Adventure in the Rainforest

The Springs – Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

The Springs is a luxury resort nestled in the middle of the rainforest in Costa Rica and has one of the best views of the Arenal Volcano. The Springs is a spectacular resort with large, lagoon-style pools, and a secluded section of hot springs and waterfalls called Perdido Springs (Lost Springs). These pools are surrounded by lush tropical plants, and in the middle of this hidden oasis is a small jungle bar and a water flume called the Monkey Slide. Sitting just below the resort, lagoon pools and springs is Club Rio, an outdoor center with river kayaking, river tubing, rock climbing and rappelling, horseback riding, fishing, mountain biking nature tours and a Wildlife Preserve for rescued animals. Not far from the resort you can also visit the popular Arenal Hanging Bridges and zip line through the jungle at Sky Trek. We have actually been here, and our family had an absolute blast.

The white sand beach of Isla Carmen.10. Family Kayaking Trip

Baja California / Mexico

ROW Sea Kayak Adventures features a family-friendly kayaking trip that is easily accessible from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. The Isla Espiritu Santo Kayak Sojourn takes you to the tranquil waters surrounding Isla Espirito Santo, a National Park and UNESCO Biosphere located just north of La Paz, Baja. The island features numerous deep coves, fantastic rock formations and beautiful white-sand beaches voted by Travel Magazine as some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit) Island is uninhabited, and you’ll spend days 5 days / 4 nights snorkeling with hundreds of tropical fish, sea lions (weather permitting), parrot fish, dolphins and whale sharks. What could be better than that!?


Where will you take your family in 2015?

 

Disclosure: This was a post written in partnership with Expedia, however, I personally selected all of these locations and trips. All my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own.

 

 


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6 Reasons to visit the Disneyland Resort During the Holidays #DisneyHolidays

It seems as though the Disneyland Resort and the holidays were a match made in mouse-shaped heaven, Disneyland is quite frankly the perfect locale for all things happy and festive. We were recently invited to enjoy the merry festivities, all opinions are own. After a day full of holiday Mickey heaven we have created a list of reasons why you should run and not just walk to the Disneyland Resort during the holidays.

The Castle during the holidays at Disneyland #DisneyHolidays
Just Got Merrier Decorations

I personally love over-the-top decorations around the holidays; the more the merrier I always say, but somehow the Disneyland Resort takes it just a step further and has the ability to fully immerse guests into a magical world of snow capped castles, wreath strewn lamp posts, gigantor Christmas trees and jingle belled adored horse drawn carriages down Main Street U.S.A. that makes Christmas even more merry. Both the Disneyland Resort and California Adventure are a gorgeous sight to behold during the holidays that are decked out to the fullest with decorations and festive décor everywhere.

Jingle Cruise Ride at Disneyland #DisneyHolidays

Holiday Rides

During the holidays at the Disneyland Resort a few of our favorite rides receive a festive holiday transformation. The Jungle Cruise becomes the “Jingle Cruise” with super fun surprises along the boat ride and can we talk about how funny that ride has become? I mean, I can never stop laughing at the boat drivers corny jokes. It’s a Small World Holiday is a popular attraction over the holidays and a must see. The Haunted Mansion Holiday is a complete Christmas transformation with a Nightmare Before Christmas theme (my 7 year old and 4 year old loved it!).

A Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland #DisneyHolidays
A Christmas Fantasy Parade

Twice a day and starting at It’s A Small World and ending in Town Square, the “A Christmas Fantasy Parade” marches through the resort and features everyone’s favorite characters while they don their most festive apparel. Disney Princesses (even Anna and Elsa!) join the parade along with prancing reindeer, marching toy soldiers and dancing gingerbread cookies. To round out the entertaining parade Santa Claus makes an appearance with his rosy cheeks and jolly laugh.

Santa Claus at Jingle Jangle Jamboree
Jingle Jangle Jamboree

Located in Frontierland in Big Thunder Ranch is the ultimate Christmas activity showdown known as “Jingle, Jangle, Jamboree”. There are games and activities, such as coloring (every kid that colors a Sheriff’s star can participate in the stage show), cookie decorating, reindeer games, yummy food and even a petting zoo. Guests can even visit Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus too.

Holiday Food at Disneyland #DisneyHolidays

Holiday Eats and Sweets

No piece written about the Disneyland Resort can complete without a mention of the food and sweet treats to be had at the park during the holidays. All along Main Street U.S.A. and Buena Vista Street in DCA you can find handmade sweets such as fudge, toffee, candy canes, caramel apples, candies, cookies and so much more. New to the Disneyland Resort are the Souvenier Soup Cups available at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, where guests can grab a insulated soup cup to go and enjoy it while watching the parade. The soup stays warm inside, but the cup is cool enough to carry!

World of Color - Winter Dreams #DisneyHolidays
World of Color – Winter Dreams

The World of Color show every night at Disney’s California Adventure is always a sight to behold; however the World of Color – Winter Dreams is a magical visual feast that you absolutely cannot miss. Hosted by the huggable Olaf, the show consists of holiday magic and sparkly colors with upbeat music that everyone will enjoy.

Log on now to book your Disneyland Resort and Disney California Adventure holiday visit today.

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Caneel Bay Ferry St John Us Virgin Islands Family Travel

Caneel Bay, St. John US Virgin Islands

As we jetted across the water on the ferry ride from St. Thomas over to Caneel Bay, McKenna was cuddled up next to me, her tiny cheek was pressed against mine and one of her curls kept blowing in my face. We had just arrived from a very long travel day and we were catching the very last ferry of the night. Anxious to see the clear blue waters that the caribbean is known for, instead, we both sat quietly gazing up at the millions of stars lighting up the black sky. This was the beginning of our first mother daughter trip together and a ferry ride I’ll never forget.

Caneel Bay is located on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands, it sits on 170 acres, nestled along the Virgin Islands National Park and home to seven beautiful beaches. The entire resort and property has a very laid back, beach chic vibe that compliments the island instead of taking it over. I found this very refreshing. There is a calmness here, even the water is calm. You won’t hear waves crashing, instead you’ll hear a steady pulse of the water hitting the sand. Which is why it doesn’t take long before you easily fall into the rhythm of the island and unplug from it all.

Turquoise Blue Water US Virgin Islands St John Caneel Bay Family Travel

Caneel Bay Dock US Virgin Islands

Caneel Bay Resort

The Caneel Bay Resort has a variety of different room options from ocean view, garden view and beach front. The rooms are spread out throughout the property so it never feels crowded. It reminded me a bit like summer camp with the different cabin and lodging areas. Our room was right on Caneel Beach and along our particular stretch of sand there were about 12 rooms and it was as if we were all sharing our own private island. Our room was literally steps feet from the beach. I rolled out of bed, opened the door and walked 25 feet and my toes were in the water, if we were any closer I would have been sleeping in the sand.

These rooms are excellent for families because they are so convenient to the ferry dock, water activity rentals, restaurants, tennis courts and gift shop. There is also a floating dock at Caneel Beach for the kids to swim out to and jump off of, they could have done this all day long.

Caneel Bay Donkeys St John US Virgin Islands
There are also roaming donkeys on Caneel Bay, but don’t be alarmed, they are tame and very friendly. They’ll even stop for pictures and the kids can pet them.

DCIM100MEDIA
Snorkeling on St. John

Our first morning we walked a short walk over to Honeymoon beach where we got suited up for our kayak and snorkel tour with Virgin Islands Eco Tours. This was the first time McKenna had been in a kayak and she was a little hesitant to snorkel, but she quickly got over that when we were told there were turtles down below! We saw three turtles and even witnessed them come up for their five breaths of air and then dive back down. It was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen. McKenna would pop up and scream with excitement when she started seeing all the colorful fish near the coral. Our guide Robb from Virgin Islands Eco Tours was incredible with the kids and took some amazing underwater photos for us.

DCIM100MEDIA

Sand Art Honeymoon Beach Caneel Bay St John US Virgin Islands

Honeymoon Beach

After the snorkel tour the kids were lucky enough to be the first to create sand art on Honeymoon Beach. They are just starting this program and our kids took it for a test run with Robb still by their side! This is a great activity to get the kids out of the sun for awhile and create a special keepsake to take home. Honeymoon beach is open to the public and anyone can rent water equipment or book a tour with Virgin Island Eco Tours.

Caneel Bay Kids Club St John Virgin Islands

Caneel Bay Kids Club

There is a free kids club at Caneel Bay. Hooray! This might be one of the biggest perks for families looking for a caribbean vacation. Sometimes moms and dads want to be able to explore on their own, get a massage or spend some alone time with one another. Turtle Town is for children ages 3 -11 and hosts a variety of daily activities and fun educational programing for the kids. They even host a kids dinner and a movie so parents can enjoy a night out on the town.

Caneel Bay Tennis Courts

Tennis Lessons

Tennis lessons are available everyday for both adults and children. This was a great way to start the day the Moms were on one court while the kids had a blast on the court right next to us. You and your kids do not have to be serious tennis players to take a lesson. The kids will have a blast and the adults can get a little work out in.

We also had dinner on the beach, which you can have specially set up for you and your family or group. There was a local man selling some unique island arts and crafts. McKenna loved learning how to use the Ra Ra Toy which is a traditional island toy and St. John’s version of the yo yo.

Ra Ra Toy US Virging Islands St John Caneel BayCaneel Bay Gelato

Be sure to stop in the Caneel Bay gift shop for any essentials you might have forgotten or to buy a new sun dress or cover up, they have a beautiful collection of clothing and accessories. They also have a kids section with adorable clothing, swimsuits, toys and souvenirs. Inside the gift shop is Canella Cafe, where you can order sandwiches and snacks to go for your day at the beach and be sure to grab a scoop of gelato!

Cruz Bay St John Virgin Islands

Shopping in Cruz Bay Caneel Bay US Virgin Islands Hook Bracelet
Shopping in Cruz Bay

Cruz Bay is just a 10 minute shuttle ride from Caneel Bay and on the way you will see a few look out points of Caneel Bay and Cruz Bay, so be sure to ask your driver to stop so you can grab some gorgeous ariel views! Cruz Bay is a popular spot to do some shopping and has a lot of great restaurants and bars. Some of the local favorites are; Fatty Crab, a fun and casual restaurant for the whole family. High Tide, where the kids can play on the beach and often features live music, and LaTapa a fine dining just for mom and dad and has live jazz music on some evenings.

We went to Cruz Bay on a little bit of a mission, to find the original St. John hook bracelets! The hook bracelets are a famous caribbean treasure that represent love and unity. Depending on how you wear your bracelet, with the hook facing out or facing in, it lets people know if your heart is taken. We all loved them so much we each bought one at the Bamboo Studio. This is the perfect little gift to take home from St. John. I was on this trip with my friends Nicole and Kim Marie, which makes these bracelets even more special to me.

Caneel Bay View Family Travel
A Classic Family Vacation

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we boarded the plane to Caneel Bay, other than the turquoise water of course, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Caneel Bay reminded me of how family vacations should be spent. So many family vacations today consist of packed itineraries and schedules that leave little time for relaxing and just spending quality time together. Caneel Bay has the perfect balance of plenty of things to do but also leaves time to soak up the sun and actually relax and enjoy your vacation. Finally, I went home from a vacation feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Has your family been to the Virgin Islands?
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When your family consists of more than one child, life can oftentimes feel like a survival series. Once school is back in session — with the constant stream of after-school activities, homework and getting ready for the holidays — life can seem like a tornado coming at you full speed ahead. Slow down and connect with each of your children by planning a one-on-one travel date and you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn about your kid and how much fun you can have.

kid travel ideas travel date

I have been lucky enough to take each of my kids on a one-on-one travel date and to some pretty cool spots, too. On these trips, I have had the MOST fun connecting with each of my boys and I hope to make this a regular event.

Planning your one-on-one kid vacation

When you’re coming up with kid travel ideas for your one-on-one travel date, it’s really important to focus on what your kid likes. If your kids are anything like my kids, they have completely different interests. My older one is more adventurous and athletic, while my younger one is inclined to take things more slowly. Needless to say, each of our trips will be completely different, and it’s important to plan accordingly.

Here are some tips:

  • Include your child in the planning process. What activities does he want to do? Where would he want to go? How does he want to spend his one-on-one time with you?
  • Coordinate with school. Your kid will survive a few days out of school – you’ll make it educational anyway, right? Ask your child’s teacher any work you can take along with you on the trip and carve out time daily to complete it.
  • Prep your other child(ren) for your special one-on-one time and simply remind them that their time will soon come, too. You may also need to prep your spouse (you can encourage him/her to enjoy their own special time with the kid who is staying).
  • In fact, you should encourage your spouse to take his own travel date with the kids. He will give them a totally different, completely memorable experience.
  • Choose a destination that will give you a variety of activities, and give you maximum flexibility. I  know in both of my one-on-one travel dates, I had all these grandiose plans for how things would go, but something inevitably happens. Must. Be. Flexible.
  • If you’re heading out of the country (and might I recommend Mexico or the Bahamas?), you should go ahead and order your child’s passport. Actually, go ahead and order their passport anyway (we should all have an up-to-date passport!)
  • Also, when traveling without the other parent, it is required by law to bring a notarized letter acknowledging the trip is ok. Read more about this on the US Border Patrol and Customs Protection website.
  • Record as much as you can; video, photos, journaling. Then, when you get home create a hard copy photo album and an online album, too.

I found that traveling one-on-one with each of my kids incredibly eye-opening. Come to find out my oldest is not nearly as aggravating when his little brother isn’t around, and my youngest is much more self-sufficient than I give him credit for. I was able to get to know my kids individually without the distractions of everyday life.

one on one travel date collage

Getting away with one of your kids is totally fun and incredibly rewarding. Look at that face!

Kid travel ideas

Plan a BIG trip for a particular birthday, such as Hawaii, Europe, or even a long road trip and plan to go on big adventures. (Your spouse may be jealous, but you and your special guy will have the trip of a lifetime!).

Can’t do a big trip? No problem, stay stateside. Our friend Tonya of Letters for Lucas, recently took her guy to Chicago, Keryn of Walking on Travels took her little guy on a boat in Seattle and I was able to spend a few days with my little one here at Snow Mountain Ranch in Colorado. The point is, that there are so many options for adventure when you consider the what kind of stuff your kid is into.

So, what if you don’t have the budget to fly somewhere? Consider a stay-cation in your very own community!  I have not done this yet, but I love the idea of taking one of my boys to a local hotel (that has a pool) and staying the night. We would consider local “adventures” and I would let them run the show.

Really the possibilities are endless when thinking about kid travel ideas. They enjoy the one-on-one time as much as we do.

one on one travel date collage

A one-on-one travel date will create lasting memories. I sure do love this kid!

Your family is a precious commodity and investing in life’s moments not only adds a richness, it also creates a deeper connection when you take the time to create memorable one-on-one moments. It just goes by too quickly!

What are your favorite kid travel ideas for a one-on-one travel date?
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Last week I shared my take on some of the popular Orlando theme parks and what to do with kids in Orlando, but this week is all about the food. Finding fun places to eat in Orlando that both you and the kids will enjoy can be a bit of a challenge. When on a family vacation you should always try to eat out at some restaurants that you might now have back home. There are plenty of fast food and chain restaurants so finding some healthier options is always nice too. So here are my six fun places to eat in Orlando!

Fun places to eat in Orlando with kids

Cafe Tu Tu Tango Orlando Florida

Cafe Tu Tu Tango Restaurant Orlando Florida

Fun Places to eat in Orlando Florida Cafe Tu Tu Tango Tu Tu Tango Pork Sliders Orlando Florida

Cafe Tu Tu Tango

Cafe Tu Tu Tango was hands down my favorite place we ate. It is a very unique restaurant and bar that looks like an artists studio. The vibe is funky, eclectic and creative, and has a great atmosphere. We celebrated my mother-in-laws retirement here, she was an art teacher for 32 years! So clearly this was a perfect place to celebrate the occasion. The food was really fantastic, all small plates meant for family style sharing. The Pork Sliders were by far the family favorite, we ordered another round of those!  All the food was great and even the kids got into sampling most everything that we ordered. They do make small pizzas if your kids are a little pickier.

There was even a fortune teller at a small table and both the Grandma’s went and had their fortunes told! There was also a belly dancer that was dancing around the restaurant later in the night. This restaurant gets pretty busy with large parties and people celebrating Birthdays and other special occasions, so make a reservation!

Dicks Last Resort Orlando Florida
Dicks Last Resort Orlando Florida Party Hats
Dicks Last Resort Beergarita Orlando Florida

Dicks Last Resort

Dick’s Last Resort is a riot. Do not come here unless you are in a good mood. The servers are sarcastic and a little rude, on purpose. The entire restaurant is a party so it is a bit loud and there is a lot going on. At one point they had one of the large groups that was there do a limbo challenge in the middle of the restaurant. Everyone at your table will get a bib and a silly paper hats put on their heads.  They write a funny description of you on the hat that the server randomly makes up or perhaps observes about your personality.

We had to order the Beergarita just for fun. It is a large margarita with a beer dumped inside of it I ended up drinking drank most of it and so my husband drove us all home.The food is a bit expensive for what you get, but you go here more for the obnoxious experience and to have some great laughs. Relax and your family is sure to have a good time at Dick’s Last Resort.

Sea Dog Brewing Company Orlando Florida
Sea Dog Brewing Company Beer Flights

Sea Dog Brewing Company Orlando Florida Connect For

Sea Dog Brewing Company

We stumbled upon Sea Dog Brewing Company by chance. We were ina sea of chain restaurants and then we saw this sign spinner on the corner spinning a sign for the Sea Dog Brewing Company, we turned to give it a try.  We also happened to go on Trivia night and during Happy Hour – so food was a great price and we had a lot of fun testing our knowledge.  We sat in the bar area with our kids, it was totally fine. They have a large

Salad

Photo credit

Sweet Tomatoes

Sweet Tomatoes, yup a salad bar. It’s not exactly “fun” per se but traveling with kids means eating out a lot and when you find a place that has healthy food that everyone likes, you go there, maybe even twice! Farm fresh vegetables and an all you can eat salad bar was rather refreshing to us after a few days of theme park food, i literally had an ice cream cone for lunch one day, so seeing a variety of green vegetables was very exciting. My daughter loves salads so she was thrilled and happy to make her own. Of course my son not a huge fan of veggies we got him chicken noodle and some of the cold pasta salads they offer. And while you can eat very healthy here, there is still a desert station if you want to indulge a little or use that as a bargaining chip with the kids. They liked making their own sundaes.

Winter Park Farmers Market Orlando Florida

Winter Park Florida Park Avenue Shopping Dining

Head to Winter Park

We hit up the Farmers Market in Winter Park on Saturday for some off the beathen path food and local finds and did a little shopping on South Park Ave. There are also plenty of restaurants on South Park Avenue for you to choose from, everything from Panera Bread to trendy restaurants, wine bars and even a Sassafras Sweet Shop. Don’t miss the kids toy store Lighten Up! we spent a long time in there.

Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory Kissimmee Florida
Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory – Kissimmee

Abracadabra Ice Cream Factory is located right before you get into the Old Downtown of Kissimmee, which is right next to Orlando. This is a MUST SEE and EAT. I heard about this ice cream shop via Twitter, so naturally I had to check it out. When you walk in it feels a bit more like a science lab because of all the nitrogen floating around in the air.  They make your custom ice cream flavor in a bowl right in front of you by using nitrogen! If the show isn’t enough to convince you, don’t worry the ice cream will. It is A – mazing! Probably some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had and worth all the calories.  They also have a playground and a few jump houses out back for the kids to run off their sugar high!

Share your Orlando city gems – where did you eat?
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Grand Cypress Hotel Orlando

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

A few weeks ago we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Grand Hyatt in Orlando and I cold not have been more impressed! If you are planning a family vacation and are searching for hotels near Disney World, then this is the place to stay. Not only is this the perfect location near many of the theme parks, but there is actually so much to do at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress that you may want to skip some of them and just stay and play at the hotel all day!

Hyatt Regency Pool with Bridge Orlando

The Hyatt Regency Pool and Waterfalls

The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress has essentially one gigantic continuous pool that is connected through a narrow river-like pool enclosed by a large cave with waterfalls which then opens up to a large pool that has a bridge extending across it. There are a total of twelve waterfalls around the pools and they also have a water slide that empties into an additional pool. For those of you with little toddlers they have a splash pad area as well. You are allowed to bring flotation devices into the pool and they have some for sale at the towel stand for purchase as well. The pool is definitely one of the things that impressed me the most at this hotel.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando Pool and Caves
The pool is open 24 hours and I highly recommend a night swim with the kids. The pools are lit up and the caves are even more magical at night. Inside the cave there are lounge chairs for people to get out of the sun and perfect for any napping babies or husbands;) Inside the cave is also where the fitness center is located, probably one of the most unique places to get a workout in I’ve ever seen. They also have a fire pit for roasting marsh mellows and making s’mores. They sell a s’more’s kit, or you can bring your own s’mores ingredients in yourself.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Family Activities Orlando

Grand Cypress Water Activities Orlando Florida, hotels near disney world

Plenty of Family Activities

Since this hotel sits on 1,500 acres and there is a small lake there is plenty to do!  They have three jogging trails, tennis courts, and a pitch-and-putt golf course. They have two rock climbing walls, one for smaller kids and one for older children and adults. Down by the water there is a beach with lounge chairs, a volleyball court and tether ball. On the lake you’ll find paddle boats, paddle bikes and paddle big wheels! You can also take out kayaks and canoes. Throughout the day there are also a variety of kids activities to participate in; a scavenger hunt, feeding the ducks, sand castle building, and a treasure hunt.

Other kids’ activities that have an additional fee are sand art, mermaid class, the arcade and Camp Hyatt, which is a drop-off kids’ club. The kids’ club schedule can vary so you’ll just want to call ahead and make a reservation.

hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando, mermaid school

The Mermaid Academy was an absolute must do for my daughter. It is an hour-long class and could not be any cuter. They do also offer shark fins for the boys to participate as well.

CascadesGrandCypressHotelFood

Dining Options

There is a very nice buffet-style breakfast each morning, but this is not included in your stay. Or you can go to the grab-and-go coffee bar in the morning to pick up pastries, fruit, yogurt, juice, chocolate milk and other lighter options. Cascades is the restaurant that serves lunch and dinner, we ate here twice and were very pleased with our meals each time. I loved my crab cakes and my husband loved his steak but you MUST order the s’mores brownie sundae, it’s pretty much sin in a jar.

There is the Beach Grill outside by the pool for your typical poolside sandwiches, burgers, fish tacos and kids’ meals. Hemingway’s is their fine dining restaurant on the property, if you can get away for a night without the kids then I would suggest this for a little date night.

hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando
hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando

The Hotel

The atrium of this hotel is beautiful and even comes with a hotel lobby ambassador, a talking parrot. The lobby has plenty of seating areas for you to lounge, grab a coffee and even get some work done. In the afternoon the lobby bar opens and you can grab a drink as well — and they have a late-night menu, too. The rooms are pretty standard hotel rooms with modern furnishings, we were on the 15th floor and had a great view of the entire property and a lot of Orlando, we even saw a few of the Disney fireworks from our room.

hotels near disney world, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Orlando
I really can’t express enough how much fun my kids had and how much my husband and I enjoyed staying at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. When I vacation with my family I don’t want it to only be about the kids, I want to be on vacation too! This hotel literally has something for everyone no matter the age and is a fantastic place for a family vacation. I am already thinking of a reason to go back to Orlando just so we can stay here again! With so many hotels near Disney World, it can be tricky to find the one that’s perfect. We’re thrilled that we found this fantastic property!

So, where will you be staying for your next family vacation in Orlando?

 

All photos taken by me and should not be used without my consent.

Disclosure:  This was a media stay for me to review the hotel.  I was comped one night and given a media rate for the rest of my stay. This also included one dinner at Cascades.  All of my savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own. I share this with you because it is an exceptional property and I would absolutely stay here again.

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So, you hate camping, huh? All those bugs, sleeping on the ground, and eating campfire hot dogs – it could be enough to make a modern girl cringe. If you are not into camping but are getting pressure from friends and family to get out into nature, you’ll appreciate these camping tips guaranteed to take it up a notch… even for the sassiest of all.

Camping hacks

Did you know you could make a refrigerator out of two pots and some sand? Or use foam floor tiles to soften your tent floor? These camping tips will make your summer camping time more fun, more efficient and super awesome (plus, you’ll totally impress the hubs).

glamping hub | camping

Tip #1: Consider Glamping

Glamping is glamorous camping. If you’re slowly working your way into the idea of camping, then luxurious camping could be the way to go. Destinations around the world offer nature-driven lodging options that include all the amenities you just can’t live without. Research Glamping options at GlampingHub.com

Tip #2: Choose your camping destination around the facilities

… the bathroom facilities, that is! Most definitely the least desirable thing about ‘roughing it’ is lack of a toilet, shower, sink and mirror. If getting natural in nature is not in your wheelhouse, chose a spot that will accommodate your needs. Typically, state and national parks offer such facilities. Find one near your desired destination at NPS.gov

Tip #3: Sleep like a queen

Or at least, almost like a queen. Making a comfortable sleeping spot is KEY. Here are my suggestions: soften your floor with foam floor tiles, pack a blow up mattress and use a high-quality sleeping bag.

If space is an issue, ditch the foam tiles and sleeping bag, alternatives are to gather leaves and pack a blow up sleeping pad.

Tip #4: Plan awesome meals

Needless to say, mealtime during camping is awesome time; back to our roots of huddling around the campfire and crafting good chow. Long gone, however, are the simple days of meat and potatoes. Gourmet meals ARE possible with a little preparation.

  • Gather a few key cooking supplies; water, matches, utensils, Dutch oven, heavy-duty foil.
  • Prior to departure, pre-package as many meals as possible. Marinate, and then freeze, your meats in freezer bags (doubles as ice packs!), pre-wrap vegetables in foil (simply toss near the campfire to cook), and add spices to a pillbox.
  • Don’t forget dessert! Sure, you could do s’mores, but why not try Cookie Jar Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting or Campfire Brownies in an Orange?
Tip #5: Keep the kids entertained while you relax by the fire

Camping and kids go together like PB&J, however, there are those rare occasions when they will say those two dreaded words….“I’m bored!” Here are a few camping activities you can have in your back pocket to keep the kids entertained: nature tic-tac-toe (sticks and rocks make for great playing pieces!), hide-n-seek, rock memory game (you’ll need a sharpie for this one), gather sticks for the campfire, sing campfire songs, and/or try to find different types of scat (this one is particularly fascinating to boys!)

camping tips

More great camping tips
  • Keep bugs away by adding Sage to the campfire
  • Don’t let your homey style go by the wayside- consider sprucing up your tent with battery-operated twinkly lights, create a flower arrangement, use table clothes and candles
  • Use one of your fun totes to transfer supplies
  • Pack an easy-to-use Fire Disc (by Coghlan’s) as a fire starter or emergency heat source
  • Coghlan’s also has an inexpensive Bear Bell, attachable to your backpack when hiking (these are genius for peace-of-mind for scared-y camping wimps like myself!)
  • Use a shoe organizer to give your entire supply of kitchen gear a home
  • Consider using a Clean Cube for trash collection
  • Use a French Press for morning coffee
  • Invest in a Kamp Kadi – awesome for keeping the add-ons organized
  • Create an extra, no-electricity-or-ice-needed cooler with two pots and sand (simply place a smaller one inside a larger one, surround with sand and fill with water)

There are a gazillion ways to make camping more enjoyable for even the most naturephobic amongst us. The point is to think outside-the-box and to take advantage of some of the many awesome camping hacks out there. I’ll bet that if given a chance – with a little preparation – you may actually learn to love all the fun that family camping has to offer.

Related: Camping with toddlers 5 things you should haveSummer safety travel tips

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walking-on-travelsTraveling with kids is great. It’s amazing! It’s easy! It’s perfect in every way! Ummm… no. Travel with kids, just like anything you do as a parent, is far from perfect or easy, and is sometimes just not that much fun. There are missteps, accidents, local snafus and a few awkward moments to say the least.

Stranger danger

While traveling in China on business with my son, then 20-months-old, I had an odd encounter with a woman outside of the local Wal-Mart (yes, even China has giant box stores). As I approached the entrance a she came towards us and started reaching for my son.

Normally the locals would just pat his cheek and gesture that he was adorable. This is something I was more than used to after two trips to this part of the world. However, her objective was more than a simple hello. I used every hand gesture and Chinese word I knew (I know three words total) to convey to her that no, she could not unstrap my child from his stroller and pick him up. This crossed a line that my jet-lagged brain just couldn’t handle at that moment.

Thankfully the woman quickly backed off, and understood my concerns. The people I met in China were extremely friendly, and I will say that my blue-eyed son may be a minor celebrity at this point since he had his picture taken multiple times a day. Rarely did anyone make me feel uncomfortable with his or her attention. It was a nuisance to stop so much for photos, but it was a fun experience that allowed us to meet more people than we would have on our own without my son.

Embarrassing moments

Speaking of uncomfortable, sometimes you will come across situations that you just might not be ready to explain to your kids. Jessica from Suitcases and Sippy Cups begged her boys to stop pestering her when their family was lost in Athens trying to find their hotel.

One of her sons suggested they ask the ladies standing on the corner for help. Little did her son know, although Jessica certainly did, that these were women on the night looking for their next job. Jessica’s sons were too young to understand what was going on, but Jessica was mortified and begged her husband to figure it out and get them to their hotel. Jessica looks back on this story now and laughs, but I’m sure it will go down in history as “that time we saw hookers in Greece and mom wouldn’t let us stop to ask them for directions cause she was too embarrassed.”

Walking On Travels
Accidents

Unfortunately not every travel snafu is hilarious. During our 5-week trip around Europe we were visiting Tuscany with a few friends. Our kids were playing. I repeatedly asked my oldest, who was 3 at the time, to stop playing with the gate by the steps. Apparently his ears were not working no matter how much I yelled.

A few minutes later I heard my friend gasped and I turned around. Never have I heard such a guttural cry come out of my mouth. I watch my son roll head over feet down the stone steps of the agritourismo we were staying at. I saw his neck breaking in my mind, bones shattering and losing my son forever. My heart still clenches just thinking about this moment.

I ran past him on the steps so I could catch him before he fell anymore. I scooped him up and was convinced I would never ever let him go. I got him to a chair and started feeling every bone in his body. He was fine. He had a gash on the side of his head from where he had clipped a stone edge, but other than that he was perfectly fine. He screamed more while I tried to clean the gash and figure out if he needed stitches than he did after the fall. Promises of gelato calmed everyone down. I got him bandaged up and we all headed into town. I kept a careful watch on my son to make sure he didn’t have a concussion, and yes, I woke up every hour that night to make sure he was still breathing.

Life with kids is crazy, whether you are at home or exploring a distant land. Accidents happen, cultural snafus occur and you will meet people from every walk of life. Roll with what your travels bring you, pack a first aid kit and maybe pray a little extra hard while on the road. These things can happen anywhere.

Parenthood isn’t perfect, so you better figure out where you want to do it. I prefer the back roads of Tuscany, ladies of the night and friendly strangers myself.

What crazy traveling-with-kids story do you have?
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LEGO planes, books and travel-sized toys can have your child zooming off to Paris, New York or Tokyo. Grab toys and activities that will inspire the imagination and have your child begging to go on their next adventure. Here are just a few of our favorite toys that will make you want to pack your bags, or at least grab get out to explore. 

Travel toys

LEGO City Airport Cargo

Inspire travel AND keep your kids busy for hours building an airplane? Yes, please! What mother wouldn’t want that kind of creative break? Don’t feel guilty though, your child will love you for this super set airport LEGO set and make you proud as they click in that final piece. Be prepared to help younger travelers put it together though. It’s not as easy as you would think.

Fisher Price Little People Lil’ Movers Airplane

For those not quite ready for LEGOs you can grab the Little People Lil’ Movers Airplane. My oldest was playing with this by 2 years old and hasn’t stopped. Best of all (and warning to parents)—it makes airplane sounds!

Thomas the Tank Engine

Yes mom, Thomas can inspire your child’s wanderlust. First of all he speaks with a British accent. Time to talk about where that accent actually comes from, and no, it is not just the Isle of Sodor. Help your child build an epic train track that will take them out of their bedroom and into a world of imaginary play as you chug up into the Alps and down into the valleys of El Salvador.

Kidunderroof Totem Teknika Airport

When your baby is tiny this makes a great adornment for their room (great baby shower gift too—hint, hint!). Once you aren’t afraid of your little one swallowing the pieces, bring it down off the shelf so they can set up their own airport and take off for adventure.

Endless City London or Paris

No two street scenes will look alike as you mix the Endless City cards together to create a street scene all your own. Choose from Paris or London and go to town. Bring out the toy cars and people to walk down the lane, buy some flowers and even sit at a café.

Crocodile Creek World and U.S.A placemats

Who said dinner is just for conversations about your day? Let meals become a learning experience with these fabulous placemats from Crocodile Creek. Help your child find where you live and then look at what monuments you want to visit that day during your meal. Get ready for lots of questions and creative answers to why polar bears live in the Artic and not in the Sahara desert.

Little Passports

Everywhere you turn you see an advertisement for Little Passports. This creative monthly subscription gets you started with a suitcase and intro to the characters, Sam and Sophia, who will bring you around the world on their adventures. The monthly price of $10 for a subscription may be a bit high for what you get, but your children will be excited to get mail and start planning their next trip to Brazil, London and Hong Kong.

This is London by Miroslav Sasek

Oh the places you’ll go with this beautifully illustrated series of books by Miroslav Sasek. London, Paris, Rome, Edinburgh, Australia and so many more places are just waiting to invite you into the pages and down the old streets of each new destination. The artist worked in the late 1950s and early 1960w, which makes the retro-style illustrations all the more fun for parents to enjoy along with their kids. Check the back of the book for landmark updates. Some spots that Sasek covered are no longer around, or have changed names. Find out why!

Dodsworth in New York by Tim Egan

Once your child starts to read, or even before then, these books will get your child excited to see the world with Dodsworth and his troublemaking duck friend. These early readers are great for beginners and will make you swell with pride as they read through all four tales and then tell you about each place they learned about.

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Want to plan a family getaway this summer but working with a slim budget? Now is the time to get the ball rolling to find the best deals, destinations and activities.

family travel on a budget

Before you head out

Months before your trip think about where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Are you flying or driving? This Fly or Drive Calculator is awesome for helping you figure that out.

When flying: Consider signing up for one — or more! — rewards cards to earn miles. Set up a Travel Alert  to track when airline tickets fluctuate and jump when they are low enough. The best time to get the best price when you purchase tickets is at 9:00 pm ET, and the best fares are for flights on Wednesdays. Be otherwise flexible with flight times, days and departure/destination.

When driving: Download the MyMPG app to help you fine-tune your driving habits for better gas mileage. Get your car tuned and serviced prior to departure — and don’t forget to fill your tires to the recommended pressure. Just like with airline rewards, fuel stations are offering their own. Sign up and save at the pump.

For more great road trip tips: How to survive a family road trip without losing your mind and Summer road trip must-haves >>

Saving on lodging

Hotel rooms can add up after a while! But, with a little preparation, you can get the best bang for your buck. Here’s how: Consider going off the beaten path; a downtown Chicago hotel is twice as expensive as staying in one that’s a train ride away. Consider alternatives to hotels, such as HomeAway, VRBO or AirBnB. If you’re feeling brave, you may even try a home swap. Or, save the hassle and stay in a family friendly all-inclusive resort.

Wherever you stay, be sure to get some added perks such as free internet, breakfast and a pool. The pool is a must-have for moms with active kids.

You may enjoy: Best travel apps and websites and Summer safety travel tips with kids >>

Save when you’re there

Getting there is only half the battle — and it’s those little things that add up. So, be prepared. Make a budget then add a 20 percent cushion for activities. Some great ways to save include eating like a local, using deal site apps for local last-minute deals on activities and restaurants, traveling like an eco-tourist by using public transportation and otherwise living like a local.

Let loose

Traveling on a budget with the family is certainly a responsible thing to do, however, don’t be such a stickler that you miss out on fun experiences and opportunities. Trust me, your amazing vacation memories will last a lot longer than a hit to your wallet.

family travel on a budget

What tips do you have for family travel on a budget?
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