Category : Family

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.


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

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

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

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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baby shower giftsHave a travel-loving soon-to-be mom in your group of friends or family? Grab the cutest garb, decor and resources to help her get out the door and on the road to adventure with her little one. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites that will have your playgroup talking and asking “where did you get that?!”

Moroccan-dressTea Collection: Moroccan inspiration

I’m not sure I can gush enough about the new destination-inspired Tea Collection. The latest dresses and shirts in the Moroccan collection include beautiful prints and patterns that add a bit of pizazz to your child’s wardrobe. The China collection T-shirts featuring pandas were a welcome addition to my son’s closet over Christmas and we can’t wait to see what new destination they feature next.

MaptoteMaptote Baby one piece

Show your city pride with one of these adorable one pieces by Maptote, a locally owned and operated company run by a Brooklyn, NY-based husband and wife team. Choose from cities across the country and around the globe. Tote bags, reusable grocery bags, beach bags, toddler tees and travel pouches are available to round out your look.

Sir Bubbadoo blankets

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love our Sir Bubbadoo blanket. I was gifted one after my second son was born and it has traveled the world with us. It is small enough to throw in a backpack, but warm enough to use in the stroller on a fall day. Our blanket has world icons all over it, but Kristina — the mom behind this custom line — is constantly changing out her fabrics, finding fabulous new patterns and experimenting with designs that compliment the modern parent’s style.

Globe night light
Goodnight Globe night light

No child’s room is complete without a night light. Why not inspire a few travel dreams with this beautiful Land of Nod Goodnight Globe Night Light that will have your baby running off to Africa, Costa Rica, Japan and more? Once your child gets older you can chat about where you should explore next as you create bedtime stories based on each new destination.

kidsonaroofPeople of the World

Inspire creative play from the start with these beautifully crafted People of the World toys by Kidsonroof. Use the figures as baby room décor while your baby is little, and then bring them off the shelf to have some make-believe fun.

Oh the places you’ll go map

Dr. Seuss sure had it right when he wrote Oh the Places You’ll Go. Why not encourage your child to push past what they think is possible from the get go? This beautiful poster found on Etsy features a map with overlaid text and comes in a multitude of colors that will fit any nursery décor — sounds like the perfect baby shower gift.

MaptoteMaptote alphabet poster

Teach your little one their ABCs and about the world at the same time with the Maptote Alphabet poster. The simple illustrations will capture your baby’s attention while on the changing table, and start more than a few conversations as they grow and get curious about soccer in Brazil, Australia’s kangaroos and the vikings of Denmark.

PlanesPlanes by Byron Barton

It is never too early to prep your child for air travel. Barton’s Planes board book would make a great baby shower gift, and includes simple illustrations and text that walks your baby and toddler through all types of air travel. His other book, Airport, is the perfect complement, and one that is sure to get worn out as your child marvels over all the steps it takes to get from the outside of the airport and up in the air and on their way.

Mara GormanThe Family Traveler’s Handbook by Mara Gorman

Leave it to a travel veteran to write a practical and informative guide to traveling with kids. Mara Gorman mixes easy tips and ideas for family trips with real-life examples of travel with her own kids in her Family Traveler’s Handbook. She also highlights tips and stories from other traveling parents to balance out her own advice and show that she isn’t the only one hopping across the globe. Gorman covers travels with babies on up to teens. By the end of the story you feel like you know her and her family, but also feel prepared to take that first step and get out the door with your own kids. The best part is that this book isn’t some long manual you will never make it through; it is a short and sweet guide to not letting fear stop you from showing your child the world, no matter how near or far you take them.

What travel-inspired baby shower gifts would you give?

Photo credits: All images are the property of their respective brands. 

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If you think you have to leave the country to have an awesome spring break, think again! Here are ten family friendly destinations that are perfect for a spring break getaway.

Spring Break: Maui

Image Credit: Go Hawaii

Maui, Hawaii

Lush landscape and white sandy beaches — I can’t think of a more ideal family vacation and obviously others agree. Maui is a super family-friendly destination with tons of activities; from snorkeling to an underwater submarine tour, from surfing to hiking to simply hanging out on the beach. LOVE!

Tip: Check out Maui Family Magazine for up-to-date events and happenings.

Spring Break: Coronado

Image Source Hotel Del Coronado

Coronado, California

Want that island feel without the long plane ride? Then Coronado may be the place for you. Just over the bridge from San Diego is the quaint town of Coronado. Even though it’s technically a peninsula, it has that “island feel.” You can walk or ride a bike just about anywhere. Golf, shopping, restaurants, beach and proximity to San Diego amenities make this place a top pick!

Tip: Take a stroll through the historic Hotel Del Coronado, rated one of the top 10 hotels in the world!


Spring Break: Arizona Rennaissance Festival

Image Credit: Rick D’Elia

Phoenix, Arizona

Want an off-the-beaten-path spring break experience? Check out The Arizona Renaissance Festival in Phoenix (through March 30.) You won’t tire of this nonstop, day-long family adventure with a medieval amusement park, a 13-stage theater, a 30-acre circus, an arts and crafts fair, a jousting tournament and a feast. Open Saturdays and Sundays February 8 – March 30, 2014.

Tip: Rent a stroller at the event to prolong your experience with little ones.

Spring Break: Heber Valley Utah

Image Source: Go Heber Valley

Heber Valley, Utah

Wouldn’t it be super-awesome to ski and go scuba diving in the same day during spring break? Yeah, I think so too. That’s why Heber Valley, Utah is my next pick. Situated between Deer Valley Ski Resort and Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort is The Homestead Crater, a geothermal spring over 10,000 years in the making. Spend your morning skiing world-class resorts and the evening scuba diving this amazing warm water crater.

Tip: Check out The Zermatt Resort Ski Package: Stay Free, Ski Free, Soak Free


Spring Break: Snow Mountain Ranch

Image Source: Snow Mountain Ranch

Snow Mountain Ranch (YMCA of the Rockies), Colorado

Remember all the fun times you had at sleepaway camp when you were a kid? Relive the fun at Snow Mountain Ranch outside of Granby, Colorado. Activities abound, such as tubing, ice skating, roller skating, rock climbing, archery, dog sledding, sleigh riding, Nordic skiing … and that’s just a few! Each month brings new fun geared to delight kids and adults alike. With 5,000 acres of awesomeness in the Rocky Mountains, how could it NOT be fun, right?

Tip: If your spring break is not during “peak time,” there is a Stay 2 nights, Get 1 Free Lodging deal in cabins and lodges through May 31st. (Black out dates are Friday, March 7th through Monday, March 23rd.)

Spring Break: New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

If you think New Orleans is only for Mardi Gras, Bourbon Street and JazzFest, you’re missing out on an awesome family vacation destination. Spring break is the perfect time (not too hot!) to visit attractions such as the Audubon Zoo and Global Wildlife Center, plus the whole family can enjoy a ferry ride, eat beignets at the World Famous Café Du Monde and watch street performers. New Orleans is the greatest city on the planet! (Hyperbolic? Maybe.)

Tip: Skip the Quarter and head to Magazine Street with an abundance of antique shops, impromptu jazz ensembles and mouth-watering po-boys, you’ll never look at New Orleans the same way again (you’re welcome.)

Spring Break: Sandestin

Image Source:

Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort, Florida

One of my most favorite family vacations of all time was at the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort a few years ago. With turquoise water lapping onto soft white sand, not-too-big waves for little ones and a wide array of activities, this is an ideal getaway. We fell in love with The Village of Baytown Wharf in Sandestin, a kid-centric, fun-zone destination. We enjoyed zip-lining, ropes courses, and hitting golf balls onto greens in the bay. Add on old-fashioned ice cream shops, a gazillion restaurants and an open container law (i.e, you can walk around with your fruity cocktail while Jr. runs the ropes), and you’ve made this spot a must-visit.

Tip: Try YOLO Boarding, a stand-up paddleboard sport popular among locals.

Spring Break: Washington DC

That’s me!

Washington DC

Celebrating spring at our nations Capital is a one-of-a-kind experience, especially during the National Cherry Blossom Festival between March 20 and April 13, 2014. Not only do you get to enjoy beautiful cherry blossoms, there is a host of family-friendly activities happening daily on the National Mall. Enjoy free admission to just about everything you can think of (museums, the zoo, performances) during the day, and then hit up world-famous restaurants in the evenings.

Tip: Connect with your inner dork on a Segway Tour of the city. It. Is. Super. Fun (seriously!)

Spring Break: Great Wolf Lodge

Image Source:

Great Wolf Lodge Poconos

Going to a Great Wolf Lodge is on my bucket list of things to do. Why? Because my kids are obsessed with water parks and what better way to enjoy one then to stay at one, too? Sounds awesome to me! The Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos is only an hour and a half away from New York City and a whole world away from everything else. Bingo, story time, breakfast with characters  – and let’s not forget the 79,000 square feet of water packed excitement — are sure to keep the kids talking about this one for many months to come.

Tip: The hotel can get noisy with all those over enthused kids running around, consider getting a room on the 4th floor for a quieter downtime.

Spring Break: St. Croix US Virgin Islands

Image Source: Wikipedia

St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

That’s right, this Caribbean island chain (St. John, St. Croix and St. Thomas) does not require a passport. Rich in culture, a vacation in the U.S. Virgin Islands offers much more than a traditional beach vacation. Visitors can immerse themselves in historical tours, artisan fairs, parades and so much more. While you’re soaking up all that culture, you can also snorkel, scuba dive and visit a botanical garden.

Tip: Check out for package deals.

What are your favorite US destinations for a family-focused spring break vacation?
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Photo credit via Flickr/ Jenifer Corrêa

I was surrounded by stuff — piles upon piles of clothes, tiny bottles of shampoo, sunscreen and three different kinds of toothpaste. There was a stack of books, toys and snacks. Could this really be for just a one-week trip? Yes, apparently it was. I needed to do better, and that meant we would be paring down and get back to the basics of packing, and we were going to start with a few necessary packing tips for toddlers when it came to my son.

At four years old my son is a seasoned pro when it comes to travel. I pack his clothes, and he packs his little backpack. This is what he is in charge of while we are en route. If he can’t fit it in there, he can’t bring it. My job is a little harder as his mom. I get to think about every eventuality, every puddle jumped in, every shirt with spaghetti dribbled down it — and bathroom accidents that may or may not happen. How do you pack for all of these scenarios? Simple. You don’t.

Know that you will forget something

Once you accept this packing will be much easier.

You can buy it there

Chances are, unless you are traveling into the bush or backcountry, you can buy it when you get there. If you run out of sunscreen, forget toothpaste or need an extra shirt, the place you are visiting will have it stocked in the local store.

Rent a car seat

The car seat is the most annoying and bulky piece of equipment you will have to pack for a toddler, especially if your child isn’t in a crib anymore. Consider renting a car seat once you arrive, or use alternate transportation so you don’t have to deal with it at all. Double check that the rental agency has 5-point harnesses on their car seats. This is hard to come by internationally, but domestically in the U.S. you should insist you get one that is up to current safety standards.

Mickey suitcase

Photo credit via Flickr/Bev Goodwin

Toddler Toys

Everyone worries about keeping their child entertained, but after four years of travel with my children, I know that it doesn’t take much. Here is what my son packs in his bag. Yes, I give lots of direction on this front.


We are partial to Kidz Gear headphones that come in bright colors, are durable and fit kids’ heads better than adult headphones.

1 to 2 small, thin books for your child to read or browse.

We love child-friendly comic books for our boys (super heroes are big in our family right now) and my friends with little girls like the early reader Tinkerbell books or other princess stories. Even if you child can’t read yet these picture-filled books will have them making up their own tales in no time.

The Moose Bag:

This may sound strange, but we have a small felt back, about 6×6 inches in dimension, that a friend gave us a few years back that has traveled the world. It has a drawstring that can keep all of our treasure inside, but is also small enough that it limits the number of toys it can hold.

Figures, airplanes and cars:

Inside our Moose Bag (it has a little picture of a moose on it) we stash Phineas and Ferb figures, small model airplanes, hot wheel cars and a tiny Spiderman. This gives my son ample characters to play with and stories to make up.

Smart phone and tablet.

If you are anti-screen time for your kid you can skip to the next tip. If you are OK with screen time know that when you travel is a good time to pull it out and bend the rules. My toddler knows he can’t play Angry Birds unless he is on a plane. My Kindle Fire also houses movies, storybooks and educational games to entertain my son and help with our bedtime routine. I don’t want to lug a bunch of books around, so my library of Curious George, Bernstein Bears and Cat in the Hat is priceless, especially for long trips.

 Sydney Treasures Photography

Photo credit via Flickr/ Sydney Treasures Photography

Pack extra clothing

I know I told you not to pack the kitchen sink, but you do need to come prepared. How do you choose what to pack when it comes to enough clothing? Here’s my rule of thumb.

• 2 to 3 extra pairs of socks
• 1 to 2 extra pairs of underwear
• 1 extra shirt
• 1 extra pair of pants

This will allow you to do a load of laundry or wash an outfit in the sink if your child gets soaked after jumping in puddles, but will still leave extra clothes for him to wear as you continue your adventures.


Thankfully most kids don’t need much in the way of hair products, but you will need medications, sunscreen, bug spray and anything else that fits your travel situation. When in doubt leave it home though. You can always buy it when you get there. Medications are the only thing you should make sure you have more than enough of.

Diapers and pull ups

If your child is still potty training make sure you bring enough diapers or pull ups to last you three days. If you have room in your suitcase you can bring more, but three days should get you there, settled in and to the store without feeling like you are cutting it too close to your last diaper.

What are your packing essentials for toddlers?
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Adventure-Point-Tubing Keystone

Tubing at Adventure Point

My toddler stood with his tongue pointed to the ski. I was bundled up against the cold in anticipation of our tubing adventure. He just wanted to taste the snow. We’d already hit the slopes of Keystone Resort in Colorado, now it was time to see what else the mountain had to offer families.

Keystone Resort knows that couples, college kids and snow enthusiasts visit their mountain, but they pay particular attention to families through the Kidtopia program. Trust me, I have been to more than one ski resort with my baby and toddler; not all resorts are created equal when it comes to entertaining your little ones. Why was Kidtopia essential to our family vacation success? Here’s just a taste.

Kidtopia Snow Fort

Kidtopia Snow Fort

World’s largest snow fort

Keystone is in its fifth year of building a massive snow fort with slides and a maze for kids to explore with their parents. This was crucial entertainment while we waited for our turn on the tube hill.

Tubing at Adventure Point

At over 11,000 feet up the mountain, this tube run can boast being the highest tubing facility in the world. The drop may be too much for babies (and scaredy-cat moms), but children over 42 inches tall (yes, there is a height restriction) and their parents can have an amazing hour of fun zooming down the mountain.

Dercum Square Ice Rink

Dercum Square Ice Rink

Ice Skating

If you haven’t guessed already, Keystone loves to do things big. Over by the Keystone Lodge you can skate on the largest Zamboni maintained ice rink in North America, which is actually a frozen lake. There is a hockey rink built on the lake for those who want to shoot a puck around. If you want a smaller ice skating experience you can head to the Dercum Square Ice Rink in River Run. They hand out cookies!


Painting at Kidtopia headquarters

Painting and Pottery

Some days are just too cold and blustery for little ones to play outside, or maybe Mom and Dad need to sit for an hour or two. This is when Kidtopia Headquarters comes in handy. There are daily activities like face painting plus toys for kids to play with, or you can head over to Ready, Paint, Fire pottery shop to paint canvases and ready made ceramics. You will have to let your works of art dry, but they should be ready by the time you head home.

Skiing and snowboarding

Camp Keystone isn’t technically part of Kidtopia, but it really has to be mentioned. Young ski and snowboard students can get dropped off in the morning and picked up in the afternoon for a day filled with snow fun with their peers. Instructors will work on your child’s skills, give you daily progress reports, and make learning more fun than mom and dad could ever make it. Once your kids have their “snow legs” they can join you for night skiing under lights along the family ski trail.

Camp Keystone

Learning to ski at Camp Keystone

Parade and Fireworks

Every Saturday at 4 p.m. Keystone mascot Ripperoo and his band of friends parade their way through River Run Village before ending at the Dercum Square ice rink with complimentary cookies to end the day. Enjoy dancers, horses and a new float as they entertain old and young after a long day on the slopes. Fireworks cap off the night at 7 p.m. as you enjoy dinner, a bit of night skiing or just take in the view by one of the outdoor firepits.

Having enough activities to keep everyone in the family happy is the key to any successful trip. If a resort makes it easy for me that makes it a winner in my book. As my son ate his fill of snowflakes while exploring the snow fort, I basked in the knowledge that I had chosen a destination that not only I could enjoy, but he could too.

What is your favorite winter destination with kids?
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bucket list, Paris

Photo credit: melissa via Flickr

We all have one. A list of things we want to do in the New Year. Some call them resolutions, others a wish list or even bucket list. Almost everyone will have a special spot they hope to travel to. Just in case you need a little extra help narrowing down your choices this year, here are a few of our favorite destinations, and a few from our own bucket lists to get you inspired to go, go, go!

bucket list, Iceland

Photo credit: ToNG! via Flickr

Gaze up at the Northern Lights in Iceland

When scientist are predicting that the Northern Lights will be at their best in over a decade, you know it’s an event you won’t want to miss. From now until early April you can catch this natural phenomenon in Iceland as well as other northern countries and even Alaska. There are plenty of easy package deals from Iceland Air and other travel outlets that can get you out exploring the country. Just imagine your child’s face as they see “flashlights” lighting up the night sky. Stay tuned for more as my family knocks this one off our bucket list in March 2014!


Photo credit: pussnboots via Flickr

People watching and pastries in Paris

Park the stroller and pull up a chair at one of the City of Light’s famous cafes. Sip a glass of wine as you watch Parisians go about their day, making a stunning fashion statement as they stroll past. Order up a coffee with a few handcrafted macaroons as you reflect on this amazing adventure you are on in one of the most beloved cities in the world. You may just find yourself saying “oh la la!”


Photo credit: Ding Yuin Shan via Flickr

Try a little flamenco in Spain

Andalusia, the southern region of Spain, houses Flamenco dance halls, street performers and classes that can get you into the action. While parents will want to sneak out for a late night performance at a café cantante, kids don’t have to be left out. Outfit your little dancers or better yet, head to Sevilla during La Bienal Flamenco Festival, celebrated in April each year, where they can get up close and personal with flamenco enthusiast from across the globe. Any time of year keep an eye out for spontaneous street performances. Hand your budding dancer a few Euros to show their appreciation for the dance and maybe even try out a few steps.


Photo credit Music-Radio-Creative via Flickr

Wave hello to Big Ben in London

The famous clock tower with Big Ben housed inside is an iconic feature of the London skyline. Our kids are exposed to it early through movies (Cars 2 anyone?), books and games. Parents get a little giddy as they remember seeing Mary Poppins for the first time in their youth. Although Big Ben is incredible, there is so much more you can pack into your London vacation with your kids. From free museums to tasty meat pies, incredible shopping and a ride on the Tube, you just can’t go wrong in England’s capital city.

African lion

Photo credit: David Berkowitz via Flickr

Big five in Africa

Why take your kids to the zoo to see lions behind bars when you can go searching for them in the wild? South African, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Namibia are just a few of the countries that offer safari adventures for families. Stay at an eco-lodge, camp out under the stars, and let your guide lead the way to lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinoceros. If you aren’t quite ready to hit the bush, Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor may be the perfect stop. This is no ordinary 12-acre private estate. Oh no, guests can expect to dine with these gentle giants when they pop in for breakfast with you…literally.

Great wall of china

Photo credit: -Francisco-Diez via Flickr

Walk along the Great Wall of China

There are very few UNESCO World Heritage sights as long as the Great Wall of China, and I’m here to tell you that the journey is worth it. I watched my oldest practice his walking, just weeks after his first steps, on the Great Wall. No matter how old your child is you will remember every step and have amazing stories to share with them as they get older. Beijing is the perfect spot to set up camp and there are plenty of outfitters ready to take you to several different sections of the Great Wall for the day or even overnight. When it’s that easy you can’t afford to wait!

Thailand Lantern festival

Photo credit: John Shedrick via Flickr

Celebrate Thailand’s Lantern festival

Every little girl (and boy) who has seen Disney’s Tangled dreams about lanterns floating around the night sky. What they may not know is that there is a place that does it every year. At the top of our family travel list this year is the Lanna Yi Peng festival held in Thailand every November. The celebration is meant as a time to obtain Buddist merit. Chiang Mai, the ancient capital of the former Lanna kingdom, holds the most elaborate festival. Hundreds of expats make Chiang Mai their home, making this ancient city an easy spot to take in your first floating lantern experience, and yes, you can launch your own lantern into the sky along with the locals.


Photo credit: dog4aday via Flickr

Hang ten in Costa Rica

Our very own savvy sassy commander-in-chief Andrea likes to call the waters off Costa Rica home and many surfers would agree that this is the place to be. Get your feet wet with a lesson or head down with your own board this winter to hang ten, yell “kowabunga” and introduce your kids to the art of one of the coolest watersports around. Even if you aren’t up for surfing there is more than enough to keep you entertained in this Central American country. Ziplining, snorkeling and eating some fab food are just a few of the things this lush country has in store for visitors.


Photo credit: the Travelista via Flickr

Gaze up at the Iguazu Falls in Argentina

Think Argentina is all tango and beef steaks? Think again. This South American nation has more natural wonders than you can count, and the Iguazu Falls should be at the top of your list. Brazil and Argentina share the falls, as it is on the border of their two countries.. If you are based in Buenos Aires you can catch a nonstop flight up to Iguazu International Airport Krause. Several tour operators out of Buenos Aires can make your trip a no-brainer, or you can go to Puerto Iguazu, the closest town on the Argentinian side of the falls, and head out from there. Either way you are sure to give your family the thrill of a lifetime at this UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Photo credit sheilaellen via Flickr

Walk with the Hobbits in New Zealand

Tolkien geeks rejoice! You can head down to Matamata, New Zealand to gaze upon Peter Jackson’s Hobbiton. Your kids will get a kick out of the pint-sized hobbit holes. They may even think this was a village built just for them. But this isn’t the only spot you can get a glimpse of the Tolkien world Jackson recreated in his homeland. With filming in over 150 locations, you will have your choice of adventures to satisfy the Hobbit geek in your whole clan. Hike, kayak or even take a helicopter tour over the best locations from the film. No matter what route you take you are bound to stumble across a bit of Middle Earth.

Great Barrier Reef

Photo credit: via Flickr

Scuba in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Babies may have to sit this one out, but mom, dad and older siblings can throw on their scuba gear to see one of the best and largest underwater wonders of the world. Set up camp in Cairns, a sleek, modern city that will give you access to the Reef, Rainforest and Outback. Tour art galleries, gardens, and a bit of boutique shopping as you let your body adjust to the time change, and then head out for why you really came here… to see this natural wonder of the world! Book with a boat tour, there are plenty to choose from. For those a bit wary of the open seas, look into a helicopter tour that can give you a very different perspective of the reefs. 

Keystone, CO

Photo credit: ~ggvic~ via Flickr

Ski the slopes of Keystone, CO

When it comes to skiing in Colorado you really can’t go wrong. Keystone’s Kidtopia program allows kids to ski free and offers up fun activities to keep the whole family entertained. Mom and Dad can drop the kids at ski school while they swish down the slope and their little ones get a taste for winter sports. Of course no ski vacation would be complete without a little après ski. Grab a hot chocolate, glass of wine or a beer — then dig into fondue, specialty chocolates or just some local BBQ as you end your wintery day on the mountain.


Photo credit: Jim, the Photographer via Flickr

Discover America’s past in Philadelphia, PA

Washington, D.C. gets all the credit when it comes to U.S. history, but don’t forget it all started in Philadelphia with the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Let history come alive for your family as you tour Independence Hall, get a peek at the Liberty Bell, explore Betsy Ross’s house and Ben Franklin’s workshop. Stroll past the houses of Elfreth’s Alley, the first residential street in the city and still occupied by residents to this day. Plan a free gallery tour on First Friday, and end your artistic adventure at Franklin Fountain, an old-fashion soda shop that will definitely have your kids sugared up for the night.


Photo credit: dicktay 2000 via Flickr

Get a glimpse of Paris in Montreal, Canada

Not everyone can hop a plane to Paris, but you can drive (or fly) up to Montreal in the Canadian province of Quebec. Tour the Notre-Dame Basicilca of Montreal and the Botanical Garden. Devour crepes, cheese, pastries and poutine. Walk over to the Old Port of Montreal on the banks of the St. Lawrence River for loads of family-friendly fun. Ice skate in the winter or hit the beach in the summer. Cirque du Soleil fans be sure to catch a performance in the city the creative team got their start. It is sure to have your kids begging for an encore.

Wherever your wanderlust takes you, whether near or far, we hope you have a merry time with your family, create incredible memories and see something that makes you say “wow” in the new year.

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