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Category : Hotels

Dreams Las Mareas Resort in Costa Rica
Family-friendly resort in Costa Rica

I am a huge fan of Costa Rica — hence the reason I live here — so you can believe me when I say that it is an excellent family vacation destination. Traveling with kids to Costa Rica from the United States is fairly quick and easy, which makes it even more appealing, especially if this is your first time traveling with internationally with your kids.

Since I do live here full-time, I’m able to easily explore different areas of the country and stay at a variety of hotels and resorts. A few weeks ago, my daughter McKenna and I took a little mommy and me trip up to check out the new Dreams Resort Las Mareas. It is located in the northern Guanacaste region of Costa Rica, which is about a 90-minute drive from the Liberia airport and very close to the Nicaraguan border.

Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica All Inclusive Hotels

Dream Las Mareas Costa Rica

Dreams Las Mareas is an all-inclusive Costa Rican resort with over 400 rooms on the property. The resort comes with all the family-friendly amenities you would expect at an all-inclusive resort — plenty of dining options, on-site daily activities, excursions and a kids’ club. There are several different buildings throughout the property and there are several room options so be careful when you are making your reservation to make sure you’re getting the location on the resort you want. The more impressive rooms are in the smaller buildings and either have private Jacuzzis on the balconies or the semi-private dipping pools right off the patios.

Dreams Resort Costa Rica Building and Room
Our building happened to be the building with the most privacy, nestled on the hillside and a little further away from the pools. It was also a bit more of a walk to our room (which I actually appreciated to get in a little exercise between meals!), but there are plenty of golf carts buzzing around and you can get a ride to your room quite easily, which might come in handy when traveling with older family members or your little ones. These rooms are also great for those couples spending their honeymoon at the resort. Beware: Your patio is right next to your neighbor’s patio, so if people are talking loud, you’ll definitely be able to hear them… and vice versa!

Dreams Las Mareas Dipping Pools offthe Rooms Hotels in Costa Rica
We had one of the rooms with a dipping pool and this was, by far, our favorite feature! From our room we even had a small view of the ocean and I can only assume that the rooms above us had even a better views. One thing to mention, if you are traveling with children that cannot swim, this is probably not the best room option for you because it’s going to be nearly impossible to keep them out of the pool 24/7. I absolutely loved this room and would have a hard time staying here again without the dipping pool right outside my door!

Dreams Las Mareas Waterslide Family Hotels in Costa RicaDreams las Mareas Pool Costa Rica Hotels

Pools, pools, pools

If pools are your thing then you will be very happy here. They have two distinct pool areas, each with two very large pools. The pools start at the top of the resort and work their way down to the beach. The top pool area is all about the kids — it has a water slide, basketball hoop, a large poolside chess game and an additional shallow pool for toddlers.

The other pool area is one large continuous pool that begins with an adult only pool that leads to the swim-up bar and a large infinity pool that looks out to the beach, which kids can visit. This pool also has a volleyball net and a bridge that kids like to swim under. There is also a small poolside cafe that offers a few snack options, cocktails and endless amounts of smoothies for the kids.

Dreams Las Mareas Resort Pools in Costa Rica
For those that are not traveling with kids, you’ll appreciate the adult only pool. Or, if you are traveling with kids, drop them off at the kids’ club and head here to take advantage of some peace and quiet.

Dream las Mareas Oceana Bar with Swings Costa Rica

Food and dining options

Since this is an all-inclusive the resort, they feature the typical buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner. The line can get long in the morning so if you just need a caffeine fix in a hurry, they do have the CoCo Cafe to grab your latte or to pick up a small pastry for the kids. There are four restaurants on the property — two of them are only open for dinner and the Italian restaurant, Portofino, does not allow children.

Our dinner at Oceana was very good and probably my favorite meal. We ate the buffet lunch at this restaurant as well and it was pretty basic with your standard hot dogs, hamburgers, french fries, some grilled vegetables and salads. Oceana sits right next to the pool and has the bar with the swings that my daughter and I loved swinging in.

Dreams Resorts Costa Rica Beaches Play el Jobo Dreams Las Mareas Beach Boogie Boarding Playa El Jobo in Costa Rica

The beach at Playa el Jobo

The beach here is in a cove, so the water is very calm and the waves are small, which is great for young children. My daughter did catch a few small waves with her boogie board, but these waves may not be that exciting for older children. There are better beaches in Costa Rica and if you are looking to surf, you definitely cannot do that here. if you are expecting soft white sand you won’t find it here — the sand is a bit more compact, brown and rustic like many beaches in Costa Rica, compared to beaches that you might find in the Caribbean or Mexico.

You can check out stand-up paddle boards and boogie boards from the resort and you can also rent kayaks and jet skis for an additional fee if you want to head out further into the water. Fishing and snorkeling tours are available for you to book and you can get a massage right on the beach if you’d rather relax. The kids’ club also brings the kids down to the beach for their special camping nights that include a variety of activities and beach games.

Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica SpaDream Las Mareas Spa Costa Rica
The Dreams Spa

If I am going to be honest, the spa was the highlight for me. They have the usual spa treatment options, of course, but they also have a five-step hydro-therapy spa, which includes a sauna, steam room, cold-plunge pool, pool with water massage chairs and pressure waterfall, and hot tub. It has been a long time since I have had the opportunity to do a spa cycle like this, so it was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. They also had what I am calling “relaxation pods,” which I almost fell asleep in. This indoor-outdoor spa experience was really fantastic, giving you a true Costa Rican experience. They also have a full salon for hair services, as well as manicures and pedicures.

Additional activities

This resort is a bit secluded, but they do offer a few day trips such as zip lining at the Spider Monkey Canopy Tour and the Buena Vista Lodge day trip, which has even more activities. They will arrange to take you to the Arenal Volcano area, but this is a very long trip and, in my opinion, visiting the Arenal area is not a day trip. You will likely feel rushed and it will be a very long day, especially for children. It’s best to stay for at least one night in that area to really experience all it has to offer.

Every night they deliver a resort newsletter, The Sundial, which has a full list of activities for the following day. You can also participate in yoga classes, dance lessons, beach soccer and volleyball, among other activities at the resort. They have have nightly shows and entertainment and movie nights for the kids, which are a fun way to relax after a day in the sun.

Plan your visit to Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica

Dreams Las Mareas Costa Rica is a great option for both families with young children and those looking for a relaxing family vacation. It is a resort-style vacation that comes with the typical family-friendly amenities right on the property, but with the option to explore outside of the resort for some more exciting Costa Rican excursions and adventures via the resort, if you choose.

Website: Dreams Resort Las Mareas Costa Rica


Disclosure: This was a press trip and all accommodations and meals were included. All my thoughts and opinions are my own. I am a family travel professional and share this with you to help families decide on places to stay for their vacations.

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Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Poolside margaritas. Hot carne asada tacos with fresh cilantro. Warm ocean waters. Whether you are still buried in snow or are just tired of having to don a sweater with your sandals as I am here in Southern California, we’re all dreaming of warmer weather and a getaway. It’s time, isn’t it?

A few weeks ago, my family and I headed south to explore the Hotel Coral in Ensenada, Mexico. Here are four reasons why you should put it on your family’s visit list.

Every room with a view

Though it looks larger, the Hotel Coral only has 147 rooms, but every single one of those rooms faces the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the hotel’s marina. In other words, there’s not a bad room in the hotel.

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Even the rooms on the ground floor offer a patio and view of the pool, garden and marina. Families can choose from a variety of room options, which include features such as a king bed or double full beds, a minibar, kitchen, separate living room and dining area. We stayed in Junior Deluxe Suite that had two beds (our three boys opted to all sleep together, however we could have gotten a roll-away, too), a monstrous bathroom (the pictures don’t do it justice — you could fit 20 people in there!), and a separately living room which was great for when the kids got up early and wanted to watch cartoons.

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

I also had the chance to tour the one of the Presidential Suites (marina-view soaking tub!) and Honeymoon Suites (in-room massage table!) in case you’re looking to splurge.

On-site family fun

The Hotel Coral is about five-minutes outside of Ensenada (they offer a shuttle that can take you in to town to explore), but we loved that the hotel had so much to offer on-site. The property has a hot tub and two gorgeous pools with a third pool indoors and workout facility which is currently being renovated for the upcoming busy season. Kids will love the mini waterfalls between pools and the cool tile recliner chairs built-in to the shallow end. Parents will love the plentiful lounge chairs, marina views and poolside bar. If you want even more relaxation, head to the C Spa for massages, facials, beauty services or their signature spa treatment — Vinotherapy — which includes a full body exfoliation, mask, body wrap and moisturizing massage with local products all made from wine-making byproducts.

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

A bit past the pool, you’ll find an impressive play structure — a unique feature I haven’t seen at a hotel before — along with tennis courts and a sand volleyball court. If your family wants more water fun, the marina offers rentals of stand-up paddleboards, waterbikes and kayaks — a great way to cool off and get a little closer to the amazingly gorgeous yachts parked in the hotel’s marina (I heard Nick Cage has a multi-million dollar yacht there!).

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Beyond the hotel, the local area offers lots to explore from markets and cultural centers to wineries, ziplining, golfing and La Bufadora, one of the largest natural marine geysers in North America.

Tacos, margaritas and more

Yes, the tacos and margaritas are good, but the hotel restaurants offer a lot more to satisfy your appetite. Hotel Coral has two main on-site restaurants — the BC Bistro & Cava and the Marina Grill. If the weather is warm, grab a marina-view seat around a fire pit at the Marina Grill and enjoy family-friendly fare like tacos, wings, burgers, seafood and creative cocktails, all while catching the sunset.

Hotel Coral in Baja

For more formal dining, make a reservation at the BC Bistro & Cava to enjoy fresh seafood specialties, Baja trademarks like caramelized grilled quail or slow-baked lamb, and a wide selection of local wines. Despite the white linens and more sophisticated ambiance, the BC Bistro & Cava is still suitable for kids who can enjoy pizza, tacos or burgers.

Here, be sure to order a glass of wine. The BC wine cellar is the largest regional cellar in Baja, with more than 100 local varietals, predominantly from the nearby Valle de Guadalupe. You can also buy bottles of your favorites at tasting room prices. You also won’t want to miss their morning brunch which offers an array of omelets, pancakes, cereals, fruit, pastries and local favorites like chile relleno, pork mole, and empanadas. And coffee. Really, really good coffee.

BC Coffee at Hotel Coral, Baja

It’s driveable from Southern California

“You’re driving over the border?!” was the number one response I got when I told friends and family we were driving from Southern California to Ensenada. The fears were unwarranted though. The toll roads you take are well-maintained and safe (they take dollars or pesos, but you will need to have money handy) and we didn’t have any sketchy encounters during the border crossing or drive to the hotel.

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Family-friendly Hotel Coral in Baja

Plus it’s a beautiful drive. A study in contrasts to be sure. From mansions and shopping sprawl in San Diego to cardboard shacks and burning trash in Tijuana to new developments along the Baja coast, but it allowed for some good conversations with my boys about wealth and poverty, development, opportunity and gratitude.

Before you leave, be sure to ask at the front desk for a FastPass which will let you avoid the majority of the line to cross back into the U.S. Be sure to read the included directions carefully — the FastPass lane is not well marked and is often blocked at the booth with a cone (when you stop at the cone, a border agent comes out to check your FastPass and lets you through). It’s a huge time-saver though and worth picking up.

Disclosure: This was a media stay and parts of this trip were comped for the purpose of reviewing the hotel. All thoughts are my own. Thanks to Hotel Coral and Allison+Partners!

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The Springs at River Run Keystone Colorado Family Travel Vacation Lodging

The Springs Keystone Colorado

Keystone Resort Lodging

Keystone makes for one exceptional family ski vacation there is not doubt about that. The mountain itself will impress you and the kid friendly amenities and all the activities will keep your family very busy on and off the mountain. Keystone is also only about a two hour drive from Denver and very easy to get to which is another reason it’s a perfect choice.

When choosing your Keystone Resort lodging you have many options available, however the Mountain House neighborhood is a great option for families because of it’s proximity to the Ski & Ride school. We stayed at The Springs, which is a part of the Keystone Resort managed properties and one of the biggest benefits of staying within the Keystone Resort properties is when you book at least two nights, your kids ski free!

Kids Ski Free at Keystone

The Springs Keystone Resort Waterslide and Pool

The Springs at Keyatone Resort Condo Vacation Rentals The Springs Keystone Colorado Lodging

The Springs at Keystone Resort Colorado Hotels
The Springs, Keystone Colorado

The Springs at Keystone is located near the base of the Keystone Gondola and right next to the Keystone Ski & Ride school, which makes it very convenient for parents getting their kids to and from ski school. Keystone also has little red wagons to haul kids ski equipment back to the condos and there are storage lockers assigned for each condo in the garage, so you do not need to bring all that gear into the condo.

Another reason why the The Springs is so popular with families is the outdoor jacuzzi’s and the only outdoor pool with a waterslide! The pool is lukewarm but when it is -10 degrees outside it feels a bit colder. My kids loved sliding down the slide, swimming across the pool and then jumping into the hot tub. I didn’t want to do it, but they finally convinced me and so even I took the waterslide plunge!

The Springs is also just a short walk across a bridge that takes you right to the center of the main village. The Village is where you will find plenty of dining options, coffee shops, shopping, and a mini market. There is also a free Keystone shuttle that will pick you up and take you anywhere within the Keystone Resort as well so getting to the Village and the slopes is never a problem no matter where you stay!

The Springs Condo Kitchen Keystone Colorado Vacation Rental

The Springs Living Room Keystone Colorado

The Springs Condo Bedroom One Keystone Colorado The Springs two bedroom condo Keystone Colorado Vacation Rental

Inside the Condos at The Springs, Keystone Colorado

We stayed in a two bedroom condo and it was very nicely furnished, just as you would expect a Colorado mountain ski condo to be furnished and decorated. It was cozy and felt very comfortable, as if it was our own families condo. The kitchen was large and had plenty of seating for everyone, either around the huge countertop bar or at the kitchen table that had chairs and a long bench to sit at. The living room area had a large leather sofa that had a pull out bed, which is great if you have more than two children or are traveling with grandparents.

The Springs as a very nice lobby area for lounging around with a large fireplace, couches and even a pool table. They have separate playroom for smaller children and toddlers with a fun house, toys, books and games. There is a private theatre room too!  We stumbled upon this by accident and made the most of our discovery and immediately put in the move Elf and settled in for a lazy afternoon in the big leather chairs.  This might have been one of my favorite moments just because it was unexpected and such a sweet surprise.

The Springs is a luxury priced property but with all the amenities and conveniences it may be worth it to you and your family. The Keystone Resort itself has done an incredible job making Keystone very family friendly and staying at The Springs was really the icing on the cake!

Keystone The Springs at River Run Frozen RiverKeystone Colorado Top of Mountain Snow Fort
Disclosure:  A portion of my stay at The Springs was a part of a Media Stay with Keystone Resort for the purpose of a review. My opinions are always my own. I share this with you so it may help you decide on your next family adventure!

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For our winter family vacation we headed to the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado to do some snowboarding, but first we spent two fun filled days in Denver, which was just a enough to get a taste of this mile high city. We stayed at the Embassy Suites Downtown Denver and I have to say, this was the perfect location. The Embassy Suites is in the middle of it all and conveniently close to the 16th Street Mall which runs right through the heart of Denver.

Embassy Suites Lounge Denver Convention Center

Embassy Suites Denver Convention Center

Embassy Suites Downtown Denver

The Embassy Suites Downtown Denver is a great property for families because of their large one bedroom suites that have a nice size living room area that includes a large desk, which is great since my husband and I usually take our work with us when we travel. These suites also have a small kitchenette with a small refrigerator and sink. The bedroom has two queen size beds with modern and luxurious bedding with fluffy duvets. I loved the bed and had a hard time getting out of it.

What I loved about staying at the Embassy Suites was that they had a complimentary happy hour from 5pm – 7pm with some appetizers too. This cocktail reception was a great way to end after a long day of sight seeing and activities. The restaurant and lounge area is very large and has plenty of comfortable seating, a full bar and fireplace. The complimentary breakfast is also very nice and had plenty of options for all of us. It was a better breakfast buffet then other hotels I’ve stayed at that offer the complimentary breakfast.

Denver with Kids

When traveling to a city it always helps to have a local friend, they can give you recommendations and if it’s a good friend, they might even join you and take you on a little city tour!  My good friend and graphic designer, Aimee Giese of Greeblehaus lives in Denver and was the perfect person to show us around her town. I love having insider tips and hearing from a local what they love about their city. So what did we do?

Childrens Museum Denver Colorado Family Travel
Denver Children’s Museum

The Denver Children’s Museum is about a 10 minute drive from the Embassy Suites and very easy to get to. My kids love visiting Children’s museums and you know it’s a good museum when you can;t get your kids to leave. This museum was under construction when we visited but there was stil plenty to do!  Our kids loved the building the in the ball room and creating different mazes and tracks for the balls to go down. We also spent a lot of time in the bubble room, which is always a favorite! They also have a Backyard Room where kids can crawl through tunnels, dress up like squirrels or bunnies and play with animal hand puppets. And If animals are your thing you should also consider visiting the Denver Zoo, which is only about a 15 minute drive from downtown and has over 4,000 animals and is one of the best Zoos in the nation.

Union Station Denver Downtown

The Terminal bar Union Station DenverThe Kitchen Next Door Denver Union Station
Denver’s Union Station

The newly renovated Union Station just recently opened in July of 2014 and is one of the hot spots to check out in Denver. Not only does it serve as a major transportation hub but it is now a popular place to hang out, grab a drink and a bite to eat. In the Great Hall of Union Station is the The Terminal Bar where you can order and pick up a specialty drink or draft beer right from the window and then have a seat anywhere you’d like.  The Great Hall is a gorgeous open room with high ceilings and the center of it all. There are plenty of seating areas, couches and two shuffleboards.

We ate at The Kitchen Next Door for lunch. The Kitchen Next Door calls itself a community pub and specializes in fresh, organic farm-to-table food. It’s a casual atmosphere and a great place to grab a bite to eat and a drink. and they also have a great kids menu.

Rocket Fizz Denver Colorado

From Union Station you can start to walk down the 16th Street Mall and you will find even more dining and shopping options. A fun place to take the kids is Rocket Fizz, an old fashioned candy shop with an eclectic mix of candy from the past, flavored sodas and even some unique and hard to find candy from all around the world. We could not believe that there is bacon flavored soda with chocolate!

Kris Kringle Village Denver Colorado

Kris Kringle Village Denver Colorado Christmas Shopping

Kris Kringle Village Shopping Denver Colorado

ChristKindl Market

Right off of the 16th street mall was the ChristKindl Market, a small Christmas Village set up for the Holidays and only open for a few weeks during Christmas. The village has a European flair that includes a giant beer tent, which looked like Decemberfest inside!  You can shop the autheentic German beer steins, Polish pottery, glass ornaments, wooden toys and nesting dolls. You can also buy Austrian pretzels, Danish pastries and hot roasted nuts.  If you are visiting Denver when the ChristKindle Market is happening, it is a must see and do.

FREE 16th street MallRide

By this time if your kids are complaining about the walking, you can just jump on the free MallRide which runs the length of the 16th Street Mall and is free for anyone to ride! Which is nice if anyone from your group wants to go back to the hotel, and the Embassy Suites is just a block away. If you ride the 16th street MallRide train to the very last stop you will get off close to the Capital Building, from there you can continue to explore a little more of the city sights, political buildings and some unique sculptures along the way.

Denver Capitol Building

Denver DIY Walking Tour

I love to walk around cities and take pictures of the buildings, and and when you have a local leading you it’s even better!  My husband took my son back to the hotel but my daughter came along for this fun walk. We walked past the Capital building which has a distinctive gold dome roof and it looked gorgeous as the light on the city was changing from day to night. It was cold in Denver so the grass was not green and the trees were bare, but I actually loved the beauty of the bare trees up against these concrete buildings.

Denver City Buildings

Denver Government Building Travel

Downtown Denver Colorado Family Travel

Downtown Denver Chair and Horse Sculpture

Denver Art Museum Sculptures

Denver Art Museum

We stopped to look at the fun sculptures that are near the Denver Art Museum and take in the awe of the Art Museum building which is a sculpture itself.  We did not go inside the museum but if we had more time we would have liked to.  On our walk back to the 16th Street Mall and where we could jump back on the MallRide, the city was starting to get dark but had this illuminating glow from the street lamps and all the Christmas lights.

Denver Capital Building at Night

16th Street Mall Denver Colorado at Chirstmas Time

Cherry Creek Shopping

Anther place to mention is Cherry Creek which is Denver’s popular shopping destination. You can either go to the indoor Cherry Creek Shopping Center (which has a great indoor play space for kids) or walk Cherry Creek North. Cherry Creek North is outside and has blocks of unique boutiques and specialty stores like Paper Source, Sur La Table and Kate Spade. They also have plenty of restaurants to choose from and Syrup a popular place to grab some breakfast.

We were only in Denver for about 48 hours but we had so much fun. I highly recommend staying in Denver for a night or two before hitting the road to the mountains. This way you can get acclimated to the altitude a bit before going even higher.  You can also stock up on water and snacks or buy anything you might need before venturing up to the mountains. We really enjoyed staying at the Embassy Suites for it’s service and hospitality, large rooms and most of all it’s location.

Have you been to Denver?  What are some of your favorite things to do!?


Disclosure: I was given a two night stay to review this property. All my thoughts are my own.  I share this with because I love to travel and share tips on what to do with kids when traveling and the Embassy Suites is a great family friendly hotel.

 

 

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Blue Tree Resort Orlando Florida Pool

While visiting all the Orlando theme parks this summer we stayed at The Blue Tree Resort, which is one of the best Orlando hotel and condo style resorts near Disney World. We all know that if you are heading to Orlando on a family vacation things can get pretty expensive, so finding a great Orlando hotel that doesn’t break is essential. All of the rooms at the Blue Tree Resort are condo type rooms that have a dining area and a kitchen.  These types of rooms are great for family’s with kids, if you are staying for a week or more and want to save some money by making a few of your own meals.

BlueTreeResortBedroom

Great Family Vacation Condo

We booked this hotel stay through our timeshare company that has a trade in program, but anyone can book directly through the resort or on third party sites like Hotels.com or Tripadvisor.com.  You can book either a one bedroom studio which has a pull out couch for the kids or a two bedroom suite, which has a large master bedroom and a second bedroom with two twin beds. We ended up booking the one bedroom suite because the two bedrooms were already sold out.  They go fast in the summer, so book early!

We loved having the kitchen to make our own breakfast in the morning (I got my coffee instantly)and it was nice to make easy lunches for the kids and a few light dinners. We were also able to bring any food and drinks down by the pool, which is also so convenient and you don’t have to worry about paying $15 for a lunch for your kids.

BlueTreeResortLivingRoom

BlueTreeResortKitchen

BlueTreeResort2ndBedroom

Perfect Orlando Location

The Blue tree Resort is very close to Disney World and they even have a shuttle service to Disney World.  THey are also close to so many other Orlando attractions, mini golf and the outlet malls.  It is also walking distance to a few restaurants, a Walgreens and a Winn Dixie. We shopped at the Winn Dixie to stock up on water, snacks and fruit.  Both the Walgreens and the Winn Dixie also have large Orlando souvenier sections that will cost a fraction of the price then buying things at the theme parks.

Fun places to eat in Orlando with the kids!

Blue Tree Resort Kids Activities
Kids Activities and Amenities

The property has a small mini golf course, shuffle board, an arcade and a little market for buying some snacks. They also have a variety of kids activities throughout the day to keep the kids (and parents) happy. There is sand art, chalk art, decorating sunglasses, build a friend, movies and dance parties. There is also BINGO almost every day, my kids loved playing this with their Grandmas. They can win small prizes and even gift cards to some of the local restaurants. They also had $1 snow cones by the pool everyday.  Some of the activities cost a small fee but there are some that are free. The activities coordinator was super friendly and so nice to my kids and made all the kids and parents feel welcomed.

Not only is this a great budget friendly place to stay in Orlando and a central location but it was a nice place to come back to after a long day out at the parks. There are a few pools on the property that are open late into the night and there are a few jacuzzi’s to relax in too.  Some days you will want to just skip the theme parks and stay on the property to just relax by the pool and chill out. The staff was helpful and friendly and when we needed something for our room or had an issue it was taken care of right away.  We liked staying here so much that we ended up canceling our other hotel and stayed here longer!

This was a multi-generational trip and everyone was happy, something that can be hard to accomplish. I highly recommend the Blue Tree Resort for traveling families, extended family’s or large groups.

*This was not a complimentary stay and I was not given a media rate or any other discount. I share this with you because it is a great property for families vacationing in Orlando, Florida.

 

 

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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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Mia Hamm: Soccer icon, philanthropist, mom

Mia Hamm has two Olympic gold medals, countless accolades and was named the Greatest Female Athlete of the Last 40 Years by Sports Illustrated in 2012. She may be a soccer icon, but she loves her current role as soccer mom. SheIn addition to raising twin daughters, aged seven, and a two-year-old son, Mia is committed to her charitable foundation, The Mia Hamm Foundation. Her foundation focuses on bone marrow research — she lost her brother to aplastic anemia, a rare blood disease — and creating more opportunities for women in sports.

Ultimate Soccer Mom
Residence Inn wants to help working moms

Hamm travels around the country on behalf of The Mia Hamm Foundation, and she knows how difficult it can be for moms to take care of themselves while they’re working and traveling. “Our crazy schedules can make any mother feel pulled in a million directions. I’m always worrying about getting enough exercise and staying healthy while I’m traveling,” said Hamm. She’s crafted two 10-minute workouts moms can do when they’re pressed for time, yet want to stay on track with their health. The routines don’t require any special equipment and can be done at home or in a hotel room.

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Are you the “Ultimate Soccer Mom”?

Residence Inn, a Marriott hotel, celebrates May as Moms’ Month, and they’re encouraging all the soccer moms around the United States to nominate themselves in the Ultimate Soccer Mom contest.

Moms can enter on Facebook or Instagram by posting a 100-word entry and a photo, tagging Residence Inn and using the #RIMomsMonth hashtag. Everyone can join in the fun and qualify to win exciting daily prizes by posting a comment on Residence Inn’s contest announcement on Facebook. The contest’s grand prize winner, named the “Ultimate Soccer Mom” by Hamm and a panel of Residence Inn judges, will win a trip for four to Los Angeles to meet Mia Hamm at the new Residence Inn Los Angeles L.A. LIVE hotel in summer 2014.

Residence Inn makes family travel easy

Their spacious suites boast full kitchens, and Residence Inns have free Internet, hot breakfasts and pools to make family travel fun and hassle-free. Residence Inn features over 650 locations world-wide, and their suite model makes the hotel perfect for extended stays.

What do you look for when traveling with kids?
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WestinSanDiego

If you are looking for a family vacation this summer, San Diego is no doubt the perfect spot. With so many great kid-friendly attractions like the San Diego Zoo, Sea World and LegoLand, there is sure to be something for everyone in your family.  Finding a hotel is usually the first on the list of family vacations to-do’s and we’ve got a summer hot spot to show you!

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Urban Family Luxury in San Diego

Fresh from a dramatic $15 million transformation, The Westin San Diego is the talk of the town! Located in downtown San Diego and just blocks from the famous Gaslamp Quarter. The multi-million transformation of this landmark hotel, now has a distinctly upscale feel with a complete revitalization of guest rooms, lobby, restaurant, meeting space and a new Westin Fitness Studio.  Being so close to the Gaslamp Quarter makes it walking distance to over 200 restaurants, coffeehouses, nightclubs, unique shops and galleries.

I like to stay at hotels with a modern and sophisticated amenities to them, I feel that it’s my vacation too and since so many of the activities during the day revolve around the kids, its nice to come back to a hotel that makes me feel a little pampered. The gym, spa and pool are the perfect places for Mom to steal some alone time while on vacation, even better if the kids are old enough to stay in the room on the ipads or watch a movie while Mom and Dad can enjoy happy hour in the bar.

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Pet Friendly Hotel

Did you also know that the Westin San Diego is pet-friendly?  So now you don’t have to leave fido home alone or worry about who will watch him. Your dog will enjoy the Westin Signature Heavenly Dog Bed, food and water bowls and a welcome doggie amenity.  More details about brining your dog to this pet friendly hotel.

wes1762ex-148403-Dusk Exterior wes1762fc-148195-Fitness Center
This newly refurbished urban retreat will transform every aspect of a stay into a revitalizing experience. Come see what all the buzz is about, and enjoy a $25 beverage credit per day when you book their transformation package.  Visit the Westin San Diego for more details.

Get Social with the Westin San Diego, follow them on Twitter and Instagram

 

Disclosure:  This is a sponsored post.  All savvy thoughts and sassy opinions are my own.  We share this with you so you can choose your travel savvy accommodations wisely.

 

 

 

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There is a moment during everyone’s trip to Santa Monica when you find the perfect spot on Ocean Avenue, glance at the surf and think, “I could live here forever.” Don’t fight it, it is bound to happen. Santa Monica is a magical place where the city meets the sand, and sunsets rival those you’ve seen in coffee table books. The people are beautiful and dancing neon lights from the Santa Monica Pier celebrate Route 66.

Shore Hotel Santa Monica

But you don’t necessarily have to move to Santa Monica. There is a boutique hotel nestled directly across the water where you can stay, and soak up everything you love about this lively beach town right from your private balcony. Welcome to the Shore Hotel.

Green and gorgeous

Nothing screams quaint or traditional at this property. It’s modern, crisp and seksi. And it’s also smart. Shore Hotel is a luxury sustainable property that is gold LEED certified. It’s hard to believe that luxury can be green — however, you can significantly reduce your carbon footprint just by being a guest at Shore Hotel.

Shore Hotel Santa Monica

Then there is the seksi part. The rooms. Always request a room with a view, and you can thank me later. In a twist, I wish I could say the scenery was my favorite part of the King Ocean View Premier, but it is actually the bathroom. You have not lived until you’ve have felt the water pressure of this rain shower beat down on your soul. It surpasses anything I’ve ever experienced. It is a cleansing… a baptism… a rebirth. Oh, and by the way, it’s a peek-a-boo shower so you are basically Rosie the goldfish from Elmo’s World during this entire religious experience. Have no fear, with one tiny push of a button, the shade comes down and Voila! Insta-privacy.

Eat. Stay. Play.

Shore Hotel does not have a restaurant onsite, but is positioned in between great eateries. No car needed, in fact — bikes are optional too. Blue Plate Taco is maybe 100 feet from the entrance if you are up for hip Mexican cuisine. Not in the mood for margaritas? Try Seasons 52 or Del Frescos. With the fam? I happen to be a big fan of True Food Kitchen. There is something for everyone on the menu and it’s always flavorful. Recently, I was turned on to the edamame dumplings (thank you, Liz!) and I haven’t stopped thinking about them since!

 Shore Hotel Santa Monica

Butterfly and backstroke

And reverse… back to Shore Hotel. Now that you know why I enjoyed my stay, I will chime in with why Lil’ Miss Thang (age 6,) was a fan. Two words: The Pool. She was up in my grill the moment the tiniest bit of light peeked through the blackout curtains begging to dive in. I finally folded like an envelope and took her down to show her how cold the water was at 7:01 a.m. And for the first time ever, my mommy-ness failed me big time and I was WRONG! Whaaaaaaaa? Huh? It was beautiful. The temp was warm enough for a big sissy like me to jump in, but cold enough where I didn’t feel like my heart was going to stop. I didn’t even have to do the weird bop dance where your arms are at 90 degree angles. C’mon, you so know what I’m talking about.

So the next time you find yourself in Santa Monica, dreaming about moving, just do yourself a favor and visit the Shore Hotel. You can’t go wrong. It’s exactly what you imagine LA to be — only with sand.

The end.

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TheSaguaroHotel
This is a great travel story – settle in.

It was blazing hot in Pasadena and we needed to get in a pool ASAP.  We love going to Palm Springs, since it is a quick getaway from Los Angeles and always feels like a little mini vaca.  I remember seeing an article about this colorful hotel in Palm Springs over on Lil’ Sugar and I immediately decided that this colorful hotel was on my hotel list to check out.  When we were trying to get out of dodge quickly,  I literally googled ” Colorful Hotel Palm Springs” and sure enough, The Saguaro Hotel came up.  I said to my husband “That’s the one, book it!” So, without looking into any other criteria other than: “Palm Springs”, “Pool” and “Colorful Hotel”, an hour later we were in the car with the kids and on our way to Palm Springs.

All of the rooms at The Saguaro Hotel are different colors and the kids were very excited to find out which color our hotel room would be, we all were placing out bets.  Would it be purple, green, red, orange, pink or yellow? We couldn’t wait to see!

We arrived at the front desk and started to check it when the hotel receptionist handed us wrist bands and said “Here are your wristbands for the pool party”, my husband and I said in unison “Pool Party!?”  Apparently, there are pool parties complete with a DJ every Saturday during the day  at the Saguaro Hotel. As if on cue, I suddenly heard the music pumping faintly in the background and my husband and I giggled with a bit of nervousness. We made our way down the colorful hall and the music was getting louder and louder.

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We arrived at our orange room, the kids were so excited.  Even I was a little excited, you know me – I love a theme.

My husband went to scope out the “pool party” while I got the kids in their swimsuits.  He came back laughing and shaking his head “It’s a party!”  I got a pit in my stomach.  Oh god.  We were about to expose our kids to a mid-day rave…this should be fun.  When we finally made it down to the pool it was PACKED.  And I mean packed. There were no chairs to be found and wall to wall people in the pool. The music was loud but thankfully, not-out-of-control loud. I quickly scanned the crowd and saw late 20’s early 30 year olds, dancing and grooving to the music. Then I spotted one other family with two kids in the shallow corner of the pool.

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Most parents would have packed up and hit the road, but we’re not most parents.  We can hang with the cool kids and make the best of it.  Okay. I have to admit, this was not what I had imagined at all and for about three minutes thought “this sucks”, but then I looked over at Hudson and he was dancing to the music.  Hands up, in the air, like you just don’t care kind of dancing!  So I thought, suck it up Mom and get in the damn pool.

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I told my husband to get me a glass of wine stat and took on the “If ya can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude.

We got into the pool near the other family with kids and created our own little kids corner and tried not to look too uncomfortable or out of place.  We quickly became friends with the other family and bonded over being the only people with kids there.  Our kids could not have cared less about what was going on around them, they splashed around the pool and were having a great time. I tried to keep them from splashing other people, especially the girls that clearly were not interested in getting their hair wet.

A few beach balls were in the pool and our kids started to hit them back and forth and I got nervous about people sans kids getting annoyed or upset, but to my surprise the opposite happened.  They joined in.  All of a sudden our kids were adding some much needed fun to the party, not taking away from it.  There was a nice group of guys and girls that were so friendly to our kids and would even go and swim out to the middle of the pool to get the balls for them.  I was shocked and relieved. We ended up relaxing and having so much fun!  No one cared that we had kids. In fact, they liked our kids.

Right outside the pool area you can play botchy ball and there was a group of guys playing and they included Hudson calling him “buddy” and let him throw a couple of balls. Again, I was shocked and amazed. These partying 30 year olds were so nice and friendly to us and our kids.  Yes, they had been drinking and totally buzzed but that probably made it better.  Here is the difference, they were in their 30’s, if they had been young 20 year olds it may have been a totally different story.

Travel Lessons Learned

1.  Lighten up and relax more when you travel Moms.  Most situations are not that bad.  I know we all have high travel expectations and sometimes we get disappointed from time to time but be thankful for where you are and what you are able to experience.  In other words, make the best of it.

2.  You can not get upset at a Hotel when you failed to do your research, investigate and ask questions. Especially when you book last minute. It could have been worse – what if it was topless pool? (I would have DIED).  If you are like us, and sometimes make last minute decisions that means you have to be a little flexible.

3.  Not everyone without kids hates kids.  In fact, most people prefer kids to the not-so-fun, serious and crabby adults.  As long as you’ve raised half way decent little individuals who don’t act totally out of control or crazy, you’ll be fine in most situations.

I learned so much in one day about letting go, jumping to conclusions, making the most of a situation and not letting something get in the way of our good time. Life is not perfect and traveling certainly never is, but it’s all about your attitude and making the best of it.

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Sunday in the pool was much more our speed. While most of the other hotel guest were probably hung over, we were up with our kids by 8 am so we got first pick at chairs and had the pool to ourselves for a little while :)

Would I stay here again?
Yes, I would absolutely stay here again.

The rooms are nice typical hotel rooms, the pool is area is nice and you are close to the downtown shopping and dining area. They also have bikes for you to rent for free and shuttles that take you to the downtown shopping area. I of course, love all the fun bright colors of this hotel and the kids did too.  You can bring in your own pool toys, floaties and rafts.  I would perhaps stay during the week, ask about pool parties and other events they might have happening before booking.

Click through the slideshow to see more of The Saguaro Hotel.


 

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