Visiting Sundance Mountain Resort as a Family

Visiting Sundance Mountain Resort as a family is one of our favorite things to do in Utah. (Utah happens to be our home state – GOOOOO UTAH)! We love being able to visit the mountains, explore the little Sundance village, and enjoy the amenities of Robert Redford’s stunning mountain resort.  If you are looking for things to do in Utah with kids, Sundance is a great place to start! Read on to find out the best things to do for a fabulous Sundance family excursion.

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Seriously! Look at these lovely tree top views. Hello, gorgeous!

Visiting Sundance Mountain Resort as a Family – What to Do

A Little Background on Sundance

Most people have heard of the world famous Sundance Film Festival, which occurs every winter in Utah. At the heart of the Sundance Film Festival is the mountain resort founded by actor Robert Redford in 1969. (Redford has a residence on property – here is a fabulous article about how Sundance all started Robert Redford The Sundance Kid.) Sundance is located at the base of the Alpine Loop Scenic drive through the towering peaks of American Fork and Provo Canyon and has some of the prettiest views in Utah County.

Sundance offers year round luxurious adventure and also boasts some amazing dining. Here in Utah, Sundance is famous for being a perfect weekend couple getaway (it can be super romantic) however, it is a total blast to visit with your family. The best part? You don’t have to stay at Sundance to be able to play. It can be a more economical choice if you are wanting to have a fun day trip without the price tag of staying at the lodge.

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Beckham can’t resist running down the long corridor with all of the photos of the famous individuals who have visited Sundance as Robert Redford’s guests. I probably should have stopped him but instead, I snapped a pic. Oops.

The Perfect Utah Family Day Trip

Scenic Mountain Lift

Take a panoramic family scenic lift ride on Ray’s lift and then on to Red’ s. (Yes, the names are Ray and Red haha.) Stunning views of Stewart Falls and the back of the lovely Mount Timpanogos abound.  Becks LOVED watching the mountain bikes zoom down the mountain below. He also thought it was the greatest thing ever when he spotted some wildlife.

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Darling little ticket office right before the lift.

Once you get to the top, enjoy a walk around and set off on several fantastic hikes. The hikes range from easy to advanced. You can also head down the zip line. For more information on the hikes and trails, check out the website here – Sundance Summer Activities. It should be noted that our favorite hike is the Stewart Falls hike, also I have heard wonderful things about the zip line but it is still something that I need to do.

Visiting Sundance as a family, what to do at Sundance, What to do in utah with kids
Finding squirrels is some SERIOUS business. I couldn’t even get him to engage me in a conversation. His little eyes were glued to the ground.

TIP: Bring sunscreen and keep in mind that this is a ski lift so there is just one bar covering the lap. The lift can be rather high and steep at times. If anyone in your family is SUPER wiggly or afraid of heights, you might want to bypass this activity.

Explore and Play at Sundance Village

This is the perfect place to play outside and enjoy nature! And isn’t nature the best playground? In the summer there are tons of butterflies to catch and lots of bridges and streams to play in. Throwing sticks and rocks into the streams is a Beckham favorite. There is also a fantastic spot where you can sit by a small pond and walk up among the lodges.

Visiting Sundance with kids
Um hello cute food truck, don’t mind if I take pictures of you all day!

To really be able to access the pond and the resort area, there are several spots where signs say that you must be a guest at the lodge. We have stayed at Sundance several times but for this day trip we were not guests and we just ignored the signs and walked on up to the lodge only areas and totally broke the rules (we are such rebels – sssh). Nobody batted an eye and we had a great time. Beckham could seriously explore and throw rocks and sticks for hours but if this isn’t your cup of tea – embark on one of the many activities offered through the ticket office like mountain biking, fly fishing, horseback riding or zip line. Again, see website for further info.

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I seriously had to DRAG my child away from this pond. He could have thrown sticks and rocks in here for hours. Literally. (Is this true with all little boys????)

Tip: Keep an eye out, the streams and rivers move FAST. It could be dangerous if someone fell in. We talked to Beckham beforehand how he was NEVER to approach the water without one of us and to stay near mom and dad the whole time and threatened to take away all of his toys (parents of the year over here haha). He stayed glued to our sides. Apparently, threats work :).

Grab a Bite to eat at one of the Sundance Restaurants

There are several restaurants on property and honestly, our favorite is the Foundry Grill but it is a little bit pricey and more adult oriented. For this excursion, it was not what we were looking for after roaming around, and Beckham was in no mood to sit down for a super nice lunch. We decided instead to try out the Sundance Deli and LOVED it!

Sundance Deli

This tiny deli is the perfect casual spot to grab a yummy bite to eat, especially after playing and exploring.  They have yummy giant cookies and many offerings to make even the pickiest eater happy. Not to mention the sandwich selection is delicious! Beckham loved the peanut butter, banana, and fresh honey sandwich, while I loved the turkey, bacon and avocado sandwich. (Stef had the buffalo chicken sandwich and thought his was better than mine, but I can assure you it was not :)).  

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Peanut butter, and fresh honey. (I might have taken half of Beckham’s sandwich 🙂

 There is a small area where you can sit on the bar stools inside, or there is plenty of outside seating. I prefer the outside seating for the lovely views. Also, don’t forget to grab a fresh raspberry lemonade!

Visiting Sundance as a family, what to eat at Sundance
Seriously, these sandwiches.

Tip: With the outside seating, there is a stream that runs right through it and you will want to keep an eye out for running water. Also, the sandwiches are made fresh with the best ingredients, so the wait time for the food can be a little longer than normally expected.

What are some of your favorite things to do in your hometown? Are you visiting Utah soon? Does this day trip sound like something you would like to do with your fam when visiting Utah?

As always, let us know what you think!

Xoxoxo,

Kam

P.S. Don’t forget to pin this and subscribe to our blog for more family travel itineraries, tips, and ideas!things to do in utah, visiting sundance as a family, family outings, family day trips, travel, mountain travel, what to do in utah, visiting utah, travel to utah, utah day trips, visit the rocky mountians, kids travel, family experiences

Our Top 10 Tips for Family Trip Planning: Plan a Trip for Different Ages and Interests

Hello Friends, Shani here! I often get asked how I plan a trip for my family. We have a wide range of ages and lots of different interests.  To be honest, sometimes it is hard and overwhelming! There have been times when each family member wants to do something different. Over the years I have found some things that really work for our family and help everyone have an enjoyable vacation experience. Read below to find out our Top 10 Tips for Family Trip Planning and how to implement them into your travel planning today!

Also, be prepared, I am spilling the beans about a humiliating “mom fail” (I promise my kids are well behaved – most of the time haha).

Top 10 Tips for Family Trip Planning

Tip 1- PLAN

So this might seem obvious but really, plan ahead.  We even plan our downtime.  When we don’t have a plan, precious time is wasted and frustrations flare.  If our family arrives without a plan, chances are we aren’t able to see the things we were hoping to see, eat where we want to eat, or visit the sites that are so high on our list of things to visit.  We have extended family members who poke fun at our travel itineraries (it’s all in jest), but it’s true; our itineraries are detailed, but we most often get to see what we want to see.  For us, planning is crucial.  

Tip 2 – KNOW YOUR GROUP  

Take into account the interests of the people in your group.  How do they like to vacation?  Is their idea of a perfect vacation sitting on the beach for a whole week under an umbrella with a drink in hand?  Are they active, history buffs or nature lovers?   

Knowing this important information about your group helps in planning a successful trip.  For example; I love a good beach vacation but I am only good on the beach or at the pool for a few hours each day and then I need something else to do. Knowing this helps us plan beach vacations that are balanced with some history or culture and then everyone is happy.  Planning to the interests of my group aids tremendously in having a successful trip.

Tip 3 – TAKE A POLL  

Ask the members of your group what specific activities they would like to participate in and what landmarks or sites they would like to see. This makes the trip something that each person can look forward to.  In our family, I always know that a round or two of golf for the guys is what will really make them happy.  I always consult with them to see which courses in the area they would like to play and try to make that happen for them.  Everyone wants to feel like they have a say and this helps to plan a well-rounded vacation.  Do your best to include everyone in the process.  It’s fun and gets everyone involved. We even ask the little one what he would like to do most!

Tip 4 – DON’T EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM CHILDREN 

I have learned over and over again that most often adults can have fun participating in children’s activities but children really struggle to have fun participating in adult activities. If you have children in the group, try to keep it friendly; maybe a reservation at a fancy restaurant with the whole group is not the best idea.  Trust me, we’ve been there. Even the most well-behaved children start to act up with they are starving, tired and then have to sit all proper. “Hangry” takes on a whole new meaning!

Parenting Restaurant Fail 101

Once after a long day of touring, we decided it was a great idea to go to a slow, romantic, very intimate, and upscale restaurant in Lake Como.  All of the diners were dressed up and quietly enjoying their dinner and in we waltz. A group of 6 Americans with 2 young children and a 2 teenagers. My youngest (Easton) was 5 at the time and was in NO mood to sit quietly and got bored (boredom is a recipe for disaster!). He gulped in some air and I knew what was coming – but it was TOO LATE – out came this loud b.u.r.p! Everybody immediately looked directly at us and then the entire restaurant went silent. It’s hilarious now, but at the moment… it was a pure nightmare!!

We also try and keep museum visits and other adult oriented activities to a short time limit (or have a plan to split up the group to take the kids if needed). We also try to prepare the littles ones in advance about what we are doing and what to expect. There have been many times when half of the group stays in the museum for another hour or so and the other half goes, gets a snack, and feeds the birds outside. This really helps up the chances of a successful visit.

Tip 5 – DON’T EXPECT EVERYONE TO DO EVERYTHING

When we expect too much from everyone, we end up disappointed and frustrated.  It is much better to give the group some flexibility in what they want to participate in.  For example, let the person who has a tendency toward seasickness opt out of the water activity.  My family loves to jet-ski, everyone but ME that is.  I have tried it many times and I am scared of it.  LIKE SCARED.  We have figured out that we can plan a fun jet-ski excursion for everyone else in the group and I will stay back and have some one on one time with my grandson while the rest of them are going nuts out on the open water (YIKES, did I mention that I become a freaked out mess on a jet-ski?).  That works well and all are happy.  It makes life a lot more enjoyable for everyone.  

Tip 6 – CONSIDER A CRUISE OR ALL-INCLUSIVE RESORT

Cruises offer many different tours, excursions, and activities at varied times.  Maybe some want to sleep in while others want to photograph every sunrise.  Perhaps some would like to go on an organized excursion while others want to rest by the pool all day.  So Grandma and Grandpa want sushi for dinner but the little ones want chicken nuggets and fries? The point is, on a cruise or at an all-inclusive resort, there is flexibility and usually, more than enough for everyone to participate in.  This is a sure way to keep everyone happy.

Tip 7 – DON’T OVER PLAN

While it is crucial for my family to have a plan (as we have discussed above), I have also learned NOT to over plan.  It is sooooo easy to become overly ambitious.  Many times I have wondered when I was going to be able to re-visit a particular destination and have become so eager to “see everything” I have ended up over-planning.  In the end, it becomes a chore and everyone is so tired and overloaded it ends up not being a pleasant experience.  For us, traveling is about wandering, experiencing, and learning. It is more challenging to savor the moment when we are running from one attraction to another.

Tip 8 – SPACE

This is the number one suggestion we have for group travel. In my experience, this is the key to everyone getting along.  Everyone needs their space (especially the teenagers).  I try to make sure accommodations are adequate and to be mindful if someone’s nerves are wearing thin.  For us, trying to make sure that our accommodations are large enough for everyone to have space is worth every cent.

We know people who cram their entire group into a single hotel room. This is not for me. I love my kids, but boy do I need a break at times!  Not only is cramming people (usually) against hotel policy, for my family, it has the makings for a disaster.  We all need a place where we can retreat when we become annoyed/tired with each other (and the WILL happen while traveling) and need to decompress.  A time out from one another can be a good thing.

Tip 9 – MY 3 PLANNING HACKS

  1. If it is an active vacation, (ie Disney, Europe, etc.), I recommend spending two full days sightseeing followed by a day with lots of scheduled down time.  That way the group can gauge their energy levels and decide exactly what they are feeling up to.  Maybe a restful day sleeping in, or a day by the pool is just what is needed.
  2.  If you can help it, don’t follow a late night activity with an early morning activity.  I know it is sometimes unavoidable but it really makes a difference if everyone is well rested. We all need our rest.
  3.  Another thing I always like to do when planning a trip; especially if it is a heavy sightseeing trip like China or Europe is to leave the very last day of the trip open, with nothing planned.  That way if anything unexpected arises, or you would like to revisit a particular attraction there is time available to do it.  We have found this very effective.  More often than not, by the end of the trip people are tired and it is a good day to just rest a little, wander, linger and get off the beaten path a little more.  It’s a great way to wind up a trip.

Tip 10 – SEND OUT THE FINAL ITINERARY AHEAD OF TIME

When final plans have been made and the itinerary is in place (at least a few weeks before travel) I love to send out the itinerary to all parties involved.  That way everyone knows exactly what to expect.  Chances are that with a few weeks left before travel if changes or cancellations need to be made, there is still time.  It is also really exciting to sit together and go over an itinerary for an upcoming trip.  Everyone seems to get excited!!!  When we have traveled with a travel company (which we do sometimes), they always send out the final itinerary a month or so in advance for us to review.  I have found when planning our own trips (which we do most of the time), it is wise to follow this example.

These are a few of the suggestions we have for you after lots of travel experience and lots of trial and error.  Of course, in the end, follow your intuition and experiment with what works for your family! What works for one doesn’t always work for all and you know your family/group best :)!

Happy Travels!

-Shani

*For some tips on how to prepare your little ones for an upcoming trip that will help ensure a fabulous vacation, read our 6 Ways to Prepare Your Little One For an Upcoming Trip here – Traveling with Kids: Our Family Passport. Also, don’t forget to subscribe and pin so you can get more family travel tips and itineraries right at your fingertips. 

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Why Traveling With Young Kids Is Important

Starting this blog has been eye opening for me. It has created this sense of community with fellow travelers who see the merit in exploring and exposing their children to the world. Traveling with my family is one of the highlights of my life. We learn, grow and I feel like my eyes are opened to a different paradigm with each destination. I also don’t think that these learning experiences should just be reserved for adults or older children. As a millennial mom, I am sharing why traveling with young kids is important to me and our family.

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Little man has been obsessed with water since day one!

Why Traveling With Young Kids Is Important to Me

Something that I wasn’t prepared to experience when starting this blog is seeing how many people want to travel but feel unqualified to do so. Many parents seem nervous, unaware, and unsure about traveling with their children and spending money when younger children most likely will not remember the particulars of the trip.

I know that every parent has different opinions and thoughts about raising their children and I love and respect that. To me, the difference in perspectives is what makes the world so interesting. I am not here to mock or criticize a certain way of parenting (Heaven knows I am NO expert) but simply want to share why it is so important for me to show my toddler the world. The exact science behind it all is covered a little bit later. In my opinion, even though children can’t remember the details of a trip or an experience -what they see and do, does affect the person they become and how they will view the world.

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One of my favorite things about traveling with Beckham is seeing him get to know the locals.

Our Experiences Traveling With A Young Child

The first vacation Beckham* went on was when he was 17 days old (Yes 17  DAYS – what was I thinking?) We decided to go to Jackson Hole and spend some time as a family in the mountains. This meant we were shlepping ALL of the baby stuff, and the newborn, on a 5-hour drive to Jackson Hole. Arguably Beckham is not going to remember one tiny ounce of that trip. But I do. It was so reviving to get away from the stress and be with family and my brand new baby.

*New to our blog? Find out who we are here – About Us page.

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Baby Becks swinging in his swing that we hauled all the way up to Jackson Hole. – so worth it haha.

Our First Long Haul Flight With A Baby

Beck’s first long plane ride was when he was 5 months old and we were going to Hawaii as a fam. People thought we were crazy! A baby on an 8-hour flight, overnight? What? He isn’t going to remember anything! 

Yes, the flight was a challenge, yes we had to take an entire extra suitcase just for his crap, yes he slept on the beach half of the time, yes there were fits on top of fits every sunscreen application, and yes there were some activities we missed out on because we were caring for a baby.

However, he was in Heaven. It was sensory overload – the weather, the animals, the smells, colors, and sounds. It really was fantastic to watch him. I won’t ever forget seeing him mesmerized by the waves and his reaction the first time he sat in the sand (spoiler alert – he hated it at first). He might not have realized how awesome it was that he was in Hawaii, but he knew we were somewhere different and we had a fantastic time as a family away from the ins and outs of the daily life we were navigating – work, school, and being new parents. 

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Becks in Hawaii for the first time with Grandma

Taking Our 1-Year-Old to Europe

 When Beckham was a year old, the entire family went to the United Kingdom for almost three weeks. The boys in the family had been dying to go on a golf trip. Stefen, Beckham and I were not about to stay behind just because it was going to be more of a challenge for us. It was hard; the flights, the time-change, the realities of naps, bottles, the aunt and uncles trying to get him to throw a fit in the National Gallery (they still think it is hysterical to this day, and I so do not haha) and just the overall schedule shift.

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All he wanted to do was climb on the headstones and pound on them to make noise while we were visiting Saint Andrews haha. He kept trying to crawl away from me after this picture.

Yet, I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. Overall, Beckham was a champ and we honestly had the BEST time.  He, of course, is not going to remember seeing Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait. Yet, children are making connections as they are forming their own paradigm of how they view the world.

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Little man practicing walking in Westminster Abbey in London. Again, he wanted to just stomp on the headstones. Should I be worried haha??

The Science Behind It All

I am going to get all sciencey here (yes, I just totally made up the word “sciencey” haha when trying to sound all academic) but babies and young children make 1 MILLION neural connections every second in their first years of life! The science behind children making connections is called brain architecture and Harvard Medical School has an amazing article that breaks it down – Brain Architecture Harvard Medical School.

Essentially young children are born with relatively few connections about the world around them. In the first couple of years of life, they take and process almost everything they see and experience to form neural pathways. The connections and pathways formed at the early stages of life become part of long term memory. That is why experts say read to your baby, snuggle them, and sing to them as young children because this WILL shape them, even if they can’t remember it.  

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Backpack Becks hiking with Stefen in the cloud forest in Costa Rica. He still talks about the snake that he saw while we were there.

So to all of those people who say it is worthless to take young children on trips that they won’t remember, to them I say – I disagree.  The things Beckham sees, feels, and touches, will shape him and the person he will become. Why wouldn’t every parent want their child to have a global education?

His experiences will help make him who he is.  I want Beckham to be a global citizen, to love different cultures and learning. Traveling together encourages that.

Our Plans This Year

Just this year, we have plans to take Beckham to seven different countries. This is a little more than usual, but we have something super exciting in the works that we will share soon! We do not travel full time. We have lives, jobs, a home, neighbors, and daily responsibilities to take care of.  Each trip takes work, time, and money that could be spent elsewhere. But taking him to experience the world is right at the top of my priority list, and I am willing to sacrifice other things so I can create these memories with him.

Why I Love Seeing Him Learn and My Hope For the Future

Becks has already become a travel expert. He can get himself through security, he holds his own passport (haha, we watch him like a HAWK), gets himself on the airplane, into his seat, and honestly, about 90% of the time is a dream on flights. When we went to Bora Bora and flew for two days straight – he was perfect. He LOVES to travel and comes alive when seeing and doing new things. Just on our last trip he was asking Stefen about different skin colors and languages. He was clearly assimilating all of the new things he was experiencing and seeing.

He has swum with sharks, fed monkeys, shared his toys with cute little kids in a small Central American village, seen more works of art than the average American college student and will not remember a thing. And you know what – I am okay with that :). Traveling with my young child has brought us so close! We have so many experiences that we share together. I really do feel like these moments will not only shape him but shape our relationship to come. 

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I would NEVER give up our experiences together traveling as a big family. It is one of my most favorite things!

What do you think about traveling with young kids? Worth it? Not? Share your thoughts below!

If you are wanting more information about family travel and how to help your child have a successful trip, read our article on – 6 Tips to Prepare Your Child for an Upcoming Trip. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for insider family travel itineraries, tips, and ideas!

Xoxox

Kam

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Top 5 Things To Do in Amsterdam With Kids

Amsterdam was DOPE – literally haha! And, no we did not smoke any marijuana (Although the widespread use of weed is something that you might want to be aware of before you take your little ones to Amsterdam. To be honest, we don’t smoke and it wasn’t that big of a deal for us.) We really LOVED Amsterdam and Beckham* thought it was the best! He loved the boats, the bikes, the buildings and he even enjoyed some of the museums. While Amsterdam isn’t the typical place that you might think of to take young children, we had a fantastic time and are going to give you our top five things to do in Amsterdam with kids. We promise – your little ones will love them!

*To find out more about who we are, you can read about our family on our About Us page. 

The Top 5 Things To Do in Amsterdam With Kids

It should be noted that these do not go in particular order, although we will share which one was Beckham’s favorite and why.

1). Participate in the Kids Programs at the Van Gogh Museum

If you have been following us for awhile you know I am OBSESSED with art. (I as in Kam. Some of the other people in the fam could take it or leave it – looking at you Easton :)). Really I can not get enough. So any excuse I can get to haul my child through a museum for a couple of hours and have him actually enjoy it is a total win! The Van Gogh Museum has some pretty amazing programs put into place for their young visitors and they are FREE with admission.

They have a scavenger hunt, as well as a fun interactive learning game where you take around a traveling case full of information and fun things to do in certain parts of the museum with your child. Also, if you visit at the right time, your little one can participate in free art workshops. You can find out more about the programs here – Van Gogh Museum Children and Families. They are fun, creative, and educational. Be aware of the age of your kids – some of the activities are tailored toward children who are a bit older.things to do in Amsterdam with kids, visiting the Van Gogh museum with children, kids programs at the Van Gogh museum

Tips for Visiting the Van Gogh Museum with Kids

Go early! I can not stress this enough. Next to the Anne Frank Museum, this place is one of the most crowded in the city. In my opinion, for you and your child to get the most out of your visit, you must be one of the first ones at the museum. The museum opens at 9:00 am. You can also buy your tickets online here before your visit so you can bypass the lines. Purchasing tickets online before your visit is highly recommended and will save you some time.

Do you think your child might need some prep before visiting a museum? Visit our post about how to prep your child for your trip and your activities here – Traveling with Kids: Six Tips To Prepare for Upcoming Trips. Most of the time the tips work wonders!

2) Take a Boat Ride on the Water

This was our third boat ride on the canals of Amsterdam and by far our favorite.  It was a 2-hour private boat ride at dusk through the canals.  It is a wonderful to see the city from the perspective of the water and to see the city come alive at night as all the lights come on. There are bigger, less expensive boats to take through the canals like Blue Boat Tours (and if this better fits into the budget, we can recommend it highly), but the smaller boats are easily able to navigate their way through the smaller canals and this gives a more intimate experience through the city.  Our private boat tour was one of our favorite things we did in Amsterdam.  Everyone in the group loved it, including 3-year-old Beckham.  fun things to do with kids in Amsterdam, private family boat ride in Amsterdam, kids in Amsterdam

Tips for Taking Kids on the Water in Amsterdam

It can get chilly at night! So be prepared and have some clothes to bundle up in. Also, make sure your child uses the bathroom before the cruise if the vessel is not equipped with a bathroom.

3) Visit Vondelpark and Splash in the Water 

They don’t call Vondelpark the Central Park of the Netherlands for nothing. Vondelpark is cool, and it is possible to spend hours here visiting all of the different areas! Beckham had a great time and even shed some tears when we had to leave. It is fun to walk around, feed the ducks, and play in the open areas, but Beckham loved the designated children’s area in the center of the park the most! (When you walk through the park there are several help centers with nice volunteers who can provide maps and easy directions if you get lost.)

There is a little fountain and wading pool that your littles ones can splash and play in with the locals. We were lucky that we had an extra set of clothes/undies on hand (ya know for accidents and what not – yikes) and Becks was just itching to get in the water so I let him go play in the water in his Mickey Mouse undies. (Mom of the year – I know. Who lets their kids wander around in their undies in public?) However, no one batted an eye (it’s Europe haha) and when it was all said and done he dried off, we changed his undies and put back on his clothes. It was a total win.Things to do with kids in Amsterdam, visiting voldelpark with kids, the kid area at vondel park

Next to the wading pool is a cool little park. It is complete with see-saws, swings (the adults even took turns haha), a sandbox, and a little playground area. Beckham ended making friends and see-sawing with some local children and was SO mad at me when we had to leave.  family travel to Amsterdam, visiting Amsterdam with children, vondelpark with kids

Tips for Visiting Vondelpark with Kids

There are lots of dogs and not all of the owners pick up after them. There are some stinky areas and a couple of places that you will want to watch your step. However, dogs are not allowed in the little fenced-in kids’ area which was great! Also, have a small towel and an extra set of clothes/undies if you plan on letting your child play in the water.

4) Visit the Rembrandt House

The Rembrandt House Museum is small and easily navigated with children.  It is the house where the Dutch master Rembrandt lived and painted.  On the tour of the old house are many different rooms and a walkthrough provides a glimpse into the daily life of the 17th century.  There are two audio tours offered free of charge to visitors.  One is for younger children and provides a more simplified and entertaining story of the “goings on” in this old house in Rembrandt’s day.  

The second is is an audio guide for teenagers and adults 13 years and older. The museum also has paint preparation demonstrations that provide insight into the way Rembrandt made and mixed his paint.  What child would not love this? Check the website for information on these free daily demonstrations.visiting Amsterdam with children, things to do with kids in Amsterdam

Tips for Visiting the Rembrandt House Museum with Children

You can not navigate the house with a stroller so if you have sleeping child or a child that needs to stay in a stroller, this is not the place to go. However, the staff was so helpful in helping us find a place to park the stroller. Beckham thought the narrow winding corridors and staircases were so interesting and fun.  Also, I prepped him a bit on how to act in a museum before we went and had positive reinforcements on hand (okay they were bribes in the form of M and M minis).

5) Throwing Sticks into the Canals & Waving at the Boats

It is so funny that the simplest of activities was by far Beckham’s favorite!  That is what is so amazing about traveling with kids – they are amazed by the smallest things and find pleasure in the simple moments. We enjoyed time sitting by the canals almost every day because he loved it so much. Our favorite place to sit and throw sticks is in the Nine Little Streets area.

It is so darn pretty, people are nice, and there is a lot of boat traffic. Sit at the edge of the canal, gather some sticks which have fallen off the trees and snuggle and throw the sticks in together. Whenever a boat passes be sure to say “hi” and wave. Most people in Amsterdam were so nice with Beckham and would wave, smile, and engage him in a little conversation. He still talks about the boats in “Ansserdam”.

family travel to Amsterdam, things to do with kids in Amsterdam, visit the canals in Amsterdam

Tips for Enjoying Time on the Edge of the Canals in Amsterdam with Kids

You will most likely have to sit on the ground at the edge of the canal, so if you are wearing white or a short skirt this isn’t something you will want to do. I made sure to have a LONG chat with Beckham about what he could and couldn’t do (ie – jump in the canal) and I had a hand on him at all times when we were near the water. And seriously – wave and say hi to the boats. People loved it!

A few considerations before taking your kids to Amsterdam:

  • Bikes, bikes, and MORE bikes!!  – Among all of the things to do in Amsterdam, getting run over by a bike did not make the list.  There are more bikes in this city than there are residents.  When crossing streets, you must be very mindful of cars, trains, AND ALSO THE BIKES!  You must cross traffic and then you must cross the bike “interstates” as we began to call them. Beware.
  • Amsterdam with a stroller. – Amsterdam, in certain areas, is not easy to navigate with a stroller, but in our opinion, this city is worth the trouble.  Cobblestones, uneven sidewalks, and train tracks in the road can be difficult.  We recommend two people- a stroller “buddy” if you will,  to trade off on stroller duty as it can become burdensome and to provide assistance in difficult situations.
  • Weed- Marijuana is legal in Amsterdam and widely used.  You will see it and smell it everywhere.  It was the first thing we noticed when exiting the airport.  Prepare yourselves to have it blown in your face- probably more than once.  If visiting a “coffeeshop”  (where it is legally sold in Amsterdam) is on your list of things to do in Amsterdam, then go for it, but for us, we tried to steer clear.

True, Amsterdam isn’t usually the first place you think of to take kids – but we had a great time there as a family and Beckham thought it was the best!

We hope these places and tips give you some ideas! Don’t forget to pin & bookmark so you can remember this post :).

Also, be sure to subscribe to our blog for more family travel ideas, itineraries, and updates!

Xoxo,

Kam and Shani!things to do in Amsterdam with kids, five things to do in Amsterdam with kids, travel to Amsterdam, family travel to Amsterdam

10 Safari Essentials You DO NOT Want to Forget

Thinking about or getting ready to go on a safari? Lucky!!! (And we might be a little jealous – wink!) You do not want to miss our list of safari essentials that you would be remiss to leave home without.

Things I Learned Were Safari Essentials… After My Safari*

*haha you live and you learn right???

I have just recently returned from an amazing African safari in Kruger National Park in South Africa (To find out more, subscribe to our blog. You can also find our post on why we went on safari here!) and let me tell you, we had the time of our lives.  It was one of the greatest adventures we have ever had!! We felt like some of our animal encounters were straight out of a Nat Geo movie – seriously!

While we had a fabulous time, we also learned that there are safari essentials that mustn’t be forgotten. And like I said, all of these things were items that I realized I wish I had had or wish that I would have been aware of before we had left. To save yourself some serious itch, (mosquito bites anyone?) or some corneal sunburns (okay I exaggerate), make sure to keep reading…

group on african safari, ranger, trackers, Land Rover
Me and Easton with our Ranger and Tracker

My 10 Safari Essentials

1-TWO Pairs of Sunglasses

Yes, two!!  I lost my only pair while in transit to the safari lodge.  I wasn’t too concerned thinking that in their small gift shop I could just buy a cheap pair to get me through.  WRONG.  They didn’t even carry sunglasses so I went without a pair of sunglasses for a few days until a new friend that we met at the lodge lent me a pair of hers.  The sun is bright and strong!  You do not want to get stuck without eye protection.

2-Prescription Glasses

Don’t forget them, and if you need them make sure they are secure. You don’t want to loose them out on the bumpy game drives. You will need your eyes sharp for finding critters in the bush.

3-Sunscreen

Similar story to the sunglasses.  We misplaced our sunscreen somewhere before our arrival at the safari lodge and again, the little curio shop did not even carry sunscreen.  I ended up wearing long sleeves most of the time in an effort to avoid sunburn.  That was less than ideal, so be prepared.

4-Closed Toe Shoes

If you are wanting to get out of the vehicle and do game walks, closed toe shoes are required.

5-Light Weight Scarf

I noticed several of the guests wearing light weight scarves around their necks and I figured out why.  When it’s chilly, in the early mornings and after the sun goes down, they help keep you warm.  When it is hot and the sun is strong, the scarf protects your neck from the sun.  A little extra protection never hurt anyone:)

6-Binoculars

Please don’t forget these and make sure they are of good quality.  We wished we each had our own pair but weren’t sure it would have been worth the extra weight or space taken in our luggage.  In the end we did fine, one pair shared between two people should be adequate.

7-Camera

This is my number one safair essential! You do not want to be having the experience of a lifetime and be stuck without a camera or with one that doesn’t work. Whatever camera you own and are proficient at using, bring it.  If you are not entirely familiar with the settings and have to spend a good deal of time fiddling to get them right, you will miss fleeting moments and that would be soooo sad.  I only had my cell phone camera and that worked just fine for me.

Just a note here: some game reserves ask their guests to NOT carry cell phones, android phones or iPads on game drives.  Unfortunately, these devices have been known to passively assist poachers in finding the location and identification of endangered animals.  It is so sad but true.  MAKE SURE YOU KNOW IF YOUR GAME RESERVE ALLOWS CELL PHONES ON GAME DRIVES.

8-Insect Repellant

Bring it and use it. The higher the deet, the better. My daughter also loves the lemon eucalyptus oil sprays and finds them more effective for her.  Some times of the year are worse than others for mosquitos.  While we were on safari in the first part of April, the mosquitoes weren’t bad at all, but that did not keep us from slathering this stuff all over us; especially on the evening game drives!  Malaria??? No Thanks.

9- Hat

Bring either a short brimmed safari style hat or a baseball type hat.  It will be beneficial against the sun’s rays.  In my opinion, wearing a wide-brimmed hat would be rude and inconsiderate to the people who may have to sit behind you and see over you in the vehicle. Everyone on the drive wants a good sight of whatever it is you may be viewing and a wide-brimmed hat would simply get in the way.

10-Jacket

Bring a light weight jacket for early morning and evening game drives.  It did get super chilly.  Dress in layers, so you can be comfortable throughout the day.

Be Careful Wearing White

*One other tip- Our safari ranger suggested for us to not wear white clothing while in the truck.  Not only do white articles of clothing get dusty and dirty (I ruined a cute pair of white keds), but while doing bush walks, it was required to wear dark colors (think grey, navy, black, green etc.) because it is less distracting for the animals.  I ended up wearing many of the same dark clothes on the drives in an effort to avoid wearing my white clothing.

I hope this list of safari essentials helps you prepare for a travel experience that is hopefully one of the best you will ever have!!!  Have fun:)

-Shani!animals on African safari, safari essentials,

 

Traveling with Kids – 6 Tips to Prepare for Upcoming Trips

Getting ready to go traveling with kids? Find out how we prepare the little ones in our group and how it helps everyone, no matter the age, have a great time!

Traveling with Kids – It Is All About the Prep, Man!

Are there many things more disapointing than planning a big trip, spending all of the money, taking time off of work or school, and trekking across the globe and your child is SO NOT a fan?? I decided early on that I was going to try everything I could to help my almost four year old have the best experience on vacations (ya know to give him a global education and all) and I have found when traveling with kids, a successful vacation starts at home, especially with the little ones!

While I know all young kids and toddlers are not created alike (whew would we be in a world of hurt if they were :)) I do know that most kiddos do better when they are prepared for any given situation. (In my home if we spring a bath on Beckham- major meltdown). A little prep can go a long way.

6 Ways to Prep for a Big Trip When Traveling With Kids

Here are 6 things that I have found successful when I am preparing Becks for an upcoming trip (find out who we are by visiting our About Page). In the end, I always want our travels to be a great experience and I find that a little preparation helps get Beckham as excited as I am!!

*Let me be honest, about 90% of the time these tricks work but toddlers are toddlers after all and have minds of their own. Don’t you worry, when traveling with kids, we have had plenty of meltdowns in the most fabulous locations all over the world. But overall, these tricks work like a charm!

1. Look

Show pictures of the location! Google some pics of the places you will be going. I try to act as excited as possible and show him some of the things we will be seeing. Little ones LOVE visuals. (I even do this for things like the dentist haha – it works like a charm. Anything that can make the dentist seem as exciting as Disneyworld is a win in my book!)

2. Countdown

Create a countdown. I have made over the top ones as well as simple ones, and they all work. Think stickers, printouts, candy countdowns*, and basically anything else you can imagine. A daily reminder of where and when you are going is sure to build excitement and helps prepare the little ones that soon they will be somewhere else. I usually try to start a countdown about 2-4 weeks before a big trip.

3. Listen

Listen to music from that location. Spotify is the best for this! I don’t buy anything extra, but just stream it from my computer. Find some authentic music from the place you are visiting and listen to it together. For example, before a trip to Hawaii we had Hawaiian music on repeat. Becks loved it! We currently are listening to Swiss Folk Music to help us get ready for our trip to the Alps in a couple of weeks :). This is one of my most favorite things that we do together before a trip when we travel with kids.

4. Review

Go over some of the things that you are going to be doing on the trip. Before our big French Polynesia trip last year (see the post here), I knew that we would have a chance to swim with sharks and I didn’t want Beckham to be surprised or pressured to get into the water. So we talked about sharks, why they are scary but also why they are awesome and how to be safe. I gave him all of the information his little brain could handle and then told him if he wanted to swim with them he could get in the water with them with mommy. When we pulled up to the sharks on the jet skis, he thought about it for a second and quickly decided to get in. He was already prepared for what he could/couldn’t do. It made for a positive experience for everyone.

I try to go over the itinerary with him a couple of weeks ahead of time. For example, we are getting ready for a big three week trip to Europe and so right now I am talking to him about some of the things we will be doing while we are there. I try to talk about the trip and our activities at least 2-3 times every day.

5. Choose

Give some choices! I don’t know if you have ever heard of “love and logic” but it is a teacher’s dream (remember I used to teach Junior High and those little humans are harder to control than toddlers – so I had to get REALLY good at this REALLY fast :)). Essentially the basis of love and logic is to give two choices within a framework set up by a loving adult. Choose options that are both okay with you.  For example; I pick out a couple of activities that I think Becks might like and then let him choose which one he wants to do. He loves it and then when the time comes for that activity he feels like it is “his” activity. When in the end, we were going to do it anyway – but hey I can fool a toddler. I must be a genius right (haha)?

6. Read

Read some books! I love little travel books or really any cute little kid book. Aren’t kids books just adorable? I am sure I get more excited by Beckham’s preschool book orders than he does!  Anyway, I digress. About a month before the trip, I order a couple of books off of Amazon and read about the places we will be visiting, or even just stories that take place in those certain locations. Some of our current favorites:

  • Tiki Tiki Tempo (China)
  • Strega Nona (Italy)
  • LaRue Across America: Postcards from the Vacation (USA)
  • GlobeTrotting Adventure: Living in Brazil
  • GlobeTrotting Adventure: Living in Mexico

If I can’t find any decent kids books on a specific location, I will go to Google and find a couple of images and put together a little slide show with some simple text on my ipad. At night, we will look at the pictures and talk about the location before bed. This takes a little bit more effort than buying something off of Amazon, but I have found it to be so beneficial when traveling with kids and it helps us learn more about the location we are going to be visiting!

The Joy of My Life

Being a mom is seriously the highlight of my life, and I love to travel with my little one. He makes things so fun and exciting (most of the time, remember the 10%?? – let’s be honest sometimes he is a straight up “threenager”).

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to make your trip fantastic when you are traveling with kids! And it gave you some good ideas on how to prepare your little ones or grand-babies for your upcoming vacations!

Xoxox,
Kam

traveling with kids, preparing little ones for a trip

Why Go On A Safari – 4 Reasons Safari Rocks!

You may be asking yourself why go on a safari?  We asked ourselves that same question for a handful of years and we were finally able to go and let me tell you – it was amazing.  Read on and let us share with you our feelings about our personal safari experience!

Why Go On A Safari- Is It Worth It?

While preparing for our journey to South Africa to go on a safari, I found myself wondering, why go on a safari?   Would it be worth the hideously long flights and travel time, the expense, the time away from school, work and church?  All of these thoughts made me question my decision.  Maybe we would travel all the way to South Africa and see nothing.  That would stink!!!

What we found instead, was that our safari was worth every mile traveled, every dollar spent and worth every sacrifice that was made to make this journey a reality.  We had a life experience that was both educational and enriching.  Among all of the destinations to which we have traveled our safari ranks near the top of our “favorites” list.  We absolutely LOVED our safari and can’t wait to share OUR answer to the question – why go on a safari? We are excited to share our feelings about the magical adventure we had!!

baby elephant, elephant on safari,
Is this not just the cutest thing EVER!!

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the Thornybush Waterside Lodge located within the Thornybush Private Game Reserve, adjacent to Kruger National Park. The lodge sits next to a large watering hole where there were daily sightings of hippos, elephants, and other really cool wildlife. LOVE. While at the Thornybush Lodge, there were twice daily game drives.  The morning game drive was from 6-9am and the evening game drive was from 4-7pm.  thornybush waterside lodge, luxury african safari

4 Reasons to Go On Safari

1. The Animals

DUH haha!!!  This almost goes without saying, but it MUST BE SAID, the animals are at the very top of the list!  Animals on parade!  That is what it was.  Not in a contrived sense but in the sense that every time you turned around, there was another amazing creature to observe in its natural habitat. Honestly, does it get better than that?

We were fortunate to be able to see the Big 5 (Leopard, Lion, Rhino, Elephant, and Buffalo) on our first game drive.  This set the bar.  We knew our safari was going to be fantastic.  I wish I had proper command of the English language to describe the feeling of being out in nature in an open vehicle in such close proximity to the animals.  Not only could we see them, we could hear them and smell them (whew, those wild dogs were stanky). Some of them we could have reached out and touched.

We felt like we were in a Nat Geo movie; watching an elephant herd of about 15 feeding all around us, or closely encountering a female leopard in a tree protecting her kill from the circling hyenas below or witnessing 4 hungry female lions take down an impala.  This experience was raw. We marveled over and over at the beauty, intensity, and realness of nature all around us. Unforgettable!!  Really, I can’t say enough.lion on safari, lion laying on the grass

2. The Education

My son Easton (16) missed 6 days of school and I am confident that the education we gained in 3 days on safari is more than he could have gained sitting in a Biology class for years.  My philosophy is to NEVER let school get in the way of an education.  Our learning up close and personal, not some memorization of facts from a textbook to be retained.  Before this, we had only observed these kinds of animals in a zoo.  But this was an open-air classroom where we could learn by observing first hand these powerful animal species.  It was so educational; a real, live lab. 

looking for animals on safari
Easton and our Tracker Moses

3. The Serenity

With no televisions, very little wi-fi and minimal cell phone service (we didn’t want to rack up our international charges), our safari was a great place to unplug and enjoy the peace and serenity of the region.  Just us and nature; everything ran at a relaxed pace (except maybe that 5 am wake up call for our early morning game drives).  Without fail, every morning when that big, bright orange sun popped up above the horizon, the lyrics to the music of the Lion King popped into my mind.  

We relished the quiet moments.  Living in our crazy, noisy world that doesn’t happen often.  We were able to disconnect from the chaos and noise and reconnect with each other.  The serenity is one answer to that question why go on a safari?

sunset in africa on safari
Seriously though, look at this sunset!!!

4. All Included

We could relax! The stay was totally organized; the game drives, our ranger, and tracker, the food, the activities, and accommodations.  I never even had to remove my wallet from the safe in the room until check-out.  That was a refreshing change, and we could unwind knowing that all of the planning was already taken care of and we could simply enjoy. 

Have you ever asked yourself why go on a safari?  Those of you that have been on a safari, what did you think?  Have you dreamt about traveling on a safari?  We would love to hear about your experiences.   

Give us your thoughts and don’t forget to subscribe to our blog! To read our post on what to take on safari go here – 10 Safari Essentials

why go on a safari, four reasons to go on safari, African travel, African safari, family travel,

 

 

 

Travel Consent Letter – When and Why you Need One

Today I will be sharing some tips about what documentation is needed such as a travel consent letter for international travel with a minor. Specifically when the minor is traveling with only one parent (or a grandparent/uncle/aunt etc.).  As usual, I always learn things the hard way, and this is no exception.  I’ve got a story:)  Let me tell you what I have learned. Hopefully, I can spare you some of the frustration that can sometimes accompany family travel. I’m telling you what, traveling is not for whimps:) Keep on reading…

The Documents and The Travel Consent Letter

I have traveled countless times over the years internationally, with my minor (under 18) children and without my husband.  In addition to a valid passport and required visas (depending on the country), there are other “required” documents that I always carry:

-An original birth certificate (cannot be a copy) for each minor child.

-A notarized travel consent letter signed by my husband stating that he knows and gives permission for me to travel with our minor children internationally. We have made sure to discuss what should be included in a travel consent letter below.

The One Time I Almost Wasn’t Able to Leave Zambia

Like I said, I have come and gone numerous times in and out of the U.S. and many other countries by myself with my minor children.  I have always carried the required documents mentioned above.  Beyond a passport and a required visa here and there, I had never been asked for the other “required” documents. UNTIL our last international trip to South Africa and Zambia.

When my 16-year-old son and I were leaving South Africa to fly to Zambia, we were asked for the additional documents.  We were a bit surprised because we have carried these bad boys all over the world and had never been asked for them.  We made a scene right then and there, fumbling and digging out the documents from the recesses of our carry-on bag and in addition to the obvious required passport, presented my son’s original birth certificate AND the notarized travel consent letter signed by my husband.  The agent carefully looked over each document, looked at us, studied the documents again and finally gave us clearance to proceed.  Off we went!  Whew, I was sure glad I had those with me and ready to go.

The Check -In

All was great and we arrived in Zambia, had an incredible time and upon departure were at the airport flying back to South Africa and then home to the United States.  At check-in, the agent asked us for the travel documents again.  I produced passport, the visa, the original birth certificate for my minor son and again the notarized travel consent letter signed by my husband.  After looking over them carefully, the agent asked for- are you ready for this- a copy of the father’s passport.  I was stunned!  I did not have that.  What??

I told the agent that I did not have that, nor was I aware that I needed it.  He told me it was required documentation in order for my son to leave the country.  I was not aware that in addition to the birth certificate and the travel consent form that I also must have a copy of my husbands passport.

Um – No I Am Not Trying to Kidnap My Own Child

A conversation ensued (more like an interrogation) and the agent had to call for instructions on what to do.  After lots of grief- sitting and waiting (good thing we were early to the airport), lots of questions about my intentions (no, I am not trying to kidnap my own son – what??) and where I was flying, my final destination, what were we doing in their country etc., I was finally cleared and proceeded through security to board the flight.  I was red-faced, flustered, frustrated and confused. How did I not know that?

Lesson Learned

It turned out alright, but I learned an important lesson that day.  When traveling alone with a minor child, in addition to a valid passport, a country specific visa, an original birth certificate and a travel consent letter, I will ALWAYS carry a copy of my EVERYONE’s current passport – just in case.  I may never be asked for it again (I have also learned that it depends on the agent that you happen to get) but if I do, I will be prepared!  I will never make that mistake again.

What A Typical Travel Consent Letter Should Include

This is an example of what I include in my letters. I hope it is helpful for you!n

“I acknowledge that my wife/husband/etc. Is traveling out of the country with my son/daughter.  He/She/They have my permission to do so.”

I also add the specific dates of travel and the countries we are traveling to.

Again, it must be signed by the parent/parents not traveling and legally notarized.  This applies even in divorce. Even where one parent has sole custody- in which case the paperwork should be a notarized copy of the court order. In the case of adoption, a notarized copy of the adoption certificate.  Similarly, if the 2nd parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required.

For Further Info

For further information on traveling with a minor and travel consent letters see this article by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol

For  up-to-date, country specific information please visit travel.state.govtravel consent letter, Pinterest graphic

Best Family Resorts in Hawaii

Trying to figure out where to stay in Hawaii with your family? Our list of The Best Family Resorts in Hawaii will give you the insiders look that you need!

Why The Best Family Resorts in Hawaii List

On one of our very first trips to Hawaii we were SO excited and could not wait to get to our resort and hit the beach. At the time we were a fairly young family and we had booked a villa in the Kapalua area in Maui (without naming the resort:)) the villa was the WORST! There were cockroaches, mice droppings, mold, and if my memory serves me right the toilets wouldn’t flush (with four young kids – a nonflushing toilet running over seems like a DISASTER).

This villa was not cheap, so we were expecting something on the more luxury end. In this case, we totally did not get what we had paid for. After a minor freakout about the cockroaches potentially climbing in bed with us (Mostly by us girls – we are girly girls. What can we say and we prefer to keep our beds BUG FREE, thank you very much!), we determined we had to find somewhere else to stay.  So last minute, we had to come up with Plan B which added some stress to everyone and to the budget.

To be fair, all ended up totally fine, we were able to find another really nice resort, and we had the best time on our vacation. However, we had learned our lesson. We were going to do some serious research on the places we wanted to stay in any destination before we paid for them. No more of this just showing up and hoping the accommodations worked for us nonsense.

Using our Best Family Resorts in Hawaii List

With so many Hawaiian Islands to choose from and so many lodging possibilities, sometimes it can be a tad bit overwhelming to decide which island to visit and what resort to spend your precious time AND those hard earned dollars. We have researched (and stayed at many) of the resorts in Hawaii and have come up with a short-list of the best family resorts in Hawaii. It is our hope this will help you prevent an accommodation faux pas like ours and that our Best Family Resorts in Hawaii list will help answer all of your “where to stay” questions and help make your Hawaiian getaway a dream! We have included at least one exceptional family friendly resort on each island and have arranged them by island.

The Best Family Resorts in Hawaii 

Oahu

Aulani, A Disney Resort, and Spa- Oahu 

best family resorts in Hawaii Aulani
Image taken from hotel website

On the unspoiled shores of Ko Olina lies the Grand Poobah of all family friendly resorts in Hawaii. If you are a lover of Disney, then this might be the place for you.  If you quickly tire of Mickey and the gang, you might want to look elsewhere.  All rooms in this property are spacious and include a mini-fridge.  There are 3 restaurants and 3 bars on property.  The water areas feature a 900 ft. lazy river, man-made reef, waterslides, and a calm lagoon.   On the beach, boogie boards, sand toys, snorkel gear and paddle boards are all available (some for a fee).  The resort has a family spa, movie nights on the lawn, storytelling under the stars, character sightings and character breakfasts.  Disney, of course, delivers when it comes to family fun.

Hilton Hawaiian Village- Oahu 

hilton Hawaiian village best family resort in Hawaii
Image taken from hotel site

A village indeed, this huge resort is the largest resort in Hawaii with 5 room towers and 20 restaurants and bars.  It’s 22 acres are positioned on a wide stretch of Waikiki Beach.  The grounds are beautiful with exotic animals like parrots, fish, and turtles.  The rooms are spacious, clean and comfortable.  In addition to the long list of activities like surf lessons, luaus and kid-friendly movie nights under the stars, Camp Penguin (ages 5-12) offers storytelling, games, music, arts and crafts, lei making and even off-property excursions. The restaurant Rainbow Lanai has a special kids buffet this is sure to please even the most finicky eater.  As one of the best family resorts in Hawaii, there is enough here to keep even the most active family busy.   

Kauai

Grand Hyatt Resort and Spa- Kauai

Kauai Grand Hyatt Best Resorts in Hawaii
Image take from hotel site

This sprawling resort on the Garden Island sits on the stunning Poipu Beach.  Immaculately manicured green lawns are punctuated with tropical gardens and blooming flowers.  The black lava-rock lined pools and saltwater lagoon feature a 150 ft. waterslide and water basketball and volleyball.   All of these things add to the Hawaiian ambiance and the non-stop adventures waiting for you.  On property, activities include ukulele lessons, hula dancing, koi fish feeding, palm frond weaving and even learning about the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal (which we have seen lounging on Poipu Beach).  “Parrot talk” is an interactive session with the resort’s resident parrots (kids may even get to hold the bird on their arm).  Camp Hyatt is for kids 3-12.  

Kauai Marriott Resort- Kauai

Family friendly Kauai Marriott Property
Image taken from hotel website

This well-maintained resort sits on one of the best beaches in Kauai, Kalapaki Bay.  The sand is soft and the sun plentiful.  Snorkeling, body surfing, surf lessons, and kayaking are all available in the bay right from the beach.  Kauai Resort has the single largest pool in Hawaii.  Add to that 5 jacuzzis and the family is sure to be pleased!  Waterfalls, meandering paths, and ponds filled with koi fish run throughout the resort.  Marriott’s activity zone offers age-appropriate kids activities.  The resort is within walking distance of many great beachside restaurants.  

CAUTION- The property is close to the airport and flights take-off and land early in the morning.  There may be some airplane noise.  It didn’t bother us, but it may be enough to interrupt an otherwise peaceful escape.  

Maui

Grand Wailea- Maui

Where to stay Hawaii
Image taken from hotel website

This resort in Wailea is grandiose yet has all of the makings and amenities for a great family vacation.  They truly cater to families.  The property is nestled on the beautiful Wailea Beach right on the Pacific and is a great place to catch some Hawaiian sun.  The accommodations feature large rooms and many can easily connect. The aquatic playground features 9 pools on 6 different levels. It includes a lazy river,4 water slides,  and a rope swing. In other words, enough water to keep those little fishies happy.  Camp Grande is the kids and teens area. It includes a video arcade, ping-pong, foosball, air hockey, play station and even a mini movie theater.  For children 5-12 Camp Grande offers many fun and interactive activities.  With 7 restaurants on property (all with kids menus), this resort offers fare for everyone.

Hyatt Regency- Maui

Best family resort on Maui Hyatt Regency
Image taken from hotel website

The Hyatt occupies 40 lush acres on Ka’anapali Beach; close to Whaler’s Village with boutique shopping, restaurants, and bars.  It is also close to many activities right on Ka’anapali such as para-sailing.  The Keiki Lagoon features an interactive children’s pool with a 25 ft. waterslide, sandy beach play area and water fountains to keep the littles delighted for days.  Beyond the designated kids’ area, the property has waterfalls, a huge waterslide and great beach activities such as scuba lessons, stand-up paddle boarding, and kayak tours.  Camp Hyatt is a highlight for children providing Hawaiian themed activities like hula dancing and lei making.  Part water-park. Part-zoo (with daily feeding of the tropical penguins).  This centrally located property is sure to please.

Sheraton Maui Resort- Maui

Best resorts for Multigenerational families
Image taken from hotel website

Occupying a prominent position on the golden Ka’anapali Beach near the dramatic Black Rock, this resort has great snorkeling, diving and ocean activities right from the hotel’s lovely beach.  The freshwater swimming lagoon winds through lush gardens, under small little bridges and past cascading waterfalls.  Resort activities include tennis, ping-pong, ukulele lessons, hula lessons, and outrigger canoe rides.  On select nights the fun-seeking family can attend the hotel’s Luau (complete with a fire-knife dance) where children ages 5 and under are free.  This resort is a very popular with families.

Big Island

Hilton Waikoloa Village- Big Island

Best family resort big island Hawaii Hilton
Image taken from hotel website

This enormous, 1200 room, 62-acre resort provides shuttle service to get you and the troops from one end of the resort to another.  Within the Village are pools and lagoons a 175 ft. waterslide and even an interactive dolphin program where swimmers get up close and personal in the water with the resort’s bottlenose dolphins.  Babysitting, bike rentals, a children’s program (ages 5-12) are among some of the activities offered.  Kids 4 and under eat free at the resort’s 9 restaurants.  Children 18 and under stay free in a parent’s room.

The King of Luxury Family Accommodations in Hawaii

Four Seasons

Best family resorts in Hawaii Four Seasons
Image taken from Four Seasons Big Island Resort and Spa

In our opinion, Four Seasons brings their A-game to family accommodations and we think this brand offers some of the best family resorts in all of Hawaii. There are 5 Four Seasons resorts throughout the islands that exude the feeling of Aloha!  While we won’t elaborate on each of them individually here (that would make this post waaaay too long), we should mention that Four Seasons does a great job at making families feel welcome; even down to the youngest guest.  If this luxury hotel brand is in your budget, we recommend exploring each of their properties in Hawaii (the resorts on Maui and the Big Island are especially family friendly) to see if one of them might be just right for you!  It’s worth a look:)

What do you think is the best family resort in Hawaii? Do any of these resorts appeal to your tastes? As always let us know what you think! 

Xoxox

The Smith Family

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Our Most Overrated Travel Destinations – Well One of Them (Wink,wink)

Ever wondered what places NOT to go to? We are sharing one of our most overrated travel destinations. Check it out before you plan your next trip!

Why Write About One of Our Most Overrated Travel Destinations?

One of the most common questions we get asked by our readers, followers on Instagram, or friends and family is “where is our most favorite destination?”. In our FAQ page, we talk about this a little bit but honestly for me (Kam) I can’t decide which is my favorite and for the most part, I love almost anywhere we have gone and would love to go back! I have found my favorite location changes as regularly as my lipstick and largely depends on my mood. For example; when I am feeling all lovey dovey with the hubby (Stef) then I look back on our more romantic trips together and think “Oh my gosh, that was just the best trip! We have to get back there!” But when I get annoyed with him (poor man), I find myself craving another girls trip haha! In the end, though, I would seriously go almost anywhere in the world if time and money would allow.

Today I decided to write about one of my least favorite travel destinations and why. I often feel like in the travel blogging world that so much is written about the “top locations” or the “best spots.” It is very rare to see a post on a place not to go or a post that discusses the negative side of travel. Sometimes, some places just do not live up to the hype OR a personal experience can taint the destination altogether.  This is TOTALLY subjective and I understand that different places speak differently to different people, but for me, this location was one of the most overrated travel destinations I have ever been and I am in no hurry to get back.

Are you ready to hear it?

Aruba is One of My Most Overrated Travel Destinations

To begin, Aruba was one place that we had heard so many great things about and even several people told us that this was their favorite place in the whole world! So the expectation was HIGH. (Wait? What? Where have you people been? Just teasing.) And in our experience it was – so. not. that. great.

Things I Didn’t Love About It and Why It Is One of My Most Overrated Travel Destinations

Very Little to Do on the Island

Other than sitting on the beach (which understandably some people live for) I felt like there wasn’t anything else to do. One day we were so bored we ended up sitting through several Madagascar movies in the villa because it offered some respite from the sun and heat (For the record I so do NOT like to “move it, move it” #painful).

It needs to be noted that while we love sitting at the beach, we also love to get out and do things when we travel, (especially when it is a new destination). We like to hike, see the local culture, and really experience a location. In my opinion, Aruba felt like one big cruise ship port. Everything was super kitschy and touristy and nothing seemed “real” or interesting. (St. Lucia for us, on the other hand, was a totally different Caribbean island experience – look for our upcoming review soon by subscribing to our blog!)

Food

Eh – – – – nuff said. Think American chains all over the place, nothing really new or different. Taco Bell, Benihana etc…

Party Atmosphere

Another thing to note, we are not partiers. Not one bit. Like, I am pulling a Blake Lively here and telling you that I have never had a drop of alcohol and have never done one drug. For real. So we were actually surprised by how much of a “party culture” there was, even at the more family friendly resorts. In the day it seemed like everyone was sleeping off their hangover and at night it was a gambling and drinking extravaganza. I understand that for some this seems like the best vacation in the world! However, I felt like I was on the party deck of a spring break cruise.

No Hiking and Little Shade

I mentioned this before, but the island is VERY dry and VERY flat which results in very little to do on the island. There is very little flora or fauna, and seriously can a sister score a tree somewhere? The lack of shade REALLY got to us by the end. Not kidding my little brother got so scorched – he was purple (major sunscreen/parent fail here ha). The flat dry ground does lend itself really well for ATV riding and off roading but if anyone gets motion sick – this activity is out. At one point on our off-roading tour (with no shade I might mention), it was pass the cup to the puking child, toss it overboard, and repeat. Can anyone say “puke, dump, repeat?”

Hard to Get To

For us, Aruba is HARD to get to. If we just need a beach break somewhere, we can jet off to Cabo or Puerto Vallarta in 2-4 hours and we have yummy food, hiking, golf, culture, and fantastic water and beaches!

Not Very Kid Friendly

Aside from a Butterfly Farm on the Island, there is very little for kids to do and we found that most people seemed really impatient with our hoard of little kids.

Things That Were Great About Aruba

Water – SO warm!

To be fair, the water is SO warm* and really clear! We rode a fun banana boat thing one day and also did some parasailing.  That was a really great day. Because most of the other guests were tending their hangovers we often had the beach all to ourselves.

*If you are ever wondering about what the water temperature is at any beach vacation you are going, check out seatemperature.org (it is like the weather.com for the ocean :))

Great Scuba and Snorkeling

The snorkeling was good.  We saw some really cool blue fish with teeth that looked like horses teeth, not even kidding – I kept thinking we were going to be bitten. They were awesome!

In the end, in my opinion, Aruba would be a great stop for people who love to chill by the pool or at the beach all day and go party at night.  It might even be a place for a nice little weekend trip IF it easy for to get to. For us – an adventurous family with four children who do not party – it was nothing but an overrated travel destination.

Have you ever been anywhere that did not live up to the hype? Where was it? What do you think the most overrated travel destinations are?

Xoxoxo,

Kam!

*The title image is public domain and is from the U.S. CIA World Factbook