Fun Travel Prep for Kids - Paris & London

It's not everyday you travel over the pond to such amazing places like Paris and London. I decided to start the journey for me and Mia long before we packed our bags for the airport. Here are a few fun things we did to get ready and excited! My brother sent Read more

Hidden Gem: Sand Key Florida

My other half planned a short getaway for our nine year anniversary. I wasn't exactly sure where we were headed, but knew it was somewhere around Clearwater Beach. As we drove over the bridge to Clearwater, I kept expecting a turn off at one of the many beach hotels. To my surprise Read more

Westin Cape Coral Weekend Getaway

Most of you who follow my Instagram or Twitter know that we had a fabulously fun weekend at the Westin in Cape Coral, FL a few weeks ago. The property became a Westin in December of 2013 and underwent a plethora of renovations, which I believe puts it in the best Read more

Disney's Art of Animation Resort

We finally had the chance to visit Disney's Art of Animation Resort this week for a little staycation. It is located where construction on the unfinished half of Disney's Pop Century Resort was started, but later abandoned after 9/11. The resort is the first to be built in the complex Read more

Healthy Lunchbox Ideas

Mia has a book called Samantha's Silly-icious Sandwiches. Samantha gets sick of having the same boring sandwich in her lunch everyday and decides to create her own unique sandwiches. Her "Silly-icious Sandwiches" turn into a hit at school and a booming business, which she soon hands over for her Read more

Meeting Winter - Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Most of the world has seen (or at least heard of) the movie Dolphin Tale. The story highlights the rescue of a wounded dolphin who ends up losing one very important important thing... a tale! The Clearwater Marine Aquarium works hard in the movie to create a prosthetic tail just Read more

Travel

Fun Travel Prep for Kids – Paris & London

It’s not everyday you travel over the pond to such amazing places like Paris and London. I decided to start the journey for me and Mia long before we packed our bags for the airport. Here are a few fun things we did to get ready and excited!

Kiddie Travel Journal

Kiddie Travel Journal

My brother sent an awesome kids travel journal so Mia could document her first international trip. She created her packing list, wrote down what she thinks will be her favorite things and even drew in pictures of what she imagines will happen on her trip. There are pages for pre, during and post trip. The journal is simplistic and is an easy and great way to document the adventure through your child’s eyes.

We visited our local library and found multiple gems like Kidding Around London and Count Your Way Through France. Books that talk about landmarks and quirky facts are the best. For instance did you know a baguette can be up to three feet?

The library also had a London and Paris DVD from the series Travel With Kids that we were able to check out.

Mia received the book Charlotte in Paris, from my sister. While in Paris, Charlotte dines at a cafe on the Champs-Elysees, watches a marionette show in the Tuileries gardens and celebrates her birthday at the Eiffel Tower. Mia will celebrate her 8th birthday at the Eiffel Tower as well! Perfect.

Charlotte in Paris

Charlotte in Paris

Last but not least, Mia has been working on the fun kids language app Duolingo for weeks. She is not speaking fluent French just yet, but she definitely knows more than me and is going to have fun recognizing and hearing words she knows.

I can’t wait to share the fun details of our upcoming travels.

Follow our journey on Instagram and Twitter!

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Orlando Parents Vote On Their Local Hotel Favorites

Living in one of the most visited locations in the world means that families living in Orlando have a plethora of options when it comes to a staycation. Readers of PLAYGROUND magazine voted on their top staycation choices in town and I had the pleasure of writing about the results. I was also able to throw a few faves of my own in there. I think it’s a must read for Orlando parents and really any family traveling to Otown. Click below for the full article (pages 32-34)

Staycations in our backyard!

Staycations in our backyard!

Be sure to follow our family travel adventures on Instagram!

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Florida Turtle Adventure

During a recent trip to visit friends in Jupiter, FL, we stumbled upon the Loggerhead Marinelife Center. This place is amazing. We knew it was amazing when we saw the designated “after hours turtle hatchling drop off” area at the entrance. The girls wandered through a small aquarium area before heading out near the beach to the state of the art turtle rehabilitation area.

Intrigued with this turtle's story...

Intrigued with this turtle’s story…

Each tank had a different turtle with a unique rescue story. An educator stood at each tank to talk to guests about the turtle’s situation and plan for rehabilitation. From the rehab tank area, you can peek into the indoor medical care area to observe turtles being looked after or undergoing medical testing.

Most all of these turtles will be returned to their natural habitat within days or weeks. Others that are not fit to be released back into the wild will remain or be sent to larger aquarium environments were they will thrive.

New turtle friends.

New turtle friends

The Loggerhead Center is a hidden gem and a wonderful place to take the family. Be sure to stop off on your next trip to South Florida.

 

If you can’t make it to Florida, go to the Center’s website where you can track the progress of their turtles, adopt a turtle of your own or even view a live turtle cam.

Guests are recommended to make a donation upon entering, but there’s no set admission cost.

Follow our family travel adventures on Instagram!

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Family Fun At Idlewild Park

I’ve been meaning to post about a summer day trip we took while at my parent’s house in the Pittsburgh area. We had the chance to visit Idlewild Park, just about an hour outside of Pittsburgh.

Family fun at Idlewild

Family fun at Idlewild

I grew up going to Idlewild, and remarkably, not a whole lot has changed. However, this park somehow manages to keep the new generation of kids just as entertained as the one before. Not to mention the park was just awarded the Golden Ticket for Best Children’s Park by Amusement Today Magazine

Storybook Forest, Jumping Jungle, Olde Idlewild and Soak Zone are the main areas at Idlewild. The park is just big enough to not be exhausting. As a parent, this is VERY important. We all loved strolling through Storybook Forest and interacting with the nursery rhyme characters. Charli tried desperately to remove the sword from the stone. Jumping Jungle had all of us, grown ups included, jumping into the ball pit and rope climbing like champions. We were ready for our picnic lunch after all the jumping. We brought a cooler (yes, you can do that at Idlewild) and left it at a picnic table near our car.

Idlewild Park and Soak Zone

Idlewild Park and Soak Zone

After lunch, we broke apart – little kids went to ride Olde Idlewild’s kiddie rides and the kids at heart went on some of the more thrilling rides in Olde Idlewild. We didn’t make it to the Soak Zone during this trip, but you can get all the details here. From what I’ve heard, the Soak Zone aligns with the rest of the park and has areas that are fun for every age.

Often, there are deals at Giant Eagle or other local businesses in the Pittsburgh area so keep an eye out. The park is a summer family favorite, but they are also open for weekends in September and October and have family Halloween activities. Campgrounds are close by and if you are visiting the Pittsburgh area, it’s just a short drive.

I wanted to post this info because so many friends had asked about my Instagram and Facebook photos from our trip. It really lives up to its accolade as Best Children’s Park. Next summer seems far off, but keep Idlewild top of mind when you start to plan!

Keep up with our family adventures through my Instagram.
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Adventures of Bella & Harry Giveaway

Our family loves to travel, but we haven’t had the opportunity to get to far away places like the adorable Chihuahuas Bella & Harry who visit Rome and Edinburgh in their two newest adventure books. Someday we will get there!

Bella & Harry Let's Visit Edinburgh

Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Edinburgh

The Bella & Harry series was developed to inspire young readers to embrace the world and encourage its exploration. This is creatively done through the funny yet informative adventures of cute sibling Chihuahuas Bella and Harry, while traveling through various countries.

Bella & Harry Let's Visit Rome

Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Rome

Whether you are planning a trip or just in the mood to take an imaginative journey, these books are great way for kids, and parents, to learn about these far off places in a fun way. I definitely felt a little more worldly myself after reading the books with the girls.

I am obsessed with this series because it aspires to stimulate children’s imaginations and helps them to  understand the world in which we live.

I have both Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Rome and Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Edinburgh to give away to one (1) lucky reader.

 

 

How to Enter:

  • Leave a comment below letting me know what far off place you hope to visit with your family someday. 

Extra Entries:

I’ll announce the winner on Monday, August 26. Happy discovering!

I was provided copies of Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Rome and Bella & Harry Let’s Visit Edinburgh for review.  

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Posted on by Amanda in Giveaways, Travel 27 Comments

Meeting Winter – Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Most of the world has seen (or at least heard of) the movie Dolphin Tale. The story highlights the rescue of a wounded dolphin who ends up losing one very important important thing… a tale! The Clearwater Marine Aquarium works hard in the movie to create a prosthetic tail just like you would for a human. All the while the characters are in the process of saving the aging Aquarium, which they do with Winter’s help.

That's Winter behind Mia's big smile!

We decided this summer would be a great time to meet Winter in person. Only about 1.5 hours from Orlando is beautiful Clearwater Beach and the somewhat small Aquarium. Staff at the Aquarium give you the feeling they are family and all have a vested interest in the success of the facility. Mia likes to talk and the staff there took the time to answer EVERY SINGLE question she had with no sign of annoyance. There are no bells and whistles here, but in a good way. Just fish, sharks, dolphins, stingrays, turtles, otters, local shell and geography exhibits and daily educational shows that incorporate the marine life.

Mia & Charli checking out the prosthetic tail

After the success of Dolphin Tale, the Aquarium now has a new facility located just a trolleyride away that is dedicated to the making of the movie – Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure. We weren’t able to get to this facility, but it was included in our entrance price and the trolleyride is free! Winter calls the main Aquarium home.

I highly recommend visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for an authentic marine life experience. Prices are reasonable. $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids. Teachers and active military get in free!  There are often coupons available like this one on TampaBay360 for $2 off each ticket purchased.

If you can’t make it to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium just yet, you can follow Winter on Twitter or even view Winter through the online webcam! 

The operating room from the movie

 

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Weekday Pass At Aquatica!

Great news! There’s a new Weekday Pass from Aquaticathat allows you and your family to enjoy unlimited weekday access through Dec. 31, 2012.

Aquatica

We are big Sea World fans so Aquatica is basically a shoe-in on our local favorite activities list.  Aquatica takes guests in, over and under the water with some super cool water rides and animal encounters with Commerson’s dolphins, exotic birds and more!

I know as a full-time working mom, weekday passes to attractions aren’t always worth the money, but Aquatica is open until 7pm and even 8 pm most weekdays during the summer!

 With the Weekday Pass, guests can play every weekday this summer, and for the rest of the year, for just $59.99 plus tax. There’s even an option to purchase a weekend day for just $15 when you show your Weekday Pass at the front gate. (This is an awesome option!)

Guests can experience Aquatica’s 38 thrilling water slides, rivers and lagoons, side-by-side wave pools and two interactive water playgrounds designed for the littlest of swimmers.

For more info visit Aquatica’s website.

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Chicago – The Urban Family Vacay

A few years back we ventured to Chicago for a long weekend over the 4th of July. At first, the thought of galavanting around in cabs in the city with my then one-year-old frightened me. I myself had no travel reservations, but this was a whole new ball of kiddie wax. In the end, I decided to escape the Orlando humidity for the crisp summer breeze in Chicago.

Check out my travel feature in the summer issue of PLAYGROUND magazine. You can read the online issue (by clicking through below) or stop by one of the Central Florida distribution points for your very own copy.

Once you read this, you too will be ready for your urban family vacation!

 

Click to read the article online (page 40-41)

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Dream A Little Disney Dream

Our Disney Dream Savings

After one year, two family yard sales, two lemonade stands, daily change contributions by daddy and the sacrifice of forking over birthday and holiday monetary gifts, we will set sail on our Disney Cruise this Thursday!

About a year and a half ago Mia expressed her desire to embark on Disney’s newest ship, The Dream.

This cruise meant pirate parties, princesses, a plexiglass waterslide and an adventure on Disney’s private island. This also meant a chunk of change for our family. We created a “cruise fund” complete with an image of the ship and began our saving mission.

One year of nickels, dimes and the occasional one dollar bills brought us to a grand total of about $250. This in no way shape or form is going to cover our  cruise. However, it will cover most of our on board tips, activities etc. (I hope).

Mia’s All Packed & Ready To Go!

Mia has been observing this jar and working towards a goal for one year. Part of my joy in taking this cruise is the fact that she truly understands what it means to save and watch the savings accumulate over a year.

Stay tuned for posts on our Disney Cruise experience!

 

 

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Holiday Travel Must Haves

Harajuku Mini

Everyone knows I love great products (travel specifically.) Making travel easy, stylish and fun is oh so important. Here are a few travel must haves for your holiday journeys!

The Text Hook

Cutest kids suitcase ever! Being comfortable while traveling is important, but never sacrifice style. Words to live by for sure. My daughter Mia is swooning over this travel accessory. We’ll see if Santa delivers! It’s Harajaku Mini, Gwen Stefani’s line, which is now carried by Target.

I have to talk about one of my favorite products again. The Text Hook is amazing for travel. It secures your smart phone to your stroller (or other travel item with a bar) for easy hands free use. Kids will stay occupied at your departure gate watching their fav movie while your smart phone is perfectly positioned. No holding necessary.

Kiddie Headphones

Super cute DJ style headphones for kids! Mia has the panda bear headphones and loves them. Several websites carry these headphones so shop around for the best prices.

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Posted on by Amanda in Holiday Travel Series, Travel Leave a comment