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A Guide to Aulani with 2-Year-Old Twins

When traveling with toddlers, it can sometimes feel like all ‘kid-friendly’ activities are too big for them, which makes travel feel impossible. But Aulani does a great job of intentionally designing spaces for all age groups, so even the tiniest visitors will enjoy their visit.  When visiting Aulani with toddlers, we never felt like they were missing out (even though they couldn’t do EVERYTHING) because there were so many great activities just for them. 

And since our toddlers are twins (double the trouble bum bum tss), we really need to plan our trip to Aulani so that they will be happy.  Every twin parent knows, if twins aren’t happy, no one is happy. OK maybe not every twin parent- but this is definitely the case for our kiddos.  

Before you go:

Look for a Deal

Traveling to Hawaii can be expensive, but with careful planning, you can keep costs down on your trip.  One of the best things about traveling with small children is that you don’t have to follow school calendars, so you can travel during ‘off’ or ‘shoulder’ seasons when prices are significantly lower.  Use Google to check flight and hotel prices throughout the year to find the best time to go. For Hawaii, ‘low’ season is fall and late spring, after spring break (which is typically in March), with mid-summer and mid-winter being ‘peak’.   

Also, check out David’s Vacation Club Rentals for deals on suites at Aulani.  This service allows you to essentially buy unused Disney Vacation Club Points, and use them to book at the resort.  You’ll still have a room in your name with all the regular amenities, but with much lower prices. Be sure to book VERY early with this service.  Rooms usually book up 10+ months in advance.  

Check the Weather

 We always assume that Hawaii has perfect weather year-round, but that’s not quite the case.  Hawaii does get a substantial amount of rain- nearly 19 inches a year, mostly November-February, and temperatures get as low as the low-60s °F- not exactly frigid, but not perfect for a beach vacation either.  You can certainly have an enjoyable vacation in Hawaii any time of year, but you have a better chance for more sunny days if avoid the winter months.

Aulani
The view from our floor.

Getting There

At about 6 hours from the mainland to Honolulu, the flight can be tough with toddlers.  However, we flew into the Honolulu airport and rented a car. It’s about a 30-minute drive from the airport to Aulani, and you’ll find a Target conveniently on the way.  We love to stop for diapers, milk, snacks for the room, and maybe a toy or two. Keep in mind, there is a daily fee for parking. 

Another option for transportation is Aulani’s shuttle service.  It’ll take you and your family to and from the airport for a reasonable price. You’ll save money and the hassle of dealing with a car this way.

I really love how your relaxing vacation really begins the moment you pull up to Aulani.  Aulani staff helped us out of the car and greeted us with beautiful leis, a fresh drink, and a small necklace as a gift for each of my kids.  We found all the staff to be exceptionally friendly and kind and really make you feel at home at Aulani. We arrived in the late afternoon- a busy time for check-in, but the kids were able to play in the small play area across from the check-in counter, and staff did a great job of getting everyone checked in quickly. 

Aulani with twin toddlers
Bedheads and the beach! This is the beautiful lagoon at Aulani

The Room

Room Types

Aulani has 3 main room types: standard, Deluxe studio, and the villas (1-3 bedroom).  Aulani will provide family-friendly add-ons for any room type, including pack n plays (even a second one for twin parents, free of charge!), bed rails, high chairs, and outlet covers.

The standard room is just that – a standard room but with some high-end touches. The rooms are up to date and spacious enough for 2 pack n plays, plus room to play. There are tons of cute yet tasteful Disney hints – like the Mickey light fixtures or ears hidden in the bedding design. The room comes standard with family-friendly amenities such as a mini-fridge, a small dining table, and a roomy bathroom with a tub. The large balcony is a great feature as well.  It’s a nice spot to sit and relax after the kids have gone to sleep, or to sit and drink your morning coffee if your child happens to get up at 4am. And it’s a lifesaver for drying swimwear. 

The studio is very similar to the standard room, but it adds a sink and a small counter space. This comes in handy for washing bottles and sippy cups and gives you a nice designated area for snacks. 

The villas come in three sizes: 1, 2, or 3 bedrooms. They all have a full kitchen and dining area. The 1 bedroom has 1 bathroom, the 2 bedroom has 2 bathrooms, and the 3 bedroom has 3 bathrooms.  All are spacious and luxurious.  

So Which Room do you Pick?

Of course, the villas are amazing.  If you are traveling with family or friends, sharing a larger villa means you can spend more time together, and be able to relax in the room, and maybe even cook some meals together.  If staying in a villa is in your budget, absolutely do it!  

I know for most, the villas are not going to be an option.  And it’s totally ok. You are not going to be disappointed staying in ANY room at Aulani.   All the rooms are very nice, and besides, it’s not about the room. It’s all about the resort!  But.. if the price difference is not huge, I’d upgrade from the standard room to the studio. It’s not a huge difference, but when traveling with small children, the little dishwashing/snack area is nice.  

We booked our room SUPER last minute for this trip and chose a studio room with a view looking inland.  It was great! Plenty of space for our family of 4, all the amenities we needed or wanted, and honestly, we didn’t spend a lot of time there. If I had my choice of view, I’d pick pool view- super fun to see all the kids playing in the pool!

The Resort

Our Top 15 Aulani Experiences with Toddlers

1. Menehune Bridge

This is the ultimate for toddlers! This absolutely was the highlight of the trip for my 2-year-old twins.  It is essentially a play structure with water spraying everywhere. From the moment my kids saw it until they couldn’t physically play anymore, they enjoyed running around, climbing, and exploring this area.  One of my favorite memories from this trip was when Dax wanted to do the kid’s waterslide, on Menehune Bridge, so badly, but he was too afraid. He stood up at the top of the slide over and over and just couldn’t do it.  Finally, with the help of an Awesome Aulani pool attendant, he did it! He was SO proud and beaming for the rest of the day!

2. Waikolohe Stream

This Lazy River was well-loved by my little guys because we could go under bridges, and look at the flowers and trees.   Plus, they liked the excitement of the current pulling us quickly around. Plus, if you float it in a tube, it’s a nice way to wind down at the end of the day.

3. The Waterslides

The ‘mountain’ onsite has a couple of bigger waterslides; the Volcanic Vertical- an enclosed body slide, and the Tubestone Curl- an open-air tube slide.  The waterslides do not have a height requirement, but riders must be able to slide alone on the Volcanic Vertical and in their own tube or in their own section of the double tube on the Tubestone Curl.  Our guys were only brave enough to do the Tubestone Curl with mom and dad in the other side of a double tube. In the double tube, you can wrap your legs around a toddler to make sure they stay in. Lines tended to get a bit long on these waterslides, so head over early in the day to avoid waiting

4. Keiki Cove Splash Zone

Keiki cove with toddlers
Keiki Cove Splash Zone- great for babies and toddlers

This spray park is designed for kids under 5, and my toddlers had fun exploring.  They definitely loved this area more during our visit the previous year, but it was still a big hit for them!  My twins tend to get a little cold swimming, and this area is great because they are still in on the water action, but they aren’t completely underwater, so they stay a bit warmer.

5. Ka Maka Grotto

Ka Maka Grotto is the stunningly beautiful infinity-edge pool with a great cave area.   The kids loved looking over the edge of the pool (though I’ll admit, I didn’t really like that), and checking out the great details – shells and ‘sea creatures’ in the cave walls.  Our toddlers aren’t EXTREMELY comfortable in the water, and they enjoyed that there were lots of things to hold on to rather than being just out in the open pool.  

6. Building Sandcastles at the Beach

Aulani beach- toddlers
Building sandcastles is serious business

The beach at Aulani is wonderful. Its located on a manmade lagoon, so the beach is protected from the powerful Hawaiian current.  Pick up some sand toys (complimentary for Aulani guests) at Makiki Beach Rentals and have a blast building and destroying sand castles, and playing in the water.  

Aulani Beach with toddlers
LOOOOVED the sand

7. Watching Fish in the Rainbow Reef Snorkeling Lagoon

Watching Fish in the Rainbow Reef Snorkeling Lagoon.  Aulani is home to a fabulous man-made snorkeling lagoon full of colorful fish, including lots of ‘Nemo’s’ and ‘Dory’s’, and there is a great little underwater window where observers can watch snorkelers or just check out the fish.  A sign identifying many of the fish is located near the observation window, so you can teach your kids many of the fish types. My boys LOVED this little window. We stopped by for 20 minutes every time we even walked near the area. 

Aulani allows kids of all ages to participate in snorkeling, as long as they can swim independently and they are accompanied by an adult, however, we felt pretty confident that our boys were not ready to try out snorkeling yet.  

8. Watching Koi at the Koi Pond.

This second fish sighting opportunity was also a hit with my toddlers.  The koi fish pond is near a beautiful man-made waterfall, and the ‘Olelo Room restaurant and bar.  Every time we walked by, my boys wanted to stop and take a peek at their fish friends. You can use this to your advantage by getting an outdoor table at the ‘Olelo Room, and allowing the kids to watch koi while you enjoy an appetizer and a drink.  

'Olelo Cafe- Koi pond
We spent quite a lot of time checking out these fish

9. Mo’Olelo Fire pit Storytelling

The stories told at the fire pit are quick, 15-minute traditional Hawaiian stories told around the fire near the beach.  The storyteller is AMAZING and really keeps the stories interesting even for impatient toddlers. Sometimes, Moana even shows up to help tell the story.  We started including this in our daily schedule maybe because I enjoyed it so much.  

10. Getting Shave Ice at Papalua

Papalua Shave Ice Aulani
My kids’ favorite food at Aulani- shave ice with Mickey Ears!

Getting shave ice became something of a daily routine item for us- I mean why not- we’re on vacation!  It’s a satisfying and refreshing treat after playing on the beach or in the water, and the servings are SO large, they are shareable for at least 2 people- maybe the whole family!  We love with mango, strawberry, and lychee, plus sweetened condensed milk on top and the Mickey ears for a fun add-on.   

11. Breakfast on the Beach

Aulani Beach - breakfast from Ulu Cafe
Our favorite spot to eat- the beach for a picnic! Try not to notice my kid’s crooked haircut. Instead, focus on the beautiful Hawaiian background.

What a great way to start your day!  Sitting down to a nice meal in a restaurant isn’t a ton of fun when you have twin toddlers (or even if you just have ONE toddler- still hard!), so why not give yourself a break and skip it! Pick up breakfast at the Ulu Cafe where you can find a variety of cold and hot breakfast options.  My favorite was the acai bowl. My kids loved the breakfast sandwiches. The beach is quiet first thing in the morning, and so let energetic toddlers use this space to burn off a bit of their vacation excitement while also getting a great first meal of the day.

12. Character Breakfast at Makahiki and Character Sightings all over Aulani

Aulani is known for the character breakfast, and for good reason! It’s a ton of fun! The food is great, and fun for little kids.  Look for Mickey Mouse waffles, and bananas cut to look like dolphins. The Makahiki provides nonstop entertainment as well. You’ll get to see Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, and others, plus enjoy songs and games, and children will be invited to come up and participate!  Remember to book early because the character breakfast is VERY popular and always sells out.  

In addition to the character breakfast, there are character sightings all over the resort.  Check the daily schedule, or just keep your eyes open. Dax saw Moana ‘in the wild’ and was SUPER excited.  It seems the random sightings are almost more fun for them.  

13. Looking for Menehune

Menehune are mythical dwarfs from Hawaiian folklore.  Tiny menehune statues all over Aulani and toddlers will have fun looking for them!  Take a stroll around the grounds and see how many you can find!

14. Rent a movie from Pau Hana Hall and Watch it in Your Room

Ok, so maybe this isn’t a reason to go to Aulani. But it is a nice way to end your magical Disney day.  Aulani does have movie nights out on the lawn, and if your little guys can stay up late enough to participate, they are highly recommended.  My toddlers were beat by 5 pm every night, so we opted out. But movie nights in the room were a fun little ritual for us!

Aulani Studio room- two tired kids
SOO tired after a big day of playing. But, they loved picking out a movie to watch in the room.

15. Offsite Excursions

Offsite excursions.  Our favorites with 2-year-olds were the Dole Plantation and the Farmers Market!  Kids loved seeing pineapple growing on the bush, and still talk about it regularly!  The farmers market had an amazing variety of delicious, locally grown fruit- flavorful tiny bananas, juicy lychee, pineapples, mangos, etc, plus exquisitely prepared foods, and the kids even spotted some wild chickens! There are, of course, tons of amazing offsite excursions, and the amazing concierge service at Aulani can suggest a great outing, and set it up for you.

Dole plantation

And don’t forget to spend as much time as you can just doing nothing, if your kids will ever let you. 

A Few Extra Travel Tips for Visiting Aulani with Toddlers

  • More than likely, your littles will be up at 4 am, or some awful time in the morning because of the time change.  Just embrace it. Beat the rush to the beach. Watch the sunrise. Enjoy the quiet of the morning in the soon-to-be bustling resort.  
  • On the flip side, if your toddlers are falling asleep every evening, try getting them to sleep in the stroller.  That way, you can bring your dozing toddler into a restaurant and enjoy a relaxing meal for once! Alternatively, use Aulani’s trained babysitters, so that you aren’t stuck in the room from 5 pm.  
  • If your kids are nappers, and will nap in the stroller, take the paved trail that follows the beach.  The ocean breeze keeps you cool, and the views are breathtaking. You might as well enjoy yourself, rather than being cooped up in your room while your kids are napping.  
  • Check out the Daily ‘Iwa every day.  The resort has copies of the daily schedule all over the resort, about one day in advance.  There are tons of little activities going on, like character sightings, crafts, and dance parties that you won’t want to miss.  This place is huge, so if you don’t know about something, you’ll likely miss it altogether. 
  • Give yourself a break and go at the kids’ pace. For toddlers, we find they need an easy day every 4 days or so where they are just too tired to be running around all the time. Take advantage of that day for any outings that involve a lot of driving, or just to relax in the room and take a slower pace for once. 
  • Aulani follows the Disney protocol and kid’s meals come with a small fruit cup and veggie sticks, so ordering a kid’s meals does often make sense here.  It’s so hard to get toddlers to eat anything even in the realm of healthy on vacation, but it’s nice to at least put a vegetable in front of them 🙂
  • Aulani does have an awesome kids program- Aunty’s Beach House.  But unfortunately, if your kids are under 3 or not yet potty trained, you won’t be able to participate.  But, they have open house’s so you can check it out and plan for your NEXT trip to Aulani

Disney Aulani is a great destination for twin toddlers! With a million and 1 things to do, plus the space to just relax – Aulani is a favorite for my little family.  Have you visited Aulani? What was your favorite part?

Updated 10/8/19

As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Screen time is one of those things that a lot of parents struggle with at some point. But as parents of toddlers who travel a lot, we’ve decided we are ok with screen time on long flights and drives. When shopping for a tablet for a toddler, there are a lot of things to consider. First, toddlers are limited in what they can do on a tablet, so it’s important to find a tablet that is easy to use, and easy to put on ‘lock-down’ so they can’t change a bunch of settings until the device starts reading everything on the screen out loud in a different language (not that we’d have ANY experience with that!). Second, they break everything. So we need a case to make the tablet indestructible, and, even with the case, we assumed at least one tablet would be broken before too long, so keeping costs as low as possible is very important.

Some background on me first. I follow technology trends and read tech blogs and articles on a regular basis. I don’t always buy the latest and greatest, but I like to keep up with what’s available. Most people I know have fallen into the Apple© ecosystem and have stayed there, from computers to phones to tablets.

I decided early on that I didn’t want to be in that closed ecosystem and have stuck with Android equipment to this day. I think it has to do with the option to tinker and customize my stuff if I wanted to, and Apple© doesn’t let you do that. Apple© makes fine products, but in this day, you need to pick a system and stick with it so that all your devices can talk to each other easily and you don’t have to re-buy apps, movies, music, etc. you purchased previously.

kindle fire kids edition
On the plane with the Kindle Fire Kids Edition

First Kids Tablet: Kindle Fire Kids Edition

So, in our research, it seemed that lots of people were very satisfied with the Kindle Fire Kids Edition. It is cheap, runs a kid-friendly version of the operating system, and came with a thick, rubberized case. We bought two (like everything else with twins, since ours fight over everything) and put them to the test.

When they were little, it didn’t matter that they couldn’t work the tablet and navigate the screens. They just saw it as something with moving pictures and fun sounds. That was good up until when they wanted to do those things. They didn’t understand how to manipulate the tablets, so they would hit and swipe and bang on them, which is not good for a budget electronic device. After a while, one of our Kindle Fires became slow and unresponsive, to the point where it was unusable.

So we started looking for sales on the same Kindle Fire Kids Edition. It appeared that the best deal would be a two-pack, so we figured we would buy two and have one as a spare.

kindle fire kids edition
Kindle Fire Kids Edition – Kid-proof, even when they’re eating cookies with their toes.

Over time, the same thing happened again, so we used the spare. Additionally, since we’ve almost exclusively use tablets in the car, or on a plane, they aren’t often connected to wifi. Apps would just disappear and we’d have to get connected back on wifi to get everything working. This usually happened as we were IN the car ready to go.

Second Try: Lenovo Tab 4, 8″

At this point, I started looking at other options. Since I am an Android guy, I knew there were plenty of budget tablets under $100 that could work for the kids. There are a ton of unknown brands out there, but I figured we should stick to a bigger brand, which landed me on the Lenovo Tab 8. It was affordable, had expandable memory, and decent specs. I ordered two with 2 of the thick rubber cases and 2 memory cards since they only came with 8GB of memory.

I proceeded to set them up by deleting as many unnecessary apps as possible to keep the home screen as clean as possible. I loaded movies and shows on the SD card and opened up the movie player (I prefer VLC player). And then…….nothing. I tried deleting and re-installing the media. I tried reformatting the SD card. Nothing. I tried a different SD card to see if I got bad cards. Still nothing.

I then decided to load a sample movie directly onto the Lenovo tablet and it worked! So I started to look into user problems with this specific tablet and found that this was a known issue with reading the SD card. And there was no fix or support from the manufacturer. So you are basically stuck with a small amount of space to store your media, which would be unacceptable for us since movies and shows take up a lot of space.

So we ended up returning everything before the kids even had a chance to use them.

The Final Pick: iPads

The next obvious choice would be to consider the iPad. It was close to the holiday season and we had thought about up-sizing their tablets (from 7″ to 10″) anyways, so it was a serious consideration for a couple of days. There was still the issue of expandable memory, which is something Apple doesn’t provide on any of its devices. You just have to pay the markup for extra memory.

Ipad- our pick for the best tablet for your toddler
Snacking with the iPad in the car.

So there I was, considering buying an iPad. Someone who had never owned an Apple product other than buying an iPod for his wife. After looking at options and discussing further, we decided to go for the iPad with 128GB of memory to ensure we would not run out of space quickly. Of course, we also had to buy thick rubber cases, because: kids. 😕

And that’s where we are still today. Two iPads in rubber cases, two toddlers who have learned how to use them to watch movies, play games, and even how to turn on the camera and take pictures. They’ve held up well, and the only issue I have with them is having to use iTunes (for now) to upload any new movies or shows. And the price, which is almost 4 times as much as the Kindle Fire Tablets.

our toddler happy with his ipad
iPad case with a handle that rotates to become a stand.

Quick Hits:

Kindle Fire Kids Edition

  • Pros: inexpensive, comes with a case, expandable memory.
  • Cons: Amazon-specific OS with a smaller app store, did not hold up well for our kids. We went through 6 of these. Doesn’t function well unless its regularly on wifi

Lenovo Tab 4 8″

  • Pros: inexpensive, expandable memory, mostly-stock Android OS.
  • Cons: Tablet could not read SD cards, needed to buy a kid-friendly case.

iPad 9.7″ 6th Gen 128GB

  • Pros: good build quality, large app store, easy for the kids to navigate
  • Cons: Expensive, need to buy a kid-friendly case, no expandable memory.
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