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Friday Harbor, and the rest of San Juan Island is such a great little getaway for adults and families. There is SO much to do! Or many places where you can simply do nothing! When you think about Island lifestyle, you’re probably thinking something a BIT more tropical than the San Juan Islands. However, you’ll notice that things do run a little bit differently even on these islands. It’s a true change of pace from the mainland!

Since we live so close to the ferry terminal, heading out to San Juan Island is a no brainer! We head out there as often as we can remember to book ferry reservations! But even if you are heading from Seattle, it’ll take you a little longer to get there, but still just a small journey for a fun little adventure.

Getting There

The most common, and budget-friendly option for getting to San Juan Island is by taking the ferry.  The ferry departs Anacortes and goes to Friday Harbor several times a day, and takes about an hour to get there.  Alternatively, you can take a flight from Seattle on Kenmore Air or from Bellingham on San Juan Airlines, or one of the many water taxi services. We are leaving from Anacortes so the ferry makes the most sense, and we’ve been happy with the schedule and service for our visits to San Juan with toddlers.

The Anacortes to Friday Harbor Ferry
The Anacortes to Friday Harbor ferry.

Drive-on or Walk-on?

When taking the ferry, you have the option to walk-on or drive-on.  The biggest advantage of walking-on is that you don’t need to get to the ferry terminal as early as you would driving.  No reservations are required, and no waiting for cars in front of you to drive on or off the ferry.  You can rent a car, or take a taxi on the island, but when visiting with kids, we find it infeasible. When walking on, you’ll generally want to just plan on sticking around Friday Harbor. 

Checking out the car deck on the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor
Exploring the car deck of the ferry

Driving on the ferry gives you the flexibility to explore the island freely, including the many parks, and sights to see outside of Friday Harbor. However, the ferry generally books up completely, especially in summer, and advanced reservations are required.  When looking to make a reservation, keep in mind that the first portion of reservations is released 2 months in advance, the second portion is released 2 weeks in advance, and the last portion is released 2 days in advance. Reservations open at 7 am on each release day, so you’ll want to be quick for popular travel days.  For car reservations, you’ll need to arrive 30-45 minutes before the ferry departure time.

Our Ferry Tips

  • The ferry will be breezy and quite cool.  Even on warm days, you’ll want a jacket if you plan to be outside on the deck for very long.  
  • If you are driving on, plan something to do in the car. You’ll end up spending some time at your car while waiting for the ferry to load, and waiting on the ferry for your turn to exit.  At the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, once you’ve checked in and been directed to your spot, you’ll have time to get out and walk around a bit. The Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve Trail follows the beach down from the ferry terminal, onto a boardwalk.  It’s a perfect spot to get out and explore if you have time before your ferry departs.  
  • Make the ferry ride part of the trip!  Even if it’s not your kid’s first time on the ferry, it can still be a fun experience to check out the views, and explore the ship.  Our 3-year-old-twins have been on lots of different ferries, but they still genuinely enjoy taking the ferry to Friday Harbor
Kiddos enjoying the ride to Friday Harbor
The ferry ride is definitely part of the experience.

What To Do

There are just so many things to do on San Juan Island.  And with ferry reservations and a schedule to keep, we always seem to run out of time quickly, no matter how long we stay.  These are a few of our favorite activities on San Juan Island with toddlers or young kids.  

1. Lime Kiln State Park

The Lime Kiln State Park has SO much to do.  Start at the Interpretive Center, which is EXCELLENT.  A metal orca greets you before you enter, and inside, you’ll see a seal ‘swimming’ down from the ceiling.  The Interpretive Center has a great section for kids to touch and explore. My kids loved it so much, they didn’t want to go look at the actual tide pools. The rangers there were super knowledgeable and helpful, and on our last trip, one of the fabulous rangers guided a trip down to the tide pools.  

Toddlers checking out tide pools in LIme kiln State Park
Tidepools at Lime Kiln State Park

Next, head out to Lime Kiln Point on a 0.4-mile loop.  The point is one of the best spots in the world for watching whales on land.  Orcas, porpoises, salmon jumping out of the water, or even humpback whales can be spotted from this spot with a little patience and a little luck. 

Lime Kiln State Park
My kids LOVE seeing the crabs. I think my favorite is the anemones.

Or, head down to Deadman’s Bay at low tide, either walking along the road, or taking the trail (less than a mile roundtrip).  The trail is a bit tricky, so young toddlers may struggle a bit. Off to the left of the rock and sand beach, you’ll find an excellent area for exploring tide pools.  Kids love looking for tiny crabs, and parents will love searching for brightly colored anemone, fish, sea stars, limpets, barnacles, etc.   When visiting San Juan with our little guys, hiking and checking out tide pools is the perfect day for us!

2. Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm and Country Store

Stopping to visit the alpacas is always a favorite activity of ours.  This farm is BEAUTIFUL- extremely clean, and the alpaca are happy, friendly, and hilarious.  The alpacas will walk right up to you and interact. Those that aren’t right up on the fenceline just have hilarious little mannerisms and are super fun to watch.  Head into the sweet little country store to find some alpaca yarn, or a homemade alpaca yarn item to take home with you.  

Krystal Acres Alpaca Farm
The alpacas are SO cute and friendly

3. Kevin Roth’s Roadside Attraction

Kevin Roth’s Roadside attraction is literally that- a funny little roadside stop where you can get out and explore a local artist’s work.  Kevin Roth has made a name for himself by reusing old items to create art. This little attraction features pieces built for children to enter and explore.  You’ll see a beautiful oversized pineapple, a whimsical fish, and a yellow submarine inspired by the Beattle’s song. My little guys are big fans of the Beattle’s song and love anything they can climb in, so this quick stop is hit for them!

Giant goldfish by Kevin Roth

4. The Whale Museum

Whale Museum in Friday Harbor is a great little museum for big and little kids.  The museum holds the attention of littles with enormous whale skeletons all over the place.  It does a great job of explaining the stories of these animals and allowing older toddlers or preschoolers (and older) to learn a little bit more about whales. 

5. Roche Harbor

Roche Harbor is an adorable little area that feels like a perfect summer vacation for a family.  For a longer visit, stay at the Roche Harbor Resort, which has condos or houses to accommodate families.  The resort includes a beautiful swimming pool, playground, climbing structure, and a picnic area to keep families with young children happy and entertained.  

For a day trip, be sure to check out the Sculpture Park to see tons of large, outdoor sculptures.  Younger toddlers may be frustrated that they cannot climb on these sculptures, so avid climbers may want to skip this stop.  

The highlight of Roche Harbor for us was walking around to see the huge luxury boats docked there.  We’ve seen ginormous yachts, historic sailboats, and tons of really neat boats here. Walking around the docks, and the area is quite pleasant as well.  You’ll find a great little grocery store, and some fun little shops and restaurants in the area as well. 

6. Explore Friday Harbor

My toddlers loved Toy Box in Friday Harbor
Toy Box in Friday Harbor

Friday Harbor is a super cute little town jam-packed with great restaurants, and adorable shops.  Though there are a lot of great little art shops, or high-end shops that are NOT toddler-friendly, you’ll also plenty of shops well suited for littles.  Our kids loved the Toy Box- a cute little toy shop suited for babies through kids-at-heart. Friday Harbor is a great place to get a meal. We love Cask and Schooner for a kid-friendly place, but still a nice sit-down meal, or Friday’s Crabhouse for a casual open-air dining experience- though it does get pretty hectic during peak season.  And don’t forget Ice Cream. Check out Friday Harbor Ice Cream Co., a cash-only shop so tiny only one person at a time can walk through, right near the water.

Boat lovers of all ages will enjoy walking around on the docks and checking out sailboats, yachts, and maybe even a seaplane.   And keep an eye out for seals. They love hanging out near the docks because they know that fishermen will clean their fish and discard the scraps there.  

7. Cattle Point

Cattle Point is the perfect spot for animal viewing of all kinds.  The area has eagles, foxes, deer, and seals, among others. The beach is full of driftwood and is tons of fun for littles to climb and explore.  Plus, the rocky area is fun to explore or a great spot to relax and take in the view.  Be sure to check out the Cattle Point Lighthouse, which is a short 0.25-mile walk from the picnic area.

8. English Camp

Check out the gardens, and wander around some of the historical cabins.  While toddlers might not appreciate the historical relevance of this site, they’ll still enjoy checking out the gardens, totem poles, and beautiful beaches.  

9. Pelinbada Lavender Farm

In the summer, when the lavender fields are blooming, this place is stunning.  Exploring rows and rows of lavender fields is quite an experience, and – even better- the lavender MIGHT actually calm your kids down a bit.  No change for my toddlers, but who knows, it might just work for you :). Let the kids try the lavender ice cream for a fun little treat.  

Palindaba lavender farm
Beautiful lavender fields at Pelindaba Lavender Farm

10. San Juan County Park

  The San Juan County Park is a smaller park with a campground, a day-use area, and a small beach.  It faces west and is an excellent spot to watch the sunset. Bring a bbq or a picnic and let the kids explore as you wait for the sun to set.  Or, if the sunset is too late for your family, just go and picnic during the day. It’s a beautiful spot anytime.

San Juan County Park
The sunset from San Juan County Park.

And the great thing about San Juan Island is that you can easily just pick one thing, or just drive around and see the island, and you’ll be happy.  The island is full of wildlife, and the entire island feels so laid back and relaxing, you are bound to have a great time.  

A few other tips for exploring San Juan Island

  • For the best experience with kids, we recommend bringing your car.  The island has so much to offer! For my outdoor-loving toddlers, spending too much time in Friday Harbor becomes a test of their patience (and mine!)
  • There are so many things to do on the island.  Make a plan before you go so that you’ll be sure to bring the right clothing and footwear.  Many of the trails and beaches are rocky, so you’ll want good footwear and comfortable clothing if you plan to hike or check out beaches and tide pools
  • Outside of Friday Harbor, options for picking up a meal are limited.  Make a plan ahead of time, or just bring a picnic lunch with you to prevent hangry toddlers.
  • Even convenience stores are pretty limited on the island.  Bring plenty of snacks and water for your family. 

Who else has been out to San Juan Island with your toddlers or even older kids? What favorite activity are we missing? 

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Utah – known for its great skiing, red rocks, and its most prominent religion, the LDS church. It’s also a great place to visit with your kids. Salt Lake City is BUILT for families with children.  Utah has the highest birth rate per capita, and it shows in kid-friendliness. Everything is kid-friendly, so getting around is easy, and kid-friendly activities are numerous. We had so much visiting Salt Lake City with toddlers and preschoolers!

My husband and I actually lived in the Salt Lake area for a while pre-kids, so we are pretty familiar with the area. But it’s a totally different feeling to take our kids there and be able to experience the city with them.  

1. Thanksgiving Point

Probably one of the highlights of this area for our family is Thanksgiving Point.  It’s technically located in Lehi, just south of Salt Lake City, and it’s basically five huge attractions all in one.  It includes the Ashton Gardens, Farm Country, Butterfly Biosphere, and Museums of Natural Curiosity and Ancient Life. Plan to stay the whole day, and then get an Explorer Pass, so you can save money while visiting all five venues.   

Thanksgiving Point tulip festival- great spot to visit with kids
Tulip Festival at the gardens

The Ashton Gardens are really for people of all ages.  It is 55 acres of perfectly manicured flowers, trees, and open fields, and even includes the largest man-made waterfall in the western hemisphere.  The gardens are beautiful at any time of year, but the Tulip Festival in the spring is absolute perfection. Most of the gardens are stroller friendly, and I’d bring one for toddlers and preschoolers because there is a LOT of walking to be done. 

Butterfly Biosphere, Thanksgiving Point, Salt Lake City, UT
Looking for butterflies at the Butterfly Biosphere

The Butterfly Biosphere is the newest attraction at Thanksgiving Point and includes a discovery zone for kids to learn about all types of insects- not just butterflies, and a play area with a GIANT slide and the butterfly conservatory.  The conservatory has tons of colorful flowers, beautiful butterflies as well as beetles, spiders, and other insects. It’s a great spot to get your young children to slow down a bit and notice all the little things. And you’ll want to focus on slowing down since the butterflies are super delicate and you don’t want your child to be the one accidentally stomping on them.  

Erosion Table at The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point, Salt Lake CIty
The Erosion Table at the Museum of Ancient Life

The Museum of Ancient Life, aka the Dinosaur Museum, is tons of fun for the dinosaur lovers, like my kids.  The museum isn’t huge, and my boys ran through it fairly quickly, even though they did enjoy seeing the GIANT dinosaur bones. The real highlight for my 3-year-olds was the erosion table. Water and sand, and toy dinosaurs- oh my! 

Climbing in the amazon at the Museum of Natural Curiosity, Thanksgiving Point, Salt Lake City, UT
LOTS to climb at the Museum of Natural Curiosity

The Museum of Natural Curiosity is AMAZING.  We visited almost 5 months ago, and my kids haven’t stopped talking about it.  It’s a completely separate building from the rest of the Thanksgiving Point attractions and its HUGE.  They claim there are 400 interactive experiences, but it feels unlimited. Kids can climb through the rainforest, use tubes to make rivers, play with trains, make music.  I’d have to say it’s the best children’s museum we’ve ever visited, and we’ve visited quite a lot. And it’s not just for small children, there truly are activities for all ages.  Older children can even do an indoor ropes course (for an additional fee). Set aside plenty of time for the Museum of Natural Curiosity- you’ll want it! Also, maybe bring a change of clothes for your toddlers- plenty of young kids end up SOAKED after playing in the water room.  

Driving a plane up in the air at The Museum of Natural Curiosity at Thanksgiving Point, Salt Lake City
My son flying a plane with his FACE at the Museum of Natural Curiosity

2. Hogle Zoo

The Hogle Zoo is another great place for young children.  My kids are animal lovers so zoos are always on our list. This zoo features over 800 animals and is a constant work in progress, with exhibits being updated and made more comfortable for the animals every year. Our favorites include the polar bears, every kind of monkey, and the lions. The amazing trainers have some great animal feedings or encounters of different types that your kids will love. We particularly love the elephant encounter and giraffe feeding because both of those gentle giants are just such amazing creatures. You’ll definitely want to check out the event calendar when you arrive so you’ll be able to catch one or two of these great, free events.

You can also take a fun little train ride around the zoo. Or take a ride on the beautiful carousel. You can choose from one of the 4 great little restaurants right at the zoo. Or, if you prefer, pack your family a lunch and enjoy one of the many picnic areas around the zoo.

Temperatures in the summer can get quite high in Salt Lake City. So for your comfort, and to see the animals when they are the most active, I recommend arriving right at opening and hit the African Exhibit first. The zoo is quite stroller friendly, and I’d plan to bring one for younger children since quite a lot of walking is required to see everything. 

3. The Living Planet Aquarium

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium.  River fish
Love some fish at the Living Planet Aquarium

The Living Planet Aquarium was has been in the works for a LONG time, and they’ve finally been able to move to a new, larger location.  We love this aquarium because it has tons of awesome fish and sea animals, as well as some other animals, such as large birds, penguins, and even butterflies seasonally.  Additionally, kids can pretend to drive a ship, and climb inside a sharks mouth. My kids love all aquariums, so of course, this one was a huge hit. But this aquarium does get QUITE crowded on weekend afternoons, so while it is stroller friendly, it might be difficult to navigate with a stroller.  Try to visit off-peak hours for the best experience.  

Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, in Salt Lake City.  Looking at amphibians
Dax Checking out some amphibian at the Living Planet Aquarium

4. Lagoon

Lagoon includes a huge area with a ton of rides for children (and adults) of all ages from the fearful to the fearless. And, for water lovers, Lagoon-a-beach features pools, water rides, and more. If you are traveling with mixed-age children, you’ll love that there are real roller coasters for older kids who love them, fun things for kids who aren’t roller coaster lovers, and even great rides for younger kids. When visiting with younger children, you’ll want to check out Kiddieland.  Many rides have no height restrictions at all, and many more allow children 36” and taller to ride, so toddlers and preschoolers have plenty to do here, whether they are fearful or fearless. 

While Lagoon has tons of great options for meals, picky eaters or parents wanting to save a few dollars can pack a lunch and will find plenty of nice areas to picnic. Lagoon is great for your older kids as well. The view of the sunset from Cannibal is rumored to be phenomenal, but I can’t confirm this since I always have my little guys.  

5. Tracy Aviary

Amazon Adventure at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City
Feeding the birds was a totally unforgettable experience

The Tracy Aviary is awesome because it’s outside, and it just doesn’t get as crowded as other big attractions such as the aquarium or zoo. This allowed us to give our kids a bit more freedom, which was relaxing for me AND the kids and is easy to navigate with a stroller.  The aviary offers some really special experiences for littles. My kids LOVED feeding the ducks and feeding the tropical birds during the Amazon Adventure. The owls and other large birds were other favorites for my kids, and I loved the colorful tropical birds.  

Feeding the ducks at Tracy Aviary
Feeding ducks was a favorite for my boys and their friend.

Visiting Salt Lake City with toddlers and preschoolers a wonderful experience! What do you think? What would you add to this list? We’d love to hear from you! Also, check out our other Utah posts on riding UTVs at Sand Hollow, near St. George.

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?

During a recent visit to New England, we needed to spend a night in Boston. However, we really needed to find a way to allow our kiddos to burn off some energy, as we arrived in the afternoon. We live in Washington, so we were 3 time zones ahead, and had been flying all day. After doing some research, we found that most kid-friendly attractions in Boston would be closing by 5 or 6 pm. Since we were arriving in the afternoon, and would need to make it out of the airport, we’d not have enough time to explore. Not being SUPER familiar with Boston, we weren’t sure which areas would be safe for us to run around after dark, so we kept looking for other options.

We finally came across the Great Wolf Lodge in Fitchburg. Great Wolf Lodge has been on our bucket list and we were delighted to see that pools stay open until 8 pm. Additional kid’s activities continue until 9:30 pm, and dinner can be ordered until 10 pm. The Great Wolf Lodge New England is about an hour’s drive from the Boston Airport, which is in the heart of East Boston. And even if the later nights aren’t something your family is interested in, there is still a LOT to love at Great Wolf Lodge, New England

Arriving at Great Wolf Lodge Fitchburg

Upon arrival, it’s immediately clear that this place is not just child-friendly, it is built for kids. Wolf ears for the kids are handed out at check-in. The lobby is filled with fun, summer camp-themed signs, and decor. The interior is like a mini Disneyland with toy shops, kid’s decor, and a million and one kid-friendly activities. As you walk into the lobby, you’ll see a small stage featuring animatronics, and maybe even a few characters. Often, there is a table set up with a small kid-friendly activity. As you head down the hall, you’ll see an animatronic dragon, toy shops, treat shops, and even a Build-a-Bear Workshop. There is an ice cream themed kids spa for kiddos who love to do mani/pedis as well! The resort features a huge arcade with games for all ages, a theatre, ropes course, bowling alley, mini-golf, and of course, the waterpark!

A couple of goofs with their wolf ears

The Room

Our standard queen suite

Rooms at the Great Wolf Lodge continue with the summer camp theme and feature rustic wood and forest animals. We booked last minute and had a standard room- deluxe queen suite. Our room was fairly basic but adequately sized, and up to date. It included a small table with chairs, which is a nice bonus for families with kids. We actually wound up eating dinner in our room and appreciated having the space to eat. The bathroom is spacious and has a standard tub/shower combo. The resort has some fun, upgraded rooms with a kid’s cabin area, bunk beds, etc. that might just give your vacation a little bit of extra magic, so definitely check out the options.

Our room overlooked the lobby, which gave us a view of everything that was going on downstairs. It also meant we had no exterior window, and we could also hear all the kid’s activities going on below.  If you are traveling with young children who go to bed before about 9:30 pm, you’ll want to avoid this style of room. The evening kid’s activities are quite loud, and it would certainly keep your kiddos awake. For more tips on traveling and setup with twin toddlers, see our post here.

Dining room table is a nice touch

The Waterpark and More

The jet skis were a huge hit

The highlight of the trip for our family was, of course, the waterpark.  Because of our limited time at this resort, we decided that exploring the waterpark was our main priority, and we went right to work on that! 

Toddler-friendly Attractions

My twins are 3 years old, and about 38 inches tall, so not every water attraction was available to them.  However, there are two large toddler-focused areas – Fort Mackenzie and Cub Paw Pool/Whooping Hollow. Additionally, we were able to play in the wave pool and the lazy river. We were never bored and we felt like we could have stayed at least another day and had plenty to do.

Fort Mackenzie features a large tree house-themed climbing structure with a couple small, open waterslides, and a small tube slide. It also has a water gun, and a cool setup with rotating water troughs kids can manipulate for water play and exploration. Cub Paw Pool features two water-spraying jetskis, a few smaller water fountains, and tons of larger water features. Whooping Hollow has a bunch of great waterslides sized for young children.

My kids are going through a bit of a fearful phase, so they took a bit of coaxing to go down the waterslides. Once they got going, they did have a lot of fun and didn’t find them to be too scary. However, their absolute FAVORITE thing at Great Wolf Lodge was the water-spraying jetskis. They also really loved climbing around the tree house at Fort Mackenzie

Waterpark Overall Impressions

My kids also really loved that the air and water temperatures were warm and kept them comfortable. Even at 3 years old, they get cold quickly, and most pools are a bit too cold for them to really enjoy. Great Wolf Lodge maintains the air and water at 84°F, which was quite comfortable for us.

I also really loved that the lifeguards were engaged and carefully watching all the kids. They were definitely making sure everyone was following the rules and was safe. As a generally nervous mom, it was nice to know that the lifeguards have my back if I lose sight of my children for one second, which, as we all know, happens quite a bit.

The pool area also had lots of chairs nearby. So, at times, I was able to just sit and watch my kids play independently.  Also, the areas are roped off, so your child can’t run off and out of sight quickly, making the experience a bit more relaxing for me.

Bigger kids

There were TONS of way bigger waterslides, including a HUGE tornado waterslide that looked pretty amazing, a large 4 person waterslide, a waterslide that was essentially just a DROP, and more. I’d say most of the resort was designed for older kids, even though there was plenty for toddler-aged kiddos. Families with a mix of ages will enjoy this resort because it really has something for everyone.

After the waterpark closed for the day, the resort offered kids storytime, a little animatronics show, and kids dance party.  These kid-specific activities were a bit of a relief for me. I could let my kids be a little bit wild since there were young kids everywhere.  My boys were a bit overwhelmed by everything, but I think they really loved that they were welcome to just be wild kids everywhere in the resort.  

The Great Forest Friends Show

Dining Options

Great Wolf Fitchburg has several dining options, all family-friendly.

  • Hungry as a Wolf features pizza, pasta, and salads
  • The Lodge Wood Fired Grill features burgers, steaks, and specialty dishes along with lots of kid-friendly favorites like macaroni and cheese, chicken, etc
  • Buckets Incredibles Craveables featuring hot dogs and burgers by the pool
  • Dunkin’ Donuts features coffee, bagels, and donuts

Dinner

Room service is not available at Great Wolf Lodge. However, restaurants will package your food to go so that you can dine in your room. Our kids don’t tolerate restaurant meals very well, so having the option to order dinner and take it up to the room was a huge help.  Restaurant menus include kid-friendly food, and some more adult foods, plus some healthy choices. My kids ordered macaroni and cheese and finished it, which is saying something because my kids generally eat nothing.  

Breakfast

For breakfast, we opted for the breakfast buffet. Our twins are 3 and were free of charge. The buffet had a standard assortment of hot and cold breakfast foods, including eggs, bacon, cereal, fruit, and pastries. A buffet is a great choice for my little guys because it’s quick and I can get a little bit of several things, and go back for more of something if they are willing to eat it (my kids are generally terrible eaters). We also grabbed a to-go coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts.

When can we come back?

The resort has a TON of other kid-friendly activities for littles and bigger kids that we didn’t have time to do, including a ropes course, mini-golf, arcade, and a climbing wall.  It would take several days to get through all the activities Great Wolf Lodge New England has to offer. Even JUST focusing on the waterpark portion of the resort, my kids were not ready to go and would have been happy to spend a couple more days exploring. We loved our time at Great Wolf Lodge, and we’ll definitely be looking forward to our next Great Wolf Lodge visit.

10 Tips Once You Reach Your Destination!

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Toddlers.  They are old enough to for lots of opinions, interests, and SO many words (most of them hilarious), but still so little in so many ways.  They are still 100% dependant on parents, and just don’t have the patience to handle tough situations. And when you have twin toddlers, the stakes are just that much higher- try moving two toddlers mid- tantrum! 

Traveling with toddlers is such a great experience because of their ENDLESS enthusiasm and curiosity, but sometimes the logistics can get tricky.  Yes toddlers are resilient, but sometimes it takes a bit of work to get them to their ideal condition.  

Once you’ve planned your perfect trip, and survived your flight, road trip, or whatever, there are still a number of tricky situations when it comes to staying in a hotel, vacation rental, or even at a friend or relatives house with your twin toddlers.  These are our top tips to make the trip just a little bit easier.  

1. Make your kids a map

We like to make a special map for our twins for each trip.  It doesn’t have to be really accurate as a map, just give the basic flow of where we are going next.  For toddlers, it’s basically a visualization of the schedule. They love to follow along and talk about what’s coming next.  It’s a fun way to explain to your young child what’s coming next and get them excited ahead of time. We like to give them to our kids a week or so ahead of time so they understand what’s coming and start to get excited about little things we will be doing. 

Checking out the map a few days before a trip. They were VERY excited about the ATV ride!

2. Use kid’s air mattresses

Sleeping arrangements when you have TWO toddlers can be a bit tricky.  For toddlers, pack ‘n plays are getting to be a bit small (at least for my big boys), and can be hard to come by at times anyway.  Cosleeping is an option, but not a favorite for my family. Two kicking, wiggling, fighting-even-in-their-sleep toddlers in between my husband and me isn’t my idea of a vacation.  We’ve not been able to let them sleep in a bed alone because they sleep like maniacs and will CERTAINLY fall off the bed at least once. Though, sleeping in a regular bed with inflatable bumpers is a possibility.

Our option of choice is these fantastic kid’s air mattresses.  They are kid-sized so they don’t take up a lot of space in the suitcase, sturdy, and inexpensive.  They come in fun colors, and, even though we usually put a blanket or sheet over them, they have a nice soft finish, so a sheet is not absolutely necessary.  It gives them their own comfortable sleeping space, and they are close to the ground, so falling off is not a big deal.  

3. Pack carefully. 

Packing with twin toddlers means not really packing light.  But if you aren’t careful, you’ll end up packing 19 suitcases, and you won’t even be able to fit through the door at your hotel.  So really think through what you are bringing and if it’s necessary. 

Packing as light as we can with twin toddlers
Packing VERY carefully does make a difference, even if it still feels like you are bringing a ton

Packing tips:

  • If laundry facilities are available (and FAIRLY convenient), bring only about 3 days of clothing for everyone.  It seems drastic but if you wear neutral colors, and comfortable clothing and no one else will notice, and you’ll look great, and feel great not lugging around a ton of extra stuff.  Most toddlers probably prefer to wear their top 3 favorite outfits over and over forever.  
  • Pack layers.  Outer layers can easily be reused, and layers give more flexibility for temperature variation.
  • Use hotel toiletries for yourself (at least for shampoo, conditioner and soap) if you can, but bring toiletries for your twins.  Toddlers can have pretty sensitive skin, and baby products are not typically provided, so it’s probably worth the space to bring something you know won’t give them a rash. 
  • Use packing cubes to keep yourself organized and make it clear which stuff is whose
  • Buy diapers and other bulky items when you get there.  If you are flying, you’re probably paying $100 round trip per suitcase.  So if you are filling a suitcase with a low-cost item, like diapers, puddle-jumper life jackets, snacks, etc., don’t! If its something you CAN get at purchase at your destination, do that! It’s not worth the hassle or the cost to pack it. 
  • Borrow anything you can at your destination.  If you are visiting friends or family, perhaps you can borrow one or both car seats, air mattress or pack ‘n play, or any other specific items you will need for your trip.  If you are going somewhere you frequently visit, but you aren’t able to borrow many items, it might make sense to purchase some of these items to leave there (if possible).  
  • Just bring one or two books and only a few toys.  You can usually make do with whatever you find at your destination. Even empty water bottles or straws can provide entertainment for your toddlers.  Mine were obsessed with plastic spoons (AKA mini shovels) for awhile. Plus, you’ll probably be busier than normal and won’t need a lot. You probably don’t want to skip toys altogether since you’ll need your twins to be engaged for at least a few minutes each day to shower and get things packed up before you get out the door. 
  • If you are checking car seats, stuff some of the bulky, soft items in the car seat bag.  We’ve always gotten away throwing a favorite blanket, a toddler pillow, and a lovey in each car seat bag.  For a while, we were even putting a pack ‘n play foam mattress in there without any problems. It saves precious suitcase space, and provides extra padding for your car seat.   I think technically, it’s against the rules to put anything put a car seat in the bag, but I don’t think anyone checks unless they have reason to be suspicious.  

4. Stay on ‘Home’ time when heading East, adjust to local time when heading West

This applies only when time changes are minor, 3-4 hours or less. When heading east, kids will want to ‘sleep in’, because of the time difference. We promote that as much as we can with blackout curtains. They will be tempted to wake up right when the sun comes up, if they see it. It’s also kind of nice to have a bit more time in the evening to go out and do things with them. Keeping them on ‘home’ time also means avoiding the 4 or 5 am wake up once we get home. We find that they do adjust back a little bit, despite our best efforts, but we can usually keep them close to ‘home’ schedule.

We were forcing them to stay up so they wouldn’t wake up at 4 am the next day. TIme changes are tough!

My kids are early risers no matter the time zone, but when heading west, they are waking up so early, it’s definitely not even morning. For example, on the first day of our first trip to Hawaii, we were up at 4 am, but nothing at our resort even opened until 7 am. Not only does it kind of suck to get up when the clock says 4 am, it’s also just tough to manage. They’ll be wanting to eat dinner in mid-afternoon, and go to bed by 5 pm. Adjusting them just makes sense in that case.  Plus, you might get a couple of days of them sleeping in once you get home.

5. Think about skipping naps

Obviously for toddlers who reliably nap twice a day, or for 3 hours every day, maybe this isn’t an option.  But if your twins ever have trouble falling asleep at night, or struggle to fall asleep at nap time, vacationing is a great opportunity to just skip the nap, at least sometimes.  It’s even harder to fall asleep when you are in an unfamiliar place, so naps just might not happen even if you try (and try and try and try). And if they DO nap, bedtime might just be a nightmare- an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar sounds, and two toddlers who are NOT exhausted.  Not a recipe for a quick bedtime.  

Sometimes a nap IS required

If you can skip naps, your twins will be more able to power through when there are lots of fun things to do (as there probably are while on vacation).  In fact, they might not even notice they are tired until close to bedtime. You definitely have to have a solid bedtime plan, and start it early (cause once they realize how tired they are, they are going to be immediately ready to sleep). But once you start the bedtime routine, it’ll be SO easy to get them to sleep.  

This works so great for us because my kids were always terrible nappers. They are definitely tired by the end of the day, and sometimes a little cranky in the afternoon. But overall, we are all a lot happier when they ski be o I put them to bed a bit early (and they fall asleep almost instantly), and they often sleep in a bit late, and it’s AWESOME and amazing.

6. Keep Your Schedule Flexible

Toddlers are growing physically and mentally so much, so you never really know who you are going to get each morning when they wake up.  Make sure your schedule allows a slower day, if you twins wake up just tired or cranky or whatever. Or maybe they’ll wake up with more energy than expected so you need to find an outlet for them.  Whatever the reason, you’ll need to have a few options for each day and the state of mind to change your plan if the plan just isn’t going to work for your twins that day.  

Playing on the beach in Idaho- such a hit for them!

7. Stock your room with snacks and water (or other drinks)

Between being too excited to really eat during the day plus having their biological schedule a little bit messed up due to the time change, your twins may end up feeling hungry at odd hours.  When you are at the mercy of hotel restaurants, it’s smart to keep something around just in case. Also, the food on vacation may be a little bit different than at home, so having familiar snacks may help. Plus, you can save a LOT of money by skipping restaurants for snacks, and even for quick breakfasts sometimes.  And on a related note…

8. Pick a room with a mini-fridge

Not the pre-stocked kind either.  The kind you can actually use. You’ll want it for snacks, quick breakfasts, and milk.  If your toddlers are like mine, then milk is a necessity and you’ll need a lot of it. When you are buying for two milk-drinking toddlers, you aren’t going to want to just pick up the single-serving milk every time. That’ll get expensive fast! It’s easy to forget you are going to need a way to keep the milk, and other perishables, cold.

9. Keep some familiarity

Stick to your bedtime routine as much as possible.  Bring a few familiar snacks (anyone else have toddlers OBSESSED with Z bars?), your twins’ favorite lovey, and their favorite bedtime story.  Just a few familiar things will make your twins feel more at home.  

10. Take tons of pictures

Southern Utah. I love this picture and I’m so glad we captured this moment!

Ok this is kind of a given.  But take even more pictures than you thought you’d want. And label them! Even when you think you can tell your twins apart, you might just forget when you are looking back at old pictures. I don’t even want to say how many old pictures I have where I’m not 100% sure who is who.  

Toddlers are finally old enough that they can look back on vacation pictures and reminisce about all the fun things you’ve done together.  You’ll be surprised how far back they can remember. My twins clearly remember trips a year ago, and we love looking through vacation pictures together.  

Overall..

Traveling with twin toddlers, just like LIVING with twin toddlers, isn’t for the faint of heart.  But twin parents are made of a special kind of magic, and somehow, we just get it done! These vacation memories are memories you, and your twins, will cherish forever! And hopefully these tips will make your trip just that much more perfect.  

Tell us what worked for your family! 

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