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travel

The Hilton Orlando X Disney World Guide

We just got back from Orlando, or should I say Disney World, and man am I beat!  Doing Disney World with toddlers in a weekend trip is exhausting!  Lainey is at a great age (5) but Roman is still in that terrible toddler age (3) where a lot of meltdowns occur very often.  I was thankful for the days we spent at the resort more than the days at the parks this trip.  I do have a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years with toddlers I will share below, and you can read my last blog post on Disney with toddlers here!  You can also see all the behind the scenes videos on my Instagram story highlights here.

Where we stayed:  The Hilton Orlando (conveniently located 15 minutes or less from all the attractions, and 15 minutes from the airport!)  Here are several tips on the resorts site to help you enjoy your stay.

  • My first tip is where to stay when doing Disney with kids. I was pleasantly surprised how close this resort was too everything without being overcrowded by the holiday rush for Mickeys Halloween Party (which we did our last night).  Transportation can be arranged ahead of time with your concierge.
  • Book a resort with a water park & outdoor activities for downtime between parks.  The Hilton Orlando has two huge pools, a lazy river, splash pad, slide, and outdoor sports areas all over the property!  It felt more like a tropical vacation when we relaxed at the resort.
  • Plan your days and fast passes as far in advance as possible.  This is key with toddlers that have very little patience for rides and meals.  We filled up every morning at The Hilton Orlando’s daily breakfast buffet at The Bistro. The service and food was amazing!  You can do 3 fast passes per day per ticket.  I like to plan ours first thing in the morning to knock out all the key rides before lunch!  Make sure to mention rider switch if one child isn’t tall enough to ride!  Always go back to the resort to nap :).
  • Bring a Stroller and tie balloons to it as soon as your in the park to easily spot yours! We easily rolled the stroller back into our hotel room each night.
  • Tips specifically for Mickeys Halloween Party:  Arrive to the park early (they let you in as soon as 4pm day of).  Try to go mid week for less of a crowd.  Dress up!  Bring your own trick-or-treat bags!  Hit up the rides when everyone is grabbing candy, there are no fast passes during this time so barely any waits!  If you are visiting other parks, The Hilton Orlando has packages that include Universal Orlando & 4th night free! (Harry Potter was my favorite during Halloween)
  • Get the specialty drinks at the bar, from milkshakes for the kids to patron in a mini bottle, The Hilton Orlando pool bar had the best selections!
  • All and all we really enjoyed our convenient location & hospitality at The Hilton Orlando!  It was the perfect quick weekend trip to get the Disney bug out of our system 🙂  Thank you so much to the Hilton team for having us!

travel

Exuma, Bahamas Travel Guide with Grand Isle Resort & 23 North GR

It has been almost a year since our last trip to Grand Isle Resort (you can read that post here) and I was so excited to bring Roman back this time with us!  Last time we only stayed two nights on the resort and brought Lainey, this time we stayed 4 nights and also brought our friends to experience it!  I felt like we were able to appreciate the slower lifestyle Exuma is known for this time around and I always love visiting a place a second time because you know what to do, where to go, and where to eat by then.  Also since our last visit, Grand Isle opened up a new area with an Adults only pool & new restaurant known as 23 North Beach Club.  See below for the latest about the island 🙂

(The new adults only pool at 23 North GR)

About the Island:  “Exuma is a district of the Bahamas, consisting of over 365 islands, also called cays. The largest of the cays is Great Exuma, which is 37 mi in length and joined to another island, Little Exuma, by a small bridge. The capital and largest town in the district is George Town.”  Exuma is located on the southern Bahamas.  They were not affected by the recent hurricane and a percentage of all bookings at Grand Isle Resort is going towards the relief for the northern Bahamas (Abaco islands) that was directly hit by Hurricane Dorian.  Book here for last minute escapes!

How to get there:  We flew directly into Georgetown Airport this trip from RDU, with a quick connector in Miami, FL and it was the best experience so far.  We have flown into Nassau before because we missed a connector in Atlanta (you can read about that story here) & hopped over to Exuma later in the day on another connector flight and it made us miss an entire day.  Highly suggest just flying directly into Georgetown Airport!  From there, the resort is a quick 10 minutes away!

What to pack:  I got this question a lot which was surprising to me since it is a typical island lifestyle to me!  It is a small island, nothing fancy, so I was either barefoot or had sandals on with a maxi dress half the time and the other half in a bathing suit!  The weather year round stays in the lower 80s, so just pack comfortable.  If it did rain, it only last maybe an hour throughout the day then the sun would shine.  I usually pack a sweater as well to throw over in the evening when the sun goes down!  Also I always pack my own beach bag with all the kid pool accessories they love.

Where to Stay:  Of course we love Grand Isle Resort!  We stayed at other properties in Exuma before and the experience was not even close to the service and luxury accommodations Grand Isle Resort has to offer.  You can choose between 1-4 bedroom luxury villas.  We stayed in a 3 bedroom this time, but actually ended up switching to a 2 bedroom because apparently only 2 bedrooms have whirlpool tubs and my kids love baths!

Dining Options:  At Grand Isle Resort you have a few options for dining.  You can eat at Palapa grill by the pool for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  23 North also just opened up their newest restaurant which is Asian-Bahamian inspired food that is open for lunch or dinner.  We had an amazing dinner there on one of our nights, see all behind the scenes on my Instagram stories here.  During Hurricane Season a lot of places shut down on the island so options are slim.  We enjoyed taking the boat to Staniel Cay for lunch one afternoon and also make sure to do Sunday Buffet lunch at Chat & Chill!  You have to take a boat to both of these places, you can easily rent your own at Minns Water Sports!

Excursions:  We did a private boat tour for the first time with Triple A Adventures and I will always do that moving forward especially with a group in Exuma!  It also made our day a lot smoother on a private boat with toddlers.  We had a group of 8 people and I loved it because we were able to schedule the day how we wanted and avoid the other boat crowds at key tourist spots (swimming with pigs and shark pictures you see here).  You can customize your private boat tour for a half day or full day depending on what spots you want to visit.  Book your next adventure with Triple A Adventures here!



Thank you to the amazing team at Grand Isle Resort for hosting our stay!  As always, all opinions are my own!

travel

Kiawah Island, SC Travel Guide

Where to begin with this post!  I use to vacation to Kiawah Island every summer as a child and went on to get married here on September 13th, 2014!  We were able to spend our 6th year wedding anniversary on the island with Lainey & Roman this time to experience it with us.   (You can see all the details about my wedding on A Low Country Wed Blog & Destination I Do.)  This island holds such a special place in our hearts and never disappoints in all aspects.  It truly is one of those magical beaches that has the prettiest golf courses along the coast to enjoy too.  There are 10+miles of beach, and 30+ miles of bike trails, and multiple kid splash park pools and playgrounds to keep them entertained.  I’ve always heard families favorite thing about the beaches here are the huge tide pools that appear and the fact you can have your dog on the beach!


(view from Sanctuary pool)

& Here is everything you need to know about Kiawah Resort

How to Get there:
It is about 45 minutes depending on traffic from the Charleston, SC Airport.  You drive through rows of beautiful trees in route to Kiawah Island, where you simply drive up to the front security gate and let them know where you are staying.

Where to stay:  
*When booking a place through Kiawah Resort, you get access to all the resort amenities & benefits. You have access to pools, fitness centers, discounted rates on recreational activities, golf, and tennis.  Keep in mind, people who book through the resort get preferential tee times and court times at the tennis center as well.

  • The Sanctuary Hotel- this is the only luxury hotel on the island.  We spent our wedding night here and this past weekend we stayed 3 nights and it was amazing!  Forbes Travel Guide awarded the hotel a solid 5 stars and you receive nothing short of a 5 star service!  “Choose from 255 well-appointed guestrooms, with King rooms spanning 520 square feet or more. Or upgrade to an exceptional suite, including the awe-inspiring 3,000-square-foot Presidential Suite.”
  • Villas– If you prefer more space for an affordable nightly rate, you can book any of the villas on the island!
  • Private Homes-  We rented several houses my wedding week that had 6+ bedrooms and turned into a huge family event.  You can book private homes on the kiawah website here.  There isn’t a bad view on the island, you just need to decide if you want to be on the beach or in a neighborhood!
  • COMING SOON! The Ocean Course cottages Vacation cottages that are 2 & 4 story will be under construction soon.  They are estimated to be ready in Fall of 2020.

 

What to do:

  • Bike: Reserve bikes ahead of time depending where you are staying on the island and ride bikes on the beaches and through the island.
  • Pool Hop: Visit all the pools, make sure to go to Night Heron Park and explore their splash park/water slides!
  • Play Golf– the PGA Championship is held on the Ocean Course located here. Kiawah has some of the nicest & most challenging courses in the world. Keep in mind certain courses require you to also have your own caddy.
  • Play Tennis- Voted the top tennis resort in the world by tennisresortsonline.com for 2019. “For an unsurpassed player experience, we offer 22 tennis courts, including ten new Har-Tru clay courts, all tucked into the resort’s stunning surroundings and bordered by fragrant oleander, rustling palmettos, swaying pampas grass and vibrant flowers.”
  • Beach- especially in the afternoons, don’t miss the tide pools that make you feel like you are on a secluded island!

     

  • Kamp Kiawah– If you’re traveling with the kids look into this, some of my favorite child hood memories were at Kamp Kiawah.  Find more info here.
  • Attend an Oyster Roast Dinner at Mingo Point- Available dates here and you can purchase tickets!
  • Spa– This is located in the Sanctuary Hotel.  The Forbes Travel Guide recognized The Spa at The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort with Five Stars for the ninth year in a row!  This Forbes Five Star Spa’s soothing treatments are derived from botanical extracts, nourishing seaweed, rich mud and natural enzymes, all offered in a spectacular setting.  From beginning to end the entire experience was amazing.  We got the custom couples massage in one of their suite seclusion, I chose to incorporate a lavender scent for relaxation.  Designed for the most exclusive experience, their beautifully appointed Couple’s Suite features two treatment tables, a relaxation area and a private therapeutic bath and shower.  Make sure to arrive 30+ minutes early to enjoy all the spa has to offer.  We sat in the coed Magnolia room and enjoyed their custom granola and hot tea before our service.  They have a Sauna, whirl pool, and steam room to relax ahead of time or post treatment so make sure to bring your swim suit.  If you do only one thing on this trip, make sure to book a spa appointment! I can’t rave about this experience enough.  Explore all the treaments here.

     

Here is a Sample Itinerary they customized for us which was the perfect amount of family fun + relaxation for a 3 day weekend at the Sanctuary Hotel:

Day 1:  Check in, head to the beach to enjoy the late tide pools that show up for the kids.  End with Dinner at the Ocean Room at the Sanctuary.

Day 2:  Up early with kids- Grab bikes for the weekend and ride them to the beach or Night Heron Park Pool!  Head back for lunch at Logger heads by the sanctuary pool, and get the kids down for naps!  3pm- book the dolphin excursion where you can see them swim right up to the boat and various animals along the sound.  4:30pm-  Play nine holes at one of the famous golf courses- We did Cougar Point!  Then head to dinner at the Ryder Cup room (located at the Ocean Course for a one of a kind sunset).  Let the kids roll down the hill while you have a cocktail on the lawn waiting for your table. (Always make reservations in advance)

Day 3: Get up early and ride bikes around the island again and enjoy a full day at the beach & park to just relax.  Book a babysitter from the concierge for 3pm and head to the spa for a full afternoon of relaxation.  Head to dinner at the Atlantic Room at the Ocean Course to enjoy dinner without the kids and soak in that sunset one more time!

(on the dolphin tour)


Where to eat:

  • Breakfast: 
    -Jasmine Porch-southern cuisine, also great for dinner!
    -Relax & order room service!
  • Lunch:
    -Logger Head grill- by the pool at the Sanctuary, I had an amazing chicken pineapple sandwich I’m still thinking about!
    -Tomasso at Turtle Point- Italian dishes!
    -Beaches & Cream for ice cream & snacks!
  • Dinner:
    -Ryder Cup at the Ocean Course: Modern Pub Fare & a la carte Breakfast choices
    -Atlantic Room at the Ocean Course: Amazing seafood restaurant, as for the back room!
    -The Ocean Room at the Sanctuary: Premier Steakhouse, boasting Forbes 4 stars!  They also have amazing sushi too.
    All of these were phenomenal dinners, read more details about Kiawah’s Dining Collection here.
    (out in front of the ocean course dining area)

Here are some pictures over the last 7 years Amelia & Dan have captured from our engagement to last weekend!



Thank you so much Kiawah Resort for having us and continuing to exceed our expectations every stay!  As always, all opinions are my own.  Follow them on Instagram to stay up to date on events happening on the island!

travel

Seattle Travel Guide

This was our first time in Seattle and I have a feeling it wont be our last.  If you missed it on my Instagram, I recently accepted an 100% remote IT recruiting job with Amazon, so they flew me out to Seattle for my first week of training at their headquarters!  I know we went in the prime time to visit because it only rained once the entire time for a week and the weather was mid 70s.  Apparently every other month of the year is typically rainy, so if you’re going to visit shoot for the summer months!  The city felt fresher to me, unlike New York or Paris, but a crisp feel probably because it sits right on the water.  Overall, we felt great about the trip and below I’ve highlighted a few of our favorite spots!


(your basic picture of pike place market, wearing all shop the mint)

What to do:

  • Get the Seattle City Pass: Visit all the hot spots included.
    Admission Includes

  • Go to the Beach: We were recommended Alki Beach Park the most but we never made it! There is also Goldens Garden Park & Enatai Beach Park & Boathouse.
  • Take the kids to all the Museums & Parks! Downtown Bellevue Park playground is new, free and fun!  During the summer they show free movies in the park for the kids!  Also heard great things about Kid’s Quest Childrens Museum, but we never made it.
  • Go to Pike Place Market:  Shop the farmers market, walk around on the pier or grab local sushi!

    (Kids at the Zoo wearing Emu Shoes!)

    (on the Ferris wheel, included on city pass)

Where to eat: (so many spots we didnt get to check out!)

  • Breakfast: Biscuit Bitch, All Water Seafood & Oyster Bar, Room service from either of the hotels mentioned!
  • Lunch: Lola’s, Mbar, Wataru, Serious Pie Pizza
  • Dinner: Canlis, The Nest, Sushi Kashiba, The pink Door, Bateau, Walrus & the Carpenter, Shuckers, Spinasse, Stateside
  • Dessert: Cinnaholic, Chocolate factory (pike place market), Salt & Straw Ice cream, Molly Moons Ice Cream.

    (View from the Nest bar & restaurant)

Where to Stay:

  •  Downtown Seattle:  This is where we stayed the entire time with the kids & I loved how close all the attractions were and amazing restaurants.  We checked out to amazing hotels while in town, our first night we spent it at Loews Hotel 1000 (read my full review here) and the rest of the week we stayed at The Fairmont Olympic (read my full review here)!  Both were amazing 4/5 star hotel spots, click on each review to see exactly what we loved about each!
  • Capitol Hill:
  • Bellevue:  Referred to as the Eastside of Seattle, right across lake washington.  It is about 30 minutes from downtown seattle, amazing parks, beaches and a dry bar here 🙂
  • Ballard Area:  Where a lot of locals live!  This is a hip waterfront neighbord, that would be cute to rent an airbnb for a weekend!


    (view from the space needle: also available via city pass, dress is tiare hawaii)
    *As always, you can shop all my outfits here from all my trips!
travel

Santa Barbara Travel Guide

Santa Barbara was not what I expected at all, in a good way!  It is about a 2 hour drive typically depending on traffic from LA, and for that reason I expected the area to be a very busy beach town like Santa Monica/Venice area.  It did not feel busy at all!  In fact it felt like a southern small town on a beach, with very high class/dressed people.  We went during “June Gloom” (which is known as the gloomiest weather), but over half the time it was sunny!  I saw a quote the other day that also summed up how I felt about the weather and what you should pack in California: “Welcome to California. Winter starts at 6am.  Spring starts at 10am.  Summer is at 2pm and Fall is around 4:30ish.  Dress accordingly.”  Too true!   Here is everything you need to know!


Where to stay:

Belmond El Encanto This 5 Star resort is located just a mile up the hills from downtown Santa Barbara and the beach!   This was one of our favorite resorts we have ever stayed with the kids!  Make sure to request Bungalow 101, you can see behind the scenes videos of the resort on my Instagram stories here.
What we loved about the hotel:

  • Proximity:  You could walk out of your bungalow and the pool, spa, fitness center, and restaurant/lobby were all within 5 feet.  You never had to walk far and the entire property felt small, not crowded at all!
  • Pond area:  There is a turtle feeding area that the kids LOVED!  The bell men give you turtle food and my kids would spend hours sitting by the pond playing with all the turtles.
  • Room:  I loved that we felt like we were in a small southern house in the middle of a resort.  It was a newly updated villa with one bedroom, a huge bathroom with heated floors, and then a small living area with a pull out couch.  They even personalize the pillow cases with your last name initial, what a personal touch!
  • Dining:  We ate on property almost the entire time because the food was so good!  Every morning we had breakfast over looking the fog rolling off the beach view you could see from the cliff.  Get the nutella french toast!!
  • Activities:  From onsite work out classes to electric bike rentals, you won’t get bored at this resort but also feel relaxed at the same time!



What to do:

  • Explore downtown Santa Barbara & Beach:  We rented a fun 4 person bike from Wheel fun rentals SB, located right in the Funk Zone!
  • Visit all the kid Museums/Parks:  We had a press pass, but we were only able to hop around to 4 different ones during the week we were in town.  I loved the Moxi Museum the best, it is right in the funk zone and has a roof top area for the kids to explore.  Make sure to visit Santa Barbara Zoo as well, and reserve a private giraffe feeding, or any type of feeding for that matter!  We did the turtles!  Other Museums we visited included: Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (more educational) & Santa Barbara Museum of Natural Sea Center (you can touch the sharks & various animals)
  • Hop around all the wineries:  There are some in the Funk Zone you can walk around to, but we opted to do a full day wine tour with Dee Tours one day!  Dee can customize the tour for you, or you can plan your own tour and just use Dee Tours for the open air jeep that fits 10 people!  The Wineries we ended up doing were: Sunstone Winery, Brave & Maiden Winery, & Lucas & Lewellen.
  • If you need a babysitter:  Belmond Recommended this company- Mummys Day Off, we used them one night while the kids were sleeping and felt great about the babysitter.  She said she worked for the company for 3 years since she was 18.


 

Where to Eat:

  • Breakfast: Acai Bowls: Backyard Bowls, Bree’osh Bakery
  • Lunch: Brophy Bros (seafood)
  • Dinner: Los Agaves (mexican) , The Lark (american)
  • Ice cream: McConnells (funk zone area)