Disneyland for Our Daughter’s 13th Birthday

Having a Blast on California Adventure's Tower of Terror

Having a Blast on California Adventure’s Tower of Terror

Going to Disneyland for our Daughter’s 13th birthday was a great idea!  We had a blast!

We stayed at the Grand Californian which was quite expensive, but we were able to get into California Adventure at 7:00 am with hardly any other people, and we were able to ride 15 rides before 11:00!

Because our family likes Disney for the rides, we find it worth the extra money of staying at the Grand Californian for the perks: 2 days “Extra Magic Hours” even with only 1 night booked, IN California Adventure & Downtown Disney, you can see the Disneyland Entrance from the hotel.  If you don’s use the perks, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Splash MountainBesides being an incredible 5 star hotel with very comfortable beds, soft sheets, many pillows, great service,  fun pools, good restaurants, etc, we like how close it is to California Adventure and Disneyland and the “Extra Magic Hours” the most.  This is worth the $450 per night price tag for our family. If you can’t get to the early hour…don’t stay here.

There are other hotels close by, like our other favorite, Park Vue Inn, which is right across the street, about a 5 minute walk.  This hotel usually runs $190 per night, includes a light breakfast, and if you buy a 3 day Disneyland pass, you can go into the park for 1-2 mornings on the “Extra Magic Hour”.  The difference in these “Extra Magic Hours” is that the entire crowd of all the other hotels goes into either Disneyland or California Adventure and ONLY the Grand Californian guests go into the OTHER.  It changes daily.

For example:  Sunday, Monday, Wednesday & Friday are California Adventure, and the other days are Disneyland early entry for Grand Californian guests.  These days change randomly, so make sure to check when you are booking to see which park is on

We LOVE California Screamin' in Disney's California Adventure! Our Favorite ALL TIME ride!

We LOVE California Screamin’ in Disney’s California Adventure! Our Favorite ALL TIME ride!

which day.  All the “neighbor” hotels get in only 2-3 days per week early, and the number of people with this option from the “neighbor” hotels is many compared with the handful of Grand Californian guests going in the OTHER park on the same day.

So, for us, by lunchtime, we have finished one park.  We eat lunch at the Big Thunder Mountain Ranch BBQ, take a nap at our AWESOME hotel, and then we are back at it until Midnight.  If you EVER have Disney questions, PLEASE email me!  I would love to give you any tips I can!

Happy Birthday our gorgeous, brilliant, courageous, funny, obnoxious, playful, happy, kind, daughter!  We love you!  I’m so thankful that you are in our lives.  You rock.

Love, Mom & Dad

 

Alaskan Cruise was Exceptional

Our 7-day cruise to Alaska on Holland America was fabulous.  The ship, Ms. Volendam started in Vancouver; ports of call were Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay & Ketchikan.  We paid extra for a suite which had a nice verandah on which we spent much of our time.  I will blog about the pros/cons of the suite and paying more for that option and family packing in separate blogs… As far as our vacation, here are my opinions in these areas:

  • Motion sickness
  • The boat
  • Room size
  • Kid’s activities
  • The food
  • Shore excursions
  • Cherish your time on board

Motion Sickness…or lack of Motion Sickness!

This was our first cruise and since my husband tends to get motion sickness, we weren’t sure what to expect:  would this be fun & relaxing trip or stressful & agony.  He was a trooper to even try, and I’m so happy he did. It turned out to be fun & relaxing. Phew!

As we went through security to get onto the dock, several other passengers of other ships were wearing the small “patch” behind their ear for motion sickness.  My hubby put his on just as we boarded, and it was like a miracle!  Even through the more movement of the week he was fine.  Thank goodness for this patch!

The first & last nights of this particular cruise have the most motion as it’s on more open ocean between Vancouver and the inner passage into Alaska. This was also fine for him. The boat vibrates a bit, which you get used to. The first night around midnight, my daughter shot up in bed asking firmly that her brother STOP shaking her!! It was cute.

On the last night, we could barley tell nor care that it was vibrating again.

As far as the Whale Watching boat and motion sickness, he was fine.  It was a smaller boat and there was choppy waters with lots of jumping up and down with the waves and he was fine.

The Boat

When you first get on, its fun to look around and get acclimated with all the different areas.  Plus, your bags aren’t in the room to unpack yet, and there are many people in the lunch areas, so this is a good time to discover all the cubbies and areas offered.

For the Ms. Volendam, there is a nice walking track with wooden floors on the third deck which was 1 mile per 3 laps.  No running is allowed as the corners are a bit sharp and a runner could possibly harm those walking.  There is a kids area called “Club HAL” which seemed fun but small, a nice theater, 2 small pools, several restaurants, a shopping area and small casino, lounge areas with different styles of music, a library, a cafe and the decks.

Though there is so much to offer with many planned activities, like Dancing with the Stars, nightly movies in the theater, and shows, we ended up spending most of our time on the pool deck playing ping-pong or in our room on the verandah.  Either way, it’s hard to get bored.

Room Size

We paid extra for a suite with a king size & a queen size bed.  This room had a large verandah, with 2 lounge chairs and a “kitchen table” with 4 chairs where we could sit and watch the incredible views and wildlife.  All the verandahs have glass as the wall to the ocean, so you can sit and still see outside.  There is a large bathroom with a jet tub adjoined to a dressing room with a second sink & vanity.  The sitting table was large enough to hold our Room Service Breakfasts in the morning and High Tea in the afternoon.  With the upgrade price, laundry service was included, which was awesome.  We had our laundry done every day. 🙂 We also had a concierge who made appointments and reservations for us, and checked on all of our shore excursions even though they were not with Holland America. We had quicker luggage service (a vey nice feature), plus the use of the Neptune Lounge, right across from our room, with nice snacks, cakes, drinks, tea, candy & sandwiches! That was very helpful…to making this a “weight gain cruise”.

My cousin’s rooms, which were smaller would have been too tight of a squeeze for a family of 4.  There is enough room to sleep, shower & relax without moving around too much, and there is so much going on the boat, that many people don’t spend much time in their rooms anyway.  I could be in one of the smaller rooms with just my hubby, if there was a verandah.  With kids, though, it would be a tight squeeze for us.

Kid’s Activities

I was concerned that there would not be enough for the kids to do, since this is not a “kid’s boat” like a Disney Cruise.  Holland America is geared for older couples, and we were younger than most of the people there.

But, we were happily surprised by the kid’s area, Club HAL.  It was run by a guy who really loves kids and was very playful with them.  The planned activities were something the kids really looked forward to.  They would watch the time to get to Club HAL right when it opened.

On the rest of the boat, for the kids and adults there is ping-pong, large chess, basketball, tennis & movies available.  There is also a library with board games, and plenty of places to sit quietly or with a group.  Plus, there are plenty of places to sit inside and watch the gorgeous landscapes outside.

My daughter and I took a cooking class together which was spectacular.  She really enjoyed it and the food was fabulous.  There were no other kids, but it was ok, and the Chef was great with her.  That was our favorite part of the cruise.

The Food

Breakfast in the “cafeteria” Lido was ok.  We ended up not eating in there very often, instead we had our food delivered for breakfast.  For lunches, we had been snacking most of the day, so we  didn’t have sit down lunches very often.  The sandwich making area is great.

Instead, there were also High Teas!  Wonderful!  We also had some of these delivered to our room.  These were so fun and delicious.

Dinner is very good.  It’s the only time our little group of family was able to meet altogether.  Plus, the boat takes Dinner very seriously.  They are proud of what they serve and how they serve.  I really enjoyed the dinner’s each night.  The menu is different each night and very yummy.  My kids & I tried all types of different appetizers, soups, entrées & desserts each night.  Chef Alberto would walk around and check on everyone, and we really appreciated his attention.

All in all, we loved the food!

Shore Excursions

I researched shore excursions on TripAdvisor.com to use the local tours instead of the boat tours.   Visit my blogs on “Whale Watching in Juneau”, “Private Tour in Skagway” and “Sea Kayaking in Ketchikan” in these separate blogs.

We were happy that we chose private tours instead of the larger boat offered excursions.  I was limited by my husbands motion sickness & he also didn’t want to fly in a helicopter or float plane.  Also, my son was too light to try any zip-lining. Be sure to check on the ages and what is expected of each participant when you are researching.

Cherish Your Time Onboard

The time goes by very quickly, and I wish I had sat on the verandah just a bit more.  My suggestion is to cherish your time onboard and come back to the boat early and leave late.

Family Fun in Albuquerque for the Summer, Our Top 15 Suggestions

Summer Camp Fun, Rock Climbing at Stone Age Climbing Gym

Summer Camp Fun, Rock Climbing at Stone Age Climbing Gym

Each summer, the kids and I love visiting all Albuquerque has to offer.  We love it so much that we created a summer camp to invite other kids!  I’ve done this for several summers, before I was married, and had a blast.  This year we have an intern for about 18 months, and together we will play all around the city.

Here is the list of our top 15 activities our camp includes, and our most favorite places to go with kids ages 7-16 in Albuquerque: (most of these prices are for day passes for kids, adult prices are usually more)

$4, Zoo (ABQ Biopark)

$4 Aquarium/Botanical Gardens

$4 New Mexico Natural History Museum

$4-8 Explora

$2 Bowling (sign up for FREE BOWLING here!)

$6 Rail Runner Train to Santa Fe

Free, Los Poblanos Organic Farm (call ahead 505-344-9297)

$22+ Cliff’s Amusement Park

$27 Hinkle Family Fun Center

$12 Gravity Park (Trampoline Park, 1 hour)

$18+ Stone Age Climbing Gym (Rock Climbing)

$10 Archery Shoppe (1 hour)

$11 Putt Putt (Mondays)

$12-17 Sandia Peak Tramway

$35+ Radisson Water Park (weekends only w purchase of hotel stay)

Have a great summer!!

Albuquerque Summer Fun, a Review

Our goal this summer was to share our “2013 Summer Bucket List” with some great friends. Which we did and we had a blast.  Here are some notes on our adventures.

An Outline:

Zoo-PolarBears

They were fighting over a huge water toy

The first day of our camp we started at the Zoo for a nice stroll and a yummy picnic.  The Zoo turned out to be a top 5 favorite!  Who knew?? Next we stopped by our favorite toy store: Biggle Snorts.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 7.46.04 PM

The little puzzles and card games are some of our favorites of any toy store. This gem of a store is always a great motivator for saving money.

2 for 1's at Baskin Robins Ice Cream

We also used as many 2 for 1coupons at 31 Flavors Ice Cream that we could get our hands on! 🙂 Some other treat favorites included “Pop-Pops” Italian shaved ice and Romero’s Cafe in Old Town.

Volunteering at Los Poblanos Organic Farms was great fun and we learned how to plant and water in a better way.  This was really hot and we didn’t have many options for finding a cooler time since our camp started at 9:00 am.

Hinkle Family Fun Center day pass turned out to be #2 favorite of the summer.  The kids liked it so much that we abandoned our second Cliff’s trip to go to Hinkle a second time.  We played lazer tag over and over, and the spraying boats were always fun in the sun.  Some of the kids were too short to ride the go-carts on their own, so that was disappointing at times, but there was still lots to do instead.

The Christmas week was fun, especially making the Christmas window cookies with Grandma.  Though we didn’t get to the gingerbread houses, the cookies were fun to make and we enjoyed eating them just as much.

From all the summer activities we did, the trampoline parks were the favorite by far, but with a $12 per hour price tag (which is more expensive than Disneyland prices per hour) we could only do the trampoline parks a few times.

Explora, The Natural History Museum, The Aquarium & Old Town were great favorites as well, especially the Dynamax Movies.

What Worked:

The math flashcards were very successful.  Though kids don’t really WANT to do flashcards, it went fast, the older kids helped the younger kids, and as such the older kids also had a little math review.

The most fun were the amusement parks with friends.  These were also the most popular and made the most sense to do as a group.

The smaller groups really worked well for the rock climbing, trampoline parks & the day trips around town.  We were very mobile in 1-2 cars and could split up if someone wanted to stay at the Climbing Gym while others needed to eat or go home, for example.

Having 2 activities per day was a good amount, with a nice lunch break in between. Keeping activities on the same part of town was great to save from having to drive too much.  Also, doing one activity inside and one outside was a good combo.

Movies in the car, and movies at home were a big hit.  So were water balloon fights.

Going to the baseball games was really fun!

The ages worked together. Having each child responsible for their own lunch and snack worked out…though some of the kids saved their “lunch” money, didn’t buy lunch, and spent the money on other things. Bringing a sack lunched worked better than having money.

What We Would Change:

There was too much scheduled, so we would add more down time, more down days and have less planned on any given day.

The kids were so worn out by Tuesday, that some weeks we wouldn’t meet again until Friday!

We would plan more arts & crafts at home, with everything organized and ready to go for a good 2-3 hour project.  We would also make more healthy snacks to show the kids how to do these on their own.

The igloo made out of plastic milk cartons needs 600 milk cartons, and needs to be finished in 1-2 days.  When more time is taken to finish, the base falls apart without the upper part to help keep it together. Collecting 600 mild cartons takes 3 months.

We would go on the Tram, to Santa Fe’s Children’s museum & into the mountains.  This summer, we didn’t get those done.  We would also do more dollar movies & picnics in the park.

2013 Summer Bucket List

SumThe kids and I came up with the activities we wanted to add to this summer’s list of how to spend our time…besides relaxing, reading & traveling to Alaska.  We also try to add daily flashcards and writing.  The school work is good to keep track of with stickers for each completion to earn some “Toy store money”.

Since there were so many activities, we made a schedule of events and then invited some friends to have a itty bitty summer camp of fun. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • Zoo
  • Aquarium
  • Explora
  • Natural History Museum (and Dynamax movies)
  • Romero’s Street Cafe
  • Gravity Park (Trampoline Park)
  • Stone Age Climbing Gym
  • Swimming
  • Xtreme Hangtime (Trampoline Park)
  • A day in the Jemez Mountains
  • Take the Rail Runner to Santa Fe
  • Putt-Putt Golf
  • Hinkle Family Fun Center
  • Cliffs Amusement Park
  • Isotopes Baseball Game
  • Sandia Tram Ride & Picnic
  • Radisson Water Park
  • Make Flubber
  • Gardening at Los Polanos Organic Farm
  • Archery
  • Hiking
  • Roller Skating
  • Ice Skating
  • Bowling
  • Movies
  • Water Fights
  • Water Balloon Tosses
  • Cooking Contests
  • Make Father’s Day gifts
  • Make Silly Putty
  • Have a Backyard Movie
  • Make our own Putt Putt course
  • Make an igloo out of milk cartons
  • Have a “Christmas Week” in July
  • Make tents, forts and swings
  • Plant an Herb Garden
  • Tea Parties outside
  • Learn to make smoothies
  • Learn to make healthy snacks
  • Make homemade “passports” or scrapbooks of the summer
  • Go to some Aquarium Concerts

Phew!  Let’s see if we can include all of these activities in our summer plans for 2013.  I’ll give you weekly updates on the progress. :))

What are you doing for the summer?

Holland America Cruise to Alaska

We are planning a trip to Alaska!  I’ve never been on a cruise and never been to Alaska.

  • Passports…Check
  • Shore Excursions…Check
  • Port City Travel…Check

The kids are coming and we are traveling with a large family group.  We are very excited.  My cousin is a costumer and she is bringing 1920 costumes for our entire family to wear to one of the dinners.  For some families, this is not ok.  For, us, we’re ready and excited.

To plan the shore excursions I used Trip advisor.

I will let you know how it goes as soon as we get back.

Camp Stoney was Great Family Vacation

A Gem of a Summer Camp–reasonable price, great way to relax

My family spent the weekend relaxing and having fun at Camp Stoney in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, just outside of Santa Fe.  A great way to take a break from massage and let my hands rest.

This is our first year at this family camp, and I attended Camp Stoney as a youngster and later was a counselor. The camp includes games, sports, hiking, swimming, arts & crafts and a ropes course. We had a great time.

We really relaxed in this quiet, tranquil environment. John and I were able to take several walks and hikes alone while the kids played with the other kids and counselors. John finished his current book and I napped for several hours each day in between activities.

The food was yummy and we really enjoyed making pillows and a “stepping stone” for our garden. My kids taught the other campers and counselors “Liars Dice” which is a great dice game. Swimming was a bit cold, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. The “Human Clue” game where we ran around the camp looking for the “Who Done It” clues was very fun. The scavenger hunt was also fun.

Jake fell off the bed a few times in the middle of the night. Next year, I’ll bring linens instead of just sleeping bags which would help our entire family sleep better. I also bring paper and some toys to help us during the “quiet times”.

We can’t wait to go every year.