Checking off the family wish list with a trip to Universal Studios

universal-studios-14With entertainment, rides, and a chance to step into the movies all around, Universal Studios offers a rare opportunity to entertain kids and adults alike of all different ages. Over the summer I took on the challenge of taking three teenage girls and an infant all to a theme park with the hopes of all having a great time or at least making it through the day with more smiles than tears.  In making a decision to go with Universal Studios my first concern was traveling with a one year old.  With a lot of theme parks having rides that are not inclusive of small children I did not want to end up with nothing for my son to do except join in all the waiting that is usually involved in visiting theme parks.  With so many movie themed attractions and not just rides I knew that being able to sit through a 3D movie short would break up some of the line waiting and give the teenagers a chance to knock off things they wanted to do on their visit list.  All in and all I was crossing my fingers for the best of both worlds.

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Universal Studios held up to my expectations perfectly. With line waits ranging from 45 minutes and more we started the day off with the teenagers doing the waiting and giving me and my young son a chance to hop into a movie attraction and get a break from the sun.  I quickly learned my first lesson with Universal, the quick pass pays for itself.  If you are only visiting for a couple of days spending hours of your day online prevents you from getting a lot of bang for your buck.  Being careful of the types of passes you buy (for instance for one park or all three) can help you minimize cost and get the most of the extras you are spending.  With passes in hand now we were ready to keep the party going and I became on a mission to bang the heck out of my buck.

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Many of the rides at Universal have a similar 3D feel, with some adding more action with rollercoasters or more moving parts. There are some that are definitely better than others, but they usually correspond to the movies that inspired them and also inspire you as a rider.  We loved the Transformers ride with the action and movement and also the ties and references to a movie series and cartoon that we love.  The 3D experience can be stationary or action packed depending on the ride, with the opportunity to opt out of the action for some rides if you are working with young travelers.



With me busy trying to stuff in as many rides as we could I am happy that Universal had some buffers that made the park about more than just rides. As you walk through the movie set themed sections you are transported to your favorite movies and TV shows.  Sponge Bob happy pops through the street in the character parade and you are whisked to Hogwarts as you journey to the Harry Potter themed sections.  Between action heroes, Dr. Seuss and even Indiana Jones you are surrounded by action and as a bonus you have a chance to pop in on the fun.  After 8 hours, several rides, lots of my money, we ended the night on a high at the Universal City Walk with some great food and memories that are sure to laugh a life time.

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Why to put a Spring Break family vacay on deck

Spring BreakSpring Break presents a much needed opportunity for parents and kids to break out, have a little fun and get some R & R.  That opportunity is frequently passed by, however, because it always seems like there are not enough hours in the day for planning a trip away from your hectic life and just be a kid again.  Well I think crossing the March checkpoint is something to celebrate as when it’s over you are quickly approaching the end of the school year.  Not to mention your time with your kids literally flies by and a Spring Break vacay with them helps the whole family appreciate each other a little more and build those memories that help in bridging the path over the bad times that are sure to come (i.e. hormones, dating, curfew, etc., etc., etc.).  Here are my tips to Spring Break Nirvana:

Incentivize the year with a Spring Break trip: I am not beyond bribery when it comes to the kids.  Let’s face it we all need a little motivation sometimes, and be the issue grades, or chores, or just staying off your nerves, appealing to a child’s short term memory can go a long way (you can’t start on Christmas in March it just won’t work).

Try something new: You can really make Spring Break pop by doing something new from the norm of winter or summer vacations.  As it is a time that seasons are changing you may be on the cuff of winter in some parts of the country and summer in others so new adventures are within reach and maybe even at a discounted price before off season begins.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out on a limb with camping or rafting instead of something more commercial.  If nothing else you always have each other!

Keep it to a scale that works for you: As adults unfortunately we do not also get a scheduled week off from work and other commitments so the time you want off you have to plan for.   Be a weekend or weekdays or perhaps a full 10 days be firm with the fact that it will be a vacation.  Kids are always watching, even when we hope they are not, and always including work in family times sends the wrong message as far as what your priorities are.  Sometimes work cannot be avoided but plan then for some dedicated time to do work and stick to you, make family time the priority for the getaway.

Mix business with pleasure: There are things we are supposed to do that can get quickly pushed the back of our to do list so using a Spring Break vacation may be a good time to dust off old to-do’s.  Maybe you want to start checking out colleges or visit family or perhaps even prepare for a history or science fair.  Adding in something you have to do in between some things you like to do makes things go a lot smoother.   Applying a spoon full of sugar gets your kids to take their medicine of things that must be done a lot quicker and it may even convince them to like it.

Adventure Time – 5 Musts on a Hawaiian vacation

Paradise Cove us and luau dancersHawaii is renowned as a perfect travel destination and with the wide assortment of things to do once you get there it can be hard to narrow down the activities that give you the best experience at the island.  In my recent family trip to Hawaii I planned on a mix of relaxation and adventure in enjoying the beautiful island.  Here are my recommendations of must’s when visiting the island. Mahalo!

Paddleboarding in HawaiiBeach Day – With some of the beautiful beaches in the world, Hawaii surf and sand begs you to just stop and enjoy.  I am one to love an adventure packed vacation, however, there is something to be said for doing nothing on the beach in Hawaii.  The beach outside of the JW Marriott was a great place to just sit and enjoy the perfect weather, beautiful sands and crystal clear water Hawaii has to offer.  Once you have gotten a chance to chill out you can always pick up the pace with a paddleboard or water hammock if you book a hotel that offers these fun amenities.  In nothing else, naps on the beach are always amazing!

Hawaiian sunsetSunrise or Sunset – There are few moments in nature that offer more clarity as to how magnificent the world and its Creator are than a brilliant sunrise or sunset.  It shows just a glimpse of just how complex the world really is and just how small of a piece we occupy on it.  This perspective is a great way to get put things in order the things that stress you in your own life that seems big, but really may be a small problem in the grand scheme of things.

Waimea Falls Waterfall 3Waterfalls – Part of the joy of vacations is exploring all of the things that we cannot do or see locally.  The waterfalls in Hawaii top my list as it is a great way to get in tune with nature and an essential variation on the fun and the sun that Hawaii is known for.  For some family fun the waterfalls at Waimea Falls Park offers not just an easy hike through a botanical garden to get to the falls, but some great cultural knowledge along the way.  Waimea Falls Waterfall 1The entire trip was breathtaking and jumping into the falls was an exhilarating family moment we will remember forever!
Stop and enjoy the beautiful views – In taking a look at the scenes in Hawaii you can tell that God was flexing his muscles when he made the island.  Waimea Falls Park Creek Hawaii Trip (26)It is not just the winding roads of the north beach with views of the mountains and the beach, but at almost every turn you get an eye full of nature’s beauty. Even off the beaten path in a resident recommendation for a restaurant we found some great views and local fun that really makes a trip personal.  To take it up a notch we visited Kualoa Ranch which takes you deep in the undisturbed terrain of Hawaii that made it a perfect location for movies like Jurassic Park.  At the top of a mountain with an incredible view it’s hard not to miss the peace that nature has to offer.

Luau – Although it has begun to sound like a clique, the luau is not just a great show, but some real insight to the beautiful culture of the Hawaiian people.  Paradise Cove LuauWe were on the fence about going as they can be pricey, but those concerns disappeared once we stepped into Paradise Cove.  The luau was its only adventure and living museum all in one as you got to explore the games, lifestyle, clothing, and food of the Hawaiian people.  All this on top of such a great show and you pay for the luau pretty quickly and walk away happing yelling Mahalo to all you see. Paradise Cove Luau Dancers Paradise Cove Sarong Demo Paradise Cove Painting