AULANI + OAHU QUESTIONS ANSWERED!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Answering all your questions about the details of our Oahu / Aulani (Disney Resort) family vacation! If you missed last weeks recap, find it HERE!
Okay! Last month we all packed our swimming suits and planned an extremely last minute trip to Oahu / Aulani...that resort in Hawaii by Disney. But seriously...A lot of people didn't know there was even a Disney resort in Hawaii! Surprise...Mickey and Minnie are working on their tropical tans.

Back to last minute - When I say this I mean from the time I booked our flight / room to the time we left it was two weeks. Quick turnaround.

A few weeks ago I asked you guys to share with me any questions you might have had about our trip...and I'm finally getting to my promise to answer all those. If I miss something, please! Just throw your question in the comments or send me an e-mail and I'll get that answered!

QUESTIONS

1. Is it worth the cost?

Let's get down to the hard cash right off the bat. Was it worth it? This is such a hard question. You have to look at your own situation. For us, yes. 100% worth it. The girls were beyond happy. We escaped 10º temperatures. We hadn't gone on any sort of long, family vacation since Kaye was 3 MONTHS OLD!!! The condo we stayed at was beautiful and the beaches were amazing. Aulani had one million things for the girls to be excited about and Russell and I found tons of time to relax. So, for us, the cost was worth it. We took advantage of every day!

2. Sleeping situation with multiple kids.



This one always stresses me out...even though I try to tell myself that it shouldn't. Because really...it shouldn't. It's not like any of our children have ever stayed up all night long. I mean...kids have to sleep!

At the condo we had a three bedroom unit. One room had two twins. One room had a queen. The master had a king with a walk-in closet. Elli stayed in a pack 'n play in the walk-in closet...because we're good parents. The girls shared the bedroom with the twin beds. Uncle Kody had the queen bedroom.

We put Elli in as separate of a space as possible whenever we travel because it's just what works best for her / us. I wouldn't say she's a sensitive sleeper at home, but when we travel she seems to have an acute sense of someone's presence in her space. Even if we're super quite / tip-toeing. She just knows. So, having the door of the master closet between her and the master bedroom was super nice.

With Kaye and Sawyer - They share a room at home, so we knew it was going to be exciting for them to share a space again. No issues!

At Aulani - Poor Elli was put in the bathroom (which is separate from the toilet / shower in the 1-bedroom unit). The bathroom is right next to the master with a sliding door separating the two spaces. Honestly, she was so exhausted by the end of the day, she slept so well. She was basically asking to go to bed.

The girls slept in the living room. It has a pull down bed (smaller than a twin) right under the TV and a full size (maybe queen?) pull out from the sofa. Kaye loved the idea of sleeping in that tiny bed, so that's what she did. So Sawyer enjoyed diva status in her very own queen bed.


PIN ME FOR LATER

3. What activities did you do?

We did all the things! Okay, not all the things. We were definitely limited with Elli. Truly, we thought we would have Uncle Kody babysit Elli A LOT more so we could take the girls to do fun activities all around Oahu...But we ended up spending tons of time at the pool and beach because that's what they wanted to do every day...not to mention it was just. So. Easy.
Here's a list of activities we did :

- Polynesian Cultural Center
- Beach / Pool time
- Lots of Piña Colada drinking (my personal favorite activity)
- North Shore to watch surfing
- Snorkling
- Lots of water sliding
- Character breakfast at Aulani (make reservations early)
- Aunty's Beach House every day per the girls' request (pro tip : fill out registration paperwork prior to resort arrival)
- Dinner at Monkeypod

I will say - In my research there were places like Leonard's Bakery that lots of blogs said was a MUST...but, that's just not really our thing. We didn't travel to Hawaii to eat a doughnut or masala...we traveled for the weather and water!

You can also do tons of hikes. Hikes to waterfalls. Hikes to volcanos. But do you know what would have happened? Sawyer would have claimed to have broken her legs. Both of them. Elli would have been screaming to walk at a snails pace. And Kaye would just be our #1 favorite because she's the best. Ha! So...we kept it safe. Activities with a quick / easy exit strategy in case anything blew up in our faces.

Here's a list of activities I do recommend if you have older kids or no kids :

- Pearl Harbor
- Shopping at Waikiki
- Luau!
- Makapu'u Lighthouse hike
- Botanical Gardens
- Kualoa Nature Reserve - (think Jurassic Park / zipline / electric bike tour / horseback)

Moving on to all questions Aulani (Disney resort)

4. Did the characters wander around or were there long lines to meet them?

The characters 100% wandered around. We spotted them not so often that it wasn't special, but often enough that the girls never felt like they were missing out.

As far as actually meeting characters - You're either going to want to be a Vacation Club Member or sign up for a character meal. If you're not a Vacation Club Member you're going to be standing in line for a looooong time to meet the characters. That wasn't for us, and luckily the girls weren't interested in standing in line either.

The best news - The characters pop into Aunty's Beach House throughout the day. The girls got to meet Stitch / Minnie / Daisy / Muana all on different days. We also happened to be in the right place at the right time several times to meet Mickey and then Goofy without having to stand in line.

At the character breakfast the girls met Goofy, Mickey, Minnie, and Aunty. And between the marathon meet and greet they gorged on all...the...food...

Speaking of food...

5. How was the food?

Okay - A bit to say on this. Because we have all these children we knew food was going to be a large expenditure on vacation if we decided to eat out. So...we decided to go happy medium. We stayed in a 1-bedroom unit, so our space had a full kitchen with a dishwasher. (And it gets fully cleaned every day...including dishes!) I cooked breakfast each morning which included pancakes, fruit, yogurt, oatmeal, eggs, toast...Those sorts of things. Lunch consisted of either leftovers or something easy like PB + J sandwiches with fruit or mac + cheese. For dinner I would cook fish with rice and veggies, fish tacos, chicken...and I think I made breakfast for dinner once. We also ate at a local Mexican restaurant which was super delicious. I don't recall the name, but it's right across the street from the resort and also by Island Vintage Coffee (go here for the acai bowls!).

If you're going to be eating out for the duration of your stay the food at the resort was just fine! We ate a character breakfast at Makahiki as well as dinner on our final night. It's a buffet which is just the right speed for our girls. They've never done a buffet before, so the idea of picking out all their food plus desserts blew their minds.

If you want table service go to 'Ama'Ama. We didn't go because it just wasn't quite the right speed for what we were looking for. There's a dress code and I'm not sure the girls would have really appreciated the ocean view. However - It looked beautiful and I'm sure Russell and I would have enjoyed!

There are several bars around the resort and I particularly enjoyed the ones close to the pool for easy access to my piña coladas. We ordered food a couple of times for lunch so we didn't have to go back to the room.

If you're looking for places to eat close by there are several restaurants across from the resort like Monkeypod and the Mexican restaurant I mentioned earlier. You can also pick up food at a little grocery store or grab a latte and acai bowl at Island Vintage Coffee - yes please!

6. Why did you go there rather than Disney World?

We've never been to Disney World, but we're not counting it out! We went to Hawaii because we weren't looking specifically for a Disney vacation. We wanted warm weather and the ocean. Not only that, but it's less expensive for us to fly to Hawaii than it is to Florida! We also weren't looking for any park time / rides. We just wanted relaxation and about a million fruity cocktails.

7. Do you recommend spending only a few nights at Aulani and the rest somewhere else? Why?

For us - splitting our ten days between two resorts was really nice! It changed things up...even though we only moved about 200 yards to a different lagoon. Aulani was WONDERFUL for the girls. They have special touches all over the resort and everyone goes above and beyond to make you feel truly special. Not only that, but you can give your kids a certain amount of autonomy because they have these wristband trackers on...totally brilliant. I mean...we weren't about to let them run all over the resort, but it definitely gave us a tiny bit of peace of mind.

To summarize - Some families can and do spend their entire vacation at the resort. I think it depends on your level of commitment to the Disney brand and your #vacationgoals.

8. How much did it cost?

Okay! Yes! So, when you're looking at the site there's a section called Rooms & Offers. I booked based on the information there, so we ended up getting 30% off of our package.

When we planned this vacation we had a budget in mind and kept it at that. We didn't come home with any souvenirs. We didn't buy any clothes. And I cooked most of our meals. We probably saved a lot just by doing those three things...and I have zero regrets. I mean...my girls need zero more knick-knacks (that they are going to lose) and zero more items of clothing.

9. Plane ride tips! How long was the flight?


Tips and tricks for the kids. I don't think there is a magic bullet for this one, but I do know one thing about kids - They love unwrapping things. Like...love love. It's how they can watch videos of people opening toys on YouTubeKids. Riiiiight?! So, my answer is surprise toys. I know you didn't want to hear it, but I said it.

I bought the girls two surprise toys each. One was an LOL and the other was some squishy thing I found at target. Both were huge hits and between those, markers + new coloring book (I buy the big package of markers and pick five for each girl to keep in her backpack), and shows on the iPad...Kaye and Sawyer were pretty low maintenance. Also, never underestimate the power of snacks. Pack all the snacks and then throw about 15 more snacks in a secret snack bag.

For Elli - The magic bullet was a pillow, her favorite blankie, Aladdin on an iPhone (the perfect size for her to hold), and these little Wixi Stix that come in a travel case. I bought them for Kaye and Sawyer...and they played with them on the way home, but Elli loved balling them up...and then I'd sort them out...and then she'd ball them up again. They are waxy, so they stick together. You can create shapes out of them and bend them however you want. Fun for all.

Snack List : Goldfish / Kids Kind Bars / Veggie Straws / string cheese / animal crackers / fruit snacks / crackers / fruit leathers...And if I'm feeling extra cool we bring a small bag of popcorn for each girl. You can also purchase those bags of popcorn at the airport.

For the adults : Yes...I packed extra snacks for our Farmer. And it's a good thing too, because he ate quite a few. One little extra we included in our bag was this little speaker. It was amazing! We brought it to the beach / pool. Don't worry, we were totally respectful and kept the volume quite low. But it was so nice to have some music playing. We didn't have to charge it at all while we were there and it synced up perfectly with our phones. So easy. We'll be bringing it with us on all future trips.


10. Did you guys use the babysitter besides Aunty's Beach House? 

We did not use a babysitter...Unless you count us bringing Uncle Kody along. But he was only there for the first part of the trip. When we checked into Aulani we said goodbye to Uncle Kody.

Aulani does have a babysitting service. I have no idea how it works, but I do remember reading that you have to make reservations in advance.

How was Aunty's Beach House? (talk about no pictures inside / tons of supervision / parents allowed to hang out in the morning)

Aunty's Beach House was THE BEST. It truly was...jaw-dropping. Take me back to being a kid and I would have kicked and screamed if my parents would have tried to take me away. No thanks...I'm staying with Aunty.

They have different themed rooms and a large outside patio / yard.

You can check your kids in to Aunty's Beach House at 9:30 am. When you arrive there is an entry room where you check in your kids with their wristbands. Your kids are welcomed through the locking dutch door, required to wash their hands, and then are free to participate in anything and everything.  There is an arts and crafts room / game room / dress up room / tech room / and then there are various spots around the house where kids can color, make leis, watch a movie or go outside and play. The outside area is completely enclosed by a tall fence with a big kids play structure as well as a toddler play structure.

However...From 8 am until 9:30 am you can / have to join your kid(s) at Aunty's. This is the only time you can take pictures inside Aunty's. I forgot once when we were picking the girls up and I was kindly asked to put my phone away. You guys - the supervision is spot on. You will be beyond impressed.

During the 8 - 9:30 am time there is usually some sort of lead dance party where characters show up. The girls had a blast...as did Elli. Speaking of, this was the only time Elli could play at Aunty's. She's too young! Three years old is the minimum age. Okay...moving on from Aunty's...

11. Condo details!


Big request for condo details! We stayed at the Beach Villas at Ko'Olina. This is right on one of four lagoons and friends...it's just beyond stunning.

This is the specific condo we stayed at. You guys - It was just so beautiful and comfortable and the view of the ocean from the lanai! Yes...I'll take one of those every day. But, there are quite a few to choose from with more or less bedrooms, so you can pick the one that fits your family.

Our condo was great for us because it had everything we could have needed : high chair, pack 'n play, beach toys, chairs, beach towels, boogie boards, washer / dryer, beautiful kitchen, comfortable beds...a blender for my beloved cocktails. All the things. Not one complains...especially because it was so kid-friendly.


12. Do I want to go back for an adults-only trip?


Would I go back? I'd go back tomorrow. Or today. How fast can I pack?

But truly - I'd go back on an adults trip. I'd go back with for a family vacation. I'd go back on a girls trip. I'd go back. Yes.

We met several families that said they come back to the Ko'Olina Beach Villas every year. It's just what they do. Everything is so convenient. It's 100% completely relaxing. It's easy access to the airport (25 minute car) and Costco / Target are minutes away. Not walkable, but like a 10 minute drive.

Okay! Does that wrap things up?! Again, if you have any questions about anything, don't hesitate to send an e-mail!

Follow along with our travels : 


Heads up! While all opinions are my own, I have included affiliate links within this post. This doesn't mean you pay a penny more for clicking the link, it simply means I receive a small commission. If you have any questions about this, please don't hesitate to ask! Thank you!

10 PERFECT DAYS ON OAHU

Wednesday, March 06, 2019
I'm thrilled to report we successfully vacationed with our three young kids (six and under) for 10 days on Oahu and we're no worse for ware! Here's a rundown of where we stayed, what we brought, and how we lived to tell about it...It's truly not that dramatic.

About a week ago we returned from our Hawaiian travels and I've just now stopped crying and managed to peel myself off the couch. I experienced slight vacation depression...either that or I developed a slight dependency on piña coladas at 10 am every morning...following my second cup of coffee. (It really was the very best vacation morning routine...but not something to be sustained.)

Let's start with the flight. For the new eyeballs around here, we have three daughters. Kaye is six, Sawyer is four, and Elli is 1.5. Kaye and Sawyer I wasn't worried about. But with a 1.5 year old who likes to move and doesn't like to be told what's what...I was nervous. But, just because we have a sassy 1.5 year old, that doesn't mean she gets to dictate our travels.

When I started searching for flights I was shocked to see that we could fly to Oahu for less than $500 per ticket. It was on Alaska Airlines, which please note, do not have little TV's in the seat backs, but they do offer you a device for a rental fee. We had iPad's and phones, however, so we were all set.

We took off from the farm at 5:15 am for a 7:30 am departure. It's an hour drive to the Boise airport, which also happens to be the easiest airport to navigate / get through security ever. Small perk for a small airport. Our flight to Portland was one hour and 30 minutes, and our only goal was to keep Elli from falling asleep. We knew we wanted her to have a big nap on the way to Oahu. Success! The big girls were happy with just being on a plane, not to mention the 200 snacks I packed in their backpacks. (Friends - It's all about the snacks.)

After a quick layover in Portland we boarded our flight for Oahu and hoped for the best. Not a ton to report aside from Elli falling asleep after about two hours of bouncing on my or her farmer's lap. Looking over the seats to see her sisters. Enjoying a few snacks of her own. And watching some Aladdin on my phone. (As it turns out, Aladdin is her new and only favorite, so that was a win.)

Did we pack a carseat for Elli? We did. But we checked it for pickup in Oahu. I didn't want to buy a seat for Elli when I knew she wouldn't want to be sitting in it anyway.

Our trick for getting Elli down for a nap on the flight was luck. All we did was pack a pillow. I laid it on my lap and as she watched Aladdin she laid her head down and eventually fell asleep. I wish I had some better advice, but that was it. I did love having the pillow for her to sleep on because it left both of my arms free, for the most part...as opposed to having one arm trapped under her head. Elli slept for about an hour and a half, which was unfortunate. But, long enough to not have a crabby baby. For the rest of the flight she snacked on Gold Fish, fruit leathers, a Kind bar, and Veggie Straws. We brought her some milk from home in a sippy cup. Advice - Don't forget a sippy cup.

Meanwhile - The girls sat behind us with Uncle Kody (Farmer's brother). We brought Kody with us because 1. This was our first big vacation with all three and we wanted it to actually feel somewhat relaxing. 2. We knew he would be super helpful on the flights. 3. The girls love him. (So basically it was two adults for one baby and one adult for the big girls. All in all, it was a pain-free flight. Minus the fact that it was six hours. That's just a long flight.

Kaye and Sawyer both brought a backpack filled to the brim with snacks and activities. I had filled a clear, plastic, pencil bag-thing with stickers and markers. Each girl packed a new coloring book. And then each girl also had a small stack of clean paper. Really, you have to think in 20 - 30 minute increments. If it held their attention for a small period of time, I call that a win. I also bought each girl two surprise toys. One was just a little bag with several squishy animals inside. The other surprise toy was an LOL Surprise Ball. I don't know what it is about those toys, but it's all they talk about. I'll be thrilled when we move past this phase.

We arrived in Honolulu at 2:30 pm and I immediately couldn't find my rental car information in my e-mail. It had just disappeared. I didn't even know which company I had rented through. Rookie mistake. With all the other business you're juggling, print your confirmation documents out AND save them on your phone as screenshots. Truthfully, I'm not sure how I ended up finding the information. I blacked out. But, we retrieved our rental minivan and we were on our way to our VRBO.

Tip : When searching for a vacation rental, don't limit yourself! Search hotels, but also use multiple vacation rental sites like Homeaway, Airbnb and VRBO. I had been searching for a couple of weeks on Airbnb for a rental and just hadn't landed on anything I loved. Then I thought, I'll just give VRBO a look. And just like that I found the perfect spot for us for the right price.

See our vacation video below!

For four nights I booked us a condo at the Ko'Olina Beach Villas. It's on the south side of Oahu and right next to the Disney Aulani Resort. Honestly, I had never stayed on Oahu, so I was going in blind. I did a lot of travel blog reading and finally decided that Disney wouldn't put a resort in a less than ideal location...so I felt really confident that the Ko'Olina Beach Villas were going to be nice. I'm super jazzed to report - I was correct. They exceeded all of our expectations. In fact, I would say our condo was a little too nice. It had everything.

Our condo was on the 10th floor of the Ocean Tower. It had three bedrooms and three full bathrooms. The master bedroom had a decent sized walk-in closet. I confirmed that there was a pack 'n play at the condo and a high chair and there was! It couldn't have been easier. We put the pack 'n play inside the master closet and that was Elli's room...because we're good parents like that. (Truly - having that space for Elli is amazing. She's not the deepest sleeper yet, so not having to creep around and constantly worry about waking her was so so nice.)

Our condo was about 30 minutes (traffic) from the Honolulu airport. Once we got all our bags upstairs the girls immediately wanted to go swimming. We opted for a bit of pool time (even though the ocean is right there). The girls were completely happy with this and within five minutes had made friends with a Canadian family who also had three girls. Did I mention the weather? It was a sunny 80º. Absolute perfection for sipping piña coladas poolside. (There's also a bar between the ocean and the pools.)

Following pool time we knew we had to keep moving to combat the three hour time change. We wanted to get on Hawaii time as soon as possible...That meant keeping the girls awake as late as possible. We cleaned up and headed to dinner. This was a quick walk beside the ocean to a restaurant called Longboards. Friends, this restaurant may be ocean side, but it's a skip in our book. The food wasn't fantastic...It was quick and easy, though.

The next morning I woke up with Sawyer at 6 am (9 am Idaho time) and we headed to Safeway to pick up groceries. Here's what I have to say about this - Yikes. Groceries are expensive. They just are and that's how it goes. But, if you have a kitchen and you have children, you may as well invest in the staples and have a meal plan because it's way more relaxing to eat and drink at home than it is schlepping them all to a restaurant. (And our kids are good at restaurants...It was still farm more enjoyable to open the doors to the lanai, enjoy bottomless piña coladas and cook up some mahi mahi tacos. Yes please.)

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Our stay at our Ko'Olina Beach condo was better than I could have imagined. After breakfast we headed down to the ocean. All we had to do was exit the gate on the property and there was our stunning lagoon. There were literally four people there when we arrived at 10 am. It was perfectly calm and so relaxing to have zero worries about our girls playing, running around, and swimming. When it was time for Elli's nap, rather than attempting to get her down by the water (never would have happened), instead, one of us would just pop back up to the condo. It was almost too easy.

When the girls would tire of playing at the ocean we would transfer everything to the pool area where the girls would make new friends with new kids. It never failed - They were angry with us every single time it was time to go back to the condo after spending all day in the sun by the water.


On our last day before checking into Aulani we went to the Polynesian Cultural Center per the suggestion from a friend I used to work with. She lives on the North Shore near the Center and has young kids and knew it would be a hit with our girls. She was right. But friends - this place is HUGE. We were there for six hours and went beyond exhaustion and still did not even come close to seeing half of what there was to see. Buuuuut, a few highlights were the boat show, a quick hula lesson, and spear throwing...of course. Oh! And let's not forget the smoothie straight of of the pineapple. That was also a huge hit with the girls.

That night the farmer and I left the girls with Uncle Kody and headed to Monkeypod for a little date night. The food was delicious as were the cocktails. We both enjoyed a Monkeypod Mai Thai, which is strong, but has this delicious foam topping. Highly recommend. It was super busy, so I definitely recommend a reservation.


The next day was move-in day at Aulani and also our final day with our rental car and Uncle Kody. We headed to the store to get a few more groceries and soon after received a text that our room was ready for an early check-in. (I headed to the front desk in the morning to request early check-in. Apparently, this is the only way to do it. You have to physically be at the resort.)

We unpacked and were out the door again as fast as humanly possible...per our girls. They were wide-eyed and completely blown away by the surroundings. Truly, the music, decor, lush greenery, cleanliness...It's all so beautiful. We went to Aunti's Beach House first. We were fully prepared with our registration (I filled this out and printed it before we left Idaho) and ID's to get the girls ready for fun. The staff took our family picture and gave the girls bracelets (trackers). We toured the house and when we tried to leave the girls beeeegggggged to stay. Truly. No swimming. No pool. No Dole Whip. Just Aunti's Beach House. And who am I to deny them their vacation? Being the good parents we are, we kissed them goodbye and took Elli for cocktails and oceanside ping pong. Literally.

When we got back to our one-bedroom villa (bedroom + living room with pullouts) we realized that the luau was almost completely set up...right outside our door. We decided that before paying over $100 p/ticket we would watch the luau from our lanai to see what it was all about. Here's what we discovered : The music and dancers are amazing. It appears to be a great show. There are drinks and so much food. The whole thing looked really lovely! (If you don't have small kids.) We were able to witness so many young children (ages 1ish - 3ish) who just couldn't sit for the show. Parents were wandering around the lawn with them while the other parents were at the table alone or with the older kids. So, while Kaye and Sawyer would have fully enjoyed the experience, it wasn't on Elli's playlist. We skipped it this time, but when we head back to Hawaii we'll definitely try one out.



Our next days consisted of a little routine : Breakfast at the condo, a walk across the way to Island Vintage Coffee (delicious coffee, very cute shop, amazing acai bowls), followed by dropping the big girls off at Aunti's Beach House. (Yes, they were obsessed with Aunti's Beach House. I was too. But I'll talk more about that in my next post.) We would then take Elli back to the room for her nap. We would head to the pool, grab a cocktail, go for a walk by the ocean, and keep it so low-key. Which was glorious because our lives are always so go-go-go. Not to mention, anytime we get in the car it takes at least an hour to get to our destination. So the fact that 1. we didn't have a car and 2. we didn't have anywhere we needed to drive = the best ever.

Each morning Elli definitely woke up early. It could have been worse. Between Idaho and Hawaii there is a three hour time change. So having Elli wake up at 6 am as opposed to 3 am - no complaints. However...The one morning we actually needed to be awake at a certain time...we all slept in. We had reservations for a character breakfast at 7:15 am and at 7am my eyes shot open. It was a very Home Alone situation where Kevin's mom shoots up in bed and screams, "WE SLEPT IN!" And then the entire family goes flying around the house trying to get out the door. That was us - 100%. But we were dressed, teeth brushed, hair fixed (kind of), and out the door in 10 minutes. No joke. Also no joke - me fresh out of bed with no makeup. Please reference puffy faces...on all of us. And my collar.




The good news - the resort is actually pretty small-ish, so getting from our room to the restaurant took about three minutes. We were seated quickly and given coffee nearly immediately. Bless them. They invited us to hit the buffet and we told the girls to go wild. (I mean...kids don't eat free at Disney.) There was tons of fresh fruit, an omelette station, waffles, bacon, sausage, ham, seafood, oatmeal, desserts...the list goes on and on and on. The girls had never seen anything like it. And you know what, the food was good! Buffets always have me skeptical - but no complains from anyone in our party. You can even order mimosas, Bloody Mary's, etc.


The pools were so so fun. There was a crazy treehouse with two waterslides for younger kids. Elli mostly enjoyed keeping her feet firmly in the shallow water. But the girls took full advantage, made friends, and ran ran ran. So much running. There was also a little splashpad that Elli really loved. It's small and it was never very busy, so I really loved taking Elli there to enjoy. Sawyer liked it too.

During one afternoon our Farmer took Kaye "snorkeling". There's a designated saltwater pool with fish, coral, and artifacts. They give you masks and flippers and let you go at it. I wasn't sure how Kaye would do...but she's a fish and enjoyed the one on one time with her Farmer. I enjoyed knowing she wasn't going to get eaten by a shark.

Fun fact - I'm terrified of shallow water attacks. Do I have any logical reason for this fear? No. Not at all.

The highlight of the pools for me were the two bigger slides. All of us were able to enjoy them...and Sawyer (our cautious one) even did the fast slide by herself. When she was getting ready to go down one of the people in line said, "Is she going to do that by herself?" Yes...and she did. And she loved it. Elli (one year old) would go on the double tube with her Farmer or me. I'd say she probably didn't enjoy the slides as much as the rest of us...but no frightened looks, so we went with it.

One of the nights our Farmer took Elli for an hour and the big girls and I signed up for an art class. They seat you at a table and then there's an instructor who takes you through steps to draw a character. It was so cute and the girls really enjoyed the drawing of Stitch and the painting of Minnie Mouse. The finished products made for perfect take-home keepsakes.

Another sweet feature are the movie offerings. As much as we like to go go go, it's super fun to chill out. There were two movie offerings -

1. Movie on the lawn - One of the nights at 8pm they handed out mats for families to sit on to watch a movie on a giant screen on the lawn. The lawn was just outside of our room, so technically we could have watched from there...but it was fun to go down and see it on the big screen up close. The girls cuddled in and I may have fallen asleep.

2. There is a room you can visit with hundreds of Disney movies (new and old). You're allowed to take two at a time back to your room. At that same spot you can snag board games, coloring sheets, sign up for activities, or just hang out on the comfy sofas / chairs.

We enjoyed all of the above. If ever there was a family to take advantage of all the features of a place...we're that family. Give us all the amenities. All of them.

It was a vacation I'll treasure forever. And as much as my Farmer despises anything mainstream (don't get me started), he'll tell you it was special too. Or at least the piña coladas were special. The location was perfect. The weather was stellar. And while at the end of 10 days I was ready to have a break from vacation and get back to our normal routine at home...I'm definitely ready to go back...tomorrow.

And you guys - I know it's been a full month since we returned, but I wanted to get the recap down first and then in my next post I'm going to answer all the questions you asked over on Instagram. Or, if you have questions right now, ask them in the comments!

More Photos!





SKIING WITH KIDS : OUR DAY WITH BRUNDAGE MOUNTAIN

Monday, January 14, 2019
We recently traveled to McCall, Idaho to ski at Brundage Mountain. It was such a successful, low-stress vacation we decided to do it again a few weeks later. I'm here to share how we've successfully skied this season with our three girls in tow, and we're no worse for ware. 

A few weeks ago my Farmer and I wanted to head to our favorite Idaho ski hill (Brunadage Mountain) so we were throwing around ideas about how to get on skis more this year. There were several options. One of us could stay back at the cabin with Elli while the other parent took both Kaye and Sawyer to the bunny hill. Another option was we could all go to the hill and do some "lodge-momming"...this is where one adult stays at the lodge with the kids that aren't skiing. And the final option was to fork over some cash, pay for daycare at the hill and lessons for the girls so that my Farmer and I could have a ski date of our own.

After a quick phone call to Brundage, it was a no-brainer : Daycare and ski lessons it was going to be.

Teaching kids to ski can be a scary idea. There's a lot of gear involved and it can be an investment to even get to the ski resort, not to mention purchasing a lift ticket for the whole family. For me, the idea of giving up days of skiing to teach our kids to ski can be a little heartbreaking. Selfish of me, yes. But we only get off the farm so often for skiing. We used to be able to leave the girls with Nana and Grandpa, but we realized we're to the point where it's important for our girls to learn to ski so that next year...or maybe in a few years, we can all ski together. We always knew we wanted skiing to be a family sport. However, the idea of spending several seasons on the bunny hill was soul-crushing. Not to mention the idea of trying to teach Sawyer - girlfriend would probably fake a knee injury and make us carry her everywhere for weeks. All this to say, Farmer and I decided to bite the bullet and get the girls in lessons and sign Elli up for daycare. The idea of daycare was a little scare for us...as we've never used daycare before in any capacity. But, being right there on the same location as the daycare gave me peace of mind.

So, last week we made the quick drive to McCall for our scheduled lessons + daycare. (Tip - Always sign up for lessons and daycare in advance! You can do it all online here. There is paperwork for both lessons and daycare AND the programs are popular, so you don't want to miss out on a spot!)

Anyway, the morning of our lessons we fed the babes and started getting suited up. Getting kids in ski gear can be a lot, so we like to do as much in advance, before we get to the hill. We dress the girls in their wool socks + base layers + neck warmer + snow boots + fix hair. Everything else goes into one large tote and each girl has a stack of ski gear within the tote that includes = boots, helmet, goggles, coat, and ski pants. Once we're at the hill the rest of the clothing goes on. Some people might wonder, "Why not put everything on in advance?" It's a great idea in theory...that way you don't forget anything. But trust me...you do not want to overheat your child before the skiing actually begins. Overheating = lots of complaining, frustration, crabbiness, etc, etc.

Once we arrived at Brundage it was as easy as pulling up to their Kid's Center, carrying the tote inside, and kissing them goodbye. Actually, the daycare is at the Kid's Center, so we kissed Elli goodbye first and then finished getting the girls in their coats, pants, and boots. We met their ski instructors and they took it right from there. The girls were more than ready to say goodbye to mom and dad. We peaked in on Elli one more time before gearing up ourselves. She was rocking in a chair with one of the daycare employees. I imagine she was a little confused having never been in a daycare setting. But the next time we peaked in on her she was dragging around a couple of babydolls and whipping something up in the play kitchen.



My farmer and I (and Farmer's brother) took several runs and then we couldn't help but stalk our girls. Sawyer was making tracks on the bunny hill, but Kaye was nowhere to be found. Apparently she had quickly graduated to the Bear Chair. Brundage is nice because there is a definite beginners area and then as you progress you don't immediately go to the top of the mountain. There's a mid-mountain chair with nice, easy runs to continue to work on skills. The runs are longer and a little steeper, exactly what Kaye needed. We also learned Brundage has set up a "secret" area in the trees that only the kids know about. There are beads and wind chimes hanging from trees and little ski obstacles. I have yet to see it, but I know once Kaye and Sawyer spot it we probably won't be able to get them anywhere else on the hill. It sounds like magic.



When we found Kaye and her instructor on the hill she was amazing! Her turns were about 300% better...as in, she was actually turning. She wasn't scared to be on a bigger hill and she was getting huge doses of accolades and encouragement. It was clear the instructor had quickly figured out Kaye's love language. Kaye did so well in her lesson he even took her all the way to the top for her final run. Proud parent moment.

When we found Sawyer on Easy Street (bunny hill) she was surprisingly not crying. (I know, I know. I should give her more credit. She's not that emotional. She's just super emotional.) Bonnie, her instructor, had her independently skiing. And what I mean by that is Sawyer was not hanging on to her, or a ski pole, and she wasn't wearing a backpack with straps. She was actually skiing down the bunny hill. Bonnie was skiing backwards in front of Sawyer, instructing her on turns and using the pizza wedge to keep control.


After Sawyer's 1.5 hour lesson she got to spend a few more hours in the daycare with Elli while Kaye finished her three hour lesson and so my Farmer could throw a few more spread eagles and I could practice filming those spread eagles.


As the day wound down we snagged the gals and headed to the lodge. The adults enjoyed Bloody Mary's (practically a health drink) and the kids sipped on cocoa. And since everyone was starving we took advantage of the menu and had an early dinner.

Here's the thing - We were nervous about navigating the whole bit of getting our kids on skis. But it was actually a super painless process at Brundage. We had such a fun day on the hill...even though we weren't together the whole time. We're convinced that getting the girls in lessons as opposed to us teaching them progressed them much more quickly than anything we could have accomplished.

Double-bonus - Brundage actually makes it affordable to get the whole family on skis. They have several lesson options to choose from, including the 4x4 Learn to Ski program. You get four days of group lessons, ski rentals, lift ticket (for after the lesson), and a season pass upon completion of your four lessons!

There's also an option called - Family Fun Pack which includes a Bear Chair lift ticket and rentals for a family of four. (If you have more kids you can add them on for $30 each.)

Basically, if you want to take the family skiing, but you're not quite sure how to go about it, just reach out and Brundage will get you set up (great trip planner page). I'm also happy to answer any and all questions!

And just one more thing about my minor (major) love affair with Brundage. If skiing isn't your thing, but you still want to get some breaths of mountain air - summertime is a beautiful option! From May - October there are mountain biking trails to explore and hiking trails to enjoy. You can even ride the chairlift up to see the views which includes Payette Lake! They also have concerts + food + drink. It's seriously so so beautiful with so many options for a good time.

It's no secret McCall has a special place in my heart (my Farmer and I were married there), and Brundage is just one more reason it's one of the best places in Idaho!

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