Back To School Party Idea For Kids First Day

This post is sponsored by Sparkling ICE but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

The kids started school this week & my wife came up with this back to school party idea for kids first day to celebrate.

I was outside trying this new drink I found called Sparkling Ice + Caffeine Black Raspberry.

Sparkling Ice + Caffeine Black Raspberry has natural flavors, vitamins and antioxidants, and ZERO sugar.

You can get it online here.

I added fresh limes & ice to turn it into a virgin margarita.

Back to school 2019

As soon as they arrived home from school, they ran outside to find me.

We spent a few minutes talking about their big day…

Who they sat with…

Who they played with…

How they felt about their teachers….

back to school party idea for kids

Then we came inside for our “party”.

Back To School Party Idea For Kids First Day

My girls love nothing more than a tea party, so my wife had it all setup for us.

Back To School

The girls don’t actually like or drink tea, but they were thrilled to see they could have a drink just like mine.

They had Sparkling Ice Black Raspberry – the caffeine-free version.

Back To School Party Idea

My wife took a few pictures, so the girls would always remember their back to school tea party after their first day.

 

These ideas always seem silly to me when she’s planning them, but the girls do just love it.

They’re happy any time I’m not traveling for work & they can get my undivided attention.

Back To School Party Idea For Kids First Day Parties

When we finished our tea party, the girls ran off to play.

Giving me a few more minutes of quiet outside to relax & finish my drink.

So that’s 2019 back to school in the books.

How about you?

What are your back to school party idea for kids first day?

Leave a comment below & let us know.

back to school party ideas for kids first day

23 Amazing Photos On Glacier Bay Alaska Cruise Ships – Is Glacier Bay On Your Bucket List?

In June 2019 we took an epic Alaska cruise that you’ll want to add to your bucket list & here are the highlights of our Glacier Bay Alaska Cruise.

alaska cruise

glacier bay cruise ship

What is Glacier Bay Famous For?

As you may have guessed, Glacier Bay is famous for…. glaciers!

glacier bay alaska things to do

Glacier Bay is one of the world’s largest protected natural areas with 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, forests and waterways.

glacier bay national park alaska

They also have some of the most incredible wildlife I’ve ever seen with bears playing on rocky beaches & bald eagles soaring above.

glacier bay alaska usa

If you’re a fan of nature and wildlife but aren’t into camping, a cruise through Glacier Bay should be on your bucket list.

How do you get to Glacier Bay Alaska?

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is only accessible by boat or plane.

Permits are required for boats & cruise ships to enter Glacier Bay National Park, so reservations are recommended.

glacier bay alaska photography

Do cruise ships stop at Glacier Bay?

Cruise ships do not actually stop in Glacier Bay, but don’t worry.

glacier bay national park alaska bucket lists

Your cruise will spend a full day getting up close to the glaciers to give you the best views.

glacier bay national park

What glaciers are in Glacier Bay Alaska?

There are literally over 1,000 glaciers in Glacier Bay Alaska! 

glacier bay alasak destinations

Different areas close throughout the year because of:

  • Nesting birds, such as eagles
  • Humpback whale migration
  • Harbor seal breeding

You can find out more about the specific glaciers in Glacier Bay here.

glacier bay travel photography

Which Glacier is best in Alaska?

With over 1,000 glaciers in Glacier Bay, which glacier is the best in Alaska?

If you’re on a cruise ship heading to Glacier Bay, you don’t even have to worry about being disappointed.

glacier bay alaska trips

When you arrive in Glacier Bay on a cruise ship, local pilots & rangers board the ship with complete knowledge of the local area.

If you really want to study up, you can find out more about glaciers in Alaska here.

These are pictures of our visit to Margerie Glacier.

glacier bay alaska cruise ships

What can you do in Glacier Bay?

If you’re going by cruise, you’ll have the best of both worlds – the luxury of your cruise ship with the beauty of the park.

We had the most amazing deck chairs outside to use as our home-base for the day.

glacier bay alaska travel

There is plenty of wildlife to see in Glacier Bay.

You’ll want to bring binoculars (we forgot ours, but they were selling them on the boat) to see everything close up.

glacier bay national park alaska america adventure

Is Glacier Bay National Park worth visiting? 

We visited Glacier Bay National Park in June & had the most incredible weather.

glacier bay alaska national parks

This made the views even more spectacular, with green mountains, blue seas & white ice.

Not to mention the cool air & warm sun – if you can get weather half this good, you’ll have a perfect trip.

glacier bay national park alaska travel

What is special about Glacier Bay National Park? 

Pictures don’t even begin to show how incredible the views are in Glacier Bay National Park.

And seeing powerful bright blue glaciers up close should definitely be on your bucket list.

glacier bay alaska cruise

Here are a few more photos from our trips to this USA national park.

glacier bay national park cruise

We passed alongside another Holland America cruise ship heading up to tour Glacier Bay.

glacier bay alaska national parks

You will see dozens of glaciers during your tour of Glacier Bay. 

glacier bay alaska adventure

You’ll hear the glaciers cracking & see harbor seals & puffins sun tanning out on the ice chunks that fall from the glaciers.

glacier bay national park alaska beautiful

And the water color is changing all the time – from bright turquoise to deep navy to sea green.

glacier bay national park alaska boats

Depending on the time of year, some of the glaciers may even have dried up. 

glacier bay alaska america

What questions do you still have about a Glacier Bay Alaska cruise?

Leave them in the comments below.

We hope you enjoy your Glacier Bay Alaska cruise as much as we did.

JSD glacier bay alaska

cruise alaska

Loire Valley – Centre Val De Loire – Things To Do

Centre Val de Loire

If Centre Val De Loire isn’t on your bucket list yet, it’s about to be.

Chateau de Villandry

After living in Paris, France for almost 3 years, one of the best perks was being able to spend time in the French countryside.

In May 2012 we visited the Centre Val De Loire when my aunt came to visit us from Brazil.

She wanted to take a road trip in France, so we ended up right in the middle of Northern France for a weekend.

Centre Val De Loire valley france

What is Centre Val de Loire Known for?

The Centre Val De Loire is basically a winery paradise, because it produces… you guessed it – WINE.

Lots of wine!

Centre Val De Loire winery

Farmland covers the region & many of these farms are active wineries.

If you’re looking for something other than wine, the architecture alone will take your breath away.

The Centre Val de Loire also has an impressive, gothic cathedral & magnificent castles.

Would you believe we actually stayed in this castle?

Centre Val De Loire chateaux

Yes, a castle that’s been turned into a B&B hotel.

But bring your allergy meds – it’s an authentic experience.

They owners give you a tour after breakfast, which is both relaxing & creepy (see the hand on the table??).

Here’s our room & yes it did feel a little haunted.

The rest of the room just shows the amount of junk you have to bring when traveling with a baby for a weekend.

Back to the Centre Val de Loire.

It’s a big area, so there are many things to do.

We didn’t make it to the Pays de la Loire region, but it’s on the top of our list of things to do for next time.

It’s a region on the coast of the Bay of Biscay with a medieval fort called Château de Saumur.

We did visit a few other castles along the way.

Château de Villandry 

The garden at the Chateau de Villandry was incredibly maintained & these pictures don’t do it justice.

And it was practically EMPTY, so we had the entire place to ourselves.

Château de Chenonceau 

There is no scale in these pictures, so you can’t see just how massive the Chateau de Chenonceau really is.

It’s so well kept outside that it’s even more stunning in person.

So here’s a little more about the Centre Val de Loire for your trip.

What language is spoken in Centre Val de Loire?

Of course, since it’s located in France, French is the primary language.

However, this is an area of France where they say the purest French is spoken.

Meaning, unlike Paris, there are no accents present. 

Centre Val De Loire winery

It’s like stepping into a time machine where you’ve gone back into French history.

What city is Loire Valley in?

So the Loire Valley isn’t just one town.

It’s a long stretch of multiple towns and areas.

Every single one of these towns has stunning castles, bridges, and history to offer.

Some of the more popular towns are:

  • Orléans
  • Blois
  • Amboise
  • Tours
  • Angers
  • Saumur
  • Nantes
  • Saint-Nazaire

Since the train from Paris arrives in Tours, it’s a bustling little town & a tourist favorite.

How do I get from Paris to Loire Valley by Train?

The Loire Valley makes a great day trip from Paris.

Since we were living in Paris, we had a car & drove to the Loire Valley.

loire castle

If you plan to visit by train, go to the Montparnasse train station.

This connects you to the Tours station which is a great spot to explore Loire Valley from.

Depending on where you’re going in the Loire Valley, it can take anywhere from 35 minutes to 1.5 hours.

Why is the Loire River important?

The Loire River is the longest river in France.

It begins in south-central France and runs for 634 miles until it connects to the Atlantic Ocean.

loire river

Now what do you think?

Is the Centre Val De Loire going on your bucket list?

If you’re ever in France, it’s worth booking a night or two in a castle.

It’s a quick and easy day trip from Paris that will thrill both the grandparents & the kids.

You’ll leave feeling like you stepped back in time.

5 Things NOT To Do On Your Cenotes Mexico Adventure

Planning a Cenotes Mexico adventure?

The Cenotes in Mexico are amazing, but you want to be prepared for your visit so can enjoy it in the best way.

What are Cenotes?

They are natural pools of water that are below ground – sometimes inside caves – most of which are swimming holes.

Planning a Cenotes Mexico adventure? Here’s what NOT to do! A day in the beautiful Cenote water is a bucket list trip where you will see natural beauty at it’s finest. With under water caves, these natural swimming holes are beautiful places. But make sure you’re prepared or you may just get sent away. Here are 5 things NOT to do on your Cenotes Mexico adventure.

Since they are not artificial, locals take great care to make sure the grounds are well-kept.

Because of this, there are a few things you need to do – and NOT do – before going to the Cenotes.

Even though there are thousands of Cenotes in Mexico, these rules apply to every destination.

Earlier this year we visited a few Cenotes during our vacation in Mexico.

Here’s what we learned the hard way, so you have an awesome visit & don’t make the same mistakes.

Planning a Cenotes Mexico adventure? Here’s what NOT to do! A day in the beautiful Cenote water is a bucket list trip where you will see natural beauty at it’s finest. With under water caves, these natural swimming holes are beautiful places. But make sure you’re prepared or you may just get sent away. Here are 5 things NOT to do on your Cenotes Mexico adventure.

5 Things NOT To Do On Your Cenotes Mexico Adventure

Mexican Cenotes are some of the most beautiful places you will ever see.

The pictures below don’t even tell the real story.

So, what is the BEST cenote in Mexico?

You’ll have to look around & decide for yourself!

Planning a Cenotes Mexico adventure? Here’s what NOT to do! A day in the beautiful Cenote water is a bucket list trip where you will see natural beauty at it’s finest. With under water caves, these natural swimming holes are beautiful places. But make sure you’re prepared or you may just get sent away. Here are 5 things NOT to do on your Cenotes Mexico adventure.

Don’t Arrive At This Time

Cenotes are popular with the tourists & the locals. 

The later you arrive, the more crowded they will be.

If your even a little bit claustrophobic, you’ll want to arrive as early as possible.

Because cenotes are below the ground, they can feel closed in.

Add in a crowd to navigate past & people taking pictures everywhere, and the experience completely changes.

Arrive early & you’ll have the place to yourself – at least for a little while.

Plus, you’ll get the best pictures (no photo bombers) & lighting.

Don’t Wear This

Because they are full of chemicals, sunscreens & lotions are not allowed in the cenotes.

When you arrive, they will ask you to shower outside before going in.

Why?

Cenotes are naturally occurring freshwater wells that connect to the ocean by underground freshwater rivers. 

This means they’re often full of turtles, fish & other marine life.Planning a Cenotes Mexico adventure? Here’s what NOT to do! A day in the beautiful Cenote water is a bucket list trip where you will see natural beauty at it’s finest. With under water caves, these natural swimming holes are beautiful places. But make sure you’re prepared or you may just get sent away. Here are 5 things NOT to do on your Cenotes Mexico adventure.

The chemicals are dangerous – even poisonous – to the animals.

So, either leave your sunscreen at home or bring this biodegradable kind.

Don’t Come Without This

Many cenotes only accept cash, so make sure you bring enough with you.

You may need to bring money for:

  • Entrance fees 
  • Locker rental 
  • Equipment rental (snorkels, life jackets, etc)

If you only bring a credit card, you run the risk of being tuned away.

You’ll also want to check whether they accept only Mexican Pesos or US Dollars as well ahead of time.

The last thing you want is to arrive & get turned away.

Most cenotes are in rural locations, so don’t expect to find a 7-Eleven or ATM nearby.

Don’t Forget To Bring These

Cenotes are incredible natural swimming holes full of underwater life.

You won’t need flippers, but you will want to bring your snorkeling gear.

Some cenotes offer snorkels for rent, but it won’t be cheap & there are no guarantees.

If you have nothing else, you’ll at least want to pack your goggles.

Planning a Cenotes Mexico adventure? Here’s what NOT to do! A day in the beautiful Cenote water is a bucket list trip where you will see natural beauty at it’s finest. With under water caves, these natural swimming holes are beautiful places. But make sure you’re prepared or you may just get sent away. Here are 5 things NOT to do on your Cenotes Mexico adventure.

This kind of gear is better for your adventure.

My wife also recommends packing swim shoes because she hates feeling the slimy moss on her feet.

Don’t Forget To Take These

Because you’re going to want to take lots of pictures, you’ll want to bring some kind of waterproof or underwater camera.

Remember this is an adventure & you want want to go all that way without having a camera that can go in the water with you.

If you don’t already have an underwater camera that you can use in the cenotes, it’s a good time to invest.

Here is one of the most popular portable, underwater cameras – it’s a good price & has great reviews.

Want to know more about visiting Cenotes in Mexico? 

Leave a comment below.

Ecuador Equator – What You’ll See At The Mitad Del Mundo

On a recent business trip to Ecuador I made time to visit the Mitad Del Mundo Ecuador Equator.

When I’m on business trips I usually have zero time for sightseeing, but when I have a few hours free I like to see the local famous monuments & sights.

In Ecuador a huge draw is the Mitad Del Mundo – aka “Half The World” – on the equator separating the northern & southern hemispheres.

The Ecuador Equator is home to the Mitad Del Mundo - aka "Half The World". Here are recent photos from the Mitad Del Mundo Ecuador Equator, so you know what to expect to see at the Ecuador Equator. #equator #traveldestinations #ecuador #traveldad #travelingdad

I got there just before sunset, so had to quickly have a look around & take some pictures before the sun set.

Here are a few pictures from the Ecuador Equator to give you an idea of what you’ll see there.

Ecuador Equator – Mitad Del Mundo

This is a popular picture on the Ecuador Equator right in front of the Mitad Del Mundo Monument.

ecuador mitad del mundo

Up close in front of the Mitad Del Mundo.

mitad del mundo 

In case you weren’t convinced, they want to make sure you know this really is the Ecuador Equator.

equator ecuador

The Mitad Del Mundo monument and the surrounding park – all very nicely kept.

ecuador equator

Yes another obligatory picture straddling the northern & southern hemispheres.

mitad del mundo ecuador

 

Heading out after the visit. Until next time.

 mitad del mundo equator ecuador

Do you have questions about the Mitad Del Mundo?

Leave a comment below & let me know.

Pictures of Greenland

Even though I’ve been to 68 countries, these pictures of Greenland are unlike anything I’ve seen before.

greenland in pictures

If you ever fly from London to Seattle, your route will probably take you over Greenland.

My wife recently took this flight while I stayed in London with the kids.

These aerial pictures of Greenland were taken from her Virgin Atlantic flight.

greenland

Approaching the coast of Greenland.

No beach towns here!

pictures of greenland

These frozen rivers and glaciers are fantastic.

The pictures were taken in June, so there’s a lot of melting happening.

greenland pictures

You can just make out a lake in the middle of these mountains and frozen rivers.

greenland in pictures

These glaciers remind me of our trip to Patagonia.

More about that trip coming soon!

This is more of what I expected Greenland to look like – white & snow.

It’s impossible to tell where the clouds end & the snow begins.

greenland in pictures

Who know pictures of Greenland from the air could be so interesting?

You can learn more about Greenland here.

My New Travel Plan For Better Omega-3s

This post is sponsored by iWi but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

As a business traveler, I am constantly on the go.

I have been in Miami, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Mexico & Brazil – just in the last 2 weeks!

With all this travel, it’s not always easy to stay healthy – airport fast food & dinner meetings don’t help.

I never eat fish anymore, so my wife worries about my Omega-3 levels.

She says better Omega 3s are important for my health because they prevent heart disease, stroke, cancers & all sorts of other terrible things.

Basically Omega-3s are important in keeping us healthy as we age.

When I think of Omega-3s I think of fish, but she told me I actually don’t have to eat fish at all now that there’s an easy way to get better Omega-3s.

All I need is this.

best omega3

Sounds good to me!

Better Omega-3s

I had no idea that it the FISH were NOT the source of the Omega-3s.

Omega-3s actually come from the algae eaten by the fish.

So, do we have to eat the fish to get the benefits of the Omega-3?

Nope. We can skip the fish & go right to the source thanks to iWi.

iWi offers the highest bioavailability in the Omega3 market (higher than fish and Krill…) source of Omega-3.

They have full traceability and control of the product.

omega3

AND they were born in the USA.

They use the sun as our main source of energy and are 100% Sustainable & Scalable.

iWi has 150 acres in production – that’s equal to 45,000 acres of peas in terms of production of essential amino acids.

They use non-arable land & brackish water.

Best of all they are socially sustainable because they create jobs in rural areas.

So there you go – an excellent way to get better Omega-3s into your diet even with the busiest schedule.

sams club

You can find the product at your local Sam’s Club – just look for a Freeosk!

omega 3

What do you do for a balanced, healthy lifestyle while you’re on the go?

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Havana Cuba – Everything You Need To Know

Looking to visit Havana Cuba?

Last year we traveled to Havana without doing much research ahead of time.

What a mistake!

When you think of Havana, you might only thing of retro cars and live music.

But visiting Cuba can be a culture shock.

Even though it’s only 106 miles from the US Coast, basic places & products we take for granted are impossible to find.

Why?

There are no supermarkets or pharmacies!

It’s safe to assume that if you don’t bring it, you won’t be able to get it.

Changing money isn’t easy either & it’s difficult to find internet access.

Before you travel to Havana Cuba, here is everything you need to know.

 

Havana Cuba - everything you need to know before you travel on vacation. Last year we traveled to Havana Cuba without doing much research ahead of time. What a mistake! Visiting Havana Cuba can be a culture shock. Basic places & products we take for granted are impossible to find. Before you travel to Havana Cuba, here is EVERYTHING you need to know.

Havana Cuba – Everything You Need To Know

Looking for something that isn’t here?

Leave a comment below & let me know what questions you have about Cuba & I’ll find answers for you.

Pictures of Havana Cuba

havana cuba pictures of cuba today

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Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami

Last week I had meetings in Miami & stayed at the Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami.

When traveling with work, I rarely get a chance to get outside during the day.

Luckily I’m solar-powered & my eyes pop open at dawn everyday.

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to walk around an empty city at sunrise.

It’s the best way to take in a city at my own pace, before the hectic workday begins.

I clear my head, get in some exercise & discover a new city, all at once.

We live about an hour away from Miami, so I rarely visit – probably only once or twice a year when friends are visiting.

Here are my pictures of the Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami pool and room & nearby Brickell neighborhood.

Quiet morning walk around the Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami Pool

 

Sun coming up at the Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami Pool

 

Outside view of the Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami

 

View from my balcony at the Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami

 

Brickell neighborhood of Miami Florida

 

My suite at the Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami (checkout that view!)

 

Another view from my Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami suite.

 

Time for breakfast! Mandarín Oriental Hotel Miami Brunch & Decor

 

Sun going down on Brickell

 

Brickell Miami photo at night.

 

A final fantastic view of Brickell in Miami Florida

 

Halloween Treat Ideas For School

 

Halloween is coming & who doesn’t love Halloween treat ideas for school lunch boxes??

My girls are still little, so I can’t go as SPOOKY as I would like.

Here’s a quick & easy lunch box or after school treat that is super easy to make.

It will make any dad look like a rock star.

I love that making it gives my girls the opinion of a healthy AND delicious treat.

Halloween Treat Ideas For School

Halloween Treat Ideas For School

I got this idea as I was headed to Target and saw that Babybel were on sale & all dressed up in their Halloween costumes!

Halloween Food Treat Ideas For School Snacks

Babybel is a MUST for my family & we always fight over the last one.

We love that they are 100% cheese & full of calcium and protein – just what growing kids need.

This quick lunch or after school snack doesn’t make much prep.

Here’s what you need:

  • Your choice of Babybel (I picked up both the original & light because both taste fantastic!)
  • Bagels – we had leftover pumpkin bagels and decided to use those for this recipe

Halloween Treat Ideas For School

All you do is spray your waffle maker, slice your bagel and use 2 of Babybel’s of your choice and place them on one bagel slice and cover and cover for 3-5 minutes (depending on your waffle maker)

Halloween Treat Ideas For School

Once you are done open and slice and pack your kids’ lunch! I took an orange and made it into a pumpkin. (I used an edible inked marker even though the orange will be peeled.)

Halloween Treat Ideas For School

To make the napkin ghost I just used a piece of washi tape and packed it in the lunch box. So easy to make!

You could also add additional fruit or cold cuts when making the Waffled Babybel sandwich for your older children or yourself.

This makes a great weekend breakfast or Halloween lunch too.

Healthy Halloween Treats

Of course Halloween Babybels also make great treats on their own.

My kids love this delicious healthy treat anytime they want a snack.

How do you enjoy your Babybel?

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Havana Cuba Pictures

Looking for recent Havana Cuba pictures?

I went to Havana Cuba in 2017 and all of the pictures below are from that trip.

Looking for Havana Cuba pictures? These are my unfiltered Havana Cuba pictures & travel photos from a trip to Cuba in 2017. Havana Cuba pictures show classic cars, military demonstrations, tanks, guns, architecture, and daily Cuban life in the streets.

Havana is just 106 miles from Key West in the USA, but it feels like suddenly we’ve gone back in time.

Some things I expected to see – like the beautiful classic cars & building that have been perfectly maintained.

Other views are less stunning – like crumbling buildings & dirty city streets.

There is a constant pull between feelings of nostalgia & realization of oppression.

The purposeful & visible government displays of weapons & tanks are a jarring reminder that a communist government still controls its people.

It’s hard to say whether it’s despite of all of this or because of all of this, but the Cuban people have a quiet strength & pride that rises above the oppression.

As a tourist in Havana Cuba, don’t let the pictures fool you.

There are things you need to know before visiting Cuba.

Such as, when our luggage didn’t arrive on the plane, we were 100% unable to buy basic necessities like deodorant & toothpaste because there are NO STORES!

Hint: don’t check your luggage when traveling to Cuba.

Here’s more about my trip to Havana Cuba in 2017.

Despite all of this, the people of Cuba are resilient & optimistic.

Havana Cuba Pictures

Havana, Cuba

 

Just click on the album above to see nearly 100 Havana Cuba pictures.

What else did I learn during my visit to Cuba?

Here are 7 things NOT to do when visiting Cuba.

Top 5 Zoo Miami Birthday Party Memories

When our littlest turned two we celebrated with a day at Zoo Miami.

We invited family friends to spend the day with us visiting all the animals & attractions at Zoo Miami & here are our Top 5 favorite memories of the day.

zoo miami

Top 5 Zoo Miami Birthday Party Memories

Zoo Miami is pretty spread out, but you can rent Safari Cycles to get around with.

They were a HUGE HIT with both the kids & the adults.

Walking through the zoo with all the kids & all our stuff would definitely wear us all out, but having these cycles made the day even more fun.

The kids happily got into the cycles & loved sitting next to each other while we rode through the zoo.

The cycles come in 2 different sizes: small accommodates up to 3 adults and 2 small children & large holds up to 6 adults and 2 small children.

Just make sure you grab your cycle early before they sell out for the day!

 

miami zoo prices

The animal are the star of the show at Zoo Miami.

They all look comfortable & well cared for.

The kids were VERY excited to see what was around each & every corner.

 

miami zoo animals

 

We had no idea we could actually FEED the animals at Zoo Miami until we spotted the giraffes.

You’ll get lots of great shots of your little ones up close encounter with the zoo animals!

They have lots of antibacterial hand wash at the exhibit too!

 

miami zoo attractions

 

And just when we thought feeding the giraffes was the highlight of our day, we spied the rhino!

I won’t lie – it was pretty awesome to be so close to such a big rhino.

 

zoo miami animals

We capped off the day with a few rides around the carousel.

The kids couldn’t be happier with this day out & despite the heat (in October!), it was an awesome birthday.

zoo miami attractions

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10 Disney World Tips For Parents – The Perfect Day

We’ve been to Disney World with toddlers four times now, and these are our 10 best Disney World tips 2018 for parents.

We wish we knew these Disney World tips the first time around.

Honestly, we’re still figuring out how everything works.

But these are the Disney World tips you need to know to have the perfect day with your kids.

disney world tips and secrets

Click here to save this post now, so you can find it easily later!

10 Disney World Tips For The Perfect Day With Kids

If you’re bringing older kids to Disney World, you have much more flexibility.

These Disney World tips are meant for parents bringing toddlers and little ones.

Why?

Disney World really is the happiest place on Earth if you know these simple, insider tips!

1. Arrive Early

I don’t mean 9:00am or 10:00am early – I mean a few minutes BEFORE the park opens.

We only just figured out how important this is.

Not that our kids are a little older (ages 3 & 7) it’s finally easier to get up & out the door early.

In the past, we arrived around 10:00am or 11:00am, and here is what you can expect if you arrive at that time.

This makes a massive difference in your entire day – especially when going to Disney’s Magic Kingdom which takes extra effort to from the parking lot.

We breezed through security and straight onto the monorail – zero lines!

We arrived at Magic Kingdom & the park was nearly empty – zero lines!

While everyone else is stuck queueing up for the monorail, you have 1-2 hours of prime Disney World time.

2. Pre-Book Early Fast Passes

As soon as you buy your tickets, you’ll want to create & link your tickets on the Disney World website.

Then select 3 FastPasses, meaning you can skip the long line & get in the fast lane.

BUT, the real tip here is to select 3 MORNING FastPass tickets.

 

You want to use up your FastPasses as early in the day as possible.

Why?

Once you finish your 3 pre-booked FastPasses, you can keep rebooking FastPasses one at a time.

All. Day. Long.

You first have to finish your 3 initial FastPasses before you can start rebooking.

Make sure you don’t have a FastPass scheduled for later in the day or that’s it – you’ll be waiting in line all day for everything else.

Worst of all, don’t wait until the last minute to make your FastPass reservations.

Otherwise, there will be nothing left.

3. Keep Booking FastPass Tickets

This is the SECRET SAUCE to your magical day & a trick so many Disney World visitors don’t seem to know about yet.

Once you use up your 3 pre-booked FastPasses you can keep rebooking your FastPass one at a time.

Until recently, you had to walk around the park & then queue up for a FastPass Kiosk to rebook.

While these kiosks are still around, you can now book fast passes directly from your smart phone!

Literally, as soon as we enter a FastPass line, one of us is on the phone booking the next FastPass ride.

If the next ride is farther away or we have time to spare in between rides, we will line up to do something with a shorter wait time in between.

So, how do you book these FastPasses & check the most up-to-date wait times?

See #4 below – download the app!

4. Download the App

It’s 100% worth taking a minute to download the Disney app on your phone before going to Disney World.

Not only can you keep track of the FastPass tickets that you pre-booked (#2 above), you can book your next FastPass tickets directly from your phone too (#3 above).

You’ll get interactive park maps, and up-t0-date wait times on all the rides & attractions.

We still love using the Disney World paper maps, but the app is the perfect way to plan your day.

5. What To Do When You Need Break

You can & should be having breaks throughout the day – it will save your sanity.

There are plenty of easy ways to work this into your schedule… go to the shows!

Orlando is hot – shows offer air conditioning.

You’ll be on your feet most of the day – shows offer comfy seats.

If you time it right, you can eat & watch the parades go by.

There are SO MANY SHOWS.

6. Rider Swap

With a toddler and an older child, there will be rides your toddler won’t be tall enough to ride.

The first few times we went to Disney World, we thought one adult would have to sit out on every ride so the other adult could take the older child.

Yes & no.

Disney World makes it easy for adults to take turns riding while someone stays to watch the younger kid.

Here’s how you do it.

When the first adult goes to ride with the older child, have them tell the ride worker that you would like a Rider Swap.

This frees up the second adult to take the younger kid on a smaller ride.

 

Disney World Tips rider swap

Once the adult & older kid return, just take the Rider Swap pass back to the entrance.

The other adult can go right in again… and the older kid can ride again!

The Rider Swap option is a fantastic option for parents.

You can learn more about Rider Swap here.

7. Take Your Own Photos

If you’re on a “no expenses spared” trip to Disney World, I totally get that.

But you don’t have to spend $199 on the Disney Photo Pass if you don’t want to.

Whenever your kids are taking pictures with characters in the park, Disney World very kindly allows you to take your own photos too.

Disney World photo pass

They will step aside give you a chance to quickly take a few of your own pictures.

It’s a great way to capture the moment without spending a fortune.

And they’re really nice about it, so you don’t feel like a cheapskate. 

8. Dining In the Park – Pros & Cons

Here are my best Disney World tips about dining inside the park so far.

Believe it or not, there is definitely a learning curve when it comes to dining in Disney World.

Some restaurants are first-come, first-serve while others require reservations and get fully booked in advance. 

We’ve eaten in Liberty Tree Tavern & Mama Melrose’s with a reservation and Harbour House without reservations. 

Disney World restaurants

This past visit we booked a table at the Magic Kingdom’s Crystal Palace to have the character dining experience.

There was plenty of choice in the Crystal Palace buffet, and the kids loved having Winnie The Pooh and friends visit our table during the meal.

 

 

We’ve found only two possible problems with dining in Disney World:

  1. The price – make sure you review the menu before you book, so you realize what you will be spending.
  2. The commitment – you can cancel up until 24 hours ahead of time without a penalty, but if you cancel on the day they will charge you per person.

We ended up leaving the park one day & returning a few hours later for our dinner reservations because the weather was bad & the kids were tired.

Upside: you won’t need to pay for parking again & the park at night is a totally different place!

9. Bringing Your Stroller – Pros & Cons

If you have kids under 7 years old, a stroller in Disney World is a must-have.

You have a few options here.

1. Bring your current stroller. This is ONLY an option if you have a stroller that is BOTH very compact and easy to quickly collapse! There are a few times during the day that you will have to quickly break that stroller down in order to keep moving.

2. Rent a stroller in Disney World. This is a nice option if you want to rent a double stroller or avoid the hassle of dragging a stroller on & off the tram just to get into the park. The downside of course is the price – you will have to rent for each day you are in the park.

3. Bring an umbrella stroller. These are designed to break down fast & have a low profile.

Disney World stroller

For the price of just one day stroller rental in Disney World you can buy an umbrella stroller to use for your entire visit & then bring home!

10. Bring Your Own Water & Snacks

After a long day at Disney World we returned to our hotel & another dad asked me in the elevator how our day was because he was bringing his kids the next day for their first visit.

I told him to bring lots of water & he was shocked that we could bring our own into the park!

YES, Disney World allows you to bring your own water & snacks with you.

We always bring 2 bags – one packed with water & snacks that we can leave tied to the stroller using this clip (it doesn’t lock, but the clip just adds a little security – although the park always feels VERY safe).

The second bag is small like this one & contains just a few valuables for the day – cash, phone, camera, etc.

We didn’t worry about the price of eating nice dinners in Disney World, because we bought a grand total of ZERO water bottles during the day.

We splurged on a few Mickey Mouse ice cream treats, but how can you not!

More Disney World Tips

Get more Disney World tips from Traveling Dads here:

3 Back To School Chores For Kids They’ll Enjoy

This post is sponsored by The Libman Company but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Our kids went back to school this week & with it comes the routine.

Just because summer’s over doesn’t mean the kids are completely off the hook with chores.

Here are a few chores for kids that our kids actually love to help with.

3 Back To School Chores For Kids

Between homework & extracurriculars, there isn’t much time for chores for kids in our house during the week.

The trick is to get them to enjoy the chore, so they don’t realize they’re doing chores.

Then you get the chores done without having to listen to complaining or excuses.

Mopping Spills

If your kids don’t love to mop as much as ours, you don’t have this mop.

They have to take turns because they argue over who gets to mop spills from the floor.

chores for kids

It’s not just any mop – it’s this exact mop (and you can save $3 here when you signup for the newsletter).

Sometimes I swear they spill on purpose just so they can use the mop again.

 

Lunchbox Prep

Assigning lunchbox prep as one of the chores for kids is a HUGE win in our house for a few reasons.

Of course it’s a great chore for kids. 

And yes, then I just have to supervise.

But, they’re much more likely to EAT what’s in their lunchbox (without complaints later) if they put it together on their own.

Have the kids pick from a list of options you approve of & let them have at it.

chores for kids by age

As long as you have that Libman mop nearby, they’ll be able to cleanup the floor afterwards too!

Organization Games

Getting organized is one thing but STAYING organized is the real problem.

My wife & 3 year-old came up with this solution to the girls’ hair accessories by hanging a shoe organizer inside a closet door.

chores for kids by age

Once a week the kids play a tidying up game where they run around the house collecting rogue hair bands & put everything away again.

This is the only way we’re able to get the kids out the door on time during the week – because they know exactly where to find what they’re looking for.

What are the chores for kids in your house?

Leave a comment below & let us know.