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.
Recently we stayed at the Legoland Florida Hotel, which is immediately next to the Legoland Florida theme park.
If you’re wondering whether it was worth the cost to stay at the Legoland Florida Hotel, keep reading!
Legoland Florida Hotel: Is It Worth It?
Not only did we take the kids to Legoland… we took the grandparents too!
Legoland is not only a fun theme park for the whole family, but it’s much less crowded than many of the other major theme parks, making it a better overall experience!
The Price Is Right
Believe it or not, the Legoland Florida Hotel is much less expensive than you might imagine.
We’ve looked many times into stay on property for other theme parks, but usually the cost is astronomical. Not so for Legoland Florida!
And, if you get the Awesomer or Awesomest annual passes (also very reasonably priced – especially if you’re Florida residents like we are), you get a 10% DISCOUNT on your hotel stay too.
Location Location Location
Staying on property gives everyone the flexibility to enjoy the day.
We like the idea of being able to go back & have a nap in the middle of the day… With grandparents & toddlers this can make or break the day.
Luckily our toddler managed to completely knock out in the stroller.
Staying on property means we can enjoy the theme park even from our room!
We could see some of the rides & caught a huge fireworks show just before bedtime.
Early Admission After Breakfast
Staying in the hotel comes with a full buffet breakfast and early admission to the park.
We get up EARLY with kids, so we definitely used this perk.
More Entertainment Inside!
The kids were obsessed with the Lego decor & activities inside the hotel lobby: bricks, bricks, bricks!
I can’t believe we managed to get out of the hotel without taking any pictures of the rooms!
There was a treasure hunt inside the room with free lego toys for the kids to build & keep.
Plus, the bunk beds & kids lego movies playing in the room – it’s heaven for the kids & the adults.
Since we bought the annual passes, we will just have to go back again to get you those pictures – stay tuned!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- The price – make sure you review the menu before you book, so you realize what you will be spending.
- 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.
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:
- Best time to visit Disney World (including when NOT to visit)
- Should you stay at a Disney World resort?
- Getting the most from character meet & greets
- When does Disney World have the lowest crowds?
- Best places for dad to have a break at Disney World
- Nighttime shows at Disney World ranked in order
- Best Disney World POOLS
The Fort Lauderdale Air Show is coming up again soon!
Last year we spent the perfect day on the beach with the kids watching the show.
Just bring your own beach chairs & blanket, and you’re all set.
There were plenty of food trucks to choose from, so you don’t need to bring any food or drinks with you.
We had to park to walk & walk a few blocks, so it was great not to have to drag the cooler along.
The kids loved played at the beach while watching the planes whiz by.
It’s the perfect day out with the whole family!
I just started a brand new YouTube channel, so I can clear the travel videos off my phone.
Just subscribe to the Jet Set Daddy YouTube channel to get the latest.
Spring Break is just around the corner & we have a steady stream of friends & family coming to visit us.
That’s what happens when you live in South Florida – the Spring Break capital!
We spend Spring Break outside enjoying the warm Spring weather.
Here are a few activities to keep your kids busy in the backyard during Spring Break.
And always stock up on Kleenex Wet Wipes from Target to wipe up messes & sticky hands.
Because Kleenex Wet Wipes are free from dyes, alcohol, parabens, sulfates, and phthalates we feel comfortable in using them for the kids.
To make things easier they have made the packing in 3 different colors to remember their specialty.
Blue is for gentle cleaning.
Orange is for germ removal.
Green is for sensitive cleansing.
They came in handy even BEFORE we left the Target parking lot.
Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go!
Now we’re ready for Spring Break fun.
Show Me Your Imagination
Nothing is more fun than seeing a child using their imagination.
Have them grab some sidewalk chalk and draw in some props, a background, whatever they can think of and join in!
Cleanup is simple with Kleenex Wet Wipes for Germ Removal to clean up those little dirty hands & faces after a wonderful afternoon of creating adventures on the sidewalk.
Spring Break is the perfect time to plan a picnic.
To make the picnic that more fun have them help you with the prep work and have your kids help pick what they want to eat.
They could even help making sandwiches and packing some snacks.
We kept it simple after an afternoon of swimming – pasta!
Those Kleenex Wet Wipes are perfect both before & after eating.
They are gentle enough to clean up kids hands and faces.
Feed The Wildlife
We love feeding our local ducks & birds.
The fun actually starts by making the ducks a special treat that’s super easy to make with the kids.
All you need is:
2 cups Old Fashioned Quaker Oats
1 cup brown rice
1 bag frozen assorted vegetables (peas, corn, carrots and green beans)
Mix it together, grab your Kleenex Wet Wipes & you’re ready to go!
What are your plans for Spring Break?
Leave a comment below & share.
We spent this past week on a “hurrication” (the “vacation” you take while running away from a hurricane!).
Here are some highlights of our 2017 “hurrication”, thanks to Hurricane Irma.
2017 Hurrication Highlights
Living in South Florida is mostly fantastic, despite the hurricane scares.
This year was a little different.
Predictions of a direct hit from Hurricane Irma freaked us out enough to pack everything into our mini-van & make a run for it.
We stayed in a number of hotels along the way, but we kept moving as Irma’s path changed.
We made it all the way up to Alabama before we finally felt able to relax – safely out of the storm’s path.
Spending days on the road meant eating out more than we would like!
I always pickup the coconut flavor for myself, but we usually grab a few of the mango flavors too.
We settled back into our hotel to watch the storm from a video camera in front of our house.
The power stayed on almost all of the time, so we were able to see the wind & the rain.
Once the worst was over, I attempted to catch up on a few work emails missed during the last few days…. which wasn’t easy to do with the kids going stir-crazy!
We needed to get outside ASAP!
Luckily there was a park right next to our hurrication hotel, so we spent a few hours exploring Alabama’s great outdoors.
FINALLY, after a week, it was safe to drive through Florida & go back home.
We drove to Georgia in heavy traffic & spent the night.
The plan was to sleep early & wake up early to hit the road & beat traffic.
Believe it or not, the highways were packed ALL NIGHT.
This is a picture we took at 4am!
Our 6 hour drive turned into an 11.5 hour drive, but the kids were fantastic.
While the hurrication itself was stressful, it was replaced by the RELIEF to be back home to a house fully intact with AC, water & electricity.
Our only “damage” was a blown-over fence.
WE WERE LUCKY & grateful to be home.
Thank you to Liberté for sponsoring this post & helping cover some of our hurrication costs.
Who knew a fun day of go-karting would turn into an evening – actually a weekend – requiring pain relief?
That’s when you realize you aren’t as young as you used to be!
The day started innocently enough – a welcome day out of the office racing coworkers around the track.
We raced not only to record our best time, but also to beat each other’s best times.
Oh yea – this was serious business.
Maybe it was the intensity of the competition or maybe it was the adrenaline of speed, but once I arrived home, I realized I was in PAIN!
After limping around for a few hours, I admitted I could use some pain relief.
Always on the lookout for products with ingredients that are safe for the whole family, my wife handed me PROCure Epsom Salt Gel Rub.
I’ll admit it – I wasn’t convinced about this chemical-free approach to pain relief – but luckily this gel really works!
Go-karting was insanely fun & now that I know I can handle the pain, I’m ready to go again.
And because this is so easy to use on-the-go, I can keep one at my office for next time.
Make sure you have PROCure Epsom Salt Gel Rub when you need it – order it on Amazon here.