Posts Tagged ‘family travel’

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Shell, for which I was compensated. All opinions are my own.

My husband and I are like ying and yang. And I don’t just mean the black/white thing. I mean we are so different in many ways. One of the biggest differences is the fact that I love seeking new adventures and traveling and he’s 100% fine staying put.

We have had our moments of compromise though. Before kids we went on a Bahamian cruise and had the time of our lives. I’m trying to talk him into another one just the two of us but so far no luck.

Every year we visit Utah and we go back and forth about flying versus driving there. Thankfully, so far, every time I’ve won that debate. But I still have dreams to whisk the family away to family, or take a trip to visit relatives in Dubai, my husband thinks I’m certifiably nuts.

“Why don’t we drive to the beach?” He’ll say.

But I’m trying to settle down a little bit. Our family has been working on our summer bucket list and this summer we’ve decided we’re going to do more exploring close to home. We do live in the largest state in the continental US after all. There is a lot we haven’t seen. We’ve done Disney vacations (and don’t get me wrong, we’re not done). But I want to make more meaningful memories as a family that don’t break the bank.

Here are some ways I’m planning to save money while having fun this summer:

Researching discount/free days

There are so many fun places to go in our town and in other cities nearby. I plan to do some research for coupons and deal days to see what activities we can do for less and save some cash. My husband often has weekdays off because of his shift work, so we’ll try to take advantage of those off-day prices.

Pack snacks

We are usually pretty good about this but when we’re not, man it adds up fast. For shorter trips I’ll make sure to pack a few snacks to keep the kids from getting too hangry and save from having to stock up at every other convenient store.


My husband will be happy, my son who all of a sudden has terrible earaches on planes will be happy, and our wallets will be happy. While I do have a couple of work trips planned this summer, our personal trips will be fueled by well… car fuel. If you need help choosing a new car hopefully these four tips can get you going.

Fuel Rewards savings

I’m teaming up with Shell and the *Fuel Rewards® program through the end of the year. I just signed up for a Fuel Rewards® card and got “Instant Gold Status” which basically means I can save at least $.05/gallon at the pump (up to 20 gallons / visit) and earn points other places when I used the card. It’s not a credit card and doesn’t cost anything to sign up.

Shell fuel rewards

Packing well

Know how many times we’ve gone on trips and forgotten things like beach toys, or sunglasses, pieces of bathing suits and more. Then we have to find a gift shop and pay the premiums for those items. I’m going to make a packing list this time and hopefully avoid that trouble.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

Hopefully if we do all these things we’ll be able to pack in one or two more trips than we normally do. Of course we’ll be blogging (and probably vlogging) along the way. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m teaming up with Shell and the Fuel Rewards® program through the end of the year. As a part of this partnership we’ll be documenting our road travels. But first we’ve gotta nail down exactly where to go and what to do. So far a few on my list are: South Padre Island, Camping (maybe… unless it’s too hot), New Orleans, Dallas, Houston or San Antonio.

Do you have any suggestions? What are your summer plans?

I love partnering with brands that help us make meaningful memories together as a family. That is why I have teamed up with Shell for this post. Of course all opinions are my own.

*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the “Existing Member Introductory Period”. If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the “New Member Introductory Period”. The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the “Introductory Period”) is the “Qualification Period”. You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the “Benefit Period”. During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit or call (888) 603-0473.



I’ve had several people ask me which I like more: a Disney Cruise Vacation or a Walt Disney World Vacation. I’ve already broken down my family’s favorites and why. We adore both. Your first thought about a cruise may be that there isn’t as much to do. But trust me, it’s not like you’re just sitting on a boat all day with nothing to do but lay out and eat. There’s actually a lot going on and so many things to do on a Disney Cruise.

Boogie down at a character dance party in the atrium

We’ve been lucky enough to do two Disney Cruises. A little over a year ago we did a 7-night cruise on the Disney Wonder from Galveston to save on airfare. Then this month, as a part of the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration we went on a 3-night cruise from Port Canaveral on the now reimagined Disney Wonder. I wish I could say we did everything but I’d probably need a few more under my belt before I can say that.

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.

First off, in order to make the most out of your Disney Cruise you’ll want to download the Disney Cruise Line app. Even without wi-fi the app alerts you to events happening during the day, character meet and greet times, and more. You can also use it to check out your room service menu (did I mention FREE room service?) and mark your favorites and “to-do” items. You’ll also get a Personal Navigator delivered to your room daily with an easy-to-read chart showing what’s going on each day and when.

While I know there is more, like Star Wars Day at Sea and Marvel Day at Sea on certain sailings–this is a list of our favorites and some things I can’t wait to try… Here are 100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Check back in a bit for a printable checklist to see how many you can complete in one cruise!

100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Not sure what there is to do on a Disney Cruise? Here's a long list to print and checkoff.

1. Attend the Oceaneer Club and Lab open house
2. Sail away deck party
3. Eat soft serve ice cream
4. Enter your kid in a baby race (Diaper Dash)
5. All you can eat soft pretzels
6. Test your knowledge at Disney Tune Trivia

100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Not sure what there is to do on a Disney Cruise? Here's a long list to print and checkoff.

7. Belt some tunes at Disney Karaoke
8. Soak in the hot tub
9. Enjoy all you can eat at a lunch buffet
10. Play at the arcade
11. Watch a Disney movie at the theater
12. Watch a Broadway-Caliber live show in the evening before or after dinner
13. Watch a comedy show

100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Not sure what there is to do on a Disney Cruise? Here's a long list to print and checkoff.
14. Splash down a waterslide
15. Play the Magic Quest scavenger hunt game
16. Watch a magic show
17. Grab a burger (or chicken fingers) and fries by the pool
18. Play Disney Trivia
19. Catch a movie still in theaters
20. See what’s on TV in your room – Disney classics play around the clock

100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Not sure what there is to do on a Disney Cruise? Here's a long list to print and checkoff.

21. Party at the Pirate Night deck party
22. Visit the adult-only pool
23. Sit back and enjoy the dinner-time entertainment
24. Run (or walk) in a 5K (on Castaway Cay)
25. Get a facial at the spa
26. Hit the gym
27. Enjoy a fireworks show

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.28. Meet your favorite Disney princess
29. Check out a Disney vacation club preview
30. Get character autographs
31. Play Family Feud
32. Dance at a poolside jam
33. Enjoy a dessert buffet
34. Take a walking ship guided tour
100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Not sure what there is to do on a Disney Cruise? Here's a long list to print and checkoff.
35. Discover your towel animal of the day
36. Enjoy a live band
37. Test your Disney knowledge and play Mickey Mania
38. Get your groove on at a Club D dance party
39. Try your luck at BINGO
40. Meet Captain Mickey
41. Listen to a live piano serenade

Comparing a Disney Cruise vs Disney World Disney Cruise vs Disney World Vacation. 10 reasons a Disney Cruise may be better for your family.
42.Dine at a Character breakfast or see Mickey at Animator’s Palate
43. Kids can enjoy super sloppy science
44. Take a late-night stroll around an empty deck
45. Play shuffleboard
46. Order a late-night room service treat
47. Play basketball
48. Get a massage

100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Not sure what there is to do on a Disney Cruise? Here's a long list to print and checkoff.
49. Take a picture with Minnie Mouse
50. Kids play capture the flag
51. Ask your waiter if the know any magic tricks
52. Pin trade with cast members
53. Pizza Pizza Pizza
54. Watch a game in the sports bar

100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Not sure what there is to do on a Disney Cruise? Here's a long list to print and checkoff.
55. Participate in a Disney Fish gift exchange
56. Boogie down at a character dance party in the atrium
57. Play mini golf
58. Run/walk around the track on the deck
59. Ride up and down the elevator
60. Check out the art gallery
61. Family pool and movie-watching
62. Order room service for breakfast

Participate in a Disney Fish gift exchange
63. Order 2 desserts
64. Eat lamb/steak/lobster and other fine delicacies
65. Enjoy a variety show
66. Take your kids in for fun kids club activities
67. Go clubbing while the kids play
68. Play Match Your Mate
69. Try a snorkeling excursion

100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Not sure what there is to do on a Disney Cruise? Here's a long list to print and checkoff.
70. Talk to your room host or wait staff about where they’re from
71. Shop for souvenirs
72. Try a yoga or fitness class
73. Get a fruity drink
74. Attend a mixology seminar (21+)
75. Bring your toddler to the splash pad
76. Attend a craft session

77. Watch the sunrise/sunset from the top deck (or from your verandah).
78. Check out the VIBE lounge for teens
79. Tour the EDGE club for 11-14 year olds at their open house
80. Play in a Pictionary Challenge
81. Play Pixar Trivia
82. Have your photos taken by a professional photographer
83. Basketball free throw tournament

Biracial Disney Princess Series: My Little Princess- A cute and creative mother-daughter photo series featuring a biracial girl dressed up as Disney Princesses. Part 8: Ariel
84. Do a photoshoot
85. Play “So You Think You Know Your Family”
86. Watch (or play in) a ping pong tournament
87. Take a stab at some ice carving
88. Anyone Can Cook (attending a cooking seminar)
89. Learn new skills in an animation class
90. Attend an ice cream social

91.Watch your prince or princess get a makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique
92. Stay out late while your kids are at the kids club
93. Play Sports Trivia
94. Play Movie Challenge Poolside
95. Watch another amazing live-show
96. Make a sand castle and explore Castaway Cay (select itineraries)
97. Play Family Fusion

Things to do on a Disney Cruise
98. Buy your favorite photo you had taken during the cruise
99. Fly through the AquaDuck water slide (on the Disney Dream and Fantasy)
100. Book another Disney Cruise while onboard (and save!)

Have you been on a Disney Cruise? What were some of your favorite things to do on a Disney Cruise?

100 things to do on a Disney Cruise. Not sure what there is to do on a Disney Cruise? Here's a long list to print and checkoff.

I’ve always wanted to be a reporter and I’ve always loved the Disney Parks. Combine the two and some awesome kind of dream job would be to be a Disney Parks reporter. Like if Walt Disney World® Resort had a news team, I’d be the lead reporter giving the scoop on all of the fun rides and restaurants to hit up with your family when visiting the parks.

Interracial family at Disney World. Multiracial family blogger

Well a couple of months ago that dream was basically realized when Disney flew my family and me to Orlando and gave us a free Walt Disney World® Resort vacation to capture our Disney do-list in a four-part series for showcasing some of the Disney Parks magic we know and love.

Now for you, my blog readers, I can give you some of the behind-the-scenes scoop. For one, my husband who you know is as camera shy as they get, – was a big trooper. Lil’ J has had a camera in her face since birth so she was a gem, and little man was something else. I mean we were at Walt Disney World® Resort, he was ready to play, and the crew just had to capture his joy.

We stayed at the beautiful Disney’s Art of Animation Resort which is easily our favorite right now purely for the Cars cast. Every evening when we came back to the hotel we had to make a trip around Radiator Springs to say hi to all of his friends.

In the end we knocked out all of our favorites:

Meeting Tiana
Turtle Talk with Crush
Chatting with Elsa and Anna
Dumbo the Flying Elephant® Attraction
Toy Story Mania® Attraction
… Actually this list can get pretty long fast. You can watch our videos to see what we enjoyed.

And I’ll narrow down a few of our favorite NEW things we experienced:

1. Met Moana – She’s currently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios®.
2. The new Frozen Ever After ride – One of my new favorite rides for sure. We all loved it. The atmosphere was beautiful and we were singing the whole way through. There were some backwards riding and a little drop, and the kids both had a blast.
3. We hitched a ride on some Main Street, U.S.A.® transportation and my kids sent a trail of bubbles all the way down. Their huge smiles were contagious.
4. Met Gaston outside of his tavern– He is HILARIOUS! He asked my husband if he wanted to feel his biceps too and my husband politely declined.

5. Show Mickey Mouse a cool toy– My kids lost their minds when we saw Mickey and Minnie in Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park. But the cutest part was when my son ran for his Mack truck (from the Cars movie) he had with us the entire trip and ran back to show it to Mickey. I almost cried. He still talks about that today and can’t wait to go see him again.

We’ve taken four trips to Walt Disney World® Resort (plus two to Disneyland ® Resort and two Disney Cruise Line vacation) in two years and we STILL haven’t seen it all.

With each trip the magic never fades. Walt Disney World® Resort has endless magic.

Enter to win

Essence Communications Inc. is sponsoring The Endless Magic Sweepstakes so you and your family can experience it as well! Visit to enter for a chance to win a 4-night/5-day Walt Disney World® Resort vacation for four.

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Eight monuments, four Smithsonian Museums, one Capitol tour and countless subway stops in two and a half days.

I don’t even know where to begin when describing this trip to Washington D.C. with my daughter. It started out as a plan to go and see a BYU football game. Then we changed our minds and decided not to go to a game but to wait until after the new African American history museum grand opening and to just make a mother/daughter trip out of it. I’d never been. She’d never been. We were going on an adventure together.

Washington DC with kids

A huge perk of homeschooling is being able to take off in the middle of the school year and head for a vacation anywhere with fewer crowds all while making lessons out of it.

I spent the weeks before loosely planning what we’d try to see and do and walked away plotting our next trip.

If you’ve never been, you really must put D.C. on your list of places to go.

Before going on and on about how much I loved it I should disclose that we strictly enjoyed the National Mall this time around. Though we toyed with venturing out to a few other places, there was so much to see and do and since we only had a couple of days we tried to make the most out of this historical area for our first trip.

The week before our vacation I checked out some books about Washington, D.C. to read together and I bought a couple more. I think I’ll write up a separate post just outlining a Washington D.C. unit study for homeschool or people wanting to make a lesson out of it with young kids to let you know how I worked that out.

We stayed with our generous and wonderful friends who live in Fairfax, VA. So we were just a subway ride away from the National Mall. That was an adventure in and of itself and got me excited to go back with my train-loving son.

Washington DC with kids

Washington DC with kids

We got off at the Smithsonian stop and popped up around the corner from the Washington Monument. There was nothing like seeing my 6-year-old daughter jump up and down and screaming the icon by name.

We kicked things off with an ice cream bar from a stand right there, then walked over to the breathtaking 555 ft tall monument.

She wanted to touch it herself. We couldn’t go inside (closed for repairs) but she was happy to feel the outside and she took a little video on her camera.

Washington DC with kids

I should mention I used one camera and one lens for this entire trip. My Canon EOS 80D for photos and video (though I mostly focused on photos for this trip). And I rented a Canon EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM wide angle lens that was perfect for all of the huge monuments and buildings. On a crop sensor camera this lens works wonders outdoors, and even indoors since you can stop the shutter speed down lower than usual without worrying about much blur.

From the Washington Monument we walked to the Lincoln Memorial, which was one of the two I was most looking forward to seeing. It wasn’t a quick walk with a 6-year-old who was already getting tired from a long day, but she was a trooper, and talking about the huge statue we’d seen in books that we were about to see kept her motivated to keep going.

Washington DC with kids

On the way we saw the beautiful World War II Memorial and walked along the reflecting pool. Once we reached the stairs Lil’ J said she was going to walk on the steps Martin Luther King Jr. walked on. We didn’t notice it as we walked in but on the way out we saw exactly where he stood and gave his I Have a Dream Speech.


Inside the Lincoln Memorial we traded photos with someone next to us to get a picture together in front of Abraham Lincoln’s statue.

To the left is the Gettysburg Address in the largest font I’ve ever seen. The whole scene was truly breathtaking.

Washington DC with kids

Washington DC with kids

Next we saw the Vietnam Memorial and I had one of the most difficult discussions to date (until two days later at the African American history museum) about war. We talked to a Vietnam Veteran who volunteered there and told us more about the memorial and I helped Lil’ J read some of the names.


We walked over to the Korean War Memorial next which was just across the way. She was really intrigued by this memorial and took some photos of her own.


Lastly for this first afternoon we visited the Jefferson Memorial. It was really funny because other tourists were so enthusiastic about her. They were cheering for her as I took her photos and then asked to take pictures of their own with her. It was oddly amusing.


I wasn’t prepared for all of the questions Lil’ J would have about each monument. I found myself Googling information about the presidents and dates to refresh my memory. History wasn’t even close to being my favorite subject and I don’t remember much. In many ways I feel like I was learning for the first time right along with her.


We went home with our friends after this and she spent the rest of the evening playing with their kids. The next day our plan was to visit the last few memorials we missed then go to some Smithsonian Museums and take a Capitol tour. We didn’t get to visit the White House which was disappointing but I’m armed with tips to get in next time.

I’m just going to photo dump on the rest of this post and save more details about the education side of it for an upcoming more homeschooling-focused entry but I have to leave you with one important takeaway from this experience.

Washington D.C. is definitely a trip to put on the bucket list for any American. There’s so much history, entertainment and a real serene beauty surrounding many of the monuments. The best part of it all though? Coming home and hearing my daughter share her experience with her family and friends.

At a birthday party last weekend she asked to show some pictures of our trip to her friends, and I overheard her telling them about the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. She pointed out the monuments on a motorcycle video game at an arcade with her daddy, and notices things that remind her of the sights we saw and memories we made.

Most of all, I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to enjoy this experience with my daughter. We came, we saw, we captured, we conquered. We celebrated a milestone and made memories we’ll cherish forever.

Washington DC with kids

Washington DC with kids

Washington DC with kids

Washington DC with kids

Washington DC with kids

Washington DC with kids


Washington DC with kids

For more photography tips from yours truly, check out my new photography course: Child’s Play: Simple Tips for Photographing Children.

From birthdays to family vacations, to holidays and more, I’m teaming up with Canon every month to share how we capture our special milestones. I’ll also dish out tips to help you better capture your special moments with your family. Shout out to my favorite camera brand for sponsoring this series.

What to do in Washington DC with kids. #traveling

Spending quality time as a family is something I treasure, and so important to my happiness. Actually I can see how it affects my whole family’s mood when we’re giving each other our focused love and attention.

My babies are only going to be little for so long and I am obsessed with absorbing this stage. While cuddling them I’m taking more time to soak it in and be grateful. While playing, even if it’s doing something I don’t particularly like, I’m enjoying their joyful smiles. It’s also why I’m so immersed in photographing as much as I can. I love that we can flip through our family photo albums together and remember all of the fun we’ve had. I believe cherishing those moments and instilling the importance of family is invaluable.

So here’s a glimpse at some of what’s going in the photo book from our South Padre Vacation:

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

Family vacation photography tips.

I feel like I did a pretty good job this vacation of balancing the moments I wanted to pull my camera out and capture what was going on, and the times when I’d just enjoy my company. This pretty much involved me snapping some shots when we first got somewhere, or started an activity, then putting it away for a little bit and playing with my husband and kids. I was so proud of myself for passing my camera over to my husband and making sure I got in some of the shots too.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

Obviously at the beach I wanted to be extra careful not to get my camera wet or get sand on it. The sand part wasn’t incredibly easy to do but I found if I kept my hands clean I could keep my camera clean. Then I only set it down when it was safely tucked away in my camera bag and underneath a blanket.

I used my EOS 80D for most of my photos on this trip. It is lighter than my EOS 5D Mark II and convenient because I was able to easily switch between taking photographs and capturing video.

For me it’s so important I do something with my photos once I’m back home. I try to print some out to hang or make a photo books when I have a lot of photos. I like to keep my photo books out and within reach because my kids love flipping through them all the time.

Same goes for my videos. I try to turn them into something we can enjoy versus just clips of video one after another to scroll through and press play on. Here’s what I made from this trip:

When it comes to capturing vacation memories I like to try to remember a few things.

1. Get a variety of shots: Some may include people, some may just be the location, and don’t forget those tiny details, like the shells my kids collected on the beach.

2. Candids are great: It can be tempting to plop your family in front of a landmark, snap a photo and call it a day, but vacations are a great time to get candid photos and capture the emotion and fun around a trip. Look at taking photos of the action as well as reactions to things going on.

3. Get in the shot: I almost forgot this this trip. It wasn’t until I was looking at some of the photos I took of my husband with the kids that I realized I hadn’t been in any yet. I passed my camera off to him (after switching the camera to AV mode so he couldn’t mess it up) and played in the sand with my kids while he did the best he could (and it wasn’t bad!)

4. Switch to video now and then: I don’t need to keep rolling on every moment of the trip, but press record for 5-10 seconds every now and then and string the pieces together later to really capture the emotion from the moment.

5. Use a zoom lens: I love my primes, don’t get me wrong, but on vacations when you’re walking around and in a variety of situations, zoom lenses are so handy. I mostly used my Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L lens to take in more of the background, but I also loved my Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens when I wanted to get closer.

For more of my vacation photography tips check out my article or my photography course on the Canon Digital Learning Center.

From birthdays to family vacations, to holidays and more, I’m teaming up with Canon every month to share how we capture our special milestones. I’ll also dish out tips to help you better capture your special moments with your family. Shout out to my favorite camera brand for sponsoring this series.

We’ve gone on a lot of Disney vacations over the last year and a half. While that never gets old (to me) I’ve really started looking forward to other places we could visit. This especially now that we have a more flexible homeschool schedule.

With my husband’s schedule and shift work it’s possible to get away two nights during his three days off a week. But we don’t take advantage of that very much. Hopefully this is the start of a new series of adventures.

Soon we’ll be heading to DC, and just before school started we took a road trip down to the coast for a South Padre family vacation.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

My husband and I have lived in Texas for eight years now, but we had yet to visit the coast. I’d asked friends over the years which beaches they liked. I’d heard Port Aransas, Mustang Island, and a couple others but most people told me South Padre Island was their favorite. It was also one of the furthest away from us.

About a six hour drive with breaks, I worried someone might not survive the trip down there. Three and a half hours to Dallas was the furthest we had driven with them before so we didn’t know how they’d handle almost double that distance.

It’s absolutely beautiful driving onto the island and if I wasn’t half asleep (I can not stay awake on car trips for the life of me) I would have tried to take a picture of the long bridge from the Texas coast out to this little island.

During Spring Break I imagine this place is packed and crazy, but it felt nearly deserted and the beach was beautiful.

So if you’re thinking of heading out there with your family at some point, don’t think you can’t have fun in what’s commonly known as a party town.

On our way down we drove through Harlingen, TX and stopped at a Mexican bakery called Laura’s Bakery that sold this delicious sweet bread called mollettes. They only take cash but everything is very inexpensive. We actually went to an ATM only to find that we had enough change for what we wanted.

After that last pit stop we went straight to our hotel at Holiday Inn Express South Padre. We partnered with Intercontinental Hotel Group and booked the room using IHG Rewards points they hooked us up with which are as good as cash.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

I feel like I’m terrible at using rewards like frequent flier miles because I rarely get to take advantage of them before they expire. Other programs like pizza or take-out rewards (ok, or most anything involving food) I rock at and often get free meals.

IHG Rewards work similar where you earn points every time you stay at one of their participating hotels. That’s not just Holiday Inn Express but any hotel that’s a part of the Intercontinental Hotel Group.

My kids, especially my daughter are really fascinated with hotels. The continental breakfast, big fluffy beds, the elevators… It’s all just too much to handle.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

Their reaction when we walked into the room would make you think we walked right into Magic Kingdom (I have video proof coming soon). They busted open the refrigerator, checked out the bathroom, extra sink, and the view outside the window.

Naturally jumping on the bed was next.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

After we settled in for a bit, we changed and headed out to the beach. The people who got us all checked in were so kind to point us in the direction which was really just a quick walk outside the side door.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

We spent the rest of the afternoon out there. I didn’t realize how long some sand and waves could entertain my kids and shoot… Myself.

It was so relaxing laying there and listening to the water, and just watching my kids have fun. I feel like I can get down with the beach vacations. Big T was more scared of the waves (I think he’s seen The Good Dinosaur one too many times) but Lil’ J, my water baby, was in heaven.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

We asked the woman who checked us in at the hotel for food recommendations and she gave us a long list of places to eat, including some family friendly places.

Since we had a long drive in and were pooped from the long day we ordered takeout from Gabriella’s, a yummy Italian restaurant.

My kids had never slept in the same bed before and I worried my son might fall out (not enough to actually share a bed with him myself) so I lined the floor next to him with some of those comfortable pillows just in case.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

He didn’t fall out. Thankfully.

The next day we woke up shortly before breakfast ended. The kids got their fill from muffins and juice and my husband and I enjoyed omelettes, bacon, biscuits and gravy.

We decided to explore the island in the morning then head to the beach for the rest of the day. We drove around and stopped by an interesting looking store called Jaws… Easily noticeable from the street because of the giant shark head entrance. There was a lot of overpriced stuff in there but also some weird dead baby sharks in a jar. I took a snapchat photo but my phone didn’t save it… Probably a good thing cause it was really weird.

We considered going to a popular water park called Schlitterbahn, but decided against it since the weather was iffy and our kids aren’t into water thrills.

Instead we visited an amazing place called Turtle Inc. It was right across the street from our hotel. It’s a rescue, rehabilitation and release facility for sea turtles.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

Of course your kids can’t touch the animals, but that doesn’t make them any less fascinating. You’re up close and personal with half a dozen of these beautiful creatures. We walked around and read about each one, why they were there and if they’d be able to go back into the ocean.

Merry Christmas was the most friendly. She swam right up to us and seemed to be waving hello.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

Lil’ J loved Maddie, who they actually lifted up and out of her tank to take back to the ocean while we were there.

This place is free to visit but asks that you leave a donation to help keep the organization going and we had no problem chipping in.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the beach again. We had our own little stretch of sand and attempted to build sand castles together. Lil’ J brought her mermaid tail and we FINALLY did part 2 of her Ariel photoshoot that we started back in December. I’ll post those in another week or so!

We really enjoyed the warmth and sand and waves. Although my son was more nervous about the water, he sat on my lap and let the water run over us together. It was amazingly soothing.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

When the sun started to set we took the short walk back to the hotel and washed off before going out to BurgerFi for dinner.

I hadn’t eaten beef since March since watching Cowspiracy. I gave in and bought a burger here and holy cow it was delicious. The kids enjoyed their grilled cheese and fries… The fries were wonderful.

We headed back to the hotel and watched a little bit of the Olympics before getting rest before our long drive home the next day.

During our journey back my husband said he’d love to go back there again.–An exciting statement since he’s not much of a traveler.

There are a couple of things I wish we had done that we didn’t on this trip.

Visit Port Isabel Lighthouse: I was barely conscious when we drove in and totally missed it. On the way back we were just starting our long drive and didn’t want to stop. Had I read the historical significance about it I definitely would have made a point to stop and get a photo.

Eat at Pirates Landing: We saw it on the “kid friendly” list that Holiday Inn Express handed us but we thought it was far away seeing as it wasn’t on the island. Turns out it was just directly off the bridge off the island and not far at all.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

When we go back again we’ll definitely be doing these things again:

1. Visit the beach: Duh! But maybe we’ll branch out and visit some of the other sides of the island. A reader told me the North Shore has some amazing shells.

2. Staying at Holiday Inn Express: The room was so spacious, the beds were comfortable, the staff was friendly, the pillows rocked, and I love that we had a microwave and fridge for leftovers. It worked out great since we were so close to the beach and we had some snacks to enjoy and reheat when we came back to our room.

South Padre Family vacation and fun exploring the Texas coast. List of some things to do and where to stay.

3. Visiting Turtle Inc.: Of all the places we saw, this place was the most crowded but I could see why with the educational aspect and beauty in the turtles you could watch, and it being such a great stop for families. We didn’t go watch the release of Maddie but I think that’s something we’d try to do next time.

I took so many photos and cute videos that I’m working on editing and I’ll share those in another post hopefully in a few days. I’m so glad we got away for this quick trip and explored more of this fun state we live in. I hope this is just the beginning of our journey exploring it together.

What family travel adventures have you enjoyed lately?

If you’re planning a last minute trip before Labor Day make sure you sign up for IHG Rewards. It’s free and you’ll get 65,000 bonus points plus a free night to share at one of their beautiful hotels (for reference, we used about 50,000 points for our stay). Aren’t going anywhere soon? Spread the love and share the points with a loved one with IHG’s Share Forever program.

I love making memories with my family and exploring more of this beautiful world we live in, which is why I partnered with Intercontinental Hotel Group on this post. All opinions are my own.

My daughter and I have been on numerous trips together, just the two of us. Our first was to New York City when she was just a month old. Our last was a year ago when we went to Disneyland. When I got word that I won a 2016 BlogHer Voice of the Year Award in the video category and that I was selected to present my work on stage at the conference in LA, I decided to go and bring my little guy along. See more about that near the bottom of this post. But first… Disneyland!

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.
We came a day early and spent it at Disneyland with our good friends The Bells. It was his first time and he was most excited to ride the Radiator Springs Racer ride. We got a fastpass early in the morning then went on some other rides while we awaited our time.

One thing I love about Disneyland is that the two parks are so close together, so park hopping is easy and you can get around fast with little ones. In my experience it’s best to get there early (at opening if possible, especially in the middle of the summer when it’s going to be packed) while lines are short and knock as much as you can out before lunch.

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.

Now I have to explain his excitement about this “Lightning McQueen” ride… He watches the YouTube video of the ride over and over and over. He’s probably seen it 100 times and seems to have it memorized. He barely hit the height requirement and even though his sister said it was fast he insisted “it’s not scary” and said he wanted to ride it. So on we went.

Poor guy wasn’t very tall and he could barely see all of the characters as we drove through, though he knew what to expect. When it got to the racing part I asked him “Are you ready to go fast?!” “YEA!” he yelled.

When we took off he loved it at first. He was smiling and giggling. As soon as we started going up and down the hills his little face contorted in a more fearful look but he didn’t cry as we flew up and down and around the track.

When we slowed down to the finish line he said “that was too fast” but then waved and said hi to Lightning McQueen and Mater who were awaiting us on the sidelines.

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.

I asked if he wanted to go again and he said no, but later that night he requested to go again. So we’ll see what he says next time we make it back. Either way he enjoyed it a lot more than his big sister who was in hysterics when we got off last year and says she never wants to do it again.

People often ask me what age I think is great for Disneyland/Walt Disney world trips. I think under 3 is a no-brainer cause they’re free. At 3 it’s a little tricky because that’s when they need a ticket and you worry they won’t remember. But let me tell you something… This guy had a blast.

He knew exactly where we were. We started the day at Disney California Adventure but as soon as we park hopped over to Disneyland and he saw that castle (though much smaller than Cinderella’s) he knew exactly where we were.

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.

“Look, there’s Disneyland! Oooh! Mom, look! We are at Disneyland!”

Yes baby! You’re right. I told him.

He’s not the most patient child but he did well in the lines considering. There were a few tears when he thought it was his turn and the ride started without us but we worked through it.

We went on so many other rides. Mostly trying to hit the ones that aren’t at Walt Disney World since we seem to make it out there more frequently. Man let me see if I can name them all. In one day at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure with my 3-year-old we did:

Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree Xs 2

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.
Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadcoasters

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.
Tuck and Roll’s Drive ‘Em Buggies (bumper cars)
Heimlich Chew Chew Train
Flik’s Flyers
Little Mermaid Ride
Radiator Springs Racers

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.

Jungle Cruise
Pirates of the Caribbean
King Arthur Carrousel

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.
Disneyland Monorail
Snow White’s Scary Adventure
Pinocchio’s Daring Journey

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.

Casey Jr Circus Train
Dumbo’s Flying Elephants

We also got to meet Flick, Mater, Red and Mickey.

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.

I may be missing a few but I’ll add them as I remember.

I documented the story on Snapchat and Instagram’s new stories but beware… On Instagram you can’t save an entire story at one time. At least you couldn’t yet when we were there. I didn’t save all of my clips and they’re now gone. My biggest regret is not recording his entire reaction to the Radiator Springs Racer Ride. I only have a 10 second clip from the beginning and he gets angry every time he watches it and it stops since he recognizes the music from the other times he’s watched it. So if you document your Disney trip and want to save pieces of it I recommend you take your picture/video for yourself first THEN take one for social media purposes.

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.

How to do Disneyland in a day with a toddler.

Despite mostly failing in the video regard, I got plenty of cute pics of my little guy enjoying our day together at the parks. He loves looking at the pictures and watching the videos and hasn’t stopped talking about our trip to California.

Then the next day on stage with my little guy I didn’t manage to pass my camera off but I’m hoping some of the photographers at the conference captured some of our special moment accepting our honor.


Leigh Ann Torres was sweet enough to snap a pic and tag me on twitter. I was watching my silly boy debate jumping off the stage while my video started to play.

Afterwards I took him on the escalators he’d been begging to ride all day and we went up and down for nearly an hour. He may have been just as happy as he was at Disneyland.


Even though all of this was just a week ago it already seems like a blur. Now we’re back at home, my kids united (and enjoying each other’s company after their time apart). I wish I could just freeze these special moments together. Just as special as the moments my son and I shared at Disneyland was the sweet embrace he had with his sister as we got off the plane. She grabbed his hand and asked him how his trip went and he eagerly shared. I recorded a quick video but again… On Snapchat which is now gone. GAH!


This whole weekend is an example of the moments I wish I could freeze and enjoy a little longer. From a mommy/son trip to seeing my two little loves enjoying a Popsicle together. Don’t me like me, remember to capture those sweet memories on your memory card, not just your Snap story.

I love cherishing the moments with our families and wish I could freeze so many, and I love brands that bring our family together which is why I partnered with Unilever Ice Cream and Mirum Shopper on this post. All opinions are my own. This summer stock up on your favorites from the Ice Cream truck with the buy 3, get 1 free in-store offer available at Target and enjoy some #FamilyFreezeTime of your own.

In my reader survey quite a few of you mentioned you wanted more Disney posts because you love it and/or are planning your trips. A few others said you’d prefer to see a little less Disney posts. Between my love for Disney travel and the animated movies, I’m taking this all to heart and going to try to keep a balance. That means one Disney post every week or two. So those who love it like I do get their fix, and I won’t be overdoing it for those who could do with a little less Mickey (it’s hard to believe these people exist!).

Lately I’ve been feeling like baby fever was replaced by the travel bug. What started as a bucket-list goal to take my kids to Disney World before I turned 30 has turned into a dream to visit all of the worldwide Disney parks, and save for an annual family trip.

I have a growing list of other places I want to take my kids, but we’ll get more into that in another post.

5 secrets for doing disney world with preschoolers

I’ve had several people ask me what the best age to visit Disney World is. And if it’s worth taking young kids. “They won’t even remember it!” or “They can’t really enjoy it” are phrases I sometimes hear, but I beg to differ.

We took big T to Disney World last year when he was almost 2 and while he doesn’t remember that trip, he did have a blast. Most of the rides at the Disney Parks are for all heights and ages. And since he was 1 we didn’t have to pay for his flight or his park tickets (kids tickets are free up to 3). Now at almost 3, I kid you not, he talks about Disney World every day. He talks about “spin fast at Disney World” (the tea cups) Goofy’s airplane (the Barnstormer), Mickey Mouse choo choo (WDW Railroad), and more! He loves flipping through my phone looking at photos and videos (I’m still working on editing a video) and talking about our trips. Going to Disney World with preschoolers can be a lot of fun.

I’ve learned a lot over this last year and I’ve shared what I’ve learned and some of my Disney tips. Things like rider swap, stroller rentals and healthy kids meals with Mickey Checks–but this time, on our 4th Disney trip, I learned even more tips for doing Disney World with preschoolers. Things I didn’t know before. Hopefully you’ll find this helpful as you plan your trips with little ones, and I’d love it if the more experienced Disney travelers shared their tips in the comments as well!

1. There are fun playground areas in each of the parks

5 secrets for doing disney world with preschoolers: Disney World playgrounds

If you get tired of lines or the kids just need a break, I love heading out to the different play areas at each park. In Magic Kingdom we love to take a raft ride over to Tom Sawyer Island. Where there’s plenty of bridges to cross, stairs to climb and fun to be had. But this is just the beginning there are fun play areas and attractions at each park for preschoolers.

In Epcot we love the ImageWorks play area after the Journey into Imagination with Figment ride. It’s a fun and colorful interactive play area.

In Animal Kingdom there’s the boneyard that’s a huge playground the kids.


And in Hollywood studios we LOVED playing at the Honey I Shrunk the Kids playground during both of our visits, but sadly it will be closing April 1st 2016. Don’t worry though, with Toy Story Land coming soon, I’m sure it will be replaced with something even cooler, and much more relevant for this generation.

2. Disney has childcare

Disney World Secrets: Child watch

You may have heard of Disney’s in-room childcare services, but you might not have known they have other childcare centers around the property. Centers like Lilo’s Playhouse at the Polynesian Resorts where kids can bake, do science, play games and interact with characters. Right now they’re open to local residents/visitors as well as Disney guests. And for $55 you can escape to the parks for some adult fun while your kids are having fun in safe hands.

3. Baby Care Centers

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Baby Care Centers

Each Disney Park is equipped with a baby care center where you can find everything from a dimmed room to nurse to feeding areas with high chairs, comfortable changing stations, to extra diapers, wipes, and baby food. I wish I knew about this on our trip last year. There’s even a room older siblings can sit and play while they wait.

4. Strollers can roll on the monorail

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Monorail

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Monorail

Last time when we stayed off site we needed to fold the stroller, take the car, pay to park, unpack the stroller, and head into the parks. If you stay on site at a property that’s on the monorail system you can strap the kids in in your room and ride all the way there without needing to collapse the thing and squish your lunch (yes, you can bring your own food!).

5. Disney Jr. Pool Parties

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Disney Jr. Pool Party

And other fun when you stay on property at a Disney Resort hotel. The pool party at the Nemo pool (at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort) was a highlight for my kids who love the water. Lil’ J danced and placed the trivia games. It was pretty cute and something I didn’t realize existed.

6. Magic Bands can be kid-sized

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Magic Band Sizes

I’m a little embarrassed that I didn’t know this before. So just in case I’m not the only one who didn’t know I’m sharing this tip! It wasn’t until the last day that I realized the Magic Bands had an outer layer that could be pulled off to fit the younger kids better (a nice cast member told us right before we left!). Big T didn’t want to wear his and Lil’ J found hers uncomfortable because we had double-backed the wristband. Once we took it off it fit much better. You’re welcome!

7. Disney Springs is another adventure

Disney World Secrets for Preschoolers: Disney Springs Car Boat Ride

If you arrive in Orlando the day before your park experience begins, you can still start enjoying Disney World at Disney Springs. What was formerly known as Downtown Disney has been transformed into a full-fledged attraction of its own. We ate at the Boathouse one night and my son pointed out the window and said “Car on the water!” I brushed him off but when I turned around I saw exactly that. Then we went for a ride on one of the Amphicars and it was one of our favorite parks of the entire trip.

In the coming weeks I’ll also be sharing: Top Disney World rides for scaredy cat preschoolers (Lil’ J’s review), what I learned staying on property vs off property, and Disney World photography tips. If there’s another topic you’re interested in let me know!

Secrets to doing walt disney world with preschoolers

Have you been to Disney with a preschooler? What other tips do you have or would you like to know?

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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