Barcelo Maya Caribe and Beach Resort Review

Barcelo Maya Caribe and Beach Resort Review

This post contains affiliate links which means I could earn a small commission, if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. For more information, read my full Disclosure HERE. Thank you for supporting More than Main Street!

Barcelo Maya Caribe and Beach Resort Review

We’d go back to the Barceló Maya Grand All Inclusive Resort in Riviera Maya Mexico tomorrow if we could! About an hour south of Cancun’s International Airport, The Barceló Maya Grand is actually like five resorts in one! And although we did not take our children with us on this particular trip, the resort is quite family friendly. We think the Barceló Maya Caribe and Beach Resort is the perfect destination to vacation with kids, as a couple, or even solo!

Here are my top five reasons why we loved the Barceló Maya Grand All Inclusive Resort:

The Beaches!

Have you ever dreamt of crystal clear water and white sandy beaches??

Well, I know I have! And the beaches here delivered!

The beaches are incredible! Very large with plenty of room for everyone and the water temperatures even in January were perfect! The have a pier in the center of the resort that you can see tons of fish from…several of our friends said they went snorkeling and saw a lot of fish and turtles too!

There are plenty of chairs and towels available, restrooms and bars nearby. We’ve been two years in a row, and one year they had servers that would bring you drinks on the beach and the second year they did not. So, that’s up in the air!Barcelo Riviera Maya beachesBeaches at The Barcelo Riviera Maya Resort

The Resort!

The Barceló has five different sections or “resorts” if you will. In my opinion, this is really just a way to distinguish where you are in the resort, because it’s massive. From talking with other guests, the only real different area/upgrade is The Palace.

The resort has too many pools to count (seven actually), swim up bars, an adults only pool, an Olympic pool with lanes for swimming laps, and a water park! Need I say more?

There are basketball courts, a mall, corn hole, a bowling alley, hammocks, beach volleyball, kayaking, sailboats…the list goes on and on. We never left the resort during both of our stays and never got bored!

(Side Note: there is a Dolphinarium. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this anymore. Fifteen years ago, I would’ve thought it was really cool to get a chance to play with the dolphins…now, I kinda think it’s cruel. But I’m going to let y’all decide how you feel about that on your own.)

Barcelo Maya Caribe and Beach The pool at Riviera Maya Barcelo Resort

The Spa

We were fortunate enough to get to experience the spa during our visit this year. And let me tell you…it was worth every single penny! We often don’t go to the spa while on vacation because they tend to be more expensive than a massage at home, but I encourage you to take advantage of this amazing facility!

We booked an 80 minute couples massage. Included is use of their wellness and fitness center for one hour prior to your appointment. We took advantage of the hot and cold hydrotherapy pools, saunas, vicchy showers, and an outdoor private pool with jets. (Side Note: If you upgrade to the Palace I believe that use of this area is included in your package.) There are also relaxation rooms with drinks and snacks, a fitness center, and even the cutest children’s spa!

I can’t vouch for the fitness center though. Let’s be honest, I can barely get myself to the gym at home, I’m not working out while I’m on vacation.

The Spa at Riviera Maya Barcelo Resort

It’s All-Inclusive (well almost)

Is anything really all-inclusive? I honestly don’t know.

But, we were quite happy with what was included at the Barceló! We ate most every breakfast at the buffet…and it’s huge! They had a ton of options and I believe even my picky son would be able to find something he would eat.

They have quite a few restaurants to choose from, but you have to make reservations AND men have to wear pants and close toed shoes. This tends to cause a bit of turmoil for some people who don’t read the details ahead of time. No big deal, just follow the rules! We ate at the steakhouse, the Japanese steakhouse, and the Italian restaurant and thought all were fantastic! We really enjoyed our meals at these restaurants!

Some things that were included:

  • water, juice, soda, and beer in your room (replenished daily)
  • beer, basic liquor, and mixed drinks at restaurants and bars
  • food in the restaurants
  • towels
  • sports, activities, and entertainment

Some of the things we found to NOT be included were:

  • the bowling at the 24 hour buffet in the mall area
  • some of the kids activities
  • wine (at the restaurants)
  • some water activities
  • premium liquors
  • WiFi

All inclusive Riviera Maya Barcelo Resort

It’s a Versatile Vacation!

Whether you like to relax and unwind or get up and go every day, there is something for everyone at the Barceló! We tend to like to stay busy when we’re on vacation, but this is a great mix of busy and relaxing. I even tried something new this year: fly boarding! (More to come on that experience!)

It’s also close by to Tulum and Playa del Carmen if you are looking to explore more than the resort! There are a variety of excursions close by from ruins to cenotes to shopping.

Hammocks at Riviera Maya Barcelo ResortFly Boarding at Riviera Maya Barcelo Resort

The Rooms

The rooms were pretty standard…but to us, they were completely satisfactory. We were barely in our room, so we weren’t looking for luxury accommodations. It was spacious, we were able to keep the temperature controlled, was actually pretty quiet, comfortable, and had many toiletries included. There is also an easy to use in-room safe and they provide bathrobe and slippers to use! The water pressure was great…and we love big bath towels!

(Side Note: you have to leave a room key in a slot by the door to keep the electricity running…even when you leave the room, or else your refrigerator won’t be ON all the time! Lesson learned.)

(One more Side Note: we chose to stay in the Caribe section of the resort due to it’s location. Barceló Maya partners with CID Presents to put on different concert series on the beach such as Dave Matthews, Crash My Playa, and Dead & Company. More on our experience coming soon!)

Standard Room at Riviera Maya Barcelo ResortStandard Room at Riviera Maya Barcelo ResortStandard Room at Riviera Maya Barcelo Resort

The Down Sides:

We really loved the Barceló…and I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons. But a few disappointments worth mentioning were:

  • the lunch buffets…we were never impressed and barely satisfied. We typically would eat a late breakfast and hold over until an early dinner
  • the wi-fi it’s good in some spots and awful in others (and of course not free!)
  • in order to charge something to you room, you have to add money at the front desk. They release what you haven’t spent when you check out. While this isn’t a huge deal, it certainly isn’t what we are used to.

Would we go back to the Barceló Caribe and Beach Resort?

HECK YEAH!! Actually, we’re contemplating taking the kids next time. I really think they’d love it.

Have you been to Mexico or an all-inclusive resort? Tell me all about it!

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Why we'd go back to the Barcelo Maya Grand Resort ASAP!

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Free Bucket List Template and Inspiration

Bucket List Template and Inspiration

This post contains affiliate links which means I could earn a small commission, if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. For more information, read my full Disclosure HERE. Thank you for supporting More than Main Street!

Bucket List Template and Inspiration!

I love a bucket list!

Why? You ask. Well… let me share with you the beauty of the bucket list.

Bucket lists come in all shapes and sizes. Mine personally focuses mostly on travel, food, and family. But yours might be centered around learning, adventure, and an adrenaline rush. And…that’s perfectly fine, because a bucket list can be personalized! You can create your own, do one as a couple, or even as a family!

Bucket List Template and Inspiration

And there’s no one other than yourself to hold you accountable. There is no grade. There is no timeframe. Only hopes and dreams. Some of your lists may be totally 100% realistic while others can be far fetched and seem impossible. It’s entirely up to you!

A bucket list allows you to create a visual reminder to try new things. And I don’t know about you, but I get this amazing sense of pride and accomplishment  each and every time I check one of those items off my bucket list.

And that my friends, is the beauty of the bucket list!

Bucket List Inspiration

In my eyes…bucket lists can be divided up into five different sections: learning something new, facing your fears, traveling, giving back, and chasing your dreams. You can list 50 destinations across the world you want to visit, 50 things you want to learn to cook, or even 50 ways to make the world a better place…the choice is all yours! Or if you’re like me…you can make a crazy mix of all these things!

Here’s my list of 75 ideas to get you started and hopefully inspire your bucket list! (I’ve starred the ones I’ve done personally, but I’ve certainly got some work to do!)

  1. Go on an epic road trip!*
  2. Go zipling.*
  3. Attend an Olympics.
  4. Spend the night in a treehouse.Bucket List Inspiration-- Vegas!
  5. Gamble in Vegas.*
  6. Attend a major/professional sporting event.(My thoughts about this HERE)*
  7. Ride in a hot air balloon.
  8. Volunteer.*
  9. Ride in a helicopter.*
  10. Learn to play an instrument.*
  11. See a show on Broadway.*
  12. Learn another language.*
  13. Pick apples, strawberries, or blueberries.*
  14. See the Hollywood sign.Bucket List Inspiration - The Southern Most Point of the Continental US
  15. Visit the southern most point of the continental US.*
  16. Visit another country.*
  17. Pay a stranger’s tab.
  18. Stomp grapes to make wine.
  19. Visit the Statue of Liberty.
  20. Attend Mardi Gras.
  21. Drive on the other side of the road.
  22. Swim with dolphins, sharks, or other sea life.*Bucket List Inspiration- Disney
  23. Go to Disney! (My tips HERE)*
  24. Build a sandcastle.*
  25. Brew your own beer.
  26. Go to the Superbowl.
  27. Go to a drive-in movie.
  28. Ride a horse.*
  29. Go camping.
  30. Complete a 5K race.*
  31. See Niagara Falls.
  32. Fly private.
  33. Play paintball.
  34. Go on an African Safari.
  35. Take a dance lesson.*
  36. Go dog sledding.
  37. Sleep in an overwater bungalow.
  38. Complete an escape room.*
  39. Spend an entire summer in another country.
  40. Go to Oktoberfest.Bucket List Template & Inspiration
  41. Go white water rafting.(More on this HERE)*
  42. Go to a farmers market and sample the local goodies.*
  43. Make s’mores by a real fire.
  44. Attend a music festival.*
  45. Make snow angels.*
  46. Try skiing or snowboarding.*
  47. Bake and decorate a cake.*
  48. Learn yoga.
  49. Take a carriage ride through Central Park in New York City.*
  50. Get a massage.*
  51. Have a tech free day.
  52. Learn to meditate.
  53. Take a cooking class.*
  54. Stay overnight in a castle.
  55. Go to wine country.*
  56. See a live comedy performance.*
  57. Stay in a bed & breakfast.*
  58. Visit a “world’s largest” attraction.*
  59. Bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge.
  60. Do a food tour.*
  61. Visit the seven wonders of the world.
  62. Go ice skating.*
  63. Play in the rain.
  64. Own a pet.*
  65. See the Northern Lights.
  66. See your favorite band Live!*Bucket List Inspiration
  67. Plant a garden.*
  68. Sing karaoke.*
  69. Have a water balloon fight.
  70. Raise money for a cause near and dear to your heart.
  71. See the great barrier reef.
  72. Try snorkeling or scuba diving.*
  73. Visit a US National Park.*
  74. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.*
  75. Go on a real picnic.

Here’s a free template for you to create your own bucket list–>

FREE Bucket List Template Download

And the best part is…you can keep adding to it! There are no rules!

Well…go on! Get started!

Check out these awesome ideas to get you started checking items of that bucket list today!!

Travel Fund Shadow Box

Picnic Basket Set

Scratch Off World Map

What’s on your bucket list? Let me know what y’all think!

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2017 Best Nine

2017 best nine

A Look Back on 2017

As we start the New Year, I thought I’d dedicate a short post to a few highlights from my first year of blogging via Instagram’s Top Nine! Ironically, many of these photos are not actually from travel during 2017…but part of what I love about blogging is that I can share travel information and stories from years back as long as it is still relevant. Cool, right?

I’ve learned so much in just nine months of blogging, but I still have a long way to go. From Facebook to Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, social media is a fun and necessary part of blogging. Instagram is a tough nut to crack at times, but I have honestly enjoyed meeting and getting to know my Insta-friends!

I hope y’all stick with me as I navigate my way down this blogging road.

2017 Best Nine

2017 Best Nine


My most popular post on Instagram was actually a throwback to when I officially caught the travel bug. My husband and I did a three week tour of ten countries in Europe through Contiki. Now, say what you will about guided tours or Contiki in general, but it was exactly what we were looking for. We were able to see a little bit of a lot of Europe in a whirlwind vacation of a lifetime! We were able to check a few locations off our list and say “been there, done that” and we were able to decide which cities we would like to return to and spend a lot more time exploring more in depth. The photo was taken fifteen years ago in Saint Marks Square in Venice, Italy.


My second most popular post was from one of my absolute favorite family vacations through California. Our road trip had us stopping just one day in Napa Valley where we had the chance to see the Old Faithful of California geyser. Read my Napa Valley with kids guide HERE.


Next is one of my more profound experiences of 2016 visiting the World Trade Center Memorial site in New York City. You can read more about my visit HERE.


My fourth photo is one of the many amazing sunsets from our annual vacation in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. It is a destination near and dear to my heart and I wrote all about it HERE.


My next photo is fitting since it includes my most favorite travel buddy and partner in crime: my sweet husband. We have always enjoyed traveling together and I love sharing that passion with our children now. The photo is us at Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California.


Next, is a photo I absolutely adore of my kind hearted daughter. If you haven’t noticed, there’s a “day” for everything. National cheesecake day, dog lovers day, siblings day…there literally is a day for anything and everything you can think of! This photo was one I posted for the International Day of Peace and is truly something I can get behind and support.


We love to explore both near and far. Sometimes you can find the best adventures just 20 minutes from home, like in this photo of the corn maze my children and I completed this fall.


Can you ever get enough sunsets? The detail of the sea grass against the setting sun makes this one of my personal favorite photos from the summer in Duck, North Carolina.


The final photo in the Best Nine collage is special since my son took the photo. He has a budding love of photography and travel which makes my heart happy! Stay tuned in the near future for his vey own IG page!

And there you have it: My 2017 Best Nine from Instagram.

If you’re not following me already on Instagram, please join me!! Thanks friends!! Happy New Year!

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Traveling with Food Allergies: Tips from Fellow Travelers

Traveling with Food Allergies

Traveling with Food Allergies & Sensitivities

I am an allergy mom.

So traveling with food allergies is personal topic for me. In fact, it affects our entire family. We are always aware of it, and it comes into play in decision making all the time.

According to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) up to 15 million Americans have some type of food allergy. Their website is a wealth of information whether you are newly diagnosed or just looking for more information. Traveling with food allergies and sensitivities can be tricky, but it’s totally doable!

Here are some of the tips and tricks from a few fellow travelers on traveling with food allergies.

Traveling with food allergies

Amanda at VeraVise WOW Travel shares her tips on how to navigate traveling with her two food allergy kids:

Two of my children have food allergies. My oldest son is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and coconut. Coconut is the toughest because it is rare to be allergic to coconut and it is not on the top 8 allergen list. This makes travel or eating out a challenge at times, but these tips have helped us to navigate the challenge and still enjoy good food on the road.

First, research, research, research!

As much as I’d like to be more spontaneous for dinner, I’ve learned it’s best to have a plan when it comes to our dining choices. I try to have at least two or three options in any given area when traveling.

Secondly, calling ahead is a must.

Generally within the first 30 seconds of the phone call, I can determine whether we can eat at a given restaurant. It’s usally obvious whether a restaurant has any policies at all in place or whether they really don’t care.

Finally, my best advice is to go with your gut!

After years of dealing with people and restaurants, I’ve learned that they either care or they don’t. If there isn’t an immediate impression that they care, I’m not going to force it. If it is a real challenge to get an answer or assistance, why would I even trust the kitchen? More establishments should recognize the untapped market of food allergy families. If you show concern for my kid’s needs, then I will not only be loyal, I will be your biggest cheerleader!

Follow Amanda on VeraVise WOW Travel or on Facebook or Instagram.

Traveling with food allergies

Cris from LooknWalk shares her tips about traveling as a vegan due to lactose intolerance:

I found out about my “issues with milk” many years ago when my mother told me I couldn’t “hold down” cow’s milk as a baby. Being misdiagnosed then – the doctors kept telling her just to add more tea to the milk – I kept eating milk and cheese through the years. I thought being bloated and passing wind (sorry, TMI) was “normal” after eating dairy. I was lucky though because small amounts of lactose wasn’t really doing me any harm but larger quantities would.

This summer, after overdoing it with feta (and other cheeses) during my trip to Greece and continuing the same pattern at home, I’ve decided to go vegan. I have been vegetarian for 10+ years but my attempts at veganism lasted two years when I tried before.

It is incredibly hard to travel as a vegan, especially in Central Europe, which has a diet based on meat and cheese. I find it easy to just head to the first Italian or Greek place I see anywhere, as there will always be some vegan options (or chefs willing to skip cheese for you). I know both cuisines very well and know what to order. In general though, before I leave I look at the traditional foods that are vegan and write them down. And I use the Happy Cow site and app (albeit it failed miserable in Hungary and Romania).

I quickly find out that servers confuse vegetarian and veganism. One morning in Budapest, I asked for vegan options and was offered mozzarella. No matter where you go, learn to say “no dairy” and if needed break it down (no milk, no cheese, no butter, etc.). Kefir, by the way is totally fine and so is yogurt.

It is my choice to be vegan. If you have lactose intolerance, you can eat yogurt, kefir, and even small amounts of cheese and milk (just try to figure out how much you can tolerate). You can also eat eggs, fish, seafood, and meat if you wish.

Follow Cris and her travels on LooknWalk or on Facebook and Instagram.

Traveling with food allergies

Isadora from World by Isa explains how she often copes with her food allergy and sensitivities:

My case is a bit more complicated, as besides my allergy to pork and food coloring (which prevents me from eating pork meat or colorful things like Fanta or artificial juices) I also have a very sensitive stomach. I can’t eat anything too strong or too “different”, which is a shame since I like to try new foods. So unfortunately, when I go abroad, I’m usually forced to avoid traditional local foods.

What I do, most of the time, is try to stick to pizza, pasta, soups, and other mainstream dishes. I also avoid salads, and anything that is not boiled. Another thing that helps me a lot, surprisingly, since it is super unhealthy and I basically never drink it at home, is Coke. As we all know, Coke, helps to digest everything, so I drink it very often when traveling, no matter what I just ate. I feel like it helps my stomach to process everything.

Follow Isadora on World by Isa or on Instagram or Twitter.

My Tips on Traveling with Food Allergies:

My son is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts. We’ve developed a few tried and true practices to keep him safe while traveling.


The doctors advised that he shouldn’t ingest or touch any peanut or tree nut products. Well…although times have changed, some airlines still serve peanuts and people can still bring their own snacks on board the airplane too. So our number one rule is to bring some Clorox wipes and clean the seat belt, tray table, arm rest and any other surface where he will be sitting. This may seem extreme, but after a minor scare, we always go by the “better to be safe than sorry” motto. You can also call some airlines ahead of time and request a buy free flight.


If possible, carry safe snacks, treats, or candy with you. This way, when we find ourselves on a plane that has no safe food items or stop by a donut shop that my son can’t eat at, I have a little treat for him too.

Eating out

We typically know some safe foods my son can almost always eat, but we always ask our server to let the kitchen know of his allergy. Like Amanda said above, you can generally tell right away if a restaurant has allergy guidelines in place. We also typically skip most baked goods and desserts; they are often made on the same equipment as items containing peanuts or tree nuts. We have found a lot of ice cream shops are willing to open a new container of ice cream and get a clean or new scoop for his treat- Score!!

Be Prepared!

When we traveled internationally, I made a card before we left home (in the other language) explaining his allergy- I also used the google translate app to communicate when necessary. (Read more of my tips on traveling internationally with kids HERE.) My aunt is allergic to shellfish to the extreme she can’t even eat food out of the same fryer that shellfish have been in. She uses these preprinted cards to give to the kitchen in restaurants when she eats out.

Have an allergy plan in place and make sure you’re 100% comfortable with it. We never leave home without chewable Benadryl and my sons Epi-pens. If in doubt, skip it, it’s not worth the risk!

Food allergies are so common these days. I know all food allergies and sensitivities are different. Everyone has a special set of rules with how they handle their specific situation. But whatever you do to keep you or your loved one safe…don’t let it hinder your ability to travel.

Traveling with food allergies and sensitivities is possible!! Just go and see the world! But be safe!

Do you or a loved one have a food allergy? What tips do you have about traveling with food allergies? Let me know what y’all think!

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Linking up with Two Traveling Texas…Be sure to check them out~!

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The NC Chinese Lantern Festival- Winter Fun for all Ages!

NC Chinese Lantern Festival

The NC Chinese Lantern Festival

Looking for something to get you in the holiday spirit in the Triangle area?

Well, be sure to add the NC Chinese Lantern Festival to your list of things to do this winter! The NC Chinese Lantern Festival features a beautiful selection of over 20 lighted LED displays at Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary, North Carolina.

NC Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary, NC

Last year, we attended on Christmas Eve and it was the perfect way to spend time together as a family celebrating the holiday! They have a variety of cultural performances scheduled as well. When we attended, the performances had already started but we were able to watch the last 15 minutes which we thoroughly enjoyed. We then walked through the amphitheater amongst the colorful displays and festive music. The children had fun running around and posing for pictures with each one. I swear I heard, “Mom, Look at this one!” on repeat. But hey…that’s half the fun!

NC Chinese Lantern Festival

Ticket Information:

  • The NC Chinese Lantern Festival runs Nov. 24, 2017- Jan. 14, 2018 (closed Mondays except for Christmas Day and New Years Day).
  • Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at Koka Booth’s website.
  • Ticket prices are $15 for 18 and older, $10 for ages 3-17, and Free for 2 and under.
  • Parking is free.

The NC Chinese Lantern Festival would be perfect for date night, an outing with the kids, or fun for an entire group!  For us personally, it is a little pricey to make this an annual tradition, but I’d recommend going at least once! I have heard in the past tickets were available on Groupon, in which case, I’d snag those in a hot second.

NC Chinese Lantern Festival


NC Chinese Lantern Festival

If you’re looking for other fun winter or holiday activities in the North Carolina Triangle area check out the shows at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts or DPAC. We also personally love the outdoor skating rink in downtown Raleigh combined with a trip next door for some hot chocolate! Marbles Kid’s Museum always has a few special holiday events as well as Pullen Park. And the Historic Oakwood Candlelight Tour is a perfect way to spend an adult evening out after dinner!

There are Chinese Lantern Festivals all over the world! Have you attended one in the past or have plans to attend one in the future? I’d love to hear about your experience!

Which display is your favorite? Both of my kids agreed the dragon was their favorite display…and trust me, they don’t agree often! Let me know what y’all think!

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NC Chinese Lantern Festival


Linking up with Two Traveling Texans…be sure to check them out!


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Your First Trip to Disney: 21 Practical Tips

First trip to Disney 21 Practical Tips

This post contains affiliate links which means I could earn a small commission, if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. For more information, read my full Disclosure HERE.

Your First Trip to Disney With Kids

I am not a Disney expert.

But, I am a Mom who has been to Disney World several times. And because I don’t want you to go through the same stress and anxiety as I have, I am offering up my best and most practical tips for your first trip to Disney.

Walt Disney World is certainly “the most magical place on Earth” and “where dreams come true”! It is also the home of stress, tears, tantrums, and A LOT of really gross germs!! Uggghhh!!

So…there are definitely a bunch of things you will want to know before you go!

21 tips for your first trip to Disney

My Disney tips can be broken down into 4 main categories:

  • Preparation and Planning.
  • Your Bag & What to Carry with You.
  • Know your Kid!
  • Relax & Enjoy!

You see…I made a ton of mistakes on my first trip to Disney. In fact, I’ve made mistakes on EVERY trip we’ve made to Disney. But what makes Disney different than every other family vacation is the pressure.

The Disney pressure!!

You will…and trust me you WILL put so much pressure on yourself to make this the best vacation ever for your kids. You will build it up in your mind and you will spend so much money and time planning that you won’t be able to help yourself.

First trip to Disney 21 Practical Tips

See…I even did crazy pre-Disney things at home before we went to Disney for the first time! Truthfully I loved doing these fun things but a lot of people will find this a little cray-cray. (But if you’re like me…you can order this Mickey Mouse cookie cutter and DIY piggy bank and have a blast!)

That is why…my number one piece of advice for every first timer to Disney is this: Prepare as much as possible and then just simply enjoy. You CANNOT do it all…so enjoy what you can do and let the rest go.

21 Practical Tips & Advice for Your First Trip to Disney

Prepare — Your Bag — Know Your Kid — Relax & Enjoy

  1. Prepare for the crowds and the lines. Even if you go on a week that is deemed to be less crowded…there will still be a lot of people there! It’s the “happiest place on earth” -of course everyone wants to be there!
  2. Familiarize yourself with the Disney App and FastPass. This will save you so much time in the long run. FastPass is fabulous technology and you will love it!
  3. Reserve character meals as far in advance as possible. Be willing to eat at random times…you’re at Disney and time becomes irrelevant anyways. So what if you have lunch at 2:30 pm or dinner at 4 pm. Just make it work so you won’t be so disappointed to miss that precious princess dinner or special breakfast with Mickey. Be prepared for character meals to take a long time…they are good about coming by to see every table and take a photo, but the process still involves some wait time.
  4. Take into account travel time. The Disney parks are huge…and it takes time whether you are staying within the park or not to get to the gates.
  5. Wear good comfortable walking shoes. That being said, also consider your shoes may very well get wet (from rides or rain). Nothing is more uncomfortable to me than walking around in sopping wet shoes.
  6. Consider a stroller. Even if your child doesn’t need one at home anymore, they may need one at Disney. We’ve clocked anywhere from 10-15 miles per day and I’ve seen many older siblings begging for that spot in their younger sibling’s stroller. They’re also great for holding drinks and bags and other random purchases! Mark your stroller before you go…there are a zillion and one in the stroller parking zones and can be hard to differentiate. You can also easily rent them at the park if you decide you need one after you get there!
  7. Germs- they’re everywhere. This is the appropriate time to be a germophobe. Wash your hands a lot, use hand sanitizer, and Clorox wipes. Just do it.First trip to Disney 21 Practical Tips
  8. It will rain. You can buy ponchos at the dollar store and they’re easy and lightweight to pack in your bag. Or you can spend $100 buying these absolutely adorable mickey ponchos in the gift shop.
  9. Bring snacks, drinks, and candy. This will save you so much time and heartache. In my experience, bored children are hungry children. A lollipop makes the line go so much faster and snacks waiting for the parade or walking between rides helps a bunch!
  10. Bring sunscreen and water! Being sunburnt or dehydrated is a quick way to ruin your vacation.
  11. Bring an extra phone battery or charger. Using your Disney App and camera on your phone will kill your battery pretty dang quick and that’s just a bummer.
  12. Put your phone inside a waterproof case (or in my world a ziplock bag). Rain and rides equal water and I don’t know about you but I don’t want to have to purchase a new phone after paying for this Disney vacation!
  13. Talk to other parents before you go. Do your research. Figure out which parks will be best and suit your child’s interests.First trip to Disney 21 Practical Tips
  14. Many children are scared of the characters…I mean think about this giant mouse or Darth Vader trying to take his picture with you?!?!
  15. Know your Kid!! Some kids may not be ready for the rides…figure out what suits them best!
  16. Some kids may be terrified of the fireworks…so plan to leave the park before they begin or bring some headphones…prepare!21 tips for your first trip to Disney
  17. A lot of kids do not have a clue who some of these “classic” characters are…just because you can name every character does not mean your child can!! Know your child! (My daughter had no clue who Snow White was…she just loved princesses in general.)
  18. Plan to go to the hotel pool! Your child will want to go and you may not want to spend your precious park time at the pool. So I’m going to save you some tears…just make the pool part of the plan!
  19. Schedule some downtime. You and your family will be exhausted. You will have walked waaaayyyy more than you are used it. And it really isn’t that much fun when everyone is cranky and tired and all you do is rush from one place to the next.
  20. It’s OK not to do it all. In fact, it’s impossible. Prioritize what’s most important and don’t over-promise!!
  21. Let go of YOUR expectations. Your child has very low expectations, if any, especially if this is their first trip to Disney. Don’t let your over eagerness ruin your vacation. Plan as much as possible and then just enjoy what you can do.

Phew! Are you tired already? I am…just kidding!

BONUS tip…Consider going with another family. I realize this isn’t practical for everyone but when we have done this in the past, we actually found that having another family made our trip more enjoyable and actually easier!

A few months after we returned from one of our Disney trips, we took our kids to Busch Gardens. It was just a day trip, a two hour drive from home and back.

And we had the BEST time.

It was then and there that I realized WHY I enjoyed that particular day so much. Because there was no pressure. No pressure to make it the best day ever…no big deal if we didn’t make it on all the rides…no tears because we didn’t see or do something. It was just fun. And that is why I am writing this post…for all the other A type mamas out there who are making themselves crazy over their first trip to Disney.

So, relax, plan, prepare, and then go with the flow! Of course The Disney website is the place to go for specific Disney reservations and a lot of other details. The Travel Pledge is also our family favorite way to get kids into a travel state of mind.

Trust me…in the end it will still be the best vacation ever!

If you are planning a trip in the near future…here are a few things you can pick up online and save yourself some time…I’m a huge Amazon shopper;) I love to shop local, BUT shopping with my kids makes me want to lose my mind sometimes.

Have you been to Disney? What is your number one tip for first timers? Let me know what y’all think!

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21 Practical tips for your first trip to Disney!

Linking up with VeraVise and Moment Mom for #MouseFanMondays

and my friends over at Two Traveling Texans for #TheWeeklyPostcard!

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Why the Best Trips in California Include a Stop to See the Redwoods!

Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods National Park

One of Our Best Trips in California

Me: We’re going to see some really big trees.

Kids: Really Mom? Why?

Me: Because you’ve never seen anything like them.

Kids: OMG (growning)

A few hours later…

Kids: Mom, that was really cool.

Me: I know.

Road Trip!

We always have the best trips in California.

Seriously… some of our best family memories!

This particular trip from Monterey to San Francisco included a little detour through Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Big Basin is about an hour and a half from Monterey and an hour and a half to San Francisco.

The California State Park system is awesome! And their website is fantastic. (Especially for not so outdoorsy moms like me.)  I love that it includes things like: what you can do if you only have an hour…or half a day…or a week! So Big Basin was the perfect destination for us to check the famous redwoods off of my bucket list!

Big Basin is the oldest state park in California and has the largest continuous strand of ancient redwoods south of San Francisco. There are more than 80 miles of trails, several waterfalls, and trees 2500 years old!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

Can you fit your family in a tree??

The Redwood Loop Trail

We chose to walk the Redwood Loop Trail since we only had an hour. It’s a little over half a mile trail that is stroller and wheelchair accessible. This may be a short trail but it packs a big punch! They have a self guided tour pamphlet so you can follow along on the trail.

Nature is so cool y’all.

The highlights were definitely the Mother of the Forest and Father of the Forest…two of the oldest and biggest beauties.

So cool.

Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods National Park

The root structure of a giant redwood that fell in 1983!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

A new meaning to group hug!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

Although it’s an easy walk, I’d still recommend wearing better/more appropriate shoes!

Best trips in California- Big Basin Redwoods National Park

Chimney Tree- A redwood hollowed out by fire completely to the top!

Tips for Visiting Big Basin:

  • These are mountain roads leading to and from Big Basin. If you or your kids get car sick…be prepared!
  • There are a few little places to eat on your way to the park in Boulder Creek (15 minutes) or Ben Lomond (20 minutes).
  • Wear walking shoes (unlike me…what was I thinking?).
  • There are actually really nice restrooms at the beginning of the trail.
  • It costs $10 to park at the Headquarters area of the park. Our “walk” was definitely longer than the 0.6 mile trail since parking was limited, but that was not a big deal to us.
  • They give you this nifty little form to fill out and leave on your dashboard to let rangers know what your plans were if you don’t return to your car. Kinda cool/ kinda scary! Safety first people!Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods National Park

We have had some of the best trips in California! I would definitely recommend adding a stop to see the redwoods to any California road trip itinerary. There are several other places to see them if Big Basin isn’t along your route. Here is a good resource for other places to see the redwoods in California.

I personally loved Big Basin because it was a super easy stop without feeling like I had to spend the day hiking or camping. Don’t get me wrong, I do like hiking… I just don’t feel like that always fits into the itinerary without devoting an entire day to it.

You can read more on our California adventures HERE (San Francisco) and HERE (Napa Valley with kids!)

Have you seen the giant redwoods in California? As always, let me know what y’all think!

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Best trips in California Big Basin Redwoods State Park

Linking up with Two Traveling Texans and #TheWeeklyPostcard …go check them out too!

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