Tag Archives: family friendly travel

Fun in the Sun at Marco Island: Up and Running After Hurricane Irma

Fun in the Sun at Marco Island: Up and Running After Hurricane Irma

This post may contain affiliate links or sponsored content.  Please know that all opinions are honestly conveyed and are mine alone.

Through my husband’s work, we were able to qualify for an award trip to the JW Marriott in Marco Island. We had been once before and were excited for another stay!  Since our trip has been planned for months, we didn’t know if we’d still be able to go after Hurricane Irma recently caused damage to much of the Gulf Florida coast.  However, we were pleasantly surprised that almost everything is back up and running and we were definitely able to have fun in the sun at Marco Island!

Where to Stay

Since the only thing better than a beach vacation… is a free beach vacation, we decided to open a Marriott rewards credit card and earn enough points to extend our stay and also be able to bring our children along.  When visiting Marco Island, the JW Marriot is definitely our hotel of choice!

Our balcony room offered plenty of space for our family of fiveand stunning views of the gulf. The guestrooms were recently renovated and exceptionally appointed.

The kids were impressed that the TV had a personalized welcome message with our names on it and that there were white bath robes provided!  But I would have to say I was most impressed with the customer service. Every person we met—from the employee greeting us upon arrival, to the check-in counter, to the concierge, to housekeeping—made us feel welcome and ensured that every request we had was met. It was everything a family vacation at a luxury five-star resort should be.

Family-friendly activities

While in Marco Island we wanted to find an activity that the whole family would be able to enjoy. We stopped by the Marco Island Water Sports tiki hut that was located on the beach, right in front of our resort. They helped us pick an activity that everybody could have fun with. They offer dolphin and shelling tours, wave runner rentals, parasailing and much more. Our family decided to take the Banana Boat ride.

Our youngest was a little worried about how fast it would go, but our guide, Ryan, assured us that we could decide how adventurous we wanted the ride to be. He started off slowly for us, but it wasn’t long before we were all giving him the thumbs-up signal—which, in banana boat language, means go FAST! He was also very knowledgeable about the Marco Island Area. It was awesome to see so much of the Island on our ride and we were even lucky enough to have a couple of dolphin sightings. It was such a fun morning—definitely a highlight of our family vacation!

Our hotel also offered some fun kids activities…

And, of course, we spent most of our days on the beautiful private beach and enjoyed time at both pools…

Rebuilding after Hurricane Irma

As we were watching hurricane Irma Head toward the Florida coast my first concern was for all of the people in it’s path. I knew we had an upcoming trip to Marco Island and I really wasn’t sure if that was even something we’d still be able to do. Living in Ohio, we’ve never seen firsthand the devastation a hurricane can cause, but certainly the pictures on TV were heart-wrenching. We decided that if we got the all clear from the resort that they were open we would keep our vacation plans in place.

On the way from the airport to the resort, we decided to drive around and explore the area. It was clear that the residential areas were still recovering. There were lots of trees down, debris lining the roads, and many homes and structures were damaged. But while we were there we learned of some of the fantastic local groups that had been organizeda grassroots effort of neighbors helping neighbors. Marco Patriots is one of those groups. They’ve been able to help some of the hardest hit people in the Naples, Marco Island, and Everglade Areas. They recently were able to secure a private plane and pilot and are now starting to take aid to Puerto Rico. It’s pretty inspiring to think that people who are still rebuilding their own homes and business are looking for ways to help others who were hit so hard by the same hurricane.

 

Plan your beach vacation

Yes, we even got the tiki guy to help us spell out O-H-I-O…

And got to experience dinner at sunset on the beach…

On our flight back home we all started planning our next vacation to the JW Marriott Marco Island!  Whether you’re looking for once-in-a-lifetime vacation of luxury or a low-key family fun vacation spot Marco Island has you covered.

 

Things to Take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist

Things to Take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist

Things to take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist // Money Savvy Living

Planning your Disney vacation can be exciting and overwhelming!  There are so many resort options and restaurants to choose from, you need to figure out how those fast passes work and how to make those reservations, so it may be easy to forget some of the small things that you will want to take on your vacation.

So we are going to go over a few things that you will want to make sure that you take on your next trip to Disney:

Things to take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist // Money Savvy Living

Reservation Info

Make sure you have all your hotel, airline, car rental, and any other reservations that you have made.  You can put the reservation info into a special email folder, input it into the notes on your smartphone, or just print out the papers, but make sure that you have access to it once you are on your way!

If you have purchased your tickets or Magic Bands ahead of time, you will certainly need those.  Obviously, if you haven’t purchased your tickets ahead of time, some hotels offer concierge services and you can get your tickets there rather than waiting in line once you get to the parks.

Fast Pass info… did you know that you can actually book your Fast Passes online (or download the Disney app)?  If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can book your Fast Passes up to 60 days ahead of your scheduled arrival.  If you are staying somewhere other than Disney property, you can book your Fast Passes up to 30 days ahead of time.  Take into consideration where the rides are located in proximity to each other and decide which rides you really want to go on before you schedule your times…

Fun in the Sun Necessities

Your trip to Disney is probably going to be filled with lots of sunshine, so don’t forget too take sunglasses, sunscreen, and a spray water bottle so you can cool yourself and your kids off with a little mist of cool air… if you have the mist bottle with a little fan, that’s even better!  *You can probably pick one of these up for a few dollars at Walmart, but if you wait until you get to the parks to buy one, but you will pay quite a bit more.

But just in case it is not so sunny while you are there, you will want to pick up some cheap, disposable ponchos at the dollar store ahead of time.  Again, if you don’t have these and need to buy them at the parks, it will cost you…

Bring Your Own Disney Magic

If you kids like to dress up like their favorite Disney character, you can probably pick one up at a discount store or online for a lot less than buying it there.  I also found a great tip about buying glow-in-the dark stuff from Hannah over at Eat, Drink, and Save Money, for when the sun goes down at Disney at the dollar store instead of buying the more expensive, in-park items… because I know that when my kids see the other kids with their glow-in-the dark stuff, they are going to want some…

Snacks and Water

Since you are allowed to bring drinks and snacks into the parks, make sure to bring a nice stash- especially if you are planning to stay all day.  Even if you plan to eat meals at the parks, it doesn’t hurt to help keep your little ones satisfied in between meals without having to buy an expensive snack.  Also make sure to bring an insulated cool pack to keep those snacks and drinks nice and cold.

Disney Vacation Printable Checklist // Money Savvy Living

 

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach for FREE
7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

 

Taking a family vacation is definitely an investment—one which I personally think is invaluable because you can’t put a price tag on creating memories with your kids, right?  While theoretically, money is no object when it comes to my family, the reality of the situation is that we do have to live within a budget.  So, with that in mind, I always like to look for places to go and things to do that can provide a lot of fun and entertainment for the boys, while taking it easy on our bank account…

 

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

 

If you are looking for a fun, frugal, and family-friendly vacation, then you will love Virginia Beach!  Of course, there are several other things to do on a Virginia Beach vacation, but these seven things won’t cost you a dime!

 

The Beach                       

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

Okay, obviously, this is the main attraction—the beach itself!  Whether you like to just lay out and soak up the sun, build a sandcastle, search for seashells, or play in the ocean, the beach will keep you and your kids busy all day.  These nice, wide beaches have plenty of room to lay out by the ocean, or spread out under your own little umbrella or tent.  Besides that, at certain spots along the beach, there are actually playgrounds that your kids can play on, still on the sand, but close to the boardwalk.  Bring a volleyball or Frisbee for the bigger kids (or the parents!) because there is plenty of room for that too!

 

Dolphin Watching

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

You can pay to take a boat ride for dolphin watching, but you really don’t need to… because the dolphins actually swim close enough to shore that you can see them right from your spot on the beach.  While the dolphin excursion boat rides would definitely get you up-close, you can still enjoy seeing the dolphins right from shore—and that’s free!

 

Stroll along the Boardwalk

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

Virginia Beach has a beautiful boardwalk that stretches for 3 miles of the Virginia Beach coastline—so you can literally walk up and down Virginia Beach oceanfront!  We absolutely loved strolling the boardwalk to find new restaurants or just to see what else was around… and never had to take our eyes off of the ocean.  The boardwalk also had a couple of “lanes” devoted to bicycles, multi-person carts and skateboarders.  So bring your bicycle… or you can choose to rent one if you want…

 

Neptune Statue

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

While you are at Virginia Beach, you have to at least stop by and see the colossal statue of Neptune, the Roman god of the sea.

 

Cape Henry Lighthouses/Fort Story

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

You will definitely want to check out the lighthouses at Cape Henry.  However, once we got there, we realized that there was so much more to Cape Henry than just the lighthouses.  There were great history lessons to be learned there.  Did you know that the original lighthouse was the very first federal building authorized by the United States government in 1789?  Did you know that construction of the lighthouse actually started in 1772, but was interrupted by the American Revolution?  Did you know that the sandstone used to build the original lighthouse came from the same Aquia Virginia Quarries that provided stone for Mount Vernon, The U.S. Capitol, and the White House?

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

Besides the lighthouses, there were also other statues: a memorial cross, Battle of the Capes, and Francois Joseph Paul De Grasse.  The memorial cross erected in 1935, which serves as a reminder of the original oak cross built by the colonists when they arrived in 1607 and named Cape Henry for Henry, Prince of Wales, the oldest son of King James I.  The Battle of the Capes in September 1781 was a major turning point in America’s struggle for independence, and you can learn all about it here…  And a statue of De Grasse commemorates his role in the Battle of the Capes that lead to the victory of American Independence from Britain.

Who says a fun beach vacation can’t be educational too?!

 

Street Performances

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

Every evening, visitors to Virginia Beach are entertained by music from individuals and small group musicians, to painters, jugglers, and so much more… all FREE!  There are signs posted that let visitors know that no tips are necessary because these live performances are actually paid for by the city of Virginia Beach.

My son, Chase, actually got to be a part of one of the shows—Up, Down, Go!  He was pretty excited!

 

Concerts

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

The street performances are great, but in addition to the single or small group musicians that you can enjoy as you stroll, there are also actual concerts—everything from orchestra music at the small amphitheater at Neptune’s Park, to concerts at various stages along Atlantic Avenue between the street and the boardwalk.  No tickets necessary, just find a seat and enjoy!

 

When planning your next vacation to this wonderful destination, you may also find it helpful to check out VABeach.com.  This is a great resource to discover hotels, restaurants, and events in the area.  Camping in Virginia Beach is another frugal and family-friendly option.

 

 

Family Friendly Travel: A Spontaneous Trip to Washington DC

Family friendly travel to Washington DCA Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

This year, we went on a much-needed and highly-anticipated family vacation.  Why much-need and highly-anticipated, you ask?  Well, because we had not been on vacation for a couple of years.  Ok, we did take the long weekend to Chicago last year, but that was more of a get-a-feel-for-the-city-that-we-might-be-moving-to-if-my-husband-accepts-a-promotion-at-work kind of trip, so while we did have fun, we were more interested in looking at houses and schools and figuring out how long the commute to the city would be from our potential new home.  More work than fun, soooo, that brings me back to this much-needed and highly-anticipated vacation.

 

One thing that you have to keep in mind about our family as you read about our vacations is that we are typically very spontaneous vacationers.  I don’t plan every minute and map out each event or place to see, or restaurant that we will eat at.  The first vacation that we went on with the kids, we decided to go, so we packed and left that night… and somehow, the spontaneous vacations work for us!

 

This vacation definitely had some spontaneous elements, but had been planned for about a month ahead of time.  And by planned, I mean, that I had reserved hotel rooms for the nights that we would be away.  This year, we would be on vacation over the 4th of July, and I knew things would be busy and probably get booked, so we definitely didn’t want to be a situation where we were without a hotel room, or ended up spending a lot more than we should have because we didn’t plan…  We knew the general direction that we were taking: we were going to Williamsburg and then on to Virginia Beach.

 

But as spontaneity is our thing, it lead us in a different direction immediately.  As we started mapping out our drive on our map quest apps the morning that we were leaving, the most direct path took us right through Washington DC.  Well, that was an opportunity that we didn’t want to pass up… my husband and kids had never been there, and I had only been there once as a kid when I was in probably about fifth grade, and I really didn’t remember that much.

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

We figured we would get on the road and see how things were going, and if we made good time, maybe we could stop in DC for a few hours.  Well, as it turned out, made made really good time, so with our early start, we were to DC by lunch time… and that would give us at least 3-4 hours to explore.

 

And that’s exactly what we did, starting at the Washington Monument.

Washington Monument | Money Savvy LIving

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

The boys loved getting to walk up so close to the monument.  There were lines to go inside, but we decided to skip that and continue on with our walking tour.

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

Yes, the little guy is already looking less-than-thrilled. It is at this point that I realize I should have packed an umbrella stroller…

 

But, on we go… to the Lincoln Memorial.

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

The grandeur of this monument cannot be overstated.  Pictures will never be able to do justice to the feeling that you get from actually experiencing this monument up-close-and-personal.
A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living
A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

While in name, this is the Lincoln MEMORIAL, you don’t really grasp the magnitude of that until you go inside. There are signs to be quiet in respect, as it is a memorial. And the inscription above the statue of Lincoln that reads:

“In this temple as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.”

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

This is one of those stops that really make you feel the importance of what goes on in DC, the great and awesome responsibility that our lawmakers have, and the privileges that we are afforded in this country…

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

While everything is somewhat close together in DC, it takes a little time to walk to all of it, and since this is pretty much an unplanned stop, we decided to make one last stop and walk to the White House. But on our way, we do pass a lot of other cool landmarks and buildings:

 

the US Capitol Building— which we wanted to see up close, but couldn’t really afford the time, so this will definitely be on the list for our next visit!

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

the Dwight D. Eisenhower Building— seemed to be closed to the public, but the architecture was beautiful to enjoy as we walked by anyways….

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Memorial Continental Hall (I had to stop and take a picture here because I am a DAR, although not currently an active member, my grandma was always quite active with the DAR so this was a bit of nostalgia for me…),

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

the Ronald Reagan Building,

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

…and finally, we arrive at the White House.  This is the back of the White House, of course, and there were musicians, street performers, and just a lot of tourists loitering in the street.  Not sure what I expected, but that definitely wasn’t it.  But it was sort-of exciting to get to be that close to the White House…A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

You’ll notice that the view from the front of the White House is much further away…

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

I think we got a lot done in just four hours, however, the snack that we had earlier (instead of lunch) at the gift shop really wasn’t going to keep us going much longer. After all that walking all afternoon, we were hungry, and knowing that we had a couple more hours on the road, we didn’t want to stop for dinner, so we decided to eat at the food trucks instead of a sit-down dinner.  Not our ideal choice (or the healthiest!), but hey, our tummies were full and we were ready to get back on the road and head to Williamsburg, our planned destination that day.

 

A Spontaneous Stop in Washington DC | Money Savvy Living

 

This is where actual planning and research of the area would have helped us out… After our visit, a friend did recommend Old Ebbitt Grill, which is near the White House as a good place to eat.  So we will definitely have to try that next time as well.

 

This spontaneous stop in Washington DC ended up being one of the highlights of our vacation.  And day one was really only anticipated to be a “travel day,” so this little, unplanned adventure transformed an otherwise boring day into a truly fun time.  Even though there is so much that we didn’t get to see and do during our short time there, the last-minute decision to stop was soooo worth it.  The education, the history, everyone should probably visit more than once anyways!  Just the feeling of pride for country that you get to experience just being in our nation’s capital… God bless America!

 

And it was a great reminder that some of the best things in life aren’t planned.  I encourage you to allow for the spontaneous events and adventures while on vacation…you never know, it may just end up being the best part.

 

After all, life isn’t just about arriving at the destination, it’s enjoying the journey along the way!

 

7 Things You Must Do In Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg: 7 Things You must do on Your Next Visit // Money Savvy Living

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE

7 Family Friendly Things to do at Virginia Beach that are Absolutely FREE | Money Savvy Living

Things to Take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist

Things to take on Your Disney Vacation + Printable Checklist // Money Savvy Living

Frugal Vacation Planning: 10 Ways to Save

Frugal Vacation Planning // Money Savvy Living