My Vacation Pants Taking you places you never knew you wanted to go. Sun, 20 May 2018 04:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 120068632 Theme Parks Around the World Tue, 15 May 2018 05:14:20 +0000 It’s that time of year…theme park time!  The My Vacation Pants Family loves a good theme park, so we thought it fitting to round up some of the best from around the globe.  We collaborated with so many amazing people.  Read on to find out where you need to plan your next theme park adventure.  […]

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It’s that time of year…theme park time!  The My Vacation Pants Family loves a good theme park, so we thought it fitting to round up some of the best from around the globe.  We collaborated with so many amazing people.  Read on to find out where you need to plan your next theme park adventure. 

 Tokyo Disneyland – Tokyo, Japan

Written by Amy of Family Globetrotters

Tokyo Disneyland is a 115-acre theme park located in Urayasu, just outside of Tokyo and easily accessible by train. It was the first Disney theme park to be built outside of the United States and of the five Disney theme parks I have been to in my lifetime, Tokyo remains my favourite.

Whilst it is quintessentially the same as the others in its attractions across the 7 themed lands with its fast passes, long queues, dire need to get completely scared senseless in Space Mountain, the underlying Japanese cultural undertones make it a very different theme park.

The Japanese don’t do anything by half measures and anything cute is idolized. Annual passes are a thing of the norm for the locals so the park is filled with more Japanese Disney fans than tourists!  The Japanese have also perfected the art of personal space in incredibly crowded surroundings so never did I feel anyone pushing me or fighting to get ahead. Their patience didn’t make me feel queuing for rides was stressful whilst getting the top spot for the night parade 4 hours early was no big deal. It all made me feel rather “calm” and I didn’t feel the need to rush like I did at the other theme parks.

We loved all their souvenir shops of course but in particular loved all their diverse popcorn flavours. Our favourites remain butter soy and Japanese curry! We also loved Mickey Mouse shaped chicken nuggets and Minnie Mouse shaped popsicles. But the greatest highlight for us was the night parade. No other Disney park does it like Tokyo does. The colours, the lights on the floats and the ever-changing spectrum of illuminations was gobsmackingly mesmerising! We simply cannot wait to go back again!

Amy is a family travel blogger creating travel adventures with her small blended family. She
imparts practical travel tips and destination guides for families with children of all ages with the aim
of encouraging family travel. Please check out her blog http://familyglobetrotters.

Suốí Tiȇn Amusement Park – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Written by Jackie of Life of Doing

One of the unusual, yet interesting theme parks that we’ve visited is Suốí Tiȇn Amusement Park in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. If you need a break from the craziness of District 1, then take the 20km (12.4 miles) car, scooter, or bus ride to this park in District 9.

The park was built in 1995 with the theme on Buddhist religion. You’ll see plenty of Buddha statues, temples, and shrines throughout the park.

Admission fee is 100,000 VND ($4.40 USD) while each ride/attraction is a separate fee. There are rides for children and adults, mini zoo where you can also feed crocodiles, 3D/4D shows, go karting, Segway racing, a water park, fish foot massage, and more. Vietnam has their own “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” attraction even though it’s a haunted house. Unfortunately it’s nothing related to the storyline except for the Dobby-like elf sculptures in the entrance. If you miss Disneyland, the park plays Disney music everywhere.

We went on a weekday and the park was empty. Take advantage of the various photo opportunities without the crowds. The weekends and holidays have special events such as  performances, parades, and holiday festivals. We hope you consider visiting this place if you’re in Vietnam.

Jackie Szeto is an avid world-traveler, wanderer, and blogger on Life Of Doing. She loves to spend time outdoors either hiking, biking, or walking around town. Otherwise, she is planning her next adventure or weekend trip. Jackie is originally from the Bay Area in California, United States and currently lives in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam with her husband, Justin. 

Universal Studios Hollywood – Hollywood, California, USA

Written by Maria of Tigrest

During our latest West Coast USA road trip, we visited Universal Studios Hollywood theme park in Los Angeles. I didn’t make much research and wasn’t expecting it to be so great! The park is huge, more like a mini city. Once you enter the gates, you walk through a shopping street with gift shops selling movie and TV show related goodies and souvenirs. You can even buy your own Oscar!

We grabbed a map and started planning our day – you really need to decide ahead on where to go. First stop was Wizarding World of Harry Potter– amazing little village with shops, cafes and wizard schools. I recommend going for the ride (motion simulation) located in Hogwarts School (castle). This ride is one of the kind!

The other rides we went to were Transformers 3D, Fast & Furious supercharged, The Mummy ride and of course the famous Studio Tour. The latter was a truly great experience, as you get to see the sets of many famous movies filmed there.

If possible, try to visit on a rainy or cloudy day. That will help you to avoid the crowds.

One day is hardly enough to enjoy this awesome park – I would recommend at least two days. When you get hungry, there are plenty of options to sit down and enjoy the sunshine.

Check out Maria’s travel tips at

Tayto Park – Dublin, Ireland

By Jennifer (aka Dr. J) from Sidewalk Safari

Tayto Park is Ireland’s (and probably the world’s) only potato-based theme park. Located less than an hour outside of Dublin, Tayto Park is great fun for a day trip with or without children in tow.

You’ll meet Mr. Tayto, the most formally named mascot I’ve ever encountered. Mr. Tayto’s entourage brings him out and about in the park a couple times a day. Make sure to get your photo and a hug.

Tayto Park is actually three experiences in one. First, Tayto Park is a classic theme park with adrenaline-inducing rides including a vintage wooden roller-coaster featuring a heart stopping drop and a zip line. Second, Tayto Park is a kind of zoo. You’ll find animals on display including a tiger and a herd of buffalo (not in the same enclosure of course…) You can also check out really cool bird of prey demonstrations during your visit. Third, Tayto Park offers a self-guided factory tour. Tayto is one of the most popular brands of potato chips in Ireland. While visiting Tayto Park, you can watch the mouthwatering crisps being made. As you can imagine, there are plenty of crisps for sale at the park too.

Because Tayto Park is located in Ireland, you need to be prepared for four seasons in one day; be ready for anything. Regardless of the weather, you’re sure to have a rewarding and fun experience.

By Jennifer (aka Dr. J) from Sidewalk Safari

Disneyland and California Adventure

Written by Susie of Photo Jeepers

When it comes to theme parks, Disneyland in the quintessential place to go.  I’ve been to four Disney parks around the world, and after hundreds of visits, Disneyland is still my favorite. The best thing about Disneyland is the atmosphere, and the best part is, that can be enjoyed by anyone.  There are musicians and performers on every corner, friendly smiles on every face, music playing in the background, bubbles blowing, churro smells, and happy people.  Make sure you take some time to just soak in the atmosphere during your visit.

You can ride a carousel in a lot of places, but there aren’t many places you can meet Mickey Mouse.  The smile on my 2 year old’s face doesn’t get any bigger than when he’s having a little chat with one of his character friends.

A big difference between Disneyland and other amusement parks, is that you can take babies on almost any ride.  The roller coasters, and a few other rides, have height requirements, but a lot of Disney rides don’t.  You can take a newborn on Pirates of the Caribbean, or spin around with a 6 month old on the Mad Tea Party. The whole family can enjoy many rides together, without having to split up or take turns.

Tip: Get there early – plan to arrive at the gate at least half an hour before the park opens, to make the most of your day.

Susie Chadwick, family travel writer at and mother of four, has been to Disneyland hundreds of times, as well as visiting several other Disney parks around the world. Visiting Disneyland with kids ranging in age from newborns to teens, she’s learned a variety of ways to enjoy Disneyland in any season of life.  When she’s not at Disneyland, Susie spends time hiking, or at the beach – with kids, of course! Check out her blog at

Efteling Theme Park – Netherlands

Written by Naomi of Probe Around the Globe

The Efteling Theme Park is located in the south of the Netherlands. Only an hour from Amsterdam and Brussels, this is a mandatory visit for anyone who loves theme parks, romantic nostalgia and beautiful outdoors settings. The Efteling Theme Park has it all. Based on the imaginations of nostalgic drawer, Mr. Anton Pieck, the Efteling is covered in a sauce of magic nostalgia. Cute lampposts, romantic benches, cobble stones, a little shop to buy sweets.

The Efteling Theme Park started with a fairy tale forest. Based on the common European fairy tales, the stories come to life with sound and movement. Everything is located in a woodland area with flower bulbs popping up everywhere.

But since the early beginning in the 1940’s, the Efteling has evolved into an exciting theme park for young and older kids. My favorite features are several of their dark rides and roller coasters. My favorite at the moment is the Flying Dutchmen. Based on the story of the haunted ship called the Flying Dutchmen, you set out in a thrilling boat ride through mist, harbors and a big splash in the end.

The Efteling Theme Park is open year round. From November till March you can visit the Winter Efteling. The park is covered with patches of (fake) snow and the creatures in the fairy tale forest dress up warm. Camp fires to warm up to are located throughout the park and you can take a spin on the huge ice rink in the park.

As the park is growing, it become more and more difficult to visit the theme park Efteling in one day. You can stay overnight at the Efteling Hotel in their Cinderella suite or stay in a tree house on their campsite.

Naomi is a travel blogger from the Netherlands. She has a passion for (long) train travels and a long lost love for (Roman) History. She lives a couple of miles from the best theme park in the Netherlands and basically grew up in the Efteling Theme Park. For more details about the Efteling, please read Naomi’s introduction guide to the Efteling.

Liseburg – Gothenburg, Sweden

Written by Stella of Around the World in 24 Hours

Nobody does theme parks better than the Scandinavians. Some people say Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is the best of the bunch, but I think Liseberg in charming Gothenburg, Sweden has a possible claim to the title. Liseberg (pronounced Leeza-burry) is full of exciting rides, gorgeous scenery, surprisingly excellent flavored popcorn, and the world’s cutest theme park mascot: a giant green rabbit. I personally think they should name the rabbit the Lise-bunny, but nobody asked my opinion.

There are so many fantastic rides and attractions that it would be impossible to do them all in one day. For fans of old-fashioned roller coasters, there is Balder, which is one of the world’s largest wooden roller coasters. For thrill seekers, there is AtmosFear, the tallest free fall ride in Europe. My personal favorite was Helix, which is the longest and fastest roller coaster in Scandinavia, but then I am a bit of a coaster junkie. Don’t worry if you are scared of loops and free falls, though! Liseberg has plenty of tamer rides like a log flume, and there are bumper cars and flying elephant rides for kids.

Liseberg is a convenient and accommodating theme park destination for just about any traveler. Almost all of the signs are in Swedish only, but the staff speaks uniformly excellent English, so there shouldn’t be any communication issues. Vegetarian travelers can stop at their vegetable-only restaurant The Green Room. Whether you are a family with small children or an adult looking for roller coasters and screams, Liseberg can give you what you are looking for. You’ll have so much fun, you might even take home a pair of your very own green bunny ears so you can recreate your favorite Liseberg memories at home. (Not that I did this or anything. Ahem.)

Stella Jane provides her readers with perfect 24 hour travel itineraries on her website Around the World in 24 Hours. She hopes that she can motivate others to get out there, see the world, learn something, and have a sense of humor about it all. 


Disneyland Paris – Paris, France

Written by Jenn of Will Save for Travel

A short 45-minute train ride from the city center of Paris will bring you to Disneyland Paris. There are two parks on the property here: Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. You’ll also find several hotels to stay close to the magic!  You can cover most of the two parks in one day with a park hopper ticket!

Disneyland Park:  As you enter the park and walk down Main Street USA you’ll spot Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. From there you can split off into the different themed lands of Frontierland,Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland. Many of your favourite attractions from the United States have been built here with a French twist: Haunted Mansion, It’s A Small World, and Big Thunder Mountain to name a few, along with a few unique to Paris. Don’t worry too much about the language barrier; everything is accessible in English and French. There are also parades and a night-time fireworks show for you to enjoy!

Walt Disney Studios Park: Smaller than Disneyland Park, but packed with things to do. You’ll find many
favorites that you can’t find in Florida anymore like the Backlot Tour, and the Moteurs…Action Stunt Show Spectacular. It also has many unique attractions like Ratatouille: The Adventure and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop.

Jenn Neilson is a personal finance and travel blogger with a Disney obsession. She helps people take control of their finances so they can be financially free to live their (travel) dreams! You can find her at

Cedar Point – Sandusky, Ohio, USA

Written by Kris of Nomad By Trade

Cedar Point is heaven for thrill-seekers. The theme park is constantly opening innovative and record-breaking roller coasters that make adrenaline junkies drool. Four of its current coasters held the record for tallest in the world at the time they were opened, so if you like big drops and air time, this is the place for you. Fans of fast speeds and big drops will positively drool over Top Thrill Dragster, which was the first roller coaster to top 400 feet, and Millennium Force, which was the first to top 300 feet a few years prior. Riders who like loops and flips won’t be able to walk past Raptor or Gatekeeper which dominate the entrance to the park.

If you’re not into thrill rides, there are plenty of mild rides for kids. The park has two family areas, including two small “starter” roller coasters. If you need a break from the action, you can hit the beach and enjoy some time swimming or participating in water sports on the Lake Erie shore. I especially love visiting in the fall when the weather cools down and the park hosts a special Halloween event with spooky haunted houses.

Kris is a Michigan resident who grew up visiting Cedar Point. She writes a travel blog called Nomad by Trade in which she documents her frequent travels for both work and leisure. Her specialties include United States locations, Europe, and Disney parks.

Lotte World – Seoul, South Korea

Written by Viola of The Blessing Bucket

Lotte World is one of the Seoul’s must visit attractions. This mammoth recreation complex is great for families, friends, and couples. It contains two sections. First, the Indoor Adventure. This section is the largest indoor amusement park in the world! Complete with roller coaster rides, an ice rink, mascot characters, parades, and shops, it feels just like a Korean version of Disneyland. The outdoor Magic Island also offers fun activities that last all day long. I went to Lotte World during the Halloween season and the entire park was transformed into a zombie zone. Park staff dressed up as zombies and chased screaming visitors around. It was really hilarious to watch. So watch out for these fun seasonal themes if you are visiting the park during holiday times. A Daily Passport at the park costs 46,000 Won (US$44) for adults, and cheaper for teenagers and kids. If you are only planning on going on a couple rides, you can get the Admission Only ticket and pay for rides individually once you are in (The rides cost between 1,000 and 5,000 won). There are also discounted admission prices after 4 p.m. A great tip is to pre-purchase online and you can save almost 50%!

Viola is a Canadian girl who is obsessed with seeing the world. She loves hunting for unusual destinations and best sunset spots with her camera. Viola currently documents her adventures living in Japan and travels throughout Asia. Read her easy to digest itineraries, foodie guides, packing advice and more on her blog

Prater – Vienna, Austria

Written by Jacky of Nomad Epicureans

One of my favorite amusement parks is and will forever be Prater amusement park in Vienna. Of course, a lot of it is due to nostalgia. Growing up in Austria, Prater was the highlight of any visit to Vienna. Former hunting grounds for the Habsburg monarchy, the park was made public in 1766. It didn’t take long for the first snack stands and rides to open on the ground and thus Prater amusement park was born. The parks (and perhaps Vienna’s) most recognizable landmark is the Great Ferris Wheel which has been on the grounds since 1897. It was originally considered a commercial failure but attracts thousands of visitors every year today.

The park itself is open around the year, although the majority of the rides are only open between March and October. What’s great is that there is no entrance fee which means you can go and take in the atmosphere for absolutely no money. Although many of the rides are closed during the winter, there is a lovely Christmas market just adjacent to the Ferris wheel. And even though it may seem expensive, don’t miss out on going on the ride itself. To me, it’s almost a magical experience. I mean, can you imagine that people rode the very same Ferris wheel more than a 100 years ago?

 And if you really don’t want to go on any of the rides, pick up some yummy snack food instead. Myself, I’m partial to Hungarian langos with a lot of garlic, but there’s also plenty of sweet treats to try.

Jacky is an avid adrenaline junkie and travel blogger over at Besides seeking her next thrill, she also loves to blog about her home Austria and her new adopted home Denmark.

Popeye’s Village – Malta

Written by Janelle of My Vacation Pants

At first glance, Popeye’s Village, on the gorgeous Mediterranean island of Malta, looks like a sleepy seaside village from the last century.  Look a little closer, and you’ll find one of the most unique theme parks in the world.  The village was built for the 1980 movie Popeye, starring Robin Williams and Shelly Duvall, and when the filmmakers were through, they left the sets intact.

A perfect place for film buffs and travelers, the park features activities and history from the film, and some great water based attractions as well.  The admission is fair, about 16 USD.  Make sure you bring your swimsuit because they have plenty of places to swim and soak up the sun.  Our favorite part was interacting with Popeye and Olive Oyl.  They wandered the town, along with other characters from the movie, so you feel like you’re a part of the village.  There is also a boat ride to some sea caves that is included with admission.  If you remember the movie, that is where the big aquatic battle with an octopus happens.  Pretty cool!

If you want more information about this tropical paradise make sure you check out their website.  It gives very, very detailed descriptions of what is available and what you can do.  Be sure to check out Popeye’s Village if you are ever in Malta!

We are a one income family of four that travels every chance we get.  We don’t spend much when we travel and we go some fantastic places.  Read my posts to get budget friendly travel tips, advice on traveling with young children, and detailed travelogues of places we have been.  Check out more on this site and on Instagram at

Hong Kong Disneyland – Lantau Island, Hong Kong

By Roneth of The Fickle Feet

Like every little girl, I also wanted to be a princess.

When I visited Hong Kong Disneyland, my emotions were rushing through my entire body. I was really happy to see all the castles and the Disney Princesses in person. It was like I was a little kid again. I wanted to explore every corner of the theme park and experience the magic of fairy tales. All I wanted at that time was to have my own fairy godmother and turn me into a princess once and for all.

For the very first time, I got to experience Disneyland. It felt like I was on cloud nine and everything was a dream. I tried different rides even though my back was aching during my visit. It didn’t stop me from enjoying the park I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. I felt so thankful and happy that I got to experience Disneyland finally. It was a wonderful memory that I will surely treasure.

For me, young ones or old ones can still enjoy theme parks like this. It brings back good old childhood memories that we once had. It was a nice experience to feel like a kid again and I will surely visit more places like this in the future.

Roneth is a dreamer guided by her wanderlust and curiosity. When she’s not sleeping, she’s probably wandering somewhere. She writes about her adventures and misadventures at

Walt Disney World – Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA

Written by Martha of Quirky Globetrotter

Deemed “the happiest place on earth,” it most certainly can be if you avoid the crowds and manage to not spend 75% of your day waiting in line. I’ve been to Disney multiple times throughout the years and I’m still surprised by the amount of joy it brings me — even my adult-self. My favorite lands in the park are definitely Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. Each time I visit the park it transports me back to simpler and happier time. I don’t worry about my bills or upcoming deadlines, I am free to happy and carefree, like a child again.

Due to the massiveness of the park, it’s unrealistic to assume that you’re going to be able to see everything in a short period of time. Choose your top must-sees and plan accordingly. My favorites would be: taking pictures with Alice in Wonderland and her entourage, riding Mount Everest in Animal Kingdom, eating your way through the world in Epcot, visiting Ariel’s grotto in Magic Kingdom and have a picnic overlooking Cinderella’s castle. Remember to arm yourself with plenty of water and patience.

If you’ve been considering visiting Disney World as an adult and without children, I would highly recommend it. It’s a trip down memory lane as you get to see your favorite childhood, classic films come to life before your eyes.

Martha is a travel blogger for Quirky Globetrotter and award-winning, freelance journalist. She travels the world looking for the best, hidden gems and uncovering local hot spots. She writes essays on the not so glamorous side of travel and hopes to positively influence others while creating provoke meaningful discussion with her feminist-inspired articles.
Do you have a must visit theme park that is not on the list?  Please comment below and tell us about where we have to go.  After reading all of these great contributions, I know I ‘ll be adding a bunch to my must-do list.  Thanks for reading!
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Put On Your Camping Vacation Pants Thu, 08 Mar 2018 07:06:00 +0000 “How do you take your family camping?” It’s a question that I’ve heard in my adult life far more than I ever thought I would.  The second word gets out that we’re going camping, I am almost always asked this question.  It usually comes from one of three types of people: Someone who’s never been […]

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“How do you take your family camping?”

It’s a question that I’ve heard in my adult life far more than I ever thought I would.  The second word gets out that we’re going camping, I am almost always asked this question.  It usually comes from one of three types of people:

  • Someone who’s never been camping before
  • Someone who grew up camping, but doesn’t really know how to do it on their own as an adult
  • Someone who used to enjoy camping, but doesn’t know how to go about it now that they have kids.

It’s shocking to me, because camping has always been a part of my life, and sharing it with my kids is a huge joy. Read on to find out how easy it is to take your family camping.

I grew up camping with my family, and I’ve always loved it.   Setting up a tent and living in the dirt for a brief time is both incredibly relaxing and exciting.  No hotel stay can possibly replicate the close-up experience with nature that camping provides, and the flexibility that camping offers opens up a wide variety of destinations and experiences that would otherwise be impossible to experience.  Also, the intimate living quarters and hands on activities offer a wealth of opportunity to truly engage with your family, especially the kids.

For these, and many other reasons, it is crazy to me that so many people are missing out on the joys of camping.  I want every family to be able to have amazing experiences and make lifelong memories while camping with their families.  In this article, I have painstakingly provided practical pointers (conveniently squeezed into ten categories beginning with the letter “P”) to answer that question that keeps popping up over and over again:
“How do you take your family camping?”


  • The fun of camping begins before you go anywhere. Deciding where to go on a trip is one of our favorite activities.  We call it “playing fantasy vacation.”  We click our computers together, and start Googling images of beautiful locations, reading reviews of destinations, and playing around with maps to begin planning our route.  Here are a few tips for picking the right location for your family:
    In order to bring the equipment you need, you’re going to need to be able to drive to wherever you plan to camp.
  • Talk about what type of environment sounds fun to camp in.  In California we’re spoiled, because we have mountains, beaches, deserts and forests to choose from, but no matter where you live there is some variety to choose from.  Do you want to be near a lake or river?  Close to a town, or as far away from civilization as possible?  With flush toilets and showers, or pit toilets and no running water.  (Quick MVP tip: If you want the family to enjoy themselves, always choose flush toilets.  Wait until everyone is thoroughly in love with camping before you attempt pit toilets.)
  • Check the weather!  Make sure the time of year you will be visiting will be comfortable temperature-wise, because there’s not a lot you can do about it in a tent.
  • Look at pictures of the campground, and read about available activities, amenities, trails, etc.  Does it sound fun to stay there?
  • How long do you want to stay?  By the time you’ve set up a tent, camp chairs, and all of your cooking gear, you’re going to want to stay more than one night.  I’d recommend a two night minimum so you can at least enjoy a full day.
  • Look up specific sites before you go and reserve them ahead of time.  There are a lot of websites, such as or that contain specific tips on the best sites at each campground.  A simple Google search with the campground’s name and “best site” will also do the job.



In this list, I will address tent camping primarily.  RVs and cabins are great, but most people don’t need tips on how to sleep in a cabin, and I don’t know enough about RVs to specifically comment on them, but many of these tips apply across the board.  Anyway, here’s some advice for the necessary preparations:

  • Get your gear in order!  A lot of preparing for camping is making sure you have the gear and necessities to make the trip fun for your family.  There are many, many packing lists out there that are easily Google-able, so I won’t give a detailed one here, but I will mention a few things in the packing section that might not be on other lists.   Once you’ve looked up a couple, start compiling your own list of the items you think you and your family will want/need to make it a fun, safe, and comfortable trip, and be sure to add your own.
  • Make sure your gear is in working order.  If you have things like flashlights or a camp stove that have been lying around the garage for a few years, make sure they still work, and have necessary components such as batteries or fuel.  You can usually pick up replacement items at a camp store on the trip, but that will cost you a whole lot more money.
  • Get a map of the area you’ll be visiting.  Yes, a paper map.  Believe it or not, there are places that still don’t get cell phone reception.  Better safe than lost in the middle of nowhere.


Part of the fun and challenge of camping is packing all of your stuff into your car.  Just make sure you leave enough room for people!

  • Check and double check your packing list before you go.  Don’t forget something!
  • We like to go grocery shopping along the way to our destination.  That way we minimize the amount of time we are relying on the ice chest to keep stuff cold.  Make sure you leave the ice chest accessible, or you might be re-packing in the grocery store parking lot!


If you haven’t reserved your campsite ahead of time (which you absolutely should if you can) you’ll need to pick one out when you get there.  Make sure the site you pick feels like a good fit for your family.

  • We recommend spots that have shade.  Being exposed might seem like a great way to keep warm in the morning and evening, but you’ll appreciate those trees during the middle of the day when the sun is beating down.
  •  Speaking of trees, we love a spot that is secluded, and often trees can form a great barrier between sites.  It’s not that we’re anti-social, we just like a little bit of privacy.
  • Sites with unique layouts can really add to the fun.  Big rocks to climb on, weirdly shaped trees, a bridge to cross over to the site, or maybe a site that is hidden behind a hill or at the end of a twisty path.  Some of our favorite camping memories come from the unique sites we’ve found.
  • Finally, make sure whatever site you pick has enough room for you to pitch your tent, especially if you brought a larger one.


Pitching a tent is one of the most common reasons people give me for why they don’t go camping.  If this part is holding you back, I would suggest that it is far easier than you are building it up to be.  Modern tents are cheaper, lighter, and easier to set up than those of yesteryear.

  • It’s not a bad idea to bring along a tarp (one of those blue ones) or even a plastic painter’s drop cloth to place under your tent.  It adds a small amount of insulation/padding, but more importantly it will extend the life of your tent.
  • After you choose the spot you’ll be setting up the tent, clear the area of rocks, twigs, pinecones, etc.  It won’t be perfect, but you can make it a little smoother with just a small bit of work ahead of time.
  • Most modern tents have very simple setup instructions, and many even have color coded poles.  Start by laying the tent on the ground, on top of your tarp, and flatten it out so you can see where the footprint will be.  Make sure the door is facing the way you want, so you’ll be able to get in and out easily.
  • When staking it down, make sure you angle the stakes inward, with the bottom angled toward the tent.  This will make it less likely to be ripped out by the wind.
  • Most tents include a separate rain fly.  These will often drastically increase the tent’s ability to retain heat, so it might be a good idea to put it on, even if it’s not supposed to rain.
  • As we’ve gotten older, we’ve found that an air mattress has greatly increased the comfort of sleeping on the ground.  Just make sure you have a battery operated pump.
  • Our family rule is no shoes in the tent.  It’s dirty enough while your camping, so there’s no need to track stuff in to the tent where you’ll be sleeping.


A big part of the fun of camping, especially for kids, is the work.  It seems weird, but even the laziest kids love helping out with chores when they’re in the dirt.  Give everyone a job and they’ll feel like they’re a part of the team.

  • Setting up the tent is a great place to start.  Let the kids help spread out the tarp.  Assign them to pole assembly duty.  Send them inside the tent when it’s partially set up and toss the sleeping bags, pads, etc. into them.
  • Our kids love to get water.  Send them with a tub over to the faucet to get water for dishes.
  • Setting up the camp fire is another fun one.  They can help get splinters of wood and arrange them in the fire pit so you can light it easily.  Of course, always check with a ranger or camp host to make sure fires are allowed.
  • Camp cooking can be a blast.  If you are allowed to have a fire, plan at least one meal to cook over an open flame!
  • Cleaning up can be fun too.  Make it a contest to see who can find the most pieces of trash around the campsite.


Another concern I hear a lot about camping is the whole bathroom/bathing process.  Yes, this part can be a little gross and unappealing, but it is worth it in the end.  Here’s some tips to make it less gross.

  • As I mentioned earlier, pick a campground with flush toilets, and showers make it even better.  Yes, there are great places to visit that don’t have running water, but for a first timer, do yourself a favor and avoid those for now.
  • Often, bathrooms at campgrounds do not provide soap, so make sure to bring some with you when you go.
  • Showers at campgrounds usually require quarters.  It’s worth a few bucks to not reek the whole time you’re camping.  Make sure to bring quarters with you ahead of time, because there is often no option to get change at the campground itself.
  • Bring flip flops or sandals to wear in the shower, because eww…
  • Take a shower at night, before bed, so you can minimize the amount of dirt that will stick to you immediately after getting clean.
  • We bring along a large pump bottle of hand sanitizer that we keep on the table in our campsite.  You wouldn’t believe how often that comes in handy.


This might actually be the most important section.  I mean, what’s the point of camping if you’re not having fun?  As I mentioned before, kids love being included in the setup and chores, and even those can be fun, but there is a lot more playing to be done on a camping trip.

  • Hiking can be a fun adventure.  Most campgrounds have some sort of trail nearby, and setting out to find what’s down the path can be great fun.  Just make sure to bring water and snacks with you, and keep the pace slow enough that it’s fun for the littles.
  • Boulder scrambling and rock climbing is one of our favorite things to do in the great outdoors.  If you find some good rocks in the campground, or along a trail, stop and climb around!  Obviously, stay safe, and teach your kids about safety while climbing.
  • Swimming is a great way to cool off when it’s hot, and a lot of places have lakes or rivers with swimming spots.  Make sure swimming is allowed, and find out about safety concerns ahead of time.
  • Board games and card games are a great way to spend time playing together, and a camping trip is the perfect chance to get everyone together to play.  Without the distractions of electronics, you are much more likely to have willing participants.


Camping offers many great opportunities to learn as well.  Nature provides some obvious ones, but there are educational conversations to be had in just about every aspect of camping.

  • When making a camp fire, talk about fire and what happens when something burns.  How does the chemical reaction create heat? What are the byproducts of the reaction?
  • Lots of opportunities for learning about safety arise while camping.  Knives, fire, getting lost, dealing with wildlife, etc.
  • Camping is also a great time to learn about taking care of our environment.  There are plenty of opportunities to see an up close view of our impact on nature.


All great trips must come to an end.  Take care to clean up your campsite well so you (and other campers) are ready to enjoy the next trip.

  • Make sure you let your tent air out, and then sweep it out before you fold it up.  You’ll thank yourself later.
  • Clean up all of your trash from the campsite, and maybe some that others left before you.  Our general rule is to leave it looking better than when we got there.  It’s good manners, and it teaches the kids some responsibility too.
  • Make note of any gear that might need repair, replacing, or new batteries.  It will make it much easier for you on the next trip.

Well, that’s about it!  I hope this little guide had some helpful info for getting you started on a camping trip with your family.  Start your kids now, and they’ll be taking their own kids on a camping trip someday.  Please let us know if you think of any camping tips we may have overlooked, and please tell us about the camping trips you take!


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Put On Your Denmark Vacation Pants – Den Blå Planet Aquarium Wed, 21 Feb 2018 07:03:56 +0000 We had a great time in Copenhagen, and we had some great adventures with our kiddos.  When researching the area before our trip, we were really excited to visit the Den Blå Planet, which is actually the National Aquarium, located right outside of the hubbub of the heart of Copenhagen.  Even though it was a short […]

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We had a great time in Copenhagen, and we had some great adventures with our kiddos.  When researching the area before our trip, we were really excited to visit the Den Blå Planet, which is actually the National Aquarium, located right outside of the hubbub of the heart of Copenhagen.  Even though it was a short drive from the city center, it felt like we were in a tranquil place like no other.  Read on to find out how to plan a trip to this amazing aquarium.

Getting There

We had a rental car, so we decided to drive ourselves to the aquarium, but there are other options as well.  We did pay 48DKK (about 8 USD)  to park for the three hours we were in the museum.  The parking was easy to find and we had no problem finding a space.

You can also take the Metro Line and get dropped off about 600 meters from the aquarium.  You would take the M2 line.

You can also bike to the aquarium, as many Danish people do.  We saw more people bike to the aquarium than any other method of transportation.  It’s the way to get around Denmark and there is a biking path from the city center to the Den Blå Planet.  You can lock your bike up outside in the bike lock area.  It will take about 45 minutes for experienced bikers to get to the aquarium from downtown Copenhagen, maybe a little longer if you are at my level of biking expertise.

Another option for travel to the aquarium is the shuttle bus, which is free if you have a ticket to the aquarium.  The shuttle runs from April to September and has many stops throughout in the city.  Check out the shuttle schedule here.

Tickets and Hours

The aquarium is open year around every day of the year.  The hours on Tuesday – Sunday are 10:00 – 5:00 PM, but Monday the aquarium is open from 10 – 9:00 P.M.  We decided to go on a Monday and we loved being able to take our time and really explore every nook and cranny of the facility.

Tickets are 170 DKK (about 28 USD) for adults and 90 DKK (about 15 USD) for children.  We thought that was a fair price given the activities and selection of sea creatures to see.  If you buy a Copenhagen Card you can get into the aquarium for free with the purchase of the card.  If you are planning on seeing multiple attractions and are staying for a couple of days, this may be the way to go.  Check out the Copenhagen Card and all the attractions included in the card here.

Aquarium Highlights

First of all, the aquarium building is an architectural wonder.  It is visually stunning to say the least.  The building is also situated right on the water and has some fantastic bay views.  Once you enter the building it is fairly easy to navigate, even if you only speak English.  The building is a fan shape, and once you go through the ticketing area you are in the center of the fan.  There are three distinct hallways that lead you through the different exhibits.  They are labeled with a 1, 2, and 3.  Being the type of people we are, we had to start at 1 and go to 3, but you can really start any place you like.

Before we get to the specifics of each area, I have to mention the electronic touch-screen displays.  Each tank and exhibit has a large touch-screen next to it which gives you access to information about every type of aquatic life in the tank.  The information on each creature, (which was available in English as well as Danish and a few other options) ranges from their habitat, behaviors, food, fun facts, and more.  There are also pictures, and in many cases videos, highlighting particularly interesting behaviors, or other interesting information about each creature.  I can’t begin to tell you how cool this was.  We could have easily doubled our time in the aquarium if my husband had his way and read through every bit of information provided on these handy screens.  We have visited aquariums all over the U.S. and have never seen such thorough and informative displays.

1 Northern Lakes and Seas Exhibit

The first exhibit focused on the animals and plant life that you would find in Northern Denmark.  Our favorite part of this exhibit was the sea otter tank.  The sea otters were quite playful and fun to watch, and the tank was stunning.  We were there during a feeding time, and after surveying the crowd, the presenter was kind enough to do her presentation in English so we could understand.

After you check out the inside part of the exhibit, take a break and enjoy the outdoor views of the bay.  There is a water play area with science and engineering interactive exhibits for the kids to grow their brains.  There was also a playground for them to get some physical energy out.  Visiting in June (when we attended the aquarium) made for perfect outdoor weather.  The kiddos didn’t really want to go inside.  They wanted to stay out there forever.  Good thing the aquarium was open until 9 PM.

2 Tropical Lakes and Rivers

This exhibit focused on creatures you would find in rain forests and warmer regions.  There was a really unique part of this area where you went in to a green house like room that was humid and misty.  You could walk downstairs and see some of the larger freshwater fish.  There is just something about seeing those large freshwater fish up close and personal.

3 The Ocean

This last room focused on the open ocean.  There was a HUGE tank with sharks and other large ocean fish.  We sat in the stadium seating and just took in that area for awhile.  This was probably the most hands on of the exhibit halls because they had a lot of interactive information for the kids to play on and learn about.

In Conclusion

All in all it was a fantastic day at the aquarium.  Like I said above, we spent about three hours there and we were very thorough, and we were able to see just about everything.  (The aquarium was not crowded at all, probably because we went on a Monday and the hours were more spread out.)  If you are visiting Copenhagen, and you have any interest in sea life, I would definitely recommend bringing the family to the Den Blå Planet Aquarium.

Please comment or email me with any questions you have about visiting.  I would be happy to point you in the right direction.  Don’t forget to check out our other posts from our visit to Denmark and follow our travel stories on social media.


Legoland Billund

Stömma Canal Tour


* My family and I were invited as guests of Den Blå Planet Aquarium, but as always, all opinions are my own.  

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Put on Your Year-in-Review Vacation Pants Tue, 06 Feb 2018 06:57:51 +0000 Welcome to 2018!!! When reflecting on the past year I always like to think about the highlights of the year.  Our little family really had some amazing adventures this year.  I would love to share with you some things you must try.  I interviewed my family members this year (my husband Phil, my daughter Audrey […]

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Welcome to 2018!!! When reflecting on the past year I always like to think about the highlights of the year.  Our little family really had some amazing adventures this year.  I would love to share with you some things you must try.  I interviewed my family members this year (my husband Phil, my daughter Audrey (age 9), and Luke, my son (age 7).  I will of course give you my input as well.  Also, happy 2 year anniversary to the blog!!! We really enjoy sharing with you our expertise and hearing about your travel adventures as well. Here we go!

Top Vacation Pants Destinations 2017

Phil’s Pick – New York City, United States

Phil and I had visited the airport in New York.  Phil even ventured out to get a slice of pizza during a high school trip to Europe, but we had never really been to NYC until one snowy day in March  2017.  We made the first flight out after a huge storm.  Snow was everywhere and it was quite beautiful, but nothing prepared us for the emotion that came over us when we took the subway into the city and walked out on Time’s Square.  We had seen it in movies before, but there is nothing quite like being there in person.  Read more about how to take a trip to this magnificent city here.

Audrey’s Pick – Pompeii, Italy

Audrey chose an ancient city we visited this year.  The New York City of its day, if you will.  Visiting Pompeii was like stepping back in time.  The city is a perfect picture of what life was like over 2,000 years ago.  It obviously had an impact on my girl because she often talks about what she learned visiting the city.  We loved exploring the city on our own and doing research before and after we went.  Also, there were plenty of tour groups walking around the city, and we heard some tidbits of information here and there, but sometimes just educating yourself makes it more personal.  We had quite the day walking around, even in the July heat.
MVP (My Vacation Pants) Tip: Bring water, we thought we could buy some right inside, but we actually had to walk around a bit to find a restaurant, and we only found one water fountain.  It happened to be a faucet style one, so we had to fill our hands with water and drink from our hands (or from a hat.  Grandpa did that, LOL).

Luke’s Pick – Middelfart, Denmark

I know my son is not the only 7 year old that is delighted by bathroom humor, but we had to stay in this town while in Denmark.  What ended up being a kitsch thing to do ended up being a lot of fun.  We stayed at a fantastic hotel called the Milling Hotel Park and had a lovely stay.  We had a lot of free soft ice (soft served ice cream) and enjoyed the fresh air out on the patio.  I understand why Luke picked such a quaint Danish town as his top destination of 2017.  If you want to explore some Denmark countryside I wouldn’t look any further than the town of Middelfart.

Janelle’s Pick – Venice, Italy

I have seriously never been somewhere quite like the magical Venice.  Yeah, we did the tourist thing, but we also did our own thing too.  We found some secret pasta served in Chinese take out containers. We walked through hidden alleys and found little gems throughout the city.  We took a morning Gondola ride through the hidden canal.  We also took the train in to the city, so we didn’t have to worry about finding a place to park our car outside the city.  Of course, we had to see the library (which in real life is a church) where Indiana Jones found the X that marked the spot to his treasure hunt.
MVP Tip:  I am not a person who wakes up early.  I love my sleep, but this one is worth waking early for.  We got to the city about 8:00 in the morning and it was empty.  I can’t quite explain the feeling, but it was like we were on the set of a movie starring us!!!

Top Hotels of 2017

Phil’s Pick – I Silos Bed and Breakfast, Seriate, Italy

There is just something special about the bed and breakfasts throughout Europe, but this one was just too cool not to mention.  Yes, they used to be silos, but have been converted into a bed and breakfast.  The host family (who was there to greet us, but didn’t live on the property) were just good people.  They put out a spread because we were leaving too early to have breakfast.  We had to catch a plane and this place was 11 minutes from the airport.  They taught us how to play soccer and we shared some wine with them.  We also met a family later that night that had a little girl who played with Luke and Audrey.  Listening to them play just made my heart happy.  They didn’t speak the same language, but in this case, kindness and fun are universal languages.  I mean, how cool is this place?! We stayed in a Silo!!! Not many people can say that.

I Silo Website

Audrey’s Pick – Ny Kirstineberg Gods Bed and Breakfast, Nykobing Falster, Denmark

Audrey is my little princess and this place was just like her palace.  The host family welcomed us with open arms and we felt like family.  They thought we were from Italy because our last name is Vecchio, but they were even more excited we were American because we traveled from even further away.  We had nine people in our party when we stayed here.  They gave the teenagers rooms of their own and they let the four of us have a big room with the most plush bedding.  Seriously, can we talk about Danish beds for a sec?!  They are like sleeping on a cloud.  This place was no exception in the cloud bed department.  The grounds had peacocks, roosters, cats, and chickens just hanging about like they they were in their own little kingdom.  There was also a soccer field, lawn swings, and games to play with the family.  The breakfast was made to order at the time we wanted.  The homemade biscuits were my personal fave, and they came with an assortment of jams and butter.  Also this place ended up bring the lowest priced accommodations that we stayed in throughout the entire year.

Gods Bed and Breakfast Website

Luke’s Pick – Sankt Helene Holiday Center, Tisvildeleje, Denmark

Luke’s favorite was another hotel from Denmark.  This place was pretty unique.  I guess it is considered a hostel, although it didn’t seem like one to us.  We rented a cabin that had multiple rooms, plus a loft.  Because we traveled by plane we didn’t bring bedding, so we paid a small fee and got bedding and towels for each of us as well.  This place is about 45 minutes north of Copenhagen and right off the North Sea.  We came in late at night, so we didn’t get to see our surroundings until the next day, but let me tell you, the area is beautiful.  We were very jet lagged and still managed to love this place despite our weariness.  We happened upon a forest full of carvings of Vikings, and the accommodations include a playground, giant chess board, tire zip line, climbing wall, and much more.  This place was the perfect start to an amazing trip through Europe.

Sankt Helene Holiday Center

Janelle’s Pick – Tenuta Le Colonie, Vinci, Italy

I have grown up watching movies set in Italy and was very excited to stay in an agriturismo in Tuscany.  An agriturismo is a farmhouse type accommodation that is common throughout the Tuscan region of Italy.  I thought that maybe the movies I watched romanticized Italy and that just, maybe, it wouldn’t be as romantic as the movies.  Well, I was completely wrong, this place was better than those movies.  This place was the real deal.  First and foremost, Tenuta Le Colonie is just outside the town of Vinci.  Yeah, the one Leonardo is from.  It’s small and historical and perfect.  You couldn’t quite walk to the downtown area from our villa, but it was a short drive to the town center.  The villa has a pool, and BBQing area.  The rooms were set up like townhomes with full kitchens and upstairs and downstairs living areas.  We had a common area in our Villa that we used to play card games and break some of that great Italian bread.  Again, our hosts were very friendly and told us stories about growing up on the farm.  My brother in law even bought some wine from the farm.  I wish I could have brought home a huge bottle of their olive oil which was made right on the property.

Tenuta Le Colonie Website

Top Dining of 2017

Phil’s Pick – Dolcezze Siciliane, Naples, Italy

We had just come back into the Port of Naples from a day trip to the Isle of Capri.  I had just seen some things that really blew my mind.  Capri was gorgeous, but we barely had time to eat between the ferry ride back and forth and our boat tour around the island, with a stop at the Blue Grotto.  We were starving.  We passed this tiny Sicilian place that looked closed, but we saw some people coming out.  I think they were closed, but when they saw the size of our group, they reopened for us.  They said they only had a fixed menu for the evening.  We weren’t quite sure what that meant, but apparently it means ooodles and boodles of food courses that taste amazing.  We are talking bread, oysters, bruschetta, calamari, Italian sausages, pasta, and countless other courses.  There is no way we were finishing all they brought out.  They even brought us out drinks and desserts to toast the occasion.  We were freaking out that this was going to cost a fortune since we did have 12 people in our party.  Nope, it ended up being about $20 a person.  Needless to say it was an amazing time.  A couple different waiters came out and told us to say something in Italian, while they videoed us.  Not really sure what we said, but it was all a part of a very unique experience.

They don’t have a website, but here is their TripAdvisor Review Page.

Audrey’s Pick – Terrazza Pompeiana, Pompeii, Italy

After a warm, but educational day at the ancient ruins of Pompeii, we crossed the street back to our van and saw an advertisement for pizza.  It smelled good, it looked good, and it wasn’t too busy, so we decided to try it out.  They had an amazing special that if you got cheese pizza is was only 7 Euros which translates to about 8 American Dollars, so most of our group got the special.  The pizzas were huge and tasty and a perfect way to end our day in Pompeii.  We could see the ruins from our seats on the patio.  I guess it made quite the impression on my Audrey because she picked this as her best of 2017.  That’s really no surprise.  The girl loves pizza and here we are eating pizza where pizza was invented.

This place also has camping, laundry, and bungalows for rent right across the street from Pompeii.  Pretty cool. Here is the website. 

Luke’s Pick – Bar Quattordici, Rome, Italy

Have you ever felt like you stumbled upon the jack pot when you travel somewhere and just find a place that gives you all the great feels?!  Well Bar Quattordici was that place for us.  We actually ate there three times during our visit in Rome because it was only 5 Euros and you got huge helpings of pasta, pub snacks, bread service, and more.  The owner was the kindest, most welcoming man, and you could tell this was a place that only locals hang out at.  When we walked in with our huge party of 9 he made the regulars move, so we could sit together.  Everyone laughed about it, and we felt like were locals too.  We had so much fun and felt like we had our Rome dining experience in the perfect way.  This was some of the best pasta we ate in all of Italy, and we spent two weeks driving all over the country.

Again, no website, but here is the TripAdvisor Review Page.


Janelle’s Pick – Galleria Umberto, Boston, Massachusetts, United States


So yes, each of us picked Italian food as our favorite dining experience, but mine is like a little piece of Italy right here in the United States.  We traveled to Boston during March and needed some cheap dining options because we needed money for the rest our trip.  I couldn’t believe how cheap, yet amazing this little place was.  We spent $12 and we got basically one of each thing on the menu.  This place closes at around 2:00 P.M. everyday because they run out of food, and when it’s gone, they close!  They ran out of food while we were dining in.  Whew! We made it just in time.  I was staring all dreamy eyed at their map of Italy on the wall because we were planning our trip there for the summer and a nice local diner came up and gave me all the tips.  He said eating at Galleria Umberto was like eating in Italy (where he used to live) and he knew I would have a great time (which I definitely did).  So yeah, Italian food is this family’s favorite.

Galleria Umberto’s TripAdvisor Page.

Best Activities of 2017

Phil’s Pick – Popeye’s Village, Malta

I think we were the only people that got off a cruise ship, took a public bus across the island, and went to Popeye’s Village.  I am so glad we did.  This place was so unique, so beautiful, and so interesting.  Popeye, the 1980 movie starring Robin Williams and Shelly Duvall, was shot here.  The set is still alive and well, living out its twilight years as a theme park.  You can even go in the little houses of the village.  We took a boat out to a gorgeous sea cave.  We played in their seaside playground and fake waterfalls.  My hubby and brother in law even got to be a part of Popeye show.  I wish we could have spent more time there.  We definitely want to go back to Malta and experience even more, but we sure had a blast spending the day here.

Popeye’s Village Website (very detailed descriptions await)

Audrey’s Pick – Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark

Tivoli was visited by theme park genius Walt Disney before Disneyland opened in 1955, and for one moment I felt like I was visiting Disneyland in the 1950s.  There were so many similarities.  We did a write up a couple months ago that you can read here.  Tivoli is one of the oldest theme parks in the world and has to be one of your destinations if you are ever in Copenhagen.  Until we meet again…I will be dreaming of you Tivoli, and Audrey will be dreaming too.

Tivoli’s Website

Luke’s Pick – Legoland Billund, Billund, Denmark

We have long been fans of Legos, but visiting the country that they originated from was a pretty cool experience for this family of Lego fanatics.  We also were quite caught up in the fact that this was the original Legoland, where it all began.  Check out the post for planning a trip to Legoland Billund here.  Of the two Legoland parks we have been to, this one took the cake.

Legoland Billund Website

Janelle’s Pick – Blue Grotto, Isle of Capri, Italy

It’s hard to capture the feelings I had entering the Blue Grotto.  I wish I could bottle up the feeling for times when I need a little inspiration, but this place was somewhere I will remember for the rest of my life.  First, we took a ferry boat from the Port of Naples to the Isle of Capri.  Then we took a boat around Capri and transferred to a small row boat.  The row boat captain perfectly timed our entry in to the Blue Grotto while the waves were low.  We had to duck our head down in to the boat to make sure we didn’t hit our heads on the rocks.  Once we entered the grotto we were in a enchanting sea cave wonderland where we were serenaded by our boat captain.  It seriously brought tears to my eyes.  Don’t miss it when you are in Capri.

Capri’s Website

Well, there you have it.  Our top destinations of 2017.  Let us know what you want to hear dedicated posts about in the comments below.  Please see our photo travelogue of our fantastic year of travel below, and follow us on social media.  Keep on traveling!!!

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2o17 Travelogue

The first of two trips to Walt Disney World this year. – January 2017


Sleeping Giant State Park – Connecticut, March 2017


Vermont Covered Bridge, March 2017
The Basin, New Hampshire – March 2017
The Cliff House, Maine – March 2017
Eating at the Wahlburger Bros burger restaurant in Massachusetts. – March 2017
Lighthouse in Maine – March 2017
Paul Revere’s House in Boston – March 2017
Cheers in Boston. – March 2017
Waiting for the ferry to Boston. – March 2017
Nintendo Store, NYC – March 2017



Hiking in Yucaipa, California – March 2017


Newport, Rhode Island – March 2017


Malta – June 2017
Barcelona, Spain – June 2017
Vinci, Italy – July 2017


Pompeii, Italy – July 2017
Taking a train through Cinque Terre, Italy – July 2017
Marseille, France – June 2017


Vinci, Italy – July 2017

Ponte Vecchio – July 2017
The Colossus, Italy – July 2017
Venice, Italy – July 2017
At an Ikea in Malmo, Sweden – July 2017
Malmo, Sweden – July 2017
Nykobing Falster, Denmark – July 2017


Venice, Italy – July 2017



Bike Riding through Stege, Denmark – July 2017




Kolding, Denmark – June 2017


Flensburg, Germany – June 2017


Legoland Billund, Denmark – June 2017



Fredericksborg Castle, Denmark – July 2017
Egscov Castle, Denmark – June 2017



Tivoli, Copenhagen, Denmark – July 2017




Copenhagen, Denmark – June 2017


Den Bla Planet Aquarium, Denmark – June 2017


Pisa, Italy – June 2017


Pasta for days, Italy – June 2017


Roman Forum and Colosseum, Rome, Italy – June 2017


The Isle of Capri – June 2017


Sicily, Italy – June 2017

A one night trip to Walt Disney World. We live 3,000 miles away, but we found $40 weekend airfare, so yes to that. – October, 2017
Rainbow Basin, Barstow, California – September 2017


San Diego ComicCon – July 2017


Vatican – Vactican City, -July 2017

Hume Lake, California – March 2017
Eating some Chili Size at the Lie-n Den in Bakersfield, California – December 2017
Great Wolf Lodge – November 2017
A rest stop in the middle of the desert. – November 2017
Laughlin, Nevada – November 2017

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Put on Your Denmark Vacation Pants – Strömma Canal Tour Sat, 30 Dec 2017 05:23:10 +0000 If you only have a short time to spend in Copenhagen and you want to get a beautiful but affordable overview of the city, you have to take a canal tour with Strömma.  We aren’t really city folk.  We usually like to explore the countryside when we visit new places, but Copenhagen really charmed our […]

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If you only have a short time to spend in Copenhagen and you want to get a beautiful but affordable overview of the city, you have to take a canal tour with Strömma.  We aren’t really city folk.  We usually like to explore the countryside when we visit new places, but Copenhagen really charmed our socks off.  It was such a dazzling city. Read on to find out about our canal tour through this wonderfully diverse city that we just couldn’t get enough of.  

We only spent two days in the city, but wanted to get the most bang for our buck (or Danish Krone), so we decided to do a canal tour.  Copenhagen is full of a rich history and stunning sites that you really want to experience.  I know when I am traveling I like to spend my time in the countryside.  I’m not really into big cities.  They are often overwhelming and busy.  Copenhagen is a very different big city though.  It’s definitely worth staying a few days and exploring what it has to offer, but if you don’t have a lot of time, the Strömma canal tour is a way to see the highlights in a short amount of time.  Let me walk you through the process.


You can book a tour online at  We decided on the Grand Tour of Copenhagen by boat and we booked it online with no problem at all. You can book the day you would like to tour online and they have hourly departures for the tour, so you can just show up on the day you are scheduled and go on the tour that is at the most convenient time for you.  They also offer a selection of different tour options like bus sightseeing tours, castle tours, and walking tours.  I printed up our confirmation and brought it on our trip.


We had rented a car to drive around the country and were staying in Glostrup, which is a 20 minute drive from the city, so we decided to drive in and find a parking lot.  We were told that you shouldn’t drive into the city and that parking is very limited, but we actually found a spot that was about a 10 minute walk to the boat stop. There was more traffic from the bikes than there was from the cars.  It was so fun seeing all the locals out on their bikes enjoying their weekend.  People of all ages bike, from toddlers to the elderly.  People bike while eating a bite and texting on their cell phones.  We are talking everyone in Denmark is a full-on professional bike rider.  Anyway, parking is on the pricier side.  We paid 132.70 DKK (about 20 USD) and we only parked for about 4 hours. However, since we are not the greatest bike riders, we were probably much safer in our vehicle. 😉

Checking In

We got a little confused when we were looking for the check-in booth for the boat tour.  (Not being able to read Danish didn’t help.)  The ticket booth is listed as an attraction booth with a different company name, but one of the flags was a Strömma flag, so I checked and they said we were in the right place.  While you’re checking in, make sure you look over into the canal.  There are some really cool underwater statues that you can see from above.  It is pretty mesmerizing.  We waited a few minutes by the dock and they let us board the boat.


Boarding was a fairly easy process.  They let us board about 30 minutes before the boat was  scheduled to depart, so we were able to sit on the boat and take in the beauty of the architecture and water before we even left.  It was also nice to arrange our large party (there were 9 of us) into a good formation so that we could all see the sights.

The Tour

Now for our favorite part of the trip: the tour itself.  We departed from Gammel Strand and took a one hour tour around the city.  Our driver was names Lars and our multilingual tour guide was named Luca.  They were both equally impressive.  Lars was going in and out of small places with this huge boat, and did it with ease.  Luca spoke in French, German, Danish, and English, and switched between them seamlessly.  On some tours they will offer even more language options like Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.  The tour is always done in Danish and English, and they will add in a 3rd or 4th language to the mix depending on their passengers.  At first, I wasn’t sure how it was going to work, but it did work.  I didn’t feel like I missed anything because Lars was so well spoken.  See below for the highlights of what we saw on the tour.

The Opera House
The Old Stock Exchange
The Royal Yacht
The Little Mermaid Statue
Amalienborg Palace – The Winter Home of the Royal Family
Our Savior’s Church
Military Barracks
Mobile Homes on Water
Some Pics of beautiful Danish Architecture

As you can see, this was fun for the whole family.  We really enjoyed our time out on the boat and highly recommend the tour.  We got a unique perspective of many popular sights in the city, all for a low price and an hour of time.  Don’t miss it when you are in Copenhagen!

* My family and I were invited as guests of Strömma, but as always, all opinions are my own.  

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Put on your Denmark Vacation Pants – Tivoli Thu, 12 Oct 2017 04:45:18 +0000 We are huge Disney fans, and every good Disney fan has heard the legend of Tivoli, the amusement park that Walt visited that, at least partially, inspired the creation of Disneyland.  When we began planning our trip to Denmark, Tivoli was at the top of our list of must-sees.  Read on to get tips on […]

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We are huge Disney fans, and every good Disney fan has heard the legend of Tivoli, the amusement park that Walt visited that, at least partially, inspired the creation of Disneyland.  When we began planning our trip to Denmark, Tivoli was at the top of our list of must-sees.  Read on to get tips on getting there, learn some fun facts, and find out just how much Disney was inspired by the Tivoli.

Getting There

While everyone around you in Denmark is riding bikes, chances are, unless you’re staying nearby, you’ll need to drive in and park.  We read about the terrible parking and driving conditions in downtown Copenhagen before we left, but decided we’d have to brave it.  The funny thing is, it wasn’t that bad at all.  Sure, there was more traffic there than in the rest of Denmark (mostly caused by droves of bicyclists) but compared to driving in a big city in the U.S., it was a breeze.  There was ample parking in a garage right around the corner, but you will have to pay 280 DKK (about $40 US Dollars) to park there for the entire day, and it was just a quick walk around the corner to the main gate.  There’s also public buses, as well as taxis, so a couple of other options as well.


Entrance into the Park is a bit like Disneyland in the early Days.  Once you pay a nominal fee to enter the park, the attractions are all priced separately on a ticket system.  However, if you plan on doing more than one or two attractions, then an all-day wristband is by far the best value. People 8 years and older must pay 110 DKK (about 17 American Dollars to enter the park.  This includes all the shows and entertainment.  The all day unlimited wristband is 230 DKK (about 36 American Dollars) and will get you on all the rides throughout the park for the day.  There are many free entertainment opportunities around the park as well, but the wristband is a must if you want to get the full Tivoli experience.

MVP (My Vacation Pants) Fact:
According to our awesome Danish friend that we met on this trip, “Tivoli” is really just a generic word for amusement park, and there are several Tivolis  throughout Denmark.  The one in Copenhagen is, obviously, the most famous.  Oh, and as for the “Gardens?”  Well, that’s not really a part of the name.  Apparently it has become known as Tivoli Gardens because of a confusion with the Tivoli’s Youth Guard (A.K.A. tivoligarden), a sort of marching band/boy and girl scout group that parades through the park on a regular basis.


There are a ton of food options while you’re at the Tivoli.  They have everything from sit-down restaurants to carnival type street food, and everything in between.  One particular area has a string of restaurants with food from several different countries around the world, not unlike a miniature version of the World Showcase at Disney’s EPCOT.  We ate at an Austrian restaurant, the Biergarten, complete with Bavarian décor, music, big pretzels, and a relatively affordable menu.

MVP Tip:  The Tivoli offers a refillable soda cup for sale for 65 DKK (about 10 American Dollars), which can be refilled every 15 minutes at one of two stations in the park.  If you’re familiar with European dining at all, you know refills are not a thing there.  So make sure to purchase one early, and get your money’s worth throughout the day.

Rides and Attractions

The Tivoli has something for everyone, from kiddie rides, to dark rides, to intense thrill rides, and everything in between.  As we mentioned above, if you plan on going on the rides, the all-day wristband is by far the better value over the individual tickets.

We spent a full day at the park, and had a chance to go on almost everything, and some of our favorites more than once.  Here are some of the highlights:

-The Rollercoaster:
This was probably my favorite ride at the park.  The Rollercoaster (or Rutschebanen) is one of the oldest operating rollercoasters in the world, and it’s a pretty thrilling one too.

There are three things you’ll notice immediately upon seeing The Rollercoaster:
1. The similarities to The Matterhorn at Disneyland are unmistakable.  (This one came first, another clear inspiration for Disney, although the actual mountain part has had a complicated history.  At one point, the mountain peaks were removed as the city of Copenhagen felt they misrepresented the geography of the country.  However, they were recently restored to their former snowcapped glory.)
2. The cars are operated by brakemen.  Yes, there are people whose actual job is to ride a rollercoaster all day, half-standing in the middle of the train, making sure the train doesn’t go too fast.  They also pose for fun pictures during the ride.
3.  The locals hop on and off the ride as it is rolling into and out of the station.  No “permanecer sentados, por favor” on this ride.

-The Star Flyer:

Not only does the Star Flyer share a name with one of my favorite bands (Starflyer 59), it is a super tall, spinning swings-type ride that offers stunning views of the park and surrounding city, if you can handle the heights.

That’s the Starflyer in the upper left hand corner of this photo!

-The Mine:

This ride is a combination flume and dark ride, with some impressive animatronics and fun effects.  It centers around a huge group of troll/gnome type creatures who are in charge of caring for a giant dragon who lives deep in their mine.  No spoilers, but there is a fun little surprise on this ride that made everyone in our group shout out loud.

-The Fun House:

I have wanted to visit a classic Fun House like this my whole life.  I’ve seen pictures of classic fun houses at carnivals, and watched movies where characters run through them, but this was the first time I’ve gotten to experience one myself.  It was awesome!  The Fun House at the Tivoli had everything from moving platforms to rotating barrels, spinning floors to moving sidewalks, crazy slides to self-climbing stairs, and everything in between.  This is a must visit for kids, and kids at heart.

-The Odin Express

The Odin Express is another great rollercoaster at the Tivoli.  It is a steel track type, and it races through trees, spirals above the rooftops, and zips above the crowds below.  It’s thrilling enough for adults, but not too scary for young thrill seekers.  Oh, and they usually let you go through the track twice in a row.  Another cool locals-only tip: As the ride zooms past the branches of the trees, everyone reaches out to try and touch them, like reaching for a ring on a classic carousel.

-The Daemon-

This is a high caliber, super intense, modern thrill ride.  This coaster is one of the newer attractions in the park.  It has a premium option, in which you can pay a little extra to wear virtual reality goggles on the ride for an enhanced experience.  We opted for the regular reality version, and the three upside down flips, tight turns, and high speeds were plenty thrilling on their own.

-The Flying Suitcase-

One of the most famous figures to come out of Denmark is Hans Christian Andersen.  Whether you know the name or not, you definitely know the stories he wrote.  The Flying Suitcase is a world-class dark ride that takes you on a journey through many of his famous tales.  Style wise, the animatronics are somewhat reminiscent of It’s a Small World, but the art and design definitely gives this ride its own style.  The vehicles that you ride in are more like the ones on Peter Pan at Disneyland, and the ride actually travels up and down through multiple levels throughout the building, all with interconnecting set pieces.  It’s really very impressive.  MVP Tip:  There is a switch on the ride vehicle that toggles the narration between Danish and English.  Make sure to let the ride operator know if you need it in English, and the ride will make a lot more sense.


The Tivoli has many live shows and performances that are included with admission.  When we first entered the park, the pantomime show was just beginning at the stage near the entrance.  First of all, the stage itself was a thing of beauty, with intricate decorations and an amazing mechanical peacock that functioned as a kind of curtain in front of the set.  Second, although we don’t understand a word of Danish, the pantomime style of performance was perfect since the broad gestures, music, dancing, and slapstick humor transcend language barriers.  It was a fun show, with beautiful costumes, and felt like a uniquely European presentation.

Later some of our party watched the parade, which included the marching of the Tivoli Youth Guard.  There was also a skateboard park, which seemed to be a temporary installation, with demonstrations throughout the day.  (Both, once again, entertaining without needing to understand Danish.)

In other words, tons of entertainment, which just adds to the overall feel, and value, of the Tivoli.


In case you couldn’t tell, we absolutely loved our visit to the Tivoli in Copenhagen.  It ranked among the top of the list of favorite attractions for many of our family members that visited there with us.  It was somehow a perfect balance of big city amusement park excitement, nostalgic fun, and authentic Danish experience.  If you are visiting Denmark, visiting Tivoli is a definite must-do.  Check out for more information.

Photo Log of Tivoli

Nighttime at Tivoli

* My family and I were invited as guests of Tivoli, but as always, all opinions are my own.  

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Put on your Denmark Vacation Pants – Legoland Billund Wed, 30 Aug 2017 12:57:56 +0000 We all grew up tinkering and building with Legos at some point in our lives.  We happen to be a pretty big fan of Legos in the My Vacation Pants family.  When we learned that the original Legoland that was opened in 1969 is still in the beautiful countryside town of Billund, Denmark, we knew […]

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We all grew up tinkering and building with Legos at some point in our lives.  We happen to be a pretty big fan of Legos in the My Vacation Pants family.  When we learned that the original Legoland that was opened in 1969 is still in the beautiful countryside town of Billund, Denmark, we knew we had to go.  Read on to find out about our fantastic adventure in the land of the world’s most amazing toy ever!  You will definitely want to plan a trip there yourselves, and I will tell you how to do it.

In our home state of California we are frequent Legoland California visitors.  We’ve even had annual passes in the past.  In one of the exhibits, called the Lego Factory, there is a map of all the other Legolands in the world.  Long ago we decided that visiting the original Legoland in Denmark was an absolute must, sooooooo, when I found reasonable summer airfare to Copenhagen on a non discount airline for $553 a person, we snatched that deal up fast.  We were excited to see many things in Denmark, but I would be lying if I said Legoland wasn’t near the top of that list.

Planning Your Visit

A Lego Hans Christian Anderson in Denmark. How perfect!

Legoland Billund’s season is April through the first week of November.  Be sure to check the calendar before your visit for the up- to-date information.  You can purchase your tickets online for a discounted price, or buy them at the gate.  There are also many hotel, cabin, and campground packages where you can stay right by the park and get tickets included with your stay.  All the information is available on their website, which you can find here.

Traveling to Billund

We decided to rent a car and drive all over Denmark.  The parking (which we used) was right across the street from the entrance.  You park, and then pay when you exit.  It’s 50 DKK for the entire day, which at the time we traveled translates to about 7 or 8 USD.  That’s the cheapest theme park parking I have seen in quite some time.  There are several other ways to get to Billund.  There are bus routes that will drop you off near the entrance. We also saw tourist buses, taxis, etc.  There is even an airport nearby (which, by the way, is the only place in the world you can buy an exclusive Lego set based on the airport itself.)  But the number one way people get around Denmark is biking.  It is the most bicycled place in the world and they have many bike friendly highways and lanes all over the country.  They have ample parking for all bikes.  You park them in the roundabouts behind the ticket booths and there is no charge to park there.

Entering Legoland

Lego Mount Rushmore. I haven’t seen the real deal in the states yet, but I have now seen two Lego versions.

We picked up our tickets at a will call window and headed right in.  The entrance is very well marked and you shouldn’t have any problem getting in.  Legoland Billund is much larger than the park we visit in California, so we didn’t budget our time as effectively as I would have liked, but we got to do a lot.  The lines were very reasonable, and if you get there when it opens and stay until it closes you should have plenty of time to do what you want to do.  The park is set up like a circle, so you can go right or left and end back up at the entrance at the end of the day.  The Lego Miniland is situated in the center of the park.  We saved that for the last hour of the day because most of the rides close an hour before the park closes, while the Miniland and shopping stay open for an additional hour.

Areas and Highlights

Pirate Land – The first land we hit up was Pirate Land.  We had a swashbuckling adventure.  Our favorite attraction in this area was the Pirate Boats.  We loved seeing a pirate lair, lego style.  Make sure you check out the Pirate Splash Battle as well.  Yes, you will get soaked, but being able to move about the boat while it moves makes it a bit easier to avoid a direct hit.


Adventure Land – My husband’s favorite Lego series has long been discontinued.  It was called Orient Expedition, and it had an adventure vibe.  It was cool because the discontinued Legos live on in this land.  It’s like Lego meets an Indiana Jones style adventure. Our favorite attraction in this land was called The Temple.  You ride a jeep through a moving shooting rage and you are able to use your gun to hit targets.  It’s like an interactive video game.  It was really fun.

Knight’s Kingdom

This land was a similar land that they have in their California location, but their roller coaster, titled The Dragon, was a little more extensive.  We loved the intricate displays inside the queue, and the roller coaster was a bit more thrilling than the one in California.  They also have a raft style ride that we skipped because we were still in the process of drying off from the Pirate Splash Battle.

Polar Land

Since we were already on a roller coaster kick we headed over to Polar Land and rode the Polar X-Plorer.  My son was very upset that he was a one inch shy of the height requirement on the ride.  It seriously broke my heart when he said, “Mommy, we may never ever come back to Denmark, and I may never be able to ride that ride in my lifetime.”  As a parent of a small, but brave child, it seriously wrecks me to have to deal with these sorts of height requirements at amusement parks.  Especially when you are attending a child centered one.  He was seriously an inch away, but had to sit out.  He’s six years old, almost 7, so he is definitely the target age for this park as well.  I hope we can get back there someday because this ride seriously rocked and definitely wasn’t too scary for a child of this age.  Height requirements are listed on the website, so if you have a little thrill seeker like me, maybe try to avoid those areas.  I understand things need to be safe, but like I said, you would expect a six year old be able to ride everything at the park.  The penguin exhibit was cool and we had fun checking out the penguin talk offered in multiple languages while we waited for the rest of our party to ride.

Legoredo Town

This was one of my favorite areas in the park.  It’s basically their wild west town.  It was fun to see a version of my home country done up Lego style.  It also had two of my favorite attractions: the Lego Canoes and Ghost: A Haunted House.  The canoes were like a log style ride with a fun little jaunt through the wilderness, and a waterfall drop at the end.  The Lego Haunted House had so many cool exhibits inside.  You walk through a haunted house with Lego ghosts and displays, then take your chances in the mirror maze where it becomes very hard to find a way out.  Lastly, you take a little drop in the tower.  There was one confusing part where they take your bags, cameras, and purses, and put them on a roll cart.  After we exited, no one ever directed us to pick our bags inside the tower chamber, so we exited the ride and looked for our bags. We walked to the front and they said the cart was inside the ride.  Luckily when we went back in and waited for the ride to be done our bags were still there, but that was one little thing that stressed us out.  Hopefully, this little tip helps you on the ride.  They just don’t want you to bring bags on the ride for safety reasons.


Also something really cool they offer is an area for the kiddos to play with Legos while the parents are waiting in line. In the United States I feel like the parents just use this area as a way to cut in line, but here it seemed to legitimately work.  We didn’t have to wait in many lines, but it was fun for the kiddos when we did have to wait.

Duplo Country

We started to realize at this point that this place is huge in size and even though we arrived right after it opened we were not going to experience everything.  Duplo country had a lot of attractions for younger guests, so we walked through that part of the park, but didn’t really go on anything.  It is really a great place if you have preschoolers.

Imagination Zone

This place had a selection of 3D movies, a Legoland aquarium exhibit, and a huge model of the X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars.  We definitely had fun checking it out.  If we could have spent two days here we would have.  There was just so much to do.

Ninjago World

We are excited about the upcoming Ninjago movie and were excited to check out this new land.  We did the Ninjago ride.  That was a video game based ride with some really cool technology.  After that, we did Lloyd’s Laser Maze.  I didn’t do so hot, but my son totally rocked my score.  Can you make it through the laser field before time runs out without hitting a laser?  You will have to let me know.  😉


After Ninjago, we only had a couple minutes to get on rides before they closed, so our party split up and hit up the last rides of the day.  I took my daughter on the monorail.  That was a fun tour of the park.  My husband and son went up in the Legotop, which is a tower observation attraction.  After we got off our attraction we looked at the miniland for awhile.  It stays open an hour after the parks close.  This was such a cool area.  You get to see works of art and architecture, Lego style, built by real life master builders.  The exhibit that impressed us the most was the multiple working boat locks.  A lego boat would enter the lock, rise to the next level, and the gate would open.  It was so cool.  It was also fun to see the difference between the one in California versus the one in Billund.  There were a lot of European places represented and we enjoyed identifying them.  We also got to see Lego models of some places we saw in Denmark.

On our way out we tried to go in to the world’s largest Lego store, but were turned away.  Apparently they have a hard closing time and we didn’t realize it.  We were a little bummed we didn’t get to experience it.  The store at Legoland California is open until the last guest leaves, but we probably would have had to buy another suitcase and we would have spent a fortune in Legos.  It would have been nice to see it before we left the park though, so make sure you get your shopping done before closing time.  Something else to keep in mind for your trip to the park.


We really had a great time at the park and would highly recommend a visit, especially if you are a Lego fan.  I love getting to do different types of experiences when you travel.  As a family traveler I think it is important to do a mix between cultural experiences, nature tours, and of course just good ole fashion fun, like we had at Legoland Billund. We got to see so many unique and interesting things while we were in Denmark and each thing was special in it’s own way.  This was definitely a trip we will never forget.  Stay tuned for more posts about our amazing trip to Denmark.

* My family and I were invited as guests of Legoland Billund, but as always, all opinions are my own.  

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5 Ways To Have Way More Fun On a Road Trip (Especially With Kids) – My Vacation Shorts Thu, 01 Jun 2017 06:00:20 +0000 Taking a road trip is one of our favorite ways to travel.  Whether we set out from home, or fly to our destination and rent a car, road tripping is the best way to get an up close, personal feel for the places you are traveling.  You can camp, stay in hotels, or some combination […]

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Taking a road trip is one of our favorite ways to travel.  Whether we set out from home, or fly to our destination and rent a car, road tripping is the best way to get an up close, personal feel for the places you are traveling.  You can camp, stay in hotels, or some combination of both.  Having the flexibility of driving a car around means you get to go where you want and when you want, without relying on tour guides or public transportation.
However, once kids enter the equation, some families give up on the road trip as a viable vacation option.  Maybe they’ve seen the Vacation movies too many times, or maybe they just don’t think they, or their kids, will enjoy being cooped up in a car together for hours on end.
Well, we at My Vacation Pants have taken many fun and memorable road trip vacations with our kids, and we’re ready to tell you our secrets to making the most out of your automobile-assisted adventures with the entire family.

Play Games

We’ll start with the most important one first, and though it may seem to be super obvious, I’m amazed at how few families really get this one right.

First of all, reading books, listening to music or books on tape, and just plain old talking to each other, are all great ways to pass the time on a long drive.  I also think portable game systems, tablets, phones, and other electronic devices are great.  Although I never had access to them as a kid, I certainly don’t stop our kids from using them.  However, these devices are just a small part of the picture.

Playing travel games together as a family will elevate your drive from a boring necessity to a highlight of the trip.  When everyone is engaged in some healthy competition, or some collaborative challenges, the ride becomes part of the fun.  Also, these aren’t just for families with kids.  We played all of these together before we ever had any.  There’s no reason adults should be bored on a trip just because they haven’t procreated.

Here are some suggestions for you to try:

  1. The Alphabet Game– This is a competitive one, in which everyone tries to find the letter of the alphabet, in order, on signs you are driving past.  We make it more challenging for the adults (must be the first letter of the word, etc.) and we stick to stationary signs, not words on vehicles or license plates.  You can make you own rules to fit your family’s style, but the cool part is that even if you don’t pass any signs for a while, this game can keep running while you’re doing other stuff.  We’ve had some great moments where everyone forgets we’re even playing, and then someone spots a sign with a letter we were all stuck on and shouts it out before the rest of us even remembered we were playing.
  2. The License Plate Game- This one is simple, and great for reinforcing geography knowledge too.  See how many plates from other states, countries, provinces, etc., that you and your family can spot on the road.  This is a great collaborative one, so everybody tries to keep an eye out for plates together.  You can write down the ones you see, or use a pre-made board with a map of the states, or maybe just keep a list in your head, if you are geographically inclined.  This is another game that can keep running for our entire trip, even while you’re doing other stuff, you can always keep an eye out for new plates.
  3. Word Games– There are a ton of these, with infinite variations, but here’s an example of one you can try.  It’s called Red Dog.  The rules are simple.  The first person says a word, and then the next person says a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word (hence the title, Red Dog).  This continues on, but the catch is that no words can ever be repeated.  It’s much harder than it sounds, as you will quickly start struggling to think of new words that start with common last letters.  The great thing about word games is that they require zero materials, and you can easily make up your own.
    Another great word game related activity is Mad Libs.  These can be found in just about any store, are a lot of fun, and nothing helps teach parts of speech more than the mild bathroom humor that inevitably erupts from this classic activity.4. Travel board games.  There are a ton of these on the market, and they can be found for pretty cheap. It helps to do ones that the driver can play along without looking.  Some of our favorites are travel Yahtzee and Scrabble.

    Our kiddos taking their own road trip at Sixt Rental Cars at DFW.

    There are a lot more possibilities, and really there’s no going wrong.  If you are engaging with each other rather than passively being entertained, the hours of driving will melt away, and the fun will rule the day.

Follow a Map

I’m about to sound like an old man here, but kids today rarely have any experience in following a map.  It’s skill that is being lost as our lives are completely navigated by GPS and Google Maps.  Even the more experienced navigators among us have let our directional muscles atrophy, and I’m often found relying on a cell phone to find a destination that I have been familiar with for years.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the way this technology has enhanced our travel experience, but there is something missing from the modern road trip that I think should be re-instated: paper maps.Now, hear me out.  One of the best ways to get a grasp on geography and to understand our relative place in this world is to navigate with a map, and a road trip provides superfluous opportunities to pass this experience on to our kids (or to geographically challenged adults, for that matter.)
It’s simple to do.  Just get a free map of the places you’ll be traveling through from your local AAA office. (If you’re not already a member, you should be!!!)  Or, you can buy cheap maps online from Amazon.  Once you’re in the car, show your navigator where your starting point is.  Then, as you’re driving along, point out intersections, parks, rivers, and other notable landmarks as you pass them.  Your navigator can follow along with a finger, or even better, bring along a highlighter pen for them to trace your route as you move along it.  This makes it easier to go back and look over your day’s journey together.  It’s a great learning opportunity, it’s a lot of fun, and it might help keep you from missing a turn.  I mean, Google Maps doesn’t know everything.

Break It Up

When you are going on a road trip, especially with kids, it really helps to keep your drive times to a reasonable amount each day.  Consider driving less distance on a trip in exchange for more time to spend at the places you’re visiting.

However, sometimes you just have to do a long drive, and then it really helps to break it up, and not just for emergency bathroom stops and meals.  When you are planning your trip, look for fun, active activities to do along the way.  I always look for green spots on the map: parks, forests, and other natural areas.  These are great places to get out, walk around, and burn off some pent up energy.  Make sure you have water, sunscreen, and snacks available so you can take a short hike, or maybe some sandals for a short walk on a beach.  If you have to travel four hours in one day, and you get out for a walk at three stops, then you are effectively taking four one-hour drives instead of one super long one.  It makes it a lot more bearable for the littles, and if you wear them out with walking and playing, they might just take a nap during one of the stretches.  Maybe.

A couple of our many “Break it Up” destinations while road tripping.

Be Spontaneous

It’s essential to do some good planning before you take a road trip, especially with kids.  However, we try to plan the essentials of our trips really well, and then leave plenty of room for spontaneous adventures.  (While this is related to item number four, it’s important to note that spontaneous activities should be in addition to scheduled stops.)
Have you ever been driving along and passed a unique restaurant, or a weird roadside attraction, or a fun looking playground, and thought, “We should go there sometime.”

Well, that time is now.  Who knows?  This might be the last time you pass this place, or it might not still be in business the next time you pass.  Road trips are a great opportunity to try out the unexpected and unknown.  Some of our best and most memorable adventures have happened when we did a last second freeway exit because some random sign caught our eye.  Our kids love the surprise aspect, and there’s nothing like the response we get on social media when we post pictures of some weird photo opportunity we stumbled into.

I found this abandoned hiking trail to adventure on at a rest stop.

Stay Longer

When you’re heading out on a road trip, it’s tempting to want to cover as much ground as possible.  That’s fine, but make sure you allow for enough time to enjoy the places you’re traveling to.  One big mistake we’ve made in the past is staying for just one night and traveling on to our next destination.  Sure, we got to see more places when we kept moving locations each night, but we never really got to enjoy the places we were at, and we spent half of our trip packing or unpacking at each new place.  Our new policy is to stay for a minimum of two nights at any one place, and more if at all possible.  Two nights allows for at least one full day to enjoy the area.  It also gives the kiddos a much needed break from being in the car.  In fact, try to avoid driving around on the days in between travel days as much as possible.  That way you’ll all be nice and fresh when it’s time to move on to the next exciting destination.

Well, there you have it.  No longer should you look forward with dread to road tripping with kids.  Getting out on the road can be a fun and relaxing way to see the world, especially if we take the time to get out of the car and find some adventures.

Do you have any other tips for road tripping with kids?  Let us know in the comments, and happy driving!

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The Ultimate Vacation Planning Guide – My Vacation Shorts Wed, 31 May 2017 13:32:39 +0000 As we are about to embark on one of the biggest family vacations of our lives, I have been reflecting on vacation planning practices that we do before we go on a trip.  We are about to travel to Europe for a month, which obviously requires some major planning, and I am trying to find […]

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As we are about to embark on one of the biggest family vacations of our lives, I have been reflecting on vacation planning practices that we do before we go on a trip.  We are about to travel to Europe for a month, which obviously requires some major planning, and I am trying to find a balance between getting things done in my day-to-day life and getting ready for my upcoming trip.  It’s tough, but I have some tried and true methods that make sure the planning goes, well…according to plan.  Here are a few of them, so you too can have peace of mind before you head out on your epic vacation adventure.

Google Map It

My husband is our mapper.  Even before we buy plane tickets he’s on the computer plotting out our destinations using Google Maps.  He will click on interesting looking locations and scenery around where we are going and make the most of our traveling times.  He will try different routes and change them if there is something really cool, not too far out of the way.  You can than save the itinerary to your phone or just make sure you have the addresses of the places you are going so you can map it on the road.

Book Your Lodging

After you have mapped out where you are traveling to, you need to figure out where you are going to stay at the places you are visiting.  Gone are the days that you can drive up to a hotel and get a good rate.  You have to plan that stuff ahead now.  I like to use Tripadvisor to read hotel reviews and book hotels.  If I really want to find a killer deal, I book it blind with Hotwire.  Click on the highlighted links to get my tips on using these websites.  You don’t always have to pay ahead of time, but you should still secure that reservation.  If you are camping in the United States, I recommend reserving ahead of time on  You do have to pay a small processing fee for booking ahead of time, but it is worth it to not have to worry about arriving at a full campsite.  There is also the vacation rental route as well, but often times if you are just staying for a night or two they charge a cleaning fee and large deposit.  So make sure it is worth it.  Of course, if you have family or friends where your traveling to you can arrange to stay with them.  We like to have our own space, but we have definitely stayed with family and friends when we are in a real pinch.  Just make sure you tell them ahead of time, so they have time to clean their house.  😉

Plan your hotels in advance like we did for this one in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Plan Your Activities

I have already talked about on previous posts how you should plan one big activity a day at the very most.  You won’t be able to relax if you have a jammed pack schedule.  For example, we are traveling to Italy this summer and there is so much to see and do, but we are only there for a couple weeks, so we booked some things in advance, but not more than one big thing a day, like the Coliseum or the leaning tower of Pisa.  Some things you have to reserve ahead of time, while other things you can just wait and see what happens.  I always make a board for my trip on Pinterest so I can  look at it while we are on the trip and see what we have time to do.  Another really cool feature of Tripadvisor is the save feature.  If you download the app and make an account you can download destination guides and save places you want to go.


Plan Your Eats

Eating is just a big part of my life.  I think it is a great way to experience the place you are visiting.  I love to look up what regions are famous for what kind of food.  When we visited 7 different states in one trip on the East Coast in the United States, I researched what type of food we should get in each region, and let’s just say the food on that trip did NOT disappoint.  We had barbecue in North Carolina, Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches in Philly, fresh Crab in Maryland, and pretty much the best bakery delights we have ever had in West Virginia.  After I find out what type of cuisine is famous in each area, I start using Tripadvisor and Pinterest again to save what restaurants I might want to hit up in the cities we are visiting.  We never have time to go to all of them, but it is definitely fun to try.  Also, don’t underestimate the power of the fridge and microwave in a hotel room.  Sometimes grocery stores in different destinations have new, interesting tastes and local brands not available in your home town.

Philly Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia. Yum.

Plan Your Trip Budget

I know the last thing you want to do is be on a budget when you are on vacation, but think of it this way:  If you don’t go crazy, you can afford to take more vacations.  I always estimate how much the trip is going to cost by figuring out these categories.

  • Rental Car (or other transportation costs) – We like the freedom of driving around on our own, so we often rent a car when we travel.  Of course it depends on where you are going.  Always reserve the car on a credit card that offers extra insurance coverage, and don’t forget the rental car company often puts a hold on your card for not only the cost of the car, but an additional hold to cover loss and damages to the vehicle.  I always plan for that money not to be available on my credit card.
  • Gasoline – Make sure you have an idea of how much gas will cost in the area you are traveling.  There are many gas calculators on the internet, but I prefer using It always gives me a pretty accurate estimate for my trip budget.
  • Public Transportation – Sometimes it’s just easier, especially in big cities, to take public transportation around.  We have used public buses, chartered buses, ferry boats, taxis, water taxis, trains, limos, hotel shuttles, subways, gondola rides, etc.  Make sure you estimate how much these things will cost ahead of time.
  • Food – I don’t really count food against the cost of a trip since you have to eat whether you are vacationing or not, but I do like to have an idea of how much I can spend on food a day, since we’ll probably be eating out more than usual.  One day we may just eat in our hotel room and do microwave meals, another day we may eat out all day, so I average out how much I can spend on food per day of my vacation.  That way you can save up for that special meal or treat.
  • Lodging – I like to prepay for my lodging if at all possible.  Sometimes it is cheaper to wait, so I always leave room on my credit card for a hold from the hotel for the cost of hotel and incidentals.  Make sure you read hotel policies ahead of time.  They all differ depending on where you go.  Sometimes even if you prepay they still make you hold a certain amount on your card and it may not be available for a couple of days.
  • Activities – Make sure you save money in your trip budget for sightseeing and shopping.  We aren’t big shoppers when we travel, so we don’t save money for that, but we do like to do museums, aquariums, and other interesting local attractions, so figure out how much you can spend on the fun.

Before You Leave the Nest

Before you leave your home base it always a good idea to set up some things ahead of time, so you don’t have to worry about them on vacation.  Just take a look at this handy dandy checklist and you will be home free for your vacay!

  • Pay your bills that may be due while you are gone ahead of time, or schedule the bills to be paid while you are gone.
  • Get a house sitter for animals or plants if needed.  It doesn’t have to be someone who stays the night, but you may need someone to check in on your place while you are gone.  We like to let our neighbors know when we are gone for a long time too.
  • Put your mail on hold or arrange to have it picked up.
  • Check the weather for your destination(s).
  • Pack light!  This one is super hard for me to do, but I never regret carrying around less luggage.
  • Tell a friend or relative where you will be going and when you will be gone.  You want someone you trust to know your itinerary in case of an emergency.
  • Have access to your itinerary and reservations.  You don’t have to print up anything if you have it digitally, but sometimes certain reservations have to be printed up.  Just make sure you can get to the information if needed.
  • Put a travel alert in to credit cards and debit cards you are going to use.  I often forget to do this and inevitably my card gets declined.  I then have to call while I am sightseeing and get it turned back on.  Also, if there is a time change, it may be after banking hours and you may be stuck without your card(s) for sometime.
  • Batten down the hatches.  Make sure doors are locked, cars you aren’t using are locked, water is turned off (we may have accidentally left a hose on once), turn your A/C or heater off, and unplug big appliances.  We like to take the opportunity during our long vacations to defrost the fridge.  This will also cut down on next month’s utility bills, and you can put the savings into your next trip.

Okay, now you are ready to walk out the door and get your travel on.  Stay tuned for more travel tips and advice.  Are there any other planning tips that you rely on to make a great vacation a reality?  Let me know in the comments below.

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Put On Your Rhode Island Getaway Vacation Pants – New England Part 2 Fri, 26 May 2017 05:00:45 +0000 My fam bam recently did a trip around the New England area and we spent a couple days in picturesque Rhode Island.  My husband and I are all about finding cheap airfare and then planning a vacation around that location.  We usually fly to the cheapest place we can find, and then do a little […]

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My fam bam recently did a trip around the New England area and we spent a couple days in picturesque Rhode Island.  My husband and I are all about finding cheap airfare and then planning a vacation around that location.  We usually fly to the cheapest place we can find, and then do a little road trip loop around the area.  That’s exactly what we did for our most recent Spring Break Trip.  We flew into New York City (JFK) because the husband found airfare on Jet Blue from Palm Springs, California to JFK, for a ridiculously low $132 a ticket.  Of course we had to snatch up that deal.  We plotted a route that would start in NYC and take us to Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, (with a short drive through New Jersey), and back to New York City.  We spent two nights on a little island in Rhode Island.  How cool is that?  We stayed on an island in Rhode Island! Get ready to get all the hot tips you ever wanted on taking a very short trip in this very tiny state.  Make sure you check out my first post from this series below.

Put on Your NYC (In Two Days!) Vacation Pants – New England Part 1

The lovely and affordable Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

Where We Stayed

We spent the first two days of our trip in New York City, and then we took a Lyft back to the airport and rented a car from Advantage Rental Car for the rest of our trip.  (There is really no point in having a car in the city because the public transportation is very affordable, and there is absolutely nowhere to park)  So, we waited, and got a midsize sedan to continue our New England Adventures in.  We really enjoy having a car for the our trips because it gives us freedom and flexibility.
We drove out of the city by way of New Jersey, and then headed back into New York and drove through West Nyack.  (More about something really fun we did while we were there later on in this post.)  We then made our way through Connecticut, and finally entered Rhode Island.
We stayed on the little strip island of Jamestown.  There is a beautiful and affordable little hotel there called Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn.  We booked it through Hotwire.  Now, on Hotwire you don’t know what you are booking until you book it, but sometimes in small towns like Jamestown you can narrow it down and figure it out.  (I give tips in how to navigate Hotwire here.)  So this beautiful place right on the water was only $79 a night and they upgraded us to a suite for free.  The husband and I had a bedroom with a separate television, while the kiddos slept in the living room on a couch bed with their own television.  There wasn’t a full kitchen, but there was a mini-fridge and microwave and a larger counter top space to store food.  We also had a lovely view and a balcony.  We looked at staying across the bridge in Newport, but hotels were three times the amount as what we paid in Jamestown.

MVP (My Vacation Pants) Tip: When you can’t find an affordable hotel in the city you are sightseeing in, look at hotels in surrounding cities.  Sometimes a short drive in to the action can be worth the price break you will get in the end.  


We really found a SUITE deal at this place.  Comfortable, clean, and had some great New England charm.

What We Did

5 Wits

If you are traveling from NYC to Rhode Island and you enjoy room escapes or puzzle rooms, I highly recommend stopping in at 5 Wits in West Nyack.  The interactive immersive adventure is located inside a mall in the city.  Being a California kid, it was kinda fun seeing a mall with so many family adventures.  In California, our malls are kind of dying out and shutting down.  I think because the outdoor weather is pretty uncomfortable much of the year in New England, they have to have some fun indoor activities, and this was definitely one of them.  We decided to do a three room adventure and break up the road trip for the kids.  I would describe this place as a Disneyland level attraction experience.  You start with a quick introduction to the story and you are thrown in to the action.  It is definitely for children.  You aren’t going to be super challenged by the puzzles if you go with only adults, but we really had fun doing it together.

After we went on our adventures we drove a couple more hours to our hotel in Jamestown.  A few weeks before our trip I reached out to a nonprofit organization called and they put together an itinerary for us for FREE!  It was pretty cool to get an idea of what to do before we even arrived.  Although we didn’t do everything they suggested on the itinerary, we did see some amazing things because of their suggestions.  If you are planning a trip to Newport, you have to reach out to them first!

For more information on lodging, dining, attractions, transportation and more, visit!

Downtown Newport

We started our Newport, Rhode Island adventure by driving over the toll bridge in to the city.  We could see right away that this was a significantly historical town.  We walked around town, took in all its charm, and thought about what life might have been like long ago.  A little ways away, we found a super cool playground (see the pictures at the bottom).  We played there with the kids for a while before continuing our adventure.  We like to stop at local playgrounds for our kids while we are on trips.  It’s fun for them, they see new and different play structures, and it helps to break up potentially boring drives or sightseeing.
Anyway, with historical buildings, very old pubs, and a waterfront with a shopping area, there is a lot to walk around and see in Newport.  We also did a little progressive lunch and snack tour through the area, which I will highlight below in the “What We Ate Section.”



Driving Tour of the Newport Mansions

After walking around the downtown area we hopped back in the car drove through the adjacent neighborhood and took a driving tour of some of the mansions.  It’s amazing to think that most of these houses were just summer houses for families at one time.  After we drove around the neighborhood for awhile we headed over to Newport’s famous Cliff Walk where you can walk down a trail of many mansions.  We parked at Easton Beach and made our way over to the walk.

Easton Beach

If you want to park right by the start of the Cliff Walk you will have a rough time finding the spot, so we parked at Easton Beach and had fun walking around the beach and boardwalk area.  I can imagine this place is hopping when it is not 20 degrees out, but we enjoyed less crowds while we there.

Cliff Walk

The Cliff Walk is one of the more popular attractions in the area.  You can see many famous mansions such as the Vanderbilt Mansion called The Breakers.  They do give tours of the mansion, but it was closed by time we got there.  The downside of visiting off season is that many places have shorter hours or aren’t open at all.  We didn’t let the cold weather or the closed mansions keep us from having an adventure.  There are different entrances to the 3.5 mile trail along the cliffs, so you don’t have to start at Easton Beach.  We enjoyed doing it from the beginning, but if you are staying a couple of days you can break up the walk.

Not too far into the walk they have a place called 40 Steps.  Apparently, the servants from the mansions made the steps out of rocks, so they could go down and play music, and socialize with each other during their time off.  In recent years, donors have made the steps more accessible to visitors and you can actually walk down to the rocks below.  If you walk around the base of the stairs there is a beautiful waterfall in a cave.  I feel like it is pretty hidden, so make sure you go around the side of the stairs and see them.  BTW, there are more than 40 Steps, but I think they had to add the additional steps for safety.

What We Ate

Now we get down to our progressive eating tour of the city.  Remember, we are budget family travelers, so we like to keep it casual.  I am sure there is some fine fare in this lovely New England town, but we had to stay on budget.  So this is where we ate while we there.

Mission Burgers

I found this hip little burger joint on Tripadvisor and it was hopping.  We have tons of burger places like this in California, so it was fun to see a little taste of home in New England.  They were even playing surf and skate videos on the televisions while we waited for our food.  The burgers were juicy and good, but a little on the smaller side.  We also got a hot dog for the kiddos, and that was good too.  We were sad the Mac and Cheese was out because we love to taste different types of Mac and Cheese on our travels.  The fries were fried to perfection.  Who doesn’t love a good french fry?  FYI, they just sell canned beverages, no refills here.

Winner, Winner

While we were at Mission Burgers, one of the locals noticed we were visiting tourists and gave us a hot tip about this place.  He said Mission Burgers is the best burger in town, but Winner, Winner is the best chicken in town.  I guess both restaurants are owned by the same people, but they are across town from each other.  Now this place was truly the unique place we were looking for.  It had the cutest, most eclectic decorations, all chicken themed of course.  The chicken was like a sweet fried chicken, and it was so moist and tender.  The Mac and Cheese (which they were not out of here) was creamy and cheesy and had that brown bread crumb topping.  They even had gourmet sodas, which is pretty much our version of a local brew.  We are soda addicts, and we love it when we can get a locally distributed soda. We got a blueberry soda and that was perfection!

Kilwins Ice Cream and Chocolates

So I guess this place is actually a chain, but man oh man, was it good.  We were walking around the downtown area and my son had to use the restroom.  Well, we were having trouble finding a store with a public restroom.  After trying a few places that said “no,” we walked in here to see if they had a bathroom, and they let us use the employee bathroom, so we of course had to buy some ice cream while we there.  Mind you, it was in the 20 degree range (-6 degrees Celsius) outside, but for some reason ice cream sounded good.  They whipped me up a waffle cone with a dose of Pralines and Cream and Salted Vanilla Caramel.  It was soooooo good.  I’m not going to lie.  I think we spent a whoppin’ $27 on 4 ice cream cones, but one, my kid had to use the restroom, and two, it was good, and in a total tourist area.  They also had an amazing set of chocolates that looked delicious, so you could probably spend less on just getting chocolates.

Rhode Island Travelogue

Check out our photo journey below.

The mall in West Nyack even had a Ferris wheel in the food court. Also, you could take in a high ropes course, and a huge indoor playground, and another room escape, right here in the mall.









I found this little door at our hotel a little creepy, in a cool way. I had to commemorate the moment.
Jamestown had the best playground ever. My kids didn’t ever want to leave.


Check out the tire bouncer. Fun times.
Each person had their own door to the playground.
They had a fun little arcade with some very unique prize options in the downtown area. Nice way to warm up from the chilly day.
It got really windy of the cliff walk, so we walked through the neighborhood on the way back and it was much warmer.
It was closed by time we got there, but I still got a shot of The Breakers Mansion.
Easton Beach was the epitome of what I thought a Rhode Island Beach would be like.
We love to look at tide pools.
Taking in the view.
Mansion selfie.
You can see here how the Cliff Walk goes on for miles. 3.5 miles to be exact. We walked for 1.5 miles of it.
Right this way to the Cliff Walk.
The view from our balcony and our hotel.
The bridge over to Newport.
Look at this good looking crew!
My daughter’s favorite house she saw in Newport.
They actually have a hotel you can stay at on the Cliff Walk. Probably pretty pricey, but super cool.
My husband was so excited he could practice his crane kicks. #karatekid
A cold, but awesome day at Easton Beach.
A stunning view during the Cliff Walk.
Just to prove we were there.

Well there you have it.  Our little Rhode Island adventures.  Feel free to comment or share if you are planning a trip to the area or you know someone who is traveling to the area.  Stay tuned for more New England adventures.  Next up, Massachusetts, including a day trip to Boston.

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