2018 has been a pretty fantastic year for us, and I thought it might be fun just to recap everything we’ve done, not only to add some useful links when looking for all of this years highlights in one place, but so I can remember all of the lovely things we’ve done and places we’ve visited. This year absolutely flew by, with some fantastic trips away as well as lots of fun things going on near home, and I’m so excited to see what 2019 will bring. Here are the highlights from this past year for all of us here at Have Diapers, Will Travel.
Highlights from this past year:
– Checking another state off our list when we visited Massachusetts.
– Trying a new airline when we flew to England with Norwegian Airlines.
– Visiting a new land at Walt Disney World when we explored Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios.
– Our first stay at Universal Orlando Resort when we stayed at Cabana Bay for Harrison’s 6th birthday weekend.
– Exploring some new Florida beaches, including Amelia Island and St Pete Beach.
Where have we been this year?
We took a couple of Florida beach trips this year, starting with our long weekend in Amelia Island in April. This trip was just the kids and I (read through my post for tips on traveling alone with kids) and although I didn’t know much about the area before our trip, we definitely want to try and get back one day because we all loved it. Amelia Island is in the North of Florida and in April, temperatures were pleasant but not quite warm enough for long beach days, so I found a lot of other things to do, including exploring Fort Clinch State Park, hunting for shark teeth, and playing in some really cool playgrounds. We also found some really great local places to eat, including an amazing local fish and chip shop (as a Brit, I appreciated this very much!) Harrison loved finding shark teeth on the beach and still has the ones we found, and although Grayson wasn’t a huge fan of the feeling of sand on his feet at first, he became brave enough to dip his toes in the (very cold) water by the end of the trip. We stayed at the Seaside Amelia Inn which turned out to be the perfect little bed and breakfast located right on the beach!
St Pete Beach
Our second beach trip was over my birthday weekend when my parents were visiting from England. We hadn’t been to St Pete Beach for years and July is a pretty great time to be close to the ocean (instead of in Central Florida where it is hotter than the sun) so we were super excited from this trip. We stayed in the perfect family friendly resort, Tradewinds Islands Resort on St Pete Beach, and had the most relaxing weekend playing in the sand, splashing in the ocean, and watching the sunset from the beach. The boys loved getting to play with their grandparents (who they consider to be way more fun than their parents) and Grayson got to be way more confident in the sand. This was a great family friendly place to stay and I’d definitely recommend it, especially if you’re looking to add on a few beach days to a Walt Disney World trip.
You can read my post on the best beaches close to Walt Disney World here.
We took an early fall trip up to Washington DC for a friends wedding and got to explore a little of both Washington DC and Baltimore. This was such a fun trip because we got to see friends and family, but also because Washington DC was a complete surprise city to me. I knew we’d like it there, but I had no idea that we’d love it as much as we did, and how much there was to do with children. We spent a whole day just walking around the city with no specific destination in mind, just taking our time and going in and out of places as we found them. Highlights included visiting the Smithsonian Natural History Museum (where we spent several hours and still didn’t get to see everything!) and the US Botanic Garden where the kids loved getting their hands dirty in the Children’s Garden. The city was so easy to navigate on foot, even with a toddler in a stroller and a 5-year old in tow, and we were able to see so much without any form of public transport. We stayed at The District by Hilton Club which was a great location and included not only a free breakfast (I think this is so important when traveling with little kids) but also a cocktail reception each night with free wine, beer and cocktails (also, in my opinion, so important when traveling with little kids!) You can find my self-guided walking tour to Washington DC with kids here.
In 2017 we began what has turned into an annual tradition of heading to the North East of the country in the fall; in 2017 we headed to Niagara Falls and in 2018, we headed to Boston. I’ve always wanted to visit Boston and absolutely fell in love with the city, which was one of the most family friendly cities we’ve ever been to. There was just so much for the kids to do, and the city was so easy to navigate as a family with young children. We spent a lot of time just walking around and exploring the city by foot, although we also took a Duck Tour which was a great way to not only see the city, but a fantastic way to get some local tips on places to eat and free things to do. Some of the best things we did with the kids were the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum, the Freedom Trail, and the Public Garden to see the Make Way for Ducklings statue. We also spent an entire day at the Boston Children’s Museum, which kept both of my boys happy for literally eight hours during a very wet and windy day, and went over to Cambridge for a tour of Harvard and a trip to the Curious George store. We stayed in our very first Air BNB and definitely want to give that a try in the future, having the extra space was fantastic! We definitely want to go back to Boston one day, perhaps when the weather is a little warmer and we can spend more time outdoors, but fall was certainly a beautiful time to see the city. Read through my full post on things to do in Boston with kids here.
Christmas in England
Our final trip of the year was in December for our trip to England at Christmas. Over the past few years we’ve alternated spending Christmas in Florida and Christmas in England, and this year was the year for a trip across the pond. Having grown up in England, I absolutely love coming back here for the holidays and luckily my boys love spending Christmas here as well. We packed in so many fun activities, including Christmas at Thomas Land at Drayton Manor park, seeing The Wizard of Oz, visiting Warwick Castle, and of course all of the Christmas festivities with the family.
Walt Disney World
Although 2019 will arguably been one of the biggest years in Walt Disney World history, there have been a lot of new and exciting changes made at the resort in 2018 as well. The biggest new addition was of course the opening of Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This land, although taking up a relatively small amount of space, has one of our family’s favorite new rides in Slinky Dog Dash, as well as a great family friendly attraction in Alien Swirling Saucers, and a fantastic new quick service dining location. We were lucky enough to attend a preview of the land to take a look around and experience the attractions before the crowds arrived, but I was there at 5am on opening morning anyway to be part of the excitement! Read through my post on Everything You Need To Know About Toy Story Land for more information.
We also started what I hope will become an annual tradition this past summer when Harrison and I visited all four of the Walt Disney World parks in one day. We chose to do this in summer before Harrison started Kindergarten and while this meant we were hot and sweaty and exhausted by the end of the day, it did mean the parks had longer hours and we had a fantastic time hopping from park to park. I wrote a post on Visiting Four Walt Disney World Parks in One Day if you’re thinking of doing the same thing. Harrison has already asked to do the same thing next year, although I think maybe we should step it up and try for six parks in one day next year by adding the Disneyland parks too – watch this space to see if we decide to take on that challenge!
Disney Springs also added some fantastic new dining locations this year, including The Edison and Wine bar George, two of the absolute best places to get drinks and appetizers on a night out. Also added was Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy, which became one of the most reasonably priced places to eat at Disney Springs (and instantly became Harrison’s favorite new place to eat – I mean, this kid loves his chicken tenders!) See my Complete Guide to Restaurants at Disney Springs for more information on where and what to eat on your trip.
As always, we had an amazing time at the fantastic (and pretty much continuous at this point!) Epcot festivals: the Epcot Festival of the Arts, the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and the Epcot International Festival of Holidays were all as fantastic as ever, with Festival of the Holidays taking our vote for the best of the festivals this year. We headed to Epcot in early December to experience our favorite Christmas Disney tradition in the Candlelight Processional with Neil Patrick Harris; for the second year in a row, Harrison adored the show and Grayson had to be bribed to sit still! But we loved everything about this festival, especially the brand new Holiday Cookie Trail, where we earned a free cookie and glass of milk for buying other cookies around the festival (like that was hard to do!)
At Magic Kingdom, we loved attending Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party for the first time as a family of four, although Grayson didn’t even last an hour into the party before falling fast asleep! The party was great as ever, with my favorite parade anywhere on Disney property and some great candy from the trick or treat stations this year. I would definitely recommend going later in the season if you possibly can; although prices do go up a little the closer you get to Halloween, the promise of cooler temperatures and lesser chances of rain mean the cost difference might be worth it. We attended in mid-October and the weather was very pleasant. I would love to see Disney add some new things to the party in the future though to keep things fresh, but I hope they never change that parade!
Although we didn’t attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party this year, we did spend some time doing one of my most recommended Christmas activities at Walt Disney World: we spent a whole day exploring the different resorts and admiring their beautiful Christmas decorations. I cannot recommend this enough if you’re at Walt Disney World over Christmas; the parks can get very crowded in November and December so taking a break is always a good idea, and resort hopping to see the decorations is so much fun. My favorite is always the Grand Floridian to see the fantastic gingerbread house. You can see pictures of all of the Walt Disney World resorts at Christmas here and find all of my recommendations for Disney at Christmas here.
Universal Studios Orlando
This year our main trip to Universal Studios, aside from our regular daily visits as Annual Pass holders, was our first time staying at Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort for Harrison’s 6th birthday in December. We offered him a staycation in the Orlando area as part of his birthday weekend, and even though all of the Disney and Orlando resorts were on offer, Cabana Bay was the resort that he chose! I knew nothing about the resort going in, but we ended up really loving it and now we’re dying to go back and try the other Universal Orlando hotels! The weekend was a typical Florida winter weekend, with temperatures ranging from freezing cold with blue skies to warm and pouring with rain, but we found plenty to do at the resort to keep us busy. Harrison loved the fantastic pool areas, especially the lazy river and the water slide, and Grayson got to play his first bowling game (which of course he won!) We love Universal Studios at Christmas and loved getting to visit the parks on our trip. We’ll definitely be heading back to Universal Orlando in 2019 for some more resort stays and of course some more park days!
You can read my full review of Universal’s Cabana Bay Resort here.
This year we also got to visit one of other favorite parks, Legoland Florida. Located about an hour outside of Orlando, this park is absolutely perfect for young kids and we love getting to go back as often as we can. This year we were invited back to the park for their annual Brick or Treat Halloween event, something we absolutely loved last year. This was the first year Grayson was old enough to really get excited about trick or treating, and the set up at Legoland was so cute, with plenty of non-candy options like chips, yogurt, and juice boxes for kids who aren’t big fans of candy. We’re looking forward to heading back to the park in the new year once their new Lego Movie World is open!
I’ve talked about this a little bit before on here, but I’ve never really loved living in Central Florida in the past. I still tend to refer to England as “home” and haven’t spent much time exploring the are surrounding our home, despite having lived in Florida for 12 years now. This year I wanted to try to get out and explore Orlando a little bit more, particularly the local businesses and places to eat – and I’m so glad that we did! Not only did we find some amazing places to eat, but we got to know the city a little bit better and it finally began to feel more like home to me (although I’m still not sure it will ever replace England!) We also ventured a bit further afield to find out what there is to do around Orlando, and found some great recommendations for day trips for people visiting the area.
I have a whole page on my site with a Locals Guide to Orlando which includes my posts on the best places to eat in Orlando, lots of fantastic desserts, day trips, and other family friendly things to do outside of the theme parks.
Overall, we have had an absolutely fantastic year, and can’t wait to make some new memories next year. We do have a few travel plans laid out, but I’m more excited about the places we don’t know where we’ll be going yet, and the adventures we don’t even know we’re going to have, because that to me is the excitement of travel and trying new things. I hope all of you have had a fantastic 2018 and thank you all so much for following along with my little traveling tribe.