Another year over and another fantastic year of travel and making memories. We’ve taken some really fun trips this year and I thought it would be fun to recap some of the highlights and include my most popular blog posts from this year in case they help anyone out with planning future trips!
Highlights from the past year
– Visiting a new state for all of us when we spent Spring Break in Atlanta, and adding another new state to Grayon’s list when we went to Disneyland in November.
– Two trips to England (including a trip to London on the hottest day ever recorded) and a Christmas trip.
– Experiencing two of the most eagerly anticipated new additions to Walt Disney World in 2019; Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the Disney Skyliner.
– Revisiting two of our favorite seasonal local attractions; Mardi Gras at Universal Studios Orlando and Brick or Treat at Legoland Florida.
– Our second annual trip to Amelia Island and a summer beach trip to Cocoa Beach.
This year’s stats at a glance:
Miles flown: 22,625
Airports flown through: 9
Countries visited: 2
States visited: 3
Where have we been this year?
We all ticked a new state off our list this year when we spent Spring Break in Atlanta with kids, and even the unseasonably cold temperatures (every day started off below freezing!) couldn’t spoil our enjoyment of the city.
Our favorite attractions included the Georgia Aquarium where we marveled at the whale sharks, Zoo Atlanta where we saw giant pandas, and exploring the amazing food and beverage offerings at Ponce City Market (where I still maintain I had the best mac and cheese of my life!)
I was really impressed with how family friendly the city was and how much there was to do with kids. It’s definitely somewhere I’d recommend visiting if you get the chance.
After our fantastic trip to Amelia Island with kids last Spring, we decided to go again this year (and have since decided to make it an annual trip as the kids love it so much!)
This time we took my parents and visited many of the same places as the previous year to show them everything we loved about the area. Favorites include exploring Fort Clinch State Park, hunting for shark teeth, and playing on the beach.
We also ate in a lot of the same places as the previous year, many of which have outdoor playgrounds that make all the difference when dining out with young children. I’m excited to visit Amelia Island again next year and hopefully try some new places as well as revisiting old favorites.
This summer we spent a long weekend in London at the beginning of our England summer vacation. We happened to be visiting during a heatwave, and actually spent the hottest day ever recorded in the city. This meant we were able to enjoy some of the best activities in London with toddlers, including exploring London’s fantastic playgrounds and enjoying some amazing ice cream.
I also wrote a post about things to do on a long layover in London, including visiting Kensington Palace and Kew Gardens, two of the most popular things to do in London when the weather is nice outside.
Summer in England
We spent another couple of weeks in England over the summer, visiting family and friends and exploring some new places.
This was our first time traveling with carry on bags only on a flight and although I couldn’t ever have imagined that was possible with two young children, not only did we manage it but it worked out great! I wrote a post on flying with carry on bags only for anyone else wondering how we made it work, as well as some of my best recommendations for a carry on bag for kids.
We also took our longest flight yet with a toddler (10 hours from Amsterdam to Tampa) and miraculously, we managed it with no meltdowns! My kids have done so well with their multiple long haul flights this year and while I think at this point they probably are just experienced travelers, we do have quite a few toddler plane activities that I always rely on when the little one starts to get fussy.
One of the places we visited over the summer was Oxford, somewhere I always love to go back to. Visiting Oxford with kids makes for a great day trip from London, or you could easily spend a few days exploring the city itself and the surrounding areas. It’s also included in my list of Harry Potter filming locations in the UK so definitely somewhere to check out if you’re a Harry Potter fan!
I always love to find new places to visit in my home state so I was excited to be invited to check out the Westgate Resort Cocoa Beach this year, as well as explore things to do in Cocoa Beach with kids.
We absolutely loved the newly renovated resort and would highly recommend it as somewhere to stay when visiting Cocoa Beach with kids. From the spacious modern rooms to the amazing water park featuring a lazy river and splash pad to the beach literally a few feet away, the resort was perfect for families.
We found so many great things to do in Cocoa Beach with kids as well, including visiting the world famous Ron Jon Surf Shop, exploring a dinosaur museum, and of course spending plenty of time on the beach and taking advantage of the great restaurants on the Cocoa Beach Pier. I’m hoping we can get back to Cocoa Beach again next year, even if it’s just for a day trip since it’s definitely one of the best beaches close to Disney World!
Probably my favorite trip this year was a long weekend trip to Disneyland. It was Grayson’s first trip to the West Coast park (and his first trip to California) and we were lucky enough to visit mid-November when all of the Christmas decorations were up.
The parks looked beautiful and we were luckily with unseasonably warm weather. The kids found some new rides that they loved, and we had a great time eating all of the holiday snacks! We stayed at Paradise Pier Hotel, which had all of the perks of being an onsite Disneyland Resort Hotel (such as early entry into the parks) and was just a few minutes walk from the entrance to Downtown Disney.
Christmas in England
Our final trip of the year has been our Christmas trip to England to spend with family. This was our second trip using Norwegian Air and although, as with any lower cost airline, people are often hesitant to use it, we’ve had great experiences. I wrote a complete Norwegian Air review for anyone who wants to know more about our experience flying from London Gatwick to Orlando.
This was also a trip where we took Harrison out of school for a week to take advantage of lower cost airfare and maximize our time in England. This is something of a controversial topic and while we are OK with our kids missing some school at this age, I did write a post discussing the advantages and disadvantages of taking kids out of school for anyone else wondering if it’s the right thing for their family.
Walt Disney World
This year we definitely took full advantage of being Orlando locals with plenty of trips to the areas fantastic theme parks.
Our most visited parks were definitely those at the Walt Disney World Resort, which had plenty of exciting new additions this year.
The most eagerly anticipated was Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which is probably one of the most immersive lands I have ever been in at any of the domestic Disney parks; even someone like me who isn’t much of a Star Wars fan was impressed!
The other exciting new addition this year that we’ve really enjoyed is the Disney Skyliner, which has become our favorite way to travel. The system hasn’t been without its hiccups, and I’m still a little cautious about recommending it in the middle of the summer without any air conditioning, but I do think it’s something everyone should try out at some point during their trip.
We also began an annual tradition this year of spending the last weekend of the school year at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel of the kids choosing, and this year we spent it at Port Orleans French Quarter, our favorite moderate resort. Not only do we love this resort for its compact size and boat transportation to the fantastic dining at Disney Springs, but we think it has one of the best pools at Disney World as well. On this vacation we also used grocery delivery at Disney World which is a fantastic way to save some money and have all of your favorites waiting for you on your vacation.
This year I also wrote my most in depth and comprehensive post on tips for visiting Walt Disney World, which includes everything from booking the right resort to figuring out the Disney dining plan to explaining the intricacies of the FastPass tier system. Hopefully this post is helpful for those planning their first trip, as well as anyone who needs a little more help with a future trip!
Universal Studios Orlando
This year we renewed our Universal Studios Orlando annual passes and made full use of visiting the parks for all of our favorite events.
The first event of the year – and one that has become my kids favorite at Universal Studios – was Mardi Gras, which featured Cajun inspired food, live music, and an incredible parade that really has to be seen to be believed! The kids love watching this parade and trying to catch as many beads as possible, and I love munching on shrimp and grits and sipping a Hurricane while they do!
I also wrote a post on the best ways to beat the heat at Universal Studios Orlando during the hot summer months, as well as some of my favorite Harry Potter snacks for the ultimate Harry Potter fan in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Next year I’m hoping to spend most time at Universal Studios Orlando, particularly finally being brave enough to attend Halloween Horror Nights – watch this space!
We only got back to Legoland Florida once this year, but it was for one of our favorite Halloween events, Legoland’s Brick or Treat. This is a fantastic event because all of the activities happen during the day so even the youngest kids can participate, and are included in the cost of park admission. I’ve updated my post on everything the event has going on and I’d encourage anyone visiting Orlando in October of next year to check it out.
We’ve had an absolutely fantastic year of travel as a family, and I can’t wait to see what the new year brings and what memories are still waiting to be made. Thanks as always for reading along!