Top things to do with kids in Los Angeles

If you are staying in Los Angeles as a family or planning a trip to this area, you might want to know about some of the best things that you can do with your kids. Here are some of the best experiences that you can have with your children if you are planning an upcoming trip to Los angeles:

Disneyland: Disneyland is a clear favorite for this area. This historic theme park opened first in the year 1955 in Anaheim California. There are 8 different themed lands within the park and enough to experience to last several days exploring its attractions. Disneyland is a true family favorite and a place that kids will love.

Santa Monica pier: this popular landmark that features attractions, restaurants and rides can be a very exciting place to take kids. It has beautiful views of the ocean and plenty of popular landmarks to get some photo opportunities in. The Santa Monica pier offers free admission as well so you can experience it on a budget friendly day out!

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Griffith Observatory: this Observatory that’s been open since the year 1937 has public telescope evenings that’s perfect for family use. Kids can explore the high-tech planetarium as well as take a look through a high-tech telescope to see a variety of celestial bodies up close. Ahis could be the perfect location for any child that is a real astronomy buff!

Santa Monica state beach: This landmark beach is one of the best places that you can enjoy some fun in the sun by the water. If you are looking for a great place that’s just outside of Los Angeles to enjoy a nice day in the sand, this is one of the best beaches for families in the area.

Keep these top options in mind if you are looking for some fun activities to do with kids around Los Angeles.

Top things to do with kids in Miami

If you are planning on taking a trip to Miami and you want to enjoy the experience as a family, there are a number of ways that you can have a more enjoyable time if you’re going with the kids. Here are some of the best experiences for families to try in Miami:

The Miami children’s Museum: The Miami children’s Museum is a popular destination for kids and parents. One of its premier attractions is the music makers studio where kids can experiment with a wide range of sounds and instruments. There’s a 56,000 ft.² building here and you can browse through hundreds of interactive exhibits.

The Venetian Pool: this historical pool was first built in the year 1923 on a coral rock quarry in the Coral Gables neighborhood. The pool is basically a spring fed and natural swimming area that’s filled with a earned 20,000 gallons of fresh water. It’s the perfect place to stay cool in the summer heat and a series of grottoes and waterfalls will really make you feel like you are in a super exotic location!

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Marlins game: Heading to Marlins Park is an excellent experience for the whole family. Heading down to Little Havana and taking in a ballgame in this enormous stadium can be a memorable way to see Miami. Kids get the – around the diamond at the end of the game and any child under three doesn’t even need a ticket to get in. The seating for this park is relatively inexpensive to begin with making it the perfect spot for a cheap day out with the kids.

Everglades national Park: There are plenty of hidden attractions within the Everglades and lots of exploration to do within this national park. Taking your kids here to explore the majestic wetlands near Miami can be a very memorable experience!

Keep some of these top ideas in mind if you are looking for some of the top things you should do during your time in Miami.

Top things to do with kids in New York City

If you are planning a trip with kids in New York City you may want to know about some of the best experiences that you can have as a family. Keep some of these top locations in mind for exploring as a family on your next day off or during your vacation:

The Bronx zoo: The Bronx zoo is a place that’s designed for kids of all ages and for adults as well. With more than 4000 animals that you can see throughout the course of the day there are some unique experiences that you can only have in New York at this zoo.

The Sea, Air and Space Museum: This is one of the best collections of historic aircraft from across the United States. There are specimens here from World War II, the Vietnam War and the Cold War. One of the favorites for children is a 40 foot submarine it kids over the age of six can file into and see all the internal components.

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Brooklyn Bridge Park: Known for its iconic merry-go-round from the year 1922, this beautiful location features two-story slides, a water jet field and more that can be a popular choice for many kids. The whole area has been restored making it a safe and friendly place for kids. The city’s largest sandboxes also found here for some younger kids!

The children’s Museum: the children’s Museum of Manhattan is a location that’s bound to appeal to kids young and old. It’s one of the best places to take kids between the ages of 2-10. There’s an area called the lab which is perfect for kids to finger paint make collages and more. The area has a series of workshops which are designed for the whole family.

Keep some of these top options in mind for your kids in New York.

Top Activities for kids in Las Vegas

If you are heading to Las Vegas with kids it can often be difficult to know what types of activities you can enjoy that will also be family-friendly. As you are starting to select some of the top activities for kids in Vegas, you should consider some of these options:

Mystere: The Cirque du Soleil experience is perfect for children and adults of all ages. Many people come to Las Vegas with the pure intentions of going and seeing a show just like this. The Cirque du Soleil experience here in Las Vegas is perhaps one of the best available in the world with big-budget stage shows happening every night.

The High Roller: Las Vegas has an incredible aerial ride that is perfect for each member of the family. The Eiffel Tower and high roller day package will allow you to climb to the top of each of these major landmarks to see the skyline from a different perspective.

Mac King Comedy show: This experience is perfect for kids and adults. Las Vegas has an acclaimed history of magic shows and this is an experience that’s perfect for each member of the family.

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Marvel Avengers STATION: this marble experience is one of the greatest collections of the Marvel movie props in Las Vegas. Located in the treasure Island Hotel, kids under four are free for this experience. This interactive exhibit has original equipment from the movie and agents to guide you through different levels of training to become an Avenger!

Shark Reef: One of the premier aquariums in Las Vegas, the Mandalay Bay hotel has a shark reef aquarium. Kids of all ages can marvel at undersea life in this incredible exhibit.

KISS monster Mini golf: Enjoy one of the greatest indoor Mini golf experiences in Las Vegas. With KISS themed minigolf holes and a glow-in-the-dark experience the bands shows have been recorded and play throughout the golf course!

If you are interested in having some fun throughout Vegas, each of these experiences could be a great call if you are traveling with kids!

PSA: Avoid SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) with Children

If you are planning a trip to Europe this summer, you might want to avoid SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) if you are travelling with kids in tow. While we fortunately did not use SAS to cross the Atlantic, we did have the unfortunate experience of flying on SAS for four flights within Europe.

The SAS experience was overall quite negative, but the lack of family-friendliness was truly shocking. Here are all the issues we had with this airline:

First, families with children were not able to board early so by the time we boarded with our boarding pass priority the flight attendants were getting antsy that it was taking us so long to get settled. Other airlines help themselves avoid the stress by just letting families on with the elite fliers.

 

Once we were on the plane, we served our children a snack. The flight attendants came by and were very upset that children were eating a snack that could potentially make crumbs. They remarked multiple times about the “mess” and before landing they came by with a garbage bag and instructions to clean the “mess”. Have a look at this picture and see if you can spot an extraordinary mess outside of some napkins.

Once we landed we discovered that SAS had conveniently decided not to bring our stroller along for the journey. Upon expressing to the baggage service how problematic it might be to be on vacation without a stroller, he just shrugged and said too bad. We did finally receive the stroller two days later, it was quite worse for the wear as a result of its trip without us.

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When we arrived at the airport to check in for our next flight, we discovered how much SAS hates strollers. They consider a stroller to be a checked bag not be taken past security and they charge 70 EUR to check it in. Yes, that’s correct. Unlike every other airline in the world which allows you to gate check a stroller and have it returned at the arrival gate, SAS charges for it as if it’s a full bag! When we complained at the check-in counter and said we were going to tweet our disapproval, the ticket agent threatened to rip up our boarding passes unless we deleted the tweet.

As you can see, for a family with children this is not an airline you want to choose. Even for those traveling without kids there are some things you want to be aware of.

Drinks are not free even on inter-continental flights. You get one free soft drink with your meal, but after that it’s 3 EUR a drink.

If you need customer service, good luck. Hold times are ridiculously long and  customer support is incredibly unhelpful.

If you do call customer service, prepare to pay a $40 fee.

On paper, SAS is a Star Alliance airline, but they seem to want to pretend to be like their budget airline competitors. With service such as we received we should have opted for a budget airline, and spared ourselves the disappointment.

Klaus K Hotel Helsinki

If you find yourself in Helsinki, Finland with kids in tow, you will absolutely want to consider a stay at the Klaus K Hotel. The room we stayed in was the Envy Room with a King Bed and it was absolutely huge. The room had a view of the street and was in a corner away from all the noise. The hotel itself was very centrally located right near the Esplanade park and only a few blocks from the Market Square ferry terminal. Down the block was a Circle K supermarket (kind of like a 7-11). The only downside was that it was 2.5 km from the ferry terminal where the Tallin ferry gets in which can be kind of pricey in a taxi.

The hotel staff was amazing and very helpful with every request. We didn’t have a chance to eat breakfast at the hotel, but it looked like quite a spread.

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15 Things To Know Before Traveling to Cuba

 

Cuba is a fascinating place for anyone to visit, but its lack of connectivity to the rest of world due to political realities makes it somewhat of a challenging place to visit. If you are planning a trip to Cuba here’s everything you need to know:

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  1. Do whatever you can to not check bags on the plane. Once you arrive in Cuba you could be stuck waiting for awhile while they find a truck to unload the suitcases from the plane.
  2. Don’t bother staying in a hotel. They are overpriced and even the fancy ones are in poor condition. Arrange to stay in a private apartment through Airbnb or Booking.com
  3. Classic cars are not a cliché. Most of the cars on the road are American or Soviet cars from the 1950’s and somehow are still on the road. When you land at the Havana airport, don’t feel pressured to take only a classic car as you will have plenty of opportunity to take on later.
  4. On that note, if you are wondering how much a taxi costs to the city, as of December 2017 it is 25 CUC.
  5. Cuba has an odd money system as they use 2 sets of currency at the same time. The primary currency for tourists are Cuban convertible notes called CUC and each one is roughly equivalent to 1 USD. At the same time they have a Cuban Peso 25 Cuban Pesos equal a single CUC. Money exchangers only give out CUC and the rate for non-US currency is whatever the current USD exchange rate is minus a 3% commission. Exchanges from USD to CUC incur a 10% tax in addition to a 3% commission so 100 USD will only get 87 CUC.
  6. Internet in Cuba is unrestricted; however, that is the only good thing about it. Internet is only available in Wifi hotspots and access is obtained by purchasing blocks of time on a prepaid card. The internet is very slow and not really fast enough for a video call.
  7. Just because there is no internet doesn’t mean that you need to forgo Google Maps. Before you depart for Cuba, download the offline maps of Havana and any other city you will be visiting. You will not have walking directions, but at least you will be able to find yourself by GPS anywhere you need.
  8. On the same note, if you don’t speak Spanish download the offline language pack for Spanish in the Google translate app.
  9. Cuba is not really an economy of abundance. There are lots of little shops which sell things like water, beer and soft drinks, but they run out of things. Don’t count on a shop having what you  need: buy before you run out. If possible bring water with you into Cuba, so at least you have a head start.
  10. If you like sugary soft drinks, Coca-Cola is not readily available as Coke is restricted by the embargo from setting up operations in Cuba. There are stores with Coke imported from Mexico, but be prepared to pay more.
  11. Toilet paper is a convenience that is not freely available even in supposedly high end hotels. It would be wise to travel with tissues or toilet paper in a backpack.
  12. While visiting Old Havana or Havana Viejo as it is called, make sure to go a couple streets off the main tourist sites to see how real Cubans live. It is nothing at all like the clean manicured streets and squares.
  13. While most guides don’t mention it, there are some amazing beaches right near Havana. You can take a taxi for 15 CUC each way to Santa Maria which is just a 25 minute ride from Havana. This beach has lifeguards, convenience stores and chairs for rent
  14. Cuba is very safe and even in the poor areas there are plenty of police. You should be as cautious as you would be in any major city.
  15. When you leave Cuba, be careful what you try to bring in your carryon. Cuban security is more restrictive than most countries and even cigarette lighters are not allowed. They also restrict anything that can be construed to be a weapon like a mini-baseball bat, pots and sticks. When in doubt, just check it.

Cuba is an amazing country and you will definitely enjoy your time there. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch with us!

 

 

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel in South Lake Tahoe Review

With some family in town from the East Coast, we decided to take a quick trip to South Lake Tahoe. As it is deep into the high season of the summer it was not so easy to find a hotel that fulfilled all of our needs. By chance we stumbled upon the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel (formerly Embassy Suites) and on paper it seemed to meet all of our needs. The reviews and the hotel website itself were a bit unclear, so we were pleasantly surprised once we arrived to see how perfect it was.

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel bedroom

Room

All rooms in the property are suites with a bedroom separated from living room with a door that closes. The bedroom was quite large and it included a sink and a TV. Surprisingly for a hotel of this caliber there were no robes or slippers, but otherwise the room was well equipped. The only downside was that the bed was somewhat uncomfortable and the mattress was lumpy.

Lake tahoe Resort Hotel Living Room

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Main Room

The main hotel room / living room was equipped with a sofa that pulled out into a bed, a couple arm chairs and a full dining room table with four chairs. In the corner there was a small coffee making station and a fridge. The furniture was a bit old and tired, but it completely met all of our needs.

 

Facilities

The hotel had an indoor pool, a plus in the winter, but a negative in the summer. There was an afternoon happy hour between 4:30 and 6:30 which was a nice touch. A full buffet breakfast was included in the $19 mandatory resort fee. Parking is valet only and costs an additional $19 per day, but we parked in the Harrah’s next door as it seemed many other guests did.

Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel Facilities

Location

The location was absolutely perfect. Heavenly and all of its shopping and activities were right next door. The hotel is right across the driveway from Harrah’s and a short 10 minute walk to the lakefront. For a better beach, we went to Nevada Beach which was just an 8 minute drive away.

Overall review

As a hotel for families with children, this place was perfect. It had large rooms that are perfect for families and even came with enough towels to serve a family of 4.

JW Marriott in Panama City Buenaventura Review

Having stayed at the JW Marriott in Phuket, Thailand (one of our favorite hotels), we decided that the JW Marriott Panama Golf & Beach Resort in Buenaventura would be a good bet for a family vacation. Boy, were we wrong. Nearly everything was a disappointment from the moment we arrived.

As we typically do before going to a hotel with our kids, we contact the hotel prior to arrival to ensure that things like cribs and extra beds were set up. Since there was no email address for the hotel, we contacted them on Facebook. The hotel was quite responsive and got back to us within the same day. The assured us that we had received a great upgrade as a result of our Marriott Gold status and there would be a crib in our room.

After arriving at the hotel from our three plus hour drive from Panama City, you can imagine that everyone was antsy to get out of the car and settle in our room. Unfortunately, that assurance from social media was never transmitted to the front desk, so our room was not ready. After some time working with the front desk manager, we were able to find a room that had enough room for a crib and an extra bed, but it was not the promised upgrade.

The room was quite large when compared to standard hotel rooms and it was well equipped with everything you would expect to find in a luxury hotel. It had a nice little balcony which was great for feeding the kids and keeping the mess out of the room.

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The overall property was simply OK and did not really look like the pictures on their website. The beach was a good 10 minute walk from the hotel despite the website advertising it as a beachfront hotel. There was one pool at the hotel that wrapped around an island in the middle with a swim up bar.

The hotel had its own private beach but it is separated from the hotel rooms by a community of vacation bungalows. In the beach area there was a well stocked kids club, a restaurant, and a number of different pools. On the actual beach the hotel supplies beach chairs and umbrellas but the service was subpar. It took ages to get a towel or a drink even after placing an order with any of the staff roving around aimlessly. It even took a day to have a pile of dog doo removed from the kids play area next to the pool.

TLD;R on the JW Marriott Buenaventura:

It is an OK hotel for the price we paid $180 + tax, but it was a huge dissapointment for what we expected. The property is nothing special, the beach was not visible or even close to the hotel and the service was quite substandard. If you already happen to be in Panama and need somewhere to go on the beach, you might want to consider some of the other beachfront properties. Whatever you do, don’t make the same mistake we made and fly from California to go to this hotel.