pitstopsforkids's Passport
 

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Member since:
26 September 2009

Icon_superoo_orangeSuperoo '12, '13, '14

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About Me & My Family

I'm a travel and eco blogger, freelance writer, and editor living in beautiful Oregon. I love to travel with kids (most of the time) and run a review site for parents called www.pitstopsforkids.com.
Our Family's Travel Personality
adventurous, curious, energetic, scheduled
We Just Got Back From
A whirlwind tour of the national parks of the Southwest!
Our Favorite Vacation Spot
Oregon state parks or Laguna Beach, CA. It's a toss up!
A Place We'd Love To Visit
St. John's in the US Virgin Islands
Favorite Vacation Memory
Watching my children explore Disney World for the first time!
Worst Travel Moment With My Kids:
Stranded in the San Francisco airport at 2 am with a toddler and an infant. Not. Fun.
Websites I Like:
www.pitstopsforkids.com

Reviews & Photos

358 Reviews


April 20 2015
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The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center | kids travel, kids activities
The Woodlands Resort & Conference Center
2301 North Millbend Drive,
Spring, Texas
"If you haven't been in a while, come back!"
The Woodlands Resort, a conference, golf, and leisure resort in beautiful Woodlands, Texas has just undergone a $70+ million renovation! The whole resort has a new look, plus additional attractions for kids are stellar!

The Woodlands Resort’s renovation included extensive upgrades to guest rooms and conference facilities, but the true ‘wow’ factor lies in its leisure spaces. I noticed the two championship golf courses immediately, but head behind the first of several guest buildings, and an entire ‘oasis’ of pool and water complexes await. Dubbed the Forest Oasis, this area includes multiple free-form pools, water slides, zero-entry and water fountain play areas, and a brand new 1000+ foot lazy river, complete with rolling current. During peak season, poolside activities are run by the resort daily, and at all times, kids can participate in a fun underwater scavenger hunt (ask for a list of items to find at the cafe).

Yes, kids will be busy in the pool complex, but pry them away at some point, because the Woodlands has wonderful bike trails, too, in additional to a fitness center and spa (for Mom and Dad to enjoy). Best of all, bikes come in kids' sizes, too, and are complementary to use. The Woodlands Resort also sports 21 tennis courts, which my kids would definitely love to come back to enjoy. Thanks to strict building and planting bylaws in the Woodlands community, the entire property is lush with trees providing greenery and shade, and interlaced with pleasant walkways with patios, seating areas, and outdoor fire pits.

Dining at The Woodlands is somewhat limited for families on a budget, but there are ways around this. A shuttle can take families from The Woodlands Resort to popular shopping areas nearby, such as Market Street with outdoor walkways, cinemas, shops and casual dining, and a full grocery story is in easy walking distance, directly adjacent to the resort. On site, the Dining Room offers a very nice buffet breakfast at standard prices (during my visit, it was approximately $15 for adults), the Cool Water Cafe and the Royal Mile Grille offer casual lunch, and Robard’s Steakhouse impresses with an upscale dinner. Parents will want to splurge on at least one nice night out here; I recommend starting out with the Woodlands’ take on the Manhattan, prepared with incredibly smooth smoked whiskey.

Older kids can grab appetizers and play a game of billiards in the Bistro (which shifts to 21 and older at 9 pm), or families can grab a casual dinner at the pool area (in peak season). While babysitting or children’s club services are not available on site (and how we wish they were!), the concierge desk can absolutely help parents find recommended local babysitting services.

A note about the Woodlands Resort’s large conference facilities: family leisure travelers will hardly notice them. With conference facilities across the main lake and water feature from the guest rooms and leisure side of the property, this section of the resort didn’t impact our stay at all.

Rooms are spacious, located in buildings 3000, 4000, and 5000. The 3000 building faces one golf course and peaceful water features, and 4000 and 5000 encircle the Forest Oasis water park area. Families with kids who plan to spend the majority of their time in this area should book at ground-level room in 5000, where balconies open up right onto the pool. In-room amenities include single-cup coffee makers, free wifi, Bath and Bodyworks bathroom amenities, and mini-fridges. Double queen bed rooms have baths and showers, and king rooms have walk-in showers only.

Basically, we'd come back for the golf courses and Forest Oasis pool complex if ever in the Houston area, and stay an extra day just because this property is so relaxing and casual.

Disclosure: I visited The Woodlands Resort as a hosted guest, to learn about the renovated property. All opinions are my own.
 
kids travel, kids activities
kids travel, kids activities
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April 15 2015
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Shenandoah National Park | kids travel, kids activities
Shenandoah National Park
3655 US Highway 211 E,
Shenandoah,
Virginia 22835
"Great park for hiking"
We didn't want to spend a lot of time in the car in Shenandoah National Park, which happens easily in the summer months as the main roads like Skyline Drive get crowded. Instead, we focused on the northern stretch of the park by Old Rag Mountain. The nearby Nicholson Hollow hike is right near Old Rag, but takes half the time to hike, and is perfect for families with young kids. You'll walk alongside a beautiful creek with small waterfalls and nice swimming holes. Just be sure to bring bug spray!
 
 
April 02 2015
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Marriott Waiohai Beach Club | kids travel, kids activities
Marriott Waiohai Beach Club
2249 Poipu Road,
Koloa, Hawaii
"Great value for families looking for resort experience"
The Waiohai Beach Club on Poipu is actually the fourth Marriott Vacation Club we’ve experienced, and like the others, it didn’t disappoint. I love how every MVC has its own personality, fitting in with its surroundings with special amenities and services, but is also consistent across the brand in terms of villa amenities, guest service, and dining. In other words, we knew what to expect from this Marriott Vacation Club, but also knew we’d enjoy finding new surprises.

Like all MVCs, the Waiohai is a suite-only hotel, with two-bedroom villas that include full kitchens, two baths, and washer/dryer units. Right off the bat, families are guaranteed savings as they can make their own meals. Stop to shop before arriving, and you’ll be set. There’s a marketplace onsite (like with all MVCs we’ve tried) for quick grab-and-go meals or convenience food items, plus a very nice beachside lunch grill, Honu, which stays open through early dinner (until 7:30). We ate lunch and dinner here, and made breakfast in the villa. There are also grills outside for guest use, which is a nice perk.

The best amenity for families at Waiohai is the great swimming beach, located onsite. So often, beach resorts have terrible beaches…it’s true! But this MVC sits against famous Poipu Beach, which has a reef-protected ‘kiddie’ beach, snorkel area, boogie board area, and swimming area, all naturally made. The sand is perfect for sand castle making, and surfers will be happy, too. There are also three swimming pools and hot tubs, plus beautiful grounds for walking, exercising, or relaxing.

MVC now offers Club Thrive, which is a fitness program that takes exercise and wellness outdoors, with classes offered Monday through Friday. We tried their fun AquaFit class and relaxing yoga class. Look for nature walks perfect for families, too.

Villas sleep up to 8, and feature full balconies and spa bathtubs. The location of the resort is perfect for exploring the south side of the island, and only 20 minutes from the airport. If you plan to focus you attention on the North Shore, I’d recommend a vacation home rental closer to Hanalei, but if you’re looking for a resort experience, Waiohai will be your best value and quality I’ve seen.
 
 
April 02 2015
1 family found this helpful
Smith’s Tropical Paradise | kids travel, kids activities
Smith’s Tropical Paradise
Wailua River State Park Road,
Wailua (Kauai),
Hawaii
"Perfect introduction to a luau"
If you want to see a luau during your Kauai vacation, and are not staying at a resort that offers one, head to Smith’s. This is the most popular and well-established luau on the island, and while it draws quite the crowd, their crowd-management is excellent. The grounds are large, leaving plenty of room to roam the tropical gardens before eating. Get there right when it opens to make use of this time. Be sure to buy some bird feed for kids to throw to the many peacocks, ducks, and other birds on site. There are also goats, as well as a few structures such as a Japanese pagoda and mock historical dwellings from the islands, Fiji, and Tahiti.

After the ceremony that opens the luau where the roasted pig is dug out of the ground (not for kids who are sensitive to animals), the bar is opened and buffet dinner is served. This too, is done in orderly fashion, so you can relax with your family instead of rushing to get food. The fare was just ok for me, but others in our group loved it. You’re served a selection of meats, rice dishes, macaroni salad, poi, and many fresh fruits. There’s also a fish selection and desserts. The bar includes wine and beer, plus mai tais, but in fact, the bartender is happy to make other mixed drinks as well.

During dinner, we were entertained by dancers and a band, and the kids had a chance to get up on the stage and try a hula dance. Afterward, we were directed to the pretty outdoor amphitheater for the main luau show. This included many styles of dance and ceremony from the Pacific Islands, with lots of theatrical elements. It was very well done, and lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.
 
 
April 02 2015
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Kauai Backcountry Adventures | kids travel, kids activities
Kauai Backcountry Adventures
3-4131 Kuhio Highway,
Hanamaulu,
Hawaii
"Unique Kauai Activity!"
We found Kauai Backcountry Adventures to offer one of the most unique activities on Kauai. Essentially, this company has made use of defunct sugar cane plantation irrigation canals to create a fun and educational excursion. Families are put into groups of 10-15, assigned guides, and issued helmets and headlamps (as well as wet suit tops in chilly weather). After driving about 20 minutes by van to the sugar cane plantation land, inner tubes carry you through a series of tunnels, flumes, and canals.

It’s every bit as fun as it sounds, and while en route, you learn a little bit about the area and history of the plantation. It’s not a historical tour by any means—the focus is on the fun—but it’s nice to experience a part of Kauai tourists otherwise wouldn’t see.

The canals go through dense tropical forests and unused plantation structures, and the entire tour is beautiful. The tunnels are dark but fun, and everyone in our group, from the preschooler to the grandparents, had not trouble. The water in the canals is colder than ocean water, so be prepared for that!

You can bring extra clothes and towels, with your van driver will bring to your exit point. I recommend having sweatshirts or cover-ups at that point, to use while eating the picnic lunch provided. We had a great time, and absolutely recommend it!
 
kids travel, kids activities
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