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Hawaii with Kids Part 2: Aulani Disney Resort

Hawaii with Kids Part 2: Aulani Disney Resort

I was so thrilled to receive such positive feedback last week following my epic post about travelling to Hawaii with kids. I really hope it helps you to have a great trip! As you know, our trip included three stops: Waikiki, Maui and finally, the Aulani Disney Resort. The later simply needs it’s own post. It’s an epic place. It’s huge. It is, well, Disney. Disney, not in it’s stereotypical form. You see, this place is one of those once in a life time destinations, but it should not be mistaken for the traditional Disney resort.My first tip is to make sure that you are aware of that. It is, however, incredible, magical and a place you will remember forever. It is a beautiful resort with subtle touches of Disney. Each room for example has a beautiful Mickey lamp, and in the murals you will see around the resort. Of course, the characters appear and bring the magical touch of Disney to life.

Aulani Disney Resort

Arriving at Aulani, you are firstly taken by the incredible manicured grounds of Kapolei – the tiny and exclusive suburb, home to this incredible resort, and a few others. Built in 2011 it cost almost $1 Billion to construct. This gives you an insight into vast space that this hotel now occupies. Aulani was built to respect and celebrate the customs and traditions of Hawaii. You and your children will be in awe of the amazing spaces that pay homage to Polonesian culture, as if to transport you straight into ‘Moana’ itself. You may also find yourself a little overwhelmed, standing on the huge balcony overlooking the grounds, including the incredible, man made volcano sitting directly in the middle of the resort. Every where, you will see people, water, slides, pools. It does take a couple of days to find your feet at this place, and I’m proud to say that I had the trusty advice of a close friend at hand, who had been to Aulani several times.

Everything here is epic. The number of hotel rooms, the setting, the pools, the water slides. It’s all incredibly put together.  Aulani is a place for children. It is a wonderland for little minds. It is a place you take your family to, to experience and remember. Whilst Disney is proclaimed to be the ‘happiest place on earth’, I wouldn’t call Aulani the most relaxing place on Earth. This is by no means a criticism, it is just something that you need to keep in mind, particularly if you have little ones too small for the incredible kids club. If you are lucky enough to have children who are (three years and older who are toilet trained), then by all means….call it relaxing because that is what you will do!

Kids Club : Aunty’s Beach House

Aunty’s Beach house is home to their free kids club. Quite possibly the best thing about this place. It is….ah-mazing. As mentioned above, it is free (with optional paid workshops and food for meal times) to all children from three years and up who are – toilet trained. Alas, our Huddy is indeed three, but when it came to ticking the ‘promise’ that he is 100% toilet trained, we had to bite the bullet and just let Ella go herself. They did tell me that they know accidents do happen, and have a ‘three strikes’ rule, but we knew that this would give Huddy about 1 hour before getting kicked out. We also didn’t want to jeopardise Ella’s spot, so for four days, she went solo.

There are two things you need to know about this place. You can either drop them off any time during the hours of 9am-9pm to just play in one of the many rooms (TV Disney room, art and craft room, games room, outside play area) OR you can sign them up to one of the workshops held throughout the day. Some of them are free, some are paid. You can also pay for them to have lunch or dinner there.

Now pay attention! This next part is THE part you need to know. To get your kids into the workshops you need to get up early and sign them up. Early as in they open up the tickets at 7.30am but people queue from 7am. Yep, 7am. You basically wait in line and if you are lucky, you get your kids into the workshops you want. If you need to pay, you do that to.

Before your kids can go, you need to complete an extensive medical and safety registration. For obvious reasons. Each child then receives a GPS tracking bracelet for a refundable $12. Ella kept hers as a souvenir. Once your child is inside, they either take down your phone number, or if, like me and you have an OS number, they actually give you a loan mobile incase they need to call you. It is all super safe, super secure. These guys have this place locked down!

Ella had literally been going on about Aunty;s Beach house for weeks leading up to our stay there. When we got there, she was initially excited, but as Ella does being quite sensitive, cried her eyes out when she realised she didn’t know anyone. A gorgeous teacher helped a Mum out and took Ella’s hand, reassuring her that everything would be fine. And it was. Three hours later, she came back telling me that she wanted to go again. She went each day and had a ball. She even got to feed the fish in the amazing snorkling area~

Aulani Disney Resort
Aunty’s Beach House

Character Breakfast & activities

One of the biggest lessons I learned about travelling in Hawaii is the need to be planned. Nothing happens last minute. If you turn up to your holiday expecting to get into things, you will be greated with the question ‘have you already made a reservation?’. Whilst answering ‘No’ may seem logical, particularly given that you just arrived, it is in fact a major rookie error. You see I thought that I would be able to arrive and get us into the infamous ‘Character Breakfast’. I was motrified to find out that most people actually booked the breakfast six months before hand. I was given the advice to go straight to the restaurant upon arrival to ask (ie. beg) them if they any spots available. Lucky for us we got in later that week. My big tip is to book this before you go to avoid disspointment, and general panic.

This breakfast includes a buffet selection of amazing treats, Mickey pancakes, eggs, fruit, waffles…anything and everything you can imagine. It also involves an intimate audience with Aunty herself and your favourite Disney Characters: Mickey, Minnie and Goofy. Children are invited to dance, sing and join in a parade. Characters visit each table and encourage you to take as many photos as you like. For approx $90 per family of four, this is truly a highlight. The resort offers a Luau, but for the cost (approx $400 for us), we thought it was too expensive and didn’t bother.

The kids getting involved in the parade at the character breakfast!

Each day there is a resort newsletter outlining the activities. You will often see the Disney Characters around the pool, or at spots thorughout the resort for photo opportunities. They also have pool partiies, movie screenings and various activities run by the characters.

Pool Party Time!

Swimming: Pools & Slides

Like most resorts in Hawaii, each day you receive a coloured wrist band. The colour changes each day to ensure that only current guests are able to use the facilities. Only those with the day’s wrist band, are able to obtain towels. The wrist bands are available from 8am. Similar to Aunty’s Beach house, a long line quickly develops, as guests get their bands, towels and deck chairs for the day. The resort has a strict ‘no reservation’ policy. This is to ensure that peple don’t hog the chairs. However, we quickly worked out that people do, and find loop holes. Whilst waititng in line, we saw several people sitting on deck chairs beofre 8am. Clearly, people used to take their gear down, sit on the chairs of choice whilst others lined up for the bands / towels of the day. There are literally hundreds of chairs throughout the resort, however, it is truly astonoshing how quickly these fill up.

The amazing Keiki playground

Each hour, pool attendants walk around checking the chairs. If you have not been at your chair in a while, a white towel is neatly folded and placed over the back of your chair. This serves as a marker / timer. Basically you have 1 hour to return to your chair and pull the towel down, or else your belongings are taken and stored. This ensures that people do not leave chairs unoccupied for ours at a time.

My tip is to get in early, after you sign your kids up for Aunty’s beach house. Use your chair as needed, then leave it free for someone else.

There are several pools throughout the resort, hot spas, a fabulous lazy river, stunning beach lagoon and two epic waterslides. Honestly it is fantastic! You might even spot Mickey!

Food Options

Breakfast  / Lunch / Snacks: We didn’t have breakfast included at this resort. In terms of restaurants at the actual resort, the options are somewhat limited. Food  and drinks are available all day by the pool. Grab and go packs are also available at various outlets throughout the resort. We would get croissants and beautiful cinnamon donuts each morning, and I’d take them up to the room. My biggest tip is to purchase the $17 drink cups which allow you to get bottomless refills of a variety of drinks throughout your stay. You can also get a huge plastic tub of Popcorn and get $1 refills!

For $17 you get endless refills!

Throughout your stay you rarely need to carry cash as everything can be charged to your room. A big tip is to make sure that you always carry your room key. This will be asked for to charge various things to your account!

There is a small grocery store in the resort, however it is quite expensive. There is a large ABC village store in the shopping centre directly across the road. It evens sticks Chandon!

Mickey themed Shave Ice

Dinner: As mentioned above, dinner options are more limited here. We still used the Open Table App and ate mostly at Monkey Pod across the road in the small shopping village. This place was fantastic. Amazing menu, great drinks and fantastic options for kids. There is also Mexican, Pizza and Japanese restaurants in this complex. We ate dinner one night at the beautiful ‘Fish House’ at the Four Seasons next door. Definitely a great night out!

Dinner at Monkey Pod

Hotel Room

We were lucky enough to receive an upgrade to an Ocean View Room on a high level. I would recommend ensuring that your room looks onto the volcano, as the view is stunning. Several of the resort rooms are time share, and villas include separate bedrooms and kitchens. This would be a great option if you have a car and are able to venture out to Target to purchase supplies for yourself!

The view from our room!

Again, our kids took their scooters and loved using these to get around. The resort is HUGE and using them certainly helped getting around.

So they are my major tips in travelling to Aulani. We had a ball, and after finding our feet, worked out how to play the game so that we could indeed, enjoy every aspect that this place had to offer. Truly a place to remember! To see more of our trip, and view highlights of the resort…view our Youtube movie below!

How to have an amazing holiday in Hawaii, with kids.

How to have an amazing holiday in Hawaii, with kids.

Last week we left the sunny beaches of Hawaii and after what felt like an eternity, landed in cold old Melbourne. It was an amazing, long overdue holiday, fifteen days of fun in the sun. Time for us to just ‘be’ with each other. No work, no kinder, no daycare, swimming lessons, parties, play dates. It was my first time to Hawaii, and my husbands second. Albeit a very different one from the time he holidayed with his family when he was 16. I’d always wondered about Hawaii. I’d been told that it was paradise, but also an up scale version of tacky Surfers Paradise. Well after venturing across the Pacific with our two children for two weeks, I’m happy to report that Hawaii is, indeed, an island paradise. Beautiful and warm, we were lucky enough to be holidaying in the height of summer. We split our trip up into three parts, five days each in Honolulu (Waikiki), Maui and finally a trip back to Oahu to Aulani, the Disney resort. I’ll actually be posting a separate blog feature on Aulani, as it is, well, an epic place that needs it’s own post to do it justice!

Like all holidays with children, you can have both an amazing time, and an amazingly terrible one. I loved and learnt many things about Hawaii. It’s equally important to know what NOT to do, as well as what TO do!  Like all places, you need to find your groove, work the place out and just play the game. Once you’ve sussed it all out, you can expect to absolutely love the place. This post is about sharing my tips and tricks so that when taking children, you can head to the island paradise and actually enjoy yourselves. They say that holidaying with children isn’t actually a holiday, it is just a change of scenery. This is true for the most part, unless you actually do your homework and find out, from people who have been there, how to have a great, no fantastic time. I hope this post can in turn help you to head to Hawaii and have a blast like we did.

Getting there

We flew Jetstar and our 11 hour flight was at 4pm AEST. This was actually a fantastic time to fly, as our children spent the first few hours enjoying the excitement of flying, eating all of the snacks I had prepared and generally having fun. After a few hours I changed them into their PJ’s (on reccomendation from a friend!) and they went to sleep at ‘normal’ bed time. This meant that they actually slept about 6/7 hours. When we arrived it was 6am the same day Pacific time. The time difference to Hawaii from Eastern Australia is -20 hours. This actually worked in our favour as it meant that jet lag was reduced, being almost a full day behind. My advice would be to:

  • Pick a late afternoon flight
  • Pack a pillow and blanket for your kids (most airlines now charge for these necessities)
  • Make sure your iPads are loaded and charged
  • You can download tv shows and movies from Netflix, straight to your device and watch them offline without internet. Yep!!!! It’s actually fantastic, amazing. You don’t need to spend a fortune buying TV shows on itunes if you have a Netflix account! We watched episodes of My little Pony, Doc McStuffins and Care Bears. Best thing ever! To see how you can do it, visit here.
  • Pack little zip lock bags of snacks

Another fantastic tip was the carry on luggage we took for the kids: Trunkies. I must stress that this is NOT a sponsored post! We were given Trunkies as a gift for both our children when they were born. In case you haven’t seen them before, think a small, plastic suitcase with four wheels on the side. It essentially is a suit case that becomes a ride on scooter, with a long handle that allows you to drag your children around the airport. I kid you not this was a life saver. It meant that we did not ever have to carry either of our kids, and they were generally happy to ride along and wait in the queues. Absolute winner. To see them in action, view the video at the end of this post!

Stop No. 1: Honolulu – Waikiki – Hilton Hawaiian Village

After arriving at the hotel by Cab, we unfortunately realised that we had left one of our bags at the airport. Tip no 1: make sure you have all your bags BEFORE you leave the airport. Once we had averted that disaster, and recovered the baggage, we arrived but also realised that we were there hours before check in. Luckily we were able to check out bags, get changed and enjoy the pool. If you haven’t been to the Hilton Hawaiian Village then picture 7 towers built around three HUGE pools, right on the beach. You may know the iconic Rainbow Tower that has been used in several famous movies over the years. This hotel is a true village. Everything you need in one place. The pools are insane. The beach is insane. The man made lagoon is – insane!! It was an amazing place that we thoroughly enjoyed. We also loved the fact that it is close to the bustling centre of Waikiki. I found the whole place beautiful, and I was pleasantly surprised! Like all things however, there were absolutely Dos and Don’ts. Below you’ll find out hot list that I truly believe would make or break any holiday!

The beautiful Hilton Hawaiian Village
The famous Rainbow Tower
  • Do take your kids scooters! We are past the days of taking a Pram, and taking the kids scooters changed our holiday. We took the stick off and flat packed them! It was fantastic to see the kids scooting along at night, enjoying the scenery. It also meant that we didn’t have to carry them once. ONCE!
  • Don’t expect to head out to dinner and get in somewhere if you haven’t made a reservation.  Make sure you book your dinners in advance. The first night we were there, we walked around for two hours because we couldn’t get in to anywhere! Use the app OPEN TABLE which makes finding great restaurants a breeze. You can read reviews and pick a time that suits you. This is my absolute biggest tip in travelling to Hawaii.
  • Do use your concierge to make reservations at external resorts for you. Ours was fantastic and got us into the infamous Cheesecake Factory with half the wait time (which is generally two hours. no jokes!)
  • Don’t bother taking floaties etc. There are ABC stores almost every few hundred metres. These are like small supermarkets / 7 Elevens. You can buy them really cheap and for an extra $1 you can have them enflated too! You can also grab basics including fruit, cereal, milk, juice, champagne here!
  • Do bring your own nappies. They cost a fortune over there!
  • Don’t eat breakfast at your hotel unless you want to pay a fortune. Either make sure you have breakfast included in your package, or find a local coffee shop. We found a gem (listed below).
  • Do pack small plastic bowls, forks and spoons. The hotel rooms in Hawaii are very sparse on the basic utensils you would find in Australia resorts. There isn’t even a kettle! Designed to get our out of your room and spending money at the restaurants, we found getting a few bowls etc helped after a few days!
  • If you head to Pearl Harbour, you either need to a. arrive super early (like 6am) to obtain a ticket to allow you to be taken by boat to the Arizona memorial. Or, if you are like us who had no idea you had to do that, you could, at 12.30pm head to the area where tours wait, and after each group goes through (there is one every 15 minutes) as they guide if they have any ‘stand by’ places. These are people who have dropped out after finding out that you can no longer actually dock at the memorial. We were lucky enough to snare a space, and headed out to the memorial by boat. Whilst we didn’t actually dock there, it was incredibly moving to both hear and see the place where this historic wartime tragedy occurred.
  • Similarly, if you want to head to Hanuama Bay, make sure you do it early. Being a small bay, the council restricts the amount of cars allowed in at any one time. Unfortunately we arrived at 12pm and it was full. We made do by heading north to other beautiful beaches.
  • We went to the Waikele outlets. To be honest we were a bit disappointed. Great runners, but that is about it!
  • Definitely scope the internet for great deals on car hire. We snared a new Range Rover convertible for $70 for the day!
Scooters were by far the best thing we packed in our suitcases!
Scooting to the cheesecake factory
Exploring Waikiki

Places to eat in Waikiki

All of the restaurants are extremely child (‘Keiki’) friendly. We ate out at lovely restaurants each night and was very impressed by the fantastic menus offered to children.

Roys: Beautiful modern Japanese, Roys was delicious. After jumping the queue because we had made our reservation on Open Table (winning) we were greeted by lovely wait staff. The entire meal was delicious and made even better by the way they treated the kids.

Cheesecake Factory: Don’t be fooled by the name. This place is in fact a huge restaurant with a menu spanning twenty pages. Firstly, don’t expect to wait less than two hours to eat, unless you get your concierge to call ahead. Our wait time was halved, and we were seated in half an hour. The queues here are unbelievable. This place is BU-SY! That said, once you sit down, the food, the drinks, the cheesecake is ah-mazing. An absolute must!

Dukes: Located in the Outrigger Hotel, Dukes is an icon of Waikiki. Again, make sure you have a booking!

Tropics: Located on the beach at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, this place is very relaxed and has great food, drinks and music. The perfect place to eat before the fireworks!

Finally, if you stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, make sure it includes a Friday night. There are spectacular fireworks on the beach, right out front of the hotel at 7.45pm, attracting most of the tourists in the area. Such a fantastic experience! You can see them in the video below.

Stop No 2. : Maui – Hyatt Rgency

After a super quick, 30 minute flight we arrived in true Paradise. Let me just say that Maui was may favourite. After renting a Mustang, we drove ourselves to Kaanapali and arrived at the Hyatt Regency. Wearing our fresh leis, we met the Penguins (yes Penguins!) and headed up to our Ocean View room. Maui is beautiful. Less people, less craziness, less stress. Everyone seemed relaxed here. From the insanely cool pools that included an outstanding children’s’ area where we could laze in our deck chairs, but still feel close enough to our children, so the cliff top restaurants where you can watch the sun set. There are even flamingoes and swans roaming around the gardens. My absolute recommendation to everyone travelling to Hawaii is to stay in Maui. One of the best features of this strip of hotels is the beach front board walk that leads you past each resort, and takes you to a small but happening village of stunning restaurants and shops (ie. Sephora). This was true Hawaiian paradise and I wouldn’t hesitate to go back! In fact I hope we do!

Hawaii with kids
Beautiful Maui
Dinner at Japengo. Ah-mazing!

The incredible kids pool at the Hyatt Regency Maui.
Sunset on the beach front board walk
  • Make sure your breakfast is included. We had a full buffet breakfast each morning and it was delicious.
  • Do get an extra fold out bed for your kids if you need it. We did when we got there and it was a great investment.
  • Do rent a car. We had a mustang and for $20 each day we could cruise around and explore the amazing beaches!
  • Do take a MAP!
  • Do head to Black Rock for snorkelling!

Places to eat in Maui

  • Japengo :  this award winning Japanese Restaurant sits on the edge of a Cliff at the beautiful Hyatt Regency. We ate here on our last night in Maui and it was spectacular. The sun set in front of us as we ate beautiful Japanese, fresh Sashimi, including the infamous Poke. My absolute favourite by far!
  • Leilanis on the Beach: Nestled in the gorgeous little Whalers village, we ate on the balcony and enjoyed beautiful food and wine. The kids were treated to a lovely menu too!
  • Hula Grill: Quite the ‘happening’ place, this is the busy spot to eat dinner. Cool live music with hula dancers, it was great atmosphere before a night of shopping in the village.
  • Sangrita: a smaller Mexican restaurant behind the main village. Catch the local free shuttle which drops you off at various points along the small strip.

Stop No. 3: Honolulu – Aulani – Disney Resort

Stop 3 was what can only be described as an epic place. So epic that I’ve decided to do a separate post al together. There is simply too much to say. Both what to do, and what not to do to ensure that you have a great time with kids. It is an amazing resorts, but SUUUPPPEEERR busy. The kids had a ball, and next week I will share everything we learned, very quickly about what you need to to to maximise your time here!

So that’s it for now. Please, please, if you go to Hawaii, make sure that you follow my tips. As a Mum who wanted to both have a holiday with my kids, and a relaxing time with my husband, we found that we were indeed able to have both, by following some simple rules of thumb.

To see a little more of our amazing time, view the little video below. Stay tuned next week for my post about amazing Aulani!