Taking my first vacation with my kids as a single mom was an intimidating thought. I knew it was important to have the alone-time with them before school started. To make memories that would indeed last us a lifetime. However, the destination had to provide enough activity and choice to keep all three of us occupied and together, but also enough of a slow pace to remind us all that we were on vacation. I knew I wanted to take them to Hawaii. After much research and chatting to everyone I knew who had been there with their kids, I decided to go to Disney Aulani Resort on Oahu.
I booked my flight and hotel package online. They were offering a special that was 3 nights plus the 4th night free. Including airfare in the package came out as a better savings than booking my flights online through any travel site. So, although not inexpensive, after much research, I felt like I was getting a decent deal.
Do you know what really helped me out in my search to plan the best vacation my kids and me? The DisneyParks Vacation Planning Videos that Disney sent me on a DVD. These videos are full of useful information, like maps of the parks and resorts, detailed descriptions of all the different entertainment and excursion options broken up by age group, and tools that allow you to set different budgets and plan accordingly. These videos were a lifesaver, and helped make the daunting task of planning a vacation for two children of different ages and different interests a manageable experience. The best part was that they were absolutely free of charge!
Disney knocks it out of the park with its Aulani Resort. There is not a single family consideration that they have not considered. Kids of all ages, single parents, grandparents… this resort is built for a true family experience.
The heart of Aulani is an outdoor playground that is true fun for everyone. Two water slides — one an enclosed tunnel and one a winding inner tube adventure that pours you onto a lazy river — are at the center of it. A smaller playground for younger kids offers bridges and tunnels and water wheels to frolic in. Rainbow Reef is a small man-made lagoon for snorkeling. Stocked with fish, and open all day, every day, you can participate in feeding the fish or just swim among them. A few more pools, including one for adults only, complete this beautiful water park that overlooks the beach and cove.
The beach is pristine. Paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling are just some of the activities you can enjoy in the cove. One of the things that Disney really gets right here is they allow kids’ involvement to be left up to parental discretion. There are no age requirements for paddle-boarding. If mom and dad think the kids can do it, they are welcome to enjoy. Lifeguards are plentiful at both the beach and pool areas.
In addition to all of the enjoyment to be had in the water, there are activities planned every day. Two nights a week Aulani features Hui, an evening of hula and storytelling on the big lawn, while two nights a week movies are projected onto a screen on the lawn. Watching Tangled outdoors under the stars was one of the many activities offered that we enjoyed. The days are filled with all kinds of different activities, from beach games to a pool party with Goofy and the rest of the Mickey Mouse Crew. Aunty’s Beach House, a club where kids learn about Hawaiian art, music, and culture, was the talk of the under-10 crowd at the Hui.
The only place that Aulani disappointed a bit was on food. With a number of casual dining options, a more upscale buffet that offers breakfast and dinner, plus a fine dining restaurant called Ama Ama, none of the food was near as good as the very hefty prices they charged. The exception was in the pool area — the coconut shrimp and shaved ice were delicious on every level.
Aulani has a beautiful spa. Inspired by the Hawaiian love of water, the spa offers its guests a number of specialized water treatments, baths, and tubs. The highlight of our trip was our Ohana — or family — massage. The three of us were taken to a beautiful indoor/outdoor spa suite, taught a bit about Hawaiian ritual, and given massages. Again, Aulani is built for guests of all ages, so massages for guests beginning at infant-age are on the menu.
Tours of the island, luaus, rental cars, and more are all available to guests at Aulani. Very knowledgeable concierges, plus tour companies in the lobby and rental cars on property, make exploring the island of Oahu very accessible. However, my kids were having so much fun at the resort, they never wanted to leave. And as I sat drinking my piña colada overlooking the cove as my kids buried each other in the sand, I never wanted to leave either.
Mahalo, Disney, for my perfect family vacation. To get your own FREE DisneyParks Vacation Planning DVD.