Now that your vacation is booked, you might be wondering what to pack for a cruise. It has been a learning curve for me, as I overpacked the first cruise, and now tend to pack more along the lines of a minimalist on our cruises. Depending on your purpose, and goal for your cruise, you may be surprised by what you need, and don’t need to pack. If this is your first cruise, you may learn a lot from my cruise guide.
What to Pack For a Cruise
Each cruise we have taken has had its own purpose, and the packing changed based on that purpose. You will find that to be the same for your cruise, or maybe cruises if you get hooked on them like we have.
Our first cruise had more packed then we really needed, but it also had formal clothing for the elegant dining that happens a few nights on a 7 days cruise.
When we took our children on a family cruise, we packed for two formal nights with them, but we only ended up doing that once. You will want to read my Cruising With Kids tips if you plan on taking your whole family.
I’m going to cover the basic things you will want to be sure you pack, regardless of your cruising purpose, and then highlight key things you will want to consider based on your other needs.
Basic Cruising Needs
Let’s face it, we take cruises for the relaxing and for the water.
I recommend packing one bathing suit for every two days. So far a 7 day cruise, we pack 3 suits per person. For women, I would recommend one cover for the ship, and one cover up dress for things off the ship. For men, I would recommend, having the same number of swim shirts as you pack trunks.
I also recommend two sandals. One for the ship and a more comfortable pair that you still get wet, but won’t bother your feet with walking.
Don’t forget a sun hat, sun glasses, sun screen and bug spray, as some areas have issues with health concerns based on insects in that area.
You will want to have cooler clothes for eating areas, entertainment and down time that doesn’t include water activities. I have found that 3 capris (or shorts), 5-7 shirts (blouses), 1 pants, and 1 sweater has been perfect for a 7 day cruise.
If you are planning on formal dining, you will need to pack for those nights as well. Women can pack really formal attire, shoes and accessories, or just a simple summer dress for each night. Men can pack one suit, shoes and two ties to change the look up.
Formal nights are part of your fair, but are optional to attend. Depending on your purpose for the cruise, you may decide to forfeit those nights and just order in your room or eat at the buffet in casual clothing. That is what my husband and I have decided for our upcoming cruise. Our purpose is to relax, and just enjoy each other!
Of course, you will need to pack your personal items, undergarments, and your PJs.
If you are doing excursions, you may want to read a little about the ship and excursions you plan on doing before packing. Some require close toes shoes, pants, long sleeve, or water shoes.
Lastly, you will want to carry plenty of cash to pay tips for your taxi drivers, any excursions you do, or purchases along the way. We ran out of cash quickly on our first cruise, so don’t do that unless you plan on taking your debit card. If you do, you may get charged more surcharges than you would like to pay. Most places will take credit cards, but you will want to notify your credit card company that you are traveling, and where, so they don’t block the charges.
Optional Items to Pack
My husband and I absolutely love to snorkel. When we decided to take our children on a family cruise, we decided that our Christmas presents would be their own snorkel sets, color coordinated for each of us to tell whose is whose.
We purchased a child’s snorkel set for our youngest, along with a snorkel vest to keep him safe. Depending on your level of swimming skill, you may want to invest in an adult snorkel vest.
This purchase saves a lot of money on excursions when we ported to the different islands. It was a huge success.
Now, we have our own snorkel sets, so we pack them for all our cruises, saving us so much money when we cruise because we only pay for taxi rides to the best snorkeling islands.
A splurge to bring a waterproof camera to capture your underwater favorites is something that I highly recommend.
I would recommend packing a deck of cards, or a small game that you can play together in your down time, or even a book. Some ships have a game room, so check to see if this is an option before packing too many games.
Internet service isn’t complimentary, and can be a big expense. I recommend having your phone full of some good music, and pack your phone charger, and ear buds so you can block out any noise while laying in the sun or pool side.
We like to bring a good water bottle with us, so we can fill up at the water stations, and stay hydrated. There are beverage packages you can get, but we tend to only drink water.
There is juice also available at stations, so unless you need soda or other beverages during your cruise, the beverage package isn’t necessary.
If you are flying, be sure you don’t have water in the bottle before going through security. They will make you dump the water out, and that would require going to the restroom and back through the lines. You can fill it up once you are through security.
You will be able to take the water bottle filled on and off the ship without any problems.
If you have a hard time going without your favorite chocolate, it is best to bring some with you. Ask me how I thought of this tip! You have no idea how much M&Ms can cost on the ship, or on an island.
I also recommend bringing an easy bag that will hold your towel (ships allow you to carry their towels off ship, but you must return them or you will be charged), sun screen, wallet, etc, when walking around the ship and while ported. You might even want to pack some sandwich bags to take a few snacks off the ship to help you when you get hungry!
Things You Shouldn’t Pack
Before our first cruise, I found some tips for what to pack for a cruise. They suggested bringing your own bottles of water, like Deer Park or the like, or your own soda.
This was such a frustration because you can’t have it checked with your luggage to go to your room. Thankfully, we were able to ask customer service to hold it for us, but that was after we carried it around the ship for a few hours. We regretted that quickly!
We found that just having a water bottle that we can fill was the best thing to staying hydrated.
Yes, metal cases. Our son packed his poker case, and we had issues going through security because it looked like a gun case. Thankfully, they were kind to him but that could have turned out causing more harm to our schedule then we would have liked.
I hope you find this helpful, and aids you in having a wonderful cruise.
Don’t go on a cruise with reading my Complete Cruise Guide first, because you don’t want to make the same mistakes we did when we went on our first of many.
Cruising with kids can be one of your best vacations. At least that has been our experience, and I would love to share with you just how we took advantaged of a wonderful opportunity with our family.
Cruising With Kids
Most people think Disney when they think about cruising with kids, but our family went on Royal Caribbean Allure of the Sea and had the time of our life.
In fact, while snorkeling, we talked with a family on a Disney cruise, and we were comparing things to do on each of the ships. The family on the Disney cruise were really disappointed, and we were thrilled with our choice. I share some tips in my cruise guide that may help when planning a cruise.
Royal Caribbean are affiliated with Dreamworks, so they have character opportunities just like Disney but so many things to do while cruising that out ways the options on the most popular Disney cruises.
Once you choose the ship that fits your family best, these additional tips will help you make your vacation filled with memories and absolutely wonderful.
Pack Toys for Kids
Pack a child’s bag of toys that can be used in the kiddie pool, sand and in dry play. Your kids can use them the entire vacation, but in different ways.
Be sure to pack a watering can that they can play with, but you can also use to do their bathing with, since there is no bathtub in the cabins.
Unless your child is use to showers, this can be difficult to get them clean. Using a child friendly watering can will help in so many ways that you will want to be sure to pack it!
Plan On Using the Buffets
When our family when on our cruise, we planned on eating formally twice during that week, and enjoying the formal dinning room each night.
That quickly changed, when our dinner time was scheduled past our son’s normal bed time and dinner from start to finish took two hours.
It was the buffet for every meal from that one forward and we couldn’t have been happier, and neither were our children.
Pack Snacks for Kids
Yes, food is endless on a cruise, but unless you want to be walking the ship the entire day, I highly recommend that you bring some sandwich bags, and pack a snack for between meals or when you are at the pool side. Having their own cups would be really smart too, because little ones get thirsty often.
If you kids are picky eaters, and have a favorite snack I would recommend packing some of their favorites in your luggage, to help your child adjust to a different schedule by having familiar things at hand.
Pack Favorite Blanket for Kids
You will love to enjoy the pool side, entertainment or just sitting looking out over the ocean while your little one catches a nap, instead of in your small cabin. Taking their favorite blanket with you in a bag will help you to just enjoy the day without having to go back to your cabin and miss out on the fun.
I love to use essential oils whenever I can, so I love packing Counting Sleep, roll on oil for kids to help them relax and catch some rest when they need it most.
Plan As You Go
Excursions are expensive, and depending on the ages of your kids, you may find that they provide more stress than you really want on a vacation.
When we cruised with our children, we purchased each of us our own color coordinated snorkeling set, and snorkeling vest for a Christmas gift before we went on our cruise. This allowed us to just enjoy free beaches, or take a taxi to a nearby beach without the cost or stress of excursions.
Often times, we waited until we got to a port and asked the local people for the best snorkeling beaches for families. We were always given great advice and just went with the flow.
Put Away Your Regular Rules
Parents always have rules for their kids. Don’t eat this, go to bed at this time, limited sugar, etc. Unless there is a health reason why you need these rules, I encourage you to throw them overboard, and just take in the full experience.
There are so many opportunities on board, and off shore that you don’t want to miss. Your kids will fall asleep when they are tired. Trust me!
Stay up late, and eat the things you normally wouldn’t eat. That is what vacations are about!
There is always time to catch up from sleep and get back to regular routines when the vacation comes to an end.
Put Your Kids in the Kid’s Program
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it is so true! NOTE: I’m not speaking about the teen programs because we didn’t do these, but the free programs available for younger kids.
I was so nervous to even try to do this, but I also wanted to do something fun with my older kids, so I gave it a try.
I let them know that I was nervous, and that he had never done anything like this before and I wasn’t sure how he would do be separated from us with perfect strangers. They gave me a cell phone so if he needed me, I could be called and get to him right away.
My little guy loved it, and still talks about it a year later!
They have adventure times every day, several times a day, and you can take advantage of these anytime you want for free.
This time away for 2 hours allowed our son to really have age appropriate fun, while I was able to enjoy my older children, and even my husband.
Oh, and it also provided me with a lot of exercise since I went from one end of the ship to the other during his two hour visits.
Plan Cruising With Kids Right Away
Yes, cruises are expensive but if you watch for deals, you can get up to 30-60% off a person. When you consider that the cost includes room, board and entertainment it becomes one of the cheapest ways to travel with your children.
Consider making this a Christmas gift for your family (I don’t recommend going during Christmas because it is packed, and not so much fun) instead of adding more toys to their overflowing rooms. Ask grandparents, and other family members to give cash for gifts toward the cruise, verses giving gifts.
Raise the money together as a family, but doing a yard sale together.
Where there is a will, there is a way!
Don’t overpack for a cruise, especially when you are cruising with kids! Learn what is important to pack for your cruise, and enjoy it better.
Have you ever wanted to visit the history filled Richmond, Virginia area? Both the Revolutionary and Civil wars have marks on Richmond and the surrounding area, making it a great place to learn from hands-on field trips or to just take in the beautiful parks and nature that is found all around this beautiful city.
A Family Guide to Richmond, Virginia
Whether you are a visitor or new to our area, you will find a lot of things to do for free in the Richmond, Virginia area and some things completely worth paying to do.
Things worth the drive…
Looking for a great place to stay while in Williamsburg, Virginia? Take advantage of a special from Westgate Resorts with Reference Number #9018954900.
My husband and I went on a 7-night cruise to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary. This was our first cruise and we had a great time, but we learned a lot of things we will do differently next time. It was a wonderful experience and one that we look forward to doing again, but not without sharing some of the things that we learned along the way, because the stress we had before getting on board was enough to make me decide that there was a need for a complete cruise guide.
The Complete Cruise Guide: All You Need to Know For the Best Vacation
I feel like I need to start at what is the MOST important aspect of a cruise, because this was the most stressful part of our planning stage and could have been completed avoided if we had some clear, correct advise.
TIP ONE: Have the Necessary Documents in Your Hand BEFORE Booking Your Cruise
You will need to have your proper paperwork in order to be able to get on a ship. If you don't have these papers, you won't be given permission to board. PERIOD.
Don't worry, we were able to board, but not without sleepless nights, tears because of mounting stress and not having the right papers until 24 hours before our flight. I'm not joking!
We were told by several people that you need a passport to go on a cruise. So, my husband and I each paid over $200 to process our passport and have it expedited to get it before our cruise that was 3 weeks away at the time. My passport came in 9 days, however my husband ran into some issues because his PA birth certificate did not have his birth parents name on it, nor the location of his birth. This is now required, so he needed to obtain a new birth certificate and get it to the Passport department in New Hampshire and back to us in now 2 weeks from our cruise.
Long and stressful story short, we overnighted his original NEW birth certificate, without getting a copy, the same day that New Hampshire received 2 1/2 feet of snow, shutting down all government offices for the rest of the week.
In desperation, we called the cruise line to see what our options were and we were told that for our destinations, a good copy of your BIRTH CERTIFICATE was only required. Yes, we were relieved and stressed all at the same time, because we never copied the birth certificate before overnighting it, so we still had NOTHING for my husband to board the cruise.
We decided to have the package returned to sender, overnight, since it was never delivered but it never arrived. Further calls made us realize that it wasn't going to be here. Our last resort was to call the Vital Record department and pray for favor for them to overnight us another copy of his birth certificate. After being told two times that they weren't able to do this for us, they transferred the call and the next morning we had his birth certificate in our hand and we left the next day.
To know what you need, visit the cruise's website or call them directly. This is what we found and was confirmed on the phone, as well as on our cruise:
“The passport requirement does NOT apply to U.S. citizens traveling to or returning directly from a U.S. territory.” sourced here.
TIP TWO: Shop for the Cruise Ship that Fits Your Vacation Desires
We had a great time on our cruise, but as we had more time on our 7-night cruise, it became apparent that our ship's amenities and activities didn't fit our desires for our cruise as much as we anticipated.
We traveled on the Carnival Splendor and we spent a lot of time researching the ship AFTER we bought the tickets. The ships pictures on the site were NOT the way the ship actually looked, not even close, so we were already disappointed by the retro decor that was everywhere, not the beach-pool feel that the website ‘promised' when we were planning our anniversary get-away.
We were also surprised by the buffet feel of the ship and how the menu never seemed to change, unless you went to the assigned dinner times in the restaurant.
Ask for referrals from those you know that cruise a lot. Ask to look at their pictures, hear their stories of their experience on the ship, for the service they received and the food experience.
Make a list of amenities that you would like to enjoy while on the cruise. Ours had dive-in movies, which we did enjoy and family friendly comedy shows, which were by far the best entertainment we had on the ship, plus a 9-hole putt-putt course (I beat my man!!!) and a large chess game on the floor. Other than the pool and hot tub, we really didn't do anything else with the amenities… well, my hubby did try his hand in gambling, but I will share more on that in a minute.
TIP THREE: Bring a LOT of Small Bills
This was great advice from some family members that cruise often. It was a GREAT tip! We decided to take enough cash to tip those helping with luggage, guides on the excursions and for some light shopping, while leaving our debit card at home.
We ran into a pickle, though. When we went shopping two times, we forget to use our credit card in stores that accepted them, leaving us short $35 short on cash and you guessed it, out of it before we were done cruising. We decided to get a small cash advance on our credit card, but neither of us remembered our pin number. We called the 800 number on the back of the card, but they were only willing to mail us a new number in 7-10 business days.
We were out of options, until another cruising couple told us that if we charge something on our Cruise's Sail and Sign card (needed to board and exit the ship, but also for any and all purchases on the ship) to use in the Casino on board, that we can play a little and then cash out our chips for cash. It worked perfectly and my hubby was happy to try his ‘luck' out on the cards. He actually did pretty good leaving with $2 more than what he started with.
We were surprised to see that they charged 3% to do this, but in the end it was cheaper than doing the ATM machine on board, so it really is a good tip to know, if you ever find yourself in our shoes.
TIP FOUR: Everything Isn't Included in Your Ticket
You may believe that cruises are all-inclusive, but they really are not. The basic things are and that is good for many people. However, if you like soda, frozen drinks or even alcohol, you are going to pay a hefty price for each drink. They do have a drinking plan that may vary from cruise line to cruise link (something to research when you are choosing the right ship for your vacation), but on our cruise it would cost $49 a day, plus tax for unlimited soda and limit on any speciality drinks from the bar. Many people did this but it would be over $350 a person on our cruise and we never drink enough to justify that expense.
They do have unlimited water (not bottled), juice, tea and coffee on one deck, which we maximized on, while getting some exercise. We did buy a few virgin frozen drinks through the week, and we did bring 24 water bottles with us, so it helped a lot.
Each cruise line is different, so research if you can bring any water bottles and soda with you. Our cruise allowed 12 bottles per person. We only spent $5 for the water we purchased, and we would have spent almost that for one bottle on the ship. VERY smart! You will have to carry it on board if you do this, but we went to guest services once on board and asked them to hold it until our cabin was ready. They put our cabin number on it and we picked it up later that first day, when we were in our cabin. Totally worth doing!
There were a lot of desserts, but nothing that really excited us… well, except for the 24 hour soft served ice cream and we did enjoy the dining room desserts when we went. So one day we both wanted chocolate, which we paid $20 for 1/2 a pound. If you think you will miss your favorite candy or snack, do your budget a favor and pack some!
TIP FIVE: What to Pack
This is something that I took a lot of people's advice on and missed the mark. We didn't have enough clothes, because we packed lighter than we should have and we had more bathing suits than we wanted to wear… at least all day long.
If you are a pool lover, sun-soaker, lay at the pool kind of person while you cruise, you will want to be sure to have several bathing suits. We each took 3 for our 7-night cruise. We had the right amount of swimming suits for our water activities, but because I was told that you will be in your bathing suit more than you realize and to cut your luggage in half, we didn't have enough of comfy clothes to keep us for our entire 9 day getaway.
We felt that we needed one casual outfit a day, 3 swimming suits, swimsuit covers, flip flops, sneakers, two pants, two long sleeves, a sweater (the evenings were cold, but at times the air condition proved to cause you to be chilly in the main eating areas) and if you are doing the elegant dinning experience outfits for those days. We didn't want to go elegant, but I did pack some clothes that we would go to a nice event in and it was just what we needed to enjoy the elegant wear for the dinning room. (We loved our dinning room staff that it was always the highlight of our day to get to know them, their goals and about their families back home)
We packed some heavy duty magnetics that went on the wall to hold our sweaters and towels. Be sure to pack these in your check-in luggage, not your carry on or you will be stopped in the security line at the airport.
Do NOT pack beach towels, like we did. They give you wonderful ones in your room and will give you clean ones if you use them. You can even take them on excursions, but if you don't have the same number in your room at the end of your cruise, you will be charged a hefty fee.
I also would recommend taking two beach towel clips, per person, to be able to clip your beach towels to your chair. It will serve as a great way to keep your towel in place on a windy day and will also help you identify where your things are with a quick look.
Of course, you can't forget to pack sun screen, a hat and sun glasses. They are a MUST!
You may consider packing motion sickness relief or my favorite, Peppermint Oil and Lavender Oil to aid with sleeping! You may also consider any other medication or immune boosting supplements.
Get more packing tips in my What to Pack for a Cruise.
TIP SIX: Fly in Early and Leave Late
We flew into Miami, Florida, which is a large airport and because of the popularity of cruises, the number of people coming into and leaving can be very overwhelming to the airport.
The cruise may offer those arriving the day of and leaving the day of return a transportation options for a charge, but it will be hectic because of the number of people taking this offer. (Our cruise offered to take your luggage straight to the airport for you, but I don't have experience with that service and I'm concerned of lost luggage) On their site, they recommend flying in EIGHT hours before departure to ensure you have plenty of time to go through the airport, arrive to the port and go through check-in and boarding procedures.
This all can take a lot of time and I can't image the stress level that we would have experienced if we arrived the morning of the departure and traveling more than two people, especially with young children. We don't regret the extra expense of two nights stay because it completely eliminated the rush of getting checked in before departure and the rush of getting to the airport and through the masses leaving that same day – 5 ships came in within the same time period and all with 3,000 or more guest!
We arrived the night before departure and left the morning after arrival at port.
TIP SEVEN: Save Money While Enjoying Excursions
If you don't take advantage of the excursions available to you at the ports you visit, you really aren't taking the best vacation that you could take. However, excursions are EXPENSIVE and completely WORTH IT, if you know they have good reviews and how long each will take.
You can learn about the cruises you have the options to participate in, on the website of your cruise line. Although it is available to purchase your excursions online, I highly recommend that you DON'T. Use these resource to learn about what is available and more important take the time to read the reviews on the ones that interest you. This time spent eliminated several that were top on our list because they received really bad reviews, however some that are similar to those received excellent reviews and won our place on our ‘wish list' that we took on our cruise.
The first day on the cruise, go to the EXCURSION DECK, and purchase the excursions that you are interested in doing. We purchased excursions on 3 of the 4 stops our ship took and earned us a 15% discount, that saved us almost $90!
If you want to save MORE money and are willing to be completely flexible with what excursions you want to do, you can wait until you get off the ship at the port and see what excursions are still available. When we stopped at San Juan, Puerto Rico, we planned on just shopping and going back to the ship when we were done (which we did) but we could have easily taken a 2 hour tour for $10 each. The same tour cost $40 per person when booked on the cruise. That is a BIG difference!
Another way you can save money on excursions at the ports you stop is to learn about each port BEFORE you cruise. We booked an excursion at Grand Turks but had time before the excursion started, so we took advantage of the beach that we were ported at. We were surprised to find out that the beach and chairs were FREE to cruisers. In addition, the shops were the best we had experienced and would have LOVED to just shopped at my leisure. We had the same type of opportunity at another port, but we paid $70 each to do what we could have done for FREE at this port.
Do you ever think about Cruising With Kids? Don’t do it without my tips! They will make your dream vacation full of memories you will cherish for a lifetime.
TIP EIGHT: Shopping Tips to Save You Money
We were told by several people to ALWAYS BARTER with the shops and never pay what they are asking for without trying for a cheaper price.
This is so true, but shouldn't always be done.
Each time we attempted to get a better price, it worked. However, we also did price comparison in other shops on the same island and found several items that we wanted to purchase marked different prices, saving us several dollars per item. Seeing the difference from one shop to the other, we knew that the cheapest price we found was actually a price that was worth what we would be willing to pay and in those situations, we didn't barter.
Then there were a few times that we found something that I had been searching for as a gift and I knew the price was something that I would be willing to pay, because the shop was clean, the customer service was wonderful without being pushy and the products offered were high quality. Even then, I felt that I got a great price with what was marked and never thought twice about paying what was being asked.
TIP NINE: Important Things To Do Before Leaving
Only take a minimal amount of credit cards, we each only took one. You need to let your credit card company know that you are traveling and where. You can normally do this online, but you may find it more comforting to call them, so you have further questions, like your PIN number. You should also call your bank if you are taking any debt cards with you.
Be sure you get the right amount of cash – Formula is $1 a bag, times the number of times it will be handled by someone else. In our situation it was four times at the hotel stays and one time at the ship (we did self check out of our bags), $2-$3 per taxi ride for your group, $2-$5 per excursion for two people.
If you are leaving your children behind, be sure to give a letter of permission for the care giver to get them emergency help if needed, along with their insurance cards. Be sure to pack your insurance card in your wallet. We know of two people on our cruise needing emergency care while at different ports.
Be sure you pack your drivers license and birth certificate or passport in a wallet or small purse, because you will need this each time you leave or enter the ship.
Update your voicemail and email to notify people that you are out of town.
TIP TEN: Extra Charges Added By the Cruise Line
This one took us by complete surprise, so I wanted to be sure you knew about this additional charge that is added to your account with just a paper on your bed to inform you it was added… at least that was our experience. This was for the tips for those serving on the ship in the staterooms (your cabin) and dinning areas. (Note: if you purchase drinks, you need to tip them at the time of the drink, which can easily go on your Sail and Sign card) We were charge $12 a day per person, so $84 per person for the 7-night cruise.
This tips is a nice feature to allow you not to worry about tipping each time you eat or on a daily basis for your stateroom steward, who are also so quick to ensure your trip is relaxing and enjoyable. However, if you don't know it is coming you will be as surprised as we were and especially if you need to budget for your cruise and keep it within a budget that works for your family.
As a homeschooling family, we love field trips and living only 45 minutes from Williamsburg, Virginia is as wonderful as it seems. I know that not everyone is so blessed, so I thought I would offer a homeschoolers guide to Williamsburg, Virginia. Even if you aren't a homeschooler but would love to take advantage to this historically rich area, you will want to be sure to pin this post and save it for your travels.
A Homeschoolers Guide to Williamsburg, Virginia
Historic Jamestowne is the site for the first permanent English settlement in America. The original fort is no longer standing, however the church is still standing, along with a museum that holds the artifacts that are being excavated at this site, at the side of the James River. You could see almost everything in about 3 hours.
Jamestown Settlement is a great hands-on museum with the replica of the original Jamestown fort, Indian villages and an indoor museum of the historical details of this important beginning of the new world. However, going on board the three replica ships and learning about the long, hard journey to the New World will likely be the highlight of your day… well, that and the shooting of the musket guns. You can easily spend all day learning, exploring and discovering.
Colonial Williamsburg is an amazing opportunity to study the colony, the functions of the colonist, see the culture and dress and experience time travel like nothing else. The moment you step into the large area of Colonial Williamsburg, you will be transported back into the days of before the Revolutionary War. You can step into shops and watch work begin down just like it was done in that day. All works are there for your experience, available to answer questions and demonstrate the day in the life of a blacksmith, silversmith, shoemaker and more. Our favorite part of this experience is when it comes alive with Revolutionary City. You must experience this reenactment in the streets, as it moves from one part of the city to the next. By far my favorite part! My children absolutely love the entrance of the Governor's Palace. Don't forget to bring your picnic and enjoy it on the lawn in from of the Palace. You can spend two or three days enjoying all that Colonial Williamsburg has to offer.
Yorktown Victory Center
Yorktown Victory Center is the location of where the Revolutionary War was won and our independence secured. You can learn about the colonies and the entire Revolutionary war at Yorktown Victory Center. The artwork is amazing and historical, which makes it one of my favorite things there. My children enjoyed the dress up area and we have great memories of our son being a volunteer to demonstrate how the cannons were loaded and fired. Oh, and be sure to pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the view of the York River. You could spend all day enjoying everything.
Each of these locations have ‘Homeschool Days' which allows for great discounts during special times of the years. To learn more about these days, contact the location for your choice and get the dates. It is always the same time for all these locations, but the fees change and are different for each one.
Looking for a great place to stay while in Williamsburg, Virginia? Take advantage of a special from Westgate Resorts with Reference Number #9018954900.
Would you like to eliminate the challenge of homeschool curriculum choices while finding confidence that you are buying the right curriculum for your family? If so, you can download my free guide that includes secrets to evaluating curriculum that is a perfect fit for your unique family. Just click here to get Curriculum Evaluations The Why, What, & When to Making Curriculum Choices for FREE in your inbox.
Our family visited Sea World Orlando and they gave me two tickets to write a Family Guide for families like ours to come and get the most of their park.
Get 2 Day Tickets
Our family absolutely loved Sea World! We are already talking about going the next time, but getting a two day pass because you just can't do it all in one day and we want to do it all and then do somethings a second time. I'm not joking! We may even be getting a 3 day ticket because this was the highlight to our Orlando trip.
Plan a Head for Your Favorite Things
For our family, the dolphin show, Up Close with the Killer whales and the Sea Lion show were the best things about the park. These are the things we would love to do more than once. We recorded some of these things on my cell phone and my little guy LOVES to watch it again and again.
He is all about the animals since our visit! (I will be adding a learning section at the bottom of this post that I will be doing with him because he just can't get enough) He even tried to swim and dance like the dolphins later in the pool and now in his bath.
Be sure to visit Sea World's website to find out what is offered and plan according to the time that you have to enjoy the park.
Pack a Backpack
We never visit an amusement park without a backpack. Not all parks allow you to bring food or drinks in, but Sea World does and we did!
We packed sunflower seeds, sesame sticks, nuts, raisins and cranberry boxes, granola bars and beef jerky to snack on when we needed it.
You can also get wet while you visit Sea World! So pack a towel and maybe a change of close for younger children. We went on a rainy day, so we purchase rain ponchos to stay dry from the weather, because it was cooler than normal. We were glad we did!
A Few Other Tips
I lost my son for about 5 minutes while at Net Climb. It was the most frightening thing I have experienced. I shared what I learned through this fear gripping experience for my own knowledge that next time we go and for parents like me, who are very attentive and because of an obstruction from view and to much temptation for a little guy to ignore.
If you can purchase the Dine All Day ticket, you should! My oldest son can't seem to get enough to eat these days and the energy you go through at an amusement park can really make you hungry and thirsty. This pass was worth the money! He ate anytime he was hungry and got as many drinks as he needed… all day! (only certain restaurants participate)
Our family went to Magic Kingdom recently, so I contacted them and asked if I could write this Family Guide for them. They gave me two tickets in exchanged for helpful tips to families, like ours that visit Magic Kingdom year round.
Plan Your Day Before Arriving
Using the online map of Magic Kingdom, our family mapped out what rides, attractions and shows were important to us.
From that list of ‘must do', we planned our day to navigate the park in a methodical way to save on energy and maximize our one day ticket. Because our family has two adult children and two younger children, we decided to divide and conquer at the beginning of the day, taking advantage of shorter lines at the start of the day.
Stick to your plan! By knowing what you want to see, ride and experience, along with the times that each of the shows start we were able to see everything we desired to do and in recorded time.
We were so happy we arrived early on the day we went to Magic Kingdom. I was so surprised by the lines already formed when we arrived and entered the gates about 10 minutes before the crowd of people, excited to start their ‘magical day'.
For those eagerly waiting, they were witness to Mickey Mouse, Minnie and other of his friends arrive on the train and entertain you at the start of your magical day. When the gates open, fire works go off and the crowd literally starts running into the park!
The Castle is what everyone thinks of when you mention Magic Kingdom, so no wonder it is the first thing you see when you enter the gates. Be sure to stop and get your photo taken with that icon behind your family.
Character Experiences, Stage Shows and Parades
Using the interactive map to plan your day and to be sure you see the Disney Characters that matter most to your children, you will want to pay attention to the times these are happening throughout the park.
You can bring your own autograph books for them to sign (or buy one at the many shops around the park), take pictures of your children with the characters or have lunch in one of the restaurants that provide even more of a magical experience.
Be sure to escape the heat and enjoy the President's Hall in Liberty Square, where all 44 presidents are on stage. Our family has also enjoyed the escape from the heat or weather with the Mickey's Philharmagic 4D Show.
When you think of Disney's Magic Kingdom, you already think of the popular rides that are advertised everywhere. I want to share with you a few of the ones you may over look and shouldn't!
Our family really enjoyed the very entertaining Jungle Cruise and you will love the Liberty Square Riverboat!
One of my favorite rides to enjoy with my youngest was the Many Adventures of Winnie Pooh. All along the line are hands-on playing stations for your children to explore, experience and enjoy as they move up the line with you. Save this one for when your children are needing a break from waiting in lines, because you will not hear them complaining in this line!
My older children are thrill lovers. Arriving early allowed them to ride Space Mountain four times in about an hour and that truly was the magical moment for their day. They have also enjoyed Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, as well.
These are popular rides and tend to have very long wait lines, so using the FastPass+ option for the must ride would be the best way to use this option.
Other Helpful Tips
You are able to bring food and water into the park, so do it! We always use a backpack. We packed it full of sunflower seeds, sesame sticks, pistachios, sweetened walnuts and pecans, granola bars, raisin and cranberry boxes and beef jerky, plus our water bottles.
We took breaks to snack and get drinks before heading out of one area, to be sure we did everyone and reconfirm our plan for the next area of the park. This really helped to keep hunger and attitudes from popping their ugly head in long lines.
Bring a Stroller with Storage Room
Save money and bring your own stroller, but be sure there is storage for your water bottles and bag when you need a break. There are stroller parking at different parts of the park and although we have never left our book bag, the items we have left in the stroller never seemed to be touched.
Pack a Towel and Dress to get Wet
There are a few places around the Magic Kingdom to help you beat the heat and cool off. We always through a towel in our bag and pack a change of clothes for the younger ones in the car, so that they can get out of the clothes when we leave (if we plan to leave early) or pack them in the backpack if we are making it a full day until closing.
Don't Overlook Your Children's Needs
I was surprised to see how many parents were not having a good time, because their children were struggling with the overload of the day. If your children are still taking naps daily and they are off their schedule, you are going to run into some issues. Plan an indoor show for the adults around their nap time and cuddle with them, allowing them the opportunity to rest or take a nap. Do the same later in the day, if you plan on staying for the nightly fire works!
Feed your child often. Don't allow their tummies to get hungry because all hungry people get grumpy.
Acknowledge their needs when their attitude shifts and take time to meet them and your time will be built around the memories you are making for them at their age and their ability.
I hope these tips help your family to enjoy the ‘magic' of your visit to Disney's Magic Kingdom!
We recently visited Sea World in Orlando on a day in February that was rather cool and rainy in the morning. Due to the weather, Sea World was not as busy and we really were having a wonderful day exploring, learning and making memories. All that changed so quickly, when my sweet four year old boy disappeared and I lost my son at Sea World.
It was getting late in the day and dinner time for our family. We decided to split up and conquer, which we do often. My husband and my older three children went for our dinner, while my four year old and I headed for the children's play area. My son was so excited about the Net Climb and I was excited for him, but knew that his siblings would LOVE to explore this area with him, so I told him that we will just enjoy the slides together, while we waited for them.
My son tends to be an obedient boy and because of this obedience, I gave him some liberties to enjoy with my supervision. The photo below (provided by viajaretudodebom.com.br) is the Net Climb at Sea World and the pink, purple and green slides were where I gave him permission to play. I watched him climb the steps, as I waited by the bottom of the slides. From that area, I could see his feet and see where he had entered. He loved coming down the slide and peek through the openings to see me waiting with a smile.
This routine continued for six turns, two trips down each of the colors of the slide. He was heading for the steps again and I wanted to be sure he remembered that he could only go down the three sides and he replied ‘yes, ma'am'.
So again, I watched from the bottom of the slides and moved with his fee to the green slide, which was the furtherest slide from the stairs. I saw his feet disappear and waited to see his face through the openings on top of the slide… but NOTHING! I popped my head into the slide and called his name. NOTHING! Seeing the light at the top, I popped up and thought that he must have changed his mind in went into the next one. I began scanning the top and looking through the other slides. NOTHING. I called his name again. NOTHING.
I ran up those steps as fast as I could to only find NO ONE at the top. I began to scream his name, as I spun in all directions trying to spot where he went and the only options was into the Net Climb through a yellow tube. Once entering this tube, there is a large rope floor that leads to the next level. I scanned that area to the right and I saw nothing… NO ONE!
As I began to scan more to the left, while screaming his name, I saw an area that lead to the left side of the Net Climb and I didn't see him, but I noticed a stair way down the other side.
My mind went wild…. ‘SOMEONE TOOK MY SON!'
I ran down the stairs that I came up and began to look frantically in all directions for a glimpse of my son and couldn't! I called my daughter's cell and began to cry into the phone, “I lost Manoah and I need y'all to help me NOW!”
I ran back up the stairs and a young father stopped me. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Ma'am, what does your son look like and what is he wearing?” I began to try to get a photo from my phone and I couldn't even stop from shaking. I stopped and prayed out loud, “Lord, help me!” Immediately, I started to remember what he was wearing.
We both started scanning the second level and the young father pointing to the stairs between the second and third level said, ‘Is that him?'
“YES!!! YES!!!!” was all I could say. I screamed his name and told him to come to me right now. He was coming in my direction and everything hit me. I hugged the young father, thanking him again and again. I watched as my little boy was making his way to me, just as my family arrived.
I couldn't stop hugging my boy and then my husband, bawling the whole time!
This experience of losing my son has taught me somethings, even after 20 years of parenting and I wanted to share them with you.
- Paying full attention to your child isn't enough – I was not distracted with my cell phone, talking with another parent or looking around. I have full attention on my child, but the obstacles in my way from a full view wasn't enough for me to know where my son was at all times.
- It really only does take a few seconds – I have gone through this time again and again and can only expect that he was in the Net Climb for about 1 minute before I was at the opening. We are still puzzled of how he got where he got without me seeing him, but there are tunnels inside and although we can't get a full understanding from him, we believe that he was inside one of these obstructing my view of him.
- First time obedience is crucial – My son is obedient most of the time and he admitted that he willingly disobeyed because he really wanted to go inside and play. Even if your child is characterized to be obedient, situations can be more temptation for them then we realize.
- Current photo is crucial – From now on, I will be taking a photo of my son and putting it on my screen shot when ever we go to anything that can obstruct my view from having full knowledge of where he is at all times. If I could have pulled that up immediately, he may have been noticed sooner.
- Dress in something that stands out – Bold colors or in his case, a polar bear on a black sweater was helpful to spotting him quickly.
- Ask for help before freaking out – No one stepped up to help me when I called his name several times and I didn't ask for it either. I was freaking out before someone offered to help me. If my son was taken, that was precious time lost because I tried to do it on my own.
- Train my son who knows no strangers safety rules – He talks to EVERYONE and immediately tells them his name and age. He just loves people. In today's culture, this could be harmful to him. We have already started to train him about stranger danger and walking away from us. I have even gone so far as to have a family password, so he learns that if someone tries to get him to go with him, he can only go with them if they know our secret word.
I hope these tips help you to never know the fear that gripped our family that day. Meanwhile, we look forward to go to Sea World again and build more memories that bring smiles to our faces.
Have you ever taken a ‘staycation' before? A staycation is a vacation at home and it is really growing in popularity with the economic condition of our country. I would love to share with you great things that can be done in Richmond, Virginia (and surrounding areas) if you ever decide to look for staycation enjoyment or if you have desire to visit our area.
Here is a list of staycation enjoyment for Richmond, Virginia that are free or inexpensive, with a few ideas for those days when you just want to splurge on the fun:
Richmond is a very beautiful city and there are a lot of wonderful things to do in the open area. One of our favorite places to go, when we desire to get up close with nature is Maymont Park, which has over 100 beautiful acres to walk, explore or just relax. We have had picnics here, enjoyed the animals, Italian gardens, Japanese gardens and threw the ball around. Many people flock to this area for painting opportunities, photo sessions and even weddings. Simply gorgeous and free to the public, with donation boxes at the gates. A few other of our favorite places to visit for nature studies is Pony Pastures, Three Lakes Nature Park, Meadows Farm Museum and Canal Walk.
There is so much history to be found, in Richmond. One of our favorite parts of history is St. John's Church, where Patrick Henry, from near by Hanover County, gave his famous “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Every summer you can enjoy a free reenactment of this historical meeting of our founding fathers. We are surrounded by battlefields and among them is the popular Richmond National Battlefield. If you want to enjoy a few other history rich things that Richmond boast to be their own, you can visit the home of Robert E. Lee that was taken seized in 1865, during the Civil War. If you enjoy Civil War history, you will really want to check out the Museum of Confederacy. Enjoy a day at our local government, when checking out the Virginia Capitol and the Executive Mansion, where our Governor and his family resides during his tem. Lastly, you may enjoy a visit to the popular Hollywood Cemetery and a stroll down Monument Ave. Music
If you enjoy outdoor concerts, you will want to check out the Pocahontas Live concerts. Our family have great memories of listening to the Richmond Symphony, while enjoying our picnic dinner on the lawn. One of our favorite concerts of the summer is on July 4th at Dogwood Dell. It is put on by the Richmond Concert Band, which includes my husband's brother and his family. They play at other locations through the year, as well.
I absolutely love theatre and one of my favorite local places to go is Theatre IV. They are one of the ‘splurge' things that I would recommend. In addition to this historical theatre, we also brag of the Bryd Theatre. You can almost feel the history in this theatre, from the aged seats, decor and history of the famous patrons of the past. For only $2 a person, this is a must for any time of the year! Our newly renovated Virginia Museum of Fine Art is also a great place of lover of fine art to visit.
Near by Atttractions, you may want to ‘splurge' on…
We recently went to Busch Gardens, in Williamsburg, Virginia about 45 minutes east of Richmond, for the first time and I would highly recommend it for a great family day! Their sister park, Water Country, USA is one of my favorite parks to visit, maybe because my husband leaves all the cares of life in the parking lot and easily turns into a kid again or just the way the water makes me feel giddy all over. Then of course, there is Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown, all in the same area. Just about 30 minutes north of Richmond, is the popular King's Dominon. I hope you enjoy these tips for staycation enjoyment for Richmond, Virginia. Come back tomorrow and I will share with you Staycations Across the United States.
Our daughter turned 19 recently and she desired to go to Busch Gardens to celebrate. This would have been the first time we have ever gone and we have been Virginia residences for 18 years! Better late then never, right?
For her birthday, we got the children Busch Garden's Fun Cards, so they can go back all summer long. The kids were so thrilled that they will be able to enjoy this together through the summer. The wonderful thing about our summer is that Busch Gardens offers free passes for Virginia residents that are ages 3-5, with an eticket and birth certificate. All four of our children are able to enjoy this fun all summer long, while Mom and Dad get some things done.
Our younger two are posing outside Sesame Street Forest of Fun
When we first arrived in the Italy parking lot, we walked a short distance to the shuttle pickup area, which took us to the entrance to the park. Having to get the free pass for our 3 year old, we went to Guest Relations, where Delores served us with smiles. It would have been best if we were there prior to the park opening, so we were closer to the front of the line at Guest Relations. If you are only going for a day, be sure to arrive early.
Once we were in the park, I headed straight to Sesame Street Forest of Fun, with our 3 year old, while the other family went looking for adventures that fit them better. I had quickly realized that I didn't come prepared for what was offered for this age group, as we quickly saw the great big water fun in front of us! My 3 year old wasn't willing to get wet with his clothes on, so we went to the store perfectly positioned next to the water park. Within a few minutes, we had a Cookie Monster swim suit and sun screen (we overlooked packing that important item for a day at the park), eager to get wet and enjoy the adventure ahead. It is important to know that outside this water area, you can NOT ride on any of the attractions without wearing a shirt and shoes, and of course bottoms.
Before leaving Sesame Street Forest of Fun, we were able to say hello to a few of the friends that our 3 year old recognizes from our story books, Elmo and Grover! He was a little nervous and apprehensive in greeting them close up, but was willing to try for a picture.
The park is really big and can easily take your time if you walk through the whole park. We took advantage of two of the attractions that gave you the ability to move from one area of the park to another. These time and energy savers are Aeronaut Skyride and Busch Gardens Railway. We took advantage of these several times and enjoyed the view in the process!
My husband holding the stroller, while our older children were behind taking the photos. Myself and our 3 year old were in the same ride with my husband, but somehow not visible!
Our 3 year old LOVED the train, but what little boy wouldn't!
Our older children just absolutely had a wonderful time riding all the hair raising roller coasters and can't wait to go back to have the thrills again and again! One thing that I absolutely loved about Busch Gardens is that way that they designed children's rides next to those rides that our teenagers love, so we can be watchful with the youngest one, while catching glimpse of my older three smiling from ear to ear on all those rides that make my insides shiver!
When I asked them what their favorite rides were, it didn't surprise me to hear that the scarier the better and Busch Gardens delivered on the scary rides! Even on Escape the Pompeii ride, got my 17 year old feeling a little jumpy! (The second row of people in the above picture are my three older children). I absolutely love water rides, so I knew that I wanted to try them out, especially when all three of our children came back with hardly any wetness. So, my daughter, husband and I took off for our ride on Pompeii. We sat in the same row, they did (the second row), but our ride was packed. As we hit the bottom, I was drenched with water… my husband and daughter… not so much! Guess my idea of sitting in the middle backfired!
The last ride of our wonderful day was the Roman Rapids, which I would HIGHLY recommend to do during the hottest part of the day because you get COMPLETELY wet! I loved the water rides!
Here are some tips to make your family's time at Busch Gardens a HUGE enjoyment:
- Plan your day BEFORE you come! Grab a map as you come in, so you can have it to implement your plan at the park.
- Look for PROMO codes for one day tickets
- Bring water bottles and snacks for young ones – Places that had “refill” signs filled our cups up through out the day
- Come dressed in water friendly clothes and bring a TOWEL!
- Bring SUN SCREEN
- Bring a water proof bag for your glasses, phone or other valuables
- Take advantage of the skyride and train to navigate the park faster
- Watch a show during the hot afternoon, we enjoyed Celtic Frye, because I love Irish music and dance… it was WONDERFUL!
- Skip out on the Rhine River Cruise if you have a stroller. There are a lot of stairs to go down and the incline on the way back can beat you up. It was a short ride and not a lot to make it worth the trip with strollers.
- Ride on Troy's shuttle on the way back to the parking lot – He was absolutely the best part of a
tired ‘busched' day!
- Pack a cooler to enjoy at the end of the day and splurge on the food at Das FestHauus, where you can enjoy a show and get something to eat
I hope you enjoy your time at Busch Gardens and hoping that our family guide helped you plan your time together!
My packing days started when I was about 13 years old. My dad's job had him going from state to state and many times that meant we went with him, especially during the summer months. It was always an adventure to see how other states looked and finding out how wrong my perception were when I finally got to see them. I so remember my parents telling me that we would be gone for 2-3 months and all I could pack was what fit in ONE SUITCASE. Yes, I'm serious!
Then, after I got married, my husband and I, along with our almost 6 month old daughter moved 400 miles away. This means, we travel back to our hometowns often to see family… and our family has grown to six people! Our last trip was in our Chevy Impala that seats six people UNCOMFORTABLY, but by george, I got everything in that I needed!
So, when I tell you I have packing tips…. trust me! And I'm talking more than just sitting on the suitcase, while slowly zipping it, ensuring that nothing gets caught in it, as you close it. It will NOT spring open like a can of worms, but it can test the seams of the suitcase.
Here is how we pack the suitcases:
- Sometimes we stay at different houses when we travel, so we no long use ‘one suitcase' per person, but one suitcase per house. This helps on having to unload so much at one time.
- When packing the suitcases, I literally start with an outfit. Lay flat the pants (or shorts), then the shirt, underwear (diaper or pull up) and socks. Then fold it up. I do the same with PJ's, but including a diaper or pull-up in it as well. I have even been known to roll these up together to fit in more. HINT – this not only helps not to pack too much, but makes it easy when you go to change, because everything you need is together!
- Pack a collapsible laundry hamper, so that as your family takes off their dirty clothes, they can go into one place and you don't have to hunt all over your host's house to find your children's clothing. This is worth all the knowledge in the world of travel… TRUST ME!
- When your suitcase is empty, dump the dirty clothes back into the suitcase, fold up the laundry hamper and place it back into the suitcase. If you have any clean clothes left (I always pack extra clothes for my younger ones, because things always seem to happen!) Place them in the front pocket of the suitcase BEFORE you close it up. This will keep them clean. Now, you may have to sit on the suitcase to close it because dirty clothes take more room than clean clothes. I'm joking, but the fact that they are not organized for maximum storage, they will appear to have gained 20 pounds in dirty. Then again, they may have if your boys are as rough and tough as mine.
- When loading the car, be sure to pack large things first. You may experience to see what works best with your suitcase, but I tend to stack mine on top of each other in the Suburban, but can't do that in the car trunk, so I lay them next to each other. Next you pack the medium things and lastly the little things. I would like to tell you that packing in smaller bags can help ‘fill' in spaces better, but it does create more to carry. You need to weigh in on what is most important to you.
- In the event you are staying at a few places on the same trip, mark your suitcases for easy identification and always pack your last items in the back, so it is easy to pull from the front when you arrive.
- Try sitting on pillows, if these are a must bring, as well as a small blanket.
I sure hope these tips make your trip easier! I know that the development of them have made it easier on my life. Well, until I get home and have all the laundry to do at one time.