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our family vacation to hawaii!

A Family Vacation to Hawaii / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Hawaii / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Hawaii / Oh Joy!

Last week for spring break, we took a family trip to Hawaii. We had not been on a longer vacation like this in a couple years…AND the trip was extra special because we also brought along my parents and my brother for an extended family trip! With my parents living in Philly and us living in Los Angeles, we only get to see them in person a couple times a year. It’s always bittersweet to have your kids so far away from their grandparents, so it was an opportunity to spend really great quality time with them. Also, my dad hasn’t been on a vacation in TEN YEARS! He is a business owner and workaholic like I am, so I had to force him to come with us. I convinced him we had to take the chance to do these things while we can and not keep putting it off. In partnership with Disney’s Aulani Resort, we had SUCH a great week in Oahu. Here’s a look at what we did if you’d like to see…

Disney's Aulani Resort Lazy River / Oh Joy!

Pools at Disney's Aulani Resort / Oh Joy!

Pools at Disney's Aulani Resort / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Hawaii / Oh Joy!

We spent A LOT of time in the water every day! Our kids like water, but they don’t get to spend much time in a pool. So I loved that every day, they were in the water, playing, swimming, and just enjoying the weather and their time together. The water activities at Aulani are honestly unlike anything I have ever experienced.

Disney's Aulani Resort Luau / Oh Joy!

Disney's Aulani Resort Luau / Oh Joy!

Disney's Aulani Resort Luau / Oh Joy!

Disney's Aulani Resort Luau / Oh Joy!

Disney's Aulani Resort Luau / Oh Joy!

Disney's Aulani Resort Luau / Oh Joy!

You always see people go to luaus in movies or on TV, so I loved taking the kids to a real luau (Aulani’s luau is called KA WA‘A) that truly celebrated Hawaiian culture. The story they told was so beautiful and the narration was amazing—I was in tears by the end. Also, there were a ton of fun pre-luau activities for the whole family to partake in that even my mom really loved!

Exploring the North Shore of Oahu / Oh Joy!

Exploring the North Shore of Oahu / Oh Joy!

Exploring the North Shore of Oahu / Oh Joy!

Exploring the North Shore of Oahu / Oh Joy!

Hawaiian Poke / Oh Joy!

Hawaiian Shrimp Plate / Oh Joy!

During one of our days, we rented a mini van (did I mention how much I want a mini van?!?) and drove to the North shore of the island. We got roadside snacks, explored some of the other beaches, and ate at food trucks a plenty! I pretty much ate my weight in shrimp and poke by the end of our trip!

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

More than anything, the best part was simply uninterrupted time with family—both my OG family to which I was born into and my new family which I have created. My kids got such great time with their grandparents and uncle which is the most priceless thing for me.

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

Also, the fact that my Dad finally got a little R&R was pretty much the best thing ever!

Also, to answer some specific questions I received about our trip and our stay at Aulani, here are some of the most common ones I received during our stay from you guys through Instagram:

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

1. How “Disney” is it?
Other than childhood movies I loved, I have only really embraced Disney as an adult in the last few years after having kids. I am not the typical person who would go to a Disney resort because I would assume that it would be too in-your-face or novelty for me. But, I truly thought the amount of Disney here was perfect. The kids loved the Character Breakfast where you can take photos with Mickey and Minnie (gotta love their Hawaiian outfits!). There are other characters you can find around the resort and take photos with daily. I felt like it was a fun surprise when we did see a character since they weren’t everywhere all the time. The other little touches of Disney included some of the kids’ food—shaved ice, musubi, breakfast waffles, etc. that had Mickey shapes to them which I thought was just so cute.

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

2. What’s the best age for kids there?
Our kids are 3 and 6, and I thought it they were a great age for the trip. I saw lots of babies and toddlers there as well. For us, Coco being three was the perfect and youngest age that I would want to do a trip like that. I think it really depends on your kids’ comfort levels in water and how comfortable you are with letting them be in the water. Some kids who couldn’t swim were in floaties and life vests the whole time which made it so that they could freely go in and out of the water with parents nearby and not having to hover. We didn’t have our kids in any because they are in different phases of learning to swim, so we wanted them to practice. Since the kids’ club (Aunty’s Beach House) starts at age 3, I feel like if your kids are 3 and up, you can then take advantage of the club a bit more and give yourself a date night or a day off for a few hours if you want to. Whereas you couldn’t do that with younger kids. One tip about Aunty’s is you have to sign up first thing in the morning to get your kids into some of the classes, they book fast and it’s like the hottest club to get into at the resort! ;P The security there is also VERY locked down. I was super impressed with how they check kids in and out of the club house.

Coconut Shrimp / Aulani Resort

Spam Musubi / Aulani Resort

Acai Bowl / Aulani Resort

Mickey Shaved Ice / Aulani Resort

3. What’s the food like?
There are a range of food options there from fancy to totally casual. Our favorite restaurant was Ama Ama which was nice but not so fancy that you can’t bring kids. We probably went there three times (lunch and breakfasts) during our stay. We also loved the much more casual Mama’s Snack Shop for their fried coconut shrimp and fries. For days that we didn’t want to have a sit-down meal and bring food up to the room, we found getting some poke, spam musubi and Dole whip from Ulu Cafe was a better option (and more affordable) than room service. Finally, Pāpālua Shave Ice was a favorite stop for the kids. The Mickey shape was so fun! There’s a big shopping center right across the street that we also had a couple meals out at so that we could all get a little walk in and try some other food!

Mama Mahalo Breakfast / Aulani Resort

4. Can you really relax while on vacation with kids?
Going on vacation with your kids is never going to be peaceful (except maybe when they are MUCH older). Since we had three extra adults on hand, that certainly made helping with the kids so much easier as we have never gone on a vacation with other family members since we have had our kids. We opted to stay in a 2-bedroom villa so that we could all be together in one room but have separate sleeping areas. The kids had one area, we had one room, and my parents and brother shared another. So it felt like we could all retreat to our own area for bedtime but also be very close by in what felt like a cozy apartment with a kitchen and laundry (which was a lifesaver when the kids got extra messy). I also received a sneak peek of the Mama Mahalo Month package that’s coming in May that’s created especially for Moms, which included a special breakfast-in-bed menu and a great spa package. I felt very pampered and super relaxed afterwards.

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

5. Is it worth the money?
I can never really answer what is “worth it” for anyone else but myself because everybody’s definition of “worth” is different. It’s not a cheap vacation for sure. Prior to us working with Aulani on a partnership for this trip, I did book the trip on my own with the intention to go and pay the normal rates. And for us, it was definitely something to save up for and would be our biggest trip for the year. But as any long trip that is in a somewhat far away destination is, you have to save up for those trips unless you are a millionaire. I think that you fully get the value for what it costs in that it’s SO full of things to for for kids while also making it it luxury and nice for adults. 

Aulani Resort / Oh Joy!

Aulani Resort / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

6. What’s the best part about Aulani?
The water activities for sure! Every hotel or resort in a warm destination has great pools or multiple pools. But Aulani’s was hands-down the best I had ever seen. From multiple pools that offer lots of shallow areas for kids to a lazy river to water slides to water parks, it was full of things to do. Also their beach has a built-in lagoon that made the beach so clean and the waves really gentle for kids. We felt very comfortable the whole time that our kids were water safe. Plus, they have so many lifeguards around all of the pool areas which always feels comforting.

A Family Vacation to Oahu / Oh Joy!

We had such a great time, and it reminded me that no matter how busy we get with work and school and life, we all need to take the time to slow and rest our bodies and brains. I so needed this and will treasure this trip forever!

P.S. If you want to see the Instagram stories from our trip last week, you can currently see it on my highlights!

*This post and trip was in partnership with Disney’s Aulani resort. Thanks for making this trip magical for us!

40 comments

  1. Hi Joy,
    How long did it take for your kids to adjust to the time change? We’ll be coming from the West Coast too & imagine it’ll be super early mornings and early evenings for at least a few days? Did Coco take naps before lunch then? ?

  2. This looks so fun! One of my favorite things about Disney is how they truly make it a joyous occasion for everyone no matter what age. I have been curious about visiting Aulani and am happy to hear how fun and beautiful it was. I like also when they can find balance and not be too in-your-face with Mickey Mouse. It’s like that at Epcot and Animal Kingdom as well in Disney World.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. Aww, looks like such a great vacation! Love that your OG family went along with you all. Definitely a well deserved vacation for your dad. 10 years is a long time but that’s the life of a business owner. Thanks for sharing your vacay photos with us. The girls are too cute and all the food look delicious! Love Hawaii!

  4. Thanks for sharing! Aulani is on our bucket list and you answered a bunch of questions I had. Now I really want to go!!

  5. Hi Beth!
    She took swimming lessons last summer but still needs more. She’s not a swimmer on her own yet! But we stayed close by her in the water.
    Joy

  6. Hi Caroline!
    The kids woke up early the first few days (like 530am) and sometimes went back to sleep and sometimes not. Coco doesn’t nap anymore at home, but she did during the trip since she woke up early and also since they were so tired from being so active. And then they would go to bed a tad later than their normal time. We pretty much got them on their usual schedule in the new time zone for the last few days.
    Coming back it took a few days as well and they woke up later the first few days but then they had school so they had to quickly adjust back!
    Joy

  7. We’re going the first time later this year. Do you think the VIP upgrade is worth the extra charge for the luau? Great article and pictures! We can’t wait to go!

  8. the girls’ rainbow sundresses took me down memory lane….i wore a rainbow jumpsuit for my sweet 16 which was 41 years ago! eek!!. glad to see you and your family relaxing. precious, precious memories for sure!

  9. Joy would you please share links to the girls’ swimsuits? They are all so cute and I’m shopping for my 2 month old now.

  10. Awww these photos are SO CUTE! You and your bro are adorable, and YAY your dad got to get away after ten years!! The Mickey musubi and Mickey shave ice!! We love Hawaii so much, especially now that Teddy is 5 and can do so much more like swim well and snorkel etc! Your trip looked awesome and I am glad you all got to get away! xo

  11. Hi Joy, how many nights would you recommend @ Aulani to enjoy the Aulani resort water activities? I want to gift my brother a stay @ Aulani for a wedding present (he will already be in Hawaii for his honeymoon and his fiance is a Disney fanatic). But b/c of the costs, I am debating whether to book a one-night stay and purchase the Ka waa for another night, or book a two-night stay and purchase the Ka waa for one of those nights. My concern with the one-night option is that they might not have enough time to enjoy the water activities since check-in is at 3pm and check-out is 11am. Any thoughts would be very much appreciated!

  12. When traveling, do you lug the boosters/carsets around or recommend an alternative restraint for your kiddos, particularly Coco? I am having a hard time deciding whether to lugging a carseat with a five point harness, simple item like a BubbleBum, or contraption like the SafeRider Vest.

  13. Cathy,
    We no longer bring car seats with us as they become too much of a pain to travel with. So instead we rent them when we are renting a car wherever we are going.
    Joy

  14. Hi just wanted to leave an appreciation comment, as I was looking for some cool Travel stuff to read. Really enjoyed reading your blog. Keep up the good work. Thanks will look forward for more. Family Tour packages International tour packages for family

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