Thursday, May 18, 2017

Toledo Zoo for Kids

We went to Toledo Zoo on Mother's Day 2017, which was a short drive from the metro Detroit area and only took about an hour drive despite some ongoing construction along the usual route to get there. (I-75 South is current closed for the next year while being rebuilt, and you will have to use a detour to get there from the metro Detroit area at the current time. The northbound route is still open at the time of writing this.)

Toledo Zoo Lights Before Christmas

During the Toledo Zoo Lights Before Christmas celebration on a rare "warmer" (warm being used relative here) day in November. It was a great time and we loved getting a chance to look around the zoo for the first time. Some of the exhibits were closed and some animals were moved inside since it was still the middle of winter- so we knew we wanted to stop by in the warmer months to see it again!

The zoo becomes a winter wonderland in November and December!

Mother's Day at the Toledo Zoo

On Mother's Day, the weather was finally nice here in the metro Detroit area, so we thought a trip down to Toledo Zoo would be a great outing for our special day! We didn't know it when we planned the trip - but a nice bonus we found out about after arriving was that mothers actually got into the zoo free that day too!

Panda statues at Toledo Zoo

We had a great time checking out the polar bear exhibit, which is always a favorite of mine when we visit zoos. The polar bears at Toledo Zoo seem to be especially playful and like to play with toys in the water. The giraffe area was closed off on that weekend, so we grabbed a Dip'N'Dots ice cream treat since it was a fairly warm day and headed across the bridge to the other side of the zoo.

Mother's Day Treats!

What the other side of the bridge looks like in warmer months!

Toledo Zoo Aquarium

Toledo Zoo received funds a few years to do improvements to the zoo, including an all new aquarium area. We had seen this one our trip to Zoo Lights, but I knew we wanted to check it out again. The aquarium is well laid out with a wide variety of species and sizes of fish life!

Lots to do at Toledo Zoo for Kids

One of our favorite parts of the Toledo Zoo actually has few animal exhibits in its area - but is especially designed for kids! Nature's Neighborhood is an area especially designed for little ones to play, explore, and learn! My girls loved this area and we spent the last few hours at the zoo doing different activities here!

There is a great climbing and play structure that the girls can slide and climb on, adjacent to that is an area that was closed in the winter, but we had a chance to try out on our Mother's Day trip to play... the Stream! This was a hit because the girls took off their shoes and socks to play in the water and build mini dams with stones and sticks provided.

Climb, run, jump, and play!
The Stream ended up being a quick favorite!

We stopped for a snack at the snack bar area there in Nature's Neighborhood, and then went into the Home Sweet Home and Forest areas to explore animal life there.

There's even a special area for babies!

 Natalie enjoyed being a bee!

Playing in "the woods"!

It was a fun day and as Detroit Zoo members we received a discount off of admission of the tickets we purchased that day. (Which only turned out to be 1 adult and 2 children since moms were free!) It was around $25 after our Detroit Zoo Association discount and a great day trip! Check out more about Toledo Zoo's hours and special summer activities here:

** This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Our Week Long Spring Break Road Trip Adventure

A majority of families tend to take a week or less of vacation according to a recent survey by Alamo Rent A Car. I thought the results of their 2017 Family Vacation Survey were interesting and a number of them reflected our own personal vacation choices as well! We typically take a week or less of vacation ourselves, and then opt to take a few vacations over the course of the year, a week-long vacation is also what we did for Spring Break this year.

Spring Break is the perfect time to get away as the weather is warming up and this year we decided to hit the road to go on the first road trip we had done with the girls in a long while! We visited my mom and stepdad in southern Illinois which was around a 9 hour drive from our house. Before the trip, I had looked into plane flight prices, but the costs for flights were high since it was Spring Break week and we would have needed to drive an additional 2 hours travel time from St. Louis airport to get to where my mom's house is located... so we opted instead to hit the road and go on a 9 hour road trip journey to southern Illinois!

All packed and ready to go! 

Hitting the Road

We left Michigan on Friday night after the girls were done with school and my husband was off of work, and split the trip into two parts, stopping just north of Indianapolis to spend the night at a hotel before making our way into Illinois the following morning. I had a number of entertainment items on hand for the girls, in addition to our car DVD players and iPad activities, which worked great for them to have something to do in the car!

Road Trip Boredum Busters

Check out our Kid's Road Trip Boredom Busters Road Trip Entertainment in this video:

Sights around southern Illinois

The girls had a great time visiting with family, checking out local playgrounds, and seeing some local foliage we don't have in Michigan!

It was a relaxing Spring Break and we even took time to have professional photos done of the girls while we were there! We had a great time exploring and taking time out for play as well.

A week long family vacation

Since we spent a part of two days traveling on both the trip down to Illinois and back to Michigan, it did take a day off of our vacation time we could spend with family while there, but we still had lots of fun and it made the driving less tiring for the adults! All total, our trip was 7 days, and we arrived home on a Thursday afternoon in Michigan after splitting the return lag again on a Wednesday evening and Thursday morning, so that my husband could be back in the office on Friday morning.

Traveling all day is tiring!

As I have talked about in previous vacation videos, our family prefers to take a week or less of vacation on our own vacations. This time length works well for our family to be able to get vacation time off from my husband's work for our family to get away, yet not miss too much that goes on at work while he is away.  Also, with the kid's school schedules it usually tends to be easiest to take shorter vacations as well. It was interesting to find out that a majority of respondents to the 2017 Alamo Rent A Car Family Vacation Survey also prefer to take a week or less of vacation at a time.

In fact, of those who responded to the Alamo Rent A Car Family Vacation Survey, 36% of families take an average of three to five days of vacation at a time, while 38% of families take a six to seven day vacation. Married households and households with an annual income above $75K are also significantly more likely to take a six to seven day vacation.

For many families a week tends to be the optimal time length for vacations, as I've seen reflected in our own family life. I feel like a week is the longest we can be away from our "regular" lives, my husband's work, school commitments, my regular YouTube editing routine, without it being difficult to get caught up after returning from vacation. We also like being able to take vacations throughout the year, and because of the amount of vacation time my husband is allotted, it makes more sense for us to take a few week long vacations as opposed to one single long vacation.

It was wonderful to get away on our Spring Break Road Trip Adventure and get recharged for a few days! I'm looking forward to our next family getaway! Learn more about the Alamo Rent A Car Family Vacation Survey results and be sure to check out Alamo Rent A Car's Scenic Route for tips, tricks, and inspiration to plan your next family vacation!

Sources: 2017 Alamo Rent A Car Family Vacation Survey

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

#DisneyKids Preschool Playdate Party: The Magic is Endless

We received a box of fun goodies from Walt Disney World to host our own #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate to celebrate Natalie's preschool class graduating from Pre-K4 this year and heading to kindergarten next school year! We had a great time celebrating with her friends and we had lots of endless magical fun!

Check out our unboxing of the box that Disney sent us!

On party day, Natalie was so excited to host her friends, she wore one of her favorite Disney customs - that we routinely wear on our Walt Disney World vacations - and picked one that had multiple princesses on it, because she just couldn't chose one! I wore one of my favorite princess shirts that also had multiple princesses on it, so we had a more the merrier theme for characters this year!

I kept things simple with food this year, and served light snack and finger foods. We've been cutting down on sugar for our own girls, so I did serve cookies but cut out serving cupcakes this year. There were chicken and swiss rolls from Costco, Mickey inspired fruit, pretzels, and cheese!

At the party, the kids were able to dress up as their favorite Disney character, we had plenty of Disney toys for them to play with, and we also played fun games like Disney Character Charades, Disney Fab Fortune Teller, and find the Hidden Mickeys! I had 8 Hidden Mickeys around the house it was adorable watching the kids run around trying to find them all!

We also made a few fun crafts - a Solo cup Enchanted Rose, inspired by Disney's Beauty and the Beast - and some Michael's foam character crafts!

Watch our #DisneyKids Preschool Playdate on YouTube!

All in all, it was a wonderful time spent with friends and we thank Disney for the extra magic they provided us for the playdate! Disney magic is truly endless even when it is inspiring fun at home!

If you're looking for more party planning ideas, check out our Disney Playdates from previous years as well!!

2016 #DisneyKids Playdate - Princess Theme!

2015 Disney Side @Home Celebration - Princess & Pals Theme!

** We were sent complimentary items from Walt Disney World for purposes of hosting a Disney Kids playdate. All opinions are my own.