How to Choose the Best Cruise for a Family Holiday

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

More and more Australians are spending their holiday aboard a cruise ship, but how much fun can the little ones have on this type of trip? (The answer is lots, with a bit of forward planning)

Take a look at these top tips for keeping the kids happy on a family cruise holiday:

Choose the Right Ship

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

You’ll be spending a significant amount of time on-board, so it’s important you find a child-friendly liner with plenty of activities and fun things to do. Fortunately for families, cruise companies are paying more attention to younger passengers than ever. From rope courses suspended 150ft in the air to special DreamWorks Experiences, there’s a growing choice of things to do for kids of all ages.

Many parents will understand the frustration of getting a child to try new food, so consider the restaurant options on board the ships. Many liners will have upwards of 10 complimentary eateries on board so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find something they’ll like but aim for a little variety so they’re not eating beef burgers every day for two weeks.

Pack in Plenty of Excursions
Many cruises offer daily excursions, giving the kids chance to run around explore new places. From city breaks to beach days, there are a wide range of different experiences available aboard the world’s top cruise itineraries.

Many of these excursions also offer kids the opportunity to absorb new cultures and countries. Furthermore, there are a range of activities to be enjoyed on the excursions from scuba diving to mountain biking.

Introduce them to New Friends
Almost all child-friendly cruises will have kids clubs operating throughout the holiday, kicked off with a first night party. This is a great chance for kids to meet new friends for the duration of the holiday. After making friends, kids will have the choice of sticking to the itineraries set by the kids club or just hanging out with their new mates. This can give you and the other half a little private time as well to enjoy the cruise in peace.

Even if they are a little apprehensive and nervous on the first night, gently nudge them towards the club. Unsurprisingly, the likes of Disney Cruises have incredibly comprehensive on-board kids clubs.

Find the Best Deals
Cruising can be an incredibly cost effective holiday option for families, especially given the all-inclusive food and drink options. Due to the time-specific nature of cruise holidays, last minute deals in particular can grant families huge savings. Check out sites like Cruise1st for last-minute summer holiday deals.

Visiting many countries in one trip also offers great value for families, effectively fitting numerous holidays into one trip and one price.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Don’t go into hibernation this winter – 4 wonderful winter escapes for families close to Sydney

In winter it’s tempting to hide away inside the warmth of our own home but getting out in the fresh air can really awaken the senses. Some of the best holidays happen in the colder months when the crowds of summer and the high-season prices disappear. Keeping the kids outside and active in winter also helps them to build immunity to fight off the nasty bugs that seem to go around at this time of the year.

Here are four great trips to consider for the winter holidays, perfect for families and within easy reach of Sydney.

Jenolan Caves

Jenolan Caves

Blue Mountains

Don’t run away from the cold, embrace it. The cool climate of the Blue Mountains is perfect for adventure with many children’s activities on offer that you can enjoy too.

Jenolan Caves showcases some of the most spectacular caves in Australia. Dramatically lit and expertly guided daily tours will have the kids feeling like they’ve entered another world. For older kids, check out Trees Adventure at Grose River Park. Climbing, swinging and leaping through the trees will release their inner Tarzan or Jane and burn off loads of energy.

On cool sunny days, there are number of amazing bush tracks to explore but make sure you take some extra water, warm clothes and let someone know where you are going. Or rest your legs and view the mountains from a different angle as you ride the scenic railway, the steepest passenger railway in the world. Get up close and personal with the native animals at Featherdale Wildlife Park.  In rainy weather, the Leuralla Toy and Railway Museum can be educational and fun at the same time.

Hunter Valley Wildlife

Hunter Valley Wildlife

Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Gardens are stroller friendly and the little ones will love finding their favourite fairy-tale characters in the Storybook Garden. There is also horse riding, Hunter Valley Zoo, Richmond Vale Railway Museum and even hot air ballooning to try. Get back to nature at the Hunter Wetlands Centre with trail walking, canoeing and a children’s discovery playground. You can even warm up on a cold day with a tour of the chocolate factory.

Choose an accommodation option that is close to all the attractions and offers family friendly accommodation facilities and packages such as Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley Resort.

Pacific Coast Drive

If you have a bit of time up your sleeve why not take a few days, the car and the kids, and experience the legendary Pacific Coast Drive from Sydney to Brisbane.

Make your first stop off at Australian Reptile Park in Gosford where the kids can make new friends, of the scaly and furry variety. By Port Stephens you will all be in the holiday mood. During the cooler months of June and July you can spot the annual whale migration and pods of bottlenose dolphins here.

Port Stephens

Port Stephens

Then you’ve got a continuous line of surf beaches, national parks and rolling green hills to explore up the coast. Highlights here include a visit to Ellenborough Falls near Taree and of course The Big Banana on your way through Coffs Harbour. Byron Bay has a chilled out beach vibe and in winter there are less backpackers and more families. Be sure to take the kids on a walk to the lighthouse.

Queensland – Gold Coast

Add on an extra week after your Pacific Coast Drive and take some time to relax and explore the Gold Coast. Or fast track your trip, skip the drive and pick up some cheap airfares to the winter warmth of Queensland.

With the fun of the theme parks and myriad coastal activities, the Gold Coast is the ultimate family destination. Even in winter it’s warm enough for the kids to run wild on the coast and play in the sea. Be sure to check out Drax for Kids, if they are old enough to visit this gothic park without having nightmares. Glow Worm Caves are amazing and instructive too. Then experience dinner with a unique show the whole family will love at The Outback Spectacular. For a better deal on your family theme park packages visit

Instead of moping about the place waiting for summer to show its face make the most of the cooler months and your next holiday. Keep a lookout for the special deals advertised to pull in tourists at this, off peak, time of year and make the most of them. Winter is the time for serious family fun; so pack your bags, strap on some boots, pull on your hats and coats and get out there.

This post was provided by Anna Johnson, a busy mum of 2 boys, a freelance travel writer who still enjoys spending her time-off travelling with her family and loves sharing her experiences with others. Follow Anna on G+:

Planning a Trip to Europe with Kids? You need to visit these places!

Ancient Rome. Image source:

Ancient Rome. Image source:

Europe is a great and diverse holidaying destination with plenty to see and do. Planning a family trip to Europe can however be difficult simply because different members of the family want different things. The priority however is usually the kids. At the same time, you want to plan a holiday that you can all enjoy together. Below is a list of some of the best places to tour in Europe for a family holiday that will have something for everyone.

Rome is one of the most beautiful places on earth. As long as you choose your hotel wisely, you and your family can enjoy a great holiday in this world-class destination. The trick is to pick a hotel that has easy access to the beach, but still close enough to the famous attractions. The Roman seaside will definitely be a treat for the family. Everyone likes the beach, so you can be sure to keep everyone happy. The kids and the whole family will also have a great time climbing the Spanish steps and touring the Colosseum.

King’s Cross Station platform 9 3/4 . Image source:

King’s Cross Station platform 9 3/4 . Image source:


Although London is known for being a rather pricey destination, it is still a definite must visit for family vacations. There is plenty to see and do in London. The stunning rolling greens of Hampstead Heath is a must-see. The London Dungeon and London Zoo are all great places for the entire family for a day out on the town. Take the kids to marvel at the fire eaters of Covent Garden and they won’t stop talking about the experience. If the kids are Harry Potter fans, the real treat awaits them at King’s Cross Station where there is a platform 9¾. This is one trip that you will all not forget in a hurry.

Disneyland Paris. Image source:

Everyone loves Paris, from the kids to the adults. The city of love has a little something for everyone. You can enjoy a romantic getaway and the children will still have a great time on the trip. Just like London, there are plenty of treats for the kids. The fountains at the Centre Pompidou will definitely tickle their fancy.

The whole family will love a day out at the top of the Eiffel Tower. This is definitely a special experience especially at night when the lights start to flicker. The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles is another great treat for the whole family. The cherry on the cake however is Disneyland. This is a dream vacation for any kid, and no better place to fulfill a childhood fantasy than in Paris.

Mini Europe. Image source:

Mini Europe. Image source:

Brussels really is one of the most family friendly destinations in Europe with something for every member of the family. The kids are especially going to enjoy the Belgian Comic Strip Museum. Here, they will be surrounded by the favorite cartoon characters as well as get to learn a bit about them. The Atomium is also another place the children are especially going to love where there is a scale model of Europe.

Before planning a family trip to Europe
Although Europe is one of the most family friendly destinations in the world, you need to carefully plan your trip, especially where the well-being of you and your family is concerned. Healthcare in Europe is extremely expensive and a family member falling sick can ruin your entire holiday budget, or worse, easily put you into debt. Travel insurance for your family is the way to go. Children are especially susceptible to illness and/or injury which could pose a big problem. Take out an insurance cover for the entire family, and carefully go through your policy to ensure that all the essentials are covered.

This post courtesy of Alex Pejak, a girl from Sydney who loves to travel and later blog about her experiences. She often travels to Europe, where she has a lot of friends and relatives.

Disneyland is to Walt Disney World as Snow White is to Cinderella – review

Disney Rollercoaster

Disney Rollercoaster

In saying Disneyland is to Walt Disney World (WDW) as Snow White is to Cinderella, I’m essentially saying they’re both wonderful and a fun family vacation can be had in both places.

Disneyland and WDW are similar in many ways and even have some duplications but there are distinct differences as well.

Location and limited space

Located in Anaheim, California, Disneyland is the result of Walt Disney’s dream to have a place to go where adults could have as much fun as their kids doing the same things. In other words, he wanted a place to go where kids of all ages could have fun together. Though popular from the beginning, it was quickly apparent Disneyland didn’t have the necessary scope to contain Walt’s ever growing and evolving vision for the future. After an initial attempt to locate Walt Disney World in St. Louis, Missouri, Walt chose Orlando, Florida.

Why was space needed?

If you’ve never been to Walt Disney World, there is simply no way to prepare you for the sheer size of the place. I’ll never forget as a child watching the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday evenings and asking to go to Disneyland. My Dad, a regular tightwad, always said “not this year.” As an adult, my husband and I visited Disneyland once but have taken our family to Walt Disney World many times. Why one over the other? Frankly, we live a lot closer to WDW than Disneyland. Florida is a half day’s drive for us versus costly plane tickets to California. One year, we took my Mum and Dad. Upon arrival to our luxury hotel in Orlando within a stone’s throw of the WDW property, my dad looked around and asked, “How far to the rides?” He had no idea what he was in for.

Walt Disney World is the king of theme park land. It’s so much more than a couple of theme parks. It’s four; Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, which stands for (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are all part of WDW. Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach are exciting heavily themed water parks. For shopping, there’s Downtown Disney and we can’t leave out ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex, also part of Walt Disney World. It’s simply huge. You could stay a month and still not begin to see and experience all there is to see and do at WDW. The theme parks are incredible and maintain classic favourites, such as The Teacups and Space Mountain, while constantly adding new attractions and wonders.

Does size count?

Disney Princess

Disney Princess

I’ve been asked many times if WDW is better than Disneyland because of its size. The answer isn’t as simple as yes or no. Like the two animated princess movies, Snow White and Cinderella, each is wonderful but each has its own distinct flavour. Simply basing your like or dislike of either based on one being small and one being large does them both a disservice.

Disneyland, like Snow White was the first attempt. Snow White was released to thrilled audiences in 1937. It was the first full length animated film. Young and old alike were absolutely captivated. The animated Cinderella movie, released later with new and improved techniques, didn’t detract in any way from Snow White. Each film is a classic wonder and are enjoyed as much today as ever.

Disneyland and California Adventure

Disneyland boasts two theme parks with Magic Kingdom being the original. Magic Kingdom was somewhat duplicated at WDW, although larger and with a different castle style. But Disneyland has that touch of nostalgia that only an original can have. The other Disneyland theme park is California Adventure and is specifically themed to all things wonderful about California. Although a few attractions from Disneyland’s California Adventure have found their way to WDW, Soarin’ Over California to name one, the theme park itself will not be duplicated in Florida making it forever distinct to Disneyland.


I can’t say I have an absolute favourite. Certainly, we’ve visited Walt Disney World more often and love it. But when we visited Disneyland, we felt the same joy. Frankly, like comparing Snow White to Cinderella, I find I love them both!

disneyAuthor Bio Michelle Rise is a homemaker and Mother of 5 and Disney enthusiast. With over 20 years of experience trekking through the Disney parks with her Family, Michelle has become an expert on navigating families through Disney. When not writing or teaching her children to drive, Michelle can be found chasing the family dog up Rainbow Mountain with her husband of over 25 years, Ben. Follow Michelle on Twitter, @Rise7up, for her latest blogs and writing!

Rome with Kids: 5 Fun Things to Do

Visiting the Eternal City is one of the biggest dreams of many travelers all around the world. Rome is a vibrant city and there is always something one can see or do, such as visiting the ruins of the Roman Empire, or an art exhibition in one of the many galleries studding the city. But if you are traveling with kids, would they enjoy all this as much as adults? Here is a list of 5 fun things to do in Rome that will keep you and your kids entertained.

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

1. Discover the Colosseum

When you arrive at one of Rome’s airports, or to the Civitavecchia port, get to the Rome city center, you can easily do so by taking advantage of Cabs4Rome Civitavecchia shuttle express, for example.

The first thing you should do when you get to Rome is to visit the Colosseum. It is probably the most famous landmark of the city and it tells the history of the Ancient Rome. Hire a tour guide or join a group tour at the entrance to learn all about gladiatorial fights, sea battles and animal hunts. Afterwards head outside and take fun pictures of your kids with Roman gladiators!

The Bioparco in Villa Borghese

The Bioparco in Villa Borghese

2. Visit the Bioparco in Villa Borghese

Take your kids to Villa Borghese, the second largest park in Rome, and have a stroll around these enchanting gardens while eating delicious gelato of different tastes. Then visit the Bioparco, which is located right in the Villa Borghese park. There are more than thousand different animals like turtles, bears, vultures and crocodiles that will surely catch your kids’ attention.

the Explora Children’s Museum

The Explora Children’s Museum

3. Head to the Explora Children’s Museum

In Rome, there is also a museum dedicated to kids. Explora interactive museum is built to child-scale and children can play and pretend to be adults in different settings such as supermarkets, a TV studio, a real kitchen and even a fireman truck!

At Explora, children can also learn many things by attending educational events and workshops that are held at the first floor of the building, situated near Piazza del Popolo.

the Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary

the Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary

4. Pet cats in the Largo di Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary

It seems that even cats are fascinated by the history of Rome and many of them have been living on the ruins amongst its oldest temples in Torre Argentina, since the site was uncovered in 1929.

Today Torre Argentina is home for more than 250 cats that are all vaccinated, fed and cleaned by a non-profit organization of volunteers. If your kids love animals, you can also decide to adopt one at distance or buy gifts for your friends in the Cat shop.

The Burattini del Gianicolo

The Burattini del Gianicolo

5. See the Burattini del Gianicolo

Climb the Janiculum Hill with your family and then stop to watch a show at the most famous and authentic puppet theatre in Rome. Although all the shows are in Italian, your kids will be enchanted by these traditional hand-crafter puppets, called burattini and their funny antics will keep them entertained. The shows are held every Sunday morning.

These are only a few of the things one can do in Rome with kids, so don’t waste your time and organize a trip to Rome that will amuse and cheer up not only you, but also your kids.

Best educational holiday destinations for kids on the Gold Coast

Koala’s at Currumbin Wildlife

The Gold Coast is famous for its golden beaches and fun theme parks.  The Gold Coast also offers plenty of interesting and educational attractions to entertain and captivate your children on holidays.  Even in winter time, the Gold Coast has plenty to offer and there are fewer crowds to battle with.  Days are beautifully warm without being sweltering hot so it’s the perfect time to visit.

Here are a few of the activities you might want to explore during your next Gold Coast getaway.

Sea World is more than just a theme park.  It is a marine animal sanctuary.  Children can get up close with king penguins while learning about ecosystems and conservation.  Don’t miss the sharks, manta rays and of course, cheeky and intelligent dolphins.

In the hinterland behind the Gold Coast is a rock feature carved into the side of a rockpool known as Natural Bridge.  Located in Springbrook National Park, the rock has been worn into a natural arch that has become home to thousands of glow worms.  Hike down there in the early evening for a close encounter.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a perennial family favourite on the Gold Coast.  Kids can visit the wildlife hospital, learn about endangered species and cuddle a koala.  The highlight of any trip to Currumbin is feeding the wild lorikeets by hand.  These friendly birds will nestle on your hands, arms, even your hair.

Brisbane is a only a 1 hour drive from the Gold Coast, making a day trip to the Queensland Maritime Museum in the heart of South Bank a perfect family day out.  Kids can take a voyage through Australia’s seafaring history, learning about shipwrecks, mutiny and diving for pearls and explore the Diamantia, a Royal Australian Naval frigate used in the Second World War.


Ripley’s Believe It or Not in the heart of Surfer’s Paradise is a great way to spend a wet afternoon.  Brain teasers and mind benders will entertain adults as well as kids.  The science of levitating frogs and the surprising amount of static electricity in your t-shirt will all be revealed.

Keep an eye out for one the Build a Bear Workshops taking place on the Gold Coast. Children of all ages can learn how to create their own plush toy and enjoy the interactive experience of designing and dressing it themselves.

In the heart of the hinterland is a skywalk high above the rainforest.  The Tamborine Rainforest Walk is an eco-adventure exploring rainforest habitat and breathtaking scenery.  It includes the Rainforest Eco Gallery containing fun and educational displays of local flora and fauna for the budding conservationist.

Tamborine Rainforest Walk

Connect kids to the source of their food at Tropical Fruit World.  This is Australia’s largest plantation orchard farm and research park, just 10 minutes south of the Gold Coast in northern New South Wales.  There are daily Magic Garden shows letting children touch, taste and learn about a kaleidoscope of tropical fruits and take a Plantation Tour to see how avocados grow and learn to crack open a macadamia.

As you can see, there are so many wonderful and interesting attractions you will never be short of fun and educational ways to entertain the whole family.  It is worth planning ahead to make the most of your time on the Gold Coast. There are also many accommodation options to help you enjoy your stay so it is worth looking for a holiday house deal on the Gold Coast for you and your family.  The money you save will leave you more to enjoy these great family attractions!

Been to the Gold Coast? What was your favourite family activity? I’d love to find out.

Carla C. Burton is a self-employed Travel and Hospitality writer with a BBA in Business Administration from Bond University.  Although a Gold Coast native, Carla moved to Melbourne in 2008 to further her writing career in the Travel industry.  Carla has become a top contributor to many Travel blogs world-wide and thoroughly enjoys the freedom that self-employment has provided her.  To find out more about Carla or to follow her other posts, follow her on Twitter @CarlaCBurton.

Not the high-life, but you come out on tops for kids at Mt Baw Baw – Review

First Tracks at Mt Baw Baw

“I hope Baw Baw isn’t like it sounds” my eight year old giggles in the back seat of the car as we wind our way up the mountain of the closest downhill ski resort to Melbourne.

“It better not be” my husband replies.

I know what he’s thinking.  Skiing after-all isn’t a cheap exercise and he found the receipt and said something I can’t repeat about the $980 I paid for two nights in an en-suite cabin with one bedroom.

Then there was the $110 ski clothing hire (and $90 for gloves I bought), $30 ski and boot hire, $90 ski lesson for the eight year old, $60 ski lesson for the four year old, $60 for chains and $42 we were about to pay (daily) for parking.

Cascade Apartments

We stayed at Cascades Apartments (apartment seven).  Our room had a fire, kitchenette, a lounge with two couches which fold out to beds and a small bedroom with a Queen bed and a large bunk overhead. Think old brick ski lodge – fairly dated, but clean and very comfortable.

The proximity is what won the kids over.  There was literally snow at the door, and you can don your ski gear and within a five-minute walk be tobogganing on the slopes.

There are a few dining options on the restaurant, but having your own food, particularly for breakfast, snacks and lunch is definitely worthwhile.

The Village Restaurant had a set menu of $40 per adult, while the Alpine Bar was ‘A la carte’ with typical pub style food, large portions and a relaxed atmosphere.

Kelly’s café is a great spot to grab some hot fast food (although the service wasn’t so fast  – 35 minutes for a couple of lamb wraps and some hot chips) but it’s conveniently located right near the Frosti Hollow Toboggan Park.

This is the only ‘dedicated’ toboggan area, but take a short walk around the village area and there are plenty of other areas to be found.

Great tobogganing for the kids Unfortunately 2013 didn’t turn out to be a great year for snow-fall, but it didn’t stop us spending hours tobogganing down the slopes until the snow turned to slush and mud – and then we kept going.

The ski instructors were fantastic and the kids were skiing with no poles down the small slopes within an hour.  There is a carpet tow lift, which gives the children a fantastic introduction to using a proper ski tow.

I think the reaction from my four year old, who had to be physically removed from the slopes, is testament to how much the children enjoyed it.

Being school holidays there were some great other activities too – face painting, cooking marshmallows over an open fire, a small circus style trampoline for the kids to do some flips, and fireworks.

The little village has a great feel to it, and even without the holiday activities, as a first time ski/snow introduction to kids, I’d think it’d be hard to beat.

So it’s an eight out of ten by us Baw Baw, and you certainly aren’t anything like your namesake.


A few tips – buy chains for the car, check the ski report, take food so you can prepare meals as you wish, take cash (the power went out three times during our stay).

Accommodation options:

Tobogganning Fun

Cascade’s is listed separately and isn’t part of the Mount Baw Baw accommodation offering as it’s just outside of the main gates of the mountain.

It takes about 2.5 hours to get to Mt Baw Baw from Melbourne.

Great tips for firs timers to Baw Baw:

This blog post  is courtesy of Kirstie Bedford. Kirstie started her career as a journalist covering hard news, but always had a yearning to travel.

Working for Tourism New Zealand in her 20s she was lucky to visit some of the most remote and remarkable parts of her own country, hosting international media to many destinations only accessible by helicopter or boat.

When she got married, it was only fitting that instead of a beach resort, her and husband Dave spent five weeks trekking around Europe.

They returned to New Zealand and several years later moved to Australia, where they’ve been living for seven years, and where Kirstie works as a PR consultant focusing on the food, wine/beverage and tourism sectors.

Kirstie is also a committee member of the International Food Wine Travel Writers Association – Australasia.

With two young boys her travels are a bit closer to home these days, but her bucket list grows by the day and she hopes to one day cross them all off the list – sharing her experiences as she goes.

Twitter: @kirstiebedford

Fascinating and Fun Theme Parks for Kids

If you’re like me, then you probably scour the internet looking for fun and exciting places to visit when you’re next travelling the globe. And what’s more exciting for the little ones than fantasy theme parks, roller coasters, and exciting rides? Well, nothing of course! So keep your kids happy by taking them to these exciting theme parks around the world.

Moomin World (Wikipedia)

Moomin World, Finland

The Moomin Theme Park, located in Kailo, is a unique attraction based on the Moomin books by Tove Johnson. Although not a traditional theme park in the sense that it has no rides, Moomin World keeps kids entertained with unique activities and fantasy trails to explore, such as Toffle’s Path with Witch’s Labyrinth, the Hattifattener’s Cave, and The Groke’s House.

Both kids and parents will enjoy exploring all 5 storeys of the blueberry coloured Moomin House, which is the main attraction of the park.

Other features include Hemulen’s yellow house, Moominmama’s Kitchen, the Fire Station, Snufkin’s Camp, Moominpappa’s Boat, and much more. Moomin characters parade the park – watch out for the witch in her cottage!

Gold Reef City

Gold Reef City, South Africa

Situated in Ormonde, Johannesburg, Gold Reef City Theme Park is an exciting theme park that features over 30 rides consisting of roller coasters, water rides, swings, and Ferris wheels to suit thrill-seekers, families, and children of all ages. In keeping with its name, this entertainment wonderland is themed around the gold rush on the Witswatersrand. Staff members wander around the park dressed in period costumes of the 1880s and the buildings are designed to mimic architecture of the same era.

Visitors can expect a day full of entertainment with shows at the amphitheatre, an opportunity to see how real gold is poured into barrels at the museum, as well as a chance to pan your own gold. Other features include an animal farmyard, 4D movie theatre, and a kids section with Cups and Saucers, a Jungle Train, Turtle Creek Putt-Putt, a Shongololo Coaster, and more.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, USA

Hogwarts Castle at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Wikipedia)

This theme park is a fantastic amusement park based on the Harry Potter novels by JK Rowling. The themed area spans two theme parks in the Universal Orlando Resort in Florida. The park has been designed to launch in two phases, with the first phase having opened in 2010. The park features the Islands of Adventure which includes Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, a new attraction inside Hogwarts Castle. This ride simulates a tour of the castle and its grounds, with interactive characters and props, including a speech from Dumbledore, directions from Harry, Hermione, and Ron, and realistic animatronic versions of the Whomping Willow, a horde of dementors, giant spiders, the Hungarian Horntail Dragon, and a Quidditch match.

Honeydukes at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (Wikipedia)

Other attractions include Dragon Challenge, a pair of inverted rollercoasters built to overlap and intertwine with one another. The queue for this ride features many props, including the Goblet of Fire, Triwizard Cup, the flying car featured in the second film, and Hagrid’s hut.

Visitors will also enjoy the family ride, Flight of the HippoGriff, and exploring Hogsmeade with many gift shops and restaurants from the books such as Dervish and Banges, Honeydukes, Ollivanders, Zonko’s Joke Shop, The Three Broomsticks, and The Hog’s Head. Attractions set to open in 2014 include a replica of Hogwarts Express that will take visitors between the two lands, Gringott’s Wizarding Bank, and Diagon Alley.

What exciting fun parks have you located around the world?

Author Bio: Lauren Morling is a content writer for TravelGround.  She loves reading fantasy novels, exploring real life film sets, and learning about what goes on behind-the-scenes of her favourite movies. On weekends, you’ll likely find her hanging out with friends and drinking Coca-Cola.

Tangalooma Island Resort Review – beyond the beauty

Amazing sunset at Tangalooma Island

I have to say when I first booked Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island, 40 kilometres off the coast of Brisbane, I had some reservations.

Sure the website looks fantastic, with a plethora of activities and breathtaking scenery, but some of the feedback online wasn’t so flattering.

After travelling twice a year with our two children since my eldest was born eight years ago, and visiting all manner of family resorts only to often leave feeling disheartened – I had some trepidation; but within a matter of hours Tangalooma had won us over.

From three years old to 15 years old, there is simply so much for children to do – they will be begging you to take them back to the roomy villa for a break.

Tangalooma Island Beach

Most people are aware that you can feed the dolphins, but oh Tangalooma, you are so much more.

Whale watching (we saw 26 whales), sand surfing (kids can ride on mum or dad’s back), Quad bike tours, helicopter rides, kayaking, boat hire and fish feeding .. are just a few of the paid activities.

As for free activities – there’s a tennis court, swimming pools, eco walks, pelican and kookaburra feeding and movie nights – to name but a few. See the full list  of free activities here.

While at many resorts you’re limited to one restaurant, Tangalooma has a beach café, with just a narrow pathway separating you and the beach, so you can order all manner of things – including restaurant quality specials of Mexican, Italian or Indian, and the classics – fish and chips.  There are also two other restaurants and a coffee shop.

There are lots of accommodation options, but we choose the beachfront villa, which are two bedroom, two level townhouses with incredible views – and back a little bit from the hustle and bustle of the main dining and shopping area of the resort.

Quad Biking

They also have a full kitchen, and being so close to Brisbane, you can just fill up an esky and bring it with you on the ferry (alcohol isn’t permitted, but can be purchased on the island).

So if you’re after an packed holiday with what feels like an endless array of activities – this is the place for you.

Get on the beach, on the water, in the air or on the sand desert – and at the end of the day you can sit outside at the beach café with a glass of whatever takes your fancy and watch the sunset, while the kids play right in front of you on the soft sandy beach.

Tip: Take a pram if you have very young children because it is quite a walk from one end of the resort to the other.

What a view

This blog post  is courtesy of Kirstie Bedford. Kirstie started her career as a journalist covering hard news, but always had a yearning to travel.

Working for Tourism New Zealand in her 20s she was lucky to visit some of the most remote and remarkable parts of her own country, hosting international media to many destinations only accessible by helicopter or boat.

When she got married, it was only fitting that instead of a beach resort, her and husband Dave spent five weeks trekking around Europe.

They returned to New Zealand and several years later moved to Australia, where they’ve been living for seven years, and where Kirstie works as a PR consultant focusing on the food, wine/beverage and tourism sectors.

Kirstie is also a committee member of the International Food Wine Travel Writers Association – Australasia.

With two young boys her travels are a bit closer to home these days, but her bucket list grows by the day and she hopes to one day cross them all off the list – sharing her experiences as she goes.

Twitter: @kirstiebedford

The Resort from above

10 Places to Take the Kids in the Second Half of 2013

Now that the first half of 2013 has passed (and how fast did it go?!), it’s time to start thinking about where you can take the kids on holiday in the second half of the year. Have you been on holiday already this year? If so, perhaps something relatively local will appeal. If you are yet to take a break, maybe something a little further from home is on the agenda. Regardless of the type of holiday you’re looking for, here are 10 great places to take the kids on holiday for the rest of 2013.

The Great Barrier Reef

1. The Great Barrier Reef
The large majority of kids have the same thing in common: they love swimming and they love wildlife! Where is the best to combine the two? The Great Barrier Reef. Known for its colourful coral and abundant wildlife, this is one of the most spectacular natural attractions on the planet. This is a great place for your first scuba lesson, and the kids will have great opportunities to learn such as those at Green Island. June to December is also the peak time for whale watching!

2. Magnetic Island
Magnetic Island rests just offshore of North Queensland and is a popular holiday destination because of its natural beauty, entertaining things to do, and picture-perfect weather – escape the cold! Besides the sailing, fishing, walking & water sports that you and the family can enjoy, the kids will especially love swimming in the sheltered waters of Horseshoe Bay. You won’t be able to wipe the smile off the kids’ faces!

3. Melbourne
Although it is winter in Melbourne, the city is at its vibrant best during this time of year. The AFL season is in full swing, with blockbuster games being held at the MCG every week. If the kids are new to the sport, they’ll be amazed at the huge crowds that gather every weekend. Head to Luna Park for a day of thrills, and be sure to catch the fireworks in the Docklands precinct that happen at 7:00pm every Friday night in July!

4. Surfers Paradise
Yes, it’s an oldie but a goodie! If you can manage to take the kids out of the school holidays period, then you’ll find the usual hustle & bustle of Surfers Paradise to be less than usual and far more relaxing. Clearly, the big drawcards for kids are the themeparks – Dreamworld, Seaworld, Movieworld and Wet’n’Wild. During peak periods, the lines to get into these parks can be enormous – head there during the quieter periods and spend the day laughing your way through the rides all day with the kids!

5. Ayers Rock
Locals in Alice Springs say that the best time to visit Ayers Rock is during September. Take the kids to see this natural wonder (the largest free standing monolith in the world!) and it will be sure to take their breath away. Make sure you climb Ayers Rock with them and when you get to the top, call someone special. Grandma would love a call from her grandkids while standing on top of Australia’s most iconic attraction!

6.  Mt Buller
Not fussed about the cold? Think the kids can handle it? Then why not take them to one of Victoria’s best ski resorts for families – Mt Buller. With over 300 hectares of ski fields and a huge variety of beginner trails, it is the perfect place to introduce the younger ones to the thrill of skiing or snowboarding. You’ll have them asking to come back every year!

7. Phillip Island
This popular tourist destination just 90 minutes from Melbourne is choc-full of kid’s activities! The big one is the Penguin Parade, where you can sit and watch hundreds of fairy penguins waddle their way up the beach to their sand burrows. A guaranteed kid-pleaser! Phillip Island also boasts a wildlife sanctuary, as well as a well renowned maze that will keep the kids busy trying to find a way out! Mini golf is also available with the maze

Dolphin at Monkey Mia

8. Monkey Mia
This world famous attraction in Western Australia should be high on the list of places to take the kids. It is famous for its dolphin interaction experience, where you get the chance to get up close and personal with wild dolphins. If you’re lucky your child will be picked to feed the dolphins as they come up into the shallow waters. An unforgettable experience that they will remember the res t of their lives!

9. Sydney
If you’re stuck for ideas and you want somewhere easy to visit, Sydney is the answer. Australia’s most popular tourist destination has an amazing variety of activities to keep the kids entertained. The Sydney Observatory will take your children on a journey to the moon and back, while the Sydney Aquarium features all-Australia sea life that will have them fascinated for hours. If your littlies have a favourite celebrity, visit Madame Tussauds and see a perfect wax version of their idol!

10. Port Arthur
Port Arthur in Tasmania is an historic site and is an important part of Australia’s history. Educate the kids with the amazing stories & events that have taken place here. A kids activity book is provided for the young ‘uns on arrival, to help them understand what has happened in the past and how it affects them today. There are many displays that allow children to interact – their knowledge of Australian history will double after a day at Port Arthur.

Authors note:
Matt Pruys manages the Holiday Ideas section for, the world’s leading online holiday rental accommodation network.