Subscribe to UltimateMama Subscribe to UltimateMama's comments

Posts tagged ‘travel with kids’

Was it on our bucket list?  Of course!  So, UltimateMama and her family took a quick (relatively at under 5 1/2 hours from NYC) flight to Iceland.

Day 1

After landing, UltimateMama picked up the rental car and headed directly to the Blue Lagoon for an 8 AM spa appointment against the volcanic landscape.  One must book visits in advance.  UltimateMama and her family were treated to the “Comfort” package which included:  entrance fee, silica mud masks, use of towels, and one drink per person.  Remember to take your disposable/water cameras for some fun pictures!

Next, UltimateMama drove approximately 1 hour 20 minutes to start the Golden Circle Tour!

First stop was Thingvellir National Park to see the Everyman’s Gorge between 2 continents-America and Europe as well as the Law Rock.

Second stop after a 50-60 minute drive was to the Geysir Geothermal Field to see Strokker.  UltimateMama and her group grabbed some pizza and did some souvenir shopping at the visitor’s center.








Third stop was a 10 minute drive to Gullfoss Falls to see the breathtaking waterfall.

Next was a 50 minute drive (in the pouring rain/sleet) to the Kerid Crater.

Finally, after a 45 minute drive UltimateMama and her family made it to lodging at the Hotel Ranga which offers outdoor hot tubs, delicious cuisine, and fabulous Northern Lights displays (if one is lucky and we were)!

Day 2

The Lava Centre, which was only a 5 minute drive from the hotel, offered a glimpse at Iceland’s active volcanoes.

Next, a 15-20 drive to Seljalandsfoss Waterfall enabled us to be fully encircled by a fabulous wonder.

Don’t miss views of Eyjafjallojokull, a glacier volcano that caused panic to air travel in 2010.

After a 10 minute dive one will reach Skogafoss Waterfall and most likely see a rainbow.








Another 10-15 minute drive takes one to Solheimajokull Glacier which is easily accessible to all. UltimateMama and her family really enjoyed walking on/around it. Be careful!

One can’t miss the black sand beach of Reynisfjara on Iceland’s South Coast, next to a fishing village called Vik, which is only another 25-30 minute drive. The basalt stacks are extraordinary!

Day 3

A one hour tour of the Lava Tunnel is worth one’s time if one wants to see layers of volcanic eruption.

Ægissíðufoss waterfall is a majestic site and close to Hotel Ranga too!

Day 4

Spend the day in Reykjavik before heading to the airport for departure.

UltimateMama and her kids thought Greece was the perfect blend of education and relaxation.  Although it was extremely hot in early June at 95 degree F, Athens was an absolute delight of a city.  A few tips to enjoy Athens with kids:

-Stay at the Hotel Grande Bretagne as it is central to everything.  The rooftop pool is perfect for a late afternoon dip and the spa/indoor pool is truly a pleasure.  In the evening hours one has a wonderful view of the Acropolis lit up from the hotel’s lovely restaurant.  The Syntagma Square was ideal for touring, eating, and catching the underground subway.

-Stroll the National Gardens, right in Syntagma Square!

-Have a quick lunch at Kosmikon in the Plaka area (and grab some inexpensive souvenirs afterwards).

-Watch the changing of the guards across the street at the Parliament Building (in Syntagma Square). Just make sure you ask your hotel for the exact times.

-For dinner visit Erato restaurant café in the Plaka area and then browse the silver jewelry in the Monastiraki flea market.








-Visit the Acropolis Museum BEFORE touring the Acropolis.  Grab a kids guide scavenger hunt to keep your children engaged!

-If you need a great kebab place try Thanasis in the Monastiraki which is near the Plaka area

-Near the Acropolis at an outdoor booth window purchase a 5 day special ticket for 30 Euro for adults (as of June 2018) which includes admission to must visit locations such as: Acropolis of Athens, Ancient Agora of Athens, Archaeological Museum of Kerameikos, Archaeological Site of Lykeion, Hadrian’s Library, Kerameikos, Museum of the Ancient Agora, North slope of Acropolis, Olympieio, Roman Agora of Athens, South Slope of Acropolis

-Arrange a guided tour of the Acropolis through Context Travel, including the Parthenon, Acropolis, and the Agora.  UltimateMama’s kids enjoyed the “Acropolis for Families: Drama and Sacrifice in Ancient Athens” 3 hour long tour. The tour begins with a visit to the theater of Dionysus on the south slope of the Acropolis and goes from there!

-Have dinner in Kolonaki at OIKEIO which was a superb, traditional Greek food experience with home style cooking at the address: Ploutarchou 15

-Visit and tour the stadium of the first modern Olympic games, the Panathenaic Stadium and be amazed at all the beautiful marble that was used in its creation.








-Walk around the War Museum in Athens and see the collection.

-UltimateMama was rushed for time so briefly visited the Byzantine and Christian Museum

-A favorite dinner spot was in Kolonaki at Barbounaki which was a traditional fish tavern. Definitely a must do!

-Take the cable car to Mount Lycabettus which is the highest hill in Athens (the gift shop at the bottom was a nice surprise as was the restaurant at the top which we didn’t try but were tempted).

-Walk around the Temple of Olympian Zeus in central Athens, a spectacular temple.









-Head to an Italian dinner in Kolonaki at Malconi’s which has a chic and trendy vibe.

UltimateMama was bummed when one of her daughters was a bit sick on vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in April (which is an ideal month to travel to that region). Destined to have a terrific vacation, UltimateMama had to alter her plans and create a kinder, gentler itinerary that was still fun and adventure filled. Ultimately, the trip was one of the best as UltimateMama combined light exercise and adventure with amusement park fun.  Make sure you research the National Parks website to see what is open during your visit.  A few tips:

-Fly into Knoxville McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS)

-Stay at the Park Vista which has a fun pool, nice breakfast, and gorgeous setting

-Eat at The Park Grill in Gatlinburg which is a family friendly restaurant with a huge menu that will satisfy all appetites

-Visit Sugarlands Visitor Center which is part of the National Park Service and pick up some maps and souvenirs

-Hike to a waterfall called Cataract Falls which is a hidden gem and easy for all ages and great for pictures

-Drive over to Clingmans Dome Hike near the North Carolina – Tennessee boundary to explore the Appalachian Trail and learn that the Dome is the trail’s highest point at 6,643 feet (there was even snow when we visited in April)

-Visit Dollywood to let off some steam, ride roller coasters, catch some nature related shows, and make ornaments at Mountain Blown Glass

UltimateMama and her family had a spectacular time in the Virgin Islands recently. One tip:  buy your snorkel gear ahead of time so you don’t have to rent – that goes for adults and childrens gear!  UltimateMama’s kids loved Head Pirate snorkeling gear (the 3 piece set includes a mask, snorkel, and fins).

Stay at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove in order to get a villa with full kitchen.  UltimateMama enjoyed her two bedroom unit in the Tortola building.  The pool with water slide is terrific for kids as is the hot tub for adults.  There are myriad activities on site for people of all ages (bingo, movies, karaoke night, crafts for kids, and more).  You can snorkel right off the beach.  Additionally, one can take advantage of the Marriott Hotel’s offerings next door.

You will want to rent a car in order to explore the island of St. Thomas and have the ability to go to the car ferry to St. John.  UltimateMama was happy with our Avis rental and used it right away to stock up on groceries for the week at Gourmet Gallery.

An absolute must is an all-day boat trip on the Breakaway II to the British Virgin Islands (bring your passports).  You will board the boat at Sapphire Marina then have a wonderful day exploring The Baths at Virgin Gorda, snorkeling at Diamond Reef, eating lunch at Pusser’s in Marina Cay, and jumping off the boat to hit the Soggy Dollar Bar on Jost Van Dyke.  Make sure your entire family has water shoes, sunglasses, UV protection shirts, bathing suits, towels, and plenty of sunscreen.  There is a short stop in St. John then you return back to St. Thomas in the late afternoon.

A trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands wouldn’t be complete without a trip to St. John to hit some great snorkeling beaches such at Trunk Bay.  Choose either a car ferry or a foot ferry to get over to St. John (car ferry obviously gives you more freedom once on the island) from St. Thomas.  UltimateMama advises you to get to Trunk Bay early as the parking lot fills quickly.  Trunk Bay has an amazing underwater snorkeling trail, a bathhouse, snack bar, and souvenir shop.  Cinnamon Bay is nearby too.

Back in St. Thomas, take your family on a drive to explore the beautiful beaches that the island offers.  Coki beach (on Coki Point) was a big hit with UltimateMama’s family due to the amazing fish seen when snorkeling in addition to not only a full rainbow sighting but also a double rainbow sighting.  UltimateMama arrived late in the day, parked and spent an amazing early evening snorkeling and taking pictures of various species of fish.  Apparently, the beach gets crowded when cruise ships are in port so be aware of those times in addition to making sure that you know where your belongings are at all times.  UltimateMama had a lovely time at Coki and it was not at all crowded.

UltimateMama’s family looks forward to their next meal so the following restaurants greatly appealed to all travelers (make all reservations in advance):

Havana Blue (on the Marriott’s campus):  Get a table overlooking the water and enjoy the blue lights

Grande Cru (located in Yacht Haven Grande): Upscale food in a tranquil setting

Banana Tree Grille (overlooking the Charlotte Amalie harbor):  Go on a night the piano player is playing and order the amazing Key Lime Pie