Indoor Adventure at the Mall of America
November 3, 2013 – 8:13 pm | No Comment

The kids are back in school, winter is inevitable, and road trip season has shrunken to the tune of a long weekend or holiday vacation. Accommodating both road warriors and jet setters with a long …

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LEGOLAND Florida Amusement Park
January 27, 2014 – 11:39 am | No Comment
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The mother of three elementary-age kids all who are “into” LEGO and LEGO Friends, we recently visited the LEGOLAND Florida amusement park in Winter Haven, Florida.

Main SignLEGOLAND® Florida is a 150-acre interactive theme park dedicated to families with children between the ages of 2 and 12. With more than 50 rides, shows and attractions and the all-new water park, LEGOLAND is geared towards family fun! There are currently five other LEGOLAND Parks in the world – LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad, LEGOLAND Billund in Denmark, LEGOLAND Deutschland near Günzburg, Germany and LEGOLAND Windsor outside of London and just opened LEGOLAND Malaysia —the sixth LEGOLAND Park and first in Asia. The LEGOLAND theme parks are a part of Merlin Entertainments Group, the second largest attractions operator in the world.

Located on the original Cypress Gardens adventure park and botanical gardens, LEGOLAND Florida enjoys the mature trees and natural beauty enjoyed by Cypress Gardens patrons until 2009.

CarouselFamilies visiting and living in Florida between the months of May and September know the beauty of a shaded playground on a hot summer day.

KidsPlaygroundSetting itself apart from similar type amusement parks we’ve visited in the past few years, consider little details like a restaurant that sells apple fries (although the park allows small coolers, so you could pack your own healthy snacks):

Apple FriesOr stations for kids to build and play while parents do the cattle-herd in line:

Play While You WaitPlacing an emphasis on using both your body and mind, many of the attractions require kids to kick with their legs or pull with their arms to make the rides go (in this photo kids work together to pull themselves to the top of the tower). Imaginization ZoneMy favorite attraction was the Rescue Academy where families raced against each other to move a fire truck to a “burning” building (requiring teams pump water before moving their trucks back to the starting position). We enjoyed the help of a LEGOLAND Florida employee, as our mother-and-son team needed a third person to help with the pumping.

Rescue BrigadeThe Ford Driving School was high on the list for my second-grade son, who got to practice driving a car and learned a few rules of the road (including looking for other cars and obeying traffic signs).

Driving SchoolTrue to the spirit of LEGOs is a fabulous Mini Town; exhibits range from Florida cities and attractions, to Star Wars, and authentic cities from around the country. We spent some time looking at the LEGO pirate display.

Pirate ShipThe park does have the type rides one would expect at an amusement park, as well as a LEGO Chima water ride (for those of us not inclined to soak their clothes, bring a poncho or buy one at the nearby store).

LegoChimaLEGOLAND Florida park does have an adjacent LEGOLAND Water Park (not open during our visit). If you plan to visit LEGOLAND Water Park, you’ll need to pay an additional $15/person and have access to both the amusement park and water park.

Project XFamilies looking to purchase LEGO souvenirs for their kids might consider a visit to the bargain shop located near the Pirate Show. We saved between 10% and 50% on our gifts and skipped the inevitable begging in the larger gift shop located by the main entrance. On that note, if you make purchases throughout the day, you have the option of sending your packages to the front of the park for package pick up at the end of the day.

Annual Pass SignLooking at the price of admission, upgrading to an Annual Pass seems like a great value if you plan to visit the park on more than one occasion. Upgrading will get you free parking as well as discounts on food and other purchases. Florida residents receive an additional discount on admission and if you are coming with kids, look for the “Kids Free with Paid Adult” coupon found inside the LEGO Magazine. The park website and Facebook page are also a good resource for special events and other promotions. For families traveling with pets, the park offers a boarding area (which is something we had never noticed before).

Boating SchoolAt the end of the day, we spent seven hours at the park and felt like we hadn’t seen it all (for example, we didn’t enjoy the theater, building and racing lego cars, the botanical gardens walk, or watching the pirates in action). All and all, the lines were manageable and the park didn’t feel crowded like some other places we’ve been. Set upon a backdrop of mature trees and natural beauty, LEGOLAND Florida is perfect for people who want something truly unique in an amusement park.

Saving for Vacation: A Year in Review
January 2, 2014 – 1:35 pm | No Comment
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January 10 marks the one year anniversary of our “Saving for Vacation” challenge—a total budget makeover using the Mvelopes money management tool in conjunction with Money 4 Life financial coaching.
Throughout the year, I gave updates …

Saving for Vacation: Financial GPS
October 22, 2013 – 7:45 pm | No Comment
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A failure to plan is a plan to fail. ~Winston Churchill
Three additional months into the 2013 Saving for Vacation challenge, much has happened. First, everyone (kids included) survived a summer vacation full of regional travel …

Saving for Vacation: Crunching the Numbers
July 22, 2013 – 3:26 pm | No Comment
Saving for Vacation: Crunching the Numbers
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If  you’re following our “Saving for Vacation” financial journey with Mvelopes and Money4Life financial coaching, progress made in the last few months has been in the category of data analysis.
Within the Mvelopes tool, you can …

Saving for Vacation: The Long Boring Part in the Middle
May 31, 2013 – 9:47 am | One Comment
Saving for Vacation: The Long Boring Part in the Middle
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Like driving through Kansas or Illinois or any state boasting “mile after magnificent mile,” we have reached the part in our Saving for Vacation challenge that can be best described as the long boring part …

New Geocaching GeoTour in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
May 7, 2013 – 6:44 pm | One Comment
New Geocaching GeoTour in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Earlier today the folks at VISIT Milwaukee announced the official launch of the new geocaching GeoTour titled “Discover Milwaukee’s Neighborhoods.” Timing the launch date with National Tourism Week—an event recognizing travel and tourism as one of America’s largest and …

Amish Country Itinerary in Lancaster, PA
May 3, 2013 – 2:23 pm | 3 Comments
Amish Country Itinerary in Lancaster, PA
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If you’re looking for a great weekend road trip in the Northeast this spring, consider Lancaster, PA.  From the Amish country, to the railroads and museums, to the amusement parks, this itinerary is great family …

Saving for Vacation: Tortise and the Hare
April 20, 2013 – 7:22 pm | One Comment
Saving for Vacation: Tortise and the Hare
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Month four into our Saving for Vacation challenge—a year-long quest to change our financial behavior and save for a family trip of a lifetime—we are in a period of financial stillness. Having evaluated our debt, …

Camping Gear Review: DoubleNest Hammock from Eagles Nest Outfitters
April 3, 2013 – 8:59 pm | No Comment
Camping Gear Review: DoubleNest Hammock from Eagles Nest Outfitters
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The DoubleNest Hammock from Eagles Nest Outfitters is lightweight, durable, and easy to hang. This double hammock is a fun addition to your family camping gear.
With robins arriving and trees budding, many of us are …

Saving for Vacation: One Paycheck at a Time
March 30, 2013 – 7:13 am | No Comment
Saving for Vacation: One Paycheck at a Time
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Two years ago, author and motivational speaker Jon Acuff gave the keynote speech at a women’s blogging conference. Moving the audience to tears with his insight on creating balance between blogging, social media, and our …

Kid-Friendly Activities for Springtime in New York City
March 19, 2013 – 7:35 pm | No Comment
Kid-Friendly Activities for Springtime in New York City
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March 20th marks the start of spring, and here’s hoping that warm weather will follow! It’s a great season for weekend travel, and New York City is always a favorite destination for families in the …

Saving for Vacation: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
March 15, 2013 – 7:37 pm | No Comment
Saving for Vacation: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
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This week was all about getting two steps forward and then taking one step back. You know, the moment where you realize all of your kids need new shoes at the exact same time or …

Gotta Go! The Smart Way to Take a Road Trip Pit Stop
March 13, 2013 – 2:19 pm | 9 Comments
Gotta Go! The Smart Way to Take a Road Trip Pit Stop
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Perhaps an unconventional topic for a travel story, this week’s guest post may just surprise you. A subject universal to all true road trippers, the “pit stop” is something we parents try to strategically plan …

Turning One Vacation into Two
March 4, 2013 – 8:00 am | No Comment
Turning One Vacation into Two
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Today’s guest post comes from Jake Redman, founder of ModHop.com. On ModHop.com, Redman has leveraged his personal travel experiences to help others get the most out of their travel experience, providing them with the information …

Saving for Vacation: The Budget, Part 2
February 28, 2013 – 3:07 pm | No Comment
Saving for Vacation: The Budget, Part 2
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Continuing from last week’s post on creating a monthly budget, the last two weeks have been all about creating a Spending Plan and creating a Funding Plan. To quote Wes, the hip-and-trendy financial coach with …

Winter at the Shore: Unexpected Delights
February 22, 2013 – 9:40 am | One Comment
Winter at the Shore: Unexpected Delights
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Most people don’t consider visiting the Jersey shore in the winter. But I’m here to suggest that winter is a fantastic time to hit the beach.
Morning run along the beach.
First of all, I’m a big …

Gulf Coast Mardi Gras
February 17, 2013 – 3:24 pm | One Comment
Gulf Coast Mardi Gras
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About this time every winter we get a bad case of cabin fever and thank our lucky stars some of our northern relatives defected to the land of sweet tea and fried okra. With nieces …

Travel by Air: 10 Tips for Saving Money and Traveling Light
February 12, 2013 – 8:41 pm | No Comment
Travel by Air: 10 Tips for Saving Money and Traveling Light
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Traveling by car as much as economically possible, occasionally we fly to a destination (like Hawaii) in order to make the most of a road trip. In our family of five, saving on expenses …

Saving for Vacation: The Budget, Part 1
February 6, 2013 – 8:00 am | No Comment
Saving for Vacation: The Budget, Part 1
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Emotions ran high on this week’s episode of the Saving for Vacation challenge. Turning the lens in on our required expenses and discretionary spending, yours truly come face-to-face with the dreaded b-word: budget, that is. …

Top 10 Car Travel Safety Tips to Make it Through the Winter
February 1, 2013 – 7:27 pm | No Comment
Top 10 Car Travel Safety Tips to Make it Through the Winter
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It may be February now, but the winter won’t be leaving us anytime soon. If you live in the Midwest or in an area that gets a lot of snow, expect many more days of …

Saving for Vacation: Get a Coach
January 30, 2013 – 11:09 am | No Comment
Saving for Vacation: Get a Coach
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If you’re following along on our Saving for Vacation challenge, this week is all about getting your own financial planning coach. Someone to cheer as you fold your piles of financial laundry and who really …