Disney on downlow

People say to me all the time that Disney is exhausting, there’s only theme parks and nothing else to do.

Then there are the other people who love Disney for all their hidden gems and features. There is so much to find and explore all the time and it’s so relaxing to just do that without even visiting a park.

Have you ever resort hopped?

Have you ever went to the Boardwalk and just walked around then got a slice of pizza and a scoop of ice cream, sat at a table overlooking BeachClub or sat under a shady tree in the Boardwalk courtyard?

Have you ever gone to Disney Springs, walked over the bridge to Saratoga Springs and walked the lake taking in the beautiful views of Disney Springs and then taking a boat back?

How about visiting Polynesian, getting a dole whip and enjoying it while taking a boat to Grand Floridian (soon we’ll be able to walk) and taking in the beautiful scenery of the resort, then walking over to Magic Kingdom while watching the hustle and bustle of all the people.

Going to Disney doesn’t have to mean that you only visit the parks. There’s so much beauty in Disney Worlds property at a whole that there’s always something new to see! Have you done a lazy day of resort hopping or just walking around? Tell me about it below!

Why Visit HGV Downtown Chicago?

Have you been wondering about Hilton Grand Vacation in Downtown Chicago with your family? We recently visited and let me tell you what we loved about it!

  1. LOCATION!!!! Wow!
  2. Rooms – Spacious! It has everything you need for your stay. Small fridge, microwave, sink, small counter, large dining table which seats 4, everything to have some quick breakfasts or lunches or just grab some takeout!
  3. Storage! There are 2 large closets, one being a walk in! Tons of drawers and there’s even storage in the kitchenette!
  4. Pool and activity center with a view of the city! The pool sits on the 5th floor giving you a great view of the city and the hustle and bustle below. There are quite a few activities/table games throughout the area which will keep anyone busy.
  5. Gym! If you like working out on your vacation, you should definitely check out their gym! They have everything there that you would need for a workout. They even have a couple Pelotons you can use!

When you visit a resort like this, location is truly everything! Dining, shopping, theaters, parks, lakefront beach and navy pier is all within walking distance! We never used our car! As far as parking goes…check out spothero! We used their app and it saved us a ton of $$! We were able to park across the street from the resort and while we couldn’t use our car, we didn’t need to! We left it in a parking garage and came back when we were ready to leave the city.

Downside? We were told a lot about the area being unsafe since Covid and the riots, and the resort being a few blocks from the childrens hospital. We talked to some friends who are local to the area and they all said that the city isn’t any different than it was before. We were a little nervous to go since we travelled with our 3 kids. When we arrived, it all seemed normal. The same as it always was. I went shopping with my 2 older girls while the baby stayed in the room with hubby and napped. I felt as safe as I would in any city. Able to grab an uber if I needed but I didn’t. We managed very well and if I was planning a last minute trip back, I wouldn’t hesitate! As far as the sirens from the hospital, we didn’t hear anything while in our room.

If you’re in the market for Legos or American Girl Dolls, the water tower shopping mall is within a 10-15 minute walk and you can easily fill up a couple hours there! We had a lot of fun!

So, in conclusion, if you’re thinking about using your timeshare for a quick city getaway, check out HGV Downtown Chicago! You won’t regret it! Let me know below what you think of the resort! We would love to hear from you!

UPDATE: Why Should You Stay at HGV Tuscany Village?

UPDATE: When I said that we couldn’t wait to visit HGV Tuscany Village again, I wasn’t joking. We came back this June and stayed a week. It wasn’t long enough. We had another amazing time here! Our stay overlapped on our middle daughters birthday and the activity staff here really made her birthday feel special.

We stayed in building 7 and had a 2 bedroom lock-off instead of a dedicated 2 bedroom like last time. Our rooms overlooked part of the lake and main pool area. To get to the main pool we had to cross over the bridge but it really wasn’t a bad walk. However, because we were across the bridge, we were right next to the private outlet mall entrance which was a plus since we did a little shopping! :).

If you’re still on the fence about staying here, don’t be! It’s a beautiful resort and you can’t go wrong. Whether you’re a young family, family with teens, an older couple or just want to get away, this place has something for everyone!

Hilton Grand Vacations Tuscany Village in Orlando, Florida should be on your list as a place to stay when visiting Orlando! With all of the resorts in the Orlando area, you should check this one out!

The rooms are spacious, modern, and clean. The architecture of the building is stunning and makes you feel like you are visiting Tuscany. The grounds are extremely well kept. When we planned our stay there we weren’t sure if we would like it. Boy were we wrong!! We had 4 days there and could have easily stayed longer! The pools were large, and as I mentioned before the resort was beautiful. There was a covered playground and a PRIVATE entrance to the outlet mall! Shopping anyone?

They do a great job on entertainment. There was a DJ on the main pool deck everyday and had everyone going. Usually live music starts at around 12 or 1pm at other resorts but it started at 11. They have a boardwalk that goes around the lake in the middle of the resort and there are usually quite a few people walking around it in the early morning hours.

The pool bar & grill is quite good. The food was very fresh and they have great pizza! They are able to make some things special for you, just ask. The speciality drinks are great and the staff is very friendly. The baked goods inside the market/cafe are soooo appealing! They are HUGE and looked…just wow! Their proximity to Publix is a huge plus for those families that like to cook, it’s just across the street, can’t get any closer! Getting to most of the amusement parks is not difficult either, you are 15 to 20 minutes away pretty much from all of them. Enjoy!

Why Should You Stay At Hyatt Residence Club in Bonita Springs?

We stayed at Hyatt’s Residence Club in Bonita Springs in March of 2021. In case you don’t know, Bonita Springs is close to Naples, FL. The location is absolutely amazing! Being close to shopping, tons of beaches, and so many activities!

While HRC in Bonita Springs doesn’t have a beach, they truly make up for it in their pool area! They have waterfalls, a lazy river, 3 pools and some lap lanes! There are tiki huts, cabanas and hammocks for you to get your relaxation on! While they are an extra charge, they provide food which offsets the cost a bit.

When we arrived at the resort, we were given our room quickly and a bit before check in. We quickly went to our room and WOW! It was the most spacious room we had on this trip. It was a dedicated 2 bedroom overlooking a lake and part of the golf course. The balcony went the length of the room. The bedrooms were very large with plenty of room. The kitchen felt very open and the seating area was perfect.

Beds are very comfortable with down pillows! The staff was ver attentive and helped with everything they could. The food was delicious and with plenty of healthy options! They have games onsite and lots of activities throughout the day.

There is a huge playground for the kiddos that right now, you need to make a reservation to play in during the time we visited due to covid. But there never seemed to be a wait.

We spent most of our time in the main pool and lazy river. It was so incredibly relaxing. I would definitely consider coming back again AND I recommend this resort to anyone looking to stay in the Bonita Springs area!

Why Should You Stay at Marriott’s Oceana Palms?

Haven’t stayed at Marriott’s Oceana Palms on Singer Island in Palm Beach, Florida yet? I’m going to tell you why you should definitely take a trip there!

  1. Beautiful beach that you can walk for miles!!
  2. Sunrises and sunsets!
  3. Seating at the pools! The seating is so diverse. There are small gathering areas with sofas and oversized chairs, large cabanas, lounge chairs and an owners lounge!
  4. FREE loungers on the beach! Yes, you have to pay a fee for an umbrella or cabana in the sand, but you could always bring your own and perch it over your FREE loungers!
  5. Immaculate spacious villas! You don’t have to be cramped inside of a hotel room but you can spread out in a large 2 bedroom villa! We had 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen and large balcony!
  6. Activities on property! All the sports activities are on a small scale but great! Basketball, soccer, table games, and an activity center! (Closed due to Covid)
  7. HUGE gym! The gym was very large, lots of amazing equipment, large shower area with lockers and sauna (wet and dry)!
  8. Onsite restaurant! Sometimes a resort doesn’t have great food options onsite, Oceana Palms restaurant/bar was wonderful! We enjoyed everything we tried and their drinks were on point!
  9. Grills! There are great well shaded grilling areas! One of the areas even has a sink for quick clean ups. The grills are maintained on a daily basis and are spotless!
  10. Location! While you do need a car if you’re planning on going off site, there is a lot around within a few miles that are fun to do!
  11. Lap pool! While you might feel that the pool area is on the smaller side, it never felt crowded for us. They also have a designated area with 2 lanes to swim laps.

We loved our stay and cannot wait to go back!

Let me know if you’ve been here and if there is anything I’ve missed that didn’t make it on the list that should have in the comments section below!

Why Should You Stay at Marriott’s Harbour Lake?

Why should you stay at Marriott’s Harbour Lake in Orlando, Florida? Well, we stayed here for a week and there was a lot we liked and some we didn’t.

Marriott’s Harbour Lake was the 3rd resort we were staying at during our post covid vacation. When we arrived, we were blown away by the beautiful buildings, decor and overall feel of the resort. It’s like you’re stepping into a quaint little Key West village without crossing the almost 7 mile bridge into Key West!

Checking into our room was pretty seamless and easy. I did a walk through of the room which will be up on my YouTube channel soon. The newly remodeled 2 bedroom villa was spacious and beautiful! The carpet was brand new and even had the new carpet smell still! Our patio was screened in and over looked the Florida Falls pool area. We had a master with a king size bed and a 2nd bedroom with 2 queen size beds. Our girls were extra excited about that! The kitchen had everything we needed to prepare meals and the front desk gave us grilling utensils when we needed them. The grills were right next to our building, making grilling very easy and convenient!

We stayed in building 28 on the 6th floor. I would absolutely recommend that building as I felt it was very centrally located. That being said, the resort does not have a huge foot print so it’s not a long walk to anywhere you want to be from any of the buildings.

Coming from 2 other resorts that had pretty strict covid prevention procedures to here, the management just wasn’t as stringent as other resorts. Pool chairs and loungers were not being sanitized throughout the day and no one was encouraging mask wearing. All in all, we felt safe though. We however did not venture to many of the outdoor games as there were a lot of people during the week of our stay. Not only was it spring break but it was Florida’s spring break as well.

We did venture over to play some mini golf and I’m glad we did! They have a 18 hole course and it’s a lot of fun! Very challenging too! It took the 4 of us an hour and a half to complete all 18 holes…well, 17 really. We skipped one because it was just to challenging. LOL

There was so much to do at this resort!

  1. Basketball
  2. Foosball
  3. Ping pong
  4. Mini golf
  5. Playground
  6. Soccer field
  7. Nature trail
  8. Fishing
  9. Yoga
  10. Water slide
  11. Pirate Ship pool deck
  12. and more!

The main gripe we had was that with so much land this resort has, they didn’t make the pools bigger. You could really feel how small they were in the middle of the day when everyone was out. In the mornings and evenings, it was fine though!

Overall, this resort had many more positives than negatives and we would consider coming back here!

Our Stay at Disney’s Beach Club

Our first stay at Disney’s Beach Club was like no other stay we’ve had at Disney before. I’ll start with the review of the resort and room. The room was Uhh-mazing! I loved everything about it. We stayed in a dedicated 2 bedroom and the girls were thrilled to sleep in separate beds…even though the next morning they wound up together! The decor really flows through with the theme of the resort. It truly captures the art deco theme they were going for and I felt completely immersed in it. The comfort of the beds and pillows was wonderful. (in other resorts the beds and pillows were not always comfortable) The showers and bathrooms were very luxurious and functional. The kitchen had everything we needed to prepare quick meals. The placement of some of the pots was unexpected so we didn’t find it as easily the first time we went to prepare lunch but we found them for the next meal. The amount of dishes and utensils was much more than we would need. Unfortunately, there is not a full size refrigerator but there was still plenty of space!

Now the pool… Stormalong Bay lived up to every single hype that has been created. It was great and we all had a wonderful time! Before we arrived, we were told the slide was going to closed so we were a little bummed when we were checking in. Imagine our surprise and the kids happiness to walk onto the pool deck to find it open! The kids had a fantastic time on the slide! My only gripe with the slide is that the kids have to actually leave the pool area, cross the boardwalk to the Beach & Yacht Club to get to the entrance of the slide staircase. They have to run through groups of people to do all of this. There wasn’t even cast members patrolling or directing “slide traffic” to the direction of the slide. I was not comfortable. So Vadim or myself made sure the kids were getting to the slide. After they spent the day on the slide, Vadim helped them discover the lazy river. They were in heaven. The sand bottom was also a huge hit with them! Although they did loose a couple of dive toys. They cannot wait to go back!

The resort itself was just beautiful and the cast members were very friendly. MUCH less interaction though then prior to Covid. But that’s to be expected…I just hope things get a little more “normal” soon.

Food options: Welp, since a lot of restaurants on property are still closed and the ones that are open are operating at reduced capacity, and reservations are not being made until 60 days before your trip, it’s VERY hard to get a meal reservation. Unlike any trip we have ever taken to Disney World, we arrived without ANY reservations anywhere. Luckily, there was the poolside bar for lunch on our check in day and then amazingly, Vadim was able to snag a Beaches and Cream reservation! The rest of the time, we got in room dining from Ale & Compass.

Poolside Bar – There was a cast member taking food and drink orders and I assumed it was a poolside bar but the bill showed up as Martha’s Vineyard. Either way, we ordered 4 burgers and fries. All was cooked perfectly and it was all very tasty.

Beaches & Cream – We were so excited to get this one. We have always wanted to try it. Walking to the restaurant, we knew we would get “The Kitchen Sink”. But we also wanted something more. The girls and I got their grilled cheese with tomato soup and Vadim got the Ruben. It may have been the best grilled cheese I’ve had. The girls preferred Vadim’s grilled cheese from home. The tomato soup was good…a little “pasty” though. Vadim really enjoyed his ruben! The kitchen sink was everything everyone has always said it was. Lots of yumminess in a giant raised bowl. We had the most amazing server names Larry. He went above and beyond what was expected. He couldn’t stand to see our little one not eat so he brought her yogurt with sweet strawberries on top. Then when I mentioned it was the first time she was trying ice cream, he went in the kitchen and had them make her a special mickey mouse ice cream bowl. She loved it! It was all very sweet!!

In room dining from Ale & Compass – We had breakfast and then dinner from there. It was mediocre. There was nothing special about the food. The kids liked their frittatas and chicken strips. Vadim and I got the rib eye steaks…they were a bit over cooked and under seasoned. It was all just very bland and nothing special. I expected more coming from Ale & Compass…plus, they are encouraging you to use their in-room dining at this time. For the price, I don’t feel the quality was there.

While this trip was very short (only 2 days) we found ourselves actually bored in our room. There aren’t any activities in the resort except for the pool. So if you’re not heading out to the theme park, be prepared to either sit by the pool or your room.

The sanitizing and social distancing was pretty much what I expected. Disney is doing an awesome job at all of it. We felt very comfortable the whole time we were there.

All in all, it was a great stay in a beautiful room and resort. We are hoping things start normalizing because we really miss everything from characters, to character dining to the fireworks…everything that has made Disney magical in the past.

Our Stay at Marriott’s Cypress Harbour

We just had a phenomenal stay at Marriott’s Cypress Harbour in Orlando, FL! This resort is IDEAL for families. While staying here, you can certainly go to any Orlando theme parks you’re interested in as they are all within 20 minutes of the resort. However, due to Covid, we decided that for this year we would not go to any theme parks. Our stay was for 7 days and not one day were we lacking activities. Due to Covid, the activity center was closed BUT the staff here has definitely made up for it. Listed below, are the activities available. (There are also activities that you can pay for that change throughout the month – check their calendar.)

  • 2 basketball courts
  • Volleyball court
  • Tennis Court
  • Giant Chess Board
  • Giant Checkers Board
  • Pickle-ball court
  • Horseshoe court
  • Pingpong table
  • Pool table
  • Shuffleboard
  • Corn Hole
  • Surrey’s
  • Soccer field
  • Fishing poles and supplies
  • To many to list water activities!

What’s also amazing about these offerings is that everything is constantly being sanitized by the staff after each family is finished using something. There are a lot of playgrounds located throughout the resort and they are being sanitized throughout the day as well!

This resort has 2 main pools and a smaller 3rd one which is more on the side of quiet. The small pool is located next to the Boathouse. The 2 main pools are close together near the main lobby/clubhouse.

What’s also amazing is the views of the lake. Our littlest one at 14 months, woke up on our first morning and when she looked outside and saw the lake and fountains she just said “wooooooooooooowwwww!”

Let’s talk FOOD! The resort has a Pool Bar called Pavilion Bar onsite. It has great options and the food is extremely fresh! My kids loved their cheeseburgers, the baby ate all of the chicken from my salad and the salads are great! Sometimes pool bars are mediocre. Not this one! It was delicious! The bar has smoothies and the kids loved them! I got a mango mojito which completely knocked me out and I highly recommend it! Other than that, we ordered groceries through instacart and cooked the rest of the time. There are grills located throughout the resort in main areas but then also, there is a grill and picnic table located in-between every building which makes grilling SUPER convenient! Side note: I was out for an early walk on one of the mornings and saw staff cleaning the grill to our building. He spent a very long time cleaning and sanitizing it. When Vadim went to grill our steaks, he was pleasantly surprised and wasn’t grossed out about the public grill and could begin cooking right away.

Sanitation! I’ll start by saying “WOW!” Marriott has really knocked it out of the park with this one. We felt so safe while staying here. There are hand sanitizing stations everywhere. There are people cleaning everything from pool chairs to tables to activity supplies to elevator buttons and railings throughout the resort all day long. They have tags on each chair and lounger that lets you know if something has been sanitized or needs to be. The care that they take to make sure each villa is sanitized and cleaned is just amazing.

Security! We had a little scare where someone mistook our room for theirs and it jolted us late at night. Security did a great job on checking everything out and following up. They are also patrolling the resort all day and night.

The staff was all extremely kind, courteous, thoughtful and went out of their way to help with anything that was ever asked of them. They are really friendly and just so nice!

All in all, we loved our stay and would highly recommend this resort to any one looking to stay in the Orlando area. It’s been so much fun and we can’t wait to visit again!

Why We Travel Timeshare

The great thing about traveling using timeshares is that while you’re typically going for 1 week or more, you can pack on the lighter side because there are usually laundry facilities inside your room! We always travel with our kids and having a washer and dryer in our room is a huge game changer! I no longer worry about running out of clothes because I know we can always just “throw it in the wash” when we get back to the room.

When the girls were smaller, they wouldn’t eat anything that wasn’t homemade! It was tough to say the least when we went on vacation. Having a full size or even a kitchenette was great for us! Being able to eat breakfast in the room, pack a lunch or come back for it and having the option to make dinner is awesome. The kitchens always come with everything you’ll need to prepare your meals minus the food of course. Dishwashers is also a common amenety in timeshare rooms.

Our other faveorite thing is that we can spread out! I don’t know about you, by Vadim and I also like a vacation and to not be all squished up in a hotel room is a great bonus! We don’t have a bedtime and don’t have to whisper the rest of the night. The girls go to sleep in the living room if we have a 1 bedroom or in their own room in a 2 bedroom and we get to enjoy each others company.

When we visited Marriotts OceanWatch in Myrtle Beach during the summer of 2019, we had a 2 bedroom for 1 week. Because our room was so big, we were able to take Vadim’s parents with us and there was still plenty of room! The space, functionallity and flexability you get with a timeshare is unlike anything else. Being able to take extra family along, gives you a huge oppertunity to create ever lasting memories!!

Once we got a taste of staying in such large and luxurious rooms, it’s very hard to even go back to a hotel room. While most people will tell you that timeshares are “not worth it” or “to expensive”, the cash price for that same room is at the very least 50% more than what you’re paying in your maintenance fee every year. It’s just a savvy way of travelling in luxury while also staying well within your budget!

Why and When We Bought DVC

I want to start by saying that I grew up in Orlando, Florida and basically lived at Disney World. My family would visit at least twice a week when we weren’t on our blackout dates!

Fast forward to Summer of 2014. Vadim and I had two daughters, 3 and almost 2. We were getting an itch to start traveling and thought that Disney would be the perfect place to start. However, so many people kept telling us that the girls were to young to go and it would be a waste. I of course disagreed and was certain we would have an amazing time!

After some convincing on my part, we started planning our first Disney trip for March 2015. We decided to stay off site at a time share location (Wyndham Bonnet Creek). We rented a car and planned on driving to the parks because their bus service schedule would not work with our family. “It’ll be great!”, we said…

We got to the resort, of course they pushed us to schedule the dreaded timeshare presentation meeting. We decided to do it because they were offering a nice deal. When we met in the lobby with our two little girls, no one showed up for over an hour! After much discussing with sales people, crying kids, missed park day etc… we left. 

When we got to the park finally, we were wondering around Magic Kingdom and stopped by a DVC stand. We learned all about it and while we had a lot of questions, we wondered if there was a different way to get in. We wound up looking at resale and thought that it made so much sense for our family since we wouldn’t be using Disney Adventures and it didn’t seem to make any sense to use our points for cruises. 

We came home from a wonderful magical vacation and spent the next 3 weeks researching DVC resale every day for hours! After spreadsheet after spreadsheet and calculations upon calculations, we pulled the trigger on Boardwalk. 

Our first stay as DVC members was December 2015. While my husband didn’t like and wasn’t impressed with Boardwalk, he couldn’t deny they amazing location of it. Being on site, able to use the busses and boats that came every 20 minutes, being able to walk to Hollywood Studios and Epcot made everyone in our family happy! Being able to walk into the back of Epcot instead of standing in those crazy lines up front was just amazing! It was a huge selling point and we decided to buy more points resale! 🙂 

While on this trip, my youngest and I wound up with a stomach bug and the cast members at Boardwalk was just amazing. My husband took our eldest to the parks and we stayed behind being well cared for. By the next day, we were all back out at the parks having a great time! 

During this trip, there was so much MAGIC! Every time we walked by a DVC kiosk, the kids would get rolls of stickers and they didn’t even know we were DVC members! 

One night, we took the bus back to Boardwalk and when we walked in, Mickey & Minnie were in the lobby in their beautiful holiday attire! We were able to have some sweet moments with them and the girls were over the moon with the whole day and evening! We now have pictures and memories that we will never forget thanks to DVC! 

This was just the beginning of our DVC journey and it still continues today. We are now in the process of buying and selling more so it’s always a fun and exciting process. Disney always has something to pull us back in.