I left My Heart in Aulani- Day 8

When E woke up on Thursday, she asked if we were going home today.  When A. and I told her yes, she asked if we could “make a deal” to stay one more day and go home “another day.”  As much as we wished we could, we sadly denied this deal, but promised to return next summer.

We all got up, got ready, and packed up the remainder of our things.  On a side note, a few years ago, A. bought a luggage scale through Groupon which I thought was the silliest thing ever.  It came in very handy this trip as we could weigh each of our bags in our room to make sure they were all at or under weight, I’ll explain why this was so helpful in a minute.

After we got everything packed, we took a few last photos on the balcony….

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…and sadly, left the room we’d called home for a week.

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Unlike at Walt Disney World, we did not receive a copy of our room charges under our door, but getting one at the front desk was quick and painless.  With that in hand, we loaded up our rental car and began the drive back to the airport.

Our flight departed at 1:00 p.m. and we wanted to make sure we had enough time to get gas in the rental car, return the rental car, and still have 2 hours in the terminal.  We were also told by Avis that we had to return the car with a full tank of gas that had been filled within 5 miles of the airport (haven’t heard that one before, but we obliged).

Finding the rental car return was a bit chaotic as there was terminal construction going on, but we found it well enough.  We had brought one of E’s car seats with us (she has 4), but decided it was not worth lugging it back, so we left it in the rental car.  I’m not sure if they put it into their rotation of safety seats or threw it out, but if you rent through Avis and rent a child seat that’s a black Britax Boulevard, know that up until the point we returned it at least, it had been cared for by all manufacturers instructions and never checked on an airplane or in an accident.

The airport was pure chaos.  As I’ve mentioned previously, we flew Hawaiian Airlines, which is obviously a major airline in Honolulu.  When we found their kiosks to check in, the lines were unorganized and intertwined with the line you entered after checking in to check your bags.  Additionally, your tickets and checked bag claim stickers would not print until your bags had been weighed (the weight printed out on the sticker).  Because many people did not have their own luggage scale that they packed, like we did, in the midst of the chaotic lines, you also had people trying to shift items around to keep their bags under the max weight (IE: avoid paying hefty over weight charges).

We managed to navigate this area and get our bags checked (even though the Hawaiian Airlines representatives kept insisting our one carry on bag was to big- which it wasn’t) and rudely kept insisting we check it, and thankfully had TSA Pre-Check.  We moved through security easily, but the walk to our gate was…intense.  It probably took us a good 20-25 minutes to walk to our gate, as it was a very long, and odd walk, that led us inside and outside.

We made it to our gate with plenty of time to spare.  I grabbed E some lunch and reserved our onboard tablet.  We boarded the plane on time and with ease, and while we were sad to be leaving Hawaii, were ready to get home.

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We thought everything was going smoothly, until we got to the runway and the captain announced there was an issue with one of our generators and we were taxiing back to the gate where we’d get further information.

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Once we deplaned (which I should have known was a bad sign) we were told that we were on a 2.5 hour maintenance delay.  Now, let me say that while I was incredibly impressed with how comparative prices in Hawaii were to the mainland after I’d heard how expensive they were, this did not apply in the airport.  I was amazed at how expensive everything in the airport was (far more expensive than our home airport).  The idea of being stuck in this airport for the next 2.5 hours (with a 6 hour flight on top of that) was not something that made me jump for joy.

Thankfully, E being the friendly girl that she is, made a new friend right off the bat and the two girls literally played together for what ended up being a 3 hour maintenance delay.

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By the time we finally got back on the airplane, we were all exhausted, especially E.  She passed out long before we even got airborne.

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She woke up around the time they served dinner, and stayed awake until we landed.  We watched a plethora of movies including Frozen.

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Finally, after 3 hours of delays plus a 6 hour flight, we touched down.  I took a screen shot of my iPhones stopwatch I had started once the captain came over the intercom to inform us of our maintenance delay the first time we were on the runway.

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You can also see that we landed at 2:06 a.m. (which was supposed to be 10:00 p.m.)  Needless to say, we were very happy to be home.

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I Left My Heart in Aulani- Day 7

So, I clearly did not meet my personal (soft) deadline of finishing up my blog series on our Aulani trip by the end of July, but I do intend to wrap it up this week.

When we woke up on Wednesday, I won’t lie, I may have shed a few tears knowing it was our last full day at Aulani.  This was the first time our family had ever taken a “resort” style vacation (AKA: a non-Disney theme park vacation) and while I was apprehensive we’d enjoy it…resort living fits us well.

But you know what cures “last day of vacation blues”?  Mickey Waffles.  We ordered in-room dining for breakfast so we could have a loved vacation staple of Mickey Waffles.  I have to say, the cost on in-room dining was very reasonable.

After enjoying our Mickey Waffles, we headed down to the pool area.  E had been resistant of the Lazy River and the Menehune Bridge all week, so we made a deal with her that she’d try each at least once, and if she didn’t like it, she wouldn’t have to do it again.

We started with the lazy river.  At first, she was very upset and wanted to get off, but we told her she had to do at least one full circle.  Obviously, by the end she was clearly miserable…

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I think we ended up going around the lazy river at least 6 times and even then, we only got her out by telling her it was time to try the Menehune bridge.

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The Menehune Bridge from our room (before it opened)

A. and E headed over to the Menehune Bridge while I soaked up some vitamin D in our chairs (which again, we had no issues grabbing in a very prime location!)  It was getting to be lunch time, so I ordered a few munchies from poolside dining and a tropical (non-alcoholic, boo) drink.  (I was still on some meds for my head issues, so alcohol was out this entire trip).  Again, I was impressed by how reasonable poolside dining prices were.  However, I wish we’d have had the May poolside dining menu, ours was pretty much a bunch of seafood (which I’m allergic to) and fried food.  Still, I ordered the onion rings for me (which were delicious) and the kids Mac-N-Cheese for E (which I swear tasted like pineapple).  She approved and enjoyed dining poolside!

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After enjoying our treats, E was desperate to show me the Menehune Bridge, so I went over there with her and A. to check it out.  I was very impressed with the area.  There’s many options for kids and at each of the slides, Disney Cast Members were present to make sure there was no pushing and that kids were taking turns safely.  E loved the slides.

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Needless to say, A. and I were regretting not “making a deal” with her earlier in the week.  After sliding for a long while, she decided she wanted to hop back over to the lazy river.  This time, I let A. enjoy the inner tube and I walked along with E (she enjoyed floating through in her Puddle Jumper).

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We got out because we saw a familiar face that she wanted to say goodbye to!

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Since we had gotten out to see Goofy, E decided she wanted to see what other characters were behind the river at the meet and greet island.  She was in luck, she got to see one of her favorite friends again before we left!

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And, we even got one more special treat.  We rarely (if ever) see Mickey and Minnie Mouse together in the parks.  (I think the last time we did was at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in Disneyworld in Fall ’13) but as luck would have it, they were out together on Wednesday!

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After getting to see her friends, she was eager to head back over to the Menehune bridge to go down the water slides another 323890238 times.

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Pure joy, I’m telling you!  When Disney built Aulani, they truly built it with the entire family in mind!  We were so impressed with the entire resort and all the wonderful theming.  Disney Imagineers have never let us down!

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After being out by the pools for a solid 6 hours, we decided we should probably head back up to the room to get out of the sun.  Thankfully, E didn’t get sunburnt at all, nor did A., but I did (the only time I got sunburnt in Hawaii).

We went back up to the room so I could start packing up some of our things and we could feed E.  I also got my first (and only) Mickey ice cream bar of the trip.

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However, after dinner, she begged to go back out to the pools again.  Because it was a bit chilly once the sun went down, we headed for the hot tubs and stayed out until almost closing time (10:00 p.m.)

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At ten o’clock the lifeguards made their rounds to clear us out of the pool.  We made the sad walk up to our room, showered, and got ready for bed.  We knew that at this time the next day we’d be back at home….or so we thought.

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I Left My Heart in Aulani- Day 6

When we awoke Tuesday Morning, E seemed to be feeling better, but we wanted to play it safe.  After my hospitalization in April and A.’s mysterious mouth tumor still pending results (which ended up being benign by the way) the last thing we wanted to do was visit a hospital in Hawaii (though, my husband came prepared with directions to the nearest Urgent Care and Hospital on the island).

We decided to take it easy and stay out of the water for the day.  Now, Aulani offers several non-water activities, but we certainly weren’t sending her to Auntie’s Beach House, and most of the activities involve walking around the resort.  Telling a 4-year-old she can’t go into the pool/ocean/etc doesn’t go over well.

We started our day in the Pau Hana room for some pin trading and another drop in activity where you could make your own post card.  Both went over very well, though E was convinced she was a pirate and the pins were her booty.

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I had also called the character line to get the list of characters who’d be taking guests that afternoon.  Thankfully, Donald Duck was on the schedule (he’s one of E’s favorites).  We tried to cleverly position our times so that we’d hit the tail end of one character and the beginning of another character’s meet and greet.  But once E realized that the characters were coming to that specific spot, she didn’t want to leave.  So, I sat on a rock and she sat between my legs.

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We were able to catch all the characters available on Tuesday (minus Duffy which E had no interest in).

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And then, when she saw this guy, she was in heaven!  She has a fascination with Donald Duck, more so than Mickey, and we never seem to be able to catch him at Disneyland, so when she saw him at the Mickey Beach, she was over the moon!  And Donald was quite excited that someone was so happy to see him too!

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By now, it was around 2:30 and E was begging to get into the pool.  Because she had gone all day without any congestion or coughing, we decided to let her give it a shot, but told her if she started coughing we were getting out right away or if she needed her inhaler (she’s gotten very good about knowing when she needs it, sadly).  We headed up to change and jumped in the pool while A. grabbed us some food from Mama’s Snack Shop.

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On a side note – we live in the southwestern part of the United States, where the primary secondary language is Spanish or a variation of Spanish dialect.  When we travel to California and even to Orlando, we often find some version of Spanish is repeated after all English announcements or information is available in English and Spanish.  I was amazed that the secondary language in Hawaii was Japanese.  Even more so that most of the menus were split with American and Japanese offerings.

IMG_8084After we swam (primarily in the hot tub because it was kind of chilly and with E being sick I wasn’t risking it, she also favored the hot tubs) we headed up to the room and got cleaned up for dinner.  Since I had done laundry the night before, E. got to wear her Elsa Nightgown (from Costco of course) again, you can see how happy she was about that.

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After dinner, E. crashed relatively easily and early.  A. and I sat out on the patio enjoying the music coming from the lobby area of the resort (which was only heard when our slider was open or we were on the patio).  I also attempted to snap some photos of our amazing view at sunset.

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Once the sun set, A and I headed back into the room, both in absolute disbelief that the next day would be our last full day in paradise.

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I Left My Heart in Aulani- Day 5

I know I disappeared for a while, but I’m going to try my hardest to wrap up our vacation series before July ends.  

When Monday came around, we were all a little sad, we knew that we now had as many days left of our vacation as we had already spent on vacation.  The halfway point is always a bit sad knowing that the end of the trip is starting to approach.  We didn’t let that bother us for too long though.

We started our Monday by attending the Disney Vacation Club Member Mingle.  On our way down to the conference center, we stopped for a fun photo-op just outside of the lobby.  Don’t they both look like they’re on vacation (which they are, but you don’t typically find my husband in a sleeveless shirt….ever.)

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We really enjoyed the member mingle, the light breakfast offering included POG juice (mama’s favorite) and a few yummy treats for Little Miss.  We learned about the tradition behind the customary lei greeting and some fun facts about DVC in general.  We also sat with some really great DVC members who made our morning very enjoyable.

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After the Member Mingle however, Little Miss was ready to swim, and swim we did!  After changing for the pool, we met our favorite Aulani Photo Pass Photographer, Glen, downstairs for a few photos.  If you happen to see Glen on property, definitely stop for a session or two with him.  He’s very kind and takes his time to get some cute shots.  He’s also very good with the littles!

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We started in the main zero entry pool.  Again, we had no problems finding a pool chair (though we were only looking for one) to drop our stuff off at.  I know this is something people are constantly talking about (trying to find a chair) but it was never an issue for us in any of the pool areas.

IMG_7957While we were swimming we had an unfortunate incident of me trying to capture underwater video of E jumping in the pool and our heads bumping.  If you remember, from my (only) April post, I was not yet two months post hospitalization the Neurological Institute for crazy headaches, so this wasn’t pretty.  We decided to head over to the beach so E and A could play in the sand and I could lay back and relax…with a Mickey Pretzel.  Side note: I really wish there was another place in Aulani that sold Mickey Pretzels other than the beach cart, say maybe the Ulu Cafe?

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After a while, E started complaining that she was tired (which is out of character for her) but we figured between jet lag and all the excitement the past few days a nap would do us all some good.  we head up to the room and washed off the pool and beach, and she was out like a light.

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I took the opportunity to get some laundry done.  Exciting, I know, but necessary.  I met a few really neat people in the laundry room but also realized a few heating elements of the dryers were out, so it took an extra hour to get all our clothing dry.  The Costco bags we picked up on our first day helped to organize and carry our laundry (thanks Costco!)

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When I came back to the room, E was still asleep and starting to feel warm and sound congested.  Because she suffers from Asthma, slight congestion can turn into something bad, quick (which is why we travel with a small children’s pharmacy).  A. and I decided it’d be a quiet evening in, and we got her propped up and started her inhaler.  When she woke up, she requested pizza.

I went down to the front desk and they recommended Pizza Corner.  They gave me their number so I could call my order in ahead of time and also highly recommended getting their Garlic Knots.  I wish I would have realized literally how close Pizza Corner is, as I wouldn’t have driven (it was just across the street from the resort).  Remember, parking spaces in Hawaii are small and we had a bigger car than we were used to.  Upon arriving at Pizza Corner, they informed us that they also offer free delivery to Aulani (DOH!)  Anyway, if you’re staying at Aulani, and craving pizza, I highly recommend them!  As you can see, half the pizza was devoured before I could even snap a photo!

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While E was eating I went downstairs and grabbed a few movies for us to watch, Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day as well as The Help.  She fell asleep during the first movie, and A. and I stayed up to watch The Help hoping an easy night in, preemptive medicine, and lots of sleep would help Little Miss feel better the next day!

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I Left My Heart in Aulani- Hair and Makeup

I am not a beauty expert, but I do appreciate recommendations on fashionable yet easy vacation looks.

I know, this likely sounds like it’ll be a boring entry, and maybe it will be, but I know that as I was preparing for our trip, I (being a crazy OCD, type A planner person) researched how exactly to achieve an easy hair style and make up that wouldn’t melt off my face.

We live in a desert, a very hot but very dry desert, so humidity is not something I deal with often or really ever.  The last time I tried to wear make-up in a humid climate was on our honeymoon, six years ago, in Walt Disneyworld.

Our first day at Disneyworld, I put on full makeup, like I normally would.  I did okay throughout the day, and even survived through a cute mini-photo session in the Animal Kingdom Lodge lobby.

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You can even see my hair starting to frizz at 8:00 a.m. in the morning!

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And then we, the two desert dwellers, ventured out for a very hot, humid June evening at Animal Kingdom which I believe sealed my fate.

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The second day of our honeymoon we spent at Typhoon Lagoon (the water park) so naturally I went sans makeup.  One of the first things we did (and the first time my face got wet) was to ride the Crush and Gusher.

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Looking at this photo, you might think my reaction is from the water being cold, or shock that I fell off the raft, but I can assure you, it’s neither of those.  The moment my face hit the water, it burned.  I don’t mean it felt irritated, as I think the amount of chlorination in the water can give most anyone an initial burn, but it felt like my entire face was on fire.  A quick trip to the first-aid station, a look in the mirror, and a call to my esthetician confirmed that I had heat rash…on my face.  You know the little red bumps babies get on their bottoms with heat rash?  I had those on my face.  Suffice to say, I ended my use of makeup on our honeymoon as well as any time I was visiting a humid climate.

Aside from my intolerable makeup/humidity relationship, I also have naturally wavy hair.  In the desert it’s usually not an issue, but put me in a humid climate and I have frizz like nobody’s business.   In Florida I can blow dry and straighten my hair with a flat-iron, step outside and look like a hot mess of frizz and unmanaged curls.  So, I knew for Hawaii I wanted a low maintenance hair routine and makeup routine that also provided UV protection.

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This was all the makeup I used in Hawaii.  MAC tinted moisturizer with SPF (this stuff is AMAZING), concealer, MAC’s liquid to powder bronzer, some blush, waterproof mascara, a paint pot, light eye shadow, and lip gloss.  It may sound like a lot, but it was maybe a 5 minute routine that took only 3 brushes.  Thankfully MAC had just reformulated their tinted moisturizer with SPF and launched their waterproof mascara version of my daily mascara plus their seasonal bronzer about 2 weeks before we left.  I am happy to say that I never once broke out or got heat rash on my face, hurray!

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These are all the hair products (sans my shine/thermal spray which is also Aquage) I used in Hawaii.  I know it looks like a lot, but this is two different hair routines, one for the days I blow-dried/straightened my hair, and one for the days I went with my natural wavy locks.  Because I had just had my hair highlighted (and bleached) before our trip, I opted to bring my own AG Tech II shampoo (it has more proteins in it, so it’s good for chemical blondes like myself) as well as a purple conditioner to help my hair tone (Catwalk just happened to be the only one in a travel-ish size available at the beauty store).

On days when I blow-dried and straightened, I’d apply the Matrix oil (which smelled like heaven) directly after towel drying post shower.  I then used the Aquage straightening gel to blow dry, and when I was ready to flat iron used my Aquage shine/thermal spray.

On days I went with my natural wavy locks (most days actually) before leaving the shower I’d apply a pea size amount of the H2O Hawaiian Sea Salt conditioner as a leave in conditioner.  Next, I’d apply the matrix oil directly out of the shower and let my hair air dry a bit.  I’d then use the Not Your Mother’s Kinky Moves to tame my frizzy waves and the Beach Babe and/or the Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray to add some sea salt/conditioner to help define my waves.  (If I’m being honest, I prefer the “Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Spray” to the Bumble and Bumble spray, and the cost is about 75% less).  After giving them more time to air dry, I’d mist with my normal hair spray and be on my way.

Now, because Aulani’s pools are salt water pools, not chlorinated, I didn’t have to wash every day (which my freshly chemically treated hair appreciated).  My hair (and skin) were also incredibly soft at the end of the week because of this.

I was such a fan of my beauty routines on vacation, I now use most of them at home.  My hair doesn’t curl as well in the desert due to our hard, calcified water, but it’s so damn hot it’s usually up in a top knot or a french twist anyway!

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I Left My Heart in Aulani- Day 4 Part 2

We decided to head into North Shore in search of Sea Turtles (and Ted’s Cream Pie).  All of my online scouting had told me to head down Kamehameha Highway to find beaches frequented by sea turtles.  To clarify, this is a two lane highway (one lane each direction) that runs along the beaches of North Shore.  Parking consists of pulling over and parking on the side of the road.  Naturally, people pulling off the road and back into the road backs up traffic, a lot.

Let me start by saying that E. didn’t have a long list of things she wanted to do in Hawaii, but the item at the top of her list was to see sea turtles, so come hell or high water, that’s what we were going to do.  As we drove, A. mentioned that he could see sea turtles beached, so we decided to find a place to park.

IMG_7818 IMG_7819You can kind of see traffic backed up next to us.  It was insane and I was all but thrilled to be parking on the side of a crazy road.  But, that’s what car insurance is for, right?  And trust me, it was SO worth it.

We walked a couple hundred feet back towards the beach and saw people in huddles at the various places where the sea turtles were beached and/or feeding.  It was one of my favorite experiences of the trip, standing in the shoreline of the sea watching these beautiful turtles swim and eat.  And as much as E. wanted to see turtles, once she saw them, she was done while I was captivated.  So, A. took up her up and down along the beach while I chatted with the beach volunteers about the sea turtles but mostly just observed them.  I have about 300 photos of them, so hopefully I don’t bore you!

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As you can tell in the next photo, E was very observant of the various cultures we were interacting with on the beach and took a liking to how she saw many individuals posing for photos.

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After checking out the beached turtles, E and A. had some fun playing in the sand and enjoying the overcast, foggy weather.

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After we soaked up our time with the sea turtles, we ventured further up Kamehameha to pick up some coveted Ted’s Cream Pie which we were saving to enjoy for dessert that evening.

The drive back to Aulani wasn’t long, but getting out of North Shore was rough.  It took just as long to make it back down Kamehameha Highway as it did to then make it back to Aulani, but we did capture some very picturesque views on our way back.

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Once back at the resort, we decided to try to catch the resorts Luau that evening, the Starlit Hui.  We got in line early, which honestly wasn’t entirely necessary.  It was being offered three times that week, so while it filled up, there was plenty of room up until show time.

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After we got our lawn mats and our spot (we were in the second row) we settled in for dessert so we could enjoy our pie!  Personally, I preferred the Pineapple Cream Cheese Pie to the Chocolate Haupia pie, but E loved them both.

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When they invited kids up to learn the hula that they’d invite them to participate in during the show, E decided to go up (I swear she grew up and matured on this trip alone!)  It was a lot of fun watching her learn to do the hula, though hard to catch a good photo as the bigger kids were crowding around her (or should I say towering around her).

IMG_7854The show was spectacular!  We opted not to do a dinner luau this trip, because we weren’t sure how much E would enjoy it.  She loved the Starlit Hui with all the dancing, the music, and of course Mickey, Minnie, and friends helped as well!

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A little pre-show fun!

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After the Starlit Hui was over, we were exhausted!  We had crossed several things off our list for our trip that day and we were feeling it.  We headed up to the room and went straight to bed, knowing that the next day, Monday, would be a day of relaxation for all of us…or so we thought!

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I Left My Heart in Aulani- Day 4 Part 1

I’d like to preface this post with saying that I am currently listening to both the “Lava” score as well as the Aulani soundtrack because my heart is longing to be back in Hawaii tonight.

Sunday was a very, very busy day for us.  Originally, Sunday was supposed to be our “date day”.  E was going to go to Aunty’s and had her special Chip and Dale excursion while A. and I had our special dinner.  Well, after she melted our hearts by telling us she just wanted to spend time with us on vacation, we cancelled her excursion and our dinner so we could have some more quality time.  Sunday officially became “drive around Hawaii” day.

We got up relatively early (by our standards anyway and left the room by 8:00 a.m. heading down to the Waikiki area.  This was the only time we headed down to Waikiki and even at 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning it was crazy!  I have no desire to return to this area until E is old enough to enjoy the shopping and restaurant choices (but by all means, we are not foodies at all).  What brought us down to Waikiki?  We decided to hit the Maui Diver’s Design Studio to do Pick-A-Pearl and make a few special souvenirs!  We had a really nice experience and the ladies at Maui Divers were of course very kind to us.  I didn’t take any photo’s of this, but E picked two oysters, one with a really large white pearl which we had set in a pendant for her and one black pearl we set in a pendant for me.

From here, we decided to head to the Dole Plantation (the opposite direction on the island).  Funny fact we didn’t know…we could have just done the Pick-A-Pearl AT the Dole Plantation….oh well, now we know.

The drive to Dole was uneventful and very pretty, but of course, someone fell asleep.IMG_7811So, while she slept A. and I both took the opportunity to put our sunscreen on.  I have to say, the parking situation at Dole is not ideal and the shade options are minimal, so sunscreen and proper head gear/eye gear are a must!  Once E woke up, we got her ready for her time at Dole as well.

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While we had a nice time at Dole, I’ll be honest in saying that if we didn’t have a preschooler with us, we could have skipped it minus one very awesome souvenir I purchased for myself.  But with E, we decided to take the Pineapple Express train ride, which she loved.

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After the train ride we all agreed we were hungry and stopped in the grill to get some lunch.  Prices weren’t horrible nor was selection, but the food was just okay.  E’s kids meal did come with a Dole frisbee however, which became one of her favorite souvenirs of the trip.  We also grabbed a dole whip in the big plastic pineapple (I love Dole whip!)

IMG_7812At this point, we were hot.  We had bought tickets to do the maze as well, but after hearing it was 30+ minutes in the sun, we gave our tickets to the people behind us in line and headed into the souvenir store to see if I could find the key chain I’d been secretly coveting since I saw it on Instagram.

IMG_7815To say I was happy to find it is an understatement!  This baby has been the topic of many conversations since returning home, apparently everyone loves Dole Whip!

Because we were now only 10 minutes away, we decided to head to North Shore from the Dole Plantation.  Who knew that a drive originally starting as 10 minutes would turn into 60 minutes….

Posted in Aulani, Hawaii, Travel, Traveling with Preschoolers, Vacation, Vacation on a Budget | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment