Thursday, May 30, 2013

Outrigger Weekend in Wiki Waki Waikiki

First aloha, thank you for bearing with me during tho transition time as I move from one career to another, and am finally able to embrace travel and tourism writing as well as travel planning at full-time!

I spent the past weekend checking out the beautiful Outrigger Reef On The Beach in Waikiki (Honolulu, Hi.) to asses whether it would work for future clients or not. We made it a family weekend, myself, my husband, a teen and tween girl. I booked the room online with their kama'aina rate of $205.00 nightly for 2 double beds on a holiday weekend. Compared to nearby comparable properties, I found the rate to be very reasonable.

When you enter the Outrigger, the entire lobby area is open air (as are most hotels in Waikiki)  It is decorated with traditional Hawaiian art, rich dark island wood, free flowing plants and flowers adorn the main hall. On property, adjacent to the check in and concierge area are a Starbucks coffee shop, and a long hall of speciality shops that sell everything from traditional tacky souvenirs to fine koa wood carvings.  There are two full service restaurants, as well as a poolside bar that offers food. The pool is large (and deep! 9 feet at one end) , and is lined with comfortable lounge recliners and umbrella tables. There are multiple hot tub stations. All of this is at ground level and the lay out is simple enough to can get to it all very quickly upon check in.

Our room felt fairly spacious for being a downtown "standard" room.  The decor was your standard "subdued Polynesian". The beds were comfortable- but I had a beef with the pillows. They were not firm at all, they felt like bags stuffed with cotton balls. I tried multiple to make sure I didn't just get a bad egg, but they all proved the same. Many times resort hotels will give you several soft, several hard pillows- to appease the broad palate of pillow-need. Outrigger would do well to adopt that practice. In lieu of that, I'd recommend you bring your own if you plan to stay here.  Everything in the room was fairly standard to what you'd expect at a Waikiki oceanside hotel such as spa style toiletries and flat screen television. We were pleased to find Outrigger offered free wifi and free local/long distance phone calls. These are often pay options at other establishments. One unexpected find in our room was the balcony. We expected a typical miniature city view balcony but instead had an extended balcony with a peekaboo view of the ocean. It was a nice surprise.

During our stay we enjoyed many of the hotel's shops and facilities. We had lunch and dinner at the poolside Kani Ka Pila Grille. Our server gave us plastic cups for our umbrella drinks so we could lunge in the pool. After cooling off a bit, I opted to try the grilled shrimp salad, prawns were served with butter leaf lettuce, melon and avocado. Last that evening we indulged in the kalua pig nachos barside. The food was passable, nothing super special, but nothing to com pain about either.

The Outrigger is a beachfront property, the slice of sand it sits on is as nice as any other slice of sand in Waikiki- we noticed it seemed considerably less congested than some of the other resort beach spots. The nice thing about Hawaii is no one can own the beach, so if you want to check out the property at other resort locales, just grab your towel and walk on down the sand (The Outrigger allows you to check out beach towels to use on the beach.)

During the course of our stay we found the staff to be very friendly and helpful, the facilities worth the cost, and we REALLY enjoyed the late night Karaoke at the on-site Shorebird restaurant. Would I send future clients to the Outrigger Reef? Absolutely!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Are you bringing the KIDS?

There are many great reasons to enjoy an adult-only get away. Maybe you want to focus strictly on romance and couple time. Perhaps the setting is a little bawdy (Mardi Gras in New Orleans anyone?). Some venues don't even allow children- such as the fun all-inclusive Sandals resorts. Cost considerations, mode of travel, health concerns- all valid reasons to travel sans-kidlings.

What I have found though, is too often parents feel as if their choices are limited to popular amusement park type locations or a friendly campground when it coms to family travel. Any time I have ever mentioned preparing for a cruise or a trip abroad, I have been asked, "are you bringing the kids?" or it's friendly alternative, "Just you and the husband?"  I always smile and explain it's a family trip, the kids love to travel too.

The truth is the kids usually like traveling. That is not to say it's always perfectly smooth sailing. There was the panic attack on a very small prop plane over very rural Alaska that one time. There was the great puking across the entire Virginian Eastern Shore incident of 2001. The lost tooth in a Baltimore Harbor hotel disaster was a doozy. We won't even discuss the time we were trapped between two factions of screaming protestors in Vigo, Spain and how one child reacted to THAT. Look, I'm not saying family travel is always smooth and seamless. There will be a time when "make sure you empty your pockets!" warning at the TSA counter is completely ignored and sirens go off.  And it's possible at some point in time should you find yourself on a large cruise ship, you'll realize too late you forgot to pack a child extra shoes and her only pair of flip flops just broke. The thing is, this is life, whether you are at home or on vacation. Might as well handle these small crises with a passport in your pocket and an umbrella drink in your hand! 

While many appreciate there is a subtle but real difference between traveling and going on vacation- each can offer kids an understanding of how interconnected we all are. When you meet strangers on a train, in an airport, at a resort, on a cruise ship- it can be a dawning moment of "wow, we look/sound so different, but we're both here looking of the same thing."  Make that train, plane, resort or cruise ship be someplace far away and the interactions become even more interesting. This is real life cultural interchanges- the stuff some kids just watch on Dora the Explorer. There is VALUE when a very American teenage boy meets a very Scottish teenage boy, and he learns to spew out a line of words in a thick brogue that you suspect may have been words he never could have said in plain ole American English. These little personal interactions, they affirm we are all so much more alike than different- we are so very human.  

Exposure to other people, other cultures, can also help affirm how incredibly blessed and lucky we are to live in the place we do, in the time we do. This has to be tread lightly though, and these very same scenarios can give parents the perfect opportunity to teach children about cultural relativism. We learn and we pass on to our children how to see the world in ways other than just through a "privileged" westernized filter.  When you're trekking across the countryside of Belize for example, it can be easy to get caught up in the sheer poverty of it. Seeing beyond the shanty's, to the huge smiles and pride on the faces that welcomed us through- that was something else. Listening to the proud oral history our Belikan guide shared, partaking in some of the best chicken we've ever tasted- every one of us including the children understood this was about more than jungle and poverty.

Travel is also the great professor of history. Books are wonderful, as is film- but they don't have the same tangible lesson as actually walking through rubble- climbing a pyramid, peering out of a castle window, digging for arrowheads- these are physical interactions that can not be duplicated. They embed in the memory, they will be recalled again and again, and will put those history texts into context down the road when this becomes a unit of study at school. Knowing where we come from has other values as well of course- and there is the whole observation that those who fail to learn from history and doomed to repeat it. History matters, and nothing connects a child with history quite like actually SEEING it.

Travel doesn't have to be international to be informative, educational, and moving. The United States is a large country made up of a very diverse backdrop. There are Hopi villages to visit, Chinatowns to explore, country swag and city pride to partake in. Kids who travel learn to have a more diverse palate- learn to recognize various music genres, become comfortable navigating pubic transit systems, and understand the world is their oyster! Beyond all of that though, the best benefit of traveling with kids are the memories. You will never forget those vacations, and neither will they. These are the memories of childhood we cling to forever. Just get out- get away from your comfort zone, travel beyond your norm... and yes, bring the kids with!

****Announcing a fun family vacation photo contest! Check out for the details and rules***