TripAdvisor, the Travel Planning Tool

Every family has their own hierarchy, and consequently, everyone should know where they fit in with their family dynamics. For example, in our house, I know what I am good at when it comes to planning our family travels, while there are other aspects that my wife is better at doing. I am great at finding the best deals and using miles and points to reduce our expenditures. While my wife dives deep into the reviews and planning of activities once we get to our destination.

That is why my wife’s favorite website and app are TripAdvisor. Before we book any hotel, we use the TripAdvisor website to dive deep into reviews of how fellow guests experience was at the respective properties. Once we feel comfortable with a property, only then will we book. It is nice having a source to routinely visit to evaluate before staying at a property.

Fast forward to when we are on the road to our destination, assuming 99% of the time we drive, and my wife will consistently pull up the TripAdvisor app to locate places to eat or things to do within the vicinity of our travels.

Take for example an upcoming trip to the Kings Island (Cincinnati, Ohio) region. By using our TripAdvisor app for Cincinnati area hotels (affiliate link) and using our IHG points, we were able to lock in some fantastic deals on the Staybridge Suites CINCINNATI NORTH, OH (full review coming soon).

We have also used TripAdvisor countless times to locate restaurants and activities in various cities, making the planning process all the more easier.

How indispensable have you found TripAdvisor to be with your trip planning?

Review: Sheraton Fallsview Indoor Waterpark (Niagara Falls)

Our family has been to our fair share of indoor waterparks, but to celebrate my wife’s birthday and get out of the winter cold, we decided to try out the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark Niagara Falls. How we came about that decision was sort of by accident.

We have been to the big daddy of waterparks, Kalahari Sandusky, a couple of times, though it has been a couple of years since our return. We also have our family’s first time going to a Great Wolf Lodge in a couple of weeks. Then we have also been to Cedar Point’s Castaway Bay and a couple other smaller venues.

When diving into pricing for a Saturday night stay, the prices escalate quickly for a family of five. That being said, when comparison shopping for new waterparks to visit vs others out of our area, there is no such thing as a deal on a weekend. Sticking to our normal $100-150/night budget simply is out of the question at a waterpark.

We basically boiled it down to two properties, the Splash Lagoon waterpark (Erie, PA) or the Fallsview Waterpark (Niagara Falls). Honestly, I had always wanted to go to the Niagara Falls water park over our many visits to the area, but it never was in our favor. So I was naturally leaning towards that property.

In the end, the prices for Splash Lagoon with an overnight stay were not enticing enough to justify a stay when for relatively the same money we could venture up to the falls and have more to do outside the waterpark.

We opted to stay at the Sheraton Fallsview. The property is located closer to the American falls and attached to the waterpark, Casino Niagara, and a host of other facilities. Our family chose a city view room since we were only staying one night. We were fortunate to be placed on the top story with great views of Clifton Hill.

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We were also given the opportunity to peak in on the fallsview rooms.

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The really enticing aspect of staying at the Sheraton Fallsview is the close vicinity to so much. Our family has stayed closer to the Canadian falls many times, and while it is nice to see one of the wonders of the world, it really does not compare to the fun that be had down the road.

Attached to the complex is an arcade as well as the Rainforest Cafe, where we spent one of our meals. While the Rainforest Cafe is not the best food, it is more for the kids who enjoy seeing all of the animals and lightning shows.

In addition, being in such close vicinity of Clifton Hill means lots of entertainment options including haunted houses, Ripley’s properties, and Niagara Skywheel.

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We were in the area mostly to take in the Fallsview Waterpark. From the outside, the place looks huge. However, even though we had a lot of fun, we were a bit underwhelmed when we went inside.

The water park includes a kids area with tipping bucket, slides, etc. I will say though that it was nice to finally have a water park where they let kids go down the slides with their parents, and the kids were not forced to wear life jackets like they are at Kalahari, Castaway Bay, etc. The US counterparts appear to have stricter rules, and while we understand it is about “safety,” it is also a pain.

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The water park also included a wave pool, a variety of slides, and an outdoor pool.

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I think the reason it is hard to compare is when you have been to Kalahari which is so big, they have everything. I was also disappointed to see they did not have a lazy river, which is always a huge crowd favorite.

The good news is not only the water park, but the entire area makes for such a fun weekend. Head downstairs and enjoy the Hershey store (and the best chocolate milkshake we have ever had). Go to the casino if it is your thing. Or just enjoy family time together at the variety of attractions.

Kennywood Holiday Lights

When I was growing up, I specifically remember the day our parents told us we were going to make a trip to Kennywood amusement park near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was in my early teens if I recall correct, and roller coasters were all the rage. So I found it extremely exciting to be going to a new part outside of our annual Cedar Point visits.

Fast forward to our older years where we have three young boys who are as obsessed with roller coasters as I was, and we decided to make a day of it by heading out for the first time to see the Kennywood Holiday Lights display.

When it comes to amusement park Christmas light displays, our home park of Cedar Point, and all of their sister parks except Knott’s Berry Farm pass on the opportunity to open the gates for the winter season. That is why a couple years ago our family was blown away by the impressive holiday lights display at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.

Before going through the pictures below, we were equally impressed with the Kennywood Holiday Lights display. Tons of lights, characters throughout the park, great holiday music synced to lights, and unique displays. Since it was the holidays, not all of the rides were open since they can not be operated in the colder temperatures, but the event gave us just enough to want to return again in the summer.

The other part I really liked about the Kennywood light event was it was very affordable for families at only $14.99 per person when buying online.

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