I recently took our girls on a trip to Disney Aulani – and I took them solo! We had an amazing time, and it was SO much fun that I want to share my experiences, tips, and tricks for anyone who might be interested in taking a trip to Aulani as well.
It was their Fall Break, which is something most schools here in Arizona have during the month of October. This year, my husband was going to be out of the country and our oldest, my stepdaughter Maddix, was going to be with her grandparents. I didn’t feel like staying in town solo with the littles and wanted to mix it up a bit. So I did a little bit of thinking and researching and as soon as I came across the idea of Disney Aulani – I knew this was it! So off we went, but it was a trip of many firsts.
This was the first time for me to :
- take the girls on a solo trip
- take the girls to Hawaii, and
- stay at Disney Aulani
So this post is going to go into not only the details of staying Disney Aulani but also include the experience of taking your kids on a solo trip. There’s so much I could tell you about both traveling solo with kids and visiting Disney Aulani. I took a lot of mental notes! But I narrowed it down to what you need to know – plus things that no one told me about so I wanted to be sure I passed along the info!
Read on for my top tips for visiting Disney Aulani – especially if you’re going as a solo parent.
Getting To Disney Aulani in Oahu
From the airport
My girls (Reese, 7 and Paige, 3 at the time) are so used to traveling because we do it quite often. So the airport and flight were a non-issue and very smooth.
Once in Oahu, I got an Uber – which ended up being the trickiest part of the journey there. I had to push everyone’s suitcases solo up a hill to the curb. Then once we were almost to the Uber – Paige needed to use the restroom. So that meat I hauled everything back down to the terminal, and did the uphill trek again when she was done. Things could be much worse, of course, but this was my first taste of realizing that if one kid need to go to the restroom – you ALL had to go to the restroom. I couldn’t leave my bags with anyone or couldn’t divide and conquer watching the kids.
The Uber was about $80 (as a comparison, the taxi back to the airport when we came home was about $50.) If I were to do it again, I would pre-arrange transportation with Disney Aulani and have them meet you at baggage claim to help (you know, where they are waiting for you with a sign.) I think paying extra would be worthwhile especially if you’re outnumbered by kids and suitcases!
After that, it was an easy 30 minute ride to Disney Aulani.
Be sure to use the online check-in system in advance (they email the link to you.) This allows you to avoid going to the front desk counter and just do a mobile check-in as you enter near the valet. They give you the keys right then and there! SO NICE.
They give you a lei (shell necklace for men) upon arrival. For kids they have a little necklace with a menehune charm – but if your kids can charm the valet guys like mine did, they can get a flower lei, too 😉
We stayed in a partial ocean view room in the north tower, and it was perfect for just me and the girls. The view was good considering it was only “partial.” Pretty standard hotel room, but of course – I’m not coming to Aulani to hang out in the room all day 😉
If I were to do it again (which we definitely will!) I would ask to stay in the south tower where Aunty’s Beach House is located. That way it’s a shorter walk to the side of the hotel where more of the kids’ activities are located (the north tower is where the gym and spa are.) With a small 3 year old who took FOREVER to walk everywhere, having that convenience would have been nice.
Staying at Disney Aulani with Kids
Aunty’s Beach House
One of the reasons I knew I could swing a solo trip was because of Aunty’s Beach House and their childcare. This is their kids club on property and it’s why I chose Disney Aulani. Everyone raves about it, and it’s true – it was great!! The whole property is designed with kids in mind but when you go into the Beach House, it’s even more so with childcare specifically designed with the Disney magic twist. It’s pretty big inside with lots of activities for kids to do and the girls LOVED IT.
Everything is well-thought out. One thing I REALLY appreciated was the security. All the kids get a wristband that GPS tracks them inside of the Beach House. So when you go to pick them up, they pull up on the system where in the Beach House your kid is currently playing. That way they know where to find them to bring them up to the front, or where to send you if you want to go back to get them. And they scan that wristband when they leave. They also require you to set up a verbal password and you have to say it every time you go to pick them up.
Another thing I appreciated was that whenever parents entered, you had to wash your hands at the sink station. I loved that they made everyone do that. No one wants to get sick on a vacation, right??
The use of Aunty’s Beach House is unlimited, so I loved that I could drop them off whenever! In their words : you can drop them off for “5 minutes or 5 hours.” Our typical routine was I would drop them off in the morning so I could workout and get some quiet time. Then we would swim and go to the beach for the day. Then later in the evening, they would go before or after dinner. A lot of kids are there around dinner time because the parents go out on a dinner date. I was there solo, so I took myself out on a couple solo dinners! They offer the option of your kids eating lunch or dinner at the Beach House, so that’s on option for you to have lunch or dinner out with your spouse – or just have some nice alone time like I did!
Before you go, look up the schedule online of their daily activities so you can get an idea and plan ahead. They also have a printed schedule you can pick up at the front or at Aunty’s Beach House. There are things you can do as a family for kids of all ages and interests, and they also have kids’ only activities at Aunty’s Beach House. You have to sign up and pay for some in advance, and some are complimentary and you can just show up. It all depends – but knowing in advance is a great way to get an idea of what you might want to do. I didn’t know this, so I was planning day-by-day, until the last day when I found out you can look it up online!
When we travel, we typically keep it simple and try not to pack too many activities and tours in. It can get tiring and too overwhelming with little kids to do so much and lead to melt downs, which then loses the whole point of the fun. So I stuck mostly to taking advantage of being at the beach and a great pool and just having fun together there. But we did do the T shirt painting, the movie night, the iPad scavenger hunts, and some of the thematic things they had in Aunty’s Beach House. Speaking of the iPad scavenger hunt…
iPad scavenger hunt
They have a really fun self-led scavenger hunt kids can go on to find surprises and hidden fun things around the hotel. In true Disney fashion, this is done SO well. Here are a few tips on this, though :
- They only do the scavenger hunts in the morning and night time during set hours. Look the times up and head to the activities center to pick up the iPads
- There are two “hunts” : the lobby one and the resort one.
- The lobby one is wayyyy shorter which is more doable for younger kids.
- The resort one is wayyyy longer and they only do it at nighttime. It’s a lot of walking, FYI.
- We did the lobby one with Reese and Paige. Paige, my 3 year old, was not into it and sat there eating a bag of chips instead, while Reese, my 7 year old, was TOTALLY into it.
- We then did the nighttime resort one with just Reese, I put Paige in Aunty’s Beach House. I intended to do this just so I could have one-on-one time with Reese and focus on her interest in doing the scavenger hunt. I was grateful I did this because it turned out there was so much walking, which would have been a terrible idea for our 3 yr old.
- They only give you one iPad per family because they start at different points, which would leave you going in different directions. This is something to think about when it comes to sharing and taking turns between siblings.
Unless you are a die-hard Disney fan, you don’t have to sign up for the character breakfast or find out the day’s “character meet and greet” locations to see Mickey, Donald, Moana, etc. You will just run into them in passing as you go about your day walking around the resort! I actually had reservations for a character breakfast, but ended up cancelling it because by the time the breakfast reservation rolled around we had seen mostly all of the characters.
They do have Disney Photopass with professional photographers around the property. If you want some more official photo ops, you can call their “character line” from your room in the morning and find out their schedule for the day and where they are going to be. We didn’t do that, as my girls were plenty happy with getting high-fives from Goofy and waving to Donald while walking to the pool or over to breakfast. We did get lucky one morning and happened to be sitting on the grass playing, and ended up sitting where the front of line was to meet Moana.
Pools and beach
They have an amazing pool situation at Disney Aulani. Half of it was under refurbishment and closed during our stay – yet it was still amazing and never felt extremely crowded. Yes, people get there and save pool chairs early in the morning, but I honestly never had an issue finding chairs.
Towels and Lifejackets
One thing that was a lifesaver for me as a solo parent at Disney Aulani was their lifejackets. My 3 yr old has never worn floaties or a swimming vest, but in order to try going down the waterslide she had to put one on. She never ended up going to the slide – but we kept the vest and it was SO nice to have her float around so I didn’t have to constantly hold her or watch her like a hawk. She knows how to swim but not very well. I checked one out every day and it was literally, a life saver. Make sure to go grab one early before they are all out for the day. You can keep them until 8pm at night (you’ll definitely want to do some sunset and night swimming during your stay, it’s fun!)
Lifejackets and towels are available at the main towel stand by the infinity pool and Ulu cafe. But PRO TIP : go to the small Rainbow Reef stand and they also have towels and lifejackets with shorter lines.
They have multiple lifeguards at each pool. This is one thing I love about Disney properties – they always have lifeguards at their pools. I am sure it’s because of liability, but I noticed how well they are trained and even though they are young adults, they weren’t chit-chatting with each other and were doing their jobs. If you want a little more into Disney hotels in general (and read me gushing about this lifeguard situation lol) you can read this blog post on Disneyland!
I loved the beach at Disney Aulani which is called Ko Olina. It’s a quiet little cove/bay with barely any waves which makes it SO much safer with little kids. I would come back to Disney Aulani just because of this safe beach – made it so much more relaxing to be there as a solo parent!
You can rent boogie boards and sand toys for free at the beach shack. Reese and Paige loved both of these and I checked them out everyday.
There is beach service for food and drinks and there’s also a beach shack with pretty good food. Which leads to …
This is very important! 😉 One of the best things I ate on the trip! You do not want to miss shaved ice when you are in Hawaii. And of course Disney puts their own spin on things! The shaved ice stand is in the middle of all the pools. You can get plain shaved ice, one with condensed milk on top or ice cream inside, or you can get it with both. And there are lots of different flavors to top yours with. One of the best things I ate on the trip was a PUMPKIN PIE shaved ice (YES) with condensed milk drizzled on top. I had it three days in a row (shhhh.)
You can also add Mickey ears to any of the above. This is fun but I will say that it makes it a little top-heavy (read : easier for kids to knock over and lose their entire shaved ice.) So we only did it the first time and then the girls were just as happy as getting it without the “ears” after that.
PRO TIP : don’t use the small wooden spoons they give you and instead go to the snack stand next door and grab the regular-sized spoons plus a straw. These will make eating the shaved ice so much easier – and avoid spills of food-coloring-water down your white beach coverup (can you guess how I know this? ;))
I was a little disappointed with the lack of healthy food options at Disney Aulani. The saving grace were the poke bowls at lunchtime from Ulu Cafe and the summer rolls on the beach at Little ‘Ophili’s. They were both SO good! They only serve both at lunch (poke bowls from 11:30-3:30 and do run out towards the end, so make a beeline. For the summer rolls, the beach stand closes at 5pm.) Ama Ama also has a dinner menu with grilled seafood with ala carte sides. So that ended up being a healthy dinner for me one night.
This is where we ate the most because it had the longest opening hours. I was surprised at how quickly they got guests in and out; it’s a small cafe and there’s lot of guests, but it never felt crowded.
You can get poke bowls, surprisingly really good pizzas to take up to the room or eat by the pool, and early morning breakfast and coffee. (Not great coffee, but it will do. I bought my own creamer from the market across the street at the beginning of the trip which made it better.) This is also where to go for your refillable mug drinks (recommended!) and refillable popcorn.
The only thing better than Disney Dole Whip is Disney Dole Whip IN HAWAII. Get it at Ulu Cafe. It’s huge, so we always split it between two cups.
Go next door to Four Seasons
On the last night, the girls and I went to dinner at Mina’s Fish House at Four Seasons next door. I love the Four Seasons wherever we go for their great service and this one did not disappoint. The food was absolutely delicious and I was kicking myself for not going here earlier in the trip. It’s literally next door and totally walkable from the beach. If you’re looking for a little change in your dining options and want something a little more elevated while at Aulani, head next door. I would choose Mina’s Fish House over Ama Ama, which ended up being about the same price.
Why We Loved Our Disney Aulani Vacation
If you are thinking of a trip to Disney Aulani – whether it’s with your whole family or as a solo parent – it’s an absolutely easy, fun, and wonderful trip I would highly recommend. I originally wasn’t going to make this blog post this long, but once I got going I realized how much I had to say about Aulani! Which means I was really into it and had a good time 🙂
It’s a great mix between a Hawaiian vacation and the convenience, entertainment, and kid-centered details of Disney. When they designed the resort, they originally had the idea to make it all-out Disney themed, but after consideration turned it around to be less of “Disney in Hawaii” and more of “Oahu with a little bit of Pixie Dust.” I love that you don’t necessarily feel like you’re on a Disney property, but when you look you can find all sorts of Disney magic around you.
Whenever you end up at Disney Aulani – I hope you have a fabulous time! And don’t forget : shaved ice with ice cream and condensed milk on top. A must 😉
PPS Head to my Disney Aulani highlight on Instagram to see more of our trip!
And if you want to learn more about travel organization, take a peek at my Organizing Masterclass course – a whole module is all about how I stay calm and organized when traveling!3