Posts Tagged ‘travel’

The More the Merrier?: Traveling to Disney with Another Family

by on December 8, 2011

You think a Walt Disney World vacation sounds like fabulous fun. Your next door neighbor thinks that a Walt Disney World vacation sounds like fabulous fun too. If you have enough of these conversations, inevitably your neighbor (or your sister and her kids, or your in-laws, or your college roommate and her family) will come up with the brilliant idea that if you’re both going to have amazing Disney vacations, then wouldn’t it be great to have those vacations together.

Whoa, hold it there partner. Traveling with another family could be a wonderful experience for all involved, or it could be a way to beat a perfectly nice relationship to death with a grotesquely over-sized turkey leg. Before you book those connecting rooms, take a minute to consider some thoughts about whether multi-family travel is right for you.

Do you have the same philosphy about souvenirs as your companions?

  • Do you actually like these people? All of them? Sure you love your sister like, well, a sister, but what about her overbearing husband or her bratty teenage daughter? While you may be a able to cope with these folks at a two-hour birthday party, will you actually remain sane if you have to listen to bro-in-law complain about his boss for five straight days of your precious vacation time. If you can’t honestly say that you enjoy spending time with every single person in the other family, then reconsider making the trip.
  • Do your kids actually like each other? Up until age seven or eight you can usually throw youngsters together and they’ll find a way to make it work. But once the kiddos get their own interests, all bets are off. Does a cheerleader cousin make your goth daughter’s skin crawl? Will throwing your children together with polar opposites ruin their vacation? (And thus yours.)
  • Do you have a similar financial situation? This may be difficult to assess, because most folks in the US would rather sleep on hot coals than have an honest discussion about money. Despite the discomfort, you’ve got to have the money talk before embarking on a vacation with someone. Do your friends think a vacation only a vacation if you’re staying in a five-star resort, while you’re clipping coupons to splurge on a moderate hotel? Do you want to eat table service for every meal, while your friends want to save their pennies by making oatmeal in the room for breakfast and bringing granola bars for snacks in the parks? Obviously, neither approach is right or wrong, but if you’re not on the same page then resentment is bound to happen. The “haves” will feel like they’re being held back. The “have nots” will feel over-extended or guilty. If your spending ability and philosophies are not not in sync, save your socializing for your home turf.
  • Are your bravery levels compatible? There are plenty of situations at the Disney parks which challenge the senses. Will you react to them in the same way as your companions? If they want to do Expedition Everest six times in a row, while you get dizzy during the rotations at Carousel of Progress, then resentment is likely to accumulate while one group cools their heels waiting for the other.
  • Are your circadian rhythms synchronized? Are you ready for rope drop and pooped by 9:00 pm, while your in-laws like to sleep until noon and close down the Magic Kingdom? It’s difficult to have a great time with someone if you’re never awake at the same time.
  • Do you enjoy the same types of rides?

  • Do you discipline the same way? In some families, the rules are the rules, no matter where you are. In other families, vacations are where rules are made to be broken. If one set of kids in having ice cream for breakfast, while the other gets no dessert unless they finish their green beans, tensions will arise.

Now before you start thinking that there is NEVER a situation where you’ll be comfortable traveling with another family, there are also some pros to group vacations that may outweigh any cons:

  • Date night is easy. Assuming that the other family is willing, you can trade evenings out with your spouse. You watch their kids while they watch yours. Enjoy big savings on sitting fees and feel safety in leaving your kids with a known supervisor.
  • Shared experiences can build bonds. If your son and his cousin simultaneously chicken out when attempting Space Mountain for the first time, that’s a story they’ll later laugh about for years to come.
  • Does everyone enjoy night-time activities?

  • There may be some economy-of-scale savings. This is particularly true if you decide to stay in off-site accommodations. Splitting the cost of an Orlando-area rental home may allow you substantially upgraded amenities for the same prices as staying on-site with a smaller party.

If you do decide to take the plunge, here are some guidelines you may want to set before you travel:

  • Everyone pays for their own food. Tell your server at the beginning of each meal that you want separate checks. This eliminates hard feelings when the sirloin and martini eater wants to go halvsies on a meal with a teetotaler vegetarian, for the third time this week.
  • Plan some time apart. Just because you’re vacationing together, that doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking minute together. If you plan to have some activities separately, that will give you more to talk about when meet up again.
  • Does everyone in your group agree that this is an acceptable breakfast?

  • Distribute tasks. Get everyone involved in the trip planning. This gives everyone ownership in making the vacation a success. This also ensures that no one person is overwhelmed with tasks like making dining reservations or planning itineraries.
  • Write out a list of expectations. Items covered may include items such as expected bedtimes, souvenir budgets, or disciplinary tactics for typical misbehavior situations. Share the list with children. The more everyone understands what the common goals are, the fewer opportunities there will be for hurt feelings.

Over the years, I personally have traveled to Walt Disney World with neighbors, my parents, my sister-in-law and her family, my Moms Panel buddies, and even some unrelated babysitters. There have been great successes (priceless photos of the extended clan) and some frustrating challenges. Meeting at 8:00 does actually mean meeting at 8:00, why don’t some people understand that? :-) What have your experiences been? Have you enjoyed your journeys to the World with others, or are you going nuclear-family-only from now on because of a negative situation? Give us your tips in the comments below.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

To Plan Or Not To Plan? A U.K. Perspective

by on May 31, 2010

Longer stays allow for more relaxed touring of MK

Travelling to Walt Disney World from the United Kingdom requires a mammoth 8-9 hour flight, which means many, including myself, chose to spend at least 14 nights in Orlando to make the long trip worth it.

The question is should visitors, both international and domestic, follow a touring plan when on such a long trip or is it better to take a more relaxed approach to visiting the many attractions at WDW?

The first thing to consider would be what you want to get out of your vacation. Are you totally focused on Walt Disney World or do you want to visit some of the other attractions in the area such as Universal Orlando, Sea World and Busch Gardens?

Many guests coming from international destinations like to get the most out of their vacation, which means they chose to visit all of the eight major theme parks listed. Eight parks in 14 days is no easy feat, meaning it’s probably best to follow a touring plan, ensuring your time efficient on your trip.

What about if you want to focus on just visiting Walt Disney World in that time? Is it really necessary to follow a strict plan when you have so much time at your disposal?

Following a plan gives you more time to relax around the pool or at the hotel

Even when visitors to WDW give themselves upward of 14 days to make their way around the parks it’s still best to follow a touring plan.

Touring plans aren’t just good for fitting a lot into a small space of time, they also ensure that guests wait in line for as small amount of time as possible. It may seem more relaxing to spend your extra days not following a plan, but it means you may spend a lot of that time in line rather than enjoying yourself.

When I go to Walt Disney World I’m usually with people 18 and over, which means the adult 1-day touring plans for each of the four parks are ideal, or if we don’t want to see everything we’ll use the selective touring plans, which focus on the best attractions in the park and leave out the slightly less popular attractions.

My group may follow these plans for our first visits to each of the four parks then if we want to go back we’ll at least stick loosely to the plan in order to ensure that we avoid the long lines and big crowds.

The two-day touring plans for small children and the ‘happy family’ two-day touring plan for the Magic Kingdom are ideal for those on extended trips where you don’t want to be running from one attraction to another but still want to avoid long lines. The same can be said for the ‘not a touring plan touring plans’ at the other three parks.

Following a plan on a trip also offers other advantages. If you’ve covered all four parks with a plan then want to go back again you know what attractions are quiet at what times and when to go in order to avoid big lines.

Following a plan on my long vacations has allowed me to see so many other attractions in the Central Florida area I never would have done if I hadn’t had covered the parks so efficiently. It also allowed me to use my extra time relaxing by the pool or back at the hotel rather than stuck in lines.

Regardless of how long your vacation is it’s still beneficial to follow a touring plan for your visits to the parks and I know it’s something I’ll be doing on all of my upcoming trips.

Michael Owen is a blogger and UK resident who blogs regularly over at Theme Park Daily!

(photo #1 by Chris Harrison, photo #2 by Brissea)

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Teens n’ Tots Touring: Part 2

by on July 22, 2009

So much for me keeping to a bi-weekly schedule, huh? How hard could it be to sit down and write about a place that I adore? Suffice to say, folks, I’m sorry about my absence from cyberspace. But if you’ll bear with me, I’ll finally continue my three-part series: Teens n’ Tots Touring.

 

This time, I’m talking about single-parent families. I confess one of the reasons that I haven’t posted until now is that I was figuring out what I could say. I wasn’t sure if I could make a Disney World itinerary easier for single parents with both preschoolers and adolescents. For several weeks I was banging my head against a wall. For example, I was terrified at the prospect of guiding you readers through the multi-age horror that is Tomorrowland. (I imagined a single-mother being pulled on one arm by a teen bound for Space Mountain and on the other arm, a toddler determined to drive at the Tomorrowland Speedway.) But in a moment of Buddha-like enlightenment, I realized my mistake: I was trying to treat single-parent families like two-parent families.

 

Unfortunately, single parents just don’t have the same luxuries when it comes to a Disney World vacation, such as another pair of arms or a more daring partner to do the rougher rides with teens. Still, that doesn’t mean that a single mom or dad can’t take their kids to Disney. Like all things are when you’re a single parent, it just takes a bit more planning and a little sacrifice.

 

Of course, if you think that your teenager is ready, you can let him or her tour on their own with emergency cash and a cell phone. But if that isn’t the case for you, this article will be focused on families that want the teens to stay with them. I am going to take you on a park-by-park explanation of how to accomplish this task, including: all-age rides, easy dining, and tips on preventing meltdowns. So let’s start at the beginning, the Magic Kingdom.

 

 

I. Magic Kingdom

For all kinds of families, the Magic Kingdom has some major perks: there are thrill(ish) and tame rides, princesses and pirates galore, and plenty of transportation to-and-from the park. Now the downside is that “MK” can be tricky to navigate. This is because the streets go around in a circle until you reach the end of Frontierland. But interestingly, the themes of the “lands” can help put you in the right direction.

 

For instance, Frontierland, which is based on the Old West, is on the west side of the park. Liberty Square, which is themed on America before the westward expansion, comes before Frontierland. East of the American lands is Fantasyland, the theme of which is a European faire. Next to fantasy is the sci-fi-themed area, Tomorrowland. (In-between is a cartoon land, Mickey’s Toontown Fair. Make of that what you will.) The only land that I couldn’t fit into this device is Adventureland; it’s south of Frontierland and west of Main Street USA. Speaking of Main Street USA, it is simple enough to find: it’s where you enter and exit.

 

Below is a list of Magic Kingdom attractions that most teens and tots like. I’ve made notes when an attraction may frighten a little kid – or big grown-ups, for that matter.

 

·         Jungle Cruise (there is a scene in the dark with fake snakes)

·         Pirates of the Caribbean (there are scenes in the dark, fake fire, and lots of skeletons)

·         Haunted Mansion (there are ghosts, ghouls, skeletons, and dead bodies)

·         Peter Pan’s Flight

·         Mickey’s PhilharMagic (if your tots get scared, they can take off their 3-D glasses)

·         The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (don’t laugh; teens like the optical effects)

·         Mad Tea Party (make sure wild teens ride in a different teacup than tiny tots)

·         Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

·         Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor (teens can text in jokes for the CGI characters to perform)

 

II. Epcot

Epcot presents a peculiar challenge for single parents. It’s the favorite park of many young adults, but not very popular with most little guys. What the little kids do like about Epcot is not what most teens do. Specifically, Epcot has awesome thrill rides, such as Test Track and Mission: Space. Both of these (as well as the other headliner, Soarin’) have height requirements.

 

If you can, it helps to give your teens some independence in Epcot. (After all, aside from its enormous size, there’s not much in Epcot that makes it hard to handle.) There are two alternatives to this: 1) skip Epcot, or 2) stick to World Showcase and Future World West. If single-parents want their families to stay together, they’re going to experience World Showcase in a different –- but no less enjoyable – way.

 

As opposed to focusing on the limited attractions, single-parent families should tour World Showcase as it was meant to be done. Slowly sample the offerings of each pavilion. You can shake the maracas in Mexico, play with marionettes in China, and eat puff pastry in France. In fact, I would recommend this form of touring to anybody! If your toddler get bored with World Showcase, find each pavilion’s KidCot Fun Stop; they are craft centers in each pavilion that kids love.

 

The only problem with this plan is the problem with Epcot: its size. Epcot is nicknamed “Every Person Comes Out Tired” and this is especially true for a young child. Be sure to pack painkillers in your First Aid kit. Even if your toddler denies having foot pain, regularly check their feet for blisters. If anyone – including you – is worn out, find a bench in the shade, buy a cool drink, and just relax. If your tot is antsy, drag your group to the Germany Pavilion; there is an elaborate, outdoor train-set there that toddlers could watch for hours. Everyone else can sit nearby.

 

Below is a list of attractions at Epcot that most teens and tots like. I’ve made notes when an attraction may frighten participants.

 

·         Spaceship Earth

·         Innoventions (teens and tots will like different areas)

·         Universe of Energy (tots will not know who Bill Nye the Science Guy is and there are dinosaur animatronics)

·         Maelstrom (this almost didn’t make the list; there’s a 20-foot plunge, dark, and monsters)

 

III. Hollywood Studios

To be honest, I’ve been dreading this section most of all because Hollywood Studios is the dream of any adrenaline-loving pubescent. It also has some shows that are hits with toddlers. But sadly, there isn’t any overlap. Since the thrill rides have height requirements, even if a small child wanted to ride them, he or she couldn’t. Plus, even an enthusiastic teen will tire of the gushy, singsong entertainment provided for the little dudes. What’s the solution?

 

The normal approach of only experiencing attractions that both groups like would make for a short day at the Disney Studios – though this is becoming less true every year. You can always skip Hollywood Studios, but if you don’t want to do that, my advice would be to maximize the power of the FastPass.

 

For example, get two FastPasses for Tower of Terror. Proceed to a showing of Playhouse Disney ~ Live on Stage or Voyage of the Little Mermaid, depending on your tike’s preference. You can grab a snack or watch some street theatre afterwards. By this point, your FastPasses should be valid. Have your teen go first and wait for them to finish at the Child Swap station. If you want to ride too, hand your toddler off to your teen and go ride.

 

 

For attractions such as Star Tours and Fantasmic, it helps to have a brave toddler. In the case of shows, if your tot gets scared, you can just leave and wait for your teen. If your younger kid gets frightened on a ride, teach them to close their eyes and cover their ears. But never force your child to ride something; it can ruin the vacation for them. Feel free, however, to force your teen to do certain things. Many so-called “kiddie” attractions have wide appeal, even if they look juvenile – i.e. Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

 

Below is a list of Hollywood Studios attractions that most teens and tots enjoy. I’ve made notes when attractions may frighten small children.

 

·         Beauty and Beast ~ Live on Stage

·         MuppetVision 3-D (if your tots get scared, they can take off their 3-D glasses)

·         Toy Story Mania

·         Voyage of the Little Mermaid (once teens are in the theatre, they usually enjoy the show)

 

IV. Animal Kingdom

I have a feeling that you will like the Animal Kingdom. Aside from three or four attractions, its offerings delight the whole family. In fact, my only counsel to you for the Animal Kingdom is to be careful about your meal schedule. In my opinion, this park does not have sufficient dining options (to demonstrate, of the six counter-service locations, one of them only offers tea, espresso, and cookies). The rule-of-thumb for Animal Kingdom eateries is to ‘zig’ when everyone else ‘zags;’ either have lunch very early or late. You do not want to be stuck outside in a food line at the busiest time – roughly 11:30pm to 2pm.

 

One other thing that I should mention before you let your teens loose in the Animal Kingdom: remember that it can be difficult to navigate due to the tall trees that block streets from view. Remind them that if they get lost, they should return to Discovery Island at the center of the park – the street signs are very well marked on the Island. Also, a teeny-tiny note: remind your teens that if they ride Kali River Rapids that they should not keep their cell phones in their pants. Their bodies and their phones will get soaked.

 

Below is a list of attractions that most teens and tots like at the Animal Kingdom.

 

·         Festival of the Lion King (there’s one scene with fire and it can get loud)

·         Kilimanjaro Safaris

·         Pagani Forest Trail

·         Flights of Wonder

·         Kali River Rapids (there’s a 38in. height requirement; you will definitely get soaked)

·         Maharajah Jungle Trek

·         Finding Nemo: The Musical (make sure your kids have seen the film or it won’t make sense)

 

V. Water Parks

Being at a water park with a toddler can be daunting. Safety has got to be top priority if you splurge on the water parks. Yet, this alone doesn’t create much of a touring problem. The issue that single parents will face is that the slides that teenagers love the most have height requirements.

 

The best solution is to go to Typhoon Lagoon instead of Blizzard Beach. Blizzard Beach is almost all slides that your tot can’t go on while Typhoon Lagoon has several non-slide attractions, including a wave pool, a scuba diving simulation, and a ‘river’ for floating (although in fairness, I should say that Blizzard Beach has a great raft slide that everybody can ride). My parents will tell you that the tot-area at Typhoon Lagoon is superior in design to the one at Blizzard Beach. In addition, there are more places to eat at Typhoon Lagoon.

 

VI. “Character Hunting”

‘Character hunting’ is when a Cast Member, costumed as a Disney animated character, signs autographs for and takes photos with guests. Toddlers – if they can get over the enormous size of the characters – love it! Teenagers usually do not. How do you character hunt with your toddler and satisfy your teen?

 

First of all, don’t get in line every time you see a character. Keep to your tot’s favorites. If everybody is too irritable to keep touring and you spot Donald Duck, rest assured that most characters can be found again at other parks. Then when you do character hunt, make your teenager the photographer. It gives us teens something to do and makes us feel like we’re being good big siblings.

 

 

I hope that this post was worth the wait. If you have questions about this Disney topic or any other, please ask them in the Comments. I’ll do the best that I can to answer them. Have a magical day!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Teens n’ Tots Touring Tips: Part 1

by on May 28, 2009

Welcome to the first installment of my three-part series: Teens n’ Tots Touring! Nowadays, there are a lot of families with kids over age 10 and kids under age 5. Planning a Disney itinerary is hard enough without negotiating between these vastly-different ages, so I’m here to help. In this first installment, I’ll focus on families that have multiple teenagers.

Five years ago, I became a big sister. My little brother took his first Disney trip (not counting in-utero) when he was 11-weeks-old. Ever since then, my beloved parents have been coordinating the desires of two teens with a Buzz-Lightyear-loving-somewhat-bold-heat-hating tot. But until my big brother went to college, my parents had one thing on their side: there were two teens. How could this possibly be helpful? Simple: safety in numbers. It meant we could leave our parents without being alone. It’s hard to find danger in Disney, but it can happen. And in case of a medical emergency, having a brother or sister there is parentally reassuring. While my big brother and I were gallivanting through Tomorrowland or screaming on our fourth ride of Test Track, our parents could ride It’s a Small World with my little brother sixteen times in a row. In addition, separating the teens and tot meant that the youngster could go take a nap at the resort while the adolescents stayed in the parks. Mealtime is a great excuse to rendezvous. Just don’t forget to give teens their tickets so that they can FastPass attractions, and make sure they have a cell-phone or walkie-talkie.

However, it may be that you have younger teens or you can’t trust them to run off without you in an unfamiliar place. The answer to this dilemma is splitting up the parents. (This post assumes that there are at least two adults in the group; I’ll give advice to single parents next week.) Whichever adult – the mom, godfather, or grandpa – is most daring and, it should be said, has the best health, can accompany the teens through the parks. But let the kids lead itinerary-wise. If at all possible, send a willing non-parent with the teens; they’re far less likely to be accused of acting “embarrassing.”

Read the rest of this entry »

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Under-21 GNO in WDW

by on May 13, 2009

Girls’ Night Out in Disney World is a blast! Downtown Disney, the Boardwalk, and Epcot’s World Showcase, are all great places to have fun with the divas. But what if you have somebody under-21 in your GNO group? Mexican margaritas, German beer, French wine, martinis, G&T, and vodka, just became illegal. (And in case anybody got a non-Disney-esque idea, Mickey does check ID.) But in addition to no buzz, how does a mom, fun aunt, or another lady friend, entertain the teen or preteen while still doing stuff that everybody else likes?

In my experience, the best way to lower social inhibitions among girls (without alcohol) is chocolate. Chocolate ice cream is preferable, but chocolate chip cookies, hot cocoa, or chocolate candies, will do the trick. I recommend Ghiradelli’s Chocolate Fountain at the Downtown Disney Marketplace, Selma’s Cookies at the Boardwalk, or Boulangerie Patisserie at the France Pavilion. If you check out DisneyQuest at Downtown Disney, the Cheesecake Factory Express inside (open seasonly) has the best chocolate cupcake ever to bless the earth with its awesomeness.

Shopping is a must, of course. At Downtown Disney, World of Disney is so darn huge (50,000 sq. feet!) that everybody will probably find something they like. But the new must-do for girly gear Downtown is TrenD. I haven’t been able to personally see the store yet, but from the reports, no teen girl or young woman can skip TrenD. The store sells clothes, accessories, pillows, writing stuff, even furniture! And oh my gosh, Tinker Bell! If you want a nuclear bomb with Tink on it, I bet you could find it at TrenD. As for other stores, avoid Summer Sands. The bikinis are cute there, but they’ll make you feel guilty about all the chocolate you ate.

All of the World Showcase pavilions are great for browsing, but if you actually want to buy something: visit the China Pavilion for adorable parasols and fans, the Norway Pavilion for winterwear (Go fleece!), Italy for headache-inducing perfume, Japan for pricey jewelry and “Hello Kitty” nostalgia, and the France Pavilion for make-up (I like to tell people I bought it in France, which is kind of true).

As for the Boardwalk, there are a couple of stores, but the main attractions at Boardwalk are the activities. A personal favorite are the dueling pianos. And for your older teens: watch the guys watching TV at the ESPN Club.

If your budget is tight, though, you can have a Girls’ Night Out right at your resort! Both the Port Orleans resorts have live, free entertainment (a musical comedy show at Riverside and a jazz club at French Quarter) on select nights. The Polynesian has some very fine-looking lifeguards and God’s gift to earth, Dole Whip soft-serve. All the resorts on Seven Seas Lagoon, the Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, and Caribbean Beach, have beaches – and more fine-looking lifeguards.

What it comes down to for a G-rated (okay, PG) GNO at WDW is that there are no rules. Let your adolescent know that whatever happens in Disney will stay in Disney; they don’t need to worry about being embarrassed. Squeal like crazy on rides, dance in the middle of the street, and flirt with the cashier! Act like you’re buzzed even though you can’t be. Buy too much, stay out too late, and be too loud! To please your teens, just keep moving until they don’t want to anymore. Then get a cold drink – preferably one that’s pink – and wish on the stars at the most magical place on earth.

Thanks for reading, everybody! If you have any questions about teens in Disney, feel free to ask them in the Comments. I’ll try to answer them in my next Thursday post!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print

Warning: Teen In Disney Cyberspace

by on April 23, 2009

Howdy, blog readers! My name’s JillAnn – that’s not a typo – and I’m a few months short of 16. Despite my age, I’ve been lucky enough to go on 19 WDW trips (all cost-conscious trips, of course) and write for The Unofficial Guide for 3 years! In the most recent edition, the 2009 Guide, you can read my “best and worst Disney dessert” reviews.

So I’ll be giving a teen perspective on Disney World – minus only a love of Tower of Terror. If you have no idea how to include your teens in your trip planning, what your adolescents want from a resort, how to set them free in the parks without letting them loose, and more, I’m here for you. I’ll also probably make forays into food commentary – old habits die harder than Bambi’s mom.

I’m psyched to be blogging about my favorite place in the whole universe. Next time (if Len Testa hasn’t fired me by then) I’ll either be helping dads in creating a WDW father/daughter date, or I’ll give tips on getting teens excited about a trip to Disney World. Unless, being a teen, I don’t tell you what I’m doing and then sneak back in at 1a.m.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Plus
  • Pinterest
  • Print