Archive for the Category »Walt DIsney World «

  Travel Tip Tuesday: This Is The Best Time To Visit An Amusement Park!

Legoland, CA

Parents – If you’ve been wanting to take your kids to Disneyworld, Legoland, Universal Studios, or any of the other theme parks in our country, listen up: Now’s a fantastic time!

The end of November until Christmas, and then again in January are two of the best times to go.The crowds are much thinner than in the summer, which means shorter lines, and it’s not too hot.  Many of the theme parks opened new rides this summer, so even though you weren’t one of the first to experience them, you can ride them dozens of times now without the hour-long wait!

Added bonus: If you are one of those people who really get into the holiday spirit, many of the parks have special holiday activities.
All of the Florida parks – Universal Studios. Busch Gardens, Disneyworld, Sea World, etc have holiday festivities, as well as the major California parks.

For some more tips, check out my video guide: (It may take 10 seconds to load)

Thrills and Chills – from Tracy Gallagher on Vimeo.





  Hotel of the Week: A New Animated Adventure in Florida

I gotta say right off the bat, you know you can expect exceptional family-friendly service from the Disney brand. There is a lot of comfort in that as a parent. Let's face it - you are choosing your kids' happiness when you explore a Disney vacation.

The newest Disney resort to officially open this weekend is right on brand. The "Art of Animation Resort" in Orlando Florida immerses guests in all of the Disney animated movies - and I mean IMMERSES.

Every room has an animated Disney movie theme. Like Nemo? The Nemo family suites have wall murals of sea life, Nemo bedspreads, shower curtains, and  a Nemo image that hangs like a headboard.

You get the idea - same with the Cars, Little Mermaid, and Lion King family suites. Yes - FAMILY SUITES  - that is the greatest part about this resort. This is a perfect example of Disney catering to families - When I travel with  my family I always wish more resorts would have family friendly rooms that aren't a fortune. Here,  you can get 2 separate bathrooms,
a master bedroom - a total of 3 separate sleeping areas within the living space, which includes a generously sized dining or work table that easily transforms into a comfortable bed. They sleep 6 - big families everywhere rejoice! The suites start at $249 a night.

Other amenities include 3 different swimming pools (needed - the resort is huge - more than 1,000 rooms)...

and 4 different courtyards with various Disney animation themes. There is in-room babysitting, pizza delivery,and you get extended park hours when you stay. Guests also get complimentary transportation to the theme parks and water parks. This particular resort is right near Disney's Hollywood Studios.

There are so many different Disney resorts from which to choose when you visit Orlando... each one has it's own personality, but do some research to find the one that best suits your taste. There are Disney packages you can buy and find them on the resort websites, and there are also travel agents who specialize in all things Disney.

Hey - almost forgot - today marks the start of summer - Gotta love it! Enjoy the holiday weekend and wherever you may travel.

  Where to Take Your Kids Before They Move Out.

School is back in session.. life is getting back to routine. My oldest started middle school… so last spring’s 5th grade graduation was a milestone for me: He was leaving the nurturing nest of our sweet elementary school.

Actually, it was compounded by the fact that my youngest graduated kindergarten just the day before… the stark contrast between the 5 year olds and 10 year olds made me realize they grow so fast. So me, being sentimental, started to think that – OMG – the empty nest doesn’t seem too far away. A bit dramatic? Maybe.

Have you thought about what you want your life to be when you are an empty-nester? (That is another blog post!) Or…have you thought about what you want to do with your kids while you still have them at home? Where would you like to take family vacations before they are too busy… or have moved away? You only have so many chances to create indelible travel moments together.

I have thought about this. Everyone is different, but there are some general themes that would make for memorable family get aways.

1) I will start with the most obvious, and probably easiest: Hit the beach. Rent a beach house, plant your toes in the sand, BBQ at sunset, play on the beach, and bring board games. With just simple pleasures, there are many opportunities for bonding time. Hawaii will also work here – there is nothing like getting to an island – can’t recreate that vibe as much as I have tried. Hawaii is the easiest for many reasons: With kids you want things simple, and it is an English speaking, American state…. everything is pretty convenient. Cue the sea breeze please.

2) Brave a World-Class Big City or Two. World class museums, taxis zipping by, wonderful parks. I would put New York City, Paris, London, and Rome on that list. San Francisco too – but it is more laid back.

You can also find many free things to do in large cities – take advantage of free days at museums, the many free activities in parks from puppet shows to concerts to playgrounds. When I took my kids to Paris, it was unbelievable how long we could sit in a park and watch our kids play on all the play areas so different than anything we have in America, as well as multi-generational pick-up games of soccer that they joined.

3) Sneak in a History Lesson: Everyone would love their children to have a sense of the world, and historic moments. Seeing is believing over just learning in textbooks. Some locations steeped in history make awesome family vacations. Did I mention Rome? I am again. The birthplace of Western civilization, there are many a history lesson to be found here. There are tours about Julius Caesar… and standing relics of ancient Rome like the Forum and Coliseum. Vatican city is important whether you are a practicing Catholic or not  - what a statement it makes about organized religion, and it’s importance to many people. No to mention, the art history lesson there…the Sistine Chapel and the architecture of Basilica di San Pietro.

Also on my list: Greece, Washington DC – tour the capitol and White House, visit the monuments, and if you have time go to Gettysburg, Boston, or London.

4) Lions and Tigers and Bears and Nature. Expose your kids to the good old outdoors, and all the creatures that call  it home. Kids love animals – even teens find them interesting. In Alaska, I met some teens who said Alaska was their best family vacation – believe me, if you’ve been to Alaska, you know how original it is compared to the rest of America. Bear viewing, kayaking with bald eagles, hiking glaciers are all possible in the Last Frontier.

Easier to get to for most, are our national parks. Yellowstone may be one of the best I’ve visited for animal viewing, along with being an incredible geological lab for all! Your kids will love the spouting geysers, bubbling mudpots, and hissing steam vents… Yellowstone has the greatest concentration of thermal features in the country—nearly 10,000 of them.

There is also the Galapagos Islands – home of the blue-footed booby, the Great Barrier Reef for some amazing viewing of marine life, and Africa for an organized safari, which is better for older kids.

5) Lastly – it is a rite of passage for a child to visit a theme park. You only capture that thrill for a short time, so indulge them, no matter how crowded and how bad the food.:)

Some of these trips can be done on a budget. Forgive me if I have missed some other potential trips.

But now, you have time, and hopefully inspiration to plan for next summer… these are trips that will last a lifetime.

  App Adventures: Good For Planning That Magical Trip.

Just about as overwhelming as planning a trip to Orlando’s multi-theme park destination of Walt Disney World is trying to pick a park app that works best for you.

The good news is – there ARE actually apps for the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Animal Kingdom. (If you’ve never been, these are Disney’s different parks all on one “Disney campus” so to speak. )

The bad news: You have to weed through at least 40 apps to find the one best for you. (There are many apps available to both At&T and Verizon customers.)

So -are these electronic Disney directions worth it? And what do they do?

We just spent 5 days at Walt Disney World, and I think the most helpful app features for families to keep everyone smiling are:

1) Wait times – Wouldn’t it be nice to know the rides with no wait time? With kids in Orlando heat, you know it is hard to drag them all the way across the park for that “special ride” to find there is a two hour wait. Instead, there are apps that tell you in real time what the wait is.

2) Maps: Perfect for the mom who’s child waits until the last minute to go to the bathroom – a map that tells you with GPS where the nearest restroom is.

3) Restaurants: A restaurant guide with menus…. so you can check out the kids’ meals and prices before hand.

4) Ride details: Good to know what age one should be to ride… and any height requirements. Circumvent any disappointment ahead of time. Nice.

5) GPS of parking : So at the end of a long day, you remember where your car is! (My tip would be to stay at one of the resorts that have monorail service from the park!! Worth every penny. Save on a rental car.)

The one quality I didn’t see on any apps that would be cool is to allow park visitors to check in at a ride and get an electronic fast pass without actually going to the ride. Perhaps putting a limit on how many passes one can get for each ride would be a way to do it.  If anyone has seen this feature, please let  me know.

Another way to improve the apps – there were a lot of ride malfunctions that either closed rides for a short time, or just stopped moving, but kept the lines open. Info on changes in ride operations would be helpful also.

You can get some free apps that focus on one aspect above- say the wait times only,  just maps, or just hotels,  but there are other apps that include everything together for some $$$.

For $3.99 one that looks good is by Undercover Tourist – offering all the details for every park all in one app (i.e. maps, wait times, GPS, menus, ..) You just have to decide if you want to spend the $3.99 to have all the info in one app, but it is like having a travel guidebook in your back pocket.

**Undercover Tourist also has a free app, but it is called “lite” – without as many important details.

As convenient as these apps make your trip, they DON’T replace researching ahead. There is so much info, and so much to do at Walt Disney World, you have to have a grasp on all the parks and what each offers before you start using your app to make your trip more magical.

Happy planning – as I mentioned before, this is one of the least crowded times to visit – right before Thanksgiving!