Disney Trips with Grandparents: Planning Tips for Memorable, Hassle-free Travels

Disney Trips with Grandparents: Planning Tips for Memorable, Hassle-free Travels

Disney Trips with Grandparents

Since our son was born, we have traveled to many locations where we took his grandparents with us or met up with them at our destination. With some advance planning, multi-generational travel can be fun for the whole family.

If your parents and/or in-laws enjoy traveling, then consider a Disney trip with grandparents. Yes, it’s a little extra work to make sure everyone’s idea of vacation is implemented, however the memories made will be priceless.

Disney Trips with Grandparents: Planning Tips

The Calendar

Once everyone is on board to make a multi-generational trip a reality, the first step is coordinating calendars. First, gather dates that are available for each member of your traveling party, see what dates are mutually convenient, and then price out your vacation.

Plan a Disney trip with grandparents.

Nic and Nana with Mickey. Plan the best time of year to visit WDW for your family!

You may want to travel when prices are lower or your first priority might be to share a holiday or enjoy a certain type of weather. Once you get this first stage of planning coordinated, everything else will begin to fall into place.

Springtime at WDW. Enjoy family touring at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival.

Visit WDW during the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot.

Accommodations

Discuss the type of accommodations that are suitable for each traveling party as well as the price point that everyone is comfortable spending.

For a Disney cruise, you’ll want to decide on the type of stateroom desired and whether or not you want adjoining or connecting cabins.

Disney Dream at Castaway Cay

Decide which staterooms are best for everyone in your traveling party.

At Disney’s Hilton Head Island, we recommend reserving a two bedroom villa for a mixture of privacy and family togetherness.

Fun at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort

Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort

Headed to Walt Disney World? You will have a large assortment of hotels to choose from. Will you camp? Stay in a cabin? Reserve rooms at a value, moderate, or deluxe resort? Or perhaps, you’d like to rent a condo off-site. There are also villas available from studios to multi-bedroom options at the Walt Disney World resorts.

Port Orleans French Quarter is a charming hotel at WDW.

Port Orleans French Quarter is a charming hotel – a great choice when visiting WDW with grandparents.

Getting There

Now you need a plan to get the family to your Disney destination. Each travel party should choose the type of travel (car, train, plane) that best suits their budget and travel preference.

Air Travel with Grandparents

Nic and Nana waiting to board airplane.

If you live in different cities, will you meet up and then continue on to your destination or meet up at your Disney locale? Either way, specify clear departure and arrival times and keep everyone posted if travel delays are encountered.

Itinerary

Before you leave home, you’ll want to have some idea of the preferred vacation desires of each traveler. Does Grandma want to shop when the ship docks in the first port of call? Is Grandpa wanting to fish or play golf? Perhaps the kids want to ride Dumbo with their grandparents followed by lunch at Be Our Guest. While compromises will have to be made, it’s important to try to accommodate varying vacation styles, likes, and dislikes.

Fishing Excursions are a fun activity with grandparents at Walt Disney World.

Take a Fishing Excursion at Walt Disney World.

And no one is immune to getting cranky when they are exhausted. You’ll enjoy more quality moments together if everyone is well rested. So, do allow down time for relaxing pursuits such as afternoon naps, hanging out at your resort, and poolside fun. It’s a vacation, not a marathon!

Enjoy relaxation at Disney's Wilderness Lodge

Relaxing at the Wilderness Lodge.

Be flexible. If Grandpa and/or the parents need a rest, let them sit down in the shade while Nana takes the kids on a Disney ride. Parents want to do some shopping? Grandparents can watch the kids at the playground. The best part of a multi-generational trip is being able to spend time together and sometimes that means the kids alone with grandparents or the moms hanging out by the pool while the dads play horseshoes. There are countless special bonding opportunities!

Disney's Hilton Head Island is perfect for a getaway with extended family.

Grandpa, Dad, and Nic playing horseshoes at Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort.

Also, allow for everyone to have some alone time. This can be during an early morning, afternoon down time, or evening. Allow those travelers needing extra rest to sleep in and then meet up for lunch.

Rest time with grandparents at the Polynesian Resort in WDW.

Parents escape to shop while Nic is being entertained by grandparents during rest time at the Polynesian Resort.

Dining

Just like at home, dining encourages families to slow down and talk. It’s a time to bond with each other.

Bonding time with grandparents on a Disney cruise.

Nic escorts Grandma to dinner on the Disney Dream.

On a cruise ship, dinner can provide the opportunity for the family to meet and discuss the different activities that each family member enjoyed that day. Or maybe Grandma wants to hear about your latest school projects.

Enjoying a family dinner on a Disney cruise ship

Animator’s Palate on the Disney Dream.

When traveling with differing ages, you’ll also want to keep in mind a few things when planning reservations. Do you have picky eaters? Does anyone need to eat at a certain time? Any allergies or other dining considerations to be aware of? Ask — before you make reservations.

French Onion Soup at Les Chefs de France in Epcot at WDW

French Onion Soup at Les Chefs de France.

By taking into consideration these dining preferences, you’ll set up meals that can be enjoyed by everyone.

Photographs

Capture the memories. Now is the time to let the grandparents pose and smile with their grandkids or get group pictures. However, grandparents can also help take pictures of your family — since the photographer is usually missing from a lot of photos, let a grandparent take photographs of you, your spouse, and the children.

Capture your memories with the grandparents.

Pose for fun photographs!

Do not forget to get pictures of you with your parents!

Separation Plan

There will come a time when you think you are all together, and then… you’re not. Perhaps Grandpa and Dad stopped to look at old-fashioned fudge in the Main Street Confectionery and lost sight of the group. Or Mom stopped to take another picture and she’s been left behind. Whatever the reason, you’ve lost your group and having a plan will get you back on track.

Main Street Confectionery in the Magic Kingdom.

Main Street Confectionery in the Magic Kingdom.

Your plan should go beyond “text if we get separated” because sometimes a phone is left in a room or a battery dies. If you are in the Magic Kingdom, for example, you may want your contingency plan to be a meeting point such as in front of Crystal Palace Restaurant.

Don't forget to set up a meeting spot with grandparents when touring a Disney Park.

Crystal Palace Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.

A separation plan is for the whole family – kids, parents, and grandparents!

Try Something New

Experiencing a new restaurant, attraction, or activity together creates an instant bond and provides fun conversation for later in the vacation.

Try a new activity like karaoke on a Disney Cruise

Karaoke on the Disney Dream

Age is Relative

The kids are never too young or too old to enjoy time with grandparents. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Grandparent entertains child at WDW.

While the parents take a break, Grandpa plays with Nic at WDW. Hope his back didn’t hurt too much later that day!

Parents get a little break from parenting around the clock, grandparents get to spoil and create lasting bonds, and kids get to soak up the unconditional love from everyone. Plus, your offspring learn to respect their older counterparts and that age is relative; grandparents are fun too.

Buzz Lightyear is a fun ride to share with a grandparent.

Challenge Grandma to a spin on Buzz Lightyear.

Then those little ones become young adults before you know it. Sure, teens may go off on their own and meet up only for meals and a few designated activities, yet the conversations when everyone is together are sure to be interesting. And even the teens will remember the laughs they’ve had with their grandparents.

Take the grandparents -- Whispering Canyon Cafe is fun for all ages.

Whispering Canyon Cafe is fun for all ages.

Don’t forget that traveling with your own parents is a great way to reconnect, especially if you live in different cities/states.

Spend time with your extended family in WDW.

Kim and her Mom at Fort Wilderness.

Set Limits

If you are absolutely against your child staying in the parks without an afternoon nap break, set a limit. However, allow plenty of opportunities for the grandparents to spoil your kid(s) or to help out.

Mickey Ice Cream Bar

Nana spoils Nic with a Mickey Ice Cream Bar. Priceless moment!

On one day in the Magic Kingdom, our son was exhausted. Grandma gave him some sips of a soda and he perked right up. Now, did that lead any of us to start putting soft drinks in his sippy cup? Of course not. But it did solve an immediate issue without any dire consequences. And we still laugh about that memory that took place 15 years ago!

Child Tired at Walt Disney World

Time to refuel!

Would you ordinarily allow your kid to race down a hotel hallway? Probably not. But watching Grandpa push a stroller crazy fast down the empty (middle of the afternoon) hallway at the Polynesian Village was harmless fun that filled Grandpa and child with in-the-moment laughter. And still gives us giggles when we remember the fun that they had.

Nana or Grandma wants to buy your kid a stuffed animal or a cookie? Well, as long as your little loved one isn’t begging and taking advantage of the generous grandparent (and doesn’t have an allergy or dietary restriction), then let the grandparent have at it. A bag of spun sugar, a sweet confection, or another furry friend (that doesn’t poop) is not going to cause lasting harm.

Let the granparent spoil your child with a Mickey Cookie.

Mickey Gingerbread Cookies are delicious!

Discuss non-negotiables and then let vacation happen! It’s the spontaneous moments that are usually the most prized.

Celebrate Milestones

While traveling with extended family, celebrate milestones. A graduation, birthday, retirement, and other special occasions become even more memorable when acknowledging them during a vacation.

Wishes Fireworks Birthday Cruise

Wishes Fireworks Birthday Cruise

Packing

Don’t forget to pack items that will make your travels easier. Good walking shoes, some moleskin, rain ponchos, and a bag for the stuff you want to haul to the parks are essential. Grandparents will appreciate your preparedness.

Planning your next Disney getaway? Don’t forget to invite the grandparents!

What are your tips for traveling with grandparents? Contact Us, Follow Us on Twitter, or comment below to share your travel tips.

Cruise Line Splashdown: Royal Caribbean vs. Disney

Cruise Line Splashdown: Royal Caribbean vs. Disney

Royal Caribbean vs. Disney — Cruise Line Comparisons

Die-hard Disney fans and cruisers “Loyal to Royal” may have differing opinions on the cruise line that takes top marks for their family. Of course, there are plenty of Disney folks (myself included) that absolutely love to sail with both cruise lines. In planning any vacation, I think it’s most important to gather information and then design your trip according to your family’s personal interests and preferences. Of course, your vacation criteria can change from one journey to the next. I often get asked about whether I prefer Royal Caribbean vs. Disney.

Royal Caribbean vs. Disney Cruise Lines

So, let’s get to this splashdown…

Embarkation

Disney does it better with a personalized greeting upon entering the ship’s atrium.

Royal’s embarkation involves crossing the gangway onto an outdoor deck with no fanfare but the actual boarding process seems to have less lines.

Sail Away and Other Deck Parties

Disney has a better sail away party complete with Disney characters, dancing, and a ship’s horn that plays “When You Wish Upon A Star”. We never miss a sail away on Disney’s deck!

DCL Sail Away

Sail Away party

The Royal Caribbean sail away parties that I’ve seen had low attendance, thus we tend to enjoy sail away from our balcony.

On Disney, you’ll also get to deck out for Pirate Night and enjoy an outdoor buffet, entertainment under the stars, and fireworks.

Pirate themed buffet with Disney Cruise Line

Pirate themed buffet on Disney cruise ships

Yes, fireworks!

Disney Cruise Line's fireworks

Fireworks at Sea

Private Islands

Without a doubt, Disney wins hands down. Castaway Cay is a tropical paradise that is perfectly groomed before each ship’s arrival.

Disney Cruise Line's Castaway Cay Beach

Beach at Castaway Cay

I have not been to Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay (our ship skipped this port due to weather issues) but we’ve been to Labadee twice. While it’s heartwarming to help the local Haitian economy and Labadee certainly has some beautiful features and fun activities, this island adventure can not compare to the pristine surroundings at Castaway Cay.

And let’s just face it, Disney knows how to entertain kids — on land and at sea!

Swimming Lagoon at Castaway Cay's Family Beach

Fun in the swimming lagoon on Castaway Cay’s Family Beach

One of my favorite activities at Castaway Cay is bike riding down the immaculate and interesting path with fun props.

Disney's Castaway Cay has a pristine bike path to enjoy with the whole family or for a solo ride

Follow the fun Bike Path Signs on Castaway Cay

The Barefoot Beach area for suite guests was beautiful and relaxing at Labadee. Finding a lounge chair in the shade readily available was a huge plus for me.

Labadee Haiti is Royal Caribbean's private oasis. Barefoot Beach is an exclusive area for suite guest and those renting cabanas.

Barefoot Beach on Labadee is absolutely beautiful. Exclusive to suite guests and cabana rentals.

Itineraries

Royal Caribbean has more ships and thus, many more embarkation ports to choose from. You’ll also have your choice of itineraries across the globe.

A Disney cruise out of Port Canaveral paired with a Walt Disney World vacation is a convenient option for Disney fans looking for land and sea options. Disney Cruise Line also offers Adventures by Disney land/sea based itineraries for guests looking for upscale tours.

We sailed on the Disney Magic in the Mediterranean and thought it was a wonderful ship for such a port-intensive sailing. Why? We didn’t feel the need to come back after a long day of touring to stay up and do things on the ship. Yet, it was a comforting place to relax after hours spent traveling to magnificent sites such as Pompeii and Rome.

Disney Magic docked in Valletta, Malta

Disney Magic in Valletta, Malta

Restaurants

Disney wins for rotational dining. I really like dining in a different main dining room each night with the same waitstaff. Service has always been attentive!

Rotational dining on Disney Cruise Line means your waitstaff follows you to the different restaurants.

Rotational dining is delightful on Disney Cruise Line. Your waitstaff follows you to each different restaurant.

Royal Caribbean offers a MyTime Dining option — make a reservation or just show up for the next available table at the MTD dining room. The MTD is at the American Icon Grille aboard the Oasis. If you have to wait for a table, there is a lovely lobby and bar area. Service on the Oasis was excellent, however, we’ve had less than stellar service on other Royal Caribbean ships. Dining room service aboard Jewel and Independence was better than Freedom, but then it could have been an off-week.

Royal Caribbean’s new dining room menus seem to repeat the same offerings and the selections are very slim for picky eaters. Basically, it’s a chicken dish for me. I miss the linguini pasta option that was meatless. Sigh.

MyTime Dining on the Oasis allows flexibility for timing meals

Delicious meal in the dining room on the Oasis

Disney offers more room service options (a few snacks and beverages have an added fee) and soda fountains at no cost. Royal Caribbean used to charge $3.95 (gratuity included) for room service from midnight until 5:00AM, however a new policy was recently implemented. Royal Caribbean passengers will now pay $7.95 for all room service orders with the exception of continental breakfast which remains free. In addition, Grand Suite guests (and higher) will still get complimentary room service. For soda/pop drinkers, you’ll need to purchase a soda package, currently $8.50 per person per day. I do not like this change as I can’t see ordering cookies and hot cocoa for a bedtime snack at those prices!

Counter service options are more plentiful on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Freedom class ships versus Disney Cruise Line’s grab and go locations. Also, it seems easier to find late night munchies on Royal.

Oasis Breakfast

Breakfast and a good book to start the day!

You’ll usually find more ethnic food options on Royal Caribbean’s larger ships from specialty restaurants to buffet choices. So, if you are craving Mexican, for example, you’ll be able to find some awesome eats.

Recently, we had a delightful meal at Chop’s Grille on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis. On Disney, Palo boasts outstanding cuisine and service — it’s one of my favorite restaurants for brunch and dinner on land or at sea.

Brunch at Palo on Disney Cruise Line

Neither cruise line skimps on food and you certainly will not go hungry.

Animators Palate on the Disney Dream

Animator’s Palate on the Disney Dream is fun for the whole family

Buffet Dining

This is a toss up. The Windjammer on Royal Caribbean has a better setup and the atmosphere is much more relaxing. The buffet usually has longer hours as well making a stop by for a meal or snack easier.

The buffet restaurant on Royal Caribbean is called the Windjammer.

Windjammer on Oasis

With that being said, I enjoy being able to dine outside at Cabanas on the Disney ships. In addition, I’ve found a larger variety of food for picky eaters on the buffet with Disney Cruise Line.

Youth Activities

For the under high school set, Disney takes the trophy here. The outdoor water features for kids (especially toddlers) is a big hit on DCL. Plus, the youth activities while on Castaway Cay include treasure hunts and more!

Disney Youth Program

Making Flubber on Disney Cruise

For teens, Royal Caribbean wins. The teens get a trendy hang-out and nearly around the clock activities geared to various age groups. From dodgeball to ice skating to prom-like dances to scavenger hunts, the teens aren’t likely to be bored. Then they can also take part in all the sports activities throughout the ship as well. We’re lucky to see our teen for a meal each day!

Teens have their own space hang-out at the Living Room area and Fuel teen only nightclub on Oasis.

Teens have their own space hang-out at the Living Room area and Fuel teen only nightclub.

Staterooms

DCL’s Staterooms are family friendly and many have split bathrooms (one with a shower/tub and sink and the other with a toilet and sink) and room-dividing privacy curtains. Standard cabins have more square footage than those on Royal Caribbean. Plus, the staterooms on Royal’s newest ships have even less real estate per cabin.

Privacy Curtain in DCL Stateroom

DCL split bathroom

Vanity with sink and tub with shower

Royal Caribbean seems to have some larger balconies (look at the depth in the picture below), especially in the Freedom class ships.

Nice size balcony on Royal Caribbean's Freedom class ships

Divider open between staterooms on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom

Standard cabins on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships have some unique setups, including windows that look out onto the Boardwalk, Royal Promenade, and Central Park. However, the stateroom bathroom is small with a tiny shower. Shaving my legs in this tiny cylinder is no easy chore. šŸ˜‰

If you are looking for suite accommodations, Royal Caribbean’s assortment of configurations and perks are quite attractive.

For the bedding quality including wonderful linens even in the standard staterooms, we vote for Disney.

Disney Dream Bedding

Decadent bedding includes Frette Linens aboard the Disney Dream

Entertainment

If you like Disney themed entertainment, book with DCL. You’ll enjoy character greetings, meals, deck parties, fireworks, and more. Look for feature films and shows featuring the Disney brand. Plus, there is a dedicated movie theater.

Disney characters aboard the Disney Magic cruise ship

Chip and Dale on the Disney Magic

If you like adult comedy, Broadway shows, and dancing, sail with Royal Caribbean.

Adult Activities

Royal wins. As a Disney fan, I truly love the shows and deck parties that Disney does best.

However, Royal offers more activities for adults around the clock — shopping, alcohol packages, gambling at the casino, several dancing venues, and more.

Oasis Entertainment Place

Entertainment Place

Sports

If you enjoy a good adrenaline surge, Royal Caribbean has you covered with rock climbing walls, ice skating, indoor skydiving, FlowRiders, and ziplines. Note that not all features are offered on every ship. Choose the ship that offers the amenities that are most important to your family.

Royal Caribbean ships offer fun activities like ziplining.

Ziplining on the Oasis

Disney offers a SWEET ride on the AquaDuck! Fun for the whole family, the Aqua Duck is a water coaster at sea with rafts to whisk riders through exciting drops and turns.

AquaDuck on the Disney Dream

Try out the AquaDuck

Both ships have the usual offerings of basketball, ping pong, shuffleboard, etc.

Cost

You’ll find Disney to have premium prices although more amenities are included in your initial fare.

Royal Caribbean offers less expensive fares, however you’ll pay extra for soda, room service, extra charge dining venues, late night “babysitting”, and more.

I would not hesitate to sail with either of these cruise lines. Disney Cruise Line exemplifies old world style and family friendly entertainment.

Disney Dream Atrium

Disney Dream’s atrium exudes old world style

Royal Caribbean is decked out in a flashier motif with a more “mall like” atmosphere that gives plenty of options for cruisers of all ages.

Royal Promenade on Oasis

Overall Service

We’ve encountered some outstanding, mediocre, and poor service on both cruise lines — Disney and Royal Caribbean — in various areas of the industry. I would not hesitate to sail with either cruise line but then, I love cruising and so does my family. It’s one of our favorite ways to travel with extended family! Are you ready to get packing?!

Note: All prices are subject to change.

What is your favorite cruise line? I’m always looking for recommendations and advice from fellow cruisers! šŸ˜‰

Cruise Packing Tips: 15 Items to Add to Your Cruise Packing List

Cruise Packing Tips: 15 Items to Add to Your Cruise Packing List

Cruise Packing Tips: 15 Items to Add to Your Cruise Packing List

Bon Voyage, it’s cruise packing time! After our recent cruise vacation and with another one booked for June, I wanted to suggest some items that you may have known about but forgot to put on your cruise packing list. Or… they may be items that you hadn’t even thought of yet. Don’t forget to pack these…

15 Items to Pack for your Cruise.

Dollar Bills, y’all

Before you even embark on the ship, you are going to have to get to port somehow. You’ll likely need money for tolls (include coins!), luggage valets, porters, and even the bartender at your pre-cruise hotel.

Plus, I love ordering room service (late night cookies, please!) and tipping the delivery attendant is a nice gesture.

Room Service

Highlighter

Your cruise entertainment schedules will have loads of fun options. Delivered each night to your stateroom, this listing is your key to all the fun that can be had on the ship. Don’t want to miss the ice skating show, belly flop competition, wine tasting, line dancing, art auction, spa sale, or other fun activity? Bring a highlighter.

I like to highlight the activities of interest the night before to keep organized. Of course, I don’t make it to all the activities — sometimes a girl just wants to sit out in an ocean breeze with an adult beverage at hand. But at least when I’m up for an activity, I can quickly eyeball what’s available.

Small Purse

I have a few favorites that I like to take on vacation. Lately, I’ve been going with my Coach Crossbody “Carrie” bag as it goes from day to evening really well. It’s also lightweight and versatile. I also like the Vera Bradley Mini Hipster Cross Body. It’s lightweight and has handy compartments for keeping everything at your fingertips. Holds passports and more!

Coach Crossbody Purse

You’ll want to keep your daily activity sheet, a pen, glasses, and a small camera with you at all times. This is also where I store my room key/onboard ship account card. You may like the idea of a lanyard worn around your neck; I prefer the small bag. Use what works best for you. Personalize your cruise packing list!

Royal Caribbean Lanyard

Luggage Tags/Ribbon

You’ll want to make sure that your luggage stands out from the crowd. Unless you travel with a neon pink suitcase in leopard spots (good thinking, by the way!), you’ll want to be able to easily identify your luggage. This is especially true when disembarking a cruise ship. There are thousands of people looking for their bags too. And while there will be a semi-organized system in the terminal, you’ll still be grateful when you can easily spot your bags without a lot of effort. After all, it’ll be early in the morning and you may have been up late the night before savoring every moment at sea. So, put a colorful piece of duct tape, a ribbon, a mini scarf, or a super recognizable luggage tag on each piece of luggage that you’ll be giving to the porters.

Plus, I have to recommend luggage tag holders. They are very handy for cruisers. Print your luggage tags, insert them into the plastic protectors, and secure to your luggage. No worries.

Hair Dryer

Each time I cruise, I swear that I won’t step aboard a ship again without my travel hair dryer. Learn from my mistake. I have thick hair that takes a long time to dry and those onboard dryers… well, they don’t dry.

A Pool/Beach Bag

I have a lightweight Vera Bradley tote bag that has multi-uses when on a cruise vacation. I can pile in my book, sunscreen, cover-up, camera, etc. This bag can also be utilized for the evening when I want to bring a sweater along to venues where it may be chilly.

Vera Bradley Tote Bag

Motion Sickness Pills

Just in case. You may have never experienced a twinge of motion sickness in your lifeĀ (lucky you!) but get on a ship, have some adult beverages, load up at the buffet, and then feel some good sized waves and you might find yourself wishing you could take a little nip. Personally, Bonine chewable tablet work the best for me and my family. And a little nip (about a quarter of a pill) is exactly what I take before the ship sails. Most days and evenings, I won’t need another dose but if I feel a twinge of upset, I quickly take a half of a pill. I’m a lightweight when it comes to medication and they make me extremely sleepy. If the ship is really rocking, I might need a whole pill and then a lot of sleep! Consult your doctor before you leave home. Start your cruise packing early!

Lysol Spray and Disinfecting Wipes/Room Deodorizer

So, let’s talk staying healthy and keeping things smelling fresh. Those little bathrooms in your stateroom are not going to always smell like fresh ocean air. Especially if you are now sharing with other family members. I’m talking about my teen son and husband here. I bring a little air freshener to mask the odors.

And we Lysol spray the room. Wipe down the door knobs, remotes, etc. with disinfecting wipes. I’ve had norovirus at a hotel and while rather memorable, it’s not the sort of excitement that you’ll want to document in your travel journal. So, wipe it all down, wash your hands, and stay healthy.

Vera Bradley Weekender Bag

After dropping our luggage with the porters, we bring individual carry-on bags with us. My Vera Bradley Weekender Bag is my favorite. It’s so lightweight and the compartments keep all my stuff organized.

Vera Bradley Weekender

We bring breakables and other necessities aboard with us; things we may need before our checked luggage arrives the stateroom. Medications, change of clothes, a jacket if rain is in the forecast, cameras and other electronics, etc.

Lightweight Sweater

If you’re headed to the Caribbean, this one might not seem so obvious. Sometimes it can be chilly on deck in the evenings or at some indoor venues.

Lightweight Sweater

Moleskin and Scissors

What? On a ship? Surely with all the lazy days at sea, blisters are out of the question. Um, nope. Unless you don’t get up from your lounge chair or out of the hot tub all week, you’ll likely be doing a lot of walking on ship. Plus, you’ll probably be wearing new shoes, or dress shoes that you haven’t worn in a while, or those sandals that look adorable but rub the wrong way.

On land, you’ll be doing more activities even if it’s just a walk across a sandy beach to your new favorite spot under a palm tree.

So, yes, pack moleskin and a small pair of scissors to cut strips with. Or better yet, pre-cut strips before you pack them.

Wrinkle Releaser Plus Fabric Refresher Spray

You’ll want to dress up on some nights and you’ll be wishing that you could pack a travel iron. But, travel irons are frowned upon (read: prohibited) at sea due to fire hazards.

Solution: My husband likes Downy Wrinkle Releaser Plus. Follow the directions and it works! Spray, tug, and let the wrinkles release. It’s also great for refreshing a shirt that was worn already. But be realistic here, if you wore the shirt to play a game of dodgeball on the sports deck, it might be beyond a quick refresh!

Binoculars

We’ve seen a lot of interesting things at sea. Being able to zoom closer with binoculars enhances our cruise experience, especially when sailing into beautiful ports. What else have we spotted? A whale, dolphins, submarine, other cruise ships, a raft filled with refugees (yes, the ship brought them aboard!!), and more.

If you have a balcony, keep them nearby. If not, bring them along when you go up on deck.

Towel Clips/Clothespins

It can be breezy on your stateroom balcony and up on the pool deck so towel clips are a handy item to throw in your pool/beach bag. Also, clothespins have all kinds of uses. Pin curtains closed so that the morning light doesn’t awaken you too early!

Many of these cruise packing items can be packed in your luggage early.

Towel Clips

Night Light/Book Light/Battery Powered Candle

It can be very dark at night inside your stateroom. Bring a night light, book light, and/or battery powered candles for some helpful illumination.

These are 15 items that I recommend adding to your cruise packing list.

What’s On Your Cruise Packing List? Share in the comments below.

Rocket Launch: Plan a Visit to Cape Canaveral in Florida

Rocket Launch: Plan a Visit to Cape Canaveral in Florida

Cape Canaveral, Florida is one of our favorite locations in the United States because it’s home to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a cruise ship port, and the beautiful Atlantic ocean. Most recently, we visited for a rocket launch!

Rocket Science

Rocket Science

View a Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral

We’ve toured the Kennedy Space Center and taken several cruises from Port Canaveral. One of our most memorable trips — a cruise and rocket launch — on the same day!

Prior to boarding the Disney Wonder on January 19, 2006.

While NASA has launched rockets from the Cape for over sixty years, we’ve only witnessed two of them in person. We’ve tried several times to see more launches, however, timing (work and school), weather (Florida thunderstorms!), and technical issues have interfered.

New Horizons Rocket Launch

On January 19, 2006, Michael, Nic, and I embarked on the Disney Cruise Line’s ship, Disney Wonder. We were excited to board the beautiful ship and head out to sea. After boarding, we learned we were in for a special send-off. NASA was launching New Horizons, an interplanetary space probe, with a planned Pluto Fly-by for July 14, 2015!

Instead of heading to our stateroom to settle in, we found a great location up on deck to view the launch. We couldn’t believe our good fortune.

At 2pm, New Horizons lifted off!

New Horizons lifts off at Cape Canaveral. Rocket Launches from Cape Canaveral are amazing.

New Horizons lifts off

New Horizons rocket launch from Disney Wonder ship

New Horizons rocket launch from Disney Wonder

New Horizons rocket launch

Launch of New Horizons

New Horizons rocket launch

New Horizons blasts off from Cape Canaveral

The fun continued for years. We kept track of New Horizons throughout Nic’s childhood. Finally, when Nic was 15, New Horizons made its historical flight past Pluto.

Atlas V Rocket Launch

After several missed launches the past couple of years, we found ourselves at the right place and time for an Atlas V rocket launch. On the morning and afternoon of November 19, 2016, we had a scheduled tour for Nic at Florida Institute of Technology. In the evening, we took the easy drive from Melbourne to Cape Canaveral; still amazed by our good fortune.

Nasa Parkway East, Banana River, Rocket Launch Viewing Area

Nic and Michael waiting for rocket launch

We found a great parking spot along Nasa Parkway East (a strip of road in the middle of the Banana River) and facing Cape Canaveral Air Force Stationā€™s Launch Complex 41.

Nasa Parkway East Rocket Launch Viewing Area

Nasa Parkway East Rocket Launch Viewing Area

Looking towards the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kenney Space Center from across the Banana River, Nasa Parkway East

Looking towards the Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

Typical of rocketry, we were in for a tense wait. During the hour-long launch window, the timing was pushed back numerous times. When there was one last chance to launch by 6:42pm, the Atlas V finally lit up the sky!

Atlas V Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral

Atlas V Rocket Launch at Cape Canaveral

Thankfully, it was a successful blast-off of United Alliance’s Atlas V rocket carrying a next-generation weather satellite. And we were there to see it!

Rocket Launch Cape Canaveral

Cape Canaveral History

Cape Canaveral wasn’t America’s first launch site though. In the 1940s, many of the first U.S. rockets launched from White Sands Missile Range situated in the New Mexico desert. While this desert location is plenty remote, larger rockets required a site that would be less dangerous to the general public. So, on July 24, 1950, Cape Canaveral launched its first rocket over a safer spot — the Atlantic Ocean.

White Sands Missile Range

White Sands Missile Range

Cape Canaveral Future

Rocket launches can be viewed from many public areas as well as with reserved tickets at Kennedy Space Center.

We hope to watch future launches of the new Space Launch System. And with SpaceX and Blue Origin continuing to bring their rocket launches to the area, the Cape is sure to be an uplifting place to visit!

Have you seen a rocket launch at Cape Canaveral? Share with us in the comments!

Ten Favorite Disney Cruise Line Perks: Should You Sail with DCL?

Ten Favorite Disney Cruise Line Perks: Should You Sail with DCL?

Ten Favorite Disney Cruise Line Perks: Should You Sail with DCL?

What are Disney Cruise line perks? It’s the Disney Difference. There’s no better way to describe the extra heartwarming experiences that await passengers aboard a Disney Cruise Line sailing. Once you arrive port, you’ll begin to sense the excitement that incorporates feeling like a VIP and a carefree child.

Ten Disney Cruise Line Perks

While I’ve enjoyed sailing other cruise lines (hey, any pleasant day at sea is a good day, right?!) and actually have an upcoming cruise booked on Royal Caribbean, there are some unique experiences that you’ll only find when sailing with Disney. Allow me to share my favorites with you…

1. The Welcome Aboard

If you’ve sailed with Disney Cruise Line (DCL), you know the welcome aboard ambiance is absolutely unique. For those of you that haven’t sailed with DCL yet, here’s what’s chokes me up EVERY time:

After checking in and standing in line for your optional welcome aboard photo, you’ll walk over the gangway. There’s just something about having both feet on the ship and leaving the real world a few steps behind you. And just as you are taking in the thrill of finally embarking, you’ll be awestruck again as you step inside the traditional, jewel-toned atrium. Nope; no entering on a less than beautiful deck here.

Step inside the Disney Dream's Atrium

Disney Dream Atrium

And then, you’ll be asked for your family name. As you walk through a line with DCL staff bordering each side of you, you’ll hear “Welcome Aboard, (insert your family name)“! I don’t know about you, but I’m not getting applause when I enter other places. LOL And let’s admit it, the welcome cheer feels good.

I know my fellow Disney fans also get a lump in their throat over this glowing reception.

2. Sail-Away Celebration and the Ship’s Horn

Disney knows how to throw a party. And this party is more like an event. I’ve witnessed multiple generations of my own family dancing and singing on deck during this extravaganza. There’s nothing dull about it. Images of party-goers on the jumbo screen (Funnel Vision), dancing characters, energetic Cast Members, confetti, an exciting countdown, and a ship’s horn that whistles “When You Wish Upon A Star” just as you leave port. Yep, I’m tearing up again.

Sail-Away Celebration

Let’s Sail Away!

3. Pirates IN the Caribbean Deck Party with Fireworks at Sea

I’ve seen other cruise lines attempt to throw deck parties. But DCL’s pirate party draws a whole ship full of passengers to the outdoor decks for an evening of entertainment. There’s many of the same elements of the Sail-Away party with the added excitement of passengers in pirate costumes (or simple pirate accessories like bandanas or eye patches), a pirate vs. Mickey show, and then fireworks. Boom!

DCL Fireworks

Fireworks at Sea

4. Aesthetics of the Ship’s Design and Stateroom Layout

You won’t find neon lights on these ships. Disney Cruise Line boasts old-world charm along with unique, richly appointed staterooms. From bow to stern, the beautifully round portholes portray glimpses of a bygone sea-faring era. Beautiful carpets, art-deco lighting, and ornate woodwork add to the overall ambiance.

DCL Lighting

Gorgeous light fixtures adorn the Disney ship

And then there’s the cabins. Inside, you’ll find split-bathrooms, which aid families in getting ready for early morning excursions and late-night bed time routines. Behind door number one closest to the exterior hallway, there is a toilet and vanity with sink. Enter door number two for the shower (with tub!) and another vanity with sink.

DCL split bathroom

Vanity with sink and tub with shower

The standard tubs are appreciated by many families with small children! I know they worked well for us.

5. Unique Dining

I’m not a gourmet diner due to my picky palate, however, I adore attentive service and unique restaurant ambiance. Disney Cruise Line gets high marks for both. And, then there’s the anticipation of dining in a different restaurant each night. It’s fun and exciting. And since your waitstaff follows you to each restaurant, you’ll get a high level of service for each meal. By the second or third night, they may have your favorite beverage waiting for you at your table!

Cast Members on Disney Dream

Your waitstaff follows you to each DCL restaurant

My two favorite restaurants are Animator’s Palate and Palo. (Remy is still on my bucket list.)

Animators Palate

Animator’s Palate on Disney Dream

Plus, the room service is delightful. Love getting chocolate chip cookies and Mickey ice cream bars delivered for a late night snack!

6. Youth Clubs

Our son first sailed at the age of 6. I’ll admit that on our first cruise, Michael and I peered in countless times to see how Nic was doing in the youth program. The first time that we looked in, we saw him partying with Captain Hook. That was a sight to behold and one we still treasure. Another time, he was making flubber. And at Castaway Cay, we saw him participating in a treasure hunt. He never wanted to leave and we were happy for him.

Disney Youth Program

Making Flubber on Disney Cruise

It gave us some cherished time alone, however we couldn’t help but snoop to see what he was up to. Being a kid (and a parent) on a Disney ship is a priceless experience.

7. Frette Linens

I sleep like a baby at sea. My mom says it’s the rocking motion since she still remembers sleepless nights rocking me to sleep! Add in the luxury of FretteĀ® Egyptian cotton linens with PosturepedicĀ® Premium Plush Euro-top mattresses and you’ve got a beautiful combination for glorious sleep.

Disney Dream Bedding

Decadent bedding includes Frette Linens aboard the Disney Dream

8. Castaway Cay

It’s the best private island owned by a cruise line that I’ve ever sailed to. In fact, it’s better than most Caribbean resorts that I’ve visited. This beautiful island is a paradise for anyone seeking solitude, excitement, or a combination of both. Two of my favorite activities here are bike riding to the observation tower and petting stingrays during Castaway Ray’s Stingray Adventure.

Castaway Cay's bike path

Bike Path on Castaway Cay

After a couple of morning activities, settle me under a palm tree with an ocean breeze, the view of the ocean, and a fruity adult beverage and you’ll have a happy Kim. What will you do at Castaway Cay?

Castaway Cay

Beach at Castaway Cay

Of course, there’s an abundance of activities for adults and kids, including character greetings. Oh, I loved me some photo ops with Captain Jack. šŸ˜‰ For the characters that will be on Castaway Cay during your visit, check out your Navigator.

Captain Jack on Castaway Cay

Ahoy, Captain Jack! (Remember when The Flying Dutchman was anchored there?!)

9. Character Greetings

Meeting your beloved friends at sea is a special experience. Disney princesses, Mickey, Minnie, and other characters are found throughout the ship at specified times and during surprise interactions.

Disney Princesses on Disney Cruise

Belle and Beast

Even if you aren’t willing to wait in line for a photo and/or autograph, seeing Disney characters throughout the ship is sure to warm your heart. I love watching the grandparents take it all in. Memorable.

10. Remember the Magic: A Final Farewell Show

It’s a sweet show with characters and Cast Members. Presented on the last night of your cruise (where it all began in the atrium lobby), you’ll be running to book another Disney cruise after this performance. Go ahead and sing along. Arrive early for a front row spot. Or tear up (again) at the magic of it all. I do.

Mickey says farewell

Captain Mickey in Farewell show

What are your personal favorite moments aboard a Disney ship? What Disney Cruise Line perks am I forgetting? Let me know in the comments below!

Top Ten DCL Perks