Ten Ways to Make Your Vacations Extraordinary

Ten Ways to Make Your Vacations Extraordinary

Ten Ways to Make Your Vacations Extraordinary

How can you make your vacations extraordinary? Do you feel like your vacations are monotonous? Do you tell your friends where you are going or what you did and they say “me too”? Well, it’s time to customize your vacations.  Yes, customization can add extra costs to your vacation. However, with strategic planning, you can add-on one benefit and cutback on another budgeted item. With or without VIP spending power, you can plus your travel routine! Your next vacation can absolutely stand out. With creative planning, you can even add special moments to your trip at no additional expense. By trying a new destination or just adding in a new activity, you’ll have a vacation that is personalized. Let’s check out ten ways to make your vacations extraordinary. Don’t be afraid to do something different. Mix it up and you'll be on your way to a trip that you'll be talking about for years. Click To Tweet

1. Change Your Mode of Transportation

Do you always fly to your destination? Or maybe you like the adventure of a road trip? Think about how exciting it would be to change your mode of transportation.

London Metro Westminster.

Tour a foreign city using the underground metro system.

If the kids are used to piling into your vehicle for a road trip, try flying to this year’s vacation destination. This might mean cutting back on other costs — and that’s okay! So, instead of renting a large beach house, fly to Washington D.C. and tour the free museums.

Fly to your next destination via Southwest or your favorite airline.

Fly to your next destination.

You can also change your transportation at your location. Do you always rent a sensible car for a couples only trip? Try renting a convertible or a jeep and see how much fun you add to your vacations.

Rent a convertible for memorable fun. This one is at the Biltmore Estate.

Rent a convertible for memorable fun.

Do you usually take Disney’s Magical Express from the Orlando International Airport (MCO) to your resort? Surprise the family with a car service; extra points if it’s a limo! If you use a car service on an airport trip, you’ll get that extra dose of “special” as soon as you land.

WDW Transportation Option Limousine

Reserve a limo!

From your port of call in Italy, is your first inclination to walk around the town or take a guided bus tour? Instead take the train to a place you’ve always dreamed about and travel with the locals.

Take a train to see a bucket list place -- like Pompeii!

Take a train to see a bucket list place — like Pompeii!

When you’re traveling to multiple locations, think how you can make the journey a little bit different. From Los Angeles to San Francisco, take the train. London to Paris? EuroStar!

2. Try a New Recreational Activity

Sure, you could go skydiving to really standout. But, you don’t have to go to that extreme. At the beach, take a surf lesson, go fishing, or go back-to-basics and fly a kite.

Fishing Thousand Islands New York

Try fishing!


Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina

Wright Brothers Visit National Memorial at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, then…


Fly a kite at the sand dunes in North Carolina.

Go fly a kite!


Flying Kite on Sand Dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park, North Carolina.

Flying Kite on Sand Dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, North Carolina.

On your next cruise trip, dance, rock climb, zipline, or ice skate. Learn a new dance routine to really shake things up!

Dance the night away! Dazzles, Royal Caribbean.

Dance the night away! Dazzles, Royal Caribbean.

Many of us gear our Walt Disney World trips around the theme parks. On your next trip, spend a day outside the parks to enjoy playing miniature golf, boating, fishing, horseback riding, or learning archery.

Rent a Sea Raycer. Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.

Rent a Sea Raycer. Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

3. A New Destination or Time of Year

This one may seem obvious but many of us tend to go to the same destinations at the same time year. Of course, familiar vacations are memorable. Traditions are also important to families. Still, you can change your routine just a little bit to make your next journey extra special. If you usually travel over Spring Break, book this year’s trip for Thanksgiving. Try visiting your favorite location during the festive holiday season and see the  locale in a whole new light.

Merry Christmas Slipper Dessert Grand Floridian Cafe Christmas Eve

Merry Christmas Slipper Dessert at Grand Floridian Cafe on Christmas Eve.

A new destination can sometimes be daunting. Will you enjoy it? Usually, the answer is yes. Ditch the beach and go to the mountains. Stuck on land-based vacations? Take a cruise.

Jewel of the Seas Royal Caribbean Cruise Line

Take a cruise!

Or just change beaches: Hilton Head Island instead of Myrtle Beach; Destin, Florida instead of Gulf Shores, Alabama; Rehoboth Beach, Delaware instead of Ocean City, Maryland; a West Coast beach instead of East Coast getaway, and so forth. Even if you return to your once familiar vacation for the following year, you’ll find yourselves reminiscing… ...remember the year we went to_________________. Dare to fill in the blank! Click To Tweet

Huntington Beach, California.

Huntington Beach over Thanksgiving!

Or think farther away and go to Europe. Sail the Mediterranean instead of the Caribbean. Head to Hawaii instead of Mexico. The possibilities are endless.

It's like sailing back in time as your ship sails into the Grand Harbor at Valletta, Malta.

Sailing into the Grand Harbor, Malta.


Touring Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

Touring Colosseum in Rome, Italy.


Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort South Carolina

Try a new-to-you vacation spot!

If you’re a Disney World fan that always attends the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, try visiting during the spring instead and tour the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Or plan to attend the Halloween festivities in the Magic Kingdom.

4. Splurge on Amenities

Amenities are the little things that make us feel special. From chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to your cruise stateroom to balloons delivered to your Walt Disney World resort, added amenities are always memorable. And instagram-worthy!! 😉

Order special treats to enjoy during your vacation!

Order special treats to enjoy during your vacation!

5. Tweak Your Traveling Party

If you always travel with kids in tow, take a couples only trip. Invite the grandparents and/or aunts and uncles. Take a parent-child only trip for special bonding time — this works for parents of grown children too. Try a guys trip to the Caribbean to scuba dive or a ladies trip to New York City to see a show. Imagine the possibilities!

Family travel Walt Disney World.

Travel with family!

6. Make Your Trip a Celebration

From a destination wedding to a birthday getaway, your trip is the perfect time to celebrate. Don’t let those annual milestones go unnoticed. This year, take a weekend trip for your anniversary, go on a cruise for your birthday, or take your child to Disneyland Paris for graduation.

Our son's January birthday celebration aboard the Disney Wonder.

Our son’s January birthday celebration aboard the Disney Wonder.

For our 10th anniversary, we renewed our vows in Walt Disney World!

Cinderella's Coach Vow Renewal Walt Disney World

A splurge for our 10th anniversary vow renewal — riding in Cinderella’s Coach!

Whenever someone asks me what I want to do for my birthday? The answer involves travel. I’ve spent my birthday on a cruise ship, in Barcelona, in Paris, on a road trip heading home from Yellowstone, at beaches, and so on. Of course, I’ve been in Walt Disney World a number of times! Skip the gifts and make some priceless memories instead.

7. Take a Tour

You could take a guided tour for your entire vacation or add on tours during your trip. Some of my favorite tours: Stonehenge from London; Normandy from Paris; a cruise ship tour of the captain’s bridge; a plantation in St. Croix; a Magic Kingdom tour; Roswell, New Mexico; and Carthage and Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia.

A tour to Stonehenge.

A tour to Stonehenge.

Tours can often be pricey, however they add convenience and/or in-depth education that is usually not regretted.

8. Cross Off a Bucket List Item

On every single trip, you have the opportunity to cross off a bucket list item. Bucket list achievements come in all sizes.

Devils Tower Wyoming

Devils Tower Wyoming

Try one of these personal goals:

  • Teach your child to ride a bike.
  • See the Milky Way.
  • Picnic in a beautiful setting.
  • Watch a turtle crawl to the sea.
  • See the Chincoteague ponies.
  • Dine somewhere special; extra points if it’s for New Year’s Eve or another celebration.
  • Get a tattoo.
  • Learn to…. paddleboard, ski, golf, mix a delicious cocktail, make authentic pizza, etc.
  • Swim with a dolphin.

Bike riding at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort.

Bike riding on vacation!


Make memories on vacation by teaching your child something new like bike riding.

Proud bike rider!


Bike Riding Currituck Club Outer Banks North Carolina

Go exploring via bicycle!


See the Chincoteague Ponies.

See the Chincoteague Ponies in Virginia.


Horseback Riding at Bill Cody Ranch in Wyoming.

Horseback Riding at Bill Cody Ranch in Wyoming.

9. Take More Pictures

Hiring a photographer to take pictures of the whole family is an extra special way to commemorate your trip. Whether it’s a once in a lifetime adventure or an annual vacation, photographs will always keep the memories alive.

Taking photos at the Grand Canyon

Take lots of photos!

And here are two important tips: * Give each child an age-appropriate camera. Some of the most touching or extremely hilarious photos that we have viewed were from our young child’s eyes. * Include the family’s photographer in photos. I’m usually the photographer in the family and well, there just aren’t a ton of photos of me. Do better than we did — you won’t regret it. Every now and then, have a photo watching night at home. Which vacations were your favorites? Take a vote on where to travel next.

10. Upgrades

Finally, there’s nothing like an upgrade to make your vacation stand out. Upgrade your accommodations (get a balcony stateroom or a Magic Kingdom view), meals, souvenir purchases, excursions, and other vacation components.

BoardWalk Inn WDW Concierge Room

Concierge Room at the BoardWalk Inn.

Do you usually sail in an interior cabin? Next cruise, drive to the port instead of flying and upgrade to an oceanview cabin. Or try a cruise line (like Disney or Royal Caribbean) that is new to you. Not sure which one is right for you — read my Disney vs. Royal Caribbean Splashdown.

Disney Cruise Line's Magic in the Mediterranean.

Magic in the Med!

Headed to Walt Disney World for a week of quick-service meals? Maybe try a few table-service meals instead of purchasing more Mickey Ears and other souvenirs.

Pizza at Epcot's Via Napoli. Italy Pavilion Walt Disney World.

Pizza at Epcot’s Via Napoli!

Of course, there’s something to be said for the familiarity and tradition of visiting the same location each year. Just change it up a bit. Make your vacation extraordinary!

Walt Disney World Date Ideas
Date Ideas for Valentine's Day at Walt Disney World

How have you made your vacations extra special? Share in the comments below or join the discussion on our Facebook Page.

How to Make Your Next Vacation Extraordinary
how to make your vacation stand out
How to make your vacations stand out!
Cruise Activities for Teens: Discover Fun Outside the Teen Club

Cruise Activities for Teens: Discover Fun Outside the Teen Club

Five Cruise Activities for Teens

Having just recently gone on a cruise aboard the Oasis of the Seas, I came to the realization on the first day that I did not want to spend much time in the teen club area or doing organized cruise activities for teens.

Oasis of the Seas with Royal Caribbean

Oasis of the Seas.

For one, at 17 1/2 I was one of the oldest at the first event in The Living Room. Also, I felt this cruise was just meant for me to enjoy some downtime and relax. I had just finished my Junior Year of high school with all of the stresses that entails — AP courses and exams, ACT exams, touring colleges, and so on. And I was TIRED and BURNED OUT.

The Living Room Teen Area on Oasis of the Seas

The Living Room space is for teens only!

On previous cruises, I had spent time participating in the organized teen activities from early in the day until 1:00AM, which is usually the ship’s curfew time for under 18 cruisers. Those were some good times and I’d recommend you give it a try. On this trip, I was still out late because there was so much to do on the Oasis that I kept busy even without stopping by the teen club. Flowrider, Comedy Shows, Stargazing, Miniature Golf, Rock Climbing, Diving Shows, and more kept me entertained on the ship.

The Rock Climbing Wall on Oasis is fun for all ages.

Try the Rock Climbing Wall!

This time, I wanted to have some fun on my own schedule. So without doing any teen activities, I found out very quickly how to have a good time on the cruise ship. The following list can also apply to those who are in that weird age gap (18-20) where you cannot be part of the teen group, nor can you take part in having a couple of drinks at the bars. For the casino, you’ll need to be 18 on all sailings, except Alaska where you’ll need to be 21. The adult night club requires proof of age (21) as well.

Teens will find activities like rock climbing on a cruise.

Find adventure aboard the Oasis.

So in no real order of importance, here are my five ways for older teens to have fun on a cruise ship.


There are plenty of shows to go see on board a cruise. Whether it’s a stomach cramping comedy show, a Broadway performance, or anything in between, there’s always a show going on for anyone’s taste. And the best part about it, they are all free. So, get some popcorn and enjoy the show.

Older teens should attend a comedy show in the Opal Theater on Oasis.

The adult comedy show in the Opal Theater on Oasis were hysterical!

The Come Fly With Me Show on Oasis of the Seas

Come Fly With Me Show.


Go to the bar. Don’t worry, all bars can make any mixed drink without alcohol (otherwise known as virgin). Got a hankering for a fruity drink? Go up to the bar and order a virgin Strawberry Daiquiri, Lava Flow, or any others you can think of. In my experience, the Lava Flow is certainly one to try. Delicious! I also enjoyed quite a few strawberry daiquiri mocktails. Look for mocktails on the bar menus for more options.

Strawberry Daiquri cocktails and mocktails on Oasis of the Seas.

Strawberry Daiquiri on Oasis. Teens can order it as a mocktail!

Get your favorite beverage at Starbucks and watch a sports game at On Air.

Grab a Starbucks beverage on Oasis of the Seas.

Starbucks Coffee on Oasis of the Seas.

Swimming and Other Activities

Most certainly, the cruise ship you will be on will have at least one swimming pool. So put on some swim trunks and cool off in the pool. Maybe you’ll be on a ship that has a slide or some other sort of water attraction, such as the FlowRider (simulated surfing) on the Royal Caribbean ships (Freedom class and higher) or the water slide (AquaDuck) on Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

The FlowRider is a surf simulator on some Royal Caribbeanships.

Go surfing on the Oasis!

AquaDuck on the Disney Dream is fun for teens.

The AquaDuck on the Disney Dream is amazing.

I’ve been on Disney Magic but not since they installed the AquaDunk, a thrilling water slide. And, it looks like other cruise lines like Carnival have some cool slides too.

Carnival cruise ship with water slides.

Carnival Cruise ship with cool water slides.

If your ship offers rock climbing, ice skating, miniature golf, FlowRider, or ziplining, try them out!

Zipline across the Boardwalk area on Oasis.

Try ziplining on Oasis of the Seas.


On a cruise ship, there are no such thing as calories (it’s vacation!), so go exploring for some snacks. Whether it’s a small sandwich from a café, such as the Café Promenade on Royal Caribbean, or an ice cream cone that you can acquire from the free dispensers on most cruise lines, there’s always something you can find to eat.

Cafe Promenade sandwiches are great for a late night snack on the Oasis.

These sandwiches were delicious for a late night snack.

And don’t forget to try new foods. At dinner, order a new-to-you appetizer. Don’t like it; no problem. You can order a replacement or move on to the next course.


Tired of dealing with your peers, exams, a busy schedule? Then take the time on your cruise to relax and enjoy being away from reality. Go up on deck and enjoy soaking up the sun (just be sure to put on sunscreen). Take a nap in your stateroom. People watch. Read a book. The possibilities are endless.

A great time to find a quiet place on deck 15 aboard the Oasis is in the late morning while in port. We like to go ashore after enjoying a crowd-free morning on the ship.

Deck 15 on Oasis is a great place to read on late mornings in port.

Find a quiet place to read on the Oasis, deck 15.

Oasis had awesome fixed binoculars that worked well for looking at the moon at night. You’ll find them by using the port side stateroom corridor and heading forward (not aft) on Deck 14. I think there were signs pointing to the Observation Decks.

Deck 14 of Oasis has fixed binoculars.

Fixed Binoculars are mounted on the forward wings on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis, Deck 14.

Walk the upper decks and enjoy stargazing on Royal Caribbean's Oasis.

Full Moon lights up the sky on Oasis sailing.

I hope you found this short list to be helpful to you in some way. On your sailing, you’ll discover lots of cruise activities for teens.

Cruise Activities for Teens.

And as this is my first post on the blog, you can expect to hear more from me in the future. Have a great day and Bon Voyage!

Teens — share your favorite cruise activities. Parents — what do your teens like to do when cruising?

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…


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.


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


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.


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. 😉

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


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


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.


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! 😉

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


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 life (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!


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 Station’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!