by Kimberly LaPaglia | Jun 20, 2017 | Disney, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Destinations, Disney Holidays, Disney Parks, Disney Restaurants, Walt Disney World, WDW Resorts
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.
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.
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.
Visit WDW during the Flower and Garden Festival in Epcot.
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.
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.
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 – a great choice when visiting WDW with grandparents.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Parents escape to shop while Nic is being entertained by grandparents during rest time at the Polynesian Resort.
Just like at home, dining encourages families to slow down and talk. It’s a time to bond with each other.
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.
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.
By taking into consideration these dining preferences, you’ll set up meals that can be enjoyed by everyone.
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.
Pose for fun photographs!
Do not forget to get pictures of you with your parents!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kim and her Mom at Fort Wilderness.
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.
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!
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.
Mickey Gingerbread Cookies are delicious!
Discuss non-negotiables and then let vacation happen! It’s the spontaneous moments that are usually the most prized.
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
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.
by Kimberly LaPaglia | May 9, 2017 | Travel, Victorian
Five Favorite Victorian Themed Hotels in the United States
I’ve always loved the ambiance of Victorian themed hotels. Maybe it’s the white balustrades or the ornate fixtures. Whatever the allure, the time-honored interior designs of this era have inspired many of our vacations.
Boardwalk Plaza Hotel
Nestled on the shore at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, the Boardwalk Plaza exudes elegance at its beachfront property. The oceanfront suites have gorgeous views of the Atlantic ocean. Room service breakfast served in our “parlor” was always a highlight of past visits.
Prince of Wales Hotel
Escape to a bygone era in the charming town of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada. For a romantic getaway, select an elegantly appointed suite. Prince of Wales Hotel is centrally located to boutiques and restaurants.
Suite at Prince of Wales.
Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
The Grand Floridian is a favorite Victorian themed hotel of mine. In fact, this is probably my favorite hotel anywhere. Part of the reason for my great adoration is that this is where Michael and I honeymooned, celebrated our tenth anniversary vow renewal, and have spent many other occasions such as my birthday. Plus, I just love Walt Disney World. You might be surprised to hear that WDW has some romantic lodgings.
Celebrating our Vow Renewal at Disney’s Grand Floridian.
From afternoon tea to dinners at Narcoossee’s, the genteel atmosphere is unforgettable. Even when we aren’t staying as guests of the GF, we almost always make a stop here to soak up the atmosphere.
Hotel del Coronado
Since the Grand Floridian was partially designed with the Hotel del Coronado in mind, this Coronado, California gem steals my heart too. Choose lodging in the Victorian building or in one of the contemporary rooms.
Stay in the Victorian building!
Doesn’t this view look familiar? It’s like stepping out of the Grand Floridian!
Grand Floridian fans will notice the similarities to Hotel del Coronado.
Dunes Manor Hotel
The Dunes Manor presents seashore charm that I find extremely endearing. One block off of the boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland, this hotel embraces the Victorian era.
I would return to any of the above hotels for another stay. Plus, Victorian themed hotels like The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island are on my travel bucket list
To enhance your vacation options, stay tuned to The Castle Concierge for more in-depth reviews.
Victorian hotels are one of our favorite types of lodging to seek out. Help us find more!
Do you have a favorite Victorian themed hotel?
by Kimberly LaPaglia | May 3, 2017 | Disney, WDW Resorts
Walt Disney World Hotel Perks Offer Extra Magic
While we’ve stayed a few times off-site of the Walt Disney World property, we love the perks that guests receive when staying at a Walt Disney World (WDW) resort. My favorite reason for choosing an onsite hotel is the total Disney immersion; leaving the real world behind is an important factor for making the most of our family vacations. But there are even more benefits to staying at a WDW hotel.
Disney Magic Around the Clock
Travel under those beloved arches and you’ll be inside The Disney Bubble. Sounds weird to first time visitors but soon enough, you’ll know what your friends have been talking about. Total Disney immersion is a good thing for fans of Walt Disney World.
Disney World resorts have immersive themes!
What does this really mean?
Cast Members (Disney employees) handing out stickers to your kids (or you!), food shaped liked Mickey, housekeeping’s unique towel art, character wake up calls, and themed resorts (landscaping, pools, stores, restaurants, rooms) all reflecting their own special Disney ambiance.
Mickey Towel Art!
All you really need to know is that if you feel your real life worries have been whisked away AND you start singing silly Disney songs, exclaiming “Hakuna Matata” or “Jambo” to family members, and you find a Mickey Ears hat atop your head, you are surely experiencing vacation inside the Disney Bubble. And trust me, you don’t want any real life stress to pop that thing!
Life in the Disney Bubble!
Did you fly into the Orlando International Airport (MCO)? If you are staying at a WDW resort, you’ll be able to take Disney’s Magical Express to your hotel. Disney’s bus transportation service also includes complimentary luggage transfer. I love checking in my luggage at my home airport and seeing those same bags (that I’ve over-packed!) magically appear in my WDW room on Arrival Day.
Disney’s Magical Express provides transportation between WDW Resorts and the airport.
Once you are at your WDW hotel, you’ll be able to travel throughout the entire property via Disney transportation.
WDW Transportation includes buses and monorails!
This may include buses, boats, and monorails. WDW transportation can sometimes be time-consuming but it’s nice to have someone else cart the family around.
Ride the WDW Monorail.
Another one of my favorite perks is Resort Airline Check-In. If traveling on a participating airline (Alaska, American, Delta/U.S. Domestic Flights Only, JetBlue, Southwest, and United), your family can turn in suitcases to this designated spot at your WDW resort and your luggage will be transported for you — in reverse — all the way to your home airport.
Resort Airline Check-In is WDW hotel perk.
Considering that your bags are now heavier due to those irresistible Disney souvenirs, this service is a tremendous Walt Disney World resort perk. After all, my favorite carry-on Weekender Bag can only hold so much.
Disney Restaurants and Reservations
Want to dine at Be Our Guest Restaurant? Utilizing this benefit will be key to helping you obtain those hard-to-get dining reservations at the most popular Walt Disney World restaurants. So, how does this perk work?
The Rose Gallery at Be Our Guest Restaurant. Make an Advanced Dining Reservation!
Advanced Dining Reservations at WDW restaurants can be made 180 days prior to the date that you wish to reserve. Do you need to count the days? No. For years, I have used this handy tool.
The advantage for WDW Resort guests is that they can make a dining reservation 180 days prior to their check-in date PLUS make reservations for their entire stay (up to 10 days). No need to wait until the 180 day mark to reserve the buffet at Chef Mickey’s for the last morning of your vacation.
Make an Advanced Dining Reservation for Chef Mickey’s.
I don’t know what it is — maybe the Mickey-shaped waffles? — but even dining at a value resort’s food court is more fun than a value meal off-site.
Mickey Waffles — delicious for all ages!
And certainly, the resort sit down restaurants serve up delicious eats with interesting decor.
Make an Advanced Dining Reservation (ADR) at your resort hotel.
Off-site guests can dine at all restaurants on property (exception: pool bars with guest-only access), however it’s convenient to have these dining choices at your resort for breakfast, a mid-day meal, dinner, and/or a late night snack.
Disney Dining Plan
A Disney Dining Plan can be added to your hotel reservation. Some families like the convenience of pre-paying for their meals. If you book your trip with a Free Dining offer, you may save some serious cash off of your total vacation budget. Watch Disney’s Special Offers!
Adding a Disney Dining Plan to your WDW vacation package is a convenient way to pre-pay for your meals. No matter how it’s paid for, I love the Sweet and Sour Chicken at Yak and Yeti!
Our family prefers the flexibility of paying out-of-pocket so the value of this benefit depends on your vacation style.
If you find the perfect souvenir on your way to your FastPass+ at Expedition Everest, you may want to take advantage of Package Delivery.
Have your purchases sent to your Disney Resort.
You’ll have two options — pick up the package at the front of the park (for ALL theme park guests) or have it delivered to your Walt Disney World hotel’s gift shop. Either way, your hands are free!
Package Pick Up is available to all guests at Disney theme parks.
For an additional fee, you can have your treasures shipped home.
What are those colorful and waterproof bracelets that Disney guests are sporting? Well, they are not exactly the latest fashion craze. However, they are quite the magical tool given complimentary to WDW resort guests and annual passholders.
Believe it or not, those MagicBands are the key to Magical Express transportation, FastPass+ reservations, and theme park entry. Plus, guests can use their MagicBand to open their hotel room door, pay for purchases and dining, store Disney PhotoPass pictures, and more!
Use your MagicBand for access to the exclusive pool at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club.
Off-site guests can purchase bands after arrival.
Scan that band at any restaurant or store and you’ll have your purchases added to your hotel’s room account (if you’ve set up room charging privileges). This is part of the Disney Bubble that you have to be careful with as it’s easy to overspend. The convenience however is priceless.
Our teen son has been charging his food (and some souvenirs) to our room for years.
Buying a shirt with MagicBand!
Now, we don’t have to worry about lost room keys with charging privileges. It’s reassuring to know that the MagicBand is safe on Nic’s wrist for when he’s out exploring on his own and needs a beverage, snack, and/or meal.
Extra Magic Hours
With your Resort ID/MagicBand and a theme park ticket, your family can enjoy some extra time at select attractions in the parks. Check the official WDW calendar for morning and/or evening Extra Magic Hours being offered during your visit.
Watch for Extra Magic Hours.
Usually one park per day has extra hours in the morning or evening for resort guests.
We love early morning Extra Magic Hour at the Magic Kingdom!
Early FastPass+ Planning
A very handy perk is the ability to reserve select shows and attractions early. Using the My Disney Experience app or online tool, link your WDW hotel room and theme park tickets. After, you’ll have up to 60 days (30 days for off-site guests) before arrival to pre-book up to 3 FastPass+ experiences at one theme park per day. With early access to FastPass+ planning, you’ll get better availability and more of your preferred times.
Meet Anna and Elsa using the convenience of FastPass+
Want to ride Toy Story Midway Mania right before your dinner reservation? Just reserve an appropriate time. No need to run there first thing in the morning!
When our child was younger, we took advantage of the childcare facilities at Walt Disney World. Check in your child with well-trained staffed while you enjoy a date night, business meeting, or run a Disney 5K!
Lilo’s Playhouse is the Children’s Activity Center at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Kids are even provided a meal of their choice.
Walt Disney World is home to three championship golf courses. As a Disney resort guest, you’ll get advanced tee times as an added benefit.
Theme Park Admittance During High Crowds
You may have heard tales told of the Magic Kingdom closing due to high capacity. It’s true; I’ve seen it. If you are a resort guest, you’ll have preferred admittance once space is available! This is important on holidays such as New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Eve crowds in the Magic Kingdom.
Certainly, staying at an offsite hotel will cost less and you’ll likely get a larger room too. If this option suits your family’s budget best, I wouldn’t let it deter you from visiting Walt Disney World. You can have a magical visit while staying off-property.
However, if your budget allows, we recommend staying on-site at a Walt Disney World resort!
What are your favorite Walt Disney World resort perks? Are you staying onsite or offsite on your next trip?
by Kimberly LaPaglia | Apr 14, 2017 | Disney, News, Walt Disney World, WDW Resorts
Burn Ban Cancels Campfires at Walt Disney World Resorts
Orange County has announced a burn ban effective April 13, 2017. Extremely dry conditions in Central Florida have led to this state of emergency for the area, including the Walt Disney World Resorts.
Fire Pits will not be lit during the Orange County burn ban.
To comply with the fire restrictions, hotels at Walt Disney World have suspended campfire activities.
The outdoor fire restriction extends to all open flames including charcoal and wood grills, tiki torches (sorry Polynesian Village!), and personal fire pits and grills at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Note that personal propane grills are still allowed at campsites for cooking needs.
Tiki Torches will not be lit during the burn ban at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Are you at Walt Disney World during the burn ban? Let us know if you observe any other suspended activities.