Archives for posts with tag: CRUISE
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Olive oil flavoring in Tuscany

For those of you who know me personnally, you know that I am NOT a fan of staying home, or have some have so lovingly stated, I have “ants in my pants”. For years BC (before children) I (and then my husband and I) travelled often both in the US and throughout Europe.  Once the kids came along, I thought my days of travelling, especially to Europe, were over for a long time. Thankfully that was not the case.  A little planning can make travelling to Europe with kids of all ages can be as great as travelling without them.

So how do you do it? Here’s a few tips that can help you have an enjoyable trip with kids of any age.

  • Start small. Pick one location with a lot to do. Kids, especially the little ones, require a lot of “stuff”. Lugging that stuff between several stops for a night or two at a time can be wearing. Focusing on one location, like a big city, will give you the opportunity to see the highlights without having to move around a lot. Almost every big city will also have nearby day trip locations that will allow you escape the big city without having to lug your luggage. If you still want to see more than one city or country, then it is imperative to…
  • Plan ahead. Unfortunately winging it is hard, especially if you are travelling in high season which is during the summer, spring break or any school holiday.  A little research goes along way in making sure your trip is as family-friendly as possible.  Dinner at a 5-star restaurant, probably not, but maybe lunch there is an option with little ones.
  • Decide how you want to travel. Do you want to plan everything yourself or use an organized tour? Travelling independently allows you flexibility but you are also on your own.  Running to catch a train last minute is a lot harder with strollers, suitcases and little ones in tow.  If you go it alone, book your hotels, planes and trains ahead of time and allow plenty of time to get there. Consider family suites or connected rooms to give you more room to spread out. Rail passes are great but book your seats ahead of time so you are all sitting together.

What about a tour or cruise? Gone are the days when tours were only for old people or school groups following sweaty tour guides holding big flags with hordes of tired travelers behind them.  Today, many small-group, family oriented tours offer a great way to see Europe without having to worry about logistics.  Picking your location is as hard as it gets and the tour guides do the rest.  Travelling with family focused tours like Adventures by Disney or Tauck Bridges not only give you easy access to highlights of the top spots, but can, in many cases, give you unparalleled access that you just can’t get travelling on your own.  On a recent Adventures by Disney Viva Italia itinerary, stops not only hit Italian highlights like the Spanish Steps and the Vatican, but arranged for a private Sistine Chapel visit with only members of the tour (think 40 people instead of 1500).  Other irreplaceable highlights included an unscheduled stop at the American Cemetery outside Florence just as it was closing for the day.  Members of the tour then got to participate first-hand in the flag lowering ceremony and hear the cemetery manager describe the battles that led to Tuscany being freed from the Fascists.

Family tours also offer the opportunity for some couple time with organized “kids nights” where kids get some time away from their parents while parents get a few hours to themselves for dinner or a wine tasting.

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Pasta making is fun for everyone!

An organized tour does still require stops at various hotels. If the thought of packing and unpacking three or four times per trip is not for you, a European cruise may be the lowest maintenance form of family travel.  Several cruise lines of various price points, including Disney Cruise Line, Norwegian, and Princess, offer ocean-based cruises which skirt the entire European continent on different itineraries throughout the warmer months.  River cruises, such as Amawaterways, Viking or Avalon, allow families to experience Europe from its rivers making it easier to visit major cities without long bus rides from ocean cruise ports.    Adventures by Disney has even partnered with Amawaterways to create family-focused Danube River cruise itineraries.  These cruises allow you to traverse the Mediterranean, experience the Norwegian fjords and bike through Amsterdam while only unpacking once per cruise.

3.) Relax and go with it.  Travelling with kids can be unpredictable. Ice cream stops are a must and some museums or highlights will be missed, but so what? Will your 7-year-old remember the Louvre? Probably not. Will your 7-year-old remember splashing around in the fountain outside the Louvre? That’s more likely; and it’s certain that you will never forget it.  Kids have a way of making the most curmudgeonly hotel employee smile and offer you an excuse for ordering that dessert or riding the carousel.

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4.) Let someone else do the work.  Use a travel agent!  Yes, you can spend countless hours researching the best price on that hotel or trying to figure out the best way to get from one location to the other, but why?  Your efforts are best spent enjoying the time with your family, not figuring out what to do now that the French rail employees have declared a strike (and they will, especially on Fridays in the Summer!)

As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Travelling with your kids, either near or far, will instill in them a sense of adventure that no other experience can replicate. Let us help you give this gift to your children. Contact your Favorite Place Travel specialist today to get you and your family on the road.

Susan Glover
sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com
708.966.2344
Expertise: Family and luxury travel specializing in European and US travel, cruises, all-inclusives and itinerary planning.

Stacey Gross
sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com
404.409.4174
Expertise: Disney World, Universal Studios, LEGOLAND Florida, Disney Cruise, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise, all-inclusive Caribbean vacations, US family travel, travel sports teams, corporate travel-air, hotel, car

 

We are proud to announce that Favorite Place Travel has been voted Best Travel Agency in Gwinnett County, one of America’s fastest-growing counties for the past 20 years.

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Call your Favorite Place Travel agent to book your vacations!

Stacey Gross, sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com, Georgia office

Susan Glover, sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com, Illinois office

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I was a reluctant cruiser. After years of traveling through the US and Europe “independently,” setting our own schedule, stopping when we want to stop, eating when we want to eat, left me with a bias against cruises.  Someone else having control of my schedule just isn’t my thing, I’d tell friends and clients alike. But earlier this year, our family was made an offer we couldn’t refuse and next thing we knew, we were booking our cabin on a Spring Break cruise to the Bahamas on the Disney Dream.

We boarded the ship on Monday leaving Port Canaveral for our first stop in Nassau.  The ship’s lobby was gorgeous, very old Hollywood glamour, with a glass chandelier handmade in Italy, open ceilings and a touch of Disney with a bronze Admiral Donald Duck greeting passengers as they board.

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Others had told me that the ships weren’t overly “Disneyfied” and that was true.  Certainly Disney was present in its décor, but subtly so.  The biggest Disney characteristic was in the service provided on board.  The staff was accommodating beyond words. Our wait staff, Gilbert and Christina, who remained with us every night despite rotating through the onboard restaurants, entertained the children along with providing impeccable wait service.  The spa esthetician was the best I’ve experienced.

My husband found the workings of the ship itself fascinating.  Never having travelled on such a large vessel, watching the crew “park” and secure the ship, was amazing itself.  Watching the ship approach Nassau from our verandah, first a lighthouse, than a slip of land, then the massive Atlantis complex raised excitement from everyone.  However, the most excitement for the day was swimming with the dolphins at the Blue Lagoon, one of ship excursions. After an hour with the dolphins and a few more spent snorkeling in the crystal blue lagoon, we were well on our way to becoming cruise converts.  Going to dinner and a show then waking up in Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island, made us fully converted.

I would be remiss to not mention the Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab, the kids clubs for the younger kids onboard.  Our children chose to go for an hour or so each day after dinner.  During that time, my husband and I explored the ship’s adult areas.  My personal favorite was the swanky champagne lounge, complete with pink and silver décor and a bubble fixture and corset bar. While I think my husband probably preferred the sports bar, what was clear is that there was plenty to do without children on board.

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Champagne Bar

Perhaps the highlight of the trip, however, was Castaway Cay.  The morning began with the Castaway Cay 5K, crossing the island at my slow and other passengers much faster pace.  After the run, the beach provided plenty to do, from lounging to in-ocean waterslides and ropes area. The island itself has large family beach areas and adult beach area, bike trails and designated snorkeling areas.   Despite the cruise being completely booked, the island never felt crowded or cramped.  Snorkeling equipment and floats are available for rent.  Our favorite activities were swimming with the stingrays and snorkeling searching for the sunken “treasure” off the beach.

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After 5 days onboard, I must admit that never once did I tire of having the schedule set for us.  There were dozens of activities scheduled each day, but we never once felt pressured to do any of them. They were options, not requirements.  As the person who typically makes the plans on vacations, it was refreshing to not have to worry about where we were going to dinner or what we were doing on a particular day.  Would I want to cruise for every vacation? Probably not. Will I do it again? Absolutely.

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To book your trip or for more information, contact your favorite travel agent at Favorite Place Travel or call 404.409.4174.

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