Archives for posts with tag: Family
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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

Favorite Place Travel

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Not too long ago, we had the opportunity to take a quick trip to Austin, Texas on the same weekend as the Austin City Limits festival. The bad news: we had the kids in tow.  Austin City Limits (ACL) is billed as an “End of the Summer” music festival which takes place in Zilker Park, the Central Park of Austin.  Drawing acts from around the world, it ranks as one of the top music festivals in the nation.  Being from Chicago, I had visions of Lallapalooza-size crowds and not the most kid-friendly atmosphere (i.e. drunks wandering the streets). However, despite its unofficially tag line to “Keep Austin Weird” we were pleasantly surprised to find lots of kid-friendly (and adult-interesting) activities.

We were lucky enough to stay with family in the area saving us both money and lending their local know-how to the trip, but if you aren’t that lucky, hotels are plentiful, but book in advance, especially if there is a festival in town.  The downtown Austin area had all the major chain hotels while many boutique hotels can be found in South Austin.

The South Congress Area, located just past Lady Bird Lake, named for the former First Lady, is a great spot to get a flavor for the local people who are working hard to keep the unique, artsy vibe to one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S.  This area’s great mix of unique restaurants, boutiques, and independent shops kept not only the adults happy, but also the kids.

You can smell the leather of Allens Boots a store-front away and this huge store is filled with every type of cowboy boot imaginable, including ones emblazoned with the orange T of the University of Texas.  Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, there are plenty of family-friendly eating options including Home Slice Pizza, where they give the kids pizza dough to play with while waiting for their food.  Once you’ve filled up on pizza, be sure to check out the Big Top Candy Store, an old-school candy store filled with nostalgic, old time candy favorites and unique candy from Texas and beyond.

During the warmer months, the largest urban population of Mexican Free-Tailed bats hang out under the Ann Richard’s Bridge.  Around dusk, these bats leave the bridge to feed for the evening.   While normally this sounds like an area to avoid while 750,000 bats coming flying out of one spot, visitors and locals alike swarm to the spot to watch the bats take flight every night.  You can take a boat tour which cruises Lady  Bird Lake until they take off and then position themselves directly under the bridge (BTW, bats stink!) or watch from above on the bridge.

For history buffs, the Bob Bullock State History Museum is just a few blocks from the state capitol and tells the story of Texas from the Native Americans to today.  Also scattered around the city are signs of the city’s revolutionary past, which laid the groundwork for this city’s independent spirit. Replicas of the “Come and Take It” cannon which figured prominently in the Texas war of independence from Mexico and the “Come and Take It” flag depicting the cannon, the Lone Star and slogan, appear all over the city’s shops and galleries.

While we never made it to the ACL grounds, there was plenty to keep us busy and enough to hope for another trip to Austin soon.  The independent cowboy spirit mixed with an artist’s soul makes Austin the perfect place for everyone in your travel party.

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

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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.

Favorite Place Travel

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London has had a good few years…a royal wedding, the Queen’s Jubilee, the Olympics, and now a new baby in the Royal Family. The city has never looked better. The best part is prices on hotels have dropped dramatically, yet the splendor still exists. Even without the recent celebrations, London stands on it own as one of the world’s top destinations. The royal sites, theater, shopping, museums sell themselves to the city loving traveler out there. Many of the city’s top spots have done double duty for the Olympics, so London can appeal to the sports lover in your group too.

Lovely Hyde Park, worth a visit at any time for Diana’s Garden and the Speaker’s Corner, served as the triathlon grounds. Beach volleyball was played at the unlikely Horse Guards Parade at 10 Downing Street. That’s right – right next door to the Prime Minister’s house. Of course, Wimbledon not only hosted its famed tennis tournament earlier in the year, but also served as the home for tennis for the Games. It’s still worth a visit for tennis buffs when not hosting the tournament as it serves as home to the club’s museum which includes a tour “guided” by John McEnroe.

London definitely doesn’t dwell in the past and is constantly moving forward. Let your travel agent at  Favorite Place Travel plan your trip to show you the past, present and future of the world-class city of London and all it has to offer.

Contact Stacey at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com, 404.409.4174 or Susan at sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com, 708.479.4693.

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When you hear Disney World, you don’t automatically think foodie paradise, but from September through mid-November each year, EPCOT is transformed to exactly that, complete with celebrity chefs, wine tastings and over the top food experiences. If that isn’t enough for you, EPCOT’s International Food and Wine Festival pairs all the culinary delights with its Eat with the Beat concert series, featuring acts like Blues Traveller and Sister Hazel, and HGTV home entertaining seminars every weekend. If that’s still not enough, Housewife and SkinnyGirl Bethenny Frankel will host “A Discussion with Bethenny Frankel – Skinnygirl”, on November 3.

The Food and Wine Festival works for an adults-only trip or your family vacation, but certain events alone are worth a getaway. The Party for the Senses pairs dozens of food and wine pairings by both Disney and outside chefs, all while Cirque du Soleil performs in the middle. Wine and mixology seminars and culinary demonstrations from celebrity chefs such as Robert Irvine, Cat Cora and Andrew Zimmern round out the “must sees” for adult travelers (or travelers with babysitters or older kids).

The Festival provides plenty for those with small kids in tow as well. Booths dot the landscape around the World Showcase (the “countries” which make up EPCOT) featuring tasting menus from all the standard restaurants, allowing the opportunity to sample the fare from the not-so-little-kid-appropriate finer dining establishments. Additional booths feature local Florida specialties, a vegan outpost “Terra”, and specialties from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Poland and the Caribbean, among others. Wine and craft brews are also served around the “world” at each booth with recommended pairings for each dish.

Don’t let this year’s Food and Wine Festival pass you by. Let Favorite Place Travel book your trip today. Contact us at http://www.favoriteplacetravel.com.

I can ask a million people to define vacation  and I will get a million different answers.  For some, it is a specific location, i.e. the beach.  For some, it is a state of mind, i.e. relaxation.  For some, it is a method of change, i.e. not working, and the definitions are as varied as the people walking the earth.

Dictionary.com defines vacation below:

1.a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity,usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday:Schoolchildren are on vacation now.
2. a part of the year, regularly set aside, when normal activities of law courts, legislatures, etc., are suspended.
3.  freedom or release from duty, business, or activity.
What is your definition of vacation?
Renting a house on the beach with family?
A condo at a golf and tennis resort?
Escaping to a cabin in the mountains?
Backpacking through Europe?
Safari in Africa?
RV‘ing through the US and visiting all the sites along your journey?
A week immersed in a family-friendly theme park?
An all-inclusive resort in Mexico?
A cruise to the Caribbean?
These are only a few options available to someone wanting a vacation, but until you can define your purpose of vacationing, you will not be able to choose the best vacation experience.
My definition of vacation is  “a change in the status quo.”  A true vacation, in my opinion, is changing the course of your everyday habits, mixing it up, shocking your life with change.  This is true for your muscles when you workout, so why not for your life and vacation habits?
If you wake up each morning and check email, write contracts and talk on the phone, then either don’t do it at all or scale back considerably on vacation.  A great vacation option for you may be primitive camping, forcing yourself to be completely unplugged.
If you cook every meal for your family every day, you are not vacationing if you continue to cook every meal for your family while on vacation.  Perhaps an all-inclusive resort or cruise is the best vacation option for you.
If you are a golf pro, and you play golf everyday, I do not think a true vacation for you is visiting a golf resort.
If you find that you don’t have time to play with your kids after a hard day at work, or worse, you’ve forgotten how to play with your kids, I recommend a theme park vacation for your family.  This allows the adults to enjoy life from the child’s standpoint, racing from one thrill ride to the next, anxious with anticipation for what the next ride will bring.
Some people define vacation as a luxury, and I disagree with this definition.  Vacations, or a change in the status quo, do not have to be expensive or elaborate.  It is simply shaking up the norm.  If you drive into work everyday, take a few days and determine that you are not only not going to drive into work, but you are not even going to check your computer.

If you are vacationing with other people, for example your immediate family or extended family or friends, it is important that everyone’s vacation definition is understood and accommodated.  Renting a house at the beach with a full kitchen may be great for the kids who get to play in the sand all day and the parent who gets to lounge by the ocean reading a book or catching some zzz’s, but not so much for the parent left behind to make the meals, just like at home, or change the diapers, just like at home.  This would not equate a vacation to that person.  This is an example of someone returning and saying, “I need a vacation from my vacation!”

It is not always possible to completely remove yourself from all your normal responsibilities for a week away or a few days of change, but with your spouse’s or parent’s or friend’s  help, you can get some reprieve from them for a little while at least!

All of this is to say that we often settle for the vacation we have always done because thinking about what a vacation truly is to me is too much effort and will rock the boat…all the more reason you should mix it up!  What if the idea of searching for a different type of vacation is daunting…too many options available on the Internet!
Next time you are thinking of a vacation, be sure to contact Favorite Place Travel.  Favorite Place Travel is a travel agency with experience in travel all over the world, and we are ready to help you vacation!
Contact Stacey at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com, 404.409.4174 or Susan at sglover@favoriteplacetravel.com, 708.479.4693.

Stay tuned to http://www.favoriteplacetravel.com for an entertaining and informative blog about all types of travel and travel-related information.

Favorite Place Travel is a full-service travel agency eager to take the pain away from your travel planning.  Our agents are certified specialists in Disney, Universal Studios, Marriott Hotels and Resorts.  We have experience with travel in the US and internationally, including cruises, cross-country road trips, European travel and more!

If you are in need of assistance with a vacation or corporate travel, contact Stacey Gross at sgross@favoriteplacetravel.com or 404.409.4174!