Make the most of your family travel with tips for dads, by dads. Find travel ideas, vacation deals and the best destinations for families. Experienced team of multinational dads dispensing advice about family travel and being a dad.
There’s so much to talk about in 2018 at Disney Parks!
What to Expect out of this Podcast
Excuse me while we pick up the brain matter from our heads exploding. We’ve just finished this podcast, which you should listen to right now, and it’s all about Disney events in 2018. We’d say there are too many to list, but that’s a lie. We could list them all, but if we did that, you might not listen to the PODCAST. Check out the timeline so that you can skip to the pertinent parts. Remember though, every time you skip part of our podcast, another planet falls under Emperor Zurg’s control.
00:25 This podcast is dedicated to narcotics…tune in to find out why
02:38 Toy Story Land opens this summer, and it’s a really BIG deal
04:02 Kevin is attending the Social Media Mom’s Celebration at Walt Disney World
06:44 What rides are coming to Toy Story Land, and is it different in Walt Disney World than in Shanghai Disney?
Vader snapped this shot while attending the Social Media Moms Convention in 2018
08:33 Shanghai Disney’s Toy Story Land gets three attractions
10:04 Tokyo Disney is celebrating their 35th Anniversary this year!
12:00 Disneyland is getting some Incredibles new attractions.
13:00 Shed a tear for Paradise Pier at Disney California Adventure
14:45 Pixar Fest kicks off their inauguration this summer at Disneyland
15:38 This is the one Announcement you don’t want to miss
16:10 Animal Kingdom is celebrating their 20th Anniversary
17:50 Hong Kong Disney is getting some Moana love in 2018
DISNEY 2018 FOOD NEWS
2018 gives you many new oustanding food choices at Disney Springs. We breakdown almost all of the ones we know about, since we can’t breakdown ones we don’t know about….obviously
19:35 There’s an all new complex in Disney Springs with some steampunk vibes, live entertainment, and much more. Welcome, to The Edison
20:35 Terralina Crafted Italian takes the place of Portabello Country Italian. Same Head Chef, who won an award for having the best beard
21:50 Wine Bar George, not themed after George of the Jungle, opens Spring 2018
23:20 Maria & Enzos, giving you 75th Italian dining choice at Disney Springs
25:00 Mufasa shares some doubts about the design of Maria & Enzo’s
26:42 Two last restaurants round out The Edison, including a prohibition era bar, which looks stunning. Flappers encouraged
28:10 The Jaleo chain of restaurants by José Andrés joins Disney Springs in 2018. Should you go?
29:46 Disney Springs features more celebrity chefs than you can shake a stick at
STUMP THE HOST
31:20 We’re testing Vader’s Pixar knowledge in this stump the host. SPOILER: He needs WAY too many hints.
Maybe you haven’t been living under a rock. Perhaps you have other stuff going on and haven’t heard the name Daymon Patterson or his also-known-as name, Daym Drops.
If you haven’t heard of Daym, then you don’t know that while working in retail, he’d regularly slide into his car during lunch breaks and record himself talking about his food. Or that one such review of a Five Guys burger changed absolutely everything.
You can be forgiven for not knowing this, because we all have real high-priority stuff going on amid a roiling sea of other things vying for our attention. I mean, do you really need another YouTube video, another book, another dude talking to us about his food?
Yes, you do. Because Daym isn’t just another guy talking about his food.
Eating Across America
Daym’s experience with his food, his relationship with it, is the relationship you wish you had with your food. His work ethic, the one that enabled him to get what he has and go where he’s going, is the work ethic you wish you had. And he’s a good man, and a good husband, dad, and son. And not incidentally, he’s senior correspondent at large for Traveling Dad.
Yes, I’m a fan. So I am predisposed to talk favorably about his first-ever book, Eating Across America, and suggest you read it.
But don’t just take my word for it. Take it from a completely unbiased source, Daym’s mother:
Daymon S. Patterson…the man, the myth, the legend! His life is an open book. He is straightforward and he sugar coats nothing. I have known him his entire life and he encourages, amazes, and shows others how to attain their life’s desires. There is nothing one can’t attain if they want it bad enough.
In this book, he takes you on his personal life’s journey from beginning, middle, and present. There is no end because he is ever evolving, ever growing, and ever constant in his endeavors. He reaches, he teaches, and he entertains the masses through his food reviews, his spoken words, his guidance, and unending zest for what matters.
I truly hope all have enjoyed this book and gotten some more insight into the author and what motivates and drives him.
With Love, Mom,
(Excerpted from Eating Across America, March 2018, Mango Publishing Group)
Daym, me, + Traveling Mom founder Kim Orlando tcb’ing at a car show.
Here now, another taste
You likely don’t need me to repeat the book’s somewhat explicit subtitle but should you decide to crack the hard-back cover or download it on your Kindle you’ll find that the book is indeed a “foodie’s guide to food trucks, street food, and the best dish in each state.”
But when Daym talks about food, as his mom and I have noted, he doesn’t just talk about food. He’s demonstrating with every word why he’s been successful talking about it — his relatability, candor, humor, and something else you need to understand about good public speakers if you don’t already, they make their ability to clearly explain things in an entertaining way look easy. It’s not.
With that in mind, here’s another taste of Eating Across America, in which Daym suggests that “what stands out about a home cooked meal is that you can actually taste the LOVE and preparation in these dishes.”
A relationship thrives when there are strong reasons to be in one and I suppose my love-hate relationship with technology is so strong because the reasons to love and hate it are as boundless as they are compelling.
And it seems I’m not alone.
In a survey conducted for Ford, “47% of adults globally agree that there is a dark side to technology that’s making us dumber, while 63% claim it makes us less polite.”
Perhaps, like me, you have a child who is smart but who has the capacity to be smarter. But as long as he has his phone in hand and earbuds implanted — so that every question we ever ask is met with an infuriating “What?” – he is not reading, which, I hope we all agree, makes you smarter. So his phone is making him dumber. And yes, that’s my fault.
That tech is making us less polite, less aware, less present, I don’t even know where to start. Plus, I’m going to need to make a point soon.
Hey, a point…
In the aforementioned survey it was also reported that “61% of adults globally agree that technology has a more positive than negative impact on children’s development– but in the U.S., more than half disagree.”
But it’s not as simple as just agreeing or disagreeing, am I right? And that’s where the love-hate thing comes in.
Sure I hate it that if my kids phones and I are in the same room, they love their phones more than me, but on the other hand, I love that we can call or text with each other anytime or that we can check their assignments and grades online. And one of the more unexpected things I love is that my eldest daughter several cities away can video chat with her baby sister and brother for hours at a time, and that I’ll get a “Hi, Dad,” if she happens to notice me passing through the room.
So where does all of this leave us? The cute subheads for the previous stats are “Tech Spiral” and “Parenting Trap,” which for me underscores that we all – car company, survey maker, parents – are aware that there isn’t a simple answer. But this quote from Ford in-house futurist Sheryl Connelly in Are We There Yet, the report in which those statistics appear, helps to frame the love-hate relationship perhaps a bit more clearly than I:
Technology has made life more convenient and efficient – nowhere is this more true than in travel. Yet we also have shorter attention spans, lower retention capacities and a greater likelihood to allow gadgets to do our thinking for us. And as parenting styles proliferate, so, too, does judgment – particularly when it comes to tech’s role in child-rearing.
That bit about parenting styles and judgment proliferating gives me pause because what I think Connelly means is that soon, there will be no right or wrong way to do anything. That’s an over-interpretation, perhaps, but I fear that’s where we might be headed. She goes on to say that “road trips are an opportunity to better engage children with shared experiences through technology, leveraging their digital aptitudes to share in planning and entertainment decisions as a family.”
Actual Travel Information
That last part of Connelly’s statement is where I stop treading water and can feel my feet touch the sandy bottom of the ocean floor again. Yes, in-vehicle tech is useful… the navigation apps, USB ports, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled everything that do enable the kids to keep themselves and us entertained on the road… and yet, and yet…
… if the journey can be as enjoyable as the destination, as Connelly touches on in the report (she also elaborates on what she and Ford describe as the “future of the road trip” in this podcast) , what are we doing to connect with our kids adjacent to or outside of technology when we travel with them?
That’s touched on but not entirely spelled out in the Ford report, so perhaps this is where Traveling Dad and Traveling Mom can be of some assistance.
While in a rental car recently on the way to mother-in-law’s house, my daughters took turns syncing their phone playlists to the car’s audio system and curated the music for hours at a time… but then there came a moment where they stopped the music and launched into Nicki Manaj’s “Starships” a capella, like they did in the old days, my younger daughter starting off the song flawlessly and then totally messing up, and then everybody would laugh and they’d start again. How nice would it be to do a whole car ride a capella? It would be sort of nice.
The founder of Traveling Mom, Kim Orlando, doesn’t mess around when it comes to making her kids try something, and in this video, which many people think is apocraphyl but it’s not, it’s right here… she bribes her kids to give up their phones for a while on a family vacation.
Family Travel Aruba: Aruba Family Travel Video PostCard™ - YouTube
There’s much, much more content at both Traveling Mom and Traveling Dad having to do with family travel and tech and many other topics you could likely use some help with. But for now, maybe stop reading blog posts and play with your kid, because neither of you are getting any younger.
Greetings from Patagonia, the inspiration for this review of our unforgettable trips!
As parents of 6 & 3 year olds, sometimes we just need a break.
A break from kids & daily life.
A break from work & household chores.
A break to spend time together as a couple instead of just being mom & dad.
This is our 3rd post-kids break without the kids, and as long as we have grandparents willing to look after the kids, we will keep taking them.
Pre-kids my wife & I spent years racking up the miles running off to exciting destinations.
Many of those trips were to places we would love to return to one day with the kids.
But many of them are better WITHOUT kids.
These are the trips we take as a couple now, in order to maximize our global footprint.
If you’re thinking of taking a kid-free break, below are a few suggestions to inspire you to go ahead & book it.
12 Unforgettable Trips (Without The Kids)
Here are 12 unforgettable trips my wife & I have taken without kids.
Off-roading through the desert in Oman, 2012
In 2012 we were living in London.
We left our 2 year old home with her grandparents & took off for a week in Oman.
It’s probably not your first choice in vacation location, but you should add it to your list.
Oman is as diverse as it is exotic.
We spent a few days in the capital city of Muscat followed by a road trip around the country.
The photo above says it all – the untouched dessert in Oman makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
Los Roques is a group of islands in Venezuela & has been designated a natural park.
Island hopping in Los Roques, 2010
A fisherman’s paradise, Los Roques is filled with exotic animals and pristine beaches.
We stayed in a hotel, but then everyday we hopped into a boat & spent the day exploring a different beach.
The craziest was a beach in the middle of the sea (literally) that only appears for a few hours during low tide – if you are at all claustrophobic, I don’t recommend this beach (my wife had a mild freak-out).
For our honeymoon, we spent 1 month in my home country of Brazil.
This gave us plenty of time to see many parts of the country, since Brazil is roughly the same size as the USA.
We spent a few days in the incredible Amazon rainforest.
Canoeing through the Amazon’s flooded forest, 2009
This canoe ride through Amazon’s flooded forest was packed full of natural beauty.
From massive snails & pink river dolphins to sloths hanging from trees & crocodiles swimming through the water, if you’re looking for exotic creatures, visit the Amazon.
We went to a wedding in Katmandu, Nepal in 2008 and the amazing groom arranged for his friends to take a flight past the Himalayas to see Mt Everest.
Flying past The Himalayas in Nepal, 2008
If you’re not afraid of flying in small planes, Yeti Airlines (no joke) offers a fly-by tour of the Himalayas with outstanding views.
It is a bumpy ride through the mountains to get there, but it’s a trip of a lifetime.
During that same trip to Nepal, we stopped over in India & visited the Taj Mahal in Agra.
The infamous Taj Mahal in 2008
We visited Delhi, Agra and Jaipur as part of the Golden Triangle tour.
The transportation & hotels were very comfortable but the trip itself had a few hairy moments.
The actual drive was insane – with cars traveling directly toward each other at shockingly high-speeds, dodging not only other cars but people, animals & scooters with families riding on them.
It was great that we saw the Taj Mahal when we did because the day after the photo above was taken, my wife was sick as a dog (don’t forget to pack the Imodium).
I had a business trip to Peru, so my wife tagged along & we went a few days early to visit Machu Picchu.
At the top of Machu Picchu in Peru, 2016
Believe it or not, it’s possible to do Machu Picchu over a long weekend trip.
We took buses and trains, but it was easy enough to get up to Machu Picchu and the view does not disappoint.
How this civilization was built up in the mountains is beyond me, and it’s even more impressive in person.
Yes, there is a baby in this picture.
Waiting for the geiser in Iceland, 2015
We TOOK our kids (including our 9 month old) on a family trip to Iceland.
Don’t get me wrong, this WAS one of those unforgettable trips.
In hindsight however, we would have seen a lot more of the country had we not brought the kids.
Visiting Iceland feels like a visit to the moon & there is so much to explore & experience that it’s worth at least waiting until the kids are out of diapers.
I was looking to use up my British Airways miles, so we ended up in Zanzibar.
White sandy beaches of Zanzibar, 2008
Often people travel to Zanzibar after a week on their African safari.
We skipped the safari this time & spent a week relaxing in a beach resort.
Everyone we met was friendly & laid back & the island offers as much or as little as you want to do.
One of the best trips we ever took was through the Greek Islands – by sailboat.
We rented a sailboat big enough to sleep 8 with a few other friends.
The boat came with a captain who took us all around the islands for a week.
We went where the wind & the weather dictated, sleeping on the boat at night.
Sailboating through the Greek Islands in 2005
There were countless beaches to check out, & towns to visit.
If you’re looking for a romantic holiday – this is a great choice.
In 2009 we went for a friend’s wedding to Cairo, Egypt, so of course we stopped by the Pyramids.
Egyptian Pyramids, 2009
This visit blew out many of my preconceptions.
Of course the Pyramids are ancient, but the vast tourism built around the attraction is very modern.
You can actually go into the Pyramids, but only through crowded, narrow tunnels.
They are much larger than they appear, with massive individual stones.
It’s a city-break for sure, but if you’re in the area, you have to see the Pyramids.
Havana, Cuba is another step back in time.
The infrastructure may be dated, but the energy & passion of the people is refreshing.
Vintage car tour through Havana in 2017
Cuba is SO CLOSE to South Florida but suddenly it feels like we’ve been transported thousands of miles away.
While hopping on a jet to some far off tourist destination is always on our minds, but what happens when you just don’t have the extra time or money for a week long retreat? An alternative many overlook is planning a local vacation. Set aside a few days and stick close to home. You’ll be surprised at how many activities and unique experiences are available within a short drive.
I’m not fond of the term ‘staycation.’ It takes the wind out of the sails and all too often articles I see about staycations involve nothing more than doing the same things you would resort to stuck in the house on a rainy day. Treat this as a vacation, a new adventure, or it’ll fall flat.
For starters, consider about the types of activities you enjoy on a typical vacation, then think about how many of those things you can enjoy right in your own town and not far beyond. Once you realize just how much fun you can have without the time and expense of a traditional vacation, it’s time to start planning your own local travel adventure.
Just as you would do for a regular vacation, decide how many days you can set aside and a budget. The beauty of a local vacation is that even a long weekend can be fun and affordable. Once you have your budget and timing worked out, those factors will help determine just what to do with your time. The next decision is deciding where to stay.
Booking a hotel near your own home may seem odd, but for some it is the best way to sever the bonds of responsibility we seek to escape from in our daily lives. Scout properties the same way you would for a traditional vacation. Amenities, style, activities, location, and price. Something as simple as a comfy motel with a great pool for the kids and spa for the adults might be all you need for a fun weekend.
You may want to even go a little further and find an all inclusive resort or town nearby to explore. We often take the hour drive to the quaint town of Frankenmuth, MI for a quick 1 or 2 night getaway. It’s a wonderful little town with a water park hotel for my daughter to enjoy, world famous chicken dinners, and fun shops. Look at what is a short drive from your neighborhood, while still keeping it local.
If you’re budget doesn’t have room for a hotel, remember to avoid all sense of routine and responsibility at home. Treat home as you would your hotel and not the place for your activities.
Choose a Theme for Your Local Vacation
Take a look around your area and come up with some possible themes for your local vacation. Do you want to focus on the kids or fun for the whole family? Or how about an adults only retreat, something that is exceedingly rare for us. Themes ideas could include exploring local history, a festival weekend, foodie adventures, or a romantic getaway.
While planning road trips for this year, it occurred to me just how much I was missing in my own town. I had become so focused on playgrounds and other places suited for my daughter when she was young that I tuned out everything else. Now that she is older, we can appreciate the historic buildings on Main street, hiking at the parks, and maybe even take up fishing.
Some useful planning tools include the local library, tourism offices, and blogs. Libraries typically have several brochures about local events and activities. Many small towns have tourism offices that can point you to hotels, a bed and breakfast, or new restaurants. Look for local bloggers who may have a calendar of events and reviews of local businesses. One of my favorite tools is Google Maps. Just zoom in and scroll around your area to see what places pop up. I’ve discovered many small parks and new businesses this way.
Choose some activities for your local vacation based on the theme. Here are some ideas:
As you can see, staying local for a short and affordable vacation can be just as exciting as jetting off to a tourist destination. Take the time to look around next time you’re running an errand you’ll be surprised at what you notice. For example, I recently discovered the corner store I’ve been going to for years is actually an old train depot. Use some creativity to plan a fun themed vacation for the whole family, or just an adults escape. You may find that local vacations will become part of your new routine.
Ever wonder where all of those metal historical markers come from? Probably not, but I had a chance to tour the Sewah Studios facility and watch as the craftspeople there created some new signs. Read more about my adventure here.
Vader gets a special greeting from Captain Jack Sparrow
Have you ever thought to yourself, “I think I’ll go for a run where I’ll encounter costumed people with enormous heads?” Us too! That’s why Vader registered for a runDisney event at Walt Disney World in 2009, and also why Mufasa and family registered for a family 5K in 2017. We’ll tell you all about it in this week’s episode of the Don’t Make Me Pull This Flying Elephant Over podcast. Check out the timeline below if you want a sneak peek at what’s to come. Or, just sit back and click the play button at the top of the page and listen to all 35 glorious minutes of two out of shape Disney nerds talking about running.
00:23 Longest Podcast Dedication Ever?
01:40 Time to talk runDisney! What is runDisney you may ask? Have you been living in a cave!?!
02:49 If you want to find out all of the events at your disposal, then this is where to head in the podcast
03:30 Vader shares his almost-marathon experience from Walt Disney World back in 2009
04:04 This tip is really critical to you enjoying Disney before or after your runDisney event
09:00 It’s at this moment in the podcast where you discover the moment that Vader’s marathon ended (spoiler, it wasn’t at mile 26…)
09:16 Did we just tell you to wear a fanny pack during your run? Yes, yes we did
11:24 If there’s one takeaway to Vader’s runDisney marathon, it’s…
12:30 Mufasa gives his impressions on his family’s runDisney event in Disneyland Paris
13:30 There are some very special character greetings during runDisney, and we share a few of our favorites
Mufasa and his family stopped during their run because who could pass up a picture with Quasimodo and Frollo?!
15:37 runDisney events take you to special parts of the park, frequently off-limits to guests, does this alone make it worth it?
19:00 Vader shares one of his favorite moments where some characters gave him a personal shout-out!
21:00 Mufasa BREAKS INTO SONG! You gotta listen to find out why.
21:40 Challenges add an extra dimension of fun and challenge to any event. Are they worth it?
24:45 If you find yourself in Disneyland Paris, which I’m sure happens often, there’s a special challenge that you can only complete part of while here
26:33 Mufasa is here to tell you all about the virtual half-marathon that runDisney has started, and why you should run…for the hills, and not for Disney
27:54 Sometimes, unplanned moments create the best memories. Mufasa’s daughter showed him that while his wife was on her half-marathon
29:40 There’s a really big different when registering for a runDisney event at Walt Disney World compared to Disneyland Paris, and it’s a huge hit to your wallet
What is the best Disney Cruise ship? That’s kind of like trying to pick your favorite child, but we’re going to give it a shot!
Our family loves to cruise! One of our favorite cruise lines is Disney Cruise Line. We have been on over 20 Disney Cruises, so we do cruise on Disney a lot. We are always asked, “which is our favorite Disney Cruise ship?” I hope this helps you plan your next Disney Cruise vacation.
Best Disney Cruise Ship
As I mentioned, it’s hard to pick just one Disney Cruise ship; they’re all amazing! I took a look at amenities on board each ship and took into account some less tangible criteria, such as how the ship “feels.” I’m going to list them from “worst” to best, if there is such a thing. How about from good to better to best. Yeah, I like that better.
No. 4: Disney Fantasy
The Disney Fantasy is the newest Disney Cruise ship. It is huge with a possibility of over 4,000 guests. It is an amazing ship, but can often feel a little too big. There is still lots to love about the Disney Fantasy. Here are some of my favorites on board the Disney Fantasy.
The Aqua Duck water roller coaster is amazing! The entire family just loves this water roller coaster. It is clear, so you can peek over the edge of the ship or down into the pool area. This water slide is even more fun during the Pirate Night festivities. You find the AquaDuck on the Disney Fantasy and the Disney Dream ships.
The are a lot of characters and shows in the atrium area. The Disney Fantasy is nice, because it is a much larger atrium. It is not quite as crowded during events and character meet and greets. The Disney Dream also has a similar large atrium.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique/Pirates League
All of the Disney Cruise Ships have the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. During the days, you can turn into a Prince or Princess. On Pirate Night, you can turn into a Pirate or even a mermaid.
The Disney Fantasy does have a lot of amazing amenities. However, the other Disney Cruise ships have been through magical enhancements that make them a little more exciting. Although the Fantasy also went through magical enhancements in May of 2017, nothing was added that I feel competes with the enhancements on the other ships (a Tiffany store, removing hot tubs for family splash areas, some re-shuffling of stores, etc.). With that in mind, I rank the Disney Fantasy in the #4 spot.
No. 3: Disney Magic
For years following the Magic’s “re-imagining,” it was, by far, my favorite Disney Cruise ship. The Oceaneer’s Lab and Club are amazing (since over-shadowed by the Wonder and the Dream’s own enhancements), the AquaDunk is so much fun, and I really prefer the smaller ships.
This older cruise ship accommodates around 2,400 guests. The smaller size really makes it easier to get around and not feel as crowded. Here are some additional details about why I love the Disney Magic.
Tangled the Musical and the Snuggly Duckling
The Disney Magic has a newer Broadway style show called Tangled the Musical. This show is incredible for Tangled Fans, young and old. After the show, the Tangled fun continues with the Snuggly Duckling bar with games, music, food, and fun from some funny characters. Then, it continues with a special themed dinner. It is a lot of fun!
Disney Cruise Goofy Day at Sea! | Disney Christmas Cruise | Tangled - YouTube
The Disney Magic is the only Disney Cruise ship with the Aqua Dunk. Get ready for a big thrill! You stand with your arms and legs crossed, while the floor comes out from under you. Then, you are whisked away in a clear waterslide zooming around the ship. This is one of my favorite rides on the Disney Cruise ships.
No. 2: Disney Wonder
Our 2nd favorite Disney Cruise ship is the Disney Wonder. The Disney Wonder recently went through a magical enhancement and is amazing. There is so much to love on this ship!
During the re-imagining, Disney Cruise added Tiana’s Place to the regular dining rotation; named after the same venue in The Princess and the Frog. You’ll feel like you just stepped into Mardi Gras and enjoy the treats of New Orleans when you visit this unique dining location on the Disney Wonder.
Disney Cruise Disney Wonder Reimagined Day 1 #DISNEYSMMC - YouTube
Frozen Adventures in Children’s Programming
During the dry dock, the Disney Wonder got a new addition in the Oceaneer Club (Children Programming.) They now have a section called Frozen Adventures. This fun area is themed after Frozen and even includes a few friends.
Frozen, A Musical Spectacular
To continue the Frozen theming, the Disney Wonder has a new show called Frozen, A Musical Spectacular. This show truly is spectacular. One of my favorite parts of the show is when it snows in the theater…yes, actual show in the islands!
Disney Cruise 2017 Day 3 in Castaway Cay on Disney Wonder #DisneySMMC - YouTube
With these newer additions and the smaller size of the Disney Wonder, I rank this ship as our 2nd favorite among the Disney Cruise fleet.
No. 1: Disney Dream!
Our favorite Disney Cruise Ship is the Disney Dream. This cruise ship is a sister ship to Disney Fantasy, but it has had a few more magical enhancements that make it even more amazing! Some of our favorite things on the Disney Dream include:
Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats
Do you like Wreck it Ralph? You will love this sweet shop. You can enjoy sweet treats, candy, ice cream, and gelato. This is such a fun addition to the Disney Dream. There is a small fee for these items, so keep that in mind during your cruise.
Star Wars Millennium Falcon
The kids love the Millennium Falcon in the Oceaneer’s Club, but Tim and I do, too. Throughout the Disney Cruise vacation, they offer Open Houses. This is the opportunity for the whole family to explore the Oceaneer Lab and Club. I love sitting in Han Solo’s seat and driving the Millennium Falcon!
Beauty & the Beast Show
Disney recently hosted the opening of the Beauty and the Beast Show. This show is simply amazing! The technology and set design alone is just spectacular. I am a huge fan of the original Beauty and the Beast movie. I am glad this new show is just as amazing!
New! Disney Cruise Beauty and the Beast Show on the Disney Dream - YouTube
Our entire family agrees that the Disney Dream is the #1 ship in the Disney Cruise Line fleet. There are more ships to come in 2021. Who is excited about more Disney Cruise ships?
Coincidentally, many members of the TDAD team will be traveling aboard the Disney Dream the last week of February! Be sure to stay tuned to TravelingDad.com and the hashtags #TDAD and #DisneySMMC to keep up with all the fun aboard the Disney Dream.
Do you want a winter wonderland vacation? Look no further than Minnesota’s North Shore!
Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior really provides a hidden winter wonderland to travelers willing to brave the harsh cold and frequent snows of Minnesota.
O Canada! Visiting Grand Portage and Thunder Bay - YouTube
Considered the “off-season,” winter on Minnesota’s North Shore finds many businesses closed for the season, due to lack of tourists. This makes for a wonderful experience for those willing to embrace the cold and venture into the great white North, as many places and opportunities remain open and ready for visitors.
During our recent winter wonderland adventure (we drove from Florida…yes, seriously), we were able to go sledding, hiking (to frozen waterfalls, no less), snowmobiling, skiing, snowboarding, and enjoyed cozy nights by the fire. We could have also gone snowshoeing or ice fishing.
Minnesota’s North Shore Grand Portage High Falls
If you’re a winter activities enthusiast, Minnesota’s North Shore provides a truly hidden gem with almost no crowds and plenty to offer!
My favorite experience in this winter wonderland was snowmobiling in the Superior National Forest. We found two businesses that offered snowmobiling, but one was closed for the season (huh? why would you close a snowmobiling business in the winter?). So, we went with the only option available and it was awesome!
Hungry Jack Lodge sits on Hungry Jack Lake about 30 miles from Grand Marais, Minnesota. Just one mile from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, this remote resort provides a welcome respite in the wilderness.
One of the main areas for snowmobilers to get gas, they also rent snowmobiles to tourists, like us.
Hundreds (maybe thousands) of miles of beautifully groomed trails surround Hungry Jack Lodge, including on Hungry Jack Lake. We were a little nervous about getting lost, but the trails were really well marked and we had a blast!
My son even got to drive!
It snowed almost the whole time we were snowmobiling. Giant, fluffy snowflakes added to the beautiful landscape and creating a picturesque winter wonderland.
We did not see a single snowmobile on the trails while running around for over 20 miles and 2-1/2 hours. It was spectacular!
Two snowmobiles, for an all day rental, cost about $460. We thought this was pretty reasonable, as one snowmobile for a couple hours in the Rockies would cost about the same.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Lutes Mountain, in the very heart of Minnesota’s North Shore, offers the largest ski resort in the Midwest with 95 ski runs, 4 mountains, and 875′ of vertical rise.
We visited Lutsen Mountains twice during our 9 day visit to Minnesota’s North Shore. Neither day was busy, by any stretch. In fact, the first day (a Wednesday), there was almost no one at the ski resort.
Although we didn’t get a chance, Lutsen also rents snowshoes for $15 for 24 hours (in case you want to take a night hike to see the Northern Lights). We thought that was an incredible deal!
Ski lift tickets were $92 per adult and $75 per child under 12, but we went on a Thursday and it was 50% off, so check for deals!
Finding a good, local sledding hill was a must for our winter wonderland adventure. After a visit to the local Cook County CVB, we found one tucked away in the municipal campground and it was great!
We spent many hours on the hill and only once did we encounter other people. A sledding hill, all to ourselves? Yes, please!
We also hiked to two different waterfalls. They were frozen, of course.
Cascade River Falls
There were at least half a dozen more hikes and waterfalls to visit and we just ran out of time. On the two hikes, we encountered exactly one other group of people. Neither one cost us a dime.
Minnesota’s North Shore: A Winter Wonderland
Between the seemingly unlimited activities to keep us occupied, the lack of crowds, and the low cost of everything, Minnesota’s North Shore provided the winter wonderland we could only dream of when planning our snowy winter trip away from the tropical South.
Of course, we could have visited Colorado, Utah, or Whistler for bigger mountains, deeper snow, and better skiing. But, we would have had to fight crowds (we do enough of that at home in Disney), paid two to three times as much, and not had nearly as much FUN!
No one could understand why Floridians would travel to Minnesota’s North Shore in the winter. From all appearances, even Minnesotans don’t visit in the winter. However, it provided an amazing travel adventure to our family. One we won’t soon forget and will likely repeat, next winter.
In December, my family and I were taking our first trip together to India, where my grandmother was turning 100 (another story). We had booked our outbound flight on Cathay Pacific, excited given we had heard so many good things about them.
Our experience with them couldn’t have gone worse. Our flight was SEA – SFO on Alaska Airlines then SFO – HKG on Cathay Pacific and lastly HKG – BLR. We had a perfectly normal flight from Seattle when everything fell apart. In SFO, around 9pm and despite having a paper ticket in hand from American Airlines (we booked using miles), Cathay Pacific kept claiming they couldn’t check in our lap infant. We had paid over $500 for the ticket and they said it wouldn’t work. They wouldn’t even try for more than a minute or two and then just told us to call American or go to the domestic terminal and walked away. We first dealt with Karita, a completely rude employee who didn’t care at all about what was happening and was kept turning away when we tried to approach her.
My wife called American and I ran to the American terminal, but they both told us there were no problems on their end. We went back to the Cathay counter and tried to talk to 2 other employees, Jenny and Zu. Both of them were as rude as Karita, not even attempting to try anything for us or to talk to the American agent on the phone. We spent an hour with kids CRYING at this point given it was way after their bedtime.
Finally, we just offered to pay again and all 3 of the agents said they didn’t know how to process a payment! After we kept pressing them, they asked their supervisor, Bryan. He finally agreed to issue a new ticket (almost $600 more), but took 30 minutes to process it. Then, he told us they couldn’t find our luggage and he wasn’t sure if we’d get it on our flight. He told us he couldn’t give us our luggage tickets either and told us to ask at the gate. This night of misery had already run almost 2 hours and the kids (and we) were very tired.
We finally left, rushing to make the flight. We went through security and got to the gate at boarding and saw that Karita, Jenny and Zu were there. We had to ask them for luggage tags and they refused to give them to us. They again walked away when finally we had to yell at them to come back and give us our tags. They laughed at us, but we wouldn’t give up and finally they printed our tags.
This was absolutely the worst experience we had ever had on any airline, compounded by the fact that they made our kids cry without any care. Their level of widespread callousness and unprofessionalism was astounding, not to mention they cost us $600 more than we should have paid. Every single member we dealt with was disrespectful and even lied to us about the luggage tags.
I strongly urge anyone thinking about flying them to reconsider given their horrible treatment.