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Road trip Essentials when Traveling with Teens, Why Every Family should Go RVing before your Kids Grow Up, Go RVing, family travel, Cape Hatteras, Camp Hatteras, Rodanthe, North Carolina, Outer Banks, Winnebago, WinnebagoLife

Traveling with teens this summer? Making one last road trip for Labor Day? What are your road trip essentials when traveling with teens? I’ve been really laser-focused on the fact that we only have a few more precious summers left with the girls living at home. If we’re being honest, I’d like to just hide them inside the house and keep them all to myself for the next few years but alas, being a mom means raising good human beings that can go out into the world and thrive, do all the good human things. It’s my duty as a mom to help make the world a little less crappy by populating it with awesome little people.

Firstly, don’t be afraid to travel with your teens. Traveling with teens on road trips is a lot less painful than you might imagine and certainly less suicide-thought inducing as traveling with toddlers in Christmas traffic. Holy shit, I’ll never do that again. Well, maybe one of these days with grandkids but the same rules don’t apply when you didn’t birth them yourself, right?

READ ALSO: The TRUTH about Parenting Teenagers

My point is that teenagers are pretty awesome. They’re funny, full of personality and they can pump gas and go buy snacks. I’ve grown to love long road trips, especially in an RV, because being trapped in the car with your husband and kids for 18 hours really does say I love you. But more importantly than that, spending that kind of time traveling to new places, talking to fill the space and being in such close proximity to one another really is a recipe for making memories, inside jokes and bonding.

road trip essentials when traveling with teens, Why Every Family should Go RVing before your Kids Grow Up, Go RVing, family travel, Cape Hatteras, Camp Hatteras, Rodanthe, North Carolina, Outer Banks, Winnebago, WinnebagoLife

You may find yourself exhausted and tired of being trapped in a car or traffic or even a little frustrated while it’s happening but you will always make the most beautiful, subtle and nostalgic memories that you could ever imagine. Trust me. You want to do this before they go off to college.

Road Trip Essentials when Traveling with Teens

A Clean Car

Make sure the car is clean, free from clutter and the heat/ air is charged and working. Don’t find this shit out the wrong way.

Carpool Karaoke Mic

We received the Carpool karaoke mic for review purposes and it has been so much fun. My girls love to sing in the car, so do the Big Guy and I so this was the perfect addition to our road trip essentials.

Apple Music

We could not survive a road trip without all of our favorite music and playlists. No matter the genre or your mood, you can always find what you’re looking for to serenade you in the soundtrack to your life.

Hand Sanitizer

This is a no-brainer. Messes happen. Germs happen. Things get sticky when you’re eating and driving or karaoking in the back seat. No one wants to eat chips with gas pumping hands. Be safe, bring the sanitizer.

All the Snacks

We usually hit up the local supermarket or Walmart and get a good assortment of fresh fruit and already washed and cut veggies to snack on in the car. But a few other favorites are coconut and chocolate Lar Bars, wasabi and Himalayan sea salt dark chocolate almonds, Bubly preferably in Blackberry, San Pellegrino, toasted coconut Oikos and Cheese sticks to name a few.

Bluetooth headphones for everyone

Sometimes you, they, he just wants to tune out the other people in the car and listen to some tunes they want to listen to. You can only listen to Baby Shark and laugh as a family so many times before someone goes bat shit crazy and drives the car into a guard rail.

Entertainment

An Ipad for Streaming movies on Hulu, Netflix, prime and watching Youtube is a necessity. But if your teen is extra to the extreme, bring along all the Tarte makeup and be entertained while they film their own make-up tutorials or Tik Tok themselves silly. Truly, it’s entertaining for the entire family. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Electronic chargers, Sneaker boxes

There is nothing so somber and woeful as a teen without charged electronic devices. They are great until you cut them off cold turkey from their electronics. For my girls, it’s not even being on the devices so much as it is having the security of the option to do so.

Pillows and fuzzy blankets

We all need and like to be comfortable when on a long road trip. For all the time spent bonding, we are, for all intent and purposes, in very close proximity to one another and sometimes you just need your space so the least you can do is be comfortable as to alieve any unnecessary aggravation and a nap and rest seems to do the job on many levels.

Money

Carry some cash and make sure that you’ve got a card “for emergencies”. Nothing ruins a road trip faster than being broke.

Games that prompt conversation Get to know your kids on the road

We have several games like would you rather, have you ever, conversation starters that really let you get to know your children and vice versa.

READ ALSO: Growing up too fast

We really do have so few summers with our children. When they are little days and hours seem to go on forever. We linger there wishing it to go faster and then before we know it, hours fade into days and time speeds up so fast that just as we are beginning to really know and like our children, they leave us. Make the moments count. They won’t all be winners and every moment won’t be special but together really is better than apart.

What’s at the top of your list of road trip essentials when traveling with teens?

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Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Earlier this summer, we visited Portland Maine for the first time. I made of list of things to do in Portland Maine with teens and kids this summer. I fell in love with the state of Maine a few years ago on our first trip to Ogunquit and it’s been our summer New England vacation spot since. There is just something about Maine in the summertime that I find to be beyond quaint and charming. It is one of the most peaceful and relaxing vacations I’ve ever experienced.

Earlier this year, I was invited to visit Portland Maine and experience all that Portland has to offer but as many of you remember, I fell the week before I was supposed to fly out. I savagely dislocated my elbow and flying was not an option. Luckily, my family was headed to our annual Boston trip in June so I knew I had to get to Portland check it out.  I was not disappointed.

Disclosure: I was hosted by Visit Portland for some of this trip so that I could experience some of the local flavor of Portland Maine but all opinions are my own.

We stayed in our first ever Holiday Inn By the Bay. It was right in the heart of Portland with a breathtaking view of the Casco Bay from our rooms. Yes, rooms, for the first time ever we got adjoining rooms with the girls and, parents (if you haven’t tried this yet) GAME CHANGER!!!

READ ALSO: Everything You Need to Know about the Disney Dream Cruise

Here we were with this beautiful room, with a gorgeous view and the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in (and I’ve slept in a lot of hotels over the years through my travels) and my girls are safely right next door. We left the door open (mostly) but there was the option to close it. Best of all, no sharing the television or listening to bickering. It had to be one of the most relaxing stays we’ve ever had in a hotel.

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Also, though we were only a short walking distance from old Portland ( a quaint and fun walking area full of shops and restaurants) the Holiday Inn Express offered free shuttle rides to and from any Portland area destinations we wanted to visit. Mostly we walked but having the option at night after dinner, when the girls were exhausted, to be picked up and taken back to our hotel was awesome. It was also nice to get that time to chat with the driver, a local, and get recommendations for places to eat and things to do. He was super helpful and kind, as were all the staff at the Holiday Inn Express.

Here is my list of things I think everyone who visits Portland Maine should check out

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Portland Schooner Sunset Sail

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

These schooners are a part of history and they are so quaint and charming. I had never been on one before. Seeing the sunset over the water is breathtaking. The crew is kind, engaging and entertaining. The ride is smooth and it’s hard not to feel relaxed and free on this sail. I recommend for anyone who wants to enjoy life and be present in the moment. You definitely don’t want to miss this moment. We went with our tween and teen girls, I would definitely suggest taking a small picnic to eat and if you want to make it a romantic evening with your favorite guy or lady bring along a cheese plate and some wine or champagne and watch the sunset with your favorite person.

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Maine Duck Tours

So much awesome information and history. You get a complete historical tour of the entire town and bonus, you get to take a bus into the cove. My favorite part was learning all about Portland from our knowledgeable and good-humored tour guide. It was especially nice because it was our very first trip to Portland and we didn’t know a lot about the area. It was interactive and a lot of fun going through the town as the tour engaged with the people of the Portland. My only suggestion would be to make sure that you wear the provided life vests when you enter the cove as a safety measure in case of bad weather. The day we took our tour the weather was calm.

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Portland Head Lighthouse

I love lighthouses. If I’m near a coast, you can be sure I’ll find the lighthouses. Cape Elizabeth is the home of Portland Head Light. Situated along the spectacular shores of Fort Williams Park. The Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Aside from being cool to look at the Portland Head Lighthouse is surrounded by beautiful trails, cliffs and photo ops galore.

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland MaineThe Holy Donut

Holy ish batman! Who knew potato donuts could be this delicious? Who knew there was such a thing as potato donuts? They are definitely worth the wait. They are delicious. If you ever find yourself in Portland Maine, you must get yourself a hoy donut. Your taste buds will thank you.

 

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

The Porthole Restaurant and Pub

Fish and Chips and live music. The staff is friendly and helpful. They have the best fish and chips I have ever tasted and on Friday nights, it’s bottomless fish and chips. Also, live music on most nights. We loved it so much we had it twice.

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Becky’s Diner

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Maine blueberry pancakes and the charm of old Portland is what  I ordered and exactly what I got! Becky’s Diner was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives. I had heard that Becky’s was a local must and when I showed up, the line didn’t lie. Thankfully, the staff at Becky’s is not only great at making delicious food, they are on the ball. They have great personalities and know how to get people in and out of booths with great customer service.

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Flatbread Company

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

I am a pizza connoisseur and the pizza at Flatbread Company is next level. Made with all organic and locally sourced ingredients, this is definitely farm to table pizza. And you can taste the difference. They know food and they put twists on old favorites that I was pleasantly surprised by. I am a green pepper on my pizza kind of gal. When I tried to order it, I was informed that there was no such thing available there but they do put red pepper on pizzas so I tried it. OMG, so much sweeter than regular green peppers. Took my pizza experience to a new level.  Also, they have a summer salad that is out of this world.

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Gorgeous Gelato

Oh EMM GEEEE! My girls ( and the Big Guy and I) love ice cream., frozen custard and gelato. Frozen treats are our weakness. In fact, if you have followed the TRUTH for any amount of time, you will realize I almost always seek out and find the best pizza and ice cream/frozen custard/gelato place in every single vacation destination we visit…ever. We try them all, I just tell you about the best. Gorgeous gelato in Portland Maine is an authentic and delicious gelato destination that offers a large variety of flavors to try.

Did I mention that Portland is a foodie heaven??? So many great food options and lobster to be eaten any way your heart desires.

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

READ ALSO: Vacation 101: We’re not the Griswolds but We Play them on Vacation

There was so much to see and do that we definitely did not get to see and do it all in 4 days but I look forward to visiting again soon with my family and exploring some more.  There were so many delicious nooks and crannies, corners to turn and cobblestone roads to explore to this quaint and adorable coastal town. When you are in  Portland Maine, the people are so friendly that you truly feel welcome and relaxed. It’s the perfect place for a summer getaway with your family, your teens or just you and your partner. Portland offers something for everyone.

Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

Have you been to Portland Maine?

Things to do in Portland Maine with kids and teens, Things to do in Portland Maine this Summer, Portland Schooner Company, Portland, Maine, Holy Donuts, Becky's Diner, The Porthole, Maine Duck Tours, Flatbread Company, Gorgeous Gelato, Holiday In by the Bay, Portland Maine

What are your favorite things to do in Portland Maine this Summer?

 

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father's day, gift guide, gifts, outdoorsman, dad

Somewhere between college and yesterday, the Big Guy has somehow become an outdoorsman. Surprises me too since I practically had to promise lewd and lascivious acts to get the man to eat lunch at an outdoor café due to “bugs” yet, here we are. We went on a family camping trip a couple of years ago and he has since been sold on the idea of all things in nature and I’m here for it.

Disclosure: I was provided some of the products on this list for review purposes but all opinions are my own.

While we’ve been camping in cabins and RVs, he’s been leaning more towards “roughing it” getting back to his great outdoorsman roots. He used to camp with his parents as a child. I, on the other hand, prefer my 5-star hotels to camping in a tent. Though I will say, there is nothing quite like camping in the great outdoors and looking up at the stars from around a campfire with nothing else around except for the sound of locusts and your children laughing. It really is magical.

READ ALSO: Why RVing is the Best Family Vacation

I fully support the Big Guys new found choice to fully lean into his more rugged side. Of course, he’s a tech junkie, metrosexual so this will be camping outdoorsman at its finest and most tech-savvy. The man already cooks like a gourmet chef, is the perfect father to daughters and is one of the smartest people I know. He does life to the fullest.

In celebrating this new endeavor, I have compiled a Father’s Day Gift Guide for the Great Outdoorsman in your life.

Classic Square Floating Sunglasses – Coopersfather's day, gift guide, gifts, outdoorsman, dad, coopers floating sunglasses

Floating sunglasses? What? Yes, there is such a thing. The Cooper frame from Rheos is designed to combine the best of style and performance. Made of a specialty material that’s lightweight enough to float on water, the Coopers will never sink if they fall over the side of your boat. The reduced weight also ensures these sunglasses won’t slide down your nose, cause long-term wear fatigue or result in tension headaches.

Soft-Touch nose pads are embedded for additional comfort and grip. The frame itself is designed to provide enough coverage to protect from all angles of sun and glare, with a style that looks just as good on and off the water. The Coopers feature polarized, anti-scratch, anti-glare, anti-fog, hydrophobic and oleophobic lenses with 100% UV protection in a variety of amber, gray and mirrored options. Basically, the Big Guy can run, hike, kayak, all-terrain bike and if the glasses fell off, they would float and he could find them.

father's day, gift guide, gifts, outdoorsman, dad, coopers floating sunglasses, nomad towelChawel Nomad Towel

The Nomad is the surf-inspired series with over 24 sq. ft. of absorbent surface for drying off. This quick dry changing towel has armholes, an absorbent hood and absorbent zipper pocket. The Chawel Sport will give you extra warmth and cover from the elements. Take your Chawel on your next surf safari, camping trip or backpacking adventure. The Chawels extra uses will save space and weight on your next trip. Use the absorbent stuff sack as mini towel, while the Chawel can stuff into its zipper pocket. Created by a beach lifeguard in Vancouver, BC. Think of it as the MacGyver of towels. Perfect for the MacGyver Outdoorsman in your life.

father's day, gift guide, gifts, outdoorsman, dad, coopers floating sunglasses, nomad towel, 3 gallon shower

3.0 GALLON SUMMER SHOWER: SS761

He’s got the Nomad towel why not give your camping loving dad a shower too. What else would you get the dad who has everything? Give him the gift of a hot shower anywhere he goes! Designed with an efficient 4-layer construction for optimal heat retention and performance. Simply fill and layout in the sun clear side up and you will have a hot shower in no time. Anyone who has ever spent a day roughing it in the great outdoors knows there is nothing more satisfying than a hot shower at the end of a long day.

father's day, gift guide, gifts, outdoorsman, dad, coopers floating sunglasses, nomad towel, 3 gallon shower, rfid wallet

RFID Theft Protection Leather ID Wallet

The wallet looks unassuming and like any other classic men’s leather wallet. It can hold 3 – 10 cards. It has a divided pocket for cash and receipts and a clear ID pocket with thumb slide window. It’s made with Nappa leather and has a moisture wicking nylon interior. It only weighs 1 ounce. No worries of there being a George Costanza situation going on here.

AFX

Some dads may not be as spry as they once were but still want to be active and should definitely be able to do so. That’s where the AFX Pro comes in to save the day. The Big Guy was a competitive soccer player well into his 20’s and suffered some leg injuries. Anyone who has been an athlete knows that all that high-intensity playing can play havoc on your body. You have to take care of it. Unfortunately, as we get older, we feel it a little more. That’s why the AFX Pro is perfect to keep dad in shape. AFX is a revolutionary new strengthening system that enables you to strengthen the muscles and tendons of the entire foot and ankle complex. It’s a system of resistance bands and training videos to help get you back into ultimate shape. When you put AFX to work, you’re harnessing a source of strength you never knew you had.

father's day, gift guide, gifts, outdoorsman, dad, coopers floating sunglasses, nomad towel, 3 gallon shower, rfid wallet, backmate

The Backmate

Speaking of getting older. We all are and that includes dad, even if he hasn’t felt the effects of it yet. I think most of us at one time of another have experienced back pain. The Backmate sets up in any doorway in seconds and provides fast relief from back and neck pain, stress & sore muscles. Dad can give himself a deep tissue massage any time to relieve the pain, lower stress levels and make his body stronger.

READ ALSO: Why Every Family Should go on an RVing trip before their kids grow up

The best part? 

All you need is TWO MINUTES PER DAY! Just lean into your problem areas, and let The Backmate do the rest! It relieves upper and lower back pain, alleviates tension headaches ( from bickering kids), improves mobility and range of motion, regulates nervous system for daily stress relief, reduces inflammation and increases circulation for faster healing and recovery.  Sounds like a winner to me. Plus bonus, I can borrow it.

The CloudLine Hiking Sock

The Cloudline hiking sock is a legend among serious backpackers and hikers. I know you are thinking,” come on Debi, it’s a sock! How legendary could it really be?”

Well, have you ever gone hiking and had to walk around with waterlogged feet? It is the worst. But the Cloudline hiking sock features ultra-soft medium weight cushioning throughout for long mile comfort. Premium merino wool wicks moisture, regulates temperature and resists odor making this the perfect sock for all but the warmest temperatures. See, I told you this sock was more than a sock.

tentsile, father's day, gift guide, gifts, outdoorsman, dad, coopers floating sunglasses, nomad towel, 3 gallon shower, rfid wallet, backmate, air beam bud

TENTSILE Connect Tree Tent

The Tentsile Connect Tree tent is built on a spacious and comfortable platform suspended above ground for versatile arboreal camping. It’s a family adventure like no other. Each tent sleeps 2 people and can be attached to other connect tents to create a suspended super camp with 3 or more tents. The suspension system keeps the tent off the ground making it environmentally friendly, plus comfortably away from roots and rocks for a sweet sleep.

Heavy-duty straps combined with 3 ratchet buckle system lets you tension and suspend the tent from 3 trees of at least 10 in. in diameter, at about 4 ft. above the ground.

Rainfly attaches snugly in inclement weather and can be pegged out for ventilation. It also has a 50 sq. ft. covered “dry porch” area under the tent to keep shoes, bags, dogs, and bike out of the rain. The maximum load weight of occupants and gear when suspended is 880 lbs. (do not exceed); recommended setup height is 4 ft. (1.2m). So basically even the burliest of outdoorsman can stay in the Tentsile connect tree tent. Plus, it’s just super cool. I’m pretty sure that’s the main reason it’s on the Big Guy’s list. Did I mention that TENTSILE plants 18 trees for every tent sold.

father's day, gift guide, gifts, outdoorsman, dad, coopers floating sunglasses, nomad towel, 3 gallon shower, rfid wallet, backmate, air beam bud

Lotus Belle’s Air Beam Bud

This easy to set up blow up yurt is perfect for the family who likes to experience outdoor adventures together. The inflatable Air Beam Bud, the first ever inflatable glamping tent is a must. It’s 10 x 10 foot in groundsheet diameter, has two mesh windows with canvas exterior blinds just like the Lotus Belle. It’s 7.8 feet tall at its highest point, so even comfortable for my 6’5” Big Guy. It’s big enough to fit a queen sized bed and only weighs 40 lbs. so you can transport in a backpack. There’s no center pole so you can use 100% of the space inside. It’s super-fast to assemble! The Air Beam Bud comes with a porch awning so no need to buy separately. The groundsheet thickness is super thick and waterproof. It’s perfect for the dad of girls who wants to be in the outdoors but doesn’t want to contend with some of the normal discomforts that come with the outdoors.

What would be the best Father’s Day Gift for the Great Outdoorsman in your life?

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Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

Disneyland’s Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opened officially May 31st! It’s finally here and we’re so excited. We’ve been waiting for this day for four years. Last night, our entire all things Disney and all things Star Wars obsessed family gathered around the television at 10 p.m. to watch the reveal live. Yes, we are that family.

Our trip is already planned. We will be arriving at Walt Disney World on September 1st to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. What better place for the couple who were introduced at their reception to the Star Wars theme and who honeymooned at Walt Disney World than Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge?

In 2015, when Walt Disney Company revealed plans to build “Star Wars” lands at Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, legions of Star Wars fans collectively held their breath. When Disney’s chief executive, Bob Iger, revealed that one of the rides would allow us all to live out our childhood fantasy of piloting the Millennium Falcon we thought we were dreaming. We’ve been waiting with bated breath ever since.

READ ALSO: Galaxy’s Edge Opening Day Revealed

Disneyland’s “Star Wars” expansion is the biggest in the park’s history with 14-acres of complete Star Wars immersiveness for as far as the eye can see. Just imagine, you and your family at a trading port on Batuu in Black Spire Outpost on the edge of the wild wild west of space. It looks incredibly immersive and interactive and we can’t wait to experience it for ourselves this fall at Walt Disney World.

I’ve done some research and here is everything you need to know before you visit Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

 You will feel like you are in a galaxy far far away

 When you enter Galaxy’s Edge, you will be on a planet called Batuu. You might remember it from the “Star Wars” comic books and television series. Disney describes Batuu as “on the frontier of Wild Space — the uncharted region beyond all known star systems.” Welcome to Black Spire Outpost, a port on Batuu.

Black Spire Outpost is a trading village built on a dry riverbed on Batuu in the center of Galaxy’s Edge. It absolutely looks otherworldly with rock spires towering before visitors.

There is no overt signage to be found around Black Spire Outpost. It’s all coded.  But here is some inside info:

Savi’s Workshop ( where you can make your own Lightsaber) has a flag with a stylized lightsaber on it.

The Docking Bay 7 Restaurant has a 7 on the building.

Each market place shop has a sign on the building.

It’s a fun hidden code to figure it out and you can do just that using the app. But I’ll tell you more about that later.

Know the Star Wars lingo before you go to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

Rumors

Bright suns: Hello

Till the spire: goodbye

How much does something cost? They will answer in galactic credits, not dollars.

For example, a creature counter might be 70 credits.

Don’t ask anyone where to buy or build a “Lightsaber” because they won’t tell you. Hello, it’s contraband, You’ll have to inquire about the “scrap metal”.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

Guests only have four hours to visit Galaxy’s Edge, so plan ahead.

If you have a Galaxy’s Edge reservation, you can’t just show up whenever you want. Guests are assigned specific, four-hour windows during which they can visit. Each guest with a reservation will receive a wristband for their assigned time from the “Star Wars” films will escort you out of the land. I don’t know but I think it would be pretty cool to get escorted out by Stormtroopers. If for some reason you leave earlier than your four hours, you cannot come back in. So don’t do that unless it’s an emergency.

It’s been suggested to use your time in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge very wisely. We read that the 4-hour reservation is plenty of time to do it all but you have to prioritize. The suggested order was to first visit Savi’s workshop to build your lightsaber ( which takes an estimated 15 minute wait time and 20 minutes to build your lightsaber), next visit Oga’s Cantina ( which currently has a 2 drink and 45 minute maximum), then Smugglers Run: Millennium Falcon experience, merchandise and then food.

READ ALSO: Free Tips for Maximizing your Walt Disney World Vacations

I’m planning on building my own droid at the droid depot so I need to a lot of time for that. I’ve also heard that a visit to Dok-Ondars Den of Antiquities is a must see with high-end souvenirs. It’s also been said that you can probably hit Smugglers Run more than once if you wait to go again at the end of your 4-hour window. I’ll test the theory in September and let you know.

Once you’ve experienced all of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge main attractions, take some time to immerse yourself in the citizens and environment. Soak it all up, you are in a galaxy far far away after all. How many people can say that?

How to be one of the first to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

To get inside Galaxy’s Edge between its grand opening and June 23, visitors will need a reservation in addition to park entry tickets. Disney is anticipating beyond-capacity crowds. Even with your reservation, you are capped at 4 hour increments. There are no spots left unless you are staying at one of the Disney-owned hotels. Prices are currently starting at $500 a night. An identical version of Galaxy’s Edge will be opening at Walt Disney World in Orlando on Aug. 29. I will be there with my family on September 1st, ready to get my Star Wars on.

In anticipation of the new attractions’ popularity, Disney has taken steps to better equip Disneyland to handle massive crowds. As part of the Project Stardust initiative, Disney has added new parking and expanded pedestrian walkways throughout Disneyland Resort.

Ride queues have been reconfigured to put guests in the shade, and extra seating was added to the Adventureland and Tomorrowland sections of the park. The reservation system for Galaxy’s Edge may also help control crowds in Disneyland.

You can be part of the Resistance or the First Order experience.

Disney parks usually offer passive experiences.  I love riding the rides and watching as everything happens but that is not Galaxy’s Edge. Galaxy’s Edge is taking it to the next level.  It’s role-playing where you are part of the action. Disney’s employees have always been cast members, but the staff at Galaxy’s Edge go a step further. They are Batuu residents who greet you by saying “bright suns” and never break character.

The story of Black Spire Outpost is new and set after the events of “The Last Jedi.” Therefore, don’t expect to run into Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader or Yoda. They’re dead so it wouldn’t make sense for them to be walking around the park. It’s an entirely new place and everyone is experiencing this for the first time.

READ ALSO: What’s New at Walt Disney World

One thing that I think is really cool is the atmospheric encounters instead of character meets with Rey, Kylo Ren, Stormtroopers and Chewbacca. No crazy lines because the characters are walking around the land interacting because that’s where they belong. Also, spontaneous atmospheric entertainment.

If you come across one of your favorite characters, I’m looking at you Chewie, they will stay in character while photo pass photographers take a “scan of you”.

The Galaxy’s Edge Rides.

Galaxy’s Edge will include two thrill rides, Rise of the Resistance, a visit to a Star Destroyer that includes a face-off with the ruthless Kylo Ren and the Smuggler’s Run where you can pilot the Millennium Falcon.

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run recreates the experience of flying the spacecraft piloted by Han Solo and Chewbacca. Each ride vehicle seats six people, and the ride is designed to be interactive so guests will use controls to either pilot the ship, use blasters to defend the craft or keep the ship running smoothly as flight engineers.

Piloting the Millennium Falcon

Once aboard the Millennium Falcon, you hang in the main hold, which looks identical to the Falcon from the films. Once it’s time for your mission, strap in the Falcon cockpit. Each person is assigned one of three roles and you work as a team.

You can ride stand by, single rider or fast pass but fast passes aren’t available yet. We’ve read that the queue is shorter at the end of the 4-hour time frame.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Galaxy’s Edge’s second ride won’t open until later in 2019.

The Food at Galaxy’s Edge.

Oga’s Cantina will be the first place to ever serve alcohol in Disneyland. The bar serves already mixed cocktails and beers in souvenir glasses. This is not a full bar so don’t expect to order whatever you want. A fun bit of musical entertainment is provided by D.J. Rex.

I’ve heard the drinks are fun and creative but quite pricey if you want the cool souvenir mugs and who doesn’t? A regular cocktail at Oga’s Cantina can cost around $17, not including the price of a souvenir mug. Single beers cost $12 each, or $75 for a flight of 4 beers. The one I’m most looking forward to trying id the Fuzzy Tauntaun. It is Ciroc peach vodka, rolls peach schnapps, simply orange with tangerine, pure cane sugar and buzz foam ( be warned it will make your mouth tingly and numb) and cost $15.

READ ALSO: Best Walt Disney World Resorts for Families

Several restaurants serve “Star Wars” themed food, including a Ronto Wrap which is a sausage, pork gyro topped with coleslaw.

The Milk Stand serves the famous Blue and Green Milk frozen beverages. They’re coconut milk based frozen drink with the blue one tasting fruity and the green one tasting more citrusy. Blue and Green Milk drinks cost $8.

There is one free souvenir in Galaxy’s Edge and that’s the cardboard coasters at Oga’s Cantina. They’re single-use and free to take home. We hear you can even ask for a fresh one if yours gets mucked up by your drink.

How to navigate Stars Wars Galaxy’s Edge like a native.

Download the Disneyland and Play apps before your visit. They’re free! The Play Disney Parks app, adds a deeper level of storytelling to your Galaxy’s Edge experience by turning your smartphones into an interstellar “datapad.” You can use the app to activate droids, scan cargo crates to see what was inside and translate shop signs written in Aurebesh, the “Star Wars” language.

You can also use the app to interact with other guests in a game called “Outpost Control,” where you choose to play for the First Order or the Resistance. Earn galactic credit if your side starts to win.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney Cruise

The Market Place at Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge.

This is the place where you can find and purchase all things Galaxy’s Edge except for anything labeled Star Wars or Galaxy’s Edge including workshops where you can build your own lightsabers or functioning droids. If you are wanting anything labeled Galaxy’s Edge or Star Wars you’ll have to buy that outside the land. But there is plenty of cool stuff to buy in Galaxy’s Edge.

Galaxy’s Edge has nine stores offering roughly 700 items, almost none of which are available for purchase elsewhere. Want to take a pet home from Batuu? Check out the creature stall in creature corner where you can adopt pets like the Kowakian Lizard Monkeys (very similar to the banshees of Pandora.)

The Black Spire Outfitters is where you can buy costumes.

Jewels of Bith is a souvenir shop.

First order cargo: bat Allison order

Droid depot is where you can buy and build your own BB8 or R2-D2 type droid. It comes with remote control and talks to other droids. Various personality chips are available.

Build Your Own Lightsaber

Savi’s Workshop is where visitors can build and purchase their own lightsabers for $199 plus tax. But don’t ask, “where do I buy my lightsaber?” because the locals won’t tell you. After all, lightsabers are contraband. If you want your very own famous weapon used by Jedi fighters like Luke Skywalker and Yoda you’ll have to ask where to find the “scrap metal.” There are over 120,000 possible lightsaber combinations.

All these amazing Star Wars immersive experiences to be had within your 4-hour reservation. I can’t wait for our trip to Walt Disney World this fall to experience Star Wars; Galaxy’s Edge for ourselves. I’ll be sure to bring you all along.

Olga's Cantina, Galaxy's Edge, Star Wars, Millenium Falcon, Kat Sakas Kettle, opening day, Disneyland May 31st, DIsney World, August 29, Walt Disney World, Disney Creator Days, Disney Parks, Disney Resorts, Disney CruiseWhat are you most looking forward to experiencing most at Star War’s Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

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Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment

Cirque du Soleil’s Volta is coming to Soldier Field in Chicago this summer. I am so excited. Let’s be honest, every time I get the chance to experience a new Cirque du Soleil, I’m thrilled. Our family loves Cirque du Soleil. We go as often as time and distance allow us. Each show is different and magical in its own way.

Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment

The Cirque du Soleil’s iconic Big Top will be raised for the first time at a brand new location for Volta: Soldier Field!

Cirque du Soleil has had a special place in my heart since the Big Guy and I  saw our first Cirque show on our honeymoon, 20 years ago. Since then, we love to share the experience with as many people as we can. I feel like every time we leave a show, we’ve grown in some way; our hearts and minds have been expanded beyond disbelief. The name VOLTA refers to a sudden about-face, a change in emotion or idea often used in poetry. It also speaks to the jolt of energy delivered through the show.

 

READ ALSO: Cirque du Soleil Corteo and Amazing Experience for the Family

We’ve seen Cirque du Soleil in Chicago but never at Soldier Field. My daughters have never been to the Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears but thanks to the generosity of Cirque du Soleil that is all about to change this summer.

Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment

Cirque du Soleil is excited to add two weeks of performances of VOLTA’s Chicago engagement this spring. The show will be presented under its signature Big Top at the Soldier Field South Lot, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, May 18 – July 6, 2019. Tickets, starting at $49, are available for purchase by visiting cirquedusoleil.com/volta or calling 1-877-9CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783).

Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment

Volta the show

Energetic, urban and contemporary, VOLTA is a captivating voyage of discovery that showcases never-before-seen under the Big Top acrobatics in a visually striking world. Driven by a stirring melodic score and inspired in part by the adventurous spirit that fuels the culture of street sports, VOLTA is a story of transformation. It is about being true to oneself, fulfilling one’s true potential, and recognizing one’s own power to make it possible. Ultimate freedom comes with self-acceptance, and with the liberation of the judgment of others.

Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment

BMX & Street Sports

The creators of  VOLTA drew inspiration from the spirit of adventure that pervades the world of BMX, street sports and acrobatics. Whether they are on a bike, hopping from rooftop to rooftop, or double dutch rope skipping, urban sports enthusiasts constantly challenge themselves and defy convention.

Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment 

Sure to be a Chicago crowd pleaser, VOLTA features a full-blown BMX park mounted on stage in front of the audience’s very eyes for the breathtaking BMX finale as riders invade the stage to deliver a jaw-dropping, fast and furious performance of nonstop acrobatics on wheels. The riders go up the jump boxes and perform air tricks before landing and leaping off the ramps again, crisscrossing and spinning their bikes in midair in a spirit of brotherhood.

Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment

READ ALSO: Luzia~ A Vibrant Waking Dream of Mexico

Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment

Volta Costumes

The stunning costumes of VOLTA have been designed by Zaldy Goco, famous for his work with Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani and for TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment

Volta Ticket Information

VOLTA will be presented under the Big Top at the Soldier Field South Lot, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, starting May 18. Tickets can be purchased online at www.cirquedusoleil.com/volta. Discover our VIP package – a cocktail reception with open bar and hors d’oeuvres inspired by the show, access to the best seats for greater comfort, complimentary parking and more!

Cirque du Soleil, Chicago, Volta, travel, things to do in Chicago, Family entertainment

READ ALSO: Running Away with Cirque du Soleil Kurios

To follow along and see what exciting and new experiences Volta will deliver, follow along on Social Media:

Facebook.com/VOLTA

Twitter: @Cirque #VOLTA

Instagram: cirquedusoleil #VOLTA

Have you been to a Cirque du Soleil show? Have you seen Volta? What’s your favorite Cirque du Soleil show and why?

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Corteo, Cirque du Soleil

This weekend, courtesy of Cirque du Soleil, we will be experiencing Corteo in Dayton, Ohio. It is opening on May 8th and running through May 12, 2019. Then Corteo will continue touring. If you are in the Ohio area, I strongly advise you to get your tickets. Cirque du Soleil shows are magical and your family will love them.

The Big Guy and I saw our first Cirque du Soleil show, La Nouba, on our honeymoon at Walt Disney World. It was mesmerizing and started our love affair with Cirque du Soleil.  Since that first show, we’ve seen several more with our girls including Dralion, Kurios, Luzia and we even took them to see La Nouba. It’s something we love to experience as a family and a gift I love sharing with my children.

Corteo, the latest and most enchanting Cirque du Soleil’s arena production is now touring in North America. The show will visit Dayton at the Wright State University Nutter Center from May 8 to 12, 2019 for a limited run of seven performances. This unique production, directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, first premiered in Montreal under the Big Top in April 2005. Since then, the show has been a great success and has amazed 8 million people in 19 countries on four continents.

Corteo, Cirque du Soleil

Tickets are available at cirquedusoleil.com/corteo.

Corteo, which means cortege in Italian, is a joyous procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown. The show brings together the passion of the actor with the grace and power of the acrobat to plunge the audience into a theatrical world of fun, comedy and spontaneity situated in a mysterious space between heaven and earth.

 

Corteo, Cirque du Soleil

 

The clown pictures his own funeral taking place in a carnival atmosphere, watched over by quietly caring angels. Juxtaposing the large with the small, the ridiculous with the tragic and the magic of perfection with the charm of imperfection, the show highlights the strength and fragility of the clown, as well as his wisdom and kindness, to illustrate the portion of humanity that is within each of us. The music turns lyrical and playful carrying Corteo through a timeless celebration in which illusion teases reality.

 

Corteo, Cirque du Soleil

 

The concept and disposition of the stage bring the audience in a theatrical atmosphere like never seen before in Cirque du Soleil arena shows. The set curtains, inspired by the Eiffel Tower, and the central curtains, which were hand-painted, give a grandiose feel to the stage. This sets the tone for the poetry of Corteo.

 

Corteo, Cirque du Soleil

The cast of  Cirque du Soleil Corteo includes 51 acrobats, musicians, singers and actors from all around the world.

If you’ve never been to a Cirque du Soleil, let me tell you, it is like nothing you have ever experienced before. The music is live and otherworldly. The talent is extraordinarily brilliant and the moment you leave you will be wishing that you could stay forever. We’ve been taking the girls to Cirque shows since they were 4-years-old and it is something we always look forward to as a family.

Corteo, Cirque du Soleil

For more information please follow Cirque du Soleil Corteo on there social media channels/

Social media

Facebook: facebook.com/Corteo

Twitter: @Cirque #CORTEO

Instagram: @cirquedusoleil #CORTEO

Corteo, Cirque du Soleil
Ticket information

Show Schedule:

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Thursday, May 9, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Friday, May 10, 2019 – 7:30 pm

Saturday, May 11, 2019 – 3:30 pm & 7:30 pm

Sunday, May 12, 2019 – 1:00 pm & 5:00 pm

Have you ever been to a Cirque do Soleil show? If so which one? What’s your favorite one?

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Best Walt Disney World Resorts for Families to stay on your next family vacation., walt disney world, disney world vacation, 10 tips for maximizing yoru walt disney vacation for free, magic kingdom, happily ever after, mickey mouse, pandora, #disneySMMC, Toy story land, epcot, astro orbitor, rose gold ears, disneyfamilia, familia first, disney family, family travel

Going to Walt Disney World on vacation is one of a kind experience. There is nothing else like it in the world. However, staying in Walt Disney World Resorts takes that vacation to an entirely new level. Aside from being fully immersed in the Disney experience, there are lots of perks and extra magic involved in staying on property. Can you say Free Disney Dining Plan? Yes, some magical promotions include free food. If you are wondering which are the best Walt Disney World Resorts for Families to stay at, I’ve got you covered.

We’ve vacationed to Walt Disney World several times and no trip has been the same. That is part of the magic of a Disney vacation. You can have a different adventure every single time. We’ve gone as newlyweds, as a couple and with our daughters. We’ve stayed in several of the Disney Resorts and we’ve stayed off grounds and, for us, staying on property is our favorite way to vacation at Disney World.

READ ALSO: Secrets To Use Disney Tickets to Experience Magic Kingdom like an Insider

I imagine for first-timers, you may ask yourself, “Why stay on property when there are so many affordable resort options so close?” You make a valid point, on paper but once you’ve spent a Disney vacation staying in Walt Disney World Resorts with your family, you will know why you’ll never want to stay off grounds ever again.

Aside from convenience, early Magic hours, early access to fast pass and dining reservation plans, free transportation to and from parks and full immersion into the Walt Disney World experience for your family, there is the incomparable Walt Disney World resorts customer service. It is unbelievable and it doesn’t matter if you’re staying in the Grand Floridian or Pop Century; the warmth, helpfulness and general disposition of the characters are always the same…top notch. The best thing about Walt Disney resorts is that they have something for every budget.

READ ALSO: Tips to Beat the Heat at Disney

Here are my recommendations for the Best Walt Disney World Resorts for Families to stay at

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Yacht Club

The Yacht Club where we stayed on our first trip to Disney World on our honeymoon. I was dazzled by the grand, turn-of-the-century Martha’s Vineyard summer home vibes that Disney’s Yacht Club Resort was giving off. It’s a deluxe-category hotel at Walt Disney World Resort and it felt romantic and whimsical for these honeymooners.

It’s conveniently located and guests can easily walk or travel by water taxi from the resorts to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Star Wars Land is coming sooner than you think). Convenient bus service transports guests throughout Walt Disney World Resort.

The luxury club hotel is on the shores of a 25-acre Crescent Lake. The resort’s décor will transport you back to the 1890s.

That east coast beach vibe continues throughout in Stormalong Bay, a 2 ½-acre water recreation area reminiscent of a Nantucket beach. It has a life-size shipwreck with water slides, snorkeling in a sandy lagoon and a lazy river swimming area that feels like it flows into the lake. The kids will love it and so will you. There is something about a sand-bottomed pool that induces relaxation. Also bonus, a standard room can fit up to 5 people with 2 queen beds and a twin daybed.

We love it so much; we will be staying there this fall for our anniversary trip.

Disney Beach Club Resort

Disney’s Beach Club resort is right next to Disney’s Yacht Club and they are both awesome in our book. Start your morning at Cape May Cafe for a delicious southern-style breakfast complete with Mickey. Then make your way over to Stormalong Bay. I told you it was awesome.

Tired of swimming? Take a break and grab a snack at the cabana or Beaches & Cream Soda Shop. Feel like hitting the parks? Epcot is a mere 5-minute walk away or jump on a water taxi and hit Hollywood Studios.

At night, you can watch a movie under the stars with your kids at the pool or you can take advantage of the onsite childcare and enjoy a romantic meal with your spouse at one of the resort’s 6 dining locations.

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Disney’s Beach Club Villas

Guests at Disney’s Beach Club Villas receive exclusive access to Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. Disney’s Beach Club Villas also provides the Sandcastle Club, a supervised activity center for kids. Villas are equipped with kitchens and, in some cases, room for up to eight people. There are also nightly clambakes, volleyball and campfires at the Beach Club villas for added family fun.

Disney’s the Animal Kingdom

Want some adventure on your Disney World vacation? The Animal Kingdom Lodge is home to 4 wildlife savannas which you can watch from the lobby, visit with animal specialists, or tour as part of the Wanyama Safari and Dinner.

The Animal Kingdom Lodge also has the option to stay in a villa, which can sleep up to 9 guests, if you’re traveling with the whole family. No need for separate hotel rooms.

While you’re in this beautiful hotel, be sure to check out the 11,000-square-foot Uzimi pool with waterslides and whirlpool spas. Or get your fitness on at the onsite fitness and massage center. Did someone say massage center? Yes, please. This mom desperately needs a massage.

Disney World’s Polynesian

Aside from being beautiful and having Moana, you can get a Dole Whip on site.  The lush Polynesian Village Resort has both traditional rooms and villas to choose from. The villas have kitchenettes, private back decks with barbecues, a plunge pool and room for up to 8 people.

This is perfect for big families or splitting costs with friends. If you’re like this mom, you heard the word kitchen and thought “Dishes. No thank you,” But if you stay at the villa, Mousekeeping takes care of washing the dishes. No dishes for you! I told you the customer service was amazing.

The resort has 9 restaurants, a nightly luau, and a character breakfast where kids can meet Lilo & Stitch. Lilo’s Clubhouse offers on-site childcare so you can enjoy a peaceful meal, visit to the spa, or a day at the pool while the kids are safely taken care of.

Bonus, the Polynesian Resort is on the monorail, making it super easy to access all of the parks, especially Epcot and the Magic Kingdom.

Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary

Bay Lake Tower has rooms with views of the fireworks, so in case you have little kiddies, you won’t miss the magic. And believe me, it is magic. It is within walking distance of the Magic Kingdom and easily accessible via monorail. Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort features an unparalleled backdrop that includes Cinderella’s Castle and Space Mountain.

Bay Lake is a Disney Vacation Club Property. The resort offers up to three-bedroom villas with kitchenettes that accommodate up to nine people. It also has a restaurant and pool with a waterslide, so you and your family can relax when not at the parks.

Disney’s Boardwalk Inn

This is my husband’s favorite resort on property. Our favorite feature of staying at the Boardwalk Inn is the actual boardwalk. Situated along Crescent Lake, the boardwalk features carnival games, restaurants, shops and surrey bike rentals. The Boardwalk also has a really fun pool with a waterslide and standard guestrooms that sleep up to five or six guests.

Disney’s Boardwalk Villas

At Disney’s Boardwalk Villas, families staying there share amenities with guests at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. However, Disney’s Boardwalk Villas provide more amenities like full kitchens and balconies.  Villas are larger and sleep up to four or eight guests.

Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter

Port Orleans properties are divided into two resorts, the French Quarter and Riverside. Disney’s Port Orleans is a PG13 way to experience Mardi Gras all year round. Our favorite is the French Quarter because it feels just like being in New Orleans. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort French Quarter has 1,008 accommodations, most sleep up to four or five guests.

Guests have access to bikes, boats, horse-drawn carriage rides, cane pole fishing and a pool, live jazz and beautiful architecture all make this resort located on 325 acres that feel worlds away from the theme parks. Don’t forget about the amazing Louisiana-style cuisine and beignets.

Port Orleans, Wilderness Lodge, Best Walt Disney World Resorts for Families to stay, best disney world resorts, disney word resort, yacht club, beach club, animal kingdom, DIsney's Polynesian, Disney's wilderness lodge, the Boardwalk inn, Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom, #nowMoreThanEver

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge

Staying at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is like being in a beautiful, pristine national park cabin. While you might feel like you are off the grid in the serenity of your lodge, the Wilderness Lodge resort features added perks such as a beautiful pool and children’s activity center. Enjoy relaxing with your family at this rustic, luxurious rooms that sleep up to four guests, some even include bunk beds.

READ ALSO: Breaking News Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Opening Date Revealed

Just announced Free Disney Dining Plan Day this Summer!

This summer, enjoy a little extra flavor during a fun-filled stay that’s sure to delight little ones and grown-ups alike. Receive a FREE meal per person (ages 3 and up), per night at a select Walt Disney World Resort quick-service dining location when you purchase a non-discounted, Walt Disney World Travel Co. Package that includes a room for 4-nights at a select Disney Moderate or Value Resort Hotel and a 5-day theme park ticket. Offer valid for arrivals most nights from May 28 through August 21, 2019.
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The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Everyone in the same room must be on the same package. Advance reservations are required. Theme park tickets valid for admission beginning on the date of check-in and must be used within a limited number of days, depending on the length of stay and ticket. Visit disneyworld.com/usage for more details. Each quick-service meal includes one entrée and one non-alcoholic beverage (or if age 21 or over, one beer, wine or cocktail). 

These are just a few of my favorite Walt Disney Resorts for families. What is your favorite place to stay in Walt Disney World? And where is your favorite place and thing to eat on the Disney Dining Plan?

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Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

As you know, my family loves the theater. Broadway shows are some of our favorites. The next show on our list is Finding Neverland. Spoiler alert (disclosure) through the generosity of the American Theatre Guild, I’m hosting a Finding Neverland giveaway. You can win a family 4 pack of tickets.

Finding Neverland is the Broadway Musical that tells the fascinating story of how Peter became Pan. Based on the Academy Award®-winning film of the same name, this breathtaking show follows playwright J.M. Barrie as he summons the courage to become the writer – and the man – he yearns to be. Barrie finds the inspiration he’s been missing when he meets the beautiful widow Sylvia and her four young sons: Jack, George, Michael and Peter.

READ ALSO: Les Miserables a Must See

I fell in love with the story of J.M. Barrie when I saw the movie with Johnny Depp. Finding Neverland is a charming account of the period in the life of author J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) that reveals the real relationships and events that served as the basis for the author’s most iconic work, “Peter Pan.” After Barrie developed a platonic relationship with the widowed Sylvia (Kate Winslet) and her four sons, he was inspired to write a play about a group of children who don’t want to grow up. The work proves a hit and winds up bringing Barrie and the children together in a way he had never expected.

Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

Finding Neverland is the beautiful backstory of Peter Pan that everyone needs to know.

My daughters have never seen the movie Finding Neverland but they are very familiar with Peter Pan, the lost boys, Nana and Tinker Bell from countless times watching the animated movie. In truth, just last summer we saw Peter Pan the Musical as part of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s family series. It was remarkable. It’s time for my girls to know the whole story of how Peter became Pan.

J.M. Barrie was born in 1860, the son of Margaret and Alexander Barrie, in the Scottish town of Kirriemuir. He had an older brother, David, who was known to be one of those beautiful children who everyone adored. In the winter of 1867, David was hit by a fellow ice-skater while skating. He fell, hit his skull and died. Barrie’s mother never recovered from the loss, and was said to find comfort in the fact that David would remain a boy forever. This is where Barrie’s lifelong obsession with boys and the preservation of their innocence became anchored in his psyche.

Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

How Peter Pan came to be.

Barrie moved to London, and, in 1894, married an actress named Mary Ansell. As a kind of wedding present, he gave her a St. Bernard dog ( Nana). The couple never had children. The marriage between J.M. and Mary did not last, and they divorced in 1909.

Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

 

In 1898, Barrie met a pair of little boys in Kensington Gardens, near London’s Hyde Park. George and Jack Llewelyn Davies, aged 5 and 4-years-old, were walking with their nurse. Barrie saw the boys there frequently and befriended them. Soon after, he met their parents, Sylvia and Arthur. Three more sons were born: Peter, Michael, and Nico. The Davies family let Barrie into their lives, and gradually he became their beloved “Uncle Jim.”

 

READ ALSO: Phantom of the Opera Tour Needs to be Seen to be Believed

Finding Neverland at the Morris Performing Arts Center, May 3-5,2019. But no fear, if you can’t make it there, it will be touring through a city near you.

Bring the whole family to experience Finding Neverland, the story of how Peter Pan came to be. Packed with mesmerizing visuals, irresistible songs and plenty of laughs.

Finding Neverland, Finding Neverland Giveaway, Giveaway, Morris Performing Arts Center, Peter Pan, Captain Cook, J.M. Barrie, Broadway musical, Disney

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

If you’re in the South Bend area, I’m giving away a family four-pack to the May 3 performance. All you have to do to enter my Finding Neverland giveaway is leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Broadway Musical is. Enter via the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win 4 tickets to Finding Neverland.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

My new life mantra is eat the cake and travel the world! Yesterday’s burning of Notre Dame Cathedral has me reassessing my life choices. Visiting Paris and seeing Notre Dame was on my travel bucket list for as long as I can remember but I took for granted that it would always be there and now, I will never get to see the original spire or the forest of latticework that was the ceiling of the cathedral. That opportunity is gone and I can’t get it back. Today, I’ve decided not to wait anymore but to go for it. Life is not about things being perfect, it’s about getting things done. It’s better to travel the world on a budget than not at all. The thing is this life lesson applies to more than just travel.

When I was a little girl, I loved traveling. I still do. It is my favorite thing to do. My biggest dream was to travel the world and see as much of it as I could. It started with books of far off places and my imagination took it from there.

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

READ ALSO: Five Ways to Have an Amazing Spring Break on a Budget

When I was in middle school, around 12-years-old, I was assigned to write a report about the place I most wanted to go. Most of the kids in my class chose the closest metropolis, some chose New York City, Los Angeles or San Francisco. I chose Paris, France.

After researching Notre Dame Cathedral, The Louvre, Sacré Cœur of Montmartre, La tour Eiffel, le Musee D’Orsay and the catacombs, I fell deep in love with the people and the culture of Paris. I decided that I need to speak the language and eventually, live there. But first, visiting Paris was a priority.

By the time I was 14-years-old, I was actively working on making the dream a reality. I learned the language. Ate the food. Became a Francophile. Dreams of putting a padlock on the bridge of love and throwing the key into the Seine, walking the city at night under the stars and writing about it all, permeated everything I did. But I never did it. Any of it.

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

READ ALSO: Why RVing is the Best Family Vacation

Instead, I got married after graduation and never made it to Paris. The bridge of love has been dismantled and the Notre Dame Cathedral has burned and I’ll never get to see the forest within or the original spire. But I’m not going to wait anymore. I’m going to plan the trip, eat the croissants and drink the espresso.

My girls are getting older now and I want to share the world with them. That is a gift that, as a parent, you can’t top. The experience of seeing the world is priceless. But how do you literally give your kids the world when you live on a budget? It’s possible with some careful planning, smart shopping and frugality.  Think about it this way, is it better to see Paris now, maybe not the way you imagined it, or to wait until everything is just right and never get to see it?

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

I did some research and where there is a will, there is always a way. 

How to Travel the World on a Budget

Travel at Night

By traveling at night, via train or airplane, you save yourself the cost of a night stay and red-eye flights are often more economical. This is a great way to save money.

Explore the Great Outdoors

We all know that staying in a huge metropolis is more expensive than staying in more remote areas. Take the chance to explore the amazing national parks of the USA. For $80, a National Park Pass allows you entry to every park in the country for a year, creating the perfect route across America for a road trip. Discover the world in a deeper, more natural and meaningful way. Enjoy the desert parks, the cool redwoods, beaches, mountains and forests for a fraction of the cost of visiting the cities.

Buy Foods at the Supermarket

No matter where we travel, we always hit the grocery store for water, snacks, fresh fruit and yogurts. You can save a lot of money by not eating out for every meal and then enjoy one nice meal out a day.

Plan ahead and have a budget

Shop for flights on Sunday and Tuesday nights, at least 3 months in advance or watch for specials. Often, there are flight specials to Europe for fractions of the cost, if you are flexible in your travel dates.

Use Points for Flights and Hotel Stays

Make sure that you have points cards for every hotel and airline that you use. I use my favorite airline and hotel chain regularly and accumulate points to use for future trips. Also, acquiring credit cards with your favorite airlines, hotel chains and Chase Sapphire offer lots of points when signing up, sometimes for several flights and stays.

Use Student and Other Discount Cards

Are you a student, teacher, or under 26-years-old? Welcome to the world of 50%-off attractions and a whole lot of discounts. Get a student/teacher/youth card and save half on your travel. Always ask if there are discounts available for students or youth because you never know.

Pick Budget Friendly Destinations

Visiting budget-friendly destinations like Asia and South America where your money goes further. Exploring India or making your way across South America can be surprisingly cheap. With a little research, you can find out where the best places to visit are. Save your money for the more expensive countries. Balancing them with cheaper destinations means you can spend a little more, without burning through your entire budget.

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

Get City Tourist Cards

If you plan on seeing a lot of sights in a city, you should get a city tourism card. It’s a great deal and will save you lots of money.

Most importantly, eat the cake and travel the world. Stop waiting for the time to be right. Just go.

Travel the World on a Budget, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral, visiting Paris,

What is your ultimate travel bucket list destination? Whether you’re visiting Paris or the Taj Majal, what is your number one tip for how to travel the world on a budget?

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Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

If you want to take your children or teens someplace that will leave them speechless, visit Banff, Alberta. If you’re a parent, you already know how rare that can be. Children and teenagers are always in a hurry to get to the next place, the next thing and are easily bored and not afraid to tell you. If you prefer not to be serenaded by choruses of, “Are we there yet?” and “I’m bored” then Banff is for you.

I’m a talker who is easily bored and when I found myself standing at the mouth of Lake Louise, I had no words. I’m a city girl.  Grew up in Chicago. Love the city. I feed off of the hustle and bustle of people in a hurry. Kinetic energy gives me life. Standing in the stillness surrounded by all of that natural beauty, embracing the quiet is an inexplicable kind of breathtaking.

READ ALSO: Things to Do In Portland Maine with Kids and Teens

In my opinion, Banff is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on earth. The moment that I set eyes on Moraine Lake, I knew that I needed to share this place with my girls and the Big Guy. It’s a gift I want to give them.

There are certain things in life that have to be seen with your own eyes, felt with your heart and experienced to be believed. Banff is one of those places. You have to stand there and soak it in to believe this kind of beauty exists. I don’t want to oversell it, but then again I don’t think that is possible.

READ ALSO: Best Things to Do in Boston with Your Tweens and Teenagers

Nestled in the Rocky Mountains in the province of Alberta, Canada, Banff has mountains, rivers, valleys and glaciers. If your family loves exploring new places and going on adventures while being 100 %present, this is the perfect family vacation for the teenager or child who can’t sit still.

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

Moraine Lake

This might be my favorite spot in all of Banff. I may or may not have requested upon returning that my ashes be scattered there one day. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of all of that beautiful? Moraine Lake’s blue waters are surrounded by towering mountains, including 11,500-foot Mount Temple, the third highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Located a 15-minute drive from the quieter more serene Lake Louise, popular Moraine Lake, can be crowded in summer. My suggestion, arrive early to enjoy canoeing and hiking before the crowds arrive.

Things to do in Banff with Teenagers, traveling with teens, travel Tuesday, Banff, Alberta, visit Canada, Visit Alberta, Things to do in Banff with Teenagers and tweens, family travel

Lake Louise

Lake Louise, located within Banff National Park, is absolutely stunning. The emerald green lake is spectacular and the region has a range of hikes from easy lakeside strolls to more difficult ascents. The town of Banff is located 35 miles from the lake, so you will not be immersed in the crowds. The Lake Louise region has a sightseeing gondola and horseback riding.

Lake Minnewanka

Lake Minnewanka, the largest lake in Banff National Park, provides classic Canadian Rockies scenery. As the park’s only lake to allow motorized boating, Minnewanka is popular and crowded. Make reservations and arrive early to take a 1, 2, or 3-hour cruise around the lake. Lake Minnewanka is located a 20-minute drive from the town of Banff.

Banff Hot Springs

After a day of adventure seeking with your teens, what’s more relaxing than winding down in the Hot Springs? A natural hot spring provides an invigorating mixture of minerals to soothe your family’s sore muscles after a day of hiking, skiing or mountain biking. The Hot Springs are open seven days a week and well into the evening.

Banff Hiking

With more than 1,000 miles of trail, Banff National Parks offers path options for every level hiker. For an easy hike, try the Tunnel Mountain trail. Accessible from the town of Banff, the 1.4-mile trail leads to the mountain’s summit, with great views of the Bow Valley. Both Emerald Lake and Lake Louise offer additional easy family hikes with little elevation gain but with gorgeous scenery. In July and August wildflowers lace the Garden Path Trail, at Sunshine Village ski area.

Several outfitters offer guided hikes within the park, including the Mountain Heritage Guide Program at the Chateau Lake Louise.

Ice Climbing Banff’s Frozen Waterfalls

If your teen really wants to explore Banff like an adventurer, using an ice ax to climb a frozen waterfall is about the most exciting way to do that. Get yourself a guide for this excursion this winter and impress your teens with your adventurous spirit. You’d be hard pressed to find a cooler way to explore Banff’s creeks and canyon.

Climb Banff’s Majestic Walls

Banff has more than just fresh powder and raging rivers to offer. Being in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff has numerous cliffs and crags to rock climb. Hire a guide to bring you along on a multi-pitch trek in Bow Valley or the Ghost River area. Whether you are looking for traditional top roping or pushing your limits with sport climbing, your teens will be safe as you explore. Banff boasts some of the best limestone formations that give you the most accessible and remote areas of Alberta to enjoy.

Ski the “Big Three”

Skiing is a year-round possibility in Banff. I was there in August and it snowed. The big three resorts to go to are Sunshine Village, Mount Norquay, and the Lake Louise Ski Resort. These three mountains, give you access to 8,000+ acres, 26 chair lifts, and 30+ feet of annual snow fall. There is something for everyone, whether your teens are first timer skiers/ snowboarders or black diamond ready or simply want to take in the majestic mountains, Banff is an excellent choice.

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Banff Trail Rides

Biking Banff will give you the ultimate Canadian choose-your-own adventure with all the scenic views and the opportunity to stop at will and take it all in. The best time for cycling through Banff is May through October for milder temperatures.

Banff Horseback Riding

Trail rides are a fun way to take in the scenery for those who prefer horses to hikes. Horses carry riders 2,000 feet up the mountain to the 7,000-foot-high tea house. After a break, you mount up and head back down. More experienced riders can sign on for longer expeditions that takes you through the forest, up mountain trails, to the banks of a waterfall and then high above the tree line for a panoramic view.

Banff Gondola

An eight-minute, enclosed gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain gifts you with panoramic views. At the summit, stroll the Banff Skywalk or try the more difficult South East Ridge Trail hike depending on your family’s skill level.

Snowshoe through the Rocky Mountains

If you want to take your teens on the ultimate backcountry adventure, snowshoeing might be for you. Depending on how outdoorsy you and your teens are and your skill levels, you can choose a half-day to multiple day excursions. These adventures could include climbing the Continental divide, snowshoeing across frozen lakes or seeing Banff from a mountain peak. Possibilities for thrills is endless.

Rafting the Chinook River

Rafting is something that I’ve always wanted to do and that I think my teens would really enjoy. Banff offers several different rafting routes to choose from. Two of the most thrilling river rides are Horseshoe Canyon and Kicking Horse River. These rides will leave you exhilarated and soaked after a day on the rapids. On Horseshoe Canyon, you even have the option of cliff jumping if the rapids are not too fierce. Some excursions offer a BBQ lunch and professional photos of your family in the rapids!

Canoe or Kayak the Bow River

The Bow River is almost magical, born from snowmelt from the peaks of the Canadian Rockies. It winds through Banff flowing south. You can rent a boat and go exploring alone or hire a local guide.

Columbia Icefields

On this adventure, you and your teens will board giant buses with tires the size of adults that can handle moving through the ice on the Athabasca Glacier. You are left atop a glacier where you can stand on ice created by snow that fell 400 years ago. Holy wow! Your children of all ages will love this. Imagine a snowball fight made of centuries-old snowflakes. The Columbia Icefields cover nearly 200 square miles, the Athabasca Glacier is one of the most easily accessible. Tours take place mid-April to mid-October. Reservations are recommended.

Icefields Parkway

This is where you can really get some quiet time, save for some gasps of OMG! Stretching for about 143 miles between Lake Louise and the town of Jasper, the Icefields Parkway (Highway 93) delivers breathtaking scenery. You’ll pass forests, river valleys, mountains with peaks reaching 10,000 feet and Peyto Lake, the bluest in the Canadian Rockies. This bluer than blue color is a result of fine particles of ground rock scattering the sun’s rays. Bighorn sheep, elk, mountain goats and ravens can often be seen along this drive.

Sunshine Meadows Gondola

Kids, teenagers and adults will love this scenic summer gondola ride up the Rocky Mountains in Canada’s oldest national park, Banff. Begin your adventure by hopping inside an eight-person gondola at the base of Sunshine Village and enjoy a 20-minute scenic mountain ride. At the top, you will arrive at Sunshine Village.

A short walk from the gondola, visitors can hop on a four-person chairlift to reach the top of the mountain. This brings you to the magnificent viewpoint at the top of the mountain. There is a short, gravel walking trail to reach an elevated viewpoint. As you walk along the trail, you will enter the Canadian Provence of British Columbia and then cross back over into Alberta. The kids will think that’s cool.

Take your time and enjoy the breathtaking mountain and lake views from the summit and take tons of photos. Though I literally took thousands and it still wasn’t enough. Photos cannot accurately capture the magic that is Banff. These views have to be seen to be believed. Several hiking trails begin at the top of the mountain and head back to the village or you can take the chairlift and gondola back down the mountain. It’s up to you.

These are just a few of the things that you can do with tweens and teenagers in Banff. The possibilities are endless. The adventure begins with you and the feeling of experiencing it all together as a family will last a lifetime.

What’s your favorite place to travel as a family and why?

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