Family travel: Tips from an expert
Traveling with kids can be rough. We talked with Fawzia Rasheed de Francisco, author of The Rough Guide to Travel with Babies & Young Children, for some tips for parents—including great Web resources.
Traveling with kids can be expensive. Do you have an advice for parents about keeping costs down?
Don't have too many children! More seriously, though, travel doesn't have to be expensive. After all, tickets, accommodation and food for babies and infants are pretty much free. More importantly, older children really don't need tailor made Disney-type experiences. I'm always struck by the things children mention as the best bits of their travels: a kitten, the stream, sleeping in a tent or cooking out of doors. Children don't need luxury—although parents might!
There are plenty of economy tips for families in the book, but one of the biggest savings you can make is in the area of accommodation—for instance, you can swap homes (homelink.org), including homes pre-adapted for special needs (matchinghouses.com), camp for next to nothing, or volunteer on small farms around the world in return for food and board (wwoof.org).
Tell us about your book. What advice can parents find in it?
Well for starters, the book is designed to work for families traveling with one or both parents, babies as well as older children, and children with special needs. I’m hoping parents will be able to hang on to it for some years and find it useful for very different kinds of trips. In terms of content, most of the book centers on preparation—all the things parents need to think through and do before leaving home: health, insurance, accommodation, keeping the budget down, packing, entertainment, preparing the children, etc.—as well as issues for different types of transport and trips.
What do you never leave home without?
Lots of things—and that's usually part of the difficulty—"essential" is a very relative term! But wet-wipes get the thumbs up from most parents—they are incredibly useful for keeping clean on the go.
What is your number one tip for getting kids through the boring parts of the trip?
Well if it has to be one, it would be to see travel as an opportunity to spend time with your children. Just being prepared to talk and read to them, play games and so on, sets the kind of mood which helps everything fall into place.
The words "press conference" don't exactly send a chill of anticipation up our spines most of the time, but today's announcement by Universal Studios Hollywood is the exception: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey is a 3D-HD experience that will be the centerpiece of the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter opening in California next spring. The new Wizarding World, essentially a theme-park "land" of its own, is of course modeled after the popular attractions at Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Japan, but the president of Universal Studios Hollywood, Larry Kurzweil, promises a "new, compelling experience" that will be the "next chapter" for the franchise. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey will take visitors soaring over Hogwarts, a Quidditch match, a dragon's attack, and a Whomping Willow. The ride will blend robotics, filmed action sequences, and special effects. Guests will don Quidditch-inspired 3D goggles before being swept along an elevated track. The new Wizarding World will also boast a family coaster, "Flight of the Hippogriff," and an array of Potter-themed refreshments at Three Broomsticks, Hog's Head pub, and Magic Neep and Butterbeer carts. WE WANT TO KNOW: Have you visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando? Are you looking forward to checking out its Los Angeles cousin next year?
Family Travel: Mock medieval-jousting show gets a tune-up
What's the ultimate place to entertain a group of kids? One leading contender is the dinner show Medieval Times. At several spots nationwide, you watch as knights ride real stallions and attempt to unseat other riders--all in a re-creation of an 11th-century tournament. This year, the two-hour show is being overhauled with a new script, soundtrack, and set of stunts. In addition to five new battle scenes, a prince (who is later kidnapped) has joined the cast. The updated show debuts this month at the Medieval Times castle in Buena Park, Calif., followed by Schaumburg, Ill., in September, and Atlanta and Toronto this winter. The new show is already running at theaters in Kissimmee, Fla., Hanover, Md., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Dallas, and Lyndhurst, N.J. While growing up in Orange County, Calif., many of my elementary-school friends celebrated their birthdays at Medieval Times, where the kitschy utensil-free meal meant we ate roasted chicken and spare ribs with our hands. The messier we were, the better. Happily, my favorite parts of the show have stayed the same. The servers are still serfs and wenches who speak Old English. Plus, the arena continues to be split into groups that cheer on various knights. Medievaltimes.com, from $47 for adults, from $29 for kids under 18. Prices vary by location. Through Sept. 1, one kid gets in free with every paying adult if you call 888/935-6878.
Australia.com relaunches with fresh tourism info just in time for new Nicole Kidman flick
Tourist officials in Australia couldn't have better timing. They've relaunched Australia.com, their trip-planning website, on the same week that Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman light up the screen in the movie Australia, putting the country back on the minds of many Americans. On Australia.com, you'll find many more suggestions for accommodations and sidetrips than before, including thematic trip ideas, such as aboriginal, outback, coastal, and culinary. Eight suggested itineraries can help you with your planning. As for the movie, you should see it if you want to be inspired by the Northern Territory and Western Australia. It was our number one pick of the movies that most inspired us to travel this year. (We saw a preview. It hits screens in major cities this Friday.) In director Baz Luhrmann's tribute to his native Australia, aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) takes an arduous journey across the country with a rough-and-tumble stockman named the Drover (Hugh Jackman) as World War II is about to break out. To learn how to plan a trip to see key scenes from the movie, read Movie Quest 2008.
"Affordable" probably isn't the first word you'd use to describe dining at Disney World, but there are deals on dining to be had that don't fall into the "mega-splurge" category. Use our insider tips below for navigating the park's food scene without emptying your wallet, including how to choose the right restaurants, dine at the right times, and scoop up special offers that few park-goers know about. Make Your Character Meal a Morning Experience Every visitor, no matter the age, loves dining with their favorite Disney characters. Book your character experience for breakfast for an easy way to save. In fact, breakfast is the cheapest time of day to eat at Disney World Orlando. At destinations like Winnie the Pooh and Friends at Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom) and Donald Duck's Safari Breakfast (Animal Kingdom), you can have the same memory-making experience while saving 35 percent per person. Plus, the food at both of these buffets is considered top notch, so fill up! Bonus savings: You can eat light at lunchtime. Bring Your Own Snacks and Water The tasty Disney treats are going to tempt you (those Mickey-shaped ice cream bars in particular), but park munchies can add up quickly. Pack a few snacks like granola bars, fruit gummies, and crackers to keep you and the kids satisfied. Go ahead and splurge on a few Disney-themed snacks, such as the unique pineapple-flavored soft serve Dole Whip dessert (served only at Disney and the Dole processing plant in Hawaii), but buying multiple bites throughout your day gets pricey. Same goes for paying $3 per bottle of water. Bring a refillable water bottle instead. Collapsible bottles are easy to pack, saving you money and space. Reserve a Full-Service Restaurant for Lunch Full-service, sit-down restaurants are some of the best Disney World dining experiences, but they're not cheap. Instead of doing a Disney dinner, reserve your meal for lunch. Not only will you be able to save about 20 percent compared with the evening, the restaurant will be less crowded, too. Plus, it's easier to get a reservation for lunch, which allows for greater flexibility for your day at the park. Full-service favorites like Be Our Guest Restaurant, Storybook Character Dining at Askerhaus Royal Banquet Hall, and Cinderella's Royal Table are excellent lunch options. World Showcase restaurants at Epcot such as San Angel Inn Restaurante and Tutto Italia Ristorante also offer better deals at lunch. Eat at Downtown Disney Deal alert! Downtown Disney will grant you the biggest savings on food. Hop in your car or take one of the Disney World buses, and you'll arrive in less than 15 minutes. Earl of Sandwich and Wolfgang Puck Express are two top picks for delicious food at a reasonable prices. Relatively new to the scene are Downtown Disney food trucks, so keep them in mind too. Order Smart It's a little-known secret: Adults can order from the kids' menu at quick-service restaurants. Many times, the meals are virtually the same as regular options, so don't think you'll be stuck with chicken fingers and grilled cheese. Another favorite money-saving option is ordering a large platter to share. Tangierine Café (Epcot) and Flame Tree Barbecue (Animal Kingdom) are two cafés with shareable-sized meals. Most counter-service meals have side items included in the price. But if you don't want (or don't need) the extra cost and calories of those French fries, simply ask for the entrée-only price. At most places, they'll be able to accommodate your request.