“Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve no place to go… let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…”
Merry Christmas in July!! I know, I know… too soon? Well, in the world of travel, now is NOT too soon to be thinking about your plans for the holidays! In this edition of The FFTraveler, we will be sharing all of the fabulous ways you can celebrate the 2019 Christmas Season around the world!
In the wise words of Dr. Suess... "Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store... Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." Create lasting memories with family and friends this holiday season with the gift of travel!
Did you know?
According to Today.com, “Sixty two percent of adults say they remember childhood trips more clearly than birthdays.” WOW! I wonder how other celebrations stack up? Think about how much of an investment is spent every year on toys at Christmas that may or may not be forgotten in a few years. That to me is a risky investment! How much more bang for your buck (and let’s be honest, an investment in family time) could you get with a travel experience as a Christmas gift?
**Read #3 in the next section for tips on making “The Gift of Travel” exciting for loved ones this Christmas!
The Ho-Ho-Holidays are Just Around The Corner
#1: See Iconic Christmas Markets on a European River Cruise
Dreaming of storybook villages sprinkled with holiday charm? Interested in wandering down narrow, twisty streets sipping a warm mug of Glühwein, Germany’s famous mulled wine. Or how about listening to the distant lull of holiday music as you warm yourself by a crackling fire in one of Europe’s iconic river cities? On a classic Christmas Market River Cruise you will be able to experience the joy of Christmas in places deeply rooted in our holiday traditions.
**Don’t miss the opportunity for GREAT saving on this season’s Christmas Market Cruises! Values such as $1,000 per person savings, a complimentary stateroom upgrade as well as a $50 per person onboard credit with luxury and family operated cruise line AMAWaterways. Or discounted airfare with Viking Cruise Line**
Begin your holiday season with an unforgettable European Christmas Market vacation!
#2: All you need is Faith, Trust and a little Pixie Dust
You can’t get much more of a magical experience than a visit to Walt Disney World around Christmas-time! Whether it is the astonishing 1,300 decorated trees throughout property, or the 16-foot-tall gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, or maybe even the 100 percent chance of snow flurries during Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Walt Disney World knows how to create an unforgettable Christmas-time adventure. Festivities at Walt Disney World begin in November and last all the way through the New Year. Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, holiday concerts, special parades, holiday themed food and cultural experiences, and much more await you when visiting The Mouse this holiday season.
**Take advantage of "The Ultimate Disney Christmas Package," the "Delight in Festive Fun Family Vacation Package,” the "Savor a FREE, Delicious Offer,” or save up to 20% on select Disney Resort Hotels**
Don't let the magic of Christmas at Walt Disney World slip by this season! Let us help you start planning this incredible experience today!
#3 Giving the Gift of Travel
"Christmas is like candy; it slowly melts in your mouth sweetening every taste bud, making you wish it could last forever.” - Richelle E. Goodrich. The Christmas season may melt away, but the memories you create this season can last for a lifetime. Why not try something new this holiday season and give the gift of travel!
Now, you might be thinking... how does one give a gift that isn't exactly tangible like a toy or present? Or, I like to stay home on Christmas Day... do I have to travel over Christmas Break to give the gift of travel to my loved ones? While it's always a fun surprise to tell the kiddos... "pack your bags, we're heading to Walt Disney World... now!" There are other ways to give the gift of travel in a very special way that might not be leaving immediately or traveling on Christmas Day.
Below are some ideas for making Christmas Day special with the gift of travel, while foregoing a lot of the typical toys and nicknacks...
#1 Do you have someone special in your life that enjoys craft beer or good wine? Why not take an unforgettable European River Cruise with a wine or beer focused itinerary? Try wrapping a beer stein or pair of wine glasses with the trip's itinerary printed and placed inside the glass. Fill the glass(s) with yummy international candies from the countries you will visit along the way. That's sure to be a delicious Christmas surprise!
#2 Thinking about taking your kiddos on a tropical cruise? Or maybe a trip to Walt Disney World? But you don't want to go during the week between Christmas and New Year's? Try purchasing a few gifts that will serve as clues for your kids to discover where they are going. For example, if going on a cruise purchase a snorkel and mask, a nice dress, and some sunscreen. Wrap them up and put them under the tree for the kids to discover on Christmas Day. Have the last gift they open be the cruise boarding passes! For Disney, buy some Mickey Ears, a princess or pirate costume, and an autograph book. To help keep the excitement alive until the trip, have Disney Movie Marathons in preparation for seeing all your favorite characters, or if going on a cruise play island themed music periodically and have a Caribbean themed dinner night.
The options for creating a fun and exciting Christmas Day while forgoing the toys and clutter and instead giving the gift of travel are endless! So, this year why not try something different... let Christmas be like candy and linger on as you plan an unforgettable vacation and give the gift of travel this Christmas season.
Here's A Holiday Travel Tip
If flying with presents for those special folks in your life, do not wrap them up, especially if you intend to carry them on the plane. Even in checked baggage, there is a strong chance they will be unwrapped for inspection by security personnel. Consider gift bags instead of wrapping paper — you can easily remove the items from their bags if required, and you won’t have to do a last-minute wrapping job at your destination.
Last-Minute Fall Deals
End 2019 with a bang! The Fall is a great time for last-minute travel deals to the Caribbean and Mexico before the holiday season! Do you have the flexibility to take a trip within the next 30 to 60 days? September-November is considered a lower traveling season for cruise lines and all-inclusive resorts in this area of the world. Enjoy crystal clear waters, warm beaches and vibrant cultures at a discounted price. Extra cruise amenities, resort credits, and low prices are what you can get with Last Minute Fall Deals. Contact us today to plan a great getaway!
Off The Beaten Path
What is better than sitting in a plush cushioned lounge chair on a large covered porch with the glistening ocean in front of you… a gentle cool breeze blowing in from the sea… the sound of crashing waves and soft ‘20s jazz music playing in the distance? To me the answer is simple… nothing :)
Did you know that Disney owns a beachside resort on the Atlantic Coast? I didn’t… and I grew up in Florida! This little-known gem was built in 1995 and has provided many people with relaxing beach getaways for nearly 25 years. My family recently returned from a stay at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort on Florida’s Atlantic Coast, and below I have details on our stay.
Disney’s Vero Beach Resort was built as a Disney Vacation Club property, but others who are not DVC members can book a stay at this family friendly resort.
This resort has a classy Florida ambiance of a by-gone era. With a large Main Hall, beautiful porches for lounging and classic 1920s music playing throughout the common areas, you will be swept away to a splendid, old fashioned hideaway on Florida’s Atlantic Treasure Coast.
On the grounds are a series of buildings, bungalows and walkways lined with unique Florida coastal foliage creating a serene, peaceful vibe. Along the property you will find hammocks tucked in among tropical plants and fun yard games sprinkled here and there for family entertainment.
This resort is great for couples and families, young and old alike. If you like a resort with peaceful, good wholesome fun, where cast members become friends, and families enjoy creating memories together, then the feel of this resort would be a perfect fit.
You won’t find any high rise hotels or crowded beaches around here! If you are looking for a hoppin’ Daytona Beach vibe, you need to look elsewhere. Surrounding Disney’s Vero Beach Resort are secluded beach clubs and gated resorts. This resort can provide you with quiet, non-drivable beaches for the family to enjoy. While staying at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort you can rent umbrellas and beach chairs, sea kayaks, jet skis and much more.
Our family enjoyed building sandcastles, searching for seashells (my mom even found two pieces of sea glass!), and jumping the waves with my four year old son.
And, the beaches near Vero are highly important for the endangered species of sea turtles. This areas is their nesting grounds and at Disney’s Vero Beach Hotel, they take extra measures to help preserve the wildlife and habitats in and around the resort. You can even learn more about the sea turtles that come to Vero through interactive nature hikes and lessons. And, kids can even “adopt” a sea turtle and watch its journey via tracking on the internet.
Are you traveling with just you and the hubs, or with the WHOLE family? Accommodating your sleeping needs at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort will not be a problem for you. They have an assortment of different room options to meet everyone’s needs. You can stay in a Deluxe Studio (which is similar to a regular hotel room with a kitchenette… that is where we stayed), a one or two bedroom suite, or opt for the Big Kahuna of beach accommodations… the secluded Beach Cottages overlooking the ocean.
Whether it is a Deluxe Studio or a Cottage experience, your accommodations will be very nice. Everything is very clean with a beautifully calming ocean color palette… and I really liked all of the classy sea turtle accents.
When it comes to entertainment and the need for “things-to-do,” Disney does not disappoint. This is not just a hotel… it is a resort, with amenities and activities for all. Young and old will enjoy the pool area and water slide, mini golf course and sweet treats at the Wind and Waves Market. Little ones will enjoy Tiger Lily’s Pirate themed splash pad area and supervised kid’s programming. The whole family will enjoy bikes for rent, basketball courts and tennis courts, shuffleboard, ping pong, board games, free movie rentals, nightly bonfires with s’mores and much more! And for the adults… an elegant spa for relaxation and rejuvenation.
There is a table service restaurant that serves breakfast and dinner, and a quick service convenience market that serves up sandwiches and other yummy treats. Plus, there are two bar areas on property too (we loved The Green Room deck!).
So, if you need a break from the beach, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort has got you covered!
In every review, one needs to have the critiques, right? Well, for me there are just a few.
While the beginning of May in my head was a great time to visit Florida’s Atlantic Coast… kids are not out of school, crowds are low, no hurricanes… We encountered the enemy that every Floridian and Floridian’s vehicle shudders at… the LOVEBUG! I know you are thinking this sounds like a cutesy car from the 1960s, but rest assured that is NOT what we are talking about. These are invasive bugs… no swarms that take over Florida en mass for several weeks of the year. I did grow up in Florida, but I must have blocked this occurrence from memory, because when planning this trip it did not even cross my mind.
Now… they will not hurt you, but with a four year old and a mama that are very particular when it comes to bugs in their space, this did put a damper on one day of our vacation. Just to note… they did subside as our vacation progressed, which made for a much more enjoyable time. Unfortunately, this was one of the worse years they have seen as far as love bugs go in a while, and there is really nothing the resort can do to prevent them from coming. The cast members did all they could to keep things clean and presentable in spite of these annoying creatures.
My advice… if possible select a different season besides the end of April and beginning of May for your vacation to Disney’s Vero Beach Resort. Or come prepared with a mosquito net ;)
Also, while I loved the seclusion of the resort, it did make for a little bit of a hike to get to restaurants and shops. Both downtown Vero Beach and the town of Sebastian are about a 12+ minute drive from the resort. Not a huge deal, but worth mentioning. Both towns had great casual, family friendly seafood restaurants right on the Indian River Lagoon… great views!
Overall, this was a fabulous resort and one that I would highly recommend. Our family loved the quiet, family friendly atmosphere and the Disney quality of service. We will definitely be back!
As a DVC property, Disney’s Vero Beach Resort prides themselves on their homey feeling and atmosphere. And when they greet you with “Welcome Home”… you feel it!
Deepen Your Soul
With a name like Faith and Family Travel, we often find ourselves answering the question, "Well, what type of travel do you sell?" While we can offer you an array of various travel destinations and styles, our roots bring us back to Faith-Based travel opportunities.
We often tell folks the idea for a faith-based travel company started with a family trip to Europe, where new-to-Christianity, Pat Rogers planned a grand European tour with a variety of destinations, one being Oberammergau, Germany for the Passion Play. And, from there the seed for faith-based travel was planted.
So, you might be asking yourself... What is faith-based travel? Here at FFTravel we term it like this...
Faith Based Travel is a blend of experiences for those seeking to grow spiritually in their travels, as well as those desiring to visit the iconic landmarks of the world.
So, are you a faith-based traveler?
Did you know..?
The townsmen of Oberammergau, Germany grow out their beards for 15 months prior to each Passion Play.
Temples, and Shrines, and Alters… Oh my!
Off the Beaten Path
With timeworn tombs, prodigious pyramids and towering temples - religious symbols of ancient times - Egypt brings out the explorer in all of us. Whether it’s visiting the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, where Tutankhamun’s tomb was unearthed, seeing the glittering antiquities in the Cairo Museum, or gazing on the impressive masterpiece of Ramses II, Abu Simbel, trekking through Egypt will ignite your wanderlust. You never know – your donkey might stumble across yet another find, which has happened before...
Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James, is an epic Christian pilgrimage to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. Crossing the rugged Pyrenees and vast plains, and winding through lush hillsides, the Camino is a unique window into the Iberian Peninsula’s historical, natural and cultural beauty. If you feel up to the challenge of tackling the Camino de Santiago, there’s a lot to keep in mind like logistics, places of interest and finding the best route for your budget, time frame and fitness level. But the reward is great! This spiritual trek renews both mind and spirit.
Martin Luther Tour
When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, he changed the face of Christianity forever.
Experience first-hand the birth of the Reformation against the backdrop of one of the most interesting cultural landscapes in Europe.
Trace the path of the Great Reformer in Eisleben, where Luther was born and where he died… Erfurt, where he entered the monastery… Wartburg Castle, where he translated the New Testament … Become a student of the Protestant Reformation as you see the roots of our church history come to life.
Visiting Europe in the summer has been a treasured experience for many people for more than a century. Quaint cafes, Europeans' tendency toward a slower pace, and longer days all lend themselves to perfect vacation adventures in the summer.
Did you know..?
3 Great Things to do in Europe This Summer.
With cozy cafes, plenty of tasty desserts, bright green parks, gorgeous churches, and statues dedicated to the rockstars of classical music, Vienna keeps culture seeking tourists coming back for more. Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms have all lived and worked in Vienna and their legacy is a point of tremendous pride for the city. Whether you want to take in an opera, schmooze with the elite at Schonbrunn Palace, or take in the Lipizzaner Show - the Spanish Riding School’s classical equitation performance in the Renaissance tradition of the haute école, which is the only institution in the world that has practiced for over 440 years in this style - Vienna offers beauty and elegance to its visitors.
Have you ever wondered where Walt Disney got his inspiration for so many classic characters? Why not stroll through Rothenburg, the village that inspired Disney’s Pinocchio? Or feel like a prince or princess in Neuschwanstein Castle, the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle? Whatever the European experience you choose, Adventures by Disney’s attention to detail is impeccable. So, what’s the difference? You experience the world through the eyes of a storyteller—and become part of the story! With Adventures by Disney, two Adventure Guides, plus local experts will guarantee that every detail of your trip is attended to, and ensure that you feel a connection to the people, culture and traditions of each destination visited. Each Adventures by Disney trip offers unique activities—from more sophisticated experiences for adults to special Junior Adventurer activities tailored to kids. So, go where visitors are seldom allowed to go, immerse yourself in European culture, and create family memories that will last a lifetime with Adventures by Disney!
Imagine sitting in a quiet cafe overlooking the beautiful white-washed houses and crystal clear waters of Santorini, Greece. Or basking in the sun on Monterosso Beach in Cinque Terre, Italy as you gaze on the cliff-side village peppered with colorful houses and restaurants. Many of Europe's best and most iconic cities are either on the Mediterranean Sea or within a stones throw. From the delectable food, to the breathtaking scenery, to the diverse culture, cities along the Mediterranean are not to be missed! And a Mediterranean Cruise is a great option to see several of these classic destinations. Unpack once and experience cities such as Barcalona, Marseille, Nice, Florence, Rome, Venice, Athens, and so many more!
Here's A Travel Tip
River Cruising in Europe is more popular than ever! And why wouldn’t it be? Unpack once… visit amazing destinations… be pampered with luxurious amenities and inclusions… sign me up! Fall is a great time to tour Europe on a river cruise. There are less crowds, good prices, fun events like Octoberfest, and good weather. Plus, beautiful Fall colors! Now is the time to book a Fall or Christmas European River Cruise. Don’t delay!
Off the Beaten Path
The first potato in Ireland was planted here by Sir Walter Raleigh, near his home in Youghal, Cork, around 1588. Step out of Dublin and step off the beaten path in Ireland and explore Cork.
Boka Bay is the southernmost fjord in the world. With towering peaks surrounding a rocky coastline dotted with pretty waterside towns, it almost looks like you could be in Norway, just with lots of sun and warmer temperatures. Check out what Montenegro has to offer!
Valletta is the capital of Malta, which is one of the smallest countries in the world. The entire country can be covered by foot! Much of its royal past is showcased through its still-standing 16th-century palaces, cathedrals, and forts. Check out Valletta’s unique history!
Traveling is the best way to remind ourselves how big and diverse our world truly is, and what better gift to give? Material items fade away and eventually become lost to us, but not travel. Travel brings us new experiences, adventures, and memories that stay with us. And the best part? It doesn’t have to be complicated! Here are a few ways you can give the gift of travel!
You know how this goes guys. Your kids rush to the tree, grab all the presents their small arms can carry, and rip into the gifts. All in 2.7 seconds. While I’m sure we would all love for our kids to be a little more civil during this time, let’s be real. It’ll probably take a few more years. But there is hope! Make present opening double fun by turning it into a game! Let’s say you've planned a trip to Disney with the kids. Instead of simply telling or showing them the tickets, make a scavenger hunt leaving clues throughout the house. The clues could lead them to Mickey Mouse ears with the tickets and a Christmas movie! Maybe you're taking your kids to a Hawaiian Resort. Make a seashell trail or some ocean riddles cluing them in on the excitement of swimming with dolphins. This makes for a fun Christmas project for you, and creatively engaging your kids in a Christmas present they can't just tear into.
Kids aren’t the only ones who will have fun with this. Maybe you're thinking about taking your significant other on that River Cruise in Europe you’ve been dying to go on. Buy a beer stein and a mug that you can fill up with some German goodies and leave the tickets on top for them to find! Thinking about a Caribbean Cruise? Leave your significant other a bathing suit, some snorkel gear, maybe a dinner dress (or tie), and place it on their bed with a little note explaining a few things that you both could do together. Go on the internet for some ideas, and make Christmas something more than just opening material gifts!
The most important thing to remember is that you can still get your loved ones gifts. Giving gifts that are geared toward the vacation such as a passport, travel bags, or even a reservation to a hotel are a great way to give gifts to those that are hard to shop for. When you book your vacation, Faith and Family Travel, not only will you build memories and bond as a family on your trip, but you will know you are getting the best personal service to get you through your family vacation.
Ask an Expert
Sometimes it's hard to make arrangements on your own. But don’t worry! If you are feeling doubtful there are people such as tour operators within cities that can help you figure things out. Another helpful tip is asking someone within a Travel Agency to help give you good pointers on your destination.Make sure you inquire about group rates and other discounts for large families. You’re not alone in this!
Save money, make dinner
Going out to restaurants can be an easy way to make everybody happy, except your wallet. Making a meal or two can be a great way to save money and can be a fun activity for everyone! The internet provides millions of unique recipes that your family will love. So grab some new ingredients and get grandma, grandpa, and the kiddos cookin’!
Alright let’s be real guys, a big problem with multigenerational travelling is pleasing everybody. Some people may want try out a new ride while others want to go the souvenir shop and browse around, that’s ok! Don't be afraid to take advantage of that to spend quality time with certain family members. Make a game of it! When everybody gets together later that evening go around the table and tell what the other group did and what your favorite part of the day was. The family gets to have some good laughs and everybody had a good time.
Look for family deals
UTILIZE FAMILY TRAVEL DEALS. I can't stress this enough. Travel agencies like Faith&Faimily Travel partner up with cruise ships, disney resorts, and others to help you save on your family vacation. Be sure to take advantage of this, trust me, you will thank me later.
Make a plan
One of the biggest mistakes you can make while traveling with the in-laws and your kids is not having a day-to-day plan. No plans means no direction, which can lead to disagreements, which could lead to a stinky time. And nobody wants that. Get together with everyone before you leave and have a game plan for each day.
While you should always have a plan when traveling, be sure to be flexible as well. Nobody likes a stickler, so be sure to take that into consideration and be ok with making a few changes in the plan if you need to.
Seriously guys. Get out there, have fun, and don’t be afraid to try new things! You're never too old to try something new and exciting. Try out snorkeling, hiking, or maybe snowboarding! Get out and try something that's new to all of you!
Disconnecting our modern world today, it’s easy for us to get away on vacation but forget to get away from the social media world.Make sure you are being a leader and disconnect from work or friends to be fully present with the family. Encourage other family members to do this as well. Be together and enjoy the time while it lasts!
Whether you go to Disney World or take the family to the Swiss Alps, if you plan wisely you can create treasured moments to store away for years to come.
Thoughts from the intern,
Our world is a busy place to live in. Between work, cleaning the house, feeding the dog, and taking the kids to school, life doesn’t give us much time to slow down. We all need to get away for awhile, and who better to vacation with than your family! Traveling with family is a great way to blend each member together in person and finally relax with the ones you love. So, if you were waiting for the right time to seize an opportunity to get away with your family, the time is now! Here are 5 reasons why:
- Seeing the world through your kids/grandchildren’s eyes
- Seeing the world through new eyes
- Affordable family vacations
- Getting everyone involved
Traveling as a family is more than just sight-seeing and doing fun activities, it's about making the most of the precious time that you have now with each other. Because as we all know, time flies, life gets busy, and this precious time will slowly slip away from you. These experiences can last a lifetime, and be a legacy that you can pass down to your family. So don’t wait for the perfect time to travel with your family, start planning a trip and be ready to make memories that will last a lifetime!
Thoughts from the intern,
Jonny’s touching me… I’m NOT touching you… I’m NOT touching you….
No you may NOT rip the fabric off the seat cushions!!
Keep all body parts inside the car window at ALL times…
Stop punching your brother!
The classic road trip scene, right? Makes you feel like you’re vacationing with the Griswold's or something. And, of course you can’t stop thinking to yourself, this is supposed to be a vacation, dangit! You WILL have fun!
Road trips can be hard when traveling with kids! It is not for the faint of heart. Like in many situations when raising kids, you have to get your game face on and prep for battle. The kiddos are out of their routines. They might be excited about the upcoming trip, or VERY tired on the way home from all of the vacation festivities. But, planning ahead and making the vacation experience begin with the car ride, can help ease some of the chaos of the travel. I did say SOME of the chaos… :)
My family recently went on vacation to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Hello, Amish Country! We had a fantastic experience, but thinking about the vacation before hand with a 10 hour car ride and a two year old in tow, I knew things had the potential to get dicey really quickly.
So, being the anal, I mean prepared planner that I am, I solicited input from friends on how to make this road trip enjoyable for everyone involved. And I got GREAT ideas! In no time, I set out with the task of creating a box of toddler friendly activities that would help keep my son occupied and happy… at least for some of the time - let’s be honest, he’s two.
Check out the ideas below from some seasoned Mamas who are well versed in the phase of Toddlerhood and check out my results from this project!
- Jen, from Mama.Papa.Bubba had a great idea of an ACTIVITY BINDER for long car rides. Ahh, an organization soul sister!
- Crayola Color Wonder Mess- Free Coloring Pages
- Notebook and Stickers
- Dollar Store Calculator (Em likes to use it as his cell phone...so cute)
- Bubble Wrap and Velcro Strips
- Two small puzzles
- Other FaceBook friends had great ideas that were included in the box:
- SENSORY BOTTLE
- WRAPPED GIFTS to open as a surprise or for good behavior
- MAGNETIC BOARD with letter flash cards
- OLD WALLET and CARDS
- ROAD MAP for driving his cars on
- To round out the arsenal of Toddler Activities...
- ALPHABET TOWN electronic game
- LIBRARY BOOKS
- And a DVD PLAYER... the perfect end cap for any road trip
Feel free to share more ideas! I'm always looking for more creative ways to keep my kiddo happy, healthy and occupied :)
So you want to know what I think? Well, it wasn't terrible. Not by any means; it was fun. But...it wasn't super fantastic either.
Here are some of my thoughts about our experience that might help you decide if and when you want to visit this brick building fun-land:
LegoLand Atlanta is located in a mall on the northeast side of Atlanta. It was very easy for us to get to from the 285 Loop. And there is free parking! Just follow the signs in the parking garage, and one elevator ride takes you right to the spot. I was really happy about that because I thought we would have to pay to park and maybe even have to walk a ways (it was really cold the day we went, so it was nice just to hop out of the car and right into the elevator!)
You know, I homeschool my oldest son (the six, almost seven year old Master Builder) and my youngest son goes to half day preschool two days a week, so we get to travel and see attractions when everyone else is in school. Of course, we also have school on Saturday, so its not all fun and games. We went to LegoLand Atlanta on a Wednesday in January. We got there about 12:30 and stayed until 4pm, and there was almost no one there. At first there was only a handful of mommies and toddlers, but as the afternoon went on there were a few more families that came after school. For the most part, though, we had the run of the place. We saw a 4D movie all by ourselves, and actually got to pick the one we wanted. We rode the two rides by ourselves too. My oldest got to have one on one attention from the Master Builder Academy instructor because there was no one else in there.
Going in, I knew this was an indoor attraction, and I knew not to expect a "Disney" experience. The grandparents had taken the boys to LegoLand Orlando when the hubs and I went to Ireland, and they couldn't say enough good things about it. I knew this LegoLand was not going to be a theme park, BUT I was expecting it to be a little bigger than what it was. I would hate to be there when it was really busy. The rides were a little baby-ish. And although there were lots of Legos available, there was not a lot of space for building.
The area that occupied most of our time was the Build and Test Races. In the middle of the room there was a place where you could build race cars and test them on three ramps. Cars and Legos together? For us it doesn't get much better than that! The boys spent at least two of the four hours we were there at the test track. This was the only place that had directions on how to build something, other than the Master Builders Academy. A major plus of this station was the science aspect of it. The boys had to experiment with different designs and then test the physics of the tracks.
The website says that LegoLand Atlanta is for children 5-12, but I can't see this place holding much attention for a 10, 11, or 12 year old. If A didn't like just building and testing his race cars over and over again, I'm not sure he would have liked it so much either and he's seven (almost seven).
Let's get down to brass tax. When I went online in December, the website said online tickets were $13.50 compared to $20 on site. When I went to buy the online tickets in January the price had gone up to $15 per person. Still better than $20 at the door. We also live in Chattanooga, so we had gas expense and dinner out. So based on what we got for our money, this is not worth another trip for us. I'm glad we did it once because it made a good 'experience' Christmas gift for the boys, but its not cost affective for us.
Legos are super fun and there are a lot of Lego activities out there. In Chattanooga, there is an after school Lego program called Bricks 4 Kidz (http://www.bricks4kidz.com/tennessee-chattanooga-ooltewah/), and we just discovered NetBricks through Groupon. NetBricks is a spin off Netflix only with Legos. So you order a Lego kit, they send it to you, you put it together, then send it back. (https://netbricks.biz/) I'll let you know how that goes. And I still plan to go back to Legoland Orlando with the boys sometime soon!
What has been your favorite Lego experience?
Thanksgiving is at my doorstep and Christmas is just around the corner. This time of year is fun and stressful and exciting. Most people who are traveling between now and the new year are traveling to see family for the holidays. Maybe it's just down the street or across the country. For some its a time full of happiness and excitement; for others there might be trepidation for the trip.
Some folks do travel for pleasure during the holidays. Since it's 'in-law' Thanksgiving this year for the Rogers girls (that means both my sister and I will be spending Thanksgiving with our in-laws and Christmas with our parents; then next year the holidays switch) my parents decided to take a Viking river cruise through Germany during the week of Thanksgiving. This isn't their first time to travel during holidays. They love to go out and see the world instead of staying at home when there is no family to enjoy. I'm definitely adding that to my playbook when retirement rolls around!
But what if you can't travel to some exotic destination this holiday season? Why not consider making a difference in a far away place. Here are three charities that allow you to experience new places by giving to others and impacting lives for good! Click on the headings to read more about each charity.
"Since 1944, Heifer International has worked to bring help, healing, and hope to millions of impoverished families worldwide. In its first 70 years, the total number of families assisted, directly and indirectly, is 20.7 million- 105.1 million people in more than 125 countries. In areas where hunger and despair once prevailed, Heifer programs have reinvigorated communities through livestock, training, and Passing on the Gift.
Heifer International works in the areas of livestock and agriculture to develop programs that alleviate hunger and poverty. Our field staff is comprised of livestock specialists and our programs are considered among the most successful in the world." -Heifer International Gift Catalog
This is a great program that empowers those in poverty to be able to work and learn new skills, not just get a free meal. There are so many interesting ways to give from irrigation pumps and tree seedlings to water buffalo and rabbits. You could be an "Ark Angel" giving $5,000 worth of animal pairs to to multiple families in various countries (I know this is way out of my budget, but could be very manageable for a church group or company) or give $10 to have a share in giving a family a sheep.
"The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) gives a clear picture of God’s desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by, Jesus told His hearers, “Go and do likewise.” For over 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse has done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering. We are an effective means of reaching hurting people in countries around the world with food, medicine, and other assistance in the Name of Jesus Christ. This, in turn, earns us a hearing for the Gospel, the Good News of eternal life through Jesus Christ." Samaritan's Purse website
I first learned about Samaritan's Purse through their Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Each year my boys and I make a trip to the store to pick out goodies to fill a shoebox that will be shipped to a little boy (or girl, but for us its a boy) who might not have Christmas otherwise. Its a great way for my kids to get out of the "I want" mentality of Christmas to think about what another person may want. Samaritan's Purse has so many giving opportunities, though: feed a child, build a home, refugee relief, support a missionary doctor (like Kent Brantly) or just a warm coat.
"Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.
Founded by the Rev. Everett Swanson in 1952, Compassion began providing Korean War orphans with food, shelter, education and health care, as well as Christian training. Today, Compassion helps more than 1.5 million children in 26 countries." Compassion International website
Our church is involved with Compassion International and we support a little girl in Ecuador. The program is very thorough and extends many opportunities for bond with your Compassion child. We have sent letters back and forth to our little girl (she's only 4) and we were able to send money to help give her Christmas gifts. The great thing about Compassion International is that they have group and custom tours available for you to visit your sponsored child! Talk about giving and travel all wrapped up in a nice little package! A group of 10 people from our church are in Ecuador this week helping and bonding with their children.
So if you're looking to give and want to make a global difference, consider one of these charities. I know they bring a lot of joy to my family. Of course, we can't help in every way, there are so many options! But each of those options is a need that can be prayed over and lifted up.
"Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver."
~ Barbara De Angelis
Hello there! We are the travelers of the Rogers Clan. Pat, Kyleen and Kara welcome you to follow us on our travel adventures, experiences with family, and good times with friends. The next adventure is just around the bend. Come join our roving romp and let us help you experience your own unique wandering!