New Entry on the Family Travel Wish List

Doc + Sofia = Heaven, for my kids.

Doc + Sofia = Heaven, for my kids.

Believe it or not, my daughters keep their own version of a Bucket List—a running list of places they want to go (or go back to) over the course of their lives. The list has entries such as “Cats” (a make-believe land that L has created), and “HBG” (a local bar that R loves). It also mentions Hawaii (a destination they love). And Las Vegas (because Daddy writes about it so much).

After this past week, the list also now includes Disney Junior Play ‘N’ Dine at Hollywood & Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando.

The reason for this latest addition: News that two of their all-time favorite Disney Junior characters—Doc McStuffins and Princess Sofia (from “Sofia the First”)—have joined the star-studded cast.

According to a blog-post release from the Disney Parks Blog (which kicks ass, by the way), the two characters, along with Handy Manny and Jake from “Jake and the Never Land Pirates,” interact with kids and sing familiar songs. The post goes onto say that Doc and Sofia actually have special roles in the musical revue.

Word on the street is that Doc and Sofia debuted on Sunday. From my perspective, the move represents another aspect of a growing effort from the Walt Disney World Resort to appeal to preschoolers and toddlers—an age group that’s often glossed over when creating immersive experiences for kids.

As the father of two kids in this age group, I welcome this push with open arms. Now Powerwoman and I just have to figure out when we can get to Florida to check things out!

Non-Tech Options to Pass a Long Flight

R's window after 10.5 hours in the air.

R’s window after 10.5 hours in the air.

We’ve been home in the U.S. now for almost two weeks, and we’re just about settled back into the swing of things. We’re (almost) all unpacked. The kids have (just about) gotten over their jet lag. The lot of us has rediscovered our love for the true American pastime: Driving cars.

All of this has helped Powerwoman and I glean some healthy perspective on the logistics of our return. In particular, we can’t believe how easy the flight home really was.

Allow me to reiterate: The flight home was 10.5 hours. And our kids rocked it like pros.

Before I share the secrets to our success, it’s worth noting that we are not raising our children to be technology addicts. Yes, we allowed them to watch a few shows on their Kindle Fire devices over the course of the trip home. But this screen time was by far the exception instead of the norm; generally speaking, we used “Doc McStuffins” and “Peppa Pig” as rewards for good behavior at other times on the flight.

For the most part, our strategy comprised three tenets: Arts-and-crafts, story time and geography.

The arts-and-crafts was a no-brainer; both girls exhibited a true passion for creativity during our time in London, so Powerwoman and I made provisions to indulge this interest on the plane. We started with stickerbooks. We moved on to basic coloring (I pre-packaged two Ziploc bags with crayons and markers for each of them so they wouldn’t fight).

At cruising altitude, I broke out the window clings and let each girl decorate her window (we were sitting window-middle, window-middle in two consecutive rows; an intentional effort to divide and conquer).

Later in the flight, when R took the first of her two brief naps, L and I made paper-chain necklaces for each of the flight attendants—gifts that scored us free wing pins, free drinks (Scotch for Dad; milk for daughter) and enough special treatment to make the Big Girl feel like a VIP.

We interspersed art time with story time. This didn’t only comprise books on those aforementioned Kindles; Powerwoman and I took turns telling stories and encouraging both girls to make up their own. Some of this make-your-own-story play was open-ended; we also mined ideas from Rory’s Story Cubes, a product about which I blogged last fall.

Finally, we passed time on our LHR-SFO flight with interactive geography lessons. Using the real-time map feature on the seatback television screens, we prompted the girls to describe what they saw out the window and match it up to where we were in the arc of our flight.

Through this method, L learned once and for all that Greenland isn’t green, and that Nunavut (one of her favorite words to say) is covered in snow. R was able to distinguish mountains from plains.

Looking back on the flight, perhaps the only hiccup was that L didn’t actually nap until about three minutes before we disembarked. With all of these fun activities to keep her occupied in mid-air, perhaps that partially was our fault.

What are your secrets for surviving a long flight when traveling with young kids?

The Importance of Being Unplugged

Little R, exploring a castle in Trim, Ireland.

Little R, exploring a castle in Trim, Ireland.

Between this blog, my website, and my overactive Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles, it’s pretty obvious that technology is a big part of my life. Considering how often my family and I are on the road, that means technology is a pretty big part of their lives, too.

For most of the year, we embrace the constant presence of Smartphone cameras and WiFi signals. Every once in a while, however, we like to unplug for a while, and just be.

We embark on one of those trips Sunday morning, when we head to the West Coast of Ireland. We’ve rented a beach house in Connemara for the week. Aside from day trips to Cong (where they filmed “The Quiet Man,” one of my wife’s favorite old-time movies) and the Cliffs of Moher, we plan to do a whole lot of nothing. The old-fashioned, Luddite kind.

Sure, I’ll catch y’all up on our adventures when we’re back. I’ll also share some stories from our time here in Dublin (and the incredible Four Seasons Hotel Dublin, where I’ve been on assignment since Thursday).

Until then, for the next few days, know that the four of us are out there on the edge of the world, telling stories, dodging raindrops, eating French fries, beachcombing and singing Doc McStuffins tunes.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a week.

To what extent do you prioritize unplugging with your family when you travel?

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