Awesome amenity for kids who lose teeth on the road

Mmmm, cupcakes

Mmmm, cupcakes

Spend enough time traveling with youngsters and it’s bound to happen sooner or later: Your little one loses a tooth (naturally) away from home.

Of course if your kids believe in the Tooth Fairy, this occurrence puts a burden on mom and dad—how do you perpetuate the rituals you’ve established around celebrating or commemorating these sort of life events at home?

A recent Twitter post from the folks at Four Seasons Orlando answered this question in a fun way. The post, which was accompanied by a picture of adorable cupcakes (see above), read: “Our pastry team created this adorable amenity for little guests who lost a tooth during their stay & await a visit from the tooth fairy!”

In other words, the swanky resort hotel gives sugary cupcakes to kids who just lost teeth.

This is awesome for a number of reasons:

  • CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES.
  • It totally takes that aforementioned burden off Mom and Dad, providing a kick-ass option/reward to ascribe to the Tooth Fairy herself (that crafty minx).
  • That little tooth character is bound to make little ones smile, which could come in handy if your kid is like my oldest child and *freaks out* at the sight or thought or idea of blood.
  • DID WE MENTION CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES?

Our little family never has visited this particular property but hope to get there the next time we visit the Walt Disney World Resort. Sure, the place has a bunch of other pretty swanky attractions. But this particularly amenity is one of my faves, and it makes me kind of hope one of the girls loses a tooth (the old-fashioned way; not like this) when we go.

What are the most creative in-room amenities you’ve encountered on your travels?

The best vacation rental on Earth

I want to stay here. (Forever.)

I want to stay here. (Forever.)

We Villanos have stayed at some pretty amazing vacation rentals over the years we’ve been traveling as a family. Never, however, have we stayed at a place like The Sweet Escape.

The house, available for rent on HomeAway.com, has 10 bedrooms, a five-acre backyard, and a pool in the shape of an ice cream cone. It has a candy-themed miniature golf course, playgrounds, tetherball court, full movie theater, and 1,400-square-foot karaoke club.

It’s also located just outside Orlando, a short drive from the Walt Disney World Resort.

A good buddy of mine—Spencer Spellman—recently spotlighted the house in a blog post for HomeAway.com. His piece does a great job of capturing the youthful exuberance of the home. It also includes a picture of arguably the coolest bedroom on the planet—a room with two bunk beds and ball-pit balls covering the floor.

The theme of that bedroom is lollipops. Other bedrooms have other themes, including a PEPSI bedroom with its own pinball machine, and a carnival games bedroom with its own carnival game booth.

The house is owned and operated by a man named Andrew Greenstein, who owns other notable homes such as the Ever After Estate, which was featured on HGTV’s “Most Outrageous Homes in America”; and the Great Escape Lakeside, another themed property that recently made Guinness World Records for having the world’s largest word search. As Greenstein told Spence: “I always dreamed of playing non-stop, so I wanted to create homes that reflect what I dreamed to be the ultimate place to live, laugh, and love.”

As for The Sweet Escape, the place sleeps up to 52, so it’s perfect for a REALLY BIG family. What are you waiting for?

Sharing the word about Four Seasons Orlando

The kids club at Four Seasons Orlando (photo courtesy of Trips + Giggles.

Kids’ club at Four Seasons Orlando (photo courtesy of Trips + Giggles).

I’ve lamented since last summer that I wasn’t able to check out the Four Seasons Orlando when we visited Walt Disney World Resort last summer. The new luxury property formally hadn’t opened yet, and I couldn’t find time (or, quite frankly, a rental car from my Disney-owned hotel) to break away and take a tour of the construction site.

Thankfully, Juliana Shallcross, my (former editor at VegasChatter.com and HotelChatter.com, and) buddy over at Trips & Giggles, went recently, and wrote a definitive post about the place, which she published earlier today.

If I may summarize, her post basically says that the Four Seasons Orlando KICKS MAJOR ASS. Especially for family travelers.

I love J’s post for its simplicity—she talks briefly about the design and service that made the hotel so special for her, then gets right into a host of pictures (one of which I pilfered to accompany this post), with descriptions of each. My favorite of her observations: The Four Seasons Orlando is especially great at the end of a hot day when you want to leave the parks and escape the Mouse for a while. My second favorite: Her reminder that the Kids for All Seasons kids club is included in the room rate.

Granted, the price point at a luxury hotel such as this one is way too high for the majority of visitors to Walt Disney World Resort (or Florida, for that matter). Still, if budget is no issue and you’re looking for a property that treats kids—and their families—like royalty, it sounds like this is your place.

Consider yourselves warned.

What are your lodging strategies when you visit Walt Disney World Resort?

Family travel rights in the sky, part 1

We should see this together.

We should see this together.

Our flight back to SFO from Walt Disney World Resort (well, really from MCO) earlier this month was one of the worst family travel experiences in recent memory. I had checked our seat assignments hours before our 9 a.m. departure and the four of us were sitting together—L with me in one row, R with Powerwoman in the row behind.

Then, 90 minutes before our scheduled take-off, the airline split us up, and put R by herself.

Normally something like this would just be an inconvenience. But in the case of our family, it was a REALLY BIG DEAL. Because R is 2.

Let me repeat that so it sinks in. About 90 minutes before we were scheduled to take-off for a 5.5-hour flight back home, United Airlines split up our family and sat the 2-year-old passenger all by her lonesome.

You can imagine my shock when I saw the change. If you’ve been reading this blog for more than the last few weeks, you probably also can picture the outrage. Normally in these types of situations I go all “Johnny Brooklyn” and curse and wail and rant and rave and speak so excitedly little bits of spittle come flying out of my mouth.

This time, however, especially because the kids were RIGHT THERE, I kept my cool, and repeatedly (and respectfully!) requested that the flight attendants put my family back together.

In the end, to the airline’s credit, they managed to get us back to 2-and-2. They didn’t solve the problem until ten minutes before takeoff, but, technically—and to be totally fair—they did ultimately solve the problem.

Still, the entire debacle got me wondering what our rights as family travelers really are.

So I started digging. And I started making phone calls. And I started talking to experts. The reporting effort is still ongoing, but I wanted to report the first part of my findings ASAP. So here goes:

  • Currently there is no federal regulation requiring airlines to keep together families with confirmed seats. I thought for sure the FAA would regulate this. I was wrong; that agency only oversees family travel issues as they pertain to child safety seats. The folks at the Department of Transportation have some guidelines for airlines to follow about the ages of unaccompanied minors, but there is no formal law on the books that they enforce either.
  • In this vacuum of legislation, airlines establish and enforce their own policies about keeping together families. These policies vary widely.
  • United’s formal policy on the subject indicates that the airline will do whatever it can to keep families together. At the same time, the airline has a policy that stipulates no children under the age of 5 are allowed to travel unless they are accompanied by a parent or guardian. When I pressed a spokesperson to explain how separating a 2-year-old from her family would NOT be in violation of the unaccompanied minor rule, he suggested that because our daughter was ticketed with us, technically this was not a violation of the policy.

Obviously there is much more research to be done. Once I have spoken with every major airline and every major industry organization, I’ll compile my findings into an easy-to-read post. I may also put together an infographic or chart that helps explain these disparate policies.

So far, at this point in my reporting, I know this:  There’s nobody at the national level looking out for us family travelers, and we have very limited recourse when we feel we’ve been wronged.

Personally, I think that needs to change. Quickly. And forever. What’s your take?

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