A great precursor to Walt Disney World

Garden Grocer, send up our stuff!

Garden Grocer, send up our stuff!

After this weekend, the four of us are headed to Walt Disney World (the one in Florida) to try out the new Magic Bands service and investigate some of the recent preschooler-oriented upgrades at some of the parks. We’re staying at Disney Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, in a 1-bedroom villa with a full kitchen. Our goal: To save a bit of money on food, instead of paying top-dollar for every meal at restaurants or inside the park.

At the suggestion of a friend, our strategy to achieve this goal is using Garden Grocer, a grocery ordering-and-delivery service that promises to have your supplies waiting in your room for you when you check in.

The interface itself is similar to the online grocery services we used when we lived in London—you shop virtually, put stuff in a cart, and select a specific date and time range when you check out. Item-by-item prices were comparable to what you’d find in a high-end supermarket. The company also charges a one-time delivery fee of $14.

To me, this fee is worth the 60 to 90 minutes it saves me from having to dash out to the Publix as soon as we (fly across the country with two children and) check in.

(It’s also roughly the cost of two pretzels and a soda inside the parks.)

I placed my inaugural order about an hour before I published this post. Will this service work? Will Garden Grocer deliver the convenience it promises? How much money will we actually save? I won’t have any of these answers for you until Monday at the earliest, but you better believe I’ll report them here. Stay tuned.

To what extent have you used grocery-stocking services when you travel with kids?

Channeling family travel excitement

The book. By Mommy.

The book. By Mommy.

Ours is a house of artists. I use words to express myself; Powerwoman and our daughters use images. My wife and older daughter in particular turn to drawings and sketches when they wish to express deep and personal thoughts. This means pre-trip excitement often sparks a ton of art time.

Usually L is the queen of this handiwork, cranking out single sheets and books about the things she thinks we’ll experience on the road. (To R’s credit, she’s still working on the whole hold-a-marker-the-right-way trick.)

This week, however, my wife has run point.

The fruits of her labor: A book about our August trip to Walt Disney World. Because we’ve never been there as a family (we’ve only taken the girls to Disneyland), the girls have been pestering us about what it’s like and what they’ll see. Yes, we answer them when they ask. But to sweeten the storyline, Powerwoman started a book (quite literally) to illustrate our replies.

The first page of the book presents a map of Fantasyland, complete with images of the carousel and the iconic Cinderella Castle. A rough strategy for subsequent pages include a rendering of Arandelle (our girls, like all girls, are obsessed with Frozen), Epcot Theme Park, and more.

As of today, the expectations were for Powerwoman to create one new page a week. You better believe the girls intend to hold her to this schedule. The penalty: Incessant nagging.

In all seriousness, the book has been a huge hit. It’s also been a great inspiration—as if L and R weren’t excited already, the book (and discussion about it) has jump-started their interest in a big way. By the time August rolls around, the girls likely will be bursting at the seams for the conclusion of their pre-trip primer. I’m also looking forward to using it as a distraction tool on the six-hour plane ride to Orlando.

This whole process has taught us a valuable lesson: It’s never too early to get your children excited about upcoming family trips. Anything that sparks their imagination, anything that triggers and encourages excitement about travel, is worthwhile. Especially if it involves creativity, too.

How do you get your children excited for upcoming family trips?

What to do when the kids won’t fly

Our L would rather just pick poppies all day.

Our L would rather just pick poppies all day.

We pride ourselves in this house on being a family that can go anywhere at any time. We’ve traveled as a unit to multiple continents and multiple countries. We’re old pros at just about every type of transportation. Heck, our kids have more stamps in their passports than about 90 percent of the population of the United States.

Imagine, then, our surprise this week, when L declared that she did not want to fly on airplanes anymore.

(Her exact words were: “I’m done with planes.”)

The Big Girl’s last flight was more than four months ago—our return trip to London. Neither Powerwoman nor I is entirely sure what prompted the kid to put her foot down like in this fashion. Some of the theories we’ve discussed:

  • She reflected on the duration of the flight home from London and decided it was too long.
  • She really hated running out of lollipop on the descent and does NOT want her ears to hurt like that again.
  • She just wants to stay closer to home for a while.

Whatever the reason, her declaration definitely has complicated matters. On one hand, we want to take her wishes seriously and at least make it seem like we’re listening to her. On the other hand, travel is what we do in this family, and a handful of our upcoming trips inevitably are going to involve airplanes of some kind.

(For instance, we’ve got upcoming vacations to Hawaii and Walt Disney World, in Florida. You can’t really get to either of those places from California without flying.)

Ultimately, I think we’ll compromise—slow down a bit on the air travel (we’ve already booked more road trips for the summer, including one that involves an RV) but also make sure L understands that some of our family vacations necessitate a plane.

Privately, Powerwoman and I also will hope L’s current stance on airplane travel is nothing that a few Dum-Dums can’t cure.

How do you respond when your kids say they don’t want to travel a certain way?

Bitten by the Bug

The Villano Family: Coming to a hillside near you.

The Villano Family: Coming to a hillside near you.

My friends warned me. They told me that after spending four months living with my family in London, I’d come back yearning to get the kids out on the road again ASAP. They joked that we’d all catch “the [travel] bug” and return to Wine Country, only to liquidate our assets and start a nomadic life.

Heck, one buddy bet me we’d never actually come home.

While I’m proud to announce that the gambling friend lost, the other predictions haven’t been too far afield. And the fallout has caught this family travel blogger by surprise.

Things developed rapidly over the last few weeks. The day after we got home (Christmas Eve day), my wife and I swore we’d keep our girls in one place for a while. We informed the girls of our decision and they seemed to be on board. L, our older daughter, went so far as to declare that she did not want to step foot in an airplane for “at least a few months, or ever again, unless it was a plane that went somewhere cool.” R, the younger sister, agreed in her own way, stating that airplanes were loud and her ears didn’t want to hear them again for a while.

We held these beliefs for at least a week. Then, just about the moment we were completely unpacked, everyone’s perspective began to change. During a session building Legos, I told the girls about the Legoland Hotel and they insisted we book a trip. Then we started looking at flights for a trip to Texas. And we discussed a trip to Walt Disney World. And we started planning a trip to Lanai.

These were just the family trips. At the same time, we grown-ups were making plans of our own.

Powerwoman started planning a solo trip to help her best friend shop for a wedding dress. I lined up work trips to Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, and San Diego, to name a few. Then my wife and I recruited the grandparents to watch the girls so we could fly back to New York.

In a span of two weeks, we Villanos went from a policy of “No New Trips” to booking nearly 10 of them. And I’m sure there’ll be more.

No, we’re not planning on selling the house and hitting the road for good (though there is a high likelihood we’ll take an RV to Yosemite National Park this spring). But we *did* catch the family travel fever, and especially while our girls are still young, it’s a wonderful affliction to have.

How quickly after a big family trip do you plan your next escape?

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