Today I will be embarking on a trip and venturing into uncharted waters. Nothing as exotic or adventurous as scaling Mount Everest or traversing the rain forests of South America, although possibly just as nail biting and nerve wracking. No, instead, I will be taking an eleven day road trip to Florida with a teen, a tween, and a Jedi Princess.
This will be our very first trip with a verifiable teen – my thirteen-year-old son. And while I hate to stereotype, he is exactly what you would expect a teen boy to be. His response when he found out we were headed to Florida, primarily Walt Disney World Resort, for Spring Break? “Why do we have to go to Disney again? I want to just go to the beach and hang out with my friends,” he said, barely looking me straight in the eye as he texted someone on his phone. Pardon me while I pull the dagger from my heart.
And then there are my girls, my eleven-year-old tween and my nine-year-old Jedi Princess. While both girls are equally excited to go anywhere, especially Walt Disney World Resort, no longer can I just assume their interests will go hand in hand. My daredevil tween wants to ride every thrill ride possible and has yet to even mutter the word “princess.” On the other hand, the nine year old just wants to face off with Kylo Ren at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in her Rapunzel costume, complete with jewelry and crown. The only thing they do agree on is wanting to do everything humanly possible at Universal Orlando Resort’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which of course the teen does not care to do at all. Or so he says.
Gone are the days when my husband and I would announce our Spring Break plans, everyone would jump for joy and give us huge hugs, grab their autograph books and off we’d all go in Spring Break vacation bliss, all working off the same game plan and happy to do all the same things. Yes, those days are long gone.
To make this trip bearable, enjoyable and memorable, I knew I was going to have to be creative and flexible when planning it. And have a lot of patience for the road. I fully realize I only have a few years left of true family vacations with my kids and I want to make the most of them while I can, even now when the kids are at different stages with vastly different interests.
First and foremost, I decided I had to mix things up a bit. While we have generally spent Spring Break vacation solely at Walt Disney World Resort, visiting the parks each day, I realized that plan was not going to work this year. I had to think outside the box. I may be delusional, but I wholeheartedly believe a teen, tween and a Jedi Princess can coexist happily on a family vacation, and here’s how I plan to make that happen:
- Plan to stop along the road trip and experience something new: Because our travel route takes us through Atlanta, I have planned a stopover to visit the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola. One of my teen’s biggest issues was not being able to experience something new or visit a new area of the United States. Rather than plan a completely different vacation that didn’t include Walt Disney World Resort or Universal Orlando Resort, thus disappointing the girls, I added two days to the beginning of the trip in Atlanta. Everyone can get on board with visiting the largest aquarium in North America – even I am excited about this visit. Tasting over 100+ different Coca-Cola beverages from around the world actually peaked the teen’s interest even for a fleeting second, as did the idea of walking out with free soda after a visit to the World of Coca-Cola. I want my kids to see and experience many new and diverse things, so adding these two days was perfect for that. Plus it made my teen happy to know I had tried to plan something for him (at least I think so, of course he didn’t tell me that directly. ;)). If you are not driving to your destination, plan to rent a car once you arrive and take an adventure for one or two days.
- Take advantage of the many different activities available at Walt Disney World Resort outside of the theme parks that appeal to teens and tweens: On all of our previous trips to date, other than planning downtime at the pool or visiting Disney Springs, we have not taken advantage of what is available outside of the theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort. There is a wealth of activities available that appeal to teens and tweens that can make everyone happy on a family vacation to the most magical place on earth. During our stay I have the following activities planned:
- Atlanta Braves Spring Training: My son and husband will attend the last Atlanta Braves Spring Training baseball game. Both my husband and my son are huge baseball fans so this was PERFECT timing! My son’s eyes actually lit up just a bit when I mentioned this to him.
- Senses Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort: While the boys are at baseball, I am taking the girls to Senses Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort for Magical Manicures and Princess Pedicures. The past several years we have taken advantage of princess makeovers by Fairy Godmothers-in-Training at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Magic Kingdom, but my 11-year-old had no interest in dressing up as a princess this year, despite the wishes of her 9-year-old sister. As a compromise I booked manicures and pedicures at the spa. I feel a bit melancholy knowing the days of princess dress up are over, but can still look forward to special activities with my girls.
- Bowling at Splitsville Luxury Lanes™ in Disney Springs: This will be our first visit to Splitsville Luxury Lanes™ and the entire family is excited about this activity. The trash talk has already started and bets are being made as to who will be the best bowler in the family.
- Shopping at Disney Springs: Ok, my son couldn’t care less about this, but trust me, mention all the great shopping available to the girls and dollar signs appear in their eyes as they excitedly discuss the litany of items they want to purchase. My teen can hang out in the Orlando Harley-Davidson store and nosh on chocolate at The Ganachery while the girls and I shop. We plan to end the day at The BOATHOUSE® for dessert and maybe a ride in a vintage American Amphicar if we have time.
- A day at Stormalong Bay at Disney’s Beach & Yacht Club Resorts: We are doing a split stay between Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, and one of the primary reasons for doing so is to give the kids a day at Stormalong Bay. Stormalong Bay is a 3-acre waterpark extravaganza complete with one of the highest hotel water slides at Walt Disney World Resort, a lazy river, sandy bottom pool, and so much more. We also will be taking advantage of the pool at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, another 3-acre pool with an old-fashioned swimming hole and sawmill slide. These amenities, located right at our resort, are attractions in and of themselves for my kids.
- Lunch at Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village: Not only will everyone have the opportunity to sample new cuisine at Sanaa, but an opportunity to watch the animals roam the Sunset Savannah right outside the windows of the restaurant. We can’t actually travel to Africa or India at the moment, but lunching on African cuisine with an Indian flair as we view zebras, giraffes, ostriches and more mill about is a very nice alternative that interests everyone in the family, as well as gives the kids a chance to try a new type of food.
- Plan a day with Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort: My girls are reading the Harry Potter books and have watched all of the movies. It amazes me how these books can still capture the imagination of kids and I love that my girls are spending so much time off of an electronic instrument with their noses in a book. My teen read the Harry Potter books a few years ago, and while he feigns disinterest in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I’ve caught him picking up one of the books recently and taking a look at the park information. To say this is a whole new world for our family is an understatement – we have never been to Universal Orlando Resort before so this will be quite an adventure for us, one that everyone is excited about. Discovering something new as a family is a great way to make lasting vacation memories.
- Go off the beaten path and have some educational fun: Located just 57 miles from Walt Disney World Resort, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens a whole new world of space travel for visitors. Visiting the space center is definitely a part of this vacation the teen is 100% on board with, and the girls are equally excited about. Meet an astronaut, take a bus tour of the center, visit the Rocket Garden, and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of a space shuttle launch are just a few of the activities to experience. To a child and adult alike space travel is one of the most incredible accomplishments of mankind and just truly mesmerizing.
Will this plan work? I certainly hope so. In a mere five years the teen will be off to college and family vacations as we know them now will be a thing of the past. I can’t stop time but I can make the most of what we have. As we enter this new era of family vacations with a teen, tween and a Jedi Princess, I want to create lasting memories with my kids and thinking outside the box to give everyone something to be excited about on this vacation seemed to be the best way to go.
Follow along with me over the next 11 days as I chronicle our experiences on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’m hoping these next 11 days will create memories to last a lifetime – ride along with me and see how I make that happen.