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12 Disney Inspired New Year's Resolutions

Disney, FAM, grow, health, LIVE, ROAM By December 31, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 4 Comments

New Year's Resolutions DiEvery time I enter DisneyLand, Walt Disney World or one of the Disney cruises, pixie dust fills my lungs, families get giddy and stress is stomped like a marshmallow. This year I have been showered with love and good fortune and yet I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t always recognize the blessings around me. I allow myself to get stampeded by work and *gasp*, complain sometimes. In travels to California and Florida, Disney has taught me several things, and my goal for 2014 is to incorporate as many of the lessons into my own life as I can.  Here are my 12 Disney-inspired New Year’s resolutions.

1. It’s good to be scared sometimes. A little push to boost the adrenaline can remind you that you always survive risks. At times we forget to truly ‘live’ and ‘feel’ when we get bogged down with the day-to-day. The Radiator Springs Racers in Disney’s California Adventure, Tower of Terror, Expedition Everest at the Animal Kingdom and the Test Track presented by Chevrolet at Epcot will all get your heart going again.

reflections-of-china2. Even if you can’t travel you can still explore cultures. Epcot features countries from around the world and the people working at each pavilion are actually from the countries represented. You can create cultures and experiences with your kids at home by exploring foods, languages and styles of dress – even if you can’t hop a jet to China.

3. Stimulate all of your senses. My favourite ride in both parks is ‘Soarin’. The magic happens when you soar over California in a simulated hang glider and odours pumped into the air correspond to the images you are seeing on-screen. Orange orchards,the pacific ocean and cedar forests bring all of your senses to life.

kilimanjaro-safaris4. Learn from the animals. Of all of the experiences I have had with Disney, the Animal Kingdom is still a favourite.  I like to stay at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in a room that allows me to watch the animals in the Savannah all night long. The kids are given special checklists so they can find and learn about the animals during breaks from the parks. Giraffes rarely sleep and the interactions between the antelopes and other animals is mesmerizing. On the Kilimanjaro Safari in the Animal Kingdom you learn about habitats of the animals and see something different every time.

5. Don’t complain. One of the joys of being at Disney is that the staff are smiling and happy all the time. Even after long days and hot hours they treat each person like it’s the vacation of a lifetime. I’m going to try and do this every time I get gas, have a parking spot nabbed or am in the grocery checkout line.

7. It’s ok to make mistakes. Whether it is the Beast being nasty to Belle, Ariel agreeing to give up her voice or Woody being jealous of Buzz – we all make mistakes. Realize them, apologize, sing a song or two and move on. You’ll be much more fulfilled in life.

Brunch with Princesses

6. Dance often and spontaneously. The parades and dancing never stop at Disney and even the least co-ordinated visitors find their feet tapping. Every time there’s a show a whole community is created through the arts. Everyone is equal and experiencing something together.

8. Lighten your plate. Disney has taken a strong stance on healthy eating over the past year with their Mickey Check icon on nutritious menu choices and they even have healthy downloadable recipes to try. And squirt the ketchup in a Mickey shape once in a while.

9. Be a kid. Go ahead – pose with a princess, try to win a stuffed toy and go to Cinderella’s Castle for brunch. It’s ok to have fun and recreate the innocence and playfulness of childhood.

10. Go all in. If you’re going to do it, give it everything you’ve got. As an actor playing a role I’d have the proper coins in my pocket even when the audience would never know. But going all in made me more authentic.  This is what Disney does at every turn.

Star Wars Weekends11. Holidays are special. Whether it’s Mickey’s Halloween Party, Star Wars Weekends, or Pirate Day, Disney gives each celebration their heart and soul.

WestJet-Magic-Plane12. Corporate can be fun. If you saw the new Westjet #MagicPlane, you know what I’m talking about. I’m going to take special care to throw some magic into even my most mundane business activities.

Disney World

 Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post though UrbanMommies has been invited to Disney Parks in the past.  All of our opinions are our own.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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cruising to Alaska on the Disney Wonder

10 Tips for Cruising to Alaska on the Disney Wonder

cruises, Disney, ROAM, USA By July 29, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , 3 Comments

Disney WonderYou know you feel special when a cruise line picks your hometown as a departure port.  We luckily got to tour the Disney Wonder prior to her first Vancouver – Alaska sailing.  The ship, like the Disney Fantasy was elegant, filled with mystique and the first class service Disney always provides.  Here are our top 10 favourite tips when heading to Alaska on the Disney Wonder.

Disney Wonder Foyer1.  Lots of Alaska excursions are geared toward family travel – eagles, totem polls, log rolling.

2.   Crew members announce each family via microphone, making your little princesses, pirates (and Mom and Dad) feel special from the moment you step aboard.

3. Servers follow your family to each of the 3 dining rooms. This is a revolutionary concept in cruising, and ensures that your personal staff know your menu requirements.  Knowing that you liked the dark beer last night, they may suggest a fun alternative.  Being aware of kids allergies or gluten-free preferences adds an extra layer of safety to Disney’s already allergy-friendly alternatives

Disney Wonder Sendoff4. There are no casinos aboard the ship – instead an entire floor dedicated to children’s programming.  An excellent trade.

5. Before 9pm kids are allowed in the nightclubs so they can experience a taste of the adult spaces on the ship.  Awesome for teaching.

6. Palo is an adults-only restaurant and brunch is over the top. Reservations are required and we’d recommend you make one as soon as u get on the ship!

7. Unlike the other Disney cruise destinations, there are no fireworks on the Alaska itinerary in order to honour the environment.

8. The Spa sells a limited number of passes for the Rainforest Relaxation Room.  With water features, lounges and soft music our family will certainly nab a pass for our next cruise. Services in the spa include barber services for men and teeth whitening for women. You may become the 12th Disney princess.

9. Personal training is available as well as boot camps and body sculpting in the gym. The experts in the spa also offer footprint analysis.

Disney Wonder Cars Carpet

11. ‘Ionithermie’ is a special treatment that flushes toxins out of the body and you could lose up to 8 inches during the cruise.

12. The child activity areas are incredible and while on the Fantasy, my kids never wanted to leave.  Children are not only outfitted with a GPS so their location in the facilities can be determined immediately, but parents are constantly reachable via wave phone that is provided in the stateroom.

13. The Nursery is for kids from 12 weeks to 3 years and requires an extra fee ($6 per hour, per child).  The Oceaneers Club hosts 3-12 year olds.

Disney Wonder Tinkerbell14.  Get a requisite photo with Tinkerbell in the Grand Foyer.

So head to Vancouver, grab an ocean-view cabin (you don’t want to miss the stunning views) and let the Disney Wonder sweep you off your feet.  Your kids will be transfixed by Northwest culture, and you may lost up to 8 inches (if you can resist the glorious food).


Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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I am Strong. I am Brave. I am Merida and I am a Princess!

Disney, ROAM By May 30, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

Merida CoronationHer mother Queen Elinor placed the crown atop her head as she yelled – “I am Strong. I am Brave. I am Merida and I am a Princess!”  Tears, tingles and cries of joy from the crowd as we gathered to see Merida’s coronation as the 11th Disney Princess on May 11, 2013 at Walt Disney World Resort.

Celebrity gymnast Gabby Douglas graced the stage, and Sophie Grace and Rosie from Ellen sang before Merida entered on horseback, bow in hand.  My two boys (who usually hide around princesses “They are so beautiful Mommy!”) were in awe at her stature, her smile, but mostly the poise and strength she exuded.

Merida with BowThere has been controversy on Disney’s decision to give Merida a lovely, Princess-worthy outfit for the most important day of her life.  That Merida looked beautiful on this day does not say that she is less outdoorsy, strong or courageous.  She dressed for the occasion and in my view is no less a role model for girls everywhere.  Disney has given us our 11th role model for girls and boys alike, and I was proud to have my boys and my own mother by my side for the coronation.

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
— A.A. Milne


11 Disney Princesses
Merida Princess

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Disney Diabetes

Disney’s New Diabetes Resource

Disney, EAT, family meals, holidays, ROAM By April 9, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Disney Spoonful DiabetesIf  your kids are living with Type 1 diabetes, you’ve got a few extra challenges.  We’re very excited about a Disney’s New Diabetes Resource from one of our favourite Disney sites.  Disney Interactive has partnered with Lilly Diabetes to launch an online destination dedicated to help families affected by type 1 diabetes on Disney’s family lifestyle site Combining Lilly’s knowledge of diabetes with Disney’s robust parenting network has created a unique and powerful diabetes resource.

Through a mix of articles, videos and advice, site contributors (which include dietitians, psychologists, nurses and everyday families) cover a variety of topics all designed to help families manage type 1 diabetes in everyday situations, such as:

·         Routines for families that manage type 1 diabetes while still letting kids be kids
·         Important info on how to pack for vacations, sleepovers and other outings
·         Talking tips about type 1 diabetes to share with friends, teachers and coaches

One of our favourite sections contains quotes from mothers about how they deal with everyday challenges such as sibling rivalry, glucose checks and keeping every day fun.  There are even printables for the babysitter and great ways to care for the caregivers! Disney’s New Diabetes Resource is a great addition to the Spoonful roster.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Disneyland Just got Happier

Disney, ROAM By August 29, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

I had never been to Walt’s first theme park.  ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’ is certainly a fitting name, and with the addition of Cars Land and extra attractions in Disney California Adventure Park, my family was continuously grinning.  It is absolutely certain that Disneyland just got happier.  Much smaller than Disney World, the original California location was intimate and incredibly accessible.  Popping back to the room for nap time was easy and using my park-hopper pass to make the best of each day was a breeze.

Downtown Disney was smack dab in the middle of everything and featured amazing shopping, food and evening childcare.  On one side of the Downtown section there are the 2 parks (Disney California Adventure and Disneyland Park) and on the other, the Disneyland Hotel, with incredible waterslides, character meals and beds that [had a headboard that had fireworks carved within that lit up and played music] as the kids drifted off to sleep.  No buses were needed to get around, and the shopping and dining options were as plentiful as princesses.

Downtown Disney

I spent many a meal at Catal wine bar.  Not only did it have great food, and an amazing patio, but it was super kid-friendly.  (Plus it was right beside Sephora, which aided in my Lightening McQueen-inspired manicure.)  When my feet got a bit tired, I grabbed some shoes at Sanuk, I watched the Stanley Cup final at the ESPN Sports Bar and saw the handmade signature quilts within the House of Blues.  (With all of these great places you can skip the parks for a day or two!)  One of my favourite spots was Wonderground Gallery, which featured reasonably-priced Disney-inspired original works by up-and-coming artists.

Tip: The Downtown Disney District parking lot is conveniently located and offers free parking for up to 3 hours — or up to 5 hours of free parking with validation from participating locations.

When the kids needed some down time, the Lego Imagination Centre was the place to be.  With giant Lego sculptures and a kid’s (and parent…) play area, we were able to transition beautifully from the excitement of the parks to some quiet time.

Disneyland Park

Divided into Frontierland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Main Street USA, New Orleans Square, Critter Country and Mickey’s Toontown, the iconic and original park remains the stuff of dreams.  Just like in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, no alcohol is served at this park, which places a huge focus on the family experience and holds true to Walt Disney’s original vision.

As a huge fan of New Orleans, the authenticity of the buildings, food and rides in New Orleans Square kept me going back to this park again and again.  I just wish I could have played some jazz with the bands or strolled across the square in a Mardi-gras gown.  In green silk.  Because I’m kind of odd like that.  (Note to self: apply to be a Disney cast member).

Must Dos:

1.  Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (which is also available out at sea on the the Disney Fantasy).  Have your little princess get styled, coiffed and sparkled by the beauty experts in this popular Fantasyland salon.  And if you’ve brought a little pirate with you?  There is a hairstyle package for boys too.

2.  The Mad Hatter’s Teacups: “Again! Again!’ Was all my 4 year old would say.

3.  Star Tours: with 60 possible scenarios, you become a passenger on a space flight piloted by C3PO.  Different landing sites include Coruscant and Naboo.  You are chased by stormtroopers, spoken to by Yoda and some scenarios even include a pod race.  Yes.  I did it at least 7 times with my boys and we had a new story every time.

4.  Jedi Training: Kids are picked from the audience, unlike Disney World where you get there early and sign up.  Different than Disney World, however, the young Jedis fight against both Darth Maul and Darth Vader.  My kids were enthralled just to watch!

5.  Space Mountain continues to be one of my favourite attractions, and unlike Disney World, where riders sit alone, this Space Mountain allowed for 2 people side by side, which made my son much more comfortable.

6.  The fireworks above Sleeping Beauty Castle brought me to happy tears.   Even with small children, they shouldn’t be missed.  And keep your eyes peeled for Tinkerbell and Dumbo, who fly in at a special time.  Depending on the age of your kids, I would recommend a stroller in case sleep comes calling.  (You can rent a double or singe at the entrance gates).

7.  Jungle Cruise: This 7-minute Jungle Cruise was one of the opening day attractions when Disneyland Park opened in July, 1955.  The animals you see along this trek of water engage the whole family.

Disney California Adventure Park

Being in town for the grand re-opening of the park was an honour and will be a lifelong memory.  The day of the opening, the line snaked all the way through Downtown Disney as customer service experts entertained the buzzing crowd.  I have never seen such excitement.  Broadcasters interviewed the public and a huge TV screen gave people hints of what was to come.  Not only was this the first day that Cars Land was open to the public, but California Adventure Park had been revamped and upgraded with the addition of Buena Vista Street – a re-enactment of the Los Angeles Walt Disney would have discovered when he arrived in 1923.  Carthay Circle is a bustling focal point with a 1920’s-30’s vibe, where talented Disney cast members perform swing and tap numbers.  The Red Car Trolley carries passengers from the gate to the Circle, and newspapers are distributed as fast as your kids ask to grab penny candy at the Five and Dime.

Must Dos:

1.  Everything in Cars Land.  Wow.  And go early to grab a Disney Fastpass for the Radiator Springs Racers!

2.  Soarin’ over California: The sensation of hang gliding over different parts of the state but you’re actually sitting, as smells are pumped into the room to correspond with the imagery.  Hint: take off your shoes – it’s even better with bare feet.

3.  California Screamer: this classic rollercoaster takes you for a loop.  And make sure you smile as you come to the end so you can grab the photo of yourself at the Disney Photopass kiosk at the exit.

4.  Goofy’s Sky School: I was fine on the Screamer, but this ride (geared for smaller kids) scared me!  It was a gas, as you ride in a buggy over 4 levels of railings, twisting, turning and going down slopes.  A must.

5.  Silly Symphony Swings: The boys couldn’t stop grinning as we ventured on this old-fashioned carnival-style swing ride.  It also gave me a chance to explain centrifugal force, which they fully ignored.

6.  The Tower of Terror: Pretty scary as you drop several stories, but you may save some money on food if you lose your appetite like I did.

7.  The Pixar Play Parade is incredible and even the clumsiest of readers will feel like dancing!  A great venue to watch is right outside the Tower of Terror.  You can get great photos of the familiar Pixar characters dancing and on elaborate floats.

8.  World of Color: This nighttime water spectacular incorporates water, color, fire and light.  With more than 1,000 jets of water forming incredible shapes in time to the music, kids are mesmerized.  Hint: (Pre-order a World of Color picnic with reserved viewing).

I felt as if I could go to Disneyland once a week.  Actually maybe I should just move to California!  I’m hooked, and I haven’t stopped swing dancing or saying Ka-Chow since my return.  And when you go? (Insert Tow Mater voice)… You’ll be happier than a tornado in a trailer park.  I couldn’t resist.

Disneyland Resort

Disclosure: UrbanMommies was hosted for the grand re-opening of Disney’s California Adventure Park.  As always, our opinions are our own.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Cars Land at the New Disney California Adventure Park

Disney, ROAM By July 11, 2012 Tags: , , , , 1 Comment

I had a solid strategy. Focus. Spy-talk. Going dark on Twitter, Facebook and email. The camera could also wait. The Mission. Step 1: Get into the park, go straight along the Red Car Trolley route and bear left at Carthay Circle. Step 2: At the Radiator Springs sign announcing the new Cars Land at Disneyland Resort in Southern California, head straight to the back to get in line for the Radiator Springs Racers. The highly secretive ‘cast members’ (Disney employees) who experienced the new attractions a full week prior to the general public had glimmering eyes and sly grins when I asked about this particular ride. My plan would have been stellar had my first experience been in daylight. On this particular evening – the grand opening ceremony of the new California Adventure Park – I was so struck by the neon signs and ambiance that I froze in my tracks. There was Flo’s V8 Cafe! The Cozy Cone Motel! (which serves goodies and snacks exclusively in cones.) I may need to wax poetic. Wouldn’t that be a shocker. The hum of the neon. The tunes wafting from the band. The giggles of guests on Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi’s Flying Tires. This would be a good night.

And it was. But not nearly as good as the next day, when my two boys joined me in the park. Despite a string of temper tantrums by the 4 year-old (witnessed by Andy Garcia), the giggles he allowed escape during Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree were priceless. On this ride, you sit on a tractor and get spun around every which way as square dance music plays and Mater welcomes you to his yard. With a height minimum of only 32 inches, very young kids are able to experience the magic. We just lined up over and over again. You giggle as much in line watching others as you do on the ride.

Then there are Luigi’s Flying Tires. I must admit that I was a bit dubious at this. Air blows up through holes in the floor and lifts huge tires off the ground. Hovercraft Tires. The floating monoliths are controlled as the 2 riders lean side to side, front to back, allowing the tire to skim across the floor amidst bouncing beach balls. A jaunty Italian song plays and Luigi coaxes you to have a ball. So to speak. First thought? Do not wear a full skirt as you walk across the platform with air blowing upwards. I failed this first test. Second? Another ride where the minimum is 32 inches – Disney sure knows their demographic! And finally, Totally fun. We giggled as we bumped other tires, made caches of beach balls fly into the air and watched the faces of our fellow riders. Laughed so hard I cried. How very Italian of me. Not very spy-like though, as I was clearly wearing my heart on my sleeve.

The Radiator Springs Racers turned me back into the Bond Girl I am. (ok. Think I am.) 6 People in each car go for a leisurely ride through Ornament Valley, including a drive by the valley’s famous plunging waterfall, Radiator Falls.  As you prepare for the big race, Luigi gives you whitewalls, Doc Hudson supplies some racing tips, and Mater tries to coax you into joining him for a cow-tipping escapade.  Suddenly, you’re off, racing fast around high-banked turns and camelback straightaways, past spectacular red-rock formations. The entire ride spans a huge space through the towering Cadillac Range mountains.  “Car aficionados will notice that the 6 mountain peaks resemble the tail fins of classic Cadillac models from 1957 to 1962.”  Cool.  One more thing.  Best. Ride. Ever.

There are a few tips for when you go:

1. Check it out at night. The Neon is incredible.
2. Buy a pylon drink. You can later give it to the worst hockey player on your team.
3. Do the Radiator Springs Racers at least twice. make it your first stop and grab a Fastpass.
4. Get there early and study a map so you know the fastest beeline.
5. Watch the movies just before going. You’ll be floored (oh I love my car jokes) at the level of detail that will surround you.
6. Get a photo taken in front of the Radiator Springs sign. (You’ve got to do it). The Photopass photographers are amazing.

Tickets are $81-$87 per day, or $119-$125 for a park-hopper pass that allows you to walk across to Disneyland in the same day. Other options are available for multi-day passes.  The Disneyland website is informative and allows you to select various packages.

Disclosure: UrbanMommies was invited to experience the opening of the revamped California Adventure Park and as always, our opinions are our own.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Disney Attracts Celebrity

Disney, ROAM By June 17, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

We’ve all been there (if we’re lucky) – the lineup for the Dumbo ride, the first time on Space Mountain, or the Mickey Photo.  Rich or poor, young or old, Disney is the great equalizer – our smiles reflect happiness and our memories last forever.  And it’s not only at the parks that our spirits are moved. 

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Disney Fantasy - a Perfect Family Cruise

Disney Fantasy – The Perfect Family Cruise

cruises, Disney, ROAM By May 8, 2012 Tags: , , , , , 4 Comments

To see your children happy. Isn’t that every Mother’s goal? I can’t get the vision of the ‘Mickey Pool’ out of my head. We had the great fortune to cruise on the inaugural voyage of the new Disney Fantasy. Modeled after the Disney Dream (the Fantasy is the sister ship to the Dream, and both are about 40% bigger than the Wonder and the Magic) the Fantasy has added a few extra pleasures including the Aquaduck – a see-through pipe waterslide that whisks you around the top of the ship in a raft. I’d be with the little son as the older one and his daddy waved hysterically through the slide’s clear glass. I don’t think I actually stopped giggling during the whole voyage.

As mothers, we feel it is our duty (and sometimes extra-special talent) to create happiness. We can take our children places, but it is ultimately our parenting that allows the kids to thrive in a new environment. The kids clubs on the ship, like the Oceaneer’s Lab and the Oceaneer’s Club, made this very apparent. These two rooms – one with life-sized toys replicating Andy’s Room in Toy Story – featured computer terminals, volcano-making, Tinkerbell leading activities and Disney films. How can a mother possibly compete? I must admit that I was a tad offended when I went to pick up the boys for dinner and they declined to join us. Oh. You’re having too much fun and I am not helping to create it. (And the ample staff taught them both how to use a computer mouse…If you think that’s amazing – my friend’s toddler came off the ship potty-trained!). Hmm. So I guess it’s a date night with my husband, then, without having to hire a babysitter. Right. Where to start?

Not only is there a toddler and child area though – but there are segregated sections for tweens (Edge), infants (It’s a Small World Nursery) and teenagers. The teen space is Vibe. The 14-17 year-olds need a special key card to enter and the chaperones are cool and educated. Teens can insert themselves into zombie movies, crash on the floor pillows or search for ghosts. Many parents I spoke with were confronted with the same shocking realization – Disney was doing a much better job of creating fun than we were.

So my kids are happy. My husband is thrilled. The food is spectacular. The kids are wired with GPS and I have been given a ‘wave phone’ which rings even if they just want to hear my voice (it never rang). So what is left to worry about? Hygene? No. The staff of the Fantasy wiped our hands every time we entered any dining area. The rooms are meticulous. The quality of the surroundings? Nope. Frette has made the linens exclusively for Disney and people are washing down every area all the time. The infant water area – Nemo’s Garden – has fresh water pumped in continuously so that tots in diapers have no chance of imbibing contaminants. So where was I? Safety! Yes. Not only do they have that down, but the actors from the spectacular shows run the drills so they are the most entertaining musters I’ve ever attended. (Actually better than most of the theatre I’ve seen lately). But I can apply the suntan lotion. And I can cut up the food for the kids. Oh wait. No – the waiters in the dining room do that. After they squeeze the ketchup into a Mickey Mouse shape. Oh – and when we arrived to dinner each night (you try each dining room and the staff actually rotates with your family) the kids’ names were clearly present on their cups.

So what struck me the most was my role as a mother, as part of a family. It became more and more clear that I wasn’t responsible to be everything to the kids. My job should include having fun too. And creating memories with my spouse and family. We had lots of time and made a thousand memories as a unit of 4, but I also relaxed as an adult – as a woman. And my husband and I bonded and reconnected. There were so many adult-only areas on the ship, and it was so over-the-top classy that I would return to any Disney cruise even without my kids in tow.

The decor was timeless. Like grand ships of the ’40s, the profile of the Dream and the detailing of the mill work throughout was incredible. Our stateroom had a bathtub – great for infants (and me) and the theatres were opulent. It was kind of like ‘choose your own adventure’. You could catch a film in the movie theatre as a family, take in the fireworks on deck, hit the arcade, chill in the family ‘D Lounge’, or eat (some more). A new addition from the sister ships is also the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. I sent my husband out to purchase suntan lotion and he found himself at the Boutique. He returned ashen-faced and empty-handed. The boutique transforms little girls into Disney Divas or Fairy Tale Princesses. A full-on salon environment, the boutique allows little princesses to choose from packages with hair, nails, makeup and exclusive outfits and crowns. For the tiny princes, as well as girls and grownups (SCORE), there are pirate nights. “Applications of beards and bandanas, swords and scars, earrings and eye patches are all done with the savvy skill of a veteran pirate who shares his own tales of sea-sailing adventures.”

If you prefer an adult escape, you could ditch the kids and go to any of the bars and lounges in Europa, the adult area, like The Tube (a la London), Ohh La La (Paris boudoir), O’Gill’s Pub (Ireland), La Piazza (Italy), or the Skyline. It features full visual skylines of world-famous cities behind the bar and they change over the course of the evening. The Skyline single-handedly convinced my other half that St. Petersburg needs to be our next big trip. Thank you Disney Fantasy. I’ve been working on that jaunt for years.. There are also fun bars on deck, and of course the shows. But you wouldn’t really want the kids to miss those. And in the big scheme of finances – once they’ve seen a live musical on a Disney cruise, you don’t have to break the bank taking them to Broadway, because the performers are THAT good. (I used to do musical theatre). Save the cash for the St. Petersburg trip.

Castaway Cay is Disney’s private Island in the Bahamas. I could yammer on and on about the white sand and the snorkeling, the water sports, the teen beach or the adult-only areas, but I took one huge thing away with me and can’t get it out of my head. Mahi Mahi and fruit. When we arrived, there was a table covered in ready-to-eat fruit. For lunch, amidst burgers, chicken and ribs, was the most perfect Mahi Mahi I have ever experienced. Ditto for the kids. And that’s the thing – my kids ate better during this cruise than they have ever eaten (yeah – my Mom self-esteem is plummeting). I discovered that they LOVE white fish. Papaya. Scalloped potatoes. We tried to make a point of pushing them out of their comfort zones – they were so happy all the time they hardly noticed. (One restaurant – Animator’s Palace – actually encouraged you to draw a figure and then you could see it come to life on screens around the room as you ate!!) So many childrens’ menus do a disservice to our parenting and our children. And the colouring is always interspersed with the offerings of mac and cheese, hotdogs and garbage. At Disney I would have ordered off the kids’ menu. But could someone please cut up my food?

So when you’re not getting photographed with the princesses (there are tons of opportunities), getting the kids styled at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, you can head to the Shipboard Detective Agency on Deck 4. Many parents I knew on the cruise couldn’t get their kids to stop this activity. So you become a detective. You find clues within the art on the ship, and you solve a mystery. There’s even one involving the Muppets. (My kids love the Muppets because we saw a 4-D show in the Magic Kingdom which took me back to childhood. They could see my delight and now every time they see a Muppet commercial on tv the scream their heads off in joy to show me. And I think they are dying. But I digress.)

I’ve taken a few lessons home from Disney. Fun and relaxation instill progress and learning. Adult time is important. Try new things with your kids when you have the opportunity. Focus on your family and it’s unique qualities in determining your activities. Remember that no one person should pressure themselves to teach, entertain and care for the kids all the time. Share the responsibility. And if you still feel like a really crappy mother, hop on a Disney Cruise, dress like a pirate, watch fireworks and focus on the joy in your childrens’ faces. Your parenting has enabled them to feel this true joy, and Disney does a magnificent job in helping them bring it to the surface.

Disney Cruise Lines

Disclosure: Disney Resorts provided accommodation, cruise fare, 1 airline fare for the family to travel to Florida in order to witness the ship and the inaugural sailing of the Fantasy.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Disney Cruise Line Adventure

Our Disney Cruise Lines Adventure

cruises, Disney, ROAM By February 27, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , 1 Comment

The call of Disney is an unmistakable one, now that my kids are getting a bit older. However, I’ve done the theme parks, and as much fun as they are, I’m not sure my youngest is quite ready for a week of ‘It’s a Small World’ at Disneyland or Disney World.  Enter the Disney Cruise. The Disney Cruise Line is specifically designed for family adventures balanced with some well-deserved R&R for mom and dad – all with the first-class style and service you’ve come to expect from anything Disney.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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Testdrives: The Modern Road Trip with Chevrolet Orlando

auto, Disney, GEAR, ROAM, USA By September 12, 2011 Tags: , , , , , 5 Comments

So I was invited on this amazing trip that was sponsored by General Motors and included my whole family.  We flew to Orlando, stayed in a stunning home, saw various Orlando attractions and drove a Chevrolet Orlando from Florida to Toronto in the span of 3 days.  The only part I was worried about was the long drive with the kids.  My husband is injured and unable to drive, so I was on the hook for it all.  I was shocked at how enjoyable it was.  It was the quintessential Modern Road Trip.

Not only did we love the car, but the technology that was placed in the vehicle enhanced the trip to an incredible degree.   The gadgets helped endlessly with ‘Are we there yet?’, fighting in the backseat and getting lost.  The only issue was that it was a bit too easy.  Too comfy.  Compared to old-school road trips, where part of the fun is getting lost and having a good old-fashioned family feud about whose fault it was, we were all blissful.  Next time we’d research a few fun things to do off the beaten track and incorporate tech-free hours.  It never really occurred to us that the point of a road trip is that you see things along the way – not just your end destination.  Channeling the movie ‘Cars‘: “All you see on the interstate is the interstate”.  That being said… for the hours you have to put in getting from point A to point B… here’s what got us through.

Components of the Modern Roadtrip:

1.  iPads.  Each child in the back of the car was given an iPad and a credit for iTunes.  And here I was thinking that my next vehicle had to have AV installed.  For the cost of a couple of first-generation iPads and back-of-the-seat attachments, the kids can look at movies as well as find the golden eggs in Angry Birds.  That’s modern.  (Maybe not great parenting but modern all the same).

2.  OnStar – Oh WOW – where have I been?  I feel so secure and I loved talking to a real person.  OnStar got us to Disney and home, though I am so bad at paying attention, my hubby still had to remind me to change lanes.  After a few days I realized that you could also dial friends and family.  I think that’s when my driving deteriorated.

3.  MiFi: Rogers MiFi created a hotspot in the car so that laptops and iPads could be connected to the internet.  If I hadn’t been driving I would have been seriously geeking out…

4.   Sirius XM radio – we made a pact.  If I drive I got to listen to Broadway the whole time..  And Martha Stewart, and favourites from Y2K.  (I was actually nice and changed the channel once in a while).  But I still sang at the top of my lungs as the Appalacian Mountains whisked by.

5.  The backup sensor.  As a tech innovation I have to mention it.  Great tool – especially when someone walks unexpectedly behind the car.  I’ve driven a few cars with video backup and I like the simple beep better.  Less visual distraction.

6.  The USB hookup.  iPods can be connected directly to the car, and you are able to see your whole playlist on the stereo controls.  The best?  There’s a hidden compartment for the music player so you don’t even have to worry about it being stolen when you leave the car.  (Or look at cords all the time).

7.  The fold-down seats.  Popping carseats in and out was super-easy, and all seats in the back folded down flat with tremendous ease.  You don’t even have to jimmy the headrests off – they duck down when you pull the lever.  Because of our fun accommodations as we drove through Savannah and West Virginia, we didn’t actually sleep in the car, but with this feature, you could create a campout in the back.  Think of all of the fun you could have as a family hangin’ in the trunk.

Part of the success of the trip was the vehicle itself.  I haven’t been asked to write anything about it, but I was so impressed that I feel like gushing.  For the past few years we have been test driving BMWs, Land Rovers, Porsches and lots of family vehicles.  (Well, expensive family vehicles.)  We’re starting to develop a pretty clear idea of essentials for busy moms and families.  In terms of the Chevrolet Orlando, we gave it a high score.  Here’s why:

1.  Carseats clipped in easily.
2.  Good visibility and windows that were large.
3.  The backup sensor (we’re usually pretty tired).
4.  Not only can the stroller get into the trunk with ease, but there was a ton of room for our shopping after a trip to Target.  (Much room needed, believe me).
5.  You can you see the kids in the back seat (the Orlando has a childview mirror)
6.  7 seats with the option of putting 6 up so that there is still storage in the trunk.
7.  Don’t laugh.  It’s important.  I didn’t break a nail or two when opening the driver door quickly.  The handle is long-nail-friendly.
8.  The technology was amazing – electrical ports front and back, and USB.
9.  Drink holders in the armrest in the back for the kids.
10.  Automatically locks when you put the car in drive.
11. Windshield wipers covered a big surface area.
12.  OnStar handsfree calling and Navigation – knowing where you’re going reduces stress.
13.  Low back windows in order to increase kids’ visibility – it keeps them entertained.
14.  Don’t laugh again.  I liked the look of the car.  I want a friendly-looking beast of a vehicle.
15.  I loved the driver’s armrest.
16.  Ease of cruise control rocked – right on the steering wheel.
17. All seatbelt clips had fabric around them which prevented mini lego pieces (and Cheerios, and smarties… ) falling into Neverland (excuse the Disney reference).
18.  The material of the seats seems totally durable and dried really well when we soaked it.  With rainwater.  Stop snickering.
19.  The seats go very high up for short/vertically challenged people.
20.  Directional compass right on console is so helpful for those of us who are navigationally impaired.
21.  Easily cleanable cockpit without many places for dust and schmutz to collect.
22.  You can put a drink in each of the doors.
23.  You can open the trunk hatch with one hand when you’re carrying a baby as well as groceries.
24.  The driver’s seat goes really far back in case you need to use the car as a nursing/feeding place.
25.  Especially with seats 6 and 7 down, the back makes a great diaper change area.

Mom stuff that’s crucial – wouldn’t you agree?  In all, we loved the car and also the idea of a family roadtrip.  We became closer as a family and saw areas of North America that we have only ever heard about.  Now, if only we could find the rest of those Golden Eggs.

Disclosure: UrbanMommies was provided air and car travel, accommodation, meals and one day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.  For more insights, we Tweeted under the hashtag #chevyorlando.

Jill Amery

Jill Amery is a mom of 2 small boys and the Publisher of UrbanMommies, a stylish digital lifestyle magazine filled with fitness, style, health, recipes and savvy mom advice to help you through pregnancy, birth, and raising your kids.

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