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Tag Archives: family travel

Transformers take fight to Orlando in 2013

4 hrs.

Courtesy Universal Orlando Resor

Universal Orlando Resorts’ next blockbuster attraction will be the widely-popular Transformers: The Ride – 3D. The groundbreaking ride will bring the intergalactic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons to Universal Studios Florida next summer.

Orlando, prepare for battle.

With the intergalactic war between the Autobots and Decepticons raging at Universal Studios Hollywood since last May (and in Singapore since 2011), it seems it was only a matter of time before the conflict spread to central Florida.

On Thursday, Universal executives announced that time would be summer 2013, with the opening of the blockbuster attraction Transformers: The Ride – 3D at Universal Studios Florida.

“We’ve had a great run with it in both Singapore and Hollywood,” said Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative. “Based on the overwhelming response, we figured why not Orlando?”

(NBC News and Universal Parks and Resorts are both owned by NBCUniversal.)

As fans of the toys, TV show and Megan Fox know, Transformers tells the tale of warring alien robots that can convert into vehicles or weapons as they battle for control of the universe. The Autobots are led by the heroic Optimus Prime; the Decepticons by the evil Megatron, with puny humans caught in the middle of the clanking, cranking action.

“At the end of the day, it’s a story of good and evil,” said Woodbury. “The visual experience of the movies is great fodder for us to take and turn into a ride experience.”

According to Woodbury, the ride itself will be identical to the ones in Hollywood and Singapore. Guests will queue through a control center, aka, the N.E.S.T., just as the Decepticons are about to attack. Donning 3D glasses and boarding motion-simulator vehicles, they’ll spend the next five minutes immersed in a series of chases, crashes and explosions delivered via elaborate sets, 14 movie screens and a 5,000-watt sound system.

Assuming they survive, they’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief as they exit through the Transformers Supply Vault, aka, the gift shop.

Meanwhile, a much larger, albeit less noisy, battle may also be in the offing. On Tuesday, executives at Disney announced the company was buying Lucasfilm, owner of the “Star Wars” franchise, for $4 billion.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the news echoed across the Internet at warp speeds, with jokes about potential new synergies — “When You Wish Upon a Death Star,” anyone — and the official announcement of a proposed “Star Wars 7” movie to be released in 2015. 

Even Disney got in the action, releasing an entertaining YouTube video that asked: Darth Vader, now that you’re part of the Disney family, what will you do next? The answer, apparently, is visit Cinderella’s castle, ride the tea cups and use the Force to pull the Sword from the Stone at the King Arthur Carousel.

Humor aside, though, the Lucasfilm deal may also represent the latest front in the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of theme-park visitors. Coming on the heels of Disney’s previous purchases of Pixar (2006) and Marvel Entertainment (2009), the move means that several iconic franchises, including “Toy Story,” “Star Wars” and many (but not all) Marvel characters, are now under the Disney umbrella.

The potential for new rides, movie sequels and synergistic merchandising is huge — just as it is for Universal, which, of course, boasts its own franchise firepower with the likes of “Harry Potter,” “Shrek” and now “Transformers.”

“It’s all about capitalizing on a good franchise,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., a Cincinnati-based theme park consulting company. “They’re competing on the intellectual-property stage, looking for products that will appeal to the mass public — not only for now but for decades to come.”

Prepare for battle, indeed.

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

2 days

Disney buying Lucasfilm, will release new ‘Star Wars’ movie in 2015

Close post

Transformers take fight to Orlando in 2013

4 hrs.

Courtesy Universal Orlando Resor

Universal Orlando Resorts’ next blockbuster attraction will be the widely-popular Transformers: The Ride – 3D. The groundbreaking ride will bring the intergalactic battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons to Universal Studios Florida next summer.

Orlando, prepare for battle.

With the intergalactic war between the Autobots and Decepticons raging at Universal Studios Hollywood since last May (and in Singapore since 2011), it seems it was only a matter of time before the conflict spread to central Florida.

On Thursday, Universal executives announced that time would be summer 2013, with the opening of the blockbuster attraction Transformers: The Ride – 3D at Universal Studios Florida.

“We’ve had a great run with it in both Singapore and Hollywood,” said Mark Woodbury, president of Universal Creative. “Based on the overwhelming response, we figured why not Orlando?”

(NBC News and Universal Parks and Resorts are both owned by NBCUniversal.)

As fans of the toys, TV show and Megan Fox know, Transformers tells the tale of warring alien robots that can convert into vehicles or weapons as they battle for control of the universe. The Autobots are led by the heroic Optimus Prime; the Decepticons by the evil Megatron, with puny humans caught in the middle of the clanking, cranking action.

“At the end of the day, it’s a story of good and evil,” said Woodbury. “The visual experience of the movies is great fodder for us to take and turn into a ride experience.”

According to Woodbury, the ride itself will be identical to the ones in Hollywood and Singapore. Guests will queue through a control center, aka, the N.E.S.T., just as the Decepticons are about to attack. Donning 3D glasses and boarding motion-simulator vehicles, they’ll spend the next five minutes immersed in a series of chases, crashes and explosions delivered via elaborate sets, 14 movie screens and a 5,000-watt sound system.

Assuming they survive, they’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief as they exit through the Transformers Supply Vault, aka, the gift shop.

Meanwhile, a much larger, albeit less noisy, battle may also be in the offing. On Tuesday, executives at Disney announced the company was buying Lucasfilm, owner of the “Star Wars” franchise, for $4 billion.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the news echoed across the Internet at warp speeds, with jokes about potential new synergies — “When You Wish Upon a Death Star,” anyone — and the official announcement of a proposed “Star Wars 7” movie to be released in 2015. 

Even Disney got in the action, releasing an entertaining YouTube video that asked: Darth Vader, now that you’re part of the Disney family, what will you do next? The answer, apparently, is visit Cinderella’s castle, ride the tea cups and use the Force to pull the Sword from the Stone at the King Arthur Carousel.

Humor aside, though, the Lucasfilm deal may also represent the latest front in the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of theme-park visitors. Coming on the heels of Disney’s previous purchases of Pixar (2006) and Marvel Entertainment (2009), the move means that several iconic franchises, including “Toy Story,” “Star Wars” and many (but not all) Marvel characters, are now under the Disney umbrella.

The potential for new rides, movie sequels and synergistic merchandising is huge — just as it is for Universal, which, of course, boasts its own franchise firepower with the likes of “Harry Potter,” “Shrek” and now “Transformers.”

“It’s all about capitalizing on a good franchise,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., a Cincinnati-based theme park consulting company. “They’re competing on the intellectual-property stage, looking for products that will appeal to the mass public — not only for now but for decades to come.”

Prepare for battle, indeed.

Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.

2 days

Disney buying Lucasfilm, will release new ‘Star Wars’ movie in 2015

Close post

Tips for traveling with grandchildren

We know how you feel — your grandchildren are perfect, adorable little angels who bring you and the rest of the world nothing but joy. And if they don’t, you can always give them back to their parents, right? Not if you decide to travel with them!

Still, if quick visits and even overnights leave you longing for more time with your grandchildren, consider traveling with them. More and more seniors are finding that trips with their grandchildren are great bonding experiences filled with wonderful memories — if planned carefully.


Talk to their parents
Talking with your grandchild’s parents is the first step in planning a successful trip. The parents will know if their child is ready to be away from home without them, and they will be valuable resources when planning the destination and activities their children tend to enjoy. Children bore easily, so it is important to know what really piques their interests. Your grandchild’s parents will also be able to tell you about sleeping and eating schedules, and it is best that you try to stick to these, even on vacation. Children thrive when they know what to expect and are most comfortable in a routine.

Do a test run
Even if you and the child’s parents agree that he or she is ready to travel, have a test run. After all, you won’t know about homesickness until you’re already away from home, and it is best to find out if your grandchild is miserable away from his or her parents on a day trip rather than a weekend-long vacation. If you’ve never spent time with your grandchild without his or her parents, this is a good opportunity to do just that. Take the child to the zoo or to the beach and see how it goes. If it doesn’t go well, maybe your grandchild isn’t ready to travel with you, or maybe you just need to warm up to a long weekend with several more day trips.

A test run will also help you assess your own limits. Remember, children have seemingly endless energy and are difficult to keep up with. If you find yourself wiped out after just a few hours, you may need to either scale back on your travel plans or wait until the child is a little older.

Prepare, prepare, prepare
After you have decided on a destination, explain to your grandchildren where you will be going and what they can expect from your trip. Will they be traveling by plane? What sort of a place will they be staying in? Children are at their best when they know what to expect and surprises are at a minimum.

Make sure your grandchildren have proper identification, including contact information, on them at all times during the trip, and be sure to have a recent photo of them in case they get lost. You should also have a notarized authorization form from your grandchild’s parents in case he or she needs medical attention. Make sure you are crystal clear on medications and dosages if your grandchild will be taking any during the trip.

Get the kids excited
Read about the chosen destination with your grandchildren and then ask them what they hope to get out of the trip. That way, everyone’s expectations can be discussed and (hopefully) met.

When we asked for tips from our members on this topic, Travelmommy told us her parents have taken several trips with her young children and the experience has been very positive. “Usually my folks send a card before the trip with a map or a picture of where they plan to take the kids, but last time they sent a video,” she said. The video they sent was called “Shae by Air,” and Travelmommy told us the video was instrumental in preparing her children and getting them excited for a flight with their grandparents. “The premise of the DVD,” she said, “is that children, even small ones, have the capacity to understand what to expect and what is expected of them, and with that the ability to be respectful, good little travelers.”

Go!
If you’re looking for organized travel opportunities for grandparents and grandchildren, check out the family programs from Road Scholar or the Sierra Club’s multigenerational trips. Lindblad Expeditions offers family-friendly and learning-intensive expedition cruises to destinations around the world. (Read more about six reasons you’ll love an expedition cruise.)

If an organized tour is too cost-prohibitive, consider going it alone. How about camping at a national park? Not only do seniors enjoy deep discounts at the parks, but there are plenty of kid-friendly activities like hiking and wildlife viewing. Had something a little more relaxing in mind? Rent a vacation house at the beach — kids never seem to tire of the ocean and the sand. Remember it’s not as much about where you go as it is about the memories created from the time spent together.

More from IndependentTraveler.com:

Disney announces weekly park surprises for 2013

Richard Drew / AP

People with mouse ear caps and balloons gather near a three-story castle mad of ice in New York’s Times Square. On Wednesday, Disney announced a new program for 2013, “Limited Time Magic,” in which guests will encounter surprise weekly themes at Disney parks in Florida and California.

Social media will be a big component of a new program announced by Disney Wednesday in which the company’s parks in California and Florida will feature weekly surprise themes and events.

The “Limited Time Magic” program announced Wednesday will include impromptu concerts, dance parties, colored lighting, character meet-and-greets, new menu and merchandise items and other events at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., near Orlando.


Disney will use Twitter, blogs, websites and other online activity to let park visitors know what’s happening. Guests might also be asked to vote on which characters they’d like to see or be sent on scavenger hunts with hints to figure out what’s new or different.

“It’s a fun, lighthearted, new way to get people engaged,” Leslie Ferraro, executive vice president of global marketing and sales for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said at a news conference in Manhattan announcing the program.

Disney erected a 25-foot-tall castle made of ice in Times Square to symbolize the fleeting nature of the weekly surprises, and water ran down the turrets as the ice melted Wednesday morning. Blase New Yorkers hurried past without giving it a second glance but some fans and tourists donned mouse ears and took pictures.

Each “Limited Time Magic” theme will last a week. Plans include celebrations of July Fourth, “Pirate Week,” 3-D chalk art, “Long Lost Friends Week” featuring lesser-known Disney characters. A Valentine’s Day celebration will feature pink and red lighting on Disney castles and romantic candlelit dinners in park restaurants.

Other Disney park news this year includes the June opening of Cars Land at California Adventure at Disneyland, and the continuing expansion of Fantasyland at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The Fantasyland project, which is the largest expansion in the park’s 41-year history, began in March with the first of two Dumbo rides taking flight and is expected to be completed in 2014.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Forget fancy hotels! Hostels catering to families

Courtesy HostelBookers.com

The five-star Danhostel Copenhagen City hostel in Denmark has fine views and is within walking distance of major attractions and the city center.

Zenos Dupuis, from Saginaw, Mich., does not like fancy hotels or spending $200 a night for a room. But he does likes a good value, a central location, and clean and comfortable accommodations. So when he travels with his extended family these days, he prefers hostels.

“I like the huge restaurant-style kitchen, where you can bring your own food,” said Dupuis, who stayed at the Chicago Getaway Hostel several times recently with his wife, grandchildren and children, including an infant son. “The employees treat us like family; they make you feel at home.”

He also likes that the hostel is just a short walk to the Lincoln Park Zoo.

Many people associate hostels with lone backpackers, traveling groups of students and even older singles, but these days, more families than ever are vacationing at hostels, industry experts said. They are located in a diverse range of locations, too, including urban centers, like London, where they are close to museums and parks; in resort areas like Orlando or beach towns; and in exotic locations, like a “tree house” style hostel in Olympos, Turkey.


“Hostels are becoming increasingly appealing to cost-conscious travelers with children,” said Giovanna Gentile, public relations executive for London-based HostelBookers.com, which specializes in budget accommodations internationally. As the demand continues to increase, she said, “hostels are adapting themselves to offer the types of accommodation and services that traveling families are seeking.”

“Most hostels offer games rooms and where children can watch TV and families can relax in the comfortable lounge areas after a busy day of sightseeing,” said Gentile. And “hostels often organize free activities such as city tours or movie nights, which are also popular with families.”

Other family-friendly features include common kitchens to make packed lunches or dinner for tired (or finicky) kids, which is both cost effective and convenient; private rooms with en suite bathrooms, so the entire family can sleep together in one room; bike and skate sharing programs; pingpong tables; and movie rooms. There are also amenities to keep the parents happy, like on-site bars. “You won’t have far to travel once you have put the kids to bed and settle down for an evening drink,” the HostelBookers.com website notes.

The site designates a number of family-friendly hostels, but not all. So if a destination is not listed, Gentile recommends reading the description and customer reviews to determine which property is most suitable, and to ask about things like location, elevators, on-site facilities like swimming pools and if the hostel provides cots or highchairs. Some hostels, she said, provide baby-sitting services. At the Villa Saint Exupery Gardens, in Nice, France—located in a residential area in a converted monastery—“there are plenty of activities on offer to keep the children happy including canyoning, sailing and horseback riding,” the listing reads. “The hostel offers a free baby-sitting service and parents can enjoy some much needed time to themselves on a free city tour.”

Courtesy HostelBookers.com

Stay in a tree house style hostel at Saban Treehouse in Olympos, Turkey.

Dupuis, the Michigan father and grandfather, said some guests at the Chicago hostel were initially surprised to see young children.

“You do get a few looks, like, ‘Why are the kids here?’ But I never got the feeling that we were annoying anyone,” he said. “And many would break the ice by asking, ‘How old is your baby?'”

Overall, guests and employees were welcoming, Dupuis said. “A guy from Dublin asked if he could sing to my son. He actually got down on his knees and sang my son an Irish lullaby.” And when his 4-year-old granddaughter began to play with one of the white pool balls in the game room, “an employee racked up the balls for her,” he said. “They made her feel like she belonged there.”

Dupuis said he also enjoys mingling in the common areas and the diversity of guests. “You always hear a variety of languages and meet people from all over the world. I think that’s what I enjoy the most. You never know what accent you are going to hear,” he said. “It opened my eyes.”

That’s exactly the philosophy behind hostels, said Mark Vidalin, marketing director for nonprofit Hostelling International USA. In recent years there has been a trend toward smaller, more private sleeping areas. “And hostels are far less rustic and far more service-oriented than 20 years ago,” and there are more worldwide now than ever, he said.

“But come with an open mind,” as hostels are not intended to replicate hotels. The goal has always been “to intentionally create a shared space, an environment to connect. It’s all about the international, intercultural experience,” he said.

In addition, what is unique about hostels is that no two are the same. Many are historic landmarks, or are located in quirky or fun places, like former lighthouses or Norman castles. Vacation at a place like that, Vidalin said, and the “kids will never forget it.”

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