Wild Adventures (also known as travelling with children) ~~
I was about to write a bland blog about How To Travel With Children. About 420 words in, I thought ‘this is boring ~ anyone could write this’. So I decided to share the “fun” of some of our family travel experiences.
My husband and I did not have many opportunities of travel when we were growing up. We decided, when the kids were young, that we wanted to give them as many traveling adventures as we could. If you read my first blog, you know that I have 2 grown children. We are blessed enough to be able to say that we have traveled in all of the “Lower 48” with them. (I admit that sometimes the visit to a state may have been just a few miles in, so that we could at least say we had been there. Is that cheating?)
Travel by car hint: On a road trip, DO NOT give your 18-month-old son SweeTarts after breakfast in an attempt to keep him happy & quiet. You will find yourself – I happened to be pregnant at the time – on the side of the road, cleaning up a mess after he gets sick all over himself, car seat, blanket, and back seat. Your son will be crying. You might also have a grumpy husband if yours is like mine and feels the need to “Make Time” while on a road trip.
Travel by air hint: DO NOT give your 3-year-old daughter gum right before takeoff in an attempt to keep her happy & quiet. The theory is that it will help alleviate ear pain from change in air pressure. You will find yourself cleaning up a crying, sticky child’s face, hair, clothes, hands and a sticky airplane seat. You might also notice that your fellow travelers are grumpy. Your flight attendant might be on the grumpy side, too.
Additional hint: DO NOT forget to pack your health insurance card. That way, when your 5-year-old son splits open his chin from jumping into the hotel pool while turning to catch himself, you will have it handy for your trip to the emergency room. If I close my eyes, I can still see what the inside of his chin looks like. Also, be prepared. You will have a grumpy 5-year-old as he watches his 3-year-old sister swim and he is not allowed in the pool because he can’t get his stitches wet.
While I shared a few of the not-so-fun experiences of our family travel, there are many, many more happy times. We will never regret any of our family vacations and, instead, we are thankful that we had the means and opportunity to take our kids on so many adventures.
Disney Cruise Line has leased their own island from the Bahamian government. Various aspects of Castaway Cay definitely deserve their own posts, but I will only mention that the island is my wife’s favorite vacation spot now that we have children. The focus of this post is the Castaway Cay 5k. My wife and I traveled without our children aboard the Disney Magic in early March 2016. This opportunity allowed us to experience a LOT of things we were unable to on our previous two cruises.
Before jumping into my discussion about the Castaway Cay 5k, I would like to share a bit more about my relationship with running. The Castaway Cay 5k is truly for ANYONE. It doesn’t matter if you walk, jog, or run the race. I witnessed people running a very impressive pace and some folks casually walking and taking in the beautiful Bahamian scenery. I run, but I do not consider myself a runner. This doesn’t make sense, but bear with me. I run six days a week; usually four to six miles at a time. I do this more for alone time/therapy rather than the fitness. I do not consider myself a runner because, up until our recent Disney Cruise, I have never participated in an organized run. Honestly, I would not have done it without the persistence of my lovely wife. Now, she thinks she has a shot at turning me into a runner.
This was right after receiving our instructions for the Castaway Cay 5k.
This is how I really felt about getting up early on our Disney Cruise to participate in the Castaway Cay 5k
Registering for the Castaway Cay 5k was extremely simple. We needed to go to Guest Services for a couple of issues, and were not sure where registration for the race was. We had thought registration was either at Guest Services or Port Adventures. The cast member was able to register us for the race within seconds. When you register, the cast member will give entrants a ticket for participation. Here is the first thing to keep in mind if you are interested in participating in the race: Register before the day of the race. There were people turned away the morning of the 5k for not pre-registering. 123 people were registered for the race. Another thing to remember is participation in the Castaway Cay 5k is included in your cruise fare! You read that correctly. This is a runDisney event that is free! If you have looked into pricing for runDisney races and challenges, you know how expensive partaking in those events are. I consider the Castaway Cay 5k an opportunity to maximize the tremendous value of a Disney Cruise Line vacation. Participants (and some of their family members) met in Fathoms before the race. There is a brief presentation about the island and course for the 5k. A map of the race is provided to each participant and projected on a large screen. The course is discussed, but several people did not follow the course during our run. See the map of Castaway Cay 5k below.
As you can see, the beginning of the race is near the middle of the island. Prepare yourself for a nice walk, which is about a mile long. The cast members jokingly called this a bonus mile. I feel like it was actually a nice walk, as I have always taken the tram to the beaches. It was nice to slowly take in some of the island. Also, there are some terrific photo opportunities along the walk. The race is loosely organized. Once it seems like everyone is near the starting point, the timer is started and the race begins. The course begins on a bike path and moves on to the runway. During the pre-race presentation, the hosts emphasized staying on the side of the runway multiple times. After participating in the race, I understand the need to do so. I need to preface my next comments with I rarely have criticisms of Disney and generally trust their brand and process for distributing their entertainment. But, Disney has some intense and sometimes distracted drivers for the trams and golf carts. I don’t know how much it would cost to provide hands-free technology to each driver, but I’m sure it would be a minimal and necessary investment. That being said, I personally followed directions and had no negative interactions with said vehicles. However, I witnessed an interesting interaction. After the runway, racers turn into a bike path loop. The loop is kind of neat during the first trip. A lookout tower is located near the back of the loop. I have never been to the top of the tower, but I have read and heard that there are good views from there. I guess that’s an excuse to return??? After one complete loop, participants turn right to head toward Serenity Bay. At the entrance of the bike path loop, there is a drink station setup. Cold water is available. If I remember correctly, the station was not established on my entry of the loop but fully functioning when I came out of the loop. Serenity Bay is at the opposite end of the island as the ship. Racers turn around near the end of the runway and repeat the course in reverse. I found the loop to be much more monotonous the second time around. It is probably my fault as I was beginning to push my pace a bit and just kept thinking about how BIG that bike path loop is. Again, the water station is setup at the entry/exit to the bike path loop, which participants pass four times. In typical Disney fashion, there is a shop with runDisney merchandise near the end of the course. There are Castaway Cay 5k specific items. They are unique. If you are a collector, you may want to check it out.
This was taken right before the Castaway Cay 5k.
After the run
I ran with my cinch sack on. Don’t make that mistake. I ended up running with my right hand on the strings for the entire run!
Our family typically drives from North Central Illinois to Orlando or Port Canaveral. This is for two reasons. First and foremost, I am terribly anxious about flying and I do not want to couple that with trying to get two young children on a plane. Second, I actually like driving. The journey is part of the vacation for me. I try to make it enjoyable for all of my family members. Sometimes the love of my life reminds me about the challenges of the longer journey of driving.
My wife and I decided to take a short, three-day cruise out of Port Canaveral. A few weeks beforehand we received our Disney Cruise Line travel documents. This elegant booklet is always exciting to receive! It contains a fair amount of pertinent information that all cruisers should read. Our booklet included our luggage tags. These magical little stickers can make your life a whole lot simpler! Here is how it works: 1. Pack your luggage. 2. Affix the sticker to a handle on your luggage. 3. Drop off your luggage at your airline check-in. That is it. Yes. It is that simple.
We flew from Midway Airport to Orlando International Airport. At Midway, my wife and I did curbside check-in. Each of us had a checked bag and a carry on. Relieving ourselves of the checked bag was surprisingly efficient, and the attendant seemed very chipper for 4:15 AM. We had a little snag while obtaining boarding passes and checking in at security, but it was very promptly remedied. I am sure I will find some sympathizers here. Why does it seem like whenever I fly, I get my bags searched? Not just scanned-searched and dug around in. The security person who rifled through my bag seemed like a cool guy though. We chit-chatted while he admired my Ripcurl trunks and asked me why I needed two extra razors. He also made a nice comment about my headphones. After that, we were on our way! The flight was uneventful. When we landed, we took the monorail and no park admission was necessary. A side note and possible tip: there is a Hyatt within Orlando International Airport. If you are one of those people who likes to arrive a day early to avoid delays, this may be an option to look into. Most people who arrived with us went to baggage claim in Terminal A. My wife and I headed straight to Terminal B where the Magical Express check-in is located. (There are several rental car counters located there as well.) Disney was experiencing technology failure with one of two computers at the Disney Cruise Line Magical Express counter. We ended up having one of our longest waits of the entire trip there, and we were third in line. After checking in, we were directed to board the bus. The Magical Express bus was very comfortable. Or, the transition from the airplane to the Magical Express just made it seem like the Taj. Similar to the plane, one could control the light and air flow directly above. Unlike the plane, there were several televisions. On the ride to Port Canaveral, informational videos and Disney shorts were played. The 45-minute ride went by very quickly! Magical Express drops passengers off very close to the terminal at Port Canaveral, and there are several porters waiting to assist any families that may need it. My wife and I only had our carry-on luggage, so we quickly went to the terminal and through security before most of the bus was unloaded. Here is the coolest part of Magical Express. After partaking in various onboard activities, we went back to our stateroom. In the early afternoon, our luggage magically appeared by our stateroom door. We dropped our luggage curbside in Chicago and didn’t have to touch it until we were in our stateroom!
If you have ever taken a cruise on the Disney Cruise Line, you know how disheartening it is to leave the ship. There are multiple options for handling your luggage when disembarking. We were unable to take full advantage of Disney handling our luggage, as we had an early flight. Disney Cruise Line encourages people in these situations to walk off the ship with their luggage. After swiftly going through customs, we boarded Disney’s Magical Express. Again, the buses are located very close to the terminal, so there is minimal walking distance. The drivers of the buses are amazing. They are quick to offer a hand with luggage and are very courteous. The ride back to the airport continues the Disney withdrawal. And, the sales pitches playing on the televisions do not make the emotions any better.
Unlike utilizing Disney’s Magical Express to get to Walt Disney World, there is a fee for transfers to and from Port Canaveral. The fee can change, so if you are considering using this transportation, ask your agent how much the fee is or check online. Magical Express is a great way to get to and from Port Canaveral or Walt Disney World. It offers riders a simple and comfortable transfer and provides some entertainment. If you are looking for a convenient and relaxing ride, I would encourage you to use this transportation option.
Justin Eggenberger, Co-Owner of Adventure is Out There Travel, LLC