Posts Tagged ‘travelling with kids’

Vacation Frowns Brought to You by United Airlines

The bags were packed. Boarding passes printed. Kids hyped about heading to Hawaii for the first time. All in all this was turning out to be a great vacation.

I’ll admit I’m not a frequent flyer. Most of my travel is vacation oriented with my family. I had never flown with United Airlines before either but we paid to upgrade to their Economy Plus seats for more leg room and to ensure we were all sitting together (we were travelling with three kids 8 and under). We couldn’t get a non-stop flight to Honolulu from Buffalo, the city we started our journey from, but we were able to book a flight with just one stopover in Chicago. When you’re traveling with kids in tow, the least amount of stopovers is ideal.

The 9-hour second length of our trip would be long but fortunately the 777 plane we were scheduled to fly was equipped with a centre row of 5 seats; I was able to book the whole family to sit together in one row, our own row. We’ve never been able to do that before so I was sort of looking forward to that part of the trip.

Then we arrived at the airport and smiles turned into frowns thanks to United Airlines.

When we arrived early for our 8 a.m. flight, we were told it would be delayed by an hour and half. This of course meant our initial connecting flight, tight but doable in an hour, would be missed. We were rerouted. Now instead of it being a 12-hour flight with a short, single stopover in Chicago, we were now head for a 15-hour journey consisting of a stopover in both Chicago and Las Angeles.

I know what you’re thinking, delays happen when traveling. And sure, if there had been bad weather, such as a snowstorm, I couldn’t fault the airline over that; they have no control over the weather. But snow wasn’t the issue; weather wasn’t the issue. It seems our plane was delayed arriving the night before. Safety regulations require that the crew receive a specific amount of rest before their next flight. This meant that they wouldn’t be able to fly out as originally planned. I have no issue with the regulation. I know how draining flying ca be as a passenger let alone someone who’s flying the plane. No, the issue I have is that United Airlines didn’t schedule another crew. By delaying the initial flight to Chicago, United Airlines inconvenienced hundreds of passengers, their customers. Connections would be missed, flights rerouted; the plane itself, if scheduled for a follow-up flight, would be delayed affecting a whole other set of passengers. It was a ripple effect.

How hard would it have been to schedule a new crew, inconvenience their employees not their customers? Perhaps I’m being naive but if their pilot became sick the night before would they just postpone or cancel all that pilot’s flights for the next day? I’m guessing not. They would have brought a new pilot on so what makes this case different?

Now on the remaining two legs of our trip we would have to negotiate with gate staff and other passengers to ensure we could not only get our Economy Plus seats we paid for but also ensure we could sit together as a family, or at the very least have each child sitting with at least one parent.

To make matters worse, just as we were getting ready to pull away from the docking platform the pilot announced that the tractor used to pull the plane out wasn’t working and they needed to get a new one. Plus the plane needed to be de-iced. This would mean an additional delay of 20-minutes. Now you would think that United Airlines, knowing that their customers already weren’t happy with the delay, would make every effort to ensure there were no further delays on this flight. Now there was concern that our already rescheduled flights would have to be rescheduled, again.

Thankfully our two stopovers were short and since the planes were domestic we didn’t need to worry about checking in again or collecting our bags. The gate attendants were very helpful in ensuring that each child was sitting with a parent. The rest of the trip went without any delays or complications. The extra delay pushed us from an afternoon arrival into an evening one. This made for very tired and cranky kids but at least we were there on the same day and our vacation was about to start.

We head home on United Airlines with the intention of flying with one stopover and sitting together. Hopefully our return journey will go much smoother, ending on a positive note.

Now on the remaining two legs of our trip we would have to negotiate gate staff and other passengers to ensure we could not only get our Economy Plus seats we paid for but also ensure we could sit together as a family, or at the very least have each child sitting with at least one parent.

This thought still fresh in my mind, the pilot made an announcement just as we were preparing to pull away from the docking platform. Now you would think that United Airlines, knowing that their customers already weren’t happy with the delay, would make every effort to ensure there were no further delays on this flight. I guess they forgot this when they announced there would be an additional 20-minute delay due to equipment malfunction (the tractor that pulls the plane away from the docking station wasn’t working) and de-icing. Now there was concern that our already rescheduled flights would have to be rescheduled, again.

Although our vacation started with stress and frowns and yes it could have gotten off on

Going on a Trip: Guest Post on NTFFC

With school coming to an end and the warmer, sunnier weather finally upon us, June tends to have our family on the road more. My June book review post on Allie‘s site No Time for Flashcards shares a few books about going on a trip, to help get your kids in the traveling frame of mind. Pop over for a read. And if you have a travel book your kids enjoy I’d love to hear about it.

You can find my book reviews every first Saturday of the month over on No Time for Flash Cards. I hope you’ll pop by and check out some great books to share with your kids.

Mickey’s Very Merry Rainy Christmas Party

So we arrived on a rainy Friday afternoon to Disney. Our plan was to attend Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party that night. This was great since we didn’t plan to go to the park that night; we’d now have some extra time in Magic Kingdom. 

Of course it didn’t help that the plane was an hour late arriving so by the time we arrived at the hotel we had to head out to Magic Kingdom. My two youngest were tired from the travels and with their colds we thought it best not to take them out to the park in the rain. 

So it was my seven-year old and myself. It wasn’t that busy but I think the rain kept most people away. It rained off and on all night. Mickey’s ‘Once Upon a Christmas Time Parade’ runs twice during the night so we decided to wait for the second show and hit the park. We shopped for pins and holiday hats. We also grabbed our FREE cookies, apple slices, hot cocoa and apple juice. There were a number of fun activities for kids throughout the park like signing a Christmas card for Santa, pretending to walk the plank, bowling and more. At one point the rain stopped and I actually packed the rain ponchos in my bag. But as we rode Thunder Run roller coaster the rain came back. And a light shower feels pretty sharp when it hits you whizzing around on a coaster. 

A little rain doesn't stop my daughter

Signing a Christmas Card for Santa

One of the many marked snack stops in the park

Enjoying unlimited cocoa and cookies

We were starting to get pretty wet at this point (it’s a good thing the other two kids didn’t come out). My daughter wanted to go but I convinced her to hang out a little longer to catch the ‘Holiday Wishes – Celebrate the Spirit of the Season’ fireworks show. She was glad we stayed; it was pretty spectacular. We hoped to catch the second showing of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, but they decided to cancel it due to rain. I should point out this was the one moment when it actually wasn’t raining. 

Waiting in the rain for the fireworks to start

Fireworks...

...fireworks...

...fireworks...

...fireworks...

...and more fireworks

It was cold and wet so we didin’t get to enjoy the party as much as I hoped but my daughter and I still had a great time. Hopefully we’ll be able to attend sometime in the future when the weather isn’t so disappointing.

I love Disneyland but…

You may be aware that I made a trip to Disneyland this past Halloween in celebration of my birthday. I’ve been to Disney World a few times but this would be my first time to Disneyland, where it all began. It was kind of exciting.

I had a great time but Disneyland isn’t the same as Disney World and I’m not just talking weather or size. In my opinion, the only connection Disneyland has to Disney is the name. The things I love about Disney World weren’t part of my Disneyland experience or at least they weren’t that obvious:

**** Photo Pass ****

At Disney World there are PhotoPass photographers throughout the park, at all parks. They take pictures of you at key locations and save them on your PhotoPass card which you can order from later. They’re usually super kind enough to take pictures of you with your own camera too. We’ve never really taken advantage of the PhotoPass photographers but on this trip, probably my only trip to Disneyland, I had decided to get photos at every spot I could and order a CD with all the pictures. As the family photographer in our house I’m not in many family vacation shots, so having a collection of pictures of my family AND me would have been great.

Problem of course, the PhotoPass photographers were nowhere to be found (I think we had one picture taken). Even during the special Mickey’s Not So Scary  Halloween Trick or Treat party they weren’t there. So needless to say I have very few family shots from this trip.

trading

Shhh...pin negotiating in progress

**** Pin Trading ****

Our kids were first introduced to pin trading during out last trip to Disney World and they loved it, especially my seven-year old daughter. All three of my kids have pin trading books at home and they plan which sets they want to collect and have an amazing time trading with the staff.

In Disney World you can’t pass a staff person without a sash of pins up for trading; even those cleaning up in the stores have these on. In Disneyland we were hard pressed to find anyone with pins to trade. On our Disney World trip the kids went through almost 100 pins in one week; in Disneyland we were lucky to have traded 10 pins. A bit of a disappointment.

cinder3

Then she met the real Cinderella

**** Costumed Characters ****

My youngest was so excited about going to Disneyland. On the plane ride there (two planes actually) all she talked about was seeing Mickey and Cinderella and the other characters. In Disney World there are designated areas to see certain characters, but walking around the parks we would see Captain Hook or  Buzz Lightyear or Chip and Dale walking around, waiting to greet people. Our whole trip we saw Goofy and Minnie Mouse and that was it (though there were more characters at the Halloween Party).

**** For the little Princesses/Princes ****

My first trip to Disney World, years ago, the first thing that struck me was how much the people in the parks focused on the kids. They talked to them. They called them princess and prince. The kids are the focus and parents second, which is what I want for a trip to Disney. This has stuck with me and is one of my favourite things about Disney World; something that I thought was  a Disney trait. But in Disneyland this isn’t the case. Sadly I didn’t feel a lot of Disney magic in the park.

I think my husband said it best:  Disney World is a destination. Disneyland is only a theme park.

And I think he’s right. Visiting Disneyland was just like visiting Wonderland or Six Flags but with the Disney name attached.

The big advantage to Disneyland is it’s size; it’s much smaller and easier to get around and to the other parks. Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney all branch off from a central courtyard so it’s easy to hit all three without taking a bus (not true in Disney World). And there are some differences in the rides too. Haunted Mansion has the Nightmare Before Christmas theme and it was amazing. It’s worth the trip to Disneyland just to see that. Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean were different (and I actually preferred the Disneyland versions), plus there are all new rides.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time, but I expected a little more from Disney; Disney World has set the bar high. If given the choice of travelling to Disney World or Disneyland, Disney World would be my choice hands down. And good thing because we’re back there in December for the Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. I can’t wait!