Monday, November 26, 2018

Experiences Over Expectations


This post was done in partnership with Disney Signature Experiences

The holidays bring a lot of emotions for me, lot of times I am consumed with the frantic feeling of buying things I don't even want due to the expectations of the world we live in. I found that months after the holidays were over I was anxious about all of the material things we had bought, things that we didn't really love or even use. A few years ago I found myself throwing toys away that had barely been taken out of their holiday package, and that is when Andy and I decided to start buying less material things and start investing more in experiences! While everyone is busy sharing holiday Wish Lists today, I want to share with you the magic of something else! TRAVEL, FAMILY, LIFE, and ADVENTURES!


Our very first family trip was a gift to our kids on Christmas Day (2014) - we surprised the kids with a trip to Disney World. The magic of that first family vacation to Disney World was what propelled us in to our love of traveling as a family. There is something about opening up your imagination and seeing new things that ignites me. On that trip we learned that Disney had more beyond the parks - there is an entire world of wonder outside of Disney's Main Street, Parades, Light Shows and Princesses! I had no idea. They are called Disney Signature Experiences and they are all deeply rooted in the art of storytelling and simply exploring life. That is something I knew I wanted my family to have a connection with - traveling and writing their own stories. I want to share our adventures with you, because these opportunities have changed how we see life. I hope it will inspire you and your family this holiday season to think beyond material gifts and think more about getting out and experiencing life together.



Adventures By Disney

The first one I want to share is our Danube River Cruise with Adventures by Disney. What is Adventures by Disney? It is a Disney-Guided, group travel program filled with many destinations and activities that are drenched with culture. For us this was our first experience of Europe and I love that my kids were impacted with the unique traditions of our surroundings, giving it a very deep cultural meaning that connected them far beyond this trip. I truly feel that the Adventures by Disney travel embodies a love for storytelling and adventure more than any other vacation I have ever been on. In fact, there were no Mickey Ears or character interactions to be had. The part of this experience that felt connected to the Disney brand was the authentic love for culture, land, and people. I love that so much!! Disney is so confident in their brand that they let the culture and destinations shine bright, as they should.  From equestrian farms in Budapest, to dancing lessons in Slovakia, all the way to strudel making in Austria, our kids were filled with wonder about new parts of the world.  If you love culture, authentic traditions, and fully immersive travel experiences then an Adventures by Disney trip is for you!





There was this moment on that trip where Wrennyn and Andy were sitting on the streets of Salzburg playing a clapping-hand game while the busy hustle of crowds were buzzing by. In that moment life just stood still while the world went on around us. I completely got lost in that moment and I will never forget how we felt so at home in such a foreign place. On this trip we definitely made connections to our destinations in a way that we couldn't grasp by just traveling on our own. The Adventure Guides were amazing! They partner with local guides to be sure that the trip is authentic and diverse. They constantly made sure that the Disney Magic was under the surface of all that we experienced, and everyone around us truly felt like family by the end of our trip. I was so thankful to have that weight of planning an itinerary completely lifted off of my shoulders.  We did everything from learning how to make jam in Austria to touring Salt Mines. On days where we sailed the Adventure Guides even had fun itineraries likes making slime and it just felt like home. We will never forget the places we went and the people we met, it was our first experience of Europe and we can't wait to get back! I love that Disney branched out in to this very unique way of seeing the world. I encourage you to look up all of the amazing places they go!

To see some more of our trip click here or here


Disney Cruise Line

Last spring we went on the Disney Cruise Line 7-Day Caribbean cruise and I loved that trip so much.  It was full of the true Disney Culture - with dance parties, princesses, and constant activities, yet still tied up with new stories and destinations. I am a girl who loves an opportunity to put my kids in Mickey Ears, so I love that on the cruises that is still part of the Disney culture. We have been on 2 Disney Cruises and the longer one was definitely they way to go, I loved having more sail days to fit in all of the amazing events that happen on-board. With Broadway-Caliber plays, to family game shows, to fireworks at-sea there was so much going on that we didn't want to miss. I felt like the longer cruise enabled us to experience all of that and still allowed us to find tons of time to relax (and eat! because you do that a lot on a cruise!) Our children would hands-down say this is their favorite way to do Disney. They love the freedom they feel when they can explore the ship - so much of it is geared directly to families. Plus, Mickey waffles every morning at breakfast? YES, PLEASE!


I honestly think my kids could feel the stress lifted off our shoulders when we went on the Disney Cruise. Even when we were at port there was just no rush. The excitement of new places always brings a beautiful awareness with it. Slowing down, taking in the colors and smells. I just love the mix of having the ship be home base, but seeing new places! When you're away from the world like that, you just have to live in the moment, which we don't do enough. Having minimal cellphone coverage is a great reminder of how to take full advantage of our children. Focusing on them without distractions. Building memories that we will talk about for years. We are still navigating the best way to spend time with our kids, giving them unique experiences, and putting work into ourselves. I know when we are on trips like this, we have a better balance once we get back home. We just feel refreshed and inspired. I think having the constant Disney Magic of being positive and having true connections really reminds me of how little else I need in my life!

To read a more detailed guide to our cruise click here


Aulani

When we heard about Aulani I knew that it would be something I wanted my boys to experience. Aulani is a Disney Resort on the Island of O'Ahu, in Hawai'i. It has that Disney Magic trickled in every-so-lightly throughout, but the rich experience of Native Hawaiian culture is what is most palpable at the resort. There were multiple times when our kids turned to us and said "this almost doesn't feel 'Disney'" The characters that Disney features at Aulani are mostly ones with Hawaiian heritage or the classics - it is that thoughtful art of preserving the land and the true commitment to your destination that makes their non-theme-park properties stand out most to me. I felt like Aulani had the most locals working for the property of any Disney Resort I have stayed it, they really wanted to enrich the area and the beauty that already exists in Hawaii. If you take a moment and speak to the team members at the resort you learn so much, they have a true passion for sharing culture and my kids find it fascinating to hear their stories. I love those connections we make everywhere we go.


The coastline of Ko' Olina where the resort sits is absolutely breathtaking. I still miss the moments of waking up to my sun-kissed boys with their wild, salty hair and eager eyes sitting with me while we our morning coffee overlooking a view that never tires. There were very few reasons to leave the resort. With our kids being older, they have a much better sense of how they want their travel experiences to go. We take that in to high consideration when we plan our destinations now. They love to pack things in on some days, but they also want stress free days, where we focus on their ideas. I think Aulani gave us that perfect balance - with the resort being so sprawling, there was room for the kids to constantly shift activities without feeling like they were overwhelmed. Though, we spent most of our days on the resort, we did take time to experience different parts of O'Ahu and I know the boys now have a deep love for that place. Just driving around and seeing different aspects of the Island gave them a more grounded appreciation for Island Life and what it truly means. I wouldn't be shocked if one day Brinley moved there, he was enamored with being on an Island in the middle of the Ocean with beaches in every direction, that kid knows the true art of relaxation combined with a love of the water.

To see a more detailed guide of our Aulani experience click here



I truly hope that the experiences our boys have encountered makes then think about the opportunities ahead of them in life. I want them to know that the world has so much to offer and we can learn so much by listening to the story of each and every destination. We have met so many people along the way in our travels, people that we still keep in touch with through technology. It is pretty amazing to know they have friends all over the world. I hope they continue to be curious about their surroundings and still find time to make family a priority- we won't ever look back and regret these years or the sacrifices we have made to travel as a family of 5.

I hope my sharing a bit about our travel experiences makes you think about all of the possibilities. There is a world of stories out there!

Please don't hesitate to ask me any questions about travel. I have messaged with so many people (personal friends and blog/IG friends!) this past year answering their questions about all of the Disney Signature Experiences that we have had, and I have helped them plan their own trips. I have walked so many through the process. It excites me to help families create these memories and I am happy to help in any way I can, so if you are curious about any specifics please reach out to me!

Have a Happy Holiday Season!




1 comment:

faces said...

I love this whole post- the life the kids experience at every location, and the memories is so amazing what a beautiful last few years you have had making life travels with the little men!!! Beautiful post Shaynah 💋🥰💙💙💙