Last weekend our agency had the pleasure of hosting our second yearly group getaway, this time to National Harbor, Maryland. We stayed at the Gaylord National Resort which is "The place to stay" when you are visiting this area. Not only is the Gaylord situated in an amazing area, it is home to Christmas on the Potomac, which hosts many family friendly Christmas events. This resort screamed traditional Christmas right down to their room keys! It is a breathtaking hotel that has a beautifully decorated atrium that holds a nightly fountain and light show with holiday music. You can even stay in a room that overlooks the beauty of the atrium for an added charge.
For starters, there are over 2 million holiday lights and acres of magnificent decorations situated through out the resort itself. They host the most adorable Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer character breakfast for your young ones, or even those young at heart like me! They also have a Build a Bear Workshop, a Gingerbread decorating corner, Glacier Glide Ice Skating, a Potomac Express train ride, and so much more! For our Starstuff Travel guests who traveled with us, we had a great group deal to many of the happenings here at the resort, including unlimited VIP admission into ICE!
ICE! Featuring Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer is the Gaylord's signature event. You can enjoy your favorite scenes from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer which are brought to life in this walk-through winter wonderland carved from more than two million pounds of ice. Did I mention it is kept at a frigid 9 degrees at all times? Hence why they require you to wear the parkas they hand out or you can not enter the exhibit.
National Harbor is a development along the Potomac River in Oxon Hill, Maryland, It is just a few minutes south of Washington, D.C. It is such a great area for families to visit ( I am sure they would have a blast here anytime of the year). You can walk right out of the Gaylord resort and safely walk this area anytime of day or night. It is full of sought after shopping (like the Peeps Store pictured above) and restaurants along with the famous Capitol Wheel which is a newer ferris wheel overlooking the area. They also have neat sculptures along the streets. While we were there we even witnessed that you could sit and enjoy a Christmas movie on the Plaza screen or meet with holiday characters at the carousel.
During the course of our Holiday Magic Weekend, the National Harbor Tourism Board hosted a private Santa meet and greet party for clients traveling with us right in their own office! We had two hours of holiday crafts, treats, and the most important of all meeting Santa Claus. It was the best way to end our amazing weekend event and to kick off the holiday season with friends and family in a new favorite destination. We look forward to traveling here again next holiday season!
We would like to give a special thank to you Mr. John Mulhearn who took the time to take photographs of all the children meeting with Santa during our private party.
In our family, we define “vacation” as a break from school, our jobs, cooking, cleaning and other chores, and to whatever extent possible...a break from the worries of everyday life. There are many vacation destinations that can satisfy most of these criteria, but as a family traveling with food allergies, escaping the worries of eating out in an unfamiliar place is something so hard to feel comfortable with, a true “vacation” is something almost unattainable. And then there is Walt Disney World. Disney staff members go through extensive training to understand food allergies and cross contamination. Disney chefs go above and beyond to make you feel at ease and not burdensome when dining in their restaurants. The chefs will come out to your table to discuss allergies, walk the buffets with you and make separate dishes or delicious desserts for your food allergic family member.. At table service restaurants, starting at 180 days out when you make your dining reservations, there is a place to note your allergy as a “Special Request”. That special notation follows you to the day you arrive at your meal. The host/hostess or waitress will address your allergy concerns and ask if you wish to speak to a chef. My son loves speaking to the chef and walking buffets together!!! Every food allergy family has its own comfort level. If you want more specific information regarding the restaurants and your particular allergies prior to traveling, you can always email/call the Special Diets departments.I have done so in the past and been very pleased with the responses I’ve received. When dining at quick service restaurants, each restaurant has an allergy menu available when ordering which is also available from the Special Diets department if you wanted to plan before traveling.
Our family does not enjoy eating out while at home very often due to my son’s food allergy. We just can’t relax enough. Even if the main course food is safe, who doesn’t want dessert after dinner? That’s always a big concern. We find that when we are eating out we are either worrying about food safety, staff member awareness or feeling guilty for not allowing our son to order something, All things considered, we don’t feel it is worth the stress. We are so thankful to be able to have our yearly Walt Disney World vacation. We have traveled every year since 2009 and keep going back. Disney’s knowledgeable and accommodating staff makes it possible for us all to relax and enjoy a safe meal each day and night and truly feel like we are on vacation!!!!
For more information regarding traveling with food allergies or to book your next Walt Disney World vacation, reach out to Carolyn Kline at Carolyn@Starstufftravel.com
Last week I was lucky enough to spend some time in one of my favorite places again, Mexico. I was attending a conference for work that was held at the beautiful Grand at Moon Palace in Cancun. One of the reasons I was excited to come back here is because I wanted to show my support and also convince my clients that there is nothing to fear when vacationing in this part of paradise. You will not visit another area of the world where staff and locals are as welcoming as they are in Mexico.
From the moment you arrive in the Cancun airport till the moment you depart you are made to feel like they have been waiting to welcome you here forever. We have been utilizing the ground transportation company Lomas Travel while in the area for many years now. They are a family owned company, that actually started out as a small mom and pop business many years ago that grew into what is now a large travel empire. We were lucky enough to meet the owner and his wife at a farewell dinner they hosted for us at the breathtaking El Dorado Royale in Riviera Maya. It was like being at a large family event where they made you feel like they personally knew you, they even took the time to shake every single one of our hands when we arrived.
There are so many amazing things to do when you are visiting the Cancun/Riviera Maya area too. This specific trip we visited the Cirque Du Soleil show Joya in Riviera Mayas stunning new theater Vidanta.
In many past trips to Mexico over the years I have been lucky enough to spend time swimming with dolphins at the Xcaret Park as well as have a fun adventurous time on board a colorful party barge that takes you through the beautiful natural scenery of Xoximilco Cancun where you eat Mexican cuisine and indulge in Tequila, beer and cocktails while being accompanied by live fiesta music. I even went out on a limb and ate a cricket! There are so many different things for you to do while you visit that it is virtually impossible to ever grow bored of vacationing here!
As you can see in the video above from the balcony of my room from my most recent trip, the scenery the area offers is magnificent. Walking up to this view every morning is nothing short of a miracle. One of the greatest things about visiting Mexico is that it is a place where you can get the most bang for your buck. Many airports flying here offer non stop flights and the area is full of some of the best all inclusive resorts in the world. Whether you are coming with your family or just your loved one, they have a resort specific to fit your needs. Did I mention how amazing their food is? While the media frenzy has been out to scare many of you into traveling here, try and tune the noise out. If you speak to any travel agent, they are going to tell you Mexico is the place to be. I have never felt unsafe or better yet unsatisfied with any of my travels there!