When it comes time to book a family vacation, it’s nice to find one that lets the traveling mom relax, too.
I was surprised to find that at an Adventures by Disney tour to Italy.
Unlike other tour companies that have added one or two kid-friendly stops to their adult-focused tours as a marketing gimmick, Disney is all about the kids. No surprise there. But it was surprising to find that it was all about me, too.
As the tour arm of the world’s No. 1 entertainer of families, Adventures by Disney started operating in 2005. The company set up its tours with kids in mind and added enough adult-friendly features to make traveling fun for kids, easy on adults and educational for everyone.
My kids and I were guests of Disney’s "Viva Italia" tour in 2007 and spent a fabulous nine days visiting Rome, Tuscany, Florence and Venice. My kids, then ages 11 and 13, quickly bonded with the other "junior adventurers" on the tour–the key to a good time on the road for tweens and teens.
Since my husband couldn’t take off work, I was traveling alone with them. Having Disney’s two tour guides around to take care of all the details made me feel like I was on vacation, too, something that surely would not have been the case if I had to navigate a foreign country while dragging around two grumpy kids and all of our bags.
We spent plenty of time on a bus, but because the kids had bonded, they opted to sit with friends, which left me time to read, look at the beautiful scenery or visit with the other parents.
Disney also understands that it doesn’t make sense to schedule every minute when you’re traveling with children. There was plenty of downtime for us to explore on our own, swim in the pool or chill in the hotel room. The scheduled activities included a walking tour of Rome, a gondola ride in Venice and pasta-making lessons at a villa in Tuscany.
My only complaint on the trip was the food. Many of the meals are included in the tour price. Since we were traveling in Italy, land of pizza and pasta, two of the kid-friendliest foods in the world, I expected my picky eater to do well on this trip. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Several of the restaurants where we ate pre-arranged meals offered the kids hamburgers and french fries or greasy chicken that even my kid who is not a picky eater refused to eat.
For 2009, Disney will again offer the Viva Italia tour, along with 14 other returning itineraries:
* Spirit of America, which includes visits to Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Williamsburg, Va.
* Quest for the West, which includes stops in Jackson Hole, Wyo., Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.
* Southwest Splendors, which includes Sedona, Ariz., Grand Canyon and Moab, Utah.
* Treasures of Spain, which includes stops in Barcelona, Seville and Madrid.
* The Emerald Isle, which visits the Irish cities of Dublin, Killarney and Shannon.
* Cities of Knights and Lights, a tour through England and France with stops in London and Paris.
* Once Upon a Fairytale, which visits the German cities of Heidelberg, Trendelburg, Rothenburg and Munich.
* Flavors of France, a culinary tour of Provence and Paris.
* Storybook Kingdoms, a trip through the Czech Republic and Austria with stops in Prague, Salzburg and Vienna.
* Path to Pura Vida, which visits San Jose, Arenal and Manual Antonio National Park in Costa Rica.
* Sacred Valleys and Incan Cities, with stops in Lima, Sacred Valley and Cusco in Peru.
* Enchanted China, with includes stops in Beijing, Chengdu, Guilin, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
* Discovery Down Under, a tour through North Queensland, Ayers Rock and Sydney, Australia.
* Back Stage Magic, a tour that includes Hollywood and Disneyland.
New this year
* Alpine Magic, which visits Italy and Switzerland with stops in Stresa, Zermatt and Lake Lucerne.
* Beantown and The Big Apple, which tours through Boston, Newport, R.I., and New York City.
* Bella Italia, which visits the central Italy cities of Sorrento and Florence.
* Gateway to the Galapagos, a tour of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
* Golden Path to Yosemite, which includes Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park and San Francisco.
* Rocky Trails and Mountie Tales, a tour through Montana and Alberta, Canada, with stops in Glacier National Park and Banff National Park.
* Safari to South Africa, with a tour of Cape Town, the Garden Route and Kapama Game Reserve.
* Taming the Last Frontier, which visits Fairbanks, Ala., Denali National Park and Kenai Peninsula.
Tour rates vary depending on the trip and dates of travel. They range from about $2,000 per person for some of the American tours to $5,000 or more for the Australia tour. The new Signature tours, which offer higher-end accommodations, are available on certain dates on the South Africa tour and the Northern California trip. Taking the high-end tour adds $800 to $1,000 per person to the tour price. Rates do not include airfare to the destination.