Late last year, we had the opportunity to travel with the kids to Florida. It was an adventure. It really was. But let’s get one thing clear. It wasn’t a holiday. As anyone who has travelled with small children can attest to- there are many ways you could describe packing up a young family and bringing them to a different country. And the word ‘holiday’ is not one of them. We had an incredible couple of weeks... but it was ‘travelling with kids!’
The lead up to our adventure abroad was pretty hectic and although I’d been incredibly busy, I thought I was prepared. And for the most part, I was. I had researched the hell out of this trip. I had everything ready. We were packed to within an inch of our lives. Ready for the 10 hour plane trip. Snacks, toys, change of clothes, fully charged iPad and all the other million things you need for international travel with kids.
So there we are. Rocking on up to Dublin Airport, a smug smile on my face. Delighted with life… I am an expert traveller. I’ve got this. (Perhaps you can see where this story is heading?)
We are checking in and the Aer Lingus staff members face falls. She sees our excited anticipation and doesn’t want to ruin it. But alas she must. She hesitantly tells me that ‘your passport is out of date’. What? No it couldn’t be?
*Here I must mention that I have dual nationality. I was born in America, so I have a USA passport as well as my Irish citizenship. Usually when travelling to the States I will travel in on my US passport and then come home on my Irish one. Of course I had checked all of our Irish passports but I hadn’t thought about the American one, as we hadn’t been back to the states in a couple years.
We are informed at that point that it is now a federal offence to travel into the States on anything other than your US passport if you are an American citizen. You aren’t eligible for an ESTA if you possess an American passport, even if expired. Catch 22. So, we had this dilemma at Dublin airport. Do we all stay behind in Ireland to get an emergency American passport for me? We decided there was no reason for us all to miss the flight, so Audrey and Ava went ahead.
Moral to this story, please check that all of your passports are in date, especially when travelling to the USA.
On to the rest of the trip. After all that drama, I managed to get an emergency passport and the baby and I got a flight to Orlando two days later. I was so relieved to be reunited with my girls and to get on with enjoying the rest of our time together.
Orlando is an absolutely beautiful place to visit with your LGBT+ family. As I mentioned before, I was born in the States, and I’d grown up visiting Orlando every year. Speaking from experience, it’s not a place you want to be visiting in the height of summer. I think we caught the weather at the perfect time on this visit. It was early November, the locals might think it’s chilly, but the mid 20’s are exactly what you want when out and about with young children. The other lovely thing about visiting at this time of year is that you are getting the lead up to two of the biggest holidays- Thanksgiving and Christmas. The decorations are absolutely out of this world.
We were in Florida for a month and we did the ‘tourist’ thing for 10 days. Orlando, the home of Disney, is hands down one of the most LGBT+ friendly places you could ever visit. Everybody and anybody is welcome. After all- it’s the happiest place on earth.
Tickets to the parks aren’t cheap. But if you plan in advance, you can avail of all the add ons and extras that will ensure you get the most out of your trip. Most resort hotels will have dedicated staff who can help you purchase your tickets if you have not done so before your arrival.
Seeing as our children are so young, we decided to just do one full day in the Magic Kingdom, perhaps one of the most iconic of all of the Disney Parks. It was one of the original 4 parks which opened in the 70’s and remains one of the most visited theme parks worldwide. It’s literally a Magic Kingdom- and is dedicated to fairy tales and Disney characters. It is home to the iconic Cinderella Castle, which is an obligatory family photograph when you come here. The girls were enchanted by the sights, sounds and smells of Disney- though I do think that as they get a little bit older they will be able to take it in more.
Next year we plan to visit Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom. Though if you want to experience all that Disney has to offer, and are travelling with slightly older children, you could spend weeks visiting all that Disney has to offer- theme parks, water parks, resorts and spas and many other attractions.
Where to Stay:
On Tuesday morning we enjoyed their signature character breakfast at their LakeView Restaurant. This is a buffet style breakfast while Pluto and Goofy make an appearance. I’d definitely book in for one of these experiences. The kids loved it and it’s a real ‘must do’ when staying at a Disney resort.
Our room was absolutely beautiful. It was simple, yet felt very modern, clean and comfortable. Exactly what you are looking for when travelling with your family. It comfortably fit two double beds as well as a travel cot for the baby. There was excellent wifi as well as a large flat screen TV and all the other amenities you’d expect. I find when travelling with young children, that a lot of your time might be spent in your hotel and in the room- so it essential that you choose to stay somewhere that is comfortable and suitable for all your needs. The rooms in the Wyndham Garden Lake all feature exterior entrances, which gives a lovely apartment/condo feel and allows for enjoyment of that gorgeous Floridian fresh air.
We had a direct view over the Oasis Aquatic Pool Playground from our room. This fabulous pool area was a highlight of our stay. We all love swimming and really enjoyed the time we got to spend here. There is also a gorgeous hot tub which I was able to sneak off to once or twice. Outdoor music plays as you relax and swim- and I particularly liked the choice of music.
The Wydham is an incredibly family friendly hotel. There is plenty of space for children to roam as well as a dedicated Kids Corner. It is classy, yet not so much so that you would feel uncomfortable with your toddler running around. We were made to feel fully welcome, which is not always the case when staying in hotels with young children. The level of customer service at the Wyndham was excellent. This was a real bonus to staying here. One might take it for granted, but it makes a huge difference when travelling with your LGBT+ family to feel fully ‘taken care of’. From the time we checked in to when we left, the service and staff were second to none.
There is a free shuttle between the hotel and all the Theme Parks which makes getting around a lot easier. I’d also recommend using the valet service if you’re bringing a rental car- the service is very quick and is the same price as self parking, but much more convenient.
Hands down the number one perk of this hotel is location. It is less than a 3 minute walk to the entrance of Disney Springs, which for those of us with small children, is an excellent place to spend your time. Being able to stroll back and forth between the hotel and Disney Springs really enhanced our experience. It’s great to not have to pack everyone into the car. It allowed for a lot more spontaneity in our stay.
One of our favourite family nights of the whole trip was at Splitsville Luxury Lanes in Disney Springs. It’s a massive bowling alley with an extensive restaurant and bar. We bowled for an hour and then our food was brought to our lane where we enjoyed a delicious meal. The service and staff there were second to none and we can’t wait to go back next year when hopefully Arya will be old enough to join in the fun and bowl with us!
Another great family evening was at Wine Bar George - a wine bar in Disney Springs with an impressive menu. We were a bit apprehensive about dining here as it seemed quite fancy- and when bringing two kids along you are always a bit wary of ‘fancy’. However we couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome both as a same sex couple and as parents of young kids.The overall vibe of the place was very chilled out, while still serving exceptional food and drink. The highlight of dining here, were the open windows looking out over the water at sunset.
There are so many attractions in Orlando and many lesser known destinations within Disney that don’t come with the same price tag as the main theme parks. You could do a different location every day for a month and still not run out of activities. We took a trip to Aquatica, which is a water park run by SeaWorld. We went on a day that was overcast and almost had the whole place to ourselves. The kids area was amazing- really well thought out and easily accessible for toddlers. The entire place is centered around families and so the facilities were excellent. There is a fake beach, many dining options and countless slides and rides. We took turns on the rides- and the girls thought we were crazy. We will definitely be going back here again next year.
All in all, I’d highly recommend a visit to Orlando and Disney for you and your LGBT+ family. It’s a place where we felt entirely welcomed and comfortable at all times. As well as enjoying the parks, be sure to check out the lesser known attractions.