2017 Travel Year in Review

2017 was a year of clients traveling to places I had never booked before, plus plenty of old favorites.  Here is a gallery of some favorite pics from their travels and mine.


Gorgeous May colors.

A beautiful home away from home in Italy.

The rooftops of Florence.


A Fenway Park tour is a “must do.”

As well as a stop at Luke’s Lobster.


A full view of Denali that even impressed the park rangers.

Lindblad’s new family itinerary was a hit.

Not your average hike.

Hot tubbing alongside glaciers.

Lake Tahoe

The best way to enjoy the scenery is via catamaran.


Big smiles by Big Ben.


Disney Baltic Cruise

Feeling the Disney love!

Charming Estonia.

Van Gogh painting lesson in Amsterdam.

History lesson in Berlin.


How to upgrade a chocolate tasting tour?

Add a private photographer!

Fountains of Versailles


Blue footed boobies galore.

One of Santa Cruz Island’s most famous residents.

Man overboard!

Sunset at the equator.


Going for a spin in Bangkok.

Azamara Med Cruise

Cruising the Greek Isles.

Amazing Amalfi Coast.

Vesuvius peekaboo.

Small ship luxury.


Los Alcobas, one of the newest Virtuoso hotels.

Vineyard at sunset.

Svalbard (Norway)

Polar bear spotting – look closely!


Infinity pool paradise at Four Seasons Ko’Olina

Honeymoon on Hanalei Bay

Waipio Valley on the Big Island.


Where will you go in 2018??

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Spring Break Inspiration Part 2 – Adventure

Looking for a family vacation that’s full of adventure?  Love wildlife encounters and spectacular natural scenery?  Here are 4 popular destinations for families who like to be on the go and get up close to nature.


Don’t let the small geographic footprint fool you.  It’s packed with incredibly diverse scenery and wildlife, some which cannot be seen anywhere else on the planet.   A Galapagos cruise offers the best variety for families with different interests and ability levels.  You can be on the go from breakfast to dinner,  or take some time to relax on deck and enjoy the scenery.   You can explore underwater or sightsee from a boat, choose between a hike or a paddle, or even get up early for yoga.

Getting the toys ready!

Showing us the love

I had the opportunity to experience Lindblad Expeditions’ new ship in the Galapagos in March, which is great for multi-generational groups because it offers the broadest range of activities, including a glass bottom boat for non-snorkelers.  And their new children’s program developed in partnership with National Geographic is fantastic, even the adults wanted to participate.

Kids are kept busy with scavenger hunts, zodiac driving lessons, photography and video workshops, and even a pizza & movie night.


I firmly believe Mexico is underrated as an adventure destination.  If you want to stay at a traditional full service beach resort, yet have some off-property adventures, then this is the place to be.  And there are so many choices for places to stay, you can go back again and again.

The Riviera Maya offers archaeological ruins, cenotes, and fantastic snorkeling, and a huge selection of resorts from large all-inclusives to luxury boutique hotels.

This snorkel trip requires a hard hat!

The Baja peninsula has a more arid climate, and some of the best whale watching and snorkeling in the world.  Other outdoor activities include ATV tours, hiking, and kayaking.

How many kids can brag that they got to pet a gray whale on vacation?

Travelers who aren’t interested in the beach can go on a hiking expedition visiting wilderness lodges in the Copper Canyon, or enjoy cultural sites in colonial cities such as Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende.

Oaxaca is world famous for its food, my son wants to go back just for these street tacos.

Costa Rica

Sloths and monkeys and iguanas, oh my!  If you want nonstop action and scenery ranging from volcanoes to rainforests to beaches, this is the place to go.  Clients never complain about being bored, if anything they have trouble fitting everything in!

So ugly he’s cute.

Most clients can visit 2 or 3 locations during a 8-10 day trip, if they don’t mind moving around. This allows them to experience a variety of locations like Arenal volcano and Manuel Antonio National Park.  But the resort area of Guanacaste is great for families who prefer to stay in one location, have a traditional resort vacation, but still have access to adventure activities like rafting and ziplining.

Even little ones can have big adventures!


If you like to combine cultural exploration with outdoor activities, then consider a trip to Peru including visits to Cuzco, Sacred Valley, and Machu Picchu, which can be done in a 7-10 day itinerary. Families can enjoy short nature walks to full day hikes, purchase crafts at local markets, explore archaeological ruins and temples, or paddle around a lake spotting wildlife.

I don’t want to feed the llama.    Said nobody ever.


They won’t ever forget this view.

And if you have the time, this is a great add-on to a Galapagos cruise!

Contact me to start designing a fantastic adventure for your family!

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Why Families Love Lindblad Expeditions in the Galapagos

When I was given the opportunity to travel on Lindblad’s new ship, the National Geographic Endeavour II, I jumped at it.  Not just because they pioneered tourism in the Galapagos. (It’s their 50th anniversary this year!) Or that they are a leader in expedition cruising.  But because they also have a reputation for exceptional family experiences, and I wanted to see for myself what families could expect.

Our beautiful ship!
Excited to board!  And one of my colleagues can confirm
that these do inflate when dropped in the water. (Oops!)

Here are the features that make Lindblad Expeditions a great choice for families, including multi-generational groups:

Personal Service – Every crew member pitched in to make sure all guests were cared for. Above and beyond gestures were common, such as soup being delivered to a passenger confined to his cabin because of a severe cold, or my roommate’s camera being retrieved after she left it on the plane from the mainland. One guide even made it his personal mission to ensure a guest got over her fear of snorkeling, and she did! So parents can be assured the staff will go out of their way to accommodate their special needs.

Embarrassed to admit I spent a good hour hunting for my reading glasses.
First snorkel of the trip for me and my buddies!

Onboard amenities
 – Being one of the largest ships in the islands, the Nat Geo Endeavour II offered lots of common areas for people to spread out including:

– A library with equipped with books, board games, puzzles, and computers. It was a favorite place for kids to gather.
– A spacious lounge at the front of the ship which offered a gathering place to socialize, with beautiful views, and a fully stocked bar.

Early risers got this view stepping outside from the lounge.

– A fitness center so nobody had to miss a workout, and even a spa so parents could get some pampering.

I will confess this is the only time I was in this room.

– A spacious top deck equipped with tables, umbrellas, and chairs, chaise lounges, and couches.  It was perfect for sunbathing, socializing, and a “pirate” cocktail party held at sunset while crossing the equator. It was a fantastic location for early morning yoga classes, too.  

They daily loading and unloading of equipment can be fascinating for kids to watch.
A typical afternoon before dinner.
My reading nook 

Family-friendly cabins – There was plenty of room for storing belongings, including ample space under the bed for empty suitcases. Connecting cabins are available on all decks, plus there are larger suites that sleep three. All beds can push together to form a queen or split apart into two singles. 

The floor stayed this clear the entire trip!
Book this suite if you want more elbow room in the bathroom

Activities for everyone – The broad variety of activities ensured everyone could find something to do, no matter their age or fitness level. There were usually two hiking options of varying length and difficulty.  Water sports included kayaking, paddle boarding, and of course snorkeling, sometimes twice a day.  Zodiac and glass bottom boat rides were available for anyone who wasn’t comfortable being in the water.

Yes, you could get this close, and sometimes closer.
Zodiac boats rides are fun for all ages!

And of course,

The children’s program – Already regarded as one of the best in the industry, it was re-introduced this year as the National Geographic Global Explorers program. Kids received an expedition guide, had daily challenges, and participated in photography and video workshops. (Even parents wanted to sit in on these!) There were other onboard activities led by the staff, culminating in zodiac driving lessons.

Hot off the presses!
Nobody seemed to mind this homework
Learning how the islands formed

Though it is the largest boat allowed in the Galapagos (96 passengers) it didn’t feel too crowded, and we became one big happy family.  We got to know other passengers by name, and the kids had soon started reserving their own table in the dining room. At the farewell party, we hugged and thanked our guides as we laughed over shared memories.

Javier, one of our fantastic guides.
Families who want to travel to the Galapagos need to plan aheadHoliday periods and summer months book up early, often more than a year in advance, and connecting cabins and suites are very limited.

Selfies with giant tortoises are a must!
Families also need to be aware of the travel logistics before committing to flights.  Working with a Galapagos specialist can help ensure a seamless and hassle-free trip, plus you’ll get insider tips on packing, what to expect, and more.  They can also advise on relatively easy “add-on” destinations like the Amazon or Machu Picchu.

For more information about travel to the Galapagos, send an email to suzette@family-treks.com.

This youngster agrees, the Galapagos is great for families!

Sail Roundtrip out of San Francisco with Crystal Cruises

Travelers in California have more options to cruise with ease and avoid airport headaches next year.  Crystal Cruises is offering two sailings roundtrip out of San Francisco aboard the Crystal Symphony in 2018: 

You can even see the parking garage from here.
Hawaii Sojourn 
July 15 – 31, 2018
17 days Roundtrip to Hawaii

Coastal Collection
July 31 – August 10, 2018
11 days Roundtrip to Cabo San Lucas

Guests who book with me are automatically enrolled in the complimentary Virtuoso Voyages program, which include these amenities: 

> An Exclusive Shore Experience
   $200 – 250 Shipboard Credit Per Person
> A private cocktail reception
Crystal offers a true all-inclusive luxury cruise, including:
  • Gratuities
  • One evening of specialty restaurant dining
  • Champagne, fine wines, premium spirits, non-alcoholic beverages
  • Other drinks like specialty coffees and smoothies 
  • 24-hour room service and in-room minibar
  • Wi-Fi/Internet
  • Special events like wine or cheese tasting

and much more!

Silk Road Specialty Restaurant
Silk Road Menu
ANYTHING you order at this bar is included

I was able to tour the Crystal Symphony in San Francisco last fall, and I was impressed with her elegant decor, the quality of the food, and the variety of public spaces, which means it never feels crowded.

Lots of room to gather, bring some friends!
Outdoor dining is the best.
I love these colors!

Learn photo/video editing or web design at Computer University@Sea

Here are recent testimonials from 2016 travelers:
Wow. Our trip was FABULOUS, Suzette! Crystal Cruises = perfection. We will never be able to cruise on any other line because of how spoiled we are!!! I can’t recommend Crystal enough. The service is impeccable. The boat is beautiful. The food is amazing. We never waited nor wanted for anything. We loved it!!!” 
Alaska Honeymooners
“We laughed harder than we have in years and spent quality time together that you just can’t get when emails and texts are coming in every minute. We can’t wait for our next adventure at sea!”
– Haisley Smith, Brownell Vice President of Marketing and Development
The comforts of home

Crystal has also extended their Crystal Clear Choice promotion through June 30 on select 2017 and 2018 cruises, including some Alaska sailings! Receive your choice of:

– Fare reduction up to $1000
– Air credit up to $1100
– Onboard credit up to $1250

And it’s combinable with Virtuoso Voyages amenities! 

Email me for more information, and to be sure you get the best fares and amenities.
Bon Voyage!
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Five Factors to Consider When Selecting an Alaska Cruisetour

Alaska cruise brochures can be the most confusing to understand, even for an experienced travel advisor.  And the cruisetour section can be especially intimidating – so many choices, and so many tours that look similar.  

Of course, the easiest way to sort it all out is to ask your trusted travel advisor for guidance, as they ask the right questions to find the best fit for you. But if you’d like to figure it out on your own, or want to do a little research before reaching out to a professional, here are some tips to help you get started.
1) Do you want to do the cruise or the tour first?
I personally prefer a northbound cruise, because I enjoy the increasing anticipation of getting closer and closer to Alaska.  Also, the ports of embarkation, Vancouver and Seattle, offer a lot to do and see.  Since most travelers need to arrive at least one day prior to embarkation, they can use that time to explore one of the cities.

Vancouver cruise ship

However, the land tour requires a lot of moving around, so it’s more tiring than the cruise portion.  For that reason, many travelers opt to do the tour first, then spend the end of their trip relaxing.   But if you feel that you need some R&R before going on an adventurous land tour, then cruising first would be the better choice.
So, you see, it’s really a matter of personal preference.
2) How much time do you have?
The shortest cruisetour is 10 days (7 day cruise + 3 day land tour), but you generally need at least 11 days to allow for travel to the start of the cruise or the tour.  The less time you have, the fewer options available.  Most tours that stay within Alaska run a maximum of 13-14 days,  and Yukon tours go up to 16 days.

Market in Anchorage
Market in Anchorage
3) Where do you stop and for how many nights?
While it may seem there are a baffling number of tours available, on close inspection you’ll notice that they generally visit the same areas.  The main differences will be the order of the itinerary, and the number of nights in each location (typically 1-3).  I find my clients fall into one of these groups:  they either want to hit the maximum number of places in the least amount of time, or they want to visit fewer places and have more free time for activities. 
Downtown Talkeetna
Downtown Talkeetna
Think about what you want to see and do, and note in which town those activities are available.  Then mentally walk yourself through the itinerary.  Are you OK with how often you will pack and unpack, how many early mornings you will have, how often you’ll be on a bus, how much free time you will have?  Will you have time for any “must do” excursions?
Some cruise lines offer “Direct to Denali” service which means they take you from the cruise ship to Denali National Park the same day.  It’s a long day, but it allows you to spend more time at Denali if that’s important to you.

Alaska Railroad
Alaska Railroad passing through Talkeetna
4) What Denali Park tour is included?
All accommodations are located outside the park boundaries.  The only way to travel deep into the park, and have a chance to see Mt. McKinley (if weather allows), is via a National Park Service bus.  Almost all cruisetour itineraries include one of the narrated bus tours, which vary in how far they travel into the park (15 to 53 miles, 4-8 hrs roundtrip).   The further you go, the more spectacular the scenery and the more opportunity to see wildlife. However, note that none of the narrated tours go as far as Eielson Visitor Center.

Denali Park shuttle bus
Park service bus

Denali Park Road
Denali Park Road
5) Would you prefer traveling on your own?
A cruisetour is the most seamless way to visit interior Alaska before or after a cruise.  If you want someone else to do all the planning, driving, and luggage handling, then that is the best choice.  But if you want to be more independent and even get off the beaten path a bit, you might consider doing a land tour on your own.  
Sled dog pups at Iditarod Race Headquarters
Sled dog pups at the Iditarod Race Headquarters
While there is plenty of public transportation in the Denali Park area, having your own car gives more flexibility in how you spend your time.   Though the distances in Alaska are long and services are limited, driving and navigating is quite easy.  You can start right at the cruise port, or you can travel to Anchorage and pick up a car there.

Driving to Denali
Driving to Denali from Anchorage

In my opinion, one of the biggest benefits of traveling independently is having time in your schedule to take the park service shuttle into Denali instead of a tour bus.  If you are up for the long day (11-12 hrs), then you can travel the entire length of the park road, over 80 miles, and enjoy all the amazing scenery this beautiful, remote wilderness area has to offer. It is truly the trip of a lifetime.

Brown bear in Denali Park
Brown bear on Denali Park Road
I’ve traveled all over the state of Alaska, so whether you travel by ship, bus, train, or car, I can custom design an itinerary just for you, and provide insider tips for a fun and memorable vacation.  For more information on how to get started on your dream trip to Alaska, contact me at suzette@family-treks.com.


3 Must-Do’s When Planning a Cruise Vacation

This week there were reports of travelers left stranded when cruise ships were forced to set sail early due to Hurricane Irene. These events reinforced three key things that I have stressed over and over again to clients planning a cruise:

1) Purchase travel insurance – Each cruise line handled the situation differently. Some took care of the passengers accommodations for the night and arranged for them to fly to the ship the next day. Another only helped clients who booked their air with the cruise line, and told the others they were on their own because it was a weather-related incident.

If you think the cruise line is required to make good, you’d better re-read the fine print in the cruise contract. They generally have it pretty well covered that they can change anything without notice, especially when it’s due to bad weather. Instead of spending your time on hold with the cruise line trying to argue about the fairness of it, you can be on the phone with the insurance company’s customer service department working on your alternate arrangements. And you can submit a claim to get your extra expenses reimbursed, including hotel stays and transportation to the ship, subject to the policy’s terms & conditions. 2) Arrive in the embarkation city at least one day early – When a ship’s schedule is moved up, passengers arriving the same day have a much shorter time window in which to absorb schedule changes. Traveling can be nerve-wracking at times, but when schedules are packed too tightly, the slightest mishap can send stress sky-rocketing. This week, even if the ships were going to leave at the scheduled time, inclement weather could have caused flight delays into the port city. Arriving the day before is always a good idea, even if your destination is just a short flight away. Imagine the airport being completely shut down because of a bomb threat, a hazardous chemical leak, etc. Unless you are able to drive yourself to the port at short notice should flying become impossible, you should fly in at least a day early. For travel across an ocean, I’d suggest 2-3 days early.

Now you may say, “I was smart & bought insurance, I’m covered if my flight is delayed.” But did you read the fine print to know if there a minimum delay time required for insurance to kick in? For example, your policy might require a delay of at least 5 hours before they will cover you for missing your ship. What if your flight was only delayed 3 or 4 hours, but your schedule was so tight that you still couldn’t make the ship? You may be out of luck. 3) Carry a valid passport (and make sure it does not expire for at least 6 months beyond the last day of your trip)
Some cruises, such as closed loop itineraries which sail to & from the same US port, still allow travel with only a birth certificate and photo ID. But a prepared traveler ALWAYS takes a valid passport. During Hurricane Irene, passengers that were trying to reach their ship needed to fly to the next port. But if they didn’t have a passport, they were out of luck, a birth certificate is not acceptable ID for air travel outside the US.

Similarly, what if something happened that required you to come home early, such as illness, injury, or family emergency. Or what if the ship had mechanical problems and was forced to unload passengers in a foreign port? You will be scrambling to contact the nearest embassy in order to get home.

Whether or not a cruise line acted fairly is not the issue here. When you’re traveling and things go wrong, you want them fixed ASAP so you can get on with your vacation. Even if someone could guarantee you that your travel supplier was wrong and you were owed compensation, that’s no comfort in the moment, when all you want to do is go on that family vacation you have been dreaming about. Be proactive, and do everything you can to minimize stress, delays, and expense when something goes wrong, by following these three rules.

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Guest Blogger: Caribbean Cruise Review

Today I am featuring a guest blogger. One of my clients recently cruised on Royal Caribbean with her family which includes three 12 year old daughters. Here is her review and pictures.

What is your idea of adventure? I like to do it all, but with the help of Suzette Mack, I was able to narrow it down to a Caribbean Cruise on Royal Caribbean. The cruise took us to Haiti, Grand Caymans, Cozumel and Jamaica. Suzette not only booked the most amazing balcony suite on the ship, she also organized our transportation and hotel stays prior to the trip. With her help our vacation was stress free and I will be forever grateful to her.

If you choose to do this amazing trip, I recommend the following. Be sure to book the zip line in Haiti prior to boarding the ship, if you don’t you’ll be green with envy, when you see people flying above the ocean.
Next in Jamaica, we recommend Dunn’s River Falls. We actually went outside the protective walls and hired our own driver for $30 to take us to the falls. Once there it was $15 pp to climb up. It was amazing and luckily we arrived prior to all the tour groups.
In the Grand Caymans, be sure to book a venture to Stingray Island. It is surreal to be surrounded by Stingrays.

Finally, in Cozumel, our girls took the swim of a lifetime with the dolphins. They were able to kiss, ride on and dance with the dolphin.

As for the Freedom of the Seas, what a spectacular ship! Our girls enjoyed the rock wall, water park, and the endless pizza. For the adults, every night a new show, trivia games, dancing, and the food, WOW!
Again, thanks to Suzette for working with me on this vacation. Without a doubt, this was the most perfect family vacation that we have ever been on.

For more information about planning your own “perfect” family vacation, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist, at suzette@family-treks.com.

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Mexican Riviera Cruise News

Families who want to cruise the Pacific Coast of Mexico should be aware of several changes coming up over the next year. While several cruise lines are moving ships out of LA and San Diego, there are still many choices for 3 to 10 night sailings in the Mexican Riviera and Baja California, and a special new arrival!

Who’s Leaving

Royal Caribbean announced that they are pulling the Mariner of the Seas out of LA in January, ending the cruise line’s presence in the Mexican Riviera. The Voyager class ship had been offering year round cruises to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta, the classic “Mexican Riviera” cruise itinerary, for just over a year.

Norwegian Cruise Line also announced they will no longer sail seasonally out of LA beginning in 2011.

Carnival is discontinuing 7 night Mexico cruises out of San Diego, and will offer instead alternating 5 and 9 night cruises from December to May. Both Carnival Spirit sailings will include a single, two-day stop in Cabo San Lucas, and the longer cruise will include a stop in La Paz. (I am happy to hear about the extra day in Cabo. One day has never been adequate because of it being a tender port. Now cruise passengers will have more time to enjoy this pretty and unique location.)

The Carnival Elation, which was also based in San Diego, is scheduled to leave the city later this month.

Who’s Staying

Carnival is keeping two ships in LA year-round: The Paradise which offers 3 and 4 night Baja California sailings, and the Splendor, offering 7 night voyages

Princess and Holland America cruise lines will continue to offer 7 day seasonal sailings to the Mexican Riviera out of LA and San Diego, respectively.

For families seeking a luxury cruise, Crystal Cruise Line offers traditional 7 night cruises out of LA, as well as 10 day cruises which include La Paz, Loreto, and Topolobampo.

And when Disney Cruise Line adds their third ship to the fleet in 2011, the Wonder will be moved to LA to operate 7 night sailings April to December as well. Families can a few days pre- or post-cruise at the Disneyland Resort for a great land and sea vacation!

For more information about family crusing, contact Suzette Mack, Family Travel Specialist, at suzette@family-treks.com.
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A Crystal Clear Luxury Cruise Deal

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I made a cruise reservation for a client this week. Not only were they getting a great price on a luxury cruise, but they were going to receive over $2000 per person in shipboard credits, plus many other perks. I double-checked the price against other mid-market cruises I had booked recently for clients, and sure enough, they were getting the same or better price!

If you have wanted to try a luxury cruise, but thought you couldn’t afford it, 2010 may be the year you have been waiting for. Crystal Cruises, repeatedly voted the best large ship cruise line by Travel & Leisure and Condé Nast Traveler, is offering their best promotion ever on all 2010 sailings. Guests receive:
– 2 for 1 cruise fares on ALL sailings
– Free air (or an air credit) on MOST sailings
– A $1000 or $2000 per stateroom onboard credit on ALL sailings

Because Brownell Travel is a Virtuoso agency, my clients also receive Voyager Club amenities with Crystal. Specific amenities vary by sailing, but always include at least a private cocktail reception and a complimentary shore excursion. In my client’s case, their sailing also includes pre-paid gratuities.

My clients will also be paying with a World Elite MasterCard, which provides them with additional benefits on luxury travel arrangements. For a Crystal Cruise, cardholders receive a $125 per person shipboard credit and prepaid gratuities, plus an additional $1025 per person credit as part of a special promotion! And unlike AMEX Platinum, the World Elite MasterCard benefits are combinable with Voyager Club amenities.

Crystal has also announced that kids sail free on two 7 day Baltic cruises this year:

* June 14 – “Ballads of Britain” cruise sailing roundtrip out of London
* August 7 – “Russian Inspiration” voyage from Copenhagen to Stockholm

So what’s the bottom line? After applying the free air and 2 for 1 credit, my client’s cruise fare is $5680 per person including port charges and fees, plus they are receiving $2150 per person total in onboard credits. That comes to a net price of $3530 per person for a 12 day luxury Europe cruise! Also, they’ll receive prepaid gratuities, an exclusive complimentary shore excursion, and be invited to a private cocktail party by a Virtuoso representative who will be their personal host throughout the cruise.

Now that’s a deal!

For more information on these and other luxury travel promotions, contact Suzette Mack at suzette@family-treks.com.
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Hot Off the Press From Disney Destinations

Castaway Cay, Disney Cruise Line’s private island, is undergoing several upgrades to accommodate new ships being added to the fleet. Stingray Adventure has been relocated to provide 700 more feet of family beach area. Additional water play areas include Pelican Plunge, with two corkscrew slides, and Scuttle’s Cove, a supervised area for younger children with geysers and water jets. Twenty new private cabanas will provide the privacy and luxury of a deluxe beach retreat, with the optional services of a cabana host.

Disney Cruise Line
has laid the keel of the Disney Dream, a 2,500-passenger ship scheduled to enter service in 2011, which will be followed by the Disney Fantasy in 2012. Design details will be revealed later this fall. The ships will be based at Port Canaveral, which is also being upgraded and expanded.

Disney Cruise Line has also extended their Kids Sail Free promotion to select 3 and 4 night sailings this winter and spring. Kids currently can sail free on select Med sailings in April and May.

Walt Disney World dining reservations can be made 180 days in advance beginning October 27, including reservations for dinner shows and character meals. The dining plan is a great value for families, as we found during our trip this summer.

Adventures by Disney is offering Signature Trips in 2010 which feature upgraded accommodations and meals, and special elements for an even more extraordinary vacation. For example, Viva Italia Signature includes a privately guided visit of the Vatican City Museum, a pasta making class, and a trip to the Murano Glass Blowing Factory.

Studio Disney 365 is now open at Disneyland. Kids can be made over to look like their favorite Disney Channel star, then meet their fans and have their picture snapped by the waiting paparazzi.

The Disneyland Hotel has begun a major renovation which will bring a contemporary design to the rooms, and a new energy efficient exterior. Rooms will showcase new headboards carved with the image of Sleeping Beauty Castle, and a magical skyline with fiber optic fireworks. Sky blue reflective glass windows on the towers will give the outside a sleek, radiant look, and will also be energy efficient and reduce outside noise.

The Disneyland Hotel renovation is a part of a larger expansion project throughout the resort, culminating in 2012 with the opening of an all new landCars Land. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is also adding 200 hotel rooms and 50 two-bedroom villas, which will be part of the Disney Vacation Club.

For help with planning your next family vacation, contact Suzette Mack at suzette@family-treks.com.