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Debate Club: Is Disney World the Best or Worst of All Family Vacations?


A Disney vacation is the best possible vacation

by Kathryn Trudeau

The clock struck three as the airport van pulled into my parents’ driveway. I’ve always thought that pre-vacation excitement made the 3 a.m. departure totally doable. After all, who wants to sit around all day waiting for a late-in-the-day departure?

But this was my first early vacation with children. As my husband carried two suitcases, a camera bag, a diaper bag, and a toys-for-the-airplane bag into the van, I buckled in the kids – one three, the other three months old.

As I stared at my sweet sleeping infant, I worried about his GERD-induced screaming and how the impending airplane ride would unfold. Were we making a huge mistake? Were we about to be the most stressed out parents in the history of family vacations?

As fate would have it, my littlest boy slept the whole flight, thanks to a nursing session. Bags in tow and fueled by Starbucks, we made it to the inspiring Wilderness Lodge. Walking through the lobby and feeling the rush of cool air as we walked through the door, I felt the same giddy excitement in the pit of my stomach that I felt as a young girl. And now I got to share that excitement with my two boys.

All obsessions aside, Disney still ranks as one of the best family vacation destinations.

There’s something for everyone

As a self-proclaimed obsessed Disney fan, it was only natural that I voted for a Disney honeymoon. My then-fiancé, now-husband quickly said, “Uh no. Isn’t that for little kids?” I then delivered a monologue about how Disney World is anything but “just for little kids.”

We booked the honeymoon. I’m proud to say I converted my husband into a Disney superfan.

Taking our kids was a very different experience, but no less awesome. Disney World offers something for everyone. If you take your kids and still want some couple time, there are kid centers at each hotel that will watch your littles while you escape to a world-class spa or a romantic candlelit dinner with your honey.

Disney World can entertain a wide range of children. If traveling with young children and teens, you will find activities for everyone. Between the live shows, gardens, thrill rides, pools, and water parks, outdoor recreational activities, and interactive events, your kids are sure to find something to thrill them.

The meal plan

One of my favorite parts of traveling to Disney with my family is the meal plan. Eating out three times a day can get costly, but the meal plan allows you to budget ahead of time what your food will cost, which saves money in the long run.

Cleanliness is next to godliness

I may be a super Disney fan, but I’m no stranger to other amusement parks or vacation destinations. When I was 14, my family traveled to an amusement park in Southern California. From the grimy food service counters to the trash littering the paths, the lack of cleanliness drove us from the park before the day was half done.

That being said, cleanliness is something to consider when planning a family vacation. Who wants to make their family memories among the smells floating from hot steaming garbage cans? Not me.

Disney cast members work diligently to make sure the entire park is not only clean, but invisibly so. As a guest, you never have to witness their garbage removal process (thanks to underground tunnels for the purpose.)

Affordable family vacation

A common obstacle for any family vacation is the price tag. Between airfare and quality accommodations, a one-week trip can be costly. But if you compare oranges to oranges (Get it? Florida…oranges…), a Disney vacation lands in the “pretty affordable” column when compared to other similar destinations.

Follow these few tips, and you can snag a super deal, too:

Book a trip in the off season. Not only will you have better rates, but the parks will be less crowded.

Subscribe to the vacation planning email lists. Periodically, they send out mailers with special rates and promotions. If you’re not opposed to planning a trip within a few months of notification of a promotion, this is a good way to get a deal.

Customize your package. You can opt for park-hopper status (ability to go to multiple parks in one day) or not. If you’re looking to save a little money, you can opt out of the park-hopper.  Alternatively, choose the hotel pools over the water parks.

A final thought on price: Is it expensive? Yes. Good, activity-packed vacations usually are. Is it over-priced? No. The value of the whole experience is worth every penny.

Educational

My son stared out of the car of Spaceship Earth. He was mesmerized by the giant image of our planet. As we exited the ride, we entered a pavilion that showcases new and upcoming technology. My son was silent as we moved from demo to demo. He’s always been a techie-in-the-making, and here, he was able to live out his need to tinker with real-life gadgets.

Disney is all about moving forward, upward, and bettering ourselves in the process – what a great mentality to show our kids.

The magic

The last reason why I love Disney: the magic. One of my most favorite memories from the trip was when my three-year-old met Mickey. My son, forever toting small toy cars in his pockets, whipped one out and wanted to play cars with Mickey. Ever the good sport, Mickey got on his knees and played cars with my boy. Nothing makes a mama heart sing as much as seeing pure joy on her baby’s face, and Disney did not disappoint in this department.

Still not convinced? That’s okay. Disney has a team of veteran moms who help answer vacation questions, from what to pack to where to stay. They can answer anything you throw at them. Maybe they’ll convince you it’s worth a try.

No matter what expectations you bring to a Disney vacation, you’ll walk away with happy family memories. And that’s a win in my book.

Don’t go to Disney World

By Cheryl Maguire

We made it. After a three-hour flight and two bus transfers, we were standing in front of the iconic Disney World Cinderella Castle. During my year of researching and planning, I wondered if this moment would ever happen.

We waded through the crowd and snapped a quick picture. Since I was uncertain of when we would actually arrive here, the only unplanned hours lay ahead of us.

“What should we do first? Magic Mountain? Meet a princess? It’s a Small world?” I asked.

“Swim in the pool,” my eight-year-old twins and five-year-old daughter responded.

“I didn’t spend an obscene amount of money on a Disney World vacation to swim in a pool. Which attraction will it be?”

We chose to split up. The twins and I went to meet Ariel, while my husband and daughter headed in a different direction. The problem was I couldn’t remember which direction, and I realized he took my cell phone with the back pack. Hours and hours of planning, yet I never created a plan if someone were to get lost.

“Who remembers what shirt Dad was wearing?” I asked.

A stranger passing by overheard my question and, with a laugh, said, “Oh, that can’t be good.”

Even though my husband is an adult (at least most of the time), I felt as if I’d lost a child. I panicked. How was I going to find him in this sea of neverending people? We started walking. I examined the faces of each person we passed by, hoping to find him.

One of my children remembered they were headed to the Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster, and somehow we managed to locate them. He, of course, had no idea he was missing (or that he took my cell phone). He’d been waiting in line the whole time.

“How was the Big Thunder Mountain ride? Was it worth waiting an hour?”

“Definitely not. It was really bumpy. I felt like I was going to vomit,” my husband responded.

“I agree with Dad.”

“I’m glad we spent thousands of dollars to wait in line and feel nauseous.”

They all wanted to go on the next ride, so I found a bench, absorbing the interesting surroundings. I couldn’t help but notice a man and woman, their arms flailing as they shouted obscenities at each other loud enough for everyone to hear, including children. So much for this being the “happiest place in the world.” I also witnessed many children in full blown meltdowns.

When my kids got off the ride, they asked, “Can we go to the pool now?”

Sweat dripped from every pore in my body and, from the looks of it, my family was experiencing the same. I relented and off to the pool we went.

For the rest of the vacation, we didn’t experience any major problems. But the heat, long lines, and crowds continued to wear on us. At the end of the vacation, I asked my kids, “What was your favorite part of the trip? Meeting Elsa? Toy Story Mania? The Aerosmith rollercoaster?”

In unison they responded, “The pool.”

If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I ignored several red flags. My kids seemed more excited about flying on a plane than going to Disney World. My kids had never been enthusiastic about their experiences at the local amusement parks we visited. I think I overlooked these things because I felt pressure from society to give my children a magical Disney World experience.

The average cost for a family of four to vacation at Disney World for four nights costs between three- and four-thousand dollars. Before you make this huge investment, you might consider the following questions to determine if you really want to go there:

  • Why do you want to go to Disney World?
  • Do your kids want to go to Disney World?
  • What do you want to accomplish during the vacation?
  • Have you tried to visit a local amusement park? If so, did your kids like it?
  • Can your kids (and can you) handle large crowds and long lines?
  • When you think of a vacation, do you prefer relaxing or being busy?
  • Do your children like Disney movies and characters?
  • Is going to Disney World worth spending between $3k and $4k (or probably more)?
  • Have you considered traveling to other places in the U.S. or the rest of the world?
  • If you went to Disney World as a child, did you like it?

The bottom line: You don’t have to go to Disney World. Figure out what type of vacation best suits your family. There are millions of cities to visit, and lots of those places have pools.

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Going back to work after having a baby is hard. Regaining your footing in a world where working mothers are so often penalized is tough, and (just like most things during the postpartum period) it takes time.

The challenges we face as working women returning from a maternity leave can be so different from those we faced before, it can feel like we're starting over from scratch. But mothers will not be deterred, even if our return to the working world doesn't go exactly as planned.

We are resilient, as Serena Williams proved at Wimbledon this weekend.

She lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, just 10 months after welcoming daughter Alexis Olympia and recovering from a physically and emotionally traumatic birth experience.

Williams didn't get her eighth Wimbledon title this weekend, but when we consider all the challenges she (and all new moms) faced in resuming her career, her presence was still a huge achievement.

"It was such an amazing tournament for me, I was really happy to get this far!" Williams explained in an emotional post-match interview.

"For all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried. I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

The loss at Wimbledon isn't what she wanted, of course, but Williams says it does not mean there won't be wins in her near future.

"These two weeks have showed me I can really compete and be a contender to win grand slams. This is literally just the beginning. I took a giant step at Wimbledon but my journey has just began."

When asked what she hopes other new moms take away from her journey, Williams noted her postpartum recovery was really difficult, and hopes that other moms who face challenges early in motherhood know that they don't have to give up on whatever dreams they have for themselves, whether it involves working or not.

"Honestly, I feel like if I can do it, they can do it. I'm just that person, that vessel that's saying, 'You can be whatever you want to be.' If you want to go back to workand to me, after becoming a mom, I feel like there's no pressure to do that because having a child is a completely full-time job," she said.

"But to those that do want to go back, you can do it, you can really do it."

Thank you, Serena. You may not have won, but this was still a victory.

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Now, Chip Gaines is showing off a pic that proves there is nothing cuter than a floppy, sleepy baby.

"My heart is full..." the proud father of five captioned the photo he posted on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Earlier this week Crew's mama shared how she gets him so sleepy in the first place, posting an Instagram Story showing how she walks around the family's gardens on their Waco, Texas farm to lull her newborn boy to sleep.



The couple are clearly enjoying every single moment of Crew's babyhood. As recently as 7 days ago Chip was still sporting his hospital bracelet. Joanna says with each child he's worn his maternity ward ID until it finally wears off. We can't blame Chip for wanting to make the newborn phase last as long as possible.

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It was a changing table must-have a generation ago, but these days, many parents are forgoing baby powder, and now, the leading manufacturer of the sweet smelling powder was dealt a big financial blow.

Johnson & Johnson was just ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer.

A St. Louis jury says the women are right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks.

Way back in 1981 the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates.

In 1998 Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the kind alleged to have caused ovarian cancer in the lawsuit (which Johnson & Johnson plans to appeal), but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks as alleged in the case.


Bottom line: If you are going to use baby powder on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

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In the days since a The New York Times report revealed a resolution meant to encourage breastfeeding was blocked by U.S. delegates at the World Health Assembly, breastfeeding advocates, political pundits, parents, doctors—and just about everyone else—have been talking about breastfeeding, and whether or not America and other countries are doing enough to support it.

The presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians say the controversy at the World Health Assembly reveals that mothers need more support when it comes to breastfeeding, while others, including The Council on Foreign Relations, suggest the national conversation needs more nuance, and less focus on the "breast is best" rhetoric.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that parents need more support when it comes to infant feeding, and in that respect, the controversy over the World Health Assembly resolution may be a good thing.

In their joint letter to the editor published in the New York Times this week, the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians, Dr. Colleen Kraft and Dr. Lisa Hollier urge "the United States and every country to protect, promote and support breast-feeding for the health of all women, children and families."

The doctors go on to describe how breastfeeding "provides protection against newborn, infant and child infections, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and sudden infant death syndrome," and note the health benefits to mothers, including reduced risks for "breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

"Helping mothers to breastfeed takes a multifaceted approach, including advancing public policies like paid family leave, access to quality child care, break time and a location other than a bathroom for expressing milk," say Kraft and Hollier.

Certainly such policies would support breastfeeding mothers (and all mothers) in America, but some critics say framing the discussion around domestic policy is a mistake, because the World Health Assembly resolution is a global matter and women and babies in other parts of the world face very different feeding challenges than we do here at home.

In an op-ed published by CNN, Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations suggests the laudable goal of breastfeeding promotion can backfire when mothers in conflict-riddled areas can't access formula due to well-meaning policy. Lemmon points to a 2017 statement by Doctors Without Borders calling for fewer barriers to formula distribution in war-torn areas.

"International organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) promote breastfeeding ... and provide infant formula, but only by prescription. We believe that distributing infant formula in a conflict situation like Iraq is the only way to avoid children having to be hospitalized for malnutrition," Manuel Lannaud, the head of Doctors Without Borders Iraq mission wrote.

The various viewpoints presented this week prove that infant feeding is not a black and white issue, and policy debates should not be framed as formula versus breast milk—there is more nuance than that.

A recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics found opting to supplement with formula after first breastfeeding improves outcomes for infants and results in higher rates of breastfeeding afterward, and while the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, they are sometimes overstated. Another recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found breastfeeding has no impact on a child's overall neurocognitive function by the time they are 16. Basically, parents should not be shamed for supplementing or choosing to use formula.

This, according to Department of Health and Human Services says national spokesperson Caitlin Oakley is why the HHS opposed the original draft of the breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly (although critics and the initial NYT report suggest the United States delegation were acting in the interests of infant formula manufacturers).

"Many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies," Oakley said in a statement.

That's true, but so is everything the presidents of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians presented in their op-ed, and that's why the U.S. should support breastfeeding policy.

Here's another truth: This is an issue with many perspectives and many voices. And we need to hear them all, because all parents need support in feeding their babies, whether it's with a breast, a bottle or both—and we're not getting it yet.

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