Read Eileen’s travel diary and keep up with her travels. You might just pick up some ideas for your next family vacation!

Touring Rome and Vatican City on our own
A Swiss Guard at St. Peters

Touring Rome and Vatican City on our own

The alarm doesn’t go off. Despite the directions and our plan to walk through the Borghese Gardens to the Borghese Gallery, with its fabulous collections of paintings, sculptures, mosaics and bas-reliefs, mainly from 15th to 18th Centuries. We have a reservation -- apparently reservations are needed at this small gem of a museum.

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A trip to Italy with my college graduate
A rolling gelateria in Rome

A trip to Italy with my college graduate

When we arrive in Rome at noon the next day, a driver arranged by Jill Kammer, who with her husband Leon runs www.italy-accom.com was waiting for us. I know we could have grabbed a taxi or much cheaper, the train into Rome, but after a long flight, a little luxury was in order, I figured, especially when arriving in a city I don’t know well.

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Disney’s private island and our last night on the cruise
Ethan and Mike check out a stingray

Disney’s private island and our last night on the cruise

The sky is blue, the water clear turquoise. We step off the Disney Wonder onto kids vacation heaven -- a great big beach, a play structure anchored in the water. Machines dispensing all the ice cream and pop parents will let the kids have (as well as fresh fruit).

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Kid Nirvana on the Disney Cruise
Towel animals on the Disney Cruise

Kid Nirvana on the Disney Cruise

It’s well past their bedtime but they’re not in bed. Instead, they’re dressed to the nines (the girls anyway, in princess get-up, complete with sparkly shoes and Minnie Mouse dresses) waiting in line to get Cinderella and Jack Sparrow’s autograph. They’re at the Oceaneer lab climbing up to the top of the “pirate” ship so they can slide down.

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Two Parks in one day at Universal
Hannah Sitzman at Seussland

Two Parks in one day at Universal

We’ve signed on for a VIP Tour at Universal Studios in Orlando, which means our very informed guide Karyn Shelton (who has almost finished a doctorate in music) cannot only answer all of our questions, but structure our visit around five year old Ethan and three year old Hannah, at the same time making sure their parents can ride all the coasters (and Universal has great ones) that they wish.

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Watery Fun at SeaWorld’s new Aquatica Park in Orlando
Aquatica at Seaworld Orlando

Watery Fun at SeaWorld’s new Aquatica Park in Orlando

Open just a month, it’s easy to see why SeaWorld’s latest venture is already a hit with 36 (count em!) water slides, six lazy rivers and lagoons, plenty of man-made sand beach (no one fighting over chairs for once) and two first rate areas for younger park goers complete with gentle slides, climbing nets, water cannons and giant water buckets that dump water on the little guests seemingly on cue.

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Autograph seeking and a guided tour of Disney World
Hannah and Ethan with our guide Disney Maureen

Autograph seeking and a guided tour of Disney World

You better plan ahead if you want to dine with a princess. I learn that breakfast or lunch at Cinderella’s castle is such a hot ticket that it‘s booked six months in advance. We see lots of little princesses in glittery, fluffy outfits with their hair done just so at the new boutique…

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Chaa Creek — started small before “eco” was a word
Kids and caterpillars meet up at Chaa Creek resort in Belize

Chaa Creek — started small before “eco” was a word

Mick Fleming approached in a dugout canoe. “But there was something about the place,” he recalls more than 30 years later. His wife Lucy, who arrived on horseback the day after he saw the overgrown farm, agrees. “This place always had a certain amount of magic -- a pull. I felt it. We were young and crazy -- no money and decided to be pioneers.”

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