• How to enjoy a theme-park Christmas

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    TESSA MAURICIO-ARRIOLA

    TESSA MAURICIO-ARRIOLA

    I always say that having two little boys feels like raising a brood of four. Their capacity for energy and to make noise to begin with is twice as much as what I’m sure other children were blessed with at birth.

    All the same, my husband and I have never had the heart to leave them behind for some R&R, simply because I also feel they were blessed with twice as much sweetness and thoughtfulness that neither of us deserve.

    And so, even before they each turned a year old, the hubby and I have taken our boys on every trip possible, because no matter how hard and frustrating it is to bring little humans on airplanes, train rides or bus rides, being with them—without yayas, lolas, titas or cousins to help—is truly what pure joy is all about.

    Mickey Mouse and his gang are ready to welcome kids and kids-at-heart to the happiest place on earth this season

    Mickey Mouse and his gang are ready to welcome kids and kids-at-heart to the happiest place on earth this season

    This is always what I tell our friends who still can’t imagine why we “punish” ourselves with all the stress that comes with taking care of our rascals 24-hours a day, when what we actually need is some R&R. True, we come home feeling like we need a vacation from a vacation, but with the way children nowadays grow up too quickly, messy meal times, body aches, and toy store-shockers are all worth it.

    Happily, through the years, we’ve managed to convince several couples to try bonding with their little ones on trips as early as possible, and in today’s column I will give in to requests from those I’ve met asking for tips on where to take their kids beyond Tagaytay and Baguio this season.

    Santa Goofy is the star of a ‘Sparkling Christmas’

    Santa Goofy is the star of a ‘Sparkling Christmas’

    My answer to them is where we’ve taken our sons every New Year since 2009: Hong Kong. The quickest plane ride that will take you outside the Philippines, with guaranteed cooler weather that doesn’t require packing layers and layers of clothing, and of course, the all-important feature that every trip must have when your children are still wide-eyed and little: a theme park.

    Yes, Hong Kong Disneyland has become our family’s happy place in the last seven years, and believe me, even for grown-ups like us, Walt Disney’s promise of magic never gets old.

    My family in 2012—the eldest was four years old and the youngest just one but all the same having the time of their lives

    My family in 2012—the eldest was four years old and the youngest just one but all the same having the time of their lives

    More importantly, planning a trip with small children to this fairy-tale getaway spells convenience for parents. From the airport, simply take a red taxi to Lantau island and your holiday begins.

    Never mind the shopping that is waiting in Kowloon if you plan to take your kids for the first time on a theme park Christmas. I promise you, the sheer look on their faces when those towers start peeking from the distance will simply be priceless.

    Below are some tips you may find useful—in the form of an FAQ for added ease—from one theme-park-junkie family to one that may just be in the making.

    Ideally, how many days should a family plan to spend in the theme park?

    Three days and two nights is all you need to enjoy everything the park has to offer when it comes to Hong Kong Disneyland (HKDL). After all, it isn’t as large as other Disney theme parks, which is why I’ve always found it ideal for my little bosy. If your children are still toddlers or younger, it’s best to book your stay at either Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel or Disney’s Hollywood Hotel to let them take afternoon naps to see the fireworks by the time closes, and simply to have everything they need nearby.

    What kind of clothes and foot wear should children bring especially in the months of December to early January?

    Again in 2015, the boys are still as excited as ever

    Again in 2015, the boys are still as excited as ever

    I always find t-shirts, a light sweater, and a hooded rain coat with jogging pants or jeans best for my boys. Noontime can get quite warm even in this season in Hong Kong, and the easiest thing is simply to take off the jacket and sweater and put them back on again when the temperature goes down along with the sun.

    As for footwear, always make sure everyone is in sneakers, even if your kids can wear socks with their favorite Crocs. You don’t want any shoes falling from way up a ride.

    What should parents bring specifically for their kids?

    I used to bring everything but the kitchen sink, but after yearly visits—sometimes twice yearly visits to HKDL—we’ve learned to travel light as they say. There are strollers for rent there, well stocked baby rooms, which provide hot water, breast feeding areas, bottle warming machines, and diaper changing rooms.

    Of course, it is always a good idea to bring at least a set of clothes for changing in case of accidents, your own diapers, wipes, and maybe just a bottle of baby paracetamol.

    Restaurants and food carts are also available throughout the park so there’s no need to bring munchies and drinks, ensuring a lighter back pack or baby bag to carry. From experience, head straight to Starliner Diner over in Tomorrowland for main meals as they have the ever reliable, filling and appealing fried chicken for picky eaters.

    In case of emergency, what should one do?

    There is a clinic on Main Street next to the Baby Care Center. But according to the theme park’s website, any visitor with an emergency who has a child not feeling well, or ill themselves, can simply ask help from any staff member they see. Thankfully, language shouldn’t be a problem in Hong Kong.

    How is the park organized? Are there age-appropriate areas/attractions that parents should know about?

    The park consists of seven themed areas, namely Main Street, USA, which is dotted with restaurants and shops, as well as areas where Disney characters hold photo sessions; Adventureland where all ages will enjoy checking out Tarzan’s Treehouse and the live musical Festival of the Lion King; Fantasyland, which is best for toddlers with the Winnie the Pooh ride among others; Tomorrowland, great for maybe kids aged seven up, especially to drive cars at Autopia; Toy Story Land for Woody and Buzz Lightyear fans of all ages; and Mystic Point, where the amazing Mystic Manor tour showing magical antiques from around the world will delight children big and small.

    Specifically for the 2016 Christmas season, what special events has the park lined up for its visitors?

    Yes, we are going again to Hong Kong Disneyland right after Christmas, and have done some research on their theme for the year. They call it a “Sparkling Christmas” for 2016 with Santa Goofy as the star. Check out hongkongdisneyland.com/news for the list of fun activities, or download the Hong Kong Disney mobile app for the latest updates before and during your trip.

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