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Travel News: A Sneak Peek at Disney's New Star Wars Lands

By The Budget Travel Editors
January 12, 2022
Father and child approaching space ship surrounded by rocks
©Disney/Lucasfilm
You've seen the movies, now step into the Millennium Falcon, design a lightsaber, and immerse yourself entirely in the Star Wars world.

Batuu is a planet on the Outer Rim of a galaxy far, far away. Ask any Star Wars fan, and she’ll tell you that it’s home to Black Spire Outpost, a place where grifters, adventurers, traders, cheats, and runaways famously take shelter. And starting on May 31, you can get there easily from Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. Then on August 29, it’ll be just as simple to get there from Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

To Use the Force, Use the App

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the newest addition to Disney's suite of theme parks, and it promises to be a fantasy land of its own—a wildly high-tech one, no less. The interactive theme park allows for full immersion, thanks in no small part to the Play Disney Parks mobile app, which lets you take part in a variety of escapades familiar to any Star Wars fan (i.e., joining the Resistance, pledging your loyalty to the First Order).

Disney's iconic attractions—the whirling cups of Alice's Mad Tea Party, the whimsical boats that cruise through It's a Small World—will never lose their charm, but these new 14-acre lands are, according to the company's statement, “the largest and most technologically advanced single-themed land expansions ever in a Disney Park." Tomorrowland just might seem quaint by comparison.

Both the California and Florida parks are opening in two phases. The grand opening will center on the unveiling of Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, a life-size recreation of the renowned spacecraft. Onboard, intrepid visitors will play the part of gunners or flight engineers or even take a seat in the cockpit and steer the “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy" as it rips through space. Later this year comes the second phase, the debut of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Guests will be given an active role in the Rebellion, and, thanks to high-tech tricks, come face-to-face with familiar characters.

Take a Piece of the Distant Galaxy Home With You

Galaxy's Edge will play host to an expansive marketplace featuring all sorts of merchant stalls and DIY activities. At the Droid Depot, you can select pieces from a conveyor belt to custom-build your own droid. Pre-built droids and droid-inspired products are also for sale. At Savi’s Workshop, you can design and craft your own Lightsaber. Elsewhere in the bustling marketplace is Toydarian Toymaker, a stall full of toys crafted by a Toydarian (the flying alien species first seen in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace) and Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiques, which specializes in items from the many movies.

Drinks to Quench an Intergalactic Thirst

Food and drink are also on offer at both parks, including the highly anticipated bar Oga’s Cantina. Cocktails here promise to be out of this world, with creations like the Outer Rim, a jazzed up margarita with a black-salt rim, the Bespin Fizz, a bubbly exotic tipple made with rum and yuzu, and all sorts of spectacle-caliber drinks made with dry ice. Word to the wise: The space, complete with details you’ll recognize from the Cantina in the movie, is relatively small, so factor in time for the wait.

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CruisesFamily

Bargain Cruises: Where to Go in 2019 and 2020

Just when you thought cruise lines couldn’t get any bolder, 2019 and 2020 bring more onboard innovations. Here are our top picks for affordable new cruises to the Caribberan, Mexico, the Mediterranean, and beyond, all starting at less than $200 a night. 1. Carnival Panorama (Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line) Launching in late 2019, this shiny new vessel combines California cool and Carnival’s signature amenities—on a fun and fiesta-filled itinerary along the Mexican Riviera. Sailing out of Long Beach, California, and exploring ports such as Cabo Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, guests can enjoy the coastal scenery from both indoor and alfresco spaces. Aside from a new massive trampoline court with a recreation area (a climbing wall, a balance/jousting beam), some passenger favorites are making an encore: Guy’s Pig and Anchor barbecue joint (slow-smoked beef and molasses-baked beans, anyone?), the top-deck bike-in-the-sky ride, and a sports arena with dodgeball, basketball, and black-light glow parties. The most posh accommodations include the exclusive Havana staterooms, with tropical-inspired decor and a private pool area, and the key-carded Harbor staterooms designed specifically for families.Seven-day cruises from $539 per person; carnival.com. 2. Costa Smeralda (Courtesy Costa Cruises) Named after Sardinia’s Emerald Coast, this 6,518-passenger ship (launching in October 2019) is a tribute to all things Italian. Start with a Campari cocktail toast at the three-level, domed Colossea, before heading to one of two piazzas to soak in the panoramic views. Then choose from the 11 on-board restaurants, from a family-style pizzeria to the Laboratoria del Gusto (translation: Taste Lab), where guests can devour their own creations. The cabins are decorated with custom-designed furniture (made in Italy, of course) and photographic murals and graphics inspired by cities such as Milan, Florence, and Rome.Six-day Mediterranean sailings from $444 per person; costacruises.com. 3. MSC Bellissima and MSC Grandiosa (Courtesy MSC Cruises) For some sun and style, MSC Cruises is introducing a pair of ships where passengers can relax and enjoy, just as they do in the sun-soaked Mediterranean. Highlights on the 4,500-passenger MSC Bellissima, debuting in March, include a new voice-enabled artificial intelligence device that acts as a customer-service portal, a magic-themed children’s program, and the HOLA! Tapas bar, in partnership with Michelin-starred Spanish chef Ramon Freixa. Meanwhile, the Grandiosa, much larger at 6,300 passengers, makes her inaugural voyage in October, with a set of never-before-seen Cirque du Soleil shows, a two-deck promenade with a massive LED Skyscreen, and the French-inspired L’Atelier Bistrot lounge.MSC Bellissima’s seven-night cruises from $1,199 per person; seven-night sailings on MSC Grandiosa from $799 per person; msccruisesusa.com. 4. Norwegian Encore (Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line) The fourth and final ship of the Norwegian Breakaway-Plus class, Norwegian Encore (launching in autumn 2019) offers features similar to those of her sisters—except a notch above on the wow factors. For starters, the race track is larger, and part of it even loops over the side of the ship—not to mention there’s a viewing area for spectators who can shoot laser guns to turbo-boost their favorite drivers. The laser tag course, which spans a good portion of the sun deck, resembles a resurrection of the city of Atlantis, complete with sea creatures and hidden treasures. Meanwhile, the 10,000 square-foot augmented reality complex, Galaxy Pavilion, combines interactive gaming and cutting edge technology. Last but not least, the entertainment roster does nothing short of dazzle: Cyndi Lauper’s Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots takes a lively tour at sea, while UK-based group the Choir of Man performs a variety of genres, from pub tunes to classic rock to folk music, and the Happy Hour Prohibition recreates a New Orleans speakeasy with rip-roaring tales of bootleggers and retro cocktails with a modern bend.Seven-day Eastern Caribbean cruise from Miami from $849; ncl.com. 5. Sky Princess (Courtesy Princess Cruises) The 3,660-passenger Sky Princess (on the sea starting October 2019) reinvents of some of the brands’ signature experiences, bringing fresh and modern spaces and elevating the line's popular venues such as Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria, the classic Crown Grill, and the Salty Dog Pub, known for its Ernesto Burger (a rib-eye and short-rib patty with pork belly, Gruyere, caramelized kimchi, and beer-battered jalapeño). Plus this ship will debut a French bistro with an exclusive menu from Chef Emmanuel Renaut, who runs the three-Michelin-star Flocons de Sel in the French Alps. Stay tuned for more details on a cool jazz lounge featuring music from New Orleans, and the breathtaking Sky Suites, whose 1,102 square-foot balconies are the most spacious at sea—and where you can watch movies on the big screen under the stars.Seven-night Caribbean cruises from $859 per person; Mediterranean cruises from $1,289 per person; princess.com. 6. Looking Ahead... (Courtesy Virgin Voyages) There’s already been a lot of buzz about Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady, even though the launch is more than a year way. That’s probably because Virgin mogul Richard Branson is behind the adults-only ground-breaking vessel—and he’s brought some big-name designers on board (Tom Dixon, Roman and Williams, Concrete Amsterdam, among others) to create thought-provoking, imaginative spaces: retro-futuristic Rockstar Suites, a Korean barbecue restaurant with drinking games, a vegan bar with bold black and white stripes, and terraces with handwoven hammocks. Cabins have mood-lighting and beds that convert to loungers—should you ever find the time to sleep.The Scarlet Lady will sail four- and five-night Havana After Dark itineraries featuring an overnight stay in Havana, Cuba; five-night Mayan Sol voyages to Costa Maya, Mexico; and five-night Dominican Daze voyages to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. No prices yet; virginvoyages.com.

Travel TipsFamily

Fun Finds for Teen Travelers

Teenagers can be notoriously tough to please, but we believe we've cracked the code. From cute accoutrements to bigger-ticket investment pieces, we've got the gear that'll earn that nod of approval—no sweat necessary. 1. Warm Up (Courtesy Rumpl) Airlines' standards for a clean and germ-free environment may not be mile-high (...sorry), but you can avoid those grimy, barely-bigger-than-a-towel fleece throws by packing something with panache. We love the puffy down blanket from Rumpl for its shimmery shades, cushy feel, and compact, lightweight footprint. They can stuff it in the sack that’s included and clip it to their carry-on to save room in their bag, toss it in the back seat to stay warm on a road trip, and bring it on overnight hikes or camping trips for an extra dose of coziness around the fire. Thanks to ripstop nylon encasing 600-fill goose down, it’ll keep you toasty, and it’s machine washable and dryer friendly, so they'll have no problem rinsing away those plane pathogens once they're back on solid ground.Puffy Down Blanket in Fractal, $199; rumpl.com. 2. Travel Light (Courtesy Patagonia) We’re big fans of a hands-free bag, both for travel and for the everyday, so we were psyched to discover this tough little ripstop number from Patagonia. At just seven inches long by five inches high, it’s already impressively tiny, but it also folds away into its own case, which makes it a great choice for an already overcrowded suitcase. Even better, the case itself turns into an internal, zippered pocket when the pack's being used, so your valuables will stay protected when you're on the go. Add to that its vibrant blue hue, and you've got a real crowd-pleaser on your hands. Lightweight Travel Mini Hip Pack in Balkan Blue, $29; patagonia.com. 3. Guard The Digits (Courtesy cable-bite.com) In the grand scheme of things, a frayed cord may not seem like much more than a petty irritant, but exposed wires on phone chargers can be a dangerous proposition, causing minor shocks and even, in the extremely rare case, death by electrocution. These fun iPhone cable bites will protect your screen junkie and provide some cuteness at the same time, and they're just a few bucks a pop. Choose their favorite animal (we’re partial to the penguins ourselves), or grab a set and let them change things up as the mood strikes.Dreams Cable Bites, from $3; amazon.com. 4. Keep It Moving (Courtesy Jabra) For that traveler who’s looking to shut out the noise of the world, give them the gift of solitude—and good sound. Jabra’s wireless on-ear headphones have a slimmer profile than bulkier over-ear alternatives; they’re adjustable, but they best fit those with smaller heads (we found they don’t pinch at all, even when wearing earrings). They’ll keep the music going for eight hours at a trot, and they come with a cord so you can plug in and keep listening even if your playlist lasts longer than the charge. The Bluetooth pairs quickly and easily, the microphone works well for taking calls, and though they’re not technically noise-cancelling, the headphones do block out quite a lot of commotion. Most important? They produce remarkably robust, well-rounded tones—especially considering the affordable price point. Jabra Move Wireless Headphones, $50 (discounted through 1/5/19; regularly $100); amazon.com. 5. Protect Those Peepers (Courtesy Sunski) What’s a selfie without a set of shades? This pair from Sunski has frosted, translucent frames and polarized, mirrored lenses for a standout look, and they're feather-light and comfortable to boot. Like the rest of the brand’s offerings, they come with a lifetime warranty—a strong selling point if you’re shopping for someone who isn’t particularly precious about their eyewear—and the company donates one percent of its sales to environmental nonprofits, so it’s a win-win for anyone with a green streak.Dipsea polarized sunglasses in frosted sky, $58; sunski.com. 6. Provide Instant Gratification (Courtesy FUJIFILM INSTAX®) In these digital times, there's little more appealing than the tactile pleasure of a physical photo, and when you factor in the immediacy of an instant print, you can't go wrong. Even the most jaded teen will get a kick out of Fujifilm’s latest Instax model, a chunky camera that produces square images ready-made for Instagram—once they're scanned in, of course. They can mess around in double-exposure mode, experiment with macro and landscape settings, adjust the light levels, and play with color via the filters that pop onto the flash and add a tint to the scene. But our favorite feature is the selfie mirror, right next to the lens. All they have to do is make sure they're in the frame, click away, and the camera handles the rest. (PS: It's really popular at parties too.)Instax Square SQ6, $130; fujifilm.com. 7. Teach Them About Beauty Sleep (Courtesy Oliver Bonas) It’s a lesson best learned at a young age: If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep on the road, an eye mask is your best friend. This one is super-fun, a playful wink to emoji culture wrapped in a fuzzy faux-fur hug. Lined with cool satin and finished with a ruched band to keep it in place without pulling hair, it’ll help them get through that first red-eye like a champ.Faux Fur Eyes eye mask, $19; oliverbonas.com. 8. Grow Their Library (Courtesy Amazon) Bountiful reading material in one slender device: What’s not to love? Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite offers 8 GB of storage (double the memory of previous versions), a 300-ppi glare-resistant screen, and WiFi connectivity to download on the go—great for folks who get itchy when they don’t have a book on hand. This version is Bluetooth-enabled, so they can sync to an Audible account and listen instead, and it’s waterproof in six-plus feet of water for up to an hour, so they won’t have to stress over the odd poolside splash. Naturally, it comes with access to a huge collection of titles, including magazines, comics, and newspapers, but they can also borrow Kindle-compatible e-books from the library for even more budget-friendly reads.Kindle Paperwhite, $130; amazon.com. 9. Pack in Style (Courtesy ban.do) Form over function? Not so fast. Yes, this coated-canvas toiletries bag from ban.do is adorably logoed, but it also has plenty of pockets—inside, a clear PVC zippered pouch and two mesh pockets; outside, one big pocket on the back—so everything they pack will have its place, even when they’re stuck in coach. All set on the toiletries front? The youthful brand carries an array of similarly smart travel gear, from planners to passport covers to luggage tags to eye masks, so you’re bound to find something for them here.First Class Getaway Toiletries Bag, $15; bando.com.

Family

10 American Fall Festivals Every Traveler Should Experience

Sweater weather is finally here, time for apple picking, pumpkin carving and wandering through corn mazes — welcome to fall festival season. Here are our 10 picks for the best ones around the U.S. 1. THE GREAT JACK O’LANTERN BLAZE Croton-on-Hudson, NY September 28-November 24, 2018; $27 adults, $20 children; hudsonvalley.org More than 7,000 wickedly designed, hand-carved pumpkins light up the grounds of Van Cortlandt Manor, a historic estate just outside New York City. Stroll through a stunning maze of Insta-worthy pumpkin art: intricate spider webs, flying ghosts and creepy skeletons, and of course the Headless Horseman. This year’s festival pays tribute to Ichabod Crane’s Sleepy Hollow and features a Medieval Castle, the Pumpkin Zee Bridge and a pumpkin carousel. Make sure to grab a fall treat: Apple cider donuts, fresh popcorn and pumpkin beer are for sale. 2. FALL FEST AT LINCOLN PARK ZOO Chicago Weekends, September 28-October 28 and October 8; free admission; lpzoo.org Get wild with the animals as the Lincoln Park Zoo gets the fall treatment with activities throughout the park including a pumpkin patch, corn maze, and pumpkin carving. Kids can tackle the bouncy houses, ride the Ferris wheel and the tractor-themed carousel, or take on the giant burlap slide. Join the Halloween festivities at the Annual Spooky Zoo Spectacular on October 28  with trick or treating, a haunted house, and arts-and-crafts. 3. DIA DE LOS MUERTOS (DAY OF THE DEAD) Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles October 26-27, $25; ladayofthedead.com This fall holiday, with its traditional colorful skulls and white faces, is often confused for Mexican Halloween. Instead, it’s a celebration of friends and family who have died, with festivities held in a cemetery. This year’s gathering honors Coatlicue, the Aztec mother of the gods, with traditional Aztec blessings, ritual dancers in full costume, music, and theatrical performances. Check out more than 100 altars created by the local community on display, the art exhibition, and the arts and crafts for sale. 4. OKTOBERFEST New Orleans October 5-6, 12-13, 19-20; $8; deutscheshaus.org NOLA is a city that likes to party, so it’s no surprise that their Oktoberfest is wunderbar. Feast on traditional German food including brats, schnitzel, Bavarian pretzels, or try one of 20 German beers and schnapps. Then get your groove on with traditional Oompa music and some good old-fashioned chicken dancing. Dachshund races and a schnauzer parade and costume contest are adorable must-sees. 5. HARVEST FESTIVAL AT EL RANCHO DE LAS GOLONDRINAS 334 Los Pinos Road, Santa Fe, NM October 6-7; $8; golondrinas.org Called the “Williamsburg of the South,” this 200-acre living history museum dedicated to the history of 18th- and 19th-century New Mexico offers a hands-on fall fiesta, Southwest-style. Join villagers dressed in period clothing as you stomp grapes for wine or press apples for cider, string chile ristras and roll handmade tortillas. There’s also pumpkin picking, mule-drawn wagon rides, traditional music and dance, and a market offering New Mexican crafts. 6. SCARECROW HARVEST Milton Ave, Alpharetta, GA September 29; free admission; alpharetta.ga.us The scarecrow gets major props in this Atlanta suburb when more than 120 of the colorful, life-size strawmen line the downtown streets. Pose with your favorite bird scarer, created by local students, businesses, and families, then boogie to live country music, chow down on barbecue, and let the kids enjoy the hayrides, bouncy houses, face painting, and storytelling. 7. AUTUMN AT THE ARBORETUM Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Dallas September 22-October 21, 2018; $15; dallasarboretum.org Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere — an astounding 90,000 of them — make up the amazing Peter Pan-themed village at the Arboretum. Pumpkin-created scenes include Tinker Bell’s home, the house of the Darlings, the Lost Boys’ hideout, and Captain Hook’s pirate ship. Don’t miss the Halloween bash on October 27-28 with trick-or-treating, face painting, a petting zoo, and appearances by the Neverland characters. 8. NATIONAL APPLE HARVEST FESTIVAL Arendtsville, PA October 6-7, 13-14, 2018, $10; appleharvest.com Just outside Gettysburg is Pennsylvania apple country, where more than 35 varieties of the fruit are grown. Sample as many as you can at this sweet festival, plus cider, apple sauces, jellies, pies, pancakes, sweets, and more. Tour the orchards, then check out more than 300 crafts vendors and the antique car and steam engine collection. There’s also live music and dancing, hay rides, a petting zoo, and pony rides. 9. SNALLYGASTER BEASTLY BEER JAMBOREE Washington, D.C. October 13, 2018; $40; snallygasterdc.com Cheers to beers! Lift up your glass as 120 of the world’s best breweries serve up more than 350 small-batch craft beers and ciders, including American and international brews, cask ales and Franconian lager, locally brewed beers, and more. Bring the kids: This is a family event with live music and food trucks plus face painting, temporary tattoos, and games. Proceeds from the event help support Arcadia, a nonprofit dedicated to creating a local food system in the D.C. area. 10. THE GREAT MISSISSIPPI RIVER BALLOON RACE Natchez, MS October 19-21, 2018, $35 for the full event; natchezballoonrace.com From the grounds of a historic Antebellum home, more than 60 colorful hot air balloons take to the skies over a beautiful backdrop of the Mississippi River. Brave souls can go for a short ride, the rest of us can watch one of the daily races from the ground. Enjoy live music, Southern craft brews, carnival rides and games, arts and crafts, and German-style food.

Travel TipsFamily

Read This Before Your Kid Flies Solo

As a child, I looked forward to flying alone from Florida to New York for the summer. It meant a few blissful weeks spent with cousins I rarely saw, and precious time with my grandparents, who I knew would be waiting for me at the gate. This year, I put my own children, ages 6 and 9, on a plane by themselves to see their grandparents. Getting them on the two-hour flight was relatively easy; waiting for them to land took a bigger toll on my nerves. But they arrived safely, and yours will too. Here’s what to expect when your child is flying alone domestically: WHO’S A “MINOR”? Airlines generally consider a minor to be between the ages of 5 and 14. Some airlines, like Southwest and Alaska, cap the age at 12, but you can request and pay for unaccompanied minor status for your older child regardless. SOLO FLIGHTS FOR KIDS ARE PRICIER That solo flight is not cheap. Every airline adds a surcharge. Some are relatively small: Southwest charges $50 per flight, per child, or $100 round trip. JetBlue’s program costs $100 per child, per flight, or $200 round trip. EACH AIRLINE HAS A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT POLICY You will book the flight differently on all airlines. Delta is unique in that you book the flight by phone using their Unaccompanied Minor phone line, which adds a level of comfort knowing there is a dedicated support staff for your questions. Most other airlines allow you to book the flight online; you just indicate the child is flying alone when prompted for the status of the passenger (adult or child) or when prompted for the passenger’s birthday. AIRLINES DO THEIR BEST TO KEEP YOUR KID SAFE You tell the airline in advance who will be dropping off and picking up your child, and ticketing agents ID the designated adult on both ends to let them through security and to the gate. (Unfortunately, they often only let one adult through.) The airlines will also give your child a bracelet or lanyard to indicate they’re unaccompanied, along with an envelope with their flight details. The flight crew typically places unaccompanied minors in the front of the plane to keep an eye on them, but prepare your child to be on his or her own during the flight and to go to by alone to the bathroom or ask for help if needed. A WELL-PACKED CARRY-ON WILL KEEP YOUR KID HAPPY Pack books and games to keep your child occupied and happy, and if you’re sending them with a tablet, charge it and/or pack a charged external battery. Buy food at the airport in case there is no substantial meal on the flight. Be sure to point out where they should place their envelope with all of their flight details, and include a list of important phone numbers just in case. And show them what’s in their carry-on before you say goodbye. BE PREPARED FOR A LONG TRAVEL DAY It will take a lot of time. You and the adult on the other end will be meeting your child at the gate, which means you’ll have to go through security both times. On the departure end, you’ll arrive at least an hour before just as if you were flying and you’ll need to stay until the plane is in the air, so don’t expect a quick goodbye. On the arrival end, allow at least 30 minutes to park and get to the gate, more if you’re in a major airport. CHECK THE FLIGHT ARRIVAL BOARD OFTEN Arrival gates change, and you could be waiting at the wrong one when your child deplanes. SOME INTERNATIONAL AND CONNECTING FLIGHTS DON’T ALLOW SOLO KIDS Each airline treats these cases a bit differently, so read each airline’s FAQs carefully. DON’T DOWNPLAY THE EMOTIONAL IMPACT OF SAYING GOODBYE Letting your child fly alone might be harder than you imagined. My daughter clung to me before her flight, my son didn’t even wave goodbye. And until they landed safely, my stomach was in knots because my most precious cargo was out of my hands, high in the air. It can be terrifying if you think of it this way. So try not to. Send them to the family members they rarely see. You’ll be forging lasting memories—and an early sense of independence. LEARN MORE Visit each of the major U.S. airlines’ websites for more information on their unaccompanied minor programs.