More Than Just Mouse Ears in the Sunshine State

The following post is written by Lori from the Boscov’s Travel Marketing Department.

For 45 years, Boscov’s Travel has made it easy to get to the most magical place on earth with non-stop flights from select local airports (Reading, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). A majority of our clients use this convenient way to travel and decide to spend the whole 7-days in Disney, but others – like my family and I – venture to other parts of the sunshine state. Below is an overview of our vacation, my recommendations on traveling with a 6- and 3-year old, what we loved about it and why we are already planning to do it again next year.


Non-stop flight from Lancaster Airport to Orlando, FL 

So much to do, but who can go to Florida without going to Disney?

After a relatively easy trip down to Florida (hop to CVS if you are traveling with anyone who doesn’t like the ear popping from the cabin air pressure and purchase Earplanes; I’m not sure they worked or were a placebo, but no complaints from my otherwise not so happy to fly son) we hopped in our rental car (ahem, van) and headed to Animal Kingdom for the day. Our FastPass+ for the day included:
1) Expedition Everest – my 6 year old son LOVED this ride! I was surprised because he is typically timid about trying new things, especially a roller coaster, but he was grinning from ear to ear after both times riding it. And how did he ride it two times back to back? Disney has genius people who work for them and developed a Rider Swap/Switch program…. “If a child does not meet the height requirement or a Guest does not wish to board a particular attraction, no problem! With Rider Switch, one adult can wait with the non-rider (or riders) while the rest of the party enjoys the attraction. When the other adult returns, they can supervise the non-riding Guests, and the waiting adult can board the attraction without having to wait in the regular line again!” 3 guests are allowed back per rider switch pass which is how he got to ride it twice, lucky kid! Recommendation: A+
2) Kilimanjaro Safaris – bigger than all of Magic Kingdom, Kilimanjaro Safaris is truly a unique experience every time. Highlights this time around included a baby giraffe and an aggressive ostrich. Recommendation: A+

Kilimanjaro Safaris

3) Dinosaur – noted as being dark, scary, loud and jerky… I would say those are 100% accurate statements. My adventurous 3-year old daughter (who is surprisingly tall for her age and met the height requirements) was excited to ride it, but noted “I didn’t like that ride at all,” at the end. My recommendation would be to not use a FastPass+ on this ride. If the standby wait is under 15 minutes and someone in your party really wants to try it, go for it. Otherwise, I’d say it’s a leave-it attraction. Recommendation: thumbs down

We also all went on Kali River Rapids (check the height requirements for little ones). While in the standby line, which was about 45 minutes, we ordered some counter service food from Harambe Market with the new mobile ordering feature offered on the My Disney Experience app. Having that extra time to look through the menu – especially with picky eaters – was super convenient. And not having to stand in the long lines that can form was icing on the cake (I didn’t get cake). And we got to fully enjoy Kali River Rapids. Both of my kids loved this ride and while you do get wet, it’s not terrible. We would have rode it twice, if our lunch wasn’t ready for us already!

Kali River Rapids

With loads of shows, attractions, rides, Animal Kingdom has grown into a park you can truly stay the whole day at and never truly see it all.

Family/kid-friendly activities to do in Sarasota: 1) Gorgeous beaches

About a 2 hour drive from Orlando, Sarasota boasts diverse dining options, enriching arts and culture and last but certainly not least, the most beautiful white sandy beaches with crystal clear blue waters you typically find in the Caribbean. Plus, there is usually little to no waves, so the ocean becomes the biggest swimming pool and is always just the right temperature. We adore the beaches in Sarasota for free parking, free “admission” onto the beaches, concession stands that have delicious lunch options, playgrounds with shade and nice running paths for a pre-beach workout. Our go to beach is Lido Beach for all of the previous mentioned amenities, especially the lobster rolls at Lido Beach Restaurant.


Lido Beach, Sarasota

Family/kid-friendly activities to do in Sarasota: 2) Myakka River State Park

Noted as being the “real Florida”, Myakka River State Park is full of wildflower cover prairies, wild wetlands and gorgeous pinelands. The majestic Myakka River flows though 58 square miles of one of Florida’s oldest and largest parks. I would recommend first time visitors to stop at the Visitor Center to learn about all the park has to offer including hiking, biking, camping, boat tours and more. The park rangers at the Visitor Center are very knowledgeable about the park and debunked the tale if an alligator is chasing you, run in a zip-zag pattern (do this and they’ll just get to you quicker as they can do short spurts up to 30mph). We enjoyed driving around the park, exploring and stopping at all of the “alligator sighting” spots. Although the highlight of the day was the canopy walk. “Completed in 2000, this structure is the first public treetop trail in North America. The walkway is suspended 25 feet above the ground and extends 100 feet through the hammock canopy. The taller tower soars 74 feet in the air to present a spectacular view of treetops, wetlands, and the prairie/hammock interface. You can look down on eagles, hawks, vultures, and the tops of Live Oak and Sabal Palm trees.” Florida State Park site. 

Canopy walkway, Myakka State Park

Hammock Canopy, Myakka State Park

A pre-packed picnic lunch by the lake, enjoying the beauty of wildflowers blooming, some shopping at the gift shop and more adventures to see alligators ended our day at Myakka State Park. A definite must see in Southwest Florida.

Family/kid-friendly activities to do in Sarasota: 3) Sarasota Jungle Gardens

Mixed reviews had us going into this adventure with little expectations, but it ended up being one of our favorite activities for both the kids and adults alike. Activities include: feed a flamingo, hold a parrot, attend a variety of wildlife shows, feed an alligator and more. The highlights of the day were obviously feeding the flamingos and holding parrots, seen below.

 

Family/kid-friendly activities to do in Sarasota: 4) Miscellaneous

Along with everything mentioned above, Sarasota offers unique shopping and dining in St. Armands Circle, boat tours, – or if you are more adventurous – boat rentals, miniature golf, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey museum, beautiful botanical Gardens, aquariums, famous sights and landmarks including the Unconditional Surrender Sculpture and so much more.

If you are looking for for a well-rounded vacation with tropical vibes all while still staying in the US, I’d highly recommend Sarasota for all the area has to offer. And most importantly, traveling the Lancaster Airport in Pennsylvania made getting to Florida super convenient and stress free, a service in which only Boscov’s Travel can provide on the Boscov’s Travel Exclusive Charter to Orlando. To learn more about this feature (non-stop flights from select local airports: Reading, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), contact your local Boscov’s Travel Specialist or call 800-755-8020.

If you’re ready to start planning your Florida getaway, email travelrequest@boscovs.com or call 800-755-8020.

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

Help! I’m Planning My First Trip to Disney. Where Do I Start?

You’ve saved for a trip of a lifetime. You’ve seen all the pics of friends and family at the happiest place on earth. You’ve promised your kids you would take them and now it’s time to plan for your first trip to Disney. There are so many facets to the vacation – from the hotel to the transportation, which parks to visit and which tickets to purchase, from the meal plan to the best time of year to go – a trip to Disney can be downright overwhelming. It’s probably one of the most research intense vacations on top of the fact that it’s not inexpensive. So how do you make your first trip to Disney the perfect vacation you’ve dreamed of? With a little pixie dust and the help of a qualified Travel Professional.

Choose a qualified Authorized Disney Vacation Planner.

To be an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, an agency needs to uphold Disney brand values and keep up-to-date on the latest happenings at the Disney parks. Even though your second cousin may claim to “be a Disney expert,” we recommend that you entrust the planning of your Disney vacation to a qualified Travel Agency and Travel Professional. Be sure to look for the logo and confirm the status is up to date by checking Disney’s planner site (yep, Boscov’s Travel is proud to be an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner). It’s like getting free Disney advice from an unbiased source.

Choose which time of year is right for you.

If you have school-aged kids, going in the middle of the school year may not be the best bet. Still, these times of year (independent of fall/spring break and holidays) typically give you better access to the parks and shorter wait times. If you do have to wait till the summer or one of the busier holiday times, there’s still so much that makes Disney spectacular during the busier season.

Here’s a sampling of annual festivals and events throughout the year:

  • Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival – Early March through late May or early June
  • Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – Late October or early November
  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Early or mid-January
  • Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – Mid to late February
  • Star Wars Half Marathon The Dark Side – Early to Mid-April
  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – End of August through mid-November
  • Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party- Late August through early November
  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party – Early November through late December
  • Holidays Around the World at Epcot – Late November through late December

Budget your time and money.

Some families make a one-day stop at a single Disney park, while others spend a week at an on-site resort and make multiple visits to the parks. Talk to a Travel Specialist about your budget, “must-sees” on your list and go from there. There are so many options and combinations to get within your price range. And this year they rolled out value days giving you less expensive tickets during the off-season.

Narrow down where you want to stay.

Based on your budget and dollars allocated towards a resort, there are so many choices resorts throughout Disney (and beyond). There are benefits to staying closer to the magic – themed hotel rooms based on your child’s favorite movie, fun features including sand bottom pools, up close encounters with exotic animals, longer park access, and more. Is proximity to the magic important to you, or is access to Orlando’s other theme parks more up your alley?

Value Disney Resorts $
Disney All-Star Movies
Disney All-Star Music
Disney All-Star Sports
Disney Art of Animation
Disney Pop Century Resort
Fort Wilderness Campground

Moderate Disney Resorts $$
Disney Caribbean Beach
Disney Coronado Springs
The Cabins at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
Disney Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter

Deluxe Disney Resorts $$$
Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge
Disney Beach Club Resort
Disney Board Walk Inn
Disney Contemporary Resort
Disney Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Disney Polynesian Village
Disney Wilderness Lodge
Disney Yacht Club Resort
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel

Deluxe Disney Villas $$$$ 
Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas
Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Disney Beach Club Villas
Disney Board Walk Villas
The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
Disney Old Key West Resort
Disney Polynesian Villas and Bungalows
Treehouse Villas
The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney’s Sarasota Springs Resort & Spa

*Options are available through Walt Disney World Good Neighbor Hotels. These are off-site hotels close to the parks that Disney approves and they offer transportation to/from the park. Some even allow pets! These range from high-end to value hotels. Choosing a WDW Good Neighbor Hotel is another way to save on the hotel and allocate more towards the park experience. 

Park Tickets

Depending on the length of your stay at Disney, you may want to experience multiple parks in a day. There’s an option for that! Disney offers different tickets based on what you want for your stay. The most cost efficient option is the Magic Your Way Base Ticket allowing you to visit one park per day from 2 to 10 days. A more flexible option is the Park Hopper option allowing you to visit multiple theme parks in the same day. The Park Hopper Plus Option allows you to visit multiple parks, plus access to Disney’s water parks, golf courses and more. Of course, we can help you navigate which option is best for you.

Dining

Disney Dining Plans allow you to pay one price per person up front so you can focus on family-time during your stay. There can be real value in pre-purchasing a dining plan (maybe you’ve heard of the infamous Chocolate Dipped Chocolate Chip Meringue from Epcot’s Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie that counts as a snack credit), but if your family is picky or light eaters it may not be for you. Luckily, our experienced Travel Specialists who have collectively handled hundreds of Disney packages can help you decide what’s right for your family.

Everything but the kitchen sink… flights, the Magical Express, Fast-Passes, dining reservations, and more.

Work with your Authorized Disney Vacation Planner to coordinate your flights and the Magical Express. If you’d prefer to depart a little closer to home and avoid the hassles of large airports, we offer an Exclusive Charter to Walt Disney World departing from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport in Avoca, Reading Airport, Harrisburg Airport, and Lancaster Airport throughout the spring and fall. Flights depart on Sunday morning and return Saturday evening. Still if you’re closer to a larger airport or want to stay at Disney for less than 6-nights, we can help plan your trip.

The coveted Fast-Pass allows you to get VIP privileges for your favorite rides and attractions. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you can book your Fast-Pass up to 60 days prior to your trip. If you’re staying off-site, you can book your Fast-Pass 30 days prior. Ask your Travel Specialists how you can make your Magic Band your all-in-one tool for Fast-Passes and more.

Be our guest and book your table service dining experiences before you go! Whether you want to experience the enchantment of the Beast’s castle or you want to treat yourself to the culinary magic of a James Beard nominee at Victoria & Albert, you can book your dining experiences up to 180 days ahead of your arrival.

Before you go, download the My Disney Experience app and talk to your Travel Specialist about how you can make the most of your vacation. We can help you choose PhotoPass packages, tell you where to get an inexpensive stroller for your little one, give you insider-recommendations (like downloading the Disney Parks Mobile App!), tell you what’s opening and if any attractions are under construction, give you a customized packing list, and tell you how to make the most of your dining plan (hello, Dole Whip).

So why can you trust us?

Because Walt Disney World does! We have the great pleasure of earning the distinction of Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. There are so many reasons to choose Boscov’s Travel as your Authorized Disney Vacation Planner to handle your first (and fiftieth!) trip to the most magical place on earth. We don’t charge you to plan your complete Disney vacation package. Plus our Travel Specialists have first-hand experience as well as years in the business making your Disney planning easy and successful. In fact, 94% of our Travel Specialists have been to Walt Disney World with nearly 70% visiting since 2010. Basically we love Disney as much as you do. 

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury). View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com

As to Disney artwork/properties: ©Disney

 

Rediscovering my love of cruising aboard the Norwegian Breakaway

The following post is written by Wendy, a member of the Boscov’s Travel Corporate Team.  Wendy recently sailed on the Breakaway, a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, as part of a FAM. In the travel industry, FAM trips – better known as familiarization trips – help travel agents learn what’s available for their clients in destinations across the globe. Wendy traveled on the FAM in October 2016. 

Norwegian Cruise Line had invited myself and other members of the Boscov’s Travel family on a 7-Day FAM trip aboard Norwegian Breakaway. For me these trips are a real joy and it had been a number of years since my last cruise, so needless to say I was excited. One of the beautiful things about a familiarization trip on a cruise ship is that travel specialists can experience, well, everything!

img_3715For our Bermuda cruise, we departed from the New York City pier. Boscov’s Travel offers transfers for select cruises to this pier from local Boscov’s in Reading, Camp Hill, Lancaster, and Easton. Our group took one of these transfers aboard a luxury bus from Reading, PA to the cruise terminal. Having cruised before I was quite familiar with the procedures of boarding a cruise ship. I’ll admit, I was blown away by how much more smoothly and streamlined Norwegian has made the boarding process. We were moved along quickly, porters took our luggage, and the staff was polite and friendly. All in all the experience was hassle and headache free.

Unfortunately, the weather was not going to cooperate. Hurricane Matthew threw a wrench in the works. Instead of sailing to Bermuda as planned, our itinerary was changed to Port Canaveral, Florida and Nassau, Bahamas. Seeing as we were on a FAM trip to learn about the ship, this didn’t deter us at all from enjoying everything the Norwegian Breakaway had to offer.

Our first stop was Port Canaveral, Florida. Despite being a little overcast, we decided to check out Cocoa beach. After an enjoyable bus trip to the beach, we felt like we had the beach to ourselves. It wasn’t as crowded as I thought and the weather helped play a small part in that. There are surf shops in the area and made for a nice break in between relaxation sessions on the beach.

The second port we experienced was Nassau, Bahamas. We spent two hours in Nassau at the Straw Market. It was great experience to be able to see hand-made art and local delicacies. According to the locals, the sunset in Nassau is a must-see and we decided to catch it from the Breakaway. And to be honest, the locals were right… was breathtaking.

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The food on the Breakaway was something to behold. We had the chance to experience the Brazilian style Moderno and the Italian style La Cucina specialty dining restaurants during our trip. And if you have the chance, I highly recommend eating at both. At Moderno, your mouth will water as different grilled and slow-roasted meats are carved tableside. At La Cucina, they take classic Italian dishes and put a fresh twist to create something unbelievable.

The rest of the time, we enjoyed the Garden Café Buffet. The buffet style of cooking on a cruise ship has come a long way since the last time I experienced it. Everything tasted as if it had been cooked especially for us. The taste, freshness, and options available were delicious. They also incorporated themes everyday with options ranging from Chinese one day to Western the next, then seafood after that. There were also made-to-order dishes available upon request.

One of our Boscov’s Travel team members is gluten intolerant. One of the best great things about Norwegian’s food options is that they can make anything gluten-free. The staff was very accommodating and understanding of any and all dietary restrictions. During the day, you can go to any of the restaurants and place an order for your dinner that night with your restrictions. When you arrive later that night, your food will be made to your specifications.

The nightlife experiences aboard the Breakaway transformed the ship into the hottest spot at sea. At H2O, every night was a different theme. One night it was a 70’s disco night and the next was an 80’s new wave night. During the day, cruisers could attend a flash mob class and that night everyone would perform the routine they learned that day. We had the chance to experience a flash mob and see everyone perform the dance routine from Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video.

img_3492Entertainment rocked the ship throughout our 7-days. Rock of Ages and Burn the Floor are two of the on board shows you shouldn’t miss. The cast of Rock the Ages was friendly and entertaining and managed to really involve the audience in the show. Even though the 45-minute dance routines from the foxtrot to the salsa of Burn the Floor is not my cup of tea, it was an amazing performance to watch.

Despite Hurricane Matthew changing our entire itinerary, it did not stop us from enjoying everything Norwegian Cruise Line had to offer! If you have the chance to get aboard this floating palace of entertainment, food, and fun; I would highly recommend that you do so. Norwegian’s really taken things to a whole new level with this ship and it shows; from the accommodating staff to every minor detail on the ship. The Breakaway is truly a cruisers dream ship.

If you’re ready to learn more about cruising, email travelrequest@boscovs.com, DM Boscov’s Travel on Facebook, or call 800-755-8020. Be sure to ask about specials!

Visit Boscov’s Travel located within select Boscov’s including Pennsylvania (Camp Hill, Colonial Park/Harrisburg, Easton, Lancaster, Lebanon, Neshaminy/Bensalem, Wyomissing, Reading, Pottstown, Pottsville, Scranton, Selinsgrove, Wilkes-Barre), New York (Binghamton), New Jersey (Atlantic City and Moorestown), Delaware (Wilmington), and Maryland (Salisbury).  View our locations here. If you live a little further away, book over the phone by calling us at 800-755-8020. Learn more at boscovstravel.com.

A Mom’s Perspective on Universal Studios & Walt Disney World

Stephanie, one of our customers from the Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania area, recently booked a 12 day trip with her family to Florida. Stephanie, her husband and three children took in all the sites and experienced both Universal Studios and Disney theme parks.

Below is Stephanie’s recap of her trip, as well as her tips for any families traveling to Florida amusement parks.

Universal Studios:

I am really glad we took four days to experience Universal Studios as we were able to re-ride our favorites and have some down time to swim in the pool. The hotel was beautiful. In the evening at the hotel, they had movies by the pool and a Hawaiian dancer and flame-thrower as entertainment. It was fascinating to watch and we were surrounded by the beautiful, tropical atmosphere. At the pool, a staff member frequently came around with fresh, warm towels and cucumbers for loungers to place on their eyes (thank goodness my kids were in the pool, they probably would have eaten them!). We were treated very well. The parks were within walking distance of our resort, and each morning and evening we had the opportunity to walk through the tropical gardens to go from hotel to the park.

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Scenic Hotel View at Universal Studios

The rides at Universal Studios and Island of Adventure were definitely more intense thrill-rides than what Walt Disney World generally offers. This was certainly better for the older kiddos. A great tip is to have lanyards to hold the tickets and my husband kept all the tickets in one lanyard making it so much easier in Universal Studios. This way, there was no waiting to find everyone’s tickets to show for the express lines and to take a train between the parks (Walt Disney World has the Magic Band wrist bands making it much easier). In terms of meals, we did stop by Mythos at Universal’s Islands of Adventure to eat, and though the online menu did not catch my eye, I am glad we stopped as they had more choices than listed online and the food was to die for!

 

Disney:

Then it was onto Disney. It was our third time there and we stayed at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. The hotel will certainly be our choice next time as well. It was everything that I was hoping for… everything Disney! The family suites were perfect for us. The little kitchenette was even stocked with paper plates (with Mickey Mouse printed on the border of course), paper bowls, plastic-wrapped utensils, a can opener, tea, coffee, paper towels, and cups. It is amazing how they think of everything when designing the resorts. The pool area is next to the laundry area which is adjacent to the “Drop Off Bar.” I have never seen so many people happily do laundry (of course, while enjoying the drinks)!

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Disney’s The Art of Animation Resort

I highly recommend making reservation at Beauty & the Beast’s Be Our Guest. It is magnificent! When you look out the windows, it appears as if it is snowing and the food was amazing.

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The Beast’s Dining Room at “Be Our Guest” Restaurant in Magic Kingdom

We went on our trip in late November, the week before Thanksgiving. The crowds were not bad during our vacation until the Monday before the holiday when you could tell that the Thanksgiving vacationers had arrived.

Walt Disney’s transport to the airport from the hotel was wonderful. We did not have to worry about transporting our luggage and the bus ride was nice.

It could not have been a better vacation and I’m happy our family got to experience both Universal Studios and the Disney parks. I certainly think Disney is more entertainment, Universal much more thrill ride, Magic Kingdom remains our favorite park. We did see the start of Avatar area being built at Animal Kingdom and the Disney Star Wars expansion in Disney – we look forward to experiencing it once it is completed. After our 12 days in Florida, I was wondering how soon we can get back! Thank you to Boscov’s Travel and Kerri from the Selinsgrove location at Susquehanna Valley Mall for all of her work… everything went absolutely flawless.

 

Tips:

Ordering the photo pass online ahead of time seemed expensive but was worth it! They made video clips, including story lines from various rides showing our family as we navigated around the park. The number of pictures we received was really great and I did not have to always worry about stopping the kids to get the perfect picture.

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Ordering Garden Grocer, a grocery delivery service, was fantastic! I got a text when the groceries were delivered to our Walt Disney World Resort. Yogurt and milk were kept in a fridge at front desk.  The website even offers a breakdown of resorts what will likely fit in the fridge, since each resort has different refrigerator sizes. Garden Grocer does offer a discount if you order 30, 60 or90 days ahead of time.  It really was worth it.

We regretted not bringing our stroller for this trip since we have a four year old, and the cost to rent for more than a day is crazy. When we were about to rent the stroller for an additional day, we saw umbrella strollers for sale for just $40. They had a cup holder, mesh bag for items, and a small canopy. We bought one and saved a lot of money instead of renting for an additional few days. It served its purpose and because of its relatively small size, we did not have trouble getting around people. It provided enough room for a four year old to rest and for us to place a few items in it as well.