But employees of the Polish company PhotoAid needn’t bother.
Thecompany, which helps travelers take their own passport photos at home, allows its employees to stay at an apartment in Spain for free — provided they work while they’re there.
The apartment is inTenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands,an archipelago west of Morocco. Employees can stay up to three weeks at a time and can visit as many times in year as they like, depending on demand from other employees.
The company reimburses half ofemployees’ airfare too,up to 1,000 Polish zlotys ($246), once a year. Flights from Warsaw to Tenerife can start at around $150 for a six-hour direct flight.
Employees can stay up to three weeks at a time at the Tenerife apartment and can visit as many times as they like.
The company started renting the apartment in Tenerife’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the summer of 2022as a way to create relationships and build morale among its employees, all of whom work remotely, said co-founder Rafal Mlodzki.
Plus, Mlodzki said he and the other co-founders, Marcin and Tomasz Mlodzki — who are also his brothers — wanted to offer a company perk that would stand out.
PhotoAid is a small company with a young workforce, so most employees don’t have children, said Mlodzki. But those who do tend to group together and use the benefit in the summer months when schools are closed.
Employees can request to bring their partners too, which the company reviews on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Employees must abide by several rules, he said, such as the check-in and check-out protocol. Employees must upload a photo of the apartment on arrival, then do the same on departure to show the next group of employees how they left it.
Workcation time spent in Tenerife doesn’t count as employee vacation time, which is up to 26 days a year, said PhotoAid co-founder Rafal Mlodzki.
On arrival, employees are assigned a cleaning task too, but the company hires a professional cleaner for deep cleans, he said. While drinking wine on the balcony and chatting into the night are regular occurrences, employees are not allowed to drink during work hours, he said.
Mlodzki told CNBC Travel that employees like to visit Tenerife with coworkers with shared interests. For example, a recent group played sports in their free time, while another group went to music concerts.
Around 50 of PhotoAid’s 143 employees have now stayed at the Tenerife apartment, many meeting their teammates in person for the first time during their stays. Around 10 were onboarded as new starters there too, said Mlodzki.
“One of the reasons we decided to open this office was the possibility of offering the best onboarding in the world for senior team members. Those onboarded are not only thrilled but also deeply understand the company and their role in it,” said Mlodzki.
Coworkers with shared interests — such as sports and music — travel to Tenerife together.
“Often, spontaneous moments occur. For example, after a series of 45-minute sets with 10-minute breaks, we might go on a mini mountain trip and continue onboarding informally. It might even transition into an evening on the terrace.
“We just onboarded our new chief operating officer during a workation in Tenerife, and he was deeply impressed. He had never experienced an onboarding like this before.”
Two senior leaders have scheduled a strategic planning and brainstorming session at the apartment this winter, where average temperatures in January are 68 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than34 F in the Polish capital of Warsaw.
The 3,200-square-foot apartment overlooks the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It has three bedrooms, a spacious lounge with board games, two balconies and a small gym. There are also eight workspaces with high-speed internet, computer monitors and ergonomic chairs.
The apartment has eight workspaces with high-speed internet, computer monitors and ergonomic chairs.
There’s a bakery next door for fresh bread, with restaurants, bars, wineries, and vermuterias (bars specializing in Spanish vermouth) nearby.
When she was interviewing, Aleksandra Staromiejska said the Tenerife benefit made PhotoAid stand out. Now a company digital public relations specialist, she stayed in the apartment for two weeks in May, along with a colleague from her team.
Aleksandra Staromiejska started her work days early to maximize her time at the beach, she said.
Source: Aleksandra Staromiejska
She started and finished her work early, she said, to spend as much time as possible at the beach, a 20-minute bus ride away. Over the weekend, she and her colleague went hiking in Macizo de Anaga (Anaga mountains).
“I noticed my productivity levels were higher,” said Staromiejska. “I really wanted to do my job quickly so I could finish my work day and have time to go to the beach.”
Vacations to Spain’s Canary Islands are popular with employees of PhotoAid, a company based in the much colder city of Warsaw, Poland.
“It was actually a very relaxing trip. Just being in nature is something else. My batteries were just charged up,” she said.
The Spanish apartment is often mentioned in employee satisfaction surveys, said Mlodzki.
“When we recruit, it’s an attractive benefit that candidates always react positively to.”
History seeps from the walls of the Old War Office in Whitehall, London, Winston Churchill’s former workplace.
Once the beating heart of Britain’s military empire, the headquarters from which some of the most consequential decisions in modern U.K. history were made, the building is now forging a new future as one of the capital’s leading luxury hotels: Raffles London.
A painstaking eight-year renovation has seen the Grade II* listed Edwardian Baroque building —located on the site of the Palace of Whitehall and a stone’s throw from Downing Street — shake state secrets for mystique of another kind, as the first European location of the iconic Singaporean brand.
It’s the magic combination: the building, the location and the name, Raffles.
Communications director, Raffles London
“It’s the magic combination: the building, the location and the name, Raffles,” Fiona Harris, Raffles London’s communications director, told CNBC Travel.
The hotel’s opening last month marks a full circle moment for the Raffles brand, whose name and original location pay homage to Sir Stamford Raffles, the British diplomat who founded modern Singapore.
The building’s new owner, the Hinduja Group, which purchased a 250-year lease from the Ministry of Defense in 2016, started as a trading company in colonial India in 1914 and is now a global conglomerate.
CNBC Travel took a tour of the £1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) redevelopment — here’s a look at its 100-year transition from control center of the British empire to luxury stable for international visitors to the U.K.
Originally built for the British Army between 1899 and 1906, the vast OWO building served as an embodiment of imperial influence at its height.
At the time, more than 2,500 British army men and women worked within the building’s 1,100 rooms and two-and-a-half miles of corridors.
The Grade II listed Old War Office was built for the British Army in 1906 and is based on the site of the original Palace of Whitehall, home to several former British monarchs, including Henry VIII.
That grandeur remains today under an extensive renovation by EPR Architects, through which much of the building’s original features have been restored.
Inside the grand lobby, an Italian marble imperial staircase and double-tier chandelier do justice to a building that served as the birthplace of the British Secret Service and the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.
A new Italian chandelier, whose design is said to symbolize international trade, was delicately installed by a company that typically handles nuclear equipment.
Above it, the first floor features the balcony from which Churchill would address his staff, giving way to the former offices of various political and military heavyweights, including David Lloyd George and Lord Kitchener.
“This building would have been full of state secrets,” Harris said.
The Old War Office was occupied by various political and military leaders, including wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. A replica of his desk and a bust is displayed in the Churchill Suite.
Churchill’s own office — dubbed by Harris as “the room where all the big decisions were made,” including the move to join World War II and the decision behind the D-Day landings — is no less grand in its new life as a suite, with a replica desk and bust of the former prime minister.
The Churchill suite is just one of the rooms reimaged in tribute to the building’s history by the late Thierry Despont, whose architectural accolades include the restoration of New York’s Statue of Liberty and the interior redesign of Manhattan’s residential skyscraper 220 Central Park South.
All in, the hotel houses 120 suites and rooms, including five heritage suites in the former offices of political and military leaders, and eight corner suites named after notable women and female spies.
Raffles London is home to 120 rooms and suites, including eight corner suites named after notable women and female spies.
Meanwhile, deep underground, a three-floor excavation expands the building’s area by more than a third to 800,000 square feet, making way for a ballroom, a 65-foot swimming pool, and a Guerlain spa.
The addition of nine new restaurants run by multi-Michelin star chefs, including three by Argentina’s Mauro Colagreco, aim to burnish the hotel’s credentials as a culinary epicenter for the city, while three new bars seek to showcase the building’s unique history and location.
A 65-foot subterranean swimming pool at the heart of Raffles London’s four-story spa, which includes nine Guerlain treatment rooms and a gym.
Guests at the Guards Bar and Lounge, for example, can enjoy a prime position from which to watch the famous changing of the guard ceremony while sipping a London Sling ($29), a gin and cherry cocktail inspired by its Singapore namesake.
Those seeking more discretion can opt for the subterranean spy bar, located in an old interrogation room, from where they can pay homage to the various spies whose secrets were held within its walls.
Saison, run by Argentine Michelin star chef Mauro Colagreco, is one of nine restaurants and three bars at Raffles London. It is housed in the former library where James Bond author Ian Fleming used to write.
And for non-paying guests, there is an opportunity to visit and tour the building on one of 11 annual open days — a part of the Ministry of Defense’s lease agreement.
“We’re flipping it on its head,” Harris said of the building that once required security clearance for admittance. “It doesn’t matter if you’re super rich or you just want to come for coffee with a friend. It’s open to everyone,” she said.
A stay at Raffles London is not without a significant price tag. A night in one of the hotel’s classic rooms costs around £1,100 ($1,340), while a stay in one of its five most exclusive suites will set guests back between £18,000 and £25,000 per night.
Those who prefer to stay forever can also do so, budgeting upward of £8 million for one of 85 Raffles branded OWO residences. At the time of writing, around half of those units have already sold — to buyers from the U.S., China and the Middle East — though a five-bedroom penthouse priced at £100 million remains there for the taking.
A roll top bath takes center stage in the opulent bathroom of the Granville Suite, named after British spy Christine Granville.
The hefty sums come as Britain’s economy and much of its population remain under financial pressure amid high inflation. And yet Raffles is not alone in betting big on London’s luxury market.
In September, another £1 billion hotel, The Peninsula, opened on the corner of Hyde Park, and in the coming months, a Mandarin Oriental, a Rosewood and a new sister hotel to Claridge’s, The Emory, are all set to launch in exclusive pockets of the capital.
An art installation of suspended, fragmented poppies pays homage to the Royal British Legion, a charity for members and veterans of the British Armed Forces.
OWO’s owner, Hinduja Group Chairman Gopichand Hinduja — who, incidentally, purchased the property in 2016 ahead of a Brexit-based downturn — said the investment showcased Britain’s long-term appeal as a luxury travel market.
“We don’t go on short-term,” Hinduja told CNBC in July. “The U.K. is an important country, and everyone loves to come to London whether it is for holiday or it is for business.”
“We have converted that place into peace and solace,” Hinduja added of The OWO building. “It is a unique, singular property. It is a place of destination.”
The Granville Suite is one of five heritage suites at Raffles London, each occupying rooms which previously served as offices for some of Britain’s leading politicians and military leaders.
Jason East sits behind the steering wheel of a pontoon boat with nothing but the gentle breeze off the water and the passing sailboats to distract him.
“When you’re out on the water it’s like leaving your disability behind,” Mr East says.
“We’re all equal on the water and there’s a real freedom in that.”
Mr East, who ordinarily uses a wheelchair, manoeuvres through the calm waters of Cairns’ Trinity Inlet in Far North Queensland.
It’s his second trip of the day taking a boatload of passengers with disabilities for a gentle, afternoon sail.
Being on the water is second nature for the 46-year-old skipper after growing up on his family’s yacht and working on boats in the Torres Strait.
But that idyllic lifestyle was up-ended 14 years ago after a motor vehicle crash left him using a wheelchair.
It took years of soul-searching and physical therapy before Mr East was ready to get back on the water.
Accepting and embracing change
At 32 years of age doctors labelled Mr East’s injury as “incomplete”, meaning the spinal cord was not severed completely, but he did lose all movement from the neck down.
It took 12 months in hospital and three years of depression before he was ready to come to terms with his injuries.
“It was a big adjustment coming home, trying to fit back into my old life and learning to accept myself,” Mr East says.
He discovered Sailability, an Australia-wide club that takes people with a disability sailing, and despite being “quite scared” initially it reignited his passion for the water.
“I’d been a commercial crayfish diver, and then after the accident I couldn’t swim,” he says.
“But once I started coming down to the club I fell back in love with the water all over again, and it’s actually strengthened a lot of my muscle groups and given me more mobility.”
Mr East has developed movement in his arms, the trunk of his body, and partial movement in one leg.
He is passionate about using his life experiences to help others, giving talks at schools, youth justice, and for the last eight years volunteering with Sailability.
“I love sharing my passion [for sailing] and taking others out on the water and watching them smile,” he says.
“When we’re on land we have a visible disability, but when we’re on the boat we can leave our chairs and our walking aids back on land and we’re all equal.
“There’s no judgement and their smiles tell a million words and that’s all you need.”
Inclusive not exclusive
Jennifer Crellin is one of the passengers on Mr East’s boat who cannot wipe the smile from her face.
She’s always been captivated by the water, she explains, but after a water slide accident at Lake Placid in Cairns 33 years ago left her using a wheelchair and an incomplete C6 quadriplegic, it took years before she had the courage to get back on a boat.
“On the day of my accident I had been coming down the water slide and a boy was climbing up at the same time and we collided,” Ms Crellin said.
“I actually grew up around water and sailing with my dad so after my accident I didn’t think it was possible I could sail again.
“The very first time I did get back into a boat it was really emotional for me.”
The 56-year-old now regularly sails with Sailability, often in a two-man sailboat with one of the volunteers for support.
“I love not being bound by a chair,” she says.
“I love everything — the feeling of the wind and just hearing the water beneath me.”
Ms Crellin has now started taking her grandkids out with her some days, hoping to pass on her love of sailing.
“It’s hard to explain, but the sense of freedom is incredible,” she says.
A community on the water
Sailability is a national charity with 70 clubs throughout Australia.
Geoff Grace, the president of Queensland Sailability and volunteer with Brisbane’s Bayside Club, says each state has its own organisation but all operate with similar programs.
“We take out school kids as young as eight, all the way up to people in their 90s living in nursing homes,” Mr Grace says.
“The only must-have is a competent skipper and then the sky is the limit.”
In Cairns, between 15 and 30 people with a range of disabilities take to the water each week, says local Sailability president Jeff Crofts.
“We have people sail with us that are paraplegic, quadriplegic, have intellectual disabilities or physical challenges,” he says.
“Our club also has a special hoist that uses a sling to lift people out of their wheelchairs and over into the seats of the sailboats so they can enjoy sailing like the rest of us.”
The Cairns club is one of 15 in Queensland.
“We just have to give them a boat so they can get out and enjoy themselves. The problem is getting them to bring the boat back,” Mr Crofts says.
“That’s why they call us ‘smile-ability’ because people can’t wipe the smiles off their faces.”
The Maharajas of India’s past built magnificent palaces as a symbol of their power.
But in 1971, India abolished “privy purses,” or governmental payments made to these rulers. Several of themtransformed their vast estates into heritage hotels, or leased them to renowned hotel chains which carefully restored them to their former glory.
From the eastern state of Odisha to Rajasthan in the north, here are eight regal retreats where travelers can live like kings and queens.
Jehan Numa Palace in Bhopal, which has aneoclassical style and a 19th-century exterior.
Jehan Numa Palace.
Source: Jehan Numa Palace
This pristine white building was built by General Obaidullah Khan, son of the last ruling Begum of Bhopal, and transformed into a 100-room hotel by his grandsons in the 1980s. The hotel contains salvaged original artifacts and Raj-era photos as well as modern luxuries, such as a palm-lined pool and Chakra spa services.
Its palatial charm lingers among the racehorses that gallop around the track encircling the hotel. Travelers can dine on Italian and Mediterranean cuisine here, but Indophiles opt for the hotel’s legendary Bhopali fare prepared from secret palace recipes in a restaurant named Under the Mango Tree.
Haveli Dharampura was meticulously restored over six years under the leadership of the prominent political figure Vijay Goel.
Source: Heritage Dharampura
It’s now a 14-room boutique hotel, which received an honorable mention in 2017’s UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The atmospheric Mughal-era hotel has red sandstone-arched colonnades, a marble courtyard, Arabesque tile-work and intricate stone and wood details that echo the opulence of yesteryears.
The in-house Lakhori restaurant prepares historic Mughal recipes, while the breezy rooftop provides a delightful setting for drink-in-hand lounging while listening to the muezzin’s call from the nearby Jama Masjid — a soul-stirring reminder that you are in the heart of Old Delhi.
The hotel has guided heritage walks, kite-flying and high tea on the roof terrace, and kathak performances on Saturday and Sunday, where guests can enjoy an evening of Indian classical dance.
Taj Lake Palace boasts domed pavilions, ornamental turrets, crystal chandeliers, and 83 antique-filled rooms and suites, some which overlook a gleaming courtyard that hosts nightly folk dances.
It has four dining options serving globe-trotting menus, a spa boat and butler service.
this hilltop hotel has 60 rooms and suites, which increase in lavishness as you move up its room classes.
Taj Falaknuma Palace.
Source: Taj Falaknuma Palace
By the time you reach the Nizam Suite — graced with fine tapestry, a private pool and personal butler — it’s easy to envision the lifestyle of the Nizam of Hyderabad, who lived in the palace in the 19th century.
The rooms aren’t the only lure. The 130-year-old edifice is known for its state banquets of yore-style food, grand gardens, billiard room with monogrammed cues and ivory balls,anda library modeled on the one at Windsor Castle. Staterooms are decked out with Venetian chandeliers, royal portraits and heirlooms from the Nizams’ era.
it’s a lavish Taj hotel that balances old-world vibes with contemporary style. Its interiors contain ancient stone carvings, filigree work and rich tapestries. For a regal experience, travelers can take a heritage tour through the sprawling estate and stay in one of the Royal Suites, which are kitted out with four-poster beds, Venetian mirrors and mother-of-pearl mosaics.
The hotel also offers plenty of facilities to help guests unwind, including a spa, outdoor pool, and an Art Deco-style bar.
Rambagh Palace an unforgettable retreat: heritage walks around the premises conducted by the palace butler, golf putting green, original palace dining room with chandeliers and gilded mirror, a Polo bar festooned with trophies and memorabilia of the Jaipur polo team, and a spa with Indian healing services.
The palace has hosted the likes ofKing Charles,Louis Mountbatten and Jacqueline Kennedy.
The Belgadia Palace has been with the descendants of the same royal family since it was built in 1804, giving it an authenticity that is hard to replicate.
The Belgadia Palace.
Source: The Belgadia Palace
A portion of this historic palace has been converted into an 11-room hotel by Mrinalika and Akshita Bhanj Deo, royal descendants of the family. It boasts lofty ceilings, marble corridors and artifacts.
There’s also a lavish dining hall that serves Odisha-style meals, and elegant verandas on which to drink tea. The palace arranges activities such as traditional Chhau dance performances on the pristine lawns, handicraft village tours and other excursions.
Chittoor Kottaram — which once belonged to the king of Cochin — hosts only one group of no more than six people at any one time.
Source: Chittoor Kottaram
Nestled amid coconut groves by the edge of the lagoon backwaters of Kerala, the three-room abode boasts beautiful Athangudi floor tiles and wooden ceilings.
Precious artworks by Lady Hamlyn of The Helen Hamlyn Trust, the restorer of this 300-year-old palace, lend the property something of a museum feel. A personal chef prepares traditional Keralan dishes that can be eaten at a waterside gazebo or in the lush garden.
Ayurvedic massages and private cultural shows can be arranged, as can a private sunset cruise on the serene waterways.
After facing the reality of how expensive fresh flowers could be when planning her own wedding, Della Larca founded Florèal Blooms, her luxury silk flower rental business, three and half years ago from her basement in Butler, New Jersey.
The price of nuptials has continued to grow, with the cost of the average wedding reaching $30,000 last year thanks to steep inflation, according to an annual study by The Knot, a wedding website.
More from Life Changes:
Here’s a look at other stories offering a financial angle on important lifetime milestones.
Sixty-one percent of couples set to marry this year said the economy has already impacted their wedding plans, and the soon-to-be-wed have become savvier as they confront higher costs. Some, for example, are leaning into the wedding proverb of “something borrowed,” and seriously considering renting over buying —especially when it comes to flowers, fine jewelry and even their bridal dresses.
To make sure they’re really snagging a deal, however, couples must take into consideration the quality of the product they’re renting and whether rental requires added labor costs.
“It’s about making sure whatever you’re renting, think about the execution, think about who’s going to have to bring it out, set it up … is that cost worth it to you?” said Jason Rhee, director of celebrations and owner of Rheefined Company, a wedding and special events planner in Los Angeles.
Something Borrowed Blooms in 2015 after dealing with high costs for their own weddings. Bercier, in particular, suffered buyer’s remorse on her wedding day — after putting down the full deposit for fresh flowers, the blooms that arrived on her wedding day weren’t exactly what she’d had in mind, said Swan.
Unfortunately, the disappointment Bercier felt isn’t uncommon. The fresh flower industry can experience supply and demand issues, Swan said, and prices often reflect the fluctuation of what’s in stock and an event’s proximity to holidays like Valentine’s Day.
Prices for artificial flowers, on the other hand, are not as volatile — and brides are starting to notice.
Florèal Blooms saw an increase in demand in January 2021, when Larca was scheduling 20 to 30 consultations a week. For 2023, the company is fully booked until the end of the year. For its part, Something Borrowed Blooms is currently shipping out enough silk flowers each month for around 1,200 weddings, pacing up to 2,000 weddings per month this fall.
It makes economic sense: While the average cost of fresh flowers can come to at least $2,500 per event, you can save as much as 70% by renting silk flowers for a fraction of the price, Swan said.
Verstolo range from $275 to $695, for example, and the cost includes insurance.
The same goes for wedding dresses.
While the average price for a typical bridal gown is $1,900 before alterations — an additional but often necessary service that could cost $500 to $700 extra — brides to be could rent a designer dress for the starting price of $2,000, with tailoring costs included, said Miriam Williams, co-founder of Atlanta bridal rental company Laine London.
“This next generation of brides is thinking about experiences over possessions,” said Williams. “It’s only natural that they’re rethinking what their wedding day might look like.”
While these may sound like great deals up front, couples should be sure to vet vendors’ quality controls — how they keep the repeatedly used items in top condition — and ask whether their services require additional labor costs. Otherwise, they could end up spending far more than anticipated.
Make sure you think about the execution of whatever it is you are renting, said Rhee at Rheefined Company.
“I think it’s amazing that there [are] opportunities for you to be able to rent things that you may not necessarily be able to afford, but then that’s where you just have to think about doing a little investigation,” he said. “Think about it if there is a person attached to that, or is there a service attached to what you need.”
For instance, Florèal Blooms provides a full team that delivers, sets up and packs up the flowers on the wedding day for a flat rate that’s included in the total cost.
“Quality would be the primary risk,” said Swan at Something Borrowed Blooms. Since you are renting something that has been used before, research past customer testimonies and try to work with companies that seem to pride themselves in quality control, added Swan.
If renting out artificial flowers, consider asking the rental company about quality control practices and whether their total costs include insurance for “wear and tear.”
“If there’s maybe a [flower] that was stained [by] red wine or something else, that particular floral is removed from the arrangement and we add a new floral in its place; sometimes, we’re just freshening up greenery,” Swan noted.
The same goes for bridal gowns and maintenance. Laine London expects “normal wear and tear,” and makes sure to hand-wash and drip-dry each gown after it is returned, as well as to refrain from using harsh chemicals, in order to maintain fabric integrity.
“We’re able to really bring the dress back to perfect condition after every use,” said Williams.
On the other hand, in some cases it may make better sense to buy rather than borrow.
“You want to buy something that you’re going to wear, and that’s not going to sit in your safe and you’ll pull it out one or two times a year,” said Lauren Grunstein, vice president of sales, public relations and marketing for Verstolo.
Deciding whether to buy or rent is a very personal decision, added Williams at Laine London. She noted that her clients have other reasons for renting, not solely for budget reasons. “They don’t want to deal with it hanging in their closet,” she said, referring to wedding gowns.
However, if you plan to get multiple uses out of a bridal item in the future and you have a budget that supports it, it makes sense to go ahead and invest in that purchase, said Swan.
“But if you’re looking at items that are quickly used or disposed of, or don’t have additional uses in the future, that’s definitely an area that you want to consider renting.”
Correction: Florèal Blooms saw an increase in demand in January 2021. An earlier version misstated the year. Rental prices for fine diamond jewelry at Verstolo range from $275 to $695, for example and the cost includes insurance. An earlier version misstated the range.
The Tomohon Extreme Market was once a top tourist attraction in the Indonesian province of North Sulawesi — a live animal market filled with everything from fileted pythons to skewered bats and rats.
But the market drew international condemnation in 2018 after animal activists shot videos of dogs and cats being brutally beaten and blowtorched alive.
Activists urged major travel companies to stop recommending the market as a tourism site, said Lola Webber, Humane Society International’s director of campaigns.
Companies like Tripadvisor swiftly complied, she said.
But banning the dog and cat meat trade — part of a long-held tradition among the local Minahasa people — was significantly harder, she said.
“We were told by many for many years, you’ll never change North Sulawesi, you’ll never change Tomohon. it is impossible,” Webber said.
They were wrong.
Dog Meat Free Indonesia since 2017 to change the “immense cruelty and suffering” on display at the market.
After the ban went into effect, 25 dogs and three cats were rescued. They were taken to a sanctuary run by Animal Friends Manado Indonesia for quarantine, after which they will hopefully be placed in their “forever homes, either within Indonesia or internationally,” said Humane Society International’s Lola Webber
Source: Humane Society International
“It’s an enormous victory for animal protection and literally the thousands and thousands of dogs and cats that are spared from Tomohon market every month,” she said.
The traders were given a “small grant” to stop participating in the trade, she told CNBC Travel, while the coalition of activists lobbied the government about the disease risks of live animal markets, which ranges from viruses like Covid-19 to rabies.
Rabies is endemic in much of Indonesia, including the island of Sulawesi, according to the World Health Organization.
it still is — the dog and cat meat ban may bring in more travelers to North Sulawesi.
In a Tripadvisor post on March 5, a user discusses reading about Sulawesi’s dog meat trade.
The post states: “Well the next trip was going to be to Sulawesi, Indonesia … I don’t care what you eat, but torture should not be a part of it. Therefore I cannot in good conscience travel there.”
A screenshot of a post on Tripadvisor in a forum discussing Sulawesi.
Screen shot from Tripadvisor
Negative media attention frustrated the dog meat traders, Webber said.
“People would see it, and feel very strongly about it,” she said. “International tourists, national tourists, and locals themselves didn’t want to see that degree of brutality.”
As we explored Costa Rica’s Corcovado National Park, we spotted rare birds, spider monkeys — even a sloth and her infant — among the trees of the rainforest.
It was one of many experiences I had on an expedition cruise with 32 passengers aboard the Greg Mortimer, operated by the Australia-based Aurora Expeditions.
During the 13-day voyage, we crossed the Panama Canal and snorkeled amid hawksbill turtles in Panama’s UNESCO-protected Coiba National Park. We also met members of the indigenous Embera tribe deep in Panama’s thick jungle.
Aurora Expeditions’ Greg Mortimer in Costa Rica. Its smaller size allows it to explore coastlines that are inaccessible to large cruise ships.
Source: Carlo Raciti
Built for polar regions, this was the ship’s first foray into tropical waters, as companies like Aurora are responding to the growing demand for expedition cruises.
Instagram posts — which often showcase trips to Antarctica — may have given expedition cruising more publicity, but this form of cruising isn’t new.
Panache Cruises, said expedition cruising saw the most growth in the cruising sector in the past decade — expanding from about 67,000 passengers in 2012 to 367,557 in 2022.
“An increasing number of people no longer want run-of-the-mill holidays,” he said. “People crave adventure … there is a certain amount of romanticism here which harks back to the time of great explorers like Hillary, Cousteau and Shackleton.”
Most of the demand for expedition cruises comes from the over-55 age group, namely the semi-retired and retired who have the time and resources, Cole said.
But he noted: “We are seeing more families entering the market.”
Gen Xers and millennials represent a smaller percentage of clients. “It is the ‘experience’ and ‘adventure’ which is driving their interest. The cruise aspect is really a secondary dimension,” Cole noted.
Expedition cruising is also a good option for the growing number of solo travelers.
I hadn’t visited Central and South America before, mostly because deciding which countries to visit and planning an independent trip seemed overwhelming and complicated. As a woman, I was concerned about safety too. The Aurora cruise was the ideal introduction, with shore excursions led by onboard experts and engaging local guides.
Plusher ships, onboard experts and fewer passengers translate to higher fares than conventional cruises. Expedition cruises often start at around $1,000 per person per day. Trips typically last eight to 15 days — though some can take a full month.
While conventional cruises can host thousands of people at once, companies like the polar micro cruising company Secret Atlas can take as few as 12 cruisers at a time.
Cruisers from the Greg Mortimer meeting people from the Embera tribe in Panama.
Source: Carlo Raciti
But a push for more comfort and luxury in the industry is causing some expedition cruises to get bigger, said company co-founder Andrew Marsh.
“Unfortunately, this has meant the new expedition cruise ships have become larger and the expedition experience itself has been sacrificed,” he told CNBC.
Though they’re smaller in scale, expedition cruises have faced criticism for polluting oceans, introducing microbes to sensitive environments, and colliding with large mammals like whales.
To combat some of these issues, the luxury travel agency Abercrombie & Kent is chartering the luxury icebreaker Le Commandant Charcot for a North Pole expedition next year.
“To reduce emissions to the lowest possible level, this Ponant ship uses LNG as a fuel,” said the company’s product development and operations vice president Stefanie Schmudde. “The vessel also uses hybrid operation, with batteries to handle load fluctuations.”
A coati photographed in the jungles of Costa Rica during an expedition cruise shore excursion.
Source: Carlo Raciti
In February, Aurora and Sylvia Earle led an Antarctic climate expedition on a ship named after the renowned oceanographer. The aim was to raise public and government awareness of the Antarctic’s environmental importance.
Aurora Expeditions’ Peacock-Gower said the company worked with 117 climate ambassadors, aged 12 to 88, to formulate eight climate resolutions that are designed to achieve net-zero emissions by 2035.
“Travel is always the best educator, and we offer the chance to enrich our passengers’ curiosity … on and off-ship,” she said.
Should you check email on vacation or face a tsunami of messages once you’re back at the office?
For workers at war with their inboxes, neither is a great option.
That’s why many people choose something in the middle. But even monitoring email on holiday “is almost always a bad move,” said Zachary Weiner, CEO of the marketing company Emerging Insider Communications.
“Once that Pandora’s box is open, you usually find yourself having to respond, having to put out fires, unintentionally spending hours and hours of time,” he said.
Still, some 84% of white-collar workers do it, and more than 70% are triaging messages from three or more platforms — like Teams, Slack and WhatsApp — said work-life balance consultant Joe Robinson.
“Everyone is dog paddling out there in this tidal wave,” he said. “We’re doing everything wrong. That’s why everybody’s so frazzled.”
Email Intervention Campaign” earlier this month to deal with issues like “vacation email panic,” he told CNBC Travel.
According to a survey of workers he conducted in April:
25% have skipped a vacation to avoid email backlog when returning to the office
34% have shortened vacations for the same reason
87% favor a company policy to disconnect after work, except during emergencies
One company doing it right is the Mercedes-Benz Group, which lets employees auto-delete incoming email messages while they’re on vacation, he said. (Out-of-office messages alert senders that messages have been deleted, too.)
“I encounter tons of people who are burned out from email,” said work-life speaker and consultant Joe Robinson. Managers and “the people at the top are … worse off.”
Source: Joe Robinson
According to Robinson, 95% of respondents said they would support a similar policy at their companies.
Robinson advises companies to create defined email policies, ideally ones which give workers permission not to check email on vacation.
Gates Little, CEO of the U.S.-based lender altLine Sobanco, agreed, adding leadership should set the example.
“If your boss is always answering emails while away, don’t you think you’d be expected to do the same?” he said. “Whereas a boss who preaches work-life balance will set an example by not responding to emails until they return.”
filters to distinguish urgent emails from irrelevant ones. He said, “I set up as many filters as possible so emails that arrive while I’m away are already sorted by priority.”
Kim Rohrer, principal people partner at human resources company Oyster, said she discovered her top email pro-tip during her 24-day honeymoon in 2011.
She sets up two filters:
Send all mail to the archive and mark as read
Send all mail with “README” in the subject to a special “README” folder
Via autoreply, she notifies senders she’s archiving all emails during her vacation dates. She refers urgent emails to a colleague, but asks that non-urgent emails “you’d like me to read … upon my return” be resent to her with “README” in the subject line.
“I once checked, and I had received over 3,000 emails after a two-week vacation, but only had four emails in my ‘read later’ folder,” she told CNBC Travel, which “just goes to show how much false urgency impacts our workloads.”
4. Mute notifications
To tune out work, mute email notifications and messenger systems, said Christy Pyrz, chief marketing officer of the supplement company Paradigm Peptides.
“Do yourself the favor,” she said. “Mute the apps.”
Mrigaa Sethi, pictured here with wife, Erin (left), in Sri Lanka, said both have a habit of working on vacations. “This time we deleted our email apps and turned off notifications and had the best time ever.”
Source: Mrigaa Sethi
But travel editor Mrigaa Sethi goes a step further. “Delete the apps! Email, Slack, Teams … be absolute. Don’t leave the door partway open.”
They said they understand the urge to check email daily to prevent email backlog, but “I know myself well enough that even the slightest bit of news will make my brain whir.”
Denise Hemke, the chief product officer at employee screening company Checkr, said her company blocks off time to catch up on email after vacations.
“We ask our employees to spend a few days focusing solely on their emails before getting back into the swing of things,” she said. “This helps them get caught up quickly and efficiently, without feeling overwhelmed with an overstuffed inbox when they return to work.”
Brian Binke, CEO of the recruiting company The Birmingham Group, said his company allocates time for employees to catch up on emails after trips, too.
“We want our people to relax as much as possible when they’re on vacation,” he said.
Hello Donegal. I’m very glad to be back. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/xzAm7xcAn3
— Cahir O’Doherty (@randomirish) February 14, 2023
West Donegal is Gaeltacht heartland, where Irish language-speaking communities proliferate, but now it’s also a growing tech hub, where people fleeing the exploding Dublin rental market – or in search of a better place to invest their time and money – are suddenly flocking.
They are returning – or in many cases moving into Donegal for the first time – because increasingly the internet has allowed professionals to work remotely from literally anywhere in the world via a lightening fast broadband connection.
If you could work anywhere in the world wouldn’t you prefer to be a part of a supportive local community, featuring well-run schools, good public transport, creche facilities, and an open economy that rewards innovation and values the social cohesion that comes from investment in people as well as in corporations?
Located in Gweedore, County Donegal, gTeic is a tech hub that connects the county to the world.
Things have clearly changed in Donegal and the questions facing emigrants are no longer the same. There are better options on the table now. In Gweedore, for example, Údarás na Gaeltachta (the regional authority responsible for the economic, social, and cultural development of the Gaeltacht) has expanded the stunning Gaoth Dobhair gTeic Business Hub to respond to the rapidly evolving business culture on the ground.
Envisioned to provide essential services to companies, entrepreneurs, remote workers, community groups, and visitors, gTeic is a stylish, beautifully planned tech hub that has been busy attracting experienced emigrant talent back to their home county and boosting employment in the region in the process.
With its remote working hubs, broadband internet, impressively run digital infrastructure, and commitment to the national language – as well as to equality and social inclusion – gTeic Gaoth Dobhair is one of the many new county-wide hubs that are busy making the Donegal one of the most attractive remote working locations in the world.
“When people leave here to go to university, the challenge is to facilitate new ways that they can come back and work from here,” Aodh Mac Suibhn of Údarás na Gaeltachta tells IrishCentral.
“gTeic shows them it’s possible to do that now. When people go away to university from here there is the very real prospect that at least some of them can return.”
So Donegal, the county that was once a byword for geographic isolation and governmental neglect has become an unexpected new global hub, with high-speed broadband bringing the world to its doorstep via the magic of the internet. Talk about changing times.
“At gTeic, the Irish language is our primary concern, but you won’t have it without jobs,” Mac Suibhn explains. “So we’re here to look after the language and create employment at the same time and the two of those ambitions are intertwined with our growth, there’s no doubt about that.”
Charlie Boyle, the CEO of Customer Service Ireland, agrees and points to the unique way that commerce and community are intertwined here. “It takes me less than 15 minutes to get to work here through stunning scenery, but I love that the facilities at gTeic are on par with anything you’d see in New York, London, or Dublin. But the fact is it’s here, on the Wild Atlantic Way, in the heart of my community.”
‘Up here, it’s different,’ they like to say, in reference to the living link to the Irish language, but also to the values and traditions of the place, which the locals rightly feel are special and worth promoting and protecting, making the place unique even within Ireland itself.
Taken together – the unique marriage of tradition and modernity – and you have the genesis of a new way forward for the entire county, both culturally and economically, built on the sturdiest of foundations.
Charlie Boyle, the CEO of Customer Service Ireland, has offices at gTeic in Gweedore.
But if quality of life is what we’re after these days, especially post-lockdown when our priorities received an unforgettable reality check, what about the income to make all these aspirations possible?
In Donegal, it’s often been a choice between one or the other, but now something truly exciting is happening there that could change the game for all comers, perhaps forever.
Now you can combine your expertise, your access to the global marketplace, and your preferred home base under one roof. What was once a faraway dream has become a reality and we are only slowly catching on to the economic implications.
When third-level education in the county exploded from the 1980s onwards, many left for college, seeking better-paid alternatives to factory jobs in the local community. Only now are these out-of-county and country workers finally able to contemplate returning home for the first time.
The prospect of combining professional skills with a return home can be a heady experience, as I discovered myself. In Donegal, on my second night home, I participated in a series of public readings that assembled some of the best-known writers and creatives in the county. Almost all of them were LGBT.
Some were famous actors on TG4, the national Irish language station, others designed sets or costumes for film industry hits like “Game Of Thrones,” some were renowned poets like Cathal Ó Searcaigh or historians like Brian Lacey, and all of them lived and worked within a few miles of the venue in Donegal.
It would have been science fiction to me growing up in Donegal in the 1980s to imagine a time when I could be surrounded by a room full of distinguished LGBT creatives in my home county – many of whom are also members of a local hill walking group and a re-wilding organization that provide ample opportunities to connect and share experiences, friendship and community support.
I have never been in a room anywhere, never mind in my home county, with so many talented and accomplished LGBT people, but here they were all living within fifteen minutes of Falcarragh where we gathered on the night.
If anything has ever made me contemplate a return to live in Donegal, a gathering like this, facilitated by the changed atmosphere and attitudes on the ground, would. I am still not over the delight of realizing, for the first time, that my community and county are making room and offering a welcome to all its family members.
My teenage self would never have believed this. So proud of my home town – and thinking of the ones who will be carried in our hearts today. 🌈 https://t.co/mkvB4fBGo2
— Cahir O’Doherty (@randomirish) June 5, 2022
In the Gaeltacht, the arts are baked into the everyday life of the community in a way that is quite unique, there is no real division or distinction made, and one doesn’t exist without reference to the others.
At gTeic, I met the legendary musician Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, fiddler and lead vocalist of Altan, who pops into the center, as many creatives here do, to make use of the blazingly fast broadband when doing research or planning tours.
Not just a musician but a learned scholar of the local traditions, Ní Mhaonaigh grew up surrounded by artists (her father wrote plays and she quickly learned to play music herself) before becoming one herself.
“I’ve seen a change in how the younger people are thinking about their futures here,” she tells IrishCentral. “Places like this are offering them opportunities that were not here before and I like to pop in myself to connect with the wider world.”
If you’re going to be in Gaoth Dobhair, Donegal, and you’re interested in music, you should check out the session at @LoistinB on Mondays & Fridays. Beidh ceol, caint agus craic ann.#AnGhaeltacht#tradpic.twitter.com/v3jhU9h7Hf
— Derek Hollingsworth (@DerekHolly7) August 9, 2022
Underlining how the local arts sector is flourishing county-wide, I also met with arts organizations like the Glebe House & Gallery (former home of the renowned artist Derek Hill) which are busy welcoming visitors, showing emerging artists, greeting bus loads of school students and inspiring the next generation of practitioners year round.
At the Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair, the only Irish language theatre in the country that is situated in the heart of the Gaeltacht in Gweedore, I met with Adrian Kelly, Curator of the Glebe Gallery, who talk about a successful exhibition featuring three young local artists who’s careers are taking off.
“Myrid Carten, Cliodhna Timoney, and Áine McBride (who uses They/Them pronouns) are all about the same age in their early 30’s,” Kelly tells IrishCentral. “And we had a really good exhibition of their work recently. Loads of people really hated it and I was saying at the time, you shouldn’t hate it that much, it’s clearly doing something to you!”
This summer, Glebe House will exhibit the works of many women artists. “Our collection is unusual because it has a lot of women in it,” Kelly explains. “Derek Hill, the collection’s founder, collected the work of a lot of women artists and so we are going to pull them all out.”
Thanks Jean, we had a very informative tour of The Glebe House and Gallery this evening @opwirelandpic.twitter.com/tcmE6DeHiS
— Visit Donegal (@visit_donegal) August 15, 2017
Also at the Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair discussion was Danielle Nic Pháidín, who works as a facilitator with Ealaín na Gaeltachta, which supports the arts in Irish-speaking districts. Her guidance helps artists and venues in the local community to widen local access and participation in the arts.
“Our main objective is to provide the funding as well as support to help the theaters, and galleries and to support different arts projects. The brief is fairly wide in terms of Irish-speaking arts and initiatives and projects.”
Later I toured the 300-seater Amharclann Ghaoth Dobhair itself, the beating heart of the wider Gaeltacht community, providing a forum for plays, musicians, public talks, and concerts.
Errigal and the ancient landscape of West Donegal
Historian Breandán Mac Suibhne, who went to grad school at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and who now oversees the University of Galway’s Acadamh (Academy) which has a study centre in Gweedore, laid it out for me: “I am biased, I was born here, but I can’t think of a better base for US study abroad programs anywhere in Ireland than west Donegal.
“We have a stunning natural environment, with great transport links to Dublin. And from learning Irish to exploring the places that inspired the great plays of Brian Friel and Frank McGuinness to visiting our regional capital, Derry, and working to understand everything from the monastic culture of the medieval period to the 17th-century plantation of Ulster to the politics of Ireland’s late 20th-century Troubles and peace process – students get it all, whether they come for a short stay or a semester-long visit. It’s all here.”
Anna Ní Bhroin, who works on International programming for the University of Galway, agrees: “It is a win-win. The academic, business, and cultural sectors—that A, B, C—are all working together here. The relationships built today in one sector will stand to us tomorrow in another.”
It’s hard to miss the renewed energy at work in this diverse, progressive, and ambitious Irish language community and county. There is good reason for it, too. Irish fluency has become a cool aspiration for the young in a way that turns the attitude of previous generations on their head.
‘You’re graaaand’ @jamieleecurtis shares her love for Ireland on the #BAFTAs red carpet. Plus Barry Keoghan and Paul Mescal are overjoyed for the Irish film industry | Read more: https://t.co/e0JuSql4Czpic.twitter.com/l5pHeSQJws
— Entertainment on RTÉ (@RTE_Ents) February 20, 2023
Deirbhile Ní Churraighín, the Commissioning and Acquisitions Executive at TG4 who was in Hollywood for the Oscars this weekend, told IrishCentral: “Whatever happens on the night, we’ve already won. The impact that ‘An Cailín Ciúin’ has made internationally is an unbelievable thing for the Irish language. And it’s just it’s such a special film.
“At TG4, Alan Esslemont, the Director General, believed that we needed to find a way to make feature films. So we talked to Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland and once they were on board, he talked to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. And that created the magic triangle of three Irish funders.
“Another historical thing that people are not talking about is the fact that this film was completely made in Ireland, by an Irish-speaking writer, director, producer, an Irish-speaking cast and crew and it was completely funded in Ireland. So it just goes to show what can be done when people come together and say, ‘Okay, we’re going to do this.’
Why I hope “The Quiet Girl” wins an Oscar
In “The Quiet Girl,” Colm Bairéad has done something that I have rarely seen in Irish films – he saves us from pastiche, from becoming caricatures of ourselves. https://t.co/h9CUZGV3Rm
— Cahir O’Doherty (@randomirish) January 21, 2023
All along the Wild Atlantic Way, from Connemara through the University of Galway to the Gaeltacht to Letterkenny and Inishowen, a network of activists, academics, Irish language speakers and online entrepreneurs are coming together to build a new route to a mutually rewarding future and it’s working.
Growing up in Donegal herself, Ní Churraighín doesn’t sugarcoat how dramatically social attitudes have changed within her own lifetime. “I think a new atmosphere has been created by and for the LGBT community there now. I mean, they’re safe now. And as you well know, there was a time when they were not safe.”
She continues: “I think the marriage referendum opened a lot of people’s eyes. I mean people were coming home to vote to make sure the change happened. So I think now it’s about quality of life for all in Donegal. It’s about getting back to the mothership, being with the neighbors, collaborating on arts projects, whether it’s sculpture or painting or song or instruments or filmmaking or theater-making. The space is there now for people to be fully themselves.”
Why should you return now, after all these years abroad, you may ask yourself? For me, the answer isn’t found in all the dramatic contrasts between the past and the present.
I found it in the effort a young worker in a local supermarket took to make sure I found the place where the coffee was stored, then the sandwiches, then the wooden spoons to make sure I could give it a good stir. She happily led me from pillar to post, asking where I’d come from, talking about the weather that morning and even discussing the breaking news headlines.
Picture the last time that happened to you in America or Australia or Canada or the UK? It was just another Wednesday morning in Donegal. Her cheerfulness was infectious. Her kindness spoke for her community and upbringing.
In the past growing up in Donegal, you eventually have to make a life-altering decision: stay or go? There have been many Irish dramas written about this classic emigrant’s decision.
But does it have to be this way still? Can’t there be a happier outcome to this age-old story between those who leave and those who stay? Are we still fated to endure this halting and haunted leaving and staying dance?
Or can we do better for ourselves now, for our loved ones, and for the people who will be coming after us? In Donegal, the answer – the maths – and the opportunities are dramatically expanding and it’s time we recognized it.
The age-old game of emigrant musical chairs may be finally coming to an end. To find out how you can make the move – or the return – visit DonegalDigital.ie.
Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Clarabelle, Goofy, Pluto and Pete stand outside Mickey’s house in the refurbished Toontown at Disneyland.
Parkgoers at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, will finally be able to return to Mickey’s Toontown this weekend after a yearlong closure for refurbishment.
The cartoon-inspired land has long been a haven for Disney’s younger park guests, offering character meet-and-greets with the likes of Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto, as well as kid-friendly coasters and play areas.
The reimagined Toontown honors the space that first opened in 1993, keeping existing structures like Mickey and Minnie’s houses in tact, albeit with a paint touch-up. But there’s also quite a bit of new infrastructure for kids to explore — with an eye toward inclusivity.
At its core, Toontown’s revamp is all about intention. Imagineers have designed a space for all kids, crafting accessible play spaces, plus quiet areas and shady spots so that its youngest parkgoers have a place to exert their pent-up energy or decompress.
The redesigned land, which opens to the public March 19, is entirely wheelchair accessible, including its slides, and is visually and auditorily approachable for kids who are easily overwhelmed by loud or bright sensory stimuli. The entire land has been repainted in softer colors, and some areas feature more subdued, spa-like musical scores.
“We want every child to know that when they came to this land that this land was designed for them,” said Jeffrey Shaver-Moskowitz, executive portfolio producer at Walt Disney Imagineering. “That they were seen, and that this place was welcoming to them.”
Shaver-Moskowitz said the Imagineers spent time looking at children’s museums and water play spaces to see how kids engage and developed different stations throughout the land to cater to different types of play patterns.
“We know a day at Disneyland can be hectic and chaotic, running from one attraction to another, one reservation to the next,” he said. “We wanted Toontown to not only be exciting, but also decompressing and relaxing and welcoming.”
With that in mind, the Imagineers have introduced more green spaces within the land, places to have picnics, sit and unwind, or play freely.
“We really wanted to take a look at Toontown, knowing how important it was for so many of our guests for many generations growing up and the so many memories here that are connected to the land, and make sure we don’t lose any of that,” Shaver-Moskowitz said. “But, bring a lot of new magic.”
When guests enter the new Toontown, they will pass through Centoonial Park. The area is anchored by a large fountain, featuring Mickey and Minnie, as well as water tables for kids to dip their hands into, and the “dreaming tree.”
The live tree was selected from the Disney property for its cartoonish limbs and leaves. Around the trunk are sculpted roots that kids can climb over, crawl under and weave through.
“One of the main play functions for little ones is learning the concepts of over, under and through,” Shaver-Moskowitz explained during a media tour of the land earlier this month. “So you’ll see some of the roots are big enough for little ones to crawl under, some of them can be used as balanced beams for little ones who are learning to get their feet underneath them.”
(There is a wheelchair accessible path that navigates through the roots, too.)
Centoonial Park is also situated next to the El Capitoon Theatre, home of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride. Riders are invited to the premiere of Mickey and Minnie’s latest cartoon short “Perfect Picnic.” However, hijinks ensue and guests are whisked away for a ride on Goofy’s train, entering the cartoon world.
The El Capitoon Theatre exterior of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
The trackless ride has no restrictions on height or age, allowing even the littlest Disney guest to join in.
Continuing through the land, guests will see Goofy’s new play yard, which wraps around Goofy’s house and features a sound garden, filled with musical bridges and melons, as well as Fort Max, a climbable clubhouse with attached slides.
Shaver-Moskowitz said the roller slides were chosen for the space so littler guests, who often have less mobility in their legs, don’t get stuck at the bottom of the slide. There’s also more space at the bottom of the slides to accommodate guests who need time to get back into wheelchairs.
“We are trying to make sure we’re thinking of every single guest in here,” he said. “Making sure that every little one who comes to play here feels like we’ve designed the space for them.”
Also outside is a small cordoned-off area for babies to crawl around and experience the area safely.
Goofy stands outside his new How-To-Play Yard at Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland.
Inside Goofy’s house are a series of games that kids can play to help Goofy cultivate honey from the beehives on his property into candy. Here, little parkgoers can sort candy by flavor and color and watch as a kinetic ball machine activates all around the space.
Extra care was taken to ensure that the sound of the air compressors pushing the balls around has been suppressed, said Shaver-Moskowitz, in an effort to make sure that those with sensory sensitivity won’t be overwhelmed and can still enjoy the experience with their peers.
In a separate area next to Goofy’s new play yard is Donald’s Duck Pond, a water experience for kids. Imagineers intentionally separated this space from the play yard so that parents could better monitor their children around the water elements.
Donald Duck stands outside the new Duck Pond at Mickey’s Toontown in Disneyland.
Shaver-Moskowitz noted that the previous design of the land meant that kids would occasionally run back to their parents soaking wet, having wandered into the water play place.
Donald’s Duck Pond features a tug boat that spits out water, spinning water lilies, balance beams and rocking toys. Inside the boat, kids can help Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby with a leak in the hull, turning wheels and levers to push the water outside.
The Imagineers have also revamped the food at Toontown. New restaurants such as Cafe Daisy and Good Boy! Grocers offer a wide variety of selections and flavors for young parkgoers and more mature palates.
Michele Gendreau, director of product optimization for food and beverage, explained that the team wanted to make eating easy by creating hand-held food that can be munched on the go.
The menu at Daisy’s café features “flop over” pizzas, hot dogs and wraps. Here, adults can grab a cold brew coffee or honey-mango sweet tea. For dessert, there are mini doughnuts covered in cinnamon sugar.
“Kids want to eat what their parents eat,” said Gendreau, highlighting kid-friendly versions of traditional pizzas.
At Good Boy! Grocers, guests can pick up grab-and-go drinks, snacks and novelties. The roadside stand offers up the “perfect picnic basket,” including up to three snacks and a drink. Kids can choose from a variety of options, from hummus and pickles to granola bars and apple slices.
Baskets are set up at multiple heights to allow even the smallest guests to select their own items, giving them a little autonomy when it comes to meal time.
Merchandise from Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland.
Parkgoers can scoop up picnic blankets, T-shirts, toys and other exclusive Toontown merchandise at EngineEar Souvenirs.
Additionally, meet-and-greets with fan favorite characters return to the land. Guests can take photos with Mickey Mouse, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy, Pluto, Clarabelle and Goofy. And for the first time at any Disney park, Pete will make an appearance, causing mischief around the neighborhood.