Disney Planning – Getting Started

family, Florida, Travel, United States

I have never been to a Disney Park. A weird admission from a travel and media geek like myself.

See my parents didn’t really love theme parks. I don’t think my dad went to a single one with us as kids. And the biggest theme park I had been to before 2015 (I was 24) was Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colorado.

It wasn’t that my dad didn’t like fun, or even Disney movies. In fact he adores the music from quite a few of them, it was the crowds and the noise and the heat, and most importantly, the cost.

When you’re living below the poverty most of your childhood, a Disney vacation is at the bottom of the list.

Therefore, at the age of 28 I am taking on the work of planning a day at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World!

What I thought would be a simple planning of a day or two has turned into months of opening dates and reservations and hourly details. It’s insane.

Therefore, what has been a deep dive into planning a Disney World vacation, and at times a headache, has lead me to thinking that other people could use some guidance. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing my tips and tricks to figuring it all out, saving money, and having the best time possible! I look forward to helping others along the journey.

Happy Travels!

Part 2

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Planning for Big Events

Germany, italy, Travel

It’s common that we want a global and team participation in the big things in life. Even if we aren’t huge sport fans there is a longing to see the Olympics or world cup. Even secular peoples flock to Oberammergau, Germany every ten years just to experience the unique Passion Play. Those that are not huge beer fans go to Oktoberfest. The point is, that we long to be a part of big events as people. We want to experience what “everyone is talking about” and the “FOMO”* is a real deep seeded desire. *Fear of Missing Out

If you do decide to go to the next “big thing” make sure you do your work to make it happen. The truth is if you don’t buy your Oberammergau tickets in 2019, there won’t be any. If you don’t book hotels in X city for the Olympics, you’ll be sleeping on someone’s couch for $300 a night.

Here are my tips to making sure you have a good time.

  1. Really think about if it’s an experience you want.
    • When you are thinking you want to attend an event, really check with yourself on if it’s something you want to experience. Are you REALLY that into Football? When you’re seventy, will you still talk about this event? There are a lot of things I actively avoid because it’s not that important to me, and the chaos or cost of going is not worth it.
  2. Do your research.
    • Start with the internet and get a good idea of dates, places, cost, and what may be required of you to attend the thing you’re interested in. Cross compare data from the last time an event was happening and mentally prepare yourself for the good, bad, and ugly.
  3. Ask for help.
    • Go to online forums and ask for information and tips from people that went to the last big event. Maybe someone from last year’s Burning Man can explain just how many wet wipes you should take. Community aid can be very helpful, if not genius. However, tread with caution as opinions can murky the water.
  4. Consult experts.
    • Travel agents know an insane amount of information on different parts of the world, events, locations, and how to make your journey safe and comfortable. If you are attending a well-known event like the Olympics or World Cup they are likely already in the loop on how you can book train tickets, or hotels. If they don’t know, they have endless resources to assist in the research and understanding of the events to help you have a better time. They’re experts for a reason, and none of them would survive the digital age without being some of the best thought leaders in the industry.
  5. Be realistic about expenses.
    • If you are going to a big event, you WILL pay a premium for everything you do. During events the cost of food, lodging, transportation, and basic needs is likely to increase. If you took an economy lesson in school, this is that whole supply and demand thing.
  6. Budget high, plan on more.
    • If anything is true about travel, it’s that you will spend more than you wanted to or planned to. It’s inevitable when you fall in love with a hotel, or a dinner spot, or that purse you just HAD to have. However, so you don’t go home with no money for rent, make sure you save more than you expect to spend.
  7. Check your mental fortitude.
    • Really check with yourself if this event is worthwhile. While it may increase your Insta-Views, or you might have something new to share with your friends, make sure it’s what YOU want. So many times we latch onto trendy locations as a must visit because EVERYONE else is going there. However, that doesn’t mean it will really serve you or what you want to experience. Really think about if you can deal with the crowds, standing in lines for hours on end, and general chaos of traveling to this supposedly great event.
  8. Take a friend.
    • The buddy system is particularly helpful for crazy events. Having a friend can help keep you sane, safe, happy, and get you home in one piece. A friend means someone to make memories with, even if it’s a memory of sitting in a muddy field at a festival. This is one of those situations where a bestie might just be a necessity.
  9. Plan over a year in advance.
    • Most of these large events are scheduled REALLY far in advance. If specific dates are not shared, most of the time a rough time frame is. This is an important time to monitor flight pricing, tickets, and other arrangements you may need to go. This means a chance to see the total cost, save accordingly, and make sure everything else can get into place.
  10. Have realistic expectations.
    • Most importantly, you want to have a good time if you are shelling out thousands of dollar. However, anything and everything can go wrong. Don’t expect everything to go perfect on the day of or days of. Like a wedding day, there is ALWAYS something that will go wrong. In most instances, be grateful that no one was hurt, and nothing was stolen.

Happy Travels!

Venice Travel Tips

italy, Travel

Venice is one of those places one dreams about visiting. It’s a bucket list destination full of legends, art, myths and plenty to explore!

If you are heading to Venice, here are a few things to remember before you hit the road…. I mean lagoon.

  1. There are no cars allowed on Venice. No cars. This means you need to take a train, or boat to the city. Trains arrive on the main island through Santa Lucia station. Planes are at the Marco Polo airport, where the train or a bit can be taken into the lagoon. If you have a car leave your car parked and take the ferry to Venice, Lido or other island.
  2. Take the Gondola ride! It’s expensive but worth every second. You wouldn’t go to Paris and miss the Eiffel Tower, don’t miss the Gondolas!
  3. Travel in the off season! Avoid the crowds and have a better time. Go in the fall or early spring to see more with less chaos.
  4. Learn a little. Pick up a book or two before you go and learn some about the rich history of Venice. This will bring everything you see more to life.
  5. Get off the main island. If you have time, get out and explore the Venice Lagoon islands such as Burano and Murano for charming villages and awesome art. If a beach is more your style, head to Lido.

Happy Travels!

Visiting Cinque Terre

History, italy, Travel

Located on the west coast of Italy, a part of the Italian Riviera is the ever increasingly popular National Park of Cinque Terre. Millions visit the area every year from Florence and Rome, making it a top destination for travelers.

The appeal of The “five lands” is its sweeping landscapes, rich views, and unique adventures.

Here are my tips for visiting this enchanting location.

  • Catch an early train
    • Most people start from Florence, catch a regional train from Santa Maria Novella to La Spezia. At La Spezia you can buy your day or multi-day pass to the National Park and access to the train network in the region
    • If you are renting a car, park in La Spezia, and buy your pass just the same.
    • A small train network links the five villages (lands) running approximately every 20 minutes in each direction (north or south). This is the easiest way to get from city to city.
    • Note that there are no cars allowed in the cities and that there is a bus line that also connects the region but it’s less consistent and requires more walking.
    • The earlier you go, the better! This will help you avoid crowds and heat.
  • Bring your hiking shoes
    • There are over 70 miles of trails that links the five villages are region. The views from these trails are magnificent and offer amazing photo opportunities.
    • The trails are tough, but you do escape the crowds and enjoy some fantastic nature along the way.
    • Check trail conditions before you go, as wash outs are common.
  • Check your trains
    • Train schedules are more of a guideline than a rule in Italy. Therefore, make sure you read the schedules and allow extra time to get back to La Spezia and then your “home base” if you’re doing a day trip.
    • Allow time
    • If you can, stay a couple nights and truly take in the cities!
  • Off season or bust
    • If you can, go right at the end of summer (September/October) or right at the beginning of summer (March) so that you can enjoy the region sans millions of tourists. This allows a local connections that is often missed in June and July!

Memories of Chianti

europe, italy, Travel

As about 10% of College Students in the United States do, I did a study abroad program. I chose Italy before I started college, and stuck with Italy, specifically Florence. While the fees were high and the time away from my partner (now husband) was hard, it was worth EVERY SINGLE PENNY and every hard day to have the experience.

Reflecting on this trip is a constant aid to my work today, and a reminder of just how much I have seen and enjoyed since I graduated from high school in 2009.

Today, I share a little video on the PERFECT Day in Chianti and where you should head on your next journey to Tuscany.

Locations

Hiking Tips for Northern Colorado

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, Travel, United States

We get a lot of tourists to our part of Colorado and for good reason. We’re neighbors with Rocky Mountain National Park, we have some fabulous white water rafting, and we’re enroute to many other natural wonders. That being said, many people hit the Rocky Mountains without much knowledge or understanding of safety and comfort. Here are some tips and tricks to keep you safe, and happy when you hit the woods.

Happy Travel!

Happy Travels!

Your Local Theme Park is as Good as you Remember

colorado, Colorado Events, Travel, United States

Many times we are reminded that theme parks are for kids. They are money sucks of candy and cartoons and memorable characters and wild rides that make many adults queasy. We are reminded to take our kids to this and that so they have fun and memories and pictures. But I say, hold up, theme parks are as much for adults as kids, and you damn well can have a great time.

This year, if anything, is becoming my year of theme parks. For a long time I shied away from the parks. Well, I didn’t actively shy away, but I didn’t try to go to theme parks. I had not been to anything since 2015 on my last trip to Florida, and I decided to change that.

The last eight months have been a stressful, but mostly positive experience in my family. My husband had a job change, I am having two surgeries this year (more on this later next week), I have had promotions and job trainings. It has been crazy, an emotional roller coaster (pun intended), and stressful. I decided that my stepdaughter and I needed some fun on a day we had free together and that’s what we did.

We took a whole Saturday, grabbed Lily’s friend Josiah, and spent a whole day eating junk food, riding rides, and weaving through crowds at Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colorado. It was silly, it was fun, we made goofy jokes, we laughed at the rides, we got dizzy on the tea cups and we had an overall great day.

We enjoyed it so much we are looking forward to going next week with our Girl Scout Troop! There is even a new ride based on Meow Wolf, the Kaleidescape, which is an amazing art installation! It’s classic fun, in a local setting, full of all the grease and Dippin’ Dots that made a 90s childhood amazing.

So, fellow adults, and adult adjacents, get off your ass and enjoy the insane stupid fun of your local theme park this year. You will blow off steam, you’ll get some sun, you’ll walk like five miles so don’t stress about the calories, and you will make some memories.

Happy Travels!

Family Travel Planning – Part 1

family, Florida, Travel, wedding

My sister is getting married in October, in Orlando, in a backyard wedding. This means the whole famdamily is going to the wedding. Which means we are going to be trying to make the most of the vacation, family time, and sightseeing in one giant Robinson Wedding Week.

As you can imagine, trying to organize approximately 20 people to show up to pre-wedding events, and another 60 for the wedding, is a bit of a project. While it’s my sister’s wedding, and she is tackling the wedding EVENTm I am working on extra events to keep kids, parents, cousins, and myself sane.

While my family likes a good time, I can’t say they are the best at planning in advance to make the most of their time. If you are in a situation like me, it’s vital that you make a plan and stick to it so that you can actually enjoy your “vacation” without getting lost in a sea of relative needs. Here are my tips for surviving and enjoying the journey.

UNIVERSAL FLORIDA RIDES  
Ivy Friendly “Grown-up” Rides
Minion Mayhem Revenge of the Mummy
Shrek 4-D Men in Black
Simpsons Ride Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts
Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster  
Hogwarts Express  
Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl  
  1. Make Lists
    • Make a list of people going, lists of priority sites and activities, lists of time needed for travel.
    • Lists will help you prioritize and plan more comfortably.
    • If you are headed for theme parks, make a list of activities and rides that are most important, and that will work for different people and ages. For instance, my five year old cousin won’t be able to do many of the rides my 12 y/o step daughter wants to ride. Therefore, with some planning we can split up and get to ride everything we want. (see above)
  2. Plan What You Want or Need
    • Vacations are expensive, so it’s important to make a plan to get the most out of your time on a trip. With a group, things go slower, and sometimes you just won’t get everyone to commit to a plan. Therefore, it’s important to choose what you want and need the most then invite everyone.
    • For example, I pick days that work the best for the most important things. What day do we need to do the Bachelorette for the Bride? What day will be more comfortable for everyone for sleep, timing, obligations etc.
    • You won’t be able to make everyone happy, but people usually will make something work if they want to join in. If they can’t, then they usually find an alternative option.
  3. Know You Won’t Make Everyone Happy
    • Inevitably you will have people that aren’t happy with the schedule. While it’s nice to make things work for everyone, it usually doesn’t ever work. If you waited for everyone to be able to go, the truth is that you probably would never get to go!
    • Prioritize the most important people, sometimes this is the people getting married, sometimes it’s making sure the kids get to have the most at their day at Disney. While it’s nice to wait for Aunt Janet to get her nails done, maybe Janet needs to reschedule or join everyone at another time.
  4. Don’t plan on Being with Everyone All The Time
    • It’s nice to plan on being together a lot, but the truth is that everyone will want to do different things at different times.
    • It’s common for everyone to get sick of each other too. This gives kids and adults a chance to get space, quiet time, and down time to relax.
  5. Plan Ahead
    • The sooner you start trying to book an AirBnB, hotel, rental cars, and other arrangements, the better the rates and the better selection you will have. Booking a last minute flight and room probably won’t give you the best price and options.
    • Start drawing up plans for each day so that you can get a feel for what everyone wants or needs. This gives you time to rearrange plans in case of closures, event changes, or other situations.
  6. Plan for Down Time
    • If kids are involved you will need some time to relax. If adults are involved, you will need some time to sleep, eat, talk, and not have to be anywhere. I highly suggest making a day or two free days, or open days, where loose plans are made, and everything is casual. If people are exhausted, cancel plans, and take time to sleep or just chill.

Read More on Florida:

Happy Travels!

Keeping Energy Up When Traveling

musings, outdoors, Travel

If anything most people can agree on, it’s that traveling is tiring. No matter how much fun someone is having or the sleep you get, the act of visiting new places is a suck on energy. Sometimes it’s jet lag or the inability to sleep. Other times it’s a chock full schedule that leaves everyone dragging.

The problem with being tired while traveling is that you don’t enjoy the experience. You may also miss vital information and details that could make a serious difference to your enjoyment or safety. If you are tired while going through security at an airport, then you may leave something behind. If you don’t pay attention while driving, you could easily make a mistake. So, while we all run on fumes at times, it’s always better to be well rested for adventuring.

Here are some of my 10 tips to keeping you, and your family, rested, safe, and happy.

  1. Sleep on your flights
    • Sleep on a flight is especially important if you are doing a red eye or transcontinental flight. Meaning, if you can at least nap your day in the next place will be MUCH better than not. I have a terrible time sleeping on flights, but I have learned a few tricks.
    • Take melatonin for long flights. Or another OTC sleep aid to help you relax
    • Follow a “bedtime” routine as much as possible. This is extremely helpful with kids.
    • Bring/wear something cozy to help you relax. Maybe a blanket, leggings, slip off shoes, and eye mask.
    • Bring ear buds/headphones to you can drown out others, especially fussy kids.
  2. Make a routine
    • Whether you are on a cruise, a road trip, or backpacking, making a routine for the day to day will help. This will mean you are getting enough sleep, planning out your days, and taking much needed down town. Much like at home, your body and brain need a break. Bring a book or laptop for some other stimuli.
    • Kids especially need this when on the road. If you can, stay as close to the schedule at home. The structure prevents meltdowns and encourages happy kids. ALWAYS plan time for breaks.
  3. Find you drug of choice.
    • There are times that you will need caffeine no matter what you do. Meaning, I think it’s healthy to track down a coffee/tea/shot of espresso anytime you need it.
  4. Limit alcohol
    • We all love a little PAR-TAY in time away, but late nights and alcohol drain the system. If you are drinking, allow for down time, eat with drinks, and guzzle water, especially at higher altitudes (Denver).
  5. Eat healthy
    • When I’m super tired the first thing that happens is I get sick. However, if I eat healthy, take vitamins, and get sleep I tend to avoid illness. If you eat poorly it’s likely your immune system won’t have the ability to fight a small or large bug.
  6. Vacation from the vacation
    • I can’t stress enough, give yourself down time on a trip. Maybe mornings to sleep in, or a day of no plans. Even a day in between vacation and work can do wonders.
    • If you can, take an earlier flight and get home mid afternoon, this will help with jetlag and stress immensely. If you can get home and get back into a routine, this will help with your exhaustion.
  7. Request what you need
    • Staying at nicer hotels (3*+) means you can get more with your money (most the time), and that means you have the right to ask for what you want. Ask for quiet rooms, rooms on higher floors, or an upgrade if you think they can accommodate. 
    • Having hotel rewards (which are free) means you get a “status” at most places. If you spend more/stay more, you will get more notice, but even just having a basic option means things like Wi-Fi and free upgrades are much easier. 
  8. Take a comfort item
    • I take my sad down pillow when I can when I travel. It helps me relax and enjoy my sleep more. This could be a blanket, essential oils, or even a stuffed animal, whatever works for you, or your kiddos
  9. White Noise REALLY helps
    • It sounds like it’s almost too good to be true, but white noise really does help my husband and I sleep. I make sure we bring our ALEXA or have some downloaded nature sounds or Spotify as needed.
  10. Call loved ones
    • My husband and I call each other every night when we are apart. It’s something we have done since we started dating my first year of college. At the time we lived between 1 and 4 hours apart, so we maybe saw each other once a week. At other times I have been in Europe for one to two and a half months, and every call was worth the charges just to share our affection. This helps feel like we have a routine, like at home, and rest our minds over missing each other. 

HAPPY TRAVELS….and sleeping!