Planning for Magic at Universal Studios

Florida, Travel, United States

Universal Studios is the competitive edge to Disney’s theme park empire. While the Universal Studios experience has existed since 1961, the theme park magic that we know today is a more recent concoction. While some attractions existed at their Hollywood Studio in the 1960s and 1970s, the theme park lands really expanded in the 1990s with the opening of Universal Orlando in Florida. Over the last 50+ years Universal has brought its own version of movie magic to kids young and old, offering imaginative and exciting adventures.

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Disney Planning – What Are You Wearing?

Florida, Travel, United States

Disney Planning – What are you wearing?

What you are wearing to Disney is a huge question. The interwebs LOVES Disney Bounding and no doubt, I also find the cosplay meets every day fashion quite a treat (my stepdaughter and I will also be Disney Bounding in the Magic Kingdom in October). Then there is being practical to deal with the weather. Orlando is notorious for heat and rain, making a normal day hot, muggy, and sopping wet. Then there is the shoe question, if one is walking seven to ten miles in a day, what does one wear to ride rides, play in water, and stay comfortable.

For our trip to Disney, we are keeping things simple but cute. My stepdaughter’s Epcot day will be a tanktop and shorts. Her shoes for every day (including one day at Universal Studios) will either be Sanuk sandals that wrap around her face, or tennis shoes (my preference is the tennis shoes, she’s 12, so we’ll see who wins). For our magic kingdom day, she will be wearing a Minnie Mouse Disney Bound that is a red Mickey shirt, black Minnie overalls skirt (shorts underneath), Minnie mouse socks (with tennis shoes), and Minnie Mouse ears.

My Magic Kingdom bound (I have to miss Epcot) will be Mulan. I have a Mulan tanktop with the original movie poster, grey chinos, a green jacket (rain coat), and Chacos for my feet. I also bought an epic Mulan Backpack, and some cute jewelry and hair accessories along with earrings to spice up the outfit. My goal is to have fun with the outfit, but also be comfortable for the day, as there is no point in dressing up but being miserable and uncomfortable all day.

My little cousin Ivy, who is five, got a very cute Minnie Mouse tutu outfit for her birthday that I may have been involved in…she will wear tennis shoes with this, and shorts under the skirt (just in case we get tired of the poof). She also has a pair of ears that match my stepdaughter’s.

Other people may choose to show of former Disney swag, shirts, ears, etc. Kids under the age of 14 are allowed to dress up for their day in the park. If you are going to an after hours event, like Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween, adults are allowed to wear costumes as long as they meet rules on layering, length etc.  For more details, click here.

All around, I think the best advice, is plan to be practical, and wear what will bring you comfort and joy. If you want some inspiration, hit the Pinterest and Instagram for millions of options!

Happy Travels!

Disney Planning – How to Plan

family, Florida, food, Travel, United States

Part 1

While looking at lists of everything you need to do when you plan your Disney vacation it’s all extremely overwhelming. With my work as a travel advisor (agent) it’s always best to break things into reasonable pieces. Think of it like cutting up your plate of food, the small pieces prevent you from choking and dying. This is important for Disney too. (Ok death is less imminent, but your headache is real).

If you don’t have a lot of time to break everything down and you need to make sure things get done, talk to an expert! There are thousands of travel agents that have specialized training to help you turn a Disney dream into a reality. AND it doesn’t have to be a bank breaking vacation to get help! Search locally and online and you are sure to get connected with an expert. Many times your fee is minimal or even free!

Also, check with your credit card perks, some even offer concierge and travel experts as a part of your card fees! This is especially true if you are using points for any parts your travel.

If you want to handle the whole thing yourself, then prepare for it to take a good chunk of time. Most importantly, start planning what you’re doing MONTHS if not a year in advance. Even if you have been to Disney since you were in pull-ups, the changes that roll out every few months will mean you need to update your mental picture of what you want to do.

My personal suggestion is to make a list of wishes. Ask your spouse and kiddos or friends what they want out of their Disney time. Some may be all about Star Wars, others may be into the Princesses, and some may not care. Make a detailed list of everything from rides, foods, events, shopping, and hotels. This will make putting the puzzle together much easier. If you can, have everyone pick their top 1-3 “things” they don’t want to miss and then narrow it down. Find the things that overlap, and work in the rest. Ultimately, this will help you understand what you need to plan for the most.

Once you have a good idea on what everyone is wanting (don’t forget yourself) you can get into reservations and solidified plans.

-stay tuned for part 3

Happy Travels!

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

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.

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Happy Travels!

A Stack of Magazines

musings, Travel

It’s easy to say “I read” as a kid. It’s much more interesting to explain exactly what that looked like.

My family are readers, through and through, every room, including the bathrooms, had books or magazines in them. Often she leaves were two or three deep, the coffee table housed endless picture books. I read before bed. My mom read to us before bed. I read on the bus. My grandma shared art books with us. I powered through reading challenges. I took home stacks of books from each library visit.

My mom was an assistant library for our community school/public library (small town Cripple Creek) which meant the book love train was never ending.

Some of the coffee table books that littered the living room were elaborate photo essays of places all over the world. The art ones showed off masterpieces and where to find them. The DaVinci anatomy book connected past and present to our understanding of the body.

But the cream of the crop was the, what’s seemed to my child mind, mountains of National Geographic magazines in our basement. Vividly I remember pouring through stack after stack searching for images and stories that inspired my exploring. Ships bobbed on azure waves, tribally adorned men dove for pearls, houses were made raw and blended seamlessly into the landscape. I saw that much more was happening outside of the mountains of Colorado.

As I grew older I would read some of the articles and learn about poverty, war, crime, danger, and the perseverance of peoples. Combined with all my reading, and the nightly news my grandfather consumed I began traveling in my mind. I was compelled to seek these other lands, these people, the animals, the food, the azure waves (I didn’t see the ocean until I was 17).

I knew then, as I do now, that the stacks of magazines were so much more than “a stack of magazines” they were portals into all that the world was and could be. They were windows into the soul and spirits of endless stories and endless lives. They were pure magic.

At some point the magazines were donated to the local school, where they were cut into collages and posters, an upcycling rebirth. And as an adult I collect new stacks and new stories and new portals to new worlds I dream of exploring.

My First Travel Adventure

adventure of the week, family, Travel, United States

My first trip without my parents was in 2008 with my great aunt and uncle. My uncle was a retired Vietnam Navy Veteran and his group of “Navy Rats” decided to have a reunion in Norfolk, Virginia.

In the summer of 2008 I was 17 and I wanted to work for the summer to save for a trip I wanted to take in 2010 to Europe. However, living in the sticks of Colorado and in the beginning of the worst recession since the 1930s, I didn’t have many choices.So, Casper, Wyoming was having an oil boom and there were ample jobs for those needing “something”. My aunt and uncle graciously opened their home to me, and I worked that summer as a hostess at IHOP (I don’t recommend this part of the experience).

However, the first few days I was gone I learned the first boy I kissed had died from Bacterial Meningitis. I missed home and the comforts of my small town life, and I felt isolated in a job with a lot of drama (think back seat shags in the parking lots, and being screamed at by drug dealers).

However, even though it felt like I got kicked out of a car driving down the interstate, I found a lot of strength that summer. Strength to fight through panic attacks. Strength to go to a job I hated. And the reward was my first time on an airplane and other firsts.

We headed to the east coast, I flew the first time. Saw Ellen Page at the Detroit airport (Juno was a new movie still). I saw the ocean for the first time. We visited Historic Jamestowne and Jamestown Settlement as well as Colonial Williamsburg.

It was at these locations that history began to come alive to me and I began to appreciate the layers and complexity around every turn.

It was then that I became totally hooked on travel to real and historical places. It was at these places that I started to think critically on what I knew about American History and colonialism. And I have never looked back.

This journey would push me into being away from home for months at a time. It would push me to seek knowledge and stories. It would encourage me to face my fears and anxieties like a warrior. It would make me a stronger girl that would turn into the woman I am today.

The moral of the story, is don’t give up because it scares you, move forward because you should.

Happy Travels!

Playing Renaissance

musings

If you have gathered anything from my love and passions while reading this blog, it’s that I’m a bit of a history geek.

My first passions started with medieval and renaissance Europe as a teen. Which lead me, almost annually, to the Colorado Renaissance Festival. Since then, I go every year or two with a group of friends and a wad of cash to enjoy a fun and silly adventure.

Held every weekend in the summer, usually June to early August, the festival is all that a Renaissance festival can be expected to be.

It’s the perfect chance to dress up in a cute, sexy, ridiculous, or just funny costume. Over the years I have made, worn, and even bought some fun get ups. There was a princess or three, movie costumes, a pirate a couple of time, and most recently a maiden costume.

It’s not a historical trip I seek anymore, as I am fully aware of the inaccuracies and absurdity of the festival. Instead, I seek out the shows, frozen margaritas, and artisan goods. I enjoy a day of walking and talking with friends, and I love seeing the care and details taken with homemade costumes.

If you find yourself along the front range of Colorado in the summer, stop by for a turkey leg or two.

Throw Back Thursday – Childhood Travel Lessons

colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, new mexico, outdoors, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United States, wyoming

Many people gain a love of travel as children. Sometimes they’re crammed into the beck of a family station wagon, or a small camper, traversing open highways to neighboring states and countries. Others fly away to an annual beach escape, all-inclusive, beach, and drinks.

My family did things differently. As a product of low-income we did things a little less luxuriously. We crammed into a Dodge Neon, five of us. We slept in rustic cabins on our ranch or in canvas tents at a re-enactment. On occasion a worse than Motel 6 room was in the cards. This meant a shower and how to cram three kids in a twin or double bed, absolutely luxury was a queen. We ate at cheap diners and cheese and crackers as we rolled along plains lands.

We went through Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, and South Dakota to icons like Devil’s Tower, Jewel Cave, Helena, and De Smet. We saw where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and a Palace made of Corn. And we have many pictures at Mount Rushmore in different outfits, an awkward ages, with relatives that have passed or friends that have moved on.

Reenactment with my cousin Nathan, aunt Mary and baby sibling McClellan.

These journeys taught me how important a hot plate and hot water can be. That boiled eggs are always a good snack. That learning to read in the car without motion sickness is vital to surviving 1,000 miles with two younger sisters. That you can survive 30 playthroughs of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. That dogs can wedge themselves anywhere if given enough time. And most importantly, short legs make for an easier car ride.

All in all these things taught me to be better at travel in the big wide world. Hot plates turned into hostel kitchens. Small cars meant I can live through a long plane ride. Crappy hotel means I can survive…. crappy hotels and most hostels. I know the importance of hitting grocery stores to cut food costs. I know that picking light makes everything easier. I know that audio and physical books are life savers for endless journeys that have no service, wi-if, or charger.

The frugality of my parents has meant I knew how to save and travel at 19, 22, 23, 24, 26, and 27. It means I know how to pinch pennies and look for deals, to read and study and to plan my journey, to know the importance of flexibility and patience.

My cousin Nathan and I at the family ranch in Wyoming.

While I didn’t see much of the world until an adult, I know these lessons will carry me well into my old age.

Happy Travels!