Disney Planning – Where to Stay, How to Fly, How to Save

family, Florida, Travel, United States

Part 1

Part 2

Once you have a good idea of what you are wanting from your Disney trip then you can start to make solid plans.

Most importantly I think it’s important to establish a budget and what your family can afford. While everyone wants an epic vacation, it may be important to plan another year and save. This is especially true if you are saving vacation days and want to make sure you get the vacation you want!

Be real – Disney isn’t going anywhere.

What I think shocks most people is how fast the cost adds up. Disney tickets are realistically $100+ a day for everyone. More for adults. You save if you do multiple days or if you do half-days (a new program Disney is doing), or if you do an after hours option instead (like Mickey’s Not so Scary Halloween party). However, tickets and pricing now varies day to day, with increased cost around holidays and on weekends. Cheaper days land on your Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (generally speaking). This is because they’re trying to reduce congestion on weekends, but also bring people into the middle of the week.

When it comes to hotels, you have choices. Plan on around $200/night for your family of four to stay in the lower 3-star kind of hotels on property. This does not include breakfast or other amenities.

If you stay off property you will save , and I’ve seen hotels within 20 minutes for around $70/night. However, if you stay off property you have to consider the cost of transfers and resort parking. But no doubt you will most likely save, regardless.

If you stay on property you also have the opportunity to combine everything for a package savings. This means your hotel + theme park tickets + flights + dining can all be bought in one go. If you like the idea of being on property, this will probably be your best option overall. BUT, don’t just buy this without checking specials, rates throughout the year, and other important options.

An added perk to being on property is that every resort has public transportation to the parks and from the airport included in your stay. That means you DON’T need a car. This is especially true when parking is between $25 to $30 a day at the resort of parks. I’ll go into if you want to leave later.

Of course, this benefits Disney if you never leave. However, there are ways to avoid costs by packing food, having groceries delivered, and meal plans with the park.

For flights, if needed, you will likely pay around $200-500/person roundtrip. From Denver (my airport) we usually pay $330 with Southwest and $200 with Spirit. For us, Southwest is usually better if we have to change our flights, and when we’re taking presents to family in Orlando (use those 2 bags baby!).

With all of this in mind, figure out what your family will need to pay for the trip and what is realistic for your budget!

Happy Travels!

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Your Body Has Always Been Fine

musings

I think about my weight and my size and my fat and my thigh gap and my chicken wings and my double chin. Every day. I think about these things.

I think about the fact that when I was a teenaged I worried about the same things. At a smaller size. At a lower weight. At a thinner face and chin.

I think about how every single day as a women or a teenager and even a preteen has been a self-conscious rage inside myself. A narration of insecurity and hatred field at my body. A constant tune of how I was never good enough.

I also know, that every women feels the same way or has felt the same way. I also know that we rarely discuss the constant mental battering we do. To ourselves, sometimes to others,

Our culture has beaten an ideal into our mind that is impossible. Impossible because it changes all the time. Impossible because it’s manufactured. Impossible because the system is rigged in its favor.

Every day. Think about that. Every day we pick at our lives. Pulling at stitches and scans, sometimes to bleed, sometimes a reminder. We go under the knife more and more for thinner and slimmer and better. We dad and crash diet. We tell our friends to join the cult of Keto or vitamins or CrossFit or no carbs. We buy waist trainers and folds of fabric to hide.

None of this is “new” per se. Humanity has a long history of fashion with its own bindings and stitched to alter our looks. What is new is that we are constantly stewing in a brew of unrealistic ideals. What was once just movies and magazines is a constant pull for our attention. What was once books and parties is 24/7 advertising. We are born and raised in “everything about us is wrong – to be better we must…”

The body I hated at 16 changed at 26 and will continue to. Why couldn’t I love it at either stage? Why must I pick at it now?

I treat myself, and I know others do the same, with so much hatred at every stretch mark and bump. I fuss over numbers that only have meaning because we give meaning to them. We are unreasonably cruel to our existence and experiences.

The truth is that at size 0 or size 24 your body is fine. Your body is this amazing thing that keeps you alive and takes you places. Your body has free thoughts. It can create life. It is a beautiful thing. Yet we are so cruel and so hateful to it

This is joy to say be unhealthy, it is to say, be happy with yourself. Don’t sit in the mirror and hate. Exist and love and be in every moment. All of it is fleeting. When you’re 90 years old and covered in wrinkles, smile that you had experience that gave you the smile lines.

I remember my grandma looking in the mirror and bemoaning her aged skin, her crooked bones, her gray hairs. But I also remember always thinking she was so beautiful with her makeup and perfume and scarves, and most importantly her kindness and love that filled my childhood home.

The choice is yours. See your beauty for what you have, or live a life hating yourself. I’m personally choosing the former.

Embrace The Trainwreck

musings

I often find life to be a confusing ball of shit.

Meaning, I have one idea of how it all should be, and then reality takes a dump on my ideas.

It’s the universe. There are no rules or regularity. We have no control, only perceptions of control. While we can steer the sails on our ship, we also face storms and waves, and giant killer squids. Mostly we survive, sometimes we almost drown. We usually come out as stronger swimmers for the next round.

If anything, at my very wise age of 28 (insert sarcasm symbol), it is that I can either fret about every awkward thing I have done (this list is painfully long) or I can move on and sail to the next day. (I really like the idea of being on a ship, because sailing, and oceans, and mermaids that can be whatever fucking color, because mermaids…)

My life hasn’t been cushioned, instead I usually fall on my ass, dust myself off, and find the next patch of ice I can slip on. I have had to work for 95% of what I have on my own, but I also know that that last 5% has been vital to my survival. I cry a lot, because existential crisis’s are real. but I also laugh until tears run down my face because “A Day Without Laughter is a Day Wasted” ~Charlie Chaplin.

I am messy and insecure. I am overly confident and painfully awkward. But whatever. I can either self help myself into a coma or I can just take everything as it comes. My only real competition is myself and my success is measured on moving forward.

When I TRULY think about all I wanted to achieve by my late 20s, I realize I have done more than I truly thought I would get to. I have things together. The puzzle is a little lop sided, I slammed a few pieces in where they didn’t fit. There are still pieces missing, but it works. There is actually a coherent image of something resembling a normal existence.

I have learned that life is not an immediate success, some people get it right away, but that is so very rare. Instead, and probably for the best, we have to prove ourselves and fight forward, and make things happen. To not is to accept defeat, which is something I simply won’t accept.

All I am saying in this, is that maybe we all should be happier with ourselves and where we are. We should embrace our lives as just are, and accept the chaos as what is. I am the first to jump into learning and growing, but I am also okay with not killing myself with too many projects. I have learned to create boundaries and limits where needed. These are all vital for survival.

Overall, just love yourself and your journey and your mistakes. It’s okay, you are just learning, even at 20 and 40 and 90, you are learning.

Hohenzollern Castle

europe, Germany, History, Travel

The first castle I ever visited was not one I ever expected to see. It was never on a list, but it was a pure treasure!

Circa 2010 when my trip was interrupted by a volcano, I found myself with an extra week in Germany.

My amazing host friends, military based near Stuttgart, decided it was a great time to help me explore more of Germany.

The first choice was to get me into a castle and southern Germany has some of the best examples of castle architecture in the world! The magnificent Hohenzollern is no exception. While many people head to Neuschwanstein Castle near Munich, few recognize the choices and variety of castles that exist in and outside of Bavaria.

Hohenzollern is just south of Stuttgart in Bisingen, and it’s a fabulous example of what Prussian architecture created. Parts of the castle date back to 1267 with some structures in place as far back as 1061. Often referred to as the  “Crown of all Castles in Swabia” all was lost in 1454. While other owners built up the fortress at times, the castle was never fully restored and was practically abandoned by the 19th century.

It was then that Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia decided to rebuild the castle. Started in 1850 the castle was built to reflect the heritage and culture of the region and the Prussian monarch. For reference, Neuschwanstein Castle was built around the same time by the Bavarian monarchy.

Hohenzollern shocked me on numerous levels, the first was the way it reflected the fantastical ideals we encompass about castles in Europe. Hohenzollern has majestic spires, endless walls, and magical paintings and frescoes.

The vast and rich green forests that also surround the area are amazing. As the landscape moves into being the dark forest you see where imagination could run wild. It was these forests and these castles and beautiful buildings that so deeply rooted Germans and Victorians and Americans to a love of fairytales and medieval revival. These forests birthed Grimm’s fairytales and much more to a Euro-American psyche.

If you are looking for an escape from the tourist trail, stunning views, and some prime architecture of the medieval reimagining of the 19th century, this place is for you!

VISITOR DETAILS:

HOURS: Monday to Sunday: 10:00am to 5:30 pm (4:30pm November to March) (closed most holidays)

WEBSITE: https://www.burg-hohenzollern.com

ADMISSION: $10-15 USD

ENGLISH TOURS:

 16 March – 31 October  Saturday* + Sunday*   11:30 + 14:00 + 16:30 
 16 March – 31 October  Monday* – Friday*  14:00 
 01 November -15 March    Saturday* + Sunday*  11:30 + 14:00

A Love Letter to Notre Dame

europe, France, History, musings

I haven’t been to Paris in nine years. When I was 19, I went to Paris for the first time, and like most 19 years olds, it felt like I was seeing the whole world in one city. Like most 19 year olds, Paris was the epitome of culture, art, and food. We saw what we could, we basked in its glory, we imagined the past. I loved Paris before I arrived there, full of ideals from Madeline to Moulin Rouge, I left Paris forever changed.

The glitz of the tourist trail was stunning. Tears were shed at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. I “wowed” my way through Versailles, and I acted like a giddy child at the Musee de Cluny. Yet with all the power of other places the Cathedral de Notre Dame had a power that no other place I’ve been to does.

5FF0EE9D-1D25-4C4C-B0D9-E36BE973EA70

North Country

musings, Travel, United States, wyoming

The drive to my parents’ home is far from a thrilling one. Three and a half hours one sits in one direction. About 230 miles. Northward we go. The car sits in cruise control at 80 mph and we listen to audio books or favorite road trip songs and we go. We travel along swaths of interstate where you can see no one for miles. We pass ancient stone features and the occasional exits that resemble towns. It’s desolate.

Compared to Colorado it’s vast nothingness. It’s open rolling hills dotted by specks if cows, sometimes domesticated American Bison, sometimes horses. This time of year it’s all the color of straw. Last years’ grass turning into remnants before bursting with new life. It’s not much.

Don’t Act Your Age

colorado, Colorado Events, outdoors, Travel

It’s easy to fall into the expectations of a culture. It’s easy to yield to social, familial, and religious pressure. It’s easy to “be” for others, but is harder to put your foot down and be yourself.

Out culture has a lot of unwritten rules. By 18 you graduate high school. By 22 it’s college. By 25 maybe a post-graduate program. Depending on your track, there are more hoops and expectations. Somewhere in there, before 30, you might find a spouse, buy a house, and resemble something like an adult.

These age brackets adjust slightly, depending on the culture and the time. Babies often come by 40 instead of 30 now. Career success is somewhere around 40 maybe 50, depending. Marriage is okay by 30, best by 40. It’s all constructed on norms and expectations, built around the cultural ecosystem we live in. Yet all of it is just expectation, not a reality based on what one NEEDS to accomplish. Some of us have more responsibility younger. Some of us never were truly kids. Some of us will never fully grow up. It just is.

With all of these expectations being fabricated, then I think it’s damn time that people do what makes sense for them. If my generation has positively accomplished anything, it’s that we are breaking the norm. (Whether out of necessity or choice is another question all together). We have abandoned the suburbs for lofts, and lifelong mortgages for vacations. Some of it is having a lack of money to participate in the US of A economy like our ancestors did, some of us just don’t want the shackles that uprooted so many in the recession.

While I advocate for education and knowledge, I also know that college is not the only way to be educated. I am married to one of the smartest people I know who could never get comfortable in a college setting, even though they tried. He doesn’t flout his skills and knowledge, he just exists, happy to work and make improvements, happy to have a family to come home to. It’s not ideal, but his earnings with a few community college classes almost matches that of someone with a M.A. The degree has never made me superior, it only lit the path to my own growth.

No doubt, the system has failed this generation, and my dear Gen-X friends that also feel swallowed in debt and poor paying jobs. I feel if the system has failed us, why should be jump deeply into the system? Why be the pinnacle of 30 with a house and 2.5 kids and car payments and so much debt there is hardly money for groceries? Where is the joy in that?

No doubt, I want the “good life” like everyone waved in front of my face. I want a house, I want a dog, and a yard, and to take a family vacation every year. Yet, we run into the wall of we don’t earn enough for a house where we live. We don’t earn enough to live fully here, as a “30-something” should. Yet we do earn enough to pay our bills and have some fun once in a while. We earn enough to enjoy trips abroad every few years, and take road trips in between. We earn enough to get by and laugh a little. We earn enough that I only grind my teeth a couple of night between pay days, instead of them all.

So while I “WANT” this and that, I refuse to be a part of “keeping up with the Jones’s” or buying into familial expectation of what my house and life is supposed to be. I think everyone should examine this too. If something in our culture serves you and your dreams, go for it.

I went for college and a mountain of debt, but my growth was much needed and treasured, I would not change that. If buying a home brings you comfort and joy that’s great! But make sure that the value you have placed in it comes before other desires. If having children is something that you long for, then have children when it makes sense. If having children is not that important, then REALLY evaluate if that’s a road you should go down.

As Elizabeth Gilbert put in Eat, Pray, Love “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” I value most things on similar terms, “is this REALLY what I want?” “Should I REALLY commit to this”. I also leave if something is not serving me or my longer-term goals. Some days it is hard, it’s definitely scary, but it’s important that you only act the age you are in your heart.

Happy Travels!

Film and the World

geek, History, musings, Travel

Everything about the magic and history of movies has tied it to opening portals into other lives, other times, other places, and completely fabricated lands. Photography opened these doors in the 1800s when the first photos were taken of places and distributed around the world. They not only captured a fleeting time, but they also shared new doorways to other places. In less than one hundred years the world would move into wanting more and more of these portals to better view ourselves and others.

From the earliest of movies we played with concepts and story lines that represented ourselves but also others. In the perspective of travel, men and women went around the world with their cameras and equipment and they documented what they witnessed. National Geographic became what it is and was because we could open more doorways than ever before.

A Young Kenyan Woman Holds Her Pet Deer In Mombassa, March 1909
A Young Kenyan Woman Holds Her Pet Deer In Mombassa, March 1909

These stories along with thousands of others, images, and film, have been an undeniable driving force for my own identity and desire to see the world. As I have said before, National Geographic has been a huge influence on my life and desire to travel. Yet, it has not been the only one.

Recently I have been rewatching movies I loved as a child and I have noticed a very important ache in my heart as I adventure with beloved childhood characters, an ache to experience and see what is being shown.

Today I watched Mulan probably for the 100th time since seeing it in the theater at seven and falling madly in love with Chinese culture. Through the scope of a child she was this amazing warrior that saved everyone but also beautiful and smart and inspiring. The perfect blend of everything I wanted to be as a girl. But she lacked fear, and had more determination than anything. She wanted to be a girl worth living for herself and to this day I know her persona has influenced me to live life even if I am scared.

Chinese woman – Tartar or Manchu – John Thomas 1869

This week I also watched The Mummy again, probably for the first time in at least a decade, and I also felt that familiar ache. I wanted to be Evelyn running around the desert reading ancient manuscripts and fighting baddies. Once again I admired her spunk and tenacity, her intellect and determination. Her ability to face fear and move forward.

No doubt neither movie is an ideal exploration of a culture or a time. Lord knows the Mummy has a white savior issue. However, they have a central theme that I think is vital for girls to know, that it’s important to be brave and it’s important to do what you know is right for you. I think of what my life would be like if I had not been exposed to these movies, or other not so great movies like Cutthroat Island, I would not be the same me.

See, when I could see through these portals into other worlds I realized that I too could be something of note. I too could get out there into a man’s world and be all I wanted to be. I did not have to set in the mold society, or my conservative family, or the patriarchy had decided to make for me. I could break that mold and make my own journey. That is huge for a child that is growing up in a rural area with limited means. It is huge for any child just trying to understand it is okay to be them.

While I think movies and media can be double-edged, where people travel based on myths and stereotypes and miss the real story, I also know that these stories have launched a thousand courageous people into the world. And I hope that these stories have also allowed people to open their hearts and minds to others in ways that other media has not.

I think a lot on the significance of representation in stories and how vital it is that we see a wide variety of people in media. If all else, there needs to be a statistically even representation of all peoples in the media. This is vital to the long term health of the world.

As we become more global we need to share the platform with more and more people to more fairly share our lives and times. Having more women play the heroine has benefited my confidence in living my life. Having women of color share their stories creates compassion and understanding no matter the distance in time, space, and cultures. Having queer characters allows for them to be understood, humanized, and loved. Having differently abled characters opens up the eyes to better reflection on our society and our compassion. Doorways open many routes for us to grow as a culture.

What I hope for the future is to continue to see these inspiring tales and stronger sharing of differing stories and cultures. I hope that more doors open so we can respect and love one another more whole and I hope that all of us will take the time to look and listen.

Support Women on Your Travels

Travel

As I look at my next adventure around the world I often take moral and ethical choices to heart. When I have to go with a guide or a group, I want to make sure that company supports women domestically and internationally and that my money goes to lifting women up.

I have talked about in previous posts the importance of acknowledging workers and people in other parts of the world. Today, I want to draw sharp focus on how you and I can support women better when we are on the road.

  1. Bring supplies that go to schools, and if possible, to schools that focus on girls.
    • Pack for a Purpose organizes donations for local schools in developing regions around the world. Their comprehensive list makes drop offs easy, and even resorts in places like Riviera Maya offer drop of spots. This includes where we honeymooned in Mexico, Sandos Caracol. There are also drop points in the United States, or you can send some stuff with a traveling friend!
  2. Choose tours that support women’s arts and initiatives
    • Companies like G Adventures offer tours to women’s weaving co-ops in Peru, or cooking classes in Spain. Ultimately this connects travelers to life-changing experiences, and supports local non-profits. Make sure if you are visiting crafters to buy a small purchase or two as a phenomenal souvenir and to continue the initiative.
  3. Do some voluntourism
    • If you have extra time a little can go a long way to support a cause that supports women. A few days to a few years can leave positive impacts. However, make sure you do your research and your mind is in the right place for aiding the country you’re visiting, not yourself.
    • An example is working directly with girls and women in India, or working with kids in South Africa to have nature experiences.
  4. You don’t even have to travel
    • If you are planted for a while, the simple truth is that you don’t need to travel to help people in need. Your community probably has numerous organizations that could use some help.
    • Think of women’s clinics that just need a loving hand, or a domestic violence shelter you could sew blankets and scarves for.
    • Maybe take some time to help a Girl Scout troop learn a new skill or volunteer at your local school.
    • Even simple things like food banks, diaper banks, and medical clinics could use some additional kindness and helping hands.

While these are just a few examples of how to get out there and support women, remember the biggest and most important goal is lifting each other up and supporting those around you. We don’t need stickers or shirts or roses and candy for that matter, we need all people to value all people as equals. Feminism is the radical notion that all women are people ~Marie Shear.

Clothing Kerfuffle

Caribbean, Florida, mexico, musings, Travel

It’s next to impossible to always know what to pack on a trip. There is so much to consider such as temperatures, time traveling, wrinkles, weight, coordination, and sturdiness. Practicality is great, but one also doesn’t want to look like the sad American tourist stereotype that all the Italians gawk at.

The best part of all of this is that you think you have it covered, and then something goes terribly wrong. Of course this never happens when you are only 15 minutes from home, but rather when you’re on a small Caribbean island an hour boat ride from your spare swimsuit.

I have had my share of “clothing mishaps” but nothing quite as revealing as the infamous Janet Jackson mishap. Of course some of these do deal with the bra area, as about 80% of all women can also attest to.

There have been water slides that left me flashing teenage boys (D cups have a mind of their own folks!). Then there was my favorite story in Grand Cayman.

Patiently my now husband and I were waiting for a tour to the Sea Turtle Farm, of which a highlight was to swim with sea turtles. I had on an almost brand new bikini top, that unbeknownst to me was struggling to keep up with its job. Standing in line I hear this loud POP and felt a snap on my back. It was then that I realized the back clasp had broken. BROKEN. Dead, not functioning, BROKEN.

Luckily, I was wearing a t-shirt over myself or the day may have been very different. I didn’t get to swim with the turtles (giant sad face) but I got to hold babies and see the beauties up close and personal.

Most of my other stories are about sad bags and buying too many books. There are ripped jeans, and holy underwear. Because when you travel for two months or more straight things start to give up. There are the brand new toms I took into the jungle and ruined, but it was worth it to get covered in mud and have the 4-wheeling time of my life!

The moral of the story is to pack spares to your spares. Buy better quality swim suits, and always have a t-shirt for emergency boobs!

Happy Travels!