Disney Planning – Which Disney?

family, Florida, geek, Travel, United States

More on Disney

If you are staying stateside you have two parks to choose from, Disneyland and Disney World. Disneyland is in Anaheim, California and Disney World is in Orlando, Florida. Pick a coast. Both will be about the same cost, per day, with all things considered. If you are smack in the middle of the country, as I am, airfare will probably be comparable. If you want other theme parks to visit, both are by respective Universal Studios, and other similar activities. Even better, both are near oceans and seaside activities that come with such a geography.

Disneyland is comprised of two different theme parks, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park. Both of these parks have unique activities, themes, “lands” and it is the original theme park under the Disney umbrella, opening in 1955. While California Adventure Park is the newest installment and expansion, which opened in 2001.

Disney World is by far a much bigger experience. The Disney World Resort complex has four theme parks for guests. The Magic Kingdom is the closest match to Disneyland, with many repeat rides and experiences, but also unique in its own right. The Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, and was followed by Epcot 11 years later. Epcot opened in 1982 as the first expansion of the Orlando property. Epcot has a focus on international cultures, events, food, and dining; which often labels it as an “adult” theme park.  Disney’s Hollywood Studios, opening in 1989, is getting the most attention recently as it has opened a Toy Story land and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in the last year. The focus on Hollywood Studios is definitely on movie magic and connecting guests to that feel. Finally, last but not least is Disney’s Animal Kingdom, opened in 1998. The Animal Kingdom is actually the largest theme park in the world, covering 580 acres, and it is themed around animals and natural areas.

All of these theme parks will offer a good variety of activities and adventures for visitors. However, it is important just to grasp the size of these theme parks and how few hours there are in a day, or one’s patience. All of Disney World is 40 square miles, roughly the size of San Francisco, or two Manhattans. While a lot of this is not fully developed, there is a lot of space to get around between parks, hotels, restaurants and everything else.

That being said, do not plan to try to go from park to park all day. For your sanity, and your family’s or friend’s I would suggest doing all single day tickets and going to one park per day. Then at the end of your stay, if you have extra time, return to your favorite or favorite(s) by upgrading your single park per day ticket. For more information, click here.

Therefore, if you are planning a trip to Disneyland I would plan for around five days. Spend one day getting there, go to Disney Springs in the afternoon, or your first park if you want. Spend one day at the other park. Then have two more days to park visit or just relax. Finally, you have day five to get home.

If you are planning on Disney World, and you want to see every park, plan on at least a week. Day one to get to the park and Disney springs. Day two Magic Kingdom. Day three Hollywood Studios. Day four Epcot. Day five Animal Kingdom. Day six is be an extra day to see favorites. Day seven travel home.

Of course, you can mix this up, skip places you have already been, or only go to one park all the days. I suggest visiting the respective websites for lists of activities and entertainment for each park and select what makes your heart excited, or the inner six-year-old squeal with delight. If you have a favorite movie, go see those characters. If your five year old is just happy to exist, plan your days around what will inspire and excite them.

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!

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.

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!

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!

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!

A Decade of Travel

Florida, France, italy, mexico, Scotland, Travel

It has been ten and a half years since I took my first trip without my parents. In that decade I have learned a lot about the world, people, cultures, identities, food, wine, and maybe most importantly, myself.

Perhaps the most powerful thing about being on the road, about depending on only myself, about sleeping in strange places, about navigating subways is that you learn so very much about the person that resides inside. It is the quiet moments waiting on a subway platform or walking around a city all alone that you get to listen to the internal voice. It is disconnecting the cell phones and emails and constant bombardment of your life that you can listen to yourself.

In a decade on the road, where most adventures have been solo, I have found more pieces of me on the road than I ever would have staying put. On my own two feet I have found that I am strong, a problem solver, great at meeting people, good at budgeting, amusing and kind, great at navigating, good at picking up social queues and much more. My favorite part is finding out that I am in fact a brave and capable person, in spite of a society that tells women they’re not.

Perhaps my travel is a rebellion, as is all the other women that travel alone, to all the people that told me not to go. It’s a rebellion to the other women that told me to be scared and to stay home. It’s a rebellion to the men that warned me, or assumed my actions were reckless, or would have preferred I stayed home and did nothing. It’s a fight against the men that have tried to intimidate me, or have groped me, or have threatened me. I am saying, none of these actions, big or small, will keep me from embracing and existing in this world.

A decade of travel has emboldened me to be more outgoing and more bold to apply for promotions. A decade of travel has pushed me into scared moments of education and risk, and to walk away from crappy people and situations. Ten years of traveling has meant that I have found a voice, and a purpose, and I left my home town and I have never looked back.

While I get to own decade of travel it has only been facilitated by the support and care of family and friends that encouraged my journey. My grandma talked me through the planning and shared books and art resources for me to find. My family friends pushed me to visit them, or to make sure I went. In my college years my partner, now husband, supported my study abroad and Master’s work internationally. My mother took her own travel dreams and wove them into my own by connecting me with friends, and buying me books. My Great-Aunt and Uncle took me on my first trip without my parents. And so many more have helped me along the way, from teachers to mentors, to total strangers.

It is these hands of support and love that have encouraged me to become the confident traveler and woman I have. While I always will have more to learn about myself and the world, I know I have crafted a framework for success.

So dear reader, I deeply encourage you and the others in your life to get out there and see the world. It’s one of the most profound and moving experience that anyone can have.

To Camera…or Not to Camera

colorado, love, Photography, Travel

I love photography, as anyone that has followed this blog for a while knows. However, I am conflicted with a constant concern when I travel if I should bring my camera equipment or stick with my phone.

The simple answer is I don’t know.

I don’t know because it depends so greatly on how one travels, what one is doing on a particular trip, or if you have a safe way to keep your gear. So I have a few check points when determining this. It is not an exact science but it helps me sort out if my camera on my Iphone is OK, or if the DSLR is worth the extra bag, weight, and effort.

I bring my camera under the following circumstances

  1. I am doing some portrait or fine photography
    1. this is a “well duh”
  2. I have the chance or time to do some real photography
    1. This means if I am going to be in nature for a good amount or time, or if I have a long trip I am taking.
  3. I have extra luggage space
    1. If I can afford the extra ten pounds, then it goes!
  4. There is no way my cell phone camera can capture it well
    1. This is especially true in situations where a zoom lens is a good idea, such as nature or travel photography (again more time/space is a must)
  5. I can keep it safe
    1. Traveling on a cruise or boat or water-based situation can be lethal to your best camera friend. Sand, wind, dirt, rain etc. is also an unfriendly mess!
    1. I don’t want my cameras, AKA my expensive travel tools, to be ruined on a wild trips.

I don’t take the camera kit for pretty much the opposite reasons but I also keep this in mind on certain trips. Am I going to “work” on this trip or am I going to play?

Because when you do photography professionally such as for weddings and your blog. When you write off travel as a business expense, which it very much is, you have to draw a line on fun and work.

I make an effort, some times better than others, to not make every trip a working trip. When I go with my husband, I tend to leave the DSLR behind because the point is to not work and be with my husband. When I travel by myself, the camera is likely in my bag. It’s a lot about priorities and what is most important on a specific journey. Is it to get more great shots (which I love love love) or to spend time with those I love (also love love love)?

Sometimes it is hard to leave my little digital friends at home, but I don’t regret the less weight and I don’t regret focusing on reconnecting with my family.

What do you do?

Happy Travels!

Do a Lot With a Little

Allergen-free eating on the road, europe, family, food, France, geek, Ireland, italy, Travel, United Kingdom

I have never had what I would consider a lot of money or resources. I grew up in my grandparent’s house. My family lived below the poverty line. Since moving out of my childhood home I have been in school and/or working in jobs that don’t pay more than $34,000 a year. I sometimes do some work as a photographer or web designer to make ends meet. It has never been a lot. I have never had excessive means.

However, even with a little, I make it stretch. I take the advantages that have been given to me and make it work. This is, of course, been an immense lot of luck, and stubbornness, and sacrifice. However, it has meant that I have been able to do more than many at 27.

For my first trip to Europe, I lived at home and worked almost seven days a week for $8 an hour, at a crappy little fossil shop with sketchy owners. I did that for eight months, and then cheaply wandered around Europe crashing with friends, old and new, and hosteling when I needed to. I ate apples for lunch, and cooked in dingy kitchens to save cash. I walked instead of taking taxis and buses. I made it work. I took the advantages of free places to sleep and turned it into a longer trip, another museum, a nice meal.

In 2013 on my study abroad I headed to Italy on the most economical program I could find. I ate at the apartment for the most part, picking up in season produce at the markets. Savoring every sweet little strawberry and succulent squash. I bought $2 gelato on my way to classes for my “lunch” and euro store (same as a dollar store) nuts for a snack. I would scour the city for food deals on dinners. €15 three-course meals meant I could eat and drink on the cheap, street vendors served €2 polenta for a real treat. I bartered to cut down on souvenir costs. I stubbornly walked away to save another €5. I took advantage of every meal and treat that the study abroad program offered, knowing it would save me money.

2015 was the start of my M.A. and I hosteled, while others stayed in hotels. I packed lunch or ate cheap soup in the cantina at the college instead of eating a sandwich nearby. I traded books at the hostel and did my laundry in the basement. In an extra three weeks of travel I only stayed three nights in a real hotel, a 3-star Ibis. I was gifted gluten free bread from a fabulous bakery in Dublin. I bought few souvenirs and savored toast and tea and packets of oatmeal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love food. I LOVE food. However, I love seeing the world more. I love diving into museums and cathedrals and tours. I love eating cheap food that locals love, from chippies and markets, and food stalls. I like finding fresh veggies and fruits to suck down locally. I like fancy things, and fine meals, but if it means I can try three restaurants for the price of one, I’ll take more over the one.

I find this philosophy trickles into everything I do. I shop second hand clothing stores so I can afford a better quality item for much less. I shop grocery store sales, and closeout items for a better deal. I coupon and wait for deals to get the items I need. I scour for off-season travel deals and seasonal items to hit the clearance sections. Some find this cheap. I find it a means to live a fuller life.

I don’t hoard this bounty either, I gift to others, and donate like crazy. Monthly I probably get rid of at least one if not more trash bags of stuff. It consists of clothes my stepdaughter has outgrown, shoes we are bored of, and books we have read. I recycle and reuse, I pass it on and upcycle. I take a little and make a lot.

End note: I have been extremely lucky and I am fully aware not everyone can do this.

Plan Ahead, Avoid the Headache

musings, Travel

Probably the single biggest, and best piece of advice I can give to those wanting to travel, is that planning ahead will save the day. While it’s great to take advantage of a last minute vacation, it can also spell disaster for making the most of your travels. Of course one can over plan, more on that another day.

Essentially when it comes to traveling, especially internationally, planning can mean huge savings, better experiences, and a smoother journey than winging it on the last minute.

For example, if you are a foodie and you want to experience one of the best restaurants in the world, how likely do you think it will be that you can get a reservation at Central in Lima, Peru if you are leaving in two weeks, versus trying to make the reservation 45 days in advance? You guessed it, 45 days. This isn’t just the Michelin rated places, but Disney dining, and popular gems that bring in the crowds. If you know a place is a pinnacle of your journey, plan ahead, ask questions, and do your research.

Another example is accommodations. Unless it’s the off season, a lot of places book far in advance, meaning the crowds of people make finding a room hard. This also means that prices increase based on supply and demand (this is also true for flights). So unless you have cash to burn, booking a refundable rate well in advance secures your spot to sleep. If you get closer to the date and KNOW you are going come hell or high water, a non-refundable (if still available) can save money and secure your stay. Either way, it’s important to have something pinned and secured.

This also is true for excursions and activities. Did you know many places have a cap on how many visitors can come a day? This includes places like Machu Picchu and Yosemite. Beyond limits, many places have insane waits unless you book in advance (I’m looking at you Vatican and Uffizi). Meaning it’s almost vital to get a museum pass, book a tour, or work with a hotel concierge to get tickets in advance and this is especially true in high seasons.

I say all of this being the type A planner that I am, and being that I know from personal experience I have missed out by not planning ahead. However, if you are last minute taking off consider these tips to make it easier:

  • Use tour aggregators like Viator to find the tours/activities you want
  • Contact a tour guide or concierge service to see about getting help with details
  • Visit the tourism board websites of where you are traveling
  • Most importantly: check travel.state.gov to make sure that you don’t need a passport update or visa which could majorly foil your plans
  • Ask stupid questions of people that have been where you are going. With endless Facebook groups you are sure to get some information
  • Buy a travel guide! I can’t stress this enough for those trying to learn about a new place last minute. Lonely Planet, Rick Steves, and many others offer endlessly valuable information, not to be missed.

Happy Travels!

Also: Don’t Plan Too Much