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Monthly Archives

May 2018

2 In Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Family/ Female Travels/ Itinerary/ Magic Kingdom/ North America/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips/ United States

12 Disney Tips: How to Figure It Out: Without Breaking the Bank

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Disney is a well-oiled machine and Disney is a wonderful place to visit, but knowing what your cost is or will be helps decide what you want to do. Disney is a quality experience and you will pay for it, but it is well worth it.

Considerations:

-is this your first Disney trip?

-Adults only?

-Trip with kids?

-Age of kids?

Recommendations:

-If this is a first time experience for any adults in the group and it is an adult only Disney trip; I would go 3 days to the park but not beyond that.

-If it were a first time visit with little kids, I would do two days at the parks if they are young children.

1. Things You Should Know As You Make Decisions

Price per Night at Disney Hotels

-Disney Campground: $55.00 USD per Night and up

-Disney Value Resorts: $110 USD per Night and up

-Disney Moderate Resorts: $204 USD per Night and up

-Disney Deluxe Resorts: $345 USD per Night and up

-Disney Deluxe Villas: $385 USD per Night and up

*Disney Dolphin and Swan: $219 USD per Night and up

Price One Day at One Park

– Magic Kingdom Peak 1 Day ticket: $129 USD

-Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom Peak 1 Day ticket: $122 USD

Price Two Days (one park per day)

$104 USD per day per person

Price Three Days (one park per day)

$101.67 USD per day per person

Price Four Days (one park per day)

$95 USD per day per person

2. Should you Fly or Drive?

It really depends on where you live and your financial situation. I would recommend pricing your trip at $.55 / mile and thinking about the cost of hotels on the drive down to Disney and returning and your cost to driving with stress.

Coming from Ohio, I recommend flying; in 2 hours; you can be in sunny Florida.

Southwest Airlines Card starting at $35.00 USD each way. This link is a referral for the Southwest Credit Card and if you sign up; you will receive 40,000 miles which is enough for 2 roundtrip tickets to Florida if you spend $1000 USD on the credit card in 3 months. Then you will just use the points to travel. Please keep in mind that the tickets do have a $7.50 USD tax each way.

Frontier Airlines for $39.00 each way  (prices start here and go up)

Allegiant Air for $35.00 each way (prices start here and go up)

 

3. Should You Stay On Disney Property?

Price per Night at Disney Hotels

-Disney Campground: $55.00 USD per Night and up

-Disney Value Resorts: $110 USD per Night and up

-Disney Moderate Resorts: $204 USD per Night and up

-Disney Deluxe Resorts: $345 USD per Night and up

-Disney Deluxe Villas: $385 USD per Night and up

*Disney Dolphin and Swan: $219 USD per Night and up

Depending on your price range, staying on property makes the Disney experience much better.

What Does It Include:

  • Disney’s Magical Express (free transportation from the airport to the hotel -roundtrip)
  • Eligibility to purchase the Meal Plan
  • Luggage Tags (free Mickey Mouse Tags)
  • Coupons for Disney Springs and Arcade
  • Disney Luggage Tag (yellow) that allows you drop your bags at the airport and Disney will pull the luggage off the carousel and drop in your Disney resort (it will take 3-4 hours after you arrive for the luggage to make it to your room so pack a set of clothes if you are traveling at night)
  • Buses to each park every 15 minutes (sometimes less) and bus to Disney Springs every 20 minutes
  • Magic Bands (room key, wallet, meal plans, fast pass- all on the wrist)

4. Should You Get a Meal Plan?

This is really a personal preference and it depends on how much food you will eat. There are different meal plans, but if you plan ahead and book reservations for food in advance you will be able to maximize your experience. Let me explain.

The Disney Dining Plan for a 3 night stay in the Value Resorts cost $452.94 for two adults (no kids). The Disney Dining Plans you receive based on the number of nights you stay. I stayed Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and checked out on Monday. This means I have 3 days of the meal plan.

The Disney Dining Plan includes 1 table service, 1 quick Service, and 2 Snacks. I think this is the best one and have gotten it for years and years. Since we stayed 3 nights for 2 people: 6 table service, 6 quick service, and 12 snacks total or 3 table service for me, 3 quick service for me, and 6 snacks for me.

More Information on the Dining Plans

A table service is an entree, dessert, and drink

A quick service is an entree and drink

A snack can be a drink, cookie, chips, ice cream, pretzel, etc.

Disney Dining Plan Breakdown (all USD)

Table Service: Chef Mickey’s: 107.00 (character meal)

Table Service: Coral Reef Restaurant: 107.00

Table Service: Crystal Palace: 107.00 (character meal)

Quick Service: Be Our Guest: 60.00

Quick Service: Pop Music Dinner: 45.00

Quick Service: Casey’s Corner: 45.00

Snack: Water: 3.00

Snack: Water: 3:00

Snack: Churro: 4.25

Snack: Churro: 4.25

Snack: Pretzel and Cheese: 5.75

Snack: Coke: 3.25

Snack: Coke: 3.25

Snack: Croissant: 4.25

Snack: Croissant: 4.25

Snack: Nilla Wafers: 3.99

Snack: Bagel: 3.99

Snack: Water: 3.00

Total: $517.23 was the cost. In this case, I only paid $452.92. – Definitely worth it.

Again, you really need to know what you will do to decide if it is worth it.

5. Should I book my meals and experiences before I go?

This depends on if you want to have sit down meals and character experiences or if you would like to grab hot dogs on the go!

If you are looking at doing a character experience, you should definitely book before going! As soon as you decide that you are going to Disney and the dates are confirmed; call and make the reservation. Typically meals and experiences disappear as you get closer to the day you are leaving. You will give a credit card number to reserve and as long as you cancel 24 hours before; you are not charged.

6. What Do I Do if My Character Experiences, My Restaurant Choice, and the Castle are not Available?

There are three ways to deal with this….. 1. choose different days at different parks to see if that makes a difference. 2. Call in early in the morning and late in the evening to see if something has opened. 3. Use the MyDisney App and check Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner times on the app and Book if it opens.

7. Should I use the MyDisney App?

The MyDisney App is easy to download from iTunes or Google Play. The App provides you with park wait times by ride, allows you to book breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and allows you to select FastPass.

How to Use the MyDisney App

 

8. Should I do a park hopper with my ticket price?

What is a park hopper? It is an extra charge for you to be able to go to one or more parks in a day. Usually it is an addition $20 USD added to the price per day of a park.

If you are on a short trip, I would recommend staying with one park per day but if you have a lot of extra energy and are okay with the time moving to a different park; then by all means — go for it! In my teen years and twenties, I did the park hopper; now that I am in my 30s; I do not see the need for me to do that. Again, personal preference.

Price One Day at One Park

– Magic Kingdom Peak 1 Day ticket: $129 USD

-Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom Peak 1 Day ticket: $122 USD

Price Two Days (one park per day)

$104 USD per day per person

Price Three Days (one park per day)

$101.67 USD per day per person

Price Four Days (one park per day)

$95 USD per day per person

 

9. I can afford to stay at a Deluxe Resort, but am I over paying?

There are so many options and places to stay, but what are the most important options for you?

Do you want an experience where you ride a boat into Epcot or Hollywood Studios? or Would you prefer to take a Monorail into Epcot or the Magic Kingdom? Are you okay with taking a bus everywhere? Do you want a club level concierge or can you survive with a basic room? Is an overwater bungalow part of your necessary experience or a giraffe outside your window? Any and all of these experiences are available depending on where you stay.

I have stayed at all levels of Disney Hotels and have always had a pleasant experience. Just know that the more you pay; the more options available at your resort.

10. Someone in my party has food allergies; should we avoid the Disney Dining Plan?

I have several food allergies and I have found that Disney accommodates and does their best to provide a wonderful food experience regardless of the allergies. In fact, I vacation at Disney more often because of their carefulness and mindfulness with food.

 

11. I saw that you can save some money by not having your room cleaned each day; should I take advantage of the savings?

It is a personal preference, but if you need towels or extra soap; you can still call the front desk and they will bring your items to you. You will need to be in the room when you order additional items. For the 3 night stay, we received $20 USD in a gift card for not having our room cleaned daily.

12. This is our first visit to Disney, Do you have to see the Magic Kingdom?

The Magic Kingdom is a must!

The history of Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse, and how things came to be are so interesting!

A few things that will provide perspective!

Walt Disney believed in 4 core concepts for Disney World:

  1. Safety

  2. Courtesy

  3. Show

  4. Efficiency

Walt had an immense sense of patriotism, seen by Hall of Presidents and the representation of American flags, but there is only one real flag and there is a ceremony in the morning and at 5:15 daily.

All American flags around the park have an additional stripe or star, so they are not “real” and do not have to be raised or lowered. The flags also serve as lightening rods as Orlando has a lot of lightening strikes.

The time period for Disney World is Victorian; you will notice outfits, cars, and fire trucks are from this period of time.

Think about Disney World as a movie set!

When you walk down Main Street; there is a park bench with Roy Disney and Mickey and there is one of Walt and Mickey closer to the castle. On the windows walking down Main Street; you will see names of people and companies. The names of people pay homage to those who contributed in design, architecture, or business transaction. These names and businesses are essentially the credits that would be in a movie.

Several companies were created in order to buy the land mass in Central Florida; if people knew Walt Disney was buying it the price would have gone up. Walt paid 180 USD per acre and later went for $80,000 USD per acre in the 1960s.

You will come to Central Avenue off Main Street; this is a decompression zone; quiet spot to chill to avoid the hustle and bustle of Disney. On this street, you will see 2nd story windows open and the sound of tap dancing; this keeps the story going. Only a few people will take the time to stroll down this street and only 1% will see the details.

Disney is about the 1%.

If you look at the Castle from when you first walk in, it appears that the castle is so far away. As you get closer, it becomes larger. There is a carousel right in front of the Castle and it is there to provide excitement and to draw people in.

You will notice the Magic Kingdom has several areas: Adventureland, Liberty Square, Frontierland, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.

If you want to experience something pretty cool: November 1 in the Magic Kingdom is Halloween and November 2 is Christmas- overnight parades, lights, and decorations change in 12 hours.

Adventureland

As you leave Main Street and go to Adventureland; you will notice that you cross bridges (transitions) from Main Street to Adventureland and as you change locations; so does the sounds, music, and ground. You will notice the illusion of the ground looking like “off road”

There are over 600 horticulturists who take care of the plants and landscape.

The Jungle Cruise is a fun filled experience; lots of hidden messages and items.

The totem pole in the Jungle Cruise has several faces and one of those faces is also seen in the Haunted Mansion- check it out.

As you pass by the spear throwing natives on the Jungle Cruise; listen closely; the voice says “I love disco”

The Tiki Room had the first animatronic bird; the bird told a story. Above this Tiki Room, is the illusion of a thatch roof; which is really recycled aluminum.

The Worlds Fair is New York; Disney was to create 4 attractions: 1. It’s a Small World 2. Abraham Lincoln (who spoke and read the Gettysburg Address), 3. Carousel of Progress 4. Fords Magic Skyway- 1964 Mustang told the story through a radio in the car- became the people mover (Haunted Mansion and the People Mover)

Utilidoor

Is under a large portion of the Magic Kingdom that allows cast members to travel without being seen.

The utilidoor has costumes, food, storage, pipes, etc. all under ground. This is the only park that has this; goes directly under Cinderella’s Castle, Down Main Street and into Fantasyland.

More posts about Disney will come!

Questions?

Just Ask!

0 In Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Family/ Female Travels/ Hawaii/ Itinerary/ North America/ Photos That Inspire You to Visit/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips/ United States

3 Days in Oahu

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Oahu

Oahu is the busiest of the Hawaiian Islands. After over 10 visits to Hawaii, I recommend 3-4 days for a visit to Oahu combined with a visit to one of the other islands. While Oahu is busy and exhibits many skyscrapers and high rise hotels; other islands have a more serene feel to them.

I highly recommend a rental car when arriving in Honolulu.

As I have mentioned in other blogs, I am a frugal but definitely not cheap. Oahu is expensive; so even the least expensive hotels are pricey on this island.

In order to save money, if you are trying to do that; stay somewhere like the Aston Waikiki and for the last night splurge on the Hilton Hawaiian Village (where you leave the Aston early in the morning and spend all day at the Hilton Hawaiian Village; experience the night activities and the next morning until departure. There are shows, luaus, fireworks, private beach, private lagoon, swim areas, etc. It is worth the cost for at least a night.

My recommendations:

Hilton Hawaiian Village.       The Hilton Hawaiian Village has a mall area and parking lots; self park or valet. The shopping area is extremely nice and the shops give away samples. Check out the times of Luaus and Fireworks (even if you decide not to stay here). Highly Recommended.

Aston Waikiki Beach

Is about a mile down the road; on Waikiki Beach. It is conveniently located to a lot of shops and restaurants. Highly Recommended.

Day 1:

When you first arrive, you will be a bit tired (especially if this is your first stop in the Hawaiian islands), but if staying at either the Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel or Hilton Hawaiian Village; park your car and walk Waikiki Beach and grab lunch or dinner watching the surfers, there are a lot of shops on the strip, check them out, and go for a swim at the beach or back at the hotel.

Day 2:

Get up early and be at Pearl Harbor by 7:15 AM. From Waikiki it around a 45 minute drive and can be longer if it is during the work week. Grab breakfast on the way. Pearl Harbor tickets are handed out first come, first serve. If you get there early, you will be in the first or second tour groups and it is well worth it to get in within 45 minutes of arrival. If you arrive later in the day, you may not get a ticket or you may get a ticket for mid-afternoon and will have to time your day accordingly.

Pearl Harbor (just dress appropriately) You can wear shorts and t-shirt, but halter tops and short shorts will be turned away. There is 40 minute video when you arrive about what happened at Pearl Harbor (Bring some tissues), followed by a boat ride out to the USS Arizona and a return trip. The whole experience will take until about 10:30 AM if you arrive at 7:15 AM.

The afternoon is really up for grabs. I suggest going to the Dole Plantation for an afternoon snack! The drive is beautiful and if you go to the Dole Plantation; there is a fun train ride and Dole Whip when you finish!

 

Day 3:

Take a trip around the Island. Start early in the morning with the intention of driving all the way around. It will be filled with many spots and picture taking opportunities. Check out the links below as they may help you decide your stopping points.

Hanauma Bay State Park is a conservation park with a $7.50 charge. There are package deals to this park and also to the Banzai Pipeline on a tour or shuttles from Waikiki. Just remember that the park is always closed on Tuesdays.

 

Banzai Pipeline

North Shore

Waimanalo Beach

Waimea Beach

Sunset Beach

Haleiwa Town

Shark’s Cove

Diamond Head

 

End of Day 3 or Day 4: Departure

Spend the morning at the pool, eat breakfast on the beach, go for a stroll, or some morning shopping…before heading off to the airport.

Things You Should Know:

  • If you are going to do a helicopter tour; do it over the Big Island or Kauai, but not Oahu (or Maui)
  • Snorkeling is great at Hanamuau Bay (depending on the time of the year; you can see whales breach)
  • Remember to rent a car for the entire trip
  • Driving around the island is beautiful; stop often and take pictures
  • Make sure to get Dole Whip at the Dole Plantation
  • Stay on Waikiki Beach – save money on other islands with hotel accommodations
  • Stay here a few days, but make sure to visit another island
0 In Bucket List/ Budget/ Couples/ Family/ Female Travels/ Hawaii/ Itinerary/ North America/ Travel/ Travel Advice/ Travel Tips/ United States

7 Reasons To Visit Kauai

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Kauai is the oldest of the Hawaiian Islands and has various environments such as rainforest, swamps, mountains, desert, and beaches. Kauai is temperate all year and ranges from the 60’s to 80’s Fahrenheit. The hottest months are August- September where the temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit and January is the coolest month with an average of 78 degrees Fahrenheit. I have been to Hawaii over ten times. The rooster is commonplace especially in Lihue.

Kauai is less commercialized than Maui and offers serenity, beauty, and provides a piece of paradise!

 

What You Should Know About Kauai

  • You should rent a car
  • You should be aware of where to stay depending on the time of the year.
    • Poipu is best in the summer and the North Shore is best in the winter
  • From the North Shore to the Poipu can take around an hour to an hour and a half depending on traffic
  • You cannot get lost; there are only a few roads
  • The cheapest souvenirs are at Wal-Mart near the airport

What We Do:

  • Rent a car
  • Almost always stay near the middle of the island (Lihue)
  • My favorite hotel is the Marriott Kauai Beach Club
  • My favorite place to eat is Duke’s on the beach of Marriott Kauai Beach Club
  • Go all over the island
  • I have spent as little as 3 days on Kauai to 3 weeks at a time (writing my dissertation).
  • It is one of the best places on earth.

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The North Shore

Things You Should Know:

On the drive up to the North Shore. It is a spectacular drive; passing many beaches, valleys, jungles, and flowers! If you see an area you would like to spend an hour or so, stop! Get out, take pictures, and capture the moment; then load back up and continue on your path.

Princeville, Hanalei, and Kilauea are a few of the cities on the way; Tunnels Beach is a wonderful place to spend a few hours; there are lifeguards and the drive to this location is beautiful. There is a lighthouse and other sights that are of interest. Again, stop when you see something of interest.

There is a cave across the street from Tunnels Beach. Stay out of there; there are bats and bats can carry rabies.

What We Do:

  • Drive all the way up to the end of the road; stopping along the town of Hanalei and shopping and getting some ice cream or quick bite to eat.
  • Stopping at Tunnels Beach is one of my favorites; I am not a beach person, but there are huge trees that provide sun protection and allow for reading a book or walking the beach.

Around Lihue

What You Should Know:

This is the area right around the airport. The Kauai Marriott Beach Club and Ritz Carlton Villas back up to the airport. Again, you should rent a car from the airport.

Kalapaki Beach is a wonderful place to spend a day or half day. There is a surf school, you can watch cruise ships come in, and there is a mini mall on the grounds and across the street with Shave Ice. Duke’s has wonderful Banana Smoothies.

Staying in this area is the half way point to the North Shore and to Poipu or even Polihole Beach.

From Lihue, you may want to stock up on a few groceries before going to your hotel. there is a Walmart close by.

Kauai has a lot of golf courses and wonderful resorts.

Around this area, there is the Kilohana Plantation, and Wailua Falls; there is also a Costco and Shopping Area.

One of my favorite activities is kayaking up the Kayak Wailua

This kayak experience is about 45 minutes paddling upstream and a 15 minute hike to Secret Falls and the returning. Just remember to pack a bag for water and a snack or two. The sun is really intense; sunscreen, hats, and the trail is extremely muddy so do not wear “new shoes” The estimated trip will take 3.5-4 hours depending on how long you spend at the waterfall.

What We Do:

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Poipu

What You Should Know:

The drive from Lihue allows you to go through the Tree Tunnel and make your way to Poipu. There is a resort zone in this area.

On Poipu Beach – Tombola (Nukumoi Point) is sand that separates two bays. On this beach, there are places to surf, body boarders, and has been voted as the #1 Beach in America. The endangered monk seal is frequently a visitor on this sand; please- please be respectful of the monk seal and do not touch and give him/ her space. Talk with your children about this as well. Respect nature!

Shipwreck Beach is behind the Hyatt Hotel- there is a large surf here and be careful not to turn your back to a wave as you could be pulled into the water. This beach is better for walking and watching surfers.

A good hotdog can be picked up at Puka Dog

There is also a glass beach; 20 years ago there was a glass company and many of the remnants of the glass went out to sea and have come in. It is quite beautiful (15 min. from Poipu but worth the drive)

What We Do:

  • Take our own snorkeling gear to Hawaii
  • Spend time on Poipu Beach; usually spending time at the Marriott or Hilton in Poipu
  • Walk around
  • Spouting Horn

Polihole Beach

What You Should Know:

This is the closest beach to the Napali Coast. Rental Car Companies will let you know that issues with the car are not covered if you go here. Just avoid the potholes and go slow. It is off road for about 30 minutes. When you get on the sand; just make sure to stay near other cars and not to go too close to the water unless you have a 4×4.

This is one of the most remote and beautiful beaches in the world. Remember when you get in the water that there are no lifeguards and there are intense waves, currents, and rip tides.

What We do:

We go to Polihole Beach in the morning; we pack water, Subway, snacks, and additional drinks in case we end up with a flat tire. (this has not happened, but we are prepared just in case). After a half day, we go to Waimea Canyon; driving and getting out to take pictures; it is incredible! The colors of the canyons and rock are just spectacular.

Waimea Canyon

What You Should Know:

Waimea Canyon is on the west side of Kauai. Waimea is the largest canyon in the Pacific- “Grand Canyon of the Pacific” and has 10 miles and is 3500 feet deep. Waimea Canyon is in the Kokee State Park which covers 4345 acres.

What We do:

Usually stop at Waimea Canyon after a morning visit to Polihole Beach. Do not miss seeing Waimea Canyon!

 

Napali Coast

What You Should Know:

This is one of the most beautiful locations in the world! You can see it by helicopter or boat. I have taken 3 helicopter rides over the Napali Coast seeing the scenes from Jurassic Park and other movies; the size and magnitude of the coast, mountains, and beaches is gorgeous!

Kauai Sea Tours

Captain Andy’s

Both of these companies do an amazing job!

 

What We Do:

  • Have taken trips from Kauai Sea Tours and Captain Andy’s.
  • Have taken Catamaran Rides around the Napali Coast at sunset
  • Have taken Snorkeling Trips around the Napali Coast
  • Have taken the raft tour into the Sea Caves; just know that the Sea Caves are incredible, but it is a long, uncomfortable trip of 4-6 hours of ocean beating in the rubberized raft. This is only available in the summer based on the water levels with the sea caves. Highly recommended but just book a massage for later that day. You will thank me!
  • Helicopter Rides: I have taken 3 here without doors each time and I am scared of heights. Just know that the helicopter will “pick up” when you go over Waimea Canyon and that you get fairly close to the mountains. It is spectacular to see the tunnels in the ocean (Tunnels Beach) from above. You will not regret the adventure, but just know it can be a bit scary!