Category Archives: military

Thank YOU For Your Service

I have been traveling a lot lately for my new assignment with the Reserves and that means that sometimes I am in uniform because I go straight to work, or do not have time to change when I head home.

In any case, I have noticed a marked difference in how I am treated when I travel in uniform versus when I do not.  I generally never traveled in uniform prior to doing this job starting in January, so I am writing from limited experience.  People are so kind to me- it is almost embarrassing.  I blush, because I honestly am humbled by it.  I do not feel that I do enough to serve my country, and yet when I travel in uniform, I am treated like a war hero.  In reality, I am a support puke.  Anyway, I know that serving means something different to all, but to me, everyone is in service.  In some form or another, everyone does their part to make our country go, and to make their community a success.  So the guy at TSA who smiles at me, directs me to a special line, and shakes me hand, to say “Thank you for your service,” is also a hero and serves as well – he is a civil servant, working for the Government, with a mission, and his actions affect all of us travelers who go through his line.  Like my post on the Fred Factor, he is a Fred to many who go through his line – his actions have direct impact on many.  He may not know it but when I thanked him for his service, it was not empty or without sincerity.  I meant it.  The flight attendant today, who was also a Fred, was amazing and when he and his fellow flight attendants thanked me for my service as I deplaned today, I also thanked them for theirs.  Without their kindness today, and their understanding, I could have had a miserable flight.  We all serve in some way or another.

Is there a marked difference in how people perceive me or judge me when I travel in uniform as opposed to when I wear sweat pants and a T-shirt?  I am not 100% sure but there is a marked difference I have noticed.  People are kinder, more accommodating and patient.  But, I also know that we all serve, in some form or fashion.  We all serve, with or without a uniform, in or out of the military.  We all sacrifice.  Sure, our military members, police and firefighters may give the ultimate sacrifice in service, but so would anyone in plain clothes- the mother, father, the teacher, and the everyday hero.  It is important for all of us to judge each other as being in “service” to each other, to the nation we love, and for the greater good.  If we did that, it would not matter what we wore when traveling, when walking down the street – we would honor everyone we encounter in the same manner.  Worth, dignity and respect;  it goes so much deeper than the wearing of a uniform.

So, remember, the next time you thank someone for their “service,” thank you for yours as well!

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Just Between Friends Semi-Annual Sale in Denver, April 19-22 & FREE admission

Print this coupon out for free admission

Have you heard the news?  Just Between Friends (JBF) is having its semi-annual sale in Denver, at the National Western Complex (I-70 and Brighton Blvd) from April 19-22, 2012.

SELL, SHOP AND SAVE at Denver’s Largest Kids’ Consignment Sale.
Want to make money selling the great items your kids no longer need? Love saving money on everything for kids ages newborn through pre teen?  Then you need to get to Just Between Friends of Denver April 19-22!
Consignor, Volunteer and Barter registration is open NOW.
• Sell your items: set your own prices, and get a great check 2 weeks later!
• Volunteer and be one of the first to shop, and make 70% on what you sell.
The event is now upstairs in the Expo Hall at the National Western Complex.

JBF is a great organization and you can read more about it here but it was started by moms for moms and over the years has evolved in a nationwide phenom.

Below is a schedule of events and don’t forget to print out the coupon above and get in for free on April 19-22!  Act now if you are going to consign, or wish to volunteer, get in touch with the organizers, but definitely, this is a not to miss event if you have babies, are expecting or having kids of all ages. Click here to read more about Denver-specific dates and information on consignment and purchase.

SCHEDULE:  *Private Presales: 4/18  for Consignors, Volunteers, First time Parents, Military and Teachers.  Must qualify and register in advance to attend.  Register here.
*Prime-Time Shopping Presale:  4/18 at 6p.  $15 admission per adult

SALE SCHEDULE:  OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
THURSDAY, APRIL 19    10A-7P     $2 ADMISSION
FRIDAY, APRIL 20          10A-5P     NEW MERCHANDISE
SATURDAY, APRIL 21    10A-3P     25% OFF MOST ITEMS
SUNDAY, APRIL 22         9A-3P       50% OFF MOST ITEMS*
*FREE PARKING FOR HALF-PRICE SALE: Compliments of Colorado Parent Magazine

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Disney World on a Dime? Ahhh, Forget About it!

The Magic Kingdom

You may have heard Disneyland or Disney World described as the “happiest place on earth.”  Well, I may not agree  even 75% with that assessment but I have to say from the outset, their salute to our heroes (Military- Active, Reserve, Guard and military families) is phenomenal.  Thanks, Disney, for saluting those serve – it makes going to Disney an affordable reality for many military families who otherwise could not go and experience this for their families.

Fireworks at Magic Kingdom at 10pm

This was our first family trip to Disney World in Orlando, FL and with that comes tons of excitement – well, mainly from the princesses or pirates in your home.  Last time I was in Disney, I think I was in my teens with my parents – almost 20 years ago.  I never understand why perfectly sane, educated adults or retirees go there especially the Magic Kingdom unless there are kids with them.  I just do not get it- of course, I have friends who got married there and after re-visiting two weeks ago, again, I just do not see it.  Ha! Maybe your comments will help me understand.  I thought maybe I’d change my mind when I went this time… NOPE!  No mind changing, nothing magical happened to me make me change my belief that Disney World is not just the most crowded, germ-infested place around but can literally suck you dry of any savings you have left.  I thought I’d title this “Disney on a Dime” because honestly I do not think Disney can be done with anything less than $1000 – and that is the cheap, ghetto, one-day trip – i.e. complete with Motel $39 and everything.  But it’s not all negative- in my codeine-stupor I still have some great tips to share with you first-timers venturing out there and I promise it’s not all negative so please read on.

Electric Parade is at 9 and 11pm

The Passes & Parking:

We were lucky in one aspect because we were able to get Military Passes to Disney World which cost us $138 each for a four-day park hopper.  Of course, with a 2 and 4 year old we weren’t do a whole lot of hopping since Magic Kingdom alone can take you the full four days to explore.  Our trip was less than 2 days and with kids, you have to expect move slower, and stop for potty breaks and alas, the expensive food in the park.  So… if you have high ambitions for what you as a parent want to do in Disney World, leave those at the ticket and transportation center or the parking lot and don’t look back!  This trip is not about you, it’s about the kiddos so plan accordingly.  Second, do not expect this trip to be a gentle stroll on the beach or relaxing- even with your mindset of “it’s okay, I do not need to see it all”, you will still not find anything about Disney relaxing- well, except for maybe once you reach your car in the giant parking lot. 

TIP #1: Yes, PARKING is included with your military salute hopper pass – you just show your ID card and your Salute to Military Disney Card to the parking attendant and you will be saluted on in – you just saved $14.00 – CONGRATS and thanks to Disney for saluting its heroes.  If parking is not included with your pass, here are some tips for that:  If you are staying at the resorts, use the buses or monorails or boats available.  If you are staying at a nearby hotel, most customers of Mousesavers.com above get free transportation included with their hotel.  Ask your hotel re: shuttles.  Some shuttles are as cheap as $5 per person round trip and kids are not included in this.  Also, another option is to take buses from Downtown Disney.  There is a lot which has no hourly limit.  From there you walk to the downtown Disney transportation center where buses will take you directly to the turnstiles at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, etc.  Honestly the parking at Magic Kingdom sucks because you park, then you take a boat or monorail and then you still have to enter through the turnstiles (it turns into a 1 hour trip to just get into DW).  So, if you can take the transportation that is free from any of the resorts or Downtown Disney.  But you just need to be careful of where you park – you can’t park just anywhere.  Also if there are HUGE Crowds for the monorail, take the boat- it fits 200 people at once and the monorail fits half as many on a good day.  So…. keep that in mind.  Another short cut is to use the monorail to the resorts and then just get off at the tickets and transportation or The Polynesian Village stop.

TIP #2:  (FOR MILITARY) These passes are great but expire Sept 30, 2012 and have some black out dates for Magic Kingdom so keep that in mind.  You can get them at your local ITT office or at Shades of Green and on-site at Disney World but avoid the long lines and get them early.  To activate them, try to show up one day AFTER 2pm and then, activate them.  The morning lines can be daunting at the ticket booths.  Also, these passes are personalized – meaning, if you are an adult, your fingerprint associates you with these passes.  For parents who share custody, the finger print of one adult will be registered with the kids’ passes so if you plan on sending kiddo with the other parent next time, there will be a fingerprint issue if you are not with them.  Keep this in mind!

TIP #3- If you are not military and are looking for good deals, check out these websites for some good rates on lodging and passes or do a timeshare 90-minute briefing and you can get $48/day passes for your family of up to 4. 

(1) Mouseavers.com is a great website and if you subscribe to their newsletter you can get even more discounts.  Do it today if you are going soon.

(2) Undercovertourist.com is another great site for non-military passes and discounts

(3) Trip Advisor and other sites also recommend getting them on site there if you wish from Wal-Mart even – check out this thread for even more suggestions:

Disney World is not cheap so if you do not have the military pass, try to go with someone who has one (yes your military friends can get up to 6 people including themselves) activated to enter the park – no familial relationship required.  Try to plan a trip with your active, reserve, or Guard friends.  And from what I hear, their cruise specials are great right now too.  Way to salute our heroes, Disney!

Meeting Belle

TIP #4 (Stroller or no Stroller?) I would recommend a stroller for kids 7 and under.  That’s right – 7 and under and I would take your own.  Stroller rental is expensive- $20 for a single and $31 daily for a double.  That’s right- you can save $31 per day if you just take your own.  We did as you can see above and it worked out great for us.  They were tired and passed out by the evenings’ rides back on the ferry boats and trust me, if I could have wheeled around DisneyWorld I would have done that.  That being said, getting a stroller through certain areas is tougher than walking.  There were a lot of handicapped access, parking areas for strollers and get this:  in the parking areas, there were employees hired to move the strollers around, to organize the areas, and to keep your stroller out of the sun. How nice!  So, when you come out of a ride and cannot find your stroller, fret not, it was probably just moved so look around for it.  Yes, they can touch your strollers.

The Magic Kingdom and my Top Tips for your time there including rides, where to see the parades, dining and budget:

There is a lot to do at the Magic Kingdom itself, without even considering Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.   First and foremost, print out a map or get one on-line and there are apps with maps too!  The Magic Kingdom is easy to navigate and divided well: The Main Street/Entrance area, the Castle Area, To the right:  Tomorrow Land which leads to Fantasyland, and to the left, Adventureland,  and Frontierland, with Liberty Square tucked away left of the Castle and can lead you to back to Fantasyland.  We completely missed Tomorrowland and did not have time to do a couple of other rides we want.  Depending on the age and height of your kids, you can ride almost every ride at Magic Kingdom and most at Animal Kingdom but Epcot and Hollywood Studios may be better geared for the big kids and the big kid in you.  As far as Magic Kingdom goes, it is always crowded and I do not think any time of the year is less crowded than another…. that being said, if you want to avoid Spring Break, Summer peak vacation times, and Labor Day weekend, it might be more pleasant.  We went in what we considered an off-time but it was Mardi Gras so a lot of people from New Orleans came over to Disney.  It’s interesting because I heard from my cousins who went to Epcot and Hollywood Studios that it was not crowded at all.  I think everyone was at the Magic Kingdom- figures! It has the most to do for younger kids and the character meetings are a joy.  Here are some tips for Magic Kingdom (whether busy or not):

Aladdin's Magic Carpet

TIP #5- Do try to get there first thing when it opens (some days are extended- for example, M through W right now are 8am through 1am (yikers that is a long day) but getting there first thing is less crowded and alternatively, come in the evenings- after 4pm – it is not crowded at all.  So, you could do a 4pm to 1am jaunt if you so dare as well.  If you do get there first thing in the morning, go straight to Fantasyland so the wait times for rides are less.  Another time that wait times for rides are really little to none are after 8pm especially during the 9pm parade and 10pm fireworks.  After the fireworks end though, watch out!   We took some rides at night and there was no wait at all like Aladdin’s magic carpet ride was 40 minutes in the afternoon (and it was hot and annoying to wait) but at night, 2 minutes or less.  Pirates of the Caribbean was a 65 plus minute wait during the day but they had fast pass but at dusk, we walked right in and it was a 1 minute wait.  So, timing is everything when it comes to the rides. 

Waiting for the Jungle Cruise

TIP #6- If a ride offers fast pass, do it but be careful of when it tells you to return because you can do only one fast pass at a time.  Now, here is the trick- you can do fast pass for everyone in your group or do it for two adults and then not for the kiddos.  Then, for the kiddos using their entry pass, get fast passes elsewhere- it is gaming of the system a little but no entrance person will refuse to let you enter together as a family and fast pass is really fast  – to the dismay of those who choose to wait in the regular line.   We got the fast pass for the jungle cruise and showed up 5 mins early and the fast pass line was moving so fast, we were almost turned away because we got in line too quickly.  So, just come back during the appointed time and here is another tip for fast pass:  You get an hour window  – most people come back right at the minute of their first appointed time.  If you come at the end of your fast pass hour time, there is less waiting.  Also some of the people at the fast pass entrance are just kind to people with kids and may or may not look at the times so worth a shot, right? 

TIP #7- Dining is expensive whether you are at a resort for Disney or in the park.  To feed a family of four lunch can cost you almost $50 and that includes drinks.  So, we did something fun since it was my daughter’s birthday celebration – we did a character dining on our 2nd day there.  We did 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian and I have to say I was impressed.  Most character dining experiences except for one are usually at the resorts and do not require admission to the parks so if you time these right – ie. breakfast with characters or dinner; you can actually save a day on your park hopper, drive straight to the resort where the dining experience is and then save your full day for another day.  The character dining is something you will truly remember and is a fun time to be with your family, sitting, eating, and laughing about your day.  The buffet was spectacular and I didn’t need to eat again the rest of the day and if you have special dietary restrictions, they accommodate these in style!  The chef will even walk with you and identify what you cannot eat and get this- he or she will bring out special dishes for you.  Since I am vegetarian, we got tons of food and others were jealous of the extras I got.   It is the lowest stress thing we did at Disney.  And when Prince charming and Cinderella came to our table and danced with our girls- wow!  Priceless!  Character experience dining can be expensive so if you are going to eat at the resort and at Disney, go ahead and get the dining plans and you will get a discount. 

TIP #8-  This leads me to Tip #8, if you are going to go a lot between now and the time the kids leave the nest, go ahead and get the Disney Rewards VISA Card (there is one with a fee and one without) which can be used to purchase movies, etc.  And the rewards add up so you can use them to get merchandise at the Disney Store, and use them at resorts to upgrade your status.  You get bonus Disney gift cards for signing up and on anniversaries.  It is worth it if you plan on going a lot. 

TIP #9- Okay, now for some other tid bits- use shortcuts to Fantasyland- you can go through Frontierland especially during busy hours or when the fireworks or parades are going on at the castle.  If you are on main street or the entrance, take the OLD train into Frontierland and walk a few blocks from there and find yourself in Fantasyland.  Same goes for the electric parade.  Main street is the most crowded and around the castle.  So, go find a place behind a rope at Frontierland near the train and watch the electric parade from there in peace -without people jumping in front of you and the crowds… grab a snack at Pecos Bill’s outlet or the $6.00 popcorn and get a front row seat.  Also, for the character parade at 3pm, a great place to sit and watch is smack dab in the center of Liberty Square across from the Hall of Presidents… it looks like an exclusive roped off area but it is not.  And great circular views can be found there especially for little kids.

TIP #10- Another secret is meeting the characters.  You can find out on a phone app. or through the daily events sheets where and when the characters are and if you really want to see them get fast pass for it or let this be the one line you suck up and stand in.  But be judicious- we waited 45 mins for the fairies- Tinkerbell and some fairy dude and I gotta say it was a horrible waste of time at night.  On the other hand, meeting Mickey and Minnie is easy at the parlor right as you enter on Main Street and the Princesses are there too – they change daily so check which ones are showing at which time.  AND BONUS: At Main Street you can get Fast Pass for the princesses and for Mickey’s Magic Show.  We were not so lucky with meeting Ariel at her Grotto (yes that is what it is called)- some characters only appear for an hour or two so, if you do not know times or location, you will miss out so just something to consider and if that (over rides) is the purpose of your trip, ask at the Information desk (on the left) as you enter through the main gates at MAIN STREET.  This will help you plan your day! 

FINAL TIP  (SPENDING): You simply must set a budget for yourself and the kids- ie., hotel, transportation, food, and of course, souvenir shopping.  You can seriously drop a lot of money in addition to the airfare, rental car, and lodging which are all just necessities.  If your hotel has free transportation to/from everything, trust me- you do not need a car so save your money.  But, food at Disneyworld is expensive.  If you can pack some food, hats, parkas do so so you save on unnecessary expenses. But where most people fail is buying goods like crazy light sabers that glow, the souvenir bucket or cup, the mouse ears, and the apparel and merchandiseThe vendors are pushing trolleys and inevitably on every street corner.  So are the popcorn, popsicle, ice cream, and overpriced drink carts.  It is easy to see how in a day you can easily spend over $250 just in goods, food and beverage, and impulse buys. Bring a water bottle for all of you and refill it – stay hydrated on free water.  Bring snacks from Walgreens, Walmart, and other stores near to your hotel.  In fact, set a limit for your kids:  You can buy one souvenir at Disney World and the rest of trinkets for your friends/office-mates etc… we will get at Wal-Mart or Walgreens down the street or that nutty 4-story high Souvenir store on INTERNATIONAL DRIVE.  you can get T-shirts, hats, umbrellas, mugs, magnets, light sabers, and everything you can get at Disney cheaper at a local store or a souvenir store off  of International Drive- up to 50% or more!!!!  So, that is a no brainer and hopefully will not wreck your budget either.  After all, you want to return here sometime without a 3rd mortgage on your home right?  That being said, set a reasonable budget and try to stick to it- I am not talking about depriving your kids of food and sustenance but you can be smarter of where you pick up that food and beverage or take things with you.  They search your bags but not for food and drink – just for alcohol and weapons.

Overall, we did have fun and I have to say I felt like a kid again, but it was the most exhausting trip I have taken in sometime and definitely was not relaxing for me.  I have a Type-A personality and I had to control myself and my anger many times.  The employees at Disney are the nicest, most helpful people ever- it’s in their employment contracts after all, but the visitors are not always so nice and grumpy parents make for grumpy visitors and fellow line-mates.  But then I also met some really sweet friendly visitors too.  Even some Patriots fans so see, they are not so bad after all.  I found the funniest to be when elderly retired people or couples there without kids were getting frustrated with kids.  Hello!  It’s the Magic Kingdom.  If you want a quiet experience, perhaps this is not the place for you.  All in all though, the girls are still talking about their trip and unlike us, ready to go back!  And even while I cringe still, 2 weeks later when I look at the pictures, I know deep down, I had a blast too!  These are the memories I will cherish for a lifetime – oh lord!  Just like the commercial said…. HELP!!!

Have you been to Walt Disney World? Please share your experiences with the readers and your tips.  Mine are the “tip” of the iceberg and we were only there for a limited time.  Would love to read your comments and thoughts….

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Veteran’s Day- a review of places that Honors Those who Serve

It’s only fitting that a consumer review include a spot for those business who honor military.  I have compiled my own list and along with this article from http://www.military.com/ I think there are plenty of businesses that do, in fact, honor military.
The article above discusses some of the deals on Veteran’s Day for Vets and their families:  For example, Vets receive a free meal at Applebee’s (no purchase necessary) on the 11th.  Golden Corral is giving Veterans and their families a free meal on November 15 (Monday), and Outback Steakhouse is offering a free bloomin’ onion and a beverage to the Vets.  Of course, there is much, much more.  You can read the article to find out great deals near you including a free car wash on Veteran’s Day.  That would be great in a locale where it does not snow on Veteran’s Day.
Over the years in Denver and Colorado Springs, I have also started keeping a list of places that give amazing Military discounts year-round.  The article above discusses Home Depot’s and Lowe’s.  They used to do 10% off to active military and their families on Veteran’s Day.  Well, that deal is now all the time.  Just present your ID and get your 10% off!
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science offers FREE admission to the regular museum portion to all those sporting an active military ID (this includes active reserves).  You get reduced rates to IMAX and special exhibits.  What a deal!  Children’s Museum in Denver offers reduced rates for military and their dependents and you can also apply a discount to a yearly family membership at the Museum.  Nice!  Botanic Gardens, and the Denver Zoo offer military discounts year-round as well on both memberships and daily admission. The Aquarium offers discounts as well but their discounts are not as hefty as the venues discussed above. At the wildlife experience in Parker, you get in free- your first visit through December 31, 2010 is free with your ID and your family too!  Wow!  That deal ends so go check out that museum.  It is a great museum.

Some eateries in Colorado Springs like Leon Gessi pizza, Schlotzky’s and Chipotle offer military in uniform or if you show your ID, discounts too!   10% off is the norm.  Three Margaritas in the Springs does 20% off!  Chipotle gives you your drink for free.  What a nice way of saying, “thanks for serving!”   This just in:  Rubio’s is offering a free taco (no purchase necessary) for Vets who bring in this coupon and their IDs.  Rubio’s is simply delish.  Also, Red Robin is offering a free appetizer with the purchase of an entree.  Not as a good as free with no strings but nonetheless, a great deal if you bring your family to Red Robin on Veteran’s Day.  Now that you have eaten your way through Veteran’s Day…. go watch a movie!
 
Movie theaters are great too – even some AMC theaters are NOW honoring military with a $1.00 off.  The best theaters for military discounts are United Artists, and Kerasotes.  Regal offers a great discount too to military as well.  Check your local theaters and wherever you go, always ask… it never hurts to ask!
If you know of a place that offers military discounts year-round please share in the comment section.  I want our readers to know where Veteran’s and their families are honored.  Happy Veteran’s Day and thanks to those who served, and continue to serve including the families that sacrifice as well!
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Frontier Airlines really honors the Military- a review of a roundtrip flight

Recently, on Government business I flew on Frontier Airlines. So, the class of ticket that the Contract Rate is on is CLASSIC which includes free TV and 2 free bags. Nonetheless, when I checked in, because I used my military ID, both times I flew this time, the agents were amazing- they were ready to assist and tell me that bags fly free for military despite class of ticket. What a nice thing Frontier has done. United Airlines does not even do that and they are the Contract Carrier for the military.

In any case, it was nice to have TV on two very long flights- VERY LONG! It would have been nice to have free snacks like Southwest, but I suppose I will bring my own food like I always have done on these airlines. All in all, I have to say, this time, I had a great FRONTIER experience and maybe with Republic taking over, they are getting better. In any case, Frontier Airlines does honor military- show your ID card to check your bags for free and show it on the flight again to see if you can get TV too!

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