Why I love Hawaii– let me count the ways

We went to Hawaii in November 2019, and I have to say, just like last time, we really enjoyed ourselves. I could not figure out why Hawaii gets in your blood and pulls you back until this last time when we went again as a family. The last time we went in 2013 was for a work trip and was very short, so I didn’t get to enjoy it as much or appreciate it fully, but still found it the most relaxing trip we ever took. This time, I figured out why.

Aside from the trade winds, which are quite nice and relaxing in and of themselves, there is something about Hawaii that I cannot find in Florida, California, or any other beach I have been to CONUS. I find that people are more relaxed in Hawaii, and the vibe is very relaxed. The water is clearer, the weather is always amazing, even in a rain and thunder storm, you just feel at home!

Our trip this time took us to Maui, where we had not been before, and I have to say it is my favorite place now – the beaches are amazing! You can see sea turtles snorkeling right near your hotel, and the lifestyle is very chill. Of course, it is expensive, but if you can get a place with a kitchen, it is quite relaxing and all your meals can be at your condo. We stayed at the Westin N’anea Ocean Villas and Resort- all of the Westin ones are connected, and any of them are great. All the activities are a la carte, so be prepared for that. The girls enjoyed making flower lei necklaces, and coconut painting. We also went on thumbtack app and found someone to photograph us on the beach near the Ritz Carlton at Lahaina. It was amazing!

Maui was definitely our favorite destination of this trip, but the best “experience” was swimming with the manta rays at night in Kona, the Big Island. Be aware that in winter months, October through February, the surf is high and it was a rough boat ride out and back, and the waters quite choppy during the dive/snorkel to see the manta rays at night, but it was the most spectacular experience of our lives, despite the motion sickness and vomiting 🙂 The Big Island was fun, because it is so different from one side to the other, and the Macadamia Nut factory was so fun to visit. We also stayed at the Military Camp at Kilauea and the volcano was quite amazing to see! The beaches are not as great on the Big Island, so get your fill on Maui if you can. Internally, island to island, we flew the small charter company, Mokulele airlines and it was so fast and quick – no checking stuff in, and security and customs woes. It was quick and easy to island hope from Maui to the Big Island and the views were spectacular!

We had an amazing trip this time and the pictures do not do our time there justice! There is a charm to Hawaii I cannot describe, and I am sure other places are amazing and better, but when I think of United States destinations, Hawaii is NOT to be missed. Oh, I have to add that we flew on Southwest Airlines and went in and out of San Jose. Our flights were super cheap, super convenient, and we got the usual Southwest LUV hospitality!

Please follow and like us:

Goldilocks and her three essential pairs of shoes

Shoe No. 1- the Combat Boot – Sage green ABU boots & other military shoes

On October 11, 2017, while doing a unit group run, I started having massive heel pain on the left side, and then later that night, could not even walk barefoot in my own home.  I was hobbling to help the kids get dinner, etc.  It was horrible.  Of course, true to military healthcare and TRICARE, I could not get in to see anyone until the next week, so I used essential oils and heat/cold to try to reduce pain, and Advil.  The following week, I was finally seen, and it was Plantar Fasciitis and Heel Spurs – we would not find that out til a month later, after I saw a better provider and they requested an X-ray, and finally referred me to a podiatrist and physical therapy.  Seriously, military healthcare sucks!  In any case, I soldier on (pun intended).  My podiatrist and therapist took one look at my ABU boots and said, “woh, this is what you have been wearing for a year of your active duty?”   Yep!  Commence the medical profile while I searched for the best boot I could find to help me. Clearly, the two pairs I owned had no support.  So, I was put on a profile while my quest for the perfect, or at least somewhat comfortable boot, began.  I posted in a USAF Women Officer’s forum, and managed to get a pair of boots that fit, and were somewhat supportive of my arch and heel.  The ladies there offered many suggestions and brands of boot and I was able to try on most of them, in my quest for the perfect boot.

Tip: It’s not just footwear, make sure you do the stretches, and physical therapy recommended by your podiatrist or physical therapist.  There are a lot of stretches, rollers, iced water bottles, tennis/golf ball methods to employ, and they must be done daily to heal, in addition to wearing proper footwear.

Nike SFB Sage Green

You can only get such boots, mind you, via mail order.  I kid you not.  ABU boots are available from the following vendors online:  Nike, Tactical Gear, and US Patriot.  After 5-6 boots (back and forth via mail order), I tried Nike size 5.0 Next Gen 2, Size 5.0 Tactical Research MiniMil (not good for me), and a Belleville model, finally I found one that works, the original Nike SFB Sage Green, Size 5.5 for me, as it is all men’s sizing.  Yes, in 2018, all the boots are in men’s sizing, and you have to kinda figure it out.   I was so disappointed that the military clothing and sales at my base or at two other bases did not carry the size or the types of boots recommended by many of the women – lightweight boots like Tactical Research MiniMil, Nike Special Field Boots (SFB), or the Next Gen 2 Nikes, Bellevilles, etc.  Even if the brand was available (only Belleville was) at the store, because you have to get men’s sizing, they rarely had smaller sizes like 5.5 or 6.0 in Men’s sizing.  But, I have been happy, with the Nike SFB in a size 5.5 Men’s.  They run small, so the best tip I have is try on Nike supportive (high heel) running shoes.  Then, subtract 2 from that- that is your men’s size.  So I felt the best in a 7.5, and in the Nike SFBs, the best fit was 5.5. You want room, and these shoes are a bit wider, so they worked for me, but they won’t for everyone.

Dansko Ellie

Regarding low quarters (shoes with the service dress pants and such), and flats, the orthotic inserts can go in them if thin enough or low profile/dress orthotic, but I tried on a few loafers from Dansko that I liked, and were compliant with the dress and appearance regulations.  Dansko Ellie is nice and does not slip in the back.  They are not glossy but who cares? For me, it’s comfort and health over looks these days.  I used to wear Franco Sarto but the insole won’t work in those, and I’d rather be comfortable.  Pumps/flats or heels are tougher as all the ones from Vionic have ornamentation on them or an open toe.  Abeo is the same.  You have to search for options here and Skechers has a comfort brand (take your custom inserts with you when you try it on), but again, most places offer free shipping/free returns and exchanges, so take advantage.  It is time consuming and annoying, but it’s your feet.  You carry the weight of the world on them!

TIP:  Before shopping for any shoes, get an Orthotic- Custom for the boot/running shoe and a dress shoe insert.  

Before I shopped for the new boot, I wanted to make sure I had my custom orthotic.  I got that one within 2-3 weeks of the incident, which was great!  But they are thick and Tricare (as usual) only authorizes one, so I got a few more on my own.  You can get heat molded ones (custom made) for you at Road Runner Sports.  Another one is Aetrek, which is made by Red Wing Shoes, and you can go and get a custom fit there.  Abeo (sold at Walking Company) also makes an orthotic for the dress shoe, and they are so great at measuring you, checking your arches, etc, and making a custom recommendation.  I got everything I could, and if you are lucky to have, or a spouse who has a flex spending account, custom orthotics are covered for your pre-tax dollars.  So take advantage of all you can!

Shoe No. 2- Running/Walking shoes which could double as everyday shoes (PS- I also bought the same brand slippers for the home)

Hoka Clifton

While I was on a profile, I was also on a boot profile, so I could wear my walking shoes with the ABUs (the AF uniform).  I was wearing Hoka Clifton (also recommended by my podiatrist) What a nightmare, which took over 6 weeks to get into a proper combat boot for me.   I changed out my Hoka Clifton after about 40 days for the Hoka Bondi because I wanted an all black shoe.

Hoka One One Bondi 5 Women’s Black

Hoka Bondi is a substantial shoe, but the heel and arch support are unsurpassed!  I cannot say enough great things about the Hoka shoe brand along with Road Runner Sports – the customer service is amazing!  They test your feet, and help you understand what type of shoe you need, and if you tell them of your condition, they will help you get the right shoe.

Hoka One One Ora Recovery Slide

I also got the Hoka recovery slippers (women’s size 7) for around the house.  They are waterproof, and so great with support for walking around the house.  I am still shopping for a house slipper but Abeo has a great sale right now on these, so worth checking out too.  I get Abeo shoes at the Walking Company.  Their return policy is great, unless it is final clearance sale.

Shoe No. 3- dress shoes, boots, shoes to wear off duty hours (i.e. my Cinderella shoes)

Once the boots were set, and my running/walking shoes were all set, I ventured out and did a lot of research to get proper dress shoes.  You see, I plan to return to my old job and I like to dress nice in my civilian job, so it’s time to start getting some nice shoes.  If you think your payless shoes are great, think again – get better arch and heel support if you can.  Your later years feet will thank you.  I now know what to look for in a shoe, and how to buy good, supportive shoes that also look great thanks to my PT and podiatrist. There are a lot of options out there, but I did a lot of research into good sandals (for summer/casual wear), boots, loafters, dress shoes (I generally like one brown, one black which I can wear with the uniform), and ankle boots versus longer boots to wear with leggings.

First, we have all heard of vionic.  Frankly, I never heard of them before this whole ordeal but it’s a thing.  They make some great shoes which have heel/arch support and are recommended by doctors, made by a doctor.  Some of their styles are, well, let’s say, for older folks, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you like fashion.  Enter Dansko.  Good shoes and carried by many places- Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Walking Company, Dardano’s, etc.  Great shoe, but you have to try them on as some of the loafers slip in the back and I dislike that a lot.   Finally, I learned of a new company and their shoes are AMMMMMAYZING!  Abeo shoes are sold at the Walking Company, or on line and they are even more comfortable than Vionic or Dansko.  I highly recommend them.  Now, all of these are not cheap. They are high-end, definitely not your BOGO Payless type of shoe, so look for sales.  We all know the best time for sales – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, New Year (Jan 1, Dillard’s go nuts with sales- get on line and get your shoes then), and be ready to send them back and do the returns/exchanges, because what you get online won’t always work in real life. 🙂  Also, take your orthotics along whenever you hit the stores so you can try those shoes out with the orthotics.

Most companies like Road Runner Sports and Vionic let you wear the shoes out for 30 days (Vionic) or Road Runner Sports (90 days!!!) Yes, 90 days… so use all that time and wear them and see what you think.  So many great options for us with foot issues caused by horrible combat boots or other things, so get out there and research away, and get to know your UPS drop off location folks, as you will become fast friends.  Will you feel like a giant #firstworld goldilocks?  Yes, but who cares?  It’s better and cheaper than surgery or a permanent disability, right?   Here are some of the shoes I did keep, and hope to wear now that I have decided on them.  I am still waiting for another shipment, but we will see how that one goes.

Here is a picture of what the house looks like frequently as I get the shoes that fit just right… what an adventure, an expensive one at that, but I do feel like Cinderella when the shoes fit great, look great, and make me feel good too!

If you have questions, you can write me, but I am not a doctor, I only wear scrubs at night in place of PJs, but happy to give you advice.  In the end, you have to find the right fit for you and your foot.  Good luck and feel better soon!

Please follow and like us:

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!

Please follow and like us:

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

SUNDAY, APRIL 22         9A-3P       50% OFF MOST ITEMS*
*FREE PARKING FOR HALF-PRICE SALE: Compliments of Colorado Parent Magazine

Please follow and like us:

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….

Please follow and like us: