School has started back for most of the country, we took Cara to Young Harris over the weekend and had a wonderful visit with new suite mate and her cat! They are so excited about this year, I just pray that we can visit them on campus and attend concerts, competitions and performances in person!! I pray for as close to a normal school year for all students, I think after the last year and half we need something that looks like normal!
Flying Into Greece
Covid restrictions are coming back from retirement. As the Delta variant makes its way around the world, more variants could be on the horizon and travel will be impacted. Stay with MackeyMouse Travel to find out what we know and how we can help navigate these treacherous waters.
As you know, we recently went to Greece for an amazing adventure! I want to share the covid restrictions we experienced and some that friends of mine had that were different.
First, we are vaccinated, think what you will, but we chose vaccination so we can attend any performances of Cara’s in the future and I assumed we would need to be to cruise. Most cruise lines do require vaccinated guests. Greece has their own requirements to enter the country. We had to follow guidelines for entering Greece, boarding the ship and returning to the U.S. All were slightly different and we jumped through every hoop gladly!!
Entering Greece, we had a choice, we could be fully vaccinated or we could provide a negative covid-19 test within 3 days of arriving in the country. The country has created an easy online form to fill out and upload our documents so we don’t have to worry about carrying and showing all of these different documents to officials after landing. This was great, except at the time we went, we wouldn’t get confirmation (the barcode) we needed until we were in-flight, which meant you couldn’t print it!! You had to have wifi to show the actual PDF barcode. I knew we wouldn’t have that upon landing so I took a screen shot on my phone. Sadly, it was that simple, we just showed them the barcode and went on.
Since returning home, Greek authorities have updated this process to send you the barcode before you depart so that you can print the document and present it when you land. I will say, the “authorities” were not really checking this document (screenshot) that closely. Sadly, they didn’t have the capacity to make sure it was legit, but maybe with this more streamlined process, they can check documents quicker and more thoroughly.
Getting into Greece was quite easy, airlines don’t make it hard, but we did have to show our proof of vaccination at check in (or negative covid test) to fly internationally. This is more of a proactive move on the part of airlines since you do have to have a negative covid test upon return to the U.S. It is required that you wear a face covering as soon as you enter the airport and throughout your flight. There is no time in the airport you can take your mask off, except to actively eat. Otherwise, you must be masked up.
We’ve all seen the videos of people being taken off of planes for not following this mandate, or even for mouthing off about it. I will be 100% honest with you, my anxiety was high because I was nervous about someone showing out in the airport or on the plane. Thankfully, we were incident free roundtrip
Wearing a mask on a 10 hour flight and then on the return 12 hour flight was not hard but not easy. We chose paper masks so that we could easily replace them if they were dirty or “got lost” somehow. I’m glad we did. It’s a thinner material and definitely easier for me since I’m so hot natured. If you are cold natured having a face covering will definitely help keep you warmer! I saw many hoodies up with masks, eye masks and blankets on our flights! I’m not able to do that because I will sweat to death!!
The struggle with masks on planes, in my opinion, is the tiny amount of space you have in your seat and in the restrooms. As you may or may not know, I have back issues including arthritis. When it’s cold it aggravates it more. Sitting for extended periods causes more pain. So the restroom was a respite from sitting and gave me the opportunity to stand up and let my back stretch out a bit. But I could take the mask off and breathe freely for a minute.
One thing I do need to mention is most airlines are experiencing delays. With covid restrictions for HR and in general crews can’t turn planes around as quickly as before, staffing issues do exist even for airlines and flight crews have time guidelines crews may have to swapped out.
We had a 4 hour delay leaving Atlanta, mechanical delay followed by a crew delay. You need to travel with your patience and flexibility. We had snacks and devices so we plugged in, talked and watched tiktoks for 4 hours! I promise it’s not the end of the world. I did have to change our first day plans and it caused us to miss several things we were very excited about, but in the big picture, it didn’t ruin anything.
Cruise Line Guidelines
Our cruise was through a Greek based company and not mainstream that you may be used to. That said, our guidelines we had to follow may be different than U.S. based lines.
In order to board the cruise we had to have a negative PCR covid-19 test. It could not be a rapid test. It also had to be within 72 hours of boarding the ship, not just 3 days. They were very strict on the 72 hour timeline which was tricky for those coming in from the U.S. and able to test before leaving home. We were able to schedule a medical group to come to our hotel and test us and email us the results. Our hotel would print the results if we had asked, but having the email was enough proof for the cruise line.
Once we were at the pier we checked in first with our PCR test results and were required to wear a mask while in line outside. We also had a contact form we had to complete for the cruise line and at a separate desk we supplied this information.
Once we were finished dropping our bags, we moved on to the temperature check table where we were provided a number to be called to have a rapid test done. The cruise line provided this test for us and it was a quick process, probably 30 minutes total.
From there we moved inside to check in to get our key card and set up our onboard spending account. We received a lanyard with a contact tracing chip on it. This was in case anyone tested positive they could quarantine those that were close to that passenger. I was a bit nervous by this because 500 people were on that ship, we were going to be around people no matter what we did. But, anything to travel again!!
We were required to wear masks on the ship and on excursions. We could remove them if we were eating or on deck socially distanced. They also had a touch-less temperature check set up on each deck that we were supposed to check in by noon each day. We would lower our mask, and tap our key card to take our temp and it would automatically update our folio that we had complied.
Hand sanitizer was everywhere or our use. In restaurants on shore they’d often times give you a small bottle at your table. They were really trying to keep everyone safe and keep tourism open!
The day before we were to depart the ship we were required to take another rapid test. Quick and easy, results were provided in our stateroom that evening so we could have it for check in at the airport the next day. These results were good for 3 days so as long as you left in that time frame, you would not need another test to fly home.
My Thoughts on the Experience
All in all I felt like we were well taking care of and safe. There were times things would slip below the protocol but for the most part it was consistent and followed. I do feel like the Greek’s for the most part did what needed to be done to have their cities open again. They had been shut completely down for 14 months. They were grateful to be working again and more than grateful Americans were visiting!
During our trip, we mostly met other Americans. Europeans were still under stricter guidelines so you’d see one or two but absolutely no British citizens. British citizens still had to quarantine when they arrived home from Greece at that point so in speaking with a tour guide, they haven’t had many coming because who can afford to do that?!
I also think now more than ever, using a travel agent is important. You can be as organized as Marie Kondo but regulations are changing rapidly. We had changes happening throughout the week. Mykonos went on more strict guidelines while we were there and about 3 days after we arrived home they had shut down night clubs and bars with no music allowed. Having someone at home that can make changes while you are in route is absolutely the best safety net!
While you are on the plane, I can be adjusting your transfer to the hotel, I can let the hotel know you will be 4 hours later do not give your room away, I can let the medical company know that is supposed to be at the hotel shortly after you arrive to come later. So many times everything is smooth with no hiccups, but when they aren’t it can be a hard adjustment.
It is my job to know all of the guidelines. It’s your job to make memories and have the time of your life! Now, where can I send you?
Four days in Athens and 7 days on a Greek Isle cruise. Greece left us speechless! I’m going to be completely honest right now, Greece was never on my bucket list to visit. Cara wanted to go, she’s always loved it since growing up watching Mamma Mia a million times. So, the opportunity came up and we took it!
I will say this, we will be going back! We enjoyed it that much! There is ancient history, biblical history, Ottoman Empire history, Venetian history, Roman history, medieval history, and even WWII history. You can go from ancient ruins to the top club destination in the Mediterranean in a matter of hours! The beaches, the water, the people! All spectacular!! We heard stories. We saw traditions. We ate all the food. I still can’t believe how we fit this much into such a short period of time.
For my review, I’m going to do an overall (which is this one) and then I’ll do a review of each day. We did so much, you would have to read a book for me to get it all in one review! So buckle up and get ready to travel halfway around the world to a land of Gods, Goddesses, Royalty, History, and beaches!
We are lucky to live in Atlanta, because we had a direct flight from Atlanta to Athens. This ensures your bag is on the trip with you, you don’t have to wake up (if you fall asleep) to change planes and you get your travel over with faster. We flew Delta Airlines and our experience was overall very good. Were there hiccups? Yes, of course there were. We were flying during the re-opening of many of the countries in Europe post pandemic shut downs.
Our flights were incident free, covid on the other hand was a little stressful. Luckily, the Greek government has streamlined one requirement so it’s not so unknown at take off. Understand that right now, covid restrictions are per country and change quite frequently. Having a travel agent is key to keeping up with all of this because it can and does change daily.
We had to fill out a form entering Greece, that confirmation was emailed to us while in flight in the form of a QR code. We were asked for this code when we landed and were able to go right through the line. You either have been fully vaccinated or take a quick covid test that is negative. You’ll show your proof of that and on you go. Honestly, I’ve flown within the U.S. and had more questions than I did when we landed in Greece!
The cruise line, all are different, required we have a negative PCR test which means we had to schedule one no further out than 72 hours before we boarded the ship. We had to make sure with time changes and possible boarding times that our test was in compliance. Luckily, because our flight was 4 hours late leaving Atlanta, our test was rescheduled for 8:00pm that night. So no worries!!
I mean, who doesn’t like Greek food??? If you don’t, I’m not sure we can be friends. HAHA, I joke. But, both of my children grew up on gyros so, I knew we’d be just fine in Greece.
Gyros, every single person said you have to have street vendor gyros. I’m here to tell you something about that. One, that was the only way we found gyros. Second, they didn’t use lamb! Most of the time it was chicken or pork. WHAT!?!? Still yummy, but yeah, not what we are used to.
Greek salads are not a salad with greens. They have cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. Some include olives. But none, have lettuce or leafy greens at all. Which was fine, I ate my weight in it!!!
Food is widely available and you can find something on just about every menu that you can eat. Their version of restaurants or cafe’s are called Tavernas. They are everywhere! Each taverna has a specialty and you can check their menu out before going inside. Now, two things, first, if a person is trying to pull you into the restaurant on the street with “the best” of any type of food, keep looking. Chances are really good it’s touristy and mediocre at best. Second, there is very little air conditioning and most Greeks eat outside. If you are like me and need constant A.C., carry a table top fan! I’ll be sharing my brand and pictures in future reviews, but it saved my life again in Europe!
You will not get bored in Greece! From world class beaches to ancient history you will find something that catches your attention. We enjoyed our private tour the first day in Athens because it was us and one other mother/daughter that we knew and our driver took very good care of us. He gave us hints and tips for our entire stay and we learned so much just talking with him while driving in the Peloponnese region of Greece.
There are hundreds if not thousands of options for tours in your destination. I stuck with ones that gave us the most in the time we would be there. Now, this is a great idea, but you need to be physically ready for that and maybe not when it’s over 100 degrees! We kept up just fine, but we did take a sleep-in break one day on the cruise.
The cruise line has their excursions and I’ll be breaking those down in future articles, but I would recommend talking to your agent before just booking what the cruise line offers. We had no problems whatsoever, but there are many options and splurging here and there might mean a much more in depth experience just where you want it most.
Greece is all uphill! I swear it is!! There are many many stairs, hills and walks that just might be the one to cause you to re-think the next day’s activities. Our cruise line was great in that we were right in the port most days and could do our tour, then head out on our own. This isn’t always the case with American cruise lines because they have bigger ships and don’t stop in the smaller ports. Definitely stay tuned for more on that because I’m going to be giving you the pros and cons of both!
I’ve been to many amazing places. I always try to meet locals and talk with them about life and tourism and how we can be better tourists in their hometown. Greek people are very proud of their history. They are very proud of their heritage and want to share it with as many people as they can. It doesn’t feel like they do it for the money, they do it because they truly do want to share their culture with all who come.
We didn’t find a place where language was a problem. Sure, we had moments where the accent was thick and it was asking over and over, huh?! But in the end, we were able to communicate and felt completely safe with our new Greek friends. This includes in Athens and on the cruise. Sure, there are places in any city that are undesirable and Athens is no different. But, we stayed within the neighborhoods we were told were safe and never felt threatened in any way.
The stories! Greek people are natural storytellers. Everywhere we went, we heard fabulous stories of old and new. How a farmer handles their sheep or cows when they roam away from their farm. How children attend school and what they learn and do while there. We heard stories of love and romance from days gone by. We learned that George Clooney was on Mykonos when we were, we didn’t run into him, but didn’t try either. We saw where Jackie O’ loved to vacation when she visited Mykonos. So many stories! I can’t wait to tell you all about them all!!
Greece is fabulous. I cannot say enough how amazing the entire experience was. We cannot wait to go back. Our plan is 2023 and we are inviting our friends to go along with us. You really should see Greece and since we are planning so far out, deposit is low and payments can be applied. Now, that doesn’t mean if you want to go before then we can’t do that! We most certainly can!!
You can click HERE to get your Greek Cruise quote started! Don’t forget we can also book land only trips and can help you build the perfect itinerary. Each island has a different “taste” and knowing which ones you want to see is what we do. A cruise gives you an overall vision of the country and then we can plan your second trip back to visit specific spots more in depth!
Universal. Most people treat it as a tack onto a Disney Trip or even a cruise. I am here to say you can do a full vacation at Universal! Maybe not 7 days but certainly 4 to 5 depending on how quickly you move! Most people give 3 nights, maybe 4 to visit all three parks. Today I want to give you an overview of their resorts.
Universal does not “own” their resorts. They are owned and operated by Loews and other resort brands. The employees at the resorts are not Universal resorts! This is a huge difference between Disney and Universal and something a die hard Disney fanatic may not like.
There is the value resort level with two resorts in that classification. You have the original value resort at Universal, Cabana Bay. I enjoyed Cabana Bay. I liked the theme and found the mid-century motif quite well done. I did not like that the dining plan is not accepted at the resorts (any of them!) so it makes it quite separated from the parks and a full resort vacation as you find with their neighbors down the street.
At the value resorts you can get bus transportation to the two theme parks, but you can actually walk to Volcano Bay. That feature might be huge for a lot of guests! Especially if you are a larger family staying long enough to enjoy the water park. The accommodations are the same as any Holiday Inn or Hampton Inn. Two queen beds for a standard room. They do offer a family suite that gives you a pull out sofa and a kitchenette.
They have added a second value resort, Endless Summer Resort. This hotel also offers suites giving you more room and more bed space. The price is actually less than at Cabana Bay because it is brand new and a little further than everything.
Aventura could be argued as being a value resort but they are marketing it more as a moderate. It also prices a little more like a moderate. The unique features of this resort are the use of technology in every aspect of your stay. It’s sleek and modern and quite close to Volcano Bay. Buses to City Walk and you are right at the two parks known as Universal Orlando.
Now, let’s talk about the resorts that offer a boat ride to City Walk! One that isn’t quite a deluxe resort so we’ll say it’s a moderate resort. Sapphire Falls is has a very nice pool! If I were going to have a pool day, but not interested in all the perks of a moderate or the price point was out of my budget, I’d definitely pick Sapphire Falls. I really enjoyed it and think it’s a great resort with a gorgeous and relaxing pool with some great amenities the values don’t have!
NOW, let’s talk about the Deluxe resorts!!! Royal Pacific, Hard Rock and Portofino!!!! These resorts are worth their weight! They are on the higher end of your budget but they offer so much more. They are a boat ride to City Walk. They have unbelievable pools and spa areas!! They have club level rooms which give you food and wine/beer throughout the day during your stay. But the best part is the free Unlimited Express Pass!! That’s right, everyone in your room gets Unlimited Express Passes! This is huge! The minimum savings on that feature is $85 per person per day!! Makes these resorts absolutely worth it!
Each of the Deluxe have a specific theme and depending on what you’d like for your resort any would be a winner. Royal Pacific is quite romantic and quiet. I think it’s one of the most zen of the entire deluxe offerings. I would definitely enjoy a stay there.
Hard Rock has a lot of activity. The pool is hopping and you will not get bored. Some of the best restaurants on property are at this resort!!! The bar, is the place to be! Rock Stars would love a stay here!
Probably the grand dame is Portofino! It’s a fantastically romantic resort with so many hidden spots to have a glass of vino. Don’t forget to try the gelato!! It’s quite amazing and authentic. There are multiple pools where you can rest and relax or you can have a lively time with lots of games and activities.
Universal has some great resort options! It’s hard to decide but it would really depend on budget and how long you want to stay. You really can’t beat the benefit of free Unlimited Express Pass, especially during busy times!! That can be a huge bonus and make your stay cheaper than if you stayed off property! MackeyMouse Travel is here to help you plan your Universal vacation. Whether you add a day or two on after or before Disney or you stay for 4 or 5 nights, we are the agency to help make it seamless and fun!
You have cruised the Caribbean or to the Bahamas and had a great time! You may have done the 7 night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises and wondering what else would be out there? Well, let’s take a look at some pretty amazing options!
Since cruises have been going to Alaska, they have grown exponentially! It’s amazing the places and sights you will see on an Alaskan Cruise! There are three types of trips to know about with an Alaskan Cruise. Roundtrip Seattle where you have to watch the itinerary to make sure you are getting exactly what you want, I tell clients, glaciers! You want to make sure there is some glaciers in your sailing! You also have Northbound and Southbound. These make adding interior 2 or more nights via train to Denali National Park.
All Alaskan cruises are 7 nights. They only sail May to September for obvious reasons! These cruises are perfect for large families, extended families and of course couples. There are many choices of cruise lines and ships designed specifically for the beautiful landscape of the region. Alaska should be on your bucket list! Princess Cruise Lines is a leader in the cruise tour options. Royal Caribbean is a favorite of ours too. Carnival is good if you simply need the vessel taking you where you need to go and a pillow to lay your head.
There are several cruise lines that do a Hawaiian cruise. Most are from the coast of California and you have many days at sea. One, however, does a fantastic 7 night cruise option from Honolulu! It offers you amazing stops on 4 of the Hawaiian islands with overnights in 2 of those ports! You overnight in Maui and Kauai! Giving you a fantastic overview of the islands so you can plan a return trip to the islands you want to explore more in depth! Norwegian Cruise Lines is the line that offers this with Pride of America. I highly recommend this cruise if you ever wanted to do Hawaii.
I thought I would just talk about the Mediterranean but there are so many itineraries for Europe I thought I’d do it a disservice by only talking about the Mediterranean cruises.
Mediterranean cruises will give you a great look at Spain, Italy and Greece (depending on the itinerary chosen). These cruises are “quick” in that you have a different port everyday and very little time to explore the ship. They also might port somewhere that you have a long drive to the actual city where you want to tour. You can add a couple of days on to see the city you fly into and where your cruise departs from and even choose to stay a couple of days after in the disembarkation port.
Northern Europe cruises give you some of Norway, Finland and other Northern European stops. It can depart from England and sometimes it departs from Germany or Norway. This is a great alternative to a “hot weather” destination and certainly offers amazing ports!
Transatlantic cruises are a great way to test out brand new ships and a true escape because you have so many days at sea!! These are also offered at reduced fares because there aren’t as many port days!
Have you ever wondered how this wonder works? You can go through the actual canal in a cruise ship watching how the lochs work and spend a longer than normal time on your favorite cruise line. You can start in Florida and disembark in California! So much fun to be had and you get to try out a smaller ship with a lot of perks because you have more days onboard the ship.
So many amazing ways to expand your cruising resume! We work with some amazing cruise lines that offer these sailings and more! I didn’t even talk about Asia! We can help you make the most of your cruising time by booking almost 2 years ahead of the cruise. This gives you time to plan and not hurt your budget too much. Give us a shout and we’ll get it started right away!
You all know that I am a Disney fan! I live, eat, sleep and breathe Mickey Mouse. But I did find five things that I loved about Universal Orlando. I know, I know it's a shock it's okay we'll all be okay.
So see, I can love Universal and Disney! Universal is just different. They say Disney for for kids until they are pre-teens and then you can move over to Universal. Um, I don’t know if I agree with that, I mean I’m older than pre-teen age and love Disney World!! But Universal is different, in a good way. Give it a try, but book with your travel agent for additional benefits!
Sometimes this “job” gives me goosebumps. I’ve helped clients celebrate last vacations because cancer is ugly and takes mom or dad away soon after. I’ve helped clients get away after dad passed and mom, kids and grandchildren can’t handle being home during that time the following year. You see, travel is so much more than just going somewhere. It means many things to every person we help every year.
I love when clients share their story with me. We are all living a story. Yesterday I had the pleasure of booking a trip for a client with an amazing story. I know that travel is expensive. It’s not a true necessity like water or air, but it is very therapeutic and for some of us is a necessity. But not everyone is as blessed to travel every year or whenever they want.
This trip is one of THOSE trips. It’s one I do every single day. 6 nights at Walt Disney World. Resort, tickets, memory maker and dining plan. I can do this in my sleep. I’ve done it on my phone. I’ve booked this very type of trip waiting in line for rides while at Disney! I know how and what to do. But this story is the most beautiful story and my client graciously granted me permission to share it.
Greg and his beautiful wife Karen are high school sweethearts. They have been married over 30 years. A couple of years ago I got to send them to Disney for their milestone anniversary. I’ve known Greg since I was probably 10 years old! I know his voice immediately! Its a smooth radio voice! His sense of humor is sharp and on point always. I know this couple.
Greg shared his ‘WHY’ for this trip with me. I nearly cried when he did. Greg has had health issues over the years. He has to be mindful of his diet because of diabetes, he’s battled cancer. But his attitude is everything! He is a fighter physically and mentally! When they made their 30th anniversary trip, their only son and daughter in law had just had their very first granddaughter. Greg said Mia, it’s a love you never imagined. He said it’s complete and full. You can love without responsibility. You don’t have to worry about where her next meal is coming from, you don’t have to buy her clothes. Now, if he needed to, he most certainly would, but his son and daughter-in-law are awesome parents and take care of his granddaughter’s every need very well.
While, Greg and Karen were at Disney, missing their new granddaughter who was a newborn, they noticed more than ever little girls. Everywhere they turned were little Princesses running up to hug a character. Or holding an ice cream while it dripped down their chin. The sight was sometimes overwhelming for Karen who would say, I hope one day I can come with Isabella and see her excitement as she hugs Minnie Mouse for the first time! This didn’t go unnoticed by Greg, who told me he even took pictures of his wife with tears streaming down her cheeks at the thought of such an amazing sight.
He said, “Mia, I made a decision that no matter what I had to do, I would make the money to take my wife and my granddaughter to Disney together when she turns 5”. He continued that they aren’t wealthy. They don’t struggle but they make the money they need to make to live a comfortable, happy life. Another trip to Disney wouldn’t be easy but he was determined.
In the fall of 2019 I got a message from Greg asking me about costs for a trip in 2020. I explained we won’t know until June of 2019 but this is what it is right now. He said ok, I will be back in touch when we are ready to do it. They are ready! Greg knew he needed to create income to pay in full without debt for this trip. He could easily get a loan or credit card, but that isn’t how he lives a happy life. Greg found things he could sell on Ebay and set out to raise $5,000 (what he figured would pay for the trip and give him Minnie Mouse ear money). In two months with a lot of determination and apparently great products to sell, Greg had his Disney money raised!! He thought it would take longer, but he is a determined grandpa!! (I think he’s a poppy but not sure lol)
Disney (or any vacation) doesn’t have to be filled with debt. We don’t use credit cards for our trips. I start paying on ours as soon as I put the deposit down. I figure out how much I need to pay monthly and it becomes part of the budget. If I happen to have a better month than projected I pay earlier. But it’s not something we have to pay off when we get home. In fact, when we get home we are planning the next one!
Find your why and you’ll find the money. We don’t all have a 5 year old Isabella with big brown eyes looking at us saying Poppy when do we get to meet Mickey? We may have a big brown eyed senior getting ready to step out into the world for their first adult job. We may have a parent that has a not so stellar diagnosis and memories we want to make while we can.
One thing that is certain in this world is life is uncertain. I tell people every single day, every trip is different. You went 2 years ago when the kids were 6 and 8? A trip today when they are 8 and 10 is totally different! A 10 year old is completely different than an 8 year old. Attitude is different. Their understanding/knowledge of the world is different, expanded. Their likes, dislikes have changed.
I will celebrate my 30th High School Graduation on June 10, 2019. That is the hardest thing in the world to say. It’s even harder when you find out I have a niece that was born in July of 1989. She will be 30. I was with her the first time she went to Disney World. At the end of the month I’ll be at Disney with her and her 8 year old twins! The old timers were right, it goes fast!
Our world hasn’t been perfect. We’ve had our share of downs but boy we’ve had some pretty good ups too. We have a passion for something in Orlando, Florida. It has nothing to do with rides! It has everything to do with the transformation it creates in our entire family! We become our best us when we are on Main Street U.S.A. When we are standing on the edge of a tulip field in Amsterdam, we hug a little tighter. When we watch the the sun rise with your 17 year old and realize we have more blessings than we deserve.
Your WHY is important to me. It’s why I LOVE WHAT I DO! Tell me your why! Tell me who you love and why you want to do this for them. I can’t wait to help Greg celebrate Isabella and Karen in my favorite place on Earth. I can’t wait to see his pictures, hear the stories and just cry tears of joy upon their return home. We are more than someone that simply books hotels.
We just returned from an amazing trip to Los Cabos. We had an amazing time as a family and an amazing time individually!
I want to explain why Los Cabos is referred to by so many names. There is San Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, Los Cabos, Cabo. They are all a general area, like a city (although, more the sizes of Lagrange than an actual city), each of the other names are the burbs if you will. So Los Cabos is the general area and Cabos San Lucas is the marina area, and so on. So when you hear anything including Cabo, it’s the same general area.
The first question anyone ever asks me when I start talking about my travels is, do you feel safe? I want to start this blog by talking about how safe I do feel in Mexico. One of the questions someone asks was how did they treat you since we're talking about building a wall?
I will just say this, we were greeted by every single person that we came in contact with, whether at the airport or transfer drivers, at the resort, in the marina, on our taxi ride to another Resort, everywhere we went, we were treated with nothing but respect and love. We saw a t-shirt that I wish I had bought! It said “Congratulations you made it to the FUN side of Trump’s wall!” Haha, sense of humor is always needed in politics.
No matter what your politics are, no matter what you feel about people or a situation, try to broaden your horizons and live and visit as if you were going to live in that location. I promise if you will vacation to places you've only dreamed about, you will be a different person. My number one goals as a parent is help my children understand we are all fundamentally the same and travel helps me share that with them.
Enough about politics! We arrived in Cabo about noon and got through customs extremely quick. I don't know if our plane got there early, maybe they don't have as many coming in on a Monday, who knows I don't care, I was excited! When we got to our transfer, they greeted us with a nice wet hand towel to freshen up after our travels. It smelled like lemongrass it was amazing! We had a little Coke Lite and maybe a Corona and made our way to the resort. Cabo is in the desert it is extremely dry and extremely sandy and dusty. At first I was turned off and thought why did I come here? But as we pulled into a resort it became much more lush and much more green and definitely much more beautiful! Cabo has long been a golfer's Paradise but now it's also a sport Fisherman's dream! As we found out from our Taxi Driver, it's the second most visited destination based on sport fishing next to Australia.
We were not there to fish. We were there to soak in the sun, sit on the beach, lounge by the pool, go see the Arches, enjoy some great food and just be with each other as a family on vacation enjoying ourselves. We very much accomplished our goal!
I don't really have a lot to add or say about the actual destination, it is gorgeous the pictures speak for themselves. But I do want to mention a couple of things about traveling with your children. Sometimes it's hard to get into the groove of vacation, we're busy, we have very busy lives, sports, Scouts, drama, so many things that we have to deal with on a daily basis that sometimes it can be very difficult to unwind and be in the moment. I worked very hard on myself to make sure that I was in the moment as often as possible on this trip.
I spent a lot of time giggling and laughing on the beach at the resort. I have a video that I have embedded below because you have to see the water the water was gorgeous! I love the little fishies. I wanted to bring them home, I wanted to protect them and I wanted to play with them. Being in that moment with my daughter meant the world to me. She absolutely loved taking video of me acting silly, laughing and giggling with me, and acting like we've never seen fish before. Those are the moments that you can't predict. You can't create or Force. They just happen organically and magically. That is why we go on vacation! That is why we work hard so that we can play hard. We want to make sure that our children have fond memories of us, fond memories of their childhood, and learn a little bit about the world.
My kids would have adopted my attitude if I didn't love Mexico. They were little leary, they weren't exactly all excited about going other than getting the all included part of the package They were just going because it was somewhere fun to say have been. Oh and Mom and Dad paid for it! But they were just going with the flow. By the end of the first day, they realized that the Mexico they've been hearing about on TV is not the Mexico they visited. Yes there are bad parts, we drove through some pretty shady areas. We saw apartments that I wouldn't want to be in at night. But they saw the people who place their hand on their heart to say hola every single time they saw them. They greeted them with a warm smile they offered them towels when they needed it, they offered them food when they needed it. They showed the grace and the hospitality that I want my children to know and to show to other people.
I know they work at the resort and it's their job. I get that. I'm sure in some capacity my children know that, but probably not as black and white as you and I know. What it taught my children is that you can be different, you can visit, you can go to the beach, to the mall (yes we went to a mall, we had my daughter didn’t I?). We walked around the marina. They got to see panhandling first-hand. People of every age selling trinkets from the marina. They would walk up to us all the time asking us to buy this or that. They approached us while we were dining on a pier at the marina. They saw that when the band came over and play for us we tipped them when they were finished. This taught them that you treat people with respect, you pay for what you get and you appreciate every single moment of every single day.
I saw so many smiles on their faces, I will never forget a single one. My children are amazing! My husband is amazing! To have us all together in one place, where we could relax, be with each other, and not have to worry about budget or expenses was absolutely priceless. Sure, we could go to the beach in Florida. We could go to the beach in Georgia and we can have an amazing time. A trip is what you make of it. But to take the part of a trip (finances and ‘I want’) away from the actual trip, makes it so much better! It also helps that when you're sitting at the pool and you get thirsty,sweet little waiter comes over and asks if he can get you anything. He also brought food. You're really can't beat that with any type of relaxation!
So if you ever ask me for a price for an all-inclusive resort vacation, you have to keep in mind that it's going to sound higher than when you rent a condo and drive yourself to a beach in Florida. You also have to remember that everything, I mean every single detail, is included. The only time we spent money, was for tips, when we felt like we got extra service and of course when the Bellman moved our luggage for us. You have to experience it to understand it.
Hopefully I've given you a little taste of the freedom that an all-inclusive resort vacation can give you, because it is the most freeing vacation you will ever take! Oh and I don't want to be home! I miss Cabo terribly!
It has been a few years since we visited Amsterdam, Holland. I was young, just 16. We had studied world history in the 10th grade. Which is bad, because I wasn't as interested in history until after we went to Europe! Seeing history alive and all of the places we had read about made it really jump off the pages of the history books!
Our first stop on our European tour that summer was Amsterdam. Like I mentioned, I was 16 and traveling with my parents, my grandmother, my aunt, uncle and 2 young cousins, so it wasn't a fun teenager kind of trip. But boy was I wrong! Being with my family was an absolute blast and we look back fondly to those memories often. We visited all the typical tourist sites, including the Tulip factory and fields, took a boat ride down the canal, the cobblestone streets of Amsterdam and of course the Dam Square. But my absolute favorite was visiting the Anne Frank House. The secret annex her family and others hid during WWII.
The building is normal-looking, it looks like all of the other buildings on the canals. You enter the building without a lot of ornaments or decor. The illusion is to take you back to the 1940s to understand the isolation and condition of where the family lived. It’s hard to imagine living in such tight corners. Never to be allowed to go outside. Having read the book the year before in school made it a much more chilling experience. One, I highly recommend you experience. If you do plan a trip to Amsterdam, read the book before you go. Even if you’ve read it in the past.
The museum itself is very sparse. Otto, Anne’s father, didn’t want a lot of things taken into the annex. He wanted the experience to be chilling not realistic. Most of the annex part of the museum is empty except for display cases holding things that the families kept with them while hiding. Chilling is the room Anne shared with Fritz. You see her posters hung up, the posters that showed she was in touch with Hollywood and all things teenagers love to follow. Reminders of a life she had and a life she dreamt of.
Walking through the annex as a 16 year old with a car sitting at home, all the luxuries of the late 1980s (far different than today), air conditioning, cable television, cordless telephones, malls to shop in, extra curricular activities for school and so on, was humbling. I can’t tell you how moving it was because it was just that intense. Knowing that what you were looking at was their hope of a new life after the war. The hope of long lived life that would not be. The hope that they would escape the horrors they had only heard of. Knowing that they didn’t survive. That their annex was found, they were taken to camps and ultimately all but Otto were killed. It’s a chilling experience at any age, but especially young.
This is why I love travel. Why I love to introduce new and different things and places to as many people as possible. To see history come alive that I had just read was inspiring. We read about Europe, other countries, other states and sometimes we get a glimpse into these worlds through television and movies. But at a time when news wasn’t 24 hours and the internet didn’t exist, seeing history alive and in person was truly an amazing experience.
I get asked a lot of times about Park Hoppers. When should you get Park Hoppers and when you shouldn't. It is completely up to you when you get them. You can get them every time or you can never get them. We play it by ear based on what kind of trip we're going to be taking.
You see on a short trip where we may only have four days so I wouldn't spend the money on Park Hoppers. Because you need to get as much done as you can and spending time hopping from one park to another (usually an hour at least!) isn’t a good use of park time. Instead of going from one park to another go back to the room and rest or find somewhere in the first park and take a little quiet rest.
On longer trips when you're going to be doing two and three days in a single Park, it might be worth having Park Hoppers especially for dining! We used to do dining every night at Epcot. But now that all of the Parks have nice restaurants and the resorts have even gotten some good choices, it's rare that we change parks for the evening.
Another instance where park hoppers were necessary was when Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios had very little stuff to do and you spent literally a morning in each Park. Then you would spend your afternoon and evening over at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot. That's how we've gotten to try so many good restaurants at Epcot. But both parks are really getting full and have become full day parks, so hopping to another park isn’t as necessary as it used to be.
Now another theory is if you start at the early morning hours Park and then end your evening at a different Park then you will have less crowds. The early morning Park always becomes busy in the afternoon. People see that it's the early morning park and yet they don't get there when the gates open. Making the afternoon and lunchtime crowds swell pretty good. That makes it convenient to be able to change to a different park for the afternoon and evening.
So like I said if you're going for a short trip and you're going to do one Park per day I don't recommend having Park Hoppers. I also don't recommend it unless you've been for 5-10 times and know the Park's very well. Because you'll spend quite a bit of time navigating out of the first park and into the second park and lose valuable touring time at both parks.
I have clients that love them and will not go without them. And I have clients that go quite often that never ever get Park Hoppers. So it is completely up to you how you want to spend your vacation. I can give you guidance, I can tell you the benefits and I can tell you all sides but I can't make that decision. Next time you take a trip to Disney, make sure you book with Mia so that you know you're getting the best advice possible!
I have been to Hawaii before, so I knew what the flight was like. The last time I flew to Hawaii I decided to have a layover. Well the price of the flight decided it for me! My flight took off from Atlanta and landed in San Francisco I was to have about an hour delay and then I would be on my way to Honolulu. We landed in Atlanta with no problem, but as our flight was scheduled to take off we all noticed we weren't preparing to board the plane. That's when it started!
I'm not sure if you have been to Hawaii. Most of the flights that go across the Pacific are in a jumbo jet. That means you have two seats on each side and six seats in the middle. It's a very large plane! Probably four exits on each side I don't even know how many people it can hold. It's a very big plane.
Our flight from Atlanta was on a normal plane, not very large so we had to change planes. As everyone started getting into the gate you can tell just how big this plane was. The first gate agent tells us that the plane hasn't arrived yet so are boarding would be delayed by a few minutes. 30 minutes later the same agent comes on and says the plane hasn't arrived yet and we're going to need time to service the plane so we're going to be an hour behind schedule.
Now, this would not be a problem normally but I need to be in Honolulu at my Resort for a 6:30 welcome dinner. Where I would be introduced to the other agents and to the people who would be showing us the resort over the next three days. I decided to go ahead and get to the other gate, because our gate had already changed once. When I got to the next gate we were told sorry, wrong gate! Go back across the airport do this third gate. At this point I was not very happy that I had a carry on.
We get to the gate that would finally be our departure Gates, and we're giving the news that the plane that arrived had some engine issues so they were waiting on a new plane to come in. It should only be 30 minutes, they said. After 30 minutes they came back on and said our flight crew that was supposed to go with us to Honolulu, has now gone over the FAA legal hours that they could work so we would have to wait on a new crew. At this point all 350 people in the gate we're not happy! They brought out snacks and Beverages and gave them out to everyone to try to calm people down. I'm not sure what the angry people thought they could do, I personally don't want to go on the plane with engine trouble.
After a two and a half hour delay for our departure we start boarding the plane. Because of our delay they had already announced the entire plane would have free internet and they were sure to stop at full of plenty to eat and drink. With the free internet, would be free movies. On the seat back in front of you there was an individual screen that we would be able to watch movies for the six and a half hours it would take to fly from San Francisco.
After getting in the air, people started trying to go in to the internet and watch movies. The flight attendants discovered that people were not able to get the movies to come up. So the pilot decided to make an announcement that after being in the air about an hour, they should be able to pull up the satellite and the movies would be able to start. An hour after his announcement, he comes back on and says I'm afraid our internet is not going to work. Now, we are in a very large plane oh, did I mention that? We have just been told that the internet is not working. My immediate thought was what else is not working? How are the pilots communicating with people? It was a very long flight!
I will tell you on a flight to Honolulu generally you fly during the day you may arrive late in the evening but remember it's five hours behind our time zone. So it's likely that you will land while it's still daylight. We did on this day, but by the time I got to the resort it was dark. By the time we landed that plane every single person had been to the bathroom 12 times and drunk at least four bottles of water. The air is extremely dry for some reason going over the Pacific. If you ever fly to Hawaii, make sure you stand up and walk around, and make sure you drink a lot of water. I also suggest taking socks to put on your feet to walk around in the cabin and a lot of lotion. My skin felt like I needed to drink the lotion it was so dry.
Also remember, when you're making plans for your first day, the day you arrived, remember anything can happen and sometimes it does.