Disneyland for Our Daughter’s 13th Birthday

Having a Blast on California Adventure's Tower of Terror

Having a Blast on California Adventure’s Tower of Terror

Going to Disneyland for our Daughter’s 13th birthday was a great idea!  We had a blast!

We stayed at the Grand Californian which was quite expensive, but we were able to get into California Adventure at 7:00 am with hardly any other people, and we were able to ride 15 rides before 11:00!

Because our family likes Disney for the rides, we find it worth the extra money of staying at the Grand Californian for the perks: 2 days “Extra Magic Hours” even with only 1 night booked, IN California Adventure & Downtown Disney, you can see the Disneyland Entrance from the hotel.  If you don’s use the perks, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

Splash MountainBesides being an incredible 5 star hotel with very comfortable beds, soft sheets, many pillows, great service,  fun pools, good restaurants, etc, we like how close it is to California Adventure and Disneyland and the “Extra Magic Hours” the most.  This is worth the $450 per night price tag for our family. If you can’t get to the early hour…don’t stay here.

There are other hotels close by, like our other favorite, Park Vue Inn, which is right across the street, about a 5 minute walk.  This hotel usually runs $190 per night, includes a light breakfast, and if you buy a 3 day Disneyland pass, you can go into the park for 1-2 mornings on the “Extra Magic Hour”.  The difference in these “Extra Magic Hours” is that the entire crowd of all the other hotels goes into either Disneyland or California Adventure and ONLY the Grand Californian guests go into the OTHER.  It changes daily.

For example:  Sunday, Monday, Wednesday & Friday are California Adventure, and the other days are Disneyland early entry for Grand Californian guests.  These days change randomly, so make sure to check when you are booking to see which park is on

We LOVE California Screamin' in Disney's California Adventure! Our Favorite ALL TIME ride!

We LOVE California Screamin’ in Disney’s California Adventure! Our Favorite ALL TIME ride!

which day.  All the “neighbor” hotels get in only 2-3 days per week early, and the number of people with this option from the “neighbor” hotels is many compared with the handful of Grand Californian guests going in the OTHER park on the same day.

So, for us, by lunchtime, we have finished one park.  We eat lunch at the Big Thunder Mountain Ranch BBQ, take a nap at our AWESOME hotel, and then we are back at it until Midnight.  If you EVER have Disney questions, PLEASE email me!  I would love to give you any tips I can!

Happy Birthday our gorgeous, brilliant, courageous, funny, obnoxious, playful, happy, kind, daughter!  We love you!  I’m so thankful that you are in our lives.  You rock.

Love, Mom & Dad

 

3 Days in Boston with Family

DSC_5797Boston is loaded with family friendly activities, and these sites were helpful in choosing what to see:

TripAdvisor’s 3 days on Boston most helpful, with pics and ratings

Independent Traveler’s 3 Days in Boston My favorite itinerary

Suggested 3 Day Boston Itineraries interesting, with several ideas

Pictures of what to try in Boston I liked these pics and reviews

The best advice I can give for an outsider coming to visit Boston:  hire a guide!  Per hour. Several days in a row.  $65/hr. Next time I will plan a 6 hour tour with a guide.

It’s worth it.  I’m not kidding, nor am I loaded with extra cash.

There’s oodles of history in Boston.  Oodles.  A plethora.  Books and books worth.

In 4 days, we missed some of the most important sites on our “Must See” list.  If we had hired a guide, we would have seen everything, we would have known at what we were looking and why AND had extra time to eat more cannolli in North End at Mike’s Pastry.

Mike's Pastry, North End, Boston There is usually a line out the door, but it moves fast

Mike’s Pastry, North End, Boston

The North End was our favorite, besides Cape Cod, but that’s not really Boston. North End includes a section of the Freedom Trail, including Paul Revere’s house, several churches, and many many plaques with historic info.  But, what is most fun about North End is all the  great food.

 

We really enjoyed:

  • North End
  • The Museum of Science x 2
  • The Blue Man Group!
  • The Freedom Trail
  • Harvard Square
  • Walking around

What we didn’t quite dig… see this other post How NOT to Visit Boston with Family.

 

How NOT to Visit Boston with Family

Boston rocks.  There is so much to see and do, it should be fun & exciting…if you have planned your visit.

I have to chalk this trip up to “How NOT to visit BOSTON”.  A wonderful opportunity to experience lack of planning in action.  A solid list of Don’t’s.  The CARDINAL SINS OF TRAVELING…all in ONE trip!

DON’T:

  • Pack for the entire family the night before without checking the weather  (this paved the way for the other disasters)
  • Check to see if lodging is comfortable (and quiet…but HOW do you check that??)
  • Have a lodging back up plan in place
  • Study the subway lines to know where to go
  • Make a list of the “Don’t Miss These” places, and make them a priority
  • Have sanity, confidence, & rational thinking

This trip was a great example of how lack of planning can create “I wish we were home” type statements…which for me is like a traveling death sentence.

Why was this trip was not our favorite?  Partly because of the cold April weather and mostly because this was the least prepared I have ever been for travel in my life.

I was off my game.

It may have been because of last year’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, or maybe the unexpected cold weather in Spring…I’m not sure, but I was in SLOW MOTION!    It was weird.

First of all, I rolled the dice to save money with lodging, using Airbnb.com for the first time, and choosing a small condo outside of Boston Proper, in Jamaica Plain. I booked months ahead of time.   The condo was charming and a great choice to save money by taking the “T” (subway) into town instead of dealing with pricey parking and LOTS of traffic.  All that was true and money saving.

But…it was loud for our family.  It was ON a main street with traffic noise 24/7,  we didn’t sleep much.  By the 2nd day (out of 8 nights), it was like pulling teeth just to get out of bed…much less go walking for 15+ miles each day in the freezing cold to see Boston.  At 2 AM I was surfing the net to find a different place to stay…but everything was $500+ per night because of the Boston Marathon.  Lesson Learned.

Add 35-45 degree weather with freezing winds…and our family dressed for 65 degree weather (MY FAULT-I KNOOWW) then looking for/at those brass signs “of historical importance” becomes not so important.

Hot chocolate, warm feet and pasta become important.

DSCN1107So, we got to see many Italian restaurants in North End, which we could find, instead of the site of the Boston Tea Party or the Tour of Fenway Park.  We DID get to Fenway park, where we bought $35/each hats because of freezing weather for which we were under-dressed, (And a whopping $150 off budget with one purchase). But, we didn’t get to go on the tour because it was sold out.  This describes our typical luck of this trip:

  • Get up tired from nooo sleep, dreaming of getting hit by the numerous busses that pass by each hour
  • Dress the kids with pants on pants, shirts on shirts, while they grumble, tired & hungry
  • Eat out because our “budget condo” has a vegetarian kitchen…
  • Walk to the “T”, trying to find Fenway Park
  • Get lost.  Ask for directions, get lost. Walk all the way around Fenway Park to find the “tour gate”, which, btw, was RIGHT next to the “T” doors.
  • Miss our chance to go on the Fenway Park tour because of for said “Walk AROUND the OUTSIDE of Fenway Park”
  • Take the wrong “T” train, get lost, ask for directions, realize the directions are wrong
  • Have Pasta, Thank Goodness we could find THAT!
  • Get home, exhausted, to another night of no sleep.  “Yay.” whispers my daughter…

    Boston Subway... Jake dropped his new hat... it was gone in a flash. :(

    Boston Subway… Jake dropped his new hat… it was gone in a flash. 😦

For the Fenway Park Tours, fyi, noon is a popular time, so try for 11 or 1:00.  They leave on the hour, so plan for that.

Just to keep the positive of Boston positive, I separated what worked during our trip to a different post in this post 3 Days in Boston with Family.

If you have any questions about this trip, let me know.  🙂

Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

Mickey MouseI’m a Disney lover and am always happy to find so many Disney lovers all over the world!  I used to keep my “Disney talk” to my family only, but I have realized how many families love Disney as much or more than we do!  Now, we have Disney parents who compare Disney plans & past experiences.  I love that!! It’s the best way to learn.

When starting the planning process, the question is:  Disneyland or Walt Disney World??

First, it depends on where you live and your budget.  The closer option is easier on the family travel exhaustion and family budget.  If you live on the East Coast or West Coast, your option is clear. If you have a choice, here are some things to think about:

  1. Disneyland is typically cheaper and easier to see in a shorter amount of time
  2. Disneyland is 300 acres while Disney World is 30,000 acres! (47 square miles!)
  3. Disney World is good “All-inclusive” where Disneyland is not
  4. Disneyland is boxed in, so some outside hotels are closer to the entrance than Disney World hotels

Pros for Walt Disney World:

  • It’s huge…also a con
  • all inclusive: if you don’t want to leave “campus” you don’t need to.  Everything you need is right there.  This also saves on a rental car.  This also makes it easier to focus on Disney instead of other options
  • More to see:  Disney World is much bigger than Disneyland and you could take days to enjoy all it has to offer
  • Many options to stay:  the “on property” hotels & places to stay in Disney World make much more sense than the “off-property” hotels, unlike Disneyland, where the hotels by the main-gate are closer than The Disneyland Hotel to the Main Gate.  Fort Wilderness Cabins, for example, in Walt Disney World give a great “suite” type cabin with a full kitchen and 2 sleeping areas while being very close to Magic Kingdom. (our favorite!) see Tips to Planning a Trip to Walt DisneyWorld
  • There are more specials for Disney World for longer stays, but Disneyland is catching up

Pros for Disneyland:

  • It’s small…also a con
  • You can get the entire 2 parks covered in 2-4 days
  • They offer a VIP tour that really rocks 714-300-7710 (Disney World is too big for this same tour)
  • There are many hotels RIGHT there….our favorite is Park Vue Inn which is closer to the main gate than the Disneyland Hotel (btw)
  • You are not too far from the beach…we always include a few beach days during our stay
  • It’s the original and there are some historic coolness you can find

We tend to choose Disneyland over Walt Disney World because of how close it is to us and our familiarity with Disneyland and the area around it.  We know exactly where to go…

Which would you choose?

Today is My Daughter’s 12th Birthday!

Happy 12th Birthday, Elizabeth!  You are an amazing young woman!

A shout out to our daughter, Elizabeth, who turns 12 today, May 24.

Happy Birthday!

I am so glad you are my daughter! We are so proud of you!  It’s been so fun, an honor and a daily blessing to be a part of you  growing up.

I can’t believe it’s already been 12 years since our first child was born! Poof, she’s a young adult, one year from a teenager.

On the last day of school, and the day before she turned 12, Elizabeth was awarded the “Most Considerate” award in her 6th grade class ceremony, a typing award and a Spanish award, but the award she is most proud of is the “I almost Beat My Coach In Pickle ball and Badminton” award from her P.E. teacher, Brian Stinnett. I think the end score was 21-19, but Elizabeth was sure he forgot to count a point and it ended 20-20.  Hee hee.

Our Beautiful Little Girl

CZ-63-Edit-8x10Not only is Elizabeth an awesome athlete, she’s an excellent student, a self-motivated studier, very kind & compassionate, a great cook & very creative at arts and crafts.  Actually, she knits beautiful winter hats and sells them for $10 if you are interested!  I’ll add a picture if I can find one…

I know the next 12 years will go just as fast as these first 12 have, and I’m going to enjoy each moment!

Happy Birthday!  We are very proud of you!

And yes, you can have a foot massage again tonight! 🙂

 

 

 

Family Trip Planning For Christmas

We are brainstorming about where, which days & what to do for our Christmas Vacation.

Disneyland Christmas

Disneyland Christmas

As the kids get older, we can’t take them out of school as easily as when they were younger.  So, as many other families have to do…we go during Christmas Break.  We could stay home and really relax from all the after school run-around.  But, I like to get out of town because when I stay home, I continue to massage, move around the house,  and cleaning, organizing, etc.  It’s never really “relaxing” for me.  That’s more for the summer vacation: PJ’s for weeks at a time!!

What is our budget? Do we want to stay home for the Christmas Day or leave the day after?

Where should we go? There are so many great options:

  • To see family?
  • To relax and sleep for days?
  • A warm beach?
  • A White Christmas?
  • Golf?
  • History?
  • Disney?
  • Music?

The way I see it, there are only so many vacation opportunities before the kids are on their own.  Out of the 2 vacations per year, I only have 12 left with my daughter (or so).  There are the big places to see: New York City, Boston, Alaska, Washington D.C., Yosemite, The Redwoods, etc, etc.

I could name at least 50 places.  So, how do we choose 12?  DSC_0386

Any ideas out there?

Is there a bucket list for Family Vacations?

American History is fun to see in places like Pennsylvania, Boston & Virginia.  But so would the National Forests, or the great rivers, the Great Lakes, etc, etc.

As a kid, we only traveled to where our extended family lived.  We had the opportunity to see things IN BETWEEN us and family while driving.  And the driving was awful.  Remember the no-air conditioning, no radio signal, no car-seats type travel with a gas station every now and then?

Now there are so many fancy travel helpers like DVDs, iPods, travel games, stores every 30 miles or less, etc.  It’s much easier to go places in a car.  Many hotels have a pool.  Even small pools make it great for the kids to unwind and burn off some energy.  Then we go to the room and order a movie in the room!! So easy!

This year, we are going for a “dual-purpose vacation” involving family, Disneyland, ocean & history!

We will drive to save money, but that takes 2 days out of our vacation, which sometimes is worth the price of the plane tickets.

Instead, we added 2 days to our time, which was a huge relief.  That is one of the advantages of owning our own businesses: we can leave when we want.  In the massage business, the days we miss just means less income for those days.

I usually make an excel spreadsheet of dates, hotel info, prices, activity & prices.

Here’s our Itinerary:

Dec 26   Leave early, drive to Palm Springs, see family

  • Dec 27   Del Mar Beach Motel 2 nights

    Dec 28   Day at the Beach, Drive to Anaheim, check in to Park Vue Inn

    Dec 29   Disneyland

    Dec 30   Disneyland

    Dec 31   Disneyland

    Jan 1      Hollywood

    Jan 2      Hollywood

    Jan 3      Drive Home

Is the Suite Worth It On a Cruise to Alaska?

DSC_0004It’s roughly $2000 extra for a suite… added to the regular price of the 7 day cruise. This was on Holland America, but I think roughly the same amount would apply on most cruise ships for 7 days.

What does that include? Obviously more space, but is the extra space worth it?

Here was my thinking:

This is a “once-in-a-lifetime” type of trip.  I’m going ALL IN!

My husband does not enjoy traveling as much as the kids & I do, and this upgrade was mainly for him to feel more comfortable.  He is claustrophobic, needs alone time & quiet time, and he doesn’t like crowds.  Sometimes he doesn’t even like people.

The suite turned out to be the perfect amount of room for him to feel relaxed and comfy.  Not only was the room spacey enough to sit & read or lay down, but also the private verandah was large and lovely.  He spent hours and hours on the verandah, staring at the beautiful sites.  Just for this reason, the suite was worth the extra massage hours I put in to pay for it. To watch him leaning on the verandah rail, calm, relaxed and happy was great and a small price to pay for him to enjoy the time.

For us it was worth it for several other surprising reasons:  The daily laundry service! OMG, I’ll take it! Pick up, wash, dry, fold & deliver?? Are you kidding? Awesome!

The breakfast delivered in bed…yes please!  We really enjoyed this feature and took our food out on the verandah to have breakfast with the ocean.  So lovely to drink tea out there!

The concierge!  She helped us with dinner reservations, any questions we had about the trip, our room, etc.  She checked on our shore excursions even when they weren’t booked through the ship!  And she was in the Neptune Lounge which had snacks, drinks, movies, computer access, magazines, etc, right across the hall from our room.

The daily High Tea delivered to our room!  Yummy!  Can you say “weight gain”? I felt like we never stopped eating!  But the food was delicious.

Is the suite worth it for you?  It really depends on:

  • How much time you want to spend in your room…some people are only in their rooms to sleep
  • How comfortable you are in public spaces…because there are some LOVELY public places all over the ship, so staying in your room is not really needed.
  • Is a verandah important to you?  Again, there are many places to sit and watch the views/water NOT in your room.
  • If the verandah is important to you, do you need a big one?  Because you could get the smaller verandah for much less.

 

Cons:

  • The price

Pros:

  • More space
  • Large verandah
  • Extras that come with the suite: laundry service, food delivery, concierge, luggage delivered first in/out, and list of more.