It’s a question that I’ve heard in my adult life far more than I ever thought I would. The second word gets out that we’re going camping, I am almost always asked this question. It usually comes from one of three types of people:
Someone who’s never been camping before
Someone who grew up camping, but doesn’t really know how to do it on their own as an adult
Someone who used to enjoy camping, but doesn’t know how to go about it now that they have kids.
It’s shocking to me, because camping has always been a part of my life, and sharing it with my kids is a huge joy. Read on to find out how easy it is to take your family camping.
We had a great time in Copenhagen, and we had some great adventures with our kiddos. When researching the area before our trip, we were really excited to visit the Den Blå Planet, which is actually the National Aquarium, located right outside of the hubbub of the heart of Copenhagen. Even though it was a short drive from the city center, it felt like we were in a tranquil place like no other. Read on to find out how to plan a trip to this amazing aquarium.
If you only have a short time to spend in Copenhagen and you want to get a beautiful but affordable overview of the city, you have to take a canal tour with Strömma. We aren’t really city folk. We usually like to explore the countryside when we visit new places, but Copenhagen really charmed our socks off. It was such a dazzling city. Read on to find out about our canal tour through this wonderfully diverse city that we just couldn’t get enough of. Continue reading →
We are huge Disney fans, and every good Disney fan has heard the legend of Tivoli, the amusement park that Walt visited that, at least partially, inspired the creation of Disneyland. When we began planning our trip to Denmark, Tivoli was at the top of our list of must-sees. Read on to get tips on getting there, learn some fun facts, and find out just how much Disney was inspired by the Tivoli.
From a recent road trip around the Sabine Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana – 2016
In honor of my little sister moving to Louisiana, I am writing this post about taking an amazing Louisiana road trip for, as always, DIRT CHEAP. We found some unbelievably reasonable airfare from California on Google Flights, and just had to plan a little road trip loop around mostly Louisiana and Mississippi. We went in March, but we came back in August and checked out Northern Louisiana as well. Get ready for some amazing Louisiana (with some Mississippi on the side) style adventures. Here we go.
Airplane Life. Taking Jet Blue to somewhere fabulous. -2014
I know it can be scary to go for that cheap deal and take a discount airline instead of a name you know and love. The price often seems to good to be true. Many times, if you don’t know what to pay for, and what not to pay for, the prices are too good to be true. As someone who has taken my fair share of discount airlines over the years, I will share with you my tips and tricks if you decide to go on one of these airlines. I also rank them in order of preference, so you know if it is worth the discount.
At the official Hot Springs National Park entrance in Hot Springs, Arkansas. August -2016
In August we flew to Northern Texas because my baby brother got married. My husband reminded me that I had never been to Arkansas, so we had to plan a little road trip out of Texas while we were out there. We wound up in Hot Springs, Arkansas for a four night trip, and let’s just say, this place was made to be blogged about. Hot Springs, Arkansas is the home of Hot Springs National Park and it is exactly what it sounds like. People at the turn of the century flocked to Hot Springs to take advantage of all the bath houses that sprouted up in the town due to the natural hot springs in the area. Well, eight of the original buildings remain standing today, and two of them are still working bath houses. Read on to find out how you can plan an amazing adventure to this fantastic place. Continue reading →
I remember when I discovered tripadvisor.com. It was early 2011 and I was planning a trip down route 66. I was visiting family in Colorado and after that we decided to drive out to Chicago, Illinois, the place where the famous route 66 begins. I was so excited to plan our hotel stays along the way and I came across this fantastic travel website. I looked up all the cities we were planning on staying in along the route. The site gave me the top hotels, restaurants, and things to do in every place. I was so excited that most of the # 1 rated hotels were dirt cheap compared to California hotels, and we got to stay in highly rated hotels along our entire trip. Tripadvisor did not disappoint. This post will give you some tips on using this amazing website and app. You won’t want to plan another trip without consulting Tripadvisor first. Then, after your trip, you’ll want to come back and do some reviews of your own, so you can advise future travelers.
In Part 3 of my Walt Disney World – Family Edition post, I will talk about the Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow, or what everyone knows as EPCOT. This park is so educational and fun and full of Disney amazingness. Read on to find out more about this fantastic park. If you missed part 1 or 2 of my post, click below.
EPCOT, or the Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow, was originally designed by Walt Disney to be a functioning city with people living and working there. Although that dream never came to fruition, it does resemble a futuristic community. There is so much to see and do there. Our family enjoys how educational it is as well. The park is split into two very distinct and different areas. Future World, at the front of the park, is definitely the future city that Walt envisioned. It focuses on technology, farming, communication, biology, oceanography, engineering, space travel, and even imagination and innovation. The World Showcase is at the back of the park and showcases some countries from around the world (mostly Europe and North America) in a Disney way, of course. It is very fun to take a quick tour around the world, and it makes you want to plan that future vacation. Keep reading to find out my tips to explore this wonderful park. You won’t want to miss it.
EPCOT -Tips and Tricks
Fast Pass + – Make sure you have reserved your fastpasses for the day on your Walt Disney World account. See my tips on Fast Pass + in part 1 of this series. Attractions worth getting fast passes for, if possible:
Frozen Ride (schedule to open in May 2016)
Remember: If you get three attractions reserved early in the day, you can go back and order more fastpasses on the My Disney Experience App once you have used them all. That is the only way to get more than three fastpasses in a day. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours at this park.
MVP (My Vacation Pants) Tip: EPCOT has two entrances. The main entrance is quite busy in the morning. The security check point creates a lot of traffic and the monorail, parking lot, and hotel guests all arrive and walk into the same crazy line. If you plan on going in the morning, try taking the back entrance. It’s called the International Gateway and it is an often overlooked entry point that brings you right in to the World Showcase. It leaves from some of the hotels, but it also leaves from Disney Studios, so don’t forget to use it. You’ll get into the park way fast.
Educational Guide – As I have said before, I’m a teacher, so the educator part of me wishes she could whisk her students off to this most educational park. The problem is I live and teach 3,000 miles away, so I have to make the most of educating my own children while we visit. First of all, Future World has so much to learn about. Make sure you check out the Innoventions areas in the park. Think of a science type museum rolled up in your theme park visit. Also, check out the different pavilions of Future World, each one has a lot to learn about subjects such as oceanography, agriculture, etc. We especially love the Universe of Energy. First, marvel at the amazing structure that it sits in. It has these amazing solar panels that are used to run the massive attraction. Then go inside and have fun taking this combo film and ride in one. Plus, it stars Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy. Hilarious! The Test Track goes into the science of car design. You have to calculate correctly for your car design to win the competition.
Designing our winning car before we boarded the attraction.
Of course there is also a very realistic space themed adventure as well. Mission Space is modeled after space simulators that real astronauts use to train for space. The ride is pretty intense for littles, but there is a less intense version you can do with your kids. I always have to do the intense version at least once while I am there because I am that HUGE of a Disney nerd. I always feel a little nauseated afterward, but it eventually passes. You can talk about the physics of that attraction because they show you how it works in the line. As for the World Showcase, be sure to visit each country and talk about the geography, culture, language, etc.
Plus, all the cast members there are from the the countries they work in. Oh, and a bonus educational treat: each pavilion features food from its respective country, so you can learn as you eat some yummy authentic cuisine!
Vintage Cool Attractions – I guess it depends on what you consider vintage. I grew up in the 1980s and this park is like stepping back into that era. Probably because it opened in 1982. From the architecture to the exhibits to the background music, it feels 80s, and I love that. Make sure you check out the Journey through Imagination with Figment. There is a super cool backstory to this attraction that you can read from Theme Park Tourist here. I guess the attraction has undergone some major changes through the years. I have only seen it in today’s form, but it still feels very vintage to me. It also stars Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, and who doesn’t love that? The World Showcase area has two Circle Vision shows you have to see. Circle Vision is a 360 degree theater experience where you stand in the center of the theater and can spin around and see a different angle of the scene the entire movie. These types of shows used to be quite prevalent at Disneyland and Walt Disney World, but these two are the last of their kind, so make sure you check it out. There is a show in the China Pavilion and the Canada Pavilion. There are other film type shows in the World Showcase, but these are the only two Circle Visions. Enjoy your 1980s visit to EPCOT! It will be totally awesome.
Pacing – This park is HUGE. It is a 1.2 mile walk just around the World Showcase, so make sure you give yourself enough time to explore this park. You won’t spend a lot of time waiting in lines at EPCOT because the park has many high capacity rides and shows. Make sure you get fastpasses for the attractions listed above, and you should be able to get on everything. The only thing that will slow you down is your ability to cover the entire park. Everything is spread very far apart and it would be best to spend one day in Future World and the other in the World Showcase. If you only have one day, then make sure you ride the attractions above and walk the World Showcase at some point during the day. We like to eat there. Such good food! More on that later. One more pacing note: Some rides, attractions, and pavilions are not open for the entire day, so make sure to check for operating times as you plan your visit.
A Photo Tour of the World Showcase (Traveling Clockwise)
United Kingdom Pavilion
My Vacation Pants Recommendations- There are a lot of fun things to do as an entire family at this park. You have to go to the Sodas From Around the World exhibit in Future World. It is called Club Cool, and they have FREE samples of soda. You stand at the fountain and try all the different flavors. Some are just plain gross, some are quite refreshing.
Get your beverage on for FREE at Club Cool
You know that big golf ball looking thing at the center of the park? Well, it’s actually a ride. It is a slow moving dark ride vehicle that walks you through Communication through the ages. My recommendation is to skip it at the beginning of the day when everyone is coming in, and go on it after the morning rush. Then you’ll be able to walk right onto the ride.
Inside the EPCOT ball
If you have never been on Soarin’, check that out. It simulates the feeling of hang gliding over, well, California. It’s called Soarin’ Over California at California Adventure, and it’s the exact same as the one in Florida, but spectacular just the same. Don’t miss the Chinese acrobats in the China Pavilion. This has been the same acrobat troop we have been watching over the years. They started as child performers and now they are adults. They are such a talented group.
Don’t miss the Chinese Acrobats. Amazing show.
My kids (and husband) loved Agent P’s Phineas and Ferb Scavenger Hunt. They will check you out a cellular device in several different spots around the World Showcase, and you follow a series of interactive clues to make fun things happen while you walk around the World Showcase. You even go and talk to cast members who give you secret items and clues. Check it out while you are there. Also, make sure you check out my food recommendations below. This is the park you want to come hungry to.
Getting their Agent P Scavenger Hunt on
What To Eat
Teppan Edo– This restaurant is located in the Japan pavilion at the World Showcase and it is hands down our favorite restaurant that we have tried in all of WDW. It is a Teppanyaki style restaurant, meaning they sizzle your food right at the table. It’s part show, part delicious dinner. The food is amazing. I love the dipping sauces. I love the show. I love everything. I have been to a couple different places that make food this way, but this one is top notch.
Onion Volcano Time at Teppan Edo
San Angel Inn – This Mexican restaurant is located inside the pyramid in the Mexico pavilion. Once you walk inside, you see a night sky and hear festive music, even if it’s daytime. There is a boat ride that you can take while you wait for your table to be ready that glides right by the restaurant. If you have ever been to the Blue Bayou at Disneyland, it is a similar experience, except Mexican themed. The food was fantastic and seemed authentic. Apparently all the restaurants in each country are supposed to be very authentic, and staffed from people who are originally from those countries. Check it out while you are there.
Blurry, but artsy shot of the San Angel Inn
Flavored Popcorn – We had just come out of The Land Pavilion in Future World and smelled some amazing popcorn. As we approached the cart, we saw they had interesting flavors like buffalo ranch, and sour cream and onion, so we had to try some. With a wave of my Magic Band we started to enjoy this magnificent treat. I am telling you that snack hit the spot. My favorite was the Sour Cream and Onion one while my hubby preferred the Buffalo Ranch. It was much spicier, if you are into that sort of thing. Enjoy some while you are there. Vanilla Ice Cream Funnel Cakes – Okay, this is a treat that has us coming back multiple times per trip. Head on back to the America Pavilion in the World Showcase. Right out front they have this tiny little funnel cake shack. Order the funnel cake with vanilla ice cream. They take a rectangular slab of vanilla ice cream and put it on a piping hot funnel cake and voila… you have a decadent treat that will leave you dreaming about coming back and having more. So amazing! Salted Caramels and German Pretzels- Make sure you go to the Germany Pavilion and go to the Werther’s Original candy shop. I am in love with salted caramels and I get them everywhere I go. Well, the ones I got here were like the BEST salted caramels I have ever had. They have all sorts of other amazing chocolates to try too, but this is my number one pick. Once you have had your fill of caramels, walk across to the beer stand and get one of those HUGE German pretzels with mustard. They are warm, soft, salty and perfect. They are big enough to share with the whole family, but I’m pretty sure I ate it all by myself. Teehee! There you have it, my EPCOT whirlwind tour. Have fun and enjoy your trip to this unique place. Don’t forget to check out the other parts of my series about Walt Disney World, and please write in with any questions you have about this park. I can definitely help you plan a great trip.
Family selfie at Cinderella’s Castle, the focal point of the Magic Kingdom. – 2015
In Part 2 of my Walt Disney World – Family Edition post, I will talk about the magical Magic Kingdom. Read on to find out how to take a budget friendly trip to this fantastic theme park. If you haven’t seen part ,1 click below.
Let’s start with the most popular of the BIG 4 parks, Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is full of fantasy, wonder, and excitement. If you grew up going to Disneyland in the 1980s, like I did, you will LOVE this park even more. It will bring back so much nostalgia. It really is a fantastic place for everyone. Check out the tips below to get the most out of your day here.
Magic Kingdom -Tips and Tricks
Fast Pass + – Make sure you have reserved your fastpasses for the day on your Walt Disney World account. See my tips on Fast Pass + in part 1 of this series. Attractions worth getting fast passes for, if possible:
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Peter Pan’s Flight
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Remember: If you get three attractions reserved early in the day, you can go back and order more fastpasses on the My Disney Experience App once you have used them all. That is the only way to get more than three fastpasses in a day. Also, don’t forget to take advantage of the Extra Magic Hours at this park. If you go to the park during the nighttime extended hours for WDW Resort guests, the park is open until 2:00 AM , and you will pretty much have the park to yourself. Hard for young kiddos, but we just toted the stroller around while they slept, and the hubbs and I took turns walking on rides. It was fantastic.
My daughter and I got to walk on all the Fantasyland rides during the nighttime Extra Magic Hours at the Magic Kingdom.
Here is our gang at the Extra Magic Hours at night. Taken at 1:50 A.M.
Vintage Cool Attractions – As I mentioned above, the Magic Kingdom has tons of vintage cool attractions that will take you back in time. Don’t miss these attractions that used to be at Disneyland in California, but are no longer there: Country Bear Jamboree, Carousel of Progress, Swiss Family Tree House, Tom Sawyer’s Island (with the fort and Injun Joe’s Cave open still), Tomorrowland Transit Authority (Walt Disney World’s version of the Peoplemover), and the Rockets on top of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (like it should be). Also, they still have The Main Street Electrical Parade. This used to be at Disneyland, but has been gone for several years. It was so fun seeing it again.
This way to the People Mover. Nice!
Pacing – Magic Kingdom is a larger park, not as large as EPCOT, but it has a lot to do. If possible, make sure you spend a couple days here. If you are only spending one day here, be sure you make use of those fastpasses, so you get the most bang for your buck.
MVP Tip: A lot of people who have been to Walt Disney’s original Disneyland Park in California decide to skip this park. They think it is just a replica placed in Florida. Nope, not the case. Even the attractions they have at both are way different. For example, on Splash Mountain you are seated side by side in the log rather than in a row. It also goes through different scenes from Song of the South as well. The whole park is like that, but it also has completely different attractions too, like the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Bottom line: don’t skip it while your there.
Educational Guide – I’m a teacher, so I try to find teachable moments everywhere we go, and believe it or not Disney World is no exception. Make sure you check out the Hall of Presidents. Talk to your kids about presidency and how important our founding fathers were. Liberty Tree Square is a great way to show your kids what Colonial Times were like. They even have stocks to take your picture in. Talk about that kind of history with them. It’s important for kids to know how the world has changed. The Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom is great show that demonstrates how technology has changed through the years. You also get to ride around in a circle theater, so that’s fantastic as well. Tom Sawyer’s Island has a lot of history about the Southern United States and how things were back then. Also, my husband taught my kids how to play checkers while we were there. Make history come alive and teach your kids something while you are having all sorts of fun. Never miss an opportunity to help their brains grow.
Checker time on Tom Sawyer’s Island.
My Vacation Pants Recommendations- We loved the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. It has very cool technology and is a thrilling ride, but still tame enough for younger children. If you have never been to a Disney Park, you have to go on the classics like Pirates of the Carribean, Haunted Mansion, Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room, Small World, etc. We also loved The Hall of Presidents, maybe because of the The Bill and Ted reference, but it’s educational none the less. One more thing that is exclusive to the Magic Kingdom, you have to check out the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor at the Magic Kingdom. It was an interactive show and it was so hilarious we went back twice.
It was spooktacular at the Haunted Mansion.
Jungle Cruise is classic.
Space Mountain mimics the Matterhorn track from Disneyland in California. No side by side seating here.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad as seen from TomSawyer’s Island.
What To Eat
Cinderella’s Royal Table – Yep, it’s just like it sounds, you get to eat inside Cinderella’s Castle. How cool is that? On this particular trip Cinderella was doing some remodeling, so we weren’t able to eat here, but we have eaten there on past visits. Make sure you make your reservations early because they do fill up fast. It’s a small intimate venue and you will feel like you’re royalty eating there. This is also one of those splurge places. Maybe bring some sandwiches for the rest of the day because this place is quite spendy. Our favorite thing is the pretzel bread. Not sure if they still serve it, but if they do, you’re in for a treat.
Liberty Tree Tavern – Take a step back in colonial times and enjoy a meal. This restaurant is located in the Liberty Square section of the park. We had some good ole comfort food while we were there. I liked that when you checked in to the restaurant they asked where you were from, and then when they called your family name to seat you they would yell where you hailed from. It went something like this, “The Vecchio Family from the California Territory, your table is ready.” It was cute, real cute, and fun to explain to the kids about colonies verses territories and stuff.
Out front of the yummy Liberty Tree Tavern.
It looks like a cute little colonial tavern inside.
Dole Whips at the Sunshine Plaza – If you have never had a Dole Whip, you must try this tasty treat during your visit. It’s basically pineapple ice cream, and it’s so magical. They have a whole plaza dedicated to this treat at the Magic Kingdom. You can get it at a couple different places (by the Enchanted Tiki Room and across from the Swiss Family Tree House). They had an orange pineapple one that we tried that was okay, but for the real deal get the pineapple flavored one, or splurge for the pineapple float. Yum.
Yes, it tastes as good as it looks.
So there you have it. My Vacation Pants guide to the Magic Kingdom. Please comment or e-mail me with any questions you have about this place. I do know my way around a Disney Park. Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to check the links below to help you plan, and follow me on social media for updates about posts and to get even more travel tips.