Put on your Louisiana Road Trip Vacation Pants

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.

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Put on Your Year in Review Vacation Pants

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Showing off my Redwood Tree Vacation Pants in the lovely Humboldt Redwood Forest in Northern California.

Well, it’s been a whole year since I started the ole travel blog and I decided to reflect on the last year of travel.  I am going to talk about the best place(s) we ate (sometimes it is too hard to choose one), the best place(s) we visited, the best place(s) we hoteled, and the best thing(s) we did.  Of course, I will give you an overall snapshot of our travels at the end of the post, so you can get some travel inspiration.  Sit back, relax, and make 2017 the year you get out there and travel in those vacation pants!!!  Hope you start planning that next vacay, stat!  Continue reading

Put on Your Hot Springs, Arkansas Vacation Pants

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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.
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Put on your Walt Disney World Vacation Pants, Part 5 of 6

Animal Kingdom…not your average zoo. -2015

We are near the end of this very detailed Walt Disney World series.  Part 5 of 6 will focus on the newest park in the pack, Animal Kingdom.  Take a look at how you can plan a jam packed day full of fun at this park, that is definitely not just a zoo.  If you haven’t seen my other posts on WDW, check them out below.  


Animal Kingdom is a fantastic place.  Walt always wanted to put real animals in his parks, and in 1998 that dream became a reality.  I actually just read a fascinating blog post about the history of the park and how it almost never was.  Read it here.  I am so happy that did became a reality though because we always have a blast here.  It is also home to my favorite attraction on Earth.  More on that later.  Read on to find out how to get the most out of a trip to this park.  

Animal 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:  
    • Expedition Everest
    • Kilimanjaro Safari
    • Kali River Rapids
    • Dinosaur
    • Primeval Whirl            

                    Expedition Everest – The thrill of a lifetime!    

    • 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:  This park is worth getting to when it opens.  In fact, make sure you go to early hours if possible, because many of the animals are most active in the morning, and they are snoozing by noon.  Ride and experience the non animal exhibits after the animals start escaping the heat.  
    • Educational Guide – Obviously this park is smothered in education.  Bring life science to life by reading the exhibits and asking the animal caretakers questions.  In fact, even in the bathroom stall I learned all about animal poop.  It was great.  Make sure you see all the animal exhibits.  They are all tucked into hidden crevices.  Not all of them are listed on the map, so keep an eye out.  Follow any sign that says “trail” because you will see a lot of really cool animals.  Also, make sure you check out the bird aviary.  They are beautifully ornate, with breathtaking vegetation, and beautiful birdies.  

                Bird watching fun.  They even have cards to spot the birds.

    • Vintage Cool Attractions – Okay, so this park is pretty new in terms of Disney years, so vintage is kind of a stretch, but I guess if you are in your teens, this park will bring back some nostalgia.  For one, you have to check out the Bug’s Life movie located in the tree of life.  It’s so funny and has interactive fun.  The Dinosaur area also reminds me of a late 50s, early 60s vibe.  They have a fun little carnival style land, and the Dinosaur ride is very cheese in a fun way.  Like an old TV show.

    • Pacing – This park used to be half day park like an actual zoo, but they have added a lot of fun attractions since it opened and you can definitely spend a full day there now.  It’s also open much later than it used to be in the early years.  Like I mentioned before, spend the morning watching the animals while they’re active and spend the afternoon and evening riding the attractions.  Make the first attraction of the day the Kilimanjaro Safari because the animals will be jumping around.  

    • My Vacation Pants Recommendations:  Okay my favorite ride in the entire galaxy is at this park.  Make sure you hit Expedition Everest multiple times during your visit.  I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s like no other coaster you will ever ride.  It’s thrilling, amazingly themed, great technology.  You’ll love it.  We also love the Kali River Rapids.  If you can hit it on a rainy day, you are golden because for some reason no one wants to get wet when you are already getting wet.  We just put our ponchos on and they let us go round and round a couple times.  Another must do attraction is Dinosuar.  The premise is you go back in time in a jeep.  You see some crazy dinos along the way.  It can be quite scary for young children, so make sure your kiddos can handle it because you do only have to be 40 inches to ride.  

                                                    My favorite ride in the world…Expedition Everest.



      What To Eat
      Yak and Yeti (sit down and counter service) – We love eating lunch at the counter service Yak and Yeti.  They have a fantastic honey chicken and tangy teriyaki chicken bowl.  The egg rolls are amazing too.  They used to serve pot stickers there as well, but now you have to do the sit down restaurant to get those gems.  We loved the open air ambiance of the restaurant.  The food was tasty, but I miss those pot stickers being at the counter service restaurant.  It was a perfect little lunch/snack spot.  The sit down restaurant is also very beautifully decorated.  You almost feel like you’re on top of the Himalayas.

                                             The Asian Chicken Salad was HUGE and YUMMY!

      Pot stickers are the BEST.
      The kiddos posing out front.


      Rain Forest Cafe – So they have two locations at Disney World, but I had to give you this little tip.  Go to the Rain Forest at Disney Springs instead of this one.  They are both cool.  They have animantronics, waterfalls, and aquariums, but the one at Disney Springs is inside of a volcano that fake erupts every once in awhile.  I think the architecture is so cool there.  Make sure you make your reservations for at least one of these, especially if you have never been to a Rain Forest Cafe.  

      Have a great day at Animal Kingdom.  I think you will agree this is not your average zoo experience.  Feel free to write in or comment if you have any additional questions about the park.  


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      Trip Links
      Walt Disney World Webpage – https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
      Theme Park Tourist – http://www.themeparktourist.com/
      Part 1 of this Post – http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-disney-world-vacation-pants.html
      Part 2 of this Post: http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-walt-disney-world-vacation.html
      Part 3 of this Post: http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-you-walt-disney-world-vacation.html
      Part 4 of this Post: http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-walt-disney-world-vacation_26.html

      Also click on headings in the post above.  I linked the important information you need. 

      Put on your Walt Disney World Vacation Pants, Family Edition, Part 3 of 6

      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:  
        • Fast Track
        • Soarin’
        • Mission Space
        • Finding Nemo
        • 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)
      Mexico Pavilion


      Norway Pavilion

      China Pavilion

      African Outpost
      Germany Pavilion


      Italy Pavilion


      America Pavilion

      Japan Pavilion
      Morocco Pavilion


      France Pavilion
      United Kingdom Pavilion

      Canada 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.


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        Trip Links
        Walt Disney World Webpage – https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
        Theme Park Tourist – http://www.themeparktourist.com/
        Part 1 of this Post – http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-disney-world-vacation-pants.html
        Part 2 of this Post: http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-walt-disney-world-vacation.html

        Also click on headings in the post above.  I linked the important information you need. 

        Put on your Walt Disney World Vacation Pants – Family Edition, Part 2 of 6

        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
          • Space Mountain
          • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
          • Splash Mountain                                                                               
        • 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. 

        Follow My Vacation Pants on Social Media:

        Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/myvacationpants/
        Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/myvacationpants/
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        Inquiries: myvactionpants@gmail.com

        Trip Links
        Walt Disney World Webpage – https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
        Theme Park Tourist – http://www.themeparktourist.com/
        Part 1 of this Post – http://myvacationpants.blogspot.com/2016/04/put-on-your-disney-world-vacation-pants.html

        Also click on headings in the post above.  I linked the important information you need. 


        Put on your Disney World Vacation Pants – Family Edition, Part 1 of 6

        Packing for our trip to Walt Disney World – 2015

        My Vacation Pants will teach you how to take the most budget efficient trip to Walt Disney World with your family. Continue reading to find out how you too can plan the vacation of a lifetime without breaking the bank. This is part 1 in a series of 6.  This first post will give you the tips you need to book a Walt Disney World vacation.

        Trip Overview
        Imagine this:  My hubbs and I secretly booked a Disney World vacation for our kiddos.  We didn’t tell them anything.  They knew all about this fantastic place because we told them all about it.
        (Being a past Disneyland Resort cast member, I had gone a few times before.  In my younger adulthood the only way I could afford to go was to take people on my Main Gate Pass, which worked for both the California Resorts and the Florida Resorts.  I will cover taking a cast member trip in another post.)
        Back to the story: our flight to Florida left super early one morning.  The kids were asleep as we loaded them into the car.  We woke them up at the airport parking lot and told them the news.  They were so excited!  We felt like the BEST PARENTS EVER! It was hard to keep the trip a secret from them, but the reaction was so worth it.  It’s been one year since the day we took off on this fantastic trip, and I am ready to blog the pants off of this thing.  I can’t wait to give you all the tips I learned on my 7th time visiting this wonderful place.  This is part 1 of a series of 6 posts about Disney World.  This first post will prepare you on how to plan for a trip for Walt Disney World.  


        Check out the video below to see our kids reactions to the BIG news.




        Trip Itinerary

        Overall this was an 8 night, 9 day trip.  I know you may be thinking, “Do I really want to spend 9 days at a theme park?”  Yes, yes you do.  If you want to immerse yourself in the full Disney World experience, you have to realize that you could stay a whole year here and NOT see all it has to offer.  The longer you stay, the more you will get to see and do.  Also, this ain’t a trip for the faint of heart.  You will NOT be relaxing much on this vacation if you want to get your money’s worth, so maybe plan a little down time after your trip to recover.  This was the longest Disney World trip we had ever taken, and it still went by in the flash of an eye.  


        Day 1: Flew from Los Angeles, CA to Orlando, FL.  We took the complimentary airport shuttle, (Disney’s Magical Express) which is free if you stay in a Disney Property Hotel, straight to the resort. Plus we went into Disney Studios and the Magic Kingdom once we arrived.

        Day 2:  Animal Kingdom
        Day 3:  Disney Studios
        Day 4:  EPCOT
        Day 5:  Typhoon Lagoon Water Park and Downtown Disney (now called Disney Springs)
        Day 6:  Magic Kingdom
        Day 7: Changed hotels: We went from All-Star Music Resort to the Contemporary Resort and went to EPCOT
        Day 8: Disney Studios and Magic Kingdom
        Day 9: Magic Kingdom and then we flew back from Orlando, FL to Los Angeles, CA


        MVP (My Vacations Pants) Trip Tip: Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Virgin America, and Jet Blue are some budget airlines that fly from major airports to Orlando for dirt cheap.  Check out those airlines.  Sometimes it is worth driving a couple hours to an airport if you are going to save hundreds of dollars on airfare.  


        Trip Budget


        My mother in-law was actually graduating from an online university during the time we took this trip.  Lo and behold, her school decided to hold the graduation at Walt Disney World Resort Hotel.  A cool part about Disney World is that many athletic competitions and conferences take place there.  This may be a time to combine work and pleasure to get a discount.  Discounts on tickets and hotel rooms extend to friends and family, so make sure you take advantage of this opportunity if it ever comes up.  We certainly did.  


        • Roundtrip Airfare to Orlando, FL from Los Angeles, CA- $456 a person- Eek!  You can definitely get the price of this down by using Google Flights.  Our problem was that we all had a very specific range of time we could go to Disney World, so we had to fly back on a very expensive day.  In the past I have flown to Orlando for under $200 a person.  You just have to have flexible dates.  The cool part of this was my mother and father in-law paid for our whole family to come out and see her graduate, so we didn’t have this cost out of our own pockets when we went, which was another reason we really wanted to go when we did.  
        • Airport Transfers – FREE  Mickey’s Magical Express is a free shuttle service from the Orlando Airport to the Walt Disney World Resort if you stay at any of the on resort properties, so take advantage of that.  
        • Tickets to the Parks – We bought 8 day park hoppers at the convention discount.  The ticket also included an extra ticket to Typhoon Lagoon, so that’s 9 days of fun for only $377 a person.  That works out to only $41 a day.  That’s some 1990s prices.  So find a conference at Disney World and get those discount tickets.  You know there has to be some kind of conference you want to go to.  
        • Hotels – We paid $81 a night for the All-Star Music Resort which is a Disney Value Resort.  You don’t spend much time in your room, so you might as well go cheap.  The resort was also offering discounted rooms at the Contemporary Resort for $169 a night for people who attended the graduation, so we changed hotel rooms at the end of our trip to take advantage of a deluxe resort deal for a HUGE discount (they are usually $400 a night). Our grand total for lodging was $824 for 8 nights of on property lodging.
        MVP Trip Tip: I upgraded my Disneyland Premium Annual Pass to a Premier Pass.  The Premier Pass gives you admission to both the California and Florida resort properties (including the water parks).  It also included free parking.  If you plan on going for as long as we did or if you are taking two trips in a year, this is a fantastic deal.  You also get some discounts on merchandise and some restaurants in the park.  Just upgrade one person in your party and get discounts for the whole group. 
          Trip Grand Total – $4156 for a 9 day/8 night Walt Disney World Vacation!!!  This total is based on a family of four.  Two adults and two children (age 6 and 4 at time of our travels).  


          MVP Trip Tip:  We packed a suitcase of food for our trip.  There is no grocery store on site, and the food at the park and the hotels are expensive.  To cut down our food costs we pre-bought a bunch of snacks that would have cost us a fortune at the resort.  Don’t worry, we still got our eat on!!!  I will explain that more in a later post.  


          Trip Lodging

          • All-Star Music Resort – located on the WDW property.  This hotel is considered a value resort.  But come on, do you think Disney does anything half way?  This hotel is great! It is basically Disney’s rendition of a Best Western or Holiday Inn Express, complete with Mickey shaped toiletries and day and night Disney programming.  What makes it special:  The fact that you are just a short shuttle from all the parks is so convenient and fun.  We loved the pools and the outside decor.  
            Towel animals every night.

            Exterior jazz section of the All-Star Music

            The front of the hotel by the shuttle stops.

          • Contemporary Resort – located on the WDW property in walking distance to the Magic Kingdom Park.  This place is considered a deluxe resort.  Weirdly, after all is said and done, we preferred the value resort to the deluxe resort.  Don’t get me wrong, the murals and architecture were fantastic, but the shuttle system to the parks here was so disorganized and slow, and it was much more convenient and efficient at the All-Star resort.  At the budget resorts, there is a shuttle for each park and the shuttles come consistently, at the Contemporary resort, there was just one pick up location and no queue, so everyone just cut in front of everyone else.  The shuttles were far and few between.  The monorail was broken down every time we tried to use it and it almost made my mom in-law miss her graduation, so that was stressful.  Also, the monorail didn’t even run as late as the park was open, so we had to walk back late at night from the Magic Kingdom with two sleeping kiddos.  What makes it special:  It’s the closest park to the Magic Kingdom, so that was fun.  The monorail runs right through the hotel lobby.  That was cool when it was working.  They had a very fancy pool with pool activities and a water slide.  It definitely was a nice room as well.  Think of a Hilton or Sheraton, Disney style.  
            Bigger towel animals at the contemporary.

            The beds were more comfy. 

            It had a nice little sitting area. 

          Our view from the Monorail.  


          The Mary Blair murals were top notch. 


          So I may have been insanely excited that the monorail was finally working to take us back to our hotel.


          MVP Trip Tip:  Think about how much time you are actually going to be staying in a hotel room.  Do you really need somewhere fancy, or do you just need somewhere to rest your head?  I would opt for the value resorts if you want to save some moola.  


          BEFORE YOU GO – TIPS AND TRICKS

          If you want to get the most out of your Walt Disney World trip, you don’t want to wait until you get there to make decisions.  You need to plan, plan, plan to get the most bang for your buck.  This particular trip was relatively last minute.  We had less them a month to plan, and it did cost us some experiences.  Overall, we came out pretty good, but make sure you use the tips outlined below to really make things go smoother.  

          • My Magic + – As soon as you buy your tickets, sign up for a Walt Disney World account and start planning your experiences.  You can book your fastpasses and plan your dining reservations up to 30 days in advance if you are just going to the parks, or 60 days in advance if you are also staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel.  
          • Fastpass + – Once you make a Disney World account, go ahead and enter your ticket reservation code under the My Disney Experience tab and start booking those fastpasses.  These are FREE, so make sure you take advantage of them.  You can pre-book three fastpasses per person, per day at a park.  Choose the date and the park you are going to for that date, and it will list three tiers of rides.  One tier includes the big attractions (Space Mountain), the second tier is the medium attractions (Pirates of the Carribean), and the third tier is the attractions that usually have a very small wait time (Philharmagic Show).  Pick one in each of the categories and the hour window you want to go.  My tip would be to book the fastpasses earlier in the day because once you have used them all, you can download the Walt Disney World app and book more fastpasses for the same day, but you have to have used or let your first three reservations expire before you can do this.  These fastpass reservations will then be connected to your park ticket or Magic Band, and you will be on your way. Again, the Fastpass + is included with your theme park tickets or annual passes and is no extra cost to you, so make sure you take advantage.
          • Disney Dining – I will go into detail about where you need to eat later in this blog, but I beg you to make your dining reservations as soon as you possibly can.  The table service restaurants are so popular, and they fill up fast.  I did the math, and buying a dining plan is NOT worth it.  Do your own planning and you will save money and have the flexibility of eating where you want and when you want.  We did 1-2 table service restaurants a day.  The food is amazing and worth it, and the counter service restaurants cost almost as much as the counter service restaurants anyway.  
          • Magic Bands – It is worth ordering the Magic Bands rather then standard ticket cards.  The Magic Bands are waterproof electronic bracelets that work as your park ticket, hotel room key, fastpass reservation, and payment (if you choose to connect a credit card).  No more trying to dig around and find those park tickets or room keys, they are on your arm. This option is free with your park ticket purchase. 

            It was fun having the annual passholder Magic Band.

            Team Magic Band ready to get our WDW on!

          • Make sure you pack: 
            • Comfortable walking shoes – break them in before you come
            •  Mole skin – to cover blisters
            • Ziploc bags to put phones and electronic devices in on water rides, or when it rains
            • Ponchos – it rains a lot in Florida, and out of absolutely nowhere. (You know those old movies where it’s all sunny, and then suddenly there is a total down pour?  Well, that’s what it’s like in Florida.)
            •  A double stroller if you have young children – my kids were old enough to be out of a stroller when we went, but you walk A LOT for multiple days in a row, and I was sooooooooooooooo thankful my hubby made us bring the double
            • Dry snacks – there is no grocery store on resort property, and the snacks at the hotel are outrageously priced, so we bought a suitcase full of chips, granola bars, fruit snacks etc. and we were so thankful we did
            •  A portable charger – I recommend the lipstick sized one that Anker makes, it fully charged my phone from 0% each day, so I could keep snapping those pics, checking wait times, and making new fastpass reservations on the Walt Disney World App. Also, the resort has free wifi, so make sure you connect to that when you get to the resort property.
          • Mickey’s Magical Express – This is the name of the hotel shuttle that you take to the Walt Disney Resort property.  It is free to resort property hotel guests, but if fills up fast, so make sure you make your reservations a couple weeks in advance.  If you do, you get to take the shuttle fastpass line like we did.  We just waved our magic bands and presto, we were on the shuttle.  See how easy it was to use in the video below.  
          • Download the Walt Disney World App – It’s a great way to check wait times, show times, maps of the parks, and of course to make/change/modify  your fastpass + reservations.  Download it from home before you go, so you don’t have to use your cell phone data to do it.  The parks do have FREE wifi, but it does get spotty to use, and has a hard time downloading apps.  

          So that about does it for Part 1 of my Walt Disney World, Family Edition blog posts.  Check back later for more posts about this uh-mazing trip!!! 


          Follow My Vacation Pants on Social Media:

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          Trip Links
          Walt Disney World Webpage – https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/
          Also click on headings in the post above.  I linked the important information you need above. 


            Put on your Cheap Cruise Deals Vacation Pants


            On a 7 night/8 day Alaskan Cruise we booked through Vacations To Go for only $399 a person. -2009

            I want to tell you about an amazing website we have used in the past to find fantastic cruise deals.  In fact, for every cruise I find, I start here to make sure they don’t have a cheaper deal.  The website is called vacationstogo.com, and it is fantastic!!!  Let me walk you through how to find the cheapest cruise deals to anywhere you want to go.


            I have several websites I look at when I am booking my next vacation.  Google Flights (check out my recent post on that), Trip Advisor, and Travel Zoo to name a few, but if cruising to an exotic or magnificent destination is on your mind, then you need to check out  Vacations to Go!  They are able to offer great deals on cruises by buying in bulk and selling at a discount, or by booking last minute deals.  The website is pretty basic and has been around for awhile.  In fact, you can’t even book online, you have to call to book the cruises, which is old school, and I like to book old school every once in awhile.  The agents are so nice, and once you find one you like you can call their direct extension and book through them again. Follow my steps below to navigate your way through the website and cruise booking.


            Step 1: Go to vacationstogo.com and sign up by giving your e-mail address.  Don’t worry.  They just send you a few e-mails every week advertising their weekly deals.  I actually enjoy getting them to see what deals I could possibly get.  Then click on the upper left hand corner button labeled 90 day ticker.  This will bring you to a list of last minute deals that are 90 days, or less, away.



            Step 2:  Go ahead and scroll down the list and see if anything stands out to you.  They are divided by cruise regions.  The ports and destinations will vary.  Compare the two prices.  The first price listed is the brochure price, the 2nd price listed is the discounted rate offered on Vacations To Go.  The prices are per person, based on double occupancy, so sometimes if you have four people in a room, you can get it even cheaper per person.  Look below for some deals I found.  


            Another cool feature of the site is that once you are on the page above you can sort the cruises listed by price, sailing date, number of nights, discounted amount, and more.  Just click on the headings at the top of the page. 

            Here it is sorted by price.  $199 for a cruise through the Caribbean. Nice!


            Here is the list sorted by number of nights.


            Then there is the super duper advanced search.  This is how you find the cheapest cruise for the time of the year you want to go.  Go ahead and scroll to the bottom of the 90 day ticker.  There is a simple search if you want to look for cruises that aren’t confined to being only 90 days away, but I like the more advanced search.  Click on custom search.  

            I usually put in a window of time that I can cruise and put in a price limit.  You can also put in regions and other specifications, but sometimes I just want to find the cheapest cruise for the time of year I can go.  

            Here is the list that came up with my parameters.  I do love that there is $179 cruise leaving from the area I live.  Hmmmm, maybe I need to go on a little cruise.  



            Step 3:  Once you find some interesting cruises click on the info link on the left-hand side of the page to get the itinerary and extra details.  Sometimes there are even some extra deals that were not listed on the first page.  Notice the red print on the cruise listed below.  
            You can get a 7 night/8 day cruise through the Caribbean and South America for $350 a person.  $332 if you are a teacher.  They have a profile page that you can fill out, so you can get further discounts.  Notice you also get a free beverage package. What?!  That’s a fantastic deal.  Many cruise lines only include tea and water for free, so if you want sodas and other beverages, you  have to purchase a costly beverage package per person.  So, including the beverage package in the cruise purchase is a great deal!  Also, remember all your food, entertainment, and lodging is covered in the price of the cruise.  

            Not sure about the cruise line?  Click on the name of the boat at the top of page (in blue). It gives you sorts of important information about the boat.  Check out the ship rating and see what kinds of facilities the boat has. 
            See below.


            Step 4:  So after you have found the cruise you want to go on, go ahead and call the phone number.  Give them the fast deal# listed at the top of the cruise itinerary.
            Talk to a nice vacation planner about the cruise.  They will talk to you about the cruise, get your passenger information, and price the cruise with taxes and fees.  If you have more than two people there may even be a discount, because usually 3rd and 4th passengers are cheaper then the first two passengers (and sometimes even free!).  You can book right away with the vacation planner, or you can hold the cruise for a day to think about it. I usually will then contact the cruise line directly to see if they can offer a better deal.  Sometimes they do, in which case I’ll book with them directly.  But sometimes the Vacations to Go price is better, and I book through them. 

            Well, that’s about it!  That’s all you need to do to book the cruise of a lifetime. So put on those cheap cruise deal vacation pants and set sail on your next adventure.  

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            Put on your Hotwire Hotel Deal Vacation Pants

            Hotel Rosedale in Bakersfield, CA.  Found for only $45 bucks a night on Hotwire. 

            This time My Vacation Pants teaches you how to find super cheap “secret” hotels using Hotwire.com.  Read on to find out how easy it is to find a deal on a hotel anywhere you want to travel to. 


            It’s time to start teaching you all how to find some great hotel deals on the internet.  One website I have used many, many times is called Hotwire.  The premise of Hotwire is that you select your criteria, dates, location, star level, and they give you a list of several “secret” hotels.  You select the one that looks most appealing, and only after you enter your credit card information and pay for it do they reveal the name of the hotel.  Scary, I know.  I was a little hesitant to try this website at first as well.  I thought, surely, they are tricking me.  They say I am only paying $49 a night for a three star, but it will turn out to be a dump for sure.  Well after years of using Hotwire to book my hotels, I am happy to say that I have found countless deals at otherwise unaffordable hotels.  The site works.  However, you do have to know your way around the website, so I’ll walk you through how to book a killer hotel deal.  


            Step 1:  Go to www.hotwire.com and click on the hotel tab. 


            MVP (My Vacation Pants) Travel Tip:  The website offers hotels, rental cars, and flights, but I have always found the best deals using the hotel function.  I have also rented cars through hotwire a couple times too, but I seem to find better deals when I book my flights, hotels, and rental cars separately, and not together.  

            Go ahead and fill in your information.  Put in a destination, dates, number of rooms, and number of people.  When my kids were babies, I would just put two people in, but now that they are older I count them.  They guarantee a sleeping space for each person you list.  So if you want two beds, you are going to to need to put at least three people in to the search engine.  I have made the mistake of just putting in two people and we get to the hotel to find out they only have rooms with one queen bed.  You can sometimes find cheaper deals for only two people, but it is worth paying a little extra to make sure you have a spot for everyone.  Now ,click the big red button.  

            Step 2:  Now let me show you how to select the perfect hotel.  I stay in Anaheim, CA a lot because we got to Disneyland a lot, so that is the search criteria I put in for this example.  I also selected four people.  This is what came up.  


            The list on the left hand side will list Hotwire’s Top Picks first.  Sometimes it is a great deal, but you can do better.  Go ahead and make sure the tab on the top says you are on the hot rate hotels page, then right below it click “sort by” and then click “price: low to high”.  This will now list your hotels in order from absolute cheapest to most expensive.  

            Also, if you are not familiar with the area you are booking a hotel in, there is a map of regions on the right.  You can click the highlighted green area, and only the hotels in that area will show up on the left. You can select more then one region, so keep selecting until you have all the areas you would choose.  I usually leave it open because sometimes it is worth driving 30 minutes or so for a great deal.  Sometimes you have to be close because you don’t have a car, so choose accordingly.  


            So after changing my filter and making my list in order from cheapest to most expensive, I scrolled past all the one and two star hotels until I hit the first three star or higher hotel.  Wow!  I just found a three star hotel near Disneyland (Buena Park is the city next to Anaheim), for only 50 bucks a night.  But before you book it, there are some more things to look for before selecting a secret hotel.  First, make sure it is listed as the star level you prefer.  I find that the Hotwire hotels we have booked are well rated, and do seem to match the star level listing.  We have been burned picking star levels lower then three, but if we stay in the three stars above we are usually happy.  Now you can be dangerous and book a two and half star and get some amazing deals, but make sure you look at the percentage recommended.  If it is lower than 85 percent, don’t do it.  Or be daring and do it, sometimes you can find a hidden little gem by taking a risk.  It’s up to you.

            Okay back to my find, notice that this is an all-suites hotel (that is super exciting because that means every room will have a kitchenette, a couch, and bed, so that is fun).  Also notice, it has free internet, and free parking listed in its amenities section.  If it is not listed as free they may charge for parking and internet.  Now the only thing that could spice this deal up a little more is being closer to Disneyland and having free breakfast.  Let’s continue to scroll.  


            Here is one on the list that is $69 a night, but it is much closer to Disneyland.  It has free internet and free parking, but still lacks free breakfast.  It does have a high rating, but not enough to tempt me.


            I scrolled a little more and found two that have free internet, free parking, and free breakfast, but I wouldn’t book this because they are way more expensive than my $50 find, and it’s only 30 percent recommended.  I wouldn’t risk it with ratings that low.  


            This could be an option if I needed free breakfast and wanted to be closer.  I can feed my family breakfast for less than $32 dollars a night though, so I would probably pass. 


            This is the cheapest three and half star option.  I understand some people (A.K.A. my mother in-law) don’t like booking lower then a certain star level.  I get it.  Live it up, but please get a good deal.  


            Here are some affordable 4 star options.


            And for those of you that have to have a 5 star stay, you can book these for normally $500 – $800 night rooms for much cheaper.  Even rich people want a good deal, right? 

            So all in all, I would stick with my initial find of $50 a night for an all suite hotel, with free parking and free breakfast, and with good reviews.  





            Step 3:  Book your hotel.  Go ahead and click on the hotel in the list.  The above screen will pop up.  It gives you an idea of what possible hotel brands you might get.  If you are still comfortable with the names listed, go ahead and click book now.  Now look at the picture below,  it also gives you a list of hotel features, and a chance to upgrade to a room you would like.  It’s usually cheapest to let the hotel choose your room for you.  Remember, they will give you enough sleeping places for the number you listed in your room search, so if you put four people, you‘re not going to get a room with just a queen bed.  I know it seems stressful to choose the unknown, but Im telling you, it works.  


            One final thing you can check before you book your secret hotel is the Trip Advisor ratings that are listed on the site.  Trip Advisor is one of my favorite travel sites because it gathers reviews and gives pretty accurate ratings for a hotel (I’ll do a Trip Advisor post in the future).  Sometimes I cross check the site to see if I can figure out what hotel it might be. If I go to Trip Advisor and look up the three star Buena Park All Suite Hotels that have three and half circles, then compare the amenities available, I can often figure out the secret.  This is for those of you that just can’t stand the unknown.  As I said before, I know it is hard to book blind, but with this little trick you may not have to.  You are definitely lowering the risk factor with a little detective work.  If you’re still comfortable, go ahead and click “book now.”

              
            At this time, Hotwire will ask you to sign in to your account, or sign up for an account.  This is what the final page before booking looks like.  Make sure you check that the rate is correct.  Also, this is the first time they will show you how much your room will be with taxes and fees.  $10 dollars is not bad at all.  If the hotel charges a resort fee, it will tell you that you pay that directly to the hotel once you get there.  Another plus about this hotel is that even though it is in a resort area, it does not charge a resort fee.  Awesome!


            Click “book now”.  Your credit card will be charged and your hotel will be booked.

            Now, the name of your hotel will be revealed.  Voila, this is what I got.  Looks nice to me!  You can now check out the listing on Trip Advisor for the hotel you booked to make sure you got a deal.  Which, from the looks of it, I did!!! 

            Still not convinced? Take a look at the list of past hotel purchases we have made on Hotwire:

            • Holiday Inn Resort, Galveston, TX, three stars, $77 a night, January 2016
              Super nice pool right across from the ocean.


              The pier is nearby too.  Phil is pointing out his excitement.



              Look at the view from our balcony. #handsome



              We definitely got a pool view.


              Combined with an ocean view.  Nice. 


              This is the view from the corridor.  We were getting on that Disney Cruise Ship in the distance. 
            • Staybridge Suites – Austin Airport, Austin, TX, three stars, $84 a night, January 2016
              The kids eating breakfast from their couch bed.


              Gotta love a breakfast bar with Texas shaped malted waffles. 
            • Hotel Rosedale, Bakersfield, CA, three stars, $45 a night, December 2015
              Great Breakfast.  Malted waffles make me happy. 

              The hotel corridors were unique.

              Yep, that’s a teeter totter at a hotel.  


              The pool area.  Nice hot tub. 


              The patio area with a pool view.
            • Hyatt Place, Phoenix, AZ, three stars, $65 a night, December 2015
              Phil had a brothers night.  A perfect place for a bro getaway. 
            • ALO Hotel by Ayres, Garden Grove, CA, 3 and 1/2 stars, $80 a night, October 2015
            • Crowne Plaza, San Diego, CA, 3 and 1/2 stars, $89 a night, July 2015


              My daughter enjoying a book in the comfy bed. 
            • Best Western Plus – Flathead Lake, Kallispell, MT – 2 and a 1/2 stars, $99 a night, June 2015
              This place was great.  They had cheese blintzes at breakfast and a great view. 
            • Wyndham – Anaheim Garden Grove, CA, 3 and 1/2 stars, $79 a night, April 2015
              Once I found out that I had gotten this place on Hotwire, I called and asked if they would upgrade us to the bunk bed rooms, and lo and behold, they did!
            • Best Western Casa Grande, Arroyo Grande, CA, 2 stars, $85 a night, March 2015
              Cute little breakfast nook area.


              The lobby was super amazing looking.


              The grand stair case in the lobby. 
            • Desert Palms Hotel and Suites, Anaheim, CA, 3 stars, $66 a night, January 2015
            • Aquarius Casino Resort, Laughlin, NV, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $35 a night, November 2014
            • Holiday Inn Express, San Diego, CA, 3 stars, $65 a night, October 2014
              Any hotel that  has a  bed that can fit a family of 4 for a selfie is a friend of ours.
            • Ayres Suites, Corona, CA, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $55 a night, August 2014
            • Embassy Suites, Brea, CA, 3 and a half stars, $69 a night, July 2014
              We love Embassy Suites.  They all have an amazing jungle atrium lobbies with fantastic breakfasts and they are an all suite hotels.  Plus this time, they upgraded us for free.  Nice touch.  
            • Holiday Inn Express, Show Low, CA, 3 stars, $70 a night, March 2014
              We enjoyed the inside bridge between the buildings.


              Totem Pole
              It also had a small little playground.  Great for young kiddos. 



            • Prescott Hotel and Conference Center, Prescott, AZ, 3 and 1/2 stars, $69 a night, March 2014
              Hanging poolside.


              Sweet indoor pool that we got all to ourselves.


              Enjoying the hotel furniture.


              This was the view from the back terrace of the hotel.  Prescott is beautiful.  It sits on a hilltop, so you can see everything.


              Look a this kid.  He’s so cool, and so is the nice bed.
            • Luxor Resort, Las Vegas, NV, 4 stars, $34 a night, July 2013

              The lobby.

              In front of the hotel.


              Poolside.
              What a steal!  My mom got us an upgrade for $34 bucks a night.  Cheapest I’ve ever paid for a 4 star hotel.
            • Colton Inn, Monterey, CA, 2 and a 1/2 stars, $102 a night, June 2013
            • Holiday Inn, Santa Maria, CA, 3 stars, $64 a night, June 2013
              My bro in law made some killer breakfast burritos here. 


              Huge rooms. 
            • Ramada, Hagerstown, MD, 3 stars, $56 a night, March 2013
            • Doubletree Hotel, Wilmington, DE, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $66 a night, March 2013
            • Best Western Plus – Chincoteague Island, VA, 2 and a 1/2 stars, $54 a night, March 2013
              The kiddos insist on making little beds out of hotel furniture. 


              Chincoteague Island is known for their wild ponies that roam the island.  We found some Un-wild ponies across the street from the hotel. 
            • The Padre Hotel – Bakersfield, CA, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $56 a night, December 2012
              This was such a cool hotel.  It was an old hotel all glammed up for a new age.
            • Best Western Seven Seas, San Diego, CA, 3 stars, $45 a night, December 2012
              Sometimes, if you are real sweet, they will upgrade you to a suite with a hot tub.  That’s always fun.  
            • Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel, Buena Park, CA, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $55 a night, November 2012
            • Sheraton Hotel, Cerritos, CA, 3 and a 1/2 stars, $66 a night, April 2012

            Well, there you have it.  What are you waiting for?  Go book a hotel and then come back and tell me about the amazing deal(s) you found! 

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