Put On Your Room Escape Vacation Pants – Southern Cali Edition

If you know me or follow me on social media, you know about my most recent obsession…room escapes!!!  For those of you who don’t know, room escapes are entertainment venues that offer to lock you in a room (not literally, fire code is pretty important to follow) and you have a certain amount of time to escape the room by solving a series of connected puzzles and mysteries.  It is fantastic amounts of fun.  In this post, I will take you through a bunch of room escapes I have tried in Southern California (spoiler free, of course!) in hopes that you will jump on the bandwagon and try some of these out.  Here is my current So Cal directory of room escapes the I have tried.  As I try more, I will add to the list. Continue reading

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 Tripadvisor Vacation Pants

 

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.

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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:

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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!!! 


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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 Disney Cruise Vacation Pants: Re-positioning Cruise Edition

      Meeting Captain Mickey on our recent Disney Cruise -2016

      The My Vacation Pants family just got back from a Disney Cruise around the Caribbean.  Read on to find out how you can book a Disney Cruise for about $600 a person and join in on the Disney themed vacation fun.





      Trip Overview
      A couple of months ago I woke up and checked my e-mail like I do every morning.  I subscribe to tons of internet travel websites.  Travelocity was having a 24 hour cruise sale.  I clicked on the link not thinking much about it, but lo and behold they had a killer deal listed on a Disney Cruise.  I have not been able to afford a Disney Cruise since I worked at Disneyland 10 years ago.  The cruise prices listed were as low as when I worked for the Disney Company and got a HUGE Cast Member discount, plus they were offering a $200 on board credit per state room if you booked through Travelocity.  I felt a flutter in my heart knowing that if I booked this cruise, I could finally take my kids on a Disney Cruise. The cruise was a re-positioning cruise.  Re-positioning cruises are great because the boat is moving to a new port for a season of sailings, but they want to make money while they are moving the ship, so they give some amazing deals to fill an otherwise empty boat.  Disney Cruise Line does many re-positioning cruises throughout the year, but never while I am off of work on a break from teaching, so I had to snatch that deal up.

      Trip Itinerary

      Overall this was a 10 day, 9 night trip.  We had to fly to get to our embarkation port in Galveston, TX.  We spent a couple of days in Texas, then we were on the cruise for 6 nights.  We disembarked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I would have loved to spend a couple more days in Puerto Rico, but I had to get back to work, so we only spent one night there.  


      Day 1: Flew from Long Beach, CA to Austin, TX.  We stayed at a hotel by the airport since we got in late.  

      Day 2:  Traveled to Galveston, TX by rental car
      Day 3: Departed from Galveston, TX on our cruise
      Day 4/5/6: At Sea aboard the Disney Wonder
      Day 7: St. Thomas – U.S. Virgin Island
      Day 8: Tortola – British Virgin Island
      Day 9: Disembarked ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico
      Day 10:  Traveled Home

      MVP (My Vacations Pants) Trip Tip: Don’t always think you HAVE to fly out the day of the cruise and fly right back the day your cruise ends.  We extended our vacation by three days and saw some amazing things by extending our trip.  We also saved money on airfare because we didn’t fly in/out when everyone else did from the cruise ship.

      Trip Budget


      We booked at the right time.  Disney Cruises are known for being extremely expensive.  Because this one was a re-positioning cruise leaving right after New Years, it was a great deal.  This was definitely an expensive vacation for us, but still worth the extra expense.  


      • Airfare to Austin, Texas – $134 from Long Beach, CA on Jet Blue Airlines. We found it on Google Flights.  Check out my other blog post on that. 
      • Airfare from San Juan – $191 to Los Angeles, CA.  We booked directly with American Airlines, but again found the flight on Google Flights.
      • Rental Car – We rented a one way car rental from Austin, TX to Galveston, TX on rentalcars.com for $193.  It costs a lot of money to rent a one way rental sometimes, but it is much cheaper then shuttling your whole family to the cruise terminal, plus it gives you freedom to explore along the way.  Compare the differences and make the best choice for your family.
      • Gas for the rental car – You can estimate how much gas you are going to use on a trip by using https://www.fueleconomy.gov/.  Gas was pretty cheap in Texas.  We are talking $1.72 a gallon.  Amazing to a Californian like myself.  We paid about $20 for gas on our trip.  
      • Cruise – We paid $2592 for our stateroom of 4 people.  We stayed in an oceanview room.  We also booked through a cruise sale on Travelocity that gave us a $200 shipboard credit to spend on whatever we wanted on board, so that works out to $598 a person.  That’s right folks.  Unless you work for the Disney Company, that is unheard of for a 6 night Disney Cruise ocean view room.  
      MVP Trip Tip: Shop around for your cruises.  We booked through Disney Cruise Line first, and then I found the cruise cheaper on Travelocity.  Disney let me cancel my reservation and book with Travelocity, but I got all the same perks as booking with Disney.  
      • Cruise Gratuities- On all cruises you pay gratuities at the end of your cruise stay instead of tipping each day.  Disney Cruise Lines automatically adds your gratuities to your credit card on file the last night of the cruise.  They work out to about $11 a night per person.  Not a bad deal in my opinion.  You are tipping your servers, your stateroom host/ess (they clean your stateroom twice a day), and your head server (he is like the manager at a restaurant).  I know I tip more than that for one meal sometimes.  For our whole family of four we paid $264 in gratuities for the entire length of the cruise.   
      • Taxis- We choose to do our own shore excursions rather than pay for an overpriced one through the cruise line, so we do research ahead of a time and take taxis from the cruise terminal to where we want to go.  We spent about $132 dollars to tote our family around the islands we visited.  Pretty good considering those shore excursions start at $80 a person.  We also took a taxi in San Juan to our hotel.  That was $20 for all four of us.  Then we took an early morning taxi from the hotel to the airport the next day.  That was $25 dollars for all four of us.  My hubby also had to drop off our rental car in Galveston, Texas and found out that Enterprise Rental Car did not shuttle to the terminal.  He ended up getting an Uber which he paid for on his phone, but a couple other Disney Cruise Dads who were dropping off their rental cars shared a car with him and he ended up getting a free ride.  The grand total on taxis for the trip was $177 for a family of four.
      MVP Trip Tip: Sometimes renting a one way rental car is way cheaper than booking an airport shuttle or taking a taxi.  Make sure you do your research beforehand.  
      • Hotel – We stayed in a three different hotels on this trip before and after our cruise.  I will go in to detail in the section below.  The total was $371.
      • Activities – 
        • San Juan Castillos – Children 15 and under are FREEEEEE!  It was only $5 bucks for adults for both the historic castillo sites in Old San Juan.  So $10 for the fam bam (family, you’ll start to get my secret language the more you read) to get inside.  
        • Saint Thomas – We tipped a guy $5 to watch our stuff on the beach while we snorkeled (we always bring our own equipment to save money).  We didn’t really bring any valuables, but it didn’t hurt to help the locals out.  He also let us use their restaurants restrooms and showers, so that was cool too. 
        • Tortola – We went to a beach for FREE.  
        • Cruise Activities (movies, theater shows, swimming, shows, trivia contests, dancing, parties, dinners, comedians, magicians, jugglers, character breakfasts etc.  – INCLUDED IN CRUISE COST
      Trip Grand Total – $4912  This total is based on a family of four.  Two adults and two children (age 7 and 5 at time of our travels).


      MVP Trip Tip:  We have several ways of financing our vacations.  We tend to go without during our day-to-day lives.  No new furniture.  We don’t really care about remodeling our house as long as it is safe and comfortable to live in.  We love hand me downs, thrift stores, and yard sales.  That’s just how we choose to live our life.  We know it’s not for everyone, but it is definitely how we afford to travel as much as we do.  See what you can live without and plan the trip of a lifetime.  


      Trip Lodging


      • Staybridge Suites Austin Airport – located in Austin, TX.  This was your typical airport hotel.  It was clean, close to the airport, and affordable.  I was bummed they didn’t run their hotel shuttle past 10 P.M.  This made us have to rent our rental car a day early and drove that trip cost up a bunch.  But once we were there it was quite nice.  We booked it on Hotwire. Check out my other blog post to get tips on how to book with them.  What makes it special: It is an all suite hotel.  It had a kitchenette, great water pressure, a seating area, and TEXAS SHAPED WAFFLES!  Hello?!!!  
      Texas shaped waffles at the Staybridge Suites in Austin, TX -2016

      • Holiday Inn Resort – located in Galveston, TX  – This place was quite beautiful and right across the street from the ocean.  The room had a fridge and a microwave.  A beautiful pool area that we didn’t get to use because we got there late and left early.  They had a free shuttle to the cruise terminal.  Make sure you make a reservation the night before.   What makes it special:  The staff was very friendly.  The balcony in our ocean view room was quite spectacular.  It was very clean and comfortable.  
        The fantastic balcony at Holiday in Resort in Galveston, TX – 2016

      • Ocean View Disney Cruise Stateroom – Our home for 6 glorious nights. Disney Cruise Line knows how to make a stateroom.  Adorable decorations, large for a stateroom, the toilet room is separate from the shower room, bunk beds for the kids, fridge, a queen sized bed that seemed a little bigger then a queen to me, comfortable mattress, Mickey themed toiletries, towel animals, and the list goes on and on.  We just loved it.  What makes it special:  Well, for starters you’re on a Disney Cruise, so everything is special.  We have been on many cruise lines, but Disney just knows how to make it magical.  You get to know your stateroom host/ess and your kids can watch Disney shows all day and night if you want.  They even have Wave Phones (portable phones) you can use throughout the ship, so you don’t rack up hefty roaming charges on your cell phone.  
        Special gift because we have taken more than
        one Disney Cruise.
        This was our 4th one. -2016
        The shower room. – 2016



        The toilet room. – 2016


        Shot from the stateroom door. 
        One of our two portholes. -2016


         

        Privacy curtains.  The kids loved using this at night. Wink, wink. – 2016



        Elephant towel animal. – 2016

        Monkey Towel Animal. – 2016


        MVP Trip Tip:  Think about staying on the first level on your next cruise.  We did on this trip and absolutely loved it.  There was never a long wait for the elevator because the only thing on our floor was the infirmary.  We got see the water slap against our stateroom window.  It was less crowded.  When you stay in staterooms on floors with the kids clubs and movie theaters you get a lot more traffic down your hallway.  We had a pretty quiet stay down there.  An added bonus is that these staterooms are usually cheaper than higher levels.  You can view a map of your ship when you book your cruise online, so you can pick accordingly.  Also ,try to stay in a stateroom that is mid-ship.  You can get to everything quicker, and you feel the motion of the ocean less.  
      • Chateau Cervantes –  located in Old San Juan Puerto Rico.  This quaint little hotel was spectacular.  I haven’t been to Europe since I was a small child, but it had the look and feel of a quaint little European hotel.  We booked through booking.com.  What makes it special:  It is right in the middle of the Old San Juan area.  We walked to the Castillos and dinner with the kids and grandparents and it wasn’t bad at all.  It is an old building with lots of charm.  The rooms were huge.  The service was fantastic.  It was a great stay for sure.  

        This was a shot of hotel we got from the streets below. 

        The cute little balcony.

        A shot of the room.  They had a king
        sized bed for us
        and pull out sofa for the kids.  

        My son helped me get a shot of the other side of balcony view. 



      Trip Activities


      • Cruise Activities – So Disney Cruise Line has no shortage of activities for families to enjoy together.  There is so much to do you have to plan what you want to do ahead of time and pick what you want to do the most.  I downloaded the Disney Cruise Line App ahead of time.  Once you are on board, you turn your phone on airplane mode and connect to the ship’s wi-fi and it will only let you connect to their app.  The app was great  because you can set up your schedule of events you want to do and it will send you reminders before they start.  You can also text other people that are on the ship with you through the app as well.  For people who like to plan the old fashioned way with paper and pencil, they have something called the Personal Navigator that you can carry around with you and go to all the different activities the ship has to offer.  Here is a list and photos of some of the stuff we chose to do:  

        • Movie Theater – I think a personal touch that the Disney Cruise Line has to offer is they have a separate movie theater from the show theater.  All day long it plays first run movies.  On our particular cruise we got to see: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: The Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inside Out, The Good Dinosaur, Ant Man, and Bridge of Spies.  It was so fun getting to see these movies at sea.  
        • Trivia and Game Shows – The Disney Wonder (the name of our ship) had a wonderful cruise activity director who led several trivia and game show type activities.  We had a blast going around to the different pubs, bars, and taverns participating in the games.  I think I enjoyed the TV Show Tunes Trivia the best.  We always came in 2nd place though.  They should come up with a way to make sure people don’t cheat because I am pretty sure other teams cheated, but what are you gonna do?  We had fun anyway.  I am too honest to stretch the truth.  I know that we won in my heart.
        • Theater Shows – They have a spectacular Broadway style theater on board.  We got to see Disney style theater productions.  They perform a different show every night.  They also played Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the large theater in 3D.  That was a fun treat.  With the boat swaying it felt like we were actually on the Millennium Falcon.  They also had a ventriloquist act, a magician, and our personal favorite, a professional juggler.  


          Charles Peachock – World Class Juggling Super Star – 2016
        • Swimming – Our ship had a kid pool area, a family pool area, and an adult only area.  We found that if we went swimming in the evening before dinner we often got the pool to ourselves.  They have a waterslide and pool side treats.  All included in the cost of the cruise.  
          The Kid Pool on the Disney Wonder. – 2016


          The adults only section of the pool.  Downside.  It was always crowded.  – 2016


          They have a 24 hour beverage bar by the pool stocked with soda, hot chocolate, and teas. -2016
          Waterslide Time. -2016
          My kids called this the Kid Hot Tub. -2016


          See that! That’s my kids in the kid pool all by themselves. – 2016

        • Oceaneer’s Club and Oceaneer’s Lab Kid Programs – For ages 3-17 they have youth programming on the ship.  We have a five year old and a seven year old, so they were able to participate in both the Oceaneer’s Club and the Oceaneer’s Lab.  You register your child and they give them a bracelet to wear for the length of the cruise.  You can give them check in and check out privileges if they are older.  We told our seven year old daughter that they could have the staff message us on our wave phones when they wanted to be picked up.  The kids definitely had a great time in their programming.  They have several different events listed in the Personal Navigator or on the app to help you plan your kiddos’ days.  While they are off enjoying the program’s activities, you can enjoy some adult programming as well.  

          In the club they have a huge pirate
          themed play structure. -2016
          They have an open house for the parents, so we could check out the area. -2016

          The lab has video games, science experiments, and cooking classes.  -2016

          My daughter at the lab. -2016

        • And much, much more!!!  Check out the other activities you can do on the ship through pictures.  
          They have an arcade.  Not free, but fun. -2016


          Character Meet and Greets for much shorter waits than at the Disney Parks. -2016


          Opportunities to mimic you favorite Disney Characters.  -2016


          They have tons of board games around the bars and lounges.  We snuck in a heated game of Scrabble. -2016


          Pirates IN the Caribbean deck parties with stunt and fireworks shows. -2016  


          Character Breakfasts. -2016


          Playing shuffleboard is a must on any cruise you go on.-2016  
          Plenty of hidden Mickeys to find around the ship.-2016
      • Snorkeling- We are a huge fan of snorkeling.  It is such a cool way to see wildlife and it is so relaxing as well.  My husband and I would love to get our diving certificates too, but we aren’t quite there yet.  Meanwhile, snorkeling keeps us happy.  Here is where we snorkeled on this particular trip.  
        • St. Thomas, Coki Point Beach – We have actually been here before and had a fantastic experience, so we wanted to go back.  Especially since we were teaching our 5 year old and our 7 year old how to snorkel for the first time.  We love how protected the cove is.  There are very small waves.  The reefs are in shallow water and they are easy to get to.  It is busy when cruise ships are in port, but it wasn’t too bad.  It was about a 20 minute taxi drive to Coki Point and we got a spectacular view of the island while driving there.  One more thing to note:  The taxi is basically some benches welded to the back of a truck bed.  It was a little scary, but still a fun adventure.  We noticed that the expensive shore excursions from the boat were taking the same type of taxi, so it was still worth doing it on our own.  


      We got a clear view snorkel boat for the kids on Amazon. -2016


      Success, our kids loved snorkeling. -2016


      We got kid sized snorkel kits at Target before we left. -2016


      Checking out the fish. -2016




      Cool coral formations. -2016


      Parrot Fish. Up close and personal. -2016


      Look at all the fish. Woohoo! -2016

        • Tortola, Brewer’s Bay – Again, we took about a 20 minute taxi to the secluded bay.  This time we were in an enclosed taxi van with seat belts, but it was filled to the brim with passengers and he said the kids had to sit on a lap to a get a discount.  The drive down to the bay was a single road and it was an amazing sight to see, but again a little scary.  We could see the blue, clear water from the bay below and it looked fantastic. When we got there, we noticed the waves were a little rougher than Coki Point.  Still small compared to non protected bays, but it definitely affected our ability to see as much while snorkeling.  This was more of a play in the sand, swim, and sun type beach.  We had a blast though.  
          Jungle Beach – 2016

          Had to make this one extra big, so you could see how secluded and beautiful Brewer’s Bay was. -2016

          Getting ready to snorkel.

          Adventure awaits. 

      • San Juan Castillos – We had one day to explore Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We dropped off our luggage to the hotel, got some info from the front desk person, and were on our way.  We had no idea how close the hotel was to San Juan Castillos.  The Castillos are old fortresses that were built in the 1600s to keep out armies from trying to attack the port of San Juan.  The fortress was even used in World War II to spy on enemy submarines.  It is pretty much the oldest architecture I have ever seen and it was so beautiful and cool.  It is a must see if you ever visit Puerto Rico.  We took a free shuttle to the other castillo and when we were done took the shuttle back to our hotel.  
        The tunnels of the Castillo San Cristobal. -2016
        The front of Castillo San Felipe del Morro -2016

        Pretty warm for a January day, but well worth the trip. – 2016

        The lighthouse was added later.  -2016

        A lookout with a view. -2016

        In the courtyard.  One of our kiddos was a little tuckered out. -2016



        Trip Eats


        • Waffle House- Austin, TX – I don’t know if you have ever been to a Waffle House, but this was quite a step up from a normal 24 hour diner.  The strawberry waffles with buttery hashbrowns satiated our late night cravings.  
        • Disney Cruise Dining – So we did most of our dining on the Disney Cruise.  You can basically eat all you want, all day long, all night long, and it is all included in the cost of your cruise fare.  Here are some of the highlights that the Disney Wonder has to offer.
          • Parrot’s Cay – When you enter your stateroom the first day, there are tickets telling you what dining rotation you are on for the evening dinners.  Don’t miss these dinners. These are five course meals with the creme de la creme of food.  You get to pick from a special themed menu each night.  Your servers are happy to give recommendations.  Vicki and Jimmy were our servers for the week and they treated us like royalty.  We couldn’t get enough of them.  Our first evening we ate in one of the three dining establishments called Parrot’s Cay.  It is a tropical themed dining experience.  Also, every night they have a special kid’s menu for the kids, so they enjoy the dinner as much as you do.  The first night was a Caribbean themed menu.  Yum. 
            The lobby of Parrot’s Cay on the Disney Wonder -2016
          • Triton’s – The next night we ate in Triton’s.  The restaurant has beautiful architecture and has a fancier feel then the other two restaurants.  The 2nd night was a French themed cuisine.  And yes our fantastic server Vicki brought out plenty of Escargot for the table to try.  The Creme Brulee was my favorite dish of the night. We also ate a couple of sit down lunches in this restaurant as well.  
            The holy grail of menus. With my inlaws happily ready to order. – 2016

            They do have one formal night on the cruise.  This is as formal as we get. -2016

            My favorite dessert ever.  Creme Brulee. -2016

            Our beloved servers for the week…Jimmy and Vicki.  Request them if you are ever on the Disney Wonder.  You won’t be disappointed.  -2016
            The ceiling at Triton’s had 2 giant hidden Mickeys. –  2016
          • Animator’s Palette – This restaurant is our favorite because it is a built-in show and restaurant.  At the beginning of the meal, everything is decorated in black and white, but by dessert the restaurant is full of color.  Even the servers change their clothes mid-dinner to add to the splendor. 
            Our kidlets at Animator’s Palette. – 2016

            The restaurant changing form black and white to color. – 2016

            The servers always do a fun little show every night.  As you can tell from this pic we were the loudest, most excited table.  – 2016
          • Other Eats Around the Ship – The Beach Blanket Buffet is always a good option.  They have a fantastic selection, and I’m not much of buffet person.  They had sandwich bars, taco bars, and soup bars.  It was fun.  Pinocchio’s Pizzeria is open until midnight.  They pretty much serve really great tasting pizza all day and all night long.  An added bonus here is they serve cheese stuffed pretzels and soft salted pretzels that taste just like the ones in the park.  We may have had MANY helpings of that.  Goofy’s Galley offers some healthier options like salads, wraps, and fruit.  They have a soft serve ice cream machine.  There is also a fast food place where you can get burgers, chicken fingers, fries, and more.  I am addicted to Disney chicken fingers.  How do they make it taste so good?  
            These are the best chicken fingers you will ever lay your taste buds on. -2016

            Ice Cream Party – 2016

            Cobb Salad for a sit down lunch at Triton’s.

            Cheese stuffed pretzels poolside. 
        • Cafe Puerto Rico – The hotel recommended we try this little gem when we were in Old San Juan.  It was a great choice.  They sat our party of 8 immediately and took really good care of us.  I had a skirt steak Mofongo, a Puerto Rican specialty with rice and salad.  It was right in the middle of the downtown area and exits out to the cobblestone streets.  

        Of course this was the vacation of a lifetime and isn’t something we can afford to do over and over again, BUT I highly recommend you scour the internet for deals on Disney Cruises like I did because it is pretty much the most glamorous, relaxing, and luxurious vacation this little family has ever taken.  Money well spent.  

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        Trip Links


        https://www.google.com/flights/
        http://www.nps.gov/saju/index.htm
        https://www.travelocity.com/
        https://disneycruise.disney.go.com/
        http://www.booking.com/

        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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