Category Archives: Trip Planning

Walt Disney World Phone Apps

I read the following article on USA Today about phone apps for Disney World.  They talk about 3 apps that they liked to make your life easier when visiting the parks.  The apps they suggested were available on the iPhone.  I searched the Android Market and didn’t see them all.  So I searched the Android Market to see which ones had the highest rating.  I also read through the comments to see what suggestions readers had.  Here’s a summary:

  • Disney World Lines (Android – free, but to get all features you have to subscribe to www.touringplans.com for a year; I talked about this site in my Disney post) – This is an app by the people who write the Unofficial Guide to Disney and the web site www.touringplans.com.  It includes a crowd calendar to help you decide which park to visit on each day and wait times for the rides.  The people commenting on the USA Today article said this was the best app.  If you buy the Unofficial Guide book, you get a discount on the site.
  • Walt Disney World Pro (iPhone, $4.99) – see the article for a review
  • Disney World Magic Guide (iPhone, $4.99) – see the article for a review
  • Disney World Wait Times, Dining and Maps (iPhone – $3.99, Android – $.99, there is a lite version that is free on Android) – see the article for a review
  • Verizon’s Mobile Magic – (Android – free) The commenters who tried this app loved it.  I checked the Android Market and the reviews were mixed.  But hey, it’s free, so what have you got to lose?
  • Ridemax – ($15 app – yikes) The commenter on the article loved this app.  You can download it to your computer via www.ridemax.com and use it on iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.  Here’s what he had to say about it: “You select the rides you plan on going on, the exact dates you’ll be at the park(s), and what time you plan on arriving & leaving – and this app maps the rides in the exact order you should go on them to avoid the lines. I did it for our trip to Disney 2 weeks ago – and it was amazing.. we hit the busiest rides early & late, and the slower rides in the middle of the day during “peak” times. Also tells you when to get a fastpass or not. Totally worth it!”
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Air Cruises

I was looking at the Travelzoo Top 20 today and saw a deal that I thought was really cool.  It’s an air cruise.  It’s a trip where you fly on private jets to different locations.  They also include ground transportation, hotels, some meals, VIP entry to attractions, and tour guides.  The tour on the top 20 takes you from NYC to Niagara Falls/Toronto, PA Amish country, DC and back to NYC.  The tour is discounted to $899 (all taxes and fees included) down from $1449.  The dates included in this deal are this fall which is a fabulous time to see the Northeast.  Come on, how cool would it be to jet around on a private jet?

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Where to go next?

We were lucky to get a bump on our last trip which resulted in $2,000 in travel vouchers.  The vouchers have to be used within a year so I’m starting to think about where we want to go next.  We already have a trip to Hawaii planned for February of 2012.  And my husband said he only wants to go on that one vacation next year; he wants to spend more time at home over the summer.  So I’m looking at where to go for 2013.  Yes, I am a planner.

What’s nice about the vouchers is we aren’t fighting for the few frequent flyer seats on a flight.  That means I don’t need to wake up early to be on right when the schedule opens up.  But it does present some new issues.  Now I’m actually looking for best priced flights and how to time “buying” those tickets.  Before I get to answering that question, I need to figure where we’re going to go. 

We love Hawaii, but we’re thinking of going somewhere else.  We’d like to go somewhere where we don’t have to be on planes an entire day to get there.  We’re thinking about the U.S. Virgin Islands.  It’s funny that I lived in Puerto Rico for a year and a half but never made it to them.  I need to do some research on the different Caribbean Islands.  Anyone have a favorite one?

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Looking for a different kind of family vacation?

I am all for relaxing vacations at high end hotels.  And hopefully with information you’ve read in this blog, you’ve learned how you can take those kinds of vacations for reasonable prices.  But maybe you’re looking for something a little bit different.  I recently read an article about vacations on farms in the Albany Times Union.

I grew up in a rural town outside of Buffalo, New York.  There were lots of farms around where we lived.  At church, the parishioners prayed for rain and good crops.  One of the neighboring towns had a Corn Festival every year.  And the town I went to high school in hosts the Erie County Fair, which is produced by the Erie County Agricultural Society and is one of the largest county fairs in the country.  I grew up in a town where you said hi to everyone you passed on the street and waved at every car that drove by.  We only had one real traffic light (and 2 flashing ones) in town.  I appreciate small town, country living, even though I don’t live in a town like that now.

The number of people living on farms has drastically decreased in the last fifty years.  And many people have little connection with where their food comes from.  What better way to teach your kids about food than to take a vacation on a farm.  Check out www.sleepinthehay.com or http://www.farmstayus.com/ for locations.

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Across the Country Trip – What We Can Learn

On the About Us page, I talk about how my parents and ten of the kids traveled across the country in a van when I was a kid.  Many people have asked me how my parents survived that.  So I asked my mom this week what they did to make the trip manageable.  Here what she said she allowed or brought:

  • Each kid was allowed one box.  In this box, they needed to have 3 days of clothes and anything else they wanted to bring on the trip.
  • Everyone was allowed to bring their pillow and favorite stuffed animal.
  • Ice cream scoop – She kept this in the van at all times even when we weren’t going on a trip.  I think this is brilliant.  When we wanted a special treat, she would stop at a grocery store and buy ice cream and ice cream cones.  It cost her probably a little more than 1 – 2 ice cream cones at a ice cream stand to get ice cream cones for all of us.
  • Cooler and drink cooler – She kept snack food in the cooler and Kool Aid in the drink cooler.  She said they would pick up ice whenever they stopped.
  • Disposable cups, plates, and utensils – She said she wanted to make her life as easy as possible so she didn’t want to have to worry about clean up.
  • Peanut butter, jelly, and bread – This was a staple.  Everyone liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, so it was an easy way to feed everyone on the road.
  • Can opener – This may not be as necessary today, but she said it was necessary when we went.  She had the kind that open around the cans and also punctured the cans.
  • Paper, crayons, markers, coloring books – Personally I would suggest against crayons (and opt for marker) because crayons melt, but her point was to give the kids something to do in the car.
  • Road Bingo – I loved these games.  I tried to find a link for the ones we had, but I can’t find them.  They were Bingo games where you had to find things you might see while on the road.  Some of the boards included street signs, others included things like animals, cars, trucks, etc.  They had slides that you would move when you found an item.  You can create your own Bingo games.  Just Google Road Bingo and there are sites that show you how.
  • View Finders – We had a couple of these in the car.  Whenever we stopped at a site, my mom would buy a View Finder disc for that site.  That way we could continue to remember the site after we left.
  • Frisbee and a Rubber Ball – She had these so when we got restless they could stop at a park and we could play.  She said she packed a rubber ball instead of a baseball on purpose because she didn’t want anyone to get hurt.
  • A Map of the U.S. – She said the kids loved this.  She would give the map to the kids and have them try to figure out where we were.  She said that one of my sisters said that this is how she learned to read a map.
  • Plan stops along the way but be open to unexpected stops – We saw many must-see sites like the Grand Canyon, the Rockies, Yellowstone, and Mount Rushmore, but I think there were 2 unexpected places we stopped that none of the kids would forget – Casey, Iowa and a church in the middle of the country.  We stopped in Casey, Iowa to go to a playground and to gas up.  There wasn’t much in the town when we were there, which became a running joke on the trip.  My dad also lost the gas cap when he filled up the tank.  We won’t forget the church because my parents insisted we go to church even though we were on the road.  After church, we got back on the road.  When we were going for a little, we noticed it was quieter than usual.  We started asking where our youngest sister, who was louder than some of the other kids, was.  We thought she might be hiding under one of the seats (you didn’t have to wear seat belts back then).  Nope – we had left her at the church.  We went back to the church to find her at the priest’s house eating cookies and milk.  A scary situation at the time, but one we’ll never forget.
  • Scrapbook – Even though we didn’t do it, my mom suggests bringing a scrapbook.  She said when you stop, you can pick up postcards and other items for the book.  The kids can put it together along the way.  And when you get home, you’ll have something nice to show family and friends.
  • Books to read

A few things I’d recommend for today that wasn’t available back then or we didn’t bring:

  • Portable DVD player if your vehicle doesn’t have one
  • Portable electronic gaming systems
  • Books on tape – I always stop at our library before we go on a trip and pick up books on tape.  Our library even allows you to download books onto your iPod or phone now.  I find that books help make the trip seem to go faster.
  • Handheld GPS for Geocaching – For those of you who don’t know about www.geocaching.com, it is a site that gives locations to “treasures”.  You put the coordinates in your GPS and try to find a box.  They are usually located in parks.  It’s a great activity for kids and would be a nice thing to do when the kids need a break from the car.
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