Hey you guys! I suspect you are feeling a little restless for a getaway, but aren’t ready to fly yet. Well, I’ve got you covered with my video that will inspire you to take a coastal Georgia road trip. I also have a free itinerary that I’d love to share with you.
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Italy is well-known for its rolling Tuscan hills and divine cuisine. While road tripping the Tuscany area over the summer, my family and I left Rome and drove to Siena, setting up home base just outside the city walls. We stayed in an apartment rental that was once an old horse barn now completely remodeled into the most beautiful apartment with breathtaking views from the flower garden.
Tuscany can be challenging as rental cars are restricted in many of the walled, hilltop cities. Choosing this rental just outside Siena allowed us easy access to the city bus as well as the highway to reach other famous Tuscan cities. There is no rail system in Tuscany, which makes it necessary to rent a car or book a tour of this area of Italy.
We rented a car from Avis at the Rome Airport and drove to Siena from there. The rental process was smooth, and the airport is easy access right to the interstate that takes you to Siena. Italy does however have some of the strictest rental policies around. For one, you must get an additional international driving permit from your local DMV before you go to Italy. Second, you are required to purchase total collision insurance in addition to your personal auto insurance.
You can rely on a map to drive in Italy, as highways are pretty straight forward. However, GPS will help you find parking and specific locations easier. You have a few different options when it comes to getting GPS directions. You can pay for an international data plan from your cell phone provider ($10 a day for Verizon), download the map of Italy on your Google Maps app while connected to wifi before you hit the road, or choose a rental car that offers GPS.
I hope this post sparks your interest to visit this city and to love it as much as I do. I used Rick Steve’s Guide to Italy as my “tour guide in a book” if you will. He describes each destination beautifully and provides the history that makes everything come to life!
For cheap flight options, sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights to get alerts when cheap flights are taking off near you. I started this European trip in Paris, France, because Scott sent me an alert for a flight from Atlanta to Paris for $495. Once you are in Europe, easyJet has cheap, country hopper flights, and I could not have been more impressed with easyJet as an airline company.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the 2018 Military Salute Disney tickets. I hope this post will fill you in on a few military opportunities concerning Walt Disney World Orlando. Feel free to view the table of contents below and scroll straight to the information you are searching for.
Although it changes every year, Disney has 5- day park hopper tickets available to active duty military for $246. They also offer 4-Day tickets for $226, but what’s $20 more at this point? That’s the price of a 2-day base ticket at the gate. 2018 is also the first year that Disney offers this deal to DOD civilians as well.
One military member or DOD civilian can activate 6 tickets. People accompanying the service member do not have to be dependents. You can purchase these tickets at the travel and leisure office at many of the military installations, although our base in Savannah only had 2 passes left when we bought ours. You purchase the vouchers on base and exchange them for a Disney pass at the ticket booth of the first park you visit.
The tickets will expire on December 19th of the year they were purchased. For example, we only bought our tickets a month ago, but they will expire this December 19, 2018. So, if you want to go next year, 2019, you have to wait until January to purchase them. There are no longer black-out dates for military salute tickets, so you can split up the days and use them however you want within the year.
When to Go
If you can, try to go during October, January, or February when most kids are in school. Weekdays are an amazing time to go because, 1. Resort stays are cheaper, and 2. The park is much less crowded. We went to Epcot on Friday, and it did not get crowded until 1pm. You may be able to ride everything in the park and explore every country by 2pm like we did.
Try to get to the park at least 30 minutes before it opens to go ahead and knock out your favorite rides while the lines are low. Even on Sunday, we were able to ride most attractions at Magic Kingdom before noon. I’m not sure why. I’m guessing because it’s tough to get out the door early with little ones, but I don’t have any yet so that’s just a guess.
Eating at Disney
Food prices are not terrible at Disney food kiosks. It’s the drinks that get you. Bring bottled water and refill it at fountains all over the park. In Magic Kingdom, go to Sleepy Hollow Refreshments in Liberty Square before 12:00 and enjoy a ham, egg, and cheese waffle sandwich for $8.99.
Here is a budget eating schedule option while at the Disney Parks:
Breakfast before the park (eggs, cereal, muffins, fruit, etc.)
Light Lunch in the park and a shared coffee or coke for some extra energy (trust me, you’ll need it)
Snacks in your backpack (tuna pouches and crackers, trail mix, fruit, granola)
Late Dinner after you shut down the park at any restaurant still open on the way back to the hotel. Weird tip, the Speedway gas station when you leave the Magic Kingdom parking lot has a 24/7 food bar with hot sandwiches, salads, etc.
It is not necessary to avoid all food at the park of course, as most kiosk food is only like $10-$15. We just found that it was much easier to get on rides during times that everyone else was eating.
If it is just you and a friend or significant other, it might be fun to splurge one night and reserve dinner in the park ($20-$40ish per plate). Enjoy a dinner-date at the happiest place on earth, and end the evening watching fireworks together. You may could even pack a wrinkle free dress in your backpack to change into for cute pictures. But if you are staying on Disney property, you could just go get ready at the hotel and come back.
Lodging for Disney Parks
Disney has several resorts to choose from. They vary from luxury resorts all the way to Fort Wilderness campgrounds. Shades of Green is a resort especially for U.S. military and their families as well as DOD civilians. From the looks of their website, Shades of Green is pretty booked for the rest of the year so be sure to plan ahead if you want to go in 2019.
During the holidays, prices jump up to about double, except if you book nights during the week. Weekday prices are very affordable and worth it for the dining options, transportation, character fun, and no parking fees ($25/day)! Prices are different per night depending on your military rank. E-1 though E-6 is the cheapest and officers and DOD civilians have the highest rates. I’ve noticed that the availability calendar is a little difficult to navigate, so it is probably easier to call about available dates.
They have a food package offered as a “special deal,” which can include breakfast and/or dinner at their Garden Buffet into your nightly rate. This seems to only be a deal if your nightly rate is higher than an enlisted rate. If you are E-1 to E-6, it is just about the same price as if you just bought the meals yourself. If Shades of Green is booked, the Disney Animation Resort, Movie Resort, and Sports Resort are often around the same price. But once again, plan ahead for next year.
Orlando does have hotels that are cheaper than staying on Disney’s property, but the convenience factor is a major benefit of lodging with Disney. Parking adds up for one thing. We spent $75 alone in parking while staying off the Disney property. Also, Disney resort visitors get the privilege of EMC (Extra Magic Hours) at certain parks. Check the days you are going and see which parks you can go early or state late in.
One military and DOD perk that many don’t know about isArmed Forces Vacation Club. They offer condos and hotels from well-known companies like Wyndham Resorts for a super low price. There are several hotels in Kissimmee, Florida for $349 for 7 nights. Our favorite resort for the parks is Club Whyndam Cypress Palms that is only a 15 minute drive from Magic Kingdom. The only catch is that each stay is usually Friday-Friday or Sunday-Sunday, so you have to be willing to take a full week of leave or just forfeit a few nights. But for just $50 a night, you may just want to book the week and stay for 4 nights or so. This option is great if you are going to Orlando with a larger group as most of these resorts offer 2 bedrooms, a pullout couch, and a full kitchen.
Staying at Disney or at a hotel with breakfast and a Disney shuttle would be my first two recommendations, followed by Armed Forces Vacation Club.
Best T-Shirts for Cute Disney Pictures
My favorite company for great Disney tees isLLama Wrangler . I found this company on Instagram and immediately reached out. I have scoured Etsy and just cannot find tees that I really like. However, Llama Wrangler’s owner and designer, Adam, puts his passion for Disney and art in each of his designs. Just like the Mickey faces are hidden all over Disney World for you to seek out during your trip, the LLama Wranglerlogo is hidden in each t-shirt design, which I think is super fun and creative. My favorite design is the Up Movie themed Adventure shirt as Up is my and my husband’s favorite love story.
You can use my discount code: “KatieLovesLlamaTees” at checkout for 15% off of your entire order.
I reached out to work with Llama Wrangler as I loved the designs they offered. These shirts were gifted to me in exchange for my honest review.
I hope this post helped you in planning your next Disney World adventure. Honestly if you live within driving distance, I can’t think of an easier vacation for military families than Orlando theme parks. They are a blast, easy to plan, and incredibly affordable.