Ziplining in Puerto Rico at Toro Verde

Tucked away in the mountains of Orocovis, Puerto Rico sits the longest zipline in the Americas and the 2nd longest zipline in the world. This activity is one for the books, and it is also about the closest you’ll ever get to actually flying. The Monster line is not like other ziplining experiences, as you lay down in a thick canvas and face the ground below. As you zoom through the trees, you’ll experience the beauty of Puerto Rico from a whole new perspective.

I was fearful of a tourist trap, but Toro Verde was far from such a thing. You can enjoy the whole day here easily with the all-day pass from 8am-5pm and an onsite restaurant that you can at least enjoy for lunch if not dinner as well. When you finish each course, there is a truck with bench seats in the back that takes you all the way back up to the beginning for more fun. Even the truck ride is beautiful as you sit in the open-air with mountain views every way you look.

The Drive

You need to rent a car to get to Toro Verde. It is a mountainous ride that takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes (with tolls) from San Juan. On your way home, I recommend eating at Papos Guacaros Place or La Playita. Papos Guacaros Place is my favorite food, and is about 45 minutes further back towards San Juan, but La Playita has a cooler view and is only a few minutes from Toro Verde. Both are great representations of Puerto Rico’s famous Chinchorreos.

Be sure to check out my travel planning page when you are ready to book your next adventure! I’d love to help you customize and perfect your itinerary!

Happy Travels,

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Things to do in Siena, Italy: A list of fun activities in this magical city

Siena, Italy is known for medieval history and impressively preserved architecture. Many still live in and within its walls, keeping up Siena’s romantic reputation and cheering for their favorite team during the annual horse races in the square. Siena is a bustling city in tourist season, but quite walkable. Stay on the sidewalks as city buses stop for nothing! Just wandering the streets is breathtaking when admiring the architecture that remains perfectly sound to this day. There are plenty of things to do in Siena to explore this area for at least 2 days. A few popular activities in Siena include shopping, eating, visiting museums, take a tour or class, and having an elegant Opera evening.

Siena Italy city view in Tuscany

Siena Shopping

Most Tuscan cities have cute, touristy shops that offer post cards, trinkets, and lots of leather! Italian leather is something you will want to take advantage of while here. Real leather is hard to come by in the states, but even the smallest of shops in Italy offer genuine leather purses for as little as 20 Euro. You could also grab a tasteful leather journal to record your best Italian travel memories. I grabbed my green, stamped leather purse from an upstairs vendor as well as leather bracelets for friends back home.

Italian Leather Purse shops

Eating

It’s no secret that Italy is known for incredible food– pizzas, pastas, aperitifs, gelato, and delicious wines. You are basically good to go with food on every corner in Siena. We found a quick, a la carte spot that charged by the kilogram, and everything was delicious. Look for where locals are eating on their lunch break, so you know it must be good.  

Siena Italy Piazza del Campo
Siena Italy Pasta
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

Museums

Siena is full of history, culture, art, and beauty. To get the backstory on this incredible city, visit a few of the many museums it offers, or visit them all if you are staying a few days. Museo dell’Opera Del Doumo boasts of having one of the best views of this beautiful city, so be sure to bring your camera for scenic, landscape shots. The Siena National Art Gallery is also a great way to see the local talent that came from this area. Be sure to bring your student ID everywhere in Europe as most attractions offer a discount. Another excellent museum to view is the Santa Maria Della Scala, which holds the actual Fonte Gaia that was replaced by a replica fountain in Siena’s main town square, Piazza del Campo.

Siena Italy Torre del Doumo

Take a Tour

What better way to experience a city than with a local? I took a tour and pasta-making class through Airbnb.com while visiting Rome, and it is one of my favorite memories of Italy to this day. Airbnb has several experiences in Siena with great reviews, including cooking classes, wine tastings, Opera evenings, and themed tours. All you have to do is search your destination on Airbnb.com, and choose the “experiences” option to display all tours and activities offered in that city.

Elegant Opera Evening

The best Opera, according to Trip Advisor ratings, is the Italian Opera in Siena, which is only a 10 minute walk from Piazza del Campo. Adult tickets are 25 euro and students get a 10-euro discount with their school ID. Children under 12 are free. The opera begins at 9:30 pm, so get all dressed up, and enjoy a delicious Italian dinner before the show.

Siena Italy Opera
Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

I hope this post sparks your interest to visit Siena 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. I could not have been more impressed with easyJet as an airline!

Happy Travels,

Katie

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Utuado, Puerto Rico: Canon Blanco

Located in Utuado, Puerto Rico is a breathtaking, extremely random landscape. At the bottom of the winding mountains, there’s a mass of white stone with a river running through it called Canon Blanco (White Canyon.) Although the drive is about 1 hour and 40 minutes from San Juan, this is a sight that is really cool to witness.

Getting There

The road to Canon Blanco winds around mountains and can be narrow at times. I do not recall terrible potholes like other areas of Puerto Rico are known for, just a few steep climbs. Although Google maps took us most of the way there, we missed the entrance at first and had to turn around. You take a sharp turn to the left down a steep hill that has a sign for Canon Blanco camp grounds.

If you keep going past the camping area and over a cement bridge, you are headed the right way. The path is only wide enough for one car at a time. To see the best of the canyon, park on the side of the road by the sign labeled “El Sofa” and walk the path in the grass that leads to the river. It doesn’t look like much at first, but keep walking to the right, and you will see the massive white stones with gushing waters that lead to a beautiful green mountain. We climbed the canyon, but the water rushes fiercely so be sure not to fall in.

Since you are already there, driving a little further and parking in an even larger dirt area will bring you to a picturesque scene that is worth experiencing. Here you will find a few houses, a duck pond, wildflowers, chickens, and even goats on the mountain if you look up. We tried to get to the canyon from this area at first, but it was too steep for us. Be sure not to go past the duck pond by car. It just gets steeper and leads to private houses. Our curious habits made us go back down the steep path backwards, so just don’t do it.

The View

Other places you could visit when headed to Arecibo are Cueva del Indio, Cueva Ventana, the Coffee Museum and the Jayuya Aerostatic Balloon.

Happy Travels,

Katie

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Best Hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico

This year, my husband and I moved from Georgia to Puerto Rico, and we spent the first couple months living in hotels. In this post, I’ll cover some of the best hotels in San Juan, Puerto Rico that we stayed at as well as the difficulties we experienced at each. I personally believe that we found the best hotel for exploring the San Juan, Puerto Rico area, and I saved the best for last.

Disclaimer: Our budget was around $200/ night at Christmas time. This excludes most San Juan resorts and most hotels in Old San Juan. So, let’s get started!

hilton balcony

Tres Palmas Inn

Located in Ocean Park, Tres Palmas Inn is a comfortable, Spanish-style hotel located right on the water. Although the hotel is technically on the “beach,” in the winter, the water comes close to the road, and is not exactly much to look at compared to other beaches close by. If you prefer smaller, local hotels versus large convention-style accommodations, then you could consider Tres Palmas. The breakfast is simple, but plenty, including cereal, bagels and cream cheese, boiled eggs, fruit, cheese, coffee and juices. The selling point for me was the rooftop hot tub. Cleaned daily, and smelling of chlorine (a very important feature to me), this hot tub was hardly used by anyone else. My husband and I would climb the stairs each night and watch the Christmas season fireworks light up the sky.

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ROOM: Our room was stocked with a mini-fridge, lock box, hangers, a dresser, and a flat screen TV. The room did however lack an ironing board and iron, which was a little inconvenient. Guests can check out beach chairs, towels, and even boogie boards. The first three nights, we stayed in a king room, but on the last night, we stayed in a room with 2 double beds. I preferred the 2 double beds to the king as the room was more spacious. This hotel has a small pool and plenty of seating areas to wind down at night, but most daily activities will be done elsewhere as this is not a resort property.

LOCATION: This hotel is beach front, but it is near probably the least desirable beach in the Condado/ Ocean Park area. Restaurants and pharmacies are not within walking distance, and UBER is necessary for every outing. The good news is that UBER is very cheap in Puerto Rico, making the price of this hotel and the amount of transportation you will use an affordable combination. They also have limited street parking if you decide to rent a car. I loved “living” at this hotel as I loved the style and facilities, but it is probably in the worst location of the three I’m mentioning in this post for a week of vacationing. The immediate area is nice, with impressive beach mansions, it will just require an Uber to get literally anywhere.

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PRICE: The pricing of this hotel is average for the area and fair considering it offers daily breakfast and water-front property.

SERVICE: Each staff member was kind and helpful at this hotel. The rooms were efficiently cleaned each day.

The Condado Plaza Hilton

Right in the heart of San Juan’s vacation hub is the Condado Plaza Hilton. This waterfront hotel has resort grounds that are breathtaking. Two large pools, a hot tub, and beach access with umbrellas and chairs make it easy never to leave the hotel except for maybe a nice dinner. I spent my mornings enjoying my favorite part of this hotel, which was the outdoor seating area where I watched the waves crash against the rocks. It had a Hawaiian lava rock feel, and truly should be made into a post card.

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ROOM: This room was renovated. It was called a “King with Deluxe Bathroom,” and the bathroom truly was exquisite with a large wardrobe and glass shower. The wardrobe had a coffee maker, iron, lock box, and mini fridge. We stayed in the main tower, which appeared to have been updated more recently than the adjacent tower. However, the impressive gym and second pool/ hot tub are at the second tower and are hardly crowded at all. This resort is a great fit if your main goal is to relax by the pool or the beach for the majority of your stay in Puerto Rico.

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LOCATION: This hotel is on the Condado Lagoon and practically on its own small, bay beach. A company on the lagoon offers paddle board and kayak rentals on the other side of the bridge. This hotel has its own parking garage and valet. There are limited food options nearby, including the pricey hotel restaurant called Café Caribe, a 24/7 Denny’s, Starbucks, and La Marqueta. Denny’s is literally at the hotel, and is good, but can be slow. You can order takeout by phone, and pick it up for a quicker option. La Marqueta is a trendy outdoor food court with an awesome vibe. The quesadillas are delicious for lunch, but each vendor tends to run out of food by 5pm, turning this into a better spot for drinks rather than dinner. A 15-minute walk further into Condado will bring you to more food options, but all will be crowded at peak tourist seasons, so be sure to either reserve a table or be willing to wait. 

PRICE: For now, the prices of this hotel are excellent compared to resorts nearby. They have waived the resort fee of $30/ day, and I’m assuming that is because repairs are still taking place. But really, the only thing I recognized that was not fully functional were the tennis courts and lagoon deck area at the second tower. The pools, beach, and seating areas appeared to be completely restored. The towers are missing some paint on the outside, but the inside looks back to normal. Parking is valet or self-park in a garage, and is $25 a day.

SERVICE: The front desk service was always kind; however, this hotel seemed understaffed. I would call the front desk, but no one would answer. When they finally did answer, guest services would ask me to call the next morning as they were very busy. Housekeeping was exceptional, and our rooms were always clean.

Tropica Beach Hotel

This hotel truly felt like home after we finished staying here. It is relatively new, a few years old, and I didn’t realize how conveniently located it was until we arrived. Tropica Beach Hotel is also in Ocean Park like Tres Palmas, but the beach it’s near is nicer. This hotel is also more conveniently located to great restaurant options. Ocean Park’s food and bar scene is on Calle Loiza, which is only one street over from this Tropica. From Mexican to Korean Barbecue to local Puerto Rican cuisine, this street has it all.

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BUT, if you decide to stay at Tropica, do try the restaurant right outside your hotel door. Dulcesalado shares the building with Tropica and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tuesdays-Fridays and brunch and dinner on the weekend. They also have a coffee shop to the right of the restaurant as well as a beer garden outside. Our favorite dinner was the Chicken Piallard Salad with the Avocado Salad side. Their Mushroom Soup Burger also has great flavor, and so we rotated between the two dishes. For breakfast, I often would get an omelet with an almond milk cappuccino. They have more elaborate dinner options if you want to splurge such as fried lobster, skirt steak, and shrimp mofongo.

tropica food

ROOM: We stayed in the King Deluxe room. This room is literally as big as a studio apartment. It has a spacious closet, seating area, and large restroom. They also moved us to a double room one night while the power was out and the generators connected to the other tower. The double room was still functional, especially for a vacation. Obviously, it was much smaller, but the only notable difference was a clothing rack instead of a closet. The King Deluxe is also very open, as in there is no door to the bathroom or shower. That was no issue for us, but could be awkward to share with a friend. Each room has a Roku TV with Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, etc. as long as you have a subscription. This hotel also offers guests steamers, beach chairs, towels, and bikes for checkout, although I would be a bit nervous to bike anywhere.

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tropica room 2

tropica room

LOCATION: This hotel is close to restaurants, a Walgreens, and a Super Max grocery store. Because an UBER to Condado and even Old San Juan is so cheap, I really enjoyed this hotel location. I feel like you get to retreat from the busyness of the city. Parking is valet and $13 per day, but if you are vacationing, it is likely that you won’t need parking.

PRICE: The prices for this hotel are normal for this area. However, it does seem that they are having a “Keep it Tropica Special” right now.

SERVICE: The service here is great. The hotel is fairly small so you will always be able to find guest services to help. They also use Whatsapp to communicate, so you can just send them a text if you need anything.

tropica outdoor seating

tropica hallway

Happy travels!

-Katie

Hotel Giveaway!!

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Dress from: Lauren Addison Boutique

Hey everyone! I am doing some market research and am launching a giveaway to say THANK YOU for participating! The random winner will receive a $50 gift card from Hotels.com to use on the destination of your choice!

The winner can ALSO request a free itinerary from yours truly to the destination they choose to visit with the gift card.

The best itineraries will probably be from places I’ve already explored, which are:

U.S.A:

•Pasadena, L.A., and San Fransisco, California •Spokane, Washington •Washington D.C. • Wisconsin • Minneapolis, Minnesota •Savannah, Tybee, Atlanta, Helen, Elijay, Blue Ridge, Georgia •Orlando, St. Petersburg, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Sarasota, Destin, Panama City, Daytona, and Cocoa Beach, Florida •Charleston and Hilton Head South Carolina •Williamsburg,Virginia •Cape May, New Jersey

Abroad:

•Cozumel, Melaque, Guadalajara, Mexico •St. Thomas and St. Maartin, B.V.I •Rome, Venice, and Tuscany, Italy •Paris, France •Brussels and Brugge, Belgium • Bacharach, Boppard, Beilstein, Edam, Burg Eltz Castle, Hohenzollern Castle, and Black Forrest, Germany • Delft, Keukenhof Gardens,  and Haarlem, Netherlands

*If you choose another place, I will still do research and make you an itinerary, but it will be based on other online information*

Here’s how to enter:

*Find my giveaway post that is a picture of me looking way too excited on a beach*

  1. Be sure you are following me either in Instagram or my Facebook page, or both.
  2. Tag 3 friends who like to travel. (On Instagram or Facebook, or both)
  3. Take this survey: Travel Survey.
  4. Share my giveaway post on your Instagram story or on your Facebook timeline.

There are no additional entries. So once you have completed these 4 checkpoints, you’re done!

The contest will close Saturday, March 23rd 12pm EST, and the winner will be announced by 12pm EST on Sunday, March 24, 2019.

This giveaway is not sponsored by hotels.com.

 

Best of luck!

-Katie O.

Savannah, Georgia Tour Guide: A welcoming gift from locals to visitors

Savannah, Georgia has much to offer when it comes to delicious cuisine and nightlife. Restaurants vary from super fancy to casual and fun. They even have plenty of coffee shops perfect for getting work done or taking a load off from sightseeing. Having so many options can really get overwhelming. I will be in this city for 1 year and know that there’s no way I’ll be able to experience everything. So, to narrow the list, I asked a few locals about their favorite places to eat, drink, and explore in hopes to give you some guidance while you visit this lovely city.

If you are a military family, you may also want to check out this post -> The Ultimate Savannah, Georgia Guide for Military Families

Savannah Georgia Photography in Ardsley Park Downtown
Secret Key Photography

I created a Printable Savannah Tour Guide featuring all the local favorites that Savannah residents recommended. Enter your email below to receive the guide in the subscription confirmation!

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Feel free to print off my Tybee Island Tour Guide as well since you will be nearby 🙂

Savannah has beautiful historic apartments and lofts available through VRBO.

The Ultimate Savannah, Georgia Guide for Military Families

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Being stationed in Savannah, Georgia has been so much fun this year! The city is lively, beautiful, and full of community. As an Army and Coast Guard town, Savannah businesses are so generous to show their gratitude in forms of discounts and even free tickets! Here are a few of our favorite things to do in Savannah as a military family:

Ft. Pulaski

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As a national state park, Fort Pulaski is free to all military and their dependents. Tours are offered every few hours and cannon demonstrations are given on the weekends. The cannons are actually really fun to watch! Volunteers dress in Civil War attire and put on a full show.

This is one of the most in-tact forts in the southeast. It was defeated fairly quickly by the Union Army with their superior rifle cannon. When it later became a prisoner-of-war camp, the troops rebuilt the bombed portion so it’s almost perfect now.

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Fort Pulaski could take 1 to 3 hours to explore. If you decide to participate in a tour, it will be longer, but more insightful than just looking around on your own. If you decide to visit in the summer, take the trail to the left of the parking lot and check out the Cockspur Island “beach.” It’s basically a channel, but many people fish and watch cargo ships sail by. We like to play Frisbee or soccer on this beach because there’s no sunbathers to accidentally hit!

Tybee Island Lighthouse Museum

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At the north shore of Tybee, the famous lighthouse stands tall, proud, and ready for you to climb. Until the late 1900s, this museum was an active Coast Guard station, which is why Coast Guard families get one free ticket. For example, when I went, my husband was not with me so they gave me the free ticket. This museum closes at 5pm, so plan accordingly. Give yourself about 1 hour to 1.5 hours to climb the lighthouse, view the old lighthouse keeper living quarters, and explore the Tybee museum across the street. You’ll enjoy learning about the history of Tybee’s “hay-day,” but I’m pretty sure kids will just care about climbing the lighthouse.

Savannah Theatre at 222 Bull Street

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The Savannah Theatre keeps a donation running that allows all active duty military and their dependents to enjoy their performances for free! If you are in town for Christmas, come see their famous annual “Christmas Tradition” show. It’s so festive and will really get you into the Christmas spirit! They will be performing Mama Mia at the beginning of next year, which is sure to be a hit as well.

Be sure to take advantage of this opportunity, even if you are visiting for a short time. These are regular $37 tickets, and their performers are incredible.

Hunter Army Airfield MWR and Ticket and Leisure Office

The closest base to Savannah is Hunter Army Airfield. Ft. Stewart is a bigger base, but it’s a good 50 minutes from Savannah. The MWR at Hunter Army has paddle boards, canoes, boats, and even RV spots to rent. Stop by the Ticket and Leisure Office, which is located at the Exchange, to get a list of several discounted tickets to local attractions. Savannah boat and trolley tours were the ones that stood out the most to me, but they have many more that may appeal to you!

Telephone: (912) 315-9554/9354
Season: All year
Directions: HAAF Outdoor Equipment Rental/Checkout Centers Bldg 8454, Stratofortress Road, Hunter Army Airfield, Savannah, GA 31409-5000

I hope you enjoy your visit in Savannah! If you have any questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram: @katiewentthere

If your wanting to book a stay in downtown, here is my $40 off discount code with Airbnb.com: http://www.airbnb.com/c/katiec7787

 

 

Happy Travels,

Katie O.

Walt Disney World Military Salute Discounted Tickets Detailed Guide

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.

Today’s Topics:

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Disney Military Salute Tickets

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.

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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.

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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

Saving so much on park tickets and lodging may allow you to splurge a little on special dinners or character events. Contact Sarah Lawrence to book any extra fun activities that you would like to do while at Disney World. You can 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. Or if you are staying on Disney property, you can just go get ready at the resort and come back.

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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.

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One military and DOD perk that many don’t know about is Armed 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.

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Best T-Shirts for Cute Disney Pictures

My favorite company for great Disney tees is LLama 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 Wrangler logo 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.

Happy Travels,

Katie

Hike Hawaii: Oahu Trails with Incredible Views

This past week, March 7-14th, I spent my spring break from college in Oahu, Hawaii, and I miss it already! I’ve learned a few things about the island that I hope you can take with you on your Hawaiian adventure. The water was actually cooler than I expected so we opted to hike SEVERAL trails along the Southern Coast and North Shore. Luckily, hiking is free (besides $5 parking) so you don’t have to spend tons of money on Oahu to have fun. I would recommend taking on all of these hikes, but will say that my legs were feeling pretty tired by the end. To help with your trip planning, I have included a map with all hiking locations and will give you as much information as I can about the difficulty level, crowds, and landmarks as some trail heads are not easy to find.

Kealia Trail

On almost the furthest west side of the North Shore hides a wonderful trail right next to an airport that’s popular for skydiving and paragliding. This hike was slightly difficult to find, but Google Maps works just fine right up to the turning point that leads to the parking lot. Once you turn left after the airport runway into a road labeled “Access Gate,” keep going until there’s a parking lot on your left. Once parked, walk to the right and head toward the mountains down a gravel path until the “Kealia Trail” sign steers you in the right direction. This hike is 3.5 miles up, and consists of several switchbacks and rocky, uneven paths. The view is most beautiful during the hike so be sure to stop for some pictures rather than hoofing it up to the top so fast. At the top, after the picnic table, explore the trails that go further. Once you reach the artwork on the water tower, there’s not much more to see as your view is covered by trees. This trail takes about 4 hours from leaving the car to returning back down. On the hike, you might see several skydivers jumping from planes that took off from the airport below as well as gliders coasting over the ocean. March weather is perfect for hiking! However, even in Hawaii’s winter, it gets hotter toward the afternoon. Try to hike no later than 10am to 2pm in January-March, but in the summer, go as early as you can. After a job well-done, hop in the car and enjoy the coastal highway, H3, admiring the beauty of the land and the talent of the surfers. Perhaps spend the evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center buffet dinner and Breath of Life Show, which I will discuss in a future post. Unless you can reserve that for another time earlier in the day, which is what I would recommend.

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Koko Crater Trail

This trail is challenging and steep, but the view from the top is incredible. The parking lot most people use for this trail is also used for ballfields, so it’s pretty crowded. Arrive no later than 8-8:30am in March if you want a spot. Koko Crater Trail is not for the faint of heart. It goes straight up for about 1,500 steps. The trail is an old railway with worn down ties and washed out dirt. It is only about 1.5 miles, but it takes about an hour or two to get to the top. You will weave in and out of those going up and will try to get out of the way of those experienced crazies running down! This is why I say you should go earlier than 8:30 if you can. The less people, the better. At the top, you’ll see why you climbed all that way. Hanauma Bay is in front of you and the giant crater is behind. There are plenty of high platforms on the top of the mountain for great pictures, including the old railway car housing. Spend a good 30 minutes to an hour photographing the views, meeting fellow conquerors, and hearing their stories. On the way down, if you are a less-than-avid hiker (I am just that) hike sideways to alleviate pressure on your knees while descending. The descent will be a breeze compared to the climb. This hike is the most difficult that some people will ever experience, but it will also be the most rewarding. Once you make it back down, don’t forget to look back at the impressive feat you just accomplished and remind yourself that it was all while on vacation.

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Diamond Head Trail

As one of the most famous hikes on Oahu, Diamond Head is always crowded. However, the parking spaces free up fairly quickly so wait in line until one is available. You will most likely head to the trail with a large group of others unless you get there when gates open at 6am. However, everyone has their own pace so the trail is not unbearably crowded nor is it extremely narrow. No matter, there will be hikers of all ages, so I just accept the fact that this is going to be a slow, leisurely hike. Explore every inch of this hike, and climb every set of stairs. Even if they look intimidating, you won’t regret it. Close to the top, there is a set of yellow stairs to the right, which you will want to ignore, but really should climb because it’s cool! There is a battery with rusted metal doors and a small artillery area that was used in WWII. The top of Diamond Head is so crowded that you might not want to stay long, but at least take in the city views to your right and the coastal waters to your left. Remember, gates open at 6am. So if you’re an early riser, beat the crowd.

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Manoa Falls

If you’re not tired after Diamond Head, eat lunch and drive to Manoa Falls, which is about 20 minutes north. Once again, Google Maps takes you straight to this hike, and parking is about $5. Manoa is a 3 mile hike round trip. As you begin the walk, you’ll see why they chose this location to film Jurassic Park as it’s filled with bamboo shoots and jungle views that seem to go on forever. Although there is very uneven terrain, this hike is fairly easy most of the way, only getting difficult toward the end near the waterfall. You may see a few groups hiking along with you, but the real crowd comes at the waterfall. People wait for good spots to take pictures, but there probably never will be one. The bottom of the fall is just deep enough to reach your ankles, but the water is freezing! On your hike back, you may see a girl finishing up her music video in the bamboo shoots, and it will sound really good! I found her on Instagram, @OLIVIATHAI. She was on American Idol XV and won both Taiwan Idol and Megastar!

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Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail

The last hike of this post is a 1.5 mile steep walk up a paved road. The ground is even, but the climb escalates quickly. After all this hiking, your legs may be giving out at this point, so it may seem more difficult than usual. The scenery is beautiful the entire way, with views of the rocky coast and bright blue crashing waves. It may begin to rain as you reach the top, but don’t turn back after going so far. The rain comes and goes in Hawaii. Now, I’m not going to lie, don’t expect a huge lighthouse, but its surroundings are still breathtaking. The waves will look like they have blue dye in them as they crash against the rocks. After staying at the top for quite a while, make your way back to the car and take a load off. Head to Waikiki and reward your efforts with an acai bowl from Tropical Tribe. Hopefully the sun will make an appearance, and you can spend the rest of your day on the beach where they film Hawaii Five-0.

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Here’s just a quick snapshot of how amazing Oahu really is!


I hope this was helpful in planning your next adventure!

I used an Akaso adventure camera for all my videos in Hawaii. It was amazing and way cheaper than a Gopro. The wifi feature doesn’t work, but that’s the only issue, which I think is well worth a $100 savings! Also, if you submit a review on Amazon, they will send you a whole package of accessories for free! It comes with body and head straps, extra batteries, etc.

We rented a home in Alewa Heights while visiting this amazing island. Check out great Hawaiian vacation rentals at VRBO!

Purchasing any items on Amazon through these links, and not only the ones that I mention, help me to share useful tips with you about travel, so thank you!

Come to the Georgia National Fair for the Ultimate Southern Experience

Fall rolls around in Georgia, not necessarily because the temperatures have dropped, but because every other billboard says the Georgia National Fair has arrived to Perry, Georgia. Usually the second and third weeks of October is something that every middle Georgian looks forward to. It’s not a question of if they’re going to the fair, but when and how many times. The fair is literally a part off middle Georgia culture. Friends meet at the clock tower, watch incredibly talented performers, ride rides, and eat the greasiest, most delicious food in the world. Some make a game plan, checking show times online to see all the entertainment available. Others go for the rides, buying an armband and screaming their heart out on the beautifully lit roller coasters. This fair is different than any other. I’ve met people from all over the country coming to enjoy this incredible week-long experience. The Georgia National Fair is a one stop shop to experience Georgia culture, Southern charm, and entertainment of every kind.

georgia national fairgrounds in perry georgia
@jessicamaephotography

Scarecrows of famous characters line the front of a large building that’s filled with locally crafted art created by all ages. From photography and paintings to handmade quilts, these masterpieces depict the very essence of Georgia culture. A photo of an FFA (Future Farmers of America) high schooler spending quality time with his award winning cow warms the heart of everyone who stops to look. Paintings of woodlands with every creature imaginable depict what Georgians value most about their home. It’s eye-opening to discover how much talent is in our neck of the woods.

couple at georgia national fairgrounds in perry georgia
Jessica Mae Photography

Something that’s also pretty cool to experience is Georgia’s emphasis on agriculture, especially at the fairgrounds. An entire warehouse is dedicated to selling, sampling, and promoting locally grown produce and locally raised cattle. This warehouse, called the Georgia Grown building, has honey, barbecue sauce, roasted pecans, and many other delicious treats grown right in our hometown. Free recipe books are handed out to let the public know all that they can cook with Georgia’s farm-fresh food. One of the best desserts available at the Georgia National Fair is, of course, the piping hot peach cobbler with melting vanilla ice cream on top.

georgia national fairgrounds in perry georgia food
Jessica Mae Photography

“Thank you, ma’am.” “Howdy, sir.” Georgia is still a place where everyone is expected to address someone older with the utmost respect. While we may only be joking when using the word, “howdy,” listen closely and you’ll hear the southern slang that makes Georgia so intriguing. Another taste of Southern living can be found in our music happening daily at the fair. The wonderful performers, mostly singing country music, get people up and dancing in their boots. Many emerging artists come and show off their newly discovered talent every night while a major music star will have a large concert the Friday before the fair leaves town. My first concert ever was at the Georgia National Fair when the Jonas Brothers came to town (still sad they are no longer a band.) This year, people flooded the fair grounds to see the talented Trace Adkins rock the stage.

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@jessicamaephotography

So plan a trip to see the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Georgia this year. Mark your calendar for mid to late October and enjoy some sugar roasted pecans, boot-stomping rhythms, and a good Southern time. Stay until 10:00 pm to end the perfect day with fireworks over the lake. See this nostalgic, beloved place light up one last time before it turns in for the night and rests for the next day.

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Jessica Mae Photography
Other sites around Perry, Georgia:

Perry’s town square is worth stopping by during your stay. With cute boutiques, pottery painting, and 2 Jerks Soda for dessert, downtown Perry makes for a fun little town to experience. I also recommend a trip to the Oil Lamp, which is highly popular with the locals, for some delicious country-style dinner.

Addresses:

Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter
401 Golden Isles Pkwy, Perry, GA 31069
Oil Lamp
401 General Courtney Hodges Blvd, Perry, GA 31069
Peach Palette Pottery
907 Carroll St, Perry, GA 31069