Tybee Island Itinerary and Accommodations

Hey everyone! Here are all my favorite things on Tybee Island that I think you might like too! I’ve attached an itinerary and a great vacation home to stay in while you are there. Zac and I stayed in this rental with friends over spring break and loved it!

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If you want to take it with you and check it off, here’s a Printable Tybee Itinerary.

We loved this Tybee Vacation Rental that was perfect for large groups! Here is a quick video that shows the inside. It is 2 stories and has 7 beds. We easily fit 4 cars in the gravel driveway! Here is $40 off if this is your first time using Airbnb.

Disney Military Discounts & other Orlando Military Travel Ideas

A few weeks ago, my husband and I decided to take advantage of the 2018 Military Salute Disney tickets. We called it our belated honeymoon since we married the week after he graduated Coast Guard basic training. I hope this post will fill you in on a few military opportunities concerning Disney World and other Orlando theme parks. Feel free to view the table of contents below and scroll straight to the information you are searching for.

Today’s Topics:

1. Disney Military Salute Tickets
2. When to Go
3. Eating at Disney
4. Disney Resort/ lodging
5. SeaWorld (free tickets)
6. Universal Studios/ Islands of Adventure
7. Cheaper Disney Swag for Great Pictures

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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 an eating schedule option for you while at the Disney Parks:

Breakfast before the park (eggs, cereal, muffins, fruit, etc.)

Light Lunch in the park and a shared coffee for some extra energy

Snacks in our backpack (tuna pouches and crackers, trail mix, fruit, granola)

Late Dinner after we shut down the park at any restaurant still open on the way back to the hotel

It might be fun to splurge one night and reserve dinner in the park ($20-$40ish per plate). Bring something nice to change into that doesn’t wrinkle, enjoy a dinner-date at the happiest place on earth, and end the evening watching fireworks together.

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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.

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. 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.

You might even want to book a stay through Airbnb.com. I found a few apartments that are $70 per night, including the cleaning and service fees. I have a discount code that can get you $40 off your first stay with Airbnb, but I would honestly use it as a last resort option: 40% off Airbnb stay

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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While you’re in town… SeaWorld!

I know some people have issues with SeaWorld these days, but if you don’t, keep reading! Each year, SeaWorld gives one free ticket to active duty military and their dependents. You can choose to use your free tickets at SeaWorld (San Diego, CA or Orlando, FL) or Busch Gardens (Williamsburg, VA or Tampa, FL). My husband and I decided to spend Saturday at SeaWorld for half a day since Disney would be busy. If you decide to go while in town, you will only pay for parking, which is $22, and a locker if you bring a bag, which is $6 for all day. If I were you, I would just leave bags in the car. The lockers are a hassle if you don’t really need anything from your bag. SeaWorld has more rollercoasters than I expected, and their shows are incredible. We also discovered a helpful tip. Go ride rollercoasters during the Shamu shows. Half the park goes to the show and the rides are practically empty! Of course, watch one Shamu show because they are so fun! Getting the military tickets couldn’t be easier. All you do is go to SeaWorld.com and either enter your military ID number or log in using your USAA account. They will email you your ticket and you’re done!

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Universal and Islands of Adventure

Universal Studios also offers a significant military discount on their tickets. Once again, you can purchase them at your Travel and Leisure office on base, but the cool thing about these tickets is that the sponsor does not have to be with you at the park entrance. The tickets are about $180 for a 4-day, 2- park voucher. That is the price you would pay for a 1-day, 2-park ticket at regular price.

I hope this helps with your Disney vacation planning! I also hope you have an amazing time with friends and family at the most magical place on earth! Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you in December!

Click here to see some of my favorite items to use while traveling and it will help keep this blog going as I am affiliated with Amazon!

For cute Disney Pictures:

I bought some Disney swag at Kohl’s the other day because they have a junior’s line of Disney apparel for Mickey’s 90th birthday. They also have 20% off your purchase right now both in-store and online. I’m not affiliated with Kohl’s, they just had cute items for pictures at Disney!

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 also stayed in an Airbnb in Alewa Heights while in Oahu, which is only about 10 minutes from the airport, in between Pearl Harbor and Honolulu. Here is my $40 discount off your stay if you are booking with Airbnb for the first time!

These links support my blog and help me to share useful tips with you about travel, so thank you for using them!

Feliz Navidad! A Christmas in Mexico

This past Winter Break, my boyfriend and I were invited to spend Christmas in Guadalajara, Mexico with our friends and their family for 8 days. The family was so kind, taking us in and treating us as their own. This was a packed trip as we celebrated Christmas, our friends’ wedding, and my 20th birthday! Our friends’ father even took us to the beach a few days. Meeting so many awesome people was by far my favorite part of the trip, but other aspects that I’ll always remember concern the Mexican culture, downtown Gaudalajara, and Melaque Beach.

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Our friends’ beautiful wedding celebration

Mexican Culture:

Unlike Cozumel or Cancun, Guadalajara is more than just a tourist area. We stayed in a “colonia” in Zapopan that was so neat to experience. “Colonia” is the Hispanic equivalent of a neighborhood, but way bigger. There are neighborhood stores, restaurants, and food stands created by the residents. One home would sell bakery goods and another would sell tacos. My favorite food stand sold bionicos, which are fruit desserts that are basically all the good toppings from froyo, minus the froyo. We went there so often that the man knew our order. Although, that could be because we were clearly the only Americans in the colonia- but who knows?

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Neighborhood torta shop and owners

Christmas was celebrated much differently than in my home and was a joy to experience! Aunts, uncles, and cousins lived right down the road so they came over and cooked all Christmas Eve, preparing a feast. That night, we played bingo and opened presents from family members. My favorite part about Christmas in this home was that the family made a huge deal about every present. It made the fun last longer, the person giving the gift feel appreciated, and the person opening the gift feel important. That is something I will use in my home one day with my kids. There may not be one-hundred presents under the tree, but talking up each present can make everyone just as excited.


The city of Guadalajara:

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Our friends had twin brothers our age who were so generous to drive us around town and translate. They took us to their favorite pizza, ice cream, and taco shops. They even took us on triple dates with their girlfriends to the markets downtown. I got my niece a handmade bow and myself a woven bag. We went to the biggest market I’ve ever been to. It was actually somewhat of a warehouse, but once inside, the market seemed never ending. It had everything from souvenirs to knock off soccer jerseys and Coach purses. I got a cute mug that says “Recuerdo la Guadalajara Jal.” because I’m a coffee addict. I found a cool article on Forbes that explains the city markets in more detail. As far as food in the city, my favorite meal was tacos because they were delicious and cheap. I’m talking 25 cents a taco! Plain water was not available to order with food. Instead, restaurants offered sodas, horchata, and my favorite, agua fresca. Depending on the restaurant, most places offered a variety of different fruit juice, all of which were referred to as “agua fresca.” My favorite flavor was Jamaica, which is made with hibiscus flower.

Guadalajara is a city with impressive, old churches and buildings. When the Spanish came across the Atlantic, they built spectacular Catholic churches and prayer centers. We toured inside the large stone building, Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento,and were in awe at the intricate woodwork that adorned each door. The Guadalajara Cathedral was the focal point of downtown and was impossible to miss. Around the Cathedral was probably the most scenic area. Filled with ironwork benches and a giant city sign, the surroundings were basically screaming for a photo-op.


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One weekend, the family decided to go on a three-day vacation to the beach. Little did I know that they were taking us to one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been to! I just remember passing miles and miles of palm trees. I’d never seen so many in my life! I quickly decided that Melaque beach is a hidden gem for people looking for the perfect place to soak up the sun at any time of year. The family told me that several people retire and buy homes in Melaque for two reasons: 1. It’s cheap, and 2. Most people speak English. Melaque, although still a tourist area, was far different from my experience in Cozumel because the shops and restaurants dealt in pesos, at the Mexican price. For example, we ate at a place twice that served quesadillas larger than our heads. With the exchange rate, the quesadillas cost us no more than $5, including drinks.

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Melaque had a lively town center, Plaza Navideña San Patricio, perfect for shopping, eating, and enjoying a night on the town. Market tents were set up with interesting merchandise and, for Christmas, there was a huge Christmas tree and Nativity scene.

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The Pacific Ocean water was perfect, even in December. The warm sun and beach breeze combined to make the winter in Mexico feel like July in the states. The next day, we drove to the beach at Hotel Boca de Iguanas. This was my favorite area as it was less crowded and had a cliff with a beautiful view at the top. The pool was cold, but still bearable. There were both tourists and locals at the beaches in Melaque, creating both a new yet comfortable atmosphere at the same time.

As I was writing this blog, I began to reminisce on what an amazing experience Mexico truly was. The family we stayed with was the sweetest, most loving group of people that I’ve ever met and they became lifelong friends of mine. I also started thinking about going back to Melaque this Christmas to enjoy its natural beauty once again. I started browsing and found that Airbnb had some great homes to rent for a Christmas vacation to Boca de Iguanas. Here is my link if you would like to check out the beachfront homes they offer in this area. Melaque and Boca de Iguanas were two beaches that I’ll never forget and I can’t wait to step foot on that warm sand once again!

The Basic Packing Guide: USA in early spring & Europe in early summer

titleToday I packed for a Spring Break trip to Williamsburg, Virginia and a day trip to Washington D.C. I soon realized that this will be the majority of my packing list for Europe in May as well. The weather in Virginia is supposed to be in the 60’s during the day and closer to the 30’s at night. I incorporated layers so that I don’t have to use two outfits in one day. Let’s check it out!

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Wardrobe overview:

3 sleeved, looser/flowy shirts (light grey, dark grey, black&white)

1 white T-shirt

2 loose tank tops

3 skinny pant (cropped black, full-length jean and rust)

3 layering items (olive short-sleeved knit, striped active-wear hoodie, army jacket)

3 shoes (booties, Nikes, Toms)

2 necklaces

2 earrings

2 bracelets and bangles

Budget shopping:

My wardrobe comes from various, budget-friendly locations. My dark grey and black and white shirts come from Sam’s Club, crazy, I know. But the brand is Philosophy and they were on sale for $10. I got my tank tops from Walmart for $3 a piece. They are my favorite purchase, and I wear them all year long. My cropped, black pants are Nine West and were also purchased at Sam’s Club for $20, and my army jacket and rust pants are from Ross and cost me $20 each. My favorite, white T-shirt actually came from Goodwill for about $3; however, finding a clean, white shirt at Goodwill is a rare occasion. The knit sweater is from Old Navy and my jewelry is a combination of Target, Kohl’s, and Belk.

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Layering items

Next week’s Williamsburg trip will let me know how much I need to add to my Europe packing list. Spring Break lasts only seven days while Europe will be 18 to 20 days. Hopefully, I will have two opportunities to stop back at home base to wash and head on my way again. In addition to what is shown, I packed pajamas, three workout outfits, yoga pants, and necessities. All my clothes fit in a medium suitcase, but I will have to use a separate bag for toiletries and hair items.

 

I hope this helps while planning for your next adventure! As you can see, I picked basic colored items so that I can mix-n-match, creating several different outfits. No one will ever suspect it!

Lovely Travels!

-Katie