For the Hell Of It: How I Afford to Travel

It is the question I get asked the most, “how do you afford to travel all the time?” Well, get ready! I’m going to tell you. And you can totally do it too. 

Be prepared, it will blow your mind. 

I have a job. 

Crazy right?!? I do this thing where I work and get paid for it. And since it’s the digital age, I can work remotely. I know. 

But, y’all really? Did you think I won the lottery? Or I’ve got a fairy travel godmother? Come on. It’s called a Digital Nomad and there’s a whole community of us. 

There are bloggers who do travel for free or get paid to do it. It didn’t just fall into their laps. Promise, they worked for it. Anyone who tries to lure you in with a hook that just like them you can travel for free is lying. Because if everyone could just do it, they would. 

How am I affording to buy a sailboat? Crazier still, rocked my side hustle. Also, crazier despite anyone having the impression I suck at this writing thing: some articles get picked up at $2 a word for 2,500 words. So if you think I suck then you can suck it because this bish is getting paid. 6-8 week lead time? Bish don’t care. Bitches getting paid. 

 

I just may make that my new profile pic. 

ORLANDO PT 1: All Moused Up for the White Flag of Surrender

Note: For some reason, I refused to get the Orlando wrap ups until I had done all parts of it. That resulted in it taking forever which makes the very first one I did kind of comical. Pfff, scheduling and organized.

As all things in this adventure, this post is a learning lesson. Since Orlando and the composition of this post, I’ve gotten better. By better I mean more than just the writing. I am better at outlining what I want to say, better at the physical part of sitting down to write, better at finding my voice. Overall, better.

It was a toss up on rewriting the whole post or letting it go as it stands. Ultimately, I decided to use the time it would take to rewrite it or leave it and use the time for something moving forward.***

 

As much as I hate to admit it, the excitement of the trip was better than the trip itself. Maybe I was just overspent. They say that kids have Disney Crash after a trip, I had Disney Build Up.

There is nothing better than taking a child to Disney World.  I am so thankful that Camp Lola’s crew got to join me. On the same note, I feel like most parents would agree that there’s nothing worse than taking children to Disney.  It’s almost too much then they crash after a few scattered meltdowns throughout the day. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have done it differently if I could.

Instead of sleeping in my car, I stayed with Camp Lola at Disney’s All-Star Movie Resort. Lola booked her room just 2 days before and got them for less than $100 a night.  Much to my crazy surprise, I had media passes for 2 one day all park passes compliments of Disney. It kind of makes me feel bad about that post about Disney characters boinking guests.  Camp Lola had just relocated (maybe 2 weeks prior) to St. Mary’s, Georgia putting them just a couple of hours up the toll road.  Lola had her 31 Bonus ready to go, it all just fell into place.

This is going to be a shameless, unwarranted, nor requested plug.

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There was a LOT of packing and downsizing going on. 

There is nothing travel wise I love like the 31 mega huge utility tote that KLA got me for Christmas a couple of years ago. It has this one big canvas tote that spans my entire trunk with 3 separate zippered bags that fit into it. Best gift ever. When I packed for this adventure, I packed one of the totes per city/weather to go along with my overall bag.

 

Lola tells me they don’t make this bag anymore, unbelievable. You’ll be able to find the closest thing they offer now, the Deluxe Utility Tote. I’m not going to single anyone out, you all have a social media sales hustler come to mind, I will say that I have never seen Lola post once about selling 31 goodies (they make mermaid pillows!). She is the non-hustler hustler. That’s probably why she does so well with it.

Back on track!

imagesOur littlest camper LOVES Herbie. Not the Lilo kind, the originals Staying in the Herbie section was a must. Only at check in, we discovered we were not in The Love Bug section. We were instead in The Mighty Ducks.

Do kids still watch The Mighty Ducks? Or is Disney just too far in to remodel?  Granted, they have a hockey goal in their pool, it just wasn’t Herbie. Not a problem! A little fairy dust and we were moved. What a surprise! When we got to our room!

 

 

We weren’t just in the Herbie section! Our room  was smack dab right in the middle of it! Our room door opened right next to the two story Herbie himself! img_0025

 

No lie, img_4403it was like I was 6 years old when I got my Magic Band.  I WAS AT DISNEY! Even better! I was at Disney as a guest OF Disney! What is happening! I felt so legit.

Full disclosure, all of the royal “we” for check in was me being there during text. I arrived later after a warning that the white flag of surrender was hanging on the door.

 

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Legit, white flag of surrender was hanging on the door when I arrived.

Now that we’re all here! Oh. My. Goodness. Have I seen the gift shop yet?!?! Well, no Camp Lola Campers, I didn’t sneak over there before coming up to the room. I did per the head counselor’s request stop by Rite Aide for a bottle of wine though.

Dividing and conquering, I took the youngest camper to the arcade while the oldest went with the head counselor to the gift shop. Let me tell you, it was bananas. Did I have any tokens? Nope. Didn’t matter. 

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The gif is 1,000x times better. You can check it out HERE.  

Not even visiting the park yet and the campers were spent. All tucked in their beds, the grownups popped open the adult bug juice and gossiped. In a way, it was just like summer camp! I’m teasing. I never once drank at camp. Did accidentally miss curfew once, but always the angel in disguise! No other camp rules broken! Except maybe that year as a camper that we peirced my ears and…okay, so mostly as a counselor I never broke any rules. #AngelInDisguise #ThatsWhereTheGreatDayClapComesFrom

Today was the day!  The sun came up! It’s Disney time!

 You know I love a good theme. Had to dress the part. All moused up, I got first hand what all the mommies talk about in the mommy groups. I saw all the real life versions of the parenting memes.

 Y’all. Complete and utter chaos over shoes.

After all the shoes were on the correct feet, we were on our way….to wait for a bus.

It is a good thing Mickey is a mouse. Lord, the amount of cheese! I loved it! Our driver sang it all! He did all the dad jokes! It was…well, it was magical!

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First up, we rode the move around while sitting still ride. Then we rode it again. A then a few more times in a row for good measure. No prob. It gave me the chance to coordinate my map, app, and fast past all to my Magic Band. Really, this thing is genius.

The youngest camper needed to circle around a few more times. Divide and conquer, I took the older camper for whatever her heart desired. It desired the creepiest robots ever. EVER. Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress. Funny how the future kind of panned out. All the advanced technology was a few decades behind minus the 3D goggles. The tree did seem to be missing a pair of rollerblades. They would have matched those sweaters and that hair!

img_4454Next on the agenda, It’s a Small World. Turns out, it isn’t as creepy as I remember. Our oldest camper was enchanted. See what I am saying! Magical! Kids change it all. Borrowed Kids, BORROWED.

You caught me. Even though this was not my first trip to Disney, I got a 1st time button. There was a great debate. Between the 1st time and the celebrating button, it seemed it would be easier expanding the truth than explaining I was celebrating finding myself. It had to be 1980 something the last time I was at Disney. The Carousel of Progress wasn’t even outdated yet!

 

We skipped the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique opting for the free experience of a little fairy dust from a Fairy Godmother.img_4456 

It amazes me that we had done so little yet it had been hours. Already it was time for lunch and a little meltdown prevention ice cream. I didn’t even skip over any of the rides or anything in the recount.

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The Mad Hatter’s Teacups were just as much fun as I remembered. Totes more fun than cliche. 

Off to Dumbo where we found Disney’s gift to parents. There is a playground for the kiddos while you wait in line! 

That is the one thing I think Disney could do better with. Fast Passes are great, buy your way to the front! And if someone in your party is differently-abled, they get unlimited Fast Passes. Thanks to my perfect planning/dumb luck we had virtually no wait anywhere. Max 15 minutes. However, 15 minutes for that someone could be a lifetime. Disney does so much for families, they go so far out of their way to make sure everyone experiences Disney to the fullest. I just wish they could set up Fast Passes for special circumstances that made it easier. Something we brought up was even sensory sensitive lines. Just a thought for the big mouse.

Disney was ready for Christmas during the visit. Personally, I just wanted a good old fashioned thrill of Disney. It’s possible I tried to angle all my pics to cut out Christmas. Ba-humbug, it was hot and we just did Halloween! I coped and cropped.

The only Christmas that really irked me was the Jungle Cruise. It was an all time favorite as a kid. Did you know those hippos aren’t real? For the holidays, it is the Jingle Cruise and all of the ride is decorated. Puns were abundant and made up for all of it. Seriously, I had to keep myself from grabbing her intercom to share some of my bad cow jokes from my Ben & Jerry’s tourguide days. Just hire me! I’d pun it up all day!

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Swiss Family Robinson gave all the views of the park, leaving me hoping that it inspired little minds to go home to read the book.

We wandered Main Street. We caught the parade. There must have been more rides, it all seemed a blur.

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Let me tell you, those Cast Members have their “Parade is Over, Time to Leave” routine down pat. It was like trying to break through a game of Red Rover to get past them going back towards the rides. I only had half of my group!

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In the tips,  I talk about the perks of an early closing day. The campers were fading. I can’t even imagine how it is possible to do the park open to close during regular hours without nuclear meltdowns or spending a mortgage payment on meltdown avoidance ice creams.

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Back at the resort, the campers headed to the pool with me while Lola sought out our dinner. Assuring myself that she’d come back, I ohhhh’d and no way’d all the water stunts before tapping out to Lola. Sub Counselor out! That is when I got to sneak off to hear all the dirty on Disney from a former Cast Member. 

In all the times I’ve ever been to Disney, I have never ridden Space Mountain. Trips to Disney were with my single parent. Too little to ride myself with a sibling too little to leave alone, it just never happened. I cannot even imagine how single parents do it. Camp Lola has a regular pair of Head Counselors, but only one of them was there at Disney. Having no real authority, I was mostly just an extra set of eyes and hands for opening things. There was one point where Lola heard me tell one of them no, we weren’t going to do XYZ. Why didn’t I want to she asked me. I was completely indifferent to whatever was asked of me to go see, I had just said no in order to show my dominance. Who knows if that is a thing with kiddos. But props to you single parents, mega props to you. 

And let me just tell you this, kids at Disney never sleep. I headed off to the food court (okay, mostly the bar) to be an adult and go over some notes. That’s where I met the lovely couple who come every year for the last 9 years with their grandchildren that gave me all kinds of insights from experience. KIDS WERE UP ALL NIGHT LONG. Maybe it was the excitement, maybe it was time zones, maybe it was a desperate attempt to let them wear themselves out. Who knows.

For me, the day was done. It was time to say goodbye…

M-I-C, see you real soon…K-E-Y…why? because we like you…M-O-U-S-E

 

 

 

Muffy Monday: Big Girl Flamingo Pants

Exciting! We’re growing and going to be a real deal blog! The converting starts the moment after this post, which makes me extremely nervous. Already they’ve hit me with a couple of bumps. What would this be if there weren’t bumps? That’s just how I roll.

For that reason, this is not the post that was planned or written. Skeptic I am, it just might be lost in the world and no one wants that! On top of that, flipping Chromebook just randomly feels the need to restart. Digging into that next. Anyone with any heads up would be greatly appreciated.

If you’re not following along on Facebook or Instagram, you probably have no clue where I am. Maybe you do? Who knows, it all seems a blur these days.

In a whirlwind, I ended up at Lake Arrowhead Resort. Just as my Lilly pants don’t go with Uggs, Muffys don’t belong in the snow. It’s my last night on the mountain, tomorrow I’ll travel down and catch a bus to Vegas! It was the same price to grab the bus to Vegas then Tucson instead of straight on to Tucson. Why not get a little sun in between?

Let’s hear your Las Vegas tips and tricks! Still unsure of which hotel, darn resort fees have me all confounded. My heart is screaming for The Flamingo! It is my spirit animal after all. The room is a steal of a deal, the resort fee costs just as much as the room. Tonight, I’ll investigate.

Alright y’all, let’s cross our fingers and have high hopes….time to convert it all over. Here goes!

 

 

 

Travel Tip Tuesday: Orlando, Disney, & Universal Studios

I know I said this week’s Travel Tip was going to be on finding crazy cheap flights, instead we’re talking Orlando. The crazy cheap flights will be a little later for two reasons:

1.) This just makes more sense since this week is all things Florida

2.) The holidays mess up cheap flying anyways

If you are insanely disappointed, let me know. We’ll find you a flight together. Promise!

Instead, I’m going to tell you all about how I:

  • Did all the parks on a budget (without media passes)
  • Picked the dates to make sure there was virtually NO waits for rides
  • What’s worth the money & what isn’t
  • Avoided the crowds in the park
  • Ended up with unexpected expenses
  • and all kinds of other good tidbits!

So let’s get started!

As much as I am trying to embrace going with the flow, there are just some things that you need to plan for in advance especially when you’re trying to save or get it all in.

Preparing for the crowds of the theme parks, I am sure you have come across the crowd calendars. Undercover Tourist probably has the most popular one. It can be helpful, however, it is definitely not worth it to purchase one over the freebies out there. I did study them and did factor that into my date selection. In reality, it was common sense in planning that made the days at the parks a breeze (okay, and a little bit of dumb luck as well).

Going on a weekend was an obvious avoidance, luckily I had the freedom of going during the week. Here’s where the brains came in…the weekend before my visit was Veteran’s Day (a 3 day weekend and active military were admitted for free), the week after was Thanksgiving which is a very high volume time. With all that time off school or work, the crowds were going to be large. Going smack dab in the middle of those two dates insured a drop in crowd attendance. Again, going right before a holiday is a luxury of my schedule. It isn’t an option for everyone. People say to go in February. It’s risky. You never know what schools in which area are going to have a random winter break. Now my dumb luck is something you can factor in on purpose.

Each park at Disney World has one day a week they close early, that happened to be the day I went to Magic Kingdom. If you plan on doing a whole park in a day, you need to take that into consideration. Even though I had a hopper pass for Walt Disney World, I really only planned on visiting the Magic Kingdom. If I had planned on hitting another park after that, it would have been disastrous on the crowd meter. As soon as Magic Kingdom, closed everyone flocked to another park.

Here’s why it was a phenomenal happen chance: the crowds avoided Magic Kingdom that day due to the early closing time. Double bonus, the next day was Mickey Mouse’s birthday and a big Christmas extravaganza. People skipped Magic Kingdom in order to come for the large crowd activities the next day.

All the Disney Bound blogs suggest doing the park first thing that morning then heading back to the hotel for the afternoon for pool time to avoid the heat of the day and return for the fireworks in the evening. Now if you’re an adult, you can swing a 12 hour day at the park. If you have small children, not going to happen without a major meltdown.

My advice, push aside that little voice in your head that says you’re not getting your money’s worth and hit the park on a day it closes early when everyone else is listening to that little voice. The lack of wait time is well worth it. Our fast passes had us wait at most 7 minutes for rides. Really, you’re getting more park in less time.

Those same big events and crowd planning paid off at Universal Studios as well since everyone wanted to be in attendance for Mickey’s birthday. Maybe there was a lot of cake or something, I don’t know.

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One of the cast members advised me when inside the parks, take the side paths to bypass the herds. It’s usually the designated smoking area, but if you can ignore that you’ll miss a majority of the people meandering along. You know the ones. It took all I had in me not to tell them to walk with purpose! Otherwise, get the move on.

 

If going to Disney, get Disney’s app My Disney Experience beforehand. That’s probably a given for all you die hard Disney fans. For those of you not familiar, the app lets you track your reservations, book Fast Passes in advance, find characters, wait times; basically anything you could imagine at Disney. 151612_pc_site_900x360-cIf you know what you want to do, book those Fast Passes before you head to the park. You can even do it months in advance. This is going to be a big help for the popular rides that will book up early making you get on a wait list for them. Pretty much as soon as you know your dates for Disney, book your adventures that minute.

Bill & Brenda from Dayton, Ohio have been coming to Disney every year for the past 9 years with their granddaughters. Not being the Disney pro they are, I asked them what they found worth it and not worth it. Of course, being grandparents what isn’t worth every penny for their granddaughters?

We finally narrowed it down. They decided as neat as the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is, it was not worth it. Not only does it take several hours, it is expensive. The outfit comes with shoes and they are just not practical, day in the park, walking around shoes. Instead of spending the cash, come in your own outfit and have a fairy godmother sprinkle you with fairy dust for free. img_4456

What has been a super magical memorable experience from their 10 visits in the last 9 years? During one trip, one of the granddaughters dressed as Merida from Brave. Apparently, no one ever comes as Merida. Cast members all remarked on her outfit. No one comes as Merida and they all told her how awesome it was to see her. Personal not: it makes me kind of sad that little girls aren’t all over the princess who saves herself. Save yourself little ones!

What do Bill & Brenda say really is worth it (and not just for seeing the kiddo’s eyes light up in wonder)? Dining with the characters. Make the most of the expense and book a later dinner that way when you get out of dinner you get to enjoy the Magic Hour. Being in the park after it closes with hardly anyone there truly is a magical experience.

Disney starts Christmas at the beginning of November, which I could have done without. Bill & Brenda said that if you are there for the holidays the stories of Santas from each culture and centuries is a fascinating. More of a Halloween fan? Don’t miss the Halloween Dance Party at Downtown Disney.

My other big planning tip also falls under my unexpected expenses: those flipping toll roads. img_4139On my drive from Georgia to Miami I spent $25 on tolls. If I had planned ahead, I would have been able to route around them.

 
Florida touts the turnpike as the “Stress Free Way” and I am calling bologna. Not only did I feel like I was being held hostage on the toll roads, traffic was unbearable. Everyone was hopping on the Stress Free bandwagon.

Granted, they have amazing food courts for when you need to stretch your legs. Just make sure you stretch those limbs real good because anything inside of there is going to cost you an arm and a leg. Gas at the designated service stations was also .25 cents more.

Last week’s Travel Tip Tuesday I discussed stopping at the “Official” Florida Visitor’s Center for my Universal Studios tickets. The signage along the interstate had offers of $69 for Universal Studio tickets. That was tempting. The next sign for “buy one pair of boots, get two pairs free” peaked my interests. It was the sign for the 14 foot alligator that made me pull in. Heads up, the alligator is 14 feet long. It is not alive. I was informed that due to insurance reasons they couldn’t have a living one. The next stop a couple of exits up does have baby gators though! Live ones!

Now I did go all el cheapo and sign up for a “presentation” in order to get my hopper pass for both Universal parks for $64 after tax plus a free breakfast. While I found the timeshare presentation fascinating, I probably would have bailed much earlier on if I was anyone else. Poor Antonio probably thought he had me hook, line, and sinker with all my questions and note taking. That’s an experience to share for another day. The “Official” visitor center, aka Westgate Resort’s official visitor centers aka how we lure you into timeshares, did have largely discounted tickets. There are discounted tickets available ALL over the place. Buying tickets in advance of the trip is NOT something I recommend. Sorry to all my travel agent buddies on that one.

My super discounted hotel turned out to be one of the best deals of the week. Great location, clean, free parking, and free park shuttles, Friday AND Saturday for less than $70 after tax for both nights. All about that, Harry Potter World, and the rest of the week in Florida in tomorrow’s Where Have I Been Wednesday!