A Journey Down the Na’vi River

I was lucky enough to preview Pandora in May 2017.  Many people will tell you about the thrills of Avatar Flight of Passage, but I want to share about how cool the Na’vi River Journey was.  First of all, imagine “It’s a Small World” but with characters from Pandora.  It is a family friendly ride, but I do have to mention it is very dark but that allows the glowing plants and animals to really pop.  You feel like you are in a black light club with bright neon, but the atmosphere is serene with nature sounds, while on a slow moving raft ride through other worldly flora and fauna. 

When riding, you need to look up, down, and all around because the animals and insects of the jungle come to life around you. Disney has used incredible new technology so you can see the shadow a frog-like creature jumping on a lilypad over your head, while floating jellyfish obscure the view of larger animals in the background.  Near the end of the ride, you are blessed by the Na’vi Shaman’s song.  Only 4.5 minutes long, you’ll be in a raft that has 2 rows of seats each fitting 3 adults comfortably.  There is no real story to this ride, just an experience of the nightlife of the jungle on Pandora.

Puerto Vallarta from Horseback

This excursion was definitely a highlight of our trip.

While vacationing with my family at the Iberostar Playa Mita, I was able to pre-arrange a horseback riding experience to Rancho Montalbena. We were picked up at our resort and whisked away to the ranch (which also offers zip ling and ATV tours). The guide gave very good instructions to everyone on how to control the horses.  We had beginners to advanced riders in our group, along with two guides (one in the front, one in the back) and also a professional photographer to capture all the perfect photo moments.

Thanks Felipe – Iberostar tour desk – for helping us set up this perfect excursion!

  

 

 

 

 

 

Honeymoon Hopping

The Hawaiian Islands, how do you pick the right one for your honeymoon? Easy, you don’t have to pick just 1 island, you can hop to multiple islands!! Each island offers something different and I am here to help you find the perfect fit. Let’s explore a few of the islands….

O’ahu

In so many ways, O’ahu is ideal for the first-time visitor to Hawaii. Within a fairly compact area there are many iconic activities and attractions associated with the Hawaiian Islands: Pearl Harbor, Waikiki beach, Diamond Head, pineapple fields, surfing beaches, just to name a few. O’ahu provides a unique town and country experience. The energy and excitement of this city is just a short drive from the true country experience or nature excursions and working ranches. O’ahu appeals to clients who are active and energetic in both body and mind. This area is rich in culture, arts, history and cuisine. (Don’t forget to try Spam- it is very popular in Hawaii!!!) You can take surfing lessons, paddle an outrigger canoe and if you travel north you can go horseback riding.

Maui

This island is ideal for travelers seeking variety and spontaneous adventure and offers countless experiences that reflect its diversity of landscape and culture. Get up early and bike down Haleakala Crater, the sunrise is amazing and you won’t be disappointed. Take a drive along the road to Hana—this is about a 50 mile drive, but it takes you about 2 1/2 hours and the views are amazing! You have to share the road with fellow travelers so make sure one of you keeps their eyes on the road! Whale watching is a popular excursion on this island and if you go between mid-November to mid-May there are amazing opportunities to see the humpback whales. If  you visit during the summer months the whales will be up in Alaska so keep this in mind if whale watching is on your list.

Kauai

If you have not been to Hawaii before I’m certain that the Hawaii you envision looks and feels like Kauai. This island personifies the ideal of tropical paradise and countless movies and TV shows have been filmed here. On Kauai you will find white sand beaches, lush rain forests and groves of coconut palms. If you are seeking the ultimate romantic destination, whether it’s for a wedding, vow renewal or honeymoon, or are seeking a respite from your busy, over-scheduled life then Kauai is the island for you. For the more adventurous  you can hike through Waimea Canyon, kayak down one of the many rivers, zip line over a rain forest or explore the Napali Coast on a Zodiac raft.

Hawaii Island

Better known as the Big Island- This island offers just about every type of landscape associated with Hawaii. On the Kona-Kohala coast you will find black lava fields spreading out below as your plane lands.  Surely you don’t think of this when you think Hawaii. You will also find snow, yes snow, on this island in the mountains of Maunakea and Maunaloa. Typically when clients first visit this island they will visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with a stop at the Kilauea Visitors Center and Thomas A Jagger Museum, and then ending with a drive along Chain of Craters Road. Taking a helicopter ride over the Big Island would be a great way for you to see the contrasting landscape, fiery lava flows, volcanic steam, lush rainforest, rock lava plans, black and white sand beaches and stunning valleys, waterfalls and coastlines only visible by air.

When you are ready to honeymoon island hop let me know!

Don’t Miss the Grand Marnier Slush at Epcot

Disney Recipe: Grand Marnier Slush from France Kiosk in Epcot

One of my favorite things at Walt Disney World is the Grand Marnier Slush from the France kiosk in Epcot. This is one tasty treat you won’t want to miss … if you are of age. Please be careful though is this is one of those drinks where the booze is hard to detect and it’s VERY delicious.

You can make this at home too. Here is the recipe for you …

Ingredients

  • 1 part Grey Goose Vodka
  • 1 part Grand Marnier
  • 1 part simple syrup
  • 2 parts Quickway sweet and sour mix
  • Ice

Directions

1.) Mix all ingredients in a blender until completely smooth. You can be a little more lenient with some of the alcohol to get it to your liking.

2.) To get the orange coloring such as seen at Epcot, simply add orange food coloring to the blend.

Now indulge!

On the lighter side….Disney’s Ohana Honey Lime Salad Dressing

I absolutely love trying new salads and new salad dressings.  It’s amazing what a difference in the taste of a leafy salad, when you change up the dressing!!!  I’m sharing my favorite Disney salad dressing here today!  I first experienced this at Ohana – located at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort at Walt Disney World in Florida.  A quick monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom, this restaurant is top on my list and well worth the stop!

Honey Lime Dressing

Ingredients

1/2 C honey
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 C cider vinegar
1/4 C lime juice
1/4 C diced onion
1 C canola oil

Method:

Place all ingredients except oil in food processor and blend until smooth. Slowly add oil until it is well incorporated into the dressing. Makes 2 Cups.

Earlymoons – What is that?

Why wait?

Today’s young couples are in a live-for-the-moment kind of mood, studies say, so it should come as no surprise that they are not waiting for the wedding to plan a vacation. Enter the new travel term: “earlymoon.”

You can probably thank Pippa Middleton and her new husband, James Matthews, who apparently introduced the trend to the world when they took a break from the stress of planning their lavish May wedding with a vacation in St. Barts.

And suddenly this month it is everywhere – on ABC news, on Good Morning America, in Conde Nast Traveler.
For most earlymooners, the new “experts” say, the point is to keep it simple and just relax.

Noting that 71% of engaged and newlywed couples say planning their wedding was more stressful than buying a home or finding a job, an ABC News story yesterday said “while honeymoons give newlyweds a chance to relax after their wedding, more and more engaged couples are taking a vacation even before their wedding festivities begin. Couples say the pre-wedding vacation, dubbed an ‘earlymoon,’ gives them a chance to de-stress and reconnect before tying the knot.”

“We were met with champagne and macaroons at the hotel [and] enjoyed some really nice dinners,” the story quotes one earlymoon couple as saying. “It was just us being able to enjoy each other’s company and just relax with no burden of kind of anything else weighing us down, especially all the pre-wedding planning.”

In a June story on earlymooning in Conde Nast Traveler, How To Be Married author Jo Piazza suggested the goal should be to “get out of the pre-wedding madness and remember why you are marrying this person in the first place.”

Go away “before the invites go out,” Piazza suggested, as many of the big decisions and stressful moments happen at the two-month-out mark. “Take a pause on planning before this time. You’ll be recharged and ready to tackle the big decisions when you return.”

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror—Be Afraid … Be Very Afraid!

My favorite Disney ride is at Hollywood Studios – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

It’s a great attraction to ride either day or night and is based on a haunted hotel in old Hollywood. We love the queue up to the actual ride. In true Disney fashion the excitement builds as you get closer and closer to the elevator. My kids love it and look forward to the ride photo every year – they even know where to sit now (and will wait for that seat) so they can pose for the best shot. I do recommend warning everyone it is a thrill ride and it’s going to be a bit scary and dark – you must be 40″ tall to go on the attraction. They do offer a FastPass+ which I highly recommend.

Will you make it back or will you stay forever at the Hollywood Tower Hotel . . .

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of Rum!

What is my favorite ride at Disney World? Easy- Pirates of the Caribbean!! I can’t pinpoint what it is about this ride that makes it my favorite but it is a must do with every Disney visit.  You set sail on a voyage to a time when pirates ruled the high-seas and will escape through a shadowy grotto past the ghostly catacombs of fallen pirates. This ride is for everyone, any age and any height. There is one small drop down a waterfall towards the beginning of the ride so be prepared but after that just sit back, enjoy and sing along with the drunken buccaneers. Jack Sparrow pops up throughout the whole ride so be on the lookout, you just never know what he is going to be up to. When you are at Disney World next, head to Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom and try this ride out, you won’t be disappointed!!

My Journey from Madrid to Lisbon

I just took a fabulous trip with Insight Vacations to Spain and Portugal. We began our trip in Madrid, then on to Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, Seville and Lisbon. We had a tour director on the bus with us all the time, as well as local guides in each city we visited. The tour director and guides were a wealth of information and added so much to the trip. The coaches that they use only have 45 seats, so there is much more legroom and you are able to stand up and move past the person sitting next to you. Even if you have short legs, not having the seat in front of you so close to your face was really nice.

We visited the sites in each location which was included with the tour as were all breakfasts and most dinners. In Madrid we took a city tour to see the sites and visited the Prado Museum. The food was excellent – we tried many tapas and churros with chocolate dip. The Alhambra Palace in Toledo was very interesting sitting on one of the many hills of the city. In Cordoba, we visited The Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. This was fascinating to have a tour and see the church within the mosque. Seville showed us the buildings from the 1929 World Expo, a horse carriage ride to dinner, tapas emphasizing the local delicacies, and a flamenco show. In Lisbon, we visited Christ the King statue, the monastery and cloister, sampled Pasteis de Belem custard tarts and had fantastic food. We also attended a Fado, which are songs that women sang because their men did not return home from the sea. The Fado is now on a Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Toy Story Midway Mania by Melissa (almost an expert)

My favorite ride at Disney World and Disneyland is Toy Story Mania!!!

At Disney World, this ride is located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  At Disneyland, this ride is located at Disney’s California Adventure Park.

I’m such a nerd that I researched and read up on how to get more points on this fun little ride!!!

Here are a few of the things I have learned about the ride and how to improve your score:
(Most of the high scores involve uncovering the secret targets on each screen)

  1. Hamm & Eggs screen – shoot the fox and the hens, while also shooting the two pigs above the fox.  When the two pigs go down, a cat appears.
  2. Green Army Men screen – in the beginning, two 2000 plates will shoot up in the valleys, hit them both before they disappear.  Higher value plates appear.
  3. Woody’s Shooting Gallery screen – this one is a team effort, Hit the 100 point target to open the 5 more targets, then you have to hit them all.  When you do, the targets pop open worth 2000 points each

Yep, I love this ride and am just a tiny bit competitive….ha ha ha!!!

  

Pandora – The World of Avatar is now open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park.

Explore Pandora

Exploring Pandora – The World of Avatar – is a must see experience now open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

The land itself serves as an amazing attraction for you to explore and interact with, and the area’s two experiences – the thrilling Avatar Flight of Passage and the family friendly Na’vi River Journey – are already wowing Guests. But did you know there are actually many other ways you can have fun throughout Pandora – The World of Avatar?

Here are seven must-do suggestions on how you can have the most immersive experience possible during their next expedition to Pandora – The World of Avatar.

1. Match With A Banshee – Already a favorite experience, the land’s Windtraders Merchandise shop is home to the Rookery, a nook where banshees reside, waiting to be adopted and brought home with you.

2. Visit at Swotu Wayä (“Sacred Place of Song”) – Located in the heart of Mo’ara Valley, you can interact with a collection of instruments fashioned by the Na’vi. They are connected into the moon’s root system and as Guests play the instruments, the area just may respond with music and light.

3. Test Out A Na’vi Translator – Also found in Windtraders, this fun device helps you learn Na’vi words.

4. Dine at Satu’li Canteen – Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Satu’li Canteen offers one of the most interesting menus at the Walt Disney World® Resort. Featuring international-inspired cuisine, vegetarian options and specialty libations, it’s the ideal place to refuel on an expedition through the Valley of Mo’ara.

5. Help Regrow the Flaska Reclinata – One of the largest and most fascinating plants on Pandora, your Clients can help this rare plant “re-seed” itself on Pandora simply through touch.

6. Channel Your Inner Na’vi – Windtraders offers a selection of Na’vi inspired merchandise. Here, you can buy your own set of Na’vi ears or a Na’vi tail. Or get a Na’vi inspired look over at Colors of Mo’ara.

7. Get Camera Ready – Pandora – The World of Avatar is chock-full of unbelievable photo opportunities – from towering floating mountains, to surprising water falls and much more.

Must Have Apps When Flying

Mobile Passport

Do you travel internationally? Have you checked out the Mobile Passport app? You still need to have your passport with you when you travel but having this app will save you time at the airport! It is pin protected so you can safely store your passport information.

TSA APP

The TSA App will keep you informed of airport delays, checkpoint wait times, along with a list of your favorite airports. The app also provides guidelines for liquid rules, identification requirements and travel tips. They even have daily hours you can chat with them via messenger or twitter.

Also, don’t forget to download your airline app.  Having your airline app saved on your phone will be helpful to get updates, gate changes and more!

My Favorite Travel Apps 2017

I simply remember my favorite things….. oh yes my friend, let’s take a look at a few of my fav’s for the year.
If you have not ever tried these, now is the time.

Rebtel — Phone calling
Facetime, Skype and Whatsapp are all good options when you want to make calls, but a WiFi connection is always needed to use the.  Let’s talk about the app Rebtel.  The app works by basically hijacking local phonelines and gives you the best available calling rates.  Check out the recently launched Rebel calling deal for friends and family free calls if they are also using the same app. (looks to be valid only until 2018)
— rebtel.com

Packpoint — Packing
This app generates a great packing list for your trip.  You enter the destination, date of travel and length of stay along with a bit of detail on the activities you’re planning.  Once generated, it’s easy to tweak if you want to add/subtract due to your personal packing style.
— packpnt.com

Rome2rio — Transit Connections
Route planning, when traveling globally, can get more complicated these days.  When figuring out how to get from point A to point B this app is pretty amazing.  With route info from over 4,800 transport operators in over 158 countries, this app instantly displays flight, train, bus ferry and driving options with estimated travel times and pricing.
— rome2rio.com

 

 

 

 

Honeymoon, Hot Springs and Hikes in Costa Rica

Honeymoon, Hot Springs and Hikes in Costa Rica

While honeymooning in Costa Rica, Matt and Jessica stayed at the beautiful Secrets Papagayo.  They drove through the countryside and enjoyed the stunning views. As an added adventure, they hiked through the rainforest which ended with a romantic swim underneath the waterfalls. The butterfly gardens were exceptional … a must see. Matt and Jessica also swam  in the natural hot springs which was absolutely amazing, an unforgettable experience!