Details about my VIP Tours at Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando

Details about each VIP Tour

Disney Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP Tour

Larger group, we had three Disney “plaid” guides. The VIP tour guides all wear the plaid pattern. If you know this, you can spot them throughout the park. The Ultimate Thrills VIP tour is all about riding the big rides in each park except Epcot. We met up in the morning at the ice cream parlor on Main Street in Magic Kingdom. We all got name tags and VIP badges on lanyards. We also turned in our order for lunch so there’d be no wait for food. For the rest of the day, the guides walked us from ride to ride. We went straight in as a group into the fast pass lane. When it came time to change parks we were escorted through back ways to access the back lot where they had three white vans waiting for us. The guides each then drove a van and took us to the next park as a convoy. This was the most efficient way to get from park to park because using the public transportation would have taken a lot longer. The vans could take us right to where we needed. When we arrived at Animal Kingdom or any of the parks we weren’t getting dropped off at the front door like all the other guests we were somewhere in the back so we could zoom right to the Everest ride. The guides were nice and I thought one of the best values was the knowledge they shared with us. This really made the tour special. They all had interesting tidbits to share about the park and each ride. They would point out Hidden Mickeys and even Hidden Donalds and Oswalds to look for. They told us interesting things about the Haunted Mansion which made the ride that much more amazing.
I would recommend the Disney Ultimate Thrills VIP Tour if your goal is to ride all the big rides without the hassle of planning fast passes and logistics of getting from ride to ride. There is almost no way for someone to complete what we did without the access that we had. If you’re going to skip a ride here and there I might reconsider as this tour is pricey. This tour is not for slackers. It is at a brisk pace. They have an agenda and it is to accomplish as much as possible before the day is over. This means that there is no time for souvenir shopping or dilly dallying. Unfortunately, there is barely time to go to the bathroom. Now, the guides will help arrange potty breaks but as a large group it always seemed hurried and an interruption. I loved that the guides were super friendly (we had three guides and two awesome, the third meh). They really enjoyed their jobs and were still excited about riding the rides after the umpteenth time. They would discuss amongst themselves: “yes you take them on on Haunted Mansion, I love the Tower of Terror I will take them on that one”) Lunch was at the Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios. It was a nice sit down restaurant. They had our orders already and we had place cards with our names printed on it so our food came out to us without a hitch.

 

Universal Orlando VIP Experience

Maybe it was because of our tour guide but I thought she really made the VIP Tour special. We had a smaller group (8 total) with one guide. That ratio was very nice. We had one family of 4 with us who had done the tour the day before and were back again and had requested the same guide because she was so awesome. That really told me a lot about how awesome it was going to be. At Disney we were escorted into the fast pass lanes as a group but at Universal we were directly zipped to the ride without waiting in ANY line. We almost always made our way to the child swap area where our guide would patiently gather our belongings so they were safe, she would make sure we would get the seat we wanted whether in the very front or the very back and then we would be on our way. We got an hour free time for lunch which was nice. We at at the Three Broomsticks. The food was fantastic. We got fish and chips and ribs and corn on the cob and butter beers of course. Then we had some time to browse the candy shop. Our tour guide also shared really cool insider things with us. One happens on the train going back towards Gringotts. *wink wink* We got secret tips on how to score high on MIB.

I had a great time and no regrets. I would recommend these VIP experiences. It was not cheap but this trip was in celebration of my birthday and what a birthday trip it was!

6 Days in Washington D.C.

This was our itinerary in Washington D.C. It was pretty packed, very tiring and very fun. Get your walking shoes on.

April 7-12, 2016

Wanted to make it to see the famous cherry blossoms but alas they had already come and gone. There were sporadic cherry blossoms around the city. Still very beautiful to see. Am inspired to plant some of my own. Found some at the Arbor Day Foundation website.

Weather: highly variable, a few days of rain, some sunshine and a lot of cold windy days. Bring lots of layers. We called it menopause weather. One minute we’d be freezing, no feeling in my toes and then inevitably we’d be baked to death inside buildings where there’d be little to no ventilation or have the heat on high. We brought an umbrella and we definitely used it.

Thursday

Monuments by Moonlight, Old Town Trolley Tours

Our driver/tour guide: HW (which he said stood for Hard Work) was a knowledgeable guide and had lots of interesting tidbits about the city. It was cold the first night and sitting in the trolley was nice. They can roll down the plastic sides to fend off the wind. The monuments have a different look at night. They seem just a little bit more austere and grand at the same time. A bit more peaceful. However, do not expect that you will find yourself alone cause at certain times the crowds can be just as thick as in the day time.

Sights seen:

  1. White House (seen from Trolley)
  2. Capitol (seen from Trolley)
  3. Lincoln Memorial
  4. FDR Memorial (walk through)
  5. MLK Memorial (walk through)
  6. WW II Memorial (from afar)
  7. Iwo Jima Memorial (walk through)
  8. Arlington National Cemetery (drive by)
  9. Washington Monument (seen from Trolley)

Many statues and other buildings were pointed out as we drove by.

Friday

Segway Tour-We went with Capital Segway (tour guide: Lucas) because there time slots fit our schedule best. It was definitely a fun way to see the city and try out a segway which I had never been on before. It seemed a little wobbly and scary at first but we all got the hang of it and were zooming around by the end.

Sights seen:

  1. White House (got a picture right in front)
  2. went through the sculpture garden at the Hirschon (only because we had a small group of 4 and the garden had no other tourists)
  3. Lincoln Memorial (walk through)
  4. Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial (walk through)
  5. WWII Memorial (segway’d past)
  6. Washington Memorial (segway’d past)
  7. Capitol (zoomed right up to it)
  8. Newseum (seway’d past)
  9. Einstein’s statue (segway’d past) he has a shiny nose

Lunch at The Hamilton -as recommended by our Segway guide. Ate at the bar. Super awesome. Highly recommend. Ordered: Fish and Chips and Crab Cake, Hamilton Mule (it kicks).

Capitol Tour-as arranged through our Senator John Cornyn’s office. Very awesome. Best picture of the trip: off the front of the balcony of the capitol looking across the mall towards the Washington Monument. After the Capitol tour we wandered over to the Library of Congress. Note that there is a direct underground tunnel that will lead you to the Library from the Capitol. The Botanic Garden is not very far away and easily reached from the library.

Library of Congress-very crowded, spotted the two famous bibles, took a gander at Thomas Jefferson’s personal library.

National Botanic Garden-orchid exhibition currently, very gorgeous, wish we had more time to explore.

Spy Musuem-so many exhibits to look at. My favorite were the guns concealed as other items like umbrellas and boxes. We also learned the Julia Child was once a spy.

Dinner reservations at Jaleo-highly recommend. get reservations. ordered: flight of red wine (fun), seafood paella (yum, filling, good value), garlic shrimp (classic), quail (well done), sausage (least favorite), mixed croquettes (surprise favorite, filled with creamy bechamel)

Saturday

Rainy Day

Bus to National Arboretum/Bonsai Musuem-surprise favorite. The National Arboretum is not to be confused with the National Botanical Gardens. On the grounds of the National Arboretum is the National Bonsai Museum. They have 400 year old bonsai trees there! It was really surprisingly awesome. The ground of the arboretum are huge and since we arrived by bus and had no car we paid the nominal fee for the tram tour. It takes you all the way in back to see all the different sections of the arboretum. We bought some cute little bonsai starter kits in the gift shop.

Sunday

Metro to Eastern Market-cute little street market,right next to the metro stop, there’s also a CVS there and an awesome bakery. bought apple cider from one of the fruit vendors. Probably could have spent more time here if we didn’t have to make it to Bike and Roll by 11:30.

Metro to King St Station

Free King St Trolley to Bike and Roll

9 mile bike ride to Mt.  Vernon-can’t say enough about Mt. Vernon. It was beautiful. The views are gorgeous. And even 3 hours was not enough time to do everything. I really wanted to eat at the restaurant that served some old fashioned recipes but we didn’t have enough time. The bike ride was pretty easy. There are a couple of hills but it wasn’t too bad. We took a break on one of the park benches and had a snack.

boat ride on Potomac back to Old Town Alexandria

Natural History Museum-our favorites: the ocean creatures, the gem stones and minerals collection, super cool.

Monday

Marine Corps Musuem-very well done. Kind of a trek away from DC, we opted to rent a car and I think it was worth it. If you look at the Marine Corps Museum website it doesn’t look so impressive so I didn’t expect much from the museum but I was wrong. They went all out. It is a world class museum of the highest caliber.

Quantico-Home of the Marine Corps and the FBI training school. The base of Quantico actually surrounds the mini town of Quantico.

Art Musuem-beelined for the Da Vinci, only one on permanent display in North America, even the back is painted

Museum of American History-Lincoln’s hat, Dorthy’s ruby red slippers, the star spangled banner that inspired our national anthem

Seafood at the Docks (A dozen boiled blue crab $22)-was an awesome experience for me cause it seemed filled with locals rather than just tourists. Don’t be shy. Step up. Ask how to order. Enjoy some really fresh seafood.

Georgetown Cupcake (closes at 9pm)-there was still a line going out the door at 8:50. Awesome cupcakes. Flavors we tried: strawberry cheesecake (awesome cheesecake), strawberry, red velvet, chocolate squared, cherry blossom, chocolate coconut, peanut butter chocolate

Tuesday

Udvar Hazy Air and Space Center-this is another that’s kind of hard to get to. We used our rental car to drive out to Dulles airport which is right next to the museum. The museum houses real life planes in giant hangars. There’s even a real space ship. Very cool to see. And we agreed that the Udvar Hazy Air and Space near Dulles was cooler than the Air and Space museum in DC. The air and space museum in DC is more exhibits. Udvar Hazy has the real life planes including the Enola Gay.

National Zoo-Pandas-was surprised that I got such good views of the pandas including the baby. We were lucky cause 1. we were there on a week day and crowds were thin and 2. around 1:30 the pandas were fed a snack so there was a lot going on with the pandas.

 

I think we did pretty much everything we wanted to do this time. Next time I go back I’d like to spend time in Arlington National Cemetery, get tickets to go up the Washington Monument, see where money is printed, get a tour of the White House, and maybe a Pentagon or FBI tour. The places I didn’t get to eat at that I would visit next time: Ben’s Chili Bowl and Toki Underground (several people mentioned it and I saw great reviews online).

Top Ten Things We Want to Remember (or Forget)

Ok, there’s more than 10. Too many memorable things happened on our short little trip (NOLS Lightweight Rocky Mountain Backpacking)
1. amoeba water/shrimp water
2. lake forging
3. animal sightings: grouse, chipmunks,nutcrackers, deer, pika, and marmot, osprey, red tail hawks, a seagull?!, meese (two moose)
4. rock fall and pock marks in the glacier
5. rock climbers climbing, yelling, carrying huge packs
6. search and rescue
7. battered and blistered feet
8. lightening storm overhead
9. always being on the move (never have I been in motion for that many hours over that many days)
10. student evac
11. running into other NOLS instructors on the trail
12. chatting with seasoned thru hikers
13. passing through sheep pastures and being herded by dogs
14. hummingbird escorts

Ultralight Toiletries

My ultralight adventure has brought me to research many interesting topics such as “What are the lightest toiletries?”

I have heard of ultralight fanatics sawing off toothbrush handles and I wanted to read more about other tips that people might have so I went online to see what other people are saying.

Personally, I’m trying to find products that have multiple uses. For example, Dr. Bronner’s soap can be used for body wash, shampoo, and laundry detergent. That’s pretty cool. There’s also shampoo bars. I could probably use a shampoo bar for body wash and laundry too. Or I might consider bringing the tiny little vaselines now. It could be a skin lotion and chapstick.

I found a really cool posting by a former Peace Corps volunteer. The page is titled Hard Corps Travel: Ultralite Shower Kit.  Here’s their list (the theory behind each choice is explained on the actual page):

Here was my old one month toiletry kit:
  • Toothbrush: 0.8 oz
  • Travel-sized Toothpaste: 3 oz
  • Travel-sized Deodorant stick: 1 oz
  • Travel-sized Shampoo: 3.4 oz
  • Travel-sized Conditioner: 3.4 oz
  • Travel-sized Hair Gel: 1.7 oz
  • Travel-sized Contact Solution: 4 oz
  • Contact Lens Case: 0.6 oz
  • Extra Contacts: 0.8 oz
  • Glasses: 3.2 oz
  • Travel Brush: 1.2 oz
  • Travel-sized Soap: 1 oz
  • Travel-sized Shaving Cream: 2.5 oz
  • Razor: 3 oz
  • TOTAL WEIGHT: 26.2 oz/1.6 lbs
But after some research and a bit of work, this is what I ended up with:The New and Improved One Month Toiletry Kit

 

 

Disney Princess Half Marathon Costume Ideas

I’ve been getting ready for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon in Orlando. I’m so excited!! Can I just say this will be the coolest bachelorette party ever?! I picked up costumes for my sister and me yesterday. My sister only wanted to wear a tutu and tiara but I wanted full costumes cause when else am I going to get the chance to wear a princess outfit at Disney nonetheless!!

After much costume trying on I have decided to go with Snow White. The costume has the very recognizable colors of blue top and yellow skirt. It’s also conveniently a short skirt which I think will facilitate running. My sisters costume is Alice from Alice in Wonderland. It’s a darling blue dress also short with a cute little white apron over it. With costumes I think it’s important to pay attention to the little details. Alice has a big black bow in her hair and Snow White has a red bow. And for accessories I was able to acquire a little teapot purse and an apple purse. Cute right?!?

It was also important to me that the costumes be somewhat comfortable. I don’t want anyone’s skin rubbing off midrace.

There’s also the matter of temperature and sports bras. It’ll be hard to predict the weather so all we can do is hope that what we have on won’t be too hot or too cold. Although I’d rather be too cold then too hot when running but that’s just me. Now the issue of sports bras, a necessary evil. I needed costumes that could be worn with sports bras so it doesn’t look too ridiculous. I tried on a cute tinkerbell outfit but they’re all strapless and unless you had a skin color sports bra I think it’d look funny.

Since I’m going to be running with my sister and our friend Brent I thought it’d be fun if our costumes worked together. But alas I wasn’t able to find what I needed. Wouldn’t it have been funny to see Alice in Wonderland running with the Queen of Hearts, and a white rabbit? I love matching costumes!

I can’t wait to see what people are wearing the day of the race. I’ve been reading online and I think the cutest idea was a man running the Disney princess half in a frog costume!! SMOOCHES!!

Disney Princess Half Marathon

I’m signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February! It’s going to be in Disney World in Orlando. Wanna know the fun part? It’s for a bachelorette party. How unique! The bride to be is an avid runner (her goal is running 50 marathons in 50 states) and she wanted all her friends to gather at the Happiest Place on Earth to help celebrate her future nuptials. We have been trying to come up with ideas for during the run. Because it’s is a bachelorette part and it is a Disney Princess run we are thinking of incorporating tiaras, veils and sashes. You know like the kind beauty contestants wear. We’d have the bride wear Future Mrs. So and So and the rest of the girls could be princesses in her court or ladies in waiting. Whatever might be cuter. Will post pictures of the event. So excited! See you soon Mickey!

10 Great Places to Have a National Park Adventure

I found this article in USA Today (7/1/2011).

10 Great Places to Have a National Park Adventure

  1. Yosemite National Park, California-Hike Half Dome, 17-mile round-trip trail passes two waterfalls and includes a 60-degree ascent
  2. Acadia National Park, Maine-tour this popular oceanfront park by sea kayak
  3. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii-Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano
  4. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona-the best way to see it is not just from the edge but backpacking rim to rim
  5. Canyonlands National Park, Utah-raft Cataract Canyon
  6. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming and Montana-during early spring the park is closed to cars so it’s great for cyclists
  7. Joshua Tree National Park, California-one of the best places to rock climb
  8. Everglades National Park, Florida-canoe through the famous “River of Grass”
  9. Glacier National Park, Montana-700 miles of trail and 3 dozen glaciers
  10. Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, U.S. Virgin Island-225 yard snorkeling trail through a coral reef in Trunk Bay

 

 

 

Aconcagua

I’ve just added Aconcagua to my climbing wish list. Even though it is the tallest mountain in all of the Americas I heard that it wasn’t that difficult. Other things to note, if I went with RMI Guides (who I would definitely consider since I’ve climbed with them before) the trip length would be 24 days and cost $4500. This is what RMIguides.com says about qualifications about climbing Aconcagua:

There are no technical climbing prerequisites to join this expedition, but climbing on previous high mountains will be of significant benefit to you. Simply put, climbers will usually perform better, be more prepared, and able to enjoy the experience more, if one has climbed other mountains before attempting Aconcagua. The altitude, length of trip (14 days on the mountain), the remoteness of the area, and the heavy backpacks, all contribute to make this a demanding trip. Excellent physical conditioning is required, and we strongly suggest developing a training program well in advance of your trip. Good experiences to consider prior to attempting Aconcagua include climbs in Mexico, Ecuador, Elbrus, and Kilimanjaro, all of which allow climbers to experience moderate altitude with minimal technical difficulty.

Things I Want to Remember About My Alaska Trip

This list is mostly for me and my fellow campers. NOLS AK23 if you have anything you’d like to add please comment.

  • Alaska is WILD man! (said Jose Luis)
  • WHHHite Out (One minute you could see the mountains and the next minute they were gone.)
  • Floaties in the water (There were always mysterious things floating in the water we drank.)
  • The Pooper and Snow Latrine (Snow bathrooms were dug at all the camps.)
  • Pepe LePew (our poopy sled)
  • Snow shifting on the way to Postcard Peak (The snow literally when whumpf under my rope team’s feet and for a millisecond I thought we were about to be in an avalanche.)
  • Climbing Postcard Peak and Un-named Peak
  • Ryan’s Readings
  • Incidence Reports (As a kind of bed time reading we were read horrific incidence reports from other NOLS trips.  It was like not being able to look away from a train wreck.  Why we did this to ourselves I’ll never know.)
  • Quinzee (our very cramped and cold snow cave)
  • A** in the Hole (what?!)
  • Snow Kitchens (These got more and more elaborate as the days went on including: shelving and spice racks.)
  • Parallel Parking-(How we rested during moving days.)
  • Daily Uniform (Everybody basically wore the same thing everyday. I lived in my ski pants and smart wool, buff, plastic boots and gaiters.)
  • Crevasse Rescue
  • Team Howling (Team Hauling)
  • I’m Not Saying I’m Just Saying (said Jose Luis)
  • Pedrito (our poor victim in all our training exercises)
  • CLEAR! and ZERO! (What we shout to our rope team when we want to move or stop.)
  • Direct Deposit (Using a small crevasse and doing your business.)
  • Ryan’s Warm Up Dance
  • Ryan’s Hors de Vours (During our “Snow Day” Ryan raised spirits by coming around with a tray of cheeses, chocolates, gerkins and olives.)
  • Ryan’s Cabbages (How he packed so many heads of cabbages in his pack, I’ll never know.)
  • Avalanches (We probably saw about 50 of them!)