10 Things I Loved About Our Disney World Trip (And 2 I Didn’t)

We recently went down to Disney World.  This was the second time for our family. It was a great time.  We actually spent a few days in Florida at the beach, so it was like two trips in one!  It was a fantastic trip, for the most part.  Disney World can definitely be the most magical place on Earth, though magic means that you’re tired, that’s for sure.

Here are ten things I loved and two I didn’t.

Things We Loved About Disney World

Our Hotel

We stayed at the Port Orleans French Quarter hotel.  This was our first time staying at a moderate.  We loved it.  Compared to just about every other resort, it’s very small.  The rooms aren’t decorated with Disney themed decor, but more New Orleans decor.  At first my 6-year old daughter was not impressed.  However, by the end of the trip, we were all in love.  It was a very peaceful and relaxing place to stay.  We took a stroll along the riverside, which was practically right outside our door.

Read more10 Things I Loved About Our Disney World Trip (And 2 I Didn’t)

Greed Or Smart? Disney Overnight Parking Will No Longer Be Free

We are just a couple of weeks away from our family spring vacation.  Part of it will be spent at Disney World.  We did a family vacation a few years ago at Disney World, and had a blast.  We wanted one more experience while the kids are still charged at lower rates.  With our vacation coming up, we’ve been following all things Disney related.  Last week a big announcement came in that Disney overnight parking will no longer be free.

The Old Policy

Previously, if you were staying at a Disney resort, overnight parking was free.  This was a nice perk, presumably to make their resorts more attractive than surrounding hotels.  But, they announced that soon, there will be a daily fee between $13-$24 depending on the resort.

Bummer.

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Why We’re Spending $2,540 On Gift Cards In A Single Week

Over the past week, we have spent $2,540 on gift cards.  You might think I’m crazy.  I’m not.  Maybe we’re going nuts for Christmas this year?  Nope.  We’re actually cutting back.

So then why are we spending all this money on gift cards?  Because….we’re going back to Disney World!

What does one have to do with another?  Well, read on.  I’ll first go over the trip, then make clear why we dropped some serious bank on gift cards.

Recapturing The Magic

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How To Winterize Your RV

Is it time to winterize your RV?  If your season is done, as is ours, then it’s probably time.

End of Season

Our camping season is finished.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to finish out as we usually do.  The state park we go to does it up during weekends in October.  There’s a haunted house.  They arrange a parade and trick or treating.  They organize arts and crafts centered around Halloween.  The campground is always full and our kids look forward to it.  It’s usually our last trip of the year.  We had it all booked for the year but decided last minute to cancel.  What had been forecasted all week to be a few showers suddenly changed to weekend long rain when a front shifted a bit south.  We were bummed, but we knew that a whole October weekend in the rain wasn’t for us.

We have never cancelled a trip before.  We’d brought it home and got it prepped and ready to go, so some time and effort was wasted.

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10 Thoughts On Our First Week Long Camping Trip of 2017

We generally do a week long camping trip twice per summer.  One is always over the 4th of July week.  We wrapped up our trip and it was a success.  I thought I’d share some of our (mostly) ups and downs, as well as a few laugh out loud moments.

The Popularity of Outdoor Activities Is Increasing

Driving on the freeway to get back and forth to the campground showed just how popular outdoor activities have become.  Michigan is always home to great summer activities and always has been.  However, even versus a few years ago, you can see a tremendous uptick.  The number of campers and boats shows that more and more have climbed out of the hole of the Great Recession.

Read more10 Thoughts On Our First Week Long Camping Trip of 2017

Airline Nightmare: You Can Be Right But Still Be Completely Wrong

The airline industry has really been under fire.  My 7-year old commented that the recent misstep has been the “fifth bad story” that he’s seen recently.  This latest airline nightmare had Delta kick a family off their flight because they wouldn’t give up the seat their infant was using.

Here’s the thing: They were actually right.  But then they turned into being completely wrong.

Where Delta Was Right

Delta had overbooked a flight, which seems to be the source of so many problems.  In looking things over, they found that one ticketed passenger wasn’t on the plane.  As it turns out, they had booked another ticket on another flight and already left.

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Breaking Down Our Madeira Beach Vacation

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying life a little bit more.  As they say, life is always better at the beach!  We took a family trip down to Florida.  Here are some things I thought I’d share about our Madeira Beach vacation.

Familiarity Helps

We rented a condo that worked out great for us.  What really helped is that we’ve stayed in this condo complex before.  Back in 2010 we took a trip, also with my in-laws and stayed in a different unit.  On top of that, this area was where my wife and her family vacationed when she was a girl.  So, knowing so much about the area in general was a big help too.  Familiarity definitely helped improve our Madeira Beach vacation.

We Saved On Travel But Added Stress

Originally we were planning to drive, but ended up flying.  However, since all public schools in Michigan are off at the same time, the airlines all jacked up their prices flying out of Detroit.  We found some great fares out of Columbus, Ohio, which was about a four hour drive.  Saving money was great, but the added stress of driving kept me on edge.  After all, it would only take one accident along the way to take away our cushion.  Luckily, we were fine, but I was nervous.

Walking Distance

Because of our familiarity with the area, we knew that we could survive without a car.  And we did just fine!  We

Madeira Beach Vacation 2017

ended up taking Uber rides wherever we needed to go. All told, our Uber rides added up to about $125 plus tips, which was a significant saving over renting a car to drive while there.

Pool And The Ocean Added Up To Fun

We had warm, sunny weather for most of the trip, which was great.  However, a good portion of our trip was very windy.  This made being near the water very difficult with blowing sand.  But, having a pool right there definitely kept us exactly where we needed to be.  Having both options was great.

Renting A Condo Was Great

We had a really great condo that we found.  It was two bedrooms.  Each bedroom had a TV.  Having a TV in the kids room was great because they could have some down time after coming back tired from being at the water.  It was also fully furnished and had lots of supplies needed for the pool and water.

Supplies When Renting A Condo

The condo had just about everything we needed, but we ended up forgetting a few things on our shopping trip.  Paper plates, napkins, and salt and pepper were all things we would have liked but didn’t think of.  There was nothing we didn’t have but lots of things we would have loved to have had.  We made a list!

Eating In And Eating Out

We ate at a lot of different restaurants, but also made quite a few meals in.  This mix kept our costs down a bit, and made a good mix of ‘on the go’ versus enjoying the moments.  We ate all of our breakfasts in, and then would generally have lunch or dinner out.  It still wasn’t exactly cheap but it kept things in check.

We Loved Our Madeira Beach Vacation

If you can’t tell we loved our vacation.  All of us came back tan.  We all came back tired. Our son came back with a sore ear from all the swimming.  All told, those are all signs that we had lots and lots of fun.  And we did.  So much so that we already put a deposit on the same unit for next year! And did I mention that repeat visitors get a 10% discount?  Woo-hoo!

Readers, do you have any great family spring break stories?  Please let me know what you did in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

March 2017 Updates

It’s March!  Did you know that even though Spring doesn’t officially start until later this month, that from a meteorological standpoint, spring has started?  That’s right, from a meteorological perspective, the seasons start on the 1st of the month of the calendar change.  I guess they know something we don’t!  I hope that things are going well.  Here are some March 2017 updates and goals.

Fitness

I recently wrote about some renewed focus on my fitness.  So far this is going well!

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Planning Our Spring Break Trip To Madeira Beach, FL

Our last big family trip was to Disney World in November 2015.  It was great and we had a great time.  As soon as we were done, we started thinking about our next trip.  We didn’t want to do anything as big as Disney, but we wanted to do another trip to Florida.  This time we were thinking Spring Break.  In order to give ourselves time to catch up financially, we targeted the spring of 2017 for our trip.

Well, spring break is almost here, and we’ve gone ahead and planned most of our trip.  Here are some of the details.

Picking Our Spring Break Destination

We knew that we wanted to do a beach trip.  Our family loves camping in the summer and most of our trips seem to be centered around the beach.  We both have had various trips in the past to Florida, so we initially looked at two locations.

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A Week Long Camping Trip At A New State Park

=Since we started camping in 2012, we’ve camped exclusively at Michigan state park campgrounds.  For the most part, we’ve found a good rotation of campgrounds that meet our needs.  These include electrical hookup, within 4-5 hours of home, and a nice beach, especially for our week long trips.  We typically do two week long trips per summer.  For the past few years, we’ve stayed at the same two campgrounds for those trips.  This year we thought it might be time for a camping trip to mix it up a bit.

Our Old Favorites

One of our campgrounds was Ludington State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan.  It’s one of the most popular campgrounds, as it has access to Lake Michigan as well as an inland beach, lots of biking and hiking trails, and a pretty nice town nearby if you don’t mind the 15 minute trip each way.  I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with it as it’s pretty far away, it’s where our awning blew apart in a windstorm on one of our first trips, and we’ve always had bad luck getting sites, even though we’re online trying to book at 8:00:01 in the morning six months in advance of our reservation.

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