BY GUEST BLOGGER, SHARON LUI
For my recent birthday, my dad gifted me a pair of vintage Mickey Mouse ears that he bought in the 1980’s on our first family trip to Disney World in Florida. Seeing those magical ears instantly brought back memories of me at 7 years old, standing in front of Cinderella’s castle, wondering when I was going to marry my prince one day.
Of course, these happy flashbacks convinced me to book my own family vacation to Disney. However, I quickly learned that planning a one week family vacation for 7 people (myself, my husband, our 3 kids and my senior parents) was not for the faint of heart! Is it possible to book a Disney trip and do everything our family wants to see, ride and eat in only 7 days? Could we enjoy the high-energy atmosphere of the parks but also allow time for rest and relaxation? The answer, is a resounding ‘YES’.
With some strategic planning and having best Disney resources at my disposal, here are five tips that saved my sanity and allowed my family to have the ultimate magical vacation…
1) SUBSCRIBE TO A DISNEY PLANNING FORUM
Knowledge is power, and what better way to acquire this information then from the Disney experts themselves, who practically live at the parks and offer their tips at a small cost. Touring Plans are an extremely invaluable resource for Disney planning fanatics, as they offer customizable touring plan templates (complete with rest breaks!) and provide a unique crowd calendar that predicts the best time of year to vacation. For only $20 USD, a two year touring plan subscription also includes a restaurant reservation finder service, an in-park chatline, real time ride wait times and a personalized faxed room request. The website forum also provided lots of advice for age appropriate rides, fastpass tips and the best restaurants and shows worth your hard earned money. Subscribing to this site saved me time, money and most importantly of all, stress! It is my first recommendation to anyone who is planning a Disney World trip.
2) STAY ON DISNEY PROPERTY
If you want to take part in the full ‘Disney experience’, my advice is to stay onsite at one of Disney World’s 25 resorts. You will get access to a slew of on-site perks, including round trip transportation to and from the airport, a 60 day fastpass booking window (in contrast to the 30 days available to off-site guests) and the option to purchase the Disney Dining Plan. You will also have much closer proximity to the parks then your off-site counterparts (allowing the family time to head back to the hotel for a mid-day for a nap of course)! You will have unlimited access to Disney’s internal bus, boat and monorail transportation system.
During our two months in Costa Rica, we stayed in luxury villas, Airbnb condos, hotels and even, a co-working hostel! We wanted our experience to be a healthy balance of mingling with locals to Instagram-worthy, ‘I’m on vacation’ mode!
So here are the 10 family-friendly places we checked into ranging from $100 to $500 CAD a night. Keep in mind, we were here February & March which is high season.
(This is not a sponsored post. We funded this trip entirely on our own and specifically curated these places based on our needs.)
Villa Michelina / Manuel Antonio — This is one of the first places we checked into and it pretty much ruined me! Nothing screams 3000 sqft of ‘luxury’ than soaring 20 ft ceilings, over-the-top headboards and a pool on the edge of a cliff! This 3 bedroom Bali-inspired home is so baller, I basically holed myself up in here for a week — even refusing to go out for dinner and opted to make my own meals in the gourmet kitchen! We also had many critters visit us during our stay… monkeys, iguanas, exotic birds and bull frogs mated on our patio! Downside is the house is secluded on top of a steep hill and you have to drive into town so that’s when a 4×4 SUV comes in handy. ($500/night) *****
Selina Hotel / Manuel Antonio — This is the perfect hub for digital nomads with both an open air and air-conditioned co-working space ($10 USD per day), a restaurant, 3 pools, a yoga lounge and accommodations. It’s mostly hostel style but we stayed in a deluxe cottage room with a private bathroom and balcony. Social and networking events happen weekly (free and some costs $10-15 USD). It’s centrally located and across the street from El Avion, my favourite restaurant in Costa Rica. There are multiple locations around the world. $200/night. (Bunk beds in a shared room starts at $26/night.) ***
Titi Condos / Quepos — After we decided to extend our trip, we found this place on short notice. It’s a basic 500 sqft two bedroom condo in a gated complex and the price point is ideal for longer term stays. Neighbours are friendly locals and retired expats whom you share a small pool and laundry with. Comes with a housekeeper who checks in every other day. Kinda reminds me of the Melrose Place concept minus the love triangles and drama! ($125/night) ***
Volcano Villa / La Fortuna — It’s all about minimalistic and modern features at this 2 bedroom home. The show stopper is the gorgeous volcano view and a rooster that will wake you up in the morning! The hosts are a friendly young couple who lives next door and runs this Airbnb like pros. She’s Canadian and he’s Costa Rican and that’s how the love story goes. You will need a car to transport you to the local attractions (Arenal Volcanos, Hanging Bridges and Hot Springs) as this place is set back on a rural dirt road. ($350/night) ****
I finally got to see a sloth up close and personal and this lady of leisure even has the same name as me! 🙂
Did you know sloths sleep 14-16 hrs a day and their fur actually feels rough like velcro?
That’s what I learned on the Kids Saving The Rainforest tour. This non-profit was founded 20-some years ago by two 9 year old girls — one Canadian and one American. An encounter with a wounded sloth impacted these friends so much that they decided to step up and do something to help preserve/protect wildlife and the rainforest they lived in.
KSTR was then born with the mission of educating people about the ecological importance of the rainforest. The girls (Janine and Aislin) sold painted rocks to raise money. Later, the restoration program, rescue center and animal sanctuary was created. It’s truly impressive, all the work and care that has been put into this organization and space!
This was also a fantastic teaching opportunity to demonstrate to our preschool son how one small idea can blossom into a life changing venture!
This past weekend we went on a tour and had a chance to visit with some of the animals and hear their stories of survival. Sadly, many were selfishly used for profitable entertainment purposes. Kerri, our lovely guide explained that as cool as it may be to take a selfie cuddling a sloth, they are actually not meant to be held by humans.
Happy New Year!
We’re back from Las Vegas. It was a really fun getaway and in an ironic way, Sin City provided the pause we needed to relax and recuperate from an emotional and very hectic month of moving and holidays.
Despite some hesitation whether Vegas would be suitable for CJ, we found it very family friendly. There was lots to keep us entertained while daddy attended his conference!
Checking-in at The Aria Resort
Vegas has a few hotels geared towards families like the obvious Circus Circus but I opted for Aria. A hip resort style hotel with all the grow up bells + whistles yet spacious enough even for the most rambunctious of kids.
Endless blue skies. Every day. Yep, that’s Sitges. Known as the ‘St. Tropez of Spain’, this coastal town in north eastern Spain is packed with glam, great food, lively night life and 17 beaches! We spent a week here and it was such a lovely escape from the bustle of Barcelona.
Arrive by Renfe in 45 minutes from Estació de França in Barcelona. A one way ticket cost 4€ per person.
Stay in the town centre. Sin Street (Carrer Pescado) is the hub where all the restaurants, bars and shops are clustered and the beaches are right there. It’s touristy though so expect to pay a premium for the convenience. It’s also really loud… like louder than NYC Times Square! Between the patios, people partying and 5am recycling trucks making their rounds, it’s a full immersion of noise 24/7!
We booked this Airbnb ‘White Sitges Apartment’ for $350/night in July.
If you are a light sleeper or prefer something more residential, Hotel Subur Maritim is a cute seaside inn with a pool.
This past long weekend we made the 2 hours drive to Blue Mountain to immerse ourselves in nature. For three glorious days we woke up to birds cheerfully chirping instead of the typical city construction.
Blue Mountain has become our favourite family getaway for the last three years. We usually visit during the winter so it was definitely odd seeing bikes on the grassy hills instead of the snowcapped peaks, but honestly, I enjoyed it more this time with the warmer weather.
Check-in: Westin Trillium House.
I’m part of SPG but had forgotten that I was a Gold Member so our standard room was upgraded to a Preferred Guest Suite on the fourth floor. Yasss, I love surprise perks!!! There was a balcony, kitchenette, dining area, living room and even a den (that could easily be used as a second bedroom with a pull out couch). The highlight of the suite though was the magnificent giant 20 ft windows over-looking the hills.
BY GUEST BLOGGER, DANIEL LEE
Aloha from our beautiful beachfront home-away-from-home in Oahu’s North Shore! Pristine blue ocean, waves crashing, fine stretches of sand bending around the curves of the island… yup it’s everything you can expect to see on a Hawaii postcard and more!
Witnessing such beauty on an empty stomach can be quite challenging so upon arrival, our family immediately stocked up on a steady supply of Poke or raw seafood salad marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil and seaweed green onions. You can get a delicious Ahi Hawaiian style Poke pre-made with Ahi Shoyu and creamy scallop wasabi from Tamura’s Market for $7 USD each.
Now navigating the island of Oahu with a family of seven means transportation needs to be thoroughly planned in advance. A minivan from Enterprise was our best option and ran up a tab of about $250 USD for a week.
I’m part of an active Worldschooler’s Group on Facebook. Every Monday, members toss around money making ideas. And since I’ve done my share of extensive traveling (anywhere from 2-8 months at a time), I’m always getting asked “how I fund my jetset lifestyle”… so take note, here are a dozen ways to (remotely) earn your way to that beach hut or scuba excursion.
Monetize your blog
I’ve been blogging for 7 years! I never thought I would get paid to eat food, do spa reviews and go on press trips but it’s true that you can generate a healthy side income from sponsored content. Build out your blog with ‘valuable and authentic stories’ then reach out to your favourite lifestyle brands and pitch them ideas on how you can help promote their products or services. You can also join Collective Bias and The Blogger Programme that connects bloggers to paid marketing campaigns.
Love social media? Be an influencer!
With Instagram and Snap, it’s easier than ever to get paid for sharing your travel moments. Grow your community, engage, follow your favourite travel brands and connect with relevant sponsors to form partnerships or join influencing marketing platforms like Influenz or TapInfluence.
Know your stuff? Educators can now earn money using the Clark app. It handles every aspect of a tutor’s business, from drumming up students, to managing scheduling and payments, to making it simple to communicate with parents. VIPKID is another platform (based in China) that connects English-speaking educators with Chinese students.
Get one, two or ten freelance jobs
Fiverr has created an efficient freelance marketplace where you can hire or sell your services to anyone in the world. From writing gigs to web design projects, editing videos, making arts & crafts, giving advice, even online guitar lessons and everything else in between (there are over 100 categories)! You determine your rate and get to keep 80% of the transaction. Here’s a list of popular sites for freelance worker.
BY GUEST BLOGGER, DANIEL LEE
My travel goal is to cultivate an abundance mindset. Not rushing to seek out many places in a day but rather explore a few parts of the city — at a relaxed pace on my bicycle, believing that to see everything is to miss everything.
So hello California! I’m grateful to spend 9 days with you before bouncing off to Hawaii with my family.
During my stay I made 2 cycling trips into San Francisco from the East Bay.
- Taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) from downtown Oakland into Mission District to explore the neighbourhood’s vibrancy. ($3.70 USD one way per adult.)
- Embarking on the Jack London Ferry from Oakland into the San Francisco Ferry Terminal Building and riding towards the engineering marvel that is the Golden Gate Bridge. (Fares range from $5 to $6.60 USD one way per adult.)
Here is a recap of my journey and the beauty that I captured through my lens.
Using the Clipper Card (think Toronto PRESTO) to board the BART subway, I ended up with my trusty bike on the 16th Street Mission Station during the early morning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day — a statutory holiday in the U.S — and was free to roam the empty streets of the Mission District (similar to Kensington Market with its rich history of South & Central American diaspora).
Our ad agency turned 6 end of last year and we celebrated at the Googleplex in Mountain View.
As part of winning a mobile marketing challenge (from the Google Partners reward program), we were treated to a tour, lunch and plenty of gourmet snacks. We even got to record a Hangout at the YouTube studio!
Seriously my geek girl dreams have come true!
Did we fool you? We posted this photo on Facebook and so many people told us they thought it was a video and clicked on the YouTube button… gotcha!
The Google Campus sprawls over 2 million sqft so Googlers cruise around on these colourful bikes. To get to/from home to the office, they commute on shuttle buses (wifi enabled of course).