Going all in on a Disneyland weekend

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Disneybound. Disneyland, California. November 2017.

Having grown up in LA and with a mom who worked for Disney during that time, Disneyland has always felt like an extension of my backyard. This has shaped the way I look at the park as well as how I tackle the challenges from ride closures to long lines.

However, my normal pattern was thrown off completely the last time I visited the park with Ryan. As an active member of the military, Ryan was able to get me a three day pass (which let us finish his last two days) for less than a regular park hopper. This meant we didn’t feel all the time constraints that come with the high price tag associated with a family trip to these one of a kind parks.

We don’t live too far from the park – about a 45 minute trip through LA – but because we were going to go two days in a row, we decided to look at hotels near the park. Now, I for one have not researched Disney hotels recently but, my goodness, unless you are willing to sell body parts, I don’t suggest these despite all the perks that can come with these packages.

Instead, we stayed at the Majestic, a hotel shaped like a castle a tiny jump away from the park. With the military discount, we got a deal for a double queen sized room, with free parking and a free shuttle to and from the parks, all for $90, but even without them, this place is beautiful and a steal! I am in love with this hotel and will be going into that more next week because there is so much to talk about.

A small insider tip and a huge trend at Disney that I have been playing with, but is so much fun with someone to dress up with, is Disneybound. The big trouble I have with this is that some people go too far – they end up more in the costume realm than the impression of a character. We did Flynn and Rapunzel one day and Peter and Wendy the next. This involved analyzing shapes and colors and then matching up details so that when you stand together, people can tell based on your joint appearance. Ryan got the best reaction to his detail – a thimble necklace – because cast members loved the attention to classic story details.

The other newer experience I had was taking my time – something I only recommend if you can spend multiple days here. We explored the newly opened Pirates’ Island – old Tom Sawyers Island with a face lift – and had the best time. I’d love to get a group in Peter Pan and the Lost Boys Disneybound to play sardines all over the island – again, the kind of things you can do when you aren’t worried about hitting every ride in the park.

Disneyland is changing all the time whether in big renovations or by the season and while the price tag is steep, there is something special as wither a visitor or local, walking though the gates.

But back to one of those tips: if you are worried about crowds and long lines but feel like you need to do more than just prioritize, consider how you feel about face characters. The busier the park is, the more characters you will see wandering the park and watching them is it’s own kind of fun.

I have other news that and connections to this park, but that’ll be coming out in the next couple of weeks. Until then,

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

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Going all in on a Disneyland weekend

London Bridge Resort, Arizona

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London Bridge Resort, Arizona. November 2017.

While last week I talked a lot about the pros and cons of timeshares, now I want to talk about all the fun Ryan and I had hanging out in Arizona.

Honestly, I am starting to think that Ryan and I can’t have a trip where we don’t road trip at least a little. We took the longer distance route to avoid the long-weekend traffic to Las Vegas so we stopped in at one of the diners along Route 66 – making me realize that this is one road trips still sitting on my travel bucket list!

But down to the real matter at hand: London Bridge Resort, Arizona.

We had so much fun during this long weekend trip. The resort was beautiful with great rooms, a few pools (which we didn’t use), river walks and parks, boat trip opportunities, and casinos (again we opted out of these) all either at the resort or a short distance from where we were staying.

As part of our deal, our room had roof access, two queen sized beds, a kitchen and living/dining room area, and two balconies – in other words, it was huge! (especially because it ended up being just the two of us.) Still, as I have said, having a nice living quarters has its advantages, but you shouldn’t be spending your whole time in the room so all the extra living space doesn’t necessarily benefit you all that much. However, because of the nature of our trip – a long relaxing weekend and having to change outfits for different activities on multiple days – we did end up spending more time than I normally would in this space.

Even if you aren’t here as an owner, there are plenty of things you can get into even though this resort town feels small.

The boat trips cost more than they would during the weekend we spent here, but you have a variety of them to choose from to explore the lake, the old mines areas, the lighthouses, or head over to the casino – this apparently is cheaper and has an amazing view on the lake at sunset! The river walks and parks are nice to wander through as well, and we even spotted a few wake-boarders and kayakers.

Then there are events weekly at the resort (again they cost a little more but they are options). There is a club and mixology lessons both as part of the resort for those of us over 21. The local movie theater closes early but it is also much cheaper than going in LA so we saw two movies and had nice date nights in the local scene.

Again, London Bridge is more like a small resort town which has it’s own kinds of pros and cons. The biggest two are: Pro – everything is close enough that you can easily walk wherever you need to go (this makes drinking an easy option); and Con – there are limited options on what you can do. This isn’t an action packed resort – there are water sports and limited resort activities, but beyond that, you are seriously limited unless you can make your own fun or have access to a boat to use the lake at your leisure.

So, if you are looking to really relax and have a slow break from your reality, this is a great spot with historic appeal (walking on one of London’s original bridges just off the boarder of Arizona and California was weirdly entertaining); but if you are looking for all action, all the time, I’d look for something a little further along.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

 

London Bridge Resort, Arizona

Timeshares…. a strange micro-world of travel

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From my balcony. London Bridge Resort, Arizona. November 2017.

So with all of the travel I have done in my life and on this blog, I may have briefly mentioned time shares once – like in passing when I explained that we have a timeshare in Hawaii – but otherwise my interaction with this concept has been rather limited.

The fact of the matter is the idea of time shares – or at least the opinion on time shares – has a tendency to be a polarizing topic. In one camp, you have those who see these as a money leak – you pay in all year to get a limited time in one location (that you can sometimes switch if the company you use has multiple interchangeable locals) and if you don’t have time to go every year or forget to book, you loose that money. On the other side, this guarantees a week or two (depending on your agreement) of vacation of your choice and you get to pick where you invest so you can pick a place you will want to go to over and over again or that you know has great trade-ins.

For us growing up, I had no idea we had a time share in Hawaii – we never went! what we did instead was go to Disney World a lot; mom worked for the company so we all got to go to the parks for free and our time share (as it turned out) let us trade in for Orlando, Florida. Even though I had no idea this was happening, it all worked out really well for my family – we had pretty frequent vacations or we could lend it out to others; plus we have now used the time share properly which is nice too!

But what else is there and why did I call it a micro-world of travel?

Well, this is exactly what I experienced at London Bridge Resort, Arizona with Ryan at the Owner’s Weekend.

So what the heck is this, you may be asking.

The owner’s weekend is a week or two that a timeshare will advertise for people who have a time share with the resort or company to come together and spend that time that they pay for all together. This ends up being like a one or two week reunion with people who go every year – the competition over rooms for the next year happens on the Sunday and cam get crazy fierce!

Yes, it is really a weekend where they are trying to get you more involved, spend more time, and spend more money, but you also get to talk to the people in charge to air complaints or talk about any changes you can expect in the upcoming year.

This isn’t to say it’s all costly and that it isn’t a lot of fun. You will get a lot of discounts both in the resort and from local businesses that depend on the resorts for revenue and a lot of these discounts and activities are put on for this week only – at least, at the prices offered at that time. Ryan and I got to do a mixology class for free – including drinks! – karaoke, there was a club, a fancy dinner, breakfasts, and different boat ride offerings.

The odd thing for us was the age difference. No one will be surprised when I say that (especially in this odd owner weekend situation) that the people who own timeshares tend to be in the latter part of their lives. At 26, Ry and I were 17 to 20 years younger than the couple closest to us in age and there was probably an equal age group between there group (minimum) and the main subset of owners. The world geriatric association was thrown around a lot. Still, with Ryan at my side, we jumped right in and had a lot of fun – and a lot of people who had many opinions on our life going forward which was another interesting experience.

So while experiencing this kind of weekend was interesting, just because you decide to buy-in to a timeshare, doesn’t mean you need to use it like this. As long as you book far enough in advance, you can use your time whenever you want during the year, so it is a lot like pre-buying a vacation. The biggest factor is figuring out what you are going to do with it, how functional it is, and demographics.

Ryan’s parents have two or three of these and they use them for really specific reasons. London Bridge tends to be for the parents – besides pools, there isn’t much in the way for kids. There are other lodges (I think he mentioned on in San Diego) that have full water parks and kid centers which are built more for young couples and young families – these also tend to be the more transferable locations in higher traffic areas.

The other cool thing is that these are inheritable – one of the timeshares that Ry’s parents have were his mom’s parents’ first. This means you can take over the existing contract and keep paying on it with your name on the lease without having to start from scratch.

I still feel like for most of my travel, I am more of a free-bird – I want to be able to pick where and when I go somewhere and spend my time and money rather than feel like I have to go to a specific place (or a shorter list) because I’ve already lost the money otherwise. I do really see how this investment can make you actually use your well earned vacation time – something not many people take advantage of and has been proven to improve your life and health!

Next week, I’ll talk more about the resort and give you a better picture of what was so fun about this crazy long weekend in Arizona, but for now…

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Timeshares…. a strange micro-world of travel

LA Grand Central Market

So this post is a little bit of a throw back, unfortunately into the span of time before my phone took a lovely trip through a washing machine but after my last computer sync, so all the pictures are gone (*sad face*) but this LA market is so well photographed a simple search will give you all you need to know.

Way back at the end of September, some friends, my dad, and I participated in the Homeboy 5k – a charity run to support a great LA foundation that is really close to our heart because it’s kind of literally close to home – and since we got up to go so early and the track was full of hill, we had worked up an appetite. If you have ever ran or walked one of these events, you know that all the food venues near site are crazy after the race ends – if you are hungry, probably so are the other hundreds of thousands of attendants.

We all took a quick drive to LA’s Grand Central Market. If you have been to larger cities and gone to their indoor food vendor markets, this isn’t new to you at all – the idea is more or less the same no matter where you go.

So what are some things to know?

The truth is, with all of these markets you are dealing with gentrification – even if they have been around for a long time! You will find a lot of really trendy vendors who serve really good but pricey street food which will basically be all organic, home-made/grown/prepared, and will use fancy words like ‘aioli’ – guys, this literally means sauce.

The atmosphere also means a very specific kind of crowd – young hipsters and groups looking to brunch, mixed with brunching families. It’s mostly communal dining and first grab, first sit so you have to be quick or charming enough that people give you their table as they leave.  So yea, crowded which isn’t helped by all the people walking around carrying food trays or snapping shots for Instagram – yes. Guilty as charged.

Dad and I got really good tuna melts from one of the vendors while most of our group got bagels and lox, but I was lucky enough to try both. The tuna sandwiches were really good and large enough that I didn’t feel bad about the cost and the same can be said about the lox – size and cost was one of the reasons I hesitated ordering them but I was gladly mistaken.

In fact, eating from Belle’s plate almost made me wish I had ordered it, except it was a little odd. The Salmon is prepared by the group that runs the booth and I know that smoked lox is not an easy task, however, the fish was slices thicker than I am used to and it wasn’t as salted. I know this could be part of the freshness, but it was off-putting to some in the group – hence me getting to eat more of it!

Instead of going home straight away, we decided to explore a little longer which lead us to an amazing artisan ice cream booth – I mean, Lavender and Earl Grey and Biscuit ice cream? Yes, please! and eating the Churro flavor – again real with pieces! – made me feel like I was in Disneyland (the only place I really eat churros….). The prices are a little hefty for what you get but with everything else you are bound to try, they are surprisingly filling and rich. Basically, watch out because they sneak up on you.

None of this is to say that I didn’t totally enjoy myself and all the food I got to have, because I did – after all, I usually don’t write about a place unless I enjoyed myself – however, I probably wouldn’t race into the city just to come back, and I wouldn’t drag out of town friends here unless it was because we were passing through. But that’s just me.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

LA Grand Central Market

Geeky Teas, Los Angeles

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As you may have read last week, I have been pre-writing all of my posts for the last few months, but now I have caught myself up. Why? Well, mostly because school has been crazy and then Ryan was in town meaning I was living out of a car and two houses and having things finished and scheduled was so much easier – which means break next week will definitely be a point where I sit down and start writing!

But for now, if you love board games, nerd stuff (of all kinds), teas, cats, and supporting small businesses, this is absolutely a stop for you!

I first heard of Geeky Teas when my friend, Paul, brought me their Capitol Cocoa Tea – a Hunger Games based teas – and I fell absolutely in love with it. Still, I never managed to wander back until about a few weeks ago when I dragged Ryan along with me in order to pick up a variety of teas that wouldn’t break the budget; he bought me a giant IKEA teapot that we were using about two or three times a day.

As I hinted with the Hunger Games tea, every tea in the store is geek themed. From cartoons to geek classics like Firefly, Star Wars, Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, and so much more. We had so much fun reading the teas makeup and making our choices and the shops owner knew exactly where to find the bags around the stores.

While I was so consumed with the teas that I didn’t see anything else until I had made my purchase – prompting a second when I found a Firefly necklace I couldn’t pass up – Ryan was enamored with the board games (specifically the huge range of strategy games). What I loved was witnessing the owner interacting with a group of customers asking after specific games that weren’t held in store for purchasing – mostly because they aren’t made for off-line whole sale. Still, she was able to point them into the direction of other small-businesses like her’s that work together to stay afloat that might have some of the games.

If all of that doesn’t pull you in, there are so many more levels of the shop: There are rooms and nooks full of nerd merchandise from cups and tea paraphernalia, to jewelry, to art to so much more; then there is the cat adoption and rescue which means every once in a while there are wandering cats; and finally, there is the fact that there is a schedule of events from 21+ board game nights to movie nights and everything in between.

I seriously can’t recommend this shop enough and can’t wait to get back. If you are interested in helping local businesses as a visitor a local, you should definitely swing by.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Geeky Teas, Los Angeles

The Funny Truth about Travel Blogging

So what is a funny truth? Well, I haven’t missed a single week of posting on this blog in years but the last time I wrote was over a month and a half ago and just tonight I have written a handful more.

Let’s be honest here: if you are constantly traveling, you could be loving every moment or at least, dealing with the downsides and making up for them so that they don’t detract from your whole experience; more likely, what you are really doing is fighting travel fatigue and trying to keep your head above water. In other cases, you are constantly tying to push yourself forward to get bigger and better topics – losing the reason we travel and blog anyway. Plus, going all the tie can get majorly expensive, no matter how frugal you are.

If this is the case, how do you keep your blog going?

The game is all about the stop and go. You take a trip – short or long – and then you pick out themes or details that you think are important or interesting (this is what can make a 5 day trip into two months of weekly blog posts!). Does this mean that every post will grab readers? Maybe not, but it is also deciding why you are writing (for me, this is both about cataloging my travels and getting regular writing and organization practice).

Travel fatigue is a real thing and if you are tired of traveling, it is going to become pretty clear in everything you write, if you even find the time to write! But how much travel causes this fatigue? That depends on the person and their personal stamina and their resources. Fighting this can help you build your stamina but also can make you exhausted. Your best bet to build your stamina – and keep your funds up as well – is to mix up your long travel, then write, and short travel, and write, and keep working at it until you feel like you know what you are doing.

Then we are on to picking themes.

You can pick themes based on when your post is going out – a holiday or peak travel season – or by making a series – Like my book nerd travel. These themes can bring both old viewers who like what you do or one of your main themes and new viewers based on you being topical.

Finally, be consistent.

The more you write the better you can pull everything back together after you travel. Then get consistent about when you post so that your audience gets to know when to look for your work.  Even when you think you have nothing to write about, just keep writing.

This is Leave on the wind, helping you soar.

The Funny Truth about Travel Blogging

Travel Confessions of an LA Girl

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Driving Los Angeles. Los  Angeles, California. 2016.

In case I haven’t made it obvious before, I am a Los Angeles native. While I am a valley girl, I have always lived a quick drive from the city and some of my favorite spots are such because of the cityscape I get to see from them. I love walking through downtown whether searching for murals to take pictures of; checking out architecture; exploring the markets, parks and museums; going to Marches; or visiting the fabric districts for the best deals – there is so much to see and do in the city that makes living near it amazing.

However, despite my 26 years living near cities – LA, San Francisco, and London – and a solid 10 years as a fully licenced driver, I absolutely hate driving in the city.

Give me crazy freeway Los Angeles drivers, flying at speeds that scare folks from the central, fly-over states; The lines of motorcyclists who weave in and out of traffic; the never-ending construction zones that make the freeways expand and contract at dizzying intervals – I will take it all over driving into the city on surface streets.

I will gladly be chauffeured into the city by family or friends for group things or I will take the metro, but driving in the city drives me absolutely bonkers! I had to do this for my senior thesis in high school. Part of the paper required going down to the LA Public Library after school and meeting with your teacher so they can talk to you about the topic as well as give you suggestions on how to find sources as well as how to use resources like libraries.

I loved the library – I hated driving there. I had a terrible GPS that kept crashing or loosing signal between the buildings and when I tried redirecting myself, I ended up going up a one-way street in the wrong direction! While It was fine and I had plenty of time and space to turn it around, as a seventeen year old, it left an impression and even thinking about driving in LA makes me cringe.

So if you are traveling into a big city – especially Los Angeles (I find San Francisco so much easier to navigate!) – I will always recommend considering all your transportation options before automatically going for a rental. I love driving in LA but we have a very specific driving rhythm which feels like mayhem if you are not used to it – in fact, if you mess up the rhythm, often times, you will be making the roads less safe than the normal ‘crazy’ LA-based driver.

But it is true: I love my city, but if there is a choice of driving into the city myself or staying in the valley – purely for my driving sanity – I will usually opt for the latter.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Travel Confessions of an LA Girl