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Connecticut Letterboxing Staycation!

Perhaps a silver lining of being quarantined for almost two months is finding a renewed love for the outdoors. Each weekend my family and I have been blazing various trails throughout Connecticut. So far our favorite adventure is to hunt for waterfalls, that’s a big pay off, or unique rocks, Geology nerds over here.

This past weekend we decided to take our adventuring skills to a new height. The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has created a Geocaching/Letterboxing program, and we were eager to find out what it was all about.

Here are the basics of Geocaching/Letterboxing. Before you go, grab a notebook, stamp (we used a Mickey Mouse stamp), pen, and bug spray. Decide on a park and follow the clues. Once you locate a box, use the ink pad provided to leave your stamp and to use their stamp in your book. Place the box back where you found it for the next letterbox adventurers.

For this hike, we chose the Meshomasic State Park in East Hampton, CT. The clues on the official CT DEEP website give great turn by turn directions taking you on a journey through this beautiful 9000 acre state park.  We saw bright blue true swallows, a pond, beaver dam, and very tall trees. There was also plenty of beautiful quiet….and mosquitoes. When we found the general area where the box is located, we had quite a hard time finding it! But with determination and a little patience we did not leave empty handed!

Watching carefully for rattlesnakes (not kidding, they live here), we moved a few sticks near a big tree and voila! Our first letterbox! Feeling very victorious we went ahead and looked inside. There was a mini notebook, a stamp with the number 1 on it (indicating the first in the CT DEEP Letterbox Program), and an ink pad. We stamped the notebook we brought with us and also left our Mickey stamp in their book with the date. It was fun to see who else had visited! We carefully closed and returned the box to it’s specific location, feeling very proud of ourselves.

 

 

Spoilers and Tips

For future cachers who may have hit a frustration point, here is advice for finding this first box in the CT DEEP Letterbox Program. It’s actually a quick find.

Spoiler alert! Read no further if you want to keep hunting!

  1. There was a shorter ride to get to this particular letterbox spot, but the drive was half the journey. I highly recommend it.
  2.  Follow the directions on the state clue page.
  3. When you get to “park at the Triangle / North Mulford Road ” it gets a little murky. The clues are not very helpful in finding the right trail, because there are a few in the area, and many boulders. Here is some help. When you see the North Mulford Road sign look left. There is a circle of boulders, and a yellow gate. Park there.
  4.  Walk back over to the North Mulford Road sign. You’ll see some more large rocks/small boulders to the right of the sign. There is a packed dirt path. Take this one. There is a rambling brook on your right (and it is SO PRETTY).  
  5. Walk just under 200 feet  (our perception of what 200 feet looks like is way off).
  6. On your left you’ll see a big rock (they call it an outcropping, we didn’t know what that really was going into this) and a tall tree with a rotting log. The log is on the left of the tree and in two or more pieces, and it’s really rotten.
  7. At the time of this post, the box is on the left of the rotting log about 5 yards off the path. There are a handful of 2 inch diameter sticks covering it and dry leaves.
  8. The box is in a large Ziploc bag.
  9. If you reach the small waterfall on your right, you went too far.
  10. Please keep your eyes peeled because this is rattlesnake territory.

Good Luck!

You can find out more about the CT DEEP Letterbox Program by clicking here.

Our go to resource for hikes in Connecticut is the book 50 Hikes In Connecticut.

If you’d like to find Geocaches/Letterboxes in your state check out geocaching.com!

by: Rebecca C

 

Starlight Safari at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Do you or someone in your family LOVE animals?  If so, this adventure might be one for you to look into while visiting Walt Disney World. We went over the summer last year and it was really neat!  My favorite part was being able to see all the giraffes so close!!
What are some tour details?
The Starlight Safari tour is approximately an hour long.  Guest must be 8 years of age or older to join. There are two groups that go a night as of right now.  Attire is up to you but I would recommend bringing a light jacket if the night is chilly.
Where do I go for the tour?
This safari takes place at the Animal Kingdom Lodge savannas!  You meet outside of Sanaa, which is a restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village. This means that you can have a meal at Sanaa before going on the Starlight Safari if you’d like!!  Just make sure to give yourself enough time to eat and still make the check in process for the tour.
After you check in, you will be taken up front to board one of these awesome open-sided safari vehicles. Don’t worry about picking the perfect spot to sit.  You will be able to get up and move around the safari vehicle when your guide stops to let you all take pictures! Just make sure to sit back down and hold on when you get going again because remember…you are on an African safari…it can get a little bumpy.
Once everyone gets situated and your guide goes over a few details, you will each get your own night vision device to use for the length of the tour. Then off you go through the gates of the Savanna!
What might I see on the Starlight Safari?
There is an opportunity to search for over 30 species of African wildlife! We saw zebras, giraffes, wildebeest and gazelles, just to name a few. The giraffes got really close to us on our safari and we even got to see one laying down, which we learned is very rare to see in the wild.
 
What happens when the tour is finished?
At the end of the tour, you will head back to the resort to the same spot where you boarded the safari vehicle.  Have your questions ready because your tour guides are very educated about the animals and would be happy to answer them!  Once you get back to Animal Kingdom Lodge Villas – Kidani Village, you will return your night vision devices.
We received a complementary gift before getting off the safari vehicle!!  Please make sure you are aware of the time when you return.  Depending on the day and the time you get back from your Starlight Safari, Disney transportation buses may no longer be running and you will need to have another method of transportation to get you back to your hotel.
How do I sign up?
Contact your personal adventure planner to schedule your tour for your next Walt Disney World trip!  Groups are small so make sure to plan this tour in advance.
Amanda H.  
amanda@adventureisouttheretravel.com

Park Hopper Tickets: Worth it or not?

When we first visited Walt Disney World, we were diehard 1 park per day ticket people. Our kids were 3 and 8 years old our first time and it seemed logical not to push the kids from park to park each day. We did one park, were there at opening, took a break midday for naps and returned to the same park each night for fireworks or whatever. This is how we did it for the next 13 years. Do we need to pay the extra price for park hoppers? “No!” was our answer. We will do one park per day.

Then one day flights to Orlando were SUPER cheap. I mean $70 round trip FOR BOTH OF US. Who can pass that up? Not us. My husband and I decided on a kid free weekend and quickly booked a hotel. We were only going to be in the parks for 2 or 3 days and I found out that the new projection show started At Magic Kingdom while we were there. Here was my problem, I loved the old projection and wanted to see it one last time, but I also wanted to see the new projection show since we would be there. Solution – park hoppers!

We went to all 4 parks in one day. We went to Animal Kingdom just to ride Expedition Everest. I still wasn’t completely convinced and my next trip with my son we went back to our old one park per day tickets. My son didn’t know what he was missing, and it was SUPER hot that February, so we crashed midday and I didn’t miss not park hopping.

Our next two trips we had free dining and park hoppers. Let me tell you, that is the best of both worlds! We could hop from one park to another just to eat and ride a couple rides. It gave us the flexibility we didn’t know we were missing. On our last trip we were finished in Animal Kingdom by 9am thanks to Extra Magic Hours and headed back to the hotel for a quick break before our brunch reservation. Then spent the afternoon and evening at a different park.

We have decided that park hoppers are our go to ticket. Our kids are older and ready to bounce from park to park. Would I do it with smaller kids? I didn’t, but now I’m rethinking that decision. When my kids were tired of one park, we could have headed to another after the midday break.

One quick thing about park hopping to consider, if you are depending on Disney transportation to park hop, you can lose a lot of time waiting on the buses. (That’s true about the bus system even if you are only doing one park per day.) When we rented a car, it was easier and faster. Using the Skyliner from Epcot to Hollywood Studios works great for park hopping.

Next time you are trying to decide what type of ticket you want to buy for your next Disney World vacation consider these questions:

Does your family finish riding all the rides in a park and want to leave the park early and then are bored the rest of the day?

Do you want the flexibility to dine at any park on any day? This is a great alternative during Epcot’s Wine and Dine.

Does your family want to see any of the nighttime shows more than once? (I saw Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom 3 times in one trip)

During your next trip, try out the park hoppers and see if they work for you and your family.

Quick note – At Disneyland, we ALWAYS get park hoppers. Disneyland and California Adventure are just across the promenade from each other and the fastpass systems are not linked, so we jump back and forth getting fastpasses and riding rides all day long.

 

Ride Opening Weekend Experience

You know when you plan a Disney trip, months in advance and it’s planned for “off season” so you expect low crowds? Ever had that change with one Disney announcement? I did!

My best friend asked me to join her for a trip to Disney World in early December. She had a conference and I would be tagging along just to have fun. She made the conference reservations and I made my flight reservations. Fastpasses were reserved and then BOOM!! Disney announces the opening day of Rise of the Resistance is during our trip.

I knew from my research that opening weekend of a ride can be bonkers and with a Star Wars ride, I expected it to be even worse. Opening day for Rise was the day we arrived in Orlando, so we missed that craziness, but knew the whole weekend would be busier than we originally expected.

If you haven’t read about the issues with Rise of the Resistance opening weekend, let me update you. The ride had problems. It went down A LOT. That’s actually something that is normal for a new ride. It’s not used to the volume of riders and there are going to be kinks in the system. Evidently, not everyone expected that. Disney cast members had people screaming at them because they couldn’t get on the ride. How do I know? I witnessed it. I felt really bad for both the cast members and the guests who had traveled to Disney World just to ride this new ride.

My friend and I got lucky. We had read about the issues and had been doing research on how the boarding groups worked and when they opened. The first couple of weeks, Disney was inconsistent with the opening of the boarding groups and the opening of the park. We decided to head to Hollywood Studios a couple nights before our planned morning in the park to ask questions. We headed straight for Galaxy’s Edge and stopped to talk with 2 cast members about 20 feet from the entrance.

We asked what time we needed to be at Hollywood Studios to get in a boarding group and how the process worked. The cast members told us 4am, YIKES! (That has changed. Disney is not opening boarding groups that early anymore.) We chatted some about the ride and as we stood talking with them a woman walked up to us with 3 tickets in her hand. She said she was leaving the next day and Rise of the Resistance went down while she was on it and wouldn’t be back up for the rest of the night. She then gave us the tickets saying she didn’t want them to go to waste. SCORE!! We thanked her profusely and then went to check how to use the tickets and if we would be able to use them the next day even though they had that day’s date on them. This is when we witnessed the fury of Star Wars fans. They were yelling at cast members in force. We nicely asked our questions and got out of the melee.

We were able to ride Rise of the Resistance the next day due to that woman’s generosity. We passed the 3rd ticket on to a man we saw rise 2visiting Hollywood Studios alone.

Our last day we did use the boarding group process to get on the ride. If you want to ride Rise of the Resistance be inside Hollywood Studios BEFORE official opening. This means leave your hotel AT LEAST an hour before official park opening or Extra Magic Hours. You must have been through the Hollywood Studios gate and your park ticket/magic band scanned to get a boarding group.

Lessons learned from this experience.

  1. Embrace the changes that come during your trip.
  2. DO NOT expect a new ride to work perfectly the first couple of weeks if not longer.
  3. Pass on someone’s generosity if you can.
  4. Also, something I knew, but can’t emphasis enough, do not yell at the cast members. They are doing their job and it’s not their fault the ride went down, or you didn’t get exactly what you wanted.

Don’t be afraid of a ride opening weekend, just be patient, keep a positive attitude and ask lots of questions of how the new ride process is going to work.

Florida Resident Rates Announced Through April 2019

Now, more than ever is a great time to stay in the middle of the magic at Walt Disney World® Resort with great Florida resident rates valid for travel Jan. 1 – April 27, 2019.

For example, as a Florida Resident you can take advantage of rates as low as $79* per night, plus tax in a standard room at a select Disney’s All-Star Resort for stays most Monday through Wednesday nights Jan. 7 – Feb. 13, 2019.  Book through April 27, 2019.

 *The number of rooms allocated for this offer is limited. Length-of-stay requirements may apply. Additional per adult charges may apply if more than two adults per room at Disney Value, Moderate and Deluxe Resorts and Studios at Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts. Cannot be combined with any other discount or promotion. Advance reservations required. Offer excludes the following room types: campsites, 3-bedroom Grand Villas, Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, and Bungalows at Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows. Proof of Florida residency required at check-in.

Food and Wine around the World!

The 2018 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is right around the corner, starting on August 30, 2018 and going through November 12, 2018. There is always so much to do and see, (not to mention taste!) at this staple Epcot festival.  One of my favorite things to do is to check out all the various food booths that circle World Showcase, not only to look for returning favorite dishes (hello Belgium Waffles!) but also to look at what new tidbits are being offered. This year’s new offerings including the Impossible Burger Slider, with wasabi cream and spicy Asian slaw on a sesame seed bun (A vegetarian dish), as well as a New Brunswick Slider, which is a “Pot Roast Style” beef brisket on a potato roll.

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The Impossible Burger Slider – hooray for a Vegetarian Dish! 

In addition to the new food, there’s over some exciting new events being offered, including Sunday Brunch With the Chef. This experience includes a brunch buffet followed by a conversation with some of the most recognized chefs in culinary television. I’m a big fan of both Chef Art Smith and Chef Carla Hall, who will both be a part of this event.

One of the other things I always look forward to at the Food and Wine Festival is checking out the new merchandise, and this year is no exception. I can never resist the trash can shaped salt and pepper shakers that are released each year, and I’m sure I’ll be adding to my collection again with this year’s cute design. Figment is once again the honorary mascot for the Food and Wine Festival, and is being featured on various merchandise including coffee mugs and the exclusive Dooney and Bourke purse.

Of course, no visit to the Food and Wine Festival is complete without checking out the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, which has over 30 different acts performing at the America Gardens Theatre.  Along with some traditional returning favorites like Sugar Ray and Tiffany, this year has some fun new acts coming to the stage, including 98 Degrees and Vertical Horizon.  Don’t forget you can always book an Eat to the Beat Dining Package where you can you can eat at select restaurants and have reserved seatings for the concert being offered that night.

What event are you looking forward to the most at the Food and Wine Festival? Will you be watching for a certain band at Eat to the Beat? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to contact Adventure is Out There Travel for all your Food and Wine booking needs.

Disney Cruise Line Changes

photo credit – Disney

This just in…. Beginning September 11, 2018,  Disney Cruise Line will make a change to their final payment and cancellation timelines. Here is a quick summary of what you need to know:

Cruises that are 1-5 nights: Final payment for all non-suite/non-concierge staterooms on  will be due 90 days prior to arrival and cancellation fees will begin at 89 days versus 74 days.

Cruises that are 6 nights or longer: Final payment for all non-suite/non-concierge staterooms will be due 120 days prior to arrival and cancellation fees will begin at 119 days versus 89 days.

Specific final payment and cancellation policies have been eliminated for holiday sailings and sailings where the Embark and Debark is a non-U.S. port

For reservations made prior to Sept. 11, 2018, the final payment and cancellation fees assessed will be based on the information listed on the original confirmation unless the sailing date or vacation package is modified. In other words, if you have booked a Disney Cruise prior to Sept. 11, 2018, and you do not modify it, you will not see a change to your final payment date (check your reservation to confirm your cruise final payment due date).

Time for some Hocus Pocus!

Without a doubt, fall is my favorite season, and Halloween is my favorite holiday. I especially love seeing the fall decorations come out at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. The fall wreaths of Mickey Mouse and various pumpkins on the roofs of Main Street make me want to have hot apple cider and plan my Halloween costumes.

But my favorite part of Halloween at Walt Disney World is Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This hard ticket event is the perfect way to get your spooky on with a special parade, fireworks show, and stage show starring my favorite witches, the Sanderson Witches from the 1993 movie Hocus Pocus.

 

The witches sing, cast spells, and have some special Disney villains join them on stage! I can’t wait to see the Sanderson Sisters again this year.

The parade and fireworks during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party are also a great way to celebrate the season. Not only will you get the theme song “Boo to You” stuck in your head (in the best way possible), but you’ll also get to see some of your favorite Disney characters dressed up in their Halloween best. My personal favorite is seeing the Headless Horseman ride down Main Street at the beginning of the parade, representing one of my favorite Disney shorts, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. The gravediggers from the Haunted Mansion, scraping the pavement with their shovels is always a treat as well!

 

But the part my kids like the best about attending Mickey’s Not so Scary? The candy! There are various treat stations set up all around Magic Kingdom where your candy bucket will be filled with lots of sweets. Check the park map as you walk into the park to see where these candy stations are located.

Will you be going to Magic Kingdom to see the decorations? Do you want to go to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party? Let us know in the comments below!

Pop Century Refurbished Rooms

Many families consider a particular Disney World Resort their “Home Resort”. My family has stayed in various hotels and we always come back to Pop Century and it has become our “Home”. Why do we choose Pop? First off, it’s the first hotel we stayed in on our first trip so we are a little sentimental. Second, we like the cost of a value hotel.

The biggest draw back at Pop for years had been that the rooms only had double beds. WELL NO MORE!! Pop Century is refurbishing their rooms and the double beds are being replaced by QUEEN BEDS! When you enter a two queen room you will see one queen bed and a table and chairs. This table is actually part of the murphy bed.

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Once you fold down the murphy bed, you have 2 queen beds!

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On each side of the beds are small nightstands with usb and regular outlets. There are also lights above each bed.

I love the flooring change! My mother has always harped on carpet cleanliness in hotels and it rubbed off on me. Now the rooms have a wood-like floor. I love not having to worry about having shoes or socks on when roaming around the room. It quiets that mom voice in my head.

Below the new BIGGER TV is another strip including usb and normal outlets and a dresser. Inside the doors of the dresser is a small safe. I love the number of outlets available. With 4 people trying to charge all their electronics/phones, the more outlets the better. I used to pack a power strip to make sure we had enough outlets. That is no longer needed.

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On the right of the dresser and tv area is a small shelf area with a refrigerator on the bottom. There is also a small coffee maker in the room as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018-02-24 14.16.29One of the biggest improvements in the room is the bathroom. In the past the bathroom was separated from the main area by a curtain. Now, it’s a barn type door that you can slide into place so everyone can have some privacy.  They have also added more shelving to hold your bathroom items.

The bathroom area also includes a small closet and also the ironing board. Inside the brown doors you will find the iron and a blow dryer.

The toilet/shower area is separated from the sink area by another sliding door. The new shower/tub has glass doors which stops those ever present puddles that we had with the shower curtain. One downfall for those of us who loved to bring home the soaps and shampoos at the end of each trip is the new shower gel, shampoo and conditioner dispenser.

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The best part of the new bathroom is the new double shower head! My son wants the same shower head in our home bathroom. You can adjust it to use just one of the heads or both. It felt great after a day walking the parks.

Next time you want to save some money, but still enjoy the perks of staying on Disney World property, check out Pop Century.

Contact your AIOT Adventure Planner to book your next Disney trip!

What To Do When Your Disney Cruise is Rainy

 

So you booked your dream cruise to the Caribbean? That’s great!

You and your travel agent have researched and planned to make your cruise the best.

Your online check in is complete and you have awesome excursions booked.

You’re looking forward to the couple of sea days and time to soak in the sun.

As you’re getting ready to board, you check the weather one last time before you shut off your phone to disconnect and have fun with your family.

Oh no!  The weather forecast has changed and rain is now predicted for most days.  You immediately think “our cruise is ruined!  What a bust!”

Stop.  You’ll still have an awesome time!  There is a ton to do!  Here are just some available activities.

-Roam the ship and check out the beautiful details.  How many Hidden Mickeys can you find?

-Meet some characters!  Check out your daily Navigator for meeting time and locations (though the surprise meeting is exciting too!).  There are some ticketed character events as well such as Anna and Elsa.  Stop at guest services if you weren’t able to grab a ticket to meet them when you did your online check in.

-See a movie.  The movie theater is awesome and shows the new Disney releases (of course!).  Don’t forget to buy your refillable popcorn bucket on day one (refill it for only $1.50 the entire cruise!)

-Send the kids to their respective youth clubs (adults can visit during open house hours). The clubs are a sight to see and have so many activities available. The youth staff is top notch and will keep the youngsters busy for hours.

-Read a book on the verandah.  Order a snack from room service and enjoy the sound of the sea and view.

-Don’t have a verandah? Stop back in the room and check out all the movies available on demand on your TV.

-On the Dream or Fantasy, play a round of Midship Detective Agency.  A scavenger hunt across the ship.

-Also on Dream and Fantasy, book some time in the sports simulator.  Sports include: golf, basketball, football, hockey, and more).  This is an extra cost.

-Shop! In true Disney style, there is a huge amount of merchandise available (including a Tiffany store on Fantasy!).

-Send the 13-17-year olds to Chill Spa.  Several services are available just for the teens.

-See the nightly show.  Shows vary from ship to ship.  All are amazing and some Broadway style (Aladdin is my favorite so far!).

-Join a trivia or bingo game! Check your Navigator for location and time.

-Head to Cove Café to have a coffee and pastry treat.

 

A Few For the Adults

-Buy a Rainforest Room pass.  A less costly option than spa services.  There are two hot tubs, multiple saunas, fund showers with different temperatures and scents, and AMAZING heated tile loungers.

-Book brunch at Palo on a sea day.  Palo is an adults only restaurant.  Start with a mimosa and your server will guide you through the rest.  Palo is one of the best dining experiences I have ever had.

-Once you have brunch at Palo, you’ll want to have dinner too.  The sommelier will help you with your wine selection and your server will attend to your every dinner need.  A wonderful Italian dinner.  A very relaxed and unhurried experience.  Don’t forget to save room for the Palo chocolate soufflé!

-Attend a mixology class

-Attend a wine or beer tasting

 

 

These are just a few of the many, many activities available on the Disney Cruise Line ships.  Some have an extra charge; but lots are already included.

See?  The rain isn’t going to ruin your vacation.  The rain gives you the opportunity to try lots of new activities that you may not have had time for in the past.  A cruise is about the journey, not just the destinations.