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Travel Tips

Tips for Visiting the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE

On a visit to Dubai you must visit the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.  The Burj Khalifa stands over 2,716.5 feet tall (828 meters) and has more than 160 stories.  The Burj Khalifa holds seven world records including the world record for being the world's tallest free standing structure.  Seeing the Burj Khalifa from a far is iconic.  The windows are curved and reflective like the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan.  The reflective glow makes the building sparkle day and night.  Its beauty makes it distinguished and the view from the top is magnificent. 

If you are planning a trip to Dubai, we are going to do a number of blog posts to give you some travel tips for the city.  Here are a few tips for visiting the Burj Khalifa.

1. Determine your tour options. When visiting the website you will find several options for tours.  I recommend booking the VIP tour (At the Top, Burj Khalifa Sky) if you want to go to the highest observation deck on floor 148.  This tour is also helpful if you are going in the evenings or on weekends when the lines can get to enter and exit the observation decks.  Otherwise, I recommend purchasing the At the Top Ticket to view the observation decks on floors 124 and 125 (those two floors are also included on the VIP tour). 

2.  Make your reservation in advance.  Each day the Burj Khalifa has a limited number of spaces for each half hour from approximately 8:30am - 11:45pm (actual times vary by date). I recommend going early if possible.  We were the first group up on a Saturday and the observation deck was more crowded by the minute. 

3. Book your tickets online. We visited on a saturday and had the first time slot. When we arrived, most of the morning time slots were taken.  The most popular time is before sunset, but anytime gives you spectacular views of Dubai.

4.  For sunset viewings book your reservation approximately one hour before sunset.  Most people think that they will breeze right in and go straight to the observation decks, but that's not the case.  If you have a general admission ticket, you may be waiting in the line to get to the observation deck.  Some people even missed the sunset completely.  Don't let that be you.  I recommend if you are planning a visit during peak season, make a reservation to see the sunset at the top.

5. Make time to visit the Dubai Mall. Burj Khalifa, is connected to the Dubai Mall, the biggest mall in the world. We ran out of time and did not see the mall in it’s entirety, but we enjoyed exploring.

Plan a trip to the Burj Khalifa and let us know if these tips helped you.

The Best Credit Cards for Travel

Blog posts come to me all the time.  Most of the time it is because I've had a funny travel experience that I wish no one else had experience.  Today, I want to provide you with a few simple travel tips to help you with you save money when traveling.  

You may ask, how can you save money when traveling if you're talking about credit cards?  The answer is simple. When you use the right credit card you save money on possible interest and foreign transaction fees.  Follow these simple steps to get the most when using credit cards during your travels:

1.  Know Your End Game.  Think about what you are trying to accomplish.  You want to travel and enjoy your trip and not have to worry about your personal bank account being compromised.  That's the real reason we should use credit cards, to give us a secured account to use, so that our personal bank account is not compromised. Therefore, you should leverage this new account to the best of your abilities.  What are you planning to do later in the year?  Are you planning to go on a Disney Cruise or a relaxing stay in Hawaii?  If you think about your future plans you can get a credit card that will provide you with points/miles/credit towards a future trip.  I have friends that always cruise with Royal Caribbean.  They use their Royal Caribbean credit card for almost all their purchases and as a result they receive hundreds of dollars off their cruises.

I recommend that you sign up for the hotel and airline travel programs even if you don't travel often. We have gold status with Hilton, Marriott and Starwood.  Before I made status with any hotel I signed up and made sure the front desk knew I was a loyal member when I checked in.  That may help me get an upgrade.  

If you are interested in becoming a Hilton Honors member here's my referral link.  

2.  Pick a card that is going to offer no foreign transaction fees.

If you are traveling overseas you need to have credit cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees.  I usually tell people to leave their debit cards at home to avoid risk of losing them or getting them skimmed and have at least two credit cards that don't charge foreign transaction fees.  Bill and I travel often so we use our American Express Platinum cards.  Unfortunately, American Express is not always accepted due to their higher transaction fees, so I also travel with a Capital One card and my USAA World Visa Card. Those cards will charge you the price of the item in US dollars.  Usually, it will be slightly higher than if you use a currency converter app.

Here's a link to sign up for an American Express Platinum Card. I recommend the card if you travel a lot.  They have lounge access, concierge services, hotel status and more.  

3.  Pick a card with high rewards - but make sure it is paid on time.

I must admit, I've fallen into the trap of getting a credit card and using it for all my purchases and then at the end of the month the credit card bill was more than my paycheck (I'm thankful for my mom and dad for helping me pay off that college credit card).  When you get a rewards card often it will come with annual fees and higher interest.  Therefore, it's in your best interest to pay it off quickly.

Use these tips and you are your way to having a safe, secure, and enjoyable vacation.

How to Get a Taste of Japan in Orlando

 Senso-Ji Temple in Tokyo

Senso-Ji Temple in Tokyo

I love Orlando because I can always reminisce about my travels at a restaurant, theme park adventure or festival.  If you are missing Japan or just want to experience a little local flavor, please take a moment to stop by some of these places for a taste of Japan.

1.       Epcot.  Walt Disney World’s Epcot Theme park has the World Showcase where you can experience Japan first hand. There are 11 different countries to visit and if you only have a day, Japan is a great place to visit and dine.  There are several different options for Japanese digning at Epcot:  Tokyo Pairing ($60+ per entrée), Tokyo Dining ($15-35 per entrée), Teppan Edo ($15-35 per entrée), Katsura Grill (under $14 per entrée), Kabuki Café for desserts (under $14 per entrée), and the Hibachi Experience (over $60 per entrée).  All of these places are wonderful, but please try to make a reservation using the Walt Disney World app or calling +1 (407) 939-5277.  At any of these restaurants you should be able to hear the sounds of the live bands beat the drums and dance to the traditional Japanese music.  You can also view a performance During Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival, booths fill the walkways with local foods to purchase (tapas sizes).  They always have a nice frozen green tea or sticky bun that is delicious.

 Front entrance at Epcot

Front entrance at Epcot

 Japanese food at Epcot

Japanese food at Epcot

2.       Disney Springs. Disney Springs has two opportunities to experience Japanese fashion and dining:

a.       Uniqlo is a Japanese department store with everything.  Bill loves the AIRism “innerware” (underwear), but they have classic styled dresses and clothing.  The Disney Springs Uniqlo has everything from kimonos to Disney clothing. It’s often open late (11pm or later) so it is a great place to visit after the parks or dinner.

b.      Morimoto Asia.  If you are in the mood for some Peking Duck, then look no further than Morimoto Asia ($15-35 per entrée).   Curated by Celebrity Iron Chef Morimoto, this Pan-Asian restaurant has beautiful décor including a jeweled jellyfish shaped chandeliers, two floors for dining, a bar and sushi counter.  While the Peking Duck was delicious, keep room for the fried rice and dessert.  They had a Japanese soda during magical dining month that was delicious. 

c.       Yesake.  This food cart offers hand rolls and sake slush drinks.  We haven’t tried it but for under $14.99 per entrée per person it is worth checking out if you are pressed for time or have a limited budget. 

 Entrance to the Uniqlo store at Disney Springs

Entrance to the Uniqlo store at Disney Springs

 Kimonos at Uniqlo at Disney Springs

Kimonos at Uniqlo at Disney Springs

 Dining Area at Morimoto

Dining Area at Morimoto

 Peking Duck at Morimoto

Peking Duck at Morimoto

 Japanese Soda at Morimoto

Japanese Soda at Morimoto

3.       Whole Foods in Dr. Phillips.  Can you believe that I found some Mochi (a Japanese dessert) at Whole Foods?  It is a little more expensive than the Mochi I found at 7-Eleven in Japan, but the experience of having this authentic ice cream dessert is awesome.   (1 mochi costs $2 and 12 are $24).

 Mochi at Whole Foods

Mochi at Whole Foods

4.       Other great eateries:  Kobe Ichiban Steakhouse is named after the Japanese city.  It is a hibachi style grill similar to the one that we experienced at the New Otani Garden Restaurant in Japan.  The steaks are good.   We also like Seito Sushi and Bento Cafe.  Both are good restaurants for decent Japanese food.  The freshness of the fish can’t compare to Japan, but it is still good.  My favorite Seito Sushi is in an Orlando Community called Baldwin Park, but the both Seito Sushi and Bento’s have locations in Dr. Phillips near Restaurant Row.   Finally, there is one local eatery off the tourist path for more authentic Japanese cuisine.  Sapporo Ramen has just what you think, good ramen and also good curry.  It’s on the west side of town and in the inner city, but if you want to venture off the beaten path for good Japanese food, this is the place to visit.

 Bento Cafe

Bento Cafe

How To Stay Healthy When Traveling Abroad

After our recent trip to Asia, I had the opportunity to get some great travel health tips from my physician that were invaluable during our travels. I hope that what I share will be helpful for any travelers that happen to read it. 

Prior to our trip to Tokyo and Hong Kong I met with my physician, Dr. Jason Littleton (http://www.jasonmd.com/) to go over any possible medical supplies or items that I would need to deal with any and all minor health issues or sicknesses. One problem about traveling abroad, especially to another continent is that you will probably not have access to general medical attention unless you go to a hospital. Which means any smaller but, still inconvenient issues that you have may not be worthy of a trip to the hospital but, require the help of a physician to be treated. 

One way to deal with these issues is to meet with your physician to discuss where you are traveling to and ask if there are any things that you should be concerned about with your personal medical history. It is also beneficial to check the Centers for Disease Control website to get their up to date advisories concerning the countries you will be visiting (http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel).

 Your physician can help you to think about specific issues that you might face in the parts of the world that you are going to be traveling to. Certain places have drinking water that may cause diarrhea or stomach illness. When traveling to places where that is a possibility it will be necessary to have a plan for treating and dealing with the issue. For example, my doctor had me pack Imodium AD in case I had any bouts with diarrhea. He also prescribed an antibiotic that typically works for stomach issues along with an antibiotic that works for other types of sicknesses. 

Street shot HK.jpg

 

Based on my consultation he gave me a number of things to pack to make sure that I would have all the necessary basics to deal with any medical issues that might arise.

Items to Consider

  1. Antibiotics - By Prescription
  2. Antivert for motion sickness - By Prescription
  3. Pain Medicine - Tylenol (Extra Strength)
  4. Anti-Diarrheal - Imodium AD
  5. Steriod Cream - Cort-aid 1% Hydro-cortisone
  6. Vitamin C packs (1,000 mg)
  7. AFRIN - Nasal spray
  8. Allergy medication - Flonase or Claritin
  9. Steroid Pack - By Prescription
  10. Triple antibiotic cream - Neosporin
  11. Zicam

These are all items that can help you master an extended trip abroad and ensure that you are able to fully enjoy yourself without letting sickness takeaway your fun. Check with your doctor to generate a list specific for you. These are just items to consider, your personal physician can help create a list that matches your specific health needs.

One last piece of advice, give yourself some time to rest once you return. Many times after really long trips your body and immune system are worn down. So, my advice would be to get some rest for a day or so before you go back to work, otherwise you risk getting sick at home and that takes the fun out of sharing your experience!

Five Things to Know Before You See Star Wars Episode VII in Orlando.

Five Things to Know Before You See Star Wars Episode VII in Orlando.

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This weekend is going to be Epic!  The long awaited Star Wars: Episode VII will open in theaters December 17, 2015 at 7pm.  Yes, Bill and I are Star Wars fans, and we will be at the theater opening night.  Last time a Star Wars movie was released we stood in a line that was wrapped around the theater for hours so we could get a good seat.  I thought it would be good to share five tips to help if you are planning to see Star Wars: Episode VII this weekend in Orlando:

  1. I highly recommend going to a theater with assigned seats.  I realized about a week ago, that my local AMC doesn't assign seats and I will need to stand in line for a few hours before the movie.  If a movie is popular like Star Wars, then I recommend buying tickets at a theater with assigned seats.  Here are a few theaters that offer assigned seats in the Orlando area:
  2. It's not too late to get tickets.  I checked on Fandago for a couple of tickets at the AMC Disney Springs and there were two seats at the midnight showing on Thursday night.  If you don't have tickets now, I would recommend checking with the theater to see if anyone has returned any tickets.  If you are willing to stand in line you can grab a ticket the same day and see the movie.  Opening weekend people will be lining up hours in advance to get a good seat.  Please arrive early and come prepared.  Otherwise, you will be sitting in the front row of the theater, which isn't fun for your eyes or neck.
  3. Check the Theater's policy for costumes and toys.  I know that AMC will let you dress up and bring your lightsaber, but you cannot have a mask on your face (to see their short, but sweet costume policy click here).   One of the worst things you could do is have to return to your car and get crappy seats because you had an item that was not permitted in the theater.
  4. Brush up on your Star Wars knowledge.  Yes, Bill and I were kids (OK, infants) when the first episode was released.  Take a moment to get caught up on your Star Wars knoweldge.  Episode VII is set 30 yearsafter defeating the Galactic Empire.  This time Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and friends face a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his army of Stormtroopers.
  5. Embrace the hype.  Regardless if you Like Star Wars or not, there are very few movies that span decades and have children, parents and grandparents excited about the unveiling.  It will be the highest grossing movie of 2015 (yes, I think it will beat Jurassic World with sales of $1,668,912,312).  So stop by Target, Walmart, or even Hallmark and pick up some Star Wars paraphernalia.  This isn't a Jedi Mind trick, but "I think you we will all love Episode VII."

May the Force Be with You!

 Bill Land at Hollywood Studios

Bill Land at Hollywood Studios

Aloft Hotel a Great Downtown Stay

Aloft Hotel a Great Downtown Stay

Many times when people visit Orlando they only consider hotels in the attractions area or in the convention center area but, there are some nice hotel options in the downtown area to think about. The Aloft Hotel in downtown Orlando is a nice place to stay at and has an modern look and feel. It is also within walking distance to restaurants, bars, a movie theater, the Amway Center and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. It is also a great location for business travelers being in the heart of downtown Orlando. It also has art from a local gallery on it walls that creates a great atmosphere. When stating there you should request a room with a view of the Dr. Phillips Center (Great view).

The room accommodations are very modern and spacious with views of the Dr. Phillips Center and downtown.

Another unique thing about the hotel is that it has an actual art gallery on the lower level.

The hotel also has an outdoor pool and patio.

Aloft hotel is a great place to stay at if you are visiting Orlando. Give it a try!

 

Aloft Hotel

500 S Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801

(407) 380-3500

Making the most of your Disney Cruise

Making the most of your Disney Cruise

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Recently, I spoke with a family that was going on a Disney Cruise.  If you have not been on a Disney Cruise, I highly recommend taking one.  Adults and children enjoy the cruise.  The food is good, the service is superior and the activities are outstanding.  We had a great time. When I met the family going on the cruise I gave them two points of advice:

1.  Go on the water slide as soon as possible and often - it's awesome!

2.  Get a Cabana on Disney's Castaway Cay

We were able to get a cabana when visiting Disney's Castaway Cay.  It was amazing.  The cabana came with snorkeling gear, inner tubes, free bike rentals, non-alcoholic beverages, fruit, access to a private beach and FUN!!  We were in cabana 15, which held up to 10 people. We enjoyed the lounging in the hammock or lawn furniture or chatting inside the cabana.  It truly was a highlight of our trip.

 Excitement for the beach!

Excitement for the beach!

 Our private beach!

Our private beach!

 Cabana 15

Cabana 15

 Cabana

Cabana

I highly recommend that you book the cabana in advance because they sell out quickly.  Most of all, have fun!

Disney Dream Cruise Part 1

Disney Dream Cruise Part 1

Many people visit Orlando specifically to see the Disney parks but another great Disney experience is the Disney Dream Cruise out of Port Canaveral. The cruise is an extension of the great experience that you receive at the parks. The great thing is that Port Canaveral is only about a 40 minute drive from the Orlando area making it easy to get to. Once you arrive at the dock you will receive the usual great Disney service where their porters take your luggage for the trip before you park your vehicle. Once you arrive inside the process is a pleasant one that has you check in with your identification and where you receive your "Keys to the World". These key cards are your identification, charge card and way on and off the ship (So don't lose it).

Once on board the ship you have an abundance of activities to enjoy and outstanding service to help you remember it! From great rooms, to shopping on board, character visits, 24 hour room service, clubs for both young kids and teens, pool activities, adult only pool and hot tub and of course fine dining!

There is something for everyone on a Disney cruise.

Check out all the options at disneycruise.disney.go.com

Next Post: Disney Dream Cruise Excursions

10 Things to do this Valentine’s Day Weekend

10 Things to do this Valentine’s Day Weekend

 Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day

10 Things to do this Valentine’s Day Weekend

It’s the weekend of love.  It doesn't matter if you are married or single; Valentine’s Day is a great time to love and to be loved by others.   If you are visiting Orlando or a local resident, here are a few things you can do to enjoy the weekend.  It’s still time to make some plans.  This Valentine’s Day is going to be a great one for you.

  1. Enjoy a nice dinner.

Orlando has so many nice restaurants to fit any budget.  We can recommend several restaurants (use our trip consultation services), but it’s important to make a reservation when dining out on Valentine’s Day weekend.  Contact the restaurant directly; use the Disney app or Open Table to make a reservation on property.

  1. See a Valentine’s Day movie

Orlando is a great place for a romantic Valentine’s Day movie.  The AMC theater, Fork and Dine gives movie goers an opportunity to have dinner and a movie in one location.  Coming out Valentine’s Day weekend is The Last Five Years, 50 Shades of Grey and Kingsman: The Secret Service.  Take your pick of these new releases or something still at the theater.

  1. Make your own chocolate

You can buy your own chocolate at some local chocolate shops (Godiva, Peterbrooke, etc.) but you can also schedule a visit to The Chocolate Kingdom.  This chocolate factory allows you to make your own chocolate (milk, dark or white) bar filled with nuts or candy.

  1. Go Dancing

Dancing is fun and gives you a good workout.  There are several places to go dancing in Orlando.  Bongo’s Cuban Café at Downtown Disney provides a live band on the weekend and great food.  There are also several dancing clubs in downtown Orlando and Universal CityWalk.

  1. Go Bowling

Kings Bowling Alley is a nice place to hang out.  You can do a lot more than bowling at King’s Bowl.  You can sing Karaoke, have dinner, play pool and watch the big game.  See our blogpost for more.

  1. Go to the Spa

Check out the spas at the Four Seasons, Wyndham Grand, Ritz Carlton or the Waldorf Astoria. These four are all highly rated. There are also independent spa locations that you can enjoy.  It really doesn't matter if you get a facial, full body massage or nail service, you will enjoy your time at the spa.

  1. Have a picnic

Leu Gardens has a Valentine’s Day Stroll.  From 7-10pm, you can pack your picnic blanket, dinner and enjoy the beautiful sounds of Ricky and the Buzzcatz, Daniel Heitz Band and The Shed Hounds.  The cost is only $17 per person or $22 on February 14th.

  1. Enjoy some Jazz

Jazz Tasting in Maitland is a nice place to enjoy some good food and live jazz.  Enjoy the smooth sounds of the JT Quartet at 8pm this Valentine’s Day.  I recommend making a reservation because it can get crowded.

  1. Hang out at a theme park.

A great date or place to hangout can happen at any of the Disney parks, Universal Orlando, Islands of Adventure or SeaWorld. The good thing about hanging out at a theme park you will be able to dine at some great restaurants.

  1. Stay home or at the hotel.

Some of the most romantic times are spent at home or in my hotel room.  Cook a great meal or order some takeout and just enjoy the evening.

Bonus:  Go shopping

If you have a significant other, take them shopping.  Some stores will have special activities and sales this Valentine’s Day weekend.  It doesn't matter which mall you go to or boutique just enjoying a nice stroll through the mall will make anyone happy.

Do something special and enjoy your Valentine's Day weekend in Orlando!

Kings Bowl - Great Family Fun!

Kings Bowl - Great Family Fun!

If you are looking for an evening of family fun and entertainment then stop by Kings Bowl! It is a really fun bowling alley with dining area, bar and screens. They offer 22 lanes along with Foosball, pool tables, ping pong tables, full size shuffle board table,  outdoor boccie ball court, 60 HD screens and private spaces for private parties.  

If your looking for a great entertainment spot for the whole family Kings Bowl is a wonderful choice!

Kings Bowl Orlando is located at: 8255 South International Drive, Suite 120 Orlando, FL 32819

407.363.0200

Hours of Operation: Monday – Thursday 3:00 PM – 2:00 AM & Friday – Sunday 11:00 AM – 2:00 AM

http://kingsbowlamerica.com/

Keys to Stress Free Travel

 family-biking

family-biking

Some dread travel.  Traveling to new places can be stressful and frightening. We want to take the fear and dread out of your travel.  Especially when you come to Orlando!  Here are five ways to have stress free travel:

1.  Give yourself time.  I always say that I would rather, "arrive early and wait, than run and be late."  Getting to the airport or train station with ample time will cause you to be at ease.  Giving yourself more time will help in the event of travel delays.

2.  Meditate.  Before you go on your vacation, spend time visualizing it.  Think about where you will go.  The places you will dine, the things you will see.  Visualize your days.  Meditating on your vacation will build your excitement for your vacation and give you ideas on what other things you can do with your time.

3.  Be organized.  Make sure you know where all your travel documents are located and you keep up with your essential items when traveling.  When you wake up on the day of travel, make sure you pack up all your essential items.  One one trip, Bill left his wallet at my parent's home.  We did not have enough time to go back home (I should have followed point #1).

4.  Don't over pack.  Over packing will weigh you down.  When you have too much stuff it leads to clutter and clutter causes confusion.  Look at your suitcase (Ladies, your purse) and see what you can eliminate.  You can wear clothes a few times during your vacation.

5. Have a game plan for your trip.  The more planned your trip is the more your will enjoy it.  You don't have to stick to your plan, but at least you know what you can do.  One way to make travel easier is to consult with the locals.  That's why we started trip consultation services for those traveling to the Central Florida area.   We can help you plan your ultimate vacation.  Over the years, we've helped dozens of friends and family members plan their Orlando vacations.  If you are coming to the Orlando area and want to take advantage of our trip consultation services.

Book your appointment today!

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Valet Parking Coming to OIA

Valet Parking Coming to OIA

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 Check in Kiosks

Check in Kiosks

Wednesday was the beginning of valet parking service at Orlando International airport. The service will  start for passengers flying American Airlines, Alaskan  Airlines or Jet Blue in Terminal A and US Airways and United Airlines in Terminal B. It is expected that service will expand to additional airlines in the near future. The service costs $25 a day. It also has special features such as text ahead service, where you can have your vehicle ready and waiting for y0u on your departure from the the airport.  People that use the service will also be able to check in for their flight outside versus the more congested areas in the terminal. Please continue to check the blog for future updates on additional airlines being added to the service.

General Travel Safety Tips

 IMG_1614

IMG_1614

If you are planning an upcoming visit to Orlando or any destination we came up with some tips we thought would be helpful.  These are not in any order, but are things to remember to keep you safe.

  • Realize that you probably look like a tourist.  Unless you have been to a city a lot you probably need a map, have some comfortable shoes and a camera.  Most of all, you are hanging around all the places that tourists go.  Face it, you look like a tourist!  Awareness is the first step to safety.  Embrace being a tourist and be alert to your surroundings, suspicious people and the places you go.
  • Be leery of people on the elevator.  Thieves look for people to rob and sometimes will follow you to your floor or room pretending to be on the same floor.  If you get on the elevator and someone or people make you uncomfortable and they say they are on the same floor as you, press the floor above and let them get off.  If they are really creepy, go down to the front desk and ask for security.
  • Never, Never, Never keep your hotel room key in the sleeve that says the room number on it.  Honestly, I don't always remember my room number, but I remember where it is.  If you keep it in the sleeve, if someone finds it they know where to go and how to open your room.
  • Men, don't keep your wallet in your back pocket.  That's the spot where criminals can pick pocket the easiest.
  • Know your emergency numbers.  What would you do if your wallet or purse AND cell phone were stolen and you were travelling?  Do you know the number for the bank?  Do you know your significant other's number by heart.  With cell phones I call my friends all the time, but honestly, I do not know their numbers.  Make sure you know important numbers.  Some phone numbers you can find on the internet (like your bank and credit cards), but your spouse's cell number isn't.
  • Don't keep all your money and credit cards with you.  Honestly, I usually only keep out one credit card and a few dollars in cash.  Most of my expenses I will charge and then at the end of each day transfer money from my debit card to credit card to cover the expenses.  I love wearing a security pouch.  I I feel most secure knowing that if someone steals from me they will only get a few dollars and one credit card.
  • Get the tools to protect yourself.  Every male in my family has RFID wallets, we often put our cards in RFID sleeves.  If you have an expensive camera purchase a slash-proof camera strap.  I had a friend in Italy that had a fanny pack on and someone on a moped came up to her and cut it off and rode away.  Slash-proof tools deter criminals.
  • Keep your kids with you.  Make sure that you give your children instructions on what to do if they get separated from you (contact authorities).  Thousands of children are abducted each year and tourist areas are prime locations for child predators.  Even if your child is older, make sure you talk with them.  Adults are stronger and it only takes a few seconds to be in the wrong place.

I am sure there are more tips, and perhaps I will make sharing safety tips a series.  Don't be afraid by the information, traveling can expand your mind and introduce you to so many wonderful people, but the most important thing is to have a good travel experience by being safe.

Festivals of Speed

Festivals of Speed

If your going to be in Orlando between December 5-7 and you are a car aficionado then you should attend the 2014 Festivals of Speed. The yearly event is a great place for car aficionados and fans to see the latest and greatest luxury vehicles the world has to offer. The show spans several days and begins with an exclusive hangar event with high end cars and luxury jets for attendees to enjoy, a wine connoisseurs event on December 6th and December 7th, the Motorsports Display on the beautiful grounds of the Ritz Carlton Orlando. If you love luxury cars and vehicles then this is the event you don't want to miss!  

www.festivalofspeed.com

Starwood Shows us "The Future of Hotel Rooms"

Starwood Shows us "The Future of Hotel Rooms"

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If you are a frequent hotel guest then last week's announcement from Starwood hotels should make you pretty happy. Starwood hotels announced that at 10 of their hotels Starwood Preferred Guests would be able to enter their hotel rooms without a room key. The new system SPG Wireless, works thru a smart phone app that will also allow you to skip the entire check in process at the front desk and complete everything with your phone. The system is now available at Aloft, Element and W hotels in 10 cities worldwide in markets like Beijing, Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles and Doha and hopefully Orlando. Starwood has plans to expand the system to more of its hotel family in early 2015. Check out this video to see how it works. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6yb2TprJkc

 

Five Tips for Black Friday Shopping

Five Tips for Black Friday Shopping

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 Bill Land Shopping

Bill Land Shopping

If you're like me you have already started thinking about the holidays.  I am looking forward to eating good food, spending time with my family and Christmas shopping (of course).  Part of the fun of the Holiday season is partaking in the Black Friday sales.  Orlando has amazing shopping. The Florida Mall and the Mall at Millenia continue to provide great retail shopping and designer stores from Gucci to Rolex.  Orlando is also home to over 200 outlet stores.  Almost every major designer has an outlet here.  A few of my favorites are BCBG, Thomas Pink, Ted Baker.

Because I want you to have an enjoyable Black Friday, here are five tips that will help you make the most of your holiday shopping experience.

1.  Shop before Black Friday.

Every Sunday I read the newspaper.  for the past two weeks I have found some amazing deals on TVs, furniture, holiday china, purses and more.  The prices I'm seeing are competitive with the deals offered on Black Friday, but without the drama.  If you see something you want and it goes on sale, get it early.  At some stores like Banana Republic, you can get a price adjustments if your item goes on sale within two weeks.  Simply bring your receipt to the register and they will give you the difference in price.  

2.  Map out your strategy.

This is a critical piece.  I have a great shopping spreadsheets, which lists the gift recipient, gift ideas, budget and past gifts.  Are their items on your list that will sell out? Plan to get that item first or order it online.

As a child I asked for an Omnibot 2000 because I needed it to clean my room (or so I thought that is what it could do).  My mother was notorious for beginning her shopping on Christmas Eve and it was sold out for years.  Save your children from disappointment, plan your strategy and get your gifts early.

Also, consider the stores that you want to go to.  It may be better plan a trip to the hardware store early to get some poinsettia's (they are usually $1 each).  Early the stand alone hone store was not crowded.  If I would have waited a few hours it would have been crowded.

3.  Get help and bring cash.

Take a shopping buddy.  They can stand in line why you shop.  Also, the easiest way to not overspend is to bring cash and leave the credit cards at home.  Black Friday will have some enticing sales including items that you did not plan to buy. The best way to stick to your budget is to use cash and to have an idea of what you are going to give. 4. Go early.

The malls are going to open on Thanksgiving now.  Once you have your strategy, determine your plan of attack.  Get to the mall early and plan to stay until the next morning. Most people will come to the mall after 8am on Friday.  If you get their early and shop all night you avoid the crowds

5. Valet park if possible.

Most of the malls have valet parking.  I strongly encourage you to get to the parking lot early and valet park (valet parking will sell too) .  At the outlet mall, there is a regular valet parking and VIP valet service where you do not have to wait in line upon your return.  Of course, the VIP valet is slightly more expensive, but well worth it if you want to maximize your Black Friday shopping time.

Happy Shopping!

Fun Things to Do This Halloween

Fun Things to Do This Halloween

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 Halloween family

Halloween family

Halloween is a such a Spooktacular Holiday.  There's the abundance of candy and the fun of seeing everyone dressed up in their favorite costume.  If you like being frightened, check out my post about Universal's Halloween Horror Nights.  Below is a list of a few fun things you can do this Halloween (Friday, October 31st).

1.  Attend Epcot's International Food and Wine Festival.  The International Food and Wine Festival is open now until November 10th. Hangout at Epcot, enjoy internationally inspired cuisine and wines from around the world.  Stay and enjoy the nightly fireworks IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, which will begin at 10pm on the 31st.

2.  Go to the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic.  Stop by the Swan and Dolphin Resort from 5:30pm - 9:00pm on October 31st and November 1st for wines and cuisine from across the globe.

3.  Hang out at Downtown Disney.  I am sure you will see a lot of people dressed up and walking around.  Enjoy the evening, grab a great dinner.  I love dining and dancing at Bongos Cuban Cafe or enjoying some fish and chips and live music at Raglan Row Irish Pub.

4.  Go shopping.  I love the Orlando Outlets and malls.  Halloween the malls will be festive and the stores will have good sales on Halloween.  A few malls to visit are:

Enjoy your Halloween!

The Coop: Great Down Home Food!

The Coop: Great Down Home Food!

When visiting Orlando there are plenty of restaurants to choose from but, not many that offer outstanding southern comfort food. The Coop does just that, serving all the traditional southern favorites that you love to eat. The coop has a nice down home atmosphere with paper towel dispensers at each table and classic wooden furniture and decor. The fried chicken is exceptional along with the collard greens and cornbread. The Coop also offers fried chicken by the bucket and you can eat family style with your choice of several sides. If you enjoy down home southern food then you definitely need to try the Coop!

610 West Morse Blvd., Winter Park FL 32789

http://asouthernaffair.com/

 

Getting Great Hotel Rooms

Getting Great Hotel Rooms

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This summer Bill and I took a wonderful vacation to Paris.  It was très magnifique! One of the highlights of our trip was the Eiffel Tower view.  It was great to wake up and see the Eiffel Tower from our room and so romantic to come back to our hotel room after a day of sightseeing and see the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night.  

 The view from our hotel room in Paris.  it was a great hotel room!

The view from our hotel room in Paris. it was a great hotel room!

How did we get such a fabulous room?  No, I didn’t have an employee hook up or platinum status with the hotel chain.  Here are a few tips that you can use to get you a great hotel room without costing you extra money.

  1. Do your homework. Look at the options for hotel rooms before you get to the hotel.  Upgraded rooms may be bigger or have certain features (like views of the Epcot fireworks, bath robes, slippers, special bath tubs or showers).  The hotel website will usually will show you other options.  If you like a certain type of room book it to ensure you receive it.  Remember, hotels always have more double rooms (or two beds) than kings, if you are planning to attend a meeting and the hotel will be sold out, book your room early and request the room type you want early.
  2. Be pleasant when you get to the counter.   Ask how the reservation agent is doing.  Once you give your information, share my favorite line, “I will be glad to take any complimentary upgrades that you may have.”  Usually, because I am pleasant the reservationist finds a nice room for me – and it is complementary.
  3. Get a credit card with rewards and perks. Because I travel so much I like the benefits of the American Express Platinum credit card.  This card has a lot of benefits, including complimentary upgrades at hotels, enrollment as a gold member for Hilton Honors and Starwood Rewards.  This gives me free Wifi and early check in and late checkout.  I have a friend with the American Express Platinum card and he contacts the card concierge to make sure his room is upgraded prior to his arrival.  There are other credit cards to check out for travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred or Barclaycard Arrival Plus.
  4. Sign up for the hotel’s frequent stay program. The hotel will make accommodations for their faithful customers.  If I am planning to stay at a hotel and I am not a member of the hotel chain’s frequent stay program I will sign up.  When I check in to the hotel I always ask the reservation agent (before they assign my room), “do you have my reward number attached to my reservation.”  This alerts them that I am at least interested in staying at the hotel chain again, so they will do their best to make my experience great.  When you sign up for the hotel program include your preferences.
  5. Ask for what you want. If you want a type of room, be bold enough ask for it.  It doesn’t hurt to say, “do you have a suite available. Or can I have a room on the concierge floor?”  All he or she can say is yes or no.  Remember, you are the customer and the hotel wants you to have a pleasant stay (and return).

Use these tips to get a great hotel room!  We want to hear from you.  Tell us your hotel tips.

 Hotel Suite - What a great hotel room!

Hotel Suite - What a great hotel room!

 Hotel Suite - What a great hotel room!

Hotel Suite - What a great hotel room!