Wednesday, June 30, 2010

T-minus 48 hours an counting til I board the Norwegian Epic!

By this time on Friday we will be at the cruise terminal in NYC. Almost had a heart attack when I was told the parking at the terminal was $30 a day. So, keep that in mind if you are cruising out of NYC. We are planning on leaving Massachusetts at 3 am to get to the terminal by 8 am. We do not want to miss one second of this.

We are getting excited. The ship has been getting some great reviews from people on her transatlantic inaugural. I have never seen so many inaugural sailings on a ship. The only complaint I have heard so far has been the bathroom set up on this ship. The shower opens right into the room and is not enclosed. There is a privacy curtain but that just does not seem to be enough for anyone. We shall see how the two of us fair in this set-up.

Anyway...I have made my reservations for Second City, and Blue Man group. On a waiting list for the Cirque dinner show. We will be searching out SpongeBOB and Dora for picture. I am packing my bathing suit for what I call the toilet bowl plunge slide on the top deck. I am trying each slide at least once...LOL. Going out to get a flip camcorder today if I can to video tape our happenings. I have packed nothing yet, but it should not be to hard to pack for a 2 night inaugural cruise, right? 2 day outfits and two night ones, plus a bathing suit? Sounds good, right?

Will be checking out the Spa, the specialty restaurants, the casino and any and all entertainment I can find. I am armed with 3 cameras and hopefully one video camera after today.

Let me know if anyone wants pictures of anything in particular on the ship!

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Norwegian Epic Inaugural Cruise July 2-4 NYC

I am so excited! I wrote an essay for Norwegian Cruise Lines and won one of 100 rooms given to travel agents on the inaugural cruise (July 2-4) out of NYC. I can bring a guest and am bring my fellow co-worker Judy with me. We have been assigned our cabin, room 12231 a wave balcony room on the 12 floor. I am very excited. We will be at the Christening in the morning with Reba McIntyre doing the Christening and festivities will follow. I will be tweeting, blogging, posting on facebook and hopefully taking lots of pictures and video to share with all of you that are interested. Make sure you you check in with us often those three days and 2 nights.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day trips from home.....

When you can't get away and the kids are restless things to do to get you out of the house......

1) Head for the beach. If you are within driving distance to the ocean, a lake or maybe even a river, head to the beach. Kids love the beach no matter how old they are. Bring a beach towels, a picnic lunch and plenty of water to keep hydrated. Many beaches now have a entrance fee. Here in MA it is anywhere from $6 to $15 for the day.

2) Hit the malls. Yes, you do tend to spend when you are there, but if you have a big enough mall there are several opportunities. Lego stores, Disney Stores, Toy stores, Discovery stores are all great places to bring the kids. They can touch stuff and for the most part employees are ok with them being there. Just as long as they are still being supervised by an adult.

3) Museums - most libraries have free passes to museums. You can usually get 4 free tickets with one library pass. Where I live the passes are for the Boston Children's Museum, the Science Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Aquarium. All of these are a good day trip with the kids. Pack a lunch for them to eat in the car and the cost is minimal.

4) State Parks- they are great places to take the kids. Nature trails and animals to see. You can visit a ranger if one is stationed there. Make sure the kids have sunblock and insect repellent on.

5) Bike Trails - Here we have many bike trails. My favorite one is in Falmouth, MA where you bike along the ocean and can stop at a beach on the way and relax. It isn't a long trail maybe a couple of miles, but it can be extended. The beach is for mostly riders as it is hard to access otherwise. We tend to look for sea glass and shells on this beach.

6) Parks - Many times neighborhood parks have summer programs for the kids for either free or a minimal price. Kids get to play and see their friends, and parents get to meet and talk to other parents.

Whatever you do....get out there. Spend some time with your kids playing and having fun. Time flies and before you know it they are no longer kids. Have a great summer everyone!

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vacation Memories.....

Vacations...we only have one or two weeks a year to enjoy them. Yet we spend countless hours preparing for them, and wishing time away to get to them. They are something off in the future to look forward to, that you know will be something good. For generations people have been going on vacations to escape their everyday life, experience new places, and build memories to look back on, and we are no exception.

We are your typical middle class family. We have bills up the yin yang in this economy and vacation time to us is precious. Contrary to popular belief, I do not get to take my family away for free because I am a travel agent. That might have been the case years ago, but no way has anyone offered to take this family of 5 anywhere for free. This year we are lucky. We got a great deal on a cruise in Feb. We went on a 5 day cruise. I waited and got a great price and we even got a good deal on on-board credits. We drove down to save money, since airfare was then a joke. This August (yes, we will swelter) we are spending 11 days at Disney World. Four of those days we are using my friends DVC points, and then the rest we are using the teacher rate at the Walt Disney World Dolphin. These vacations we have been doing for years. For us they are easy to plan...and each one elicits different memories of my kids.

Stuck in the back of my head is a vacation I mapped out over 15 years ago. I want to take a Southwest Camper vacation of the National Parks and the Southwest territory. I would fly into Phoenix, Arizona and head North to Sedona. I would stay at a great spa hotel there, then venture out towards the Grand Canyon. I have always wanted to take the donkey ride, like the Brady Bunch did to the Canyon floor. I want to rent a house boat for a week on Lake Powell. Take the foolish picture with my arms and legs in a different states at Four Corners. Oh, and take a ride on rte 66. I want to build a book load of memories seeing America and all its beauty with my family, and end the vacation at the Happiest place in the world Disneyland. Not sure this vacation will ever happen, but it is planned out in case I win the lottery ;)

Maybe I am lucky, but even when we have had vacation mishaps, it has always been better than being at work. We always look back and laugh at some of the things that happen. There was the time we drove to New York for my brother in laws wedding and a couple of days R & R. Our oldest was 5 and my husband had just finished talking about how we had to buy a tire. Did I mention I was 6.5 months pregnant with our twins? Just as he literally finishes talking about the tire, the darn thing blows out. Then someone stops to help us and the guy is so drunk he can't walk straight. Luckily my parents had gone to the wedding too and saw us on the side of the road. Three hours later, we are driving home at 50 mph on a tiny little tempa spare. We have had many car mishaps, but they added to the adventure, even when it was two blown tires (yes, happens to us a lot) and one water pump in the same trip.

Vacation memory triggers bring you back to a moment in time. We all have them. Who doesn't here music with steel drum or the song "HOT HOT HOT" and think of a Caribbean cruise or island vacation. Or who doesn't remember the look of awe when a child enters their first Disney park, and meets their favorite character. We all have hundreds (and maybe thousands, if you are me) of pictures to remember those memories., and that's why vacations are so precious to us. It is a time to reconnect and leave all of our everyday worries behind. It is time to focus on our loved ones and send time doing stuff together. It doesn't matter if the vacation is to a faraway place, or camping just a few miles from home. That's why our motto is "Today's vacations are tomorrow's memories", because vacation should be all about enjoying the moment now, and reliving it over and over later for years to come, especially if they embarrass your children :)

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Come play our Disney "Where in the World" game...

Come visit our Facebook Second Star Travel page, and join in on this weeks contest. We will be posting a picture daily of something in Disney World. The fun begins when you guess where in Disney you would find our picture. You must tell us the park, and the location. There will be one winner for this week. The prize for the most correct answers this week will take home a $20 Disney gift card and a "Friends for Change" Disney baseball hat! Come join us :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Great American Family Roadtrip

In a time when people are needing to tighten their belts, and penny pinch, the great American road trip is becoming ever more popular. Once again, husbands are once more learning the art of packing every inch of the car with just about every item imaginable. Mom's are packing items to entertain the troops and minimize the "when will we get there"...dreaded chant. Children are...well they will complain about having to take the car and not fly.

Even though gassing up the car can practically eliminate the national debt, it is still a bargain over airfare, with taxes, fees, seat assignment costs, and baggage costs. So, the American family is hitting the road and seeing America again.

So what do you do to get ready? Its is a process that has gotten easier thanks to the internet, but was almost a lost art.

1) Research. It used to be you went to the library, AAA for a tripkitt, you talked to everyone you knew and got pointers and ideas. Now, we go to the internet and everything is at our finger tips. That doesn't mean planning will take no time.....

2) Talk to your family. See what things they are interested in doing and seeing. Have them make a list and then pick something from everyone's list. Make them involved in the trip and they will get excited about when they feel they have had a say.

3) Make sure your vehicle is ready for travel when the time comes. Take it to a mechanic, and have it looked at. Make sure you have a spare tire, jumper cables, and maybe a can of oil. Better to be safe than sorry. Pack a emergency kit, band aids, alcohol wipes, antibacterial ointment. Trust me, if you do not have one you will need it. Besides they cost only $8.88 at Walmart.

4)Have each person pack a back pack filled with things to help pass the time away. IPODS, laptops (for movies and games), books, hand held games, coloring books, puzzle books...then after they are done, pack a few more surprises in there to sweeten the deal. When they are tired of the backpack stuff resort to long time favorites the "Wheel on the Bus"," 100 Bottles of Beer" the license plate game, and "I spy" have been car crowd pleaser for generations. Here is a fellow bloggers own interpretation of the "punch buggy game"! Sorry this one made me smile! Love it!
the ultimate travel game

5) Keep a bag with a change of clothes and pj's for everyone, for any stopovers. You do not want to have to take out every piece of luggage when you stop. Add medicine and toiletries to this bag that are essentials, keep it handy in the car.

6) Pack a AAA card if you have it, credit cards, money and ID's in a safe spot.

7) If you are old fashioned do not forget the maps, (You should have one of where you plan to go to anyway) just in case your navigational devise goes on the blink. Oh, yeah and "Christopherson" our navigational $#@!*#!! often makes mistakes and likes to bring us over every toll bridge known to man. I bet the government is involved in that! So, it is best to have a map to fall back on in those situations.

8) Pack snacks! This is very important. They will get hungry faster than usual in the car. Pack, healthy snacks, like fruit snacks, popcorn, oreos (ok, maybe not so healthy there, but it is vacation) Also pack a cooler with cold drinks. That stuff is a fortune at gas stations and rest areas. Even though you may have no infants on the trip, have baby wipes handy. They are great for quick cleanups, spills and other disasters that happen on the road. Also keep small trash bags handy for trash and other items.

9) If your trip will take more than 10-12 hours you may consider stopping at a hotel for the night. Pick an area where you can find food, and a hotel with amenities like a pool to let the kids stretch out. Consult a travel agent for suggestions. Yes, they will help you book this kind of trip and give you many suggestions, if they are worth their weight in gold. It will be one less thing you have to worry about. Make sure you tell them where you want to stop, and your final destination and let them do what they do best for you. If you are a family of more than 4, then go for the many well priced suites hotels like the Embassy Suites or the Comfort Inn Suites. They often offer free breakfasts, that will help you save money.

9b) Now if you are crazy like our family and have mastered the artful switcheroo, and you take turns throughout the night getting to your destination, just be careful and have an backup plan in case someone is too tired to go on. Never drive tired. It is best to get there a little later than to put your family and other drivers at risk. Also, make sure everyone has their own blanket and pillow, so there are no squabbles over who has more blanket.

10)Make sure you enjoy the scenery and take in some of the local color. Drive through Mountain ranges, or over famous rivers. Get off the main road for a little bit and see the real country when you can. You will be happy you did.

11)Once you get to your destination, unpack and enjoy the rest of your vacation. Just remember to do it all again, on the way back, and give yourself plenty of time to drive back. Going home is not as exciting and quick as getting there.

12) Make sure you have a talk about the trip with the kids. Let them know this is more than a trip to grandma's, it will be a long ride. Set rules about personal space, loud music and sharing items.

13) Oh and most importantly, and something that has been passed down from generation to generation of car trip travelers...make sure everyone has gone to the bathroom before you leave the house. Even with that I am sure you will hear that someone has to go before the first hour is out. Be prepared!

We have made two car trips to Florida in the last year, and many others before those. We have lost no one so far, and we plan on driving again in the future. Heck, when the travel itch hits this family we never ignore it...

A good website for gas prices on your trip...
Gas Buddy

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Some Travel bargains to think about

Princess Cruise Line has a 3 Day sale starts Wednesday 6/2 with Caribbean cruises as low as $499 for a 7 day and $799 for a 10 day cruise.

Costa Cruise Lines- Rooms, meals and entertainment for less then $63 a day. 7 nights starting at $499 for selected Fall and Winter sailings.

Stay at select Walt Disney World® Resort hotels and save up to 30%* with special room-only rates for stays most nights now — Aug. 14, 2010. Just add Theme Park tickets to take advantage of all the summer fun, including the return of "Main Street Electrical Parade." Book now through Aug. 14, 2010.

Walt Disney World Free Dining book 5 or more days and get free dining for your stay Aug 15th to Oct 2.

Enjoy Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino Las Vegas with this unbeatable rate! 3 Nights from $119
Rate is land only, per person, double occupancy based on a Hollywood hip room category and is valid for travel 6/1/10-9/9/10 and vary by departure date.

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