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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gay Days at the Happiest Place on Earth

I can count the number of people I've met on one hand who don't squeal in delight over a potential trip to Disneyland. I'll tell you right now, I don't want to know what their idea of a fun trip is if dancing princesses, parades and awesome rides aren't exciting to them in the least. I can get not wanting to be around a million kids all day, but when it comes to the magic of Disney, I don't understand how you can't get swept up in it all and become a big kid yourself. In short, how can you pass it up?

I finally got my Dole Whip
We had the chance to visit Disney last fall at the same time as a fantastic group of people and it made our trip even more special. Gay Days at Disneyland happens every year and though it's an unofficial event, it officially happens annually. The group has planners that pick a long weekend for their festivities and they are all on the same itinerary. This means, wherever you see a big group of red-shirted people you head to another part of the park, since there won't be a line there. How do I know all this? I spent 40 minutes in the Dole Whip line with a nice woman who used to work on the planning committee and we chatted all about it. 

I wish I had gotten a better photo of the Sailing Ship Columbia packed to the gills with gay men and women wearing red shirts for this year's trip or other ones they've been on. I especially enjoyed the whimsical way several of the bald men were sporting those tiny mouse ears. Even though Gay Days is not "official" the day had a different vibe than other times we've visited - and I liked it. I only wish I knew the dress code, because I would have worn a red shirt in support, too. If you're interested in attending Disneyland for this year's Gay Days, they start on October 4th and you can find the schedule here. Here are some pics of our day at the park with these fun mouse-loving travelers.

These guys were so cute. Obviously their signs are for other park visitors.

Have you ever seen any part of the park so empty?

Everyone seemed to move in a pack, like here

And some went off-program to also avoid the crowds

Everyone loves a parade
Have you ever been to an "unofficial" event by chance? What was it?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Infographic: Using Hotel Reviews

I don't know about you, but the first thing I do before I book a hotel (or tour or go to a restaurant, etc.) is look at the reviews. Just because the website looks good doesn't mean that it is accurate. In fact, I've been to several that didn't look anything at all like the photos they posted. I am almost more interested in seeing visitor photos than what they have to say about the thing/place they are reviewing. It's actually more important to look at the reviews when you're a budget traveler than when you don't have to look at rates to book your travel.

How important are hotel reviews to you when you're looking for a place to stay?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

5 Affordable Wine Getaways

Not all vacations are created equal. I don't get away to go hiking or rock climbing, but I also don't go on shopping trips. I like to see and eat as much as possible, but I know not everyone likes to travel like I do. Maybe you like to go RVing or spend your time diving off different coasts or even put a majority of your budget towards golfing around the world. If you are a wine-lover on a budget looking to just relax and unwind, here are some unique destinations that allow you to incorporate tasting some new wines into your activities.

San Diego – When you think of wine, you might not think of San Diego, but the truth is, the West Coast is packed with vineyards and wineries and San Diego is home to one of the finest. Orfila is a boutique winery close to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which means there are plenty of other nearby attractions if you don’t plan to spend your whole trip drinking wine. Just there for wine? Make sure to rent a car, as most of the wineries in the area are a short drive from downtown (think 45 minutes to an hour). Most have picnic grounds as well, so you can save a bit more by bringing your own lunch and snacks.

Photos of Bodegas Andreu Sole, Guanica
This photo of Bodegas Andreu Sole is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Puerto Rico – A fantastic budget destination in itself, Puerto Rico is also a country of delicious wines and spirits. While you may spend a bit on your plane tickets getting there, you will save considerably on your hotel, dining and wine tastings or tours. Puerto Rico only has one winery, but what a winery it is. Bodegas Juan Andreu Sole in Parador Guánica is open on weekends and the wine they produce is unique, just like their culture and food. While you can certainly enjoy wine other than that pressed in the region, you will not want to miss their not-too-sweet, fruity blend Doce Calles (Twelve Streets) and possibly some samples of the artisan liquors created on the island. All this and the bonus of being next to the water on a tropical island. Another plus? You don’t need a passport to visit!

Photos of The Hess Collection Winery & Art Museum, Napa
This photo of The Hess Collection Winery & Art Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Napa Valley – Wine country as you know it, but way more affordable than you believed, especially in the winter. Napa has so many wineries that if you want to visit more than one or two, look into a wine tour on a shuttle bus that will take you to a handful of vineyards and lunch. You’ll splurge some on these tours, but you’ll see the best the valley has to offer and you won’t have to worry about a designated driver. Another great way to see many wineries on a budget is to sign up for daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social. They often sell certificates for discount wine tours and tastings, especially in the slow season (AKA winter).

Photos of Jiko - The Cooking Place, Orlando
This photo of Jiko - The Cooking Place is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Orlando – Walt Disney World isn’t the only thing worth seeing in Florida. Of course, you can drink wine at Epcot, but you could also engage in some free wine tours and tastings at wineries like Lakeridge. Or try a futuristic experience with tasting machines at The Wine Room. Look to participate in wine tasting days that include wine and nibbles in the rate. Jiko at Disney’s Animal Kingdom lodge offers South African wines with fruit and cheese on Wednesday afternoons and Wednesday evenings at Urban Flats are set aside for wine and appetizers.

Photos of Niagara Vintage Wine Tours, Niagara-on-the-Lake

This photo of Niagara Vintage Wine Tours is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Ontario, Canada – Canada has figured out how to make tremendously good wine in their cool climate. The grapes develop complex flavor as they ripen slowly on the vine, making them perfect complements to food. The wine you taste in the region will be unlike any that you’ve tried elsewhere. All the wine-grape growers of Ontario are committed to sustainable winegrowing, using eco-friendly techniques. The grapes are cultivated using no pesticides or herbicides, while also conserving water and energy.

So, with these destinations in mind, you can choose your favorite, kick off your shoes and enjoy a glass – or many – of some delicious wine you probably had never had the chance to enjoy before. Trying local wines on your travels is a great way to learn about different wines from different parts of the world. See how it’s made, sample the various types of wine and go home relaxed and ready to start your year off right.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Super Useful Travel Links

Happy Friday everyone! I thought this week would never end, but the weekend is almost here. You won’t be shocked to know that with all the stress of the week, I have been thinking more than ever about getting out of Dodge. Unfortunately, I don’t have the budget for it, so I found some links to make your next week easier, more enjoyable and more affordable. Enjoy!

Photo credit
Ever wonder what happens to all the unused or partially-used bars of soap in hotel rooms if you don’t stick them in your travel bag before you leave? You might be surprised to know that something called the Global Soap Project exists and how they recycle hotel soap.

Photo credit
So, if you’re like me and hate LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), you’re in good company. The airport knows that travelers hate connections and layovers there and they have very low satisfaction ratings in all categories. In order to combat this and make the lives of travelers a little better and less stressful, they are implementing new volunteer program. In fact, it’s so good, I might even consider not rerouting my next flight to ANY OTHER AIRPORT. What is it? It’s dogs! Volunteers bring their dogs and walk the terminals for 2-hour shifts, visiting with travelers and letting them pet the dogs and restore the calm in their life. Read more about PUP here.

Those cutie therapy dogs aren’t just at LAX. They are doing the rounds in Boston, too. This isn’t travel-related, but it’s awesome, so I share. If you want to visit Beantown on a budget, check out my last post.

Photo credit
Next week, if you are also saving up for a big trip and also have time to get out for a day, make your way to your local national park, because it’s National Park Week and all the parks that require an entrance fee are totally free.

Photo credit
Everyone knows mini-bars are crazy expensive and most of us don’t even use them. I mean, I can get a whole meal for $12 and bring my own bottle of water to drink in my room. Some hotel chains realize that they are just losing money on mini-bars (I assume on having to replace expiring snacks and extra electricity used) and are going to do away with them. Soon, you may not be tempted by those miniscule packs of nuts and tiny bottles of scotch at 3am.

Photos of Boston Children's Museum, Boston
This photo of Boston Children's Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Summer is coming, which means soon, everywhere you go will be packed to the gills with tourists and locals alike. Want to find some neighborhood gems that have yet to be discovered but are still crazy good? USA Today brings you 10 Best Neighborhoods that Tourists Haven’t Found. Go now, before people read this article and make them the new trendy spots.

Photos of Selena Travel Mongolia Day tours, Ulaanbaatar

This photo of Selena Travel Mongolia Day tours is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Something you may not know about me is that I have always wanted to go to Mongolia. Maybe it’s because it seems so mysterious. Maybe it’s because I love Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Maybe I’m just interested in places where it’s so cold in the winter that you have to drink homemade vodka just to stay warm. In any case, Thrillist must have gotten in my head and they tell you some of the cool (awful?) parts of visiting Mongolia on a unique tour. It’s even budget-friendly, aside from airfare.

And I want to leave you with a little toot of my own horn. This week a local book review company gave my book, Shereen Travels Cheap, a pretty glowing review. Read it now on Night Owl Reviews.

Have you seen any interesting travel links lately? If so, I’d love for you to share them!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

We Heart You, Boston

This week has been a hard one for the fine people of Boston, as well as all the visitors who were running in or supporting the marathon. Bad things happen and we can only hope they get resolved and move on. I am sending good thoughts for the victims and their families and decided we should honor them and their city with a post on fun things to do in their fair city.

Photos of Fenway Park, Boston
This photo of Fenway Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Boston, Massachusetts is an overlooked seaside destination. It is chock full of restaurants serving clam chowdah, historical buildings and museums, but it also is home to Fenway Park, an awesome aquarium and the famous Cheers bar. 

Photos of New England Aquarium, Boston
This photo of New England Aquarium is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Save money on sightseeing with the Boston CityPASS. Valid for 9 days from first use and covers the top 5 Boston attractions for just $51 per person (adult). See the best of Boston with your pass and have plenty of time to do it in. There’s something for everyone and you save almost half off admission prices!
  • New England Aquarium        
  • Museum of Science 
  • Skywalk Observatory 
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 
  • Harvard Museum of Natural History OR The Old State House
Photos of Samuel Adams Brewery, Boston
This photo of Samuel Adams Brewery is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Like beer? Take the Samuel Adams Brewery Tour. At just a suggested donation of $2 per person, it's likely the most affordable tour you'll ever go on. Not only can you taste test some delicious brew, but you can watch the process of making beer from start to finish. Also awesome? Sam Adams doesn’t even need your money to run these tours, so your donation goes to local charities. You get to do something good and drink free beer! Arrive early, especially on Saturdays, because tours can fill up quickly.

If you didn’t rent a cah to pahk in Hahvad Yahd, you can take the T around town. That’s their subway system. It’s easy to use and even easier by using Urban Rail, which has printable maps and helpful tips and ways to use the rail system to get around. And when you aren’t in Boston, you can use it all over the world for public transport maps. Did I mention it’s free? 

Be your own tour guide with Stray Boots' treasure hunt tour games. Through clues and fun facts, you can see the city from a unique perspective. This is the perfect way to go on a tour without all the structure and it’s great for kids and adults alike. Each tour can last two to three hours, even more if you choose to spend more time at any of the stops along the way.

Photos of The Midtown Hotel, Boston
This photo of The Midtown Hotel is courtesy of TripAdvisor

If you need help finding a great vacation deal to Boston, then BookIt has you covered. Save even more with their 99-hour sale that ends on Friday at midnight (EST). Hotels have lower rates and may even include free activities and other extras and bonuses. Who doesn't want a sweet deal made even sweeter with things like free Wi-Fi and breakfast. So much extra savings!

What do you like most about Boston (or look forward to seeing the most when you visit)? 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Your Starter Travel Wardrobe

When you go on vacation, packing is often a step that people hate. I just think of it as a possibility to come up with a basic wardrobe that will get me through most any situation. You don't have to pack for Armageddon and bring everything you own with you. Think of it as packing as few necessities as possible, because you will also have to carry that closet with you. Now, you know I don't like to waste money, so my choices have to fit in a carry-on and any personal item sized bag I take with me. My rule is generally that all my clothes, accessories and no-liquid toiletries go into the carry-on and my electronics, snacks and 3-1-1 bag go in the smaller bag. Using this technique, my husband and I almost always get away with just two bags between the two of us. It's compact, it's easy to transport and we have everything we need. Since most people don't know where to start in packing a mostly-inclusive carry-on wardrobe, I have come up with a starting point for men and women. 


Starter travel wardrobe

You don't need to take every 50 outfits to look great every day. Instead, pack this:

  • Tank tops (2 or 3) which are perfect for layering or wearing alone.
  • A good pair of jeans with stretch in them, like these from James Jeans.
  • A nice pair of black pants. They don't show stains and can be dressed up for going out. I choose a pair of black James Jeans, because they can be casual or more formal and they are comfortable.
  • Comfortable tee shirts (again, 2 or 3). These can go with everything and also layered.
  • A cardigan or blazer. This can dress up an outfit or be used for layering and warmth.
  • A fleece or warm jacket.
  • Shorts. If you will be going to a warm climate, then 2 or 3 pair will work. If you're not, skip them.
  • A comfortable black dress. You should always have an LBD on hand, unless you're going hiking for 2 weeks. A travel wrap dress can be worn during the day or out to dinner.
  • Ballet flats. I know you want to wear your good heels when you go out, but a nice pair of flats will go with everything you packed and out dancing.
  • Walking or running shoes. Chances are you'll be doing a lot of walking on your trip. don't regret your choice in footwear by day 2.
  • Jewelry. This is not the time to break out your diamonds and other jewels. Pack a few statement pieces that can dress up your Plain Jane tanks and add a bit of luxe to to your dress.
Men's Starter Travel Wardrobe

Men have it easier when it comes to packing, and unlike women, they tend to wear 90% of what they bring, as opposed to only 20% women wear when they pack everything they want. It's nicer to pack more than just 2 pair of underwear and a tee though, so here's what should be in your carry-on.

  • A good pair of jeans with stretch. You wear them at home, so bring them with you on vacation and you'll always be comfortable.
  • Khakis. You can dress these up or down, so they work for checking out the Louvre, going to a Michelin-Starred restaurant, kicking back at the local pub or taking a walking tour of the city.
  • Tee shirts. If these are what you love wearing, grab 2 or 3 to toss in your bag. They are easy to pack and go with both pants.
  • Shorts. if your destination is somewhere warm, 2 or 3 pair will do you good. Make sure they are neutral colors or, if they aren't, will go with the shirts you bring.
  • A nice button-up dress shirt. You only need one, no matter how many times you're taking your lady out, because you probably aren't going to be seeing the same people and you are going to use the next item to mix it up.
  • Ties! These are the necklaces of the guy world. They take up little room and make a big statement. Bring at least 2 for a variety and you won't be sorry...unless you're going camping, in which case, it's not necessary.
  • A blazer. Can be used as an extra layer for chilly days or for a jacket at a nice restaurant or the theater. 
  • Walking or running shoes. Keep your feet happy with a comfortable pair of shoes.
  • Dress shoes. Obviously you can't wear trainers everywhere, but you can find loafers and other dress-like shoes that are also good for walking. Just look for them.
  • A hoodie, fleece or mid-weight jacket, because you never know when the temperatures might dip.
What I've left off this list, but always say there is room for, are flip flops. Always keep a pair in your carry-on, because they are nice for going to the lobby for continental breakfast, schlepping your laundry to the washing machines and also going to the pool or beach. They are a given and I suggest buying a pair that you just keep in your bag, so they are never forgotten. Trust me, I've learned that the hard way.

What are your must-have items on your trips?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Live and Learn: Los Angeles (Part 2)

Los Angeles is awesome. There are so many things to do in and around it, but people tend to get all riled up about how crowded it is that they can’t see how much there is to entertain you. I’ve probably made 15 trips to LA and Anaheim growing up (and grown up), so you would think that by now I’d have it all down. This last trip was the longest I’d ever been in SoCal and decided to do more than make a quick trip into Hollywood for a friend’s birthday. I did one thing right: this time I did a bit of research and started my visit to Hollywood on the Hollywood Blvd, where the action is. I did a lot of other things right, but even after so many vacations to LA, there is still stuff to learn. Last week I gave you my first 5 lessons, and this week I have a continuing list.

Take advantage of freebies at your lodging during downtime. Lesson number one, make sure you plan for downtime, or you will be crazy cranky from being go-go-go for days at a time. Eventually, it saps all your energy from only getting minimal rest. This is also why I like to travel in the fall. The weather doesn’t suck and attractions usually close earlier, making it easy to plan time to go back to your room and chill. Use that time to see what your accommodations have to offer, whether it’s the hot tub, exercise room, dining coupons, movies or other entertainment. We were lucky to get two free movie rentals, which we happily took advantage of while doing laundry and hanging out and relaxing. We also made sure to use the coupons available in the lobby, one of which netted us a free appetizer at Bubba Gump’s (which was only two blocks away).

You may need to use a fancy app to find out wait times at your favorite park rides or call and change a reservation. Whatever it is you need, it will be impossible if your phone is dead. Keep your mobile charged. While this seems like a no-brainer, it can be super-hard to keep your battery from draining in 10 minutes after taking videos of all the fake movie stars on Hollywood Blvd. Turn your background data off, keep your tweeting to a minimum, bring along your car charger or bring a backup battery, just in case. You never know when an emergency will occur, or you need to call to figure out why your attractions card doesn’t work.

Freak heat wave + outside activities = super uncomfortable. So, I always assume California will be warm, but when the temperatures soar over 90, I really don’t know what is happening. Once you get to the theme park and are standing in a barely-shaded line for an hour and you get totally sweaty, you can’t just leave and go back to your room and refresh. I wish I had thought to bring along deodorant wipes and wet naps. After 3 hours, I just felt like I had run 3 miles and then rolled around in dirt. Attractive! Those two things would have been a great addition to my bag…and will be for every vacation here on out, no matter where I’m going or what the weather is going to be.

Did you know it’s cheaper to park in Los Angeles than it is to park in Seattle? This is a good lesson learned, as I was able to park all day for $10. That is less than half the rate at even the cheapest parking garage in Seattle. I was shocked and thrilled, because it saved us a ton…at least on the one day we parked in the city.

So, despite what everyone says, there might be celebrities roaming Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive, but don’t expect to see any. I saw none the whole time I was there. Bummer. Not that I really thought I might see a ton, but something better than the wax figures at Madame Tussaud’s or fake Spiderman in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater. I think if you don’t hope to see anyone from TV, or don’t plan to take up residence in front of Louis Vuitton for the entire day, you should just assume you will see no one.

There’s something to be learned from every trip – some good and some bad – including the fact that I think it’s okay to hit up Weinerschnitzel for a quick meal (hello, pretzel bun!) and an extra camera battery needs to be in my bag or I will only get half a day’s worth of photos in before the first one dies. What are some of your must-remember lessons from past trips?  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Adventuress Travel Beauty Products

As a frequent traveler, it can sometimes be hard to figure out how to cut down on items to bring or find products that will stand up to the rigors of frequent temperature and humidity changes. You want to keep your skin looking great, even if it’s sensitive or acne-prone, like mine is. I am forever looking for a balance between natural products and those that have additives that will keep my skin issues in check. Adventuress products use the best ingredients found in nature to bring out the beauty in your skin.

I received the Adventuress sample tin and was super excited to try a bunch of products instead of just one or two. In the tin there are sample sizes of the skin cleanser, purifier, moisturizer, facial wipes and sunscreen wipes. If you want to test out their line, this is the best way to do it…and then when you buy the larger sizes, hang onto your little sample pots to take with you on your trips.

The first thing I noticed when I opened the facial products was that they were odorless. That’s really one of my pet peeves when it comes to stuff I’m going to put on my face, because a lot of beauty products have added smells and with that normally comes extra breakouts or the odor is way too perfume-y. I am not a fan. You can also see that they don’t have added color either.

Let’s talk about value. A little goes a long way with all three of these products. That means you get your money’s worth. You don’t need to use a ton of any of it to do the job and that is a plus. It means that little sample pot could easily last you two weeks on vacation and save room in your 3-1-1 bag for something you need more room for…or just travel lighter. Of course, all of their “full size” products are also perfectly suited for travel, too. All are 2 oz. or less, so you can easily pop them into your liquids bag or throw into your purse when you’re on the go.

What I think

Clockwise from top: cleanser, purifier, moisturizer
The Naturally Liberating Skin Cleanser is one of the loveliest cleansers you will use on your face. It is lightweight and fluffy and has the consistency of mousse. It clears away dirty while being gentle and silky on your skin. You don’t feel like you need to keep scrubbing your face with it and you genuinely feel like your face is squeaky clean. It uses Boswellian bark “tears” (read – sap) that is the best anti-irritant found to date and helps to calm down inflammations, like acne, and soothe sunburns.

In your beauty routine, you probably use a facial toner. Replace that with the Skin Purifier and you won’t miss it any. It uses quince seed to help your skin retain its moisture and is lightweight and invigorating as a base layer after cleansing.

Follow up your super clean, purified skin with a layer of moisturizer that will help the purifier do its job with the Boldly Nourishing Moisturizer that has antioxidants and more anti-irritants, plus super moisturizers like evening primrose. My skin soaked it right up and held onto the feeling of freshly moisturized skin all night when I used it in the evening and even kept my face from drying out during the day when I wore makeup over it, too. It is sufficiently thick for applications, but feels like your face is bare once you apply it to your skin. Imagine my surprise to know that it is also a great anti-aging moisturizer, because it improves your skin’s texture and reduces wrinkles and, because it’s full of amazing natural ingredients, if you use it a bunch of times during the day, it can only work better.

You know I hate having to pack a bottle of sunscreen and then chance it coming open mid-flight and spilling all over everything in my 3-1-1 bag. I don’t want to get to my destination and have to play clean-up crew, or scrape it off everything and either slather it on or figure out how to get it back in the container so it’s not a waste. The answer? Sunscreen Wipes! They are totally mess-free. Even easier? Ones that have a finger pocket to help you get an even application and keep it even less messy.

The Adventuress sunscreen is non-oily, odor-free and water-resistant. That means it’s as perfect to use on your legs as it is your face, plus it has 30 SPF. They are awesome for everyday use, but if you are going to the beach, you may need to use more than one for enough coverage - or invest in the travel pump of sunscreen. A box of wipes contains 24. Throw them in your day bag when traveling and never worry about being out of sunscreen or having a big soggy mess ever, no matter how much you toss your bag around.

Finally, you don't feel like you need to cut your facial wipe in half.
Ever feel like you just want to wash your face and crawl into bed after a long day of sightseeing or an endless flight? Yeah, me too. I am a sucker for those facial wipes, but not all of them are created equal. Try the Fearlessly Refreshing Facial Wipes and you may not look back. At half the dimensions of a typical facial wipe, they are just the right size and they are so cooling and pick up dirt you didn’t even know was there. I swiped one across my face after a shower and came away with a wipe covered in facial oils and grunge when I thought my face was clean.

It’s odorless and individually packaged, so also a great thing to toss into your bag, whether you’re going to the gym or spending the day at the zoo with the kids. You don’t have to just use it on your face, either. The hydrating wipe is biodegradable and would be nice and refreshing when out at a theme park on a hot day that makes you feel grimy and you don’t have time to go back to the hotel to clean up. I wish I had these on my last trip to Disney when an unforeseen heat wave made me feel covered in dirt after just being out for a few hours.

I’m so excited for Adventuress to now be part of my travel routine. I know it’s going to make my life a lot easier and keep my skin looking great even when the elements are trying to wreak havoc on it. It can do the same for you, whether you’re a business traveler, backpacker or just an active parent. Men as well as women can benefit from the ingredients that make up Adventuress products. They are high-quality and can still be owned for a fraction of the cost of similar name-brand items on the market. Start with the sample tin and, once you’re hooked, move up to the larger sized products. You’ll want to use them everywhere you go and at home.

More information
Where to buy: GoAdventuress Website
How much is it? $10-35
Important specs: Uses all-natural ingredients, all containers are travel-friendly

Want to know more about Adventuress? Check them out on their website, or find them on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Disclosure: I received a sample tin from Adventuress for the purposes of this review, but all opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Live and Learn: Los Angeles

It’s been a while since I’ve done a live and learn post. I like to think I’m getting closer to being a super-efficient traveler. While I packed even less this time and only didn’t wear one thing I packed (two if you count a Halloween costume), I still found that I learned quite a bit of stuff on my trip. Some is universal, some is specific to the Los Angeles/Anaheim area, but all may be helpful to you. It just proves, there’s always something to learn, no matter how experienced you are. This is true in life and in travel.

The least amount of clothes we've ever packed - almost perfect!

Everything takes longer than you think it will
This is especially true in the LA area. If you want to go anywhere around the city or to/from a nearby city (like Anaheim to Hollywood), give yourself a good two hours to get there. It may not take as long, but chances are there will be some sort of hold-up, like an accident, and you’ll be glad you left early. It took us 30 minutes to drive 2 miles in the city. We probably should have just walked.

Horrible picture of the Disney Symphony building
Don’t take a city tour at night
If I had known what sorts of cool stuff our tour guide was taking us to see, I would have opted to take a day tour of the city rather than the Los Angeles by Night one we went on. It was very cool – especially since we were the only ones on it – and the tour guide was amazingly knowledgeable, but it’s terrible trying to take pictures in the dark even when you aren’t in a moving coach. Read about mytour here.

I love these shoes, but they are a poor substitute for flip flops
It’s never a dumb idea to pack flip flops
So, I would think after a billion trips I would have learned by now that flip flops are always a good idea. Knowing that I was going to be spending 75% of my time in theme parks, I figured there was no point in packing these, but I was wrong. My feet hurt so badly one evening when we got back to our room that I took my walking shoes off and tried to put on a pair of walking flats I had in my bag. My feet had swollen so much they were more painful than the trainers. I planned to go downstairs to the gift shop for a pair of flip flops when I realized that I had packed a pair of foldable flats. They are great, because they aren’t structured, so they can feel like walking barefoot, but without getting the bottom of your feet icky. I wore those downstairs to buy a pair of flip flops.

This was just the line to get through security!
Get to the parks at least an hour before they open
We didn’t take our own advice and showed up right before opening on a Monday at California Adventure. The weather was unseasonably warm and the lines were longer than I’d ever seen them. Even the lady who checked my bag at the gate said it was like summer crowds and crazy. We ended up standing in two different lines to try to beat the odds, but still didn’t make it into the park until 30 minutes after it opened. Even if you’re visiting Disney during the week on the off-season, get there way before you think you need to. If there’s no line, you can always go grab a coffee at La Brea Bakery (or similar).

At least I didn't have to buy shorts, too!
Always bring a warm weather Halloween costume
I realize this is an odd problem for anyone to have. When we go to Disney, we often do it during the Fall and Halloweentime. We buy tickets to go the Halloween party and bring costumes to get into the spirit. As I said, it was crazy warm in Southern California when we went at the end of September. I had brought a sailor costume that had pants and long sleeves (and was polyester). I realized the days before the party that even at night, the temperature was not going to be cool enough for me to not die of heat stroke in my costume. We hit up Target, but their selection was miserable, so we ended up going to a local shop that had sports gear and I shelled out money for an Angels t-shirt and ball cap. It was unimaginative and used money I could have spent on something else, but at least I can re-wear it. It would have been smarter for me to have brought an outfit that was good for summer weather and a pair of tights to wear in case it was actually cold. Now I know!

There are more things I learned in my 11 days in the Anaheim/Los Angeles area, but we’ll save that for the next post. What useful things have you learned on your last trips that could help others when they travel?
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