Disney in December (part 2 finally)

Our family took a second trip to Disney World in early December to have our kids see the parks decorated for Christmas. The wife and I had previously been to Disney around Christmas when we lived in Florida around 1999 before we had kids. However, as the trip got closer, more events got canceled. The huge gingerbread houses, as well as the Disney Vacation Club party, were both canceled. My wife kind of felt like everything blew up in her face, but we were only going down for 4 days, and it was a nice treat to top off the holidays. We went down in early December, and the kids were still in school, so taking their laptops was a must. We were only down there for four days but our kids were going to attend classes remotely on both the first and last day.

Bay Lake Tower is situated in an unbelievable location

 Like I mentioned before we are DVC members and our home resort is Animal Kingdom Lodge. So we usually stay there but we’ve stayed at Polynesian, Saratoga Springs, Caribbean Beach, Grand Floridian (on honeymoon), All-Stars Sports, Wilderness Lodge (awesome), Beach Club, and before we owned DVC we used to stay at Disney’s French Quarter and we’ve even stayed at Shades of Green with my Father-in-Law being a former veteran. (Contact my wife for details on Shades of Green). For the first time in several years, we stayed at a resort we had never stayed at before- Bay Lake Towers next to the Contemporary Hotel on the monorail line and across the street from Magic Kingdom. The room was really nice with a modern flair, nothing too outrageous.  

On the first day, the kids stayed in the hotel room for school until 12:30 pm. The wife and I went to breakfast at the restaurant next to Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary. After we finished our breakfast, we brought back breakfast for the kids and then promptly left for the bus depot to catch the bus to Disney Springs. I don’t remember all the details, but I specifically remember we waited an hour for the bus to Disney Springs. There was a mixup with the time that left us with a little over an hour before Laurie and I had to head back to the hotel. We only had time to shop a little and then promptly head back. We stopped at the excellent Parisian bakery, Amorettes, and one of my wife’s favorite stores, Vera Bradley.  I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures of Amorette’s pastries as they are a sight to behold. Amazing pastries with alcoholic beverages and a great coffee bar as well, right in Disney Springs.

Epcot opened up the latest of all the parks, so we collected the kids and headed out to Epcot. We ate lunch at our usual place, the Mexican outdoor restaurant at the Mexican pavilion. The wife and I ate there, but Epcot also had a smaller version of the Food and Wine festival going on. So Laurie and I ate as we walked around as well. Because of social distancing guidelines, only specific tables you were allowed to sit at. So trying to find a table was challenging. We had to walk out of the Mexican pavilion and across the bridge to a stand-up table.  

After lunch, we took our time walking around, having our pictures taken (with masks on), and eating and shopping. The kids, I think, were having a great time. We had reservations at Via Napoli in the Italy pavilion. There weren’t any dining plans available at this time, so we were paying out of pocket.  

Great insider info coming at ya:  We have the Chase Disney rewards credit cards. We rack up enough points to use those points like cash for food and souvenirs. We also buy Disney gift cards in bulk from BJ’s Wholesale Club when they are on sale. Between the two, we try not to charge anything extra. We invariably charge some things but going to Disney is an inexpensive venture for us. We priced out going to say… Denver, where we used to live, would be something like $5k for the four of us for a week. Yikes!!! It’s cheaper to go to Disney mainly because we are DVC members and pay for no hotel, and we don’t rent a car either.   

The next day we journeyed to Animal Kingdom and got there early. All of us were standing in a line waiting to be photographed just over the bridge, whereby the massive tree is the backdrop. There was one couple in front of us, and I noticed them when the guy gets down on one knee and proposes to his girlfriend. Everyone around claps and cheers and that was pretty amazing to see. We didn’t stay in the park all day as Animal Kingdom is a small park, and we do it all reasonably shortly. That night we had reservations at the Wave Restaurant inside the Contemporary Resort. Wow! The food was incredible. Check out the pictures below.  

My wife normally doesn’t get on rides but she rode Space Mountain this time

The next day we went to Magic Kingdom, usually not my favorite place to go. It’s always very crowded, but this trip was the exception. Park capacity was capped at 35% if I remember correctly. I hate to say it, but the park was more than tolerable. We had a great time, got to see some shorter parades, and the place was dressed up as usual with the towering Christmas tree at the beginning of Main Street. We stayed until the park closed, which my son always wants to do, but his mother and I hate doing it because of one reason or another. The pictures at nighttime were spectacular. True story as we were leaving, my wife wanted to get a shot from the Disney photographer in front of the castle. I was annoyed as usual, but I stopped. At this point, it started raining and was right at 9 pm when the park was due to close. The photographer popped off several shots, and below you will see the result. I think the results speak for themselves.  

I think night shots are my favorite photos

All in all we had a great time, as usual, with lots of memories for a screwed-up year but we made the most of it. Some people think we were a little nuts for going down there but I believe that it was more of a mental health break that we desperately needed. That last photo that was taken was incredible. We had it made into an 8×10 canvas that we hung in our foyer. Just an FYI for our own knowledge we wound up getting tested when we got back for the virus and we all tested negative- both times.

It’s already April 1st here in New Jersey and we are looking forward to the summer. Although my wife is the ONLY one with plans to travel this year (In December to Disney with her mother) I can’t wait to get out from under this cloud called Coronavirus. We have possibly big plans for 2022 but nothing I’m ready to share as of yet. On a personal note, I’m getting the vaccine 1st shot on Monday the 5th. Most of the extended family has gotten the 2nd shot already and we’re waiting to see about the kids. My son has severe food allergies so I’m not sure he’s getting it at all. Till next time take care of yourselves and each other. If anyone is interested in planning a Disney Vacation or just has any questions, you can submit your questions in the comment form below or contact my wife directly at lvanzant4@yahoo.com.

Walt Disney World 2020

kissing under mistletoe

My wife and I were seeking some normalcy in a world spun out of control. But I wasn’t sure we would get it in my wife’s happy place, Walt Disney World, where there were strict guidelines in place and caps on how many guests could enter the parks. At least we were leaving New Jersey for a while, and I think that’s what we all needed. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I traveled to Australia in February before the coronavirus spread everywhere, but my wife was housebound from late February on till May or June. She has a compromised immune system, so she has to be very careful. In a typical year, we travel 2 to 3 times out of state. In a disaster of a year, the only trip we took this summer was down to Cape May, NJ.

There definitely was a different vibe to Disney World

We were set to go twice in 2020, during Halloween and a second time just before Christmas. My wife wanted to see it decorated for Christmas, including gingerbread houses and all the beautiful Christmas trees. Unfortunately, due to social distancing, Disney decided to cancel the gingerbread houses and all of the parties for both Halloween and Christmas including the Disney Vacation Club (DVC) parties. 

Our kids had the first week of November off for a teacher’s convention starting just before Halloween. So the first trip, the kids would miss no school days, and on the second trip, they were missing two days, but they were remote days. Quick explanation: In New Jersey, during the pandemic, our kids were going to school Tuesdays, Thursdays, and every other Friday. The rest of the time was remote learning. On a side note, most parents don’t give a damn if their kids miss school days, but we do. Our kids are both in accelerated programs such as honors and A.P., and it’s challenging to make up lost days- especially this school year.

As for me, I’m not allowed to request vacation time for the holidays because I work in retail. However, this year at the behest of my wife, I asked to take off 6 days in a row during two weeks in early December. My immediate boss and the head of H.R. said ‘yes.’ Everything just kinda fell into place. Since I started working in retail in late 2008, we have never been able to vacation for the holidays.  

Disney was limiting the parks to 25% capacity 

On our first trip, we arrived at Kidani Village at Animal Kingdom Lodge just after dinnertime on a balmy Florida night. We had groceries delivered to our room via DIZZY DOLPHIN, a company that goes grocery shopping for you and delivers to your resort. We’ve used Dizzy Dolphin many times, never had a problem, and had impeccable customer service. 

Kidani Village is the smaller of the two resorts located inside Animal Kingdom Lodge. The other resort, Jambo House, was closed except for one floor. The only gift shop and restaurant, Sanaa, was open, thankfully, in Kidani Village. Disney World was limiting guests to 25 % capacity in the parks when we traveled for the first time. To give you an idea about the parks, not all of the restaurants were open, and even some resorts were closed for refurbishment- Polynesian Village. Overall, it was a very different experience, but we were happy to be there. My wife who makes all the reservations and plans booked us a two-bedroom room in Animal Kingdom. It was amazing, the kids each had their own bed and we were in a separate area of the room. (below you can see how big the balcony was). Facemasks were required throughout Disney property, except in the pool, and while eating WHILE you are seated.

The First trip Oct 29th to November 4

The first three days, we Uber’d it and went to Universal Studios, which was more than fine with me. My wife found a buy 2 days, get 2 days free ticket to Universal. This means we planned only 3 days in Universal, 1 pool day, and 2 days in Disney. I did a little research on a new roller coaster at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Check out this long but very informative video about Hagrid’s motorbike adventure. I couldn’t wait to ride this, so when they let us in the park, the kids and I ran to this roller coaster along with everyone else. It was absolutely the most unique roller coaster the kids and I had ever ridden on. On the second day, when we rode this roller coaster, we did get stuck for several minutes, but it was all good. We got to explore Universal and see every nook and cranny. It seemed to me that all the restaurants and gift shops were open, unlike Disney. Universal capped the crowd, but we’re not sure what percentage because it was a lot more crowded than Disney. It seemed business as usual or close to it. We were afraid we wouldn’t get in if we got at the entrance too late, so we made sure we were early each day. On Halloween, we were extra early because the crowds were extra thick. Some people dressed up, but it wasn’t the majority.

The lines at Universal were relatively long, but nothing too crazy except for butterbeer and the train line

The first two days in Universal, we first raced to Hagrid’s motorbike adventure first thing, then kinda took our time the rest of the day. The lines were relatively long, but nothing too crazy except for butterbeer and the train line to get back and forth between the Harry Potter lands. The latter had a line over an hour wait each time we took it. The last time we exited the park and walked to the other side. 

So it wasn’t until the 3rd day the Saccamano’s came down to Florida and stayed in Kidani Village with us (different room). Because we own Disney Vacation Club (not sure if I’ve mentioned that before), we had enough points to get a room for the four of us and also for the Saccamano’s. Their two kids are roughly the same age as our two kids, and we’ve been on vacation with them several times before. Once to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. and once on a Disney cruise to the Bahamas. We’ve always gotten along with them well and had a blast both times. I think we even did a Royal Caribbean cruise up to Boston too.

I remember this night vividly because it poured (in buckets) down rain for over an hour.

On the third day, we were set to meet the Saccamano’s for dinner. We wound up going to Paradiso 37 in Disney Springs. Mainly because that was the only restaurant that would take reservations for eight people on short notice. However, we were pleasantly surprised that the food had a South American/ Latin flair and was really good. Our waiter, from North Africa, was fantastic. I apologize I don’t remember his name, but I would recommend him to anyone. I remember this night vividly because it poured (in buckets) down rain for over an hour. It waited to start until we sat down for dinner, and it let up and almost stopped right before we left the restaurant. Our fourth day was pool day. It was cool, but we still had a good time because the sun was out, and it still felt warm. I noticed throughout the day there was a north wind, though, and it continued through the evening. When we went to our reservations for dinner at Raglan Road at Disney Springs it was freezing. The wind was blowing 15 to 20 mph out of the north, and the temperature dropped to the low 60’s. I brought a sweatshirt but quickly had to relinquish it to my daughter because she didn’t bring hers. Several others bought sweatshirts- that’s how cold it was.

Although I’ve never stepped foot in an Irish pub

To make matters worse, the restaurant lost our reservations, so we had to make new ones, and we wound up waiting outdoors a little over an hour to get inside. Raglan Road has been a favorite of our family’s for several years. They have live music with heavy wooden paneling, old wooden floors, and an excellent job making it feel like an Irish Pub. Although I’ve never stepped foot in an Irish pub, I’ve been to an English pub at Picadilly Circus in London, though.

The Saccamano’s like to ‘wing it’ when it comes to their vacations. They did not purchase tickets to get into the Disney parks, so they had two pool days, and then we met them for dinner both nights. The second night with the Saccamano’s, we decided to have Italian dinner after Tina didn’t care for the Irish pub and had a couple of mediocre lunches. Our friends are what you call foodies, and I guess I am too but African food, such as what they serve at Animal Kingdom Lodge, is a particular type of food. You really have to love their spices and flavors; cinnamon, curry, chilies, peppers, garlic, and cumin, to name a few. The kids don’t like it, the Saccamano’s didn’t really like it, and my wife and I are the only ones that want it.  

So Italian was on for the second night. Macaroni Grill was on the menu with their fantastic rosemary bread before the meal with olive oil for dipping. My wife and I still remember their bread even though we hadn’t eaten it since Colorado in the ’90s. We Uber’d it to the restaurant in two different cars. I was surprised to see that the restaurant mandated masks to be worn since the State of Florida had just gone into Phase 3, which meant no restrictions. Everyone was satisfied with dinner, so we decided to head back to the hotel even though we wanted to stay out later. I think everyone was a little sleepy from dinner. I had received a $5 coupon from Lyft that I could use via email, so I decided to use Lyft instead of Uber to ride back to Animal Kingdom Lodge. We always have this game when we go out to eat with the Saccamano’s. At the end of the meal, when we receive the check, we always compare bills. They have almost always spent more on their meal than we do. It’s a running joke now. Again, their kids are a tiny bit older than ours, and their son eats like a horse, but it’s still funny.  

On our last day at Disney, we gave our room to the Saccamano’s after we left for Hollywood Studios. They had to check out of their room and were not getting picked up by the Magical Express until late that afternoon and then going on a night flight. We didn’t leave until the following morning on a Delta flight back to JFK.  On a sobering note the airport, JFK, we flew in and out of was deserted. It was a little scary I haven’t seen airports and airplanes that empty since we flew a week after September 11, 2001.

2020 was an atrocious year, but in some ways, it makes you reflect on what you’re grateful for

Overall the trip was amazing. We got to do so many things and made some memories at the same time. I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing what we did per se, but I don’t regret it, and I know we needed to get back to doing what we love doing. Life is not without risk and to live your life without taking risks is not living life to the fullest. We had taken massive precautions all year. My wife wearing a mask well before masks were even THOUGHT of being mandated. She started wearing them in October 2019.

2020 was an atrocious year, but in some ways, it makes you reflect on what you’re grateful for. I’m thankful for the fantastic opportunities we have as a family and the memories we have made. Hopefully, the kids will always remember these vacations and the people we shared them with.

Stay tuned for my second blog post about our trip to Disney in December.

Merry Christmas from MY neighborhood

All I want for Christmas is good health for the coming year for all of my family and everyone worldwide. I think everyone is looking back on 2020 and trying to put into perspective what transpired this year. They can’t believe what we’ve been through and are still going through. My heart goes out to all the Doctors and Nurses that have endured ungodly long hours and days upon days of working under war-like conditions. If you think I’m exaggerating, please read this article that I came across the other day. This article should be required reading for everyone.

Sometimes the best getaway is home

I recently heard from several of my friends who lost loved ones. I feel like no one escaped from being profoundly affected by this virus this year. On the flip side, at the beginning of the virus, my neighbor across the street, Bob, came down with coronavirus and became housebound for several weeks. He had previously lost his wife to cancer several years ago, so he had no one that lived nearby. His girlfriend, Marta, was 60 plus miles away. I wound up buying him groceries several times. I got paid back with many; many thank you’s from Bob and Marta, and as I write this blog, they dropped by to give us a bottle of wine and a gift for our two kids. I am really taken aback and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for everyone around me and my local community. Without going into in-depth detail, the street I live on is remarkable, to say the least. Our good friends and neighbors, whom we vacation with at least once a year, dropped off Italian cookies and a HUGE gift basket on Christmas Eve. My wife and I were blown away by how generous and sweet it was. It’s not just the gifts; it’s the WAY you are treated on this block. Like everyone is family. And when I mean family, I mean better than family.
I have a great extended family, my in-laws, but the friends on this block are special to my wife and me. They take the time and get to know you and care about you. We’ve been to funerals, parties with DJs and waterslides where the street was blocked off, bachelorette parties, and so on. We’ve traveled several times with our good friends and neighbors, the Saccamanos. We went on several cruises and one trip to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, for a chillax vacation. They have two kids that are roughly the same ages as our two kids. The adults still reminisce about that Ft. Lauderdale vacation. Nothing was planned, but he all had a blast and made life long memories with each other. That never would’ve happened if we never moved to this block in a little town in South Jersey.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

As much as I love to travel I did have a fantastic trip to the backyard earlier this summer which I did NOT blog about. This July my son and I were supposed to go to Colorado with the Boy Scouts for a week to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Because of coronavirus the Park was closed and the trip was canceled. I originally was a little nervous about having a week off and staying home the whole time. But I was pleasantly surprised by how relaxing and how much I enjoyed it for a change. I’m not sure how many times I’m going to take a week off and not go anywhere (probably never), but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

During the coronavirus we have traveled to Cape May, New Jersey and to Disney World twice. We visited Disney World for Halloween and again for Christmas in early December. I’ll eventually write a blog about our most recent trip but I’ll include some pictures of our last trip below.

Travel bug bitten you recently?

leather bag with passport

Have you been couped for too long? Wanting to get away? Maybe you’ve taken a short, regional trip somewhere, but it didn’t satisfy your travel urges? Perhaps you got your travel urges satisfied by traveling earlier this summer? Judging by my most recent trip out of state, I’m going to say almost everyone is either driving or staying close, very close to home. Traveling during the pandemic is a bit tricky and not for everyone.

you can start your own online business, make real money, and not be tied to any geographical location


So while we’re all getting ready to be locked down again here in the States, this would be a great time to plan out your next vacation. Better yet, plan out your next several vacations. Not enough time, not enough money? I may have a solution for you.
Have you ever dreamed of owning your own business? Yeah, me neither. Owning your own business comes with loads of responsibility and usually ties you down, not free up your time. However, the opportunity I discovered last year, you can start your own online business, make real money, and not be tied to any geographical location. The best part is being a part of an AMAZING community! You don’t have to do it alone, and if you try to do it alone, you’re a fool.
If it’s passive income you are looking for or replacing your income in its entirety, it’s doable. I personally know three individuals making five figures a month! If you want to skip more selling points and learn more from my mentor Stuart Ross, just click on the link below.

http://learninternet.marketing/proven-steps?id=Leno03&t=11282020_specialoffer

I’ll give you an example of what’s possible. An associate that is part of the community in the U.K. is in the military. He set up his online business and went away for active duty for eight months! He was able to make money the entire time! That is an extreme case, but it gives you the idea that you don’t have to be tied down. I believe in the system and community so much that I would be willing to provide you with unlimited access to me if you take advantage of my offer through this post. Usually, I would set up a calendar to schedule a call if any questions or problems came up, but in this instance, I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.

Are you living your best life?

You have to ask yourself, are you living your best life?. Do you feel fulfilled by what you are doing? It’s about finding out what’s important to you and figuring out how to live that way while still being in integrity with yourself. I know plenty of wealthy people, but some of them are miserable people and a few who are just not very good human beings.

My passion is traveling, and one of my goals in life is to get as many people as I possibly can to travel outside their own country and get out of their comfort zone. Join me on my journey through this wonderful thing called life, and make it your best life.

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If you must travel during a Pandemic

It’s far from ideal to travel during a pandemic. Your doctor will not give you the green light to do it, nor is the U.S. State Department or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Global COVID-19 Pandemic Notice.

However, the urge to leave your house is an urge that cannot be ignored for long for some people. I have the wanderlust bug ever since I can remember. This year has not been kind to anyone, but those of us who love to travel have been especially hard.  

If you absolutely must travel and are committed to social distancing and mask-wearing, it’s possible to lessen COVID-19 risks during travel.  

Driving is the preferred method and avoids public spaces, but here are some guidelines to help you with if you must fly. The crowded security and boarding areas are more of a concern than the planes themselves, given HEPA filters that capture 99 percent of microbes and the new electrostatic disinfection. You are better off making sure you are 6 feet from everyone at all times instead of freaking out about being stuck in the middle seat. Everyone on the plane must wear a mask.  

When you leave home, use a mask over both the nose and mouth, stay six feet from other people. Use that mask correctly. “I see many well-meaning people wearing masks or face coverings improperly, with the nose exposed,” says Dr. Joyce Sanchez, an infectious disease specialist and medical director of the Travel Health Clinic at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. “Since droplets are spread by both the mouth and nose, they should both be covered.”

  It’s being close to other people, not moving from place to place, which is the most dangerous. “Of all the precautions you can take while out in public or traveling, maintaining physical distance from others outside of your household is still the most important to curtail the spread of COVID-19,” says Sanchez. So imagine you’re in a zombie movie, but refrain from running away from others and screaming.  

You might think avoiding restrooms are a must, but peeing on the side of the road is illegal in all 50 states and also contributes to some rather nasty diseases. If the restroom is busy, wait outside if possible, again congregating amongst your fellow humans in a poorly ventilated space is the fastest way to contract this virus.  

 Hotel lovers need not despair; a traveler committed to masks and remaining six feet from others is likely to be okay, regardless of the accommodation. Do not stress if your hotel doesn’t have keyless entry. You will need to touch the door handle to get into your room anyhow. Just wash your hands (and your key card) once you’re inside. More critical: avoiding packed elevators and ensuring your hotel has a plexiglass barrier between you and reception staff and that guests are not crowding each other during check-in or check-out.

It doesn’t matter whether a hotel is a chain motel/hotel or a boutique inn.  Marriott and Hilton just announced they’ll require masks in public areas; Hyatt already requires them in the U.S. and Canada. Also, look for employers that provide employees pandemic support—training, PPE equipment, sick leave, and fair compensation, which translate into a safer environment for everyone.

girl eating breakfast

Eating out in my home state of New Jersey has been restricted to outdoors only with social distancing guidelines enforced. This has been the case since late March. Not all states in the U.S. are enforcing these guidelines, although that is changing as of recent.  

Be sure to find out if your healthcare plan or travel insurance even covers COVID 19-related costs. Traveling is no longer as simple as booking a hotel and a flight. Travel, by its very nature, has risks. If the stress of travel outweighs the benefits, you need to question whether you should travel. Also, don’t put all your faith in a negative COVID-19 test or fever checks. While they can help prevent viral transmission on the road, they can also give you a false sense of security.

Temperature checks are becoming the norm in airports and theme parks and even some hotels and restaurants. However, people with non-transmissible illnesses can run a temp, and many infectious COVID-19 patients do not have a fever—or any symptoms. Relying on fever as an indicator of COVID-19 in and of itself is not sufficient, they are a tool that can be used to protect symptomatic individuals from infecting others.

On a personal note my family is traveling to Florida around Halloween for roughly 6 days and we are thinking about leaving the state again in early December. In our case the mental health aspect outweighs the risks. My wife and kids have been cooped up in New Jersey since November of last year. Normally we travel 3 to 4 times a year out of state. So we are long overdue. I was lucky enough to travel to Australia in February of this year just before the travel restrictions took place so I’m in a different boat than the rest of my family. Don’t get me wrong I’m ready to get out of town too, but I was able to have an amazing trip earlier this year. Check out my Youtube channel for several videos I took while in Australia.

What are your thoughts on traveling during this pandemic?