Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Firsts in Orlando

From my last post, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studio, you might recall that my niece Journey is traveling with me. This Orlando trip is a series of firsts for my 10-year-old niece. 

Share her "journey" in the following pictures:

Our local friends picked us up at the airport and we stopped off at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp. It's about 30 minutes from the Orlando airport, a slice of cheesy tourist, but great fun. From catfish to gator, it's a greasy spoon with a swamp twist. The fun part, of course, is riding the airboat, for a tour of the swamp. We knew it would be good because as we waited several gators lurked in the waters below us. Journey's upclose look at gator is pictured left, and this alligator was none to happy with us interrupting his sleep. He even hissed at us before submerging in the waters.

After our gator sightings, how could we refuse Journey's need to see the ocean for the first time? Our fine escorts (thanks Bob & Rick) drove us another 30 minutes to Cocoa Beach for her first wade into the ocean. It was a busy Saturday night with a beach filled with college kids partying, a la tent-gating, but that didn't halt my niece's first ocean experience.

Sunday, we visited Disney's Magic Kingdom, another first for Journey, but more on that flip-flop adventure later.

Until next time,

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort

Wizarding World of Harry Potter
Photo: Courtesy of Universal Orlando Resort
I've waved my wand, cast my spell, and a hocus pocus minute later (well, actually tomorrow) I will be flying (sans broomstick) to Orlando to experience the spell-binding, Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort. The only way to really enjoy everything Universal is to bring along another set of eyes, so I've convinced my 10 year-old niece Journey to come along. Of course, she didn't need much convincing!

On the agenda is a stay on-site at  Universal Orlando® Resort. We'll be camping out for a few nights at Hard Rock Hotel®, one of three hotels within walking distance of both theme parks and CityWalk®. The other two hotels are Loews Portofino Bay Hotel and Loews Royal Pacific Resort.

As an on-site hotel guest, we get the advantage of skipping the regular lines at participating rides and attractions with FREE Universal Express access in both Universal Orlando theme parks. All it takes is flashing our hotel room key card at each express entrance.

During our visit, we'll also enjoy a guided tour of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and experience the theme park attraction Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Also on the agenda is a tasting of Butterbeer and pumpkin juice -- bet you're jealous now!

This is trip of many firsts for my niece Journey:
  • First airplane ride
  • First beach, palm tree & ocean sightings
  • First Orlando visit
  • First visit to Universal Studio
And I'm also hoping to include her first visit to Disney's Magic Kingdom.

Check back often here at TravelingInHeels.com and TravelingMom.com as I'm planning to update my blog each night, and Journey will be offering her kid's view too!

Until next time, Diana

Monday, August 16, 2010

Traveling solo, aka Eat Pray Love

 I grew up a solo traveler. As the oldest of 6, my itchy feet had as much to do with traveling as getting away from the noise of a big family. It was nothing for me to hit the road in my Ford Pinto and drive across Iowa, then ultimately to my home in Denver. Solo road trips continued into my adult years, although the Pinto is long gone, replaced by an SUV or a plane ticket as now I've segued into the international travels, including a recent amazing trip to Thailand.
"Buddha World" on the Island of Koh Samui in Thailand, Photo Diana Rowe
The book and film, "Eat, Pray, Love" has increased the acceptability of solo travel for women. But in all my solo travels, I really never felt alone. Part of the adventure of traveling is meeting other people, whether it's the locals or other travelers. Traveling on my own has opened up those possibilities even more. After all, when I'm traveling with my friends or family, my focus is on them, not always what's out there.

My visit to Thailand earlier this year included a stop on the island of Koh Samui. I actually was with a small group (2 other writers), but when they took off to do a several mile hike in the 100 plus degree heat, I passed. Instead I headed out on my own to the beach, rolled my towel out and proceeded to catch some island rays. While reclining, a group of young women (I believe from China) took an interest in me, probably because I was an American. They asked to take my picture, and each took turns posing with me for a picture. I then turned my camera on them. They didn't speak English; I didn't speak Chinese, but it was a fun moment with sign language and laughter. If I had been with a group or my family, I may have missed this opportunity.
Three women I met when sunning on the beach on an island near Koh Samui. Photo: Diana Rowe
Actually, solo travel is the inspiration of this blog, TravelingInHeels.com, because whether we're wearing our heels or flip-flops, when women travel, it opens up the world just a little wider.
Read more about Solo travel is increasingly popular among women

What's your favorite memory of solo travel? Comment below -- and comments are always welcome!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fee-Free weekend, National Parks, August 14-15

 Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park  Photo credit:  Diana Rowe 

Whether it’s the Rocky Mountain National Park, just a scoot away, or a major road trip to South Dakota
Badlands National Park, your motorcycle ride always gets better when you ride through a National Parks.  America’s Best Idea – the national parks – gets even better this year with several fee-free days at more than 100 national parks that usually charge entrance fees*. 

Mark your calendar for fee-free days this year: August 14-15, September 25, and November 11, 2010 (Veterans Day).

Colorado National Parks on the list are:  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (See picture above), Colorado National Monument, Dinosaur National Monument, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, Great Sand Dunes NP & Preserve National Park, Hovenweep National Monument, Mesa Verde National Park, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

For a complete list of the fee-free national parks, go to: http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparksbystate.htm

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Family friendly Golden Buffalo Bill's Days

PhotoCredit: Diana Rowe Kaydence's 1st Mutton Bustin' attempt 
Baby blue cotton candy, corn dogs swirled in mustard, fresh popped popcorn, twirling merry-go-rounds, chatter of carnies, cheers of crowds during demolition derby. Smell of 4H livestock – which I call the “smell of money.” With summer comes an abundance of county fairs and community gatherings. My first of many happy memories are of the Harrison County Fair in Missouri Valley, Iowa Summer is the best time to enjoy these festivals all across the country, including my own backyard at family friendly Golden Buffalo Bill's Days.

Yes, folks, hold on to your hats because the Harrison County Fair was THE biggest event in this small county. I saved my 25 cent allowance all summer too spend at this big all-day family and community event. From riding the merry-go-round to the sheer enjoyment of blue cotton candy and ring toss at the game section, it was a carnival but more than that with 4-H kids presenting their livestock and tractor pulls. 

The end of July in the nearby community of Golden, Colorado is another such gathering, Buffalo Bills Day. We made it a family event as my granddaughter participated in a time-honored tradition of Mutton Bustin’ – a rodeo event for kids ages 5-7, limited to 30-some participants. Instead of riding a bull for 8 seconds, kids wrap their arms around a sheep and hold on for dear life.  It’s a giggly fun event, and my granddaughter was very disappointed that she didn’t win the big prize. But she was quite proud of her trophy -- and we were proud of her too!

After the mutton bustin’, we walked along Clear Creek toward the rest of the festivities: car show, vendors, carnival rides, corn dogs and beer. What a fun afternoon! We finished off the day by kicking back and listening to the band – and dancing!  I look forward to returning with the family next year.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Pilots reject Mexicana Airlines proposal

According to travel journalist Jimm Budd 's e-newsletter, pilots have rejected a Mexicana Airlines proposal to either accept massive salary reductions or buy the debt-ridden company. Mexicana argues that its pilots earn far more than their colleagues at leading airlines in the United States and three or four times as much as do pilots at some other airlines in Mexico. Pilots respond that poor management has led to this crisis. They demand federal intervention. Mexicana was purchased a few years ago by a group headed by the Posadas de México hotel chain. It had been in receivership.

Mexicana owns only nine of the 62 jets in its fleet. There is speculation that owners will allow the company to crash and shift its routes to affiliates Mexicana Click and Mexicana Link. Or it may merge with Aeroméxico.

Used with permission from Jimm Budd.