Disneyland vs. Disney World

I just returned from several days in sunny California, exploring the original happiest place on earth with my Disney-loving third child. I encountered several people at church this morning and they all asked the same thing….”How is Disneyland different than Disney World?” It’s a difficult question to answer. In some ways, they are the same; in other ways, completely different.

difference-disneyland-disneyworld

Resort Size: To put this in perspective for you, Disney World covers over 25,000 acres. Disneyland is just 500 acres. As a result, Disneyland just has a more intimate feel to it. Obviously, it doesn’t take long to walk between different park areas and because Disneyland, California Adventures, and Downtown Disney are all connected by a promenade it’s easy to walk between the different areas throughout the day without wearing yourself out. We were in the parks for almost 3 full days and easily saw and rode everything we wanted to, sometimes twice!

difference-disneyland-disneyworld

A surprise visit from Donald Duck on Main Street, Disneyland

Character Meet & Greet: Because of Disney World’s size, character interactions have been regulated to waiting in line and posing for photographs. This does have its benefits if your child is set on meeting a particular character. Disneyland is much more spontaneous. You can be walking down Main Street and run into Donald Duck or Cruella Deville. This was always a fun surprise but also a bit frustrating if you happen to catch Mickey as he’s heading back to the clubhouse and is done with photos for the next hour.

 

Cast Members: Disney World attracts cast members (employees) from all over the world. This is partly due to their extensive college program which has US and International divisions. Cast members have their home city/country on their nametags and I’m always fascinated by the diversity among them. Disneyland, however, seems to pull their workforce from the local area for the most part. Almost every name tag I saw was a town in California. Cast members are almost always super helpful and anxious to help make your day magical!

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Monsters Inc., Disneyland

Rides: There’s been a lot of construction and renovation the last several years with the additions of Cars Land, Toy Story Land, Star Wars Land, and the updating of Fantasyland in Disney World that has changed the landscape, literally, of what rides you can find at each park. Rides seem to fall in three categories (which I just totally made up): twins, distant cousins, and no relation. There are multiple rides which are exactly the same in both resorts, too numerous to list, but the classic favorites seem to be similar both places. The main exception to this is Space Mountain. The Disneyland version has been updated to feature Star Wars and is hands down the winner. Disneyland also has some unique rides not available at Disney World like Monsters, Inc, and vice versa. Then there are the distant cousins that are essentially the same ride, but with different graphics and atmosphere: Radiator Springs Racers and Test Track or Indiana Jones and Dinosaur.

 

difference-disneyland-disneyworld

difference-disneyland-disneyworld

Pixar Play Parade, California Adventures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parades, Shows, and Fireworks: Each resort has their own entertainment offerings and you won’t find the same parade or fireworks show at any of the parks. Maybe it’s because it was new and different, but I loved the Paint the Night parade and Forever fireworks show in Disneyland. But, I also love Celebrate the Magic in Disney World. You really can’t go wrong with either. California seems to be heavier on the Pixar characters in their parades so if your kids are big Woody and Nemo fans, maybe that’s the right park for you.

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Paint the Night Parade, Disneyland

Hotels: Disneyland has 3 hotels; Disney World has 28. We stayed in Paradise Pier in the Disneyland Resort and I’ll be posting a review of it later this week.

Transportation: There is no Magical Express in California but there is a shuttle service to and from John Wayne airport in Orange County and Los Angeles International Airport. Unlike the Magical Express, it will cost you and, depending on how many are in your group, it might be cheaper to rent a car. Be sure to factor in the cost of parking at the hotel. If you are staying in a Disneyland Resort hotel, it’s $18/day for parking.

More confused than ever as to which park you should visit? Sorry, I couldn’t pick one over the other. They both have their own unique vibe and advantages and you should probably visit both to form your own opinion! I haven’t had the opportunity to visit any of the international locations yet. Maybe one day!

Leave a comment and tell me your favorite Disney park!

Yes, you can travel with diabetes

Diabetes is one of those diseases that is all consuming and travelling while managing your diabetes can seem overwhelming. It requires management 24/7, whether you’re type 1 or type 2. Taking care of ourselves is a never ending job and we sometimes fall victim to not wanting to venture out of our normal routine because we know that any little thing can upset the apple cart and cause problems that may take days to recover from.

I understand this mindset. I am a type 1 diabetic, but I’m determined to not let that stop me from experiencing amazing and wonderful things around the world through travelling. There are several things I’ve learned through my travels that help me stay healthy and feeling great throughout my trip.

travel-diabetes

Dealing with a time change. For insulin dependent diabetics, we also have the challenge of resetting our insulin needs be that through a pump or shots. I have an Omnipod pump with varying basal settings depending on the time of day. I leave my settings exactly the same until bedtime my first night in the new location. I then reset my pump to the new time. This allows my pump settings to be similar to my body clock settings and will help avoid a low blood sugar.

Decreased insulin for increased activity. Traveling usually means you’re moving more than normal. Any activity reduces the need for insulin, even pulling your suitcase through the airport. This is one I often forget in the rush of getting to the airport, checking in, going through security, etc. I also tend to walk a lot while I’m traveling. It’s my favorite way to explore a new city and get a feel for the heartbeat of the culture. On a day in Paris, I walked over 10 miles and didn’t require any insulin all day. Not even for meals.

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Test often. If you’ve changed time zones and have a different activity level than normal, you’re blood sugar readings are going to fluctuate. Test at least every two hours until you feel you’ve settled into a new rhythm in your new destination. Testing often allows you to deal with a high or a low before it becomes a critical situation.

 

Carry rescue sugar. I have no idea if ‘rescue sugar’ is a generally accepted term or not but at some point, that’s what we started calling it in our family. My kids knew they couldn’t eat the skittles out of mom’s purse because that was the ‘rescue sugar’. Keep something with a high sugar content with you at all times for any unexpected lows. Skittles, jelly beans, Mike & Ike’s, or even the glucose packets (blech) work well.

travel-diabetes

Experience new foods. One of the things I love about my travels is because I’m walking so much more (usually all day), I can eat things I would never eat at home, pizza and pasta in Italy or pastries in France. However, I am cautious when researching a destination to make sure that healthy foods are readily available. Most countries outside of America use local ingredients and real foods, making it easy to stay healthy while travelling.

I don’t have a medical background but I’m happy to share my experiences of managing my diabetes while I explore the world. Just leave a comment with your questions!

How to make a discount airline work for you: Review of Allegiant Air

Last week, I was standing in a very long line to check in for a flight from Tulsa to Orlando. It was taking forever because it seemed no one had ever flown before or at best, hadn’t read the fine print on how a discount airline works. At one point, the ticketing agent was on the phone with some guy’s mom explaining why he was needing to pay an extra $50 for an overweight bag.

I was texting my husband while waiting for what seemed like forever. We are both travel pros and honestly, we both have to work on our patience with those that might not be on a plane at least once a month. He reminded me that we needed those people to keep not reading all the rules so airlines like Allegiant can stay in business.

Allegiant Air review

Photo courtesy of Woody’s Aeroimages

I personally love that Allegiant flies direct to Orlando from my town. With any other airline, I would have to connect in Dallas or Houston and spend 8 hours getting there. Allegiant arrives in 2.5 hours and I typically pay about $60 each way.

The basic premise of discount airlines is they offer you a super cheap fare then make up for it with all of the add-ons. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up spending as much as with a legacy carrier like American.

Here are a few things to be aware of when flying a discount airline like Allegiant, Spirit or Frontier. Most of these tips will also apply to European discount carriers like Easy Jet and Ryan Air. You can avoid most of the add-on fees if you do your homework.

  1. Pay attention to which airport you are flying into. Discount airlines often utilize a more remote airport. My flights to “Orlando” are actually landing in Sanford, about 45 minutes from the Disney area and I know I’m going to have to rent a car. There is shuttle service available but the cost is about the same as a car rental. Be sure to calculate any additional transportation costs into your trip total when evaluating the overall savings.
  2. Read the luggage requirements. For Allegiant, checked bags are limited to 40 pounds. You can carry on one bag for free but there are size limits and technically you’re supposed to put it under the seat in front of you. On every flight I’ve taken, there has been room in the overhead that I’ve used but don’t bank on that. A backpack or tote bag will meet the requirements for the freebie.
  3. Pay bag fees in advance and share luggage. Allegiant charges half the fee when you reserve a bag more than 24 hours in advance of your flight. For the Orlando flight, it’s $25 each way or $50 each way at the airport. We will also share one large checked bag then each carry on our freebie so that we’re only paying one bag fee.
  4. Download the app. Allegiant charges $5 for each boarding pass printed at the airport. You can avoid this by downloading their app. You can check in through the app, get your boarding pass and check flight status.
  5. Skip priority boarding. It’s not worth an extra $10 or $15 to get on the plane first. You’re all going to the same place eventually.
  6. Don’t be picky about your seat. This is the one I think most people succumb to on the extra fees, but here’s the thing….you have to pay for the seat selection both ways. It’s not worth adding another $30 to your ticket price. When I’ve booked 2 tickets at once, we’ve been placed either in consecutive rows or in aisle seats next to each other. Don’t worry about this if you’re traveling with kids either. You have to enter the kids’ birthdates when purchasing the tickets so they will automatically put at least one parent with each kid. Trust me, no one wants to be in charge of your 3-yr-old on a flight but you.
  7. Just say no to all of the ‘specials’. After selecting your ticket, Allegiant’s site will cycle you through multiple screens to attempt to add on hotel, car, or entertainment tickets. I have never seen a good deal in these options. Just skip them and research those items separately.
  8. Pack snacks. There are no free drinks or snacks on Allegiant flights. No, not even a water bottle. We pack snacks in our carry on and either pick up a water bottle after security or pack an empty one to refill before boarding. There are snacks and drinks to purchase on board if you forget.
  9. Be prepared for delays. I have been fortunate and have not experienced a lot of delays with Allegiant; none more than an hour. The downside of a discount airline is they don’t have a large fleet so if one plane is down for maintenance or weather, it can have a trickle down effect to your flight since they have limited inventory to substitute.

I can deal with no frills to save a lot of money and in my case, also time. Since I have a daughter that lives in Orlando, I am a frequent Allegiant customer and am appreciative of the service they provide to my smaller airport. Just focus on how much you’re saving and the lack of a reclining seat or in-flight entertainment system won’t seem so important anymore.

Have you flown with a discount airline? Tell me about your experience in the comments!

 

 

What to Expect on Your First Trip to Europe

First time travelers to European countries often experience a bit of culture shock. I don’t know why you would assume that things will be the same in a foreign country halfway around the world, but people do. Doing a little research ahead of time will help you be prepared and hopefully enjoy all the ways we’re different from our neighbors across the Atlantic.

The point of traveling is to experience new cultures, foods, languages….to broaden our perspectives beyond what is normal in our everyday lives. Being flexible and accepting of the culture you are visiting will only enrich your experience.

Beginners guide to european travel

Restaurants

Coffee is King and Soda is not. For the most part, Europeans don’t drink soda, pop, or whatever you call it in your area. If you order a Coca Lite (Diet Coke), be ready to wear that “tourist” label loud and proud. There’s also no such thing as free refills on soda. The locals will have coffee for breakfast and wine with lunch and dinner, sometimes followed by an after dinner coffee. One French waiter actually gave me the stink eye (in a joking manner) for ordering Coca Lite at breakfast in a Parisian café. But I don’t like coffee, so what’s a girl to do?

Free water is almost non-existent. Tap water in most European countries is safe to drink, but that hasn’t always been the case. Typically, you’ll order water by the liter for the table, either still or sparkling. Some waiters will phrase this as “gas or no gas”.

what to expect on your first trip to europe

Mealtime is an occasion, and a late one. In America, we’re all about rushing through our meal and getting frustrated if the server hasn’t returned with our check in 5 minutes. You’ll enjoy your European experience more if you just leave those expectations at home. A meal in Europe is meant to be savored and enjoyed. There’s no rush and you’ll most likely need to ask for the check or ticket when you’re ready to leave.

Europeans also eat much later than we do. 8:30 or 9 pm is a typical dinner time. We tried to eat an early dinner one night in Rome since we had to leave for the airport at 4am the next morning. We walked forever trying to find a place that was open. We finally found a place at 7:30, it had just opened for the evening meal and we were the only ones in the whole restaurant.

No Ranch dressing. Salad dressings are not a thing in Europe, at least not in the parts I’ve visited. One of the things I love about European food, is it’s usually made with fresh, local ingredients. For salads, this means topping them with olive oil and vinegar in most cases.

Bathrooms

Public bathrooms aren’t free. Keep some change handy for those moments when you need a public restroom. Most are 1 Euro or less. I usually seize the opportunity to use restrooms in museums and restaurants, just like I used to tell my kids, whether I need to go or not. Most restrooms in the train stations are also paid. If you find yourself in a bind, you can usually pop into a café and buy a bottle of water and gain access to their restroom.

Beginners guide to europe travel

View from the top of the Eiffel Tower, Paris

Hotels

Americans, in general, have become accustomed to bigger is better with our McMansions and spa bathrooms. Unless you’re staying in a luxury hotel suite, expect the rooms to be small and the bathrooms to be smaller. We’ve had a few rooms where getting into and out of the shower was a bit of a challenge, even for me at 5’4” and not a lot of pounds. (You didn’t really think I was going to tell you how much I weigh, did you?)

Room options are a little different and it helps to know what you’re actually reserving. A single is one twin bed. A double is two twins pushed together, so king size. You can also request that the beds be separated. A triple is 3 twins that can be configured as a king and a twin, if needed. The hotel will usually contact you directly after you make your reservation to find out your preference.

You’ll need a converter for your electronic devices. You can find these easily on Amazon or in the luggage aisle at Walmart. If you have a phone and a camera or tablet you’ll want to charge in the evenings, it will probably be worth it to buy several converters.

Pay close attention to what amenities are available in your hotel room. Not all have hair dryers and I’ve never seen an iron and ironing board in a European hotel room. Most will not offer washcloths either. I do not understand this. Seriously, what do they wash their faces with? I pack several in my suitcase and take a Ziploc bag to put the used ones in.

Also be sure to check that the hotel has private in-room bathrooms and a lift (elevator) if this is important to you. Don’t assume as it’s not always the case.

Language

Beginners guide to europe travel

Duomo, Milan

Larger cities that are popular tourist destinations will commonly have English menus and signage. In smaller towns and villages, you’ll find less, if any, English speaking locals. Learning greetings, numbers, basic directions and food words can be extremely helpful and is appreciated by your host country. With that bit of language and a good game of charades, you can communicate pretty well with just about anyone.

European city names may not be the same as we are familiar with in America. When planning my first trip to Italy, I searched on the map forever for Naples before realizing that it is really Napoli. Be familiar with the local name for the cities you’re visiting. This will be helpful in reading maps and in train stations, especially.

Money

Notify your banks of your travel plans. I prefer to take a small amount of local currency with me (You can order this from your local bank. Order at least 2 weeks before your trip.) I use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees for most of my purchases. You can always use an ATM to get more cash if needed. Avoid using a currency exchange service.

Local hotel tax. The local hotel tax is most often not included in your room rate. Be prepared to pay this in cash at checkout.

Taxis. If you are planning to use a taxi to get to the airport or train station, have your hotel arrange this for you. Confirm with the driver the rate and if he/she accepts credit cards before getting in. I got in a bit of a bind in Rome because the driver didn’t want to take my credit card and only wanted cash, even though he had a credit card machine in the front seat. He tried to tell me it didn’t work but when I had no other method to pay him, it magically started working again.

Leave a comment if you have questions about your trip not answered here.

Are museum passes a good deal?

Most major tourist destinations offer some type of museum or city pass that supposedly saves you money. But, do they really?

As you’re researching your destination, make a list of your “must sees” and the entry fee. Note: if you’re using a travel guide book, I recommend going directly to the attraction’s website to get admission fees. It’s not uncommon for a price increase to have occurred after the book’s publication and this can affect your overall savings.

After you total up your must sees, compare that to the city or museum pass price. Be sure to read the details….how many days is the pass good for, does it offer free admission to all sites or free to some and discounted for others. If the pass is about the same price or less than your must see admission prices, obviously it’s a good deal. Are museum passes worth the money

What if the pass is still more than your total? You might think you need to pass on the pass, but wait! There’s more to consider. One of the major benefits of a pass is that you become an instant celebrity at all of the participating pass attractions. Okay, not really, but you do gain special access through a line just for pass holders in most cases, and you’re going to feel like a rock star when you’re walking past all of the people who have been standing in line for an hour and a half waiting to get into the Louvre.

paris museum pass

Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

On a recent Paris trip, I purchased a 2-day museum pass for 42 Euros. I visited 5 museums so I probably only saved about 5 Euros. But, I was on a tight schedule and I’m guessing I saved about 2 hours of standing in line. Definitely worth more than a few Euros!

Another benefit of having a pass is you’ll be more open to popping in museums or attractions you might not have visited otherwise. In Florence, there were quite a few smaller museums that I wouldn’t have visited if I’d had to pay 8 euros or so to get into each one. Because I had a pass, I could stop in for a few minutes and if I was intrigued, stay a while to explore.

So do your homework and a little research and you’ll be able to make the right purchasing decision for your travel goals. I’ve visited the same cities and bought a pass for one trip and not for the next, and both were the right decision…for that particular trip.