Jamba House at the Animal Kingdom Lodge

This year the family and I decided to change things up for new years by spending it at Disney. Normally I would burn a ton of points staying at a Starwood or Hilton but in honor of changing things up we decided to actually stay at a Disney property this tme. We chose to go with the Animal Kingdom Lodge so that my daughter could see the animals every day when she woke up and when we came back from the parks.

We ended up getting a 1 bedroom suite upgrade while we were there and had a god view of the man made savannah that Disney built for their habitat. I would saw almost every day we were able to see Giraffes and Zebra’s from our balcony and a few times we saw the Ostriches waling about and eating grass. There was supposed to be this great place at the hotel where we should have been able to see lots of animals but we were able to see more of them from our room.

One of the cooler things that was available was the use of our Magic Bands that Disney has been rolling out. It was connected to our room account so it was easy to buy food and everything else at the park and at Jamba House. With every Disney visit I always come home with at least a t-shirt or some other trinket.

We ate at Boma for one of our meals which was their buffet restaurant. I had generous helpings of Jungle Juice (its passion fruit, guava juice and orange juice). It was your normal breakfast fare but they added a little spice to their food to make it more like African cuisine.

Overall it was a fu experience and the convenience of staying on property was awesome especially when it came to going to the parks using the provided buses. I have a massive amount of points to burn so I’ll be staying off property on my next adventure but I’d do it again at another Disney resort in the future.

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It’s going to be a busy summer

Over the last year I have hoarded a lot of my vacation time. I’m expecting a nasty gram probably next month from the HR system at work saying that I need to take some vacation time since I’m almost maxed out for the year. Have no fear HR automated system, my vacations have been booked for the summer!

So far I have a trip scheduled for May, July, and August and I’m taking little chunks here and there and not full weeks so I can save a little time for when I want to take a really big trip next year.

Being the Disney fan that I am (and having an annual pass doesn’t hurt either) I will be heading to the House of Mouse sometime in May to celebrate my 8th wedding anniversary with the family. It’s only been a few months since I’ve been there but it’s always nice to go back once in a while and doing it off peak is key to getting on the good rides.

July is reserved for a cruise to the Bahamas. I’ll be going on Norwegian Cruises which I have never taken before but I’m hoping that they will be better than the “Fun Ships” that I have taken in the past. I’m supposedly making two different stops which I have never done before. Most of the time I just stop at Paradise Island and head over to Atlantis because I love their lazy river. The cabin has a port hole too according to my reservation so I will know when it’s morning instead of waking up to complete darkness.

August I’m going to the Bay Area for my friend Kim’s wedding. I’ve worked in the Bay Area since I had two clients out that way but I never had free time or got out of work early enough to actually explore the area. I’m making her wedding into a mini trip to see a little bit of the Bay Area, stuff myself silly, and visit the Sonoma Valley (I don’t drink wine so I’m not all that interested in seeing Napa).

I definitely excited for the summer since I have so many things planned, it should break up my travel schedule quite nicely for work so I’m not all burned out. Now I just have to wait until the summer gets here 🙂

So close to 1,000,000 HHonors Points!

I’ve been traveling for quite a long time to New Jersey and staying at the DoubleTree there which is a Hilton property. Since I am at Diamond level, I get a lot of points per stay which can translate into a ton of free stays. Just a few weeks ago I was really close to reaching one million points (this is overall reward points and not base points). I think I had something like 973,000 points but I read a travel post that said that Hilton was switching from a 7 tier reward system to a 10 tier system in a couple of days. That would have meant that some of the hotels that I wanted to stay at would be mo expensive in terms of points.

In order to avoid getting the short end of the stick, I decided to book my summer trips to San Francisco and Orlando before they system changed. This resulted in my utilizing over 200,000 points which has set me back a little bit in trying to achieve my 1,000,000 point mark. Nothing special happens when I reach 1,000,000 I just want to see the number in my account just once. I’m down to 738,000 but I think I can get to 1,000,000 by December. It’s almost a little sad how much I do travel but at least I’m getting something out of it.

Almost Time for Hawaii

Only four more days to go until my first family vacation with the Mrs and the baby. I’m looking forward to getting a week off from work to relax and unwind. True to form I’m not going to take my work phone with me so if there is some sort of work emergency, it will have to work itself out without me. I’ve laid out all the clothes that I’m going to take with me but since I’m traveling for work I can’t pack all of it away in my suitcase until I get home on Wednesday. The great part about going to Hawaii is that my father is there so I can do my laundry so I don’t have to pack as much stuff as I would normally pack with me.

We got some neat new toys for E to play with on the plane. We’ve been hiding them from her for the most part so that she is distracted with her new toys while on the 10 hour plane ride to Hawaii. Yesterday we picked up some simple toys like painters tape and some sticky notes since she seemed to enjoy playing with those things and they will keep her hands busy. We’re flying Delta for this trip which is nice since we were able to use a lot of points for the tickets. We are doing the infant in arms thing until E turns 2 and as an added bonus we decided to fly First class so we have the extra room to play with her. I’m hoping she won’t be too fussy on the plane but she’s a little baby so a little fussiness is to be expected on a really long trip like this one.

An added bonus for this trip is that it happens to be my 7th wedding anniversary and the wife’s first mothers day. This will probably be one of the more special trips that we’ve taken to Hawaii even though we go to Hawaii often enough over the last few years. I think my father will also enjoy the fact that he will be able to spend quite a bit of time with his grand daughter since she was baptized in October. In years past I would bring a whole truck load of tech and cameras with me but I’m trying as much as possible to keep it low key by only dragging along my iPads, iPhones, and my water proof camera so I can take pictures of E in the pool.

The real challenge will be trying to keep E on her schedule since we are going to be six hours behind Eastern time. We might have to make some adjustments and hopefully she won’t be too cranky during the day and will be able to sleep through the afternoons or evenings. I made sure that we can stay at the Hilton Hawaiian Village during this trip since there is so much there right at the resort so we don’t have to leave the property if we don’t want to. The Hilton is supposed to have a ton of pools that we can take advantage of and it will be good for us to make E practice her swimming that she has been learning over the last week. It also has its own lagoon and beach area so that will be very useful as well if we don’t want to venture too far. I have a feeling we’ll be going out quite a bit just to eat since thats just what we do when we’re on vacation. I personally am looking forward to the penguin habitat at Hilton Hawaiian Village and walking around Waikiki every day to just take in the time I have off while in paradise.

All I have to do is survive the next 4 days at work and then I’ll be checking out for a week! I’ll be missing a large meeting for work but I can deal with that, I think I’ll be having more fun in Hawaii than my co-workers will be having in Chicago.

Key West Ghost Tour

Normally when one thinks of going on vacation, one of the last things that a person would do is get freaked out by going on a ghost tour.  Well me and my wife are not just any couple that goes on vacation.  Key West supposedly has a very active paranormal community and one of the suggested tours was to take a ghost tour around Old Town.  We had Brant as our guide as we walked through Old Town and he gave us some stories of the strange things that have happened in Key West over the years.

I’m not going to repeat any of those stories because it freaks me out just thinking about it and I don’t want any bad mojo coming my way.  Needless to say, it was a very good tour.  I don’t think I was able to bag any pictures of ghosts but if I did I would be even more freaked out than when I was on the tour.  I highly recommend going on the ghost tour.  The guides are very entertaining and the stories they tell are pretty good.  I didn’t go to the bar afterwards where the guides can tell you ghost stories of Key West that they are not allowed to tell on the tour since they will totally freak people out and drive away tourists or something to that effect.

It was a good thing that I took this tour on the last night of my stay instead of the first, I wouldn’t want to ruin my entire vacation by being creeped out by what might be lurking in the different areas of Key West.

Key West Trip: Part 1…. Lloyds Tropical Bike Tour

Today was the first full day that I spent in Key West and I had to get up bright and early so that I could go on Lloyds Tropical Bike Tour. I heard about this tour from numerous sites and I went to the website and looked at the tour. The tour looked pretty cool so I decided to book it for me and Claire. Lloyd is a New Jersey native so he still has his New Yorkish accent so that was pretty interesting as he did his narrative.

We started the tour at the Moped Hospital to get our bike rentals. The bikes were like the ones that I used to ride as a kid, complete with the pedal brakes which took a little getting used to after not riding that type of bike for a long time. The tour was two hours long and we ended going all over the island. Looking at the sites, trying some of the fruit, and looking at some local wildlife.

One of our stops was at a small garden that held different species of parrots. While there, we got to try some fruit that I can’t remember the name of but I need to remember it so I can possibly buy some tomorrow. The funniest part of going to the garden was the talking parrot named Rocky. There was one parrot that could say “Hey Baby” and then give an evil cackle afterwards. The look on my wife’s face was priceless when he said that. After going to the garden we went to another area of the island and tried some coconut that Lloyd hacked with hid machete as well as some cherries.

The place in Key West that is billed as the southern most point really isn’t the southern most point. The southern most point is really a pier that at one time was able to have cars drive on. They have since closed it to cars but it is open to bikes and pedestrians now. After finishing up at the pier, we headed back after roaming around the island. I’m not putting everything in this post but thats because at this late hour i can’t remember everything I did today. I just got back from another tour and that tour is a bit more fresh in my mind at the moment.

I definitely recommend the bike tour in Key West. It provides a good amount of exercise and an interesting view of the island. After going on the tour we went to get lunch, then relaxed for the afternoon at the pool at Casa Marina. I’ll blog about the tour I took tonight in another post.